Friday, March 30, 2007

At the mall

I went to the mall today. Actually, "we" went, since El Burrito was along for the ride. And I was good. I did not buy
  • the very cute Easter chick candy dish at Hallmark, even though it would have been discounted because of the cards I bought
  • the cute socks at Gymboree that match the cowboy shirt El Burrito already has, two pairs for $5 - because even though they go with his shirts, the socks were a 2t-5t size, and I can't justify keeping cute socks around for 4 years before they fit the boy.
  • the Welcome sign at Target with a chalkboard and shamrocks on it - clearanced to $3.78, even.
  • the panda board book with the cutouts in the pages and the squeaky panda

I did buy
  • the clacking stuffed crab I've had an eye on at Hallmark for months now. With a 40% off coupon.
  • clearance windshield wiper fluid, for 31 cents
  • a brick of clearance suet - we'll try feeding the birds this spring

Blarney Castle


This is the view at the top of Blarney Castle, standing in line to kiss the Blarney Stone. The view was great, but the castle didn't impress me that much. The main draw is climbing to the top so you can kiss the stone (which we didn't, more on that later). Unlike some of the other castles, where you can have a guided tour (Kilkenny) or wander through with a one-page map/guide sheet, this was strictly a one-way affair. You went up a series of stairs on one side of the castle, and down the stairs on the other side. If you changed your mind about climbing that far up, too bad. It hadn't been restored much, and what was there wasn't signed or labeled in any way. Everything was pretty vague.

As far as kissing the stone, we passed, thanks. To kiss the stone, you have to lay on your back on this walkway, and dangle backwards, upside down, over about a 3-storey drop. The fourth person from the left in that photo is the official photographer, who stands on a ladder and takes your picture (for a price) as you kiss the stone. There's another "official" person who holds your legs to make sure you don't take a header through the hole and break your neck. I think you're supposed to tip this guy, but I don't remember. I'm not that fond of heights, and since there's no way to know how often they clean the stone (if at all), we decided to pass on the experience. Although I do hope they send someone up occasionally to spray the thing with disinfectant of some sort.

Bonus: if you want to build your own scale model of Blarney, I found a website with plans for a paper-cutout castle. Could be fun. :)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

My Day

. . . was an interesting day. At 3:30 this morning, I was awake and hungry - we'd gone out to dinner ($20 pizza) and I had a little too much caffeine, and the pizza didn't stick to my ribs like it should have. So I had a PB&J at 3:30 a.m. Oy.

The "fun" for today was getting lunch and eating it with DH and El Burrito in the public garden near the office. We should have gone with the cafeteria food. I was having my annual itch for KFC, so we went through the drive-through (I didn't have the stroller with me). I thought I could get two meals for under $10. Wrong. $14.80, for a total of 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 biscuits, mashed potatoes, & cole slaw. And sodas. Gah. But, the food quality has gone down enough that this fix should last longer than usual. It'll be a year or so before I get a notion to hit KFC again, and even then, it's the biscuits I really like. Probably because I don't want to know the fat content. Lately, the chicken from HyVee's deli is better than KFC.

Anyway, other than the food issues, lunch was fun. The garden is greening up, although they don't have the flowerbeds started yet, and the koi aren't out in the ponds yet. But the redbuds are looking nice. And the pin oak by our door has started to leaf out, although I think the lack of mulch and the hatchet-job of pruning last year has killed the roses along our sidewalk. Makes it more of a shame that the cuttings I took from them last year didn't work.

And, news flash!! El Burrito has his first tooth! At ten months and change, so not quite as late as I was (14 months or more).

A humorous picture from Ireland

Today's Picture:


Nice little building, right? Stone walls, window boxes, very nice. Can you guess what this is?

Anyone?

Bueller?

It's a public restroom somewhere on the coast in County Kerry. And it puts most public facilities I've seen in the US to shame, folks. This is the runner-up for Ireland's Top Toilet Award, 2002. If this is the runner-up, I wanna see the winner, really. Aside from the window boxes, the interior was amazing - hardwood ceilings and trim, a skylight (!), nice tile on the walls and floor. I had to have a picture of it (three actually - exterior, interior, and the plaque on the wall outside).

They take the tourism seriously in Ireland. We saw a lot of signs at the edge of various towns, proclaiming their placings in the Tidy Town contest and other contests. And they're not kidding around, because I don't recall seeing much in the way of trash or litter, and graffiti was practically non-existent (except in Derry/Londonderry). Things were neat and tidy, there was landscaping and flowers where appropriate. It makes the town I live in now look a bit scruffy around the edges.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What am I doing now?

So, what am I doing right now? Plugging away at my Yahoo inbox, muttering nasty things at Windows Media Player, and simultaneously digging through a box of my "notes" on bits of paper. El Burrito will be awake any time now, and ready for what we call "lunch" even though it'll be 3:30 or so when he eats it. This is one of the little problems with having noonish for a naptime, but that's how the schedule is working these days.

The Yahoo inbox is currently at 1,631 messages. It's the address I use when I sign up for stuff online, so it gets a lot of just stuff. I'm unsubbing from newsletters as I get one I don't care for, and hopefully that will help. Media Player is being a rotten little snot - I've maxed out both the volume knob on the speakers maxed out, and the volume slider on the player, and I can still barely hear the music over the keyboard noise. It wasn't like this yesterday, so the MahJong software I installed last night must have boogered something up. And I've got this habit of making notes on envelope backs, the subscription cards from magazines, and any other bit of paper I can find when I need it. So last weekend, I dumped all those bits into a box, and now I'm sorting them out. Part of the notes go on the Mega To Do list, part go in a list of books to get from the library, and part go into a big word doc (actually, Open Office, not MS Word) called "notes."

Since Jan asked about progress on the riding - there isn't much. Stephens is supposed to mail me the info on the summer riding program when it's printed up. Since it's usually in June and July, I hope it will be here soon, so I can either get ready, or chicken out. Or find out that they have a weight limit and I'm not under the limit. However, I did remember to check the local Orschelns (a farm supply place) last time we were there, and they do carry riding helmets. Just one brand, and only three sizes, but also only $39.99. They didn't have any out to try on, which doesn't really surprise me. I didn't check whether they were ASTM certified, and I can't seem to find the manufacturer's website (odd, these days, for a company not to have something), but I am on an email-list for horse owners, so I can ask around on the list. There are a couple of tack store owners, so there's lots of information available.

The plan to lose weight before the program starts is also stalled out. I swear, if that scale wasn't digital, I'd accuse it of being rigged, because my weight has a 2-pound window that it's been stuck in for months. I guess I should look on the bright side - at least I'm not gaining, right? Actually, the Plan is pretty much where it always is. I sit around wishing I could lose weight, but don't actually do anything about it. Sigh. I also gripe about our lousy eating habits, usually while continuing to buy chocolate, and my cooking skills have gone waaaay downhill since El Burrito's arrival. (And honestly, I'm glad it's almost Easter, because I'm just waiting for the chocolate-covered marshmallow bunnies to hit the stores and go on sale. I don't care if they're solid sugar.) Lots of self-induced guilt there, especially since DH had his 3-month checkup last week (Type 2 diabetes, plus little issues with cholesterol, blood pressure, and now iron levels. Oy.)

Now that the weather is nice, I'm going to have to suck it up, stick El Burrito in his car seat stroller, and go for a few laps around the condos. There's no sidewalk, but since we're on our own little cul-de-sac sort of setup, it's not so bad. And there's a nice hill, too. Plus, now that the rotten time change has passed, DH gets home while it's still daylight outside, so we can take him with us too. Lord knows we could both use it. The hula-hoop workout idea is still stalled out too - I can't seem to get the hang of it, and I swear I used to be able to do it. That's compounded by El B's odd dislike of the whole idea.

Plus there's that whole "have to clear out the living room so we can get the door fixed" thing. And it occurred to me yesterday, that if we're going to replace the green fake-grass-carpet on the screened porch, we should probably do that before I move all the houseplants outside for the summer. The "grass" needs to be replaced before we list the condo for sale, and we may as well do it now and get some use out of it ourselves. Luckily, that's a job that will only take a few hours. It won't get done this weekend, since we're going to visit my folks, but next weekend should be do-able.

And now El Burrito is awake, so it's time for dry diapers and lunch.

