Sunday, September 28, 2008

When the Student Is Ready...

...the teacher will appear.

Or so the saying goes.

In my case, though, the teacher appeared this afternoon, through a good friend at church.

Last night, I posted in a state of a PMS, bad week at work, the world is a mess freakout. I was still in freakout, on the verge of tears mode when I got up and left for church and made the 40-minute drive. Today it was 40 minutes since I'm in the middle of a housesitting gig. I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts for breakfast and asked for a turkey sausage egg white flatbread, and got a vegetable one instead.

I was really feeling like I was living in the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Only in my case, it felt more like Kitten and Her Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Life.

So I went to church. A good friend of mine was presenting the service, and I didn't want to miss it. I was in the middle of sipping my iced tea and being lost in my state of neuroticism when she said something that immediately brought me back to earth:

"You are not your thoughts."

Okay, so if I'm not my thoughts, what the hell am I? How do I control the thoughts that so often have a way of wrapping themselves around my brain like tangled yarn?

What the hell am I, then? Why am I here?

I wanted to leave right after the service, as enjoyable as it was, but my car was blocked in because I couldn't find a proper parking space. Once again, another chapter in Kitten and Her Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Life.

I stayed for discussion. I wanted to leave after discussion, as enjoyable as it was, but the friend I had mentioned at the beginning of this post approached me and asked,

"Can I ask you a few questions?"

At least he approached me with a smile on his face. I was still annoyed, however, because I just wanted to go home and hide for the rest of the night. Well, I knew I had to get back to the housesitting gig and the dogs, but I needed to stop at my home, because I hadn't seen Mags and Gabs in two days and we all deserved time with each other.

During the service, one other idea that my friend had mentioned was, "If you need to talk to someone, don't be afraid to talk, no matter what's wrong."

Well, my friend had some questions for me, so I sat down, prepared to give him yes or no answers, and keep the conversation short, so I could see my furry friends.

I gave him answers, all right, but I didn't just nod and smile.

Instead, I spewed.

I went off about everything that was bothering me at the moment, how grumpy I was, and the general feeling of helplessness I felt with the world's problems. I then launched into my continuing struggles with the Catholic church, and telling him that I didn't know what to believe anymore.

"I just want concrete answers to my questions!" I moaned at one point. "I don't know what to believe anymore! Do I believe in God, a higher power, I don't know! How do I define it?"

My friend smiled. "Some questions don't have answers, you know."

"I have a lot of trouble with that fact."

"Have you ever tried living the questions?"

I frowned.

My friend smiled again. "Sometimes it's better to live the questions than it is to find the answers. Sometimes the search is more satisfying than the answer itself."

I sighed. "Sometimes I feel so naive compared to other people."

"Is that always a bad thing?"

"I think so. I've always associated naivete with either stupidity or a lack of awareness."

"Again, is that always a bad thing?"

What should have been a ten minute conversation turned out to be almost an hour. I really needed to talk to someone, anyone, about what was on my mind, since I was on the verge of tears all weekend long. But I was so glad that I had that conversation.

I am not my thoughts, but one thought has stayed with me all day.

Live the questions.

That's gonna be a hard one for me to wrap my mind around.

Who am I? What the hell am I doing here?

Is it possible to stay happy through the tough times?

Well, at least that question has a quick answer: Yes.

A friend of mine invited me over to her house for dinner, and her brother and sister-in-law joined us, accompanied by their two-year-old son. After dinner, the little boy was in a playful mood, and you couldn't help but smile as he played and clapped and giggled. I hung a spoon from my nose, played peekaboo with him, and had him imitate me as I touched my head, nose, cheeks and chin. We pretended that his little crocs were telephones, and we talked on the shoe phones for a little while.

There's nothing like a smiling, playful toddler to lift one's bad mood.

And now, I'm feeling quite content, thank you very much.

I guess I'm not the character in Kitten and Her Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Life anymore.

I'm gonna have to find a new title for my life.

Kitten's Guide to Living: Embrace the Questions!

Maybe my friend will co-author the book with me.

P.S. This post is in very bad need of editing, since it encompasses so many thoughts I had today, but I had to include them all. Hope you understand!

Clip of the Week: Part Two

Here's another great clip from The Electric Company. The ever so cool Morgan Freeman portrays Easy Reader, an iconic PBS character of the human variety.

This clip is ever so groovy, and Morgan Freeman remains the epitome of cool.

This song will remain in your head for the rest of the day.

P.S. I apologize for not italicizing the name of the TV show, but YouTube won't let me do that.

Clip of the Week: Part One

I couldn't decide between this and another clip, so I'm posting two. They are both from The Electric Company.

This one parodies The Six Million Dollar Man, another popular tv show of the 1970s.

"We can rebuild him; we have permission."

Clip #2 to follow soon.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Am Freaking Out

Usually all of the things I worry about have to deal with stuff that's going on intrapersonally. However, lately, I've been more worried about the stuff that's going on here in the United States:
  • We're in the financial crapper right now, or as a friend of mine says, "We're in the toilet, heads above water, and someone's about to flush."
  • When it comes to foreign policy, we're really low in the world's eyes right now.
  • Obama and McCain are still running neck and neck. The mere thought of McCain getting elected, possibly dying in office, and Sarah Palin being sworn in as President (hell, just the thought of her being VICE-President) are frightening me.

I have never been so scared for the future of this country. I realize that things are completely out of my control; after all, I'm not a congresswoman helping to work out a plan for the bailout, but I'm still freaking out.

I thought I had really gotten my life back together this year. Now this happens.

Will I ever get out from underneath? Will I ever stop being depressed about...well, everything?

Will I ever stop overreacting?

Bonus Clip of the Week!

Almost everyone I know who grew up on Sesame Street remembers this clip, and we can still recite it word for word...

I just love how the little girl struts down the street, chanting her shopping list.

We're Gonna Bring You The Power!

I was doing a little browsing through the iTunes store when I discovered that they carried two volumes of episodes of The Electric Company.

My childhood heart was absolutely delighted! The Electric Company was one of my favorite shows as a kid, and was the reason why my mother moved dinnertime from 5:30 to 6 PM. I never, ever, ever missed an episode, and was absolutely devistated when it left the airwaves.

So now I've downloaded a few episodes, and have spent a good portion of this rainy Saturday revisiting my childhood. As an adult, I'm amazed at the A-list talent they recruited for this show: Rita Moreno, Oscar winner. Bill Cosby, who had previously starred in I Spy on network television. And of course, who could forget Morgan Freeman as Easy Reader? You could never get that kind of talent to star on a PBS kids show today.

So right now I'm looking through some YouTube clips to add them to a playlist. One of them is definitely going to be next week's Clip of the Week; I haven't decided which one yet.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue being eight years old for a while. I wonder if iTunes sells old episodes of 3-2-1 Contact...

R.I.P.: Paul Newman

My sophomore year in college, I was entering the cafeteria with my friends Frank and Carolyn when our friend Jason bumped into us, lunch tray in hand, all excited about the news he was going to share:

"Paul Newman's here! He's talking by the salad bar with Father Kelley!"

Our eyes widened. "Paul Newman, really?" I asked.

"The real Paul Newman?" Frank queried.

Only Carolyn was puzzled by our excitement.

"Who's Paul Newman?" she asked.

It wouldn't take her long to find out. Paul Newman had donated $10 million to the Charles F. Dolan School of Business at Fairfield University. We all knew he lived in Westport, the next town over, and was a huge supporter of the Westport Country Playhouse.

And as we were getting lunch, there he was, in the flesh, chatting with Father Kelley, who was, at the time, our college's president.

He didn't attract too much attention, nor did he seek it. The hungry college students were so focused on their next meal that they didn't take the time to say hello. Then again, not many Fairfield students took time out of their day to talk to Father Kelley during one of his on-campus appearances, either.

Paul Newman looked good. He wore half rimmed glasses, which were laying low, near the tip of his nose, a white oxford shirt, and a beige cardigan with black dress pants and shoes. He was laughing with Father Kelley, and even from a distance, you could see the piercing blue eyes which helped make him so famous.

