Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Big Jug

In an effort to reinvigorate my water drinking improvement plan I got a huge 52oz “Bubba Keg” this past weekend (plus it’s kind of cute - that's a pint glass there for size comparison.)

It’s my goal to drink through one of these every day. We’ll see how it goes. It’s going to be kind of tricky because I can’t see how much is left so I won’t know if I’m getting close to the end except through the weight of the container. It’s a mental thing…

Pirates III

We went and saw the third Pirates installment yesterday afternoon. We went to the noon showing (the first of the day, but unfortunately not on the UltraScreen) to avoid crowds and because Adam worked in the evening (plus it’s cheaper!) We did pretty well. The theater was nowhere near full. I’d say maybe 40 or 50 people were there. So yay, no elbows, squishing, or nasty old lady perfume to battle.

Both Adam and I had read some of the reviews out for the movie. In general, I’d agree with most of them: It was long, the special effects were definitely more of a focus in this film than either of the other two, there were multiple false endings, confusing alliance switches, and lots of gore and fighting. That being said, I maintain that it was a pretty good movie. There are several sight gags and thinly veiled sexual innuendos that are almost worth the admission price by themselves.

The story is really too complicated to try and describe in that there are many plotlines all happening at the same time, all intertwined in some way, but in a very large nutshell (full of excruciatingly long run-on sentences): Jack needs to be brought back from Davy Jones’ locker because the East India Company has control of the sea because they have Davy Jones’ heart (thanks to Commodore Norrington) and they are strategically wiping out all the pirates so all the pirate lords need to call a gathering to decide what to do to stop their race from being eliminated. All 9 pirate lords need to be there and since Jack is one of the nine, him being dead is kind of a problem. There’s also the issue of Will wanting to stab Davy Jones’ heart to free his father from the imprisonment of the Dutchman (which was kind of his own fault in the first place, but whatever...) But if he stabs the heart, he must take Davy Jones’ place and captain the ship for eternity which would kind of mess up his relationship with Elizabeth although that was already messed up with that whole “she’s in love with Jack but she killed him” thing. Then there’s this whole new Calypso storyline (well, kind of new, but you have to see it to know what I mean) and a whole Singapore thing. **exhales**

Ok, so that probably didn’t tell anyone anything. Really, things do get resolved, there are some hilarious hallucinations, some very sad moments, and lots of double, triple, and possibly quadruple crossing. Plenty of sword fights, stuff exploding, and even a monkey shot out of a cannon. What more could you ask for? (Except maybe an intermission for a bathroom break.) They did leave some open endings for more sequels but we’ll have to see if that happens.

I’m not sure I’d go back to see it again the theater. I think it would be pretty good on the UltraScreen although the second one was probably better with the whole deep-sea Kraken rumbling thing. We’ll probably end up getting the DVD since we have the other two already.

Next on my list of movies to go see: Knocked Up

Friday, May 25, 2007

We had our “parental unit” meeting last weekend and “finalized” the guest list and invitations. I just have to make a few revisions to the invitations and response cards and then they can be burned to CD for Joan to print for us. Not much else to do in that arena aside from the actual assembly and mailing (to be done 6/15.)

We have a meeting with Tom and Alice (the ceremony musicians) in about a week and a half. This is our second meeting with them as our first left us with some unresolved issues. Looking back, I realize I never really blogged about this before. I guess I didn’t write anything at the time because I was frustrated with the results of our first meeting. I went into the meeting with the ceremony order and what I wanted to be played at what time. Things got off to wonderful start when the very first piece on my list got shot down and there were some uncomfortable (at least for me) Catholic vs Non-Catholic moments. After that things went downhill as I was unprepared for such a complete rejection of everything I had wanted. I guess I just went along with pretty much everything else that night just to get out of there. I know that (some) musicians can be arrogant a-holes who are obviously superior to those around them. That’s not exactly the feeling I got being around Tom and Alice, but it definitely wasn’t a warm and fuzzy, they’re on my side, feeling.

