Sundry information, thoughts and links to sort us out

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Nature Poem

I am rain
as you are sun
and they have the sea
like a rhapsody

I think this is one of mine, but I'm not sure....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kristin's Poem

me be

Our friend Kristin was one of the first to post a poem on our fridge. Like the Pooh poem, there is a visual component to this one, too. Kristin combined the tiles for "yet" & "I" to make "yeti." The play on (or rather, with) words makes for an interesting double entendre. :-)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Poems From the Fridge

While we were living in our previous apartment, the refrigerator died. The landlord immediately replaced it, of course, & we decided to "christen" it by getting some Magnetic Poetry tiles for it. We ended up buying 3 sets - Original, Shakespearean, & Romantic. These were put up on the fridge amidst our regular magnets - souvenirs, decorations, & the obligatory ones with pizza place phone numbers on them! We invited visiting friends & family to feel free to make poems if the muse so struck them.

Over the years we've added additional sets of words. Two years in a row I had Magnetic Poetry calendars that came with their own mini-sets of words - all calendar-themed with words like "winter" & "rain," among others. When we moved, we photographed all the poems before packing up the words, then we put the words up on the new fridge for future poems to occur.

As I have time, I am going to share those poems with you here. This is the very first poem we put together with our Magnetic Poetry set. It also used one Disney character magnet (you can probably guess which one). Enjoy!

Honey Pooh Fluff

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Star Wars Joke

Q: How do you recognize a Lutheran Jedi?
A: When you say, "may the Force be with you," s/he replies "and also with you."

My sister-in-law told us this when we were home visiting last month. I think it's hilarious (and it works for Presbyterian Jedi, too)! I told Bruce we need to exchange this greeting with everyone we meet at Celebration next summer - that's going to be a blast! :-)

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Last week Bruce's grandma, Eva Loebrich, passed away at the age of 91. We drove up to Ohio a week ago today, just got in the car & went, to be there with the family. We are very grateful for the time we had together with our loved ones. As always in these situations, we had to leave in a hurry & we are thankful for our coworkers here in NC who willingly took on extra shifts/duties on short notice to make it possible for us to go. We are also thankful for all the small blessings from friends & family who sent messages, came to the services, dropped by to visit, & housed us while we were in town. All those gifts of love made a difficult time easier & allowed us to honor Grandma & our family.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Super Cinema Synopsis

For various reasons beyond our control (technical issues, work schedules, etc.), we went a significant portion of the spring without being able to post here online. The issues actually began shortly before the Oscars, denying us the ability to do our usual live blogging of the show. Additionally, the problems meant I wasn't able to post movie reviews of all the stuff we saw after the Oscars.

So here goes! Moms, to save you time if you don't want to read the whole post, I think the only films on this list that you could actually see are Midnight in Paris and Winnie The Pooh. Anyway, here are some brief thoughts on the 22 films we've seen since March.

The Adjustment Bureau
Matt Damon is David, an aspiring politician. When he meets Elise (Emily Blount), a ballet dancer, his focus changes & he looks to spend his life with her rather than pursuing advanced political office. But obstacles keep cropping up; despite his desires, David loses contact with Emily & his attempts to reconnect fail. Then he meets some men who tell him that there is a plan for his life & he must follow it, no matter what he wants. David, however, is not one to give up.

At the offset, I was expecting this to be another Bourne Identity-type movie, but it wasn't. In the end it went in a slightly different direction than I would have guessed & I really enjoyed it. Nice, fun film.

Red Riding Hood
Valerie, daughter of the woodcutter, is in love with Peter, but her parents have arranged for her to marry the rich Harry. Learning this, Valerie & Peter decide to run away together, but then Valerie's older sister is killed by the werewolf that has terrorized the town for generations. Town leaders bring in a famous werewolf hunter who locks down the town. The townspeople also learn that this werewolf could be any one of them, thus instigating panic & causing many of the citizens to plot & turn against each other. All while the werewolf continues to attack the townsfolk.

Yes, people, this is Red Riding Hood a la Twilight. The cinematography is gorgeous, the story & acting are okay, the ending was actually a little unexpected. Bruce & I enjoyed it, but this is really just fluffy fare for those of us who are into fantasy werewolf films. Don't be fooled, however, it is rather bloody at points.

