Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Hoard of Locusts

5 1/2 cheese pizzas
4 bags assorted chips
1 jar salsa
1 lb. M&Ms
1/2 lb. peanut M&Ms
at least 6 12-packs of soda
2 lbs of Twizzlers
a couple pounds of leftover Halloween candy
5 1/2 doz. homemade chocolate chip cookies
~4 doz. assorted other homemade cookies

17 teenagers (including JC and Rachel)
10 hours
Only one item left behind (so far)

No casualties, no breakage, only a couple of spills.  But I think I might be slightly deaf.

Post-Christmas Chaos

We have a dozen-plus teenagers in my house right now.  JC asked if he could invite all the members of the Role-Playing Games (RPG) club to our house for a Christmas party.

They're heeeeeere.....

I can't complain, really.  These are the same kids, current generation, that I hung out with when I was in high school.  (One of the girls is wearing knee-high boots with buckles all the way up the front and 4 inch platform heels.  At least, she came in with them on, there's a huge pile of shoes in my front hall.)  The dress is both different and the same (one of the boys has a knit hat COVERED with buttons (the kind with sayings.  I had a coat like than in high school)).  These are the gamer girls and geek boys that freak out parents and make teachers assume they are stoners.  For the record, I don't get that vibe from any of them.  They're actually pretty polite, and several of them have mentioned they think our house is awesome.  And they're including Rachel and tolerating William. 

There was a short period of time when William got out his Nerf guns that got a little chaotic, but now they have settled back into a role-playing game.  This is actually about the third or fourth game that has been played, and most of them have really arcane, complicated rules that seem to require arguing and evil laughs and such.  I'm sitting down in my craft room, "cleaning", but really eavesdropping and occasionally coming out to "check if you need more food".  It's a little noisy, but all good so far.  They inhaled a bag of potato chips in about 5 minutes, and I think we'll be picking up multiple pizzas later, but so far I have enough chips and cookies and such out that they seem to be happy.

I wish I had the nerve to take pictures and post them, but I don't think they'd say yes if I asked, and I'm not going to post without permission.

I may need a very very quiet day tomorrow to recover, though.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

All Kinds of Awesome

A week or so ago, we had a family experience that ranks up there with THE BEST EVER.  Maybe even number one on the list.
Last year (so, more than a year ago), we bid on and bought the "Behind the Scenes tour at the American Museum of Natural History", at the charity gala that I've been working on.  One of my friends had done it through another charity auction and raved about it.  I thought it would appeal to everyone in our family, and we ended up being the only bidders so we paid the minimum (which was still pretty pricey).

Well, when I opened the envelope, I found out it needed to be after 5 pm on a weekday.  That's a challenge during the school year, so I put off contacting the museum.  And then I didn't get around to it all summer.  And then the school year started again.  And then.... eventually my friend contacted the guy again about offering it at THIS year's auction, and nudged me to get it together.  So I did.

I don't know that I can adequately describe our tour.  Our guide was Carl Mehling, who was absolutely delightful.  He's a research assistant who manages the fossil collection in the Paleontology Department.  Imagine someone with the enthusiasm of a 5-year old for dinosaurs, and you'll be close.  We went up to the prep lab, where we took no pictures because most of it hasn't been published yet, and got to talk to one of the museum's preparators.  He was absolutely fascinating and answered all of our questions, including, "what do you major in for college to get a job like this?"  (Art and biology, actually.)  We saw fabulous specimens in various states of prep, saw the tools, talked about the different kinds of rock and challenges that preparing fossils can present, and how very LONG it can take.  Months and months - the most important skill for the job is patience.  If you watch this video from the museum, we saw that very ankylosaur skull in its "finished" state in that lab. 

From there, we went downstairs in the world's biggest elevator (not really, but it was REALLY big), to the "Big Bone Room".  I do have a few pictures from there, but I need to contact Carl to see if I can "publish" them.  However, I found this video on the museum website, so you have to imagine us there in that storage room.  (the 2nd video on the page has better views of the Big Bone Room, though we weren't in the room with the T-Rex model)  Those shelves are on tracks in the floor, and have cranks to move them because they weigh thousands of pounds.  William got to turn the cranks - gears are your friend!  Some of those bones are absolutely huge, I kept telling the kids, "stand next to this so I can take a picture."  We absolutely grilled Carl with questions (Poor guy.  JC adored dinosaurs when he was younger so we've actually read a fair amount on the subject).  He was great, though.  I'm sure we kept him much longer than he expected, but we did eventually wrap it up and head back up to the public part of the museum.

After we said good-bye to Carl, all three kids said something to the effect of "that was SO COOL!!"

They were right.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

23 1/2 Hours a Day

I found this very moving.  Thanks to The Yarn Harlot for tweeting about it and providing the link.

I will add that I recently joined a new gym - I've been going to a gym for years, but had fallen off in intensity and frequency.  New gym, better equipment, yes, a little more time per session, but...

The back issues I've had for several years now?  Much reduced.
The knee issues that had popped up again after several years of little trouble?  Virtually gone.
I've been going 2+ times a week for less than 3 weeks.

Better than any drug.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

...which means I'm feeling behind.  The challenge of having family spread across the country is that you lose a week or more of shopping - because you have to save time to ship.  I got smart and ordered a number of things online and had them shipped directly, but there are still a couple of boxes to go out.

That's what I'm supposed to be doing right now.  I'm blogging.  Procrastinate much?

I have some much belated pictures from William's birthday to share.  We went with a Star Wars theme.  Pipe insulation light sabers (customized with colored electrical tape), origami Yodas and Darth Papers (inspired by the books of the same names), light saber cupcakes, and the piece de resistance, custom stormtrooper balloons decorated by Rachel.  They were all different - she googled stormtrooper images and we had everyone from the Clone Troopers to Forest Scouts to Darth Vader himself.