Anyway, after that disaster I took some time off from thinking about it. When I went back to it I did some research online using “Catholic Wedding Ceremony Music” as my search term as to avoid any further religious clashes. Oddly enough, the song that caused all the problems in the first place (by the way, the problem was that I wanted Ave Maria sung as the processional – the horror!) showed up on a lot of the suggested lists AS A PROCESSIONAL. Imagine that. In any case, I got some more ideas, listened to some bad midi files and recordings, and narrowed the list down to some songs I could live with.

We final got the second meeting scheduled with them this past week. Alice emailed me asking if I was going to bring sheet music to the meeting. I said no and apparently this caused panic since she “had sung everything she had.” To alleviate unnecessary spikes in blood pressure I had Adam email her my revised ceremony plan. I just wanted to get rid of back-to-back vocal pieces and try and get processionals and recessionals that were more like I wanted than what we had picked the first time. I don’t know that she has responded and I’ll have to see how things go on the 6th. I don’t want to turn into a Bridezilla over the music at the ceremony, but I don’t want to have to hear the Pachelbel Canon either. I want to respect their opinions as people who have done a lot more Catholic weddings than I have, but I don’t want to give up my choices completely just because I happen to be getting married to a Catholic.

In any case, hopefully it will all work itself out. It’s ironic that the music is really the only thing I’ve had a problem with throughout this whole wedding planning process. Even the ceremony planning wasn’t that painful (although I suppose we’re not really done yet…)

June and July will be busy months with lots of house-related appointments and tasks along with meetings with vendors, Father Mike, and eventually wedding favor assembly, dress fittings, and the million other things on the list that I can’t do yet. For now I’m enjoying the calm before the storm by very slowly packing up our apartment and, this weekend, watching the second season of The Girls Next Door ( Now out on DVD!)

Oscar Update

I’m doing horribly on the reviewing movies thing. I even managed to lose the list I was keeping of movies I had yet to add to my RT journal so now those are gone forever because I can’t remember what was on the list. *sigh*

In any case, I figured I’d do an update on the Oscar Movie Challenge:

Apocolypto (not going to see)
Black Dahlia, The

Blood Diamond

Children of Men
Curse of the Golden Flower
Departed, The
Devil Wears Prada, The

Flags of Our Fathers
Good German, The
Good Shepard, The
Half Nelson
Happy Feet
Illusionist, The
Last King of Scotland, The
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Children
Little Miss Sunshine
Marie Antoinette
Monster House

Notes on a Scandal
Pan's Labyrinth
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Prestige, The

Pursuit of Happyness, The
Queen, The
Superman Returns
United 93 (not going to see)

So I’m about half done. I’d be doing a lot better if Adam hadn’t added all the Harry Potter movies to our Blockbuster Total Access queue and moved them up to the top. Oh well. The remaining movies seem to be a good mix of films I’d probably see anyway (like The Queen, Little Children, Venus) and films I’d probably consciously avoid seeing (like Blood Diamond, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Good German.)

I’m happy to report that there haven’t been many so far that I really didn’t like. My only real complaint could be that I found Half Nelson and Flags of our Fathers to be incredibly slow-moving and boring (but not so unwatchable that I actually had to stop watching them a la Cinderella Man.) My favorite so far is hard to choose. Little Miss Sunshine was a great movie but in a completely different category than The Prestige, which was also a great movie. I don’t think I’d be able to narrow it down to one, but both of those have been my favorites overall.

The last movie I watched was Babel. I had no idea what it was about – only that Brad Pitt was in it. I thought maybe it was a period piece about the Tower of Babel. Uhm, no. Not even close. It’s a Traffic-esque film about how lives intersect each other. A good 2/3 of the film wasn’t even in English so perhaps that’s where the Babel thing comes in. Oh wait, I just looked at IMDB and apparently “In Gen. 11:9, the name of Babel is etymologized by association with the Hebrew verb balal, 'to confuse or confound.'" "Babel", through a series of misunderstandings, interweaves the unfortunate circumstances of a Moroccan, an American, a Mexican and a Japanese family.” So there you go. It was generally just too long and I’m still confused by the leaps forward and backward in time between the different stories. Anyway, one more down.

