Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Merry New Year

If you are able to read this, then give yourself a huge pat on the back. You made it through another year. That is a lot to be thankful for, since there's a large proportion of people who did not.

A few of the beautiful people who DID NOT make it, that standout for me: Michelle Young, Jenna Nielsen and her baby, Ethen.

Michelle Young was brutally murdered by a spineless coward, or maybe several cowards, in her home in November of 2006. She was beaten and her young daughter was left alone with her mother overnight. Her daughter was only two years old, which fortunately, is young enough (I hope) to forget spending the night wondering why her mother would not wake up. The unfortunate part is that she is also young enough to forget her beautiful mother. BTW, Michelle Young was pregnant. Oh yeah. And no one has been arrested, nor even remotely had a finger pointed at them, for her BRUTAL, SENSELESS murder.

Jenna Nielsen was also brutally murdered as she delivered newspapers on June 14, 2007. I was in Austin, TX at a conference when I read about the lily-livered fuck who killed an eight month old pregnant young, beautiful girl. On that day, Jenna and her infant son Ethen were gone forever, leaving behind her two sons, husband, and the rest of her family.

Sadly, we come to the end of 2007 without a single suspect for either of these callous murders. Why?

I know -- it must be similar to the 'needle in the haystack' puzzle...solving these murders. But I prefer to err on the side of optimism and find that idiots are easily found. If you're that much of ineffectual human being, then it should be fairly easy to find out who the fudge you are. Someone that feeble-minded would be too stupid to NOT leave his fingerprints everywhere. So why haven't we figured out who the fuck the pansy is? Well, are -- since we are dealing with two separate murders.

My hope for 2008 is that these two murders will be solved and the dumb-asses who committed these senseless murders will pay for the thoughtlessness behind their crimes.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Best Therapy

I love my stylist.

She's beautiful. She's young. She's creative. And she loves to play with my hair.

She is very confident in her abilities as a stylist. I have total trust in her. And she takes advantage of that and tries just a little something different each time I go there.

I me my wonderful stylist earlier this year. My previous, and very loved, stylist was no longer doing hair.

I loved my previous stylist because she is the only stylist I had met, at least five years ago, that would even _think_ about dying my dark brown hair blonde. She didn't blink an eye and I didn't believe it would happen and when we were finished, I had golden tresses within my brunette head.

I followed her when she left the salon she worked at with her now-ex-husband. When I was pregnant with Mi-Mi, she followed my request of having dyed black hair with blue highlights. You heard me, BLUE HIGHLIGHTS! I loved it. I was in my last trimester and had this freaky hair color.

She then went back to her 'day' job, which was an ER nurse. [Side note: See, some people actually have degrees and choose to do things they LOVE over money and power.] She was leaving the salon business but lucky me, she would continue to do my hair AT MY HOME! It was wonderful! We would have cheese and wine while we chatted and had my hair blonderized.

But alas, all good things must come to an end and she moved on and I was left behind.

But my BFF Amy was showing up with GREAT hair. She recommended her stylist to me. I was skeptical. Amy has naturally light hair...mine is not. And no one has been able to do blonde in my hair except MY STYLIST.

But Amy talked to her stylist, who recommended her daughter, who focuses more on long hair. So I took a chance and drove from the comfort of Raleigh into strange Apex.

My hair was in dire need of attention and The Magnificent One went into action. It was beautiful and it made me feel incredible.

When I asked for a change, she made a suggestion and out I came with black, blonde and red hair -- intermixed classically. All confidently done by The Magnificent One, who also LOVES her job. I'm jealous - I couldn't do this type of work because I am talentless and because, this young girl is smart enough to do something she likes for a living.

Anyway, I just saw her this past Friday. While she was blow-drying my hair, which is at the end of all the color and cut, she says 'I didn't tell you during, but I tried a new color on you, Cherry Red'. She says it with a sinister, but cocky, smirk. And I LOVE IT...I love the surprises she throws in...

It truly is the best therapy. Someone playing with my hair -- how intimate and trusting...and then voila! This person transforms an ordinary human into this amazing THING.

She agreed, when I told her how I felt like it was such great therapy, and said "It makes you feel like you can conquer anything."

Ultimate Fighting

I have recently acquired a sick attraction to the sport of Ultimate Fighting.

I credit it to one of my BFFs, who tuned me on to the Ultimate Fighter reality show that airs on Spike TV. I enthusiastically watched, what ends up to be, Season Six of the series.

Anyway, it is incredible that I would enjoy watching this stuff. I don't know if I enjoy it as much as it fascinates and horrifies me at the same time.

Ultimate Fighting, as most know, is a mix of wrestling and various martial arts. Opponents can "tap out", which literally means a series of taps to acknowledge defeat, or actually go into submission: passing out, or being knocked out, or having the ref stop the beating right before they get knocked out. It is a brutal sport, much like boxing.

And yet it fascinates me.

Maybe because the men are hot: shirtless, fit, cocky, tattooed, and not homophobic (they can't be holding and um, writhing around with each other the way they do). That could be one reason why it's so interesting to me...:-)

This past Saturday was a UF Championship bout with Matt Hughes, who was one of the Matt's on this season's Ultimate Fighter. The two Matts, Hughes and Matt Sera, were the coaches for two separate teams on the show. So seeing him in action (which I have seen in a rerun) was killer for me.

But it was a Pay-Per-View event and it was $40 bucks, which I wasn't _that_ interested in paying to watch. But while we were out and about at North Hills the other day, I noticed that The Fox and the Hound was going to broadcast the fight.

I was psyched! Then I saw what time it was starting...10 PM. What? I'm usually in my PJs at 10 PM! Do people really start their evenings that way? How do they stay awake? Can I bring my rugrats?

So, I dampered the notion of hanging out at a bar at 10PM watching a UFC fight. No matter - I'll get to see some reruns of it some day.

But a late Christmas gift is on its way to Tim (and me :-)). The Ultimate Fighter Season 1. I have a lot of catching up to do.

I ♡ (heart) Huckabee?

Of course not! How could I? I am a devout liberal.

But what made me go to his website was ammo. Ammo to prove to myself that I still cannot support the Republican party no matter what. They simply stand for basic issues that I cannot support:
- anti-abortion
- pro-Christian
- pro-war
- anti-homosexuality
-anti-religion-that-is-not-Christian-based
-anti-multi-cultural

I cannot support a party who cannot empathize outside of their surreal world.

I would like to think that I am "Politically non-denominational, but devout liberal" but I cannot put myself in the non-denominational when I am prejudiced against the Republicans. My stereotype? White, homophobic, 'men-are-leaders-and-women-will-never-be', rich (or at least, want to be), poor-is-a-choice, racist, pretend-to-be-Christian-but-accomplish-being-hypocrite, ignorant pigs, I mean, _men_. It is my opinion and very little has been accomplished to sway me otherwise.

I read a disturbing column in the latest issue of Independent Weekly (12-26-07 issue). Lisa Sorg reports that Huckabee has a connection to the International Association of Character Cities. Google them and go to their website. It reeks the cheese factor but I haven't discern too much from their website as I am getting from other sources. So, take this info for what it's worth and form your own biases. My own research had me review Huckabee's site (not with an open mind, mind you) and further in-grained my own biases against people like him.

So again, what I am about to write is MY OWN INTERPRETATION from many sources. YMMV.

First, Character Cities. From their website (IACC):
Who We Are and What We Do
The International Association of Character Cities (IACC) formed in 1998 with a twofold strategy: equipping families to build character and helping communities reinforce character among their citizens. IACC provides resources, training, contacts, and counsel to leaders who are committed to character development: in themselves, their families, and their communities. View the list of communities who have committed to developing character.

Character Cities were begat by Character First!, which was a program implemented by Tom Hill for Kimray, Inc. in Oklahoma. There are approximately 49 character qualities that employees were encouraged to follow. From the Character First! website, they look benign:
A visionary sees the big picture, is committed to growth, looks beyond problems to their root causes, and develops solutions for success.

An organizer visualizes final results and directs resources for the successful completion of goals.

A server sees and meets others' practical needs, frees them to accomplish their goals, and invests time and energy in their success.

A mediator is deeply loyal and compassionate, analyzing the benefits and problems of a given direction.

BUT these principles are based on what is the second thing that connects to Character Cities, and that is the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), formed by Bill Gothard.

Bill Gothard, 'at age 15, dedicated his life to help teenagers and their parents make wiser decisions following Christian principles'.

And from the IBLP website, this institute is dedicated to teaching, no wait, the word they use is training, people how to succeed by following God's principles found in Scripture.

And although the Character First! proclaims being a separate entity to IBLP, according to Sorg -- and other online articles -- Character Cities is merely a secular front for IBLP.

And so, Sorg's article brings the connection between Character Cities, Bill Gothard, and Huckabee, who has admitted to attending Bill Gothard's IBLP Basic Seminar. And again, through several sites articles, it appears that Huckabee is a follower of Gotthard.

Yikes. This scares me.

If you were like me and felt like we had some extreme religious fundamentalists come out and vote for dubya in the last election -- so that "we" could quash the same-sex marriage decisions happening across our nation -- then someone like Huckabee is just as bad, maybe even worse.

According to Sorg's article, one Character City visit she made had a Character City councilman state "There s no such thing as separation of church and state."

I went to Huckabee's campaign site. One of his issues is that his faith is his life and that he does not separate his faith from his personal and professional life.

Another statement is that faith gives strength when faced with injustice and motivates us to give our best for the "least of us". Exactly what does that mean? Who represents the "least of us"? You can go read it yourself on his website. He doesn't clarify. And although he states that he respects an 'honest atheist than a disingenuous believer', I am not convinced.

Other things he supports that I don't:

Strong anti-immigration views: opposes amnesty and sanctuaries and supports building the border wall, plus adding surveillance cameras around the wall. Eliminate the visa lottery system but will increase visas for highly-skilled and highly-educated applicants. How is that encouraging the american dream? Argue with me all you want, but I am opposed TO ALL OF THIS.

I don't think I have to even say what his stance is on abortion. Okay, I will say - he is pro-life in every sense of the word. He also opposes stem cell research.

