Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Paris by Edward Rutherfurd

An epic novel that did not disappoint.  The book spans multiple generations and jumps back and forth between them, but with a few common families and family relationships to tie it all together.  The characters include aristocrats, artists, department store owners and a brothel owner. It's hard to summarize a book that spans over 600 years, and has so many characters, but I did enjoy it.

Thomas & Luc Gascon.  Thomas was an ironworker who helped build the Eiffel Tower.  His brother Luc ran a bar and restaurant but was also part of the seedier sides of Paris.

Blanchards - Marc was a artist but despite his parents objections.  His parents own a department store in Paris that his sister Marie and her daughter Claire end up running.  He gets a girl pregnant but his parents quickly make "the problem" disappear

Frederic Ney is an affluent lawyer who also boards a number of widows in his spacious home. He has a staff of people who take care of them - Edith and her Aunt Adeline are the main ones.  

Roland de Cygne and Jacques Le Sourd a rivalry that has continued for generations, growing stronger with each year.

Louise - grows up in England but comes to Paris looking for her roots, and becomes quite well-known in certain circles.

World War I and II are large parts of the story naturally.  I know that Rutherfurd does his research and most of the historical parts are accurate, but there was one aspect to the story that I liked but I'm not sure if it's true.  When the Germans occupied France and Hitler first came to Paris he wanted to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower but couldn't - as the elevator cables had been cut to prevent him going up.

An enjoyable read which really made me feel I was in Paris and want to go back. It also made me want to give his book about New York another try.  

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Run/Walk for Hope for Multiple Sclerosis

I recently discovered virtual runs, and I have to say I love them.  Unlike a traditional race, you run/walk the virtual run at a time and place that is convenient for you and in many cases the distance is up to you as well.  So why do it?  The are fundraisers for various charities and you still earn a medal or other fun swag.  And they are much cheaper than a traditional race and without the hassle of packet pickup and race day traffic.  Also if you like to run but haven't found a traditional race that raises funds for a cause close to your heart this is a way you can do both.

There are a ton of virtuals advertised on Facebook and shortly after completing my half marathon I came across one to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Not long after I registered the race director cancelled the race due to personal reasons.  I contacted her and offered to take over.  She had already designed the medal which I think looks really cool, and done a lot of the other leg work.  Her sister has successfully organized similar races and has been helping me.  Now I am just busy promoting it so we can raise lots of money to help find a cure for MS.

If you or a loved one have MS I would love for you to join us. If you are a runner and are looking to add more bling to your collection, please join us.

The Run/Walk for Hope for Multiple Sclerosis is a fundraising run/walk we are hosting to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. A virtual run may be completed anytime and anywhere convenient for you. 5K, 10K, 13.1m, 26.2m or triathlon - the distance is up to you. No proof is required of completion, but feel free to post your photos and results to the Facebook page. Each participant will receive a finisher medal.

All medals will be mailed out in December. 

All proceeds from the Run/Walk for Hope will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. To register, click here

Please join the Facebook group in order to receive future updates

Thank you for supporting this virtual run for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Our Tree Cave

Yesterday I took the kids to the Morton Arboretum.  I love taking them here cause there is plenty of space for them to run around, and yes once in a while they even comment on the nature.

It was crowded since it was a school holiday so we couldn't park in the main lot, we we're directed to a different lot a bit down the main path.  Once we parked we decided to find a spot for our picnic. The kids found this tree which looked like a regular tree from a far, but when they got closer realized there was a tunnel entrance and branches with space to sit under it.  They were able to easily get in and out. There were even some spots where they could stand up straight.  

It was a little tougher for me, but once I got in I decided it was the perfect spot for our picnic.  We laid out our blanket and ate our lunches.  Whenever anyone came close by we kept quiet so they wouldn't learn about our secret spot.  We hung out for a while before heading out of our tree cave.  

We explored the surrounding area for a while before heading to the "Big Rock" which I have to say was much smaller than I had expected. Still the kids had fun sitting on top pretending they were on Pride Rock. Our final stop was one of their favorite climbing trees from our previous visit.

Monday, October 21, 2013

He's OK, the Car is Totaled

On Thursday Little Man and I were eating lunch when my husband called.  "I'm ok" he said "But I was in a car accident.  The car is totaled. I was making a left turn on the way to the hospital and I was hit by oncoming traffic.  I promise I was not texting or looking at my phone.  I think I've dislocated my pinky and may have broken a rib.  I'm waiting on xrays."  

