Monday, December 29, 2008


My Mom would have been 82 yesterday. She passed away in January 1999, just a few days shy of my parent’s 53rd anniversary. So in honor of her birthday, I’d like to tell you a few random things about her.

My Mom was an amazing person and one of my very best friends.

My Mom was stunning. I wanted to grow up to be an elegant Mom just like her. She looked like a movie star to me.

My Mom’s favorite perfume was Arpège by Lanvin. “Promise her anything, but give her Arpège.” She wore it every day. It was the only fragrance she ever used. When she and Dad would go out for the evening, she’d put a couple of drops on my pillowcase.

My Mom saw the world in terms of black and white. There were no shades of gray. You were wrong or you were right. She liked you or she didn't. She did not keep this information to herself. You knew where you stood. I found this trait both admirable and horrifying.

My Mom was intelligent and very knowledgeable. She always astounded me with the breadth of her knowledge. She would have made an excellent Trivial Pursuit partner.

My Mom was wise. I was born in New Jersey, but we moved to Connecticut when I was 13 months old. I don't remember New Jersey. I complained once to my Mom that I felt uncomfortable saying that I was from New Jersey, since I did not grow up there. Nor was I comfortable saying that I was from Connecticut since I was not born there. In fact, I said, I felt rootless. She told me that I was from her. I never felt rootless again.

My Mom is the reason I wear black almost exclusively. When I was twelve she told me that redheads look good in black. I was not about to disagree with her. She, however, liked to wear bright colors!

My Mom was not perfect, but she was perfect for me.

It’s hard to encapsulate someone like my Mom in a few sentences. There are so many memories that it’s difficult to pick just a few. That said I’m not sure that pages and pages would give you a real sense of my Mom. She has been described by many as “a force of nature.” Simply, my Mom loved me, and I knew it. I loved her, and she knew it. Not a day went by without a phone call or email or ten. I miss her.

So, as 2008 draws to a close, I’d like to wish you a Happy New Year and to ask all of you a favor. Please tell the people you love how much you love them. Give them a hug. Spend a little extra time together. My Mom would want you to!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry and/or Happy Whatever You Celebrate

I thought today would be the perfect day to unveil the photo used on this year's holiday card. I did not use any of the photo candidates that I wrote about here. Instead I was lucky enough to snap a snowy scene on the 7th of December. So without further ado, here is the photo used for the holiday card 2008:

These are Echinacea (commonly known as Coneflowers). Echinacea are my favorite perennial. They come in a wide variety of colors and styles. Butterflies love Echinacea. That's an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail taking a sip:

After blooming, birds can eat the seeds from the cones. I haven't yet been quick enough to catch some American Goldfinches feasting, but will one of these days!

Here's an American Goldfinch male in my backyard thinking about eating Echinacea seeds in the Fall.

I hope that whatever you celebrate, and even if you don't celebrate, that you have a joyous holiday season.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow (as if I have a choice)

Winter descended upon us with full force this past weekend. The first storm on Friday dumped 9 inches of snow, canceled school statewide, and generally made for a beautiful but cold and snowy day with hazardous to impossible driving conditions. I’d shopped for food the day before so didn’t need to leave the house. It lightly snowed off and on most of Saturday. On Sunday we had a repeat performance with slightly less snow and some sleet. I think that Winter announced it’s official arrival (Sunday) with a bit of overkill.

Here is a picture of Mr. Twinkle. He’s actually a 9” ruler that my son made to measure snow. Mr. Twinkle was up to his neck in it on Saturday when we measured the first snowfall. He looks altogether too happy about it!

I don’t generally mind snow. The snow plows come out in force and the roads are usually passable. I live on a side road that is not as well plowed as the main roads are. In addition, I live on the top of a hill. I did run out between storms on Saturday when it was lightly snowing. I took my daughter with me and was talking to her about driving in snow, what to do in a skid, etc. Then I was able to show her how to handle a skid. We were only going 25 mph so it was not a very dramatic skid and the car has traction so it was a piece of cake. Actually it was probably some ice under the snow! Fortunately I am extremely comfortable driving in snow. Better yet I did not encounter one person driving in a manner that indicated that they thought their 4 wheel drive could handle anything. You’ve got to respect the weather conditions when you drive in bad weather.

