Saturday, September 29, 2007

A holiday idea for you ...

For many of the past 20 years, I have arranged to sponsor a family at Christmas. Sometimes it was just our nuclear family doing the sponsoring, sometimes our extended family joined together to sponsor a larger family. I just signed up to do it again this year. This year the boys & I will sponsor a 2-person family, just small enough that we can have fun selecting gifts for and complete the role of sponsor effectively.

Through the years, I have been so pleased when I hear the boys talk about helping others, or when I watch them figure out just what they want to select for "our family." I have asked them to use some of their own money to help with purchases, and love that they are learning to see Christmas as a time to reach out with generous hearts and give to the community around us. It's been another of those situations where, truly, you end up getting more than you give.
If this sounds like something you would like to do, follow this link and read more about it.

SMART Habits update

Well, Calandria posted today on her SMART habits which made it painfully clear to me that I have not been following through on my own. Let's see if I even remember them. Umm ....

First one, I think, was something about food? And then didn't I say something about organization? Oh my, I am pathetic. Hey, Ben & I did go to an organic co-op yesterday and bought some groceries, I think I get points for that. And I finally did a H--U--G--E task for Hillmans that I have been dragging my feet on since February, so I think that gives me points, too. Since I don't really remember what my habits were supposed to be, it certainly seems acceptable to me to give myself points for things that might have fit the categories.

OK, SMART Habit of this week: Re-read what I wrote before, and see if I can actually DO those things. And then I am actually adding a third habit for this week - I stole the idea from Calandria - I am going to hug my boys daily ('unexpected hugs' as Ty calls them) and make sure to say "I love you." Honestly I think this one will be a no-brainer as I am already doing this 99% of our days ... so it will be nice to have ONE SMART habit I excel at!

Saturday Surprise

Never thought I would be saying something like this, but today I *love* Nickolodeon TV.Today is World Play Day on the Nick channels. If you go to that channel, you see a message and hear a voice-over telling you to go outside and play. No programming whatsoever for the prime Saturday morning/afternoon viewing time.

Now if only they would do this once a WEEK instead of once a year, but it was such a fun surprise to see that they are doing it at all!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This is why we live in Minnesota. Honeycrisp apples.

THANK YOU UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA. My mouth has died and gone to heaven today all because of a perfect apple.

Must-see YouTube

Oh my gosh, get your kleenex and don't try this at work where you have to be quiet!!!

You simply MUST view this YouTube. Probably twice, to take it all in.

William Tell Overture for Moms

Now I have to go watch it again.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Photoshop for Newbies

Well, you may have noticed that I was able to make a round photo of my tattoo show up on my user profile. I was so empowered by my ability to do that, that I went out and tried another Photoshop technique (learned from Jessica, the Photoshop Queen.) (now I've introduced you to the Knitting Queen and the Photoshop Queen. You can thank me later.)

And ta-da, here is my very first attempt at funky stuff. Apart from the lion photo being slightly too short - were I a perfectionist or were someone paying me for this, I would have re-done it, but for my first experiment I deemed it worthy - I am quite pleased with myself.

This is actually 4 separate photos, each one dragged into one file, each one individually made into a pie-wedge shape, and then layered together! I'm impressing myself :-)

Wet and Fuzzy!

Well, here they are! Wet and fuzzy right now. I *think* waiting until they are dry to trim off the fuzzies is the way to go. (SME???)

And here is the left one on my foot - giving you a great view of my tattoo, too!
Once they are dry and trimmed up I will take more pics. Right now it seems the right one is a teensy bit bigger than the left, so I will have to see when they are done if I need to re-cook that one a titch.

Both boys are clamoring for their own slippers now!

So far so good???

Well, they are definitely smaller ....
but I think I used too much soap.

Fingers (and toes) crossed!!!

OK - they are in the washer RIGHT NOW.

I am SO nervous.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sleep is overrated, anyway

So, stayed up late last night, and TA-DA! (the second one did go a lot faster than the first.)

Now I have to get more info from SME as to how to shrink them down.

More pictures after that step!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Slipper Magic

This weekend I went on a Girls' Weekend to a friend's cabin in Wisconsin. There were 14 of us there. Most of the women had become friends in college (at UMD, go Bulldogs!) and the rest of us had been adopted by one or more members of the group over the past 20 or so years. This is an annual event, but I have only gone once before (despite numerous invitations) but hope that this year will not be my last.

My friend SME (think "Who's there? Its-SME!") was there, too - her first time on the weekend, even though she is one of the core UMD-ers - and she, as you may be aware, is the Knitting Goddess. On her blog she had posted photos of felted slippers she was making, and I implored her to teach me how.

