Sundry information, thoughts and links to sort us out

Sunday, September 29, 2013


While I wear a lot of proverbial hats at work - Director, Producer, Writer, Editor, etc. - I didn't used to be much of a literal hat person.  That is, until recently.

It all started in the summer of 2010, when we were planning a family trip to Disney World & I decided I needed a good sun hat. For most of my life I didn't think I looked very good in hats, but necessity is the mother of invention, or in this case, acceptance, & I found one that I actually liked - reminded me of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. I bought it at the Great Outdoor Provision Company. It was great for Disney, except that it doesn't have a chin-strap, so I had to take it off & sit on it on roller coasters.

The lack of a chin-strap became a bigger issue in the fall of 2010 when we got our first Smart Car, since it was a convertible. So we went hat shopping again & I found one at REI that had a strap. The olive green color (not necessarily obvious in this photo) was a big draw for me.  (I had the chin-strap behind me in this photo.

Then we went to Hilton Head with Bruce's family in the summer of 2011 & discovered that Tilley now made some more "feminine" hats. With a broader brim & a new, lighter color the hat drew both Debbe & me straight to the hat rack.  (We have the same coloring & wear a lot of the same colors & styles.) In fact, we each bought one & mine has become my Everyday Hat. 

Bruce also has a Tilley hat, but his is more grey-green. Often when we wear them we get comments about our "cowboy hats" because of their shapes & brims. Mine is now also covered with collectible Disney Winnie the Pooh pins that Derek got for me doing Pin Trading on our Disney trips!  :-)

But what really got me wearing hats more frequently - other than my Tilley, which keeps the sun out of my eyes - was the hat some friends got me for my birthday last year. It's a beautiful light blue with a broad brim & a coordinating scarf to tie around it for a pop of color. Our friends were the first to give it its name, which definitely fits & is what I still call it - my Sunday Go-To-Meeting Hat.

The above picture was taken right before I actually wore that hat to church! It looks great, makes me feel pretty, & got a lot of positive comments & smiles.  That did it - now I've started wearing hats to church! The green one & the Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm one have both made appearances as has the official Sunday Go-To-Meeting hat - I match them to what I'm wearing.  (I hang them in the choir robe room during service.)  

I wear the Tilley to work 2-3 times a week, too, depending on the weather. For a girl who never was much of a hat person, I'm really starting to enjoy wearing my multiple figurative & literal hats!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Florida 2013

This year Mom & Dad Loebrich had two weeks at their Hilton Head time share & decided to split them up - one in SC & the other in Orlando. Debbe & Derek were with them for the whole trip, while we met them in Hilton Head at the end of the first week & caravanned from SC to FL (I stopped counting Buicks at 200, about half an hour outside of Orlando, & at that time we'd also seen 34 cops!). The hardest part of the trip was probably checking into the condo!

Once we got to it, our place was very nice. We had a 3-bedroom lock-out with a full kitchen in the main unit & a kitchenette in our room. Our building was a short walk from the pool & the complex was about 5 miles from Disney. We had dinner that first night at Raglan Road Irish Pub in Downtown Disney - yummy, & great music & dancing! - & we saw a full rainbow as we were leaving. We were pretty sure that the rainbow ended at Disney World. :-)

Debbe & Derek & Mom & Dad went to Legoland on our first full day in Orlando. They had such a good time that they upgraded their passes so they could go more during the week. Meanwhile, we went to Universal's Islands of Adventure so we could go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was awesome! They did a great job of capturing the look & feel of the movies & the books. The main ride - Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey - is a blast, & the wand choosing ceremony at Olivander's is worth the wait even when it's 100 degrees out! We bought wands & some Ravenclaw gear - oh, & frozen butterbeer is quite tasty!

The rest of Islands of Adventure is fun, too. Dr. Seuss-land is neat & colorful, Jurassic Park is almost as creepy as the movies, & Toon Town is fabulously full of both old & new comic strip characters. Plus, we randomly ran into Spiderman in the gift shop! What a treat - I've been reading Spidey since I was 7! - loved getting my picture taken with the famous web-slinger.

We went to EPCOT on our second day in Orlando. Bruce & I did not have Park Hopper passes, so some of the time we were on our own while the rest of the group bopped around. That was okay. We enjoyed the lands - I finally got to see the Canadian Celtic band Off-Kilter! - & we just happened to run into Tigger & Pooh in the toy shop in EPCOT England! We had a family character dinner at 1900 Park Faire at the Grand Floridian where we met Cinderella, Prince Charming, & the stepsisters. The food there is also excellent, btw!

