Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Honored!

Just a note... I'm honored to be featured on a literary blog called "A Bunch of Wordz: A blog for people who like to read" with my post from a few months ago about advice from the 1800's taken from a funny book I found in a thrift store. How special to have been featured on December 13! If you'd like to read the post on the Wordz page, click here!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sandman and Fairyland

I truly believe that the Sandman dreads Christmas Eve. While kids around the world anticipate this night more than any other night of the year, the Sandman probably grits his teeth and exclaims "in eight hours it will be over!" Because, guess what? All kids under the age of 12 are immune to the Sandman and his powers of blissful sleep. I am certain of this because year after year, we are awaken multiple times from our blissful sleep by our anxious daughter and her anticipation of Christmas morning.

This year was no different but we set the limit
of the final 'rise and shine' at 6:00 am. And despite the two clocks waiting by her bedside, surprisingly, she woke at 6:30 am.

We had a wonderful morning with our own family tradition of Bailey's and coffee (for the adults, obviously) and bagels with lox, cream cheese, capers, tomatoes, and red onion. Dasher got a big old bone, my husband got his much anticipated pressure cooker, I got my much anticipated carved wooden Santa and my daughter got her much anticipated Playmobil Magic Castle.

Imagine my surprise, however, when the box containing said castle, was filled with about 2,000 little itty bitty pieces and an instruction booklet about 20 pages long! "Some Assembly Required" was an understatement. I spent 2 hours of our lovely Christmas morning putting this thing together. As my beautiful daughter quipped "It's just like a puzzle, Mom!" Of course, s
weetie, how could I be so exasperated!?! I relaxed, sipped my Bailey's and coffee, and realized that I was in for the long haul.

The Magic Castle, however, turned our to be quite enchanting. My daughter started playing with Playmobil toys a few years ago when I came home with one of their Advent Calendars. What I love about these toys is their simplicity. They are timeless in their design. My daughter has been playing with them every since. The Magic Castle was the icing on the cake. The day after Christmas, a group of neighborhood kids were huddled around it playing kings and queens in a fairyland far, far away. What fun!

This year we started a new holiday tradition in
our neighborhood of caroling with the kids in the neighborhood. I think our poor elderly neighbor's were stunned by a group of 15 kids barreling into their front yards singing "Here Comes Santa Clause" at the top of their lungs, because only two folks of the 7 houses we visited even came to the door. No matter... the kids enjoyed hot chocolate and cookies at our house afterward and the adults enjoyed my husband's new Hot Spiced Wine recipe (which we proceeded to enjoy at every family gathering this season!)

So, if you're curious, here are some of the ingredients for the Spiced Wine: Merlot or Cabernet, apple cider, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, all spice, fresh squeezed oranges with rind. Heat and serve (do not boil) - yum!


A lovely Chri
stmas, indeed!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Our Little News Anchor

My daughter's school has a little news station where they make all the morning announcements. Every year, they select a new "Tech Crew." Lots of kids apply, but they can only choose 50. Imagine our surprise when my daughter was chosen! She is the 2008/09 Tuesday Morning News Anchor. Quite an honor!

Here is her debut appearance:


video

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Locks of Love: The Day Has Arrived!

Hello! I'm back momentarily... With school starting for my daughter and my newest class (yes, I made it through English and am now onto Algebra !), I've had virtually no time to sit and post. Everytime we do something fun, I think - oh, I must publish this to my blog... then run out of time!

But, Dad called me today after I told Mom this morning that both me and my daughter got our hair cut for Locks of Love - and he said, please post pictures to your blog so I can see! So - here we go. My cut was last weekend, because I had planned it, and my daughter's this weekend, because she had to think about. But, we both love our hair and will be sending our ponytails off to Locks of Love this week! (See the dramatic video of my daughter's cut at bottom...)

Before:









During (for my daughter - mine was not nearly as exciting!):









After:









And after, after (you know, when the styling wears off...):









Dramatic Video:

video

Friday, June 27, 2008

Not much time... but happy thoughts!

I don't have much time right now but have been thinking happy thoughts thanks to ButterBeeHappy.com. I found this little website from another blog, can't remember which one, but I bookmarked it awhile ago and set up my account last weekend. (See my happy thoughts on my Bee Happy widget - scroll down the sidebar on the left.) It's a great way to remember all the positive things in your life, especially when things get really hectic...

