Monday, September 29, 2008

A Feeling of Foreboding

I don't know if it's the coming month of ghoulish October or the current economic crisis or what, but ever since yesterday I've had this spooked feeling, like something bad is going to happen. It's been unsettling and it's driving me a little crazy. Have you ever had that intuitive feeling that something just isn't right, like something bad is going to happen? That's how I've been feeling, and I'm SPOOKED because of it!

A couple of weird things set this in motion:
1. An anonymous weirdo commented on a friend's blog yesterday and left comments that make you remember that there are some angry, strange people out there. That creeped me out a little.

2. Yesterday evening all of a sudden the power went out in our family room and garage. We couldn't figure out why. So the room has been dark and silent, which has been weird, unusual, and kind of depressing. No TV, no music, nothing. (Fortunately tonight we got it fixed!)

3. Last night while I was downstairs at the computer I had a strange, subtle feeling that I was being watched or under surveillance or something. I had Peter come downstairs and stick around nearby so that I'd feel better.

4. This was weird! I was laying in bed last night, and my closet doors suddenly opened with a creak all by themselves. Peter got up to see if it was the cat, but it wasn't. I couldn't get to sleep for like an hour after that! Could my house be haunted? The former owner died unexpectedly in the front yard a few years ago.

5. There was overcast weather today, which normally I don't mind, but today it just contributed to that scary foreboding feeling I was having.

6. My car was beeping today while I was driving it and I couldn't figure out why. My seat belt was on, so it wasn't that. It was as if the car was trying to tell me, "Look out! Danger! Look out!" It creeped me out.

7. My dog and two cats have been acting a little differently, especially the cats.

It just feels like things have been knocked off their regular angle a few degrees. I hate this feeling! So tonight I found out something interesting: my sister's house up in Massachusetts caught on fire this morning, and the whole house could have burnt down if my sister hadn't come home at the random unusual time that she did. Could my foreboding feeling have been about that? Or was it the Dow's record fall today because Congress didn't pass the bailout plan, possibly putting this country on the path to a major depression? Or both, or something still to be determined? I guess time will tell. If I die in the next week, you'll know that I foretold it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My First Summer Veggie Garden: A for Effort, B- for Results

I finally accomplished a longtime goal this past summer: I planted a vegetable garden. Yeah! It was a very small garden, just a strip of soil lining one of the sides of our back patio. I figured that it was okay to start small, otherwise I was never going to do it.

I don't really have much gardening experience, so I planted what I heard were easier vegetables to grow: tomatoes and zucchini. I planted four cherry tomato plants, but two of them must have been mislabeled when I bought them because they produced bigger medium-sized tomatoes. I also planted one zucchini plant. The zucchini plant failed and yielded nothing. Two of the tomato plants did quite well, but the other two (the ones with the bigger tomatoes) didn't do as well. The tomatoes they grew had weird spots and abrasions on them and didn't look all that appetizing.

I was pretty diligent about taking care of my little garden: I mixed the soil with some good, rich Miracle-Gro before I planted, tried to space them correctly and dig to the right depth, and watered regularly. I staked the tomatoes (badly) when the plants got tall enough. I need to do better staking next summer. Speaking of which, next summer I plan on doing tomatoes again, and one or two other things that might be more successful than zucchini.

These were the two biggest rewards of having a garden:
1) I love cherry tomatoes, and the best ones I've ever had were surprisingly from this garden. An earth-fresh vegetable that you've just plucked from the ground has a wonderful fresh taste to it that store-bought veggies seem to lose. I loved going out and plucking a ripe red little tomato off the vine and popping it right in my mouth when it was nice and warm from the sun. No pesticides to worry about washing off either. What a wonderful treat!

2) John actually ate a few tomatoes because he saw how they grew from our own plants. VICTORY! He also got to learn more about nature by helping out with the gardening, which he really enjoyed.

