Friday, October 23, 2015

Five Things for Friday

1. As a follow-up to last week's Friday post, the spider at the mailhouse is gone, so I can once again get my mail in peace. I hope it found a nice isolated bush or tree to live in for the rest of its days where it will only terrorize the bugs that it catches in its web.

2. And as follow-up to #2 in last week's post, just in case you were wondering (and I know you were), my Avengers pumpkins pin is up to 224 re-pins and 24 likes.

3. One more follow-up, this one about my thoughts and predictions about war and the Middle East. This was on the front page of The Wall Street Journal yesterday:

To keep it pithy and reiterate what I said before, Putin and al-Assad together make me very apprehensive!

4. Speaking of feeling apprehensive, last Saturday night at a fine Italian restaurant I ate quail egg for the first time. It turned out to be good and tasted like a regular fried egg, only smaller. It was on top of my beef tenderloin. I also discovered at that dinner that I really like hazelnuts. How did I not know that before? Hazelnuts are delicious!

5. I'm really enjoying the final season of Downton Abbey. I'm glad that I decided to watch it early with the Brits.
I watch the newest episode every Friday afternoon as my special end-of-the-week treat.

The writers and actors have done themselves proud with this final season. The writing and acting are better than I've ever seen them on the show. The storylines and interactions are witty and funny, or touching and meaningful, and it's very enjoyable and well-done. All signs so far of this wonderful show ending well are good. If you're waiting to watch until it airs here in the U.S. starting in January, you're in for a treat!

Next week I won't be blogging, so I'll let the owl do the talking for me...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

So Glad...

I'm so glad I live in a world where people still toilet-paper other people's houses.

When I lived in Utah from the ages of 9-12, this was a popular activity and it brings back fun memories. It didn't happen much in Massachusetts, so maybe it's more of a Midwestern and Western thing? In any case, I'm glad people still do it. (Unless it happens to my house!)

This post was inspired by this lovely quote from Anne of Green Gables:

Anne is a classier lady than I am in this case! Ha ha.

Cool Owl Things I Bought Last Month

I saw this adorable painted pumpkin at the grocery store when I was on my way out the door and I didn't really have time to get back in line and buy it. So when I returned the next time, the first thing I did was to see if it was still there and luckily for me it was, so I was able to get it. 
It's so cute!

This cu-hoot wall hanging was for sale in a catalog, so I ordered it, and now it's hanging on the wall in our office.
I think our family really is a hoot! 

And best of all, I got this owl-print Kate Spade bag from one of their online Surprise Sales. 
I was lucky to get it because it ended up selling out! 

I love owls!

Wear and Tear

Sam put both the wear and especially the tear into the phrase "wear and tear" when it came to his swim shirt a few weeks ago.

I bought this swim shirt at Target this past winter. Sam wore it on our cruise in March, for swim lessons, and of course all throughout the summer to various beaches, pools, and a waterpark. By the end of the summer it was getting stretched pretty thin but still hanging on and able to serve its purpose. Then a few weeks ago when he was getting ready for his swim lesson, the shirt went Riiiip! right up the middle and that was the end of that. 

It was a good run, swim shirt, although a little too shirt--I mean short! (I really did make that typo when I was typing this and thought it was funny.) I was hoping you'd last at least a year, but you did the best you could. Thank you for your service to Sam in keeping him comfortable and protected from the sun, from the Caribbean to the Midwest to New England and various places in between. 

Do you ever thank inanimate objects for their service to your life? I (obviously!) do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


On a lovely late summer Saturday evening in September, we did something I've been wanting to do for awhile since moving to Iowa: Brucemorchestra! What is that, you ask? It's an outdoor concert that Orchestra Iowa gives every year as their season-opener on the sweeping grounds of Brucemore Mansion in Cedar Rapids. It was such fun!  

When you get there you stake out your spot on the lawn and set up your picnic blanket and chairs and eat your own picnic dinner before the concert begins. We brought rotisserie chicken salad, rolls, and chocolate-chip cookies. Yum!
Our view looking towards the stage.