Like now, for instance! My first college course in almost 20 years is proving to be a challenge and I am as rusty as an old Chevy. (Speaking of rusty old Chevys, check out these pictures on Sunniviews I captured a few weekends ago when my husband and I went for a drive. It's the antique car graveyard!)

My class is a 15 week English course compressed into 5 summer weeks. Class is held 3 times a week (Mon-Tues-Wed from 6 to 9 pm) and each one represents a week. It's very overwhelming but I can do it, I CAN DO IT!! Even if I have to spend hours relearning basic sentence structure like subordinating conjunctions, subject compliments and passive transformations! (Quite honestly, I really don't remember learning these in the first place...)

I just keep remembering this picture (at top) that helps release all my anxiety and fills me with peace. This was taken at the Koka Booth Aphitheatre at an event that our organization held this past weekend. The cool rain, that ended just before the concert, brought in a gorgeous mist that enhanced the setting sun. Fabulous! And, luckily, I can use those weekend working hours as flex time this week for more studying! Hurray! And I'm so happy that my craft room is squeaky clean (for the most part) so I have a great place to spread out and get some homework done.

I read a quote recently that went something like "The more we have to do, the more efficient we become." Too true!

P.S. My daughter spent some time with her Nana (my mom) earlier this week. Check out this post on my mom's blog - what fun they had together!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Back to School at 36!

Ok, I have a confession to make... I did not graduate from college. Not only did I not graduate, I never even really started. As soon as I set foot outside the doors of the hallowed halls of high school, I had made up my mind to start living as an adult - to make it in the world and pursue life as a genuine working stiff. Now that I look back on it, I'm reminded of that Monster.com commercial of the little kids who share their dreams of the future... "When I grow up I want to file all day, I want to claw my way up to middle management, I want to be paid less for the same job. i want to be forced into early retirement."

I have to say that I've been more lucky than others who might share my same circumstances. I suppose I was at the right place at the right time, the stars were in alignment for most of my working career, and/or fate has smiled on me kindly. I have a great job, I love my coworkers, love the work, love the mission - but several months ago, my boss looked me right in the eye and said, "You're not going any further than this without that little piece of paper." (Really, he was not being mean, he was (is) a good friend of my husbands and was giving me friendly advice.)

Truth be told, I'd been wrestling with this issue for many years. For awhile I thought my path was to show the world that one could be quite successful without a degree (gasp!), like some of these infamous folks: Bill Gates, Walt Disney, Lance Armstrong, Thomas Edison. (For real! Lookee here!) And, perhaps I would have continued that way except for a few revelations that occurred all at about the same time.

First was my boss' advice. Second was my contemplation about being a writer and the fact that I'd most likely be laughed out of a publisher's office without some kind of formal education. Next was a dinner we had at a friends house and a discussion with a 55-year-old woman who was pursuing a master's degree in an area completely unrelated to anything she'd ever done before or any education that she'd ever had before. I was awed that someone so much older than me was making such a dramatic change in her life.

One of the last revelations was a sermon from our minister about
pleasure versus meaning. For instance, there are many things that are pleasurable, such as gazing at a stained glass window, but without meaning, the delight fades fast. So what was my meaning? What was my focus? Making jewelry, painting flower pots, gardening? I needed a direction, a goal.

The final revelation and perhaps the basic truth - I was scared. I was afraid of the results of a placement test after my miserable performance on the high school SAT's. I was afraid of the enormous cost. I was afraid of going back to school "at my age" and being in a room with tittering 20-year-olds. I was intimidated beyond comprehension. I found reason after reason for not even considering it.

But I finally came to a point where I had the courage to face all of it - I finally let go of all my fears in great rivers of meditation and the faith that God would take care of everything. Was I still nervous? Oh, yes, and just about turned around to go back right home on the day I had to take the dang placement test. And even though I stunk at the math segment of the test (not unexpected), I sailed through the rest... 97 in reading, 99 in writing! I cannot even tell you how thrilled I was after the aforementioned SAT scores. Honestly, I just about burst into tears standing right there in the testing room with the teens accompanied by their mothers (who were my age!)

