Who IS that Masked (Wo)man?

Happy Halloween everybody!
This year I went as Zorro. (This is mostly due to the fact that I wanted an excuse to wear a cape).

Special thanks to Mom this year for helping me sew my Zorro shirt...and my Zorro cape...and my Zorro mask. I wouldn't haven been able to do this without her...especially the shirt. I bought this pattern from McCall's, and while I understand the basic idea of patterns, I haven't actually ever used one in the past. (My sewing is not bound by the constraints of patterns. I tend to be more freeform). But I'm embarrassed to admit that this pattern, full of secret symbols and confusing instructions that only people who actually really learned how to sew understand, was beyond me. Sad, I know, but the heroic Zorro was bested by the evil McCall's pattern. Luckily, the real Zorro had that mute partner/sidekick guy, and I've got Mom, who while far from mute, is an excellent seamstress. She gave up the majority of two weekends to help me with the shirt, and because she's a super Mom, she also did the cape and the mask. (It's kinda like when I was 7 and she did my costumes for me too).

My sword, in case you're wondering, is spray painted dowel rod, with the tip sharpened ala pencil sharpener. The handle is foam board and wrapped with Tony's black hockey tape (which he doesn't know I used, so don't tell him). Zorro was actually a fencing champion (seriously, I looked it up on Disney, where the original series aired), so it's important to go with a thin sword for authenticity. Yes, I broke down and bought the hat as is from Wal-Mart. I'm Zorro after all, not a milliner.
We have a costume party scheduled this afternoon. I'll let you know if anything exciting happens.


So Tony and I were riding in the car the other day, and he had the classic rock station on. I was singing along quite happily to Van Halen's Cannonball song.

"Cannonball!" I howled, "Cannonba-aw-aw-aw-aw-all"
"It's not cannonball."
"What? Of course it's cannonball!"
"It's Panama"
"Like the Panama Canal? That Panama?"
Moment while I digest that information.
"I liked 'cannonball' better"

Tony is the know-all end-all for movie/tv/music trivia, so if he says that it's Panama, then it probably is. (That didn't stop me from checking Wikipedia as soon as we got home though. One of these days, he'll be wrong about something. The odds are way in my favor now.)

The cannonball thing really did come at a bad time, as he had also just busted me for singing "Gimme the Beach Boys to fill my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock-n-roll..." a few days before. According to Tony, it's "Give me the BEAT, Boys". He says that Dobie Gray was talking to the other members of his band. (I maintain that he's IN the band...he should already know the beat. On the other hand, maybe he finds the music of the BEACH BOYS to be soothing. I think it's a totally valid arguement).

And I still like "Cannonball" better.

Why I Keep Finding Fur in the Keyboard

I realized that after posting a picture of Mason in the sink, I needed to also post a picture of Dixon so that everything will be 100% fair. As a mother of twins, I must take special care to represent both boys equally and not play favorites. So in the spirit of complete fairness, here is a picture of Dixon playing solitaire on the computer.

New Fangled Linky-Doos

Attention Quirky fans! I gots me some new fangled linky-doos over there on the green sidebar-o-fun. Guaranteed to make your Quirky experience more pleasant (as if you could get any better than it already is, right?) First, the previous posts section has been upgraded with a "Most Recent Posts" link, which will take you back to...well, the most recent posts. That way, if you're cruising down memory lane in May of last year, you can easily beam yourself back to the future by clicking on the Most Recent Posts and -poof!- through the wonder of the Internet, you'll be back to today's post. The science behind the magic is complicated, so trust me, it will just make archive navigation easier.

Secondly, I realize that there are occasionally some typos and/or spelling errors on these posts, and while I do my best to catch the little buggers beforehand, sometimes they still sneak through into the published content. Mom usually plays the part of spelling and grammar editor, and hopefully she'll continue to do so, but I wanted to start up a "Report typos link" just in case anyone else enjoys playing "spot the typo" too. Click the link, email the typo and what post it's in, and I'll go in and fix it. English teachers the world over will rejoice. (Take note that sometimes I employ artistic license, so things like the first sentence where I say "I gots me some new fangled linky-doos" was totally on purpose. You can still email it to me, and I'll appreciate you looking out for me, but I'm going to leave it like it is. Otherwise, go nuts). The typo link is down at the bottom of the green box, below the archives.

So pretty neat, yes?