The next day we went to Hollywood Studios & rode Toy Story & Star Tours. Plus we ate at the 50's Prime Time Cafe again - we didn't get our favorite waitress from last year, but we were well taken care of & the food was yummy! I took my phone out to check the Disney app to see what to do after lunch & our waitress chastised me saying, "This is family time - no toys at the table, princess!" :-)

Wayne & Abby drove up Wednesday evening after work & met us for dinner before following us back to the condo. They stayed with us till Saturday morning & we had a good time as a big group. We went over to the Magic Kingdom in a convoy (Derek rode over with Bruce each day - he had fun riding in Anakin!). We broke up into small groups & reconvened throughout the day - it was great fun to explore & ride rides & take pictures. We also managed to get into Be Our Guest for lunch in New Fantasyland. It was worth the half-hour wait in line, the food & the ambiance were amazing!

Friday we were back at EPCOT & started the day with lunch at the Rose & Crown. We also saw an adorable little girl, dressed as Minnie Mouse, playing with Alice in the garden - cutest thing ever as they skipped about the town square! Watched the Serveur Amusant ("balancing guy") in EPCOT France & two taiko drum shows in EPCOT Japan. Caught the Spirit of America fifes & drums as well as the Voices of Liberty concert in EPCOT America - one of the guys picked me out of the audience, took my hand, & sang just to me! It's part of the act, but it was still pretty amazing. (I was embarrassed until Wayne & Abby told me later that it was part of the show.) We also finally managed to meet up with my friend - & former coworker - Lucy for an early meal in EPCOT Mexico! So good to see so many loved ones on our vacation!

Saturday it was back to the Magic Kingdom, just the family. We had lunch at the Crystal Palace for a delightful visit with Pooh & the guys. Derek got picked to perform with the Giggle Gang clown show in the Storybook Circus & had a blast! He got a red clown nose for a prize & we all had fun wearing it & being silly. We debated about staying for the fireworks, but it was rainy & muggy, we were all tired, & we opted to go back to the condo. As we were leaving, Debbe spotted Dopey posing for pictures all by himself! He's one you don't see out much, plus the line was short - & he's a favorite of both Bruce & Debbe - so we grabbed the opportunity!

This was a much less structured trip than last year - & that was part of the plan - it was a little crazy to coordinate & find things that everybody could do together, but it was good just to BE together & enjoy our family time - some of it with extra loved ones - at the Happiest Place on Earth.  :-)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Howard ETC 2013

More than 35 loved ones made the trek to the Watson Homestead Retreat Center in Painted Post, NY for our 2013 family reunion. Bruce & I arrived just after dinner time on Friday & were joyously greeted by my cousin Linda, recognizing our Smart Car from a distance as we drove up, who ran to give us hugs. Many more hugs & kisses abounded as we saw the faces of so many dear ones we'd not seen in far too long! Although it had been just over 2 years since we last got the extended family together, other than updating each other on basic news, it was almost as if no time had passed at all.

The folks at Watson Homestead took great care of us. They had upgraded us to mid-level cabins & they were just what we needed. Each unit had 8 bedrooms with 2 sets of bunk beds in each room. There were bathrooms with showers in each cabin. Each cabin also had a refrigerator, a microwave, & a couple banquet tables with chairs in the main room - as well as couches, armchairs, a fireplace, & a TV/dvd combo. (It might actually have been cool enough at night for the fireplaces, just barely, but we did not make use of them. Our cabin did use the dvd player to watch a couple movies in the evenings.) We split ourselves up between the cabins by choosing either the "Quiet Cabin" - for folks who wanted to go to bed early - or the "Loud Cabin" - for folks who didn't. Bruce & I chose the latter option so we could hang with my cousins, which was awesome! We had a grand time talking & laughing & watching movies together!

The two cabins were a short walk apart with a little yard between them. It was also a short walk from the cabin down to the Homestead's main hall & dining room. We had breakfast, lunch, & dinner there on Saturday, & brunch on Sunday before we all headed home. The facility also includes an indoor pool - where we swam on Saturday afternoon - & a beautiful chapel - which we toured, but did not use because of our varied departure times. We did get to go on a family wagon ride around the property in a flat-bed touring wagon pulled by two gorgeous Belgian draft-horses, though!

In the "Quiet Cabin" there were boards with & piles of family photos through the years. We had lots of fun looking at them, laughing over fashion, & sharing stories. Aunt Dot has been cleaning out the house since Grandma passed two years ago & had sorted many of the pictures into piles for the various folks connected to them - I came home with some photos of Mom & me from my high school years as well as a photo of Bruce & me that I thought was long-lost. Aunt Dot also brought many "heirloom" items to distribute - I had asked several years ago if I could have Papa's chess board that he made, so that came home with us (the pieces are still MIA back at the house in Wisconsin) as did a lovely ceramic plate that Grandma used to have.

