Saturday, December 16, 2006

Trying on clothes

I tried to find an outfit to wear over the Christmas holiday to church and any other dress up gatherings. This is not an easy task since there are about 3 places to shop for maternity clothes in our town, all of which apparently think that pregnant women don't need to get dressed up (unless dressed up means a big shirt with stretchy black pants ... why is it even remotely OK to wear stretch pants when your middle is twice as big as the rest of you?). After trying on every dress in the aforementioned stores, I finally found one that's as cute as it's going to get. As if going clothing shopping wasn't depressing enough ...

On the upside, we are finished with Christmas shopping aside from 2 people! It's a nice feeling considering that I'm going to Toronto Sunday through Wednesday this week (yep, a meeting the week before Christmas). It should make the week fly by though and we're leaving to go to Champaign on Friday!!!! I'm really looking forward to 10 days with family and friends.

A great way to waste time

We got the Wii on Thursday. It is the most fun I've had outside a video arcade in years. You get to create a Mii that looks like you (or not) to play the sports game. Ryan got a kick out of watching his 6 month pregnant wife kick the crap out of a grizzled dude on the boxing game. You actually have to stand up and use the remotes like boxing gloves. We're gonna bring the Wii when we come home at Christmas time. I think it will provide some entertaining stories for years to come.

We also got a game about Rabbids (yes, correctly spelled) in which you throw cows, shoot plungers and race warthogs, to name a few activities. So far it consumed our last evening (after we got home from Christmas shopping at 8 pm) and all of this morning. Ryan ran out to mail a package, and I got stuck on a level, thus the blogging. I'll get some pictures up of us playing the sports game. Absolutely ridiculous.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ryan wins a Wii!

Ry buys computer stuff from newegg.com from time to time. Apparently, he entered an online sweepstakes a while ago for free Wiis. Yesterday he was notified that he won one! Christmas is coming early to the Thomas family. Unreal.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Finally

I'm excited to finally be looking pregnant instead of looking like I spent too long in the buffet line. I'm also excited to be feeling good again. Aside from the occasional kicks in the kidneys, it's kind of fun being pregnant. I think he's gonna run us ragged. At least we've still got a few more months. How scary is it that we're going to be parents?

Monday, December 04, 2006

The (unsuccessful) Wii hunters

All Ryan really wants for Christmas (well, the thing he wants most for Christmas) is a Nintendo Wii. As most of you probably know, this little gem is nearly impossible to come by right now. Nintendo has come up with a brilliant marketing strategy that hinges on sending only enough to stores to keep people lining up each Sunday to wait for the stores to open.

And so, on Sunday morning, I found myself outside Target at 7:50 (10 minutes before they opened) waiting for a Wii. Target had given all theirs out already, so off we trouped to Circuit City, which didn't open until 10 am. There, we thought our luck changed, as we were 5th in line. Alas, the manager came outside around 9 am to tell the unfortunates in line that he had given out the 15 vouchers in his possession at 7:30 that morning. Apparently, the serious die-hards had camped out the night before.

While I can't say that I understand this behavior, I have to admit it was kind of fun to talk with the people in line. It was like an experiment in psychology. What makes people stand outside in 40 degree weather and wait for a game system? In some cases (like ours) it's just a "what the heck" attitude for a much-anticipated toy. In others, it is the parents of kids who "only want a Wii" for Christmas. I'm sure there will be many tears on Christmas morn without that white box. And then there are the die-hard fans. These folks wait outside overnight (sometimes multiple nights) for the elusive Wii. I don't know what's wrong with these people. I look at them with the same befuddlement as the people who dress as Klingons before the Star Trek conventions. I've also never been one to freak out about celebrities or wait in lines for concerts. Hey, I guess everyone needs a hobby.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Moral VIctory?

Yesterday we once again watched the Illini football team lose a close football game. The commentators kept saying this was a "moral victory" for the Illini to come so close to Ohio State. Anyone watching the game would agree that the defense played an outstanding second quarter. If the offense had showed up a little earlier, we could've won that game. At least next year we'll have the record to support the quality of the team.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Ok, but seriously ...


How cute is he?

Elf Likes to Help


Ryan put up a banister on the top part of our stairs. Elf wanted to help. It seems he has an unhealthy fascination with the tape measure. I spent most of the time cat wrangling while Ryan got the banister up. It's a good thing the cats are cute, cause they're a pain in the rear most of the time.

Lazy Saturdays

I really love weekends, especially since I'm so exhausted by the time Friday night comes. I was trying desperately to stay awake last night and still fell asleep at 8:30. This means that we wake up at 7:30 in the morning and have all day to enjoy on Saturday. The Illinois-Ohio State game is at 3 pm. That's the only thing in our agenda for the day.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Expecting

I guess most of you know by now that Ryan and I are expecting our first child at the end of March or beginning of April! I apologize for the severe lack of posting over the last weeks. It felt weird to post about stuff going on in my life when I wasn't posting about the biggest new part of my life. Plus I felt like so much crap so blogging wasn't high on my list of priorities. I'm finally feeling better, thus I should be blogging again now.

The Fam and a big pig

Just cause it's fun.

Like walking into Willy Wonka's Factory

Butchart Gardens is the most unbelievable place. The only thing I could compare it to is the kids walking into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Truly one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

House boat dog


Nothing special about him, aside from that tongue.

