Thursday, August 30, 2007

August Reading Round Up!

I've just finished my final book for the month (or at least, I think I have!). I've decided to post this a day early, since I feel like I can take a little break and my total is way above what I thought it would be with four months left. Go me!

This month, I read 10 books, most of which I really enjoyed. Two I've reviewed already, so those will be cut and paste jobs from the Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge, the rest will be new. As always, there will probably be some spoilers along the way, so read with caution if you find a title you might read later on!

August was a strange month, readingwise, for me. Around mid-month, I decided I was done reading and I didn't want to do any more, and then I realized I was just tired of depressing books with a weepy ending and a moral to the story. I started and stopped 6 books that didn't make this list, and I decided to read something just for fun. So this month is heavy with "beach reads" and chick lit. But this past week alone I read 3 books, so it was a very good thing.

Without further ado, here we go...

1. A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi. This is one I read for both book club and the reading challenge.

Marlena De Blasi was a chef in St. Louis who traveled to Italy and fell in love with Venice and a man named Fernando. He visited her in St. Louis, where they decided to marry, she sold her house, got rid of most of her possessions, and moved to Venice, marrying a man whom, throughout the book, she calls "the stranger".

A Thousand Days In Venice tells the story of her first meeting with Fernando through their wedding and on into the time that they decide to leave Venice and try something else. Not only is the book a story of their love affair, but it's also a tale of culinary adventure, Italy, and the need to learn new customs and ways of doing things when moving to a new land. The book includes a number of recipes, not a one of which I'm likely to cook, but it adds a nice touch.

So, what did I think? Well, before book club, I thought that the book was "too good" and it was a chore to read, and I still feel that way, but I guess I feel less good about the book having been able to put more thought into why I was feeling that way. This book just basically tried way too hard to be a poetic, lyrical love letter. And it failed. Enough said.

2. A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson. Again, another I decided to use for the Armchair Traveler challenge.

Joan Anderson's husband came home to announce he'd received a wonderful job opportunity across country in Oregon and they were moving. Their two grown sons were married and living lives of their own, and nothing seemed to be tying the Andersons to their home.

Joan shocked her husband and herself when she told him she refused to go and was instead moving to the family cottage on Cape Cod. Thus began a year in her life, living hand to mouth, on the banks of the Cape.

The book was a little bit of "A Gift from the Sea" mingled with life experiences on the Cape. I haven't been to stay on the Cape since I was four years old (I think) and I have some vague, wonderful memories of the place which neatly jived with what Anderson wrote about. The book is a misty watercolor portrait of a popular summer place, but she writes so much of what happens in the off season, and it was enchanting.

I really, really loved this book. It was like a warm cup of cocoa on a cold day. I loved how becoming her own person didn't necessarily mean that Joan couldn't find room in her heart to reconcile with her husband, but that they both needed the wake up call of separation to understand that their life couldn't be what it was before. Her own journey of self discovery gave me time to think about my life as a wife, a sister, a friend, and a human being, and who I am and who I want to be. It was great.

3. Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich. Yes, I finally got my hands on the latest Plum adventure!! This book follows the exploits of Stephanie Plum as she tries to figure out who offed her ex-husband, asshole Dickie Orr, while simultaneously doing a favor for Ranger.

I have to confess, this was not my favorite of the Plum books, but I really enjoyed it. This one, to me, was less laugh-out-loud funny, although based on the reviews over at, I may be one of the few who felt this wasn't a top book for Evanovich.

I enjoyed every page, every word, as I always do, but this one felt a little more guilty-pleasure and a little less I-love-these-freakin'-books good. Go figure!

4. The Undomesticated Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. Ok, my sister has been raving about Kinsella for a while, and I never was interested in the Shopaholic books. However, on a recent perusal over at the Wilderness Library, TUG was on the shelves for a dollar, and I figured, "What the heck!? She raved about it at book club!" and took a chance.

Samantha Sweeting is on the verge of partnership at the prestigious London law firm Carter Spink—the Holy Grail of her entire workaholic life. But when she finds she has made a terrible, costly mistake just before the partnership decision, she's terrified of being fired. In a fog, she stumbles out of the building and onto the nearest train, which drops her in the countryside, where she wanders to a stately home. The nouveau riche lady of the house mistakes her for the new housekeeper—and Samantha is too astonished to correct her. Numb and unable to face returning to London, Samantha tries to master the finer points of laundry, cooking and cleaning. She discovers that the slow life, her pompous but good-hearted employers and the attentions of the handsome gardener, Nathaniel, suit her just fine. But her past is hard to escape, and when she discovers a terrible secret about her firm—and when the media learns that the former legal star is scrubbing toilets for a living—her life becomes more complicated than ever.

I loved this book. It was so entertaining to see Samantha struggle with becoming a housekeeper and making a change for the better in her life. When reading about how stressed out she was and how little time she had for herself in London (her to-do list was hilarious), and seeing her grow into an actual person away from her job, it was great. It gave me hope that someday we'll all stop being who we are for work and start being who we are for fun. And it made me long for the British countryside (so I watched "The Holiday" on DVD again, which was actually a perfect tie-in for this book). Nathaniel was a great character, seeing through Samantha's brave facade, and her employers were absolutely charming in their bumblingishness (is that a word?!). I particularly enjoyed when they tried to convince Samantha that she was bright enough to go back and finish her schooling, little knowing they had a prodigy lawyer on their hands.

The end of the book, which revolves around Samantha's eventualy unmasking and the choices she has to make, was not too terribly trite, but at the same time I was slightly miffed that Kinsella didn't see fit to share the note with the rest of us. Read the book, and you'll know what I mean!

5. Eating Royally by Darren McGrady. If you read my recent post on cooking, you'll know we were cooking from this book. But more than a cookbook, it's also a memoir of one chef's time in the royal kitchens.

Darren McGrady began working for the Royal Family as a pastry chef and quickly moved up the ranks to serve as Diana's personal chef until her death in 1997. Here he presents many of the recipes he served the Royals, and Diana in particular. Filled with artifacts, personal notes, photographs and never-before-seen memorabilia, this is much more than a cookbook. It is an opportunity to see how the Royals really live and to eat the exact recipes that graced the tables of Windsor, Balmoral, Kensington, and Buckingham Palaces.

The book is filled with entertaining anecdotes about the Royal Family as well as amazing facts about the royal residences. For instance, I think it is Windsor Castle where the kitchen is a 20 minute walk from the dining room, and the food still has to arrive hot and fresh. Aboard the royal yacht Britannia (now decommissioned), they were working in such small quarters, there was a special sailor whose sole job was to go up and down a ladder to get food from the pantry below decks. The fun and affectionate remembrances of the family were also great to read. I look forward to trying more recipes from this wonderful book.

6. Nearlyweds by Beth Kendrick. This was one of my chick lit titles for the month. The premise of the book is that three women are married the same weekend by the same minister. He drops dead before signing and filing the women's marriage licenses, and when they are informed of such, they are facing some betrayals as new wives that make them unsure of whether not they want to re-tie the knot.

