Saturday, November 15, 2008

With a Vengeance!

I have not forgotten you!

The theatre season has started with a vengeance and it has been terribly difficult to post here.
I barely had a day off in October and here is November half gone already. The Ballet's first program was a nice treat and the Opera kicks off this evening with La Traviata. The good thing is that the bank account is recovering nicely from the off-season, but I do miss having the time to post here. I promise to keep up as much as possible.

The kids are driving us a bit crazy. They suffer somewhat when we work too much, even though their grandparents hang out to keep an eye on them. Report cards were not so good and the constant bickering is just too much. We just keep plugging as any parent can.

I would have liked to post some pictures, just to keep things going, but of course my camera died just when we got busy. I did manage to pick up a nice Pentax at a great price from Woot.com. So I will leave you with this little tidbit:


That's my view of things!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Is Anyone Else Pushing Daisies?

I love this show. It is wonderfully campy and sweet.

Ned the pie maker (Lee Pace) has a gift. If he touches the dead, they come back to life. If he touches them again, they are dead for good. If he keeps them alive for more than a minute something else has to die in their place. He and his partner private investigator Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) have a business where Ned touches the recently deceased, asks them who killed them, then they solve the case. Add to this Ned's dead - but no longer dead - girlfriend Chuck (Anna Friel), who he can't touch or she will be dead again, a lovelorn waitress, a couple of maiden aunts, and a poetic narrator and you have a wonderfully silly murder mystery.

After being nominated for 12 Emmy Awards in its somewhat brief first season, I was afraid it might not be able to keep up with its great beginning. I am being pleasantly surprised! Pushing Daisies' alternate universe is wacky, its stories are fresh and unique, and the whole thing is a lot of fun.

ABC's website has full episodes, recaps, "audio piecasts" and more where you can delve into Ned and Chuck's strange little world.

I think they have a winner!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Where is the Rest of My Pepsi?

I went shopping yesterday as I usually do. Coupons and lists in hand I attacked the aisles hunting down the elusive deals, seeking out the "buy 1 get 1 free" items, trying to find some type of protein that I could afford with which to fill up my bottomless pit teenager tummies. And then on to some goodies.

For years we have been addicted to Diet Pepsi. OK, first it was regular Pepsi, but the expanding waistlines demanded diet. Seven 2 liters a week was good for us, but as prices started to rise over the $1 per bottle mark we sometimes switched to Coke Zero if they were on sale. As prices hit $1.50 and 12 packs were on sale for less per ounce we switched to cans. Now those 2 liter bottles are $1.79, so off I headed to the 12 packs. The shelf tag said $3.39. Not the best price, but I could live with it. Until I looked closer. These were not 12 packs! These were 8 packs! Every Pepsi product on the shelf was an 8 pack. What had they done with my other 4 cans?

So I searched out some information. In this article in the St. Petersburg Times online, I found the truth. Supposedly it is a test in Florida markets. They think that people would prefer 8 packs because their "entry point price" is cheaper. Next up, they think that we want 1.5 liter bottles, 12 ounce bottles and 16 ounce cans. Um.... NO.

I want all my cans and I don't want Pepsi to try and sneak a smaller package on me (that looks the same, by the way). I've already seen that with Breyer's and Edy's ice cream. I switched to store brand on that one. Of course the store sodas are lousy and Coke wasn't on sale. So this week we are drinking tea and lemonade. By the end of the week I will be dying of caffeine deprivation.

Sources say that Coke is looking into this little marketing ploy as well. All that I can say is DON'T DO IT! It is water, sugar or "sweetener" and caffeine. It is already overpriced. I mean how much can that cost anyway.

So Pepsi, give me back my cans. I can understand a price hike now and then, but don't try and fool me. I can count.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Do You Need Good News?

The news today can be very bleak. With politics, the economy, war, crime, etc., etc. it is easy to get bogged down in a negative mind set that NOTHING good is going on in the world. So where do you go to get a more balanced view?

In 1997 Geri Weis-Corbley began the Good News Network. Its mission "is to provide a "Daily Dose of News to Enthuse." The Good News Network is a clearinghouse for the gathering and dissemination of positive news stories from around the globe. Daily stories will confirm what we already believe — that good news itself is not in short supply; the advertising of it is."

Good news is good for you. It can help alleviate depression, It helps inspire success, happiness and peace. It can influence your health for the better by lessening stress.

The Good News Network works towards this by "expressing a philosophy. We believe in striving for cooperation, sustainability, generosity, and unity — and trying in our lives to love. We will share analysis of current affairs and public opinion that reflect this philosophy of optimism, because many, including well-known columnists, are optimistic.

We do not want to polarize with debate but unify upon common ground."

They don't push any political or religious views. They don't preach about what YOU should be doing. They just report the good news that is out there; a lot of the news the the main stream media won't publish because they don't think good news sells.

So if you want good news on business, civics, earth, family life, health, inspiration and recreation, visit the Good News Network. You can also sign up for their forums, newsletter and RSS feed.

A little good news never hurt anybody.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

It's October!

Goodness, how far behind can someone get?

It's October. Not only that, it is a week into October. How did that happen?

October is my favorite month I think. The weather starts to turn just a little crisper. I hear that in some places the leaves change color! (OK, everywhere but here.) Pumpkins, lovingly carved into jack-o-lanterns. Halloween! I love Halloween. Wouldn't it be great if you could dress up every day and people would give you candy?

We will have to send the kids up to the attic soon and get all the decorations down. We try to overdo it as much as possible!

Like this guy:
He's a lot of fun. And then there's Bob:

I guess you can't keep a good man down!

I was looking back a bit. The kids have outgrown trick or treating. Girlygirl would rather hang out with friends. Rock Star likes to help decorate and see the neighbor kids' reactions. But I remember how fun it was when they were little and I guess I'm having little pangs that they are growing up.
Just a little while ago they looked like this:

I kind of miss it.

Friday, October 03, 2008

How Not to Win Customers

After working a long hard day outside in 90 degree weather, we decided to try a brand new bar and grill for dinner. We pulled in to the parking lot and had to "make" a space for ourselves because the lot was full. We thought this was a good sign. We walked in and the decor was lovely. Lots of polished wood, beautiful tile floor, classy nautical theme. The bar and about half the tables were full, but we found a nice place to sit. Someone brought us our menus and told us our waiter would be there shortly. We perused the menu and liked what we saw. It is mostly a seafood place but had chicken and salads as well. The prices were terrific and there was even a note on the menu that "the price you see is the price you pay". They don't add sales tax, they pay it themselves. "Cool," we thought.

The waiter came and took our drink order. There was nice music coming from a DJ booth in the back. A couple of girls got up to dance. The chef came over and glad-handed a bit and asked if we had been helped. It was a really nice vibe.

Twenty minutes later, when we still hadn't received our drinks or had our food order taken, we walked out. On the way out, we told the chef why we were leaving and he got a kind of shocked look on his face. It was a shame. We don't have many nice places to get a decent bite at around here and we REALLY wanted to like the place. I hope they get the message. No matter how wonderful a place is, bad service will kill your business every time.

