Saturday, July 31, 2010

Elephants in Williston Florida?

Williston Florida isn't a big place. In fact, I'm quite sure it's significantly smaller and most certainly less interesting than the small town my parents live in. In spite of it's smallness and lack of any particularly captivating tourist attractions, Williston Florida does have an elephant farm. Two Tails Ranch is place for retired circus elephants and their friends to live peacefully in the Florida sun.

We visited the ranch on our last full day in Florida; we got lost on the way there and it was super hot outside, but we still had fun.

Here are a few pictures from our time at Two Tails Ranch.

We fed carrots to one elephant

and watched his friend do tricks

This is Katherine.

Katherine was a very flirty ostrich, whose eyes lit up upon the very mention of her name and enjoyed playing peek-a-boo with her spectators.

Friday, July 30, 2010

It's A Good Thing I Like Cucumbers

Caroline's friend's family is going on vacation for two weeks. They're budding home gardeners and had a plethora of cucumbers to pick and eat before they spoil. Unfortunately, you can't really bring zeppelin sized cucumbers on an airplane to Wisconsin, so they brought them to me instead.

They're HUGE!

I happen to enjoy the bounty of other people's summer time gardening labor and eagerly accepted the cucumbers (and two bell peppers).

I made a little cucumber salad for lunch with a vinaigrette and some feta cheese sprinkled on top.

It made me happy.

Really happy.

In other kitchen related news, we made biscotti for Caroline's international feast. Like I said yesterday, I cheated and used a cake mix recipe, but I'm unashamed.

They turned out just as nicely as the from scratch gingerbread biscotti I made around Christmas time. Well, except for the burnt ones.

We'll just pretend that part didn't happen. Okay?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chances Are

If you're standing in the shower wondering why your shampoo isn't lathering like it's supposed to, chances are you grabbed the conditioner instead.

If you drop your glasses on the ground one too many times, chances are you'll have a situation like this on your hands.

Too bad I can't find the eyeglass repair kit.

BUT, if you're anything like me and like to be prepared, chances are you'll have a back up pair.

If you let your kid eat breakfast in YOUR room in YOUR bed (don't ask!) chances are you'll find cereal crumbs by your feet and yogurt smudges on your pillow. And if you're really lucky, chances are you'll find dried milk dribbles on the wood railings of your sleigh bed.

If you run outside on a HOT and HUMID summer morning, chances are you'll want to quit 57 times.

If you lay your water bottle with an iffy screw cap on the seat of your Craig's car, chances are that half of your much anticipated post-run Gatorade will leak out of the bottle and onto the car's upholstery.

What's with me and spilling liquid in Craig's car?

If you drank all of your water and what was left of the Gatorade in your spilled bottle in a desperate need to rehydrate, chances are you'll scrounge around in your purse to find enough change to buy something else to drink.

If you're unhappy with your current cable/Internet/phone service and the Verizon guy comes to the door, filling your brain with techie blather, fiber optics info and other stuff you don't understand but dangles the idea of really super fast Internet service in front of you, chances are you'll end up getting Fios.

If you go to Target for ONE thing (a lamp), chances are you'll still come home with more than you planned.

If you see kid's jeans on sale for $7 chances are you'll come home with three pairs.

When your kid is participating in an "International Travel" themed camp, chances are you'll be asked to provide a dish for their International Feast.

If the other Italian kid already signs up to bring baked ziti, chances are you'll go the easy route and sign up to bring biscotti.

If you're a super mom, you'll make biscotti from scratch, like the ones pictured above, but if you're feeling uninspired, chances are you'll make an easier version.

Because nothing says Viva Italia like cake mix biscotti.

Giada would not approve.

Chances are I don't care.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Let Your Light Shine


That title sounds awfully deep and somewhat religiously inspired. You know like that old song, "this little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine." Anyway, I'm as shallow as a kiddie pool and this post is not deep whatsoever; in fact, it's a post about lamps.