This was a fun and quick read. All three women face very different issues which lead them to be unsure in their marriages, and the struggles they faced made me immediately jump to the conclusion that all of them should dump the bastards. However, Kendrick's skill with the story is such that you actually do feel for them and want to know how they'll solve the problems and fall in love all over again. And by the end, you're somewhat in love with at least one husband yourself.

Fun stuff, not taxing, perfect for your next beach vacation!

7. A Tale of Two Sisters by Anna Maxted.

Cassie is slender, clever, charismatic, successful. The one flaw in her perfect life may be her marriage. Her sister Lizbet is plumper, plainer, dreamier. An aspiring journalist, she's stuck writing embarrassing articles on sex for Ladz Mag. Her one achievement is her relationship with Tim, who thinks she's amusing and smart. Despite Cassie being the favored child, she and Lizbet have always been best friends. But then Lizbet gets pregnant.

Forced apart by mistakes not their own, enticed by new loves, and confronted by challenges they never asked for, Cassie and Lizbet struggle to rediscover the simple goodness of their sisterhood, even as their lives take them on a collision course of heartache and new beginnings.

I really liked this book as well. In fact, of all the chick lit books I've read this month, this was probably my favorite one. The complicated relationship Cassie and Lizbet share, the secrets they keep from one another and between themselves, the supporting characters, it all added up to one great story. I cheered for each of them as they get their lives together and as their relationship ebbs and flows like that of a normal sisterly relationship (or at least normal as similar to the relationship I have with my sister). The book was sweet, and happily there was a bit of an epilogue, which I'm coming to enjoy more and more with each of these books I read. I always want to know how things turn out, and I was more than satisfied with the rest of Cassie and Lizbet's lives. Fun book, great story, a little more intense than Undomesticated Goddess or Nearlyweds, but it was worth the extra effort!

8. The Pact by Jodi Piccoult. One of the girls in my book club said this was her favorite of Jodi Piccoult's books, and one day during my lunch break, I went to B&N and read half of it. I was interested to see how it turned out, so last Friday, I went to Borders, grabbed a copy, finished it, and made use of their liberal return policy and brought it back. So yeah, it was not one of my favorites of hers (I think that title still belongs to Picture Perfect).

Until the phone calls came at three o'clock on a November morning, the Golds and their neighbors, the Hartes, had been inseparable. It was no surprise to anyone when their teenage children, Chris and Emily, began showing signs that their relationship was moving beyond that of lifelong friends. But now seventeen-year-old Emily is dead—shot with a gun her beloved and devoted Chris pilfered from his father's cabinet as part of an apparent suicide pact—leaving two devastated families stranded in the dark and dense predawn, desperate for answers about an unthinkable act and the children they never really knew.

****If you should buy this book from, please do not purchase it from the "P.S." edition page, which gives away the entire story in one fell swoop.****

The book was pretty good, although frankly I thought that the story was a wee bit far-fetched, but again, most of her endings are. Chris eventually stands accused of Emily's murder, and while Emily's mother withdraws, Emily's father takes Chris's side in the whole thing and begins an affair with Chris's mother. And that's not even the half of it. I have Keeping Faith on the shelf downstairs, but I suspect I might wind up taking a Piccoult break till after meeting her at the National Book Festival (anyone want to go?!). I get so aggravated every time the books end that I feel like a break is a good thing. Still, it was a page turner, I read the whole thing in 2 sittings, and while not my favorite, I do feel like it's a good piece of the body of her work. I don't regret reading it, but just won't read it again! Approach with caution, this turned into my least favorite of hers (a place which was previously held by Vanishing Acts.)

9. The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe. When I started reading The Book Club, I was swept away by a strong sense of the ghosts of Jennifer Chiaverini following me through the pages of this one. The writing styles are tremendously similar--very simple prose, not a lot of heavy duty SAT words (which is fine with me!), no cussin', and straight story lines.

Monroe's novel opens as five friends, all members of a monthly book club, face turning points in their lives. Eve's husband dies suddenly, shattering her comfortable lifestyle, while Midge's mother makes an unannounced and unwelcomed reappearance. Annie finally feels ready to have a child, only to find her health and her marriage in jeopardy. Gabriella strains to make ends meet after her husband is laid off; Doris slides into depression as she tries to deny signs of her husband's infidelity. Sometimes close to and sometimes at odds with each other, the friends struggle to face harsh realities and, in the process, gain new independence. The actual book club of the title plays an oddly small role in this celebration of friendship and growth. felt that the books the women read had very little relevence to the story line, but actually, I quite disagree. I felt that Monroe skillfully selected books that had quotations directly relating to whatever each chapter was about. And the books were wide ranging and the topics widely varied. The only time I groaned was when the women decided one of their books should be The Bible out of nowhere. As a not-too-religious person, and as most of the characters were not themselves religious, this seemed like pandering to a crowd, in my opinion. I was tremendously disappointed.

Also, I must be honest, I didn't see why all the women were friends. This one was jealous of that one, that one thought that one was too sanctimonious. For a small book club, I can't see that it would last. Of course in my book club there's a bit of gossip and crabbing about people--probably crabbing about me as the Supreme Dictator most of all--but in such a small group, it would seem to me impossible to keep together. Of course it all ends with tears and chocolate, so what do I know? :-)

10. Dumping Billy by Olivia Goldsmith.

The review says nearly all of it:

Kate Jameson has outgrown her Brooklyn gang: Bina, Bunny, Barbie and Bev, aka the Bitches of Bushwick. While the Bs still go for French manicures and (gasp) matching furniture, Kate has embraced the urbane life. She has a Chelsea apartment and a neat job as school psychologist at Andrew Country Day "in the best neighborhood in Manhattan." But when Kate meets bad boy bar owner Billy Nolan in her natal borough, she instantly wants to get Brooklyn back into the girl. He's hot for her, too, but fate intervenes in the form of Kate's best friend, Elliot Winston. Elliot and his boyfriend, Brice, are determined to keep Kate from committing romantic folly yet again. In a plot twist, Elliot notices that every time Billy dumps a girl, she marries the next guy she dates. So instead of following heart and loins to Billy's bed, Kate helps Elliot engineer a match between Billy and Bina, whose putative fiancé, Jack, went to Hong Kong without giving her the anticipated diamond. Minor complications abound, as Bina dates Billy but falls for someone else, and Kate's burning jealousy blinds her to the truth long after the reader sees it. Goldsmith's fans will perhaps forgive the almost farcical absence of reality; others may resent not only the illogic but also the stereotyping of gays, Jews, working-class Catholics and nearly everybody else. If Goldsmith had affection for her characters, she hid it well.

