Musings from Home

Archive for April, 2012


A few weeks ago, my friend Jen wrote a “real reality” fashion post in which she asked her readers to help a friend of hers accessorize a dress she had purchased to wear to a wedding. Jen also frequently posts pictures of particular fashion items (clothes, shoes, jewelry), her own or ones she sees online, on her Facebook page and asks readers to comment. Many of her readers responded by asking her to do occasional posts on her own style. The last I heard, she was thinking about it.

So, last week when I found myself looking for a casual dress for everyday type wear, but was having little luck finding anything in the $50 to $60 price range or lower, and having little time to devote to this endeavor at the moment, I thought of Jen. I figured she seemed to have her finger on current fashion trends and availability. She also seems to enjoy “window shopping” around various web sites, so it might be a fun post for her to do. She quickly accepted my request. Thanks, Jen.

What I didn’t think about was the exhaustive research she would put into it. I actually felt a little bad when I read her post last Monday (the first weekday since I’d asked her to do it!) and saw how many dresses she had scoped out. I hope she didn’t take too much of her weekend time virtually shopping for me.

But I was thrilled with the options she presented to me. Thrilled, I say!! I clicked on every one of the links she provided and carefully weighed my options. Then, I began to select my favorites. Unfortunately, as always happens, some were unavailable in my size, or unavailable in my size in the colors I liked. But after a short time, I selected these three (knowing that the chances of all fitting and looking good were slim, but figuring if I got one dress that I loved, I’d be ecstatic):

This dress from Wal-Mart in neutral combo.

This one from J.C. Penney:

And this one from Sears:

I spent the rest of the week excitedly awaiting the arrival of my packages (among other things). Yesterday, our poor postal carrier arrived at our front door and had to make two trips to carry the three packages and our daily mail.

After making lunch for Sapphire, I headed upstairs to begin trying on my goodies. First, I put on the dress from Wal-Mart. It fit, but was anything but flattering. 😦 It’s going back.

Next, came the scroll-print dress from J.C. Penney. It didn’t want to zip (although I probably could’ve gotten it to), but I also wasn’t thrilled with the neckline on me. It’s also going back.

I was starting to become a little discouraged. The last one was a shirt dress, and shirt dresses often don’t look good on me, but occasionally, I get lucky. Like yesterday. It was perfect. The color is fabulous on me (if I do say so myself) and the fit was superb.

It was the only one of the three that I would model for Sapphire, or anyone for that matter.

Last night was Emerald’s band concert at her school and I was planning on wearing a pair of black cotton pants and the shirt I’d worn the rest of the day. But I was excited to show Jim and Emerald my new dress (that’s how good I felt it looked!), so I modeled it for them before the rush to eat dinner and head out to the band concert.

Their reaction was so good, I decided to wear it to the concert. I’m sure I’ll be wearing it many, many places. Not only is it lovely and casual, just as I’d wanted, but it is comfortable as well! Also, Jim kept telling me how perfect it was for me. A win, win, WIN! 🙂

In fact, I am still so pleased with it that I am even going to share pictures, in the spirit of proudly taking and sharing pictures of ourselves, which as you know, is a struggle for me.

So here goes:

Jim suggested that Jen should be my personal shopper from now on. That sounds like a fabulous idea to me, if only she’d agree. How about it, Jen? 🙂

Have you made any great fashion finds recently? I’d love to hear about them!


Backstepping in the Name of Progress

First off, let me assure you this is not a political post, so you don’t have to get your guard up about what I’m going to say. 🙂

At the beginning of the year, Jim and I began to receive mail, phone calls, you name it from our cable company warning us that changes were coming by a certain date (I believe it was sometime in March). We were told we had to either have HD TVs or rent cable boxes from the cable company to upgrade them for this new-and-improved service.

We largely ignored the notifications, partly because we believed that all but one of our TVs would meet the standard without a box (the TV in our living room is a total dinosaur, but we weren’t too worried about it), and partly because time just got away from us and it wasn’t our biggest priority.

The change over date arrived and suddenly we, and apparently many others if the line at the cable company the next day was any indication, found ourselves with TV reception on only a handful of stations on all of our TVs. Grrrr. So much for most of our TVs being modern.

