Friday, January 30, 2009

4,000 Questions - #5: Principal's Office

Question #5: Did you ever go to the principal's office?

My Answer:

I was one of those "good" little kids - usually the teacher's pet, top grades, never in any trouble, etc. But, once, in 2nd grade in Buckeye, Arizona, I didn't hear the bell ring after recess. My friend and I were still on the swings, and we both ran into class late, once we noticed that the playground was deserted.

It doesn't seem like a terrible offense, but our teacher sent us to the Principal's office. This was horrifying treatment for a goody-two-shoes to suffer. What made it even worse was that they still practiced corporal punishment. We actually had to bend over the desk and got a few whacks with what I remember was a ping pong paddle. Nothing that hurt terribly, but it certainly did sting our pride.

Your Answer:

Thursday, January 29, 2009


Is it just us, or are there others out there who are also addicted to electronic media?

Anything electronic is just so much FUN! And time spent at the computer really feels like minutes; it’s always shocking to discover just how much time has passed while we’ve been mesmerized by our monitors. Here are my personal addictions (and I know there are many others I haven’t yet had the pleasure of experiencing)…

  • Blogging – Posting, bloghopping, checking followed-blog posts, viewing the fabulous new Blog of Note, finding a comment, leaving a comment, commenting on a comment, thinking up new post ideas, re-arranging page elements, finding and adding a new gadget.

  • Stats Tools – It’s a fair guess to say that about 50% of the blogs I visit have some type of statistics tool, and about 50% don’t. If you DO use a stats tracker of any kind, you know what I mean about it being fascinating to see what part of the world your visitors come from, and what posts are most appealing to the public. (Without a doubt, our first-hand accounts of the Inauguration have been the most popular so far.) And I probably don't even have to tell you how crazy good Google Analytics is.

  • Twitter – I first signed up for Twitter in order to upload quick updates from my cell phone, which would enable us to keep our Inaugural posts fresh while we were away from the computer. But now, I find I can’t stop Tweeting! It’s fun to send my own updates, to read others’ Tweets, and to click on "Everyone" to see what the whole world is saying. Somebody stop me!

  • Internet – is there anything that can’t be accomplished by going to the Internet first? It’s where we look up phone numbers, addresses, get directions, find hotels and restaurants, and ask “how to…” do just about anything, and usually find a useful answer. And, of course, most shopping can be done there, too. I just wish PeaPod had local service!

I would imagine that at some point, there will be therapists who specialize in dealing with Electronics addictions. I know that there are currently many business articles written for people who feel possessed to check their email inboxes every few minutes, and respond immediately to anything they find there. In fact, NOT checking their email eats away at them, and they finally break down and open the inbox. I’m guessing we’ll soon be seeing articles like this about easing off on Blogger, Twitter and other e-addictions.

I don’t dare get a Blackberry or an iPhone – I think I’d never get ANYTHING practical done (like feeding my child!).

PS - I found this very interesting article by Steve Tuttle about his Facebook addiction, which I think he's now overcome..."You Can't Friend Me, I Quit!"...REALY FUNNY.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Alphabet of Daily Life - C

C is for...the Cats, Calvin & Chloe.

Calvin is our handsome tiger dude. He came to us a couple of years ago from the local animal shelter. When we went to the shelter to see the cats, this cute tiger kitten was playing in his cubicle, and he came over to the window to see us when we walked by. The name on his window was "Pokey" and his brother was named "Gumby." We had a chance to play with him in the visiting room, and decided that we wanted to take him home.

He was an absolute joy from the start - charming, affectionate, well-behaved. We renamed him Calvin Pelle (Calvin after the clever little boy in the comic strip and Pelle after the brave boy in the movie "Pelle the Conqueror"). We all enjoyed each other's company tremendously.

After a while, we thought Calvin might like a playmate so he wasn't lonely while we were gone during the day or when we went off on vacation. We contemplated going to the shelter again, but then we heard about a family that had one cat too many.

This family had just moved to the Berkshires from Louisiana. When they opened their moving van here, they discovered a hungry little kitten. They kept her and tried to integrate her with their other pets, but they had many pets already, and this kitten was just a bit ferocious. They had finally decided they couldn't keep her and were planning to take her to the shelter, when we heard about her and said we'd give her a home. My daughter promptly changed her name from L.T. (Lil' Trucker / Lil' Terror) to Chloe.

That's the point when Calvin's life changed dramatically! He is now chased about the house all the time, we have to put him in an area away from Chloe at mealtime so he can eat, and he's extremely skittish from being pounced on unexpectedly and repeatedly. Chloe is adorable and loving with us, but fierce with anyone she doesn't know. She is sometimes pleasant and playful with Calvin, and sometimes beastly. And, yes, she does like to lounge in the bathroom sink.

Are all cats from Louisiana like this?

Adding Spaces Between Paragraphs

Sometimes Blogspot won't do exactly what you want it to, so you need to have a few tricks up your sleeve to get it to do your bidding.

