Monday, December 24, 2007

Rest in Peace (Cheshirekitty speaks)

Yesterday, my mother, Patricia Leach, died at age 77 from complications from metastatic cancer. She had only been diagnosed three weeks before that, as the result of an arm fracture that did not heal. Had the doctors noted the small tumor that had caused the fracture three months ago, this story might have been somewhat different, but her lifespan may not have been prolonged by much, given the spread of the cancer at the time of detection.

My mother would have liked to have been well for Christmas, I think. Christmas was always one of her favorite holidays, and even though she could not decorate this year, my dad decked the halls for her. She had planned on wearing a grey robe with some of her favorite vintage Christmas pins on it. Her last words to my husband and I in the hospital were, "You go and enjoy yourselves."

Mom liked to refer to herself as a magpie, given her penchant for collecting pretty things -- vintage jewelry, small metal jewelry boxes, Art Nouveau busts, antique furniture. She and I bonded over fantasy art and cooking. She had overcome being the child of an indifferent cook by collecting an extensive repertoire of cookbooks and experimenting with recipes -- often more exotic than her upbringing had dictated. On the other hand, her family recipe for pineapple upside-down cake, made in a skillet, was one of her favorites.

I always admired my mother's ability to talk to just about anyone. She worked as an assistant personal tax assessor, desk clerk, and Census Bureau interviewer over her lifetime, and her skill of connecting to people served her well. She gave me her secret to this talent years ago: "Remember that you have something to learn from everyone you meet, whether it be a janitor or a politician." She once asked for a hug from Jeff Smith (the Frugal Gourmet) upon running into him on a Chicago street.

Mom could not be described as a tranquil person. She was at times flamboyant, at times frustrating, but never lukewarm. She sometimes had trouble moderating her emotions, as if there was just too many of them to bear. However, in the last couple weeks of her life, she had resolved her conflicts with the religion of her childhood and had exhibited a rare serenity. As it turns out, she had simply tackled the business of dying with as much impatience and drive as she had approached her hobbies and artistic endeavors throughout life. Mom never liked to be a beginner at anything.

Rest in Peace, Mom. If there is a Heaven, you are now decorating a corner of it with great aplomb, and none of the ravages of age are in your way.

My mother's obituary can be found here.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Quiet Saturday

Been a quiet Saturday here this weekend:

1. Earlier this afternoon, we watched the NCAA Division II playoffs, where once again, the Bearcats struck out. Great season, but we were just outplayed. Oh well, there's always next year. And as my wife pointed out, as much as we love our Bearcats, "it's just a game".

2. With both the exterior and interior work done on the house following the drunk driver incident, we were finally able to put the living room to rights and also put up the living room Christmas tree (aka, the "kitty tree", since it has kitty-themed ornaments). We also put up our stockings (not by the fireplace, since we don't have one of those). However, "hung from the bookcase with care" is pretty close though, and we also put up the "Leon" from last year ... pictures later.

3. The "light snow" they were predicting for today came and stayed ... rather than 1 or 2 inches as forecast, instead we got about 5-6 inches. Winter wonderland, hah! Fortunately, we're snug and toasty indoors, with the base for another round of scratch chicken noodle soup cooking in the Crockpot.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holding Out Despite the Weather ... And a Few Random Notes

Hi all,

Since the last post, we're surviving nicely through the ice storm and now the snowfall of this weekend. Given that we only lost power on Tuesday morning, we are counting ourselves very fortunate, given the number of people here in town or who live out in the country who are still without power. Since we have power, we're actually helping our next door neighbor out by keeping their deep freeze running (with a very long extension cord run across the street, which until earlier this afternoon, had been blocked off due to the telephone pole shown in the last post). Fortunately, the city came by, pulled the old pole, and reset a new one. However, they didn't re-attach our phone wire ... we're waiting on that from Embarq, and that may take weeks.

The cleanup around town is beginning; a lot of trees were damaged, including ones on campus (which is significant because the campus also doubles as the state arboretum), and our backyard is full of fallen limbs (none of which hit the garage ... darn!). Odds are, we're going to have to hire somebody to chainsaw the debris and load it onto a trailer to take to a collection site ... we're holding off on that until we can find someone who will charge a reasonable fee: the last person we checked with was charging $200.00 a trailerload. We hope that after a week or so, prices will go down.

I'm crossing my fingers and hoping that my web browser stays open so I can finish this post. I recently upgraded to Firefox 2.0.11, and while Firefox has usually been a stable browser in the past, 2.0.11 seems to want to crash if I even sneeze wrong. Not sure what's up, but it's almost making me want to go back to using IE7 (and if anything, that should tell you how serious the problem is, since I swore off using IE years ago due to pop-up and malware vulnerabilities).

Come on, Mozilla ... you've had a good product, but this one appears to be a stinker. Get it fixed!

EDIT: The Embarq guys showed up Sat. morning to finish redoing the pole. And we were without power for about 20 minutes while the Aquila crews restored power to the rest of the neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sure Enough ....











































Sure enough, the storm did hit, and we lost power right at 6:00. By 8:00, we had branches down. By 9:00, we had a telephone pole down and hanging over Edwards against the phone wires on the other side of the street. By 11:00, we were down to just my Treo to connect us with the outside world; our Internet service was out with the power and Lauren's cell service was out as well. Fortunately, the power came back after lunch, so I've been able to do some work apart from reviewing CBT notes for work.

Pics are above: the first two are of the back yard and show the downed branches and the telephone pole. The third is of the front showing the ice coating.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Coming to a Standstill (aka, Snow Day!)

Tomorrow's going to be a first: both Lauren and I are going to be working from home tomorrow. Due to the upcoming severe weather (possible winter storm, possible ice storm), the administration closed the campus during the day - the first time Lauren can recall this happening, and she's been here for 10 years - and adjusted the finals schedule, while I will forsake the drive in to KC and work from the warmth of indoors.

Fortunately, we're well-stocked on food, we have plenty of flashlights and candles, and both our auxiliary heater and stove are gas-powered, so even if the power goes out, we'll be okay for the short-term. We might be a little bored without Internet access or access to media (though now that I think about it, we will have both iPods, the laptops while on battery which we could use to play DVDs and CDs with, and we'll also have our smartphones for Internet access ... we're covered), but we could also catch up on our reading, too. And if for some reason we really desperately need to go outside, we have matching sets of snowshoes to strap on.

However, all told, I think staying indoors will be the order of the day tomorrow. Supposedly, the interior contractor is supposed to be here tomorrow as well to start the drywall repairs from last month ... we'll be amazed if he even shows up, given the weather.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Endings and Beginnings

Today was one of those days marking endings and beginnings:

On the plus side for beginnings, the contractor has promised to finally start work on the exterior of the house next week. We hope that the interior gets worked on next week, too.

Also, today marked the end of my formal role-training at work and the beginning of my actual work without having my role coach looking over my shoulder. Now I just have to make sure I'm ready for it.

The next one marks an ending ... but also a beginning as well. We learned today that our minister, Pastor Mike Kyle, will be leaving our church for a new position near West Plains, MO. It's a little bittersweet because of the reason for the move (in part to make a long-distance relationship a little bit shorter), but we hope that the people in West Plains appreciate that they are getting a wonderful minister ... and it's our loss. Still, we have heard that there is a tradition of good ministers coming to our tiny rural Episcopal church; we hope that the tradition continues and brings with it a new beginning as well.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lazy Saturday

It's a lazy Saturday afternoon-early evening here, following another dusting of snow in the morning and one more afternoon of cozy football watching.

We just finished listening to the Bearcats stomp West Texas A&M, and now we're waiting to hear word on which team we'll face (either Chadron State or Abilene Christian, who are now in overtime and tied at 56-all). The difference? If Abilene pulls off an upset, then we'll have another home game here. If not, then next week finds the 'Cats on the road to Chadron, NE.

