Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Birthday Boy

We've been doing some celebrating over here at Lainey's Life Lessons.  It's not just because my brief visit to the Man Cave over at Dude Write brought me six new followers and 152 hits on a single blog post in two days, either.  Although, I've got to admit that was pretty great.  We've been celebrating my honey's birthday!

In the past, birthdays have not always been my honey's favorite day of the year.  He told me that he always gets depressed around his birthday.  I thought this was tragic since birthdays are always a much celebrated and anticipated event in my family.  So, I set out to make this birthday great for him.  My first order of business, making it a birthday week, not a single day.

My honey is a bit of a gamer.  TV time at our house is fairly evenly divided between actual television programming and gaming on his xbox 360, so I had been planning to get him a new xbox game that Teen Wolf had turned him onto when he was Mynd-sitting back in April.  Well before his actual birthday, the controller for the xbox started acting up.  It kept giving him a reconnect controller/low battery message and was generally frustrating the crap out of my honey.  We changed the batteries twice to no avail, so I went out a little earlier than anticipated to get his birthday present.  I got him the game and a new controller and gave him both six days before his birthday.  The birthday week had begun.
My honey had to promise
 not to play this until his birthday.

This one had better work or
I'll have one sad birthday boy on my hands.

Second order of business, planning some birthday celebrations.  We have a weekly dinner with two of my honey's best buds, so the night before his actual birthday we met up with them for the first of my honey's birthday dinners.  It was very relaxed and casual, just fun, food, and friends.  But, my honey loved it because it was the first time we'd been to his favorite Mexican restaurant in a month.  One birthday dinner down, two to go.

Unseasoned crabs for my brother (left) and Old Bay seasoned crabs for my honey
My mom always takes my brother and I out to the restaurant of our choice for our birthdays.  This year, my honey got folded into this family tradition.  My honey announced that he wanted to go out for crabs for his birthday dinner.  All week long, my honey was excitedly chattering about "birthday crabs".  On his birthday, we went to a very nice local restaurant that has outdoor seating for crab picking.  My brother and my honey ordered the "all you can eat crab feast" and settled down for a long night of crab picking.

The day after my honey's birthday, we went out to dinner with my honey's parents.  The meal was the polar opposite of the dinner with my family.  My family's birthday dinner was outdoor dining, tables covered in brown paper, and crab mallets.  His parents' birthday dinner was fine dining, candle light, and choosing the right fork. 

My honey had frog legs for dinner, not because he really wanted to eat Kermit, but because someone at the table dared him to do it. My honey is completely unable to turn down a dare, whether real or perceived.  After a few bites, he proclaimed that they tasted "just like chicken". 

Poor Kermit!

 Finally, the "piece de resistance" was Sunday morning's breakfast at his parents house.  My honey's mother makes his favorite breakfast (Honey Puffed Pancakes) for him every year on his birthday.  Since his birthday was a weekday this year, we were invited over for Sunday breakfast to enjoy his favorite dish.  It was very early in the morning and I was very tired, but the look on my honey's face when his mother unveiled his favorite food made the early morning wake-up call totally worthwhile.

Mission accomplished:
3 birthday dinners + 1 birthday breakfast + presents + cards + a lotta love = 1 happy honey (whose birth has been thoroughly celebrated)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Little Competition Is Healthy, Right?

Greetings to all the dudes (and dudettes) over at Dude Write! 

I'm definitely feeling the love from some of my favorite dudes this week, as I got invited to post in Dude Write 10 by not one, but two of Dude Write's handsome dudes.  My honey, Jeff of Jay's Rambling's, was encouraged to ask me to post by his best bud, Wily Guy of It's My MindBy encouraged, I mean he suggested, reminded, texted, facebooked, and facebook messaged both of us to remind my honey to invite me to post. 

Maybe Wily Guy had other ladies in mind for his two invites, maybe he just wasn't sure of the etiquette involved in inviting somebody else's girl to the Dude Write dance, maybe he was just being a good friend by making extra sure I got asked to the dance by somebody.  Whatever, I've been asked officially by my honey, and somewhat unofficially badgered to post to Dude Write by Wily Guy.

