Sunday, November 14, 2010

Date Night At Home How-Tos

Sometimes, nights out just don't happen.  Especially once you've had kids it gets nearly impossible to get out of the house for a romantic dinner and, when you do, you are usually rushing home before you have to take a second mortgage out to pay the babysitter.   But even without kids, you get caught up in your daily routine or don't really have it in the budget to go out as often as you like.

Worry not! I am here to help by giving you some handy steps to a fantastic date night at home!  There will be a lot of references to what to do with your little ones so if you don't have them, either skip those bits, apply them to your pets or file this vital information away for future use!

Step 1: Clean the house
This is not to be taken for granted because, let's face it, one of the reasons we go out for nice dinners is to escape the chaos of our own pig-sty.   So, take some time to clean up the joint.  It needs it any way.  You don't have to go crazy but there's nothing romantic about eating dinner sandwiched between a pile of folded laundry and your kid's race car set.

Step 2:  Clean yourself
That's right!  You heard me!  Yeah yeah, I know you love each other no matter what and you're probably so sex-deprived that it doesn't matter what you both look like but it won't kill you to get out of your sweats and look your best.  You don't have to put on a ball gown but some make up and a pretty top.  For guys, shower and shave.  Nobody feels sexy in a pair of fleece lounge pants and slipper socks.
Chilling in my fridge
at this very moment

Step 3:  Food
I can't even believe I put food third but the key here is to enjoy yourself so if making a big fancy dinner is going to be completely taxing and make you dirty every pot and pan you own - don't do it.  Order in or make ahead or make a simple one dish favorite like baked ziti.  The most important thing is that it's something you both enjoy and isn't going to make anybody ill.   Also, make sure you chill a nice bottle (or 2) of [blank].  It's necessary.  More on that later.

Now, about those little people.   What you want to do is get them something they love and is no work for you.  For us, it's those stupid Kid Cuisine frozen meals that have very little nutritional value.  (Sidebar:  Those microwaveable trays they come make great kids plates and we use them over and over again!)  For your kids it might be ordering a pizza or peanut butter and jelly or whatever they will eat without bugging you.   If you are having appetizers, give them an appetizer too.  You want them to be busy for as long as it's going to take for you to have a nice relaxing meal.  Give them whatever they like for appetizers too. Cheese sticks, pretzels, chips.  This dinner isn't about nutrition.  You worry about their nutrition every other day.  Tonight it's about getting to eat uninterrupted.   Which leads me to...

Step 4:  Staging
You want to set the little ones up in front of the TV (who says TV isn't a good babysitter?) with a favorite movie that ALWAYS holds their attention.  This is not the night to try something new.  If they've seen "Finding Nemo" 1000 times but they always sit for it, that's the DVD for you.  You want something that is at least an hour and a half in length so that you don't have to get up to play something else half way through.  You should set your own dinner in the dining room if you have one.  You should also eat on nice plates.  Guys don't really give a sh*t about this but girls do.  We have pretty plates and we like to use them.  If it's feasible to put some music on that is low enough for you to hear without disturbing the little tyrants watching "Spongebob's Mystery with a Twistery", then do so.

Step 5: Timing 
If you typically eat dinner early, eat a little later.  You may have to ply the munchkins with a late afternoon snack to keep them from gnawing your leg off.   If it's bath night for the kids, wash them before dinner.  (while you're at it, clean yourself up as well as mentioned in the all-important step 2.)  If anything else needs to be done like homework or packing school bags for the morning, do it all before dinner.  You don't want to be messing with that nonsense when you have a decent buzz from the chilled bottle (or 2) of [blank].

Step 6:  Don't Sweat The Small Stuff
Maybe dinner isn't perfect.  Maybe your husband forgot to shave because he obviously didn't read my blog.   Maybe the movie isn't holding their attention as well as you hoped.  Don't sweat it.  This is where the bottle (or 2) of [blank] is absolutely necessary.  During our last date night dinner, our son kept making up reasons to come in and ask us stuff.  We started cracking up every time he came in and making jokes about it.

Step 7:  Clean Up
This goes back to not over-doing the cooking, or, if you enjoy cooking a big meal, do as much clean up before dinner as possible.  All you want to have to do afterward is pop a few dishes in the sink or dishwasher and forget it until tomorrow.  If your kids are old enough to clear the table for you, even better!

Step 8: Afterwards 
It's time to usher the tiny people off to bed. This is another reason why timing is important.  You don't want to have enough time to get suckered into a game of Candyland or some other buzz-killing activity.  Dessert is optional too.  Sometimes we might just have a few squares of dark chocolate (as we finish off the second bottle of [blank]) or a small bowl of ice cream and a cup of coffee.  If you are night owls, maybe you want to watch a movie or play a game.  For me and my husband, we know the clock is ticking before the bottle(s) of [blank] have done their damage and we start to doze so we don't usually waste to much time with a movie.   Just remember to proceed with extreme caution.  It's evenings like this, and bottle(s) of [blank] that led to the existence of those to tiny people you just put to bed.

Happy date night, people!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Bike Saga Continues

It's been a while since I updated the world on my journey to learn to ride a bike.  If you are new, please read "35-Year-Old Learns To Ride A Bike or Dies Trying" first or re-read it if you've forgotten what an idiot I am.

I'm sorry for the lapse in my story but there is a very good reason.  This story is a long and winding road and I was waiting to see where it lead before I shared the details of the tale.

I'd like to start by saying that I'm fairly certain that sh*t like this only happens to me.

You may recall that I was practicing on my old heavy bike that I so lovingly named "Two-Ton Tessie".   Well, I locked Tessie up at my workplace on one of the many available bike racks.   Then my summer got very busy, with work of all things.  The nerve!  I didn't have nearly as much time to practice as I'd originally hoped.

One day, as I was rushing from one place to the next, I rushed by the rack where Tess should have been.  SHOULD HAVE been... but wasn't.  As a matter of fact, the whole RACK was gone.  At least, I thought the rack was gone.  I am not known for my keen powers of observation and I'm embarrassed to say that I wasn't 100% sure.  I asked my friend to go by and confirm that there did, in fact, used to be a rack where I thought there should have been a rack.   Thankfully, I was right.  Whew!  Turns out I'm not a complete space cadet.

That brings me back to Tess.  The old girl was missing in action.   Or inaction as the case was.   I doubted that she was stolen because (a) she wasn't that pretty and (2) as the wrought iron rack was gone as well, the suspect would be hulking, green, wearing torn clothes and yelling "Hulk Smash!".  He should be easy to spot.

I called the folks in charge of moving, removing and fixing things.   For 2 weeks, I didn't get a response.

Finally, I got the following message:
"Hi.  Ummmm, yeah....  give me a call back.  I want to tell you what I was told about your bike."

That couldn't mean anything good.  I wanted to hear  "Hi.  Oh, your bike?  We've got it right here!  We tuned it up and painted it for you.  We also added a little bell and some tassels for your trouble!"  But, alas, that was not to be.   I returned the call.   They had needed to move the rack.  Clearly.  So they had someone cut the locks (I just BOUGHT that lock) with the intention of tagging and storing the bikes.   The locks were cut.  The bikes, somehow, never tagged or stored.   Ouch.

I was told there would be reparations.   Reparations!  COOL!  Now we were talking!  Maybe I would get the money to go buy a brand NEW (and hopefully much lighter) version of Tess!  I was told to contact someone.  Again, I made contact.   Again, I got no response for 2 weeks.

