Friday, November 22, 2013

Miscellaneous Things from the Week

1. Today is the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. I've been watching the 4-hour American Experience special about JFK that recently aired on PBS and I've also DVR'd some other specials on PBS about JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald that I plan on watching soon.

I like JFK. I think he's what really sparked my interest in politics and government. When I went on a high-school field trip to the JFK Museum in Boston, something about the things that I learned there and about Kennedy himself really inspired me and got me interested in politics. I went on to major in Political Science at Penn and had aspirations to work in government in an administrative way, like with policy work or speech-writing. Also, for years I've felt a little bit of kinship with the Kennedys because of their connection to Cape Cod. We now own a house that's just a few miles down the shoreline from the Kennedy family compound in Hyannisport, MA. 

He was a good person and a good president, even though he made some major mistakes, like ignoring what was going on in the South with civil rights because it wasn't convenient for him at the time, mismanaging the Bay of Pigs debacle in Cuba, and all that womanizing. But he was so good in the Cold War, and he wasn't really partisan like so many other politicians were and are. He was smart, good-hearted, and a strong leader. Good-looking too. :-) It's a tragedy that he was shot and killed when he still had a lot of potential and so much to offer. Who knows how different things would have been in history if that hadn't happened.

2. This was a big week in history, because it was also the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. There's a very talented documentary-maker named Ken Burns (he does a lot of documentaries for good old PBS) who recently started a website about memorizing the address, and I've decided that I'm going to do this. These days more than ever we Americans need to know and understand the principles laid out in documents like the Gettysburg Address and the Constitution. 

Incidentally, a few days ago I found out that someone I know is a descendant of Abraham Lincoln. This person is very tall and especially brilliant, just like Lincoln. I think this is so cool!

3. President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to various recipients on Wednesday, including Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey. The ceremony made me tear up a little (because I'm  dorky like that). It was nice to see Oprah again. I still miss her show. I don't think she should have ended it when she did. I bet if she hadn't she'd still be going strong in the ratings. 

4. Speaking of ratings, I had another random ratings spike on the blog here this week. From 97 views to 622 in a day--not bad! When this happens I'm always curious about what exactly causes these spikes but I can never figure it out. 

5. I've been perusing the seemingly hundreds of catalogs flooding my mailbox and I came across the funniest product. I was drawn to the caption for it: "The Power Nap Head Pillow" because I'm a fan of power naps. But when I saw the pictures, I laughed and laughed!

Can you believe how goofy-looking this is? What's even better is that it appears this picture was taken at an airport. Can you imagine seeing someone resting with this around their head at an airport!? Much less anyplace else! Sooo funny!

And this isn't a funny joke kind of product. It's from the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog and it costs $100. It was designed in Spain, where daily afternoon naptimes are a national pastime, so it's fitting that it was designed there. But I have a feeling that this isn't going to catch on here in the U.S. It would be pretty funny if it did though!

6. I want to get this ugly Christmas sweater from Target. Alas, it's already sold out online. I should've gotten it a few days ago when I first saw it.

Ugly Christmas sweaters are hot and I want one! 

7. I've been watching PBS Masterpiece Classic's newest show The Paradise this week. It's so good. I really do love PBS and Masterpiece Classic! The quality of their shows is much better than most of what's out there. The Paradise is set in London in the late 1800s/early 1900s at a fancy department store. These British dramas suck me in with their good writing, compelling storylines, wry humor, historic details, and rich vivid cinematography. The show's already been renewed for Season 2 (and is actually airing right now in England).  

And only about six more weeks until Downton Abbey starts again. Yay!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Organized This. Analyzed That.

I finally organized my master bathroom closet!

This was kind of a big deal for me because it was a project that I'd been putting off doing ever since we unpacked and moved in three years ago. Normally I like organizing projects, but I didn't want do to this one, and so the closet became a catch-all for things that I wasn't sure what to do with. I never got around to getting it properly cleaned out and organized. Until now!

You would never know from the outside the mess that lurked behind this door!
The reason for my procrastination and neglect of this particular closet? There were things in there that I wasn't ready to deal with when we moved in. Things like mementos of my beloved dog Christy, who had passed away two months before we moved here and who I was still missing very much, and reminders of our life in Connecticut that I was worried would trigger a massive bout of homesickness for New England. So I ignored the objects and dealt with the emotions instead. (And actually, it worked: I never got very homesick and my sadness over Christy subsided as grief naturally does.) But the piles continued to grow until I finally decided the time had come to get that closet and all of its contents whipped into shape, and I did just that over the course of a few days. 

