Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Year-End Recap

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before? Uhm. I'm not sure. Wasn't very adventurous this year...

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don't make resolutions because I'm terrible at keeping them. Why set myself up for failure?

3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Evan and Jodi added Caroline in September. It was a regular baby boom over on Adam's side - four of his cousins had babies this year - also all girls, I think.

4. Did anyone close to you die? My grandfather.

5. What countries did you visit? Travel in 2009? We went into Canada in August for a day. That was pretty much our big trip of the year - our week long mega driving adventure during the hottest week of the year. Then there was that whole debacle at the beginning of December. Worst. Trip. Ever.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? More money, more travel, more time.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Nothing too shocking happened this year so I don't know that one date stands out.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Not suffocating Carly with my pillow. That has taken a lot of self control.

9. What was your biggest failure? I didn't read near as much as I wanted to - I still find myself drawn to the TV instead.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing out of the ordinary.

11. What was the best thing you bought? I bought all of Kristin Chenoweth's albums. Wonderful.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration? No one that I can think of off the top of my head.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Damn cheating politicians and celebrities. They make everyone else look like angels.

14. Where did most of your money go? Mortgage and house expenses. That's how it'll be for, well, 27 more years.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? We booked our flight and hotel for our trip to NYC next May and I found out that Kristin Chenoweth will be on Broadway while we're there. I'm really, really, really excited to see her live!

16. What song will always remind you of 2009? Beyonce's "Single Ladies." From the babies dancing to the SNL spoof with Justin Timberlake in a leotard...awesome.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? About the same, most days. b) thinner or fatter? I think I'm probably about in the same place right now. I'm working on that. c) richer or poorer? Poorer. Ugh.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Travel just for the heck of it. Our one big trip was basically a lot of driving with a quick stop here and there.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Watch tv, spend money.

20. How did you spend Christmas? We went over to Adam's parents' house on Christmas Day for dinner. The next day we went back for lunch and Christmas with his uncle. We met my dad and Cheryl for dinner on the 27th.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009? Not with anyone new.

22. What was your favorite TV program? I'm really enjoying "The Good Wife" and "Glee"

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Nope. I can't say for sure that no one newly hates me though. But I can't really do anything about that... Some people are too sensitive.

24. What was the best book you read? A Little Bit Wicked by Kristin Chenoweth - hilarious!

25. What was your greatest musical discovery? I'm obsessed with David Archuleta. Yes, he's not new for 2009, but I'm a bit behind the curve.

26. What did you want and get? A new deep fryer and a Keurig coffee machine.

27. What did you want and not get? The Simon's Cat book. I'm not too worried - my birthday's coming soon. :-)

28. What was your favorite film of this year? I maintain that either The Reader or The Visitor should have won best picture. I didn't really see too many new movies this year. Nothing that stuck out as the best movie ever, at least.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned, uhm, 27 this year. (Uh oh, I had to think about that one. I must be getting old...) I don't think we did anything. Check the archives...

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? more money or free travel opportunities

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009? Black. And no horizontal stripes.

32. What kept you sane? Blasting (and lip-synching to) Miley Cyrus while on the treadmill. (Seriously, it's kind of embarassing to admit, but Miley and Britney seem to make the best workout songs - I have to have something with an obnoxious bass beat to it...I imagine I look totally ridiculous.)

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Still not up on the "who's cute" in the celebrity world.

34. What political issue stirred you the most? I ignore most of them.

35. Who did you miss? No one.

36. Who was the best new person you met? No one.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009. Timing is everything - and sometimes it's really off...

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year. I'm drawing a blank here. I'll get back to you. Maybe.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

How Do You Know When It's Love?

I can't tell you, but it lasts forever...

Is that Van Halen song sufficiently stuck in your brain now? No? Ok, here:

You're welcome.

Anyway. For Christmas Adam's parents (under the alias Nana and Papa. Hmm.) gave the cats a stocking full of assorted toys and catnip. I was immediately drawn to a cute gingerbread man with candy canes on his chest. I gave it to Carly, who beat him up a little at first...

but I think a lasting bond has formed:


Friday, December 25, 2009

Nothing Says "Christmas"...

Bah Humbug

Like a cat giving you the "death stare."

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Public Enimies

(No, I'm not stupid. I misspelled that on purpose. Read on...)

We rented Public Enemies the other day, pretty much just to pick out the scenes that were filmed in Oshkosh. (Mostly after the escape from Sioux Falls, BTW.) Anyway, the movie itself was so slow. It could have been a great gangster film. Instead they tried to turn it into some emotion-wrenching love story between Johnny and Billie. Boring! More bank robbing and car chasing, please.

In any case, we watched the credits to see what all they said about Wisconsin since they filmed a great deal of the movie here. Lo and behold, I caught this and made Adam rewind it so I could snap a picture:

THEY SPELLED "WINNEBAGO" WRONG! Hello, editing department? *sigh* That's just wrong.

Seriously Creepy

This, I think, is the very definition of "sleeping with one eye open":

Trust No One.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Random Sentences

I've added an Award Nominee section over on the right to track my progress in watching all the movies this year. I'm up to 4 - we went to see The Blind Side yesterday. Not bad after you get past Sandra Bullock's obnoxious accent.

Also added over there a couple weeks ago was a "wish list" section. So, if you haven't done your Christmas shopping yet, or are already thinking about my birthday... there you go.

I've spent this morning finishing up the wrapping of gifts. Well, almost. I've got to finish the cards for the ladies at bells still. JC "helped" and is all tuckered out:

And here's Ted and Connor all cuddled up in our comforter on Sunday when I was washing sheets:

Cats always find the best places to sleep. I stayed in bed a little later than usual yesterday while Adam worked his hour and when he came back out I was covered in cats - Carly by my head, JC by my knees, and Conner by my side. Who knows where Ted was - he's anti-social. It was nice though. They sure keep me warm!

A Motivational Poster

We'd been eyeing this poster at Blockbuster the last few months. It cracked us both up and seemed like a perfect addition to Adam's new home office. The last time we saw it it was on clearance but we decided to wait. Then the next time we went in all of them were gone. But it was fate - when we went in yesterday there was one sitting there, waiting for us:


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Week in Review, Cliff Notes Version

Quick recap of the past week (because that's probably all I'm going to get around to...)