If we do play here, then we'll try to get tickets.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

It's Black Friday in Maryville. We didn't get up with the roosters (to be honest, the stores were open before they crowed), but we were able to get in this morning and get our Christmas shopping to the 99% point. We have one more item left to get, and we're not saying what it is or who it's for. They'll just have to guess ;-). I finished the Christmas card send-off list, so those are all primed to go early in December (thanks to Blue Mountain), so those should hit your e-mail inbox sometime soon.

So now we're home. The iPod is hooked up to the stereo, and we're listening to the Chieftains "Bells of Dublin". We might start on interior Christmas decorations ... at least, those we can get to without causing the contractors any problems.

The soup from yesterday has turned out gorgeous; we'll be dining on that for lunch here shortly. Whoops ... strike that, Woodgie has already turned out a bowl, which means I'll have to get one for myself shortly.

Life is good.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Change of Plans

Well, rather than head up to Des Moines for the holiday, we took one look at the road conditions for this morning and decided to spend Thanksgiving at home this year. It also didn't help that Woodgie was starting to develop a cold, so traveling would have been a bit miserable for her. We're still hoping to head up the 2nd week of December for a couple of holiday-themed events, but for now, we're at home, safe and snug.

It's been pretty good so far; we hadn't planned on being here for Thanksgiving dinner, so we cleaned off the inch and a half of snow we got yesterday off the car and headed down to the local Hy-Vee for their Thanksgiving buffet. We followed that up with enough grocery shopping to get us through the weekend. So now, we're home napping and resting while the mirapoix base for scratch chicken noodle soup gently cooks down in the crock-pot. After this, I'll likely get the Christmas e-card list cleaned up and ready to go, and will be calling around to the family later this afternoon.

And with that, we hope that everyone reading this has a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Working From Home ...

Today's been interesting for a few reasons:

1. Dialing in for work - which was a good thing, given we got an unexpected dose of sleet turning to light snow for the rest of today. And with Woodgie home (classes were out as of Tuesday evening), it's been a good day to enjoy being home (and not deal with the commute).

2. Starting to put up Christmas decorations ... just the wire tree. We'll get the rest up sometime this weekend.

3. Making sure we had a place to eat at tomorrow for Thanksgiving. We'll likely be eating at the local Cracker Barrel.

It's beginning to look a lot like ...

Christmas?

I couldn't resist snapping this piece of local color with my Treo yesterday:














When I showed it to the gentlemen hanging the greenery, the man in the orange commented, "Usually, people don't think we're all that photogenic."
I beg to differ.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Still More Pictures ...

Here's some more pictures from Friday, some of which show the damage to our neighbors' house. These I'm posting only so Lauren can pull them and e-mail them to the contractor ... for some reason, file attachments on both of my e-mail accounts seem to not be working right now.








Friday, November 16, 2007

You're Not Going to Believe This ...















We woke up at 4:30 this morning to a couple of loud crashes, and the house shook like it had been hit by something. Unfortunately, it was too early for Santa to arrive, and the New Madrid fault isn't due to go for another 43 years yet.

As it turns out, we were visited by a drunk driver, who had veered off Edwards (our side street), somehow missed Lauren's car parked in front of our garage, drove through our back yard taking out the trellis and bench in the moon garden, and then drove through a section of the neighbor's adjoining privacy fence. Once in the neighbor's back yard, she turned right yet again and then hit the back corner of the neighbor's house, causing a foundation crack, and then knocked their central air conditioning unit off its concrete pad.

Unfortunately, she wasn't done ... in trying to escape, she broke through the neighbor's front fence, turned right again, and then plowed into a corner of our house. After checking to see what was damaged inside (not much, apart from one oil lamp broken, one picture frame with calligraphic character broken, one wooden lacquered wall panel art sitting on the floor, and a 1-foot crack in the sheet rock directly opposite the corner where she hit), things were mainly fine.

Meanwhile, Lauren went outside and retrieved the driver, who was by now hysterical and distraught but uninjured ... five minutes later, the police showed up.

"Hey, what's this car doing here?"















"See the fence in the pictures? Neither do we."





























The driver, who shall remain nameless (at least, until the police blotter comes out in tomorrow's paper), was given her sobriety tests and, as far as we know, was taken away for a BAC check. We don't know what else has happened to her, but we suspect she is probably in a world of trouble, both legally and financially, both with law enforcement and her insurer.

We have a visit from a contractor tomorrow morning to do the claims estimate, since we now have a 1-foot by 1-inch width interior crack right near where her car hit, plus some clapboard damage on the outside. We don't know yet about damage underneath the clapboard yet ... the contractor will do the initial adjusting and let us know what the damage will be. For us, it will be about $500 out of pocket deductible (which we'll recover, eventually, when State Farm subrogates the claim with the driver's insurer. We hope that State Farm has its usual good record with turning around claims quickly.)

We're thinking, given what happened today and what happened to us last year around this time that next year, we need to go somewhere else on vacation. Someplace private ... and far, far away from bad drivers.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Where Did the Year Go???

It's mid-November, and it seems like the year has gone by in a rush because of so much that has happened: marriage, honeymoon, new jobs (for me, anyway), and the oncoming holiday season (no, wait, it's already here, according to the retailers) ... where did the year go??? It seemed like last year dragged a bit, but that was because I was between jobs and had more time to stop and smell the roses (in between the job applications, that is). Now, it's different .... with the new job, I'm commuting an hour 45 there and back every day, and I'm usually getting home by 7, which gives me some time in the evenings, but not much (which means less updates to the blog).

At least the holidays are coming up, with the days off that follow.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Cognative Dissonance

Yesterday at the local Wal-Mart, Lauren and I were looking at the half-off sale on clearance Halloween items, when the usual ads and music blaring in the background changed suddenly:

Me: "Am I hearing what I think I'm hearing?"

Lauren: "What?"

Me: "Christmas music."

We had already seen the "Christmas section" set-up for the last two weeks where lawn and garden had been, but yesterday was very disconcerting: we'd arrived just in time for Wal-Mart's not-so-subtle move-up of its annual "Black Friday" sale, and the Christmas music was playing over the intercom while we were looking at Halloween costumes on clearance. It's like Thanksgiving had been skipped over entirely.

Maybe it's just me, but is anyone else struck by the "wrongness" of this? It may not come fast enough for you, but isn't it just rushing things a bit to have the decorations up 5 weeks before Thanksgiving and then starting the Christmas rush sale 3 weeks before the normal start day?

Just curious.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Keeping Up With Things

Hi all,

It's been a long while since we've last posted, but we've been really, really busy over the last few weeks: Lauren with mid-terms and classes, me with wrapping up the last few weeks at my (now former) job at the plant, and both of us trying to get caught up on house cleaning and various home repair projects. We mostly wanted to get as much done as possible prior to having company (Lauren's friend Jenny) over this weekend for Homecoming festivities and the game of the week (yet another close near-heartbreaker, as our Bearcats barely beat Washburn by 1 point! And this after almost giving the game away in the last 3 minutes). Once again, we're left grateful that they won, but scratching our heads at the last four games (which they've won by a grand total of roughly 10 points).

Once again, we're in a transition period ... me moving on to a new job (and the longer commute and being home later in the evenings), and adjustments from that. But we'll manage.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

We Wimped Out

We had tickets for today's football game. We even braved the rain for the tailgating prior to the game. But with an hour rain delay due to the thunderstorms rumbling through the area and the rain coming down, we huddled underneath the stands for a bit, then wimped out and went home, where we're listening to the game via streaming media (we live at the lowest point in the neighborhood and have trouble with radio reception). So we're home doing a little bit of home improvement/winterization before settling down to a nice fall nap with the Woodwick candle crackling nicely.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Two More Weeks to Go

I got my e-mail this afternoon with my orientation schedule for the new job. It sounds like I'll be working in a different (read, more casual) environment, as I'll be working at what Cerner calls their "Innovation Campus". It certainly sounds more laid back than your traditional office environment (in other words, jeans are permissible) ... I'll probably do business casual most of the time, though.

