Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Looking Back on the Summer

Most of the summer has been spent in a battle of wills over the main desktop computer. I was usually on the losing end. My children (the human one and the furry one) have severely cut into my online time, necessitating a strategic retreat to the craft room with the laptop. As you see from the above photo, the cat won that particular round due to laser weapons fire. And, apparently, she likes the YouTube.

We kicked off the summer in mid June with a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth (no, it's *not* Tijuana.) and maximized our photo ops. We had a great time as always, and can't wait to go back. Again. And again. The only thing that we hate about Disney World is the EPCOT factor (Every Pocket Comes Out Thinner) and having to pack up and leave. We didn't have nearly the amount of pictures this year that we normally do because JF had his hands full with pushing me in the wheelchair.

Oh, and a side note to wheelchair rental companies -- please *glue* or somehow otherwise attach the rubberized handles to the actual chair. I had hellish visions of road rash when JF tried to play a joke on me on a hill. Only, the joke was on him when, at the crest of the hill, I went careening down, leaving him standing there holding only two rubbery grips. Not fun.

I got to meet Marni, and her great family. We ate some wonderful pizza, and she didn't run screaming away from me! She even wants to come down to my neck of the woods sometime soon and get together again! I hope she's able to make it down.

We even got to take a second little vacation (something that almost NEVER happens) to the Biltmore. We loved Asheville, and can't wait to go back up. We won't have all that long to wait either, since I have a cousin that's getting married in one of the nearby towns in October. So, I get to head back up to the mountains. JF may or may not attend, depending on work. If he's not able to go, he'll miss my lovely family and their assorted neuroses and character flaws. Maybe I can blow off the wedding, and just go get that hot stone massage and hot tub soak at that outdoor spa. Hm -- worth thinking about. Maybe as an early birthday treat for me! :)

I did a lot of loafing around, made a lot of cards. Actually cleaned the hellhole house, and got a lot of my craft items cleared away and neatly stored. Cleaning, people! This is history in the making! Are you writing this down? You should. It's *that* noteworthy. Really.

Had a fantabulous lunch with the not-so-mysterious Liz, and hope she'll want to have lunch with me again on her next trip down. She's remained mostly quiet on the subject of our meetup, so I'm hoping that she's not trying to find a nice, polite way to tell me I'm a whackjob and that she'd never be caught dead in the same state as me again. Sorry -- is my insecurity showing again?

Got addicted to Pandora. Trying real hard not to lose my cool when the DSL drops connection just as a really! cool! song! comes on. Throwing the laptop NEVER makes things better.

Now, summer is over, and it's time for school to start again. I've been cleaning, bending over, and moving furniture all day. My back is hurting. I'm hoping the Naproxen I took a while ago kick in soon. I still have so much to do. And, I'm not ready to be a productive member of society. I want to go back to bed.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I Am In Such Trouble

Every summer, I do this. As the summer nears each year, I look forward to sleeping late, and not being at the beck and call of the clock. And every year, as the summer wanes, I find that my sleep patterns are all out of whack.

I'm a night owl. I prowl the house at night, long after Juggling Freak and Offspring have gone to bed. I read, I watch TV, I do my craft projects. I like the quiet, the calm. The heat of the day has fled; the phone has stopped ringing. The house is still. I find something very appealing about that. And that's my time to find inner peace.

I have been going to bed very late these past few weeks, and like I do every summer, I need to get my system reset. I need to be back on school time. I report back to work Monday, and have to hit the ground running. I'm not looking forward to having to drag myself out of bed when I would normally be comfortably lost in dreamland. Though I do only have myself to blame for being in this predicament in the first place.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rules For Living

A humorous list of rules for living here in HumidityLikeABrickWall recently appeared in the local paper. There were 99 in all, but a lot of them are location jokes that others wouldn't understand unless they were locals, so I've condensed them for your amusement.
Complain. About anything.

Celebrate the solemn religious import of St. Patrick’s Day with clowns on scooters and wet T-shirt contests.

Mascara: Best applied at 80 m.p.h.

HumidityLikeABrickWall summers: “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” Actually, moron, it’s both.

Consider anyone a “newcomer” whose family arrived later than the Fillmore Administration.

Don’t mess with Parking Services. (Those meter maids are hell on three wheels.)

Tourists spend a kazillion dollars here every year. Treat them with impatience and disdain.

If a tourist asks what the rank odor in the air is, say it's the smell of money. (We have a paper plant right near the tourist district.)

Always order sweet tea.

Say you like the heat even when the air feels like Campbell's Cream of Chunky Molasses Soup.

Show your support for the troops by displaying a magnetic ribbon made in China on your Japanese car.

Talk loudly in movie theaters. Everyone around you is dying to hear your opinions.

