Monday, December 31, 2007

My "Best" of 2007 - The Completed Version!

I figured if all of the news shows around the country, as well as every magazine out there, could do a "Year-End Wrap-Up" then I could, too. For those of you who got a sneak-peak at this post in your various Readers over the weekend, I apologize for obviously hitting the "publish" button rather than the "save now" button in my doped-up, head cold-induced state! Obviously I had a lot more work to do on this thing and there was just no way that I was going to get it done in one night while constantly stopping to sneeze and/or blow my nose!

However, I am feeling a bit improved and with the year rapidly rushing to a close while I spend most of the remainder of it at work helping out other sick people, I wanted to get this done and posted in all of its year-end glory. If you have the time and can tolerate a rather lengthy post, please stick with me whilst I journey back over the year that was 2007 and what I thought were some of my better posts. Granted, I did say what I thought were some of my better posts - others might beg to differ!


2007 started out well enough in the Blogosphere but I took some time out on January 15th to lament about online dating sites and the like ...

White Knight

On January 22nd, I wrote a bit about my job as an Emergency Medical Dispatcher (aka 911 operator) and the frustrations of being able to give people life-saving information if only they would listen! ...



February brought my long-awaited tax return and the chance to update our computers but that also brought along some headaches in trying to hook up the computer which came equipped with the dreaded Vista program! ...

Manic Cat

February is usually the worst month for me here in New England as it's at that point that you wonder if winter is ever going to end. It turned out to be a bit of an embarrassing month for Amanda when I wrote this post on February 26th! ...

Squeeing Amanda


March found me lamenting about the logistics of trying to get out of bed in the mornings when that's the last thing I want to do in this post from March 22nd ...


March 26th found me still lamenting but this time about some back issues which put me out of commission for a little while though nothing near as bad as the back issues I had in 2005! ...

Not dead yet!


On April 9th, I wrote my 250th post and had over 21,000 visitors to my blog! As of this writing, I'm at post #790 with well over 51,000 visitors - wow! ...


250 + 21,000 = Celebration!!

On April 22nd, I did a post about the Anime Convention that Amanda and her friend Nicole went to in Boston. At that time it was the highlight of Amanda's year ...

Amanda & Nicole


On May 9th I took Amanda, Nicole, and Dan to the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts to see My Chemical Romance in what then became the highlight of Amanda's year, especially when she got to meet guitarist Frank Iero after the concert and give him some of her artwork! ...

The My Chemical Romance Concert in Worcester, MA in May '07

My Chemical Romance, Worcester, Massachusetts

Frankie of MCR

Even though the whole thing started in April, it was on May 14th that I received my very own personalized M&Ms from Bobbarama that my readers helped me to personalize. Believe it or not, I still have two bags stashed away! ...

My Personalized M&Ms

Behold the Long-Awaited M&Ms!

This post on May 25th highlights the final concert band performance of the season for Amanda at Norwich Free Academy. She plays the flute and does a lovely job of it and I thoroughly enjoy going to the concerts. Now if I just could have talked her into joining marching band ...

Amanda & her flute

Pop Goes the Concert Band


On June 12th I wrote about being a worrier and, in particular, about a certain police lieutenant that works on the force at the Stockton Police Department. Statistics continue to rise for officers killed in the line of duty and I cringe every time I get a new notification in my email from PoliceLink. Stay safe, John ...

Sarah at Yantic Cemetery

Again. Always.

June 15th found me trying my hand - over and over again - at Guitar Hero II while the girls sat back and laughed. Eventually my band, Mom, managed to beat the easy level and since then I've actually managed to go on tour at the medium level and am doing quite well! ...

Guitar Hero II

Rock On- Virtually!


On July 6th the girls and I took a tour of our State Capitol building in Hartford along with our friend Paula and had a pretty good time learning some of the history of the State of Connecticut ...

State Capitol Hartford, CT

Jamie, Me, & Amanda

We Had a "Capitol" Time Yesterday!

July 29th found me writing a post on Jamie flying down to her new home in Florida after what was probably the fastest seven weeks of the year. I don't care how many times I put her on a plane, I will never get used to it ...

