Friday, December 13, 2013

The $60,000.00 Cuppa Coffee

We have some friends who are going through a very difficult time in their lives right now.  They’re a young couple with two small children, and E  has cancer. Unfortunately neither of their families has been terribly supportive; the good news is that they have lots of friends who love them and are willing to do anything necessary to help them out.  We consider ourselves fortunate to be among those friends.

E  has had a difficult time with the chemotherapy drugs.  His body has had some odd (skin blistering and falling off) and violent (excessive vomiting) reactions and the medication has been changed several time.  M has been struggling trying to get everything done.  She’s a full-time teacher, mom and wife, while honing her skills as a part-time researcher (trying to glean as much helpful information about the cancer) and taxi driver trying to get her hubby back and forth to chemo treatments.  We have another friend who recently retired and has been happy to transport E back and forth to appointments and such.

The other day M came flying into the office with a strangely irritated look on her face.  She told me that they’d received their bill in the mail for the first two months of E ‘s chemo; $120,000.00!  She said she nearly passed when she opened the envelope.  Thankfully they have insurance, so they don’t have to pay this amount but … WOW.  She was very animated as she told me about the bill and added a good dose of humor along the way.  She mentioned that they’d included a tear-off section on the bill where you could enter your credit card information and send it back.  Yeah, right!  I told her it was too bad she couldn’t send it back with an audible laugh track.  Then she said she knew how she’d get back at them.  She said that she noticed that they offer free coffee in the waiting room while you’re waiting for your patient to finish their treatment.  With a twinkle in her eye she said that she was going to tell our friend N to drink as much coffee as she possibly could each time she took E in for a treatment.

Yep.  That’ll do it!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Little Christmas Mistletoe

A friend of mine came to work the other day with his pinkie finger all bandaged up.  Seriously - from knuckle to tip, it was all cozy and snug inside an enormous wad of bandages.  I asked him what happened and he said that he nearly cut his finger off Sunday cutting mistletoe for his son's Boy Scout fundraiser.  OUCH!

He went to the ER right away - where he promptly waited 5 hours to be seen.  Shortly before the doctor came in, he went out and asked someone if they thought his finger was still viable for a repair; they looked at, said 'Yes, there's still a little bit of pink left'.  A few minutes later the doctor came in and stitched it back together.  He didn't know how many stitches they'd given him, but he said it circles the entire pinkie in something that looks like a blanket stitch.  Again I say OUCH!

He brought the mistletoe in to work to sell.  A dollar a bunch.  Boy, that seems like a mere pittance compared to what I'm sure his doctor bill will be!

Anyway, here's our Christmas photo … oddly enough, with mistletoe!  (**Disclaimer:  No fingers were harmed in the photographing of this mistletoe.  Pinkie swear!)

The Great Pumpkin … Mystery

(I have no idea why part of this post, and all of the last post is in black…talk about your mysteries!) 

So I’m doing a little advanced planning.  I’m planning on making those adorable plush velvet pumpkins that are so popular in the fall (see, told ya I was planning in advance!).  One of the things I love about the pumpkins is that their stems are real pumpkin stems - which is what brings me to the advanced planning bit…

This year we had 4 pumpkins of various sizes and shapes on our front porch.  They will meet their demise this weekend to make way for something a little more holiday appropriate, but before they do, Kevin is going to carve off the pumpkin stems for me.  Four.  Only four.  Now, of course, I wish I’d planned even further in advance and picked up a few more pumpkins before they were all gone.  But alas, I did not.

However.  An interesting thing happened over the weekend.  Kevin and I were driving along one of our favorite routes and we passed a house that had bunches and bunches of pumpkins lining the wall, driveway and front porch.  The pumpkins were all shapes, sizes and varieties.  Sooo cool!  We passed in on Saturday.  Then again on Sunday.  I drive home from work that way, so Monday and Tuesday I spied the pumpkins again.  Finally on Wednesday, I decided to go up to the house and ask if, before they tossed them out, I could have a couple for my craft project.  I wrote out a slip of paper with my name and phone number and the word ‘Pumpkins’ on it to hand to the homeowner should they agree with my request.  So.  I ring the doorbell and a very nice lady answered the door.  I told her that I had a strange request.  She immediately told me that she was not the homeowner, but she asked if the request was about the pumpkins.  I said it was and asked if the homeowner was around, and sure enough, she was.  She joined the other lady at the front door and when I mentioned the pumpkins, they both giggled.  They said that the pumpkins really weren’t theirs.  The homeowner said that she woke up one morning and went out the front door, and there they all were...dozens of pumpkins!  Seventy in all.  She still has no idea who put them there or why.  It’s the Great Pumpkin...mystery!  She invited me to take as many as I wanted, wished me a Merry Christmas and that, my friends, was that!  I am now the proud owner of six more pumpkins with fun and unique stems for my craft project.  Yahoo!  