Rarely in literature have I encountered a character I despised as much as I despised Kate Jameson. She was a self-righteous, sanctimonious, I'm-way-cooler-than-you b-i-t-c-h. She looks down on her friends, acts like she's a goddess of fashion and culture, treats people like garbage, and I absolutely hated her. Which distresses me, because I really, really wanted to like this book. But it was despicable from start to finish. I don't know why I even finished it, other than sheer tenacity, but with a page to go, I sat in front of the computer, and as soon as I read the final word, logged onto PaperbackSwap and BookMooch and posted the book. Quel Surprise. No one wants it. Don't bother with this book. I'm saving you hours of aggravation.

So that's it for August! 10 books in 30 days, not too shabby. It breaks down like this:

The Excellent: Eating Royally

The Great: A Tale of Two Sisters, A Year by the Sea, The Undomesticated Goddess

The Good: Lean Mean Thirteen, Nearlyweds

The OK: The Book Club, The Pact

The Bad: A Thousand Days in Venice

The Awful: Dumping Billy

Totals for August:

Books Read: 10
Pages Read: 3,240

Totals for 2007:

Books Read: 76
Pages Read: 24,884

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Lines of Communication...

So, last night, I could not sleep. At all. I was up until 4:30 this morning. I don't know why, this NEVER happens to me. I pride myself on being a champion sleeper. However, last night with one thing and another, I guess I've been worried about some things and I just lay there, tossing and turning till I got back up.

So, one of the things I've been worried about is a friend with some mental health issues who is becoming increasingly withdrawn. I'll call him Dave. So I discussed my concerns about Dave with the General, who did his best to reassure me over the weekend that no matter what, everything would be fine, and I shouldn't worry about finding a body or anything.

Last night, the General got home and he was upset about Dave and shared that he actually has the same concerns as I do.

So this morning at 4:30AM, he gets dressed, turns his ears on, and asks me what's wrong. I said I didn't know, and he asked me if I was worried about what we talked about. I assumed he meant about Dave.

The conversation went like this:

ME: Yeah, maybe I am worried about it.

GENERAL: You know, I understand, but I want you to know we're doing everything we can. That's why I love going to work in the morning.

ME (puzzled, but ignoring it for now): I know, but what if something happens?

GENERAL: Something's probably going to happen. In fact, I'm going to tell you right now, I wouldn't be surprised if something happened. But that's why we do what we do.

Me: I don't know if that's enough.

GENERAL: Honey, it might not be, but we have many tools at our disposal to take care of the situation and try to avert a crisis.

Me: But what if we're too late?

GENERAL: We won't be. And I know we argued about this, but this is exactly why we need things like the Patriot Act in some situations.

Me: How is that going to help?

GENERAL: We can root out the problem before it becomes a problem.

Me: How is that going to help Dave and his problems?!


Me: I think we're talking about two different things here, honey. I suspect you're talking about our argument over dinner, and I'm talking about Dave.

So, Dave, beware, the full force of the US Government is out there to prevent you from offing yourself. Think about it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Literary Chain Letter

I've received a book related chain letter in the mail from a friend. I really want to participate in it, but I don't want to send anyone a chain letter who doesn't want it.

The way it works is that you send a used paperback to the person whose address is listed on the letter. Then you remove their address and put the address of the person who sent it to you on the letter. Then send it to 6 people. You should get 36 books in return.

If you'd like to participate and help me out, drop me a line! :-) I would love to participate and get some books, but again, I don't want to harrass anyone who doesn't want to be harrassed. Thanks!

Cleanin' Time

This weekend, I plan to clean. A lot. I plan to take out a boatload of frustration on our chain link fence and get rid of it, I plan to clean my house top to bottom (again), and I plan to do some other cleaning that needs doing.

I'm starting here. I'm going to be cleaning up the left hand side of my blog. If you see that the link to your blog has disappeared, please note that I still love you, but if you haven't blogged in a while, I'm taking you off. If you start blogging again, I'll add you back. :) I've still got you bookmarked.

I'm feeling a need for freedom from clutter and my blog needs it too!!! So there may be some changes a-comin'!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mmm, Part Deux

So, today was the big day! Cooking Royally. Oh my gosh.

Joe came down last night and over breakfast, he, the General, and I all tried to decide what recipe out of Eating Royally we would all enjoy. It was every bit the challenge I expected it would be, since Joe was heavily lobbying for salmon or goat cheese, both of which I hate, and the General was glaring with every recipe. Finally, I made an executive decision that we'd be eating Pojarksi Smitane, which was a fancy word for some sort of Polish meatballs. We'd substitute ground turkey for veal, since none of us was too hot to trot on eating veal, and Joe offered to make "Elsie's Potatoes"--oven roasted potatoes with olive oil and rosemary. We also divised a green bean dish of oven roasted green beans and baby bella mushrooms in olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar.

And so it was. We started the morning by making the Queen's Birthday cake, a decadent chocolate cake made with little else than a pound of chocolate, a pint of heavy cream, and a lot of eggs. The chocolate and cream made a delectable cream filling that probably ought to be illegal, and the eggs combined with sugar and cocoa powder and flour to make a light as air sponge cake that was to die for.

We whipped up another batch of the chocolate and cream and poured it, still hot, over top of the cake and filling, which we had torted together. We are kicking ourselves that we didn't take a picture of the finished cake, but here's a photo of it as we were first pouring the molten ganache over it.

Around 4:30ish, Melissa arrived, and we started the earnest cooking. She brought me the gift of an ulu knife from her trip to Alaska, and I should have used it, because the Pojarski had a decent number of vegetables to dice, and I would have loved to try it out.

But, we all swung into action, and the whole process went together very quickly. Honestly, the recipe looked a lot more complicated than it was, and while we forgot to buy celery, we improvised with extra onions and celery salt. We struggled a little bit with the timing, but other than that, it went really, really smoothly.

To be honest, I wasn't too sure if I would like the Pojarski, since they contain the zest of an entire lemon and I am not really a lemon person. The sauce contained a lot of lemon juice. But I was game, since I figured we'd all either love it or hate it, and we were brimming with anticipation by the time the whole thing was ready to go on the table.

(We cooked to the beat of Princess Diana the Musical for a little extra flair.)

Melissa and I got out the good tablecloth, china, and real cloth napkins, and then we dished everything in real serving dishes and brought it to the table. This was my plate as we began to eat:

The sauce for the Pojarksi contained a lot of paprika, which explains the orange color. It also contained broth (we used vegetable, although we were supposed to use beef), onions, butter, heavy cream, the aforementioned lemon juice, and a variety of spices. Joe cooked it with the prowess of a master.

By the time we sat down to eat, our mouths were watering. The house smelled so good!! The food was actually amazingly delicious, although sad to say that The General did not go for the Pojarski. He wound up loving the potatoes and had those and a ham and cheese sandwich. :-) But he tried everything, so I give him credit, 100%.

After dinner, we cut into the Queen's cake, which was insanely good. The chocolate was so rich, and so sinful, we still have half the cake left and it was only a single layer cake to begin with. All involved agreed it was a big success and we need to do it again. And we've all agreed (even Joe) that Lobster Thermador is our next test recipe :-)

Of course, I'm not going to eat again for a month--I've got heavy cream running through my veins. But I know it's going to be great. And it was a really fun way to remember a princess and be treated like one at the same time.