Jamie at the airport

"It's much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality ..." ~ Panic At The Disco


My best friend in the world, MizCyn, was facing the daunting task of finally putting her autistic son Daniel into placement this summer and when I asked some of you to go over and wish her well on August 13th she was overwhelmed with the response and caring from people she didn't know at all. Again, a big thank you to all who took the time to send words of comfort and encouragement to a mom facing one of the hardest tasks of her life ...

Broken Heart by Amanda

The Things We Do For Love ...

Once again the biggest highlight of Amanda's year was changing when she got to meet almost all of the members of her favorite band, Mindless Self Indulgence, backstage at the Projekt Revolution concert, in Hartford on August 26th. In addition to meeting Jimmy, Steve, and LynZ she got to meet Gerard Way, the lead singer of her second favorite band My Chemical Romance, and also present him with some artwork she had done for the band. Oh, and I got to experience a "glomping" firsthand! Ouch! ...

Amanda & Jimmy of MSI

Amanda & LynZ of MSI

"Little Darling Welcome to the Show ..."


Despite the fact that we lived in the same State, it took Ms. Maggie Moo and I until the 2nd of September to finally meet! What a great lady she is and I'm really looking forward to going to check out her nice place in Boston before too much longer! ...

Linda & Mags

We Meet At Last!

On September 4th, yet another highlight of Amanda's year came when she found out that the plushie doll, JimJamZ, that she had given to lead singer Jimmy of Mindless Self Indulgence, had made his debut on stage. There were even pictures on the internet of JimJamZ's new found fame! ...

Jimmy of MSI

JimJamZ Goes on Tour with Mindless Self Indulgence


On October 5th, The Mo Show came to Connecticut when Morgen from It's a Blog Eat Blog World took the train from Michigan to visit with Ms. Maggie Moo and I for the weekend. We had a great time with one of the highlights being able to dance in Mags' kitchen with Mo! I finally was able to write a wrap-up post on Monday, October 8th ...

Linda, Mags, & Mo

Two Words - Great Weekend!

My life was taken over by small plushie dolls for a good part of October as I helped Amanda create the boys in My Chemical Romance in felt for an upcoming concert in Maine that sadly got canceled due to a wrist injury to drummer Bob Bryar. There were still a plethora of pantless plushies prancing around the place when I wrote the following post on October 24th ...

My Chemical Romance plushies by Amanda

Plushie Progress Post


The chance to meet another terrific blogging buddy came on November 2nd, when Carrie - aka Asara - and her family drove down from Michigan to Connecticut and we got together for dinner with Mags. I have got to say that Carrie and Billy have two of the sweetest kids I have ever had the pleasure of sitting down to dinner with and it was great to meet a family that was so happy ...

Mags, Carrie, & Linda

Meeting Another Blogging Buddy

On November 11th, Amanda and I went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Mohegan Sun Arena and I posted about it the following Tuesday, November 13th. It was another night of great head-banging classical and Christmas music! The only thing missing was Jamie ...


The TSO Concert Wrap-Up

After over a year with the same look on my blog all that changed on November 20th when my blog designer Se7en of Blogs Gone Wild! finished and installed my new blog template complete with artwork by Amanda. I went from this -


to this -


Feeling rather nostalgic, I opened my heart and poured forth on December 6th which is the birthday of the man whose memory still haunts me over 22 years after our first fated meeting ...


Happy Birthday to My Ghost

What would a year-end wrap-up be without mention of the woman who has brought more visitors to my blog than anyone else - Rachel Lutzker? After her move from WFSB-3 in Hartford to WTIC Fox-61 people wanted to know why and Rachel was nice enough to email me and give me the scoop! I posted about it on December 13th and that day my blog had a grand total of 1,055 page hits which I'm sure will stand as my all-time record high! Thanks in part to Rachel (and to my post about the song The Christmas Shoes) I have logged over 11,000 visits to my blog in the month of December alone! ...

Where in the world is Rachel Lutzker?