Be sure to crank up your stereo at intersections, too. We all love hearing how to "bitch slap that ho."

Resent college kids who are "different." But love the big bucks their parents send here.

Don't bother moving your car for the street sweepers. Just for the ticket truck that follows five minutes later.

Worship the God of your choice - or else.

Too fat to wear Spandex? Not in HumidityLikeABrickWall.

Leave the Spanish moss alone. Unless you want little visitors in your undies.

Your preparation for hurricane season? Lay in some extra martini mix. (And beer. And if the hurricane misses us, throw a party.)

Turn signal: Term unknown.

Yellow light: A signal for the next seven to eight cars to accelerate.

Red light: A signal for all but the first three to four cars to stop.

Blame the weatherman when it doesn't rain. Blame him when it does.

Any store with 20 check-out lines? At least 18 will be closed.

Local spelling: "Dog" = "Dawg." And folks wonder why our SAT scores look like wind-chill factors.

It's always someone else who buys that "special lingerie" at the adult 'bookstore.'

Anyone driving 65 mph on the parkway is considered a "slowpoke." Those traveling at 55 mph (the technical speed limit) are officially "parking."

Tailgating? Shoot, hon, we're just being sociable.

Calvinism: A local religion, popularly represented on a pickup's back window by a picture of a young boy urinating.

Fire Lanes: Excellent places to park. And so convenient to the stores. Even better than those "handicapped" spaces.

The Parkway: An ambitious project launched the same week as Egypt's Great Pyramid. Scheduled for completion later this millennium (tentatively).

Curbside recycling? Obviously a hippie Commie plot.

Expect your cable to go out when it rains. Or when it's partly cloudy. Or on any day that ends with "y."

The sign at the grocery store that reads "15 items or less, cash only" doesn't apply to you. Heavens, no.

Don't believe everything the downtown tour guides tell you. The Confederacy, for example, did not win the Civil War.

Coolly walk past the celebrities you spot in town. Then excitedly call everyone with the news.

Pamper your dogs more than your children.

Those roaches that are so big you can put saddles on them? They're "Palmetto Bugs."

Let us know when you see a ghost on a ghost tour. You'll be the first.

Don't look for many flights to Paris at HumidityLikeABrickWall "International" Airport.

You call them "horseflies." We call them "teeth with wings."

If you live on the southside, your out-of-town guests will want to spend all their time downtown. If you live downtown, they'll want to visit the malls.

Honk your horn when you're stuck in traffic. Repeatedly. We're sure all of those cars in front of you will magically disappear.

Synchronized traffic lights? Dream on ...

Hang out in the left lane of the interstate if you're older than 80 and can barely see over your Cadillac's steering wheel. Be sure to leave your turn signal on.

No bathing suit is too tiny for the beach. Especially if you resemble a sumo wrestler on steroids.

The editorial page at the paper isn't really conservative; it's just opposed to "change for change's sake" (like those new-fangled horseless carriages).

A fistful of quarters comes in handy when you finally find a parking space downtown. We hear they make excellent brass knuckles too.

Nothing says HumidityLikeABrickWall like a debutante with a tattoo on her ass.

Anyone standing in front of you in line at Wal-Mart will need a price check.

Stop signs are for sissies.

Watering restrictions are for that guy down the street. It's OK if your lawn looks like a tropical rainforest.

Yield when you enter a square. Unless you don't feel like it.

Appomattox?: A temporary setback.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


While out running errands yesterday with Offspring, I spied this sign above a local rib house, and almost wrecked my car. I've never eaten there, and now -- I surely don't intend to. What happens when you drop your napkin?! Minds boggle.

The name of the restaurant? "Sticky Fingers."

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Leave Me Alone, I'm Making Christmas Cards

Before you go spiking my drinks with Happy Pills, lemmee 'splain. As if meeting with Liz on Tuesday wasn't fabulous enough, I arrived home late that afternoon to a UPS delivery -- a box of stamping/scrapbooking supplies that weighed 13 pounds.

Why am I getting packages that weigh as much as a baby, you ask? Well, thank you for your query. I am BORED. I know, I know. I bitch all year long about how I can't *wait* for summer vacation, and now I'm bored?!?

You see, typically I would already be back at work. Our school system shuffled their calendar this year, and we don't go back for another 10 days or so. Students join us after Labor Day. It's supposed to be a cost-cutting, heat-related effort. So instead of frying eggs on the sidewalk in early August (when we normally go back), we'll save that for the first two weeks of June when we'd normally be out of school already.

At any rate, not so long ago, the company that I buy rubber stamps from (and sell, too, if anyone's curious) came out with a spiffy new catalogue, and I just HAD to have quite a bit of the new pretties. I got 10 new stamp sets, some colored cardstock, and some inks. So, I'm sitting here at 11:30 at night, getting a jump on the Christmas cards. And other stuff, too, but I can always use a premade Christmas card... Actually, it's really an excuse to play with my new stuff.