The weather was surprisingly warm for a November birthday, so we threw the boys in the backyard with their light sabers, and tied the balloons to weights all over the yard.  You'd be surprised how much they got into "attacking" the stormtroopers - although poor Darth Vader, after 20 minutes or more of painstaking work by Rachel, ended up an early casualty.  One of the boys whacked him repeatedly and enthusiastically, and he popped quickly.  The others lasted longer - one was accidentally released to the wild, and several actually survived the battle.

After pizza and cupcakes, we plugged them into a Lego Clone Wars DVD.  Worked well as a time filler while the parents trickled in.

Seems like just yesterday... but it was the middle of November - which may explain why I'm gobsmacked that Christmas is so close.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Beginning or the End?

Saturday is the Band Parents Craft Fair. This marks the last of the major volunteering I've been doing this fall. There are a few ongoing projects, but they're mostly on autopilot now. To say that I am relieved would be an understatement. I haven't worked (for pay) outside the home for over 15 years, and while these commitments haven't added up to a full-time job, it's been a significant part-time job since September. I am no longer used to having this much committed time, and yes, my respect for working parents has only gone up. I think I will endeavor not to do this again.

I've always volunteered, but this was enough to make me not enjoy the process. If it's adding this much stress, and I feel like I can't do a good job, I really have to learn to say "no". It's hard, but it's got to start happening.

So now the Christmas season can begin, for me at least. I'm having a bit of a conflict this year-I'd like to spend a little less and clutter up the house less (mine and others), and I'd also like to shop more locally, support small artists, and otherwise spend responsibly. What's the problem, you say? There is SO much cool stuff out there! Etsy is a seriously dangerous site for me. Got a daughter who's into Japanese anime and manga? This site has pins and earrings from her favorite comics! Got a son who's into video games and online comics? This site has t-shirts! Got a family member who's into bacon? Somebody on Etsy has a whole shop dedicated to bacon accessories. If I had to search out each little store and drive all over the place, it would seriously curb this. The Internet is an enabler. But if you're on my Christmas list and you like something obscure? Let me know - the hunt is afoot!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In Which We Discuss Snow, and Volunteer Work, and Malaise

I love that word.  "Malaise".  Just a general out-of-sorts, not quite right, not-feeling myself kind of feeling.  It sounds so... indulgent, like a Victorian lady who is retiring to her salon suffering from malaise.  Seems like it should require a fainting couch and maybe a bon-bon or two, right?

I'm feeling a bit of malaise myself.  Nearing the end of the volunteer marathon this fall - yes, I know I could say "no", but that's hard, too.  I'm not Catholic, but I'm really really good at guilt.  Just one more event - anybody interested in a Craft Fair in Central New Jersey?  Wanna run it?

Combine "busy" with "time-change" and "lousy weather" and all I want to do is curl up in a warm place with a cat and a book.  Chocolate would be acceptable too.  Saturday is William's Birthday Party, so I do have to find some motivation eventually.  I find that deadlines are excellent motivators, but I'm one of those hypocrites that has to get right up under it before it takes effect.  We're not there yet, but I'm trying to do what I tell the kids and not leave it all until the last minute.

And just in case you thought those pictures of snow in October on the East Coast were exaggerated, here's how we looked here:

This was fairly early in the day, too, so there was more.  We ended up with about 6" total (although my neighbor said 10"), and tons of branches down in the area.  Rachel was out of school for 2 days, because they had no power; William had school on Monday, they realized the building had partial power from the solar panels but not enough to fire the boilers, and then HE was out for 2 days.  Poor JC had no days off, but he figures karma will resolve itself when the other 2 have to make up days and he doesn't.  We still have brush and debris partially blocking roads in the area, 2 weeks later.  And I saw a truly disgusting pile of dirty snow still in a parking lot yesterday.

Perhaps when I shake off this malaise, I'll manage to post more.  Or perhaps not - November around here is usually grey and cold and rainy.  Sounds like the cat and the bon-bons may win after all.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Random Bits

1.  I said "yes" to too many volunteer "opportunities" this fall, which is why there's been so much silence on the blog.  Sorry!  I am ticking them off, one by one, and I'm down to the last two.  They are, unfortunately, also the biggest two, so posting may continue sporadically.

2.  Marching Band is over (basically).  There was supposed to be a competition this weekend - only 6 bands signed up for what should have been a regional.  It got cancelled, I guess it really wasn't feasible to sign up for something else at this point, so we're done!  JC has texted me three times today confirming that this afternoons' practice is actually cancelled - we do have two more football games, but no more practices.  Good thing - the weather has decided to go early November on us, and it's about 45-50 degrees and schmutzing rain.  Ick.

3.  I am really kind of hoping soccer gets cancelled for this weekend, too.  Forecast is for rain on Saturday morning - Rachel has an 8:30am game, so NOT having to sit in the cold at that time in the morning would be a really lovely thing.  William's game is at 2:45, so that's ok, except that they've lost twice in a row.  My morale is low.  Hopefully, his isn't. 

4.  My house is a pit.  On top of too much volunteering, I've been scrambling to make a print for a print exchange (send in 12 and get back 10, all different).  I'm almost done, but there is dirt in every corner and finding a clear place to do homework or eat is getting...challenging.  I'm hoping that no band and maybe no soccer will provide me with minions to help with the cleaning.  We'll see - they're pretty good about disappearing when they smell housecleaning.