The coolest boats ever

I have never seen house boats like these. They are literally houses that float. There are about 3 docks full of house boats. I wouldn't like living there because it's such a tourist attration. People are constantly walking by and peering in windows.

A great time in BC


This is a (much delayed) post on our vacation to visit Ry's mom in British Columbia. All I have to say is that it's really beautiful there. It seemed like everywhere we stopped was a picture spot. These are the Olympic mountains as seen from the coast of Vancouver Island.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Home Alone

I'm home alone tonight (and until Thursday :( ). I always have great plans for home alone nights. My plan tonight looked something like this:

Eat Dinner
Work Out
Do Laundry
Clean Up House
Get toes manicured

Here's what I've actually done:

Eat Dinner
Play with Cats
Find hotel online for my husband who can't stay in the smoking room he's currently booked in
Write in blog

It's still early, so I might get some of the rest of my list done. More likely, I'll sit on the couch and watch something truly revolting that hubby doesn't like (like Bridezillas). Here's to procrastination!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm too old for this

We had a bachelor and bachelorette party last night. It was fun, but the evening included approx 4 hours of driving and an evening that didn't end until 3:45 am this morning. Even though I wasn't drinking, I still woke up this morning (well, early this afternoon) feeling like I'd been run over by a bus. I can't do 4 am nights anymore.

There were no fewer that 6 bachelorette parties last night in Atlantic City. It's a funny little ritual we all do. The Tropicana is definitely one of the nicest casinos in AC, and I really enjoyed the fact that smoking has been banned in restaurants and bars in NJ. I got to go home without smelling like an ashtray last night. It's still allowed in the casinos, but we didn't do any gambling last night. I had a fun time, but won't be looking for any more really nights again soon.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Right

Right, so it's been almost a month since I blogged. It's one of those things that gets harder and harder to get back to the longer you've been away. There's too much to catch up on ...

In brief: Ryan and I bought a kayak, which mostly resembles a large yellow banana. It's been fun, although getting knocked tail over teakettle in one of the area's rivers was a little unsettling. Actually, the getting knocked over part was fun, the realizing that I was having a heck of a time swimming and towing the boat was unsettling. The good news about that is that our bionic friend taught Ry more about how to get back into a boat without beaching it.

Life other than that has been quiet. Our jobs have been moving quietly along, and the travel schedule picks up again here in August. We're also going to visit Ryan's mom in September, which should be wonderful, since I've never been. It's also been a long time since we've seen her, so I'm looking forward to it.

We are attending a bachelor and bachelorette party today for one of Ryan's coworkers. His plan begins with golf, so I'm home alone for another few hours before getting dolled up to head to Atlantic City. I'm considering cleaning my house ... so far only a consideration though. We'll see how I feel after my little writing exercise. So, I really didn't need to blog over the last month, it all fits neatly into one little entry.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Kayaking Delight

Today was one of those perfect summer weekend days that only comes along every blue moon. We woke up around 9:30 this morning (ahhh, weekend) and spent the next 2 and a half hours eating breakfast and couch louging. Then we got up and did some gardening, work around the house and cleaned up.

Around 2:30 we took our borrowed kayak down to the county park and performed some self-taught kayaking. It was a gorgeous day; about 85 Degrees with light white clouds. Kayaking is pure delight. It's just you and the water, skimming by turtles and woods. Seriously, I haven't felt that much at peace in a long time. Long story short, I think we may be taking up kayaking.

We did the obligatory weekend Target run and had yummy tex mex food for dinner. I feel like we not only got a lot accomplished today, but also had a great, relaxing day. Ahhhh.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Another fun Philly Day

We spent the day wandering around Philadelphia today and got to finish most of the Once Upon a Nation storytelling spots. It was a beautiful day and we really enjoyed the city on July 4th weekend. The Taste of Philadelphia was going on today. It was a pretty disappointing two blocks. Other than that, it was a nice day.

NJ shuts down money makers

Just another example of the idiocy of this state. Our illustrious governor and the state senate couldn't pass a budget by the June 30 deadline. Instead of cutting out some of the excess spending or corruption (your choice) he wants to pass a 1 cent sales tax increase and said that he'll refuse to pass any budget that does not include the tax. The senate is controlled by democrats, the governor is a democrat. Why can't they all just get along? Anyway, regardless of the fact that more taxes are the only way they seem to be able to pass a balanced budget, now the gov is shutting down all non-essential services. While I applaud the effort in theory, in actuality, this process is going to shut down all the things that make money for this state: lottery, casinos, state parks and historic sites. Not only are these the money makers, shutting them down means thousands of everyday working class people don't get paid. I guarantee the legislature is still drawing a salary though. Way to go gov!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

On OZ

Ryan got made of pretty consistently when he first moved to NJ for talking so lovingly about Champaign. His friends started referring to it as “OZ.” While it may not be OZ, I understand the sentiment. Some days here I feel like I’m getting dumber, and not just from watching mind-wasting movies like Superman.

Growing up in a University town meant that people had a diversity of viewpoints and opinions. I grew up learning how to think and to defend why I believed what I did. (I blame my parents). I got into some really great discussions that ended with everyone’s mind stretched a little bit.