Those of you who've been deluded enough to actually give me your addresses may find your mailboxes overflowing with homemade cards soon. If you were smart, you might think about moving.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Lunch with Liz

I did survive the weekend birthday party, though I have no really good stories to tell. We ended up not going to the beach because the jellyfish were terrible, so we just went to a neighbor's pool. A fun time was had by all. No fights, though everyone got pretty sloshed. (Not me.)

It's a good thing I didn't party myself too hard because Liz was visiting a relative not too far from where I live, so we arranged to meet up for lunch today. Hooray -- blogger meetup!

Liz is a bundle of infectious laughter and has a smile a mile wide. I was a little thrown at first, because I was expecting a short-haired Liz, but she showed up with this gorgeous, long, curling hair. We had a great time talking as we ate. I chose a cafe that had things for the little guys, thinking of things that Muffin Man would enjoy as we dined. Unfortunately, Muffin Man's grandma didn't want to share, and he stayed home with her. Boo. :) So, Liz, Offspring, and I sat outside overlooking the water for lunch. After lunch, we got an ice cream to cool off. Among many of the other reasons that I knew I liked Liz, she ordered chocolate ice cream. After tasting, she sighed with pleasure, leaned back in her chair and said, "Nectar of the Gods." A soul sister to be sure.

We talked about our families, Disney World, school (both hers and mine), books, and all sorts of stuff. Unfortunately, all things must come to an end, and we left each other much sooner than I would have liked. Liz is truly a wonderful person, and I'm so fortunate to not only have her as a blog friend, but now as actual, in-the-flesh friend. I can't wait until she visits again, and I hope that one day, I have the chance to be up in her neighborhood.

** Liz graciously allowed me to take this picture for the blog. She does not show her face on her own blog, so in order to help preserve her anonymity, I am not linking back to her place. Most of you know who Liz is anyway, and know how to find her.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Off to the Beach

My little brother is in town for his birthday, so we are heading out to HumidityLikeABrickWall's beach in the morning for a fun-filled day with my parents. Long-time readers of this blog will know what a Keystone Kops operation this will likely turn out to be.

If there are any good bloggable moments, be sure that I will be on the internet within minutes after returning home.

PS -- Happy Birthday, little brother.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Weekend at the Biltmore

We arrived in Asheville late on Friday and went to the hotel to recover from altitude sickness. (Not really. Though we live at 15 feet above sea level, and Asheville is at 2, 216 feet above sea level, so it *did* take some getting used to.) We set off early on Saturday morning to visit the Biltmore Estate. On the way there, we were held up by an impromptu duck parade. There were about 20 ducks that decided that this was the appropriate time to cross what is most likely a busy street on weekdays. For some reason, the sight of the ducks put us in a rather silly mood, and we smiled all the way to Biltmore.

We drove through Biltmore's entrance, and after about 10 minutes of driving through scenic woods just chock-a-block with gorgeous vistas, we parked in one of Biltmore's lots. We spotted a trail sign that informed us that the house was an eight minute walk from the parking lot. The drive and that sign were our first hints that this place was huge. You know, when you hear that Biltmore is set on 8,000 acres, it *sounds* really large, but it doesn't quite make an impact until it sets in that you might actually be WALKING those 8,000 acres.

We broke through the trees to the above view. It was breathtaking. It almost doesn't seem real. Most of the other people had the same reaction we did -- *gasp!* Where we are standing is the Esplanade. There are fountains and marble stairs that lead down to ground level. Looking at the Esplanade from the house, you can see a large expanse of lawn that slopes sharply upward to a pergola-covered statue of Diana. (Bonus conversation: I heard a young woman asking another member of her party why the Vanderbilts had a statue of the Princess of Wales. Duh. I flashed to "A Fish Called Wanda" and Wanda's comment that Otto had asked why Archie had named his daughter Portia "after a car.") JF later bravely made this arduous trek to the statue while Offspring and I took on the Herculean task of sitting in the shade and eating ice cream.

Right at the entrance to the house, this lion guards the main door. There are two of them and we are posing with the lion to the left of the main entrance. Behind us to the left, you can just see the spiraling of the Grand Staircase. The Biltmore staff do not let you take pictures inside the house, as flash can damage delicate art and fabric over time. You do get to take as many pictures as you'd like of the outside of the house. We decided to take a specialty tour that allowed us access to parts of the house that are sealed off to the general public. We saw the room where all of the Vanderbilt children were born, and which is currently under restoration. We also got to see the "Blue Room" (my name for it) that was restored in 1980 for the filming of "The Private Eyes" with Tim Conway and Don Knotts. This room featured hidden passageways, and the staff had left the passageway open so we could see how it blended in seamlessly with the wall. In addition, the tour also included getting to see some balconies that were not accessible by the general public, and a trip to the rooftop.

