Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Resolutions

As 2012 comes to a close, it is time to think about ways to make 2013 an even more amazing year. 

1) See more friends in person, rather than simply on-line. I'd like to start with friends such as Darla, Jean, Tracey, and Heidi who have moved in the past few years, but the whole family has yet to see their new homes (I saw Darla's house, but Don and Ashley were not with me).

2) Host an Open House party so I can see more friends. Realize this goal overwhelms me as I get very hung up on who to invite, what to make, how to clean up the clutter, how to entertain everyone, and when to have it, that I end up pushing this goal off "for another time."

3) Build my freelance business so it is an actual company. This includes publishing a book in the next year. Last month I started writing "Andy's Story," a memoir of a WWII vet named Andy who suffers from short-term memory loss, which is growing to longer-term memory loss, too. It is a slow-moving project, but one that is rewarding on both personal and financial levels. 

4) Continue to focus my volunteering to places without a paid staff. I started this goal in the fall of 2012 and found it works for me on a couple of levels. First, without a paid staff I can do more professional level work -- such as writing grants for Somerset Valley Players (my first grant yielded $3000, and I was able to track down money promised to SVP earlier in the year -- a real coup). Second, there is no chance of them hiring me so I won't get disappointed when I apply for a job, do not get it, but am told "we love your volunteering and hope you continue."  

5) Go someplace new for vacation. Our plan is to go to Tokyo as a way to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. This also helps me meet my first goal as we'll see Masumi while in her country.

6) Running goals: half marathons at Disney World and DisneyLand (for the Coast to Coast Challenge). Possibly also running in the Princeton and Trenton Half Marathons, if they offer the "Mercer County Marathon" medal this year (they were slated to be a week apart last year, before Super Storm Sandy hit). I find I need the goal of a race to get me outside. Between the bad weather, Christmas break, and life, I haven't run in nearly two weeks. I need to change that on Wednesday.

7) Continue to write (on average) a Pillsbury Press blog post a week. As I see only a dozen people read this blog, I write it now for myself and not for others. This frees me up from obsessing over spelling, grammar and the "right" way to convey my thoughts. You can see by the list that some months I wrote a lot, and months (such as February) we didn't write a thing. I neglected to blog about our quick weekend trip to Florida to see friends, and our Disney Cruise to nowhere. Instead I wrote about every day things such as pets and de-cluttering our home. In theory the blog replaced our annual Christmas newsletter (which no one seemed to miss), however I found I cover different topics in the electronic format. Either way, I enjoy writing and will continue to write.

8) ADDING House goal: painting the upstairs bathroom, kitchen, family room (and with Dad's help) the front porch. Dream for the year: replacing the carpeting with hardwood flooring.

That sounds like a good and realistic start for me. What are your goals for 2013?

New Additions

In 2012 our quiet family of three humans and two cats grew to an active family of three humans and five pets.

We started the year with 2 pets -- Ariel Cat (7) and Charlie Cat (6). Ariel came into our lives about a year after Pumpkin Cat died from old age. At the time we adopted Charles I, but he didn't last a year (sleeping in the middle of the street will do that to you). Charles II came to us through FreeCycle. 

Ariel Cat and Charlie Cat

Loyal readers know that Ashley spent about a year and a half petitioning for a bearded dragon. Sandy Claws joined the family in June. 

Sandy Claws

As neither one of us ever owned a dragon before, we've had a steep learning curve with Sandy. There are times I'm amazed he has lived this long (like when he went 4 weeks without pooping), but I am glad he is still here. Through him, I have broken many of my "mom rules" -- such as there is no way he is living in the kitchen (you guessed it, last week we moved his tank to the kitchen) and there is no way I am bringing living meal worms into the kitchen (they now live in our fridge and I still live in fear that they will move to Don's flour supply). He is a lot more cuddly than I would have imagined. Feel free to come over and pet him if you don't believe me.

Last year we lost our Betta fish, Benny the Broomstick Boy Betta. I missed him more than anyone else. We tried to get a new Betta, but they kept dying within the two week return policy. It was just too much. Thanksgiving weekend Don brought home Fishy #4. I refused to name him until he lived past the two week return period.

Phineas Fish

He survived and is now called Phineas the Fish (I wanted a boy name that started with an F, but didn't think he looked like a Frank). No plans to add a Ferb as male Bettas are very territorial and will fight each other.

That brings us to our latest addition. Lucy. 

