Sunday, March 30, 2014

Project: Wedding Gift #1

Next weekend, my husband is going to a wedding for his cousin. We had no freaking idea what to get them as a gift, since we did not get any registry info & don't ever really communicate with them. I'm pretty sure I've never met the cousin or her soon-to-be-husband. So, we were wandering around Bed, Bath, & Beyond a few weeks ago, trying to find something that would be a great wedding present (always fun when you have no idea what they have, need, want, or like). Then, I had a thought. I walked out of the store, past the pet store next door, and right into Michael's. I went to the glass etching aisle, picked up a few stencils and wandered toward the frames. My poor kids & hubby were following me with no clue what I was doing. I found a big picture frame, picked it up and explained my thought. Etch their names & wedding date on a big pretty frame so they'd have a really nice place for their wedding picture. We're also planning to do the same for my brother's wedding which is coming up next month.

Since next weekend is the wedding, I decided I should get this frame done already. So, here it is:

This is the 'before' pic. No etching, just pretty frame.


This is the 'after':




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

School materials are here

So, our new school materials are here. I've been working on getting things figured out for Jay's Chemistry & Forensics, now that I have the materials in front of me (well, except the library & Netflix materials).

Here are all the materials (except lab materials/equipment) that we had to buy. This is for the rest of her high school, not just the current term.





This is obviously not everything she'll be using, just everything that we still needed to buy.


This is what I got for Jay for 5th grade.





Again, that's not everything. That doesn't include the lab materials/equipment, stuff we already owned, or the many library & Netflix resources we'll use.

I also picked up a few more games:

I will post soon with info about Jay's upcoming 5th grade year (it starts in just a few weeks!).

Too Many Mall Trips

I used to love hanging out in Barnes & Noble. I would spend hours there looking at books, trying to decide which ones I wanted to buy, looking at the new selections, sitting in a soft chair or on the floor reading. Whenever I needed a break from the kids & hubby, I would go to Barnes & Noble for a while. I could spend hours poring over books while hidden away in a corner of the store, undisturbed. I'd come home refreshed & recharged, once again ready to face the trials of dealing with my family.

There are few things that rival a good book store. Sitting on the floor, surrounded by stacks of books, the new book smell (which is right up there with new car smell, new puppy smell, and new baby smell) enveloping you as you touch each book cover, flip through the pages, & listen to the sound of a book being opened for the very first time, is an experience every single person should have.

I no longer visit my local Barnes & Noble if I can help it. I now do most of my book shopping online. A few years ago, the only Barnes & Noble in the city (why we only have one, I still don't understand) moved to the mall.

I hate the mall. I was not the average teenage girl, content to hang out at the mall, doing nothing. After high school, I went to work at the mall, at a McDonald's in the food court. I got along well with other mall employees, which helped me make it through the days when I wanted to strangle the customers & tape their obnoxious kids' mouths shut (seriously, some people need to discipline their kids & teach them some freaking manners (and I'm not talking about special needs kids, which I fully understand are more unpredictable in behavior. I'm talking the ones who are annoying little brats because mom & dad give in to everything instead of being in charge.)). Even on days when the most annoying customers came in, having some of my favorite regulars (employees from various stores in the mall) come in made my day better. I was always ready to put on a smile for them, and we'd chat as they waited for their food. For someone like me - social anxiety issues & an aversion to stupid & annoying people - working at the mall was really a challenge. Dealing with so many rude customers did not make me appreciate the mall more. Well, I appreciated the mall at two times of day. The first was when it first opened for the day. It opened at about 7am, so people could come walk. No stores were open yet, except us. We served coffee & other drinks to the morning walkers. So, when I worked mornings, the only people there were a few mall employees, and 20 - 30 walkers. Most of the walkers were seniors. They were so nice & polite. They were always so happy so early in the morning. They were regulars. I saw the same faces daily. I was on a first name basis with several of them. Many would order their coffee as soon as they saw me, even though I didn't have the coffee made yet or the drawer in the register. They would leave their $0.27 (the exact amount of a senior discount coffee after tax) on the counter & do another lap around the mall while they waited for the coffee to brew. Joining the seniors were the moms with babies. They were more likely to order orange juice, cappuccino, or soda (usually diet). They were also polite, but not as friendly as the seniors and most were not as regular about their walks. This was a wonderful time of day. I am not a morning person. I rarely fall asleep before 1 am (usually around 3 - 4 am now). When I had to work mornings, I was up by 5:30 (Luckily, I function best on 4 - 6 hours of sleep. My issue with mornings isn't being tired or groggy, just a general hatred of mornings.), so I could drive across town to drop my daughter off at daycare, then drive across town again to get to work on time. The regular walkers & the few mall employees there that early, made mornings far more tolerable. The only other time I truly appreciated the mall was at night, after the mall closed. We always had to stay after the mall closed to finish cleaning, counting down the drawers, etc. The only ones left were other mall employees. We'd crank up the music (When I was shift manager for close, I'd allow the closing crew to bring in CDs to play. A different person provided the closing soundtrack each night.) & dance & sing while closing down & cleaning for the night. The mall was so quiet at these times, & I actually enjoyed being at work.