Today, we faced a bit of a dilemma on the homefront.  For my regular readers, you all know that my beloved honey is a tiny bit passionate about his sports teams.  Usually, his sports fanaticism is not a problem for us.  We both like the same hockey team, the Washington Capitals.  My honey is a Midwesterner whose been transplanted on the East Coast, so his football and baseball preferences lean towards Chicago, which makes things easy.  His Chicago Cubs don't play my Baltimore Orioles unless its interleague play or a World Series game.  He'll watch and even attend O's games with me.  I can't say as I've ever watched a Cubs game with him, though, as I've never seen him watch a Cubs game.

Yes, I am a strange Baltimore/Washington hybrid created in a time when
Baltimore was between football teams and Washington was between baseball teams.

His Chicago Bears don't play my Washington Redskins unless its a playoff game... that was until tonight.  In some strange twist of fate, the NFL decided to have the Chicago Bears host the Washington Redskins in a preseason game.  Could we behave like civilized adults and watch our teams play each other?  My honey assurred me over and over again that we could absolutely watch the game without any trash talking, jeering, or hurt feelings.  I was a bit more skeptical.  The day seemed destined to become a "Rumble in the Rumpus Room", kinda like the Battle of the Beltways when the Skins play the Ravens only much more local.

The trash talk started before gameday even began, though not from an expected source.  My honey's father, Papa Bear, started texting my honey the night before the big game. 

Papa Bear: "Ready for the war tomorrow?"

Honey Bear: "It's just a preseason game."

Papa Bear: "Redskins fan, Bears fan...war!"

Honey Bear: "Still just a preseason game... IN HD!"

Papa Bear: "So the war can be up close."

Honey Bear: "Exactly! I mean preseason game.  Not war.  I won't even talk smack when da Bears whip the Deadskins."

Papa Bear: "You are no fun."

Honey Bear: "Lainey said it is on like Donkey Kong!!!"

Papa Bear: "Now that's the spirit, Lainey!"

Later in the conversation, Papa Bear even misquoted the football movie, Rudy.  You know the quote, "No one, and I mean NO ONE, comes into our house and pushes us around!"  Well, he texted, "You're not coming into our house..."  Horrible mangling of the quote and sounded very much like trash talk to me, so I promptly told my honey to reply that his father wasn't welcome in our house on game day, either.  His dad then clarified that he was quoting Rudy which inevitably forced my honey to correct his misquotation.  After much arguing about the correct wording of the quote, I removed the ban on Papa Bear entering our house on game day.  This confused Papa Bear further because he didn't want to watch the game at our house.  All I could think was, "Lord, give me strength to get through the next day with these Bears fans."

Game Time
Fifteen minutes before game time my honey disappeared upstairs to change into his Urlacher jersey.  He came down, did a model's turn, and promptly started playing "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" on his blackberry.  Alright, we'd play it that way then.  I pulled up my youtube link to "Hail To The Redskins" for his listening enjoyment while I changed into my Cooley jersey, my Redskins pajama bottoms, and my Redskins socks.  I came down and grabbed my Redskins pillow off the couch as the game began. 

The Bears scored first and my honey celebrated by running to the kitchen to get a beer, which he opened with his Chicago Bears bottle opener.  Thank goodness the batteries in it had died or I'd have had to listen to "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" again when he opened the bottle.  Preseason football is kind of a joke in my opinion.  Neither team really plays all out because they don't want any injuries.  It's mostly an exercise in watching rookies make rookie mistakes.  For example, when somebody missed a block and RGIII coughed up the football on the Bears 8 yard line.  Rookie mistake.  Of course, that mistake led to the Bears scoring again.

At this point, I was getting irritated.  Not because my team wasn't doing so hot, though they weren't, but because my honey was keeping his word.  He was being a civilized citizen of the living room.  He wasn't gloating, smirking, or even singing along to the fight song when his team scored.  I should have been happy, but polite viewing just took the fun out of it.  Plus, had the tables been turned, I knew I would have been acting the fool.

At this point, my honey's mother, Mama Bear, was chiming in via text with mixed emotion statements.

Mama Bear:  "Yay, Bears!  Sorry, Lainey!"

Mama Bear: "Did you see that return!!!  Poor Lainey, I feel for her right now."

Talk about your mixed signals.  I guess she was being a mom and supporting both the kids?

By half time, the Bears were clobbering the Skins 20-10 and it was ten o'clock.  We were both tired and preseason football wasn't giving us enough excitement to keep us alert, so we decided to watch the rest of the game in the bedroom.  We watched the Bears score on a 105 yard kick off return and that's the last thing I remember. 