PS - She did mention that the pumpkins had been disappearing over the last several days and that I was the first one to actually ask if I could have one.  I’m glad I did the right thing and asked -- it was completely worth it to hear the story of how she acquired all of those pumpkins!

I Like Pie

At our school, we do our morning announcements on closed-circuit television.  Which is fabulous!  The kids love love it and it gives them a chance to have a live, in-studio, on-air performance.  ...the only caveat is that sometimes, 7th and 8th graders don’t necessarily possess the best on-air presence.  Often, the word ‘photograph’ comes out pho-TO-graph.  And though they’re learning, their inflections aren’t exactly, well, accurate.  For instance, years ago our Home Economics teacher had planned a food sale for after school.  It was around the holidays, and her students made various kinds of pie; the sale was a slice of pie for $1.00.  To promote the pie sale, she asked to have a blurb put in the student bulletin to be announced over the air the day of the sale.  The two student announcers that morning were supposed to have a  witty repartee about the pie sale; the final line was to be an enthusiastic ‘I like pie!’  However, the young announcer who delivered the line did so with a very somber - almost sad - face and a downcast ‘I like pie’.

Bless her heart.  She has no idea how many hours of entertainment she has provided our family over the years.  Every time, and I do mean every time, we talk about pie, invariably we all put on the most somber face we can muster and solemnly state ‘I like pie’.  Then we giggle and guffaw until the next time we say it --- no doubt an hour or so later.

Thanksgiving is a big pie holiday.  You guessed it … we like pie.  

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Does every Polaroid picture look like Christmas morning when you were a child?

Straightening out some drawers over the summer, I found a Polaroid camera and several boxes of unused film.  I couldn't tell if the camera still had film in it or not, so I clicked the button and, lo and behold, a photo popped out.

It was Kevin, sitting on the floor inspecting something he'd just received in the mail that day for his drum kit.  I'm not sure whether it was the look on his face, or the ubiquitous quasi sepia toned graininess of the picture, but he looked like a little boy on Christmas morning opening his gifts from Santa.

We had a good giggle over it and then wondered to each other if every single Polaroid picture in the world has the same resemblance: Christmas morning, circa 1970's.

Photos have changed a lot over the last 30 - 40 years, that's for certain.  And pretty much, Polaroids have come and gone.  Still.  There is something utterly charming about capturing a goofy pose and silly grin - and having the results to share instantly.  Somehow taking a selfie and sharing it on Facebook just doesn't have the same thrill.

Just sayin'

Friday, September 13, 2013

Reading Between the Lines

For about the last six years or so, the women on our staff have had a group WOFA.  It stands for  Women of First Avenue.  We mostly get together over the summer while we're off, but we get together during the school year sometimes too.  We've done all sorts of different things: mani/pedi's, movies, tea, craft projects - you get the idea.

Just before school started this year, one of our teachers - a woman - sent a message to everyone about getting together before the school year started.  She sent the message out to everyone on staff, but when one of our WOFA members saw the email, she assumed it was going to be a WOFA event; she didn't realize the message had been sent to everyone.

With that in mind, her response was perfectly normal ... for a WOFA event, but not so fitting for the whole staff.  Not that it was inappropriate by any means, it's just that, well, it wasn't really applicable to the men on the staff.  And if you knew our staff, you'd know that this incited some riotous emails sent to the whole staff.  Most of us have been with each other for a very long time and know each other very well - kind of like one big family.  You know, that kind of family (insert mischievous grin here).