I was talking to colleague about my bike woes and she decided to make a few calls.  Someone contacted me about my reparations.   Apparently, they had decided it would be acceptable to offer me a suitable replacement from some bike graveyard housed in a basement somewhere.   Still, I had a chance of getting a suitable, if not better replacement.  Only, they didn't deem me worthy to go visit the graveyard and pick out a replacement, lest I pick one of the more treasured and valuable discarded old bikes.  No.  They would choose one for me.

A few days later, I got an email with a picture of what was chosen as a suitable replacement.  I really didn't think there could be a rustier old piece of crap than Tess but, low and behold, I was looking at it!

Really?!?  Let's revisit, shall we?   My bike wasn't STOLEN.  I didn't leave it UNLOCKED.  "The Man" cut my bike lock, purposefully removed my bike from its place and left her to meet some awful, untold fate!   How is offering me some busted up POS an acceptable solution?!?

The same colleague was as incensed as I was.  She made a few more calls and they cut me a check for a modest but acceptable amount.  It's not like I was looking to upgrade to a $3,000 road bike.  

My good friend and ex-bike instructor (you remember him?  the patient and kind one that I relieved from his duties to save some dignity) went with me to pick out a bike.

I got a neat little mountain bike.   She's pretty, too, and much lighter than Tess.

It had now been nearly 3 months since my last practice.  I was a bit apprehensive but confident that with my new bike, I'd be able to master this skill in no time flat...  and I did it!    I got on and peddled and the bike moved forward and I stayed upright blowing right past my previous 30-foot distance record!

Whooo Hooo!  That's right folks!  This 35-year-old... ummm, correction... now 36-year-old, can ride a bike!

Now, I just have to master the steering and stopping!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

God Bless The U.S. But I Hate My Damn Ford

We are a three-car household.

The first car is the one my husband drives to and from work. He's an engineer in the sustainable energy industry and, suitably, drives a Honda hybrid. Much more appropriate than when he used to go to work in a honkin' pick-up truck.

The second car is my Honda. I love my Honda. It's cute and reliable and get's decent gas mileage.

19-something-something Ugly-Ass Green Windstar

The third is a used mini-van.  We have two kids so, naturally, we have a mini-van. We got it so that my mom would have a reliable car with which to drop-off / pick-up my youngest at pre-school and get my oldest off the bus. "Why do you need a car to get a kid off the bus?" you say? Well, because you might be able to walk down my driveway but you would need some crampons and a few sherpas to get back up safely.

But, I digress. Did I say RELIABLE? HA! I should start by saying we bought it used from a friend and only paid a few thousand for it so I really a have no right to complain but when has that ever stopped me before?

It's a 19-something-something Ford Windstar Mini-Van in ugly-ass green. I think that is actually the name of the paint color. We've had it for just over 2 years now. Last winter, we had this vexing problem where a fuse would blow when starting the car.  Before the repeating issue was identified, it had become a compound problem because the driver would try to start the car numerous times, thereby draining the battery. The kicker was, the fuse would blow after the driver had already started it up and gone somewhere and then tried to start it again. Of course it never happened in the convenience of our own driveway.

I spent most of last winter answering calls from my mom who had gotten the kids to pre-school, only to have the car refuse to start again. I would leave work, drive there, change the fuse, jump start the car and go back to work.

We have a great mechanic. He's awesome and honest. Really. It's not a myth!

I brought the stupid van in twice and he knew that the fuel-pump fuse was blowing but couldn't find out why. I did some research on the interwebs and discovered that many of the these crappy vans, particularly the ugly-ass green ones, had a problem with the fuel-pumps sh*tting the bed, so to speak. I told my mechanic, who said he didn't want to change the fuel pump until he was absolutely sure because it was expensive (see - honest!) but decided to change it and -- YIPPEE --- it worked! For a brief moment, I thought I'd miss the mid-day, GoToWork-LeaveWork-ChangeFuse-JumpStart-ReturnToWork Game, but, alas, I didn't.

That was last winter.

It's barely September and I got that fateful call from my mom yesterday. WTF?!?! What is this car's problem with impending winter!?!? Is it a frickin' senior citizen and needs to "winter" in Boca Ratton or something?

Battery Charger Thingy
We have this battery charger thingy (I'm certain that's what it is called) at work that you could use to jump start a car. I grabbed that and a borrowed a set of jumper cables. I was explaining the fuel pump / fuse scenario of the Winter of '09 to my coworkers and I really sounded like I knew what the hell I was talking about. I felt like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny "It's a limited slip differential which distributes power equally to both the right and left tires. The '64 Skylark had a regular differential, which, anyone who's been stuck in the mud in Alabama knows, you step on the gas, one tire spins, the other tire does nothing." 

Unfortunately, I'm only an expert on this particular problem with this particular ugly-ass green Ford Windstar.

Anyways, off I went with the battery charger thingy and cables. I'm sure I was quite a sight with my manicured nails, in a skirt, stockings and black patent leather heels.

I spent the drive there thinking, 

"That is it! I am done with this damn car! IF I manage to get it started, I'm driving it straight to the Honda Dealership and getting a new car! Sure, we can't afford another car payment but I can't afford to leave work every time the car thinks it's a little chilly out!"

When I got there, I checked the fuse it was NOT blown. Phew. Not the fuel pump again. Still channeling Mona Lisa Vito, I called my husband and said "Yeah, I think it's the starter." Turns out I don't know squat about cars and it was just a dead battery. I don't know why it was dead or why it started up, let my mom drive the 10 minutes to school and then wouldn't start again but my husband bought a new battery and that will hopefully be the end of it.

Somehow I doubt it.

And if this happens again, well, God Bless the U.S. but I'm buying another Honda!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Where Babies Come From

The age old question that every parent dreads getting asked.

The average kid begins to ask that question between ages 6-8.  My daughter is 5 and a half and she didn't bother to ask.  She drew her own conclusions, and, when you think about it, she's really not that far off. 

Miranda's Baby-Making Theory

(get's cut off because my battery died but all she said after that was " out. The end.")

She only missed the mark a tiny bit with the "pea" on the "conveyor belt".   She came frighteningly close on the "magic potion" supplied by the dad.   A little closer than I am comfortable with! And the baby coming out of a "secret door".   I guess only the daddy knows where the door is!

Her 3-year-old brother, Jack, took a stab at it too but he pretty much copied his big sister.

Baby-Making Theory (Jack Re-mix)

His incorporates some kind of baby store.  However, he was right about one thing.  When you use the "door" twice, that's it.  No more!  At least in his mom's case! The baby-making door (and the store, for that matter) is CLOSED!

Where do you your tots thing babies come from?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

An Asthetitician Without Pity

This weekend marked my annual "Girl's Weekend".   It's the one weekend a summer I spend with my two oldest friends.  By oldest, I mean the girlfriends that I have had the longest, not that they are, in any way, advanced in age... which they are not... the "oldest-in-age" friends that I have... and if even if they were, which they are not, I would certainly not be implying that in this forum.  (Whew!  Age is a touchy subject when it comes to chicks.)  I also won't say how long we've been friends, because, to admit that is to admit that we are not 29-years-old for eternity, which, in fact, we are!

