Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Yes, I said "Hot Wheels"

Although I took a short blog hiatus, it wasn't all filled with gloom. We had to adjust the schedule slightly due to the funeral, but since we had already planned and paid for our family trip to Chicago, we really wanted to stick to it.

When we lived in Los Angeles, we didn't have to look very far for something interesting to do. Here in the Midwest, it takes a little more work. Granted, we do find some cool stuff to do with the kids, but for big, fancy events, we need to trek a little further.

This past weekend, the Chicago trip was focused around the Hot Wheels National Convention. Yes, I said Hot Wheels and I am referring to the toy cars. Yes, it was a convention for us just as much as it was for the kids… or vice versa. It was totally a family event.

I've been to several different work and hobby related conventions, but this one takes the cake. You know what people do at a Hot Wheels convention? Car stuff. Lots and lots of Hot Wheels car stuff. Some things, like contests for customizing your own Hot Wheels vehicle, are geared at adults. Scavenger hunts, magic shows and coloring contests are for the kids. The races, on the other hand are for kids of all ages.

There is so much to say about the Hot Wheels National Convention that it would be ludicrous for me to try to put it all in one post. So today, you're getting the teaser and the next post will have more meat to it.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's All in the Dash

Here I am, age 38, and still learning new things about people I have known for all or most of my life.

When I was two or three, my 15ish-year old uncle came to live with us for a short time. Most of what I recall of that time is based on photographs captured and preserved in our family photo albums. When I was around 10, Uncle Doug married a woman (we’ll call Aunt D) and had a daughter. Aunt D brought two sons from a previous relationship into the marriage with her.

But since they didn’t live near us, I never got to know any of Doug's new family very well. This past Thursday, I had the opportunity to see these three children as adults; unfortunately it was when I attended a funeral for my Uncle Doug. I sat back, listened and cried as the oldest child delivered a beautifully written, well-spoken and caring eulogy.

I have always known that Uncle Doug was a fun-loving and happy man. I know that whenever I would see him, I couldn’t help but smile. What I did not know is how he was as a father or how he raised his kids. Step-parents don’t always get the best wrap, but based on the memories shared by the oldest child, Uncle Doug made the best of it. During the eulogy, Oldest Child told stories of how Doug had become his best friend, confidant and golfing buddy. Then he retold the childhood story of a fight between him and his brother. When Aunt D expressed her concerns about it, Uncle Doug said (paraphrased) “Just let them fight. One of these days one of them will win and they won’t fight any more.” Those comments exemplified Uncle Doug's attitude about life – just let things happen and see how everything pans out.

The minister opened the mic up for anyone to comment and share. Another Aunt stepped up and explained that when you see the date of someone’s birth followed by the date of their death, you need to focus on the dash in-between the dates. Everything about you resides in that dash. What makes you who you are is in that dash. My Uncle Doug lived his life the way he wanted to… he lived the dash.

Now, before I close, I want to say that while visiting with Aunt D before the funeral, she told me that Uncle Doug had been reading my blog. (Apparently my proud father shared the link with him.) I had NO idea than Uncle Doug even surfed the net, let alone took the time to read my blog. Aunt D said that they enjoyed reading it together and she plans to continue to read it. So, if any of my loyal readers care to comment, feel free to direct them at Aunt D.

Aunt D – If you’re reading this, I'll miss Doug, too. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We Interrupt this Blog...

Due to some family stuff, there probably won't be any new posts for a few days. To get you by until I return, you can check out some of the many blogs I follow. I just checked and I subscribe to more than 70 of them including mom blogs, thrifty blogs, computer blogs, food blogs as well as some miscellaneous reading from some really great artists and writers.

So how will I be sharing? In case you had not noticed, I added a widget for my Google Reader. Anything that I mark as "share" in my reader shows up in that widget. I plan to update it this evening so check out "My Overflowing Google Reader" in the next column over for links to some other great blogs!

Thanks for reading and hope to see you back next week!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hookers, A Gay Biker and Disney. Oh My!

Saturday was movie night and we decided to watch Enchanted. Before I say anything else, I want to explain that it's an adorable movie, leaving you smiling and wanting to dance around the room. Well, at least the girls and I wanted to dance around the room... I better not speak for DH. I can say that without a doubt, all four of us enjoyed the movie.

The scene we (as in DH and I) found particularly interesting was when Giselle, the main character, first arrived in New York City. We watched as she wandered around aimlessly in the late hours of the night. DH shockingly said "I can't believe they just showed H-O-O-K-E-R-S in a Disney movie! Walt must be turning in his grave!"

A little while later, on a door to door quest in search of Giselle, Prince Edward encountered a variety of people... one of which was a very large biker looking dude that got all excited when he opened the door to find Prince Edward standing there.

