Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Welcome To The Cocktail Party!

Welcome to Willoughby's Blog Style Cocktail Party. I hope you will find some new blogs to follow and expand your circle of blog friends. I know you're all anxious to mingle, so I'll get right to it.

I'd like to introduce LB from the blog Muddy Runner. I know you'll enjoy his blog as much as I do.

About Me

Luis Bueno
Riverside, CA,
United States

Father, Husband, Runner.

Greetings! This is LB from the blog Muddy Runner. I would first like to thank Willoughby of the fine blog This Stop Willoughby for letting me have the opportunity to guest blog. I'm honored to have the chance to guest blog here and hope This Stop Willoughby's trusty readers enjoy my guest spot.

If you are not familiar with my blog, you might be wondering about the name. You might be asking, "What exactly is MUDDY about your blog?"

I'll spell it out for you...

Mud Runs and Marathons, and everything that running them entails. I started my blog to blog about my experience in training for the 2008 Mud Run and now I've got two of those under my belt. I'm also training for my first-ever Marathon, the Surf City 2010 Marathon.

Unload, as in the weight and sedentary lifestyle I used to have. I lost 120 pounds from March 2006 to October 2007, about 20 months worth. I went from weighing 308 pounds to about 185 in that span, and there I remain. I didn't get into running until I had shed all but 10 of those pounds.

Dad. I'm a runner, writer, friend, husband, wanna-be pastry chef but first and foremost I'm a dad. That's my most important job, and I place that first before anything else.

Disneyland. I love Disneyland! We got annual passes as a gift two years ago and that changed everything! It opened doors for all of us and I was instantly hooked. We renewed on our own last year and will do so again this year. It's not cheap but it is worth every penny. You can rest assured that you'll see pictures of Disneyland and hear all about the Happiest Place on Earth over on my blog. In fact, I have a feature that I've been thinking about doing, just have been kicking around the idea in my head and I might get started on it. Anyway, it's about Disneyland, of course, so those Disney posts might be more regular.

Yvie, as in Cooking With Yvie. Every Sunday (or as close to every Sunday as possible) we air a new episode of Cooking With Yvie, where my daughter Yvie shows everyone how to make different things. She's made everything from Strawberry Milkshakes to Marinara Sauce to all sorts of cookies and desserts.

The second part of the blog name is easy. I'm a runner.

So while I started my blog with the intentions of writing about my build-up to my first Mud Run, it has since transformed into a bit of a hodgepodge of everything, as you can see. On any given day, you might read about a particular run that I did that I wanted to share, a nutrition tip that I ran across that I had to share, some observation about my daughter's first-grade class or perhaps even some sort of debilitating injury that I'm trying to figure out how to minimize.

I don't have any particular favorite topic to blog about. I enjoy blogging about all those things and usually I try to write all posts so that all my readers can get something out of them. I know that all my followers don't run so an I-ran-4-miles-so-let-me-tell-you-all-about-it post probably wouldn't work most days, so I tend to stay away from repetition. I like to mix it up and give my readers a variety of posts and topics.

So anyway, thanks again to Willoughby for allowing the opportunity to guest blog. And I hope you'll stop by on Muddy Runner to say hello!


Thank you LB for being a guest on my blog.

The cocktail party will continue on Friday with a new guest blogger. It's not too late to RSVP if you haven't already. You can send your submission to me at thisstopwilloughby@yahoo.com. I would appreciate it if you could send me your post in html format. If you are submitting a new post, create it on Blogger as you would any post. Save, but don't publish it. From there you can click "edit html" and copy and paste your blog into the body of an email. If you are submitting a previously published post, go into "edit" and follow the same instructions. This makes it much easier for me to display your blog post the way you have written it. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

Cocktail Party

I am so pleased at the response I got to my Cocktail Party invitation. When I posted the idea, I wasn't sure anyone would be interested. Checking my comments was like checking the mail for response cards when we sent out our wedding invitations. It was so exciting! I know that some of you have questions regarding your posts, so I will try to answer all of them.

First of all, I would like to start the party tomorrow if anyone is able to provide me with a post by then. My plan is to post a guest blogger every other day until everyone has had their turn. If you have more than one blog, I would be happy to publish a post from each one. As far as content is concerned, feel free to blog about anything you like. Whether you chose to create a new post or use one that has been previously published, I think it would be best to go with something that represents a typical post from your blog. You want to give new readers a sense of what your blog is about on any given day. I would also like to introduce each blogger by posting the profile information that appears on your blog.

