Thursday, December 29, 2011

Two days in a row

Oh yes, Violet and I both exercised again today. We're on a roll. We'll be taking tomorrow off though, it is the day we're taking my folk's tree down. But I'm eyeballing Saturday for another workout.

The most exciting thing I did today was help Violet finish up her Illinois Interest Project (Girl Scout speak for "badge"). It was a Council's Own from one of our sister legacy councils. I'd post a link to the requirements, but they aren't available online anymore. I asked at Council if the badge was still available and they said "oh yes, you can get the requirements and the badge in one of the council shops." Which I did.

Most of the requirements we had done (unintentionally) when we were on our trip to Springfield last summer. Between the reading we did prior to the trip and all museums and sites we visited there, she'd done about half of it. So this week we checked out some books on Illinois from the library and between them and the trusty internet we learned some cool stuff, including:

1. Coal mining is one of the top industries in Illinois. I had no idea and I've lived here 45 years. Granted I live in the tippy top of the state and the coal mining takes place in the lower half. I would have guessed farming since that is what is more dominate here. (Yes, it is hard to believe I've lived here 45 years when I am only 32 years old!)

2. The first state capital was Kaskaskia, which has been wiped out by flooding. A new Kaskaskia Island is now what is left and is only accessible from Missouri! There had been one other capital before Springfield (our current capital).

And some other stuff. But I thought those were the most interesting.

The Girl Scout cookie sale begins Tuesday, so of course someone else from my office has already posted her daughter's cookie order form. A new one this year. I think there will be 3 girls selling. Well, fewer cookies for me to schlep in and collect money for. Violet's angle again this year is that she can donate cookies to the soldiers and the food pantry. That was popular last year. It just would be nice if parents would pay attention to the sale dates and follow them. Every year someone pre-posts a form. It is a good way to learn about how the world isn't fair.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guess what I did today?

You'll never guess. And I know, you don't have time to sit around guessing what goofball thing Freakmom did this time. So I'll cut right to the chase. I exercised!

Yes, after several months of avoiding the Wii Fit and trying not to look it in the eye, I finally broke down today and turned the thing on and exercised. I even weighed in, although I really, really didn't want to. It wasn't bad, not real bad at least, just not what I'd have liked. But what I can expect after 4 months of sitting on my butt, eating everything in sight, drinking sugary soda and stressing?

Hopefully I'll be better about exercising. And maybe I can control my snacking a bit. We'll see.

I asked Violet today if she had any New Year's resolutions and she had 2: to stop biting her nails and to exercise more. My only one had been to not let my job control my life, so I decided her exercise one was a good idea. I'm resisting all kinds of temptation to make it a big "mother and daughter exercise and get fit" program. Nothing kills a good idea quicker than organizing it. Maybe we can go for more walks and play more active games together. Heck, we can't do less activity than we currently do...we'd morph completely into sloths.

Anyone else have any resolutions they'd like to share?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Back to work

It was back to work today. I didn't have to go in, just work from home. I was rested and relaxed and have been working on changing my attitude to not let it take over, so I didn't really mind. I didn't find too much alarming in my e-mail either, which was a nice treat.

The rest of the day we bummed around the house. Violet is getting her forms and such ready for the Girl Scout cookie sale which begins on January 2nd. She is just going to post a form at my office (I'll take it in with me and leave it when I go on the 3rd) and ask 2 neighbors who usually buy from her. She never catches the moms of the neighbors at home, usually other family members. The others prefer (or have been trained, who knows?) to have the moms do the ordering. What we've done in the past is leave a little note from Violet with a "door hanger" flyer from council. The moms call Violet later with their orders. They both work at the local grade school and have said they like being able to honestly tell all the little girls there that they just buy from their neighbor.

Tomorrow is more of the same, working a little, bumming a little. Thursday we might mix it up and go to the library. Are we party animals or what? Friday we're going to my folks to help them take their Christmas tree down. They are perfectly capable of doing it themselves, but Violet and I decorated it and Violet wanted to put every ornament they own on it. It was PACKED. I felt guilty not helping put them all away too, so off we'll go.

Still no snow here. It has been cold, mainly raw and windy. But no snow. That's okay with me. I've seen snow. I don't need to see it again.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas movies and books

Here's what I've been watching/reading for the season:

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - my all time favorite Christmas movie. Mr. I., his brother and I watched it one of the first years we were married. It was on HBO or something. We'd gone to their new stepmother's family's Christmas celebration and it was WAAAAAAY over the top. Well, to us it was. To them it was perfect, what they did every year. We didn't fit in. To say the family didn't blend easily when their dad and step mom got married is an understatement. So later that night, back at their dad's house, brother-in-law flips on the TV and finds Christmas Vacation on a pay channel they had. We watched, we laughed, it was the best part of that Christmas. Mr. I and I have watched it nearly every Christmas since. Violet saw it for the first time this year. There were some words and scenes in it that maybe we weren't ready for her to see. Oops.

Elf - That one was Violet appropriate! I'd never seen it before. What a fun movie. After it was over I made Mr. I look up what movie I remembered Betty Garrett singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside" in (the song is in Elf too). I was guessing it was On the Town and she sang it with Frank Sinatra. I was wrong, it was Neptune's Daughter and she sang it with Red Skelton. Betty Garrett is one of my all time favorites. Did you know she played Laverne's father's girlfriend in Laverne and Shirley? Just a little trivia for your Christmas night. If you ask me Ann Miller takes second place to Betty Garrett any day.

I can't stand A Christmas Story. Here's the story. Once in college hanging out with friends they decided to watch the movie on VHS. Fine. Then they decided to watch it again. And then started it again! It wasn't particularly funny the first time and after 3 times I grew to despise it. I refuse to watch it now.

Now as a mature adult I don't know why I didn't leave and go back to my apartment. I didn't have to stay. I had a car. "I'm out of here." I could have said it. I can't remember why I didn't. I guess because I was 19.

I don't care for many of the Christmas TV specials. I particularly hate Rudolph. I mean, come on. The reindeer make fun of him when he looks funny and is different. But then he does something heroic and they all want to be his buddy. Get lost reindeer, you had your chance. Stupid snooty reindeer think they are so hot because their popular. Stop beating up misfit reindeer in the bathroom and stealing their lunch money you big bullies!!!

I may have unresolved issues. On to books.

I read the original Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens for the first time this year. I had trouble following along because I kept falling asleep. I really wanted to like it better than the various adaptations I've seen. But I didn't see much difference. I think I need to try it again next year. I did read it when I was still working and was really busy. I think that was the real reason for falling asleep.

The last 2 days I've spent reading Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum (author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz). I've really enjoyed this. Violet and I read it aloud last year and liked it (get the 2003 version illustrated by Michael Hague if you are reading it with kids, not the Kindle version - the illustrations are wonderful.) It tells the story of how Neclaus came to be Santa Claus. Definitely one of Baum's best work. Think mythology meets Christmas.

I want to read the sequel A Kidnapped Santa Claus next.

Finally, a plug for my all time favorite Christmas book, The Cat Who Came for Christmas by Cleveland Amory. It is the true story of how Mr. Amory was adopted by a cat on Christmas Eve. This is an adult book, preread it before reading with kids to make sure it is a good fit. Mr. Amory is an animal right's activist and does do and say things that some would classify as radical. He is also a self-proclaimed curmudgeon. It is a great book, just don't snuggle in with your 6 year old and start reading it out loud.

Hope your Christmas movie and book picks have been magical.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Potato soup recipe

Here is my homemade potato soup recipe that I am going to make tonight. It is originally from the Vegetarian Times website, but I have made a few changes over the years.

Potato Soup

4 T unsalted butter
1 cup finely chopped onion
4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups peeled and diced white potatoes
1 cup peeled and sliced carrots
1/2 t salt
2-1/2 T all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 t dried sage
1/2 t black pepper

1. In large saucepan, melt 2 Tbs. butter over medium heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring often, until softened, 7 minutes. Add broth, potatoes, carrots and salt. Increase heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer potatoes and carrots gently, partially covered, until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove pan from heat.

2. Meanwhile, in small saucepan, melt remaining 2 Tbs. butter over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth. Slowly stir in milk and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.

3. In batches, transfer some of the potatoes to a blender and puree. I separate out the carrots when doing this, since otherwise the soup turns out looking pink.

4. Combine pureed potatoes, carrots, broth and cream sauce and heat through. Serve warm with grated cheese on top (optional). Supposedly it makes 6 servings.

It is a time consuming and labor intensive soup, but it is really good. I have no idea if the leftovers warm up well or not. We've never had any left over.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas letters, doing nothing, and fun books

First of all, I do want to clarify something. I don't think that all Christmas cards require a personal note or letter. I just got tired of writing them, then getting back ones which were obviously sent after mine was received with nothing in it. They don't have to say something, but once in a while, especially in response to a letter, it would be nice.

