Thursday, November 25, 2010

Working hard at being thankful


Kids just know when a holiday is coming up. I used to think that was a crock of you-know-what but now I believe it heart-and-soul. It's because you need them to conform to the Norman Rockwell painting sooooo badly that they, of course, decide to buck the joy and laughter and instead opt for whining and fighting.

Ok, Daisy wasn't that bad but she was tough this morning. Hubby and I woke up with the joy of Thanksgiving in our hearts and, by the time we'd made it through a "don't want it" breakfast and a throw-myself-on-the-floor-and-arch-my-back walk, yeah, we were not feeling it so much. Me especially. My stupid cold still isn't 100% done and my sinuses were all screwed up. Double blech.

I know, I know, where the THANKS giving, Ms. Ranty Pants!

We did enjoy some of the parade. Here is Daisy watching Dora the Explorer cavort around on her float.


It got better once my mother arrived. She not only has the patience of the saint but she has that "my attention is 100% focused on your happiness" grandmother thing going for her and Daisy - something thoroughly not do-able at the parental level. And so, of course, Daisy turned into a sweetheart when she walked through the door. Which, ya know, works for me, even though my ego takes a severe beating every time.

Then it was up the hill to the snow and Thanksgiving dinner. The drive, of course, was supposed to be Daisy's opportunity to nap but Nanny's company turned out to be so tantalizing that this wasn't to be either.

All of this could have resulted in a disaster of an afternoon. After all, there were going to be 13 people and a dog in my mother-in-law's 1,000 square foot house. Fortunately, however, Miss Daisy was sufficiently distracted by her Aunties and Unlces that we avoided a meltdown. Something my sorry, dragging ass was really thankful for.

Dinner was, as always delicious (not that Daisy would know... she skipped it), I ate the prerequesite amount of too much, and now am happily contemplating my second cup of hot, sweet tea before turning in for the night.

All this aside, it has not been the easiest of years for many reasons and so our family has a lot to be thankful for this year. Having all 13 people (and the dog) in the house today was a blessing I think we all took pause to recognize, even despite our own little distractions.

Here are some pics from the day. You can see more on my Flickr set here.











Monday, November 22, 2010

Random Monday

Happy Monday, folks! I had a great weekend with the family.

Saturday morning was the usual swimming lessons for Missy-Moo and then, after a brief fight-to-the-death at nap-time (yes, I won!) we head out to do some Christmas shopping with Mum/Nan. We only made it to two stores, however, since Lakeshore Learning Center makes you feel like you're being a good parent and creating the next Einstein while buying toys (win-win). Plus, it was made even more enticing with a 15% off coupon. Second store was Target. Nuff said. We knocked a few folks off our list but there is still much more to go.

Speaking of shopping, I think I'm going to skip Black Friday this year. (Gasp!) Usually I get a kind of bizarre buzz out of jumping out of bed at an ungodly hour and standing in a 2 hour line for deals (yes, I even did it when pregnant) but this year it seems like there are a lot of great deals to go around already. Plus, I have begun to realize that I buy things because they're cheap and then try to fit them to my recipient list, rather than looking for deals on things already on my list. Ergo, I spend more money and buy more stuff needlessly. So, unless some big-ticket item appears at 70% off (for instance, that High Efficiency Washing Machine I would just love to have so that I can wash quietly while Missy sleeps) I shall be sleeping in. Plus, I have an 11am photo shoot, so the nail in the coffin is almost firmly rammed in.

Back to the weekend.

Sunday we went up to my mother-in-law's. She lives in the foothills, about 3,100 feet above sea level, and the recent storm blanketed her with snow, knocking her power out. While Hubby fixed her gas heater and shoveled snow, Missy-Moo and I wrapped up and went for a walk.

The snow was more-than knee deep for her and she wasn't best pleased that she had to take of her "new shewwwwwws" to put on stiff boots, but she eventually found the fun in it. She even failed to complain about me dressing her up as a multi-colored marshmallow puff.

Our weekend was topped-off by dinner with friends who have a little girl the same age as Daisy. We had the best time watching the two girls chase one another around the house with squeals of delight and then jump under the cover of their California King bed together, like an old married couple. I didn't take my camera on this occasion because I know our friends have a DSLR, so I'm hoping they'll send me some of the pics (hint-hint) - the cuteness was on serious OVERLOAD.

In other news, I'm super excited it's a short week this week. I've been recovering from some kind of bug/virus with periodic headaches and bouts of general malaise. It has also left me uncharacteristic amounts of exhausted at the end of the day. It's going to be nice to have four days off although, as I said, I have some photo shoots this holiday weekend. Not that taking pictures is work. In fact, if the weather FINALLY holds out, I'm really looking forward to it.