Photos from Ireland - peat


Today's photo - turf, or peat, logs, stacked to dry. Yep, they still burn peat blocks in Ireland. Some of the B&Bs use it as a selling point. It's got a smoky sort of smell, a bit like bacon or something. It's hard to describe. We saw this field of stacked peat somewhere as we were driving along. Ireland is 1/6th peat bog, and has both raised bogs and blanket bogs. Peat cutting has actually increased since the 1980s, but with the increased cutting, as well as bogland being reclaimed for grazing and for tree-planting, the government has started to set aside some of the bogs as a preservation measure. One of the historical sites had a display of peat cutting tools, as well as some well-preserved artifacts that were found in the bogs. The acidic environment in the bogs slows decay, and occaionally tools, bits of wood, and evenwell-preserved "bog bodies" are found.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Springtime

Spring is here, and I have proof:

1. The lawn crew is mowing the complex today. Lovely hours of lawnmowers and leafblowers making noise outside.
2. I kicked the stronger houseplants out onto the deck Sunday.
3. I washed the winter coats yesterday and they're in the closet until fall.
4. I started taking the amazing Target-generic Claritin over the weekend. And will be doing so until the first good frost, in about October.

Of course, moving the plants has good and bad issues. It freed up some space in the living room, but also brought back the fact that all of our exterior doors are messed up because the building has settled (not uncommon in the complex, and ours isn't as bad as some I've heard of). And that they all need to be re-hung, which isn't a DIY thing for us right now, since it involves yanking the whole freaking door out of the wall, and it's warm enough now to have it done. And while we're having that done, all four need to have new knob/deadbolts put in, because right now we have three doors with impending issues, and one door that isn't usable at all - we've got one broken deadbolt, which we put on one of the doors opening onto the porch. It's permanently locked right now; opening that door means getting a screwdriver and taking the whole lock shebang apart. New lock/deadbolts (there's a word for this, I know) means re-drilling the holes in the doors, since the old mechanisms are all older than Moses and have a non-standard-sized hole and setback. "Non-standard" as in, I couldn't even find one on Ebay or Google. I swear, when they built these units, they got some of the parts uber-cheap because no one else had used them in decades. As in, DH found the bolt parts in a hardware store once, and they were sold as patio door fixtures. Ask me about that weird light fixture in the hallway that no one sells a cover for. It's on the list of things to replace before we move.

Anyway. There's no room to do all four doors at once, so I need to get motivated and get the living room cleared out enough to do that door, and possibly the front door the same day, depending on whether we find someone who knows what they're doing. Oy. You have no idea what a job it will be, getting this room cleared out enough to pull an 8x8 double door out of the wall.

Today has been unproductive. Instead of taking El Burrito to the library today, I called DH to come home for lunch while I ran out. Library day is Tuesday, when the Friends have their cart sale. Unfortunately, the sale runs noon to 3:00, which coincides almost perfectly with El Burrito's nap window. Sigh. And today he was tired before noon and generally being a Fussy Butt, so I decided not to attempt it. So, I went alone to the library, spent $3.50 at the sale, came home with the copy of Shopaholic and Baby I'd been on the waiting list for, stopped at the store for bread so I could have lunch, and went on a whild goose chase at Michael's for some things my mother needs. I couldn't find the things she needed, so I need to wring some less-vague descriptions out of her and go back. Who knew there were so many kinds of double-sided tape?

On the "progress" list, I recycled 19 pounds of paper and magazines yesterday, and we now have hotel reservations for the road trip concert next month. That took longer than it should have, too. Something's going on in Nashville that week, and everything downtown is booked solid, unless we want to pay $250+++ per night (plus 14% tax). Plus, there are days when too many choices is much much worse than having only a few choices. A list of 50 hotel possibilities, after you narrow down by availability, price, and location? It's insane. At some point, you end up just closing your eyes and picking one at random. So we now have a room at the Best Western near the airport, apparently next to a nice lake, about ten miles from "downtown."

Today's Picture - Inishmore


While we were in Ireland, we took a boat out to Inishmor, or Inis Mor, one of the Aran Islands. It's a very rocky place, and would be tough to live on. The islands didn't have electricity until the 1970's, and most of the soil there was made the hard way, by hauling sand and seaweed up from the beaches to layer in the fields. And when I said rocky, I wasn't kidding. An aerial survey was done - Inishmor has roughly 7,000 miles of rock walls, all made of native rock, and there's plenty more where that came from. The Arans are a Gaeltacht, one of the regions where Gaelic is still the main language.

We took a minivan tour of the island, given by an islander named Mairtain. (Tourism is a big employer on the island, I guess - lots of independent jaunting car and minivan tours.) We went to the Seven Churches first, because it was rainy, and then to Dun Aengus (or Aonghasa) after the weather cleared a bit. Dun Aengus was amazing. It's a partial ring fort on the edge of a sea cliff (300 feet down to the ocean), and you have to walk up a heck of a hill to get there. The view is unbelievable in all directions, and you can walk right up to the edge of the cliff to look at the sea. I gather that bits of the fort occasionally fall into the ocean, too. Don't know if they've lost any tourists over the edge, but it's pretty windy at the top and there aren't any barricades.

When we were there, there were less than 1,000 people living on the island. The Arans were one of the few places where the population went up during the Potato Famine - the potato blight didn't make it out to the islands, and the population went from 3,000 to 5,000 during that time. The main industries are fishing and tourism, although AT&T has a factory there that employs 35 people to put some sort of chip together. The island is kind of closed off - they don't allow outsiders to build vacation homes there. One of the other Arans did allow outside homes - land prices went through the roof, and either 400 or 4,000 vacation homes were built in one year.

By the way, if you go to Inis Mor, avoid the public restroom facilities at the pier in Kilronan, unless they've been repaired since we were there. The hand dryer only worked about every fourth try, and the plumbing was equally temperamental.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ireland Pictures for the weekend

Three days of Ireland pics in one post.

First, Saturday:



This is the Wicklow Mountains, south-southeast of Dublin. It's a different sort of area, not the lush green that most of Ireland was. Different vegetation, I guess. The hills are very pretty, although they aren't what I'd call "mountains." They are probably the tallest things in Ireland, though, so I guess they qualify by default. This is also where the author Anne McCaffrey lives, although I didn't know that when we were there. The little town of Avoca is in this area as well. It's mostly known because of the BBC series Ballykissangel, which is shown on PBS in some areas. We hadn't discovered the series when we were there, though, or I would have made a point to at least drive through the town.


Sunday's Picture:


A round tower at Glendalough, another ancient religious site. This site was built in the 6th century and destroyed by English troops in 1398. This tower is more intact that the one at Monasterboice, and you can see the cone-shaped roof that makes it look like a pencil. This was a very pretty place, and very popular. We skipped the visitors' center, since we arrived right after a busload of tourists. There are also some other religious buildings at this site, including St. Kevin's Church.


Today's picture:


One of the five bastions of Charles Fort - County Cork, on the south coast of Ireland. This was one of the neatest places that we went. Charles Fort is an old star-shaped fort, built in the 17th century, and one of the largest military forts in Ireland. It's a very neat place, and the guide doing our tour was very interesting. We were there for almost two hours, and could have stayed longer if they weren't closing fo rth enight. When we were there, there was some debate on how to restore the fort - should it be restored back to the original 17th century site, or as it was later on?

Charles Fort is near the town of Kinsale, which is apparently famous for its food. I wasn't impressed with our eating experiences there, but then I'm not a foodie. The food leans toward the gourmet end, both in food and in price. It's a very small town with very narrow streets, so driving was a pain. Also, no parking in town. We finally found a free parking lot on a hill above the town, and would walk down to eat or whatever. Someone on that hillside had a lawn that must have been a real trick to mow, as it was on about a 45-degree slope.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Other Goings-on

Right now, I should probably be digging through the closet for boxes to ship the Ebay sales in. But El Burrito is asleep in his crib, which is next to the box closet, and I'd rather not wake him. He didn't take his normal nap last night (the 8pm-midnight "nap") so he's off schedule today. It wasn't for lack of trying on our part, and he was half-asleep during the evening bottle, so I was a bit shocked when he spent the better part of three hours laying wide awake in the crib.

So I'm digging through my email (only 1,646 emails sitting in my Yahoo account), reading a new blog I found called How I Am Becoming an Astronaut and basically just puttering a bit. I do have the two sold books set up as far as shipping - one's in a bubble mailer, the other is getting a box since it's going all the way to East Sussex in the UK. There will be a big trip to the post office tomorrow. I've also got boxes in mind for at least two of the four other things, I just need to see if I have any of the large Priority boxes left or if I need to run to the PO and get a couple.