Well, we couldn’t grumble too much. We were warned; we just didn’t listen. So Jim went down to the cable company, waited in a very long line, and then came home with cable boxes for every single one of our TVs. Cable boxes, really, in 2012? I couldn’t help but flash back to my very first apartment in college in 1986. And let me tell you cable boxes haven’t changed that much in 25+ years. But, OK, if we’ll get better service and more stations (although honestly we only watch a few stations, and not too regularly either).

Here’s the kicker: The service isn’t better. In fact, it’s much slower than it was before. Each channel change takes a few seconds to register (UGH!) AND we now have many fewer stations that actually work. For many of them (our fave HGTV included), we get a “We’ve detected an interruption in your service. This station should be available shortly” message. “Shortly” hasn’t come yet and we’re several weeks into the new service.

We’re tempted to take the boxes off and go back to the “primitive” service, which would take out some of the stations we now get, but may restore some that we don’t. We haven’t decided yet. As I said, we don’t watch a whole lot of TV (although I do miss my House Hunters and the like on HGTV) and we won’t be here much longer. So once again, we’ve let it slip to the bottom of our priority list. But it’s still annoying. Cable progress, no thanks. I’d rather stay in 2012, with the service the way it was before they “improved” it.

Have any of you had this experience? Do you have “improved” cable service from your same old provider and does it indeed work better or is it much worse (even archaic) like ours?

Photo Shoot

Part of an occasional series on moving.

I have written before about how hard it is for me to be in pictures, how much I worry about how I will look in them. Last week, I discovered that it is almost as hard for me to have my house photographed.

Three weeks ago, we had a realtor come by the house to give us an idea of what we should list the house for. We didn’t have the house ready yet to actually be listed, but this was the first step in heading that way. To our surprise, the realtor was generally pleased with the state of our home, and suggested only a few relatively small projects before we would have a photographer out and then list the house for sale (including online marketing). Her main concern was to get it on the market soon, in time for the early spring buyers.

She suggested we have all the carpets cleaned (which was on our to-do list), have the house power washed (another thing we had thought of, but not done yet), put down an area rug at the top of the stairs to bring a little color to the upstairs hallway (which is painted in a neutral color), and a couple of other little things that would have a big impact.

One of the  biggest things we had to do ourselves, was to remove the family pictures and most of the knick knacks, as we want buyers to see the house as their potential new home, not as our home. Jim and I have been married for almost 15 years; we have lived in this house for almost 12 years. The girls each have a pretty fair collection of ceramic figurines, etc. In all, we have a lot of knick knacks. We also love to display family photos on every available surface. Clearing all of this out was a big job.

As I mentioned, we also needed to have the carpets cleaned, so we decided to make the packing up of knick knacks easier as we cleared out the rooms in preparation of the carpet cleaning. We moved everything that was on top of the dressers and on the bookshelves in the girls’ rooms to the playroom, which is not carpeted. Then we figured I would pack up all but a few of the knick knacks from there, only returning enough to “stage” the rooms for the sale. Then I would move on to all the art supplies, games, etc. in the playroom that we wouldn’t need until after we’d moved. In one easy swoop, I’d have cleared out three rooms!

Yeah, well, I learned that there were a lot more knick knacks in the girls’ rooms than it looked like to me when they were in their usual places. And when I got through all that, I still had the playroom clutter to sort through. I should mention in all this sorting, I was also deciding what to keep, what to throw out/recycle, and what to give to Goodwill.

This “easy swoop” easily took me a week. But I got there eventually and all three rooms (the girls’ bedrooms and the playroom) looked fantastic.

Next I moved on to my closet. Emerald and I had thoroughly organized (and decluttered) Sapphire’s room and closet just after Christmas and Sapphire had done a fantastic job of keeping it that way, so there wasn’t too much to do in her closet. Emerald and I also spent a couple of days during their spring break three weeks ago sorting through her closet, so it was good to go, too.

I also got on a tear in the laundry room. I figured they weren’t going to photograph the laundry room or the closets, but they’d have to be clean and clutter-free for showings.

Oh, we also learned what a huge, HUGE difference power washing makes. Our house, sidewalk, and front stoop sparkle! And we’ve never seen our deck looking so amazing (except maybe when it was brand new).

So, two and a half weeks after first showing our house to our realtor, we scheduled the photo shoot for the purpose of marketing the house online. Last Friday was the day. The photo session was set for 2:00 p.m.

