Monday, December 31, 2007

Diary of our Holiday Week, Part 2 of 2

Friday, Dec. 28th: Today we went into Boston to take John to the Children's Museum. It was fun, and for the most part John had a good time. The problem with going to these places in Boston, however, is that they're always crowded, and going during a holiday week was no exception. So dealing with that wasn't so fun. Also, the Museum was nice but a little disappointing. It had no planetarium or solar system things (which is what John really loves) and no live animals except for some turtles and fish. The children's museum in West Hartford has all of those things and I think we all kind of preferred Hartford's children's museum to Boston's, which is kind of a surprise. Next time we're in Boston we'll go to the Science Museum, which has a really neat planetarium, and we'll try to go during an off-peak time.

Playing with bubbles.
His favorite thing was playing in this Indian dug-out canoe.
(That's my mother in the background over John's shoulder.)
"I wanna steer the boat too!"

In the evening, Peter and I got to go out on our own. We went out to dinner to a great seafood restaurant in Framingham, where the lobster bisque actually had chunks of lobster in it. You don't find that very often. The food was delicious. (We ate so much great food this holiday week!) After dinner we went to the movies and saw National Treasure 2, the sequel to one of my favorite movies. Although the first one was better, it was very good and anyone who likes American history will enjoy the movie.

Saturday, Dec. 29th: In the morning I went to Salon Entre Nous in Southborough where my sister Elizabeth works and I got a facial and I also had my eyebrows shaped and waxed, which I'd never had done before. It was really nice and my eyebrows have never looked better. Thank you for the gift certificates and discount, Elizabeth!

For most of the rest of the day, we were in Rhode Island doing Christmas dinner and gifts with Peter's family--his parents, his brother Paul and his wife (Jean) and son (Andrew), and his brother James and his wife (Stephanie) and daughter (Arielle). We had yet another delicious dinner and then took a few hours to open presents. I'm not joking. Peter's mother always buys tons of presents for everyone and you practically need a U-Haul to get it all home! Fortunately we brought two cars, so we were able to fit everything in. We needed two cars anyway so that I could return home to Mass. with John after presents were done and Peter could stay and watch the big Patriots game with his family on James' huge HDTV. (The Patriots won, by the way, and made history by winning all of their games this season. Even though I'm not a big football fan, I was happy about it. Go Pats!)

With Grandma Thienel (Peter's mother).Bouncing on a present. Peter is laying down on the recliner underneath. Funny!

Sunday, Dec. 30th: Today we didn't wake up in time to go to church with my mother since we were all up pretty late last night. I was a little disappointed because it's always fun to see old friends from the past at church, but oh well. We went and visited my grandmother, who lives right here in Hopkinton. I finally gave her a framed picture and her own photo album of our wedding pictures. (It only took me five-and-a-half years to do that!) It was nice to see her again.

The highlight of my day in terms of humor was watching a cheesy 1980's video about the Cayman Islands that my mother had checked out from the library since we're going there on vacation in the spring. The video was so contrived, and the swimsuits, fashions, and hairstyles of the 80's always make me laugh. Ha ha! For dinner, we had my mother's delicious beef enchiladas (we REALLY ate well this week!). We decided to return home to Connecticut after dinner instead of on Monday morning as previously planned because of the snow and also because Peter had some business that he needed to take care of on Monday morning. Home sweet home!

Monday, Dec. 31st: This has been a mostly boring day at home, just getting unpacked and back into the swing of things. The most "interesting" thing to report about today was that we took our Christmas tree down. We meant to do that before we left for Massachusetts but we didn't have time. I have never seen such a dead Christmas tree. There were pine needles galore all over the floor and it took awhile to take down all of the ornaments and lights, get the tree out of the stand and out the door, and then sweep and vacuum everything up. It's kind of a relief now to have it gone--no more pine needles and the biggest thing to take care of post-Christmas is done. It's hard to believe that one week ago at this time it was Christmas Eve and the tree was all lit up in its glory and beauty with presents nestled underneath. Now it's stripped bare and lying out in the cold woods. Kind of a depressing thought! Anyway, I'm spending a lot of time talking about the tree so I'll stop now.

Tonight (New Year's Eve) we're not doing anything very exciting, nor are we tomorrow. So that is why my diary of our holiday week will end now, because I don't want to bore you to tears. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that the New Year will be a very good one for you. Happy New Year!

P.S. The pictures are now posted below on "Part 1" of our holiday week.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Diary of our Holiday Week, Part 1 of 2

Monday, Dec. 24th, Christmas Eve. Tonight we maintained traditions by reading the story of Christ's birth from the scriptures and then we each opened one present, which made John realize that there were actual things in those presents and upped the excitement factor for him. After he went to bed, Peter and I enjoyed a savory candlelit dinner made by him, which we've done every year on Christmas Eve since we got married. We had a perfectly cooked rib roast, fluffy mashed potatoes, and green beans almondine, with sparkling apple cider to drink and hot apple pie with French Vanilla ice cream for dessert. I was stuffed, but the food was so delicious. It was a peaceful, relaxing evening.

Tuesday, Dec. 25th, Christmas. We spent a quiet day at home, just the three of us. Opening presents was fun. John liked his gifts and spent the day busy with his new things. His favorite presents were a planets book and a little $1 stocking stuffer dog toy that does flips after being wound up. It's funny how kids like the simple things most of all. We had cinnamon rolls for breakfast that really filled us up, so we had the rest of the breakfast we had planned for dinner instead--French Toast, sausages, and O.J. I had fun reading and resting as much as I possibly could all day.

John with his new car ramp toy.

Me, John, and his new planets book. Peter Rabbit! This is an impressive 3-D pop-up version.
John's biggest gift was a trampoline.
Astonished by the cool little wind-up doggy toy.
We are a family of bookworms.

