Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

There's something about a T-rex with a Santa hat that makes me uncontrollably happy. If we were sending Christmas cards this year, we would have skipped the family photo and used a portrait of T-rex instead. He is very handsome. But I decided pregnant ladies do not have to worry about Christmas cards, so we are skipping the tradition this year!

But I refuse to skip the tradition of holiday baking, so this weekend will involve lots and lots of cookies. Cookie Monster would approve.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Number One Rule For Receiving A Present

Last month, I wrote about my rules for gift giving. Alas, these rules are not universally followed. In the coming days, there is a strong possibility that you will receive a gift that is less than desirable.

So what do you do if you receive a crappy present that makes you want to bang your head against the floor? Do you start to cry if someone gives you an itchy sweater? Do you stomp your feet if your mother gives you a cat even though you are allergic to anything with four legs? Should you wail with frustration if your best friend gives your toddler a chainsaw? Is it okay to throw a tantrum if your in-laws give you a beanbag chair that smells like dead skunk?


You may not bang your head against the floor, cry, stomp your feet, wail with frustration or throw a tantrum. (At least, not in the gift giver's presence.)

You must pretend you like the gift and graciously thank the giver. (Unless the gift was obviously given with malice, e.g. if your demented neighbor gives you a dead squirrel, any negative reaction is acceptable. I recommend whacking said neighbor in the head with the dead squirrel, but first put on gloves, and then burn the gloves.)

But 99.99% of the time, you must pretend you like the gift and graciously thank the giver. I repeat: you must draw upon all of your acting skills and pretend you like the gift. In this instance, lying is acceptable.

What if you receive a present that duplicates something you already own? Well, then you need to use your judgment. If the gift giver is particularly sensitive, pretend you have been wanting this item for a long time. You can then secretly return or regift it. But if the gift giver has a sense of humor about these sorts of things, then you can laugh cheerfully and say something like, You know me too well, I already own this. When in doubt, I recommend Strategy No. 1.

If someone in your life is a notoriously bad gift giver, then maybe you should print my my rules for gift giving and display it in a conspicuous place, like on your fridge or tattooed across your forehead. But not this week. And not next week. This is something that needs to be done at a neutral time when you are not expecting any gifts for Christmas/birthdays/weddings/graduations/etc. 

And at the end of the day, who cares if you receive a lousy present? It truly is the thought that counts. Although you do have my permission to take any unwanted pets to a no-kill shelter and please, banish the beanbag chair that smells like skunk to the dumpster. If anyone asks about the beanbag chair, just say "the damn cat shredded it." And if anyone asks about the cat, just say, "the poor cat could not handle the smell of the beanbag chair and ran away."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Telecommuting Disadvantage

I am a big fat Christmas lights dork. Oh, how I love Christmas lights! From the house with three flickering bulbs on a dead bush to the McMansion that is using enough electricity to power an aircraft carrier, I love and adore every bulb that lights up this season.

When I had an evening commute, I enjoyed these glorious lights every weeknight. Most nights, I just admired the few displays on my normal route. But at least once a week, I would get off the freeway early or drive a few laps around my neighborhood before pulling into my driveway. And yes, I would blast carols while geeking out to the lights.

But I no longer have a commute, unless walking from the bedroom to the living room counts. I keep telling myself that I should just take myself for a drive when it gets dark... but I'm at the end of my second trimester, and I don't go joy riding for shits and giggles anymore. Even if that joyride involves Christmas lights.
Eleven months a year, if you asked me to make a pro/cons table for telecommuting, my cons column would be empty. But in December, I would have to list "no commute = fewer lights/inflatable Santas" as a con. Holy crap, I can't believe I'm saying this but ... telecommuting may actually have a seasonal disadvantage.

However, as a telecommuter, I don't have to attend an office party, and that is worth ten thousand colorful bulbs. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

My Psychic Gut Instinct

I would like to take a moment to thank my Gut Instinct for being psychic this morning.

I went to bed last night, planning to go to yoga in the morning; but then I woke to a rainy day and my yoga spirit evaporated. I felt like the time spent going to my yoga class would be better spent cleaning up the mess in our future nursery and wrapping Christmas gifts.

But my brain kept saying that I should go to yoga, that yoga would be relaxing and restorative; my gut, however, kept insisting that it would be even more relaxing to stay at home in my pajamas and clean up the future nursery.

My gut won, but even as I sorted a pile of books for Goodwill, my brain kept complaining, You should have gone to yoga, you good for nothing bitch.

Then, ten minutes before my yoga class was scheduled to begin, my phone rang. It was my yoga studio! The yoga studio owner apologized and explained that class was being cancelled. One of the instructor's students had gone into labor and the instructor had rushed to the hospital to help. Class would resume as normal on Thursday morning.

Way to go, Gut Instinct! If I had listened to my brain, I would have ventured out into the rain for nothing and then I would have been annoyed that I had driven an unnecessary lap on the freeway when I could have been at home, moving old office supplies out of Baby Girl's future nursery.

Then again, what would have happened if I had gone to yoga early? Would I have been there as the student went into labor? Did her water break in the yoga studio? Did her voice lower eight octaves as she swore in an ancient Elven tongue? Could I have helped my pregnant comrade stagger to her car and then cheered as the instructor drove her to the hospital? Or maybe I could have driven to the hospital! And when a police officer pulled us over, I would have pointed to the enormous pregnant woman screaming in the backseat, and then the police officer would have escorted us to the hospital at 90 mph through Pasadena. Oh man, that would have been the most awesome Tuesday morning ever.

Thanks, Gut Instinct. Thanks for a big fat nothing.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Baby It's Cold Inside

I went to college in New Hampshire and married a Nebraska man, so I know what it means to be cold in the winter. I have left my dorm at 11 a.m. and felt my snot freeze instantly because the air was so frigid.  (My freshman roommate from Maine had to explain this phenomenon to me.) I have insisted that I wanted to light fire to my body while walking home from a sledding expedition. I have walked outside in heels and stockings in temperatures below 0° because Nathan grimaced when I suggested I might wear a pants suit to his cousin's January wedding.

I know what it means to be cold, and I realize that Pasadena's winter weather does not meet the Midwest's or New England's definition of "Brrrr."  But that doesn't mean I'm frolicking outside in my sundress and sandals 365 days a year. Pasadena still gets cold, especially at night. At the beginning and end of the day, our house gets so chilly, even Nathan complains about it.

