Friday, October 9, 2009

Computer problems again!

Unbelievable as it may sound, my hard drive has died again. Yes, the one that I just got 3 weeks ago after the last one died. Yes, this is now the 4th one since I got the machine in summer 2008. I was in a distinctly unpleasant mood when I phoned the HP tech line to complain.

This time, instead of simply sending me a replacement hard drive, I'm going to send in the laptop for them to check the motherboard and anything/everything else to see if they can determine what might be causing the drives to repeatedly "poop out" (quote from the tech).

While this will hopefully fix my problems, it also means I'll be without my laptop for probably a good two weeks between shipping and repair time. We do have Alex's desktop, so I can still log on thru webmail to check email, but I find that screen difficult to use, so will probably not be checking it much. I'll still read everything when I can download it properly, of course, but might not have much contact in between.

So if you don't hear from me for a while, you know why. Not that I've been particularly chatty the past few weeks anyway, but... that's because I've been working 60-hour weeks and that's left me a little too tired to deal with a computer!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Census, part 2

The Census office called me today for the next round of work. Yippee! I start training next Tuesday.

When we finished the last round, all the crew leaders I talked to figured training would only be about a day, maybe two, since we couldn't imagine there would be that much extra to learn. Well, it turns out training is actually a whole 5 days. Since they told me to bring my I-9 information again, I'm guessing the majority of the first day will be completing all the paperwork stuff again that I did before.

When I talked to someone at the office last week, they estimated this round would last about 4 weeks. The recruiting guy that called me today said 10 weeks. Guess we'll see which one is more accurate. Either way, some employment is better than none!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Beautiful Ice

On our way home from my parents' house, our flight plan took us across the tip of Canada. As far as we could tell, these are just small icebergs floating in the northern Atlantic. Our neighbors in the aisle seats were leaning over our shoulders to watch the view for a while. Isn't it gorgeous?



Monday, August 10, 2009

Facelift at last

To the creator of wallpaper:
I really don't like you. It seems like such a good idea, until you have to take the stuff down because you just cannot stand the print any longer. Then, it is an enormously tedious job that makes me think very unkind thoughts...

That said, I'm pleased to report that I am finally removing the last vestiges of wallpaper from my house. The front bathroom was the first to go, immediately after I moved in. Later, the master bathroom got stripped. A few years ago, I ripped out the wallpaper in the foyer. Thankfully, these were small areas. (That's about the only time I've been thankful for how small those areas were!)

Knowing how tedious even those little areas were, I've put off the kitchen long past when I wanted to change the look. Once I got started, it took even longer than I'd expected. Apparently the installers wanted to make sure that the heat, condensation, humidity, what-have-you of a kitchen didn't cause the paper to come loose, and so they applied copious quantities of glue. Gallons of the stuff. What a mess! It was applied directly to the drywall, too, so much effort was required to soak and scrape without damaging the wall itself.

Here is what the wallpaper looked like:

Say goodbye:

Now it is a lovely, lightly orange color. Orange? In MY house? Yes, oddly enough, this is the color that Alex and I both decided we liked best. It's called Fall Straw by Behr. I think of a yellow color for straw, but such is not the case in paint. The color has really lightened and opened up the kitchen quite a bit. I'm very pleased with it. And should I get tired of it and want to change it in the future, I can just slap on some paint and have a new look in just a few hours. Unlike the week of scraping it took to get that nasty wallpaper off!

Unfortunately, I'm not quite done. My kitchen is rectangular, with counters, sink, and cabinets on one side, and the stove and fridge on the other side of the walkway. The cabinets side is done, but I still have to pull out the fridge and stove to get the wallpaper back in that area.


At least I have the beautiful other side to look at when I need encouragement to keep scraping and scrubbing and rinsing...

I'll post a picture when everything is put back together again.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

40th anniversary

The reason for our trip to France was to celebrate my parents' 40th anniversary. I'm posting a recap from my mother for your enjoyment.

June 6, 2009

I’d like to thank those who shared their photos with me or used my own camera for me during our anniversary party so that I can have a wonderful pictorial memory. Unfortunately, we only got photos of half the crew working; we don’t seem to have anything showing the hard work Diana and Chip ended up doing, which is too bad as the driveway looked really nice.

Although the day started out beautiful, thunderstorms were called for all day, which was distressing for trying to prepare and decorate. We did get just one small storm in the late afternoon, but the rest of the evening stayed completely dry.

One of the first things we did was move our tables around. Romea, the cat, has a habit of sleeping under a particular table, and she wasn’t perturbed in the slightest when her table got moved. She simply rode the whole way up. Here you can see 14-year old Alex moving the table with his Papy Craig, while his mother Sandi is trying to decorate the gazebo.

Our colors were ruby for the American 40th (apparently the French use emerald) and turquoise, as that’s been our main color since our actual wedding (my favorite color, of course). The girls brought over red tulle and some turquoise "40" items (napkins, plates, and metallic decorations. Sandi, Diana, and Alex got quite creative trying to fulfill their decorating ideas. Our previous neighbors from Paris came early to visit with the kids, but as the weather had put us behind, they very artistically helped us to decorate our food tent. They did a fantastic job!

We’d managed to make our party clothes match our 25th anniversary colors really nicely, so we tried to recreate that effect this time. What we came up with wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind, but I couldn’t find what I had in mind, so we did the best we could. I designed my own outfit, and Craig got a new shirt out of the deal. He also got a new red item to wear for every red occasion (Christmas, for example) to replace the red socks he’s previously worn. It was time to replace them with something else to make the kids groan in future photos.

We started the party with a new cooler for cold water and a red punch for those who didn’t want wine. Several guests brought flowers.

We took a gastronomic tour of four Mediterranean countries. I set up a table with cookbooks and artifacts from each of those countries. For the centerpiece, I used the wine bottle we’d been given and then served at our 25th, which we’ve since turned into a lamp.

