BLACK Raspberry – A New Meaning

Posted in family fun on September 9th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Labor day weekend was a busy one, but it was packed with lots of fun family time.  On Saturday, we packed up the kids and drove out to South Bend Indiana which is kind of a hike but worth it as you’ll see in a minute.  They have a nice little zoo there, the Potawatomi Zoo, and our Toledo Zoo membership gets us in free in South Bend also.  There is also Megaplay, a fun place for the kids (and adults!) to play.  But this is the first time we’ve been to Megaplay when my son is old enough to play there, and he thought the ball pit (perhaps one of the last remaining in the world?) was just about the best thing he’s ever seen!  After Megaplay, we were all starving,  and some research on the internet before we left told us that a favorite place of ours on the way back from South Bend (Dakota’s in Elkhart Indiana) had closed.  So we were left to find something new, and that we did – there is an excellent BBQ place right across the street from Megaplay.  They had the best dessert I think I’ve ever had: pig ears, which is some kind of fried dough with butter and brown sugar or something else yummy sprinkled on top.  I’m not normally a dessert person, but I probably would have taken on all 4 of my kids for a pig ear.  It wasn’t necessary though, since I ate theirs while they were in the bathroom 😉

Last time I blogged about Megaplay, I think I mentioned how the strip mall where it’s located looks like it’s from the 80’s.  I don’t know how else to describe it, but every time I’m there, I feel like I’ve been in a time warp.  It’s difficult to explain, so I tried to take a video, but it didn’t turn out.  Next time…

Sunday was kind of a restful day, and each of our two oldest daughters had friends over.  They were well behaved friends, and we had fun.

On Monday, my husband had to work unfortunately, and rather than try to pass all day with all 4 of my kids at home, we took off for the Toledo Zoo.  I know, 2 zoos in 1 weekend?  But what can I say, I am a zoo addict.  The only problem was that the zoo was MOBBED – probably the most crowded I’ve ever seen it.  Good for the zoo, but not for the mom there by herself with 4 kids trying to navigate a large double-stroller through the crowds.  We couldn’t get near the great apes to see them, and the rest of the animals weren’t doing much of anything except for the hippos.  Toledo has an underwater viewing glass on the hippo exhibit, and their two extremely large hippos kept swimming past.  One opened his mouth underwater, and the other one rose out of the water, opened his mouth REALLY wide and shook his head back and forth; it was great.  The hippos made the entire trip worthwhile.  Not that a trip to any zoo could ever be a waste of time for me.  Even  if I can’t see that many animals, there is just something about zoos that make me feel happy and peaceful.  Besides, the kids got to play on the playgrounds for a long time, so they were happy too.  The only problem was we had such a big day that all of the kids fell asleep on the way home.  And the 4:00 nap did not set them up to go to bed at a decent hour to get enough sleep for school on Tuesday after their long weekend.  Oops…

We got back home only 10 minutes late (there was traffic!  Labor Day, who’d a thunk?) for our dinner date with Dad.  Last week we discovered that Friendly’s restaurant has kids’ nights, which means that kids eat free with purchase of adult meals.  That means for our family of 6, we leave with a bill of just over $20 to eat out, and that includes all we can drink (kids too, and they don’t have to get water – they love this!) AND dessert for all of us.  But while we were eating, the lights kept flickering; they went out but came back on again.  But then they flickered again and went out for good (we still don’t know why, there was no storm or anything).  But luckily we had already eaten, so we didn’t really have anything to worry about.  The kids were a little frightened, and of course all of a sudden the 3 girls had to use the bathroom, which had the employees scrambling for a flashlight for us to use.  As I held the flashlight for my kids in the bathroom, we had a little talk about Amish people and how they live and how maybe the rest of us are too dependent on electricity.  I made a bad joke about my black raspberry sundae since I was eating it in the dark, and that’s where I got the title for this post.

