More Thanksgiving Weekend Fun

Friday, November 28, 2008

We're enjoying our time away from our normal routine at Trout Lodge. Sadly, we leave tomorrow.

We started Thanksgiving Day with pony rides for the girls. CeCee and Doodle are already plotting their first trail ride once they turn seven.

Later, Princess the Clown visited the lodge for more face painting.

Dinner was the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing, cranberry sauces, rolls, and pumpkin pie. Each table had our own spread, and they even gave me ziplock freezer bags to take home the leftovers. (Yes, how I love leftover turkey sandwiches!)

This morning, we went to Mrs. Claus' tea party, and of course Santa visited us. These pics are just the highlights; you can find more on my Facebook album.

Over the River and Thru the Woods...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Today, we crossed the Mississippi River and drove through the Ozarks to reach Trout Lodge in Potosi, MO, our family's traditional Thanksgiving hideout. Although we don't live much farther away than in St Louis, we had to snake through the backroads to get here, so it seemed to take twice as long!

We've been coming to Trout Lodge for Thanksgiving (and also Memorial Day weekend) ever since Louie was born. We eat the same foods and enjoy the same activities, but because we only come here twice a year, it's always exciting.

Today was pretty low key--pack, drive, and relax. The girls had their faces painted and played. We're resting up for the big day tomorrow.

Here are the girls modeling their face art. Doodle has a seahorse, CeCee a full butterfly face, and Louie has a dolphin.

Is it Really a Sale if You Have to Buy 8 of Them?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

In finishing up my Christmas shopping yesterday, I visited Bath & Body Works to get a couple of lotions to stuff inside another present. Now I admit that I'm an infrequent customer; I like their products, but their sales model annoys the (insert the hot place of your choice here) out of me. This visit only reinforced my opinion of them.

Kanani, I love coupons, and I have one for $10 off a $30 purchase. I figure I can buy my gifts and maybe a little something for me. But then I start looking at the prices. I remember pulling an $8 price sticker off a bottle of lotion to use as a gift I mailed off last month (I bought the lotion a while ago, on sale, but still). Now that same lotion is listed at $10.50. My favorite body butter used to be $9, and now it lists at $14! I know inflation is hurting everyone, but I fail to see how this improves business. Next to the overpriced signature collection, there is a promotional sign: "Sale! 7 for $35". I only need two or three bottles, but at $10.50 each, it's obviously "cheaper" to buy seven. I suppose I can stock up for future gifts and for the all of next year. I pick seven of my favorites.

At the register, the clerk informs me that the body butters and washes are not part of the promotion, even though they are on the same display :-(. I go back and have another look; the sign does say that, but in very small, faint print. Guess I'll stock up on still more lotion. I also find a cute, tinted lip gloss, so I add it to the armload and head back to the register.

When I reach the counter, I can't find my coupon! I see a stack of $10 off coupons sitting right next to the clerk at the register.

"I have a $10 off $30 purchase coupon, but I can't find it," I say. I drop my bags and dig through my purse full of receipts, gum wrappers, and tic tacs. I find some fruit snacks and an unopened sucker from Halloween, but no coupon. Maybe if I bribe her, she'll give me one from her stack.

She is just standing there, looking at me. I can't believe she isn't going to offer me one of her coupons sitting just inches from my hand!

"Guess I'll have to come back after I find my coupon," I say. I close my purse and gather up the other shopping bags.

She finally caves, "Actually, today, we're giving out $10 off coupons with every purchase. If you buy just the lip gloss, I can give you a coupon to use on the lotions."

"Okay." I smile and hand her the gloss. She rings it up, then hands me the coupon. I half expect her to ask me if I want a bag for that! As she rings up the seven bottles of lotion, she adds, "Would you like another bottle of lotion. With this promotion, it's buy 7, get 1 free."

Of course I want my free one. Now I have eight bottles of lotion for $27.70, including tax. If I get invited to a gift swap this holiday season, I'm ready. Oh, and I found another $10 off a $30 purchase coupon in the bottom of my shopping bag; I might have to go back for some Fredric Fekkai.

A Colbert Christmas -- A New Tradition?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

James and I watched this on Sunday night. It might not have been the best Sabbath activity, but it had us rolling with laughter. Here are a couple of our favorite songs; you can see the rest on Comedy Central's Website.

Deer Season

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I've seen a few SUVs with this "camo-wrap" driving around. I wonder if they make one for the Toyota Prius--what a great Christmas present for James :-)

It's the opening weekend of Deer Season in Illinois. On Friday, Walmart was full of small groups of men pushing shopping carts full of assortments of snacks, ammo and camo-style clothes. I've never seen anything like it. I overheard a discussion of whether anyone could open a can of soda quietly. ("Ain't no way I'm drinking water out there," one guy said. The consensus was he could drink "pop" if he brought a bottle and opened it before going out into the field so the fizz wouldn't make any noise.) Surprisingly, no one had any beer in their carts.

We've seen a lot of hunters around our "neighborhood," scoping out places to hunt. I'm a little glad it's freezing cold outside--I don't really want my kids playing outside this week. Some of these hunters were scoping land much too close to houses, IMO.