Lucy Kitten
 Lucy was born on September 9, 2012 to my friend Kim's cat, Trouble. Lucy won my heart when she spent most of the afternoon sitting on my lap and purring. She is a very friendly kitten.

She is also a very energetic kitten! The house is certainly not quiet any more! Lots of strains of "Out of the TREE LUCY" can be heard, along with "hissing is not ladylike" (said to both Ariel and Lucy). 

A rare moment -- Ariel and Lucy snuggling with me.
Ariel is having troubles adjusting to life with a kitten. Charlie is having an eating contest with her. The kitten can out eat Charlie since she runs it all off, Charlie, meanwhile, is growing in size. For some reason, one extra kitten means we are going through three times as much food.

I believe this is the first time I have ever lived with a kitten. It is a learning experience. On the one hand, I should probably take down the Christmas trees (yes, plural -- we have three this year) so Lucy stops destroying the fake trees and more ornaments (fortunately Don is an expert with Super Glue). On the other hand, I don't know what she'll find to replace her climbing habit once the trees come down. I might leave one up just so she has her own personal tree.

Charlie Cat checking out Lucy Kitten
Ariel seems jealous of the kitten. She has decided to turn into a lap cat in hopes that Lucy goes away. Umm.. Ariel you snuggled with me once -- the time at the pound when you warmed up to me to say you wanted me to adopt you. I took you home and you ignored me for nearly 7 years choosing NOW to become my best friend?

Charlie is still checking her out. Christmas night they played hide and seek together inside the empty boxes. it was quite cute.

Lucy Kitten sniffing Sandy Claws
Lucy is quite inquisitive, as you would guess for a kitten. She is still trying to figure out what to make of Sandy. He has four legs, but does not have any fur? Sniffing is okay, swatting is not.

That is the news from the Pillsbury Menagerie. Stay tuned for more adventures from our zoo.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ashley as Lucy in "Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe"

For this entry, I'm trying something new. Click on to see a bunch of pictures from the Somerset Valley Players production of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (as well as other stray pictures, mostly ones from Ashley's school). I wasn't even trying very hard, yet I'm most pleased with how much I like the pictures. This is a testament to the quality of the lighting, costumes, and other details that make the show flow so magically.

The show runs through December 16. Tickets can be found at: .

The pictures tell the story of the classic C.S. Lewis novel.

I'm so proud of Ashley and all the hard work she, and the rest of the cast and crew, put into making this holiday show a must see production.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Opening Night "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"

Three and a half months ago Ashley auditioned for "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" at Somerset Valley Players in Hillsborough, NJ. This is the same theater where we had our stage debut four years ago in "It's a Wonderful Life." Like IAWL, LWW has been a magical experience.

Ashley was thrilled when the phone rang back in August and she was offered the part of Lucy, the little girl who discovers Narnia. Huge grins! The cast met for a read-through a few days later on what was supposed to be call-back night.

For the first two months the cast mostly rehearsed in the director's basement in Flemington, NJ. It seemed like a giant play date as Ashley bonded with Julia, the girl playing her sister, Susan. Julia is also the director's daughter, so rehearsals were in her house.

Last month, the cast moved to the theater. That's where the true magic takes place. Slowly the scenery, costumes, music and lighting were added. Two days before the invited dress rehearsal (SVP invites the local senior citizens to a free show) it seemed impossible that everything would fall into place. Anyone involved with theater will tell you this is normal. 

As if by Narnian magic, the show opened. Everyone was fully dressed. The lights and music were happening as they should. The audience breathed life into the show simply by reacting to the story as it unfolded on stage.

Opening night was a sell out! The theater only seats 100 people. The audience was mostly made up of family members, and theater friends. Afterwards they have an opening night party. We stayed for about an hour catching up with friends. Big grins were seen on the faces of the entire cast! Way to go, Narnians!

Here are a couple of teaser pictures from the play. Many more will be posted after everyone has a chance to see the production.

Tickets are selling quickly. They anticipate sell outs. You can order your tickets HERE. Autographs are available after the show. ;) 

Click here for Cast Photos

Monday, November 26, 2012

Movie Extra for "Poor Earl"

Earlier this month, I did something I have wanted to do for a long time. An older person might call this a "bucket list" item -- I was an extra in a movie. Well, "movie" is a bit of a stretch, I was an extra in a short student film called "Poor Earl." 

This story, as do most stories, has its roots in the past. 