I must confess that I never have seen a Paul Newman movie, but I am more of a fan for his humanitarian efforts than anything else. He did so much for kids with cancer through his Hole in the Wall Gang charity, and all of the profits from his Newman's Own line went to charity.

Even though I didn't get closer to the man than five feet, I feel that I can say that I met a Hollywood legend in person.

I wonder how the Connecticut media will respond to this one.

My thoughts go out to Joanne Woodward, his widow, and their family.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Josh Groban at the 2008 Primetime Emmys

I have always loved Josh Groban, but after this performance, he's the MAN!!

Who knew Joshie had such a great sense of humor? :)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Family Guy at the 2007 Emmys

In tribute to tonight's Emmys, here's the best part of last year's ceremony--Brian and Stewie Griffin singing a tribute to the glories of television. Or as they say, "primetime swill."

They certainly got it right with this number.

Well done, Brian and Stewie. Well done.

This Post Was Brought to You By the Letter Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

For the past two weeks, I've had NO trouble falling asleep.

It's staying asleep that's the problem--something I've never had to deal with.

Lately I've woken up in the middle of the night, as if my eyes were a lamp set to a timer, and BING! I'm awake!

One night it was 3:01. The next night it was 3:46. The next night it was 3:43.

And one night, I slept all the way till 4:35 without incident! Whoopee! That's sleeping in for me!

I do manage to get back to sleep, but I have to toss and turn, and I don't fall back into that deep REM sleep. It's more like the nap variety.

Tonight, I'm desperate to fall asleep. So desperate that I'm willing to forego the Emmys (not like I watch that much TV to begin with, but I like to see who's presenting and what kind of tributes they make. Who am I kidding? It'll all be on YouTube or Google video tomorrow).

I moaned about my sleep issues to my mother, who suggested I take Benedryl before sleep. I don't like the idea of taking drugs to help me slumber, but again, I'm desperate.

At least I haven't felt cranky, weak, or fatigued.

Maybe I'm getting enough sleep.

But it would be nice to get more than four hours of rest.

Clip of the Week

I've dropped the word "variety" from my clips of the week, even though I'm still going to post variety clips quite often. However, I am interested in non-variety show clips, too, and this is one of them.

Anyone remember Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom? If you don't remember the show, you MUST remember their jingle:

Mutuaaaaaaaaaaaalllll of Ooooooooomahaaaaaaaa, good peeeeeeeeeeeople you can count on when the going's touuuuuuuuuugh.

I loved this show, and watched it every Sunday afternoon when I was a kid. I remember Marlin Perkins as the guy who was in the library at the beginning of the show, decked out in a suit and tie, pointing to a globe and telling us where the week's episode was filmed. I quite honestly don't remember ever seeing him outside of the library, or in any other segment of the show, for that matter.

We who grew up on this show remember that Jim Fowler did most of the dirty work--wrestling alligators, chasing lions, manhandling snakes--and Marlin Perkins would just sit back and watch.

However, I recently found a YouTube clip where Mr. Perkins was wrestling an anaconda. If I can find it again, I'll post it.

This clip features two of the openings to this classic show, which had the most relaxing, peaceful, soothing theme song in television history. Enjoy.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Basic Kettlebell Drills

Last night we did some swing drills and attempted to do some cleans. I still need a lot of practice.

All Hail the Kettlebell

Last night I attended my first fitness Meetup in Middletown. Our instructor had us use these weights called kettlebells. I had seen them before, briefly, on an infomercial while I was channel surfing, but I never watched the whole thing. Last night was the first time I ever saw a kettlebell in person.

Anyhoo, here's what a kettlebell looks like:



Most of their weights are metric. I used a 12 KG kettlebell last night. It gives you a great workout; my hamstrings are sore today, but my back is much worse. That's why I had to stop at the A&P on my way to work this morning; I was a hurtin'! (See my new Twitter section for details).
I just found a YouTube video with basic kettlebell drills. Post to come in five minutes.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Maggie Anniversary

Six years ago, on or near September 11th, I had the following AIM conversation with my best friend:

FRIEND: I'm getting another kitten.
ME: Awww...
FRIEND: I'm getting it from a woman at work. She's got two. Would you like the other one?
ME: Well...I don't know...
FRIEND: C'mon, remember when you took care of my cat a month ago? I picked her up and you started to cry when we left?
ME: Yeah...
FRIEND: You know you want a kitten.
ME: Sigh...lemme check with my landlord...

The thing is, I really did want a kitten. I grew up with cats and couldn't imagine my life without them. I threatened to take my parents' cat with me when I moved out; my parents threatened to call the cops and arrest me for catnapping if I did.

I was uneasy, though. Would I be able to afford a kitten? Could I provide it with enough love and affection, even though I wasn't at home during the day? Would it scratch the furniture? Did I have enough room in my one-bedroom apartment?

I checked with my landlord, though, and he said it was okay. A few days later, I met up with my best friend at his workplace to meet the kittens.

They were little grey, eight week old kittens. One had an all-grey face and a tiny, tiny white spot below her nose, and the other had a white face with a grey nose, and a little grey spot below the nose. They were both pacing in the carrier back and forth, not in any rush to get out. They were awfully cute.

We went back to my best friend's apartment, where we opened the carrier. He decided to take the kitten with the all-grey face, leaving me with the one with the white face. She was a little hesitant to leave the carrier, so I tried to beckon her out.

"Come on, Maggie, it's time to go home!"

My friend looked puzzled. "You already named her?"

I nodded. "She's named after my maternal grandmother. Her middle name, Leonora, comes from my paternal grandfather."

"You're gonna call her Maggie Leonora?"

"No, just Maggie."

I also thought Maggie was a cool name for a cat because of the Maggie the Cat character from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. But Maggie's name really did come from my grandparents.

I took Maggie home that night, and she had a little trouble being away from her sister for the first time. As I was sleeping, I remember turning over when I felt something pounce at the foot of the bed. Something with needles. Maggie saw my feet move under the covers and decided it was time to play. It was 2:45 in the morning, and I needed my beauty sleep. I decided to get up and feed her; I felt that it would keep her busy.

Then Maggie discovered her shadow. She went crazy, and then found her tail and started to chase it.

I fell back asleep--an hour before my alarm went off.

That stupid kitten was just as bad as an infant!

I went into work with bags under my eyes and puffiness around my lids. I mentioned the situation to a colleague, and he suggested putting a ticking clock near or on my bed. He said the ticking would remind Maggie of her mother's heartbeat.

The only ticking clock I had was the one that hung in the kitchen of my apartment. Its ticking was so loud I could hear it from my bedroom. (The same clock is now hanging in the bathroom of my condo, and I can still hear it ticking from my loft bedroom).

I took the clock down, and put it next to my pillow.

I slept very deeply that night, and also woke up to a new friend all cozy and cuddly against my side, laying her head against my cheek and purring deeply.

Maggie is excellent company. I just wish she were friendlier with people I have over; for some reason she hisses a lot at others, but she has really bonded with me. She's a real Mama's Cat.

I still love her, though, and am very happy my best friend convinced me to get a kitten.

Happy Maggie Anniversary!

I Survived School Picture Day

Today I got up earlier than usual to get ready for school picture day, a day I had been dreading all week. For me, school picture day really isn't as much about the outfit as it is about the hair. I have naturally curly hair which frizzes quite easily, and it never curls the same way twice. I don't have time to blow dry, and my hair dries out easily, so I just put in some leave in conditioner and some anti-frizz creme and I'm good to go.

Some mornings, however, I take out my MaxiGlide flat iron. It is the best investment I have ever made for my hair. Yesterday was one of those mornings. The nice thing about the MaxiGlide is that it takes me ten minutes to straighten my hair, versus almost half an hour with the blow dryer. My hair is never completely straight, though; I just do it enough to give it a nice wave, and it's under better control.

With Picture Day in mind, I spent extra time on the 'do this morning. I touched up my hair with the flat iron again, but it left it too straight. No body whatsoever. So I flipped my head over and sprayed my hair with the travel size can of Tresemme hair spray that I bought three years ago. (You can see now how much I use hair spray). Then it started to frizz, so I took a pump of anti-frizz creme and ran it through my strands.