I think the easiest way to submit your posts to the party would be via email (thisstopwilloughby@yahoo.com). You can email me your post or, if you want to use a previously published post, send me the link. I'll take it from there. I will post guest bloggers in the order that I receive their submissions. I would appreciate it if you would give a me a shout on your blog the day your post appears. Feel free to host a party on your blog, as well.

And now, I wanted to address a few specifics:

  • L.B. - Go ahead and email me your post whenever it's ready.
  • Heidi - Let me know which post you would like me to share.
  • Tattoos and Teething Rings - I want you to share whatever you'd like! A new post, or a previously published favorite.
  • Lissaloo - I will use your Five Words post unless you've changed your mind and want something different. I'm glad you're excited about the party!
  • Kathy - I love your blog! I'm sure readers will find anything you would like to submit interesting!
  • Christine - Just let me know!
  • Donna - A non-naughty post would probably be best (my kids do read my blog from time to time), but I really would like you to participate!
  • 5th Sister - Any topic you like would be great!

It's not too late to RSVP if you haven't already. And if you're new around here, don't be shy, I'd love to share your blog with the rest of my blog buddies!

Monday, September 28, 2009

You're Invited

Over the past week, I've seen several bloggers post about increasing their readership. It does seem to be something we all think about. I know I get downright giddy when I get a new follower. Not because I hope to get rich and famous by writing a blog, I just enjoy expanding my circle of blog friends. I also get excited when I find a new blog that I enjoy reading.

So here's what I'm thinking about. I'd like to extend an invitation to all of my blog followers to be a guest on my blog. Instead of just posting links, I would like to put an entire post (or just an excerpt if you prefer) of yours on my blog to share with my readers. It can be a new post, or a favorite from a while ago. Of course, I have no way of importing your background and other elements of your page, but I will also include a link to your blog in it's usual home. You will be under no obligation to include one of my posts on your blog.

I want to give my blog friends a chance to mingle and maybe make some new friends in the process. Think of it like an online version of a cocktail party. I know we all have some friends in common, but I'm sure we all have some that aren't shared, as well. You may find some new blogs to follow and pick up a few new followers.

Purple Hoodie Chick was kind enough to be my first guest blogger. Here is a recent post from her blog:

Five Words

So, Willoughby had a game on her blog and I wanted to play along. The way it is played is she gives me five words and I have to explain what those words mean to me. My first word is:

Open: Hmmm, way to give me a hard one.lol Well, this might sound a bit strange but the first thing that comes to mind when I think open is "Open says a me" or is it spelled sesame? And I picture a OPEN sign that would normally be in a store window. Open also makes me think of opening up to people or expressing yourself. Which isn't really me. I usually keep to myself until I get to know someone.

Beautiful: The first thing that popped into my head was fall and summer. I think they are so beautiful. During fall the leaves are changing beautiful colors and the temperature is nice. Or summer when the sun is out, the grass is as green as ever, the sky is almost cloudless.

Fair: My mind automatically went to carnival food. I'm always thinking of food. But the fair is where I get funnel cakes, cotton candy, those icee things and elephant ears! It also reminds me of when I was little and went to the fair with my mom. We would go on a ride called the Gravitron. It was shaped like a UFO and you would lean against the wall while it spun and the gravity would force you against it. We would also go on the Tilt-A-Whirl. We could get that thing spinning so fast! Sometimes I miss being younger.

Water: I love it. I love drinking water. It's the most refreshing thing you could drink. I don't understand how some people don't like it. I also love swimming. I guess you could say I should probably be a fish. If I could live in water I probably would. I also love when it rains. Theres just something about it that I like. All this talk about water made me thirsty...

Song: I love music and the word "song" makes me think of how I tend to get a different favorite every day. Today it is Starstruckk by 3OH!3. Songs are so amazing though. Yesterday I was bowling and I was getting frustrated because I didn't have my ball and the one I was using wasn't working well. So, I listened to my iPod and I ended up with a 137. Music is amazing.

Click here to find Purple Hoodie Chick's blog home.