So now we are home waiting on pizza. Whoopie.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). Since the program began in 1985, mammography rates have more than doubled for women age 50 and older and breast cancer deaths have declined.

This is exciting progress, but there are still women who do not take advantage of early detection at all and others who do not get screening mammograms and clinical breast exams at regular intervals.

* Women age 65 and older are less likely to get mammograms than younger women, even though breast cancer risk increases with age.
* Hispanic women have fewer mammograms than Caucasian women and African American women.
* Women below poverty level are less likely than women at higher incomes to have had a mammogram within the past two years.
* Mammography use has increased for all groups except American Indians and Alaska Natives.



“If all women age 40 and older took advantage of early detection methods – mammography plus clinical breast exam – breast cancer death rates would drop much further, up to 30 percent.

“The key to mammography screening is that it be done routinely – once is not enough.”


For more information about NBCAM, please visit www.nbcam.org. For additional information, please call one of the following toll-free numbers: American Cancer Society,
(800) 227-2345, National Cancer Institute (NCI), (800) 4-CANCER, Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization, (800) 221-2141.

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month program is dedicated to increasing public knowledge about the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Fifteen national public service organizations, professional associations, and government agencies comprise the Board of Sponsors, who work together to ensure that the NBCAM message is heard by thousands of women and their families.


Take care of the Girls!

Monday, September 29, 2008

My Take on the Bailout

Disclaimer: I do not want this to be a political blog, but the current crisis affects us all and at this point is beyond partisan politics.

Hoo boy!

So Bush's $700 billion bailout plan has failed to pass. I don't know if this is good or bad. That's the whole problem. No one knows if it is good or bad. No one knows if it will fix anything. I do know a few things. I know that Wall Street tanked today. That means my pension is worth peanuts. But I also know that JP Morgan Chase bought out Washington Mutual and Citicorp bought out Wachovia. That means I still have a bank account. I know that I have seen other things rushed through congress that weren't particularly good ideas, that with a little more thought might have turned out better.

I see a lot of people on message boards freaking out that we will all be standing in bread lines if this doesn't pass.
I see a lot of others angry that we are bailing out the rich with nothing helping the little guy.
I see a lot of little guys wondering why they should give a rat's patooty if all their neighbors lose their homes, cars, retirement funds, because they don't have any investments so they have nothing to lose.

I repeat. Hoo boy!

I'm no economist, except for trying to run my own household, which has held up fairly well so far. But I do have an opinion on this. I think it was right to fail today. Wall Street is waiting to see what goodies they are going to get. They don't want to sell out for 20% if they think the government will give them 80%. But they need to face this on their own for awhile, not just be handed free money. The worst of these banks NEED to go bankrupt and be bought out by solvent banks with better lending practices. We need to return to regulations that were put in place after the Great Depression to prevent this kind of mess. If we just hand them the cash, nothing will change and in a few months it will all go down the toilet again.

As I type, Europe is bailing out some of their own banks. As I already mentioned, solvent banks are buying out bad banks in this country. We need to let that take its course. Then see what is left, see what REALLY NEEDS bailing out, not just who wants to save their butts and their "golden parachutes". Congress needs to go back to the table, clean up the now 110 page bill (it started out at 3 pages) and decide to do what is best for this country. Not what is best for their buddies, not what is best for their personal accounts, not what is best for their reelection bids, but what is best for America. We can't just stop the bleeding, we have to heal the wound.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Next President?

Introducing what could possibly be the next President.... of the Anime Club.

The Anime Club is currently a student sponsored club celebrating all that Japanese cartoon stuff.
They are attempting to be school sponsored so that they can hold fundraisers to attend conventions and such. This involves a lot of planning and paperwork. Part of that is showing what the club intends to do in the future. As all of the current officers are graduating seniors, they need to show that the club could continue to function in their absence. And so my sophomore son Rock Star has been proposed to be Club President next year.

He looks excited, doesn't he?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Sheepishly Peeking at the Interim Reports

Ah, interim reports. Love 'em, hate 'em. The kids usually hide them. I tell you, I have smart kids. They are just incredibly lazy when it comes to homework. Oh, it is hard to admit you are a failure at motivating your children! And I hate to admit it, but they are not entirely truthful when it comes to homework and their grade status. So when Rock Star said he was doing "OK", I had to assume that it meant that he might be passing a class. So when he actually brought home his interim report and SHOWED it to us, I was stunned. There were B's. Lots and lots of B's! Sure, I'd like to see A's, but from a D-F student, B's are good. He gets a cookie.

Girlygirls grades weren't as good, but we know if we light a fire under her she will get it in gear and bring them up. That kid has brought home lots of A's in the past. But she's failing boating. Boating? "It's just an elective." Arrrghhhhh!

The problem with smart kids is that they know just how much they have to do to get by. If they care. If they don't care, they will find plenty of other things to do. But after 10 years of beating my head against a wall, Rock Star seems to finally get it. He's figured out that he wants to get somewhere and if he doesn't work, that's not going to happen. I think he has looked at the economy and realises that working at McDonald's all his life is not going to cut it. Girlygirl is not so tuned in yet. She's still in instant gratification mode. Perhaps if she SEES us give Rock Star a cookie?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Black Friday Already

So I'm getting out of my funk.

There's good news on the Black Friday front. While we may be pinching pennies, those teens will still want SOMETHING that either plugs in or has a battery or two for the holidays. So you might as well try and get it on the cheap.

According to dealnews, electronics are looking good with Ultra Mobile PC's for $199, Blue Ray players for $149 and large screen (42"+) HDTV's starting at $499.
Blackfriday.info says that Ace Hardware listed their ad in August with a GPS at $89.99 and digital picture frames at $59.99. For Dad, there's an 18volt Makita drill kit for $49.99. These are some good deals.

Of course, it's way early yet. And there are tons more to come. How to afford all this even at a discount? Well, I'm saving up some premium points and should be able to pull out $100+ in gift cards, doing some surveys here and there and looking to have a garage sale to get rid of some of the junk really good stuff we have now.

Optimism is good and makes you feel better. But then so does an Amaretto Sour.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I'm in an Economic Funk

I'm afraid I'm in a funk today.

I've been paying too much attention to politics and the economy. It's a good thing to have knowledge, I guess. But it is still depressing. I had to pay some bills today and make a bank deposit. Of course the deposit wasn't bigger than the bills, so more out of our savings. I did the grocery shopping and even with coupons it was $118. I try to keep it under $100 but it is getting harder and harder to do. Thankfully one of our local grocery stores, Publix, has staples at a lower price all the time. Ground beef for $1.97, milk $3.79, bread $.89. It helps. I used to shop Winn Dixie because they had marked down meat on Mondays. But they stopped that about a month ago, so no bargains there.
We don't buy a lot of "stuff". The kids are too old for toys. They have electronics from birthdays and Christmas so we don't spend on those. Clothes are at the beginning of the school year and when they need them. Hubby and I buy clothes when ours fall apart. When we do need clothing, we hit the thrift stores first.

So when you already buy on a "need" instead of a "want" basis, and all you see is everything going downhill, what do you do?

