Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Countdown to the new year...

We're here in freezing Chicago -- the high temperature today was 16! How fun is THAT? (It actually WAS a rather nice change from Texas weather... :)) We walked around downtown quite a bit today, because despite the cold temperature, it was sunny and beautiful, with very calm wind. It's the wind that'll make the sub-zero temperatures intolerable -- take away the wind, and even 16 degrees isn't TOO bad. Although after walking around for a while, my feet and legs sort of went numb -- I've decided I'm going to need a better pair of boots once I move up here. Long underwear probably wouldn't be such a bad investment, either...

So it's a mere six and half hours until 2009 here in the Central Time Zone. We were hoping to try a new restaurant for new year's eve, but reservations were hard to get in many places tonight. So we're settling on an old favorite -- the Saloon steakhouse. Which turns out to be a good choice, actually, because it's not too far from the hotel. Because I can only assume, now that the sun has set, that it is LESS than 16 degrees outside. My soon-to-be numb feet will be happy they don't have to walk too many blocks...

Since 2008 was a year full of political issues and religious issues and arguments over politics and arguments over religion, I have chosen this post from back in March as my "Blog Post of the Year." It seems to fit the general attitude of much of 2008. Let's hope 2009 will bring about much "change" and "hope" and maybe a few more over-used, cliched catchphrases... :)

I wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2009!!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

No time to write...

...must… make… cookies…

Okay, actually, I already made the cookies – but I still have to finish decorating them. Strangely, the cats have been hanging out on the floor near the counter, meowing pitifully as if I’m denying them some sort of savory cat treat. I’ve tried to explain it’s just sugar cookies and frosting, but cats are very insistent…

So we’re off to Chicago tomorrow morning, and I haven’t even started to pack yet (although while I’m thinking about it, I need to go take my winter coat out of the closet and put it next to my suitcase so I don’t forget it…) Okay, now that THAT’S done…

I’m very much looking forward to Chicago… Rick bought me a lovely assortment of sweaters for Christmas, all of which I plan on packing so I can test them out in the cold weather. And there’s a small chance of snow on Friday, so maybe I’ll see a flake or two before I head back to Austin…

But for now, I have about a million things to do, so I’d better go be productive…

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Random thoughts... (Holiday edition!)

Merry Christmas!!! I hope you’re all having the chance to spend time with family and enjoying the day. We found the one Starbucks that remained open today (well, the only one near us… I’m sure there were a couple more open around the city…) and mom and dad brought us triple shot venti cappuccinos and cinnamon rolls this morning. Yes, we weren’t playing around – if we were gonna get cappuccino on Christmas, it was gonna be serious, three-shots-of-espresso cappuccino. (I have to admit it’s rather sad that Starbucks has become such a necessity in our coffee-loving society that it has to remain open on Christmas. Only the necessities – police, firefighters, hospitals… and Starbucks. :)) We opened some gifts here at my house, since mom and dad threw away their old Christmas tree when they moved into their new house and have yet to buy another one. So I had my tree lights on, and “A Christmas Story” on TV, so it was very holidayesque…

Oh, guess what my mom got me? A Brookstone “sound therapy system” with all kinds of sounds like rain and waterfalls to lull you to sleep. I no longer have to rely on White Noise Fan! I now have a dozen sounds besides “fan” to choose from when I’m trying to fall asleep. Yay!

So I seem to have developed a slight Christmas cold. (That makes it sound so much more pleasant… it’s a cheery Christmas cold!) It came on quite suddenly – my only clue that anything was amiss was a rather annoying ringing in my ears Tuesday night. I thought perhaps it was allergies, since my head felt sort of fuzzy… but when I woke up yesterday morning, it was apparent that I was dealing with more than just allergies. So I’ve spent Christmas Eve and Christmas in that sort of “cold haze” that envelops you when you’re getting sick. But oh well… just a cold. I can handle it. I’m just glad it’s getting out of the way now, before we fly up to Chicago. Flying with a cold can be a bad thing… (just ask my mom and her once-ruptured eardrum… )

Does anyone else think it’s weird that that Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie is opening today? Nothing says “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” like a bunch of nazis…

I have decided that I need to buy more lights/general ornaments for my Christmas tree next year. I sort of only decorate one side of the tree right now, because I don’t have enough lights or decorations to wrap all the way around the tree. Not that it matters much, since the tree is in a corner – so even if the other side was decorated no could see it. But it’s just the IDEA of having an entirely decorated tree… and then I could stick the tree right in the middle of the living room, like a giant prickly coffee table…

Well, that’s about it for today. I need to go get ready for dinner at Rick’s parents’ house. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I can't wait for April...

And I can't believe I haven't mentioned this on my blog until now (but since today is the day it becomes "official," I guess it's a good day to mention it) -- C.C. Sabathia is a Yankee!!!! Yes, that's right, my pitching man-god is doing the only other thing he can possibly do to make me love him even more -- he's coming to New York! YES!!

I am seriously excited about this (in case that wasn't already evident). The Yankees have had rather lackluster pitching for years now, but the upcoming season is looking promising to me. We now not only have Sabathia, but also A.J. Burnett. And if Wang and Joba can stay healthy (and, in Joba's case, out of trouble...) we might actually have a really decent pitching rotation this year. This could be a great start to the New Yankee Stadium era...

For those who may not have been reading my blog very long, I have had the privilege (privilege?? Privilege might be the wrong word... :)) of playing fantasy baseball the last three years with a bunch of really great guys. (You can read about some of that here, here, here or here.) They were nice enough to allow a girl to infiltrate their world of statistics and averages and RBIs and ERAs -- and while I've been a baseball fan since I was about thirteen years old, I've learned even more about different teams and players over the past few years. If it hadn't been for my foray into the world of fantasy baseball, I'd probably be a lot less excited about the Sabathia news... because I wouldn't have had him on my team for three years in a row and seen all the complete game shutouts he pitched...

So now I'm off to tune my TV to the YES network so I can watch the Sabathia/Burnett news conference... GO YANKEES!!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday randomness...

It’s 34 degrees here today! I think this is the coldest day we’ve had this year. I’m not even sure it was this cold the other night when we got our “snow.” And what’s funny is that this wasn’t even forecasted by our eternally-befuddled Austin meteorologists. The low overnight was only supposed to be in the 60s, and, in fact, it was 68 degrees when I went to bed last night. I turned on my A/C because the bedroom was about 74 and I wanted it around 70… I figured once it hit 70 it would pretty much stay there most of the night, since it was supposed to be fairly warm outside and the rest of the house was settled in at a comfortable 72. But when I woke up this morning, I felt rather chilly – I wondered if I should’ve kept the A/C at 71 instead. And then I got up and checked the thermostat and saw that the temperature in the bedroom was only 66 – no wonder I’d been cold! The only time the temp in the bedroom drops like that is when it gets very cold outside. Yet still I was surprised by the blast of cold air that hit me when I opened the patio door to let Echo outside this morning. Brrrrr… it feels like Christmas! (Which I’d better enjoy today, because who knows if Christmas will actually feel like Christmas…)

So this morning when my mom and I were on our way back from Starbucks, we were stopped at a red light. And this guy ran across the crosswalk in front of us, wearing his pants in that “my pants are about to fall down and I’m so cool because of it” way. He actually had to hold onto the waistband so they wouldn’t fall off as he jogged across the street. And every time I see some guy wearing his pants like that, I can’t help but wonder HOW in ANY way that is considered cool by ANYONE? I mean, there are some fads and fashion trends that maybe I don’t LIKE, or aren’t really my own style, but I can understand how OTHER people might think they’re fun or unique. But pants that are sliding down your thighs, exposing your bright blue flannel boxer shorts?? What about that is cool, exactly? Are you trying to rebel against the fashion industry’s obvious practical modesty agenda? How dare they construct garments that are meant to fit OVER the parts of you no one wants to see! You’re gonna wear them so they don’t fit at ALL, and so they’re extremely uncomfortable, and so they must be readjusted five times a minute to maintain that perfect level of “coolness”…

Why is it that hot chocolate tastes even better when it’s cold outside? I’ll probably make some tonight, since the temperature is so seasonably perfect right now. And for some reason, even though it’ll taste exactly the same as if I’d had it LAST night (when it was still in the 60s), my taste buds will somehow perceive a difference because of the freezing outside weather. I wonder why that is…

Although I DO love the cold weather, I’m not a big fan of the cloudy skies today. I mean, if it’s gonna be this cloudy, it’d better start snowing again. Yeah, that’s right – it had BETTER start snowing. (Yes, I’m threatening the weather so it’ll bend to my will and give me some snow… I’m not sure it’ll actually work, but it’s worth a shot…) On the plus side, I’ve had my Christmas tree lights on all day because it’s really dark in the living room…

So next week Rick gets to stay in Austin all week – no flying! And then we’re all heading up to Chicago for New Year’s. I have stocked my pantry with cookie-making ingredients, and I’m planning to make cutout sugar cookies right before we leave so I can pack them up and take a bunch to Eric. I’m such a nice sister. :)

Okay, that’s all I’ve got today. I need to go finish up my Christmas shopping (and by that I mean “order stuff off the internet”). I only need about two more gifts and I’ll be done! (I suppose I should buy some wrapping paper…) Have a good week, everyone!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

No, it doesn't rhyme...