Monday - back to work. Still behind, but catching up. Bell practice in the evening. Had to compete for parking with the Catholic Central band concert parents. Oh, and the fact that half the parking lot was a big pile of snow.

Tuesday - IMA Holiday meeting. Pretty good turn-out all told. Good raffle results. Thankfully no coffee mugs on the docket this year. Adam got some flameless candles and I got some canned air during the Santa raffle. We also won a trunk organizer and some reed diffuser set that we're regifting. Theoretically we also won a crockpot set and a roaster but I re-drew so someone else could have them. I don't need anymore crockpots!

Wednesday - I think this is the day I finally started on December things at work. Just ridiculous...

Thursday - Word got around that I had cookies at my desk (although they'd been there all week) so I had a lot of visitors.

Friday - A half day for me. Left work, came home and made chicken soup, then Adam came home (half day for him as well) and we did some shopping. Went to the Monkey Bar for some much needed relaxation.

Today - Van Rooy Christmas party. Not as many people showed as last year, but I think the fact that there are three new babies might have something to do with that. Still a good time and this year there was even a present for me!

Looking forward, we both have this entire week off from work (if you exclude the hour each morning during which Adam will have to run reports.) Tuesday night is Milprint's Christmas party. Wednesday we have church at night and the bells play. Thursday we'll be going to Adam's parents' house for dinner. The bells play again on Sunday. Nothing else planned, but I've got a rather long to-do list I'd like to tackle.

It's snowing right now so we'll see how much we get this time. That might also affect plans.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

SAG Nominations

...were announced this morning. No additional titles to add to the list. Whew!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Questions

I totally stole this because I'm un-creative.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Depends on the gift. Some are easy to wrap, others are a pain. I wrap most things though – and if there are more than one I might put them in a bag!

2. Real tree or artificial? Fake. Pre-lit. We’re lazy.

3. When do you put up the tree? Pre-cat we’d have it up the day after Thanksgiving. Now that we have four naughty kitties who like climbing it, we put it up for one day each year for our party. We lock the cats up in the morning, clean the house, put up and decorate the tree. We then take it down that evening before we let the cats back out. I even forgot to take a picture this year. Boo.

4. When do you take the tree down? See #3

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes, I do. Unfortunately it really doesn’t like me too much so I try to resist it.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? Christmas was always kind of crazy since both my parents worked at churches. I don’t remember specific gifts as much as I remember waiting up with my brother and sister to see Santa (FAIL – totally fell asleep), and all the unique things my mom did later on (we even celebrated Hanukkah one year.)

7. Do you have a nativity scene? No – although there’s kind of a partial one in a musical snow globe we got as a gift a few years ago (from my dad & Cheryl, I think.)

8. Hardest person to buy for? We don’t really do big gift exchanges in our families. I usually end up giving gift cards. Shipping is expensive!

9. Easiest person to buy for? See #8.

10. Worst Christmas gift ever received? I think I’m pretty easy to shop for – you can’t go wrong with kitchen stuff or books – so I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten something completely horrible. For the longest time my sister and I would get the exact same thing in different colors from my aunt. I was blue, Catherine was purple. That always bugged me…

11. Mail or e-mail Christmas card? Mail. Just dropped them on Monday.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? The Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I usually start thinking about it Thanksgiving weekend. Doing most of it online helps aid my chronic procrastination.

14. Have you ever regifted a Christmas present? Sure. If I can’t use it (or don’t want it) why keep it around?

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Cookies! I’ve been indulging way too much at work lately…

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear. The ornaments provide all the color needed.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Definitely NOT that stupid John Lennon “Happy Christmas” song with the stupid kids choir comprised of children who can’t sing. But that’s not what was asked, is it? My favorite is probably some incarnation of “O Holy Night.” I’ve heard a few this year (Carrie Underwood, Josh Groban, David Archuleta) and both my dad and I noted that they seem to have trouble singing more than one verse – they just repeat the first one twice. Hmmm.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? We don’t have very far to go to get to Adam’s parents’ house or my dad and Cheryl’s so we try to stop in to each of them at some point. We can’t go too far during the holidays since bells play Christmas Eve and I get very busy at work toward the end of the year.

19. Can you name Santa’s reindeer? There was a “Dear Abby” about this a few days ago! Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, DonDER, Blitzen, Rudolph. And Olive (as in Olive the other reindeer. Bwahahahaha. Seriously though, there’s a song about Olive – we (my mom, my sister, and I) used to sing it when we did programs at nursing homes along with another favorite – Christmas on the Isthmus of Panama, now with tap dancing!) Wow. Tangent. Sorry about that.

20. Do you have an angel on top or a star? For the 6 hours it was up, we had a star.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? No real rule set in stone. Last year we opened them right after our party since they were all under our tree and, well, we had to take the tree down so what the heck. Not sure what this year will bring.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Traffic by the mall (+ crappy weather.) Luckily I don’t have to go that way very often, but seriously people. Pay attention to where you’re driving and get in the correct lane more than .00001 seconds before you need to turn. Gah.

23. Ugliest Christmas Decoration ever invented? There are a lot of ugly decorations. I’m not one for gaudy ribbon and bows…

25. Which looks best – theme trees or homey trees? Uhm. Theme trees like a tree all about cats? That would be cool. Ours would probably fall into the homey category – it’s a hodge-podge of the ornaments we’ve collected over the past 5 years. Seems like that takes less effort and brain-power than try to coordinate everything. I’m all for easy. See #2.

26. Gingerbread or sugar cookies? Sugar. I don’t like Gingerbread at all. Usually is too dry and I’m not a fan of the spice combination.

27. Do you like Fruitcake? I don’t know that I’ve ever had it, but I don’t think it would be on my list of favorites. I don’t like nuts or gummy fruit and it sounds kind of dense and heavy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Golden Globe Nominations Are In!

