Tuesday, December 30, 2008

7 things about me that have nothing to do with podcasting or radio

Well dammit Debbie! This won't be easy. My life is pretty much an open book for anyone to Google. Here goes anyway...

1. I met my husband when I was 14, at an Orchestra/Choir Regionals weekend at Camelback High School in Phoenix. There was no place to sit on the bus, and he was alone in the seat. Without asking, I sat in the seat, leaned back against him and asked if the seat was taken. After that morning we were inseparable the entire weekend (other than rehearsals and the performance of course), and I *begged* my parents to let me take the bus home rather than going home with them so I could spend more time with him. By that Monday we were ditching class to see each other (we ditched a lot of classes). Minus about two years, we've been together ever since, getting married in 1993.

2. Speaking of orchestra, I play the viola. Well, played the viola. I chose the viola because the popular instruments were the violin and cello. Started the normal grade school time in 4th grade, and it was soon discovered I had a talent. In 6th grade I was in a state competition and won in my division. My sophomore year in HS I played in the Mesa Symphony, and received a paycheck. I earned a full music scholarship to ASU, majored in Music Therapy, which I pissed away the first year after realizing I didn't enjoy actually working and studying music. I just wanted to play!
Now, I play at my kids' school in their Peace Garden. When the kids are older and I have more freedom to be away I'd like to play in a group again. I miss it a lot.

3. I lived in an apartment when I was a sophomore in HS, and the complex burned down. We lost everything we owned. Tempe HS (where I went to school) learned about this and started a fund so me and my family could get new clothes, etc. Many donations, and there was also a fund to help me buy a new viola, which is the one I still have today. It was the first (but not the last) time I learned about the goodness in people.

4. My Junior year in HS, I became a Ward of the State, and lived in a shelter for a few months. A friend of mine at school heard about what I was going through and told her parents, who decided to take me in and become my foster family. Thus began the wackiest family tree ever. To this day they are all still in my life, and mean as much to me as if I had been with them since birth. There is also no need to keep my foster family separate from my "natural" family. Everyone seems to get along great! No, this did not happen overnight, but I feel very lucky to have the crazy family tree that I do.

5. I am not a geek, but I have a lot of geek friends. Sci-fi is just about the most boring genre on the planet. Well, unless there is a lot of horror involved. Blood and guts and losing limbs and what-have-you. The only sci-fi I really like is Firefly (yes just like you Debbie!). When all my friends are going to Baliticon or Dragoncon, I always want to go because they will be there, but I can't justify it because it's a geeky sci-fi Con.

6. Most of the time I feel like a social media outcast. See, all the people I like hanging out with are really into social media, and do some form of it for a living, and they go to these meetup and drink beer and have a good time. Or they get together at gangplank and have a great time. When I go, I always feel a little awkward. What do I like to talk about? Politics. Really, not much else. And everyone else I know? They don't want to talk politics. Or they don't like politics, which I truly do NOT understand at all! Therefore, most of the time I just sit there listening to all the other conversations feeling like I should just keep my mouth shut. No one will want to hear what I want to talk about anyway. This is really why I podcast, because if nothing else I can talk to myself. I always listen to what I have to say.

7. I hate the typical mom stuff. Now, do not translate this to mean I hate being a mom. I love being a mom, and I love my daughters more than anyone would know (and you other moms know how much that is!) But even as babies, I really was never into the whole mom thing. Playgroups were always weird because moms would rather talk poop than politics (I know- what's the diff?), I have zero patience so crafts in any form are out. I enjoy doing Girl Scouts, but that is because I'm incorporating the volunteer work that I've been wanting to do, and hopefully teaching a bit of that to the girls in the troop. School vacations frighten me because I value my alone time. I get tons of time with them, and 24/7 during a long weekend or two weeks at Christmas just makes me nuts. Then I feel guilty because I feel like I shouldn't be feeling that way, and that there is something wrong with me for not being more maternal and giving it all times 10 to my kids. Yeah, guilt is a big thing with me.

So there it is. Maybe you knew these things, maybe you didn't. Here are the rules:

I’m supposed to post the rules, so here they are:

  1. Link your original tagger and list these rules in your post. (She's at the beginning)
  2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
  4. Let them know they’ve been tagged.

And I just can’t wait for these 7 individuals to tell all about themselves.

Um... most of the people I would tag have been tagged all ready.

-Katie
-Dave
-LaDawn
-MsHerr
-PC Haring

Ok 5 was all I could come up with. I don't care, I'm not one who believes in rules anyway.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

5 Things Whenever The Heck I Want! Pt. 3

It's a holiday edition, so there are 8. I have no idea if there are 8 because of the holiday edition or not...

1) What’s your favorite holiday tradition?
Every Christmas eve, or in some cases Eve-eve, the family gets together for chili. I first learned about this when I started going to Bret's house when we were dating. His dad always did it. When we had Allison chili night was passed to me. This will be our 12th Christmas doing chili night, and I absolutely love it. The family comes and we all exchange our gifts to open at our own homes Christmas morning. Some years I even open it up and invite friends. This year it is going to be family only.

2) A favorite cookie recipe? Don't really have one. I do love my sister's peppermint bark and peanut butter fudge.

3) Share a story behind a special ornament on your tree. Not any particular ornament, but we do have an ornament tradition (also passed on by Bret's dad) where we give each other a new ornament every year. We have always added to our Looney Tunes ornament collection, and since about 1992 we've accumulated quite a few. Also passing this one on to the kids, but we try and get something that reflects what they were really interested in a particular year. So we've got everything from Dumbo to Blue's Clues to Barbie and Hannah Montana on the tree now!

4) All you want from Santa is….? Hey Jen Tucker! I want a mixer too!

5) What’s your favorite Christmas movie and why? I have two. A Christmas Story is just timeless and I always laugh all the way through. My kids love it as well, which makes it even more fun to share. I also love Love Actually because it's just silly romantic and all-around well done. Oh, and Colin Firth- HELLOOOOO... nurse!

6) Are you dong anything special for the holidays this year? No, nothing in particular. It will be much quieter this year. Which will be nice, but at the same time sad because I miss so much of my family!

7) What’s the best toy you ever got when you were a kid? I honestly can't remember.

8 ) Why is Christmas special to you? To be honest, it's not my favorite holiday. It's nice to give gifts and acknowledge those you ignore for the other 11 months of the year, but I prefer Thanksgiving. Seems to be the only one of the bigger holidays that isn't hyped up so much you lose the meaning entirely.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Personal Year In Review

Of all places to find some retrospection, I find these questions in the Huffington Post feed. It's better than the same old New Year's resolutions!

* What was the best thing that happened to me this year? Traveling to England over the summer. Actually, the entire summer trip was the best!

* What did I do this year that I'm really proud of? There are two. I started leading a Girl Scout troop. Sure, I was pushed semi-willingly. Sure, I had plenty of help. But I still did it and I'm proud of my creation. The other was being nominated for a Podcast Award. I didn't win this particular one, but the nomination process is pretty strict, and to me meant more than winning.

* Who did I really help? Honestly, there was no one specific. I help my children all the time, but that's a given. I suppose I help other moms with the carpool. We're helping plenty of people by doing service projects in Girl Scouts.

* Who do I need to thank and acknowledge for having been there for me? You know who you are, because I've all ready thanked you endlessly.

* What are the top three lessons I learned? Never trust a Sicilian when death is on the line! Oh all right, I'll be serious.
1. We as humans choose to have short memories.
2. A lot of people want change, yet when asked to make a stand will choose the safer path.
3. The only person you have control over is you.