Sucker Punch
A teenage girl witnesses her stepfather in the act of abusing her younger sister & attacks him. In turn, he commits her to an asylum for the criminally insane where she is set for a lobotomy. Once he leaves, she finds that the girls in the institution are being groomed to perform for rich patrons of the asylum, & she herself must also learn to do so. She is given the nickname Baby Doll &, as she finds her style, she meets a wiseman who gives her guidance on how to achieve her quest. Baby Doll & the other girls then prepare to escape by distracting the patrons. Or do they?

I described this movie as "David Lynch directs Kill Bill as a video game." Layer upon layer of twisty plot, you're never sure what's real, what's symbolic, & what the symbolic symbolizes. The cinematography & effects are amazing to boot - ooh, delicious! This is still my favorite film so far this year.

Hanna is being raised by her father in a remote northern location where he is training her in survival & fighting skills. When she feels she is ready, the teenage Hanna activates a beacon which alerts others to their presence. Her father leaves, having set up a rendezvous with her at a later date. Commandos infiltrate & capture Hanna, taking her to a military site. She escapes & begins making her way to her father. On her journey she learns a lot about herself, her father, & the things she was taught to believe.

Overall, the movie is probably pretty predictable, but golly it was interesting to try to stay a step ahead & figure out what was going on. Another fun, action-thriller!

Source Code
Jake Gyllenhall is Army helicopter pilot Colt Stevens. His last memory is flying a mission in Afghanistan when suddenly he wakes up on a commuter train. The girl across from him appears to know him & talks with him about certain events that he doesn't remember. There is an explosion &, the next thing he knows, Colt is in some sort of isolation chamber talking with an Air Force major. She tells him there is a suspected terrorist plot connected to the explosion on the train & that he must "find the bomb, find the bomber." He is sent back & wakes up at the same point in time on the train. He continues this process in 8-minute long attempts, looking at the incident from all angles, in the attempt to complete his mission.

This was an enjoyable movie, but it could have been better. It's a lot easier to guess what's going on in this one. The ending is obvious. The acting is all right & the effects are cool. There are some fun scenes as Colt starts taking crazy risks knowing he's just going to reset in 8 minutes anyway. Good popcorn flick, although also violent.

The Conspirator
President Lincoln is assassinated. Seven men & one woman are arrested & charged with conspiracy in the crime. A rookie lawyer is assigned the defense of the lone woman - Mary Surratt - whose boarding house was the site of occasional visits from John Wilkes Booth.

This was a good, strong acting vehicle with a really interesting true story to tell. Of course, when Robert Redford directs you can certainly plan on getting good pacing & great performances! It's just too bad this came out so early in the year, it's definitely Academy-standard fare. Still might get a Best Actress nod for Robin Wright, that was a good, meaty part, & good actress parts are hard to come by.

Your Highness
Two princes unite to save the heir apparent's fiancee from an evil sorcerer before their kingdom is destroyed. Along the way they meet a brilliant female warrior on a mission to avenge her family. As their quests coincide, they team up for a while. They face a minotaur, gain a magic weapon, are captured, escape, & eventually must face the sorcerer as he undergoes casting his evil spell.

Okay, I was iffy on this one at first, it's a slapstick comedy, which we don't usually like, but it's a medieval adventure a la dungeons & dragons, which we usually do like. Then I read a comment from a friend of mine - a film director in his own right - about how he really liked it despite what the reviews were saying. So, we took a friend who was interested in it & went to the movies. Well, it was awful. Way too many penis jokes (& penises in general), too many "poop jokes & pratfalls" (which will turn me off every time). It could have been better, but it went below sophmoric & down to "junior high-ish." Just not good.

Water for Elephants
Robert Pattison steps away from his iconic vampire role to play Jacob, a veterinary student whose life takes a sudden turn when his parents are killed in an accident leaving him destitute. Unable to finish school, he runs away & joins a circus where his animal-handling skills gain him a job & a bed. Ring Master August runs a tight ship. His wife Marlena is his star, but despite her beauty & talent, the show is not drawing in crowds & the troupe's finances are slim. August hits on an idea for an attraction when he buys Rosie the Elephant & asks Jacob to train her to work with Marlena. The ring master's hard drinking & violent tendencies make him dangerous....especially when the spark of romance flares between Jacob & Marlena.

Reese Witherspoon & Christopher Waltz are fantastic in this. Pattison is okay - he has color to his skin & is easy enough on the eyes to make Witherspoon's attraction to him believable. The plot is fairly predictable, but interesting. The best actor in the movie, of course, is the elephant.