My kids really love the snow:

I think that this is going to be a very snowy and very cold winter, much more like the New England winters I remember from when I was a kid. I’ve noticed that the squirrels around here are fatter and puffier looking than I’ve seen them in many years. It probably means that they’re well fed and have nice winter coats, but I’m sticking with the idea that it’s a weather predictor.

Children frolicking in the snow (my daughter is making a snow angel and was not knocked down by her brother):

And just to add a little excitement to the frigid weather the furnace decided to get sick on Friday. I nursed it all through Friday night into Saturday morning, pressing the reset button when necessary. We had some very anemic heat. It was probably the absolute minimum to keep the pipes from freezing and bursting, but not enough to actually heat the house. Our furnace also heats our water, so no hot water. On Saturday morning the oil company that maintains our furnace and delivers oil called me even before they opened to let me know that a tech was on the way. The pipe feeding the oil to the furnace was partially obstructed with sludge. The tech cleaned it, and viola – heat and hot water. Yay!

And keeping with today's theme, here are Celtic Woman singing Let It Snow:

The kids and I would like to wish you and yours a joyous holiday season and a New Year filled with all good things. May the most that you wish for be the least that you get! Cheers!

Qwill's Qwestion: What's happening with your Winter weather? Any winter driving pet peeves?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Animal Crossing: City Folk for Nintendo Wii

I spend a lot of time reading about and writing about video games. I read many many press releases every day. I run a small video gaming website devoted to Wii and Nintendo DS games. We're still a new site and still finding our voice. But every now and then I actually find some time to play a video game just for fun. Lately I've been consumed or rather every bit of my available free time (all 3 minutes of it daily) has been consumed by a new Nintendo game - Animal Crossing: City Folk.

Meteor Shower in my town

Nintendo has released 3 Animal Crossing games. The first in the series was Animal Crossing for Nintendo GameCube, which was released in 2002. Next up was Animal Crossing: Wild World for Nintendo DS, released in 2005. The latest, Animal Crossing: City Folk was released on November 16, 2008. I did not play the GameCube version of the game, but still play the DS version daily if just to water my flowers. If you don't water the flowers they will die. The game allows you to breed hybrid plants. I have over 100 hybrid flower plants in my DS version of the game. I've played it for over 2 years and there is absolutely no way I am going to let my hybrids die. And, yes, I know it's a game.

Fishing - someone find some butter and lemon!

Animal Crossing: City Folk is a terrific new addition to the Animal Crossing series. Some people have complained that it's too much like Wild World. I disagree. It's a lot like Wild World, but there are some fun new additions to the game. One of the best innovations is the addition of the Wii Speak microphone. I can play with friends all over the world and talk with them while playing. It beats stopping whatever you are doing in the game (for me usually fishing) to type to chat. Speaking is so much easier. There is also a Wii Speak channel that is independent of any games. You can send voice mails to your Wii friends and chat with them. A friend in England is picking up the Wii Speak microphone so we can chat.

Northern Lights

Another change from prior games is the addition of a City to the game. There is a bus stop in my town so I can catch a bus to the City. The City has a number of interesting businesses to visit - the Auction House, Gracies Grace (high-end furniture and clothing), a theater where you can learn different emotions, Redd's (black market goods), Shampoodle (hairdresser), Katrina (Fortune Teller), and the Happy Room Academy (they rate the interior of your house). In addition there is a shoe shine and you can match your shoes to your clothes. I particularly love this addition. I can't stand the red shoes I'm stuck with in the DS version. Yes, I do know it's just a game.

My town is named Statia after the island of St. Eustatius in the Netherland Antilles. My character is named Qwill (such a surprise). I'm still in the process of planting trees and flowers to achieve perfect town status and get the golden watering can. After that I'll cut down all the excess trees that I had to plant to reach what the game considers perfection. I prefer to concentrate on breeding hybrid flowers!

My House

Basically, you start off with a small one room house, catch fish and bugs to sell in order to raise money to pay off your mortgages as well as donate to your town fund, buy furniture, etc. You interact with your townsfolk, who are all animals. You buy goods at Nook's. The more you buy, the bigger Nook's becomes until you have a Nookington's. You can donate funds to your town to get 1) an additional bridge, 2) a town fountain, and 3) and lastly a windmill or a lighthouse. This barely scratches the surface of this game.

In winter, you can build snowmen and if you do a good job, the snowman will send you a present.