And opposes same-sex marriage.

Believes in the war in Iraq and terror. No withdrawals anytime soon in our future, because that will signify defeat. I love this statement too:
Setting a timetable for withdrawal is a mistake. This country has never declared war until "a week from Wednesday," we have always declared war until victory.

Hmmm...when was our last victory in a war? Oh wait, I remember, back in 2003, when dubya was on the USS Abraham Lincoln. THE END OF THE IRAQI WAR.

And he supports NO gun control or accountability of any kind. Even assault weapons.

Everyone should own one of those. After all, it's not like they were created for killing people, hordes of 'em, during a war.

Seriously, why would anybody EXCEPT A TRAINED MILITARY MAN OR WOMAN, need an assault weapon?

So there you go. An anti-republican rant with propaganda by yours truly.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Bring on the Dogs!

I'm on the K9 mailing list. Sylvie Pleasant administers the list. I took basic dog training (AKA basic training for humans dog owners) with Brenna last year with her. She is awesome.

Anyway, a kindly mailing list reader did some research and posted a few of the places in the triangle that allow you to have your dogs with you.

One first hand experience was Moe Joe's on Glenwood Avenue. They were AWESOME. Brenna came with us and the kindly waiter brought her her own bowl of water with ice. It was a HOT HOT summer day. And our waiter always checked on her (and us). They get five stars for bringing us good food, good service, and good ice water, according to Brenna.

Here is the list of places in our area that also allow dogs. This is for outdoors only (or double-check with management about going indoors):

Triangle Restaurants that Allow Dogs

***Table Service***

Raleigh
Baja Burrito, Western Blvd, Raleigh
Bella Monica, Olde Raleigh Village, 3121-103 Edwards Mill Rd., Raleigh, NC
Buffalo's – Creedmore Rd
Champas – Brier Creek
Falls Tap Room - Falls of Neuse Rd
The Flying Saucer, 328 W. Morgan St. Raleigh
Gianni and Gaitano - Creedmore Rd
Lilly's Pizza – Glenwood Ave
Michael Dean's – Falls of Neuse Rd (not in winter)
Mojoe's – Glenwood Ave
Neomonde – Beryl Rd
North Ridge Pub – Falls of Neuse Rd
Players Retreat - Oberlin Rd
Qdoba, Edwards Mill Rd (outside dining)
Raleigh Times – Hargett St
Sadlack's, Hillsboro Street, Raleigh
Second City Grill – Lake Boone Trail
Tavola Rossa - Homewood Banks Dr (Sun 5p-9p only)
Village Draft House – Cameron Village

Durham
Foster's – Durham Chapel Hill Blvd
Tyler's Tap Room – American Tobacco District

Cary
Andy's – N. Harrison Ave
Hibernian Pub - Kildaire Farm Rd
Hot Point Cafe, Buck Jones Rd

Apex
Rudino's – W. Williams St (not in winter)

Hillsborough
Tupelo's – Churton St

Chapel Hill
Brixx, Chapel Hill, 501 Meadowmont Village Cir

***Counter Service***
Raleigh
Jason's Deli - Spring Forest Rd
Sadlack's Heroes - Hillsborough St

Multiple Locations
Goodberry's
Moe's
Panera Bread
Qdoba
Whole Foods

And Today's Weather...

Unbelievable. I ran today in a tank top. And I still sweat.

It's December, for buddha's sake! What is the deal? I loved it. And apparently I wasn't the only one as there were a lot of people out walking, running and riding. And everyone was happy. Lots of smiles and hellos exchanged.

My run went well too. I booked it to the end. I have Tim's GPS watch set up with a running assistant: I set my time and distance and I have a virtual partner which tells me whether I'm on target, ahead or behind. I used this feature on my Tuesday run so I did it again today.

What I found myself doing, however, is racing against my virtual partner. Why? I have no earthly idea, but I did. And I won. Well, not "won", but beat my virtual partner. I wasn't too happy that I felt that competitive, but at least the weather and the happy people made my day.

Movie Review: Enchanted

I took the girls to see this movie today. Even though it came out around Thanksgiving, the theater ended up filling up to the max.

I made sure that Tim and his brother (visiting us for Christmas) knew it was a 'chick flick' but there were quite a few dudes who were suckered into coming. I don't know if Tim and his brother would have liked it, but I sure did. My girls enjoyed it and the improbable happened with Mi-Mi: she sat still through the entire movie. Attentive.

The movie is cheesy sweet with a 21st century mixed with fantasy-fairy tale. It stars the magnificent Amy Adams, who was in that wonderful flick Junebug. Once I heard she was in it, which was just a few days ago, I knew I had to go see it.

Patrick Dempsey is in it too, which is okay. I actually like him now but disliked him a lot during the 80s. He plays a good leading man. He was good here but Adams definitely steals the show.

She is so effervescent and her sweetness in this movie softened even my stone cold heart. The story line is super sweet and just makes 'you' feel really good. It was great to see and even better with my beautiful little girls.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hope in Iowa

At least, that's what the articles I am reading are leading me to believe.

I believe in John Edwards. I care not a bit about his $400 haircut or his 10,000 square foot house. Those are not issues that I care about. It's _his_ hair and _his_ money.

What I care about is that he is dealing with people that I care about: the uninsured, the factory workers, BLUE COLLAR FOLKS who work harder than any of us white collar people. And yet, they make far less money, pay more for insurance, and according to some statistics, give more of their hard earned money back to charity than us office-meetings-meetings-meetings-keyboard-pushing folks -- who in my experience, feel like they are actually more worthy than the maid that cleans their house because they're too "busy" with their urban life to clean their own damn BIG ASS mansion.

Hey, I did that. Back in my youth. We had a house cleaner and it seemed, I had to pick up most of my shit before the cleaner came over. At some point, I became disgusted with my lack of responsibility for my own shit.

I am not criticizing EVERYONE that has help. We all need it. What I am criticizing is anyone who believes they are more worthy than the daycare teachers you drop your kids off to, the house cleaner and the lawn man. And the guy who does your dry cleaning and alterations, your nails, your hair, and the person who details your minivan or BMW. Your worldly goods make you the person you are, with the degree you barely earned because you spent most of your college days hungover and yet, earned a degree and NOW you believe that you've made it in life and the blue collar people just made some bad choices and are where they are and will remain that way, while you have succeeded.

If that is you, then YOU SUCK and you are LAME and LAZY and don't deserve any of your worldly goods because you don't appreciate the gift you have been given to be an asshole.

Do I digress? Not really, maybe slightly. This is what I think of dubya. A rich, silver spoon fed mouth, who cares nothing about our country or the young men and women who are dying for it. Most of them are dying because they DO BELIEVE in what they are doing...that's the sad part. I think they think their president cares.

And don't try to sway me because you will not. You will just make yourself more mad because I will retort and I will laugh at your stupidity for supporting such inaneness. I am most egotistically confident in my views.

So my vote and endorsement (see My Endorsement is for John Edwards.

While Oprah has tossed her hat in for Obama, Edwards has people like Doug Bishop pulling for him.

Who is Doug Bishop, you ask? He was a Maytag employee who was laid off in 2004 in Newton, Iowa. He is part of John Edwards campaign. This is who John Edwards is having relay his message - everyday Joe, or in this case, Doug.

Watch Doug Bishop.

So national attention is on Hilary and Obama. Fine. It's better than what we have on the conservative side. But neither one of them has spoke to me the way John Edwards has. But I am sticking to my guns and blowing off the statements that I am potentially wasting my fervor (and possible vote) on a man who has no chance. BAH HUMBUG.

At least I hope so. Here's watching Iowa closely and crossing my fingers and toes that the people who should be voting, will be out there voting for who they believe in, which I hope will be John Edwards.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

An Ideaal Vacation

We have our Spring Break vacation booked. All we need to do now is wait...for Spring Break...to get here...

Where are we going, you wonder?

Amsterdam.

You heard it. Amsterdam.

Why Amsterdam?

It was sheer hokey luck. After our vacation in the mountains this past Thanksgiving, Tim decided to look for something cool for New Year's.

And cool he found.

It is a houseboat - the Ideaal - located in the Docklands of Amsterdam. I have never been to Europe (I am an island girl) so the vision of my first trip being Amsterdam ON A FREAKING HOUSE BOAT was too good to pass up.

Of course, it was not available for New Year's Eve...at least not for 2008. So we checked our next availability and that ended up as CJ's Spring Break.

It was available, so we booked it and purchased tickets just a few weeks ago. We are stopping in London for about three days. I actually have an Aunt and cousins that have lived there almost their entire lives. We'll stop for a few days to stay with them. I haven't seen them in over 25 years. Wow.

I am psyched. CJ is already excited about seeing Anne Frank's house, although she is not too excited about the plane trip. She has recently acquired a weird 'freak out' about going anywhere. Too many recent disasters has freaked her out. She worries about tsunamis hitting us when we are at the beach, and now, who knows what could happen on the plane trip. I'm trying not to focus too much attention to it in hopes that she'll sense that it's not likely to happen. And yes, I know it _could_ happen but I'm not ready to explain statistics to her... Let's just go with the idea that we'll make it over there safely...and back home safely.

The Wait

Since I have been to many doctor offices in the past several months, I've started analyzing the publications available in waiting rooms. For the most part, they suck! Golf Digest, Parent, Child, Time, etc. This is not FUN reading material.

The worst would be the urologist I see - there are five magazines - the same issue - for Child and Highlights. I don't want to read either. Then there was another magazine I never heard of and two children's Bible stories hardback books. Even though I am not religious, I can blow off the religious paraphernalia so it doesn't really bother me to see it...but it does make me wonder about the office in a slightly suspicious way.

The best waiting areas for me would be my dentist and my stylist. My stylist's place probably wins the award for being the BEST place for reading material. Numerous issues of Star, US Weekly and People are readily available AND THEY ARE FROM THIS DECADE, in fact, from just yesterday and the weeks prior.

So this may not be your cup of tea, or IT IS and you are an 'in the closet' reader of the magazine.