Mr. I. has a good story about this too. About 5 or 6 years ago he received a Christmas card signed "Love, Bob and Alice", Bob had been his best friend since way back and was in our wedding. Mr. I and Bob had lost touch as often happens when we start out on our careers and families. Mr. I. was so excited. There was no contact information in it except the return address. Mr. I. wrote Bob a long letter, catching him up on what he'd been doing, about Violet, etc. Asked questions (like "who the heck is Alice?" but phrased nicer.) He gave Bob his e-mail and phone numbers. They were both working downtown (or last we knew Bob had been) so he suggested maybe they could meet up after work or for lunch sometime. No response. The next Christmas another card arrives, "Love Bob and Alice." Still no information, no other contact, nothing. They come every year. Mr. I. has quit sending cards back and trying to contact him. He'd love to be in touch with Bob again. But what more can you do?

So Christmas cards aren't exactly our favorite part of the season.

Violet and I have been busy doing absolutely nothing the last couple of days. I caught up with sewing badges and fun patches on her Girl Scout sash and her tote bag (there are so much fun patches, she keeps all but a very few on a tote bag instead of the formal sash). We've cleaned the house (more or less, I'm not a good housekeeper even with time on my hands). We went to the library and the grocery store. In short, we've been goofing off and having a blast. We are relaxed.

I've been reading just for fun books. I'm working now on comic crime novels by one of my absolute favorite mystery writers, Donald E. Westlake. They are just plain fun. Not heavy like many mysteries. Nothing that would give you nightmares. I have been in the mood for light and fluffy, but not romance. I don't read romance. I used to. But it is funny, once I started dating Mr. I. I lost interest in the genre. Sounds corny, doesn't it? And not much like me! LOL But it is true.

Anyway, the novels I've been reading were written in the 1960's. It is so much fun to be reading along, the hero being chased by the bad guys and think, "why doesn't he use his cell phone to call 911?!" And he's out of cash, can't he use his debit card or stop by an ATM? He wants to know who this person is chasing him? Google him!? I guess because so much of the books still feel current it is easy to get into them and forget that a lot has changed. A mark of a good author, I think.

I'll go back to reading classics again soon enough. But right now my brain was ready for a break. And Westlake fits the bill perfectly!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Holiday spirit freak style

I wrote a post earlier today, but I don't think I'll ever publish it. It was too bitter and came too close to naming names. I'm going to try again now that I've got it out of my system.

The post was about how little I have to do at this time of the year compared to how much so many other people do. Or think they have to do. And how all other aspects of life seem to stop in December.

I don't send Christmas cards. I did the first few years we were married. Then I got tired of writing personal messages and letters in them all just to get "Love, Mr. and Mrs. Don'tgiveacrapaboutyou" back. Oh sure, they probably do give a crap, but would it have killed them to put at least a sentence in them? As my mom always says she does, "I burned my bridge while I was standing on it" and quit sending cards. The few that go out now are sent as a message with a gift or as a thank you.

I don't buy many gifts. We don't have the money for one thing. I can't see that I have to spend what little I have to send someone some piece of crap they don't want in the first place that they can more than afford to buy if they wanted it. I'm supposed to do that to show them I care. If I care, I think people are able to pick up on it throughout the year. If you require a dollar value attached to my love and friendship, well I'm too polite to say what I think of that. I would have quit on gifts long ago, but Mr. I kept insisting we send them to cousins and such on his side of the family who haven't the foggiest clue what a thank you note is. He claims it isn't necessary to send thank you notes. As I type this, Violet is working on hers. They are necessary. To nieces and nephews who have never sent a single thank you, you have your Uncle Incredible to thank for your continued gifts. Aunt Freak wanted to cut you off long ago.

We do some baking and some cooking. We pick fun meals for Christmas Eve and Day. We don't do many family celebrations because we just don't have much family. Almost all of our extended family live out of state.

So I have lots of free time to catch up on things I can't do the rest of the year when I'm working and homeschooling. But everyone else is busy and is unable to get back to me because (and I see their point) it isn't that urgent compared to the holiday which is breathing down their necks. (That was the main point of my post, I've cooled off now.)

Once, when I was still in my 20's I shared an office with 3 other girls and 1 Jewish guy. He listened to us talk about all the Christmas stuff we had to do and on and on (the office was designed for 3 people, we had 5 in there full time plus another who was primarily offsite but had all her stuff there - we were in his face with glad tidings even if we didn't mean to be). Finally he said, "why do you girls do all that?!" Our answer was "we have to." I've since come to realize that I don't have to. And I don't do it. I do what I want or what is important to Violet and Mr. I and me. But nothing else just because I feel obligated.

I'm not a bah humbug. I'm really not. I just refuse to buy into the frenzied, hectic, make yourself crazy mentality that permeates the country this month.

And now a joke:

Dee, "Are you in Illinois right now?" (insert the state you are in)
Fred, "Yes"
Dee, "Then you are in state."
Dee, "Are you in the US right now?"
Fred, "Yes"
Dee, "Then you are incontinent"

Hahahahaha. Get it? In continent. Incontinent. Dee is the real name of the very cool person who I heard tell that joke at a nursing home convention. Fred is a made up name of the guy she pulled it on. But in Fred's defense, he was quite drunk at the time, I doubt he'd recognize himself here if he saw it.

Hope your holidays are neither frenzied nor incontinent.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Vacation, Baby!

That's right, all my responsibilities are now officially over and I am on Christmas Vacation! Can I get a WOOHOO?! Okay, so yes, I'm a mom, my responsibilities are never actually over, but I am free and clear. We had our last homeschool event today. All the presents have been sent. I'm done with work. There is nothing I have to do on any particular time frame for the next week. Look at Freakmom goof off and read a book. Now look, she's sleeping in. And wait, can it be? Yes, she is relaxed!!

Okay, silliness aside, it is starting to feel very Christmasy around here. Today I got a wonderful surprise in the mail from Mom#1, a local mug from Texas and a sample of Mom#2's famous Mexican Hot Chocolate!! I can't wait to try it after reading about it for so long. A huge thank you to my wonderful long distance friend!!

Today driving home from the final book club meeting of the year, it started to snow. But it melted as it landed. We're hoping for a white Christmas because otherwise it will be a brown, dreary Christmas (whoever coined the phrase "green Christmas" wasn't talking about the north. It is either white or brown. Never green.) I heard a lady in the library say she heard it was supposed to snow again Friday night, but I don't see it on the forecast.

We will be spending a lovely Christmas at home by ourselves this year. That is our favorite. We did a very nice Christmas with my parents on Sunday. We haven't figured out when we're going to see Mr. Incredible's folks yet. But it won't be in the next week. That's okay, we went there for Thanksgiving.

Don't get me wrong, there is still a lot to do. Violet has some crafts yet to do, including her gingerbread house kit. And she wants to make more cookies. Those are some of the plans for tomorrow and the rest of the week.

But tonight, my book and a glass of wine are calling me. Hope you all are enjoying a peaceful and relaxing week too!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Judges Made the Wrong Decision

So last night on The Next Iron Chef finale, our gal, Elizabeth Faulkner, lost. The judges made a bad choice, in my opinion. Geoffrey Zakarian is a fine chef, but will not be nearly as interesting an iron chef as Elizabeth would have been. What an old boys network. I'm bummed, but I am totally thrilled that she made it to the finale. She is a totally awesome chef and person. I am so glad we got to go to her culinary demonstration and book signing! What a cool day that way! When Zakarian competes on Iron Chef, I think I'm going to have to root for his competition.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

more on the hotel

To answer Wendy's question, the hotel wasn't trying to be Korean, just modern I think. The desk and fixtures and chairs were all modern looking too. I think wood plank floors would have been much nicer, it wouldn't have been slippery for one thing. And I like wood. (That sounds bad. I like wood furnishing and as a building material. I grew up in a third generation carpentry family. Everything was wood. In fact, every funeral for a male family member I've ever been to had the same theme: "Jesus was a carpenter". It writes itself each time.)

And I'm really sorry that I've disappointed Mental. I wished I had a camera with me. I never take one on business trips, because usually, what's the point? My phone is old and has no texting or data plan, so even if it can take photos (which I haven't bothered to figure out), I have no way to get them off without big fees. My work computer doesn't even have a camera, like my Mac does. Browsing the hotel's website I didn't see any pictures of rooms. Not surprising. The address given on their website doesn't get you to the hotel either. It takes you to a mail drop box. Not too helpful when you are checking in (as we and many others informed the poor desk staff who have absolutely no control over it.)

In the lobby was something else I would have loved to photograph: a gingerbread house competition. There were about 20 gingerbread houses that had been made by staff members. Guests were invited to vote for one. I voted for the Hello Kitty themed one. I guess I really should start taking a camera with me. Plus I could covertly photograph the guy who always goes who looks just like my next door neighbor. But that would be creepy and possibly result in a restraining order. I try to avoid those.

Well, if I go back to the hotel again, I'll take a camera. In the meantime, I did find a site with a photo of the bathrooms, except the shower head pictured was on the ceiling in my room (the photo is sideways and I don't know how to change that without risking copyright infringement): Photos of Kellogg Hotel And Conference Center, East Lansing
This photo of Kellogg Hotel And Conference Center is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Here's another view from the same site. The shower head you can see in the last photo is straight above the upper left hand corner: Photos of Kellogg Hotel And Conference Center, East Lansing
This photo of Kellogg Hotel And Conference Center is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Thanks, TripAdvisor!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I went with the trout

I know you've all been wondering, what did Freakmom get for dinner at the hotel Monday night? I went with the trout. The thing that won me over was the side of sweet pea risotto that came with it. And gosh, that risotto was good. So was the trout. I suspect all the dishes were good at the restaurant. I also had wild rice with root vegetables soup. My only complaint about the meal was that the soup bowl could have had a bit more soup in it.