At that point there was nothing to do but wait so I took Little Man to his soccer class and told him what had happened and that we may have to pick Daddy up at the hospital later.  After soccer, I talked to my husband again. Ribs just bruised not broken, but the pinky was broken and needed pins put in.  He'd already talked to a hand surgeon and just needed me to give him a ride over there.  

We dropped him off and then went to the impound lot to clear out the car.  This is what I found. 

What truly amazes me though is that as horrible as the front looks the interior of the car looked fine (aside from the deployed airbag).  Thank you BMW for building sturdy cars or this would have been a lot worse.  The car was nine years old so had been paid off for about 6 months, and we were planning on replacing it in the spring.  My husband already had his eye on another BMW.  He's been to the dealership to discuss the options with our sales rep, and we've rented a car for him in the meantime.  Now just waiting to hear what our insurance company will give us towards buying a new one. 

He took Friday off as he needed to get the cast removed and a brace made.  Ribs are still a bit sore so it hurts to lie down to sleep.  He did get some pain meds to help with that though. Today he is back at work, luckily a light day mostly office hours but he did have a couple of routine cases to do.  His hand feels fine but is still a bit swollen so he's hoping he can fit into the surgical gloves.  Luckily he doesn't usually wear the biggest size so hopefully a bigger one will work.  We'll see.  We have contacted our financial adviser in case we need to use some of the short term disability we've been paying for over the years.  Hopefully it won't come to that.      

Beautiful Ruins

I picked up this book a few times this summer, but never bought it.  Then a friend of mine mentioned on her blog that she had done the same thing and finally bought it and enjoyed it.  Based on her recommendation I finally committed.  It started off well enough but the second half and ending weren't good.

I read in the interview at the back of the book, that the author worked on the book on and off for 15 years and it shows.  It's very disjointed.  It starts with a dying American actress Dee Moray arriving in a town near Cinque Terre in the 60s. She was filming Cleopatra in Italy when she found out she was sick.    She comes to a family owned pensione - the Hotel Adequate View (the name is explained later)  Pasquale lives there with his mother and aunt (his father died in the war).  

Michael Deane is a producer in present day LA.  He worked on Cleopatra when he was younger.  After some success, Michael hasn't produced anything in a long time.  But on one of his "Wild Pitch Fridays" Claire Silver spends the day listening to pitches from anyone.  Shane Wheeler an aspiring screenwriter has flown in from Oregon to make his pitch.  

Pasquale comes in with one of Michael Deane's old business cards from the Cleopatra days looking for help to find Dee Moray.  Pasquale speaks no English but Shane just happens to be fluent in Italian.  

From there the book goes back and forth between Italy and the US.  Past and present.  While it's easy enough to follow, I feel like the characters and the original plot had great potential but then it just fell apart.  The last chapter especially felt rushed with quick summaries of what happened to everybody.  

If you want a book about Italy I'd recommend the Shoemakers Wife.  I don't have a recommendation for a Hollywood book.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Little Monkey Bizness

I took Little Man to Little Monkey Bizness for the first time a couple of weeks ago.  We had never been there before but found out about it in a coupon book he brought home from school.  It's a bit far from us, but he had fun.

There's a bounce house with a slide, a climbing structure with a rope swing, a Little Tikes climbing structure (which we pretended was a volcano), another play structure which could be part of an outdoor playground and some oversized Legos.  
He was easily entertained for two hours.  There is also a craft room but we didn't go in there.  We went on a weekday and there were at most three other kids at the times we were there.  Not sure hoe much more crowded it gets on weekends.  We brought our own sandwiches but bought drinks there. They have snack stuff too (the usual apple sauce, cheese sticks, yogurt) but I didn't see any real food.  

He wants to go back again but it'll probably be a little while before we do.  Little Reader is 9 and had outgrown most of these places. Little Hugger would probably enjoy it but it's rare I just have the two of them.  

Personally I prefer the Treehouse (which is probably a similar distance for us) but I would recommend Little Monkey Bizness and we will probably go back some day this winter when we get cabin fever.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

300 down, 100 to go

After finishing my half in September I knew I needed to set a new goal for myself.  Last year I totally slacked off once the weather for cold and basically stopped running or working out at all for 2 months, and then went to the gym very sporadically the next few months.  Even though getting back into it was easier than I would have thought come April, I am trying to force myself to keep lacing up through the end of the year.  So I've given myself a goal of 400 miles by the end of 2013.  With only 100 miles to go the distance isn't the hard part, it's forcing myself out there once it gets cold.  Even this morning I had a hard time leaving my nice warm house, and it was only 52 (but cloudy and windy).  But after about a mile, everything was fine and I ended up accomplishing my 7 mile goal for the day, and completing 300 miles so far.