5.  Even though my house is a pit, what I really want to do right now is curl up with a blanket and a cat and take a nap.  Rainy fall days are bad for me that way.  I have 45 minutes before I have to pick up JC.  Not sure what's going to win.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I've been thinking about what to say about Steve Jobs for the last few days.  I've heard him compared to Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison.  I think the Edison analogy is apt - both men weren't necessarily the ones doing the innovative work, but they were both heavily involved in the vision and direction of that work.  Steve Jobs' Apple didn't invent the personal computer in the same way that Thomas Edison's lab made the first light bulb from ideas and glass and wire, but the early Apple computers fundamentally changed the way that computers were perceived by the general public.  Jobs created computers that were for regular people, that were simple and intuitive to use, that had a consistent interface across programs.  That seems so obvious now, but at the time, it really wasn't.  It's hard to remember now how clunky computers were in the 70's and 80's, and how few people actually used them in their personal life.

I wrote my Master's thesis on a Macintosh SE 30, and I don't remember once having to look at a User's Manual while formatting it, creating the charts and graphs, or any of the programs I used during the process.  And then he did it again with iEverything products, revolutionizing what we assumed computers and electronics could do and what they looked like.

RIP Steve Jobs, and prayers for his family.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Halloween AWESOME!

Now that the weather is finally turning cooler (and maybe not so rainy this week), it's actually possible to think about Halloween.  So as I'm poking around the Internet avoiding washing the dishes, I checked out The Martha Blog.  And somewhere on the page they had a link to the Daily Thred, which had a link to this:

100 Halloween Pumpkin Carving Ideas

Oh. My. Goodness.  Now, I'll certainly admit that some of these are far beyond my capabilities.  But how much fun is this?!

And this one, this put me over the top.

Isn't he GLORIOUS??!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What Is It About Babies and Knitters?

I'm convinced there is some kind of cosmic link between babies and knitters.  Our neighbors' daughter just gave birth to a girl (Awwwww....!), and while I know the neighbors well, I hardly know their oldest daughter.  She's much much older (early 20's) than the daughter we know well.  That one is a year younger than William.  We've met the older daughter a few times, but she mostly lived with her mom, or was away at college.


Upon hearing the news of the birth, and seeing some pictures (Awwwww.....!), I am overtaken with the urge to knit a Baby Surprise Sweater for her.  To the point where I took time yesterday (which was a very busy day!) to pick some yarn for her while I was at Michaels for something else. 

Maybe it's because baby items are just so darn cute!  Or small and quick?  Or both...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Never Too Many Legos

My kids love Legos.  I love Legos - I'm not as creative as they are, but I've done my fair share of "Mom, can you help me put this together?"  Rachel keeps threatening to buy me one of the bigger sets for me to "put together by myself" (fortunately, her budget is small).

But I love this.  It's a Ford Explorer, made of Legos, of course, recently completed for the opening of Legoland, Florida.

Florida?  That's a LOT closer than California, or any of the other Legolands.  Hmmm...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Last night was back-to-school night at the Middle School.  Our middle school was originally one of two high schools in town, then as the demographics changed, they added on to the other high school and turned this one into the middle school.  Along the way, there have been a number of renovations and additions to the Middle School to create the spaces they need for the students.

Long story short, there are three 2-story wings off a very loooong central hall (sort of "E" shaped, with a really long spine on the "E").  And of course, whatever classes your child has will be spaced and timed in such a way as to require them to walk the longest distance possible.

So I went to BTS last night for Rachel.  John stayed home to drive to the various activities and wrangle the kids.  At some point in the evening, he texted me, "How is BTSN?".  I texted back, "One more class."  He replied, "Wow-still at it?"

I was walking (fast) down the hall at the time, so I texted my reply to him without looking too hard.

No, I accidentally texted to Twitter.

So the next time something really random pops up on my Twitter feed?  Don't worry that you feel like you missed half the conversation.

You did.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Settling Into a Routine

We made it through the first Monday of the new school year.  Everyone was a little slow this morning but got where they needed to go.  I made it to the gym and to printmaking (trace monotype, I'll try to put up pictures in a few days when it's dry!).  Rachel had her first dance class of the year.  William opted to play before he did his homework, but all his friends did theirs first and then wanted to play.  That meant he had just started when the doorbell rang.  I'm hoping he's learned his lesson and will get his homework done early tomorrow.

In honor of Monday, I made a chocolate cake.  All three children and John asked what it was for.  I guess I should bake for just us more often, eh?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Second Day of School

Again started WAY too early in the morning - this time with thunder and torrential rain.  Having a deja vu moment back to Irene.  Didn't we just do this?

JC drove to school in the rain.  It had slowed down a bit, fortunately.  Another traffic zoo - hoping that calms down in the next few days as the seniors get their parking assignments.

Rachel got out the door on her own, on time (with lunch!).  Her bus was even mostly on time.  She spent 30 minutes sitting on the bus at school yesterday afternoon because the driver couldn't get it to start.  Here's hoping THAT doesn't happen again today.

Got a robo call just after Rachel's bus came (on time) that buses were expected to be 10-15 minutes late because of road flooding.  Hmmm.  Made the choice to get William out the door at the regular time, figuring he'd noodle around up at the bus stop for 10 minutes.  Nope.  Bus was smack on time - the girl next door missed it because her father believed the message.

Now I'm puttering around the house, planning lunch with a friend, avoiding going to the gym.  THIS feels like the first real day of school.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

First Day of School

Everyone got off on time, sort of. 

John had an early morning flight cancelled, so he got up at 4:45am to sit in the airport for two extra hours.

JC and I left 5 minutes late to drive him to school, so we hit extra traffic around the school, which meant that ...

Rachel was at the busstop when I got back, so I stopped there and hung out with her for a while.  But her bus was over 20 minutes late so I left her there and went home to wake up William - and realized just after her bus came that she had left the oh-so-important computer and weapons "contracts" and her info form on the counter at home.

William's bus came exactly on time.  Then I drove to the Middle School and brought Rachel her forms.

And now I have 30 minutes before I have a volunter meeting, which I will leave early to bring JC lunch at school before Marching Band practice this afternoon.

Somehow, I think tomorrow will feel a little more like the REAL beginning of school.