And there we have it - my year in review. It was actually rather difficult to pick those posts that I thought summed up the year the best (which is why May & November have three of them!) but I think that these are a pretty good representation of the Year 2007 here at the House of Mouseski! Thanks for sticking with me through that lengthy review!

What does 2008 have in store? Lord only knows! However, I can tell you that Amanda will be going to more concerts (a friend has already gotten her tickets to Bamboozle 2008 in May), Jamie will be coming back up during the summer, more plushies will be made, the house will eventually be cleaned, and I'll still be dispatching ambulances, writing posts, and attempting to finish my tours on Rock Band as well as Guitar Hero II & III! With any luck, I'll get the chance to meet some more blogging buddies, too!

Thank you so very much to all of you who have left comments or visited and made me a part of your lives throughout this past year! You have enriched my life more than you shall ever know. I hope you'll stick around on the journey as I continue to ask that ever elusive question - "Are We There Yet??"

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Plans of Mice and Men - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

Oops - accidentally put up a post that wasn't finished yet - that's what I get for blogging under the influence of cold medicine! They need to add that particular warning to the side of the package - "Caution: Do Not Attempt to Blog While Taking This Medication As Screw-Ups May Occur"!

Anyway, while I send that post back to the shop for repairs and additions before it's proper unveiling, I thought I would borrow a question from my good friend and awesome Scrabulous opponent, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, to keep you occupied.

Jean-Luc asks The Weekend Question every Saturday and he's had some quite good ones in the past, which is to be expected of the man who Captains the USS Enterprise! This week he asked about New Year's resolutions. Specifically the question was "What are you determined to start or stop doing as part of a New Year's Resolution?" Jean-Luc himself intends to:
1: Be more tolerant of other people. I tend to make too many snap judgments about some.
2: Clean out the VCR cupboard. I don't use VCR anymore. Make space for growing DVD collection.
3: Try and do them before the end of 2010.
One has got to love a Starfleet Captain with a sense of humor even if he does regularly trounce me in our Facebook Scrabulous games with words I've never heard of before! That said, I hope he doesn't mind if I "borrow" his question and ask my readers the same question about the New Year and those lovely resolutions that people seem so determined to make - and sadly break - every year.

Resolutions remind me very much of a quote, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." This quote was actually paraphrased by the author John Steinbeck in his novel Of Mice and Men from the original quote by Scottish poet Robert Burns in 1785 that read, "The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.” For those of you who are Scots, I'm sure you have no trouble with that one! For the rest of us, let's go with the simpler Steinbeck version, shall we?

Now, perhaps I'm translating my Scottish wrong and am even way off the mark on Steinbeck but I have always thought that what this quote meant was that no matter how carefully you plan something - whether you be a mouse or a man - there's a darned good chance that something is going to go wrong with it. Not always - but sometimes. I like to think that New Year's resolutions fall into this same category. We make plans, we do our best to stick to those plans, and then something leads them astray before the year is over. Besides, it's a much nicer quote than "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" which might also apply to New Year's resolutions!

Anyway, all babbling and waxing philosophical aside - let me ask ... Are you making any resolutions this year? If so, what are they and do you have a plan? Do you think you'll be able to keep them?

Even though I tend to be a cynic (who me? nah!), I can't help but feel that when any of us stand looking at a fresh new year laid out ahead of us that we can't help but resolve that some things are going to be different than they were in the old year that is passing. Thankfully it seems to be human nature to look forward rather than to always look behind though that isn't to say that the past should ever be forgotten. Matter of fact, once I get that other post that briefly appeared here done, I'll be doing some looking towards the past myself - specifically this past year.

In the meantime, most of you have already told me that there is no New Year's Eve party in your future so how about a resolution or two? Any of those in your future or are you all joining me in not only not going to a party but not making a resolution, too?