Fortunately, we installed a new heater about six months ago when we had our air conditioner replaced. Our new heater is pretty bad ass and only needs five or ten minutes to make our house feel cozy again.

Unfortunately, our brand new digital thermostat died on Saturday morning. After it died, slightly cold air kept blowing through our vents. Nathan had to manually unplug the system.

Nathan called the company that installed our new heater/thermostat three times on Saturday. We figured there was an easy fix that could be explained to us over the phone. And three times, a company representative assured us that a technician would call us on Saturday.

It probably goes without saying that it's Monday morning, and we are still waiting for that call from the technician.

Look, I realize this is not an emergency situation. We live in Pasadena, and even though it would be nice to use our brand new heater, we can huddle under blankets and manage just nicely. But holy crap, why did the company rep tell us that someone would call to help us if no one was actually going to call?! Don't lie to us!

Seriously, if Nathan had called on Saturday morning and the company rep had apologized and explained that we needed to call back on Monday, I would have been mildly irritated for about five minutes. Then I would have had some pancakes for breakfast and forgotten my irritation. But instead, we were mislead; so although my pancakes were delicious, I felt surges of irritation all weekend whenever I thought about the stinking lying liars who apparently don't give a crap about customer service.

And what's extra irritating is that we were not misled by a random company. This company did work for us six months ago and for that work, we wrote them a substantial check. Doesn't that deserve a little honesty and some freaking customer service? Don't they want us to recommend their services to our friends and neighbors?

I can't wait to call this company for the fourth time and beg them to fix our brand new thermostat so I can operate our brand new heater for ten lousy minutes. And I know I have to be sweet and pleasant even though I want to be cranky and lawyerly. And after our experiences with this company on Saturday, I am not confident that they will hurry over to fix our brand new thermostat which they installed six months ago. Here's to hoping I am pleasantly surprised.

p.s. Apologies for the formatting/font issues with this post. After I had the audacity to add the degree symbol to the first paragraph, things went crazy. Whenever I tried to make everything normal and uniform, half the sentences turned into Greek, literally.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Netflix Guilt

I love Netflix. It's convenient, reliable and cheap. In fact, it's so affordable, Nathan and I have separate accounts! I have one of the cheaper accounts, which just gives me two discs at a time, and Nathan's account includes the streaming option. Separate Netflix accounts may be one of the modern secrets to a happy marriage.

With Netflix, you can freely add as many discs as you like to your queue. You just have to carefully manage your queue to make sure you always receive the disc you actually want. It's one thing to add a documentary about The Great Depression to your queue; it's another thing to actually sit down and watch said disc.

Sometimes, a red Netflix envelope appears in my mailbox and when I tear it open, my stomach sinks. Oh no, it's that Marilyn Monroe movie that I thought I wanted to watch but crap, I just want to watch the latest season of How I Met Your Mother. Then the Marilyn Monroe movie sits, and sits, and sits, on top of the DVD player, taunting me. Every time I go to watch t.v. alone, I consider watching the old Marilyn flick, and every time, it feels like a boring homework assignment. So instead, I dig up a movie from my chick flick stash and save Marilyn for another day. Two months later, the Marilyn Monroe movie is still tormenting me with its dusty glare, and I still just want to watch the next season of How I Met Your Mother.

I call this Netflix Guilt and I know I am not alone.  Across this country, there is a brotherhood growing every day, and it is The Brotherhood Of People Who Forgot To Manage Their Netflix Queue And Now They Have A Kubrick Film They Don't Want to Watch But Once, After Reading A Magazine Article, They Felt Inspired To Watch All Of Kubrick's Movies, And Now They Feel Guilty If They Send The Disc Back Before Watching It.

There is no shame in belonging to this Brotherhood. But this year, I challenge all members of the Netflix Guilt Brotherhood to forgive themsleves and to return all unwanted discs, whether watched or unwatched. You do not have to watch The Artist just because it won Best Picture. You do not have to watch Hugo just because your sister said it's amazing. And you do not have to watch Battleship Potemkin just because your film major friend said something pretensious about "early Russian filmmaking" that made you feel like an idiot. You are not idiot and I don't care if you ever watch Battleship Potemkin. But you are an idiot if you let your Netflix Guilt get the best of you and you keep the Battleship Potemkin disc for six months when you really just want to join the Downton Abbey bandwagon. Put the Battleship Potemkin disc back in its red envelope and get ye to a mailbox.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Let There Be Internet!

About six months ago, our internet provider AT&T forced us to "upgrade" to a new wireless network. AT&T promised that its new fiber optic technology would make our internet connection faster and more reliable. Suffice to say, that has not been the case.

On Sunday morning, our internet box died. It was maybe six months old, at best, but it could no longer handle being an internet box. Of course, Nathan was in the office all day working and when he got home, he was planning to do a little more work before going to bed. But he could not do this work thanks to AT&T's crappy technology. Instead, he fiddled with the internet box and then spoke to two different technicians. I should note that he was very patient with both technicians even though they provided zero assistance. The box was dead, and we needed a new one.

We had to schedule an appointment with a technician to get our new box. AT&T told us the technician would arrive on Wednesday sometime between 4 and 8 p.m. I hate how phone and cable companies do that. Is it really that difficult to narrow the time of your technician's arrival to a smaller window? I can understand a two hour window, but four???

When he arrived, the technician told me that the new internet boxes die a lot. Well isn't that special? Our first box lasted six months, and golly gee, the prospect of losing our internet connection every six months is thrilling.

Also, it should be noted that we did not require the services of a technician to install our new internet box. This is something we could have done ourselves in less than ten minutes. (Well, Nathan could have installed the box in less than ten minutes. My pregnant belly has recently graduated from "cute" to "cumbersome" and I have to plot a plan of attack before I do anything difficult like standing up or bending down to tie my shoes.)

But if AT&T mailed us a new internet box, it would not have arrived until Friday at the earliest. Seriously? Does this make any business sense? Has AT&T not heard of this amazing invention called "overnight mail"? If AT&T had just overnighted us a new box, we would have been (relatively) happy customers and our internet service would have been restored in a timely fashion; and AT&T would not have had to pay one of its employees to come to our house. But no, let's do things the more difficult, annoying and expensive way. That makes so much more sense.