Several months ago (March or April?) Caroline benignly, yet carelessly, tossed a blanket over to her friend. Either Caroline has bad aim or her friend can't catch, but whatever the case, the blanket knocked over our lamp downstairs in our basement. Sparks flew and CFL bulb remains were strewn about our living area. If you're unfamiliar with the eco-friendly CFL bulbs, they're good for energy consumption, but basically require a HAZMAT team when one of the bulbs breaks. They contain a small amount of mercury, which has poisonous affects. The protocol for cleaning up a broken CFL bulb is quite labor intensive and kind of a pain, if you ask me.

So, at 8:30 pm one evening, after I heard a loud crash and saw sparks flying, I kicked the kids out of the basement, opened a window and swept up the mercury tainted bulb remains. Only, as I read later, sweeping up the bulb fragments is not suggested because then mercury remains on the broom bristles.

Bye bye broom.

The research I pulled up on the Internet did a fine job of sufficiently spooking me out. I pretty much did the whole clean up process the wrong way, which left me fretting late into the night about mercury cross contamination and whether or not any mercury dust got on the carpet or was stuck in the soles of my flip flops. Oh, and even worse, I worried about mercury poisoning and croaking in the my sleep.

I pretty much worried all night long. Not that this piece of news should surprise anyone.

The good news is that I did not die of mercury poisoning. And now I'm well versed in broken CFL clean up protocol.

Sheesh, you do one thing to be "green" and to save a little on your energy bills and end up with a giant headache.

Anyway....we've been without a lamp downstairs since the fateful lamp breaking event. I'm not sure why I refrained from purchasing one for so long, but somehow it escaped my to-do list for much too long. The basement is a dungeon, with only one window that leads to a tree filled back patio; not much natural light gets through that window. We've needed the lamp for quite a while and today I finally bought one.

I should have taken a picture, but the lamp is on the basement level and I'm two floors up and feeling kind of lazy. It's not that exciting of a lamp, anyway. Just use your imagination: it has a bronzed brownish lamp base with an off white, squarish linen lampshade.

Are my descriptive capabilities excellent or what?

Trust me, it's just a lamp. Nothing exciting.

BUT, we have light downstairs and that is all that matters. We will longer rely on the little lamp that sits on top of our computer desk to illuminate our dungeon.

Maybe now I'll stop squinting so much.

Nah, I'm afraid my squinting is solely age related. Boo.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Just Like Old Times

Can you hear it?

Hear what?


You can't hear anything. It's silent here at my house.

Well, if you were in my house, you'd hear talk radio in the background, the gentle hum of the air conditioner and the clicking of my lap top's keys as I type, but otherwise? Nada.

Caroline is at camp this week. I initially planned to keep her out of camps this summer, aside from the week at my mom's church's camp that is, but it's funny how things change. I copped out. I couldn't hack it. I signed Caroline up for a Rec-Pac week. Rec-Pac is a day camp provided by the parks and recreation department that is held in several different elementary schools throughout the county. It's a lot of fun and Caroline is having a blast, so I don't feel so bad about pawning her off on a bunch of teen aged camp counselors for a week. Besides, Caroline participated in a week of Rec-Pac last year and had an equally enjoyable time, so it's all good.

Two of Caroline's best buds are on vacation this week, so instead of subjecting ourselves to the boredom of having only ONE friend to play with (oh the horror!), we went the easy route and signed her up for 7 hours of constant fun and games each day.

Everyone wins.

Especially me! Which, as you know, is MOST important.

It's just like old times. This morning I carted Caroline and her lunch box off to camp and then went to the gym. I took my time at the gym and didn't have to rush, rush, rush to be done within the allotted time allowed for kids in the Kids Zone. I was not greeted at the Kids Zone door by an eager and slightly exasperated kid, who is always so gracious to let me know when I'm 35 seconds late. I did not have to hear pleas for lunch at McDonald's (which is in the parking lot of my gym) nor did I have to hear the incessant whining on the way home because the McDonald's idea was squashed.

I showered at the gym; went to the commissary to pick up a few things (and to Dunkin Donuts for iced coffee, shhh!). I came home, ate lunch and now find myself in my favorite blogging chair.

Just like old times.

