Thursday, December 31, 2009

Everything is Better With Cheese

I am thankful this year is over.

We are having a quiet end of 2009 evening, after a last minute visit to the doctor this morning. The fact that I was still having pain, three weeks after surgery concerned his nurse, and over to Tampa we went.

The good news is that it isn't what she'd suspected and is probably due to me wanting to get back into the swing of things. Apparently, I am not sitting on the couch enough. There's another week of rest to follow, and maybe I'll be ready for my first class in a week.

Yesterday, a friend mentioned on her Facebook status about having fondue tonight. Mmmm, fondue. The idea sounded great and the menfolk agreed. Then I called Jane and asked if she was in on it. Apparently, the last time she had fondue was during the Ford administration and she was eager to break the drought.

As this is not a meal you can pack up on a plate and bring over to someone, we all headed over and sat around the table, breaking bread, swiping apples and dipping broccoli. Now we are all stuffed with foods that were coated in cheddar and swiss and may or may not be sleeping when 2010 arrives. It's probably better that way.

Happy New Year, everyone. May the coming year be all that you hope for.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

What's For Dinner Wednesday

We went to the market today to get some meat for dinner. Everything was frozen at home, and well, I wanted something easy after dealing with paperwork today.

Hmmm, sale ground beef. Ed thought Hamburger Helper and I knew I wanted taco salad. Save the Hamburger Helper for a night I'm not home, guys. I realized that this was probably one of the first things I started making as a teen that wasn't from one of Mom's recipes.

The thing I do a little differently when I make it is that I use the appropriate amount of taco seasoning, then add about a half cup of medium salsa, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, garlic and onion powders. Assemble the ingredients per each person's likes and instantly, everyone wants seconds.

Bummer, because I was hoping for some leftovers tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sharing the Love of Disney

When I met Ed's family (again) when we started dating, I knew I would fit right in. They were wacky and had a warped sense of humor. The weekend Ed and I were engaged, we'd traveled to Long Island to visit with friends. We arrived at a late hour, but Mom, Nancy and Jane were up and waiting for us.

There was a lot of laughter and good natured ribbing going on that night, all of it centered on my intended and his status as the baby of the family. However, in good fashion, he let loose a couple of zingers himself during the conversation that night. The first one, his Mom said "Hit him!" and I whacked him on the arm. They though this was great.

A few minutes later, Nancy said something cutting, he fired back and she said "Hit him!" My response was to put my hand out and tell her to pay me. At that point, they knew that we'd all get along just fine.

In addition to that sense of humor, their house was chock full of Disneyana, and we had yet another thing to talk about endlessly. When I started working for Disney, they were ecstatic that one of their own was on the mouse's payroll. Over the years, as I'd find something that cried out Mom, Nancy or Jane, it would be purchased and tucked away for the next trip to Long Island.

Mom collected snow globes. How many there are, I have no clue, but whenever there was the opportunity to grab another one, a phone call made or email would be sent to Jane, asking "Does Mom have this?" and I'd do my best to continue to feed her habit collection.

Almost seven years ago, after years of hearing Ed's family talk of retiring to Florida to live near Walt Disney World, Ed finally convinced me that we should move, too. I didn't want to live in the heat, we had good jobs, the part of the country we lived in had really captured my heart. In his mind, they'd need our help someday, and we might as well get down there first./

You know what? He was right to move here. Even though we've endured a lot of bad since moving, we have so much to be thankful for that we can cherish.

Time with my mom.

Time with his mom.

Tonight, Ed's mom passed away. She got to do what she'd wanted five years ago and moved near Disney. She got to go on the Disney cruise, living out her dream. She was an Annual Passholder for a couple of years, visiting the parks and people watching in her happy place.

I'm glad we got the five years with her, good and bad, highs and lows. Most people don't even get that.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Combatting Cabin Fever

I had just gotten a taste of freedom from the first surgery when I had to have the second. Two days of driving and running errands and BOOM, back on the couch for me. It's getting old.

Apparently, with this type of hysterectomy, the first two weeks of recovery go well, and then in week three, as the healing begins, the incision sites can become extremely tender. I'm the average patient on that front, but I have the added multiple incisions behind the knee from removing the saphenous vein. I was barely getting off the couch-driving is NOT something I intended to do.

Today, however, Ed had his first day off since the surgery and I wanted to get out of this house. First up was lunch, where the boys entertained us with antics with food. Chef definitely has inherited our taste buds, hot buffalo shrimp and three mile island wings and he was looking for more:

I'm glad I had my sights set on a nice salad, since the plans of sharing the buffalo shrimp usually means a 50/50 split between the two of us. Note to self: next time, order 20-the kid will probably eat 15!

Now that the menfolk have a PS2, they wanted to visit Game Stop. We ventured to the one that Ed, Game Teen and Chef haven't visited and then wandered through a couple of stores in the outdoor mall. More like they wandered and Ed pushed me around in the companion chair for the most part.

Another stop was Books A Million, where they pointed this guy out:

Ed asked if this was Count Dooku or Paul Teutul, Senior. A slight modification to the facial hair and it could be the latter.

We ventured into Bloodbath and Beyond, pricing accessories for Jane's Keurig (they didn't have the My K cup that we'd told her about), and then we headed to Sam's to pick the previously mentioned Keurig for her. If you're buying the Sam's Club Ultimate package, they no longer stock any decaf K cups in the sampler. We'll be bringing her a box of the Timothy's tomorrow. Got to try the Tully's Bold and it is a good, strong cup of joe. Yum.

