For Your Amusement

This year's Thankgiving plan is pretty well set (actually, it's underway as the turkey is already thawing in the fridge). For your amusement at my freakish expense, voila!

Thanksgiving 2009


Brined turkey

Crockpot stuffing

Mashed potatoes


PW’s sweet potatoes*

Pickled beets

Olives & pickles

Carrots and celery

PW’s Green beans

Cranberry muffins

PW’s roasted acorn squash


Cranberry coffee cake



Shred and dry bread


Bake pumpkin pie and pecan pie

Make sweet potatoes

Make cranberry coffee cake


Begin brining turkey

Thursday Night

Turkey to fridge

9:00 a.m.

Stuffing prep

9:30 a.m.

Stuffing in crock pot (go easy on liquid, add as needed)

10:15 a.m.

Turn crock pot temperature down to low

11:00 p.m.

Turkey prep

By 11:30 p.m.

Turkey in oven (turkey lifter)

Set table

By 2:00 p.m.

Potatoes on stove, Squash into oven

2:00 p.m.

Prep sweet potatoes

By 2:15 p.m.

Sweet potatoes into oven

2:15 p.m.

Prep and cook green beans

2:30 p.m.

Mash and finish potatoes, smear squash

2:50 p.m.

Microwave beets, brown rolls

3:00 p.m.

Make gravy

3:00 p.m.

Beverages out, kettle on


Crockpot Stuffing

Melt 1 cup butter over medium heat. Cook 2 cups chopped onion, 2 cups chopped celery, 12 oz sliced mushrooms, and ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley. Spoon cooked veggies over 12 cups dry bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Season with 1 tsp poultry seasoning, 1 ½ tsps sage, 1 tsp thyme, ½ tsp marjoram, salt and pepper. Pour in enough chicken broth to moisten (up to 4 ½ cups) and add 2 beaten eggs. Transfer to crockpot. 45 mins on high then low for 4-8 hours.

PW’s Sweet Potatoes

Butter a 2-qt casserole dish. Combine 4 medium cooked and cubed sweet potatoes, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp vanilla, and 1 tsp salt. In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup chopped pecans, ½ cup flour, ¾ stick butter. Spread potato mixture into a baking dish and sprinkle with crumb mixture. Bake at 400˚ for 30 minutes.

PW’s Green Beans

Snap ends of 1 lb green beans. Melt 1 tbl olive oil and 1 tbl butter over medium-low. Add 1 cup chopped onion and 2 gloves minced garlic. Cook for a minute. Add green beans and cook until bright green. Add ½ cup chopped red bell pepper, 1 cup chicken broth, salt, pepper. Turn to low and cover, cracked a bit. Cook 20-30 mins until liquid evaporates. Add more broth if needed, but let it caramelize a bit at the end.

PW’s Roasted Acorn Squash

Cut 2 acorn squash into 8 wedges, each. Place in baking dish and drizzle with 4 dashes olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and roast at 350˚ for 20 minutes. Combine 1 stick butter, ½ cup brown sugar, 2 tbl minced fresh rosemary into paste. Smear on squash. Bake add’l 30 minutes, basting halfway.

Incredible Pecan Pie

Prepared pie crust into pan. Mix 3 beaten eggs, ¾ cup light corn syrup, 2 tbl dark corn syrup, ¾ cup brown sugar, 3 tbl butter melted, ½ cup finely crushed pecans. Spread 1 cup quartered pecans on bottom of pie crust. Pour syrup into crust. Spread pecan halves over top. Bake at 350˚ for one hour.

Alton Brown’s Roasted Turkey

Combine brine, water and ice. Place thawed turkey (with innards removed) breast side down in brine. Fully immerse, cover, and chill, turning once half way through brining. 500˚. Remove bird from brine, rinse in and out with cold water. Discard brine. Place on roasting rack inside half sheet pan and pat dry. Microwave 1 red sliced apple, ½ sliced onion, cinnamon stick, and 1 cup water 5 mins. Add to turkey's cavity with 4 sprigs rosemary and 6 sage leaves. Tuck wings underneath the bird. Coat skin liberally w canola oil. Shape double foil triangle to breast area. Remove foil. Lowest level of oven at 500˚ for 30 mins. Insert probe into thickest part of the breast and reduce oven to 350˚. Foil breast area. Set alarm to 161˚. 14-16 pound bird requires a total of 2 to 2 ½ hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered with foil or a large mixing bowl for at least 15 mins.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Wrap outside of 9 inch springform pan with foil to prevent leaking. Sift together 1 ½ c flour, 1 ½ tsp baking powder, 1 tsp soda, ½ tsp cinnamon. In saucepan over medium heat, combine 2/3 c brown sugar and 1/3 c butter. Boil, then pour into bottom of pan. Sprinkle with 1 2/3 c cranberries and ½ c chopped toasted pecans. Cream together ½ c butter and ¾ c sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in 2 eggs one at a time, stir in 1 tsp vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with 1 c sour cream. Pour into pan. 350˚ for 60 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Serve warm.

*PW is Ree Drummond, the Pioneer Woman, many of whose recipes I quite enjoy (well on decadent holiday-type occasions in particular, she's quite liberal in her use of sugar, butter, etc).