If you think you've added spaces between your paragraphs, but when you publish your post, your paragraphs are all right on top of each other, here's what you do:
  1. In Edit Posts mode, move your cursor to the beginning of the paragraph you'd like spaced down a line.
  2. Hold down the Shift key and press Enter until your paragraph is spaced the way you like it.
  3. Publish Post.
  4. View Blog, and make sure the space is there. If not, repeat this process, and it should look just the way you want it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

World Food Markets

One of our favorite shopping trips is searching for specific exotic ingredients at a World Food Market. These Markets are rustic style grocery stores that sell authentic ingredients for different ethnicities, and each aisle is usually devoted to a specific cuisine, like Indian, Vietnamese, Mexican, etc. You can also find the cooking utensils, serving dishes, decorations, incense, and so on, that go along with the food you're making.

The closest Markets we've found are just outside of Northampton, in Hadley. We're in need of a few ingredients for Indian Samosas.

We first discovered our favorite World Market when shopping for food and party favors for my daughter's 14th birthday party. We ALWAYS have a theme, and that year's theme was Chinese New Year, since her birthday and the first day of Chinese New Year were very close to each other. We found all of the ingredients we'd need to make the food, authentic decorations to scatter throughout the house, and unusal items for the take-out-container goody bags. All the girls got their own set of chopsticks (which they ended up using to make buns in their hair!), and they all loved the jelly sticks and adorable mini jello cups. They weren't so crazy about the little cakes and candies - a little too unusual for their tastes.

Our trip today was for: ghee, cumin seed, coriander seed, cardamom, wonton wrappers, tamarind pulp, and dates. We found everything we needed except the cardamom - it was available, but only in large and expensive quantities - much more than I'll need, so I might find a small quantity in a regular grocery store.

Then, after a quick lunch at Fitzwilly's and a stop at Faces, where you can stand around in aisles laughing to yourself without feeling funny because everyone else is doing it too, we headed home.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

4,000 Thousand Questions - #4: Photos

And, here's Question #4: What is your favorite family photo?

My Answer:

Of my family from when I was a kid, I love the photo that was taken on the front lawn at my Grandma Ann's house at 1149 DeForest Street in Schenectady, New York. All 9 of us kids are in the shot except for my brother Garry (I'm not sure where he was that day). It's summer, and we 4 younger girls are all in matching outfits made by my Grandma Ruth; the 3 littler girls are in pinafore style dresses, but, because I'm older, mine is a skirt and top. (My grandmother later remade my outfit into a dress for my doll, Helena - I still have and treasure the doll and the outfit). We're all in our best knee socks and new shoes that were bought for our long ride on the Trailways bus from Manitou Springs, Colarado to Schenectady. My big sister Ruth is in one of her mini skirt outfits that she wore to her job in Albany. And, the boys are in their funky 70's clothes.

Of my family now, I love the photo of my daughter and me at the scenic lookout in the Badlands in South Dakota. We're leaning against the protective railing, and a breathtaking and expansive view is behind us. My daughter is wearing a t-shirt that says "Blonde AND Smart." The shot was taken by a biker dude who was on his way to the big motorcycle rally in Sturgis. I like the shot because it takes me back to one of one of our best adventures ever, and reminds me to keep having more.

Your answer...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fellow Blogger Inaugural Posts

I'm discovering some interesting Inauguration stories on fellow blogger sites. Check these out...

We also have more photos to post on our ImageLoop Inauguration 2009 slide show, but we still need to get them moved over from my daughter's laptop and onto my computer. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Home Again

Well, it was a pretty easy and straightforward trip home. We made it quickly and easily out of DC - we were thinking there would be traffic jams but didn't come upon any as we were leaving at 9 am.

For the first 1/3 of the trip, it was fun to be driving among fellow Inaugural attendees - they were easy to spot because of the ultra dirty car exterior (just like ours!), the many Obama stickers, and the writing on the windows, like the one on the right from Oklahoma. And, they filled the rest stops along the way, still abuzz with excitement and wearing their Obama gear. As the miles passed, though, everyone dispersed and headed off in different directions and we only spotted a fellow attendee every once in awhile. So ends our exciting adventure to DC.

When we arrived home, we were happy to discover that the cats had gone easy on each other, they hadn't eaten the fish, and the house was as snug as ever. Tomorrow...back to school and work!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

Yahoo - what a wonderful day! Overall, we had a wonderful experience and are very happy we were able to be here and be a part of history. Here are some of the details of our very busy day...

Starting Out

We were up at 6:00 and left the hotel by 6:45, and it was dark and chilly outside. We'd been planning our cold weather gear for some time, and had on long johns, warm socks, sweaters, and our warmest outerwear (and my daughter wore the Obama dangle earrings we purchased from a street vendor yesterday!). We stopped at the Drifting Nomad to pick up our croissants (but no tea - we're trying not to drink much of anything). Then, we headed across the street to the Takoma station. We were both really happy that we'd been able to learn our way around on the Metro yesterday so we could just focus on getting to the Mall today minus the learning curve.

It was pretty full in the Takoma station, and the train was jammed. We had some fun and funny trainmates - they called out to all the riders, "This is the Obama train; it's only going forward and it's not stopping!" Everyone was greeting everyone else, and when we got off the metro, greeters were at the exits saying "Good morning! Isn't this a good morning, and a great day in America."

Mall or Parade?

So much of our very useful planning information came from great articles on the web. One of the smart tips was that we should choose between viewing the Inauguration OR viewing the parade because of the crush of people and the difficulty of getting around between events. We chose Inauguration as it seemed so much more momentous and meaningful to us.