A big thank you to Jean-Luc for giving me the inspiration for this post and by the way - it's your turn over on the Scrabulous board!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

I've Got a Question - You've Got an Answer

We had the Today Show on at work the other morning before things got too busy as we usually tend to do so that we at least have some sort of clue what's going on in the rest of the world and one of the segments they showed was on being able to pick the proper champagne for your New Year's Eve gathering. Some ditzy reporter, who looked like she was having way too good of a time trying to guess between an expensive champagne and a cheap one, was trying to explain the difference to Matt Lauer. Towards the end of the segment she had Matt close his eyes and try both an expensive bottled champagne and a "less expensive" canned version to see if he could tell the difference. Naturally Matt picked out the expensive champagne - which doesn't surprise me at all as I rather doubt that Matt has to worry about pinching pennies during the holidays and probably didn't even know that canned champagne existed (frankly, I didn't either!).

At any rate, all of the talk about champagne and New Year's Eve parties got me to thinking a little bit and it dawned on me that I have never been to a true New Year's Eve party where people got together to celebrate the end of the year and welcome in the new one. Sure, I've spent New Year's Eves with friends perhaps watching movies and eating pizza or playing board games but I've never been to an honest-to-goodness dancing and drinks kind of soirée. I'm going to be 50 in less than a year and I've never been to a real New Year's Eve party - how depressing. Even more depressing was the realization that I've never had a true New Year's Eve kiss. Ouch.

There certainly won't be any party this year as I'm going to be spending the vast majority of New Year's Eve at work as Monday is my regular 16-hour shift which means I should get home a bit after 11:00 p.m. That should be just enough time to climb into my pj's before I join the girls for a glass of sparkling cider and then change the calendar over while I wonder just where in the heck it was that the year got off to.

So, that's what I'm going to be doing but what about the rest of you? This week's questions asks - - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

I don't believe in making New Year's resolutions - the only one I've ever really kept was the one that I made to not make any more resolutions! - but perhaps I'll resolve to go to a real New Year's Eve party one of these years. I bet a New Year's kiss would be nice ...

Friday, December 28, 2007

What a Tangled Mess We Make!

My house is a mess. Plain and simple. It looks like a bomb exploded or a hurricane blew through or like two teenage girls spread the stuff all over the place with neither thought or care as to where it landed! I seriously need to do something about all of this but I seriously have no ambition to actually do anything about it!

Jamie will be going back down to Florida next Saturday so I am thinking that I am just going to let things more or less go until then - at least that's my current plan as I look around at all of the clutter. After all, a lot of this stuff she's going to be packing back up and taking down to Florida with her. Too bad there were no new luggage sets under the Christmas tree as she's got a lot more to take back then she brought up but that's usually the way it goes whenever she comes up as my Mom is very generous when it comes to buying her new clothes knowing that she gets very few otherwise.

Of course, even though I am sitting here saying that I'm not going to do anything about this mess until next week, I know in my heart that the neat-nick Virgo that I am will eventually prevail and I'll start picking things up here and there. It's really true that old habits are hard to break! Maybe I'll start with the pile of stuff on the dining room table ...

...or then again ... maybe I can get some time in on Rock Band before the girls want to play instead?
Hmmm ...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

T'was The Day After Christmas

I am - to put it simply - quite exhausted but wanted to write a post before I hauled my very tired self off to bed in the hopes of catching up on at least a little bit of sleep so I don't feel like I'm falling asleep at the dispatch console again tomorrow like I was all day today. When I got to work at 7:00 I felt like I needed a nap and despite three cups of coffee, I felt the same way when I left at 3:00!

I hope that everyone had a terrific Christmas yesterday doing the things you like best with the people you like best. Amanda, Jamie, and I had a very full day that began for me at 7:30 in the morning after foolishly staying up until 2:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve playing Rock Band with first Amanda and then Jamie. Amanda wanted to show me her "awesome" drumming skills before having me take a turn on the drums (it went a little better than the first time but I still haven't gotten the "bang of it" as Carrie likes to say!) while she played guitar and then Jamie wanted to play the drums while I played guitar for awhile. Even though I knew I had to get up early and had a lot to do in the morning, I couldn't resist and stayed up way longer than I should have. That was after an exhausting 16-hour day at work when all I wanted to do was get home and go to bed, too. Apparently, I will never learn!