So, I figure it will take about 8-10 years for this to all be finalized. Just about the time my daughter graduates from high school - won't that be a novelty? But, I'm kinda glad it worked out this way. I hope it will be a shining example to my daughter that it's never to late to pursue a new path in life. She will probably understand more about the college experience than others, having a mom going through it during her formative years.

I still don't know how I'm going to manage with working full-time at a pretty demanding career, a daughter with a packed social calendar, a home, bills, laundry, etc. But I'm blessed with an incredibly supportive husband and family, and I know we'll all be A-ok.

My first class starts tomorrow night. Stay tuned! I'll probably have lots of fun things to say about it...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Irresistable Pets... that drive me crazy!

Don't get me wrong, I love my pets. They are a huge part of our little world. Our dog, Dasher, is the such a mild-mannered, sweet and intelligent creature. Our 2 cats, Pumpkin and Paprika are one-of-a-kind: funny, devoted and loving.

But... dang if those animals don't drive me crazy sometimes!

It was a Sunday morning and I purposely woke up early to have a little me-time. To sit in the quiet of early dawn, enjoy my coffee and do a little journal writing. Dasher and Pumpkin followed me out to the kitchen and went straight to the back door so that I could let them out, which I did. I went back to making the coffee. Dasher finished his little morning business and wanted back in. I let him in..., Pumpkin didn't follow. No problem - I made myself comfortable on the chair and waited for the coffee.

But then I hear Paprika, who is usually out all night, at the front door mewing to come back in. I go to get her and Dasher follows - he wants out the front door to see whats going on just as Paprika comes in. I let him out, pour a cup of coffee and get comfortable on the chair.

Then I hear Pumpkin at the back door and notice that Paprika is sitting by the hallway door, which I kept closed so as not to disturb the sleeping kids from their wild pillow-fighting, ice-cream eating, movie-watching sleepover. So I let Pumpkin in the back door and Paprika down the hallway just as Dasher wants back in the front door. Good grief. I refresh my coffee and have a seat. Again.

But then, Pumpkin decides she wants down the hallway, too. So, I get up to open the door. Dasher follows. Apparently he wanted to be down the hallway this whole time! Hallway door is closed. I settle in. Again.

I'm enjoying my coffee and writing away whe
n I decide that a crunchy granola bar would be very tasty, so I open one. The animals hear the crinkle of the wrapper and come racing down the hallway in a pack (I should note that the hallway door is a bi-fold which they can open by themselves from the inside.) Dasher sniffs and is not interested in granola, he'd rather chase squirrels, which he decides to do at that exact moment and goes to stand by the back door. Pumpkin and Paprika, while not necessarily interested in granola, decide that I might pull out something more interesting, so one plops down at my feet while the other settles on the side of the armchair and waits. I get back up to let Dasher outside and Paprika decides that's a fine idea as well, so she follows. Pumpkin decides that she wants to be nowhere else except sitting right down in the folds of my journal. Good grief!

But what would I do without my little sweeties to make life interesting! I did finally get everyone settled and had a very relaxing morning before the household awoke and our busy day began.

See more pictures of Dasher on this post from last year: "Ode to my Dog"

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

There was an interesting event that happened here in North Carolina recently. On June 1, a forest fire was started by a strike of lightening on the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, about 150 miles from where we live. Over a period of about 2 weeks, it spread - burning almost 40,000 acres. I don't think I would have even heard about this wildfire, except that the wind shifted and blew the smoke inland to our counties.

I was taking out the trash one night and I noticed a strange, acrid smell in the air. I actually thought we might have had a gas
leak and started sniffing around. I couldn't detect anything and when I went out front, the smell was still there - and was hanging around the next morning.

It wasn't until I got to work and heard the news that the strange smell and morning "fog" was actually the smoke from the wildfire. The amazing thing was it was so thick, even 150 miles away! It filled the warehouse, burned your nose, made your eyes water. The horizon had a sickening sort of orange hue. It reminded me of an excerpt from Dr. Suess' "The Lorax" book:

"'I am the Lorax,' he coughed and he whiffed.