I love having a PO branch at the mall that's practically next door. Convenient, lots of free parking, and they have later hours than the main PO downtown. After I mail a big stack of boxes at the PO, we have to trek up to the Hallmark store for cards (I don't buy many cards, or we'd be strictly 2/$1 cards at Deal$ people). Two birthdays next month, plus my parents' anniversary this week. And, if they made a card for the occasion, my Dad would get one. He's retiring in July (probably); he's the transportation director & bus mechanic at the school district I graduated from, and had his last bus inspection this month. 100% pass rate again, of course, but it's a big stress-party for the two weeks before inspection, and he's glad that it's over with. But I don't think Hallmark has a Happy Inspection card, so we may just get a piece of paper and make one. El Burrito can't write yet, but I could forge his artwork I bet. :)

In a week or so, we'll be going to visit my parents, for Dad's birthday. While we're there, we'll take a little trip to the outlet mall not far away. It's got Carters', Baby Gap, and Children's Place outlets, and we need to do a bit of shopping. El Burrito is one growth spurt away from being too long for the 9-month sleepers, and when I looked at his side of the closet, I discovered we only have one 12-month sleeper. Uh oh. Hopefully Carters will be having some sort of sale while we're there. I'm hoping for more of their Rubber Duckie line, but it's not on their website anymore. I may have to hit Ebay instead. El Burrito has had a blue duckie sleeper since he was born - three so far. Like this one, but now we need a bigger one. Found the first one at a church rummage sale (we were late - it was $1 a bag!), got the next size at Carters on clearance, and had to buy the most recent one on Ebay.

And if I happen to stop by the bookstore while we're there, it wouldn't be a bad thing, right?

El Burrito has a new "trick" too. Two, actually. He's starting to pull himself up on the crib sides, and he surprised DH last night by reaching up for him. That's something he just started this week. I don't keep up on whether he's "early" or "late" with a lot of this stuff - I've got enough self-inflicted guilt as it is - but I'd guess that he hasn't done this sooner because he hasn't needed to. Or so I choose to believe. (I'm sure if he's "late" with this, Least-Favorite SIL will let me know. She's good at that.)

Ireland - Newgrange


Newgrange, our first day in Ireland. Newgrange is a Megalithic passage-tomb, built sometime around 3200 BC or so (according to the best carbon-dating estimates). Older than the pyramids at Giza. The white wall is made of stones, and there's a pattern done with darker stones in the white. The entrance is off to the right, and at the winter solstice, the sun shines directly in at sunrise. People are allowed in at the solstice, but there's a lottery to see who gets to go. The mound covers about an acre, and there are 97 kerbstones around the base (the grey line below the white). There are two other mounds nearby, Knowth and Dowth. We only had time to tour Newgrange.

There are quite a few of these mounds in Ireland. There were more, but apparently some of them were dismantled and the rocks were used to pave roads or build walls. Kind of a shame.

The cafeteria at Newgrange was also our introduction to Irish-cafeteria food. The main thing I remember is little sandwiches on standard white bread, cut in half and packed in little triangular plastic boxes, for the low price of 7 Euros (about $10 US). Butter on all the bread, and a strange fascination with mayo (which I can not stand, so that was a little hurdle there). Rick Steves raved about the place in his book, but I was not impressed. Maybe it was the low blood sugar, or maybe I just believed the Frommer's book that claimed you could tour Ireland on $60 a day.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Random Stuff

A collection of random things today. Enjoy.

I had a dozen auctions on Ebay that ended last night. Sold 9 of the 12, and made some decent sales. Now I just have to get everything packed up and toted to the PO. I sold two books for $8 each, which is about what I had in them. They came as a lot with a third book, all in the same series. I needed one book of the 3 to finish my set, and of course that was the hardest book to find. I finally found this trio on Ebay for $25, when the single book I needed was usually listed at about that price. So, after re-selling the two I already had copies of, I've paid about $9 for the one book I needed. I also sold some assorted Breyer horses, mostly from sets where I only wanted one of the set. A couple I'd been trying to sell for a year, at lower prices than I got for them yesterday. Pretty sweet. Of course, that makes up for the set I bought on clearance, for $4, that I can't seem to get rid of, even though the same set is listed on Ebay for $30. I can't explain it.

El Burrito is 10 months old today. He's not crawling yet, but that's fine and to be expected, thanks to the Large Noggin. He was average to a bit late with sitting up on his own too, and his pediatrician said he probably would be. He's getting up on hands and knees now, so crawling will be here before we know it (and before we move). He was in his crib yesterday and I heard him laughing over the monitor. I snuck to the door and saw him mashing his face up to his crib mirror and laughing at it. Too bad I didn't have the camera then. I grabbed it after I saw what he was doing, but then he saw me and stopped laughing.

I'm not sure how he compares with his large-noggined cousins, since I don't chat about the kids with my sisters-in-law. Don't see them that often, and they're usually chatting to each other or someone else. And one SIL doesn't talk to me that much anyway, and when she does it's usually some backhanded compliment that ends up sounding (to me) like a dig of some sort.

We went out for dinner last night, and I tried something new. It backfired. We went to Chevy's, one of our standard places - good food, and El Burrito's car seat can slide right into the booth, so he's not in the seat-holder where waiters can drop hot fajita skillets on him or anything. We're there about once a week, and the waitresses recognize us.

So. I usually have the Grande Chimichanga (half then, half for lunch the next day), or a couple of tacos. Lately I've been getting the fajita & chimi combo, which is yummy, and we've tried the taquitos (yum) and the flautas (too spicy for me). Last night I decided to try the Fajita Burrito. It sounded good - like a fajita in a burrito wrap. Wrong. The menu didn't mention that this thing was spicy enough to shoot flames out your ears. Sigh. So I ended up swapping with DH, who got the fajita/tamale combo. Except that it took a while to figure out the spiciness thing, since I was waiting for the wobbly skillet to quit sizzling, so all he had left was 1 fajita. We brought home half the burrito for him to eat later, and I had a peanut butter sandwich after we got home.

And that's why I tend to not try new things. We paid $25 for dinner, and all I got was a smallish fajita and beans & rice. And most of a basket of the delicious tortilla chips and salsa. It definitely causes problems when we're traveling and don't have the option of eating when we get home, or bringing leftovers home. This is part of why I was stressed in Ireland - the constant wondering about what if I try something new, it sucks, and now I've paid for a meal that I didn't eat any of, and have to go find something else to eat. Plus it's embarrassing or something, when the waiters notice that you didn't eat anything.

Oh, I did try to try something new in Ireland. Chickan gougans (I probably mangled the spelling.) Yeah. They turned out to be breaded chicken tenders. Which are my standard choice when nothing else on the menu looks good.

Today's picture - Monastarboice

Today's picture:



A Celtic cross and a partial round tower. I'm pretty sure this is from Monasterboice, Co. Louth. This was the first place we went in Ireland after getting off the plane in Dublin. It was a beautiful day, although breezy and cool. Monasterboice is the ruins of a monastery and cemetary; you can see the graves in the background. There are three High Crosses here, all dating from the 10th century, but I think this is just a standard Celtic cross grave marker (it doesn't match photos I just found of the 3 High Crosses). There were quite a few in the cemetary. The three High Crosses here are Muiredach's Cross, the West Cross, and the North Cross.

Anyway, there were only two other cars at the site when we were there, so there's a benefit to off-season traveling. Also, free admission. :) However, the public facilities had no toilet paper - the drawback of the off season. You can't go in the tower - it's gated off - but you can walk up the steps to the doorway. This one isn't fully intact; the complete ones have a little cone-shaped roof at the top. The round towers were built as refuges for when the Vikings came raiding. The doorway is on the second level, so the monks could haul everything into the tower and pull up the ladder. Of course, a long seige wouldn't be fun for the monks inside.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wednesday's Ireland Photo - Staigue Fort


This is the wall at Staigue Fort, an old stone ring-fort near Sneem. These walls are about three-layers of stone thick at the widest - you can see areas of single, double, and triple here - and they're about 15 feet high at the tallest point. All done with no mortar, and still standing after a few hundred years. There's no good date for its construction, some estimates say first century B.C., others say 400 A.D. To get to Staigue Fort, we had to drive down a very narrow path, then put our entrance fee in a box (honor system) and hike across a sheep pasture. In the rain. We were there alone, since we went in the off-season (hence all the rain).

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Today's progress

Some progress today. I got rid of 6 pounds of magazines, thanks to Freecycle. That, plus the recycling from yesterday, totals up to 28 pounds of magazines and assorted paper that left the house this week, and it's only Tuesday. Of course, Monday is trash/recycling day, so that's the day that most things go "away."

I sold a CD yesterday, so now I have to search for it. A brief hunt last night didn't turn it up, but it's only been a month or so since I bought it (used, at the library sale), so it can't have gone too far. I bought it for 50 cents, and sold it through Amazon's Marketplace for $5, less commission. The commission is 99 cents plus 15%, so that's $1.75 gone right there, but still not bad. Of course, it was a total chance. I bought the CD because I thought it might be good. I didn't care for it, so I listed it.