Wednesday, Dec. 26th: This was a busy day of road trips to visit members of Peter's family. First we went to Grandma Bean's house in eastern Connecticut. She is Peter's paternal grandmother, and she's a lovely, gracious, 100% Finnish woman who is gentle and kind and always helps me to learn something new about Finnish culture when we spend time with her. As she always does when we visit, she fed us a delicious lunch before we had to leave.

After that we drove to Peter's maternal grandparents' house in N. Scituate, Rhode Island (Peter's hometown) and visited with them for a little while. I enjoyed talking about family history with Grandma Cost (her direct line of ancestors came over on the Mayflower), and Grandpa Cost was successful in convincing me that I really should get a Costco membership.

Next, we drove to Warwick to see Peter's sister Ruth and her family, who we hadn't seen in two years! Her husband is Chris and they have four beautiful, outgoing, well-behaved children who range in age from 3 to 10. For dinner, Chris cooked the most delicious chicken parmigiana I've ever had. We had a great time over there and are looking forward to seeing them again soon.

Thursday, Dec. 27th: Today we left for Massachusetts, where we're spending the next few days. In the evening we took my family out to dinner at a terrific restaurant in Foxboro called "The Stone Forge." We were only about a mile down the road from Gillette Stadium, where Peter's beloved New England Patriots play their home games. (That's as close as you're getting to the Pats this year, Peter!). It was a really fun dinner, made even better for me by the fact that John slept for three hours in the car in the afternoon so he was well-rested and in a good mood. Plus I didn't have to feed him or change him or anything because he had two great aunts who wanted to do all of that. Good deal! It was me, Peter, John, my parents, Jennifer and Elizabeth (my sisters), Ben and Nathan (my brothers), my niece Hayley, and Elizabeth's boyfriend, Jay. The only person who couldn't make it was Adam (Jennifer's hubby) because he had to work. The food was sooo dee-lish, our waiter was really funny, and we had a nice long table right in front of the fire. It was a great time had by all!

Guess who the center of attention was? Elizabeth, John, Jennifer, and Hayley.
Me, Nathan, Ben, and Jay (my two brothers and Elizabeth's boyfriend).
Smooching Hayley (whose beautiful face is always covered by her beautiful hair in these pictures!)
Our pint-sized Patriot in the heart of Patriots country.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hot Stone Massage

This morning I got a 90-minute hot stone massage. It. was. heaven.

It was different from what I thought it would be. The pictures of it always show a person with a row of black oval stones going up the length of their back, so I thought it would be mostly that with the masseuse doing some massaging around them. It turned out to be a full-body massage with the masseuse using these hot smooth stones to do the massaging work. It was incredibly relaxing. When she was working on my back I dozed off and I was nearly drooling. This method of massage is supposed to be particularly good at releasing toxins from the body. I think it does, because I've felt so good today. My body feels rejuvenated and very healthy, and the aches and pains that I never knew I had are gone. I've had other types of massage before--Swedish, prenatal, and deep-tissue--and hot stone is now my favorite. I highly recommend it, and I can't wait to get another one. It's a wonderful form of preventative healthcare and stress-relief!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Peter Rabbit

John's most recent obsession (besides memorizing the lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas") is the book The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. He has four different versions of it and he loves looking through all of them. I've read the story to him so many times that I can recite most of it from memory, which John can do now too. I don't know what exactly it is about this story that is so captivating. A disobedient young rabbit goes into a garden and almost gets killed by the gardener, narrowly escaping and then going to bed without dinner. Why is that so timeless and why do children love it so? I wish John could tell me, because I know I must be missing something. The illustrations are darling, anyway, and Beatrix Potter has a charming writing style.

At the library this week I found a 1/2-hour video of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny. I checked it out to see what John would think of it. He was completely delighted and fascinated by it, more so than probably any other thing he's ever watched. It was fun to see him absorb the story and the pictures coming to life right in front of him. Because he likes it so much, I'm going to have to check this video out every week, which is going to get old fast. So I'll probably end up buying our own copy on the Internet. The things mothers do for the children they love! I know this is a phase and quite probably in a few weeks John will have moved on to a new preoccupation. Then I might even start to miss that mischievous little rabbit a bit!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Two weeks ago, on December 1st, we got our Christmas tree. It was a cold, brutally windy day, so we didn't take our time and just chose one that was the right size and looked good. As it has turned out, the tree is very pretty and it's just the right size for our living room. The problem is, unbeknownst to us at the time due to our hastiness, it was kind of dead down on the bottom, and it's even more so now. It's been dropping so many pine needles that it's driving neat-freaky me crazy. They're getting all over the place on our main floor. I know this is one of the reasons some people don't bother with getting a real tree, but I still wouldn't trade it for an artificial tree. Real trees are the best, pesky pine needles and all!

Our tree must not be very thirsty. (Oh yeah, that's because it's dying). It's not "drinking" the water in its stand very quickly anymore, and though its loveliness and nice scent remain, I fear that our wooded friend's days are numbered. I guess they were numbered before it got lopped out of the ground, and that it's only a matter of time for every real Christmas tree since they are no longer growing from the earth. Last year we had a nearly perfect tree; it lasted for over a month and only started dropping a lot of needles after Christmas. This year's tree will make it to Christmas, but I don't know about New Year's. It might only have a few needles left by then. Oh well. It looks nice (so far) and we like it (but not the mess it makes). John likes playing with the ornaments on it and has only broken two so far.

In other exciting holiday news, I have about 95% of my shopping done, and 0% of the wrapping done. John and Peter are going to LOVE their presents and I'm looking forward to Christmas morning when we open them all. Although I don't think I'm going to have many to open. Peter has been working the hours of a madman and I don't think he's gotten me anything yet. I know I'm not getting the watch I wanted--it's completely sold out (thanks, Oprah!). I was late in designing and ordering our Christmas cards this year, and I hope they'll arrive in the next day or two so that I can get them in the mail and have them arrive before Christmas. We've been having a lot of snowy, stormy weather, and I think there's a pretty good chance of finally having a classic white Christmas this year!