He sneezed and he snuffled. He snarggled. He sniffed.
'Once-ler! You're making such smogulous smoke!

My poor Swomme-Swans... why, they can't sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat.'"

Here are some pictures I pulled from our local news on this story:










This all reminded me of a firefighter training slow-burn that we went to last year at a house out in the country. Our neighbor used to be on the force and is now a volunteer. He provided hot dogs and burgers to all the new trainees and invited us to come watch. It was really fascinating and I got some great pictures, like the one above. (See more of these shots on Sunniviews...)

I don't think it's often that we have wildfires as big as this one in North Carolina. Of course, I was pretty worried about the wildlife in the forest, but a press release from the refuge website indicates that a majority of the wildlife will have escaped the fire. Their survival instincts will lead them to thinner air, so that's a relief! And I'm sure that the fine folks on the refuge will do their best to help all the displaced animals return to a normal existence.

Today we have rain and that should help the firefighting efforts. Hopefully, they will be able to quell the blaze. Big news for a small town!

P.S. You may also be interested in my dad's piece on the wildfire while he was traveling this week...

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Crazy Hair Day

I am in love with Crazy Hair Day. I'm in love with any day involving "Crazy" and I wish that adults would embark on a few Crazy-Day celebrations of our own. You know, "we're never gonna survive unless we get a little crazy." Words to live by - thank you Seal!

A few weeks ago, my daughter's school held a Spirit
Week. Every day the kids dressed in something different - there was Hawaiian Day, School Colors Day, Pajama Day. One of them was Crazy Hair Day.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, they also had Crazy Hair Day and we decided to do a Pippi Longstocking style with the braids sticking straight out (secured by a wire hanger fitted to the head like a headband.) Even though I love this crazy hair style and think it's totally adorable and funny, I was a little anxious about making the suggestion again. Third grade is tough and kids can be so cruel to each other, I didn't want to make my daughter a target for any more playground harassment than is already found. I already have a mountain of guilt from kindergarten Book Character Day when I came up with the brilliant idea of putting together a Babushka's Doll costume (our favorite book at the time), which, again, was totally cute-adorable-unique-creative, but so different from the hordes of princesses roaming the school, that the 5th graders made some sneering comments about it and my poor, sweet, baby of a Babushka's Doll wouldn't smile all day long and looked like she was just about to cry. Ok - rip my heart out and hang it up to dry - I was not about to subject her to THAT again. (Needless to say, for First Grade Book Character Day, she decided on a more mainstream Angelina Ballerina costume.)

So, when she brought up the Pippi Braids, I wasn't so sure. I think I said "are you sure?" about a million times (okay maybe just five or six) but she was positive. So, we pulled a hanger out of the closet and went to work. Oh my goodness, how fabulous they turned out. She made them even more outrageous by asking for a little spiral. They were gre
at!

But, walking into school was a different story, so I decided to go with her just in case we
encountered any hecklers along the way. Luckily the teachers and kids embraced her with big smiles and exclamations of delight. I could tell her anxiety was easing away and when we arrived at her classroom, her fabulous teacher grinned, patted her on the head and said "Oh, Maddie, you're just like me." That was enough to send her soaring to a plateau of complete confidence and I knew she'd be fine.

Honestly, though, I have to give credit where credit is due for the Pippi Longstocking braid style. It all started abut 15 years ago in Key West where a few of my former fellow Hog's Breath waitresses and I decided to have a "Braidstock" night where we braided the hair of all the patrons in addition to our own. The Larry Baeder Band was playing that night and Larry showed up with his long hair in two graceful braids sticking straight out from his head. If he only knew that his hairstyle would be an inspiration to young girls on the Crazy Hair Day of elementary schools everywhere! Thank you Larry!

May the crazy braid live on!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Following Ants

We recently made a visit to the Historic Oak View County Park in Raleigh. What a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon! There is a beautiful garden, cotton field, peach orchard and lake just a short walk through cool, refreshing trees.

We stopped to sit by the water and have a little snack. As we enjoyed the fabulous weather, a very hardworking ant stopped by and started dragging a bit of a Dorito back to his little ant home. It was quite fascinating and were lucky to catch him on video:
video

See more pictures of our fun day at Sunniviews!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Happy Birthday to my Dear Sweet Sister!!