Yay - award season has begun and our Blockbuster queue is about to explode. Here are the films (excluding all your usuals - in this case, just foreigns) that were nominated this year:

(500) Days Of Summer
A Serious Man
A Single Man
An Education
Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs
Crazy Heart
District 9
Everybody's Fine
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Inglourious Basterds
It's Complicated
Julie & Julia
Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire
Sherlock Holmes
The Blind Side
The Hangover
The Hurt Locker
The Informant!
The Last Station
The Lovely Bones
The Messenger
The Princess And The Frog
The Proposal
The Young Victoria
Up In The Air
Where The Wild Things Are

Of these 33 I've seen 3 (in red.) That's horrible. We really haven't gone to many movies this year and it shows. I've got my work cut out for me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


First things first: Mitch Fatel was wonderful. A little slow at the beginning, but good overall. We somehow had scored VIP seats right at the front (perhaps purchasing our tickets in August had something to do with that) and the opener decided Adam was going to be his target. He was known as "Kohl's" for the entire evening - a reference to his shirt choice (which was from JC Penney, by the way...) It was a good time. It's refreshing to have a comedian in town I've actually heard of before. We got a signed CD from Mitch - made out to "Kohl's." Hilarious.

So now on to the rest of the stuff that has been going on this past week or so. As a somewhat ironic juxtaposition (tangent: every time I use that word I think of my 7th grade English teacher. It was a vocabulary word I just can't get out of my head.), as we were laughing our butts off at the comedy club, my grandfather was taking his leave. My dad called the house and my cell phone (which I had left at home) a little before we got home. We eventually connected to get the news I figured was coming.

Originally the funeral seemed like it would be the next weekend. This was fine with me as we weren't final for the month and I was still way behind because of the auditors. Then my dad called at about 4 on Friday afternoon to tell me the service was on Tuesday and we had to fly out Sunday afternoon. I managed to catch Katie and Mike right before he left for the day to give them the bad news. It was pretty much, "give us what you have and finish the rest when you get back." I stayed a little late to get as far as I could before I had to leave.

Adam got on the phone with my dad to make the flight and hotel arrangements. I admit I wasn't paying attention since I was feeding the cats and getting ready to go to dinner with my UWO acounting friends. Perhaps this is relevant. Up to intepretation I guess. He booked everything and we both left to go our separate ways for dinner.

Saturday was our party. I was busy from 7 until people showed up - and Adam's grandma and Sarah showed up an hour early. After everyone left I did a whole lot of dishes and managed to get everything cleaned up before heading to bed.

Sunday we were out the door before 10. We went down to Sheboygan Falls and picked up my dad and Cheryl. The drive to Milwaukee wasn't bad - nice that all the construction is done. We parked and went to check in. Here's where the fun began. All the Midwest computers were down - not just at Milwaukee, but nation-wide. So we couldn't check in online or at the kiosks in the airport. This meant there were lines. We got to an agent and he couldn't find our reservations. It took a minute and then he told us we had seats - on a flight on the 13th. We looked at our confirmation from Orbitz only to find that our entire trip - flight, hotel, and car - was booked for the 13-15th instead of the 6-8th.

So Adam got on the phone with Orbitz to try and get things changed. Now, I don't know who was to blame for the mix-up, and that's neither here nor there at this point, but Adam sure was the hero for getting things done. He was on the phone with some idiot from Orbitz for an hour and a half trying to get him to change our flight, hotel, and car. He was on hold for a great deal of that time and I can attest to the bad hold music. When he was told that the wait time for the Orbitz guy to talk to a Midwest rep was an hour and a half, my dad went to the agents at Milwaukee and thankfully they were sympathetic. The supervisor there switched our flights to the right weekend (without a change fee) and we moved on to security.

The lines there weren't bad, but Adam was still on the phone with Orbitz working on getting the hotel reservation changed and you can't go through security while talking on the phone. So we... loitered in the open area in front of the security lines. And it took a lot longer than I had expected for a guard to come over and ask us what we were doing. Finally Adam decided to chance it and put his phone - still on - in the tub and sent it through, hoping he'd still be on hold when it came back out the other side. Fate shone on us and that's exactly what happened. We made it through without a problem and headed to the gate. As we were boarding Adam got the confirmation that our hotel had been changed and the car had been cancelled. He booked a different car as we were sitting on the plane at the gate.

We arrived in Pittsburgh on time, deplaned, and headed to the rental car desk. We got the Hyundai Sonata Adam wanted, got situated, and headed to the hotel. We had decided to stay at the same hotel, the Super 8, that we had stayed at in August. It was decent and had good proximity to food and the places we'd be going. We got there only to find out that our reservation had been declined. There was some confusion - we'd booked through Orbitz, but they were trying to get payment from Priceline. While they tried to figure it out we went to dinner at Max & Erma's. About halfway through our meal we got a call from the hotel saying they'd fixed it and we were good to go. After we indulged in some of their famous fresh-baked cookies we went back to check in. For some reason, even though we had booked two of the same room, they had given us one king and one double room. Luckily the person working at the desk suggested that one of us take the handicap room since no one had requested it for the days we'd be there. We got to our rooms, dropped off our stuff, and headed over to Aunt Marilyn's house to visit with everyone for a little while before calling it a night.

Monday morning we met my dad and Cheryl downstairs in the breakfast room. It was unimpressive and Cheryl suggested we go to King's - she'd seen a TV ad that they had $3.99 breakfast meals. So we went back to the room for our coats and headed out. After a very tasty breakfast we headed to Marshalls - Adam was in search of a new pair of pants. While he was unsuccessful, I did find some cute Christmas socks. We then went back to the hotel to wait for Evan to arrive. His flight had been delayed in Cincinnati so we decided to go to lunch and wait for him there.

We stopped by Aunt Marilyn's house first to pick up my grandma's wheelchair and then went to Ichiban Japanese Steakhouse. Adam was pumped at the opportunity to have sushi again. I was happy to see they had forks. Evan arrived 10-15 minutes later and he, my dad, and Cheryl had hibachi while Adam had sushi and I had teriyaki chicken. After we were done Evan headed over to check into the hotel and take a shower (and, I suspect, a nap) and the rest of us headed to the funeral home.

The visitation was from 2-8, which everyone agreed was a long time. We stayed from 1:30 until a little after 4. I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing and I was just uncomfortable with the whole thing. I can't imagine what it must have been like for my grandma, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to spend 6 hours sitting next to a dead body. After we left we called my brother to make sure he could bring my dad and Cheryl back with him and then we took a nap and watched some TV. They returned around 8:45 and we went to Eat 'N Park for dinner. Cute place.