(Extra love and thanks to Joe, Melissa, and the General for another wonderful time)

Friday, August 24, 2007


So last night was the night I have been waiting for for five years, ever since I discovered a place called The Melting Pot exists. Michael told me he would do whatever I wanted for my birthday with my family so far away, although I must say, for having to work, Judy made a great show of it on Wednesday and yesterday--we actually spent more than half the day together.

But again, I digress.

So, I wanted to go to the Melting Pot. We were both working yesterday and it seemed like a good thing to do. So I told Michael to make reservations and off we went.

I was a little put off when we first got there, because the hostess was really slow. I figured maybe this was the course of the whole evening... How wrong I was!

When it was our turn to be seated, she took us to a table where there was a big bouquet of balloons secured to a bar of chocolate with gift certificates, plus a bouquet of roses. The room we were seated in was quiet and secluded and Michael and I were able to sit side by side instead of across from each other. It was so cozy and magic, I got a little misty eyed.

Our fondue master came right over and showed us through the menu and gave us some time to look over what we wanted. We decided to go for the "lobster fusion" 4 course meal, and I was so excited, I could hardly sit still. I was swooning.

We started with their Mediterranean cheese fondue, which was gruyere and fontina cheeses melted in white wine with dates, shallots, and garlic. OH MY GOD. I don't even really like cheese all that much--but I love fondue--and I could have sipped this straight from the pot. The crudites were bottomless, although we didn't need to get refills, and we were given a dish of apples, a dish of vegetables, and a dish of bread. It was so damned good. The apples were crisp and tart and cold against the hot and mellow cheese. Ooooh...

As I took in the ambience (or as we laughingly call it ambi-ants in deference to a family member's mispronunciation), I got all misty eyed again. My husband and I, grown ups! Ahhh... So of course, they came by with a digital camera and took our picture!! :-) Which they gave to us in a REAL picture frame--lovely silver frame with their logo in the corner. It is now residing on my bureau with the roses.

I had a good Caesar salad, though to be honest, there wasn't anything outstanding about it, but who cared?! The salad was an afterthought. And then the main course arrived.

The meat fondue begins with a pot of vegetable stock, and then you can select different things they add to it for flavor. We decided to get the Coq au Vin fondue, which was red wine, mushrooms, garlic, fresh herbs, and spices. Our meat plate had a lobster tail, filet mignon, chicken, sirloin, pork, shrimp, and ravioli. There was also a full dish of vegetables that we threw right in the pot. We put each piece of meat in for between 90 seconds and 2 minutes and then we could either eat it right out of the pot or use one of the 10 different dipping sauces.

To say it was divine would be an understatement. It cooked up so beautifully, and it was so much fun to share a quiet conversation and some amazing food. We couldn't even finish it. So we just chucked everything that was left over in the pot afterwards and brought it all home.

Then came the dessert fondue!!! We could scarcely choose between all the chocolates, but finally decided on the Yin and Yang, a swirl of white and dark chocolates. It came with a plate of strawberries, bananas, almond biscotti, poundcake, cheesecake, brownies, and marshmallows. Michael bartered for the cheesecake, which I smothered in chocolate for him and which he loved. I got the strawberries in return. We split everything else. It was scrumptious.

Sadly, all good things come to an end, and the night was over, but I cried all the way home, I was so touched by the experience. Not only had Michael told them to give me "the works" and surprised me with the personal touches, but we were treated just like everyone else in the restaurant--no better and certainly no worse. For the spouse of a disabled person, that was the best gift of all: to go out with my husband and be treated like we were average.

It's been a great birthday, all in all. I've been pampered and spoiled by everyone since last week when Paula and Terri took me to tea and the first cards and gifts began arriving this week. This weekend Joe will be down to prepare me the Queen's birthday cake from Eating Royally, and then it'll be back to being good and regular Susan again. My mom sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers fit for a queen--sunflowers and irises. Purple and gold look so regal together. They are gracing my dining room, where they add a certain panache to my table. My sister got me a pedicure, plus a signed book, plus the "Best of Dog the Bounty Hunter" DVD's. My dad sent me Lost, seasons 1 and 2 on DVD and a card that made me cry. Hank and Sheila sent me a gift card for new clothes. And Joe is bringing me something tonight that he was dying to give me on Sunday, but I wouldn't let him. :) So more to come. In spite of all the crabbing I do, I wouldn't trade my inner circle for all the gold in the Federal Reserve. Magical, every one of them.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I feel like God is in Heaven screaming at me, "What more do I have to do to convince you that you need to get off your duff and get some exercise!?" The signs are coming from all sides--a pile of my friends are on diets, I joined CommonHealth at work, I'm working with clients who are ill from years of bodily neglect. And I'm screaming back at God, "Ok! I GET IT! Just give me a job that doesn't have me on the road stressing out all day so I have a little energy when I get home!"

Well, last night my sister came over to celebrate my big day, and I had gotten a Dancing With the Stars exercise DVD two months ago. It was still shrinkwrapped in its original packaging. Since my sister is looking so great these days, I figured she'd be up for it. We used to "Sweat to the Oldies" together, and frankly, the treadmill is not cutting it for me--I don't like walking in one place for more than about 10 minutes, even with the TV on. I do like to walk our neighborhood when the weather's good, but it's summer in Virginia, and when it's not 9,000 degrees, it's pouring.

But I digress. So, we decided to "Dance With the Stars". That Maksim is yummy, and the DVD promised to be for all skill levels, even beginners. Judy was game, so we popped the DVD in and were ready to become dancing stars.

I knew we were doomed when I said "Let's learn to foxtrot", dramatically threw my arms in the air, and the remote flew out of my hand, hit the collage I made of our Vegas trip, and fell on the floor, batteries scattered.

When we recovered from our giggles, we began. The warm ups were pretty good, and then it started to get intense.

(Now, I must say, this is probably a hell of a lot easier on hardwood floors, but I've got craptastic carpet and until I can afford otherwise, that's what we're exercising on. And also, we both got pedicures yesterday--a birthday treat from my sister, so our feet offered no resistance)

So, we start doing lunges. Why, I do not know. And Judy is lunging barefoot. And her foot keeps lunging, until she does a perfect split, her foot stopped only by my TV cabinet. We were in tears we were laughing so hard.

We get through the first two routines, which were about impossible not because they were difficult but because the instructors (sorry to say, Maksim and Ashley--I THINK) were not really telling you what to do. We paso doble'ed and something elsed and then Kym took over and taught us how to samba. And she was a great instructor. She told us what to do with our feet, our arms, etc. We were doing so well, although frankly, our turns need work, and then all of a sudden we shot backwards too far and I fell onto the couch and Judy cracked her heel on the couch. We just laid there laughing... It was the first time either of us had felt slightly coordinated in the past 40 minutes, and then we both crashed.