So overall, a great weekend, though I should add one thing.  At Friendly’s, my husband overheard a college-age kid at the next table mutter something rude after our family prayed before our meal – “Jesus freaks”.  I feel badly for him that he has to think that about people who appreciate taking time to thank God for their blessings throughout their days.  We were quietly minding our own business, so his comment was completely unnecessary.  We do our thing, he can do his.  I didn’t even say anything when he and his friends were casually tossing around the f-word during their meal, even though my kids were sitting right next door.  But people are people, and as I said, I feel badly for him.  Besides, God gave us an opportunity to really help someone before we left the restaurant, and I hope that maybe our kindness can show the light of God to others.  Maybe the mutterer was still there to witness God at work.

Hope your Labor Day, your “last hurrah of summer”, was safe and happy.  Here are some pictures from our wonderful weekend:

Ok, and I have to include the following pictures for the Star Wars fans.  Megaplay has all these life-size cardboard cut-outs of Star Wars characters hanging up.  Sorry the pictures aren’t better, but I took them from far away since I was trying to fit as many into the pictures as possible.  Look for them high on the walls, near the ceiling:

And my favorite of the cut-outs – I’ve always liked Marvin the Martian:

When Stars Collide Over Warrenville

Posted in Fun Videos on March 2nd, 2010 and tagged , , , , ,

As I’ve mentioned, I read the suburban Chicago newspaper online.  Today a headline about the town where I grew up caught my eye – a kid filmed a short little movie in Warrenville, Illinois.  I couldn’t care less about the battle between fans of Star Wars and Star Trek, but I know there are some readers who are fans of one or both of the franchises – thought they might enjoy this little video.  It’s a creative idea, really – what would happen if the introductory words at the beginning of the Star Wars movies fell to Earth?  For its small budget (around $100) and the small amount of time invested, the special effects aren’t bad either…

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If you’d like more info about the kid or the video, here is a link to the original article.

Nothing To Say…

Posted in Everyday Life on January 6th, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Another fog day, so the kids are off school.  They’re playing with each other right now, so I have a few minutes…  why bother to start cleaning when I know that they’ll be “momming” me any second?  The house is a disaster, and it needs a good few hours of attention at least.  Why bother starting laundry?  The bird will only scream at me and rile up the kids who are otherwise being good.

A fellow tangents blogger recently wrote about the grey days of winter, and I guess I’m feeling that now.  It’s too cold to bundle up the kids and take them anywhere, and we’re really trying to watch our pennies anyway – taking them out costs money, even if just the gas in the car, it’s still more expensive than staying home.  Can’t walk anywhere because it’s too cold.  So, we’re staying home, trying to keep all 5 of us out of the way of my husband, who works at home and is, of course, working all day.

No need to bring you up to speed on the current happenings in my life – just every day stuff, laced with a little bad luck.  Nothing to spread any “cheer” about.

We’ve watched a few movies recently; saw Star Wars for the first time as an adult.  Growing up in the 80’s, I saw clips of the most famous parts as a kid.  My husband and I both had the stomach flu last week, and we couldn’t sleep, so we stayed up and watched Star Wars.  It was entertaining; not my kind of movie, but perhaps eventually I will watch the other movies in the series.  Here’s a question for Star Wars fans:  I know that they re-released the movie with digital enhancements, including the scene with Jabba the Hut.  So did they film that as new footage for the re-release?  Harrison Ford did look like he could be decades older…

And speaking of series, I have begun to read the Harry Potter series.  I’m about 50 pages away from finishing the first book, and I’m really enjoying it.  I was really excited to watch the movie when I was finished with the book,  but then I started thinking that I might want to keep my own vision of Hogwarts.  Might the movie ruin the picture I have in my head?  Using imagination is fun; I don’t want to take that away from myself or lose motivation to finish reading the series.  Then again, I’ve never heard any Potter fans complain that the movies didn’t do the books justice; I hear they are very good.  I’m just wondering if I should wait until I’m done with or at least a little further in the series to watch the movies.

