Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday tradition

Last weekend we had our annual Holiday Open House. We started hosting an open house the year we became homeowners. This year was our 13th annual holiday party.

So, you’d think I would have prep down to a well-organized science. Or at least an art.

Instead, the night before the big event, the living room looked like this:

And, I had done not a bit of cooking. In fact, grocery shopping had not even taken place until I left work the night before the party.

Nothin’ like leaving EVERYTHING to the last minute. Well, not everything. The tree was up and the kids had decorated it.

Not a big deal if we were expecting a few folks over for hot chocolate and cookies.

But we were expecting over 40 people and the menu was as follows: Pineapple Nutty Cheese Ball, Pesto Provolone Terrine, Veggies and Dip, Brown Sugar Smokies, Savory Herb Shortbread, Nutty Gorgonzola Roasted Potato Slices, Asiago Dip, Brie Cherry Pastry Cups, Miniature Cheesecakes, Brownies, Russian Tea Cakes, Cherry Almond Cookies and Cranberry Bars.

Luckily, there’s nothing like a little Wild-Eyed and Stressed-Out Mom to spur the family into action. My daughter was a huge help in the cooking department and my boys (both the kid I gave birth to and the one we’re borrowing from Germany this year) and husband helped with cleaning and decorating. Our first guests were early and I even put them to work!

After the last-minute hustle, everything turned out great. The food was (as always) fabulous and the house looked great:

After Decorating

May you take part in many wonderful, stress-free, holiday traditions this year!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Now THESE are Christmas lights

Co-worker sent the following in an e-mail:

I forwarded (of course) to my family:

Me: We SO need to do this next year.

Stepmom: Absolutely!!! You first.

Hubby: Don’t like our neighbors? And what do you mean we? I don’t remember seeing you up on that ladder this year.

Me: Well, naturally, in this case the "we" means "you." You know that!

Son: Dad, want me to get the ladder out? If we start now we might be done by next year!

For more information on the above light display, you can check out the owner’s website: Holdman Christmas Lights

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Scrooge is alive and well

My daughter was downtown during the lunch hour today, so I suggested that we grab a bite to eat together (she leaves for Navy boot camp in three weeks – gulp! – and I’m taking every opportunity to spend time together while trying not to be tooooo clingy). We headed over to the Old Spaghetti Factory and ordered up our favorites.

I noticed that a couple of crotchety women seated nearby seemed to be unhappy with our mutual waitress. They had her send the manager to their table where they harangued him for quite some time. Seems the restaurant ran out of the cheese and broccoli specialty soup for the day and they couldn’t get any refills after they’d finished their first bowl.

This was cause not only to give the waitress a hard time (“Can’t they make anything besides minestrone?”), but they apparently felt it warranted letting the manager know not only how unhappy they were with the waitress’s apparently inability to wiggle her nose all Bewitched-like and produce the desired soup, but also how they received much better service and more food at various restaurants around town.

Seriously. For at least 15 minutes. Reinforced my fervent desire never to have a customer-service related job ever again.

My daughter and I were plenty happy with our very attentive waitress, so I asked her to send the manager to our table when he was done with the crabby gals.

We told him the waitress was fabulous, the food was wonderful and we loved his restaurant.

Then we left a $10.00 tip for an $18.00 check.

Heck, we knew the gal was going to get stiffed by at least one table!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the lookout for winged pigs ...

Our local Costco is selling gas for $1.46 per gallon (here's where you can find the lowest gas price in your area). I truly NEVER expected to see gas for less than $2.00 per gallon again, so I am now keeping a close eye out for flying pigs. 'Cause you know those will be coming next.

And, just to get you in the holiday mood, one of my favorite You Tube videos ever:

A lovely dog who, sadly, passed away in a house fire. At least his owners will always have this joyous video to remember him with.

Monday, December 1, 2008

You never know

Holy cow! Where has the time gone? It seems like just yesterday I was bemoaning the fact that there were Christmas trees being serenaded by carols in the stores and it was not yet Halloween and now those things are actually seasonally appropriate.

Remember when it seemed like it took F O R E V E R for Christmas to arrive?

Now? Not so much.

We took part in our communities’ annual Rake Up Boise – an event that we’ve participated in since our daughter was in middle school. We’ve raked with a middle school team, a Mensa team, a Civil Air Patrol team, an AFS team and a team from my office. Some years we’ve gone out with more than one team if they were raking on different days. This year’s team was from the office and I was the coordinator. Counting kids, we had 55 participants. And we raked up about 150 bags of leaves.