It's funny how the mundane can be exciting when you haven't really experienced much of it for nearly three weeks...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

When you're cooped up in the house, there really isn't much to write about.

Fortunately, I do have something to share today. If you haven't had enough of Christmas music, and want to have a good variety, head over to Pandora's blog for a few channels of Christmas music. The holiday channels should be available a few days more.

If I hadn't made a nice mix for that dinner Monday night, this is what I would have used for musical entertainment the other night.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Looks Like It Was a Keurig Christmas

Now I can talk about it!

Last week, my brother in law called me and left a message to call him back on his cell phone. "I got Giggles the Keurig, what else do I need?" Seems that she's wanted one since we lugged ours up to Virginia when we vacationed with them over the summer. Prior to that, I think they laughed that I worked so hard to win the darn thing. Then they enjoyed the coffee for a couple of days and their minds were changed.

My friend Rich had one on her wish list this year, because one of her bosses had one in his office (she works for a husband and wife that run two separate businesses). We talked about this last week. Her sister was sort of hoping that she'd get two, so that she could justify getting one by buying it off her sister.

And the commercials have suckered Jane. That and the fact that every time Ed shows up at the house to bring her somewhere, he's got a mug of coffee in hand. This made an impact on her, because Ed was not much for coffee several years ago. Ed and Betsy don't think she drinks enough coffee to warrant the purchase, but she wants one.

Meanwhile, they've all heard me rave about the thing since my box arrived from Keurig back in April. It's the best 170 bucks I didn't have to spend. No more science experiments in the bottom of the coffee pot. No more skipping coffee because one of us felt like it and the other didn't.

So, some things we've learned, favorite flavors and suggestions for where to get the best deals today.

1. If you have a favorite coffee, and it doesn't come in a K cup, get yourself a My K Cup

Ours gets filled with Barnie's Santa's White Christmas or I'll empty tea bags into it. Next month, when Barnie's Sweetheart Blend comes out, we'll grab a bag of it and enjoy it one cup at a time.

2. There are some great places to get deals on K Cups.
I use Amazon to order the Gloria Jean's flavored sampler. If you set up automatic shipping, it's free, and you get a discount for automatic deliveries, too.
A great website for deals is, too. When all else fails, just use your 20% off Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon to get a box of your favorite brew.

Now, the flavors. Everything is subjective, so your mileage may vary, but these are the things Ed and I like (and don't).

Hands down, Tully's Kona is our favorite. The Coffee People also makes a decent Kona, but Tully's is the best. What's nice is that it is the most commonly stocked one, as I've seen it at Macy's, Dillards, BB&B and our local supermarket.

Favorite flavor is easily Gloria Jean's Butter Toffee. It's got great flavor. Actually, I don't think we've been disappointed with a single Gloria Jean's flavor.

For decaf, Newman's Own and Timothy's Columbian Supreme don't disappoint. There's definitely a change in mindset when you can make a cup of joe whenever, and for us, it means we want more coffee after dinner. These two have been good ways to solve that java jones in the evening.

Other flavored coffees that I really like:
Green Mountain's Southern Pecan
Van Houttes's Raspberry Chocolate Truffle
Van Houtte's French Vanilla
Gloria Jean's Swiss Chocolate Almond
Van Houtte's Pecan Praline

Traditional coffees:
Coffee People's Donut Shop Coffee
Green Mountain's Nantucket Blend

As far as the teas and the cocoas, we tried some teas in the sampler pack that I purchased the tea bags and dump them into my K cup. The initial feedback on the cocoa from everyone I knew with a machine is that it was watery and nasty. However, I tried a Cafe Escapes Dark Chocolate cocoa that my friend Holly gave me and it was pretty good. Their Cafe Mocha doesn't taste much like coffee or cocoa, though.

Holly also gave me a Mountain Blueberry Coffee K cup and I liked it. It was like having the blueberry muffin IN the coffee. When it comes to the cocoa, I just use the Keurig to give me a mug of hot water, then dump in a packet of a favorite flavor, whether it's a Ghirardelli, Land O Lakes or a store brand.

We've tried about three dozen K cups so far, out of the over 200 varieties available to use. Now that everyone we know is getting on the Keurig bandwagon, I'm hoping that we can get feedback from them!

If you've got a Keurig, which coffee do YOU like?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry and Not So Merry

Long time readers will remember the Christmas of two years ago, the one in which Game Teen took all of his presents into his room and opened them before the rest of us had stirred for the day.

He did it again, only this time, he took ALL the presents into his room. They weren't labeled, so he didn't know which were his and which were his brother's.

Yes, it sucks. I'm disappointed and annoyed. Chef started the day on the couch, crying and saying he wished he had a normal brother. What do you say to that? Ed rapidly rewrapped Chef's presents and he opened them. Within the hour, he was happy-but kept apologizing to us for his brother's poor behavior.

The nice thing about the PS3 coming out is that the PS2 and accompanying games are CHEAP. There's a boat load of racing games, too. That was this year's family gift, and I think that two of them will be racing against each other a lot.

We kept some traditions, though it was kind of interesting each time I got off the couch. The preferred breakfast was made:

Then we had ham with all the fixings tonight.

I keep saying that someday, we'll have a normal holiday. Today made it clear that it's wishful thinking.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

It's Christmas Eve. The tree isn't up, the presents aren't wrapped and the kids aren't sleeping.

But it'll get done.