After dragging myself out of bed way too early I finished making the Tiramisu and wrapping a few gifts before the girls and I went up to my Mom's for a little while. After exchanging presents and spending some time visiting we then came back to Norwich, picked up the Tiramisu, and went to Jason & Amy's for a delicious ham dinner that Amy had prepared to celebrate the first Christmas in their new house. Even though I really wanted nothing more than to come home and take a nap at that point, instead we came home, picked up the cheesecake I had made and a few last presents, and then went to my Aunt Eleanor's for the annual Christmas night family get-together. As tired as I was I wasn't sure how long we were going to stay but we ended up visiting until 9:00. It was nice to see my cousins and aunts and uncles that I hadn't seen since last Christmas and the food was really good, too.

Once we got home I immediately went upstairs to go to bed even though Jamie was hoping I'd play a bit of Rock Band with her. Common sense prevailed though as I could barely keep my eyes open and was not looking forward to getting up at 5:45 to go to work. Normally it takes me a while to fall asleep but I think last night my head barely hit the pillow before I was sound asleep and the glare I gave the alarm clock this morning was probably nothing short of homicidal!

Speaking of alarm clocks and having to get up in the morning way too early, I am calling it a night so that I can attempt to catch up on some of the sleep I've been missing all week (though I guess you never really catch up, do you?). Once I get through work tomorrow I hope to get back to making my blog rounds though I'm sure I won't get anymore caught up there than I shall get caught up with my sleep as things were looking a bit intimidating in my Google Reader when I took a quick peek at it earlier!

For my English blog-friends, I hope you had a wonderful Boxing Day and for everyone else, I hope you aren't as tired as I am! And if you are - go take a nap or something!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

T'was Two Days Before Christmas!

While the cheesecake lounges in the oven for an hour, I thought I'd take the time to write a post before hieing myself back into the kitchen for a few more culinary tasks that need to be done before I go into work later this afternoon. I think I'm actually doing pretty good with all of the last-minute things I needed/wanted to do before Christmas and have decided not to stress about those that I don't get to. After all, work can be stressful enough so I really don't need to add more to my life if at all possible!

After running around all over the place during the day on Friday to try to find some final gifts, the girls and I had a lovely visit with my son and his wife and the two grandsons that evening. Taking the easy way out, I ordered pizza from one of the best places here in Norwich that is fortunately just up the road from me - Sunset Pizza - and after dinner the boys opened up their gifts. Mike told me that both Christopher and Mathew love anything that is truck or car-related so I had gotten them both two of the Fisher Price Shake 'n Go Crash-up racers and they had a marvelous time racing and crashing them around the kitchen and dining room. My mother had gotten Mathew a fire truck with lights & siren that kept saying "What's your ETA?" "We'll be there in 2 minutes!" that he really liked, too so things were quite noisy between the race cars and the firetruck.

That noise was soon drowned-out, though, when the girls opened an early gift from my mother which was an XBox 360 along with an early gift from me - Rock Band - which comes complete with a Fender guitar, drums, and a microphone. For those who haven't heard of this game, it's one of the hottest things going in that you can "start" your own band and then take it "on the road". It's the more advanced version of Guitar Hero in that now it's not just a guitar but the whole band!

Mike had ordered both Guitar Hero II and III for the girls but due to a shipping error they won't arrive until after Christmas but I still wanted to give them the XBox 360 on Friday so that my son, who is much more technologically advanced than I, could hook it up and get it running - which he did. Also, that would give Jamie more time to play before she has to return to Florida. Mike got set up and then I got to watch while my three kids formed a band called Unicorn Lincoln and began playing. Jamie was on guitar, Amanda played drums, and Mike sang and they did pretty good considering that this game is a lot harder than it might seem! It was rather nice to see all three of my children doing something together while the grandkids ran around the house playing with their cars. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures as I just didn't think about taking any - sorry!

I tried the drums for a little bit and I've just got to say that I stunk worse on them then I ever did with the guitar when I was learning how to play Guitar Hero! Not only do you have four drum pads to play but there's also a foot pedal that you need to keep up with, too!

