Friday, June 29, 2007

Just a Little Freaked Out At the Moment...

I have just completed EVERYTHING that was on my to-do list for today at work. AND I spent two hours working on end-of-year evaluations (our Fiscal Year ends June 30).

Everything on my list has a little check mark beside it and it's only 4pm.


This has never happened. There is always some straggler (or ten). Just... Wow.

(P.S. Video from Day Three is coming soon. I have it down to 103 MB, but YouTube thinks that it should only be 100. Sadly, it means sacrificing more of the bellydancer. Sorry, guys.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Here We Go Again!

Most of the bags are packed. Only toiletries and snacks remain (plus a few miscellaneous items of clothing for the kids). Marcus has developed a nasty cough, so I will try to get him a doctor's appointment first thing in the morning. Our flight leaves at 12:15. I am hoping that I don't have to ask Grandma to keep him at home here at the last minute. Part of the trip I'm most looking forward to is tomorrow at EPCOT... just him and me. And of course he'll be getting his first haircut this week too.

If it's only a cough, I'll Benadryl him up, then be sure he gets to bed early tomorrow night. We aren't planning to push the kids too terribly hard on this trip anyway, so hopefully he can push through it. He's a tough guy.

Of course, last time we went to Disney, he ended up in the hospital. Hmmmmmmmm...

Regardless, we'll be out of touch for a few days, since Disney charges $10 per day for internet connection. (Anything for a buck). However, hopefully you will be rewarded for your wait with several little movies... one for each day in the parks. We'll see how it turns out.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Laundry Purgatory

Today, I am packing for Disney and working my way through Laundry Purgatory. I thought I'd seize the opportunity since Chris is working this afternoon. Laundry is normally his job, but he tends to stick to the "must do's" rather than feeling that all of it is really needed. Therefore, we have an impressive backlog in the laundry room I like to refer to as Laundry Purgatory. I'm sure it happens in all homes, but it happens to an extreme degree in ours.

You know... all those blankets, comforter covers, area rugs, delicates... all those things you don't want to wash or feel you don't have to because there isn't an immediate need for that particular thing. In our house, this usually amounts to the area rug in the guest bathroom, the off-season comforters, and some of my clothes. One year, the comforter cover I removed in the spring didn't get washed until I took the lightweight cover off in the fall and realized I had nothing to recover the comforter with.

Don't get me wrong here... this is not a post knocking Chris for not getting to this stuff. I am just as capable of doing it, and I don't ever get to it. So today, I'm getting to it. Chris caught up on most of the laundry earlier this week, so with any luck, Purgatory will be empty by the end of the day.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Many Buckles Were Swashed

Wow. I wonder how Johnny Depp felt when he saw his nose blown up to 20 feet tall on the big screen. My vote for best scene ever.

Anyway, Chris and I enjoyed the latest Pirates movie tonight. Loved the ride references too. Sitting in that dark theater hearing "Dead. Men. Tell. No. Taaaaaaaaaaales" made me feel like I was on the ride. Astounding. Athena doesn't want to see the Pirates because "They will bite you!" So Chris and I may have to switch off on that one. Unless Marcus and I make it over to Magic Kingdom on Wednesday before Chris and Athena arrive.

Anyway, I really expected to not like this movie at all, since it's the third in a series, and those are rarely very good. But I was pleasantly surprised. And it's a long movie too... so that's an extra compliment. It takes a lot for me to sit all the way through anything over two hours.

We considered getting ice cream afterwards, but ended up just going and getting the kids. A short date, I suppose, but we had fun.

Oh, and they showed a preview for Ratatouille. We are SO there. Opens my birthday weekend. Woot!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Our First Lesson Went Swimmingly!

Athena had her first swim lesson tonight. She has a series of 8 over the next four weeks... every Tuesday and Thursday night. Well, really it will be seven, because she'll miss next Thursday when we are at Disney. No harm done. We'll be in the pool at the resort every afternoon, so she'll get plenty of practice.

I was terribly nervous about this class. I worried that she would be shy, and she wouldn't be willing to get in the pool without one of us in there with her. I worried she'd boss/push around the other kids. And I worried that I just blew $100 for nothing, since they don't really give refunds at The World's Most Expensive Gym (TM). (They will credit my "activities" account... but no money back... and no make up classes either. Scrooges.)

Indeed, when the teacher (Heather) gathered us together to start the class, Athena clutched my leg and asked me if I was going in with her. I said no, and tried to distract her by pointing out the other kids in the class (except Patrick, who was crying and begging his father to take him home). I worried that we were going the way of Patrick, until Heather said, "So who wants to play in the pool with me?!" Athena flew off my leg so quickly I was glad I wasn't wearing a skirt.

PLOP into the pool she went... and all was right with the world. And once again, I see what I'm paying for in this luxury gym we joined... FOUR kids in the class. FOUR. That's it. Lots of individual attention (especially since Patrick never really joined in until the end). Athena did everything she was told, and only got distracted twice... well, twice in a major way.

