Return of the LiveJournal

I don’t know what it is about summer, but I seem to always “fall off the planet” as far as my online presence goes (goodness, that’s a pretentious thing to type).

No Europe trip this year for me (through Jeff made a quick run just to meet up with the rest of the group), since we went to my “baby brother”‘s wedding (which was *lovely*) and Maine for Jeff’s parents’ 50th (!) wedding anniversary.
(If you ever wondered who in my family I take after, check this out…)

There are also some new puppy pics (and we’re in Week 5 of Puppy Class!).

I have about two months’ worth of reading to catch up on LiveJournal-wise (and I probably should tackle the stack of bills on the counter too, huh…).

Memorial Day Fun

This past weekend Jeff & I escaped to Beaufort, NC, a place long-familiar to me, as I spent the summers of 1989 and 1990 there (the first summer I was taking classes at the Duke Marine Lab; the second I was a Residential Advisor for the Duke Talent Identification Program, a summer “edumacational” camp for really smart 7th-10th graders).

It was a most wonderful weekend (interspersed, of course, with moments of supreme anxiety — hey, I’m still me!). The anxiety was primarily due to the fact that mom was keeping India for the weekend — Mom’s first time puppy-sitting India, and India’s first overnight away from me. And, well, my first overnight away from her too. I had always kind of wondered at (and perhaps snickered a tiny bit at) the worries of my friends who were leaving their kids with sitters for the first time. I’d been a baby-sitter… I’d been a very competent baby-sitter. Babies just weren’t all that tricky (at least for a few hours)… why in heavens’ name were they getting so worked up about this?

Now I understand. The anxiety was not (for the most part) about the sitter’s ability to manage a kid for a few hours. The anxiety was about the wee one’s happiness! Would the little one be miserable, scared, confused?

I had no worries about Mom’s ability to handle a pup — she grew up with dogs and has a heckuva lot more experience than I do in that respect (she also raised me, and I turned out OK. Mostly). Plus I’d written a novelette about what noises India might make and what she was allowed to do and how much kibble she’d eat and how many times she would probably need the piddle pad. (This made most parents’: “Bedtime is at 8:30; help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge” instructions seem incredibly trusting).

No, I was worried about whether India would be OK — would she miss her little guest bath palace? Would she cry? (If I haven’t mentioned, she has THE MOST pitiful cry on the planet… it’s both ear pleasing and incredibly sad…1)

India, FWIW, was fine. Happy, even. Disappointed, perhaps, to leave the nice lady who spoiled her rotten.

So, Beaufort (pictures). We did all the things I was looking forward to — all my most favorites plus some new ones (it has been *quite* some time since I’ve been there — I think Caroline and I may have gone in 2000(?) to see The Nudes, a band [since disbanded] that I was once very fond of.)


  • hit the Sanitary fish market on the way into town Saturday (quotient of hush puppies: filled)
  • went on a “sunset sail” on a catamaran Friday night & saw dolphins (quotient of boat and acrobatics 2: filled)
  • had an *amazing* breakfast at the Cedars Inn — mixed berry french toast & cheese grits & fresh fruit (quotient of calories: exceeded)
  • went to the beach (Fort Macon) (quotient of sun: WAY exceeded)
  • swam (me) (quotient of waves: filled) with dolphins less than 15 feet away (no quotient, thus a total and wonderful surprise)
  • went to El’s Drive-In for lunch (1950’s roadside food quotient: filled!)
  • took a driving tour of the marine lab (nostalgia quotient: filled)
  • napped (apprently quotient of sleep is still not filled)
  • shopped — cute little store on Front Street was having “buy one thing, get any other thing of lesser-or-equal-value” half off.  Most of the stock was Beaufort t-shirts, but they also had some Columbia travel/adventure wear, so Jeff got some pants-that-can-be-shorts and shirts-that-can’t-be-shorts-but-can-be-short-sleeved and I got some SPF 70(!!) sunscreen (“Black hole sun, won’t you come…”) — sadly it was too late to save the backs of my legs and shoulders or Jeff’s kneecaps. Anyway, (shopping-on-sale quotient: gleefully and productively filled!)
  • dined at Aqua, recommended by friends Allan & Inez — sooooooo gooooood. Highlights were lobster tempura with a key lime-garlic aoli and a creme brulee the size of your head. Menu claimed it “feeds 2-4”. We got that and a molten chocolate thing. Finished them both. Menu doesn’t know sugar fiend sun waves = Dessert Destroyer!!! (quotient of calories: I should have stopped counting at this point…)
  • Had vanilla pancakes and cheese grits for brekkies (cheese grit quotient: filled. Didn’t know that was possible!)
  • Borrowed the inn’s bikes and road around downtown Beaufort (exercise quotient:… oh, who am I kidding?)
  • Lunched at El’s (cheeseburger quotient: filled! [I had grilled cheese on Sunday])
  • Dairy Queened on the way home (happy quotient: filled to brimming).