Happy Birthday to my Dear Sweet Sister, Amy!

We were lucky to have her here two weeks ago and
we celebrated her birthday early. What fun to see her again! She was here for a conference with the non-profit organization she works for in New York. My mom and I went to be with her, learning a lot about a little know women's bleeding disorder called von Willebrand disease. It was very interesting, especially because hemophilia runs in our family, and despite the serious topic, we had such fun being together! We drank wine and talked, had lots of coffee and good food!

Later on in the weekend, we spent some time together as a family, went to the park, laid out in the sun, had lunch at the mall... All stuff we love to do!

Even though she has a regular day job, she is an artist-by-night, her true passion. She is represented by the Monya Rowe Gallery and is amazingly talented. I'm lucky to have a few pieces of my own from her which I truly treasure. She was also recently published in Time Out New York Magazine as part of their "Great Walks 2008" feature. Her article is here, a very good one, if I do say so myself!


She is back in New York again and we already miss her! Happy, happy birthday, Amy - hope you have a great day!!

A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. ~Marion C. Garretty

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday in the Park

What is more perfect than a park with train rides, ice cream, a carousel and paddle boats? We are lucky to have a friendly little park with all this and more!

Ours is called
Pullen Park, founded in 1887 and the 14th oldest amusement park in the world. But it doesn't have to have such prestige to impress me. What I love are the beautiful trees and colorful flowers, the breeze that comes blowing in off the water from which duck and geese roam, the sound of the carousel Wurlitzer that floats across the parks and picnic tables as you bask in the sun, the train whistle in the distance and the laughter of children as they skip around with sweet, drippy ice cream.

We decide to have a pre-Mem
orial day picnic at Pullen Park on Sunday to beat the crowds. The weather was incredibly mild - a perfect picnic day. We enjoyed hot dogs, corn on the cob, potato salad and plenty of watermelon at our picnic spot in the shade. After playing a few rounds of catch with a softball, we took a breezy ride on the train that circles the park.

We meandered to the
concessions stand for a tasty frozen treat and headed to the paddle boats for a lazy ride on the lake. It will filled with ducks and geese and we were lucky to spot a duck family with a flock of little youngsters following their mama and papa. It reminded me of that cute little children's book "Make Way for Ducklings" where a mama bird tries to find a perfect spot to lay her eggs and chooses a park in a busy city.

After that, we headed to the Carousel for a swirly ride on the antique animals. They have been beautifully restored to their original early-19
00's colors and are gorgeously statuesque - curious giraffes, leaping horses, ferocious lions and stealthy cats. The 1925 Wurlitzer pipes delightful tunes that (like I mentioned before) float across the entire park.

There was a little pond filled with Koi fish that was perfect for sailing my dad's tin putt-putt steam boat that he picked up
at the Wilson Hobby Shop a few weeks ago. (See his unfortunate first-time sailing experience here!) The little version of the Titanic putt-putted around in lazy circles. It was cute to watch it sail and my daughter had fun trying to keep it on course.

And what would a sunny summer day in the park be without a fresh, juicy watermelon? We had a delicious one that prompted a seed spitting contest. Hard to know who won, since those little seeds disappear so easily in the grass! But they flew pretty far!


What an absolutely perfect day! See more photos from our excursion on Sunniviews...


Essence of Summer

How sweet I roamed
from field to field,
and tasted all the
summer's pride.
-William Blake


A fresh homegrown strawberry from my mom's very own strawberry patch. A burst of sunshine on your lips - especially when freshly picked and still warm. Extraordinary!

See more of my mom's fabulous garden:
See how my garden grows
A day of gardening
Spring has arrived

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pinecone Projects

First let me say, hurray! I'm back! Our little family has been very busy and we've had some computer issues - but now... all is well - and I'm happy to be blogging again.

I've been waiting to post some of our fun pinecone projects we did a few weeks back. My daughter decided she wanted to decorate her "treehouse", aka, the platform attached to the swingset. We got out the paint and had a lovely time being carelessly creative! (And I mean it... I had forgotten how much fun it is to blob paint on wood and let it drip into crazy, swirly designs.)

