Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Surprise Darkness

Last night, as I was cleaning up the kitchen after our chicken parm dinner, SodaBoy called out to me that there was a power company work crew in the street in front of the house. He said, "I hope we don't lose power." I shrugged it off as an idle concern, and went about my business. Then, just seconds after I'd started up the dishwasher, the entire house shuddered into darkness. The crew had taken down half the block, starting at our house. The house right next door never lost power.

It seemed like an odd time for maintenance: it was pouring rain, with snow mixed in, and two very definite claps of thunder. We lit some candles and entertained ourselves by taking photos. Luckily our electricity was restored an hour later, but we never fired the computer back up, and I got to bed nice and early. I think I would sleep a lot more without the distractions of electricity.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Thanksgiving Recap

We spent the holiday with the in-laws this year, as we do most. SodaBoy's parents live on a coastal barrier island in the south, a gorgeous location replete with white sand beaches and rippling salt marshes, miles of paved bike paths and recreational opportunities galore. SodaBoy's sister and her family were there as well, so we got to enjoy the antics of the nephews, always a good source of entertainment. There was much to be thankful for.

However, I always chafe a bit under the regiment of planned activities. Part of the problem is the trip was so short, that there was little spare time, but in general, free will is not a big part of spending time with the in-laws. Every activity is choreographed, with little tolerance for deviation.

We arrived Thursday, and SodaBoy and I begged off immediately for a quick walk to stretch our legs after the flights. We hurried down to the beach and snapped some photos, but quickly returned so as not to upset the balance. The rest of the day was spent cooking, eating, and cleaning the kitchen. At least by us womenfolk... the men were free to watch football, drink voluminously, and nap. Thrilling, no? However, hors d'oeuvres before dinner included shrimp fresh off the boat, a delight so sweet and crispy you wouldn't know they were the same creature marketed as shrimp in my local inland markets.

Friday: kayaking, followed by an oyster roast at the country club. Saturday: golf for the menfolk and biking for the women and kiddies, followed by dinner at a resort restaurant. Sunday: fly home. Busy, busy, busy.

I *love* the kayaking there. It is hands-down my favorite low country activity. We see dolphins in the tidal creeks, this year a mother and juvenile, and birds and crabs and all sorts of neat stuff. The funny thing is that SodaBoy's father is convinced that kayaking is dangerous, a daredevil pursuit akin to bungee jumping or skydiving. These are guided tours, with two guides assigned to each small group. It is not exactly life threatening. He just doesn't get it, though, and was all prepared to notify next of kin.

I am so glad I have today off to decompress before returning to work. Even though SodaBoy's parents live in a beautiful place that draws many visitors, and we get get to do some amazing things there, it never quite feels like a vacation to me. Puppets can't relax. Puttering around the house last night unpacking and squeezing the kitties? Now that is something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Holiday Placeholder

I have been completely overextended and overwhelmed of late, with too many commitments to stay sane, let alone keep up the blog. The madness continues for the next several days, but I requested Monday off from work, and that is the carrot I am dangling in front of myself: one lone day where I'll have naught to do but mundutiae. Hurray!

In the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Thermostat Wars

When I was an undergraduate, I spent my upper class years living in an off-campus apartment with a bunch of buddies. The flat was one of three in a big, old rambling house with lots of character. We loved the fire place with the built in bookcases and the big front porch, but the draftiness made heating a challenge, as did our lack of unity on what a reasonable indoor temperature should be.

The roommates didn't argue about it. Rather, we engaged in passive agressive thermostat wars, with each roommate secretly turning the thermostat up or down as he or she saw fit. I fell solidly into the camp that was constantly turning the heat DOWN. I abhor the practice some people have of heating their homes to the point that they can be comfortable wearing shorts in the wintertime. Put on a freaking sweater, already. I am wearing two right now.

So I was thrilled to stumble upon the Freeze Your Buns Challenge over at Crunchy Chicken. Basically, the idea is that participants will pledge to lower their thermostats this winter. People aren't being asked to literally freeze, just to think about their energy consumption, and to try to reduce it. Even one degree makes a big difference, and it is great to see so many people excited to participate.