I was somewhat satisfied, so I decided to put on my makeup. My hair started to frizz some more after I was done, so I worked a couple of small pumps of anti-frizz serum into my hair, and it finally looked good enough for me.

I know I should not have put as much product in my hair as I did, but I was desperate! It is Picture Day after all!

I taught one class, then had a break to go down to the auditorium for the dreaded event. Before I did, though, I powdered my nose, put on some lipstick, and asked if my teeth were white enough. (I was afraid the coffee would stain my teeth). I checked my outfit: beige shirt with grey pants, accessorized with gold hoops, tanzanite studs, and my trademark strand of pearls. No stains. I was ready.

This year we had to kneel down for our pictures; I don't know why. And we had to fold our arms in front of us on this little table. The whole thing was done in less than five seconds. It was a digital photo; the photographer said it was all right when he saw it. I was afraid I blinked; I always do. I can't tell you how many Olan Mills photos my parents have where I blinked or am squinting.

I don't know when I'm going to get the pictures back, but I just hope the result is good! Keep your fingers crossed; this one's going in the yearbook, whether I like it or not!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

School Picture Day Is Coming

Remember when you were a kid, and you had to get your school pictures taken? You showed up to school with a brand new haircut, brand new outfit--only to have your picture come out looking nothing like either you or your parents wanted to.

Then you went for retakes, along with the 50 or so other kids who also hated their pictures. Your retakes didn't turn out much better, either.

Well, Thursday is school picture day, and not only do the kids have to have their pictures taken, the staff does too.

It gets a lot worse when you get older.

I fuss more over picture day now than I did when I was a kid. How should I wear my hair? What sweater should I put on? How should I accessorize?

I got really nervous about picture day yesterday, when I went to the ladies' room and saw my reflection in the mirror.

I looked like crap.

I couldn't figure out what exactly it was at first. Was it my hair? Well, partly; it was humid and gross, and my curly, thick hair frizzed up, even in the air-conditioned comfort of my classroom. Was it the cut of my shirt? No, because I have a light blue shirt in the same style that looks good on me. Was it the horrid lighting in the ladies' room? Partly; there was awful florescent lighting in there, versus the nice, clean light in my condo that is much more flattering.

Was it my body? I am overweight, I'll be the first to admit, but I don't think of myself as a fat person. I don't let my weight define me, and I've never been mistreated (thankfully) for being overweight. But it wasn't my figure.

Finally, I got back to my desk and looked at my shirt sleeve. I realized what it was that made me look so horrible.

I was wearing a light mauve shirt that, in florescent light, looked Pepto Bismal pink.

It was not a flattering color on me.

Needless to say, I'm not wearing the shirt again.

Now it's back to the closet to see what other possibilities I have for Thursday. Wish me luck.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Repeat After Me, Kittens...

Oohhhhhhhhhhbaaaaaaaaammmmaaaaaaaaaa...Joooooooooooooe Biiiiiidennnnnnnnnnnn...nooo McCaaaaaaaainnnnnnnnnnnnnn...

Lots of blogs are doing their part to get the Democrats elected November 4th. I personally have campaigned for Obama, both as an individual and on behalf of the NEA, and am working with a small church group to figure out what else we can do.

Well, I've been chanting that mantra (long story as to how it came about), and I'm hoping that karma will help. One can't rely strictly on karma alone, I'm well aware of that, but in this election, EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS.

I find it strangely comforting. It quiets me down.

So please, do your part for the Obama campaign, each and every day, till November 4th. And keep on chanting!

Ooooooohhhhhhhbaaaaaaaaammmmmmmmaaaaaaaaa...Joooooooooeeeeeeeeee Biiiiiiiiiidennnnn...noooooooooo McCaaaaaaaaainnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn...

Seen at Rite Aid This Afternoon...

For some reason the Rite Aid I went to set up their family planning section at the end of the aisle where I found my facial cleansing cloths. As I walked to the checkout, I noticed this nestled among the pregnancy tests:

I am completely speechless about this, other than to say, "Have we as a society gone so low that we need a product such as this?"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Pumpkin Pie Looks Awesome!

I know I said I'd post the recipe tonight, but I'm postponing it for tomorrow because I have some great pics to show you of the first pie I ever made!


Here's the crust right after I rolled it and pressed it into the pan. I am so damn proud of this crust! This was the part of making the pie that made me the most nervous.

Here's the pie right after I poured the filling into the crust.

Here's the pie immediately after the oven timer went off and I pulled out the rack...

...and here's the finished product, all cooled off, ready to be wrapped and refrigerated.

My friend will receive this gift with a nice can of Reddi Whip.

Hmmm...this looks good enough to make me want pumpkin pie for breakfast...

The Pumpkin Pie Is In The Oven...

...and I must say, it looked pretty damn good.

The crust was a lot easier to make than I had anticipated. The key was to leave the dough just a little sticky before you rolled it. That way, when you roll it, it's not too difficult to do. The dough will also pick up the flour you sprinkle on the surface, which will make it easier to roll (it loses its stickiness), and then press into the pie pan.

One of the perks about being the only cook in my house is that I get to lick the bowl when I'm done. The filling's quite tasty. The Moosewood Cookbook recipe calls for ground ginger, and I think that's what made the difference.

I took pictures of both the crust and the pie before it went into the oven, and I'll take pictures of it when it comes out in about an hour.

I won't completely know, however, if it's a success until my friend tries it. I won't find that out till tomorrow!

I'm Baking My First Pie Today

A good friend of mine at work celebrated her 25th birthday over the weekend. As a present, I'm baking her a pumpkin pie--her favorite food. She has it for breakfast quite a bit; her grandmother told her that pumpkin is a vegetable, "and if it's a vegetable, it's healthy, so I can have pumpkin pie for breakfast."

Well, I can't argue with that one. I've occasionally had apple pie for breakfast myself; I don't have it every day, though, or else I'd weigh 300 pounds.

Anyhoo, I'm a little nervous because I've never made a pie before, and pumpkin is one of those fillings that can crack when you bake it (kinda like a cheesecake). I'm following the pumpkin pie recipe from The Moosewood Cookbook, so I should be okay.

To be honest, I'm more nervous about the crust than anything else. I've never made anything that requires you to roll out dough, and pie crust is easy to mess up. Too much flour, and you've got a tough crust. Too little flour, it doesn't hold up well.

So keep your fingers crossed, say a prayer to Betty Crocker, and wish me luck. I'm gonna need it.

P.S. If all turns out well, I'll post the recipe later tonight.

Tina Fey As Sarah Palin On SNL

As many predicted, Tina Fey made a cameo on the season premiere of SNL last night as Sarah Palin--and NAILED her role, right down to her hand gestures!

This was the best part of SNL last night. And honestly, if you were to put a photo of Tina Fey's Sarah Palin next to the real one, you couldn't tell them apart.

video

Variety Clip of the Week: The Garry Moore Show with George Gobel (4 of 4)

This is the final part of a 1961 Garry Moore Show with guest stars Diahann Carroll and George Gobel. Look for an early version of Carol Burnett's signature ear tug at the end.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday Night

I can't believe how lazy I was today.

I spent about an hour, broken up into spurts throughout the day, pimping out my Facebook. I also, in spurts, washed dishes and took a very, very long nap.

I really, really want to watch the SNL season premiere, but don't know if I can stay up that late.

Most of the things I wanted to get done today, didn't get done.

And you know what? I'm OK with it.

I'm OK with it in the sense I didn't spend a lot of time on Mah Johng today. However, I've just spent two lazy Saturdays in a row. I guarantee, however, there won't be a third, because I'm going to Dudley, Massachusetts with some people from my church for a workshop next weekend. And the weekend after that, I have a housesitting gig and won't be home.

I promise, Kittens, that tomorrow's entries won't be as boring as this one. What can I say? I had a boring day.

At least my entire life isn't all that dull.

Saturday Morning

First of all, if you read my Feedjit, you'll notice I've been on five times in a row. Trust me, I have a life; I just am having a lot of trouble getting my butt in gear today.

I went to bed sometime between 1:30 and 2:00 this morning and managed to physically rise from the couch at 9:30. I'm not quite fully awake, and I'm not hungry for breakfast, but I know that I need the energy if I want to go to the Y later on. I've been a slacker with the exercise lately.