Monkey Madness

Did you hear about how the mayor of New Delhi was killed on Sunday when he fell off of his balcony after being attacked by a roving pack of angry monkeys? The mayor was in his home when the monkeys attacked him. (Obviously the monkeys had no problems getting security clearance). I don't want to belittle this man's death, but if you had to guess how you were going to meet your maker, would being pushed off of a balcony by angry monkeys even make the top 20?

Apparently in New Delhi, as many as 10,000 monkeys (10,000!) roam through the city, getting into government buildings and temples and trying to steal food from people. (They also have the bad habits of ripping up important documents and leaving monkey poo in unfortunate places). The government can't kill the monkeys because they are sacred to Hindus on account of Hanuman, the monkey god. (Question: And can you punish the monkeys after they've killed someone, or are they still under religious immunity?) If not, you end up with an office full of monkeys, and there's nothing you can do about it. Can you imagine having to go to your boss and be like, "The monkeys beat me up and took my TPS report"?

Many people in India carry sticks to avoid just such attacks, bopping the monkeys on the head to scare them off. (Head bopping is apparently not a religious no-no). Primatologists also recommend using the "open-mouth threat", where you form an "O" with your mouth, lean forward and raise your eyebrows. (Ironically, this look is also useful when warding off door to door salesmen and co-workers who want you to purchase overpriced wrapping paper for their kid's fundraiser).

Say what you will about commuter traffic and office politics and insane customer demands. At least your co-workers aren't literally monkeys (only figuratively). And the next time you're having a bad day, just say to yourself, "Yes, things are lousy, but at least I wasn't attacked and pushed off of a balcony by a roving pack of angry monkeys". That tends to put things into prospective.

Race for the Cure

I did my annual Susan G Komen Race for the Cure on Saturday (or as I like to call it, "Leisurely Stroll for the Cure" since I'm not getting up in the pre-dawn hours to actually run). The weather was beautiful, even before the sun came up, which was a marked improvement over last year when the temperature hovered around the low 40's. This is my 5th year doing the race, so I have my own little tradition: Arrive really freaking early for team picture. Be grumpy. Eat annual Krispy Kreme doughnut. Get annual goody bag of freebie giveaways. Eat banana. Eat free bag of Sunchips. Drink free water. Possibly eat second doughnut. Make my way to the starting line for the race. Race. Come back for more water and to see if there are any doughnuts left.

This year, I varied the routine by replacing the second doughnut with a free pre-race chair massage. (Saves on calories AND works out the kinks!) I also did the 5K instead of the 1 mile fun run since I was feeling particularly sugar-powered. (Oh yes, doughnuts so count as an alternative form of fuel. A tasty one too!) This year's race had an estimated 11,000 people, so they staggered the groups doing the 5K. First the timed runners went, then the first wave of untimed runners/walkers. Then the second. It turns out that I was in the front row of the second wave, which is why you can see me clearly on this photo of the race from the News-Sentinel. (Not the Jazzercise picture, but the one with 50 million people running).

It's like where's waldo! Can you spot me? I'm in black pants with a black jacket tied around my waist. I'm looking down because my feet are actually running, and I'm saying "Feet! What's with the running?! You never run!"

The running happened out of self-defense. Apparently, the people behind me felt like running, so I had to run to get out of the way. I ran for a whole 30 yards before the course widened and the crazy insane real runners were able to pass me and I was able to stop. (I figure all that running took care of those doughnut calories and entitled me to eat another as soon as I finished my race).

Other than the first 30 yards, my Leisurely Stroll for the Cure went as planned. I popped in the ol' earphones for some race-inspired music (The Proclaimers I'm Gonna Be (500 miles) if you're curious) and settled into a brisk pace behind a team of people with T-shirts that exclaimed "Save the ta-tas!" on the back. (I also saw some with "The Rack Pack").

I did my 5K in roughly 50 minutes, got a little weepy over all the "In memory of" names, and successfully dispatched my second Krispy Kreme doughnut. All and all, not a bad morning.

And all for a good cause.

Why I Keep Finding Fur In The Sink

"I call the hot tub first!"
Mason tries the sink on for size.

OTH- Part Three...Costumes!