My new blogging friend Jannie Funster recently posted something on her blog that got me thinking about Aimee. It's been just over six years since she died. And there've been so many times over the last six years that I've found myself thinking, "I wonder what Aimee would do in this situation? I wonder what Aimee would think? I wonder if Aimee would like this new ice cream flavor, or if Moose Tracks would always be her favorite??" I bet she would've had some interesting thoughts on the election this year, and on the recession, and on Rod Blagojevich. :) And I think she would've been really happy about our Chicago relocation (regardless of the screwed up nature of Illinois politics...).

So I thought I would post my Aimee poem again, since it's been a while since even I'VE read it. :) This is what's called a "sestina" poem, and it's kind of an unusual form -- I'd never even heard of a sestina until I took a poetry class several years ago. It's a poem that is comprised of six stanzas of six lines each, and the lines of each stanza end in one of six "end words" – one of the six end words are at the end of every line of every stanza, just in a different order each time. The last word of the last line in each stanza is the last word in the FIRST line of the next stanza. So in my poem, the end words are Aimee, years, New Orleans, dad, sister and you. Every line in the poem ends with one of these words, with the exception of the three line coda at the end -- two of the end words are used in each line, but they can be anywhere in the line. And the entire thing is written in iambic pentameter, so there are five beats, or accents, per line. Whew... it's probably the most complicated poetic form I've ever heard of... or at least it SOUNDS complicated when I try to explain it. :)

Poetry haters may stop reading now... :) Here ya go:


For My Sister


This is for you, my sweet sister Aimee.
We didn’t know you for twenty-nine years;
About your love of music and New Orleans;
Or how you have the same eyes as our dad.
My whole life I wanted a sister;
But three years was not enough to spend with you.

I remember when I first met you:
“This is her – this is Aimee!”
You hugged your dad, your brother and your sister,
Amazed you’d found us after all those years.
You couldn’t wait to call our father “dad,”
And tell us all about beloved New Orleans.

And yet you lived in Portland, not New Orleans;
The city was a kind of dream for you;
A place you talked about with me or dad.
“You really want to go back some day, Aimee?”
We all assumed it would take several years,
But I also assumed I would never find my sister.

How was I to know that my sister
Was traveling from Europe to New Orleans
While I spent all my high school years
Barely lending any thoughts to you?
I knew this much: I knew your name was Aimee.
I knew your absence left a void in dad.

Remember all the photos you sent dad?
You, an “only” child, without a sister;
Changed your name from Amy to Aimee.
Pictures of the old house in New Orleans,
Blurry and wonderful pictures of you.
To show us what we’d missed in all those years.

How do we get them back, the lost years?
How am I supposed to console dad?
Twice in your thirty-two years he lost you.
You left behind your new brother and sister.
I didn’t want to go to New Orleans,
Not without you next to me, Aimee.

Dad didn’t know the years would go so fast.
When you died, we buried you in New Orleans.
Back home at last, my sweet sister Aimee.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snow!! (Sort of!!)

So yesterday the high temperature in Austin was 78 degrees. I actually had to run my air conditioner the night before to cool my bedroom down when I was trying to fall asleep. So I got up yesterday morning, put on a t-shirt (sigh...) and got on with my day. And then sometime around 4 or 5, it started to get very windy -- and when it's winter in Austin and you hear wind like that, it can only mean one thing: a cold front! (But when it's spring and you hear wind like that, it means, "go find a tornado shelter...") So by the time Echo had eaten her dinner and went to the patio door to go outside, it was around 55 degrees. Over the next few hours, the wind kept howling and the temperature kept dropping, until I eventually heard the unmistakable sound of freezing rain clicking on the windows. And then, at about 11:30, I let Echo outside again, and I thought I caught a glimpse of something white and flaky... so I stood out on the porch (not even thinking that perhaps I should don a coat and some shoes...) and sure enough, there it was -- snow! It was snowing!! I actually started jumping up and down (which may have had more to do with the fact that I was freezing cold than the fact that I was excited). So here are some pictures of the Austin Blizzard of 2008:

Wow! Look at those flakes fly!!

The aftermath...

"Snow" in the bushes... (actually, I think it was more like ice, but it LOOKS like snow, right?)

Monday, December 08, 2008

One person's tree is another person's shrub...

So who watched the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center last week? I almost missed it, because earlier in the evening, I went out to eat with my mom and stopped by Petsmart for a few things, and somewhere along the way, we both realized that the Rockefeller Center tree lighting was on TV. I thought it would be over by the time I got home, and that would’ve made me sad. (That would’ve actually made me sad – unlike decorating my Christmas tree by myself… which is NOT, as Tim the Misery Monger has tried to convince me, a harbinger of seasonal sadness. :)) But when I got home, I checked the TV listings and noticed there was still a half hour of the Rockefeller Center show left to go. I was like Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol –

Me (throwing open my window to look down onto a snowy street): “You there! Tivo! What time is it?”

Tivo (dressed as an urchin and wrapped in a torn shawl): “Why, it’s 7:30!”

Me (tossing a shiny coin to Tivo so he can buy himself something pretty): “Then I haven’t missed it!”

I really do miss Christmas in the northeast… it’s never seemed quite “right” here in Texas. But I guess it depends on what you grow up with – if you grew up in Texas, it must seem quite normal to wear a short-sleeved t-shirt on Christmas Day and feel the warmth of the sun and go for a bike ride. But for me, Christmas should be more like, “heavy wool coat, ice-cold wind, and a sled ride down a hill.”

And no one does Christmas in the northeast like New York City. I can clearly remember the first time I experienced New York in December. I was a senior in high school, and I was in the madrigal group that year – an a cappella singing group at my school. We’d been practicing our Christmas repertoire since October, and when December rolled around, we finally had the chance to sing in various venues around Northeast New Jersey. And then one Friday evening, we all piled into a bus and headed into the city… and even though I’d been to New York dozens of times over the four years I’d lived up there, I had never been into the city at Christmastime. My friend Ali warned me that the Rockefeller tree was less impressive in person than it was on TV – and to be honest, she was right (she called it the “Rockefeller Christmas Shrub”). And yet, when we reached the tree and filed off the bus and grouped together in front of that Christmas Shrub, it was pure holiday joy. We sang for a good half hour, with an appreciative crowd gathered around us… I can’t even remember if it was cold – it was too much fun to worry about such things.

Afterwards, Ali and I wandered the holiday-light-bedecked streets, stood in awe of the intricately-decorated windows on Fifth Avenue, popped into St. Patrick’s Cathedral, found a tiny little bookstore where we wasted some time browsing, and then met up with everyone else for a holiday show called “The Christmas Revels.” It was an audience participation show, where everyone was invited to sing along with the carols and dance in the aisles – so technically, we could all say that we’d literally sung and danced on Broadway. It was a perfect evening, and even after all these years it remains one of my favorite Christmas memories…

Of course, the good thing about seeing it on TV is that the Rockefeller Christmas Shrub looks like a more impressive tree when it's onscreen... I guess the camera really DOES add ten pounds... or a couple hundred...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cat...er... Christmas tree...