My apologies for my blogging absence. This time, I can legitimately blame a corporation for my disappearance. If I disappear for another week in approximately six months, please assume the internet box has died again.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Guest Posts

This blog used to feature fresh new posts nearly every weekday. Obviously, that is no longer happening. The fact that I'm pregnant might be to blame. Although I have a decent amount of energy these days, I still do not have 100% of my usual energy. Also, this whole "being pregnant" thing has added a whole bunch of things to my to-do list - e.g. next Monday, I'm seeing a physical therapist to give my back a tune-up and Tuesday, I'm taking the glucose test to make sure I don't have gestational diabetes (fun!)
The time I used to have for blogging now gets used for stuff likes naps and prenatal yoga. If I was an organized and thoughtful blogger, I would organize a series of guest posts for your enlightenment and entertainment. Alas, I am not an organized or thoughtful blogger, but if I was, here are some of the guest posts you might get to read:
  • Guest Posts from My Mother:
    • Wear Your Sunblock!
    • What TV Shows You Should Be Watching - because my mother's radar for good t.v. shows is amazing. She has introduced me to such shows as Shameless and Modern Family - there are at least a dozen other shows she has recommended to me over the years, but this is all my pregnant brain can remember right now.
    • Reapply Your Sunblock!
  • Guest Posts From My Father:
    • How the [insert name of L.A. sports team] Broke My Heart
    • Your Grammar Sucks
  • Guests Posts From My Grandma Shirley:
    • How to Rock Leather Pants As A Senior Citizen
    • How to Rock Animal Print Pants As A Senior Citizen
  • Guests Posts From My Brother Matt And Sister-in-Law Sara:
    • What To Do If There's A Cobra In Your Front Yard - oh wait, they already wrote that post, it's right here
    • 1,001 Reasons You Should Send A Care Package To Your Loved Ones Who Are Volunteering With The Peace Corps
    • Please Put Lots Of Gossip Magazines In Our Care Package
    • Who the Hell is Pippa Middleton?
  • Guests Posts From My Sister Katherine:
    • Please Stop Wearing That, It Makes You Look Old/Lame
    • 1,001 Reasons Why Dachshunds Are The Most Gorgeous Creatures On The Planet
    • No, You Are Not Allowed to Wear Your Green Crocs In Public; I Don't Care If You Are Pregnant
    • You Went To Bed At What Time? How Lame Are You?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

An Update About My Novel (And Some Notes About My Tush)

Is it possible to break your left butt cheek? And if so, what happens next? Can you get a cast for a single buttock? 

Needless to say, I'm typing this while sitting on a heating pad. If you see my dignity, please tell it to come home. I'm not angry, I promise. It's just I have to burp so much these days, and it's getting difficult to go to public places without humiliating myself. I feel like I need to live in a t-shirt that says: "Please excuse my burps and/or farts; I'm pregnant and my body has officially abandoned its last shred of honor."

In other news, I've finished my first round of major revisions for my novel and sent the latest draft to the printers. Woot woot! (By "sent the latest draft to the printers," I mean I emailed a copy to Nathan so he can print it for me. Such a sweet husband.)

My sister is home in Los Angeles for her winter vacation and I'm giving her the current version to read and critique. She is going to be my first reader! I am both exhilarated and terrified to pass my infant novel into her hands.

The first draft of my novel was 437 pages long with 194,092 words. After some serious revisions, the second draft is 343 pages long with 144,243 words. WHEW. If I could diet like I can revise, I could lose this pregnancy weight in about three weeks.

I worried in this post that I abused the words "just, then and now" in my first draft. I used those words 808, 550, and 654 times, respectively. I tried to slash these words out of my novel, but the word "just" still appears 515 times in the second draft (kill me). The word "then" is down to 377 appearances (sigh) and "now" is used 491 times (effing aye). Maybe my sister can help me with this little addiction. Probably not.

But here's a notable improvement: I used the word "pumpkin" only seven times in the first draft; but in the second draft, that word appears eight times! Unfortunately, the word "cranky" is down to three paltry appearances in the second draft (after being used four times in the first).

However, and I am being deadly serious, I would delete the words "pumpkin" and "cranky" from my novel entirely if I could think of a title for the damn thing. I thought the title would jump out at me as I reread and revised, but no such luck. If Santa Claus would bring me a title for my novel, I would be a very happy writer on Christmas morning.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Cold Chronicles

I haven't left the house since last Thursday. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I scurried outside in a heavy mist on Friday afternoon to fetch two boxes of tea from our detached garage. Then, on Saturday morning, I ventured down to our basement to point out to Nathan the boxes of Christmas decorations that needed to come upstairs. But other than those two "excursions," I have been under house arrest.

Why am I under house arrest? Because I have a cold. I woke up Friday morning feeling under the weather with a sore throat and a touch of congestion. It was the sort of cold that would just be a nuisance to Pre-Pregnant Courtney. But now that I'm pregnant, this cold is sucking up about 78% of my energy. I decided to hibernate all weekend so I could kick the cold's butt quickly and efficiently.

My plan failed. After three days of rest and more rest, my sore throat is better but my congestion is much worse. I can tell this cold is going to stick around for at least a few more days. Ah, well. That's the way it usually goes with a cold, isn't it? Silly me for thinking I could trick the cold into leaving early just by taking it easy.

On the bright side, I have enjoyed the first three days of my cold as much as possible:

- Nathan and I watched a ton of Parks and Recreation. Many thanks to my sister for insisting that we watch this amazing sitcom. Ron Swanson is my hero.

- We played lots of Mario Kart Wii. I don't think we'll ever tire of that game. Mario Kart alone justifies the money I spent on the Wii. I should probably buy us a back-up Wii, wheel controllers and game disc in case any of the components ever break.

- I started reading Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year by Anne Lamott. I loved Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, so I knew I'd enjoy Operating Instructions.  But damn, it's even better than I thought. I'll probably finish today. Lamott's writing inspires me to be a better writer.

- Sunday afternoon, we decorated our Christmas tree! We have a fake Christmas tree, and according to my ob/gyn, this means we are "old." I don't care. Having a fake Christmas tree is sooooo easy and it looks real enough to me. Plus, do I really need to be crawling on the floor this year with my pregnant belly to check on a tree's water level? I think not.

- I started knitting a rainbow striped blanket for Baby Girl (just like this one.) If this cold lingers much longer, I anticipate finishing this project in record time.

I could easily spend the next few days in the house, trying to defeat this cold, except I am determined to secure provisions today from the grocery store. We are out of mango juice, and that is simply unacceptable. I am going to summon all my energy just so I can replenish our mango juice supplies.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Hard Is It To Post A Visible Address?