What's planned for your Thanksgiving week?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adult Time

This weekend, in celebration of our anniversary, Hubster and I went away for some adult time. Just one night where we didn't have to creep into bed or jump out in the morning to the sounds of "Muuuuuuuuuum! Daaaaaaaaaaaad!" being yelled from the next room at 6am.

Last year we hung out in downtown Sacramento. This year we decided to go retro and bought tickets to see 90s diva group, En Vogue, at Cache Creek Casino and Resort. Since it's about an hour's drive away, we also stayed overnight in the hotel.

All dressed up with somewhere to go!

Mr. Ranty Pants' dirty secrets

When Hubby was but a cocky teenager, he and his friend, E, used to drive out to this Indian Gaming Casino in the almost-non-existent town of Brooks, in the middle of the night, play blackjack on green plastic chairs, pick up girls and then drive home in the dead of night.  (Of course, this is what he tells me - the edited version - if you want all the sordid details, you'll have to talk to Mr. Ranty Pants personally.)

Needless to say, Cache Creek has come a long way from green plastic chairs. It's now a sprawling resort with 200 rooms and a golf course, facts which just blew Hubby away as we pulled in.

What? No pictures?

It's also located in an extremely pretty, but not very well known, agricultural area of Northern California: the Capay Valley. I'm not sure what I was expecting from Brooks - probably the barren and thoroughly unexciting expanse of land like around the casino closer to home, Thunder Valley - but I was pleasantly surprised by the miles and miles of orchards and gently rolling, green hills. There's just something very soothing about driving through little towns where Saturday evening entertainment revolves around the high school football field or local park, and where long roads that stretch out between vast fields have numbers not names. (At least soothing for a break from the norm; I think I'd shoot myself if I had to live there.)

We arrived on Saturday just as the sun was setting and the golden light across the fields and through the trees was stunning. Needless to say, at every turn I was plotting a return for some sort of photo shoot in the future. I did not bring either my DSLR or my point-and-shoot since I was focusing on couple time not photo practice. (Yes, I deserve a wifely gold star.)

To give you an idea, however, the area around the casino looks somewhat like this: (Photo stolen from

This is the entrance to the casino. Like I said, fancy for being in the middle of nowhere.

Room service!

We began our evening by hanging out in the room and ordering two plates of fries with ketchup and ranch from room service. Hubby and I have a long history of enjoying a simple plate of fries when we're "on vacation" and so this was the perfect start to our evening.

Then we moved onto cocktails. I, of course, with my signature martini.

Dinner and the Asian Soup Nazi

We had planned on trying to eat at the Casino's signature steak restaurant, C2 (which is actually C-squared but I can't find the super-script function on blogger) but we left it too late to make a reservation. Kind of made us mad, though, when they told us they were booked out and we walked by to see several empty tables. Whatever.

In fact, getting dinner was surprisingly harder than we expected. We next tried to sit at the bar of their Asian restaurant, Kung Fu Fat's. Unfortunately, there was only one chair available at the bar and the bar tender would not serve us unless we could both be seated. (!!!) Even when we said we just wanted a drink and would wait until two seats became available, he remained, uncharacteristically for a bar tender, unhelpful. So, he lost our very generous tip as we moved on. Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot else out there to be had, so we returned to Fat's for a reservation in the dining room.

Hubster ordered Orange Chicken (or something similar; his usual) and I decided to be a bit different and order a noodle bowl with duck. However, our stern Asian waitress wasn't impressed with my selection.

"You know it's big bowl of soup, right?" Since the description had been very clear on the menu, I nodded and said, yes I did, thank you.

Apparently, it seems that the description of "soup" had been unclear to many of her patrons in the past because the waitress kept pushing. "Just bowl of broth and noodle.Okaaaay?" Yes! Yes! Okay!

Next, Hubby attempted to order some Hot and Sour soup of his own but clearly this was wrong also. "You don't want soup too," she said, shaking her head forcefully. "She has big bowl. You share with her, yes?"

Dumbfounded, Hubby agreed. There's just something about a stern Asian accent which makes you reluctant to argue.

She wasn't wrong about the size of the bowl, however...

Holding on... to our youth (barely)

And then there was the concert itself. Those girls can sure still blow, even if they do look a little older. Hard to believe that "Hold on" (to your love) was, gulp, 20 years ago now. Yes, that's right 30-somethings, it was 20 years ago. Blew my mind too. Should I give you time to throw some cold water on your face before I continue?


The height of luxury: tv in bed, breakfast, and the newspaper in our room

I think this header speaks for itself. BLISS.