Attending the U for grad school only continued that process. Everyday I was forced to, at the very least stretch, if not exercise my brain power. As one of the most conservative people in my program, I often got into lively debate. Here, I’m a crazy hippie liberal and no one is really interested in having discussions that challenge their beliefs. People here are their group. Irish, Italian, Mexican, Catholic, Military, Union, all are group affiliations that define your beliefs, regardless of what you believe. I’m consistently amazed that people will go on about what they don’t like/believe about the Catholic faith and yet still consider themselves Catholic. Why? Because they were born that way.

The daily conversations here are about stuff and things. Women need their Coach pocketbooks. 16 year olds have birthday parties that cost more than my wedding. No one seems outraged that our Governor has broken nearly every campaign promise that he made. They’ll probably vote for him again. Because they vote Democrat. They just do.

I have a great concern that working everyday in a job that doesn’t force me to stretch is shutting down my brain. I can only hope that if I keep reading and keep trying to find new ways of looking at things I’ll stay nimble.

We’ve made some good friends here. I just really miss the people of the Emerald City.

Things I've read and liked lately

Kind of brings together the other three books on this list. Truly, the stories of history are about the oppression of one people by another. Unfortunately, these are the stories that don't get told in history classes. If I had known history could be like this I'd probably be earning my PhD in history right now instead of working in HR.

School made history dull. You learned about dates, places and wars. These books bring to life what it was like to live, love and die during these times.

Things I've read and liked lately

Follows the story of a slave woman in 19th century New Orleans trying to prove that she is instead a German immigrant lost as a little girl. This one is complete with notes from court rulings, newspapers and diaries from the period. A glimpse into what it meant to be less than human and how it was decided. Slavery attached through the mother so if she was a slave, so were you.

Things I've read and liked lately

A truly fascinating look into Hawaiian life and culture, beginning in the 1800s. It follows a family of women through the annexation of Hawaii by the U.S. and though modern times. Made me understand the Hawaiian independence movement.

Things I've read and liked lately

This is an excellent narration of what it was really like to be one of the pilgrims and what it was like to be an American Indian at the time of the Mayflower. I liked that it shows how cruel and kind both cultures were.

Keep your $17

Disclaimer: Stop reading if … 1. You liked Superman 2. You don’t want to ruin the “plot” of Superman 3. You don’t like reading rants.

We just got back from Superman. It was the most boring action movie I’ve ever seen. Not only did it clock in at 2 hours 30 minutes, there was only about 1 hour of actual movie material. The new Superman did a remarkable job of looking like Christopher Reeve. That was the good part of the movie. About halfway through, I started wondering if anyone was going to grow a personality. Lex Luther, arguably one of the greatest villains ever, was buffoonish. Lois Lane was shrill and unconvincing. Richard, her fiancĂ© came in as an adorable doormat and the Superson spent most of the time mutely staring around the room. The only likable character was Jimmy. Give that kid a raise!

To be fair, Superman has never been my favorite superhero. The whole invincible except for kryptonite thing gets old, as does the Lois Lane/Clark Kent/Superman mistaken identity crap. If Superman is so great, why doesn’t he just incinerate all the kryptonite? This story is no Oscar-winner. Lex gets ahold of some super crystals and decides to grow his own, kryptonite-laced continent. The only problem is that it's going to kill pretty much everyone in the US. Also, Lois is Supe's Baby Mama. Too bad baby needs a personality.

Keep your $17. As a matter of fact, keep the $5 blockbuster fee or the $3.99 pay per view. Watch this movie on HBO with a good book. Truly, a terrible movie.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Goat gets demoted

This is the funniest story I've read in weeks. I especially enjoy what Billy does with his cigarette allottment.

A fun but strange night

Last night we went to a fundraiser concert at a firehouse on the shore. It was a good time, but ultimately, a very strange night. First of all, the evening started at 5. What kind of a concert starts at 5? I have to believe it's because they fed us overcooked hamburgers, potato salad and meat shaped like ribs. I guess 5 begins the dinner hour. The tickets were also "all you can drink" if you like beer. There were literally 20 different kinds of beer (including something called Golden Monkey that several of the group got schemed into) and 2 boxes of wine. Mmmmm, box of wine. I had one glass of something pink (I think the actual name on the box) and decided it wasn't worth the calories.

The band itself was fun, although it felt strangely like a wedding where we didn't know anyone. There were 3 year olds and 70 year olds on the dance floor. The 3 year olds by the way, had watched waaayy too many Britney Spears videos. It was fun to see some friends we haven't seen in a while and the band was a good time ... but I'm not sure that I'll go next year.

Friday, June 23, 2006

And so it begins

I don't really enjoy driving. Anticipated for years, it quickly lost its appeal after the errand running, sister driving, and parking space hunting final years of high school. Even in college, I didn't mind driving. It was certainly better than trying to drag home 8 bags of groceries on the bus. I never understood my husband's obsession with cars. As much as I enjoy my truck, I still give up driving whenever possible.

It's pretty ironic then that I ended up in a state where the average commute is over 30 minutes and mine comes in at 45 on no-traffic days. For the past three summers, I have dreaded the end of the school year. In NJ, school doesn't end until the 3rd or 4th week of June. Each week of the month means more schools out and more families traveling "down the shore" to their weekend slum houses. Now, I don't begrudge people their summer vacations, but I do get a little tired of 90-120 minute commutes every Friday during the summer. It doesn't really matter if I leave early. Today for example, I left the office at 3:30. Commuting time: 90 minutes. It sucked only slightly less than the 2 hours it would have been had I left at 5 pm, as usual. My options on Friday are 11 am or 8 pm. Not great options, if you want my opinion. Stupid shore anyway.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

As requested



A few shots of the final version of the patio.