Just like years ago, even with one knowing about Santa (and the older one unaware), they still get just as excited as when this picture was taken:

As long as there are presents under the tree and monkey bread to eat in the morning, they'll be happy.

And that's all that really matters.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's For Dinner Wednesday

Yes, this meal has been featured in WFDW fairly recently, but I planned ahead for a post op dinner. In addition, until I made it for the first time in years, I had no clue this was Ed's absolute favorite Italian meal.

We've even had temperatures just barely in the 50's all week. So, pasta with Bolognese sauce tonight. It warms you to the toes. Yum.

Another Day, Another Surgery

Six am, Tampa. Checked in and waited and waited and waited. My surgery was scheduled for 9am, but I wasn't even taken back until then! Oh, and because I didn't have pre-admissions testing, the person who came back wanted a sample-after I used the facilities.

Those were the only hiccups, though. Once I got back into pre-surgery, thinks moved quickly. I had a few good laughs, like the fact that the sample was needed to do a pregnancy test! When Ed was ushered back, we had some fun with the pulse/oxygen sensor. (Tapping it makes pretty patterns, lol)

The anethesiologist was a little surprised that I was getting local(but rolled with it) and twice again, I was asked if I worked at the hospital. That's three times in two days, folks. And NO, I am NOT going into the health care field. That requires biology classes, yuck.

I was brought into a freezing surgical suite, and laid prone on the table so they could reach my calf. Instead of local in the manner I had it last time (talking to Dr. J during my whole procedure), this time I was sedated as the vein was stripped. I woke up in recovery and was told two cycles of the blood pressure cuff and I could leave.

Dr. J and Nurse M were dead on. Yesterday, they said I'd be out by noon, the latest 2pm. If my surgery hadn't started an hour late, we would have been walking out the door at noon, minus a third superficial vein in My Stupid Leg (trademark pending). I'm glad that I caught it early, that they got my surgery done ASAP, and that this procedure was a lot easier than the last one.

Now, to schedule both follow up appointments for the same day...

Yes, I have two allergy wrist bands of stuff they might use in a hospital setting. I don't know why the shellfish allergy is on there, though.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It Sucks Being Right (Again)

My Stupid Leg (trademark pending) strikes again.

I've been a good girl, following doctor's orders and taking it easy. I was supposed to spend a lot of time on the couch-so I did. Yes, I got up and moved around, but the main instruction was not to do too much, don't spend too much standing and take it easy.

Fat lot of good that did me.

Saturday night, I got up to check on dinner and got a sharp pain in my calf. Oh, crap. I know that pain well. The "OMG, there's a clot in there!" kind of pain. I checked my leg. Not warm, nothing that felt like a pebble.

Yet, I knew.

I kept an eye on it Saturday and Sunday, figuring I would call Nurse M Monday morning. First thing when I got up Monday, I left a message for her, asking if she wanted to take a look or should I wait and see. My ringer was shut off yesterday evening, so I missed her return call. "If you think it's a clot, it probably is." Call the vascular lab in the morning and they'll get you in.

This morning, I called at 11:15 and was asked if I could be there at noon. I ran around here and got there by 12:10. A sonogram confirmed what I thought.

A superficial clot. Great.

I waited for Nurse M to come tell me how it was going to be treated. Initially, it looked like heat and elevation, but once the pictures from the ultrasound were viewed, that was off the table. Apparently, this clot is in a bad place.

Six weeks of blood thinners or surgery.

Which would you choose? Well, if the blood thinners were injectables, and not Coumadin, that's the route I would have chosen. My track record with that medication is not good (and Dr. J didn't like that information). Surgery it is.

Tomorrow morning.

Merry flippin Christmas.

I wonder what the odds are on this one?

Monday, December 21, 2009

It Started With a Turkey

Last week, Jessica mentioned she had a turkey. "We should do a Christmas dinner with the people of Noah's Ark!". With that, a meal was planned.

Two turkeys. A large chicken. Two pork loins. A bunch of Suzanne-made sides and the cookie making factory in one kitchen and we had food for twenty.

I think it's funny that the person who doesn't cook had the plan, but I took that ball and ran with it. Entertaining is tons of fun-but I don't normally have that many people around to cook for. To cook and not have to clean my house to do it? Even better.

There were raves about the twice baked mashed. For the first time, I made candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top (because Jessica and Lin requested them) and that was the pan of them that was gone. I forgot to bring the stuff for garlic knots, though.

That's okay, we had tons of leftovers. I can make the garlic knots with tomorrow night's promised Bolognese sauce.

It was cool to do what I enjoy and spend time with people who understand Game Teen. We need more nights like that.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

More Humor From Chef Junior Again

The child does not understand that laughing and incisions is not a good combination. A couple of funnies from this weekend:

I had a meeting yesterday morning that kept me away from the house a little longer than expect. When I got home, it was after 1pm and I wasn't going to make the kids wait while I rolled out the pizza dough and baked a pizza.

Chef was crabby, pointing towards his mouth to signify that he needed food NOW. Food decided upon (meatball sub for Game Teen, cheesesteak for Chef), we headed down to a sub shop. While en route, Chef informs me "mom, some people are lactose intolerant. I'm hunger intolerant."

Today, he and I ran a few errands and one stop was the dollar store. While there, he requested his own wrapping paper. After the present fiasco two years ago, we have a new strategy for gifts. They get wrapped in a specific paper for each child, but there are no tags on anything.

So, he found exactly what he'd requested (blue paper with snowflakes or snowmen) and he's carrying it out. "Mom, it's my jousting stick!" I explained that that might make it unsuitable for wrapping presents. "What's a little blood on my gifts? It washes off!"