While we didn't play "Manipulation" - the family-favorite card game - we did other good family stuff - some traditional, some not.  There was the wagon ride I mentioned, of course. My cousin Sam also gave us all a family dance class in which he taught us to fox trot & promenade. I was more than nervous when I ended up paired with him for the demo, but he's an excellent dancer (I, on the other hand, seem to always add an extra beat somewhere & get off course)! My cousin MacKenzie called her dad (my cousin) Scott on Skype - he was on contract duty in Iraq - & we carried the laptop around so everyone could say hi to him.  We made a family "Harlem Shake" video to send to Scott, too - can't wait to see how it came out!  And we sang...a lot.  We always do, but the Homestead had a piano in the main hall & we had two guitarists present, so there was a lot of music. The Saturday night "hootenanny" was held around a campfire near our cabins & we made s'mores while we were doing it - it was fabulous!

I loved seeing all my aunts, most of my first cousins, many of my once-removeds & second cousins, my great aunts, & of course my mom & stepdad. We had many moments of small, quiet conversations & chances to catch-up. It was a tremendous time & I'm so glad we made the trip!

Oh, & Bruce said the dance class was probably his favorite part - surprised?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Notes from the Road

Safely back from a fabulous family reunion (more on that later), here's a quick post with a few tidbits from our travels!

What should have been a 9 hour drive ended up being 10 to 10 & a half hours thanks to weather, traffic, & an odd choice by our GPS (straight through downtown DC, really?!). But, our after-market stereo performed beautifully & we enjoyed our new SD card of music. Anakin Smart Car also performed beautifully & garnered quite a bit of attention both during the trip & the reunion.

We played Spot the Buick on both legs of the drive, of course. On the way up, we saw 181 Buicks, 31 cops (!!), 4 Smarts, a Lotus, an MG, a classic Thunderbird, a Model-A, a Model-T & a classic pink Cadillac (with fins!).  The last two were both for sale, somewhere along US-15 in between Virginia & the Maryland line, if you're interested! We also saw lots of interesting vanity plates including one that said "red bliss" on a red Toyota Rav-4, the drivers of which proceeded to wave at us & gesture how much they liked our vanity plate!  :-)

On the way back we ended up calling the game around 7ish because the intermittent storms were bringing twilight on sooner than expected and it was getting too dark to see.  Even so, we counted 160 Buicks, 30 cops (!!), 2 Smarts, 2 classic Chevy Bel-Airs (!!), another classic Chevy whose model we couldn't identify, & a Maserati. We also passed an Amish buggy in Pennsylvania, the driver of which turned & smiled at Anakin as we went by. We got a kick out of that!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Games People Play

As Bruce & I are getting ready for a road trip to my family reunion, I've been thinking a lot about the ways people entertain themselves in cars. We just bought an SD card to copy a significant portion of our music library on it so we'd have stuff to listen to along the way. We used to use CD's, & we always started with Pulp Fiction, but we recently got a more versatile car stereo.

Anyway, what astounds me is all the people with TV's & DVD players in their cars to entertain their kids. We used to drive all over Ohio & Michigan (& a couple times all the way to Florida) when I was growing up. We weren't even allowed to read (except for maps or directions). We were supposed to talk to each other or enjoy the scenery. So we played games!

I had this great car bingo set with cards for different types of animals, or vehicles, or buildings, that you marked off as you went. Of course, we also played the Alphabet Game & the License Plate Game, but we had two family favorites that usually filled the majority of our trips - Inky Dinky & Double Rhyming & Guessing.

Inky Dinky is a rhyming game. One person comes up with a phrase that rhymes & gives a clue to the other players. The Inky Dinky part references the number of syllables in the phrase. For instance: depressed father, ink dink. If you answered "sad dad," you've got the gist. Double Rhyming & Guessing is one I think Mom & I made up ourselves. It's very similar, but involves adding more or different words. For instance, using the above example, we might say "now he's happy" to indicate an answer of "glad dad" or we'd say "depressed dad's apartment," which, of course, translates to "sad dad's pad," etc..

Bruce & I invented our current favorite driving game a few years ago. It's called Spot the Buick. The impetus for the game was the fact that, at the time, we & Bruce's parents both drove burgundy Buicks. During a trip home to visit them, we noticed there are an overwhelming number of Buicks in Ohio & Michigan! So, we started counting in Columbus & we had well over 150 points by the time we got home to Durham!