Then again, it’s not like we have a lot of time to watch  movies, anyway.  With my husband back on full time and us still fulfilling our youth group and other obligations, as well as caring for our 4 kids (who don’t sleep a lot!), by the time we put in a movie for “us” time, we are both dozing and can’t get through an entire one anyway.  Sigh.  Well, not to be negative, but the grey days of winter are here.  Can’t wait until spring!!!  GO CUBS!  Maybe THIS year…

American Psycho Hellboy… Never Mind

Posted in Movies on July 24th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We managed to fit in some movie watching this week while the kids are with Grandma, and I was attempting to put them all together in a clever blog post title, but it wasn’t to be.  Probably my lack of sleep with the new baby and my recovery process has inhibited my creativity.  I hope to be back in full swing soon, but it will probably take a few months, especially because once I’m feeling better, I have lots of stuff around the house I need to catch up on and as much as I would like blog posting to come first, it doesn’t.  As people keep reminding me oh so helpfully, a c-section is major surgery 🙂  Don’t I know it. 

So the 3 movies we saw this week are Hellboy 2, American Psycho, and Fortress.

I did not like Hellboy 2.  I actually would have left the theater, but I never got around to asking my husband if he wanted to and that was a good thing because he liked the movie.  It gave me a good laugh when we were walking out of the theater and he told me he liked it because we always have the same taste in movies and I really didn’t like this one.  That also means I don’t have much to say about it except that the Abe fish-like character reminds me of C3PO from Star Wars, and I can’t believe the actor who plays Hellboy, Ron Perlman, was also Vincent the Beast in the old Beauty and the Beast tv show from the 80’s with Linda Hamilton.  I thought he was going to be some Andre the Giant huge guy wrestler type, but it turns out, he is just a regular actor.  I suppose my impatience with this movie had to do with the fact that my infection flared up and I was raging with fever yet again in the movie theater.  So even though I felt crappy and wanted to leave, I could not pass up a night out with hubby while the kids were away.  Even if it was to see Hellboy 2…  I’m just glad one of us enjoyed the movie.

Next up is a movie from the early 90’s called Fortress.  It’s set in the future – and it’s always fun to see what people thought the future would be like when the movie was made over a decade ago – and revolves around a corporate owned underground prison (think Walmart does Alcatraz).  The main characters are sent there when they break the “one child per couple” rule.  They had lost their first child, and now they’ve been caught trying to have another, so they are both sent to prison, even though she is pregnant.  This is a fun action-packed movie.  When I looked it up on after we watched it, I learned that it is actually a kind of cult classic movie and there are actually multiple endings.  Our version was the less happy of the endings, but I still liked the movie.  It’s kind of violent for early 90’s, and if you look it up on, don’t let the keywords fool you.  Let’s put it this way, if I had seen the keywords first, I wouldn’t have watched this movie, but in retrospect, I don’t think there was really much adult stuff in it – just violence and gore, but they didn’t overdo it like they do in some movies nowadays, like the Saw movies for instance.  American Psycho on the other hand…

I will start by saying that Christian Bale was excellent in this movie.  I wasn’t so impressed by him when he was Batman in The Dark Knight, but he definitely shows versatility and depth in this movie.  He plays a Wall Street executive who is just about as big a jerk as one can be.  Also, he has blood lust and likes to kill people in his spare time.  The movie is very strange for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on.  For one, I was confused about what the movie was trying to be.  I guess it’s just a story about this man, an American Psycho.  But at times throughout the movie, the music was strange, and it just didn’t play like a normal movie.  And then there were the constant 80’s references.  I guess it was supposed to take place in the 1980’s, given the characters’ huge cordless phones and constant talk of musical artists such as Phil Collins, Huey Lewis, and Whitney Houston.  Why they would change the time period of the movie, I don’t know, but they did a good job because if Reese Witherspoon (who is about my age and would have been a kid in the ’80’s) wasn’t in it, I would have been convinced the movie was actually filmed in the ’80’s.  And I have to say the end confused me a lot.  I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil anything, but if anyone who reads this has seen this movie, maybe you can answer a question I have.  I don’t think I’d recommend this movie since there are many disturbing scenes and it didn’t seem worth it to me to sit thru them for what you get from the rest of the movie.  I don’t think I’m going to put it on my list of baddies however, but then again, Hellboy 2 isn’t going on there either.  Just 2 movies I didn’t really like and wouldn’t see again, but I don’t feel like I wasted my time watching either of them, and that’s always a good thing.   