Anyway, the trip is over. I'm home until at least April. There's a maybe one-night trip then. I've decided I like everything about these trips except the getting there and back. I like the conferences. I like the people who attend. I enjoy attending sessions as well as speaking. I like staying in the hotels (we always get our own rooms). The 4 to 7 hour drives, I could do without.

The hotel was nice. It was on the campus of Michigan State University. But I have to say, the shower was too weird for me. There was no tub or shower stall. Just a nozzle hanging down from the ceiling and a shower curtain. You could sit on the toilet and shower at the same time if you wanted to (for the record, I didn't). The floor got all wet. Now tell me, how do you keep your socks from getting wet when the floor is soaked from your shower? I mopped the floor with towels. (I shower at night and I was going to be wearing my fuzzy socks and making trips in the bathroom to pee, so I couldn't think of any other options.)

So, I'm staying in a fancy hotel, mopping up the bathroom floor. Doesn't add up in my book. I was only there one night, but they had those signs about reusing your towels to save the planet. Now I'm all for saving the planet, but I'm sorry, if I have to use a towel to mop the bathroom floor in a hotel, I'm not drying off with it the next night. I want a fresh towel.

You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl. I'm just not sophisticated enough for funky showers.

Today I was off. Thank goodness. I can't say why without talking too much about work, so I'll leave it as, I'm glad I wasn't working today. I kept plenty busy with unpacking, laundry, figuring out what we still wanted to do for homeschool this year, planning some cookies to bake. Actually, I'm not really sure what I did all day. Doesn't seem like much when I think back on it.

While I was gone Violet and Mr. I. put the tree up. Tonight the lights went on (Mr. I. bought us some new LED lights on his way home from work today - see I'm Ms. Tree Hugger). The ornaments will get on soon. We're having a laid back Christmas. Actually, I think it is just sneaking up on us too fast.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ode to a Good Night's Sleep

What a difference a good night's sleep can make!

Violet had a bad sore throat all day yesterday. Just a cold, probably from the crazy schedule she's been keeping. She spent most of yesterday curled up in a blanket reading. I knew she wasn't feeling good because she took the Tylenol I offered. She doesn't like to take medicine at all. Don't know where she got that from, certainly not me. I go up and down the over-the-counter aisle at the drug store loading up my cart with all the goodies.

At bedtime last night she wanted the blanket she'd been wrapped up in all day, but Alexi the orange cat was on it. She whispered (since it hurt to talk) that if he got off it, could I bring it up to her? I moved him onto another blanket and took it up to her. Alexi stayed on the replacement blanket for quite a while, so I don't think he minded too much.

Anyway, after a good night's sleep she is feeling much better.

As for me. I didn't sleep well for several nights this week. Laid awake at night, early mornings, late nights. I think it showed in my last crabby post. I got to bed early last night and slept in and I feel much better. I'm still not going back to that co-op, and I'm not going to hang out with those moms any more. But I'm not so whiny and crabby about it. I've moved on.

I leave for Michigan tomorrow. I'm pretty much ready to go. I can't decide whether to get the salmon or the trout or the mushroom ravioli at the hotel restaurant for dinner (we always read the restaurant menus ahead of time when traveling for work - the meals are one of the best parts!). After I get back Tuesday night, it should be smooth sailing until the end of the year. And if not, I'll get a good night's sleep and start over the next day.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Another week gone by

It wasn't quite as hectic as last week, but more stressful. Work was way too busy with way too much pressure. I can't take it some days. Girl Scouts was way to disorganized and chaotic. Are homeschool co-op settings always loud, crazy, with kids running wild, classes starting late, miscommunications and last minute changes in plans that aren't passed on to those not making the plans? We've never been involved in a co-op before, so I'm just wondering if that is the norm because that's what we've met with week after week. I'm too high strung to deal with the "laid back" atmosphere of it. (Remember my upcoming news, I'll let you in on it, Violet's GS group is leaving the co-op and moving to the leader's house - they are all tired of the chaos too.)

Anyway, it was a stressed out week. I feel better tonight. Work is under control. We had our office party this afternoon. As I sat talking with people I realized, I really like most of the people I work with. They are nice, normal people. They accept you for who you are (even if they secretly think you are weird - but heck, most of them are weird, too). And they are fun. I can feel relaxed among them (when I'm not stressed out - but even then, they are usually stressed too or they understand why my hair is standing on end and falling out in clumps).

Monday I am headed out of town for one last trip of the year. Just one night, I'll be back Tuesday. I am looking forward to a few nice meals (I'm traveling with my boss - she likes good food so we always eat well) and a quiet hotel room (to myself).

Notes: My hair hasn't actually been falling out in clumps, but I think it did stand on end most of Wednesday and Thursday. Also, the majority of the co-op families seem perfectly happy with it, so I realize it must be a bad fit for us, not a bad co-op. And finally, the older girls splitting off are going to do great things when they move into a quieter situation and have some space. At 12 years old, they need to have their own space away from the little girls.

Friday, December 2, 2011

End of the Week

And what a week it has been.

Got some good news: a tentative Juliette event I had set up for next week, but couldn't get a firm confirmation on, was officially postponed. I was relieved. I think the other moms were. The lady we'd asked if we could visit and learn about environmental issues from was really relieved. We've all just got too much going on, a free day is welcome. And the lady suggested a special viewing of a really awesome sounding program they are going to do in February: hands on learning and activities/crafts all environmental based with visits with wildlife (not sure what wildlife we'll see, but it is scheduled on and around the big Groundhog Day festival). We are looking forward to it!

Got some sad news: my boss' 16 year old nephew committed suicide. Just a horrible tragedy. A co-worker and I went to the visitation together to try to offer support to our boss and her family. But at a time like that there is so little to say or do.

Got some upcoming news: I don't want to share it quite yet, because all parties involved haven't heard it (although none of them read my blog, but still you don't want to spoil it). It involves Girl Scouts and a new plan and needless to say, Violet is really happy about it.

Got some homecoming news: Our friend Harvey is back home, snug in his mud home, his cross country wagon travels are over. They made it to New Mexico. After much discussion, he and his traveling companion decided to forgo a return trip by wagon. They and the mules got a ride home from a guy named Joe, Harvey will return next week with a borrowed truck and get his wagon. (We assume Sadie came home too, she wasn't mentioned in the e-mail announcement, but I know Harvey wouldn't leave her behind.) I am glad Harvey will be back home for winter.

Got some less work news: The meetings I was supposed to go to all day Monday have been postponed. No trip to the office. The one meeting that didn't get canceled, I got the okay to join by phone if they need me.

Got some theater news: Violet was invited to go a performance of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" with some friends. It is at the Woodstock Opera House, a fancier venue than we usually go to. They had an extra ticket. She's excited.

Got some boob news: (sorry, that was just too good a title to pass up) My mammogram results were normal and the insurance paid for it 100%. Sure they are supposed to pay for it, but aren't we all actually relieved when that Explanation of Benefits (EOB, to those of us in the biz) comes with no patient portion on it.

That's all the news I can think of right now. It was a good week, but there was a lot going on. We've got a busy weekend planned to. No rest for the wicked.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kicking Chef Butt!

Yes, our gal Elizabeth Faulkner is really kicking chef butt on The Next Iron Chef competition. You may remember that we met her at a book signing while on vacation. She's made it to the top 5! And is still going strong. The toasted bagel and cream cheese ice cream she made on the episode that aired last night was very similar to the dessert she made (and we sampled) at the culinary demonstration. When she started to the ice cream machine we knew she'd survive! We've had her bread based ice cream - it is delicious. For us (yeah, I know, it wasn't like we went to her house and she made it just for us, don't worry, I'm a fan, not a stalker) she made a reconstructed pb&j sandwich in an ice cream sundae. I mean really, how can that lose?

Keep kicking chef butt, Elizabeth! We're rooting for you!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Belated Thanksgiving wishes

Happy belated Thanksgiving, everyone! We had a nice holiday and a good trip to the in laws. We got home last night so we could have a little time before heading back to work and school. Today Violet and I went out to Walmart, mainly to look for a winter coat for her. We found one she really liked, with a price tag I liked. Plus, the sleeves are long enough - unlike her old one. :)

Then this afternoon the three of us did something we almost never do...went to the movies. I really wanted to see The Muppets. I am a huge Muppet fan. Almost as big a fan as Walter from the movie, but not quite. It was really good. We have a great small town theater (not in our town, but in the next town over where Mr. I's office is). Matinee prices are $4. It isn't a big theater, but the sound and picture are pretty good and what more do you need?

Tomorrow, I'm going to start back to work. I know this will be a busy week between work, school and activities, so I'm going to try to get a jump start with one part before the craziness hits.

I started a new knitting experiment, knitting with 2 strands of yarn at once. Boy, does it make it nice and thick and squishy. I have some color combos in mind to try. And I want to do a hat with the round loom with 2 strands. The single strand hats are a little thin in the cold winter wind.