So what do you think? You can RSVP in my comment section or by sending me an email. Come join the party!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Willoughby's Coffee House And Awards

Welcome to Willoughby's Coffee House. We serve coffee every morning, but today we have cappuccino with foam. Can I get you one? Yes, you're right, it is rich and delicious. You say you'd like to know my secret? Okay, I'll share it with you, but it's so incredibly simple that you have to promise not to laugh. Instead of cream or milk, I use.....

.....melted ice cream. Yes, you heard me correctly, I use melted ice cream. Why, you ask? Because it's rich and delicious and because it comes in so many flavors, including fat free and sugar free varieties. You can make a cappuccino in almost any flavor you like. The cappuccino pictured above was made with melted vanilla fudge swirl ice cream.

Here is what you do. First of all, make a pot of your favorite coffee. While it is brewing, select your ice cream flavor of choice and place several scoops in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave for approximately one minute, or until melted and foamy. Pour melted ice cream into a cream pitcher. We will henceforth refer to this as "cream".

Pour brewed coffee into cup or mug. Add sugar and "cream" to taste and stir to combine. Float a small layer of foam from the "cream" on top. That's all there is to it. If you have leftover "cream", you can store it in the refrigerator, but you should reheat it before use so that a layer of foam develops.

I received two awards from two of my wonderful blog friends. From Purple Hoodie Chick I received the Honest Scrap Award. The terms for accepting this award are that I must pass it on to 7 bloggers and list ten honest things about myself.

I'm going to be a big fat cheater, here, and give this award to all of my blog friends. If you read my blog, I'm sharing this award with YOU! Please feel free to post it on your blog and share it with your readers.
I can't imagine that there are ten honest things about me that you don't already know or would be interested in, but here is my list.
  1. I am right handed.
  2. I'm an impatient driver. I hate to sit and wait in traffic.
  3. I have a collection of old children's mystery books. They're packed away in a box, but I hope to display them in the built-in bookcases we've been planning to build in the office.
  4. My favorite color is purple.
  5. I learned to play chess three years ago, but I still haven't won a game.
  6. I have a huge collection of cookbooks, but I get most of my recipes online.
  7. I have a terrible sense of direction. If we're lost and I think we should turn right, we should probably turn left.
  8. I love perfume. I wear it every day, even if I'm not going to leave the house.
  9. Some women love window shopping at the mall. I prefer browsing through flea markets, antique shops and home improvement stores. I like clothes, but I get more excited about things for my house.
  10. I got sick on a corn dog at the fair when I was nine. I haven't been able to eat one since. I can't even stand the smell of them.

The next award I received from both Purple Hoodie Chick and Lissaloo at One Step At A Time. It is the Beautiful Blog Award. I must list one blogger for each of the words it stands for.

I'm sorry, but I just can't do that! I love all my bloggy friends! They are all Beautiful, Informative, Neighborly, Gorgeous and Outstanding! So this is for all of you. I would love for you to post it on your blogs. I only ask one thing of you, take a look at my blog list on the right hand side of the page. If you see a blog you don't already follow, check it out. If you like it, become a follower. Share the love!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Five Words

Joanna at The Fifty Factor, had a fun post the other day. She was given five words by another blogger, and then had to post what each of those words meant to her. In turn, she would give five different words to any other bloggers who were interested in playing along. The point is to get to know someone by their definition/interpretation of the words. Of course I was interested in playing! These are the five words Joanna gave me:


I can't imagine a day without music. I listen to it anywhere and everywhere that I can. I enjoy singing along (badly) and dancing (also badly) and as long as I'm not disturbing anyone else, I like it loud. I also like to go to concerts and scream and cheer until I'm hoarse.

My taste in music is pretty eclectic. I spend most of my time listening to Alternative Rock and 80's music, but my playlist also includes Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, The Glen Miller Orchestra, Bach, Mozart, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Randy Travis, Garth Brooks, a little bit of rap and a little bit of jazz.