There's two things that make Halloween so much fun...costumes and candy. And since we're a week and a half away from Halloween, I think it's time that we discuss costume ideas. People always freak out when trying to find cute costume ideas. Don't worry! Dressing up is supposed to be fun! Let your inner child go free! The way I see it, you can go one of several directions:

1. The "I'm-dressed-up-but-not-really" costume: This is the package of cat/bunny ears on a headband and tail that you wear with your regular outfit. I don't really consider it a costume, but it's a good choice if you need to morph back into "regular" wear quickly, or if you're going somewhere where you aren't sure if you'll be the only one dressed up.
2. Pirates, fairies, witches, cowgirls, etc. These are the staple Halloween outfits. Every year, there are numerous pirates, fairies, witches, and cowgirls. They're popular because they're costumes, but they're traditional. If you want to dress up but not call too much attention to yourself, go with these. But if you're going to go through the trouble of getting a costume, why not push the envelope a little bit? Go crazy!
3. Sexy costumes. Heaven knows that you if you browse through any of those costume websites for women, 99% of them will be some kind of sexy outfit. Personally, I stay away from these because they don't fit into my dress code for work. Plus, dressing up as a French maid or sexy nurse seems a little trashy to me. (Of course, last year the local news guy mistook my costume for a French prostitute, so what do I know?) If you're going to a Halloween party and your lousy cheating ex is there and you want to make him suffer, then go for sophisticated sexy...otherwise, just try for cute. (To see last year's rant about the over-abundance of trashy costumes, click here).
4. Memorable/Funny costumes. If you want a memorable costume, you have to be creative. I think the whole point of Halloween is to be something unexpected, and you just can't do that with a store-bought costume. As a matter of fact, I'll come up with a few costume ideas throughout the year, and then I'll check all the stores to make sure that my idea hasn't been mass-produced. Of course nowadays, those online costume warehouses have thousands of costumes, so it gets harder and harder to be totally unique. My rule is, if your idea is in Wal-mart or on the first page of one of those Halloween websites, it's too popular, and the chances of you being one of five pirate wenches is just too great. And really, when you get right down to it, it's just more fun to make your own out of everyday stuff around the house. Not that you can't get anything from the store (I'm not saying that you have to make your own wig or manufacture your own wax vampire'd put those little kids in China out of jobs!...I'm just saying that those complete ensembles that are hanging 20 deep in that Wal-mart aisle totally miss the point).

Two years ago, I won first place in the company costume contest for my Carmen Miranda outfit. Last year, they didn't have a contest, so I figure that means that I retained my gold metal by default. This year, the contest is back, but I don't expect to win again. This year's costume will be more fun to wear, but I don't think it'll be prize winning. It's cute, but it can't beat some random guy dressed in drag, and there's always at least one. People! What is so funny about a guy wearing a dress? Why do they keep winning costume contests? There is no thought behind putting on a dress. There is no creativity! Why do guys in drag keep winning? When I was in elementary school, I came dressed as a tube of toothpaste. Toothpaste! Complete with a lampshade cap and a sheathe with Toothpaste spelled out down my front. But who won? The boy in who wore his sister's cheerleading uniform! Then, when I worked in Virginia, I came as a lightening bug, with a tap light stuck to my butt and homemade wings and antennae, but who won? The guy in drag! Again! (Yes, I am still bitter about it. You would be too. Do you know how hard it is to walk dressed as toothpaste?). The only reason I won with Carmen two years ago was because they were giving extra points for being homemade, and the drag queen guy had purchased his.

So I'm curious, dear Quirky reader(s), who are known for your wit and style and general brilliance, does anyone else dress up for Halloween? Is anyone else out there a "make your own costume" purist, or have we all fallen prey to the evil, overpriced costume superstores? Anyone want to share a favorite costume idea? (It can be yours, or someone else's you've seen). And can anyone explain the humor behind a guy in a dress and bad wig that makes him so popular? Share your secrets. You know how that comment thing down there works.

Scary Halloween Facts

A scary Halloween fact:

Did you know that a single fun size Twix bar, such as the ones that I bought on the pretense of giving to trick-or-treaters but instead greedily stashed away in my desk drawer at work, contain 4 grams of total fat (eek!), 10 grams of carbs (nooooo!), and 8 grams of sugar (shudder!). That's 22 grams of badness in one beloved little Twix!

But wait a minute! The entire cookie bar only weighs 16 grams! Even in my math-adverse head, 16 is less than 22.