We met the next morning, checked out, and went to King's again for breakfast. Our waitress the previous morning had left halfway through our meal because she aggravated a knee injury. She wasn't there on Tuesday and apparently was out indefinitely. Yikes. After another nice meal we made a Starbucks run before heading out to the funeral home again. This time we were a little late, but still beat Aunt Marilyn. :)

The service itself was in the chapel. It began with a military service conducted by the local retired service members. They shot rifles and everything. I may not support what we're doing in parts of the world, but it's hard not to be moved when service people salute a fallen comrade. On the other hand, at the luncheon at Oakhill Church after the service, my grandma said that my grandpa would not have liked that part of the service. He was a veteran, yes, but he was drafted, he didn't volunteer, and his lack of discussion on the topic would seem to indicate his attitude toward his service days was not a positive one.

After the military part was done, my Uncle John officiated the rest of the service. Both he and Aunt Marilyn gave eulogies along with a short, but heartfelt addition from my Uncle Paul. My dad played the piano. It was tough, but for the most part uplifting. I've been lucky in life and this was the first funeral for a family member and only the third funeral I've attended, ever. I guess I just don't know how to react in these situations. It's hard to sit there and listen when my ideology is so different from the beliefs that make the whole thing bearable to most everyone around me. I respect what they need and I don't want to be disrespectful, but at the same time I can't say things I don't mean. It's a difficult thing.

Anyway. After the service I made myself useful by helping clean up the myriad of pictures and flowers in the visitation room. We got them all loaded into Lori and Dave's van. As we prepared to drive to the church for the lunch Adam checked our flight status. We knew the weather in Milwaukee was supposed to be evil, but when he said our flight was cancelled I initially thought he was joking. As my brother, dad, and Cheryl went to see where my great-grandparents were (and where my grandfather would eventually be - it was a private internment) Adam and I went to the church. When we got there he got back on the phone to try and reschedule our flight. All flights from PGH to MKE were cancelled on Tuesday so we were rebooked on the 6am flight on Wednesday morning. The church had wi-fi so Adam brought his laptop in so we could find a hotel for the night.

On the bright side, this bought us more time since we didn't have to return the rental car until 5pm. We were able to drive back to Aunt Marilyn's house after lunch and visit for a while again. We left, got back to the airport just in time to return the car, got a shuttle to the hotel, and checked in. We ordered in dinner from an Italian place and ate in the breakfast area of the hotel. We had wake-up calls for 3:30 the next morning. Harsh. We were in bed by about 9, checking the weather before we shut the TV off.

In all honesty, I didn't expect our flight to go on Wednesday morning. We were up before our alarm went off. I checked the weather online and when I saw everything in the Fox Valley had been cancelled I thought we were doomed. The flight status still said "on time" though so we took the shuttle to the airport, went through security (Adam had checked in online and printed boarding passes the night before at the church) and went to the gate. There was a plane sitting at the gate when we got there. The pilot showed up a few minutes later, looked out the window and said "that's not our plane." He got on his phone to figure out where the plane he was supposed to fly was. As he was talking, the bigger plane showed up and parked at the gate next door. Apparently the plane at our gate was one that came in from Milwaukee last night and didn't go back. It was about half the size of the plane we were on so apparently they couldn't fly back into bad weather with it. The pilot promised us he'd get us back. We boarded, squished into our seats (we had been lucky on the flight out - it hadn't been full and we'd each gotten our own seat) and took off. It was a bumpy ride, but it's a short flight so it was doable. We landed in Milwaukee in the rain. We could see snow on the side of the runways, but nothing too bad. We deplaned, found our car, and headed north.

Eventually we hit the dividing line between the rain and the snow. By the time we got to Sheboygan Falls it was nasty. The plows hadn't gotten to the road by Dad and Cheryl's house yet so we got stuck turning onto the street and then stuck again turning into their driveway. Adam managed to get back onto the street but got stuck a third time. We saw the plow at the end of the road and decided to try and clear the driveway enough that we could pull back in and then wait for the plow to clear the street. At least I think that was the plan. Unfortunately their one-stage snow blower was no match for the foot of snow in the driveway. We had barely made a dent when the plow went by, clearing the other side of the street. We then changed game plans and went to work un-digging the car. We figured we'd follow the path created by the plow to get back to the main (already plowed) roads.

It took a while (and a really big shovel) but we got the wheels cleared out. By the time we were back in business the plow had gotten all the way back down to clear out the other road leading to the highway. We danced around a little with the plow (it was long and had four blades) but eventually made it back to highway 23. Which sucked. 23 is always horrible in the snow. We ended up in the middle of a line of semis, which was nice because they made a path for us, but was scary because, well, what if someone started to slip? Luckily it was slow going, but we got back to Fond du Lac safely. Highway 41 was a vast improvement and even though it had started to snow harder and was windy, even the Butte des Morts bridge wasn't too bad.

It was being met with 5 feet of snow at the end of our driveway that topped this trip off. We parked in front of the house, climbed through the snow (seriously, up to my chest), and suited up for winter. It was particularly harsh in that we had had no snow up until this blizzard. We saw grass when we left. No grass showing now!

Adam had tuned-up the snow blower before we left so that was a good thing. I unpacked while he cleared the driveway. Took awhile. And it was snowing again when he came inside. I was supposed to be back at work, but with the way things were going I decided to just scrap that idea. We spent the evening catching up on some DVR shows and going to bed early. We'd been up at 2:30, you know.

Thursday morning was back to work - and the scariest email inbox ever. Add to that the dangling ends of month-end and various "urgent" requests. Both Thursday and Friday were crazy-busy. I considered going into work today, but ultimately decided my sanity was more important. I have vacation scheduled next Friday and all of Christmas week. Hopefully I'll be caught up by then.

So, thus ends the adventure that was our trip to PA. Adam has a theory: my grandpa was notorius for not liking to travel. Perhaps this horrible trip was his way of trying to make us hate to travel too. Maybe our flight cancellation was his way of giving us more time to visit with relatives, while ultimately getting us back to where we needed to be. Who can say? All I know is I never want to go on a trip like this again. It sucked.