Honestly, I'm looking forward to the challenge of the new job. Now I just have to put in my last two weeks at the old one.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Fall Classic and The Harvest Festival















This weekend found us traveling down to KC for the "Big Game", as Northwest played my old alma mater, Pitt State, at Arrowhead Stadium.

Okay, I was expecting a blowout. So was the Morning Sun's forecaster. We were both wrong, and instead, we were treated to an "edge of your seat win it on the last play in overtime" thriller.





























This morning, home from the game, we also found the opportunity to experience a bit of history. One of the sister churches in the West Missouri Episcopal diocese, St. Oswalds-in-the Fields, holds an annual Harvest Festival every fall. Built like its namesake church across the pond, St. Oswalds has stood in the country for decades and it's still going strong.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

New Opportunities and Moving Forward

Hey all,

Looks like it's one of those months where I get a whole new set of challenges. Specifically, I successfully applied for and (pending final acceptance of their offer this evening), gained a new job working for Cerner, a medical software corporation down in KC, as a document developer (i.e., a technical writer). That was one of the "promising" prospects I mentioned in an earlier posting.

On one hand, it's going to be a long (roughly an hour plus forty) commute each way every day, but it will be worth it to once again have a job with benefits (paid holidays, vacation, and health insurance), plus a better salary than I could hope to make at most of the jobs here in town.

So, that puts me in my last two weeks working as a temporary, and my last two weeks (hopefully) of blue-collar factory work. I've toyed with the idea of writing up my blue-collar experience in a blog post, but that may wait. I don't want to burn any bridges at the plant; after all, I do owe them (especially the folks at Northwest Services), quite a lot, given I was out of unemployment money when they hired me. Maybe later.

So, it's a time of new opportunities and moving forward in a lot of ways, and it looks like I'll be doing it for a great company.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Another Week ...

It's been an interesting weekend and start to the week here in Maryville ... we haven't been writing as much on the blog as of late because we've been busy living instead.

Saturday found us out and about at the local Arts Festival, where we found a wonderful lithograph for Lauren's office which features the front of the Admin building, the bell tower, and Northwest's mascot, Bobby the Bearcat. We also did some Christmas shopping (the whos and whats will have to remain a mystery, of course), and also tried out the coffee (KC's own Roasterie blend) at the Bookstop, which is (thanks to the untimely demise of Main Street Coffee), the only public coffeeshop in town (unless you count Java City, on campus, or the local McDonalds, which recently installed custom coffee equipment towards becoming a McStarbucks).

We also discovered that afternoon (pleasantly so), that we have a new co-favorite in our quest for "favorite local BBQ": a local caterer, Quick Draw Todd's, served up a subtle "smoked but juicy" pulled pork and brisket that left us very impressed. Of course, we still like Bubba's, but for different reasons. We're hoping that maybe Todd can do a smoked turkey breast for us for Thanksgiving this year.

That evening found us at the Bearcat's latest home football game. Final score: Us 86, the other Bearcats (SBU): 13. The next game is the annual Fall Classic vs. my old alma mater, Pitt State, down at Arrowhead Stadium. As much as I love my old school and hope that there would be a decent game this coming weekend, there are a couple of worrisome items which would indicate otherwise:

  1. Pitt doesn't have a run defense like it used to have, giving up 200 yard running games in several of its last games. Northwest has an exceptionally strong running game this year.
  2. Pitt is down to their 3rd string QB, while Northwest has all 3 QBs back in the game.
  3. Previous to last weekend, Pitt lost to Missouri Western, a team which Northwest beat handily and which Washburn, a non-ranked team, also beat this past weekend.
  4. Northwest set MIAA offensive (points scored) and defensive (running yards allowed) records in last week's game against SBU, while Pitt struggled to a 2 OT win against Central Missouri last weekend.
The prognosticator for the Pittsburg paper, the Morning Sun's own Fearless Forecaster, hasn't called the game yet and won't until this Thursday, but after last weekend (and after last year's game, which the Bearcats won, 41-14, despite being minus Omon at running back), I'm spotting the Bearcats about 40 points this go around.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Another Weekend Trip

Just a quick post ... the past weekend found us traveling to Illinois, specifically back to Urbana-Champaign, to attend the 80th birthday party for Lauren's mentor, Professor Les Savage. Going there meant a 7 hour drive there on Friday night and 7 hours back on Sunday.

I must admit to being a bit nervous meeting a few more of Lauren's friends for the first time, but after I realized that I probably felt how Lauren must have felt when we went to Kansas for my 20th high school reunion, it made sense.

All told, everyone had a great time; Les threw a catered dinner for all of us. As a special treat, Les' piano and music theory teacher played several selections that Les had composed over the years, which we all enjoyed.

The weekend was also marked by several excellent breakfasts, at the Courier Cafe on Saturday, and a brunch at the Courier's sister restaurant, Silver Creek.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Back from the RenFaire

Hi all,

This past weekend found us down in Kansas City for several events:

1. The 3rd Annual Kansas City Chocolate Festival: A charity event held at the Overland Park Convention Center, it featured free samples (including not one but two separate chocolate fountain stations), and cooking demonstrations.

2. This year's KC Renaissance Festival: Where Lauren and I found out that our favorite bagpipe/world music band Tartanic is not, to quote Monty Python, "bleedin' demised" like the infamous parrot. We were afraid that the band had gone their separate ways after an announcement on their old website earlier in the year, but when we got to the fair, we rejoiced to discover that the group survived a partial break-up and is continuing its mix of on-stage comedy and traditional pipes and Middle Eastern drumming at venues nationwide. And that kicked off a fun Sunday of shopping, light noshing, and later, a great dinner (we once again did Korean at Cho Ga) afterwards.

3. We also celebrated Lauren's birthday (she's 29 again, seriously!). Lauren and her friend Jenny both celebrate their September birthdays with a dinner and gift exchange, and we decided that instead of their meeting up in St. Joseph, MO as usual, we would head down to KC and combine it with the RenFest and Chocolate Festival gatherings.

4. And I got my phone fixed ... my poor Treo needed a new faceplace, so I grabbed one off of eBay and took it down to a Sprint store in KC to have it replaced. Unfortunately, in the process of replacing the faceplace (which required some internal work), the tech managed to damage the internal camera (which is why we don't have good pics from the chocolate festival). However, the tech was able to replace the camera with a better camera from a newer model Treo, so all was set right on Sunday.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Yet Another Kitteh Picture

And just for filler this week, it's a picture of da newest kitteh, Meme:

Sunday, September 09, 2007

No Joy in Maryville (Re: Yesterday's Bearcat Game)

Hey all,

It's another weekend in Maryville here. Some more details on the work uncertainty referenced in the last post: I'm still employed at my temp job at the local Energizer plant, but the assignment that I've been doing at the plant will likely be going away in several months at best, several weeks at worst. Apparently, an administrative decision was made that they are going to replace the temporaries on the cleaning crew with full-time staff due to the amount of turnover among the temporary cleaners and (my best guess) because of end of budget year shortfalls ... they've had to pay a lot of overtime for weekend spill cleanups over the last four/five months, and that's likely depleted their maintenance budgets. I should note that this change was completely unexpected and we had no warning this was coming, as usually cleaning jobs are the most stable temporary assignments at the plant, but that is unfortunately going to change for the long-term.

What it means for me is ... well, I'm not sure. As of last week, they were mentioning the possibility of confined space training (specialty training for working in confined/narrow spaces within the plant), which could mean travel to another Energizer plant for that. So far, no word on that at all.

At best, we think it means they'll give some of us that are being displaced a new assignment elsewhere in the plant, which means for me, the possibility of working on the main floor again and getting out of the dust, noise, and excessive heat from the current work location. So far, the temp agency keeps promising that they'll find us alternative assignments, and I have to trust them on their word, but it also means that I have to keep searching for a better job, putting out applications, and hoping something better comes up in the meantime. I have some possibilities, none of which I can discuss yet because they're only possibilities so far, but I have my fingers crossed.