The two boys usually just tolerate each other. Sometimes, though, they make each other laugh. Today, it was Game Teen exclaiming "Hey, I got the Bloody Anchor!" I'm thinking it sounded bad, but Chef comments that that would be a great name for a heavy metal band. I said perhaps it'd be a good name for a restaurant, but Chef again comments that it's be better for a bar.

Someday, that boy will own a bar named the Bloody Anchor, where you can joust with rolls of wrapping paper and fight off hunger intolerance. It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Storm of The Century, 2003 Edition

Well, it happened.

There's a huge part of the country that is blanketed under a lot of the white stuff tonight. Meanwhile, we're here in Florida and while it is a little colder than average today, it is far from freezing. It was a storm of this magnitude that actually got us to move to Florida.

February, 2003: We had scheduled one of our twice a year treks from Maryland to Walt Disney World. It was booked to take advantage of the value season rates and we'd still get Valentine's Day at the previous week's prices.

Then while watching the Weather Channel early that Monday morning, the predictions of doom and gloom started happening. The mid-Atlantic region was going to be dumped with two feet, then three feet of snow. I called my boss on Thursday to see what was going on. (The beauty of those cell phones that we'd picked up the month before!) I got an earful about the storm that was going to start the next night.

Our original plans had us driving home Saturday, with an overnight stay along I 95 and we'd get home sometime Sunday to get ready for Ed to go to work Monday morning and me Monday afternoon. Then I'd have the next day off and go back Wednesday night. We kept an eye on the situation.

Friday afternoon, E calls me and tells me the storm is starting. Our mall was not known for closing down for snow, but they had passed out fliers to the merchants with 'snow emergency numbers'. Hmmm, interesting. This is the same mall that hadn't bothered to plow 12" of snow in December and the only way I was able to get into it unscathed is because I knew how far the trees should be from the curbs!

Saturday morning, we're packed and ready to check out (had express checkout, so technically, we were checked out). I call E and she says DO NOT LEAVE, the mall is closed and it is still snowing. I said something about having to be there to close Monday night and was assured that if the mall was going to be open, that she'd cover my shift. Soon after, my district manager calls me and says even if the mall opens, she doubts she would risk any of her staff's safety-just stay in Florida.

It bought us an extra three days down here. The first one, we went to the Magic Kingdom and got this picture:

The third day, we drove over to Clermont, Florida. A friend was building a house there and Ed and I figured it was worth a look. Everywhere we went, people would ask "Are you planning on moving here? You'll love it!" The gears started turning.

The drive home the next day was perfect until Richmond. The sides of the interstate had the remnants of snow. Around Dale City, it started looking bad. The Beltway was clear, but you had to be careful to look for the lights of the cars merging in because you couldn't see them over the plowed snow on top of the 36" accumulation. Montgomery County, the ramps weren't even plowed to get you on and off the interstate.

Our county, used to the snow because of the three mountain ranges that passed through it, looked like business as usual. 12 hours after the last flake landed, it was clear sailing-until we pulled onto our block. It was 1am and we had to spend an hour shoveling snow to be able to park the car. We put a yard stick into the snow in the front yard and the end was flush with the top of the snow, making it taller than Chef.

It was then that Ed had convinced me to consider moving to Florida, so we never had to deal with it again. There's a huge sense of relief that I don't have to shovel it, deal with the constant knee and wrist throbbing that results from the combination of cold weather and arthritis, mixed with concern that everyone is safe and warm.

Now, all my friends are up there and dealing with the white crap. You can move away from that stuff, but you still worry about those who haven't.

Stay safe, warm and careful up there, everybody.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Gifts of Christmas Past

As a kid, one of the things my dad loved to do in December was drive around the local area and look at Christmas light displays. Back then, Long Island had some pretty impressive displays. Each year involved a trek over to Uniondale to check out the what the Klimczuk's had done.

The Klimczuk family decorated every square inch of their postage stamp sized yard, the sides and top of their garage and the entire front of their house with lights, wooden signs and animated show pieces. It was impressive, even if a little excessive, but their house was definitely one where we would stop the car, park and spend time marveling at what they'd added.

Closer to home, families decorated more sparingly and simply. In his drive back and forth from our house to his the next town over, Dad would take different routes in early December, locating new decorations to view. Along his postal route, he'd note who was decorating and tuck that information away, too.

One year, he was excited that he'd found a new display. A big one. Instead of taking us by this one on our way to one of the local malls, he said we'd go check it out on Christmas Eve before our traditional dinner and movie. It was worthy of parking the car, he said.

So, Christmas Eve rolls around. It is bitterly cold and extremely windy. Living on Long Island, there wasn't a lot of snow in December, but those bitter breezes that came off the ocean could be brutal (let's just say I never knew what it was like to experience no wind until I far inland). We drive up Newbridge Road and can see some lights and get to the corner and can see that a family had decorated almost all of their yard with lighted plastic figures, C7 and C9 strands of lights and serious quantities of blinky blinky lights.

Front and center on their walkway was a Nativity scene, with each person as a separate, light up 3 foot tall plastic figure (except for baby Jesus, of course). Normally, you'd think that this was a solemn moment, contemplating the birth in a manger many years ago.

Instead, the wind had knocked over several participants in that Nativity scene. Mary, Joseph and the animals were still there, looking over the baby in the creche, but the Three Wise Men? They were laid out flat on the frozen ground.