Here are some other festive pictures:

Attack of the Christmas Tree! Christy, decked out in her holiday finery.
The decorated dining room. It was a total mess before I cleaned it the evening that I took this picture, and I was so happy to have it nice and neat that I took a picture of it. Yeah, I know. I get excited by small, mundane things. Here's a neat close-up picture of the tree all lit up at night.
And, as a final treat, here's Peter wearing a velvet outfit, striped tights, and a cute little hat. You don't want to miss this!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Bit of Broadway in Hartford

One of the things I miss about living in New Jersey is how easy and quick it was to get into New York City. I really enjoyed going to see different Broadway musicals there. My favorite was Fiddler on the Roof, which I saw three or four times when Alfred Molina was starring as Tevye (he was Doc Ock in Spiderman 2). I will always love the songs and story of Fiddler.

The last time I went to a show was in December 2004, when I was seven months pregnant with John. Little Women was opening, and I went to a preview showing of it. Sutton Foster was starring as Jo March, and she had recently won a Tony Award for her starring role in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Peter didn't want to go with me (I don't know why! It was Little Women for Pete's sake!), so I went by myself (I guess John was there too, enjoying it from the warmth and comfort of my belly). I thought the show was very good, but it didn't last very long on Broadway. Peter might say the reason for that is because it was Little Women.

So anyway, I've been a bit starved for the culture of the stage for the past three years, but that came to an end last Saturday night. Wicked was on tour in Hartford, and we went. It was awesome! I had heard such good things about it, and it lived up to the hype. The "untold story" about the witches of Oz was very creative and clever. The music and the acting were of the best quality, and the dialogue and story had a lot of funny wit while at the same time being kind of inspirational in an unsappy sort of way. There were some really cool special effects too, particularly when Elphaba (a.k.a. the Wicked Witch of the West) flew up into the sky. I couldn't figure out how they did that! (Still can't!)

The only drawback for me was that I was so exhausted. The night before I got less than five hours of sleep and then I had a really busy day on Saturday. So during one or two of the slower songs I leaned my head on Peter's shoulder and rested my poor tired eyes. Other than that, I was captivated and loved it. I'm interested in reading the book, but I've heard that it's actually pretty dry and lacks the humor that the musical has. So maybe I'll just let the musical be enough, at least for for now, since my "Books to Read" list is already long enough. I really recommend Wicked to anyone going to New York who wants to see a great show!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Very Interesting Re: Romney

Today my man Mitt gave his anticipated "Faith in America" speech about religion. I wasn't home this morning so I wasn't able to watch it, but I've seen parts of it on the news today and it looks like it was very good. Here's something else really interesting: Romney having a heated discussion with a radio DJ off-the-air a few months ago in Iowa in which he is very passionate and clear about the Mormon Church and how it does and does not affect him and the political sphere. There is absolutely no disingenuosness here...he's being completely upfront and honest. Go to 10 mins. 30 secs. to see the really good off-air stuff.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My Winter Survival List

Old Man Winter: the older I get, the more I dislike it. Although it has certain charms, I am much more of a summer girl than a winter one. Instead of going into the reasons for this and depressing myself further, I put together the following list:

Things I Can’t Live Without in Fall and Winter
1. Hand and body lotion. If I don’t use hand lotion at least several times a day then my hands become dry, ugly, red alligator-like versions of their former selves.
2. Lip gloss. I hate the uncomfortable feeling of dry lips. I’m addicted to lip gloss year-round. Not the glossy stuff, but the moisturizing balm that leaves your lips feeling soft and oh-so-nice.
3. My old gray fleece LLBean jacket to wear around the house. It’s not pretty. I don't wear it out and I always rip it off if someone comes to the door, but it sure is soft and cozy.
4. Lots of nice thick comfortable socks, because my feet get cold easily.
5. Hot cocoa just about every day with whipped cream and/or mini marshmallows. I made a new discovery yesterday that I'm very pleased with. It's Swiss Miss Good Start Cocoa. It's fortified with 15 essential nutrients or something like that, and it tastes really good!
6. My blue fleece bathrobe. It is so comfortable and soft and warm.
7. My down blanket, which I like to snuggle up under when I'm reading on the couch or watching a movie.
8. My black boots, which I wear with almost everything during the cold-weather months.
9. The Crock Pot, to make delicious, hot, easy dinners that fill the house with their enticing aromas. I finally started using the Crock Pot last winter. I can't believe it took me so long to realize that it's one of the best things ever invented for the kitchen!
10. Lots of lights turned on and the heat jacked up. Needless to say, our bills go up a bit in the winter. I hate to be cold in my own house and am willing to pay extra not to be. Also, a lack of light is so depressing. I turn on lamps and overhead lights in multiple rooms…but I do other things to help the environment, honest!
11. A nice crackling fire going in the fireplace. I love this, and I'd like to do it more. I'm just afraid I won't open the flue correctly and then an accident will happen. Plus I don't want to get soot on my sleeves, even when wearing the above-mentioned LLBean house jacket. I guess I'll have to get over it if I ever want to become a fire-building pro.
12. Warm lounge-type pants that I wear when I’m just staying home.
13. My To Do List. I try to get a lot done during the winter since I'm stuck inside so much. I like to use the time to tackle my list, and then I can relax a lot more when it gets warm out.
14. Plenty of things to keep John entertained and happy, both in and out of the house. For him and for me as a parent, it can be very challenging not being able to go outside very much for months on end.
15. Target. I can't live without Target in any season!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Republicans for Prez

Last night I watched the CNN/YouTube Republican presidential candidates debate. All of the questions were from YouTube and some of the people/skits were pretty funny. While I still like the standard "old-fashioned" debate format, YouTube definitely livened things up, and it's a good way of getting Americans to hopefully become more interested in and involved with the election.

