Wednesday, October 30, 2013

A Tricky Hodgepodge

Welcome to the Wednesday Hodgepodge. If you're new here, I'm glad you've joined the party. Everyone is welcome to play along-answer the questions on your own blog, then add your link at the end of my post. Hop around and say hi to the neighbors too. Here we go-

1. What's something you're dealing with that might be described as tricky?

I'm not going to answer my own question. It's something I don't really want to blog about, but it's definitely tricky.  

What's Halloween week without a little mystery?  

2. What's your treat of choice? in candy? Like trick or treat? If that's the case I'll take a Payday or a Mounds Bar please. If we're talking treats in general then a shopping spree through Nordstrom's shoe department would be pretty awesome.

3. Did you/will you carve a jack-o-lantern this month? Which real (living or dead) or fictional 'Jack' would you most like to meet in person? Why?

We did not carve a jack-o-lantern this month. Did we have time to carve a jack-o-lantern this month? It doesn't feel like we had a lot of spare minutes in October, plus no littles in the house to clean out the 'guts'.  

Which Jack would I like to meet in person? Why Jack Bauer of course!  

4. In your opinion, what's the grossest sounding word in the English language?

I'm going with crusty because ewwww! That word gives me the shivers. There was a sandwich shop in our little village in the UK called Mrs. Crusty's. I'm sure the food was fine, but my girls and I never did go in there, because crusty...ewwww. 

5. When did your heart last skip a beat?

Probably the last time I was on an airplane. My heart skips lots of beats when I fly. Or it might have been my last visit to the dentist.  I lose a few beats every time I'm in that chair. 

6.  Monster Mash by Bobby 'Boris' Pickett, Michael Jackson's Thriller, Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon or Ray Parker Jr.'s Ghostbusters...your favorite 'scary' tune?

Is everybody going to say Thriller? I imagine that will be the most picked, but I'm going out of the box on this one, and will say Werewolves of London.  

You had to know I would. 

We used to break into that song everytime we went to Chinatown to eat at Lee Ho Fooks. The restaurant closed while we were living in the UK, and I'm not sure we ever ordered the beef chow mein, but we definitely 'did some walking through the streets of Soho in the rain'.  

Some of you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?
Suffice it to say, music and memory go hand in hand.  

7.  It was a dark and stormy night when__________________________

Hurricane Sandy struck this time last year.  Stormy doesn't even begin to describe the sound she made.  It was scary. The storm made landfall on October 29th and one year later people are still displaced and many businesses continue to struggle, not just at the shore either.  There are some literal ghost towns in this part of the country as a result of Sandy.  

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Once upon a time there lived a bunny and a princess.  
They were the sweetest in all the land.   

Halloween, circa 1992

They still are. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hodgepodge Questions Volume 148

Here are this week's Hodgepodge questions. Hop back here tomorrow to share answers with the rest of the Internets. See you there!

1. What's something you're dealing with that might be described as tricky?

2.  What's your treat of choice?

3. Did you/will you carve a jack-o-lantern this month? Which real (living or dead) or fictional 'Jack' would you most like to meet in person? Why?

4.  In your opinion, what's the grossest sounding word in the English language?

5. When did your heart last skip a beat?

6. Monster Mash by Bobby 'Boris' Picket, Michael Jackson's Thriller, Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon, or Ray Parker Jr.'s Ghostbusters...your favorite 'scary' tune?

7.   It was a dark and stormy night when______________________________.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Hello Internets.  It's Monday and I have a cold.  It came on in the dark of night Friday, and it's only semi-miserable today. I'm hoping it doesn't progress to full blown miserable, consequently I'm drowning in hot tea, Emergen-C, and lots and lots of water.

Did you want a health update?
How about a weather report?
That's why you read here isn't it?

It was frosty here this weekend, but it was also sunny, plus daughter1 was home so I won't complain.  Well, I might mention my cold once or ten times before this post is finshed, but other than that I won't complain.

Daughter1 brought her boyfriend to The Garden State for the first time on Friday evening. I have to say when you step off the Amtrak near Newark, 'Garden State' is not the description that springs immediately to mind.  ahem. As it happens though, we live a fair distance from Newark, more 'garden' less oil refinery, and I do think the boyfriend was a little surprised at all the farmland in our neck of the woods.

We actually had a very laid back weekend, what some people might call boring, but what we call relaxed. Daughter1 woke up with an earache on Saturday morning so she and I were quite the pair.

We did get out and about for a bit, showed the boyfriend around the local area, made a brief stop at Highpoint (can you say windy????) and then headed to our local village pub for lunch. Afterwards we came home and watched a lot of football. He's a huge football fan so he was completely on board with the plan. Some of us napped-

This picture makes me happy.

Hubs lit a fire in the outdoor firepit early evening, and after
no less than a thousand
many tries he also got our patio heaters working, so it was cozy. We grilled out, made smores, then watched just a little more football, and a little World Series. I don't know exactly how much because I went to bed at 10 PM.

I'm the hostess with the mostest.

Sunday I decided I had a full blown cold, and daughter1 still had that earache so hubs and the boyfriend hiked up in the woods behind our house while we girls sorted out a little computer issue I was having. By 'we girls' I mean my daughter made it all work, and I watched. Whatever.

