Tuesday, January 30, 2007

White Belt!!!

I did it! I successfully completed all the moves necessary to be promoted from a "no belt" to a white belt! One of the other women told me before starting tae kwon do that it's incredibly empowering - and I really felt that tonight. Could not stop grinning after I broke that board! The photo above is a reinactment for Ben & Ty to congratulate me at home :-)

That actually isn't the only exciting thing that happened today. Just after we finished lunch there was a horrific crash in the kitchen. The glass door of the microwave spontaneously exploded! Thankfully it was safety glass so it broke into millions of pebbly glass bits, but they flew everywhere. Very strange.

Was driving home from Tae Kwon Do and there was a song on the radio from a group called Suburban Kids with Biblical Names.

Hated the song but loved the name.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Every once in a while I read Scott Adams' blog (he's the creator of Dilbert.) Sometimes his entries are really, really funny and sometimes they are pretty bizarre. Today the entry is somewhat thought-provoking. Today's topic is "mild superpowers." He says this:

A mild super power would be, for example, the ability to regenerate extra toilet paper on a roll that is almost out, or the ability to know exactly how long to microwave leftovers, or the ability to scratch the middle of your own back. Those are just examples.

He says his mild superpowers include the ability to make people nicer (by way of them recognizing his name and being excited to meet him) and that he never forgets a joke.

So of course I am now thinking about what my own mild superpowers are. The first one that comes to mind is that once I type someone's name and address, it's pretty much permanently in my memory. I can 'wow' people at PHF events when I meet them for the first time and can tell them accurately what their spouse's name is and where they live ... all because I used to be the one responsible for entering everyone's data in our mailing list, and writing all the thank you letters.

Another mild one I have is that I can juggle (metaphorically, not literally) many, many things at once - though I have to admit this one is weakening as I age.

Another one which can be annoying both to me and to others around me is that I can spot a typo at 90 yards ... (which, unfortunately, doesn't prevent me from making them now and again!)

One that I really, really wish I had is the abilty to enter a clothing store and know immediately which clothes would make me look tall and slender, or at least make my skin tone look terrific.

I love the idea of looking at my skills and talents as "mild superpowers." Makes me feel powerful! I may not be Wonder Woman, but perhaps I am wonder woman.

Perky the Lucky Duck

This morning I got a case of the giggles while reading the paper. Seems a man in Florida went duck-hunting, brought all the ducks he got home, and put them in the designated "hunting freezer." Two days later his wife opened the freezer door and one of the ducks lifted its head and looked at her!

Can you imagine??? Opening the freezer and having the food stare back at you??? Seeing one little duck head raise above the others and peering at you? Having a duck look at you with a "Hey, lady, it's kind of cold in here, if you could get me out I'd appreciate it" expression?

After a trip to the vet, the duck, now named Perky, is apparently doing fine.

Well, it sure made me giggle.

Contest Winners

A couple of the winning photos from the "I Look Like My Dog" contest ....

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A little sympathy, please ...

Oh my gosh I never knew how many different muscles there along the front of my body. Even when I studied anatomy I never quite got it. Master Ralph has us doing all these weird abdominal exercises - things I have never done before (no simple sit-ups in his classes) and they are seemingly very effective as I am hurting in ways that I have never in my whole life hurt before.

It's a good hurt, in that I am confident I am doing things correctly and hopefully will start to see some results ...

but tonight I am really in pain.

Extreme Frugality

This morning on the radio they were talking about a family of 7 which lives on $33,000 per year and just paid off their mortgage and apparently are buying a second home or some such thing. They were named (it sounded like) "America's Most Frugal Family" or something, and the wife was interviewed and shared how they do it.

Seems she spends all day every day seeking out bargains and the best prices for everything. She stockpiles and of course uses coupons, manufacturer's rebates, and other special deals. When they go shopping the husband and wife take walkie-talkies along so they can talk to each other while in different areas of the store in case one of them stumbles across an unexpected deal or bargain. (Now, I will admit I thought why can't they walk around together? But apparently that's not in the gameplan.)

The radio announcer made a good point after discussing all this. You know, if the wife got a job earning money instead of spending 40+ hours per week finding coupons, they wouldn't have to use so many coupons. And how much is it worth to travel all around town seeking out the bargains instead of paying a bit more but having everything in one place (think SuperTarget?) They obviously don't put any monetary value on her time, which I guess I can understand, but still it seems a bit extreme to me. On the other hand, I guess if you add up all she saves them each year, that could be considered her "salary."

