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Monday, March 30, 2009

Just another ordinary day.

For me?

I ride the bus home from work. Some days, this works out well; other days, not so well. Today was not so well. The first bus that I catch was late, by about five or six minutes. What's so horrible about that, you ask? That's pretty good by bus standards, right? You see, the second bus that I take departs just about when the first bus gets into the city, so my timing crucial. It's not a huge deal if I miss the second bus, because another one will be come along in fifteen minutes, but when you're already looking at an hour long commute, another fifteen minutes makes a heck of a difference.

So where was I...oh yeah, the first bus. We didn't have the usual bus driver today. This one didn't even say "Hello," back to me, which is actually pretty common among bus drivers. I don't think that they have very high job satisfaction. The ride was pretty uneventful. I read my trashy vampire novel the whole way. I had little hope of catching the early version of the next bus, but nonetheless, when I got off the bus, I started walking briskly towards the next bus stop in hopes that I just might catch it.

As I was trotting away, I realized that the bus driver didn't give me the transfer slip that I had paid for. The usual driver always hands it to me - I never have to ask.

I forgot to ask Mr. Sunshine and Rainbows. Therefore, he didn't give me one.

Damn it.

So I arrive across the street just in time to see the early bus pulling away from the stop.

This happens about half of the time. It's very annoying.

Again, I start walking briskly down the street in the hope that the red lights would shine in my favor and I would eventually catch up to the bus and hop on. However, it was not to be. After passing four stops, I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to catch it and I'd have to wait for the next bus.

I did get the last seat on the next bus. If I had to stand, I may have cut someone.

(That's a joke.)

I debated on telling the bus driver my sob story about how the last guy gypped me out of my transfer, but since I didn't recognize him as a regular driver, I decided to suck it up and pay for whole fare again.

It cost me $5.70 to get home today. To make myself feel better, I rationalized that this made up for the days when the money taking machine was broken and I got to ride for the bus for free.

As I walked down our street, I figured that Mark and Lauren would be playing outside because the weather was nice. As our yard came in sight, I could see Lauren. I waited until she saw me.

She did. Let the rock star treatment begin. She starts running through the yard happily yelling "Mommy! Mommy!"

I stand there and savor it. I always make sure I savor this because the I know that my days of receiving the rock star treatment are numbered. The day will come soon enough when I will barely get a "Oh Hi, Mom."

But wait - instead or running towards me, she stops and runs in the other direction. Ah, she's going to get me an offering. You can't come empty handed when you meet a rock star.

Sure enough, once I get to the edge the yard, she comes barreling back with my prize - a daffodil.

I lavishly thank her and go inside to put it in some water, all the while promising that I'll come back outside. In my mind, I'm actually wondering what the heck I'm going to make for dinner. I remember that I had left some hamburger meat in the refrigerator.

I open the refrigerator door to find a bag from Panera Bread filled with sandwiches and salad that Mark picked up on the way home.

Maybe it wasn't such an ordinary day after all.


***Begin American Idol blabbering***

Motown marks another decent week for Season 8. This is such an odd group - very few standouts, but the performances are pretty solid across the board.

I've been resisting, but this week sealed the deal for me on Adam. He has proved himself to be not only talented, versatile, good-looking, and charming, but also, smart. I really want him to win.

My second fav is Kris Allen. I loved his verison of "How Sweet It Is." He needs to be given more credit for putting his own spin on the songs he performs, especially among the likes of this pack.

Speaking of which, I purchased both Kris and Adam's singles from iTunes. Normally, I would highly recommend the studio recordings because they give another take on the performance and the quality is usually outstanding. However, having the contestants sing along with the original Motown tracks was a lame idea. Don't get me wrong - Adam and Kris both sound great, but I much rather would have had full length versions of the interpretations that they presented on the show. Oh well, I'll just go to one of the AI fan sites and download the performance versions too.