The movie was excellent and these little bouts of adult humor were a bonus. We were just surprised and figured Walt Disney would probably be too! But if you're looking for a good family movie, be sure to check it out!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Comment Crack, Blog Bling...Whatever

If you do anything 100 times, you're bound to get better at it, get faster at it or at least learn from it. Or at a minimum, you sure better be figuring out shortcuts, cheats or ways to cut corners.

No, I'm not talking about WoW or any other video game. This is about blogging. This post is my 100th and I can't believe how much I've learned along the way. I thought I would take a little time to highlight some features and upgrades I have made to my blog as well as point out a few ways that you can and should take advantage of it! But if you already know all of it, skip to the bottom where I'm looking for some advice.

First, my blog is now DoFollow friendly. Using the tutorial at Tips 4 Blogspot, I took out the nofollow limits. So when you comment on my blog or post a link in the comments, it should help your search engine ratings. With that being said, if you decide to comment, consider using the "Name/URL" option instead of the blogger login. You won't get the pretty avatar picture next to your comment, but you'll get link love coming back your way. Along that same line, if you use Feedjit, then it will accurately show where the traffic came from instead of being routed through the Blogger profile screen. It should also reflect correctly in your statistical details.

So that leads me to the next thing - Comment crack. Every blogger knows exactly what I'm referring to. That insatiable desire to have comments about their posts. I never thought I would get that way, but I sure have. I'm excited any time more than just a few people comment! I also have a similar problem - Stat crack. I check my stats all. the. time. It's ridiculous and I know it. Checking my stats doesn't get people to my blog, commenting does. Yet I like to go and see who, where, and what keywords or referrals are showing up.

If I spent more time writing posts and less time playing with the template, I would probably have more readers! Honestly though, I'm having fun learning about it all.

In case you hadn't noticed, I added a Blogrush widget... that pretty pink one that says "From the Blogosphere" that has random feeds from other Blogrush users. If anyone is interested in getting their own, please click through mine so I can get the referral. Pretty please.

Now here's the part where I need some input. I'm always looking for more blog widgets, bling, swag or whatever you call it. I like finding new sites like the MomBlog Network. Since so many offer referral credit, I'm holding off on signing up until someone can benefit from it. Just leave a comment and an opinion for anything like MomBlog Network, Blogarama, Cre8Buzz, Mr. Linky, Twitter, Bloglisting or any others that you may be part of. I'm not familiar with any of them, I just see them on several blogs and am looking for more information and/or a referral to them. If I get more than one referral to the same network, I'll use a randomizer to spread the wealth.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the last 100 posts and look forward to the next 100! Thanks for coming along on my journey!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Which Way Do Your Blinds Turn?

I had some friends over yesterday for a House Party. I was trying to get a picture of them sitting on the couch but the blinds were open behind them. Since it would be rude of me to lean across them to close the blinds, I asked if one on either end of the couch would do it for me.

One friend turned the blinds one direction, while the other turned them the other. When they noticed that they were opposite, one jokingly said "Hers is backwards." Unfortunately, it brought to light a question I've had in my head for quite some time. Is there a right way to close mini blinds? It may be like the "Does your toilet paper roll forwards or backwards" debate where there isn't a correct answer. I'm curious if there is.

Regardless of whether it is right or how it actually looks from the outside, I turn my blinds different directions depending on the location.

All blinds on the first floor are angled upwards with the edge closest to the window lowered towards the ground. My thought - If someone walks up to the house, I don't want them to be able to peek inside and see the kids or anything on the floor. If they peer inside, all they see is the ceiling... or they have to bend down and look upwards to see anything else.

Blinds on the second floor turn so they are angled downward - with the window edge higher. Using the same logic as the first floor, only birds would be able to peek into the house. Simply put, I don't want people to be able to see inside of the house.

So which way do you turn your blinds? And if you care to answer, you can weigh in on the toilet paper debate, too.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Would You Buy This Cookbook for 25 cents?

Last night was the opening of the Spring book sale at our local library. It's like Christmas in April because all books (with the exception of a handful of specialty books) are $.25 each.

While DH takes a leisurely approach to gathering software or business books, I am much more dramatic. I head straight for the children's books grabbing anything that looks like it would make decent reading material for story time with the girls. Now that Miss M is an emerging reader, I've been keeping an eye out for beginner reading books also. It's total chaos, but it's a fun kind of chaos. We even talked my dad into coming with us this year. Before leaving our house, I offered him a tote bag for his finds. He kind of laughed at me because he didn't think he would need it. I got the final laugh when I saw him at the sale, toting along a FULL bag. But, hey, the books were only a quarter. Even if you had the slightest notion that you might be interested in a particular book, you can afford to buy it. Which was the inspiration for my title question.