I went to Home Depot's Garden Center in mid-May, chose my four tomato plants, and planted them. Soon after that I bought some zucchini seeds and planted those too.

By mid-June, the plants looked like this. The zucchini sprouts are on the right end, and the rest are the tomato plants.

End of June. Note John's little broom I used for staking, since I didn't have any actual stakes to use yet! I didn't really know what I was doing.

So a few weeks later, a kind friend gave me some of her old tomato stakes to use.

The first tomato!!

Soon after the first one appeared, little clusters of them came into being.

The zucchini plant sprouted this pretty yellow flower. I've heard that those are edible, but I didn't indulge.
In the middle of July, we got a huge rainstorm, and it wreaked havoc on my poor little garden. Fortunately I was able to fix it back up.

I was excited the day that I found the first red tomato!

Here's John in August, picking the ripe tomatoes.

Puttin' the kid to work!

This is the failed zucchini plant that I uprooted and tossed into the woods that day. Some little animal had a feast on this every night during the summer. Maybe that's one of the reasons why it didn't sprout any veggies. More likely it was my own ineptitude.
The sweet taste of success: He actually wanted to eat tomatoes! It made the months-long effort totally worth it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Be There, Or Be Square (McCain!)

If you're a political junkie like me, you're probably looking forward to the first presidential debate tomorrow night between Barack Obama and John McCain. Even if you're not a political junkie and you're just interested in the race, it should be pretty interesting to watch.

McCain has been saying for the last day or so that the debate should be postponed so that he and others in Congress can concentrate on devising an effective plan to fix the country's economic crisis as soon as possible. Obama says the debate should go on as planned. I agree with Obama. And I'm pretty sure that the debate will go on as planned, and that McCain will show up in Mississippi on the plane from Washington, D.C. in time. If he doesn't, it will reflect poorly on him, and many people will lose some respect for him, myself included.

The debate is Friday night, September 26th, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time (kind of a weird day and time for a debate). It will be on all of the major networks. The moderator is going to be Jim Lehrer, who was the Commencement speaker when I graduated from Penn six years ago. The subject is going to be foreign policy, McCain's supposed strength and Obama's supposed weakness, so it should be pretty good!

Jim Lehrer (he's a news anchor on PBS)

To be fair and balanced, I should include a picture of Obama, since there's one of McCain up there.
(He has a great smile! )

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Quirky Quirks

My new blog buddy, Rachel, recently tagged me with this, so here are a few quirky things about me. I hope you don't think I'm too weird after reading these. And even if you do, I hope you'll still like me!

1. I can't stand to have one hand wet and the other hand dry. It feels so uncomfortable to me, especially if I then have to touch a towel to dry off the wet hand and the dry hand touches the towel too. Ugh, I hate the thought of it! So I always have to get both of my hands wet, not just one. This is very bizarre.

2. I make and maintain lists for just about everything: a daily to-do list, a monthly to-do list, a seasonal to-do list, a house to-do list, a "dinners to make this week" list, a Things to Buy list, a grocery list, and lists for clothes to get, books to read, movies to watch, places to visit, and more. I'm crazy about lists (in more ways than one!).

3. I'm a little obsessed with time management. I tend to structure and plan my days in such a way that I will be able to get as much as I can out of every minute. I often fall a little short, especially in the evenings. Like right now, I'm blogging instead of doing other things I should probably be doing. But it's the end of the day and I need a break!

4. Just about every drawer and cabinet in my house is really organized, because I'm a neat freak. I'm very particular about where things go and how they get put away. It's a little scary, even to me, although I don't think I'd want it any other way.

5. Misspellings and grammatical errors bug me. It's the detail-oriented, oversensitive editor in me. When I'm reading something and I spot a mistake, if there's a pen nearby I actually sometimes write in the correction. It just makes me feel better, like somehow I'm making the world a better place. At least my world, anyway, since I guess I'm the only one reading the correction.