Monday, August 29, 2011

And the Rains Came Down and the Floods Came Up

The rain, it did come down.  In buckets.  And the floods, they are still coming up.  I haven't been out and about (the governor and the mayor both said, "stay home."  I've stayed.) but there are pictures up online of our town and area.  Not good.  It's not just the usual places this time; there is much flooding beyond the expected.  My favorite grocery store - the parking lot is flooded (hoping the store isn't too damaged).  The roller hockey rink JC played at  - you can just see the edge of the boards around the rink. 

Two nearby towns are severely affected, but according to this website, one of the rivers has crested and is dropping, the other might be soon.  (Check it out!  The colored dots take you to river level graphs.  I assume there are maps for the rest of the country, though I haven't looked.)

Fortunately, the rain stopped earlier than predicted.  Also fortunately, we did not lose power.  There are numerous power outages in the area, mostly from trees taking out lines.  But not us.  Thank you, God.  It was bad enough having three bored kids in the house yesterday.  Three bored kids and no electricity and Internet? ... I shudder to think.

We are still better off than when Hurricane Floyd dumped on New Jersey in 1999.  We had MUCH water in the basement then.  This time?  Just a bit.  Got the fans and dehumidifiers going and it'll be dry soon.

It could have been much worse.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Shake, Rattle, and Roll

(I was going to title this "I Feel The Earth Move Under My Feet" but now we're under a hurricane warning and it wasn't inclusive enough.)

This is one of those weeks that you start to wonder if Mother Nature really does have it in for us, or perhaps the Mayans had a little math error in their calculations of the end of the world.  I really did feel the earth move on Tuesday - of course, I initially thought I was having a moment of vertigo and it was just me.  Then John called and said it was an earthquake, so that was vaguely reassuring.

JC was at marching band practice - nobody quite fogged in that it was an earthquake, but everybody stumbled at the same point in the drill, and couple of people fell down.  They all thought that they just "had a moment" and started the drill over.

And now Irene is causing evacuations in coastal New Jersey and major issues in NYC.  They're shutting down the subways at noon tomorrow.  Do you have any idea how big that is?  They are SHUTTING DOWN all the subways in New York tomorrow.  I'm not sure they even did that for 9/11, people. Atlantic City is a ghost town under a mandatory evacuation order.  It's creepy, is what it is.

Of course, here in beautiful suburbia, sitting on our hill, we are merely under a tropical storm warning.  I'm expecting buckets of rain and some impressive (if not hurricane-force) wind.  We did take the precaution of actually picking up all the junk strewn about the yard and putting the (new!) shade umbrella in the shed.  We had one snap in a storm last year, so no taking chances this time.  And if nothing else, I finally got the kids motivated to help pick up the yard.

And of course, this Sunday I volunteered to host coffee hour at church.  I have a feeling attendance is going to be a bit thin...

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gotta Love New York

On Wednesday, JC and I went to New York City.  You would think, seeing as how we don't live so terribly far away, that we would do this on a regular basis.  But no, going with all three kids always turns into a production.  So going with one kid?  Easy peasy.

It started out a vague plan of "let's wander around Greenwich Village", but the night before I actually sat down and figured out some places we might want to go.  SO glad I did.  Having some destinations was a good thing - we might have walked a little more than otherwise, but we found some really cool places.

#1 (highly recommended) The Evolution Store
Oh. My. God. (sorry, there's no other word for it).  In the heart of SoHo, this store specializes in "natural specimens".  Um, yeah, what?  Think skeletons, taxidermy, bugs, minerals, fossils, and all manner of cool, slightly creepy stuff.  Tiny place, jam-packed (there's a taxidermied alligator attached to the ceiling, upside down.  JC dubbed it "spider-gator").  Wanna buy a Utah raptor claw (replica)?  Whale vertebrae? Human skeleton (either real or replica)? The cave bear skull (real, not a replica) will only set you back $7995!
We spent a long time there going through the whole place.  If you have kids that are creeped out by taxidermy or skeletons, they might not like it, but we loved it.  Can't wait to go back with William (not sure if Rachel's going to like this one).

#2 The Strand Bookstore
For kids who have grown up on a suburban diet of large chain bookstores, this is a wonderful opportunity to see what else is out there.  It doesn't quite have the ambiance of a cozy little neighborhood bookstore (the place is HUGE!), but when they have a whole table of "odd books" including V is for Vampire and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, it's a winner.  They also had classic book t-shirts (we got Fahrenheit 451 for JC and A Clockwork Orange for John) and really neat tote bags and all sorts of other stuff.  We could have spent even longer in there, but I spent enough money as it was!

#3 Molly's Cupcakes
This was complete serendipity.  We were walking from Christopher Street PATH station towards the Evolution Store, which is a bit of a hike.  It was right about that "mid-morning need a pick-me-up" time, and Molly's was in the right place at the right time.  Absolutely fun decor (shelves of board games for you to play!) and very friendly staff (not a given in the City).  I had the 7-layer bar, which was classic and huge and I couldn't finish it.  JC had the cake batter cupcake, which actually did have a soft center of cake batter (he said it was fabulous), and they have coffee too, of course.

#4 Union Square Greenmarket
When I saw we were going to be near Union Square, I looked up when the market was open.  We didn't buy anything except cider for JC (he was thirsty), but if I lived nearby I would TOTALLY shop there.  Everything looked gorgeous and delicious.

#5 Washington Square Park
We just walked through, but if you're a people-watcher, it was fabulous.  Didn't hurt that it was a warm, beautiful day near noon.  And for a WTF moment, this:

It's a piano.  Covered, on a dolly - under the arch in Washington Square.  Performance coming? Just past? On it's way somewhere else?  Don't know.