Kenneth Branagh shows that he's not just a Shakespearean actor, he can direct him an action flick in this movie based on Marvel comic's interpretation of the Norse god of thunder. Young & eager, Thor wants to lead the Asgard forces against an ancient enemy. Odin casts Thor out for his disobedience, causing him to arrive on Earth. He meets scientist Jane Foster & establishes a bond with her that changes him. In the meantime, Loki is stirring up trouble on a grand scale back in Asgard.

Okay, I've been a Marvel girl since I first started reading Spider-Man at the age of 7, but I've never read their Thor comics. So I couldn't say whether the film stays true to the comic mythology, but we could argue for days on whether comics stay true to their mythology, so.... Back to the movie, if you go in putting aside any preconceptions of mythology - comic or Norse - & set yourself to watch a comic book action flick, you'll have a grand old time!

Inspired by a graphic novel series, Priest tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world where the church rules society with an iron fist. The priests are chosen by their God-given skills, which may manifest in childhood or later in life, to fight evil in all its forms, but more specifically in the form of vampires who are terrorizing the human population. One priest disobeys orders from the council of cardinals to go & rescue his niece who has been captured by a tribe of vampires.

Yes, the plot was predictable. Yes, the acting was on par with the plot. But man, the costumes, the sets, the effects, the concept...oh, I enjoyed this movie! It was cool to see Paul Bettany playing the action hero & the unattainable love interest for once, instead of the goofy/nerdy sidekick he usually is. It was hilariously funny to us True Blood fans to see Stephen Moyer playing a human victim (he's the Vampire King on the HBO series). The downsides to Priest were: it was only released in 3D in our area - & it wasn't filmed in 3D - & the movie itself is so dark that it was actually hard to see any detail through the after-market 3D conversion, & it is apparently only inspired by the graphic novel series, the plot of the movie has nothing to do with the comic books. Bummer, I liked the film so much, I would have bought the comics.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Captain Jack Sparrow & his rival Captain Barbosa are on a quest to find the fountain of youth. Jack has the map, & the compass which points to what you want most. Additionally, his ex, Angelica, knows what is needed to complete the ritual to activate the fountain. But she has a chip on her shoulder and an ulterior motive that even Jack doesn't know about. And then there's the British army to worry about.

Sure, some of the jokes are getting a little stale. A lot of the plot seems recycled from the other films. But Johnny & Geoffrey Rush are so good!

X-Men: First Class
This is the origin story of how Charles Xavier and Eric Magnus became Professor X and Magneto, how their backgrounds shaped their decisions, and how their friendship bound & eventually separated them. Potentially a brilliant reboot of the franchise with reintroductions of many integral Marvel characters.

A while back Joss Whedon wrote a 24-issue arc of Astonishing X-Men. At the end of the first issue there's a big reveal panel as the X-Men re-appear in their traditional blue & yellow X uniforms. It's delirious, squiggly, fan-girl happy-making to see. This movie feels just like that! Sure, it deviates from the previous movies' mythology, but it goes back to a lot of the comic book mythology - while pulling in more - & does so fabulously. It was great & I really hope they're going to rebuild the franchise on this set-up.

Green Lantern
Test pilot Hal Jordan's fast-living takes an unexpected turn when an alien crash-lands on Earth. The alien's ring chooses Hal to take over his role as a Green Lantern. This is the first time a human - considered to be "too young" a race - is so chosen. Hal has to overcome resistance from the rest of the Green Lanterns & from within himself before figuring out his true path.

Yes, it's been a great summer to be a comic book geek! I'm a Marvel girl & Green Lantern is a DC title, so I am sure there are discrepancies that I didn't catch - & some I did - but all in all it was a fun film.

Winnie the Pooh
Pooh Bear wakes up one morning to realize he has no honey. At Christopher Robin's he finds a note that he can't read & takes it to Owl, who interprets it as Christopher having been kidnapped by the mysterious Backson. The animals then set a plan in motion to capture the Backson & rescue their friend Christopher Robin.

Done in the traditional animation style of the original Oscar-winning Pooh films, this movie brings more stories from the original books to the big screen. Yes, there's new voice talent, but they are all spot on. It is cute, clever, funny, & fun - for adults & kids alike. The credits are incredibly fun, too - the guys are bouncing through them, playing games, chasing bees, poor Eeyore hangs by his tail off a row of credits for two rotations! - & there's a bonus scene at the end. Really! This movie is on my Christmas list already.