A perfect Snowman

There are lots of holidays and celebrations throughout the year in Animal Crossing: City Folk. The seasons change. You do various things to earn Bells (the unit of currency) so that you can have a bigger house and buy furniture and clothing. It's a lot like real life even though it's just a game. Perhaps that's why I like it so much. Of course, unlike real life I can simply turn it off!

Happy Holidays from Statia to Your Home

Qwill's Qwestion: What's your favorite game for any game system or the PC?

[The photos I've included were taken in the game while I was playing. That's another nice feature, snap the photo and save it to an SD card. Not supplied with the Wii, but it's easy enough to get one and put in the slot in the Wii.]

Monday, December 08, 2008

Contractors - Gone but Not Forgotten

As far as contractor stories go mine are not so awful. All the work was done on the outside of the house. I'm discussing the projects in reverse order though they did overlap at the end.

The second project was re-shingling the house. I am not happy with the roofers even though they are the roofers that originally shingled and later re-shingled this house. They were extremely careless on the ground. I have a fenced Tall Bearded Iris Garden in front of the walkway in front of my house. The garden also includes Mums and New England Asters. The roofers took down the fence and trampled the garden claiming that they did not see the plants. WHAT? There was a FENCE! There are green things (the iris fronds) and dried plants (Mums and Asters). I don’t find it even slightly believable that they did not see the garden. The only way they could have missed the garden is if they were all blind. In that case, they should not have been on my roof!! I had a long discussion with the project director at the company's head office about how much Iris cost, how some of mine are no longer replaceable, etc. They have agreed to reimburse me should the Iris not appear in the Spring. I will be sending a letter to them via certified mail to that affect this week.

This is what my Iris Garden looked like in June 2008:

Some of the Iris

The first project was to rebuild the enclosed deck. This project started on the 1st of September. This was supposed to take 3 weeks, but took a little over 3 months. When my parents had this house built in 1967 there was an open elevated deck on the back of the house. I liked the open deck a lot. My Mom would hang fuchsias every summer. It was beautiful. At some point when I was not living at home, the deck was enclosed. I’m not sure why the deck was enclosed though.

Over the years the deck began to list to the side and became unsafe. This happened because whoever enclosed the deck did not add additional supports to hold the weight of the sides and roof. Apparently when the deck was enclosed my little town had no building code in place covering decks enclosed or otherwise.

I interviewed a number of contractors and since the prices were similar, I chose the contractor I liked. It turned out to be a good choice. While there were many delays – weather, materials not showing up on time, and a family issue that had an impact on his time – the contractor always called and always kept me informed. That isn’t to say I did not get a bit stressed by the delays. Having my porch furniture in the house for 3 months was annoying and made it difficult to clean. And in the end there are a bunch of very small things I need to contact the contractor about that were not done. I won’t list them here because I’ve taken care of all but one of them. I do need to paint the inside roof (white) and the outside posts, etc. (white) in the Spring. It's too cold to paint now.

Some Before and After pictures




The inside roof of the old porch had a ceiling, which I'd vetoed for the new porch. When the old ceiling was torn off, it rained mice! Lots and lots and lots of mice. I think I made the correct decision about the ceiling.


The porch is screened. One of the delays was waiting for the custom screens to arrive. It was worth the wait.

I like the porch a lot more now. There is lots of light and it's much cooler. I've rearranged the furniture so that I can look out when sitting on the couch. Right now it's 14F here! I'm going to wait for Spring to enjoy my new porch.

Qwill’s Qwestion: 1) do you have any contractor stories or, 2) what part of your house, apartment, etc. would you redo if you could?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Mark Henry, Author - New Website and a Contest!

I was going to blog about contractors today, but something more important came to my attention. Mark Henry's new website has launched. Mark Henry is the author of Happy Hour of the Damned and the upcoming Road Trip of the Living Dead. He writes funny, witty, zombilicious novels.

To celebrate his new and fantastic website (I know because I spent the morning there instead of writing about contractors), he's having a Grand Reopening Contest!

The lovely Amanda has her own section on the website! In addition, Amanda, Wendy & Gil will review movies and have already reviewed that zombie classic - Night of the Living Dead. Do not miss the Goofs section!

And check out Mark's books. You can order Happy Hour of the Damned here. And you can preorder Road Trip of the Living Dead here.

You'll never look at zombies the same again! So, go and enjoy his new website, read the first book, and become a fan. Just like me.

(and Mark says I haven't been fawning enough lately - so take that Mark.)