When you have a big group like that, it goes very quickly! And is accompanied by much frivolity. We’ve been known to rake not only the yards assigned to us (4 this year), but sometimes the neighboring yards. Since one of our houses had a neighboring yard FULL of leaves, we decided to rake them up as well so that they wouldn’t get blown into the yard we had just cleaned up. Sometimes when we do that, we have a lot of fun with the reactions of the occupants of the “extra” house (since they’re not expecting a huge group of people to attack their leaves). This year, we had a more sobering experience. In the words of one of our rakers from an e-mail she sent to the office the Monday after we raked:

As those of you who were there may recall, after we finished our four "assigned" houses we decided to do an additional house, almost as an after-thought. As I was helping rake up the leaves, I noticed an elderly gentleman walk out of this house and he looked perplexed, but also sad. He walked over to my boyfriend and spoke to him for a long while. Afterwards, [BF] walked up to me and shared their conversation.

The man asked [BF] what was going on, who were we? After [BF] explained that we were all from [lawfirm] (and/or friends and family members) and we were participating in Rake Up Boise as a community event the man asked if he could pay us. [BF] reassured him that no, we wouldn’t accept anything from the man and just wanted to help out people like him for Rake Up Boise. At that point, the man got teary eyed and told [BF] that our timing was amazing because at 3 am last night his daughter-in-law passed away and his family was going to be showing up at his home later than morning. So, he really appreciated our help and couldn't believe the timing. Later, the man and his wife left the house and stopped to talk to a group and reiterated his sincere thanks. Again, he was teary eyed in giving his heart-felt thanks. Looks like we happened to be in the right place at the right time.

I just wanted to share this with all of you . . . You never know how much a kind gesture means to its recipient until something like this happens.

You really do never know.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

A wee bit cranky ...

My life is boring.

That’s why no posts lately. Just work, home to fix dinner, watch the appropriately named boob tube, then bed.

But that’s not why I’m cranky.

About this time last year, I started having a strange problem. Rather than reinvent the wheel, here’s what I posted on my Livejournal about the whole situation:

Well, my brain is normal.

No, really. That’s what the doctor said.

Lots of folks might have a difficult time believing it. But the scan said so.

I had been smelling cigarette smoke even when there was no way it could be present. In my non-smoking office. In my very non-smoking house. In my also very non-smoking minivan. (Yes, that’s what I drive. What’s it to ya?) If I were to walk past someone actually smoking while smelling the phantom odor, I could tell the difference between the real and the illusion, but other than that it was incredibly real. And this was no little whiff of smoke. It was as though someone were sitting next to me smoking and blowing it in my face. And I couldn’t even smack him.

Got real old, real fast. So, I went to the doc-in-the-box. Who said he couldn’t find anything, but here, take these antibiotics just in case. And schedule an appointment with an ENT specialist. Which I did. He also didn’t see anything, but prescribed a steroid burst, after promising it wouldn’t make me go nuts and kill my family. Well, not any more than the general desire to murderize them when the house is trashed and no one can see it but me – apparently I have problems with my nose, but some kind of extrasensory power of sight that can see mess where no one else can. And dirty laundry. And available food for meal prep. What eyes!

Smell was still there.

So the ENT guy scheduled a CT scan. Of the brain. Couple that with the silly internet research on phantom odors which suggested that one potential cause was a brain tumor and you have a very nervous, cigarette-smoke-smelling gal.

But my brain is normal. So they say.

The smell disappeared all on its own a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps it felt that $700 spent on doctor stuff (damn $2,000 deductible) was sufficient. Knock on wood it stays gone.

Well, it’s back. It’s been back for a couple of months now. It made a brief appearance several months after its original disappearance and when I called the ENT doc, he said there was nothing else he could do for me.

Gee, thanks.

I’ve been putting off trying to figure out what kind of doctor I should call next because we already spent a buttload of money on knee doctors. And, well, I hate going to the doctor. And I was hoping it would just go away on its own again.

It hasn’t. And since cigarette smoke is one of my all-time least favorite smells (ranks right up there with the smell of our dog when he’s been rolling in poop), I’ve been somewhat cranky lately. So I guess I’ll have to break down and find a doctor who won’t just throw up his hands in defeat.

In the meantime, if any of you have ever heard of this phantom odor thing and have any idea how to get rid of it, PLEASE let me know. I’ll send cookies! And my family, who is no doubt tired of my cranky butt, will help bake them.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Well, at least THIS is funny ...

Since a lot of the folks I know need something to laugh at today, here's this (from The Onion via Hot Air):

Hmmmm, the video isn't embedded anymore, but it's still possible to view the video - so go here!

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters to Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

Monday, November 3, 2008


I went to the grocery store tonight.