Christmas Party 2009

We had a decent turnout - maybe 20 people - which makes it hard to say we won't do it again. The hit of the party was our new Keurig coffee maker:

So easy, not too ridiculously expensive.

I didn't make as much food as I had last year (although I did manage to blow a circuit and completely fry a surge protector. Whoops.) and most of the leftovers we did have were taken by Chris and Sarah. We just have a lot of cookies. I mean, dozens. I'll probably take them to work this coming week before they get too stale.

All told, a success. We'll have to see where things are when we determine if we do this again next year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I will return...

I'll be back soon. After I clean up the chaos of unexpected vacation from work during month-end and a blizzard.

No, really.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Deceptively Clean

The dishes are pretty much the only evidence...

that I spent four hours this evening baking (by my estimate, about 13 dozen) cookies and making puppy chow.

If it's even possible, this week has been worse than I expected. Worked 6:30-4:30 on Monday, spending most of that time on my feet, walking around the plant (probably walked 5 miles - at least) with auditors only to spend another hour and a half on my feet at bell practice. Worked 6:30 to 6:30 on Tuesday. Worked 6:30 to 4:10ish today. Been working through lunch every day, am still behind, auditors still emailing me, and now my stomach hates me. Shocking.

But I will prevail. There's no way my stupid digestive system or job will keep me from going to see Mitch Fatel tomorrow night.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Friday, November 27, 2009


Here are the reasons why I won't be posting for the next week and a half:

Monday: Inventory day. With Internal Auditors. Two of them. Woo! Then bell practice. I anticipate I'll be crabby.

Tuesday: Day One. I fully expect that I'll get nothing done on Monday which will result in my staying at work on Tuesday night until a most unreasonable hour. I anticipate I'll be crabby again.

Wednesday: Day Two. Really, I might as well bring a sleeping bag on Tuesday since I'll have to be back at work at a most unreasonable hour on Wednesday morning. This is also the day of our employee Christmas luncheon. I might hurt Santa, so I'll try to steer clear of his jollity. I plan to bake the majority of the cookies for our party Wednesday night. I anticipate I'll be crabby and will probably burn myself. More than once.

Thursday: Day Three. Things should be calming down at work by now. We'll be going to the comedy club to see Mitch Fatel. This should improve my crabby mood by quite a bit. I hope. (So does Adam, I'm sure.)

Friday: Day Four. If things aren't better at work by now, it's going to be a rough month. We're supposed to be having a UWO Accounting get-together for dinner, but I still haven't heard where we plan to go. Hopefully they figure it out.

Saturday: Party Day. Will spend the morning prepping and putting up the tree, the afternoon cooking and setting up the tables. Will spend the evening either cursing humanity or feeling fulfilled. Possibly both. Will then crash.

Party Preview

Keep in mind that this year is the last effort for a successful Christmas party. Response thus far has been more encouraging than last year's, but still pretty slow. We'll see how things end up.

With how ridiculously busy this coming week will be (more on that in a bit), I can say I'm not putting as much effort into this party as I did the previous two. But that's not to say I'm totally slacking and just putting out trays of crap we bought at Sam's Club. (That did cross my mind as a possibility though.) Nope, still plan on baking and cooking. Here's what's on the menu:

Hot Food:
Apple, Cheddar, and Turkey Meatballs
Seafood Dip
Chili (my preferred kind - with meat and beans, no noodles)
Chicken Wonton Stars
Spicy Sausage Wonton Stars
Spinach-Artichoke Dip
Baked Potato Bites

Cold Food:
BLT Stuffed Tomatoes
Cheese & Sausage Tray
Fruit Tray
Veggie Tray
Chex Mix

Chocolate Chex Caramel Crunch
Chocolate Mint Bars
M&M Cookies
Various Pre-Fab cookies (I think there are some macadamia nut, snickerdoodles. Don't remember. I suppose I could go downstairs and look but I'm too lazy to do that right now.)

We also have the hot pot for making hot chocolate, tea. We went out and got a variety pack of K-Cups for our new Keurig coffee maker as well. Fun stuff.

So yeah, please come to our party next Saturday.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Updated NYC Plans

We went ahead and re-booked our trip to NYC next May. We had my dad on the phone while we looked for flights and hotels. We both booked the same thing so we’ll carpool to and from Milwaukee and will be staying at the same hotel. This will ensure we’re not stuck somewhere completely different from everyone else. We’re flying out on Monday and back on Wednesday, but hopefully there will be time to take in some of the sights and see that play. I’m not budging on that. Adam doesn’t want to go, but Catherine expressed interest and I told Dad and Cheryl about it too. Maybe even will be able to convince my mom, depending on her schedule.

SNL = sadly not laughing

Remember my Youtube post? (and really, how could you not, it was there at the top for like two weeks…) Oh, SNL, you sank to a new low this past week. January Jones was the host (yeah, me too. Who? Is it wrong that I thought she was black until I saw the promo spots?) She was just terrible. It was painfully obvious that she wasn’t used to giving live performances and the skits were so dumb. Grace Kelly farting? Lesbian reporter hitting on a DQ employee after a heist? Ugh. Once again, too much Kristin Wiig. Seriously. Give the lady a week off. Sadly, the best thing during the whole show was when the Black Eyed Peas beat up Kathie Lee in the opening sketch and that was in the first 15 minutes. This had better be the low point because if it gets much worse no one is going to watch anymore. I have hope – Joseph Gordon-Levitt is up this week and I like him.

Screening Room

Watched a few movies lately. With all my Oscar movies out of the queue, we’re getting older movies from Blockbuster. Recent titles include:

Meet Bill (eh)

The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything (Yes, it’s a Veggie Tales movie. I realize I’m about 20 years over the suggested age. I still think it was hilarious. Best line ever: The pirates are on an island and they have to get across a pretty vast part of ocean to get between two rocks (that conceal the secret cove) before they close. The tomato dude says, “I don’t think it’s possible, and this is coming from a guy who just swam (lots of) miles with no hands or legs.” Bwahahaha. Ok, so I guess you had to be there…)

The Ugly Truth (too many easy jokes, but not horrible)

The Anniversary Party (Wonderful - talk about jam-packed star power!)

