Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quite amazing.

I saw this little music video on Black*Eiffel the other day. Rachel mentioned on the post that she found it interesting why the video was so "jumpy" (which is explained at the end). After watching the video, I must admit I found it kind of cool. Enjoy...

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Here in Wonderland we have already experienced springtime. There are plenty of tulips to be found, lots of green that has already burst forth, and temperatures that have already climbed up into the low 80's. And yet today, this is what it looks like at our casa:

Even the Ruff Life Resort (the doghouse) is looking a bit winter-fied:

Not only are we getting snow (our first decent one of the year actually since our winter was pretty sparse except for a lame-o ice storm, and nobody likes those), but my husband got to experience his first ever thundersnow! Yep, big beautiful wet clumpy flakes + THUNDER. Pretty cool, actually. Even though it's a bit odd to experience this snowstorm today after having already enjoyed plenty of lovely, warm weather, Wonderland is known for it's odd weather, and it's actually considered quite normal 'round these parts for situations to pop up like this. In fact, in two days the temperatures are expected to soar back up to the mid-60s. Gotta love it.

But for today, instead of complaining about this odd little storm, I'm going to sit back and enjoy the beauty of it, because it is quite beautiful. The boy asked us if Santa was coming tonight, and, being the awesome parents that we are, we told him that we thought he might be able to swing by, possibly teamed up with the Easter Bunny, to drop off a little something. I couldn't resist -- the Santa bit was just too cute. Besides, even our local NPR station was playing "Winter Wonderland" this morning on the radio, so I'm already in the spirit!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Vintage Photo Friday

(click on the image for a closer look)

See the handsome chap on the left? Off to the side by himself, a la James Dean? That's my grandfather on my mom's side. He was a sailor. Lived the sailor's life, so to speak, fathering five little girls with my grandmother, while also enjoying a few dolls in other ports as well. Hmm. Anyway, I never met him as he passed away long before I came along. My grandmother remarried when I was three or four years old, and her husband became my grandfather, and a wonderful one he was.

Although I never met this fellow, I do love this picture. And I'm sure he would have had many an interesting tale to tell me.


My boy is enjoying his first viewing of "Pinocchio" this cold and rainy afternoon (perfect movie weather if you ask me). "Pinokigo" is how my boy says it, and that's as close as he has gotten to pronouncing it correctly -- you should have heard it the first few times he tried saying it -- too cute! Somehow I was at the top of the hold list for the DVD from the library, so we are enjoying it free of charge for a whole week, although I know a little someone who might be receiving it for his birthday next month.

Pinocchio is such a great little boy movie. One of my favorite quotes is from this movie:

To be a real boy, you must prove yourself brave, faithful, and true. (paraphrased a little bit from the movie)

LOVE that. I am currently working on a way to incorporate it into his room, possibly painted on a window shade...

Other good words to live by from the movie include:

Be a good boy. And always let your conscience be your guide.
A lie keeps growing and growing until it's as plain as the nose on your face.

And, of course, it is from Pinocchio that we get the song "When You Wish Upon a Star", one of the most classic Disney songs of all time.

They just don't make movies like they used to. If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you'll know that I am a huge fan of all things vintage, especially media, and I much prefer my boy to see the classic Disney movies and read classic stories to everything else. Thus far my boy has latched on to "Peter Pan", and that has made me one happy Mama. It looks like my boy might have another new favorite...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Great RV Roadtrip 2009: Day Two

We interrupt this post to bring you an important message: Tuesday afternoon the wolf spider in question was apprehended in the basement. It was found sitting on top of the laundry soaking in the washer. We are happy to announce that at the last moment it's captors caved in and spared it's life, freeing it to terrorize others in the great outdoors. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

When we last left off, the morning sun greeted us brightly in the Atchison, Kansas Walmart Supercenter parking lot. I was able to take a nice, hot shower, blow dry my hair, and even set it in hot rollers all in the confines of our vehicle. Again, it was a little strange thinking I was doing all of these things in a Walmart parking lot, but it sure was a good way to start off the day. We unlocked the jacks, pushed the button to suck the sides of the RV back in, and drove a mile down to the downtown area. One of the reasons we (I) chose to stick with smaller towns on this trip instead of big cities was because I had no idea how hard it would be to get to places in an RV. Thankfully this town wasn't too hopping the morning we were there, so we were able to find a big, open parking lot downtown with free parking no problem.

We found the most adorable little place to eat breakfast -- the Marigold Bakery -- which was pretty much the highlight of our Atchison experience. They used homemade bread for their toast which they also buttered up for us quite generously, and eating those slices of toast with jelly on them was like heaven on earth. The decor was adorable as well -- vintage tablecloths and baskets on each table with all the silverware, napkins, condiments you would need. They also had aprons and dishtowels hung up all over the walls. If you ever find yourself in exciting Atchison, I highly recommend it.

After breakfast we headed down a few blocks to the antique stores. There weren't near as many of them as I had anticipated from my Internet research, but we had a good time just enjoying the sunny weather and looking around. My husband got his kicks from trying vintage hats on our three-year-old son, you know like the fancy church hats you would have seen ladies wearing back in the day. On our way out of Atchison I was brave enough to drive up and down a couple of blocks in the historic district to look at the grand old Victorian houses. Atchison isn't exactly what you think of when you think of Kansas -- because it is on a river, it is situated up on the bluff and the streets are very hilly and steep. Atchison is also home to the birthplace of Amelia Earhart.

Here are two of the (many) lovely homes in Atchison:

Just before noon we headed back across one of the bridges ( with me holding my breath all the way) and headed east to the Missouri side to St. Joseph, another old river town with more historic homes. St. Joseph is also the origin of the Pony Express, so we stopped at the museum. It was more interesting than I thought it would be, and the three-year-old had a grand time trying out the original water pump and practicing his Morse code skills on the Morse code machine.

Here is a (blurry, sorry) picture looking down below the waterpump to the actual well below. It was about 25 feet deep, and the original well found on the site. It was pretty neat to be able to crank the old pump, have the water come out into the trough, and actually see all the way down to where the water originated.