For comparison, I posted last year's plan here. Looks familiar, doesn't it? I'm a big fan of cut-and-paste and not-reinventing-the-wheel.


Painting Wisdom

I've recently finished painting the majority of the interior of my house: upstairs hallway, stairwell, living room, dining room, kitchen, stairwell, downstairs hallway, downstairs bathroom, and family room. It has taken me about a week and a half. And I've learned a few things ... (skip if you have no desire to ever repaint anything).

1. Paint Quality Counts -- before this, I'd always bought the cheapest paint to do the job. This time I researched on Consumer Reports and bought the Behr Premium Plus they recommended. It was great paint! Excellent coverage, beautiful, rich color, lower odor than I remember from other paints. It was a bit thicker than I was used to, but it worked beautifully!

2. Do the Math -- measure your rooms, subtract out windows, doors, archways to calculate your square footage. Look at your paint's expected coverage, divide, etc. Then, I always buy an extra gallon, just in case.

3. Prep Matters -- lay down plastic drop cloths over your furniture (I cover furniture, but not my floors), mask with painters tape, edge with an edger or brush then your rolling will be fast and easy and done. When you remove switchplates and outlet covers, stack them on your counter, but just rescrew the screws back into their holes, sans cover. You'll never lose another screw. If you intend to hang arkwork back in the same spot, it's probably better not to spackle and sand the holes, just paint over them. Even if you seal the hole with a tiny coat of paint, you'll likely still see the mark and the nail will slide right back in.

4. Take Your Time -- I did one room/section per day and allowed it to dry overnight before moving on. I could rest my arms and shoulders that way and make sure I'd adequate coverage before starting a new area.

5. Painter's Tape is Your Friend -- mask everywhere you can. Even if you have the steady hands of a neurosurgeon, you will eventually blob some sort of color where it doesn't belong, and if you've pre-taped, you should be all right.

6. Remove Tape Quickly -- as soon as you've finished working the room, while the paint is still wet, remove the painter's tape. If you wait until the paint dries, you will have created a gorgeous latex seal between your wall and your tape, requiring an X-acto knife for removal (lest you peel the tape and part of the paint comes along with it).

7. Lighting is Key -- Work in whatever time of day brings the best daylight into the room you're painting. Daylight will cast fewer shadows than houselights (unless you're using contractor's floodlights or something) and will give you a better indication of whether yo've missed any spots or if the old color is showing through your new topcoat.

8. Don't Kid Yourself -- If you can see hints of the old color through "here and there" and think your guests won't notice or that you'll get used to it ... don't kid yourself. You need a second coat. And follow the manufaturer's instructions for the second coat, or your new paint will peel the old paint off the wall in a haphazard and skin-peeling-after-a-bad-sunburn sort of way.

9. Clean Up Right Away -- I know you're feeling grimy and your clothes have paint smudges on them and there's probably paint in your hair ... but clean your materials before you shower. Not only are you still messy, so you won't mind as much getting your fingers in those edger crevices and gouging the paint out, but everything will be easier to clean while it's very fresh.

10. Some Things Shouldn't Be Cleaned -- Planning to do more painting with the same color tomorrow? Just wrap your roller tightly in plastic wrap and it will be good to go again and again until you are done with that color.

11. It's a Messy Job -- Wear old clothes. Use your fingers to scrape drips off your trim (if you haven't masked it) and then wipe your fingers on your jeans. Climb down behind your toilet and paint wrong-handed while tilting your head sideway to see under and behind the tank (I speak from experience).

12. Be Proud -- line up your used gallons of paint, to remind yourself of how far you've come. Tell everyone (repeatedly) that you're painting your house on your own. Revel in your new color ... go out and buy throw pillows, curtains, etc. to match.

I'm sure there are more things that occured to me while I worked, but I think that's the nitty-gritty of it. Next sunny day I plan to take "After" pics of the house and will share them soon.



TV I Like

The fall premieres are well underway, and as we proceed through week two of Brand-New Episodes of all our old favorites as well as a few new offerings that have made their way into our DVR ... let's review.

Family Guy (raunchy and off-color (is that redundant?) animated comedy) -- Why watch it? It's funny. Funny! Repeatedly laugh-out-loud-long-enough-to-require-pausing-the-show-to-catch-one's-breath funny. Not for children, or my parents. Or for a lot of people. But funny. Enough inside jokes to keep a viewer feeling like one of the special few (million), but not enough to alienate anyone who's missed hunks of prior seasons. Final words: Adam West as himself.

The Simpsons (seriously?) -- Why watch it? 20 seasons of animated prime-time comedy. And while not every episode is gold, most of them are at least silver or iron pyrite, anyway. The celebrity appearances are some of my favorite parts. There's good reason why this show has won 25 Emmys and is the first animated show to win a Peabody.

Mad Men (so-period-it's-painful drama about 1960s Madison Avenue ad men (and the "girls" in their lives)) -- Why watch it? It's brilliant. Brillant acting, brilliant writing, brilliant staging/costumes/cinematography. Gorgeous. Uncomfortable at first (just about the only African-Americans on the show are the elevator operator and the cleaning lady, and the "girls" are treated like stupid children by the men, a good deal of the time), this show makes me think about how much life has changed since then. It's also deeply engaging emotionally and intellectually. I actually care what happens to these people. There are very good reasons this show keeps winning a jillion awards. It's altogether excellent.