Before I go on, in the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I'm on the Mitt Romney campaign. Most of you already know that. I haven't really done much for it; so far I mainly just get the campaign e-mails. But he is the man who I want to be President. I'm going to have to register as a Republican so that I can vote for him in the primary. I'm an independent, but I definitely lean to the right. My brother would say I'm all-out Republican because I watch Fox News and agree with Bill O'Reilly on most matters, but I don't think so. I don't have a problem voting for a Democrat if I think that person is better for the job. (As evidenced by my voting record--I voted for Gore in 2000 and Bush in 2004.) The balance of power doesn't matter all that much to me, I just want the best people in office no matter what their party is.

So, having said all that, here are my awesome insights about each of the Republican candidates so far. I'm putting them in the order that they were announced at last night's debate:

1. Congressman Duncan Hunter. He seems nice and smart enough, but as a candidate he's kind of forgettable because he doesn't really stand out. I don't have that much to say about him. Of the group that is left, I predict he'll withdraw from the race first.

2. Congressman Ron Paul. I think he's pretty great, I really do. My super-liberal brother Ben is even going to register Republican so that he can vote for Ron Paul. He's the most honest candidate and he seems to say exactly what he thinks and doesn't play the political game. I like how he's straightforward and sticks to his guns--he truly believes everything that he says. (In some cases, that's unfortunate, but more on that momentarily!) It's pretty cool that he was an obstetrician before going into politics, helping to bring life/joy/screaming babies into the world.

The big "but" with Ron Paul is that he's wrong about foreign policy. His views would work in an ideal world, but this world is far from ideal. His non-interventionist strategy would only let evil people attack us and others a lot more easily. And they want to get us because they are radical fundamentalists and not just because the U.S. is over in their countries. There are other "buts" about Paul too, but that's the biggest one for me. So even though he has a lot of good ideas and he seems like a great man, I really don't think he could make it work as President.

3. Senator John McCain. I've never been a big McCain fan. I saw him in person once when I was volunteering at Penn's 2001 graduation and he was the speaker. It was pouring out that day and he was smart enough to keep his speech short and sweet since all everyone wanted to do was get out of the rain. Anyway, I like McCain for his military experience. I think he would be good when it comes to that kind of thing. The rest of it, though, I'm not so sure. My biggest problem with John McCain is that I've heard several times that he has a bad temper that he doesn't control very well, he swears like a sailor, and he holds grudges and is openly rude to those who he's ticked off at. I don't want that kind of a person running the country. We need someone even-tempered and good-natured (not another LBJ!).

4. Senator Fred Thompson. I have been stumped as to the popularity of this guy. What is the big deal? I hadn't even heard of him up until a few months ago, and I follow politics regularly. That being said, he was good in the debate. He has a quick wit and good answers. His demeanor is calm and strong. But I still don't know what's so great about him and why he would make a good President. What has he done that is so special?

5. Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He was great as mayor of New York and was amazing in the wake of 9/11. I was a big Rudy fan back then. But the more I've learned about him the less I've come to like him. It's good that he's moderate and therefore might be able to reach out to both sides better, but I don't think he's very well qualified to be the President. To go from being a mayor (yes, even the mayor of NYC) right up to prez is a big leap, isn't it? Plus, I don't trust him. I don't mean to be a Bible thumper, but he cheated on his wife and left his family. I do think it matters what a person does in their private life because it shows what kind of a moral compass that person has, and one's level of personal morality can have a significant impact in politics. I also don't like his new wife Judith, and they have exhibited some downright strange behavior together in the past.

Giuliani and Romney really went after each other in the debate, and Rudy struck first, going after Romney on immigration and accusing him of employing illegal immigrants at his "mansion." He was talking about Romney's house in Belmont, Mass. and was trying to make it seem like Romney is a hypocritical, distant, super-wealthy guy who's disconnected from the general public. First of all, I have seen that house, and though it's big and beautiful, it's not a mansion, it's just a big colonial. Giuliani was exaggerating and I bet he knew it. He kept trying to say that Romney hired illegals to work at his "mansion" (the landscaping company he hired to work on his lawn had some illegals, but that's not Romney's fault or responsibility). So I was glad when Giuliani got booed when he kept trying to go on and on about it. So anyway, it just made me more unhappy with the guy. I'm worried that he's going to win the nomination, and I just can't imagine this man being our President.

6. Governor Mitt Romney. He is brilliant and articulate and accomplished, but he didn't do as well as usual in the debate last night. Some of his past and present positions on issues like abortion, waterboarding, and gays in the military made him stumble a bit.

Romney may not be the most upfront candidate, but he's far from being the most deceptive or malicious. He's just playing the political game and probably had to position himself the way that he did in order to win the governorship in liberal Massachusetts. Electoral politics really is a game, after all.

Now that some of the things he said in the past are coming back to haunt him, maybe he should have had better integrity and said what he really believed, but I have to tell you, I'm a Mormon too and in the past I went back and forth on the constitutional right to abortion issue, finally deciding that it shouldn't be a matter of constitutional rights when it comes to ending a life. So I understand his line of thinking on that because it mirrors my own. I don't think he's saying whatever he can to get elected, but he is walking a fine line, as are all of the candidates on both sides. They're all players of the game and have to be strategic in whatever they say and do. It's one of the things I hate about politics, but unfortunately it's the way it is.

Mitt Romney is a good person and I know that he would make a good President. He would clean up Washington and get it running better and that would have numerous beneficial effects. He's so good at that sort of thing. He did it for the state of Massachusetts, he did it with the Olympics, and he's done it many times in business when he's helped companies that are falling apart get back on track.

And his Mormonism should absolutely not be an issue for voters. It wasn't a factor when he was the governor, and it won't be if he's President either. Sometimes I have to laugh about some of the ignorant assumptions and reservations being made about the LDS Church. Sometimes the intolerance and lack of understanding really anger me. If it keeps him from getting the nomination I am going to be really annoyed.