 And this was the view looking behind us towards the mansion. 
We toured it last December when my mom was visiting. It's beautiful!

The members of the orchestra tuning up. 
The program for that night was excellent.
Not only is the conductor a really fun guy, but the pieces they played are some of my longtime favorite pieces of classical music (like Dvorak's New World Symphony, Smetana's The Moldau, and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture). There were choirs that joined in for some of the pieces as well, including the 1812 Overture, which was awesome.

John paid attention really well the whole time. Surprisingly well!

Sam, on the other hand, bundled himself up in the picnic blanket and rolled around on the ground and was whiny and tired. But I think even he enjoyed the music of the night.

It was a great experience and we'd like to go again next year. In the meantime, we're going to go to their Christmas concert and to a Disney one they're doing in February. It's time to get more culture like this into our lives again! We hadn't been to any concerts in too long and it's something we really used to like doing back in our days in the Northeast. I also have a secret ambition to take up the violin again (I played it for one year in 7th grade) and to maybe even get good enough to be able to play in an orchestra someday. But in the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy the beautiful playing that others can do!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A New Era Begins...

...the era of trombone-playing for John!

Check out that shiny new trombone...

...and the handsome boy playing it!

John is enjoying learning how to play the trombone and being part of the school band. Almost every kid in his class ended up joining band, and he likes the social aspect of playing instruments with his friends. 

Preparing to practice.
(I love how these pictures turned out!) 

John is pretty much on his own when it comes to practicing trombone at home.
I was able to help him just fine with practicing piano, but I have no experience with brass instruments. 
Peter played the saxophone but he's rarely home when John practices, and he doesn't know much about trombone anyway.
So what I'm trying to say is that when John becomes a brilliant trombonist, it will be because of his own innate talents and hard work. ;-)

Monday, October 19, 2015

August Randoms

The following are random pictures from August that I want to include on my blog for random reasons. 
So get ready for the randomness that has become a major characteristic of this blog of mine. 

It makes me so happy when I'm able to make a perfect over-easy fried egg. 
That's the true mark of success in the kitchen, if you ask me!

Sam brings snakes to school every day in his backpack. He doesn't take them out until he gets home, but he's happy knowing that they're there with him during the school day. He did this in preschool too, although then it was usually trains and cars that he brought (I miss the train phase!).

Here are John, Sam, and the honorary third brother of our family, Abe. Abe is their best shared friend. He lives in the neighborhood and is in John's grade but the three of them play really well together, which is so nice. I let them turn on the hose and create lakes, rivers, and dams in the sandbox. They have so much fun working together and it keeps them really well entertained.
This is about as close as we get to replicating Cape Cod beach play here at home in Iowa!

Good thing we don't live in California--this would never fly there given their water ban and drought issues! 

We went to a Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball game with our friends the Medinas, and that was fun. It was a warm late summer night, perfect for a ball game. And the Kernels won. Yay! 

My phone took bad pictures that night. 
(I've been having a like-dislike relationship with my phone lately, and that evening it must have been mad at me.)

At the game I won this fire pit full of goodies in a silent auction. We haven't used it yet, but we will, eventually. 

 I'm kind of obsessed with what I call "house slippers." We don't wear shoes in the house, and walking around barefoot isn't very comfortable, and my feet get cold very easily, so I wear house slippers all the time when I'm in the house, hence my quest for and collection of good house slippers.
I got some fuzzy Ugg slippers for the first time, and they are so warm and comfortable and durable. 
I love them!

Over 2,000 pictures to go through from the summer, woo-hoo! I enjoy taking the pictures and having the pictures, but I don't really enjoy the long, laborious process of going through them all, editing and deleting and organizing them into their proper places. It takes a lot of time, but it's worth it. But I sure am glad when I'm finally done! 