Harry Potter 7, pt. 2 (twice)
Harry, Ron, & Hermione continue the quest for the remaining horcruxes - magical items which allow Lord Voldemort to extend his life, even should his physical body be killed - while the Dark Lord himself continues to exert control over the wizarding world. Snape is now headmaster & rules Hogwart's with an iron hand. Even so, a resistance is growing amid students, professors, & wizards at large who align themselves with Harry. It all comes to a head with the boy wizard facing his nemesis in a battle to the death.

Yes, we went opening night. Yes, we went again the following weekend to see it in IMAX 3D. Brilliant! The book is much better, but the movie is a very good adaptation considering what they had to do to make it all fit into a film. The actors have really grown up in these rolls, so much that it is easy to identify with them. Of course, Alan Rickman has been deliciously devious as Snape throughout the franchise - & who doesn't love Dame Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall? The effects are great - amazingly better in IMAX 3D, in fact! - & it is just tremendous fun to ride along to the end with this cast of characters we've grown to love.

Captain America
Steve Rogers is determined to join the Army & fight in World War II, but his small size & poor health have hindered his goals. Until a scientist sees his determination & selects him for a special program. The secret growth hormone the scientist has developed changes Steve into a strong, fast, hale & hearty fighter, but the Army doesn't know what to do with him.

Did I mention what a great summer it is to be a comic book geek?! This movie was great! A good period piece, a good character piece, & a great premise starter...'cause this kicks off next summer's The Avengers, directed by the amazing Joss Whedon. The bonus scene at the end is the preview for it, in fact. Great fun all around!

Cowboys & Aliens
Daniel Craig wakes up alone & wounded in the middle of the desert. He has a strange shackle on one wrist & no memory of what it is or how it got there. In fact, he has no memory at all. He beats up a group of bandits who try to rob him, steals some clothes & a horse, & rides into the nearest town. Only to find that he is a wanted man & has somehow crossed the town's benefactor, a rich livestock wrangler played by Harrison Ford. But bygones become bygones when aliens suddenly attack the town & start abducting residents.

Put together Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, & director Jon Favreau doing an epic period piece combining two diverse genres? Holy smoke, what can go wrong? Well, not all that much actually, but the movie just gets by on its cred, it doesn't really sing. The acting & plot are kinda flat. The effects are cool. It's fun, it just doesn't knock it out of the park.

The Tree of Life
A family of 5 comes of age in the 1950's. The controlling father & free-spirited mother clash over raising their three boys, as the father deals with having given up his dreams to take a job & support the family. The middle son's unexpected death a few years later shatters the family. The eldest son draws on his memories & relationship with the divine to eventually come to terms with the loss.

This movie is trippy! You're never really sure what happened to the middle son. You leap around in time quite a bit through flashbacks. There's this incredibly lengthy segment that Bruce called the "Windows Screen Saver" part. It's like 30 minutes (really!) of CGI effects that tell the story of the Universe from the Big Bang to Modern Day. There are stars being born, planets set into orbit, cells dividing, dinosaurs crawling out of the primordial ooze, meteors striking them down, lots & lots of underwater photography, beautiful scenic vistas of mountains & valleys...all set to opera music. Then suddenly you discover that the eldest of the three sons, as an adult, is Sean Penn. He's an architect, & he's very depressed. He has visions of buildings & angels, of beaches & loved ones.

I remember thinking that if Professor Bogart hadn't retired from K College, this movie would totally be in film class next semester. He would have loved it's hearty dollops of symbolism & archetypal characters. I hated it. It was supposed to be this epic cinematic oeuvre, but I thought it was long, drawn-out, confusing, overdone, & awful.

Midnight in Paris
Gil & his fiancee Inez go to Paris with her parents. While Inez' father John is there on business, Inez & her mother Helen shop for wedding & household supplies. Meanwhile, Gil, a Hollywood screenwriter, is hoping the ambiance of the City of Lights will spark his creativity & reinvigorate his writing career.

This is Woody Allen's latest foray as a writer/director & he is in peak form. Not as slapstick as Sleeper or his other big hits in the 70's, but equally brilliant. The plot is pretty obvious, but the acting is terrific & really pulls everything together. Like many of his movies, the cast is huge & full of famous people all putting in perfect performances. Allen himself is not in the movie, Owen Wilson stars as Gil. I don't normally like Wilson, his usual fare falls into the "poop jokes & pratfalls" category which is one I actively avoid. But he is amazing in this film! I found myself thinking that they could end up being another actor/director pair on a par with Fellini & Marcello Mastrioanni, & what a great move that would be for Owen Wilson. Folks, this is really a movie worth seeing for his performance alone, but you'll also enjoy how good everyone else is & how well the ensemble comes together. See it.