#6 recommended BareBurger
This was lunch, and it was yummy.  JC had an elk burger piled with stuff, I went classic beef with just grilled onions, and my friend (who came with us) had turkey burger with Mediterranean flavors.  Great onion rings and fries with interesting dipping sauces (curry ketchup, chipotle mayo, etc.).  Not too crowded, pleasantly cool, interestingly funky.  And the bathroom was clean.

Sorry this got long, and there are a couple of other places we stopped, too.  But these were the standouts - if you're going to NYC and going to be down in the Village/SoHo/Flatiron district looking for something to do, check 'em out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Can I just say that the fact that the 20 pounds of tomatoes from last weeks' farm share gave me a paltry 4 quarts of canned tomatoes packed in water (and a quarter of each jar seems to be water) just is totally disproportionate to the amount of effort it took to process the aforementioned 20 pounds of tomatoes?

And Barbara Kingsolver wants me to provide all my family's food this way?


Tuesday, August 9, 2011


We delivered Rachel to camp last night - despite the fact that she had thrown up that morning, slept for 3 hours during the day, and looked pretty iffy in the car on the way down.

But as we were walking up to the office to check her in, one of the counselors saw her and said, "Rachel!  I'm so glad you're here!"  And the director took several minutes to chat with her on the porch of the office, and 2 of her cabin-mates came into the nurse's office while we were there and echoed the "glad you're here" sentiment.  And on the way to her cabin, two or three more people said the same thing and clearly knew who she was.

Big grin on her face as we left, and she was putting a bandanna in the back of her shorts for the running game they were having that evening.  Even though she claimed she wasn't going to run much.

So while I think there was some real stomach issue in the day or two before camp started, and definitely on Saturday, I wonder how much of Sunday and Monday's troubles were nerves layered on top of that?

Poor girl.  I hope as she moves through her teenage years, her body disconnects that GI connection a bit.  Because her "gut" instinct?  Is to worry.  And it makes me miserable to watch it make her miserable.


Of course, if I find out she spent today and the next two days continuing to throw up, I'm going to feel like the worst parent in the world for sending her.  Somehow, I think she comes by that worrying thing naturally.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Best Laid Plans

We made it through the concert.  I won't say that we were perfect (far from it!) but for a week's practice, I thought we did pretty darn well.  There is a recording, and the director promised to make CD's for anyone who wants one - if that ever happens, maybe I'll put a bit on the blog.

So with all the expected craziness, it even got a little worse.  Saturday morning, the kids are all packed for camp, I woke everybody up on time, we're getting ready to go...and Rachel threw up.  Several times. what?

We ended up putting her in the car (with bucket) along with everything and everyone else, and driving down to camp.  We had to drop off William, after all, and after talking to the director, we brought Rachel back home with a plan to bring her down when she felt better.  We even made up her bunk and left all her stuff.  I had hoped she would feel better today, and she almost did - and then she threw up again.  But she seemed to feel much better after that, and the plan is to take her down tomorrow.

Of course, John is flying out for business tomorrow morning, and JC has an SAT prep class at 9am, and I did have plans to go print - but I'm driving 1.5 hours (each way) tomorrow and getting back before JC's class ends at 4pm.  Just when you think you have a plan, you have to come up with a new one.

We'll see if this one works.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's Official

I have officially lost my mind.  Let me tell you the sequence of events.

It's been a relatively quiet summer for us.  All three kids have participated in summer activities (one week each), and the only conflict has been that William's got moved to the same week as Rachel's, and had the same starting time.  Which turned out not to be a conflict because they were 5 minutes apart and I could drop one off a bit early and the other on time in one trip.

This week (tomorrow, to be exact), Rachel and William leave for 2 weeks at sleep-away camp.  JC has an all-day SAT prep course all next week, but again, no conflict because the other two are away.

SO....I guess things were too quiet.

About 2-3 weeks ago, I got an email from the former choir director at our church.  He's moved up to a larger church with bigger choirs, so we don't see him any more.  But this summer, he's experimenting with a summer choir event - one week of practices, then a performance Saturday night.  Would John and I be interested in singing with them?  I checked the calendar of rehearsals, nothing jumped out at me, so ok!  I love singing with J. W.  He's (in my opinion) a fine teacher and a fun director that gets results.  Sure!

First complication - we went camping for 5 days last weekend, and had to leave on the early side Sunday to make the first rehearsal.  No big deal.  Except that we're singing Vivaldi's "Gloria".  All of it.  All 12 (twelve) movements.  Yes, some are solos and some are very short, but that's still a LOT of music to learn.  In Latin.  Monday rehearsal, no problem - until J. W. announced that he was adding a rehearsal on Thursday night.  Um.  John was already going to miss Wednesday, and we both had a conflict Thursday as well.  Ohhhkaay.  I actually left my other meeting early to catch most of rehearsal - this stuff is challenging!  And I realized (after committing to the event) that we're dropping off Rachel and William for camp on Saturday.  At 1pm.  Saturday rehearsal starts at 3pm.  These two locations are 1.5 hours apart.

Then, just to make it really fun, I spent all week procrastinating packing for camp.  And then realized that my one and only black skirt doesn't really fit any more, and all my black pants are winter-weight.  So add in shopping for a black skirt/pants and white top (I pretty much NEVER wear white).  Not to mention William and Rachel just MIGHT need a few more socks and underwear to make it through 2 weeks of camp.  And I didn't count until...yesterday.

Oh, and Rachel really wanted to tie-dye some items to bring to camp - so we did that, too.

Now, since I woke up this morning at 6am with my mind SPINNING from all that needs to get done today, remember that this whole choir thing was voluntary.  Really!  We're doing this for fun!  And all the procrastinating was voluntary, too (including the time to type this.  Where's my fabric marker?  I have socks to label!)

Nevertheless, I have (mostly) complete confidence we'll pull this off.  And if you like baroque choral music, and live somewhere near Central New Jersey, contact me and I'll let you know the details of the performance.  Seriously, it's going to be fabulous.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

It's Alive!

