Snorkeling and Sitting and Swinging and Sipping!

Get ready for a photo-heavy post! I’ve lost the ability to sort through the beautiful photos Frank took so I’m sharing entirely too many with you. Prepare yourselves!

I love to snorkel. It is one of my favorite things to do and we have the good fortune to live just a few hours away from the Keys so we decided that as a pre-anniversary trip and last hurrah, we’d head down for the weekend.

Dedicated to our goal of hitting all the national parks, our first stop of the weekend was near Miami in Key Biscayne where you have to get into the water, to experience the park – madness! Our boat captain gave a thoroughly PG-13 tour of the history of the Key Biscayne area which included the words concubines, barnacle lashing and at least a dozen slave references. Thank goodness that children rarely listen to boring dirty old boat captains because their minds would have been BLOWN by the graphic stories he shared with us. In an effort to wash our minds clean of his filthy images, we eagerly jumped into the ocean and onto the reef (if eagerly jumped is defined by me wading in and nearly losing a fin, that’s exactly what we did). We had heard that it was beautiful and it had some of the most beautiful coral we’d seen… but don’t take my word for it! (Insert Reading Rainbow theme song here)

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We made a quick pit-stop at Robert Is Here as it is against state law to be within 15 miles and not stop for one of their delicious milkshakes. Florida has some seriously crazy laws and you know how I’m a rule follower, so, I reluctantly got a strawberry/coconut and Frank chose an orange/banana. Then we hopped back into the car to finish our road trip down to Key Largo. This was our second time staying at the Coconut Palm and it was as beautiful as we remembered it from our last trip – but as our last trip was in August it was even better because the weather was absolutely perfect! The kind folks at the resort recommended a restaurant we hadn’t been to before called the Kaiyo Grill which was a bit like Roy’s on a smaller scale and was, obviously, delicious. If you’re in the area, you should check it out.
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We spent the next day laying in hammocks reading, kayaking and relaxing before going to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park for another snorkeling adventure.

This was our third time to Pennekamp and it was another great visit. We always use the Reef Roamer tour folks for their Sunset Sail and while the staff always seems like they’re rolling in after a nine-day bender, they are super friendly (once they accept that they actually have to work today), give a fabulous reef tour and are always quite generous with their dangerous rum punch concoction – and how can that go wrong?????

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Easter

I don’t know what it is about Easter in Florida, but I just always want to be outside. It might be because of the snow and ice covered Easters we had growing up, wishing that our Easter dresses were weather-appropriate and that spring would get a move on already but for the last (nearly) 15 years I’ve been in Florida, I want no part of a fancy dress or formal brunch but rather a barbecue or picnic. This year we decided to visit Blue Springs, do some kayaking and have a simple picnic.

Here are a few photos from our adventure and some obligatory egg decorating pictures.
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Never Enough Pink

We decided to throw a Valentine’s weekend party because Frank puts up with my enthusiasm for more pink than is ever appropriate (and if you don’t believe me, you should stop by and take a look at the Pepto Bismol pink that the BOB room is currently covered in).

We got a little carried away with the crafting and decorating and Frank took some beautiful photos of the set up. (Fortunately) and unfortunately we had a really, really terrific time and completely forgot to take pictures of everyone enjoying themselves. If you guys were less fun, we would have remembered to take more pictures so truthfully, I blame you.

The evening included a mountain of delicious food with a veritable mountain-range of even more delicious desserts. We were joined by quite a crowd of thoughtful and polite guests who joined us in watching The Princess Bride – and three of our guests had never seen it! Inconceivable!!!! But true…

Happy (belated) Valentine’s Day to all, and to all a PINK night!

Purple Pesto Pizza

So, I was in one of the community gardens last week and had look at the very overgrown herbs. I thought I’d grab some basil to make a batch of pesto when I stumbled across (well, I kind of fell on) a great big bush of green and purple leaves that smelled like basil. The bottom part of the bush was a dark shiny green and all of the leaves at the top of each section were decidedly purple – like eggplant! Crazy! Did you know that basil comes in purple???? I most certainly did not and excitedly grabbed a few hand-fulls of the purple leaves to mix it with some traditional and pineapple basil to make up the wildest batch of pesto ever (and then, of course, something for it to go on top of).

It gets crazy here at Villa-Bration. Be jealous.

I like coffee, I like tea…

We bought our first coffee maker last week and we figure that now we’re officially grown-ups. It’s not super fancy or anything but it does have a separate section where it distributes hot water which means that we can make tea-flavoured tea rather than weird sort of watery coffee-esque I-wish-I-tasted-more-like-tea, tea…

Anyway, enjoy the photo diary of Sunday morning coffee at Villa-Bration.

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For my birthday party this year we decided to mix things up and have a rainbow party and so, here you have it! Rainbows always make me so glad that I thought a party full of them would be fantastic – and it was! My friend Julie even made a rainbow layer cake for everyone and it was the most beautiful cake we’d ever seen! We made it a backyard movie night with the feature being The Wizard of Oz – who doesn’t love that??? We had all forgotten how wonderful that movie is!

Zion National Park

Vacation Days 4-5:

I no longer have any idea what time it is. Between traveling, crossing state lines multiple times and the foolishness of Vegas time, I’m turned around backwards but I can tell you that we arrived at Zion during daylight hours. Thanks to the sunshine, we were able to have a look around and take in the beauty of Zion National Park. I mean, I know that’s why these sections of land were chosen, but seriously – it’s really beautiful! Our first adventure there was a hike to the low, medium, and high Emerald pools where we saw the backside of water along with some other things.

Because we make poor choices, we decided that our big hike for this leg of the trip was through the Refrigerator Canyon, Walter’s Wiggles, and up to Angel’s Landing. We’re reasonably experienced hikers as we’ve done some pretty rough hiking and assumed that folks who’d warned us about the height, sheer drop-offs, and chains that you had to hold onto while hiking (ha!) were just exaggerating and, much like the fancy hikers who frequent these places, were taking themselves a little too seriously. Hiking is, after all, just taking a walk without the benefit of an Orange Julius or Gap sighting, so we’re rarely deterred by a hiking trail, even one like Angel’s Landing, which is listed as strenuous and treacherous in the park guide map. The first two parts went just fine, albeit really steep (up to 5785 feet in just a couple of miles) but then came the challenging bit.

The final walk to Angel’s Landing was when it got a little tricky. They weren’t kidding about the chains either – it was a hold on (with two hands mind you) or fall off the mountain sort of situation and several sections where I had to hold on with both hands and do a bit of a Tarzan swing from one rock to another… but I blame my vertical challenges for that last bit. Anyway, after a good long while we made it to the top and boy was it worth it!

Did I mention the chipmunks? While their size does not lead you to believe that they are wasting away, their aggressive begging certainly hints at it. Fortunately we’d been warned because signs spoke against feeding the chipmunks by letting visitors know that if encouraged, they would ban together and make a hostile take-over of your backpack. Holy crap.

We also learned that Jessica (Rebecca’s sister) feels that she can ward off bears with her strobe light, rape whistle, and running speed. Just thought you should know that… but chipmunks, they make her nervous.

To finish out our day of hiking we jaunted over to the Weeping Rock with some very pretty hanging gardens, and because the Narrows was closed, we headed to the River Walk where the Narrows begins so that we could get a sense of it since we couldn’t dive in.

We wrapped up the night with another delicious dinner (seriously delicious) at the lodge. That’s around the time that Jessica warned the boys against shaving after drinking because she’d once done a “very thorough” job of tweezing after an evening of drinking, which had turned out to be a pretty bad idea. She was clearly delirious from exhaustion so we put her to bed and stayed up a bit longer to enjoy a bit of star-gazing. They really are much prettier when you can actually see them. Who knew? We even saw what we think was a space station or satellite moving across the night sky… then again we bought drinks that came with the souvenir glasses so goodness knows what was in us at that hour!

On our way out of Zion we made a quick stop at the Thunderbird Motor Lodge, home of the Ho-Made Pie and the friendliest service we’d ever experienced – our server even curtsied when thanking us! We split 5 slices (coconut, strawberry rhubarb, apple, and two slices of chocolate) and picked up two extra to go for the Blum boys for later – no one should be without pie! Our server recommended that we leave the extra slices on the dash of the car to warm them up because as she said “that’s how we do it in the south”. We love southern charm!

Off to the Grand Canyon – more later. Wish us luck!

Vegas Weekend

Since I know how much you all enjoy our vacation adventures, we’re bringing our vacation blog back. This year’s Skibiski-Morgan/Hendry-Blum southwestern tour started with a weekend in Las Vegas. We stayed at Planet Hollywood thanks to Todd and Rebecca’s timeshare, which was beautiful and in a terrific location. It was also a fabulous place to do some good quality people watching because while I packed several books and planned to settle in for a good long relax, the other guests sure came to have a crazy weekend! A rowdy group of boys down the hall from us may have been filming a sequel to “The Hangover” with all the commotion they were making… No tiger growls were heard but cat-calls sure as heck were! I’m also pretty sure that we smelled a decaying body coming from that direction. As the saying goes, it’s not a bachelor party if there isn’t a dead hooker!

Dead hookers aside, we had a great time people-watching and exploring. Who knew that Prince and Michael Jackson were friends? Not us, but we saw them hanging out on a street corner, probably people-watching themselves. Also, the gals sure do dress strangely for a walk down the street here! Why on earth would you wear three-and-a-half inch heels to go on a lengthy walk? Crazy. Oh, and everywhere we went, Johnny Dep was there. We saw him dressed up as Jack Sparrow, then twenty minutes later as the Mad Hatter, and then another couple of blocks we saw him gussied up in his Edward Scissorhands costume. I wonder if he has to pay extra for all that luggage because I’m sure he had to bring more than a carry-on, especially with all of those wigs! I was hoping to see him in his 21 Jumpstreet costume too but we must have missed that.

We went to see the Elvis Cirque show which was fun, campy, and enjoyable. We tried to get free tickets to see Holly Madison’s Peepshow (as we weren’t at all willing to pay what they were charging) but couldn’t sweet-talk our way in. Everyone came out on top of the slot machines and now we’re off on a road trip to the next leg of our trip: Zion National Park.

Dear Joey B.

A letter to Vice President Joe Biden:

Dear Joey B,

Did you and Nancy call each other before the State of the Union to coordinate your outfits? Purple is my favorite color and I’m glad to see you two in such festive attire during what can be a fairly boring evening. I’m a big fan and I think that you’re a good time. I love that you’re always so glad to be wherever it is you are. It must be hard to be a politician so often between a rock and a hard place, and still be filled with sunshine, but you always seem to radiate gladness.

By the way, how funny is it that senators and representatives were taking pictures with their mobile phones when the president entered? As if their won’t be enough pictures and TV coverage from tonight’s event?!?!?

Stop by the next time you’re in O-town. I feel like you and Phyllis, our puppy, would really get along… She really loves everyone too.

Good luck with everything.
andrea

PS With all the letters Tom Foreman has written to the President, I thought it might be nice if you got some mail too… everyone likes to get mail.

Happy Christmastime!

Andrea, Stella, Phyllis, and Frank
Andrea, Stella, Phyllis, and Frank

As you may (or may not) have noticed, we didn’t send out holiday cards this year so consider this your personal card – which is obviously not at all personal as we’re posting it for all the world-wide-web to see. Anyway, we hope that you had a happy bunch of holidays and have properly moved through your personal mountain of cookies and cakes.

Feel free to imagine that you had to trudge through the snow on the way to your mailbox to get this (for appropriate levels of appreciation) and then print this out to add to your holiday card pile, your office wall, your dining room table, or just above the vanity in your bathroom. I’ve always thought that we look especially good in the bathroom…

andrea

It’s My Birthday!

I’ve always thought of my birthday as my own special holiday and this year was no different. Since we were away in Hawaii (don’t worry, the post is coming soon), we didn’t get to see the new Harry Potter when it came out earlier this week so last night to kick off my birthday, we went and saw it in Celebration. We think that we liked it (the jury is still out) but we’re still looking forward the IMAX version when it opens in a few weeks.

As for today, our day started out with mimosas and fancy-schmancy French toast (with fresh fancy bread filled with combinations of cream cheese and strawberries, and brie and raspberries). We had a lolly-gag morning and then paid a visit to the Lake Eola farmer’s market where we saw our friend the waffle man who is apparently going back to Belgium in a few weeks, so visit him soon (his waffles might just change your life). After sucking down our Belgium waffles as if we were starving, we ordered Chinese take-out and headed home. We gussied up the house and put on a Harry Potter movie and then celebrated my birthday properly with a Harry Potter Party.

I had a great day – Thanks to everyone who came, emailed, sent cards, presents, and well wishes!

andrea

A letter home…

Let’s talk about public relations and media coverage. My friend Molly (one of the Smart Chicks I know) donated her time and shared some PR best practices to the Council on Volunteer Management this week in an effort to help some of my colleagues get their good work out to the community and it got me thinking…

There are so many great things in the world that don’t get any attention or coverage and then there are some folks getting undeserved publicity, for example, Heidi and Spencer. In my opinion they deserve no more attention whatsoever, and I hate to even put their names in here for the fear that someone might assume that I/we think they’re worth our time, but the reason I mention them is that I think they’re not only damaging their own reputations but the reputations of those people and things around them.

You know when someone particularly unsavory or unqualified, endorses something or someone that would otherwise be a good thing and even though you might think M&M’s are super-duper, to see Paris Hilton eating them would probably put me off those chocolate bits of heaven for quite a while, even though I know it is not the fault of the chocolate, the chocolate makers, or the chocolate scented company, yet it’s the one that will inevitably bear the brunt of the “accolades”.

As I’m sure you agree, they are garnering and distributing the wrong kind of publicity and soiling the reputations of the things they endorse

Recently Heidi, Spencer, and (I shudder to use her name) Miley Sirus have come out publicly with their love for the lord. As Miley accepted her most recent meaningless award, she said “I want to thank God – DUH!” and I wondered why you would follow any deity with the word “duh” and if she knew that she was doing him a disservice. Does she not know that she’s not exactly an effective spokeswoman? Has The Soup taught us nothing? I wish for everyone’s sake, that those three would stop speaking out so loudly because I think that if someone was on the fence about God, an endorsement from those three might just send them in a different direction altogether.

I’ve gotten off course, back to my point: Public Relations and Binghamton. Several months ago there was a tragic shooting in Binghamton, New York, which, in case you didn’t know, is where I’m from. Well, I’m technically from Johnson City, New York where my parent’s house is approximately 12 blocks from Binghamton and if you don’t see the connection, what I’m trying to say is that Heidi and Spencer are doing for God what the shooting seems to have done for Binghamton.

I don’t think that this shooting was the kind of press coverage that Binghamton deserves and I’m here to tell you some of the great things that the reporters missed during their visit. Even though I don’t live there anymore, I still think it’s a pretty terrific place and that it was a fabulous place to grown up and live in.

The first thing you should know about Binghamton is that when you go, you should pack your stretchy pants.
As far as I’m concerned, the best food in the world can be found in the Binghamton area, and I’m not just talking about my mom’s tuna-goop (which would blow your mind). The best pizza in the world is made from scratch in this very area. Nirchi’s, Tony’s, Nick’s, Brozetti’s, and Rossi’s pizza each give each other a run for their money and to be honest, put everyone else’s pizza to shame.
Gnocchi.
Gyros.
Spiedies.
Candy Apples.
Did I mention that it’s the pirohi capital of the United States? I’m panicked with hunger just thinking about all of it!

People in Binghamton are really nice, for example:
The last time I was home, my mom picked up a crazy homeless lady.
I once ordered a pizza to the Binghamton airport and the airline folks gave me aluminum foil from their “employees only” break room so that I could wrap up the left-overs and take them with me.
While many churches struggle for membership and dwindling resources, the churches in the Binghamton area have banded together to meet local needs by creating and participating in CHOW, a interdenominational organization who’s aim is to stop hunger and is doing a terrific job meeting the increasing needs of this community.

Awesome things happen in Binghamton, for example:
At a B-Sens hockey game this winter Frank caught a puck.
If you read the newspaper in my parent’s living room, one of their cats will come to sit on your lap.
The local schools in this area have wonderful music and sports programs.
Awesome.

Binghamton has real weather and natural beauty.
While I’m not crazy about inclement weather, they have all of it – the good and the bad. The winter is so snowy that you can build a snow fort with your nieces and nephew that their dog Bones will try to pee on.
It’s a good time.
In the summer, the local gorges and Finger Lakes are picturesque.
Hiking trails, public parks, and carousels are all over the place.
Don’t even get me started about the local wineries!

So, you see, the shooting in Binghamton wasn’t the best example of what the Triple Cities area has to offer. I don’t think that one tragic occurrence should ever be the “claim to fame” for any area; Virginia Tech, Columbine, Jonesborough or any other place where one crazy person has made a place famous for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps on a slow news day, we can invite the national media back to these places to have a look-see and celebrate the good, albeit less controversy-filled, news available. Tom Foreman (who’s blog inspired this series) has apparently been by to check us out. Maybe he’ll take the suggestion to heart and mention it to his reporter friends… and remind them to pack their stretchy pants.

We’ve got quite a bit planned for the weekend – a movie, a concert, and maybe a trip to a theme park. You’re always welcome to tag along. Give me a ring if you’re free, I’ll make sure to leave my cell on.

andrea

You’ve Got Mail

So I was scanning through the options on television tonight and found myself watching You’ve Got Mail. You won’t be at all shocked to discover that I love You’ve Got Mail

Also not so surprisingly, I love the Christmas season as it is shown in the movie… Maybe it’s the twinkle lights, the holiday party sing-along (why have I never been invited to sing the “The Horn, The Horn, It Sounds So Forlorn” song?), or the fancy party they attend with the caviar garnish and multiple turkeys out on display.

I love the Shop Around the Corner but I also love the new Fox Books store. What I love about the Shop Around the Corner is its quaint and cozy atmosphere and that it feels like the sort of shop you’d like to be a regular in, or maybe even own. I love the idea of a facility that has knowledgeable and service minded employees (read: not too cool to be helpful) and a family business that a parent passes onto her child.

Although I think we have far too many big discount box stores, I shamelessly love the Fox Books store as it is opening. Much like I love to spend a rainy afternoon in Barnes and Noble (when the book shelves are orderly) or during the holidays when I use it as my go-to gift shop because I believe that a fabulous gift for anyone can be found there. As Fox Books was opening, I could almost smell that delicious new book scent – heavenly!

This movie also makes me love New York City and feel like I should spend a bit more time there. It might be the cute tights worn by the girls in the film, or the idea that turtlenecks are an option in such a climate. In truth, it’s probably the romantic comedy version of New York City that I love so much, but this is one of the movies that makes me love the idea of living in New York City… Kind of like how people the idea of going to Disney World much more than the sticky, germy, crowded version available for $70+ a day just a few miles from my house.

As if that weren’t enough to love, I love love love the idea of writing a letter and sending it out into the void, to someone you don’t really know and the idea of sharing a bit of yourself with the cyber-gods. That’s a bit of what I think these letters are for me.

Do you remember writing actual letters? I remember making friends at Girl Scout and church camp and writing them letters afterward (sometimes several a week, much to the frustration of my parent’s pre-established postage budget) so that we could develop and continue those important new relationships. It was always so exciting to mail a letter, wait for it to arrive, hoping it would make that person’s day, and then look forward to the possibility of a reply. That is very much how I am feeling right now and how I often feel as I post these letters to you – excited to hear your response, replies, and anticipating your reactions.

Then again, maybe it’s not so much the letter writing or even the movie but Meg Ryan’s cute short hair that’s making me feel nostalgic again. It might just be time for a haircut!

Give a ring or drop me a line when you have a moment. I have a birthday party tonight (Happy Birthday Mindi) but I’ll be up late afterward so feel free to call later on.

andrea

A rainy day letter…

So now that I have the time to write to you each day (or so as the case may be), I’ve been thinking about what interesting parts of my life that I should share with you, my surrogate coworkers. I’ve decided that I’ll start with the things we might talk about at the water cooler, like what we did last night, the Lost Season Finale, or how mad we are that it doesn’t look like Eli Stone is coming back.

As you may or may not know, I attend Jazzercise with a girlfriend twice a week. Yes, Jazzercise still exists, and no, I’m not at all embarrassed to share my hobby with you, because it’s awesome and you know that you’re secretly jealous.

This week in my Monday night class my girlfriend brought her husband along for the fitness of it all. While Jazzercise is not necessarily a gender specific activity, it is not one that, at least in my experiences, is often frequented by the fellas.

So we don’t embarrass her husband, let’s call him Jason. As Jason was attempting to get comfortable in a room with a dozen or so women in different stages of fitness wearing snug fitting and brightly colored lycra costumes, the dance music began. It was time to stretch and warm up. I saw him look confusedly around the room as the women started marching and stretching in unison. When he searched frantically for the instructor’s feet to figure out where to put his own, I held in my giggle, because, well, that’s no way to welcome a new-comer to your class! Throughout the class Jason stumbled over his own feet in an attempt to do the grapevine, and high-kicks, and then threw it into high gear when Vanessa Hudgens came on the boom box with “Come Back to Me” for the ever-important chest-thrusts. While I watched him bouncing along with the 30-something gaggle of women in exasperation and exhaustion, I gathered that he wasn’t necessarily there for his own manly urge to dance and perhaps there was a greater motivator. This was clearly a gift he was giving to his wife and I was genuinely moved that he would do that for her.

My girlfriend certainly didn’t insist that Jason come along with her, but in support of her hobby, he found himself well outside his comfort zone and doing the triplet leg pumps in the back of a recreation room until 8:45pm. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

People do selfless things for their loved ones all the time and those sorts of activities never quite get the recognition they deserve.

Do you remember when Eli Stone took back the aneurism from his brother because he wanted him to have a better life – that he placed a higher value on his brother’s life and happiness than on his own? Of course you don’t… no one was watching Eli Stone except me apparently. Well, it was a good example of selflessness in a magical television reality. Now that I put it that way, I understand a little more why I might have been the only one watching it.