The only crushing bit of the weekend was when Mom brought India back3. I’ll be darned if my little baby girl didn’t cry when “Granny” left!! Was there any “OMG! I am so glad to see YOU, Mommy!!!”? Not so much really. Sigh.

1 You know how some people cry more attractively than others? They don’t blotch up and snot and squint and sound like wailing banshees? India has a cute cry. I don’t.
2 The cat we were on was a 40-ft. model with two nets up front bridging the gaps between the hulls and the center-line support (warning, link plays an annoying faux-reggae file). Of course I spent the entire time up in the net — best place for bouncy waves and best view! Towards the end of the cruise I discovered that if you stand up on the beam that holds the “front end” of the nets (bow end, for those that are nautically inclined), you can somersault and land on your back in the net. That was way fun. Apparently entertaining for everyone else on the boat too. While walking along Front Street the next night, I was i.d.’d by a passing couple as “the flipping girl.”
3 We brought Mom a little thank-you present for taking care of India… a plaque that says “Now let me get this straight… my grandchild is a DOG?!??!?!”

Oh, if you want to skip the blahblah, here’s the picture-book version.

Heading West — California here we come!

So, I survived the ANFDCS (Annual Norman Family Dysfunctional Christmas Shindig), which was this past weekend; as a matter of fact, it wasn’t even all that dysfunctional this year (!).  Having Jeff there certainly helps, as does the fact I’ve finally gotten straight the names of all of my step-cousins.  Those things, plus the fact that I’d lost three pounds due to having the plague1 the week before and thereby met the “lost weight” criteria (which is *very* important to my Grandmother…what can I say, she’s from another age..), meant that all-in-all there was no criticism directed my way, making me very happy.

I’m now in that odd place where I think I’m mostly ready for Christmas…until another boxload of things arrives via mail and the wrapping & tagging cycle begins again.  Or until I realize that there’s Mandatory Work Fun the next day and I have to bake (most recently, Monkey Bread, for tomorrow’s IS breakfast.  Anyone know why it’s called Monkey Bread? Or why there’d be Mandatory Fun at 8:00am?!). Or until I realize that I leave on Friday and haven’t yet sent emails out explaining itinerary.  Or….

Anyway, between Christmas prep and recovering from the plague1 I got the day after my show (thank heavens for small favors, at least!), I’ve not been paying much attention to LJ.  If something important has happened and I didn’t make any appropriate comments…well, pretend I did.  Or drop me an email or something.

Upcoming Plans:
On Friday night (or maybe Saturday morning), Jeff and I are headed to Charlotte to have Christmas with my mom and Grumps (Sat. afternoon) and Dad (Saturday evening).  Then Sunday morning we fly to California (WHEE!), to stay one night with our friends Spider and Eli, then three nights at Wilbur Hot Springs.  Then we’re heading south to Santa Cruz to stay with our friend Darryl, with lunch on the way in Calistoga with Edson and Minna, folks Jeff’s known from years from the European motorcycling crowd. 

Hopefully on the 30th/31st we’ll be able to head back up to the Bay area to see folks I work with/friends of mine from high school like Alan/sundry others who might be interested in catching up.  Have no idea what’s up for New Years, other than we’ll be with Darryl, and then we’re flying back to NC on the 1st.

1 Ok.  Just a nasty head cold.  But it felt like the plague.

Quick update

Last weekend Jeff & I escaped to Grandfather Mountain for my birthday, as my grandmother has a place up there — you can’t quite see the house in the pic linked above (click to enlarge), which I took from the top of the mountain, but you *almost* can…it’d be just off the right hand side of the screen at the top.  Grandma bought her first condo at Grandfather sometime in the early 70’s — I don’t remember exactly when, though I know it was before 1976, as I remember watching the bicentennial fireworks from the top of the tallest bridge.