Castle (police procedural wherein a bestselling mystery writer is following around a smart-and-sexy homicide detective upon whom he's basing his next novel.) -- Why watch it? Nathan Fillion. I could leave it at just those two words. But, honestly, the show is cute, clever, fun. Nathan and co-star Stana Katic have great chemistry and the quirky circumstances surrounding the murders in this procedural are less CSI-esque contrived than I'd feared. Very glad this mid-season replacement has been picked up. (And ... hee ... outtakes!)

How I Met Your Mother (ensemble comedy about mostly-single thirty-something professionals in NYC) -- Why watch it? Neil Patrick Harris. (and well, Jason Segel) This comedy has had its ups and downs and some shows fall rather flat, but when they've got it down, it's funny. And doesn't love some Barney Stinson?

The Big Bang Theory (ensemble compedy about very single twenty-something professional uber-nerds in Pasadena) -- Why watch it? Well, this nerd-girl loves the Spock, Flash and gaming references. I think Johnny Galecki is an adorably dorky straight man. And well, anything character Sheldon says is pretty much deadpan hysterical. This show is good for multiple LOLs per ep, and also the sort of little jokes and catch phrases that pop up in conversation around the house. Even my kids have started singing "Soft Kitty" and they've never seen the show.

Heroes (OK, everybody knows what Heroes is about) -- Why watch it? Well, frankly, I'm just rather hoping it becomes even half as interesting and cool as it was the first season. I'm still waiting. Oh, and Zachary Quinto is yummy.

NCIS (procedural spin-off of Jag set in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service HQ in DC) -- Why watch it? Although I never really watched Jag, I immediately latched onto NCIS. The cast has great chemistry and timing; the Navy connection is a sweet spot for me with my quasi-Navy-brat upbringing); Mark Harmon; and just the right mix of long plot arcs, satisfying solved-in-one-episode crimes, serious cases, silly cases ... this show's watchable, if not uber-cool.

NCIS:LA (spin-off of the spin-off) -- Why watch it? The crossover let's-introduce-our-potential-spinoff ep last season was decent. Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J work well together. And I'm always willing to give a spin-off a chance. We'll see if it sticks on the DVR schedule past season one.

The Good Wife (lawyer show surrounding the mortified and newly-back-in-the-workforce wife of a sex-scandaled and imprisoned politician) -- Why watch it? Juliana Margulies and Chris Noth. Pre-air reviews were good enough to give this new show a try. The pilot was good, and I'm hoping this cast grows into its own as the season continues.

Criminal Minds (FBI serial-killer profilers procedural) -- Why watch it? For chills and thrills and shivers up your spine. I don't do horror. Ever. But, this show can occasionally come close. The cast is terrific and the killers sufficiently creepy/weird/terrifying to keep me huddled under and afghan even in the summer months, watching this. Always save enough time to watch a sit-com between this and bedtime, if you want to sleep. Each episode offers a life-lesson I use to keep myself safe from serial killers: don't leave windows unlocked, don't ride the subway, don't stop for a flat tire in the country, don't breathe air ... you know, useful stuff.

Glee (high school musical, except, you know ... funny and sarcastic) -- Why watch it? If you're a big dork like I am and enjoy quirky, you'll likely enjoy Glee. Throw in a healthy love of musicals, showtunes, high-school-underdog-makes-good/wins-the-cute-boy/girl and you're in love. The singing is quality, too. Again, hoping this lasts through and past its first season. (there are better audio quality videos out there, like this one, but this one has vid, too)

The Office (office-based sitcom, but you know ... with talent and humor) -- Why watch it? It's funny. And smart. With pretty (but also not so pretty) people. Everyone who's ever worked in an office has known some version of most of these characters. The humor is quick, sometimes uncomfortable, but really very mostly on.

Haven't watched our recording of FlashForward yet, but we're hoping for good things. Otherwise, Thursday is not so much a must-see night of broadcasting for us. I gave up on Survivor a couple of seasons ago, and while Community has surface appeal (Joe does teach at a community college, after all), we're going to see if it lasts past its first season before investing any time in it.

Ugly Betty (comedy/soap opera about a really kinds pretty "ugly" girl with a big heart in the cut-throat world of a fashion magazine) -- Why watch it? Well, this is my guilty-please show. It's not earth-shattering; the soap opera plot twists are bizarre. But the so-bad-they're-awesome bad guys (read: Vanessa Williams and Michael Urie) are awfully fun to watch. It's been moved to the Friday-night-timeslot-of-death, so I don't expect another season after this one. It's been sliding since season two, anyway.

Numb3rs (FBI procedural wherein a prominent mathematician and his colleagues help solve crimes, using ... dun-dun-dunnnn ... numbers) -- Why watch it? If you're married to a mathematician, like I am, watch this show to find neat and simple ways to under stand mid-level math concepts through the use of nifty metaphors and animated sequences. (And I love me some Rob Morrow, big-time)

Dollhouse (Whedon (!!!) sci-fi drama wherein personalities are imprinted on relatively clean-slated brains so that "dolls" may be rented out to wealthy clients for specific purposes) -- Why watch it? To keep it on the air! To drive up Whedon's numbers so it lasts as long as possible! Seriously, it's good. Well acted with enough drama and/or action in most episodes. Offbeat with a lot of potential for future stories and seasons to stay fresh and clever. And this season? Jamie Bamber and Summer Glau! (if you missed season one, there's a pretty decent recap available)



Quickie Link Post

I have been finding articles on The Art of Manliness blog to be endlessly fascinating. Of particular note tonight, 100 Must-See Movies and 100 Must-Read Books (conveniently Amazon Listmania-ed).