I wouldn't necessarily say I _read_ the magazine. After all, it ain't Playboy so it doesn't have great articles... but I enjoy seeing pictures of the celebrities. And it's typically not a magazine I purchase (really) but it is intriguing to peruse. Most often, I get peeved at the amount of press given to these folks, especially the lame ones who I think don't deserve to be famous anymore (Lindsay Lohan, anyone?)...but that's just me.

My dentist explained to me, after telling her that I LOVED the stuff in the waiting room, that "they" (the medical professionals) are actually urged to have more sophisticated magazines, such as said Golf Digest, World News Report (whatever that's called), and similar boring (to me) material. But apparently, my dentist rebels against the 'norm and expected', which just makes me like her even more.

Stop or We'll Shoot!

There was a statement in the earlier articles of the San Francisco zoo tiger attack that when police approached the tiger, who was standing over one of the victims, they ordered her to "Stop!"

Really? Is that one of the things they train one to do as police officer? Order animals to "Stop!"...?

And now there is speculation that the tiger was taunted.

You know, if any of these kids taunted the tiger, shame on them, but they are at a zoo and well, I guess it is _somewhat_ safe to assume if you plan to taunt an animal, the zoo would be the best place to do it. Why? Because you should be able to get away with it!

Well, of course, unless you are really that much of a moron and cross over the "safe zones", i.e. the fences, moats, walls, WHATEVER is supposed to keep the beasts on the other side and you safe. But we probably won't ever know...

Nonetheless, the tiger got loose and one lesson to be learned is that yelling "Stop" does not appear to work with tigers.

Which reminds me of Chris Rock's comedy routine regarding tigers. Specifically, about the attack on Roy of Siegfried & Roy. The media relays the message that the tiger went crazy and attacked Roy.

Chris' routine is that the 'tiger didn't go crazy...the tiger went tiger. You know when that tiger went crazy? When he was riding around on a little bike with a hitler helmet on!'

One Brave Human

Or is she merely stupid?

Well, I think it's the former, when I recall [the former Pakistani Prime Minister] Benazir Bhutto's return to Pakistan back in October after her her self-imposed eight year exile.

When I read of her return, I thought: why would anyone want to come back to this? Why would you care? You are happy and somewhat safe in another country? Live your life, enjoy your family.

And then when she narrowly escaped death THE VERY DAY SHE CAME BACK, she didn't leave. She continued her campaign of democracy. And there were just as many brave Pakistanis showing up to support her.

That is FUCKING AMAZING.

Pakistan is not a country that comes first in my mind as a place to bring democracy. Why bother? But she did and I have to admire that. I don't know what was in her heart and soul, but it was strong enough to risk death to her, to her family (where she had already experienced the loss of her dad and at least one brother), and to the people who supported her.

It is unreal *and* surreal to think that there are still people in this world who have such passion for something...and not just something, but something like this -- risking your life for freedom? political democracy? Really???

It is an amazing statement of intense human emotion for a cause. I hope that is something I can have -- and maybe it's not for something as deep as what Bhutto has done, but seriously, how can you live life to the fullest without pursuing something you believe in...especially as she did.

I read a quote awhile back. I love quotes. I love funny ones and most of all, I love inspirational ones. The one I read influenced my philosophy of 'live life and be happy'. It is from Ralph Waldo Emerson and he states the following:

The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.

This, by far, applies to this great lady, Benazir Bhutto. I hope her legacy will provide strength to the people who believed in her, and especially to those who doubted her.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fall Girls

These are the girls from the Fall season of Girls on the Run. They are beautiful sweethearts.

This season was harder for me than the Spring season. My heart wanted to be in it as much as possible -- and it was -- but my stress levels from all my medical dilemmas and of course, my own family's hectic schedule just took a little bit of the edge of loving it as much as I should.

I spoke about my high blood pressure to the girls, as it was keeping me from running the half marathon I had been struggling to train for. The very next practice, the beautiful Ellie asked me, privately, if I was feeling better. Those moments are what I dream of when I'm out with these girls -- a true connection.

All of the girls -- fourteen of them -- completed the Reindeer Romp 5K this past December. And all of these girls, who went to different schools and started out as strangers to one another, bonded so strongly that they would be remiss if they are unable to keep in touch.

I won't be coaching in the Spring. When I am busy with my own schedule, I feel like I'm cheating the girls out of my time and attention. I'm going to miss it SO MUCH but I hope I can make time for it again VERY SOON.

In the meantime, I'll be on the sidelines as CJ goes for her second season of GOTR. I was her running buddy at the Reindeer Romp and had the most amazing time watching, and just participating, with her. I want to do that again next season.

Coming Out of the Ground

It looks like The Underground will be no more at the first of the year.

I wrote about The Underground in September (Come Underground) and while I explained I found the prices to high to eat here often, it is one of my favorite places. We've been dining here for close to three years, its entire life at this location.

It is not entirely "gone". In fact, it is moving to the second floor of Charlie Goodnight's. And it will change it's AWESOME and ORIGINAL name to The Grille at Goodnight's. Already, it has cheapened itself to mainstream with such an awfully plain name.

Let me first say, I WILL give support to their move. I don't want to dissuade anyone from giving it a try because if they will truly stay true to their philosophy in cooking, the food will be amazing.

BUT, my fear is this: they will lose the creativity and environment that they developed to whatever Goodnight's wants them to be. The big fish ate the little fish -- and the big fish isn't really hungry.

I have to correct myself, BTW. It is no longer Charlie Goodnight's. It is actually Goodnight's Comedy Club. If you attempt to hit www.charliegoodnights.com, it redirects you to, well, to appropriately named ticketbiscuit.com!

I know management changed awhile back and while I still venture to the comedy club for some great shows, the atmosphere -- to me -- has lost its buzz. No longer is that writing board behind the ticket desk, where the ticket dude writes your name in and you can see exactly where you'll be sitting...but now, it's just open seating...well, unless you eat at the restaurant on the second floor.

I have no earthly idea what its name is but Goodnight's wants to make sure you eat there. Tim and I always went to The Underground but on at least a couple of occasions, the ticket dudes go out of their way, ala car-salesman-style, to persuade patrons to the upstairs restaurant. It's so fake and I don't know if they get a cut of the profits, but it turns me off.

The second floor restaurant labels itself fine dining and I recall looking at their online menu a few times. Prices were very much in the fine dining range. BUT HOW CAN YOU BE A FINE DINING PLACE WHEN THE LOSERS THAT GO TO THE COMEDY CLUB ARE PLODDING UP THE STAIRS TO USE YOUR BATHROOM? To me, that's the deal breaker - you share a bathroom with the dregs that will plop a few dollars to hear some crass jokes and more dollars to get DRUNK.

Hey, I'm one of those folks so I'm not insulting just you.

I have never eaten there and ventured through the non-bathroom path of the restaurant. But from what I _can_ see, fine dining atmosphere it is NOT. Maybe the food is to die for, but I certainly have never seen or heard a recommendation to try this place. And it looks the same as it did eleven years ago, when I moved to Raleigh.

So does Goodnight's. I have not seen any changes or modifications to this place. Does it need it? Hell, I don't know but I just haven't seen much change since I started coming here -- well, except for the stage sign was pulled down (or something like that) and now, those greasy ticket sellers.

Oh, and BTW, they have a really intelligent way of buying tickets on-line. You buy them on-line, you print them out, you take them with you to the club, the line is long and you feel tres cool because you purchased ahead of time, but you find out that you got to get back into the long-ass line like everyone else to get your OTHER TICKET from the greasy ticket boys. That process is sooooo efficient it shouldn't piss anyone off!

So you can see, I am not impressed with this part of Goodnight's. There is no proof, other than booking some good acts sometimes, that they can provide a good user experience to their patrons. And since this is really the only comedy club in a mile radius, this may be why they can get a few good acts. Now, it is just a few because the rest of the year I see Killer Beaz and Tim Wilson on the venue.

Every business has a chance to change for the better. I hope that Goodnight's first step in that direction is this partnership with The Underground. How cool would it have been to leave them where they were and do something better with the top floor? Okay, maybe that's their plan but I read on RaleighFreePress (Old Bar to Reopen in January) that The Old Bar is coming back. Again, need to renew and improve what was The Old Bar. Keep it as a bar and don't serve food or serve GOOD FOOD.

Ahhhh, armchair business planning. Is that a sport?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day Run

I took an easy run around Lake Lynn today but what made these more special, than it being Christmas Day, was that I took my fat dog Brenna along.

Brenna is a lazy, lazy dog. We adopted her at 6 months old and she has changed very little, other than getting bigger and fatter. And all she eats is dog food!

But her favorite past time is to lay down and sleep. Of course, she wants to lay down with us and is most happy when she sees us getting ready for bed, or possibly, lying down for a nap. You can see in her face "oh boy! oh boy! oh boy! oh boy!" and then she finds a spot to settle in and lies down and then provides a big, soundly, sigh...a sigh of extreme contentment. It is quite amusing.

I decided to take her with me since I was going for a couple of miles and at a slow pace. She was excited and seemed to know _something_ was up other than the bathroom breaks we take her out for.

Once I started running, she sped walked next to me. And actually, it didn't even looking like SPEED, just a little more of a slightly fast walk. I hate to use the word FAST because she didn't look like she was moving quickly at all -- not that I was BUT I WAS RUNNING.

She did awesome and hung in there for two miles. She actually did get much slower towards the end and it looked more like me pulling her (there was no pulling though). She had her big ole tongue hanging out with the impression that she was done with this run.

So I decided I would walk the rest of the way home (I was shooting for two, so I was getting two in) and then suddenly, she kicked it in gear and WANTED TO RACE ME! She was humping it up a small slopey hill and I booked too. It was as if she knew we were on our way home and she was going to do whatever she could to make that happened FAST.

I hope to keep up a similar routine -- she seemed to enjoy it, even if she didn't feel like walking next to me. Plus, she doesn't seem so lazy after running...I mean, the sleeping is more deserved than usual.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas Eve

I hope those that read this enjoy their Christmas Eve, here in 2007.