I missed Allison, but I heard she had another awesome week. It was very odd that the judges had been talking about her like she stunk up the joint last week. Although she did land in the bottom three, she received positive comments from all four judges. In any event, she is by far the best girl in the competition.

Another thing I don't get is why they continue to push Matt. He's not bad, but he really leaves me cold. Given that he was in the bottom two, I guess I'm not the only one that feels that way.

Lastly, I've been noticing a interesting trend in the way the show has been subtly presenting Gokey in a bad light. Last week, they showed him screwing up his lyrics in front of Randy Travis. This week, they showed him ignoring Smokey Robinson's advice about singing the call backs himself rather than leaving it to the back up singers. Then, on American Idol Extra, when they asked the contestants about their guilty pleasures, Danny responded that his was...pedicures. Then they proceeded to show him getting one. (All together now...ewww.). None of this mattered to Lauren. She enjoyed Danny's performance of "Get Ready," the most out of everyone. I downloaded the original Temptations version for her. She loves to dance and sing to it (Hmm...I sense of video recording in the near future...).

***End American Idol blabbering***

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I like your picture.

Marlboro dog.

I can tell that we're getting closer to April because things are looking up. If it pans out, something good is on the horizon at work, plus a big box filled with spring clothes and shoes for me and Lauren came in the mail today from Kohls.

Regarding the photo above - Daisy loooooves her chew sticks. Every night at dinner time she's all over me, trying to signal in her best non-verbal doggie way that it's time for mommy to give her one. However, the last few nights, we've noticed that she hasn't been devouring her chew sticks as normal, but she's instead been carrying them around in her month. We're not sure if she has a toothache or what. Sometimes she'll just sit and look at you with it just hanging there, like she's smoking a cigarette. And like good owners, we laugh at her and take photos.

Hey there's elephants here!

And lo and behold, since someone else in the household is getting attention, suddenly Miss Camera Shy wants to strike a pose too.

Even daddy had the privilege of participating in this rare photo op.

Elephant hug.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Everything is just ducky. Really.

Everything is just ducky in the powder room.

I don't know if I should dare say it, but I think that this time, we really are over our illnesses here. After I posted last week, I continued to struggle with the most wicked sore throat ever. Everyone was convinced that I had strep throat, but since I never had a fever, I knew that couldn't be the case. I ended up taking a sick day last Friday and with some much, much needed rest this weekend, I finally kicked it. Lauren and I both still have a tinge of cough, but at least I'm able to function now. I could tell I was feeling like myself again because I baked chocolate chip cookies and made pot roast this weekend. Feed a cold, right?

Since I was finally feeling like a human being again, I spent the other part of the weekend spring cleaning. I bought some brand new towels to replace the our skanky old ones that had overstayed their welcome (I believe that a couple of them were given to us at my bridal shower over 6 years ago - yikes!). I didn't go for cheap towels or luxury towels, but the in-between models. They're good and fluffy, so that's all that counts.

While I had been sick, I spent a lot of time reading about photography. One of my goals for this year is to try my luck at stock photography. I don't see myself doing portrait or event photography, and stock photography would give me the opportunity to take the kind of photos that I really love to take. In order for this to happen, I have to really get serious about photography because my photos need to improve technically before they can be marketable. In fact, I'm going to get so serious that I'm going to give up reading trashy vampire novels on the bus ride home and instead replace them with photography books. Okay, maybe the vampires can still ride home with me a few days a week.


It's also feels good to finally go outside and get some fresh air. Mark took this photo of the crocuses growing on our front lawn, that is, before Lauren picked them all and gave them to me.

**Begin American Idol blabbering**

I was almost going to skip this part because I'm beginning to feel like I have nothing else to write about other that my opinions on AI. And that's depressing. So I'll keep it short and to the point.

When I am going to learn that I can't predict this show? I'm always wrong. Adam did not sing a ballad. A guy sang last. And a girl went home. I'm 0 for 3 there.