The boyfriend has heard a lot of stories about Daughter1 and her sister, and said he'd like to see one of our videos from back in the day, so we obliged.

Oh my word, those little girls were so stinkin' cute. My heart can hardly take it, and hubs for sure can't.

And then, just like everysinglesolitarytimemygirlsarehome, the clock spun and we were headed back to the train station. Hubs and I were once again alone in the car, saying the same thing we say every time we deposit a daughter at the airport or train terminal...'I wish we didn't live so far apart'.

But we do.

And I don't see that changing anytime real soon, so I do what I do best which is compartmentalize.  I mark the calendar and count off the days until the next visit. Until then, we'll text and talk on the phone, and we'll facetime if I can manage to answer without hanging up on the call.  My girls are smiling I know. It's annoyingly funny, right girls?

Technology may get the better of me on a fairly regular basis, but you know what I have mastered?

Loving from miles away.

It's a superpower all mothers possess.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

TGIFriday Fragments

It's Friday, which means fragments are in order.

Half-Past Kissin' Time

1. Another gorgeous fall day. Winter day?  It was 25 degrees when I drove to boot camp this morning. Course it's now a balmy 27 so things are looking up.

2. Boot camp. Still hanging in there. Some previously undiscovered and consequently underused muscle aches after every class, never the same two twice.  Shhh...don't tell anyone, but I'm starting to look forward to the workouts. That's progress people.

3.  Daughter1 is coming home for the weekend and she's bringing her boyfriend. This will be his first trip to our house, and also his very first visit to the Garden State.  He lives in warm and sunny South Carolina and doesn't own a lot of 27-degree outerwear. I think he's worried.

4.  I took my car in for routine service yesterday, and we all know what that means. It means they will find something to repair and you won't get out of there for less than a jillion dollars. Okay, a little less, but not much less.

5.  Both of my book clubs met this week. Club numero uno read The Dinner by Herman Koch which got mixed reviews in our group. If you've read Defending Jacob, and I have, then the storyline will feel familiar and not as well written.

Club number 2 read The Whip by Karen Kondazian. This book was inspired by the true story of Charley Parkhurst, a stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo. There's a lot more to it than that, but I don't want to give anything away.  The Whip has won several awards in the category of Historical Fiction, and while the language is a little gritty, I liked the book and am once again feeling thankful I live in the 21st century.

6.  Makes me twitch only slightly to end with a random #6, but I felt like this post needed a photo. Last weekend my girls were together in South Carolina, and both boyfriends were also in town. That may sound like no big deal, but it doesn't happen often so I insisted they snap a photo. And since they're all about making momma happy-

Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An Uncommon Hodgepodge

Welcome to another edition of the Wednesday Hodgepodge! Add your link at the end of my post and then hop around and chat with your neighbors.  Here are my answers-

1. When it comes to good manners, what two top your list of most important?

Saying please when you ask for something and thank you when you're given something (even if its something intangible such as verbal directions or the right of way).  I think if we could do this small thing the world would be a nicer place.  

Treat others as you would like to be treated.  

I miss common courtesy, and think the cell phone has to be one of the biggest contributors to its demise. Everywhere you go people are on the phone including church, graduations and other milestone celebrations, crossing the street, entering buildings, sitting in a quiet dark theater, while driving, even in the restroom stall one away from your own. ewwww!  Unless a patient is waiting on you to perform an organ transplant, I think you can safely put that phone conversation off until after you've peed. 

2. Let's open a proverbial can of worms...Common Core.  Are you familiar with the term (talking education reform in the USA)? If so, care to share your thoughts? In your opinion, what is one of the biggest issues schools (in your home country) face today?

I'm familiar with the term. I guess my personal philosophy is that children are not products and cannot be managed as such. And why do we always want to mandate something then figure out if its good or bad after the fact, especially when it comes to children? Why can't we have a period of time where the standards are tried and tested by fire-in the actual classroom by lots of different teachers with lots of different teaching styles and student populations-before we insist everyone adopt them.  

I had a longer answer here, but it seemed like too much so I'll just leave it at that. 

3. Name a celebrity whose fashion sense you admire and share why.

Jennifer Anniston. Her style is casually cool, trendy but not overly so, plus she can rock a pair of blue jeans or a more sophisticated look for evening. 

4. How are you affected by the changing seasons?

For the most part, I enjoy the changing seasons. I do think there is a small sadness in the air this time of year, and perhaps that's why God added so much glorious color to the month of October. I love the first few snows of the season, but could do without the springtime blizzard.  I start to feel restless if winter lingers into late March or early April, but mostly I'm happy to live in a state with four seasons.  

5. Scariest book you've ever read?

The Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.  For the record I try hard not to read anything disturbing. I love mysteries, but not the creepy serial killer variety, and this one was definitely creepy scary. Plus I was living alone at the time so BIG mistake. 

The book was originally published in the early 80's and was the first book to feature Dr. Hannibal Lecter.  If I were to pick that book up today I'd put it immediately back on the shelf, because we're all familiar with Hannibal Lecter in the year 2013.  Back in 1981 he was introduced via this book. Not to spoil anything in it, but this was also the day of taking your film somewhere for processing, and after I read that book it was hard for me to ever drop off film without flashing back to this story. FYI-the book was even creepier than the movie, and that's saying something.