Was greeted by a CHRISTMAS TREE in the entrance.

And Christmas music. (When my jaw dropped and I expressed the appropriate horror, my son told me that my daughter had predicted I would respond thusly.)


It's going to be a long holiday season.

Are your loins girded?

I'm feeling like this is the loooooooonnnnnnggggggeeeeesssstttt day in history. Until tomorrow. Which is bound to be just as long. And maybe drunk. Well, me, that is, not the day.

In the meantime, to help you fellow Red Staters gird your loins, you can check out this post on Hot Air.

I've got mix CDs for either eventuality:

McCain/Palin win: Right as Rain, Happy Endings, Looks Like We Made It, I Feel Fine, Picture Perfect Morning, We Are the Champions, Who's Crying Now, etc.

Obama/Biden win: Bad Day, Wreck of the Day, Numb, Wasted, Help!, Hopeless, Heaven Forbid, etc. Oh, and Mozart's Requiem. I think it'll be appropriate.

Gird up!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Old fogie

Have you ever seen the movie The Big Chill? You know how the Kevin Kline character is stuck in the past musically - pretty much listening only to music he listened to in college?

Well, I'm married to his brother. Or at least it feels that way.

Our kids can instantly tell who is singing pretty much any oldie on the radio. And there are pop quizzes from their dad. "Who's singing this?" "The Mammas and the Pappas" or "AC/DC"

Now, they do like to listen to modern music (though, thankfully, neither one of them is into rap or rap-like music). And I also enjoy music that was released in the last decade.

But whenever we're listening to a CD that was released any time after the kids were born, my husband's usual response is "What is this crap?"

He also has issues with the way today's fashions appear to be just goin' right down the ol' tube.

So, that sets up the following conversation during Saturday Night Live's musical guest's performance last night:

Husband: "I guess I don't understand today's style. He should take a bath, comb his hair, shave ..."

Me: "Tuck his shirt in."

Husband: "The least he can do is get some nice clothes ..."

Son: "And a powdered wig."

Thursday, October 30, 2008

What's that football team doing on the marching field?

I spent last Saturday completely away from the Internet and unable to feed my addiction to political blogs – or any kind of political talk for that matter. It was actually quite nice and a little taste of what my life will return to after next Tuesday. Not that I’m going to give up some of the new blogs I’ve discovered during this election cycle – I just won’t be as obsessive about checking them every 15 secondsminutes.

Where, you might ask, can someone completely escape politics just over a week before the most contentious election I can remember?

At the Idaho District Three Marching Festival.


I’m the kind of gal who goes to the football games solely to watch the halftime entertainment. In sixth grade, when confronted with the choice of choir, orchestra, musical history or band, both of my kids chose band. My daughter stuck with it until she graduated from high school and my son is currently in his first year as a member of his high school marching band.

Man, I had no idea how hard band kids work to learn the short programs they perform during halftime at the football game! They spend two weeks in the summer at “band camp” – which, in Meridian, is NOTHING like American Pie: Band Camp. They spend the vast majority of their time the first week just learning the basics of marching (it’s a lot harder than it looks) and, if they’re lucky, they might learn part of their show during the second week of camp after they’ve learned to combine music playing with the marching.

Then there is the twice-weekly evening practices – at least 2-1/2 hours each. Plus the time they spend in class learning the music.

By the time the first football games rolls around, the band usually only knows a couple of minutes of the show. The first time I watched my daughter march, I was completely confused. Like “Is that it? Is that what they spent two full weeks of camp, at least one week of practices and class time learning? THAT’s the show?” kind of confused.

Well, no, it isn’t. Our band usually doesn’t have the entire show memorized until right before they head out of town to their first competition. And one or two weeks later is District III – the event they’ve spent two months preparing for. Because if you think the marching band does all that work for the football game halftimes, you’re so very wrong. Until I had a marcher, I never realized how completely the band is ignored during halftime. (How pissed off that makes me is another story for another blog – because I don’t think the language I’d have to use to describe my irritation is appropriate here!)

Nope, they’re preparing for District III – when 25 bands from the district come together to strut their stuff on the blue Smurf Turf at Boise State University. Because THAT audience knows how much sweat and effort has gone into the show they make look so effortless.

Our school has a fabulous director – she came straight from college to a brand new high school and in her first teaching job, turned her students into an award winning band in two years’ time. We are so very lucky to have her.

