Saturday, February 28, 2009

Florida Strawberry Festival, A Study in Lights

This afternoon,we went over to the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City. There was method to my plan of arriving around 4:30-5:00: I wanted to take pictures of the pretty lights.

After a lunch of homemade pork lo mein, we ventured across I-4. If you're a local and you are going, understand that once you come within about a mile of the Festival grounds, you're going to be sitting for a while. Just so you know.

(Obviously, we got there after crawling along US 92)

Tonight's concert was Third Day, but that wasn't why we were there. We're all about the food, the rides, and the strawberries (but that's another story.) I'll give you two different views the Festival-the pretty light report and the Festival food preview.

I need to note this here. If you've ever considered getting a Gorilla pod, do it! I bought the cheap knock off at WalMart to shoot that video that wouldn't upload and it worked like a charm. Tonight, I wrapped it around ride gates, stood it on the edge of food kiosk counters or just held it in hand and it gave stability to my pictures. I think I only had one blurry picture with the S9 tonight, which is 1/50th the usual result with night shooting.

YoYo swings. This was taken while Gameboy rode.
None of us actually rode the most of the rides pictured, like the Hurricane here, but the lights are pretty. If you're curious though, many of the rides require 4 tickets, some 3 or a couple 5 and the tickets are a dollar each on non wristband nights.

My boys adore the funhouses. Chef Jr went on this and spent a lot of time enjoying. Gameboy wanted to do so, but he'd worn his Crocs. If you like this type of ride, you don't want to wear shoes that can come off easily, otherwise you'll be sad.
The view down one of the Midway ride areas.
Another ride I just liked the neon lights, so I snapped away.
The Cliff Hanger. Gameboy rode this. It looks like what Sea World's Manta has been described as-a ride where you lay flat and look at the ground while you ride.
While Gameboy was enjoying his ride, I snapped this one and listened to the insult clown. He wasn't nearly as good as the one at the State Fair last year(who also was at the Frederick County Fair each year.)
My profile picture on MySpace was originally from this booth. We had to go back to get more pictures.
If you're a MySpace friend, you can go back and compare this one to the one taken two years ago. I like this one better-but they're nearly identical.

And that is the Florida Strawberry Festival in neon lights. Stay tuned for the preview of "Your Fair in Food!"

The Mystery of the Lost Followers

Here on Blogger, there is a very cool feature that was introduced several months ago. If you have a Blogger account(you don't even need to have a blog), you can 'follow' (or as Grandy calls it, stalk) any other blog. When you sign into your Blogger account, there's a feed list of sorts, one that you can go down and check on your favorites if you don't want to use a feed reader (or even if you do).

Anyway, many Bloggers recently complained of losing followers. Where did they go? Are they lost somewhere, stranded along a random dirt road off the information superhighway?

More likely, some recent minute Blogger change took them off follow status. SuzanneSez only had a few followers (just seven of you,) so it wasn't that dramatic, but now I've only got 5. I've lost more than a quarter of my followers and they may not even know it!

On top of that, I've been asked by a friend how she can follow my blog. Considering all the lost followers spirited away somewhere, I'll put that information here for everyone to use.

Depending on the Blogger template we use, the blog may or may not have a 'follow me' (or in Grandy's case, 'stalk me') button. Sooooo, if the blog doesn't have a button, go into your Blogger Dashboard, scroll down below the fold and you will see a "Reading List" header. On the left side of this block is a list of Blogs.

At the bottom, there is a blue 'add' button. Once you click it, an input box appears. Cut and paste your favorite blog's URL (the home page one, not the one that takes you to a post, like, say "Favorite Authors") into the box and save.

Now you're no longer lost on that dirt road that took you off the Internet! I promise that I don't bite (much), so you don't have to follow me anonymously!

Pardon me, I need to check my list and make sure I didn't get stranded on that dirt road when I really wanted to read your blogs. Especially you, Grandy!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Coo Coo For Cocoa Puffs!

I won this shirt from Staci's blog!

Cocoa Puffs are one of the few brands of kiddie cereals we can have in the house, because they don't have dyes in them. I love the retro look and suspect I'm going to have to keep an eye on this one that Gameboy doesn't claim it. (Ed can't).

Thanks, Staci!

Thursday, February 26, 2009


After a year in the local middle school, Gameboy's teachers and ESE coordinator agree with us that a mainstream setting does NOT work for the child.

I'm tearing hair out here with all the things that have gone on in the past month. Let's just say that I finally had to say to the school counselor last week "I know it's not politcally correct, but you have to consider Gameboy as being a crack addict, but the crack is anything having to do with video games or computer games.

We warned them-give the child an inch (by saying "if you do this, we'll give you computer time") and he'll take 3000 miles. They were all told DO NOT under ANY circumstances give him computer time or reward him with games. They ignored this suggestion. Then we got the phone calls that he was misbehaving after they did exactly what we said would cause problems. My response "Didn't we tell you this would happen?" and the answer would always be a timid "Yes, you did."