Music can have strong emotional connections for me, as well. Two songs, in particular, are difficult for me to listen to without getting choked up. I Knew I Loved You by Savage Garden is the first. It was popular at the time my daughter was in the NICU and I couldn't hear it without seeing her tiny little face in my mind. I'm sure it was meant to be a love song of the traditional sort, but the line "I knew I loved you before I met you" certainly applies to the way I felt about my children even before they were born. The second song is The Corner by Staind. I can't say for certain what the lyrics are supposed to be about, but they tell the story of my brother in law, Gordy, remarkably well. He was legally blind and spent most of his adult life moving from place to place. He had a pretty rough life but eventually found a house in a neighborhood that felt like home for him. He lived there for 10 months before being killed in a suspicious fire.


I love this one (Joanna, you know me so well!). The first person that comes to mind when I think of horror is my favorite author, Stephen King. I've read nearly every one of his books and seen all of the movie adaptations. My dad is a big Stephen King fan and got me hooked when I was a teenager. He collects the hard cover copies while I prefer paperbacks.

The Stand and It are my favorite books, but I'm hard pressed to choose a favorite movie version of one of his works. The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Stand, The Shining.....I really can't decide.


I blog about my home often, so you know that home means everything to me. In the twenty years that we've been married, we've lived in four different places. Two of them were apartments and two of them were houses, but they were all "home" when we lived in them.

Home, to me, is more that four walls and a roof, it's about the place memories are made. The place you talk about your day, share meals together, sing, dance, laugh and sometimes cry. It's where nobody minds if you wear the shirt with holes in it because it's comfortable. It's the place that even the smallest victories are celebrated and the disappointments are made easier to handle with hugs and sometimes chocolate chip cookies. It's where everyone loves you just because you're you.


I had to give this word a lot more thought than the others. Really, the first thing I think of when I hear the word growth is the growth of my kids. I told you recently that my daughter sprouted up about 4 inches over the summer. My son is done growing, I think. He's 16 so I don't expect him to get much taller. He's 5'11" and weighs about 150 pounds. His growth is more in the form of muscle development. He works out a lot for football and can now press 500 pounds on the leg press.


There are many things I don't have that I wish I did. An oceanfront home, millions of dollars, a brand new SUV, a new pair of socks for every day of the year (I love the feeling of new socks), a best selling novel.....I could go on and on. I may never have any of those things, but they're not all that important anyway. The things I do have, a happy marriage, two healthy children, a nice home....these are the things that matter and make me feel content with my life. Contentment is like happiness, it's not about having what you want, it's about wanting what you have. And I do.

If you would like like to play along, too, let me know in the comment section or by sending an email to thisstopwilloughby@yahoo.com and I'll send you five words of your own! Be sure to leave me an email address to send them to!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Stumbling Through Cyberspace

I know you've done this. You sit down at the computer to search for something and an hour or more later you're looking at something completely different. Sometimes you never even find the information you were searching for in the first place.

It usually happens something like this. In a passing conversation the topic of leap years comes up. You think to yourself "I wonder when the last leap year was? I should Google that." A few weeks go by and then it pops into your mind out of nowhere. You go to your computer, pull up Google and search "leap years".

A sight catches your eye that has ideas for fun ways to celebrate leap year. One of the suggestions is baking leap year cookies, so you click on the recipe which takes you to a cooking website. You scroll down to read the comments posted beneath the recipe when you spot a recommendation for a great home and garden website that has more cookie recipes.

You wander over to that website and get interested in an article about current trends in window treatments. Realising that your own window treatments are hopelessly outdated by at least six months or so, you start searching "easy no-sew valances". The instructions tell you that you'll need fusible webbing, which you don't have, so you decide that buying pre-made valances will be a better option and start perusing online drapery websites.

You find something that would look perfect in your kitchen, but the fabric will clash with your current paint color. You wonder if should repaint the kitchen and decide a new color might change your whole outlook on life. Twenty minutes later you find yourself at the hardware store looking at paint swatches when you come across a lovely shade of green called "Lilly Pad". The name makes you think of frogs, who travel from lily pad to lily pad by leaping, which makes you think of leap year. And then you think to yourself, "When is the next leap year? I should Google that."


~Thank you for all the get well wishes. I will refrain from being overly graphic, but I basically have a viral skin infection on the bottom of my foot. I have medication for it and it is healing slowly but surely. ~

Monday, September 21, 2009

I'm Puzzled

I have a painful issue with my foot right now, so while it heals, I'm spending less time on my feet and more time looking for things to entertain myself. I love puzzles of all sorts, as I've said before. One of my favorite types are jigsaw puzzles. I don't get to do them very often, though, because I just don't have a place to leave one set up for a few days until it's done. For that reason, I really enjoy online jigsaw puzzles. They're almost as much fun as the real thing without taking up space on my dining room table.