Anyway, since leaving McDonald's, I have tried to avoid the mall as much as possible. It has only gotten worse since I left. Most of the stores I actually liked are gone. There's no longer a music store (at one point there were 2). Barnes & Noble is the only book store (there used to be 2 book stores, as well). The good coffee place is gone. It has more useless stores (Really, why does one mall need 5 jewelry stores? Also, the mall now has a corner store inside it. WTH is that about?). The whole place stinks. It's a combination of all the food places, the coffee places, the thousands of different scents from perfumes, colognes, lotions, candles, and bath products all mixed together into one nasty stench. Then, you get to add to that the overly perfumed/cologned people, because people don't realize that when someone walks past you, they shouldn't choke on the cloud of perfume/cologne surrounding you. It is a truly awful experience for someone whose sense of smell is as sensitive as mine, one that usually results in a migraine that lasts for days.

Since moving to the mall, Barnes & Noble kind of sucks. They only have a few chairs & they face the registers & the exit/entrance (the outdoor one, not the one to the rest of the mall). Who wants to face the cashiers or door while reading/skimming a book? At the time of the move, it was stated that they were moving because the mall location would be bigger. It's not. The cafe inside it is bigger (and smells rank). It's louder. It no longer smells like books. Now it just smells like mall & shitty coffee. They have less selection now. Well, they have less books, but more toys & crap. There are more people, most of which are teens who walk through pointing books & saying, "That was a good movie," and little kids whose parents can't be bothered to teach them how to walk instead of run, talk in an inside voice instead of scream, or behave like civilized humans instead of running around, yelling, throwing things, an running into people.

I ordered some books online from Barnes & Noble. One of the books I wanted was not in stock online, but was allegedly in stock in our local store. So, I went to the store to get it. I got there only to find that it was not in stock in the store, either. I find this annoying, especially since I saw it there the last 3 times I was in the store (all of which were in between Christmas & Feb, because I have a teenage daughter & therefore cannot avoid the mall as much as I'd like to). The book in question was the Barnes & Noble special leather-bound collectible edition of Dante's The Divine Comedy. I saw several copies in the store just a week or two before going to buy it. I don't, even for a second, believe that all of a sudden, in this city of idiots, they had a massive rush on that particular book. So, where the hell did all the copies go? I found only one hardcover copy, & it had glue all over the top, making the pages stick together. There was only one paperback copy, so I ended up with that. I was pissed. Then, the books I ordered online came, but one was broken:






So, I had to go back to the mall, again. I took the book, explained that this was how the book came, and told the guy that I would like to exchange it for a copy that wasn't falling apart. His reaction to the condition of the book was pretty much complete shock that they would send it out like that (I was rather surprised at it, too). He had to order it for me, because there were none in stock, of course. It took about a week & a half for the new, not falling apart copy to come in. I just picked it up yesterday. Now, I'm just hoping to avoid the mall for as long as possible.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Zombie Mouse Dalek

One of the things I got my son for his birthday was a small Dalek. Today, at lunch, I was telling my husband that one day one of us would wake up with a Dalek in their face & our son saying "EXTERMINATE!" My son was in the other room & asked what we were talking about.
This is what happened next.....