Four years ago I took a similar leap into the unknown. I auditioned for a play with Ashley at Somerset Valley Players. We were cast as the bank examiner (Miss Carter) and the youngest daughter (Zuzu) in "It's a Wonderful Life." It truly was a wonderful time. Besides being on the stage of a community theater production (instead of in the audience), I made a number of friends and found a new home. Now it is Ashley on stage without me, while I work on writing grants and volunteering behind the scenes. 

Two years ago Brian, one of my cast mates, invited me to be a Zombie in his movie "Demon Hunters." Unfortunately the timing did not work out for me (it would have required 10-12 hour commitment 90 minutes north of us on a Saturday or Sunday of the movie director's choice). I even bought a Zombie outfit (clothes from Good Will that I don't care if they are torn or destroyed). Alas, the timing did not work out. I regretted not making it happen.

Fast forward to earlier this month. Along with the rest of the SVP email list, I was asked to be an extra in a student film that would take place at Somerset Valley Players. All I had to do was sit in the audience and pretend to like a show that was not really happening. 

I jumped at the opportunity.

The filming fit within the free school day hours. Don did work from home in the afternoon in case it took longer. I came home the same time as the school bus.

The day was fun. I saw theater friends Carolyn and Theresa. Theresa was the star, along with the actor who played Earl. Carolyn snagged a few lines as the mayor.

We redid each scene a number of times, then repeated each scene more times as it was being filmed with a single camera. 

As far as being an extra goes, this was easy work. We were inside all day sitting in comfy theater seats. The students gave us each one slice of pizza as thanks, and a promise to send us the final product. I hope he gets an A on his project.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Trenton Half Marathon

As I was running in the inaugural Trenton Half Marathon I'll admit I did not have a kind word for the race. A day later as I look at my pretty medal, my harsh words are softening.

Only 20 days ago I ran in the Columbus Half Marathon. Since then I dealt with taking down a willow tree thanks to Hurricane Sandy, and had a surprise early November snowstorm the Weather Channel decided to name Athena. One of my favorite races, the 5-mile Beauty and the Beach run in Long Beach, NJ was canceled as Sandy destroyed the shore town, and our route. On one of my few training runs, 5 miles through Mercer Meadows, I had to climb over 3 trees twice.

In a nutshell, training stank.

Saturday's race was calling for beautiful weather -- low 38, high 50. 
The drive to Waterfront Park and parking was a mess. The line for race day packet pick ups were long (thankfully, Sharon and I went on Thursday). The race started 45 minutes late. Yes, FORTY-FIVE minutes late as the announcer kept insisting it would be a few more minutes and appreciating our patience. 

My biggest complaint with the start was that I could not figure out how to line up by anticipated finish time, nor could I find a pacer. There were about 2700 runners. I have a tendency to jackrabbit at the start, and was hoping to be able to pace myself right in the start. This is what really helped me with Columbus.

The route:
Started off going under the new tunnel on 29. Then up and over the highway and back through the tunnel. Overall my GPS route showed it was .33 miles shorter than 13.1, which people attributed to losing satellite in the tunnel and under the overpasses. 

Much of the route was along not-so scenic Route 29. I would have preferred more time on State Street or through neighborhoods as 29 does not encourage places to stop and view the race. There was a definite lack of spectators along the route.
Don chased after me on his bike and took lots of pictures of me along the way.
Later on I found out Gary, someone I know through community theater, handed me water at one of the watering stops. I was surprised day of by how few people I knew. Surprised later in the day when I read in FB about how many people I did know at the race. Should have coordinated better.

As billed, one of the highlights was running across the Trenton Makes Bridge. I hadn't paid attention to the surface of the bridge before. The whole time I was afraid I would catch my toe in the steel grates. Made out fine, and didn't see anyone fall, but it was a definite obstacle that I will be prepared for next time.

The race then went into Morrisville, PA for a couple of miles. Bigger crowds in Pennsylvania -- possibly because less roads were closed and we went through residential neighborhoods.

Crossed the Calhoun Street Bridge back into New Jersey. By now most of the runners clued into running on the boardwalk on the side, rather than the closed steel grate bridge.

There was a 10K option, but I pressed on. This was one of the clearest signs along the route. One of my pet peeves with the race, was the lack of clear signage overall. I saw my first mile marker at mile 4! At a water station there was a hand written sign saying Gatorade to the left and water to the right. It was hard to read.