Last night I attended a yoga class for the first time in years. I really enjoy yoga, but have never had the head space to get into a regular practice. That is, hopefully, until now. I enjoyed the poses, the balancing, the clearing of my mind, and just the regular relaxation of it all. I would love to make this a part of my Friday night routine. Happy hour be damned.

Today I've got nothing on the docket, other than correcting some papers. I really need to dust and vacuum, so I have got to make that a priority. Plus I have to go grocery shopping for the week, since I'm tired of eating the soy/bulgur wheat casserole I made a few days ago, even though it's pretty tasty.

I know that I can accomplish all of this and still have a weekend relatively low on stress.

That is, if I just get my butt in gear.

The M Word

In the past 18 months, I have had eight friends in my age group either break up with their long-term partners or get divorced. All of these relationships lasted under five years.

This only confuses me a hell of a lot more about the state of long-term relationships right now. Why is it that so many people my own age are experiencing this? Is this a social phenomenon? I've read about the so-called "starter marriages," which are similar to starter homes in the sense that one neither keeps the house nor the spouse for too long, and then people invest in something with more value. That's fine for a house, but not for a person!

However, when one examines these "starter marriages," there's a lot more going on beneath the surface. I've known people throughout my life who have had issues with their partners before they get married, and they have believed that marriage would solve all of their problems, that it was the great equalizer. They all admitted, after the fact, that they were wrong. The issues didn't go away, and if anything, marriage made the problems worse.

I don't understand why people invest thousands of dollars in one day of their lives to make a commitment that should last the rest of their lives--only to have it broken in less than five years. Lots of people go into a marriage hopeful and optimistic, that they'll live happily ever after, like in the movies. Well, I've never been married, but I've had enough life experience to know that fairy tales only exist in storybooks, and you can't get a frog to turn into a prince with a kiss.

I come from a family where long marriages are the norm. My parents have been married for 35 years, and almost all of their friends are still married, and have been for years. My parents have certainly had their disagreements and their issues; they have always worked things out, but I'm not sure how they did. I was never privy to what went on between just the two of them, and I feel it's inappropriate to ask what happened. Regardless, I think one of the reasons they're still together is that they've allowed each other to live their own lives, have their own friends, and be two separate individuals.

I'm afraid that, if I enter into a relationship, I may lose some of my individuality. I don't ever want to be so associated with another person that I become known as "KittenandJohn," as opposed to just "Kitten." I know that I will have to sacrifice some of my solitude to be with someone else, but I don't want to give it up entirely. I treasure my time alone, and sometimes, I feel that I'm better company with myself than with anyone else.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy attending weddings. As a little girl, I dreamed of my wedding, with the white dress, bridesmaids, flowers, and bouquet tossing. Sometimes I still daydream about getting married. But if I do, it'll be a simple, simple affair--probably a justice of the peace and a couple of witnesses. Nothing fancy.

I don't want to spend a lot of money on the ceremony, but I want to gain a lot from the return investment.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Variety Clip of the Week: Bonus Clip!

For SarahB: Renee Fleming counts with Muppets.

Seven Years Ago Today

I was only two weeks into my teaching career, when my principal pulled me and my colleague outside of our classrooms to tell us the horrible event that happened in New York earlier that morning...

9/11/01. A day that will live in infamy.

I honestly don't know how I got through the rest of the day. Much of my family lives in the Long Island-NYC Borough-Westchester County area, and I was worried about their safety. I also have some college friends who live in that area, and I was just as worried about them.

I remember driving back home to my apartment in New London, and there was hardly anyone on the road. I unlocked the door and immediately turned on the TV. Every single station had either suspended their broadcasting or was offering wall-to-wall coverage of the event. I had heard that the Twin Towers had collapsed after the planes had crashed into them, and I had to see the footage for myself. I really didn't want to, I was terrified to, but knew that I had to.

It was surreal. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The throngs of people racing across the Queensborough Bridge, running from the debris of the Twin Towers' collapse, people actually jumping from the top floors of the Twin Towers. So many emotions were pumping through my veins, too many to describe here.

I called every single member of my family, and reached as many friends as I could. Fortunately, everyone was accounted for.

Seven months after September 11th, a friend and I took the train down to New York and got tickets to see Ground Zero. You know the phrase "Silence is deafening?" You never heard so many people be silent in your entire life. My friend and I hardly spoke to each other on the train ride home.

One woman, who was visiting from Kansas, asked me how tall the Twin Towers were. At that very moment, a plane flew right above where they stood. It was eerie.

My parents had to drive down to Long Island the weekend after 9/11. As they were crossing the Throgs Neck Bridge, my mother looked at Manhattan, and saw the trails of smoke stream up from near Battery Park, where the Twin Towers once stood. My mother, who never cries, started weeping.

Whenever we drove down to visit family in New Jersey, we'd take the Turnpike, and my sister and I would gaze in awe at the Manhattan skyline--a skyline that still makes me a little sad every time I look at it. I'll always know that something's missing, and it's not just two skyscrapers--it's the lives of those innocent souls who went to work that Tuesday morning, not even thinking that it would possibly be their last day.

A week after 9/11, I found a photo of myself on the Ellis Island Ferry, posing with the skyline in the background. I put it up on the wall right next to my phone.

With all of this talk about "The War on Terror," there's a word that we're all misusing.

War.

You want to fight for something? Use violence! You want to defend yourself? Use your fists! That's the message we're sending to our future generations!

Is THAT the message you want to send to your children? Your grandchildren? The future human race?

Whatever happened to peace?

Don't mean to sound naive here, but it's something to think about.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

DVD Review: "The Carol Burnett Show," Vol. 3

This afternoon, right after I got home from work, I popped Volume 3 of my Carol Burnett Show subscription into my DVD player and was not disappointed in what I saw.

The first episode guest starred Carl Reiner, and opened with some cute Q&A questions from some youngsters in the audience. (Among them, "Is this a repeat show?" I love the way Carol handles all of the questions with such grace and aplomb). The first sketch featured Carol and Carl as a married couple trying to get approved for an insurance policy. The catch? Carol plays a very accident prone wife. You can just imagine the rest, all done in classic Burnett slapstick.

We follow with a semi-dramatic number, where Carol sings "Send in the Clowns," as a secretary in unrequited love with her boss, who is flying off to get married. Ahhh, interoffice romance...

We follow up with Carl Reiner as a marriage counselor, trying to mediate between Harvey Korman and his wife, Carol, who does an impersonation of Totie Fields, a comedienne from the 1960s and 1970s. I didn't know who Totie Fields was till today. Keep in mind, I'm 32 and The Carol Burnett Show aired its final episode three weeks after my second birthday, so there are a lot of 1970s pop culture figures I don't know about. So I went to good ol' YouTube, did a search, and came up with this clip, and this one, among others. The second one is a better representation of Carol's impersonation of Totie. I must say, Totie's pretty funny.

The sketch after this one is the funniest of the show. Carol plays a sassy supermarket checkout girl, and Harvey is her suffering customer, trying to score a date with the beautiful woman who's always hanging out at the grocery store. She's smacking gum, has the horn-rimmed glasses, and the teased blonde updo. It's classic.

Finally, the finale is a fabulous, fabulous number. Carol and the crew star as a Mexican acting troupe acting out the classic tale Little Red Riding Hood. Only here, it's La Caperucita Roja. Carol plays La Caperucita as Charo--or is it in reverse? Anyway, if I ever have three kids, I hope that my body is as fabulous as Carol's after she gave birth to three daughters. Her impression of Charo is amazing. And stay tuned for the very end; Carol sings part of her closing song in Spanish!

Next up is an episode with Steve Lawrence as the special guest. In the Q&A, Carol goes gaga because there's an actor from her favorite soap opera, All My Children, in the audience. I just don't understand why people go gaga over soap operas. The plots are unrealistic, everyone's sleeping with each other, and everyone is married 23 times to the same person. And what's with the constant soft-focus camera lens? Please explain, please!!!!

Anyhoo, the opening sketch features Carol and Harvey as married, overworked business executives who just can't find the time to have a simple cup of coffee. The same feeling kind of resonates today, with both overworked spouses and their families.