I'd like to rant about one of my biggest pet peeves: commercial buildings that do not bother to post a visible address. This is such a pain in the ass in Los Angeles County, where you might only glimpse an actual address every several blocks. I swear, Magellan would have a hard time finding an address in this town.

Look, I understand if Best Buy or Home Depot do not feel the need to post a visible address. I can spot those buildings from a mile away and don't need an address to confirm that I've found my destination.

But yesterday, I was headed to an appointment at a medical building I had never visited. (By the time this pregnancy is over, I will have visited every freaking medical building in Pasadena in order to have my blood drawn, uterus probed, and sugar levels checked.) I could not find the stupid building because its address was not clearly marked. UGH. I drove past the building three times before I was able to conclude, by process of elimination, that either (a) this was my destination, or (b) my destination had recently fallen into a sinkhole and no longer existed.

Why couldn't the medical building just post its address in a visible spot? It's a non-descript building with some windows that looks like every other building with medical offices. Does the architect have any idea how difficult it is to drive a car safely while scanning the street for addresses? Does he want me to get into an accident? Who the hell is the architect of this building anyway?  

It's not like an address plaque is particularly expensive. I'm not asking for a neon billboard with animated penguins doing the can-can. Just go to the hardware store and buy those black metal numbers AND NAIL THEM ON THE SIDE OF YOUR BUILDING FOR THE LOVE OF GOD IN A VISIBLE SPOT AND BEHIND A BUSH OR TREE IS NOT A VISIBLE SPOT. How expensive are those black numbers, anyway? A dollar? So if there are five numbers in your address, it costs five bucks plus maybe twenty-five cents for hardware to buy an address for your stupid freaking anonymous commercial building. Owners of Commercial Buildings: Have mercy! Post visible addresses! Or I will find you and tattoo your building's address across your forehead!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why I Broke Up With Facebook

I deactivated my Facebook account over the weekend, and I feel sooooooooooooooooo gooooooooooood.

I have been flirting with the idea of breaking up with Facebook for several months. For a long time, I really enjoyed the website. I joined after several college friends convinced me that it was a great new way to stay in touch. And when I first joined, it was! I went to college in New Hampshire and my college friends are scattered throughout the country. We can't see each other as often as we'd like, but Facebook was a novel new way to share updates and photos.

But the college friends who convinced me to join Facebook no longer use the website themselves. A few of them formally deactivated their accounts; the rest have informally left Facebook by never posting anything.

I don't know when exactly it happened, but for me, Facebook largely became an obligation. There were still some good parts to Facebook - my brother and sister-in-law posting photos of their Peace Corps adventures; a friend posting a link to an interesting article I would have otherwise missed - but most status updates were boring and/or annoying. Sorry, John Doe, but I don't care that you went to Ikea this weekend and had a muffin for breakfast. Sorry, Jane Roe, but I don't need to see the 10,000th photo of you having an "amazing Saturday night" at a bar. I started blocking many friends' updates. (And yes, I myself am guilty of making frequent, stupid, boring, inane updates, and I assume plenty of people blocked me from their news feeds.)

I checked my list of Facebook friends and realized, that with just a few exceptions, almost all of my friends fell into one of two categories. First, there's my family and good friends (excluding my husband and father, who both refuse to join the Facebook cult family). Then, there's everyone else.

I care about my family and close friends. We are in touch as regularly as possible. We email, share photos through non-Facebook means, and holy crap, we sometimes even visit in person. We don't need Facebook to stay in touch. Admittedly, I don't have all of my cousins' email addresses, but I can easily get them. None of these people need Facebook in order to learn about the big events in my life (and none of these people need Facebook to learn about all the inane boring shit that makes up my daily routine).

Then, there's everyone else. These are the people who I am not in touch with except through Facebook. Most of these people were my friends at some point in the past but through the natural cycle of life, we drifted apart. (And some of these people, sigh, I never actually liked, but I felt bad rejecting their friend request.) It is sad when friends drift apart, but I cannot have an unlimited number of close friends. There just aren't enough hours in the day. 

I no longer saw a point to having a Facebook account... except I could use Facebook to announce my daughter's birth in a few months. But the thought of doing that left a bad taste in my mouth. I will email or send birth announcements to all of my friends and relatives who are legitimately interested in my daughter's birth. A status update on Facebook will just update some people who I am not really friends with anymore. Do I really need to get a bunch of "likes" from people I have not spoken to in several years? Will their "likes" somehow validate my daughter's birth? Of course not! The importance and magic of my firstborn's birth is completely independent from the reaction it gets on Facebook.

I started resenting Facebook because it's too impersonal and creates a bunch of artificial "friendships." But I also resented Facebook because at times, it can be way too personal. For example, when I first joined Facebook, I accepted a friend request from a junior high school classmate (we were never actually friends). This classmate and his wife regularly had domestic disputes on their Facebook walls. I can't tell you how many times I read a posting to the effect of "I'm sorry I threw the book at you last night, but if you had just said sorry, it would have never happened."

Needless to say, I defriended that "friend" but still, in my experience, Facebook is too often used as a substitute for real communications that should be kept private.  It's easier to write something on a Facebook wall than to pick up the phone or write a letter, but communication should not always be easy. I'm sorry, but just because you "liked" my Facebook status does not mean we have engaged in a meaningful social interaction.

Please do not think I am saying everyone should deactivate their Facebook accounts today. For several years, I truly enjoyed Facebook. When I'm in a different life stage, I may embrace Facebook again. But right now, in this phase of my life, Facebook feels wrong. I felt obligated to keep checking Facebook even though 99% of the time, Facebook just annoyed the crap out of me. Now that I've deactivated Facebook, it feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. And so far, none of my real friends have threatened to abandon me unless I reactivate my account. (My baby sister thinks I'm "lame," but let's face it, no matter what I do, she will always think I'm lame.)

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Walk At Descanso

There are two types of Americans: those who live for Black Friday and those who don't. Nathan and I both fall into the latter category. I don't know what we will be doing today, but it will NOT involve shopping.  

For those of you who are avoiding all retail centers, here are some photos from a walk I recently took at Descanso Gardens. I cannot overstate how much I love Descanso Gardens (or, incidentally, how much I loathe the idea of camping overnight outside a Best Buy to get the latest gadget). I've been at least ten or twelve times, and each time, I discover something new and leave the gardens feeling renewed.
The garden has lots of paths for wandering and loitering. (And I promise, no Black Friday shoppers are lurking behind the trellises. No one is going to trample you in order to reach the discounted iPads!)