Subject:  Long Time, No See

SR: (Female)   Hello everyone!  How about a pre-school, end of summer gathering this Thursday August 22nd around 4:30-ish?  Any suggestions for a good place in Arcadia/Monrovia?

MM: (Female)   I'm in!  Just a thought - there is a pedicure/manicure place in Pasadena called Dashing Divas.  On Thursdays and Fridays they serve complimentary cosmos!  They are super clean, everything is sterilized and they have a healthy outlook on things.  Very cute, relaxing, with a leg massage, and we could all start school with attractive feet!  A basic pedicure is $25.00, a manicure is $20.00.  I'm open to anything!

DP: (Male)   Let the comedy begin in 3...2...1...      Missed you guys!

JR: (Male)   Can't remember if it was Michael or Mark who suggested that place.

MG: (Male referred to in JR comment above)   I don't care who suggested it.  Just hand me a Pale Ale and I'm in!

Welcome back everyone!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Finally Back!!

Someone came into the office the other day and announced that, my all-time favorite, pumpkin spice latte has returned to Starbucks for it's annual fall run.  YAY!

She said 'It just seems too early,' and at that point, I had to agree with her.  That was last week when our temperatures were into the triple digits with nearly triple digit humidity to match (Speaking of which: when did we move back east? Man, I hate humidity!).

Our temperatures have dropped this week and, this morning on our early walk, it was actually pretty cool outside!  So cool, in fact, that I wished I'd worn a sweatshirt.  And then it hit me:  I'm going to stop and pick up my first pumpkin spice latte of the season!

Mmmmmmmm.  I have to say that it's just as delicious as I remembered, and it was such a treat.  I was talking to Deb on the way to work and asked me what the occasion was.  I told her I didn't need one - I was getting it just because I wanted to!  She smartly replied "Well, then I'm going home ... just because I want to!"  Well fine.  Go ahead.  But you won't have any money for pumpkin spice lattes, so neenerneenerneener!

...and counting

In 2005, Kevin and I heard a story about the Green Bay Packers.  The story was about how loyal the fans are and that the team is community owned.  Literally.  The Green Bay, Wisconsin community owns their own team.  Kinda cool!  At some point during the story, they mentioned that season tickets are sold out for years and years, but you can put your name on a waiting list.  Each year they'll send you a post card to update you with your priority number for being able to purchase season tickets.

Well, now ... that was just an opportunity that was too good to pass up!

We sent our names in - and then forgot about it.  Late summer the following year, a post card found it's way into our mailbox:  our 2006 waiting list priority number arrived safe and sound!  At that time, we were number 67,856 on the waiting list.  Whoa Nellie!  That's a pretty high number!  Guess we'll have to wait until next year.

By the next year, 2007, we'd moved up!! 66,980.  Wheeee!  Now we're cookin'!

We've been receiving a post card each year, in spite of two moves, to update us on our 'low-on-the-totem-pole' priority number.  A couple of weeks ago, our 2013 post card arrived:  we are now in the 'almost-there-yeah-right' position of number 58,520 on the priority waiting list.

Gee.  If I think about it reaallly hard, I can almost feel the snow falling now!

...well, maybe not.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tony Bennett on the Eve of His 87th Birthday

This is the first year in many that we've had so few nights at the Hollywood Bowl.  Few though they've been, the performances have been wonderful!

In August, we caught the legendary Tony Bennett in concert.  Amazing!  He performed on a Friday night and the next day was his 87th birthday.  How cool is that?!  Often you find that an older performer has a voice that's not what it used to be, but this was not the case for Mr. Bennett - he was fantastic!  Even managed to do a little soft-shoe here and there.  Both Kevin and I were thrilled that he was at the Bowl this year.  We've both said for a long time that we'd love to see him in concert, so this offered the perfect opportunity.
Photo OC Register

This past Friday night, we saw The Blue Man Group.  Who would have thought that three guys with blue faces and black clothing who do not utter a single syllable could be so awesome!  The show was  chock full of incredible music and musicians, humor, talent and a ton of fun!  
                                                                       Photo LA Times

This weekend:  Earth, Wind and Fire.

Stay tuned!