I am starting to use coupons, but my biggest problem is there are so few coupons out there for products I want to use, so I feel like I spend way more time than it's worth to get two coupons which maybe save me a total of $1.50. It's just not worth it to me to use a coupon and get a great price on something we may end up not even using, or using but not liking. If coupon-using were a competition, I guess I would come in pretty near the bottom.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


I bought my very first ever lottery tickets this week. The pot is $240 million. It's worth $3 to dream! The drawing is tonight. I have gotten plenty of use from my small investment. I have it planned out ... how I would share it with those close to me, how much I would donate to Peace House Foundation (and who I would name a building after!), what frivolous fun things I would do ...

Tune in tomorrow to see if I won :-)
I have started to watch "24" on the recommendations of two close friends who are hooked. Currently on prime time in its 5th season, I have seasons 1 - 4 on DVD and am working my way through.

For those of you who don't know the premise, Keifer Sutherland plays Jack Bauer, head of the Counter Terrorism Unit based in southern California. Each season follows him for one full day - 24 hours - an hour at a time, in real time. (I was talking to one friend before I started watching and said I understood that each season was one day, and each episode was one hour of that one day, but I wondered how many episodes there were in a season. She looked at me as if I was incredibly stupid, and said something along the lines of "what's the title of the show again?" Duh.) In other words, we see things happening in the actual time it takes for things to happen. They even allow for commercials - every now and then during the show they flash the time. Just before commercial breaks they might flash 10:24 and then after the commercial break it flashes 10:28 (one presumes that Jack uses the commercial breaks for the same things most viewers do, as we never see him having to stop at the restroom!)

The upside to all this is you really see all the details of everything that is happening, all the decision-making procedures, the thought process of the main characters.

The downside is I have been watching for 9 hours now and still am only to breakfast of the first day. For someone used to seeing everything wrapped up in the course of a two-hour TV show or a three-hour movie, it can be agonizing to watch and wait. It's hard to control my need for immediate gratification - but somehow I am enjoying this agony. I feel as if this TV show is helping me regain my patience and my attention to detail - two things that modern society often ignores or belittles (they take too long!) It has become a huge hit with viewers, so maybe others are experiencing it as I am. (Of course my friends tell me that watching it on DVD is the way to go, as imagine the impatience of seeing one hour at a time and having to wait a week for the next hour!)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Good Movie

The other night I went to a movie with a friend. We saw Sweetland, which was filmed in Minnesota - near the town of Montevideo which is where Steve's mom grew up. I have been out there many times but there really was nothing in the movie recognizeable; the entire movie was the farm, really, with no town shots.

It was really a, well, umm, sweet movie! It's the story of a mail order bride who comes from Norway to marry a Norwegian-American bachelor farmer. Turns out she is really German, though, andthat causes all kinds of worry on the part of the local Lutheran minister and some of the neighbors. They are unable to get permission to marry because it is so well known that all Germans are spies and dangerous ... never mind that this is the sweetest looking young woman you have ever seen!

I particularly enjoyed it because at the beginning there was a lot of talking in Norwegian, and they did not use subtitles. Nothing was said that couldn't be surmised from watching the actions, but Istill got a little thrill out of understanding every word, knowing that everyone else around me was simply enjoyingthe musical sounds of the language without comprehension.

Watching the neighbors and particularly the minister come to terms with accepting Inge for who she was, as opposed to which nation she was born in, was intriguing. On Carla's blog she wrote about stereotyping and making generalizations about people of other nationalities or cultures, and that was present in full force here. Honestly I didn't think the minister's character was true to life, he seemed quite mild-mannered yet strangely insistent Inge and Olaf could not marry - but then capitulated very simply and easily later in the story, without ever showing the audience any indication of an internal (or any other kind of) struggle. You would expect as a leader among his flock that it would not have been easy for him to change his viewpoint on such an important issue, but we did not see anything supporting that.

Watching Inge and Olaf develop their relationship - so cautious of social mores, yet clearly pleased with the match made through the mail - was delightful. The viewing audience gasped together when it was revealed the size of the corn field Inge and Olaf cleared by hand, and then nearly cheered when they finished the monumental task. It was easy for us to be pulled in to the charm of their relationship, the two actors did a wonderful job of taking on the personas of these two shy and very strong individuals.

Wonderful movie!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

After breaking my glasses on my first day of Tae Kwon Do, I went to get new ones and they had a two-for-one sale going on. I got one pair which is very similar to my old ones, and then I got these - a bit more mod, more fun, more different - for me, anyway! I'm pretty cautious when it comes to eyewear, so this is about as wild as it's gonna get. I like 'em!