In remembrance of Tufty



Pat is new to our family and hasn't heard all of our stories. To Pat ... I'm so so sorry. We got started talking about the Crapmobile this weekend. I had to bring out some of the pictures of Tufty just to warn everyone again why you should never, ever buy a 6 year old car from a maker that doesn't exist anymore from a cardealership with less than two dozen cars on the lot. Dad, I've learned my lesson.


Guess which picture earned Tufty his name? Of course, car from Hell was already taken.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

In Law Tales

Frank and Pat left this morning, after visiting since last Thursday. All in all, it was a great visit. On Saturday we went to the beach, which was only OK since it was overcast. We also exposed Pat to Jersey Boardwalk. I don't think she was impressed.

Sunday was a great day. We went into Philadelphia to go to a Phillies game, but took in some of the historic stuff first. An organization called Once Upon a Nation has storytellers at many of the famous historic sites. They tell stories about living during colonial times. Some are even dressed up like famous people. Ben Franklin told us about traveling in a stagecoach. It was really fun. We only got to about a third of the sites, so I think Ryan and I are going to go back over July 4th weekend and try to do the rest of the locations.

The Phillies game was good fun. I had forgotten what a good time live games were. I think we're going to try and catch a few more games this summer. I really enjoy Philadelphia. The city is much more approachable than NYC. It's a great walking city and the people there are actually nice. It's also only a 40 minute drive, which is a huge bonus for me. I think we'll be spending a lot more time in Philadelphia now.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Patio Fest is Complete



32,000 pounds of stone, 2 OSHA recordable accidents, 7 people and 3 days later, we have a patio. I didn't realize how crappy our lawn looked last year at this time until I looked at the before and after pictures. A huge thanks goes to my Dad, Becky, Laurel, Sean and Paul. It rocks!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

On Immigration

I'm already tired of the immigration debate in this country. I frankly don't understand why it is such a long, difficult process to gain legal status in this country. For the first time in several years, I find I actually support the President's plan for a guest worker program. I'm not sure where all the vehement opposition to this program comes from. The high strung, type A ninnies who like to scream about how illegal immigrants are "Breaking The Law!!" would be the first ones to cross the border if it meant providing food, shelter and safety to their families. Seven years is too long to wait to provide for a family. Thank goodness I had the fortune to be born in the US.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Not anti-blog

Just not too much going on in my life lately. It's been pretty quiet around here. Neither of us has been traveling and there's been no drama. Aaahhh.

Congratulations to my little sister Becky, who recently got engaged!

Ryan and I are putting in a patio. Well, to be completely honest, Ryan, my Dad, Laurel, Becky and I are putting in a patio. We lured the family out by cleverly calling Memorial Day "Patio Fest." We decided we had to put in a patio (with paving stones) because our township doesn't allow a deck within 10 feet of the property line. Since we're putting it on our side yard, we would have had a ridiculous decklet. The township doesn't regulate patios, so voila!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

American Crackhead

Are you an American Idol watcher? Why is Paula Abdul on crack?

Today was administrative assistant day

And this is a funny story. These are the flowers I received for Adminstrative Assistant Day today. You might be thinking to yourself, "Self, Jenn isn't an administrative assistant, she's an HR Representative." Well, you'd be right.

Our mill manager is in his 60s and Brazillian. Today he had a luncheon to celebrate AA Day. The honorees? All the women in the mill, including myself and the mill accountant. He proceeded to give a lengthy speech in front of of the senior management staff about how the ladies in the mill enable them to get their jobs done on time and keep them organized.

I realize of course, that his heart was in the right place. I also had a hard time today deciding if I was going to be offended. Haven't decided yet if I'm going to be. What do you think, am I reading too much into an innocent gesture?

Lasanga = Loneliness?

I just returned from a business trip to Atlanta yesterday and Monday. The meeting, while still an exercise in frustration, was more productive than most. On Sunday, I made a lasagna, thinking that there would be enough left over for Ryan to eat lunch/dinner while I was away. It was then that I realized that I often make him a lasagna when I'm leaving for travel. I think he's going to start associating lasagna with loneliness, which is just too sad for words.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Nose whacked ... the update

I have it on good authority that yesterday I did not, in fact, whack my nose on my chair. Instead my nose whacked itself on my desk. The evil chair has been banned to the storage closet and I have a new, less tippy (although still potentially a nose wacker) chair.

I also have a pretty impressive new bruise on my hip the size of my fist. Seriously, I never knew work was such a hazardous place.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Stupid ways to hurt myself

I have now gotten hurt in two of the most ridiculous ways possible in the past 5 days. On Easter Sunday, Dad and Laurel's cat, Sophie was investigating a heating vent. She got her paw stuck in the vent, freaked out and streaked across the room, vent intact, and whacked me in the ankle as she ran by, thereby dislodging the vent, scratching the floor, and leaving an impressive welt on my leg.