The three of us have birthdays in July, August and September and we choose a weekend in late July or early August to hang out together.  We rotate between each of our homes, kick out our husbands (and children in my case), go out to dinner, drink, play games, watch movies, drink, talk about boys, drink some more, giggle a lot, eventually go to bed and out to brunch in the morning.  It's a blast!
That's not me - it's the Flirt! girl.

This year, we decided to throw some primping into the mix with a trip to Kohl's to try out their Flirt! cosmetics line.  Some how, this got painted as my idea.  I suggested the particular brand but my other friend had suggested the cosmetics counter makeover.

We arrived to find that they don't have a counter, per say.  It's more of an un-maned (or un-womaned as the case may be) island of cosmetic samples.    We lingered.  We browsed.  We lingered some more.  Eventually, a lovely young lady came over and asked if she could help us.  My dear friends threw me to the wolves and said that I wanted a make-over.  What happened to "we"?

The young asthetitician, (and I'm certain I'm using this term generously) will be called Lulu for the purposes of this story.  Lulu asked me my interests, I replied and she began to seek out some toner to remove my make-up.  As she began the unmasking (OH!  THE HORROR!  THIS IS A PUBLIC PLACE!  HAVE YOU NO DECENCY! --- ooops, sorry about the outburst), Lulu nervously informed me that she "usually only does jewelry".    Panic.   I laughed apprehensively.  My friends looked on, innocently, as they hadn't heard her confession.  Lulu turned away and I mouthed "I'm scared!"   They didn't know why.  Lulu put on some powder foundation which is hard to mess up so I wasn't totally freaked out yet.  Then she asked about my eyes.  I figured, at this point there was no going back so I gave her some ideas and Lulu, again, expressed her discomfort with applying my makeup.  Fortunately, this time she was within earshot of the REAL asthetitician, who was busy with another customer.  The real one, we'll call her Maggie, said I could wait for her if I wanted.  Ever gracious, I made it seem like I was doing it for Lulu and not because I was frightened that she'd paint me up like some kind of clown whore and send me on my way.  We had dinner plans afterward for goodness sakes!

So, we waited for Maggie.  We hovered.  I scared a few locals with my makeup-less visage. We waited.  One friend bought a card.  The other bought and ottoman.  We hovered some more.    Eventually, she was done with her customer and ready to put some war paint on my exposed features.  After a few moments, it was clear that Maggie knew what she was doing.  It was also clear that she wasn't about to sugar-coat anything.  

She started by saying "I'm sure you want something to cover those brown patches under your eyes."  Yup.  Surely, we do.  Brown patches.  Great.  Maggie got some concealer.   During the application she remarked, "See this side is quite a bit darker and puffier than the other side."   Awesome.  Not only do I have dark circles under my eyes, they are apparently horribly asymmetrical!  

Next, Maggie got some powder foundation.  As she's brushing it on my face she's saying, "...see the problem here is that your skin is two-tone.  You see, it's darker through here, here and here, and light here and here."   Super.  Dark, puffy, lopsided and patchwork.  Just what a girl always wants to hear!  When she was happy with the results, she turned her attention to my eyes.  She picked out some lovely eyeshadow and liner colors.  As she's making me beautiful, she added "You really need to get your eyebrows done, girl."  Dark, puffy, lopsided, patchwork and hairy.  Check.

At some point, she said something about me being pretty but, clearly I focus on the negative so I don't remember the details.

Awesome Mascara!
Some excellent mascara and great-looking, but not long-lasting, lip gloss later and we were done.  The results were actually quite lovely but, by this time, my friends were hungry and I was shell-shocked so nobody else got in "the chair".  I passed on the concealer and foundation for my horribly puffy, dark, uneven skin, figuring I had enough in my arsenal at home to tackle that particular problem.  I passed on the awesome-looking lip gloss that I knew would wear off before I got to the parking lot.  I bought the fabulous mascara and eyeliner. 

The moral of this story is.... well... heck if I know!  I guess it's that the chick at the make-up counter isn't there to make you feel good about yourself.  No matter how nice they are, they are there to make you feel bad about yourself so you only feel good about yourself after you are coated in a layer of their products and, consequently, buy them.

The other moral of this story is that you can always count on your oldest friends (again, the ones you've had the longest - not the most advanced in age) to be there when you need them.  They may not be there in the capacity you'd expect, but they will be there... leave you at the mercy of the asthetiticians, qualified or not buy cards and ottomans while you wait to face your doom take pictures of you without any make-up on and post them on Facebook

But most of all, to ooh and aah at the results, whatever they may be!  Because, hey, that's what friends are for!

Friday, July 9, 2010

It May Be A Fruit But It Ain't An Apple

My opinion, on the matter of the Blackberry, is a day late and a dollar short to say the least.  But, to be perfectly honest, I had neither the opportunity nor the desire to play with one until recently and to say that I am less than impressed, is the understatement of the century.

Earlier this week, I came to be in temporary possession of a Blackberry Storm 2.  I've been wanting to blog about the experience for a few days now but I'm glad I waited, because now my opinions can be expressed in a Sangria-fueled rage, which will, no doubt, be quite a bit more entertaining for you, the reader.

Let's talk about marketing strategy for a moment, shall we?  I've been in more than a few marketing meetings and I'll tell you about how the naming of the "Blackberry" came about:

Boss:  We need our product to have a catchy name.
Lackey #1:  "The e3000"?
Lackey #2:  "The Matrix?"
Boss:  No, let's take a page from someone who's doing well already?  Like the iPhone?
Lackey #1:  The "ePhone 3000"?  (you see, his claim to fame is putting "e" in front of everything and a 4 digit number at the end)
Lackey #2: Maybe it should be a FRUIT!  How about "The Pear"?
Lackey #1:  Or "ePear 2000"?
Boss:  No no.  Pear is too similar to apple but I like wear this is going.
Lackey #2:  "The Orange"?
Boss:  Too different.  Leaving ourselves open for the "comparing apples to oranges" schtick.
Lackey #1:  Melons are different than apples.  Or berries?
Lackey #2:  "The Blueberry"
Boss:  There was a Blueberry iMac...
Lackey #2:  Raspberry... or Blackberry...
Boss:  Blackberry.  Hmmmm.  I like the sound of that.
Lackey #1:  What about "eBerry 5000"?
Boss:  You're fired.

That's my assessment of how the naming went on.  Don't get me started on the versions.  There's literally zero sense to make of it.

  • "Pearl" - Already a tampon
  • "Curve" - Already woman's fitness franchise
  • "Storm" -  Already a way cool X-woman
And their logo looks like a small pile of rabbit poop.

But enough about marketing-FAIL, let's talk about the device itself.  Maybe I'm spoiled by my contact with relatively seamless UIs like that on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch but I find the Blackberry UI completely unintuitive. (and psssst, I work in IT!  If I stumble, how do you think Joe User is going to fare)

First and biggest UI fail.  Why, for the love of all that is good and pure in this world would you deploy a screen interface that is a moving part? It feels like a loose tooth for Christ-sakes!  Physically pushing the screen / button / lever... whatever... is fail with a capital F.

Second UI fail.  The fact that the Blackberry saves the last place you were in its labyrinth-like navigation structure might be DANDY if I know the menus in and out but for a FTU (first-time user) you are stuck in no-man's land trying to figure out where to go.  Three of us (all technology professionals) were huddled around the thing trying to figure out how to turn the ringer back on (which was off by default for some stupid reason).