FYI, if you have access to cable and get The History Channel, an episode of Modern Marvels coming up later in the month talks about the history of alkaline battery making. For background, a film crew spent some time at one of the Maryville plant's sister plants in Asheboro, NC. I believe the episode is showing on Wednesday, September 19th, at 8:00 Eastern (7:00 CST), so if you want to find out what my current work environment is like, feel free to watch.

The title for this entry refers to last night's NWMSU football game vs. University of Nebraska-Omaha, which unfortunately, due to injuries to key players, including our starting QB and both starting wide receivers, and a good opponent, resulted in the first regular season loss for the team since two years ago. While they were undefeated last year until the championship, it looks like it's going to be a tough year for the Bearcats this year. Oh well ... it just means that this year's matchup between the Bearcats and Pitt State should be interesting, to say the least. Last year's was a blowout; this year, I'm not so sure.

Anyhoo ... apart from the chaos, it's been a good week so far. Lauren's birthday is in a couple of days, but we've started the celebration a little early with a trip to our favorite Japanese restaurant in St. Joe. She's already gotten her birthday gift (a roll-up floor bed so she can take her daily nap at work), but I may be able to find something for her at the KC RenFaire next weekend, too.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Ups and Downs

Hi all,

It's been a busy couple of weeks, with some recent ups and downs and future changes showing up. We haven't been able to post much, but here's what is new with us:

1. I found out at work in the last few weeks that the staffing drawdown leading into the winter shutdown is starting a bit early, so the cleaning assignment that I've been doing for the last four months at the plant will end sometime in the next few months. Odds are, they will try to keep me on at the plant, but doing what, I'm not quite sure yet. I keep hoping that something better will turn up for me in the meantime. I have my fingers crossed, anyway.

2. I recently found out that my middle sis and brother in law have moved out to the Pacific Northwest in the last month, Jim to take a new job and Linda and the kids to move as well. It looks like they haven't sold their old house in Michigan yet, either.

3. School is back in session. It's been interesting getting back into the school year, too; with Woodgie going back to teaching, we're working through the "who does chores and which ones?" concerns. So far, it looks like Lauren gets to maintain the litterbox, while I do the laundry. So far, we're splitting cooking chores and the housecleaning, as well as the dishes (she does them, I put them away).

With the start of the school year, we're also in football limbo, too: we went to the Bearcats' thunderstorm-shortened season opener a couple of weeks ago. We saw a lot of good things about this year's team, but we have yet to see a full game. Meanwhile, we wait while the NCAA Div. II rules committee decides who won.

4. Two of our favorite sci-fi shows are having some horrid things done to their schedules in the name of improving ratings: Battlestar Galactica, which is currently filming its last season, may be stretched out into two shorter seasons. According to AICN (Ain't It Cool News), it is reported that Sci-Fi Channel will be splitting Battlestar's last season into two shorter seasons, with the show actually ending in 2009. Meanwhile, the BBC announced this weekend that the 5th season of the new Dr. Who will not run until 2010 (which means given the delay, we wouldn't see it here in the States until 2011).

Meanwhile, we're taking a nice, quiet couple of days off for the holiday and regrouping; Lauren from her first week's teaching schedule, which included a weekend of teaching a Freshman Seminar session (orientation for what has turned out to be Northwest's biggest freshman class ever), and me from work.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My first Cat Macro

Yep, even I have fallen victim to captioning cats:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cheshirekitty speaks: The summer winds down ...

Today, I saw the surest sign that the fall semester at NWMSU is approaching: the university grounds crew out on College Avenue re-stenciling the safety yellow Bearcat paws on the pavement. This yearly ritual necessarily precedes the arrival of over 5,000 students (including the biggest freshman class we've had for years) next week.

Incoming freshmen will arrive on Thursday for Advantage events, including the first Bearcat football game of the year. Their first class will be days earlier than the official August 27th start date -- they will attend Freshman Seminar on Friday, August 24th and again on the early afternoon of Sunday August 26th.

The rest of the students will meander in over the next few days. On campus, Cat CREW will help students move their belongings into the residence halls and apartments, while off-campus, other students will be finding friends and family members to help them move in. Wal-mart will be more crowded than it's been all summer.

By the time the students arrive, however, I will already have been in nearly a week's worth of meetings. My first meeting is the annual Freshman Seminar faculty/peer advisor training. I have been teaching the Family and Consumer Sciences Department's section of FS for about four years. This year, I will have 25 students -- unless, as often happens, I find three or four more new students at my classroom door, transferring into my section.

This half-day meeting will be followed by faculty development days, where my colleagues and I will meet and greet and plan departmental goals for the semester. I will give a dog-and-pony show of my powerpoint portfolio stack. (I figured that, as we pride ourselves on being the "Electronic Campus", my portfolio should be hyperlinked and burned to CD!) The College of Education and campus-wide meetings also will occur during this week. I will follow Friday's morning meetings with an entire afternoon reviewing schedules for my freshmen.

I find myself eagerly awaiting the new semester, as I do each year. To me, the academic calendar has been the only calendar that makes sense: Shouldn't the year start as the weather is cooling? Shouldn't April be pregnant with anticipation of new careers and lives launching? Shouldn't summer be a change of schedule, slower-paced to cope with the heat?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Back From KC

Got back from Kansas City this weekend; Lauren's friend Jenny and several of her friends were participating in this weekend's Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 4k walk/run Downtown, and she had invited us to join their walking team, so we drove down on Saturday afternoon in order to stay overnight prior to the walk today.

Even so, we did find a few things to do yesterday. The afternoon found us at a regional cat show at the Overland Park Convention Center, where Lauren discovered a new favorite cat breed, and we kinda confirmed that one of our cats has some Maine Coon in her background. Afterwards, we stopped off at Oak Park Mall for a little shopping, including a small visit to the local Godiva chocolatier.

We then made our way over to Cho Ga, a Korean restaurant in Overland Park that we had been wanting to try since it opened earlier this summer. The last time we had Korean food was at a small place in Des Moines back in early 2006 (the former Ariang over on Douglas Avenue up in Des Moines, which reopened as Teriyaki House before the place, sadly, closed for good last year), so we were eager to try out a new venue.

Cho Ga

Lauren commented that the menu was the "most traditional for a Korean place she had ever seen", but we all enjoyed the selections we picked. Both Jenny's younger sister Beth, who was in town following an Americorps stint down South, and I had bulgogi (grilled, seasoned, and shredded beef roundeye and veggies done on a small grill) with chapchae (long cellophane noodle) and served with lettuce for wrapping the meat and steamed rice for a side, while Lauren managed to talk Jenny into trying the bibimbap (ground meat or seafood with veggies served in rice and served in a super-heated stoneware pot, with an egg cracked over the rice). Bibimbap presented this way is served hot enough that the egg cooks as it mixes into the rest of the ingredients, leaving the dish rather crunchy in texture. The sides (which we were given plenty of) were also quite varied and flavorful, ranging from onion cakes, to pickled daikon radish in spicy chili sauce, to bean sprouts, to kimchi, to an interesting apple with mayo salad.

The Walk

We left Jenny's condo early on Sunday morning, in order to make it to Union Station by around 7ish and find a parking spot. At Union Station, we were joined by some of the other members of Jenny's walking team and over 20,000 other walkers and runners.




















After checking out the various vendors, we went to the starting line near the Block fountain in front of Union Station. There, the "race" started, with the runners starting first, followed by the walkers. It was quite an amazing sight, seeing the street ahead of you packed from one side to the other with people, and the crowd stretching for several blocks ahead and behind.














Afterward, we checked out the sponsor and vendor tents (including the one from Energizer), but because the heat by then was getting into the danger zone (up to 101 degrees), we adjourned indoors to Union Station for drinks and some some air-conditioned rest before heading to the car.