Steve Lawrence follows with a rendition of Cole Porter's "In the Still of the Night," accompanied on stage with the Peter Matz Orchestra, aka Carol's house band. I don't understand why Steve Lawrence didn't get more credit or recognition than he actually received; the man is an entertainer. The man can sing. And boy, does he have a voice.

Carol returns with both Vicki and Steve, as a woman who gets frustrated with her colleagues because they can figure out the answer to a riddle, and she can't. She gets even madder when her friends don't straight up tell her the answer. I myself got frustrated when I couldn't figure out the answer to the riddle. I'd google it now, but I'm too tired, and I'm in the middle of writing a post.

Then...comes comic gold. The first Tudball and Wiggins sketch. Oh, classic, classic, classic. Those are two iconic characters of television comedy.

The show finishes with a tribute to Universal studios, parodying pictures such as Earthquake and Rooster Cogburn. The most loving Universal tribute, however, comes for The Glenn Miller Story. Out of all of The Carol Burnett Show finales I've seen so far, this is my favorite. It's lovingly, thoughtfully, amazingly done. The Peter Matz Orchestra plays on stage in this one, and even plays the closing theme on stage. I'm so glad I have it on DVD.

So thanks again, Carol! Keep those DVDs coming!

5:27 A.M., 9/10/08

Yes, I am writing this in real time. I don't have much more time, since I have to continue getting ready for work.

I have already emptied the dishwasher, had breakfast, and made a cup of coffee.

I woke up from a really strange dream at 3:46 this morning and wasn't able to get back to sleep. I finally decided to get myself up at 5:02.

I already have a sense of accomplishment. I put away the dishes in the drainboard, and after I brush and wash, will put in a load of laundry.

I may not be a morning person, but I kinda like this feeling of getting things done in the A.M. I could possibly get used to this.

Please note the word possibly, Kittens, because this won't happen again tomorrow morning. If it does, you'll be the first to know.

Have a good day!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

DVD Review: "The Carol Burnett Show," Vol. 2

My new DVDs of The Carol Burnett Show arrived in the mail today. I saw the box in my mailbox and my heart leapt with joy. I got inside, ripped open the packaging, and couldn't wait to see what episodes I had received. Yeah, I was like a kid at Christmastime, but I didn't care. It was Carol, after all!

Volume 2 of the Collector's Edition features two episodes. The first one has guest stars Jack Weston and Ken Berry. The second one guest starred Rock Hudson and Steve Lawrence, who was a semi-regular during the show's run, especially during the eleventh season.

The DVD opened with Carol, Harvey and Tim, circa early this decade, talking about how the Q&A portion of the show came about--and it segwayed nicely into the first episode, which had a great Q&A with Carol talking to four Campfire Girls. There were a couple of other questions after that, but Carol's moment with these tweens was really precious. The girls gave her three Campfire Girl dolls, one for each of her daughters. Carol jokingly asked why she didn't get a fourth doll for herself.

The first sketch featured Carol with Jack Weston. I had never heard of Jack Weston until now, but apparently, he was quite the character actor in the 1970s. Anyhoo, Carol and Jack starred in a sketch about computer dating, playing two people who initially believe they don't have much in common--until they start talking passionately about world records. Carol plays a very innocent, naive character in this one, with short, curly hair, a cute red bow, and a Bob Mackie minidress in a floral pattern. (More on Bob Mackie later).

Following this sketch is a musical number with Ken Berry, whom I had previously known as Vint in Mama's Family, a show my sister and I watched religiously as we were growing up. Ken sings and dances to the song "It's Not Where You Start." He goes from being dressed in a graduation gown, to performing for the troops, to performing in Vegas. I had no idea he was such a song and dance man. I also had no idea that he was the spokesperson for the now-defunct Kinney Shoes chain. I found him to be very talented.

Next comes a sketch where poor Ken is on the operating table, anxiously awaiting his appendectomy. Harvey is the main surgeon, ready to operate, with Carol as his nurse--and his wife, who announces at that very moment that she wants a divorce. What follows is a true slapstick mixup of marital displeasure--and wait till you see who finally gets to perform Ken's operation. :)

We then move from the operating room to a fancy restaurant, where Jack Weston is watching a performance of Ethel "Herman"--and Carol does a brilliant job of impersonating the loudmouthed Broadway legend. Everything Miss Herman says is a line from a Cole Porter song--and she sings it loud and proud, gradually driving Mr. Weston to the brink of insanity.

Next comes a spoof of that classic tale, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Only here, it's Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. This sketch features all four regulars--Harvey, Vicki, Carol, and Lyle--in the story of "a man who not only turns to the woman he loves, but turns into the woman he loves."

This episode wraps with the number "Thou Must Do Thine Own Elizabethan Thing"--a clip which I actually posted a while back. I was delighted to see this clip on DVD. Yay!!

The next episode begins with a Tudball and Wiggins sketch. I absolutely loved Tim Conway as Tudball. (In the preview, Tim explains how he came up with the idea for this sketch; it's actually based on real life). Anyhoo, in this edition, Mrs. Wiggins is splitting up with her husband, and tells Mr. Tudball that she's going on a lunch date with a new guy--Rock Hudson's character, a millionaire who owns a chain of hardware stores. Tudball can't quite understand what Mr. Hudson sees in Mrs. Wiggins, but it's clear to see that Cupid shot his arrow hard enough that it left Rock's character blinded by love.

Steve Lawrence follows with a song from Rocky that I had never heard of. It was a nice song, and I enjoyed it. But I really enjoyed the outfit he wore in this number--dark brown leisure suit, collar turned up on his white shirt, and enough buttons opened up to expose some chest hair and the requisite 70s gold chain. Ahhh, 70s fashion. I love it!

After this little musical interlude, Carol and Rock appear as a married news anchor team, who reveal their feelings for each other through bitter exchanges of the news. Somehow broken marriages seem to be a common theme for many Carol Burnett Show sketches. Very interesting...

The episode ventures back to the silly as Harvey, Vicki, Carol, and Tim return for a recital number, where, in black tie, they perform a version of Glenn Miller's "In the Mood"--clucking like chickens. You've really got to see this one. It's hilarious.

In the penultimate sketch, Vicki and Harvey play a married couple that asks another couple, Steve and Carol, to be the guardians for their children. Again, here's a sketch that portrays the "warts" side of marriage, although much more outrageously than the fashion used in the Carol/Rock sketch earlier in this episode.

The finale is a tribute to the music of Jule Styne, where the cast and dancers portray sailors and their girlfriends in the 1940s. It's fun to watch everyone dance in this scene--and they dance remarkably well.

There were two things I especially appreciated in this DVD. One, is that this really made me realize how versatile Carol Burnett is as an actress. She is a freakin' chameleon. She goes from playing a sweet little innocent in the first Jack Weston sketch to a loudmouthed, outrageous Ethel Merman wannabe to a stunning Elizabethan wench. And her chameleon looks are due to the work of the second thing I appreciated: Bob Mackie's costume designs. Carol keeps saying that this man is a genius--he truly is. He really has an eye for how people should look in certain time periods. He really mastered the look of the 1940s in the Jule Styne finale, as well as the look of Elizabethan times. He also helped create a lot of characters just by the way they looked--one look at Mrs. Wiggins and you know she's a ditz. Bob Mackie didn't help create characters; he helped create icons.

Volume 3 also arrived today, but I won't have time to write about it, much less watch it, till later in the week. I did read the previews in the DVD sleeve, and they look really promising! Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

R.I.P.: My Coffee Maker

Yes, it's silly to write a post about a deceased kitchen appliance, but my coffee maker and I have been through a lot together! I first bought it 11 years ago, right before my senior year of college, when the Three D Bed and Bath in the Farmington Valley Mall was going out of business. It was a floor model Braun coffee pot, priced for immediate sale at $9.99.

It came to my dorm room with me, and I started brewing coffee as soon as the year opened. I never brewed the full pot, since I had a single my senior year, but I felt really grown up. However, I tired of drinking coffee rather quickly, and started using it less and less.