And in final news, remember when I took Violet off to the Teen Advisory Board at the our library, only to find that several of the "kids" on it were 19 and 20 and in college? Maybe I didn't post about it. Anyway, I let the librarian (who can't be over 25 herself) know that Violet wasn't going to be coming back because we weren't comfortable with a 12 year old hanging out with 20 year olds, no matter how nice they are...which I am sure they are, they wouldn't be library volunteers if they weren't. But it still wasn't right for us. And yes, I was nice about it. I told her I didn't want Violet to not show up without having told her why. It is a small library and they all know us.

Well, starting in December, they are splitting the group up into middle school ages and high school ages. They meet the same day, back to back. I'm going to sign Violet up to give it another try. I'm much more comfortable with this split. I'm guessing we weren't the only ones not comfortable with the huge age range. Everyone I mentioned it to (not connected with the group, since I didn't know any of the other parents) shuddered and shook their heads no. It is just too big of an age gap and Violet wasn't comfortable with it either. Maybe the library got enough kids interested to justify 2 separate groups. Whatever happened, I'm happy they are doing this.

I'm off to enjoy the last of my vacation. Hope you all have a good weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Most Popular

Blatantly stealing an idea from Mental (blatantly stealing is the most sincere form of flattery), I added a most popular posts gadget to my blog. I was curious as to which, if any, of my ramblings equate to popularity.

It seems to be those posts where I write about homeschool projects that make the top 10. I must come up in searches for ideas. Here are the director's notes on some of my top posts:

Why is there an expiration date on soap?: This has to be one of my shortest posts ever. I guess there are a lot of people curious about expiring soap. Too bad I have no insight to offer.

Hopscotch Cake: This cake looked better than it tasted. We never got the knack of making cake from scratch, we stick to box mixes.

Formal Pajamas
: I do like this post. I still think formal pajamas are a good idea. And I have thought about Mom #1's comment about flip flops with glitter being formal wear a hundred times as I've gotten dressed to go out. I have worn fancy flip flops to evening events at conferences for work. I figure if anyone ever comments, I'd tell them that Mom #1 says it is okay.

There's no place like camp:
This post probably gets hits because I mention Seasonale in it. But it is a good post. I enjoyed rereading our adventures at camp. I have to say, that weekend made us both stronger people. One time at a camp after that the mom in our tent curled up with her daughter in her bunk, rather apologetically. I could look her in the eye and say, "go for it. Its what she needs now. We've done the same." And we had taken glow bracelets with us which Violet shared with her scared tent mate. We still travel with glow bracelets all the time. We never did see the snotty tent mates again, I'm sure they washed out of the GS program years ago. But we still run into other fellow campers from time to time and enjoy seeing them. We didn't go to camp this summer. I missed it.

Enjoy some oldies but goodies over the holiday if you'd like. Freakmom is going to the inlaws and not taking her computer. I'll be back with tales of Wisconsin. Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I must say, I am thankful for my blogging buddies, you guys are the best!

Monday, November 21, 2011


Can you tell which of us is which?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What a week!

Gosh, everything fell on this week. I felt like I was never home. I had both my yearly mammogram and my semi-annual teeth cleaning (squish and scrape). Violet had an orthodontist appointment. Her bonded retainer on her bottom teeth felt odd, so we had them check it out. They didn't find anything, but did scrape some extra glue off. Still, I'm glad she spoke up and we went in. She's had problems with that bottom retainer coming lose and needing regluing.

We had the Juliette Low birthday party with one group of Girl Scouts. A meeting with another group. And a big service project I was coordinating finished this week. I think I already posted about the party. The meeting was good, they made cute little turkeys out of Oreo cookies. I tried teaching some songs, it didn't go over super well. The girls were inhibited and didn't want to sing. Except Violet. The quietest girl in the group and she sang the loudest. She shares my love of Girl Scout camp songs.

I talked to the lead Cadette mom afterward, and we decided to try songs again. Two girls were absent. They are cousins and the silliest of the bunch. We think they'll get into singing. And the three who didn't sing this time, are likely to be pulled in if the other three are signing. If that doesn't work, I told Violet I'm defecting to the Brownies. They'll sing with me.

The service project was collecting food for a local food pantry. Every year the Girl Scouts in our area put together boxes of food for "Operation Thanksgiving." The food pantry puts together a list of what each should contain (2 cans of corn, 2 cans of yams, marshmallows, flour, sugar, on and on, it is a great collection!) We sort the food into copy paper boxes, decorate them and deliver them to Village Hall. There they get produce, juice, a turkey and more added and are then taken to local families in need.

The homeschool Juliettes put together 4 complete boxes of food and a box of "extras." It was amazing. I opened it up to both the park district group and our original group. Violet and her friend "Butterfly" helped a lot with sorting and decorating. Every year Mr. I tells me to get as much as I want for it, and to even fill a full box if I want. I waited until the last minute, then went out and got the stuff to finish off the fourth box. Butterfly had brought over enough for a full box as well. She really gets into too. Not to diminish the efforts of any of the families involved. I left it completely open for families to bring as much or as little as they wanted. Several families signed up for items, brought them the next week and signed up for more. Everyone brought what they signed up for and many brought extra. We'll definitely do this again next year. It is just a very satisfying project. It feels personal, because even though we don't know the family that will receive it, packing and decorating the boxes and imagining how they'll prepare it all just really makes a connection.

Here are our boxes:

You can tell the last one that got "decorated." It was the morning of the delivery. Butterfly wasn't over, and Violet had done a lot. So I just threw a "Happy Thanksgiving" on it and called it good.

On a less exciting note, several things had to be done for work and could not be put off or pawned off. I finished work about 3:30 this afternoon and shut that computer down. I won't turn it back on for a week. I'm also not going to answer the phone line that work calls come in on. I set my vacation message and took forwarding off my official work phone number. But some people, mainly my boss, calls my direct home office line. I'll check for messages, but I won't get caught answering.

On a side note, switching to working only on my work issue computer is the best thing I ever did. Since I made the switch, they even changed the URL for checking e-mail via the web, I never updated it on my personal computer. So there is no temptation to just take a peek.

Tomorrow we're going to visit my folks. Then we'll start getting ready for Thanksgiving. Let the relaxing begin!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Breathing again

Thank you all for your support and encouragement! I know I can always whine here and find a shoulder to cry on.

I am feeling better tonight. We had our Juliette day and it went very well. The girls loved the projects. We got through everything. I stayed calm throughout it. No paint or glue or icing got on anything it shouldn't.

I shouldn't feel obligated to do so much. The other families don't expect it. But they are going to accept invitations when offered. Unless things change, I think I'll just do Cadette programming next year, and invite the Juniors to join us when appropriate. But they'll have to figure out themselves if they apply to any of their badges/journeys. The younger girls really are too young to bump up to Cadettes (one should technically still be a Brownie this year, but I knew enough not to do 3 levels so we bridged her early.)

For the other group this week I'm bringing a package of Oreos for an edible craft project (the other mom is planning the project, making turkeys I think), and coming prepared to teach a song if there is extra time. I can do that easy peasy. Honestly, finding time to run in the store to buy the Oreos is harder than the song. I love Girl Scout songs. (I'm planning on doing "Great Big Moose" - There was a great big moose, he liked to drink a lot of juice... It is a good one, complete with arm movements. Because really, what's the point in singing if you aren't dancing around too.)

Work is work and I can't let them take over my life. I need to shut down my work computer when I've reached my work limit and leave it off. I'm getting better at that.

So, thanks and big hugs back to all of you!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Some day

My list of things to do "some day" just gets longer and longer. And I don't mean my bucket list of wishful things to do before I die. I mean stuff that really needs to be taken care of that I just can't find the hours in the day to do.

Inventory the fridge and pantry and make a real shopping list and go get groceries. We never have anything to cook with so I don't end up making good meals but instead throw in yet another frozen pizza.

Fix my grandmother's rug. I have 5 rag rugs my grandmother made. I think they may very well be the last remaining rugs out of the thousands she made on her loom. I used to sit and watch her weave on the loom as a little girl. The thread holding the rugs together is wearing from age. One was coming apart, then a few weeks ago it got caught as Mr. I was walking over it and it ripped half way across. I'm sure I could mend it. I even have a vague idea of how to do it. But I just don't have the time to sit down and concentrate on it. I know I won't be able to sit still enough and be patient enough in my current frenzy state.

Take Violet to play tennis, go ice skating, bowling, and about 25 other sports/right of passages that she's never tried. She needs a little extra time to tackle sports that other kids just jump right in with both feet and do. She needs privacy and not everyone she knows watching and yelling "come on, Violet" at her. She needs help to learn how. It makes me want to cry to think that I haven't even successfully taught her how to ride a bike yet. I just can't do it all.

The house needs a super deep cleaning. We've lived here over 12 years and some of the rooms still aren't painted. I never got a garden in this year. Houseplants sit dead in their pots. I haven't taught Violet to sew although she asks for help all the time.

I can't do it all. I try. I really do. There's so much I'd love to do for me, that I know I won't get to do again until she's in college. Like exercise and take care of myself and get a good night's sleep.

Sorry, I'm feeling extra whiny tonight. I just don't know what else I can give up in order to be able to do everything that needs to be done.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Okay, before I start my post I have to say that Blogger just freaked out on me. I must have hit the wrong key, but it successfully posted my entry before I even started it! Boy, someone switch Blogger to decaf! It is too hyper!