I found a great puzzle website today called Jigsaw Planet. There are some fun puzzles to do, or, better yet, you can create your own puzzles with your very own photos! You can make them simple or difficult and share them on your blog, or email them to your friends. Take a look at these.

If the puzzles above are taking too long to load, or you want to try them in full screen, click the box in the upper right corner of each puzzle box.

When you're through with these, go make some with your own photos. Have fun!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Bar Is Open

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day, mateys! Get yer Pirattitude on and have yerself a drink! Cap'n. Willoughby and I have a shooter for ye, tonight. They go down smooth, so careful how many ye have!

Shiver Me Timbers Shooter
  • 1/4 ounce coconut rum

  • 1/4 ounce Kahlua

  • 1/4 ounce chocolate liqueur

  • 1/4 ounce butterscotch schnapps

Pour coconut rum, Kahlua, chocolate liqueur and butterscotch schnapps in a double shot glass. Stir if ye like, but ye don't have to! Drink 'er down all at once. Repeat if ye want to!

Drink yer Shiver Me Timbers Shooters responsibly, mateys, or the Cap'n. and I will make ye walk the plank!

Enjoy the rest of yer Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Some Things To Ponder

On a road near my house, there is a speed limit sign that says "35 mph ends" . Why don't they post a sign telling you what the speed limit is instead of what it isn't?

Every local radio station has a morning show with two or more people making witty banter and taking calls from listeners. Why do they assume everyone prefers humor to music in the morning?

Socks are often packaged by sock size. Why are sock sizes and shoe sizes different? If you've ever bought socks for your children you know how frustrating this can be!

Why are clothing sizes and underwear sizes different?

All diet product advertisements have this disclaimer in tiny writing at the bottom of the screen "Results Not Typical". What would the advertisements look like if they showed typical results?

If my local supermarket is open 24 hours a day, why don't they stock the shelves at 3:00 am when the store is empty instead of at 5:00 pm when it's jammed with shoppers?

Why are the horizontal surfaces in kitchens called counter tops?

If a word begins with the letters "re" it usually means to repeat an action, such as reconfigure (to configure again, or change the shape) and refurbish (to furbish again, or renovate). If that is the case, can you frigerate something before you refrigerate it?

Why do people always say "I hate to tell other people what to do..." just before telling you what to do?

If I'm in a hurry to get someplace, there is always a ton of slow moving traffic. If I don't have a schedule to keep, there don't seem to be very many cars on the road and I get to my destination twice as fast as planned. Why is that?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sights, Sounds,Smells And Starship

A few weeks ago, we spent a Friday evening at the Michigan State Fair. It is the oldest state fair in the country and sadly, after 161 years, this was it's last year. It's apparently not profitable enough for the state to continue running it.

We were a little hesitant to go at all because it's in Detroit. Even if you've never been to Detroit, I'm sure you know it's reputation for crime. A few years ago there was a shooting at the fair. We weren't entirely confident about our safety. As it turned out, we had no problems whatsoever. I did have to explain to my daughter what a prostitute is when we saw one on the way home, though.

We didn't spend much time on the midway and we didn't ride any of the rides or play any of the games. Instead, we spent most of our time touring the animal exhibits and walking around the 164 acre grounds.

The smell coming from all of the food stands was amazing, and there were so many of them.

The pigs seemed pretty relaxed despite the crowd of people passing through. There were more breeds than I ever knew existed, but this guy was my favorite.

Where else would you see a sign like this? I meant to get a picture of the "Milk A Real Cow For 50 Cents" sign, too, but we never got back that way. It was a bottomless cup, meaning that you could drink as many cups as you wanted to fill. It seemed a little strange to me, but I guess it's a good deal if you like unpasteurized milk (need I remind you what a germophobe I am?).

The horses were gorgeous. This is my son and Purple Hoodie Chick making friends with a big guy.