We hung out in our room watching a B movie with Chris Rock, ate, read the newspaper, and pretty much took our sweet time to pack up and check out.

Sigh... until next year!

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's a wonderful life

Yesterday, as I was using that fantastico tool Picnik and all my photos from the last 6 years on Flickr, to product my anniversary picture collage, I was struck by all the smiles and the different places Hubby and I have been together.

Life these days moves at such a hectic pace and, being the A-type personalities we are, Hubster and I are always pushing forward to "the next thing." So it's a rare day that we stop to look back and appreciate what came before.

After I finished the collage, combing through my last 6 years in pictures, I found myself feeling profoundly grateful for wonderful experiences, a wonderful marriage, wonderful friends, and a wonderful family.

I sent the collage to Hubby and he too had the same feelings. It was very life-affirming.

I also realized two things:
  1. I want more! The future is an open book and we intend to fill it with more brightly colored pictures of people, places, and wide smiles. Bring it on!
  2. The pictures of the two of us together pretty much stopped about 19 months ago. 10 guesses as to why that is! So, now I'm on a new mission to get more pics of us together. 
Yes, It's a wonderful life!

Monterey Sept 2010 249

Monterey Sept 2010 319

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy 4th Anniversary to us

It's been a wonderful four years of marriage and an even more amazing ten years together. We've partied, traveled, settled down, had a baby, and are still plotting world dominance.

Here's to more of all of the above in the coming years (babies excepted!)

Friday, November 05, 2010


In no particular order.

1. The new camera.

Weellll, if something looks too good to be true, it usually is... and was. My dreams of a $500 Canon 50D were dashed this past week after Thunder Cameras tried to swindle my mother (who is buying me the camera as a Christmas gift) for extra money for an "upgrade" that was actually a downgrade. So, back to the drawing board on that one.

2. A hole for my pigeon.

I have found my religion. Ok, maybe not my religion, more like my un-religion. Well, that's not so accurate either. More like my philosophical pigeon hole.

Thanks to The Urban Koda, who has been undergoing somewhat of a philosophical/spiritual/political evolution of late (yay for him, btw!) I have discovered "Humanism". It's everything I wanted to say about how I feel my personal beliefs, such that they are, fit into this whole realm. Not that I reject the term Atheist any more than I reject the label Liberal - I embrace both, despite the inaccurate stereotypes that have been created in American culture about both (contrary to popular belief I don't have horns or sleep with the devil at night) - it's just that Humanism seems to be a nuanced version. To quote the American Humanist Association :
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Which is basically what I have been saying all along. In my words: I aspire to the ethics and morals of some religions or parts thereof, but without the belief in a supernatural power. 

3. Preschools

This week we began the search for a preschool for Miss. Daisy. We've no plans to send her anywhere until she's two but that big day is only months away now and we want time to find the right spot, sit on it, apply, and make sure a spot is available. Fortunately the economy is helping us in the last regard - enrollments are down at private schools. 

I've visited a few now and have only really found one that impresses me: Creative Frontiers. Most places, IMHO, are pretty soul-less, gray, square boxes with just-above-minimum-wage workers who go through the motions of singing the songs and teaching the cookie-cutter curriculum, at least at this early age. 

Not CF, however. It's a village-like 7 acres with horses, chickens, goats, a swimming pool, and an on-site cook.The teachers are warm, engaged, and involved. I loved it. I have several others to visit but this one will be hard to beat. 

Another plus is that it has classes right up to 6th grade and, given the way school funding has been heading in recent years, I reserve the right to outright reject the chronically underfunded public education system in 2014. 

This really pains me, by the way, but I (our family) refuse to have my daughter miss the mark on her full potential because people won't pay their fare share of taxes. Sorry folks, I'm unbudgeable on this and health care. Basic rights. Teachers are underpaid. Supplies and facilities are underfunded. Class sizes are too large. This is the future of America -  pay up!

4. The elections

California Republicans need to stop whining and flipping out. Really guys, you're taking this whole "fear" thing too far. As we tell Daisy in the middle of one of her toddler tantrums: "DON'T PANIC!" 