Right now I'm searching Amazon for some of the CDs I bought at the sale last weekend. Partly to see if they're worth anything, partly because some are partial sets or don't have any liner notes or anything. I seem to have come home with:

  • Volume 3 of a 4-disc Porter Wagoner box set - the set sells for $100 new, so I wish I'd found the other 3 discs. Dad likes Porter, so I may give this to him.
  • Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys - The Tiffany Transcriptions, Volume 1. This isn't a box set, the discs were released individually and there are at least 10 volumes listed on Amazon. One of the Amazon reviews says that this is a real mix of music, unlike what BW recorded on the studio albums. To quote: "more a mixture of ska, jazz, blues, and swing than it is purely "country."" Should be interesting.
  • Van Morrison, Back on Top. His name sounds familiar, so I got this one. For some reason I want to think he's played with the Chieftains.
  • The Sarg Records Anthology, 4-disc box set. This one's an enigma - no info or reviews at Amazon. Apparently it's South Texas music, so it could be interesting. I found one listed on Ebay for $94.99, but there are a lot of people with optimistic prices on Ebay.
  • Songs of the West, Volumes 1 & 2 from Rhino. These look like they were worth the 50 cents I paid. The reviews of V.1 aren't stellar, but how can you go wrong with Riders in the Sky and Roy Rogers? And Marty Robbins?
  • The Mavericks, Music for All Occasions - Something I wanted to buy years ago, but since radio only played one song I didn't want to risk $12 on it. For 50 cents, I'll risk it.
  • Not for Kids Only - David Grisman & Jerry Garcia. This one had no liner notes and wasn't in the original jewel case, so it was a total gamble. Looks like it might be fun to listen to.
Between the Grisman and the Songs of the West, I think I may have found some music for El Burrito to listen to. Lawd knows, I'm about burnt out on singing "Itsy Bitsy Spider" right now. My Mom got El Burrito a mini See N Say that plays Itsy Bitsy Spider, and he loves it. I probably sing it in my sleep now. His is a bit malfunctioning - it's supposed to play the whole song every fourth time you press the buttons, but his is more like every time. It's a great toy, though.

Tuesday's Picture - Irish River,


This is the Sneem River (or River Sneem) in Sneem, County Kerry. I believe this is the part of the river that ran through the little town of Sneem. Another bit of the river ran right past the B&B we were staying in, called Derry East Farmhouse. The owners are a nice couple who raise suckling calves as well as running a B&B. We had one of the best meals in Sneem, at a little restaurant called O'Sullivan's Sacre Couer. Actually we ate there twice, it was so good. And I'm not just biased because I was sitting next to a heater there - it was one of the few times I was really warm in Ireland. (Did I mention that I under-packed for the weather?) The meal for both of us only cost €35, which was very affordable. I had salmon, which was about 16 ounces, and DH had fried garlic chicken (about 1/4 of a bird), plus the usual boiled potatoes, cheesy cauliflower, and the first non-mushy carrots we ate the whole trip.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Mondays

News flash: I can't hula hoop. Bought one this weekend, thinking it might be a fun way to get a little exercise. Target wanted $7 for a hoop, so I found one at the dollar store for $1. And it might be a good thing that I didn't spend a lot on it, because even though I think I've done it before, I stink at hula-hooping right now.

Some progress was made over the weekend. In today's paper recycling were 22 catalogs and 18 magazines, plus assorted papers. Grand total - 22 pounds. And there's another large stack of magazines that will go out next Monday if no one on Freecycle wants them.

We hit the library's spring book sale and came home with a pretty good haul. $44.50 on Saturday, $8.50 on Sunday. Mostly paperbacks at 50 cents each, but a few CDs as well, 2 hard backs, and a VHS. I love their sales. I especially love finding a few books that can be re-sold to pay for most of the trip, although that didn't happen this time.
Monday's Picture of Ireland:


To match today's weather, kind of. It's gloomy here today. This picture was taken in Killarney, I believe near a spot called Ladies' View (where Queen Victoria and her ladies-in-waiting stopped to take in the view on a visit in 1861). That yellow patch? The only sun we saw that day. The rest of the time was rainy and misty, and then here's this one little patch of sunlight up on a hillside. Not far from this view was Muckross House, where Queen Victoria stayed on her visit. If our tour guide was right, the family prepared for six years for her visit, including building a fire escape on to her room. The Queen even brought her own fire-fighting engines with her. (Apparently there was a childhood accident and she ended up with a lifelong fear of fire.) But after six years of preparation, her visit lasted two days, folks. Oh my.

Sunday's Picture from Ireland

Sunday's picture:


This is a little waterfall at the Irish National Stud. "Little" in the sense that it doesn't fall a few hundred feet, but it wasn't a little waterfall in a bucket for your lawn either. Don't recall if it was in St. Fiachra's Garden, or the Japanese Garden, but it was very pretty.

Saturday's Ireland picture


One of the first places we went in Ireland was the Irish National Stud at Tully, County Kildare, since I'm a horse nut. This is one of their stallions in his paddock. Unfortunately, I don't remember which one this is. If it's one of the horses on their website right now, he could be Elusive City or Touch of the Blues, but I'm not sure. I took a lot of pictures there, and while the stalls and paddocks did have name plates, there were a few that didn't match up. The day we were there, they had two of their retired geldings, Vintage Crop and Danoli, sharing a stall - it was farrier day, and these two guys were buddies so they were hanging out in the same stall until it was their turn for shoes.

Aside from the horses, the estate at Tully (almost 1,000 acres!) has St. Fiachra's Garden, the Japanese Gardens, and the Horse Museum. The museum was apparently refurbished last year, but it's got a timeline of horses in Ireland and a lot of racing memorabilia, including the skeleton of a famous racehorse named Arkle. The tour of the Stud takes about 45 minutes, and you get to walk through the barns and the stallion paddocks, as well as the miniature horses that are bred there. The stalls have skylights in them; apparently the fellow who built the place before donating it to the State was a believer in astrology, and had readings done for the foals to decide which he kept and which he sold.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ireland - the southwest coast

Today's picture from Ireland:



This is a view of the coast line from the top of Hook Head Lighthouse, on the southern coast of Ireland. This was an interesting place. The Hook Head lighthouse is very old - established in 1172, it was originally a coal-powered lighthouse run by monks. The "light" in the early days was a bonfire, basically. As I recall, for a while it was lit by a coal fire; the coal was brought over from Wales by boat, then the monks carried it up the lighthouse stairs in bags. The tour was great, we got to go out on the catwalk to look around. I took a lot of pictures, and need to see if I can make a panorama shot out of them. They were testing the foghorn while we were there, and before every foghorn blast they would set off a siren and strobe light to warn us about the foghorn. The warning siren was probably louder than the foghorn itself, so it was kind of funny.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I survived a trip to the dentist

Yes, I survived another trip to the dentist. These days, I have to go a minimum of 4 times a year for cleaning, thanks to some lousy gums, and lax flossing habits. Luckily, I got a clean bill of health with no cavities, but basically I got lucky considering the way my teeth are packed together and the serious lack of regular flossing. More good news: thanks to lovely advances in dentistry, I don't have to sit with a tray of fluoride on my teeth anymore. Now the fluoride comes added to the polishing stuff instead. And can I just say "Hallelujah! ! ! ! " to that, because the fluoride trays just lead to drooling, and accidental swallowing of the nasty stuff (even with the suction thing in my mouth). And the swallowing of the fluoride leads to a few hours of queasy stomach, made worse by the "don't eat or drink anything for 30 minutes" rule.

On the other hand, my teeth still hurt after a cleaning, and will until tomorrow. Not a big hurt, just a little nagging ache, and the constant feeling that they're looser than they were.

So I am re-resolved to floss more often. I have a nice pack of floss sitting on my keyboard, so I can find it easily. And I need to get rid of all the unwaxed floss that my other dentist (the periodontist) keeps giving me, because it just doesn't work on my teeth. I end up with bits of floss stuck everywhere.

I have to say, though, I love this dentist. And I'm a confirmed needle-phobe with a mouth full of fillings and a long-standing dislike of dentists and doctors of all kinds. But this guy is a gem and I will be soooo sad when he retires. He owns the practice, and it's small. He does all the dentisting, and his wife takes care of the appointments, X-ray developing, note-taking, etc. Only one patient chair in the office. No other employees, no hygienist. And he doesn't over-schedule. I never have to wait, and I think in 7 years, I've only seen someone else there once. And that was an emergency, when I had an infected gum and he squeezed me in to take care of it.