No, there isn't a Pony Express Motel anymore, but I loved this sign next to the museum.

We had a late lunch at a local Mexican food restaurant -- the food (in my opinion) was terrible. I don't know, but in our experience, as you go farther north in this country, the Mexican food quality deteriorates. Here in Wonderland we have many restaurants with amazing Mexican food, which I will never take for granted again. But the cool thing about the Mexican restaurant was that it was in a humongous old mansion. My husband pointed out the fact that it was really kind of sad that someone's home was now a Mexican restaurant, which is true, but I enjoyed being inside it just the same. There were even pictures on the wall of the family (that built the house) vacationing in Florida with the likes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. This family was rollin' in the dough back in the day. St. Joseph, Missouri was also the town where Jesse James (the famous outlaw) was shot and killed. He probably hung out with some of my kinfolk, as my parents both pointed out at various times throughout my childhood that we are apparently offspring of many outlaws and bootleggers. So proud, I tell you. So proud I am. Indians, Outlaws, and some Irishmen. This probably explains a lot, doesn't it...

After St. Joseph, we really had no idea where we were going to stay for the night, other than in the RV, obviously. We knew we needed to head east for an appointment in the morning, but that was pretty much our only thing set in stone. At this point we both got on our laptops and started looking for RV parks/resorts. Walmart was fun and all, but the prospect of yet another new experience for me (i.e. staying in an official RV resort) was just too tempting. On a whim we picked a random one to call, and it ended up being perfect. Apparently we were calling before the "official RV season" started, but they told us to come on out just the same, and that we would get to be their "first guests of the season". We got our spontaneous selves back on the road and headed out. The winds picked up, and I soon discovered that trying to drive the RV on a windy day was like trying to steer a sailboat across a frozen lake -- not exactly a walk in the park. Thankfully the drive over was less than an hour -- any longer and I might have started to regret the fact that I didn't buy the trucker's hat with the built-in beer bottle opener...

The Pony Express RV Park was just what the doctor ordered. 100 acres to enjoy all to ourselves. Our hosts, Glenn and Judy, were the absolute nicest couple, just good ol' country folks who make you feel like they've known you for years. After we parked our RV and got the jacks leveled, they came down to ask us if we wanted to take one of their golf carts out on the property. Heck yeah! (Check, check, check. Can you hear me wildly checking all sorts of hilarity off my non-existent "bucket list"?) The three of us happily piled in and took off to drive that little golf cart all over the property, over hill and dale, up and down all the little trails, and even across a teeny tiny wooden bridge.

My husband was a bit apprehensive about driving the golf cart across the bridge. Seriously -- after his wife drove that humongous honkin' bus all over creation. Go figure.

See? Getting the heck outta Dodge and away from the ratrace was just what this (cute) workaholic needed. A good ol' dose of country for this city boy. (And that big grin is due to the fact that he successfully and safely navigated us across the death-defying bridge.)

There were also animals on the property to pet -- a herd of goats and a shy llama.

Honestly, the simplicity of being out in the country (smack dab in the middle of miles and miles of farmland) couldn't have been more perfect for us. The ratrace of life can certainly take it's toll on a person, and getting out in the fresh air and being reminded of the simple things in life was truly what we needed.

That evening we heated up our little TV dinners (purchased at Walmart, of course), ate dinner, and retired early, enjoying the pitch black evening far away from the streetlamps of any other civilization. I loved falling asleep to the sound of the country -- all the frogs and bugs and other creatures singing us a lullaby. The RV was definitely starting to feel like home...

Gag me with a spoon.

Are you kidding me?

Things like this make me furious: Madonna tries to adopt second Malawian child.

If only adoption was so easy for the rest of the world. Our process was quite the ordeal, and I know many others who had processes a zillion times worse than ours, and friends that even came home childless because of botched adoptions. Then in waltzes a celebrity like Brad or Angelina or Madonna, and POOF! The magic adoption fairy waves her wand, and they fly home with a brand new sparkling child. And the rest of the world "ooh"s and "ahh"s in a collective chorus.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Great RV Roadtrip 2009: Day One

I know what must be thinking -- Valerie? In an RV? That little Anthropologie-loving girly girl in an RV? Yes and yes. And I love love loved it.

Last week my husband, son and I took off on a little three-day jaunt in a great big Winnebago. As in a 12 & 1/2 feet tall, 8 feet wide Winnebago. Since it was Spring Break and all, I decided a road trip was just what the doctor ordered for my workaholic husband, and being that we have access to a brand new RV, well, we just had to take advantage of that. Now I don't necessarily have what you would call a "Bucket List" (you know, like the movie), but I do know that there are certain things, if the opportunity presented itself, I would love to say I tried. There was no way I was going to pass on the opportunity to take the RV out.

The whole catch to this little excursion was the fact that I was going to be the driver, even though I had never driven anything larger than our 4Runner SUV in my life, and now I was looking to climb up into something as large as a city bus and somehow maneuver it on the roads without maiming anyone else. Oh yes, that was the plan. So Wednesday morning, bright and early, I got my first lesson, mere hours before we were to take off on the road in that thing. Seriously -- my first lesson in the RV was not in a parking lot far away from others, but driving it from the storage facility all the way to our house via the highway in our little city's rush hour traffic through the older neighborhoods with very narrow streets not built with RV's in mind. No pressure. Ha. No room for mistakes at all my very first time in that captain's seat!

Miraculously, the good Lord above saw fit to deliver the RV and I to my house all in one piece without any fender benders. I won't tell you that I was confident in my newly attained RV-driving skills at that point -- far from it, actually. My leg didn't stop shaking for an hour or two, and besides all of my tense muscles from gripping the wheel with white knuckles, there was also a lot of Lamaze-styled breathing going on. But I had at least begun to conquer that beast, and I felt ready enough for us to load up and head out.