I woke up at one thirty in the morning with the TV still on and no idea how the game ended.  My honey was jolted awake by my disoriented stirrings.  He didn't know who won the game either.  I checked the facebook app on my phone and there was mention of a comeback, but no final score.  My honey checked his ESPN score alerts and discovered that the third string had put in a valient effort to save the Skins, but hadn't succeeded.

It was late, we were tired, and neither of us really cared who'd won.   He didn't really care because "it's only preseason, babe" and I didn't care because I was only half awake.  How anti-climactic!

The question of whether we could watch our football teams play each other and still behave like civilized adults had now been answered.  Yes, we could... as long as it was a preseason game... and his team was winning...and the game started so late that we missed the ending.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olympic-Sized Hangover

Such a depressing sight!  The flame no longer burns bright in Great Britain.

The Olympic flame has guttered and died in London, which makes me very sad.  My honey and I were devoted Olympic watchers for all seventeen days of the London Olympics.  Every evening, no matter what else was going on, we turned on the Olympic coverage (in HD, of course, as my honey does love his new HD channels). 

Some Olympic sports we loved like beach volleyball, regular volleyball, and gymnastics.  Okay, I loved and he tolerated gymnastics.  We also loved swimming, diving, and most of the track and field events.  We cheered on the world's best as they shone brightly under the Olympic flame.  Didn't matter if the best of the best was American or British or Jamaican or Ugandan, we were excited to see world class athletes in their element.  We cheered for Usain Bolt as he set world records as the world's fastest man.  We cheered for Mo Farrah as he won the 10K and 5K races.  We applauded the Ugandan winner of the marathon that made his country's first medal ever in the Olympics a gold one.  We roared for Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and Ryan Lochte as they flew through the waters of the Olympic Park Aquatics Centre.

I was yelling so loudly during the marathon that
 my honey thought I'd hurt myself and came racing downstairs.

Some events, we enjoyed for their novelty, like wrestling with Azerbaijan's men showing their might.  We liked high jump and pole vault with all the athletic contortionists.  We tried to follow the triple jump with its confusing rules and weight lifting, but only when that one guy nearly snapped his own neck.  Water polo became a particular daytime viewing favorite.  My honey says it's like hockey without the ice and the hockey commentators kept calling it vicious and brutal.

At what point does it change from being a foul in the pool
to being an attempted drowning?

Finally, some sports we watched just to make fun of (him) or to royal watch (me) like the equestrian events with the Queen's granddaughter, Zara Philips, competing for Great Britain.  Anything synchronized was usually good for either fascination (diving) or laughter (swimming).  But, the ultimate in Olympic ridiculousness, by far, had to be rhythmic gymnastics.  How in the H-E-double hockey sticks is running around with a ribbon on a stick an Olympic sport?!?!  I did that in my living room when I was seven.  Anybody going to give me a medal?

This is an Olympic sport for individuals and teams?

The cheers and the tears, the world records and the disqualifications, the Olympic tattoos and medals proudly displayed on the Today show - all of it is over.  It's left a hole in our lives.

Thank goodness for
Let a new set of games begin!
And just for anyone who needs extra activities to accompany their Shark Week viewing...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Olympic Highs and Lows

To my e-mail followers, who got to read my notes on this blog when I accidentally confused the save and publish buttons yesterday, my sincerest apologies. Think of it as a preview or an insight into my writing process.

I don't normally make notes about a blog before I write, but since I knew I had so much to say about the Olympics and it was probably going to take more than one blog to get it all out, I took notes to separate what thoughts went into which blog. For the record, this is the second of three blogs about the Olympics.


This Olympics was filled with many highs that made me proud to be an American and a few lows that made me either sad for an athlete or ashamed of the behavior of some of my fellow Americans. Let's start with the brighter side:

1. It was good to be an American woman at the Olympics this year!

The US gymnastics team brought home the team gold, beating out Russia and China, after some stellar tumbling in the floor exercises by Aly Raisman. Aly also won gold in the individual floor exercises competition and bronze in the balance beam competition. Gabby Davis became a role model for millions of American little girls by not only becoming the first African American girl to win gold in the team and individual all-around competitions (something she shrugged off by saying, "You learn something new everyday!" when informed of her historic first), but also by shaking off some journalistic (and very adolescent, in this blogger's opinion) criticism about her hair by saying, "I just made history and people are focused on my hair? It can be bald or short, it doesn't matter about hair." Way to go Gabby! You just set a great example for girls everywhere about how to deal with bullies.