I like old times.

Don't get me wrong, I love my kid. Caroline is smart and compliant and an over all good kid. Her full social social life keeps us busy and she provides me with plenty of dirty laundry entertainment.

She's noisy, though. And nosy, too. I can't do or say anything without my little shadow peering over my shoulder and inquiring about my conversations.

I feel sort of bad for getting rid of Caroline for the week, but I know that she's having fun. It's good for her to get a break from her usual playmates; and my house is thankful for the lack of abuse it's receiving this week, as well. Also, fewer fights and grumpy moments occur when the girls have a break from each other.

Heh, that's sort of like marriage. Craig and I get along VERY VERY well when he's gone. In six months of deployment I've only gotten mad at him ONCE. That's like a Smith family record

I suppose absence does make the heart grow fonder.

And more friendly. And less nit picky.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Save The Drama For Your Mama

All week Caroline and I planned to go to the movies this weekend to see Ramona and Beezus; the date and time were set for Sunday at 2pm. This morning Caroline was invited to go to church with Bailey's family. She was eager to go and had a good time, but due to a series of post-church errands Bailey's family had to take care of, Caroline didn't come home until 2pm.

At 2pm on the nose, Caroline rushed in the door screaming "let's go to the movies NOW." And I said, "it's too late, the movie is starting right now." "But we have time because they just show previews for the first 10 minutes" she said. To which I replied, "um, no...we'll be late and I hate being late to the movies."

And then the conversation, on Caroline's end, went a little something like this: "Please, please, please (with raised voice and desperate tears), please, please, PLEASE, PLEASE, please, please, PLEEEAAAASE (with more tears and hysteria)."

I finally said, "you have to stop saying please." I never thought I'd say those words! Anyway, I defended my argument; especially since she just wasted three minutes begging. Chances are three movie trailers played in that three minute time span, which means that the feature presentation was due to start before we'd even make it to the car. Willing to admit that the 2pm show wasn't happening, Caroline then asked if there was another movie time this afternoon. Indeed there 4:35. I wasn't thrilled about a 4:35 movie time and suggested we go next Saturday instead.

The idea that we skip the movie today in favor of an earlier show next Saturday did not go over well. Not at all. In response to my suggestion, Caroline said "I don't want to play outside; I don't want to play with my friends; I'm never playing ever again."

And I rolled my eyes.

Mostly because it was over the top melodrama at its best but also because playing outside and our movie time dilemma are two entirely different things. Her statement was made purely out of frustration, which, hey, I've done the same, so I can't say that I blame her.

To make a long, teary story short, I gave in and we went to the 4:35 movie. It wasn't HER fault she wasn't home in time for the 2pm movie, anyway. I told Caroline that I shouldn't have said yes because her reaction was over-the-top, irrational and utterly ridiculous. And she knew it. My low drama tolerance level doesn't usually condone that type of irrational tearful behavior. But, her tears were real and not the least bit manufactured.

I really can't judge too much. Both my parents and Craig have a backlog of irrational, emotional, overly dramatic Alison outbursts that they're willing to use against me at any time. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

Hopefully an outburst of this nature won't happen again, but, considering Caroline's gender and the angst and bad hair days that are sure to come, I remain highly doubtful.


Anyway, we made it to the movie. But not before getting caught in a downpour in the Walmart parking lot. Our time at the theater was a little wet, but the movie was worth all the tears and rain soaked clothing.

I've always adored Beverly Cleary's Ramona books. When I was first pregnant with Caroline, I wanted a boy, but right before we went for the gender determining ultrasound, I suddenly changed my mind and decided I wanted a girl so that I could read her all my favorite childhood books. Obviously that gender decision was made long before I changed my mind based on a book loving whim, but I'm glad that I'm able to share Beezus and Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins and Ellen Tibbits with Caroline.

By the end of the movie, as I sat there in a blissful state of childhood literary reminiscence, I had completely forgotten about the 2pm tears. A good book (or movie) can do that to you.