Fright Night
People in a sleepy Vegas suburb keep mysteriously disappearing. Badly damaged corpses keep turning up. Meanwhile, Charlie Brewster has managed to overcome his geeky childhood to become a popular high schooler with a beautiful girlfriend...& a vampire for a next door neighbor.

Oh golly, my friends laughed at me, but I have been sold on this movie since I found out about it like a year ago! The original Fright Night (1985) is one of my all-time favorite vampire films - it's campy, but so good (thanks for loaning it to me for a re-view, Peter!). The remake has Colin Farrell, who is awesome, & the truly delicious David Tennant. Oh, I was SO in from the beginning! Additionally, it's written by Marti Noxon, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. Oh yeah! People, it's even that good - really! In 3D, no less! Oh yes! The plot is eerily parallel & yet slightly off-kilter from the original, but all the better for the times it does sync back up & then drift back apart. The acting is so much better. The costuming (oh why did we think that stuff was fashionable in '85?) is lots better here, too. The effects are tremendous - the soundtrack is great. Oh, it was so so good!

A Few Brains More: Summer of Blood
After falling into the Lazarus Stream, Lily has spent more than 100 years tracking Dead-Eye McShane & taking out the zombies he's created. Many years ago Lily destroyed the stream, but McShane has enlisted the aid of scientists to replicate the water's special chemical combination. He plans to unleash his new creation at a Woodstock-like concert in 1971. Lily continues in her role as Zombie Slayer, aided by the zombified Jack & a few "meddling kids" they encounter along the way.

This movie - the sequel to A Fistful of Brains - was made by my friend & colleague Christine Parker. We used to work together at the TV station. She had a screening at the theater on campus in Chapel Hill & it was too cool that other folks from the station were able to come out & support her & local filmmaking. Christine had put together a cool clip reel of outtakes & behind the scenes footage that was showing in the theater while we waited. The movie itself is funny & clever - it has some gross parts that the squeamish (me!) should close their eyes through, but for the most part even the gross stuff is stylized to be funny. The actors have really come together & are having a great time. There were some new cast members this time around, but they fit right in seamlessly. I liked the plot of this one better than the last one, I thought it flowed better. Guess what? I think there's going to be another one.

Conan: The Barbarian
The son of a barbarian chief & his wife, Conan is born by improvised Ceasarean section when his mother is cut down in battle. She lives long enough to name the baby there on the battlefield. Conan is raised by his father, who is a brilliant swordsmith. However, a rival clan leader & his sorceress daughter are seeking the pieces of a mystic mask which will give the wearer the power of a god. After they kill Conan's father & decimate his clan to get the piece, the young barbarian grows up with a goal of taking down that rival clan chief.

I've never seen the original film version with Arnold Schwarzenegger. (I know, right?!) Nor have I read the books. Bruce says this was probably a better film simply because the art of filmmaking has improved. Overall, it's a really straightforward, predictable movie. The acting is okay. Jason Momoa is very easy on the eyes. The cinematography is nice. But it's just an okay film. now we've got to have the Sound Effects, Sound Editing, & Special Effects categories locked up for next year's Oscars, right?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Recycling Update

Regular readers will remember that we have been disappointed with the availability of recycling since we moved in the summer of 2008. At that time, our apartment complex did not offer the service because their previous contractor had voided the contract when tenants did not separate their trash from their recycling, thus polluting the whole process. Our first solution was to go to one of the county recycling centers, which happened to be just up the street from our grocery store. We bought lidded bins which we kept in our kitchen and hauled to the recycling center when we went shopping.

This was fine until the county decided to give homeowners larger, lidded, rolling curbside bins for collection and closed all the community recycling centers. Only the main one at the town dump remained open and that location had limited hours. Apartment complexes should have begun providing facilities for their tenants to recycle at that time, but ours didn't - possibly because of the previous issues. Our solution was to load our bins in the car and drive to the recycling center next to A Southern Season - which is in Orange County, not Durham County, thus why it is still open - and then shop for gourmet food and chocolate while we were in the neighborhood.

And that was fine until we bought the Smart Car last fall. We really weren't sure how we were going to get our big bins, which can hold two weeks worth of recycling, into our tiny car. As we were still trying to figure that out, miraculously our apartment complex started offering recycling again! Now we just had to roll our bins - which had wheels - across the parking lot to the dumpster area. Next to the industrial-size trash compactor is a small walled-off area where everyone usually dumps their Christmas trees after the holidays. This was previously the recycling center and now is again. There are six large recycling hoppers in there and we can put containers and mixed paper in them. There has always been a huge metal hopper for cardboard recycling, so we do still need to separate our paper from our corrugated cardboard.