Bollywood

After the race, Jenny and Beth had some errands to run at Wal-Mart, so they dropped us off at Jenny's condo in Blue Springs. After a nap for Lauren and some light reading for me, they returned from Wal-Mart, and we set off for Bollywood, a roughly year-old Indian restaurant that features a big-screen TV continually showing Bollywood Indian movies (so named because of their lavish production and dance numbers). We were pleasantly surprised that afternoon to discover that they have started offering an inexpensive (but very good) lunch buffet on the weekends, so we were able to indulge in a lot of our favorite curries, kebabs, vegetarian-only dishes, their garlic and herb naan, and desserts such as carrot halvah without hitting the pocketbook too hard.

Overall, we had a great weekend and we managed to avoid the worst of the heat as well, so it was well worth it, and now that we're home, it looks like we've got another good shot at some rain this evening.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

We're Still Here, Honestly

It's almost 9 PM today, and it's still 82 degrees, down from 90. And it will be hotter tomorrow. Not much to do but ...

1. Read about the storms of the last two days. We got 5 inches of rain in about 36 hours, wind that took down tree limbs and the steeple of the Presbyterian Church, and thunder/lightning.
2. Roast coffee beans at home. I just got my shipment of beans from Sweet Maria's, and have roasted and cupped (that's roaster lingo for tasting) two out of the three beans I bought:

Ethiopian Kochere District Yirgacheffe: Roasted to City Roast; perhaps could have roasted it a bit darker. Tastes citrusy and lively; I could drink this all summer!

Costa Rican Tarrazu La Minita: Roasted again to barely City Roast; I am trying to get the hang of home-roasting. I thought this was mild, almost too mild, but I did get a hint of apples and an aftertaste that was a little dark.

How am I roasting coffee at home? you might ask. Strangely enough, you can roast enough beans for one cup at a time in the right kind of air popper . The average air popper takes on enough berries for a good cup of freshly-brewed coffee using a Senseo machine and either Eco Pads or the Presto MyPod .

Talk about fresh coffee! This is some of the most unbelieveable stuff I've ever tasted. It's more like drinking wine -- the nuances of flavor are amazing, even with cream and sweetener (as I am prone to drinking coffee). I would like to try the third coffee I bought -- Rwandan Butare Bourbon -- but, umm, I need to sleep tonight!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

We're Not Missing ... Really We're Not

Hi all,

I know we're a bit behind on regular postings, but that's because there isn't that much going on with us right now. We're staying in from the heat, and our normal walking schedule has been curtailed a bit because of it, but we're doing our best to stay indoors and keep cool. It's not anywhere as bad as it was last summer (when we were staying indoors due to the extended 100 degree days), but it's still bad enough to discourage going outdoors for any length of time. We're hoping that it a)cools down, and b)finally manages to rain here. It seems like in the last couple of weeks that any rain we've promised by the forecasters either goes north of us up into Iowa, or south of us, between St. Joe and Kansas City. We are hoping that the forecasters are correct about the next few days.

It's just as well; Lauren's in academic mode, doing syllabi's, setting up schedules in Outlook, and getting ready for the coming semester, which starts in two weeks (we just did the annual "clean the office" ritual earlier this afternoon). At the moment, she's indulging in her love of all things coffee; our regular coffee grinder died last weekend, so Friday night at Sams, we picked up a Cuisinart Burr grinder they had on the clearance rack for $30.00. Now that we have something which can do fresh-ground coffee en mass, she's looking at what it takes to home roast coffee beans.

Meanwhile, everything is quiet in town; with the college between semesters, there isn't much activity apart from the few students who are arriving early to move and get settled in.

Things will pick up later on, with a couple of road trips to Kansas City for the Race for the Cure 4k run/walk (we're walking, obviously), and later in September, we're hoping to do a couple of trips down to the KC RenFaire: one to see our fellow church-goers Channing and Louise Horner participate in a Renaissance music quartet (they both play recorder), and the other, a meet-up with Micah (and hopefully his family, too).

It doesn't look like we're going to get up to Des Moines for the State Fair this year, but we hope to get up to there on some weekend this Fall to visit, do some shopping, and also indulge in some of our favorite restaurants (Adong and possibly Cookry over by the Drake area on the way out of town).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lauren's Simpsons Avatar

Not to be left behind, I made my avatar...now all I need is my walking poles.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Simpsons Avatar

Just to be a little silly ... the Simpsons movie website allows you to make avatars, so I made one of myself strolling through downtown Springfield in Bearcat green.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Home Again, Home Again

Just an FYI ... Lauren's back from the mission trip; we'll have a longer posting with pictures sometime later in the week ... but for now, we've just been getting reacquainted after being apart for a week, which, if anyone is counting, is the longest time we've spent apart since I moved down here. And we've got better things planned, like going to see the new Harry Potter movie and heading to the county fair this weekend.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Week's Gone By Rather Quickly ...

Literally; it seems just last Sunday when Woodgie left for South Dakota, and left me to fend for myself with the kitties. Now it's the Sunday following, and after a week's worth of house cleaning, laundry, a couple of household projects, and getting used to having the whole bed to myself, keeping up with the daily walks (except for those days when it got too darn hot, requiring me to head to the campus fitness center), it's still felt a little strange, given that in the space of a week, we've only talked a total of 5 minutes due to the lack of cell coverage up there.

Still, it sounds like she had a great time up there. Meanwhile, I managed to do something new ... something that my middle sis would have a good laugh about. Growing up, one of the career alternatives that Dad always thought I should try was to enter the seminary and become a Lutheran minister (hah!). To be honest, I wasn't sure if that was a direction I wanted my life to go in.

Now, 38 years later, here I am leading a morning worship service as an officiant and delivering a sermon that I wrote myself ... it's a rather scary feeling, but a heady one, too. Granted, I've participated in dozens of services over the last couple of years at former churches as a praise team singer and soloist, but never as "the leader". At least it went well, without any hitches, and quite a few people liked the sermon that I wrote. All in all, not bad for a first time for it.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Back to the Single Life for a Little While ...

At least, until Woodgie comes back from South Dakota, that is.

Oh well, I've got plenty to keep me busy ... now if only it would cool down so I can do the touch-up painting on the house.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

4th of July















With the plant closed for the 4th, Lauren done with her second summer class, and the Solstice gathering shelved, Lauren and I were finally able to camp out this summer, which was nice because neither one of us had been to the Mozingo Lake rec area east of town for a campout (actually, Lauren has been there before; she just hasn't camped there before).

We set out Tuesday evening for the lake, managing to grab one of the last tent campsites available in a nice shaded spot not too far from the campground entrance and about a mile from the visitor center. After unloading the car, pitching the tent, filling the air mattress, and setting up the grill (not to mention letting Woodgie nap for a little bit), we embarked on dinner, which we'd mapped out late last week. Although I've grilled before, I hadn't done small grill/charcoal grilling in awhile. I hate to admit it, but I don't have my Man Scout merit badge in starting a charcoal grill; fortunately, Kingsford has come up with these "light the bag and walk away" BBQ in a bag charcoal packs, which work wonderfully.

Dinner that evening was grilled Chicken Sate (Thai version, using a set of Thai-spice skewers we found at Hy-Vee, with a little bit of Indonesian gado gado substituting for the usual peanut sauce), a cucumber-onion salad, and some grilled fruit (pineapple and melon) with yogurt dip for dessert:















Following dinner, we went for a walk from the campsite up to the visitor's center, where we discovered that (amazingly) one of the cabins near the lake was open (last year they were all booked). We also picked up some camping supplies (we'd forgotten to pack some dish soap, among other things). Woodgie also found time to visit with the neighbors at the campsite and, in one case, find a new friend:















The following morning found us waking early to the sound of thunder; concerned that we might get rained on, we quickly packed up the tent and chairs into the car. Later, after realizing that we weren't going to get rained on, we unloaded the lounge chairs with the new camp stove we got among our wedding presents and proceeded to make breakfast: instant oatmeal and fresh coffee made in Woodgie's stovetop espresso pot:















After breakfast, Lauren went for a walk, while I ended up finding a nearby electrical outlet so I could charge my phone, which was almost out of juice. Later that morning, with the sun coming out (too much for our tastes), we ditched the campsite in favor of a small shelter near the lake itself, which featured shade and the possibility of a great view of the fireworks later that evening, as well as a great view of the lake. As the shelter also had a grill, that allowed us to continue our holiday feasting: grilled veggies with the remainder of the gado gado peanut sauce and the remainder of the cucumber salad for lunch, and later for dinner, hot dogs, grilled corn, and more grilled fruit.





