Gameboy has become more and more belligerent as the year has gone on, insisting on the @$%^$%^%#$% games. The counselor called me. We met and she suggested he be placed in the self contained classroom. FINALLY, we had someone who was singing the same song we've been since last year!
The ESE coordinator, however, said Gameboy's diagnosis didn't fit the county's requirements. This week has been horrible, and two of the teachers emailed me about how bad it's been. Opportunity knocking, I emailed both back, stating that I know my child is disrupting other students and I don't know how to do anything more. Would they please let the ESE coordinator know that he is preventing however many other students from learning?

Apparently, between those two emails and Gameboy kicking another teacher when he didn't get his way Tuesday, the school had us come in to sign paperwork to do testing. Ultimately, it'll put him in the self contained setting.

It's about freaking time!

Tasty Thursday Again!

This week, a staple of my youth: Mom's Marinara Sauce! In addition, Chicken Cutlet parm that was inspired by Borelli's and Eggplant Parm, perfect for Fridays during Lent.

Come on over to MomDot and check these recipes out!

Here are the pictures:
It's not Marinara without onions.
Sweating the onions and peppers.
Five minutes later.

The peeled tomatoes. They should be mashed, and they give a nice amount of chunky bites.A nice big, pot of marinara. Yum.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What's For Dinner Wednesday

After I wrote the earlier post, I video taped something to go along with it. And...

I can't get the darn thing to upload. Label Daddy is about to announce their winner, and the VIDEO is supposed to be awesome. That leaves me out. (and kicking myself that I was a good girl and didn't succumb to the $100 Mino Flip I saw at Circuit City today.)

In food news, I found a recipe the other day for Knishes. They are a yummy treat to enjoy from street vendors in New York City. There are typically two types you will find,

Both types feature a dense dough and a mashed potato mixture inside.

The recipe I got stated it was based on Yonah Shimmel's recipe. I should have known it was wrong, for it called for PHILLO dough. However, I figured I'd give it a try.

They were good, but they weren't Knishes. Instead, it was more like having potato puff hors d'oeuvres. I think that next time, I'll go with my original thought, to make them with pizza dough.

Label Daddy BlogHer '09 Sponsorship

BlogHer '09 Full Sponsorship
As promised, I'm sharing my experiences with Label Daddy, who is fully sponsoring a trip to:

As the mom of two boys, I'm used to things disappearing. You name it, we've lost it. Silly me, I thought that when they got older, that we wouldn't lose stuff. I was wrong. They're Scouts. We send them off with various camping gear, never to be seen again. It happens.

Enter Label Daddy. They've got great labels reasonably priced, perfect for marking all the kid’s stuff. Two orders later and Label Daddy has impressed me on many fronts, especially-

1. Quick service. Both orders shipped within 24 hours. I got an email with a link to the FedEx tracking page. Both arrived cross country in five days!

2. Quality products. I first ordered their small all purpose labels to use in clothing. Their labels can be laminated, but Gameboy has sensory issues. I skipped it on the first order to minimize irritating him. Guess what? They've washed up great without fading!

Medium All Purpose
labels are great for labeling all our camping gear. Since they’re going on things that will be outdoors. I ordered these laminated in a bright color that would be easy to see. (I could have been a mean Mom and pinked out the boy’s stuff, but I chose red).

3.Great Value-The labels average .20 to .45 cents each, which a lot cheaper than replacing the toys, games and sports/camping gear! For a few pennies more, they can be laminated.

The best part? Scott and Gregg's personal attention to each order. Seriously-how often do you get an email back from the OWNER when you order something?

Label Daddy, I want you to send me to BlogHer '09, because you've made it easier to keep my stuff!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Label Daddy BlogHer '09 Scholarship Entry

Remember when nearly every blogger I knew went to BlogHer ‘08? At the time, I wrote about what blogging meant to me. Today, you're going to hear and see a little more of that.

Why? because MomDot and Label Daddy are having contests for Label Daddy's BlogHer 09 Scholarship! Label Daddy BELIEVES in the POWER of BLOGS!

They're sponsoring Trisha, Bridgette and Alicia at MomDot's hotel fees for BlogHer. Even better, they are sponsoring Sara, the Label Daddy mommy blogger's WHOLE trip! Label Daddy is awarding two partial scholarships and a full scholarship !

Long time readers know that I'm still job hunting. The current plan is to eBay my way there. Heck, I'll even flash some boobies, if that's what it takes, but I’d rather show MomDot or Label Daddy team why they should send me!

I first started the blog to keep in touch with family and friends. The title "So, You Don't Get Any Phone Calls From Me" was inspired by complaints of infrequent dialings on my end. The original dozen readers rallied around me when my mom was dying of cancer.

Two years of writing passed with complaints that I didn’t write often enough. I got this crazy idea that I could blog every day for the month of November for NaBloPoMo 2007. What would I say? How would I get through it? The thought that scared me before I even started-what if no one comments?

My fears were unfounded. I made new friends, fellow bloggers who laughed at the stupid stuff, and gave comfort in sad times They inspired me and tagged me with memes and awards. Thanks to their unconditional support, I blogged about my Foreclosure and losing my job. The support helped more than anyone not in this blogging world can ever understand. I get frequent hits to my blog from that BlogHer entry. In the past year, I’ve held many hands through foreclosures. All because of one post. My post.

That single entry showed me that blogging is far reaching, that coming over my fear and embarrassment last February to tell the story was the right thing to do. In the short run, it gave me support, but in the long term, I am helping others in the same boat.