Unlike the high-priced periodontist's office where I go for 2 cleanings a year, Dr. M does the cleaning himself. He also shows me the X-rays, points out things (like the wanna-be cavity on the top left molar second from the back), and checks the soft-tissue stuff as well. He was the first dentist to mention that I grind my teeth at night (which was news to me), and checks regularly for TMJ (and seems a bit surprised that my jaw doesn't hurt yet). He recommended the baking-soda based toothpaste (Arm & Hammer), which I really like, now that I'm accustomed to the saltiness. Since I started using this stuff, I don't have the problem with canker sores that I used to have.

Plus, he has a good chair-side manner, and was smart enough to prescribe a bit of diazepam for me to take if there's any serious drilling involved. The first filling he did was a bit of an adventure. I get very nervous when the drilling is going on, and I ended up with a filling that's larger than it was meant to be. The drill made one of those gawd-awful whining noises that reverberates up through your skull, and I was tense enough that I think I levitated off the chair for a second. Things are much better these days, and I actually had the last filling done - it was very small - with nothing but the novocaine or whatever they use these days. Progress, folks!

In contrast, I alternate trips to Dr M with trips to Dr O's office. Dr. O is the high-priced periodontist who did my root planing & scaling (a horror story for another day). Although I go to his office twice a year, I only see him once a year, and that sight lasts about 60 seconds (I counted in my head last time). The rest of the time, it's one of the dental hygienists doing the work. Which I don't mind, necessarily, but I'm paying more for Dr. O than Dr. M, and last time the cleaning was a rush job and I got whacked in the gums a few times with the polishing gizmo.

All in all, I'd rather see Dr. M four times a year and skip visits to Dr. O. If I can start flossing more regularly and get my gums back under control, I'm going to discuss things with Dr O and propose going there once a year, with Dr M taking care of things 3 times a year.

I survived a trip to the dentist

Yes, I survived another trip to the dentist. These days, I have to go a minimum of 4 times a year for cleaning, thanks to some lousy gums, and lax flossing habits. Luckily, I got a clean bill of health with no cavities, but basically I got lucky considering the way my teeth are packed together and the serious lack of regular flossing. More good news: thanks to lovely advances in dentistry, I don't have to sit with a tray of fluoride on my teeth anymore. Now the fluoride comes added to the polishing stuff instead. And can I just say "Hallelujah! ! ! ! " to that, because the fluoride trays just lead to drooling, and accidental swallowing of the nasty stuff (even with the suction thing in my mouth). And the swallowing of the fluoride leads to a few hours of queasy stomach, made worse by the "don't eat or drink anything for 30 minutes" rule.

On the other hand, my teeth still hurt after a cleaning, and will until tomorrow. Not a big hurt, just a little nagging ache, and the constant feeling that they're looser than they were.

So I am re-resolved to floss more often. I have a nice pack of floss sitting on my keyboard, so I can find it easily. And I need to get rid of all the unwaxed floss that my other dentist (the periodontist) keeps giving me, because it just doesn't work on my teeth. I end up with bits of floss stuck everywhere.

I have to say, though, I love this dentist. And I'm a confirmed needle-phobe with a mouth full of fillings and a long-standing dislike of dentists and doctors of all kinds. But this guy is a gem and I will be soooo sad when he retires. He owns the practice, and it's small. He does all the dentisting, and his wife takes care of the appointments, X-ray developing, note-taking, etc. Only one patient chair in the office. No other employees, no hygienist. And he doesn't over-schedule. I never have to wait, and I think in 7 years, I've only seen someone else there once. And that was an emergency, when I had an infected gum and he squeezed me in to take care of it.

Unlike the high-priced periodontist's office where I go for 2 cleanings a year, Dr. M does the cleaning himself. He also shows me the X-rays, points out things (like the wanna-be cavity on the top left molar second from the back), and checks the soft-tissue stuff as well. He was the first dentist to mention that I grind my teeth at night (which was news to me), and checks regularly for TMJ (and seems a bit surprised that my jaw doesn't hurt yet). He recommended the baking-soda based toothpaste (Arm & Hammer), which I really like, now that I'm accustomed to the saltiness. Since I started using this stuff, I don't have the problem with canker sores that I used to have.

Plus, he has a good chair-side manner, and was smart enough to prescribe a bit of diazepam for me to take if there's any serious drilling involved. The first filling he did was a bit of an adventure. I get very nervous when the drilling is going on, and I ended up with a filling that's larger than it was meant to be. The drill made one of those gawd-awful whining noises that reverberates up through your skull, and I was tense enough that I think I levitated off the chair for a second. Things are much better these days, and I actually had the last filling done - it was very small - with nothing but the novocaine or whatever they use these days. Progress, folks!

In contrast, I alternate trips to Dr M with trips to Dr O's office. Dr. O is the high-priced periodontist who did my root planing & scaling (a horror story for another day). Although I go to his office twice a year, I only see him once a year, and that sight lasts about 60 seconds (I counted in my head last time). The rest of the time, it's one of the dental hygienists doing the work. Which I don't mind, necessarily, but I'm paying more for Dr. O than Dr. M, and last time the cleaning was a rush job and I got whacked in the gums a few times with the polishing gizmo.

All in all, I'd rather see Dr. M four times a year and skip visits to Dr. O. If I can start flossing more regularly and get my gums back under control, I'm going to discuss things with Dr O and propose going there once a year, with Dr M taking care of things 3 times a year.

The Cliffs of Moher

Today's picture from Ireland:


The Cliffs of Moher, also known as "that really foggy place" when we were there. :) When the weather is clear, the place is amazing. I've got postcards to prove it, because when we were there, the cliffs were hidden in either a fog bank or a very low-flying cloud. From the road, you could barely see the visitors' center, and from the VC you sometimes couldn't see the cliffs. We still had to pay to enter, although I propose that on days when you can't see ten feet in front of you, there should be a discount. :)

There's a concrete path along the cliffs (with a fence), and at times you couldn't see past the fence. Occasionally, we'd get a break in the mist and be able to see down to the ocean, but not often. We ended up in the visitors' center with a busload of other tourists, so the place was too packed to really move. Which is why I saw a Celtic-knot necklace, but didn't buy it - I could get to the necklace, but actually paying for it probably would have taken a while. Ah well.

To see what the Cliffs look like in good weather, the official site has a page of E-postcards you can send. It's a lovely place when you can see it. That's one of the pitfalls of traveling in the off season sometimes.

A Busy Day

(We'll call this Wednesday's post, even though it's after midnight.)

First, today's picture from Ireland.


This is DH with one of the horses we rode in Ireland. We spent an eye-boggling amount to go ride on the beach for about an hour, near Galway. We were lucky to find anywhere to ride at all, since we were there during the off season. Apparently, most of the touristy riding places close up for the winter and take the horses somewhere else. So it was just the two of us and the girl in charge of the place, and we were probably the only customers all day. It was the first time I ever rode English, and I was complimented on my posting. I have some doubts as to the sincerity of the compliment, since being nice to the tourists is probably good for business, and we were paying quite a bit to go riding on a drizzly day with no other tourists in sight. On the other hand, I'll take any compliment I get. Ignore the skeptical side of the brain. :)

In other news: We didn't make it to the Little Old Lady Lunch today, so no gossip about the police action we saw on Monday. Nothing in the paper either, so I guess the six police cars were just here because nothing else was going on around town. Instead, my parents came up to see El Burrito (and me), and to visit my mom's sister in the hospital. Breast cancer, a lymph node-ectomy and what I guess you'd call a pro-active double mastectomy. This would be the second maternal aunt with a problem. Joy joy, one more thing to worry about. So, El Burrito got to see his great-grandparents for maybe the fifth time in his life (even though they only live 30 minutes from his grandparents), met two of my cousins, and made googley eyes at a teenaged girl in the waiting room. And I got even more proof of the general crankiness and dysfunction in my extended family.

After which, we came home, my parents went home, and El Burrito had a nap while I took advantage of Ebay's 20-cent listing sale. I just finished listing the last Breyer. With any luck, my work will pay off, and some of this stuff will find a new home.

And, while we ate dinner, we watched PBS - tonight was our first chance to see the episode of Great Performances with Loreena McKennitt's concert from the Alhambra in Spain. It was an awesome, very high-quality concert, and the sound was amazing. They were offering DVDs of the concert with a pledge of $190, but that's a bit rich for my blood. Hopefully it'll be available through more affordable sources later. I can't wait until we get to see her live in Nashville next month. And I sincerely hope that she doesn't wait another nine years before her next album.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Some progress

So, has there been progress this week? Some, but nothing that is eye-catchingly visible.