* What increased my happiness and joy this year? You know, nothing really increased it. I'm still just moving through life same as I always do. I was more social than I was in 2007, and that always makes me happy. Hey! Maybe that's it!

* What's something I got through that was really tough? Officiating my foster father's memorial in July (is "officiating" the right term? I don't know, it sounds too much like I'm a ref for a ball game). Also, flying over the Atlantic. Both were extremely difficult in different ways.

* What did I avoid that I must pay more attention to in 2009? Getting an audio/radio resume' together and seeing if I can start getting a little in return for doing what I love to do! I'm not sure why I have been avoiding it, but I know it is avoiding because I've been talking about doing this for nearly two years now.

* What character trait did I develop most this year? taking initiative and becoming more of a leader.

* What new people did I meet that are now in my life? It's weird. With podcasting and being so active online, there are a lot of people who are in my life before I meet them. Then there are several people who I started getting to know better this year, though I've met them over a year ago. However one person who stands out I did meet this year, and that is my Girl Scout co-leader. I met her briefly back in May, when we found out someone needed to take over a Brownie troop. Then after summer vacation I needed to crack down and find someone to help me out. She and I met, and it was an instant friendship. So much in common, socially as well as politically! Things happen for a reason, and she and I were meant to meet and become friends.


So that's it. I won't pick anyone to carry this meme on. But if you decide you want to answer the questions, trackback to this post so I can see!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Can't Stop The Signal... Patterns.

Oh yes, another personality test. Kinda neat though, I'm always curious when it comes to these things.









There is also one that compiles a profile based on music clips. I didn't feel it was quite as accurate, but still interesting all the same.











http://www.signalpatterns.com/

Friday, December 12, 2008

5 Things Whenever The Heck I Want! Pt. 2

Yeah, today is just happens to be on Friday! Younger daughter has been a little sick this week, so she's still chilling in her PJ's while I do some laundry and browse around the series of tubes. This is how I noticed Jen Tucker posted her Friday 5!

1. What did you last replace batteries for?
The digital camera, because my older child takes it and records video. LOTS of video. To which I'm glad she does it on MY camera, so I can see what she's recording. Which is usually a lot of nothing. Once she had video of weird-shaped ice. ICE!

2. What have you thrown away that you probably could have had repaired?
You know, I've really thought about this, and nothing is coming to mind. I know there are many things I *want* to throw away vs. repairing, but I have a husband who will either repair said item, or throw it in our VERY BIG yard sale pile.

3. Among items in your line of sight right now, what should probably be put in the trash?
Loaded question, since I'm facing our kitchen island, which is always loaded with junk and papers and whatnot. I have fantasies of just opening the trash can on one side of the island, and just shoving everything over and into it. However, what I want to put in the trash even more than everything there, is the basket filled with coupons on the other countertop. I can't even tell you what's in that basket, because it's my husbands. Yes friends- he saves the coupons, not me!

Oh, I really should at least put these chocolate covered pretzels away. Don't have to throw them out, but they are in my line of sight (and within my finger's grasp), and really they should go.


4. When did you last use disposable cutlery while dining in your house?
Early in November when we had friends and family over to see the slide shows from our summer trip. That was really a fun evening. I love having a house full of people!

5. Whose actions cause you to waste time you otherwise wouldn’t waste?
I have no one to blame but myself really. But if I were going to blame anyone, it would be a thing, and it would be Google Reader. Ever since breaking up with Bloglines and transferring my feeds to Reader, I have been hooked. The Google has got me in it's clutches and I succumb to it happily! Gmail, Calendar, Reader... and I even put the new Twittergadget in so I can tweet from my Gmail!

But back to Reader. I can sit there for hours just going through all the news. If you are on my contact list and use reader, then you know this to be true, because I share PLENTY. If you get more emails from me now, it's because I just have to click in reader and email things out. If you don't have me as a contact on Google yet, well, I'm tsdiva so I'm easy enough to find. If you want to see the sort of things I'm sharing on reader, just click on the photo, which is a shot of my reader page!

Google Reader, I wish I knew how to quit you!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm so gay!

For today, as the slogan goes I'm "batting for the other team". But you know, that saying doesn't really work. We shouldn't be known as teams. Teams divide. Us vs. them.

It shouldn't be a battle to have equality. Things should just be equal.

Yeah, I know... it looks so damn easy on digital paper.

I've said my piece about the right for everyone to choose if they want to marry or not. Actually, I've written about it twice.

It will happen. In a way, Prop 8 in California and Prop 102 here in AZ passing were a blessing. It's having a backlash. A backlash that has no choice but to end up in the top court some day.

Some day soon, I believe. Because taking away someone's freedom to make a personal choice simply because they have a lifestyle you don't agree with isn't cool. Not at all.

I'd never try and take away your right to worship something I think is a made up entity. Because I am not affected by your personal choice and right to do so.

Well, until silly props like this are passed.... THEN it affects me and others.

So for today, I kiss girls on the mouth and I like it!

Stay informed- here are two neato blogs to subscribe to:

http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/

http://tucsonobserver.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

5 Things Whenever The Heck I Want!

I guess it is some old LiveJournal meme thingy called Friday 5... well I am not one who likes to conform TOO much (I don't conform, but I am a copycat!), so here's my Tuesday 5:

1. Would you consider yourself an organized person? Why or why not?

Absolutely not. It's always a last-minute, thrown-together thing. No matter what. Girl Scout meetings, packing for a trip, supplies for a party, arranging the next episode of my podcast... it's always pretty much the day or even the hour before, or AS I'm doing it. And please, don't clean anything and organize it because I know where it is all ready. Yet, on the other hand.. see #2.

2. Do you keep some type of planner, organizer, calendar, etc. with you, and do you use it regularly?

I've been forced to. See, I used to be very VERY organized. In a previous chapter of the Life of Danielle, I was a legal assistant to a bankruptcy attorney. Talk about needing to be organized!

Then... I had children. Really, I can't blame it on that either, because I worked full time until I was pregnant with Samantha. But THEN... I became a stay-at-home mum. That's when my organizational skills went kaput. I had moments where it would return, like when I was PTO president for two years, and when I would hastily scribble things on the calendar hanging on the wall, but it wasn't until the last couple of years that I really was forced to crack down and PLAN. The kids are older now, and have 8,000 separate functions, most of these at the same times. This year becoming a Girl Scout leader really did me in and forced me to behave like a semi-competent adult.

My savior? Google calendar. It's just so DAMN EASY. I can even fool all the parents in the troop about how organized I am with the link to their own calendar!

Wow, that was a long answer to a simple question.

3. Would you say that your desk is organized right now?

No. I mean, if you add up #1 and #2... you should be able to answer #3 for me all on your own!

4. Do you alphabetize CDs, books, and DVDs, or does it not matter?

Nope, and it doesn't matter in the slightest. Yet at least in the DVD department, they are all very neat an tidy. If you know my husband, then I do not need to say anything more.

5. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to organize?

My life. Work in progress.

Your turn.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Getting in touch with an old friend. Me.

I have been wanting to write more over here, where I can be on a more personal level. I was looking through the archives of the past few years, and I introduced myself to ME again. Then as I was putting together the previous entry on friendship it got me thinking. What made me stop?

The best I can come up with is how everything sort of crash-landed around my (foster) Dad's illness. He was diagnosed in the fall of '06. It was over before we knew it, unfortunately, and the universe decided to throw a bunch of shit in the fan at the same time. That Christmas was also when one of my aunts and I had a falling out, and also when the friendship previously mentioned in the last post fell apart. From October '06 through about April '07, I was in a funk. That summer of '07 was when I personally started feeling the negative affects of podcasting, in the form of a jerk who didn't agree with my positions. So he decided to start flaming me publicly, and in a personal way. Needless to say, I crawled into a shell, shied away from my blogging and being so open. Kept it strictly about politics. Which meant this place suffered.