It came home with me when I moved back into my parents' house after graduation. It stayed packed in a box for the three years I lived there and got no usage.

It came with me to my first apartment and got a lot of use whenever I had company. My best friend tried making coffee with it, but wasn't used to the coffee makers with the paper filters, just the wire mesh ones. It took him twenty minutes to figure out why the coffee wouldn't drip from the basket. I didn't use it as much for myself, since I wasn't a coffee drinker at the time.

It came with me to my condo, and has been with me ever since. It's gotten more use in the past six months, as I have had to rely on a good caffeine jolt in the morning. It has helped tremendously.

And then the carafe, which was the original one to the coffee pot, shattered one day. I forget the circumstances, but was really annoyed that I had to find a new one. My parents gave me their spare, which was a 12-cup and was two cups too big. I found one of those so-called "universal" carafes at Goodwill for three bucks, and it was guaranteed to fit any coffee maker.

It didn't fit mine. Well, it barely fit; I just had to squeeze it in a certain way to brew, and take it out a certain way to pour.

Finally, in July, I found a small five-cup carafe at Goodwill. Two dollars. I bought it, washed it, and started to use it. It did the trick nicely.

Then last week, something happened with the spout at the end of the basket. It wasn't letting the coffee drip down. It would let it drip down if I jiggled the basket a bit, but I also ran the risk of getting grounds in my coffee. Yuck!

I thought I would just put up with this until the coffee maker died, then a friend of mine at church asked me if I would be interested in taking her old coffee maker off her hands, since she can't drink coffee anymore for health reasons.

The timing could not have been better.

My new coffee maker's a Black and Decker Home Cafe, one of those pod versions, that brews one cup at a time with a pressurized system. It makes a decent cup of coffee; I found it a little weak at first, but it was still okay to drink.

I still have my old coffee maker, though. It's at the top of my refrigerator right now. Maybe there's still a pot or two left in the old Braun...maybe I'll give it another chance this weekend. And if it works, I'll keep it and use it for company.

It's a family tradition to keep coffee makers for years. Ours seem to have sentimental value; my parents can't seem to part with their old perculator, circa 1972, and only use it for when they have company...

ARRGH!!!! I'm turning into my parents!!! HELLLLLLLLLLLLP!!!

How to Make Coffee

(NOTE: The following was originally published in my former cooking blog, Cooking With Kitten, on August 20, 2008).

At last count, there were four Dunkin Donuts shops in my town. A couple of weeks back, I learned that there is a fifth one being built. With the economy being what it is, Starbucks closing 600 stores, and people complaining about having little to no disposable income, it amazes me that there's another Dunkin Donuts being built. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a medium nonfat caramel latte--a lot--but when the price of said beverage was the equivalent of a gallon of gas, I had to rethink my spending habits. I wasn't buying a coffee every day, but enough to make a dent in my weekly budget.As I drove past the new DD under construction, I suddenly thought, "What if Americans have forgotten how to brew coffee? Is this the reason why people are buying so much of it, instead of making it themselves?"

Coffee isn't too difficult to make. Just follow this ratio: one tablespoon of coffee for every two cups of water. For example, if you want to brew six cups of coffee, use three tablespoons of coffee and six cups of water. It's that simple.

A coffee maker is a wise investment. You can find lots of inexpensive ones at Target or Walmart, or any big box store of your choice. (But PLEASE, support your local businesses whenever possible!) I have had my coffee maker for over eleven years, since I was a senior in college. You don't need a very fancy combo cappuccino/coffee/espresso maker. Just get your basic Mr. Coffee, Braun, or whatever, and you'll be okay.

My parents have made the coffee making process a part of their nighttime routine. After they finish supper, they put their paper filter in their coffee maker, load it up with their coffee, and pour the water in. Their coffee maker has a timer, so they set it for when they want their coffee ready.

As for me, I make the coffee making process a part of my bedtime routine. Before I brush my teeth, I prepare my coffee maker for the morning. Mine does not have a timer, but this doesn't matter to me. My kitchen is across from my bathroom, so I just put the coffee on before I head to the shower. Before I leave for work, I get my travel mug out, pour the coffee in, and put the cap on. I then take my lunch bag out of the fridge and I'm good to go.

If you've got leftover coffee, you have several storage options. My parents have a tall, insulated carafe; they pour the leftover morning coffee in it, and use the leftovers for their after dinner beverage. I don't own such a thing, so I pour my coffee in a second travel mug and throw it in the fridge. The next day, before I leave for work, I nuke the travel mug in the microwave.

I just read in this month's issue of Every Day With Rachael Ray that you can freeze your coffee like ice cubes. One reader suggested this; she makes a coffee smoothie for a mid afternoon pick up. She adds milk, the frozen coffee cubes, and some sugar free instant vanilla pudding. Yum! I need to try this, only I think I would at protein powder and flaxseed to bump up the nutritional content.

So that's how you make coffee. I am not an expert, however, on what brands of coffee to recommend, because, in all honesty, I am more of a tea person. I started drinking coffee steadily about a year ago; the older I get, the less of a morning person I am, and I need that java jolt in the AM more and more. I will say this, however: buy fresh beans, then grind them. You get better flavor that way.

I Heart My Kitchen Aid

(NOTE: This was originally published in my former cooking blog, Cooking With Kitten, on August 15, 2008. I've done a little bit of editing to the original post to include some background information on how I got to own one of my newest kitchen toys).

I was loafing around on Craigslist one afternoon when I typed in, just for the hell of it, "Kitchen Aid mixer." I had been coveting one for years, and had more or less gotten over not having the funds to purchase one (at $200 for a basic model, I couldn't really justify the price) when I found one for sale for $50 in Cromwell.

I really didn't need a stand mixer, since my hand mixer works just fine. However, $50 for a Kitchen Aid was a kitchen bargain I simply could not pass up. It's your basic white Kitchen Aid with the three attachments it comes with: a paddle, a whisk, and a dough hook. I bake a lot of bread during the fall and winter months, so I am especially eager to use the dough hook. It's a heavy sucker, and its weight is due to it's enormous motor, which gives it such fine speed and even rotation. I baked a cake last Saturday morning to test it out, and it came out beautifully. I used the paddle attachment, and it stirs the mix around nice and evenly. You do have to scrape down the sides of the bowl quite often, though. And it's not so easy to like a paddle beater when you're done. But I really liked the ability to walk around my kitchen while the mixer was mixing.

I heart my Kitchen Aid! It's not totally necessary to your cooking experiences, but if you can get one, get one! It's one of those gadgets that's really, really, really, REALLY nice to have!

Blueberries

(NOTE: This is from my now former cooking blog, Cooking With Kitten, and was originally published August 16, 2008).

With a lot of sadness, today was the end of blueberry season at Lyman Orchards. I got up early just so I could take advantage of whatever picking there was left, and I'm glad I did. I ended up with a little over five pounds of the plump, juicy berries. Some were so fat and juicy they looked like grapes.

Now I'm in the middle of an all-day project of freezing them for the winter. Freezing blueberries is easy, but can be time-consuming, depending on how many berries you pick. It's a two-step process:

1. Dump all of your berries on a cookie sheet. The berries must be in a single layer. Put it in the freezer for 3-4 hours.

2. When the blueberries are frozen, they should be as hard as marbles. Now is your chance to put them into freezer bags, and freeze them again. Work quickly, because blueberries defrost very quickly.

3. Make sure you label your freezer bags with the date that you froze them. Frozen blueberries can be good for up to a year.

Variety Clip of the Week: The Garry Moore Show with George Gobel (3 of 4)

Final part to come next week. This week, some sketches and songs affiliated with the year 1922, subject of this edition of "That Wonderful Year," the signature segment of "The Garry Moore Show."

The Bookkitten's iPod Playlist, Week of September 7, 2008

This is a little long to be a playlist, but rather, these are the tunes I listened to last night during a rather loooong session of Mah Jong Quest. (WARNING: do not download that game! It's way too addictive!)

This was the result, in case you're wondering, of just putting my library on shuffle. I get some of the best playlists that way.