I love cookbooks, so when I was done in the children's section, I ventured to the cookbook corner. It was pretty well picked through, but I found a few interesting ones like one on the Glycemic index and one on Flax. I also found a few on soups and crock pot recipes. But as I was about to call it quits, I found this: How many cookbook collectors have this in their collection? Would YOU buy it for a quarter?

Umm. Yeah. Only in Iowa. Be very, very cautious the next time I invite you over for dinner.

On a side note, Smockity Frocks posted about all the books she just landed from her local sale. It's that time of year.

Don't be jealous of everything we got. You can find a sale in your area too. Check with your local library or surf over to Book Sale Finder for mapping out your local library book sales!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Tin Cup and a Cell Phone

I have a heart, I swear. But I am also a skeptic.

When we were living in Los Angeles, it wasn't uncommon to see panhandlers at the freeway exits. Often, they were selling flowers or fruit. Sometimes playing music. Very seldom did you see someone just standing on the corner asking for cash. Every once in a while, I would make a purchase one of their items. I was a City employee and there was an ordinance against such panhandlers, so I didn't do it often. I do recall at least once that I made a purchase at a fast food restaurant and delivered it to a man with a "Will work for food" sign.

Back here in Iowa, it's different. Although I have not researched it, I've heard that panhandlers can apply for a permit to work a particular corner/exit ramp. I see people in the same spots over and over and have compassion for their situation - more or less. They are a little suspicious looking, with very new looking boots and coats. But who am I to judge since there are some really nice items available via donation organizations.

But yesterday really did me in. I watched as one of these men stepped away from the corner and faced the other direction... to use his cell phone. It made me angry to think that people like this are using our sense of humanity and emotion to make a buck - when they obviously have the capacity to do something more honest.

As I was about to post how annoyed and frustrated I was, I happened across Dan at A Slower Pace. His story is heart-warming and made me rethink my post. I shouldn't pass judgement across the board. Thanks, Dan, for reminding me that not everyone is a bad apple.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bribe the Auctioneer with Tears

DH and I have always tried to attend events that we think the girls could learn something from. Aside from customary outings like the Family Museum, we try to take them to less traditional events. Concerts like Trans Siberian Orchestra. Cultural Festivals like the Celtic Highland Games. Science stuff like Gem & Mineral Shows. Comic book and collectables shows.

This past weekend, we attended a coin show hosted by the Quad City Coin Club. We've been to coin shows in Los Angeles and random dealers always have small things for the kids. Keeps them entertained and hopefully gives them a respect for the hobby.

However, this show was set up differently. When we arrived, there was a treasure chest for the kids. They were each allowed to select 10 items from the chest. It contained a variety of foreign coins and the girls eagerly dug through it. Miss K selected 10 of all the same color but with different designs. Miss M selected various sizes and colors but was particularly excited about one with "100" marked on it. That was a nice way to start the show.

While DH was checking out what the vendors had to offer, I ran into a friend from the gym. She said her husband and kids were up registering for the kids' auction. After chatting, we got the scoop and headed to the auction area ourselves.

The auction was for kids only. Each was given $200 virtual dollars to spend on items graciously donated by the attending vendors. While the items weren't worth $200 real dollars, it was all about the experience. Some of the items up for auction were rolls of wheat pennies, silver dollars, books, annual coin sets and collection folders already containing some coins. Almost 100 lots altogether.

About 45 kids participated, bidding anywhere from $10 to $200 right off the bat. Auctioneer Mike Roberts did a great job of getting as many kids involved as possible. When Miss M and Miss K got to raise their 'paddles' they thought it was pretty cool. We didn't care what they won as long as they got something. We just didn't want them to bid too much and be done so we made sure they always pulled their paddle around the $60-$70 mark. Apparently they weren't getting to bid often enough because while DH and I were chatting, Miss K was bidding away on a book with some random coins. Yes, she won it... all on her own. Sometimes her independence is frightening. Miss M won a few auctions also and we were very excited that the event was so focused on the kids and not the parents. At one point, we told Miss K that she had won, but the auctioneer awarded it to someone else on accident. When she started to cry, he made sure that she won the next one to make up for his error.

When the final lots were coming up, they began to ask who had not won an item. Auctioneer Mike focused his attention on those kids first. When it came down to the last few lots, the woman keeping track of the bidder accounts stopped the auction. There were three kids on her list whom had not paid anything and the organizers made sure they won.

I've participated in a lot of auctions but have never enjoyed one as much as this. Thanks to the Quad City Coin Club for this wonderful event.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Only Thing Better than Roses and Balloons

...would be roses and balloons delivered by your family to you while you're in the middle of your workout at the gym.