Now, for performance.  My first attempt to download an app was met with "The Blackberry Server could not be reached".   Most actions surface a progress bar.   Progress bar smogress bar.  When I touch (touch, not click) something on an iPhone it just "HAPPENS" (except for 4.0 upgrades on 3Gs but that's a topic for another blog).

In short,  I seriously can't wrap my mind around why someone would buy a Blackberry when there are other things out there that just work and work well.   These smartphones should be simple to use.  My cat (if I had one) should be able to launch an app.  (Actually, I've seen it!).  The design, interface and general function should be, well, SMART.  I don't think that's too much to ask.

In reply to my proclamation, "Why do Blackberries suck so much?" my very wise friend replied "Because of all the annoying little seeds."  I think that says it all.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A Shameless Self-Promotion

Do you remember your wedding day? Mine was nearly 12 years ago, so my old brain is a bit foggy, but I remember feeling like a princess. People waiting on me hand and foot. Doing my hair. Fussing over my nails. Perfecting my make up. Helping me into my 50lb. bead-laden wedding dress. Hey, I'm Italian. Wedding dresses are a fussy business and mine was long-sleeve with an ornate bodice and a mile-long train.

In any event, so much fuss for this perfect day. All dressed in white. The center of attention... and it's all downhill from there. Get married, become a mom and it's never about you again. Everyone else's needs come first. Since I became a mom, do you know how many times I've realized on the day before a special occasion that I had outfits for everyone but me?!?!

It's not a bad thing, though. Having everyone's needs come first, that is. It just makes you a very powerful, very important woman! There's nothing more special.

But, that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to get a chance to feel like a princess again! Just one day for me. A reason to get all prettied up again. Someone to do my hair. Someone to do my makeup. Slip into that pretty white dress again... and then make a BIG MESS!!!

That's right!

I have a chance to wreck my dress in front of an exceedingly talented photographer, and I want to do it. Boy do I want to! Between you, me and the wall, I never really liked my dress all that much anyway!

So, here I am... whoring out the sanctity of my precious blog to shamelessly ask you to vote for me! Get out your laptops, your iPods, your iPads or all of the above and vote for me. I'm (B) -- the one in the big 'ol hunting boots.

(Sidebar about the pic. As I said, my wedding was a whopping 12 years ago, so I didn't think it'd be fair to submit one of my wedding pictures. My husband says I haven't aged a day, but I know he's full of it. Instead, I put my dress on when I heard about this contest and my good friend took a few very cool shots of me. It's a good one isn't it?)

Please vote for me and share this with others! I'll be your best friend!!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

35-Year-Old Learns To Ride A Bike, Or Dies Trying

Hi, I'm JT and I never learned ride a bike.

Every single time I utter those words they are greeted with shock and gasps.
  • "How could that have happened?!?!"  
  • "WHY?!?!  What tragic event kept you from this essential childhood rite of passage?!?!"  
  • "Oh!  The humanity!"
Nothing happened.

I grew up in the city.  I lived on a really steep hill that wasn't all that conducive to learning to ride.  It lead to a major intersection under the "L" (elevated train, for the non-city folks).  I also lived in a pretty bad neighborhood and my folks were protective. Being in a small apartment with no place to keep a bike didn't help either.  My brother learned but he was older than I before we moved back to the city.

So, I am 35-years-old and trying to learn to ride a bike.

Why start now, you ask?  Well,  I've got these two tiny people in my house that are growing up quickly and learning to ride bikes of their own.   We live in the country but, once again, on a steep gravel drive that leads to a major road.  There is no place for the munchkins to ride so, I figure, someone has to take them some place to ride. That someone is me.   

I have visions of taking them to a bike path and hollering as I trot behind them, "Okay, don't go too far!  Please come back!  Stay where mom can see you!"  Not going to happen.

So, I am trying to learn.

I started about a month ago.  My dear friend offered to teach me so I got a helmet and borrowed a bike and off we went.  I felt like a giant idiot having him hold my seat and give me the same encouragement one would give to a 5-year-old.  

  • "You've got it!"  
  • "There you go!"
  • "You're doing it ALL BY YOURSELF!!!"

He was very patient and very sweet but I had to fire him to maintain whatever semblance of integrity I had left which wasn't much.

If I were to venture out on my own, I'd need a bike of my own.  I didn't want to make a huge investment in something I'm not sure I can master so I picked up a bike at a yard sale for $20.  It's about 2 inches too tall for me, squeaks like it's crying and likely made entirely of lead.  Perfect.

I've attempted to ride three times on my own now.  

The first time was still on the loaner bike and wasn't too bad.  I almost quit after about 15 minutes but instead gave myself a mental spanking and said "CHILDREN DO THIS!"  I managed to stay upright, about as steady as Bambi's first time on new legs, for about 15 feet.  It was about 200% humidity that day and I got back to my office as sweat as a teamster but I consider it a victory.

The second time was on the new, lead bike, in my driveway.  Remember that steep gravel drive I mentioned and how it isn't conducive to riding?  Well, I should have heeded my own advice.  I fell on my ass almost instantly and Two-Ton Tessie (that's my bike!) fell on my leg leaving me with 4 technicolor bruises from my inner thigh to my calf.  I looked extra pretty in a skirt that week.

The third time was today.  I took Tess out to the same spot I had my prior victorious 15-foot ride, only this time there was construction near by.  Fabulous.  I spent the entire time worrying that the roofers were going to record me on their camera phones and post it on YouTube.  They may have.  Only time will tell.   Being a grown woman, wearing a helmet and struggling with a skill that is mastered easily by kindergartners all over the globe,  I can only hope they thought I was mentally challenged.  That would make me courageous instead of a giant spaz.

I wrestled with Tessie for about 25 minutes this go-round.  I kept giving myself mini-goals such as "just make it to that bench" or "just make it to that tree".  At one point my brain exclaimed "TO the tree not INTO the tree."  I now know how to brake successfully.  I had moderate success in that I didn't fall on my ass again and I peddled for about 30 feet before I had to keep myself from falling.

Some say this experience is enriching and that it builds character.  Others say I should give up and get a Segway.  

I'm on the fence.  

On the one hand, I really want to be able to ride with my kids.  On the other, I hate doing this.  Not because I care what people think.  Truly, I don't.   I think it's amusing and makes for good blog material, if nothing else.  It's more because I don't enjoy doing anything I can't do well.   I know that I have to practice in order to be able to do it well, but I hate the journey to get there, especially if I'm not certain I will ever really be good at it.  I am naturally clumsy and was born, tragically, without a sense of balance so I am fighting the current on this one.

I must say that I have learned a few things from this experience:
  1. Adult Training Wheels are not called Training Wheels, they are called Stabilizer Wheels.  I think it's supposed to help the buyer not feel like a complete tool bag for not being able to balance.   That's nice of them. 
  2. Stabilizer Wheels cost nearly $200.  Damn!
  3. A heavy bike makes it easier to get momentum.
  4. A heavy bike also makes it easier to fall down because if you tip you've got to keep up your weight and the bike's weight.
  5. I don't look good in a helmet.

