It Hurts..Oh So Good....Please Do It More...WAIT, Stop, Not So HARD!!

**Just a quick note: Sign up for the 100 Personalized Postcard giveaway here. Don't know what you would use them for? How about making some wonderful postcards promoting a local non-profit? Non-profits love free advertising, yo. Do a good deed with no money out of your pocket and very little effort!!**

Anyway....You know how you hear about all these places that try and get you to sign up for their club, where they sign you up for auto-pay and you have to commit to a length of time and sign on four forms and offer up your first-born and agree to marry their brother......I usually avoid these types of things. However - ya'll may have heard me talk too many times about how I have chronic pain for both tmj and tendinitis (or maybe it's carpal tunnel - I should know this!) and so one of the things I do to ease the pain from these is to take copious amounts of vicodin get massages every 4-6 weeks.

Let me review for you:
TMJ - pain in my left jaw (the drivers side, if you will, ha). The pain in my jaw causes the muscle that runs from my jaw down over my shoulder to get very taut. Try flexing your arm muscle...and hold it for 4 weeks. Hold it really tight. That muscle will most definitely start to ache. After your four weeks of flexing, have someone rub all around and on that muscle for an hour. Are you imagining it? Isn't it a wonderful relief? YES, it is.

Tendinitis - (or maybe carpal tunnel) - so this is mostly affecting my right wrist, but my left wrist sometimes flares up just to remind me that it needs some love too. I type for a living-all day, every day. I also type way too much outside of work, like for all of you, here, my blogger friends (you're welcome). My poor lil wrists just get tired.

Soooooo.....back to the point........
I went ahead and signed up at the local Massage Envy for monthly massages for the next six months. I had to give up Andrew and I might be engaged - but it's a better deal to sign up for the monthly club thing and it pushes me to take this step of self-care on a regular basis.

And I love it.

However, there are two types of massages that bother me:
  1. Sometimes you get a massage person who is a bit over-zealous about working out that knot in my shoulder. And it feels Until it's over. And then suddenly you realize that you've been assaulted and omg-why can I feel my kidneys when I look over my left shoulder?? 
  2. I'm almost torn though on if it's better to have this KO feeling as opposed to the other type of massage, where they gently rub you...and it's nice.....and it feels good....but so does taking a bubble. And taking a bath is free. So don't just make me feel good lady.....make me feel it, at least for an hour after. But there's a fine line there....I don't really want to feel it all week.
Tonight's massage was brought to me by the letters K and O. As in KnockMeTheEffOut.
Did I mention I have a pinched nerve in my back? It comes and goes, it's been around for 8 months, I deal with that and don't really care most of the time....but after Mike Tyson gave me a massage tonight, it's just me and the heating pad. Night, ya'll!

Weekend Wrap Up - Presents Day 2009

And it's over...Presents Day was fun, more so this year than any in the last 6 years. It was so wonderful to have the house to decorate, to spread out in, to celebrate in, to have friends makes a huge difference in my happiness quotient.

We saved all of our present opening until Presents Day, aka Xmas.

Andrew got me a great gift of a digital photo frame and a storage card for it, which is awesome as I think about getting one often, thinking I might be the very last person ever to not have one. I spent two hours selecting the right photos for the memory card, but have not yet decided the most perfect spot in the house for it.

We spent Xmas Eve watching a couple movies while making a gazillion cookies.

Xmas day brought guests and lots of food:

My friend Dean made deep-fried turkey breasts, which were a huge hit. And we had ham, corn casserole, stuffing, ginger carrot things, a squash souffle and homemade biscuits. We also had a homemade apple crisp, which was neglected but that was fine for us because we ended up with leftovers!

Later in the evening we made pavlova:

Decorated in a holiday spirit of green (kiwi) and red (raspberries), it turned out quite well considering I didn't really follow any specific recipe. I googled "pavlova recipe" and then I somewhat guessed at measurements and whatnot. I had a great recipe about 5 years ago, but can't find it anymore. I don't know how this years pavlova turned out so yummy, given the "meh, does this look like a teaspoon amount?" way of doing things (which I never do because I'm just not that talented in the kitchen). Pavlova is a meringue - and I do not like lemon meringue pie, not just the lemon part, but the entire thing isn't good to me.
I think the best part of this pavlova dessert is the crispy outer shell, the soft squishy middle and the crispy sweet crust on the bottom. We made the "frosting" from scratch too - just ultra fine sugar and a splash of vanilla...and something else (sorry I have no recipe for you to copy). Just delicious!! We all loved it, and had just two squares left on the pan after everyone had 1-3 servings and we all said, "whew, we're DONE" - then we stood around the pan talking....and it just slowly disappeared. It's best fresh anyway!