So over the weekend, she did just that! In the two days away I made the first half of my pair of slippers (without kids, dogs, phone, computer, laundry, or any other distractions. I figure it will take me about 63 1/2 days to make the second one.) Here is a picture of me wearing slipper #1. Note this is NOT the finished product, I am not suffering from an inability to count stitches, nor did I have a problem with needle size.

The next step is to cook this baby. I thought I had to actually boil it on the stove, but SME assures me I can simply wash it in the machine in hot water, and it will shrink right down to the size I want. If it's too big after one washing, I wash it again. I just realized as I type these words I don't know what to do if it shrinks too much. Merry Christmas, Mom, I guess.

SME advises me to get the second one knit before shrinking so I can do them together. So you may not see the final final product for a while. But this was quite fun to do, and I can't wait to finish! Maybe the boys have a school vacation this week that I forgot about???

Cool YouTube

Just found this YouTube, Beatboxing Flute: Inspector Gadget remix and it is amazing! Flute like I have never heard before ...

Carla, I expect Ava to be doing this in a few years ... (or you!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Men Are Just Happier People—

What do you expect from such simple creatures? Your last name stays put. The garage is all yours. Wedding plans take care of themselves. Chocolate is just another snack. You can be President. You can never be pregnant. You can wear a white T-shirt to a water park. You can wear NO shirt to a water park. Car mechanics tell you the truth. The world is your urinal. You never have to drive to another gas station rest room because this one is just too icky. You don't have to stop and think of which way to turn a nut on a bolt. Same work, more pay. Wrinkles add character. Wedding dress~$5000. Tux rental~$100. People never stare at your chest when you're talking to them. The occasional well-rendered belch is practically expected. New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet. One mood all the time. Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat. You know stuff about tanks. A five-day vacation requires only one suitcase. You can open all your own jars. You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness. If someone forgets to invite you, he or she can still be your friend. Your underwear is $8.95 for a three-pack. Three pairs of shoes are more than enough. You almost never have strap problems in public. You are unable to see wrinkles in your clothes. Everything on your face stays its original color. The same hairstyle lasts for years, maybe decades. You only have to shave your face and neck. You can play with toys all your life. Your belly usually hides your big hips. One wallet and one pair of shoes one color for all seasons. You can wear shorts no matter how your legs look. You can "do" your nails with a pocket knife. You have freedom of choice concerning growing a mustache. You can do Christmas shopping for 25 relatives on December 24 in 25 minutes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jackson Pollock Wannabes

Click here to have fun with modern art!
(just start moving your mouse, and click to change colors.
Pressing the space bar makes it disappear so you can start again.)

Friday, September 14, 2007

OMG, it's ME!

Just randomly blog-hopping and found this ... "7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People" ...thought I would be reading it for a laugh but instead it was like looking in a mirror.
Just finished reading Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez. It was a fascinating look at how a hairdresser from Michigan ended up starting a school for Afghani women to learn to be beauticians, and ended up in an arranged marriage to an Afghan man. It was thoroughly enjoyable but I did find myself wondering about some of the situations she was describing in vivid detail, given the way women are still treated in Afghanistan today.

Turns out I was right to wonder, as I found in a news article. Apparently the women she describes in the book - even though she changed names and details - are now fearful they will be ostracized or worse. One woman actually believes she will be killed because of the details in the book. Very scary.

Seems Rodriguez left Afghanistan after the book was published, even though in the book it is made quite clear she considers Kabul her home and it doesn't sound like she has plans to leave. There is a movie in the works out of the book, and the book itself is on the NY Times bestseller list. But it sounds like there is quite a bit of speculation about the appropriateness of Rodriguez's choices and decisions. Really a shame, if what is being suggested is true - that she went there with a good heart and wanting to help but now is more interested in making a name (and a bank account) for herself, at the expense of those she purported to help.

100 things

I was challenged yesterday by a friend to make a list of the 100 things I want to do in my life. She says it's hard to do - she has been working on her list for a while and is only up to #22.

The first things that come to mind (and the list is certainly not in order of importance!) include:
1. Visit Hawaii
2. Go white-water rafting
3. Visit Alaska
4. Visit Macchu Pichu
(I am seeing a pattern here ...)
5. Live abroad again
6. Learn to play guitar or piano
7. Hold a conversation in a language I don't know today
8. Write a book that actually is published and sells

I think I need to come up with some ideas of things I could actually do within the next 3 months ...

It is hard, she wasn't kidding.

Try it - I challenge you!

I'm disappointed ...

Are my standards too high? I have always thought of Jodi Foster in positive terms. She has avoided so many of the traps and entanglements so many child actors get caught in as they grow into adulthood. She is clearly intelligent, with her Yale (I think?) degree, and her control of her own career.