I have already signed up for a virtual run - the Fit 4 Life Celebration of Life and Fitness so I'll get a medal as my reward.  It seems silly but yes bling does keep me going.  There are no specific requirements for the virtual and the medals ship in December so I figured it was a good fit. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Garden Patch Farms

This past weekend we took the kids apple picking.  There are so many different places around us we end up going to a different place every year.  This year we went to Garden Patch Farms in Homer Glen.  It's relatively close (took us under an hour to get there), small but good.  They have over 60 kinda of apples all of which were available to pick.  You pay $5 pp to go out to the orchard and they give you as many bags as you want to fill up.  Pay by the weight at the end $2/lb.  You can borrow a wagon to haul your stuff (or kids) in. Little Man liked having his sisters pull him around.  My husband tried to pull all the kids and the apples but that didn't really work.

 There are also vegetables to pick too but we stayed with the apples.  Unlike some of the bigger orchards the different varieties are mixed in different rows.  They have signs at the end of each row telling you what is in that row, but once you get in the row signs are hard to find.  So we picked based on color.

 After picking we headed back to the main area for lunch.  We brought our own and I'm glad we did as there isn't much available - chili and donuts was all I noticed.  They have cold water, juice boxes and of course apple cider available to purchase.

There is a bounce house - which had no line the whole time we were there.  There is a small barn with a few farm animals - chickens, goats, and a pig and a couple of shy barn cats.
We really enjoyed it and would go back again next year.  So many of the orchards feel like they have to add all these extra attractions to make it fun for kids, but our kids had a great time.  They had pumpkins for sale as well but I don't like to buy them too early in case they go bad before we can carve them.  They also have lots of prepicked veggies available to purchase

We'll be heading out to get pumpkins in a couple of weeks.  Last year we went to Didier Farms (which has all the carnival attractions).  The kids have asked to go back there again, which is fine.  Next year I hope we can go to a real pumpkin patch and get it off the vine.  It's been a while since we've done that but our October weekends are crazy this year. 

I've already made one batch of apple cinnamon muffins and am planning on making applesauce this afternoon.  This weekend I plan on making the first pie.

It was a fun day with the added bonus of not being far away.  The past two years we've missed apple picking because we couldn't find the time to head way to out to farm country.  Nice to find a good place relatively close.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Jealous of the 1%

As friends have noticed that my race lengths get longer and longer, sometimes they ask if I will ever run a marathon.  My answer has always been the usual, "No, I'm only half crazy".  

My husband is convinced I'll do it and says he would support me to do it.  Still so far my answer has been, no.  Then this past Saturday night I saw lots of friends (some people I know in the real world, some I just know through FRC), posting about getting ready for Chicago. I have to admit I was a little jealous. 

It was perfect weather for a marathon - clear temps in the high 50s low 60s.
I followed the progress of my friends online throughout the day.  One finished in about 5:20, another 4:20 and one at 3:53 (which means she qualifies for Boston!!).  Based on my current pace I would be around 4:40. Certainly respectable, but I think if I actually did cross train I could be faster.  I was even more jealous seeing their pictures post race with big medals and proud smiles.  

When I told my husband my friend qualified, he said, "you know you want to do it.  Wouldn't it be cool to run Boston? We'd all fly out to cheer you on".  We did live in Boston for a number of years, and did often go down to the finish.  I would never qualify but I did look up this years charities and the MS society is one.  Not sure what the minimum would be though.
I'm not committing to anything but I will admit that it's not something that seems so crazy anymore.  Would be cool to be part of the 1%.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why I Love/Hate Rainbow Loom

Like many grade school kids my daughter have become obsessed with Rainbow Loom bracelets.  They made some at their recent Indian Princess campout and came home begging for looms of their own.

I like them because they let them be creative (unlike the silly bands of a few years ago), and are relatively inexpensive.  