I’ve been a complete band geek since the first year my daughter marched and I have a hard time understanding parents who don’t come to every single performance and volunteer for the myriad of behind-the-scenes jobs that keep the band director and students able to focus on the job they have to do. Both my husband and I travel to the away competitions – usually driving the equipment truck. We also help at any local competitions – loading and unloading the equipment truck and helping get the front ensemble instruments on and off the field. I served as the Band Booster president for one year and the secretary for the last three years (even during the “gap” year when I had no student actually in the marching band – since our school doesn’t march its Freshman students).

I love hanging with the band kids – they’re a refreshing reminder that all teenagers aren’t like those depicted on television or in the movies. Band kids are, for the most part, just nice kids.

My “Marching Band Parent” t-shirt says it all:

You Know You’re a Marching Band Parent When …

You know the difference between the pit and the battery

All your friends are other band parents

People ask about your social life and you say, “Oh, you mean the Marching Band?”

You know what a shako is

Your idea of a fun weekend is to watch teenagers stop the heck out of a football field

You judge time by the marching band schedule

You don’t question taking time off work to help the band

You are crazy enough to travel to who knows where with a bunch of high school kids

You feel like a band “groupie”

A well done program sends chills down your spine

You’re at the school at odd hours picking up, dropping off your student or helping the band

The highlight of the Friday night football game is the marching band

You have so much fun for free and work long hours for no pay all for the simple act of saying “it’s for the kids”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Now THAT'S rush hour traffic

Media alert from our local station just when Friday rush hour was getting started:

CALDWELL - Police have finally corralled a bull that was running the wrong way down Interstate 84.

It happened at about 4:15 p.m. on the freeway between Nampa and Caldwell. The animal got loose and started running east in the westbound lanes near milepost 29.

Crews were able to rope and contain the bull about 40 minutes later.

It isn't known where the bull came from or how it got loose.

No one was injured by the runaway animal. It is unclear if the bull had any impact on the evening commute.

Now, lest you think this is out in the boonies somewhere, Nampa is about 20 miles from Boise - the largest city in the state of Idaho - and Caldwell is just a wee bit further west. This'll probably make the front page of the paper tomorrow.

Oh, and in case you've thought about going to see the movie "Max Payne"? Don't. I can't remember if I've ever seen a movie quite so bad. I can think of no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I want those two hours back right now.

If you've seen it already, I'm terribly sorry.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Obsessed, I tell you

Well, as much as I would like to stay out of the political fray (just ask my husband – I just about post “No Politics Zone” signs on the door before we host a Mensa event at our house because I hate it so), I’ve been e-mailing back and forth with an old friend of mine all day on the topic.

Started with an innocent “What’s up with you?” kind of e-mail that segued into the fact that he was filling in on a local radio station in a Blue State, was strangely the only host who was an Obama fan, and ended with a little rant about being sick of hearing about Ayers.

I replied:

It might be best if you and I don't discuss politics.

Now, most of the time, I would just STOP THERE so as to avoid getting into a back and forth that would have me so irritated I would have a difficult time remaining friendly.

But not this time. This whole election cycle has me worked up to the point that I am CONSTANTLY checking blogs and news sites, reading the paper even more vociferously than usual and just generally unable to tear myself away from the whole train wreck. So, I ended up sending this reply:

I personally think that the Ayers issue is very valid. Not only because of the kickoff in the guy's living room (are you disputing that?), but also because of the ongoing relationship they have had (oh, wait a minute - he was "just a guy in the neighborhood." Or maybe their kids went to school together. Oops, served on boards together. Oh and Obama just happened to publicly endorse a book by Ayers in which he is mentioned - not very close, eh? But he thought he was reformed! Gosh, must have missed it when Ayers said on 9/11 that his regret was that the Weather Undergound hadn't done more. Really not the kind of guy I'd be interested in working with). Maybe if that were the only hinky relationship. But add in Odingo, Rezko and ACORN, etc., and I'm just not too impressed with the guy. I'd probably be able to overlook that a bit more if he espoused the same beliefs I have, but I'm not a spread-the-wealth, government-should-be-in-charge-of-EVERYTHING kind of gal. Thank goodness I live in a red state. I only wish it were one with more electoral votes.

Why, precisely, are you enamored with Obama? What, besides promising HopeandChange, has he actually done?

And, really, I would be interested in hearing an answer to that question from just about anyone. Because no one seems to have one. Just what he’s going to do for us. Oh, uh, like spread the wealth? I’m kinda with Joe the Plumber on that issue.

Was there an answer? Nope. Just a lot of Bush-Cheney babble.

To which I responded:

Dude, McCain IS NOT BUSH. Was a time when the Democrats realized that fact. So what if he "wants that base." It's the freaking Republican base. How the hell else is he going to get elected? And, for what it's worth, Bush has not single-handedly gotten us into the current mess.