You know what that means, don't you? That nutritional data on the back of the package is obviously wrong.
So feel free to eat your Twix with righteous impunity. They aren't really as bad for you as they say they are.

Another scary Halloween fact: nothing is too far of a stretch when rationalizing candy.

The All Bran Ad-vantage

Has anyone else seen that commercial for All Bran where the construction worker is talking about how regular he is now that he's taken the "All Bran Challenge"? While Mr. Regular is extolling the virtues of his new potty prowess, there's all this construction/bathroom related activity, such as a dump truck unloading a load of bricks, or barrels are rolling off the end of the truck right behind the guy's derriere. It seems that the commercial is creating quite a stir; so much so that Slate has done an Ad Report Card on it. Some people think it's funny. Some people think it's gross. I must admit, my first thought wasn't that it was funny or thought was that OSHA would be having a field day with how unsafe this construction site was. I mean, barrels rolling around and I-beams shooting through walls? Helloooo worker's comp! My second thought was, What kind of boring name is All Bran? It can be all bran without being called All Bran. Name it something like Healthy Flakes, or Tasty Flakes, or So-you've-been-constipated-for-three-days Flakes. All Bran? That's All Old People. And no one wants to eat old people food...not even old people. And especially not the 12 year old boys (and Tony) who are laughing at this commercial.

Read the Slate article and see the commercial here.

I'm Not Really a Chiropractor...I Just Play One on TV

I apologize for leaving you Quirk-less yesterday. I've twinged (a medical term) a muscle in my neck, which is incredibly painful and makes it difficult to do things like support the weight of my own head. I missed work yesterday (I NEVER miss work) because it hurt so much I couldn't move. On the plus side, I think all the extra rest allowed me to fight off the beginnings of the cold that I think I was catching. cold, but immobilizing pain. Lucky me.

I manage to mess myself up like this a couple of times a year, so at least I have a battle plan: the TENS unit (aka, Baby Back Zapper). If you've ever been to a chiropractor, you know that one of their delicious little back fixing tricks is to hook you up to little sticky pads and shock your muscles back into submission. The TENS unit does the same thing, only on a brilliantly portable level. I highly highly highly recommend it for misbehaving back or neck muscles. I used to just borrow Dad's (since he also has a history of breaking himself) or Aunt Suzie's (suffers from chronic back pain), but I just decided to buy my own so that I can keep it close at hand for the next time I partially paralyze myself. (And it keeps the family from fighting over them if we have more than one back mishap at a time. You know that old adage, "The family that shocks itself with mild electrical pulses together..."). Yeah, that one.

Anyway, I'm doing much better today. I was able to slowly roll out of bed, and dress myself, and brush my teeth, which is a huge improvement over yesterday, when I was stuck laying on the floor for two hours. (The floor thing was my own fault. I had decided that laying in the floor might realign my head with my spine, but I didn't think about how I was going to get back up). Sitting up is incredibly painful, and requires me to hold my head in both hands to take the weight off of my neck. Unfortunately, this is a bit more complicated than I anticipated. Plus, I made the mistake of getting stuck right before the cats' scheduled dinner time, so both boys stood right next to me and yelled for their evening meal instead of doing the Lassie thing and running next door to alert the neighbors that I couldn't get back up. (Remember that commercial for the Medic Alert button where the old lady is laying in the floor yelling "I've fallen, and I can't get up!"? This incident was God punishing me for making fun of her). Anyway, I was just going to wait for Tony to come home and pick me up, but USDA showed up at the plant unexpectedly, so he stayed late for them. Sometimes a girl's just gotta take matters into her own hands. I ended up inching over to the end of the chaise and using it to support my head while I scooted back into a sitting position. The entire scooting operation took me about 45 minutes, but I managed to get back to an upright position about 5 minutes before Tony came home, which just goes to show that the fates enjoy laughing at my struggles.

But anyway, that was yesterday, and I feel much better today. Only somewhat moderately painful instead of just-kill-me-now painful. I've zapped myself enough to light up all my organs up like a small city, but I think it's worth it, because the neck is finally beginning to listen to reason.

God bless the Baby Back Zapper.