On our way out of town we stopped at everyone's favorite -- WalMart, and I picked up a trucker hat. Yes, a genuine trucker hat, complete with mesh panels on the sides and back. It was one of the only ones I could find without some sort of beer advertisement on it (complete with bottle opener built into the bill, oh yes, there were plenty of those to pick from), and it had an embroidered skeleton head with an Indian Chief headress on it. Being a proud card-carrying Indian myself and the chief driver of this big rig, I figured it was halfway appropriate. After asking me a zillion times over if I was sure I needed a trucker hat, my husband obliged and made the purchase. I'm sure that he was questioning my sanity from having made many a purchase on my behalf previously at Anthropologie stores across the country, but never for a trucker hat from a WalMart. True love, I tell you, true love.

Here I am in all my trucker glory. Try not to be too jealous of my awesome hat.

We finally got the heck out of Dodge sometime around 1 or 2 in the afternoon and headed out to Atchison, Kansas. There wasn't much of a plan for this roadtrip, but being physically unable to be 100% spontaneous (it's the control freak side of me), I knew I had to have a few points of destination in mind to start out with. I had heard that it was a cute town, so I thought it would be a good starting off point. We used the GPS system in the RV to guide us, which honestly might not have been the absolute best idea towards the end since it sent us on this two-lane road filled with one-lane bridges and lots of oncoming traffic. My husband wasn't so amused at one of the bridges that had a weight limit of 13 tons and had holes in the concrete where you were basically driving over rebar. I think he held his breath for sure on that one. As for me, fresh out of truck driving school, I definitely held my breath, held on tight to the steering wheel and simply tried to coast across those suckers without losing it. Thankfully this technique worked and we arrived at our destination before nightfall.

Our first night of the roadtrip brought forth another new experience for me, one that I never thought would happen in my little world -- boondocking at Walmart. Know what that is? Oh yeah -- we spent the night in a Walmart parking lot. No kidding. Apparently all you have to do is call ahead, speak to the store manager for approval, and you can stay overnight for free in the Walmart parking lot. You know, just typing it is making me laugh out loud that we really did this.

Now don't get me wrong -- staying at Walmart had it's perks. For example, there was a Subway located just inside this Walmart Supercenter (oh yeah, baby, we do things top-notch, no regular ol' Walmart for me), so we had easy access to dinner that night. Secondly, in my haste I forgot to pack pajamas for myself, so all I had to do was run in and purchase a pair. For $10 I got myself a dandy little pair of Eeyore pajama pants. Hey, don't knock 'em, they really are comfortable.

Let me tell you a little about the RV, in case you were wondering. That baby is not too shabby. There are two captain's chairs in the front, and then a little living area with a couch and a u-shaped eating area around a table, both of which can fold down to make beds. Then there is a little kitchen complete with sink, refrigerator/freezer, oven and microwave. Down the hallway is a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower. At the back is a bedroom with a queen size bed and a TV and a built-in wardrobe for storage. Once you are docked, there is a set of buttons to level the RV. Basically this means that the jacks go down to stabilize and then it lifts and lowers the various corners to make the RV level for you to walk about without being seasick. Then there are two buttons to expand the sides of the RV out -- one side goes out a couple of feet, and the other seems to go out 3 or 4 feet. Once it is expanded, it's got decent space to walk about. There are also curtains that can be drawn across the front windows to ensure total privacy. This particular RV is outfitted with satellite TV, satellite radio, and a crazy sound system. Oh, and don't forget the Internet -- my husband was able to still work on his laptop whenever he wanted (so much for curing any workaholic issues). Throw in a thermostat to keep it perfectly warm or cool, and you've basically got all the comforts of home wherever you go.

I found this picture on the Internet of an RV almost identical to the one I was driving. Out of all the pictures we snapped, I hardly took any of the actual RV. Oops.

After our "$5 footlong" dinner we popped in a movie for the three of us to watch -- appropriately, I had checked out "The Wizard of Oz" from our local library being that we were going to be in Kansas for a night. It was my son's first time to see the movie, and we weren't sure what he would think about it, especially about those flying monkeys, but he loved it.

The boy kept saying that his favorite part was the bad witch. Go figure.

At first I was a smidge uneasy about trying to fall asleep in a Walmart parking lot, but after a tense first day of driving a house on wheels, I gave it up and got some rest. Not too bad...

This was our "beautiful and oh-so-scenic" view the next morning.

Tune in tomorrow night for tales from our second day on the road. Oh yeah. There are gonna be three of these posts, baby. Can you handle all the RV goodness?

Well, I'll be!

I never thought I would see what I saw today on the highway, but I surely did! It was both amazing and horrific -- amazing in the fact that it is one of my favorites, horrific in the fact that it almost met it's Maker today, and if I would have been witness to that, I surely would have fallen apart.

My son and I were headed home from his preschool on the highway that runs right through our city. Mind you, we were completely in the city -- no wilderness for miles. An animal ran out into traffic one car ahead of us, but this was no ordinary animal, and I know because I immediately jumped on the Internet when I got home to see if in fact it was the animal I thought it was. Sure enough, the animal was a RIVER OTTER!

Let me assure you that river otter sightings are not common in our city, unless you are at the zoo!

Coincidentally we had just been to the zoo again yesterday and seen my favorite animal exhibit, the river otter. Ever since I was a little girl, it has been my favorite little animal to see at the zoo (at our zoo anyways -- I have no idea if river otters are common zoo animals anywhere else). I love the way the river otter slips and slides and twists and turns so effortlessly in the water. Plus, they are just so cute. The cuteness factor always weighs heavily in my love for animals. The only time I have ever seen one in the wild (besides today, which makes sighting #2 for me) was when we lived in Minnesota, and my mom brought my ailing grandmother up for a visit in the fall. It was a gorgeous week for weather, so we took her on to a small riverboat cruise in a neighboring town. We sat on the front of the riverboat in the sunshine, marveling at the amazing fall colors, when all of a sudden, in the water ahead, there was a friendly little guy splishing and splashing, his beady little eyes glistening in the sun. One of the cutest things I've ever seen in nature, and I've never forgotten it. It is definitely one of my favorite Minnesota memories.

Anyway, today's river otter had decided to try and cross the highway. Very lucky for him, all of the cars were paying attention and were able to dodge him without hitting him. He quickly turned and ran back up the enbankment from which he came (and where I'm hoping he'll stay).