One thing is true though, time heals. It also toughens your skin. It took awhile to make my own peace with the tragedies in my life, but I feel I have. It's not easy when you really just want someone to take care of you for a change. What I know now is I need to take care of myself, and wanting or expecting someone else to do it for me only delays the healing. And you can never move forward.

The universe responds in kind. It began with the flickr meme posted below. There was really no better place to put it than here. After that, I saw all the friendship discussion on Twitter, and then at the same time, my friend Julie finds me in chat, and we end up on the phone for over an hour catching up. It was wonderful- I was so happy after talking to her again!

Everything happens for a reason, although sometimes the reasons aren't what you expect or even want, but I really believe it to be true.

I'm going to reach out to myself again, use this space and continue well, trying to find my way. Want to join me?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Levels Of Friendship

I've been thinking about the friends in my life, prompted by an interesting Twitter discussion between a couple people I follow, and one I do not. Which is funny because the one I do not follow used to be a close friend of mine. Well, he was a close friend to me, at least. I've realized over the course of the now nearly two years since our friendship ended that I invested way more in the relationship than he did. So as I watched this discussion on Twitter continue (which I could try and ignore, but when the name keeps popping up with my other followers, curiosity gets the best of me), I was intrigued by the thoughts on friendship, and his take especially since he seemed to think online friendships weren't nearly as viable as real life ones (which I suppose in the instance of our failed friendship his argument could be true, at least in his mind). However, I have my own thoughts on friendship. So consider this opening my disclosure statement...

I have a friend, Dave. I've known Dave since 2004, and we've been through a lot together. He's one of the most non-judgmental people I know, at least when it comes to his friends. I could tell him anything, and pretty much have, and he in return. Dave lives in Minnesota, and I've spoken to him by phone (or skype) many times, and finally met him in person (albeit briefly) on a stop while traveling a couple of years ago.

I have a friend, Julie. I've known Julie since 2004, and we've been through a lot together. She's one of the most non-judgmental people I know, at least when it comes to her friends. I could tell her anything, and pretty much have, and she in return. Julie lives in California, and we took a "Thelma and Louise" weekend up to Sedona a few years ago. Which incidentally was the first time I met her in person. I call her my Other (I Heart Huckabees movie reference). We don't speak nearly as often as we'd like, but we both know the depth of our friendship, and that lack of speaking doesn't mean any less that what we know our relationship is.

I have a friend, Kimber. I've known Kimber since 1999, and we've been through a lot together. I could tell her anything, and pretty much have, and she in return. Kimber lives right next door, and although we met as neighbors, she is one of my closest friends.

Those are just three examples. Two friends I met online, and one in real life. But you know, I don't like separating the two. Dave and Julie are not fantasy friends- they are part of my real life too. That's the thing about the internet today and socializing online- it's not part of fantasy play alone anymore. Sure, many still use it that way, but I think that's mostly used to troll around, escape their own reality, or even to hurt people. If you're going into using the internet socially for the right reasons, then it's pretty easy (if you have half a brain) to weed out those who are just there to mess around. So to distinguish, I'll say "online" and "offline".

There are levels to friendship too. There are many I call "friend", and there are many I just leave as "acquaintance". There are even those who I enjoy connecting with because you never know who ELSE might be interested in a relationship with them! Just like offline relationships, you weed out your connections, and stick with those you click with. Twitter has been an amazing source for just that. When you travel, whether around your town, or around the country, you can tweet where you'll be and perhaps there will be an opportunity to connect. Hell, even in England I had the opportunity to attend a tweet-up, it just didn't work out time-wise. I often joke that Twitter gave me a social life, and it's really not a joke. These sorts of things just cannot be done without wi-fi!

As to the obvious argument about the internet breeding anti-social behavior, as you can see I really disagree. I do concede that it's all in how you use it. However, even when I'm just sitting at home chatting away online, it's a social outlet for me. My husband is rather on the anti-social side, and so I'm not always able to head out and be social offline. I'm definitely a more social person than he is, so being online has helped with that.

Speaking of my husband and being less social. He's not an online person when it comes to networking and friends. He doesn't chat online. He doesn't post on forums. He only goes to Twitter to stalk me. :-) I nearly had a heart attack when he made a Facebook account, because it's the last thing I ever thought he would do. Some people are just that way. It isn't a bad thing, and it certainly doesn't mean something is wrong with him. It just happens to be the way he is.

To take the internet one step further, we have family in other states that we have set up skype with in order to keep in touch and chat with. Does this suddenly make these family members less real? Is it less of a relationship because it's mostly online now? Hehe, I think not. Hell, several of my offline friends right here in the Phoenix area began as online friends (Debbie, Dan & CJ, Aaron, LaDawn, oh so many others- you know who you are)!

So see, it's not about which types of friendships are better or more "real" than others. It's about what people want in their lives, or what they don't want. It's not to be criticized, because one way of connecting and starting friendships is no better than another. I would say that those who are critical of online relationships should probably take a closer look at all of their relationships, whether online or off.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Buyer Be(A)ware: The Linens-n-Things Price Sticker Scam

Cross-posting from over on my AZ Central blog:

Linens-n-Things, as most people know by now, is going out of business. The one closest to me is on Power Rd and Ray, just off the 202. It's close enough so I have been able to check in periodically and watch the prices drop on certain things I have my eye on. I would like to get them at the most "reasonable" price before they close their doors for good. It's been great for stocking up on certain things I usually splurge on, like Yankee Candles.

However, I noticed today as I was rummaging around, checking the price change on some storage items, that the prices weren't really dropping all that much, even though the percentage went from 10% off to now 40% off. Recently Good Morning America did an investigation on how Linens-n-Things has been raising their prices and putting more expensive price stickers over their cheaper ones. Sure enough, when I pulled back the label, I noticed that one of the wall organizers I have been eyeing was $20 more than it was 2 weeks ago.

I took some video clips, because the camera took fuzzy still photos:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/audioaddict/3082453751/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/audioaddict/3082461033/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/audioaddict/3082469899/

Now, I know this isn't a new thing. This is what stores do no matter the sale. What cracks me up is how sloppy they are about it, because most people won't think twice about it. They see the 40-60% off sticker and think they are getting a deal. There are no anti-price gouging laws in Arizona, and I am not looking to have anyone stopped. What's the point? They will be gone in a month.

What I hope to do is make sure people are aware, and if you're looking around at Linens-n-Things, LOOK AT THE TAG CLOSELY. I know for me, I'd rather get my 40% off the cheapest price tag I see. Wouldn't you?

Check those tags, and demand your discount be applied to the cheapest price. Pass the word on to others you know who are always looking for a good deal. Sometimes it really is too good to be true.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Flickr Photo Meme

Usually I feel dread when I'm tagged for these meme's, but this one is actually pretty neat. Andy from the Andycast tagged me, and the meme is you have to go to your 6th page of flickr photos, and blog about the 6th picture. Here's Andy's post.

Like Andy, I have already blogged about the 6th picture on the page, so I figured I could just pick whatever photo I wanted. I've blogged plenty about our summer travels too. I thought about a post on my beautiful daughters and how quickly they are growing up, but figured it would turn into a whine about how old I'm getting. So I chose this photo, which is of myself with author Chris Lester, both of us sporting the T-shirts of his podcast, Metamor City.