Rock Band drumsEven on the "easy" level I was having a heck of a time keeping up but Amanda seemed to do quite well with them, she's definitely the musical one in the family though Mike does pretty good, too. I guess if I'm ever going to learn to play the drums, this might be the best way to do it as it's been said that if you can play these drums at the "expert" level, you can play regular drums. I get the feeling that there will be a lot of boo'ing and getting kicked off the stage during the learning process but it might be fun, too. Might.

After Mike & Laura and the boys left, Amanda and Jamie played drums and sang well into the night while I crawled off to bed so that I could go to work in the morning. Jamie had taken over the microphone at that point and was having a grand time acting out the part of a lead singer in a rock & roll band so while I was trying to fall asleep I'd occasionally hear an outbreak of "Thank you! Thank you very much!" or "Woooooo!" It was really nice that the girls were actually doing something together and seemingly getting along for a change which was one of my hopes when I decided to get Rock Band. You can play solo but it's really more fun when you have others joining in.

Yesterday morning it was off to work for me and then when I got home the girls and I went over for dinner at Jason & Amy's. Cate was over for the weekend, too, so the girls took turns playing Guitar Hero for awhile while I chatted with Jason & Amy about the joys of home ownership and the hassles of moving. The house they bought is probably about as old as the one I live in (darned close to 100 years old) but it's nice and big and has lovely hardwood floors and a porch that I would love. There are still boxes stacked up and things to put away but they're making a good dent in getting things settled in and no doubt before long it will be like they've lived there forever.

Shortly after dinner it was decided that Amanda was going to stay and spend the night with Cate, so Jamie and I came home without her and had the chance to spend some time together. I think that Jamie likes to occasionally be "the only child" and I enjoyed not having to listen to Family Feud - The Home Version for a bit!

This morning it was out of bed and into the kitchen so that I could get the cake baked for the Tiramisu I'm going to try to make for Christmas as well as get my cheesecake baked. As soon as that's out of the oven, I am going to make a Shepard's Pie so that the girls have something to eat while I'm at work for 16 long hours tomorrow and then I'm going to get those final presents wrapped before heading back into work for my shift this evening.

It's kind of hard to believe that Christmas is as close as it is but the calendar doesn't lie and we're into the final stretch. I envy those people who were able to leave their jobs on Friday and not go back into work until Wednesday but I obviously chose the wrong career to be able to do that sort of thing! I knew I should have been a history teacher ...

Well, there's the timer so it's back into the kitchen for me! I hope to be able to post again before Christmas but if I don't - everyone have a very Merry Christmas, a Cool Yule, a Sensational Solstice, and Harmonious Holidays!

Friday, December 21, 2007

T'was Four Days Before Christmas ...

Please scroll down for this week's
I've Got a Question - You've Got an Answer!

Here it is - the shortest day of the year with only four days to go before Christmas and it seems like I have a ton of stuff to try to accomplish today but no ambition to do any of it! Typical, isn't it? If we had managed to stay up to staff for even a month or two at work, I would have tomorrow to get things done, too, but one of our newest dispatchers is taking off for greener pastures so starting tomorrow I'm back to a 48-hour work week by adding Saturdays from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. back into my schedule. Lord knows I need the money from the overtime but it sure was nice having three days a week off for awhile there!

So, with Christmas coming at us faster than a speeding bullet I've got today off followed by a day shift tomorrow, an evening shift on Sunday, and a 16-hour shift on Monday. Somewhere in between all that I need to bake a cheesecake and try my hand at making a Tiramisu (something I've never done before), buy a few gifts, finish wrapping a few gifts, do laundry, and keep the girls from squabbling with each other. That last part - about the girls - yeah ... that's next to impossible! They seem to push each other's buttons on a constant basis and I'm just not sure what - if anything - is going to make them realize that they're sisters and not adversaries. Right now Amanda is at school for her last half day before her Christmas break begins and there's a little peace in the house but after today I get the feeling I'm going to want to be at work more than I'm going to want to be at home unless they get this bickering under control. Perhaps Jane Iredale has a solution? Oh no, wait, she sells skin care products so how could that possibly help?! Heehee ...