The best part... she didn't throw a fit when we left. She was cold and she was ready to go. It helped that we got there about 15 minutes early so she could splash around for a bit. It also helped that the class ends at 8, so by the time we got home, it was bedtime.

So today... a success. Chris will take her on Thursday while I make Dream Dinners. Hopefully that will go just as well!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Video at Last!

You may remember my lofty goal to produce a video per day at Disney and try to post them almost nightly. I suppose you at least know how that turned out. We completed exactly zero videos, and there were days we didn't even really take pictures. Plus, our camera broke mid-trip.

The repair to the camera is pretty simple, so we will have it repaired eventually, but part of the curse that goes with having such a great camera (two lenses... one for video, one for photos... all in one camera) is that is is a bit bulky and cumbersome.

Now that still cameras have come such a long way, and memory sticks have grown exponentially in storage space, we are simplifying... and we think we may only use the old repaired video camera when we want a REALLY good quality video. In the meantime, my mom got me a Sony Cyber-Shot for my birthday. Plus a 2G memory stick. The camera is super light and VERY quick on the shutter, which means we get good pics, even when are children are moving at 90mph.

See for yourself! I made a movie tonight from the pictures and video I captured in Roanoke this weekend! Let me know what you think of the quality. And maybe we'll do a movie per night for trip number two!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Victoria & Alberts

I promised long ago to post about our experience at Central Florida's only four-diamond restaurant... and so now I deliver.

Victoria & Alberts is in the Grand Floridian, a deluxe resort on the monorail. It is small, adults only, and is prix fixe, with a few exceptions. Your seven-course meal is expertly prepared and served formally by up to as many waitstaff as you have guests at the table. I felt VERY pampered and at times I felt like we were the only ones in the restaurant.

When we arrived, we approached the closed doors to the restaurant and before we knew it, they burst open and a maitre d' asked, "You must be the Smith party?" I supposed they study the names of the guests and sizes of the party and they make a guess. We were a party of six, which is unusual... many parties were two or four... so I guess we did stand out a bit.

Anyway, we are seated and presented with personalized, keep-sake menus. Of course, you would expect to keep them as they had your name on them, and what good would that do THEM? Anyhoo... keeping the menu means I can tell you not only what we ate, but what we DIDN'T eat as well. Pretty nifty, eh?

I also ordered a flight of wine to accompany the meal. Disney employs several world-class sommaliers, so why not let them pick the wines. I'll share those with you as well.

So... we begin.

Amuse Bouche
We were presented a taste of a lobster pastry, and with it, a small cup of lobster bisque. Both were delicious, but I had to call forth all my super mind control powers to keep myself from licking the bottom of my cup. This was accompanied by the Heidsieck Monopole "Blue Top" Brut Champagne NV. I'm not a fan of the bubbly, but this was fine.