Or, maybe it was because casting Josh Duhamel as Uncle Hobart was the smartest, wisest, best decision ever. EVER.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Hooray For Good Deals

School may not be starting for over 6 weeks, but we're in full-on back to school shopping mode. Actually, in the spirit transparency, I went to Kohls this morning in hopes of finding something for ME, but we ended up striking gold in the girl's section, instead.

Would you care to guess how much I paid for all of this?

Three pairs of comfy knit bermuda shorts

and three sequin embellished t-shirts

If you guessed .35 you'd be correct. Yep, I paid 35 cents for three complete outfits. Before you think I have some sort of voodoo shopping sense, I must admit that I had $35 in gift cards to use up. I had a $25 gift card that has been in my purse for quite a bit, but I also received a $10 card in the mail from Kohls last week. The $10 card expires today, so that is why we made a trip over there this morning. I sure am glad we did.

Each item retails for around $16, but were on sale for $5.39-$5.99.

We usually don't have much luck at Kohls because I find that their girls clothes are either tacky or way too grown up for an 8 year old. I need to have a talk with Caroline about fashion; she kept showing me acid wash pants and other 80s throwback clothing today. I nixed just about everything she showed me because it was all so very tacky.

Generally Caroline shows absolutely no interest in fashion, but for some reason, she was really digging the tacky, teeny bopper, nightmares of my youth, 80s stuff. We stuck with comfy clothes because they work best for PE, recess and her all around desire to climb trees, run like a maniac and roll in the mud.

Tight acid wash jeans and a ruffled, banded bottom shirt make tree climbing near impossible.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

Man, oh man, I'm really on the verge of cracking. Not in an ape crazy kind of way, but more of a chocolate binging, iced coffee guzzling, retail therapy kind of way. Despite all of that, I'm trying a new approach to life: focusing on the positive. That's what normal people do, right?

This may come as a surprise to you, but I do not naturally exude positivity. While I'm generally a cheerful, good natured person, pessimism still abounds. One might say that I have a storm cloud permanently stationed above my head; much like Eeyore, my favorite A.A. Milne character. As often as I refer to myself as an Eeyore, I don't think I'm mopey or a downer, in an "oh bother" type of way. I think I'm just realistic.

Realistic and completely aware of the ironies of life.

If things are going well, then naturally (and consistent with the past events of my life), something craptastic is lurking around the corner.

Sometimes things are simply too good to be true. When the road is smooth and good things are within reach, a bump emerges from the asphalt, causing mayhem and hysteria to all who cross its path. Well, that may be a tad melodramatic. There isn't anything in my life that could be described as hysterical; mayhem doesn't rear its ugly head in my corner of suburbia all that often.

But with many things, there is good news and bad news with each situation. As I approach this new found positive stage in my life, I'm choosing whole heartedly to be encouraged by the good and not defeated by the bad.

Exhibit A: I'm pretty sure some hoodlum broke into Craig's car. Maybe it's the same hoodlum who took a key (or a rock?) to the side of Craig's car, leaving a very long and very deep scratch? The contents of his glove box were strewn about, as were all the CDs he had housed in the middle console. I do not like messy cars and therefore know that I was not responsible for the wreckage. This type of violation is obviously BAD. And the GOOD? Well, the good thing is that we don't have many valuables and those that we do have, are not kept inside Craig's car. Obviously the intruder was not interested in scratched CDs and receipts from various car repairs/oil changes. Nor was he/she smart enough to open the trunk and see the golf clubs back there. It's also quite nice that, while I left the car unlocked, I did not leave the keys in the ignition like I did once before.

See, that's a definite positive.

Exhibit B: my car battery died this morning = BAD. And the GOOD? Well, it died in my garage, instead of elsewhere, where we could have been left stranded. It's been so hot outside; being stranded with a dead battery in the blazing sun seems most unsatisfactory. Also, I'm a well documented, and highly proficient battery changer.

Yep, I've got skillz and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

Exhibit C: I dumped a 32 oz cup of Diet Coke in Craig's car on the way home from the gym + running errands the afternoon. That's definitely BAD. I was really thirsty and I just really love Diet Coke. And the GOOD? Well, the good part is three fold: 1) I got the soda with a free coupon, so I didn't pay for the wasted Diet Coke, 2) it dumped on the passenger side floor and not all over my feet and 3) it happened in Craig's car and not mine.