Last but not least about Romney, for now, is that he would be, like, our handsomest president ever!

7. Governor Mike Huckabee. He's a nice guy, and he's making me nervous because he's been gaining on Romney. I like Huckabee, but I don't "heart" him. He seems to be honest and good, but sometimes his nice-ness comes off as preachy and too sweet for a man running for President. He's not as strong and presidential as some of the other candidates. He doesn't have the accomplishments and successes that Romney has had. But I think I'd take him over Giuliani. A Romney-Huckabee ticket could be good. Then maybe the people who are scared of/hate Mormons will vote for them since Huckabee is a Baptist minister. I don't know if those two together would be strong enough to beat Hillary though (yes, I do believe she will be the Democratic nominee. But more on that another time!). It might take Giuliani or McCain to do that (as the VP candidate, of course!).

8. Congressman Tom Tancredo. He's really into immigration and seems to be good with that, but not much else. What else has he done? I'm not sure. He's kind of similar to Hunter: likable but not very memorable, although he stands out a bit more than Hunter does. He'll probably be the second one to go.

If you've made it this far, I'm very impressed! This is my longest post ever. That happens with politics, it tends to make one either have a lot to say or nothing at all to say. I will write about the Democrats running for President sometime soon, so stay tuned.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Peter was in The WSJ!

Here is my chance to reveal a little-known husband is the exciting world of...retirement planning. Ha ha. Well, I guess it's exciting to some. What is indeed exciting is that Peter was mentioned in The Wall Street Journal not too long ago. The heck with his career, this is especially good for me because my blog is modeled after The Wall Street Journal's name. So I see this as an auspicious event heralding good things for my little blog. Maybe the two are somehow linked. Maybe not. Anyhow, Peter knew the article he co-wrote was going to be mentioned in The WSJ but didn't know when, so we didn't even know until a few days after it was in the paper. Luckily we kept that section since it was about Retirement.

If you're interested, it was in the weekend edition of the paper on November 17-18 in The Journal Report section on Retirement and Social Security. It's the cover story and here's Peter's brush-with-fame mention, located in the first column on page R3:

"But first, take a few minutes to read a new report: "Rethinking Social Security Claiming in a 401(k) World," written by James Mahaney and Peter Carlson, retirement specialists at Prudential Financial Inc. It's the best discussion we've seen about filing for benefits and possible strategies for doing so."

Alright! Go Peter! Jim Mahaney was Peter's boss in New Jersey and they came up with a new patent-pending approach to capitalizing on Social Security payouts in retirement. Smart guys! If all goes well perhaps this will be the first of more than a few mentions of Peter in our favorite newspaper in the years to come. And maybe The Doll Sweet Journal will become famous too. Next time The WSJ could just throw in something like, "Carlson's wife, Donna, has an excellent blog that should be read by all, with a clever twist on the name of this paper." And then they would write the url of my blog, and it would get a ton of hits. Sounds like a pretty ideal situation to me, and very realistically attainable as well!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

10 Things I'm Thankful For

1. To be an American and to live in this great country.
2. For my religious faith, which is everything to me and provides me with the answers to life's most significant questions. I don't know where I would be or who I would be without it.
3. To be a mother, what I always wanted to be more than anything else. I'm so thankful for John, who is truly one of the greatest blessings I will ever have in life.
4. For Peter, who is a good person and also my best friend. He works hard to provide for us and he excels in just about everything he does. I'm thankful we still have fun together, laughing and chasing each other around the house and such.
5. For my family and my friends. Especially my mother, who is a good friend and who will travel the three hours round-trip just to babysit John or to help us with a fix-it-up project in our house or yard. And especially for Christy, my faithful canine sidekick for the past 12 years who knows me so well. I'm so thankful she's still alive and kicking!
6. For my good health.
7. For my education.
8. For good books, music that makes me feel good, and entertaining movies and TV shows, all of which let me go somewhere fun and different for awhile.
9. For the beauty of nature, particularly around here in New England.
10. For the basic comforts of life, which many in the world go without. Delicious foods and drinks, a comfortable house, clothes, cars...we have so much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I want to go shopping!

Well, the holiday season is officially upon us--Oprah's Favorite Things show was on today! There's nothing to get me in the mood for Christmas like shopping and the lure of new things. After all, that's what the holidays are all about, right? Ha ha. This particular show is on at around this time every year and is kind of a cultural event for Oprah fans, as well as for most retailers across the country who would kill to get their products to be on this show, thereby ensuring their sales success for the holiday season.
The show is really fun to watch because the audience gets so excited. It's always a surprise for them when they find out that they're at the taping of the Favorite Things show, and they go absolutely nuts because almost everything Oprah picks they get to have. On this show the most expensive gift she's ever featured was a fancy LG stainless-steel refrigerator with a built-in HD TV. And everyone got one. Lucky! And to end the show, one of my favorite singers, Josh Groban, sang some beautiful songs from his new Christmas album, which I just bought on Saturday. So it was fun and got me into the spirit. I would love to go to that show. Who wouldn't, with all the expensive free goodies to score?!

I like seeing what Oprah picks every year. She has good taste and chooses some great things that make nice gifts for others and for yourself. I'm happy because I've been wanting a nice new watch for awhile, and there was a watch featured that's nice but also in the affordable range, since the Cartier I would love to have is just a wee bit out of reach for now. Peter, take note!
This is a great list to go to for gift ideas. There are 20 items on it. These are my favorites: #1, a palm-size HD camcorder; #3, the watches; #4 (mmmm...cupcakes); #7, this Planet Earth DVD set looks amazing and we've been wanting it since it came out earlier this year; #10, scrumptious soaps from Portugal; #13, check out this refrigerator. I don't even like stainless steel that much but I'd take this in a heartbeat!; #14, this sorbet looks yummy and I'd heard good things about it before this; #16, Scrabble Premier Edition; and #20, the Josh Groban Noel CD, which is really good.