My dad, never one to miss an opportunity for a quip, said "Look, they've got the nativity and who shows up but the three drunken Wise Guys. They must have taken a few hits off that frankincense and myrrh."

Hysterical laughter ensued. All through dinner, one of us would say 'frankincense', 'drunken wise guys' or 'myrrh' and gales of laughter started up again. Months later, we were STILL laughing about it. Then, once that family set up their display the following year, Dad would inform me and Giggles the status of the Wise Guys every day. "Still standing, guess they haven't had any Eggnog yet," and we'd giggle and guffaw.

The other night, Ed and I were driving near our home. A family had set up one of those Nativity scenes. Slightly smaller figures (maybe 2 feet), but again, each major player at the manger is represented by its own lit plastic standee.

The wise men?

They were fallen over. Drunken Wise Guys once again.

I want to know where they're getting their stuff. It must be GOOD to be knocked over this much before December 24th!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

December 17th

Christmas tree up? Nope
Yard decorated? Nope (and this year, the neighborhood looks a lot more festive than years past)
Presents purchased? Nope

Well, except for the teacher gifts that the kids are bringing to school tomorrow, not one present has been purchased or brought into the house. I suppose I should get my butt online and start on the presents for the kids.

For the past few weeks, the kids have each mentioned the various holiday goodies that they want to enjoy. Peppermint bark, oatmeal cranberry cookies, mock apple pies. So, it looks like we'll be spending the early part of their Christmas vacation making the house smell really nice.

I'm hoping we can use some of those as presents, because the quantity of baking they're proposing is probably enough for a family of four to enjoy for a YEAR.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ahhh, Freedom!

When you're housebound, it's kind of hard drumming up blog fodder. Let's be serious, do you want to see pictures of the four walls? No, trust me, you don't.

Today, Ed was off from work and drove me hither, thither and yon. To the campus (really, really quiet). To the other campus (also pretty quiet) and two books are purchased. The third was the wrong book (argh).

Then, a much needed grocery shopping. Aaaaaahhhh. I won't have anyone complaining that there's nothing good to eat. At least not for a couple of days.

It was nice to get out of the house for a few hours and do something.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Santa, Can I Have A Maid For Christmas?

I feel bad for Ed.

Since I've had surgery, he's run his butt ragged to the point that he doesn't have time to do our household chores.

It boils down to this: it seems that whenever someone else is getting more attention for a health concern, she has to do something to command attention. Mom went into the hospital for a stroke, well, Jane up and got herself sick enough that she had to be in the hospital, too. If it wasn't so sad, it'd be funny.

Well, last week, I had surgery. Planned surgery. This, of course, meant that Jane needed to make all the appointments for doctors that she would blow off in the past. Including one on the day AFTER my surgery.

This doctor has a nasty habit of keeping patients waiting for hours. Now that Jane doesn't drive, it means that someone (normally me) gets stuck sitting in the doctor's office, instead of doing the dozen or so things on the To Do list. In Ed's case, it kept him from doing dishes and laundry and visiting me in the hospital.

Then, that Thursday, another appointment. Friday, another appointment. Monday, another appointment. Tuesday, another appointment (this one for the cats). Tomorrow, another appointment. Friday? Well, you get the picture.

This means that the man is exhausted and I can't help him out. My sink is full, and the kids are not the best at dish washing, since we've used the dishwasher since they were born. The laundry, I can get them to do that.

If you detect a little bit of annoyance with Jane, you're right. She has gotten to the level of doing exactly what she complained Mom did to her-expects us to do every little thing for her. Like make these doctor's appointments and look up phone numbers because the number she has is wrooooooonnnnnnngggggg. (That got a response of "Your phone has Google. Use it.")

Tonight, despite a full freezer from visiting the meal prep kitchen, I went against doctor's orders and drove the half mile to a restaurant for dinner. Standing at the sink to do dishes is NOT happening and I feel bad that I'm putting all of my duties on Ed. However, I do think he's starting to see that his sister is a full time job, on top of the kids and my school schedule.

So, Santa, I've been a good girl. Can you send me a maid for Christmas? I'm kind of partial to Hazel, but Alice would be nice, too.
What do you say, Santa? It would be a present for both me AND Ed, and you can't beat a two for one deal, now can you?

Monday, December 14, 2009

What Lurks Over The Computer Monitor

Chef lives to make me laugh. Even when it might hurt to have a good belly laugh right now.

This is what I encountered yesterday afternoon:

This is on top of requesting one of my all time favorite movies (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), he also decided to bop and sing along with the Ramones. It really hurts to laugh, but you know what? I won't trade it for anything.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunda

This time of year, there are so many songs I look forward to hearing-Christmas songs. Today, a short song list of the quirky and lesser known favorites-and a free download, too.

As a teen, one of my favorite comedy variety shows was "Second City Television", especially the comedy of Bob and Doug McKenzie. Eventually, the popularity of the routine that Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis compelled them to release an album completely in character of these two Northern nuts. I love the Christmas song that came from the album:

It's been said many times, the next song is my favorite modern Christmas carol. I know it's made an impact when Chef Jr whistles the melody this time of year. Now, I've got to teach him those lyrics.

Every once in a while, a new favorite emerges. I was pointed to Straight No Chaser a couple of years ago and ended up with one of their Christmas CDs. It is one of those that I listen each time and try to pick another part out of the arrangement! This is a new effort from the guys:

And now, the download. Remember Tears for Fears? I have Curt Smith, one half of the group, as a friend on Facebook. Last week, he put up a link to his new version of Silent Night. I liked and it promptly made it over to the iPhone. Hope you enjoy it, too.