We've got Hamlet 2 currently sitting on the end table to be watched.

There's a Ringing in my Ears

Interesting developments in the bell choir these past few weeks. Nancy had been getting increasingly moody. As in two weeks ago, we waited downstairs as we usually do until after 6:30 and she didn’t show up. We finally decided to go on up and see if she was already upstairs. Lo and behold, she was there going through music. She proceeded to give a speech about how we’d have to stay late because we were starting late. We were all speechless. Last week we went upstairs as soon as we got there to avoid another awkward start. This past Monday she announced she had good news and bad news. The bad news – we lost one of the new ladies – Ms. Giggly. I thought about asking if that was the good news too, but refrained. Heh. The good news was Joan would be ringing with us for Christmas. This puts us one ringer down, but Nancy seemed in a MUCH better mood so hopefully we can get back to normal. It’s been a rough season so far. We’ll be ringing for the first time this coming Sunday.

In a particularly weird moment on Monday, Nancy stopped us when she thought something sounded off. When I pointed out that one of the ladies was ringing D instead of D flat she said, "thank you, handbell police." I was a little taken aback at first. I know I can come across as being a snobby know-it-all, but I was honestly just trying to save everyone time. I usually keep most of my comments to myself. She apologized, said it wasn't meant to come out that way, but still. Ouch. Oh well. Thick skin is needed I guess.

Turning Japanese

(I have like twenty other entries I'm behind on and I'll get to them this weekend. I hope. I blame my blogging hiatus on the fact that Adam upgraded my computer to Windows 7 last weekend and I'm still recovering.

We now return you to the original blog entry...

Adam’s been on a major sushi kick lately. With me not being a fan of fish, be they raw or cooked, he’s been on his own for the most part. Last night as his dinner out for the month he choose Katsu Ya, a Japanese restaurant in downtown Appleton. I agreed to it because I looked at their menu beforehand and saw they had these Yakiniku dinners where you grilled your own meat at your table. Sounded fun (and wasn’t raw fish) so I figured I could deal with it.

He made reservations and after the cats were fed we headed up. (On a side note, traffic at 5pm on the highway is nuts. I’m so glad I rarely have occasion to try and navigate it.) We found a parking spot right in front of the restaurant. We headed inside, confused the hostess as to where we wanted to sit, figured it all out, and made our way back to the sushi area. The décor of the place is neat. The tables all have these huge red fans as their back. Adam said they were mighty comfortable as he had one of the ribs of the fan on his back giving him a massage of sorts.

I was immediately aware of the fact that there was no flatware on the table. Napkins, yes. Cute little faux-wood bowls, yes. Chopsticks, yes. That’s all folks. I had completely forgotten that I’d probably have to eat without the help of a fork. Now, chopsticks and me, we don’t have a good relationship. I’ve tried to nail down the technique before, but apparently since I hold pens “wrong” when I write I’ll forever be behind on the learning curve for chopsticks.

Adam ordered an appetizer made of cucumber, salmon, crab, cream cheese, and fish eggs. I laughed when he asked if I wanted to try it. He said it was delicious and I’m sure it was. I just prefer…different things than he does. He looked through their extensive sushi menu, decided on his order, and we got it all to our server. My “grill your own” came with soup – I choose their house soup rather than Miso (hello fish base!) The waitress said it was beef-based, but it had a strange overtone of something else I couldn’t quite identify. It wasn’t bad though. Had plenty of green onions floating in it.

The middle of the table was removed, exposing the gas grill mechanism. The grate was inserted, flames ignited, grill oiled, and I was off. I got the chicken (I know, shocking), which was marinated in some soy/sesame concoction. The grill cooked kind of unevenly so I had to move things around to get everything cooked through. It was good. It came with rice and some sort of dipping sauce as well. Not sure what was in the sauce, but it had some kick.

Now, back to the chopstick dilemma. At first I tried to hold them correctly and pinch the food or whatever. It just wasn’t working and resulted in Adam laughing at me a lot. But I pressed on, being mostly successful in not getting food all down the front of my shirt. The rice was another challenge. Luckily it’s sticky rice so it’s not like I had to eat it one grain at a time. I used my soup spoon for a bite or two which I realize was totally classless. In the end, I made it through the meal with just a slight case of carpal tunnel from clasping those two wooden sticks so hard in my fingers. Adam tells me I should use some skewers and home and practice. I say the next time we go to a Japanese restaurant I’ll hide a fork in my purse.

When we were done eating and emerged from the darkness of the bar into the damp darkness of the street we discovered we still had 55 minutes left on the parking meter. Since Katsu Ya is two doors down from Déjà Vu, and it wasn’t yet 8 so the Monkey Bar wasn’t open, we figured it wouldn’t be too naughty to go sit and have a martini before heading back home. Gotta live a little, right? We were one of four couples in the bar and, as fate would have it, one of the other couples included one of my co-workers. We chatted for a little bit as they were on their way out. We had also chosen seats that resulted in me having to look at a painting of (tastefully) naked people every time I looked at Adam. Very distracting.

Adam was quite taken by their bar snack mix so he looked it up online and found that it was sold at Aldi. So guess where we stopped on the way home. It’s been years since I’ve been to Aldi. We found the snack mix pretty quickly and then browsed through the rest of the store. Adam found quite the deal on the La Brea bread we like. He proceeded to buy 6 packages, which I think might have been overkill, but they’re frozen and will last awhile. We finally made it back home, unloaded, and watched some DVR shows. We’re falling behind again this week – we’ve been busy doing other stuff.

So, in summary: I suck at eating with chopsticks, the sushi place wasn’t that bad (and didn’t smell), there’s nothing wrong with boozing it up on a weeknight, and I should maybe think about shopping for some stuff at Aldi.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Burning Questions, YouTube Edition

1) Why does this season of SNL suck so much? Seriously. Not one of the hosts so far has hit it out of the park (or even been much good, actually. Worst - Megan Fox. Best - Ryan Reynolds.) Also, too much Kristen Wiig, not enough Andy Samburg. Remember my idea about having Justin Timberlake appear in every episode? Maybe not such a bad idea...