As our property is on multiple levels, with each level not being very large, it was often easier to take pictures from up above. The first picture really shows our party tent. To prevent it being too cramped for the 40 guests we were having, I made a canopy with the end flap, thus opening up the end without just exposing everything. I rigged up an umbrella to cover the beverage table and yet keep it out of the way. We set up a reception/gift table in the passageway behind the house from one side yard to the other, using an old drape for a table cover (just happened to be the right color!) and Diana hooked up old curtains for a backdrop. I think the ambiance was pretty classy for such an unclassy area!

Not only is the primary seating area not all that big, but there’s a 300 year old olive tree right smack in the middle of it. I’ve never been able to get grass to grow there, so last year I put down patio blocks. We managed to fit everybody in, just barely! You can see the effect of the Provençal tablecloths. We borrowed tables and chairs from the town hall, and a friend loaned us her party dishes and silverware, avoiding the need for plastic and paper products. You can see the main seating area from the upper level, which leads to the gazebo.

I could seat everybody below except our family, so we just created a special area for us. A bit strange, but you do what you have to do. As we’d run out of tablecloths and dishes used below, we ended up capitalizing on the red and turquoise theme here and used our own dishes. This was all actually set up by the kids, so I didn’t even see it until I sat down to eat. Didn’t they do a really classy job?

This the best I ended up with of my sister and me. She came all the way from CA, this is the first time she’s been able to visit me, so I hope she felt like the end result of our party was worth it. I know she had a great vacation trip otherwise, and the weather was ideal her whole visit.

Ambiance photos: These represent how blessed I am to have had so many friends able to come share our special event. The number I had was quite hectic enough, but there were probably double that number who weren’t able to come. Most of these new friends down here are French, as we haven’t gotten involved with expat groups like we did in Paris. I discovered is that somehow it’s a whole lot easier throwing a large party in a rented hall with lots of space than it is at your own home if said home only contains lots of little spaces. It doesn’t look like anybody minded that, though.

As the theme of the party was foods from multiple countries, I created a complete menu for each one, from soup to nuts (actually, from aperitifs to dessert). We decorated the serving area into four sections with the appropriate colors, and an artistic friend made me some beautiful menu boards. I’ve been to three of the countries represented, so I had some clue as to what was authentic. Many guests brought a dish, having been told exactly what I wanted. I asked for each dish to serve about ten. I think they felt they needed to feed an army single-handedly. We certainly had no fear of running out of anything to eat! A Moroccan friend offered to provide the entire menu for her country, which was the one I hadn’t ever been to personally. Whatever you see is just one course being served at that moment!

Despite not having been together for three years, this is going to be the best family photo we ended up with on this visit. It’s actually quite nice of everybody, just not what one would typically frame up for posterity. Oh, well, my family all prefers candid stuff anyway. This completely represents what we Fearings have created in 40 years. It’s been a good life.

Although I found the main seating area really pretty by day, I think it’s just beautiful by night. I’ve never seen it look like this before (all my dinner parties have been during the day, even in this area). This type of evening is what I envisioned having when we first bought this house seven years ago, but it’s taken this long to actually achieve the dream.

One of the things we did at our 25th anniversary party was to present a large gift bottle of wine and personally serve it with the cheese course. As we also had another large gift bottle (even already red-ribboned) this time around, we thought we’d continue the tradition.

I think the reception area looked really pretty at night. We had some family-through-the-years photos, plus our original wedding pictures and old anniversary photos from back when I used to pose in my wedding dress each year (for the first 30 years). The French seemed to have really gotten a kick out of looking through everything.

This is one of our largest olive trees lighted up for the first time. We definitely plan permanent uplights when we get the area more refined!

When one has a party for oneself, one has to pose. So I made a token cake for a centerpiece, then we did the wedding tradition of cutting the cake and serving it and the champagne toast to each other. It’s a romantic thing at a wedding, it’s a riot forty years later! But the whole idea was to have fun with all our friends, and I think we managed to pull that off. Both the flowers on the cake and the one in my hair came from my own garden, while the 40 topper is leftover scraps from our party clothes.

The next day, we finally had a moment to appreciate the various gifts we’d gotten. They included several flower bouquets, a couple potted plants, special wine and champagne, various miscellaneous items, money from my family for a tree for our property, and our first iPods each from our kids (mine is even turquoise). We were very touched to be so remembered.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little recap of a wonderful event. Perhaps you’ll be able to join us in ten years when we celebrate the big 5-0. Gold will abound!

Barbara & Craig

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Safe Arrival

After quite a long day of travel, we are safely here in Nice. My parents are having their 40th wedding anniversary on Saturday, so we are here for the big party. We flew to Atlanta, then to JFK in New York, then to France. We were blessed with safe, mostly uneventful travel the whole way. Unlike my sister, who was delayed 2 hours due to bad weather, and thus missed her connecting flight.

I did feel quite sorry for the girl next to me on the trip to NY, who was incredibly airsick. Three times.

And the overhead "bong" that malfunctioned and kept bonging excessively during the overseas flight to Nice was rather annoying. Especially since it started during the middle of the night when we were trying to sleep. When Alex asked our attendant what it was, he replied that it was the "mysterious cowbell" and they didn't know what was causing it. "More cowbell" was NOT our opinion!

But there were only a couple of crying babies. Miraculously, all our flights left on time. And we were on them at the time! We had friendly people at the check-in, nice flight attendants, not too much turbulence, and our luggage arrived with us. Good trip!

Friday, May 29, 2009

MS Office certifications - Word

As of today, Alex is a certified user of Microsoft Word 2007. He is working toward the Microsoft Certified Application Specialist certification, and he'll earn the ability to test for parts of the certification each school year as part of his I.T. program. Congrats on his good work!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happiness for my sister

Congratulations to my sister! She took the big - and somewhat frightening - step of closing on her first house today. She's now joined the millions of people who have signed their lives away for 30 years.... Yippee!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

IC3 certification test results

He started his test last week as planned. He finished part one, and had 3 questions left on part two, when the power went out at the school. (It's been lovely weather lately.) He had to be rescheduled to finish it today, since the electricity issue was not resolved in time for him to resume the test before the end of the school day. But now... the results are in...