6. What time of day are you most hungry?  What's your go-to snack?

Late afternoon. I would love to eat dinner at that time, because that's really when I'm hungry, but since hubs is never home at 4:30 in the afternoon I wait.  I try not to forage.  I don't always succeed, but I try. Sometimes I'll make a cup of tea and that takes the edge off, but if I start rummaging through the pantry all bets are off.  9 almonds doesn't cut it.  This is why I don't buy chips, because if there were chips in my pantry at 4 in the afternoon that's likely what I'd unsuccessfully try to resist.  This time of year I will often have an apple which isn't bad as far as snacks go.  I'll cut it into slices which somehow makes it more satisfying.

7. Do you lean more towards being too needy or too independent? Which do you find harder to deal with in others?

My family (as in my mom and sibs) will tell you that from the time I was a tiny tot my most often uttered phrase was 'I can do it myself'.  There is an upside and a downside to independent people, but I think its mostly good.  I know there are times I make hubs crazy by resisting help, but when you have a spouse who travels a lot, and you move a lot, independence serves you well.  

If a person is truly needy I have all the patience in the world for them.  If they are spoiled needy then I find that more difficult.  Independent people are easier, unless of course they want to do something contrary to my way of doing something.  Ha!

8. Insert your own random thought here.

Something I love to do every year is pack a shoebox or two for Operation Christmas Child. Yes, I know it's still 62 days until Christmas (not that I'm counting), but the National Shoebox Collection Week is November 18th-25th, and that really is just around the corner.  

You'll find everything you need to know about what to pack, how to pack it, what to pack it in, and where to drop or send your shoebox on the Samaritan's Purse website (click here for details). 

Honestly this is such a wonderful ministry to children all over the world, and it's easy and fun to fill a shoebox. Humbling too, to realize how excited a little child somewhere will be to get a brand new toothbrush or their very own bar of soap.  

You select the age range and gender for your box, and I almost always buy for girls because that's what I know best. I buy a few essentials, but also some fun things like a pink purse or glittery crayons and stickers. You can even track your box now by printing a label at home, and then once it's delivered you'll get an email letting you know where your box was sent. 

I encourage you to visit the website and see what it's all about.  You can bless a child with a shoebox, and in the filling of that shoebox I think you'll find you're blessed right back.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Hodgepodge Questions Volume 147

Here are this week's questions to the Wednesday Hodgepodge.  Answer on your own blog then hop back here tomorrow to share answers.  See you there!

1. When it comes to good manners, what two top your list of most important?

2. Let's open a proverbial can of worms...Common Core.  Are you familiar with the term (talking education reform in the USA)?  If so, care to share your thoughts? In your opinion, what is one of the biggest issues schools (in your home country) face today?

3. Name a celebrity whose fashion sense you admire and share why.

4. How are you affected by the changing seasons?

5. Scariest book you've ever read?

6. What time of day are you most hungry? What's your go-to snack?

7. Do you lean more towards being too needy or too independent? Which do you find harder to deal with in others?

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Whirl of a Weekend

Well that was short.

Sometimes weekends feel short, and sometimes they really are short.
Ours was the latter.

Hubs was out of town most of last week, and arrived home late Friday evening. I broke my golden Friday night no cooking rule, and made BLT's for dinner. Some might not call that actual cooking, but since a waiter didn't take my order I think it qualifies. After dinner we lived it up with a movie at home.  We dozed through
watched The Great Gatsby which was just eh. I do think Leonardo DiCaprio is totally believable in whatever role he plays, but we thought this flick was a teensy bit boring. Sorry Leo!

We had a really lovely day on Saturday, spent at the Far Hills Horse Race. We've attended this event  several years in a row now, as guests of business acquaintances of the hubs. Monies raised go to the Cancer Unit at a nearby Medical Center so its fun for a good cause.

We always like to check out the tailgaters on our way up to the tent. I'm betting someone in this group has been on Pinterest-

People really get into the spirit of the race-

Our host's tent is in a prime viewing spot, and they always have a lovely set up with scrumptious food. This year their theme was Southern Hospitality so we dined on fried chicken and country ham. The tables were decorated with big yellow roses in silver bowls set atop striped cloths-so pretty!

Mason jars were filled with dried hydrangeas and strung around the tent posts, and there was red velvet cake and peach cobbler for dessert.  I'm pretty sure neither of those make the list of boot camp approved foods, but it would have been rude not to try it, right?

We hung out with our China travel buds and it was fun to catch up in person. In fact when the races wrapped up we extended the day into evening and the four of us went to dinner at a little family owned Persian restaurant not too far from the race venue.

Is it just me or does this post seem to be mostly about food?

How about I wrap it up with something else...fall is in full bloom in Northern NJ and beauty abounds.  And this has nothing to do with anything, but I feel the need to say it was an especially great weekend to be a fan of the Tennessee Volunteers!

Whenever hubs loses his Friday night due to work travel, and then has to head back to the airport on Sunday afternoon, it helps to remember the bright spots in the day that was your weekend.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall Fragments

Is the sky bright blue where you are, because wow our sky is super gorgeous today.  I love an October sky.

Actually I love pretty much everything about this season of the year, and while I'm always a little bit sad to see summer go, the color that gets splashed across my backyard definitely helps ease the transition.