Well, by the time all that was over and we did the jive, we were beat, so we fast forwarded through putting all the dances together into one big routine and just did the cool down.

That DVD was great for a laugh, and for someone who has been avoiding exercise, it was a good time. :-) I'll probably alternate that and Richard Simmons, which I still have believe it or not, with walks around my block and see how I feel. Exercise is definitely less of a PITA with a good friend and a good giggle to get you through.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sometimes You Just Stay Friends

Many people I've met via the internet have come and gone in my life. I think it's the nature of the beast. The connection is somewhat tenuous anyway, and then since you don't always live nearby, you aren't able to spend time together and make your friendships work.

However, when it works, it works. And I've always found it so funny the people who stick close through the years, how we've managed to make it work. Particularly since I am often better "on paper" than in real life.

One such person is Jer, pictured above with the General and me. We first met in person exactly 10 years ago this month in his hometown of Marion, OH. He and my mom had been chatting on line and when I made the ill-fated move to Utah, we stopped on our way to meet him and his mom. When Mom, Judy, and I traveled to Indiana for her birthday, we stopped on our way home to see him, and the last time we've seen each other was when I moved to Arkansas in 1999. Now, you must understand, we are still friends mainly due to his tenacity in keeping in touch with me. He somehow finds my phone numbers, maintains my email addresses, and has kept me on his Yahoo Messenger despite the fact I only log onto Messenger about once every 3 months any more. We always have real pleasant chats, and then swap emails for a couple weeks, and then he contacts me six months later and I hear, "What's up, crackhead?" on the phone and know it can only be one person, and we're off and running again.

So, here we are, 2007, and Jer got married. And he and his wife were coming to DC and wanted to see if we could all meet up. The timing was perfect, and so yesterday, he and Mike finally met, and I got to meet his wife, Kathy.

We wound up spending yesterday together on the National Mall. We ate lunch at the Pavilion Cafe in the sculpture garden, and then decided to do all the monuments since there wasn't time to do the Smithsonian. It was a beautiful day on the Mall-no humidity, low 80's, so we parked at the WWII memorial, and walked from there to the Lincoln Memorial and back again. Kathy, a Candian emigree, declared everything "awesome". :-) She and I are very similar and I think Jer and Mike have some similarities, so it was a very entertaining day together.

After the Mall, we dined at Union Station, where we went through sodas and lemonades as fast as the waitress could bring them (unfortunately she was quite slow). Then Kathy and I made a beeline for Godiva Chocolates and then I took them to the FDR Memorial for an evening tour.

It was fun to be on the Mall, great to see Jer, great to meet his wife, and nice to spend time with my husband out of the house. Thanks, Jer, for a great 10 years! Let's do it again sometime, and not take so long :-)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Virginia Is for Lovers...

...and gangsters.

Friday, August 17, 2007

This Doesn't Bode Well

Conversation between me and my dad tonight...

Dad: What do you have coming up next week?

Me: Well, let's see, Judy's coming over on Tuesday.

Dad: Tuesday!? Why?

Me: Well, she has to work on Thursday.

Dad: What's Thursday?

Me: birthday?

Dad: It's your birthday already?

Me: Well, it will be on Thursday.

Dad: What day is today?

Me: Friday the 17th.

Dad: Your birthday's next week? Are you sure?

Me: Um, yeah. Same date as last year.

Dad: Hmmm.


Frustration sets in.

I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.
I am frustrated.

OK, got it?

My birthday gift to myself was "Eating Royally", a cookbook written by Princess Diana's personal chef. As you already know, the General bought me a KitchenAid stand mixer. The perfect time to do a little cooking, right?

So I started making plans--invited my cooking buddy Joe on down. Right from the start, I know we're heading for the danger zone. Selecting a random recipe, I gleefully cried, "We can make Lobster Thermidor!" Joe replied, "I'm not eating that."

Between Joe suddenly deciding he's a vegetarian and the General flat out refusing to eat vegetables and my sister's food allergies, it's a miracle we eat.

I am so freakin' frustrated.

So, by God, I'm making Lobster Thermidor, or something else from the cookbook, and Joe and the General can go to McDonald's. Except not, since they have meat in their salads.

Any omnivores out there want to come over and cook? Please? It'll be fun. I promise!

Armchair Traveler Book Challenge, Entry 3

I have just completed my third book for the Armchair Traveler Challenge, and again, it's a book that didn't make the initial cut, but these books seem to keep falling into my lap and fitting the theme perfectly.

This time, I've read A Year by the Sea by Joan Anderson.

Joan Anderson's husband came home to announce he'd received a wonderful job opportunity across country in Oregon and they were moving. Their two grown sons were married and living lives of their own, and nothing seemed to be tying the Andersons to their home.

Joan shocked her husband and herself when she told him she refused to go and was instead moving to the family cottage on Cape Cod. Thus began a year in her life, living hand to mouth, on the banks of the Cape.

The book was a little bit of "A Gift from the Sea" mingled with life experiences on the Cape. I haven't been to stay on the Cape since I was four years old (I think) and I have some vague, wonderful memories of the place which neatly jived with what Anderson wrote about. The book is a misty watercolor portrait of a popular summer place, but she writes so much of what happens in the off season, and it was enchanting.

The book starts with one of my favorite parts, which is when she is told by locals that there is a little colony of seals living on an outcropping. Impulsively, she asks a local clammer to take her out to them, and he agrees to do so.

In the distance, I spot an island, a grand mound of tan rising from nowhere with a darkened spot in its center...And I see them--hundreds of beached blimps, smooth blobs of gray, brown, and beige, bespeckled creatures that blend into their space.

"How close can we get?" I ask. Just then a whiskered face pops up from beneath the sea. "Is this close enough?" Josh asks.

"Hello," I say spontaneously. It seems a natural reaction to speak back to a face that holds my gaze, eyes never blinking. And then, just as quickly as the seal has appeared, it disappears under the water, reemerging some fifty feet away, looking back to see if I'm following...

Anderson later spends her last night of solitude on an island in the Cape, and plays a similar game of Follow the Leader with the seals.

The book describes in wonderful tones life in a small seaside cottage. Anderson talks about the people left behind when the summer tourists leave--the salty fishermen, the locals who gaze at her suspiciously when she doesn't leave like all the rest of "them". She works hard to push through her anxieties at being an outsider and eventually turns into one of the "them" who watches the summer tourists pack up and leave with pity and bemusement.

And wonderfully, you can see the transformation that her year provides--she goes from being a shell of a person to being more fully in command of her own feelings and needs. When she and her husband eventually reconcile, the separation was good on both of them, and they will have their own time by the sea.

Anyone who has ever been to the Cape, or just wanted the Cape experience will enjoy this book. It is an authentic piece that gives a real sense of everything I love about being near the ocean, from shelling to eating seafood to having to say goodbye. I felt so tranquil while reading the book, it was like I was in another world. And perhaps that's what I like best about my trips to the ocean after all.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Visit With Michael's Family

Michael's sister Paula and Terri left today to go back to Boston, capping the end of a two week stint of company. The house is oddly quiet today!