How are you managing in these times? What do you do to be frugal and pinch those pennies?

I have a few websites that I follow:

Thriftyjinxy.blogspot.com
has great tips and coupon codes
Mybargainbuddy.com also has codes.
Hillbillyhousewife.com has frugal ideas for cooking but doesn't seem to be updating the site.
Frugalabundance.wordpress.com is written by the original writer of hillbillyhousewife.com.

Where do you look for ideas?
How do you keep happy about all this? I try to be an optimistic person, but the news just slams you with more each day.
I think I'll wallow in self pity for tonight and make a good start tomorrow.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The 529 Savings Plan

The 529 Savings Plan differs from the Prepaid Plan in several ways.
Again, different state plans have slightly different options. The Savings Plan is essentially an investment account with tax deferment or tax-free if used for educational purposes. Plans invest in mutual funds with a variety of static and age-based options. Like the Prepaid Plan, some states have residency requirements, others do not. The minimum initial deposit can range from $25-$1000. Subsequent contribution minimums are usually $15-$25. These accounts will accept contributions up to a balance of between $200,000-$300,000 depending on the plan. Many of these plans have small enrollment fees, as well as account maintenance and program management fees generally less than 1%. There are also broker sold plans that will have higher fees, but come with the benefit of receiving advice from an experienced financial planner as opposed to doing all the homework yourself.
Some of these programs are also linked to rewards programs such as Upromise that contribute purchase rebates to the account.

These plans are more flexible than the Prepaid plans as you can contribute at will and move your investments around as you like.


Benefits of this type of plan include the following:

1. Federal and state tax breaks.
2. Donor control of the account
3. You can change plans or beneficiaries frequently offering great flexibility.
4. Generally there are no income limitations or age restrictions for the beneficiary.

Drawbacks:

1. Some plans will be considered against financial aid.
2. There are penalties for non-qualified withdrawal.
3. Treated as a gift for gift-tax purposes.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The 529 Prepaid College Plan

So here's the deal:

In 1998, Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service Code created certain types of educational savings plans. These plans are operated by the state or educational institutions to help families set aside money for future educational expenses. Every state in the union currently has at least one type of 529 plan available. The two main types of 529 plan are the Savings Plan and the Prepaid Plan.

I will attempt to explain the 529 Prepaid Plan today.

Prepaid plans allow you to pay all or part of college costs in advance. State sold prepaid plans cover costs for in-state public colleges but can usually be converted if the student wants to attend an out of state or private school. The Independent 529 plan is a separate prepaid plan that can be bought through the Tuition Plan Consortium for participating private schools.

There are several options, depending on the state, for these plans. You can cover tuition, fees, dormitory costs and combinations of the above. You can plan for 1 year or a 2 year college or 4 year college. Generally you enroll directly into the program through the appropriate state agency. Enrollment periods vary. Some, but not all, states have residency requirements for either the purchaser or the beneficiary. Payment plans can include lump sum, 5 year plan, or fixed monthly payments. Costs vary widely depending on the length of the plan, which fees are included and the age of the beneficiary at the time of enrollment.

One of the most important benefits of the prepaid plan is the ability to "lock in" the tuition rate at the time you purchase the plan. Plans have a built in interest rate that is applied to cover the projected cost of college when the beneficiary is of age. If the inflation rate of these costs exceeds the projected cost, your payments stay the same and the actual costs are still covered in full. In my opinion, the peace of mind that comes from knowing you won't have to pony up more than you have budgeted for is priceless.

Other benefits are:

1. Investment growth is tax-deferred. Payments made for the beneficiary's college costs are federally tax-free.
2. Some states have tax benefits as well.
3. Once you enroll, the plan takes care of itself. The plan's assets are controlled by the plan's program manager.
4. The plan is flexible and can usually be transferred to another beneficiary.

Some drawbacks do exist:

1. Some plans can be counted against financial aid.
2. There can be penalties for withdrawing funds from an unused plan.
3. The plan constitutes a gift to the beneficiary as far as gift tax is concerned. However, it qualifies for the $12,000/year exclusion. You can spread this out over 5 years, effectively sheltering up to $60,000 per beneficiary.

As you can see, there are literally hundreds of combinations of variables that can affect the cost and usefulness of these plans. If you have teens and have not started saving for their educations, time is of the essence. When comparing these plans, that needs to be taken into consideration.

There are several websites available that show plan comparisons by state.
Savingforcollege.com is one that can help you with many of the details.

Up next: The 529 Savings Plan

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Plastered but Still Optimistic- the 529 Plan pt. 1

Well here I am covered head to toe in plaster. We had to fix a hole in the ceiling at our rental unit. This, after we had to get a new roof and fix the central air. Somehow my investment property is just not paying off. Of course I can't sell it either because the market is dead here. Great.
On a high note, the day the market turns around I can sell it with a new roof and fabulous central air.

It's a good thing I don't put all my eggs in one basket. I've got teens headed to college, you know. How's one supposed to pay for that? One number: 529. Once upon a time I bought two prepaid tuition plans for my little babies. I was laughed at by some. Why stick all that money in there? You could get more playing the market. (ummm....yeah.) The reason was that in my state the prepaid plan locked you in at the tuition rate when you bought the plan. So for a mere 10 grand a piece, my kids college will be paid for.

I know college costs are on the minds of a lot of parents out there. Even if you haven't started saving for your kids college yet, there are plans that can help. So, I will be offering you some information as the days go on regarding what you can do to lessen the sucking sound in your savings. But first I need to get the plaster out of my hair.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Last Minute-itis

Welcome to Monday!

We have been around all weekend, right?

So why, at 6:30 am Monday morning do we hear:

"I need my syllabus signed."
"Can you copy my project instructions?"
"I need to print my research."
"I need money for class pictures."

Did we not ask on Friday if there was anything we needed to deal with?

I swear sometimes that the second these kids get home from school their brains drain right out their ears. It is the proverbial "They would forget their heads if they weren't stapled to their necks."

It's a good thing that Mom and Dad never have anything urgent that they have to deal with so that they can spend all that last minute time, money and energy on the kiddos.

Is my sarcasm showing?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lest We Forget

Big News About the Littlest Things

At the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, on the outskirts of Geneva, scientists have started the Large Hadron Collider, a huge particle smashing machine meant to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang. Scientist hope to learn more about why particles have mass, dark matter and whether there are hidden dimensions in the universe.
There have been some obstacles to the 27km long, $9 billion dollar machine. Due to the complexity of manufacturing, the start and completion dates were pushed back 2 years and construction costs ended up being 25% higher than the 1996 budget. In March, a lawsuit was filed attempting to stop the experiment until it could be proved that the LHC would be safe. What were they afraid of ? That the LHC would create tiny black holes that would suck us into them and destroy us all. Scientists were more afraid of technical glitches or electronic failure.

But today the LHC came to life. Scientists applauded as they sent particle beams in both directions through the machines chamber. Now the fun begins!