Getting to the Mall

Our original plan was to find a viewing spot near the Smithsonian Castle, but that was not to be. We were sure we'd be able to follow the moving mass of humanity to find our way to the mall, but, surprisingly, that is not how it worked. There WERE people everywhere that we could follow, but everyone was headed in a different direction, depending on their personal plans for the day. There were lots of volunteers helping with traffic flow, but we got conflicting directions and it took about 1 1/2 hours to finally get onto the mall.

As we walked with hundreds of others through blockaded streets - many of which were closed off by large buses - we passed several street vendors. Here are some of their funny comments called out to the crowds:

  • "Now, don't try to be brave today...just buy some handwarmers."
  • "Help stimulate the economy and buy a t-shirt."
  • "There's only one hero here today, and his name is Barack Obama. So don't try to be a hero - just buy some gloves."
Once we got onto the mall, we decided not to make the hike up to the Smithsonian. Our entrance ended up being between the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial. (Top photo is the sun rising near the Washington Monument, which is what we saw when we first made it onto the Mall.) We were fortunate to have a good view of a jumbotron, could hear the speakers, AND had something to sit on! There were hundreds of people when we first got there; as time passed, we watched continuous streams of thousands of people move steadily onto the mall. It was fun and exhilerating. Overhead, helicopters circled the mall and the capital.

As we waited, we were also again entranced by the kindess of strangers. Everyone was friendly, chatting, pleasant - one woman said to the crowd in general, "Now remember, act like your momma raised ya." And, in fact, that's really what everyone did. And, we wore the friendly nametags we'd been given as we headed onto the mall that said, "Hello, fellow American, my name is _____ (Change starts with a conversation. Use this nametag to talk to new people.)"

A lovely moment we experienced came while the show at the Lincoln Memorial was being re-broadcast, and Pete Seeger was leading everyone in singing "This Land is Your Land." Everyone around us joined in, and it was really moving to be singing this song with all of those around us.

Watching the Inauguration.

It was COLD! We're really happy we dressed so warmly, and are new fans of hand warmers. We had them in our gloves, boots and back pockets. As we waited for the big event, we sustained ourselves with the apples, energy bars, and Red Bull we'd brought along.

During the swearing in ceremony, everyone was spellbound as we watched this historic transition of power. And, of course, there was a mighty cheer when Obama offically became the President. From our spot, the ongoing cheering was a roar, and we couldn't help but wonder how it sounded to everyone at the Capitol. Everyone in the crowd around us was so happy and people were hugging each other; as I glanced at the man next to me, tears were streaming down his face.

Obama's speech was very moving and impassioned. It really felt like he was hoping to transfer his energy and passion for change and improvement into the people listening. I felt it. As we listened, those around us made frequent comments like, "mmm hmmm," "that's right," etc, so we know lots of other people were feeling it too.

After Inauguration

The Internet had advised that we let the crowds disperse before we try to leave the mall, so that's just what we did. Crushing streams of people were moving past us...we're guessing they were trying to get a spot to view the parade. My daughter decided she'd like to get warm in one of the Smithsonian warming stations, so we headed toward the Castle. We ended up getting stuck in our first real "crowd" situation. We could only move in the direction of the stream of people, we were packed in closely, and there was a feeling of the current of a fast-moving river. We were fine, but definitely kept our wits about us.

We discovered that we wouldn't be able to get through to where we were headed because the street was temporarily shut down for some dignitary that would be coming by. To pass the time, we chatted with those around us and the military personnel who were guarding the street and managing the crowds. We want to thank the very pleasant SSG Chavez, of Bravo Troop I-158 Cav of Easton, MD - here's his advice to my daughter: "The doors of success are opened with the keys of responsibility." All of the military personnel (Temporary Police) were very pleasant.

Dinner Reservation?

The road closure lasted MUCH longer than we'd anticipated. We finally decided to walk several blocks to get around the blockade (we're pretty sore from all the walking and standing today!). We stopped in to the Free Gallery of Art building right next to the Castle and used the very clean (and WARM) restrooms. While my daughter relaxed and listened to her iPod, I had a chance to view the "Road to Freedom" exhibit on the lower levels. Moving.

We gave ourselves 45 minutes to get from the museum to our dinner restaurant. We headed to where we thought we'd be able to exit the mall, only to discover yet another blockade. I think if I were offering tips to anyone going to Inauguration in the future, I would suggest really learning what entry and exit points will be open and when, and what streets will be closed and when. This was the toughest thing we faced - we just couldn't get out of anywhere!

So, our dinner reservation wasn't kept. We ended up turning back onto the mall, and stopped at one of the many white tents offering refreshments. We had surprisingly good pulled pork sandwiches and fabulously rich cocoa. The caterer told me they were called National Restaurants and are the official food service for the capital and other government buildings. They certainly do a good job. We also took a few minutes to watch the parade on the Jumbotron, and happened to catch the point where the Obama's were outside to the vehicle and walking together, to much cheering!

Yikes - the Metro

Finally, at 5:00 (by this time, we were really cold and tired) we decided to try the Smithsonian Metro station again. When we got there, we found a very long line and learned that it wouldn't be opening until 6:30. Someone else was heading to L'Enfant Plaza station, so we tried that too. It was open, but the line was incredibly long. We finally got inside in a crush of people. Everyone was raising their digital cameras and cell phones up high to try to take photos of the unbelievable mass of people - it's something that must be experienced to be understood! My daughter's coat will probably have a permant mark on it from where I was holding onto her very tightly! We made it onto all the right trains, and finally got into the quiet Takoma station.