We had a great visit with Paula and Terri--it was their first time here since we'd moved. It was kind of tough moving from Acton, since although we never saw them, we were right down the street, and just knowing they were there was enough during the hard times.

We took them to all the most important Mike and Susan sights. We started off with dinner at Joe's Pizza in Fairfax, which they loved. Of course, George, the manager, was thrilled to see us, and they put on quite a spread.

Saturday, we took them all around Fredericksburg to see what was in our little town. Upon getting home, Terri and I spent the afternoon hashing out Princess Diana memorial talk and trolling Ebay for items we didn't have yet! We found several and although we lost 2 auctions, we got a couple awesome things off, including a CD of "Princess Diana: the Musical". I also got "Eating Royally"-a cookbook by Diana's personal chef. Since my new mixer arrived this weekend by some miracle/error in shipping, I intend to spend all next weekend creating recipes that Michael won't eat! :) The CD hasn't arrived yet, but I just know it's gonna be amazing. Paula and Michael spent the time watching the Red Sox.

Saturday night we drove them up to DC to see the FDR and WWII memorials at night. Anyone who has been to DC knows that night time is the time to come and see those two memorials in particular. We also took them down to see the Tidal Basin and the Capitol building. Paula said it was an experience she will never forget. It was a gorgeous night and definitely we couldn't have picked a better time to do it.

Sunday was relaxing. Paula wanted to do some yardwork for us, as it is one of her hobbies and she likes to be outside, so she did that. Terri spent the day relaxing. I did some grocery shopping and that night we cooked a bit and then watched the Princess Diana documentary on TLC, which I have to say was pretty well done, actually. I felt like it was mostly accurate.

Monday, I had to work and of course see Dog, so they were left to their own devices for a while. Tuesday they went to DC, and they took a picture of the Die Hard stuff at the Smithsonian for me! WOO HOO!! They had a lot of trouble with the VRE (Very Rarely Express) so I wound up driving them to Springfield that morning and then they took a train two trains later than planned back to F'burg. We were going to go to the Melting Pot for my birthday dinner, but it was getting late and so we decided to go to Melissa's recommended place in F'burg, J.Brien's. It was perfect--pretty empty and quiet!! We had a great dinner, and then headed out to watch the Dog special.

This morning they packed up and my person cancelled, so we all decided to have lunch together. They wanted to take me to the English tea shop for my birthday, which is what we did. We all had Victorian afternoon tea, which was to die for. Terri said she felt like she was back in England and Paula wanted to buy scones to take on the plane :) Finally, it was all over and sadly I had to take them up to Dulles. It was over much too quickly and didn't feel like they were here for 5 days. So hopefully they'll come back again!

It was a wonderful visit and they were great houseguests. I don't think we're due any company for a while, so we're just trying to relax now and take it easy. It's hard to believe it's all over... Come to think of it, where did the summer go!?

I'm off to read a book and fall asleep early. G'night!

An Evening With the Dog

Need I say more? :-)

Yes, probably, as I know some of you are waiting with baited breath to hear about my evening with the one, the only Dog the Bounty Hunter.

Ok, this all went down on Monday evening. My sister and I drove into DC, and we were a little bit early, since I was so freakin' excited to go. We got there at 6:15 for a 7:30 program. So, since we had already been there for the debacle with She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (her initials are MT if you missed my earlier post on the matter), we knew where the stage door was. So we went around the back of the theater, since they have a real nice courtyard and it's conveniently located right outside the parking area for the limousines. We are sitting there, and doesn't a big black car roar up, park, and the back window rolls down halfway and cigarette smoke starts shooting out the window. I saw the strangest tuft of blond hair and I knew. It was the Dog. So we just sat there, pretending to be cool, and Dog sat in his limo, smoking.

Finally, at 7:00, we'd had enough cat and mouse and decided to go inside. I bought some books, and was promised that Dog would sign them afterwards. We were told he didn't want anyone taking pictures (fear not, as you can see, I took them!).

We found our seats-fifth row center, yeah baby!--and sat there, getting more and more excited. Well, I was anyway, I don't think Judy was too excited till it started. So then, all of a sudden, in the corner, they start screaming, and we look over and it was Beth!!!!! She was peeking in the door to see the crowd. The whole place erupted and she waved and ducked back behind the door. After that, all the cameras came out and all bets were off.

A few minutes later, the auditorium went pitch black. People really started screaming--it was like a rock concert. A single spotlight shone on stage and from behind a podium, Dog leaped out. It was pandemonium. Screaming, clapping, everyone was flashing "hang loose" to Dog who was striding back and forth in his boots and flashing it back, it was great.

So everyone was flashing pictures, but finally it calmed down after a few minutes. And he said he was there to talk about his hunt for Andrew Luster and his subsequent tussels with Mexican law enforcement since he had been cleared the previous week--this of course set loose another round of hollering and screaming.

He told the whole story of deciding to go after Luster, what happened, etc. and how he came to be in the jam with the Mexicans. He talked about his crooked lawyer, about being in trouble with his son and his brother, and about all the hell he went through to catch that guy in the first place--for instance, did you know Dog's electricity got cut off because he didn't have the money to pay the bill, thanks to the money he spent to catch Luster?

Of course, all us ladies went absolutely bananas when he mentioned Leland, which prompted Dog to say, "You ladies all love Leland, don't you?!" (insert frenzied screaming) "Ladies, I made that baby!" (Even more screaming) He then proceeded to make fun of Leland the whole night--but in a funny and cute way that conveyed how much love he has for his entire family.

He talked for an hour and a half and ended with an anecdote in which he said how much he hates people remembering him as an ex-con. He said it really got his goat when he would see "ex-con" in front of his name after he caught Luster and in articles about him even after he had been 20 years removed from that experience. Then he said one day, he was coming in and Beth was reading the papers and she told him to look. He saw his pictures and there was the word "Con" in front of his name and he started yelling, and Beth moved the paper a bit and the article actually read "Icon". And then right on stage, Dog started crying. We were all cheering for him and his turn in fortune.

So he decided to open it up to Q&A and brought Beth out on stage with him. It started out pretty well but soon devolved into "Will you sign my book?" so finally, Beth had enough and took charge. She grabbed the microphone and told Dog, "You sign books, I'll answer questions!" and pointed him over to the couch. He went and sat. Then, she looked at the audience and said, "Anyone who wants a book signed, get against that wall!" It was crazy! Everyone just stood up and did as she said! She was certainly very commanding.

So then, Judy says to me, "You go and get the books signed, I want to ask a question." She gets in the question line and I get in the book line. Sadly, I couldn't get close to Dog, and had to hand the book to his manager, but it was totally understandable--it would have been worse chaos than it was. So I got our books signed, and then I went, took the above picture of Dog, and found Judy in line. I decided to sit in the second row, right on the aisle, so I could be a stone's throw from Beth, and I waited till it was Judy's turn.