  • We put the recycling out yesterday. 22 pounds of paper, magazines, catalogs, etc. Yes, I weighed it on the scale. It's part of that "visible progress" thing.
  • I've been offering things on Freecycle, mostly magazines (after checking Ebay to make sure I don't have something worth selling). So far, no one's wanting anything I've offered, but it makes me feel better to at least check before I toss it in the recycling. Just chucking it makes me feel irresponsible for some reason. But at this rate, next week's paper recycling may top yesterday's 22 pounds.
  • I've got a stack of magazines to send off to my sister. I'm getting Body & Soul free, and sending them on to her after I'm done.
  • We went to the library today. Returned 4 books, checked out 3, for a net gain. One of the three was the Existential Joss Whedon (for the Firefly fan in me), one was Last Man on the Moon. That brings the total to 27 items checked out for myself and El Burrito, and 7 on my waiting list. The list for Shopaholic & Baby is down to 13 ahead of me.
  • Only spent $2 at the library sale. El Burrito grinned for the ladies who run the sale, and demonstrated his new clapping skills for them. He's got quite the fan club.
  • I remembered to run the dishwasher this morning.
  • I also remembered to wash the last load of laundry, one that didn't make it yesterday.
  • I have pillows in the washer right now. They may be dry by bedtime.
  • Made a sale on Ebay yesterday. I'm still wondering why someone would pay $5.50 for a $7 coupon, but I'm not complaining. I buy a few coupons on Ebay, mostly formula checks for El Burrito, but I stop bidding at 1/3 of the face value.
  • Said Ebay sale is packed up and ready to mail.
  • I think I saw a "new" fish in the tank a few minutes ago. It's one of the joys of livebearers. They've slowed down the reproduction rate lately, and I've currently got 6 platies (possibly 7). For a while last year, I had upwards of 30.
  • Wrote checks to pay some bills last night. They were supposed to be mailed on the way back from the library today, but I forgot to take them along. They'll just have to go out tomorrow.
  • I remembered to change the time on the answering machine, cell phone, and my car.
  • All of yesterday's laundry is folded and put away. Including El Burrito's, which is something of an accomplishment.
  • And we put away the clothes that El Burrito has outgrown. That made room in his dresser, which is why his clean laundry is put away already.
We got to watch some interesting goings-on yesterday. I was folding laundry in the bedroom (which overlooks our parking space), with El Burrito supervising, when we saw an ambulance drive by. Now, that's not out of the ordinary, since this complex has a significant population of elderly-ish people. But this time, the ambulance drove past our building, then backed up and parked in the spot next to ours. I was worried, as our downstairs neighbor is 80+ and not in the best of physical health, so I kept an eye out as I folded. But, instead of going in to check on someone, they got out and were looking down the hill. They left the engine running, which ruined any chance of overhearing anything useful. Then I saw a police car drive down the hill, and another one. And another one. Interesting, right? A few minutes later, we heard a cop on the loudspeaker, asking Mike Gobbledygook from 25xx to come out. After a few rounds of that, they were asking anyone in that unit to come out. I don't think anyone ever came out, because after about ten minutes the paramedics packed up and left. And a few minutes later, a string of five, or possibly six, police cars left - three city, two county.

No clue what was going on, unless there's something in tonight's paper. I did see a few neighbors standing around chatting after everything was over. Tomorrow's the monthly condo lunch, so if my Mom doesn't come to visit my aunt at the hospital, El Burrito and I will have to go to the lunch, try out the new Bennigan's, and see what sort of scoop we come home with.

Ireland Picture for Today

Before things get busier, here's today's picture.


Kylemore Abbey, in the Connemara region of Ireland (on the west coast). This isn't a postcard; I took this myself. But, except for the cars in the parking lot, it looks a lot like the postcards of the Abbey. I'll assume that speaks well for my photography skills. :) This was taken on one of the days when it rained most of the day, a good steady drenching downpour. And me without a raincoat to speak of. The rain kept us from going on their garden tour; they have a six-acre walled Victorian garden, which I hear is pretty amazing.

The Abbey was originally a family home, but the man who built it gave it to the Benedictine nuns after his wife died. Right now it's an Abbey and a international girls' boarding school. The interior has some amazing woodwork. The stair banister had spiraled vertical bars, which I think were all hand-carved, and there were chairs with matching legs. We didn't get to tour the garden, but we did walk up to the neo-Gothic church on the grounds. The Abbey has a photo gallery on their website, if you want to see more pictures.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Ireland, and unproductivity

In honor of St Patrick's Day, here's another picture from our trip to Ireland. I'm planning on a different one every day this month, time permitting. (I have plenty of pics. We were in Ireland for 3 weeks, and came home with 3,000 digital pictures. Of course, a good 20% weren't worth keeping, but that's okay. The wonders of digital cameras.)


This is a closeup of a fuchsia bush. I don't recall exactly where I took it, and I can't dig up the travel notes right now. But this stuff grows practically wild over there, and it's beautiful.

As far as progress this weekend, DH says progress was made, but it must be the invisible kind. Because for the life of me, the place doesn't look any different, other than a few extra piles of paperwork sitting around. And sometimes I just really need visual progress.

Don't get me wrong. We did get stuff accomplished. DH took a half-day on Friday to get some banking things done. That took two trips, because we forgot to take El Burrito's Social Security card and our marriage license (since I was cashing in an oooold savings bond, hence needing proof of my maiden name). Duh. Luckily, we only live a mile or so from the bank, so it took longer to track down the papers than it did to drive home.

Saturday, though, seems to be a total loss, and I don't know why. We didn't go anywhere, since the errands were done on Friday, and the TV was off most of the day. We (DH, actually) started out working on taxes. That morphed into a giant pile of Every Online Receipt from the past three years, as we tried to determine whether we hit the $2,000 threshold for "things bought online from places that didn't charge sales tax." Gah. Still haven't reached a conclusive answer on that one, although we did find out how much we spent at Amazon.com last year. And Dell did charge tax on the new PC, so we may not have hit the limit after all.

But other than filing a large stack of Vanguard and bank stuff, and sorting out endless receipts, we really don't seem to have gotten anything concrete done on Saturday. I did refund some excess postage for something I sold online, and filled out the forms to request our free credit reports, but the To Do list didn't seem to be affected at all. We still don't have a hotel room for the Nashville trip, the dishes didn't get touched until almost midnight last night, and the aquarium didn't get cleaned, so it still has this funky odor to it that won't go away. It's strange, like this weird time warp.

And Sunday, if it's at all possible, was even less productive! Thanks to the time change, we overslept. Then it seemed like no time at all to have lunch, read the paper, and get ready to go to DH's parents' place for a birthday party. Two brothers and a nephew this time. With 20 birthdays a year in the family, we're out there at least once a month for a party. We left around 4:30, and didn't get back until 11:00. (Yes, I missed Dresden Files.) We can not seem to leave before 10:00 when we go out; luckily it's only a half-hour away, but still.

And of course, my least-favorite-on-DH's-side sister-in-law was there, with another little sideways compliment about El Burrito. Yes, it bugged me, and I know it shouldn't, and I may just be hearing things in her tone that aren't really there, and apparently I've forgotten the high school lessons about ignoring comments, and it sounds dumber on the screen than it does in my head, and gawd knows I'm the Queen of the Self-inflicted Guilt Trip. But still. It irks me. About 6 weeks ago, after finding out that El Burrito isn't waving on command yet, she looked right at him and said "There's all sorts of things you can learn if Mommy and Daddy would just take the time to teach you." Implying, to my ears anyway, that he's a smart kid, but his parents are clearly not up to snuff or something. Yesterday, she was asking if he was "into everything yet." No, we said. Not walking yet? No. Not pulling up on furniture? No. He's not cruising from furniture to furniture yet? No. Not crawling yet? No. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like she kept asking because she thought we misunderstood the question or something.

And now that that's off my chest, I'm off to do more laundry and see if El Burrito is up yet. Rotten time change, his schedule is all off-kilter. And see how my Ebay auction goes. It's up to $3.25 now, and I'm hoping to get a lot of bids in the last half hour.

But there's good news. Less than a month before a new season of Deadliest Catch starts. Wheee!

Friday, March 9, 2007

St. Patrick's Day & Random Stuff

In honor of St Patrick's Day next weekend, and Spring in general, I thought I'd put up one of the photos I took in Ireland.



That's somewhere on the west coast, I think on either the Kerry or Dingle peninsulas.

For St Pat's, I'll be making soda bread and our version of Irish Stew (with pork or beef instead of lamb, which is hard to find around here). And the stereo will be playing lots of Chieftains, Gaelic Storm, and other good stuff for the next few weeks.

I got a reply about the riding program; basically, they'll snail-mail the info to me once it's printed. I asked about local places to buy a helmet when I sent my address, so we'll see if there's anything around here that I've missed.