This morning, with about 10 minutes remaining in my Cardio Strength/Sculpt class, I thought I heard Miss K. But since she was supposed to be in child watch and DH stayed home "sick" today, I figured I was just hearing things.

Then I heard chimes from around the class "Nicole" "Nicole" "Nicole!" I looked over and DH was standing at the edge of the workout area, holding a dozen beautiful roses and Miss K was dancing around gleefully with a "Happy Birthday Mom" balloon in her hand. Leah, the instructor, tried to get Miss K to sing "Happy Birthday" over the PA system, but when shyness crept in, the class took care of it for her.

What a wonderful way to be surprised. I am thankful to have such a thoughtful and loving husband. (Not to mention an understanding husband when I said I wanted to finish my class.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Jelly and Manners Sandwich Please

At lunchtime yesterday, I was trying to get Miss K to decide what she wanted to eat. I gave her the usual list of jelly sandwich, bologna, nuggets, etc. She proudly proclaimed "I want a jelly and (struggling) may-hners sandwich, please."

Dumbfounded, I asked "Manners? That's when you ask politely."
She furrowed her brow and said "I did say please."
I agreed and I told her that, then said "One jelly sandwich coming right up!"
She immediately corrected me. "No, jelly and may-hners."
After a few 'Who's on first' loops, I finally figured that she knew exactly what she wanted and I just had to get more details or make her show me. So I asked "Is 'may-hners' something you eat?"
She giggled and responded "yeeesss" as if I was teasing her. (Little did she know that I was completely clueless.)
"Is it in the cabinet or the fridge?"
So I picked her up and opened the refrigerator door. She looked around on the shelves, pointed and said "It's right there."
Duh. "Ooohh! Mayonnaise!"
Miss K repeated: "Mayor-nays." After about 5 minutes of repeating it, she finally had it. "Mayonnaise!"

How could I not know that my ketchup-hating, mayonnaise-loving child was trying to say she wanted a jelly and mayonnaise sandwich? Maybe because, well, repeat after me "Jelly and mayonnaise." Nope. They don't go together.

Yes, I talked her out of it because I didn't feel like making two sandwiches and I didn't feel like heeding my own advice this time. Jelly and Manners sandwich sounds much more appetizing.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Are you on the Great Blog Hunt?

If you're here for the Great Blog Hunt, I'm sorry but I've already removed the link since the hunt is over. I'm in the process of restoring the link (when I find it) and posting it here so others can continue the hunt if they want to.
If you've arrived here because you're an adventurer participating in the Great Blog Hunt then "Welcome and Good Luck!" I know you're on a mission, but I hope to see you back after you have found all your clues. If you follow blogs in an RSS reader, just hit that "subscribe" button (on the next column) before heading on your way!

If you haven't heard of the Great Blog Hunt, then pop over to their site and check it out. Just be sure to return here eventually because there's an item and a new clue somewhere on my blog! A little background: The hunt is the brainchild of Sarah Kimmel and Amy Roskelley and is a fun way to find some new blogs to read. As a bonus, the sponsors have provided prizes! Rules can be found on the hunt's website but here is a list of prizes!

Grand Prize (1) - Basket of wonderful goodies including (1) copy of Daily Home Planner planning software, (2) Healthy Habits Plates, (1) Fashionable Apron, (1) Copy of the latest issue of Organize Magazine, and several more items!
2nd Prize - $50 Gift Certificate to
3rd Prize (2) - $25 Gift Certificate to either or (first responder gets first choice)
4th Prize (2) - PottieStickers, a Shower Hug, and a Candiddesigns Customizable Shirt
5th Prize - Startup Princess DVD 2 disc set for women entrepreneurs

Enjoy the hunt!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

When a Picture Tells the Story

I haven't been at my blog much lately... between family things, travel, illness and, oh yeah, LIFE, I just haven't had the time to read or write. It's discouraging because I've really started to enjoy the whole blog thing - both sharing my stories and following along with all my favorites.

DH knows I'm not myself these days; I can't hide my perpetual frumpy mood. He called me into the office where he was diligently working on his computer and asked "What kind of picture do you want for your blog?" He reads my blog and knows that I'm not fond of the stock photo that came with my new template. So he took matters into his own hands to fix it for me. I gave him a few ideas and had him look through my Lightroom photo archives. As I zipped through the files, a photo of the girls caught his eye and he asked me for it. A short while later, he called me back into the office. He had applied his graphics magic and came up with the photo that now graces my blog.

I hope everyone likes it as much as I do. I'll have a reason to smile whenever I launch my blog and I hope it makes you smile too.

(Thanks DH. You're awesome.)