One of the things they wish to accomplish is to prove or disprove the existence of Higgs boson particles. While proposed in 1964 by Scottish scientist Peter Higgs, it has never been observed. It is thought to give mass to matter. Scientists are a funny bunch, though. Dr Aldo Saavedra, a particle physicist at the University of Sydney has been toward this experiment for 10 years. In the scientific community it would define his career. Yet, he'd rather find something else.
"It's not much fun if you actually go and look for something that theories have been predicting for the last 10 years," he said.

Even British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is looking for more of a challenge. He has bet $100 that the LHC will not find the Higgs boson.
"I think it will be much more exciting if we don't find the Higgs. That will show something is wrong, and we need to think again," Professor Hawking said.

Those scientists are wacky that way.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Everybody Sing!

I sang the Lord’s Prayer on Sunday. I sang a few other things too, but specifically the Lord’s Prayer. I hadn’t been to church in awhile. I work a lot of Sundays (and I had a nasty sinus infection for MONTHS so I couldn’t sing anyway), but I had this Sunday off. So I got to sing the Lord’s Prayer.

I like to sing. I’ve been singing since I was 5. I sang in the church choir as a kid. I sang in junior high choir. I sang in college. I sing in the car. I sometimes sing around the house. I sing show tunes. I sing the blues sometimes. I sing “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”. I definitely sang lullabies back in the day. But on Sunday, I sang the Lord’s Prayer.

If you ask Rock Star, he will tell you that I rarely sing. If you ask Girlygirl, she will tell you that I sing ALL THE TIME. (Hubby will say “I don’t know.” He's noncommittal that way.) I’m not sure why the difference.

On Sunday, when we got out of church, Girlygirl commented that when I sang the Lord’s Prayer, I had a “Victoria’s look” on my face.
I told her, “That’s because I know her secret!” ( I like to weird my kids out that way.)
“Huh? Oh. No.”
“Oh, you meant “victorious look”!

I suppose that I may have. See, when I open my mouth, I am really not sure what is going to come out! And I hadn’t sung in awhile, so I wasn’t too sure of myself. But my voice was there. It’s the one true gift I have. I’d forgotten that, because I hadn’t sung in so long. Everything else in my life, I have had to work at. But my voice is a gift. And because he gave it to me, I feel the need to give it back.

“For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory
And my voice,
For as long as you give it to me.
Amen”

It makes me cry sometimes. Like now.

I’m not a devout Christian. I’m quite liberal. I get there when I can. It means a lot to me deeply, though. If you aren’t Christian, that’s perfectly OK with me. You should sing anyway. At the very least in the shower or something.

According to a German study, singing is good for you. It releases endorphins that make you feel good. It makes you exercise your lungs and abdominal muscles. It boosts your immune system and increases your oxygen intake. It’s aerobic!! That’s my kind of exercise!

So sing. Sing when you enjoy it. Sing when it embarrasses your children. Find someone your age and sing songs from the 70’s or the 80’s. You know, from “back in the day”. I’m going to sing something today. I don’t know what yet. Any suggestions?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Zen and the Art of the One Word Conversation

We don't talk much here. Hubby and I can sit around for days without saying more than a few words to each other. It's not that we don't communicate, it's just that we are always so much on the same wavelength that it isn't necessary. Our friends think we're strange, as they have overheard some of our abbreviated conversations. Such as, on break at work:

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"We do have extra tickets."
"Book the hotel for Friday and Saturday."
"Great."

The real gist of this dialogue was to surprise the kids with a weekend trip to Disney over the Thanksgiving holidays last year. It was completely spur of the moment and had nothing to do with anything else that was going on at the time, but WE knew what we were talking about.

This really doesn't bother me at all. In fact, in May, my mother was spending time at our house recovering from knee surgery as we have a more open floor plan than she does. I was stunned at how much she and Dad talk. I mean, all the time! It wore me out. I have learned to relish the peace and quiet of our relationship.

That said, I don't want my kids to get into the popular teen habit of the one word conversation.

"How was school today?"
"Meh." (OK, that doesn't even count as a word, really.)

"What would you like for dinner?"
"Whatever."

"It's your turn to do the dishes."
*eye roll and heavy sigh* (No word there either.)

So I make it a point to have conversations, with them. Girlygirl tends to talk a lot in the car, so I’ll drag her to the store to see what is going on in her life. Rock Star tends to spill his guts in the hot tub. (Not literally, Ewww…). There’s a lot of prattle about Skittles dying her hair blue and not being able to play anything but Halo on the server. But I listen. My hope here is that when there is a real problem in their lives they won’t just tell me “Meh.”

Friday, September 05, 2008

Sunday is Grandparent's Day

In 1970, a West Virginia housewife named Marion McQuaid decided that America should set aside a day to encourage people to visit their elderly relatives. With help from her husband, Joseph, Senator Jennings Randolph (D-WV) and many grassroots supporters, the first Grandparents Day was proclaimed in 1973 in West Virginia by Governor Arch Moore. In 1978, legislation for a National Grandparent's Day was passed by the United States Congress and signed by President Jimmy Carter. It was decided that the holiday would be the first Sunday after Labor Day. September was chosen to signify the "autumn years" of life.

There are three purposes for National Grandparents Day:

1. To honor grandparents.
2. To give grandparents an opportunity to show
love for their children's children.
3. To help children become aware of the strength,
information and guidance older people can offer.

It's a wonderful idea. Children tend to have an innate sense of the value of grandparents. Grandparents tend to dote on the little ones and much love is shared by all. I loved listening to my Nana's stories when I was little. Her experiences of the 1917 flu epidemic, her years picking cotton and running moonshine, being tied to a tree after their house blew away in the 1926 hurricane were all very exciting and special to me. I loved looking at her "flapper" pictures and seeing her as a young girl and woman. She taught me to crochet and made me grilled cheese sandwiches. She passed away when I was 13. I miss her.

As we grow older, I think we tend to grow away from the elderly. We get involved with our own lives and forget the relevance of what they went through in their lives. Our technology passes many of them by and it becomes a chore to keep in touch with people that don't email and text message. We move away and don't call as much as we should. Many of the elderly languish in nursing homes, forgotten by their own family and friends. Grandparents Day reminds us to bridge those gaps and reach out to the elderly and bring them back into our lives.

I think that it is especially important to get our teens involved with their grandparents. Heck, a lot of teens don't even want to be involved with their parents! Grandparents seem so OLD and out of touch. Luckily my children are involved with their grandparents. My parents have always been their babysitters. We go to church together and speak nearly every day. Still, as the kids have gotten older, I see that they kind of write Nana and Grampa off on occasion and would rather be doing their own things.

So this Sunday, we will work on that. We will go to church, then take my parents out to dinner. I will make a point to get my kids involved in conversation and remind them of the value of their grandparents. They really aren't THAT out of touch with the world. Heck, Mom's a computer guru. Maybe she can help Rock Star catch up in that new Web Design class.

What are your plans? For ideas visit the Official National Grandparent's Day home page.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Fighting For the Rock Star's education. Pt. 3

We have a winner!