The scoring is apparently not based solely on the answers provided, but also on how much clicking around you do on the example situations, how long it takes you to reply, etc. He needed a score of 800 to pass. The highest possible score is 1000.
  • Test 1 = 956
  • Test 2 = 956
  • Test 3 = 911
If only the class grades were this good!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

IC3 certification test

"The Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC3) is a series of three exams in the following areas - Computing Fundamentals, Key Applications and Living Online. Each exam has a 45 or 50 minute time limit."

Alex is taking this test tomorrow. He did very well on the practice exam today, so here's hoping he does even better on the real one!

He has an online video he was told to review tonight to make sure he is prepared. We are having fun pointing out all the grammar mistakes the narrator is making...

Monday, May 18, 2009

You Just Never Know

You just never know what to expect around here these days. When I was first hired by the Census, I was told it was a 4-month position.

They miscalculated.

We were done in 6 weeks.

That time frame was based on previous years of doing the same type of work. Except this year, they had hand-held computers for us to use instead of just paper and pencil. And this year, the economy is so poor that people who normally would have quit and dropped out decided to stick it out because they really needed the paycheck.

Fortunately for me, I had favor with the office. They kept finding things for me to do to extend my time a little longer. I got to help the groups in Georgia who were behind the groups in Florida. I helped with paperwork in the office, since the 160 or so people that were hired had to then be terminated when the work was done, and that included the other FL crew leaders who didn't get those extra days. I picked up people's computers when they finished their last assignments. And generally did any little bit-or-piece needed. Thankfully, that extended my employment a full 12 days. Sadly, Saturday was the last day.

They will have another round of work coming up in July, although we know going into it that it will be only a couple of weeks. I've begun looking for a new job again, but chances are good that I'll still be available when the July stuff starts. As much as they liked me, I'm pretty sure they would find a way to rehire me. They said they hoped to see me again in July, anyway...

These last two weeks have been a really big lesson in just taking life one day at a time. Each day, I had no idea if it was my last day to work. At the end of the day, I'd ask if I should come back the next day. Oh yes, come in. Ok... and I ended up with a couple of hours of overtime both of those weeks! What a blessing.

I filed for unemployment this morning, and am now off to look for a job. And do some laundry. And be thankful that the rain pouring down is a) finally here and b) I'm not driving in it. Cheers!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Goodbye, Uncle Fred

Fred C. Starke
1952 - 2009

To a good man and fabulous father... rest in peace.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thanks for the happy wishes

Thank you to everyone who sent me cards, emails, phone messages, and texts to wish me a happy birthday on Friday.

It was a very stressful week. Between missing Alex's field trip - which really bummed me - and working some crazy hours that further messed up my sleep schedule, and plans for my birthday not working out quite at all as expected, and having trouble with the laptop again, and the lawnmower acting up again, and... I am near my wit's end.

So today, I'm spending time with my son. I'm sorry if I'm not talking to you, please do not feel slighted, I'll be happy to call people back later. I just really, seriously, need some down time.

Happy Mother's Day to my mother, my husband's mother, and every other mother out there. You are special!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

And they're off!

Why does it seem habitually acceptable for school field trips to be scheduled at a certain time, only to find the buses do not arrive promptly to pick up the students?

The kids are going on a trip today to Orlando. They have a behind-the-scenes tour at Universal Studios today, and one at Magic Kingdom tomorrow. They'll get to have fun in the parks as well, but they are also getting information about the technologies behind the park, etc. It ties in with the program's IT emphasis. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I'm beyond disappointed that I don't get to go. It's the first field trip he's ever had that I have not attended. Boo hoo for me...

But anyway, they were supposed to be there at 4am. Yes, four o'clock in the morning. Crazy, isn't it? That gave them time to review basic rules, take attendance, load the bus, and be ready to leave at 5am. I dutifully dragged my sleepy self out of bed at 3am so that I could wake him up, get him into the shower (I suggested numerous times that a shower the night before might be more prudent, but so much for that idea), feed him breakfast, make sure he didn't forget anything direly urgent, and get him to school on time. Although we constantly fight the 5-minutes-late-syndrome, we were actually there at the school right at 4am on the dot. Yippee for us.

We were the fourth vehicle.

We found the parking lot still gated closed.

The first teacher didn't arrive until 4:30, and that irritated me. One parent didn't show up with her child until 4:45, and commented that she could have slept in a little more since the buses were late. I confess, my thoughts were less than charitable about her loss of sleep. I'm sure those there before 4am weren't too sympathetic, either.

At 4:56am, the first bus pulled into the lot. At this point, the teachers went ahead and pulled everyone in to start their speeches, etc. Once the teachers actually started doing something, I left.

Seriously, can someone explain why this seems to happen a good 80% of the time? I have a hard time convincing myself that it really matters if I'm there at the designated time when I know good and well that everyone is just going to hang out in the parking lot for an hour anyway. That time of morning, I could have used another 45 minutes of sleep.

Now, please excuse me. I'm going to see if my friend Mr. Sandman is still in the vicinity and can return to spend a little more time with me this morning.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Yep, I'm still alive

To my many friends and family members that have been woefully ignored over the past 6 weeks, I offer my utmost apologies. This job has ended up being substantially more time consuming than expected. I do manage to read my email every couple of days, but I'm so tired and mentally worn out that I haven't the energy to respond most of the time. Here's hoping that subsides a little bit soon!

Once we completed training, we were assigned to various districts, and had crews assigned to us. By "us", I mean those that completed crew leader (CL) training that our boss thought would actually make good crew leaders, and that meant not everyone in the class actually ended up with the job they thought they were going to have. To some extent, that even included me...

My boss designated me as the floating crew leader. This means that I don't actually have my own crew of people to manage. When the other crew leaders have employees that need a little hands-on assistance in the field to shore up areas that they may not have fully grasped in the original training class, they call me. If other CLs need help doing employee observations - everyone gets observed whether they need additional training or not - they call me. When enough people either quit or are terminated, the office will schedule new training classes, and I teach them. Those new employees are then assigned out to join existing crews. Should another CL need time off for some reason (got sick, taking vacation, etc) then I am the 'substitute' leader for their crew until they can return. And my phone number has been passed out to everyone's crews so that if they run into a problem while they are working and need help, they can call me if their CL is not able to answer their own phone for whatever reason.