Response? Something about how Palin would have to shut the hell up if they were to ever have sex.


Being as he’s a radio dude, I thought he would find this interesting. Because it kind of scares me. Mostly because of where else that might lead:

No response yet.

I’ll tell you what, if the “Fairness Doctrine” is put into play again, I demand equal time every time some dumb celebrity (Pamela Anderson, I’m talking to YOU) opens his or her mouth.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fairy Tale for the Assertive Woman

I have this posted on my refrigerator and it always makes me giggle, so I thought I'd share on the off chance it hasn't reached your in-box:

Once upon a time,
in a land far away,
A beautiful, independent,
self assured princess,
Happened upon a frog as she sat
contemplating ecological issues
on the shores of an unpolluted
pond in a verdant meadow near
her castle.

The frog hopped into the
Princess' lap
and said: "Elegant Lady,
I was once a handsome Prince,
until an evil witch cast a spell
upon me.

One kiss from you, however,
and I will turn back
into the dapper, young Prince
that I am and then, my sweet,
we can marry and set up
housekeeping in your castle
with my Mother,
where you can prepare my meals,
clean my clothes, bear my
children, and forever feel
grateful and happy doing so."

That night,
while dining on lightly sautéed
frog legs
seasoned in a white wine
and onion cream sauce,
she chuckled to herself and thought:
"I don't fucking think so."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Not a political blog, but ...

Is this one of the most contentious election cycles we’ve ever lived through, or am I just paying more attention this time?

And I’m not talking about the negative television ads, although they are plentiful – from both sides of the spectrum at all levels of political office sought.

I’m talking about the vitriol pouring out of regular folks – verbally, in letters to the editor, on message boards and on blogs. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I’m noticing the contention – because I’m reading a lot more blogs this time around.

And I’m amazed to read the nasty name-calling.

Referring to folks in the audience at one of the conventions as “smiling, clapping idiots.”

Actually typing something like this: “You're even bigger losers than I thought. I can see you now, sitting there dressed in your underwear in your dirty little run-down room with the empty pizza boxes, jars of Cheez-Whiz and wrinkled copies of Playboy and Hustler, posting your ridiculous rants on-line about how much you hate Americans who work for a living and live normal lives.” And maybe even believing it.

Shouting vile things at political rallies. Wearing disgusting t-shirts.

It hurts my heart.

To the dismay of many members of my family, I’m not a religious person. But I do take “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” rather seriously. Because I think that’s the best way to get along and really the best way to behave.

I’m not averse to giving my opinion. I have one – and it’s a strong opinion.

I do, however, try to do it in a reasonable, thoughtful way. Without saying, or implying, that anyone who holds the opposite view must be a complete idiot. Because I don’t feel that way. I believe that most people have the best interests of our country at heart. Even folks who disagree with my views. We all want what’s best for America and her citizens. We just differ on the best way to accomplish that goal.

I’ll be so glad when this election is over and I can go back to being amused by bloggers who are not normally political. Naturally, I’m hoping my candidate wins the election. But I’m not threatening to leave the country, or have my head explode, or vomit on my own t*ts (as someone so crassly put it in a comment I read) if the opposition wins.

We really will muddle through the next four years no matter who is in office.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Daughter of a son of a sailor man

I mentioned, waaaaay back in the first entry of this silly little blog, that my daughter had applied to the Naval Academy for the second time. Once again, she was not accepted. I think she found it harder the second time and we tried to console her as best we could.

I admit that many times I wondered if her wish to attend the Academy was more due to a desire to please her father, and less due to a sincere desire to join the service. And I also admit that I selfishly hoped that if she started college locally, she'd decide she loved it and would stay close to home FOREVER. I mean, she's my favorite, er, only, daughter and the thought of her leaving home kinda freaked me out.

She had been talking about meeting with a Naval recruiter for awhile, and she up and did it in mid-September. She took the ASVAB (the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) and scored pretty darn high, so her recruiter said she could pick just about any career in the Navy (excepting one that would put her in a submarine). Before she took the physical and met with a Naval career counselor, my husband counseled her not to sign anything before coming home to discuss it with us.

You know where this is going, don't you?

She came home with a done deal - all sworn in and signed on the dotted line. So, she's going to be a sailor. For six years.

Saying I needed some time to get over the shock is putting it quite mildly. In fact, I admit to some tears.

Don't get me wrong - I'm incredibly proud of my daughter for wanting to serve our country. And I don't think that everyone's kid BUT MINE should do so. I'm just going to miss her so very much when she's gone.

