Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Carol of the Bells

My Dad just showed me the links to I'm a new fan! Although the Christmas tree is no longer skirted with unwrapped joys and the parties have all been enjoyed, there is still a bit of Christmas Spirit left around. Remnants of the Holiday are scattered here and there. So, I share with you a fabulous rendition of a favorite Christmas Carol in our house. My favorite instrument, the cello is featured here. Please enjoy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

It's a Kung Pao Buckaroo Holiday

Today is the 16th. We are looking at 9 days until Christmas! As Christmas approaches, the anticipation mounts, but so does the stress. I have found that when I'm most stressed, I need a good laugh. SO, to help relieve some stress, I'd like to share with you a little Christmas music from one of my favorite country musicians, Brad Paisley. This song is non-traditional, but quite hysterical. It features the Kung Pao Buckaroos: "Little" Jimmy Dickens, George Jones, and Bill Anderson. Have a good laugh, shake off the stress, and good luck with your last minute shopping! Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

S'mores for Christmas

Like many families, we like to choose new ornaments for our tree every year. Each boy selects one and then we choose one dubbed the "family ornament." We write their names on them, and the year. It makes for a memory filled tree with many assorted ornaments. At our house, you won't find a tree with a theme or a color scheme. It's all about finding that something that fits the personality of our family each year.
This year, as we wandered up and down the aisles of the store, we came across an assortment of s'mores. Snowman s'mores!  I wanted to just scoop them all up and put the all on our tree. There was a traditional s'more (with a snowman face!). There was a snowboarding s'more. There was a s'more in a graham cracker boat with a chocolate motor and his fishing pole. (I had to remind my little one that he doesn't fish--although, it would have been okay if he was dead set on it. It was so cute!) We almost came home with a sledding s'more...until we saw something else. There were so many to choose from, we stood there looking for a long time. But when we finally arrived on our choices, I don't think we could have done wrong. The Santa s'more with his List is the family ornament, and my boys each picked out the s'more that they loved best. It was a hard pick. I almost decided that Mom and Dad need our own ornaments this year, too, just so I could bring home a couple more s'mores. But with a budget and a tradition, I think we came home with the things that fit us just right this year. Who doesn't love s'mores?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Lessons Learned from a Wind Storm

 On Thursday, winds reaching 100 mph ripped through our area. It was an incredible storm (especially for those of us who've never lived anywhere near hurricane country). There was an amazing amount of destruction. Ours, thankfully, was minimal. There were about 7 patches on our roof where the shingles were roughed up, or completely ripped off. (I have some neighbors who lost nearly half--if not more--of their roof shingles) I spent much of Thursday morning and afternoon gathering up the scattered shingles (and trash) from my yard in hopes of salvaging some of them. That afternoon, my mom called to find out how we fared from the storm. I told her of the shingles, and she offered to pass the message to my dad.

When my dad got home that evening, he called to hear my estimation of the damage, and later drove by to take a look from the street. He called me back, told me to buy a packet of shingles and some roofing nails and we would patch it up on Saturday. I invited my father-in-law to come help out--because he's handy, too, and "many hands make light work."

The lovely folks at our home improvement store were more than happy to help me find the materials I needed. (There were lots of people at that store, out buying stuff to replace the things the storm took from them--nothing like a storm to boost the local merchants!) Wondering if I'd handled the shingles wrong and snapped them in half while getting them into my car, I drove home. When those handy men arrived, we borrowed the neighbor's extension ladder and up we climbed. I was glad for the calmer winds and a blue sky. (Please note: I volunteered to climb up. I wanted to! My hubby was more than glad to stay in with the little monkeys. His vertigo would have landed him in the ER if he'd attempted to join us.)

And then, I learned a few things about roofing and roof repairs:
You've got to find any loose shingles that didn't come off and put in a new nail or three. Remove or pound in any nails that were once securing the old shingles. Make sure to work from the bottom up. Be careful not to bend back the existing shingles too far, or they'll break (especially in the cold weather!). If the package says "Standard Shingles," it doesn't necessarily mean the shingles on your roof are "standard." Color does matter, but close enough is good enough. A roofing hammer is different than a regular hammer. When re-roofing over existing shingles, use 3 inch nails, not 1 1/2 inch nails. (This was partly why we lost some of our shingles!) Roof tar may be dispensed with a caulk gun to add extra security under the shingles. The plastic strip on the back of the shingle should be removed to expose the tar prior to nailing to the roof. Nails should not be hammered on top layers because it lets the water in. Two layers of shingles is the maximum allowed. When a roof has 2 layers and requires a new roof, it must be stripped bare to start again.