Why I hate them is the drama they have created in my daughters' classrooms.  About 2 weeks ago Little Reader made a starburst bracelet (like the one on the right) for her friend.  The friend left it on her desk at school and the boy who sits next to her took it.  They asked for it back and he has refused (although admits that he has it). His response was, "What's the big deal, it's just a stupid rainbow loom?"  True.  It didn't cost much for the supplies and she makes them pretty quickly, but it's the principle of the thing.  If he wanted one, he could have asked and she probably would have gladly made him one.  But I think he likes the attention.  He probably has a crush on her or her friend and likes that he has now created a daily conversation - 4th grade boys aren't very good at flirting.

She doesn't want to be a tattle but she wants it back.  My husband told her to tell the boy that if he doesn't give back the bracelet that he stole she's going to tell the teacher. She did that yesterday.  Sure enough he gave it back today.  

Then last night when we were practicing with her how to have the conversation with the teacher, Little Hugger told us that a boy in her class had taken one of hers (when she left it on her bookshelf).  In this case we are friends with the parents so if he doesn't give it back I'll talk to them.  No need to involve the teacher.  

I told my daughters after we get these back to not take them off at school and if someone admires theirs, offer to make them one.  Hopefully it'll work.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Virtual Race

This morning I ran my first virtual race.  I had signed up for one so that I could get a medal for my half marathon, as they weren't originally planning on giving out medals.  So I found a race with a cool medal and for a charity I care about - Alzheimer's - and signed up.

Women Rock ended up letting people exchange their necklaces for medals which I did.  My medal for the virtual arrived yesterday and I felt like I had to earn it since I'd already gotten one for the half.  So this morning I set out for a 10k (my longest run since the half).  I started off slow but pretty soon realized I was on track for a PB.  I ended up finishing in 58:49.  My last 10k (an actual race I finished in 1:00:50.  

I went home put on my medal and stretched out.  I kept it on when I went to pick up my son.  I had put a jacket on over so no one knew it was there but me, but it still felt good, knowing what I had accomplished.  

There are tons of virtual runs available at varying distances.  I find most of them on Facebook and there are races for everyone.  Tons of different charities and themes.  A lot of theme are a bit too commercial for my tastes - Disney characters, Despicable Me, that kind of stuff.  I have no problem with getting a Disney medal if I run a Disney race, but for a virtual I like the ones that are more unique or have to do with the cause or season.  Either way there are definitely enough options to keep you motivated for a low cost.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Adding Insult to Injury

So, my parents are still in the hospital, and sometime within the last week their house was broken in to.  The alarm was not engaged and obviously no one had been coming or going for a while.  My sister is convinced that home health worker who was helping out my Dad before he was admitted is involved.  He just gave off a bad vibe and seemed to not so subtly be checking out everything when he was there.

They got most if not all of my Mom's jewelry (my sister says she hid some when she was there so hopefully, they didn't get it all), their laptop, stereo a Paustian lamp and two chairs (the chairs were Barcelona copies but I guess as my Mom said the thieves didn't know the difference).  They didn't find the silver and left a few other things behind, but I feel so bad.  They also have a ton of things from their travels some worth $, and some just sentimental.  My Mom is starting to go through the paperwork for the insurance company and will probably have to try and go to the house and see what else she can figure out is missing.

I hate to be this far away when all this is going down.  They have an alarm system, not sure why that wasn't on, but I'm not going to place blame on anyone for that.  I'm sure who ever left the house last feels guilty enough about that on their own.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Great America

We took our kids to Great America for the first time in August.  My husband loves roller coasters but we purposely waited to take them until they were big enough to go on some of the big rides.  Little Reader is officially tall enough for everything.  Little Hugger can go on some, and Little Man will go on some of the more adventurous little kid rides.  If your kids are close to the height minimums you can get them measured at the ticket counter and they get a wrist band proving their height so they don't need to be remeasured at each ride - saves a little time.  We didn't bother with any of the fast passes and don't think it would have been worth the money.

We got there shortly after the park opened and went on the Whizzer first.  It's a roller coaster tame enough for Little Man to go on, but fun enough that the rest of us enjoyed it too.  The drops weren't huge but it was fun.  He was a little scared in the beginning but asked to go on it a second time.

Little Reader went on X Flight with my husband while I waited with the younger ones.  It looks like a cool ride but the line was pretty long and even though Great America lets you do a kid swap (wait in line with your kids and then the parents take turns riding while the other waits with the kids) I wanted to save that for the rides I really wanted to go on - like Batman.