When I was looking on the Internet to confirm my sighting, I read that in the spring, river otters travel to find their mates. Bless his little heart, he better start looking elsewhere out of the concrete jungle to find him a good woman! They are known to be little travelers, always on the move unless they are with their pups.

I sure hope God points that little guy in a different direction and helps to keep him out of harm's way from this point forward, but I must admit I'm thankful for our fun little sighting today!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Wonder Years!

Oh my goodness! While procrastinating this evening (avoiding going to sleep while surfing the Internet mindlessly), I stumbled upon this article on the Yahoo homepage:

Winnie Cooper got married!

"If you were a boy growing up in the late '80s or early '90s, odds are you had a crush on Danica McKellar. She played Winnie Cooper, the object of Fred Savage's obsession on "The Wonder Years." The nostalgia-fueled sitcom has been off the air since '93, but Ms. McKeller still has legions of fans. Today, most of them are heartbroken. Their fair Winnie is officially off the market.

Yep, this past weekend, Danica got married. The nuptials caused a huge surge in Search. Men pushed queries on "danica mckellar married" and "winnie cooper married" through the roof. McKellar, who is now an author and mathematician, also saw queries rise on her famed photo spread for Stuff Magazine. Searches on the groom, composer Mike Verta, also hit a high note. Not surprisingly, the majority of Danica's lookups came from male Gen-Xers.

But it wasn't just the bride who saw a boon in Search. The maid of honor got some love as well. Danica's sister, Crystal McKellar, was in the wedding party. Crystal is best known for playing Kevin's ex-girlfriend turned archrival, Becky Slater. She memorably punched Kevin in the stomach after he broke up with her. Fans of the show haven't forgotten about the oft-spurned Becky. After news of the wedding hit, queries surged on "crystal mckellar photos."

According to E! Online, Mr. Savage (now a director of dubious talents) didn't attend the wedding, but his TV parents, Dan Lauria and Alley Mills, were there. No word on Josh Saviano, who played Kevin's best friend, Paul Pfeiffer. Regardless, queries surged on the Pfeif. Also spiking: the popular urban legend that states that Mr. Saviano and shock-rocker Marilyn Manson are actually one and the same. They're not, but the truth is a lot scarier: Saviano is now a lawyer."

Seriously -- I was one of the biggest Wonder Years fans. I loved that show, and I'm pretty sure I saw every episode. (In fact, I recently did a search to see if I could get the series on DVD and had trouble finding it.) I absolutely loved Kevin and Paul and Winnie. In fact, here's a little Wonder Years story for you: it was after watching an episode of Wonder Years that I worked up the nerve to ask my middle school crush to go to our school's Sadie Hawkins' Day Dance with me. I remember exactly where I was when I nervously dialed the phone with my shaking little fingers (sitting at the computer desk in my parents' bedroom), how his mom answered and went to bring him the phone, and how he politely said NO.

Yep, the boy turned me down. And bless his heart, he might have been the first boy to turn me down, and he certainly wasn't the only boy to turn me down (remember, I was the girl version of Napoleon Dynamite), and yes, I was crushed, but the best part was that I scraped my poor little heart off the floor, glued it back together, and I still went to that stupid dance with my friends. Sure, I might have been glued to the wall the entire evening, but I can look back and actually remember this as a good memory (despite the little heartbreak) because my whole life I have remembered this as a time I was able to be a strong little me and still hold my little nerdy head high and keep on truckin'. Which I did.

So thanks, Kevin and Paul and Winnie for all the great TV memories. Reading this article tonight really brought a smile to my face.

Were any of you out there big Wonder Years' fans as well?

Recession Relief

Enough talk about AIG, the recession, blah, blah, blah. Let's talk about how I had a good "mail" day, and I didn't pay a cent for what showed up at my door!

First off, I must stress that I look forward to checking the mail everyday. I love having a mail slot next to my front door -- rain or shine, I don't have to leave my house to see what the postman brought! It never fails -- Sunday rolls around every week, and almost every Sunday my brain forgets for a moment that there is no mail to come, and it's just not the same. Most days I don't get anything exciting, but I suppose it is the mere prospect of the possibilities of what could be in the mail that keeps me going.

Today, as I mentioned before, was a very good mail day. First off I received another book for my son's growing library. For the past two years, I have found a way to grow my son's library without spending much money at all. Want to know my secret? Lean in closely, and I'll whisper it to you...Paperback Swap.

As the title suggests, it is mostly paperback books that people swap on there. Here are the basic rules: you list any books you would like to get rid of, er, swap (sounds much better). The books must be in good condition. These books get catalogued into a huge library database. A person goes into the database, types in a book they are searching for, and voila! Let's say they request your book. You then pay to send that book to them. Yes, stay with me, I know I said that YOU pay, and I'm sure by now you are wondering how this is a good deal if you are having to pay people to get rid of your books. Like I said, stay with me, and you'll get it in a little while. You mail them the book, and they in turn mark it as "received" in their account, and you receive a credit. With this credit you can then request someone else's book. Remember, as the person requesting the book, you don't pay a dime, but only "spend" your credit to get a book from someone else. You can also make a "wishlist" of books you would like to receive, thus putting you on a list of who's next in line to receive them as they enter the system. Paperback Swap sends emails to you when these books are entered in, and if you are next in line, you have the option of accepting or declining the book you are wishing for.

Here's the kicker of how I work the system: about two years ago, when my son was only two years old, I spent one evening browsing at my local Borders bookstore. (Yep, I'm nerdy like that. Love the time browsing in bookstores.) I took a pen and paper, cruised through the children's section and wrote down all of the ISBN numbers of the books I wished I would have had as a kid or wished my son could have if I could make a custom library for him. Most of these books were hardcover -- both for durability and for looks. (Yep, I'm a shallow book snob that way.) I went home, plugged each and every number into my wishlist, and waited. Some of them came up immediately, others took months, and some I am still waiting for. Most people don't realize that Paperback Swap is not just for paperbacks, although that is the vast majority of what is listed in their database. The books I had listed to give away were all cheap paperbacks, most of the type I picked up in airports, at Walmart, etc. -- just cheap, light reading, and definitely most of which I would never read again. So with these unwanted books, I was able to build up plenty of credits to use to obtain these much nicer classic books to keep for my son. Most people on Paperback Swap use it as just that -- a swap. They get a book they want to read, read it, and relist it so they can get another book. I personally use my local library system for that type of reading, and I use Paperback Swap to get the nice books I want to KEEP. There is no rule stating you have to ever send them back out.