The news is full of real life horror stories, but I think we should share our bright spots with one another, even though the things we do for each other cannot be quantified or measured. Maybe it’s because we can’t hold up a score card that we don’t keep track, but I think if we gave these selfless moments some good PR there’d be a whole lot more of them to go around. Just thinking about the things my husband does to make me happy puts a smile on my face, but then again, maybe it’s just the picture in my head of Jason step-ball-changing while pumping his arms enthusiastically to a Katherine McPhee song that is making me giggle… it’s hard to know.

Feel free to give me a ring to catch up if you have a moment, in fact swing by if you like. I’m making a spicy chicken and shrimp pasta tonight and there’s always plenty for last minute guests!

andrea

A letter to…

I’ve been reading an ongoing CNN blog where a guy named Tom Foreman (who is actually pretty funny for CNN) writes a letter to the president every day with his suggestions and I thought that writing a note to you each day might make the same sort of impact. I’ll try to share with you the funny things that go on with me, because ridiculous things seem to happen around me wherever I go, and I don’t have coworkers to share them with anymore. I see you everyday, so you’re sort of like my surrogate coworkers.

I just went for a jog and found that there are alot of people watering their lawns in the middle of the day – when it is explicitly verboten to do so, with not so much as a guilty look on their faces. Part of me was appalled at their brazen nature, and another part was jealous, because their lawns were much greener than mine. Anyway, It makes me wonder about people and rules. I know people who are rule followers by nature and those that look at rules as if they are optional or a gentle suggestion. I wonder what makes people go one way or the other because most folks I know are pretty consistently camped on one side of the fence or the other. I know a rule breaker or two who come from a line of steadfast by-the-book rule followers and folks who adamantly follow rules, just in case, even though no one ever told them they had to, so I certainly don’t think we’re hard wired to follow or make up our own rules.

Perhaps it’s our experiences that define us in this way and we probably need both sorts of people so that there is the appropriate level of order and chaos. Do you remember the episode of Charmed when they ended up in that awful world where it was sunny all the time and Phoebe got shot? I know it’s hard to sort them all out, as Phoebe does almost die in like every episode, but I don’t think I want to live somewhere like that, probably because I’d go through so much sunscreen – it doesn’t grown on trees!

Anyway, I guess I’m all right with the daytime watering, even though it is a little wasteful. I also think it’s nice that folks act differently when given similar situations, because otherwise what would I spend my time thinking about?

Tom at CNN always mentions in his letters that President Obama can call him if he has a free second to catch up, and as I like to be friendly, I’ll extend the same invitation to you. We’re going to see Angels and Demons tonight though, so maybe just not between 6 and 9pm.

andrea

Little details and an update.

As I sit at home on a lazy Saturday morning with the girls, I thought it’d be as good a time as any to update you on the mostly meaningless details of my life.

My herbs are really coming up. I’m not at all sure what I’ll do with all of the sage (what does one do with a vat of sage?) Oh, and my mint is thriving! My basil has been wildly plentiful, so I’ve made fresh pesto four or five times already this season (had so much that I even had to freeze some and give it away). I’ve also planted tomatoes, zucchini, and blueberry bushes, which are all doing really well. I have three blueberries in the fridge right now ready to enjoy!


I finally finished my stump (which will act as a footstool/ottoman) and repainted the Bob room in a purposefully obnoxious pink – it’s really pretty!

Speaking of refrigerators (at least I was), for Earth Day we decided to empty and turn off the fridge in the garage… I know, I know, where will we put our vats of alcohol, extra condiments, and frozen food we never intend to eat? Well, we cleaned it out and finally did it. We figured that with Bob gone, we probably don’t need two full sized refrigerators for the two of us (I know it’s crazy) and I might have to stop grocery shopping as if we’re a family of 7…

See – I said meaningless, but nonetheless true and informative! It’s the little details of one’s life that you miss out on when you’re far away or busy with other things, so I’m going to catch you up on my details!

By the way, Lord of the Rings is scary… I love it – oh I love it – but it’s so scary! Frank was right to talk me out of watching it at night before I went to bed but watching it at home alone (albeit with the girls) is very scary! Don’t worry about me though, Phyllis’s sweet snoring and Stella’s warm cuddling are comforting.

Right now I’m watching The Holiday (with Kate Winslet) for something like the 47th time and I love it. A little bit of an English accent mixed with Christmas decorations and wrapped up in a romantic comedy. Why aren’t all movies like this? There’s so much ick, yuck, and ack in the world – all movies should be just like this! Except of course for Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, which are perfect, flawless, and timeless – even though they’re a little scary sometimes!

Published Again!

I’ve been published again and although it made it into the paper, it didn’t make it onto the website. Have no fear though, I scanned it for you to enjoy – it’s like the actual paper but you won’t have to wash the black bits off your fingers! You’re welcome!

andrea's article
andrea's article

Great Barrier Reef

You may have read the news articles about the audition for the job babysitting Hamilton Island and the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef. Well, I’ve applied and had such a good time putting together the video with my friend Jerry that I thought I’d share it with you.

It’s ridiculous, but it cracks me up.

Ready To Catch Up

We’re heading home to Johnson City this weekend to stuff ourselves full of pizza, pizza, pizza, gnocchi, stuffed and breaded mushrooms, and fresh baked goods. I have a stack of cardigans (a la Chandler and his sweater vests), four books, and a great big stack of magazines to read. I’m several months behind in my magazines, and keep buying books for some reason (as if I can even keep up with my library habit). I’m looking forward to catching up with family and friends and reading, reading, reading. As usual, we’ll keep you posted on our wild times in the Binghamton area and maybe even have some trivia.

Yes, I know I still need to mail Martha her prize from last time – so if you win, savor it and realize that your prize for the moment will be the glory of it all and your actual prize will be tardy :)

We’ll update tomorrow!

2008 to 2009

Lots and lots of folks are saying what a crappy year 2008 was and how they’re looking forward to a better 2009. I, for one, had a terrific 2008 that was filled with new hobbies, a sense of accomplishment, adventure, and overall wonderful experiences… I think the rest of you probably did too, and you’ve just forgotten about all the good times you had (and I also think that’s probably because the news is filled with doom and gloom but that’s another story for another time). Have no fear, I’m going to tell you why 2008 was pretty terrific for me with the hope that it reminds you why your 2008 wasn’t too bad, and I encourage each of you to make your own list!

I taught myself to crochet and have made several lovely items. One can never have enough scarves.

On a frantic Monday afternoon I came up with the idea that I could write a book, and so I started writing. It’s 43,000 words strong and still going – not too shabby!

30-before-30-list nearly completed – I still need to learn to juggle and am taking on volunteers to teach me.

I hiked the freakin’ Grand Canyon!

Cher sang happy birthday to me – jealous?

Finally, the most important and wonderful things on my list are having Frank’s hand to hold, fighting over the bed with Stella and Phyllis, Florida sunshine, green Christmas cookies, Aunt Doris’ surprise cupcakes, Friends, and Family.

I’m sure that 2009 is going to be pretty fantastic and I’m really looking forward to finding out what happens next. In the New Year I am going to make an effort to be healthier, take deeper breaths, read more, write more, hug more, and take more time to appreciate everything that I have.

Happy New Year!

And to all a good night!

After a full day of shopping, wrapping, baking, ribbonning, cleaning, laundering, and cooking, it’s finally time. We’ve been to Jed’s house for the annual story and home, which means Christmas is upon us. The puppies are nestled and sleepy – Stella in her papasan and Phyllis (for the moment) on her freshly laundered bed (she’s bound and determined to snuggle with mommy and daddy but we keep sending her back to her “tortuous” bed).

Frank has drifted off, and As I wind down, I’m watching a mini-marathon of Friends Christmas episodes – my favorite marathon ever! Right now I’m watching the one from the 3rd season where Joey has a job at a Christmas Tree lot and Phoebe thinks it’s Christmas Tree murder… funny stuff.

I hope that you have a terrific holiday tomorrow. I hope that you get everything you’re hoping for and have plenty of sweet bread – can a person get enough breads this time of year?? I don’t think so.

Tomorrow we’ll post photos of our excitement, and video from Jed’s annual “Gift of the Magi” reading.
Merry Christmas!

The night of the B

Wednesday night was possibly the best night ever… until Sunday night. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Wednesday.

First Bob and I headed to Epcot. One of my favorite ensembles was performing and I’d been waiting all season to see them. Yes, Boys II Men has finally come to O-Town. The last time I saw Boys II Men (yes I’ve seen them three times total – and now four) was on my eighteenth birthday. Opening for them (on the day I became old enough to vote) was the hip hoppy gentleman who sang the “This is how we do iiii-it” song (and to be honest with you, he was pretty bad). It was a fun day at some fair ground area in New York or Pennsylvania somewhere and the Boys were terrific, as I knew they would be. They wore crazy matchy costumes if I remember correctly (especially that one with his walking stick who was also quite the dancer – not a typical combination) and they were excellent singers putting on quite a show.

Anyway, (back to this week’s performance) Leslie (Bob’s sister and my new hero) got to the park early and got in line. After a good deal of begging, she agreed to save us a spot so we hustled to the America Gardens Theatre to find the line clear into Germany and still growing (for those of you who don’t know how far that is, just know that it’s far). We hopped into line with Leslie and just moments later they let us (and hundreds of our closest friends) into the amphitheatre – so many that it was bursting at the seams – by far the most crowded that I’ve ever seen that pavilion. We were in the third row and it was so crowded that the gaggle was seated for about five minutes when the whisper of the Boys arrival came across the crowd we all jumped to our feet and stayed there for the duration.

Boys II Men are worth that kind of discomfort and inconvenience.

Anyway, I was genuinely moved during several songs and had several teenaged angst-riddled moments (and for fear that you will pick on me relentlessly, I won’t share their names, but I’m sure you can guess pretty easily – to be honest their whole playlist is pretty embarrassing). My favorite part of the concert was when I looked around and found myself in a crowd of people (most women of course) singing out (and I mean OUT) emotionally and without shame. As I scanned the crowd I noticed that they were all about my age, and thought to myself no one there looked old or un-hip in any way. As I was getting a little full of myself thinking that we were all still quite young and spry actually, the Boys took a moment to thank the crowd for their support for the last 18-years. Ouch. I’ve spoken to proper adults (when I say adults, I always mean OLD people – people like my friend Will who is VERY OLD) who’ve said that they didn’t feel as old as they were and that they were somehow stuck at a certain age – usually somewhere in the late teens or early 20’s. I don’t feel so different from 17 or 18, and seeing the Boys, who I hadn’t seen in 12 years allowed 30 to rear its old ugly head again. I’m going to need to figure out how to be alright with 30 at some point, but it’s sure as hell not today.

Anyway, the show was a terrific one – have a look for yourselves! Make sure to take note of the running-man as it is proudly performed!
Motown-Philly

After the show ended Bob and I hustled out of the park (which is quite a long walk by the way) to make it to Kissimmee in time. Why would we go to Kissimmee late at night and in the cold, you ask? Oh, did I forget to mention the chilly weather? By the time we left Epcot it was about 50 degrees and going down (and yes, that’s cold for Orlando, especially in October… and even colder in flip-flops). Bob and I were meeting Mike Graybill in Kissimmee because our friends – the Big B’s – were speaking and having a rally. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were coming and scheduled to hit the stage at 11pm. Bob and I fought our way through brutal Osceola County-yee-haw traffic, parked at a trusty Burger King and walked several miles to the end of the line to get in. We waited in the line for about an hour and a half (and walked another long way) until we finally got onto the field. I’ll be honest with you; I was tired, cold, and a little grumpy (my toes were wet after all) but as usual, Bob cheered me up and took good care of me. Graybill had thoughtfully bought us the last two hot chocolates at the venue (bless him) and we waited anxiously for the Big B’s to arrive.

As we drank our DELICIOUS hot cocoa we made some observations about the crowd. True, there were some crazies, for instance the man and his two sons ages 8 and 10 who were attending the event but not going to school the next day (because, as the dad shared, there was more to be learned at this event than at their orange county public school the next day), the obnoxious enthusiasts who clearly napped all day and were offensively peppy, and the hipster beatniks. They were old and young, yuppie and hick, and practically a United Colours of Benetton ad of cultural diversity woven throughout the crowd. I looked around at the excited crowd anticipating the B-arrival together, as a unit, as a gathering of very unlikely friends. Watching them interact with their neighbors, dressed and styled differently than themselves, that wouldn’t typically have anything in common, but at this event, they were together for a common goal – to accomplish something and be a part of something.

The B’s came and spoke and, not at all surprisingly, were both pretty terrific, but what I took away from the event (besides being able to spend the following day saying “I was there” every time someone turned on the news which was pretty cool in and of itself), was the beautifully motley community that the B event inspired… Also, whatever you think and whomever you’re for, it cannot be denied that Bill and Barack are two of the most commanding speakers around.

The only thing that would have put the event over the top is if Boys II Men had appeared on stage to give the B’s a proper introduction. I can almost imagine Bill singing along with feeling in his Arkansan accent to “Bended Knee”, or cutting a southern rug to Motown-Philly. I can dream, can’t I?

Sunday night’s activities? I know you’re excited but you’re just going to have to wait
More tomorrow!

Vacation and stomach aside…

So my belly has been angry for about 5 days now.

Strange.

First of all I had cramps – no surprise this time of the month – but that wasn’t all. My belly felt big, bloated, and angry and I couldn’t figure out why. There was a rumble in my jungle. During the flight, I could feel my stomach churning-churning-churning constantly and was having trouble falling and staying asleep because of it. Frank tried to lean on me at one point, but my angry belly was so tender that I had to send him toward the tank-top wearing, long-underarm-hair lady to his left. You may be thinking to yourself “Just GO Andrea” but I tried that… there was nothing but air inside. As we were sitting in the second airport, Frank had a look and listen to my belly and he made a diagnosis – no it’s not hemoroids and no, I’m not pregnant. He asked if I’d eaten any fiber one bars, and of course I had (they’re like nectar of the gods). In fact, I’d had one or two every day for the past week. I’d been trying to take off a pound or two and fiber one always seems to help with that sort of effort. Well, we all know that fiber one bars make you gassy (I think Mike S – king of gas – found an article calling them gas bars or something) and I’ve always enjoyed that they allow me to have funny party “noises” if you will but this was different. Apparently the type of angry belly gas is typical of fiber one eaters, and I’d just been lucky up until now… trouble.

Anyway, I’ve switched to Kashi Bars on Todd and Rebecca’s recommendations and am feeling pretty terrific. My big bloated belly even went away – thank you Kashi!

Sequoia National Forest for the Second Time – Day Two

After having a refreshing 3 hours of sleep we were up and ready to explore. We picked up a few supplies at a little grocery shop and I made lunch while we drove to Kings Canyon. We didn’t make it that far in last year so we wanted to make sure that we explored it this time around. Once the pb&j’s were made we headed off the walk the General Grant Tree Trail. The general is the third largest living things in the world and was named the National Christmas Tree by some president in the early 1900’s. They have a celebration each year where local folks come out, choirs sing, and holiday merriment is made – this year it’s the second Sunday in December. We’re not coming, but I wouldn’t turn away a free trip out here if someone wanted to give me an early Christmas present – I’m just saying! We also saw a tree named fallen monarch, which is a fallen sequoia that’s been hollowed out and acts as a walkway.

Next we stopped at the Ranger Station at Grant Grove where we got some recommendations for the remainder of the day today, and tomorrow. She highly recommended three hiking trips, and our first was panoramic point. On our drive in that direction we saw several deer romping about – lovely. The hike up to the point wasn’t long but it was steep – thank goodness for the resting benches halfway up! Frank picked on me for it but, a resting bench was just what I needed! From the top, beautiful vistas could be seen. I’d post a picture here, but again, Frank leaves his cords all over the place sometimes.

Our next stop was the big stump trail. Apparently back in the day, folks foolishly chopped down our friends the Sequoias, without regard for their loveliness. On the big stump trail we saw lots of big stumps – surprising I know. The surprising part was how many unused tree bits were still around. Apparently when they chopped down the behemoth trees, nearly killing themselves in the process, they hadn’t figured out a way to use the wood, but just kept a-cutting anyway. We learned last year that sequoia wood doesn’t break down, decay, or go away, and that was definitely the scene on the stump trial – even the saw dust, just waiting around for tourists to feel bad about what the stupid humans did 150 years ago. Stupid white men…. Ugh. A sad sight, but still beautiful nonetheless.

Our last hike of the day was in the Trails of the Redwood Canyon Area. Our ranger friend told us that we’d drive far away to the Quail Flat, then drive down a dirt road for a while until we got to the Redwood Saddle Trialhead so that we could walk the Sugar Bowl Grove Trail. I know, a lot of information. Anyway, we drove for a long while, and then hit the dirt road and started off in that direction. Do you remember me mentioning our not-so-mini-van? It’s not small, but the road was so it was a little treacherous. After a good long while on the dirt road we arrived and it was really beautiful. We were the only people there and it was truly serene. We walked a bit and started to get nervous. Nothing too rational but being alone in a secluded part of the forest just reminds me that I could make a really yummy bear sandwich. We kept on and when we’d made it about 3/4ths of a mile, we felt a drop. The sky over the Giant Forest area had gotten black angry, and was on the move. We felt a drop, and we both gasped. The front desk folks had told us that rain was a possibility and whatever we did, not to get caught out in it… which was all the warning we needed.

We hustled back to our full-sized van and headed out. The rain started a little stronger, and we started seeing mist coming up from the road – clouds were forming right in front of us! Also, as we were driving back up the mountain to Wuksachi Lodge, it was getting REALLY cold. The next thing we knew, there was snow on the ground on the road in front of us. We pulled over to take a good look when we realized that it wasn’t snow, it was hail, and LOTS of it – so much that it covered a good deal of the woods, the road and was dripping off the trees. Now is where I’d show you a picture, but again, no cord. In place of a photo, go ahead and imagine the chilly majestic wood…

We took a few pictures (that you can’t see) and then headed back toward the lodge. You know how after the rain in Animal Kingdom, the safari animals go crazy and frolic to and fro? Apparently that happens everywhere because animals were EVERYWHERE! Deer were galloping about to and fro, birds were twittering, and then the bears came! We saw Mamma Bear and two Baby Bears walk from the side of the road into a meadow where they proceeded to pounce and prance about! They were eagerly lapping up the delicious icy treats – SO CUTE!!!! We were still buzzing about the bears when we got back to the parking lot at Wuksachi Lodge and saw ANOTHER bear! Sleepy Bear (the name we gave him) was wandering across the parking lot and towards the outer lodge buildings for a visit – crazy things happen when it gets cold and wet up here!

We put on some warmer layers and headed to dinner at my favorite (and only) Wuksachi Lodge Restaurant. Once again, the food was great, the service was friendly, and the wine was delicious.

We ended the night by Frank passing out fully clothed and me working on my new crocheting project while I watched the Alaskan GOP welcome home Sarah (does she spell her name with an h? I’d rather not take the time to learn) Palin with quite a tickertape parade…. Sigh. What are you going to do? Sometimes we all deserve a tickertape parade I suppose… even if it makes me shake my head and sigh.

Sequoia for the Second Time

The trip started off with a bang – we rushed out of work and made our flight (thank you Mindi). We found ourselves in Phoenix waiting for the flight that didn’t want to come. Two hours late, we were off in the fanciest plane ever – with a Phoenix Cardinals logo on the side. Frank thinks that the plane belonged to the team because the seats were WAY cushier than the previous flight and leather and comfy. I knew I was always meant to be a Cardinal – I do love birds!

There was one crazy bird (if you will) that we encountered when getting onto the flight. This was clearly a first flight for this particular redneck dressed in a Michigan t-shirt (with the sleeves cut off of course), sport shorts, high-top sneakers, and a rolling Dale Earnhart Jr. suitcase. Classy. He explained to us that we could go before him because he was waiting to snag a left-over first class seat. If I’d only known that last on the plane gets their choice – what a way to fly! Anyway, that wacko walked in about ten minutes later and meandered into coach with the rest of us.

We landed and rolled for quite some time. Apparently our gate was taken or something, but once we landed we rolled for a while and sat on the plane for about 45 minutes waiting to get out. My favorite part of this disorganization was the flight attendant making this announcement, “A child is running up and down the aisles. We are still in motion, and the seatbelt sign is still on. Will the owner of this child please strap it into a seat for safety.”
Priceless.

That was when our Michigan friend put a cigarette into his mouth so that he could smoke it as soon as possible, and got on his cell phone. Telling whoever was on the phone that so-and-so didn’t even know he wasn’t in Michigan, and that he was in town to part-aaay so you’d better get ready. Sometimes it’s hard for me to keep laughter in and I snort a little.

Anyway, several hours late we arrived with too many bags at the rental car location (I know, we really know how to vacation). Oh, and just so that you know, everyone at Dollar rental in Los Angeles is hateful. We chose our car and were on our way when a loud angry beep accompanied by a flashing airbag light came on in the car. Perfect. We drove around the hood of LA long enough to find Dollar again, and chose another car. Unfortunately, there weren’t any reasonable sized cars left, so after several failed attempts, we landed on a van. Not a mini van, but a van. This thing is freaking huge. At least if we pick up 15 or 20 friends here, they can ride back to LA with us. And yes, in case you’re wondering, gas is free here in California so it’s not a big deal…. Ugh.

SEVERAL hours later we landed in Three Rivers, CA at the base of the Sequoia National Park. Our drive up the “hill” was similar to last time, but without that bastard stop light (thank God) and, oh ya, it was dark. Apparently the nighttime is when the animals come out though because on our way up the “hill” we saw a fox, two cats (that frank swears are bobcats), and our first bear of the trip… just walking down the road. He turned around to look at us but went on his way again. Bears are funny (and that’s the theme of the trip so get ready). As we left Mr. Bear, we kept on driving and realized that the sun was coming up, which was why he was awake – it was breakfast time! Lucky us!

We checked in at 6:02am with a very surprised bearded intern-of-sorts, and headed to bed, realizing that we’d forgotten toothbrushes (thank goodness for the bearded-front-desk-man) and frank forgot his wetsuit. I think 60-degree waters should be great for him sans-wetsuit. This triathlon is going to rock!

That’s day number one folks – we’ll keep you posted!

