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Saturday, February 28, 2009


Today we visited Grandma Gert. This wasn't just any old visit, you see, because today, Grandma Gert turned 90. One of life's cruel jokes is the fact that the older you get, the more reason you have to celebrate, but also the older you get, the more limited your options become. So turning 90 calls for something special, and that something special is...



Grandma Gert doesn't usually do bingo, but when a cute little girl wearing a pink Boston Red Sox cap asks you to play, how can you say no?

Lauren and Grandma Gert.

The room was packed to the rafters, and as the caller yelled out the numbers, you could cut the tension with a knife. No wonder - the stakes were high.

Prizes galore.

Behold, the prize cart!

Alas, our birthday bingo excursion was bittersweet, as we came away empty-handed. As Grandma wheeled herself out of the room, she mumbled to everyone in ear reach, "What a gyp!"

(Mark just reminded me that she also used some more colorful language to describe Saturday afternoon bingo, but since we like to keep a clean blog, I'll just leave it to the imagination.)

Happily, her disppointment was short lived, because when we returned to her room, there were birthday presents to be had.

Grandma Gert parties hard at 90.

***Begin American Idol blabbering***

The second semi-final round sure wasn't much of an improvement over the first. The first half of the show was practically unwatchable. During the audition rounds, I had complained that they were sending way too many barely passable singers to Hollywood, but I had hope that most of them, if not all, would be weeded out. As the semi-finals have demonstrated, it was not to be.

The song choices this week were only slightly better. Too bad the wrong singers chose to sing them. I mean, this your big break. A once in life time chance to perform in front of millions of people. So naturally you think to yourself, "I know exactly what America wants to hear! 'Man in Mirror' will win the hearts of the country!"

By some miracle (or maybe it was just the very thin talent pool), that kind of thinking got Kris Allen into the Top 12, so what do I know?

But I do know that Normund Gentle is a travesty. I get why he's there. I like to laugh. And I like to be entertained. However, it doesn't matter how much the judges tell me otherwise, I believe that he is neither. If they wanted to put a "joke" contestant through on purpose this year, they could have chosen much better. Although I have to say that Nick's parents are adorable. Did you see how angry his father was after Simon panned the performance? No matter how much we want these people off our screen, we have to remember that there are those out there that love them just the same.

I sort of liked Megan, but the nervous twirling thing she was doing while she sang was very odd. And I thought Matt B. was much better than the judges gave him credit for, but since they already have their beefy blue collar guy in Micheal Sarver, Matt was pretty much doomed before he sang a note.

So after 24 performances, I'm still not invested in anyone. The only person that is coming close to motivating me to vote is Adam. "Satisfaction" was a very smart song choice. It's always good to start off with an uptempo song, and well, after singing a freakin' Cher song in Hollywood, he really needed to present himself in a more masculine light. The way he carries himself continues to impress me as well. In post-show interviews, he comes off as charming and genuine, as well as very self-aware of his style and how it's not for everyone. If only, if only, I could get into his singing! I've watched his performance a couple of times, and it is growing on me...a little. He has mentioned that he's not going to always go for the high notes every performance, which is good because I could do without seeing the back of his tongue every week. Castro made funny faces when he sang too, so maybe I'll get over Adam's tongue hanging out. Speaking of Jason, one of the reasons that I was so insane about voting last season is that I felt like I had to vote in order to save Jason every week, especially after he made a boneheaded song choice. So far, I don't feel that way about Adam because he's got enough smarts, talent and experience that he's probably not going to need my help to get through week to week.

Come to think of it, the best part of this week's AI was Scott McIntyre's dancing. OMG - the cane flipping was hysterical! Does laughing at a blind guy dance make me a bad person, even if he meant it to be funny?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hazy shade of winter.

That's a lot of wood!

Well, I have to say I am official sick of winter. I've never been a huge fan of the hot weather that summer brings, but I'll take it if that means we can broaden the activities available to us. Yes, winter sure is a drag when you don't have the holidays preparations to distract you.

We have been trying our best to keep occupied indoors. Mark has been working non-stop on the weekends and evenings installing the hard wood floor in the new room.

Portrait of the artist as a young girl.

So that leaves Lauren and I to our own devices. We've been doing quite a bit of coloring.

Busy little hands.

As for me, I've been doing a little scrapbooking and a little sewing here and there. Hopefully this weekend I can wrap up the things that I've started so that I can share the finished product. In the meantime, here's another one of my finished products:

The joy of coloring.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Good gravy.

Good gravy.

On Thanksgiving, my mom gave me my grandmother's gravy boat. While I'd like to think that she was passing the mantle of womanhood from one generation to the next, it was more like there was no chance in hell that my mom was ever going to make gravy again.

Gravy boat in action.

Counter clockwise: My dad, my paternal great-grandmother, my maternal grandpap, my maternal grandma, and my maternal, I mean my mom. Gravy boat is front and center. Wishbone salad dressing at about 11 o'clock. Pink Pyrex in the center, competing for attention against gravy boat. And to my dearly departed Pap: Put out that cigarette will ya! It's going to be the death of you. Trust me on this!