I figure over the last two years I have probably spent around $25-45 in postage to mail out, usually at $1.75 a pop for postage (remember, you can utilize the postal service's "media mail" rate for this, much slower, but much much cheaper). The poor folks mailing me my beloved hardbacks are probably having to spend a bit more since they are heavier and bigger than paperbacks. On my account page there is an estimate of the amount of money I have saved by swapping out books -- according to Paperback Swap, I have saved somewhere in the ballpark of $215. If I were to add up the Border's cost for most of these books (and I have been very fortunate in the fact that most of them have arrived like new or almost brand new, probably never even cracked open once), I have estimated it to much higher, possibly even double that.

My other little trick to this is that this website has two sister sites: CD Swap and DVD Swap. I have taken so many of my CD's and listed them as well (because we all know that now you can download them to your computer and have no need for the actual CD's anymore), then taken those credits, and transferred them to my Paperback Swap account to get even more books. Many times I have listed a $5 or less CD and ended up with a $25 book to show for it. Not bad. There's two other positives to this: it not only gets these unwanted CD's and books out of my house and relieves the clutter, but these are also going to people that actually want them. A win-win situation.

Here are some (not nearly all) of the books I have gotten for my son so far. Sure, he may not be old enough to read most of them yet, but he's sure got an awesome library for when he is ready!

And here is a shot of his booksshelves so far -- as you can see, we have room to grow! Plus, the booksshelves themselves are a good 17" deep, so I can always start doubling up on stacking them if I need to.

You can't even imagine how happy I am about these books. Growing up, all I cared about was books. I loved going to the library, I loved reading, and I loved the bookstore. I would save all of my money to buy books, and it was always a treat on Saturday mornings when my dad or my mom would take me to make a new purchase. It was a rarity for me to buy a hardback as they were always so expensive, so being able to collect these beautiful hardbacks for my son brings me unbelievable joy.

But, that isn't all that brings me joy on this fine day. No, no. Today I also received this in the mail:

Oh yes. A Gap giftcard. For FIFTY SMACKEROOS.

This is my second one to receive -- the first came about this same time last year. For a few months, some friends of mine had been trying to convince me to join My Points. No way. I am not one of those people that falls for gimmicks, etc. But eventually, I caved, out of peer pressure, I suppose. And I started receiving these daily emails, usually between 1-3 a day, asking me to click on a sponsor link. Which I did, requiring about 2 seconds of my time for each one. Then I would close the window it opened for the sponsor, delete the email, and go about my business. Each of these is worth "5 points" usually. Over time, points add up. There are other ways to earn points -- surveys (which I rarely fill out), making purchases by accessing the website you want through the My Points page, etc. -- but most of my points come from those tiny little clicks. It takes me about a year to earn my enough points to obtain this $50 gift card, but for less than a minute a day, I have a $50 Gap card to show for it. How long I'll keep doing this, who knows. But I'll at least have two nice pairs of jeans to show for it...

*Now I'm not one to usually do this, but after reading my post which was NOT sponsored by Gap or My Points or any of the swap sites, if you decide to join up, be sure and put my name as the referral. I'd love to get more free credits to get my beloved books! Ah, I love being a nerd...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Repeat visitors

Ugh. Apparently it's that time again. Time for the "wolfies" to come visiting.

Wolfies, you ask?

Yes, wolfies. The lovely little (or should I say, HUGE) wolf spiders that have come once again to my basement, running from pile to pile of sorted laundry, just waiting to freak me out every time I discover one. At least my research last spring led me to understand that they aren't really harmful, just crazy scary looking is all. They occasionally bite, but aren't poisonous or considered deadly. Oh, and they can be mistaken for their lookalike friends, the brown recluse, a very poisonous spider, which is often commonly found in Wonderland. (So I'm at least praying this fella is a wolfie and not a brownie.) See, don't you feel so much better? Haha. Yep, I thought so.

(picture from the web somewhere, and yes, my little wolfie visitor this afternoon was larger than this little fella)

Let me guess. You're thanking your lucky stars you don't live at my house right now.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Oh, the things they say...

I have a big post that I need to type up about our comings-and-goings this past week, but before that I just had to stop a write down something my little guy said tonight at bedtime before I forget it.

I had been explaining to him about nicknames, and I was using myself as an example.

Me: A nickname is like this -- my name is Valerie, but sometimes people call me Val. Val is a nickname.

Boy: LaLa call you Bal sometimes, too! (LaLa is his name for my mom. We call her Abuela, which is grandmother in Spanish, and of course, that got shortened to LaLa when he couldn't say Abuela.)

Me: Yes, just like that!

Boy: And bad duys (bad guys) call you diarrhea.

Repeat after me: I love my three-year-old, I love my three-year-old, I love my three-year-old.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vintage Photo Friday

It's everyone's favorite day -- Vintage Photo Friday!

(like always, you can click on the photo to see it in better detail)

This is another favorite photo of mine -- a picture of my mother's mother (we called her "Mimi"). I love so many things about this photo -- the cute position she's scrunched up in, the ruffles on her dress (and bloomers?), the adorable shoes (I can't tell exactly, but it looks like they lace up somehow), and her face, mainly because this is one of the pictures where it is most pronounced that she and I look alike, as her facial features are very similar to mine when I was about the same age.

I also love the fact that this picture fits perfectly into the little square frame, almost as if she is perched inside a little box. It makes me smile.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rocket Man vs. Piano Man

Tonight I had the privilege to spend the evening with two amazing men. Yep, I said two. Literally two-timing, if you will.

For over three and a half hours, I spent my evening with these two guys:

(For those of you who might possibly have been living under a rock for the past 30 years or so, that's Sir Elton John on the left and Billy Joel on the right.)