Black eyeliner pencil, $1.99. Blue highlights in hair, $40. The look on Randy Travis's face when you tell him that you want to sing a Middle Eastern arrangement of Johnny Cash's iconic "Ring of Fire" that includes sitars...Priceless.

(Seriously though, I hope Adam takes a more mainstream approach this week or he's going to continue to alienate people with his wild performances. For me, however, he's the number one reason I continue to watch this season.)

Yay for Anoop - you finally showed the world than you're more than a nerdy graduate student who knows a lot about barbecue. You can really sing!!

Matt, Kris, Michael and Scott...zzzzz.

I didn't like Danny's version of "Jesus Take the Wheel" because I think the story of the song resonates more with a female voice behind it.

I continue to like Allison's spunk and couldn't believe that she was in the bottom three. And poor Alexis - I think the judges did her in with all that stupid advice about being "dirty." How can someone so cute and perky be dirty and be taken seriously? Believe me, I know this from personal experience.

So much for short. Tomorrow night is Motown. I hope someone sings The Spinners. I love me some Spinners!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back among the living (sort of).

Afternoon nap.

All three of us have be sick to a certain degree during the last week. Mark contracted the plague first, complete with stuffed up nose and sore throat. Lauren was next - congestion, lethargy with a dash of nighttime coughing. I was last, so of course I got it the worst. I honestly can't remember the last time that I was this sick. We're all still in various stages of recovery, so there's nothing going on besides a whole lot of lying around.

Now is also a good time to remind everyone that crappy things always happen to me during the month of March.

And even though this is old news, it's not yet too late to weigh in on last week's AI, is it?

***Begin American Idol blabbering***

Considering how wretched the semi-finals were, I would have never imagined that the Top 13 show would be so good. And on Michael Jackson night too! But it really was good, wasn't it? Again, there wasn't any "moments", but I thought everyone was pretty consistent.

I thought Danny's "PYT" was really, really good. I like him doing a uptempo song. And I loved that he sang the part about "tenderoni." You know, I never knew that tenderoni was a real word (Well, as real as a slang word is). I always thought that I was mishearing something and would immediately think of "beef-a-roni" (yum!). Of course, I looked it up, and now I'm down with it.

(But! For some reason, I still don't like Gokey. Sorry! runs and hides

I also liked Kris Allen's performance of "Remember the Time," even though I tend not to remember him. I thought it was so catchy that I downloaded it from iTunes.

Adam's "Black and White" was my favorite of the night. Mark liked the part in the middle of the song where the strobe lights went crazy and then Adam went "all Satan" on us. I loved the part when he sang about "kicking dirt in my eye" and kicked his foot in the air. He's just a blast to watch. However, I think part of his problem is that every move, every smile, every bat of an eye lash is so calculated that eventually people are going to get turned off (If they're not already turned off by his screamy style of singing). Honestly, I think I should have dubbed him "The Anti-Castro" instead of Von, because there wasn't a calculated thing about Jason (And that was part of his problem). I also downloaded this one from iTunes and the vocal is extremely good - very scaled back from the live performance. Adam can definitely dial it down if he wants to.

As for the girls (Wait - there are girls on the show?!), I kinda like them all. I even like Megan. She's goofy alright, but she does have that catch in her voice that perks up my ears.

As for the disappointments for the night - poor, poor Anoop. What was he thinking? I think every one in America knows you don't sing "Beat It." Did he not get the memo? Still, Anoop is my sentimental favorite. I always love the charming ones with marginal vocal ability who make poor song choices half the time. I can't help but root for them.

And Jorge - poor, poor Jorge! The show was really done with him, and they really let him know it. 'Cause dog, THAT was not a bad vocal at all. Unfortunately, the rank and file voters fell in line, and it was adios Jorge.

Some quick predictions for Grand ol' Opry week. Show starts in ten, so I better type fast!

A guy will go this week. They are guy heavy and don't want to lose another girl, especially since this week determines the tour line-up. Candidates are Anoop, Scott or potentially Michael.