At first, I was a little disappointed that I would not have a crew myself. My boss told me that he gave me this job because he thought I had such a good grasp of the material and thus would be a good fit for it, but I was still a little bummed. I've quickly come to realize, however, that I think I have one of the best jobs.
  • I get to bounce all over the place, meeting lots of people instead of dealing with the same people over and over.
  • I like to help people, so being a "help desk" for hundreds of people makes me feel good.
  • I enjoy coaching people who are struggling so they can do their jobs better. Many times, they just need some reassurance that what they are doing is correct, and then they are off and running.
  • Anyone who knows me should understand that teaching new hires is a rewarding job for me. Meeting people that have been out of work for a while and are almost in tears at the opportunity to be gainfully employed is special too, even if I didn't have anything to do with the hiring process.
  • I don't have to deal with personnel issues like finding out why so-and-so didn't report any work this week, or verifying timesheets to make sure they were entered properly and sound reasonable, or terminating people for whatever reason.
  • Not having direct reports means my trip to France this summer for my parents' 40th wedding anniversary will not cause any problems for my boss. The office just won't schedule a training class during that time, and other CLs will have to deal on their own for a bit.
The downsides?
  • I am fairly attached to my phone from 7:30am-9pm because I never know when it might ring. If it's a call from someone in the field who is unsure of a situation, you can't really make them leave a message for a time that is more convenient for you. If they are stuck, then they need an answer or they'll have to stop working and go home. That's bad. (Think how many calls the regular CLs get since their people generally call them before they try me!)
  • "Don't work more than 40 hours per week except for the rare occasions when overtime is approved." That was drilled into our heads during my training class. BUT... there's only been one week so far that I've been able to keep it under 40 hours. Every other week has been in the 50 range. (Some CLs have closer to 60, depending on the size of their crews and how many problems they've had to handle.) That's not only tiring, but it's killing my desire to do my own cooking and to eat only healthy foods. After I've been working for 11 straight hours, "picking up something on the way home" sounds much more appealing than the prospect of getting home and cooking. Thankfully I have a number of meals frozen from when I was prolifically cooking during my period of unemployment, but it's still a challenge. Which is not to say that the extra money is not welcomed and being pushed into savings for when this job is over and I don't know if/where I'll work!
  • The lack of ability to plan times to take care of personal business is a little frustrating. Even on days where I think nothing is planned so I should be able to do my own thing, I never know if I'll get a call that a computer in Panama City has died and the office needs me to come pick up a new one to drive down there to exchange so that person can keep working. It's a 2-hour drive each way... Depending on the situation, I can sometimes tell the people that they'll have to wait, but sometimes I have to drop everything and go handle the problem, which means any plans are thereby rescheduled. It's disconcerting to have your whole life in a constant state of flux.
So, I hope this catches up everyone who asks how my job is going. It's time consuming, it's sometimes challenging to figure out how to work around all the quirks in this software, but I'm working with some great people and having a lot of fun with it. I'm getting a distinctive farmer's tan going, too, so I'm trying to find some shorter-sleeved shirts to combat that!

Hope all is well in your assorted areas of the world!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Life was boring

As he walked into his backyard, he watched his neighbor in surprise. Whatever was she doing in her backyard, fully dressed, washing her hair with the garden hose?

Actually, I don't think any of the neighbors saw me. But I'm sure they would have been perplexed if they had. Sometimes, though, drastic measures are necessary.

I mentioned that I was exhausted by Friday, so I skipped washing my hair. I wasn't going anywhere, I was just cleaning up the house, etc., so I didn't think it really necessary. In the afternoon, I started washing some laundry. I glanced out the window and saw the water that was draining out of the washer running down the hill of my driveway, rather than disappearing down the sewage pipes like it should.

Uh oh.

We've twice had problems with the enormous tree in my yard growing into the pipes and blocking the passage of the dirty water. Both times, the problem thankfully ended up on the city's part of the yard. They brought out the machinery, dug up the yard, cut out the roots, and replaced the pipes. Since then, I've tried to put root-killer stuff down the drains every so often, just to make sure they don't grow back. It's a real pain, because it takes them about two days to do everything, and I meanwhile have no drainage. Think of how often the drain is used, even just for flushing a potty... and what would you do if said drainage was not available? Those are not fun times.

Seeing the water running down the driveway - times like this, I'm very happy about the enormous incline of my yard, since the flat yard I would like would have let the water come back up to the house - gave me a slight panic attack. I don't recall the last time I put the tree stuff in the drain, and I knew all the pipes in the house were working just fine. It was definitely a problem with the outside pipes. So I went out to check them. Sure enough, the water was completely backed up. I started to realize that a couple of times I've seen the driveway wet when I didn't think it had been raining, but I hadn't consciously thought about it. My only consolation: when the problem was the trees, it was a gradual problem, and this seemed to have popped up pretty quickly.

Off to Home Depot to look for a drain cleaner. I bought some of the root killer, but that needs running water to work. What I had was definitely NOT running water. The only running part was the overflow that ran down the hill... The one I found said to dump it in and give it 7-8 hours to work in slow or standing water, preferably without using any additional water during that time. Normally, I would have poured it in at bedtime, but since we couldn't use any water anyway, what was the point of waiting? Glug glug glug.

8 hours later, we took a flashlight outside to check it. Nope, still looked just the same. Bummer. Maybe it needs a little longer. Checked it Saturday morning when we got up. Nope. 18 hours after application, and it still looked the same. This was not good news. I now had places to go, and needed to look decent. If the water was just dirty water, maybe it wouldn't matter if it overflowed, but I'd seen some... other waste... bobbing along in the pipe opening and was not keen on having that floating down my driveway! So what to do?

Thus I took my shampoo and a towel out to the backyard to wash my hair with the hose. The water was surprisingly warm from the sun, which was nice as I'd been expecting it to be freezing. I felt rather like I was camping or something, except it was in my yard. In an odd kind of way, it was sort of fun. To do once.