Oh and btw, remember those pictures on M’res’ sight that I told you about? When he shared those with her, he left the cord at their house sooooo, I’ll tell you all about the things we’ve seen and done, but show you none of it – sorry. Blame Frank.

how do you solve a problem like maria?

alright, they’re going with “i just met a girl named maria” but that never comes to mind first.

what am i writing about? m’res had her baby this weekend! woo hoo! maria katherine is her name and she’s super cute! we went down to st. pete for a quick visit to see them and the family is doing just fine.

we took some pictures that she posted on her blog and i think my left boob might be famous – enjoy!

Trip to the Southwest Day 2

Wow, Sedona is beautiful!

Seriously. Sedona is so beautiful that it looks as if the photo background from my 6th grade photos has been pulled down all around us. And it’s like that everywhere! Anywhere you drive near Sedona is breathtaking – behind the grocery store, along the Sedona 192 (touristy strip full of items no one needs), along side the bank, and most importantly, all around our motel. We woke up early and popped our heads outside (because somebody possibly named Todd was cackling at the top of his lungs outside our open window), to find that the famous red rocks were not at all hard to find because they were HUGE and they were everywhere.

We were booked for an early morning Pink Jeep Tour so after a deliciously greasy breakfast in the Coffee Pot (which I highly recommend if you’re ever in Sedona – they have 101 omelets!) we made it to the Pink Jeep location. We were running a bit late but after a good hustle we arrived – I don’t think I mentioned that we were traveling with 9 people (I know that is a lot of people) so it’s a bit more challenging to get that many folks moving in the morning. We were traveling with Todd (who I used to work with in Tomorrowland who was the birthday boy), Rebecca (Todd’s wife), Estalene (Todd’s mom), Pat (Todd’s sister), Deb (Todd’s other sister), Larry (Deb’s husband), and Amanda (Larry’s daughter), so it was a pretty full house – and now you know the players!

The Pink Jeep tour was spectacular even though our tour guide was only a little bit crazy – bless her, she was awfully friendly though! She was thorough and very knowledgeable of the area, but also told us all about her pet chameleon and the trouble he’s had – don’t worry though, he’s back to hissing and biting which makes her very happy (see what I mean?) We were taking a Morgan Family Photo at the top of a big red rock (yes, we’ve been adopted) and we saw a butterfly who flew by in a friendly way and flew a bit closer and then landed on the zipper of my shorts. This is the point when everyone (including those outside the Morgan clan) whipped out their cameras and started taking multiple photos of my crotch – I love it when strangers have pictures of my downstairs’l area. . The butterfly stayed to pose and twirl for everyone (very thoughtful) when our crazy tour guide gingerly removed him so that he could be free (and not move into my shorts).

The coolest part of the tour was that the jeep could scale a mountain with only a little revving – it drove up on great big rocks and then down huge hills. It’s hard to describe but trust me, it was very cool.

We took the crazy tour guide’s dining recommendation for the Cowboy Club where I enjoyed my first prickly pear margarita which became a regular occurrence in our dining routine – delicious!

After a quick lay-down/cool-down (riding in a jeep in the ridiculous Arizona heat can be very taxing) we popped into our front desk to pay up and ask for a vortex recommendation. What’s a vortex you might ask? We don’t know… but the front desk woman (who was wearing animal print stretchy pants, a clingy blouse, and sunglasses that she never took off – even after the sun went down) enthusiastically told us that they were real and we’d HAVE to visit one. She gave us directions to find her favorite and very powerful vortex while telling us that we’d definitely “feel” it and “see” it, even though it can’t be seen and our watches might even stop from the electromagnetic energy. Yes, I know. That seems ridiculous, but she was passionate and animated when talking about it and Todd had always wanted to “see” one so we were off. After several frustrating wrong turns from the crazy front desk lady’s directions, we found ourselves at a park that seemed to be the right place.

We’d asked for directions several times and tried to play it cool but we were pretty much over it and wanted to just get straight answers, so Todd (who was driving) pulled forward so that Rebecca and I (the bossy backseat drivers) could take control of this lingering question. There was a bright faced young man at the ranger’s station/entry kiosk ready to answer our questions. I explained that we were looking for a vortex, whatever the hell that was, and that we weren’t crazy believers or anything, but just wanted to go “see” one and could he please direct us to the vortex location. The “ranger” aka: Crikey-Dave (clearly an Australian import) had a good humored laugh, telling us that it was a bit of a walk and that we’d be close if we parked close and walked a bit when (like a stripper out of a birthday cake) Dave’s opinionated girlfriend/fellow ranger popped up from below him in the window (eeeew). Crikey-Dave’s girlfriend told us that vortexes were scientifically proven and very much real because she had made a list of the characteristics of the perfect partner and written it down at a vortex (she didn’t say which one) and Crikey-Dave showed up miraculously two weeks later. We held back our rolling eyes, and gag reflexes and listened long enough to hear Crikey-Dave tell us that they’re supposed to be so powerful that we should already be feeling “it”. Skeptical Rebecca and Sarcastic Andrea held our watches up to our ears and once we heard that they were still working allowed ourselves to roll our eyes before venturing into the park to discover an invisible and sign-less but scientifically proven and very real vortex.

The park was beautiful (and we’ll post photos for you to enjoy) but apparently our disbelief of the vortex angered it and threw Deb (Todd’s sister) down a ravine (or into a rock or something) in the park. She wouldn’t let us photograph it, but trust me, it’s reason alone to become a believer.

The theme of the trip seems to be our experiences with crazy people. Don’t get too jealous, more crazy’s are to come!

Trip to the Southwest Day 1

Holy crap. It’s hot here.

After a long time on various planes with great big wide legged men next to us, we landed in Phoenix. We got our luggage and just in time, the Morgans (our traveling companions) were coming to pick us up so we headed outside. Holy crap. It was 9:15pm and as we walked outside, were smacked in the face with an oven’s worth of blasting heat without the delicious chocolate brownie scent that one would associate with such a sensation. Feeling claustrophobic and panicky, I stopped a woman who looked southwestern (or at least like she wasn’t being affected by the unreasonable heat radiating all around us. I asked her if it was really this hot outside or if was just because of the pavement, cars, and closed-in-ness of the airport. She told me that it was cool like this at night – usually about 100 degrees. I (almost argumentatively) spat out No, I said hot like this! Which is when she laughed at me a little and said yes, it’s hot here, shaking her head and walked away.

Where the hell are we?

Blaine – you grew up here and lived here for 22 years. What the hell?
Ralph – you too! Ridiculus!

Anyway, once they picked us up and turned on the ac, I was quickly able to acclimate to the Arizona-in-August experience (so long as it was in an air-conditioned vehicle). We made a quick stop at in and out burger (where I had the most delicious chocolate milkshake I’ve ever had) and drove to our motel in Sedona where we crashed hard.

Birthday Weekend – Key West Day Two (part two)

Saturday, July 19th – Part Two
It’s STILL my birthday!

We caught back up to the group who assumed we’d chickened out because we’d only been gone 15 minutes (apparently they were under the impression that we were going to take time to get to know our nude neighbors, but boy were they wrong). It was time to get ready and catch the boat for our Sunset Snorkeling Adventure! We rushed and ran to the dock to take celebrating my birthday in style up one more notch! The water was beautiful and the boys running the boat were of model quality (at least that’s what I’m assuming by the number of photos Mike and Jed took of them). As we were getting to the protected reef, the water got a bit rougher and by the time we anchored, there were white foamy waves on the water where we’d be snorkeling.

Though it was beautiful, once we got into the water we were thrown around as much as one might be thrown about in that wavepool from hell at Typhoon Lagoon – so yes, a little rough is a mild description. I wasn’t feeling so hot and by the time I got back onto the boat after being in the water for an hour, I felt pretty horrible. Mike G. had thrown up in the water (which apparently brings the most beautiful fish very close – just a tip) and then on the boat several more times. Hope was feeling nauseated and looked glassy eyed. I decided to lie down on Frank’s lap to try the trip back with my eyes closed to ward off the yacks. After having my head down for a few minutes a strong wave of nausea came over me and Frank sent me down to the bathroom in the boat…. Not a great recommendation. If I felt sick before going downstairs in to the fecal mater capital of everywhere and everything, the smell of the debris covered room only made it worse. I hadn’t even closed the door before my full and flavorful lunch from Caroline’s shot out and then again, because apparently the margarita and fries I consumed were also offensive to my fragile belly. 4 rounds of yacking later I emerged, white and clammy. While I was below deck, Mike G. and Hope had set up a sickbay of sorts in the center most area of the boat that they now welcomed me into with open arms. The truly sad part of this is that there was a delicious menagerie of complimentary beverages for the trip back that the three of us couldn’t participate in (but don’t worry, that didn’t stop Frank, Jed, and Mike M. from sampling them thoroughly).

We watched bitterly as the boys drank and congratulated themselves and we sipped on plastic cups of water. As we were about to park the boat, Mike G. had one more round in him and having already christened the other three sides of the boat, tossed the last bits of his shrimp-filled lettuce wrap off the final side of the boat – he’s thorough!

We got back to the house and I decided that I wasn’t feeling up to going out and getting crazy so we decided to put on our pajamas and spend the night in. The boys had bought fish and steak earlier in the weekend to grill but the idea of eating what I’d just thrown up (did I mention that I had a blackened mahi mahi sandwich for lunch?) was not something I was prepared to do so we ordered Papa John’s. The gang surprised me with a delicious strawberry-and-cream-filled cake that after a bit I was even able to eat a bite of – my birthday wish came true!

That’s how you ring in a 30th birthday with style!

Don’t get jealous – one more day of excitement to come!

Birthday Weekend – Key West Day Two

Saturday, July 19th – Part One
It’s my birthday!

Sweet and wonderful Frank took the girls for an early morning walk so that I could sleep in. I woke up to find that thoughtful and beautiful Hope bought doughnuts and muffins for breakfast. I opened super birthday presents while we enjoyed our lazy Saturday morning and then we put a stop to the laziness and got ready for the good times! First thing, first – off to Key West’s own Butterfly Museum. A nice museum man told us all sorts of stuff about some scary big moths and how moths differ from butterflies – a learning experience for all!

We ate lunch at Caroline’s – my favorite Key West restaurant. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their HUGE meals and cleaned their plates. During lunch, due to some heckling from the rest of the gang, it occurred to Mike M. and I that it was probably time to complete another item on the list. Yes, you guessed it – it was Naked Margarita Time.

For those of who don’t know the details of this particular ridiculousness, I’ll explain. One of my unfinished 30-before-30 list items was to drink naked margaritas. There is a clothing-optional bar there, on Duval Street called the Garden of Eden where I’d never been, but had always heard about and this seemed like the sort of adventurous thing that a 30th birthday called for. I didn’t want to embark on this adventure alone, (goodness knows what sorts of crazies would pray on a lonesome naked gal) but unfortunately most of my traveling companions politely declined the invitation. Fortunately for me, Mike M. is a handsome single man who is game for just about anything, and he thought it seemed like the sort of craziness he was eager to participate in. Back to the story…

Mike M. and I headed to the restroom at Caroline’s to take one last look at “ourselves” to make sure that we were “show ready” if you will… (and we will). We were as ready as we were going to get (which really means that our stomachs had started to rumble and we were really beginning to freak out). We’d left the bill for the rest of the gang (aka: the non-participants) and walked quickly and frantically to the Garden of Eden. We agreed that we just had to do it, get there and get it done, so that we wouldn’t chicken out. We marched into the bar and up the stairs. The Garden of Eden (the bar, not the original biblical version) is on the roof, so we walked up one flight of stairs and concerned and confused, realized that it wasn’t the roof. Have no fear though, after looking around frantically, we found a flight of stairs and a sign so we timidly climbed another flight, finding ourselves on the roof. We knew right away that we were in the right place because a naked man was sitting on a towel on a barstool at the bar. I didn’t look too closely, but Mike M. checked to make sure that everything was available to see, and according to him, everything was very available.

We looked around to the rest of the bar for a private place to have our margaritas and were thwarted. Oh there was a bar and probably even fixin’s for margaritas but privacy was not an option – a rooftop bar doesn’t exactly have separate sections or partitions. We counted 7 patrons along with the bartender who at this point had realized what we were there for. We were not sticking to the plan of “keeping cool” by anyone’s imagination. We were sweaty, panicky, and jumpy. The bartender (who was wearing tie-wasted pants and a string bikini) told us that there were showers in case we were interested (something I rudely dismissed) and told us that we could take off as much or as little as we wanted to. She’d figured us out. I had a nasty case of the dry mouth syndrome, because as most of you know I’m a little chatty and usually this would give me the perfect opportunity to share our plan, making it a funny story, and win her over… but I didn’t want to win her over. I didn’t want her to remember us, or even pay any special attention to us, but our fidgety, frantic nature was taking priority and that seemed like an unlikely objective. Mike M. pointed out a piece of railing and palm tree to be our designated drinking location and we ordered. I asked for 2 margaritas on the rocks (since the urgency of our slurping would rule out the frozen sort – no one wants an ice cream headache), when our string bikini’d bartender told us that the two-for-one margaritas were on downstairs. We giggled and said that we were in the right place and just wanted two of her special rooftop margaritas – which she informed us had been called the best on the island (again, not something we wanted to hang around to find out about, but I digress). We headed to our selected slice of banister and got to business. I started to take off my watch, jewelry, and glasses. Mike M. took his top layer shirt (because boys in Florida should rarely wear one layer for fear of the sweaty monster within) and gave me a frantic “you’d better start taking something real off” look when I told him that if I were to take ANY clothes off, private moments would be shared, which was not the case for him in his layered glory so I was merely pacing myself. In a moment, he was down to his underoos so it was time for me to remove something meaningful and in the attempt to do so I got stuck inside my shirt when trying to do a tricky bra-tshirt combination of removal… I stopped being fancy, as did Mike M. and we just pulled it all off.

That’s when we’re fairly sure that we heard cheering, and hooting from the bar. We didn’t look around though, because we had an unspoken agreement to look straight ahead – at each other’s faces only – and drink, drink, drink! We only had to stay naked as long as there was margarita to drink so drink we did! In unison, at some point during our frantic slurping we both realized how much nicer it was there, in no clothes with a cool drink and the lovely breeze, than it had been all day in our sticky clothes two stories down. We giggled about it a little and then Mike M. said “Time to drink”! So we wrapped up our glasses of tequila and hurriedly put our damp clothes back on. Our seven-minutes in hell was finally over! We turned around to find the bartender cheering and waving her girls around eagerly as she’d freed them from their bikini’d harnesses by wrapping the little bit of fabric around her ladies as if it were acting as border to her gal-parts. Priceless. I’m glad I tipped her $5 as anything less than that would be seen as an insult for the “show” we subsequently received! As we were rushing to get down the stairs and appreciate the conversations that we were trying to evacuate from a big handsome man stopped us to thank us for our big reveal and tell us that it was the best 5 minutes of his day.

That’s a compliment I’ll take to the bank!

We Have A Winner!

The famous and beautiful Martha Thelma Buchta is our winner! She will be receiving her prize shortly in the mail – please congratulate her heartily and enviously. I’ve also added the answers (for your reading enjoyment) to the questions throughout the blog.

Oh, and yes, the final (and most interesting) days of our trip to Key West are still just about finished! We’ve saved the best for last!

Birthday Weekend – Trivia Day One

Trivia question #17
Q – How long did Phyllis sleep in the car on the way to Key West?
A – Zero minutes

Trivia question #18
Q – How many fiber one bars did Andrea eat in the car on the way to Key West?
A – Two and a half – that’s alot of gas!

Trivia question #19
Q – What sort of dangerous alcohol was in Andrea’s first Key West beverage?
A – Grain Alcohol – only the finest for me!

Trivia question #20
Q – Where did we see our first chicken of the weekend?
A – Mallory Square

Birthday Weekend – Key West Day One

Friday, 7/18

We set the alarm for 5am Friday morning and due to our 1am load of laundry, we ripped ourselves from the sheets at 5:35am – later than anticipated but not too bad. We had to finish packing (no surprise there) and attempt to load up the Vue with luggage, snacks, cooler, dog beds, dog food, dog toys, dog treats, dog bowls and of course the girls. Did I mention that we were bringing Stella and Phyllis? When we planned the trip, we decided to bring the girls because Key West is so dog friendly and thought that it would make us more at ease to have the dogs with us…. That was before we had to try to pack all the dog crap into the ever-shrinking Vue and then enjoy the good times it is to coax the dogs into the cramped car. We only had to head back home once to get something we’d forgotten so we took our “smooth” morning as a good omen.

Let me just say that Frank is especially fun on road trips. He plays games with me, chit chats about anything at all, and (probably because of his lack of ipod), puts up with my incessant girly music and show tunes, so I was excited to be on the road. After we took our time on the road to enjoy the view (especially the sparkly aqua water), a few potty stops (apparently dogs can’t hold it that long, however much I’d like to keep moving), several fiber one bars (Frank’s so lucky), and about 7 hours we arrived in beautiful Key West.

We’d rented a house since the gang was joining us and that turned out to be a TERRIFIC idea – it was beautiful, open with lots of light, was colorful, and private. Hope had arrived a bit earlier so we told her to wrap up her bikini wax and pedicure and come on over. We freshened up (because after 7 hours in the car I truly look like a homeless person) and decided to explore some of the island…. And when I say explore some of the island I mean go out for a frozen beverage from the Flying Monkey and a Chocolate Covered Key Lime Pie on a stick – mmmmm delicious! Shortly after our afternoon of shopping and delicious treat eating the boys arrived. Now that Jed, Mike, and Mike were there, it was time to properly enjoy the island! We all headed down to Mallory Square for the sunset celebration. We searched to find the man who juggles the cats and the rest of the crazies and just at sunset we found the lot of them. It was a beautiful evening and the island was super crowded – just the right atmosphere for a birthday weekend!

I consulted online advice from regulars and locals to find the best dinner spot for our first night on the island and so we’d planned and made reservations to have dinner at Santiago’s Bodega a locally owned tapas restaurant…. What none of the reviews said, was that we’d have to walk through the Harlem of Key West to get there. After noticing several unsavory sorts we finally arrived at the tiny location. When I say tiny, I really mean tiny. There were four tables inside the restaurant and one outside. We checked in and the six of us were seated inside – something we were grateful of because we were hella hot from the July heat and lengthy stroll. It wasn’t necessarily air-conditioned but there were fans, which made it a bit cooler. We ordered drinks and eagerly looked at the variety on the menu. This would be the last good service we’d experience at Santiago’s Bodega. When we were almost decided, the hostess came to the table to tell us that we’d taken someone else’s table and wanted to know if we really had a reservation or were crashing. After an uncomfortable back and forth, she discovered that we had similar last names and she supposed they’d have to sit outside. Then the drinks came…. But not with glasses, napkins, or silverwear. Once the glasses did arrive, the restaurant was apparently out of wine glasses so he delivered beer pints for us to drink our sangria out of – not the end of the world though. Orders were placed and once we’d told him what we wanted, he proceeded to roll his eyes and explain that even though we’d ordered separately, that’s not how it’s done and frustratingly explained how tapas works…. Which would be understandable if we hadn’t made a reservation several weeks in advance – wouldn’t that kind of forethought tell him that we’d probably done some research? But I digress. This was the point when we made friends with the chatty English lady and her family at the table next to us. You should know that the table next to us was only about 5 inches away from our table, so we were practically sitting together – why not make the best of it! Jed foolishly asked for a pitcher of water to which I think the server actually growled at him and then in one refilling moment, dropped Mike M.’s glass onto him. Our new English lady-friend found this all loudly amusing and wildly inappropriate with a good sense of humor. Though the service was deplorable, the food was really fantastic – interesting, full of flavor and portions that were quite plentiful but when it was time we knew immediately that this clearly wasn’t going to be somewhere that the idea of separate checks was likely to be embraced. We scrounged up what cash we had (thank goodness, we had quite a bit as it was the beginning of the weekend) paid and began our trek back through crack-town.

We headed back to our beautiful house for a dip in the pool and to relax. Jed, of course, passed out immediately upon returning home, crawling into a ball onto the side chair in the living room and the rest of us went to enjoy a splish-splash in our private pool – how fancy are we?!?!

Well, all of us except for sleepy Jed.

Johnson City Visit: Trivia Day Four

Trivia question #13
Q – What is the lake that feeds the Buttermilk Falls?
A – Cayuga Lake

Trivia question #14
Q – Which was our favorite Ithaca slogan?
a) Ithaca is gorges b) Ithaca is not George’s c) Ithaca is cold d) Ithaca is gay e) Barack is gorges f) McCain is not gorges
A – Ithaca is gorges

Trivia question #15
Q – Frank bought a piece of themed merchandise from Mr. Brozetti – what did he buy?
A – A beer glass

Trivia question #16
Q – According to Frank’s GPS, how long was our hike in Buttermilk State Park?
A – One hour and eleven minutes – just under a mile

Trip home to visit Johnson City Day 4

One More Adventure

Totally forgot to mention one funny thing from last night… Mom drove us home at about 9:45pm and we were starving. After calling several pizza distributors (trying to steer as clear of Papa John’s as possible, but we were hungry) we learned that Brozetti’s could make us a third of a pizza as long as we could come pick it up. We agreed and headed that way. We were thankful and courteous – it was late after all – when Mr. Brozetti (or at least that’s who I assume he was since his picture was on the pizza box I was holding) asked if I wanted to sing for my meal in a knowing sort of way. I don’t remember ever meeting Mr. Brozetti but his knowing look spread into a wide “good to see you” smile so I quickly realized that I must have met him at some point and it was probably in the midst of a musical engagement of some sort. I smiled back (the man was holding my pizza after all) and told him that we were far too hungry to sing for our meal this time but promised to return the favor next time. He seemed appeased and generously gave us a key chain that sings the Brozetti’s commercial song (797-9960 – call Brozettis’ for pizza to-go). Again, I’m not sure how folks keep recognizing me, but if it gets me complimentary key chains then I’ll take it!

Anyway, (now it’s Monday again) we’d eaten our fill and visited our favorite places throughout Binghamton but hadn’t spent any time in Ithaca yet and had an urge for a bit of nature so the waterfalls of Ithaca was our destination. Mom, Little Frank, and I piled into the car for our final adventure of the week – hiking the waterfalls.