This is a picture of Offspring and I, standing on top of what's called the Copper Dome. The Dome caps off the Grand Staircase, and holds a massive, four-story 1,700 pound iron chandelier in place. The view from here was simply astonishing. You could see to Mount Pisgah through the haze from 19 miles away. Mount Pisgah is northwest of the house, and part of the Pisgah National Forest, much of which was land that the Vanderbilts originally owned. The estate started out at 125,000 acres, and was whittled down to the current size of 8,000. The only drawback to the Copper Dome was the fact that copper radiates heat like no-one's business, and it was sweltering up there. In fact, the whole house was warm since there was no A/C in the Vanderbilt's time. The staff had fans going everywhere, and the windows were all open to get those breezes through, but all those bodies do heat things up.

Behind us, you can see the Esplanade in the distance. There are several trucks parked there, unloading equipment for that evening's entertainment. Biltmore has a summer concert series, and while we were there, we got to the hear the B-52's warming up in rehearsal. They were just jamming away while we strolled in the gardens. Nice work if you can get it.

Another lady on our tour asked us to take a picture of her whole group, and she returned the favor. Here are the three of us, on top of the Copper Dome, with the roof and a tiny portion of the Esplanade behind us. We are on top of the fourth floor, and I wasn't all that comfortable leaning on just a railing, with nothing else between me and the solid, and very hard ground. That may account for why I look like I'm grinding glass between my teeth. That, or it was just flippin' hot.

By this time, we were flat worn out. We headed back to the hotel for some rest and then out to a wonderful Italian restaurant for dinner. We all fell asleep fairly early, worn out from the heat and the trudging through four acres of house. And the grounds on top of that.

We spent Sunday at all of the other places on the Estate, since the house took up nearly every second of Saturday. We awoke early on Sunday, and set out with plans to visit the Winery. We didn't bother (this is where JF would most likely point out that *I* fell down on the job here) to read the little insert given to us of what each facility's operating hours were. The Winery didn't open until noon on Sunday, due to (I assume) North Carolina's blue laws. So, we bypassed the Winery, and slogged off to the historic Horse Barn and Barnyard. In the Barnyard, we met Stanley, the fluffiest goat I've ever petted in my life. The docent there told us that he was half dwarf and half angora, and had just been weaned. Stanley proved this true by sucking on my pinkie like there was no tomorrow. He gave up when he realized that I don't produce milk out of my fingers. Sorry to disappoint. The Barnyard also had chickens; sheep; and Bert and Ernie, the Belgian draft horses. They were the largest horses I have ever been close to. They were also very gentle and sweet, and Offspring was enchanted.

Close to noon, we swung by the Winery to grab a bottle of chardonnay for the 'rents and to let JF take advantage of the free wine tasting. Being that neither of us are big wine drinkers, we didn't stay long, and headed out to Biltmore Village for lunch in a funky little bistro. After lunch, based on CCW's suggestion, we proved ourselves total tourists by gawking like idiots at the swanky McDonald's, which has a grand piano in the lobby. We stopped for milkshakes just for an excuse to go in. And, yes -- we took pictures.

We didn't want to leave, but headed home shortly thereafter. We had a great time, and can't wait to return at another time. While I was in the hotel I picked up a brochure for a spa, which is complete with isolated open-air hot tubs dotted all over the pastoral mountaintop. It looks like a slice of heaven. I'm going to start saving my pennies for a treatment there during our next visit.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Head 'Em Up, and Move 'Em Out

We are off to North Carolina. Blogging will be sporadic while we're away. I'll be taking the laptop, but I don't really anticipating using it much.

Going to see my grandmother, father, and brother on the way through to NC. And maybe an aunt and cousin or two. Maybe. If time permits.

Miss you guys, and I'll have pictures when I get back!


UPDATE: made it to Asheville with no injuries but copious amounts of our ears just popping away. Spent yesterday in CityOfMyBirth visiting with my father and grandmother. Made a detour today to a "nearby" community to visit my brother. It's the first time that I've been to the city where he lives now. Had lunch with Little Brother and his new girlfriend, who is very nice and personable. Saw his house, and met his dogs. Had a nice time.

The ride from Little Brother's Town to Asheville was culture shock for us flatlanders. Moving into mountainous territory, and passing a break in the trees, we saw a black bear! Offspring about wet her pants. Mountains and bears! We don't have anything cool like that back home! It's all marshes and frickin' pine trees back home. Blah.

We're going to a nice German restaurant tonight (schnitzel -- yum!) and then to the Biltmore in the morning.

Miss you all, and will see you when we return!