Little Hugger was very excited to go on the Demon - her first upside down roller coaster.  Little Reader had gone on it with my husband first and she went with us, sat in front and warned Little Hugger as to what was coming up.

We happened to bump into Little Reader's best friend when we went to lunch.  She had mentioned to her friend that we were going, and she had asked her parents if they could go to.  We stayed together for a little while but since her friend is a little shorter she wasn't tall enough to go on some of the same rides that our new coaster enthusiast wanted to go on.  Also I think she was a little scared to go on some of the bigger coasters.  She made a point of telling one of the park employees that she was too short to go on Vertical Velocity

I took Little Man and Little Hugger on the Little Dipper while Little Reader and my husband went on Vertical Velocity.  Then it was finally time for my favorite ride - Batman.  The line was long, but the kids were pretty good while waiting and Little Man was excited about seeing the batsuit at the end.  We did spend some time letting them run around at the play areas including the Hanna Barbera section.  There was really only one coaster that we didn't get to go on - Superman but we ran out of time.  The kids all agreed that they liked the rides better at Great America but Tivoli was a nicer park : )

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hallowe'en Hobgoblin

Halloween is probably my least favorite holiday due to all the scary/gory parts.  But one Halloween tradition that is very popular in our area is the Halloween Hobgoblin and I love it.  Every year we get "booed", and this year it actually happened on October 1st.  My daughters opened the front door to head out to school and found three little treat bags with the above sign attached.

They were super excited.  That afternoon we went to Target and got goodies for our own treat bags and they came up with a list of people to hobgoblin.  We bought vampire teeth, pumpkin erasers, Halloween tattoos and a bag of candy, and put together the bags.  Since Little Man's friends are not in our neighborhood, I sent an email to the parents of his friends letting them know that the identity of the "Hobgoblin" is supposed to be a secret, but I wanted at least them know who the mystery candy came so they'd feel comfortable letting their kids have it.

We drove from house to house dropping the treat bags in mailboxes or on the front steps with the kids name on them.  Sometimes they would ring the doorbell but mostly they just made the drop and then got back in the car as quick as possible in a fit of nervous giggles.  We were only caught once.  Little Hugger was dropping off at a friend's house when her friend's brother opened the front door and told her Little Hugger was there.  Little Hugger froze in the driveway - unsure of what to do.  I told her friend we were trying to surprise her, so close her eyes.  She went inside, Little Hugger dropped the bag on the steps and we drove away.

It's a fun little tradition, doesn't cost much , so if you think your kids would like it I encourage you to give it a try (you could always plant the first bag on your own doorstep to get it started).  Our sign is a little blurry after being recopied so many times so I encourage you to make your own, but feel free to use our words.  I would love to start an adult version with seasonal beers/wines other treats

Running The Bases

We took our kids to their first Cubs game in August.  They were playing the Dodgers and we got seats along the third base line.  The weather was perfect but unfortunately not a very exciting game - final score was 1-0 Dodgers won.  Even though the kids got a bit antsy we stayed until the end to run the bases.

They only do it for some games, and you need to get wrist bands for each kid and line up by a door that leads to right field at the end of the game.  They only give out about 1000 wristbands.  The wait in line took a while but once they start letting people through it goes REALLY quickly.  The ushers herd you through, and you go through the outfield towards first base.  The kids start running at first base and then go around to second, third and home.  Parents can go with younger kids so my husband went with Little Man, the other two went on their own.  

Unfortunately I didn't get a single picture of anyone because the ushers really rush everyone through. As the kids are running, the parents are sent back into the stands and then back down towards home plate to pick up their kids.  I understand that they want to get people out of the park so that they can clean up but it would have been better if they would let us have some more time to.

The kids still had fun doing it, and I would encourage other baseball fans to do it.  Just don't expect to get to take a leisurely stroll around the bases or get any cool shots of your kids coming home (unless maybe you have a relative stay in the stands and wait for the photo op.   If we do it again, that's what I would probably do.  

Thursday, October 3, 2013


The other day Little Man (who is 4) and I were walking to school and bumped into a neighbor.  She asked him if he knew how to spell "Go".  He just looked at her, then she asked if he could spell his name, and he did.  

Then she asked him to spell 'Mom".  He answered "M O M".  Then she asked him if he could spell it backwards, he looked at her for a minute.  

I said, "That seems a little tricky, but it's the same backwards and forwards"

He replied, "Oh yeah, it's a palindrome"  Neighbor's jaw dropped