We enjoyed a beautiful hour-long drive and arrived in Ithaca. Ithaca is like a big bowl of crunchy granola goodness surrounded by hills, and mountains that were carved out by ice, snow, and dinosaurs I think – those little arms can really get to digging when they put their whole hearts into it! Because of the digging dinosaurs, there are bunches of beautiful waterfalls, lakes, and gorges throughout the area. The last time I brought Frank to Ithaca we went to see Tughanic Falls so this time I thought that we’d visit another location – Buttermilk Falls State Park.

Mom and I used the sketchy bathroom upon arrival and started our hike. The weather couldn’t have been more different than the day before because it was absolutely clear with a light breeze and fluffy bits of cloud cover. We wove through the Rim Trail and hopped onto the Gorge Trail that went a bit lower and closer to the water so that Mom and I could dip our toes into the water – and yes in case you were wondering, of course we I was wearing flip-flops. We took our time to enjoy the walk – ne need to hurry – and made it down to the bottom in about half an hour. At the bottom there was the biggest waterfall yet and a swimming area that was so inviting we wondered why we hadn’t brought our bathing suits. We sat for a bit – Mom was the brave one who put both of her feet fully into the chilly water (she’s a bit of a daredevil). We walked slower still back up the gorge – it was steep and we took our time to catch our breath (because we seriously needed to) and turned up back on the top hungry and ready for lunch.


We went into the Ithaca Commons to visit the Moosewood Restaurant – a favorite of ours – where the food is always great and the service is a little disinterested (you can’t have everything). We walked around and looked in shops a bit and then realized that one dessert between the three of us wasn’t enough, so we headed off to Purity Ice Cream. We enjoyed our ice cream (I had a large scoop of the Upstate New York which is vanilla malt ice cream with grapenuts, swirls of fudge, and chocolate cows on a sugar cone), then we tapped into Purity’s wifi to find out where the local EMS store was to pick up some supplies for our upcoming Grand Canyon craziness. The EMS experts agreed with Frank (no surprise there) that I can’t wear flip-flops for the hike down the canyon and had a giggle at my expense. I love that.

Homeward bound to relax and recuperate. While watching Antique Road Show with my parents we heard one disappointed antique owner say that even though she didn’t hear what she wanted, she came with her neighbor and the best antiques are old friends. Just a little wisdom to share with you… You’re welcome.

The Lampheres called for us to come over to their house for dinner later on that night and started to sing the Brozetti’s song through the phone so we knew they meant business – they crack me up! We popped up the hill for some pizza and to catch up and found that once again, the time had gotten the best of us and it was midnight so we headed home to get ready for our full day of traveling tomorrow.

What a wild weekend with Mom and Dad in Binghamton? Thanks for spending it with us – keep an eye out though because in just a few short days we’ll be writing from Key West for the Birthday Weekend Extravaganza! Woo hoo!

Johnson City Visit: Trivia Day Three

Trivia question #9
Q – Which cat joins Mom in her nightly solitaire game?
A – Scroungie

Trivia question #10
Q – What product claims that 30 is the new 20?
A – Vitamin Water

Trivia question #11
Q – How many wines did Andrea taste?
A – Too much wine to count

Trivia question #12
Q – What sorts of wooden crafts does the Falls Wood Craft Gift Shop sell?
a) holiday ornaments b) lawn ornaments c) animal statues d) all of the above
A – D – all of the above

Trip home to visit Johnson City Day 3

Wine Tasting Sunday (this is a long one – get ready or prepare to skim)

Up early because it’s wine tasting day! Chrissy and Ron (sister and brother-in-law) decided to join us on our wine tasting extravaganza. For Chrissy’s birthday this year, Ron surprised her with a bed and breakfast wine tasting combination and she spoke so highly of it, we decided to give it a whirl. There are a bunch of wineries around the Cayuga and Seneca Lakes so since Chrissy and Ron were experts of the Seneca Wineries, that’s where we headed.

Mom generously agreed to baby-sit the kids so that we could all get away for a few hours. On our way to the lake we stopped at Sweeny’s market which can only be described as a down home country store. With a bull perched precariously on the roof we knew we were in the right place. Though they had a wide variety of jerky, we didn’t let it tempt us! We grabbed some drinks and hit the road with Chrissy in the driver’s seat. We brought our GPS which we renamed Ken Ken (instead of Tom Tom) because we changed his voice to represent our Austrailian friends – we saw their carefree lifestyle as a celebration to our day of wine tasting.

Our first winery was closed – not a good sign but it was only 11:30am and technically alcohol can’t be sold in New York until noon, so we headed up the lake to quench our thirst. The first open winery we visited was the Silver Springs Winery. We met Don Giovanni a seventh generation alcohol distributor with a bangin’ fu-man stash and accompanying ponytail – he allegedly brought the family out of their bootlegging roots. He was a knowledgeable and passionate wine maker who has strong opinions about most things – no middle of the road for him! Oh, and they also allegedly have a patent on their unusual wine label logo.

The second winery we hit was Atwater Estate Vinyards where a lonely fellow from the previous winery followed us. We didn’t get his name but he was friendly enough so we asked him to be a part of our photo and I gave him a warm hug that I think he thoroughly enjoyed.
I’m a giver.
The view at Atwater was really beautiful even through the drizzle and fog – I’m sure it’d be a wonderful time to spend some time. We also bought our passports at Atwater Estates. The passport entitles you to visit 28 wineries around the lake for $12 which is a bargain but I kind of doubt that we’re going to get that much in us today – if 9 is too many, 28 definitely is.

The next winery was Hazlitt Vinyards or as my sister named it, Home of the Red Cat. They had Red Cat and White Cat wine but also had a grey cat sitting in the doorway who didn’t mind being petted – I love to pet cats! There was a crazy drunken man working there who took our photo – not sure how good it was as he was a little wobbly. Their gift shop had all manner of things including Thongs and jello shot kits with their Red Cat logo. I didn’t see any takers but I’m sure after a few more wineries, wine themed thongs are going to seem like a must buy item.

Off we go again!

We had planned to stop at our next Winery as soon as we saw the sign – Penguin Bay Winery was next on our list! We were cut off by two shiny escalades on our way into the parking lot being driven by (surprise surprise) folks visiting from Long Island. I’m not judging, I’m just pointing out similarities between folks from Long Island and New Jersey. Back on the ranch, the Penguin Bay had mango flavored wines, a disappearing bartender, and looked a little like a great big house on wheels – clearly not my favorite. BUT, have no fear – there was a redeeming factor to this location! Adjacent to the property a camper was parked and being held up by a bear! Can’t go wrong with that – take a look!

We were filled up with wine and a little tipsy so it was time for a nap and lunch. Wagner Vinyards took about 15 minutes to get to, had a great view, a restaurant, wine tasting, and a brewery – clearly this was our next stop! The drizzle had turned to full-blown rain so we waited it out over lunch where the boys sampled some local beer (because they just hadn’t had quite enough liquids yet). Once we got into the wine tasting, I’m pretty sure that the Wagner’s folks were trying to get us good and drunk. We sampled ten – yes ten – wines and even managed to enjoy a few of them! The brewery option cost an extra dollar per person and since Ron and Frank are big spenders, they got out their quarters and signed up. They drank and drank and drank and no longer sober, we were on our way once again.

The combination of wine and beer inspired Ron to declare that the next winery we visit would be Passion Feet because passion is good, and we have feet so that’s where we stopped but were surprised to discover that this next complex had four wineries at the same stop – this is getting more dangerous! Passion Feet was super girly (pink walls and wine flavors such as scandelicious, flirtation, earn your beads, and heart pounding crush) so not so surprisingly everything was really fruity, sweet, and delicious. We were directed by the foul-mouthed bartender to walk through the woods to another included winery called Rogues Hollow. We walked through the only swamp I’ve seen in New York and reminded me so much of the Big Bamboo I was too frightened to sit. Their wines were also pretty girl but had terribly inappropriate titles that I’ll not share – feel free to google if you’re feeling brave (but you probably shouldn’t do it at work).

The second foul-mouthed bartender told us that most of the wineries would be closing soon (because it was Upstate New York and Sunday) and 5pm marks closing time. We checked our trusty passports and found that the one Chrissy and Ron were most excited about was open until 8pm so we headed off (just in case it was a typo) to get there before the clock struck.

We were low on gas and thought to stop but wanted to make sure that we made it to Bellhurst in time so Ron said we’d be fine and we opted to wait (this is foreshadowing). We made it to Belhurst in time for a wedding to start. We asked for our first tasting and then stepped out onto the balcony to enjoy the show. The set up overlooked Seneca Lake and as it had stopped raining and the sun was peaking out, was a really beautiful thing to see. The bridesmaids walked proudly down the isle in a shiny burnt rust rusched (sp?) taffeta monstrosity that made each of the four bridesmaids look like beached whales. As the bride began her march, we were struck by the enormity of her veil – it was a far brighter white than her dress and was worn tall and proud as if it were her own bouffanty hair extension. As she walked, “Because You Loved Me” performed by Celine Dion burst from the speakers and we decided that we didn’t have anywhere near enough wine in us to participate in their celebration anymore, so we headed back to Stephen our bartender and his bar. We wrapped up our tasting and were on our way. We were pretty tuckered out and imagined that Mom probably was too as she had the three kids, two birds, and new dog to contend with.

We piled into the car again on our way home but in search of a gas station. Ken Ken directed us on our way with a gas station about half a mile ahead. In Geneva, things close early, especially on a Sunday so we passed two gas stations before running out of gas and finding ourselves on the side of the road. You’ll enjoy a photo below of the snails that littered the side of the road as we walked for assistance – they were so brightly colored! We walked in the direction of a gas station when we discovered that Ken Ken was directing us back to the closed location – not ideal! I started to call for roadside assistance while we walked toward a house (I’m always prepared just like a boy scout but without all the homophobia). The man who owned the house (or manner as it should rightfully be titled) pointed us in the direction of the closed station so we headed that way for a few yards when we realized that we were headed in the wrong way again. Ken Ken told us that in either direction, the next gas station was at least 7 miles away. That’s quite a walk after a day filled with drinking! I was working on the roadside assistance (which was taking longer than usual because I didn’t know our zip code) when a friendly couple pulled over to check on us. They’d been out for the day for their dog Reggie’s birthday – he was turning 9! They were hoping to take him on a lovely hike but were deterred due to the rain and were heading back home. She thought that we might just be out for an evening stroll when she saw that Chrissy and I were wearing flip-flops and (just like a mother) began to criticize our choice of footwear. Shortly after her motherly criticisms, they passed our broken down car and decided to come to our rescue. They pulled up and offered their assistance, which we gladly accepted. Chrissy and I hopped into their car to go get gas in a tank from their garage. I petted Reggie and he licked my hand – he was sweet! We stopped at their house – which I can only say belonged on Martha’s Vinyard or in the Hamptons – holy crap it was beautiful! They had at least 6 garages and 3 separate buildings (no, not extra sheds, real buildings) and beautiful shutter covered windows overlooking Seneca Lake. I want to be them when I grow up! While we were away, a friendly policeman in a mini van stopped to check on Ron and Frank back at the car but as help was on the way (or their wives were being abducted) they said thank you but no help needed. Don’t worry, we weren’t abducted. Reggie’s parents brought us back to the car, filled it with gas and wished us well. They had so much gas in their tank that it filled up the car a quarter of a tank so Ron said there was plenty to get home – no need to stop and he was right. We just made it home safely to pick up a sleepy mom who was in need of some TLC!

Homeward bound – safe and sound!

Is that too much detail? I’m tired too.

Johnson City Visit: Trivia Day Two

Trivia question #5
Q – What was the name of the Church who provided the pirohi’s?
A – St. Michael’s

Trivia question #6
Q – What is the name of the award given to Binghamton regarding their pirohi status?
A – The Pirohi Pocket of America

Trivia question #7
Q – What is the predominant color of wii mii dresses at Casa de Bates?
A – Purple – purple – purple!

Trivia question #8
Q – How delicious is spray cool whip?
a) delicious – is that even a question? b) slimy and gross c) I don’t know – I was too distracted by the rest of the yummy options d) just alright
A – C – No idea, how crazy is that?

Trip home to visit Johnson City Day 2

Happy Pirohi Day!

We slept as if it was Christmas Eve and woke up excited for Pirohi day. The holiday we’d all been waiting for had finally arrived and it was glorious! Just so that you know, Mrs. T’s Pirohi’s (the ones in the freezer section anywhere in the country) declared today Pirohi Day in Binghamton because of the delicious nature of the local variety and of course the community support behind them – the triple cities doesn’t fool around with their starchy snacks! We eagerly got ready and drove the half-mile to the Boscov’s plaza in downtown Binghamton. Mom works right near there so we had special people parking in her office lot. With pirohi essence on the breeze, in the distance we saw extraordinary event taking place and hurriedly walked toward the excitement.

While we strolled down Court Street to discover the vendors and their wares, we took a moment to watch a chalk artist who had roped off a large section of street and was creating a large something-or-other. As we were trying to figure out what he was making, he looked up and said “Long time no see, where the heck have you been?” As I wondered how folks still recognize me even though I’m missing 18 inches of hair and am at least 15 pounds lighter than when I last lived here, I racked my brain to figure out who exactly this was he said “It’s me Eric, from Kinko’s” and I remembered (I can only keep so much information in my head – sometimes I need a little prod). He also didn’t wear a jaunty hat or kneepads when we worked together, so understandably, the prod helped. Anyway, Eric used to work with me at Kinko’s (obviously) but he worked in the graphic design and resume building area and truthfully, taught me more than all of college did about how to use a computer. He told me that he’d been doing this sort of thing for a while and showed us a few of his other creations which included the Hulk, Indiana Jones, Batman, Iron Man and a really cool one where it looked like he was falling down a brick hole – very cool! He also told us that his current work was Yoda, so needless to say, Frank was pretty psyched. We popped back a few times and watched it turn into an incredible picture.


You can check out the completed version and more of his work at www.pepperink.com

While we were chatting Mom saw a booth for Antique Road Show (because sometimes things get crazy in downtown Binghamton) and got very excited because her best friend Mal had been willed something she was hoping to have appraised. We continued down the street for the main event while we waited for Mal. Yes, the pirohi line was already forming! We got in line with the other hungry folks and were informed that there were so many pirohi day celebrators that they’d run out and had to bring in another carload and turn away to-go orders so that they could feed their hungry masses. We were just thankful that they were willing to feed us so we got out our $8 in cash so that we could buy pirogues and drinks for 4 (yes everything is a wonderful bargain in Binghamton). We sat down with our plates covered in glossy and beautiful pirogues handmade by little old Ukrainian ladies from St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church. Delicious!


Mal had her locket and chain appraised and found that if she wanted to be, she would be just about 100 dollars richer, which of course she didn’t want to do but it was nice to find out. We did a bit more walking around, window shopping, and actual shopping and headed home for an afternoon nap – the afternoon sun and fun tuckered us right out!

My sister Chrissy and her family (Ron, Kayla, Jessica, Joshua, Pinkie, Floyd and Bones) invited us (Little Frank, Mom, Big Frank and me) to their house for a barbeque that night so after changing into non-sweaty clothes, we brought our empty bellies to Casa de Bates. Ron tended to the grill while Chrissy put out vegetables, chips, and a delicious fruit-yogurt-granola parfait, which was wonderful (don’t worry, I’ll make it for you guys next week when we have spiedies). We played with their new dog Bones, who was super cute and the kids showed us how to use the wii – and even made wii mii’s! The gang thoughtfully surprised me with early birthday cake and early birthday presents as well.


We’d had a very full day and evening when on our way home, my friend Katie called. She had had a bit of a week from h-e-double-hockey-sticks and found herself in Johnson City for the weekend even though she lives about an hour away in beautiful Ithaca so though we were sad that she’d had a crappy week, we were thrilled to be able to do some proper cheering and distracting without the long drive! We stopped at Wegman’s to pick up all the Ben and Jerry’s they had, a can of spray cool whip along with a box each of 2-bite brownies and chocolate chip peanut butter cookies – with that amount of sugar, the resultant smiles are always immediate!

We had a great visit with Katie, her mom, Big Ed, and Richard (who couldn’t be cuter if he tried) and at midnight realized that it was inappropriately late and headed home.

Wow – quite a full Pirohi Day over all! More to come!

Johnson City Visit: Trivia Day One

Trivia #1
Q – What was the name of the program we watched with Mom and Dad Friday night?
A – Flashpoint

Trivia question #2
Q – What flavor of ice cream did Andrea order?
A – Red Raspberry Cheesecake

Trivia question #3
Q – What flavor of ice cream did Mom order?
A – Chocolate Peanut Butter

Trivia question #4
Q – How much is a full order of gnocchi from Nick’s?
A – $6.25, I’m a big spender!

Andrea’s Birthday Celebration Part 1, Day 1

Trip home to visit Johnson City

We arrived at the chilly Binghamton airport last night at 12:15am. Exhausted and shivering, but excited to be in my hometown. Mom picked us up and we headed home. Dad and the cats (Bunny, Elmo, and Scroungie) were up and ready to catch up. The next thing we knew it was 2:30am and we headed to bed – those Hendrys really like to chit-chat!

We started today pretty lazily (as we were up well past our bedtimes). Mom and Dad had stocked the kitchen with summertime snacks so Frank and I enjoyed several bowls of fruit – Frank’s favorite! We did some more chit chatting and then headed out to get some shopping done and of course, Wegman’s was first. We spent a lengthy period of time pouring over all the delicious options and came out with 7 bags of groceries and souvenirs – don’t worry though because we bought plenty of spiedie sauce so dinner is at our house next week! We’re finally replenished! We visited Tom’s (our favorite jewelry and handmade stuff store) where we spent another length of time soaking in the sparkle but left empty handed so that we could sleep on it and make just the right choices. We were getting a little famished (home always does that to me) so we stopped at Nirchi’s for a few slices of the best pizza in the world. Dad wanted a spiedie from Pancho’s Pit (where the food is delicious but the kitchen is questionable as the name is accurate – it’s a pit). Three chicken spiedies purchased with cash – no credit cards, checks, or cell phones allowed, they’re not screwing around – and we were on our way. we arrived home to dine on our delicacies and were surprised by my sister Chrissy, and the kids (Kayla, Jessica, and Joshua) who’d stopped by to say hi. We ate and caught up while I went through boxes of treasures from years gone by. As I’m not much of a collector, most of the items were going to be discarded but luckily for me, the nieces and nephew fell in love with many items who fortunately found new homes. Ron (brother-in-law) popped by and we made dinner plans for the evening.

We headed off to Nick’s (Tony’s brother’s restaurant – no, we don’t know Tony, but his food is deliciously infamous but a little more fancy and expensive because of his local fame… oh, and his son isn’t such good people but that’s a story for another time). We arrived and were presented with the most delicious meal of all time – Nick and Tony’s pizza (which has been said to be the best in the world by my aunt Loris and her daughter Leslie), gnocchi (which I swear to God is the best gnocchi you’ll find anywhere) along with lasagna, chicken parmesan, and rigatoni. Though I was lucky to sit next to Jessica and Joshua (who agrees that my gnocchi is freakin’ amazing) I missed out on the people watching, which Frank says was something to behold. There was a person in an American flag blouse/oxford who we assume was continuing his or her Independence Day celebration and making it a month long extravaganza. There were also at least three families dining with their young fancy sons who we envision moving to Orlando in the next few years to work in characters after having a thoroughly uncomfortable conversation with mom and dad. We wish them the best of luck with all that!

We all left filled to the gills (and with plenty to talk about) but had to stop at Pat Mitchell’s (which my mother refers to as an institution) for a late night ice cream snack. We picked up cookies and cream, red-raspberry cheesecake, chocolate peanut butter and cherry vanilla to-go and headed home. Before getting into the car we had a good laugh about Pat Mitchell’s slogan posted both inside and outside the restaurant – “Lick The Legend” which we thought was fairly unappetizing for an eatery of sorts. At least the old man didn’t quote it (a la “Have a Magical Day”) at us because that would have been truly disgusting. Anyway, we closed out the night with some CSI-esque programming and plenty of snacks. I love coming home to visit!

Tomorrow is a holiday in downtown Binghamton – get ready for the excitement!

4th of July

Happy 4th, 5th, and 6th of July!
May all of your watermelon seeds cross the handle of the second broomstick, may your cheeks puff out majestically like Bob’s do so willingly, and may all your bowls be filled with moose turd-a-licious rosa marina salad!

Damn that Joey Chestnut…. That lightening round was rigged!!!
Kobayashi’s gone up against a bear for God’s sake and is far mightier than that pasty and sweaty American!

one-and-three-quarters

I just finished Skinny B*tch which is a book filled with profanity, judgment, and recommendations for lots of vegetables. Something that, honestly, sounds right up my alley. Unfortunately the authors are crazy b*tches to put it gently, and instead of offering sage wisdom and inspiration, it fills the reader with discomfort, graphic images, and a big bucket full of guilt. I’ll just mention, for those of you who might not know this out there but I have been a vegetarian for more than 16 years. I have spent more of my life not eating meat, than eating it and this book made me feel guilty about my eating habits. This book recommends an entirely organic vegan lifestyle and diet without apology and does so in such a preachy way that I felt terribly guilty and uncomfortable. I foolishly allowed myself to be affected by their literature for a few days and for reasons that I no longer understand, I decided to go on a raw vegan fast this week.

What is this ridiculousness, you might ask?

This delicious diet consists of raw vegetables, fruits, and nuts, the occasional glass or mug of tea, and lots and lots of water. I ended my fast today after one-and-three-quarter days after fighting off a still present nauseating headache, and finding myself sniffing at a box of cookies longingly while fearing that someone would enter my cube and catch me in this shameful act. I was all set to keep my momentum for another three-and-one-quarter days when I realized that I had the ingredients at home for a pumpkin lasagna I’ve wanted to make for some time which is neither raw, nor vegan.

It is, on the other hand, delicious and there’s plenty left since I like to cook for an army! I’m off the raw vegan wagon and the headache is even beginning to dissipate – thank God!

Moral of the story:
Goat Cheese and Pumpkin do a body good and are natural headache chaser-awayers!