And through this blog, I linked out to this Field & Stream article on how to make an Altoids-tin survival kit. Too cool.



Time on My Hands

Well, the kids went back to school, and Joe went back to school ... and I've been home. I've had a lot of time on my hands. A lot. Of time. A lot.

Things I've Accomplished:
  • I'm off-book for Mousetrap, slightly ahead of schedule.
  • I've completed about 25 hours of knitting.
  • The laundry is done. (so are the dishes, the vacuuming, and other myriad household chores)
  • Menus planned, groceries bought.
  • Baked two pumpkin pies.
  • Completely caught up on the many, many (embarrassingly large number of) hours of last spring's DVR-ed television programming.
  • Edited and rendered a video montage of the Disney trip video clips.
  • Created multiple versions of my resume and written a myriad of cover letters.

Things I've Not Accomplished:
  • Photoshopped all 500+ Disney vacation pics.
  • Created slideshow of said pics.
  • Found a job. (this really seems to more than trump the entire list, above)

Next Up:
  • More knitting.
  • More TV.
  • Creating a mock 1948 London Times prop.
  • Baking cookies.



Still Job Hunting

The school year has begun and I don't have a classroom of students staring up at me. I didn't put on a skirt and sensible heels this morning, pack a Lean Cuisine and a fork in a brand-new insulated lunch sack. I did not spend the last week putting up "Welcome to Mrs. Dugan's Room" bulletin boards, labeling desks, and sharpening pencils. I did not take a deep breath in anticipation of a bright new school year.

Well, that last one I sorta did ... Emily and Matthew started back today. But that has nothing to do with my "Still Job Hunting" title.

I have some plans (which include substituting around the area for the meantime), but I'm really still hoping to find a school that wants me up in front of a classroom of kids.



I Love Cooking

I would love to take a cooking class or something. I enjoy cooking a lot. I don't enjoy hunting for ingredients I swear I have but can't find (molasses and brown sugar fall into this category quite often), and I don't love cleaning up after the cooking (but then, who does?).

Today I made quesadillas for dinner while preparing a lasagna for this weekend, and baking chocolate chip cookies (these ones, they're amazing!) for Mousetrap rehearsal tonight (and lots more for this weekend). My house smells wonderful. But I think that every baking, measuring, scooping, stirring, frying item in my kitchen is now stacked precariously in my sink. I took the last batch of cookies out of the oven and whisked right out the door to rehearsal, straightening up, but not really cleaning everything.

Ah, well, tomorrow is another day ...



Shift in the Weather

The weather has shifted ... somewhere in the last 48 hours. Fall is in the air. Maybe it happened when Hurricane Danny went through off the coast. Maybe God just wants to make it easier on kids returning to school ... so they don't feel as though they're missing out on a hunk of summer.

In any case, we turned off the a/c and opened up all the windows yesterday. We probably could have done it the day before that. This morning it's a brisk 58°, and our summer-seasoned bodies feel chilled.

I'm in jeans and a light sweater. And socks! I haven't worn socks since maybe May. I'll have to change later, of course. It's supposed to hit 77°. This time of year we go through a lot of clothes. The morning and evening long-sleeves and light sweater, in addition to capris and short sleeves mid-afternoon.

Fall is my favorite time of year. I'm irritated at myself for anticipating not fully enjoying it this year. My brain and heart are distracted by my unemployment* and worry for the future. Yeah, I'm irritated at myself proactively for not enjoying something that hasn't happened yet. I don't make much sense.

Anyway ... soon the leaves will change, the weather will cool even further. I love fall foods, fall clothes, fall holidays. I'm going to do my best to make the most of it.


* The school district with which I had a very promising interview and a few "inside" contacts started up today. I still haven't officially received word that I haven't been selected, but it seems likely they'd have someone in the spot for the teacher start-of-school day today.


Back to School Time, Again

Joe and I both work in academia, and with the kids both in school for some years now ... well, this is the time of year. Collectively we have 65 starts of the school year among us. Our mental calendars do not start in January, they begin in September.

So, we've purchased new sneakers for Matthew, new shoes for Emily. From all over the house, we've gathered pencils, erasers, rulers, calculators, scissors, crayons and put them into brand-new pencil boxes for our homework station. Em and I went shopping for her first-day-of-school outfit* (Matthew was given the same offer, but said he didn't really care). We've started setting alarms in the morning, again ... edging toward the real school wakeup time we'll need by next week.

All that's left to do is buy school lunch stuff. I already got a few new lunch boxes/sacks, but I like to stock up on juice boxes, lunchmeat, cheese, bread, snacky things, etc.


* This top and these pants, for those keeping score at home....