Anyway, I was going to tell you about my day, so here we go.

First, I know you've all be on the edge of your seats wondering, but Mr. Incredible did not win any meat last night at the wheel of meat. He left before the end when they did the second chance drawings with the losing tickets, so maybe one of his tickets won for that. He left them among his table mates. He had 30 tickets in the first round of drawing and didn't even win a hot dog. Just as well.

I liked all the alternate wheel suggestions you all gave. Wheel of Cheetos really has some potential. How about Wheel of Oreos?

So today I worked on cleaning the house and preparing for the Juliette Low birthday party on Monday. I made a sample of a craft project I'm going to have them do: Halloween themed recycled picture frames. There was some doubt among the dads (Mr. I and the sisters' dad) about whether it would work. They were wrong, it turned out pretty good:

You use 2 pieces of cardboard, one with a hole in the center, glued together. Paint it. Then when it is dry, decoupage on candy wrappers. Add your favorite Halloween photo. The basic idea was from the Zoom! website. I came up with the paint and candy wrappers. (The dads were pessimistic that the candy wrappers would stick.) Violet drew a picture for me to put in my sample. Isn't her cat cute?

I didn't want to, but I went to the bank this morning. I couldn't pull in to the bank branch right by our house. The main road in our town has been under major construction for the last 2 years. (It is finally finishing this year!) They were working this morning and blocking the bank entrance from the direction I was coming from. I'm a little afraid we won't be able to turn in from our direction at all when they are done.

So I went to the other end of town. At the drive through she gave me 3 suckers. They had one of those video cameras, so Mr. I and Violet think I must have looked stressed. Since I was on the other end of town, I figured I might as well stop at Walmart on my way home. I called to have them read me the list. Bought the stuff and came home. Several hours later I realized the peanut butter I bought wasn't here. I called customer service and she said yes it was there, was I missing spaghetti noodles too? Crap.

Mr. Incredible drove out to get them while I started dinner. I think he was afraid I'd be mean to the people there. See, I was complaining that the lady who rang me up didn't pull the bags off the spinny thing for me. She handed me my receipt and just started on the next customer. I must have missed one in the back trying to find my bags. So yes, it was my fault, but it is a step I never have to take. And I didn't have my reusable bags with me since I wasn't planning on going, so there were more plastic bags than if I'd had my bags with. I know, no excuse. But they make me feel less foolish.

And to end this post on something completely unrelated. Here's a photo of a recent omelet I made (I found the photo when I took the frame photo off the camera):

I've been practicing them, and they are starting to look pretty decent. That one was just cheese. I never seem to have anything in the house to go in them. To see how far I've come, check out my original omelet post. Be sure to look at my omelet, not Violet's.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Recycling and meat

Don't worry, the title contains 2 different thoughts.

We went on our recycle tour today. It was really good. If you live in an area by a Waste Management facility, give them a call and see if they have an EduCenter in your area. It was well worth the almost hour drive for our visit (keep in mind though, in our area, everything is at least a 30 or 45 minute drive. We're in the middle of everywhere, just not close to anything). We saw a video, watched the recycling process through a big window, and had an educator talk with the kids about recycling. Another small group was with us. That was actually good. Our group doesn't like to answer questions and participate much. The other group did that for us.

The worst part was the drive home. The roads were just packed. They always are. We had to stop to get the cookie forms and it was so busy on the streets near where the cookie coordinator lives. I was frazzled by the time we got home. I told Violet I couldn't do any school work with her. Ugh, it was awful, just bumper to bumper cars.

In other news...

Mr. Incredible just left to attend a "wheel of meat" fundraiser. The family of one of the men in his chamber of commerce networking group is undergoing a terrible health situation and horrific medical bills. There are quite a few fundraisers planned for them. We want to help, but funds are limited, we'll do what we can. Tonight is "wheel of meat." Ever heard of one? We hadn't either. What we found out is that local businesses donate meat and people buy raffle tickets to win it. Mr. Incredible hasn't eaten beef, pork or a whole list of other meat in almost 20 years. He does eat chicken, turkey and fish, but not even much of that. So he's obligated by the business associates to go try to win meat. Yeah, he wasn't too excited.

He's planning on going and getting a few raffle tickets in an amount we feel comfortable with (this is the second fund raiser for this family we've participated in and there are at least 2 more planned), then leaving as soon as he can. He'd like to leave before he wins anything. I'm kind of interested in what will be there. I might like to win something. But I'm betting he'll be home shortly, meatless.

Why couldn't there be a wheel of squash? I love squash. Or a wheel of wine? I could really get into that as a fundraiser. I bet the raffle tickets would cost more for wine than squash though.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Look at me...I'm free!

Woo hoo! Tomorrow I am officially on PTO. I finished up my client loose ends. Took care of some administrative paperwork. I've set my away message. I've shut down my work computer. No checking e-mail, no answering the phone, no work. I think I like this even better than PTO while on vacation.

Not that we'll be home much tomorrow. We have our recycle facility tour in the afternoon. I knew it was a drive there, but Google Maps said it was a little farther than I remembered. I'm going to allow a little over an hour to get there. The worst part is we have to leave just before noon. That sure puts a damper on lunch. We always eat later rather than earlier. But waiting until 2 or 2:30 until we're done will make us crabby. Looks like it is sandwiches in the car.

On our way home we have to stop and pick up GS cookie order forms. They are always available way early around here because the service units like to take December off and not meet. Works for us. I coordinate cookie sales only for our small Juliette group, that's 4 girls these days. No way will I do it for the large group, which is over 20 girls. That's way too many for one cookie mom. I don't think many if any of the girls in the big group will sell. Since we're Juliettes the parents have to play the part of the leader. I doubt any of the other parents will step up to do that even for their own daughters. I could be wrong. But I don't think I am in most cases. Don't get me wrong, I'm not judging them for not wanting to do it. I'm the first to say that cookie sales is a big pain in the butt for the adults. Just saying that I don't think most will. Which is too bad because it leaves the girls missing out on a big part of Girl Scouting (you know the 3C's: crafts, cookies and camp).

But cookie sales has always been fun for Violet, so she'll do it again. She never has big sales but she's fine with that. I think her favorite part is sorting out the orders. And the other families who I help turn in their orders and pick up their cookies are so good and so easy to work with. I don't mind doing for our small group in the least.

Today the Cadettes in the park district group finished their Journey. Violet did such an amazing job. The whole journey (Amaze) was completely out of her comfort zone and she did it. They put on a puppet show and did a craft with the Brownies today. The Brownies really liked the puppet show and I think the craft, too. They definitely found the puppet show funny. (Of course, it was on a serious topic of what is a good way to solve an argument with a friend, but hey, they are 8 and 9. The Cadettes did do some funny ad libbing.)

We're hoping to move the Cadettes away from the Brownies and Daisies to another part of the building. We think the Cadettes would really benefit from a more quiet space without the distractions of the younger girls and the brothers who hang out there. I'm not getting my hopes up, but the option that is being explored right now would be a TERRIFIC solution. Fingers, toes and eyes all crossed.

By the way, no one called me on the odd title of my last post. I meant to go back and write a title once I wrote the post but forgot to. I decided to leave it after I'd published and realized it. Gives it character.

One more note - it was snowing here today. Some stuck to the ground for a while. It is all gone now. This is early for our first snow.

Time to enjoy my free time...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

name to be determined

Today it was cold and rainy. The good thing was, Violet and I had no where we had to go. No where. No where at all. We thoroughly enjoyed staying at home. Where do these people get the idea that homeschoolers stay at home all the time and don't see anyone? We're never home. None of us. And just try to schedule 2 or more families to get together. Good luck!

Anyway, we were home today. We did some school work. I pulled Story of Science, volume 2 back out. We read the first half last year and are going to finish it this year. Violet hasn't been too thrilled with it, she finds it boring. And I have to agree with her that volume 1 was a snooze-fest. It isn't Joy Hakim's fault, we just couldn't get into the ancient science. But today's chapter caught more of Violet's attention and I hope the rest of the volume will too. We'll start volume 3 next year.

I've changed my homeschool approach slightly. Instead of throwing every subject I can find at her at once, we are only doing a few: Key to Algebra, History of US, Editor in Chief, reading, Microscope study by Kim Wright, and Story of Science. I think this approach is working well. We'll do history, reading and algebra all year, but as we finish things, we'll add other things. We've been going in so many directions lately, it is hard to concentrate on even this much. But it is definitely the right way for right now. I'm hoping this winter we might have fewer activities and can add a few more subjects or workbooks.

Tomorrow we're going to open swim, and meeting up with Violet's best friend. After swimming she's coming back to our house for the afternoon and dinner. So not much time for formal school tomorrow.

I've been working on the Juliette plans today. Monday we're having our Juliette Low birthday party. We're going to decorate cupcakes and work on the Eco-Action badges (Junior and Cadette). The Cadettes made a mad lib for the Juniors to do, all about the life of Juliette Low. That should be fun. This Friday we're going on a tour of a local recycling facility, also for Eco-Action. I'm glad to be getting going with "our" group finally.