The bridges, in fact, have always been one of my favorite things about the property — you can walk all the way across the lake on the bridges, going from island to island (which Jeff & I did Friday night after arriving rather late.  Thankfully Jeff thinks ahead and had brought a flashlight…).  BTW, the plan is for my brother to be married on one of the islands next summer — should be gorgeous!

Saturday morning, after having brunch on the patio overlooking the lake, we drove around the club (Grandfather Golf & Country Club — they have no website!) for a while looking at all the houses (which are *incredible*), then went up to Grandfather Mountain (the “attraction” part) and saw the animals in the nature habitats (my pics of bears and whatnot) and walked across the Mile-High Swinging Bridge.  Great weather and fabulous view, though Jeff made me nervous with all of his scrambling over the rocks like a mountain goat.

After heading back to the club, we took out a golf cart and tooled along the courses (two 18-hole ones) — whee!  (Although there apparently is some sort of governor on the engine, as we didn’t get nearly the speed up that we should’ve on some of the longer hills).  Then we went to the driving range and Jeff taught me how to hit a golf ball — and I didn’t suck!  Other than taking a hunk out of the palm of my hand (when I hit the dirt rather hard instead of the ball), I’d have to say it was an unmitigated success (sort of amazing for me, a truly uncoordinated person if there ever was one).

Saturday evening we took Grandma up on her very kind birthday treat: dinner on her at the club. It was tapas and jazz night (they had a little four-piece combo playing); however, by the time we’d eaten we were way too full to dance.  The food was incredible:  amongst other things, I had probably the best crab cakes I’ve ever put in my mouth, and Jeff’s lobster dumpling was just as good.  Eventually we rolled home, and slept the sleep of the extremely exhausted.

Sunday morning we woke up to a rainy, grey day (that was still pretty in a rather dismal way), which was just as well anyway as Jeff had work crises to solve via Blackberry and then we had to hit the road.  We had time for a quick stop at The Ham Shoppe to pick up sandwiches on the way out of town, but then it was just the long drive home. All in all, though, the trip was too short, but great anyway.

I’m in love

I’m in NY and I’m in love.

You see there’s this company, called Fresh Direct, and they will bring you your groceries. And not just the “dry goods” that netGrocer (who I used to love back in the day) used to bring. No, they bring the fresh goods too — the milk, the artisanal cheeses, the orange juice, the spinach greens. But they go one step better than that too — they will bring you whole, already-cooked, ready to heat-and-serve meals — and good ones too!

Jeff (whom I do still love, of course) and I placed an experimental order this week, as I’m working his place and there’s nothing to eat here *and* all the cooking implements are still in boxes(1). Last night we ate the ravioli with slow-cooked tomato sauce and corn-on-the-cob (which we nuked in moist paper towels, my favorite way of cooking corn) slathered with the butter that they also brought (and salt that Jeff nicked from work).

Tonight we’re having roasted lemon-thyme chicken with asparagus and potatoes gratin. Dessert will not be an issue as there’s a gelato place across the street :)

Granted, this is nothing much more different than you can pick up at a Harris Teeter, but (a) there’s a much wider selection of goodies and (b) *they bring it to you*!!!

(1) and not likely to be unboxed soon as they’re now making noises about him moving to Mineapolis. I kid you not.

Euro snippet #1

So we were in Luxembourg (I’m sure one of those photos is of Luxembourg  ;-) having eaten at a really neat restaurant called Chiggeri where we had gratins with cheese-of-your-choosing (St. Something-or-other-for-me, Rebluchon for Jeff) — mmmmmmm — and had gone to get ice cream (actually we were after italian “ice”, but found something that wasn’t quite that) when we heard a band playing.  It was a swing band and the tune was familiar.  Very familiar.

It was Radar Love(1), by Golden Earring.  Truly surreal.  And pretty darn good, actually… translates nicely to a swing band.

(1) Ok, I admit it, I thought it was “Red Hot Love”… I know that it is was Radar Love, but apparently it’s filed in my head under Red Hot Love.