Now a lot of people who read this blog are family and non-internet/twitter friends, so they don't know very much about my other hobby. Sure, they know about the political podcast, and they also know about KWSS. But I don't talk too much about the voice acting I do. I was bit with the voice acting bug back when I met Jon Russell of Dream Realm, and I haven't been able to stop since.

Metamor City is nothing short of amazing, and I'm not just saying that because I have a role in it. If you love fantasy stories, with amazing detail that sends you right into another world, then this is a story for you. Oh, and it has vampires! And empaths! And magic! And sex! Oh my!

My role is Sasha, who is my opposite in nearly every way. Nearly. She's blonde, warrior strong, can read minds, and deeply in love with another female. What I can relate to is her fierce devotion to her family, and the drive to protect them at all costs. I absolutely love playing Sasha. I had no idea at first it would be such a pivitol role, and when I saw what it would entail I was a little nervous. When you're bringing someone's vision to life, you want to make sure you treat the character the way the author envisioned. So far I think I've done pretty well. Chris is a wonderful director, and has really given great- well, direction!- in how best to bring Sasha to life. If you are looking for a good book to listen to, head over the Metamor City's website and subscribe to the feed.

Chris recently made the move across the country to California. When he stopped in Phoenix briefly along the way, we had a small group get together at Tempe Marketplace. It was wonderful to finally meet him in person, and it was a great evening of food and laughs and all kinds of conversation.

See, sometimes it's not so bad meeting guys on the internet! ;-)

I hereby taggeth Debbie, Dawn, Paul Fischer, Temple Stark, and Marla. Don't groan when you get this- it was fun to go back in the flickr photos and blog about what I found!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Know What I Did Last Podcamp AZ?

Had a most excellent time, that's what! Today happens to be a big blog blast to promote the 2nd annual Podcamp AZ this November 1st and 2nd. Rather than write a big post here- I'll just direct you to the post I wrote over on AZ Central:

Podcamp AZ Coming In November!

Maybe I'll see some of you there!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Loss Of A Good Companion...

Well, the day I thought was going to happen several times over the past 12 months finally happened. Our 13 year old dog Sandi passed away Tuesday morning. She had Cushings Disease, which is basically from an excessive amount of cortisol being produced. There are treatments, but when you weigh treatment success and cost vs. age of the dog, we made the decision to just make sure she was comfortable and not in any pain. She never was in pain (which anyone who has seen Sandi since her diagnosis could attest to).

I knew something wasn't right Monday when she didn't touch her food. She wouldn't even take the snausage treat that I gave her with her medicine- and that really told me something was different. She was like that most of the day, then Monday evening her hind legs began giving out on her, and she started to have a glassy, lost look in her eyes. She was drinking a whole lot more, and then rather than going through the dog door, we'd have to let her out ourselves because she couldn't make the little hop. I stayed downstairs that night, since she was lying on the tile and I didn't want her to hurt herself if she tried to get up that way and slide on the tile.

Tuesday morning she didn't look any better, and finally she went outside to the oleander she always liked to dig under and laid down there. When I couldn't get her to come out, and she became totally unresponsive to anything, I called my neighbor next door and we got her into the van so I could get her to the vet. Unfortunately at this point I knew this wasn't a trip to save her. She passed on the way.

She was such a happy dog, always wanting to play and bruise you with her long wagging tail. That was the reason we got her. I'll never forget looking at the Shar Pei that just peed on the floor when I pet it. Then we saw Sandi, the cute little beagle/doberman puppy with the biggest ears you'd ever seen. After romping around on the floor of Petsmart for a few minutes (much to Bret's embarrassment I think), I knew she was ours. She was always gentle too, both girls as babies would be all over her, and she never growled or snapped.

We were very lucky we got a little more time with her when we returned home from vacation. Sandi will definitely be missed, we all ready notice how quiet it is when we walk in the door. I'm really going to notice Monday when the girls go back to school.

Thanks everyone who has called with their condolences, even though I haven't returned phone calls yet, they are all very appreciated.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thoughts on London

As I look back over the 9 days we spent in London, I find myself thinking about the things I would do the next time we travel there.

This must be a positive, meaning I had an enjoyable enough experience that I'd like to go back someday.

It's definitely must be a different experience with kids, since we were limited by how much they could do in one day. When they needed to stop, we stopped. Most of the planning was around them. There were many walks in my "24 Walks In London" book that there was just no way I could do with them. If we ever were to go back, I would certainly want to either 1) go with just Bret or 2) hire Grandma! Of course, it will be many years before we would even begin planning something of this magnitude again in terms of a vacation, so the kids will be much older at that point as well.

Now that isn't saying I didn't have a good time, like I said I'm just thinking of some of the things I would have liked to do vs. what we did. The touristy things were fine. The Harry Potter film locales became old quicker for me than for Bret, but he's the Potter fan along with Allison so I was just along for the ride. I did get to see some beautiful English countryside, villages, and cathedrals however.

Didn't get my burger, chips, and beer in a pub for 5 pounds though. That's a definite must-do next time around!

When not trying to maneuver in the Underground, I enjoyed the people. They were always very nice when we asked for directions, or where we were at. In the hustle and bustle of the Underground though, it was typical city-rudeness.

It's also a much more environmentally-conscious environment too. You do not really grasp how UN-environmentally conscious the US is, until you've experienced how they run things in Europe. Rather sad when you think about it. The US should be much further in this than we are (I know in many instances I'm preaching to the choir in this statement).

The food is probably what I liked least about England. We found a hit in Nando's, and the first time I had fish and chips it was good. The second time after a couple of bites I was pretty greased out. Most of the other food I tried was quite bland, and you needed to add salt and pepper to everything just to make it semi-edible. The kids did ok, as they are not fans of really flavorful food anyway. They enjoyed chips with vinegar.

Coming home, we found security is much more normal at their airport than in the US. First off, you didn't have to remove your shoes. Secondly, their xray machines can see THROUGH laptop bags, so they didn't have to be taken out. Just an all-around better experience to not be hounded by the TSA and pseudo-security.

Yes, I would most definitely like to do more traveling abroad. If my experience was this good overall WITH my young girls, it can only get better as they get older!

I am hoping Bret will write his thoughts soon, as I'm sure he has his own perspectives from the week he would want to share- including driving in London!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Back In The US!

Just a quick note to let everyone know that we are safe and sound back in the US. Flight was 6 and a half hours, and pretty uneventful. A little too bumpy for my taste (sorry about your arm dear!). Still totally spoiled by the free hot dinner and treatment on British Air. Today we are just recovering and doing laundry, but I'll probably write some post-thoughts soon as I take some time to process the past 9 days mentally.

We're here in the Boston area until Tuesday, then we start our trek home with our flight back to Kansas. I assume by no phone call from Bret's mum that our van hasn't been whisked away by a tornado! ;-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Journey West-ward begins

We finished off our London trip with first visiting Buckingham Palace (just the outside). The Queen happened to be in according to the flag flying, but we weren't able to arrange a tea with her. ;-) After that we headed over to the Tower of London to gawk at all the royal jewels. It was another very touristy feeling place. Actually, the feeling I got was how I feel at a Ren Fair. It's hard to distinguish between all the years of history and a Ren Fair when you've got actors all over the place in Medieval garb. I wish I could *feel* more impressed with it all, but maybe I'm just tired and finished with playing American tourist in London. I'm not overly impressed with displays of grandeur either I think. "Look at our huge things! Look at our expensive jewels!" Bleh, yeah, I must be on overkill, LOL, I don't know. Bret will have to blog and give his thoughts on all of it. I've become such a cynic in my old age! ;-)

Today begins the trek homeward. We fly back to Boston tonight, getting in quite late. I have a feeling we all might sleep a lot of the day tomorrow. I will be writing my post-thoughts on being a visitor in another country eventually, but for now I must go help the husband finish packing- IF this silly Viddler video* ever finishes uploading! At least we are in no rush to get to the airport, flight doesn't leave until 7:30 this evening! (London time, that is!)