Summer Solstice

The longest day of the year has come and gone and now it’s finally summer! Our friends over at Scholastic and Leaky News are also celebrating the holiday and have put together a “Summer on Privet Drive” activity – check it out at http://www.scholastic.com/harrypotter/challenge/summer_at_the_dursleys/

Thanks to everyone who celebrated with us last night and I’m sorry that we couldn’t have the outdoor evening I’d planned – rain gets in the way sometimes. Although, if we are to truly celebrate the bounty of our harvest then rain will be necessary, so rain rain come this way is my new motto… and if the left overs left over in my fridge are an example of anything, it’s bounty.

Anyway, to provide a bountiful harvest of my own, last week I planted an herb garden – basil, mint, sage, and rosemary. After nearly 6 days in my care, they are thriving and have thoroughly enjoyed the daily showers that we’ve been having. I know, I’m surprised too.

I feel very fortunate to be able to harvest my herbs, left overs, friends, and good times as they can all always be found a-plenty at Villa-Bration! Thank you for continually filling my metaphorical cupboard! Happy Solstice and I hope you’re enjoying your bounty, the sun’s golden rays, and summer wherever you are!

30 before 30 and only 30 left!

So, one month to go!
30 days until I turn 30 – how crazy is that? This year has really flown by and though turning 30 still feels a little scary, I think I’ve almost accepted that I’m 29. It’s about time!

Anyway, here’s an update for where we are with the list….

1) Go to California – done
2) Get chased by a bear and/or mountain lion – done
3) See the biggest tree in the world – done
4) Learn to crochet – done
5) Be bathing suit ready – done… well at least I gave it a whirl!
6) Start over – done
7) Cut my hair short – done
8) Learn another language – done… well, again, at least I gave it a whirl!
9) Let a high school crush know how I feel – Paul Griffin that’s you! – done
10) Start over a little bit more – done
11) Have my own moral of the story – done
12) Write a book – done… working on it!
13) Complete a race – done
14) Quit biting my nails – done – aren’t you proud of me?
15) Write a song – waiting for inspiration from #20! Delicious!
16) Learn how to do a cartwheel – working on it
17) Learn to juggle – working on it
18) Try something new – belly dancing and balloon animal making – working on it
19) Go on a wine tasting tour – planned
20) Celebrate Pirohi Day – planned and I know you’re jealous!
21) Naked margaritas – planned – be there or be hot in the Florida sun!
22) Hike the Grand Canyon – planned
23) Change the world – working on it – really I am!

I still need a few more items to complete the list and I welcome your suggestions. Funny thing though… As I’ve been adding to the list and knocking things off the list, I’ve discovered that I’m a pretty straightforward gal. That’s probably no surprise for most of you reading this, but apparently I don’t have a whole lot of unfinished business waiting for me and I’m not afraid of trying new things. I think that’s why finding and keeping things on the list has been a bit of a challenge but a fun adventure and I have a good feeling that this last month might be even be more of an adventure than the first 11 months! But even if it takes a while longer to figure the last few out, I have a good feeling that I’ll be around a few days after July 19th to find out what happens next!

Get excited – it’s going to be a good month!

Because I’m still growing…

I love Lost (especially this season), but, if I had been single when it first aired, I would not have watched it.

Lost is VERY scary and I should not watch it alone. I like to think that the girls are good company for scary programming but they’re not. When I jump around or gasp repeatedly, they huff at me and then get up to go lay somewhere else. That is not the sort of support that I prefer when in my time of need. Anyway, It’s always a little scary but I think maybe somehow a little less frightening when Frank is here. *sigh*

I finally got around to watching the season finale of Lost tonight all by myself (in my first free full evening in many many days) and it was a good one – a cliff hanger, exciting, and informative – but maybe a little too grown up for a pajama clad girl like me!

The 15k Race

Last weekend Hope, Lisa, and I completed a 15k (9.2 mile) brisk walk across and around Disney property. I was sore for days but it was all well worth it (mostly because now I can say that I did it – I’m very sporty you know).

Enjoy!


An anniversary ode to Frank

I’m sure that there are many of you out there who love infomercials as much as I do. You might look forward to the 3am rantings of the “scratch and dent” lady who, as Frank says, is in fact scratched and dented herself (see knee brace boldly displayed underneath her fluorescent yellow cocktail frock). You may also have been talked into purchasing proactive at 6 in the morning because you have four blackheads and allowed Vanessa Williams to convince you that you are covered in acne. Anyway, this brings us to the topic at hand.

Three years have come and gone (well, really more like five if you’re counting all of it) and here we are. We shared a lovely anniversary evening of frivolity ending in our gift exchange when Frank gave me the best gift of all time. I am now the proud owner of the best infomercial product ever – and just I drank a frothy cocktail out of my party mug after dicing onions to fry up in the skillet! Yep, you guessed it! Frank bought me a Magic Bullet for our anniversary! Don’t get jealous – you’re all welcome to stop by and chose your protective color coded ring for your party mug!

For this gift, I’ll compose an ode to Frank:

Ode to Frank
Frank oh Frank
You are a tank
The wind blows through your orang-y locks
when running around in your orang-y frocks
You frolic across the bank
Ringing your bell, you go Clank, Clank,
Outside in the sunshine
but with you, forever is not such a long time!

in case you were wondering…

I didn’t mention it, but for those of you who never experienced the fun that funchester afforded the fortunate few, that when the infamous song “I see London, I see France, I see Andrea’s….” (thanks Chad) Mike Esterheld was the one who scooped me up and carried me out of the caf’.

That might help the previous post (two posts ago) make sense… or not, but thanks for reading, regardless of my inability to tell a coherent story.

crunch time… or at least it was when i wrote it in december

I’ve eaten an average of 15.5 delicious cookies every day for the last week and a half and though I should probably be doing some sit-ups and overall excercise so that I continue to grow into my new big-girl pants, I’m really concerned about the crunch time left before the big day. Frank and I were out today with the hundreds of thousands of other slack-ass Christmas-ers to get our last minute gifts and their toppers before it’s too late. We had a reasonably productive shopping day, which we concluded with a trip to Cold Stone as our reward for our hard work but when we got out to the car to head home and relax, it wouldn’t start. It’s funny sometimes how we are forced to stop the bustling about and we find that we’re happy we slowed down… oh, and happy that the tow man was friendly!

*** I wrote this a few days before Christmas but think that it’s appropriate for our bustling spirit throughout the year… and our spirit of friendliness – or emergency vehicle driver’s friendliness!

freshman year…. sigh

A week ago or so the gang and I went to see Avenue Q, which I’d really wanted to see for a while. It was terrific but I was a little nervous that I might get teary when they sang “I wish I could go back to college” because I always seem to when I hear that song. I’m not sure why I get so worked up when I think about being a young person and the time I spent in Virginia.

I’m sure it has something to do with all the firsts – moving out of the house, learning to live with strangers, eating all-you-care-to-cover-in-ranch every day, the availability of mass quantities of wine coolers, or the hormones rushing through the bodies of hundreds who are celebrating the unending opportunities to finally “do it” without getting caught by their parents (but with the likelihood of being caught by their new roommate who is only pretending to sleep on the bottom bunk and wishing that two minutes would quickly pass without so much shaking). Anyway, I’d been feeling a little nostalgic about the friends I’d lost touch with and googled one of my favorite people from freshman year.

I’m not sure why I remember it so vividly, but I was standing just outside the snack bar in the student center holding an unreasonably large pile of books when it happened. Mike Esterheld walked up to me and told me that he was leaving Shenandoah to join the Americorps. I dropped my stack of books (making a loud thump and quite a mess) and burst into tears. I was so shocked and saddened that someone so wonderful was leaving and with my 18 year old self-centered perspective screwed on tight, I proceeded to lose touch with him. Anyway, for those who remember me as the Cooley Girl you knew and loved you’ll also want to know that Michael Esterheld (and his riveting song about starting a date at Wal-Mart) can be found at www.mikeesterheld.com (or for those of you who’ve never understood my college stories, this should give you a clearer picture).

Oh, and I just remembered, Anne Pape, I know that I still owe you dollars from the phone bill – I think it was like thirty or something. Let me know where you live and I’ll send it straight away – sorry it’s so late!

Goodbye to my volunteers….

I didn’t think it’d be this difficult, but it was awfully sad to say goodbye to some of my favorite people, the volunteers from Give Kids The World Village. As the last minutes of my last day ticked by, I was surprised to realize how hard it was to say goodbye to those wonderfully crazy folks.

Thank you to all of you who have taught me what it is to give of yourselves, and to make things appropriately personal. Thank you for welcoming me, including me, keeping me in line, and reminding me of who is in charge. I’ll not soon forget how wonderful and crazy each of you are! I am a better person for having worked with and having had the opportunity to know you.

Thank you.

In France Again

Here we are! We’re in Paris again. Nothing super fun to share yet but have a look at the two pictures we posted from the top of the Arc de Triomphe – you may also see my short hair! I’m not quite bald but a little more Euro-Chic – Enjoy!

1st 10 of 30 before 30

Well, after quite a bit of hemming and hawing the 1st 10 is finished and ready to share
1) get into shape to be bathing suit ready (for the first time ever)
2) go on a wine tasting tour
3) start writing a book
4) write a new song
5) stop biting my nails
6) go on a fun and spontaneous road trip
7) give stand up a try – just once!
8) learn to juggle
9) learn another language
10) finally figure out how to do a bar chord

Well, I’ll get to getting and keep you posted!

From Maresi’s Blog… It’s funny!

M’res had this on her blog and I think it’s funny enough, that we should all play!
Enjoy and play along!

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & current car)
Attila Echo

2.YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie)
Cookie Dough Green Tree

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name)
A Hen

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal),
Purple Hedgehog

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, hospital where you were born),
Marie Wilson

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first),
HenAn

7. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink),
The Pink Vanilla Coke Zero

8. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers),
Bill Carmine (sounds good to me)

9.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names ),
Marie James

10. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter),
Vincenti Vancouver

11. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, flower).
Christmas Tulip

12. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”)
Raspberry Pajama Pants

13. HIPPIE NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree),
Fiber One Magnolia

14. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”),
The Crochet Snow Tour

Pet Rescue By Judy

As most of you know, we adopted Phyllis Navidad Hendry-Blum from Pet Rescue By Judy. Judy found homes for 1500 animals last year. Unfortunately, Judy is having some trouble and needs a shelter for her animals. She has 168 days before she’ll start being fined and the trouble really starts so it’s time to act (truthfully, I should have done something a long time ago but now is a good time too).

This is the message that is on her website today:
We have 168 days left to come into compliance with Orange County Code Enforcement or face fines of $250/day. We need 1.5+ fenceable acres, preferrably in Seminole County, with water and power, zoned for industrial or commercial use, donated, sold, or leased at a ridiculously low cost. Perhaps your financial advisor or attorney has a client who needs a tax write-off or benevolence…. If you can help, please e-mail info@petrescuebyjudy.com. Thank you!

Please go to www.petrescuebyjudy.com to learn more about her situation and let’s get together to do something… not sure what just yet, but share it with your coworkers and friends so that we can give Judy the help she needs.

it’s more about me than is reasonable…

So, though I talk about myself and my life here in my many thoughts from the funk but I like to think that I keep it pretty general masking what this really is, which is a website all about me. In the next few months, I beg your forgiveness as I may appear to be wildly self-involved, and indulgent while I address my insecurities about turning 30 years old. I know that most of you will say that 30 isn’t old, and it’s not a big deal, but I’m pretty sure that you think that because you’re already 30. No offense, I’m not ready to hop on board the old folks mobile with the rest of you just yet.

My friend Maresi wrote a blog a day each day before she turned 30, which was probably alot of work for her but really fun and informative for the rest of us. She took time each day to write on the world wide web and that inspired me to do my 30 before 30 as well… but I’m not going to do it all in one month not only because there wouldn’t be time to do it all in one month, but mostly because my freak-out started several months ago :)

Anyway, I’ve started making a list of things that I’d like to complete, experience, or try before I turn the ripe old age of 30. I’ll narrow down my list and share it with all of you soon (I know you’re excited). So get ready, it’s going to be a fun few months!

Christmas 2007

Christmas is here. Today has come and gone leaving us filled with presents, cookies, and giggles. The day began with a 7:15am wake-up call (because our stockings were whispering to me in my sleep) and then the boys (Jed, Mike, and Mike) came over to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus. Fluffy Baby Jesus made a celebrity appearance at our house for the holiday and I think the girls, the gang, and I showed them quite a festive time. The boys, the girls and I took our time opening our presents and I think that everyone was pleased by their loot. We bought a turtle and turtle supplies for Jed to build an addition onto his family and he seemed really tickled. Frank even liked his presents this year (thank goodness) so I feel like my job is done. We popped over to Jim, Barry, and Brandon’s house where I ate 6 cookies, 4 pieces of fudge, and the hugest helping ever of the most delicious tapenade I’ve ever had – seriously, delicious!

The friendly folks at Golden Dragon in Hunter’s Creek made a delicious dinner for our Orlando Family and for that we are truly grateful. Their food is wonderful, their prices reasonable, and they opened the store today just for us – we wouldn’t have had delicious dinner without their generous and hard work. Overall, it was a really wonderful holiday. Thank you to everyone who emailed, called, texted, stopped by, and everyone who participated in our holiday extravoganza. This year’s holiday was really wonderful and I’m feel so lucky to be a part of all of your families.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas!

Happy Birthday M’res!

Maresi’s 30’th birthday was yesterday and I haven’t gotten around to wishing her well yet…. so this is her official Happy 30th Birthday note (and it’s a good one because it’s on the world-wide-web). Maresi celebrated her birthday countdown by writing one blog entry every day for the thirty days leading up to her special day. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these daily updates for the past month and am very excited that she made it safely to the big 3-0. If you’d like to catch up on her last month as a youngster go to http://www.more-rice-please.blogspot.com/

It’s no surprise that I’m reasonably uncomfortable with the idea of turning thirty myself, but reading her blog each day as she gracefully accepted the inevitable makes me want to accept it gracefully as well but as I wait for that reaction I can feel the anxiety attack coming on as I fight the urge to run the other way screaming.

Then again, maybe it’s just an over-excited response because I want to shout things like “HA HA you’re 30 and I’m 29” or make jokes about it being time for her hip replacement, and to replace her contacts with bifocal lenses because 30 = old lady. Hee hee… Old jokes always make me feel pretty.

Anyway, Happy 30th Birthday Maresi! I hope it was wonderful!

gobble gobble gobble

It’s that time of year, and by that time of year I mean time to hold out your hand to strangers and proudly wiggle your thumb while shouting Gobble Gobble Gobble. Frank and I drove to Raleigh (Durham actually) instead of Pennsyltucky this year to visit the Westcott/Bowers family. The ten-hour trip was aided by the stylings of Jim Dale (as usual) and plenty of car snacks…. I love car snacks. Anyway, we saw Jess and Jeff’s beautiful new home and met Abby, their new baby – who is super cute! Though the whole family took turns holding her, we certainly got our time in – I even got to wear her (much like a baby cardigan) through the mall!

Early Thanksgiving morning Frank, Cousin Jon, and Uncle Joe participated in the Ridgewood annual Turkey Trot. Jon’s girlfriend Missy, Cousin Kate, and I picked up Sheetz coffee and headed out to be their cheering squad. After the boys were finished with their mad dash toward the finish line Frank and I were able to make a quick stop at Martha and Max’s house. We enjoyed a quick (but delicious) piece of pumpkin pie and got to meet their three cats Scooby, Henderson, and Little Girl who were SUPER friendly (they kept trying to crawl into my purse to come home with me!) Thanksgiving dinner was really delicious and as my own annual tradition states, I was thankful for rutabaga – how could anyone not be?!?!?

If you’d like to see pictures of the annual shenanigans, please head to Jess and Jeff’s website at
http://jeffandjess.wordpress.com/

but if you don’t have a home, you can buy one there!

Ikea opened in O-town (not inside the boy band, but up on Conroy) and as I am an Ikea enthusiast, I needed to be there for the grand opening event. Folks had been lining up for two days but rather than hanging out with the stinky lunatics, we (Jed and I) decided to go just a few hours early to catch the excitement with the pleasant smelling lunatics. I packed up my crocheting and headed to get in line.

On our way into the parking lot, I inadvertently cut off a van heading toward wheelchair parking. Needless to say, they, of course, got in line right behind us. We learned after their excessive sharing that they love free things (I thought they might freak-the-beep out when they were skipped in line for free water bottles – don’t worry though they shouted, jumped, and waved their arms until they got their freebies). They also used similar energy walking back and forth to their van, where their dog was stationed for the morning. “In the van” you ask? Yes, IN the van. I still have blisters from biting my tongue throughout the morning.

Anyway, besides the crazies and their mistreated dog, it was a really fun morning. I held down the fort while Jed walked to Panera to buy us delicious gingerbread bagels and chocolaty coffee drinks (thanks Jed). At the event there were acrobats, jugglers, the mayor, plenty of freebies and that’s all before we even went inside! Jed and I were given small (but friendly) gift cards and were greeted by dozens of Ikea staff beating thunder sticks and cheering as we walked through the doors. We bought a few small items, sampled the lingonberries, and visited the “as is” section where we were able to just barely overcome our temptations. As if that isn’t an exciting enough morning, I was also finally able to start and move along my first crocheting project (a scarf, I’m very fancy).

Oh, and if you don’t recognize the title of this bit, it’s a line from the funniest song ever by Jonathan Coulton. Head to itunes and have a listen, it rocks.

More exciting baby news…

Cousins Jess and Jeff just had the baby! They welcomed Abigail Mary Bowers into our family this week! Congratulations to Jess, Jeff, Sophie, and the rest of the Westcott and Bowers families! The biggest kudos and hoopla go out to Jess for actually going through the birthing process – yeah Jess!!!

An exciting week everywhere!

My best friends from school, Annie and Heather both have very exciting news and as I spent the day in the pumpkin patch with Jimmy-crack-corn, Brandon (you-come-on), Flava and the girls, I feel like I am honor-bound to report it (because a pumpkin patch in Florida isn’t very exciting at all and my devoted readers deserve an interesting blog).

Annie and Heather both gave birth to baby girls this week – how fun is that? Happy Birth-week to Lily Grace, and Taylor Ann! You two are lucky because you have really cool mommys to hang out with and are bound to be super-cute boy magnets!

Congratulations to Annie, Heather, and their families!

crazy things I’ve learned…

A while ago Frank took me to a Ringo Star concert (see the blog “the man I never knew I loved” for specifics) and I remember that Shena E was the percussionist in his “All Star Band” that he sang with…. which is also a little confusing since Ringo played the drums for the Beatles and all but anyway….

So we were heading to Epcot a few days ago to enjoy some of their delicious food and wine samplings when our friends Todd and Rebecca suggested going to see Shena Easton. “We’re in!” I exclaimed with enthusiasm, remembering her fine drumming and 80’s musical stylings from that concert all those months ago. She strutted onto the stage but her drum kit and single drumstick were nowhere to be found. I also thought that she looked a little bit different…. and maybe even sounded different. Apparently, Sheila and Shena, E. and Easten do not represent one person. Evidently there’s a gal named Shena E. and another one named Sheila Easton and they were both popular in the 80’s. Another fun fact is that one of them allegedly went steady with Prince… but I’m not sure which one. Sorry.

Anyway, Sheila E isn’t the same as Shena Easton, San Jose is not in the southern part of California, and when Frank comes back into town he doesn’t like it when I sleep diagonally in the bed.

My blog is not only interesting but also educational.

You’re welcome!

my favorite president

No, this isn’t a rant. This has nothing to do with my starfish throwing, tree hugging, vegetable eating, or bread line waiting political views…. but in case you were wondering, liberal is not a bad word. Anyway….

We all know that I love Michael Dukakis and his feisty wife Kitty, but though they made a valiant attempt, they never quite made the big move into the White House. That’s not really bad news though, because no one likes to move. Stuff is bound to break accidentally along the way and what on earth would they have done with a set of 8 teacups and 7 saucers?

Anyway, President Clinton is having a bit of a summit this week for the Clinton Global Initiatives organization where he intends to connect idea people and money people. I heard him say in an interview today that he started this organization because he was tired of sitting in meetings where at the end people just left, nothing was getting done, and no one really expected anything to be done. All the folks at the annual meeting have to make a commitment before leaving and keep it to be invited again next year. This seems like a really wonderful way to make some good change possible in the world… I’m not confident enough to say make change happen, but I would say that at least the door down the hallway towards change is ajar.

Have a look at www.clintonglobalinitiative.org to see what it’s all about or make your own commitment at www.mycommitment.org.

On Vacation Again… part 4

Today was our day in the park! We started bright and early (which isn’t all that hard to do considering the time change) with a hearty breakfast… “Where” you ask? At the Wuksachi Lodge of course! After a delicious breakfast we headed down the hill into Giant Forest to meet Sherman.

General Sherman is the biggest tree in all the land, or the world, or maybe just most of the world. The funny part about Sherman is that he is not the tallest or widest tree in the land/country/world, but as he is still growing (after more than 3000 years) he still produces some crazy amount of wood every year. The challenge for many a forest ranger, is that there is some controversy regarding our friend Sherman. Apparently the postal service issued stamps last year that featured some plants or something, but they claimed that another tree is the largest in the world. That tree’s special skill is that it grows new trees not from seeds, but from it’s roots and they can spout up all over the place while still growing large. Our friendly ranger addresses this “controversy” (his words, not ours and yes he said it with all seriousness) by defining the largest tree as one tree, and one seed. Under that controversy-free definition, Sherman is both large and in charge as the big man on…. well, everywhere. During our friendly ranger’s informative briefing where he discussed the facts and the controversy, a bear wandered up behind him and kept on walking. In case you’re wondering, this is the point in the presentation, where the tourists stop pretending to pay attention, whip out their cameras, and run after the bear. “Isn’t it dangerous to chase a bear” you might ask? Why yes it is. That bear, luckily for us, was nervous about the human stampede and walked/crawled/meandered away.