Since our paint was in
mason jars, we decided to dip pinecones in them to make some bright, colorful "lanterns" to hang from the treehouse rafters. What an immediately rewarding project... dip and done! They were so cute when we clustered them together like "chandeliers"! We used lovely shades of pink, orange and purple. Perfect decor for an afternoon tea.


The next weekend, we decided to embark on the peanut butter-bird feeder pinecone project. We smeared the pinecones with great big blobs of peanut butter and rolled them around in birdseed. Again, another immediately rewarding project... so pretty those little pinecones! We saw a few birds enjoying the seed from the pinecones but the squirrels enjoyed them even more. At one point, I saw a squirrel hanging from the trellis by his back legs and pulling up the rope holding the pinecone - like reeling in a fish!

After the pinecones were hung and the treehouse decorated, we taught our dog a new trick with the milk crate my husband rigged up with a rope. What a good dog!! Such a fast learner!

video

See more photos of our pinecone and treehouse fun on Sunniviews!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Advice from the 1800's

At a thrift store recently, I found the funniest little book that I gave to my mom for her birthday. It's called the Ladies' Indispensable Assistant. Actually, the full title is quite long-winded:

Ladies' Indis
pensable Assistant being a companion for the Sister, Mother, and Wife. Containing more information for the price than any other upon the subject. Here are the very best directions for the Behavior and Etiquette of Ladies and Gentlemen, Ladies' Toilette Table, Directions for Managing Canary Birds, also, Safe Directions for the Management of Children; Instructions for Ladies' Under Various Circumstances, A Great Variety of Valuable Recipes, forming a complete system of Family Medicine. Thus enabling each person to become his or her own Physician: to which is added one of the best systems of COOKERY ever published; these recipes are entirely new and should be in the possession of every person in the land. Published 1852.

Pretty lofty claims if you ask me, but I was hooked! The first few pages were quite interesting. For instance, here is the instruction for Treatment of Children:

It is of great importance that mothers should understand the management of their offspring. It should not be handled but kept as quiet as possible.

Well, that's interesting. On the subject of Medicine:

Nev
er give medicine to a very young child. Many have thus lost darling children. It will, if not murdered, be permanently injured.

Oh, my. Well, I continued to leaf through the pages and was shocked to see that there was a remedy for Cancer! Can you believe it? Here it is:

Boil down the inner bark of white and red oak to the consistency of molasses; apply as a plaster, shifting it once a week; or, Take garget berries and leaves of stramonium; simmer together, in equal parts of neat's foot oil and the tops of hemlock; at the same time, make a tea of wintergreen, add 2 ounces of sulphur of brimstone and drink freely during the day.

Hmmm. Sounds like witchcraft to me - hemlock? brimstone? Didn't I hear about that in a fairytale once? I turned to the remedy for Deafness, which I'm sure the prestigious medical community of today will be quite amazed to learn of:

Take ant's eggs and onion juice, mix and drop into the ear; or, drop into the ear at night six or eight drops of warm chamber lye.

Warm chamber lye? Yes, I had to look that up - definition: Urine. Aha. Well, perhaps it's not the cure of the century after all! Is it any wonder that in the 1800's only 1/2 of all ch
ildren lived to the age of eight and the average life expectancy was 37? My goodness, let's read on!

If your child is suffering from Fits, then you need to:

Put them into warm baths, ... take them out after a little time and put strong mustard plasters on the soles of their feet and ice water on the head. If the fit has been cause by something eaten, give ... ipecac; vomitting will throw all the medicine up so that the child will not be injured. If the fit arises from other causes, half a tablespoon full of
epsom salts disolved in a 1/4 glass of water.

For snake bites:

Apply juice of onions mixed with fine salt; or, apply Spanish flies until a blister is raised.

And, my favorite... for "Nervous Affections - Sick Headache":

Take 3 drops of nitric acid in half a tumbler of cold water.

Definition of nitric acid? A highly corrosive, poisonous liquid that gives off choking red or yellow fumes in moist air. Okay, then! That oughta cure a headache awfully quick!

There were some other interesting things in the book, including the properties of various herbs and flowers and recipes. We thought this "Quick Broth" was pretty amusing, since the term "Quick" was anything but!