Westminster Bell Choir

Monday night was the final outing for the bell choir this season. We went to the Westminster Bell Choir concert at a local Lutheran church. This is the largest bell choir in the world – 8 octaves worth plus 6 octaves of chimes, some Welsch hand bells, and lower octaves consisting of both aluminum and traditional bronze bells. The players are all college students at Rider University in New Jersey. Overall, it was a wonderful concert. They demonstrated all kinds of techniques, styles, and showed it’s possible to break a sweat while ringing teeny tiny bells but still keep a smile on your face.

I especially liked that they changed positions between each song so everyone got a chance to play all the different bells and show off their different strengths. There were three guys who manned the back table with the ginormous bells pretty consistently. They really reminded me of the percussion players in an orchestra. They would run back and forth between bells carrying huge mallets. They must have very defined arm muscles as the largest bell weighs almost 20 pounds and they actually do pick them up and ring them. It does take two hands for those ones though.

The selections ranged from slow and peaceful to almost frantic (a la the Hungarian Rhapsody.) They consistently rang two to three bells in each hand, used chimes and bells at the same time, used mallets, table-damping, thumb-damping, shaking, and other techniques I’m not even sure how to describe since I couldn’t figure out how they were getting the bells to make particular sounds.

The conductor was a very approachable woman who entertained the audience between pieces so the choir could rearrange their bells (since not all the bells fit on the tables at one time.) The choir was made up of mostly juniors and seniors with two freshmen thrown in for fun. They were almost all music majors (education, organ performance, and sacred music were the most popular majors) with the exception of one of the guys in the back – he was a Computer Information Systems major. LoL.

The performance was phenomenal and although there are recordings available I would suggest that they videotape a performance since half of the fun is watching them throw bells around and do their outrageous three-bells-to-a-hand ringing. They’re on tour through June in various places including South Dakota and Minnesota. If you ever have the chance to go see them I’d highly recommend it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Random Rambling

Apology for lack of posts, but there’s really not been much going on.

Last week was pretty boring. We did go to the drive-in on Saturday night. They opened for the season on April 27. We saw Meet the Robinsons and Wild Hogs. I had never even heard of the first one. It was animated, geared towards kids. It was ok, but predictable and sappy. Wild Hogs I had heard about. Mostly bad stuff though. It isn’t a bad movie, it just didn’t reach its potential. With the cast is has (John Travolta, William H. Macy, Martin Lawrence, and Tim Allen) it could have been much better. Anyway, we got to see two movies for $6, had some good food and got out of the house for a bit.

Adam had to work early Sunday morning so that had the potential for suckage. Luckily he can survive on minimal sleep. After he left I read the paper and then fell back into bed for a few hours before cleaning and doing some packing in the kitchen.

Speaking of packing, I haven’t really done a lot of that yet and perhaps I should start. I’ve got all our DVDs, CDs, and tapes (yes, as in cassette) boxed up. All my books and photo albums have been in boxes for weeks. I’ve still got to figure out what I’m going to do with our videos (keep or trash.) I packed up my cookbooks and some random kitchen stuff. I also packed most of our glasses and dishware, bedding and towels we seldom use. That leaves a lot of crap still. Luckily we still have two weeks until we close. And then we have approximately two weeks of work to do before we really move in. So I have a month to procrastinate packing the rest of the stuff. Heh.

We plan to go to Lowe’s during Memorial Day weekend sale time and make our one major purchasing trip including appliances, flooring, and a new front door. I fear the number that will show up on the register when the cashier hits “total” but we’ve done our research and estimated the damage so hopefully we come pretty close. Aside from potentially endless smaller purchases (shower curtains, dirt, etc.) that should be the major chunk of change we drop for the house. It will all be worth it in the end and we’ll have fun showing it off at the end of June and then again in August.

This week was the last bell practice and the last IMA meeting of the season. It’s been a good year for both groups and I will continue on in my current position with both of them. There are summer planning meetings for IMA in June and July and the bells are meeting on Monday to go to a Westminster Bell Choir Concert together. This Sunday is the meeting of the parental units (minus one) to go through guest lists, invitations, programs, and wedding day logistics. I’m trying out a new zucchini/turkey recipe so hopefully it turns out ok or we’ll be ordering pizza or something.