After learning all about Sherman, we walked the Congress trail where we were out-hiked by a couple that couldn’t have been any younger than 73 years old. As I stopped many times to catch my breath (I kept blaming the altitude) poor Frank wanted to catch them and show them our fitness and youth. Because I have lead in my khakis we did not catch them. 1-point for the old folks, 0-points for the wipper-snappers. Embarrassing. Once we took the slow trek through Congress we walked the trail of the tall trees. They are both really beautiful trails to walk but we had worked up quite a hunger so we took a short trip back to the Lodge for lunch and to charge our camera. Our afternoon plan was to make it to Moro Rock for sunset (as it was recommended to us) so we saw Beetle Rock and then started the journey up the mountain toward our vantage point for sunset.

The trip was going to be a bit longer than usual because a key road (that cuts out about a mile and a half of the trip) was closed for construction. We left ourselves plenty of time and along the way we saw many more big trees and an older gentleman with a walking stick who was on his way back from Moro Rock who told us it would be worth the trip. He also mentioned that it was a long way and we had just started so we continued the walk up the mountain. We were feeling like we might be almost there when Frank froze. I saw him extend his camera arm and whisper that there was a bear. I quickly swore at him telling him to put his camera down and back away slowly. We were the only people on that side of the mountain and the bear was looking right at us, clearly staring us down. He could probably smell the power bar in Frank’s pocket, and our delicious salty flavored clothing. The bear huffed and hissed at us while we backed away slowly and I passed gas. Bears give me gas. I think I’m allergic. He did not eat us. I’ll bet you were worried, but have no fear, there’s more blog to come!

We made it to the top of hanging rock and then finished our trip to the base of Moro Rock. We were told that there were 420 stairs to the top of Moro Rock and thought it’d be fun if we checked it by counting. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with the “in my opinion” about the stairs because the only opinion that I have is that there are a hell of a lot of stairs and we lost count so that we could catch our breath. Breathing seemed infinitely more important (and harder to do than count) at that moment. We made it to the top safe and sound to discover natures wonder and have a bird’s eye view of the surrounding mountains, majesty, and their sunset.

Once the sun had set it occurred to us that there would be very little light left for the journey home and as we had traveled on a lightly marked trail through the woods for at least an hour to get there, we might experience a bit of a hiccup on our walk back. We climbed back down the rock (down all of those stairs) and it had already begun to get dark. We opted to walk the road path, even though it was closed, because the idea of navigating the bear-filled forest in the dark didn’t seem like a very good plan. We walked, and we walked, and we walked and we walked. We encountered many scary noises and obvious sounds of “something” tracking/following us while we walked. This time Frank and I both had gas. Apparently we’re both allergic to bears. Anyway, after cursing the ranger-girl who recommended the lights-out forest tour, we made it back to the car safely. I said it at the time but will say it again, thank you God. We appreciate you not letting anything eat us.

Back on the ranch, we stopped at the front desk to “thank” them for this invigorating experience (a real life stair-master if-you-will) when the fellow who checked us in asked us in all seriousness “Why didn’t you bring flashlights? They didn’t mention anything about flashlights?!??!” Needless to say, he apologized and mentioned that we probably would have been fine and that area really doesn’t have any mountain lions anyway. Mountain Lions?!?!?!? OMG. Because of all the “Be Bear Aware” signs, we didn’t even think about mountain lions. We shared with our front desk friend that we are delicious and practically covered in marmalade – something that all bears enjoy – and that perhaps flashlights or warnings should be shared in the future. Holy crap. We headed back to the room, finished last night’s bottle of wine (time for something to calm our nerves) and closed out the night with dinner at the Wuksachi Lodge.

I love that place!

On Vacation Again… part 3

We woke up at the ass crack of dawn. I don’t swear much here in the blog but it was rootin’ tootin’ early. It was so early, that the ass crack of dawn didn’t show its ass crack until I’d been up for about three and a half hours. Ridiculous. Anyway, I fashioned Frank a healthful sandwich of peanut butter (scooped from the container with a pen cap – desperate times and all….) on two old chewy pieces of bread leftover from Disneyland. Only the finest for us! He did his best to wrestle through the gourmet treat I provided and we headed back to Zuma for the race. Frank set up his bike and many other swim/bite/run accessories for ease of outfit change between sections of the race. He took a quick dip to test out the water to find it lovely and refreshing. 60-degree water can be very refreshing at 6am before the sun comes up!

Frank swam/biked/ran well. I cheered well also (and made a few friends who helped too). I also cheered “The Shoveler” from Mystery Men, who has a very shaggy haircut right now, and Topanga’s father in law who’s hair is not shaggy but grey and thinning. I also had the pleasure of seeing a full harem of ladies swarming David Dukovney (sp?) as if he were young, handsome, or involved in a current/successful program. Ridiculous. I saw some man who is apparently in a show called two or three and a half men that I’ve never seen. He beat the “stud” David Dukovney and this is apparently a decade worth of competition finally completed. Regardless of the victor, the ladies did not care, they love X Men or X Files or whatever he was in with the aliens and Scully or Mulder or that show where he played one of those people and never got around to kissing the other…. In more important news, Frank finished in under two hours which was his goal so he’s the ultimate champion in my eyes and even though he’s 30 now, he’s still younger than those men or any of the gold digging ladies chasing them. “Silicone beauties” as described by Frank! After the race was through I had my hair cut for a generous donation by the fanciest man alive who introduced me to his boyfriend (or sweetie as he referred to him). Yes, of course, my hair looks great.

Frank re-charged and we headed north to the Sequoia National Park. The drive was long but by the time we reached the Park Entrance the sun had started to set. It was recommended that we have reservations for dinner but since cell phones don’t work in Sequoia country we had to stop at the visitor’s center on our way up the hill to use a pay phone. I remembered my Kanga Velcro-pouch shoes that always held my trusty in-case-of-emergency quarter vividly as we tried repeatedly to make a call on the seemingly easy-to-use payphone. The third time is the charm because that’s how many times it took us to figure out how to use the pay phone. Also, in case you were wondering, it now costs 50 cents to make a local (7-diget) call. Ridiculous. We made it up the hour and 20-minute hill 23 mile trip (it’s crazy), which includes a 20-minute siesta light (anything is possible in California) in time to see the sun set during that drive up the steep and winding hill to check into Wuksachi Lodge, our new home away from home… at least for the next day and a half. Though the drive was truly ridiculous, it was well worth the trip. The staff at the Lodge were really, thoughtful, friendly, and helpful. A second story room in the nicest building was recommended so we agreed and checked in.

The lodge itself was rustic, beautiful, and was thoughtfully placed underneath more stars than we’ve ever seen. We closed out the night by enjoying a delicious dinner in the only restaurant at Wuksachi Lodge (and on that side of the mountain) with an accompanying bottle of locally made Riesling and off to bed we went.

Sleeping time! G’night!

On Vacation Again… part 2

This morning we started our day with a delicious (translation: expensive) breakfast. Fortunately for the expense, it was really actually quite delicious (but how on earth they rationalized 3.50 for a glass of chocolate milk, I don’t ever want to understand). Once we properly digested (at least 45 minutes, just like when I was little) we headed to Malibu, specifically Zuma Beach. Apparently it’s a real place, not just a catch phrase on the E channel and MTV… another thing I didn’t know. This trip is full of fun new facts for me! Frank checked in for his race tomorrow and touched base with the tri-team folk where he was very popular with all the muckety-mucks (translation: he’s bff with the race director).

We checked out the event tents and after trying rather fruitlessly to talk the Toyota people into giving me a complimentary Prius we headed off to see Point Dume (Dume, not doom – the only danger we were in was of twisting a toe on the many rocky trails). We read that whales and other sea creatures can be found there so we were very excited to extend a hand of friendship to our West Coast comrades. Unfortunately, none of them saw us that way and stayed too far away from us for the handshaking to commence. The whales stayed so far away, in fact, that we didn’t actually see them…. BUT a seal swam pretty close and checked us out from afar. I think the surfing boys actually, scared them more than my eager shouting of “eeeek – loook!” At least that’s what I’m telling myself so that I don’t feel too guilty for squealing like a…. well, Andrea.

We closed out the day with a trip to Jamba Juice. Gosh their smoothies are delicious! Hope you’re all having a great weekend and we’ll write more soon.

Good Luck on your race tomorrow Frank!!!!! We’ll all be cheering for you!

On Vacation Again… part 1

We arrived in Sunny California yesterday (Thursday) and headed south to San Diego. Apparently San Diego is south of LA…. I didn’t know that before yesterday but apparently it practically touches Mexico – who knew? Just something I learned that I thought I’d share with my interested readers! There are so few things I don’t know – especially about geography – so it’s nice when I can be enlightened and in turn, enlighten those around me. You’re welcome.

Anyway, we went to visit our friend Bahram who showed us a great time all around the area. He took us to La Jolla (where we’re definitely going to move once we stumble on a big sack of galleons), which was really wonderful, and to Del Mar to see the sun set. To close out the night he took us to a wonderful restaurant called Chart House which sat right on the beach (near where he lives) where Frank tried (and seemed to enjoy) calamari and closed out the night with the most delicious chocolate lava cake we’d ever had. It was filled and covered with Godiva liquor, which we learned makes everything more delicious, so you all know what I’d like for my birthday next year!

Today we visited Disneyland and California Adventure today. Frank is, of course, a Disney park expert so he showed me around. We visited my friend Ralph (hi Ralph!!!) at the Aladdin show where he did a wonderful job! They’re lucky to have such a talented performer in their ensemble! We also saw the new Nemo ride which was super duper cute!

Finally, we made it to Burbank for the triathlon kick-off dinner (which was delicious – especially the cake) and then to our hotel (yawn) for the night.

I don’t really understand time travel and the zoning of time but I do know that it makes me sleepy! G’night!

The big day has finally come!

Nope, no spoilers – keep on reading!

Us with Dream Boat Sirius

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has arrived! Friday night at 8pm, several friends, Frank and I headed to Barnes and Noble to hop in line for our book and it was well worth the wait! We had our pictures taken with “dreamy Sirius” who we met at the last book release, participated in fun activities at the store, drank delicious cups of coffee, and listened to the crazy folks who were also waiting to buy the book. Midnight came, we bought our books and headed home to start reading. On Saturday afternoon we took a break to check the mail when a package from our favourite dog accessory store (Bowchies) came. Jenn (the bowchies lady) made Stella and Phyllis Firebolt collars (which we quickly put on the girls) so that they could be appropriately attired for the HP Festivities.

Phyllis and her Nimbus 2000 collar

Stella and her Nimbus 2000 collar

We took our time and I finished the book Sunday around 3am. The book was great and instead of thinking too much about this being the last book, I’m re-reading. I am (of course) sad that the last time to discover “what happens next” has come and gone but am glad to know what happens. I’ll share my favourite quotes, and moments (I know you can hardly wait) in a few days once everyone (Frank especially) has finished reading.

I’m going to get back to my re-reading now…. and in case you’re even a little jealous of my wild life, right now on the TV Pheobe is saving the day (as usual), Phyllis is snoring, Chase is sleeping and Stella just tooted on me. Back to my book!

Chase the Dog

Well, I don’t like to chase dogs… I don’t really like to run at all actually but I do have a dog named Chase (sleeping on the floor right now) who needs a home! He’s about 3 years old, 75 pounds, fixed, updated with shots, and very friendly. Let me know if you, or someone you know is interested in adopting him (because 200+ pounds of dogs is too much for me to take on a walk all by myself).

Happy Birthday Andrea…. a few days late

Thank you very much to everyone who spent the 19th with me, called, sent cards and thought of me! To kick off my personal holiday, Frank set up a display and dressed up the ducks to celebrate with us (picture below).

Harry Potter Display

I had a wonderful birthday and yes, I feel much older. I only have one year left until old age sets in so I’m planning to make this last one count – I’ll keep writing during my trip across Europe so have no fear you’ll be in the loop! I have several weeks before I leave, so make sure to send your “good luck” presents and cards so that I get them before I leave the country!

I’m totally kidding, but I will keep writing from the couch with Phyllis and Stella keeping me company. It might not be as exciting as a trip exploring another country, but at least I can wear my pajamas!

3/13/7 Alot of numbers today…

Only 3 days left until OOTP comes out (yes I just like to pronounce it that way – ootp – it makes me smile) and 13 days until number 7… It’s alot to keep inside right now – I’m filled to the brim with emotion!
Speaking of 7, today is 7/7/7 which is apparently THE day to get married. Last night on the news I heard that there are 5-times as many weddings planned for today than on any other Saturday this year! I was reminded by a friend’s blog this morning when she posted the prettiest picture from their wedding that today is their anniversary. Jed and I traveled to the cold cold north to attend her special day and had a fine (though chilly) time. You can see their “exit photo” at http://www.more-rice-please.blogspot.com/
It’s crazy to think that they’ve been married for so long and that Frank and I have been married for more than two years already (though it doesn’t feel any longer than a week and a half, tops). When on earth did we all grow up into these people with careers instead of jobs? When no one was looking we all turned into people who have wedding anniversaries instead of the over-enthusiastic teenagers we used to be, shouting “We’ve been making out for like 2 months – it feels like forever!” into the abyss of the cafeteria? I know that growing up and making traditional choices is inevitable, but at least when it starts to freak me out, I remember that I’ve been counting down the days to a children’s book for the last two years :)

Only 13 more days! Happy anniversary M’res and Timon!

OMG

22 days 32 minutes and 22 seconds.
Needless to say I’m freaking out.
ALOT.
I’ve had a look at other folks’ blogs though and at least I’m not the only one.
But seriously…
ALOT.

OMG.

Charlie’s Angels

Charlie is the cutest little girl ever that my friends Deya and Jillian helped rescue from under the hood of my car just a few days ago. Please go to the following site to read the full story and see pictures of her!

http://deyasofourlives.blogspot.com/2007/05/charlies-angels.html

She fell asleep in my lap last night just before I nodded off myself… with Phyllis close by trying to give her a proper sniff – she’s so sweet!

A bit of around the house perspective…

There’s nothing like a night at home alone with the girls to put things into perspective. I found myself dusting, mopping, sweeping, and cleaning many sections of my house that almost never get a proper wipe down (though they clearly needed it) tonight while I watched some particularly crappy television. My newly dry shiney clean floors were rewarded with three episodes of “The Girls Next Door” and the dusting awarded me the treat of a new episode of “Real World/Road Rules Challenge – Inferno 3” which deeply moved me because Timmy was voted off. Who doesn’t love Timmy?!?!? He’s terrific, seriously! I know that I’m the only one who remembers him from his show years ago and am one of two (yes, I’m calling you out Mike) still watching those stupid challenges but they really suck me in! Once they start in with the girls hating each other and Tanya (to no ones surprise) whoring it up for the 18th year in a row or something (she’s seriously aging) I find myself longing for the next episode! That is how they keep me locked in! I think it is really because they’re all such mindless programs that I can still be productive while enjoying the intellectual stimulation of it all – that’s why I don’t ever feel guilty. Last night I watched the biggest loser while doing five loads of laundry. I think what crappy television is really allowing us all to do is to be more productive, and I’d like to send out a hearty thank you at this time to all television executives who are clearly responsible for my tidy household :)
Kudos – I appreciate what you do!

Apple Flapple Day 4

I’m tired. Washington DC is big and we had the most beautiful day to enjoy it but I’m tired and need a nap, so this’ll be short tonight. We saw the outside of the librairy of congress, visited Lincoln’s memorial, saw the Vietnam Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial. We also stopped by the Museum of Native American History where we saw a very cool copper wall and the most delicious lunch ever (including pumpkin cookies – delicious)! Finally, we witnessed a man being struck down by four policemen outside the White house (now known as beat-down alley). Overall it was a fine day in our nation’s capital.

Apple Flapple Day 3

Lauren is besties with Wayne and his body guards. Mindi wanted, more than anything, to meet and possibly have a private experience with Wayne Newton this weekend which might seem strange when visiting Virginia, but Wayne happens to be the Grand Marshall of the Apple Blossom Festival… so it isn’t really that crazy. Unfortunately, Mindi, Frank, and I had no such Wayne experience. Lauren, on the other hand, met him for a life changing 5 seconds when attempting to board an elevator in the nicest (yes really) hotel in Winchester (we only enjoy the finer things in life so we went Wingate all the way). She greeted him with an enthusastic “Wow, hi there!” Wayne said hello back and then the doors shut. Though Mindi was standing right next to her, she assumed Lauren was greeting an old town bar friend, and not having a once in a lifetime celebrity meeting. Anyway, we’re mad at Lauren as she’s been in the presence of greatness.

After getting over that tragic blow, we headed down to breakfast (which was delicious – thank you Wingate) and saw another fine Winchester celebrity, Miss Virginia, in a gold shiny slinky rusched dress at 9:15am… She is clearly a glamorous pagent winner all the way!

We thought we’d attempt to have another Wayne sighting at the pre-parade street show, but we were tragically thwarted in our efforts when, for the second time this weekend, the glossy brochures held misinformation and lead us astray. Fortunately, we did receive a free bottle of water and religious tract from the Nazarenes – thank you Nazarenes, my thirst is finally quenched!

We decided to leave Winchester a bit early as it was raining (and we’d missed Wayne again) so we headed off to my cousin’s house (which is lovely – thank you for letting us stay Jess and Jeff). We were greeted by an enthusiastic Sophie (of course pictures are in the gallery) and then headed to the Torpedo Factory and downtown Alexandria which is SOOO much cooler than I ever remember it being! We saw oodles of crazy art in the Torpedo Factory (beautiful and expensive!) shopped around town where Mindi bought every kind of turquiose Sharpie imaginable and we tortured the boys (Frank mostly) by shopping for purses and jewelry… again. He’s so good to us!

We sent the boys off to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at an Irish Pub called Murphy’s where Frank was named the “Cricketeer” due to his dart prowess. He, Jeff, and Jon attracted a gaggle of “bar hags” who came over to “learn how to play darts.” We did not come to their rescue but sat 6 inches away and laughed out loud as the married ones kept throwing Jon to the courger… or hag. Murphy’s also had live music that required us to clap and dance along – my favourite kind of bar music :) Who doesn’t like to join in? I don’t know! Our favourite was the unicorn song and yes, we can show you all of the choreography.

Apple Flapple Day 2

First thing – our friend from Jacksonville (now known as JAX and it’s alright that we have a nickname for him since he called Lauren “blondie”). Anyway, he followed us today as well (check the photos and you’ll see how handsome his is) and we discovered that he was not on vacation, but in fact, was here to work the Apple Blossom Festival as a carnie who was very upset with us when we wouldn’t play his dart, ballon, and three balls for 7 dollar game… “small hands, smell like cabbage.”

While checking out Jax’s fellow carnies, we bumped into Big E or Eric from MTV’s Real World/Road Rules Challenge Fresh Meat. As Eric is who and what he is, we all assumed we knew him from high school, but since none of us went to the same high school (or college for that matter) we discoverd that although his looks aren’t stereotypically “celebrity” he was, in fact, a local celebrity. Frank likes to embarass me so you can see a photo of him and I in the photo gallaries. I’m mortified even mentioning it…. and yet, we’ve fashioned a list of informative questions to ask him in case we bump into him tomorrow… our lives are sad.

We tried to see the coronation of the Apple Blossom Queen but were lead a stray by the informative maps, and guidebooks to a location a mile in the wrong direction that was under construction but the lengthy walk afforded us the opportunity to make wishes on weeds and see the surrounding neighborhoods. Since we missed the coronation, we decided to have a thirst quenching beverage and go shopping for all the things we felt too guilty about buying yesterday… the economy of Winchester (who’s building is very festively decorated) has properly thanked us :)

Today we attended the world’s largest (yes, that means it was three full hours) firefighter’s parade. Though we waited a very very long time, we did not see Wayne Newton, aka: Apple Blossom’s Grand Marshall, or Tom Wopat, or George Hamilton, or Dorothy Hamill who were all proudly advertised in the brochures and website. Liars in Virginia, all liars. Although, we did see the most laid back townie ever who was mascotting his own tractor/float while kicking back and enjoying the sites… with the occasional nether-scratch. Have a gander, you’ll crack up. We also saw the most poorly behaved musician in the history of middle school marching bands ever. As the photo shows, he is using his trombone as a walking stick, armrest, and cane to lean on as well as adjusting his chin strap as a teething ring while looking around to notice himself being noticed. He is the reason we have all sworn off children that become pain-in-the-you-know-where teenagers. We’ll also remind our families at this point, that we were well behaved and respectful of authority in our youth.

Trivia Question #3

Mindi purchased several brush art animals today made from seeds, glue, wire, leaves, and seed pods. What sorts of animals did she buy?
A) two giraffs and a non-family-friendly joey B) a red-jay, squirel , and sharp nosed hummingburd C) five squirels who she’s named and is designing costumes for

Apple Flapple Day 1

We (Lauren, Mindi, Frank, and I) hopped onto a plane early this morning headed toward Winchester for the 80th annual Apple Blossom Festival (for more information, go to www.thebloom.com). Our first stop was Sheetz where Lauren discovered the wonderment that is the never ending condiment option and Mindi sampled the new and delicately flavoured garlic fries (the car still smells).

We took a short walk around Shenandoah University and saw the cutest goslings waddling near the water. I stopped into the campus health center to see if my favorite sign was still on the wall (so I could share it with you all arounhd the world) but unfortunately, the “Love carefully, chlamydia is not a flower” sign has been taken down and I can only imagine that the students of Shenandoah are now at risk, without that sage advice.

We also walked around “old town” Winchester where we did some shopping (alright, a good deal of shopping) and chatting with the locals. A soiled man from Jacksonville (who itched the area under his shirt continually throughout the day) stopped us to celebrate and share his Florida heritage with us. He made us nervous… especially since he seemed to follow us throughout the day. We found ourselves at Brewbakers (one of our favorite pubs ever) and located the best people watching table ever. We took in the “local culture” and in the end met a man who could not resist my loveliness (it’s no surprise that he had clearly been drinking for hours and was the resident drunk).

We (I) also encounter an angry staring man who huffed at me after I came out of the restroom. Since I remembered to flush, I couldn’t figure out why he was hmph-ing at me and assumed I was being paranoid. He looked a little familiar but not so much that it seemed appropriate to say hi. As we left to head home for the evening, he (according to Mindi) gave me the “angry stare down” so this is my formal appology to the angry man. I’m not sure what I did to you, or wrote you up for in college, but I’m sorry if it had a lasting scarring effect. I’m sure I was in the wrong, and you were blameless, as most teenage co-eds are. My bad.