Hopefully something productive will be accomplished today. DH is taking a half-day off, since there are a few errands at the bank that need both of us to be present, and my parents may come for a visit tomorrow, which is when we usually do the shopping & errand-running.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Forward Progress

Forward progress was made. I just emailed the contact person for the Summer Riding Program, asking for more information, especially regarding equipment, fitness, etc.

And it's really sad that it takes me half an hour to write a three-sentence email. Part of that was trying to word it right (some days, everything sounds awkward), the rest was because I can not think when the baby's fussing in one ear and I'm trying to type with one hand.

But it's still progress.

I also made an appointment for the body work on the car. There's a three-week wait, but it's minor body damage and I've already been driving it that way for a month.

More space issues

Two other space issues that irritate me about This Place.

1. Thanks to the lovely issues of space, we have a really limited amount of seating. As it stands right now, we had to get rid of the couch to make room for the glider and baby swing, and we sold the table and chairs to make space for the crib. That leaves us with the love seat, glider, and office chair. Which means that on the rare occasion that we have company, we're limited to three people at a time. And that's if someone chooses to sit on our lousy folding chair. Not that we have a lot of company anyway, but we'll never be able to have both sets of parents over at the same time or anything. No parties for us! Usually it's my parents, when Mom needs a grandbaby fix. And I swear, the last person who came through the door other than us? Was probably the HVAC guy to do the fall furnace checkup.

(And don't get me started on the lack of post-baby visitors. All the baby magazines and websites were full of people wondering how to deal with the flood of visitors at the hospital and home, and tips on getting the visitors to run errands for you. Our "flood" was my sister and one of DH's brothers. The brother's visit ended up costing us money. And my grandparents came for an hour. That's it. We had a drought, not a flood.)

2. The lousy floorplan also makes it darn near impossible to do any indoor exercise. I bought a yoga mat two years ago, with the intention of working out indoors with videos and the Denise Austin show on Lifetime TV. After I got home, I looked around and realized that, short of moving the love seat every time I wanted to work out, there's not really any spot in this condo where I can unroll the yoga mat and have room to stretch my arms to the side. I took a fitness class while I was pregnant, and the home workouts were pretty skimpy because we have such a lousy layout. Yes, I can go outside and walk, if the weather is decent, but sit-ups, etc, are better indoors.

In short, just two more reasons why we want to move, soon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Why we need to move

In a word, space.

In more words, not enough space, not enough storage space, and a funky layout that means the place seems practically not-child-proofable. Looking at it, it seems that the only way to make this place safe for a crawling El Burrito would be to back a dumpster up below the deck and throw away 95% of what we have, including part of the furniture. Even then, I don't think it would really work. There's a computer desk full of dangling power cords, and a 20-gallon fish tank with more dangling cords, and neither of them can be anywhere but the living room. Half the houseplants are probably poisonous. There just seems to be a lot of "stuff" that has no real out-of-the-way home. We're stuck with it living out in the open, where a crawler or toddler can trip over it, put an eye out on it, eat it, choke on it, or whatever. We won't even go into the stairs, the second-story porch, or the deck. Or the cabinet doors that don't have handles, just the little notch at the bottom to grab with your fingertips, that I'm not sure are compatible with those child locks.

It's also very dark, thanks to a lack of windows or built-in lights, and the air circulation is abysmal.

Space. We don't have enough of it, and what we do have is poorly designed and laid out. The fellow who designed these was obviously aiming them at single people, retired couples, and the like. He was also apparently freaking clueless about cooking, cleaning, and ventilation. And light. And had some sort of phobia about right angles, because the only square rooms are the two bedrooms.

We live in a 2-bedroom condo that's about 1000 square feet. It seems like a lot, until you look at it and realize how inefficient the layout is.

Other than a decent-sized closet in each bedroom, the only storage space is a tiny closet in the hallway. Ours holds the vacuums, coats, a broom, and a few tools. That's about all that will fit. There's technically a "utility closet" in the kitchen, but since it already has the furnace, water heater, washer and dryer, there's not a lot of room left to work with. Especially since the fuse box is in there, and we shouldn't block access to that. We managed to squeeze in a set of plastic shelves for canned goods, a plastic trash can for the recycling, and a few cases of soda (bought on sale). It's very frustrating to not be able to put things "away" because there's nowhere to put them. No closet for linens, towels, bathroom paraphernalia.

The bedrooms are a decent size, but thanks to the positioning of the doors (deck, closet, bathroom, and hallway), there's exactly one place to put the bed. Even then, the door out onto the deck won't open all the way. After putting in a nightstand, a dresser, and a chest of drawers, we're left with a path around the bed about two feet wide. To get the bassinet in the bedroom, we had to block off access to DH's nightstand, and if the bathroom door opened the other way, it wouldn't have worked.

We have no dining area. Actually, right now, we don't even have a table. To make room for El Burrito's crib, we had to move the computer into the living room. The only place for it was the corner between the entrance and the living room, formerly inhabited by the table that we never used. So we sold the table. And since we don't have a high chair yet (it's on the list for this weekend), we're feeding El B on the couch, which works surprisingly well as far as it goes, but doesn't really allow us to let him play with his food or anything. When we do get a high chair, I'm not sure where we'll put it. If it folds, we can store it on top of the washer, but I'm not sure where we'll put it while we're actually using it. The only options seem to be the middle of the kitchen (linoleum), or in the weird space at the top of the stairs, between the computer and the glider. The drawback there is that it's carpeted. Granted, we're going to replace the carpet when we sell, but still.

And a tangent - who in their right mind puts carpet in a bathroom? Or in what is supposed to be a dining area? Or just inside the door, where you can track snow and mud in? Gah.

Two things that I will not miss when we move? Light and air. Two big design problems here. There are three doors that don't really go anywhere - 2 for the screened porch, 1 for the deck, neither of which are connected to the ground. While those doors all have a big glass panel in them, the orientation of the building means that we get very little direct sunlight. The last owners painted the walls a pale shade of yellow, which added to the "I'm living in a cave" feeling. We repainted, which helped, but it's still dark. There are also practically no light fixtures in the place. Seriously. One over the stairs, one in the kitchen, one in the hall, plus track lighting over the kitchen/living room divider, vanity lights in the bathrooms and florescent tubes in the closets. Otherwise, zilch. The bedrooms are totally ignored as far as lighting. The living room has a ceiling fan, but they didn't bother to put a light on it.

We're thinking of putting a fan/light in the bedrooms, and adding a light to the living room fan before we sell. I wish we'd had this bright (pun!) idea a few years ago, so we could have gotten some use from them.

And the place has practically no air circulation. There's only one return-air vent, so the furnace air flow is sort of stagnant. I've got half the vents closed, trying to push some air into El B's room and the living room, but it's not working well. The temp drops noticeably when you go down the hallway. Even in the summer, with both porch/deck doors open, we rarely get a breeze through here unless the wind is coming from the west. All our doors are on two sides of the building, so there's no good cross-circulation, and the building north of us blocks a lot of the breeze.

I need to make a floor plan of this place. Maybe it'll give me an idea on how to rearrange what furniture we have, while not blocking the traffic flow.

House Hunting - why it bugs me

(For Jan, mostly, thanks for asking.)

House hunting lately bugs me for a couple of reasons.

A: General discouragement with the whole idea. In the five years or so that we've been looking, it seems like everyone we know has already moved. Some of them have moved more than once. Here's a list:
  • My sister - moved from Detroit, to a rental in Indiana, to a house in IN, to Atlanta GA
  • My much-younger brother - first year on the job, found a great farm just a few miles from our parents
DH's siblings (all older than DH, except #5):
  • #1 - separated from wife, moved out, moved back in, divorced, rented a house, and now has a manufactured home sitting on a patch of ground
  • #2 - moved once
  • #3 - built Home #1, sold it, moved into #2, sold it, moved to rental, built #3, moved in
  • #4 - bought a farm, moved into old farmhouse
  • #5 - sold house, moved in with parents for a few months, put a manufactured home on 3 acres that the parents gave them from their land
DH has helped with all these moves, plus helped build and paint the two homes that #3 built. But, now they all owe us. And at least 4 of the 5 have trucks, so when we do move, we won't have to pay anyone. (evil laugh) My dad and brother also have trucks, and Dad has volunteered both stock trailers when we move.

DH has two close friends from high school here in town. One has moved once, the other has moved twice. I swear, other than our parents, we're the only people I know who haven't moved in the past 7 years.

Oh, and #4, above? Asked at Christmas what was taking us so long to find a place. I was very restrained, and did not ask him what was taking him so long to find a wife. I was very tempted, but I bit my tongue. Someone also told us at some point, "If it takes longer than 3 months to find a house, you're doing it wrong." I swear, if I could remember who it was, I'd make sure they were first on the list when we move the heavy stuff.