But lately ... I just don't get it. Her newest movie, The Brave One, is not a movie I would ever be inclined to see. In it, she plays a woman who is out walking the dog with her fiance, and they get mugged and beaten. The fiance dies, and I guess something in her snaps, as she buys a gun illegally and goes around shooting people. The "redeeming quality" is that she only shoots BAD people.

Now, I just read an interview with Ms. Foster and she is asked her opinion on guns - and she said she is very opposed to them and wishes the US had stricter gun control laws, and that she would never want her children exposed to guns.

Yet this is the movie she chose to make. She justifies it by saying it's "over the top", clearly not realistic, and it's what the market wants.

So I'm disappointed.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Back to School

We started school the day after Labor Day and it's going quite well!

Here Ben is working on an art project (mosaics) and Ty is finding Tokyo after I gave him the longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates for a history lesson.

They both are anticipating science to be the favorite subject - we got microscopes this year with all our other school supplies, and they are eager to use them.

We have two new teachers through MNVA - new to us, and new to MNVA - so the year will be interesting! We already miss the teacher we have worked with for the past 4 years, but hopefully we will still see her at all-school gatherings.

We're also involved in a co-op which is studying Minnesota history. We'll have a good mix of reading, movies, and field trips with a fun group of families, every-other-Thursday.

So far so good - hopefully the year will continue this way!
Heard a guy on the radio today ...

"The US will never be destroyed from the outside. The only threat to the US is that it could be destroyed from the inside."

He went on to ask what has happened to this country?

I have no answers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Wonderful Land of Oz

A friend of a friend just moved with her husband to Australia for a few years. They have started a blog, which I have been reading, and I am physically aching with a longing to live abroad.

I am just so envious ..... some day I want to live in Europe again ...

School Photos

Well, we have some of the first photos available to see from the opening of Peace House Secondary School -one is above, after each student received a hand-made quilt from Minnesota. Click here, " photos " and then click on "view slideshow." Oh - you might want to have a kleenex! It's quite moving ....

Monday, September 10, 2007


Today is September 10. Even though the day is more than half-gone in Tanzania as I write this, everyone who reads this - SEND GOOD THOUGHTS to Arusha and Peace House Secondary School and especially to Mark & Carla as the SCHOOL IS OPENING TODAY!!!!!

I don't expect Carla to blog about it for a while as she must be totally exhausted ... but she will like knowing there are people back here thinking about her constantly. She deserves it!


OK, I have officially failed. DUMB Habits is more like it for me.

Eating junk this week.

No peaceability in my house.

Another Saturday came and went and did I even notice, much less think of a new SMART habit to start?

Heh. Whatever.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Small world part 2

Today was our MNVA Back to School Picnic. My friend Theresa was going to be there with her son, and Calandria was maybe coming, too, with her daughter. So even though we didn't really feel the need to get any of the "welcome back" information, we were eager to go to see friends and meet teachers.

Well, after the official business was taken care of, Theresa and I were talking (Calandria hadn't arrived yet) and she introduced me to a friend of hers, Lynn, who is starting MNVA for the first year with her 8th-grade daughter. When Lynn said her name and her daughter's, I found myself asking, "is your husband Tony?"

Back when I was in college I lived in a rooming house that was actually a cooperative, owned by the students living there, and it was in the middle of frat row ... and let's just say the people who lived there were not the type to have ever gone through rush. I lived there for a year with my friend Alice, and in a room up on the 3rd floor was this adorable Italian-American young man with dark eyes and dark curly hair. I was smitten, I had a total crush on him ... but alas, he was not interested in me at all because of this young woman named Lynn, who he thought might turn into something serious.

Yes, the Lynn I met today. Guess 25+ years counts as serious! So I said, after she had responded with "yes, my husband is Tony, do you know him?" "I lived in the co-op in college." Both Lynn and her daughter got amused looks on their faces, and they both said "OH! You lived in the CO-OP?!" I said "yeah, and I had a crush on him back then!" and laughed. But the laugh was on me, because they then said that he was on his way there - right then! When he showed up 10 minutes later, everyone at the table looked from him to me and back again. He got a quizzical look on his face and I said we were taking bets as to whether or not he would know who I was. He was tactful and vague and then I told him ... and to be honest I really don't think I would have ever recognized him, either.

But the small worldness doesn't end there. He and Lynn left, then Calandria showed up and we went to the zoo. When I got home tonight I (of course) googled Tony to see what he does these days, and he is an author. His specialty is civic dialog - bridging the divide between liberals and conservatives. Calandria -- sound like anything we've talked about before? Citizens for Civility?

Even back then, in an unrequited crush, I apparently had good taste :-)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Small World Story

OK, Carla posted a small world story so now I have to write about mine.