Well, I have decided to go against the advice of our realtor and put up my Christmas tree this year. We’re “supposed” to keep the house free of clutter and decorations, but I’m compromising – I’m putting up the tree, but I’m not bringing out the various Christmas-y knick-knacks I usually place around the house. I mean, a tree is nicely contained in a single corner of the house, so it really can’t be considered “clutter,” right? And I didn't put up a tree LAST year, because we were in the process of selling ANOTHER house. So this year, I want a tree...

I announced my tree-decorating intention on my Facebook page, where my friend Tim declared it “sad.” Not because I was putting up the tree – but, since Rick flew up to Chicago this afternoon, I was putting up the tree ALONE. I suppose tree-trimming is considered a “family” affair… and I do have my own memories of anxiously waiting for my dad to finish arranging the lights so my mom and Eric and I could place ornaments on the tree. My favorites were a purple ceramic bear and a cardboard angel covered with orange feathers. It was rather garish, as far as angels go – but when it came time to decorate the tree, I was the one who had to find a place for that (startlingly bright) angel. And then we would all take turns finding empty space for tinsel (which no doubt had to be rearranged by mom as soon as Eric and I were in bed…).

But honestly, I don’t mind my moments of solitude (except when I’m trying to get to sleep – yep, White Noise Fan is at the ready tonight), so I don’t find decorating the tree by myself sad at all. I’ve been looking forward to it, actually. Of course, I didn’t account for the fact that I’d have to pull the tree box down from the highest shelf in the garage – by MYSELF – when I was looking forward to it. But SOMEhow I actually managed to lug the box off that shelf without seriously injuring myself. I got up on the ladder, and moved the box a few inches to test its weight, and then I decided it was too heavy to be moved in a quick, impulsive manner. No, this was going to take some careful planning. The second rung of the ladder was too high – I had to move down to the first rung… and the box was too unwieldy in its length-wise position – I had to maneuver one end of it off the shelf, and s-l-o-w-l-y lower it down to the grill (which happened to be sitting in just the right place to be of assistance to me). Once I had part of it resting on the grill, it was easier to slide the box from the shelf to the grill, and at that point, it was low enough that I could grab the handles on the top of the box and pick the entire thing up. Whew. I probably should’ve waited until someone could help me to get that box down, but what’s done is done…

So now the tree is assembled and the lights are up, but I’ll wait until tomorrow to put the decorations on. I’m a little concerned about what the cats might do to this tree – they’ve both been munching on the branches, and Piva has actually CLIMBED the tree. She just shimmied right up the fake trunk and peeked out through the branches. And I haven’t even added the ornaments yet – who knows WHAT she’ll decide to do with those. I’m just hoping she doesn’t manage to knock the entire thing over… Even I managed not to knock it off the shelf in the garage... so the least Piva can do is NOT knock it over now that it's in the house...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mmmmm... peppermint (ice cream, that is)...

We’re back from our quick weekend trip to Chicago. It never seems like we have enough time up there to do everything we’d like to do. There are just too many great places to eat, and cool things to see, and museums to explore, and coffee shops to visit. In fact, we almost missed our chance for ice cream at Ghirardelli, but managed to squeeze it in on our last night. And even with the temperature in the 20-degree range, the ice cream shop was completely packed. Apparently the only time their business REALLY slows down is when it’s snowing. And then, if you can pull on some warm boots and trudge through the drifts to Ice Cream Mecca, you are rewarded with the same delectable hot fudge sundaes AND plenty of empty tables to choose from. Which is unlike what we encountered Saturday night, when we had to stand in line behind a dozen other patrons and then split up to sit at two different tables (because there were no four-person tables available). Actually, we were lucky to get ANY table… sheesh… you’d think people wouldn’t have such a craving for ice cream when it’s below freezing outside…

And I was so glad we did decide to brave the cold and the crowds of people, because Ghirardelli had a peppermint hot fudge sundae on the menu – which is a seasonal thing. They don’t usually have it. And peppermint ice cream is one of my absolute FAVORITE ice cream flavors. It’s really weird, because I hate peppermint candy – like if you handed me a candy cane, I’d just toss it aside somewhere and forget about it. But give me peppermint ice cream or a peppermint milkshake, and I am in ice cream heaven. And peppermint ice cream covered with Ghirardelli hot fudge? That’s just perfection on top of deliciousness… :)

While we were there, we went out to Home Depot and helped Eric pick out a carpet for his living room. Eric’s condo is starting to look so good – like someone actually LIVES there. When he first moved in, I think he had a bed, a couch, a TV and computer. And that was about it. You had to sit on the floor if you wanted to use his computer. His “coffee table” was a little wooden cat. It was a very minimalist lifestyle. :) But over the last couple years, he has acquired a desk for the computer, a dining room table, a nice big TV table, and a coffee table. And since his condo has all hardwood floors, the new carpet in the living room is a nice addition. It’s a little bit more “homey” now.

We also went out looking for condos of our own on Saturday, and found one we REALLY liked a lot. And then we discovered yesterday that it’s already been rented. Oh sure, there are places that have been on the market for MONTHS, but this one only took about two weeks to go off the market. I guess it really was THAT nice. Oh well… at least now I have an excuse to fly back up to Chicago and look at more condos.

And now I’m off to work out, since I haven’t been on the treadmill since we got back (and all those peppermint hot fudge sundae calories aren’t going to work themSELVES off…).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Off to Chicago...

I’ve been busy all day – doing laundry, packing, and cleaning up the house in case anyone drops by to view it (someone really is supposed to come by this week… I hope they don’t forget…). Echo is definitely on to me – I try so hard to be casual and nonchalant when I start packing for a trip, but somehow she always knows that I’m up to something. I very calmly take things into the closet and stack them in piles, so I can quickly pack everything into my suitcase once Echo is over at Rick’s parents’ house – if I were to bring the suitcase out while she’s here, she would DEFINITELY know I was getting ready to cart her off to another house. But I always hope that by waiting until she’s gone, I give her a few more hours of calm… and yet she STILL knows that something isn’t right…

We leave for Chicago tomorrow morning… and I’m SO ready for some cold weather (oh, that reminds me – I’d better not forget to pack my coat…). It was almost 80 degrees here today – that is just NOT right when Thanksgiving is only a week away. The temperature in Chicago is supposed to be in the 30s while we’re there. Which is good for two reasons – one, because it’ll actually FEEL like November… and two, because fewer people tend to visit Ghirardelli when it’s cold out. (Yay! Who’s ready for hot fudge sundaes at Ghirardelli? :))

I’m leaving to take Echo to Rick’s parents’ house at about 8 o’clock, and then I can come back here and finish packing. So far, the cats seem none the wiser… they’re both conked out on the couch. (It must be so hard to be a cat and to have a constant need for power naps…)

So hopefully I’ll get some pictures of some Chicago-y stuff up within the next few days. Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Random randomness...

So Rick is off to another week in Chicago, which means I’ll be falling asleep with White Noise Fan this week. After he got to the hotel last night, Rick decided to experiment with the Chicago transit system – he had a 7:30 meeting downtown this morning, and he didn’t want to fight the morning traffic to get there. Especially when there’s a train platform right outside the hotel. And he successfully managed to wend his way downtown, even though he got on the wrong bus at one point and called me to say he was “lost in Chicago.” (He wasn’t really lost… just in the wrong place… he figured it out eventually.)

Last week was good as far as house-viewings goes… and there’s at least one person planning to come by this week. So at least people are starting to look – which is more encouraging than absolutely NO one coming by to look. I mean, it only takes one person to buy the house – but how will anyone know if they want to buy it if they never LOOK at it?

So the other day I was eating an English muffin and reading the side of the box (because I was obviously extremely bored or something… who reads English muffin boxes??) and noticed the package proclaimed that these muffins have “tasty nooks and hearty crannies.” Mmmm… tasty nooks and hearty crannies. Hey, wait a second – aren’t “nooks” and “crannies” technically just SPACE? So really, nooks and crannies would be the ABSENCE of English muffin. There IS no English muffin in the nooks and crannies. So how can they be “tasty” and “hearty”??? The nooks and crannies are tasteless… they have no texture… there’s nothing interesting or unusual about them… they are devoid of any nutritional value whatsoever. But I suppose “tasteless nooks and nutritionally devoid crannies” doesn’t have the same ring to it…

I really love Anthony Bourdain on the Travel Channel. Not only is he a great writer, but he’s got an amusing cynical, snarky attitude that translates well to his television show. (And once again, I find myself asking – how does one manage to find a job that pays you to travel all over the world? I so want that job…)

I AM getting ready for a bit of travel myself – but only up to Chicago for the weekend. And I will be moving there eventually (assuming someone buys the house within the next few months or years or whatever) so it’s not really a vacation. Because you don’t vacation where you live, right? It’s more of a scouting mission… have to scope out the neighborhoods and see what kinds of apartments/condos/houses are available.