I think I'll keep at it for a little while longer and see how I manage.  I'm not beat yet but I'm just not sure how much more "character building" I can take.  I hope my kids appreciate what I'm doing for them.  Either we'll all laugh about it one day while we are out on a leisurely family bike ride or they can mention it in my eulogy after I smash into a tree.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dear Facebook, I Love iPad

I know I went on and on about wanting and iPad for a while so many of you have probably been expecting a review, but, truth be told, Apple was so slow sending out institutional iPads that I think the "review" ship has sailed. You've probably already read all manner of opinion available on the web from "best thing ever" to "big bag of fail" so I won't bore you with the details. I'll leave it at "It's not perfect but it's plenty awesome."

Instead, I thought I'd take another approach. I have had my new toy for a day and a half and I've been seriously neglecting my favorite social network. I thought it only fair that I take a moment to write Facebook a letter to justify my unexplained absence.

"Dear Facebook,

I'm sorry I've been neglecting you. If you've been listening to rumors, you might have jumped to the conclusion that it is because haven't been respecting my privacy, but that's not true. I really don't mind. You don't share any of the "really" personal stuff and that's what's important. So, ignore what you've heard.

The truth is, I have someone new in my life. His name is iPad. He's really slick and cool. Right now, we're just figuring each other out. I know how to turn him on and what buttons to push but we are still trying some new things.

Honestly, I don't think I'll get bored of him anytime soon. But knowing me, I'll soon be using him to get to you. I'm sorry if this is hard to hear but I never said I wouldn't see other technologies. The two of you are just so different. You are all about the social scene and he just likes to be there for me. I can hold him in away I've never been able to hold you. But you have a lot in common. You are both easy to get along with and fun to be around. I'm sure you'd like him once you get to know him.

I hope this doesn't change things between us. I still love you and you know I'll always come back to you. Before long I'll be sharing my thoughts with you again, but I hope you are okay with sharing me because the new guy isn't going anywhere.

Yours Always,

I must give credit where credit is due. A very talented student recently wrote a humorous letter to one of our systems in the campus newspaper. It was very funny and inspired me to write this one.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Time For Another Mother's Day Post

It's that time of year again. I don't really define myself as a Mommy-Blogger but I'm a Mommy and a Blogger so I feel I would be doing my readers a disservice if I didn't take the time to write a post. I've got a lot on my plate right now so you should all feel exceedingly special that I'm doing this. That's right. Thanks. I can feel the waves of appreciation.

Valentine's Day? Meh. I know he loves me. Supermarket flowers and a card are plenty special. A nice dinner at home and some "grown-up" time and everyone is happy. A bottle or two of champagne couldn't hurt.

Christmas? I love Christmas but for me it's more about giving than receiving. Ask anyone. I'm not full of crap, I swear.

My Birthday? Okay, I admit it. I'm a big kid and I love to celebrate my birthday (even if I'm not so thrilled with the "number" attached anymore). But nobody has to do it for me. It's MY birthday so I'll throw a party, or ask people to go out or whatever. I don't need to be catered to. I just want friends around me.

But Mother's Day? I hold Mother's Day in a high regard. I have two amazing kids who are (mostly) polite, sweet, loving, good sharers and good listeners. (Geez, I said MOSTLY) Plus they are cute as buttons. All that didn't happen by accident! It's some quality mothering, for which, I expect to be appreciated! It's one day. Do it up right.

All we ask is for some appreciation. It doesn't have to be expensive gifts or fancy dinners. Just something thoughtful that says "I know how hard you work to make this family happy and I know you well enough to know this would make you feel special." Not something that says "I passed the gas station on the way home from work and remembered that mother's day was coming up so I got you a lighter and a bag of your favorite chips."

I am not proud to say that my husband and I had an argument about this very topic a week ago. I won't embarrass either of us with the details but it wasn't pretty. Whatever. We worked it out. He understands how important Mother's Day is to me and I understand why he didn't understand that before.

Yesterday he called and asked me for my shoe size. YES! Nearly 19 years together was all it took for him to figure out that you can't go wrong with SHOES!!!

When I got home he said that wanted me to close my eyes so he could try them on me because if they didn't fit he wanted to make sure he could exchange them before Mother's Day. Awww! I did. I felt like Cinderella! They fit and BIG Kudos to him because he bought a size up because he thought they looked small. You should've seen his face. That look on his face is what it's all about! He was so proud that he found something for me that fit and I will like. He was slightly disappointed because he thought I could wear them on vacation and they are definitely not "walking around Disney World" comfortable. However, I'll certainly bring them to wear out to dinner or something.

I didn't peek but if I know anything, I know shoes and I have a pretty good idea of what they look like just from the feel. I can just about guarantee that they are espadrille wedges, open toe with a canvas knot on top and slingback. Just about they only thing I don't know is the color. I'm guessing it's some kind of print. They felt like a print.

He said he got me a matching hat too. Awwwwwwwwwww!

That's all I needed. Something that shows he thought about ME. Oh, that reminds me. There's one more thing I want. TO SLEEP IN! And I mean, for real. Usually sleeping in around here means he gets up with the kids and I sleep until 8:00 before the kids come to wake me up. I want to sleep until I wake up on my own. Whatever time that may be. Then I'll be happy to open my new shoes. After coffee, please!

See how easy to please I am!

Happy Mother's Day, Ladies!
Make 'em feel special, Guys!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bubble Baths Are Way More Glamourous On TV

I haven't taken a bath in a looooong time. By that, I mean I haven't soaked in a tub, not that I haven't washed myself. I typically keep on top of the personal hygiene stuff.

I decided to take a bubble bath. I take a pretty serious Pilates class and I am sore in places I didn't know could be sore, so I figured a soak in a hot tub would just about do the trick. I figured I could take the opportunity to exfoliate, have a glass of wine, listen to some soft music. Ahhhhhhh!

Be forewarned! It all sounds a heck of a lot better than it actually is. When I think "bubble bath", I think of Eva Longoria on Desperate Housewives sinking into a deep clawfoot tub in a big beautiful bathroom.

Before I could embark on this journey of relaxation, I had to wash my dirty little munchkins. I gave them both quick showers and got them in their jammies. I put on a Curious George DVD, got them a snack and some chocolate milk and told them mommy would be in the bath.

Next I had to rinse the grime they left behind in the tub. Then I had to fill the darn thing, which took like 20 minutes. On TV, doesn't it seem like they turn on the water, walk inside, get undressed pour the wine and come back to a steaming hot bathtub filled with impossibly foamy bubbles?

I moved the big net full of bath toys that resides where I'd need to lie my head, got my exfoliant, a towel and my bath wrap. You know those pretty silky robes they have on TV? Mine is terry cloth and has a monkey on it.

I went to pour myself a glass of wine. I really wanted to pour it in a beautiful wine glass but let's be serious! I am nothing if not a klutz and a piece of glass stemware, a porcelain tub and/or a tile floor, simply do not mix. I poured my Gewurztraminer into a plastic cup from Red Robin.

I put some music on my iPod, climbed over the net of toys on the floor and sunk into the tub. "Sunk in" may be a bit of an exaggeration. I sat in an inadequate amount of water, with a scant amount of bubbles that didn't come anywhere close to covering me. I felt like a GIANT sitting in a puddle. There's nothing less glamourous than staring at your own naked, partially bubble covered body. Eva Longoria, I am not. And I bet she doesn't like to stare at herself either. Most women don't.

I didn't relax very much. I lay there, exposed, not knowing whether a munchkin could come barging in at any moment. If this were TV or the movies, my handsome husband or, better yet, the strapping young gardener (D.H. reference, again) would come in and help me "scrub my back". Instead, I made the best of my little splash pool, exfoliated, drank my wine and got the hell out of there!