This, however, has nothing on my adventure at work today. My office is being moved from the back of the building to the front, near our new learning center. My old office has carpet, my new one has highly polished tile. You might be thinking I tripped and fell ... it was nothing that graceful. My computer's hard drive got loose in the move and one of the guys in the office was helping me fix it. I sat in my chair and leaned to get something (what, I can't remember) when my chair slipped out from under me and came down on top of me, nailing my nose with the hard, plastic arm. I don't actually remember what happened, but this is what the obversers later told me. Here's what I remember ... "Oh crap ... ow ow ow ow ow." As I was lying on the floor holding my now very painful nose, I remember thinking about how in self-defense you are supposed to push attacker's noses into their brains and what a stupid way this was to die. Luckily, all I ended up with was a swollen nose and wounded pride. We called one of the mill's first responders and they wrote an "incident report." Now I'll be the topic of discussion at the next staff meeting. I'm just hoping I don't end up with bloodshot eye(s) tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Dirty Jobs


Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel is my new favorite show. I think you have to have a slightly warped worldview to truly enjoy it, but I laugh until it hurts every time I see it. I would put the schedule up, but I can't seem to keep track of when the show is on. Luckily for me, I have TiVo to do that for me.

Some of the dirty jobs profiled are waste treatment center maintenance guy, mushroom farmer, dairy farmer, compost maker and my personal favorite, turkey farmer. The show (understandably) deals with a lot of poo and pee, and the host's comments are priceless. One of the funniest things I've heard this year was from a mushroom farmer episode ... and I paraphrase "So you want me to climb on top of that pile of poo and carry this bag of pee to put on the top?" Yeppers. Apparently on a turkey farm, approximately 10 turkeys die per day. To find them, you walk into the crowd and wait until one doesn't move. Chances are, that's the dead one. Then they compost the dead turkeys with their poo until they become liquid turkey. Hmm, sounds a little grotesque when I describe it, but trust me, it was hysterical!

If you have a lot of time to monitor the discovery channel or a TiVo, I highly recommend this show.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tower of cars

Here is a tower of mercedes in Kehl, Germany. Khouray mentioned a smart car dealer with a similar set up. I couldn't see the point (except maybe the coolness factor) since they didn't seem to have a real estate problem.

My brain hurts

It's been one of those weeks where I ran from one meeting to another to an interview to another meeting. I don't realize how tiring it is to think until I have a week like this one. Boss is out of town visiting Mouseland, so I've also been interviewing people for a few open positions at the mill. I'm enjoying the increasing responsibility, but I'm wiped. Luckily, tomorrow is all day training, which ironically, means I don't have to think so hard.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ha!

Strousbourg

This was the cathedral in Strousbourg, France. It's beautiful. A lot of the glasswork and sculture reminded me of Notre Dame. This cathedral took 600 years to build, from 1100 to the end of the 1700s. I can't imagine starting something that I knew my great great grandchildren wouldn't live to see. I have to think they didn't believe it would take so long to build.

French Cars

Are really small. These were everywhere over there. Of course, gas was also 1.13 Euro per liter. That's about $5.50 per gallon, boys and girls. I'd drive one too!

The kitties are a year old today

Or so. They were born the first week of April last year. I hope they're full grown, because feeding them is getting really expensive. Here they're playing with their birthday mice. Dad, you'd be horrified if you saw under our couch or stove on any given day. Nothing but mouse skin carnage. Strangely ... we never find the tails ....

Happy Birthday!

To my husband! We're the same age for 7 months again. Yes, that is two slices of carrot cake with swirly candles. I'm a bad wife. He got a cool new air compressor. The work bench downstairs is starting to look like a real man bench.

It's Spring!

And I have flowers! Well, and some dead stuff in the background. Planting these tulips and daffodils last fall was torture. We have very bad dirt. It all paid off about a week ago when the very first hot pink bud opened. Like the stone border? I walked like an 80 year old for two days after we put it in. What happens to us when we become home owners?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I'm a bad blogger

But in all fairness, I was in Germany for most of my non-blogging time. I finally downloaded my pictures and will get some posted here. The trip was pretty good. We stayed in Kehl, Germany and spent most evenings in Strousbourg. I got to practice some French. Funny thing about these two countries: people literally live 20 km away and French people speak no German and German people speak no French. They're both more likely to speak English. Once explanation I heard was that the two peoples started fighting each other 200 years ago and have been ever since.

We went to a French castle and to Zurich, Switzerland. The castle was unbelievable. Zurich was big, dirty, and exhibited a disturbing fondness for strip clubs.

This week went disturbingly quickly. I'm glad it's the weekend.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

Tomorrow is the big trip to Germany. We have to be to the airport around 7 pm tomorrow for the redeye to Paris. From Paris to Strousburg, France. Kehl, Germany is right across the border from Strousburg, so we'll drive from there. From all that I'm hearing, Kehl is pretty westernized. It has the GAP, McDonalds and an 8 tiered car dealership. Strousburg on the other hand, is supposed to have some really interesting (and old) churches and fun little shops and markets.

The trip should be a little more relaxed than Brazil was. We're staying in one place the entire week, and the evenings will be ours to do with as we choose, rather than being forced into 4 hour dinners every night. I imagine we'll spend most of our free time in Strousburg. We also have a "free" day on Saturday and I hear that the Black Forest in Germany is pretty interesting.

I'm excited to be going, although I'll really miss Ryan. If only he'd fit in my suitcase. So far, working for Gerdau has added two new countries to my traveling and many new cities. Cool. It's nice to see the world on your company's dime!

Ha ha, I'm winning!