Tae Kwon Do is going oh-so-much better now. I have had 5 classes ... (or is it just 4?) but I am finally starting to remember which foot is my left foot and which is right, how to count higher than 1, and how to put both directional instructions and numerical sequences together (though I am only able to do "Left-right-left" and count up to 3. Anything beyond that and I am still as confused as ever.) But at our last class we finally got to do some kicks. Ty has been asking, after each class I attend, if I got to do any kicks yet. Finally I could say yes! And what fun they were, too! Front kicks, side kicks, turning side kicks, back kicks, and roundhouse kicks. Amazingly enough I kick better than I do most anything else in this sport. I can't wait to try breaking a board!

Feline and Rodent Armor

Just found this site where a Canadian artist shows his intricate metalwork - primarily he focuses on making armor for cats and mice. His name is Jeff De Boer and I like his style - so do the boys, given their interest in the Redwall series and animal warriors. He started out making suits of armor for people, then when he was in a jewelry making class he made a cat-sized suit as a sculpture project, and discovered he was intrigued by the concept. The rest, as they say, is history ... his larger work is interesting, too. Whimsical and colorful - looks like lots of fun.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Change is good!

It's a new year, I am entering a new chapter of life, and therefore I decided the blog needed some change, too. I am not entirely happy with this look but it was the best one I could find in the pre-made options, and I am not yet savvy enough to make up my own. I will be trying to edit this a bit, to see if I can move away from the stark white-ness of the background ... but for now it's a new look for a new time.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Geography Whiz Kids

The boys were in their school Geography Bee today. Both were nervous, as we had no idea what to expect.
Ben ended up placing second, and Ty was in a tie-breaker for third that took 4 rounds of questioning to break! Unfortunately he ultimately came in fourth - but he is already planning his studying strategies for next year!

The bee was part of National Geographic's national Geography Bee - the winner from our school competes now to be in the state bee, and the winner of that goes to the national bee.
It was a fun experience!

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Master Ralph says his goal is, at each lesson, to make people find muscles they didn't know they had (or had forgotten they had) and then to get them sore.

I am a shining example of how good Master Ralph is at his job.

Who knew there were so many layers of abdominal muscles, and that I can tell that only some of them are sore - it's an exquisite pain, the underlayer that I didn't realize I even had. And there is just one place on my thigh muscles that is sore - not the entire leg, just one place that, until recently, never had an independent thought in its life but now has decided to stand up and be noticed.

All this after just two lessons. He really is good! Lesson #3 is tonight. Can't wait.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ben's Tooth Jewelry

Yesterday (January 9, 2007) Ben got braces. He was actually looking forward to it and excited to jump out of bed that morning. He chose (it's hard to tell in the photo) blue and orange bands - alternating every other tooth.

Today he is sore and not enjoying it quite so much. He couldn't play his trombone in band today at all, and he is having to put very small pieces of food into his mouth for each bite. We are assured the soreness will lessen very soon, and that he will be able to eat pretty normally pretty quickly.

Motrin is helping, and the end result should be well worth it.

(the title of this post is a memory from my year as an AFS exchange student in Yugoslavia. I had photos of friends with me - remember, this was nearly 30 years ago {not that I am really all that old} who had braces. Some of the kids in my class at the local Macedonian High School had never seen nor heard of braces, and wondered if American teens were so bizarre as to wear jewelry on their teeth!)

More Amaryllis Beauty

We now have 7 blooms on our amaryllis plant - it's breath-taking. I tried to do it justice here and wasn't too successful. A professional photographer, I'm not.

I'm not taking any complaints!

“I’m not taking any complaints! Let’s have some cooperation!”

So speaks the new Speaker of the House. Mother of 5. Stay-at-Home, raise'em through college, grandmother of 6, gave birth 5 times in 6 years (imagine the sbiling squabbling and how many were in diapers at one time not-to-mention going through puberty), Mother of 5. That is the quote that her children, to this day, remember from their childhoods.

Nancy Pelosi - the hope of cooperation (and dare I say civility?) in our government.

I was listening to the radio the other day and the women on the talk show I like were discussing Pelosi, and women in government in general. They were talking about whether or not women in politics really made any difference, or that if for a woman to be successful she had to become "man-like." There was also discussion of whether or not there is something inherent in a female human which makes the thought process - and expected action - different from male humans.

Someone quoted a study that said, I think, 30% is the magical number - that if you are in the minority (whatever group, not just women - we could be talking those who want to build a soccer field versus those who want to plant flower gardens) with numbers less than 30% of the total, you need to assimilate to get along, but once your minority group reached the critical mass of 31% or higher, you no longer needed to "go along to get along" but could represent your own agenda, values, or whatever. This radio personality went on to say that now women in the US government have the numbers to not have to act like men.