We had 7 guests for Xmas Day. It was pointed out that I have been quite the socialite since moving here...and this is absolutely true. I lived the last 5 years in a tiny apartment that was not really conducive to having friends gathering together for any length of time....and now I have a large living room area: the game room we call it, that is perfect for all of us to just hang out and lounge and (as always) play games. It's just wonderful. And my old kitchen fit 1.5 persons at any given time. This one comfortably fits 6.8. It's just wonderful!
Amy and her beautiful daughter Holly

I think the 3 kids (not counting young Andrew) had about 12 cookies each before dinner, which means they were good. Then they bounced off the walls for a little bit.

We ate, we talked, we laughed, we ate, we played games, we cleaned....someone (me) dropped a container of expired sour cream on the floor. Directly behind someone who was kindly doing some dishes. It made a wonderful cartoon-sounding SPLAT noise and attacked poor Dean....Amy very kindly jumped right in and helped do damage control. I, of course, jumped for the camera.

Overall - a great weekend. I did no work at all, which is a good weekend anytime, I ate a million calories-in preparation for my upcoming 2010 work-out plan, I celebrated with family and friends, and we have enough leftovers that I don't have to worry about any meal for the next 3 days.

Next steps: must put away holiday decorations and get the house cleaned up for the small New Years Eve party later this week. Oh, and work will be a nightmare, end of year stuff and all.

Did you all have a great holiday? Get anything amazing from your loved ones? Anything scandalous and drama-filled happen that you must share with all of us? Please do!

T-2 Until Pavlova Day!!!

Do any of you out there know the goodness that is called Pavlova?
It's the most delicious thing and it's traditional to have at birthdays and xmas if you are from a down under land. The New Zealanders, the Kiwis, will tell you that it's their dessert. The Australians will insist it is their dessert. If you ever want a really heated discussion with someone from one of those countries, let them know that you heard pavlova comes from the other country. And then stand back a little bit, because honestly-I've known some people from each country and they would defend their dessert heritage to the DEATH. It's serious.

I first had pavlova when I was hanging out with a Kiwi in Korea. Her and her daughter lived about 2 hours south maybe and we decided to meet, just coincidentally around her daughters birthday. In Korea, we didn't have stoves, so baking a cake was a bit of a challenge. Baking a cake that was not native to the country we lived in was even more of a challenge. She actually had to have someone ship her some of the supplies - like cream of tarter.

With the baking supplies challenge done, she found a local bakery who agreed to bake it for her. However, the standard way to bake a pavlova is to leave it in oven for just a short amount of time and then turn the oven off, never ever open it, but leave the pavlova in to cook slowly while the oven cools. We weren't really certain we were able to translate this correctly to the baker, who really thought the entire thing was insane, but he humored us. We gave him the pavlova mix and left it in his hands....and it came out perfect!!!

We made fresh cream to frost it with and covered it with kiwi fruit and it was the BEST dessert ever!
Photo from a real live Australian website.
I don't know why we don't make this more's delicious!! And it will be at my house on Xmas night if anyone would like a bite. But time it right, because it won't last long!

Presents Day 2009, Part One: The Family At Large Edition

We celebrated Presents Day up north this weekend with the family and it was a blast!
It's a three hour drive to get to my folks house; sometimes it seems like nothing, sometimes it takes FOREVER.

It's well worth it regardless. We laughed and laughed and ate and laughed and laughed some more.

We opened presents on Friday night. We all got/gave some great gifts.