Seriously unbelievable. No opening acts. No intermissions. From 7:30pm until a little past 11pm, I (and about 17,999 of my closest friends) was treated to quite the amazing concert. Three and a half hours, PEOPLE. Non-stop. How many concerts have you been to where you truly got your money's worth out of the ticket?

If you possibly live in a city that these two will be passing through, DO. NOT. MISS. OUT.

And since I realize there are hardly ever photos of myself on here, I will oblige and post a photo from tonight, all dolled up and ready to rock 'n roll with my mom and one of my aunts at the concert. It's not too often that this mama gets the makeup out and the heels on, so here you go.

You didn't really think I would post an everyday photo of me on here? Pshaw. No one needs to see that.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sugar and spice...

It would be SOOOO dangerous

if I

had a little girl


I would want to

dress her

in super-cute clothes



or either of these:

or turn her into a little bathing beauty in one of these:

Of course, she would be the cat's pajamas in one of these:

The very least Boden could do is at least start making these outfits in the women's sizes, too. It's only fair.

(Can you tell my Boden catalogs came today? I'm sure Boden intends for me to get excited about the boy's clothing, but there's no competition when half the catalog is filled with these sweet concoctions.)

Take a deep breath, and eat some chocolate.

This morning I was graced with an almost-four-year-old-mother-of-all-tantrums tantrum. In public. Gotta love those moments in motherhood. The best part was all of the parents that we passed on our way back to the car who seriously STARED at us on our way out (me pushing my screaming-bloody-murder three-year-old in the stroller). Serious staring people. I wanted to yell at them and point out the obvious -- "Stop staring! You know that your kid has done or will do the same in public at some point! Do you want people to make you feel any more embarrassed than you already are?" Man, that probably made me more frustrated than the actual tantrum. I guess I feel that as parents we all got the same invisible "parent badge" when we entered into this journey, kind of like a membership into this society where we should offer support to each other, including NOT STARING WITH HORRIFIED LOOKS ON OUR FACES WHEN WE SEE OTHERS OUT IN PUBLIC WITH THEIR OWN SCREAMING TANTRUM-THROWING CHILDREN. But obviously, some people didn't get the memo on that one. If I had money to burn, I might consider launching a public service announcement campaign with simple parenting do's and don'ts. Oh yes, I totally would, after I bought my own private island in the Caribbean first, of course.

Anyway, we survived. Then we arrived home to find out yet another check had bounced, this time to the vet. We recently found out that someone got ahold of my check card information (not my actual card) and went on a wild shopping spree at our expense. That's when you say "Thank the Lord" for fraud protection at the bank. We thought most of the issues had been resolved, so it's frustrating to find out that there was another check out there that should have gone through, but because we forgot it was out there before this fiasco it bounced. There goes another $35 returned check fee. Again, I do say all of this a little bit tongue in cheek, as I really am quite grateful that we are only out the fees and not the entire large sum of money that the crooks spent.

Here's hoping that our Monday is not shaping up to be one of those "Alexander days", as I like to call them. You know, those Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day type days. I think I'll go eat some extra chocolate just in case.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wish I'd known Miss Myrtice.

Sometimes the Yahoo homepage has the most interesting little stories featured, and today is no exception. I just read a lovely little article about a certain Miss Myrtice, who recently passed away at the ripe old age of 100.

Apparently Miss Myrtice was quite the character, as you can read for yourself, since I am pasting the article below:

"Myrtice Pinckney McCurdy, 100, died March 11 at her home in the village of Stone Mountain. The funeral is at 11 a.m. Saturday at Stone Mountain First Baptist Church. Wages & Sons is in charge of arrangements.

Miss McCurdy was 6 years old when she and her six siblings lost their mother, Mamie McCurdy, in 1914. Their father, Dr. William T. McCurdy, never remarried.

After graduating from Decatur High School and then Atlanta Normal School, a teacher training school, Miss McCurdy began teaching at the age of 18. She apparently wasn’t a fan of change.

She taught fourth grade at Stone Mountain Elementary School for 43 years. She taught Sunday school at Stone Mountain First Baptist Church for 50 years.

She wore purple clothes only, and size 6 purple shoes, said her niece, Emy Blair. And except for milk, she drank nothing but Coca-Cola, her niece said.

Miss McCurdy never married and never moved away from “Papa’s home,” the East Mountain Street house her family settled into in 1918. She lived there with her sister, Mary, who taught for 45 years at Stone Mountain High School.

For three decades, they hosted weekly Saturday night sleepovers for generations of nieces, said one of those nieces, Nan Vogler. The girls wore the matching pajamas Miss McCurdy bought them each Christmas. All purple, of course.

Every summer through last year, she took her nieces and nephews on beach vacations. She took her Sunday school students on field trips to the mountains.

“She and her sister paid college tuition for so many children, I can’t even begin to count,” Mrs. Blair said. They either paid it themselves or found funds for them, she said.

Every Sunday for at least 25 years, the sisters hosted dinner for as many as 30 family members and friends. There’d be a beef roast or pork roast with varying side dishes, but fried okra and homemade yeast rolls were always on the table.

“They never knew who was coming, but the food was always there,” Mrs. Vogler said.

Mary McCurdy cooked. Myrtice McCurdy didn’t cook, just as she didn’t drive. She prepped and cleaned up.

Her idea of a great breakfast was a slice of toasted pound cake (broiled briefly with butter) with milk and a Coke. But her favorite meal came from an Atlanta icon, the Varsity: a chili dog, fried onion rings, fried peach pie and a Coke.

Pam Jenkins, Miss McCurdy’s companion and caregiver for the past 10 years, said the teacher never stopped teaching. “I had no idea that at age 50 I would learn the most important lesson of my life,” Ms. Jenkins said, “that every decision you make is a life decision, whether it affects you for 10 minutes or 10 years or for the rest of your life.”

Miss McCurdy will be buried in a purple casket."

Wish I'd known Miss Myrtice. She and I would've gotten on so well.

It's a Barbie World.