I'm learning just how widespread the hunting culture is. I saw a little of it growing up in Arizona and Idaho, but because my dad wasn't a hunter, I guess I didn't notice the excitement surrounding deer season beyond getting a four-day weekend off school for the opening weekend. The pic on the side came in a catalog addressed to the former owner of our home (the USPS doesn't forward catalogs, so we can peer into Fred's shopping habits). I can't imagine anyone wearing this in a thicket for 12 hours waiting for a buck, but who knows? Or maybe this is for the gal who is waiting for her man to bring home a 12-point rack and wants to have fun later--no idea.

Updates on the House

Friday, November 21, 2008

I've meant to post photos of some of the work I've done on the house, but never seem to think about it until a room is too messy. Yesterday, CeCee was home with me being sick (Wednesday, she was genuinely sick with the stomach flu, this time it was the not-really-sick-but-not-quite-well-enough-to-go-to-school-until-the-bus-has already-left kind of sick), so her job was to clean the toy room. And luckily, I remembered to take a photo during the 5 minutes or so that it was tidy.

My biggest project this month has been window treatments. The previous owner built this house himself, and gave the house some lovely, large windows. Unfortunately, he was also a single guy and he loved vertical blinds. I HATE vertical blinds. They're ugly, they're flimsy, and they have no insulating value at all. When our recent cold spell (please tell me it's just a cold spell and not that will suffer through this all winter) hit, we learned that we need more than vertical blinds to keep the house comfortable, so I had the license I needed to drape the whole house. The big windows in the great room presented some challenges. There are two french doors flanking the fireplace, with no room for a panel in the middle. With decorator's fabric being so expensive, I chose to buy lined panels, then rip out the seams and customize them to fit the windows. It was about the same amount of work as sewing them from scratch, but I do like the end result. The pics below are the great room, but I've done the same process with the bedroom and basement windows--all are oversized.

Our New Baby

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One of the wonderful perks of my job has been that I've never been without a laptop computer. In fact, earlier this year, I had 4 Thinkpads and a MacBook Pro. Talk about spoiled, I know, but I really used them--okay most of them--for work. Even during my leave of absence (or LOA in IBM-speak), I have the use of a T-60, so that I can connect to work email, the intranet, and such.

With that ending, I had to buy my first personal computer ever. I wanted another laptop (because I have that bad habit of surfing in front of the television), but realistically I knew this purchase needs to be a family computer, and a laptop simply isn't sturdy enough for that.

The runner-up choice was the new Sony Vaio. The idea of an all-in-one TV and computer really appeals to me, and if this was going to be a kitchen computer, it would certainly have one. Unfortunately, my friend, Gene, warned me that the Vaio has a bad repair record, so it lost.

As a result, I want to introduct you the newest addition to our family, Daisy. She's a 24 inch iMac. Of course I maxed out everything in options, because who knows when we're going to splurge on another computer, and I won't get the IBM discount next time.

The girls are in love with Daisy. This is the first they've realized that you can play games on a home computer--before that they could only play at the library or school because the computers at home were for work only.

Unlike Swishy, I'm not having a rough time adjusting to the Mac, though I already miss a few things from my PC. I purchased VMWare Fusion; I just need to find time to install it and can switch between PC and Mac as needed (or so I hope).

The "Resource Action"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On October 30, my manager, Pablo, called me at my house. I asked if I could phone him back, as I was on speaker and couldn't find a handset. He awkwardly said he was traveling and would call again in a couple of minutes. As I found the handset, I remembered ,"Pablo doesn't know my home phone number." Sure enough, he had tried calling the cell phone, but I hadn't heard it. I realized what was up just as the phone rang again. I answered and he started with the script, "Due to the need to rebalance skills, eliminate redundancies, and deliver greater efficiencies, the North America Sales and Distribution is announcing a resource action...including you."

Happy Halloween! Except, this scary thing was real. I tried to listen as he finished his script, but it really was a blur, and his reading was very monotone. I didn't have any questions, and the packet he overnighted me had all the details spelled out. It even has its own acronym: USRA (US Sales Resource Action), so it must be official.

In thinking about things, I can see why I was included in they layoffs. I hadn't been happy with my job ever since Pablo took over as my manager a year ago, and now as a non-contributing (although non-paid as well) employee, I would be the most logical choice to bump off the team. Sadly, I was one of three (from a team of eight) who were "resourced." The resource action includes 230 employees from Software Sales. We have 30 days to find a new position inside the company, or to accept the package of 2 weeks pay for every year with the company, to a maximum of 26 weeks.

In my situation, all the reasons I decided to take a leave of absence are still in place. I'm not at all ready to work full-time again, much less start a new position right now. I'll take the package and consider it a nice windfall, then look for a new job somewhere when I'm ready to enter the workforce again. Unfortunately, I keep learning of friends/coworkers who are also losing their jobs, and they aren't in as good a position.

My biggest loss is my identity as a Lotus/IBM employee. 12 years is a huge chunk of my life. I'm still a stockholder, but it's going to take a little while to get the Lotus Yellow out of my blood, if you know what I mean. If nothing else, my house is full of IBM gear I've accumulated. Without checking, I could only guarantee that the kids' bathrooms are free of stuff I've accumulated courtesy of work. On second thought, I do have hotel soaps and shampoos in there from business trips.

So, that's the news that I've needed to get out there. Unfortunately, it's prevented me from keeping up on postings, but I needed to muse on things a while before I could type this out.