Friday, September 06, 2013


Alas another school year has begun.  Actually, school started for us on August 28th, but who is counting?  Oh.  Wait.  WE were counting.  During lunch on our first day, our AP radioed me in the office:  

   AP:  "Randa, do you copy?"

   Me:  "Go ahead."

   AP:  "How many more days of school left?"

   Me:  "One hundred seventy nine ... and a half."

Let the good times roll.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cheaper by the Dozen

August 18, 2013.  Our 12th wedding anniversary.  How on earth can it be twelve (TWELVE!) years already?

For all the right reasons, it seems like we've always been together.  Still, it seems odd to think that twelve years ago we were getting ready to say our "I Do's" and commit our lives to one another.  It's a thrill to think that we've enjoyed twelve years already, and an exciting mystery to anticipate what lies ahead for the next twelve years.  And the twelve after that.

Kevin and I have always thoroughly enjoyed our anniversaries, and this year was no exception.  Kevin made reservations at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse (yumyumyum!) and had a gorgeous bouquet of flowers delivered to the restaurant to be placed on our table prior to our arrival.
Without a doubt, Kevin is the sweetest, most romantic man in the world - which makes me the luckiest girl in the world!  The meal was delicious, the wait staff quietly attentive, and the company was perfect in every way.  We truly both feel that we are more in love now than the day we got married.  Very blessed indeed.

Happy anniversary, my love.  I'd marry you again every day of the week and twice on Sunday.  Just this much more.


Is marriage really cheaper by the dozen?  Who knows.  I love that phrase, and loved even more, the original movie by the same title.  The family in the movie had twelve children and when they would ask the dad why he had so many kids, his reply would always be "Well, they're cheaper by the dozen, you know!"

Let's give it some thought - is marriage really cheaper by the dozen years?  Hmmm...

Year one you're busy setting up a household, which can be incredibly expensive.  Figuring out where to live, buying a bit of furniture that represents your new married life, and figuring out how to set up paying your bills.   By year two, you're still in the settling in phase.  You've gotten into the swing of things, but now you've decided your living arrangements could definitely use some improvement, so you begin saving for a house.  Cha-ching!  Year three you've decided that going to the laundromat is ridiculously expensive and, if you bought a washer and dryer, you'd definitely save money.  In the long run.  But...not in the short run.  Year four your beloved's car breaks down beyond repair; add a car payment to your monthly bills.  Ugh.

Years five and six, if you have children, all bets are off.  Your 'cheap' years are definitely over!  If you decide not to have kids, you're still in the process of saving for that elusive home of your own.  It would have been easier, but there was a job change this year and you need to build yourselves back up.  Year seven is looking pretty good!   ...until you're asked to be in three weddings, your cousin in another state suddenly passes away and you find out your tax returns were wrong and you owe the IRS some serious caish.  Ouch!

Year eight is a relatively good year.  No major life or lifestyle changes and you're chugging right along.  Yeah, baby!  Finally an easy, relatively cheap year!  Then...year nine comes along and you're ready to buy that house.  Oh.My.Goodness.  The piles of paperwork to complete the loan isn't nearly as worrisome as the number of zeros you see on those loan docs.  And if you happen to be buying said abode in California?  Plan on retiring at the ripe old age of 70.  Maybe even 75 if you can eek it out.

Year ten comes along and you're thinking "Wow, ten years!  I hope it's a cheap year - we are still spending like crazy on the house!"  In fact, you're not just thinking it, you're actually doing it.  Which is a good thing, because by the time year eleven rolls around, miraculously, there are no huge expenses looming.  The year comes and goes and suddenly, it's year 12.  Danged if that year isn't looking pretty darn good, too!  Things are lookin' up!

Well, there you have it - I guess it's really true.  Now that we've hit the dozen mark, while not 'cheap', it's certainly manageable.  Just a word of caution, though:  Look out for year thirteen; that fridge is starting to make some interesting noises....

Thursday, August 15, 2013

When I was a child, Christmas was the most magical time of the year.  I loved absolutely everything about it.  From going to pick out our tree (flocked again this year ... bummer), to helping hang up the outside lights (for every burned out light, dad would say "That's a no-good-nick"), to baking cookies in kitchen, to the Christmas music playing on the stereo - there was nothing I didn't like about this most festive of seasons.