And that wraps up August 2015! It was a good month.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Five Things for Friday

1. There's a huge spider at the neighborhood mail-house that's been terrorizing me this week. When I first saw it, I thought it was a Halloween decoration because it was so big and it was perched in this perfectly spun spiderweb. When I looked closer, I saw that it was real! I couldn't believe it! My inner arachnophobe has been on high alert all week. The spider has been there since Monday and I have to hurry by it and hug the wall to get to my mailbox, and then do the same thing to get past it and back to my car. While the sympathetic animal-rights part of me is glad that nobody has disturbed it or killed it or anything, my heart sinks each time I pull up to the mailhouse and see it sitting there. There is no way to avoid this spider in order to get the mail.
Halloween horrors, courtesy of the neighborhood mailhouse!


2. Speaking of Halloween, a few years ago I came across this blog post about decorating pumpkins like the Avengers, and I pinned it on Pinterest.

In the last few weeks, out of nowhere, this pin has gone viral. Not super-viral, but I've been getting e-mails every day from Pinterest telling me that people have re-pinned it. It's at 179 re-pins and 19 likes (and counting!). This can't compare to my most popular pin of all time from a few years ago that ended up getting nearly 800 re-pins (it was a road trip checklist that people apparently really liked). I think it's funny how things can lie dormant for years and then finally get noticed.
The mysteries of life, the mysteries of Pinterest.

3. Big in business news this week is the Dell-EMC deal, which is the biggest tech deal in history.

Normally I don't pay a lot of attention to this type of news, but EMC is based in my little hometown of Hopkinton, Massachusetts. It's grown so big since I was in high-school. I still drive by its many buildings over on that side of town every summer. It's located right near a street that's named after my ancestors that one of my uncles lives on. And beyond that, there's this connection: Richard Egan was the co-founder of EMC. One of my friends in high-school babysat for the children of one of Richard Egan's sons, who was an executive at EMC, and through that connection, I babysat for another executive's kids, because they were friends and worked together at EMC. This family I babysat for was really nice and wealthy and they paid me well. :-) So I think of all these things when I think of EMC, and it makes me feel a little homesick!

4. In other news, on a much more serious note (look out, here I go!)...I'm a little worried that World War III is going to happen in the possibly not-too-distant future, and that it's going to be led on one side by Russia, Syria, and Iran, and on the other side, by the U.S. and allies like England and Germany. (I can't figure out where I think China would fit in yet. China has a good poker face.)

I see echoes of World War II in what's been happening in the Middle East, with the persecution and mass migration of the Syrian people and others, the brutal killings of Christians and other "dissenters" by evil Islamic fundamentalist terrorists, and ISIS, like the Nazis, having aspirations to take over whole countries and institute their own supposedly utopian-like societies.

Now Russia has swooped in to help Syria's leader, which I'm not entirely sure is necessarily a bad thing for Syria in the long run (although it definitely could be because Bashar al-Assad is bad news), but it's pitting the U.S. and Russia against each other, which isn't a good thing. I think Vladimir Putin wants Russia to replace the U.S. as the world's superpower and that he's been making moves for years to try and move Russia closer into that position (good luck with that, Mr. Putin--no matter what Russia does on the outside, on the inside, it's a mess).

I hope I'm wrong and that things will work out, but I think that's naive and overly simplistic. Normally I'm an optimist, but not when it comes to the Middle East. I majored in Political Science in college and one of my concentrations was International Relations, so I had the opportunity to study various world conflicts in depth (for awhile I aspired to go into international diplomacy work). I came away from my studies believing that the conflict in the Middle East is the one conflict in the world that's not going to be resolved until the Savior comes again. He's the only one who I think can heal that rift and bring true peace to the Middle East.

And that's my two cents about all of that!

5. To end on a MUCH lighter note, here's some great news!!

Yaaay! Our Christmas season last year was terrible, so I'm looking forward to Christmas this year even more than I usually do. Ten Fridays from today it will be Christmas Day!!