*(Video is a bit of the walk we took to the train station for our trips into London. Just a 5 or 6 minute walk, and then the train took us right to Victoria Station where we could catch the Tube anywhere we wanted to go. If the video isn't up yet, it's still encoding- check back later!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A DayAt Oxford

What a great day. I think it was a fairly easy drive up to Oxford (you’d have to ask Bret to be sure about that one), then to get around the city itself you need to park and ride, so that made it world’s easier. The whole city is beautiful, and the University is sort of embedded throughout. You could definitely tell you were near and on a University campus, that seems to have the same feel no matter where you are, but the buildings and the churches- well by now we know everywhere you go in England you are going to be immersed in history. Even the McDonald’s was a quaint house converted- LOL! The cutest McD’s I’ve ever seen!

The main reason for driving up to Oxford was to get a couple more Harry Potter film locations in. Stop number one was New College, where there were more cloisters to see, but we weren’t able to get in until Thursday (can you believe we’ll be back in the states by then?), but they have beautiful gardens to walk through. The girls were in a much better mood today, and were holding hands and walking ahead of us on the path, trying to stay far ahead. We ended up letting them go around one more time by themselves while Bret and I waited. So many beautiful flowers and colors all around. After that we wandered to the Bodleian Library, where the entry room was used as the infirmary in HP #1, and it was also used in HP #4 in the scene where they are being taught to dance before the ball.

From there we found a great indoor market to grab some lunch, although we had a hard time finding something Samantha would eat. It’s hard enough at home finding food for a picky eater- in England you can double it! Eventually we found a place that would make a simple grilled cheese sandwich (though we did have to explain), and I finally got to try a potato jacket. Which was really not all that great (sorry Katie!). I keep forgetting that if you order “chicken salad”, you’re going to get simply chicken, lettuce, tomato, and no dressing at all. It was very bland, and I was very disappointed! It’s a neat idea for a food, but I know I could make them MUCH better. ;-)

After lunch we headed over the Christ Church, another stunning site. This has the staircase in HP#1 where the student’s are met by Mrs. McGonagall, and also the great hall where they ate. On another historical note, walking through the church also had many Alice In Wonderland references and points of interest. Which I thought were much more interesting, as there are references in the stained glass, and many ideas for the story came from little things on the grounds.

At this point our tour leaders were becoming grumpy, so it was time to head back to the bus and drive back to London. We had fish and chips again for dinner. It was good the first time, but didn’t have the same impact this time. I think tomorrow I’m going to try and lay off the grease. Bleh. Chips doused in vinegar however, are becoming my new favorite food!

Tomorrow is our last day to go into London and we’re going to try and get an earlier start than we’ve been getting. We’re going to the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, and Leadenhall Market (yet another site used in HP). Then Wednesday morning will be packing it all up, getting the car back, and then tomorrow evening we fly back to Boston! The days really flew by, but I’m finding that we could have been finished at 5 days and been equally as happy. I’m starting to get that itch to begin our journey home, and back to normalcy.

(PS- I hope you will all excuse the typos throughout these posts- remember I'm writing them very late at night and I'm tired! Then rushing to post in the morning before we head out- no time for spell check!!)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Getting In The London Groove...

All right, so I realize it’s been three days (at the time of writing this it’s about 8:45pm on Sunday), but it’s been so very busy here! I think the flight home will be the first time in a LONG time that I actually sleep on a plane! We’ve been running all over southern England since last I wrote. Allow me to recap:

Day 3 (Thurs.): We traveled more into the center of London this day, starting off in Trafalgar Square and just taking it all in. We had tickets for the Millennium Wheel that afternoon, so while waiting we let the kids play in the playground at the base of it. The wheel is quite a huge structure when you’re standing at the base! The girls and Bret loved the ride, which is about 30 minutes, but I was more ambivalent about it. It was nice to see the entire city from that high, for sure, but I honestly was done after about 10 minutes. So we got our many photo ops, and paid way more than the ride was worth.

After that we took advantage of one of our many walks in the London book Katie bought us, and went over the Westminster Bridge towards Big Ben and the Parliament building. It’s absolutely magnificent- and the detail around the clock is just amazing. From there we went up Whitehall Street (gee, where did NY get their street names from?), which is one of the most populated streets in London, since it’s smack dab in the middle of the financial district. It also is where the Ministry of Defense and Downing Street are (Downing Street naturally is gated off). It’s a nice walk filled with history and beautiful buildings and it took us right back up to Trafalgar Square. We weren’t quite ready for dinner yet at this point, so we then decided to take the Tube up to King’s Cross Station, so Allison (and Bret) could get one of her many Harry Potter fixes. A very kind patrolman helped us find the tourist spot for a photo (which I all ready put on the flickr site). For me, seeing Alli’s face beaming was more than worth it all. From there we went back to St. Martin’s in the Field’s to have dinner in the Crypt, and then we headed back to the B&B. A long and very packed day.

Day 4 (Friday): This was one of our two out-of-London travel days. It started out by heading down to Stonehenge. Not too bad of a drive, ONCE we got out of London and on the highway. This driving around in a rental car was probably not completely necessary, but it did give us the freedom to travel as far as we did. I have to commend my husband on braving the traffic, driving on the left, and learning the art of the roundabout. He is now the roundabout KING. Again, without the GPS (which we have since named Cleo), none of this would even be possible.

Stonehenge was really quite neat, but WAY touristy. I didn’t like that part of it, it was difficult to get a decent shot of the formations because of all the people standing around trying to take the exact same photos. There was a group of protestors there, and their beef was the exact same thing. They do their best to keep it roped off, but still close enough to get good views.

After that, we headed up towards the Village of Lacock, which was quite an interesting drive. First, we drove right into rain. Next, English roads are narrow. Very, very narrow. At one point a two-way unpaved road was not able to have two cars side by side, and a couple of times at an intersection Bret had to back up to let cars by. It was so neat though as we went through the villages and towns along the way. It’s like going back in time, only there are cars along the street. I was snapping pictures all along the way so Bret could actually see what we drove through, as he was watching the road the whole time.

Lacock Village is the home of Lacock Abbey, which was founded in 1232 as a nunnery. In 1539 it was transformed into a family home, but the medieval cloisters were preserved. The cloisters are what we were looking for, as they are used as the hallways of good ol’ Hogwarts. The courtyard around the cloisters was also used in the movie. When we went back that night and looked at the DVD’s to compare, it was so very obvious (much to Alli’s delight). I would have loved to see the whole village, but we needed to leave to get to our final destination of the day, Gloucaster Cathedral, which was another hour and a half drive away.

The Cathedral was stunning, there are no words to describe it properly, or photos that can truly capture the magnificence. The building began in 1039 as an Abbey, but it was a place of worship since about 700 AD. King Edward II is buried there. We arrived about 15 minutes before they closed, and they had JUST shut down the cloisters as we arrived. So we tried to track down someone who would take pity on us and perhaps let us have a peek. We did, and we had about 10 minutes all by ourselves, wandering more of the Hogwarts halls. There was also a door used as an entryway to Griffyndor Tower, and one used as the entrance to the bathroom where Moaning Myrtle roams. Again, priceless happy looks on my daughter’s face. Never mind thousands of years of history, Harry Potter scenes were filmed here!