One of the funniest moments accidentally happened when I opened a gift from my sister. It was an Adult Mad Lib game. She had bought it months and months ago and had set it aside for Xmas. Then she wrapped it up and brought it on over....and was much surprised when I opened the gift and started flipping through it and found one of the pages already completed! Apparently my sisters kids were waiting in the car one day and it was in the back in a box of goods and they pulled it out and completed one. It's and ADULT version mind you, so it asks you for totally adult words....and I'm going to love playing this with my adult friends. I'll spare you the details of what the kids wrote (it has an unfortunately common derogatory word for gay a few times), but it was QUITE funny that the gift had been sampled already. We laughed quite hard over this...

My sisters family gave me the Pictionary game with the little guy you write on and it provided us hours of laughter. I could not love this game any more!!
Pictionary ManA funny story: see my sweet little mom pictured above? Keep that sweet face in mind as I tell you this story:
Mom was on my team. The category is Movie Titles. I have to draw for my mom and get her to say the word Shaft. Knowing that my mom would not have any idea about this movie (and it would be difficult to draw that movie anyway), I went a different route.....a different type of shaft......making it an Adult version of the game...

AND I thought this would really work, because my mom works in the medical field.

So I sketched out a diagram of a penis.

Yes, for my sweet little mom.

And she just sat and stared for a moment and was not sure she was in the right house I think....and then she names off 3 or 4 synonyms for penis-words we NEVER hear my sweet little mom say, words she probably didn't expect to say to her daughters and grandson at her kitchen table...and so I start indicating the middle section of my drawing....drawing a line at the top and the bottom of the "shaft"....repeatedly and frantically tracing over them to get her to focus on that middle section.

While sweet little mom just stares.
And my sister laughs hysterically.
And Andrew starts screaming out: "She's cutting it!! She's CUTTING IT!!!"

Mom and I didn't win...but it was a fun game nonetheless.

Young Andrew - turkey carver.

Mom and her new coat and purse. She's just darling!!!

And anytime Andrew gets slightly bored, I find him like this:

We couldn't possibly travel anywhere without a guitar!

And here's the kids:
That's my nephew sitting with his girlfriend in front of him (she was with us both days while my nephew was there and at no time was she not touching him). My niece is standing in back (she's so pretty!) and there's my little Andrew sitting in front (I love him).

Oh - and I have blown my nose about 7000 times in the last 48 hours. I think I have sneezed 22 times. This is so totally unacceptable!! I was sick two days after Thanksgiving!!! I am DONE being sick!!! Presents Day Part Two in just five more days!!! I can't believe it!!!!

KaPOW! Bang! SHAZAM! Zowzers!!! It's a GIVEAWAY!!!!!!

Hello everyone!
Welcome to my blog.
Today's blog is about you.
All about you.
And your desire to utilize our U.S. Postal Service. It's a great old organization and we should all use it more. Who doesn't love to get stuff in the mail??

To help you with this desire of yours, I've got a sweet little giveaway for you.

You know how you just started a business/about to have a baby/just bought a house/made a million dollars/want to have personalized thank you cards- and you would love to have a mailing go out to your friends and families and all their friends and families? Well can help you. will print up some fancy-schmancy postcards with your personal design on them.

The website is simple to use - I'm not just saying that - it really is. Would I lie to you? (not about this, no) I have actually used their site and it is user-friendly.

Here's the details:

Giveaway Prize: 100 Postcards for one (1) lucky winner
Size: 4x6;
Paper: 14pt Cardstock Gloss;
Printing: Full color both sides
Shipping: Winners have to pay for shipping
(bummer - but how much is this really? Probably not much!)

SO - think really hard - I bet you could come up with a good reason to need these. Yep-think about it. I am receiving a batch myself and I honestly started thinking "postcards?? what would I use these for??" but then I had some great ideas.
I wish I had these back in May when I moved into my new house.
Or back in 1992 when I had a baby.
Or when I was married and we owned a business.
Or when I was looking for a job and wanted a fun and unique way to impress some potential employers.
Oh--wait!!!! I might just use these to make graduation announcements!!! Is it too early for that? June 2011 is coming up fast!!!
My other idea was to make thank you cards for the volunteers who help out all the time, that would be a nice personal touch.

It's really easy to enter. Just show me some comment love. Some of you are really good at that. Some of you need to practice (you know who you are). Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking you would want to do with them. You could steal some of my amazing ideas listed above or use your own.