Though I loved pretty much any Christmas carol you can think of, my favorite Christmas album that we  played over and over every year was "That Holiday Feeling!" by Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.  I can't pinpoint why exactly, but there was just something about those two beautiful voices filling our home with the sound of warmth and laughter that just meant Christmas to me.

The first Christmas Kevin and I were together, I told him the story of how much I loved this album and how, when I heard it, it always meant that it was truly Christmas time.  The album belonged to my parents and I explained that I'd searched for it on CD, but hadn't had any success.  For my birthday the following year, he gave me a very special gift.  In secret, he'd gone to mom and told her what he wanted to do, and she lent him the album.  He took it to a friend of ours who duplicated it on to CD - keeping all of the pops and crackles that were on the album.  They created a label for the CD that looked identical to the label on the album and then copied the cover of the album and that became the CD cover.  When my birthday arrived and he surprised me with this amazingly thoughtful gift, I cried.

That one album has had a huge impact on my life and is enormously significant to me.  The following year, Kevin and I duplicated the CD and handed out copies to family and friends.  Its legacy continues and improves with age.

Last Saturday evening when we were watching the news, they announced that Eydie Gorme had passed away at the age of 84.  Instantly I was filled with great sadness and a heavy heart.  As we listened to the news anchor give a brief overview of her life, my mind began reeling with the many years of joyful memories Edyie Gorme had given my family and I.  Her passing also brought home the fact that my mom and dad are gone now and I began waxing nostalgic.  A little switch ticks in my brain, and I begin to re-live the loss of people and things I've loved immensely who are no longer here.  While it's not something I dwell on, when it happens, it does bring on a brief but intense sadness.  Kevin, knowing exactly what I was thinking, reached for me and gave me a big hug.  It was exactly what I needed and I didn't want to let go.

The next day I got an email from a friend of mine.  She said that she was so sorry to hear of the passing of Eydie Gorme.  She'd thought of me the moment she'd heard the news.  This past Monday, another friend told me the same thing.  It makes me feel that in some small way, Eydie and I are inextricably linked.  I like that.  I said to one of my friends that Eydie is up in Heaven serenading my mom and dad; she said she could imagine it and it made a wonderful picture.  I think so too.

Goodbye, Miss Eydie.  Until we meet again.

Welcome to the Rose-atoe Patch

My dad used to be quite a gardner.  While he had quite a green thumb and could make virtually anything grow (Including some dead plants I'd thrown out when I lived at home. Later when the plants were healthy and beautiful I asked where he'd gotten them - he took great joy in explaining that those were the plants I'd thrown out!), the two things he was most proud of were his rose garden and the tomatoes he planted in pots all over the deck in the backyard.

While the roses thrive and have lived on for years, the tomato plants kind of went by the wayside several years ago.  They have to be planted every year and take a lot of management throughout the season and dad just wasn't really up to it any longer.

About a month ago, my mother in law, Vicky, noticed something growing in the rose garden.  "There's a tomato plant growing in the roses!", she exclaimed.  I'd seen it too, but thought it was a week and said as much.  She reiterated that it was definitely a tomato plant.  I went over and looked at it again and, sure enough!  She was absolutely right - it was a tomato plant!  At that point, it was pretty small and we didn't really think it would survive amongst the roses.

But.  It's survived and thrived!  Now, a month later, the tomato plant is absolutely huge.  It's branched out and has little vines growing across several of the rose bushes.  The other day when I looked at it and snapped some photos, it had a couple of small tomatoes - still green but they were definitely hanging in there.  I just went out this evening and looked and those tomatoes from the other day have more than doubled in size - and there are many more, plus lots of yellow buds that, provided they don't get knocked off, will bear tomatoes!  It looks like this one giant plant will produce a pretty healthy crop of juicy, delicious tomatoes.  YAY!  It's just this girls' humble opinion, but I think there is absolutely nothing better in this world than a home-grown tomato.  Especially one that is still warm from the sun.  Mmmmm...delish!