Thursday, my computer died.  I had shut it down the night before, and starting up that morning it couldn't find the boot disc, did a couple of other strange things, then gave me the Blue Screen of Death.

Uh oh.

John, of course, was in Florida for business (where it happened to be significantly cooler than here, go figure).  We did a little diagnostic over the phone, and he agreed that the best solution was to order a new computer and he'd take a look at the old one when he got home.

I ordered the new computer online (local stores didn't have the configuration that we were looking for) and saved enough on taxes that I sprang for overnight shipping.  Goody!  New toy on Friday!

Not so much.  It didn't ship.  Should arrive Monday.

John got home today, and almost immediately started checking out the dead one.  Although I had told him on the phone that it didn't do ANYTHING, he was surprised that it really didn't do anything when you pushed the power button.  Really.  No fan, no nothing.  It was a brick.

That, it turned out, was the key.

Clever bear that he is, he replaced the power supply.  Voila!  It lives! (cue maniacal laughter and lightning flash).

So I didn't lose anything (back up your computer! Now!) AND I get a new, spiffy computer.  And the kids will get the old one, which will reduce bickering somewhat.  Of course, we are spending money on a new computer, which we hadn't really planned on.  And I just had to have the stove repaired and the Suburban needs new tires.  But ... I'm really excited about getting a new computer.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reductive Relief Printing Final

I am finally done (and contemplating the next one).  It was really fun to learn a new technique, and I've decided there are things about the process and it's limitations that I actually enjoy.  Having limits can actually help with the decision paralysis of wide open possibilities!

This is a 6 color print - white, red, yellow, black, blue, light blue.  Ready?  Here we go!

Red on top of white (paper)

Yellow on top of red

Black on top of yellow

Blue on top of black

Light blue on top of darker blue

The bottom one is the finished print.  I ended up with an edition of 12 and a couple of proofs.  Remember, the number of prints I did of the red is the maximum number I can end up with - every one I use as a proof or screw up is "gone" forever from the edition.  I'm carving more away on the stamp for each color, so you can't print more of the previous color.

This is all that's left of the block (top is block, bottom is print).

So yes, I am thinking about my next one.  And the studio is hosting a swap - send in 12 prints, get 10 different ones back.  So I'm trying to figure out whether to do a relief carving (which I know how to do) or something else yet to be determined...

Lack of Talent

It seems that when I make an effort to post on Facebook and Twitter, I don't manage to post on my blog.  I guess that's an indication that I'm old - I can't manage ALL the Social Medias all at the same time.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Freshening Up the Place

We completed construction on our renovation about 5 years ago.  This spring, John finished the deck (more on that later).  Last fall, we realized the foundation plantings in front of the house were looking...tired.  To say the least.  So we (actually, John) pulled them all out, and he built a raised bed in front of the picture window.  After a few weeks, we still hadn't planted anything so he covered it with a tarp for the rest of the fall.  And winter.

And there it sat until about a month ago, when I realized I was going to miss the spring planting season as well.  Time to just bite the bullet, even though I had little to no idea what I wanted to put in there.  A friend of mine bought a nursery last year, so I went up and said, "help!".

Never underestimate the power of being clueless.  It took us a couple of hours of laying things out at the nursery, but we came up with a plan.  A low maintenance, deer-resistant mix of flowering and evergreen shrubs and the long shot - a dwarf crape myrtle

When we pulled off the tarp, there was a toad.  JC was standing about a foot from it when Rachel spotted it.  JC kept saying, "where?" because it blended so well with the dirt.

Here's our toad - isn't he lovely?  I felt bad disturbing him.

We have a butterfly bush, a dwarf blue spruce, a low-growing evergreen called "Blue Pacific" and at the end is the Crape Myrtle.  There's another blue spruce and blue pacific to the left, making for nice symmetry.  Except for the Crape Myrtle.

Unfortunately, something has been eating the Crape Myrtle.  It's looking a little better but I'm thinking of getting some hardware cloth and making an enclosure around it.  It could be deer, rabbits, or even the chipmuncks, I guess.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Little Bit of Culture

We didn't go camping for Memorial Day Weekend.  Ever since JC joined marching band, he's had to march in the Memorial Day parade in our town (an event so large and well-attended that when I posted about it on Facebook, a friend commented, "We have a Memorial Day parade?").

Since we couldn't camp, we needed to do something besides hang out in the house.  We chose the Grounds for Sculpture.  Rachel and JC had been there on school field trips, and John's parents went last summer, but the rest of us had never been.

If you live anywhere nearby?  Go.

The kids loved it.  We loved it.  We had great weather until about 4pm, when the wind picked up and the sky got dark, and we ran for the car.  30 more seconds and we would have stayed mostly dry.  We didn't get to do the whole park so I think we'll take my mom down there next week when she comes.

I think Rachel is striking a particularly sculptural pose in this picture.

I liked "King Lear" - he was very tortured.

I believe this one was titled something like "Sleep".

I'd say this was the wierdest one we saw, but I'm not sure that's actually true. 
It's called "Henry Moore in a Sheep Meadow".  And it is.  Sorry about the shadows.

Bring a hat and/or sunscreen, there isn't a lot of shade in much of the park.  We didn't check out the food available so I can't tell you if it was reasonably priced (probably not) and I don't think you can bring your own, so plan accordingly.  But it was really neat and something the kids actually all enjoyed.  A miracle!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Finally, some progress

The last few weeks of school were slightly crazier than usual this year, but we are finally in summer vacation mode - evidenced by the fact that I was able to sleep past 7 for the first time since school let out.  It always takes me a couple of days to reset the internal clock.

I have made some progress on the fish print.  Not as much as hoped - I started over with a new block, and did much better on registration this time.  But I still have one more layer of color to print.