Kidding aside, this gravy boat holds many great memories for me. I remember it gracing my grandmother's table for every important holiday meal, and then after she passed away my mom became its keeper, or what I like to call, "The Gravy Boat Master." (That makes me the new Gravy Boat Master, but you can call me GBM for short). I believe that it's a piece of Fiestaware, but the odd thing is that my Grandma didn't have any other Fiestaware. I guess that's why it stood out so much. I often wonder where it came from. Maybe it was a consolation prize for submitting a recipe to Good Housekeeping. Maybe she cashed in her Green Stamps. Maybe the local bank gave it to her for opening a Christmas Club savings account. The mind staggers with the possibilities!

On a related note, I didn't realize until I scanned this photo that my grandmother owned pink Pyrex! After I saw the bowl in this photo, I started to notice other pieces of pink Pyrex in my baby photos. I have a couple of pieces myself, but I wish I had Grandma's originals. She was so cutting edge!

And speaking of "Good gravy!"

***Begin American Idol blabbering***

Words cannot begin to express how disappointed I was in last night's installment of American Idol. In fact, I think that the episode will go into the history books as the absolute worst ever. The performances ranged from mediocre to downright horrific. And I have to say that I've never felt as uncomfortable watching the show as I did when Stevie Wright and Casey Carlson performed. Poor Stevie, she showed so much promise! I guess the pressure got to her. And Casey's song choice alone was atrocious. When are these girls ever going to learn - never choose a song where you have to change the gender of a pronoun repeatedly. It just doesn't sound right!

Speaking of song choices, the conspiracy theorist in me refuses to believe that these people actually chose those songs themselves. Why on earth would Jackie Thon pick an Elvis song (Or chose to wear shiney spandex and giant hi tops, each poor fashion choices on their own, but together? Ewww!), or for that matter, that Elvis song? Out of the historical Billboard Hot 100 charts, young ingenue Casey chooses The Police to showcase her singing talents, and not some pop-y girly song? I would not be surprised to find out that they were limited to a very short list of songs. And while I have plenty of Michael Jackson and Police songs on my iPod, their songs, when sung straight, are so overplayed on this show. One of the things that I enjoy about Idol is when the performers introduce me to a song that I've never heard before, like "Innocent" which was performed by David Cook last year.

The performances that I did mildly enjoy weren't enough to get me to pick up the phone and vote. Anoop sang well, but he did nothing for me. Steven Fowler and Brent Keith came off angry. In the context of the last night's trainwreck, Tatiana sang pretty good, much to the outward disappointment and confusion of the judges (Hello? Why did you put her though if she wasn't that good?!). I was pleasantly surprised that Alexis Grace did so well. I'm not actively rooting for her yet, but if she continues to pull it off, I will.

I'm also really missing the instruments. I hope the contestants are allowed to use them (You know Scott McIntyre will. Given his disability, I wonder how well he can work a stage? Goodness knows Castro couldn't and he could see perfectly!). I think that the use of instruments really helped Idol evolve last season.

Lastly - and you knew that this was coming - what can you say about Gokey? Again, within the context of the trainwreck, his performance was one of the best of the night. But how about that over-the-top reaction from the judges! He deserved praise, but "Sold out arenas"? Seriously? It just seemed so fake and scripted, like they were trying too hard to make a decent performance into a "moment". Why don't they just run a scroll across the screen that says "VOTE FOR DANNY! YOUR NEXT AMERICAN IDOL! DID YOU HEAR THAT HIS WIFE DIED?"

Oh, I'm so going to get it for that one.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love blossoms.

Love blossoms.

We usually don't do much, if anything at all, to celebrate Valentine's Day. This year, I was inspired by my Cousin Jennifer to make some cookies. I taught Lauren how to use the cookie press. She just loves to bake cookies, just like Cousin Jenn. Hey Jenn, how did Lauren do?

Me and my valentine.

Mark and I don't exchange gifts either, (When you're married with children, there's already a ridiculous number of gift giving holidays to celebrate!) but I told him that the one thing that I did want is to have our photo taken alone together, since the last one occurred sometime in 2007.

My fam.

Of course, Lauren wanted to get into the picture as well. It's always the way.

My funny little valentine.

Speaking of Lauren, she on the other hand has been showered with Valentine's Day gifts. Here's she's modeling the super cute top that she received from Cousin Noreen. Thanks, Noreen - Lauren couldn't wait to wear it!

Additionally, today marked the day that we transitioned Lauren to honest to goodness underwear. My goal was to have her potty trained before her fourth birthday, and we made it with a little over two months to spare. Hooray!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Down the drain.

Drained pond.

It was inevitable. Yesterday, we came home to find our pond completely drained. The water levels have gone very low during past winters, but always seem to come back up once it rained. On Wednesday night, I came home from work to find Mark trying to fill it with buckets of water (Our hose doesn't reach). Both myself and Mel C. told him not to bother because a rain storm was supposed to be moving through our area.