Not only did the U.S. women's gymnastics team win gold,
they also got to meet Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge!
The U.S. women's beach volleyball teams won gold and silver at the Horse Guard Parade, an equestrian training center that was turned into a beach volleyball stadium just for the Olympic Games. My honey and I watched every match played by Misty and Kerri and Jen and April. My honey claimed a real interest in both indoor and beach volleyball, but I suspect what he really liked were the bikinis. That and he really loved Misty's tramp stamp tattoo! He can enjoy hers all he likes because he won't be seeing one on me anytime soon.

Misty's tramp stamp on display after she and Kerri won gold.

2. Amazing firsts happened every day (and I'm not just talking about the world records)

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius became the first double amputee to compete in an Olympic final. If you don't know why that is so amazing click on this link poor little tink tink to get the Katt Williams version of Oscar's first Olympic experience. Apologies in advance for Katt's extreme potty mouth, definitely not a rated G link.

Yeah for the IOC getting it right this time and letting Pistorius run his race!

For the first time ever, all countries sent women athletes to compete. The Olympics first allowed women to compete in the 1900 games (though only in three sports; lawn tennis, croquet, and golf). Now, for the first time in the 112 years since women arrived on the Olympic scene, every country participating sent female athletes. Congratulations to Saudi Arabia, Brunei, and Qatar for being tardy to the party, but better late than never. Time.com had a great article about the Olympic Wonder Women if you'd like to read more about it.

Home field advantage helped Brits win big. It started with heptathelete Jessica Ennis winning gold to the delight of the 80,000 fans (many of them Brits) packed into the Olympic Stadium and kept getting better and better from there. Team GB took home gold and silver in the Men's Pair Canoe Slalom, prompting the paddlers to dump out of the boats and into the drink to celebrate. The Queen's granddaughter even became the first member of the royal family to win a medal, bringing home silver in the team equestrian event.

Now for the not so bright moments of the games:

1. Hurdler Down. Your heart just has to break for some of the athletes who, after training their whole lives to get to their big Olympic moment, came up short or outright flopped at the games. Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang, who had to pull out of his hurdling event in Beijing due to injury, was all set for his redeeming moment in London. His Achilles tendon had other ideas. During the opening heat for his event he re-injured his Achilles and fell while trying to go over the first hurdle. But, credit where credit is due, Xiang got up and hopped all the way to the finish line, with a little help from the winners of the heat.

Liu getting by with a little help from his friends.

2. Olympic's First Reverse Belly Flop. German diver Stephan Fenk made it through the preliminary round of the Men's 3M springboard competition, only to be taken out by a bad hop of the diving board during his second dive, resulting in his landing on his back and possible losing a couple of toe nails from where he smacked the board.

To add insult to injury, the video of his dive has gone viral online.

3. USA Women's hurdlers acting like teenage girls. I understand that every athlete wants to have their shining Olympic moment and not share the limelight with a favored athlete that came up short. I get it. But, shame on the U.S. women's hurdles silver and bronze medalists, Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells respectively, for going on TV and talking trash about their teammate, and media darling, Lolo Jones. Cat fighting via the media is no way for Olympic athletes to act. Though to show Ms. Harper that I truly understand why she was upset, shame on NBC for showing footage of Lolo Jones when interviewing Harper about her Olympic medal moment. Be mad at the network for creating the hype and pushing the story, not your teammate who just missed the podium by a few hundredths of a second. (Don't even get me started on the "virtuous" Ms. Jones, who touts how her strong religious beliefs and moral compass have kept her a 30 year old virgin, but who also posed nude for ESPN magazine. There's something messed up in that equation. I'm just sayin'.)

To end on a much happier note, Google has had some truly entertaining interactive doodles to accompany the Olympics and give those of us watching at home a hint of what it's like to compete. Enjoy the links below, my honey and I sure have.

Google Doodles: slalom canoeing   hurdles   basketball   soccer/football

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How the Olympics Got Me In Trouble

The International Olympic Committee clearly wasn't worried about my schedule when they planned the Opening Ceremony for this year's olympic games.  They're lack of thoughtfulness resulted in the Opening Ceremony taking place on the first night of my annual girls weekend at the beach.  The nerve of some people!

My honey and I had a debate going the week before the beach trip as it was about whether I would go or not.  It went something like this:

Honey:  "Go!  Have fun!  Spend time with the girls and I'll be here when you get back."