Take a bone of the neck or loin of mutton, take off the fat and skin, set it on the fire in a small tin saucepan that has a cover with 3 quarters of a pint of water, meat being first beaten and cut into thin bits; put in a bit of thyme, parsley and a slice of onion. Let it boil very quick, skim it nicely; take off the cover. Half an hour is sufficient for the whole process.

I also liked the instructions for Behavior in the Street:

Ladies are not allowed upon ordinary occasions to take the arm of any one but a relative, or an accepted lover, in the street and in the daytime. The conversation of a stranger, beyond asking a necessary question, must be considered as a gross insult and repelled with proper spirit!

And these instructions for Removing Ink from Floors:

Scour with sand wet with sulphuric acid and water.

(What's with the acid?) Anyway, we had fun leafing through the book and having a good laugh! I especially liked the elaborate drawing on the inside. Fun stuff...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Business Trips

If you have to go on a business trip, I would say that April in Orlando is one of the more perfect destinations at the most perfect time. The weather is mild, the tropical breezes are refreshing, and the flowers are lush and beautiful. Just standing outside is a delightful treat.

Last week I attended a conference in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center. Just like its over-sized and imaginative counterpart, DisneyWorld, the OCCC is impossibly huge. Its massive size is hard to comprehend and even more so when you realize that there are not just one, but two gigantic buildings. I wandered around the North-South building trying to find my conference's registration desk before realizing that the East-West building (where I had to go) was hidden behind a zig-zag of elevated walkways behind me. By the time I reached my designated area, blisters had started to form on my poor feet. No, I did not think to bring sensible shoes!

The conference was like most conferences, meetings and learning sessions in various chilly classrooms, lots of breaks with rivers of coffee, exchanging of business cards and buffets galore. But this particular conference had a special dinner celebration at Epcot. Really, who can compete with that?!

We were loaded onto 4 buses that drove us to a back entrance of Epcot, somewhere between France and Germany I believe. We were led through an enormous gate by uniformed
guides holding blinking batons and into a large building where servers held trays of wine and beer. Four appetizer stations were set up with cocktail tables scattered throughout a darkened room. Servers passed more appetizers on trays and regularly brought refills of wine and beer. After we had our fill, an enormous curtain began to open and the song "Be Our Guest" from Beauty and the Beast boomed through the speakers. We were led into an even larger room with formal dinner tables, long buffet and carving tables placed in strategic corners and a DJ playing dinner music. The food was scrumptious: roast beef au jus, tender chicken with wild mushrooms, wild rice with shrimp, scalloped potatoes, steamed vegatables, pasta salads, creamy cheeses, fresh fruit and more!

But it wasn't over yet. The DJ announced that we were moving to a private viewing area of the Illuminations fireworks show for dessert and coffee. The guides showed up again with their blinking batons to lead us around the front of the Epcot lake. Finger-sized desserts of all kinds were beautifully stacked on outdoor tables. Coffee urns with every fixing you could possibly imagine were placed in various corners. The show was spectacular.

It was so weird being at Disney again after having just vacationed there last summer. I felt like we had been plopped right down in the middle of it all. Normally, there is a buildup of events; getting to the parking lot, taking the trams, going through the ticket counters and jostling through the crowds. It was such a surreal feeling to just be there, seemingly with the snap of a finger! I managed to duck into a gift shop for a few souvenirs before the buses departed.

The rest of the conference was the norm and on the final day, I headed back to the airport in a state of exhaustion. Would you believe that my flight was overbooked? They asked for volunteers to bump to the next day with compensation of a free dinner, hotel, and breakfast along with a $400.00 airline travel voucher! I couldn't refuse, especially with an upcoming vacation to Vermont where the flight tickets are busting the budget. So I stayed an extra night. Luckily the hotel had free amenities like a toothbrush and comb, as my suitcase was on its way back to Raleigh!

Business trips (and trips in general) can be so interesting. Everyone has a story. As I sat on the airplane traveling home, I thought how funny it would be if everyone could tell their own. Wouldn't that make a trip go by fast!

See more of this trip on Sunniviews under the posts Florida Foliage in April, Orange County Convention Center (N-S) and (E-W), and Epcot Extravaganza.