We stopped at the Nomad for a chamomile tea and a cookie, and then made our final hike to our hotel. We had a really great day, and are glad we went. We're very tired...and very happy for the United States.

(Photo at right is a view of the sun setting on the Washington Monument.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Day Before Inauguration

Today was completely fun, full of adventure, and nice people from everywhere.

Our first task of the day was LEARN THE METRO. We hiked over to the Takoma station - took about 15 minutes from our hotel - and discovered that there is a terrific little coffee shop across from the station called the Drifting Nomad. We took a few minutes there to have hot tea and delectable filled croissants.

Then, we headed over to the Metro. We already had our pre-paid commemorative passes, which made everything so much easier. We also have to say - all of the staff we encountered anywhere today were soooooo nice and helpful, and didn't mind answering all of the touristy questions at all. We were a little nervous at first because we didn't know how it all worked, and it all seemed so HUGE. But, we just took our time and it all worked out.

The Metro really is pretty self-explanatory once you get the hang of it. But, boy are there a lot of people on it. And this wasn't even the busy day...we can only imagine what it will be like tomorrow. We went into Metro Center (very complex) and had to make a transfer, which took us a little time to figure out, but we did it. We also want to give a shout out to Sarah Herring of Palm Beach County, Florida, who generously gave us her copy of "Riding the Metro During the Presidential Inauguration Weekend" brochure. We also met a woman from Australia, who came all the way here just for Inauguration. She said that most of the people she knows back home are very excited about what's happening in our country, especially because so much of what we do affects the rest of the world.

We got off at the Smithsonian station and it turns out that's where all the action was! (We forgot that this stop will be closed tomorrow; we meant to test out the Federal Triangle stop, which is what we'll need to take tomorrow.) People were strolling all along the Mall. Huge TV screens and speakers are set along the Mall at intervals. And, various TV stations and other interviwers were everywhere.

We also saw the infamous 5,000 port-a-pottys! They're in endless rows along both sides of the Mall, and it looks like there are so many, but a news broadcast tonight mentioned that if one does the math, there is one potty to every 400 people (oh, dear). We also scoped out the bench we'd like to grab for the big event, but who knows if that will happen.

One of the loveliest moments of the day came while the live show at the Lincoln Memorial was being re-broadcast on the large TVs. At one point, was singing "One Love" and everyone was singing, smiling, and dancing, and the feeling was so wonderful. It feels so good to be surrounded by hundreds of happy and excited people.

We've been to DC before and have seen many of the sights, which meant today was just for relaxing, revisiting something if we wanted to, and basically getting our bearings. We stopped into the Smithsonian Castle and discovered a lovely cafe, where we got soup, cider, tea, and dessert. Many visitors from southern climes were also inside trying to get warm (they thought it was cold!).

We hiked down past the Washington Monument and the WWII Memorial to the Lincoln Memorial, but discovered it was closed to visitors, even though it was teeming with people - must be staffers working on some type of staging. We also saw lots of troops in BDUs (battle dress uniforms)...they didn't mind posing at all with blondie! Everyone was taking photos with the troops, and they were having a hard time making it even a few steps before someone else wanted a photo. At one point, they were directed into formation, so we're guessing they will have some official duties at some point tomorrow.

After enjoying the crowds, the sights, and the good feelings for several hours, we then hopped back on the Metro (old pros at this point!) and zipped over to Chinatown. The Metro exit there is gorgeous - over the escalators is a huge fan shape with very colorful lights - couldn't stop taking pictures.

We had seen online photos of the Chinatown gate, and were thrilled to get to see it in person. It's huge and intricate - so exotic to look at. We also found a good gift shop with a very nice proprietress, and bought some gifts to take home.

Then, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant that had been recommended on the Internet - Chinatown Express. It was very intriguing on the outside, with a window showing the meats hanging inside. Inside, it was packed and bustling; we discovered a waiting line, but not too long and we were seated fairly quickly. I ordered the Chinese barbeque plate and my daughter ordered vegetable soup and sweet & sour shrimp. She liked her meal a lot, and mine was okay. Loved the ambience, liked the food. Very cool surroundings, and obviously very popular - every table was full and people were waiting to get in.

After dinner, it was getting really chilly and windy and we headed back to the Metro. Outside the entrance were very friendly people with official Inauguration signs that said "Do you have a question? Ask me." How very nice. We continue to be very impressed with the obvious planning, organization, and friendliness that are characterizing this event.

We made it back to Takoma, stopped at the Nomad for chamomile tea and a cookie, and walked back to the hotel. Now, it's time to decide just how early we want to get up in the am.

PS - Thank you to Brian, George & Nancy, Betsy, Jen and Eleanor for your thoughtful phone calls and emails! And thanks to "Ace Bissell" for the photography today!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration Road Trip

Evening Post:

Well, we're here and we're all settled in. The trip went really well. Our wintery-est weather and road conditions were right in the Berkshires, where it was pretty slick and slippery (it was snowing and the roads were covered). Once we got into New York state and onto the Thruway, it was smooth sailing.

I had the wiper fluid pump replaced not long ago, but it's still temperamental, and if it's too cold, the fluid won't come out onto the windshield. Well, it was cold this morning (11 degrees when we left), so no fluid. My co-pilot was good enough to step out and give the windshield a "slosh" (see photo at right!). Once it warmed up to about 25 degrees, we had fluid again.