Okay, that’s about it for today… I’m too preoccupied to write very much… I keep thinking about how I need to steam clean the carpets and straighten up the kitchen before anyone comes to view the house. I can’t wait until it sells… :)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What's that noise?

So I have a new friend who’s been keeping me company while I sleep at night (no, not Piva… and no, not THAT kind of friend). My friend goes by the name of White Noise Fan. I love White Noise Fan. White Noise Fan is the only reason I’ve been sleeping better the last couple weeks…

When Rick got the Chicago job, I knew he’d be flying back and forth until the house sold and we could actually MOVE up there. Okay, no big deal – it’s not like I haven’t spent nights alone before. I lived alone for a while before we were married, and over the years Rick has taken many a business trip – when we lived in New Jersey, it wasn’t unusual for him to be gone for a night or two. I guess the difference is that NOW I’m in a really big house… probably a little TOO big for just two people. And definitely too big for one person. It’s hard to fall asleep when it’s quiet and every little noise makes you think about how big your house is and how many closets there are for monsters to hide in…

So when Rick got the job, I fell back on my old trick for falling asleep when I’m alone – I turn on the TV and keep the volume on very low, so I have the “illusion” of someone else in the house. It has to be on something totally innocuous, like the Weather Channel, or a station that plays nothing but sitcoms. The last thing you want is to fall asleep to an episode of “Seinfeld” and wake up several hours later to the sounds of screaming and chainsaws, because the channel switched over to “Friday the 13th Part 57 – Jason Sneaks Into Your Bedroom.” Not good.

In the past, my low-volume TV trick has worked pretty well… but the new TV we have in the bedroom is rather strange – even when it’s on the lowest possible volume, it’s still loud enough to actually sit and watch and comfortably hear everything everyone is saying. The only other way to go is mute – and that totally negates my efforts to convince myself I’m not alone. So I’d been leaving the TV on a channel that plays nothing but sitcoms and talk shows all night, even though it wasn’t as quiet as I would’ve liked. But this resulted in a very restless sleep… even when I WAS sleeping, I could swear I could still hear that TV. I’d wake up every couple of hours, try not to listen to whoever was talking on the TV, and eventually drift back to sleep. And then around five or six in the morning, I’d get annoyed with the TV and turn it off anyway.

And then there was the week “The Strangers” was released on DVD. I don’t know much about that movie, because it was NOT something that looked appealing to me in any way… but apparently it’s about a group of strangers who randomly pick a house so they can terrorize the occupants (why on earth would anyone want to watch a movie like that??? It just sounds horrible…). So while the movie itself was not on TV, the ad for the DVD kept running every hour or so. I had to change the channel to avoid hearing eerie music and creepy voices all night. That was the point I decided I needed some other way to help me fall asleep…

So my mom, who stocked her guest bedrooms with white noise fans, graciously lent me White Noise Fan. I placed it on the floor of my bedroom, and it has made SUCH a difference. I can leave the TV off, turn White Noise Fan on, and I fall asleep in about five minutes. The last couple nights I’ve even slept straight through the night without waking up, which I hardly ever manage to do. I usually wake up two or three times during the night. White Noise Fan is my new best friend when I’m sleeping alone in the house.

Oh, and in “trying to sell the house” news – apparently letting the housework fall by the wayside worked. We’ve already had THREE people call to see the house in the last few days. This is the first time since it’s been on the market that ANYONE has wanted to see the house. So I’m cautiously optimistic about the house sale…

Because I don’t want to need White Noise Fan forever…

Friday, November 07, 2008

San Antonio...

Aunt Carol and Steve and Jess and Grace are here for a visit, so we all drove down to San Antonio today. It seems like every time I'm down by the Riverwalk, it gets more and more crowded. I think eventually they'll have to widen all the sidewalks to make room for the tourists... except the only way to do that is to either encroach upon the shops and restaurants (which would entail a significant amount of remodeling), or widen the sidewalks into the river -- which would involve much less effort, but result in a much smaller river. It would turn into the Creekwalk... or the Brookwalk... or the Streamwalk... And how many tourists would show up for something called the Streamwalk???

Here are a few pictures from today:


View of the river (soon-to-be stream...) from the restaurant where we ate lunch...


Grace was having too much fun eating her after-lunch ice cream...


Christmas decorations were already displayed on the buildings along the river... (Seasons Greetings! It's 80 degrees! Wait -- which season are we celebrating??)


More Christmas decorations...



Outside the Alamo...


I'm not even sure what this building is -- I just liked the ornate tower with the flag on top...



Saw this blue merle Sheltie outside the Alamo... I hardly ever see any blue merles besides Echo, so I had to take a picture. Shelties are the best... :)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Surprise! More random stuff...

It seems like all my posts have been random thoughts lately… and since I don’t have anything substantive to talk about today, it looks like this one will be no different. So here we go:

I am drinking a Starbucks peppermint mocha in a red holiday cup! Peppermint mochas taste like Christmas… (and crayons taste like purple… but that’s another story for another time).

So a new president has finally been elected (I say “finally” because doesn’t it seem like the presidential campaigning for this election started somewhere back in 1987 and just NOW came to an end??). He is not, in my opinion, the best person for the job… but perhaps the best person for the job wasn’t even running this year. Eh, what’re ya gonna do? Presidents come and go. And I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, but only for about three months. After three months, I’d better see some magic happening. I’m serious – Obama had better be able to control the weather and spontaneously create jelly beans out of thin air and provide every American household with one of those big blow up castles that you can bounce around in… otherwise, I will honestly start to wonder what all the hullabaloo was over this guy…

I’m also starting to wonder if our house will ever sell. Even with all the open house traffic we’ve had, no one has bothered to come back. And no one has requested to see the house through their realtor, even though the fliers out by the curb have been disappearing at a very rapid pace. I mean, c’mon – it can’t hurt to just LOOK at the place. No one will force you to buy it if you hate it. I guess the way to assure a viewing is to allow the house to fall into disarray. So from now on, I shall cease to clean – dirty dishes will pile in the sink… cat hair will collect on the couch… dust will settle on all surfaces… the carpet will need a good vacuum… the counters will be cluttered with junk mail and odds and ends. But I will resist the urge to straighten up – because once the house looks horrible, THAT will be when a realtor calls and says some people would like to stop by. In five minutes.

I wish it was cooler here. It’s hard to drink a peppermint mocha that tastes like Christmas when it FEELS more like Memorial Day…

My computer has been very temperamental lately… it continually disconnects me from the internet and then connects again at random intervals. It’s really sort of starting to annoy me. It’s obviously time for a new computer…

I keep hearing and reading about how we’re depleting the oceans of fish and how half the fish out there contain dangerous levels of mercury and can be hazardous to eat. So there’s a lot of talk about eco-friendly fishing, and which fish are mercury-free, and how we can be responsible seafood consumers. But I have a better idea – how about we just stop eating fish? I, for one, have NO problem with that at all. I mean, what if someone came out and said that cheese contains all sorts of contaminants and destroys the environment? You think dad would have a hard time sacrificing his cheese habit?? Absolutely not. And I am willing to do the same with fish to save our oceans…

Well, I should go hop on the treadmill and work off the calories in my peppermint mocha… (I need to not make this a daily habit… :))

Monday, November 03, 2008

Monday random thoughts...