If you're like me, you had some highs that were wonderful and make life worth more than you could ask for...

...and then the lows that stress you out to no end.

And everything in between is just noise...

But we've endured and the analogy that best fits life is that it IS an endurance 'sport'. It can hurt and you wonder if you'll make it to the end...and boy, is it hard.

But the goal, for me, is to get as close to the end as I can -- which means, for me, making this last as long as possible. I hope I can, as I hope for everyone else 'out there'.

CJ has been trying to sleep most of the day away. She wants Christmas morning to be here NOW. All day, she stares at the clock, wishing for it to hurry up. She even went to bed at 9:15 tonight -- normal bed time for her is 9:30 (hey, I'm a liberal) and holiday bed time is 10:30. She didn't resist and flew right into bed when I put Mi-Mi into bed. She's ready for Santa.

And while I embraced her enthusiasm and excitement, I thought to myself, please - don't hurry time!! I need to relish all of this and I prefer to do it s-l-o-w-l-y.

(A Partial) Book Review: Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, & Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany

Actually, it should read "(A Partially Read) Book Review..." but I can't fit anymore words into the title.

Defeated.

That's how I feel about this book. I could not finish it, or maybe, I would not finish it.

And I like this book! I have been relating the premise of this book to Tim and others. It is well written and the story is very interesting.

The author, Bill Buford (who I also could not fit into the title), works in the kitchen of Mario Batali's (AKA Molto Mario, from the Food Network) restaurant. He gives insight to how hard it is for a 'non-traditional' kitchen worker to work in an environment with people who are passionate about working within their roles, and then some.

I've always had respect for the restaurant business. Again, it's hard working people -- you can NOT not work hard in the restaurant business. So reading about it and learning about what they endure was pretty cool and extremely interesting.

And he (the author) visits Italy and writes about the people he meets and how they cook and what they cook.

Absolutely wonderful to read. He writes well and describes everything wonderfully.

So what went wrong? I couldn't make it past a quarter way through this book.

And it is a big book. Over 330 pages with small typeface.

And despite enjoying it, it was not enough to keep me focused. Maybe I had a case of "reader's block" and had to take a break somewhere -- but I don't buy that. I don't like not finishing a book. It feels like I've wussied out. But I am totally disengaged from resuming it and in fact, I have moved on.

I didn't like that this book stalled me, for whatever reason. I want to read one book after another. Kind of like a kindred spirit with a man-whore who wants to bang every woman he can, but for me, it's reading every book I can because, well, there just isn't enough time to read them all!

But it did stall me and maybe one day I will resume and finish it, but it is highly unlikely. It hasn't happened in the past and I just don't think I can pick it back up from where I left off.

But if you are curious, you should give it a try. I have nothing to complain about other than, perhaps, bad timing. The book is wonderfully written and so engaging. If you get a chance to read it, perhaps you'll come back and post your opinion...since I was unable to finish it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The World According To Me...

In other words, the best of 2007 according to me and what I want to claim as the best (categorically).

I love best of...lists and I love stating my opinion. So here's my list of The Best of 2007. No top ten lists...in the end, there can be only one...

Best Book: If You Want Me To Stay: A Novel by Michael Parker
My return to voracious reading was met with average reads. I was entertained often, disappointed rarely. I was fortunate to have a few good reads at the end of the year but this one stayed with me. A very haunting story, with characters that stuck with me -- even to this day. Michael Parker, I am reading more of your books in 2008 and I am looking forward to immersing myself into your prosodic world.

Best Album: Someday Soon by the Wells Family
This is a category that will soon be outdated as I rarely buy albums anymore. But that hasn't happened yet and this one, I suggest to everyone, you must buy in its entirety. And so far, you cannot get it off iTunes. This one blew me away. The harmonies are outrageous because they are so beautiful. The lyrics are fun and hill-billyish. But after listening to this, listening to my 'usuals' paled beyond belief. My favorite bands don't have a clue what music is compared to The Wells Family.

I'm keeping with the North Carolina connection too: The Wells Family are straight out of Clayton; Michael Parker (see Best Book above) is a Clinton native who teaches at UNCG.

Best Restaurant: Bar none - Hayes Barton Cafe. I have been fortunate to have many great places to eat at in Raleigh and, thankfully, my favorites are local. You'll have to review several posts to see my assertions and intimations to this place. I love it. My husband loves it. My kids know we love it and yet, will not experience it because they are way to young with insensitive taste buds to realize the amazing quality of their food. I have been fortunate to eat at this place so many times this year and every single time I go, I have had the utmost quality in service, the best food EVERY TIME, and I truly believe that these people work and serve from passion for this place. Or they're shooting crack into their food.

Favorite Movie Watched: This category is for any movie, regardless of when it was released. This year it would be The Whale Rider. Wow. I knew that this movie had rave reviews several years ago. I even had it from Netflix and held it for weeks and never watched it. But, while vacationing in Hilton Head this year, the villa had this available and we watched it. I was blown away. Wonderful story about New Zealand natives and amazing visuals. I cried and I loved it. This is what film-making should be about.

Favorite Movie Released this Year: That would definitely be ZOO. Well, as the media and the movie title claims, 300. Seriously, doesn't the title look like ZOO? The "3" looks like a cursive "Z" and for whatever reason, my brain cannot accept that it's 300 so I usually say out loud, "ZOO" and get some really confused looks. Whatever. I know what the hell I'm talking about and what I'm talking about is how freaking cool this movie was to watch. Yes, the dudes were hot too look at. And don't try to explain that it was the make-up. So what? You dudes love to stare at fake tits. But the movie was amazing to watch - the cinematography was stunning and the underdog story line, who would not root for 300 men to defeat an entire army like that?

This is what I can think of so far. If you have any picks, I'd like to hear them. If you can think of other categories, I'll take them and give my input on that...as if you care, but hey, it'll be fun!

Movie Review: I Am Legend

A Hollywood Flick.

Starring Mega-Hollywood star, Will Smith.

These two things are not really my cup of tea when contemplating a movie to GO OUT to. DVD or pay-per-view, sure, but to spend my quality time, on a date, without my kids, and picking out any flick to watch at a theatre? This 'genre' would not be my first choice.

But it was this past week when Tim and I had the opportunity to go out and have some one-on-one time. And let me say, it was well worth my time and money.

I had seen a preview of it shortly after Thanksgiving. Well, it was on the DVR, so I can't exactly say when I saw it BUT I had not heard of it. And the preview was kickin'.

Then I read a review...may be in the N&O? I can't recall where, but I read how it was a cross between Castaway and 28 Days.

I generally don't like to read reviews before I see a movie I want to see but I am assuming that at some point, I wasn't going to be able to see this movie. As Tim and I have discussed already, our dates rarely seem geared towards movies, which I would like to do more of (seeing movies, that is).

So apparently I read the review and became a little turned off. I don't like Castaway and to compare this (I Am Legend) was disappointing. *But* to add 28 Days to the mix, which is a movie I really like, *and* the idea of seeing zombies during the Christmas season -- come on! Why would anyone turn that down?

The movie was very good. It was thrilling and scary enough for me to cover my eyes -- it's not really covering as I leave my fingers wide open for me to see through them. I don't know why and have no explanation BUT this helps me feel 'safer'.

And there was several moments where my adrenaline kicked in and I sighed with resistance to seeing what may happen next.

And unlike what Tim said to our girls, I did NOT scream like a girl.

But I think I screamed once. And it probably did not come out loud enough since I was struck with fear.

The story line, for me, was decent for a hollywood movie. The zombies were scary and the explanation of how they were who they were was good enough to be believable to get by in the movie.

Will Smith was quite good in this movie...and he looked pretty darn good too. I could see that gray creeping up on his shaved head and face stubble...that boy is getting old like me.

The one thing I found a bit annoying was the blatant Ford advertising. The movie begins with him in a Ford GTO and then throughout, it's a Ford Escape. I really hate that they do this in Hollywood...it's so freaking obvious that it's just lame and cheesy and cheap-looking.

But other than that, I was very pleased with the entire movie...despite the reviews panning it.

Friday, December 21, 2007

My New Tattoo: Session 6

It has been three weeks since my last session. It felt a lot longer. My biweekly journeys to Durham were starting to feel foreign to me.

This session was a milestone. The head and neck of my dragon is now complete. It is gorgeous, to say the least. I will have pictures soon. It is too good not to show off.

This session was painful, although not as bad as the last few times. But it feels like my body is telling me 'hey, what the hell? i'm done with these needle sessions!". I was bleeding a lot this last session, as I apparently have the last two. Course, bleeding is part of the process, but it hasn't been as noticeable as before.

And to top it off, my skin looked red. So red that it appeared that my dragon had color in it. And for me, that's pretty bad as my skin is not overly sensitive to this stuff. At least in the previous five sessions, I have not shown such redness before. Kathryn mentioned there was a full moon coming so maybe it has something to do with that.

Will stopped in to check it out. Although I was 'fully' clothed, my pants were hanging way past the butt line. If I was on national TV, there would be blur where my ass line was. Whatever. I am getting accustomed to showing off the bod, although it would be nice to have a more kicking bod to show off. In due time...

I still have a ways to go. I have appointments through the end of January and only because her appointment book stops in January. I'll be back in February too. The next part will most likely be the tramp stamp area -- right above the butt line. This is already outlined but it has to be 'cleaned' up -- she fills in the outline, defining the lines more. I'm a bit wary because A) I have been very sensitive to the pain the last few sessions and 2) this is the section of my body that I had the most pain during and for several days after. I've been able to endure so far, but I wonder if I'll have a breaking point...?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Mountaineer

I don't know what happened. CJ has no real interest in sports -- either playing or watching. But, after our visit to Boone *and* the fact that her fourth grade teacher is an ASU graduate, she has suddenly become a mountaineer fan.

I promise you it has nothing to do with ASU's amazing three-peat. She has no idea about that and if she does, I believe she has no idea what that means...she has NEVER FOLLOWED ANY KIND OF SPORT BEFORE.