2) How did David Archuleta not win American Idol Season 7? I admit, I didn't really watch it and I've only voted once - for Clay in Season 2 - but really? Have you heard him sing?

(PS - his Christmas album just came out. The tracks I've listened to so far are wonderful. *swoon*)

3) This stupid song, "Replay" has been, excuse the pun, replaying in my head continuously over the past few days. So annoying...

Make it stop! (Ok, so that really wasn't a question, but I needed to get it out there...)

I feel better now. It's been a long week.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Just Pictures

Carly explores the floor:

Hey, she might actually be a cat - she shows interest in a cat toy!

Ted, hard at work in Adam's new office chair:

JC prefers browsing the bookshelves

Or catching a "catnap":

Carly gets in on that from time to time as well:

And finally, Happy Halloween from Carly a day late, but just as cute:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Water Works

Here's what we had for dinner last night:

Asian Burgers. Link is to the entry on my cooking blog.

Not pictured: Adam, laying on the floor with a spoon and a flashlight trying to figure out why our dishwasher suddenly started leaking water all over the floor. Which I discovered after feeding the cats, rinsing off the fork in the kitchen sink, and finding I was standing in a puddle.

Seriously, home ownership? Never boring. Also, rarely cheap.

It looks as though perhaps he fixed the problem (gasket something or other. I won't pretend I know anything about it.) We'll see. I did the dishes by hand for the first time since we moved into our apartment back in 2005. It didn't totally suck, but I wouldn't want to do it every day. Here's to hoping the dishwasher is on my side. We'll find out tomorrow when we run it with dishes in it again!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fulfilling my Life's Dream...

I've found the only thing I want to do when I'm in New York next May. Forget the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. I'm going to go see this.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Photographic Memory #12 - Ode to SC

It's been so rainy and dreary here lately, I feel like we need to see some good weather and sunshine. So, I give you South Carolina - home of sun and the ocean (and hurricanes and cheating politicians and outspoken hecklers of the president. But I digress...)

Here I am back in 1999, standing in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time:

I was visiting Evan between my junior and senior year of high school. I attended a science class of some sort with Jodi and distinctly remember thinking "if this is what college is like, it'll be a breeze." (Ha. It was the first day, which pretty much included handing out a syllabus.)

I was back less than a year later with the rest of the family to celebrate Evan's graduation from USC.

I stood in the ocean again:

Explored my Confederate side:

And posed for a really bad picture at the airport:

Saturday, October 24, 2009

a long post about pretty much nothing

I seriously have no idea where the time has been going these past few weeks. I have a feeling that TV is eating up a lot of my time again. I know I should kick a few of the shows off the DVR, but it will be hard deciding which one(s.)

Bells are pretty much the same. We skipped our first scheduled ringing because we 1) weren’t ready 2) one of our members had emergency gall bladder surgery. So our first time will be November 1st. The new ladies are a mixed bag. Giggly lady is still giggly, much to the frustration and annoyance of most everyone else in the group. The other is really catching on quickly and doing quite well. You win some, you lose some.

The second IMA meeting was last Tuesday. Fairly good response by students. The breakfast meeting this coming week is also getting pretty good response. That one I’m definitely looking forward to. Listening to a good fraud story is always a fun way to spend a morning. It looks like I’ll miss our May meeting due to Catherine’s graduation, so I've already started feeling things out for a temporary replacement.

Speaking of Catherine’s graduation, that whole rescheduling thing really threw a monkey-wrench in our plans. That’s what we get for trying to plan ahead. Also, the airfare we paid is ridiculously overpriced compared to what the same flight is going for today. Mad about that. We had dinner with Dad and Cheryl last weekend to talk it out a little with them. We plan to scrap the idea of renting a house. For a few reasons, really. 1) It’s probably getting too late to get a decent one. 2) We only plan on staying 2 or 3 nights. 3) Bab(ies) crying? No thanks. (sorry Evan/Jodi/Caroline) Granted, we still need to find out what everyone else plans to do and where we’ll need to be close to before we confirm anything else. Fool me once… Dad and Cheryl are on their way to Seattle today so hopefully that subject will come up while they're out there. Adam was a hard one to convince, but I think he's on board with going now. I bribed him with a trip to wherever HE wanted to go. Looks like he's picked Baltimore/DC, but we'll see how that turns out.

Adam has been working these last few Saturdays which has shifted his schedule during the week around a little. Starting November 1, he’ll be working from home. This has been a long time coming and I think he’s looking forward to it. From what I recall it’s a 6-month rotational thing. Lucky him – he gets the 6-months with snow and crappy weather to avoid the commute. I don’t think I’d like working from home myself. Too many distractions. And kitties. I’d be tempted to nap with the cats all day long. Adam has set up his desk in the opposite corner from the big desk in the office. I think he plans to close the door so the cats leave him alone. This will crush Connor, who just loves the big blue chair in there. I guess we’ll all learn to deal with the change. I told him, hey, now he can have lunch ready for me every day! He just laughed at me. I get no respect.

We pulled the trigger and went ahead with our Christmas party plans. Date is December 5th, a Saturday, at 3pm. Hopefully the early date will help with weather and conflicts. I’m working on the menu but you can bet it will be nowhere as involved as last year’s was. Just not worth it. And seriously, if we get crappy attendance again I’m done. I love my Dad and Cheryl and Adam’s parents, but if we want to have them over we can invite them anytime and not have to put so much time and effort into it. So there – fair warning.

In kitty news, well, not much is going on. Carly’s still doing well with the litter boxes. Just one major mistake and small oops since we took the plastic back away. Luckily neither mess was on the good carpet, just on the remnants we put underneath the boxes. She’s still as crabby as ever though. I think that’s the way it’s going to be. She hasn’t been so bad during the night lately – usually once around 1 and then again around 3:30. Her new thing is jumping up onto my shoulders when I pick her up so my back and shoulders are covered in scratches from when she freaks out and jumps off. It’s awesome.