This is just another example of Hollywood setting unrealistic ideals for us. We don't all look perfect as we slip out of silk robes. Our tubs aren't 3 feet deep. Our wine glasses are breakable. Our bubbles aren't plentiful. Our privacy is minimal. Our romantic lives are normal and that's okay.

My bath was okay too. Hey, I'm clean, my skin is soft and I've had a glass of wine. It's all good.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Few Pounds of Prevention

I know what you are thinking.
You are thinking, "Isn't it 'An ounce of prevention...'?"


Not in my case.

I've just finished packing mine and my kids bags for vacation, which is 3 weeks away!

I know that I am completely nuts but I've never been one for the last minute running around.  I don't want to find out the day before we leave that two of the tops I wanted to pack are in the laundry or that I'd forgotten that I threw out my kids bathing suits last year because they outgrew them.  Last minute surprises = unnecessary stress and who needs it?  Traveling is stressful enough without realizing you forgot to pack underwear.

(Which reminds me, I've packed all my underwear so the next three weeks should be interesting.  Ha!  Just kidding.  I have enough underwear to go without doing laundry for a month and a half!)

As it stands right now,  all of my kid's stuff is packed except their loveys because they sleep with them every night. All my stuff is packed except my hair products and makeup which I will undoubtedly be using up until the very minute we leave.

What angst did I save myself by this early endeavor?

  • I spent 45 minutes fiddling with a dollar-store-made-in-China-battery-operated-piece-of-crap fan that my son wanted to take on vacation because once the batteries were put in, it was in a perpetual state of being ON.  It required a screwdriver and more patience than could muster before it finally completely fell apart and is now in the trash.  But at least I didn't have to do that in a rental condo without a screw driver when I'm supposed to be chillaxin with a drink.

    I also know that I either need to get him another one or remember to "forget" to pack my daughter's so neither of them have one.

  • I know I need to go buy blades for my razor.

  • I remembered to read the regulations and learn that I can no longer bring aerosol hair spray unless it's under 3 oz (which they don't make).  How does this help me?  I either have to go buy the pump kind or buy it when I land.  Either option is going to make me lose sleep until I have said hairspray in my possession.

  • Researching the hairspray thing lead me to think about hair and realize that I'd better not wear the clip-in extensions I often wear in my hair.  They clip in with tiny little metal fasteners.  Just enough metal to likely set of the metal detector in the airport.  How embarrassing would it be to have to take out my HAIR as I go through security?!?!?

  • I have plenty of time to locate my kid's sunscreen (which is a hard to find brand).  It's likely in a bag of beach toys in the back of a car or in the garage.  But if I can't find it, I have time to hunt down and buy a new bottle.

Call me crazy (oh wait, I already did that) but I don't see the down-side to packing early.  So, I have 8 outfits out of the rotation.  Big deal.  I have plenty more where that came from and, besides,  I don't think I'll be wearing shorts and tanks in the Northeast before I go away.

I am free to focus my looney pre-vacation energies on more important things like obsessing about dropping another 5-8 pounds, planning every last detail of our trip and nagging my husband to start packing his stuff. :)

Saturday, April 10, 2010

(A RECIPE!!!) Leftover Easter Crap Crispy Treats

For those of you who follow this blog, you know this is not a food blog. For those of you who know me personally, you know that I am a foodie and a confectioner and am constantly baking something or other.

Well, today my two worlds collide as I created a recipe that is the perfect follow-up to my last post entitled The Easter Aftermath!

I love a good peep as much as the next gal... especially a stale one but there are only so many peeps one can consume, or allow her children to consume, in good conscience. We got a ridiculous amount of peeps this Easter.

So, what is a peep? A sugar covered marshmallow. And what are the two best uses for marshmallows? S'mores and Krispie treats. For a S'more you are only sacrificing one peep per S'more. I wanted to do away with a lot of peeps so I went the Krispie route.

I know that I'm not the first person to make this particular leap (peeps in Krispie treats) but I know I'm the first person to make them this particular way. I'm pretty single-minded and when I get an idea in my head it's pretty hard for me to put it off. Case and point - I'm posting to my blog immediately after my cooking experiment because I got an idea for a post and couldn't wait.

Therefore, because I needed to implement my Peep-Krispie idea immediately if not sooner, and I don't actually ever have Rice Krispies in the house, I had to improvise. Hmmm... let's see. Uncooked Pasta? No. Ritz Crackers? No. Left-over Crumbfulls? No. Ah-ha! Annie's Cocoa and Vanilla Bunnies Cereal!

Now, if you are like me, you don't have 6 cups of cereal in the house... or at least not 6 cups of any one kind of cereal because half the box has been eaten. Or you might not have as many peeps left as I did. I worked out the ratio and this should help you make treats out of whatever cereal or peep remnants you have in your house. The ratio is 7 peeps and 1/2 tablespoon of margarine to every 1 cup of cereal. Scale accordingly.

In my case, I had two cups of cereal. Into the pot went one tablespoon of margarine. I must say that me and the kids got a perverse thrill out of tossing those cute little chickies into the hot pot and watching them melt. Okay, maybe I did. My daughter told me to quit it with the evil laugh.

(Please excuse the quality of my pictures. I had one glass of wine too many to care about going to get my other camera. Sue me! It's Saturday!)

The combination of Yellow and Pink peeps made a really cool neon orange color. Once the peeps are all melted, stir in the cereal of your choice. A fruity cereal, a cocoa cereal. Really anything would work. Or, maybe not. I'm not sure I'd try it with Wheatabix or Grape Nuts unless you like that sort of thing. Any puffed cereal should do the trick. As I stirred my Annie's Homegrown Organic and Natural cereal into the marshmallow mush and added in Easter M&Ms and Reese's Pieces, I realized that Annie herself would be CRINGING at the bastardization of her natural product. Oh well. It's a "TREAT", not breakfast.

If you have ever made the official Krispie treats, you know the drill. Melt margarine, melt marshmallows, stir in cereal, stir in add-ins and press into a coated pan. Cut when cool.

That's it. Ours came out as tasty as they are good-lookin'--- Not that you can tell from my crappy picture but you'll have to take my word for it!

Left-Over Easter Crap Crispy Treats

1 tbsp of margarine or butter 
2 cups of cereal of choice
14 marshmallow peeps
M&Ms or Reese's Pieces or Chocolate Chips or Jelly Beans (optional)

Spray or grease a pan appropriate for the quantity of treats you are making (9x9 should work for the above - muffin tins would work too and then you don't have to cut.)  Melt Margarine or Butter.  Add in Peeps (cackle maniacally as they melt.)  When Peeps have fully melted, remove from heat and stir in cereal until fully incorporated.  Working quickly, stir in add-ins.  Scrape into prepared pan and press evenly.   Once cool, cut into squares.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Easter Aftermath

It seems like such an innocuous holiday.   A simple diversion to keep the kids busy between Christmas and the fourth of July.  The meaning seems a bit muddled but I think it has something to do with Jesus rising from the dead and hiding eggs.  Not really sure how the eggs figure in to the whole Easter thing.  Are the eggs supposed to symbolize the risen Lord and how the disciples "hunted" for him after finding the empty grave, which, I guess would be symbolized by the empty egg basket?  If so, where does dyeing them bright colors come in.  Is "DYEING" really a euphemism for "DYING"?