We also got to watch the fireworks crew set up the displays, which they tested with a couple of dry (no firework loaded) powder charges in the afternoon:















Alas, staying for the fireworks wasn't to be: right after dinner, Woodgie discovered that despite her best efforts, she'd gotten a little sunburned and wasn't feeling well (and I didn't blame her, because the temps had gotten into the mid 90s that afternoon), so we called it an evening about 7:30, packed up the cooler, and headed home for the cooler comfort of the indoors.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Great Outdoors, Part 2

Another weekend again finds Lauren and myself outside in the back yard after a busy weekend, with a citronella candle sitting between our lounge chairs; Lauren's working on a quiz/lesson for her summer class, while I'm surfing and chatting, with fireflies flickering around both of us.

This is the weekend that we would have been in Des Moines, for a solstice gathering and small second wedding reception that two of my friends were throwing, but there wasn't enough response from everyone, so both it and the solstice gathering got cancelled. It peeves me a little that two of my friends wanted to do something really nice for us, and hardly anyone up there responded to the RSVPs, making their efforts for naught. I mean, it is summer, and everyone does have busy schedules, but c'mon people ... what gives??? To quote Stan Lee: "Nuff' said".

Anyhoo, we had a great and productive time this weekend anyway. After another 8.5 mile walk out to Gray's and back on Saturday, we spent the afternoon doing some planning and yard work ... mainly planning for the 4th of July, some shopping for groceries for that campout, some hoping that the weather on the 4th stays pleasant enough that we don't get rained out, and also some more yard work, which will lead into several nice additions to the back and side yards.

Friday afternoon, we rented a tiller and did some bedding prep for what will become "the kitty garden", or the 3rd corner garden to go with the rose garden and lily garden at each corner of the property and create a "virtual border" for the lawn.

For a little backstory, last summer Lauren and I had brainstormed what "theme" we wanted for the next corner garden, and I suggested doing a "kitty" garden, with pussywillows, catnip, and some cat-themed decorations. Then, after our cat "Kitty" passed away last February, we decided that we'd also add a small memorial marker for her, too. We'll probably hold off on planting until fall, but the seedbed will be ready by then. Lauren also did some relocation of her day lillies and some of the peonies, which cleaned up some of the clutter by the street.

Last night, we started another leftover project from last summer, burning out an old tree stump near the street, and that is now turning into another "nice to have" item, too; we've decided that we're going to turn the former stump space into a small firepit area, so tomorrow, we'll be getting a trunkload of paving stones and a bag of sand to assemble that. It will cost us about the same as an average-grade portable firepit from Wal-Mart, but we think doing it this way will let it blend in with the rest of the yard decorations. Since the location is out by the street, it's plenty far enough from the house for safety purposes, and when it's done, we'll not only have a decorative place to use as a conversation and cooking pit for later in the fall, but we'll also have a place to do junk branch and leftover garden plant burns as well. It's a pity that the closest of my friends lives an hour and a half away, and some of Lauren's friends live even farther away .... we could put the conversation pit to good use.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Great Outdoors

Just a quick weekend post: I'm typing this underneath the shade tree in our back yard, where Lauren and I are enjoying the benefits of mobile computing, sitting on our Wal-Mart special lounge chairs with a Citronella candle between us, and drinking moon tea (i.e., sun tea, but without the nasty health issues).

It's been a pretty busy but fun weekend so far: Friday night found us at A&G Restaurant for Greek Night, then after that, over to Wal-Mart for some preliminary shopping for the 4th of July camping trip. Since I only have that day off, we're hoping to spend the evening of July 3rd and the 4th out at Mozingo Lake, camping out and hiking (Lauren's planning to bring the stovetop espresso pot so we can have morning coffee), and ultimately, later that evening we'll be able to view the fireworks.

Later that evening found us heading down to the local Orscheln's farm store for their Midnight Madness sale to keep the kitties in cat kibble. We also had to wait out the rainstorm that started right after we arrived, which we were glad for, as Lauren's garden got a good watering, too.

This morning, we continued our morning distance walks; equipped with camelbacks for water, we walked out of town to Gray's Truckstop and Cafe for a light late-morning lunch (with accompanying nap afterward). Now this sounds pretty tame. However, the walk out to Gray's is 4.5 miles, while the walk back was approximately 4 miles, so we walked a total of 8.5 miles with lunch break (which tends to blow local people's minds, because most people simply drive out there). This marks (for me) the longest sustained walk I've done since driving cattle on the family farm, but it pales besides the walk Lauren did on Friday, as she's now up 10.5 miles, which means she did back to back long walks two days in a row.

Later in the afternoon, we went down to the local John Deere dealership, which was the home site of the local Heart of America tractor cruise. We watched the tractors (most of them 1930s to 1960's era models) return from the cruise, which went out to Clyde (near Conception Junction), and back to Maryville, finally parading around the square and then back up 71 Highway to the dealership; the accompanying BBQ afterward was open to the public, and one of Lauren's coworkers' families was involved in organizing, so of course we went. Besides, the donations from the BBQ and cruise activities go toward Camp Quality, a local summer program for kids undergoing cancer treatments, so it was all for a good cause.

Having grown up with a farming background, it was fun explaining to Lauren some of the "what was whats" (i.e., this is a 3-point hitch, this was the kind(s) of tractors we used to drive, this tractor was made by this company before they got bought out by this company, etc.). However, just because I grew up driving them does not mean that I want to OWN one ... as I pointed out to Lauren, where would we put it???

I suspect tomorrow, apart from church and a minimum of laundry and housecleaning, will involve quite a bit of rest and recuperation from today's walk. A few days ago, I looked at the post from back in January with our New Year's resolutions, and it looks like both of us have gotten around to fulfilling those. Lauren's was to walk an average of 3 miles a day (and she's now doing that, with an average of 5), and mine was to lose 5 pounds (which I've done aplenty, having dropped at least 20 so far).

Sunday, June 17, 2007

High School Reunion, Take 2

Lauren and I got back from SE Kansas earlier this afternoon, where we spent an enjoyable day at my reunion, and the following morning.

We actually showed up for part 2 of the reunion, which took place out at the Greenbush Gazebo and was a potluck (apparently, we had one of the few picnic areas that was still available that day, between the various reunions and other activities in the area). All told, roughly 14 classmates, plus their spouses and kids, showed up ... not bad, considering that only 24 people showed up for the dinner and dance the night before, and some of the same people showed up to both events.

Anyhoo, all in all, we had a great time. Lauren got to meet "the gang" that I hung out with in high school. We've all gotten older, some of us the worse for wear, but all in all, everyone's still hanging in there.















Showing Some Class (l-r): Richard Potts, Donna Martin (nee Oplotnik), me, Mark Viets, Micah Joy, John Nepote, Anita Bradshaw (sorry, Anita, can't remember your married name), Cindy Vulgamore (nee Humble), Guy Spieth, Pattie (was Mitchell), Eric Duncan, Cindy (was Kennedy), Dean Davied, and John Vulgamore.















Micah watching Balin, while Guy takes a call from his girlfriend.















The "Gang": Guy, John, Micah, Eric, and me. Lauren remarked that this picture made us look like a "bad rap group". And Guy's taking another call from his girlfriend. Oh well ....