When things go well, bloggers cheer with you, like when Gameboy decided to give me a Mother's Day gift that was priceless

The desire to go to BlogHer '09 stems from a need to give back, to give the hugs to those who need them most, to cheer those who are doing well and to lend a hand to those who need it most. To me, the most important thing about blogging is to participate and contribute what you can.

What better way to do it than to be among my peers at BlogHer '09 in Chicago this July?

The Lament of a Lefty

After 42 years on this planet, I've known I'm different. Many things come to mind, but being a lefty is something I just accept that hey, the world isn't designed for my dominant hand. Adapting is something that is second nature and I rarely think of the fact that I am a southpaw. (though some would say I'm more ambidextrous than normal.)

While it's been no big deal to me, I realize that it creates a problem of sorts for my other half. See, I think part of his joy at having two boys is that his visions for the future included manly man stuff like watching races together, going camping and eventually, playing music together.

It hasn't quite worked out that way.

The camping thing has come along nicely, he's got a monster truck buddy in Chef Junior but the music thing? Well, there's this small problem of Ed being the lone righty and our children? Well, they're not.

The Punnett Square defied the odds with our two. We've got two lefties. For most activities, that's an asset to be coveted. A lefty pitcher, hitter or golfer is cool. A lefty guitarist, though, has a harder time.

Ed and I poked our heads in the local Guitar Center. When I was still employed, I went in there and ultimately looked at some drums because Chef has been asking more and more to get a set. He drums the dashboard, the table, my head. He definitely picked up his father's sense of rhythm.

However, the child also has mentioned guitars. One thing about guitars and nine year olds-the full size ones are too big for small hands. Three quarter scale are a better choice, but harder to come by. Then factor in a lefty? Good luck!

I guess its a good thing we don't have the money for a lefty 3/4 guitar, because that's not an easy acquisition.

Guess it's a good thing the kid has been asking for drums.

Still a bummer that Ed's visions of playing guitar with his son won't easily be met.

Sometimes, being a lefty just sucks.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Pause Button

Yesterday's Soundtrack Sunday brought back memories of small boys in the backseat of a car, singing Bear's "Goodbye Song" or the Toileteer song from a potty training video or Gameboy changing the lyrics of an October Project to "Don't Take My Mommy". Those days were notorious for me saying that I hadn't found the darn pause buttons on my kids.

You know what I mean, right?

You want to freeze those adorable moments, to stay in that stage forever. For years, I complained I hadn't found the pause button! I wanted to stay at certain ages and stages forever.

At the time, I didn't stop to consider the fast forward, rewind and eject buttons. Those would be good, too. Maybe even better than that pause button I was fixated on.

Kid said something so funny that you want to share it with the world? Rewind
Kid's throwing a temper tantrum? Fast Forward
Meltdown at DEFCON 4 and climbing? Eject
Child has mastered something for the first time and your spouse isn't around to see it? Rewind
Wishing that bedtime was a little closer because they just are driving you INSANE? Fast Forward.
And someone else didn't get it about your child's special needs and you're paying the price? Eject (the other person), then fast forward until your child has calmed down.

Just think of the possibilities. Now, if only I could make it happen, I'd be rich!

Got the Munchies?

Quizno's is giving away a million free subs. Mmmm, Quiznos!

Go get yours before they are gone. Make mine a Black Angus, thanks!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

When you're a parent, you end up watching hours upon hours of children's programming. Most if is is stuff you'd like to find industrial strength earplugs because it's extremely annoying.

Sometimes, though, there are the gems among the stuff that passes as educational. One of the friends from college that I reconnected with via Facebook worked on one of the best shows the boys watched. A comment made on a cast and crew picture today reminded me of how much I liked their "Goodbye" song, as well as the other shows in the Playhouse Disney lineup at the time.

Step in the wayback machine, because I think that both are gone from the Disney channel lineup:

Out of the Box Tony and Vivian would sing songs, do crafts and teach lessons in a cool playhouse in their backyard. (We saw them live at Dulles in 2000 and enjoyed the live as much as the show)

Bear in the Big Blue House. This Henson Production show is something that Jim would have loved. Great characters, production quality and songs.

Alas, a couple of the others that would find Ed and I singing along aren't to be found on YouTube in a decent form. Two Jim Jinkins shows, PB and J Otter and Stanley had great songs throughout the shows. In addition to them, towards the end of our Playhouse Disney viewing days, the Wiggles came on and I can't say who enjoyed the songs more, me or the kids!

Their show gave me the impression that I'd love in Australia-the Aussies don't seem to take life too seriously!

Nowadays, there is more that one son in particular likes that I cannot stand (some show with a whiny skunk and rabbit, among others), but there are two that are fashioned after bigger kid shows and survivor that I actually know all the words to the theme songs and gasp! I even have been known to watch along with him.

At least one of us can whistle along at the end of the Total Drama Island theme song.

And from the same people (and using much of the same voice talent) is 6Teen:

How about you? Got any shows that someone else in your house watches that you can't help but sing along?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Small Talk Six-Mardi Gras

In honor of Mardi Gras, today’s topic is the “6 things you would be willing to flash someone for.” You can answer this with a list of 6 words, 6 phrases, 6 sentences, 6 paragraphs, 6 photos, 6 videos, etc . . .