Those are the rules - easy right???
Just leave a comment.
I guess I'll do the normal blogger thing and offer up another chance to win if you subscribe via email or follow via blogger. Just one extra entry, eh. Two chances to win. Go ahead now....get your name in there.
Winners will be chosen on January 3rd when I sober up.
Comments close at midnight on January 3rd. Start typing. Good luck everyone!!
Thanks - if you're really anxious and can't wait until this giveaway ends, you can go ahead and order postcards online here.
In adherence to the ridiculous FTC ruling on Blogger Reviews and Sponsored Postings which is ridiculous, I need to fully disclose blahblahblah that I will be receiving 100 Postcards from for hosting this giveaway. woohoo!

Secret Santa Special Surprise!!!

Can I just say how much I love to get packages in the mail?

It's so much fun to come home and pull up in the driveway and see a little box hidden in the corner by your door.

I received one late last week from a special blogger friend....via the Secret Santa Blogger Soiree hosted by the most wonderful Georgie and Amy. You might have seen the button on the sidebar all month - and now all the effort of having that button have paid off!!

My Secret Blogger Santa did really well by me.

First was the card, which featured an animal dressed up and we all know how much I love that!!

On top was my most favorite treat (next to ice cream, which isn't mailable so it's totally understandable that I received none): Reeses peanut butter cups, which lasted about 15 minutes between me and the teen, and peanut M&M's which lasted a bit longer, but are sadly no longer with us.

I got a super cute holiday towel set, a gift card to Panera bread (YUM), and the most thoughtful and best thing of all......this ornament:

Some of you know that my son and I (and the furry friends) just moved into my very first home ever. It's the best house in the whole world and I never ever want to leave it and my secret santa obviously knows this....a very sweet present!!! I literally hugged it and squeeled like a three-year old.

Here's my full spread:

I love it all!!!

Thank you super special secret santa!!! Happy holidays to you!!!

If anyone else is interested in sending me special packages, just let me know!! I'm happy to let the entire blogger world know how wonderful you are. I just don't want you to feel left out if you wanted to be called out for sending a great gift to a stranger. I'm nice that way.

Random Thoughts Tuesday - I've Missed You RTT!

I've missed the last few RTT's. I have no excuse. I hope I'm still allowed in the club.

Click on the button for the link to more randomness.

  • OMG – I got my secret santa box!!!! I have a secret santa, she did wonderful things for me….and I took pictures and I’m ready to share my goodies with you all…..tonight! I keep forgetting to upload from my camera. TONIGHT though!!! My secret santa did me right, yo.
  • I made cupcakes last night based off this recipe. They aren’t quite what I had hoped for….but I didn’t follow the recipe exactly-I added a little more sugar and I used fat-free cream cheese. And I used white cake mix, not chocolate. They are okay…..not as spectacular as I had hoped.
  • We celebrate Presents Day with my folks and my sister and her family on SATURDAY. I need to have all shopping done before I leave for work on Friday morning. Yikes, where did the month go??
  • Alison isn’t talking to me and I don’t know why.
  • I’m still in shock that Tiger Woods hit a tree and he’s suddenly the worlds worst husband and no longer a role model. I do not know what happened…how do you hit a tree in a car…alone…and suddenly you have 7, no 9, no 12 girlfriends and all your text messages are public? I am being very careful to not hit any trees – who knows what will be discovered!!!
  • I have seen my raccoon friend twice more, waddle across the backyard and head under the deck. I’m worried he lives there. The one time our cat got out (when some wonderful visiting teenager left the door open ALL night), he hid under the deck. I don’t want to be afraid of letting my kitties out…any suggestions on how to teach my raccoon that we can all live peacefully?
  • I’m thinking about visiting Iowa next June. Anyone willing to let me sleep on their guest bed? I’m 89% sure the teen will be coming with. And my mom.

Weekend Wrap-up: Couldn't Be Busier Edition

Busy weekend!!

Saturday was the Holiday Ornaments for Seniors event. I bring about two boxes full of misc crafty scraps (which are all donated from various sources) and some very crafty people volunteer their time to make the greatest decorations for a low-income senior housing.