During my last visit, I discovered a bird viewing station. I can't believe I had walked past this spot a dozen times and missed the ducks. (I wonder where the ducks will be doing their Black Friday shopping this year. They look like Target devotees.)

I finally managed to take some photos of my beloved San Gabriel Mountains. I see them every day, but they always make me smile. (And the mountains have never punched me in order to get the latest Elmo talking sensation toy.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Eighteen Peacocks

On Sunday, Nathan and I had a random adventure. We went to our local mall in Arcadia to see the early showing of Skyfall, but the movie theater was having issues. There was a big crowd of Twilight fans, and the ticket booth had completely lost power. Since there was no sign that power would be restored by the movie's start time, we abandoned ship and headed to a different movie theater.

As we left the Arcadia mall, we drove past the Los Angeles Arboretum. The Arboretum has a flock of peacocks, and the peacocks often leave the gardens and roam around the Arcadia neighborhoods. As we headed towards Theater Number Two, I spotted some peacocks milling on a side street.

Nathan double backed through the Arcadia neighborhood so we could admire the peacocks. I thought we would see two or three peacocks preening their feathers.

Eighteen. EIGHTEEN peacocks were strutting their sh** in front of two houses. I felt like we had wandered on to the pages of a Dr. Seuss book. Every where we looked, there were peacocks! Peacocks in the street, peacocks in the driveway, peacocks in trees, even an arrogant peacock on a front porch.

Unfortunately, I could not photograph all of the peacocks at once. Bastards would not pose for a family photo. And, alas, I just had my iPhone with me; but these photos capture the spirit of our suburban adventure:

Nathan made me roll up the window, so I wouldn't get mauled by a cranky peacock. Which was an excellent idea.
The peacocks were not even remotely threatened by our car. I wonder what they do to cyclists....

p.s. Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Misadventures, Mishaps and Boo Boos

If I had to identify a theme for this week, it would be "misadventures, mishaps and boo boos." It started Tuesday morning, when I woke up with something stuck under my eyelid that required an emergency visit to my optometrist. Tuesday evening, as we were cleaning up dinner, I broke a glass. Then this morning, as I was driving to my prenatal yoga class, I got a flat tire. When I was on the freeway. After hitting an enormous piece of metal.

Fortunately, I am healthy and safe and my sense of humor is intact. Yes, I need to get a new tire tomorrow morning; but I'm in the middle of an excellent novel that I'm happy to read while the car is serviced (Charlotte Street, by Danny Wallace).

As I was headed to my yoga studio, I noticed the SUV ahead of me was slowing down. I braked and then suddenly, $#%&, there was a huge piece of metal about five feet from my car. I don't mean a rogue hubcap. I mean a big bar of rusted metal, about 4 feet long and 2 feet wide. I held my breath and drove straight over the bitch.

The metal clunked under the car and bounced against the frame and made lots of horrifying metallic sounds... and then it bounced out behind the car. The car was still driving fine, but I made a few lane changes and took the next exit off the freeway. As I drove down the ramp, the car signaled that it had a flat tire. I parked on a residential side street right by the freeway and called Nathan. I said I might drive a mile to a gas station near our house with a mechanic. Nathan sweetly suggested that I stay put and call AAA. Of course. Duh. Thank God I called my husband first and didn't attempt to drive a car with a flat tire for a mile.

Saul from AAA arrived within fifteen minutes and cheerfully swapped the busted tire for the spare donut. He looked under the car and reported that everything looked fine. WHEW.

I could be cranky or bitter about this episode, but really, I just feel lucky and grateful. What if I had swerved and hit another car? I had about 0.2 seconds to make a decision, and I consciously thought "drive over the metal." My dad taught me well. And what if the metal had bounced badly and caused more destruction? I don't want to even think what could have happened to my unborn baby girl. Thank God I was driving a good safe car that could handle the abuse and not one of those "smart" cars which don't seem so smart when you think about it.

On the one hand, this has been a week of misadventures, mishaps and boo boos... but it has also been a week of blessings, good fortune and serendipity. Plus, if you get a flat tire on the freeway, you are morally obligated to have pancakes for lunch. Which is exactly what I did.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


How goes it? Yesterday I had a fun crisis. When I woke up, it felt like something was stuck under my right eyelid. I was not in agony, but I was far from comfortable. I tried all my tricks, but my right eye would not stop bugging me. Fortunately, I have an excellent optometrist and he saw me yesterday morning. He examined my eye and could not find any abrasions or foreign objects, but when he flipped my right eyelid, I started to feel better. My optometrist thinks a minuscule particle was trapped under my eyelid and it got dislodged as he moved things around.

I suppose I could have saved myself a trip to the optometrist if I had flipped my eyelid myself... but there's no way in hell I would do something like that. Ew, gross. I require a trained (and insured) professional for that sort of medical procedure.

Today my eye feels 100% normal. I didn't even remember yesterday's discomfort until Nathan asked how I was doing.

Now I'm at home, fully dressed. Okay, I'm fully dressed in my exercise shorts but when you're pregnant, that counts! I'm in the process of stewing some prunes using this recipe (so simple and easy, yet the results are magical).

I've been revising my novel this morning, and now I'm going to revise it some more. This whole "revising my first novel thing" is going really well. My first draft was a bloated 437 pages, and I've already got the second draft slimmed down to a svelte 378 (and I still have another 160 pages of revisions to input into my computer).

This afternoon I'm going to do some thrilling legal work. Okay, it's not that thrilling, but it's a good break from the novel. I don't understand writers who are able to spend 10 or 12 hours a day working. I can be super productive for 3 or 4 hours, and then the creative side of my brain goes blank.

If I'm feeling really ambitious, I might tackle one of the "piles" on my To Do List. Pile Number One is a stack of stuff (mostly unused picture frames) that I hid behind our piano right before our wedding... sixteen months ago. I need to find a home for all the stuff in Pile Number One. Pile Number Two is a heap of office supplies. I was reorganizing a closet, and as part of the reorganization, I put all the office supplies on the floor... four weeks ago. It might be time to put the office supplies back on their shelf. And finally, Pile Number Three is a stack of exercise dvd's and old video games that got evicted from their home when we had our new air conditioner installed ... last spring. So if I'm feeling ambitious, I might finally deal with at least one of these piles.