While I was at the meeting, I kept praying about the drainage problem. I truly did not want to call a plumber on the weekend. They are expensive enough during regular hours, I didn't want to pay the emergency call fee. I was trying to figure out if we could survive until Monday. I was also claiming God's promise to be a father to the fatherless and a husband to widows. France is a little far for my dad to just to stop over to help out, so I was effectively fatherless. Didn't that count?

When I got home, it was about 22 hours after we first poured the cleaner into the pipes. At 18 hours, the stuff had not moved even an inch. At 22, however, the whole thing was cleaned out and operating properly. No more blockage! We flushed the toilet to make sure the water was not still stopped up just out of sight. Nope, washed out like it was supposed to do. I did a load of laundry, no problem. Ran the dishwasher, no problem. All better! PRAISE THE LORD!

Life can be interesting sometimes, no? I guess I'd been on a streak of humdrum activities, so I got a little surprise to spice it up for a bit.

And yes, I've applied the root killer now, too, just in case. I'll be fine with boredom again for a little while, thankyouverymuch.

Friday, March 20, 2009

My training experience

45 hours of work in 4 days... my brain is very, very tired. And thanks to some technical difficulties with some of our training equipment, we didn't even completely finish the course. We will be finishing our workbooks ourselves over the weekend. Theoretically, we will be teaching our crews this material starting next Friday, so we don't have a whole lot of time to make sure we truly understand everything.

Thankfully, I didn't find most of it to be too difficult, it was just a lot of information. Some of my classmates were struggling, which makes me a little hesitant about how quickly our team members will catch on. As I mentioned before, I took a [required] test in December to basically see if my intelligence level was high enough to do this job. There were 28 questions on the test, they had practice tests available for you to take prior to the exam itself, and most of them were fairly common sense questions in the first place. There was no reason someone couldn't pass this test. Some of the fellow test takers at the time made my eyes expand a little, when they couldn't even figure out how to fill in the answer on the answer key. (Clue: color in the bubble in front of the answer you think is correct) Two of the crew leaders in my training class had been recruiters and said you only had to answer 9 of the 28 to be considered passing. 9?!?! Oh.... dear.... I would have thought 20 to be a more reasonable number. Hopefully, their first selections are from the pool of higher-scoring people!

So anyway, I'm sorry I didn't give better updates along the way. I was not expecting to have quite so much work time this week, with the occasional homework assignment as well. My poor supervisor is from Georgia and so has an extra hour of driving at the beginning and ending of his day, plus additional paperwork to do to make sure we get our work assignments and get paid. I do not envy him in the slightest. I was literally dreaming of streets and houses by Wednesday night, but he was so tired that he was nodding off while doing some followup work and actually asked his wife what her address was to make sure it was properly recorded. I might be too tired to proof this post properly, but at least I still know where I live!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The first day

We started in the morning, and it took 4 hours to fill out all the paperwork and be fingerprinted. We were all starving by the time we got a lunch break at 1:15. When we came back from lunch – only a 30 minute break so I was really glad I'd brought a lunch instead of having to go find one – we starting the training part. Turns out that was just more bureaucratic CYA, since we were told how to wear our seat belts, drive safely, call the cops if we get into an accident, etc. Not a bit of it covered stuff that any common sense person who drives wouldn’t already know. We covered extensive amounts of EEO, non-discrimination, and avoidance of harassment of various types. It was again nothing that people wouldn’t already know if they’ve worked any length of time, especially if they have ever been a supervisor. And all of us there had been, so we were fairly bored as the teacher went through it all.

There are 6 of us in this training class. We come from various parts of the panhandle, so the training class is in a central location for all of us. That means a 45-60 minute drive for all of us, converging on this one place in the middle. I feel a little sorry for the people coming from Central time, as they have leave really early to get to the class by 9am Eastern. (The training area is about 10 minutes into the Eastern time zone.) Thankfully, the timing worked out well for me; I dropped Alex off for school, drove, and got there a few minutes before the start time.

On Monday, we will start learning how to use handheld computers, more information about what our job actually entails, and I’m not sure what else. I know they gave us enough manuals to use 3 trees per person! It’s literally a whole box of stuff. Part of it includes the manual that we will use to train our crews. They have the entire thing written out so we just have to stand there and read it verbatim while trying to make it sound a little interesting. Which is exactly what our teacher was doing for us. While on the one hand, that makes training rather boring, on the other hand it does speed up the training process since you don’t have to actually learn what you are teaching. Considering how many nationwide training groups will be done, I can see how that could be beneficial, even if it will feel silly to just read aloud.

It appears that this “first phase” is actually going out to all the streets in an area and making sure there is a record of every residence. “If someone is living in a tent but has a mailbox up, that counts as a residence.” Some of the newly built homes and streets might not be on existing maps, for instance. A “production” group will be doing the majority of that work, it seems, with my team doing a quality control spot check of various areas. How the areas are chosen, I have no idea, but I’ll get a list of areas to check and I’ll assign people to do it. As that part is only supposed to take the 4 months, I’m not sure what will be done after that.

The census count itself doesn’t start until 2010. Since it was starting so early, I had first thought that possibly we took the census in 2009 to publish in 2010, but it appears that is not the case. There are apparently numerous positions involved, and people sometimes get shuffled to different jobs even mid-contract, so I might or might not actually be doing this position the whole 4 months I was originally quoted. Then again, they might have additional positions once this one is done, so I might be working with them longer than I’d thought. There’s still a lot of unknowns there, and our teacher can’t really tell us much because there’s the possibility of someone assuming something that isn’t true and it causing a problem. Better to just not say anything at all. See my previous comment about bureaucracy…

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

So Square

Apparently, today is “Square Root Day” courtesy of the date: 03/03/09. I don’t think I’ll be cutting my veggies into squares today as suggested, but… whoo hoo… yippee... hoorah...

There. That's probably the extent of my celebration for the day.

Oh wait, the bell peppers on my lunch salad were in squares. So there you go. What a party.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recipe: Mediterranean Stew

Last January, my brother introduced me to the MediterrAsian website. I tried a few things, liked them, and then promptly forgot about it. A couple of months ago, I went back and started trying a few dishes.