For us, this has been fine except for one hiccup so far. That was when one of our bins, which we purchased in 2008, got filled with fruit fly larvae! We had been wondering how we suddenly had so many fruit flies in the apartment - well, that answered that, blech! So, we just threw that bin (it was plastic, after all) into the plastic recycling contents and all. We replaced it with a new one that actually has a better sealing lid. Not long after that, we replaced the other bin, too. It had had the paper products in it, so it didn't have fruit flies, but one of the wheels had broken off and was always needing to be jammed back on, plus the new ones are a better size for actually putting in the Smart Car, if we ever need to do that.

And this has been working out perfectly for us, except for one thing. Our neighbors are doing it again. No one is sorting their recycling and their trash. Even the Christmas trees they throw out at the holidays are really not supposed to be dumped there, but everyone does it and does it all year round. The recycling area has couches, TV's, lamps, once I found a box of clothes and miscellaneous items as if someone had broken up with their partner and threw all their stuff out of the house. These, and bags and bags of trash, are just piled up in, around, on top of the actual recycling collection bins. One day I was putting my trash in the correct place - the compactor - and I saw one of our complex's maintenance men moving stuff - one item at a time - from the recycling into the trash. We had the following short conversation.

Me: Why do people DO that?
Him: (shakes head) I don't know.
Me: I just want to hang up signs, 'people, sort your dang trash!'

And I do want to hang up signs, but that's not my responsibility as I am not management. Still, I think we're in serious danger of losing our recycling contract again which is not only bad for the planet, it's bad for us. It's illegal to throw recyclables in the trash in North Carolina. Individuals cannot be punished for it - how would they figure out who did it? ("We found your name on an envelope underneath a half a ton of garbage...." [ahem]). But trash collectors can be fined, which they would surely pass on to their clients in the form of price hikes, which would probably come back on us in the form of rent hikes. Come on, people, this is really obvious! Plus you're killing the planet, which is already overwhelmed with all of us using up its resources. Get with the program and sort your dang trash!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reflecting on Family

"Family faces are like magic mirrors. Looking at people who belong to us, we see the past, present, and future."
~ Gail Lumet Buckley

I am so blessed to have an amazing family! Like probably everyone in America, I have an interesting family dynamic, but it's never seemed odd to me. Sure, I have like a zillion relatives and step-relatives and relatives-twice-removed, but they're all family and have never felt like anything other than that. When we have reunions - whether it's the Howard clan, the Rennells clan, the Stahl clan, or any other branch of the family - it's always just a joy to see and be in fellowship with everyone.

I fondly remember summers spent sleeping over at cousins' houses, family trips to the cabin in Canada, pool parties at Aunt Helen's, Easter egg hunts in Amherst, and St. Patrick's Day dinners at any "O'Stahl" house available. I read once about how cousins are our first friends, and that feels very true to my own experience. Even now, as adults, the bond between us cousins is so strong - when we see each other, even though it may have been years, we are still connected just as firmly as we were when we played together as children.

This past spring, the Howard clan got together for our first reunion in 8 years. 10 of the 12 of us first cousins were there, as were many of the "removeds," it was a tremendous time. Barely two weeks after that reunion, Grandma passed away. Now my cousin Gayle, the eldest of us on this side, and her brother Rick, are both very ill. My heart aches for these my "siblings of the heart" and for the family as a whole.

I am truly blessed with a strong and wondrous family, ours is a deep bond. Right now I am thinking of all of you, my relatives, with gratitude and sending my love to each and every one of you, knowing that, no matter what, all manner of things shall be well.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hilton Head 2011

Regular readers will remember that Bruce's folks have an annual time-share at Hilton Head Island, SC. We usually manage to go down there with them at least every other year (sometimes we're too busy at work to take time off). This was one of the years when they have two weeks on the Island instead of just one, & we were able to take some vacation time to join them for part of the trip!

Debbe & Derek flew in to Raleigh a couple of days before Mom & Dad Loebrich arrived. It was fun to visit with them & play with our nephew! Mom & Dad drove down from Ohio, arriving on Saturday. After their long drive, they got to enjoy playing in the pool at our apartment complex with Derek - refreshing! The four of them then headed on to Hilton Head on Sunday morning. Bruce & I worked the following week, then loaded up the Smart Car & drove down to join them.