How is it that it's easy to see the good when misfortune is bestowed upon someone other than myself?

I guess I can safely add self centered and self absorbed to my laundry list of character flaws. It's okay, though. Pessimistic, stubborn and control freak were getting lonely on that list. They need the company.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Cleaning?

That's what I do, anyway. Anytime I'm feeling frazzled and not in control, I start organizing things. I figure if I can't control my life, I can at least control my clutter.

Am I the only one who does that?

When I'm stressed out, first I eat handfuls of chocolate chips paired with heaping scoops of peanut butter straight from the jar. Then, after I mentally beat myself up for my lack of self control and calculate how far and how fast I'll have to run the next day to burn my snack off, I start organizing my stuff. I find filling garbage bags with ever accumulating, unwanted paper and organizing a messy linen closet oddly soothing. It's comforting to know that my shirts are arranged by color and sleeve length and that all my socks have mates. It also helps to keep my mind off of the pb and chocolate that is sitting like a rock in my stomach.

I've been feeling a bit frazzled lately; more so than usual. Summer is supposed to be relaxing and rejuvenating, but I find myself tense and figidity. More so than usual! My house, as a result, is clean and organized, but I'm finding that I run out of surfaces to clean and drawers to organize before my tension dissipates.

To get a break from my organization fixation, I took Caroline and her friend, Bailey to the pool on Ft. Belvoir. They had a good time, even though the curvy slide was removed due to some sort of damage, therefore decreasing the fun factor by several notches. I spent some time reading, which is always a welcomed treat, but we left rather abruptly, however, because Bailey spun herself into quite a frenzy in one of our inner tubes, leaving her dizzy and a bit queasy. She didn't look green or on the verge of barfing, but I figured it would be prudent for us to leave before she upchucked at the pool, or even worse, in my car. Thankfully, we made it home without incident, but she did choose to go home and rest, instead of staying to play at our house. Whew, vomit crisis diverted.

In other news, Caroline and I put together the final box of goodies we'll send to Craig before he makes the long journey home. Things *seem* to be going according to plan, which means he *should* be home by the end of August, but we're realists and know that ANYTHING can happen. What's the term? Cautiously optimistic? Yep, that's us. Cautiously optimistic that he'll make it home before school starts.

As you can see, I still haven't fixed my background problem, because the site I use for free backgrounds is either so busy I can't access it or slower than the slowest molasses, which makes me want to pull my hair out. And throw my computer through the wall. And declutter my junk drawer.

I'll get if fixed eventually.

But first, I have a dirty refrigerator begging for a good cleaning....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Please Excuse the Dust

Ack, I'm having blog background issues, as evidenced by the boring grey you see right now. Unfortunately my computer is choosing to work at an archaic dinosaur speed AND my patience level isn't nearly high enough for the amount required for dealing with blog issues.

Therefore, I quit. I'm throwing in the towel this evening and will deal with it later.

It is my hope that everything (the blog background and my patience) will be restored sometime tomorrow.


Disco Roller Queen

I used to be a disco roller queen. Actually, I'm a little too young for disco, so I suppose I was an 80s roller queen. I spent a lot of time on roller skates as a kid, at the rink and also outside with friends. We raced, choreographed routines and also pretended to be roller skating waitresses, complete with my own official menu pad. I had a lot of fun on those four wheels, but now that I'm older and clumsier than ever, it's time to pass the roller queen torch on to Caroline.

Caroline's one and only request while in Florida was to go to the Roller Barn. We don't have a roller skating rink around here that doesn't require a long drive, so this was a request I did my best to honor. The Roller Barn is a dump. It's old, stinky, dingy and in dire need of refurbishment, but it's a huge part of childhood in my town. Perhaps the dumpiness of the Roller Barn is part of its charm? By the time we moved to Florida when I was 15, I was too old to enjoy the charm of the Roller Barn. My younger sister, like most kids her age, had a birthday party at the Roller Barn once. It's just how things are done around there.