Having not heard anything about Rock Star's schedule change, I called the school again. I was put on hold for 10 minutes, hung up and called again. They hung up on me. Whoever mans the phones in the guidance office don't seem to be too bright. I called again, bypassing the guidance receptionist, going straight to the main operator and directly to Rock Star's counselor.
She, of course, had never received my message with Rock Star's alternate choices. Go figure. We had a little chat and it turns out that there was suddenly an opening in Web Design 1. She immediately transferred him to the class, stating that it was a bit of a competition between counselors at this point to get kids into the classes they want. She also told me that they were dissolving the reading class altogether so they were going to have to change all the kids' classes anyway. I just managed to get Rock Star taken care of first.

She asked me if there was a way I could contact Rock Star before she could - if I could maybe text him. I told her no as I have disabled text on his phone and he doesn't have it on in school anyway. "Oh," she says, "He's a GOOD kid."
Well, yeah.

Rock Star came home and I asked if he had his schedule change.

"They are canceling the class and sent us all to band."
"No, you have Web Design!"
"Yay!"

So now it is all official. I checked his schedule online and it is now correct. Oh the hoops we have to jump through with the high school bureaucracy! Persistence is key in these battles. But now, all is well.

Oh, and I got a big hug and a DQ Blizzard as a thank you.
I love that kid.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

I Love My Local Wildlife

This is a Little Green Heron. He's trying to hide.


I love these guys:
Grampa is really cute.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Book Review: Octavian Nothing

I read my children's books. In fact, I often read them before they do. Not to censor, quite the opposite: If I find a book to be particularly compelling, I will recommend, cajole, bribe to get them to read it. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson is precisely one of these books.

Marketed for the "young adult" audience, Octavian Nothing claims to be for ages 14 and up. I find this to be extremely accurate as it's scope might be a bit much for younger readers. It is an interesting blend of historical fiction, maybe science fiction, gothic fantasy - in terms of genre it truly defies description.

Octavian Nothing is a teenage boy growing up in pre-Revolution Boston in a household of scientists and philosophers. He wants for nothing, dressing in the finest silks and receiving a classical education of science, literature, Latin and Greek, and violin. Eventually Octavian ventures behind a forbidden door and realizes that he is the subject of a grand experiment that makes him suddenly question his place in the world.

It is incredibly hard to review this book without the inevitable spoilers - one of which is key to the plot. The reader realizes just who and what Octavian is as he, himself, does. They learn the true nature of society along with him as he escapes the household and joins up with an American Patriot militia. Within are the recurring themes of national and personal freedom, science and myth, and the underlying atrocities and hypocrisy of the elite of society. This book is brilliantly written, effectively changing point of view from Octavian himself to that of a fellow soldier in the militia. At times it is amusing, at others horrific, heart wrenching, and truly touching.

This book will make you (and your teens) rethink the meanings of patriotism, freedom, racism and privilege and the consequences or triumph of individual action.

Read it.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Comcast Bandwidth Caps and You

On Thursday, August 28, Comcast announced that as of October 1, 2008 they would be instituting a bandwidth cap for their internet customers.
You can see their announcement here: http://www.comcast.net/terms/network/amendment/

In a nutshell, they are limiting combined monthly uploads and downloads to 250 GB per month. If you go over that limit, you may receive a notice requesting that you reduce your usage. If you go over again within a 6 month period, your service will be suspended for a year.

How could this affect you?
That really all depends. According to Comcast (there is no independant data available), the average customer only uses 2-3 GB per month. Quoting their TOS:


"To put 250 GB of monthly usage in perspective, a customer would have to do any one of the following:

* Send 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email)
* Download 62,500 songs (at 4 MB/song)
* Download 125 standard-definition movies (at 2 GB/movie)
* Upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos (at 10 MB/photo)"

Under normal circumstances, you should be ok. However, there are some serious problems with this. So you have a family. You have 3 or 4 computers online at any given time. How is this chewing up your usage? Well, you just don't know, do you? Other than overclockers and serious gamers, most people don't. There are no meters in place to keep an eye on this, and Comcast has no intention of implementing one. You can find free meters online, but you would have to put one on each computer and add up the totals, but what about your Xbox or your Wii? They connect through your wifi, but there is no way to meter them.

According to Newteevee.com, there are 5 devices that you need to watch out for to keep your usage down. The Slingbox, Xbox 360, broadband connected TIVO, Netflix Roku, and Vudu's set-top box. All of these can possibly use up a significant portion of your bandwidth depending on your usage. HD movie downloads are around 5-8GB each. Watch too many of those and you are going to be in trouble. What if you take classes online or telecommute? If you are a true "digital family" you may be in trouble.

Personally, the Rock Star games and watches videos online, Girly-girl video im's her best friend Skittles, Hubby plays bridge online, I surf A LOT, upload to my blog and back it up to my computer, and the kids have Wii-connect. How much bandwidth are we using? Beats me.

I really do understand the need for some kind of limit. There are abusers out there. But there are also legitimate users out there that want or need that kind of bandwidth. How fair is it to not let us KNOW what we are using? Every other metered service that I have (electric, water, cell phone, etc.) has a way for me to check my usage. I think that is my biggest issue here, and I hope Comcast reconsiders instituting some kind of meter for my cable modem that can show ALL usage. There are other issues as well, however - even if you aren't a Comcast customer. As HD becomes more prominent, will they up the limit? Will they upgrade their infrastructure to keep up with need, or just institute new limits? How does this affect other providers? There are already a few companies out there that limit usage to 5, 15, 30GB. Some are toying with tiered fees determined by usage. It remains to be seen what the true connotations of this new limit are.

I will give Comcast credit for at least stating what their limit is. Apparently this has been an unwritten cap for some time, so it is nice to have it official. I love my Comcast service and certainly intend to keep it. I have very few outages and the speed is significantly better than any of the other choices in my area. But I definitely will be watching these developments.

In the meantime, I'll be finding one of those free meters, guessing about the things I cannot measure, and making sure my wifi is secure so noone can piggyback on my signal.

What about you? Do you think you come close to 250GB and how do you plan to track it?

Friday, August 29, 2008

If You Can't Take the Heat...


desert
Originally uploaded by steve phillips
Used under a Creative Commons License
I began to cross the burning desert, basking only in the shade from the brim of my pith helmet.
The sun beat down lending a liquid shimmer to the air. I was prepared, I thought. I knew the dangers of dehydration and the serious mind tricks it can play. I took a quick sip from my Camelbak and started my journey.

Actually, I had to run to the doctor's office about 5 miles away. The AC in my car is not in good shape and it is about 92 degrees outside today. I thought I was going to die. I remember as a child running all over town in the heat of the summer. If we got a little warm, a quick popsicle fixed everything and we went right back to our bike or up a tree. I'm not sure if it is my age or what, but I just can't take the heat like I used to. When I finally got home, Hubby fixed me an iced drink and I just collapsed for awhile.

I live for central air conditioning! I think I will just hunker down here until Fall.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Are your children watching the Democratic Convention?