1. An all expenses paid 14 day trip to Hawaii for me and the family. This way, I only have to worry about the darn leg surgery expenses!

2. A new vehicle for Ed. I've got a darn good car I love, it's time he had a good one.

3. A house, or the money to buy one. I'd like this one, but the, I kind of need a job to afford to live here! It needs 3 bedrooms, two baths an office, big eat-in kitchen and a yard, thank you.

4. Tuition for the next few years of college and a monthly stipend so I don't have to work and can max out the classes I take.

5. All expenses paid trip to BlogHer. Hey, I want to get there and I'll do that for the 1500 that convention ticket, hotel, airfare and incidentals will cost.

6. The fully stocked kitchen of my dreams. Gas Viking stove, huge SubZero fridge, Boos Board island, all KitchenAid gadgets, Le Creuset and All Clad cookware, Sabatier and Shun knives, etc..

Hey, a girl can dream, same as anyone who thinks I'm going to flash for a piddly string of plastic beads! ;D


Tips For Transitioning From One Laptop to Another

Porting over my information from one machine to the other is going to be interesting. The fact that I can't launch .exe files makes some transfers tough. I thought I'd get both laptops on the network and just pull from the old to the new. However, the HP can access the network, but is not visible as being on the network! Tomorrow, there will be some playing with that machine to get it recognized.

Some things to use or remember that ease the transition:

FoxMarks-If you're a Firefox user, this web based app is a dream. It maintains your bookmarks on the web, but you can use it to upload them from one machine, then 'add a second machine' and download all of them at once. As the veteran of a hard drive failure, one where I lost some bookmarks forever, I love this idea.

iTunes-Installing this on your new machine is easy, but how do you get all the music back and forth? Well, you can use your iPod to do it. Remember this-you want to deselect your Auto Sync mode or else you'll lose everything off the iPod.

I'm rather glad to start fresh with a new iTunes download. As much as I love Apple, I didn't need Safari and was annoyed that it was snuck in on my last iTunes upgrade. I also didn't need three complete prior versions of iTunes hogging my hard drive, but they did.

Update Sunday 2/22-I'm off to buy a new iTunes $15 card. In over three years of having the iPod, I've only purchased 30 bucks of things from them, the benefits of a HUGE cd library. However, to authenticate this computer with iTunes, I have to put in a CC number, PayPal account or iTunes gift card. Personally, I'm not comfortable with my credit card number on there when I rarely purchase from them.

Their software doesn't seem to sync well with PayPal. PayPal tells me that it has successfully sent data, but when I go back to iTunes, it has no record. Off to the store for a Gift Card, then. All so I can put the $30 of already purchased stuff back onto this computer.

Not exactly tied to the new laptop, but something I downloaded is Tweetdeck. I was doing fine managing my Twitter account up until I began following over 100 people. There are about 15-25 people that I would touch base with daily, but I added more and found it hard to sift through what was going on. Tweetdeck allows folders, so I can sort by category, like my top 20, MomDot bloggers, Lakeland tweeple, TechTV gurus, etc. I'd held off installing it until I got the new machine, but I'm really enjoying it so far.

As I find more tips worth sharing, I'll add them here...

Friday, February 20, 2009

I Have a New Laptop

I am typing this on the new Toshiba. However, things weren't as easy as opening the door to FedEx dude and signing for my computer. Noooo, what actually happened:

A. Waited for the knock on the door, figuring it would show up early.
B. By noon, decided that if I took a shower, delivery would appear while I was in the shower.
C. At 1:15, open up the Office Depot chat window to find out who was delivering and when. Got Willard/Wilfred, who said that it would be delivered via third party and that info was unavailable. Do slight steam, because Ed is off today and we were housebound until that delivery came
D. At 5:15, after delivery window passed, open 2nd Office Depot chat window. Express irritation that we wasted Ed's day off sitting around for delivery and that I would be in Brandon tomorrow and would go to Best Buy. CSR asks for my phone number and tells me someone will "Call back ASAP"
E. 7:30 rolls around and I call the 800 number. At first, when I check order status, it tells me I am scheduled to recieve it today. It's not holiday season, I'm sure the FedEx drivers have finished for the day.
F. There's no way to select 'speak to a representative, so I call back. I explain to the rep that the little internet company I've ordered PERSONALIZED merchandise from twice in the past month seems to be able to give me a FedEx tracking number and get their product out within 24 hours, why can't I get that info from Office Depot? She checks status and then says "Oh, they only have display models in the warehouse-you won't get that until next week."
G. At this point, I calmly but firmly state that she should cancel my order because they KNEW this yesterday when my order should have shipped, yet they didn't call or email me, despite having my contact information, that they've wasted my husband's day off sitting here waiting for a delivery and that I had to seek out information from them THREE times, but she's the first to tell me something the other two reps could have.

Sorry Office Depot, I am not giving you any more business.

Since Best Buy was the helpful store in the first place, I go back to their website. Lakeland still doesn't have it, but I'll give them a call anyway.