We’ve put together some new features, including “phrases of Winchester” and “trivia” so please participate in this holiday with us – there might even be a prizzze in it for you! Please respond to the trivia questions by emailing me directly at andrea@andreahendry.com.

an update…

I’m sure that I’m the only one checking www.leakynews.com regularly (alright, to be honest, religiously) to ensure that I don’t miss anything important going on in the next 78-86 days. I’ve also been known to check www.mugglenet.com, www.harrypotter.com, www.scholastic.com/harrypotter, and www.jkrowling.com to be sure that I haven’t missed even one piece of shamefully important news (like my version of CNN). Anyway, there are two knew wicked cool previews for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (HP OOTP) that you really should check out. There is an international and a domestic version (and they are a bit different). Have a look from the Leaky site (it’s a little bit more user friendly) and let me know what you think – I just know you’re going to love it!

Don’t worry about me though, it’s not crazy, it’s whimsical I promise!

Sooooo, since I’m the only person checking leaky regularly, a big thank you goes out to the leaky writers, updaters, and well… geeks. I appreciate your “whimsy” :)

Crazy Canadians

So, I was watching American Idol tonight (yes, I know I said I wasn’t going to watch it this season, but I got sucked in – I’m disappointed in me too), and I saw Celine singing with Elvis…. or an Elivs look-a-like, or a hologram or magic ghost, whatever. I won’t even get into how crazy she looked (and sounded) or my opinion on how that old man she married must have addled her brain in some way but I was reminded of one time when I met her. Anyway, what you should all know is that her kid’s name is Renee, has long curly hair, and was waiting in line for the Storybook Room. Apparently Renee is a boy name, and long curly locks are the Canadian version of a pick-up truck/mullet combo. Totally not my fault when I called him princess.

Celine and I are besties.

the ladies have new collars!

We took the girls to Posh Pooch yesterday and one of the booths that we found had super cute collars, leashes, and all sorts of other dog accessories. What I liked best about it was that everything was brightly colored and pattered but also made for regular (not carry-me-around) sized dogs. The girls have new collars and I think more people need to know about these folks and their stuff which can be found at www.bowchies.com

Stop by and buy someone you love something today!

Also, below you can see Phyllis and Stella in their new collars :)

The Release Date Has Been Announced!

We all know that I love Harry Potter (especilly those of you that came to my “Christmas Morning at Hogwarts” themed birthday last year – thanks for your patience folks). But I am SERIOUSLY freakingout that the release date for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is just a short 161 days away! No, I didn’t count it, my widget (thanks to www.leakynes.com) counts it down for me – and as of right now there are actually 161 days, 6 hours, 8 minutes, and 34 seconds left to wait until I’m holding the book and freaking out even more about actually getting to read it!

I’m declaring this summer, the summer of Harry Potter. The movie (OOTP) comes out on July 13th, the book will be available July 21st, and most importantly, my birthday (with a Harry Potter party of course) is July 19th! I can barely contain my enthusiasm!

So, it’s that time again – time to prepare for the new book and re-read, which as far as I’m concerned is almost as much fun as a new book coming my way. Now, you folks who haven’t read them yet need to get on it – don’t be afraid of being bandwagon jumpers- just do it!!! This is not something to practice how to “just say no” to and I’m pretty sure Nancy would back me up here – reading is good! We can all get back to our intellectual reading (aka: surfing the internet) just as soon as August comes around, but until then it’s off to Hogwarts, thestrals, mugglenet, butter beer, bat-bogey hexes, and Neville – do you guys think Harry will tell him that it could have been him???? I LOVE Neville – I’m so nervous and so excited!!! Who’s wondering about Phlegm’s wedding? I know she and “molly wobbles” are getting along right now but I think that when it gets closer Mrs. Weasley just might freak out and have a throw down with her!!!! Heeee heeee!!!

What are you guys most excited about?

ode to cap’n joe

Cap’n Joe is the finest Cap’n in all the land! Who is Cap’n Joe you ask? Well….

Frank was given the coolest birthday gift ever last summer (and as usual, it wasn’t from me). Our friends Jed and Mike bought him a swimming with the manatees experience. Luckily for me, they bought him an experience for two and Frank invited me! Cap’n Joe was our tour guide for our fun-filled day where we met a couple from near Oxford (who’ve been married for more than 40 years – and still so in love!!!) a couple from California, and oodles of manatees!!! Cap’n Joe taught us the laws of the land (rules and such), and then he took us to just outside a manatee sanctuary on the Crystal River where we were surrounded by a herd of playful manatees. It was really a great tour (and though I’m not trying to sell anything here) if this sounds like a fun time, go to www.fun2dive.com – you’re going to love it!

Frank also (because he’s great) showed me how to load pictures onto this site with my new computer (I’m officially a mac-geek now). Click and enjoy!

i love christmas…

christmas is my favourite time of the year and i can’t believe that it’s already here! we took some photos of the house this morning (have a look) before the mess and present opening began :)

we miss you and wish you were all with us this christmas – we hope you have a really great day!

btw – at 2pm i have eaten 24 cookies. i’ll keep you posted as my day filled with sugary grazing continues.

living the dream…

I did something tonight that would have made sixth grade Andrea weep tears of joy. I saw Jordan Knight from NKOTB (New Kids on the Block) perform live! For some reason (and I can’t imagine why) my parents weren’t willing to spend one hundred dollars a ticket and drive three hours to the closest performance during the winter of 1989 (not that I remember the specifics or anything).

Anyway, my wonderful friends (the Welander-Strange’s) called this morning and told me that he was giving a free concert in Celebration tonight. We then re-arranged all of our plans for the day; picked out new outfits, put on LOTS of fancy eye make-up and headed out to the concert (Frank is soooo lucky).

Stella and Phyllis were really excited that they were going to meet a celebrity, so excited in fact, that when Jordan rode by on his horse drawn carriage, Stella lunged at it with a loud growl and angry series of barks. She likes to make a good impression when meeting new friends. Jordan took the stage with a flourish and flair of falsetto… Yes, I said falsetto! Much like a young Michael Jackson, or well, the young lead singer of the epitome of all that is good, sweet, and boy bands; he sang with a girlish tone and confidence befitting a man of his talents and potential!
Along with being unquestionably gifted musically, he is also a man who understands the needs of his audience. He performed many songs from NKOTB including Please Don’t Go Girl, Step by Step, The Right Stuff, and several songs from their Christmas album. During his last song “The Right Stuff” he came into the audience to be a bit closer to the beautiful albeit thirty-ish year old crowd of ladies screaming like it was nineteen-ninety-never.

Jordan!

How crazy is that???? More importantly, how jealous of me are you?!?!?!? I took a short video (below). Enjoy!

Warning the Small video file is 7.3MB, it may take a while to download.

IKEA

Dear Ikea:
Thank you very much for our new gi-normous couch. The girls and I love it here. Thank you for bringing our family closer together. If you would like to see what I mean, please stop by any time…. I’m sure you have your own key, everyone else does :)

Love,
Andrea, Stella-Belle, and Phyllis-Navidad

I love TV.

As a proud member of generation X, I sometimes feel like I was practically raised with our family television, as if it was yet another sibling. When I get excited about a new fall season of my favourite and soon to be favourite TV shows I remember how much I loved TV as a kid and what a big deal it was to be the one to decide what we as a family would watch. I think the fact that we were all trapped in front of one TV (not like my family now, with easily half a dozen TVs in the house) made us pay that more attention to what was on and seemingly that much more important. From Mr. Belvedere to Different Strokes, to American Hero with a big pile of Saved by the Bell on the side, I loved all fo them and can probably still recite the words to most of their more exciting episodes. Anyway, I remember everything that I watched as a child but now I have that childlike sort of glee for fall programming.

Are you as excited about Grey’s Anatomy as I am? I am unable to watch the show without openly weeping and yet I look forward to it every week!
Have we decided that we like Desperate Housewives again? I think it’s a strong possibility.
I think we like Heroes, but I’ll keep you posted.
Studio 60 – I was fully surprised that I absolutely love it. It might just be a residual Chandler crush though! That is actually a strong possibility…
Is anyone else wondering when Scrubs starts up again? Aaaand, I know I should be excited about lost but I don’t think I am… too much suspense from last season still giving me gas 
But my absolute favourite: Gilmore Girls. I know that I’m the only one watching it but I’ll say it again, you’re all missing out! It’s incredible!

Welcome to fall!

Sorry it’s been such a horribly long time. I think that the summer heat got to me – it was soooo warm but guess what?!?!?!

We have lows in the 60’s coming up soon and those of you in other parts of the country (or other countries – hello to the Carrs!) it’s beginning to feel a lot like… well, fall in Florida. I love the first moments where I notice a lack of humidity, a friendly breeze, but mostly that I don’t get turn into a puddle on the way from my car inside. Stores are newly filled with candy of every sort and orange icing covers countless cupcakes in bakeries as far as the eye can see!

I absolutely love the fall.

In celebration of what I like to refer to as the “pre-Christmas season” I adopted a fall wreath for our door…. And yes, in case you were wondering, before purchasing it I conducted and interview process to ensure that my new wreath won’t take it personally in a few weeks when it gets tossed into the garage to be replaced by multiple Christmas wreaths.

Stop by soon to meet it – you’ll love it!

The man I didn’t know I loved…

Frank took me to see a Ringo Starr concert the other night. Ringo, that’s what I call him because we’re on a first name basis, brings this motley crew of haggard looking “rockers” with him on the tour that he (Ringo) calls his All Starr Band.
Frank and I were the youngest people in the concert…. No contest. We walked in just as the clan was taking the stage (right at the time the concert was supposed to start, no opening act or delay whatsoever, which should have let us know that this wasn’t our version of a “standard” evening of rock).

So we’re sitting in this concert of honestly talented musicians with quite the combination of experiences under their ever widening belts (purchased in 1979 I’m sure) and though I knew that the stage was filled with huge talent, they certainly didn’t look the part. These “All Starrs” consisted of Sheila E, some old man with long hair who played a song called Frankenstein and claimed to have invented the mobile keyboard or as he called it “the strap-on keyboard” and let me tell you that I’m quite sure that wasn’t the first time he relished the use of a strap-on something or other, an old man named Billy, some other old tired looking folks, and then, the man I didn’t know I loved….. There he was. I barely recognized him at first, looking skinnier than I remembered but the trademark poofy hair (that I don’t remember being noticeably poofy in his heyday) there stood Richard Marx.

How did I never know how much I loved him and his music??

The first clue that it was true love for Richard was that I apparently know all the words to all of his popular songs, “Don’t mean nothing,” “Should’ve known better,” and “Hold onto the night.” By the bland response from the audience I was clearly the only one at the concert who had ever heard these songs. I don’t understand how anyone who has ever owned a radio can claim to not know the words to “Right here waiting”. I am sure that everyone I went to high school and college with not only knew the words to that song but had also taught themselves to play it on the piano (we were artists after all). No one sang in the audience during the candle lit serenade and my heart reached out for Richard at that moment and knew that my love was true. Frank on the other hand did not feel the love quite as strongly as I did, I can’t imagine why, but at least he tried to sing along. I was so moved by the soft lighting and the smooth melodious line that I tried to get Frank to make a grand gesture and re-propose to me in front of the crowd in celebration of Richard’s many gifts and beautiful song. Needless to say, Frank wasn’t quite that moved.

Anyway, Ringo and his band of has-bins aside, I am on a mission to spread the word of Richard Marx and his many gifts to the public. Go ahead, Google him. I dare you to not be reminded of a time when you were so moved by a song that you took the time to learn all of the words (even if you had to squint over the backside of a cassette case)…. Well, that may only be true if you graduated from high school between 1994 and 1998 but if you were a part of that lucky few from my generation I congratulate you. I know you are instinctively humming those tunes in your head right now and I encourage you to find a copy of his greatest hits cd (it came out in 1997). By the reaction of the audience I saw, I’m guessing that the stores did not sell out and that they will be available at a store near you….. It’s not crazy, you know you’ll love it too if you just listen to his lovely voice.

Who knew that a trip to Clearwater and Ringo Starr could make a girl like me fall in love???

welander-strange, my favourite last name…

It’s wedding week – at least it was last week when my favourite couple made the big leap. Yes, I’m talking about our friends, the Welander-Strange combo. The rest of the gang and I traveled (far and very wide) to Iowa via Moline and the Field of Dreams. Ahhhh Moline and her people were both welcoming and flannel clad – we love the Midwest! We drove hours through Iowa to see the Field of Dreams which, regardless of what Frank says is not on the way to Emmetsburg (where the wedding was) to experience its loveliness – oh and it was lovely! It had the smell of excitement that can only be found in the movies, otherwise known as manure. I love to walk through lush moist grass that smells like poo… it reminds me of a Sunday morning in Funkhouser. Delicious!

After a good long while driving on two lane “highways” across Iowa we landed at the brand new Wild Rose Resort and Casino – woo hoo! After checking into our fancy new hotel we headed straight to the Welander’s for dinner where we finally got to see the house that Hope had been telling us about for years (and it was really beautiful, totally worth the wait). Mr. and Mrs. Welander were terrific hosts and showed us a fine time in Emmetsburg.

Lots of wedding preparation later (and from what I hear quite a few dollars lost at the casino), we found ourselves at the church for Hope and Mike’s special day. Hope looked absolutely perfect (just like she always does) and Mike looked great as well. The service went just as planned and the reception went off without a hitch too.

Dancing and carrying-on went on late into the evening (and those of you out there who were participating in the carrying-on know who you are, I’m not naming names… except Dr. Strange who can cut a fine rug!)

We all said our goodbyes and headed to Minneapolis (state number three on our mid-west tour in case you were keeping track). We visited the Mall of America where we rode a couple roller coasters and did some shopping (I bought a pink rolling pin from the QVC at the Mall store) but was really just like every other mall I’ve been too. I tried to be excited but the only real difference was that it had a lot more self-promoting merchandise than I’ve seen in a mall. Then again, maybe we missed the really cool sections of the mall.

Anyway, we made it home safely with all of our bags quite a bit fuller (mostly thanks to the ETC, etc, etc store in Emmetsburg which has more cute stuff in one store than I think I’ve ever seen), and now I can finally say that I’ve been to see a plains state… or are they called plain states? Well, all I know is that I had a plain old fine time there and I’d like to send a special thank you to the very hospitable Iowans we encountered last week. We had a super time – thanks again!

Pictures of the ridiculous carrying on will be posted soon – keep checking!

my athletic prowess

The following should come to no surprise to most of you due to my natural and healthy lifestyle. In fact, I earned an intercollegiate letter in tennis from Shenandoah so none of you should be shocked by my next revelation.

I’m officially sporty.

My athletic ability is something that is envied by many of you out there and to show off a bit more I’ll give you the highlights of the endurance race I participated in last weekend. It was a running/biking buddy race through rugged terrain and mud across property so I enlisted my fittest coworker Keith (who is seriously in shape) to be my partner. We signed up for the Muddy Buddy and our team name was keith&andrea (we’re very creative).

Frank was already signed up with our friend Mike and since they have both done oodles of endurance races in the past, they were psyched and ready to go. I on the other hand, was not a veteran to endurance races but fortunately for me, I have participated in countless Charmed and Friends Marathons so I was naturally packing my A-game for the big race. I worked out not once, but TWICE last week in preparation for the competition. I even got onto Frank’s bike the morning of the race to re-learn how to stay upright on a bicycle. I was not at all worried about the many dirty miles to come.

Needless to say, we rocked the house. There were a few bumps along the way – by bumps I mean sand, gravel, wood chips, monkey bars, rope ladders, wooden boards, walls to climb, and a nasty spill off the bike – but we finished in record time… when I say record time, I mean that the time we finished was recorded at one hour, thirty-five minutes and thirty seconds. We finished 461st out of 465 groups so in a matter of speaking we kicked *beeeeep* and took names! I don’t actually remember their names but I do remember what I named them in my mind. First there was “big pink butt lady” who at three times my size jogged right by me without breaking a sweat (whilst I was contemplating the inner asthma attack I was having), and who can forget about “tall socks girl” who passed me by walking after she very thoughtfully gave me a stick of gum – that gum was delicious! Anyway, a good time was had by all and after the run/walk/bike was through we were fortunate enough to crawl through a gi-normous pit of mud.

I know how jealous you all must be!
Photos are posted – enjoy!

one down!

I’m sure you’ll all be glad to hear that Frank and I have made it safely through one year of marriage. It seems like just yesterday that everyone we knew flooded the Orlando area to celebrate the big day and it’s been one whole year. In celebration of our first anniversary, I’ve added a particularly dorky new picture section entitled frankandandrea which showcases, you guessed it, photos of the two of us. Have no fear, we’re both making our patented “picture faces” in all of the pictures and we plan to keep making them on film together for quite some time. It was awfully hard to find pictures with both of us because though I’m far from outspoken I’m not crazy about having my picture taken but I scoured the hard drive and came up with some spectacular moments from the past three years. Take a walk down memory lane with us and enjoy!

The honorable title bestowed upon me…

At one time, I held the title of Miss Ranch Dressing 2001 so it should not come as a surprise to any of you that I like sauce. I’ll admit that I love sauce, condiments especially but yesterday I discovered something quite disturbing.

We recently acquired an appliance from a store that is famous for informing its customers (and all of Central Florida) that, “If you pay retail, you paid too much!” This purchase forced me to do something that I haven’t done in more than two years, clean out the refrigerator. In doing so, I found things (lemon juice, dressing, margarine) that expired more than two years ago, so obviously refrigerator detail is not one of my strengths.

I filled a trash bin with my expired collection but the only word to describe the door of our new refrigerator is impressive, but not because of any design feature. What makes the door to our new refrigerator amazing is what we have filled it with, sauce glorious sauce. The following picture was what was left of things I was unable to rid when mucking out our stellar condiment collection.

sauce glorious sauce

Apparently the boys and I have some sort of sauce addiction that we need help for but I think the first step toward our collective recovery is admitting to the world that we are slaves to our own saucy habit. Well, here is our admission to guilt and love for the moistness that fills the bland items of our lives with flavor! I raise a glass to you ranch dressing, vinaigrette, bar-b-que sauce, and especially Henderson’s Relish – it is to you whom we owe lifelong gratitude!

when i get around to it…

I love and hate the end of the semester.

I get so excited that it’s (thank God) finally over and then I remember just how much work I still have to do. I thought that I had finally dealt with my habit of procrastinating but according to my class work to do note, I apparently haven’t.

Maybe I shouldn’t do anything about this problem. Maybe if I were a super hero that could be my power. I could be known as “The Procrastinator” and I’d have a slogan that went something like “If you have a problem that can wait a while, call The Procrastinator and she’ll get to it when she has nothing better to do”. I’m not sure that will strike fear into the heart of “The Timeliness Toad” whose slogan (of course) is “I’ll hop to terrorize your communities like the delicious flies that you are and eat you alive.”

I can almost hear the crowd cheering for me now, hopeful that I’ll leave couch and DVR to save a life.

I can’t compete with that toad guy. He eats people alive for goodness sake – with his gigantic sticky tongue! That tongue of fury was really scary! (Did I mention that his tongue was called the tongue of fury?) It moves very quickly and then he doesn’t just terrorize, he hops to terrorize. I’m very short! I can’t see that coming!!!!

This is way too much pressure.

Good luck Tam-lando, The Procrastinator is going back to lie on the couch… or to do my homework.

The couch is calling :)

********************WINNER!!!!********************

Jed Daiger is the big winner in our competition.
Yeah Jed!
Second place goes to Mike Strange
Third place goes to Martha Buchta
Fourth Place goes to Patrick Hayes
and noteworthy effort goes to the following: Lauren, Andy, Bev, Marie, The Hendrys, and The Blums.
Finally, the special “spicy award” going to Chuck!
Thanks to everyone for playing – you really made our trip a fun one!

day ten

Bonjour Disneyland Paris! Our friend James brought us with him to work on the 45 minute Metro (train) ride to Disneyland Paris. He headed to work and we headed to play. The park was beautiful but the most beautiful and fun part of the park was Sleeping Beauty’s Castle (with the accompanying dragon). There were really pretty stained glass windows and tapestries that told Aurora’s story on the second floor of the castle. Underneath the castle is where the fire breathing dragon lives but he must have been on his best behavior because he didn’t breathe any fire at us (we probably just got lucky). We also got to see/ride Space Mountain, It’s a Small World, Phantom Manor and Indiana Jones (which does not go backwards). There was a lengthy psudo-american section in small world that focused on our country’s need to shoot rifles, purchase dry goods, play football, and eat popcorn. I love to see the American people through the eyes of international folks, ahhhh, a breath of fresh air. I really do love popcorn, and considering the popularity of Sams, and Costco, our culture certainly loves its dry goods as well!

James finished working and gave us a tour of the Paris Studios and took us to lunch at their Disney Village at a 50’s Diner which, though terribly greasy, was really quite delicious (especially the onion rings – seriously delicious).

We headed back toward Paris to relax and later on that night James took us to a small Italian restaurant just around the corner. Though this restaurant didn’t have translations of their items in English it was by far the best food we had in Paris (but, then again, I may have just been really hungry). We had a bottle of wine, lots of hand made pastas and delicious sauces clearly made from scratch, and pizza. It was wonderful. We ordered dessert (of course), I had the caramel panna cotta, Frank had tiramisu, and James had some sort of ice cream deliciousness. A nice man a few tables over laughed at me when I proudly finished mine first (I’m a gifted dessert eater), but never fear, I helped the other two polish theirs off.

We thanked James for his wonderful hospitality and headed back to our beautiful apartment in Paris, for our final night of our European vacation.
*sigh*
We’re ready to go home but not for our vacation to end.

finis fete!