Our mapquest directions were perfect and everything went according to plan. It was really fun to begin seeing cars and buses from all over the U.S. as we stopped at rest stops. Surprisingly, there was no congestion or endless lines (yet!).

We stopped at the Maryland Information Center (which was very nice, but we do have to give props to the state of New York for their very good-looking Adirondack Lodge-style rest stops - very clean and roomy). While there, one of the pleasant gentlemen working at the information desk asked us where we were staying. When he heard we would be on Georgia Ave, he recommended the Crisfield Restaurant to us, as a very good seafood restaurant that was also very close to our hotel.

We got checked in to our hotel, surveyed our room and were pleasantly surprised, then headed out to dinner. The Crisfield Restaurant is totally charming from the outside, and equally as quaint inside. It has old tiled walls and floors, a beautiful collection of vintage china oyster serving plates, and a no-nonsense manner. I had a wonderful plate of sea scallops with the best tartar sauce I have ever had (I'd love that recipe), terrific coleslaw with just a touch of sweet and topped with a bread-and-butter pickle, and applesauce. My daughter had a bowl of oyster stew, with bits of butter swimming on top and oyster crackers on the side. We were both very pleased with our choices and had just the right amount to eat. I would highly recommend this place for both its ambience and its food.

So now it's off to bed, sleeping in a little bit in the am, and then off to learn the Metro and see the sights. Let's hope tomorrow goes as successfully, and as full as laughter, as today.

PS - photos courtesy of my daughter - the ace photographer.

Inauguration Road Trip

Morning Post:

Today is the momentous day...we head out on the road to DC, along with a million other people.

We've made this drive before, and it's really not too bad. Mapquest says it should take about 7 hours (about 340 miles); I wonder if it will take a lot longer today because of all the other visitors converging on the same destination?

We're leaving about 7:30 am, and it's our usual Road Trip Tradition to head to Lee (our entrance to the Mass Pike), stop at McDonalds for breakfast and a hot tea for the road, then stop at the nearby mini mart so my daughter can get an assortment of drinks and snacks for the car.

But, our trip to DC is taking us in a slightly different direction this morning, and we can't make our usual stop. We have to head over into New York first thing, so today we'll try the mini mart on Elm Street (our everyday errand stop), and eat at the McDonalds on the road out of town.

PS - WEbook...thank you for the "Jan 20 2009 Correspondent" notepad...very cool and much appreciated!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Inauguration Weather Forecast

Well, as we pack, we're thinking ahead to the weather we'll be facing (it's been freeeeeeezing here). According to, here's what we can expect:
  • Sunday (our driving day)...38 degrees (practically a heat wave!), light snow possible
  • Monday (our learn-the-Metro day)...33 degrees and cloudy
  • Tuesday (Inauguration Day)...30 degrees and cloudy
  • Wednesday (driving home day)...36 degrees and cloudy

Okay, why are all the heat waves happening while we're cozied up in our HEATED car, sitting on HEATED seats, sipping HOT chocolate?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Inauguration Dinner Reservation

Well, a story on the msnbc website, reminded us that we need to bring toilet paper and handwarmers to Inauguration, and that it would also be a good idea to have meal reservations. Their site linked to a terrific piece on Time's website, which provides a link to DC restaurants.

The online service to make reservations is, which we've used in the past. It's really efficient, reliable and easy to use. It also allows you to "invite guests" by choosing a graphic theme for the email, customizing the text you send, and including the date/time/location, plus a link to the restaurant. It's really pretty slick.

Anyway, I searched for restaurants and found a reservation! My search criteria were according to these priorities:
  1. Map...we don't want to have to walk too far or search too hard to find it. And, we need a nearby Metro station for getting back to our hotel.
  2. daughter has slightly different tastes than I do (healthier, actually) and needs her salads and fruits and vegetables.
  3. Time...we want enough time to see all of the Inaugural activities, but don't want to wait toooo long, as we'll probably be famished.

Our reservation is at Tuscana West at 4:45. Yum.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Alphabet of Daily Life - B

B is for...Berkshire County.

We live in a beautiful little corner of the U.S. called Berkshire County. Besides being lovely to look at, it's also considered a cultural mecca of sorts, and we get visitors from all over the world. Here are some of the local attractions we've enjoyed:

Ashuwillticook Rail Trail: we're one of the lucky communities with a Rail Trail, which is an old railroad bed that is paved over for recreational use. These types of trails, which are great for walking, biking, roller blading, are wonderfully smooth and flat, and this one is so scenic. It's our tradition to hike the Trail and stop for a picnic along the way on Mother's Day. I'm determined to learn to roller blade on the trail!

The Colonial Theatre: this is a restored theatre originally built in 1903. It was closed down and hidden for quite some time, boarded up behind an art store (where I used to buy my art supplies for school). It's since been beautifully restored. We went not long ago when my daughter entered a 24-hour film festival, and won 3rd place (on her very FIRST film ever)! The film showing and awards were presented in the Colonial.

Jacob's Pillow: this is a secluded summertime dance festival, featuring dance troupes from all over the world. As a single mom, I've always paid special attention to listings of free events, and the Pillow offers free weekly outdoor performances at their Inside/Out stage - it's really spectacular to watch top dancers on an outdoor stage, with a large blue sky as backdrop, surrounded by beautiful New England woods, while we sit on our picnic blanket enjoying delectable goodies. Sometimes my daughter isn't into the whole "culture" thing; one evening as we were watching an avant-garde dance troupe from Russia, I glanced over and she and her friend were playing a game of cards!