We have a rule in our house that we don't turn on the heat before November. Last year, we succumbed on November 2nd, but it was partially just to make sure the furnace in our new home actually worked. This year we lasted a little longer: it was November 6th when I arrived home from work to discover that SodaBoy had turned on the heat. The very next day, we had the first snow of the season.

Our house has a programmable thermostat, which is awesome, because we can't forget to turn the heat down at night. Last year, I set it to 62 degrees during the day, and 56 degrees at night. Technically, I am not sure I am participating in the challenge correctly, because I haven't lowered the thermostat per se. But I did go into the program and dramatically reduce the number of "day" hours. We are dropping to 56 earlier in the evening, and kicking it up to 62 later in the day.

Even wearing long underwear around the house, layering the sweaters, drinking lots of hot tea, and huddling under blankets when reading or watching tv, I am not sure we can go lower than 62 in the evenings. I am tempted to try for a lower temperature at night though. I often wake up at night too warm, so I am not worried about comfort. My concern is that the pipes could freeze.

Is there a safe method for determining how low one can safely turn the heat without bursting a pipe?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Democracy Geek*

I just got back from voting, and am all a-flutter. I get such a buzz from voting, always have. This year there were several added bonuses to make things even more exciting.

First of all, my polling station had been moved to a student center at nearby Hometown University. After my experience last year voting in a church, I was thrilled to be at a more neutral location. I asked the poll workers about how polling stations are selected, but no one knew. They just show up where they are told. I made it clear how much I like the new location, although I chickened out and didn't admit why. My churchy neighbor was one of the volunteers, and I didn't want to offend her.

Unfortunately, this neutrality may not last. All the poll workers indicated that they, too, liked the new quarters--the building is bright and roomy and modern. However, apparently the elderly voters have been quite vocal in expressing their distaste for the new polling station. There is a traffic circle out front where parking is prohibited due to the frequent buses, and apparently the adjacent lot isn't quite convenient enough for the mobility impaired. This is really too bad, since the building itself is highly accessible. I really don't want people to not vote because of something so trivial as parking.

I also don't want to vote in a church. There must be some reasonable solution.

The other detail that pleased me was that I got to vote on the old fashioned, crank handled voting machines again. I treasure every opportunity to use these, since it may be my last. Unless, of course, I buy one for my living room. And don't think for one minute that I haven't fantasized about such a thing, because I most certainly have. I mean, seriously... how much would that rock?
* I shamelessly stole this title from The Onion. To be fair, I must acknowledge that I am not quite as much of a democracy geek as the titular David Haas. I do not vote in primaries because I cannot bear to declare allegiance to either political party.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Foxon Park: White Birch

As astute readers may have surmised from the name, SodaBoy loves soda. Coca-cola classic is his favorite, the old standby, the default. However, like any true connoisseur, SodaBoy enjoys sampling different varieties. I do not quite share his passion for soda, but I get in on the fun, too. For example, when traveling, we always stop to see if we can find local brands.

And then, of course, there is the tasting. We are not big boozers, but mysteriously possess a Hometown University shot glass of completely unknown origins. It is certainly not the sort of thing that either of us would buy, yet it is this shot glass that I use to taste each new discovery. It delivers a perfect size portion, is easily refilled, and adds fun to the ritual.

Photo by SodaBoy

Label Information
Contains: carbonated water, sugar, natural and artificial flavor, sodium benzoate (preservative).


Foxon Park Beverages, Inc.
East Haven, Connecticut 06513
CT. LIC. #158
Visit us at:

Soda Review
This is a very nice soda. The flavor is that signature wintergreen of birch beer, with some initial bite, then a smooth finish. It is not excessively sweet. [That sweetness assessment is mine, not SodaBoy's. He rarely find any soda too sweet.] Also, this soda gets automatic bonus points for using real sugar as opposed to wretched ubiquitous corn syrup.