Pay close attention to who goes last. This will be someone who's on the bubble in terms of popularity and needs a little boost to secure a spot on the tour (I predict it will be a girl - Allison or Megan).

Adam will sing a ballad.

That's it! Hopefully I will be well enough later this week to give more timely comments on this tonight's show!

Monday, March 9, 2009

It runs in the family.

Little sweet.

Well, it appears that Lauren has inherited the family curse - the wonky eye. She's still cute enough, despite her non-conformity.

Feeling a little bit perkier today, in part because I accomplished a lot both at work and at home. I won't bore you with the work details, but after work I made fajitas, gave Lauren a bath, ironed extra pants so I'll have less to iron for next week, and made a kick ass scrapbook page. All this despite the fact that I think I'm contracting Mark's cold. Poor Mark has been sick with a very bad cold for a week now, and on top of that, he's suffering from a back ache too.

Enough about that - tomorrow is Tuesday you know!

**Begin American Idol blabbering**

Last week's performances were definitely an improvement over the first two semi-final rounds. For the most part, everyone in the third round gave a decent performance, and even the bad ones weren't so horrible that I felt the need to leave the room. I wasn't even too annoyed by Headband Boy Nate, because, hey, I knew that was the last I was going to hear from him, so rejoice! I wasn't at all surprised about the three that went through, although I wasn't entirely certain if Jorge or Ju'not (Did I put the apostrophe in the right place?) would take the third spot. Gotta love my boy Jorge though. I feel a certain kinship with him because he, like me, has the wonky eye. Except his speaks Spanish.

And someone help me cause I think I'm buying into the personality crap that they're selling this season because I LIKE SCOTT MCINTYRE. This is particularly astonishing because not only is his singing on the mediocre side, but he sang freakin' Bruce Hornsby. I can't stand his depressing songs! My company hired Bruce to play a party a couple of years ago. While most people passed on his performance and opted instead to hang out at the open bar, I gave Bruce a chance. His audience banter between songs went something like this: "Hello out there you Federated people. The Investors that are Federated." Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. Stay away from the Hornsby, Scott!

The choosing of the wildcard contenders was the most exciting part of the season so far. Mark was laughing at me because as the available spots dwindled, I hid behind a pillow mumbling over and over again, "If they don't pick Anoop, there will be a RECKONING!!" Of course, they saved him until last. I'm not sure what their plans are for him because they jerked him around AGAIN when they picked the final spots during the wildcard round. By far, Anoop's "My Prerogative" was my favorite performance during the semi's. I actually rewound the DVR and watched it twice. We even had Lauren dancing along with Anoop. Even though the vocal was a little lacking, he was so much fun to watch. And while I think he was trying too hard in some spots, I have to admit that I bought the part about "getting girls is how I live."

On the other hand, I was annoyed that Matt Giraud and Jasmine Murray were chosen because both gave two of the worst performances thus far this season. I find Matt to be a bit of a creep as well, but I felt the same way about David Cook around this time and ended up loving him. So who knows?

Last season at this point, I had already purchased 6 songs from iTunes. This year's tally: zero. There are a few people that I like well enough, but I wish that I enjoyed their singing more. Maybe it's because this is American Idol Season 8: Year of Sob Stories and Effeminate Men.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Might as well face it you're addicted to scrub.

Etsy Favs: Haunt

Lately I've been battling a case of the "blahs", which is putting a damper on my usual enthusiasm. So I thought I'd write about a little indulgence that never fails to perk me up.

Bath products.

Not just any bath products - homemade bath products. For the most part, my shower routine has been pretty boring, down to my soap of choice (Good ol' Ivory bar soap with aloe). This is in part because I'm cursed with horrible skin. I have psoriasis, which lucky for me has been more nuisance than heartbreak. Nonetheless it's still very itchy and ugly. I also tend to get those unsightly little red spots on my legs and arms. The upside of this is that I dealt with very little acne as a teenager, but I still long for the clear, smooth skin on the rest of me. I've experimented with different body lotions and oils, but because none of them made any noticeable improvement to my skin, for the most part I decided, why bother?