This just in ... I'm whooping Ryan in the NCAA BB Tournament Bracket. Not that I'm entered in any kind of illegal office pool or anything.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Having a heat wave

Today it was 75 degrees outside. Love love love that it's almost spring time. Of course there's supposed to be another snow storm the first week of April. There are several things that bother me about this. First, who has a snow storm in April? Second, how can the pathological liars known as meteorologists possible know what the weather is next week, let alone 3 weeks from now? Are .... you .... kidding me? Donne moi une .... break.

In other news, I'm catching a cold. I'm really freaking tired of getting random illnesses this week. My company nurse and our admin assistant have started taking bets on what I'm bringing home from Germany. Yeah, I'm a side bet. Meh.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

An honorary Canadian

So I made it back from Toronto with no ill effect. Our training was actually very good ... actual training, not just talking about issues. I also really enjoyed being in Canada.

The Toronto airport is huge, and when I got in on Wednesday I literally walked for 15 minutes before getting to the customs agent. Then I had another 10 minute walk to the rental car place. After getting off a flight, it felt really good to walk, but it made me realize how coddled US travelers are. Aside from O'Hare, most US airports are more compact or if there is any walk they have a train to get you there.

Getting used to driving in kilometers was a kick. It makes you feel like you're really getting somewhere! Most of the highways around Toronto were 100 km/h, but like all big cities, no one was going slower than 110 km/h.

I also got a lesson in Canadian temperatures while I was there. Our trip was about 10 Canadians and 3 people from the US. The first afternoon of the training we were discussing the temperature. I'm not bad at converting C to F in my brain, so I actually knew how cold it was. Anyhow, we were discussing the temperature and I said that my car said it was negative 5 C ... and oh how my Canadian counterparts laughed. It's minus 5, they told me. As I listened to radio stations for the next two days, I realized that indeed, no one says negative 5. Another of my US colleagues said the same thing about 5 hours later ... so at least I felt better about that.

It also seems that Canadians are far more concerned about environmental issues than most in the US. As we toured the mill, our tour guide mentioned several environmental issues that they were working on. About 50% of the energy they use is provided by methane from a landfill a mile from the plant. Cool huh? They said that have about 20 years of methane left.

I really enjoyed my trip and my colleagues made me an honorary Canadian (they were going to give me a hat, but alas I had to leave and come back to NJ). All in all, I liked Toronto better than NJ. Of course, they all wanted to come to NJ so they could visit New York City. I guess you always want what you don't have.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Toronto ... in the winter

As if winter wasn't cold enough in New Jersey, I'm heading to Toronto, Ontario tomorrow, eh. This little trip is cleverly disguised as training. What that really means of course is we'll spend the day talking around issues and not having any questions answered.

On the bright side, I get to see some of my colleagues from Canada and spend time in a city I've not been in before.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

You probably don't care

But since I work in the steel industry, I find the hostile takeover bid by Mittal Steel of Arcelor Steel quite interesting. Like everything else, most of the steel companies in the world are starting to be controlled by a few companies ... very few of the them U.S. companies. My mill is owned by a Brazillian company, and Mittal and Nippan both own many of the other U.S. mills. It's becoming more and more difficult for U.S. companies to compete with the upcoming Asian markets. This is especcially true in the North East, where power costs more than anywhere else in the country, people get paid more and we're next to an ocean so importing is becoming a serious issue. I guess it's why so many companies are embracing lean manufacturing (after Japan whooped the U.S. for a few years I guess).

Friday, February 24, 2006

More info you don't need

Now that I'm feeling better, I have to say that I'm amazed by the body's ability to continue to generate material far after the stomach and intestines are vacant. Even after the chicken picatta, apple pie, and salad were gone, my body was still able to produce something for me to offer to the porcelain gods. Today I am finally able to replace some of the missing sustenance without feeling likely to assume the position. I wonder how long it would take to be truly empty?

The office, finally




With all the traveling Ryan and I have done recently, it took us waaayy too long to finish the office. To be honest, there were a couple times that Ryan wanted to get it finished up and I, well, didn't. I blame it on the weekend couch gnomes.

Last weekend Ryan finished up the caulking and paining on the window frames. We painted the room and Ryan hung the blinds while I was away on my ill-fated business trip. It's amazing what you can accomplish when you actually get motivated.

The first picture is what the office looked like when we moved in. Since then we have replaced the windows, framed them out, painted the walls and put in furniture (of course).

The second picture is the after shot. I think I'm going to add some pictures from our various Hawaii trips and put up a painting I bought from a woman in Hawaii to finish up.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

I was pukin' in Georgia

After a successful day on a benchmarking trip to Cartersville, GA, our host took us to the Appalachain Grill. "The best meal in Georgia!" "This place is great!" I was looking forward to the highly praised meal, and indeed, it was good. We had fried green tomatoes, salad topped with walnuts and cranburys, chicken piccata and apple pie for desert. Yummy ... until 1 am.

When I woke up with a terrible feeling in my stomach. I threw up from 1 am until 11 am. I was supposed to be on a flight at 3:45. Fat chance. My co-workers brought me medicine and gatorade and took me to a hotel near the airport where Becky came and babysat for the night. Thank goodness she lives in Atlanta.

I finally got home this afternoon. I don't feel great, but have managed to keep down some food today. Food poisoning sucks. Sisters rock. Being sick away from home is really lame.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

At Volcano

Some of the monsooning we experienced.

Spelunking

Here is the opening of a cave we went exploring.

Cool looking orchids

In Hilo.

Donkey!