If you're curious, here's a Google Map of our drive around Southern England.

Day 5 (Saturday): Breakfast was served a little later today, so Bret slept in and the girls and I went and ate. The longer we stay at Melrose House, the more I like it. They are taking very good care of us here. I saw another family with children, which made me feel a little more comfortable. Around noon we left for the city, but for some reason the kids were all ready a bit grumbly.

We started out at the London Field’s Inn area, searching out Cyrius Black’s home (yet again, the Harry Potter tour). After that it was off to the British Museum, and an attempt to do another of the book tours I had. I say attempt because we had a bit of a downturn with the kids, and eventually we just gave up. We saw a little of Egypt (and the Rosetta Stone), but we barely made it out of pre-civilization before we just had to give up. Though we managed to see the chess set that was used in the first Harry Potter movie. Not the giant version at the end, but the smaller version you see them playing. It perked up Allison a bit, but we were pretty done for the most part. They really aren’t used to all this walking, and being stuffed into a train like a sardine, etc. etc.

Day 6 (Sunday): I’ve made it to today? Wow, that’s a lot of stuff we’ve crammed into this trip so far! I wish I could have blogged each day, but I’ve been so tired at the end of the day, and no time to do it in the morning. So I’m really sorry that this is such a huge chunk of reading for you all.

Today we had another late breaky, and finally got to interact with the other guests a bit! We met a really nice couple from Hong Kong, and had an interesting conversation about cities growing upward vs. outward. I also met another woman who is another Seeker like myself, complete with 9/11 conspiracy theories, world domination through pharmaceutical companies, and UFO’s (although I’m not big on the UFO thing myself). There wasn’t any good time to record with her, but I do have the info for her cause, so I can set something up in the future (yay skype!).

Today was my day sightseeing first- and we went to the most popular Beatles spot in London- Abbey Road. I was just like Allison with her Potter locations! And oh yes, me and the kids (then Bret and the kids) walked it while the other took pictures. After that it was off to 221 Baker Street, and the Sherlock Holmes shop. 221 doesn’t actually exist, but it’s close enough. A really neat little shop, and there is a museum as well though we didn’t do the tour. I’m a recent Holmes convert after playing a role in the Dream Realm audio drama series, which on the DRE website gives great information on the Holmes stories with each episode. Next door to the Holmes shop is a Beatles’ memorabilia shop. (Are you jealous, Dad and Alan? I hope so! ;-) )

From there we spent the rest of the afternoon at the London Zoo, after walking through Regent’s Park to get there. Central Park would be the comparison, I think. HUGE park in the middle of a major city. Though I think Regent’s is larger, I’d have to check that. We (of course) made our stop in the reptile exhibit for the Potter fans. Samantha LOVED the giraffes, because you could get right up and close to them. We’ve never been that close to a giraffe before.

After a small souvenir rift, we started the trek home, and had Nando’s chicken for dinner. A recommendation from Allison’s teacher, and it was a good one! GREAT chicken! Finally things are winding down today, as we prepare for our second out-of-London trip tomorrow. To Oxford. Why? Two words.

Harry.
Potter.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

London Day 2

I will miss this weather when we leave. In AZ we don’t see the steady rain. You know, the stuff that just hangs there and there is at least some sort of drizzle coming down ALL day long. I love that.

That’s what today was, so we ventured out (armed with our day passes rather than Oyster cards) and began our first day closer to center city at the Museum of Natural History. Seems everyone had the same idea on this rainy day, it was quite packed. I think the schools must still be in session as well, because there were a bazillion field trips happening. Honestly? I enjoyed the architecture of the building itself more than the museum. For the most part it mirrored New York’s. A few differences, but really, if you’ve seen one T-Rex, you’ve seen them all…although the space and astronomy portion was pretty neat. We also got a little time with Mr. Darwin as well. ;-)

The girls are having fun spending their souvenir money, a Bday gift from Grandma Tari, and they are making the conversions to dollars in their heads (So is Bret, but for different reasons, hehe). After almost two hours at the museum however, signs of not being quite with it were showing in the girls. Allison’s fun meter dropped considerably. Sam accidentally dropped her tray of lunch on the floor as we were sitting at the table in the food court of the museum, and a meltdown ensued. They felt a little better after getting some food in them, so we made an attempt to head to the science museum.

I say attempt because as soon as we got there, Allison realized she left her souvenir on the floor at the entrance of the Natural History museum as we were putting our jackets back on. So she and Bret walked back to see if it was still there (it wasn’t) while Sam and I waited. By this time even I was ready to go back to the hotel, which we did. Bret was a little frustrated, but really what could we do? Force them to keep moving and walking when they were clearly still out of whack? That wouldn’t make it an enjoyable experience at all, for anyone.

We rested for a lot of the afternoon, then headed out for dinner. So far we’ve not been overly impressed by the food, and rather than trying to find something “ethnic” (if you will), we kissed the floor of the TGIFriday’s and had dinner there. Then when we returned it was showers and bed for the girls. Allison has been so tired she crashed before any of us. Sam I think is so tired she just can’t stop moving or she’ll go into a coma. Luckily now she has settled down (it’s about 12:30am here as I’m writing this, to post in the morning).

The B&B we’re staying at is rather weird too. I think, at least. See, this morning we had breakfast at our own table in the sunroom, while everyone else was inside at the table. The owner said it was to make sure we could all sit together and the kids wouldn’t be separated from us. And that was fine, it was nice out there, even though I was hoping to talk with the other guests. When we returned to our room, there was a note saying we were set up through the weekend to eat at the kitchen right outside our room, which is completely detached from the main house on the other side of the garden. The owner said it was going to be very busy this weekend, and again wanted to make sure we all had places together to eat. Then Monday we could come to the main house to eat.

Ok, so my mind starts spinning. Is she worried about us and the kids, or is she worried about the other guests? I don’t think my kids were obnoxious at breakfast this morning, actually they were pretty quiet, so I doubt there were any complaints. Anyway, I’m probably thinking too much into it, but I found it odd. Sort of like “keep the Americans separate!” Most of the guests were at least from England, based on their accents when we all said good morning, and I would LOVE to talk with them.

I think tomorrow everyone will feel better and more normal, so we might get more in. We bought our tickets on the Eye in advance, and that is at 2. The rain is passing, and I’m told it will be around 70 and sunny at times, so a great day to do that. Finally we’ll see some of the landmarks we’ve only seen on TV! We’re also going to find a Nando’s chicken (Allison’s teacher recommended it so she’s dying to try it), and St. Martin’s in the Crypt for dinner.

And I’m sure many, many rest points throughout the day. :-D

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Anarchy In The UK!

My goodness, I don’t even know what day it is. I can’t even post this until the morning because there is no internet access in our room, only in the main house. It’s been the longest two days! Monday around 5 we left to take the rental car back, and then check in for the International portion of our adventure. Since we needed the car back before 7, we ended up being checked in for the flight with nearly two hours of waiting in the terminal. The flight left a little late, but we actually ended up arriving on time, so no worries there. The girls were taken back by how big the airplane was- it had a middle section of seats! They also enjoyed their own video monitor, the kids pack British Airlines gives out (which includes an electronic game!), and being served dinner and breakfast. All for no extra charges (take that American Airlines!).

I ended up not taking advantage of the drugs supplied to me for sleeping, and was up the entire flight. Not that Bret and the girls slept any better. At least the flight wasn’t full so everyone could move and stretch out a bit more. All in all it was an uneventful flight.