She initially decided to be a sonar operator/technician since she would have a marketable skill (electronics) should she decide to leave the service after her initial inlistment term, but she'd be able to spend a goodly amount of time on ships during her enlistment. She loves learning languages (she's picked up a little bit from each of our exchange students, and speaks German relatively fluently after two years of high school and one semester of college study), so she decided to take the DLAB (the Defense Language Aptitude Battery). She rocked that test too (the guy who administered it said he had never seen a score as high as hers).

So now she'll be attending the Defense Language Institute after graduating from basic training. Her score qualified her for one of the "strategic" languages. She'll learn either Russian, Korean, Arabic or Chinese. She won't know which until she arrives at DLI.

I'm still not totally sure what she'll be doing when she graduates from DLI. I think she could tell me. But then she'd have to kill me.

Or something like that.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Oh yeah, we're patriotic

Our fifth year of hosting is going pretty well. I do, however, feel a bit sorry for our student. He arrived during the all-Americans, all-the-time Olympics (except when they were showing teensy little gymnasts who probably had milk, cookies and a nap right after they did their parallel bar exercises).

Have you ever noticed that no events that Americans are not expected to excel in are shown during prime-time network television? I never noticed that phenomenon until we started hosting exchange students. This year I’d be all: “Hey, there’s a German swimming in this race – come watch!” ‘Cause it’s a rare occurrence. Unless the German was in a race in which Michael Phelps was also swimming. I personally could have done with a little bit less volleyball in bikinis and a little bit more of, say, archery. But my husband would probably disagree!

I guess we’re not alone, though. My daughter was in Europe during most of the Olympics and she saw nary an American on the small bit of television she watched. Of course, she was entirely too busy touring castles, taking gondola rides across the Grand Canal in Venice and visiting the Brandenburg Gate to watch too much television.

Not that I’m jealous or anything. But I’ve mentioned my lack of jealousy before, I think. I’m sure that really impresses upon you the sincerity of my lack of jealousy. My mentioning it all the time, that is.

As soon as the Olympics were over, we launched into two weeks of political conventions. Do you have any idea how many times speakers inform the viewing audience that we live in the BEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD during both political conventions?? Lots. Again, not anything I’d noticed until we were hosting someone not actually from our country. A speaker would launch into the BEST COUNTRY portion of his or her speech and I’d just have to kind of sheepishly say “Yep, we’re kinda arrogant here.”

Of course, I believe we live in the best country in the world, too.

But I hope people in other countries feel equally adamantly that THEY live in the best country in the world. I think it would be rather sad to live somewhere, all the while yearning to be somewhere else "better." So I don't get offended if someone disagrees with me on the topic of BEST COUNTRY. It's subjective.

Plus, castles? Great Walls? Koala Bears? Grand Canals? CN Towers? Windmills? There are AWESOME things EVERYWHERE. I want to see it all! And then come home.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


It’s always interesting to see how people find my little corner of the internet.

The widget from Feedjit lets me know when my former exchange students have visited (little German, Italian and Australian flags herald their arrivals) or when someone clicks the link on my Swap-Bot profile page.

Folks from StumbledUpon who have expressed an interest in clothing sites, of all things, are occasionally directed to this entry. I’m not sure why, since the topic would seem to be the lack of clothes, but apparently someone else felt otherwise and added my site under that category.

And every now and then someone will perform a search and Google will send them here. I apologize if you’ve searched for “Ginger Hokey Pokey” and wound up at this site. I can’t help you with that recipe, but you can try these Ginger Snaps, if you like.

But the person who searched for “how Shakespeare would do the Hokey Pokey”? I can definitely help you!

Back in 2003, the Washington Post’s Style Invitational invited readers to “rewrite some banal instructions in the style of some famous writer.” Jeff Brechlin of Potomac Falls, Virginia, provided the winning entry with his sonnet version of the Hokey-Pokey in the style of William Shakespeare. So, according to Mr. Brechlin, THIS is how Shakespeare would do the Hokey Pokey:

O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke,
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from Heavens yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke -- banish now thy doubt
Verily, I say, 'tis what it's all about.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Blast from the past (reprise)

It's an interesting time of year around our house. We're getting our 5th exchange student settled in and we're all still figuring out where we fit in this new family unit. This year we're hosting our first boy. He asked me the other day whether I’d noticed a difference -- well, besides the obvious. You know, tighty whities instead of pretty little panties and the like. Okay, so he didn’t mention underwear, but you know what I mean. No dramatic differences so far. One thing we've learned over our years of hosting is that kids are kids -- no matter where they're from. It's a wonderful thing!