Mass MoCA: this is an old (and large!) electrical factory turned modern art museum that has really gained international acclaim. It's fun to go and just allow the wild modern art to change your perspective. Their really cool gift shop, Hardware, is pretty funky; I've found some of the best gifts there.

Tanglewood: this is a wonderful outdoor concert venue that is also the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Shed is an outdoor pavilion, and Shed seats are coveted but a little costly. I splurge every now and then, and a few years ago, a friend and I were thrilled to sit in on a live broadcast of "Prairie Home Companion," which takes place at Tanglewood once each summer. Lawn tickets are much more affordable, and that's also where the action is. Many people bring elaborate picnics, some even resorting to white linen tablecloths and silver candelabra! My daughter is not a huge fan, but she and her friends did like running around the manicured lawn and grounds when she was younger.

Williamstown Theatre Festival: for several years, we attended WTF's free outdoor performances at Buxton Field, in the woods near the Clark Art Institute. There's a stage in the middle of a grassy area, everyone brings lawn chairs and blankets, and, of course, a picnic. And, while we sit outside in the dusk on a warm summer night (wearing lots of bug spray!), actors put on a lovely performance under the stars. (I haven't been able to find the outdoor performance info for the last couple of years - I hope they're still doing it?)

These are some of our (my) favorites...maybe you'll get to visit some for yourself. If you've already visited some of these, I'd love to hear about your adventures!

Commemorative Metro Pass

Wow - kudos to the DC Metro! They are really doing an awesome job, even as they're under intense strain right about now with all of the inaugural preparations.

On Sunday evening, January 11, I placed an online order for 2 of the commemorative Metro passes, each loaded with $10 for fares. When placing the order, I had to check a box that said I understood that: For orders placed after 11:59 pm on Friday, January 9, 2009, you must click this box to indicate that you are aware that delivery by January 16th cannot be guaranteed.

I decided to risk it, check the box, and place the order anyway. And, the fabulous DC Metro came through for us, with plenty of time to spare! I found the passes as I was checking my mailbox at 10:00 last night, on January 14! (I froze as I reached my arm out into the 5 degree frigid night air to reach into the mailbox.)

PS - everyone and their brother is searching online for the same type of disposable hand warmers we were lucky enough to find at Wal Mart! Another good find we discovered there are Snickers Protein Bars. They're tasty, pack a whopping 20 grams of protein per bar, and we're hoping they sustain us as we're standing in the crowds (where we will also be limiting our beverage intake, for obvious reasons).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Disposable Hand Warmers

A few months ago, we were shopping at the Christmas Tree Shops at the Holyoke Mall. While standing in line at the checkout, we spotted cheap disposable hand warmers, so we bought a few packets, knowing we'd be heading to a chilly Inauguration.

Recently, while surveying the accumulated items we'll be packing to take to Inauguration, it occurred to us that we might need more hand warmers, just to be on the safe side. But, we didn't want to make the long drive back to that mall.

So, we did a quick online search to see where else we might find them and here's what we learned...if anyone is looking for disposable hand AND foot warmers, you need look no further than the HUNTING section at your local Wal Mart! Who knew?

Follow-up Cautionary Note:
On Inauguration Day, I put one hand warmer in each of my back pockets to help manage the cold, and everything seemed fine. But apparently we don't have the same type of nerve receptors in that area - I didn't feel any discomfort, but at the end of the day, I had 2 rectangular temporary tattoos!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ready for the Road

I've known for some time that my Honda's 4 tires AND front and rear brakes needed replacing, but I've been putting it off because of the incredible expense. But, because we're going to be on the road so far from home, two damsels on our own, I want to be sure the car is ready to roll.

So, when I went in for my $60 lube/oil/filter/topup/etc, I asked them to look at these items and tell me what was absolutely critical. The rear brakes were the winner. So, $474 later, we're ready for our road trip to DC.

Here's what was done for all that moolah...

(Thank you to SuTree for the how-to video!)

Monday, January 12, 2009

More Inauguration Prep

Well, we're making progress! Here's where we left off...and here's what was accomplished this past weekend:
  • The car is scheduled for service on Tuesday evening.
  • I scheduled the mail hold with the post office, and they'll deliver my usual stack of bills on Thursday.
  • There doesn't seem to be any info available on the Sunday welcome event at the Lincoln Memorial; I'll keep checking.
  • We're getting closer to understanding the DC Metro; I purchased 2 commemorative Metro passes online, each loaded with $10, which should cover all fares while we're there. We have a good sense of where to find our Metro stop near our hotel, and which line to ride and where to get off. According to online info, it's just a few minutes walk from our hotel to the Takoma station. Of course this is all theoretical at this point - we'll have to see how it goes in real life!
  • We were one of apparently thousands who were logged in to Ticketmaster to buy $25 parade bleacher seat tickets. All 5,000 tickets were sold in under a minute! I know this first-hand because I was waiting on the Ticketmaster site at 12:59, and must be too slow on the keyboard - by the time I clicked on my selections, it was 1:01, and the tickets were sold out! Looks like we'll be standing around with a million other people.
  • According to the security regulations for the day, any bags we carry must be no larger than 8" x 6" x 4". Yikes - I can't fit ANYTHING into something that small. We may end up buying food and drinks there - I was hoping not to, as I'm sure even a water bottle will be $5 or more. Oh well.
  • Still working on exchanging the binoculars and finding more hand warmers...