After spending around 3 1/2 hours on the roof, I am grateful that we didn't lose more than we did. I saw much damage around my neighborhood, and many people were worse off in our neighboring cities. We had to cut some shingles to fit, and the color isn't exact, but I think we did a pretty awesome job. I had a lot of fun! I don't mind heights, and I always enjoy learning more about how to be a little handy.

We had one other adventure because of the wind. Our carport is a metal structure that is secured to the concrete. It has a canvas roof. The feet on the leg poles are plastic. The wind was so strong that day, that it was trying to remove our carport. The plastic feet were no match for the wind and they broke around the anchor point on two of the legs. It was violently bucking in the wind. My next door neighbor happened to be outside when I was gathering some shingles. He noticed the threat of losing the structure, and kindly offered some rope to help me tie it down. We tied it to the fence, my patio, and a tree. Later, my dad traded some of the feet so that it is now anchored to the ground again. (Whew!)

I learned much from this storm. But I was also reminded that we have much to be thankful for. I am thankful for family who knows how to do things and are willing to help when things need fixing. I am glad for the ability to learn new things. I am thankful we have neighbors who look out for us. I am grateful that we were able to afford the damage, and repair it quickly. And now that we are ready for it, Let it Snow!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Have Fun Storming the Castle

There is so much literature in the world. It is just plain difficult to pin down one favorite. I have enjoyed most of what I've read. But this one, well, it was pretty fun. I am sure most of you are familiar with the movie, The Princess Bride. For me, it's part of my childhood. We grew up watching the movie over and over and the point that sitting around the dinner table, someone could state a line, and the rest of us would chime in, doing practically a whole scene or two. Or nine. As a kid, you figure if you like it, the whole world must like it. If it's something you do at your house all the time, it must be something that everyone does at their houses, too. Then I met my husband. He just doesn't care to join the throngs of folks who obsess over the movie enough that they know it all by heart. But, I have my quirks, and he has his. So, we agree to disagree, and I love it still.

What does my husband's dislike for the movie, The Princess Bride, have to do with any of this? I shall tell you. It is his doing that led me to read the book. He, too, enjoys great literature (Although he may not consider this one great literature). His friends read. He was in the office of one friend, who happened to have a copy of the book, S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman. My husband knows me well. He knew I would love to read it. And so, he asked if he could borrow it for me. The friend consented. I read it in a week. My favorite bit? Simply the fact that the book read almost word-for-word with the movie. I know. The book came first. I should have said, 'the fact that the movie runs almost word-for-word with the book.' But I knew and loved the movie first, so that's how it looks to me.

So, if you are looking to read something that you already know from start to finish, The Princess Bride would be a good choice. The writing isn't terribly difficult. The descriptions are vivid, and the story, well, you know it already. There are interruptions in the book (like in the movie) as the narrator (I perceived it to be the author) jumps in to tell you his insights, and some tidbits from his life (unlike in the movie). This is where the book differs from the movie. Because you know the movie (if you don't, I don't know if you'd bother reading my post!) I shall tell you about the interruptions contained in the book.

In the novel, Goldman tells all this back story about how he was able to 'abridge' the so-called original work by S. Morgenstern. He even tells of a group who is over the 'Morgenstern estate' that pitches a legal battle with Goldman over the rights to even abridge the work. Goldman describes how he loves the book, as his father read it to him while he was terribly ill as a child. I like that idea. The book has meaning because his father shared it with him. So, he wants to share the book with his son. Being out of town, he goes to great lengths to find the book, finally finds one copy (but can only have it if he buys a second in the original language) and sends it to his son. His son can barely get through the first chapter. This is the bit that threw me. Goldman is completely disgusted with his son. Not just in the fact that he can't get through the book. Disgusted in general. I, assuming it was a true story, was completely flabbergasted that the man was so obviously disgusted in the life that was his boy, and that he openly wrote about it in a book that he probably hoped would sell to the masses. Isn't it a bit harsh to admit to the world that you have complete distaste in your offspring.

Anyway, this father finally picks up the book that he sent to his son. In it, he does not find the book his father read to him. He states that it is riddled with history and back story that doesn't move the plot. So, after sifting through hundreds of pages of stuff his father didn't read to him, Goldman decides to abridge the book, thus bringing the work he remembered to the world.