After that I get to print the invitations, get a jillion paper cuts while stuffing them, dehydrate myself while licking them, glue my fingers together while peeling and sticking a jillion stamps and address labels on, and piss off the post office when I go to mail them. Woo! I’m pumped (no, really. I’m looking forward to doing this.) Speaking of stamps, with the stupid 2-cent increase, they have no cute wedding theme stamps. I’m stuck with the Liberty Bell, Star Wars, or Jamestown: the first settlement. The clerk at the post office suggested I go with the Liberty Bell stamp since it says “Forever” on it and my marriage is “for forever.” Psssht. I’ll have to think about whether I want to be so hokey. None of the other (perhaps more appropriate) stamps come out until after the invites need to be mailed. So I’m stuck. Grr.

Anywho, enough rambling about pretty much nothing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lori's Wedding

I left work around 11 and we stopped to fill up the gas tank and get some lunch before hitting the road. In general the drive to PA wasn’t too bad. There’s obviously a lot of construction between here and there, it being construction season here in the Midwest. The only obvious delay came in Chicago where we got stuck in snail pace traffic for about an hour. Hence the reason it took an hour longer to get there than it did to come back.

After we escaped Chicago we desperately needed a pit stop and in our desperation stopped at the most ghetto McDonald’s ever. Note to travelers: Don’t stop at the McDonald’s right past the tolls in Illinois. Trust me, you want to wait for the first rest area. You won’t regret it.

Anyway, we then drove for miles and miles through Indiana and Ohio stopping a couple times for dinner (well, South Bend Chocolate) and bathroom stops. We got to the hotel around 10:30pm, discovered there was a Fatburger right next door to the hotel that was open until midnight, had some late dinner and went to bed.

Saturday morning we woke up and bummed around longer than necessary. We went to the lobby and had breakfast around 9. It was a decent selection with Jimmy Dean sandwiches, waffles, assorted cereals and breads. After a failed attempt to talk with my dad about plans (my cell phone is a piece of crap) we headed out for some shopping. While planning our trip we had discovered that there were no less than five Marshalls stores in the Pittsburgh/Cranberry/Beaver vicinity. One of them was right across the street from our hotel. So we made it our plan to go to as many of them as possible on Saturday. Adam also was on a mission get Harley t-shirts from two different dealers for a friend at work. We started at Starbucks though. I had somehow managed to get some kind of “feel like crap” bug overnight and needed some warm beverage to wash down the Tylenol cold and loosen up the sinuses. So after a quick stop at Walmart (for the aforementioned drugs) we headed to the first of the Harley stores.

Apparently people in PA like to name their streets oddly and they like to have a 7th street, 7th avenue, 7th boulevard, 7th drive, all in the same general area. Jill (our friendly neighborhood GPS) took us on an adventure through the wind-y hills of backwoods PA and ultimately led us to nowhere. We decided to try a Marshalls in the area and Adam called information about the dealer. Turns out it was on 7th street BRIDGE which was apparently completely different from 7th street. Hmm. After moderate success at the first Marshalls we headed to the bridge. The address given seemed to be part of a car dealership but we didn’t see any Harley signs. Somehow in the process of giving up and heading towards Pittsburgh we found the first dealer. It was probably 3 or 4 blocks further down than we expected it to be. They were having some kind of hoopla with a local radio station there with a prize wheel and a big red and yellow bird named “Pickle.” They told us there were roaster dogs (are those like hotdogs?) and stuff out there but we decided to avoid it and just picked up a t-shirt and headed to Pittsburgh. We found the other Marshalls pretty easily since most of them were in malls. We also stopped at Borders and got a Catholic bible since I’ve been curious about those books left out of the Protestant version. We managed to find the second Harley dealership with almost as much trouble as the first but it worked out.