I Think We're Clean

Most of yesterday was spent downloading software, updating virus definitions and scanning the three large drives on my computer. I think I've finally found all my problems and that I'm now running Trojan and spyware free. *whew*

I started out by scanning my drives for junk, old temp files, that sort of thing. I pulled over a few gigabytes of garbage and dumped it all. (using Wise Disc Cleaner, the free version). I plan to run it again today and see what else is lurking about. Yesterday I only hit major directories.

Then, I ran Malwarebytes' AntiMalware program. It found a bunch of stuff. Nine infected or suspicious files, an infected folder and four registry entries/keys/etc that required cleaning or quarantining.

Finally, I ran full AVG scans of everything. It found and cleaned up a couple more items.

This morning after a restart, my computer is running somewhat faster than it was before, and I'm certainly not getting any irritating antivirus popups, "infected file blah-blah-blah requires action." I've uninstalled F-Prot, my previous virus protection, as it didn't find any of this stuff. It popped up occasionally with a warning about something, but repeated scans didn't actually find (or more importantly, eliminate) the trouble.

We'll see how this goes. The software I'm now using comes highly recommended by CNET editors and users, so I'm quite hopeful.



Arg ... and ... Grrrr!

Working to get a sneaky trojan off my computer. Driving me batty.



Rude Awakening ...

Joe and I were up late last night. Like ... actually really early late. Maybe 2am? (Yeah, our schedule pretty much falls apart in the summer once none of us have work demands.)

We finished watching season two of the very excellent Mad Men. It's altogether wonderful and thought-provoking and sometimes terribly uncomfortable, but that's a whole 'nother blog post.

I woke up off an on through the night (the downside of not having a regular schedule is that my really very circadian body doesn't know what to do with itself). But, sleep was definitely out of the question, once those dark red blobs on the lower right of the map rolled through. Starting at about 6:00. We live roughly at the X. Well, maybe a skosh south of there, but anyway ... it was a loud morning.

I started out counting seconds ... one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, RUMBLE! Soon it was just FLASH/BOOM! One bolt was close enough to be more of a FLASH/CRACK which we felt as much as we heard. The kids wound up in our bed after that one.

I love thunderstorms, always have. I think my Grandpa Christoph fostered that more than anyone. But, morning thunderstorms, rare and wonderful in their own way, certainly make for a rude awakening.


ps. 5:03pm -- another band of serious thunderstorms is now on the way through, the worst is mostly to the south of us, this time.


Relative Security

Even while my financial life feels less and less secure (school starts in a week, and I still don't know if I have the job I interviewed for ... which I guess means I don't ...), I'm working on technical security. Thanks, Chris!

Using True Crypt, I've created encrypted partitions to secure password files for randomly generated and secure passwords (created using PasswordMaker (mostly because I like their "one password to rule them all" tagline) in Firefox). So, now I have the ability to use wacko and complicated passwords and carry the file with me on my flashdrive in a secure and protected way.

I don't know that I feel any safer, but it's kind of nice to have at least made an effort.



Playing Catch-up

Look over there ----> Yeah, over on the right. See where it says "Where Do I Go?"? Those are websites I visit at least daily (except for the ones I know only update on certain days like Foxtrot or XKCD).

I like them. They inform, amuse, entertain. But sometimes they feel like such a chore. Sometimes (like when returning from a non-Internet vacation) it feels completely overwhelming to try to dive back in and catch the jist of a blog after missing nine episodes.

So, I'm quitting. Not cold turkey. And not entirely. But, I'm not going to worry about staying current with every little thing that happens out there in my personal hunk of Internet real estate. It's just not cool to spend more time doing that than ... I don't know ... name just about any useful and not-sitting-on-my-backside endeavor.

I'm still going to check family and friend blogs daily. And XKCD (Because it cracks me up and is brief). And Woot. And a few other things, I suppose. But mostly, a lot of sites are going to be diminished to "when I feel like it" or "when I have free time" or "when I'm bored" status.

That said, I'm going to attempt to blog daily, myself. Probably not with anything especially pithy. or thought-out or all that interesting. But, I like the idea of having regimens, routines, order. I like the idea of giving myself goals to stick to (or not).

Today I'm working on PhotoShopping the hundreds (upon hundreds) of pictures I took at Disney World. I also have a few errands to run (fall allergy perscription pick-up, watch repair (the second hand just fell off), eyeglass repair (I can't for the life of me shove Emily's left lens all the way back into place), milk (Why isn't milk cap color standardized? I reached for the light blue like I always do only to realize with much chagrin upon returning home that it was not fat-free, but 2%. *sigh*).

This link posted by my brother is my offering for the day. Until tomorrow. Oh, and this one, too ... I agree, Chris, it would make an awesome blog. One new Nardo email daily. Get permission from the author and go for it!



Random Thoughts

Happy 60th Birthday to my dad, yesterday!

Bon Voyage and good travel wishes to friends bound for Florida today!

Should I start sitting outside for gradually increasing amounts of time in the heat of the New Jersey summer day in order to arrive in Florida on the 14th better acclimated?

Recently enjoyed seasons of programming enjoyed (I missed so much pre-recorded television during the run of Moon Over Buffalo that the dvr started deleting things. So I downloaded entire seasons of show. Joe and I are now catching up on quite a backlog.): Rome Season 2, Dollhouse, 30 Rock. Now working on the entire last season of Scrubs.