Well, that’s as good as our French is ever going to get.
Our game is over and most of your votes are in but if you’d like to put in a few more by tomorrow (March 16th) by 5pm est we’ll still accept your answers.
At 6pm est from 11606 Ottawa Ave we will award the prize and bragging rights appropriately.
We’ll keep you posted!

day nine

Today we woke up bright and early to see the Louvre and it is beautiful. We saw Mona Lisa and the Vince de Milo. Although we did notice that in most of the paintings the men and women are wearing little to no clothing while in battle, which seems like poor planning all around. The men were very exposed for battle with most of them only wearing a sling from which they hung their swords, and it seemed like the ladies must have been trying to distract the enemy by freeing their ladies if you knwo what we mean….

We then met up with our friend James for lunch where we ordered a proper meal “en francais” with a bottle of wine (where Andrea proceeded to spill a glass across the table when garishly ripping her bread – just like an American). Not quite an international incident but an incident nonetheless.

Next we went to see Notre Damn which was beautiful and they were selling take away candles in the middle of the sanctuary along with the remembrance lighting candles. Like take out food, candles can also be taken home for a price. As we looked around the cathedral at the stained glass windows and the amazing architecture we heard an upbeat sound. We looked around and realized that it was some sort of singing group associated with Notre Damn, led by a finger-snapping woman and man on the acoustic guitar. The group snapped and sang with feeling while swaying to the rhythm of their song. I love a cathedral show choir!

We stopped at the fanciest ice cream shop ever just outside Notre Damn where we had formal hot chocolate, huge sundaes and little tiny glasses of water. It was absolutely delicious – probably the best ice cream we’ve ever had! Next we were off to Sacre Ceur which is at the top of a giant hill in the north side of Paris. It was beautiful as well but overshadowed a bit when a large man grabbed Andrea while trying to sell us a string that we think he wanted to put into her hair. James’ actual quote: “What the heck was that man going to do with those strings he was trying to get us to buy?” Just shy of our first formal international incident but luckily for us (and them) Andrea didn’t have to knock in any heads (she’s very feisty when she’s abroad). We walked down the hill back towards the heart of Paris in a meandering was so that we could see little shops and funny side streets along our way. It was chilly but a really great time.
Our last adventure of the day was going to see the Arch de Triumph. It was beautiful but in the center of a road so we walked through the underground pathway to get closer to the arch. It is spectacular and we were fortunate enough to get there when it was reasonably clear so the sky was a beautiful cloudy blue. Overall, we had a great day in Paris.

Tomorrow is the day we are going to go back on our word and visiting Disneyland Paris. We are not going to explain ourselves we are just going to go to Disneyland Paris and we’ll tell you how it is.

day eight

Yesterday was a wildly busy day. We were so exhausted from all the fun that we didn’t get to it until right now – on the train with the loud stupid people.
Stay on the darn track jack – no, Frank said, it’s Jaques and he went to get me a …. Cocktail.

I didn’t even make it out of our car when a woman had her leg in the middle of the aisle and when I almost tripped looked at me like I was rude to her. Then I got into the middle car where the baggage is and my bag is just hanging out in the middle of the car like it’s unhappy with France and wants to go home. So I put it back and proceeded on my way to find every other car is sleeping but ours. Also I saw some teenagers curled up in on of the luggage racks and thought if I were 15 I would be doing the same thing, down with the establishment. I finally make it the beverage (the symbol was a wine glass which is how I knew how to find it but Andrea and I made up a new sign for it which is holding your hand in the air like your swirling the martini around). So in the beverage/food car there were clearly two ladies trying to pick men up. Welcome to France! Luckily I didn’t meet the description of anyone they were looking for so I was allowed to pass. I got us a box of Cookies (McDonald’s style but Frenchier and fancier) it also had a picture of an old lady on the package which means that old ladies in France as well as the US make lovely treats (but the ones in France wear bonnets). A “flapjack” which I thought Andrea would like and was very correct. Those snacks and two sodas were 9 euros. Yum…

We got off the eurostar rocket to Paris and stopped into a local McDonalds to sign on in the hopes of finding out where we were going. I assumed we needed to buy something to use their wireless (Wi-Fi pronounced weeee-feeee) services. After several minutes of my fra-nglish conversation combined with charades (while I acted out typing and repeated the words weee-fee, and internet far too many times to even appear polite). All of this excitement going on, only to find out that we needn’t have purchased the most awkward tasting milkshake ever, because Frank was upstairs already using their wee-fee services. My first official French conversation behind me, I was feeling more and more confident that worst case scenario, I could use charades to act out the stupid American I’ve always wanted to be.

We were off on our way to the Metro and figuring that future conversations, at worse, could only be filled with more charades. I love Europe already. We made it to the flat we were staying in and were thrilled to see that it was far lovelier than we would have anticipated. A full beautiful apartment in Paris all for Frank and me, sometimes we really end up somewhere great. We are very lucky.

We headed off to get a snack we found ourselves at a lovely patisserie where Frank had an éclair and I had “une grand chocolate”, I’m very international. Delicious delicious delicious! We stopped by the local grocery store to stock our fridge with breakfasty, frenchy snacks – including our first official baguette, a three dollar bottle of wine, and block of cheese. Delicious delicious delicious. We fashioned ourselves a mini dinner and then headed off to the Eiffel Tower. It is so much bigger and fancier in person then in any picture I’ve ever seen. But most importantly, it’s really freakin’ tall! I know that should be something we realized by seeing pictures or even by seeing it from the bottom, but until we were in the elevator heading up and my ears popped three times we really didn’t get it! Ridiculous! Soooo tall, and windy, and rainy, but don’t worry. More stories will come tomorrow because we were, lucky for you, not blown off the top of the Eiffel Tower!

question 28

The most expensive cats at Harrod’s cost how much:
a) Harrod’s does not sell pets b) Harrod’s had dogs but not cats c) The male and female together would be 3500 GBP d) There was one male for 2000 GBP

day seven

We woke up bright and early to head to Baker Street to report my camera and jacket lost/stolen. Europe even makes a visit to the police sound exotic, ahhhh Baker Street! The home of Sherlock Holmes is also the home of the underground lost property office. I don’t know if he is working on our case specifically but we’re sure it’ll be handled with the utmost professionalism and searched to the fullest extent possible (while someone smokes a pipe no doubt). After we spoke with a very friendly woman (whose picture we meant to get but were foolishly distracted by actually trying to get our items back – just picture a dirty blond haired woman with a pink button down blouse and a lovely British accent) we headed to see the queen at her house.

We were meeting (get excited) Bev, Will, and Natty to see the changing of the guard and say hi to the queen and as an added bonus, were very excited to be with people who spoke the language again. We were a little nervous about finding them since our cell phones don’t travel well internationally but fortunately for us, Will is a giant and typically carries a very pink Natty on his shoulders which makes them easy to spot, so it took almost no time to find them. We found them and almost instantly the men on horseback came a-trotting! The horses and their riders wore fancy parade day costumes and whilst they marched around the circle in front of the queen’s house, she looked out the window and waved to us – we’re friends of the queen! We knew she’d show, how could she disappoint her American fans?

(At least that’s what we told Natty, and Andrea)

After the changing of the guard and our visit with the queen, we walked through the park and saw really big hungry squirrels, a battered looking pelican (perhaps tired from all the baby deliveries?), and the strangest duck ever. Andrea told the group that she’s seen a duck like that before in New Jersey – that’s what pollution does to animals, changes them all sorts of wonky colours (notice the U, we’re in London baby!). Garden state, I think not!

Next we stopped by 10 Downing Street (or looked at it from across the street) for lunch with our new friend Tony Blair. It was delicious (blueberry cookie dough cheesecake and a chocolate something or other) and Tony kept us entertained all through lunch – boy is he a talker! I don’t know if he has lunch with everyone who stops by and invites him but it was mighty friendly of him to clear some time for us.

We headed toward the eye and to soar over London next. It was beautiful and we took oodles of pictures. We were lucky enough to avoid most of the rain making our flight on the eye a really beautiful one.

Next we headed to St. Paul’s Cathedral which was enormous! I’ve been to many cathedrals and fancy churches but never to one as big and beautiful as St. Paul’s. We were lucky enough to sneak in at the time of mass, avoiding the nine pound charge per person. We’re assuming they hand out a jug of holy water and a bag filled with absolution for that price but since we didn’t have to pay it we carry on, un-absolved. It’s rough. The rain came back in full force so we decided to pass on the tower of London and head to Harrod’s to stay dry and empty our wallets. It, again, was huge.

It was time for Bev, Will, and Natty to head back to their station and we realized that we hadn’t taken care of the only reason that we were in London in the first place – Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station. We ran with all of the energy left in us to the station where we found that one of the Weasley’s carts was still left stuck in the platform – what if a muggle were to see it?!?!? We said our goodbyes to the Carrs and went off to dinner where we ate the Italian meal we’d had a hankering for, for a few days (you all know how we get if we aren’t filled with sugary pastas for at least two meals a day). The food was delicious (Frank had the lasagna, and Andrea had the manicotti – delicious), but unfortunately we were seated next to “those” girls in the restaurant. Yep, you guessed it. We were seated next to a table filled with Penn State sorority girls. The chatter was wildly worldly and educated (we learned that Nova Scotia was not a town and they didn’t understand how someone could know two languages fluently)….. Not that we were listening.

Off to gay Paris tomorrow. We’re really becoming quite the world travelers!

day six

Last night after we wrote we went to a pub called Porterhouse which is apparently a chain like Big River Brewery or Hops that make their own types of beer. Frank of course tried a sampler of the Stouts (dark) beers and their red lager as well. Andrea tried their banana flavored beer which she thought was lovely. Frank, on the other hand, made quite a face (the fruit face to be exact) after trying it. We love Frank’s fruit face!

Some of the funny things we noticed in Dublin were that some American establishments change their names slightly for other countries. Johnnie Rockets is Eddie Rockets and T.J. Maxx is T.K Maxx with the same logos, merchandise and menus. Not sure why they needed to change their names but I’m sure it’s a good story. Also, when you push the crosswalk button a very 1980’s pong sort of electrified sound happens – as if you’ve just beamed into the future according to Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

We realized today that it is shamrock shake time at McDonalds and we’re missing it. we certainly don’t subscribe to McDonalds loving American society but we were torn. How could we miss our favorite fast food experience of the year? Also, how could we be those American’s eating at McDonalds while abroad? We found a happy medium in the airport when the options were Sbarro, a food court, and McDonalds. Needless to say, we broke down and had some McDonalds but then we realized that it was totally fine because it was honorary because we had a shamrock shack in Ireland which is totally allowed – it’s green for crying out loud!.

question 21

So that we could avoid the rain and lengthy walk, how much did Frank and Andrea pay for taxi fare today?
a) Zero euros – we’re cheap, not lazy.
b) 8.25 – and saved ourselves a wet forty-minute walk!
c) 2.25 – it seemed far on the way there!

day five

We had some trouble sleeping but lucky for us, Magnum PI and Air Wolf are both phenomenon that have spread round the world and are now shown in Gaelic so at least we had some entertainment. We also caught the Academy Awards a day late with all of the boring crap cut out – god bless the Irish for being as bored with the cinematography, and make up categories as we are!

Woke up bright and early this morning and headed out for breakfast at our hotel. There’s nothing quite like fresh kiwi and strawberries first thing in the morning to really feel fancy, but the addition of a chocolate-chocolate chip muffin moved us well past fancy to fully international – delicious!

We headed out on our own walking tour of Dublin. We stopped to see Christ Church and St. Patrick’s Cathedral which were both beautiful. After we took in some of the religious sites the only thing left to do was learn about how beer was made in the most famous brewery in the world. Yep, we’ve been to Guinness, and it was good. It was absolutely the fanciest (probably most expensive) beer tour we’ve ever been on. There were flat screen televisions, fancy restaurants, waterfalls, a frizzy haired Irish brew master, and several free pints of bread-like beer…. Delicious… (Picture Andrea shaking her head in an “I can’t drink any more of that” fashion). Needless to say, Andrea sipped her beer and Frank drank his and her left-over’s as well. He’s a trooper.

After that we headed back towards our hotel to dry off (rainy day) and ate lunch. After lunch we walked through St. Stephen’s Green. We stopped to see it (as it’s only two blocks from our hotel) for a few minutes after we arrived and wanted to spend more time there. Due to our drizzly afternoon, we decided to stay closer to where we were staying and took a nice long walk through the park.

question 15

When Andrea booked the Trinity Lodge Hotel she made which following mistake
a) registered Frank and Andrea Hendry for a stay b) reversed her month and date according to European standards c) ) failed to pay the deposit almost losing them the room in a foreign country

question 13

The painting reproduction in our room is of:
a) a couple dining b) a nude woman with a cat lying on her backside c) seven sheep d) a woman holding a cat affectionately e) three woman holding flowers

day four

Today was a traveling day to Dublin. We ate breakfast at the Mosborough Hall Hotel which, if you’re ever in need of lodging in Sheffield, is a lovely place to stay…. All but the haunted rooms are great.

Bev was nice enough to drive us to the Doncastor/Sheffield Airport. We had to pay 11 extra GBP because we of course brought too much stuff. Once we were settled up we headed out on Ryan Air to Dublin. We arrived fine in Ireland and didn’t even wait in line for our passport stamp. We were told it would be the last free thing we received in Ireland.

We checked into our hotel in downtown Dublin (Trinity Lodge) which is beautiful. We moved our things into our room when we discovered that Irish television plays Lizzie McGuire reruns and Sponge-Bob-Square-Pants in Gaelic. We’re so very cultured. We decided that if there was this much excitement in the room, we could hardly wait to see what was outside our hotel and we were off to find some dinner. At Martha’s recommendation we ate at Wagamama which was delicious. We headed towards a pub next, which lucky for us are everywhere, so it made for an easy search. We ended up in O’Brian’s where Frank got his first official Irish Guinness which he described as nice and fresh and Andrea had a Kilkarny (sp?) when attempting to avoid bread-y beverages. She failed; it was unfortunately very much like a glass of bread but better than a Guinness at least. Tomorrow we are off of to properly explore Dublin – we’ll keep you posted!

day three

After coming inside from the cold, Natty put her hands on the outside of her hot chocolate and said “I could just do this all day.”

After a long day out having adventures, Natty said “I just need to be at home quickly.”

question 11

Why, in 1068, did William the Conquerer build a motte-and-baily castle on the present site of Clifford’s Tower in York?
a) to impress the local royals b) to gain a prominent spouse and to increase his stronghold in parliament c) to strengthen his military presence in the north

question 9

Frank lost Andrea’s memory card. Where did he find it?
a) on the floor in front of him b) held safely in the safe at Bolsover Castle c) on his half eaten plate at the Bakewell pudding shop

day three

Pudding and bodily functions (again) were the themes of the day. We started the day by snoozing too many times on the hotel alarm clock but then were on our way to Bolsover Castle. That’s where we ate some breakfast; Andrea had scone number 1 before the castle and scone number 2 after we did the tour. There was an audio tour which was great and gave us gobs of information throughout the castle and featured some wonderfully painted ceilings and nice windows (even in the bathrooms). The bathrooms were one on top of another to the fourth floor of the castle and they each had a window that overlooked a beautiful fountain to give the pottier some inspiration while doing their business.

After Andrea’s second scone (which she stole from Will) we drove through Chesterfield and saw the crooked spire. Then we went to see Chatsworth House (shooting location for Pride & Prejudice) from a distance and as a bonus walked through the mud to see some sheep.

Last but not least was our pudding trip to Bakewell which featured both Yorkshire pudding (crispy crust filled with gravy and 3 types of pork sausage) and Bakewell pudding (a sweeter crispy crust filled with a raspberry sauce and almond paste and on the side a jug of custard – like a warm vanilla pudding). Yes, I (Frank) had them both.

One of the highlights of the day was seeing this sign that in the US would probably not be too popular.

Tomorrow we’re off to Dublin!

Day Two

So today was full of excitement but we started out very tired. Our room was said to be haunted so I (Andrea) didn’t get much more than four hours of rough sleep. Needless to say, once we woke up we changed rooms and headed off to continental breakfast where we (just like the Americans we are) each had a bowl of cocoa krispies. Bev, Will, and Natty came to pick us up and we were off to York for our exciting day. We saw York Minster, did some shopping, and had proper afternoon tea at Betty’s Team Room where Frank made his “fruit face” for many English-folk when eating a spoonful of jam – it’s always funny, no matter how many times I see it.

We walked around the old York city wall, saw and photographed countless churches, and most exciting went to Jorvik Viking Adventure. It had smell-o-vision which allowed us to smell the burning wood of ancient York, various unsavory smelling animals, and as will called it, the “midden” (aka: poop). During the “ride through” experience we saw a man (and then proceeded to purchase his photo on postcards) grunting and making faces while he pooped during the Jorvik attraction. All I have to say about this spaceship-earth-like-experience is, awesome! Spaceship Earth would be so much more fun if you got to see people pooping during the ride – seriously. Afterward, Frank, Natty, Will, and I donned Viking attire and played dress-up while giving a friendly heckle to one of the Jorvik employees who we talk into literally blowing his horn, which he did, only after he made several embarrassing raspberry type noises in front of a crowd of approximately fifty…. Priceless. We love Jorvik!

Tonight, the Carrs treated us to a proper fish and chips dinner (in paper and everything) which was delicious – even more than I thought it would be. Frank even liked the fish, especially with the Henderson’s relish on it…. I love sauce. We’re totally addicted.

Hopefully we’ll (I’ll) be able to sleep straight through tonight and we look forward to tomorrow. If any of you are reading this from the Tam-lando area, stop by the house and tell the girls that we love and miss them. I know I do –a lot but thanks for reading. Talk to you tomorrow!

Day One

The flight was fine – long but fine. We were both able to sleep for about six hours between both flights so, though we were a bit out of sorts, we were up and ready to enjoy our first day of European travel.

You’ll all want to know that when we were getting onto the flight to North Carolina, we were in front of a man who was very important (well, at least by his phone conversation he certainly was). He said that he met four billionaires in the last month and was clearly a mover and a shaker. He said that he only did business with the best of the best which is why; he said to the person on the phone, they were lucky to be working with someone as talented as he was.

Once we got to London we figured that it was smooth sailing and then Frank’s bag was missing. A similar bag belonging to a Mr. Paul Wood from South Carolina was left and he realized about an hour later that he had taken the wrong bag. He had assigned his bag retrieval to one of his students who neglected to read its tag. Paul Wood kindly called to return it just an hour later and we made the switch – thanks again Mr. Wood!

Just a bit behind schedule we headed out into London. We decided to see Westminster Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and King’s Cross. We were exhausted (of course) and then we headed to Pancras Station to catch our train to Sheffield, to visit our friends the Carrs.

Bev and Natty picked us up from the train station and they took us to our beautiful old hotel where we settled in and showered in a newly refurbished but chilly bathroom. Then Will, Bev, and Natty took us out to dinner where Frank had Beef and Ale Crown Pie “served with an extra jug of gravy” and I had the Brie, Mushrooms and Cranberry Wellington without any extra jug of anything. We discovered a new dipping sauce called Henderson’s Relish which, have no fear, we’re bringing a bottle back with us and will share with all of you next week! It’s a lovely vinegar sort of sauce and we poured it onto everything we ate – delicious! For desert – get ready for this – I had “Clotted Cream Ice-Cream”. We’re going to be so pretty when we get back – I’m getting bigger by the minute! Frank is such a lucky guy ;.) After dinner we headed back to the Carr’s officially British home in Sheffield where we met Paddy and Jesse their dog and cat.

We are exhausted and are headed to bed – see you in the morning!

Rise and Shine.

I woke up the other day and Phyllis was lying on my head. As if that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, I found myself trapped because Stella had rolled herself into a ball and wedged herself in-between my legs while stretching her neck out long onto my belly. There was no where to move.

I was hot.

Stella and Phyllis are pretty big girls and let’s face it, they were quite literally packing heat. I was irritated. I hate waking up irritated. Then to add to my early morning wakeup call, Phyllis started licking my ear. Irritation quickly changed to frustrated giggles because how ever annoyed I am, I have to laugh a little when an eighty pound baby thinks I’m a treat. She let out a big yawn and stretched out letting two of her paws land on top of me like she was reaching out for a hug, because we simply weren’t close enough.

It’s nice to know that you’re loved first thing in the morning…. Even if that really heavy ball of love is lying on your head.

lonely?

I love music. I studied it (I am classically trained after all). I love good thoughtful music, I love crappy catchy music but mostly I love music that when listened to over and over and over and over lets me be in a funk for a little while for no reason at all. I’ll admit it; I’m one of those people – one of those girls… And unfortunately for anyone who has ever lived with me (sorry Emily, Marie, Nick, Bob, Jed, Todd, Tia, and anyone who lived in Cooley Hall from 1996-1999), I have been in love with the repeat option on my CD player and computer ever since I learned how to use it. I will proudly admit that I am one of those people who will listen to the same song 20 times in a row every day for two solid weeks and still not be tired of it.
I remember listening to “The Christians and the Pagans” by Dar Williams with my friend Katie in Cooley over and over again and I still, years later, love that song. One of my favorite things about Katie was that she could always remember what song she was listening to and what she was wearing and what boy she was talking to when something important happened in her life.

I don’t ever remember quite that much but I can always remember the timeframe I listened to a CD relentlessly and what was going on.
Right now the songs I have on repeat in my iPod are from the Curious George soundtrack, specifically “Upside-down”, and “People Watching”. Jack Johnson has really made a terrifically repeatable CD, filled to the brim with the possibility of putting me into a funk. Phrases like “we’re all as lonely as we wanted to be”, and “is this how it’s supposed to be?” have filled the speakers in my car with angst filled sighs for almost a week now. As I arrived home after class tonight, I’d probably re-played those songs seven or eight times. I was contemplating yet again the concept of loneliness, whether it’s chosen or if it finds you and feeling pretty lonesome when I walked through my front door and was attacked by Stella and Phyllis.
Needless to say, I’m not sure if people chose to be lonely or if loneliness finds them because what I do know is that my house is filled to far too many paws, kisses, and pounces for me to be lonely today.
Lesson learned: Adopt a dog and never be lonely, adopt two and forget what loneliness is…. Until you’re listening to sappy girly music :)
  

hi.

welcome to my webpage and thank you for visiting! it’s still under construction so it’ll be a bit before it looks really fancy and is full of great stories but be patient – it’ll be well worth the wait!

thoughts from the Funk…