I get Tom, He's a nice guy and cheers me up about the Office Depot garbage. He does not have the laptop, but he checks and sees that Brandon has two. He transfers me to Melissa at Brandon. They do have two-the display and one that has already been optimized. I'm not paying 60 bucks for them to do something I am perfectly capable of doing, sorry.

Next stop, Davenport. Emmanuel is extremely helpful, offers to keep me on the phone while he has someone verify that they do indeed have 4, touches base with me that they're climbing a ladder to grab one, then gets back on the phone to tell me he has it at customer service, can I have your name?

An hour later, I've got my laptop.

Thank you, Best Buy.
The beacon in the night, lighting the way to my new laptop.
Passing the torch.

Tasty Thursdays-Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner

This week over at MomDot, my Tasty Thursdays column features two warm your belly chicken meals.

If you like Outback Steakhouse's Alice Springs Chicken, here's a good variation. Theirs is grilled, this one in baked. There's uses mushrooms, mine uses onions. Other than that, the dish is the same.

You've heard me mention Paprikash many times here. I love the stuff. What's not to love about Chicken and Onions? The recipe is over at my favorite mom blog site.

Any recipes you'd like to see? Let me know and I'll work on putting them up!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


From Patchy the Pirate, as he'd been called at school:

back to normal:

Waiting For the FedEx Man!

After visiting a handful of retailers and websites the past week, I finally decided on a purchase. A laptop. Mine is hosed, and well, with starting college this summer, it's probably a good idea to get a newer one (and a second battery for that one, but first things first.)

The contenders and what happened-
Staples-I bought the HP from them just over four years ago. After a similar search, I found they had the best price for what I wanted. Purchased online while recuperating from leg surgery, it arrived the day I returned to work.

This time around, I looked at their offerings after faxing off a document. They had a great sale, but I didn't have the funds that day. A second look and the sales weren't good. Then I found something on their website that said "In Store Only-Special Order."

Wouldn't that imply to you that you'd purchase it at a brick and mortar location, and if they didn't have it, they'd order it? That was my assumption, but the visit to the store netted "Oh, we only got 15 of those for this week's ad. Nope, we can't get any." Sorry, Staples, scratch you off the list.

Circuit City-Been in the local store more times in the past month then I have in the whole time I've had the option of shopping with them. Even though their exterior signs say 30-50% off everything (no exceptions listed), when you get to the laptops, the signs say 10%. As has been my experience scoping their ads or years, Circuit City's base prices are more expensive than everyone else's.

I'm a savvy shopper, always have been, and this is why I rarely set foot in their stores and never purchased an item from them until the current liquidation. They did not have bargains, nor did they have helpful sales staff that would justify spending more money for the service they provided. Circuit City, no deal.

-Selection prominently featured Acer and Dell. Acer is not a brand I'd consider and the Dell was cheaper elsewhere. I know they price match, but the model numbers have to match exactly-one digit off doesn't count. They had a machine that was identical to one at Best Buy, but that dumb one digit difference meant that a request for the match would be met with 'but the sound cards are different."

-Yes, we still have storefronts in the Tampa area of CompUSA (pronounced Compoosa in this house). I popped in there on the way to scouts the other night. I encountered a helpful salesperson, but when I told him my budget, aversion to Centrino and net books, all he had to offer were a few Recon Gateways (in red, yuck).

Poor kid, I was telling him my budget and he kept showing me things that were $200 more AND trying to sell a service plan on a machine that I'd told him I didn't want!

Best Buy-I rarely pick up the newspaper anymore, but I got one Sunday night and saw the Best Buy ad with a $399 laptop. It met my criteria and I took the kids over there. (Gameboy happily trolling the game aisles and Chef Jr playing pretty good drums on Rock Band). The ad stated limited quantity, and they were sold out. So I looked around and saw a couple of prospects that were $449.00. More research was needed.

Online, Ed was looking at Dell's site and found a returned machine that suited me, but I waited and it was gone. New Egg had some Recons, but the machines they had in my price range didn't have enough of what I was looking for.

Tuesday night, I'm still looking, but pretty sure I'll be waiting for the Sunday ads to come out. I called a friend who works for Best Buy to see if the next big sale will be on a holiday weekend. No, but the deals are so-so.

Office Depot-Chef and I visit one while Gameboy is at scouts. Their cheapest machine is 499.99 after a mail in rebate, and I wanted to spend 500 with tax. I take the product info sheets to use for comparison and set off.

Yesterday morning, after going back and forth on things, I decide that I'll get the 449.99 Compaq at Best Buy. It's got more ram and a bigger hard drive than other brands in that price range, with a comparable processor.

Most of these machines have 802.11b/g wireless. I'm thinking this isn't a big deal, I'll just use my N card we bought a year ago. While waiting for a salesperson to assist us with either of the two machines for that price point, Ed notices that the machine I'd ultimately selected didn't have a PCMCIA slot. Crap, that means no card.

The salesperson assists us and confirms that the Compaq machines don't have the slot and recommends a Toshiba that's 529.99 that does. We take a look and the machine does have a few more features, an additional 1 gig of ram, and a web cam. My opinion of a web cam was that it'd be nice to have, but I wasn't seeking one out.