I've created a set of entirely-too-detailed documents for our Disney Trip. And customized maps. Laminated even. It's what I do. I'll share via email with anyone who wants further opportunity to mock me.

Lasagna for dinner. Already made. Now regretting not buying some sort of bread to garlic up. Maybe I'll make rolls or something. Bread is a passion. So is cheese. So are cookies.



Bizarre and Fantastic ... Green Porno

If you have not yet seen Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno (she produces, writes and single-handedly stars in these shorts), you really should check it out. It's more or less safe for work, as it's not actually porno. Well, not actually human porno. The audio does include words like "sex," "penis," and "vagina," (with images to match) so let that be your warning. The costuming and origami-type paper sculptures are worth the price of admission (cheap as free!) in and of themselves.

It's basically the how-to manual of non-mammalian sex. And ... such .... variety. Impressive and ... disturbing variety.

Season One: spider, fly, earthworm, snail, bee, praying mantis, dragonfly, and firefly
Season Two: limpet, why vaginas and penises?, starfish, whale, anglerfish, and barnacle



Green Ideas

Taken directly from my recent issue of NEA Today, tips for teachers to started their classrooms off on a "green" foot:
  • Don't use plastic water bottles, or buy cases of bottled water. Use a stainless steel or glass bottle, and a water filter.
  • Turn off some classroom lights on sunny days.
  • Skip Dixie cups, etc. and ask friends/families to donate old coffee cups, mismatched metal utensils for classroom parties and celebrations.
  • Save memos, start-of-school paperwork, etc and use as scrap paper throughout the year, instead of Post-It notes.
  • Turn off your computers before you go home.
Just thought I'd share.



Food has gender?

It's bad enough the sex is used to sell cars, clothes, makeup, booze .... but I think sexualizing our food is going a bit too far. Making food ... female?

Weird and creepy.



Monday, Monday, Monday

It was raining awhile ago, but now the sun is shining.

The kids are cleaning their rooms. For real now. They're been up there for five hours monkeying around at it. If they just did it, they could be done in about half an hour, total.

Football starts again today. Matthew will have practices five days a week until school starts, and then three days a week through the season. He'll have a game every Saturday or Sunday from Labor Day until about Thanksgiving.

We had two tree cut down and are now making phone calls and getting a bit of run-around about when they'll be back to grind out the stumps.

Our water pressure has dropped off significantly, and I think we're going to be out $4K or so for a new well. In the very near future.

I have callbacks tonight for a show I auditioned for last night. We'll see.

Joe had minor surgery on his leg last week and has a follow-up appointment this afternoon. All should be fine, though. But, that sort of thing is always nerve-wracking and troublesome.

Three more resumes going out today.

Tomorrow ... baking cookies! I can't wait!



Verrrry Interesting!

Snopes is reporting this as a mix of fact and fiction (largely due to the rather significant arithmetical error), but it's interesting, nonetheless. This first appeared on the website of the St. Petersburg Times last February.

How to Fix the Economy:

Dear Mr. President:
Please find below my suggestion for fixing America's economy. Instead of giving billions of dollars to companies that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan.

You can call it the Patriotic Retirement Plan.

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the workforce. Pay them each $1 million severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:

1. They must retire. Forty million job openings -- Unemployment fixed.
2. They must buy a new American car. Forty million cars ordered -- Auto industry fixed.
3. They must either buy a house or pay off their existing mortgage -- Housing crisis fixed.

Except for the rather glaring multiplication mistake, it's a nifty-sounding plan, no?



Matthew 101

While I'm out in San Diego, I miss my family. Joe's been trying to keep me posted on cute stories. Today's email is So. Very. Matthew.

I just thought I'd share some of things the Matthew taught me the last 36 hours.

Matthew, on chess--

1) Since we've somehow lost the LEFT SIDE of white's pieces, he plays black. Black has all of it's pieces. Black obviously has it's act together. Therefore black goes first.

2) Should the black king ever feel in danger, he can teleport and swap places with a black rook. This does not depend on where the black rook currently stands on the board. Yes.... the black rooks suddenly became target #1

3) Don't get the black queen angry. She has a sniper rifle. Took out a few white pawns without moving just by saying... "Oh yeah, they're dead."

4) But the best part... the black pawns are the most powerful pieces on the board. They can "in passing" capture anyone, almost anywhere, provided the piece is vaugely behind them. The best move: "in passing" the white king. It's a good thing black only has eight of them.

Also ... Matthew, on what to do if someone calls you names: "You know dad, don't say to someone 'sticks and stone may break my bones, but names do not hurt me.' They'll just start throwing stones."



Yeah, This Stinks

On June 19, my last day of school, my principal informed me that they won't be needing my services this fall. So I'm job hunting. In a recession.

Exploring teaching jobs, theatrical things, marketing/advertising/PR. Basically anything and kind of anywhere (within reason). Would love leads, advice, tips, contacts, prayers.




Leavin' on a Jet Plane

I fly out tomorrow morning (7:50 a.m.) for San Diego. I'll be spending the week out there representing Cumberland County at the national Representative Assembly of the National Education Association. It's a lot of work, and way cool, and I get to visit San Diego, which I've only just barely done for one day before.

So, traveling prayers and so forth for me. I'll be flying back on the 7th. I'm hoping to have daily Nets access while I'm out there, but in the meantime, just in case ... Happy 4th of July and catch ya on the flip side!