6. I have lifelong brand loyalty to a few things simply because of positive associations with them from my childhood (I think this is a reason why children get so heavily marketed to). For example, I'll only ever get Snuggle fabric softener sheets because I remember the commercials from when I was young with that cute little Snuggle bear and it brings back happy memories. Plus, that's what my mom used. So it's worth it to pay the few extra dollars, even though it may be a little impractical.

I tag: Barack Obama, Michael Phelps, and anyone else who wants to do it!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Summer Nostalgia

Tomorrow is officially the first day of fall, and I already miss the warmth, vibrant colors, and sun-drenched greenery of summer. So I figured that on this last full day of summer I'd post the pictures I've been taking since springtime of the various flowers around my yard as they bloomed. It's funny, as soon as one plant blooms and then starts to wane, another one starts up, and that's how the cycle has been. It would be gorgeous if they were all in bloom at the same time, but I guess the flowers have an agreement in which they take turns being the star of the show. They're very diplomatic and peace-loving, those flowers.

Flowers that bloomed in springtime

This lovely purple flower bush in the backyard leads things off. When I look out my kitchen window in April and see it starting to bloom, I know spring has arrived. I love the yellow buds on the trees in the background too.

This tree is near our front door. I love its snow-white blossoms.
The color purple (or pink?)

Perennials are the best. They do all the work and come back year after year! Lilacs are my second favorite flower. I wish they could last all summer long, but they only bloom for about two weeks or so in the spring.

No flowers here, just the beauty of nature and my little boy at the edge of the woods in the backyard.
Flowers that bloomed in summer
I love this dogwood tree. When it's in bloom (July), all I can see when I look out my front bedroom window are its pretty white blossoms and verdant green leaves.

This orange flower is all over the place in New England during the summer.

Giant hostas that line the front walk. Here they are before they bloom, when they're still pretty tame:

And here they are after they bloom. They get so huge and droopy, and then they shed their petals all over the place.

Sun-drenched greenery that I can never get enough of.

There's a big bush of hibiscus flowers near our front door that blooms in about mid-July, and its still in bloom now. Yay!

I really do love these flowers, plants, and trees. Nature puts on such a stunning show every summer. It always reminds me of what a masterful creator and artist God is.

Although summer is my favorite season, I can't deny the intense beauty of fall's red, yellow, and orange foliage. I'm definitely looking forward to that happening in the next few weeks!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Little Vindication For Children's TV

Who says TV is bad for kids? It's an issue I've given a lot of thought to since becoming a mother. I recently read an article in The WSJ about a new study that says TV for kids may not be as harmful as some experts think. Apparently, in the years after TV was introduced in the U.S. (1940s-50s), children who had TV in their homes performed better on tests than their non-TV-watching counterparts. I've been waiting for a study with a result like this one! It confirms what I've always believed to be true--that for the vast majority of children, watching TV in moderation is not going to hurt them and might even help them in various ways.

I watched TV when I was a kid. Not a ton of it, but enough to have some favorite shows and fond memories of them. I lived for Pee Wee's Playhouse on Saturday mornings, and I loved the Disney Channel, Sesame Street, and The Smurfs. And I turned out fine. Heck, I went to college at an Ivy League university. TV couldn't have rotted my brain too much, right?

As for my 3-year-old son, John, he watches some TV almost every day, usually in 30-minute blocks about three or four times a day. He enjoys it, he learns from it, and sometimes we both need that break. He's actually watching the PBS show Curious George right now because he's tired, I'm tired, and it's late afternoon, the worst time of day in our house to get anything productive or constructive done. TV tends to be our best friend at this time of the day.