It has gotten difficult with getting involved with the park district group as well as "our" Juliette group. Trying to come up with 2 different programs (even in my limited capacity for the park district) for different levels is too much. If I hadn't already committed to "our" group this year, I'd definitely put them on hiatus. But I'm committed, and trying not to need to be "committed." The families in "our" group don't want to join the park district. We'll see how the park district group plays out the rest of the year. But next year I will only do one or the other. It will be hard to choose, I like them both and both are great for Violet. But too much is too much. And if I do too much it will all suffer and not be any fun for anyone. I'll make tough decisions that not everyone will be happy with if I have to. But first I want to see what changes come in the spring.

Violet and I just finished Anne of Green Gables. We both really enjoyed it. We're going to start the second Anne book next. But I am making her wait until Friday. We're discussing Anne in Classic Moms on Thursday. I'm frantically trying to read through it again so the early part is fresher in my mind. Did you know there is a real Green Gables in Canada? It is a national park. I'd love to go.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thoughts and Ramblings

Here I go again, about to promise to write more. I know, you've heard it all before. You didn't believe me then, you don't believe me now. I got inspired yet again during Classic Moms class this week. I am actually working on a post that is an essay about a book I recently read. My classmates were right, if you don't have someone to discuss a book with, write about it! I'm trying.

Speaking of trying, I'm going to whine for a minute. It is so hard to work, homeschool, volunteer for GS, run the house and help hubby with his new business. I am really tired all the time. Today we went to a school day theater performance: loud show, theater full of kids, great performance by the way, and I was nodding off during it! Sigh. I had to make Violet wait to help her with her math this afternoon because I had a big deadline today and I didn't think I'd get through it - I did, but right at the close of the business day. I just want some time to myself once in a while.

Okay, done with that whine, next stop wine. I'm usually a red drinker, but lately I've been branching out into white.

But first. For all of you who've been jealous of our Juliette groups we have around here, it isn't all roses. I don't want to say much, but too many moms involved and it doesn't work well, not enough moms involved and you do all the work yourself. I have managed to get myself into both situations as the same time. Violet loves both groups. They are both really good for her. The other moms are great, we just all have too many ideas for the available time - now that I think about it, that is a good problem. And I like doing the work to help keep them going. But some days it can be frustrating.

I seem to detect a pattern in my ramblings.

Tomorrow we're going to meet with the insurance agent. We think we can lower our health insurance rates. That would be awesome. His office is back in our old college town. We love to go back. I'd like to take a walk by the lagoon and go to lunch at our favorite Mexican restaurant. Not sure how quickly Mr. I. has to get back home though. I'm not working tomorrow. Woo hoo!

Here's some good news: I just realized this week that I have 12 vacation days I have to use by the end of the year! I miscalculated how much time I get. And with my promotion over the summer, I got more days. Nice problem to have, huh? I'm taking the week of Thanksgiving off. And the week before Christmas. And some random days. Maybe that will help me with my dozing off problems!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Back home from Disney World

We got back home Tuesday night. Mr. Incredible had come down with a nasty cold and a fever, so I drove the last leg home. I did pretty good too. Until I accidentally pulled off at a rest area that I didn't mean to. It was raining and dark and we were in construction and I got confused about which way the barriers were going. "Ooops, I didn't mean to do that!" apparently isn't something you want to hear from your driver. But since no one needed the facilities, I merged back onto to the interstate and we kept going.

Really, those cones they set up aren't always clear as to where the road is and isn't.

When we got home I backed into the drive way to unpack easier. I refused to pull all the way into the garage because I had a giant Mickey head balloon blocking my view. I figured after all that driving, my crashing into the side of the garage would be the one thing that would be remembered for years to come. The car stayed in the driveway overnight.

My food poisoning episode is completely over. By the time I was driving home I only had some lingering heart burn. But, man oh man, was I knocked out. I lost nearly 10 pounds! I always take Violet on the teacups when we go to Disney World, but couldn't this time. I told her it'd be like a blender with the lid off. Blech. I owe her a spin.

The first part of the trip was great! We had a great time. Rode lots of rides. Enjoyed ourselves. Swam in the pool. Soaked in the hot tub. On Sunday I was still rather ill, but pulled myself together to go to Epcot. We had tickets for a culinary demonstration by Elizabeth Faulkner, the chef/owner of Citizen Cake in San Francisco. She is so awesome! I bought her cookbook for her to sign afterward. She was really nice and posed with us (I made sure not to breathe on her, although I was quite certain I wasn't contagious). And she signed Violet's autograph book. She's competing on The Next Iron Chef starting Sunday on The Food Network. We'll be tuned in rooting for her.

After I had her sign my cookbook, I went back to the room and wrote my whining post about being better but still sick. I was miserable. I wanted so much to stay out and have fun and I just couldn't do it.

Since we've been back we've been unpacking, digging out, catching up and resting. I'm already trying to figure out when we can go back to Disney for a "do over".

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Feeling better today

But still moving very slowly. Did make it out for a while, but came back to the room early. And I've been able to eat since I got back in. We check out tomorrow and head home. Woo hoo. Not what we'd planned.

It could have been worse. I could have been sicker (although it didn't feel like it yesterday). The others could have been sick too (they didn't get sick, I think it was definitely food poisoning). Or we could have had non-refundable tickets to something, but we didn't.

Thanks for the hugs and good wishes. I had to whine for a while and knew right where to come for sympathy. :)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This sucks

I'm on vacation and I'm sick as a dog. Couldn't leave the hotel room all day. Stomach won't let me get far from the bathroom (sorry if that is TMI - but I figure we're all moms here anyway). I really want it to be over by morning. Mr. I and Violet are out having fun. That definitely beats them sitting here watching me go back and forth to the potty. I think I ate something that didn't agree with me. Or maybe it was the water from the water fountains. Always drink bottled water. I messed up on traveler's rule number one.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Random Updates

Well, today I turned halfway to 90. Not sure if that is my goal. A co-worker pointed it out to me today. I think maybe I am a quarter of the way to 180. That seems like a better goal. Why stop at 90? I may just be getting started!

The magazine e-mails went out today. Thanks again to everyone who let me e-mail them. Snail mails come out in January. Please don't feel the least obligated to buy a thing, you have already helped out. Violet will get all her patches (I hate how they make it into 6 different ones that fit together - such a scam) and the stuffed fox she was aiming for. I looked at the list of e-mails today - almost all blogging buddies! You guys really are the best!

It looks like I'll be getting involved in Violet's new Juliette group after all. I kept watching the Cadette mom and she just looked so exhausted. I got the okay from Violet and asked the mom if she needed help with the group. Without hesitating she said "YES" emphatically. She said she started out gung-ho and is quickly getting overwhelmed with the Journey they are trying to get through. So I suggested some things I might be a good fit for and told her to assign me anything she wanted. I'm game to help with whatever. She's thinking about what she'd like help with.

I didn't want to get involved initially, it is a weekly meeting which is a lot of time. But on the other hand, I really don't want this group to go away because the mom gets burned out and throws in the towel. It is a co-op class which generally means everyone helps out. We aren't required to help out in this particular group, but it is widely appreciated.

Violet loves the group. And now that she's established in it, she is more comfortable with me getting involved. And after having lived with me for 12 years, she understands mom burn out. (I think she is too young to remember Black April, the year I sat and cried for 3 days straight. That was burn out. I get it. Believe me I do.)

So I'm excited, I love Girl Scout programming and can't wait to get started. Remind me of that in a few months when I'm crying "why oh why can't I ever learn!" LOL

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Some friends of ours are opening up an Italian restaurant. They are homeschoolers, we've known them for years. Their kids are friends of Violet. Mr. Incredible was hired to do their point of sale system and website. Tonight we got to go to the restaurant for a preview. They had a tasting menu put together for us, and man oh man was it good. I'm stuffed. Poor Violet got so full she couldn't eat any more and was blinking back tears. They gave us two appetizers, salads, bread, minestrone soup (the best I've ever had, and I thought mine was good), lasagna, pizza and cannoli.

They made a special lasagna with marinara sauce for Mr. Incredible, who doesn't eat red meat. Violet and I liked it better than the regular lasagna and let them know. We're hoping they add it to the menu.

We can't wait to go back (but maybe order a bit less than what they brought us)! What a fun night though. We've never been special guests at a restaurant preopening before!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Things that are irritating me today

Yeah, probably not what you want to read about. I'm sure you have your own blog's worth of irritating things.

Today we went to a school day performance of The Jungle Book by CYT (Christian Youth Theater). It was at a venue we hadn't been to before, our local high school. I couldn't find any information on parking at CYT's website. So I looked on our high school's site. Nada. I called the high school. They told me what door to go in (helpful) and that the door was located in the back (also helpful), but couldn't tell me where to park. The lady I talked to said she was sure it was marked, but that she hadn't been in the back of the school and didn't know where the designated parking was (not so helpful).

So we drove to the high school today, to the back, found door 24, but couldn't find any designated parking. Or any visitor parking. Everything was parked student permit parking only. Finally we found a spot in the back marked "day or week parking" or something to that effect. It had no number in the space, where as all the permit spaces did. We parked, went in, found the theater, finally found our seats, and settled in.