Another reason the holiday season is here, at least here in Connecticut, is because it snowed today for the first time this season. It was a pretty snowfall, and one that took me by surprise. The flakes were big and puffy and pretty, but the roads were slippery, which always stresses me out when I have to drive, which I had to do this morning. I wrote in a previous post that I've never been in any car accidents, but I've had a few scary close-calls and they've all happened because of snow or ice. But it was all good. The snow that's left on the ground will probably be gone by the weekend, but I'm sure there will be more in the not-too-distant future. I hope we get more than we did last winter. It would be wonderful to have a white Christmas, which hasn't happened forever!

Anyhow, please forgive me for my materialism. It's all in good fun. Things like cupcakes, a cool watch, and great music and entertainment can bring more happiness to life. On a more serious note, I'm not going to get in trouble for having those pictures from on my blog, am I? If I'm violating copyright laws, is it serious enough that I will get my booty kicked by someone official?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Random Tidbits

-And I thought I was dumb because I'm blonde....There was a strange study I heard about in the news a few days ago. It says that curvaceous woman with hourglass figures tend to be more intelligent. What?? I'm wondering, did they conduct this study in Asia at all, because Asian women generally tend to be petite and they also tend to be very smart. So there's one strike against that study, and I feel better already! Ha ha. I was always long and lean and stick-thin until I had John. The after-effects of pregnancy and childbirth were great because they gave me a more womanly figure, so that I finally had hips and a defined waist instead of being built like a boy. So by the logic of this study, I guess my I.Q. rose a few points when I became a mother. Maybe it will keep going up as I have more kids and become more "curvaceous." Yes!! Maybe there's hope for me after all!

-We went to Cold Stone Creamery on Saturday night and I couldn't wait to get my favorite flavor, Rocky Road Trip. My craving went unmet when the guy behind the counter said that they no longer served it (at all, ever again) because they had become kosher. I have never heard of that happening. I was so disappointed. I hope it was just that franchise and not the whole chain. I don't want to live without Rocky Road Trip. I have never had better Rocky Road than at Cold Stone. The way they make it is so good!

-The Land of Nod sells nice solar system bedding and things for boys rooms now. I've been looking and looking, and finally found something good. I think they just came out with this. They even address the Pluto issue if you read the product description (which, by the way, I disagree with...I don't think Pluto should have been demoted. It is too a planet!). For some reason John loves the planets and space. He had all the planets memorized in order before he turned 2. And his knowledge has only grown from there. So when I re-do his room soon, I'll probably get some of this stuff.

-For Red Sox fans, check out these insider pics of the team celebrating at a bar at Fenway a few days after their World Series win. Muchas gracias to my sister Jennifer for sending me these.

-We joined Netflix recently and we love it. It's so easy, and it's cheap too. It's never been so convenient to get the newest movies as well as all of the older ones that I never got a chance to see. I highly recommend Netflix!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

8 Generally Unknown Things About Me

1. I was called a different name when I was younger. It was “Josaleen” (prounounced Joe-zu-leen). It’s my middle name. It would have been my first name but “Josaleen Donna” didn’t sound right to my parents. So I was called “Josaleen” by everyone until 1st grade, when my super-strict teacher wouldn't call me that because it wasn’t my official first name. From that time, I was known as “Donna” in school, but still “Josaleen” at home. As I got older it was embarrassing when my friends came over and I was called by this other name, so I forbade my family from calling me it anymore. It took a few years, but by high school I was Donna to pretty much everyone, though I have relatives who I know still think of me as Josaleen and probably always will! That's okay with me, though. It's kind of a pretty and unique name.

2. I have a perfectly clean driving record. I’ve been driving for over ten years now, and I’ve never been pulled over and never had an accident. I don’t know how this is because I know I speed too much. I still get lectured about it every time my mother is in the car when I’m driving. I can always shoot back that my driving record is perfect. Knock on wood!

3. I have an obscure talent: I’m a good diver. I took swimming lessons growing up, and I was an average swimmer, and I was pretty bad at treading water (I was always one of the first who had to reach out and grab onto the wall), but diving was something I was good at and really liked doing. Sometimes I find myself daydreaming about all of the different dives I would try if I had the opportunity or the training. Not that I could have been one of them, but I feel a certain wistfulness when I watch the summer Olympics and see the divers!

4. I'm an ardent recycler. I don't know why, but I must recycle every piece of paper (even small scraps!) and all containers. It bugs me when I see recyclable things in the trash. I'm not a big environmentalist or anything, but reusing things like that just makes so much sense. This is silly, but I'm kind of proud that I usually only have to change my kitchen trash once a week, since so much of what would go in there can be recycled. My next step is to get a composter so that food waste can go into that. Reduce, reuse, recycle!

5. I don't really enjoy talking on the phone. I only do it when I have to. There is something unnerving to me about not being able to see who I’m talking to. It can also be a big time-waster. The only people I call with any regularity are my mother on Sunday nights and Peter at work when John is driving me crazy and/or to whine “When are you coming home?”

6. I have the ability to take good power naps. I can lay down for 10-20 minutes and program into my mind the amount of time I want to nap, and unless I’m really overtired, I will wake up at that time feeling refreshed and awake. This skill was incredibly useful in college. I could do it at the library or bookstore or wherever I was studying. I would just stretch my arm out across the table, lean my head down onto it, and I was out like a light, and then I’d wake up 10-20 minutes later and be ready to work. It’s a very useful skill these days too. In fact, I took a 15-minute power nap this very afternoon. It helps me get everything done that I need to do in a day.