My husband has been taking the boys to school and my daughter (recently returned from Europe -- nope, that's not a pretty shade of jealousy green I’ve turned -- not at all) and I share a ride to my office twice a week. Leaving the other three days for me to laze around in bed an EXTRA THIRTY MINUTES. Heaven on a pillow!

I was just getting ready to hop in the shower on Tuesday when the phone rang. I figured my husband had forgotten something, so you could have knocked me over with a feather when I answered it and it was our second exchange student. The answering machine was recording at the time, so I’ve been able to listen to the beginning of our conversation and you can clearly hear the shock in my voice when I said "HOLY COW!!" We lost touch a couple of years ago and I must admit that I figured she didn't remember her time with us very fondly. I'm paranoid that way.

But it was really wonderful to hear her sweet voice and we've exchanged e-mails and pictures. She's just as lovely as she ever was. She has graduated from high school in China and is now attending university in Australia. Which makes me feel -- repeat after me: old, old, old. Ugh. But very happy that we've reconnected. I hope this time for good! I don't like losing track of one of "my" kids. 'Cause once I've fed them, laughed with them, lugged them to school in the morning and home from extra curricular activities in the afternoon, taken them on vacations, and chewed them out for one reason or another, THEY'RE MINE FOREVER. Whether they like it or not.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Say what?

I was in the closest coffee shop to my office yesterday (in DESPERATE need of caffeine and could WALK NO FURTHER without my fix), when I overheard a couple of women talking.

Woman One: Did your kids have a good week?

Woman Two: Yes they did. But I was sick of them by the end of it.

Woman One: Shocked silence.

And rightfully so.

I can’t recall a time when I’ve ever been “sick of” my kids. Frustrated with them, yes. Irritated by them, yes. Sick of them? Hardly. Seems a bit harsh to me. I sure hope those kids don’t realize that their mother was, or has ever been, or ever will be sick of them.

Mostly I’m just amazed that they originated from me (why, yes, I did have some help from my husband but this is NOT THAT KIND OF BLOG).

I enjoy talking to them about whatever they want to talk about. Laughing out loud because they can be so very, very witty. Dancing around the kitchen with them to the beat of whatever music they’re into at the time. Admitting that why, yes, I did just attempt to apply the passenger brake in the car – but I occasionally do that with your dad, too, so don’t feel so bad.

Ever feeling sick of them? I don’t think so.

Although …

Given the state of my son’s bedroom right now, perhaps I may be revisiting the whole matter of illness caused by child.

This morning I told him he needed to get it cleaned TODAY. Because we’re picking up our latest exchange student on Thursday and we don’t want him to realize the instant he enters our house that we are slobs at heart. We like to break them in slowly in the mess department so they don’t immediately run screaming to the exchange program coordinator begging to be placed with a family that doesn’t use their dining room table as a flat filing cabinet.

I told my son that if he didn’t get his room cleaned, I was going to post pictures of it on my blog. His horrified “WHAT?” indicated that he thinks I have more than one reader. I don’t think I’ll enlighten him until after the room is cleaned.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I coordinate a group of volunteers for the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. I sign us up for one performance of each play during the season and we wipe down the tables and chairs, take tickets, hand out programs, usher, bounce, and collect recyclables and trash. In exchange, we get to stake out a spot in the hillside seating (the Festival performs in a lovely outdoor amphitheater) and watch the plays free.

And there you have my ulterior motive. I’d like to say that we volunteer at the Shakespeare Festival for purely altruistic motives. But that would be telling a fib.

We volunteer at the Shakespeare Festival because we love live theater. And even the unreserved hillside seats are almost $30 a pop on a Saturday night. Multiply that by the number of folks in my family and you get a hefty outlay of cash for a night of culture. So we volunteer.

And therein lies the problem: I have a hard time using the word “volunteer” for something like that. I mean, we do the work free. But I feel kind of guilty saying I volunteer for an organization that, well, pretty much caters to the folks in the community with money. I mean, the cheapest seats are $21 before tax on weekdays. If you don’t bring your own picnic meal, the least expensive meal in the café will set you back around $10.

Not exactly the kind of thing one usually associates with volunteer work.

Yes, the Shakespeare Festival is a non-profit organization and performs its own community service (including being very generous every time I've asked them to donate to any silent auction I've coordinated for my kids' schools).

But not what I think of as traditional volunteer work.

Oh, sure, we do other volunteer work in our community: the kids and I have served lunch at the rescue mission; we all participate in Rake Up Boise in the fall (raking leaves for the elderly and disabled); I have coordinated my company’s Christmas project the last two years (buying gifts for the residents of the Veteran’s Home and spending an evening there passing out homemade goodies and singing Christmas carols); my daughter and I helped when our company’s Community Service Committee provided dinner to Ronald McDonald House residents.