On our final full day in Florida, I honored Caroline's burning desire to visit the Roller Barn.

I sincerely apologize for the horrible picture quality. I'm kind of embarrassed to post them because they're of such poor quality. Taking action shots in a dark roller skating rink is definitely not my forte. However, neither is pride, so I'll just share them. I'm sure I've posted worse things before.

That carpet? Ugh. Dirty. Gross.

Not going to lie, I cringed when Caroline rested her chin on that carpet covered wall. I tried my best not to think about the germ infestation hiding within those walls...

or the floor. Shiver.

Aside from just skating in circles, the Roller Barn hosted whole slew of events.

Here's Caroline, waiting for her turn to race.

Calling all 7 and 8 year olds.

On your mark, get set, GO.

Coming in 2nd isn't too shabby.

We can't forget the Hokey Pokey

Or the Chicken Dance.

Good times were had by all.

And, in typical Neurotic Housewife fashion, much hand sanitizer was applied afterwards.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Small Town Charm

Small towns can be charming; they can also be quirky. Unfortunately, small towns can also offer a variety of establishments and residents who make you scratch your head and wonder what is wrong with the world.

One afternoon while Caroline was at camp and my mom was at work, I took the car around and snapped pictures of some of my small town favorites. I also took pictures of things that make my eyes roll way deep into the back of my head.

Some of these pictures were hastily snapped, from inside the car, so that explains the less than stellar quality of some of these snapshots.

Most towns have Walmart, but in small towns, Walmart is the place to be. Especially the Super Walmart where you can get your groceries, a DVD player, windshield wiper fluid AND get your nails done, your hair cut, your eyeglasses adjusted, your oil changed and your belly filled with Big Macs and french fries.

What more could you possibly want?

and there is Checkers, conveniently located across the street from my high school. Checkers, with their tasty seasoned french fries, is sandwiched between Wendy's and Taco Bell. A high school student's dream come true.

Small towns have 6 theater cinemas that dwarf in comparison to the 16, 18, 24 theater megaplexes in larger cities, but boast a charm (and a lack of stadium seating) that can't be beat.

My small town has the Roller Barn. Bet you didn't know I was a disco roller queen! I'll share more pictures later.

Beyond fast food, Walmart and dumpy roller rinks, I always joke that my small town is comprised of three things: doctor's offices, funeral homes and cemeteries. I usually add churches to the list, but I cannot find the church pictures I took.

There are grandpa cars as big as boats,

and big trucks that require step ladders to get into.

Even better if they're decorated with school pride. Because in the south? College football is religion.

Unfortunately, you often encounter these types of trucks:

trucks with dangling deer targets. Yep, small town charm. Ugh.

And we can't forget Cooter statues.

What, you mean your town doesn't hold a Cooter Fest each year?

Our town also has an old fashioned courthouse that has been refurbished to its original charming state.

and old cracker style houses, hidden behind trees streamed with Spanish moss.

it has landmarks with words that most cannot pronounce. Withlacoochee. Ichetucknee. Okahumpka.

and miles and miles of railroads turned into bike/running trails.

You could run and bike for miles, which is wonderful, except for the fact that on my one and only 40 minute run on the Rails to Trails, I encountered two dead baby snakes. If I ever lived there for good, the treadmill would be my best friend. It's a a good thing I was a big, fat lump in my teenage years because running in Florida, with the stifling humidity and increased chance of snake encounters, would have sworn me off for good.

When I was younger, I didn't take the time to notice and appreciate the natural beauty my town had to offer. I was much too busy worrying about my hair and complaining about the lack of a decent mall nearby. When you're a self absorbed 16 year old, shimmery blue lakes and Spanish moss covered trees do nothing to endear you to a town you're unhappy to be living in.

I saw my town with new eyes when we were visiting. Not the run down parts and the houses with ridiculous lawn ornaments, but the natural, untouched beauty of some of the land. I'm still quite self absorbed, but I'm glad that my attitude has changed.