We definitely think that dad is looking down and having quite the chuckle that his two favorite things in the garden have combined themselves into one area.  He would love it and marvel over it every day.  Mom would just be glad that she's not on tomato picking duty ;o)

The Highs, Lows and Woes of Summer

By the first of June, we were all on a countdown around here.  School would be out soon, and that meant that both Kevin and I would be on summer break soon, too.

Kevin's school was out before mine and, because he's a ten and a half month employee, he was off work before I was, too.  We have a small chalkboard on the kitchen counter and Kevin helped me countdown my last few days of work.

First, it was "Come on Summer" with the last four days noted and ready to be chalked off each day.  On the last day, we crossed off "Come on" and wrote in "Hello".  Well, we're both back at work now.  I've just finished up three weeks back (our office is closed on Fridays until school begins in late August), and Kevin will be finishing up two weeks back tomorrow.  As you can imagine we were sad to update the kitchen chalkboard, but finally had to write in "Goodbye :o("

I will say, however, that we did have a wonderful summer!  And even though the calendar says there's still a bit of summer left, it's time for us to get back into our work routine.

I need to change the chalkboard soon.  Come on fall!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Glamping in Santa Barbara

Neither Kevin nor I are campers.  Well, other than being happy campers, that is ;o)

I've always thought that camping was rather a romantic notion, but when it comes down to the reality of it - I'll pass.  Something about sleeping on the ground (yes, an air mattress on the ground still counts as sleeping on the ground!), in a sleeping bag, in a tent, with no ... ummmm ... potty should one be needed in the middle of the night --- well, it's just not all that appealing to me.  And Kevin says his desire for camping has a closer resemblance to staying in a hotel.  Pretty much any hotel - well, save for say the Bates Motel - but you get the idea.

So.  For our summer vacation, we decided to go ... camping!  Or rather, todays version of camping which actually has the buzz word 'glamping'.  Those in the know, know this means 'glamorous camping' - if there is such a thing.  Well, there IS!  Kinda...

The location is actually quite glamorous - Santa Barbara, California.  Home to gorgeous rolling hills, charming Mediterranean-style homes with red tile roofs dotting the landscape.  It's nicknamed the 'American Riviera' - and it's definitely paradise.  The beaches are beautiful, agriculture plentiful and living graceful.  It also doesn't hurt that it's home to the best ice cream on earth (Island Coconut...mmmmm!), but that's another story.

As for the accommodations, they definitely beat sleeping on the ground in a tent with no ... potty.  Try this Air Stream trailer on for size, baby!

Kinda cool, right?!  It's a pretty amazing place.  It's called the Santa Barbara Auto Camp and it was founded in 1922.  
It currently houses 5 Air Stream trailers that have been completely upgraded and modernized.  Yes, that is a clawfoot tub you see in the bathroom, as well as a glass vessel sink.  The bed was so soft and squishy, you just sank right in - I don't think we moved once during the night.  It was appointed with a fully equipped kitchen, a small deck with a grill, patio chairs and two beach cruisers that we could use during our stay.  It was a really fun and unique place to stay!  We've decided neither of us is ready to give up and begin traveling and staying in one of these full-time, but it was definitely fun for a short time.

There's an old Italian restaurant called Aldo's right in the middle of the downtown area.  In addition to our delicious meal, we were also charmed by its architecture and old world accents

We lucked out in that the most amazingly delicious bakery was on the corner right across the street from the Auto Camp.  Breakfast at this local gem was a true delight.  Almond croissant, locally roasted strong black coffee with sweet, creamy half and half - YUM!  When we left, of course we had to bring a loaf (or three) of delicious freshly baked bread home with us. 

Santa Barbara is also known for its beautiful sunsets.  While it was a bit hazy and overcast, we were not disappointed.  In fact, it's really the clouds and haze that make the sunset more beautiful.  Just a tip: the sun sets in the west ;o) 
If you're headed to SB, wear your walking shoes.  Most things are within walking (or biking) distance and there is a lot to see!

There's also a fabulous specialty chocolatier that had some really interesting selections.  Kevin and I were good and each only had one, but, it was oh, so tempting!

Stearn's Wharf is a fun place to watch the sunset, too.  You can drive onto this pier, but it's much nicer to walk. 

Besides, miss a lot if you drive.  You just never know what you'll see along the way...

As you can see, it was no ordinary 'camping' trip!