Thai fish curry - This recipe surprised me. It was very light, a little sweet, and really good. There's no curry powder in it, though, and my brain was still expecting that type of flavor because of the name. I thought there was quite a bit of liquid for the quantity of solids, so you could easily increase the fish and veggies if you were serving more people. Or break up the fish pieces, stir the rice in, and serve as a soup.

Salmon risotto - not a dish I particularly recommend. I had a 14 oz can of salmon, so I doubled the recipe. According to their idea, that should have been 4 servings. We ended up with 6 ample portions, and were really wishing it was only the original two.
Side note: That was the first time I'd used canned salmon. Did you know it still has the fish bones in it? I was expecting bone-free like canned tuna.

Dhal with carrots and cauliflower - I couldn't find the red lentils at the regular grocery store, but the health food store had them. The coconut milk in it gives it a slightly sweet flavor. I'm not a big fan of cauliflower, so I found this an easy way to work it into my diet without having to suffer through the normal taste of it. In fact, I really didn't even notice the cauliflower at all. I found the Indian bread at the grocery store, and I did like it, but it was a little pricey to be using in one meal. Next time, we'll probably just use a baguette. Or skip the bread altogether. As with the salmon risotto, I found their 4 servings to expand to about 6 at my house. Except for the bread, this is a reasonably inexpensive dish.

Mediterranean Stew - This recipe is the reason for this post. This stuff is fantastic. Alex doesn't like olives, so I leave them out, and it is still an excellent recipe. They offer a number of variations on it, and we've tried all but the Italian one. It amazes me how the overall flavor really changes based on the protein and seasonings you add. My hands-down favorite is the Moroccan version. I've tried it with both fish and chickpeas, and I prefer the chickpeas. That's convenient, since it's cheaper as well!

When I make it, I double the ingredients for the basic stew, then divide that up into 3 portions. I then add the variant's protein and seasonings into one of the portions. Either refrigerate or freeze the other two until you need another quick meal.

I really have issues with the portion sizes they suggest. They must eat a lot more than we do. I still have 4 servings per portion, and we don't feel the servings are all that small. Sometimes I serve a salad with it, and then we are really full.

Summary: Unless you are really big eaters, their serving portions are going to be more generous than you probably need. The recipes themselves, however, are pretty good. If you don't try anything else except the stew, you should at least give that one a try. I think I'm probably going to make another batch soon because I'm getting hungry just thinking about it!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Right on time

I accepted a job today. I applied for it back in December, and it just took them this long to call. It's a full-time but temporary job, only lasting about 4 months. I'll be working with the US Census Bureau, doing crew training and quality assurance. I liked doing training at PATLive, but I'll admit that our hiring standards were probably slightly higher than the level of the average census worker. I could be wrong... I rather hope I'm wrong. We'll have to see. Hopefully when this is over, the economy will be picking up again and people will start hiring for decent permanent jobs and wages.

I'll know a little more after I start training. When is that, you ask? March 13. Which just so happens to be the same day that I receive my last payment from PATLive. How's that for timing?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Yankee Candle sale

If you like Yankee Candles, you might like this Buy 2 Get 1 Free coupon. It's only good through Sunday, but is good at the store or their online sales.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not Smarter Than A 5th Grader

As you know, I lost my job in November. I'm still looking for a replacement position. When job hunting this week, I saw the following listing:
FL - Job located in Fresno, California

I realize my geography knowledge is weak. Very weak. Embarrassingly weak. But even I know that California is not nearby Florida. If that is considered close enough for a commute, how far away does the job have to be to be considered notably distant?

Perhaps CareerBuilder should invest in Google Maps or MapQuest services?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Recipe: Coq au Vin

It's otherwise known as "chicken cooked in red wine". This recipe started as a compilation of my mom's research into various recipes, and I've then made a few adjustments myself. It's been very popular with others when I've made it, so I'll pass it along.

If you aren't serving a large number of people, package it up into smaller portions and freeze for when you need something quickly.


  • 4 chicken legs
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • ¼ lb. bacon or salt pork
  • 1 head celery, chopped
  • 3-4 carrots, chopped or julienned
  • 3 onions, quartered
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped or minced
  • 1 pint mushrooms, washed
  • 1 can diced tomatoes OR dice 3-4 medium fresh tomatoes
  • 750 ml red wine
  • Bay leaf
  • Herbs for seasoning
Step One

Brown chicken pieces in olive oil. Sprinkle with flour, then remove from pan.
Cook the bacon in the chicken grease. Remove from the pan.

Saute the celery, onion, shallots, carrots, and garlic in the chicken and bacon grease. Cook until the onions are translucent. Pour ¼ bottle of red wine into the pan to loosen any of “the bits” in the pan. If you’ve used a non-stick pan, you’re basically just rinsing the pan.

Step Two
I put it in the oven, mom has successfully put a smaller portion in the crockpot, so finish cooking with whatever method works for your schedule and size of cooking vessel.

Put browned chicken in lasagna pan, Dutch Oven, or crock pot. Crumble the bacon over the chicken. Add your sautéed vegetables. Add mushrooms, tomatoes, bay leaf, and herbs. Use fresh rosemary, sage, and thyme if you have it. Otherwise, dried herbs are just fine. I tend to just use a few tablespoons of Herbes de Provence.

Pour ½ bottle of red wine over the whole dish. That leaves enough for 2 glasses of wine to go with the meal. If you don’t want to drink the wine, pour it into the pan.
Bake at 300 degrees for 1 ½-2 hours until chicken pulls easily from the bone. (3-4 hours if using a modern crockpot)

Step Three
Remove bay leaf and fresh herbs. Serve with mashed potatoes, salad, and baguette.

It doesn’t seem to matter what quality of wine you use. I’ve found it as cheaply as $3/bottle on a sale.

I enjoy deboning the chicken and shredding it into the vegetables rather than serving it with the bones. This is generally easier to do when putting away leftovers, however, as it is not so hot.

The finished product might have a lot of liquid. Either thicken it up with a little cornstarch, or just enjoy the juice. It also makes a nice stew if you’ve removed the bones.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lofty Aspirations

One starts to contemplate the meaning of life when one realizes that one's burning desire is to simply outsmart one's dog.