That all changed around the holidays when I discovered two Etsy stores that sell amazing homemade bath products. Haunt infuses both creativity and divine smelling fragrance into her products. I love her sugar scrubs, which are made with the same white sugar that's sitting in your pantry. My favorite is Marzipan and Shortbread, with Turkish Cocoa as a close second. Turkish Cocoa is like showering yourself in Oreo cookies. Who wouldn't want to do that?

Since Mark is fixated on flooring the way I'm fixated on bath products, he pointed out that he should have installed wide plank flooring in the addition because I always use our dining room table (which is made from wide plank wood) to take photos. To demonstrate that I do not discriminate, I took photos of the next batch of bath products on the floor of the addition.

Etsy favs: Cozy Moments

Cozy Moments carries a wide variety of products in many, many wonderful scents. I recommend anything with "Pink Sugar" in the name, Black Raspberry Vanilla, Sweet Witches Brew and Vanilla Bean Noel. I also love Angel Food Cake, which smells very similar to Marzipan and Shortbread. I get it in the Beautiful Body Butter because it's the perfect companion to Haunt's sugar scrub. Cozy Moments also makes shaving soap. As a professed shaving cream user, I was a little skeptical, but it works just as well as shaving cream and doesn't clog my drain with gunk.

Although none of these products have cured any of my skin ailments, they sure have made something as mundane as a shower a lot more fun. I now have a whole drawer full of products to choose from. It's a place where Mark fears to tread because it's just too girly.

ETA - Thanks to both Uncle Craig and Dolores for pointing out my mistake in the last scrapbooking post. I do quite a bit of signing at work, so I've been a little too focused on writing "2009" in every date. I can easily fix the blog post, but I'll have to redo the journaling on the scrapbook pages. :P I wasn't kidding when I said that I needed a proof-reader!!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Scrapbooking: Halloween 2008

Good Grief.

My scrapbooking for 2008 is getting finished ever so gradually. A couple of months ago, I had purchased some super cute Halloween stickers on clearance, so I decided to do two pages in order to make good use out of them.

Journaling reads: When Lauren told us that she wanted to be Snoopy for Halloween 2008, little did we know what a challenge we would face. First, manufactured Snoopy costumes were practically non-existent, both on-line and in stores, and the ones that we did find were very expensive. The next plan of attack was to attempt to make our own from a white fleece shirt and pants. Then we found that kid sized sweats just don't come in white, apparently because only crazy people would dress their children in white. We even had Aunt Mel scouring stores for pieces that would work. Luckily, Daddy came through and found a real honest-to-goodness Snoopy costume on eBay for $20 plus shipping. And naturally, Daisy needed a costume too. After all, where would Snoopy be without his best pal Woodstock?

Spooky! Good Time.

Journaling reads: Halloween 2008 fell on a Friday night, which was nice because everyone could come over and enjoy the festivities. Lauren had her very own entourage as she went door-to-door chatting up the neighbors and making out like a little bandit. And even though there were few trick-or-treaters who visited our house, we were still very entertained by our very own cast of characters.

A couple of weeks ago, I came home to a message on our answering machine from a representative from Shutterfly. She had been unsuccessful getting touch with me via e-mail (Because all I do all day at work is read and reply to e-mails, I don't check my personal e-mail accounts as often as I should) and was looking to get permission to use my photo book in one of their upcoming ads. Of course, I immediately got in touch with her and agreed to it. I didn't even occur to me until the next day that I might get something for my troubles, you know, maybe some free prints. Sure enough, when I checked my e-mail I had a message from another representative asking that I fill out some paperwork so that I could become a vendor and get paid! I was floored. Here's the end result: Mark and Lauren selling the good life through the magic of photo books:

My photobook was featured in a Shutterfly ad - woo hoo!