Fun in South Bend Indiana

Posted in Kids on June 16th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Of all the places to find fun, who would have thought that middle of nowhere, IN would be such a sight?  Every summer, we meet my mom there about 4 times to swap the kids.  She’ll take them for a week, twice a summer, so because South Bend just happens to be about as close to halfway for each of us to drive, that is where we meet.  We used to meet at a Wendy’s just off the expressway, but our horizons have broadened, and my husband and I have been venturing off the beaten path to discover new things to see and do in the area.  We found a good restaurant called Eleni’s with amazing gyros and saganaki, two of our favorite dishes.  We also found an authentic Greek restaurant called Elia’s right down the street, but oddly enough, they are almost never open.  They have more exotic Greek food like stuffed grape leaves, moussaka, and baklava, YUM!  Their food is excellent, though we’ve only been able to eat there once because of their strange hours and seemingly constant family vacations.  After eating and getting the kids back from my mom, we headed to the Potawatomi Zoo.  The zoo is a really cool size, perfect for our family of 3 small children and a now VERY pregnant woman.  Not much walking to do at all, yet it has a good amount of animals, native and exotic, all types and sizes from lions, tigers, and bears, to monkeys, bison, alligators, parrots, and red pandas.  I wil have to mention that the Potawatomi Zoo did not seem very well-kept.  A gardener in that place could have done wonders as there were many overgrown weeds, trees, and shrubbery, some even blocking what could have been better views of the animals!  One tree was so untrimmed it was blocking a drinking fountain!  But as I said, it’s a very cute little zoo, and they reciprocate with our home zoo, the Toledo Zoo, so our admission price was free and they don’t charge for parking.  I was surprised to see that the zoo wasn’t very crowded seeing as how it was a Saturday in June under 90°…  That zoo could really use a Jack Hanna to fix it up and get the publicity rolling – I see a lot of potential for it, but it does need some work.

After the zoo, we had kids begging for ‘one more fun thing’ (remember, they had been used to the fun of Grandma’s for just short of a week!), my husband whips out Mr. GPS, and apparently he has a phone book feature on him, so from your car, you can find gas stations, restaurants, and most importantly, fun places and attractions to visit!

So KUDOS belong to Mr. GPS this time!  Instead of getting us lost and chuckling at us electronically, he led us right to this strip mall that was like a step back in time, it was really strange.  It looked like it was right out of 1983.  I don’t know how to explain it – we should have taken pictures.  It would have been a great place to film a movie set in the early ’80’s, took me right back to my childhood.  Anyway, in this strip mall was a place called Mega Play.  From the outside, it looked closed down – they really need to get themselves a big bright ‘open’ sign.  But once inside, it was a huge space where they had tons of video games, pinball machines, indoor minigolf, bouncy castles and tunnels for the kids, lots of ride-ons for toddlers, and right out of 1983 – a ball pit!  The ball pit had a pyramid in the middle of it that the kids climb up with ropes and once they got the hang of it, they had a ball – cheesy pun intended.  That pyramid gave me a flashback of playing on the same thing when I was little.  I think they used to have them in KMarts, and my husband agreed.  It was neat to see vintage video games and pinball machines also.  The arcade ATARI games they had in one bouncy castle area were free to play – they had Kangaroo, Pole Position, Asteroids, and some shooting game I hadn’t heard of.  I walked over to the pinball machine area because days earlier, we visited this cool pinball shop in a suburb of Toledo.  The guy started it as a hobby, but it grew into a store, and he had all kinds of pinball machines, new and mostly vintage.  He had titles on display like Demolition Man, Star Wars, The Shadow, and Hercules (an older game – it was HUGE!).  He even had this Looney Tunes racing game (not pinball) that was really vintage and one-of-a-kind…  it was cool to see.  I wonder if the pinball guy outside of Toledo is familiar with Mega Play?  But anyway, back to Mega Play…  it was a huge, wide-open strip mall space that had tons of games, ride-ons, and bouncy castles packed into it – lots of fun there, but still spacey so you didn’t feel closed it.  It was the exact concept my husband and I had in mind for our own business of the same type we started a few years ago.  We ended up having to sell the business because it was too labor intensive for the time and staff we had however.  Too bad Mega Play is all the way in South Bend, or we could challenge our putt-putt-ing friends to the mini-golf course 🙂