I was talking to a mom in front of me, we hadn't met before, and she said she couldn't figure out where she was supposed to park. Several others agreed. Oh well, right? Well, it would have been except one of the CYT ushers, moments before the house lights went down and the performance started, asked us all where we were parked. She said if we were in a student's space and they found the car blocking it, they would probably get really mad and key the car. Good to know, would have been better to know before we arrived or at least when we arrived, not when there wasn't time to move the cars. And even more irritating, she wasn't sure where the safe spots were. She said vaguely by the tennis courts and gestured West. Lights down, show starts, we're all left wondering what the fine upstanding youth of our town were going to do to our cars.

Side note, and these are children who are supposed to be "socializing" our children? Yeah, right. Social skills are in wonderful evidence by that story, aren't they?

Well, Violet and I had found a fine space. It turns out it was near the tennis courts. I haven't heard if any of the other homeschool mom's discovered the wrath of the teenage beast.

I sent e-mails to both the high school and CYT asking them to please post on their websites clear directions for where to enter and park when going to performances there during school hours. I doubt I'll hear anything.

The other irritating thing. I went to the doctor on Monday for my annual check up and she wrote another prescription for me for a Seasonale generic, the most wonderful pills ever. And before I knew it she faxed it to the mail order pharmacy. Which I can no longer use because my new insurance doesn't do mail order. Which I haven't used for 2 years.

She was trying to be nice, but it would have been helpful if she would have confirmed where I wanted the prescription faxed, if anywhere. She gave me the paper prescription and said I could get it filled where ever. I haven't gone in yet, because the pills aren't cheap without insurance prescription coverage (which I don't have) and I don't need the refill yet. But today I had 2 voice mail messages from the mail order pharmacy saying to call them because they can't fill my prescription. Well no, you can't because I don't have the proper insurance to use them. Like I told the doctor.

Called the pharmacy tonight, explained the mix up and that it was my doctor's fault and it happened before I realized it. The nice man said he'd inform the pharmacy department and they'd mail out the prescription to me. Probably within 72 hours. Good thing I'm not in a hurry to fill the prescription. I have no idea if the paper script I have would work in any walk in pharmacy or not with another pharmacy trying to fill it. At the moment it is irritating. I will allow extra time to refill the prescription when I'm ready, just in case there are delay due to this. But still. I'm stuck dealing with it.

So, what's irritating you tonight?

A pleasant p.s. for you. As we were driving out of the high school today, Violet said to me, "I can understand why the students would be mad if someone else had parked in the spot they paid for. But damaging the cars is just wrong." I think she's had some wonderful socialization.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Week 2 in review

This was only our second week of full homeschooling and we barely made a dent in our things to do list. We had a lot of activities outside the house (orthodontist appt, doctor appt, book club, open swim, Girl Scouts, apple picking). I was still hoping to get more done. Then on Thursday I was sick. I had some kind of stomach thing. I didn't think I was going to be able to drive Violet to Girl Scouts. I felt better after laying on the couch and made it. But it wiped Thursday and Friday off for studies.

So we planned to do some make up on Saturday. Great plan! Mr. Incredible usually keeps himself busy, no problem. Except Violet woke up with a sore throat. I knew she didn't feel good when she wasn't her usual preteen grumpy self in the morning. Today she has a full-blown cold. We're reading Anne of Green Gables out loud, if she's up to it later I'll read her some. Otherwise, I think we have to scrap this week and start over next.

We did have some good accomplishments before the ickies invaded. We figured out that the new printer table is the perfect height for the microscope. When we set the microscope up on the dining room table it is too high for Violet to comfortably look in it. So we move the printer for a microscope table when we need it.

We also decided that she'd prefer to just practice typing than doing any more of the Mavis Beacon lessons. In the typing program we have there is practice typing from many, many great books. Violet is typing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

We also instituted a chore chart. She got a raise in her allowance for the promise of helping more with housework. That worked okay, except she'd saved her once a week things until the end of the week when... she was sick. I swear she is just like her father! He manages to get out of things all the time too. Me, they just pile up and I have to do them anyway.

So we'll start fresh tomorrow. We have lots of outside activities again. This week is my annual gyne exam, another book club, more Girl Scouts, open swim with a friend, and we have tickets to the Jungle Book. We just need to feel better. I'm hoping we just got the winter ickies over with early.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I want an alpaca!

We went to two alpaca farms today. My mom, my dad, Mr. Incredible, Violet and I. All 5 of us left wanting to be alpaca farmers. They are so cute! They are soft, and mild mannered and gentle. Mr. I would like one to mow the backyard. My dad liked that benefit too. Mom and I let the alpacas at the first farm eat from our hands (I think they had Purina Alpaca Chow). Violet preferred to just pet them.

At the second farm my mom bought alpaca wool socks for me, Violet and herself. Violet is wearing hers as I type.

It was definitely a good afternoon. When we got home, Violet asked me to e-mail the Cadette Mom from her GS group to see if she could bring her socks to show the girls and tell them about the farms. A huge step for her! (I'll wash her socks before she takes them.)

So if you are looking for just the perfect Christmas gift for me, an alpaca would fit the bill. I wonder what our Village Board would say about it? I don't think alpacas are addressed in the Village ordinances.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

School: Week 1

This was our first full week of 7th grade and I think it went well. It was certainly a success academically. The subjects we started on were a good mix of fun and challenging. A few things are outside of her comfort zone, which is good. One in particular is You Decide! by The Thinking Company. But she was game and we read through the first lesson together and she actually expressed an opinion. I was pleased.

Violet was definitely willing and eager to do school work. She was ready before I was most days. I think we need to work towards more subjects being independent. I've been struggling to keep up with work, the house, family, and now school. I don't know how I'll make it through the semester.

Her Girl Scout group is still going okay. The Journey they are working on is also outside her comfort zone. I've told her she should stick with them, once they get through this, the next things they tackle will have to be easier. We decided to lead a service project with the group. I checked with the group leaders to make sure it fit with their vision and goals for the group. I didn't want to jump in mid-stream and find out it wasn't their cup of tea. We're collecting used blankets and towels for the greyhound rescue. I'm hoping that will also give Violet a better sense of belonging with the group.

Today I have dinner with my ladies' group from work. Tomorrow we are going to an alpaca open house. It is National Alpaca Farm Days, and we've found 2 farms near us with open houses. My folks are going with us. It was my mom's idea and she was really happy when we all said we'd like to go.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's That Time of Year Again

Yes, it is almost here, the Girl Scout fall product sale. The time of year I ask my dear readers to lend me your e-mail address and/or snail mail address so that Violet can earn the stupid patch for soliciting magazine sales both online and via the mail. Several of you have allowed me to use your addresses for several years, and unless I hear differently, I'll go ahead and do it again this year (you know who you are).

If you are new and wouldn't mind getting an e-mail and/or mail advertisement for magazines from us, I'd love it if you'd e-mail and let me know where to send it (janetp1 @ You are under absolutely no obligation to make a purchase. She needs 12 e-mail addresses for one patch, and 11 snail mail addresses for the other. Simply providing your e-mail or snail mail address helps Violet out. You should not be added to any mailing lists, just the one ad from QSP.

E-mails go out on October 14th. The snail-mailing is done in January, I think.

Thanks for considering it. I really appreciate the support!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Home again, home again

And home for a while now. No more long work trips until next May! Hooray!! I love going on the trips, but it puts a strain on life at home. Mr. I and Violet are good about it all, but it is just so much more routine to be here.

The trip was good. Definitely less stressful than the last one. It really helped that there were so many of us from the office there. And lots of others that we know.

Most nights I slept pretty good. I never used to be able to sleep well on the road, but I must be getting used to it. The worst night was the night before I had to speak. Of course! I woke up several times during the night. The worst was at 5:30 in the morning. I heard sirens outside. Then the thermostat in my room started to make a hissing noise. Only I didn't know it was the thermostat at first, I had to turn on the light and figure it out. THEN I started thinking it must be hissing because the hotel must be on fire and that's what the sirens were. I was mentally laying out my shoes, coat and purse to take with me when the fire alarms would go off any second. I finally figured out that by changing the heat/cool setting on the thermostat the hissing would stop. Still no fire alarms, so I went back to bed, but didn't sleep for a while.

Turns out that the thermostats frequently hiss. It is a really old hotel and it shows. But no evacuation. No fire. And the conference went on. But I continued to hear a lot of sirens on the stay. What on earth do they do in downtown Peoria all night long?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What a difference 350 miles makes

That is how much less I'll be traveling this week, versus my last trip for work. About half the distance. Same amount of time gone. Yet, this trip feels like it will be so much shorter and easier.

First, I'm not leaving the state. And I'll be traveling to a city, hotel and conference center I've been to several times before. Last time I had to go to Michigan, to a city I'd never been to. This time I know right where I'm going. I know how to find the parking garage. I know where the conference center is and what the layout will be. I know where my room will be (at least where the elevator is that will take me to it) and where to find food, coffee, all the essentials.

I'll be just as busy at the conference this time, but will have far less pressure on me. Last time my boss had to cancel at the last minute due to a death in her family. I spent the weekend before making phone calls and rearranging schedules to get someone to come with me. Granted that someone was WONDERFUL and I couldn't have done it without her, but I was the senior on the trip because I'd been to this conference before and knew the people. My substitute, who outranks me in the firm, was a newbie in this situation and looking to me for details on protocol, etc.