We had great weather for our drive - had the convertible top down for the first half of the trip even. When we stopped to fill up our gas tank, I quickly put on sunscreen, though! There was a point when we were close enough to the eastern NC wildfires that for about half an hour the air just smelled like campfires constantly. We put the top up about noon as it was getting too hot, & arrived on Hilton Head a little before 3pm.

Mom & Dad had managed to get the condo right next to the pool this year - brilliant! Each morning we stepped off our back deck & walked about 3 feet to the pool. Once I discovered the hot tub next to the pool, that's where I started every day! We usually spent at least an hour swimming & playing in the pool each day before heading back to the condo for showers & lunches. Can't beat that!

We also got in one afternoon at the beach - it was super windy & there was a storm front moving in which made things awfully hazy, but we had a great time. I love it when the ocean is so warm that it feels like bathwater! (Although the current was insanely powerful so none of us swam much.) We tried to go to the beach another time & as we walked up everyone else was walking out. I was just thinking "is everyone going to get dinner at the same time?" (it was 5pm) when one lady kindly stopped me & told me that the lifeguards had just blown the whistles to evacuate the beach because there was a storm coming in. So, we all turned around & went home. Dad & Debbe took Derek down to the beach a couple more times, but Bruce & I opted to stay at the condo & rest on those days.

While we did have a couple doozies of storms, one in the middle of the night which was accompanied by some spectacular thunder & lightning, most of the time the weather was good if a little (okay a lot) too hot. Thank goodness for a/c & the pool next door!

In addition to the swimming & beach trips, we made our usual favorite treks - to the outlet mall & to the cute shops at Coligny Circle & Fresh Market Plaza. I bought fudge to bring back to work, & between the 6 of us we bought 23 pairs of shoes (including 4 pairs of water shoes for the pool)!

Derek is really into drawing right now, too. He made pictures almost constantly. He put together a book of our adventures that is really cool! There are pictures of all the canons & time bombs & bad guys we fought, upgrades we earned, mazes we had to do, & even a treasure map, but my favorite is the picture of Derek with Bruce & me after we've earned our sensei hats for beating the big bad guy - I may have to scan that one!

After the time-share was up, everyone came back to Durham. Mom & Dad headed back to Ohio on July 4th, we had Debbe & Derek for a couple more days during which time we went to the science museum & played in the pool.

Fun family tradition!

Saturday, April 30, 2011


So you've probably heard about the stormy weather across the Southeast this spring. The front that most impacted North Carolina actually began in Arkansas on April 14th. By the 16th, the storms had made it to our state. It was very weird, Durham was almost the calm at the center of the storm. We had gone out to Costco, which is 7 miles north of us, and the sky was ominous, but it was still rather warm out, we even put the top down on our convertible. When we were finished shopping and were loading our groceries into the car, it had started raining. By the time we got on the road the rain was pretty heavy and so were the winds, driving was rather tricky. However, when we got home (just 7 miles, remember!) the rain was only sort of "spitty" while the winds were still heavy.

Our neighbors were heading out and asked about the weather. Since we'd driven out of the storm, we told them that the rain wasn't that bad but it was windy. Imagine our chagrin when, after putting away the groceries, we discovered that we were under a Tornado Warning! We turned on the local 24-hour news channel immediately. Not much later in the afternoon there were EIGHT simultaneous warnings as the storms swept across the state. Oddly, outside our window it was still just dark with some spitty rain which occasionally picked up for a short time.

South Durham ended up weathering the storms quite well. As you've surely seen in the news, though, the rest of the state was severely affected. With 24 deaths and over 80 injuries, as well as about 800 homes and businesses damaged statewide, the impact was akin to the hurricanes which often pummel our state. Clean-up and recovery is still going on, so it was good that the second batch of storms this past week didn't come to North Carolina.

The most difficult part of the tornadoes for me was, as usual, the aftermath coverage we did at work. It made for a very busy week and not only was it a struggle to rearrange our crews and shows, the subject matter was difficult to watch and report.

I have to admit, however, that I am a little jaded after all my years in the TV biz. I kept joking about the Tornado Trifecta. My fellow TV folks know what I mean, but for the rest of you, it's the three things you always hear in witness comments after the fact: "Sounded like a freight train. Never seen anything like it. Lucky to be alive." No one had the trifecta in their coverage, but that's probably good because, in fact, these storms were no joking matter - even when jokes are the only thing helping you get through the coverage.