But last night, as she was flipping through channels, she stopped on a basketball game. Well, she passed a glimpse of the game and I heard her say "Wait" and went back to the basketball game. I was a little confused. Did she think this was a women's basketball game and she was looking for a particular player (we are going to a women's game in January and this has been discussed at her school's PE class)? She watched for about three minutes before she said, Oh, I thought Appalachian State was playing, then changed the channel.

Today, while browsing at the local Omega Sports store, she told me to be on the lookout for Appalachian State stuff. I thought she must be buying something for her teacher. We found some sweatshirts and she said "I want one for me!" Tim and I couldn't resist. Yes, it's close to Christmas but we caved -- and we had a coupon! So my little girl is running around the house with her Appalachian State University sweatshirt.

And I couldn't be prouder. :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Frustration

I've been under a bit of stress lately. I just have too much on my plate and I have to find a way to organize myself better. Work, GOTR, meetings, appointments, hobbies, chores. Hey, I'm no different than anyone else out there. I'm just documenting it for your viewing pleasure.

But what has frustrated me more than anything else is this: coughing.

You heard me: coughing. It starts back to the hypertension diagnosis. I was prescribed high blood pressure medicine (HBM) which in turn, caused a tickle in my throat. "Tickle" is SO AN UNDERSTATEMENT. The tickle does not go away and intensifies to a cough. The cough gets worse...into a fit. And after an agonizing two or so minutes, it will subside slowly and then I'm clearing my throat, hoping to calm the sensation.

Initially, I thought I had allergies. But at my next follow-up with my family doc, he asked if I had developed a cough to which I quickly replied "no". ???? Why would I say that, I wondered? I then remembered, hey, I *am* coughing and told him I had. He recommended Claritin which subsequently, did not work.

The cough continues.

I stopped the HBM while we were in the mountains. I was going through other medication withdrawals (remember head spins and zaps?). But now, five weeks later, I am STILL coughing. It's making me sick! Literally, I am now sick, so I have no clue if this has anything to do with being sick or repercussions from the HBM, or both.

The tickle is there and the fits continue. My throat hurts and is raw and now, I sound like someone on the end of a 1-900 number.

The worst part is that the coughing fits happen mostly when I'm around someone. If I try to suppress it, I start feeling like I'm choking and my eyes water...so now, it appears I am crying at whatever someone is saying. It's a no win for me.

And now, here I am,

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Positive Reinforcement

Tim and I have been struggling with scheduling issues: dropping kids off, picking kids up, running errands, appointments, etc. etc. It's manageable, but certainly harried.

With CJ, I get her to school 'on-time', which means, at the end of the drop off time allotment. Today, I was able to get her at the front of time allotment: 8:45AM. No big deal and for at least the first part of my day, I felt a great sense of serenity and calmness (this changes quickly by lunchtime).

When my harried day finally came to a calming 'end', CJ gave me a present. The note on the card said this:

"Thank you for finally being on time for school."

My first reaction was to get defensive: "I have been getting you there on time!" You know, selfishly thinking about the struggle I have to get out of the freaking house to get the kids where they need to be...and me too. But, she is so much like Tim in the sense that it's not on-time if you're not there early. She wants her time to settle and enjoy a few minutes of peace before her day begins, or so I envision.

I can tell you that from now on, I'll be getting her there exactly when she wants to be there...which is, according to her, on time.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Five Star Songs Times Two

I failed to add two songs to my Five Star Songs and rather than update that post, I'll just add the two here.

The Reason by The Wells Family. You must MUST listen to this version. It gives me chills because they sing it so beautifully, as well as play it so passionately. This song was meant for them to play. Here is a link to a sample on their website:

Life is Beautiful by Sixx:A.M. This is a great song by Nikki Sixx, the lust of my life. He's always been great at writing songs but this time, he has a new sound with his new band. James Michael has the perfect voice for this song. The song is based on the soundtrack for Sixx's book, which I plan to read very soon, titled The Heroin Diaries.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Five Star Songs

My songs of late have been a little on the soft side. It took awhile to get any song across these picky ears to get excited, but the last few weeks have give me a handful that I love. These will probably drop quicker than my bank account's balance, but nonetheless, for now, they make me HAPPY when I hear them:

Into the Ocean by Blue October - this band is an up-and-coming favorite, especially because they are sort of 'sick' and different and most especially, because they are fans of Zayra Alvarex (contestant on Rockstar Supernova who I fell in love with) and she sings backup on this song...

1234 by Feist - this band played live on the last new episode of Saturday Night Live, before the writer's strike. Again, they sounded amazing live and the song is just so perky and fun.

The Song of Shine and Shame by Nico Stai - okay, this is a funky, folksy one. I love it. It started out as a three star song and quickly ran to the top for me. Not my typical genre but I love this tune.

St. Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor by Ha Ha Tonka - another bluegrass song. Actually, I heard this one before I got turned on to The Wells Family. It's a great song, great lyrics, with a change from my typical likes.

Car Crash by Matt Nathanson - a top 100 song type song...you know, Dave Matthews genre but oh how I love it. I play this one loud in the minivan.

Breath In Breath Out by Mat Kearney - I am 99% sure I heard Mat Kearney sing this one live on G105 (I'm not ashamed to admit I like Bob and the Showgram) and he blew me away. I had a Mat Kearney song that I liked but just grew a tad weary of it (Undeniable), but I loved the words and its beat. I found this on iTunes and played a sample and just melted. This is wonderful and I hope I don't grow tired of it soon.

I'm on an 'easy-listening' phase right now. But no worries: I have Sevendust on my XM radio...saved and ready for me to savor.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhnnnn

This is how I felt after my third trip to the restaurant ãn.

I asked Tim last week, after noticing a discounted Monday special, if he would join me for lunch on Monday (today). I have had the pleasure of having lunch at this place two other times.

The first time, I had the crab cakes. I don't know what the menu item is called. I just know I had crab cakes. The menu item now lists "Taro Crab Cakes BLT". All I know is that when I had them, and to this day, I stand by my claim that they were the best crab cakes I have *ever* had...ever. And I've had a lot of crab cakes.

These were amazing. The only issue that I had was that I was still hungry after my wondrous meal. And it wasn't a cheap meal at $13 bucks. This is not a slam on ãn's lunch prices. This is a statement that I am not used to dining at these types of places for lunch (and you can assume the same for dinner).

The second time I went was just last month...again for lunch. This time, I ordered the Singapore noodles and the Mimosa rice. This was a much better amount of food. I was able to take some home. And again, out of this world. I savored the leftovers.

So I knew I had to have Tim try it and today he did. He had the Bento Box -- a good amount of varying foods. I had the Korean Scampi.

I was actually torn between the Korean Scampi and the Lemongrass Pork Tenderloin. But because of my previous two visits, I KNEW that ordering the seafood would be amazing. It was the first time I knew I "trusted" the chef and that I felt assured that my dish would be amazing.

Don't let me confuse you. I can order dishes at places that I know will come out good. These are usually dishes that I have had before and I KNOW what I will be getting.

This time, it was the element of surprise and excitement: knowing that the chef was trustworthy and just trying something else and being excited to find out what kind of flavors would be dancing in my mouth.

My dish consisted of six plump shrimp, drizzled with a chili sauce and a mound of jasmine rice in the middle of them. OUT OF THIS WORLD. The meal was divine. The veggies that accompanied my meal were amazing. The miso soup I had prior to my meal was amazing.

I tasted Tim's dish and his food was amazing. Tim was savoring every bit of his bento box (hmmmm?) and I was thrilled to see that he was just as much enthralled with the food at ãn as I was.

I probably won't dine here for dinner because, well, it's just out of my pay grade. But for an indulgence at lunch, it's worth the trip.

Friday, November 30, 2007

My New Tattoo: Session 5

Today Kathryn worked on the neck of the dragon. This consisted of work on a small portion of my ribs and most of my side.

Today was another day of pain.

Yes, it's a tattoo and it's painful, but I felt like it really really hurt today. Not as much as the last session (see Session 4 notes), but definitely no room for any pleasure of any kind whatsoever.

I endured but I did more wincing. I will probably look like a 50 year old when this is done, the creation of wrinkles I put on my face from all my grimacing.

Today Kathryn shaded the scales of the neck of the dragon. This is like having a pencil, crayon, marker, and filling in blobs of circles. So, imagine taking the pencil and swirling it around on paper -- a small little blob that you fill in. This is what Kathryn did WITH A NEEDLE. And it burns. And it hurts. Like having a scab on your leg, then taking a needle and scribbling on the scab.

Why do I endure this? The pain is nothing compared to the pleasure of looking at this magnificent, unique, piece of art on ME. You know, if you don't like tattoos or don't get it, I can't convince you of how amazingly cool and amazing it is to see this on your body.

And I'm getting more than I even imagined. I knew I wanted a dragon but to see Kathryn's version of it on me...wow.

The ironic thing is that people in the shop stop in and tell ME how beautiful it is. Like - hey, you have a beautiful tattoo. But the artist is right there drawing the amazing piece of work on me. *I'm* not the one that is supposed to say "Thank you for telling me my tattoo is amazing"...it should be "Tell Kathryn what a wonderful artist she is".

And she is. She is fitting this dragon on MY form. If she even could replicate this on another person, it would still be different because she would fit this on their form. She is truly an artist of the finest form. I am privileged to have her use me as a canvas.

Now, I enjoy two weeks of recovery and then the vicious cycle starts all over again.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Seven

I'll have to start with the end of Day Six. Last night we got snow! Yes indeed. Not flurries, but just a ton of snow blowing sideways and sticking to the deck. We were just so excited to finally see snow while we were here. The cherry on the top of a great ice cream sundae.

I also got a hold of Scooter's dad. I saw Scooter laying atop some wet towels (from Brenna's bath) right outside the door that none of us could stand it. We got a hold of the excited pup and got the number and I called. A fine gentleman who knew exactly where we were (at the top of Yellow Daisy Lane) and drove _his_ diesel truck up this way to get Scooter. Scooter knew who he was right away and jumped right into the back of the truck.

Today we hit Black Friday, unintentionally.