Anyhow, it's not going to be all work and no play for the next couple of days. Tonight my son and his wife are coming over with the grandsons and we'll be doing an early Christmas with them. I figure if the boys can get their presents tonight they'll have a chance to play with them a bit before Christmas overload hits plus I got Mike and Laura a digital camera and, with them getting it tonight, they'll be able to take pictures on Christmas morning. Tomorrow after work we're going over for a pot roast dinner at Jason & Amy's new house that they've been spending the last week moving into piece by piece. I think it's going to be a celebratory "Thank goodness there's no more stuff to move!" dinner even more so than a first dinner in the new house but either way it'll be great. Amy's mother is making the pot roast and Amy assures me her mom makes a delicious one. Amanda is hoping they'll have the XBox hooked up so that they can play Guitar Hero III and I think that Jamie and Cate will get along quite well being that they are both Naruto fans. Good food + good friends = good times, right?

Okay, enough fooling around, I need to get myself in gear as time is a'wasting! If I don't get the chance to get to your blogs as often as I should the next couple of days, please don't think it's for lack of interest - just a lack of time! Oh ... and because Jamie has more or less commandeered my laptop, it's going to be for a lack of a computer, too!

I've Got a Question - You've Got an Answer

One of the things I like best about the month or so (depending on where the dates fall on the calendar) between Thanksgiving and Christmas would be all of the great foods that come out only at this time of the year - Christmas cookies, fancy desserts, delectables on the buffet table that you never see at any other time, eggnog, candies, fancy nuts, etc., etc. The goodies are varied and endless and so hard to resist!

I heard on the news the other morning that the average person gains approximately seven pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas and is it any wonder? Even if you just sampled a little bit of each thing, chances are good you're going to gain some sort of weight but it's the holiday season and good foods and good friends seem to go hand-in-hand so how can one resist? And why should one resist? It's like the lyrics from Sleigh Ride say -

"There's a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie."

Part of the "comfort and joy" of the Christmas season comes from the wonderful foods and delicious smells and good times that we have sharing it with our friends. Which brings me to this week's question -

What is your favorite holiday food?
Speaking of favorite foods - some of you asked about the recipe for the Macaroni & Cheese with Shrimp that I was raving about following the party I had at my house for my co-workers last week so I asked Matt, my supervisor and really-oughta-be-a-chef-extraordináire who cooked all of the food for last week's soireé, for the recipe. He sent it to me and it's really super easy so if anyone wants to give it a go, here it is for your enjoyment -
  • Any pasta - your choice - cooked to just this side of al denté
  • Velveeta type cheese - melt and mix into the pasta
  • Bake for 20-25 mins at 350 then add any bread crumbs you would like (I like Corn Flakes crumbled or crushed) and also add the lobster or shrimp
  • Put back in 350 oven for 10-15 minutes; pull out, stir gently and add a smoked gouda cheese ( or any soft cheese of your liking)
It's easy, it's good, and it will really impress your guests should you choose not to horde it all to yourself and actually serve it to others!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Catching Up With the Artmunkey

While reading through my usual reads in my Google Reader the other day, I was quite pleased to come across a post written by Ed the Editor of The Pisstakers about my resident artist, Amanda aka "Artmunkey".

I had mentioned that I needed to get Ed a new screen-shot of my blog if I was going to be able to get up early enough on Sundays to continue to be part of his MyBlogLog Sunday feature so Ed not only showed the new artwork on my blog but had some very nice things to say about Amanda's art. Her art teacher this year hasn't been very complimentary about her choice of artwork calling it "silly cartoons" and such so to have someone else pay some unexpected compliments out of the blue was a very nice thing for her.

Having not posted anything new from the "Artmunkey" lately, I wanted to show off a couple of drawings that Amanda finished recently based on the book Alice in Wonderland. Personally, I think they're great and also think her art teacher needs to be less biased but I guess coming from a biased mother, that might not hold much water, would it?

So - you guys aren't biased, what do you think? Don't be afraid to be honest, even temperamental artists need constructive criticism!



Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Mo Show - "A Christmas Carol"

Wednesday, 7pm Eastern
on Blog Talk Radio

Our second Mo Show Book Club selection
is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Join in the discussion of this classic,
in all its incarnations.