Our main purpose for going to the fair, though, was to go to a Starship concert. We got to the concert stage early and got to sit in the first row behind the reserved seating area. The warm-up band was a local group called Standing Room Only. I wasn't all that excited about sitting through their set, but they turned out to be really good. They played late 70's and early 80's rock. It was a beautiful night for an outdoor concert.

After a brief intermission, Starship took the stage. We go to see them every time (and I mean every time) they're in town. They always put on a great show, and it's just as much fun for the kids as it is for us. If you've never taken your kids to a concert, I highly recommend it. We told them before the concert started that were expected to sing, clap and dance because that's all part of what makes a Starship concert fun. If you leave without a hoarse voice and sore hands, you're doing something wrong!

Mickey Thomas, the lead singer, mentioned that he joined the band 30 years ago and his first song with them was "Jane". I can tell you, he sounds every bit as good as he did back then.

Mark Abrahamian, the guitarist, is fantastic. The solo he plays during "Fooled Around And Fell In Love" is amazing.

After the show, Mickey signed autographs outside of the concert area. He is undoubtedly the nicest guy in the music business. My daughter got to have a little conversation with him and she was thrilled. I also had the opportunity to get the answer to a question that I've always wondered about. I've always wanted to know what song he's performed the more than any other. I guessed it was "Jane", but it turns out to be "Fooled Around and Fell In Love". He was so gracious to take the time to answer my question. Thanks Mickey!

There was a petition circling around to save the Michigan State Fair. I hope they are successful. We had a wonderful time there and would not hesitate to go in the years to come.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What's It Worth To You?

My husband and I are avid do-it-yourselfers and I have training in interior design, so I'm always interested in home improvement projects. I like to read articles in magazines, peruse do-it-yourself websites, and watch home improvement shows on television.

Today, I was reading an article about determining what home improvements you should consider based on your home's value. The number one tip they had was not to over improve you home. They suggested you research home selling prices in your neighborhood before starting any project so you wouldn't risk making your home more valuable than you might be able to sell it for.

If you purchased your house strictly as an investment, that's probably good advice. If, on the other hand, you purchased your house because you love the area and want to have a comfortable home to raise your family in, I don't think it makes any sense at all. Why should you stop short of making it your dream home just because you might not get back what you spent?

Home sales are in such a slump where I live that it wouldn't be profitable to do much of anything to our house. I would love to rip out the tile in the bathroom and replace it with something entirely different. I would love to replace our kitchen countertops. I would love to replace the bathroom vanities with granite or quartz. None of those projects are in the budget right now, but if they were, we wouldn't hesitate for a moment about spending the money on them. The value comes from our enjoyment of what we put in our home, not what we'll get back when and if we ever sell this place.

Maybe I can't wrap my mind around the idea of making purchases based on resale value because you don't buy most items, other than vehicles, with that in mind. After all, who wonders what their shoes might sell for in the future when they buy a pair of Ferragamo's? If you can't get back what you spent on them, should you settle for a pair from Payless instead?

Our house was a fixer-upper when we bought it and we had to renovate/remodel/rebuild all the way down to the wall studs. We chose every light fixture, appliance, faucet and paint color in the house. Not once did we pass up what we wanted in favor of what might have a better resale value. We didn't just want a house, we wanted a home. For us, that's priceless.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Above Average

Over the summer, I started to notice that my daughter was growing quite a bit. All of sudden, it seemed that her shirts were getting too short and her shoes were getting too small. When we started going through her jeans from last year, most of them were too short. The jeans that had been far too long at the end of the last spring don't drag on the floor anymore.

I didn't measure her at the beginning of summer, but I think she grew about 4 inches between May and September. When I measured her this morning, she stood at 54 inches tall. I wondered where that put her on the growth chart and it turns out she's 7 inches taller than average, although at just under 60 pounds, she's a little lighter than the average nine year old.

I know, you're thinking "So what? Kids go through growth spurts", and you would be correct in thinking that. But with my daughter, it's truly amazing. She had a long way to go just to get on the growth chart at all. She was born 17 weeks prematurely and weighed just 14 ounces at birth. She was 11 inches long, which, for reference, is the same length as a Barbie doll. An average full term baby weighs approximately 7 pounds and is 20 inches long. That's a big difference.