So how was everyone’s weekend? Mine was extremely uneventful, so I really don’t have much to say. (Well THIS doesn’t make for an interesting blog post… :)) Oh, except for the heartbreaking UT/Tech game on Saturday. If UT had just managed to move the ball a little more slowly in those last couple minutes, Tech wouldn’t have had time to score that last touchdown. And there’s one thing that annoys me more than ungracious losers – and that’s ungracious winners. Storming the field and pulling down goal posts is NOT a classy move…

And speaking of ungracious winners and losers – tomorrow is Election Day… and I fully expect to see examples of each, no matter the outcome. To be honest, I’m so glad this election is almost over. I’m seriously getting tired of hearing about it day after day after day after day. Although I don’t know – I suppose it was a refreshing change from the usual Bush Bashing the media pours out on a regular basis…

I’m listening to Christmas music on my iPod. Yeah, that’s right. Christmas music. I figure if my television is already bombarding me with holiday commercials, I might as well succumb to this particular seasonal diversion. I just made my list of Christmas gift recipients last night, so I can start to peruse online stores. As usual, I plan on doing the bulk of my Christmas shopping online. It’s much less hectic that way (unless your packages get lost in the mail or the item you wanted has suddenly gone on backorder until February… then it can be a bit of a pain…).

I’m drinking my usual morning cappuccino… and as I mentioned in my last post, I can’t wait for the holiday drinks and the red and white cups at Starbucks. Our store has a few of the new drinks written on their “coming soon!” board – they’re coming out with something called an “espresso truffle,” which just sounds like something too wonderful for words. My guess is that this drink will include a generous infusion of chocolate. And of course they’ll be serving peppermint mochas and gingersnap lattes (which I’m assuming is similar to the gingerBREAD latte they’ve served in the past). I’m so excited… is it silly to be excited about coffee??? Yeah, it probably is. But I’m DRINKING coffee, so I’m sure half my excitement is related to the copious amounts of caffeine now racing through my veins…

Well, I guess that’s all I’ve got for today… I now go to await the unveiling of Starbucks’ new holiday drinks… (do you think I’m addicted to coffee?? Nah, I just LIKE it… there’s a difference… right???)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween random thoughts...

Happy Halloween everyone! It’s time for my annual Halloween tradition, which consists of turning off my house lights and sneaking off to a location far away from trick-or-treaters. Tonight, that location is Rick’s parents’ house. And although they do live in a neighborhood with lots of safe, kid-friendly streets and plenty of orange-and-black-bedecked houses, they happen to be on the “outskirts” of said neighborhood. Which means their trick-or-treat traffic (hey, nice alliteration… :)) is significantly less insistent than at many of the other houses.

Not that I can blame kids for wanting to forage for free foodstuffs (apparently I’m in some sort of alliterative mood right now…). I just don’t happen to HAVE any candy in my house right now… or any other time, for that matter. And the one year we decided to keep some candy on hand (back when we lived in New Jersey, on a street relatively isolated from other neighborhoods) we significantly underestimated the amount we would need. We hadn’t counted on kids being chauffeured from other neighborhoods in minivan caravans. We finally had to turn the lights off once again and hide from the doorbell…

Rick is on his way back from Chicago, with… Tootsie Rolls! The hotel finally restocked their candy dishes with something other than Starburst. And I didn’t even have to don a costume and knock on doors to get my candy fix…

Speaking of Starbucks (as I was yesterday), my friendly neighborhood Starbucks is advertising the impending arrival of its holiday drinks. I just love the holiday drinks at Starbucks – peppermint mochas, gingerbread lattes, hot chocolate… yum. It’s just hard to find a balance between enjoying a good cup of calorie-laden coffee now and then, and managing to NOT gain weight between Thanksgiving and New Year’s… But still, I can’t wait for those red and white holiday-themed cups Starbucks always stocks up on during this time of year. Like my mom said yesterday – it doesn’t take much to make me happy. :)

Happy trick-or-treating!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Age appropriate...

I went over to my friend Cindy’s house yesterday, so I could hang out with her and the kids and meet their new puppy, Toffee (who is just adorable, by the way). While I was there, Cindy’s ten-year-old son, Jordan, said something to the effect of, “it’s funny – you look like a regular woman, and then you talk and you sound like you’re still in high school. And you act like it too… you’re still eighteen!” I’m not quite sure what to make of that… but I’ve decided I’m going to take it as a compliment, because don’t ten-year-olds generally think anyone over the age of 25 is really, really old? Of course, I’m hoping that Jordan didn’t mean to imply that I sneak out of the house every night and meet my friends at the mall… or that I leave my clothes all over the floor of my bedroom and refuse to clean up… or that I play my music really loud and talk back to my parents…

But I have, at times, been told that my voice is a bit “young.” In fact, I used to like to sing, and spent many, many years in various choruses and choirs. But eventually, I sort of got tired of the fact that I sound like I’m 12 years old when I sing. And that, coupled with the fact that no one can ever HEAR me when I’m in a large group (because my voice is not only young, but very quiet, as well), turned out to be quite discouraging. Now, I mostly just sing when I’m alone and no one is around to ask me when I’m running off to Vienna to join the boy’s choir (and I could SO join the Vienna Boy’s Choir… IF they could get over the fact that I’m not a boy…). This is much to the chagrin of my mom, who, I’m sure, would swear I sing like an angel. :)

And speaking of acting younger than you are – my mom and I made our usual Starbucks run this morning, and the woman waiting for her coffee in front of us was a thin, reasonably attractive woman who, I would guess, was somewhere in her mid-50s. She had a stylish short haircut and manicured nails, and was wearing a nice pair of trouser jeans and, inexplicably, a Hello Kitty sweater. Hello Kitty. The little white cartoon cat that’s so popular on Japanese lunchboxes and with the pre-teen set. A quick perusal of Amazon.com reveals a plethora of Hello Kitty merchandise: A Hello Kitty dollhouse… a Hello Kitty toy tiara… Hello Kitty clock radios… Hello Kitty stickers… Hello Kitty twin sheet sets. But also, strangely enough, Hello Kitty car floor mats, and a Hello Kitty license plate frame. So perhaps the cartoon cat is an acceptable accessory even into the teenage years… but there HAS to be a point where it crosses the line from “cute” to “trying a little too hard to be cute,” right? And I feel like that line was crossed at Starbucks today. I guess if I really want to act like I'm still in high school, I should go buy some Hello Kitty floor mats for my car...

By the way, my “Pre-Halloween Holiday Commercial” count is up to five… After tomorrow, I expect the holiday commercials to begin in earnest. :)

Monday, October 27, 2008

More random stolen pictures...

I was at mom and dad's house taking care of the cats this morning (they're on their way home from Buffalo as I type...) and I happened to discover dad's pictures from Hawaii. Yay! More random pictures! So, in no particular order, some more Hawaii pictures:

Me and a sea turtle friend at the Maui Ocean Center...


Dad got this cool picture of me in the light glowing from the jellyfish tank...


Rick's parents, mom, me and Rick hanging out in the plexiglass underwater tunnel...


Dad took this picture of mom taking a picture of Eric D. talking on the phone to Eric in Chicago... so really, it's a picture of Eric up in Chicago...



I love this picture -- I'm not sure what dad did to it, but all the plants are green, and the rest of it is black and white... cool...


Cute picture of Debbie on the hotel balcony...


Nice sunset on the beach...



Another shot of the beach at the hotel -- it was pretty uncrowded most of the time, which makes it more fun to visit the beach...

Me and Rick at the luau...



Eric and Debbie with our waiter at the luau (I think Eric is holding a plate of some of the strange, gelatinous, coconut-flavored dessert we all found rather icky)...



This is me feeding the birds, right in front of the sign that says "please do not feed the birds." Yeah. That's right. I'm a rebel.


Eric and dad hiked down to this blowhole, but the rest of us stayed up on the cliff overlooking the scenery...


Waving down to dad and Eric...


Mom in front of the hotel's main entrance, where she made sure to block the "Kea" so her name would be the prominent feature... (mom loves all the "Lani's" in Hawaii... :))



Laughing at something in the condensed New York Times printout we had outside the door every morning...



Dad at Haleakala...


Wow... I have a lot of hair... I mean, it seems like even more than usual here. Must've been the wind...

Mom and dad at Haleakala...



And finally -- this was part of the roof at the hotel, which looked like... well, you can decide what it looks like to you, but the rest of us pretty much came to the same conclusion... :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Yum...

