Pumpkin Patch - AGAIN

South of our house is a giant farm with a pumpkin patch. In the fall, they open up on the weekends for people to bring their kids to see the goats and sheep and cows and chickens. They set up a maze in the cornfield, and they pile up hay bales in one of the barns for another maze. They have horseshoes and bean bag tosses and giant checker games. There was a slide for the kids, and little tractors for them to ride. And don't forget the giant tractor rides for the whole family. Clearly, this place was set up for a fun time.

The house itself was built just before the Civil War. They had a couple of cabins and sheds and several barns all around. It was a huge patch of land, and despite the hundreds of people enjoying the gorgeous fall afternoon with us, I really liked all the room. It was one of those days when you think, wouldn't it be great to have a farm and all that land to yourself, and just spend your days working at home?

And then you think of milking cows on Christmas morning, and those rainy days when getting out seems like the last thing you want to do, and you realize farm work is way harder than your cushy day job.

But for a little while it was a nice dream.

Here's Helen tossing the beanbag:

And here she is, about to go down the slide for the 30th time:

And here she is, enjoying the farm:


Beans Beans Beans!

This entry is for S., my roommate in college and still one of my closest friends. S. hails from jolly old England. Freshman year she told one of our hallmates that they all wore black on 4th of July.

Is it any wonder we're friends?

After the time in the dorms, we shared our first apartment together. We mainly cooked for ourselves, and it was junior year that I learned about her favorite meal: baked beans on toast.

This meal really tested the bonds of friendship, not to mention my gag reflex. Even though I grew up in the southern United States, I can't eat baked beans. They're a staple at every family reunion, church picnic, and most barbeque joints. And I have passed them up every time. Something about them just tastes wrong to me.

And there was S., putting them on toast! Of course it got all soggy, but she loved every bite. Later I learned it's not just S. who eats this odd meal; it's a well-known favorite of English folks everywhere, from childhood on. Yuck!

To be fair, I think that's how she felt when I ate all those Kraft dinners.

I know Helen has eaten baked beans at school, because I've seen the words "Beanie Weenie" on her lunch calendar. But that's the American version, with cut-up hot dogs. It's a meal with enough sodium to rival your saltshaker. Minus the hot dogs, I thought I'd finally give the beans a try at home with her. Something about having a kid - you get to correct all your own food mistakes. Maybe this one will eat all the asparagus I never did. Or maybe she'll like lima beans. You never know. Baked beans? Why not?

And of course, the whole time she was eating them, she kept saying "Mmmmm!" She finished the bowl and asked for more.

All right, Helen, I'll refill the bowl - but you can't pay me to add the toast.

UPDATE: She just ate a whole crumpet. Now we'll have to move to Liverpool!


Home Improvement

I realized that I've left you all hanging on the TV update. It's installed and sitting pretty above our mantel.

But Brian noticed right away that the high definition channels weren't as crisp as they could be - definitely not what we saw in the store. When the images on the screen moved, the picture got very pixelated. And the regular channels weren't very good at all. The blue TV did regular channels much better.

Some moron at the customer service center tried to tell us that's what TV looked like in larger sizes. Yeah, right.

Anyway, this Friday someone's coming out to replace the video board. So hopefully, I'll be able to tell you next week that the TV looks fantastic and we're loving it.

But really,in spite of it all, that's already happening.


Yes, it's fun, but it's also a lot of responsibility.

Yesterday Helen and I went to Target. Daycare takes the kids out twice a day, and it's getting cold enough here to need a coat. Helen has grown a bit since last winter, so we needed to go shopping.

It's never a good idea to let me into a Target supervised by only a 17-month old.

Helen is now the proud parent of a Fisher Price baby. She held that doll all the way to the register, where there was a bit of a struggle to get it scanned. There was an even bigger struggle when we got home and I tried to get the doll out of its packaging.

The baby came with a little bottle, and after spending a lot of time (at her insistence) "feeding" the baby, I've taught her how to do it. I tried to teach her how to "burp" the baby, but she just hugs her instead.


Fly the friendly skies of Las Vegas.

Email exchange from last month:

To: X, Y, Z
From: Me
Subject: This weekend

Vandy is a 33-point favorite to win, over a Division 1 school? Granted, it's Temple, but still!

From: Z
To: X, Y, Me
Subject: Re: This weekend

Early prediction: Vandy loses.

From: Y
To: X, Z, Me
Subject: Re: This weekend

Vandy by 42.

From: Me
To: X, Y, and Z
Subject: Re: This weekend

With all these predictions, someone should pony up and be the bookie!

From: X
To: Y, Z and Me
Subject: Re: This weekend

Helen. She cannot go to jail.

From: Me
To: X, Y and Z
Subject: Re: This weekend

This is the first time Vandy has been this big of a favorite since Vegas started keeping up with the data. I might put money on this game.

From: X
To: Y, Z and Me
Subject: Re: This weekend

You need to let Helen stand on her own. She needs to spread her wings and fly. Like a bird. A glorious bird, who takes bets.

You can only hold on to them for so long.

From: Me
To: X, Y and Z
Subject: This weekend

Helen would make a terrible bookie. She'd spend it all on Twizzlers. She really likes Twizzlers.


The Great Pumpkin

This morning we passed a local church with a front yard full of pumpkins.

Actually, this was the same pumpkin patch we visited last year with Helen at 4 months old, where I propped her up against giant pumpkins to get some cute pictures. She would slump over, I'd prop her back up, and take a few more shots.