She was great! She said, "First, I want to thank both of you for treating us like human beings tonight and signing our books, unlike other events I've been to when they won't even talk to you!" (Take that, MT! HA!) So Beth nodded, and Judy asked, "I wanted to know what the writing process was like?" So Dog actually answered her question!!! I have no idea what he said, but I was so excited that he took a break from signing books, disobeyed Beth, and answered MY SISTER'S question!!! Then when he finished, Judy looked at Beth and said, "My sister's shy, but I'm not, so I'm hoping you'll sign my ticket stub for her." And Beth said, "You want him to sign it?" And Judy said, "No, I want you to sign it." So she did!!!!!!! She handed it back to Judy and Judy shook her hand and then Beth asked her where I was, and Judy pointed to me and Beth asked how long we'd waited for our tickets. So I said we got them on line (miraculously, I found my tongue) and she said we were very lucky and thanks for coming.

Oh my God. Because you know Beth is one of my ass-kickin'-female heroines.

So I have a book autographed by Dog and the ticket stub autographed by Beth.

I went home walking about 15 feet above the pavement with a sore throat. It was an AWESOME night. So much fun, and so interesting and different. I love, love, love, love, love, love, loved it!!! And then of course to watch the Dog special last night was a fitting end to a great evening with the man himself. I hope he comes to DC again some time soon!

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I found this car at a client's home. Read the top 2 bumper stickers first and then read the bottom one.

Some people are just really dumb.

Friday, August 10, 2007


When it rains, it pours. I just finished buying gifts for not one, not two, but THREE weddings, all happening within a month of each other. Add in the five birthdays we have in the next three months, and then it's Christmas, not to mention holiday travel, we're busting out all over the place. Good thing I've started Christmas shopping early.

My dad has gone home and my sister-in-law arrives today. It's exciting to have another member of Michael's family here, as we've had lots of my family down but not too many of his. (And before you say, "Well, it's so far away!" let me tell you, my uncle took the train here to visit us from California--beat that!)

What else? Hmmm... Nancy is leaving us to move to Colorado. That is really sad news, but I'm excited for her and her new opportunities. Hopefully we'll all catch up before she leaves.

Work is crazy, as ever, but they are interviewing some people for a new RT job sooooooooo (sound the trumpets), I won't be driving to Fairfax any more very soon! Since there aren't enough desks to accommodate all the staff members, someone had to be ejected, and I got the tap. I'll be working from home as soon as the new person is hired. I'm very, very excited about that one. No more traffic, long trips, etc. Only once a month for the staff meetings. Good stuff!

Monday is the day of the Dog. :-)

My husband just bought me my much coveted KitchenAid stand mixer for my birthday. He's the greatest. Love you, honey! (I can be bought)

And finally, I have a new online obsession:

Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Sue's Reviews

Ok, I am getting it out in the open. I am a closet Die Hard fan. I caught a snippet of Die Hard 3 one time with Jeremy Irons (hubba hubba) and was hooked. I watched the other films, and while they're usually trying to kill of some anti-government or anti-financial sector whacko, ultimately the films are no-brainers, let's-blow-up-as-much-crap-as-we-can-in-three-hours festivals.

I may be the only person I know with this particular passion, but when I saw this spring that a new Die Hard was coming out, I knew I had to go. I unsuccessfully tried to talk Joe and Judy into going to see it, but I knew I had an ally in my dad, so I told him that on our day together, we were going to watch Bruce Willis blow up the bad guys.

So, Tuesday we went to see Live Free or Die Hard. (If you want to know what this movie is about, keep reading. If not, skip this post. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS--you have been warned)

The tale revolves around a former federal employee who was fired for telling the post 9/11 DHS that their computer systems were flawed and vulnerable to attack. The geniuses at DHS let him design their system and then fired him. So he spends a few years gathering up a collection of hackers who write bits and pieces of code for him which he is compiling with his crack hackin' team and he's going to take down the US of A.

The movie opens with John McClane "rescuing" his daughter Lucy from a zealous boyfriend. Lucy hates his guts. She storms up to her dorm at Rutgers and McClane returns to his car, where he gets a police bulletin that he needs to go to Camden to pick up a kid who is a hacker and haul him to DC to the FBI, which has experienced a temporary glitch in its computer systems, which has happened from being hacked.

McClane shows up at the house of Matt Farrell (played wonderfully by Justin Long--who I still adore after all these years since Ed!) just in time to rescue him from being blown up or shot by some real bad dudes who are sitting outside in a black van waiting for him to trip the bomb they've placed on his computer, activated by his delete button. Bruce saves him from one bad dude by rolling a fire extinguisher down the hall and as the bad guy comes up the stairs, Bruce shoots the extinguisher, causing it to explode and the bad guy to be blasted out the window. Thus the carnage begins.

Eventually he and the kid make it to DC, just in time for these dudes to take out the transportation system in the entire country--or at least in every major city and many minor cities nationwide. Frankly, they overdid just a bit on the DC side--two or three good traffic jams could have been created by probably 1 good accident on the beltway. Then, they take over Wall Street and the financial sector, and finally they decide to attack the utilities nationwide.

In the meantime, while the feds are figuring all this out, McClane and the kid are running around DC, trying to escape a dude with a machine gun, following them in a helicopter. Finally, they get into a tunnel and the bad guys use their remote system to send traffic into the tunnels from both ends. Caught in the cross traffic, McClane and Matt get out of the car and squat between two vehicles just as the car they were in is broadsided and flies through the air, skimming the tops of their heads and just missing them before crumpling in a heap of scraps. But that's not the end of the bracing tunnel scene--no, no, no! Bruce rigs a car, and manages to send it up a cement pylon, where it goes airborne and takes out the helicopter.

Yeah, boys, we're not skimping on a script, let's think about how we can take out a helicopter with a car!

Eventually, the bad guys kidnap McClane's daughter and Matt, and fortunately for Matt Lucy turns out to be as much of a bad ass as her old man. The head bad guy sticks her on the radio to convince her dad to give himself up, and all she says is, "Dad, there's only five of them left." This earns her a pretty nice smack to the face. When there are but 3 bad dudes left (and there was a starting number in the 30's I'd say), they take off and head for Baltimore, where McClane is chasing them in an 18 wheeler. The bad guys manage to intercept communications with an F18 fighter jet and tell the pilot to blow up the 18 wheeler.

In what has to have been the most unbelievable action sequence I have ever seen, the F18 hovers under an overpass of a major highway in Baltimore, square even with the cab of Bruce's truck, and the bastards STILL miss blowing him up!! In fact, at the last possible moment, Bruce leaps onto the wing of the plane as the pilot ejects and manages to somehow get away from the whole thing, which is spinning out of control, just before it goes down.

At this point, I and the rest of the theater with me was going bananas. GO BRUCE GO!

Of course, McClane gets his man in the end, although he has to shoot himself to do it, and the fate of the free world, which hung in the balance, is restored by the one, the only John McClane, who will probably sink into an alcoholic stupor until Die Hard 5 is released.