Change in Plans

Well, we won't be going on our canoeing trip in August after all. Instead, Joe and I will probably be taking a vacation on our own somewhere, while the kids spend another week with my folks, maybe on a trip with them.

Any ideas where we should go?




I posted a bunch of pictures on Facebook from the production of Moon Over Buffalo ....

and from our recent trip to New York City. Enjoy!



Day 180

Today is the students' 180th day of school. The bell just rang to end the last official student day of school for the 2008-09 school year. And it couldn't have come soon enough. It's been a long time coming.

The stress has been accumulating steadily. Hence the dreams I had on Tuesday night and last night.


My parents had just bought a flock of chickens. They pointed them out to my brother, Chris, and myself from atop a high hillside. We were looking down at the chickens in the yard, below (please note that my parents' property does not contain nor is bordered by such a steep and high hillside). Chris and I gasped as the flock wandered out into the road, oblivious to the oncoming pickup truck. Which hit several of them. This happened again and again with a few more cars. Finally, Chris and I realized we'd have to herd the flock to safety, so we started making our way along the crest of the ridge, to come up from behind them and shoo them back the safety of the yard. And we knew we weren't going to move fast enough, they just kept getting hit by cars and trucks. And then I woke up.

I was in my house with my kids one night watching TV or something when strange men dressed like movers or construction workers or somesuch burst into the house. They were here to take the children. The kids seemed bewildered but not overly frightened or concerned about staying with me. I was terrified and trying to fight off these men. They didn't fight me back, per se, but remained set on their goal of removing my kids from their home. And then I woke up.

Last night:

Joe and I had stopped for a break one night on a long road-trip at my Grandma Schierer's house (it should be duly noted here that my Grandma's house is not convenient to any major thoroughfares and is therefore completely inappropriate for a stop-by or drop-in situation). No one was home, but we wanted to go to the bathroom, rest a bit and then continue our trip. I was sitting on the floor in my Grandma's room in the dark, retying my shoes when someone came into the room. I couldn't tell who it was, only that it was a man and tall. "Joe, is that you?" I called out. No reply. "Joe?" No reply. The man came closer. "Joe?! Quit fooling around!" The man came closer. I could tell that it was not Joe. And then I woke up.

There was one other nightmare on Tuesday night and an additional one last night that I no longer recall. These were all of the panting for breath, cold sweat, abject terror upon waking variety.

I'm exhausted. Vacation and respite cannot come soon enough.



Chaos Kills Me

I can't handle chaos, limbo, uncertainty. They're my kryptonite. (well, so are Ben & Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk and Adelphia's tiramisu, but in an entirely different way)

When there's uncertainty and chaos and upheaval it impacts every part of my life. I don't sleep well. I have bizarre dreams. I eat too many carbs. I sleep all the time. It makes the "11" shaped wrinkles between my eyebrows more prominent and cavernous.

I yearn for solace and tranquility and resolution. Sometimes to my own detriment. I just want things to be settled and I don't care how or when or what ... I just want it over and done and then work out the aftermath. Cut to the chase. Cheat, if necessary.

But sometimes chaos is out of my control. There's not a real way to get through it to the other side. Sometimes we have to live in chaos and uncertainty for awhile.

I need some coping strategies and patience. Not my strong suits. I need some answers and some stability.

Or maybe just another pint of Ben & Jerry's.




Thanks to my friend, Adrienne, I know about this Chess In Concert broadcast. I'm a huge fan. Saw the American version on some Broadway-type tour and loathed big sections of it, while still drooling and carrying on about how it was ... yippee! ... Chess! Hopefully this will be the European version. Even if it's not, I'm still recording it and planning to sing along every minute.

Also, have you ever really stopped to take stock of just how much Stuff we have? It's everywhere. Books, magazines, fabrics remnants, clothes, tchotckes, photos, albums, holiday decorations for all seasons, boxes in case one ever has to move again, dishes, glasses, cutlery, kitchenware, piano music, office supplies, knick-knacks, food, cleaning supplies, appliances, memorabilia, electronics, electronics accessories, furniture, blankets and other linens, toys, toys, toys, stuffed animals, toys, DVDs, CDs, miniDV tapes. It's a lot of stuff. Occasionally I go through one of those purge-it-all-and-live-on-a-mountainside moods. More occasionally than you'd think, considering what a packrat and keeper I tend to be. I'm afraid to purge anything for fear that the very next week or month will be just the moment I realize how completely valuable and important said items were.

Finally, did our parents or their parents spend us much time as we do wondering about parenting? About screwing up? About the years of therapy the kids may someday require? About nature v. nurture, breast v. bottle, work-outside-the-home v. stay-at-home, public v. private v. home schooling, helicopter parenting v. laissez faire, football v. soccer v. tap and jazz, Disney World v. the vacation less traveled? Or did they just do it? Did they just not think so much and just go for it? I think we, my generation, think about it a lot. We think about a lot of things a lot. At least the folks I know and converse with and read. We want so badly not to screw up our kids ... and does that become one of those things like how the simple act of observing something affects it (Heisenberg? Schroedinger?) ... are we so worried about experts and blogs and thinking this whole thing to death that our kids are missing out on us just being us and parenting naturally and just instinctively?