Jim and I spent until 11:30 Thursday night making sure all the cleaning was done and that the front-and backyards looked just so. [Jim did the latter while it was still daylight, while I worked on the inside of the house; then after we got the kids to bed, he joined me on ensuring every inch of the inside was spick and span.]

Friday morning, I gave the house another once-over to make sure we hadn’t missed anything. And another. And another.

In fact, I realized that my stomach was in knots. I was so incredibly nervous. Pictures are forever, particularly when posted on the web. What if we missed dust somewhere? What if a picture on the wall was crooked or an area rug wasn’t square? It was almost as if I were checking the mirror for a hair out-of-place or food between my teeth before having my own picture taken.

I knew I was being silly, but I just couldn’t help it. Finally, in late-morning, I resolved to not look around anymore and just declare the house ready.

I picked Sapphire up from preschool, took her out to lunch as I promised her I would, and forced myself to take my mind off the house’s photo debut.

Jim was home by the time Sapphire and I returned from lunch (he got off early that day) and the three of us tried to busy ourselves without messing up the house while we waited for the realtor and the photographer. Let’s just say this involved a lot of electronics. 🙂

Finally they arrived. And I’ll tell you, our realtor sure is good at what she does! She knew just how to make us feel at ease (and by this I do not mean I think she was insincere!!) She walked up the driveway oohing and awing about what a big difference the power washing made. Then she entered the house and commented over and over again about how great the house looked, what a good job we did, and how well this house is going to show. I finally breathed a little easier and just went along for the ride. But I’ll tell you, she made me feel terrific. We had done well. The house would do well.

It was also a good thing I had gotten on such a straightening up, packing/throwing away, and deep cleaning tear before the photo session because the photographer photographed the entire house (except for the closets and the garage), including every bathroom and the laundry room.

Then we just had to wait. There has been a slight delay (just a day; our realtor’s plan was to get it up and running today) due to getting the pictures back and pulling everything together, but tomorrow this house will be officially on the market. Sign, lockbox, flyer brochure, online links, and all.

Wiggle Room

Last night, as Sapphire was eating “the biggest piece” of her chocolate bunny that the Easter bunny brought her, she suddenly started crying. Thinking she may have bitten her lip, I asked her where she hurt. She had a hard time answering me, with her mouth still full of bunny and with her crying, so she pointed.

She didn’t point to her lip as I expected. Instead she pointed to her bottom front teeth. Realizing this was likely her first ever loose tooth, I wiggled the one on the right and what do you know, it wiggled quite a bit.

I excitedly told her, “You have your first loose tooth!” She wiggled it herself. Almost instantly, the tears stopped, the pain forgotten as the excitement of the moment took hold.

She smiled broadly and grew more and more excited. “My first loose tooth,” she said repeatedly, beaming with pride. We started talking about The Tooth Fairy. Since she knew Emerald had made a request of the tooth fairy the last time she lost a tooth (her request was a new toothbrush, instead of money :)), we told Sapphire that she could make a request for this very first tooth (and maybe the last one) and we’d see if we could get the message to The Tooth Fairy. She asked for an Ariel mermaid doll.

Then her brain wandered away from the exciting aspects of the discovery and the treat from The Tooth Fairy, and the questions began. “How does the tooth come out?”; “Do you have to pull it?”; “Do people ever swallow their tooth?”; “What if it comes out during the night while I’m asleep?”; “What if it comes out at school?”

Luckily we were able to satisfactorily answer all of her questions and the worry went away, at least for now.

And she must be wiggling that tooth a lot, because this morning, it’s a lot looser than it was last night. I hope The Tooth Fairy’s order from Amazon has time to get here before that tooth decides to let go.

Hurl, Ricochet, and Yell

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We spent much of our daughters’ spring break last week either working on the house or traveling to North Carolina to look at a house. But we did have one day devoted to nothing but fun. The four of us spent Good Friday at Kings Dominion. Virginia is very lucky in that we have two great amusement parks relatively close to one another. Our family has tended to go to the other one, Busch Gardens, but were eager to try Kings Dominion this year.

In past springs and summers, Emerald has developed a love of the big thrill rides, especially roller coasters, but Sapphire has been too little for them, so we have spent a good portion of our park time split into two groups of two.  One of us takes Emerald on the roller coasters, while the other takes Sapphire on kindler, gentler rides. Then we meet again for things like the log flume, swinging boat, and the Scrambler.