I have always loved "A Christmas Carol" ever since I was a kid and used to watch the Mr. Magoo version which debuted on TV in 1962. Since then I've enjoyed "Scrooged" with Bill Murray in 1988, Patrick Stewart's 1999 version, and the best ever version - in my humble holiday opinion - "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992) complete with one of the best Scrooges ever - Michael Caine!

If you aren't too busy doing last-minute shopping tomorrow night, join us for The Mo Show on BlogTalk Radio and don't forget to bring your best humbug!

A Laugh Before I Go ...

Jamie is flying in early this afternoon from Florida provided she gets on the right plane (her father said that the lines were too long for him to get a pass to walk her down to the gate himself and I'm biting my nails a bit on this one) so I'm heading out to the airport in Rhode Island in a little bit to get her. Thankfully the weather has cooperated and though it's bone-chilling cold here in New England, at least it's clear and not any of the nasty stuff we got this weekend.

Until I get back, talk amongst yourselves and hopefully these graphics came out good enough so that you can get a small chuckle out of the following:

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Monday, December 17, 2007

Manic Monday - Carol

Something to listen to while you read!

I grew up with parents who listened to country music back when it was still considered to be country & western so the sounds of Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins, Slim Whitman, Buck Owens, and the like filled the house on a regular basis. That included Christmas when my parents would break out albums such as Christmas With Buck Owens that had such songs as Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy, Santa's Coming in a Stagecoach, and Blue Christmas Lights; Christmas With Johnny Cash with traditional carols like Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Away in a Manger, and I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day; and my personal favorite Jim Reeves: Twelve Songs of Christmas with The Merry Christmas Polka, Señor Santa Claus, and the heart-wrenching An Old Christmas Card.

Jim Reeves - Twelve Songs of ChristmasI do believe that Jim Reeves was my mom's all-time favorite singer and who can blame her? The man had a rich, velvety baritone that could charm the birds from the trees. I believe it was once said that there were not enough "o's" in smooth to describe his voice and that couldn't have been more true!

After a string of hits on a smaller record label, RCA Records signed Jim to a 10-year contract in 1955 and he quickly became one of country music's biggest and brightest stars. By changing his singing style on Four Walls, a song of lost love written from a woman's perspective, he helped to usher in a new style of country music that became known as "The Nashville Sound". This new sound replaced the Honky Tonk style of earlier country & western music and was typified by the use of "smooth" strings and lusher background vocals with a crooning style of lead vocal.

In 1959–60 Reeves scored his greatest hit with He'll Have to Go, a song that earned him a platinum record. After recording another five albums, in 1963 he released his Twelve Songs of Christmas album which became an indelible part of my childhood as it was played a lot between Thanksgiving and Christmas. To this day I know all the words to Señor Santa Claus, C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S, and Mary's Boy Child as well as the other nine songs on the album including the beautiful version of the Christmas carol that I have featured above, Silver Bells.

Tragically, Jim's life came to an early end on July 31st, 1964 when the small aircraft that he was piloting crashed nose-first into the ground during a violent thunderstorm outside of Nashville, Tennessee. His business partner and manager, Dean Manuel, also died in the crash when Jim became disoriented by "pilot's vertigo" which would have resulted in him not realizing in which direction the plane was flying. Later investigations determined that he was flying the plane upside down but didn't realize it so when he thought he was pulling the plane up to go above the storm, he was really pushing the plane downward and straight into the ground. Even though I was only six years old at the time, I can still remember my mother coming into the room and saying that Jim Reeves had died. The only other "star" that I can remember my mother telling me about was Elvis so I guess that tells you just how popular Jim Reeves was in our household.

On this Manic Monday, take a few moments to enjoy the smooth baritone of Jim Reeves singing one of my very favorite Christmas carols and then just go ahead and try to tell me that the man didn't have the voice of an angel!

For other Manic Monday entries, check out the main entry at our host Morgen's site - It's a Blog Eat Blog World - and see what others thought of when Mo said "carol" was our word for the week!

Sunday, December 16, 2007