Highlights:
  • Eric Duncan showing off his new Lotus sports car.
  • Meeting Micah's adopted son, Balin, for the first time.
  • John Nepote describing what happened "the night before" at the other half of the reunion.
  • John Vulgamore showing off his "hog" ... his pride and joy Harley.
  • Anita Bradshaw's husband bringing his classic teal green 1964 Ford Galaxie convertable.
  • Catching up with everyone and realizing that, yeah, it's been 20 years, and while some of the old animosities still exist, a lot of that has been left behind.
And for everyone who DIDN'T show up: WHERE WERE YOU????

After the reunion closed out at 2, Lauren and I took a side trip. Since I hadn't been home for any length of time in awhile (despite the brief trip back last summer), Lauren and I stopped off in Brazilton, where we visited the cemetary from my family's old (now gone) Lutheran church in the country to pay respects (especially to my Dad's plot, to see how it was holding up ... after all, it was Father's Day weekend, perversely enough).
















After that, we stopped off to visit with Earl and Iona Bredehoeft, who had been friends of Dad, and we got to take a brief tour of the one-room schoolhouse that the two have been restoring over the years.

Finally, we headed over to Pittsburg for dinner at Chicken Mary's with Micah and Guy, and then we were on our way to Fort Scott, KS, about 22 miles away. With the hotels in Pittsburg booked, and Lauren being a fan of bed and breakfasts, we stayed at the Courtland Hotel and Day Spa.

The Courtland was a former 1906 railroad hotel (that is, it was mostly for the use of railroad staff and employees who were overnighting in Fort Scott and only needed a private bedroom) that has now been converted into an elegant bed and breakfast and day spa.












An outdoor pic of the Courtland, about a block away from the Fort Scott National Historic Site (the old Dragoon fort).















Lobby, Just Off the Front Desk















The Hallway. Note the punched-tin work on the ceiling.















Reading Nook















The Dining Room

All told, we had a great weekend, and with Eric now living in KC, it looks like future meet-ups down there are likely.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

High School Reunions

This weekend, barring flash floods or a rainout, we're headed down to Kansas for my 20-year high school reunion. I didn't go to my 5th or my 10th, simply because I didn't want to re-experience high school: namely, the same exclusionary cliques, the same brash arrogance, and above all, the same gang trying to prove they could still hold their beers. I left all of that when I graduated, and didn't want to experience it again.

This time may be different; I'm going because the group I hung out with in high school will all be there:

Micah Joy, the best man at my wedding and longtime friend
Guy Spieth, who although I found his taste in books (the Gor series, anyone?) questionable, is still a decent guy
John Vulgamore, who somehow managed to get married before any of us (to a fellow classmate, no less), and
Eric Duncan, computer whiz and European sports car lover from early on, who now probably makes more money than all of us in the IT field.

We'll have pictures in a later post.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Welcome to Summer

Sorry for the gaps between postings, but it's been a busy couple of weeks: busy because rather than getting a couple of days during the plant shutdown, I actually got to work both weeks (including Saturday, to make up for the holiday on Monday), and I will even get a small bit of overtime thrown in as well. At least I had Memorial Day off, and the weather stayed good enough to grill out a few times.

What I'm currently doing at the plant involves cleaning. Lots of cleaning, in the upper machine bay levels of the plant called the "High Bay", where the raw ingredients for making the insides and outsides of batteries (especially the graphite mix used for the outer casing that surrounds the metal core cannister and the graphite/metallic mix which makes up part of the chemical reaction that allows your Energizer battery to work) are piped, filtered, blended, and then fed into the moulding machines on the ground floor.

Yes, it's graphite. The same stuff that goes into tennis rackets. The same stuff that makes up the inner cores of pencils worldwide. And it sticks to everything. Despite the disposible clean suits we're issued, it leaves one dirty ... so much so that at the end of the work day, the second shower has become another ritual for me. We're hoping that with the various new equipment installs done over the last two weeks, the bay will become a bit less dustier and make my job easier (and perhaps cleaner).

So now it's June here, and it's getting warmer. Fortunately, Woodgie has been able to garden quite a bit and start up her worm farm (in case you hadn't guessed, Woodgie is as much of an organic gardener as possible). The worm farm, we hope, will provide some good ongoing soil treatment for the raised garden beds. Ultimately, it will also provide a source of fishing worms for when Lauren and I are able to get out to Mozingo and go fishing.

Also with summer brings a couple of traveling opportunities: next weekend, Lauren and I will head back to my hometown for my 20 year high school reunion. We'll miss the dinner and dance on Friday night, but Saturday, we'll be heading down for a picnic and meet and greet (which is more my speed than the beer bash on Friday night). Then, the last weekend of the month, we'll be heading back up to Des Moines for an impromptu post-wedding reception that two of my Tai Chi friends are throwing; this will allow everyone up there who didn't get a chance to come to the wedding (or who we couldn't invite, due to the small size of the church), to visit and bring gifts if they want. Following that, the book club gang will do their usual yearly solstice gathering and campout that evening.

And then next month, Woodgie is done with her classes, but after the 4th, which we hope to spend out at Mozingo Lake camping and fishing, the following week, Lauren will be joining several others from our church for a week long mission trip up to a South Dakota Indian reservation at the local Episcopal mission church. Since I'm stuck on a weekly work schedule and have no vacation, we've decided that I'm going to be the one staying home and tending the cats. Eventually, Woodgie will be visiting student interns in a few locations ... most of them are local, but one is down in KC, so a road-trip there may be in order.

And what I'm waiting for at the end of July is the release of this.

All in all, it's going to be a busy summer for both of us.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Rainy Saturday

It's the rainy season again here in Maryville this weekend, making a rainy Memorial Day for us and causing us to cancel plans to go camping out at Mozingo Lake. Instead, Woodgie's been doing some morning gardening between the overnight rains and the mid-morning rains, plus some maintenance (filter cleaning) on the watercourse in the back yard.

After that was done, we headed over to the Galaxy Store, a Mennonite-run bulk and discount grocery out near Wilcox, MO, for some grocery and household item shopping. A big find for us (especially since we're now up to two cats and two kittens in the household), was a large and cheap bulk bag of multi-cat cat food. In the greater scheme of things, that may not mean much, but when you have two cats and two kittens looking up at you trying to decide what YOUR protein value may be, it's a find.

We're hoping that we get a break in the rain this weekend so we can grill outdoors either this evening or tomorrow. EDIT: Given the rumble of thunder off in the distance at 4:30, we're now thinking this will be tomorrow or Monday instead.

Otherwise, it's rest and relaxation for both of us through Monday: we'll be staying in, watching Star Trek Remastered tonight and then some anime later on, and otherwise just staying in and enjoying the break. Hopefully, even with the latest rains, we won't have to pull out those plans we bought off the Internet for an ark ;-).

Seriously, it looks like I'll be working a couple of days during the plant shutdown pulling some overtime, with the possibility of more than a couple of days. I'm hoping that if I can get at least a full week of OT, I'll make enough that the shutdown won't hurt the cash flow that much. And in the meantime, I can continue my job search for a better job.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Plant sale at the Plant House! (Cheshirekitty blog)

Ok, you know what I did this afternoon...herbs were selling for $1.40 a piece at the Plant House here in Maryville (down from $3.99, which as we all know reads as "$4.00), so I bought a few more herbs:

Two Red Rubin basil and two garden basil which are in the rose garden, of all things, in a bench/double planter. They are keeping their companion plant trifetti pepper company. (I'm not sure you can tell this from the picture, but trifettis are variegated plants with hot purple peppers).

Two French tarragon to supplement the scrawny tarragon I rediscovered when digging up and renovating the herb garden. Note to gardeners: Do not buy tarragon seeds expecting good tarragon. French tarragon, the culinary kind, is sterile and can only propagate by cuttings. Any tarragon seeds you buy would be for Russian tarragon, which tastes like, well, a weed.

One "The Best" mint, which replaces a lackluster mint colloquially known as "Alex mint", for the ex-boyfriend who insisted he was growing peppermint from seed.

One garden sage, to keep the purple sage company.