Currently, the block looks like this:

Next, I will carve away everything I want to keep black, and then print with blue ink.  That's part of why it's been taking so long - I need to let the top layer of ink dry thoroughly or I don't get a pure color (see the yellow layer above).  Here's hoping I get good coverage!

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Post, New Skillz

Sorry for the vacation.  Blogging felt more like an obligation recently, plus I was feeling uninspired.  But now you get something new!

I've mentioned before that I've been learning to use a printing press at a local printmaking studio.  I've been going every Monday and meeting with 3-4 other people with the stated purpose of using and promoting the letterpress machine.  However, we've decided that our "mandate" is quite broad and as long as we might eventually use it for letterpress, anything counts.  Last week, a member offered to teach the rest of us a new skill (that may come in handy for the letterpress).

So our new skill for the day was block printing.  Well, for everyone else the new skill was reductive block carving.  They all did block printing in high school and college.  I'm the newbie when it comes to all these things.

Regular block printing requires one block for each color you use.  Each block must be carved to only print the areas you want that specific color, and getting the registration (how the images from each block overlap on the print) can be tricky.  However, you can always go back and print each block to make another print.

Reductive block printing uses only one block for all the colors.  You carve the areas you need for the first color, print all the copies you want of the print, and then carve the block again for the next color.  You can never go back and print with the first block again because you've changed it.  But you use less material this way and it's easier to line up your layers.

How about a picture?
This was my first print.  I carved away everything that I wanted to stay white, then printed in red.  The inks are opaque so I can cover up the excess red(mostly).  The black lines are from the pen I used to draw the image on my material.  :(  They weren't suppsed to transfer but they did.

This is the image of the block after carving away everything that will stay red.  See the differences with the red print?  This layer will print in yellow, but on top of the already printed red.

When I printed the yellow block on top of the already printed red, this is what I got.  It's a little orange - we didn't wait for the red ink to dry, but I liked the effect anyway.  Next up will be black, and then blue.

Of course, the reality was that I screwed up the printing of the yellow layer on almost all of my red pieces, so I only have two good ones and two more layers of ink to follow.  But I have lots of pieces to practice on!  And the main purpose today was to learn the process, and in particular, how to think about seperating the colors and what order to print.  I might carve another copy of the first layer so I can print some more and have more good ones at the end.  But that is the challenge of this method - your images always line up (if you print carefully), but it is truly a limted edition.

Overall, it was a lot of fun, and I'm hoping in the next few days I can finish the print.  I'll post it when I do!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Still Here

I'm here, really I am.  Just not feeling much inspiration to blog.  My church consignment sale is this coming weekend - I've decided I really am going to say "no" if someone asks me to run it again in the fall.  I'm done - my heart isn't in it, I'm not doing a good job, I'm just burned out on it.  Time to step away - which probably means it won't happen again.  I feel bad about that, but I'm still done.

We just finished Spring Break.  We did some of the things I hoped we would, and not others, and I didn't accomplish much.  But that's OK - I caught up on a lot of sleep and talked and played with my kids, and I kind of needed that break.

So hopefully next week, with the sale over, I can post some pictures and do some things that need to get done and some that want to get done.  The weather has improved (somewhat) and that helps everything be better.

Happy Sunshine and Flowers!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Someone Has Too Much Time on their Hands

Legoland Windsor launches their royal wedding diorama (Getty Images/Dan Kitwood)

Getty Images/Dan Kitwood

I know.  It's SO cool.

The whole story, and more pictures, are here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We Are All Connected

I'm a nerd.  I haven't worked as an engineer for 16+ years now, but it's still how I think.  I'm still fascinated by science - right now it disappoints me that JC doesn't need more help with his chemistry.

So when I checked out Knitting to Stay Sane tonight, and she had a post about "Geeking Out", I was highly amused.  And then I watched the video that she embedded.

I love this.  I love that all of these people of science - that cold, dispassionate field of study - are really REALLY passionate about what they are doing.  I miss it, a bit.

But this helps.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March Madness

I've been trying to avoid complaining about the weather.  I spend way more time than I should complaining about the weather on this blog.  So the lack of posts lately is somewhat related to this goal.


This is just a little nuts.  John snapped this picture from the bus stop on Wednesday morning, which, may I remind you, was the 2nd full day of Spring.


We are so DONE with winter.  Even William, die-hard sled and snowball enthusiast, has been taking this as a personal affront.  "Doesn't Nature know it's SPRING?!"

So instead of planning and planting the front bed for the house, which we tore out last fall, I was scraping my car this morning.

Happy Spring.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Words to Live By

I'm a news junkie.  I'll admit it.  (Hi, my name is Ann, and I'm addicted to knowing what's going on.)  I feel very cut off and isolated even going a day without watching or listening to what's going on in the world, and our local paper isn't enough (even though I generally read almost all of it every day).

But lately?  It's a little overwhelming.  The whole Egypt thing (sorry Tunisia, we didn't get as much coverage about you), which of course segued into Bahrain and Libya and Yemen and who knows how many countries in that region.  That "little" earthquake in Christchurch, protests in Wisconsin, our own very combative governor in New Jersey (he's a jerk.  There are even some of his policies I grudgingly agree with, but the guy's a jerk).

And now Japan.

It would be heartbreaking enough to see the pictures of the aftermath of a HUGE earthquake.  Then you add on a truly biblical tsunami.  We could stop there, thank you.  I can't imagine the horrors those people are living through right now.

But no, now they have impending nuclear disaster to deal with, as well.  And while I know (here in my safe suburban intact house) that the worst case scenarios you are hearing on the media are more than a little on the sensationalized side, they are living with even more fear and uncertainty and a justifiable mistrust in what their government is telling them.

Whatever religion or higher power you believe in, or even if you don't believe, take a moment and think prayers/good thoughts for all the people struggling right now, whether in Japan or Libya or New Zealand.  I don't know that the world is more tumultuous than it was 100 years ago, but we are certainly more aware of it now.