I remember back in 1974, I was 8 years old. My parents were watching Richard Nixon's resignation from the Presidency. It was a bit boring and I started to complain. My mother responded that I was "watching history". She was right, and that moment has stuck with me as a "flash memory" ever since. I came to realize that we were at a defining moment in American History. I have the same type of memory of 9/11. A strong and clear recollection with the distinct notion that the world I live in would never be the same.

It is much the same today. No matter what side of the political debate you are on, there is no question that this year's Democratic Convention marks a milestone in American politics. It is the first time an African American has secured the nomination for President from one of the major political parties. In a country founded by slave owners, where civil rights for African Americans did not even remotely come up to par until the last few decades, it is an incredible thing for us to transcend racism and nominate Barack Obama to the highest office in the nation.

Barack Obama
Originally uploaded by Llima
Used under a Creative Commons License


No matter who wins the general election, Obama's nomination has torn down a barrier for the minorities of this country. I believe that in the future our government will be much more diverse as the American people become more and more willing to break from the status quo. It is a wonderful thing in a democratic nation for our government to reflect the face of all its people.

My children have kept an eye on this presidential race for awhile and have definite political opinions of their own. While they have no say at this age, they understand the effect it can have on their lives. They, too, remember 9/11. They too live in a racially and financially mixed society. They also understand that what happens in the next 4 years will define the world they will come into their own in as adults.

And so, tonight, my children will watch Obama's acceptance speech. While they may not understand its significance today, eventually they will realize that they, too were "watching history".

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Fighting For the Rock Star's education. Pt. 2

Success!

Or something close to it. Rock Star brought home the form. It provided the following options for changing classes:

1. Student has already taken and passed the class.
2. Student is a senior who needs a required class to graduate.
3. Student is an undergraduate placed in a higher level class without completing the necessary prerequisites.

If you can not answer yes to any of the statements, you are NOT ELIGIBLE to change classes.

Well, if you are a parent, you can't take NO for an answer! It is our responsibility to fight for our kids. I wrote a lengthy but succinct letter to the Guidance Counselor explaining why Rock Star should not be in Reading and should be in Web Design as follows:

To (Rock Star’s) Guidance Counselor:

(Rock Star) would like to change his 7th period Reading class to Web Design. The three choices on the class change form do not apply, but I believe that there are mitigating circumstances.

1. Web Design was his original request.
2. This request was approved by the Guidance Dept.
3. Up until school started Web Design was on his schedule via Virtual Guidance Counselor. When he received his paper schedule at school, the class was Reading.
4. (Rock Star’s) plans for the future are in Information Technology. Web Design would work toward this goal and allow him to take more advanced computer classes in his remaining years at (Bedrock High School.)
5. (Rock Star) is already enrolled in English II Advanced.
6. (Rock Star) consistently receives (excellent marks) on the Reading portion of the (Standardized Test).

I believe that it would be more helpful for (Rock Star) to be enrolled in a class that works toward his future and actually interests him than to be in a class to practice for a test he routinely does well on or is at best redundant to his English class. (Rock Star) is highly gifted but low achieving and would be much better served with a class that is a challenge and in his prime area of focus.

It would be a pleasure for (Rock Star) and I to meet with you to discuss an outline for his future.

Thank you for your consideration.

Rock Star's Mom


This afternoon I received a phone call! Rock Star was wrongly placed in the Reading class. (Go figure.) Unfortunately, Web Design is over full. They would be happy to accommodate him with an available elective class. Now we have to find a class Rock Star wants that is available. We have a few ideas.

Just goes to show that you cannot lie down and take it when it comes to your children's needs. If we had taken his teacher's word or followed the form's directions, Rock Star would be stuck in the wrong class all year. I consider that a tragedy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

I do!
Please grab it if you like.
A very special thank you to Jinxy at http://thriftyjinxy.blogspot.com for all the help.

This blogging stuff can be work....but such fun work!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fighting For the Rock Star's education. Pt. 1

Is it just me or does everyone have crazy Mondays?

I spent a near sleepless weekend worrying about dealing with Rock Star's school. All those memories of high school flooding back! The thought of having to go back there and experience it all again. The hallowed halls of my Alma Mater. Facing "The Office". I thought of every word I would say, every argument I could possibly have.

Rock Star picked a web design class for his schedule. It was approved by guidance and was on his online schedule up until the day he started school. Suddenly, instead of Web Design I, he had Advanced Reading. Uh... What?? The kid can read. He's already taking English II. Advanced! He has excellent test scores. He is highly gifted. His class grades stink. Why? Because in 10 years of public school, every time he found a program he liked, that he could excel at, that he cared about and that cared about him, the budget was cut, the program was cancelled and no one fought for him but his Dad and me. Last evening he even said, and I quote, "After having the rug pulled out from under me so many times, it's really a wonder I keep going back at all." And now he had a chance to take the first class in the career of his choice.
Web Design. IT. Programming. Graphic Arts. It was all there waiting. This was his first big step.
The introductory class!
Gone.

So I plotted and planned my strategy. If his teacher was going to refuse him a class change form, well, I was going to go to the Guidance Counselor with guns blazing. I had all the reasons why he should change. I knew all the test scores, knew his prerequisites for the classes he needed, had everything under control. I would call and set up a meeting: Rock Star, the Guidance Counselor and me. They would know him and his needs. I would make them be on his side.
The claws were out and I was ready.

So I called the school:

"Rock Star needs a class changed!'
"Have him fill out the form."
"His teacher refuses to give him the form."
"That's ridiculous. Have him come to my office and get the form."

And that was it. They even sent him the message for me.

Talk about anti-climax!

It may not be the end of it. They may refuse his schedule change. I may still have to go in and fight the good fight to be an advocate for my child's education.
Just not today.

Maybe a Wednesday would be better.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Underage Olympians?

The biggest news out of the Olympics right now is not Phelps' incredible 8 medal win, or Dara Torres class in helping out a Swedish swimmer with a costume malfunction,
but rather the possibility that China has as many as 3 underage gymnasts on their team. The controversy focuses mainly on He Kexin who won the team gold and an individual gold in uneven parallel bars. David Flumenbaum of The Huffington Post found several online entries showing that He was only 14. The minimum age requirement for the Olympics is 16. After these sites were publicised, they mysteriously were changed or disappeared altogether.

It's a shame, really. She's a cute kid and very talented, but if she is underage, she doesn't deserve the medals. The 16 year old age requirement for Olympic gymnasts is there for a couple of reasons: to protect younger gymnasts health and safety, and to level the playing field. The sport is much easier the smaller and younger you are. The IOC has said they have found no proof that the girls are underage. No doubt, as their ID is provided by the Chinese government.

The arguments on both sides are constant. Asians are naturally smaller than Europeans and Americans. The Japanese gymnasts were quite small as well.
The girls' passports, which are the one ID used to determine eligibility by the IOC show that they are 16. And yet, one of the girls seems to be missing a baby tooth, which would certainly make her younger than 16. Several of their ages were listed in 2005, 2006 and 2007 records as being born in 1992 or 1993.