So, now we're looking at a machine that's over my personal budget. Ed suggests looking at a USB WiFi N card to see what the value of the PCMCIA slot really is. Across the brands, the card is 79.99, the ram would be about 20 bucks and the web cam about 30. The value of the machine is apparent. The problem? Then don't have it in stock, it can't be ordered from their website and the nearest store with it is 50 miles away.

Back home we go. I start a quasi spreadsheet of all the machines I'd considered in my price range, went back to New Egg and Dell and then realized that among the product cards I'd picked up at Office Depot was the same model Toshiba that Best Buy had. After rebate, it was 499.99. Close enough to my goal.

Their website showed the closest store that had it was in Tampa. I want it, but not that much to drive-I'll take the free shipping, thanks.

Tomorrow, the FedEx man will be bringing me this:
and I'll have to get used to not having D,R and F keys that stick or pop off, or a wonky keyboard that randomly goes halfway back up a line and inserts text and using a mouse that scrolls.

Meanwhile, I've probably bored some of you half to death and a few of you think I'm speaking Greek! I'm just happy that it'll be easier to network the new machine and pull all the stuff off of this one via the network.

Guess I should track down our XP disks so I don't have to deal with Vista, huh?

Update: FYI-Office Depot's Order Tracking SUCKS. I have an order number, but all it does is show me on their site that it'll be delivered today between 8:30-5:30. I just chatted with a CSR live and found out it is delivered third party, but they don't have any way of seeing whether it's on their truck or where in the delivery process it is. If it isn't here by MONDAY, I'm supposed to call and escalate.

This is after purchasing it before 5pm Wednesday, which made it eligible for next day shipping. Sorry Office Depot, you just killed any chance of me ever ordering another thing online. If it's not in store, I'll skip purchasing from you. I like to see where my purchase is, thanks. If a company selling me $20 in labels can do it, why can't you?

Update, Friday 6:09pm. No laptop. Another session in CSR chat and the rep took my phone number and promised someone would call ASAP. That was 45 minutes ago. We have different interpretations of ASAP. Ironically enough, I'd ordered a second batch of Label Daddy labels yesterday at 3pm. My order is done and again, I got an email with the FedEx tracking number. Why can a small internet company do this, but not a large retailer?

Yeah, I won't be buying any more products from Office Depot's website.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's For Dinner Wednesday

Since I've been home nearly every night, there's one thing the kids were used to enjoying a couple nights a week that they hardly eat: Pasta. I do make it, but not enough for their liking, apparently.

Last night, Chef Jr. asked for tonight's dinner. He said he wanted Ravioli in 'that Asiago Cheese Sauce" that I used to make Pasta Asiago last month. Thanks, Chef, you just came up with the world's easiest dinner for tonight.

A bag of ravioli, salad and a frozen loaf of garlic bread came out of the fridge. I spent a couple of minutes grating Asiago and making the cheese sauce. (Note: if you make an alfredo sauce but substitute Asiago, don't add any salt-it's pretty salty to begin with.)

I'll keep that one tucked in reserve for the days I don't feel like spending a lot of time making dinner!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yet Another Reason I Love Our Boy Scout Troop

Gameboy has fulfilled all but one requirement to achieve his Second Class and First Class Scout rank (and has some requirements towards Star Scout, too). That one requirement is a toughie-he needs to know how to swim. Not just the ability to stay afloat that he already has, but lengths of a pool.

This probably will require a lot of swim lessons for him, private ones at that. We can't afford that and we're not even sure that he'll gain anything from the time invested. I'll be contacting the local YMCA to explore options for him. In the meantime, he's still stalled in ranks.

This has bothered several leaders. They've been afraid that the lack of advancement would sour Gameboy on the whole scouting experience. There are things that they don't realize about him-that right now, it's providing an organized social environment to attempt to interact with his peers, and that is probably more important to him than the the ranks.

Last month, one leader talked to me about it, because he was clearly frustrated that we were held up by a physical requirement that he was sure that Gameboy couldn't do. We discussed our options and what each of us had discovered in our research both on and off the Internet. It ends up that I'd found more in my Internet research in a short period of time than he had in several months of going through his Boy Scout channels. I had called counsel and got the name of the person who handles the program modifications for special needs scouts.

The leader knew this person well and told me he'd speak to him (I'd left an email that afternoon). I asked if it would help if I submitted the "Letter of Introduction" we use when each new professional begins to work with Gameboy. He loved the idea and the offer of a letter that Gameboy's psychiatrist had written, summarizing his diagnoses.

Last week, I was told the information was stellar-that it gave Counsel a clear understanding of what Gameboy's limitations would be. Tonight, another of the leaders came to me to follow up. Our next step is to create a 504 plan for Gameboy to keep in his permanent scouting record. This would mean that each time he encountered a board of review, the information would be readily available for board members to compare his accomplishments to his abilities.

We talked about the fact that Gameboy talks of becoming an Eagle Scout someday. With the 504 plan, he does not have time constraints upon him. What I expect will happen, and these leaders concur, is that when Chef Jr bridges to Boy Scouting next year, that's when Gameboy will kick his progress into higher gear. Many times, things are reversed, with Chef taking on the trailblazing older brother role.