7. I have a sense of humor that some might think is weird, or cruel. I can’t help it, but I think it’s really funny when people trip and fall, unless they’re elderly or it’s a child or the person truly gets hurt. Some of the times I have laughed hardest have been falls Peter has made. He had a fall in the bathroom one time that was just priceless. Ha ha! I also think some juvenile things are really funny, like certain bodily functions. You know what I mean!!

8. I once hit the jackpot at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. And I was underage when I did it too! Okay, so the truth is, I was around 11 years old, I obviously wasn't gambling, my family was in the mall part of the casino, and my brothers and sisters and I were playing around with the pay phones. I hit the coin return on one of the phones to see if any change would come out, and all of these quarters came spilling out. Jackpot!

Thursday, November 8, 2007


As is usually the case with Halloween, we had a fun time this year. For the second year in a row the weather was mild, even in the evening when it was time to go out trick-or-treating. I don't like being outside in the cold, so the weather was a real "treat" for me! It was also lighter out for longer than usual because of Daylight Savings Time being pushed back a month, and that was nice too.

We went to a Halloween party at our church on October 27th, and John had fun playing games and going "trunk or treating" (from car to car in the parking lot). Here he is at that:

John's costume was a dalmation. We have a Disney Sing Along video for "101 Dalmations" that he was kind of obsessed with over the summer. He came to love Pongo, the dalmation dog. When I'd try to get him to say "hi" to people, he would say "Pongo" instead, which was kind of embarrassing. So when I saw this costume online I knew it was "the one." He liked it too, though he would only wear the head and feet when Peter helped him put them on. The weird thing about this costume is that doesn't have a tail. What's up with a dog costume that has no tail? Weird, but still cute! If I were more crafty I would have made a tail myself and sewed it on, but unfortunately I'm no Martha Stewart when it comes to that kind of thing.

How sad: a tail-less doggy!

Trick-or-treating was fun; he seemed to understand it more this year and he was pretty good about saying "trick or treat" and "thank you." Next year when he's 3 I think he'll really get it. Our neighborhood has only a few kids, but just about everybody gives out candy, so it was nice to go out and see all of our neighbors. When I was growing up, the neighborhood was always teeming with children on Halloween, so it's really different to have it be so quiet. The good thing about it is that Peter and I can both go out with him and just leave a bowl of candy on the doorstep since so few people come anyway.

Getting ready to go out
"This hat stinks, but I'll wear it for daddy and for the love of Pongo."

All ready to hit up the neighbors for candy!

He/we (what's his is ours, after all!) got a lot of candy, and since he only likes lollipops, there was a lot of extra that he got to play with by sorting and organizing it repeatedly. That boy is so much like me in that respect! That's what I always liked to do.

Dividing the spoils, post trick-or-treating.

After John went to bed, I was tired so I vegged out and watched three straight hours of TV: a funny Halloween episode of a cool new show called "Pushing Daisies," then "Ghost Hunters" live, and then a scary CSI:NY that really creeped me out. Perfect for Halloween! And last but not least, here's my little cutie in his "I Love My Mummy" glow-in-the-dark shirt a few days ago. We hope you all had a happy Halloween too!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Cause of Our Recent Woes

Here it is:

That's right. The subject matter of this innocent looking picture has been a scourge in my life recently. Two weeks ago we took the rail off of John's crib and put on a bed rail because he's getting old enough to start the conversion process over to a real bed. He adjusted well to it and loved being able to get out of the bed instead of being trapped inside. But that is where our troubles began.

The first few nights he slept fine. Then he figured out that he really could get up whenever he wanted, even if it was pitch dark outside, and I started getting a little bedside visitor in the early-morning hours. First it started in the 6:00 hour, then the 5:00 hour, and the absolute worst was the 4:00 hour. Being too tired to get up and put him back in his bed and listen to him cry (or having to repeat the process when he'd just come in to our room again), I let him into bed and we snuggled up together, which was nice, but not at all sleep-inducing, especially since John would usually not go back to sleep, so I wouldn't be able to either.

The result was that for about a week straight I was so sleep-deprived. John was too, but it didn't seem to bother him as much. I, on the other hand, got massive headaches and lost all productivity and sense of normalcy, scheduling, and organization that I usually have. It is amazing what a lack of sleep will do to a person. It was like revisiting the newborn Baby John days again, only this time it was much worse than that ever was. My life was in chaos!

If you're wondering about Peter, he is a heavy sleeper, so this didn't affect him as much. Plus, my side of the bed is closer to the door so John came over to me. He also probably knows that I'm more of a softy than Peter. Anyway, despite all of that, it wasn't helping Peter either, and we decided that this had to stop. After all, we're the parents, and we shouldn't let the course of our lives be totally dictated by our child, right?

So we decided to close his bedroom door at night before we went to bed so that he couldn't leave his room when he got up. We did this for the first time a few nights ago, and John woke up at around 4:30 a.m. crying because now he was trapped in his room, so Peter went in and put him back to bed (he's much better at that than me) and closed the door again when he left. John cried some more but then went back to sleep. And ever since then, it hasn't been a problem! We just make sure his door is closed before we go to bed at night. When I go in to get him in the morning, his room is a disaster area--I have no idea what time he's getting up to play, but at least he's staying quiet and letting me get some much-needed sleep. Life is good again!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We Are The Champions!

I can say "we" because I am a long-time loyal Red Sox fan. They won the World Series on Sunday night, sweeping the poor Colorado Rockies pretty easily. The "curse" is most definitely over and I think the Red Sox might be the new dynasty in baseball. It sure isn't the Yankees anymore!

To be honest, I wanted Colorado to win at least once. It's sad when a team makes it all the way to the World Series and then doesn't win even one game. Plus, it would have been awesome for the Sox to win the Series at home in Boston. That hasn't happened in many decades. The fans would have gone crazy at Fenway! That would have been so cool to see. So if the Rockies had won at least two games it could have happened. Oh well. I'm not going to complain too much!