She spent the first six months of her life in the hospital, so we got used to seeing her in comparison to other premature babies, but even then she was smaller by far. For the first few months after she was born, we couldn't find preemie clothes small enough for her. The smallest preemie diapers the hospital had were huge, too. I think she was almost a year old before she could wear clothes labeled for newborns.

The day we left the hospital with her, the doctors couldn't tell us whether she would ever be the same size as other children her age. I'm not sure when she started to catch up, but by the time she started preschool, she was smaller than the other kids, but not dramatically so. Last week, at school, she walked in with a girl who had been at least a head taller than her last year and now they are the same height.

I always knew she was above average!

Friday, September 11, 2009

May We Never Forget

My son was 8 at the time and I had just dropped him off at school. I took my daughter, not yet 2, into the living room and gave her some toys and turned on the television. It was my usual habit on weekday mornings to give her some television time with Bear In The Big Blue House or Winnie The Pooh, or something similar while I did a quick bit of house cleaning.

The television was still on the channel we had been watching the night before, but was showing the local news. Before I could click over to Disney or PBS, a burning building caught my eye. I didn't know what building or where, but there was a lot of smoke.

With my daughter content, I went into the kitchen and turned on the television to find out more about the burning building. Along the bottom of the screen it said "World Trade Center, New York City". The picture never left the screen, but the newscasters were explaining that a plane had accidentally hit The World Trade Center. I assumed it had been a small plane with an inexperienced pilot. Moments later, to my sickening horror, I watched the live broadcast of another plane striking the other tower. Like everyone else witnessing this unthinkable atrocity, I knew immediately that this was a terrorist attack.

I remember shaking and feeling numb. How could this have happened? Were there more planes setting course for more buildings in other cities? My husband was at work at the Renaissance Center, the tallest building in the Detroit skyline, was he in danger? I wanted to talk to him right away. I needed to talk to him.

I'm not sure exactly what words I said, but "terrorist attack" and "please come home" were among them. He and his coworkers had no idea of the events taking place in New York. There were several calls back and forth before he told me they were evacuating the building and he was on his way home. A bomb had been found in the tunnel between Detroit and Canada. The tunnel runs alongside the Renaissance Center.

As the day rolled on, everything became more and more frightening. The Pentagon had been attacked, a plane had abruptly discontinued communication somewhere over the Midwest, and the Trade Center towers collapsed. I couldn't close my eyes without seeing that horrible image of people running down the street nearly enveloped in smoke and debris. It still haunts me. I think it still haunts all of us.

The next day, the church bells in our small town rang out at 8:46 am and 9:47 am in memory of those who lost their lives. People stood outside their homes and wept as they listened. On Main Street, those who were driving pulled to the side of the road until the bells ceased.

I don't know a single soul who was in the World Trade Center, The Pentagon or United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001 but I still feel profoundly sad on this day. May we never forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Because You Asked

It never occurred to me to explain what outhouse races are when I posted my last blog. I do wonder what some of you might have thought they were! What they really are is quite simple; races using outhouses on wheels. Each team consists of four members, one rides in the "outhouse" and steers it while the other three push or pull it to the finish line. Here's a picture from a past festival. Sorry it's in black and white, it's from the newspaper.

Can you tell I live in a small town? If you're interested in seeing them for yourself, the races will take place on Main Street at 6:30 on Friday evening. Stop by for a drink afterward, just don't block my driveway!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bring On The Fun!

Tomorrow kicks off the beginning of our town's late summer festival. There will be a carnival, parades, outhouse races, a strawberry shortcake social, library book sale, tours of local historical buildings, outdoor concerts, a demolition derby, an arm wrestling tournament..... I could go on and on. It sounds like fun, doesn't it? I wish it did to me.

Let me share some of my most vivid memories of festivals past.

  • About 8 years ago a bus pulled up to the curb along the street that borders our backyard. Six or seven drunk men got out and used our shrubs for a toilet. We had to call the police.
  • Seven years ago the birdseed was emptied from my bird feeder and replaced with empty beer bottles.
  • Six years ago empty liquor bottles were thrown onto the sidewalk next to our house from a car parked in the street. When I asked them to pick the bottles up and dispose of them elsewhere, they swore and spit out the window at me.
  • Five years ago we were sitting in the backyard watching a movie on our outdoor screen when a man wandered in the yard to have a closer look. We wouldn't have minded if he had not been smoking a joint at the time. We asked him to leave and he did.
  • Four years ago people parked their cars at the base of our driveway, blocking about half of it.
  • Three years ago our flower beds were trampled by people cutting through our yard to attend a party at another house in our neighborhood.
  • Two years ago a group of boys chased my son and his girlfriend with chairs and baseball bats because my son got some colored hair spray on one of them (kids around here spray their hair crazy colors for the festival).
  • Last year and every year I found trash in our yard.