Ted is obsessed with being petted now. It’s a monster of my own creation. If I hadn’t trapped him in the cat room and got him into “pet me” mode, we’d still be in “run away” mode. Grrr. It’s a mixed blessing. On the one hand, I’m glad he’s more open to human contact. On the other, it’s TOTALLY ANNOYING. He sits in the hallway/kitchen/living room and howls a lot. A lot more than he used to, that’s for sure. Adam thinks it’s because he wants to be petted. I say, if he wants to be petted he can come over by me and I’ll pet him. Unfortunately Ted sees it differently and still only wants to be petted in the cat room or office when I’m sitting on the floor. Picky, picky.

Connor seems to be regressing as Ted is progressing. It’s a rare thing that he’ll let me pet him. Usually most of my contact with him is him rubbing on my legs. He’s enjoying the fact that we finally relented and turned the heat on. He loves hanging out next to the heat vents. Smart kitty. Except that he rubs his head of them and closes them, thereby annoying Adam. Oh, and negating the whole heat thing.

JC. He’s crazy. He’s been very cuddly at night lately, but has the tendency to steal covers. He doesn’t quite know what to make of all the leaves falling the yard, but sure has a good time chasing them. There also seem to be a plethora of bugs in the house these days to keep his hunting skills in tune.

That's all for now. Hope to be back with another photographic memory soon.

Project Feed Me

I found this on one of the cooking blogs I stalk. It sounds like a wonderful idea.

Basic premise: Each week for nine weeks she will post an item that food pantries are in need of on her blog (currently in week two: first week was chili, second was tuna.) Go out, buy two of said item. At the end of the nine weeks, take all your purchases to your local food pantry.

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in the "one step forward, two steps back" that we seem to be stuck in these days. This kind of project reminds us that we are indeed blessed to be where we are. I encourage you to participate, even if it's in an unofficial capacity. Link below to sign up and for additional info.

Project Feed Me

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Photographic Memory #11 - France, Deux Fois

The Eiffel Tower and Me, 1998:

The Eiffel Tower and Me, 2003:

The Pont du Gard and Me, 1998:

The Pont du Gard and Me, 2003:

Collioure (sans moi), 1998:

Collioure and Me, 2003:

What a difference five years and digital photography make! Sorry the 2003 versions are so small - they're actually thumbnailed versions of the originals. I lost the original files when Adam rebuilt my computer back in 2005 and erased my hard drive. :)

I'd love to go back eventually. Especially to Collioure. It's just so beautiful there, even for someone who isn't particularly a beach person.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

20 Scariest Movies of All Time

According to Entertainment Weekly:

1. The Shining
2. The Exorcist
3. Texas Chainsaw Massacre
4. Silence of the Lambs
5. Jaws
6. The Ring
7. Halloween
8. Psycho
9. Seven
10. Rosemary's Baby
11. Poltergeist
12. 28 Days Later
13. A Nightmare on Elm Street
14. The Thing
15. The Evil Dead
16. Carrie
17. Night of the Living Dead
18. The Omen
19. An American Werewolf in London
20. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Guess how many of them I've seen.

Ha ha. I bet you said "none." You're WRONG! I've seen two for sure, and a third and fourth one I think I've seen parts of.

I saw Jaws at school in 8th grade. It was linked to something educational. Like ocean conservation or something. Pretty messed up if you ask me.

I actually rented Rosemary's Baby and didn't really think it was that bad. That could have been because of Mia Farrow's distractingly bad acting though...

Not sure I've seen the first one or the whole thing, but I know I've seen parts of A Nightmare on Elm Street. I distinctly remember some kid being sucked into a waterbed and drowning. And some kid being in class, falling asleep at their desk, and dying in some other hideous fashion. Horrible, horrible movies.

The other one I'm not sure I saw all of is The Evil Dead. The plot sounds familiar. It's supposed to be kind of funny right? Eh. In any case, don't remember if I stuck it out for the whole thing.

Really, for someone who had nightmares because of Ursula in The Little Mermaid, I think it's pretty impressive that I've seen that many of the "Scariest Movies of All Time." Not sure I want to see more of them though. I'm much too impressionable and I like my sleep.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Photographic Memory #10 - Critters

We've always had pets in my family. When we lived on Center Ave we had dogs and cats - Carbon, Shadow, Penny. I don't have many pictures of them and, honestly, I don't remember them too much.

When we moved across town to 7th Street, I had a hamster. Her name was Brownie and I loved her fiercely. She was a master Houdini at escaping from her cage. She ended up in the furnace vents once. Through what has to be purely luck, my mom managed to find her and get her out before she crawled her way to a firey death. She lived a long time for a hamster and when she died I was devastated. So much so that I recorded the date of her death - November 9, 1992 - on the back of this photo.

I got a replacement hamster who I (completely innocently) named BJ - as in Brownie Junior. But, Brownie Junior she was not. I soon put a classified ad in the paper and, as fate would have it, ended up giving her to Jess, who soon became my best friend. If I recall correctly, BJ met a not-so-pleasant end in Jess' basement...

At some point we got two rabbits. They were twin brothers and the only way we could tell them apart was to put nail polish on one rabbit's ear. (Yes, I only see one rabbit in this picture too. The other one was probably behind the slide.)

Their names were Midnight and Bunnicula. Both names are pretty self-explanatory. I don't remember what ended up happening with them. I think we gave them away...

Somewhere along the line we got another cat - Candy. She was very mellow. An older cat, she was good for cuddling.

She would spend some nights in my bed with me which I allowed until she started peeing in it. Then I had to close my room at night.

My sister also got a cat who I spoke about previously.

Then there was Mandy. When my parents got divorced and my mom moved into the upstairs of the store she adopted a dog. When we got her, "Mandy" was "Martha" but we decided one of us had better be renamed. The dog won that toss.

Not the smartest of animals, she was a sweetheart. Pretty much untrainable, she provided companionship and a semblance of protection. She never liked men much - we figure she had been abused by a former owner. But she sure liked me. She'd lick whatever part she could reach, loved cuddling at the top of the stairs. She really hated baths, but she'd always fall for my "let's go on the deck and play" bit. When my mom and sister moved out east, Mandy didn't go along. We'll leave it at that. Further elaboration makes me want to cry.

I was pet free until we started our revolving door of rodents. And now we've got four feline friends. I can't imagine a life without some kind of animal companion. As annoying and time-consuming as they can be, at the end of the day it's nice to have someone keep your head warm all night.