I've seen all sorts of doomsday predictions on Facebook about the future of our state because it failed to follow the whiplash trend of voting Republican in this week's elections. I have some things to say about this:
  1. Move. Yeah, so most California Democrats live in LA and San Francisco but, the last time I checked, politicians represented people, not land, and that's where the most people are so suck it up or move to Texas. 
  2. You can't complain that Democrats are ineffectual in one breath and threaten the very survival of our state the next. Either they do nothing and are therefore no harm or they're busy doing something to piss you off. Pick one.
  3. Everyone should be excited that Meg Whitman did not win the CA Governorship, regardless of party. Do we really want to be the state whose votes were bought? I firmly believe my vote is worth more than the $50 she paid but would rather have seen her donate that money to a worthy cause. Plus, honestly, I saw more than enough of that woman's face in the last year to serve me a lifetime. I'm pretty confident I'm not alone in that.
  4. If you actually look at Jerry Brown's proposals, you'll see that he has actually taken some Republican ideas and incorporated them into his approach. For instance, the idea of starting at a zero budget every year and forcing state departments to justify every penny they need in the coming year. That was something Republicans put on the table originally. I think it's a pretty good idea too. Yes, that's right, I thought a Republican idea was a good one. Quiz me beyond the hyperbole and ridiculousness that permeates public political discourse these days and you'll find a number of instances where I think right wing ideas make sense. I'm no patsy thankyouverymuch.
  5. THANK GOD (whomever/whatever he/she/it is.) It's possible I might be begging my husband to move me back to England right now if I didn't see SOME bright spots of blue across this country. Maybe you think losing me back to the Brits would be a win for the U.S.? Pretty sure my husband is grateful though. (He doesn't want to live in England. I know, free healthcare AND pubs... WHY NOT!?)
5. My husband's annoying habits

Yes, he has a few. A couple that drive me INSANE. I just threatened him that I would publish at least one of them on here if he didn't QUIT IT. Stay tuned to learn TMI about Mr. Ranty Pants if he doesn't comply. 

Ok, maybe I do sleep with the devil. Hehe.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Fall Color

Although you wouldn't know it by the weather this week (sunny, high 70s), it's just starting to be autumn here in Sacramento. This is Hubby and my favorite time of the year. I love the end of sweltering temperatures, the cool breezes, the occasional rain, sweaters, socks, and cuddles. I also love the changing colors of the trees in our neighborhood. Sometimes the contrast between the evergreens, the palm trees, and the deciduous can be striking.

Here are some photos from our evening walk with Miss. Daisy.

Fall Color 2010-6.jpg

Fall Color 2010.jpg

Fall Color 2010-5.jpg

Fall Color 2010-13.jpg

Fall Color 2010-14.jpg

Fall Color 2010-16.jpg

How's the fall color coming along in YOUR neighborhood?

And now, can we please return to regular programming?


For some reason voting for me today was an emotional experience.

I think it's because the 2008 elections mattered so much to me and I was so proud of the tone and fervor surrounding them. My oh my, however: what a difference two years has made!

In a country that pretty-much invented ADD, we've gone from hope and back to fear in a political millisecond The pendulum swung so fast and so far it seems to have hit some folks squarely on the head and sent them a leeetle crazy.

If you think the Tea Partiers and White Men are angry, they aint got nothing on how I feel about some people over the last two years. There are times I've almost jumped through my TV set to strangle some nutters spouting all kinds of ridiculous vitriol, and politics has become a taboo subject with some of our neighbors who, in my humble opinion, are seriously close to flying off the reservation (and have becoming pretty insulting in the process.)

Not that I oppose opposition, or intelligent (if sometimes emotionally charged) debate. Not for a second. I am not afraid of it and, in fact, with the right person (the kind who can spar without getting personal) I enjoy it immensely. One of the things that has made me so frustrated over the past fifteen years of living in this country is the level of political apathy. So passion is a good thing. Most definitely.

What isn't a good thing is anger, especially anger fed by misinformation and hyperbole. And what isn't helpful is name-calling (what are we, a nation of middle-schoolers?) in place of informed and intelligent disagreement on issues.

These things are not good.

Am I frustrated by the economy? Yes. Granted, probably not as much as some given I have a job and a house. My point is that I don't live in a plastic bubble and I truly feel for people who have lost their jobs and their homes through no fault of their own.

Do I feel that President Obama has made mistakes and has not delivered on many of his campaign promises? Well, yes, of course. Again, I'm paying attention. But I also know it's only been two years (not even) since he took office, that he was landed a pile of steaming Republican poo (aka: the economic crisis) that he had to deal with somehow, and that there are other players and forces at work in Washington that mean he couldn't just fly in there, write out some executive orders, and have his bidding done. (Oh, I can only dream there.)

The entire American political system is built on checks and balances and, unfortunately folks, balance and quick, radical change are not good bedfellows. We can't have it all ways. (No, really, I know, BOO HOO!) You can't demand change from your politicians and then plunk them directly in the middle of a system that demands compromise and has systems in place that are designed to temper radical shifts. You can't complain that politicians get nothing done and then ask that every two years they re-campaign to keep their jobs. And let's face it, between primaries and general election campaigning, it's not every 2 years, it's mote like every 12-18 months. What job have you been in for 18 months where you've been able to make big changes? And how many fewer changes would you be able to make if you spent the last 6 months of your evaluation period raising money, producing ads, debating and playing sales person to keep your job?