THEN. We ended up spending an hour longer in the airport than we thought we would simply because we were at the wrong terminal to pick up Allison’s Oyster Card (the transportation card). She and Bret took a bus to another terminal to do that while Sam and I stuck around the one we came into with the luggage. I resisted the urge for a Starbucks, knowing we were going to take a nap when we got to the B&B, and we just sat there and people-watched. Even in the airport the atmosphere seemed different.

So once we got the Oyster card mishap taken care of, it was off to the rental car place. Bret was paying close attention to how the shuttle driver was moving through traffic, since we would soon be driving in it himself. And I must say, he handled London traffic amazingly. Once we got a little more in the city it was more stressful (as with any city really), and without the GPS we would have been roaming around in circles forever. Only a few missed turns and we made it to the B&B, after witch all four of us crashed for a few hours.

We all felt a little better after that, and then we ventured out to see what this bus system is all about. Lesson number 1- the Oyster card isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. What took us two hours by bus (granted we did make a few mistakes and needed to backtrack a couple of times), we could have done in one trip by rail, which isn’t covered on the Oyster card. We could get a day pass for that instead. The plus side is the girls rode in a double-decker bus for the first time, and we saw a whole lot of the southern suburbs of London. Everyone was very helpful when we asked questions about where we were going (and Bret asked quite a lot- the man is fearless!), but we decided that unless we absolutely had to, the bus system isn’t the way to get to the Underground.

Allison is especially excited to be here, I think it’s because of Harry Potter. She is just taking it all in like a sponge, and it’s really fun to watch. I’m so happy we have the opportunity to expose the girls to other cultures and countries. They area couple of very well- traveled ladies!

So now it’s time to try and sleep. Tomorrow was supposed to be Stonehenge, but weather said it will be raining pretty much all over England tomorrow, so we are going to hit some of the museums instead and make it an indoor day. I didn’t take very many pictures today either, so perhaps I will get some uploaded here in the next day or two.

Cheers!

Monday, July 07, 2008

You know you're from the desert when...

You pack for a trip to London and you have more shorts than long pants with you! Two trips to the store to buy a few more pairs of long pants for the children!




It's going to be so wonderful weather-wise! Jumping ahead another 5 hours should be quite an interesting experience though. We plan on relaxing at the B&B tomorrow morning (we land in London around 8:45am- that's London time!), so I will jump online to make a quick post and assure our family that we have arrived!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Fabulous East-Coast 4th

Well hello there peoples! Bret was giving me a guilt-trip about not doing a post for a few days, so I figured before I dove into sorting MORE photos, I'd write.

Hope everyone had a nice 4th of July weekend! We ended up having a really great time. Katie and her Brett had a bbq on the 4th, and we ate much, met some of their friends, AND my friend Scott came over as well! Scott (for those of you who do not know yet) and I met about a year ago through another friend of mine, CJ. He calls himself "the Podcast Guest", and is always appearing on shows throughout the podosphere, including my own! He's on the left in the photo.

Unfortunately, that evening both myself and my nephew Elliot were not feeling so great, so we didn't go out to see any fireworks. We did however get a private show from neighbors a few houses down! Apparently you can buy fireworks in New Hampshire, but they are illegal in MA. You know, sort of like buying them in Mexico and smuggling to AZ. Doesn't seem to stop some. ;-)

The podcaster meetings didn't end there. Last night we had dinner with Scott again, along with other podcast friends Steve, Maureen, and their sweet baby Rebecca. Steve and Maureen do a show called the Wicked Good Podcast, and Steve also does a fantasy football podcast called Extra Points. It was great to see them again and actually have a conversation! When I first met them it was the Podcast Expo last fall, and with all the noise and things happening you're lucky if you have more than a 2 minute conversation with ANYONE. So this was good. I'm also very happy that Bret came along to meet my podcaster friends!! He's not into all this social media stuff, so it's always great when I can share a little part of my interests with him and the people I meet along the way. :-)

Today is getting things together as we head into our next chapter of the Cutler Summer Adventure- London! We leave tomorrow night, so today is laundry and packing. Not that we have to pack much, that's one thing that has been nice with all the moving around- the packing is done! I've been thinking a lot about simplifying lately as we have been living with one week's worth of clothes and with pretty much nothing else. It's rather freeing, and well, simple! It's giving me the urge to look around the house when we get back and re-assess what's really necessary...

I'm not sure if there will be another blog post before we head out of the country, but keep checking the flickr site for photos! I'm also not sure what the wifi sitch will be in the B&B we're staying in in London is either, so online communications might be sparse for the next week or so. I'm finding however that the longer I'm away, the less I mind...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Easy-living on the East Coast...

Bret here again. On Monday we took the Staten Island Ferry to Manhattan then took the subway to the see the progress on the World Trade Center. Several buildings going up around the main site. They’ve even built up to the ground floor where towers one and two were located. I’m sure Danielle would like to share her thoughts on this particular visit, so I won’t go into more details at this time.

Following seeing the WTC, we journeyed into Greenwich Village to visit Anita, John-dad’s Aunt. She’s 90 years old and has lived in the same apartment for the past 50 years. We walked (albeit very slowly) the two long blocks to one of her favorite local restaurants, CafĂ© Loup. A great little French place where everybody knew her and she got the chance to introduce the last of her family to them. Apparently this is the place she always takes family when they come to town. It was quite obvious our host, Jim, is deeply taken with her. He seemed like a fantastic guy, and I’m glad she has so many people looking after her in this city.

We had a terrific visit, but all things must end. We returned to her apartment for a short visit before taking the subway, ferry and bus back to Greg-dad’s place to pick up the car. Nearly two hours later, we were on the road back to Massachusetts --- it’s now near the end of people’s work day and we got stuck in the crowds. Hard to believe people actually do this on a daily basis! It’s nice though, because we got a chance to see dad and Melodee once more on the way out of town. Amazingly, we made the drive through Brooklyn, Queens and the rest of the city with little to no traffic, so we made great time. Until… Who would have thought the last mile between Connecticut and Mass would be what takes the longest?

Returned to Mass late and tired so we decided going to Maine for L.L. Bean and lobster would not be the best thing on Tues. Pushed that to Wed and spent Tues putzing around the house. No major events there, so I’ll skip to Wed.

One of Brett’s favorite things to do is take visitors to get fresh lobster from a lobster shack in Freeport, ME. Danielle is a lobster fiend, so was completely on board. I had not yet experienced it, so admit I wanted to go as well. Maine is a 2-3 hour drive from their place, so we had to get up early in order to make a full day of things. I felt like I must be part of a Twilight Zone episode or something, as I of all people was the first one up and moving at ~6:20am. We got our clan ready for the planned 7:30 departure, but didn’t leave until 8:15 while waiting on Katie’s boys. Have D or I ever mentioned how glad we are that we’re past the toddler/young child stages of this parenting thing? I forgot how much packing/chasing/corralling is involved with any outing. Anyways… we had a pretty nice drive up to Freeport with no major issues. For those who’ve never been, Freeport is a nice little town that L.L. Bean appears to have thrown up all over. As you enter town one sign points left for the town entrance with another pointing you towards the L.L. Bean Employment office and distribution center. Downtown is filled with Bean store after Bean store interspersed with other outlet stores, restaurants and a few one-of-a-kind stores. Our group of nine would head off to our own points of interest, meet back to enjoy a packed lunch then disperse once again to get their shopping needs completed. I’m not what one would call a big shopper, so the ice cream booth and British Shop were what interested me the most.

The weather was nice, so we took a trip to the beach. The girls knew this was not a swimming beach, but they were excited to collect shells and rocks. The tide was on it’s way out, so we had fun tromping through the muck that is loosely referred to as the beach.