Me: "But, I'll miss you.  Plus, the Olympics will be starting.  I want to watch the Opening Ceremonies with you, here, on our couch."

Honey: "Go!  Have fun!  The Olympics and I will be waiting for you when you get back."

Yeah, he was super supportive of my getting away for the weekend.  He assured me that he would miss me like crazy, but that I should go.  A more suspicious woman would have been wondering what he had planned in my absence that made him so insistent that I should leave.  But, that's not really my style and I wasn't worried that he would be getting into any trouble while I was gone.  In my head the worst case scenario for him getting into trouble was that he'd drink all the beer in the fridge and fall asleep on our couch.  As I wanted the beer out of the fridge, I thought it was a win-win situation.

In a totally mushy girly moment of weakness, I had left my honey a series of notes around the house to find as he went about his evening when he got home from work and I was gone.  Some were practical, like the note on the mail that asked him to "Please mail us!" or the note on one of his mother's pans that she'd left behind on her last visit saying, "Please take me to your mother's house."  Other notes we're more cutesy, like the note in the fridge attached to his pitcher of iced tea that said "I love you and I miss you already." or the one I left on his pillow which among other things said, "Take care of my heart. I left it with you." Yes, I stole a quote from one of the Twilight books.  But, he didn't know that.  He just thought it was awesome.

I texted him to let him know about the notes and he replied that he would have to go on a scavenger hunt when he got home.  I should have stopped there.  That should have been the extent of our texting during girls weekend, but I am a weak, weak woman.  I wanted to tell him about what I was doing on my mini vacation.  I wanted to know what he was doing at home without me. Beyond the obvious of pining away for me and falling asleep snuggling my pillow.  I wanted to make sure the mortgage payment actually got mailed.  In short, I wanted to be with him and I wasn't.

This is how I got myself in trouble with the girls on vacation.  I texted back and forth with my honey for most of the trip.  I blame the Olympics!

Me: "I'm breaking the rules by texting, but the girls are picking crabs and are oblivious.  Plus, Mrs. Over The Bridge isn't here to scold me yet."

Honey: "What's this? A no texting the boys rule? Well, its a good thing that I'm in love with a rebel."

With those words, the flood gates were open.  I texted about the crab feast we attended.  He texted about what he was having for dinner.  He texted as he found the notes around the house.  I texted him mushy "missing you already" thoughts.  But, the most fast and furious of the texting by far came once the Opening Ceremonies started.

We texted about the forging of the Olympic rings.

We texted about Mr. Bean joining the London Symphony Orchestra.

We texted about Queen Elizabeth's debut as a Bond girl.

We texted about the Queen parachuting in to the stadium.
"No way is that really her!"

Me: "The Queen and James Bond parachuted in?  Too cool!"

Honey: "I know! I'm half expecting James May, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and The Stig to be a part.  I'm not joking."

Me: "That would be cool.  And I'm getting teased again for texting. :)"

Honey: "Give them the raspberry!!!"

After the girls and I had gotten dressed for a night out and gone to dinner and later on to the bar, my honey and I still texted.  I texted him messages from the girls.

Me: "The girls would like me to inform you that I seem to have another boyfriend."

Honey: "Huh, what?"

Me: "Teen Wolf is texting me from the O's game. :)"

long period of silence

Me: "Okay, I find your silence after my joke scary."

long period of silence

Honey: "No, sorry. My phone decided to die on me."

Me: "Okay, as long as you don't think I replaced you in eight hours away."

Honey: "I wasn't worried.  I did raise an eyebrow, but that was the extent of it"

Me: "I told the girls he only likes me for my car. hehe"

We texted during the parade of nations.
Me: "A cheer goes up every time somebody's home nation walks out.  El Salvador got a huge cheer."

Honey: "A lot of Salvadorians in Delaware?  Who knew?"

Me: "One of the girls' friends."

Honey: "I'm assuming there will be a hearty and patriotic cheer for the good old USA?!?"

Me: "Depends on how heavy the pours get around here."

Honey: "Are you in a bar?"

Me: "Yes."

Honey: "That explains a bit."

Me: "The El Savadorians?"

Honey: "Indeed."