You can listen on the site, but if you want to download it, registration is required.

Enjoy the music of the season!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

So Much More Than Learning

It has been mentioned in a couple of previous posts about the experience I had this semester in fund raising for a local organization. Today, Jessica and I met up with the executive director and his wife and brainstormed on how we can continue to help.

As we sat there, discussing their needs, it was like my future plans fell right in line with theirs. I need to get a couple of software programs to familiarize myself prior to starting grad school-and they're useful for the organization. Plans for another hardware purchase also can benefit my future educational experience and their organizational desires.

Skills I already have are among those that can be of use. Jessica's skills at coming up with good ideas fit right in, too. It almost feels like we were meant to find them this semester.

We're meant to travel a much longer journey with Noah's Ark. The learning? Instead of ending with the semester, is just beginning.

I'm really looking forward to the lessons yet to come.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Like Magic, They Arrive in the Mail

It has been mentioned here before that we love our Keurig coffee machine. Since I won this lovely machine last April,
our lives have changed.

No longer do we have science experiments growing in the bottom of Mr. Coffee. No longer do we crave a mug of hot java, only to lament that the other half isn't there to share a pot. And no longer do we whine that we don't feel like going out to get a single cup of caffeinated goodness. Heck, we love our machine so much that it got wedged into the trunk of the Beetle and taken 1,000 miles on vacation with us this past July.

Over the eight months, we've kept tally of flavors we like and flavors we didn't. Tully's makes a kick butt Kona. Newman's Own has a nice medium roast. I like the Coffee People's Donut Shop blend, while Ed is partial to the Green Mountain Breakfast Blend.

Then there are the flavors. Call us wimps, but we like flavored coffees. I think the whole house is in agreement that Gloria Jean's Butter Toffee is our favorite, but (other than Hazelnut, which I don't like in coffee) we have yet to meet a Gloria Jean's Flavor that we haven't liked.

When we first got our machine, a few retailers carried four or five varieties, but only one place had the Butter Toffee. We ordered some flavors directly from Keurig and fell in love with the Southern Pecan. A few months ago, in talking Keurig with some friends, one mentioned ordering K cups from Amazon. "You can set up automatic delivery and they'll take 10% off and give you free shipping, too." Really?

Off I went to Amazon, where I finally found a variety pack that didn't include the Hazelnut. I've already got about 20 of those we're not drinking. Searching through the offerings, I found one that sounded perfect: Butter Toffee, Mudslide, Swiss Chocolate Almond and French Vanilla Supreme. A few minutes later, I set up shipments for every three months and we were good to go.

The past couple of weeks, I saw the second of that two box shipment was getting low (we still have a bunch of coffee from our initial Keurig order AND our local supermarket now carries a good assortment, too) and was going to check on my order status. I forgot.

But Amazon didn't.

In the mailbox today?

Another 44 K cups of flavored goodness.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Apparently, Ethics Means Something Different Than I Thought

Since I'm still kind of out of it from the anesthesia, you get to read two of the letters I had to write this week to the members of my group in the Ethics class.

The first one:
Hi, everyone.

We have a big problem with the group project. Several members have been flagged as having substantial portions of their work listed as plagiarism. From our syllabus slide 21, plagiarism is defined as follows:

Academic Dishonesty: Plagiarism is defined as "literary theft" and consists of the unattributed quotation of the exact words of a published text, or the unattributed borrowing of original ideas by paraphrase from a published text. On written papers for which the student employs information gathered from books, articles or oral sources, each direct quotation, as well as ideas and facts that are not generally known to the public at large, must be attributed to its author by means of the appropriate citation procedure. Citations may be made in footnotes or within the body of the text. Plagiarism also consists of passing off as one's own, segments or the total of another person's work.

*Punishment for academic dishonesty will depend on the seriousness of the offense and may include receipt of an "F" with a numerical value of zero on the item submitted, and the "F" shall be used to determine the final course grade. It is the option of the instructor to assign the student a grade of F or FF (the latter indicating academic dishonesty) in the course.

The original source of the material can be found here:

As this is a group assignment, ALL members are graded upon the work of others. Personally, if you want to submit a paper without using proper citations and it's just your grade that is affected, have at it. When three members of this group have no citations or work that completely comes up as suspect in plagiarism tools, it has to be addressed.

We are all juniors and seniors here, am I correct? By now, everyone has written at least a couple dozen papers in their college career and has had review in at least that many classes on how to reference your source material. If you are unsure how to cite sources at this stage of the game, please consider using the many resources that USF provides us to be effective writers.

Using source material that you haven't listed in your references isn't going to pass muster, either. There are tools at every instructor's disposal to check your work. In fact, one of my professors gave us links to the ones she uses so that students can run their work through ahead of time to avoid getting an F on the papers she assigns.

It boils down to this: we have to have a group decision on how to proceed from the five of us whose works came up as acceptable. Professor would like us to decide whether we want to be graded on our individual efforts. The alternative is that the three people who have not accurately cited their references and/or lifted the majority of their work from other published material have to resubmit their works.

Please email me if you have questions, and email the group AND Professor what your vote is-Individual grades for the five or give the other three a second chance. If we opt to do that, we have to give the Professor a deadline for the completion of the resubmitted portions.

If you're wondering whether I mean you, odds are good that you are NOT one of the people whose work has come into question If you KNOW you didn't properly cite references, then you need to figure out whether you are going to let your work stands as is or you want to knock yourself out doing the assignment over again.