These are the things I think of when I think of the festival along with deadlocked traffic, parked cars along every inch of our street, loud music and noise until 3:00 am and intoxicated people wandering around the neighborhood. This is a small town and we don't usually have problems like this, but the festival seems to bring in people who like to make trouble.

Call me a party pooper, but I can't wait until it's over.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Little Something Sweet

We have been having my parents over for dinner on Sundays lately, so I'm always trying to come up with something different to serve. This past weekend, being a holiday weekend, I wanted to make dinner and dessert a little extra special.

For dessert, I had my heart set on cheesecake. I didn't want to use my standard chocolate swirl cheesecake recipe and I didn't want to fool around with using my springform pan, so I combined a few recipes to come up with a version I could bake in a 9 x 13 cake pan. I used a shortbread style crust instead of a traditional graham cracker crust. It was fast and easy and baked up beautifully without a single crack in the top. Even if you're new to baking cheesecake, you can make this one and look like a pro!

Creamy Cheesecake

Shortbread Crust:
  • 2/3 cup butter

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar

  • 2/3 cup finely ground pecans

  • 2 cups flour


  • 32 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup milk

  • 4 eggs

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust: In a medium size bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Stir in the flour and finely ground pecans until coarse crumbs form. Press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Cheesecake: In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar together until well blended. Add milk, eggs and vanilla extract until well mixed. Pour over cooled crust and bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes. Center should be set and edges just beginning to brown.

Cool completely and refrigerate before serving.

This piece is topped with caramel ice cream topping, but it is also delicious served plain.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Wear It Thin

Fall is in the air. The kids are going back to school, the nights are getting chilly and the leaves will soon be changing. Apple picking, hay rides and bonfires will begin to dominate the weekends. Stew, chili and apple pies are being planned. Brightly colored mums and pumpkins are starting to show up at roadside stands. It all makes me feel very....well, sad.

I've been feeling a bit blue about the passing of summer. Or maybe it's the passing of time in general. It's like sand slipping through my fingers. No matter how hard I try, I can't stop it or even slow it's momentum. It seems to me that June became September in the blink of an eye.

I don't want to let it overwhelm me, though. I can't control the passage of time, but I can try not to let it get the best of me. There's a line in a song that goes "I wanna live every minute so hard that I wear it thin". I like that. I'm realistic about it, I don't expect every minute of every day to be that intense, but time isn't going to wait for me to start writing that book or get back to my daily workout. I've got to stop thinking that if I haven't done it by now, I'll never do it.

What better time than now?

~"I wanna live every minute so hard that I wear it thin" is from Wild Again by Starship. From the Cocktail movie soundtrack~

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Time For A Change

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, yesterday, and I didn't like what I saw. There are a lot of things I'd like to change about myself, but, in this case it was my hair. I know I've told you before just how much I hate my hair and how it never looks quite the way I want it to, but this was beyond sub-par. It was neatly pulled back in a clip as it usually is, but it has gotten too long and it just looked hopelessly outdated. Remember what Aunt Bee on The Andy Griffith Show looked like when her hair wasn't in a bun? Put denim shorts and a hoodie on that image and you'll have a good idea how I looked.

Yes, I am exaggerating a little bit, but you get the idea. I don't want to be one of those people you see who can't let go of the past and have the same hair style and wardrobe they had when they went to Woodstock.

My first reaction was to grab a pair of scissors and start hacking away. I wanted to gather all of my hair into a pony tail and give it a chop, but the kids talked me out of it. It's probably for the best because I wasn't sure what style I wanted.

This morning I went to the Oxygen website and tried their makeovermatic game. Once you create a free account, you can upload a picture of yourself and try different hairstyles and make up. I haven't willingly had my picture taken in more than 10 years, but I worked it out.

So what do you think? Is it me or is it me?