Rick and I are hanging out down at my parents' house, while a realtor is over at our place for an open house (pleeeeeease someone show some interest... an offer... any offer. Well, something a little higher than the "100 bucks" offer we got from our friend Jamie yesterday. :)). We were supposed to have this open house last week, but the realtor had car trouble and had to cancel. Which really stuck in my craw (I have never, ever used that expression. Ever. I guess I just thought it was time...). I had spent all weekend cleaning every nook and crannie of the house, and was just finishing up when the realtor called to cancel. Sigh. Of course, the good news is that I didn't have to work nearly as hard THIS weekend, because how dirty can a house get in seven days? Wait, I should add something to that -- how dirty can a house get in seven days if you don't have kids? :)

Anyway... we discovered -- or, rather, re-discovered -- a great restaurant last night. We headed down to the Domain shopping center, with the intention of eating SOMEwhere, but with no particular restaurant in mind. After walking past a few of our "regulars," we spotted Cru -- which, compared to most of the other restaurants in the Domain, is quite small and nondescript and easy to miss. Which is probably why we never think to eat there when we happen to be in the area. We did stop in for lunch several months ago, and I believe we thought it was fairly good. But our dinner last night cemented Cru onto my list of top places to eat in Austin. It's billed as a "wine bar," but even if you're not a drinker, the food alone is reason enough to go.

What I really liked (I mean, besides the fact that my roasted rosemary chicken was EXCELLENT) were the portion sizes -- it's so rare to find a restaurant that serves reasonable portions. Most of them bombard you with so much food that you either feel a) completely stuffed by the time you leave, or b) completely guilty for leaving so much food on your plate. I generally fall into the latter category. I'll eat as much as I can, and then sort of push the rest of the food around until I have achieved the optical illusion of a nearly-empty plate. Apparently the illusion is not very convincing, however, as I've been asked many times by various servers at various restaurants if my meal was "okay." And then I'm left wondering just how big the average person's stomach IS, exactly...

But like I said, the portions at Cru were just right -- a small piece of chicken, a few fingerling potatoes, and some Brussels sprouts. That was all that was on my plate. And I actually managed to eat the entire thing (well, with the exception of the Brussels sprouts, which Rick ate... I've never developed a taste for those things...). And I had plenty of room for the very yummy chocolate chip cookie cake for dessert...

So why can't more restaurants follow that example? Why do I need a plate piled with mountains of food when a much smaller amount will do just fine? There are many places where I would happily pay the SAME amount of money for a meal with LESS food. I suppose some people enjoy the option of taking home leftovers... I, however, am not one of those people. Leftovers never seem to reheat very well... more often than not, that doggy bag full of excess food reheats into a mushy, sticky, extremely unappetizing mess. (Although I readily admit I am one of the pickiest eaters in the world, so perhaps this is not a problem for most people. :))

And this whole post is reminding me -- I have to go grocery shopping...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Well, it's official...

I have now seen two -- yes, two -- holiday-themed commercials on television. And it's not even Halloween yet. In years past, I've often wondered if I've imagined the consistently earlier arrival of Christmastime ads, or if they actually always pop up at the same time each year. But no, I'm pretty sure they ARE getting earlier and earlier every year. Doesn't it seem like marketers used to wait until sometime right around Thanksgiving to start pitching their holiday wares? And then the ads slowly creeped backwards to mid-November... and then they imperceptably inched their way back to the beginning of the month... and then the day after Halloween... and NOW they're popping up before I've even stocked my cabinets with candy for trick-or-treaters (which will never actually happen, by the way... I'll be sneaking out of the house before nightfall again... :)).

I propose that we do away with all this sly holiday commercial subterfuge and just bring everything right out into the open -- let's just run Christmastime commercials ALL year. I mean, why not? It makes more sense to start shopping early, anyway. If the ads don't start showing up until the end of the year, they only give you a couple months of reminders before the Big Day arrives. But what if you happened to be hanging out on your couch one stuffy evening in June, watching Scrubs reruns and sipping iced tea, and suddenly the TV was blaring Jingle Bells and an announcer was chiding you on your lack of holiday forethought? ("The year is half over already! Why haven't you made a list of holiday gift recipients yet? How lazy are YOU?? Stop the procrastination!")

Okay, okay... maybe that would be a little extreme... :) I've never been much of a procrastinator myself, and even I think Christmas commercials in June would be annoying... Or not so much "annoying" as "out-of-place." But how much further back in the year can these commercials be aired before they REALLY start feeling decidedly unseasonal? Half the fun of the holiday season is its brevity -- the fact that it's only around for a short time every year before we go back to our usual less-than-festive lives makes it fun to anticipate. It would be much less fun if it was a constant... but it sort of seems like that's where all these commercials are headed...

But they ARE a reminder of how quickly the end of the year is approaching... do I REALLY only have 60 shopping days until Christmas??? I guess I'd better start paying attention to those holiday commercials...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Speaking of politics...

Ugh... I hate politics... I really do. People always get so emotional about things... and then they get mad... and then they argue... and nobody ever changes their mind about anything, no matter how much reason or logic is thrown their way. Because someone else will always counter it with reason and logic of their OWN. Which, basically, is why nothing ever really gets done in Washington D.C. So until people start realizing we all have pretty common goals and should try to find a way to work together towards them, nothing much will change. Because instead, we seem to always just have one side trying to prove the other side wrong, and vice versa. Sigh... no wonder this country is so polarized and frustrated right now...

However, that being said, I found this essay to be SO good that I had to post a link to it. It asks a lot of questions that we SHOULD be asking, but no one seems to be asking... this entire presidental campaigning season has had me scratching my head in confusion so many times...

But this is it... no more politics for a while... I shall now resume my happy-go-lucky regular postings... :)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

And maybe a pedicure, too...

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless (oh, heck – he hasn’t been reading my blog much lately anyway, so I’ll just say it – Faisal. Faisal Faisal Faisal Faisal. There. Now if he happens to Google his own name for some reason, there’s a chance he’ll stumble upon my blog. Heehee… just kidding, Faisal. IF you’re actually reading this… :))… uh, what was I saying? Oh yeah – a friend of mine, who now has a name, has been texting me about Sarah Palin’s wardrobe expenses. In case anyone hasn’t heard – the RNC shelled out $150,000 for clothes, hairstyling and makeup during the campaign for Palin, her husband and her five kids. Once the campaigning is over, the clothes will be donated to charity. And the extravagance of this expense has been repeatedly pointed out by Palin’s critics.

This morning, I found a CNN article about how there’s a bit of a double standard here. Women, it seems, are EXPECTED to “look” good – and no matter what anyone thinks about this expense, you can’t deny that women are often judged by their looks. I mean, think of how many people have called Palin a “naughty librarian” and talked about how “hot” she is… nobody is out there saying OBAMA should strip and pose for a Chippendale’s calendar. And, interestingly, no one has tallied up the cost of any of the MALE candidates’ clothing expenses. You think they’ve all been wearing the same $1000+ suit at every campaign stop? No, of course not – they probably have DOZENS of expensive suits, ties and shoes. And that’s just the candidates themselves. They all have families, too – just like Sarah Palin – which means their family members are no doubt spending exorbitant amounts of money on THEIR looks, as well. Yet Palin is the one catching flak for it.

Faisal, however, pointed out that John Edwards – a Democrat AND a man – was criticized several years ago for his “$400 haircut.” A valid point. Edwards WAS criticized for his expensive haircuts (and his hair doesn’t even look that great… at least not in MY opinion… :)). So I did a little bit of math – if you account for 67 days of campaigning (the time between Palin’s nomination and election day), that 150K works out to about $320 per day per member of the Palin family. This is actually LESS than a John Edwards haircut, and it includes clothes, shoes, makeup AND hair. A much better value, if you ask me… :) The difference is that Republicans tend to espouse the “you should do what you want with YOUR money” idea, whereas Democrats espouse the “we should spread the wealth around” idea – and if you’re getting $400 haircuts, you’re obviously not caring much about “spreading the wealth around.”

I think the bottom line is that ALL campaigners do this sort of thing – it doesn’t matter if they’re Republican or Democrat, male or female. It’s na├»ve to think this is something unique and exclusive to Palin’s campaign, and, therefore, it’s really not something that’s worth too much aggravation. There are too many REAL issues with the candidates in this election, many of which seem to be getting overshadowed by silly, petty, or downright imaginary concerns. And this is not limited to Palin or the Republicans – some of the ridiculous rumors about Obama have been frustratingly annoying. It irks me to no end when people spread false information through mass emails or internet postings. It doesn’t make Obama look bad – it makes whoever SENT the wrong info look bad.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an appointment for a $600 manicure…

Monday, October 20, 2008

I need a candy fix...