Whether your celebration trends toward the religious or the secular, it seems to have grown into something nearly unmanageable.    When I was a kid, Easter consisted of a day and a half of festivities.  Coloring eggs on Saturday, finding them on Sunday and eating copious amounts of candy.  In between, we went to church and ate some ham.

These days the festivities start up almost right after Valentine's Day with the Easter Bunny arrival at the local mall.  In someplace, it's the Easter Bunny and his / her body guards.  Before this Easter rolled around, my kids had already been to one Easter party together, a party in each of their classes complete with egg coloring and attended the town egg hunt.   Before Easter Sunday, they'd received no less than four baskets of goodies each from various family and friends.   Then we made Jello Jigglers.  Then the actual egg coloring.  Then the real Easter Bunny came and hid eggs and baskets.  Plus my dad made an egg hunt for them.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not complaining.  I don't think my kids are spoiled.  They are very appreciative and thankful for everything they get and I'm so happy they have so many people who love them and think of them at the holidays.

For me, the issue is the after-math.   My house has more baskets in it than a basket weaver's convention.  (Not the best analogy but I couldn't really think of something that has a lot of baskets.)  There are countless coloring books, boxes of sidewalk chalk, wind-up chickies, hair pretties and assorted other little toys. I have enough Jello Jigglers for a small army.  And CANDY, CANDY, CANDY.  Oh, I forgot to mention the dozen and a half brightly colored eggs that nobody will eat but me.  Hard boiled eggs for breakfast, egg salad for lunch, cobb salad for dinner.  Repeat.

But it's all good, right?  The kids are happy.  They have lots of little diversions.  I could do without the Jelly Bellies I keep sneaking but I'm sure I'll get sick of them, eventually.  And even though my house looks like the site of a dollar store explosion, I'm sure I'll have us dug out of the mountain of easter grass and plastic eggs before Memorial Day.

Enjoy your Easter after-math, everyone!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How To Be A Mom and A Whole Person Too

This goes out to all the new moms or even the old ones who haven't quite figured it out yet.  I know some of you are out there because, until recently, I was one of you.

I love being a mother.  I know it sounds cliche but children are truly the greatest gift.  They make you laugh all the time.  It's incredible to watch them discover the world and to see things through their eyes.

But becoming a mother is life-changing and it's very easy to lose yourself.  It's even "okay" to lose yourself... so long as you know how to find yourself again.  All the baby books tell you to make sure you "make time for yourself" but it's almost like a foot note.

"Do everything the babies needs.  Feed them when they are hungry.  Console them when they are crying.  Change them when they are wet.  Bathe them when they are dirty.  Repeat this cycle all day every day.  Oh, and don't forget to make time for yourself."

I'm sure I'm remembering it wrong but I feel like that part of the book was in tiny print that you could scarcely read without a magnifying glass.  Besides, even if it was written on a billboard, those are empty words.  "Make time for yourself."   That's IF you remember who you are!

Sorry if I'm confusing you.  Of course you remember who you are!  You are so and so's mother, for goodness sake!  You also have a name, address, social security and phone number which you can recite as if someone asked a soldier their name rank and serial number.  But you probably have lost your "sense of self".  I swear to you that after becoming a mother, I couldn't remember anything I enjoyed doing BK (before kids).   I knew there was some sense of excitement and pleasure that didn't involve finding formula on sale but I'd be damned if I could remember what it was.

It takes some time.  For me, it took nearly 3 years to remember that I'm a funny, interesting person who can do more than discuss the contents of a diaper or how nicely my child can write her letters.  Maybe it took me so long because I didn't know I was lost.  Maybe knowing is half the battle and I wish someone had told me.

Here are some steps you can take to hang on to the amazing woman who became an amazing mother:

  1. Have Sex:  Yup.  I figured I'd get the one you don't want to hear out of the way first.  Sex is tough  after kids for sure.  You are tired.  You don't feel sexy.  But I think the biggest obstacle is the state-of-mind.  It can take a woman a really long time to stop thinking "I can't do THAT anymore!  I'm somebody's mother!"  Lest we forget where babies come from!   Get over it.

  2. Work: Whether it be full-time, part-time, from-home or volunteer work, just work.  Do something, anything, that is separate and distinct from your life as a wife and mother.  Something you can get excited, or angry, about.

  3. Socialize: Get together with adults.  And this does not mean simply hanging out with other moms after the kids are asleep and talking about your respective days.  I am fortunate enough to have some friends without kids and others who's kids are grown so it makes keeping the conversation outside the realm of blocks and Crayolas much easier.  I'm not saying to ditch your mommy friends.  Certainly not!  They are your war buddies!  But maybe lay some ground rules when you hang out.  Get all the bragging and bitching about the munchkins out of the way in the first 15 minutes and then it's time for grown-up talk.

  4. Get A Hobby: Stop saying you don't have time for a hobby or that your hobbies include finger-painting or making things out of play-dough.  Try to remember something you used to enjoy and do it!  I forgot how much I liked writing until I started doing it again.

  5. Stop Feeling Guilty:  In order to succeed at all of the above you need to find the time. In order to do that you have to shed the mom-guilt.  It is very difficult.  I'm still not that good at it. I find, especially as I work outside the home, I feel horribly guilty whenever I want or need to do something for myself.   But the time has come for all moms to understand that time for oneself doesn't mean pooping alone with the door closed or finding time to sort out the underwear drawer.
Speaking of guilt, hopefully your not reading the above and thinking; "I can't do all those things.  What kind of mom would I be?!  I need to dedicate myself to my children."

It is my hope that you can see the ultimate truth as I have.  The ultimate truth is that if I'm a better ME than I'm a better MOM.  It means that when I'm spending time with them, it's quality time.  I'm fully present and invested in the game of Chutes and Ladders or in making bean-bag sock bunnies.
    This is not meant to scare you out of becoming a mother.  It's absolutely worth every second.  This is also not meant to scare you if you are among the lost.  You'll find your way back.  I don't wish I'd never gotten "lost" and I don't feel as though I simply found my way back to who I was.  Instead, I feel as though I became a richer version of the person I used to be, enhanced by the journey, and more importantly, by the fact that I am also the greatest thing I could ever hope to be.  A mother.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    More Apple Magic

    Everyone always talks about how Apple is magic.   Apple has even started using it in the own marketing (see Magic Mouse, or the iPad Keynote in 180 seconds where the word MAGIC is repeated countless times).

    But one unsung bit of Apple Magic is Apple's built-in iSight camera.  It's just a web-cam right?  What's magic about it?

    I use it to take almost all of my online profile pictures for Facebook, Blogger, Google, etc.   I'm forever getting compliments on my pictures.  Everyone says that I always look "beautiful" or "gorgeous" or I'm so "photogenic".    I always tell them it's the magic of the iSight camera but they don't believe me!

    It's true.

    Here's my current Facebook Profile picture, taken with the iSight Camera on my iMac.

    (And no, that's not a real iPad.  My job is awesome
    in that I get to do stuff like make prototypes out of foam
    board and glossy printouts.  Pretty slick, no?)

    I've gotten so many comments on this picture both on and offline.   Frankly, it's embarrassing because, in point of fact, the credit belongs to Apple magic.  It's the technology, not the subject.  I'm fully convinced there are tiny gnomes, probably wearing cute little apple costumes, that instantly apply all kinds of filters to the photograph before displaying it.