This requires a vote-and the majority will rule the decision. My vote is a tough one, for I feel that one of the parties just got careless in not citing any of the sources. However, one person has lifted mine and another person's group critiques (and a discussion case) verbatim (with timestamps to prove it) on many occasions. I would be more lenient with a first offense than the repeat offender-but I cannot be sure if that is what the rest of you wish to do.

If it is called for by the majority, in order to accurately assess the severity of plagiarism, all the incidences will be provided to you.

Those who wish to verify the quality of their ability to rephrase what they've read into unique thoughts may google "plagiarism checker" and find quality sources. Upon request, I will provide the links given in my Research Methods course materials.

It is appalling that this type of email has to be written to a group at all, but it is mind blowing that it has to be written in an ETHICS class.

This discovery was made Saturday night, and many emails went back and forth between me and the professor, then the members of my group. The one I thought who got careless with citations had block quotations in her portion of the assignment, but no citations on them.

The other two? 100% taken from other websites. One had listed three sources, but jigsaw puzzled his work together from three websites that he hadn't cited. (this is the guy I'd written about earlier in the semester). The other one took the entirely of his work from two websites.

Saturday afternoon, as I was doing the hyperlinking for the project (until this project, I hadn't considered how many people don't know how to do this) on one member's submission, I took a break to grab dinner. On the phone with a friend, I commented that in reading some of this work, I realized that I wasn't as well versed as the average person on IT matters. Little did I realize that I was comparing my knowledge to PhD's in IT.

The one who had copied completely from other websites came forth and then proceeded to send me tons of emails, asking me to tell me what his fate was. I politely told him it was a group decision, not mine-and in this case, he should be happy for it. One person fixed her citations within the hour of that email going out. The third party had not responded by Sunday night. Everyone else in the group had been given copies of the works in question, so they knew what was up. Time to make sure he did, too.


I haven't heard from you since I sent yesterday's email. If you haven't read that already, you need to read it and the Professor's ASAP

In reviewing your contribution to the group project, every single word of it came up as being from two different websites, with most of it attributed to a Georgetown University professor. I understand that you used 4 citations within your work, but that does not excuse the fact that there is not one word of it that came from you.

The purpose of this project was not to see how well we cut and paste, or whether we know how to do citations. The goal was to see how we think-to see how well we applied what we've learned about ethical situations to a topic of the group's choosing. To cut and paste paragraph after paragraph leads others to believe that you do not understand what the word ETHICS even means.

Originally, the decision regarding your plagiarism was left to the five members of the group who spent many hours researching materials, reading websites and then forming what they learned into unique thoughts into a portion of the group project. They did not only the best the could for their own grade, but for YOUR grade, too. To cut and paste someone else's work, subjecting all of them to a possible FF grade for academic dishonesty, because this is a GROUP grade, is deplorable.

You're in luck, for of the three that had weighed in, two wanted to kick you and J out of the group, with a third saying 'do whatever you want and I'll back it up'. That's a majority, but we were waiting for the other two to respond. However, Professor has given you a gift of a new deadline for all work to be completed, following the guidelines set forth in the quoted slide in my email. This was restated in her email. There is a link in both emails to the source material at the university web site that gives direction on what is acceptable citing. To add a point made in three of the syllabuses I received this semester-the majority of your submission has to be YOUR work. Simply adding cites to everything does not excuse the fact that it is not your work.

At this point, it seems clear that this is a class wide issue and not just our group. You can take that to mean that everything submitted is going to be held under a microscope. If you have questions in redoing the assignments, the library staff has been incredibly helpful for other matters I've contacted them for in the past (over the phone, even) and you are directed to them for assistance.

Every lecture that has covered the topic of written assignments in the six I've taken so far at our school has been quite clear that professors will not tolerate plagiarism and will use the many tools available to them. You have to decide for yourself if the time savings of simply cutting and pasting another's work is worth risking an FF grade. It stays on your transcript for the duration of your time at USF and will prevent you from graduating with any honors. Is it worth it?

Yesterday, one sent a half hearted apology. Today, the other decided to send one as well. The deadline for them was 10pm. I'm wondering what the resubmitted work will look like.

One thing is for certain-I never expected cheating in an Ethics class!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Going Home Tomorrow!

I'm moving real slow and I'm sore, but things are looking good. I'll be sprung as soon as Ed gets here tomorrow.

And with that, I'm going to sleep...

The view from the other side

Downtown Tampa

The reason it looks funny is because there is some sort of screen in front of the windows. I've been doing laps around my floor. Walking speeds healing. Let's hope it works.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Alas, No Room With A View

Five plus years ago, as soon as I moved to the Tampa Bay area, I became acquainted with this hospital. The day before we were set to move from Maryland, I went to the doctor for pain in my leg-it was a blood clot.

The only reason she didn't hospitalize me was because I promised to find a vascular surgeon in Florida. I had an appointment with Dr. J before I'd left Maryland. (My boss happened to know a very good vascular surgeon).

Most of my doctors have been based out of this hospital, and I've had good experiences with two outpatient surgeries on My Stupid Leg (trademark pending) So coming here for surgery as a no brainer.

My doctor called me last night to see if I had any questions and to go over what to expect. It was a nice touch. Today, while Ed and I waited, he came into pre op and we chatted again. He's also got an iPhone and they were about to actually use the Bump app (but Ed needs to put his contact into in his). He wanted to be sure he would be able to touch base with Ed afterwards.