God shows off with every turn of the calendar page, but never more so than in the month of October.

Do you see that ginormous hornets nest at the top of this very tall tree? There's no way to remove it, and I suppose when winter hits it will drop, but I pointed it out to hubs, and he thought maybe he could take it down with his air gun.

Have you ever heard that expression, "Madder than a hornet's nest"?
I think I know how it originated.  Ha!

I spent a couple of days at my moms this week, and on Wednesday I went with her to vote.  Her voting station is in my old elementary school, and I hadn't been inside the building since 1972. The polls were set up in the 'all-purpose' room, and it looked pretty much the same as it did forty years ago.


That can't be right, can it?

I think schools now prefer the term multi-purpose or cafetorinasium or something similar, but I don't  hear them called all-purpose anymore. This truly was an all-purpose room. We had PE in there on rainy days, the lunch kids ate lunch there, and it was the place for programs and PTA.  Lots of things have changed in the elementary school I attended (you have to be buzzed in for one), but I was secretly happy to see this room looked exactly as I remembered.

My mom's washing machine wasn't working (it's always something isn't it?), and the repairman couldn't seem to figure out why, so I took her to the laundromat while I was in town. I haven't done laundry in a laundromat since college, and I remembered how much I dislike the whole experience. There were a couple of young moms in there doing laundry and my heart went out to them.  Plus, we're a long way from a quarter a load. Just sayin'.

I have two repairmen here this morning trying to fix my lower oven. It conveniently quit working when I had 35 people in my house for brunch last month. I don't need two ovens when its just the hubs and I eating here (I barely need one!), but the holidays are approaching, and I'm hosting Christmas so it needed to be fixed.  They're trying to get it back in the wall right now, and I think I heard a naughty word. I hope they know what they're doing.

Did I mention these are Friday Fragments?
Well they are.

I'm trying to go through my blog reader and clean it out, which essentially means marking as read. I hate to do it, but there is no way I can read the more than 500 posts sitting there. I haven't been a very good blog friend when it comes to visiting and commenting this month, but I guess there are seasons in everything, right?

If you ever make a trip to NYC and end up in Rockefeller Plaza, do yourself a favor and step inside here-

Teuscher's Chocolates. World's best. I'm not even kidding. Imported weekly from Zurich and so delicious. I bought a small sample of their biggest seller (champagne truffles) along with one delicious limoncello dark chocolate. Swoon!

Did I mention I love a fall day?

Enjoy your weekend everyone, and if you have fragments that need a place to land, hop over to Half-Past Kissin' Time and join the party.

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Cheery Hodgepodge

Welcome to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge!  Everyone is welcome to play along...answer the questions on your own blog, then add your link at the end of my post. Be sure to visit at least the bloggers who linked up just before you... we all love to be loved.  Here are my answers-

1. What was your biggest worry five years ago?  Is it still a worry?

Five years ago we were living in the UK.  We were told we'd be moving back to the states soon, but soon means different things to different people. I guess our biggest worry was 'what's next?'-the where, when, how of it all.  

Is it still a worry? Not exactly. We eventually moved back and it all worked out in a time frame that was pretty much perfect given what the future held for our family. Hubs and I are in a similar place now though-what's next? The where, when, how?  I try to remember how God orchestrated the details and the timing five years ago, and know He will do the same today.  

2. Yesterday (October 15th) was National Grouch Day...what makes you grouchy?  What cheers you up when you're feeling grouchy?

I'm not grouchy very often, but when I am I can't always pinpoint what it is that's making me grouchy...sometimes I just am. I blame the XX chromosome. And it's not so much grouchy as 'moody'.  Praise music played loudly, a change of scenery, a cup of tea, or a funny remark from the hubs can usually turn things around.  I also find spending too much time around chronic complainers can make me grouchy.  There's a pretty easy fix for that one though-step away from complainers. 

3. In one word, how does it feel to be photographed?


4. Besides your parents, who would you say had the greatest influence on you in choosing your life path?  Explain.

I think probably various people in the church I grew up in, or maybe the church as a whole?  They loved me, encouraged me, believed in me, and prayed for me. 

5. The crisp days of autumn are here...what's something you like to eat, but only if it's crisp?

Two foods came immediately to mind-bacon and lettuce.  I cannot eat bacon that isn't fully cooked, and by fully cooked I mean crisp.  And if I'm having a salad I want the lettuce crisp. 

6. What's the most useless object you own?

Our big old computer monitor, still wrapped in brown paper from our move back to the US four years ago. We bought a new computer when we arrived stateside, but the old one still sits tucked up on a shelf in the closet.  One of those things I need to deal with, but its way down there on the to-do list.  In fact I haven't even managed to add it to the list.  Someday.

7. Share a favorite fall memory.

I love pretty much everything about fall so trying to narrow this down to just one is hard.  I wrote about one of my favorite fall memories here.  It centers around a tree, this one to be exact-

...and those little girl faces, the way the air smelled, and the leaves crunched, and time was soft.  

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Speaking of trees...this one at the end of our driveway makes me supremely happy this time of year-

Happy fall y'all!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

New Old Friends

If you're looking for the Hodgepodge Questions you'll find them here

Will I ever catch up here?  I feel like my blog is just out of reach and if I had about three days to do nothing I'd catch up. Course there are not three days of nothing on my calendar anytime soon so I will have to settle for blog a little, live a lot.