John watches good-quality shows that I DVR, and I certainly don't think it hurts him. If anything, they help him learn. A recent example: we are a family of book-lovin' readers, so we've been in the habit of reading lots of books with John ever since he was a baby, and as a result he's become a little bookworm himself. But it was the "ABC Animals" episode of Dora the Explorer that he was obsessed with for the whole month of August that got him really into the alphabet. Because of that he's now learning how to read and can spell and recognize simple words. The show got him excited and ignited his desire to go beyond just knowing the letters to the next step of learning each letter's sound to now learning how to read. Awesome! Gracias Dora!

I do think it's sad and harmful when kids just sit and watch TV for hours each day, day after day. That is where TV for kids (and adults too) can definitely become a bad thing. But when used in moderation, it's fine. Hey, it might even help your kids do better in school!

What do you think about this issue? Are you pro-TV or anti-TV or somewhere in between? I'm curious as to what other people's TV habits are for their kids. Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I Don't Drive a Minivan...

...but if I did, I'd totally get this shirt!

Ha ha! Here are my other favorites, from

I may not make the bucks that a sugar daddy does (or any bucks for that matter), but I am kinda sweet. My blog title even says so. Besides, I love cupcakes!
For the ardent/OCD recycler in me:

Perfect for that time of the month!

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Flip-Flops That Saved My Feet

Salvation came for my feet this summer in the form of Adidas Fit Foam flip-flops. I'm now officially a lifelong devotee, so Adidas better never discontinue them! The reasons for my devotion to a pair of flip-flops are these:

Every summer for as long as I can remember, I've gotten tough, hardened heels and calloused, bumpy toes, and by the end of each day the bottoms of my feet have been dark and dirty. I know, it's not attractive imagery. My house is almost all hardwood floors and ceramic tile, which is pretty to look at but not pretty to walk around on all day. It certainly doesn't help in the pursuit of good-looking feet.

This summer, however, ugly feet didn't happen to me thanks to this wonderful pair of flip-flops I decided to try out. I wore them every day just around the house as my house shoes. They protected my feet from the hard floors and helped keep my feet nice and clean during the day.

They have soft, pillowy footbeds that are so comfortable, and unlike many other flip-flops, they easily stay on my feet. I can't walk around the house now without them on. It's so nice to finally have decent-looking feet, and healthier feet too! My legs haven't gotten any aches and pains this summer because they've been so well supported. And these are pretty cheap, only about $25, so it's a good investment and one that has proven to be totally worth it. My feet say thank you Adidas!

Posting this photo on a public blog shows that I have no shame. On the left are the pair that I wore all summer. They got pretty grimy and disgusting by summer's end. Better them than my feet! The pair on the right I just got as the replacement pair. They are currently on my feet right now as I type this.

The Queen of the Flip-Flops!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Lobster Bake!

Last Saturday on September 6th we hosted our second annual lobster bake for Peter's family. I didn't take that many pictures (I was busy "hostessing"), so the following photos are the best of the few I took, and they unfortunately don't include everyone. Peter's family drove over from Rhode Island (about a 90-minute drive for most of them) and brought good stuff like fresh corn-on-the-cob, potatoes, and desserts, while we supplied the lobsters, mussels, and clamcakes for a mighty good end-of-summer feast.

Cooking the seafood required special pots that are best used outdoors. The grill was used to cook steaks for the non-seafood lovers (crazy people that they are! I love a good steak but lobster is a rare treat). Peter is in the blue shirt and that's his brother Paul. They do have a sister, but her name is Ruth, not Mary. (ha ha)

John liked the lobsters. I felt so bad that they were going to be dead and on our plates soon. Despite my guilt, they tasted very, very good. They had a lot of meat on them this year.
With Uncle James (Peter's step-brother), and a lobster that John took a special liking to (which didn't help my guilt!).

The mussels were so delicious. The bowl of melted butter is for dipping them in. This picture makes me crave them all over again.

Arielle and Elizabeth (2 months old), John's cousins

John and Andrew, cousins and look-alikes!

We got this swingset at the end of June. It took a whole day to assemble, but it's been worth it! The kids have such a fun time on it.

It was a fun day!