United Way

We're doing a campaign to raise money for United Way this week at Ye Ol Company. We do it every year, with a week's worth of crazy fundraising antics, including today's Putt-putt golf challenges and yesterday's incarcerations, where people were "arrested" and held in "jail" until their bail could be met by their co-workers. In addition to our money however, United Way is looking for volunteers to help with their various organizations. One that I always participate in is the Children's Center, a daycare that relies on United Way volunteers for special projects. We take a morning and go over to the Center to help them with anything that they need done. I like it because you can help the kids without actually having to interact with them. This year, we pressure-washed their toys on the playground, helped the children get ready for Picture Day, organized the toy closet, and put up fall decorations. I brought my ladder along and changed 36 fluorescent bulbs that had gone out in the various rooms. True, I have never actually changed a fluorescent bulb before, but it was either that or get little kids ready for their pictures, and fluorescent bulbs don't have snotty noses and spilled juice on their shirts. (So I chickened out. Sue me). It turns out that changing bulbs takes a little bit of finessing, but I have the magic touch. All I had to do was tap the new light, and it would suddenly come on. This is endlessly entertaining to small children, who have never seen lights or a person or a ladder before, because no matter how quietly I snuck into the room, 20 pairs of giant toddler eyes would swivel over and stare, open-mouthed, at what I was doing. Mostly, the kids watched silently while I balanced on my ladder, safely out of their snotty-fingered reach, with the exception of one little boy who was curious enough to wander over and block my escape route, effectively trapping me on the fourth step.

"Wha doin?"
"Who me? I'm changing this light bulb"
"Wha doin?"
"Er, I'm changing this LIGHT BULB. See? It's out."
"Wha doin?"
(Sigh). "Never mind. Where's your teacher? She'll tell you what I'm doing."
Five full seconds of silence while he digests this, then:
"Wha doin?"

Irritating child. Obviously the spawn of Barbara Walters. Luckily, it was time for his picture, so his teacher ushered him out of the room, and I was able to make my escape.

In another room, I was treated to the fantastic musical styling of a Mr. Wiggles, who was singing a catchy little song about making a fruit salad. The children knew all the words and even a little dance routine that went with the song. (I was impressed). Unfortunately, I do not know all the words or the corresponding dance, yet the tune continues to play in my head, forcing me to walk around mumbling "duh-de-duh-de-duh, Fruit salad!" I have been humming that fruit salad song for 48 hours now. You better hope I never find you in a dark alley, Mr. Wiggles.

It is my opinion that daycares run on extremely organized chaos. Everything they do is meticulously planned and scheduled and recorded, yet there's always children yelling, or running in every direction, or falling down, or crying, or needing to be changed, or whatever. I really do not understand how the teachers can keep up with it all. I'd have a blowgun and a case of tranquilizer darts on hand at all times. I did take a time out from light bulb changing to sneak into the baby room though. (I like them because they can't run off and get into trouble. You just sit them in that bouncy circular thing and they're happy just to jump up and down in place). I had a lovely conversation with Joshua, a 7 month old who hasn't quite figured out how to crawl yet. (What to do with these infernal legs!? They're always in the way!) Anyway, Joshua wasn't overly drooly or snotty or smelly, so we got along fine. We sat in the floor and discussed the ratio of red balls to blue balls in the rattle that he had, and whether or not the over-simulation from all that red would have lasting ramifications on his left-brain vs right-brain cognitive development. (Joshua says yes. I think there are too many other variables to be statistically conclusive. The baby teacher/watcher/changer person just rolled her eyes). At the end of our visit, just as I was leaving, Joshua's teacher said that she was very impressed that we got along so well, because Joshua is apparently at a stage where he's "Stranger Apprehensive". That basically means that he starts screaming whenever someone he doesn't know comes into the room. He didn't do that with me, however, and the teacher was surprised (especially after the red ball/blue ball discussion, when she decided that I was a complete nut job). I told her that Joshua must have recognized a kindred spirit, because I'm stranger apprehensive too.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun, we helped the Center get a lot of small jobs accomplished, the place is a lot brighter now due to all the new bulbs I put in, and I had another relatively positive baby-related encounter. I highly recommend volunteering if you have some extra time on your hands.

Just watch out for that Mr. Wiggles fellow and the kid who asks "Wha doin?".