This year, she wouldn't even stand still. I could barely get her to look at the camera, she was so excited to pick up the little pumpkins and carry them around.

I really don't know a better way to get in the mood for Halloween than to watch a little kid get this thrilled.


This worked out differently in my head.

Mounting a TV over the fireplace means figuring out how to hide those pesky cords. So Brian spent Monday night drilling a couple of holes in the wall for power cords and cables. Actually, he spent some of early Tuesday morning on that project, too. But he finally conceded to the Carpentry Gods that the drilling was not going to work without the right drill bit.

So, after a trip to Home Depot, Tuesday night's work went a lot faster. He made it through 2 studs to bring the cord down to an outlet he created next to the mantel, and after I went to bed, he put up part of the mounting bracket for the television.

(I would put up pictures of this stuff, but right now the hard working crew at Blogspot is out for a manicure. So I'll try to edit them in later.)

He also created a second outlet for the satellite dish hookup and the phone line. That required a trip to the crawlspace, to pull the lines from the current location across the living room to the new spot.

For those of you who have not visited your home's crawlspace before, I learned an important fact on Tuesday night. Brian came back from his trip under the house and shared with me that we had "millions of spiders."

Now, I don't know about you, but I get the heebie-jeebies whenever I see a bug. As a kid, I was not typically afraid of bugs. I carried around roly-polys, I played with caterpillars, I watched ants scurry around, but a chance encounter in a bathroom with a cockroach the size of my foot changed all that in a hurry.

And for many years I've owned a cat who delights in taking care of any pest problem I might have, and even tortures them, too. So, at the end, there's no more bug, and as a bonus, it's died a horrible, lingering death. It's a win-win in my book.

But now, I have to sleep each night on a bed which stands on a layer of carpet and plywood subflooring and wooden joists, knowing that mere inches below all of that lies a breeding, teeming layer of spiders.

(Sorry - did I mention sleep? My eyes aren't actually shut. It's more like a panicky, "eyes wide open" look.)

Back to the project! On Wednesday night, which should have been the easiest of all, it took 3 hours and another trip to Home Depot to get one lone cable through the brick outside of the house, into the crawlspace and up through the floor. As a bonus, tonight Brian will get to re-crimp the cable since one end didn't survive the trip through the brick wall.

I'm now taking bets as to how many more trips to the hardware store are left in this project. Please feel free to make your guesses in the comments. The winner gets a free consultation with an experienced TV installer, who may or may not be deathly afraid of spiders.


TV Land

Last year we bought a gigantic Zenith television for an absolute steal at a friend's employee pricing sale. Brand-new DLP TV, more than 60" of viewing pleasure, with a few good reviews already online.

But about 5 months later, we noticed a small blue streak along the lower left-hand corner. The manufacturer's warranty was only 90 days, so we were pretty worried that there was some very expensive going wrong with our gorgeous TV.

After a bit of Googling, it turns out we were right to worry - the light engines were defective in this model. Reviews were scathing by this time as most owners were seeing the problem, and since they paid retail, I can understand their wrath. By then Zenith was well aware of the defect, but since it was outside of their warranty period, they were only too happy to replace the part after you gave them quite a lot of money first. Money which we didn't really want to spend, not knowing if the new part was also defective.

In the meantime, our TV screen turned more and more blue. For a while, it held steady at about half the screen. But eventually, it went ALL blue. This is a picture of the Monday Night Football game, to show you what we've been watching:

Fun, huh? It means every team plays on Boise State's blue field. It means having conversations like "Who's in the dark uniforms? Georgia? Okay, got it."

We got a quote to repair it, but the estimate was a bit shocking. Not willing to spend more to fix the TV than we bought it for, we hemmed & hawed for months. Finally, we decided to cut our losses and go for a new TV. Brian shopped and read reviews and talked to the guys at Circuit City and Best Buy. Then he'd come home and tell me all about it.

Plasma. LCD. DLP. Rear-projection. Warranties. Surround sound. Receivers. HDMI cables. Satellite dishes. My head spun.

But after 8 months (!), Brian finally settled on one model. He took me to look at it, I loved it, and he proceeded to swing a fantastic deal, along with a 5-year warranty. Plus (you'll have to take my word for it), it's really pretty.

But it's going to take a lot of work to put that thing on the wall.

(to be continued)


Best Wishes to the Happy Couple

One of my college roommates got married yesterday. C. has found the love of her life and decided to settle down with him. After watching the two of them at their reception, I think they'll be supremely happy.

She & I reconnected after I moved to town a few years ago to be with Brian. I knew she was from this area, but didn't know she was still here after we all went our separate ways at graduation. So imagine my surprise when I was headed to my car after work one day and saw her standing on the sidewalk. Once we recognized each other, I think the squealing could be heard a couple of blocks away. Now we "do lunch" at our favorite little restaurant nearby and spent a little quality girl time catching up on all the latest news.

The wedding was very small - just family and a couple of friends. I felt very privileged to be invited, and best of all, I finally got a chance to meet her parents. Lovely people. Her dad and her new husband both tried pretty hard to get the dirt on our college years, but since most of my stories implicate both of us, I kept my mouth shut.

Much love and congratulations, C. - Brian & I wish you many happy years together!

And no, I won't post that picture of C. dressed like an early 80s Madonna for a frat party. Your dad offered money, which is tempting, but no. ;)