I did receive a little ray of hope today, though.  When I was filling out the online donation form for Doctors without Borders, the captcha (security words) that came up were "ndstedi calm".

And steady calm.

Something to remember.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Maybe I Should Do This More Often

William has been home sick for three days (Sunday he woke up with a 102F fever), so he's been mostly living on the couch in our family room.  This morning, as he was looking for his shoes (which he hasn't worn in three days), he walked into the front hall and said, "Mom, why is the front hall so...clean?"

When your 9 yr old boy a) notices that something is clean and b) realizes that it's a change, I think it might be a signal to clean more often.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Random Stuff

1.  I have a cold.  It started Monday with that little scratchiness in the back of my throat, and now has progressed to coughing fits that would make strangers stare in alarm, if I were going out of the house.  No fever (or at least, not that I've really noticed), no major body aches.  Just stuffed up and coughing.

2.  It's my first real cold of the season, so I guess I shouldn't complain.  It is kind of a bummer, though.

3.  The kids got their report cards in the last couple weeks.  I have one who is on the verge of failing some classes because s/he doesn't do his/her homework.  I have one who missed straight A's by one B+ (and is really annoyed by that) and one who's trending kind of upper average.

4.  Does this mean that I'm trending upper average in parenting skills?  Or am I assuming too much guilt/responsibility for the brilliance and/or laziness of my children?  It always amazes me that three such different people should have come from the same parents.

5.  The weather has finally decided that it could think about moving towards Springtime.  This means that it is sunny and cold instead of snowy and cold.  And it's windy of course.  It is March, after all.

6.  At this point, I'm very happy with sunny and cold.  Even though the season of Mud has arrived.

7.  My front entry is filthy (see #6).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Change of Seasons

Yes, the weather has improved a bit (although tomorrow will be back below freezing for the high), but the true sign that Spring is approaching?

Road Construction.

Everywhere you go (at least, that's what it felt like today!).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

February Swap

OK, technically it was January 31st, but it was supposed to be February.  Thank the snow for that - we decided to be proactive based on the weather report.  We figured we had to go for the day that we were pretty sure would be OK - if we waited until the next week, who knew what we would get?

As it was, everybody pulled it together on short notice and we had a great time.  A few had conflicts and couldn't come, but the cards were great!  I hosted and kept the food super-simple - we're all too busy stamping to eat much anyway.

Ruth's card was simple and elegant, and had the most amazing blue/purple paper (it has a shimmer you can't see in the scan).  Shows what you can do with one graceful image.

I told everyone the cards had to be 10 minutes or else!  Grace went for super simple, but the glittery embossing powder really added some glitz.

Janet did super-cute.  A little color, a well-placed eyelet, and you've got a multi-purpose card good for adults or children.

Nancy went above and beyond for her cards - I think I scared her with the 10 minute threat, so she pre-stamped all the images.  We colored them in and assembled, and it's beautiful card.  We've had chickadees at the bird feeder, so I loved this.

Cathie got such a good reception for her bookmark last time, she did it again.  Wouldn't it make a lovely gift along with a book?

Sharon came up with the cleverest easiest "curtains" I've ever seen.  It's a wide ribbon, cut in half, and attached on either side of the square punch out.  It's layered between the green and the white so the inside is clean.  The snowman is inside, and I LOVE the saying.

Sue didn't think she could pull a card together, but I convinced her she HAD to come, it would be fun. Little did she know we had a cake for her birthday!  She came up with a fabulous spotlight-technique card.  I should have scanned the one Rachel made, it's much better than mine.  But it's such an effective technique anyway!

This is one where the scan truly does not do it justice.  Shona designed this card, and while I think she went over the 10 minute limit, we all loved it anyway.  The large white piece is run through a die cut machine, the center "cloud" removed, and then die-cut the outside piece again to enlarge the cut-out area.  Then run it through with an embossing folder, then brayer it all with a rainbow pad, then coat everything (the cloud twice) with embossing powder so it's got a shine to it.  Wow!

I think Dale gets the award for most versatile.  You could use this simple but elegant card for a birthday (male or female), get well, sympathy... I think it's lovely.

I have to admit I had Spring on the brain when I made this one.  Can you blame me?  Bugs and flowers and Spring-ish colors.  Just stamped and matted, but I did add the option of a dimensional paint on the flowers, ladybug spots, and dragonfly.  Just a little shine.
It always amazes me what comes out at these things.  I'm not sure any of these cards even share a color-scheme!  And the variety of techniques we can squeeze into a 10 minute card is really astounding.

In some ways it was easier having the event two days early.  I focused on having the house presentable instead of making food that not many people eat anyway.  Some chips and dip, M&Ms on the table, and Sue's birthday cake was plenty.  And then the house was cleaned up for Rachel's birthday party on Friday.  More on that later.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I'm SORRY!!!

My poor neglected blog.  I have pictures!  And updates! And snow!  But at the moment, I am off to the gym (it's already 10am here, if I procrastinate any more I won't get there today.) (And lest you be proud of me for going to the gym, I haven't managed more than once a week since early December.)


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Final total?  Somewhat north of 13" here.  A friend said 17", but not from what I measured.  No school today.  JC used the snowblower to clear most of the driveway. Note that the snow is higher than the mouth of our baby-sized snowblower. But I'm still glad to have it.

Rachel tried to jump over the pile of snow by the road - and failed. It was above her waist, and after floundering around for a while, I had to pull her out because she was stuck.

The deer out front, last night. 
They were even more buried this morning.

William and our neighbor, digging in the front yard.

The only casualty seems to be our mailbox.  Hard to tell in this picture, but it's open because the snow pushed up around it has warped the body of the box.  The door is sitting straight - the box itself is not.  We're still ahead of the neighbor across the street.  During the last storm, the plow took his off completely - snapped the post.