I doubt the truth will come out any time soon, although in the past similar disparities have been uncovered. North Korea had listed one gymnast as 15 for three years in a row. Romania has admitted falsifying ages in the past. And Yang Yun who won 2 bronze medals for China in the 2000 games in Sydney has admitted to only being 14 at the time. The shame is in how it makes all of these athletes look. The Chinese with the appearance of cheating and the USA crying sour grapes. I don't believe that was what was meant for these kids when they decided to follow their passion for this sport. Either way, the spirit of these games has been severely compromised.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sign Here Please

Yesterday was the first day of school for my teens, and, my, the forms we have to fill out. I don't mind most of them. Bus pass, clinic information, emergency forms, class syllabus, rules, dress code. It's all a good idea. What I didn't understand until I really looked into it is why we are REQUIRED to fill out the Free and Reduced Lunch Application. We know we are not eligible and have never been eligible, but if we don't fill it out, they send new ones. They even call to remind us. Why? Why cause more work, a useless review of our application, knowing it will be denied, followed by the inevitible letter that it, in fact, has been denied? It seems such of waste of time and effort.

But now I know.

It's not about free lunch anymore. We would like to think that the program is for those poor children who may not be eating at home, who need one guaranteed meal a day to function. That was certainly the idea in the beginning, but it has gone so much farther. It turns out that the free lunch program is one of the main poverty indicators for school districts. This data is connected to Title I funding that could amount in the millions for poor districts. So they push. Some schools provide incentives just to get those applications in. And if you lie about your income? Verification is haphazard at best. Federal requirements are to verify 3 percent of applications. The schools know this and count on it. They know that many applications will be approved even if they are falsified and so the district's poverty level will rise and they will receive more money for other things.

As always, I wonder if there is a better way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

What Do I do With Them Now?

Did you say it is a rainy, nasty day? The latest tropical storm missed, but dumped water on you anyway? The kids are still not back in school? And they are moping around like Lurch from the Addam's Family because they don't know what to do? I know what to do with them.
Na na nana na!

Send them to the Internet Public Library for Teens - Teenspace!
The Internet Public Library is a teaching and learning consortium created by a class at the University of Michigan's School of Information and now housed at Drexel College of Information Science and Technology, partnered with a lot of other schools. This site has everything!

Besides things you would normally expect from a library - online texts of books, magazines, reference materials, and links to a variety of high quality internet sources (that your little darlings can use once they are BACK in school) they also have a fun section just for teens.

They can find homework help, a graphic novels guide (we used to call these comics, but they have evolved a bit), writing help, links for help with difficult personal questions, and a poetry wiki. A wiki, by the way, (and according to Wikipedia, the biggest Wiki out there), is a collection of web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content. Which means your teens can post their thoughts and feelings here.

What you really need today, though, is THE PROCRASTINATOR. This page connects your teen with entertainment, games, movies, books, sports, humor and a lot of other stuff to keep them busy and maybe learn something!

So send them here: http://www.ipl.org/ and especially here : http://www. ipl.org/div/teen or just click the button in my sidebar. Then maybe you can get something done without tripping over your teens. But they might not want to go to school tomorrow.

Monday, August 18, 2008

I Thought They Would be Gone by Now...

But they are still here!
School was supposed to start today, but Tropical Storm Fay has other ideas.
Now it will be at least Wednesday before they go back. They are going crazy. I am going crazy. It is just too nasty outside to do anything, so everyone is bored.
I'm just going to snuggle up and eat my leftover ice cream from Girly-girl's birthday yesterday.
I'll work on deep thoughts tomorrow.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Is Gardasil Right for Your Daughter?

If you have a teenage daughter, you have no doubt heard of Gardasil, the relatively new vaccine from the Merck corporation to prevent Human Papillomavirus (HPV). There has been a lot of controversy about this vaccine and it is important to know the facts to make a right decision for your child.

HPV is a virus passed through genital contact occurring in up to 80% of adults in the US. It can often go away on its own, but has a link to causality in some forms of cervical/vaginal cancers. Every year, 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the US and almost 4,000 of them die.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the vaccine for females 11-26, ideally before they become sexually active as it does not cure existing infections. It can prevent up to 70% of cervical cancers and targets they types of HPV that most commonly cause cervical cancer and genital warts. It does not protect against all forms of HPV, so Pap testing will still be necessary. If you do not get the vaccine, regular Pap testing can still prevent cervical cancer by catching it in a precancerous stage.
More general information can be found at
http://www.cdc.gov/std/Hpv/STDFact-HPV-vaccine.htm#hpvvac1

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national program of CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that monitors the safety of vaccines after they are licensed. After over 16 million doses of Gardasil have been distributed in the US, VAERS has received 6,667 reports of adverse effects following the vaccine. Of these reports, over 94% were for non-serious effects such as pain at the injection site and headache. Less than 6% were for serious events, which is less that half of the average for vaccines overall. (See http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/vaers/gardasil.htm )

The negatives are, indeed, that there are adverse reactions at all. The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) is a non-profit organization founded by parents of children that have been injured or died following DPT vaccines. They have intensive articles at http://www.nvic.org/Diseases/HPV/HPVHOME.htm regarding the side effects of this vaccine, including symptoms such as chest pain, rash and fever, as well as Guillain-Barre Syndrome and even death.

It boils down to this:

Is Gardasil necessary to prevent cervical cancer? No
Is Gardasil helpful in preventing cervical cancer? Yes
Is Gardasil totally safe? No
Is Gardasil at least as safe as the average vaccine? Yes
Is Gardasil right for your child? Only you can answer this.

Be informed and make the decision that is right for you.



Thursday, August 14, 2008

School Shopping



Today was the day for school clothes shopping. At just under $300 to outfit two teens, I felt I did well. After 8 years in uniforms, the Rock Star has been under a normal dress code since last year. For him a few cargo pants and some decent tee shirts fit the bill nicely. Girly-girl, however is still under the Mandatory Unified Dress Code – which means chinos and polos, black, navy and khaki.

Now, all in all, I don’t mind the uniforms. While I don’t buy some of the arguments for them: that they lower crime in schools, decrease bullying, promote better concentration and grades, I do see how they can make schools safer by making outsiders easier to recognize. Overall it lowers Girly-girls wardrobe costs and makes choosing her clothing in the morning easier as she does not have to obsess over fashion.


In fact the only cons I find is that it violates the students’ freedom of expression and individuality. I’ve seen some of those “individual” outfits on teens around town and some of their choices are far from appropriate. Girly-girl and her friends have no problem showing their individuality with weird socks, jewelry and accessories.

I do wish more stores would carry uniforms for older kids, though. We hit Ross, Target and K-mart and managed to find what we needed, but it wasn’t easy. The selections in junior’s and women’s were dismal, but at least they were affordable. Girly-girl even wondered why people would pay $40 for a polo at Abercrombie & Fitch if all you were going to do was wear it to school. Happily I have raised a thrifty child!

I am sure at some point we will have to go to Claire’s and pick up dangly earrings and bracelets and such, but for now, my kids are dressed and I’m not broke yet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Rest of the Evening:




Hubby and my date ended at the Adventurer's Club at Pleasure island.

A night of crazy antics like this:





And crazy people like this:
























With audience
participation!