While I was in the herb garden, I found more stray curly mint and chocolate mint and planted them in their respective sunken pots. I am hoping the containment scheme keeps my herb garden from being a free-for-all, with the oregano the clear victor.

Just in -- a severe thunderstorm watch till 8 PM. Guess the new plants will get watered soon!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

One More Kitten

And this just in ... on a spur of the moment decision, we've adopted another kitten. A couple of weeks ago on our way back from a neighborhood walk, one of our neighbor's grandkids introduced us to a couple of darling cute kittens. Four weeks old and all females (the local male tomcat had unfortunately found and killed the males of the litter), they were in decent health and had barely been weaned.

Four weeks later, the mom appeared to be having issues nursing and was losing weight, so today, the neighbors relucantly decided to give away the kittens to the neighbors (including us), and take their cat to the vet.

After holding each of them to be sure of which one we wanted, we're (perhaps temporarily, perhaps permanently if the other cats will accept her down the road) now the proud owners of yet another kitten, a Domestic Shorthair (gray tabby and white) that we've named Mimi. If the other cats accept her, then we've gotten another member of the household. If not, then Woodgie thinks that we'll be able to foster Mimi until we can find someone else to take her.

EDIT: After some discussion, the new kitten's name is actually spelled Meme (but pronounced "me-me", as in the name), and of course, she is named for the concept of Internet memes and in particular, the cat macro meme.

Sleepy Sunday

It's a sleepy Sunday here in Maryville. Most of the weekend plans (heading to Bedford on Saturday, etc.) were cancelled as Lauren's still recuperating from laryngitis, so we stayed home from church and vegged out a bit, apart from doing a little bit of chaos control in the living room.

If the weather cooperates (i.e., if the rain holds off), I may grill out later this evening.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Absent Posting

You've probably been wondering why we haven't posted a weblog entry in awhile ... there are a couple of reasons for this:

1)Since I'm working full-time now (or at least, until the plant goes into scheduled shutdown two weeks from now), I haven't had as much free time to post. Usually, by the time I get home at 3:30, it's time to rest a little bit and decide what to do for dinner (and then make dinner, if dinner involves staying at home vs. eating out).
2)Since the weather's improved a little bit, Lauren and I have started walking regularly, so we're both putting in about 5-6 miles per day; Lauren gets her morning mileage from walking to campus and back, while I'm getting mine from work: I took a pedometer to work one day, and based off of that, Lauren estimates that I'm getting about 3 miles per day there. The other 2 to 3 miles we get from our evening walks to Hy-Vee for dinner or elsewhere in town (we've found that Baskin-Robbins, not to mention $3.22 gas prices, are good motivators for a 2-mile round-trip walk ;-).
3)By the time we're done with that, it's usually about 8:00-ish, or just enough time to wind down, check e-mails, and surf the web for a little bit (in my case, continuing my job search). Given that I have to get up at 5:45 to pick up a coworker and be at work by 7, and Lauren has to be up and around so she can walk to school to teach her 7:30 morning classes, it's usually lights out by 9:30ish for both of us.

Anyhoo, Lauren is done teaching for the week, which is good because she's developed a case of laryngitis. Hopefully, she'll recover by Monday for her classes. In the meantime, this gives her the opportunity to rest and continue exploring the world of "image macros" on the web: otherwise known as LOL cats, these are usually Internet memes involving Photoshopped (and funny) captions onto pictures of disgustingly cute cats:

Examples abound here at: http://www.icanhascheezburger.com

Speaking of recovering, I've belatedly discovered (with Woodgie's help), that I seem to have developed (or have developed over the last few years) a case of sleep apnea, which would account for a few things:

1)My near-legendary inability to get up in the mornings, especially in wintertime.
2)Why my snoring seems to have gone from very mild to very loud (annoying Woodgie to no end and, despite my use of Breathe Right strips, almost causing her to sleep on the couch).
3)Why I seemed to be unable to have or rarely remember dreams ... this is probably because I've been unable to hit REM sleep long enough to have them.

Because of this, Woodgie has been asking (no, too mild ... demanding is more like it) that I start sleeping on my side, which seems to alleviate the symptoms, but causes me some mild discomfort as I try to position pillows "just so". Also, during the first couple of nights of sleeping on my side, I had dreams (and remembered them) for 3 nights in a row ... something that I have never done before.

Anyhoo ... that's the week so far; if Woodgie is up to it by then, this weekend should see us road-tripping up to Bedford, IA for their annual Iris Days festival on Saturday.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Cheshirekitty speaks: My week of gardening

I don't write in here often, because Richard is far better than I am at documenting day-to-day reality here in the Cozy Kittys' Household. But it's my week off between semesters, and it's drizzling outside -- which curtails my usual May activity of starting up the gardens.

I must admit, I think I am hyperactive. Literally -- ADHD, heavy on the H, light on the ADD. Also known as "predominantly hyperactive type ADHD". I prefer to think of it as "neurodiversity". I've never been formally diagnosed, but have been informally diagnosed by everyone who knows me. I think I get it from my dad -- he can't sit still, and has to be doing something else -- even reading -- at the same time he watches TV.

I can't really sit still either, until I get tired enough that I fall over. So my "vacation" has consisted of the following:

1) Fixing the watercourse/pond. The watercourse was leaking water badly -- it would bleed itself dry overnight, which is not good for water plants or fishies. I discovered that natural ground shifting had created a gap between the watercourse liner and the pond liner, which allowed water to leak under the pond liner. In addition, upon reading how to create a watercourse (which, I admit, I should have done BEFORE installing the original watercourse last summer), I realized that I should have sealed seams. So Richard and I cut a patch to join the now-skewed elements of the pond, and sealed seams with EPDM tape, black caulk, and waterfall foam. The watercourse is now up and running, and has lost no volume in two days.

2) Planting the watercourse. The whole reason I wanted a watercourse, other than to make the small deep pond and shallow overflow look less like a well, was to provide running water to plant watercress and Vietnamese coriander, two plants which require a lot of fresh water. I have not received my Vietnamese coriander yet (it's on order from Richters.com, I believe) but watercress seeds have been planted.

3) Enlarged the borders of the moon garden by about 18 inches on each side. I am learning, through my trial-and-error garden design experiments, that I think too small in the initial project stage. Hence the too-small pond, the too-small front border, and the too-small moon garden.
I also planted jasmine tobacco and woodland tobacco (plantlets and seeds), night phlox (seeds), evening-scented stock (seeds), moonflower (seeds) and white dame's rocket (seeds). I will also get a couple of white datura plants and a John F. Kennedy rose to complete the picture, and maybe some fuzzy foliage from "Helen Von Stein" stachys. These plants join the perennial "David" phlox and autumn clematis already there. If you're getting the impression that all in this garden is white and most of it smells good, that's the purpose of a moon garden.

4) Planting beans, cukes, and nasturtiums in the raised beds. The beans this year are Hunan winged bean for Asian cooking, and two runner beans for green beans, shell beans, and edible flowers -- "Scarlet runner" and "Sunset". The cuke this year -- I am picky about cukes, and don't feel secure enough to grow Asian or European cukes yet -- is "Sweetest Yet". I'm skeptical; we shall see. Nasturtiums (happy salad greens and edible flowers) are "Dwarf Jewel Mix", "Whirlybird Mahogany", and "Peach Melba". I ran out of nasturtium seeds before doing the center bed, which still needs to have a debris burn before planting out with squash and melons.

5) Planting herbs. Joining the mints, oregano, and edible flowers in the new herb bed is midget savory, borage, golden feverfew, dill, and rosemary. No picture links here because herbs aren't as exciting to look at.

6) Weeding. Enough said.

7) Starting production on two Anglican rosaries. I figured another new hobby was needed to watch TV by.

8) Assorted school paperwork including setting up course sites and writing up a human subjects form for some new research.


And this was my week off. That's okay, it's only Thursday, and I've run out of stuff to do. Naptime!