Let me preface this post by saying that I never owned one single Barbie doll growing up. Not that I wouldn't have loved to -- my mom got this notion in her head that having a Barbie doll might have made me feel pressure to look like Barbie, etc., which is actually kind of a funny thing since my parents weren't too strict on other things like that. Regardless, they still bought me this other doll from the Christian bookstore (I think her name was "Cindy" or something like that), and this doll technically was just a Barbie look-alike. Go figure. Not having my own Barbie dolls growing up didn't bother me too much, though, because I had plenty of little girlfriends that were all Barbie-d out, so I got plenty of time to play Barbies at their houses. Besides, as a parent, I know that usually the toys that my son doesn't have himself and only gets to play with at other kids' houses, those are the toys that he wouldn't get as many thrills from if he owned them as well. They just wouldn't be as exciting. So it worked.

All that to say that when I saw the Barbie post on the Hostess With the Mostess website, I thought it was too fun not to share. Mattel threw a big Barbie bash to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Barbie, and they spared no expense, as you can see if you click on the link and check it out.

When I was at Target this week, I must admit I did walk down the Barbie aisle -- I had told myself that if any of the $3 special-50th-anniversary Barbie dolls were still sitting there on the shelf, I would totally treat myself to my first ever Barbie doll. Alas, they had all been scooped up already.

A lazy Friday

Ah, how I love a lazy Friday. Here in Wonderland it is cold and dreary outside (actually my favorite weather sometimes), so the boy and I are staying in most of our day and just lazing around, watching a bit more TV than normal, reading books, and getting the occasional housework done here and there. It's almost lunchtime, and we are both still in our pajamas -- gotta love that!

Right now the boy is watching a cute DVD we picked up yesterday at the library. I had actually seen the DVD with the Easter stuff at Target on Wednesday, so I was thrilled to see we could borrow it for free from the library instead of paying the $10 at Target, not knowing if we would enjoy it.

I, for one, am impressed that my almost four-year-old is enjoying it so much. It's 90 minutes of ballet -- that means no cartoons, no action/violence, and no speaking whatsoever. Not for the faint of heart, people, because this one takes a bit of patience and focus to watch, and imagination, too, to keep up with the storyline minus the storytelling. But the costumes and scenery are absolutely darling, and I love the fact that he is getting a 90-minute-long-dose of classical music seeping into his brain as well. Here is a little snippet of it I found on YouTube:

I'm also working on my two March blocks for the Pieced Together Quilting Bee. I had to do a little embroidery work two nights ago to the center of the first block, so today I'll work on actually finishing the piecing for that one. Then I will tackle the paper-pieced spider web block -- a new attempt for me. I'll be sure and post photos of both when they are done.

What's on the docket for your exciting Friday?

Vintage Photo Friday

(as always, you can click on the picture to view it close up)

Here is another fun picture of my Great-Grandmother Clyta (my mom's dad's mother). As I mentioned last week, she was a great cook, working in many a restaurant including one of her own (I think she and my great-grandfather owned their own restuarant at some point), and working as a personal chef for a wealthy family in our city. This picture is obviously an early one of her in a restaurant as a waitress. She is the one in the middle.

There are so many things I love about this picture -- their waitress uniforms, the men posing on the other side of the counter, the items for sale on the shelves, and the advertisements on the back wall.

Visit "Paper Dolls for Boys" to see other contributions to Vintage Photo Friday.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A woman's got needs.

I've done this before, but it's a fun one, and this time there were different answers that came up. You know how it works -- you paste the phrase using your name into the search box and see what pops up. Annie tagged me, so here you go!

Valerie needs:

1. Valerie needs "plenty of exercise, including a brisk daily walk". Has someone been spying on my junk in the trunk lately?

2. Valerie needs "to be in a home with no children". THIS ONE HAS GOT TO BE MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE. Forever and ever, amen. Obviously it is in reference to an animal that needs a home, but YES, there is many a day I may feel like I need to be in a home with NO CHILDREN...

3. Valerie needs "music more than food, air and water". No joke. Okay, now I'm starting to feel like I have a stalker out there...

4. Valerie needs "mental help". If you're not out there guffawing by now, I'd be surprised.

5. Valerie needs "to be patient and thankful for as long as it takes". Can I get another amen?

6. Valerie needs "to grow. She is approximately the same size she was in second grade." Har-dee-har-har. Let's stop with the short jokes, alright?

7. Valerie needs "her money no later than June". Yeah, people, send those payments in! Mama's got some Anthropologie she needs to buy!

8. Valerie needs "a ratings boost". Ha. Have my numbers gone down?

9. Valerie needs "to get to the top of the town water tower before she's gunned down by the workers of handover ranch". And you thought you had problems.

10. Valerie needs "to be the CIA Director for the next administration". Finally, somebody out there recognizes my worth.

Okay, folks, back to work, back to work. Nothin' more to see here.

Paper Crane Frock GIVEAWAY!!!!

Paper Crane Frock GIVEAWAY!!!!

What can I say? Girlfriend never fails to disappoint. This lady is amazing!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

They say it's your birthday...

(Wow, three posts in one day from me. You are some lucky, lucky readers, that's all I'm sayin', haha...)

My sister-in-law's birthday was yesterday, so the boy and I took a little roadtrip (get your kicks on Route 66, for reals) to spend part of the day with her and the three nephews, age 4 and under. Yep, that would add up to 4 boys, age 4 and under. Good times, good times. Isn't that how you would want to spend your birthday? Yeah, I thought not. Ha.

I thought I would share what I bought her for her birthday. First I picked out this absolutely adorable tote bag from the Gap:

(the one on the right, purpley-blue with a red hanging card holder -- this picture is straight off the Gap website on the "accessory" page, yet the tote bags aren't listed???)

Anyway, I got this bag on sale at my local Gap store (a bit dangerous that it is within walking distance from my casa). Then I found the perfect "part two" of the gift to fit in that little red hanging card holder -- customizable mommy calling cards from the etsy seller "Sarah and Abraham".

Aren't they adorable? I figured since my sister-in-law has three little guys, she would be able to use these. They can be handed out for playdate information, etc. I picked out three cute little boy silhouettes to put in the bottom left hand corner.

So there you have it -- an easy and cute birthday present for any fab mom in your life.