And the ultimate ending:


The Official Adventurer's Club Membership Pin
They don't just give these away...
Well, actually they do.
To get one you must be gifted it.
And I got one!


That's enough for Disney. I'll have some reviews of cool stuff for your teens coming soon.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dinner Date!



We drove up to Downtown Disney in Orlando yesterday for a date! Without kids and everything. This just doesn't happen. We arrived at about 4pm, checked into the Regal Sun Hotel, rested a bit from the drive and decided to head out to dinner. The Regal Sun is directly across the street from Downtown Disney, but it is still quite a hike to get to Pleasure Island in the center. Luckily they have a bus that runs every half hour from 6pm to 3am to Pleasure Island. So we hopped aboard and headed inside. We had left the house at noon, so we
were very hungry at this point. There are quite a few dining choices at Downtown Disney, but we were looking for something special so we decided on Fulton's Crab House.

Fulton's Crab House is housed in the original Empress Lily Riverboat, one of the first r
estaurants in what was then called the Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village. You dine within a docked paddle boat with lovely nautical decor and both indoor and outdoor seating. It was way too hot to sit outside. This is Florida in August! We were seated in the Stone Crab Lounge in the stern (back end) of the boat. It wasn't crowded, so we were seated immediately. The stools in the lounge were a little high for me, but once I managed to get up there it was quite comfortable. However, when I dropped my napkin out of my lap, it was too much trouble to climb down and get it. The view over the water was impressive. I did wander farther forward at one point and there was regular seating in the main dining room. It was a little more crowded there with quite a few kids. As we were trying for some romance, we appreciated the relative quiet of the lounge.

The service was speedy and friendly. We had fresh bread and drinks in no time. Then we settled into the menu. Um. Ouch. This restaurant is quite pricey! We decided to forgo appetizers and ordered Louis Fulton's Ultimate Crab and Lobster Experience for Two at $41.95 per person. Shortly we were dining on King Crab Legs, Snow Crab Legs, Dungeness Crab, and a 1 1/4 lb
lobster. Happily we had bibs or it would have been an utter mess! There were sides of tasty hash browns and grilled asparagus. We were also brought some sesame crackers and their new signature crab boursin dip. Very tasty. We almost made it through all the food, but not quite and we were too full for dessert, which is a shame as I have heard good things about their creme brulee. Everything was cooked perfectly and tasted wonderful.

All in all, it is a great dining experience, just a bit more expensive than we are used to. Although the liquor prices were very reasonable which helped keep the bill affordable.

Quality of food: Excellent
Service: Excellent
Value for the money: Good
Stars: *****

Monday, August 11, 2008

Manic Monday


So here it is: Monday. Not so good. My unbreakable titanium $400+ glasses managed to snap yesterday. The optician of course doesn't carry parts, they would be happy to send them in at a fee, yada, yada. Of course, I am going out of town today and cannot POSSIBLY see without them. So here I am duct taped together. Gorgeous.

Out of town. How I love that. Dearest darling Hubby is taking me away for the evening. Disney, in its infinite wisdom has decided to close Pleasure Island and, therefore, OUR club, The Adventurer's Club. So we are driving 200 miles for one last chance to enjoy the silliness. Hopefully I won't have to do this half blind (or duct taped).

If you have never been to The Adventurer's Club, it is a real treat and so sad that it is going to close. I am not one much for night clubs, but this is so different and so very Disney! It is New Years Eve 1937 every night. There are sing alongs and different skits and events. You have to see it to believe it. But of course, unless you see it by September 27, you are out of luck.

Here's a little taste of what you'll be missing:

The Adventurer's Club Creed

We climb the highest mountains,
just to get a better view.
We plumb the deepest oceans,
because we're daring through and through.
We cross the scorching desert,
martinis in our hand.
We ski the polar ice caps,
in tuxedos looking grand.
We are reckless, brave, and loyal,
and valiant to the end.
If you come in here a stranger,
you will exit as a friend.

KUNGALOOSH!

There is a campaign to save the place and we would appreciate your help. Here's the info:

Petitions:
Save a Part of Walt's Legacy
http://www.petitiononline.com/wdwadvcl/petition.html

Save the Adventurers Club!
http://www.petitiononline.com/wdwaclub/petition.html

Save Pleasure Island Clubs
http://www.petitiononline.com/SAVEPI/petition.html


Letter Writing Campiagns:
Kungaloosh Forever
http://www.kungalooshforever.com

PeterDavid.net
Phase 1:
http://peterdavid.malibulist.com/archives/006323.html
Phase 2:
http://peterdavid.malibulist.com/archives/006342.html


Executive Addresses:
Mr. Robert Iger
Chief Executive Officer
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4873

Mr. James A. Rasulo
Chairman
Walt Disney Parks & Resorts
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521-4873

Meg Crofton
President
The Walt Disney World Resort
PO Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Al Weiss
President
Worldwide Operations
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
PO Box 10000
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830

Jim Lewis
President
Disney Vacation Club
200 Celebration Place
Celebration, FL 34747

Walt Disney World Guest Communications
PO Box 10040
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830-0040

Walt Disney World Guest Relations
P.O. Box 10000
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830


Executive E-mail Addresses:
Bob Iger, Vice President of Operations, Walt Disney World
Robert.A.Iger@email.disney
.com

Kevin Lansberry, Vice President of Operations Downtown Disney
kevin.lansberry@email.disn
ey.com

Meg Crofton, President Walt Disney World Resort
meg.crofton@disney.com

Jay Rasulo, Chairman Walt Disney Parks & Resorts
jay.rasulo@disney.com

Al Weiss, President Worldwide Operations - Disney Parks and Resorts
al.weiss@disney.com

Barry Carlson, GM of Operations
barry.r.carlson@email.disn
ey.com

Patsy Pederson, GM Guest Show
patsy.pederson@email.disne
y.com

Kris Piser, DTD Finance Manager
Kristine.piser@email.disne
y.com

Eric Johanson, Downtown Disney Business Relations
Eric.Johanson@disney.com

Walt Disney World Guest Communications
wdw.guest.communications@d
isneyworld.com


Media Pages:
Facebook Group:
http://www.facebook.com/posted.php?id=17614776169

Myspace Group:
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=392612672

Orlandosentinel: Pleasure Island fans rallying to try to save clubs
http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/business_tourism_aviation/2008/06/pleasure-island.html

Pleasure Island Nightclubs Slated To Close
http://www.wesh.com/entertainment/16744556/detail.html

Save P.I. The Radio Revolution
http://blogtalkradio.com/savepi.

Adventurers Almanac
http://www.2719hyperion.com/search/label/Adventurers%20Almanac

Others:
http://www.savetheadventurersclub.info
http://adventurersclub.ning.com

Forum Threads:
WDWMagic
http://forums.wdwmagic.com/showthread.php?t=325622

Mice Chat
http://micechat.com/forums/showthread.php/save_adventurers_club_pleasure_island-99204.html

Mouse Planet
http://mousepad.mouseplanet.com/showthread.php?t=107402

The DIS Disscussion Forums
http://www.disboards.com/showthread.php?p=26811610#post26811610