Back when I worked at the law firm (a job with memories that I’ve tried to shove into some rarely-accessed corner of my brain), many of the secretaries used to keep dishes of candy on their desk. There was an obvious hierarchy at the firm – the lawyers, of course, being the center of the law firm universe, followed by the planetary bodies of paralegals. The paralegals would metaphorically revolve around the bright, burning egos of the lawyers, always at their beck and call and apparently permanently entangled in their gravitational pull. These people took themselves and their jobs much too seriously to ever have something as frivolous as candy anywhere within their general vicinity.

But then there were the secretaries. They were the nicest, most laid-back, and arguably the hardest workers of the entire bunch. They were the ones who would actually smile and say hello, and say crazy things like “please” and “thank you” when they needed projects taken care of. AND they had candy…

Usually, when I was at work, I liked to hide out in the file room. There was plenty to do, and my boss only trusted two of us – me and a coworker named Marc – to go anywhere near the files. And the best part of the file room was the fact that it was MY domain – if anyone wanted to remove a file, they had to ask me. If anyone wanted to FILE a file, they had to leave it on the shelf near the door and I would go through the process of logging it in the computer and finding its proper place in the room. Not even the lawyers, with their giant egos and comfortable place atop the office hierarchy, were allowed to shuffle through the file room without my permission. A fact I came to love, by the way…

But every now and then, the guy who delivered the interoffice mail would be late, or sick, or on vacation, or need to leave early – and I would take on the mail duties. This would entail collecting all mail/faxes/memos/packages, attaching slips of paper to each one with the initials of the recipient (everything was done by initials… after I’d been working there a few months, I could’ve told you anyone’s initials, but not necessarily everyone’s name), and then arranged in order of which office was where. Then I’d scoop up all the mail and begin a lap around the 18th floor, followed by a jog down the stairs to the 17th floor and another lap around the building…

And the best part of delivering the mail around the office was that I HAD to walk past all the secretaries’ desks, and more often than not, at least one or two of them had a candy dish sitting out. And since it was the nice, friendly secretaries, anyone who walked by felt free to help themselves to the candy. After a while, I discovered that my favorite candy dish was on the desk of one of the secretaries near the copy center. She always had Tootsie Rolls – but not the usual chocolate Tootsie Rolls. No, she had a whole bowl of Tootsie Rolls in different flavors, like lime and orange and cherry and vanilla. I had never seen these colorful Tootsie Rolls before – I’d only ever seen the usual, common, run-of-the-mill chocolate ones. So every time I walked past her desk, I’d grab a few Tootsie Rolls in different flavors, and then head back to the sanctuary of the file room to enjoy them.

And when I quit my job at the law firm, I totally forgot about those yummy unusual Tootsie Rolls. Forgot about them, that is, until my recent trip to Chicago. Because there at the front desk of the hotel, in big, inviting dishes, were piles and piles of flavored Tootsie Rolls. I hadn’t seen them since my days of mail runs at the law firm. The hotel seemed to rotate their candy supply – in the morning they’d set out dishes of Starburst candy, and in the afternoon they’d fill the dishes with Tootsie Rolls. I made sure to grab a handful of Tootsie Rolls every evening, so I’d have enough to tide me over until the next evening…

And since Rick has made that hotel his temporary “home” in Chicago, he’ll be staying there every week until we have a house/condo/apartment up there. So last week I reminded him to bring me a few Tootsie Rolls from the hotel… but apparently they ran out – because all they had the entire week was Starburst (at least that’s what Rick SAID…). And I asked him again tonight when he got to the hotel – any Tootsie Rolls? Nope. Just Starburst. What happened to the Tootsie Rolls? Were they ever really there on that desk? Or were they just a figment of my imagination? At the risk of sounding like a five-year-old: I want more Tootsie Rolls!

I’ll just wait here patiently… eventually someone at that hotel will come to their senses… :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fly away...

It was 60 degrees this morning! I’m wearing a sweater! Actually, I have to be honest – this is not quite as exciting as it usually is, because I know I’m (eventually) moving to Chicago. And in Chicago, I’ll be LUCKY to get a 60 degree day once Halloween rolls around. I suppose I should be grateful for warm Texas weather as long as it lasts. I am a little bit worried that the house won’t sell until we’re smack dab in the middle of winter, and then once I DO move, it’ll be like climate shock. (Of course, with the total lack of interest we’ve had so far, it could be spring or summer before the house sells. And by then it’ll be temperate again…)

Rick is gonna be SO peeved if he has to keep flying back and forth much longer. Flying isn’t his favorite form of transportation. And it’s filled with all sorts of unknown variables. A couple weeks ago, he called me from the airport and I heard a high-pitched screeching noise in the background. I thought he was at the airport Starbucks – through the phone, it sounded like someone was steaming milk for a cappuccino. But it turned out to be a screeching child – who, much to Rick’s chagrin, ended up occupying the seat across the aisle from him on the airplane ride home. Now, screeching kids on an airplane are bad enough – but as the plane was landing, the rambunctious kid’s mom decided to read to her child in an effort to calm him down. And what was her literature of choice? A Disney book, perhaps? A story about adorable little puppies? Maybe a classic like Charlotte’s Web or The Secret Garden? Nope – she pulled out the safety pamphlet and started reading to her kid about what to do in the event of a crash landing. (“Put your oxygen mask on first, then attend to those who need assistance… in the event of a water landing, your seat cushion can be used as a flotation device…”) That is some soothing bedtime story material right there…

I’m not sure which is worse – the bedtime-story reading of the safety pamphlet, or the NEXT flight Rick was on, where he AGAIN was seated next to a child. This time, as the plane was descending, it hit some turbulence and bounced around a bit. All the bouncing made the child loudly exclaim, “are we crashing?” I don’t know, kid – but just in case, let me read you a delightful story called “The Seat Pocket Safety Card”…

Yeah, flying can be interesting… I mean, just the fact that you are literally trapped inside this manner of conveyance with a bunch of strangers, tens of thousands of feet in the air – it’s a strange thing. If you get sick of them, you can’t step outside for a few moments to get some fresh air, or walk down to the onboard coffee shop (although how cool would it be to have an onboard coffee shop??). So most of us just try to shut out the rest of the plane and get lost in our own little high-altitude world. We work on our laptops, or peruse a magazine, or listen to our iPods, or sleep… or occasionally read the safety card in the seat pocket. I wonder what would happen if all the seats were removed from a plane, and everyone was forced to sit in a group and mingle… ugh… actually, that doesn’t sound fun at all…

And I recently read a report about how rarely the seat pockets are cleaned on airplanes – which means I haven’t pulled out one of those in-flight magazines in a while. Because I don’t even want to think about what ELSE might be festering in that seat pocket… So maybe they SHOULD remove all the seats from airplanes, just to cut down on the germs. (Nah… then where would they stash the safety cards???) :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Let me in...

We’re back in Austin… it was weird to leave Chicago without the car yesterday. Kinda like, “hey, aren’t we forgetting something? I’m sure we had more than this when we got here…” Our flight was nice and uneventful – especially since the weather in Chicago was perfect yesterday (after being consistently rainy and cloudy the entire time we were there). We were in the second to last row of the plane, RIGHT next to the engine. And I was suddenly very grateful that I always carry earplugs with me when I travel, even though I don’t always use them. But I think I would’ve had a huge headache by the end of the flight if I hadn’t immediately made use of my earplugs to shut out the engine noise. Well, DECREASED the engine noise… it would’ve taken more than a couple little foam earplugs to completely shut it out. So I was still very aware of the constant thrumming of the engine, droning on and on… thud… thud… thud… (this, of course, is actually much better than the alternative SILENCE of the engine, which is really not a very good option at all when you’re 25 thousand feet above the earth…)

I didn’t have any chances to blog while I was in Chicago, since Rick had the only computer. I don’t usually travel with mine (and besides, Rick always has HIS, right?). So while I had plenty of extra time that I could’ve used to write random thoughts and post them to my blog, I had no way to DO that. For the majority of the day, I was cut off from the outside cyberworld. Which really isn’t such a bad thing, to be honest. I mean, if you’re always online and reading about what’s going on in the cyberworld, you can kind of lose touch with what’s going on in your own REAL world…

So even though I had no computer and Rick was gone most of the day, I still found ways to keep busy and discovered little moments of drama throughout my day. For instance, the first day I was at the hotel, my key stopped working. I had planned to go down to the fitness center and walk on one of the treadmills for a while – so I dressed in my workout clothing, put my wallet and camera in the room safe, grabbed my phone and room key, and headed down to the lower level fitness center. To get in, you have to swipe your room key outside the door – that keeps out all the riff raff fitness buffs. (I’m kidding – it’s actually a good idea to make sure only hotel guests can use the facilities… especially since it’s in the basement and, at least when I was in there, practically deserted…) So I swiped my key outside the fitness center door – and instead of the little green light that announces, “yes! You’ve been cleared! You have been granted access to this room of privilege!” nothing happened. So I tried it again. And again. And probably again. (Yes, I was quite tenacious.) Finally, I accepted the fact that the key was NOT going to work, and gave up. And then I realized something – if my key wasn’t working for the fitness center, that probably meant it would no longer work for my ROOM, either. So I took the elevator back up to my floor and confirmed what I already knew – I was locked out of my hotel room.