We texted when I couldn't hear what Paul McCartney was singing.  It was "Hey Jude" (Sir Paul's performance starts at the 3:31:51 mark in this link).  The texting continued til we both went to bed and started up again the next day.  In three days, we sent 289 texts (147 for me, 142 for him).  Yes, I counted.  We had a small wager going on who texted more.  At times, the girls threatened to take and/or cause harm to my phone.  But, that doesn't matter because I kinda got my wish about watching the Olympic Opening Ceremonies with my honey.  We may have been apart, but thanks to modern technology we were still together.

Have you ever played the fool for love and taken a ribbing from friends for your foolish behavior?  Then, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Care and Maintenance

"If the girls don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy." 
                                                      - Steve Smith as Red Green in "The Red Green Show"

My honey is very handsome, but recently he had the opportunity to show me his handy side. Our homeowner's association recently hired a new management company to oversee the collection of monthly fees, community maintenance, and spring inspections.  Unfortunately, it took the new management company longer than expected to get their operation up and running, which resulted in spring inspection notices not getting delivered until July.  Here comes the handy side... it's kinda like the dark side, but without the cookies.

Vader has a sweet treat for those who come to the dark side,
would there be a similar reward for those who came over to the handy side?

The list of maintenance required to our property, according to the HOA, was long and the amount of time they gave us to complete the repairs was short.  I said the inspection notice arrived late, I didn't say they extended the traditional deadline to complete repairs.  The back fence, the brick pavers in our postage stamp of a backyard, and the deck all needed to be power washed.  The deck needed a new railing.  The back door needed repainting.  The trim around the front door needed repainting.  The gutter boards on the front of the house needed to be sanded and repainted and the gutters themselves needed to be power washed. 

I was uneasy when I saw the list of things that needed to be done, thinking it would cost me a small fortune to get a contractor out to do all that work.  But, I was absolutely panicked when I discovered I had three weeks to get it all done.  How in the H-E-double hockey sticks was I supposed to find a contractor who was available on such short notice and willing to complete so many small projects for me?

My mother, a prolific DIY handy woman, was quick to help me see that I didn't need to panic.  She also got me to realize that I probably didn't need to hire a contractor.  We were going DIY!

On a side note, my mother has somehow managed to overcome her aversion to my unmarried cohabitation.  I credit this change of heart to my honey's efforts to win her good will.  He has done everything he can think of to get on her good side in the last two months.  He has been a salesman at my mother's yard sale.  He has become a preferred playmate for my nephew and even attended a kiddie show version of "How to Train Your Dragon".  He has cooked for her at least once a week at our house.  He has attended countless family dinners at her house.  He has cordoned off his Sundays as family time at my mom's house.  In short, he has wormed his way into her heart.

But, I digress.  My mother convinced me that we could do all the work that needed to get done around the house by ourselves and before the deadline.  Little did I know that my DIY momma owns her own power washer and that she was willing to give up her Saturday morning in order to teach my honey how to use it.

My honey power washing the brick pavers
 after a short training session with my mom.

She was also willing to give up her Monday off to help me replace the deck railing.  Who knew carpentry could be fun? I'm sensing a new Olympic sport in the making: Women's Pairs Carpentry!

The halfway point: The weathered and rotten old rail is down.

Finish line: A beautiful new deck railing installed by ME!

All I have left to do is sand and paint some doors and wood trim.  Has anyone seen my motivation?  I had it a few days ago when we were power washing and ripping out deck railings.  Now that I'm the only one in the house it seems to have disappeared.  Thank heavens my mother is coming back to get me motivated again this weekend.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Shopping Outside of the Box

Recently, I went away on what has become my annual girls weekend.  Mrs. Mynd, me, and two other friends packed up the car and headed to the beach.  Now, the girls and I have a strict Vegas type rule regarding our beach trips: "What happens at the beach, stays at the beach."  We have this rule mostly because one of the friends we go with is our boss and nobody wants tales of the boss' drunken tomfoolery causing problems in the office.  But, as what I am about to write about happened when everybody involved was sober, I think it will be okay to bend the rule just slightly.

As our final act of beach relaxation, we always head to the local outlet mall for some discount retail therapy.  Normally, the least patient shopper in the group is otherwise occupied by her part-time beach bartending gig.  But, this year Peter Pan finally grew up and turned in her martini shaker so the outlet trip ended up being a bit more fast paced than usual.  In spite of this, I still managed to spend way too much and find some fabulous clothes.