While the rain did come, it wasn't enough. So when I came home on Thursday, I found Mark wading through the mud puddle that once was the pond. By some miracle (I'm beginning to think that our fish hold the secret of immortality), the fish barely survived and were swimming in the buckets that Mark was using to fill the pond the previous day. I happily wasn't there for the initial discovery. Mark described to me that when they arrived home, Lauren ran over to the pond and said, "Look, Daddy - the fish are sleeping!" In actuality, they were all laying in a pile on their sides gasping for air.

Fish hotels.

We're unsure at this point what we're going to do. The fish have been moved to larger containers, so hopefully that will sustain them in the short term until we figure out where the leak is and patch it. However, in the long term, we may just have to get rid of the pond all together. It's right next to the addition, and the moisture may eventually cause damage to the structure. I'd hate to get rid of it all together though, because we enjoy it so much.

In other news, I'm so glad that the Top 36 were finally announced on American Idol! Next week we're going to see people actually singing - no more crying and histrionics! While I haven't decided who, if anyone, I will be supporting this year, and can say that this is the first year that there are so many contestants that I just can't stand. Usually at this point, I'm pretty indifferent to everyone, but there are quite a few stand outs in this bunch that make me yell at the television screen.

***Begin American Idol blabbering***

The most obvious one is Tatiana Del Toro. I understand that the producers are keeping her around for the drama effect, but her drama isn't entertaining at all. I guess we're supposed to get a kick out of her or be on the edge of our seats in anticipation of what shocking(!) wackiness she will bring, but her antics just make me want to turn the channel.

Ditto for Norman Gentle. Don't get him. Don't find him funny.

The next one is going to be a surprise. And I realize this is going to make me unpopular, but I just don't like Danny Gokey. I can't put my finger on exactly why he bothers me so much. Maybe because his resemblance to Robert Downey Jr. gives him an aura of smarmyness. Yes, yes, I concede that he can sing, but once again, I feel as if the show is shoving him down my throat. I also didn't think that his friend Jamar was very good at all and that the producers just kept him around in order to give Danny even more airtime. And while it's totally tasteless and mean, we refer to him around here as DeadWifeGuy. Despite all this, he is one that could eventually win me over. Besides, "Gokey" is really fun to say. Gokey. There, I said it again.

I also can't stand Von Smith. I shall call him, "The Anti-Castro."

But perhaps my least favorite contestant of them all is none other than Nathaniel "Nate" Marshall. I was so ticked when they put him through. What don't I like? The sobbing. The pimples. The freakin' HEADBAND. I want to rip that thing off his head! I think my disdain for him began on the first day of Hollywood when he was sobbing to the judges about how he "wanted this so bad that he could feel it on his skin," and then he started feeling up his arms. Ewww. Just ewww.

Who do I like? I kinda like Adam Lambert. I think he has a great personality (Nate could learn a thing or two from him about how to be subtly flamboyant - wait, is it possible to be subtly flamboyant?) and he's very good looking EXCEPT when they show him close up, which is when things get sort of scary. His singing is another thing entirely. I understand that he is talented, but I can't help but feel embarrassed for him when he belts. It's so very Liza Minnelli! I also like Anoop (We also like to randomly yell out "Anoop Dog!" around here). I really wish that Adam had Anoop's voice - that would be a perfect package for me. Of the girls, I think Stevie Wright and Alexis Grace are adorable (but both have no chance of making it through).

I'm on the fence about Scott McIntyre (aka "The Blind Guy"). He reminds me way too much of Danny Noonan from Caddyshack (His cane even looks like a golf club!). Mark insists that he's faking it because he looks down at the keys when he's playing piano.

Anyway, I can't wait to hear everyone sing on Tuesday!

Me, rockin' the headband.

Eat your heart out, Nate!

ETA: Mark thinks that I look like someone punched me in the face in this photo. Nice!

Friday, February 6, 2009

A dog's life for me.

A dog's life for me.

What a office, new work schedule, longer hours, longer commute - all happening concurrently with the busiest time of the month and while I'm short two people. I lived to tell about it, but boy, am I beat.

I love a parade.

Tonight, Lauren set up a parade in our spare bedroom.

Animal parade.

There were no Super Bowl winners present, but I did spot Snoopy and several elephants.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sleigh ride. a one grandpa open sleigh!

Special Monday update! This one is extra special because I'm extra specially exhausted tonight. But I couldn't wait to share these super cute photos of Grandpa Ross taking Lauren for a sleigh ride. is to ride...

Unfortunately for Lauren, she hasn't had much opportunity to play in the snow. We just don't get snow in our area like we used to, and the last few years have been particularly snow free. However, during this past week it has snowed almost daily, so we have just enough accumulation for playing.

Oh what fun...

Yep, snow has now earned Lauren's seal of approval.

Practicing for the Iditarod

Which is a vast improvement from her prior opinion of it.