Last week, a friend of mine from college came to stay with me for a few days, as he normally lives in The Netherlands, but comes to Minnesota a couple of times per year. I'll call him "Ron" (because that's really his name.) Ron has a lot of friends in the Twin Cities, so he is often out and about visiting during his stay here, and on his last day he invited me to join him and two others for lunch. Seems each of the other two have some sort of connection to Africa, so he thought I might enjoy meeting them.

We first drove in to Minneapolis to pick up friend #1, I'll call him Henry. Then we drove to pick up friend #2, I'll call her Anna, in Brooklyn Park. Then we had to find a place to eat - and ended up at Rocky Rococco because both Henry and I were jumping up and down in the back seat of the car in excitement because we both thought Rocky Rococco was gone from this world.

Anyway. We sat at lunch chatting, and Anna talked about her experiences in Malawi. Then Henry talked about his experiences in South Africa. Then it was my turn. I started by saying I was involved with a small non-profit based here in Minnesota which has been providing scholarship funds for AIDS orphans in Tanzania, and now we are building a school. Without missing a beat Anna asked if I was working with the Augustines. Seems she grew up 4 houses away from them in a small town north of the Cities. Then Henry asked if I had heard of Books for Africa, and when I said how much we love Books for Africa he beamed and revealed he is on their board of directors!

Ron thought we might enjoy hearing each others' Africa stories but I honestly think he felt a little left out when Henry, Anna and I discovered how much we really did have in common!

As Carla said in her blog, you just never know when you might be the cog in the mysterious workings of the universe.

Like a magpie attracted to bright things I am.

Reality television to me calls.

Relaxation do I find when watching contestants I am.

Laughter to me comes after comments from Carla I do read.
Challenge you do I to comment a la Yoda.

My favorite tool is a Todd

I have gotten in to watching Design Star on HGTV this summer and now it's down to the final two. One of the final two, and the one I have been expecting to win all season long, is Todd - from California (of course) who likes to work with his shirt off (of course).

But he really is quite talented in a California-sort-of-way. Bigger than life personality.

I missed the first couple of episodes and got the chance to tape them over the weekend and watch them last night. In the first episode the 11 contestants had to design their own living space. Several of them needed things built and Todd was THE MAN with the power tools. As one of the rather "stereotypical" male designers said with a smirk, "My favorite tool is a Todd."

It was a priceless moment!

Monday, September 03, 2007

"Calmness. Peacefulness. Serenity. The tendency to try to accommodate rather than argue. The understanding that differences are seldom resolved through conflict and that meanness in others is an indication of their problem or insecurity and thus of their need for your understanding. The ability to understand how others feel rather than simply reaction to them. Control of temper."

This is from the site that I was looking for when going through my favorites as referenced in the post one below this, where I found the "So the thing is" blog.

This is a site called Values Parenting, and Peaceability is the September value. It's very possible - likely, even - that I have blogged about this site before, as I really do like it - and I really did like it when I found it the first time, over a year ago. Back then I promised myself I would visit it regularly to learn ways to teach the boys values. Well, here it is a year later and I am making the same promise to myself. Maybe I'll keep it this time.


That reminds me of another promise I made recently. And another promise I have not kept up. SMART Habits. Whoops, where did the time go?

OK, a two-fer. A new SMART Habit. Values Parenting. Yes.

And as for the food SMART Habit - well, I can't say I am totally successful, but I am much more mindful of what I put into my mouth or onto the plate for the boys to eat, so I guess I am making progress. And for now, that will have to suffice!

So, the thing is ...

I found a new blog today. I was looking through my bookmarked favorites for some other website for some other reason, and I found a link to a writer who posts her columns that she produces for some publication or something ... whatever ... but now she has started a blog! All of her columns start with "So, the thing is ..." and then she goes off. So that's what her blog is called, too. This picture is from her blog. Say it out loud. Then enjoy your giggle!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

State Fair Champion of Champions

Have you heard of Marjorie Johnson? She is from Robbinsdale and is the most-decorated baker around. She has won over 2500 blue ribbons, and has been a guest on Rosie, The View, The Tonight Show, and lots of radio shows. She is now a special correspondent for Jay Leno - covering sporting events and, I just heard, she will covering the Emmys this year!

She is just a hoot - she stands 4'8" and NEVER stops talking. She has her own website, and this year her cookbook is coming out, and she says she has been so busy getting it written that she hardly had any time to enter any baked goods in the Minnesota State Fair.

So she only won 7 blue and 2 sweepstakes this year.

I'm ordering her book!

How's that again?

Well, Miss South Carolina says it all. And I shouldn't laugh til I cry, but I do. Every time I hear it.

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