Uncle Phillip left for his plane trip back to Dallas and the rest of us hit downtown Boone again. Of all places, the Western Wear Store got me hooked so everyone abandoned us, except for me, the girls and Tim, our mountain driver.

Great, great store. Too full of merchandise. I'd take one thing out of a rack and there would be no way to put it back. I found about ten coats I could have walked away with happily *if* someone had said "Pick any ten coats and they're on me". I did walk away with one and that'll keep me happy for many years.

We then hit Old Navy, our one Black Friday store. I picked up a few things there and CJ decked herself out with some hip stuff. I picked up a nice pink coat for Brenna too.

It's been a blast. I have fallen for Boone, Valle Cruces, Banner Elk and Scooter. This has been one of the best vacations I've had ever. And to add family members into that, well you know, best vacation /= family. And I have had a blast with family.

I'll miss this place but I'm grateful to have been here and done that. Tomorrow, though, is our journey back into the high, fast, busy life we live everyday. I guess I'll just have to strive to make my high, fast, busy life less so and make more of my time feel like a vacation.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Six


Happy Thanksgiving!

We have had a great one here in these mountaintops. I didn't have to pick up a finger to do a thing -- Tim, Grandma, and Aunt Judy did all the cooking.

And boy, what great cooking they did. We started off with sausage gravy and biscuits.

Oh wait. I did pick up a finger to cook eggs for me, Judy and the girls. But that was nothing compared to the gravy we had. One of our favorites at home.

Anyway, the best part of the day...okay, the second best part of the day, because I have to say that the best part was sitting down to the Turkey Feast, but the SECOND BEST PART of the day was when our new dog friend paid us a visit.

I greeted Scooter (finally looked at his dog tag) with open paws. What a beautiful pup he is. That would be him in the picture on this post. And boy, that dog shore is sweeeet.

First thing he did was jump up on me and showed me that he trudged up the muddy mountainside to get to us.

I just KNEW Sccoter would come back. I'm sure I posted that the day I met Scooter, right? And he did. And he was so happy to see Toby and Brenna. They have been playing the entire day. Toby is worn-the-fudge out -- tongue just hanging out -- but he's having a blast.

And then there's one dog out there barking. I just knew it had to be Scooter but when I came out to see, it was my dog Brenna! You, the reader can't comprehend what a surprise that is because you're not around Brenna, but Brenna is not a barker. She's not deaf either, because she responds to us when we call her, or come home, or make any other kind of noise. She just does not bark. But around her new BF Scooter, she's a barking bitch.

So they played forever and when we finally let them in, Brenna stank like the stankiest dog ever to show up on earth. Which meant: I had to give her a bath.

I had my Sunday best on (for Thanksgiving dinner) so I decided my best bet was to strip the top half off and bathe her that way.

Brenna is not a small dog but fortunately, I've got some strength (hahaha)...in terms of being more beta to her gamma. No matter how hard I try to be the alpha dog, Tim seems to take that role when it comes to our dogs.

Anyhoo, I was able to get her rinsed...and the odor was horrendous. I have no idea what the heck she rolled in -- and I don't really want to know -- but god almighty it is nasty.

So I got the Suave Kid's Shampoo on her. And I could see her twist a little bit. You know, the precursor to the big shake? This was a great sign to grab the shower curtain and cover myself with it before the big shake happened, ala "300" style. I was successful 2 of the 7 times she did the big shake.

Whatever. So I'm going to smell like a wet dog. At least I'll have a cleaner dog who can stay indoors with us tonight. And she'll need to tonight, because it's going to snow. Well, a 20% chance of snow...

So I thought I had a good plan: strip the top half of clothing items off, cover myself with the shower curtain like it was a gladiator shield, and then just hurry the f**k up and get this dog rinsed and cleaned. Well, my shoes aren't waterproof and the tile in the bathroom gets slippery when wet so TWICE I almost fell into the tub of shitty water trying to get the damn dog cleaned. Which meant I strained my back, because if you've never bathed a dog in the bathtub, then you don't realize how hard it is on ye old back.

But I got it done and now she's as clean as a dirty whistle. And I had to get out of my Sunday best into post-turkey feast clothing. I guess it made for a good excuse to get into my comfy clothes.

But Scooter? Well, she's still right outside. She looks right inside at us, wagging her tail happily...waiting for anyone to come out and join her.

She played with CJ earlier. Mi-Mi came running into the house screaming for me. She said "Mommy! Come outside!! Scooter knows how to play fetch!" And sure enough, CJ would throw a stick and Scooter would retrieve it, then drop it right back in front of CJ. CJ would repeat this scenario over and over and over. I think at least 30 minutes.

Well, Scooter is right outside the window now, looking in, with that very stick sitting right between her legs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Five


Tim and I went for another run down the mountain today. Going down is not a problem. Coming back up, well, that's enough to make an old runner like me recite a few expletives.

It's not just going up. But going straight up for a long time. And I can't catch my breath. And I can't recover fast enough from the heavy breathing, so the only way to start running is just to run while you're catching your breath. Not 'fun' but still, a fun thing to do for someone who likes to run. :-) Oh, and Tim beat me both times we ran out here...bastard.

Toby, Joey and Judy's dog, joined us for our run, along with our dog Brenna. They both did really well, once they got 'ran over' by me a couple of times.

It's been great having Brenna out here. She's gotten along well with Toby, despite the fact that Toby is constantly trying to hump her (and he's fixed).

She's been off the leash and during our run, she ran alongside of us. Well, "run" is what I was doing. The dogs look like they're walking.

So we ran further out than last time and passed our new doggie friend, who was hooked up on a dog run. But he happily barked some hellos to us and I thought he was probably really jealous that he couldn't join us for our run.

On the way back, however, Toby and Brenna decided to pay our dog friend a visit. Dog friend's house, however, is on an upslope of the mountain, so it's not easy to get to them. Calling them back didn't work either. Well, Toby did come back. He's slightly older and more mature than Brenna, so he came right back to me and quite happily too. I don't think I can forget the look that dog had, running up the gravel path to me.

And by the way, this took approximately 10 minutes or so? And I was still trying to catch my breath, although we hadn't even started up the mountain.

Brenna would not come back. Not only did she not come back, she did not respond to Tim's calling. It's as if her name wasn't even Brenna!

So we left.

And Toby followed through and ran with us back up the mountain. He was a great dog, though, and made sure to keep his scent on every other tree limb to make sure Brenna could figure out how to get back. But she *is* a city dog, so I worried a little bit. Well, I worried about her _after_ I finished my run. During the run, there was little worrying to do except worrying about passing out since I wasn't getting any air!

She never came back on her own and so Tim and Joey got in the truck to go get her. Tim said as soon as they started down the hill, he could see over the 'cliff' of our path, to the really steep part of the road, our dog booking like crazy up the hill. So essentially, she was on her way back after her romp with our new dog friend.

We ventured back down the mountain that afternoon, this time in a motorized vehicle. I thought it would be nice to see what Banner Elk looked like. Judy joined Tim, me and the girls and we took 194 South to Banner Elk.

It's funny, when you think "south" you think, towards heat and Florida. You know, down. Not 194 South. This took us on a beautiful scenic route UP another part of a mountain. Way up. We just kept going up and up and up. We passed by a sign that said "bus stop ahead" and I wondered, where do the kids stand for the bus? There isn't even room for two vehicles to go both ways on that road, let alone a wide bus and kids. But somehow, these mountain people manage.

Tim was getting worried so he stopped to ask someone that had an art shop (when the mountain finally flattened out). He said the old man said, to the question of where Banner Elk was, "four miles ahead, you can't miss it". Four miles, up in these here mountains, feels like forty miles...

We found it, just like the old man said and boy, what a quaint, pretty mountain town Banner Elk is. We found a conglomerate of shops and restaurants and decided to park and make that our destination.

We ate at a cajun place - isn't that a hoot? A cajun place in these here mountains?

I opted for the most cajaun food of all, chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, cream gravy and fried green tomatoes. Wow. It was greasy and tasty. But I kept it in check and ate about half of it, which filled me like crazy.

We then roamed the hood and I found some good buys on interesting mountain stuff.

On our way back, we took a different route that was less treacherous. We passed through Beech and Sugar Mountain. We could see a lot of the homes and condos we can see from our own mountaintop.

We stopped at a world famous General Store in Valle Crucis. What a great store. The building is old and full of really great old and new stuff. Well, mostly new stuff, but it looks old. The floorboards tilt to one side and it's wide with another whole other story.

The picture on this post is one of the first things I saw when I walked in. And I almost left without picking up a slab of mountain butter...

Coach Bubba

I registered for Coach Bubba's 20km today.

I ran this race this past February. It was tough -- and at one point I thought I was going to pass out or hurl -- but I had determination to do it.

It was my first race of the year. But more importantly for me, it was my first race since August 12th, 2006, when I came down with my mysterious illness which kept me inactive and ill 24/7 for months.

So there's a sentimental attachment to this race for me (btw, I made the goal time I set for myself at Coach Bubba's).

So I'll run it again next year but this time, my goal will be to run and train a little easier. I am not going to attempt to beat my time from last year. In fact, once I sit down to figure out the numbers (and I've started because I have my training plan laid out), I'll pick out a goal time to finish and it will be very, very non-competitive.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Four


The day started with a beautiful cloudy scene across the mountains. The clouds envelope the mountains and makes it look like we're overlooking water.

It was grandma's birthday so what did she do for her birthday? She made breakfast. And boy, it was yummy. And the aroma of breakfast emanated throughout the cabin. It was wonderful.

Chocolate and biscuits was the specialty. Course, I never heard of this until I married Tim, but it is a common breakfast theme in my family now, so to have the homemade version was nice.

Then we ventured into the city of Boone. Or is it a town? Whatever it is, it is nice. I love Boone. We passed through Appalachian State and I can now see why students are attracted to this college and its town.

I had a blast shopping through Boone's downtown shops. I picked up a couple of hats - one stylish, the other, made for Boone-ites. I picked up some great outfits and best of all, a couple of bumper stickers:

The only Bush I trust is my own.

and

The truly educated NEVER GRADUATE.