There are apparently wild donkeys hanging out in Waipio. We also saw wild goats at one of the more deserted beaches.

Waipio Valley

Waipio Valley is a beautiful valley that you have to have 4 wheel drive to get into. It used to be the vacation spot for Hawaiin Kings and Queens. A couple thousand people lived here at one time until a Tsunami wiped it out in the early 1900s. It's slowly being repopulated, but still only a few dozen people live there, without running water, electricity or other creature comforts.

The end :(


On Friday we really just hung out at some beaches and soaked the last of the Hawaiian rays. Our trip home was sad (and long). Like last time, Hawaii is one of the only places I've visited that I really wanted to stay. I'm going to post a few more of our favorite pictures from the trip, in no particular order.

Whale Watching

Since it was whale season in Hawaii we had to go on a whale watching cruise. Right now, it is calving and breeding season, so guess what we saw? First were two groups of three, a mother, her calf and her escort. Before we went in, we also saw a female being followed by a couple of amorous males. She turned on her side and slapped the water with her flipper to let the guys know she wasn't interested just yet.

These are amazing creatures. They are the size of a bus. A couple times, we got to see them right off the bow of the boat. We also got to see spinner and bottle nosed dolphins, taking a free trip in our wake. This was maybe the coolest experience of the vacation.

One of God's little clues

That maybe we shouldn't go any further into the water. The ocean was super rough the entire time we were in Hawaii. Apparently the ocean is rougher in the winter anyway, but it was even rougher than normal because of some strange ocean currents. This beach had tide pools where the ocean broke on the lava before the pools. It makes you feel very insignificant to observe the awe inspiring power of the ocean.

The aftermath

We had to get a picture of the aftermath of all our 4 wheel driving. The jeep looks red in this picture, but it was Illini orange. Even after we took it through the car wash, you could definitely tell we had been off roading. Ooops. The good news is we didn't get charged extra.

Don't adjust your colors


It's green sand. We headed back to the south point of Hawaii, which is the southern most point of the United States. This was defininately one of the most fun days of the trip. The south point is a 4 wheel drive to the green sand beach. This is a beach you literally have to climb down into. It's also the one where I got an earful of green sand that took almost a year to get completely cleared. I thought that this year it would be different. Alas, I still ended up with green sand in places it should never ever be. For whatever reason, Ryan seems to get away from the beach without getting knocked tail over teakettle.

As an aside, it looks like we're getting a blizzard this weekend, so I may actually have time to finish blogging the trip.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

So I have a thing for Hawaiians

I assure you, I went home with Ryan.

Luau on the table

The last time we went to Hawaii, we went to a Luau. This time, we went on a dinner cruise and it was soooooo much better. It was essentially a Luau on our tables. Yes, they are dancing on the table. The three Asian women behind them were too funny. They were horrified and couldn't decide if they wanted to watch or not.

The food was tasty and the adult beverages were cheap, so a great time was had by all.

Anniversary

I can't think of a better way for us to have spent our anniversary. In the morning we went on a snorkeling cruise, in the evening, a dinner cruise. This picture is actually from the first beach, but the pictures were better, so there you go.

Snorkeling in Kona

Our first day back in Kona we went snorkeling at a beach a few miles from our hotel. All you had to do was stick your face in the water and ....

We swam with at least 2 turtles (maybe 4, we don't know if they were the same 2 turtles over again). They are really beautiful, graceful creatures underwater. I got a little obsessed with turtles this trip. Pretty much all of my souvenirs were turtles (necklace, office holder, window clings, etc).

There were also beautiful and ugly fish. There is a fish that is usually yellow. In the waters off of Kona, it is black. People would pay thousands of dollars for it, because it is only black in Kona, no where else in the world. You know what happened when they took it away from Kona? It turned yellow. Hehe. One of God's little jokes.

Puna

Puna is the farthest east town in Hawaii. Apparently, scientists test "virgin" air there because it's been floating over nothing but ocean for thousands of miles. Smelled good.

Puna is a very cool town, and the weather finally broke the day we explored there. This is a natural steam room, created by volcanically heated steam that rises into caves like this one. It was not quite as warm as a sauna here, but very warm and steamy. This one even had benches put in there by locals.

We also got to swim in a natural freshwater swimming pool 40 feet from the ocean and saw a series of tide pools created by lava flows. You get to see things in Hawaii that you see no where else on the planet.

Whoa there in Waimea

My favorite sign of the trip. We took a really quick trip to Waimea, in the northern part of Hawaii. The town is primarly a ranching town. Apparently, the story goes that a couple of cows were a gift to King Kamemehea. He made it kapu to kill, harm, or eat them to give them a chance to multiply. Soon, they were hoodlums, eating everything in sight and literally running people out of their homes.
This Parker guy was a rancher in the mainland who was living in Hawaii. Because he was good with cows and guns, the King gave them the authority to start hunting the cows, and control the population. He started taking the best cows as payment, domesticated them, married the princess and was eventually deeded (through the royalty) a ranch with something like 125,000 acres (9%) of island. Paniolos (Hawaiian cowboys) have been ranching ever since. Kind of a neat story, although indicative of how the Hawaiian lands ended up in non-Hawaiian hands.

That being said, this sign was the coolest thing in Waimea.