First Course
Seared Colorado Buffalo Tenderloin, Braised Fennel, Radishes and Satsuma Tangerine Vinaigrette
Dungeness and King Crab with Spring Asparagus and Calvisius Caviar
Iranian Osetra Caviar with Traditional Garnish ($125 for a half oz. or $250 for one oz.)
Okay... first I need to clarify... the price of the whole meal is $115 per person. Each course offered one choice with a surcharge, should you wish to "take advantage" of it. So the prices above for the caviar... they are IN ADDITION to the cost of the meal.
Needless to say, this was not our night to enjoy caviar. I had the Buffalo. Chris can post about his choices, if he wishes to... I can't remember them all. (Oh, and if you find yourself reaching for a food dictionary while reading this menu, you are not alone... we consider ourselves foodies, and we don't know what several of these items are...)
So, the Buffalo... medium rare, tender, and delicious. I have only had buffalo once before, and it was overcooked and tough, tough, TOUGH. This was tender, easy to chew, and lovely. It was paired with a Cantina Del Taburno Falanghina, Campania 2005.
Second Course
Long Island Duck with Roasted Chiogga Beets and Turnip Kraut
New Zealand Elk with Elephant Garlic Spaetzle and Veal Sweetbreads
Pan Roasted Foie Gras and Fuji Apple Tart with Mostarda di Cremona $15 (with an optional wine offering that was $140 for a 3 oz. pour. It was French.)
Now, when I ordered, I had not yet tried the Buffalo, so if I had known how lovely it would be, I might have tried the Elk. Again, I was thinking "game = tough." Plus, I generally Just Say No to sweetbreads. And since the meal was expensive enough (thank you very much), I stayed away from surcharges. Duck it is.
Again, I am not normally a fan of the water fowl. But this was fabulous. Very steak-y... tasty. Served with Dr. Zenzen Apollo-Falter Spatburgunder, Rheinhessen 2005. I also tried Derek's Elk, and would have been equally happy had I selected it instead.
Third Course
Ivory King Salmon with Mustard Greens, Sauce Soubise and Ramp Pesto
Yellow Fin Tuna Tempura with Hijiki Salad and Carrot-Ginger Coulis
Seared Wild Turbot with Toasted Capers and Meyer Lemon $25
Me no likey Tuna. Me LOVEY Salmon. Easy choice. Exquisite, this. Love when I can get me the real thing when it comes to salmon. Served with Pere & Fils Christian Moreau Chablis 2004.
Fourth Course (Main)
Kurobuta Pork Tenderloin and Belly with Florida Corn and Cherry Jus
Poulet Rouge with Wild Mushroom Ragout and Truffled Egg
Prosciutto-Wrapped Lamb with Potato Gnocchi and Sherry Vinaigrette
Australian "Kobe" Beef Tenderloin with Cauliflower Puree $30
Japaneses "Kobe" Strip Loin with Oxtail Jus $80
Now, this was tougher. I don't mix meat and fruit, so the first choice was out. I love chicken and wild mushrooms, but in the end, the lamb won. (Lamb usually always wins with me, but when you toss gnocchi into the deal, how can I say no?). Jeff did stray into the "surcharge" territory on this and got the Australian Kobe Beef. Most people at the table tried it... and it was described as "melts in your mouth." I stuck with my lamb though. I figured if I had his, he would get to have some of mine. And I wasn't sharing.
The lamb was served with Cesari "Mara" Vino Di Ripasso Valpolicella 2004. (My Italian is good enough that I think this roughly translates as "table wine" but it was good, so I'm not going to gripe about it.)
The fifth course was a port or a gelato. No contest... ice cream always gets the nod.
Finally, the desserts:
Pyramid of Tanzanie Dark Chocolate Mousse
Berry Gateau with Mango Yogurt Pannacotta
Hawaiian Kona Chocolate Souffle
Caramelized Banana Gateau
Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
Grand Marnier Souffle
So... let's see how well you know me! What did I pick!? (Sophie can't guess... I told her already!)

Monday, June 04, 2007

Murphy - June 23, 1992 - June 4, 2007

Born on a hot summer day in High Point, North Carolina, to a rat terrier mommy, Comet, on the property of a breeder, Murphy came into her person's life in early September, 1992. Her person had recently graduated from college, and was living with her parents as she searched for the right job. Even though Murphy was in a pet store, and her person vowed to never get an animal from a pet store... she came home with her. Her person was also, until seeing Murphy, strictly a cat person. But that's how good she was... she changed people.

Her puppyhood lasted more than two years. She was known among her person's friends as "the perpetual motion machine." She was trained by a professional K-9 trainer, but despite everyone's best efforts, she refused to become 100% house broken... all through her near 15 years.

Despite being quite a handful, her person made her promise to never die. Which is why her person had to make a really difficult decision this weekend. Murphy saw her person through many a terrible relationship, her father's death, her wedding, and the birth of two children. But Murphy was growing old, and her body was shutting down. She had developed Cushing's Disease, and at the time of her death, there wasn't a single vital organ in her body that was still working at better than 50%.

Her person hopes that the decision she made was the right one, and wishes that today's events finally ended the pain, suffering, and general malaise Murphy has been experiencing for more than two years. Murph the Immortal, may you rest in peace. You are loved, treasured, and missed already.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Conjunctivitus 4 - Carans 0

As of this morning, we all have The Evil Eye of Pink. Chris was the last to get it. We're hoping we didn't spread it to the Austins this weekend. Lesson Learned: I am stubborn as hell. Okay, well, I knew that... but anyway.

Marcus must have had it last week. I thought it was just an especially bad cold... and I won't go into explaining WHY I thought that... as it involves colors of various body fluids, and you may be eating your breakfast while you read this.

Anyway, we DID start giving him the drops on Friday, just to ensure that if he DID have it (and I didn't think he did), he wouldn't spread it to Elise. However, he must have had it at some point though, because Athena and I woke up with it yesterday, and Chris got it this morning.

Fortunately, we can all use the same medicine... although we need two bottles for the four of us. And since it's new (that is... not generic yet), it's a mere $50 a bottle after insurance. !!! Marcus' pediatrician was nice enough to give me a $40 rebate coupon for one of them, which I am preparing to send off as I type this. (I'm just that good).

The cute side of this... Athena came to work with me for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon. She had a glorious time spinning on a chair in the conference room and getting "fizzy." (Dizzy). She also found a stash of stickers I had and decorated herself, me, and various items in the office. And she also ate a half a bag of Skittles (my attempt to ensure she remain quiet and well-behaved).

She actually did REALLY well all day. No one was more surprised than me. Four weeks ago, she was really tempermental, moody, and drastically unpredictable. But about a week ago, she turned into a docile-ish, polite, reasonable-er young lady. It's really wonderful. It gives me hope that Disney Part II will go MUCH better than Part I did.