We have a grand time playing Spot the Buick. The rules are simple: 1 point for each Buick, 2 if it's burgundy, 3 if it's Mom & Dad Loebrich's burgundy Buick (only counts once per trip if we're caravanning with them). Since it's our game, we reserve the right to make up other rules - I once gave a burgundy Buick 3 points because the back seat was full of teddy bears! Because we're also kind of car nerds, & we're watching the traffic anyway, we also keep a rough tally of unusual cars we see - like Maseratis or Rolls Royces - &, of course, now that we drive one, we also count Smart Cars.

Driving games are fun - some of our friends invented a game that involves counting cows & can result in resurrected zombie cows if you pass a church & a cemetery in the right order! - I highly recommend interactive driving games that involve watching scenery & laughing with your traveling companions. It's the only way to go - & if you happen to spot a Buick (or the vehicle of your choice) along the way, feel free to make up your own rules & start playing!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Paper Trail

Today on my favorite radio show - Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me - they had a bit about how a woman's purse has more germs than a toilet. Disgusted, I, of course, immediately had to clean my purse! Now, this is something I generally do a couple times a month, but that cleaning usually consists of taking everything out of the bag, sorting it, throwing out/filing items I don't need in there, & putting everything else back in neatly. Today, I did that, but also sprayed the bag & all the individual contents (while removed) with Lysol. Then I left the items on the table to dry before replacing them in my purse.

Like most women, I have "regular purse stuff" - like lip gloss, aspirin, & business cards - in my bag. All that routine stuff goes back in after a cleaning. What comes out is paper, mostly receipts & a few shopping lists. I am always amazed at how many receipts I find stuffed in the various pockets of my purse! But I really shouldn't be.

Anywhere you purchase something, you're bound to end up with at least one receipt. At a restaurant, for example, they'll bring you one receipt to review before submitting payment, & then return with two additional receipts (if you pay by credit card, which most of us do) so you can sign one for them & then keep the original & the duplicate "for your records."  In our household, "for your records" means Bruce hands the receipts to me, I stuff them in my purse, & a week or so later, pull them out & stick them on top of the filing cabinet until I shred them.

Why do we need all those receipts? Why do we use up all that paper? I know a lot of folks with small mom-&-pop businesses who ring up purchases by swiping the buyer's credit card through an attachment to their smart phone. The app they use offers the option of emailing or texting the receipt to the buyer.

Isn't that brilliant? Why can't everybody do something like that? Restaurants could bring a tablet out to your table, you could review the bill, they could run your card, & you could complete the transaction on the tablet, sending yourself an e-receipt. It saves paper & trees, makes filing your receipts easier which in turn would make filing taxes easier (wouldn't it?), & means less stuff (although not necessarily fewer germs) for me to stuff in my purse.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


Bruce & I discovered The Melting Pot over 15 years ago.  We were driving home to Cleveland after visiting friends in southern Ohio, & had made it about as far as Columbus before the pouring rain became too heavy to see through.  We pulled off & started looking for a restaurant, figuring we'd have dinner while waiting out the rain.  The first likely place we saw was The Melting Pot - if you're going to wait out a storm, a fondue restaurant is the place to do it!  Dinner takes like 2 hours!

Seriously, though, it is fantastically yummy & lots of fun & we have been hooked ever since.  Our Kalamazoo group ate there during our 10th Annual New Years Bash.  Bruce & I have eaten at two of the NC locations since moving here & even introduced one of my K interns to The Melting Pot.  I'm in their Club Fondue, so I also get special offers via email...like when it's my birthday!

So, we marked my 45th with a fabulous dinner at The Melting Pot!  A couple of my choir chums noted that one of the early prayers in our church service did say to "delight in rich foods," so this was obviously the right restaurant.  We opted for the traditional swiss cheese fondue for our first course, salads, the steak lovers selection cooked coq au vin style for our entree, & pure dark chocolate fondue for dessert.  Really, when you get to dip fresh bread & apples into melted cheese & garlic, cook excellent cuts of steak in hot wine & herbs, & dip strawberries & rice krispie treats into melted dark chocolate - all accompanied by a glass of wine - what is not to like?! Mmmm....

Plus, as always, the wait staff was super.  Our waitress was great fun - & told us that they actually do all-you-can-eat once a year, gonna have to keep an eye out for that special!  The hostess who booked our reservation also went out of her way to make sure I could use my Birthday Coupon that got me a box of chocolate-covered strawberries to take home - yum!  Plus, the couple at the table next to us popped in & gave us an extra coupon they had which brought down the cost of dinner - too nice!

If you thought fondue was just a kitschy 70's trend, think again.  The Melting Pot is classy, but casual, fun & friendly, & too tasty for words!  It's worth half an hour per course, & you go home happily full.  Happy birthday to me!