So this was the weekend the strangers came to stay.  They didn't feel like strangers, in fact they felt like old friends, which in a sense I guess they were. When I started my blog back in 2009 I didn't have a clue, and for me blogging has definitely been a learn as you go proposition.  The first real blog I ever read and followed was Beth Moore's Living Proof.  Somehow through a comment I left there I got connected to a fellow blogger who I'll just call Friend1.

Separately she and I each connected with another blogger who I'll call Friend2.  We're all moms to young adult children, and we've spent these past four years emailing one another, communicating via facebook, and sending little gifts now and then through the US Mail.  We always talked about meeting in person, and this year made plans to do just that.  It was time.

Last Thursday Friend1 boarded a plane in Oklahoma, and Friend2 boarded a plane in North Carolina, and by lunchtime we were face to face in the Newark airport.  I teased them I was going to have a sign like the limo drivers carry saying-"Strangers I met on the Internet", but instead I wore my orange coat so I'd be easy to find.

We commenced gabbing like we'd known each other for years, and were still gabbing when we returned to Newark to say goodbye on Sunday night. It seemed like everywhere we went someone asked where they were from, and Friend1 would say Oklahoma and Friend2 would say North Carolina, and I'd have to resist adding, 'And we met on the Internet'.

Not everybody gets it.

Truth be told, if my girls told me they were doing something similar I'd have heart palpitations and probably try my best to talk them out of it.

We packed a lot into a little over the course of four days. We spent two days here at home in the lovely NJ countryside, then trekked into the city for a two day stay in The Big Apple. The sun shone in spite of the weather forecast and we really couldn't have asked for nicer temperatures. Y'all know the weather matters, right?

On Friday I drove them over hill and dale, to see the highest point in NJ.  They took 10,000 pictures (that might not be an overstatement), and then we went to a nearby little town for lunch and shopping.

Hubs was a sport, and grilled out for us Thursday and Friday night both.  He also washed dishes, made a fire in the backyard firepit, and drove us in and out of the city so yay hubs!  

Friend2 had arranged through one of her hometown friends for us to have a tour of The Plaza Hotel.  I've been in The Plaza many times, but this was the first time I got a peek inside their $40,000/night suite.  Yowza!

We thoroughly enjoyed meandering through the Todd English Food Hall in the lower level and we indulged in the most amazing cake because you just do when you're in the city on a gorgeous fall weekend.   

We also got to wander through the Plaza's Eloise shop made famous by the children's book of the same name.  It is the absolute sweetest, pinkest, girliest little spot on the planet, and I need to bring my own daughters here to see it for themselves.  Yes they're in their 20's, but you're never too old to appreciate the stories of your childhood brought to life.  

We logged some miles around Central Park, had a fantastico! Italian dinner at Bucca di Beppo, then swam through a sea of people in Times Square to get to our seats for The Lion King. I'd seen the show in London about 9 years ago, and it is still so awesome.

On Sunday we made our way to Rockefeller Plaza, and then all the way to The Top of the Rock for just a few more pictures. Ha! If my friends are reading here I know they're smiling.

The elevator takes you to the 67th floor in 43 seconds, and there are escalators taking you up another couple of floors to the various viewing platforms.  It was a little hazy, but you still get some pretty incredible views of the city from up here.

That's Lady Liberty out in the harbor, and in the photo below you can see Central Park.

I actually prefer Top of the Rock to the Empire State Building so if you're visiting NYC, check it out.

We wrapped up the afternoon with a lovely lunch eaten outdoors at Del Frisco's Grille, right in Rockefeller Plaza.

I'm pretty sure not everybody is who they say they are on the Internet, but these girls were exactly the people I imagined them to be, the people they were in their notes and cards and emails and facebook posts and pictures.  It felt a little bit like having long time pen pals come to stay.

We met some nice people on Top of the Rock, and asked them to take our picture.  There are still nice people everywhere you go in this world, but in the era of 24/7 bad news we sometimes forget that.

Online connections are great...

Real life is better.

Hodgepodge Questions-Volume 146

Here are the questions for this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge...see you back here tomorrow to share answers!

1. What was your biggest worry five years ago?  Is it still a worry?

2. Yesterday (October 15th) was National Grouch Day...what makes you grouchy? What cheers you up when you're feeling grouchy?

3.  In one word, how does it feel to be photographed?

4. Besides your parents, who would you say had the greatest influence on you in choosing your life path?  Explain.

5. The crisp days of autumn are here ...what's something you like to eat, but only if it's crisp?

6. What's the most useless object you own?

7.  Share a favorite fall memory.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Hodgepodge-Required Reading For A Wednesday

Welcome to the Wednesday Hodgepodge!  I'm so glad you're joining the fun sure to add your link before you go a-visiting.  Here are my answers-

1. The USA will mark Columbus Day on Monday, October 14th this year...what's something you need or want to explore (literally or metaphorically speaking)?

I'm always examining my own head and heart.  Just ask my hubs who oftentimes tells me I think too much.  There is a kernel of truth there.  Still, I feel certain I'll continue exploring my relationships, my faith, and my passions for as long as I live. These are the pieces of life with the potential, and oftentimes the need,  for change and growth. 