There is Don in his yellow jacket taking pictures at the top of the overpass.

I never realized before how hilly Cadwalader Park really is! Had the storms not hit, I had been planning on driving the course to see what to expect. Oh well, another race.

The highlight -- running on the field at Waterfront Park! 

Another highlight -- the great personal support. My parents chased me around town with Ashley, while Don chased me on his bike. My time (only 2 minutes slower than Columbus, even with taking pictures, walking, and chatting with fellow runners who were struggling through the course) was much better than I would have imagined. 

Would I do another race in Trenton? Time will tell. It was like childbirth -- the further away from it you are, the less you remember the pain.Will I sign up for another half marathon? You bet! Leaning towards signing up for the Disney Coast-to-Coast Challenge!

Friday, November 9, 2012

American Girl Doll outfits

About three years (2009) Ashley decided to dress up like the historical American Girl Dolls using items found in her closet and in her dress up area. 






Felicity / Elizabeth

Chrissa -- 2009 AGD Girl of the Year



Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happy Halloween -- Jersey Style

Superstorm Sandy put a crimp in our Halloween plans. This was the second year in a row weather impacted Halloween in New Jersey. Last year it was snow.

Ashley was very excited about her costume this year. About a month ago she decided she wanted to be a witch. I asked Ashley what that meant (the past few years she has been creating her own costumes out of her dress up collection).

She pictured a black dress. So we went to Red, White and Blue in Hamilton, NJ and found a woman's black dress for $1.50. Ashley cut it up and added some "patches" to it from her sewing collection. The hat was found at Target in their bargain bin section. The scarf was half a yard of Halloween fabric on sale at Target. The hair was a wig loaned to us by a theater friend. She decided the costume really needed leg warmers and striped socks.

I took her to Little Acres for the annual pumpkin patch picture. She decided to get into the action by "flying." 

Trick or treating ... this is what makes it a Jersey-style Halloween. Due to the wide impact of Superstorm Sandy, Governor Chris Christie (R) declared trick or treating would be postponed until Monday, November 5. Other towns more severely impacted changed the date to November 16th, or a different date that better suited them.
Unfortunately this meant the Halloween party at school was cancelled, though they did hold Trunk or Treat. 

For the first time in years, we trick or treated on our side of the neighborhood. It was a real treat for me to see the kids on our side of the neighborhood and knock on our neighbors doors. We went with Ayla, her friend, Lina, and Ayla's brother Noam. Her sister, Myah, went trick or treating with her friends.

In the end, Ashley had a nice haul of her favorites. The candy swap with Ayla and Lina meant each kid left with their favorites. What more can you ask for on a holiday that is really just for the kids?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Willow Tree

We thought we were weathering Superstorm Sandy (October 29) nicely. We were home, with a full fridge of perishable goods, and internet access. What more could the 21st century family want?

About 8:30 PM Ashley and I were watching Downton Abbey on DVD in the basement, while Don was reading a book in the living room when suddenly he said "that doesn't sound good." 

We put on our shoes and went outside in the storm. In hindsight, that wasn't the best move, but that's what we did.

The weeping willow tree we planted in 2003 was on its side, brushing against the side of the house. Another year of growth and the tree would have been tall enough to cause some serious damage. In that regard, we consider ourselves lucky.

The next day we assessed the damage. It is amazing. The willow just uprooted and plopped on the ground next to it. During the storm I had visions of it breaking free and rolling through the neighborhood. Fortunately my imagination is more wild than reality.

Later that day, neighbor Jim Sapp came over with his chain saw to take care of the parts that were touching the house. Suddenly I felt as if I could take this tree down without a tree service.

In some ways, I wish I had kept the tree on its side. Ashley found it a lot of fun to climb and explore.

My stubborn streak kicked in, though. Over the next three days I used clippers to take care of the wispy parts, while the neighbor used his chain saw to take care of the trunk and the bigger branches. Don used a bow saw to take care of the medium-sized branches. Ashley helped out by dragging branches to the curb.

After Don took the bow saw to some branches, the tree began to right itself.

Jim came by with the chain saw one last time.

That's a lot of tree. Some of neighbors took some of their wood to cure and use in their fireplace next year. Seeing all this wood, and having weathered this storm, I've been tempted to talk to Don about installing a wood-burning stove or wood fireplace next year. Hopefully this is the last of the really big storms. No one in New Jersey is ready for another one.

In 2005

In 2009 with Ashley
April 2009