Here are just a couple of my favorites:
These have foam centers and are covered with cotton batting. The best part: Look at the girl snowman ---- she has a very stylish purse!!! How adorable is that?
The bodies of these are made from those large old beads that preschools use for making necklaces. I have no idea how the little chorus books are made, but these turned out AMAZING. How darling is this?? And some girl just came in, with no idea what was going to happen and she created this masterpiece! Awesome work!

After the event, I ran some errands and then Saturday night friends came over for games night. We had a fair amount of alcohol, more than our fair share of laughs and good times, and we ended up staying up playing games until 3am!!! THREE AM!!! It was just so much fun - a very good group of friends.

Today was another holiday volunteer event - a local apartment complex for low-income families receives donated gifts for their families. Then they set up all the donated gifts in their community center as a "store" and during one hour, the families can come select which gifts they want. My volunteers and I helped sort the gifts by gender and age and then helped find a present for the parents.

Most of the families were lined up outside for the entire hour that we were setting things up, as they wanted the first pick. We anticipate that not everyone can stand outside and be first, so we set aside a few of the bigger gifts and replenished our stock halfway through. Kids weren't allowed in the "store," but we had a couple kids follow around the window areas and watch their moms. This one little boy was outside and he kept saying, "I'm so excited!!" He watched his mom pick out a big play dough gift set for him. She explained that she never has money for a babysitter and there's no one to watch him, so there is no surprising him on anything ever.

The families were all very grateful, and the program coordinator was even more grateful. She said she doesn't usually have volunteers helping at the store and it's typically just her and another employer. It was great to feel the appreciation and I think all the volunteers had a great experience.

My son couldn't be bothered to help out - he is now up for adoption (not for not-volunteering, but for not coming to help me when I asked for it). Please let me know if you are interested. He really is a good kid in many other ways.

Did I mention I was up until 3am?? I'm exhausted! Off to a long bath and an early bedtime.

I'll Be The Queen, You Be The Jester

Love it! Ginger makes a great jester! She kinda just laid there frozen in place. She believes that she is being tortured nearly every time Andrew comes near her, so this is her normal face when he is nearby. Isn't she darling??

There are actually holes for the ears even! I can't believe they had this on sale for less than two bucks! A jester hat for a cat WITH ear holes??? I know, you would expect this to be fairly expensive, and definitely out of my price range during the holidays, but nope...I got it the week after Halloween for about a buck-sixty. This is probably the best deal of the YEAR, right?

Whiskers wanted to play along too, but Andrew decided he didn't like the pic of himself (though it turned out really well) - here's the edited version:

Coming to You Live From a Tanzanian Village Near You

Some of you may have heard that I like to volunteer (because I talk about it ALL the time).

Some of you may actually have volunteered with me in the past (thanks!!! I really appreciate it and value your help!).

Some of you may know that every little thing you do to help others has a ripple the other day the car in front of me gave a young homeless girl a couple bucks when we were stopped at a 4-way stop. And instead of being irritated that he was taking FOREVER - I was inspired to give up a couple bucks myself, and didn't remember why I was in such a hurry. Or by making a small little card for a terminally child - you are actually affecting that entire family (who knows how bad their day was going before you sent that card, and how uplifting it might have been for their spirits to see your great rendition of a cartoon dinosaur). We can do just LITTLE things and make such a BIG difference. We really can!

Just try it, I dare you.

Last year, some volunteers got together and we made ABC posters for schools overseas. Some went to Dominican Republic, Uganda, and Kenya. And then the project came to a standstill because I just didn't have any more schools to send them too and I had an abundance of posters ready to mail. And they sat in my closet for about 5 months with no home.

And then one day, I just put in more effort and searched around for a local non-profit that was somehow connected to an overseas school that might benefit.

And that's when I found Barry Childs and Africa Bridge.
And that's when I fell in love.

Barry is this amazing human who has dedicated his life to the people of Tanzania. He works with the elders to identify a counsel of people who work together to identify the most needful children in a community. Then they, the counsel and elders, work together against the factors that prevent their community from being successful with the bridge to what they need in order to educate their children, grow their community, provide for a future for their people.

I'm certain I am not doing the program justice with my little description - here's a little blurb from their website:

Africa Bridge blends effectiveness and efficiency to change Tanzania one child at a time. Its core projects include providing seed capital for farm cooperatives, training for agricultural projects, building classrooms, providing scholarships for school expenses and supporting Tanzania's Most Vulnerable Children Committees (MVCCs).