On the flip side, there are literally hundreds of places in this big wide world I'd like to explore, so there's also that.

"Every hundred feet the world changes." Roberto Bolano 

2. The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Ursula from The Little Mermaid, or Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty...who do you most love to hate?

Ursula for sure! The Little Mermaid is one of my family's all time favorite flicks. I think Ursula is delightfully creepy, while The Wicked Witch of the West is just plain creepy.  

3. Is open-mindedness a virtue?

Hmmm...this might be a trick question. I guess so, if by open-minded you mean a willingness to listen to new ideas or an opinion different than my own.  That being said, for me this term holds a more negative connotation than it once did.  It seems in the 21st century this term is often a precursor to dialogue going off the rails in our country.  

If you hold an opinion contrary to mine, and I listen and consider your point of view, but in the end retain my original position, that doesn't make me close minded.  It just means I think differently than you.  Sadly there are so many issues in America today where if you don't jump on the bandwagon you're called names and said to be close minded and intolerant.

4. How often do you weigh yourself?

Rarely. I don't own a scale, but about once a month I step on the one at the gym to see how I'm doing. 

5. This question comes to you courtesy of Rebecca over at Making Memories, so thanks Rebecca!

Costa Rica was recently named the happiest country in the world on The Happy Planet Index.  What's the happiest country in the world to you, and what makes it so?

Anybody wanna guess what I'm gonna say here? Ha. 
Italy of course!

I don't really need to say why do I?  I thought not. 

6. Besides The Bible, what is one book you think should be mandatory reading for every high school student?

This question is almost impossible for me to answer. There are a number of books I think should be read while in high school, and then reread later in life.  What you take away from a book at age 17 is sometimes quite different than what you take away at age 47.  And then sometimes it's not, which is also interesting.   

I think everyone should read some Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, and Twain.  Books that have weathered the test of time are at least worth checking out for yourself.  I read Beowulf in 12th grade, and doubt I would have picked that up on my own so I think required reading of hard stuff is good for the teenage brain.  

I've seen The Book Thief on some of the more modern lists and I loved that one. Actually I might choose Elie Wiesel's-Night which is based on the author's experience as a 15 year old boy in Auschwitz.  I actually read that one in Junior High and it has never left me.  

7. I went shopping at some nearby outlets last week, and while I was there, I picked up a couple of Christmas gifts. How about you? Have you started your holiday shopping yet?

I think I answered my own question in the question.  Rest assured, I've barely gotten started, and this is ridiculously early for me.  I tend to do most of my shopping in December, even though every single year I vow to do otherwise.  I guess this year I have, so whoohoo!

8. Insert your own random thought here.

My two blog friends aka-random strangers I 'met' on the Internet, arrive tomorrow for what I'm sure will be a fun filled few days. Here's a sneak peek at one tiny little thing on our weekend itinerary-

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Hodgepodge Questions-Volume 145

Here are the questions to this week's Hodgepodge...answer on your own blog then hop back here tomorrow (Wednesday) to add your link to the party.  See you there!

1. The USA will mark Columbus Day this year on Monday, October 14th. What's something you need or want to explore (literally or metaphorically speaking)?

2. The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, Ursula from The Little Mermaid, or Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty...who do you most love to hate?

3. Is open-mindedness a virtue?

4. How often do you weigh yourself?

5. This question comes to you courtesy of Rebecca over at Making Memories, so thanks Rebecca!

Costa Rica was recently named the happiest country in the world on the Happy Planet Index. What's the happiest country in the world to you, and what makes it so?

6. Besides The Bible, what is one book you think should be mandatory reading for high school students? Why?

7. I went shopping at some nearby outlets last week, and while I was there, I picked up a couple of Christmas gifts. How about you? Have you started your holiday shopping yet?

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Five on Friday

Trying something new today, and linking up with Five on Friday happening over at The Good Life .  My Daughter1 links up here most Fridays, and I'm pretty sure I can come up with a list of five somethings, so here we go-

1. Boot camp. BOOT CAMP. Oh my word. I want it stated for the record that I pushed one of those horrible awful ridiculous weighted sleds back and forth across the room at 6 AM today, and I did not die. I thought for a minute I might, but here I am so it's all good.  In case you don't know what I'm talking about you'll find a photo here.

No, that's not me in the picture-ha!

I have no idea how much the sled weighs on it's own, but the instructor added 165 pounds to it, plus if you happen to be in tip top shape, she hopped on top of the sled, and you had to push her right along with it. Since I'm not in tip top shape (yet!), I just had the weights and trust me, it was enough.

I'd arrived a few minutes early and saw the class before mine moaning and groaning, and my heart started beating fast. Who needs a workout when you've got the worry gene. I can usually be counted on to get my own heart pumping.

But y'all! I did it!

2. Gourmet Lunch. An unfortunate segue from the fitness piece, but such is life. We have our first gourmet group luncheon of the year today and we're doing a harvest theme. The recipes all use fresh ingredients easily found this time of year like butternut squash, apples, beets, spinach, sweet potatoes and pears. I'm making chicken with a butternut squash and Gorgonzola sauce that sounds interesting. Always lots of wonderful foods, new recipes to try, and a great way to usher in the weekend.