After my shopping adventure, we hit a gem mine where CJ picked up a lot of colorful rocks.

The evening ended with another bonfire outside and me and Uncle Phillip had a nice time chatting away, just the two of us.

I tend to be more of a loner around family, so this is a bit unusual for me.

Time seems to move slow out here. And I like that. We're all just shocked, looking at the time, thinking it must be midnight and it ends up being 6:45.

Ahhhh...the mountain life...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Alternative Music

I have listed some of my very favorite albums in previous posts. I have mentioned that I am not like everyone else, who likes to say "I like a little bit of everything". NO, that does not bide with me. And even if it did, you know, it's kind of annoying to repeat this cliche. AND IF YOU DO IT, IT IS A CLICHE. EVERYONE SAYS THAT...let's try to be different, okay?

Whew. I got that off my chest.

My husband has taken a wrong turn somewhere. He's enjoying country. Besides the worst bands ever to hit air time on the radio, Creed and now Nickleback, country sits way up there on the list of things that brings blood to my ears.

However, he has brought home a CD that has blown me away.

It is not country.

It is, however, blue grass. And blue grass I can take. O Brother Where Art Thou brought to the 80 (of the 80/20 rule) some fine, fine music. And it sort of reminds me of music my dad enjoyed. Which technically, include country, but country then is not what country is now, IMO.

For instance, I love Johnny Cash. And I'm going to be cliche in another sense, I loved Johnny before Johnny became hip. Thank you Dad.

So, blue grass I can take and when Tim came home last weekend talking crazy about this great blue grass band he heard at Sam Ash, I didn't give it too much thought. I did think it was nice that he bought their CD, after hearing them sing in the store. But he was going on about their harmony and how great they sound. Again, I listened but not really.

On the road to our mountaing getaway, however, he had the CD playing. Wow. I was immediately blown away. Beautiful voices from the women and the harmony, wow. True art and you know, listening to this just really puts into perspective the true art form of music, lyrics, harmonizing with your group, and just being able to sing WELL (no disrespect, Britney).

The band is The Wells Family and the album is Someday Soon. A quick look at iTunes shows that it is not available there and on Amazon, well, it's nearly $30 bucks since it's not really 'out there' for the masses.

The album cover looks like something from the 60s. But when you hear the songs, I will be astounded if you aren't blown away.

Cry, Cry Darlin' will bring tears to your eyes, not because of any of the lyrics, but because her voice is too beautiful.

We listened to these songs several times during the drive. But once we were close to home, Tim sprung a doozy on me. The Wells Family covered The Reason (by Hoobastank) and wow! Again, just beautiful. I love the song by Hoobastank. The lyrics are pretty good. But to hear this version, I have found my new favorite version. Their version blows the original away.

I don't listen to just anything. This doesn't mean I have better taste than anyone else, but it does mean that it takes more than most folks to like something. The Wells Family gave, and still gives, me instant gratification.

Goose Me

Being in this little cabin in the sky is too cool. Literally.

There is not central heating (or AC, which means nothing to me right now) in this hacienda. There is one big beautiful fireplace and a propane wall heater to keep the main part of the cabin heated. There is nothing up in the loft and it is very warm up there (remember what rises, from science class?). There is a stand alone radiator in the bedroom and fortunately, a wall heater in the bathroom. But that's it and although this place isn't huge, it's still not a lot of heat compared to what technology in the 21st century has for heating households.

BUT, unbelievabley for a very cold-proned person like me, I haven't been complaining.

First, the weather has been really wonderful. It's been around the 50s in the day and then at night, it does dip down to the 30s.

But I would never know it.

On our most comfortable mountain bed has a nice goose down comforter. Hey, I have one of these at home too...but it sure doesn't feel like this one.

This one just sets on you. And it's heavy so it sets on you and doesn't move. It's like a big hug. And thus, total warmth because essentially, I am being held all night by this wonderful blanket.

I've gotta take a loan out and get me one of these things when I get back to Raleigh...

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Three


Today was a bit quiet on the frontier. Although, I think we all are getting a little cabin stir crazy.

It was cloudy...but in these here mountains, that means *we* are in the clouds.

And then there was rain. Like for 2 minutes - a total downpour - and then it stops. Or you can see it rain right next to where it's not raining. Pretty darn cool.

It was hard not having to go here and then get this and figure out what to do next. Just sitting and not having anywhere to go or anything to do, well, that *is* a vacation. Although, I must say, I did do some net stuff, but stuff I don't normally get to do...

Aunt Judy made a nice batch of chili that just created the most amazing aroma in this nice little cabin. A roasting fire, clouds surrounding us like "The Fog", and a big bowl of hot chili. Yummy.

Then we broke out the Wii and enjoyed watching everyone go crazy with it. It's been awhile since I've laughed so hard -- just tears running from my eyes...

And that's about it for today. Not much to write home about, but to have this many people together in one cabin...and not just people, but family? We're not the Cleavers, so it's pretty darn amazing that we are all enjoying ourselves...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day Two


Today we went down the mountain for supplies. You would have thought we were stocking up for a trip to an alaskan island that would soon have little access to the world. We not only got our Thanksgiving supplies, but we got more...

It was nice to see how the mountain path looked going down. It was just as scary. And then going back up was still daunting, but at least this time we knew where we were going. Tim admitted that the first time, there was no telling where 'the road' would take us...as in, keep trucking and then woops, we just went over the cliff. Or -- how the hell will I turn this truck around to get back down?

Anyway, the view this morning was amazing. I am not kidding: we are on top of a mountain. We can see Grandfather Mountain from here -- a big prominent and unique rock jutting from the top of another mountain in the distant.

It is quiet. And peaceful. And plain beautiful. And having family here, at least on the paternal side, makes it even more amazing.

I don't have internet access, but Tim does. Of course, he is always mobile, subscribing to Sprint wireless everywhere. I had written about three blog posts on my macbook and tried to figure out how to get those posts on Tim's machine so I could actually post them. I did get a wifi connection on the mac, but I had to stand on my head, with my left hand on the ground and even with that, I lost the connection because I took a breath...

So now, I'm doing Day Two on Tim's PC. My background music come courtesy of Tim's two brothers, who are playing drums and lead guitar. Tim is munching away; he was on the bass. So yes, Tim packed up every musical equipment he owns (sans the piano) and equipped our little cabin in the sky with it. It's pretty darn cool...

I did take a little run down the mountain. I dragged Tim along since I didn't want a bear to eat me.

It took approximately 6.26 minutes to run from the top of our mountain to the part that starts going uphill...not necessarily the bottom, but pretty close. That's about 1/3 of the time it takes to DRIVE down the mountain. And it was great! I could have ran longer but first, Tim thought it would take a really long time to go back up and two, I heard a dog barking further away that brought me to a slow halt (it's hard to abruptly stop coming from the top of a mountain).

I love dogs. I have almost always had dogs in my life. But I don't like OTHER dogs chasing me down while running or on a bike. As a child, I fell off my bike with a dog chasing me...luckily he didn't eat me, but I have been traumatized ever since.

So as soon as I heard the dog barking at us, I asked if the dog was running towards us. Tim said yes and I thought, mountain people aren't going to have electric fencing...

So I grabed Tim and tried to play calm. But as soon as I saw the dog - a pretty big, puppy-looking, yellow lab with a collar and tags (assuming rabies), I knew he wouldn't eat me.

And he didn't. In fact, the dog ran PAST us as we started back up the hill. Show off. He ran ahead and turned around like, what are we doing now?

And this dog was the prettiest dog. He ran with us all the way back up the hill, about 400 meters from our cabin when Tim said "Let's run back down". I thought he was yanking my chain...being sarcastic because, well, running back up did not take us 6.26 minutes.

So we turned around and went back down. Which felt GREAT. Running downhill, on a mountain, is AWESOME. I loved it and felt no pain -- except where my fresh tattoo burned like crazy -- and was having my runner's high. The dog had it too because he joined us. Tried to show us a shortcut by running straight down the side of the mountain, which is at a 89 degree angle, and then ran back up it. I did some dog interpretation "Come over here! Check out where I buried this one guy..." and then he ran back up the side of the mountain and I thought, here's where I buried the other guy...

So we made it back close to where we met the dog and turned around to go back up. The first 200 felt great and easy. Once I stopped for a walk break my legs turned to rubber...and my heart raced and my lungs were screaming.

But we did it and with a little more than 200 meters left to the cabin, Tim said let's kick it! Kick it was me running behind Tim trying as hard as possible to _appear_ as though I was kicking it, but running straight up, well, it's not that easy to go any faster than I did. But I didn't stop and I made it, using every last breath I had in me.

And the yellow lab was greeted by Toby, a male boxer from Uncle Joey's side of the family, and Brenna, of course, our boxer. Brenna actually took to our new running buddy, which was pretty funny because she's been running away from Toby since he got here. I would too if some dude kept trying to hump me. But the yellow lab seemed to be more 'her type'.

Man, I wish I had gotten a picture of that dog!

Tim and his brothers took him back home. I heard that the dog loved their company so much that when they drove off, in Tim's big ass truck, he ran and jumped into the bed of the truck.

This may not sound unusual, but *I* cannot even push myself up to sit on the back of the truck. It is about 4 feet off the ground. And the dog cleared it!

Philip, Tim's younger brother, eventually had to walk the dog back to his house and put him on a leash that was somewhere out there. I expect to see that dog back here soon though.

But day two has been amazing. I've become quite the fire whisperer - making sure the fireplace keeps going and the wood keeps a burning. Now don't think I am becoming someone who lives off the land. I still need my Harris Teeter and of course, my TV...

...and Tim's PC to get my blog going...

Book Review: The Almost Moon by Alice Siebold

I really, really loved The Lovely Bones, Alice Siebold's debut novel. Yes, it was a dark genre of storytelling, but what a great storyteller Siebold is. The book was mesmerizing and sad. But I was so taken with the narrator of the book, and of course, her creator. How could one person think of such a thing to write about?