I promise I actually still do crafts.

I am love love loving the Pieced Together Quilting Bee. I had been envious of my fellow blog buddies that had already gotten the chance to participate in a virtual quilting bee, and since most of them had been invited into their groups, I figured my chances were slim to none at having that happen to me, especially since I don't sew near as much as most bloggers and haven't posted tons of creations. So I jumped at the chance when it came my way (via an open invite on Katie's blog).*

Our quilting bee started in February, and there are 20 participants, which means everyone will end up with at least 20 blocks. My month isn't until October, so I still have plenty of time to figure out what I want to do. All I know right now is that I will try and avoid the temptation of buying new fabric since I have scads and scads already that is waiting to be made into a quilt!

Here is my contribution for February, for Katie herself:

It was my first attempt ever at a wonky log cabin styled block, and I can totally see how these could become addicting.

I have two different blocks to start for March (best get crackin'!) -- another log cabin with some embroidery to be done in the center, and a spider web block that utilizes paper piecing. It will be my first attempt at paper piecing, so hopefully it is not too difficult.

*For those of you that don't know what a "virtual quilting bee" is, I will try to explain it. Basically it is styled after quilting bees in the days of yore where ladies would gather in groups to help work on/complete each others quilts, as "many hands make light work", you know. In a virtual bee, each member is assigned a month to mail their chosen fabrics out to the other participants. The packages include several different fabrics and instructions on what type/style of block they would like made, and then the participants make the blocks and mail them back. Each person in turn eventually ends up with 20 or so blocks (sometimes other participants are extra generous and mail back more than one) to do with as they please --but usually to make a quilt out of. A pretty neat concept, huh?

A day late and a dollar short

Here is my contribution to Vintage Photo Friday that would have been posted last night had it not been for my over-tired body that I dragged straight to bed the very second I set my foot in the door. Being that I am posting a day late (and a dollar short as the title suggested) I am offering up a two-fer'. What? You don't know what a two-fer' is? Sure you do. 'Round these parts most folks 'em a two-fer' -- 2 for 1! Just consider this my recession post, haha.

(click on the picture to see it bigger)

Anyway, these two photos are similar in the fact that they are both pictures of my family members shopping downtown back in the day, probably in the late 1930's, early 1940's, based on how old my grandmother looks in the picture. The left picture is of my mother's mother on the right shopping with her mom, which would make it a picture of my great-grandmother and my grandmother. I never met my great-grandmother, but she must have been swell if she liked to go shopping - ha! Wasn't my grandmother a cute little lady? She was quite the woman -- married a sailor (enough said), raised five daughters on her own, my mother being the youngest. She passed away almost exactly four years ago, and I still miss her a lot.

The picture on the right is of my great-grandparents on my mom's side, the parents-in-law to my grandmother in the picture on the left -- Great Grandma Clyta (yes, her name was Clyta, bless her heart) and Papa (his name was Ed). Papa died before I was born, but my (Great) Grandma Clyta was around for almost all of my childhood, passing away in the 1990s. I have so many great memories of her -- she was loads of fun, and a fabulous cook to boot. At one time she and Papa owned a restaurant, and later in her career she worked as a personal cook to a very wealthy family.

These pictures make me smile every time I see them. I am blessed to have come from some pretty good stock!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stay tuned...

...Vintage Photo Friday will be coming atcha' tomorrow, on schedule, but it may not appear until tomorrow evening. Just letting you know. You know, because I'm sure you are all out there in BlogLand, biting your nails, sitting on the edge of your seats, hitting the refresh button every two seconds waiting for it. Well, now you can actually take that time and accomplish something with it. Ha.

A post filled with absolutely nothing of great importance.

The little guy keeps getting more and more funny, the more verbal he becomes. I wish I could remember each and every little funny thing he says throughout the day, but at least I have a few to share.

Since he took a really great nap the other afternoon, I let him stay up and watch the first hour of American Idol with me. He was pretty excited to stay up and watch a "Mama show", even if he really was clueless that it was a competition, and that some of the contestants were great performers while some weren't so great, etc. He just knew that people were singing, and he would let out a loud "Yay!" for each of the ones he heard.

Some funnies from right when the show started:

On seeing the judges, he automatically pointed to Simon Cowell (who hadn't yet spoken a word) and said: "Dat a bad duy, Mama?" (Everything in his world relates to whether you are a "good duy" or a "bad duy".) And no, I didn't prompt him on that one. He immediately recognized Simon as the villian.

On seeing Kara Dioguardi (the newest judge), his immediate reaction was "We hah same heh, Mama!!!!! SAME HEH!!!!" (We have the same hair, Mama!) And um, no, my boy has a short black fauxhawk, and bless her heart, Kara definitely does not.

And I cannot let it go by without bragging on my boy for a second. I made homemade pizza for dinner, and after he took a bite, he declared, "DEEYISHOUS, Mama!" (Delicious!) "Dank you for making me peezuh, Mama!"

All of that drilling the polite phrases in his head for so long has really paid off. My boy is pretty quick to offer up a please, a thank you, an excuse me, a sorry, or a you're welcome all on his own and almost always at the appropriate moment. I can't tell you how happy that makes me. (It sure helps to make up for all of the typical three-year-old-boy-naughtiness that also goes on.)

And this morning in the car while listening to one of my infamous music mix CD's:
"I got rock 'n roll, Mama. I got rock 'n roll." Ha! I didn't even know he knew that term, rock 'n roll.

* * *

Since I am one of the biggest procrastinators, I thought it would only be fair of me to share a fun time-waster with you. Behold, a SuperHero Factory. Thanks, Alexis.

Here I am, in all my SuperHero glory:

If only this little mock-up actually came with real superpowers, then I'd be set. I could get my house sparkling clean and my chores done flat in no time at all...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sunday Laundry Shirt Dress GIVEAWAY!!!!

Sunday Laundry Shirt Dress GIVEAWAY!!!!

Seriously? Could this girlie be ANY MORE TALENTED?

I have a sewing machine. I have fabric and thread. But somehow I missed the day that God handed out the "Anthropologie-clothes-knockoff-sewing-talents".