What irkles me no end right now is that President Obama has to be out there campaigning for Democrats rather than actually running the country. We just had an election for heaven's sake. (And let's not even talk about the people who are mad at him for not calling the Giants and congratulating them on their World Series win. Somehow I don't see "Call Brian Wilson" next to "fix the economy" and "find Bin Laden" on Obama's to-do list.)

And, if we're being honest, although we say we want compromise in this country, it's all just words that make us feel good about ourselves; as if we're taking a moral high ground or something. We don't really want compromise or if we say we do, we don't really think about what that means. Republicans are mad at candidates who reach across the aisle to work with Democrats on certain issues, calling them "Liberal" (ouch! The "L" word!). Meanwhile Democrats are supposedly disillusioned because their folks didn't ride rough-shod over the right wing and get everything done they campaigned for 2 years ago. None of that really speaks for compromise and working together, does it?

But what really just makes me shake my head are all these propositions. Now, I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person, all things considered, but it makes MY eyes cross just trying to read up on and understand these things.

Trying to sort fact from advocacy is nearly impossible these days, and the time it takes to find impartial information and then understand it enough to truly make an informed decision, is just mind-blowing. Further, even when I have all the information, I don't feel qualified to place a proper vote because, let's face it, I have all the information on ONE SUBJECT but I am no expert on state or federal government and readily admit that the wider implications of my decision are rarely something I understand. I'll even admit that I have often just ticked the box from the Democratic Play Book when something seemed too hard to understand. That makes me uncomfortable, especially given that most folks probably don't do even half as much research as I do. I'd prefer to feel my decisions were based upon my own research but, I have a life and don't have time to become an expert in all these areas just for one vote. I would much rather we left the voting to the politicians we elect. Leave the accountability with them. Ok, we may not like what they vote every time but that's what elections are for (and please, every 4 years, so they'll actually have done something I can evaluate them on?)

It just doesn't make sense to me that I vote for a politician, who I am expecting to be an expert in this field (or maybe not, given the latest trend) and then have to vote for the laws as well. It's like hiring a dentist and then taking the drill from his hand to clean out a couple of my own cavities, then complaining that my teeth hurt.

So, even with all this said, I voted anyway and I applaud you if you did too - even if your vote wasn't the same as mine. I hope you did it from a place of truly understanding who you were voting for and why. I hope you did at least some research before checking a box Yes or No on a proposition. If you did, and we disagree, you have my respect and my thanks as a fellow citizen.

And now we can return to our regular programming. Back to Taco Bell commercials on the TV and photography posts for Ms. Ranty Pants ;o)

BTW, yes, this is how I look on most days. THIS is why I have not joined the crowd of mommy bloggers participating in "What I Wore Wednesday". We can assume that, on any given day, this IS what I wore. (Or a version thereof.) Sorry to disappoint.

Monday, November 01, 2010


I can't believe it has almost been a week since I last posted on here. It's been a busy week, however - family in town from the UK, computer issues finally resolved (resulting actually needing to USE the computer for it's purpose - photo editing), toddler tantrums, Halloween, and then last night DATE NIGHT.

That's right, baby, Hubby and I went on a date. Synopsis: empty bar, large big-screen TV, Giants, appetizers, cocktails, Dave & Busters, Zombies Dead, and Hubby's ego wounded as I beat him at a basketball game. (Although he disputes the latter.)

I'd love to expand further about all of this and provide oodles of pics but the reality is (a) I don't have time and (b) I really didn't take so many pics. Of course, there are some pictures of Daisy in costume and with pumpkins but I'm reserving those for her blog.

Here are some pics I took of the fam carving pumpkins in the dark last week, however, taken on the good ole point-and-shoot. (Pumpkin mush and $1,500 lenses do not go well together.)

 Should probably have thought about available light BEFORE we started this process. 

 Billi, attempting an overly ambitious pattern.

Daisy, wondering WTH this is all about and WHY ON EARTH she is outside when it's dark

Aunt Anne, doing her impression of the Statue of Liberty

Billi, still at it, after Mum and I had finished. The word "Halloween" on her design wound up being "Hallo". It was that or finish carving at midnight.

In other, unrelated news, I got my first two photo orders this past week. Not big ones, just Grandmas getting some 8x10s for their wall but I was giddy with excitement and achievement anyway. I mean, HELLO! Somebody paid DOLLARS for MY PICS. Blown away.
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