Me: "I'm not giving you the idea. You'll come up with it on your own soon enough."

My son: "I won't be able to get the Dalek to work. I don't know how to do the wiring, and I can't get it open."

Me (after a somewhat frightened glance at my husband): "Whose brain were you going to use?"

My son: (shrugs) "A Zombie. I'd like to see what would happen if you put a zombie brain into a Dalek."

My husband (quietly): "I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that he's thought about it."

My son: "It would have to be a small brain, though, like a mouse! I need a zombie mouse!"


Friday, the kids told me they were going to start working on a prototype for a hovercar. I'm not sure which will happen first, the hovercar or the zombie mouse brain Dalek. I'm kind of proud & frightened right now.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Today's Playlist

We love listening to music while doing schoolwork. It helps the kids to focus on their work. Plus, I don't deal well with silence. When I put together lists like this, I always try to stick with songs I know all of us like. I thought I'd share what we're listening to today.

Type O Negative

I can't help it, I love Peter Steele's voice. I generally refrain from using metal songs on playlists for school time, but Type O has some rather calm songs, which aren't distracting.

David Garrett

If you haven't heard David Garrett yet, play that video. I'll wait. Seriously, listen to it. This man is phenomenal! David Garrett is a violin virtuoso, a complete musical genius. If you are a fan of rock music, listen to some of his renditions of modern rock songs (like AC/DC's Thunderstruck, G'N'R's November Rain, or Metallica's Master of Puppets). He also does traditional classical music. This man is amazing, and I adore listening to him play. Not only is he very talented, but he is so passionate about what he's playing, which makes it sound even better.

Celtic Thunder

Celtic Thunder is a Celtic singing group. They are a wonderfully talented group of singers. Their concerts are big & theatrical, a fantastic show, with a combination of solo & group songs. We first found Celtic Thunder when our local PBS station played one of their concerts. If you've never heard them, play that video or go check out their YouTube channel. I truly love listening to these guys. They have such great voices, harmonize wonderfully, and I really enjoy the song choices. Most, if not all, of the members (past & present) have solo albums, as well. So, give those a listen, too. These guys really are so very talented.

Keith Harkin

Keith Harkin is one of the members of Celtic Thunder. His debut album is a combination of originals & covers. He is a very talented singer/songwriter. I've always loved his solos with Celtic Thunder, so had to listen to this album as soon as I found out about it. His cover of "Here Comes the Sun" is fantastic (I am not a Beatles fan, & my liking any Beatles song, no matter who is performing it, is fairly rare), and his cover of Van Morrison's "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" (which he did as a duet with Colbie Caillat) is simply beautiful. The song above, "Nothing But You & I," is one of his originals & one of my faves, along with "Don't Forget About Me," "Orange Moon," and "Rosa."

Ok, so that's who's on today's playlist for school time.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February 2014 Wrap-Up

What I read in February:
For Dea's English:
Pride & Prejudice

For Book Clubs:
Undead & Unwed
A Wizard of Earthsea

In other news:
I've been sick the last few weeks/ Nothing serious, probably just a cold & sinus infection. I've been really congested, coughing, and getting a lot of headaches, and yesterday my throat started to hurt. Between that and the general blah feeling around here as we all deal with cabin fever from not being able to go outside in the sub-zero temps, not much has really happened this month.
I already mentioned that Dea's new school term has started. I've finalized my list of 'to buy' items for when we get our tax returns. Jay has start learning Mandarin. I'm refreshing my French & have started learning Gaelic.

Well, that's pretty much it. I'm currently sitting bed, watching Con Air, after spending all day sleeping & trying to get over this cold/sinus infection thing. So, March is starting off on a not so great note. Hopefully, the rest of this month will be better.