As close as we got

We couldn't get any closer than this to the lava. Still, it was pretty cool to see earth being formed ... in the driving rain.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Volcano

Volcano was pretty much a wash out. It was driving rain the entire time. We have some cool pictures of lava flows and the lava tube we walked through, but they're on the other camera, so you'll have to wait. Once again, we couldn't get right up to where the lava was flowing, so we had to content ourselves with distant pictures of steam rising from where it was flowing into the sea. We couldn't get closer. The rangers said something about "unstable lava benches" bah.

We walked through an old lava tube while we were there. That was really cool. It was 1000 feet in complete darkness. We brought good flashlights, but at the end of the tube you literally could see nothing. Not your hand in front of your face. And your eyes never adjusted. It was pretty cool to see how lava reaches distant parts of the island.

Since it was monsooning, we headed back to Hilo and stopped at this botanical garden. Seriously amazing vegatation. Here's Ryan next to the biggest tree I'd ever seen. There were flowers that looks like they would eat you and some of the coolest looking vegatation I've ever seen.

Hilo

After getting in late to Kona on Wednesday night, we spent the night in Kona and got up on Thursday to drive to Hilo. This is the view from our room, which was very pretty, but we quickly learned why the east side of the island looks like a rain forest.

This was about as much sun as we got during the first couple of days. Our room always smelled like must (although supposedly the "best hotel in Hilo"). I'm sure depression isn't as high here as in Seattle cause of the beaches and all, but I was happy to head back to Kona on Sunday.

Our first day, we saw some interesting waterfalls and other beautiful natural phenomenon. What was amazing to me is that in most places you hike for hours to see one gorgeous waterfall. Not here, you just pulled off the side of the road and it was beautiful. Not to be deterred, we left for Volcano on Friday.

Two Crazy Haoles

Aloha. We're safely back in New Jersey. Sigh. We had a great time, and next time the trip will probably be 2 weeks instead of 10 days. It's gonna take me a couple of days to blog our entire adventure, so be patient with me!

The first 3 days of our trip can be summed up in two words: It Rained.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Aloha!

Probably no blogging for the next 2 weeks or so. Tomorrow morning we're off to Hawaii! We've had really crazy weeks and both of us are more than ready to get out of New Jersey, relax on a beach somewhere, and drink something fruity. The only part of traveling I don't like is the packing. Last time we went to Hawaii we only wore 1/4 of what we actually packed. I'm hoping that we're a little more realistic this time around.

We'll be back soon ... and with some fun pictures I'm sure.

Aloha!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Nothing to say really

I've thought a few times this week about blogging, but haven't really had much to say this week. Ryan had a stressful week and his tossing and turning kept me awake a couple of nights this week. Mostly, I'm trying to get things together for the 10 days I'll be out of town. We have an audit originally scheduled for next Tuesday that's been postponed until during our vacation ... so I actually have to do more work so someone else can present my material.

In other news, we finally took down our Christmas lights yesterday. We also have a lot of laundry to do before we head away. Yeah Hawaii!

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Elliptical Experience

I had to work a whole 5-day week this week. Same thing next week. I think there's something wrong with that. Especially because Ryan has two more 4-day weeks in a row before our 2-day going to Hawaii week. I want to work for the government. I think we should petition for a 4-day work week ... or at least a 40 hour maximum.

Ryan bought an elliptical machine this week. He's down in the basement now trying to put it together. It has a real lot of pieces. I'm glad he bought it though, since he has a tough time actually getting to the gym. We had a blast shopping for them. We tried out everything from the ones you find at the gym to ones I was afraid I would break if I actually stood on them. We also tried the Gazelle. For anyone who was considering buying one after seeing the infomercial ... don't, just don't. It's wrong on levels I can't even explain.

In other news, our Christmas lights are still up outside the house. Poll: how many of you have taken down your lights? Since about half the houses in our neighborhood still have their lights up I don't feel like the freaky all year Christmas light people yet.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Finally, a weekend to recoup

After 3 weekends away from home (total: 12 days out of town, 6 days home) we finally have a weekend at home this week. Today we didn't leave the house until 7 pm. Ryan finally got the window framing in the office done and I cleaned the house, which was beginning to look like a garage sale. Ahhh, order at last.

We also watched a very disappointing Illini loss to Iowa this afternoon. I suppose we were all surprised to be 15-0, but to Iowa?

The cats seem to be very happy that we didn't abandone them again this weekend. They were super pissed when we got home after skiing. They were so attention starved that they would walk by and rub against our legs but didn't want to be held. They're better now.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Skiing is cool

Spent the long weekend at Elk Mountain in the Poconos. The forecast called for 40s and raining all weekend ... not the ideal skiing weather. Nonetheless, we hopefully headed to the moutain. Our bed and breakfast was lovely, and since it had a hot tub and a kitchenette, we never had to leave. It got colder on Thursday night and Friday we had good, though icy, skiing. On Saturday we got a freak snow storm and about 5 inches of snow. I love skiing in fresh powder. It was a great day. Sunday was good snow as well. We couldn't have asked for better weather.

This trip also pointed out to me that I am terrifically out of skiing shape. My quads burned by the end of each day. We're going to try for at least one more short ski trip this year, although funds will be a bit tight, what with Hawaii and all. Hehe.

I got really used to not working. I had a 5 day weekend for Christmas (thanks United) and a 4 day weekend for New Years. This week has been brutal. At least it's a nice short week to ease back into work. We leave for Hawaii 3 weeks from today though, so I won't have to get too used to the whole working thing. Yeah vacations!
 
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