It feels good to have confronted and properly stored special mementos of the past. It's a good reminder that we are all complex people who show a certain face to the world but only we know what's really going on inside. This is one of the reasons we need to try to be understanding and kind to others. 

On a practical level, it feels good to have satisfied my neat freak tendencies and to have a proper place now for keeping things that are dear to me. 

I should have taken a "before" picture, but I didn't think to take pictures of this until I was done and feeling pretty pleased with myself. 

Behold the neat and organized interior!

Boxed up mementos and cards.

Yeah. I organized all that. And it felt good!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Yellow Cornstalks and a Stormy Sky

These pictures are iconic of classic Iowa to me. I took them from Bloomsbury Farm's corn maze last month.
 I've really come to appreciate and enjoy the unique beauty of the Midwest. I may forever prefer the scenery of my native New England to anywhere else, but every place is special and lovely in its own way. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bloomsbury Farm 2013

Ever since we moved to Iowa three years ago we've gone to Bloomsbury Farm each October. This year's trip was notable for two reasons: 
1) It was really cold! The weather was windy and overcast, and when those winds whip across farmland with no sun out...brrrr! If we'd known it would be that cold, we would have worn our winter coats, gloves, and hats! 
2) The Today Show had been there to film a segment earlier in the week and it aired on national TV the very morning of the day that we were there. Cool! (Literally....brrrr! Ha ha!) I'm happy that the farm had that kind of opportunity for national attention. The owner Karen is a very nice woman and they do such a good job with everything there. Here's a link to an article about it (an article that needs some copyediting, I might add!): 

Fun activities abound at the farm! Here are just a few of them...

They had pumpkin bowling, which was something new.
John was really mad that he didn't get a strike (see third picture!).

John shot a few pumpkins at the Hawkeye target and he came pretty close to hitting it.  
In the picture below, the pumpkin is airborne and sailing through the air toward its target. Good shot!  

The boys enjoyed being the caboose on this tractor-train ride (especially Sam!).

There are two corn mazes at Bloomsbury Farm. One of them is huge, and Peter and John braved it for the first time ever and found their way through it after about 45 minutes. Sam and I were less adventurous and stuck with the smaller kid-friendly maze. As a directionally challenged person who doesn't take kindly to being outsmarted by her husband, that suited me just fine!

We watched some cute pig races. I liked the owl. Hoot hoot!

The best picture I got of the pigs racing is this one of the pig's behind jumping over an obstacle. Those pigs are fast! And my fingers were frozen!

Sam was finally big enough to really enjoy the jumping pillow this year. He loved it!

We attempted this, and it came out better than it usually does!

Well, except for this one...

Despite the cold, it was a fun day! I'm glad that this has become one of our annual fall traditions. 
We'll be back again next year!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Random Moments Around the House in October


A train track built by Sam, and trains organized by type by me. I can't help but organize toys when I play. I really can't!

Sam took these pictures by himself with the DSLR camera. Not bad, Sam! 
It's fun to see things from his perspective.

General Conference.

Boys at play. 
Sam's thing is obviously trains and John's is Pokemon cards.

Pretty foliage around the yard.

The first snowfall of the season, even though it only lasted for a few minutes and didn't stick at all. The grass was just as green afterwards. When Sam saw it he asked if Santa was coming.

Bright daisies from Costco. I wanted to get something a little more elegant, but Sam really wanted me to get these. Sigh. The things we do for kids! But really, they were fun, and they brightened up the kitchen.

I got this cute Anne Shirley tote bag, designed by a blogger I like.

 A pink October sunrise.

The Red Sox won the World Series! At Fenway Park!
(Isn't it fun to live vicariously through the TV?)

There were plenty of wet, cloudy, blustery days in October, which I loved!

Remember that red tree in my yard in the first foliage picture I posted above? Here it is almost bare a few weeks later (the second tree from the left in the foreground). Thus we see the nature of fall. In the meantime those trees in our next-door neighbor's yard turned a nice full red. So pretty!

Our front door stoop area. I finally got a festive Halloween wreath for the door, and I was happy that the pot of mums was still at least partially alive for when the trick-or-treaters came. We didn't carve jack o'lanterns this year because Peter was traveling, I didn't feel like doing it, and the kids didn't really bring it up. Maybe next year!

Sam's tall Lego tower(s).

And one last picture of my busy boys, John on the iPad (probably playing Plants vs. Zombies 2) and Sam playing with stickers.

It was a good month to be a homebody!