Well. I believed it all. I told people that the book was not the original. Then, I watched the special features on my DVD. Things the actors said made me start to think that I had been fooled. So, deciding that I'd write a post about this, I wanted the truth. I looked at Wikipedia. (Not always reputable-but still.) I checked out Amazon. I read Goldman's bio on IMDB. And I found a site called They all point me to the knowledge that the interruptions are part of the story. I found this quote on "One night, [Goldman] asked his 4- and 7-year old daughters what they wanted his next story to be about. One replied, 'Princesses,' the other, 'Brides.' Thus, the Princess Bride was born." His daughters. Goldman doesn't even have a son. Which, to me, is a relief, because I couldn't stand how cold he was in print.

As you read the book, you will find Goldman interrupting often. It's like a story within a story. It was entertaining for the most part, but, I also found it odd that he would interrupt the story of the Princess Bride so many times to tell this other story. Especially odd, since it reads like truth, but is also fiction. I'm having difficulty understanding the reasoning behind that. Sometimes it felt like this side story would never end. It's funny to think about. When you read a good story, you almost climb inside it and get lost. Then say your spouse or kid comes up to you needing your attention. You are suddenly knocked out of that world into the real world. It's like Goldman is trying to do that in the book. And then, almost as suddenly, you jump back in the story.

I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed the movie. I found out it was nearly identical because William Goldman not only wrote the book, but he also wrote the screenplay. Readers will enjoy the "Zoo of Death" scene which is replaced by the "Pit of Despair" in the movie. That is the one major change that I noted. Oh, and the end of the story doesn't really end with Buttercup and company riding off into the sunset. I won't spoil it, but I thought it a strange way to end a book. Then, at the back of the book (depending on which printing you read), there is a chapter of what is supposed to be a sequel, Buttercup's Baby. Here, we get another story about the Morgenstern estate, and why there is only one chapter included. Supposedly, the estate wants Stephen King to do the abridgement. There is no such book. Only a teaser of a chapter. Goldman is now 80 years old. So, unless he's truly committed, we may never see more of these characters than what is written.

Friday, November 18, 2011

I've Spilled the Beans

It's funny, really, that I want my own blog. I don't even have a Facebook page. But, this, somehow seems more appealing to me. It seems more the place where I can chatter on (hence the spilled beans) about the things that seem important to me. So, after much internal debate, here I am.

Of course, you may hope to know a little about me. I am a stay at home mom with two boys (a 1st Grader and a Preschooler). My hubby works hard to "bring home the bacon" so that I am able to enjoy the kids, and be there for all those crucial (and not-so-crucial) times.  I do have a bachelor's degree in Family Studies, and I use it often. My boys are my life. I am grateful every day that I am not employed (note, I did not say work-- that I do) because otherwise, who knows when the dishes and the laundry would get done!

I enjoy many things when I have a few moments to just be me. The first thing I may turn to are puzzles. I love puzzles of all kinds. Word puzzles, number puzzles, jigsaw puzzles--I love to find the pieces and bring them all together. This is evident in my home. I have 3 one-thousand piece puzzles that I glued and framed hanging on the walls. There are 2 or 3 more, waiting for me to work on. They have come in phases, however. The frames can cost a pretty penny. So, like any family on a budget, I have to be sure I don't get ahead of the income as I finish a puzzle. Otherwise, it will have to sit in waiting before I can frame it. That's a pain.

Another thing I've come to enjoy is sewing. I've decided that sewing is just another kind of puzzle. Only, in this case, I get to create it from start to finish. I choose the fabrics, the threads, and the pattern. I have found it greatly satisfying to finish a sewing project. And now, it's time for a little "Sew and Tell." Most recently (read: this week), I spent about 15 hours on my latest sewing project. I am proud to say that the pattern is mine in entirety, I created it all from scratch. I have just finished a beautiful tree skirt. Now, I know, it is too early for Christmas displays. But this one had to be done early. It's not for me. In our community, there is a "Christmas Tree Jubilee." Trees are donated and then auctioned off for charity. They are on display the day before and after Thanksgiving. The winners of the auction get the tree and all it's trimmings. The PTA at my oldest boy's school is donating a tree. So I volunteered to make the tree skirt. I am very pleased with what I have created.

One of my key interests is the world of literature. I love to climb into another world. When I'm reading, I can become someone else, experience things that I haven't before, and go where I've never been. And then I can just put in a book mark and come home. The adventure will wait for me, until I return. I think, that for the most part, I will use this space as a place to write about what I have read. I have been doing quite a bit of reading this year, and sometimes you just need someone to discuss the books with! So, you may come here and find piles of literature. I am always open to new recommendations, and any insight into a novel that I have missed.  I hope you will browse, comment and enjoy.