Chances are, I won't be feeling ambitious, but damn, my stewed prunes smell good. I love how a little citrus and a little cinnamon can make the house smell like Christmas!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Confession: Sometimes I Wear My Pajamas All Day

The garbage truck stopped by about an hour ago and collected our trash. The bins are ready to be wheeled back to their spot by the garage. This is something I do nearly every Monday afternoon. Now that I'm pregnant, this chore makes me feel like a productive member of society (since taking the trash to the curb is waaaaaay too much work).

But on this lovely Monday afternoon, I'm working at home and wearing my pajamas and it seems like an awful lot of work to get dressed just so I can fetch the trash bins.

If only the trash bins were operated by remote control! How cool would that be? On inclement days, we would not have to venture outside to deal with trash collection. And when the bins are empty, we could ride around in them like smelly Segways. Why hasn't this technology been invented yet? I want a remote controlled trash bin for Christmas!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The ADD Bookworm

Lately, I've been having trouble staying in a committed relationship with a single book. There are just too many books that I want to read! Here are the books that have been stacked on my nightstand (and the coffee table ... and the dining table ... and the kitchen island):

  • Girl in Hyacinth Blue, by Susan Vreeland. A lovely novel that traces the history of a possible Vermeer painting. This is the sort of book that I would normally inhale in 36 hours, but I read it leisurely over the course of two weeks.
  • Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. I recently downloaded a free copy to my Kindle after a member of my book club jokingly suggest we read this for our next meeting. It's a doozy, but it's always been on my To Read list; and I imagine it will be easier to keep the characters straight now, when I'm pregnant, as opposed to next spring, when I'm busy cuddling a baby (and stupid from sleep deprivation).
  •  Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White. Now that I'm 20 weeks pregnant, Baby Girl can actually hear my voice, so I'm slowly reading this aloud to her.
  • Where The Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein. Sometimes, instead of reading about Wilbur's porcine adventures, I just read a few poems out loud for Baby Girl.  
  • By The Shores of Silver Lake, by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I bought the complete set of the Little House On the Prairie series on eBay several months ago. I have a lot to say about this series, which is best saved for a separate post. Whenever I'm a little tired or cranky, I just breeze through a few chapters of Laura's latest adventures, and that always lifts my spirits.
  • The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perlman. My favorite cooking blogger recently released her first cookbook, and it is beautiful. This is the rare cookbook that I plan on reading from cover to cover.
  • Fire in My Belly, by Kevin Gillespie and David Joachim. Kevin is my favorite Top Chef contestant of all time, and his new cookbook is making me love him even more. I constantly laugh out loud while I'm reading this cookbook; then I make Nathan pause his football game so I can read aloud a choice passage.
  • The World of Downton Abbey, by Jessica Fellowes. I have been slowly reading this book as I wait for Season Three of the BBC series to arrive in the U.S. It's filled with tons of beautiful photographs from the show, but there's also a lot of written material about the time period. It's part history book, part "pornography for Downton Abbey Addicts."
  • We're Just Like You, Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle, by Celia Rivenbark. The title sums up this collection of essays better than I can. I often read an essay or two while I'm eating lunch.
I clearly need help. Is it possible to stage an intervention for an ADD Bookworm?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

This Model Railroad Is Really Bad Ass

Last Saturday, Nathan and I visited the Pasadena Model Railroad Club's open house. We'd been once before, two or three years ago, so I knew what to expect; and yet I was still blown away by the awesomeness of their model railroad.

First, it's big. The Main line Travels about 1700 feet. What does a 1700 foot model railroad look like? Behold! (If you mutter "holy sh** under your breath, you are not alone.)

It's HUGE. This model railroad is so vast, my camera could not capture the entire thing in a single frame. And look at how many people it takes the operate the trains! Screw the Panama Canal, this bad boy ought to be one of the wonders of the industrial world.

The model railroad is also detailed. Incredibly, painfully and beautifully detailed. I don't know how many times I gasped, grabbed Nathan's arm, and directed his attention to something new.

Here's the main city (lit up for night!):

Here is the railroad yard:

Here comes a train out of the tunnel! Choo choo!
Below is my favorite photo from the model railroad. I love the people standing on the bridge, the people bathing in the river, the trucks parked on the side of the road ... I want to beam myself into this photo and wander around and then give the entire model railroad a big hug.

The industrial zone:

If I had to pick a favorite part of the model railroad, I'd probably start to cry. How could anyone pick a favorite spot? It's all so magical! But if you pointed a gun to my head, I'd pick the ski slope. I hate skiing, but I love all the skiers whizzing down the mountain. Only one thing could improve this part of the model railroad: a yeti.

I realize it would be pretty crappy to actually live in a house built next to the tracks, but these houses are just so picturesque. Look at that clothesline! Again, I realize it would be pretty crappy to have to dry all my laundry on a clothesline, but clotheslines are still very photogenic. The members of the Pasadena Model Railroad Club lavished so much love and attention on these tiny details.

As if the model railroad was not cool enough, there were a few Star Wars figurines hiding for visitors to find. Can you spot Yoda below? He's really tiny, standing in front of the cabin. (Yes, my cabin this is.)

Apparently Darth Vader is traveling the countryside by train. I can think of no other viable explanation for why a Stormtrooper is guarding this tunnel:

If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Pasadena Model Railroad Club, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. It kind of makes me want to transform our living room into a model railroad, except then we'd have to baby proof the whole thing in a year when Baby Girl starts crawling and that would be a nightmare. We'll just have to get Baby Girl an ass-kicking baby friendly railroad, like so.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day 2012!

After an eternity of debates and primaries and polls, it's finally here: the first Tuesday in November. Are you ready?

Our chalkboard map is ready! (I know you are crazy jealous of my cartography skills - my Alaska and Hawaii are super accurate.)
I don't know how I'm going to get anything done today, aside from voting. Nathan is working from home, which means we will go on an Election Coverage Bender. Unfortunately, I'll probably fall asleep hours before we know who is the next President of the United States. Although on Sunday, I did manage to stay awake until 10:30 (after taking a nap from 6 to 9 p.m. - I kid you not).  
Couldn't we have pushed Daylight Savings until after the election? And how much Red Bull will the political commentators be chugging on this lovely Election Day? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Cranky Pumpkin's Rules For Gift Giving

Holy crap, it's November! Which means it's time to start buying holiday gifts (unless you are one of those freaks who enjoy the mad scramble at the mall on December 24th).