This time I share one speaking 90-minute session with someone who really knows our material. He's been speaking on it all summer long. I realized yesterday I haven't spoken on this material in probably 4 years. I've gotten up to speed, and except for a few small details I want to go over with him, feel confident about my part. And I know he can cover for me if I can't answer a question. Last time I was speaking for 4 hours and was the lead since my wonderful substitute wasn't as familiar with all of our topics. (But she did a fantastic job, better than I could have done on my own - thank goodness she came with me. Are you sensing a pattern? I'm really glad she was with.)

This time I'm attending more educational sessions, acting as room monitor for more as well. There will be more time in the trade show booth. But there's just none of that pressure of the Michigan trip.

So bon voyage for a few days. I look forward to getting caught up with you after my short trip.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A blog award

Mel at Night Owl Mom just awarded me the Liebster Blog Award. Liebster is a German word which means favorite or beloved. The recipient of this award should link back to the one who gave it to her and pass it along to 5 bloggers who have less than 200 followers. Here are some of my favorite bloggers who definitely deserve this award:

Mother Mayhem, three words "I miss you." And a few more, we've got to chat more! (Hugs)

Fatcat at Home*School*Home always inspires me with their plans and schedules. And provides great resource tips. Just when I think I know about every homeschool resource out there, she posts another great one!

Mom #1 at Two Moms' Homeschool makes me laugh and makes me cry, sometimes in the same post. But mostly I love hearing their family adventures which now include college.

Ami.Mental, if you've read her blog, then you know. With Mental you get honesty, craziness and warmth all in one.

Gail of Tales of Homeschool. Another great place for ideas and inspiration on all things homeschool and extracurricular! If we could transport your girls in, I would so love to add you guys to our Juliette groups!

Thanks Mel for finding my blog a favorite or beloved. And thanks to all the mom-bloggers I read for sharing and letting us into your lives. When I fall behind on my blog reading I find myself wondering what happened next. How is Sweetums? Which kid has caused Mental to turn blue trying not to laugh at their fart joke in front of them. And all the other crazy, quirky, fun things that go on daily in the lives of homeschoolers (retired or active - you never really leave the world of homeschooling once you are in it).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Cautiously Optimistic

Violet went to her first meeting of the new Juliette group yesterday. She seemed to have enjoyed it. Mr. I was a little worried when he picked her up and she was just sitting there with the other girls, but not talking or eating her snack. But she did tell me several things they did, and things she said during the discussions. She said she likes the other girls and the Cadette mom is really nice. She had an assignment, which luckily she remembered to tell me about today before I left on my trip, and she did it (she needed to find a picture of something she wants to be when she grows up, a children's librarian in her case).

She took her sash with and said she did show it to the other girls (none of them wear them at most meetings per the moms who run it - typical of most troops too). And she wants to keep taking her sash with her.

So I am cautiously optimistic that this will work out for her. Those of you who've known us a long time will know that she's very quiet, shy and prone to being overly sensitive. Those qualities don't really lend themselves to big group activities with kids, so we've avoided them. (Or tried them to have them fail miserably.) She's been showing more and more signs of maturity and it would be so nice for her to come more out of her shell. So far so good.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Slow motion and fast forward

I feel like my life is going in both slow motion and fast forward at the same time. Slow motion because I can't get anything done. I start on things and never get back to them to finish. And fast forward because time is just flying by.

I'm two-thirds of the way through Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, I'm confident I'll finish in time for class. I renewed Drowned Hopes, a Dortmunder novel by Donald Westlake because I couldn't finish it in time. (Haven't read Dortmunder? I highly recommend it. He's a criminal. He and his gang try to carry out capers. Comedy ensues.) And I'd really like to get back to reading Roast Beef, Medium by Edna Ferber. Maybe I wouldn't be in such slow motion if I didn't read more than one book at a time. Hmmm.

I want to get Juliettes underway. But I just have so few free dates coming up that I want to offer up to the other families. In fact, tonight I just admitted potential defeat and asked if we could postpone the planned Juliette Low birthday party. I had it scheduled for 2 days after we return from vacation in October. That's just too quick. I know I won't be ready. Juliettes is in slow motion too.

Fast forward to work. There's so much to be done, and the time flies by. I'm going to a conference next week, but only have one presentation to make. Yay!! And double yay, my co-speaker told me today that he's been speaking on our topic so much the last couple of weeks that he's comfortable with any part of the handout. I need to look at it tomorrow to see if there is a half I'd rather do. That's pressure off.

Did I tell you about the second group of Girl Scouts Violet is joining? A couple of moms from our local unschooling group also run a co-op through a local park district. They started up a Juliette group. Kinda like what I do, but on a bigger scale. I have 3 other families involved and we meet haphazardly, about twice a month if I ever get going. This year they will have 18 girls (Daisies, Brownies and Cadettes) and meet weekly. Shhh, don't tell council, they'd probably try to make them into a troop and from what I've seen, this group works just fine they way they are, thank you very much.

We found out there would be other Cadettes this year (they are all a year younger than Violet and were Juniors last year), and Violet said yes, she'd like to join them for a while. Our main goal is for her to meet other girls. And homeschooled Girl Scouts sure seems like a good place to look for potential friends. They start this week. One mom is taking over the Cadettes, and guess what? It isn't me!!! I think that's what Violet likes best about this group, I'm not involved.

In fact, I can't even take her to the first 3 meetings, due to work commitments. Mr. I will handle her transportation needs. They are tackling the journey, AMaze. I wouldn't have picked that one myself, but I'm not doing it. It is about stereotypes, and bullies, and cliques. Things that will be good for Violet to know how to deal with, but that she hasn't run into much. There's been discussion among the Cadette moms about where the girls all are with the subject and I think it will be kept low key.

The sessions run for 6 weeks at a time. I've told Violet it is 100% up to her if she stays in it or not. And for once, it really is. The weekly meetings are more than I typically like, but if she hits it off with the group - we'll make it work. If she decides it isn't for her, no biggie. We'll look for something else for her.

I'm crossing my fingers it works out for her. Violet would really like to be among other girls more often than she is now. And at the fast forward pace of weekly, she sure will have more time with girls!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The problem with homeschooling

We're starting out 8th year of homeschooling and I finally found one problem with it. Since we weren't going back to school, we didn't buy back-to-school clothes, which is when families buy fall/winter clothes. The temperature dropped 20 degrees in the last 2 days and left Violet with no long pants that fit her. I suppose you could argue that wasn't homeschooling's fault, it was parental error, but I don't. :)

So off we went to Wally World today. We found her 3 pairs of jeans and one pair of denim capris. Hopefully that will tide her over for a bit. I was relieved that girl's size 16 jeans fit her. I am dreading the switch to junior's for jeans. The price, the styles, trying to find ones that are long enough but still skinny enough, it all scares me. For now, I've avoided it.

Although it was technically a holiday today, we did a little school work. We played with the prepared slides we bought at American Science and Surplus yesterday. Violet started her next book club book, "The Shakespeare Stealer." And we started some reading and watched a DVD on the Dewey Decimal system, a requested elective of Violet's. I'm expecting tomorrow to be busy for me with work, so I don't think we'll get much done.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Caught up

In some aspects of life at least. I have finally gotten through all my e-mails and all the posts in my blog reader! I totally enjoy all the blogs I subscribe to, so I really didn't want to skip anything. Most of my e-mails that got backed up were digests from various yahoo groups. I can skip a lot of those. But not the blogs. :)

We made our trip to American Science and Surplus today. We got prepared slides and blanks and covers to make our own. Plus some crafty items. I figured out a few more things to do for Juliettes this year, so I'm happy about that. We found those little metal ball key chains which we'll use for the jewelry badge. And these awesome purple foam boxes that they can decorate for jewelry boxes.

I plan to offer the Juliettes 3 badges, Jewelry (for both Juniors and Cadettes), Eco-Action (again for both) and GS in the USA for Juniors and Women through time for Cadettes. The Juniors will probably just do more than their badges require in order for the Cadettes to complete their badges. (For now we're just using the old badges, I already bought the badges to be sure to get them.)

In addition to the key chains and jewelry boxes, we're going to make Shrinky Dinks, yarn scarves (not actually jewelry, but definitely a cool accessory - I can't describe it well, so I'll post photos later), beaded necklaces, and pins. I'd like to set up a tour of a jewelry store. I have to find one that will have us. I'm hoping one of the other families might have a contact at one.

I need one more good idea for the Eco-Action badge. Anyone have any thoughts? I'm going to have them make solar ovens with pizza boxes and make an art piece from recycled materials. Then I have a bunch of tour possibilities I'm hoping to do at least 2 of: tour a recycle facility, tour an ecologically friendly dry cleaner, and meet with a lady who has a website of environmentally friendly businesses to hear why it is important to choose green businesses. Not exactly by the book requirements, but I feel like we've done the same sort of things over and over.

The Cadettes will be going to a local historical museum and working on their own on the women's history badge. Reading about women in various historical settings or who made a great impact on the world or a profession, and sharing it. The Juniors will do their GS in the USA badge by celebrating the 100th anniversary of GS and all the GS holidays.

Well, this has been a rambling post, but I think it all came together. I'm finally caught up in my plans for Juliettes. I have to set dates and arrange tours, but I have all year to do it. We have the historical museum trip set up and the Juliette Low birthday party date set. I think the rest of it will fall together. I'm just glad to have the basic plan finally in shape!