Solitude and simplicity on a mountainside look better and better every day. If only there weren't any such thing as guilt and responsibility. Ay, there's the rub!



Consumer Reports

My folks got Consumer Reports magazine when I was a kid. For some geek-dork reason, I used to read it every month. It didn't matter if they were rating orange juice, blenders or credit card deals ... I read the whole thing.

I'm still a firm believer in checking with CR before making any real purchase of any of the sorts of things they rate ... cars, cameras, appliances, weedwhackers ... anything. I don't get the magazine, but their online subscription is a pretty good deal.

If you're reading this, and you're not in the CR family, consider checking it out. They have lost of services and articles available to non-subscribers .. buying guides, how to choose a good microwave, that sort of thing. Their actual ratings are only available once you pay, though.


Wrapping Up

Well, things are winding down for the year at Casa del Dugan.

Summer II starts at Cumberland this Monday. So Joe will be teaching on Tuesdays and Thursdays again through the day.

The kids' last day of school is Tuesday, the 16th. On Wednesday they have their final piano recital/party of the year. Afterward, I drive them up to Mom Dugan's house for the rest of the week. My last day of school is the 19th. Woo!

The 19th is a bigger day for Joe, though. He has his Qualifying Exam at Drexel. He's been studying for months and this is the big day. His brother John is going to take him out afterwards to celebrate and help him forget and unwind. Joe's staying over up there in PA that night. But, I won't be bored. Off Broad Street Players is singing in Millville that night, and I'm going to be part of the ensemble. Any opportunity to perform is OK by me!

Saturday morning, I'll drive up, collect Joe and the kids. Then we drive up to central PA to hand the kiddos off to my Mom and Dad for the whole next week. Joe and I are taking a weekend trip to NYC to see Avenue Q and will be home on Monday evening.

Sometime that week I'll be off to Lowe's or Home Depot to buy paint for my summer project -- painting nearly the entire interior of the house. I think the upstairs bathroom and the kids' rooms and our red wall downstairs are the only parts of the house remaining as they are. Fun!

On the 25th, I'll be in DC all day lobbying in support of health care reform (but against taxing employer-provided health care benefits) with the NJEA. Joe may or may not be coming with me. But it will surely be an exciting political day. Power to the people!

That takes us to the 27th, we'll meet up to get the kids home. *whew!*



Best Places

I always find lists like these utterly fascinating.



Hymn for a Tuesday

Blest be the Tie That Binds
by Dr. John Fawcett

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one
Our comforts and our cares.

We share each other’s woes,
Our mutual burdens bear;
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.

This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way;
While each in expectation lives,
And longs to see the day.

From sorrow, toil and pain,
And sin, we shall be free,
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.



Happy Birthday, Matthew!

To my big little boy ... I'll love you forever. Happy 8th birthday!



Summer Plans

Been thinking about our upcoming summer. I'm kind of excited about the great stuff we have planned.

June 15 is the kids' last day of school. On the 16th they have a piano recital. Afterward, we drive them up to Joe's mom's for a few days. My last day of school is the 19th. That morning, the 19th, Joe has his qualifiers ... a big, life-altering exam that determines whether or not he gets to continue at Drexel for his Ph.D. After the exam, We're joining the kids at Mom Dugan's. Then we'll be heading up on the 20th to hand the kids off to my folks for a week of Gramma Camp. Joe and I are supposed to have some sort of plans that weekend, but nothing's really firm, yet. Whitewater rafting in the Poconos? A Broadway show? I'm not sure.

The kids will be away about a week. When they get back, they'll both go right into theatre camp. It's a four day a week day camp involving singing, dancing, stagecraft ... all sorts of performing. That lasts the whole month of July and culminates in a big performance. Joe will be teaching at Cumberland three or four days a week for the whole month, too. As for me? I'll be away June 30-July 7 in San Diego (which I've never really visited ... very excited) at the NEA-RA. The national representative body of the teacher's union I belong to. It's a very exciting, "be a part of something bigger than you are" sort of deal.

Once I return, I'm planning to paint the entire interior of the house. That's my project while the kids are at camp. It really needs it, and I'm looking forward to it a lot. That, and a lot of walking, and hopefully some writing. I want to do something with my writing/journalism/good-with-the-words part of my brain. I'm going to be revamping and reworking my technology curriculum for school, as well.

The beginning of August is wide open (though my high school reunion is the last weekend of July into the start of august ... I don't know if I'm attending it, yet, or not). I may help out with the summer production of Thoroughly Modern Millie, but I haven't decided yet. A break from theatre may be a good thing for a variety of reasons.

Then, our big trip. We're going canoeing/backpacking in the backwoods of Algonquin Provincial Park. We'll be gone ten days with my mom and dad. I'm really looking forward to the trip and making memories with the family. Spending some time away from technology and life here at home and stuff. (how will I survive? hee-hee)

After that, we'll whoosh right back into school and all that involves. I think Joe is planning to keep going to Drexel a few days a week while returning full-time to Cumberland. His sabbatical will be over, but he'll still need a good solid year at Drexel working with his advisor before starting to write his dissertation.

We'll surely also have visits to the Cape May Zoo, the Ocean City Boardwalk, picnics, hanging out at the beach and with family and friends.

Anyway ... that's the plan for now. We'll see ...