I love giving gifts, but some gifts are more successful than others. These are a few rules I have adopted:

Rule One: Do Not Fall Into The Hobby Trap
If the gift recipient has a particular passion, you must assume that he or she already owns all of the essential items associated with that passion.

Let's say you are buying a gift for Uncle Phil, and Uncle Phil loves golf more than anything. Genius idea: buy Uncle Phil a new golf bag! WRONG, because Uncle Phil already owns a golf bag that he loves and he does not want the crappy cheap golf bag you bought on sale at the drugstore. 

Exception to Rule One:
It's okay to buy a small, gimmick gift for a person with a passion. For example, you can buy Uncle Phil a box of UCLA novelty golf balls. Golf balls are small, so they will not monopolize a huge chunk of real estate in Uncle Phil's garage. More importantly, golf balls get lost and need to be replaced all the time.

Another Exception to Rule One:
If you know that Uncle Phil has been coveting a particular golf club for the past decade, but he's too cheap to make the investment, then go ahead and make the splurge for him.

Rule Two: When In Doubt, Buy Something That Will Be Used And Then Thrown Out
Look, I know you don't want to hear this, but listen up: even the most thoughtful, well-intentioned gift giver will sometimes give a crappy present. It happens. You find the most magnificent vase and you are convinced that your friend Betty will love it. And when she unwraps the present, Betty pretends she loves it even though she secretly thinks it's the most butt ugly vase she has ever seen. But since it is a vase, Betty feels obligated to keep and display it for the rest of her life. And that vase will be indestructable and survive earthquakes, tornadoes and toddler tantrums. And whenever Betty sees that vase, she is going to resent you just a little bit.

If you don't want to saddle your friend with a gift that she will secretly hate, buy a consumable product with a short life span. A candle burns, burns and goes in the trash. T-shirts and socks are worn, worn and added to the rag pile. Golf balls get hit, hit and sliced into the woods.

Of course, this is not a blank check to give your grandmother a roll of toilet paper and a box of crackers for Hannukah.

Rule Three: There Is Nothing Wrong With the Gift of Money:
I know a lot of people feel like slackers when they give money and gift cards as gifts, but a gift card is like manna from heaven. Repeat after me: You are not a slacker if you give money or a gift card; you are not a slacker if you give money or a gift card; you are not a slacker if you give money or a gift card!

Exception to Rule Three:
Gift cards are wonderful... unless you give a very small denomination to a very expensive store. 

Acceptable: Giving a $5 Starbucks gift card as part of the office Secret Santa gift exchange.

Unacceptable: Giving your parents a $10 gift card to a furniture store. 

Rule Four: Do Not Give A Messy Or Noisy Gift To A Child (Unless You Hate The Child's Parents):
Oh, that toy drum set is so precious, I simply must buy it for Little Suzy! If you buy the drum set, then a teenage rock band will start practicing EVERY NIGHT in your neighbor's garage.

Jimmy will have so much fun with this 10 gallon water gun! And if you buy the water gun, Jimmy's dad is going to fill it with acid and take fire at your prize azaleas.

Ant farms are so cool! I always wanted one when I was a kid! Then why don't you buy one for your house, you dumb ass, and let the ants engineer a jail break in your living room?

Exception to Rule Four:
There are no exceptions to Rule Four.

Rule Five: Gifts Should Not Be Alive
Don't give your friend a cat (even if you think she is destined to die alone) and don't bring your parents a live chicken to roast for dinner.

Exception to Rule Five:
A small houseplant.

Note: a goldfish is NOT a small houseplant.

Rule Six: Do Not Buy A Decorative Item As A Present Unless You Are 110% Confident That You And The Recipient Have Identical Taste In Said Item

I have to remind myself about this rule constantly. It's so easy to buy a little decorative doodad as a gift, but this is the problem with doodads: when you pick a decorative gift, it's always going to be something you like. As you select the gift, you might try to anticipate what the recipient will like but you are doing so through your own biased sense of style.

I used to buy my mom doodads all the time: a paper weight for Mother's Day; a clock for her birthday; a decorative tray for Christmas. My mom always made space to display these gifts and then I got my own home and realized Mom was just being nice. She liked the doodads, but not as much as the doodads that she herself chose when she went shopping. A home only has a finite space for displaying doodads, so by giving my mom doodads, I was restricting her ability to display her favorite doodads.

Unless you know that the recipient is going to cherish the China Panda Clock until her dying breath, it's safer to just buy her a book about pandas.

Exception to Rule Six: Picture Frames
Sometimes, if you are giving a photograph as a gift, it's nice to include a frame; but think of the frame as expensive packaging. If the recipient decides to swap the photo into a different frame, let it go, it's just a freaking frame.

Another Exception to Rule Six and Then I Swear, I'm Done With This Post:
Sometimes, you know exactly what the recipient wants. When I was a kid, my mom loved a certain china pattern. She admired it whenever we passed it at a store but never bought herself anything in that pattern, not even a salt shaker. When I got my driver's license, I drove myself to the mall and bought the exact bowl that my mom had been coveting for years and when I gave it to her for Mother's Day, she flipped.

However, at this point, I don't know what china (if any) that my mom is secretly coveting, so I will not be buying her china for Christmas. I don't want her to be stuck with a sugar bowl that she secretly hates.

The Cranky Pumpkin reserves the right to alter, amend or adjust these rules at any time.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Contact Lens Misadventures

I have been wearing contact lenses since the sixth grade, and still, my lenses sometimes freak me out. About once or twice a year, a lens falls out of my eye for no apparent reason. Maybe I blinked too aggressively. Or maybe the contact lens was feeling bored and wanted to go on an adventure. I don't know. All I know is that in the space of 0.01 seconds, I go from perfect vision to "I'm blind!" and this moment always makes me think I'm dying.

I wear daily disposable lenses, so losing one is not a big deal. But whenever a lens pops out, an urgent question must be answered: Where did the lens go? If I can find the rogue lens, the drama ends quickly. Sometimes it got stuck to my shirt or fell to the ground. But the little buggers are transparent so I can't always find them.

This scares the eff out of me. If the lens is not on my clothes and not on the ground... where the hell is? IS IT STILL IN MY EYEBALL???