Ode To Halloween Part 2

It was a wild time here at the 2007 Pumpkin Carving Invitational, held on October 7th, in the backyard of one Granny and Pap-paw. Weather conditions were warm and sunny with a comfortable breeze, and Carvers arranged themselves around the patio in confident anticipation of the event. (Photo documentation was provided by roving reporter, Tony, who prides himself on the use of natural, unstaged action shots). Newspaper was put down and the carvers were off! intently manipulating their pumpkins with a variety of knives, mellon-ballers, ice cream scoops and spoons. Competition was fierce in both the individual and team carving categories.

Several carvers went with the traditional top-removal technique, although Mom went with the new and previously unseen bottom removal, a controversial yet effective tip provided by professional pumpkin carving expert, Martha Stewart. (According to Martha, by removing the bottom of the pumpkin instead of the top, it is easier to place the pumpkin over a candle or electric light, without burning your hand or having the electric cord hanging out of the top of the pumpkin).

Uncle Bob led with a very realistic pumpkin mouth with 3D tongue and teeth, but lost his pumpkin pupils due to a tragic slip of the carving knife. Team Ashley/Danielle did a theme pumpkin, with carvings representing peace, love, and happiness. I went with a multi-media use of toothpicks. Contestants used the ice cream scoops to remove seeds from the insides, followed by scraping the inside walls with the edge of a spoon until clean. (Aunt Suzie took her pumpkin clean-out one step further and actually took hers inside for a final rinse at the kitchen sink). Seeds were separated for Dad's pumpkin seed roast while pumpkin guts were slung at fellow competitors.

The spectators were on the edge of their seats during the action!

The finalists:

Be sure to join us next year for more hard-hitting pumpkin action only on Quirky is a Compliment!

There Is No Joy In Mudville

Poor Cubbies. They choked on all that play-off excitement and promptly got themselves swept. We knew it was going to happen because, after all, we're Cubs fans, and everyone knows that that is what the Cubs do. Nonetheless, it was a sad day in the House of Quirk, as our favorite team once again earned their moniker as the "Lovable Losers". But even as the Flubs are destined to heartbreak, we are destined to root for them anyway, so we'll be right back here again come spring training next year. Actually, I have high hopes for next year because will be the official 100 year mark since the Cubbies last won the World Series, and wouldn't that be fabulous to break it on such a lovely number like 100? The fates smile on that number. A nice, even century mark. That would be poetry. Of course, that's also the official Cubs fan line: "Maybe next year".

Here's hoping that next year is our year.

Ode to Halloween- Part 1

Oh ya'll, it's October, and that just makes me so happy. First, the temperature drops below 50 bazillion degrees (eventually...I hope) and secondly, it's time for Halloween. And I loooooove me some Halloween. Despite growing up in an upstanding Christian household where we technically didn't celebrate Halloween and instead we dressed up and gave out candy at the church for "Noah's Ark Fest", I still love the holiday (no matter what you call it). What other holiday allows you to dress up and pretend to be something you're not, and carve faces and shapes into oversized vegetables, and get candy for it? This is a win-win-win holiday! I've had my killer costume all planned out since last March (homemade, thank you very much. Not store bought, which is so totally cheating) and pumpkin carving is scheduled for this Sunday, and we'll hit up Boo at the Zoo for the free candy, since my neighbors have this thing about giving candy to a fully costumed adult showing up at their door and begging for chocolate. (Age discrimination! Age discrimination!) Anyway, I could go on and on about the joys of Halloween, but then the post would be crazy long, so I've decided to split it up into categories and do a whole "Ode to Halloween" series. (Plus, that gets you hooked and coming back for more, which is a shameless manipulation of my visitor numbers. Mwu-ha-ha-ha-ha!)

And since we have some international blog visitors, I did a little research to find out what the rest of the world does with Halloween. I've picked out my favorites below, but you can read about a bunch of different countries on

"In England the black cat was considered to be good luck were as a white cat was considered to be bad luck. In England children make "punkies " out of large beets. They cut out a design of their choice into the beet. Then they carry them through the streets and sing the Punkie Night Song. They knock on doors and ask for money. In some parts of England turnip Lanterns are place on gateposts to protect homes from the spirits".

Quirky Editor's Note: "Punkie" is now the official word of the day. Try to use it as many times as possible, just because it's fun to say.

"In Mexico they have picnic lunches on the graves of their relatives. As this is a day of remembrance, happiness and celebration. They bake bread and make candy in the shape of skull and crossbones, a casket, or a skeleton. The children run through the streets with lanterns and ask for coins. People light bonfires, set off firecrackers, and hang lanterns on trees to guide the souls of the dead home".