While I'm not in the best shape right now, it's because my insides were poked and proded. The care has been excellent and I've got a private room, No view, though. I'll survive. I've got a WiFi connection and Food Nework, the only things I really need to veg while I'm in here.

Tampa Skyline, 7:30am

Waiting and really hungry. No food since yesterday's breakfast. At
least the scenery is decent while we wait...

Monday, December 07, 2009

Another Semester: OVER!

I took my last test tonight. The verdict appears to be three As and another one that is so close I can touch it. If I get an 80 on that test, I'm golden-but it was a tough test. We'll see, as the professor does grade on a curve...

That said, it wasn't a walk in the park. The final project for the Ethics class, netted two members of my group submitting their portions of the assignment that were 100% plagiarized. Yes, in an ETHICS class. It kept me busy for two days. My grade was right around 94, but the group project could have dropped me below it. In the many emails back and forth yesterday, the Professor told me that I didn't have to worry about my grade. (We had several conversations over the semester about my worry that the group projects would ruin my 4.0, so she knew my goal was an A.)

My Counseling skills grade was posted tonight-950 out of 900, wheeeeee!

Finally, the Absent Professor (not absent minded, just MIA any time an issue came up) managed to goof up the final exam tab on Blackboard. No worries, I have a 100+ average, while still waiting for two papers to be graded.

It's nice to be able to say, as of tonight, I AM A SENIOR!!!!!!

I need a couple of days to relax after all the school related stuff the past few days. Oh wait, there's a trip to the hospital tomorrow-there won't be any relaxing right now.

Okay, I can sit on the couch and study for a CLEP exam, then. :)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

The events in one my classes inspired this week's topic. The holiday goodies will have to wait until next week's post.

It's human nature to be inspired by the works of others, music is no exception. The question becomes when does it cross the line from homage to pilferage? There are songs throughout modern music that are influenced by others, and others that you can clearly hear the original work.

First up, an homage. I love me some Dan Fogelberg, and one of my favorites is a seasonal staple, Same Old Lang Syne.

Come on, sing that first line with me:
"Met my old lover at the grocery store, the snow was falling Christmas Eve" Now, sing it with a much quicker tempo.

Did you hear it? The influencing work? I'll give you a hint.

I remember hearing the song on American Top 40 when it was charting, and Casey Kasem mentioned this little tidbit of information about the 1812 and it has always stuck with me. In the many times I've heard the 1812, I can help by have that lyric run through my head.

Sometimes, the song clearly steps over the line from simple homage to a gifted composer to a blatant borrowing of a previous hit. For years, I've loved George Harrison's My Sweet Lord. It was nice to see the quiet Beatle's talent front and center, showcasing his skills as a writer in his own right. Then again, that melody line and chorus sounded strangely familiar...

It sounded an awful lot like the Chiffon's "He's So Fine"

Harrison himself said he was inspired to write it after hearing "Oh Happy Day" by the Edwin Hawkins Singers.
The subsequent lawsuit found that he had unintentionally copied "He's So Fine" and he forfeited all royalties. However, he later bought the right to "He's So Fine", so I guess it came full circle.

Then there are these two that are virtually identical, so much so that when I hear one, I can be found singing the lyrics. Check it out:
Ritchie Valen's La Bamba, which was inspired by a traditional Mexican melody

The copy was written by Phil Medley and Bert Russell and first recorded by the Top Notes, but the version we hear most often is sung by a little band from Liverpool:

There are tons of examples like this in music, but these are the three pairs that get me every time I hear one or the other. So, borrowing or homage?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Small Talk Six-For the Love of Disney

From time to time, I participate in MomDot's Small Talk Six, but when I saw what this week's subject was, I had to participate. Why? It's Disney and it's on Walt Disney's Birthday!

So, six things about my love of anything and everything Disney. (Yes, I will keep it down to six somehow!)

1. My favorite character is Mary Poppins. I love the whole concept of a nanny who makes rooms clean themselves and sings pretty songs to her charges. Her philosophy of "in every job there is an element of fun" is definitely right up my alley. She became my favorite when I was in my very first play in third grade, a bit part in what else? Mary Poppins.

2. My favorite Disney park is Epcot.Where else can you travel around the world in a day? After you travel around the world, you get to watch the best fireworks show on Walt Disney World property, IllumiNations. I love the music, and the ending song, "We Go On" still gets me misty eyed.

3. Don't make me list just one favorite Disney movie, because I can't do it. Favorite live action is Mary Poppins, which I'm sure really surprises everyone. Favorite classic era animated movie (when Walt was calling the shots) is One Hundred and One Dalmatians, even though Cruella De Vil scared the daylights out of me when I first saw the movie. Modern era is the toughest, but it is either Beauty and the Beast or Hunchback of Notre Dame.

4. I have a collection of Disney antenna toppers. Many of them have been displayed in the vase in my car, though I haven't really done that lately.

5. How much do we love Disney in this house? If you were to look at the DVD collection, it'd be clear the answer is A LOT! Of the 400 or so DVDs collected since we got a DVD player in 2000, probably 90% are a Walt Disney Company release. Most people probably thought we got them all for the kids...

6. In 2006, we got to travel to the West Coast and the main objective was to visit Disneyland. There is something cool about walking through the park that you know Walt did, too. I am itching to go back and see the things that we didn't get to and also get on the rides I think are better in Disneyland, Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean.

If you want to participate in Small Talk Six, it's easy! Just head on over to and follow the simple instructions and add your link.