I love going shopping with friends, something I seem to forget every year until we head back to the outlets.  Friends help you to shop outside of the box.  By that, I mean that my friends have a different fashion sense than I do.  I don't mean that as either good or bad, just different.  One friend may like things that are more form-fitting, more ruffled, more shoulder baring, more boldly printed, etc.  They see clothes differently than I do and will select things for me to try on that I wouldn't pick out for myself.

Clothes shopping with friends requires some faith, a little courage, and a bit of thick skin.  Faith that your friends will select things meant to flatter your figure and not their own, courage to come out of the dressing room in outfits you aren't sure about and a thick skin to stand there while your friends critique the outfits pros and cons.

Friends will tell you when you've found a fabulous outfit.

Friends will also tell you what you need to hear,
like the fact that you ain't never gonna have no eighteen inch waist again.

Even Marilyn Monroe didn't like
what she saw in the mirror.
My friends shared a new shopping rationale with me on this trip.  I was told that you have to take friends with you when you go shopping because we all have a skewed perspective of our body.  We are all looking at ourselves in a fun house mirror, if you follow.  We all have parts of our bodies that we are hyper-critical of when we look in a mirror.  Whether it's your hips, your chest, your stomach, when you look in a fitting room mirror the parts that trouble you take on an unrealistic emphasis.  You don't see that the top really flatters your bust, if all you're worried about is the way it too closely hugs your love handles.

This is what my friend saw when
she looked into the fitting room mirror.
I wasn't sure I believed this until one of my friends, a skinny minnie of the first order, told us that she wasn't sure about a pair of capris because she had wide hips and thought the pants illustrated her point.  I was floored!  I am a rather tall and curvy girl which often makes me feel big and awkward compared to others.  But, this friend was all of a size four.  I could probably fit my hands all the way around her waist with room to spare.  Okay, that might be a small exaggeration, but you get my point.  She does NOT have wide hips.

Life Lesson: The fun house mirror effect is why you need friends with you while shopping.  They can look at you and see what's really going on with an outfit.  They don't know that your hips worry you or that you wish your bust filled out a top better.  At least, not until you open your mouth and voice the thought aloud.  They just know that your butt looks really good in those pants or that they wouldn't be seen in public with you if you dared to wear that too-tight micro mini skirt out to the bar.

I bought at least four items that I would never have given a second glance if my friends hadn't made me try them on during this shopping trip (and I've only returned two of them since coming home -  being fashion forward is nice, but busting my budget is not acceptable.)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

City Girl In The Sticks

My honey and I have had opposing goals this summer.  He is a man who enjoys camping and seeing nature up close and personal.  I am a girl who occasionally enjoys the beach and dipping my toes in the surf.  I've been trying to get him to go to the beach with me and he's been trying to get me to go camping with him.  He was the first to succeed...sort of.

We were supposed to spend the second weekend in July in Altoona, Pennsylvania at a going away part for my brother's best friend (and my brother from another mother).  This is a man who lived in my parents' house when he was a teenager because things were tough at his house.  His dad kicked him out of the house and my parents gladly took him into their home.  He lived with us for his last two years of high school.  My mother was the one who got called up to the school for a parent-teacher conference because he was sleeping through his trigonometry class and the one who held onto his letterman's jacket for safe keeping while he was in boot camp.  Now, even when he is deployed overseas, my mom is the one he calls on Christmas morning and sends flowers to on Mother's Day.  He truly is like a brother to me.  We have the same parents and we grew up in the same house.  He is getting ready to be stationed in Korea, so we were all going up to surprise him.  However, plans changed when his wife and father argued over the time and location of the party.  What can I say?  Not everyone gets along with their in-laws.

This left us with a free weekend and it left my honey with a firm belief that he should be heading out of town.  After all, he had already gotten approval for time off work.  No point in spending that time hanging around the house, right?  So my honey suggested that we go to Luray Caverns.  It was just far enough away to feel like we were really getting out of town, but close enough that we didn't need more than three days away to get there, see the sights, and get back.

So, I looked into hotels and attractions in the area.  I looked for things to see and do along the way there and back.  Finally, I came up with a plan that I felt would keep us entertained and active for the whole weekend. 