B: Realtors. We talked to two realtors, one of which took us to see a lot of places, and had found a home for one of DH's co-workers. The first realtor didn't last long. We spoke to him in the office one day, and that was about it. He called at least twice wanting to come look at the condo so he could list it, but never put any effort into finding us a place to buy. Sorry, no dice. I'm not listing this place unless we have at least an idea on where to move to.

The second one was better, she drove us to a lot of places and got MLS listings and all. But 90% of the time, we found the listing in the paper or the Real Estate book and called her about it, not the other way around. I was under the impression that if you told them what you were looking for, they would put in a little effort to help find it. Maybe she just knew we didn't have a deadline and weren't going to be moving by the end of the week. I don't know.

Tuesday tidbits, addendum

I was sorting through email last night, and realized I had a rotten coupon to the Childrens' Place that I could have used yesterday. $1 lost, for being disorganized. Blah.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Tuesday tidbits

It's been a sort of productive day, although I don't seem to have gotten a lot done. What did I do? Well, El Burrito slept a little later than usual. After breakfast I packed us up and we went to the library and the mall. We returned a very overdue library book, checked out a book called What Not to Build, and spent $10.75 at the library's book sale while El B grinned at the checkout clerk. Then we hit the mall for a few errands. We came home with stamped postcards, a safari hat for El Burrito from The Childrens Place, and the last season of Northern Exposure on DVD.

The hat is one that we need for this summer, and El Burrito de la Cabeza Grande is hard to find hats for. When we do find a nice one, they generally are sold out in his size, or don't make it at all. Last fall, there were scads of too-cute bucket hats on clearance. The Childrens Place Outlet had a bin full of denim ones, only $1 each, and not one was big enough for him then, much less six months later. Ditto at the Gap Outlet and the Carter's store. I scouted out a few stores at the mall on Saturday, and went back today to see if anything I found would actually fit. TCP had two of the khaki ones that I liked left in stock, and luckily one seems to fit. Our 9-month-old boy is now the proud owner of a hat that is size 18-24 months. You see why I learned to crochet winter hats for him?

I was ready to order the DVDs from Amazon, until I remembered the $3 coupon that was included with the last set. So I waited until Sunday and checked the Target ad. Jackpot! Target's price is $5.00 lower than Amazon's price, and I can use the coupon at Target. No coupons with Amazon. Score! It pays to shop around.

On the other hand, the shopping trip threw off the usual routine. I had lunch two hours later than usual, and El B's noonish nap didn't get started until almost 3:00. Now it's 5:00 and I feel like I've gotten not-much done today. I've been involved in a discussion online about color genetics in horses, and I'm not seeming to communicate clearly. And now I'm going back to my Yahoo Inbox, which at 1,554 messages, is threatening to stage a coup.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Eclipse photos

As promised, the best of my photos from the eclipse. None of these turned out as well as I'd hoped, but I kind of expected that. I am still figuring out the tricks of this camera, and making rude comments about companies who write a 95-page manual, but only send a PDF copy. Hauling the laptop out Saturday night along with the camera and tripod would have been a bit much. :) But, as soon as I get the focus figured out, I'll be set. Luckily, I have 5 months to get ready for the next eclipse.




This is the best shot, although it could have been zoomed more. This is cropped, and about 75% of the original shot was blackness. I wish I had zoomed more and used a higher resolution shot for this one. But, it's still pretty cool.



A longer exposure on this one, which is why the moon is so glaringly bright.




A more-cropped version of #2, so you can see the moon better.

Luckily, the next eclipse is in August, so I won't have to choose between manipulating tiny buttons with gloves on, or manipulating tiny buttons with frozen fingers. :) And next time, I'll try to remember not to leave the strap around my neck while the camera is on the tripod. It meant that I was hunched over for most of these shots, and probably wobbled the tripod a bit.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Eclipse

I actually saw the eclipse on Saturday (today, in my mind, since I'm still awake, but technically it's Sunday). I was worried a bit, since it was cloudy and flurrying most of the day, but it cleared up about 4:00. The eclipse was mostly over by the time the moon was rising here, so what I saw was a moon with a bite out of one edge. Not as impressive as the total deal, but still pretty neat.

After we got back from the grocery shopping, I left DH and El Burrito inside while I went looking for a view of the moon. Luckily, I found a spot here at the condos with a decent view. From our mailbox, I could see a moon through some tree limbs. When I hustled out to the sidewalk next to the street (three buildings away), I could get a clear view. So I came back in to grab the New Camera, tripod, and my scarf, and hauled everything back out to the sidewalk.

Three little problems came up. One, it was very breezy out at the sidewalk. Apparently our buildings block most of the wind. My fingers were getting a bit numb, and the buttons on this camera are too tiny to work while wearing gloves. Two, having the neck strap around your neck while the camera is on the tripod isn't the best way to do things. Makes it hard to take a steady shot, since the strap is short enough that I had to hunch over. My scarf was tangled in the strap, so I just left it alone. And Three, I haven't figured out the focus on this camera yet. Even on full-automatic, most of the pictures are a little off. But there are a couple that may work out.

I took pictures with the new camera until I got too cold to stand it anymore. I tried most of the settings - full automatic, semi-automatic, full manual, Scene, and even took a short movie of the eclipse. Then I came back inside, grabbed the old camera, and took a few shots from the mailbox. The moon had risen enough to clear the trees that were in the way earlier, and the building blocked neogh of hte breeze that it wasn't too cold there.

If I've got any decent shots, I'll put one up here later. Until then, SpaceWeather.com has a gallery of photos for today's eclipse. Some of them (okay, all of them) are awesome. Since I don't have a telescope, anything I ever take will be more like this shot instead of some of the more close-up photos.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Eclipse this weekend !

In case you didn't know, there's a total lunar eclipse on Saturday evening. Here in the midwest, we'll unfortunately miss part of it, since it won't be dark yet. (We have to wait until August to see a full lunar eclipse.) But we'll get to see part of it, and how cool is that? This is the first one locally since 2004, I think. I've got about 24 hours to figure out enough of the New Camera to get a half-decent picture. I'll also have Old Camera ready to go, but it's flakiness lately means I won't be depending on it.

In other news:

El Burrito and I took DH out for lunch today. Then we stopped at the library, where we found a flyer with the dates for the next Big Sale (March 17 and 18th - wooo hooooo!), returned a few overdue books, and picked up a couple of holds.

We need to get back in this habit, now that the weather is hopefully no longer going to be hideous on a regular basis. Back in the Pre-Burrito days, I had lunch with DH every Thursday. I'd pick him up, we'd have lunch (usually Chevy's, sometimes Bandana's BBQ), drop him off back at work, and I'd go run errands and do the shopping. I also went to the library every Tuesday, to rotate the book stock and to hit the Friends' weekly sale in the lobby. Post-Burrito, especially this winter, that hasn't worked so well. It seems to take forever to get both of us ready to go, and timing it to coincide with a not-hungry period got tricky. He's finally going 4+ hours between bottles, which is good, but his schedule has changed lately. These days, the first nap hits sometime around noonish and lasts for about two hours. Given that DH tends to lunch around 11:30 and the book sale runs from noon until 3:00, there's a bit of a scheduling conflict. However, the mall tends to be best before noon (fewer people; no teenyboppers!) so I need to start doing mall runs in the morning.

And I just ordered some Breyers online. Blame Salem Saddlery's 50% off sale, and a person on my Breyer e-list who likes to find these sales and encourage everyone to shop. :) She told the list about a sale at American Livestock Supply a few months ago, and I think we may have bogged their server down, because they sold out of everything in just a few hours. Hopefully I'll have better luck this time. With the ALS sale, I ordered 6 or 8 things, and all but 1 sold out before my order shipped. :(

Yesterday, I finished reading The City of Ember - a "young adult" novel, but still pretty good. I'm wondering what the big Disaster was. And luckily, there's a sequel, The People of Sparks, which the library also has, and which I just put on hold through the wonders of their online catalog.

Just got some news about the Stargate SG-1 movies, which are meant to wrap up the series since the Unbelievable Twits at Sci-Fi decided to cancel the show. Gah. At least I have 9 seasons of DVDs to watch and re-watch.

One of the best episodes of Gilmore Girls is on right now on ABCFamily. Kirk running naked through the town. Luke & Lorelai finally kissing. Babette, Patty and Luke playing board games. What more could I ask for? The only downside is the whole Rory/Dean thing. What was the girl thinking? The last few episodes have been pretty good; I like reruns.

And I found the cutest summer hat for El Burrito in the Lands' End catalog last night. But get this. Sizes: XXS, XS, and S. That's it. Crazy, I tell you. And judging from their size charts, the S might fit him now. Maybe. But would be too small in three months when he'll need it. Back to the hunt.