The other radio voice asked, though, what that means - to not act like men. The original speaker (honestly, I would use their names if I remembered them!) talked about one example -- that women, whether they are stay-at-home moms, working moms, or something hybrid, tend to be the ones who are aware of children's doctor's appointments, PTA meetings, and diaper rashes. Therefore they are used to simply having the idea of taking care of children always somewhere in their minds. Which can mean significant changes in the way decisions are made about healthcare, education, parental rights, etc. Not because they are smarter or more creative or anything else like that (though they may be!) but simply because they, for the most part, have had these issues in the back of their minds for many, many years, and most men haven't.

Anyway. Both the national house and our state house are being led by women now, and I, for one, am very excited about it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Wounded Warrior Returns

Well, I had my first Tae Kwon Do class tonight. As I left, Ty said "I hope you don't break anything, Mom!" How prophetic.

I didn't break any bones (mine or anyone else's) but I did break my glasses. I was learning how to get out of a bear hug (an unwanted one from behind!) and snapped my glasses right off my face. I do'nt know if it was the uniform or the lack of glasses but Colby seemed quite concerned about me when I got home, and came up to me seemingly to reassure himself that I was OK.
Here Ty & I show our best sparring stance! (note the crooked glasses on my face!)
I was so helplessly confused all night long. We were there for 75 minutes. The first 25 we did warm-ups and stretching, which wasn't too bad - I was sweating a lot but I could keep up with most of the stuff being asked of me, and felt pretty good. Then he divided us by ability - there are 3 of us newbies - or "no belts" as we are officially called - and started teaching us various things, none of which I could even try to tell you about here as I just don't remember! It all ran together very quickly. Master Ralph says I move just like Ty. We have the same problems and same difficulties with certain moves. However, Ty's getting pretty good, so hopefully I will start to catch on within the next month or so!
There are classes 5 evenings a week, and I can go to as many as I want to. We'll see how I feel in the morning!

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"It was here, in the Crater, that I bore witness to the reason Land Rovers were invented. The rains had created some rather large mud pits and made some roads impassable to any lesser vehicle. But, the Land Rover, in all its glory, forged those streams and glided through that mud with no problem. And any road judged a little iffy, we simply went around it. They really are amazing vehicles, and this is what they were made for – not the impeccable, paved roads of suburbia. That’s like keeping a wild animal in captivity. It’s cruel. "

Love that description! it's taken from the blog of a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania, you can read more about her 5-day safari here.

I have often found myself thinking along those lines when I see all the huge SUVs roaming the streets of suburbia. I mean, I drive a mini-van, which is big enough, and I do love the feeling of driving a B - I - G vehicle - feeling like I'm queen of the road (watch out, mwahahaha). But honestly, I know the space is nice for large families, but the power and capabilities that those huge vehicles have - the Peace Corps comparison was one I had not thought of before but it just fit!

I am so ahead of the game

You may recall me talking about a book I read a while ago, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I loved it (and am just now realizing as I write this I never finished my blog review for you all) and I read it back in early September.

So about a week or two ago I read an interview with Julia Roberts, and turns out she is reading it right now and giving it to all her friends for Christmas. Then today on the radio I heard the author being interviewed and turns out the book is being made into a movie, starring ... you guessed it ... Julia Roberts!

And I read it first!

(well, at least I read it before Julia. I'm sure one or two people read it before I did.)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Amaryllis Beauty

My sister-in-law gave me an amaryllis plant for my birthday in early December. Here it is, bulb freshly plotted in the pot, with only tiny green tips poking out into the world.

Here it is just before Christmas - the stalks had grown to full height and the buds were just beginning to unfurl. It totally amazes me to see what comes out of those simple and elegant buds.

Here it is today. One bloom is fully open, the others will be here shortly!

What amazing beauty in the middle of winter.

Christmas Watch Dog

The big black dog with his holiday collar on,
always ready to welcome guests!

Chef Steve

Just a few more Christmas memories to post here before I admit it's the new year and time to move on ...

Steve took time in the kitchen to make Rosettes, one of his (and my!) favorite Christmas Cookies.

It's really fun for me to see him make these, as these were the cookies my dad was in charge of when I was growing up, too. Must be a man thing?

Anyway - it took a bit of fussing to get the exact right recipe and the exact right temperature but Steve found the sweet spot and turned out some delicious and beautiful cookies!

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