Tornadoes are not nearly as common here in North Carolina as they are back in my native Ohio.
One of my earliest memories is of there being a tornado in the small town of Bryan, Ohio where I was living. We didn't have a basement and everyone went to the one house on the block that did. Many people here don't know what to do during a tornado. As soon as we heard we were in a Warning, we knew we needed to go into the master bathroom (most interior room, no windows) if things looked bad. There are no sirens here either. Even after 12 years of living in North Carolina, when I hear a fire siren, I still stop to hear if it will waver or stay steady (non-Ohioans, a steady siren means tornado, a wavering siren means fire).

I'm glad that we and all our loved ones came through the storms okay. This has already been an odd season weather-wise, I hope that hurricane season isn't too bad.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Going Greener

The youth of our church are encouraging the congregation to Love Earth Not Trash this Lent (hence the acronym). The idea is, rather than giving up something routine like chocolate or coffee, give up a practice that is harmful to the environment. Suggested ideas were: stopping using the plastic bags at the grocery store or stopping drinking bottled water. The youth could gather estimates from the parishioners and calculate the savings to the Earth.

For instance, say I'm giving up using plastic bags (I am, but I'll get to that in a minute). I figure that I use 10 plastic bags each time I go to the store, and that I'll buy groceries 5 times during the 40 days of Lent. That's 50 fewer plastic bags going into a landfill. Add that to all my fellow church members' numbers of plastic bags and you'll get a rather large number of bags not going to landfills! It's the same idea for bottled water - even if you're a devout recycler, the production of plastic uses resources and cutting down the number of bottles you buy can make a difference.

So, you're probably thinking, "But, Kate, you're Presbyterian! I didn't think you guys had to give up things for Lent!" And you're right - this is a voluntary practice and a service project opportunity for the youth groups. But, it's also a great idea. I'm participating as sort of a silent partner or something, however. I didn't turn in any estimates or proposals of what I'd do - mainly because our lifestyle doesn't quite fit into the suggested LENT options.

When it comes to plastic grocery bags, we do most of our shopping at Sam's Club or Costco. If you have ever shopped at a warehouse club like that, you know that they don't use bags at all so they can count your items on your way out the door to prevent theft. So we have a stash of reusable shopping bags in the trunk of our car and we just load all our groceries into them in the parking lot. Additionally, we get Shopper Points for using reusable bags when we're at a regular grocery store. Finally, what plastic grocery bags I do have in the house, I use as trash bags since all my waste baskets are too small for the trash bags sold in stores! So, I couldn't figure out how to give the youth any sort of number of how many bags I would or would not be using during Lent. Instead, I am just making a concerted effort to always take a reusable bag into the store with me, or to tell the clerk I don't need a bag, even if I just run in for a couple of items.

As for bottled water, I don't drink it that way. I have a nifty washable water bottle that was given to me as a gift when I went up and spoke at an event at my alma mater a few years ago. Emblazoned with the college logo and everything, it sits proudly on my desk at work, I fill it from the drinking fountain whenever I'm thirsty and take it home to wash on the weekends. So, instead I am going back to a practice we used during the drought. We have low-flow shower heads with a toggle switch. The idea is to cap the shower head while you're lathering and run the water only to rinse. The bonus of the toggle switch is that it holds the water back at the temperature you already set so you don't get zapped by a burst of cold water when you're ready to rinse. Again, though, I had no idea how to write that up for our youth group - I suppose I could have looked at my water bill and tried to figure out how many fewer gallons I'd be using, but that seemed complicated....

Anyway, it's not really about having a record or bragging rights or anything else, giving things up for Lent is about self-discipline and bringing yourself closer to God, and just the attempt is worthy in and of itself. So, I'm taking the opportunity our youth provided and hoping it helps me improve myself and my planet.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Back Online

So...for reasons that are more complicated than can be explained here, our site has been down for a while. It all hinged around some updates to other software and programs, which ended up not working correctly with our already-established stuff. Not our fault, the updates were by the creating company, not us, but it took us a while to figure out what exactly was the issue. Then it took a little longer to have the time to make the corrections! But, at last, we've been able to do so and should once again be functional. Now, we just have to find the time amidst our busy schedules to occasionally post about our goings-on! :-)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy 2011!

Hard to believe a new year is already started! Where did the old one go?

Hope you all welcomed the year surrounded by loved ones and that they bring joy and contentment to your life throughout 2011. Here's to a year of health, happiness, prosperity, and peace to all.

Rabbits, rabbits!