I've had this dog for 9 years. She's a very intelligent animal, which normally pleases me. She has this horrible habit of digging herself out of the backyard, however, and nothing I can do seems to be able to stop it. She'll go for a few weeks, and I'll think I've won, and then poof! She's out again. She can squeeze herself out of the tiniest spaces, too. I'd gotten to the point where I never let them outside unless I was standing there watching them. You can imagine how tedious that can be, but we did it for a few years.

A few months ago, we installed a doggie door. She's getting older (she was at least 2 when I got her from the pound in 2000) and she was having a hard time holding it all day while we were at work/school. I figured she could go out to relieve herself, and stop peeing in the house. Yeah... she promptly started testing her Houdini skills again, so the doggie door got closed up. That rather defeated the purpose of installing it.

Now that I've been home more in the daytime and able to see her favored area of mischief, I've been trying my hand at foiling her escapes again. I thought I had it figured out; we went almost 2 weeks with her having free access to come and go and she never got out. Success! But no. One day I was gone for the day again, and came home to find her sitting on the front porch, waiting for us.

This time, it's been a week. She's tried several times to get out, including two straight days of nobody being home, but it appears to be working. I really hope so... please send thoughts of "containment" our way!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

National Pancake Day

In case this is of interest to you, February 24 - Fat Tuesday - is National Pancake Day. You really can learn something new every day...

In celebration, IHOP will be serving a free short stack of pancakes to visitors throughout the day. They do request that you make a donation to a children's hospital, preferably the Children's Miracle Network since that is their charity of choice.

If you have an IHOP near you and like pancakes, you might want to stop in on the 24th.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Recipe: Spicy Peanut Yams

This recipe came courtesy of my sister. She sent it by email, I couldn't find it online, so I posted it in recipezaar. I took it to a Christmas party and the only person who didn't like it said it was because she can't eat spicy foods. It was otherwise extremely popular.

The spicy peanut yam casserole dish is pretty flexible. Reduce or even eliminate the hot pepper flakes to adjust for your level of spicy tolerance.

A tip for the peanuts: put them in a Ziploc bag and mash with a rolling pin.

One friend made the recipe using canned yams. She used a can of Ro-tel instead of the peppers and tomatoes, and sauteed the onions in the sauce from the Ro-tel. She reported it was very popular with her family, and saved her a lot of prep time.

The first time I made it, I was at someone else's house and had neither peanut oil nor curry powder nor hot pepper flakes. I used regular vegetable oil, cinnamon, and a couple shakes of tabasco sauce instead. We all thought it came out great, even though it was nothing like the recipe's intended flavor. Maybe that's another option you could try.

If you try it, be sure to let me know how you liked it!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

300 degrees

When one puts the entire skillet into the oven to bake dinner, one should not then grab the bare handle willy-nilly when scooping out the food.

Just sayin'.

Ouch. This hurts.

Recipe: Crustless Pizza Dip

I love to cook, and I love finding recipes that I can share with people. My favorite online recipe place is I can pretty much always find something on there to fit what I'm looking for, and the user reviews are usually helpful.

This dip recipe is just as advertised: it takes just like a pizza. I made it for a SuperBowl party for Sunday, and it was scarfed up. Actually, to be honest, I found the recipe but Alex made it while I was cooking other items. Rather than using a pre-packaged jar of sauce, I made this pizza sauce.

I bought a package of pizza crust (never done that before) that I sliced into breadsticks and baked. We used those and a whole veggie tray as dippers. The cucumbers were a little odd, but the other items were fine. The broccoli and carrots probably worked the best.

If you need a dip for something, this one is definitely different but delicious. Don't expect leftovers!

Crystal Diaper award

I've volunteered in the nursery since before I had Alex. I started with the little babies, but I was asked to help out in the 2yo room a couple of times and decided I liked it there. So for the last 8 years, I've spent the first Sunday of every month helping out in the 2yo room. Since last June, Alex has also been helping me out with the kids. We go to the first service, then volunteer for the second one.

Our church recently held a volunteer recognition service to thank all the volunteers that keep the church running. They gave a description of the various areas people serve - some I never even knew we had - and everyone that worked in that area stood up to be recognized and receive a certificate of thanks.

Pastor Ledford's comments when discussing each area were amusing. Clearly, he has no secret longing to ever work in the nursery with not-yet-potty-trained kids. Absolutely.None.What.So.Ever. Much like my desire to stand up and preach to the church.

Then came the surprise... the staff members that run each area had selected a Volunteer of the Year for their area. Their names were called out, 'the winner is' music was played just like at some entertainment awards show, and the person went to the front of the church to be specially recognized for their efforts. You'd think they might want to warn people of such a thing, but no...

And so I suddenly found myself in front of the church, getting a hug from the pastor and receiving this beautiful plaque. How cool is that? When awarding my plaque, he said they really should have a Crystal Diaper award to present, but I'd have to settle for the plaque. I was so surprised in the first place, I thought this was just fine!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Swiss Drum Corp

If you enjoy a nice drum corp presentation, you'll want to watch this display of Swiss drumming skills. Impressive and entertaining even though it goes on for almost 6 minutes. I loved the sword fighting part that was about halfway through.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pleasant Surprises

I had two lovely surprises yesterday:
  1. I normally have a difficult time getting Alex up in the morning. It takes a good 20-30 minutes usually to rouse him out of bed. Neither one of us are morning people, and it shows very clearly on weekday mornings. Yesterday, I woke up when the alarm went off, only to find him just getting out of the shower. He'd woken up a little early on his own, and decided to just go ahead and get ready for school. Shock!

  2. I had participated in a local survey about something or other, and they said they were putting together a focus group and would I be interested. I filled out the information, they called me back to review the screening questions, then scheduled me to be part of the group. They were paying $50 for each participant. Yes, I'd love to be part of your study! I arrived at the meeting time, only to be told that they needed X number of people and they had scheduled a few extra just to make sure they had the correct number actually show up. The X number had already arrived, so they handed me the $50 check and told me I was free to go home. Seriously? Please let me know if you are ever doing another one...
Both my morning and my evening contained pleasant surprises. Ah, for more days like that!