3. Sometime last week I wrote my 1000th blog post. I thought I should mention it, maybe say something deep and meaningful, but it's Friday and did I tell you I pushed a weighted sled and did 100 planks and bounced one of those insane weighted balls at 6 AM this morning? It's made my brain a little fuzzy, so I'm afraid I can't do deep right now.

4. This post needs a picture, don't you think? I've been saving this one because I wanted to give it a post of its own, and I think I will still do that,  just not today.

I had a custom sign made for my family room by the wonderful Dee at Red Letter Words. I'd seen one on Lisa-Jo Baker's blog, and The Nester has one too, and if anyone needs a sign reminding them of all the streets and cities and countries they've resided in through the years, I'd say it's us.

I cannot tell you how much I love this sign and all the feelings it brings to the surface every single time I look at it.

5. How about we wrap this up with a random, but informative, fact that I wonder about every time we drive into city via the Lincoln Tunnel.  As you approach, there's a big banner on the overpass above your head, which you have plenty of time to read because you are generally at a crawl miles before you get to the actual tunnel, and it says,

"Welcome to North Jersey-Embroidery Capital of the World since 1872'.  

See, you always learn something when you read here.
Enjoy your weekend everyone!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Just Do It

So I thought I'd write today about one of my absolute least favorite topics -exercise. I know there are people out there who looooove to exercise, and there are also more than a few people obsessed with the topic. We probably all know someone who talks endlessly about how far they ran that day, or how many carbs they did not consume or blah blah blah.  I'm not taking anything away from their sense of discipline or their accomplishments as athletes, but it's just not my favorite thing to talk about.  We all have our little obsessions and I'm sure I could bore you to tears talking about some of mine.  If you read here regularly, perhaps I already have-ha!

Anyway, I've always been a pretty healthy person. I was the girl with the toothpick legs and the concave stomach who could eat anything she wanted any time of the day or night. My mother was and still is a good cook, and I grew up drinking milk, eating breakfast even when I didn't want it, and having a salad for dinner pretty much every night.  I imagine my mom made salad in order to fill up a growing teenage boy (my brother who made himself a milkshake every single night), but I could eat two bites of anything and be full.  Except fruit.  It used to make my dad a little bit nuts when my mom would come home with tangerines or plums and I would eat three right on the spot. I still love fruit, and now all veggies too. No more hiding peas in my napkin.

Hi Mom!

I never 'officially' exercised as a kid, and honestly none of my friends did either. Children didn't participate in a lot of structured exercise 'back in the day' partly because we didn't have the availability of sedentary activities to distract us that kids have now, and mostly because we wanted to play outside.  We wanted to run around our neighborhood organizing big groups of friends into teams for hide and seek or kick the can, to join in spontaneous games of HORSE, and Around the World using a neighbors driveway basketball hoop, to race, swing and play tag . We jumped rope, hopscotched, and rode bicycles for literal miles, and played games like dodgeball and 'chase' during school recess.

Of course we did have organized P.E. and there were units I loved like dance, gymnastics, crab ball...did you play crab ball? A ginormous semi-soft ball was thrown into the middle of two teams and you had to crawl around on the floor like a crab and kick it with your feet trying to score. I'm fairly certain more than one of us took a foot to the mouth in that game, but we loved it all the same.  There were certainly parts I hated too like the dreaded rope climb and the impossible (for me) chin ups required for the yearly fitness test.

Today I still love to swim and hike, but those activities are not available to me on a daily basis. I take advantage of them when I can, but at the age of 53, that isn't good enough. I don't care how healthy your diet is, for most of us in the throws of the dreaded M word, unless you exercise regularly, you are never going to feel the way you want to feel. I'm young. Really. I still feel like there is so much life to be lived, and I want to feel good living it, which is why I decided to give boot camp a try.

Boot camp. Sounds awful, doesn't it? I have a friend who's been going, and then last week when I got my haircut, my stylist mentioned she's been going too. She talked about how great she feels, and how much stronger she's grown since she started. That. I want that.

Hubs has his own little boot camp happening in our basement, and he's always trying to get me to join him, but eh. No.  First of all, he does the Insanity workout, and it truly is insane. Hubs is probably in the best shape of his life right now, and he loves jumping higher, hitting harder, and sweating more with every workout. True story-he recently went through airport security, and the agent tapped his stomach and asked him what he had under his shirt.  He said, 'Those are my abs" and the agent said, 'Wow-good for you!'  Pretty much made hubs year week day.

No agent would be mistaking my abs for anything other than what they are, which is not a six pack.

Also, hubs works out in our basement, and I'm sure it dates back to some unresolved issue from my childhood, but I just do not like basements. Creepy. Even ours which is practically empty, super clean, and has no hidden corners where humongous spiders or the criminal element could be lurking.  Don't tell me you've never had the same thought when you've been down in a basement. My sister and I absolutely hated hearing our mother ask one of us to 'run down in the basement and get xyz from the freezer'.  We always went together.  Hubs thinks it's crazy, but he didn't have a basement growing up so he doesn't know what he's talking about.

Boot camp.  I gave it a try on Monday morning.  6 AM.  To some people that sounds insane, but I'm a morning person and I need my mornings to get things done at home. I was back in my house a couple minutes after 7 so whoohoo! And you know what?  It was a little bit fun. Not all fun, but some fun.