Since our bank account doesn’t lend a lot of opportunities to donate monetarily, we opt to help our community with our time when we can and those are what I think of as very legitimate volunteer activities.

Am I going to give up volunteering at the Festival? Oh, heck no. Let me see, incredible venue, wonderful and very professional productions, a great family evening of live theater … for free! Versus the slight inner cringe I feel when I say I’m “volunteering” there? The hand-scale weighing the pros and cons is definitely heavier on the pros side.

Friday, July 25, 2008

To the victor go the spoils

Or at least, to the vacuumer goes the spare change.

Found in the couch last weekend.

Money found under the couch cushions or in the washer or dryer is mine. All MINE. Of course, that would be because I’m just about the only person who ever finds money in those places because I am the person who is most likely to be cleaning under the cushions or doing the laundry.

Is it just me or does anyone else get seriously irritated at the fact that if another family member is doing any cleaning up around the house they’re “helping” you? Who assigned the entire house as my personal job anyway? I certainly didn’t sign up for that. Ever.

Oh sure, I appreciate when a kid asks “Is there anything I can do to help you?” But why is it “helping”? Why don’t they ever say “I’m going to vacuum unless you think I should start with something else.” Why don’t they just look around and see that the place needs to be swept/vacuumed/dusted? Or that the bathroom needs swabbing out? Or the laundry done? And just do it.

Certainly I’m not so much more brilliant than every other person in my family that only I can see when cleaning needs to happen. And I can’t really envision a circumstance where someone else doing any housework would irritate me, so it’s not like they actually need my permission to clean or anything. The housework fairy isn’t going to do it and I’m fairly certain that everyone in my house knows that.

Which is why it’s so frustrating to, for instance, find a dirty dish in the sink. When a dirty dish is in the sink it’s clear that SOMEONE feels it’s not his or her job to clean up after him/herself. The most oft-used excuse? “The dishwasher is clean.” Um, okay. Did someone forbid you from emptying it? Nope. Must be because it’s MY JOB to empty it.

Can you tell the dust in my living room is thick enough to write in this morning?

I’ll get over it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I love to cook. Oh sure, sometimes – let’s be honest here, many times – after working all day I don’t really want to slave over a hot stove for a couple of hours so we’ll hit the Wendy’s or the Panda Express (is there anything better than Panda’s Orange Chicken? I didn’t think so). And I have a few select frozen meals that my family loves (for instance, the Shrimp Scampi from Costco is fabulous). But for the most part, I cook “from scratch” and love finding new recipes to try out.

I was surprised when our first exchange student informed us that during her pre-departure orientation in Germany, she was told that Americans never cook. They eat fast food and microwave everything else. A sad commentary on how the world views us. Our exchange students have been pleasantly surprised to find that, at least at our house, cooking does happen.

Of course, it’s things like the following that probably add to our stereotype:

When you really NEED bacon, but none is handy, you can now make that chicken/fish/whatever taste like bacon. What??? I can get this stuff at 19 stores within a 30 minute drive from my house. But why???? So I can make such wonderful recipes as: Roasted Bacon Asparagus, Bacon Mayonnaise, and Bacon and Beer Steamed Clams. *shudder*

The website features rotating pictures of French fries, steak, grilled corn on the cob and hamburgers. I don’t know about you, but I’ve NEVER wanted my corn to taste like bacon. Not once. And I love bacon. A lot. Maybe not as much as this guy, though:

And because making pancakes is SO HARD, I give you Batter Blaster. Billed as “USDA Organic” no less. Okay, so the ingredients are allegedly organic, but doesn’t the whole shooting the batter out of the nozzle on an aerosol can sound like something distinctly not organic, notwithstanding the ingredients? The recipe I use is pretty darn simple. If I haven’t got time to whip up the real thing, I don’t have time to wait for these to cook, either. The little infomercial on the Batter Blaster site touts the neatness of the product: “No more cracking eggs or splattering ingredients.” Color me old fashioned, but still not a good enough reason for me to squirt my pancakes from a can. But do I wish I’d invented this little product (more than 400,000 sold from its release in October ‘til a review written in January)? Oh, yes indeedy.

I use my share of packaged goodies – Rice-a-Roni, boxed pasta mixes, spaghetti sauce from a jar – when I’m in a hurry (unlike pancakes, it takes hours to make a good spaghetti sauce). I’m usually a wee bit embarrassed when I resort to these shortcuts, though.

Not as embarrassed as I would be if I made pancakes from a can served with eggs flavored like bacon, though.