Well, I was excited when I accidentally found that Siebold's second novel would be coming out (and it did). That would be this one, The Almost Moon.

I also thought of some of my best girlfriends, who I knew read or shared my enjoyment of The Lovely Bones and I contacted them, to see if they would be interested in forming a book club and use this second novel by Siebold as the first read for the club. All were in agreement, although a couple of them were wondering if they could make the time to do it. Nonetheless, in the end, we ended up with a full crew sans one (who is getting married) and afterwards, we are taking on another member.

But back to the review.

I thought it was again, another well-written book. I liked Siebold's dark side portrayed in the book again. I know it's been panned by critics, but the fact that she has a writing genre that is sad, depraved and without hollywood's happy story-lines (or endings) (which I compare to foreign movies, that are also a comparable art) is greatly admired by me.

It's hard to judge a novel that follows a hit, a UNIQUE one at that. Remember the movie The Sixth Sense? The movie, to this day, blows me away. M. Night Shyamalan was a genius to come up with that and he hasn't, according to the critics, mastered the artistry he did with The Sixth Sense. But he has stuck to his own thing and gives us pretty decent movies. I've enjoyed all of them, but probably not to the degree that I enjoyed The Sixth Sense. This is where I would agree with critics on The Almost Moon. But I did like it and found Siebold, again, full of talent in her storytelling.

This one, I must say, was unusual but in so many different ways than her first novel. The main character, Helen, well, she is mucked up. And she's mucked up because her mom and dad were. And the book takes the reader from the present, to the past, and back to the present. We really get to know Helen and how she became who she became. We want to scream at her and ask her what the hell is she doing? But we, at least ME, keep reading to find out what she's doing next.

I enjoyed her book despite her having panned reviews. I also was delighted, that after ordering a book off Amazon's marketplace, I received what appears to be a signed copy of her book, in paperback (which is not available as of today), aimed at a preview for, I am assuming, reviewers.

Anyway, I look forward to reading more from Siebold. She's my M. Night Shyamalan of novels.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hilltop Hideaway: Day One


We are spending our Thanksgiving in the mountains this year. Tim picked out a cabin back during the summer and boy, did he pick a great one.

We are in Banner Elk, NC, just a hop, skip and a long ride straight to the top of a meandering, narrow, leaf-covered, gravel path.

Tim loaded up his F350 with everything but the kitchen sink. The drive from Raleigh was nice. Seeing all the colors of the leaves on the trees – mah-veh-lus. Who said the drought caused our trees to not have a beautiful color change this year?? (Hint: the brilliance of meteorologists).

Anyway, once we got closer to Boone, I started describing the surroundings to the girls. "Look at the mountain house", "Look at the mountain car", "Look at the mountain rock". When I saw a few pretty black cows, one which was black and white, I said "Look at the mountain animals" to which Mi-Mi promptly replied "Ooooh! Pandas!" When we passed some horses, nicely covered with those blue blankets, or 'horse jackets', Mi-Mi said, a bit silently, "look at the reindeers".

Boone is really beautiful. The buildings all look very mountain-like. Wendy's is in a building that looks like it belongs in the Swiss Alps. We still didn't stop there to eat, but it looked much better here than it does in Raleigh.

We wanted to grab some food to-go and take with us to the cabin. I wanted something local and by luck, one of the landmarks in our written directions to the cabin was The Ham Shoppe. Literally, this deli is at the corner of an intersection. One could make a right turn onto the road, or make a deeper sharper right turn and ta-da! You're at The Ham Shoppe!

Such a quaint little building. We got some looks from a couple of folks...maybe locals, I can't tell yet. They looked normal. But, I'm not sure if you know how hard it is to park an F350, but worse, there ain't much room between the deli and the road.

I loved the place immediately. I am NOT a sandwich person. But I fell in love with this place upon entering. A nice young girl explained the 'menu', which is pick your own sandwich: make your own by selecting the things you want, or selecting a custom sandwich, which may be hot or cold. The girls picked their own and I had to decide among the special selections they have on their 'cold' menu. Here are a couple of their signature sandwiches, in this hick mountain town:

Valle Special – Lean roast beef topped with Swiss cheese, fresh spinach, tomato, crisp bacon, and our secret cheese spread.

The Hawksnest – Piled high with our honey baked ham, spicy capicolla and smoked provolone with mayo, fresh lettuce, tomato, red onion and our blend of oil and vinegar.

I opted for the Valle Bleu, which was turkey breast topped with crisp bacon, fresh spinach, tomato and our secret blue cheese spread. I chose pumpernickel for my bread of choice. Wow! This was the best sandwich I have ever had. Fresh ingredients was a fact – the juiciest tomato slices and the greenest, cleanest spinach I've ever seen between two slices of bread.

While we were ordering, an elderly man came up to chat with the kids. I asked him, as I perused the side dishes, if he recommended anything. He said he recommended them all because they're all made fresh by his wife and her own recipes. I couldn't resist that statement and tried the pasta salad. Again, really well-made. Not sweet, not tart and I could see fresh dill in it. Perfecto. I also grabbed a couple of ginormous brownies. Well, one is a fudge brownie and the other is a magic square. Something with a graham crust, melted chocolate chips, and coconut topping. I can't wait to try it.

So if you are ever in the area of Boone, or more specifically, Valle Cruces, NC, you MUST pull a sharp right turn onto the gravel road that sits in front of The Ham Shoppe.

Once we grabbed our sandwiches, we were off to our cabin in the sky. And I mean, WAY UP TO THE TOP.

I had to lie to CJ and state that the cabin was really not at the top. She got extremely scared. And so did I, but being the freaking mother, I had to act like e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g i-s h-u-n-k-y—d-o-r-e-y.

The road to this hideaway is pretty freaky. And we were instructed to follow the road to the end, which is the TOP of whatever this is (a mountain, perhaps?). And the road is not a road, but a very thin path that looks smaller than the trails that I run at Umstead. And yet, I'm in a fat F350 on this road that would freak me out if I were running on it – straight down on one side and I'm not really sure what was on the other side.

On top of a thin road, it is very windey (how is that spelled? is it even a word? windey, like winding, not like whoosh). And the turn radius of this truck is na-da. At one point, the gravel was covered, and I mean COVERED by the fallen leaves, so it almost looks like the path ended.

So I was worried how we were going to get back down if we somehow made a wrong turn.
But we made it and being on top is like, well, being on top of the world. GORGEOUS, breathtaking, serene. Just plain smoking beautiful. I've got a lot of pictures that I hope to add soon.

For now, it's peaceful in this rustic abode. The radiator is going. It's not too cold yet. The fireplace is crackling and I'm blogging on my macbook with the most amazing views surrounding me.

I just hope no bears come to visit.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My New Tattoo: Session 4

I have a new face from all the wincing I did at this session. This one, by far, has been the most painful experience I've ever had. Maybe child birth is beyond that but since the pain is still fresh in my memory, mainly because I can feel it every second of the day, this one is right up there.

This session first involved another fitting. The drawing she did for this one are of lava rocks and clouds. This ended up across the bottom of my back, right where the 'beer coaster' tattoo belongs on 90% of girls out there. I was thinking, well at least it's BIGGER than a beer coaster...

Anyway, the one she did without me standing in front of her didn't work out. So she spent about 30 minutes re-drawing it while I sat comfortably playing Bejeweled on my handy PDA that I brought with me. Once she finished and positioned it, she was content, as was I...but she's the artist.

She got it placed and then I had to position myself so that she could get to that area relatively easy. That position involved sitting on a chair, with my feet on another chair, and I'm bent over with my back to her. This was actually comfortable but she clued me in to the fact that at some point, my legs will most likely fall asleep. That didn't happen, other than trying to rearrange my legs so that it was comfortable.

Today it would be the outline and filling the outline in. “Smoothing it out” is what she calls it. No problemo.

Once she starts – I wanted to cry. Painful is an understatement. Maybe I said that before, during my first tattoo session. But I was wrong. That was painful, this IS painful. I don't know how I endured it. I wanted to scream. On top of that, because it was my lower back, I had the anticipation shudder. You know, when you know something is about to touch you on the back and when it does, it sends shivers up around your back? Like your back is doing the wave? Not good, I'm sure for Kathryn, when you're drawing with a needle.

The pain is like searing, hot, burning, scratches, deep inside the skin. And then you go over it again. That's what it feels like. I felt like I was going to pass out. My face remained in a scrunched look, with me wincing and squinting every muscle in my face. Like a gas tank on empty, I found religion and prayed for the pain to go away.

And it did. Kathryn finished the outline and notified me with 'so we're finished with the outline, now I'll be smoothing it out.' Really? Can we just take a break and we'll do that in two weeks? Well, that's what I thought...I didn't say it out loud. After all, I am asking for all this.
So when she started the smoothing, I was back to feeling pretty good. The pain was not bad and actually, I was back to how it felt two weeks ago, the Zen-like feeling of the needle puncturing your skin. Okay, I wrote it like that for shock effect, but it doesn't really feel like that when it feels good. At least, not to me.

So I could relax and I was no longer responsible for doing the wave.

We had to modify one position – something that was lower on my back, which actually felt like it was my upper ass. She said, this is going to sound weird, but I need you to bend over this chair and have your ass up in the air. I wanted to tell her that I hear this all the time but I didn't feel like small talk.

That position needed only five minutes of holding (thank buddha). And then it was back to the rest. Again, feeling fine until she hit the left side of the butt and back and then it was back into REAL PAIN. But that took only about 10 minutes and we were done with that session.

During this one, though, I thought: how the hell am I going to endure the rest of this part of the tattoo? She still has to put more color and gray wash in this area. I seriously contemplated some kind of muscle relaxant. I just couldn't find my yoga breath to take this pain. I started counting, first to four, then to eight, then to five and wrapping back to four. That actually helped but my vision was of being in my car and heading home. Kind of like when I run and look forward to the end, when I am done.

Less than a day later, I'm still in pain. A mere accidental touch/scratch of it sends shock waves throughout my body – blinding pain – and I think I'm going to pass out. What some of us freaks do for fun...