Okay, no problem – I just had to go to the front desk and tell them to reprogram my key. So I explained to the woman behind the counter that my key had stopped working, and told her which room I was in. And of course the first thing she asked was, “do you have ID?” (Um, yeah… up in the room safe… the room that I happen to be locked out of…) So then she asked whose name the room was registered under, and I gave her Rick’s name. And then she wanted his phone number, so I gave her his new Chicago number, but that seemed to confuse her. So I gave her our home number, and that didn’t help much either. Maybe Rick’s old cell phone? I gave her THAT number, and she was STILL staring at her computer screen with a furrowed brow and a look of concern on her face. And I was running out of phone numbers… Finally, she said, “I’ll go ahead and reprogram the key, but tell Rick to put your name on the reservation so we know who’s allowed to be in the room.” So I guess she decided that I did NOT look like the kind of person who simply wanted to break into someone’s room to steal all their stuff. And when Rick and I came back later so he could add my name to the room, we discovered that they had some weird phone number on file neither of us was familiar with. Rick figures it must’ve been because this was a work reservation and not a personal reservation. So it’s some random company number that I never would’ve been able to guess. Good thing she finally reprogrammed my key anyway… otherwise I guess I would’ve been stuck in the lobby all day…

So now I must get busy with unpacking and laundry, so I can clear the bedroom of suitcases in the event someone should want to see the house (even though there’s been very little interest the last couple weeks… stupid economy. But that’s okay – once the Great Wise Benevolent One Obama has been elected, everything will be puppies and rainbows and world peace and harmony… Chant with me now – yes we can! Yes we can! Change! Change! All hail our Soon-to-Be Dear Leader!) Um, yeah… like I said… laundry… :)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday random thoughts...

I accidentally missed the season premiere of one of my favorite new shows from last year – Chuck – when it was on last Monday. And I got lucky when I noticed that “Pushing Daisies” – another one of my favorites from last year – was starting up again. I managed to Tivo that one. But I’ll have to find Chuck online and watch it before next week. The problem, of course, is that the stupid writer’s strike completely threw off the entire television season last year. So we ended up with these great shows that aired about eight episodes before they ran out of material, and then they just disappeared into oblivion for months and months. How was I supposed to remember that Chuck was back on the air, when I’d gotten so used to watching reruns of “Family Guy” and “The Office” on TBS every night because of the lack of original programming?

So I’ve been seeing these ads lately for a show called “Good Day Austin” – which is like Austin’s version of Good Morning America, I suppose. In the commercials, they go out on the streets downtown and ask people about New York – “Do you know what the weather is like in New York today? Are you a Yankee fan?” – and the people, of course, answer with, “no… who cares… I’m a Rangers fan…” etc. And then the ad ends with, “don’t watch news about New York! Watch news about Austin!” But clearly these people never asked ME any of these questions, because I would say, “New York? Oh yeah, it’s sunny and about 65 degrees there today – doesn’t that sound nice? And I LOVE the Yankees! Thanks for asking!!” Some of us actually LIKE watching the news from New York, because it makes us feel nostalgic and wistful… and it makes us look forward to the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller Center, which is only a couple months away… (what?? Do I have to start my Christmas shopping already???)

Eric is here for a visit this weekend… which is funny, because Rick and I are actually driving up to Chicago on Sunday. (But then Eric flies back on Monday, so we’ll see him up there, too… unless he tries to hide somewhere and pretends like he’s not home when we show up at his condo…) We’re driving up to Chicago so Rick will have his own car up there – we’d be moving it up eventually anyway, and this way he doesn’t have to rent a car every single time he flies up. Plus, he’ll be able to keep some of his stuff in the car – like full size toiletry bottles, instead of those tiny little travel-sizes you need for carry-ons – so he won’t have to pack as much when he leaves every Monday. He negotiated a good deal with a hotel that has covered parking, so he can keep the car at the hotel even when he’s back in Austin. So I’m going up this week just for the fun of it, which means I’ll probably be totally bored most of the day… but the hotel has a gym and a pool and a Starbucks, so hopefully I can waste a little bit of time…

Well, that’s about it for today… have to head out now to take the car to a tire place to get new tires… Hope everyone has a good weekend!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Hungry?

A foodie friend of mine, who writes under the pen name Arthur J. Stern, recently started reviewing restaurants for an online paper (which, I guess, isn't actually a "paper," since there's no paper involved) -- okay, an online publication. His column is called Stern Eats, and you can find it at www.thealternativepress.com. I've been proofreading these articles, so if anyone finds any mistakes, please don't point them out... I must tenaciously hold on to my misconception that I am perfection personified. (I don't REALLY think that... in case anyone thinks I'm being serious... :)) And if you happen to live in the Northern New Jersey area, definitely check out some of Arthur's restaurant picks -- every time I read one of those reviews, I end up hungry. I was especially intrigued by the "roasted garlic ice cream" mentioned in one of the columns. (Garlic? In ice cream? Hey, if it's good enough to keep vampires away, it's good enough for ice cream... Right?) :)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Random stolen pictures...

We had to hang out at mom and dad's house this afternoon with Echo during our open house. The realtor said it went really well -- nine people came by (or nine families... was probably more than nine total) and the feedback was really good. Everyone seemed to like the house -- especially since it's practically brand new. (It actually still has "new house smell" -- I don't notice it most of the time because I'm used to it, but after we were gone in Hawaii for a week, I noticed it as soon as I walked back into the house. It was like, "ahhhh... new house smell..." :)) The realtor said there were three people in particular who were especially interested, so we'll see if anything happens next week.

While I was at mom and dad's house, I stole some of mom's Hawaii pictures off her computer. So here's a few more random vacation pictures:

It was not only freezing cold at the top of Haleakala, it was also really windy... (and I was too cold to push the hair out of my face...)


A nice pic of Rick's parents and my parents...


Mom and dad had the best hotel room for sunsets... they always seem to end up with the "good" room... I'm not sure that's a coincidence... (just kidding, mom and dad! :))


Those are dad's feet after he slid down the waterslide... dad and Eric and Rick all used the waterslide every day, but otherwise, it was pretty much exclusively used by little kids... (okay, maybe there were a FEW more adults who used it... but it was pretty funny to watch all the guys line up behind groups of little kids to use the waterslide... :))


That's dad and Rick in the ocean...



One of the places we stopped had all these rock piles all over the place -- people create them because they see all the OTHER rock piles, and assume there is some kind of significance to all these little towers of rock. But the truth is, they don't mean anything. They're just piles of rocks... (but I decided to place one more meaningless rock on top of this meaningless tower...)



Debbie and me...


Mom posing in front of the sign at her restaurant (where we had Hula Pie... I miss Hula Pie... :))



Another great sunset picture... if you look reeeeaaaally closely, you can see three heads bobbing in the ocean -- that would be dad and Rick and Eric...



Some of the lava flow from an 18th century eruption... I think it was the last time Haleakala really erupted... so it's probably due to unleash fury again any moment now...



Cute picture of Eric and Debbie at the luau in Lahaina...



And here we are in the Maui airport waiting to check in for our flight home... it was a sad day...