I'm counting the hours until a) I can see this one again and b) they announce the next one's coming out.

This was the ulimate summer movie. You didn't have to think about a damned thing. It was fun, it was a shared cinematic experience with everyone around you who were there to see exactly the same thing you are, and the bad guys are bad and die and Bruce survives about 10 explosions, 5 or 6 car wrecks, multiple beatings, and his angsty daughter.

What more can you ask?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Sink Strikes Back

Ok, so, last week, I'm cleaning up the kitchen. Let me start by saying my house has never been cleaner than it is right now. Due to the fact that we never got any real cold this winter, the ants and bugs and critters have not been effectively killed off. In an effort to stave off infestation, I have cleaned house like you would not believe. You could lick my kitchen floor. (I would think you very strange, but you could do it!) We do have some ants trying to invade, so every night, I do a thorough clean of the dishes, the cabinets, table, counters, etc. I've thrown out every open food item in the house. It's insane.

But I digress.

So, last week, I'm cleaning up the kitchen, and I go to turn the faucet on, and I kid you not, the faucet literally flew off when I turned the handle. Water was shooting everywhere, including square up my nose, all over my new windows, and all over my clean counters, which I am also trying to keep dry, as I understand that during heat waves, bugs will come in in search of water.

Fortunately, this turned out to be an easy fix. I just screwed the faucet back on and presto, it was done.

Tonight, I'm cleaning up after dinner. I start running some water in the sink to rinse off the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher and I notice the sink is starting to fill a little bit. Ok, no problem, I'll hit the disposer. I flip the switch and nothing happens. So I say, "What happened to the disposer? It's not working!" My dad immediately jumps up, says "Uh oh" and heads for the basement. I should have known right then that the jig was up and I'd found my culprit, but I gamely follow him and we discover that all the circuits are fine, none had been tripped, everything was working. Ok, so I trip a few on and off just to be sure, go upstairs and flip the switch again. Nothing. But there is A LOT of water in the sink. So I think, "Well, maybe it's a little clogged, let's see what's in here."

I go to put my hand in the disposer, and my hand only goes in up to the first knuckle on the end of my finger. Mmm hmmm... I'm starting to get a clear picture now.

I feel something kind of funny, and I reach in and pull out: a coffee filter.

I said, "Dad, did you put a coffee filter in the disposal!?"

Dad sheepishly replies, "Um, yes."

Michael jumps in with, "GEORGE!"

I reach in again. I pull out a whole banana peel. I knew damned good and well it was his because bananas are number one on my most-hated-fruit list and Michael hasn't eaten any lately. I give Dad the eye and go back to trolling for treasure.

I reach down in there again and I feel what seems like a slimy brick wall. This is not good.

I kid you not, I pulled out the rind of half a honeydew melon. It had been crammed into that disposal like a slab of cement had been poured into it. It took me a good 5 minutes to clear it all out.

"Dad, you can't put a hard rind like this in the disposal!"

"Why not?!"

"Do you see the disposal not working?"


"THAT'S why not!"

"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of."

I reach under the unit and hit the reset button and the disposal is back to working just fine. I could have about strangled my dad though!!! AUGH!

Hopefully the sink has concluded its revolt. If the disposal ever goes, I'm sunk. I live to disposal things. And since Mike and Dad are hellbent on destroying our new shredder (they literally shredded about 6 years worth of old bank statements and other documents and overheated it--they wound up with a full trash bag of shredded paper--and not a grocery sack either!), I'll kill them if the disposal goes down irreparably.

So chug on, little sink, I'm on your side.

In Case You're Wondering...

...this heat wave sucks balls.

The heat index in Fredericksburg today as 115 degrees. Seriously, I did not sign up for this.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

It's Hard to Believe...'s been a year.

Missing you, Tim, and wishing you were here so just one more time we could tell you we love you.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Thousand Days in Venice

I have finished book 2 in my Armchair Traveler reading challenge extravaganza. It was a tough one, but I succeeded at 11:30 last night.

My second book was also one that didn't make the initial cut--I'd never heard of it till it was chosen as this month's book club selection. The book is A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi.

Marlena De Blasi was a chef in St. Louis who traveled to Italy and fell in love with Venice and a man named Fernando. He visited her in St. Louis, where they decided to marry, she sold her house, got rid of most of her possessions, and moved to Venice, marrying a man whom, throughout the book, she calls "the stranger".

A Thousand Days In Venice tells the story of her first meeting with Fernando through their wedding and on into the time that they decide to leave Venice and try something else. Not only is the book a story of their love affair, but it's also a tale of culinary adventure, Italy, and the need to learn new customs and ways of doing things when moving to a new land. The book includes a number of recipes, not a one of which I'm likely to cook, but it adds a nice touch.

Have you ever read a book that's just too good? In many ways, I felt this was that book. The first half is achingly slow moving, with tales of their not-quite romance and the details of De Blasi's move and her first days in Venice. But as I got to the end, and read about Italians in general and Venetians specifically, it seems as if this is how they operate, and therein lies the beauty of the book. It's as if De Blasi is the builders renovating her Venice home--taking measurements, arguing about the small details, and then disappearing for a few weeks.

Italy has always been high on the list of places I want to go in the world, but I must say, De Blasi has turned me off on Venice a little bit. Perhaps it is her own upper crust ways and if I were down "with the folks" it would seem a bit less stratospheric, but the people seemed a bit eager to point out her faux pas. The culinary world of Venice was a bit beyond me as well--I for one have no intention of eating pasta washed in squid ink--bless the squid who sacrificed, but no thank you.

Still, many of the people were very warm and inviting and understanding--as for instance was the case on Marlena and Fernando's wedding day when the Italian custom is for the guests to accompany the bride inside but Marlena insists that her cab driver circles the church until everyone is inside. Charmingly, the cab driver does so, not wishing to hurt the American bride's feelings by telling her to get out of the car.

The book was a wonderful excursion into Venetian life in so many ways, but it's not the Italy I want to see, so I'm glad to have a different take on things. I'm glad to have read the book, glad to have finished it (there was a time when I would barely crack it open and I'd be sound asleep), and glad to move onto the next thing. De Blasi is apparently working on a book about her life in Tuscany, where she moves after Venice, but after reading an interview with her on, I have to say, she is not a person I warm up to, so I'm not sure if I will read that one or not. It'll be a while before it's out, and even longer till it's out in paperback, so I have some time to think about it.

Two down, four to go :-) I'm not sure which will be next, but I'm sure it'll be as interesting as the first two.

Doesn't It Figure?

After months of stupidity, I finally went cold turkey and turned off my LonelyGirl15 subscriptions. It was actually pretty interesting for a while, but then it just got way too dragged out and I had enough...

So what do I find out? Yesterday was the end of "season 1" and they killed her off. Go figure... I went to the site to watch it, and I've sat through 4 episodes and still haven't seen her dying end. So I gave up. Probably the fifth would have been the killer one, but who cares.