A few last things about baseball until the spring when a new season starts. I think the rules in the American League and the National League need to become the same. AL teams are so much better in part because of the differences between the leagues. It would be more fair and make a lot of sense to have the rules be the same on both sides (like the pitcher not having to bat and the designated hitter not having to play in the field). The American League seems to always win the All-Star game and the World Series. I think AL teams must have more money too. The Red Sox and Yankees seem to be the richest teams and so they're able to get the best players. I wonder if there's a way to handle the money more democratically? Perhaps Peter or one of my brothers has some ideas on that.

And last but not least, my favorite Red Sox players this season were Josh Beckett for his amazing pitching ability, Mike Lowell for his reliability and skill at bat and at 3rd base, Jonathan Papelbon because he's so darn cute and does some great Irish dancing wearing just a pair of little black shorts or a kilt, and Manny Ramirez because he's very amusing. I love all of the Red Sox members (yes, even Gagne)--they did a great job all season and they deserved to be the World Series champs! Can't wait for next season!

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I like to watch Oprah when the topic interests me, and Friday's show definitely interested me. It was about polygamy and families who are practicing it in the U.S. today. These are predominantly splinters from the mainstream Mormon church who disagreed with the Church when the practice was formally renounced in 1890, so they continued to practice it anyway and formed their own little communities out in the desert to do so.

The polygamous wives on the show were so normal looking. It was weird! They were attractive and articulate, their homes were lovely, their kids were cute (all 25 of 'em!) short, they were a lot like modern-day "soccer moms." A husband came on the show with his three wives--two of them were sisters. Creepy! He was a successful businessman who seemed nice enough. It was hard to believe these people were polygamists and were so (seemingly) happy and content with the practice. (Are these women from another planet?) They want it to be legalized so that they don't have to be outcasts anymore and can live in the community like normal people. The case can be made that if gay marriage is allowed, then other forms of marriage are going to need to be permitted as well. I hope legalization of polygamy doesn't ever happen. The most I can see happening is it maybe getting de-criminalized. Would that be a good thing or a bad thing? I'm not sure.

A woman named Carolyn Jessop was also on the show. She grew up in Colorado City, Arizona in a cult-like community of fundamentalists that is much, much worse than the places where the above-mentioned people live. These are the people who totally shun the outside world and dress like they still live in the 1800's. That's where Warren Jeffs is from...he's the so-called prophet of these people who was recently convicted as an accomplice to rape. It is really sad. That place is like Iran. Anyway, Carolyn Jessop escaped with her children in 2003 after years of misery living in polygamy in this awful dictatorial world. She just wrote a book called "Escape" about what her life was like there. I went out and bought it the next day and am eager to read it. Here's the link to find out more about the book if you're interested:

I have always been fascinated by these polygamists. I can't believe what they're doing! I feel a small level of affinity for them because their forebearers were once members of the Church and so we share some doctrinal beliefs (unrelated to polygamy) and practices (such as Sacrament Meeting and singing the same hymns and songs) as well as a similar heritage. Some of my ancestors on my father's side were pioneers who trekked out West to settle; one of them was even an associate of Joseph Smith's. None of them practiced plural marriage, however. Only a small percentage of the pioneers ever did.

I once read in an opinion piece in Time magazine that members of the Church wish these people would just go away, and that's kind of true, at least for me. They perpetuate the association of Mormons and polygamy and make it seem like it's something that Mormons really do still do, or at least want to do, and that isn't true. They discredit the Church and its message, which it doesn't deserve. I personally do not understand polygamy. I know that great men like Abraham practiced it, and in more recent times, Joseph Smith and of course Brigham Young. But I just can't understand it and I find the idea of it to be abhorrent. I cannot imagine living life like that. The practice is inherently sexist and demeaning to women. It would be less so if women were allowed to have more than one husband in these communities so that then there would at least be equality in that respect. Wouldn't that be interesting? But still, it wouldn't be good. Maybe someday it will indeed all just go away. One spouse at a time should be enough for everyone!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Beginning of My Blog

Well I can finally cross this one off the list...I've started a blog! I've been thinking about doing it for awhile, and I finally found myself with a few extra minutes and the sudden motivation, so I did it. I'm not sure how it will turn out. I'm pretty busy so I can't let it become a driving force in my life, but I think it will be fun. I'm going to write about whatever floats my boat. I think I read once that the best blogs have one main theme, so mine's not going to be among the best because it will pretty much be a hodgepodge of a bunch of different things. In all likelihood it will take me awhile to get pictures and other fun stuff up and running (I'm a bit of a technical novice), so this will be a bare-bones blog for awhile, for pure writing and reading enjoyment only.

Hopefully this will help me to keep my writing and analytical skills up. I swore when I graduated from college that I would never write another paper again (my last semester was a real killer), but now I kind of miss that type of writing. Not that I'm going to be writing papers on here or anything (or anywhere else, for that matter!), and not that my posts will all be very intellectual in nature, but I've missed writing in general.

It was tough to name this blog. I felt the pressure to be clever, creative, and original, all qualities that I do not possess to a great degree, especially when it comes to naming things. First I thought of the generic and boring "Donna's Blog," which then led me to "Donna's World" (from "Elmo's World" son and I are Sesame Street fans), then "Breath of Fresh Air," but I realized that kind of copies NPR's "Fresh Air." So then I thought of my favorite newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, and tried to come up with a play on words of that. That idea came from my freshman year at Penn when we had to name our suite and came up with the name "Suiter Than Honey." So, in the end, I came up with "The Doll Sweet Journal." It's quite cheesy, but kind of cute, and I'm sticking with it, at least for now. If something brilliant comes to me I'll change it, though I'm not counting on that. I'm not into dolls or anything (though I loved them as a girl), but people do say that I'm sweet, so for the naming purposes of this blog and due to my limited creativity, I'm just a sweet little doll of a blogger!