We use an integrated approach that works through local families and communities. They agree to identify and care for children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS and other diseases. We bring resources, technology and training to create sustainable incomes for the caregivers.The children receive housing, clothing and food, social and legal support, and at least a primary school education. We make each project sustainable to create permanent change.

I have had the chance to hear Barry speak a couple of times, and listening to him speak, you can actually feel the passion he has towards this cause. He has done amazing things in these little communities in the middle of one of the poorest countries in Africa...and he just does it, with little recognition, and in such a humble way, and in a peaceful and quiet way. He's just amazing.

Anyway - I spoke with the people at Africa Bridge, and Barry was happy to take our posters to his schools in Tanzania. I think we sent seven or eight. Barry had to buy an extra suitcase to get them there-the posters, when folded even, take up quite a bit of space, and were not really conducive to suitcase packing.

Typically, we send these posters off and then never hear another word. Not a card, not a thanks, nothing...which is fine-but we would all love to see the outcome of our work, right?

Well, Barry pulled through......and our posters are in the hands of some very happy teachers in Tanzania and Barry and Africa Bridge has requested more donations! Not just letters, but also numbers. Or other teaching implements. They really value our work. They really appreciate what we have done. They loved them - and beyond that even, they brought back pictures!! Of our little the middle of Africa!! And I have to say that I almost cried a teeny-tiny bit when I saw them.

The children were all gathered around, as they come running when they see "papa Barry" come to town. They were all so excited about our posters.

The teachers literally have nothing on their wall. The children do not all have paper and writing utensils. They do not all have books. Our posters have really made a change to the lives of others in a little community far, far away.

Thank you to everyone who helped me make this happen. Thanks to Natalie, and Jackie, and Kathy, and Kristi, and Mike, and Dean, and Amy, and anyone else I'm missing.....we have made a difference!!!

If anyone else wants to make a difference, it's really easy. Donate via their website ($25 will buy a student supplies for a year). Or become a fan of their cause on Facebook. Or just spread the word about them. They are wonderful.

The Amazing Race Finale!

Fun! I love this show!!
I'm glad someone NOT famous and/or wealthy won, it just seems more fair.

Did anyone watch this show?
Did anyone else think that the winning team was brother and sister? I did - the entire time. I just don't remember them doing anything that would identify them as a couple.
It was weird. I thought they were brother and sister and that the boy is a secret gay man. Nothing wrong with being gay, Cheyne!!! We'll still be happy for you!!

I'll miss this show. It's the only good thing going for Sunday night. Now Sunday has nothing. NOTHING. Just a lot of animosity and bitterness that we all have to work tomorrow. Thanks Sunday...Thanks for nothing.

Babies and Dumpsters Don't Mix

This is a reprint from two years ago (when none of you were here with me)...I remembered this story the other day when we were talking about interviewing at work. It's such a great story, I feel like I need to tell more people.

We had an interview candidate come through my work on Tuesday and I spent about 30 min talking about the company and the city with him. Our candidates meet with about 5 people, both so they can get a good feel for the atmosphere in our department and so we can get a well-rounded look at whether or not that person would be a good match for us.

He mentioned he had a new baby so I said "aw, your first? Are you still in shock" and he said "yeah, the other day my wife and I were with friends and she looked from our fussy baby to our friends and then said "I don't know why more people don't throw these in the dumpster."

Wait, what?
Yeah...."I don't know why more people don't throw these in the dumpster."
Seriously. In a suit and tie, at a JOB INTERVIEW, relating that story to someone he JUST MET.
He then shared his theories about how some people must just be born to be parents, but unfortunately, neither he nor his wife feel that way about themselves.
Which is fine....but um, I just met you? Should you be sharing that personal info with me? And um, are you trying to impress someone at your job interview?

And really-who says things like that?? Even if I was feeling that way as a new mom--I wouldn't share it with A) my circle of friends or B) a stranger in a job interview or C) ANYONE.

I told my young one about this that night over dinner and even he couldn't believe it. I made sure to let him know that it's not too late---and there are dumpsters everywhere. He better watch his step.