"In China the Halloween festival is known as Teng Chieh in which food and water are placed in front of photographs of relatives of people. Bonfires and lanterns are lit to light the spirits path back to earth. In the sacred ritual of the day, the spirits are offered joss sticks, food and gifts. The gifts, made of paper, represent objects with which they were familiar while on earth and are intended to make them feel at home. Paper money is burnt on their behalf, to pay for their expenses in the netherworld. Fires are lit to light the way for the hungry ghosts and a gesture of welcome".

In Germany, "On All Saints' Day Catholics attend church services in honor of the saints, the martyrs and those who have died for the Catholic faith. People may also visit their family’s graves to beautify them with wreaths and small lanterns. Sometimes a mass is said at the grave site and the grave sprinkled with holy water. On November 2 or All Souls' Day, Catholics attend a special Requiem masses, where they remember those who may be close to them that have died. Prayers for the dead are said and votive candles are lit to honor their memory".

There you go. A little trivia to impress your friends with. Or win final Jeopardy.

Will Bike for Pop-tart

In the effort to be healthy and active, and counteract the multiple boxes of frosted fudge Pop-tarts that we keep in stock, Tony and I went on bike ride this weekend. We try to do this every weekend (meaning, this was our second trip).

Tony likes the leisurely pace, and I like that red-faced oh-my-goodness-I-am-dying feeling that goes with trying to pedal up a hill. (I can pedal for hours on nice flat terrain, but hills continue to kick my butt. I really dislike them). Even so, I am nothing if not optimistic, so I planned a ride.

My bike is a pretty light blue bike, which took me forever to find because apparently bike makers are still under the assumption that a girl's bike, even if it's an adult size, has to be Barbie pink or Bratz purple. I probably wouldn't have minded a pink or purple bike if they had offered any other colors, but since that's all they think I want, I had to object on principle. It took a while, but we found a nice blue one instead. Plus, it coordinates well with my helmet, which is also blue and has Hawaiian flowers on it. Tony went with a red bike, but his helmet is black. (He had trouble finding a coordinating color. Actually, he had trouble finding a helmet period). Tony's head is apparently very small (which is fine with me, since one day I'll be forcing his offspring through the birth canal), so we had to drop down to Junior sized helmets for ages 8 and up. Just as I balked at a pink bike, Tony balked at a helmet with Sponge Bob or Transformers on it. (Expand your target audience, bike makers! There's no reason to belittle a grown man with the head size of an 8 year old by making him wear cartoons on his helmet!) We finally found one in the very back that was black with graffiti-like arrows/slashes on it, and Tony decided that he could live with it.

If you've never been, I highly recommend visiting Victor Ashe park. It has playgrounds and a dog park and soccer fields and pavilions and Frisbee golf and a pond and walking/biking trails all through it. All this is important because it gives you something else to focus on while you're having a heart attack as you fight your way up the first big hill. We normally bike over to the playground and take a break on the swings (Tony likes to swing...I like to gasp and wheeze like the out of shape person that I obviously am) before making the loop and heading back home. As an added bonus, this weekend's ride was accompanied by several middle and high-school cross country runners doing a local tournament at the park. Their trail ran right alongside our trail, which meant that 100 middle-school girls got to run by and smirk at me when I ran out of juice halfway up the monster hill and had to walk the bike the rest of the way to the top. Yeah well, smirk away, annoying in shape middle-schoolers. At least I have boobs!

I'm hoping that the weather will stay nice enough that we'll be able to ride each weekend for the next 2 months at least. And despite the killer hills, I am seeing a teensy bit of improvement with my endurance. Last weekend, I got chewed up and spit out by 6 hills. This weekend, only 4 hills kicked my butt. And sure, my leg muscles still turned to jelly, and my face got alarmingly red, but I recovered from this week's bike-induced heart attack much sooner than last week's. And in my book, that's a huge improvement...which should be duly rewarded with a frosted pop-tart!

30 Years of Muskrat Love

Happy 30th Anniversary Mum and Dad! Congratulations on being able to stick it out with each other for three decades, because I'm fairly sure that anyone else would have killed you both years ago. (I couldn't find a Hallmark card that said that, but it's true. It's a good thing that you're soulmates). May your next 30 years be just as much fun, if not more.