Do you watch The Biggest Loser?  Have you seen them working out using those big ropes, where they have to shake them and make them move?  I did that.  Not as easy as it looks, and I'm sure it wasn't pretty, but I did that and more.  Course I can hardly lift my arms today, and I feel certain it's going to get worse before it gets better, but I sort of, kind of, a little bit, liked it.  Even though the guy beside me probably did 20 reps for every one I managed, it was still okay.

Today I walked/ran three miles because the trainer running boot camp told me walking would be good for my in between days, plus it was supremely gorgeous outside, so not a tough thing to do on a blue sky day in October.  Ask me again when there's two feet of snow on the ground in January.

Listen to me telling you how far I walked!  At least I didn't mention the fact that I ate turkey, lettuce, and tomato, hold the bread for lunch-ha!

As an aside, my hubs says as much as I love to think he can't understand why I'm not a marathoner because of all the time and space distance running provides. I tell him that yes I love to think, but when I run the only thing I can think about is how much I dislike running. Truth.

I'm famous for trying lots of somethings (exercise wise) and then giving up before I reap the benefits, but I'm committing to this for the full month, and paying too, which is a little incentive.  My goal is to boot camp three days a week, lose a little around the middle, get stronger, and most of all not hurt myself or anyone around me.

That last bit is ambitious. I told my daughter one of the stations involved grabbing a ring in each hand and then leaning back into a squat, and that I managed it all without falling.

She was impressed.
And relieved.
And probably a little bit surprised.

I was too.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Hodgepodge-Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Welcome to October and another week in the Wednesday Hodgepodge. Everyone is welcome to play along-just answer the questions on your own blog, then come back here to add your link to the party. Here are my answers to this week's questions-

1. What's one thing you learned in September?

People want to know they matter.  

It's not that I haven't always known this, but I've been reminded of it in a real way this month.  

2. Acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, yellow squash, zucchini squash, or blech! hold the squash!...what's your favorite squash?  Your favorite way to prepare your favorite squash?

I love them all, but I think my favorite is the yellow summer squash. If it's just the hubs and I eating, I'll sprinkle the squash with lemon pepper and saute it along with some onion. My favorite recipe though, is Paula Deen's squash casserole. We make it for most holiday gatherings and it's delish.

3. The older I get the ______________________________.

...easier it is to focus on what will matter for eternity.

4. What's your favorite television theme song ever?

Probably The Mary Tyler Moore Show, because that song and the opening credits made me want to be a television news producer living in a cute apartment in Minneapolis. Instead I'm a middle aged mom of two living in the NJ suburbs.  

I need a theme song.

Another song that popped into my head was from a program called Here Come the Brides. Does anybody else remember that show? It was set in Seattle in the late 1800's, and was the story of three brothers who brought brides from Massachusetts to Seattle in an effort to save their mill. My younger sister and I loved that show and its theme song, and especially Bobby Sherman. I found a clip of the song on YouTube and I guess it doesn't really stand the test of time. Definitely dated, but still it reminds me of Friday night television viewing with my little sis which makes me happy.

5. What do you wish you'd spent more time doing five years ago?

Blogging. Really. I started my blog four years ago, about the time we found out we would be leaving the UK. I've written in hindsight about many of our experiences there, but oh how I wish I'd been blogging the years as they were lived.  

6. What item do you most need (or want) to add to your wardrobe this fall?

I need new blue jeans and a super cute pair of ankle boots (brown) to wear under them. Do fashionistas still call them ankle boots? I think they call them booties now, but since I'm not exactly a fashionista I'm going with ankle boots.  

What do I want?  Something in the must have color for fall-cobalt blue. I love it, and it's a good color on me, so a cute coat or a pretty scarf like this one would be fun.

7. On October 2, 1950 the Peanuts cartoon was introduced to the world.  What was your favorite cartoon when you were a kid?

Looney Tunes, especially those featuring Bugs, Wile E. Coyote, or Foghorn Leghorn were my absolute favorite, but I also loved The Jetsons, and Johnny Quest. Back when TV viewing wasn't available 24/7, and most people didn't have multiple televisions, let alone the capability to record programming, Saturday morning cartoons were much anticipated and such a treat.  

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I'm trying a boot camp for the first time today. It starts at 6 AM, but I figure if you're going to be miserable might as well get it out of the way first thing, right? I'm not really a boot camp kind of girl, but this waist isn't going to shrink itself, so I'm diving in and just hoping I don't embarrass myself.

I'll let you know. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hodgepodge Questions-Volume 144

So it's October.  How in the world did that happen? It's also Tuesday which means time to post the questions for this week's Hodgepodge. I always post the questions on Tuesday so everyone can answer at their leisure. Or the last minute is fine too. See you back here tomorrow to share answers in the WEDNESDAY Hodgepodge.  

1. What's one thing you learned in September?

2. Acorn squash, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, yellow squash, zucchini squash, or blech! hold the squash... what's your favorite squash? What's your favorite way to prepare your favorite squash?

3. The older I get the_______________________________.

4. What's your favorite television theme song ever?

5. What do you wish you'd spent more time doing five years ago?

6. What item do you most need (or want) to add to your wardrobe this fall?

7. On October 2, 1950 the Peanuts cartoon was introduced to the world. What was your favorite cartoon when you were a kid?

8.  Insert your own random thought here.