In other packs, I'm not sure that this would have been a priority for the leadership. Boy Scouting is all about motivating the boys to be independent and self directed. However, the troop we happened to be blessed with sees that this child needs more support and does everything they can to keep on top of him making progress and getting the most out of his experience with them.

Pretty darn cool, if you ask me.

Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam

I entered a blog contest that is supposed to send an email with a discount code on a product I would like to purchase. Thinking that perhaps the email went to my spam account, I'm sifting through the spam. Some of these subject lines are quite humorous, don't you think?

**These are real email subject lines taken from my spam folder today!**

Acquiring a boner has never been easier
You mean you don't buy yours at the local discount store? I've always thought that was simple!

The most powerful weapon for your se>.< battles Umm, your se>.< battles? Does that have something to do with Pokemon?

Do not brake, go in a leg in due course How do you go in a leg?

Dont try your bad luck in love! Use blue pilss!
I didn't know I have to try bad luck in love. BTW, what are pilss?

Why people like FakeWatches? because it's Cheap $186+- only and 99.99% Similar to Original, most brands available qfcflv nblt Dude, I have never spent more than 50 bucks for a watch. You must be smoking crack if you think $186 is cheap. Heck, they even sell watches at the Dollar Tree! Save yourself $185. Srsly!

The winter already ends pore to rest you!You write English very goodly.

completely incapable of pleasing a woman?Yes, and I LIKE IT THAT WAY! Thanks, but no thanks!

Do you think it can not bring through your illness? I know how to help in your hoodoo!I have a hoodoo? I didn't even know I did. (but I do have a Hoodoo Gurus single, did she mean that? Is it ill? I didn't know we had to bring vinyl through illness-whatever that means)

National Westminster Bank has been receiving complaints I'll get right on that one, but first, I need to find out where there is a NatWest bank so I can help them with these complaints.

Tired of sitting at home because of your obesity.
Actually, I'm tired of sitting at home because I have no #@^%^$^ money.

And the winner, getting a jump on 2010:
Yo man! The day of Love

show details 3:20 PM (8 minutes ago)
date Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 3:20 PM
subject Yo man! The day of Love

hide details 3:20 PM (8 minutes ago)

Don't be alone for Valentine's Day this year!

Yeah, I'll get right on that!

BTW, thank you Gmail for sifting so well. It's rare that the real stuff goes to spam and vice versa!

Monday, February 16, 2009

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

This weekend's camping trip at Fort DeSoto brought us into familiar territory. Very familiar territory. My Mom and Stepdad (and grandparents prior to them) lived in South Pasadena, a mere minutes from the campsite.

Just before we left Friday afternoon, I realized that despite discussing making Sloppy Joes as one of our meals while camping, I did not pick up a package of ground beef. We also neglected to pack a colander to drain our shells and cheese. Unlike camping where I didn't know the area, this time the area had familiar businesses. Rather than waste daylight making a stop, it was decided we'd set up camp, then I'd go get what we needed.

The tent was set while still daylight and off I went. A left out of Ft. DeSoto, then when I got to the Don Cesar, I made a right onto Gulf Boulevard and into very familiar environs. It was weird. Prior to moving to Florida, we'd spend a night or two along this road. It was hopping, as is typical for mid-February. Our favorite place, the Plaza Beach/Bayview Plaza had "No Vacancy" signs on both of their sites. This was good to see-the owners are great people with immaculate facilities.

At the same time, driving the Boulevard brought back tons of memories. Restaurants that I'd been to with my Mom the month that I stayed with her and Bill while Ed was wrapping up the sale of our house in Maryland. The liquor store that Ed and I were positively giddy to get a bottle of SoCo for a trip. The Walgreens, the mini golf, the turnoff for Woodys. My ultimate destination was the Kash and Karry (now Sweetbay) that my Mom shopped at all the time.

I picked up the needed items, and gosh, it felt really weird to be there, to know that each trip down, I made several trips in there. To know that in my Mom's last year alive, we'd gone shopping over there nearly every week. The way back to the campsite, I passed the mobile village she'd lived in.

It is still operating, despite the owner putting it on the market and selling it after the four hurricanes of 2004. That impending sale motivated Mom and Bill to buy a house a few miles up the road. She spent her last 11 months in a new house, rather than the nicely appointed double wide that my grandparents had bought in the mid 70's.

In the three years since Mom's passed, some things have closed, some new businesses have gone up, but mostly it's the same nice, low key vacation town that it has been. Full of good times, and good memories.

Valentine's day, we decided to have a meal at a local landmark that Ed and I had been by probably a hundred times since honeymooning at the mobile in '97. When you stayed at the mobile, the smell of smoked fish would waft across S. Pasadena Avenue. Mom had always said it was good-but we never went.

For that, we are kicking ourselves. Ted Peters Famous Smoked Fish has a small, but delicious menu. We all enjoyed our meals (Ed's smoked salmon was incredible!) and the open air dining, even if five years as Floridians has meant that the 60 degree temperature felt cold! If you have the chance, go. The fish is worth it!

It was good that we hadn't been there before, to be in a place that is so steeped with memories of Mom to enjoy something that wasn't so tied to Mom. Had we gone to one of our favorites in the area, I think it would have felt awkward, because we either had been there with Mom or at Mom's suggestion. She had a gift for finding the best places to eat, the hidden gems no matter where she was.