1. "Closer to Free," the BoDeans
2. "Hey Baby," No Doubt & Bounty Killer
3. "Valerie," Steve Winwood
4. "Good Lovin'," the Rascals
5. "Everybody Has a Dream," Billy Joel
6. "Goodbye Earl," Dixie Chicks
7. "Over the Wall," Debbie Gibson
8. "Allegria," Gypsy Kings
9. "Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)," Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
10. "It's a Shame," the Spinners
11. "Lollipop," Mika
12. "Do You Believe in Magic?", Lovin' Spoonful
13. "Fidelity," Regina Spektor
14. "Run, Baby, Run," Sheryl Crow
15. "A Beautiful Morning," the Rascals
16. "This Used to Be My Playground," Madonna
17. "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You," John Lloyd Young (from "Jersey Boys")
18. "You Get What You Give," New Radicals
19. "Come and Get Your Love," Redbone
20. "Red Hot," Debbie Gibson
21. "Take a Chance on Me," ABBA
22. "Amazing Grace," Bill Anderson
23. "Hawaii Five-O," the Ventures
24. "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett
25. "Give it Away," Bill Anderson
26. "Say Goodbye to Hollywood," Billy Joel
27. "I'm the Only One," Melissa Etheridge
28. "Nothing," Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
29. "No Rain," Blind Melon
30. "Cool," Gwen Stefani
31. "Bandstand Boogie," Barry Manilow
32. "Made in England," Elton John
33. "West Side Story Overture," Leonard Bernstein
34. "Should've Been the One," Debbie Gibson
35. "Harper Valley P.T.A.," Jeannie C. Riley
36. "Montage Part 3: Gimme the Ball," Original Broadway Cast, "A Chorus Line"
37. "For Good," Idina Menzel & Kristin Chenowith (from "Wicked")
38. "I'm Only Me When I'm With You," Taylor Swift
39. "Wide Open Spaces," Dixie Chicks
40. "Drink With Me," Anthony Crivello (Highlights from "Les Miserables)
41. "Peaceful World," John Mellencamp & India.Arie
42. "Sign Your Name," Terence Trent D'Arby
43. "Bambeleo," Gypsy Kings
44. "Let's Get Together," Annette Funicello & Tommy Sands
45. "Bittersweet Symphony," the Verve
46. "Oh Sherrie," Steve Perry
47. "Back in the High Life Again," Steve Winwood
48. "Long Cool Woman," the Hollies
49. "Nobody Knows," the Tony Rich Project
50. "I Think We're Alone Now," Tiffany
51. "Everything's Just Wonderful," Lily Allen
52. "Have a Little Faith in Me," Joe Cocker
53. "Nothing's Gonna Change My Love for You," Glenn Medeiros

Again...it was a lllloooooonnnnnnngggg game of Mah Jong Quest!

The Ike and Hanna Revue, Act 2

I went to bed at 1:00 this morning. Kittens, don't ever download Mah Jong Quest from Yahoo! Games. It's too damn addictive, and each round can last for hours. As I went to bed, ready for some delicious, precious zzzzz's. I was so tired I didn't need to fall asleep to any television, just the sound of rain falling against the siding of my condo.

That's when the wind picked up. A lot.

I started to freak out. Keep in mind that Connecticut has not seen a major hurricane since Hurricane Bob in 1991. I completely forgot what it's like to be in a major wind storm. And there are trees behind my condo complex. I started wondering if my homeowner's policy was up to date. I immediately thought of Jane Redmont, who had a tree fall on her house only a week ago. As a result of the intermittent wind, rain, and worry, my sleep was not restful. My alarm went off at 6:45, and I got up and reset it for another 45 minutes.

(One word about my alarm clock: I've had it since high school, and I purposely broke the snooze button a long time ago so I wouldn't be tempted to keep pushing it whenever the alarm went off. I am not a morning person. I also put the alarm clock across from my bed, the theory being that if I had to get up out of bed and walk across the room to turn it off, I would be forced to start the day. Neither theory has been able to prevent me from sneaking in an extra fifteen minutes of snoozing in the morning).

Well, knowing I had to be at church at 9:30 for choir practice, as well as organizing coffee hour, I forced myself to rise at 7:30. When I walked to my car, I noticed...well, not much of anything. I was expecting to see twigs and branches on the ground, as well as huge puddles. But there wasn't anything. However, one area did get a soaking--the front seat of my car. I left the windows open, and the driver's seat was soaked when I got open. I didn't have time to change, so my jeans were drenched by the time I arrived at church.

At church, the storm showed its effects. It affected something electrical with the fire alarm, and it was going off when a fellow choir member arrived. Five minutes after I got there, the fire department arrived. Firemen were in the building for ten minutes, then we got the all clear. We don't know why the alarm went off, nor do we know why our security system didn't automatically call the fire department to notify them that the alarm went off. Fortunately, that was just a minor blip in the Homecoming service for the year. The service was great, and coffee hour was a hit. My friend baked danish, turnovers, and biscotti, and also brought veggies, hummus, and ranch dip. I brought fresh apples, peanut butter, and two kinds of fruit juice. This is what you get when you get two Italian girls to do coffee hour. We love teaming up to do stuff like this.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the Nutmeg State, Hanna made her presence known. Bethel had nearly seven inches of rain during the storm. Trees crashed through homes in Old Saybrook and Haddam, and many homes throughout the state were without power. If you want to read more about it, you can go here and read the account from our local CBS affiliate, WFSB Channel 3.

So Hanna is now gone and is history, but now the United States has Ike to worry about. He's now a Category 4 storm and has prompted evacuation of the Florida Keys. According to the National Hurricane Center, Ike's currently at the eastern tip of Cuba and is tracked to hit the Gulf Region soon. Satellite pictures of Ike show a well-defined eye; that's always an indicator, at least for me, that this is not a storm to mess with. It's already done some damage in Haiti. Ray Nagin, mayor of New Orleans, is worried, because he feels that not as many people will leave for Ike the way they left for Gustav.

And that's just the Atlantic hurricane zone. The Pacific is a different story. Right now the Pacific hurricane zone has Tropical Storm Lowell. Why don't we hear as much about Pacific hurricanes as Atlantic ones? Why isn't southern California as affected by them as much as Mexico is? Can someone answer these questions for me?

And so, this concludes the Ike and Hanna revue. Ike's going solo now; Hanna has now left.

(I know that's a cheesy way to end a post, but I couldn't think of anything else).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Ike and Hanna Revue

Tropical Storm Hanna has arrived. So far we in central Connecticut have had some steady, at times heavy, rain, but some folks in the Danbury area currently are under a tornado warning. Wind isn't scheduled to arrive till midnight.

The Zyrtec I took this morning did nothing for my allergies. Usually when there's a storm like this no amount of meds will do. As a result, I took a long nap around 5:30 ish and woke up about an hour ago. I'm feeling a little better, but am still wary.

The rain's picking up now. There's a little bowl outside, on my deck, that I placed there for collecting my water for tomorrow's Water Ingathering. I'll pick it up tomorrow morning and put some of it into a little container, then bring it to church.

I wonder how many churchgoers will steal my idea. Heh heh heh.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Ike is now heading to Cuba and is anticipated to make landfall in the Gulf Region by the end of next week. Sigh...they can't catch a break down there. I just hope the levees hold up again, the way they did for Gustav.

I've heard we have a levee in Middletown near the Connecticut River, but I have never seen evidence of it. I've never seen a levee on the Portland side of the river, or maybe I've never really paid attention. I'll have to check it out next time I'm on Route 9.

I'm really surprised people haven't prepared more for this tropical storm, save for those who live directly on the shoreline. I was at the A&P today, half expecting a run on bread and milk, and the shelves were fully stocked. The store was slightly more crowded today than usual, though, but I don't think it had anything to do with the impeding weather.

The TV stations didn't seem too panicked at first. This afternoon, while watching rain delay coverage of the US Open, there was no small radar screen in the upper right hand corner on WFSB, as is custom for bad weather. Nor was there anything on WVIT or WTNH. By 8:00, however, WVIT had a reporter in Stonington, and Brad Field was broadcasting the latest from the studio.

Meanwhile, on the cable news stations, Ike was the main focus. I'm surprised no one has made the quip, "We don't like Ike." Or any other quips for that matter. (I myself am proud of the clever title I gave this post).