Last summer, after watching her sister go off and leave her to ride the coasters, Sapphire expressed an interest in riding them, too, but she was still too little to meet the height requirement. Last Thanksgiving weekend at Christmastown at Busch Gardens, she just barely squeaked over the next height mark (48″), with a little instruction from the park’s measurer to stand as tall as she could, which meant she could ride everything BUT the big roller coasters.

While we were planning our trip to Kings Dominion a couple of weeks ago, we noticed that the park had three old wooden coasters (which are Jim’s, Emerald’s, and my favorite kind of coaster). We also noticed that the height requirement for these is 48″. So with a little luck and a little help from her shoes, Sapphire might just make the requirement and we might all be able to ride together.

Then there was the question of whether she’d be scared to death and hate them (maybe for life) or if, like the rest of us, love them (again, maybe for life). Jim and I do not believe in forcing our girls to ride any ride, so it was up to her whether she wanted to give them a try.

Kings Dominion’s literature touts The Hurler as a great “first big roller coaster”, so we figured that was a good bet to introduce them to her, if she wanted to ride one.

Upon entering the park, we had Sapphire measured, and [drum roll, please] she was just over the 48″ mark. One hurdle down. She and Emerald kept talking about wanting to ride the roller coasters, but we weren’t sure Sapphire understood how big they were, so we decided to start with a coaster in Kidsville as a warm-up (she’d ridden kids’ roller coasters before). Emerald and Sapphire waited in line for 45 minutes for the kiddie coaster, had a blast, and off we headed to the big boys.

We showed Sapphire The Hurler and asked her if she wanted to try it. She did, but while we were in line, she expressed concern over the big “hill” and asked if you went very fast down it. That scared her, but she was still game to try, as long as she could cling to one of us for the ride. Of course, that was fine with us.

She decided she would ride in the roller coaster car with Daddy, and Emerald would ride with me. Emerald and I were just behind Sapphire and Jim. But I couldn’t see her or hear her for the entire ride, so I had an anxious first ride, hoping and praying she wasn’t screaming in terror.

When the ride stopped, I got a glimpse of her face, and wouldn’t ya know it, that girl had a smile on her face a mile wide. Jim said she held his arm the entire time, but she also giggled throughout the ride. Whew! What a relief!

She then wanted to try The Ricochet, which is not a wooden coaster, but rather a more modern ride with many twists and turns, all experienced from a small car that holds four people. Emerald had ridden a similar ride, called the Cat and Mouse at Hershey Park last summer, which is why Sapphire was so keen to try it. This time, Sapphire and Jim rode behind Emerald and me. And this time, we could hear everything.

I’ll tell ya, this coaster scared me senseless. I spent the entire ride being afraid we would fall off the edge of each turn. Emerald wasn’t a fan either, but our little Sapphire giggled through the entire ride and wanted to go again immediately. That’s not at all what Emerald and I wanted to do, so we suggested trying another wooden coaster, The Rebel Yell, which is actually a racer, with two parallel tracks and cars on each at the same time. But this day, they were only running on one track, so no “race”. Sapphire was all over trying this one, too.

For this ride, she rode with me, and Emerald rode with Jim just behind us. Sapphire clung to my arm the entire time (I learned later this was because you rise a bit off your seat on the hills, but you are strapped in so you don’t go anywhere, and she wanted to “anchor” herself a little better). She loved this one, too, perhaps even best of all.

There is one more wooden roller coaster at Kings Dominion, called The Grizzly, but it has a straight-down drop just after you get started. Since the drops are what worried Sapphire the most from the beginning, Jim and I decided not to take her on it this time. We were worried that she may get scared enough that it would counter her enjoyment of the other coasters to the point that she would be afraid to ride any of them again. So, while Jim and Emerald rode The Grizzly, Sapphire and I headed back to The Hurler.

After that, it was a ride on the carousel, a spin on the swings, and getting tossed around on the Scrambler, before we picked up a souvenir stuffed animal for each kid (just what we need, more stuffed animals in this house :)), and headed for home, exhausted but happy.

I’m sure there are many more roller coasters in all of our futures. It’s so awesome that we can all enjoy them together now.

What about you, are you a fan of roller coasters and do you prefer the super thrilling modern ones, or the tamer old wooden ones?

See Ya Next Week

This is my daughters’ spring break. Since we will be in and out and trying to get projects done around the house, I will take the week off from this here blog. Have a great week. I’ll be back next Monday.

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