A little fun, but now it was time for Lobster!!

Alli really wanted one of her own and liked the taste but wouldn’t touch the thing to get any of the meat. “It’s staring at me,” she said.

D on the other hand…

That woman is sure in her element so far this trip. I’ve got to go help Tari-mom as she prepares to move into her newly renovated condo, so will end this here. Hope all is going well with everyone!

-Bret

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dziadzi: A Head Away

This week-end we spent in New York. We spent most of the time with our Dziadzi and Babci. Today we went to a BBQ at there house. Like 5 minutes after we started it started to rain. It was pouring from the start. So the BBQ was held inside. It was really nice seeing every-one again. Tomorrow we go back to Boston. But first we are going to NYC. We are going to see Anita for lunch. Then to Boston.

TTYL Love Ya!!!!!!!!!!

-- Allison <3>

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Backtracking...

So, it seems Samantha missed a few things in her post yesterday, although she did remember some very important things! Let's briefly go back a couple of days.

Wednesday was travel day. Two hour drive to the Kansas City airport, then three hour flight to Boston. We used an airline we've never flown before, Midwest, and I totally recommend it. Yes, this is nervous-flier Danielle recommending an airline! It was smooth, there was more room, and they served warm cookies! And you weren't charged for them! That made up for the $3.50 we had to pay just to LEAVE the airport in the car we rented.

I don't have a welcome to Boston pic (yet) since we flew in, so in lieu of one, this is my sister and BIL's cat Arthur. Doing what I wish I were doing more of, sleeping. It just never feels late when it hits midnight or 1am, and I usually toss and turn until 2:30 or 3am. London should be a zombie-blur at this point, if I don't get some decent sleep soon.

We spent a day in Boston and Tari-Mom came over, then we all went to her condo to check out the renovating she has been doing and help her unload some things. It's quite a nice place- it fits her very nicely I think. There are some photos on the flickr site, as well as others from the strawberry picking the girls did in Katie's backyard garden. I wish I had the motivation to garden. I don't even want to mow the lawn- how I am going to keep up a garden!?!

Friday we drove down to NY and Staten Island, where Greg-Dad and his wife live (SI is where I was born). As Samantha said last post, we are staying at a Hilton, and all I can do is compare it to the other hotels we've stayed at so far this trip. The Days Inn doesn't even begin to compare, but I became more and more disappointed in the Hotel Albuquerque after being here. VERY nice. Microwave and mini fridge in room. An actual fitness CENTER vs. a fitness box like in NM, and they also had cookies! I'm starting to think the places that serve cookies are the ones that are worth sticking with...

We met up with Dad and Mel for dinner, and I ended up not feeling too well afterwards. Though I was feeling a little off the whole drive to NY, so I don't think it was the food. It did keep me from trying out the fitness center this morning, but I hope to use it tomorrow. I've been trying to make sure I do some sort of exercise every other day or so. So far it's been working pretty well. If I can maintain rather than gain, I'll be one happy camper!

Today Dad drove us into Manhattan to visit my Aunt Debbie in the hospital, who's recovering from a triple bypass. It went surprisingly well- she was out of ICU in about 24 hours, and should be going home Tuesday. She looked great to me, and it seemed she was back to her feisty self. Regina-Mom (has anyone figured out my family tree yet?) is flying in tonight to stay with her for a few weeks while she recovers. Greg-Dad and Bret are picking her up and getting her to my Aunt's.

So right now we're chilling at the hotel, going to pop in a movie, and hopefully all of us will get a little more sleep tonight, because I think we all were a little grumpy. Tomorrow the morning is pretty free, then we're heading to a BBQ at Dad's, where I will see more family that I haven't seen in ages! Will there be photos? Well, I'm sure you all know the answer to that one by now...

Friday, June 27, 2008

we're in New York!!!!!!!!!!

Today we went on a long drive to Staten Island.And we are staying at Hilton Garden Inn. we went swimming at a indoor pool in the hotel. And tomorrow we are going swimming again. And my dad is the Daddy Express in the pool. we had lot's of fun.





SAMANTHA



Monday, June 23, 2008

No Toto, we *are* still in Kansas

...at least for one more day! Sorry there haven't been any updates since we got here. If you've been checking the twitter feed you get a little bit of the happenings here and there, and there are also more photos on the flickr page. But every time I thought about doing a blog post, I was either booted off by others wanting to check their email, or I just plain didn't feel like it! Which I guess is a good thing, I'm enjoying not being AS connected as I usually am.

It's been a very good visit with Nanas, and Bret's sis Valina. Even though it's a very small town (I mean like, VERY), we still managed to keep pretty busy. Unfortunately a lot of this was due to some hours of clean up around their property from the tornado that hit a couple of weeks ago. Each day there were volunteers from K-State or Salvation Army cleaning up brush and cutting down broken trees (the photos above is from their back porch looking at the sunrise over some of their broken trees), and the city had the street closed off in order to help further up the hill where unfortunately the homes are in much worse shape. Worse shape meaning roofless in several instances. Nanas were pretty tired, but I think having some family around through it really helped their spirits. It was very sad to see all the damage and the toll it has, yet inspiring at the same time to see the good in people as they came to help. I must say I'm just a teeny bit worried about the van, as it will be sitting outside here for the next month. A tree in the middle of it would make for great photos I suppose, but I'd rather avoid that happening, heh.

We managed to spend a couple hours at the Sunset Zoo during the week, and trust me, you only need a couple of hours because it's a very tiny place. The neat thing about it was how close you could actually get to the animals, and since the weather is more agreeable, they are actually visible (unlike the Phoenix Zoo in summer!).

We also celebrated Nana's 25th wedding anniversary on Sunday. They had a small re-affirmation of their vows, and though it was unfortunate that many canceled due to the tornado, it was perfect all the same. They had their children and their grandchildren with them. It was intimate and beautiful. I asked them if they would perhaps head to Cali or New York and make it legal, but it doesn't really matter if it's not acknowledged in the state they are living in. For now, it's acknowledged by those who do matter, and I can't help but smile at the irony of their "unofficial" marriage lasting 25 years. Take that, haters!

Have I talked about the food yet? I feel like all we've done when we weren't actually moving is eat. I'm trying SO hard to be good, but I'm in the midwest! It's a meat-and-potatoes kind of town. I think I've had my body weight in beef over this past week. We did get treated to a couple of local favorites though. A great breakfast cafe in a converted office space, and some Jamaican food out by the reservoir. They were the sort of places that you wouldn't know about unless you know someone who lives here, and the food was pretty darn good at both of them. Bret and I also got a treat of dinner and a movie, to which we went sprinting out the door to escape the kiddies for a few hours. I know, how original. Dinner and a movie. There's one theater in this town friends- you tell me what else we were gonna do?!

There are also a couple of birthdays! Samantha's was yesterday, and tomorrow is Allison's. (For those who might be a little confused, we celebrated them last month so they could have parties with their friends). Now they are officially 8 and 11, respectively. We had a party for them on Saturday night. They really did enjoy spending their birthdays with their Nanas.

So now our time on this portion of our trek is coming to an end. Tomorrow everyone is heading out horseback riding. I'm staying behind and will start getting things together for our flight to Boston Wednesday. We will be there for one day, then we head down to NYC/Staten Island for the weekend to see more family, then one more week in the Boston area before we leave for London! We will be meeting up with some podcast friends while in MA- the Wicked Good family and ScottyJ! (Or, "crazy Scott" as my children call him.) Hmmm... this might be a good opportunity to pull out the H2 and get some audio. Politics, anyone? ;-)

~Dani