Friday, January 9, 2009

2008 BCS Bowl

As a diehard FSU Seminole, I cheer for the Noles and for whomever is playing against the Florida Gators... unless it is a National Championship game. For the #1 spot, loyalty to my state kicks in. I'm not pleased that they've tested me on that for the 2nd time in 3 years! I suppose it is a small consolation that at least the Oklahoma Sooners put up a good fight and made them really work for tonight's win. *sigh*

Go Gators.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Random Bits

Jenni posted this at One Thing and suggested that we might want to put our own versions up. This reminds me of all those “let’s get to know each other” emails that go around. Most of you know I hate those things and rarely do them. I figured I’ll post this one and then won’t feel the slightest bit guilty about not responding to those emails for the rest of the year. (I do still read them, though) *smile* Feel free to do your own versions if you like.

Items I HAVE done are in bold. I was only supposed to mark what I've done or not done, but you know me, I have to comment...

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii - some day, I hope to do this
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity - I don’t know how to answer this one. Really, how does one define “too much”?
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain - not like Mount Everest or anything crazy, though!
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo - I'm guessing singing by myself when nobody can hear me doesn't really count. I've played instrumental solos, though, does that count?
11. Bungee jumped - I can't imagine I will ever, ever make this one bold.
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - I know I saw it when I was very young, but I don't know if we went up the inside. I'm not marking it since I can't remember it even if I did it.
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train - I was unfortunately not in a sleeping compartment, though, just a regular seat. It's similar to sleeping in a car or on an airplane... not very comfortable!
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill - we had "paid time off" that encompassed both sick and vacation time. You earned the time off, you could use it as you felt like. So I did take off a day on extremely short notice a time or two, but it was "legal" to do so even if not a practice they encouraged.
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run - yeah, right. I'd just pleased if I can actually hit the ball, never mind if it goes anywhere.
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors - what a generic question. My parents are ancestors, so how far back does this mean? Been to some reasonably far back, so I'm marking it, but really, more specifics would have been nice.
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language - if I had teachers but I still had to learn the language, does that count? Didn't learn it exceptionally well, granted, but I can read it to some extent...
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt - not yet, but it's on my list of things I'd really like to do
43. Bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater - assuming this means when a movie is actually playing and not just to see an empty theater...
55. Been in a movie - my college roommate was a film major. I mostly helped out with work behind the camera, but I was in brief flashes of some of their films.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business - my contract work and my Stampin' Up! membership are technically businesses even though they aren't what most people envision as a business
58. Taken a martial arts class - only took one class myself, although I certainly watched enough classes when Alex was studying for his TaeKwonDo black belt.
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen - wanted to do this and volunteered at one once only to be told they had enough help so thanks anyway
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason - "gotten" is vague. "Purchased for myself", yes. "Received", no.
64. Donated blood, platelets, or plasma - in fact, should have done it again last month. Need to see where the drives are now. I used to organize them at PATLive, so I just did it when the bloodmobile came to us.
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check - not my proudest moment and thankfully a long time ago
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London - been to London, but I don't think we saw the guard change while we were there
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle - and the even more fun "fell asleep while a passenger on a motorcycle" that scared the daylights out of my poor father and he wouldn't let me ride behind him for quite some time after that. To clarify, I wasn't aware of speeding when I rode with my dad, only when I rode with my husband. I still wish I'd kept my MC license when I had it, and frequently think about getting it again. Not having a motorcycle to ride is a bit of a damper on that, though.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible - working on it again
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - my husband caught some fish and I helped clean them, so I think that counts, unless seafood doesn't count as an animal. Depends on who you ask, I guess.
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury - only received a summons for jury duty once and didn't even have to report
91. Met someone famous - maybe someone I've met will be famous in the future
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one - horrible, horrible experience
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Handsome Man

It has come to my attention that not everyone got the photo of Alex that I was including in the Christmas cards. I'm very sorry if you didn't get one; I thought I put them in!

This is one of his 2 favorite shirts, so I wasn't suprised he wanted to wear it for the picture. I was amused at how nicely the blue in the shirt matched with the photog's standard background color. We planned it like that... yeah...

Just Chillin'

I realize I haven't said much in the past few weeks. We've been amazingly busy but yet not. Christmas time and activities always take up more time than one expects, but we still managed to keep it fairly calm and controlled. Both Alex & I thought of some foods we'd like to try, so I looked up recipes and made something new, different, or out of the norm almost every day. Some of them turned out better than others, but it was fun to try new things.

As was not a surprise, video-game-aholic Alex spent as much time as possible on various games over the break. I did force him to read a book, too, just to break it up a little. I also forced him to play some games that I could play as well. I'm an old-school gamer who likes the basic arcade game type things. The adventure games that take hours and hours... not so much. I understand other people like them, and I enjoy watching others play them, but they are too much for me. They go too long, and generally I have a hard time with the 3D depth-perception images. But we played some 2-player games I could handle for some fun bonding time. Then, since he was kept whomping me on the video games, we got out some "old-fashioned" games one day. We played Battleship (I won both games) and Racko (I won 3 in a row) and then he wasn't quite so smug! Unfortunately, most board games play better with more than 2 people. We do have some computerized 'board games' that he suggested, but I was electronic'd out by then.

Christmas Day was fun. When he was little, I started a tradition of making him hunt for a present. It is usually a 'big' present. That might be size, or it might just be of importance. But when he opens one gift, he gets a clue. When he was little, it just told him to go look in place X for the next clue, whereby he would be told to go to place Y, etc. As he got older, the clues started to be actual clues he had to figure out. This year, they were almost riddles. Some he got much too quickly, but some took him a little while to figure out. All told, it took him almost an hour to find the Guitar Hero World Tour set. Then it took about 90 seconds to rip it open, pull out the drum set, and start playing it!

New Years continued our laid-back approach. We just stayed home and chilled by ourselves. There was a dessert I made for a party last year that Alex remembered and wanted again. I'll post that recipe later. We had the special dessert, jumped from Fox to NBC to ABC for various New York coverage, and just welcomed the new year quietly. It was different from how we normally do things, but it was nice.

I hope you had a great end of the year yourselves!