In these instances, the following monologue starts to loop through my head:

Oh my god, the lens has been sucked into my skull and it's going to damage my brain! The hospital will probably have to amputate my entire eyeball. Should I get a glass eyeball or just wear an eye patch? I'd look pretty good with an eye patch, but what is that weird feeling? The top of my eye feels funny. WHERE IS THE EFFING LENS? I CAN FEEL IT BUT I CAN'T FIND IT! I'm too young to die! Why did I put on my contacts this morning! Oh cruel vanity, I should have just worn my glasses!

I lost a lens on Halloween about an hour before dark. I patted my clothes and the couch and checked the floor... no contact lens. I ran to the bathroom and inspected my eye... no contact lens. I assured myself that the lens had just fallen into a crevice of the couch.

But I worried. My eyeball felt funny. Was the lens lost in my eye socket?? But I checked my eye repeatedly and the damn lens was nowhere to be seen. I told myself that if my eye still felt funny in the morning, I would go to my optometrist's office and scream plead politely until he inspected my eyeball for the missing lens.

Finally, about twenty minutes after it first disappeared, I found the little bastard. It had folded itself into quarters and then wedged itself beneath the lid near the corner of my eye. I blinked fiercely and was able to dislodge the lens from its hiding place, and seconds later, the funny feeling in my eye dissipated.

Since it was Halloween, I can only assume that the contact lens was possessed by a demon. Next year, I'll just wear my glasses on October 31st.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Love Rainbows

I've been meaning to share this photo of a rainbow that I saw outside my back door a few weeks ago.

The rainbow appeared after a day of rain, while it was still drizzling, during that moment between night and day. I was very distressed because Nathan was on his way home from work and I knew it would vanish before his car pulled into the driveway. But the rainbow was visible from the freeway, and he got to see it, too!

The rainbow actually arched all the way across the sky, like a half circle, but I could not capture its full beauty unless I ventured outside into the rain. I was tempted, but as a klutz*, I possess a talent for slipping whenever it's wet in our backyard. I didn't want Nathan to come home and find his pregnant wife huddled in a broken heap on the wet pavement, muttering about leprechauns; so I just took the best photo I could from the house. 

*The question as to whether or not I am a klutz** remains open to debate. It's possible that I am just a space cadet and do not pay enough attention to my surroundings.
** The question as to whether or not I am a bad speller is not open to debate. I am a lousy speller. I thought "klutz" should be spelled "cluts" and spellcheck could not figure out what I was doing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

I really should have some photos for your today. It's Halloween, and this blog is called The Cranky Pumpkin. You'd think I'd have some pride and would have prepared a collage of pumpkins dressed up in clever costumes. But I have no pride, so no clever photos for you - muhahaha!

I love Halloween, but this year, I am mostly concerned about how I am going to avoid all the candy. Baby Girl is not too keen on sweets. In fact, she hates them and only tolerates them in small amounts. If I eat a miniature chocolate bar, she will ignore my transgression. Sometimes, I can even get away with eating two miniature chocolate bars (but only if they are reeeeeaaaaalllly miniature - like Hershey Kisses miniature). But if I get greedy... well, let's just say that if my vomit bowl is not handy, there's going to be trouble.

Normally, on Halloween, I raid the candy bowl as often as I please. That obviously cannot happen tonight. In the absence of chocolate, I need a new way to entertain myself.

Would it be cruel if I made the children dance for their candy? (And for anyone over the age of twelve, perhaps a song and dance number would be appropriate.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Who The Bleep Bit A Chunk Out Of My Tombstone?!

Every six months or so, an animal digs up our front lawn. This goes on for a week or two, until the animal decides to terrorize someone else's lawn. The animal never causes any permanent damage, so it's more amusing than annoying.

I have no idea what sort of animal is at war with our lawn, but I suspect it's either a cat, opossum or puma.

The cat/opossum/puma recently returned, but this time, it did not just paw aggressively at our lawn.

It bit one of my Halloween tombstones! WTF?! It's a styrofoam tombstone. It does not look delicious. It looks like tasteless nasty styrofoam. How stupid do you have to be to want to taste this thing?

And this is not the first such incident. A summer or two ago, the cat/opossum/puma bit up one of our pool noodles! Will this beast's taste for styrofoam never be satisfied??

I found the missing chunk of styrofoam in a nearby flower bed. I hope the cat/opossum/puma choked on it.

Halloween is ruined. I might as well eat all the candy today and give raisins to the neighborhood kids.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Stay Dry and Safe!

If you are affected by Super Storm Sandy, I hope you are able to stay dry and safe.

I am especially thinking about all my family in New York. My Baby Sister recently moved to Manhattan, and this is her first proper East Coast storm. I suppose after Sandy, every other storm is going to look like child's play to her.  And my dad of course had to go to Manhattan this week for business. At least they can huddle together and order room service (and pray that Dad's hotel has a good generator).

My grandma lives in Queens but her building is far away from the water. The news is calling this the storm of a lifetime. Well, Grandma Shirley has lived a lifetime in New York, so I can't wait to hear her thoughts when the storm is over.

My Aunt Pam and Company live on Long Island and their situation is perhaps the most bleak. If they lose power, how many hours will my cousins' various electronic toys last? Since she is trapped in the house with two young boys, I'd say my aunt deserves a Spa Week when this storm is over. Preferably in a dry climate with lots of tropical drinks.

Take care, my loved ones!

Fun Chalkboard Map

I recently bought this chalkboard map from Dirtsa Studio on Etsy:

It's awesome! For our first "installation," I colored in all the states that Nathan and I have visited together. I got all of them except Minnesota (which we visited for about an hour while we were in Wisconsin for a wedding, but hey, Nathan's right - it counts). Technically, we've also been to Iowa together, but that's only because the Omaha airport is there. I ruled that waiting at baggage claim does not count as visiting a state. Sorry, Iowa.

Brief tangent: every time we fly to Nebraska, Nathan explains to me why the Omaha airport is in Iowa; and within five minutes, I forget the explanation. I think it has something to do with the river. It must not be that interesting. (Nathan is going to be so disappointed in my listening skills when he reads this post.)

In a few days, the chalkboard will be erased so we can play with it on Election Day.

Then, I'm going to color in the states we have each visited (red for states that just Nathan has visited; green for states that only I have visited; and blue if we've both visited the state, together or separately). I'm pretty certain Nathan wins the Who Has Visited More States Contest, but at least I have been to Alaska.