I love the area and enjoy being there, but at the same time, it makes me wish she were still here and enjoying it with us.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Fort DeSoto Camping

We have returned from camping at Fort DeSoto Park, as evidenced by the previous entry!

It was a great weekend at a new to our pack campsite, one that I would DEFINITELY go to again. For those of you who want pristine privys, this place is not your cup of tea. The toilets were spartan, the showers cold water only. However, they worked and were better than the ones we experienced last year in Ruskin.

If you look at the Ft.DeSoto websites, the group camp site isn't labeled on the map. It is separate from the rest of the campsite on a little peninsula. It was wooded, with little beaches all around. At night, even with the occasional car passing by, it was very quiet and peaceful.

Our tent is on the left:Closer view of our tent:The official SuzanneSez family camping breakfast:Chef spends more time untangling the fishing lines than he actually did casting a line:Gameboy, who was more interested in having casting a sinker than actually trying to catch fish (this is apparent when the child has NO hook on his line!)The Sunshine Skyway bridge by moonlight. The twin lighted blobs in the middle of the picture are the top of the bridge seen in yesterday's post:More beach:The path from the beach back to the tents.This morning's breakfast. In an effort to get underway quicker, we didn't do any cooking this morning. If you enlarge the picture, you can see the beach through the trees behind the boys.
No, we don't like camping. We just have a shelving unit in the garage to keep the stuff together.Of course, the only picture I have of Ed from the trip is him goofing off:
For the most part, the weekend was relaxing. Ed and I sat around the campfire with a couple of people really late and laughed at the bold raccoons that were foraging for food-and fell off the top of the shower stalls at 2am.

Chef Jr and I did face plants during the weekend. I tripped over a root on my way into the campsite with some blankets and Chef tripped over a guide wire from a tent that had been put up in the afternoon while we were away from the campsite yesterday. His situation was preventable-mine was solely because I am the 8th dwarf, Clumsy.

We could see so many stars, even with the ambient light from Tampa. What's weird is that Sarasota to the south is not a big town, but it had considerable ambient light. Not as much as Tampa, but enough that you knew something big was to the south.

The best part was that thanks to the time of year, the only bugs we saw were the occasional ant! We whom the mosquitoes look on as all you can eat buffet enjoyed not being the feast for the weekend.

Will we go back to the campgrounds as a family? More than likely. The whole park has plenty to do. We're curious about the ferry to Edmont Key. There's always next time...

Kid Plus Mom's Razor Equals

Interesting results!

We returned from the camping trip and had plans to visit Bob, Maureen and Coaster Kid. My kids were coated with a layer of dirt and sand, so each was told they were to take a bath, Gameboy first.

Due to having the sensory issues, he does NOT like to wash his hair. He asked me to cut his hair in an effort to avoid washing it. I told him it had to be washed, even did it to ensure he wasn't too smelly.

Well, he comes out of the tub reasonably clean (today, he was introduced to a pumice stone to slough off the elbows and knees he doesn't clean well). Chef was up next. As is typical, Chef called for my assistance with the fact that "Mom, there's HAIR in the tub." Yes, there was more than what Gameboy sheds, but hey, he could have sweated a bunch of it out while camping.

Nope. A few minutes later, Gameboy was sitting in front of the TV and turned to ask a question. Hmmm, he looks different. See if you can see the difference:
Yes, he did this to himself. (and the bug eyed look is because he knows the red eye reducer fires the flash three times-he opened them really wide between the second and third!) Apparently, he decided that my razor on the size of the tub would be a quick way to get out of washing his hair.

We met up with Ed for his dinner break and each of us had some ideas about how we could modify the look. Ed said it looked like he was attempting to do Peter Gabriel's reverse mowhawk:
I thought that I could continue the look by putting crop circles on his head. Then he could say that aliens visited:
Meanwhile, Chef Jr. said we could adjust it to make his head the reverse of the Avatar Aang's head arrow:

I'm debating how long I should torture him by leaving it this way. I'm thinking I should send him to school and scouts with his modified look before taking the electric clippers to it. If you were me, how long would you wait?

So far, he seems to be pleased with the look. See? I got a genuine smile when we were coming up with things we could do to his head!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Reports From the Field

It is a gorgeous weekend for camping. Not quite as warm as predicted, but still rather pleasant. We had a brief cloud cover a while ago, but it has passed. Twenty years ago, if you told me I'd be camping, I would have told you you were crazy. If you told me I'd be camping in FEBRUARY, I would have called the men in white coats to haul your butt away!

This is the bridge we traveled over to get to the campsite, all in order to avoid Malfunction Junction (where I4 and I275 meet) during rush hour. Friday rush hour and a three day weekend at that intersection is not one I recommend enduring!

The view about 100 feet from our tent. In the distance, the low white domed structure is Tropicana Field.

Yes, I got in the water. Salt water is supposed to be good for My Stupid Leg(trademark pending) and I took a dip in the hopes of stoping the #$%@$^@$^#$$!@#$^ itching! So far, so good. Water is probably about 65 degrees right now.

Obviously, some of us don't like to follow the rules:
In their defense, I'd call that wading, not swimming.

It's a nice campsite, and I'll tell more when I return tomorrow afternoon.