PS - Photo above shows where we will NOT be on Inauguration day!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

4,000 Questions - #3: Careers

Here's the background info on the 4,000 Questions posts...

And, here's Question #3: How many times have you changed careers or line of work?

My Answer:

In High School, I worked for a visiting nurse organization; I did the unskilled work, like helping with bathing and dressing. I found that most of my clients, who were usually elderly and infirm, were less interested in getting help with their physical care, and more interested in having someone to talk to and to listen to them.

In the Army, I was a Medic (91C10, for anyone who knows what that means; this MOS is no longer available, but that's what I was while I was on active duty). My permanent assignment was at Fort Gordon, Georgia, where I worked at DDEAMC on 6West (Labor/Delivery/Post-Partum).

During College, I waitressed and was even promoted to hostess and waitstaff trainer!

With my new Art degree, I went to work in a local framing shop/art gallery. This job was REALLY fun, but I was also married, so didn't need to make enough money to support a family (which I didn't!). I did that for nearly 13 years and loved the work.

After getting divorced and becoming a single mom, I needed to support a family. So, I decided business was the way to go, got myself back to college, and earned a Master of Business Management degree. I then began as a Management Trainee in a bank, and I'm now the Vice President of Marketing for a financial company.

Your Answer...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Day at The Clark

A group of us met up to tour the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown today.

But first - FOOD! We were tempted by both Spice Root (Indian) and the Sushi Thai Garden, both on Spring Street. For anyone not familiar with Williamstown - it's home to Williams College, and Spring Street is a quaint New England street that is the hub of local activity.

We ended up choosing Sushi Thai Garden . I've been many times for lunch and dinner, and always like going there, both for the food and the atmosphere. I love their Pad Thai. Another favorite is just about any of their "Lunch Box" meals - a lovely laquered box with many compartments - each compartment has some delectable goody in it, so you get a nice variety all in one meal. This time, I had Chicken Himmapan, a house special. The hot thai tea is especially enjoyable along with the meal. It's the prettiest pinky-orange color with a very subtle smoky flavor.

Sushi Thai Garden on Urbanspoon

PS - This Urban Spoon link says that Sushi Thai Garden is in North Adams, but it's actually in Williamstown. All other contact info is correct.

Then, on to the Clark. My daughter and I have been many times, as they have wonderful summertime festivals on the lawn that are very kid friendly. And, one of my favorite paintings is housed there - "Nymphs and Satyr" by Alphonse Bouguereau. During art school, we were often tasked with choosing paintings in the Clark or other local museums and copying them, to learn composition, color, and other techniques from masters. This is one that I attempted to duplicate (obviously, my copy did not look quite like this, but it was a good exercise anyway).

The Clark doesn't currently have a special exhibit, but will soon feature works by Toulouse-Lautrec. We enjoyed leisurely browsing through lovely galleries, admiring paintings, drawing and scultpures by Renoir, Degas, Rembrandt, Homer, Remington, Sargent, and so many others.

Then, I had to zip home to pick up my daughter and her new boyfriend (!) from the mall movie theatre, and then home to prepare dinner for our guest this evening. Busy day!!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Alphabet of Daily Life - A

I've seen other bloggers use the alphabet as an outline for themed posts, such as favorite movies or local images. One blog that especially inspired me was Katie Bella. I liked it so much that I thought I'd give it a try, with one alphabet letter per post. So, here goes...

A is Airstream Dream:

For several years, I've had aluminum fever. I think Airstreams are THE coolest travelmobiles out there, and long to have one of my own. I have a book called "Airstream Living" which features themed decor Airstream trailers - the wild west, aloha, 50s chic - which I love to drool over. And, last year I joyfully subscribed to "Airstream Life" magazine.

My Airstream Dream is to own a small-ish airstream, like the Sport, and have a high-tech mobile office inside. I'd travel the US part of the week and then stop somewhere to get a feel for the local color. Then, I'd write my syndicated newspaper column/blog/iReport about A Day in the Life of America, where I'd feature stories about the ordinary people I'd met and what was going on in their lives and locale.

I'm not sure if I'd keep my snug little house in the Berkshires or not? Maybe I could rent it out while I traveled but keep it so I'd have a summer house? I don't have that detail worked out yet, but I do have the details of the layout for the inside of my Airstream worked out!

PS - the image in this post is my absolutely adorable airstream Hallmark ornament, complete with a striped pull-out awning (the backdrop is a gorgeous photo in "Airstream Life"). It's far too cute to pack up with the Christmas ornaments; I leave it out so I can remember my Airstream Dream on a daily basis.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

4,000 Questions - #2: Unusual Films

And, here's Question #2: Are you a fan of any unusual music or film?

My Answer:

I'll choose film, since that's where my interest lies. I can't say I'm a fan of an unusual film, but I DO have a fun hobby...I'm in the process of watching every Oscar-nominated movie since the Oscars were first given out in 1928. I'm currenly in 1940. (Thank goodness for Netflix, which has so many of the older and uncommon movies.)