I'll be back tomorrow with an account of Hanna's aftermath. I just hope not to lose power!

Waiting for Hanna

It's humid. My nose is running. The allergies are in full force. It can only mean one thing...

There's a storm a comin'...

My mother calls me "The Human Barometer"; when I was a kid my allergies were so bad that she always knew when weather would strike. And right now we're waiting for Tropical Storm Hanna to make her way to the northeast. She hit the Carolinas yesterday (I have to see if Jane R. is okay), and is due here mid-afternoon.

Some people would piss and moan that the first day of the weekend is crappy, but I'm welcoming the day inside. I have a lot to do: schoolwork, housecleaning, laundry, etc. But before the rain hits, I have to go to collect my water for the Water Ingathering service at church tomorrow. Most UU churches operate on a school year type schedule, and tomorrow is our first official service of the church year. The first service has a ceremony called the "Water Ingathering". It's when members of the parish bring water in from a place that has meaning to them (although a lot of it seems to come from the tap from home, if the stories I hear are to be believed), and they pour it all into a bowl. Our minister brings it home, boils it, purifies it, and freezes it, so whenever there are ceremonies during the year, this is the water we use.

So I have to drive over to Wadsworth Falls later. I figure that now, after five years of living in Middletown, it's safe to say that I've planted some nice deep roots here, and the Falls, for me, is the most important body of water here. (Well, there are others, like Crystal Lake, but I like the view of the Falls better).

Or maybe I can stand outside when Hanna comes and get rain from there.

Ooooohhhh...I like that idea better!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Weekend Plans and Some Decisions

Lots going on this weekend. Tomorrow night I scrapbook at the Crop for the Cure, a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, with two of my closest girlfriends. Am really looking forward to cropping, since I don't do it as much of it as I would like. I'm not sure what I will crop, since I just finished an album and I don't have too many photos organized.

Saturday we're scheduled to get a visit from Tropical Storm Hanna. Most of my day will be spent inside, anyway, since I'm helping a friend out with coffee hour at church on Sunday. I'm not sure what I'm making, since we keep playing phone tag with each other. The last time we tag teamed for coffee hour, I made a veggie platter, brought in fresh apples, and cheese and crackers. My friend did the baking; she's known at church for her delectable baked goodies. I hope to spend Saturday night with the new Carol Burnett DVDs I'm expecting in the mail any day now; my credit card got charged on Tuesday. I'll have reviews shortly afterwards; according to Feedjit, my Carol Burnett DVD review from last month has been getting a lot of hits, which makes me happy.

Sunday's our first church service of the year. I attend a Unitarian Universalist church, and our church year runs from September to June, much like the school calendar. We still have services during the summer, but these are very informal and not as well-attended as our regular services. After church I plan to tidy up the house some more (the part I didn't attend to on Saturday), and start a new book for my book club. Which reminds me, it's been a while since I've posted a book review; I hope to remedy that soon.

Now for the decisions part: I am discontinuing my cooking blog, and will move some of the posts from there to this one. I just didn't have enough time or things to say over at Cooking With Kitten, and the site wasn't getting enough hits, either. You're still going to get a lot of recipes here at this blog; in fact, the recipe section has proven to be the most popular section of this website.

I am still tired, and am still having trouble falling asleep. Once I'm in REM, however, I'm out cold. Last night I went to bed at 10 and didn't fall asleep till about 11:30. Just as I was about to get some shut-eye, a quick thunderstorm passed through the area, and then it all turned to regular rain. Fortunately, it was a light, gentle rain that helped lull me to sleep. I usually put the TV on to fall asleep, but my old standby, the Weather Channel, has been offering hurricane coverage 24/7, and I don't want to fall asleep to unpleasantries. And every other station had convention coverage, and I knew I would stay awake for that, but I wanted to make sleep a priority.

Just now I set up the coffee pot for tomorrow morning, but I turned the button on by accident. Now I have a pot of coffee ready to drink. I'm letting it cool off, filling my travel mug up, putting it in the fridge, and nuking it tomorrow. The coffee has been doing its job of waking me up, and keeping me up, during the day.

But right now, I really, really need to sleep! Tonight I'm trying the glass-of-milk-before-bed strategy. I just finished a tres delicious glass of Nature's Promise skim milk, and I'm starting to feel sleepy. Let's see how long it takes me tonight to get some shut-eye...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I've Decided to Go To Bed

I'm going to watch Sarah Palin's speech tomorrow, and read the text on the Internet. I just want a full eight hours sleep tonight.

I just took the night off to relax. Didn't do the dishes, didn't go to the Y like I planned, just relaxed and updated my iPod with my new playlists.

All in all, a very good un-birthday indeed.

Today Is My Half-Birthday

I didn't fully realize the occasion till I was driving from work last night and thought, "Heyyyy...six months older, and maybe a little wiser." I never celebrated my half-birthday, or my "un-birthday", as it is known in some families, but I thought I would mark the occasion somehow.

I ended up buying and eating a Friendly's Butterfinger sundae. Three scoops of layered vanilla ice cream, Butterfinger pieces, and caramelly goodness. It was very filling, and it has turned out to be my supper, given the number of calories that the damn thing has.

But it was good. Not good enough for me to buy again, but still good.

Now what shall I do for the rest of the evening? Well, I need to watch Sarah Palin's speech at the RNC tonight, but I really need to catch up on some sleep. I could take a nap, but then I'll be wide awake till 1 AM, and then waking up at 5:30 is not a good idea. I could go to bed early and watch the TV in my bedroom, but may fall asleep in the middle. I could watch the speech on the Internets tomorrow, but when?

I'll try to stay up. I hope I can!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Sarah Palin's Daughter Is Pregnant...

...and she should be left alone. Period.

Shame on those who say that Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign are using this for political gain. Shame on those who started the rumors that Governor Palin faked a pregnancy and that her five-month-old son is actually her daughter's. Shame on those who are going, "Tsk, tsk, poor thing, glamorizing teenage pregnancy."

LEAVE BRISTOL PALIN ALONE. She's got enough on her plate being five months pregnant. Now her mom's a candidate for Vice President of the United States, and I'm sure bloggers are going to scrutinize this the way the media is between coverage of Hurricane Gustav.

This is not one of those blogs that will judge, criticize, or berate such a situation that should remain out of the public eye as much as possible. Kudos to the Palin family, and both the Obama and McCain campaigns, for handling this with class and aplomb. Teenage pregnancy is an unfortunate situation, but what Bristol Palin needs most of all right now is love and support from her family, and the respect of the American media.

Now please, American media, no candids of a pregnant teenager in our tabloids or glossy magazines. I implore you once again, LEAVE BRISTOL PALIN ALONE!

And Now...Back to the Old Grind

Tomorrow the kids are returning to school, and with it comes the busyness that comes with every new school year--getting to know the kids, getting them organized for the year, and going through a lot of paperwork. So you may not hear from me for a bit.

Of course, every time I say that--save for when I am actually physically away from home and a computer--I end up blogging ferociously.

Soooo...let me amend this by saying, maybe you'll hear from me soon, and maybe you won't.

Ciao, kittens.

My Name is Kitten, and I Am Lame

Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame. I am lame.

I went to a party at a friend's house last night. A big bash, with lots o' barbecue, and a 200 inch screen he borrowed from work so we could play Wii in the backyard. I had been looking forward to it all week long.

I fell asleep on his couch at 10 PM. It's official, I am lame.

I ended up driving home at midnight, and when I got home an hour later, quickly changed into my pajamas and fell asleep within five minutes.

I remember when I was the first person to fall asleep at my own slumber parties, but I grew past that. And now, here I was, with only a glass of wine in my system, falling asleep at a party!

Sigh.

If anything, I'm grateful for the rest, for tomorrow, the students return, and I need to be at my spriteliest. We'll all still be a little sleepy, though; getting up at 5:30 AM is no picnic!

Now I must go. It's the last unofficial day of summer, and a wonderful, sunny day it is.

On that note, please keep your thoughts towards those who live in the Gulf Region. Hurricane Gustav is there as we speak, and if there's one thing they don't need right now, it's another storm.