I imagine if you shared this with your much-younger-than-mine young one, they might come to develop a rational fear of dumpsters. Maybe there are already people out there that have this fear and don't know why. I have now solved the mystery for them.

Burglar in My Backyard - Caught on Tape!

We really just figured out that if you leave the backyard lights on, eventually they go off - and they are security lights, so they will come on if someone is in the backyard. How nice! 5 months in the new house....I wonder what other tricks this house does...

Tonight Andrew was teaching himself a new Coldplay song (he really is that talented!) and I was unpacking holiday decorations and the backyard lights came on...they NEVER come on. And we were a little surprised-but nothing was there. Until......I saw someones beady little eyes, peaking out from around the deck bench.

And I happened to have my camera out as I had been taping Andrew moments before, so luckily I was able to catch this trespasser.

Also luckily, our cat-who-thinks-he's-a-dog was at the ready and rushed low-belly style right up to confront the intruder.

The intruder did not even blink at Whiskers, just kept on foraging.

Oddly enough - there is a stuffed chicken leg at the door, as if it was being offered up. I assure you that we did not offer any food to this uninvited guest.

Andrew took a moment to wonder why we never domesticated raccoons. Good question. They are so cute to look at!

We named her Cassandra.

Notes from Korea: 01.18.02 - The Beginning of Our Year Abroad

I think this is the first email I sent out, though it's the 2nd Notes from Korea post....because I'm not that organized apparently. I'll work on it, have patience.

Andrew and I are actually in Korea!
We had a little trouble with our cat and after two hours of arguing, we finally had to leave our cat with them in quarantine for 20 days, although we did everything we were supposed to beforehand. We are going to visit Tasha next week though and check in with her to make sure she is okay.
We are staying with my directors family for a week, hopefully not more. On the positive side of that, we have learned many Korean words and are being fed well. We haven't had to pay for a thing. We went to a museum and did a tour through Yeoju and in Wonju, where the family lives.
There isn't any food here that I have found that I really like, though Andrew has found some great pork dish that he has had twice in two days. The family eats a LOT-every meal there is a lot of food and rice is, of course, the ever present side dish. Andrew can't even eat as much as them-and he can really eat! The directors sister keeps bringing us food all day because she thinks we must be hungry when we don't drink as much as them. The director said to me that his sister is worried that I will starve or pass out from hunger.
The family has a ten year old boy (he's only two months older than Andrew but the Korean children are considered one when they are born). He knows a little English, but not much and he continually says, "And-er-ew, COME," and most of the time he is not wanting to GO anywhere. Andrew has mixed feelings about the boy, as he wants someone to play with, but the boy doesn't seem to know how to play what Andrew wants. The Korean children are very independent. I saw two young boys weaving their way through traffic trying to cross this very busy intersection-and they were only about four and five years old! The director set Andrew and his nephew up in a PC room this morning while we went to the bookstore. We ended up being gone for 2 1/2 hours. When I asked about getting back to the boys, the Director didn't understand why I asked...he said something about-did Andrew need me tonight? Then I was getting a little nervous wondering if he was planning on going back before the night was over! I don't know that I will ever get used to that!!
Korean drivers are INSANE! There seems to be no sense of order and a lot of streets are very narrow, with cars just parked where they want. I don't know how we have managed to NOT be in an accident yet. I haven't even seen an accident...
I am hoping to be in our own place by the end of next week and hope to get a computer or laptop. I am in a PC room right now, at a buck an hour, which is fairly expensive. Most things are pretty cheap though, as I expected. The gas is NOT cheap-it costs about $31 US dollars to fill my directors gas tank-and it's a small car. The only time we did buy something, we weren't sure if it was a good deal or not since we still haven't gotten the hang of converting won over to dollars.
That's all for now!

This is a pic of a private science lesson in the home where we lived. The woman on the couch is the directors sister we lived with. Her role was to pay the teacher who came in for an hour lesson and to hit the children when they weren't paying attention. Note the yardstick in her hand. Andrew was made to sit there and listen and join in the lesson, looking through microscopes and such, but the teacher only spoke Korean so it really wasn't educational for him. (The pic is in my scrapbook-that's another photo overlapping in the top right corner)


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