As I move through each year in film, I not only get to watch stars and directors develop over time, but I also get to see the changes our own American culture has gone through. This hobby has actually been a quirky and engaging study of cultural anthropology!

One of my daydreams is to hold (not just see) an Oscar of one of the stars or films I admire. And, of course, Oscar night is our superbowl!

Your Answer...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Inauguration Planning

Okay, is time to get some planning done!

Being a Virgo, I've usually got many lists made at this point in the lead-up to a trip. I think I'm behind on this because of the holidays. Not good. So, I'll take a moment now to get my list organized (since this event is ONLY 2 weeks away!!!!!).

Here's what's already been done to prepare for attending the inauguration:
  • Book a DC hotel (at a manageable price).
  • Mapquest the driving route TO and FROM our DC hotel.
  • Buy binoculars.
  • Buy handwarmers and decide what cold-weather gear we'll be bringing.
  • Get a universal charger for use in the car (has a regular outlet for a normal type of wall plug).
  • Review security dos and don'ts for the day.

Here's what still needs to be done:

  • Have the car serviced.
  • Find details on Obama's welcome celebration at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, 1/18.
  • Learn the DC Metro; use Trip Planner to figure out the route from our hotel to the nearest Metro stop on Pennsylvania Ave.
  • Buy commemorative Metro passes (maybe I can get those online?).
  • Decide whether or not to return the binoculars - they're not quite what I expected.
  • Test the strength of the handwarmers, and get more! Also, find out if there is such a thing as a seat warmer (some type of cushion that heats up), and get some of those too.
  • Re-read the regulations about what we can and can't carry to the inauguration.
  • Figure out what type of bag we'll take with us for the day (no backpacks allowed), and what types of food and drinks we'll carry in it.
  • Prep all our electronic devices and chargers.

Yikes - this is coming up waaaaay tooooo fast. I wonder if Obama feels the same way?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Add a Favicon to Your Blog

Okay, so what the heck is a favicon?

A favicon is that little image that appears to the left of a URL or web address. If you'd like a custom one of your choosing on YOUR blogspot site, here's a fairly easy, non-techy way to get one:

  1. First, you need a website that will both create AND host your favicon. You can do this at IconJ.

  2. Once on this site, click on "Upload Your Logo/Image/Photo File to Generate the Icon." Browse out to your files and select the image you want to use (you'll want to choose something fairly small and simple, as these icons are TINY and have very little detail). Then, click on "Upload It!"

  3. You'll now see "FavIcon.Ico Successfully Generated!" and you should see your icon mini image. You don't need to click on "Download It"

  4. Below "Download It" you should see "Direct Download" or "Host It at Direct Link"; in the "Host It"section, copy the code you see there.

  5. Now sign in to your blog and click on "Layout" then "Edit HTML"; Exercise extreme caution on this page!!!!!

  6. About 10 lines or so down in the code, you'll see a line that has <> at each end; in between these two symbols, you'll find code that says "title data:blog.pageTitle/ /title". At the end of this line of code, enter down once to create a new blank line.

  7. In this new blank line, paste the code you copied from IconJ.

  8. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click "Save Template"

That's it; now click on view blog and you should now have an icon before your blog URL (sometimes it takes a few minutes to appear, so don't worry if it doesn't happen immediately). And, you can change it any time you want too!

PS - You won't see your Favicon when you are in Edit Mode.
PPS - Be sure to bookmark the IconJ website, so you can edit your Favicon in the future.

Can you tell what my Favicon is or does it just look like a tannish "thing"?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

4,000 Questions - #1: Growing Up

While shopping on Amazon one day, I happened upon a book called "4,000 Questions for Getting to Know Anyone and Everyone."

I bought it because I wanted to use it at family get-togethers and other parties. I don't know if our parties are like yours, but so often, we only skim the surface with one another: how's work, what are the kids up to, can you believe the price of gas, and so on. We leave so much about each other unknown and unasked, mostly because we just don't think of clever questions to ask.

So, after buying the book, I put the questions on little slips of paper, and I pull them out at holidays. At first, everyone groaned about having to answer random questions, but they've come to realize just how fun it is to find out such interesting new things about each other and they actually look forward to it.

I also thought the questions might work well on a blog, so here's what I'm going to do...I'll state the next question in the book, provide my own answer to it, and then hope that any visitors ALSO answer the question in the Comments section. What do you say?

Question #1: Where did you grow up?

My Answer:

When I was first born, my parents and my 4 older siblings lived on a houseboat called the Wayward Wind in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. I have no memories of that, but have seen photos and it looks like it was pretty cool.

My father then felt the need for even more adventure, so he bought an old 1948 flatbed truck, named it John Henry (after that steel drivin' man), and proceeded to build us a home on wheels. I guess you could say it was an early custom RV! We had a wood stove for heat, kerosene lamps for light, no TV, but we did listen to radio shows...I well remember Fibber McGee & Molly!

On the side of the truck, he painted a map of the US, with the title: "48 States in a 48 Truck." Then, as we traveled, he painted a red dotted line to show our route on the map. We traveled all over the US during the summers; when it was time to start school, we just stopped in whatever town/state we were in and registered for school. By the end of our travels, there were 9 kids, 2 cats, 2 dogs, a bird, and other pets that came and went. I've attended schools all over the US, have been to 49 out of 50 states (still need to get to Alaska!), and have never lost the wanderlust!

Your answer...


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