We stopped for a late lunch at Applebees on the way back to the hotel. I took a short nap before my dad and Cheryl called and then stopped by. They came bearing gifts from my birthday, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. Apparently my dad had been stockpiling them and since we hadn’t seen them since Christmas, this is what happened. After hanging at the hotel for a bit we headed over to my grandma & grandpa’s house. My aunt and uncle were out busy with the rehearsal and stuff so they needed my dad and Cheryl to take care of things at home for a little while. We sat and talked for a while, watched the Derby (we all cheered for losers), and left as they began eating dinner. We stopped for dinner of our own on the way back to the hotel.

Sunday morning was kind of a repeat of Saturday. We hit the lobby for breakfast around 9 again. We stopped across the street at Giant Eagle since we saw they were supposed to carry Kim & Scotts pretzels. We found two new flavors there: Apple Cinnamon and Parmesan Sourdough. We mistakenly thought the Marshalls across the street opened at 10 but it turned out to be 11. So we went back the hotel for an hour and then checked it out. We didn’t find anything this trip and went back to the hotel to watch TV until it was time to get dressed for the wedding. Adam was nice enough to iron my dress while he did his pants and shirt.

We found the elusive fire hall with no problems and got there in plenty of time. We were seated at a table right up next to the head table along with my cousins Jennifer and Joanie and their guests. Well, ok, so their guests were Joanie’s friend Marcy and Jennifer’s daughter Elle. The ceremony started right on time and ran about 30 minutes. My uncle John officiated. It was a nice ceremony although all the music was canned and the DJ seemed to have some timing issues. After the ceremony was over the wedding party took off for almost 2 hours for pictures. There were mountains of cookies and they opened up the bar. We ate, drank, and socialized until the salads were brought out. When the wedding party returned they showed a cute slide show, did the introductions, and then dinner could begin. It was a buffet of sorts catered in by Boston Market. Beans, macaroni & cheese, mashed potatoes & gravy, chicken, and a turkey carving station. Simple, but filling. The cake was cut and dancing started not soon after.

A couple comments: I noticed a severe lack of clanking of glasses or heckling of the head table. Isn’t that what is the most fun for guests? Perhaps my family (or Dave’s) is too polite? After about 3 dances, no one was on the floor and about 45 minutes into it pretty much everyone had left. This is my ultimate fear for our reception. Please people, come and dance and have a good time and stay for more than an hour! Free beer!

Anyway, we left and my dad and Cheryl were supposed to call us after they got my grandma and grandpa home but apparently they were there until 10:30 and by that time we had been in bed for a while. Oh well. We caught up with them on Monday morning as we checked out (at 7:30 – see, we can get up early when we want to.) After another Starbucks run we got back on the long road home. The return trip was relatively painless with only two stops and smooth sailing through Chicago. We got home around 4, unloaded the car, checked on all the furry guys (they’re all fine although Mo managed to knock his water bottle completely off his cage and was waterless for a day or so), and then headed up to Adam’s parent’s house. My mom had sent pictures of her dress choices so I showed them (along with the picture Adam can’t see) to his mom and older sister. We picked up some dinner on the way back home and I busied myself unpacking, doing laundry, and catching up on some DVR programs before heading to bed.

All in all it was a good trip. Adam got to meet a large chunk of my extended family and I got to hang out with people I hadn’t seen in 10 or 15 years. Most of them say they’re going to try and make it to WI in August but we’ll have to see what happens.

Click for Photobucket Pictures

PA by the Numbers

Miles Driven:

Travel Time (appx):
WI to PA (Friday) – 10 hours
PA to WI (Monday) – 9 hours

Money Spent: $718.21
Tolls: $42.80 (IL - $10, IN - $9.30, OH - $20.50, PA - $3)
Hotel: $303.72
Gas: $165.00
Food: $136.57
Souvenirs: $20.12
Gifts: $50

Gas Price Trend:
5/4/07 – WI – $3.099
5/4/07 – IN – $3.299
5/4/07 – PA – $2.899
5/7/07 – PA – $2.899
5/7/07 – IN – $3.199
5/7/07 – WI – $3.099
Today in WI - $3.149

Tuesday, May 01, 2007