Stonewall Jackson memorial at Manassas
We would drive out to Manassas and see the battlefields from the First and Second Battles of Bull Run, so my honey could get his history fix.  Then, we would drive through Shenandoah National Park, down the lovely Skyline Drive, to Luray, Virginia and their deep, dark caverns.  From there, we would stay overnight in New Market, Virginia, home of another Civil War battlefield, see whatever there was to see there and then head down through central Virginia to get me a history fix of my own at Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello.  My honey and I are both American history buffs, but we love different periods in U.S. history.  He is fascinated by the Civil War era, while I have extensively studied the colonial and Revolutionary War periods.  We would complete the square by coming back through Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania, home of more Civil War battlefields.

That was the plan, but things didn't end up going quite that way.  The weather was the first factor that was working against us.  It was cloudy when we left the house, drizzling by the time we got to Manassas, and foggy by the time we hit the Appalachian trail in Shenandoah National Park.  So much for the breathe-taking view along Skyline Drive!

Our view from one of the very foggy Skyline Drive overlooks.
I don't see any mountains. Do you?
Something they don't tell you about Shenandoah National Park, or most of central Virginia for that matter, is that there are no cell phone towers in the park.  If your car breaks down or you get a flat tire, you are out of luck until a hiker or a park ranger finds you.  You can't call for help!  For most of the trip we were in a cell phone blackout, which some of you may remember that I don't enjoy.  If possible, my dislike of being incommunicado has grown even more since I got a smart phone.  Now, I am not only used to getting calls and texts.  I have come to expect being able to check my e-mail and facebook page, too.

We made it to Luray, but decided to get some dinner and head to the hotel rather than tackle the caverns right away.  The hotel was supposedly ten miles outside of Luray and it may have been ten miles as the crow flies, but it was closer to fifteen miles away along some of the most sharply sloped and curved mountain passes by car.  We were both looking forward to getting to the hotel so we could stretch our legs and relax poolside, but the weather forced us indoors and indoors wasn't pretty. 

This photo was taken from our doorway.
Life Lesson:  If the hotel is relatively close to a tourist attraction, but far cheaper than other hotels in the area, there is a good reason it is cheaper. 

The wallpaper in this hotel was peeling off the walls and bubbling in the restroom from obvious water damage.  It was a sad little hotel room.  Even the king size bed wasn't much of a mood booster because it was so uncomfortable.  But, the absolute worst part came when it started to pour outside and a fault in the hotel's gutter system produced a waterfall right outside our hotel room door.  I found it impossible to sleep with Niagra Falls just a few feet away. 

Luckily, my honey found other ways to fill my time. ;)

Apparently, I've become jaded because this didn't impress me. 
(The horrible photography is all my own.)
The next day we went to Luray Caverns, which I had visited as a child.  You know how everything seems smaller when you go back to your elementary school as an adult.  That's what Luray Caverns was like for me this time around.  My honey was oooh-ing and ahh-ing over all the different stalagtite and stalagmite formations, but it just didn't seem as impressive to me as my childhood memory of the place.  We saw the dream lake (where the pool of water on the floor reflects the ceiling perfectly) and the translucent stalagtites (which look like a bath towel and a strip of bacon) and the sunny side up stalagmites (which look like eggs sunny side up).  It was a natural wonder all right.  It just didn't knock my socks off. 

Next stop, the New Market battlefield.  This one really irritated my honey.  There were two battle field museums, which we found confusing.  It seems that one museum is associated with the state park and contains the actual battle field, but in front of it is an amatuer museum (a fake, if you will).  Since you come across the fake museum first, that is where we went and it was awful.  It had almost nothing to do with Civil War history, instead seeming to contain a few fossils, a few Native American artifacts, and the world's largest cap gun collection.  My honey was mad after we left that "museum" because he had paid $18 for us to look at some movie posters and a cap gun collection.  Neither of us really had our hearts in it by the time we made it to the actual battlefield and state park.  Oh well, live and learn.

We visited Monticello the next day and then had a change of plans.  Instead of visiting two more Civil War battlefields on the way home (the fake museum really put us off history for the remainder of the trip), we would drive the entire length of Skyline Drive from the southern Shenandoah National Park entrance at Thornton Gap all the way to the northern entrance at Front Royal.  Best decision we made during the whole trip!

All my honey had talked about during our foggy drive down Skyline Drive two days earlier was how Shenandoah National Park had the country's highest concentration of black bear and he really hoped we'd see one.  We didn't see one.  WE SAW FIVE!

"BEAR!!!" became a familiar cry on our return trip.
above: One of the five bears we saw while driving up Skyline Drive.

Trip saved, honey happy.  Yay for the North American black bear!