    Don't believe me?!?!

    Here's the same photograph taken with a regular point and shoot.
    See!  Hideous!

    Now that you've seen the truth, I recommend that everyone lug a Mac around for all their photo taking needs.   I know I will take all my pictures with the iSight Camera from now on.

    Apple does it again!

    Friday, February 19, 2010

    The Customer Is Always Right... Unless She's A Moron Like me

    I like to think that I'm a pretty bright chick.  I'm somewhat technical.  I've been noted for my ability to turn a phrase.  I can usually figure stuff out and think on my feet.

    I work in a technical and creative field.  Typically, I'm assisting those less capable and swallowing my frustration at their inability to understand what is seemingly simple, at least from my perspective.  Hell, I'm paid to write guides to help people understand things!!!

    Well, reality check time, self!  It's a good thing I'm cute because I'm not that bright, after all.

    My parents gave my son a Guidecraft easel for Christmas.  The little wooden stand up kind with the primary colors that you can use a chalk on one side and wipe off board on the other.  Very cute and just what he wanted.   Of course it didn't come with markers so I let them use some crayons and some old dry erase ones we had lying around.  Only, I couldn't get them to erase.  I scrubbed the crap out of it and only got a little to come off.  I used Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.  I used soap and water.  My husband even got into the act and tried rubbing alcohol.

    I figured I'd better get some good dry erase markers.  Figured "Expo" is the go-to brand.  I bought them and had the same issue, throwing every thing but the kitchen sink at this thing to clean it.

    I asked around and got a lot of home-remedies and tried them all.  The latest was Lysol Wipes.  Not Clorox Wipes or Pledge Wipes.  LYSOL-BRAND wipes.  Tonight I bought them and began the scrubbing game again.   Elbow grease does not begin to describe.

    I was ANGRY.  I got my camera and took a picture, gearing up to write a scathing letter to the company in response to their shoddy craftsmanship.  I scrubbed a little more and notice some curling in the corner.  I couldn't believe it!  Is this piece of garbage DE-LAMINATING TOO!??!

    I scraped at the corner some more until it began to peel... and peel some more...  and that was the moment that I began to laugh heartily at what I'd almost done!  I'd almost wrote a blistering complaint to a toy company about their sorry excuse for a wipe-off board and I could just imagine their reply:

    "Dear Valued Customer:
    Thank you for your letter.  We are sorry you are experiencing difficulty with our product.  We've looked at the picture you enclosed and we believe we have a solution to the problem you are having.  

    If you'd simply remove the protective covering from the easel, we believe you will no longer experience any issue wiping away the marker.  To accomplish this, simply start and any corner and, using your fingers (the fingers are the things at the ends of your hands) peel the plastic up and away from the surface of the board.

    This should right the situation.   If you have any other issues, please DO hesitate to contact us until you've thoroughly examined the situation.  We're busy people and, frankly, don't have time for your stupidity.

    The Smart and Competent People at Guidecraft"

    Yes.  I'm that dumb.

    But in my defense, that plastic covering was REALLY ON THERE!!!!

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    If The iPad Is Such A Big Fail, Then Why Do I Still Want One?

    I guess the iPad is supposed to be a big Apple Fail. I think, like a long anticipated Sci-fi blockbuster, there has been too much speculation and fan fiction. The bar was set so super-high that the iPad would've had to have rocket boosters to get there. I'm pretty sure I saw an early rendering of the imagined tablet that actually HAD rocket boosters.

    I agree that the name sucks for sure. We'll get used to it. I'm sure many iPod jokes were made when it was first released. "What is it, an alien space craft?!" "Why call it an iPod? Does it have PEAS in it?"

    Many say it's just a giant iPod touch or are upset that it can't be used as a phone. I agree, a little bit. I must admit I'm itching to get my hands on one so I can take a picture of myself holding it to my ear like a giant novelty phone. (Hee Hee! I get the giggles just thinking about it!)

    (insert that silly image here one day)
    For my work I had a need to prototype a faux iPad out of paper and foam board. and now I have my picture.   Wouldn't we all look ridiculous trying to have a phone call converstation?!?!?

    Many are pissed off it doesn't have a camera. Me too. Although, I was certain Apple would omit a camera, before the evidence of a camera in a future generation was uncovered. They can't give it a ALL up at once. Like my Grandma always used to say, "Why by the second generation of the cow if you got all the milk from the first cow for $499?" (or something like that).

    Still doesn't support Flash. Another low point for sure, but neither does my Touch and I still have one of those.

    Not powerful enough to replace a laptop or a netbook. True. But I don't think anyone is expecting that you will go toss all your other personal computing devices in the trash. And, be honest. What are you doing on your laptop 85% of the time? Surfing. Watching video. Listening to Music. Email. Gaming. If you say that you are compiling complex data or working feverishly on spreadsheets your a dirty rotten liar!

    Not small enough to replace an iPhone or an iPod touch. Also true. But I would argue that, as a woman anyway, I have PLENTY of purses that would neatly accommodate an iPad in a pretty little neoprene case. And I'm sure there are going to be many more stylish bags on the market with a perfect little iPad pocket. Hmmmm... my credit card is tingling just thinking about the possibilities.

    So, those are the reasons why it's supposed to be a fail. Well, here's why I think it's a win (maybe not a home run, but still a win).

    1.) Tight. Have you seen this video on the Apple website? Call it good marketing but it just makes you want to hold one. They show the guy curled up on a couch watching video on his lap. Ever try to curl up with your laptop? Not comfy, at all.

    2.) Data Plan. Big win! The only device available (I repeat, ONLY DEVICE) with a very inexpensive data only plan. No phone. Just data. Who talks on the phone anymore anyway? I am *this* close to dropping my phone and rolling solely with email and text on an iPad while I'm on the road. Hey. I have a Google Voice number that sends a transcribed text message (however imperfect) and a link to a voice file. I'm good to go.

    3.) eBooks. Kindle this. Kindle that. Blah blah. eInk, my Aunt Fanny. Who cares?!? So the iPad has a reflective screen which makes it hard to read in the sun. Go sit under a tree. It's more poetic anyway. Plus, the sun is bad for your skin. Kindle is a big fat UNITASKER. "Ooooh, look at me! I can read digital books!" "Yeah, well I can read digital books, too. Only my digital book reader is using this new-fanged invention called COLOR. Oh, and the content is in enhanced with these still and moving pictures, I think it's called something like 'multimedia'. Oh and the pictures can TALK too! Amazing!"

    4.) Interface. Call it a giant iPod Touch if you want but did you see how you go through pictures, browse your music library or your book shelf. It's hot! Suddenly my touch seems woefully inadequate.

    5.) Feel. I think many people are underestimating the touch-ability factor of this device. Personally, once it's in stores and people can hold it in their hands, I think it's going to explode.

    Sure it's not perfect but neither am I.  (close, but not quite).  It's a personal media and gaming device with Wifi and 3G. How can that NOT be a win.

    I'm not running out to buy one right now but mainly because a.) They are not in stores yet and 2.) I don't have the money. But if someone wanted to give me one (anyone?), I would love it and cherish it and call it "Touchy". I'd take really good care of it. It'd feed it (data) and walk with it every day. I'd play with it and tell it I loved it.

    Can I have one, Mom? Pleeeeeeeeeeeease!!!!!!!!!!  I'll be good.