After Mega Play, it was time to find something to eat, and before we knew it, we were out of South Bend and into the country.  The kids started getting crazier and crazier, and we vowed to stop at the very next restaurant we found before someone passed out or went insane – and some of us were close to either condition!  So, we stopped at a restaurant called Dakota’s in Elkhart IN, and I highly recommend it if you’re ever out that way.  They had the best cornbread, and their steak and cheese sandwich was simply AWESOME!  They also have barbecue items, and they happened to have karaoke the night we went…  it wasn’t too intrusive though.  They were in another room and we didn’t even know it was karaoke at first until the audience began applauding.  The DJ hosting the karaoke was singing a few songs also, and he was pretty good, so he actually sounded like a recording with a live quality.  I don’t how often they have karaoke there, but their food is great, prices reasonable, nice atmosphere, and the staff is amazingly friendly.  Keep in mind I say this coming from a super-friendly town myself, so we’re used to the usual chit-chat when we go out to eat –  but people in Elkhart were exceptionally friendly.

Overall, not a bad place to spend a day – fun and very inexpensive to boot.  Too bad with gas prices the way they are we can’t consider South Bend for a normal day trip for our family – there is plenty to do!  Maybe we’ll wander around some more the next time we meet Grandma there in July…

“New” Kids on the Block?

Posted in Current Events, Uncategorized on June 4th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Does everyone remember this boy band from the 80’s?  I remember them well because being a young preteen girl at the height of their popularity meant that their marketing was pointed directly my way.  I went to 3 of their concerts, had my bedroom wallpapered in New Kids posters, and had everything from tapes (for younger readers – that’s what we played music on in those days), buttons, t-shirts, books, magazines, and stickers to trading cards, shoelaces, and even a Joey McIntire doll.  Yes, it was ridiculous and more than a little embarrassing.  But girls will be girls, and the group had a clean-cut, boy band image, so my parents willingly obliged my fanfare.

You may have heard that the band has reunited.  Yes, I’m serious, and yes, I’m talking about now, in 2008, when the members of the group are over the age of 30 and some are pushing 40.  Why now, you ask?  Probably because pop culture has a way of recycling itself.  They often resurrect fads decades later when people who were kids at the time of the fad can now enjoy them again as adults (now that they have their own money to spend) and share them with their own kids.  They did this with a number of fads from the ’80’s – My Little Pony, Cabbage Patch Kids, Strawberry Shortcake, Transformers, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and now, The New Kids on the Block.  What perplexes me most of all about this whole thing, is that they didn’t change the group at all.  They are out there, singing the same songs they sang as teens and early twenty somethings, about dating girls and “Hangin’ Tough”.  They are attempting to perform the same dance moves they made popular decades ago, and results are not pretty.  I was one of the biggest fans of the group way back when, and now I say they’re terrible.  I don’t like the music anymore (it was of a genre they used to call bubblegum pop – and it’s definitely the type of music you grow out of), they sound terrible singing it, the lyrics are ridiculous, if not downright creepy, coming from near-middle-aged men, and the dance moves are horrible.  They are actually going to tour this (circus) act come fall.

So why now?  Why do we need an updated version of New Kids on the Block?  Actually that’s not even right.  There’s nothing updated about this group except their ages.  Everything else is EXACTLY the same!  An updated version would be better musically and probably make a whole lot more sense.  There’s what I talked about earlier – the fad revival tactic.  I guess that’s why they did it.  But I find it amazing that they found enough people who thought this was such a good idea that they made it happen – inlcuding the 5 original members of the group.  Some have gone on to mildly successful movie or solo music careers.  Some have raised families.  But how someone got all 5 to agree to resurrect the New Kids on the Block circa 1991 is astounding.

If you don’t believe me about how terrible they are or if you just like to watch train wrecks in action, check this out.  Help me figure out who looks more ridiculous – the group or the fans.  This video is part one of three, but you’ll only want to see the first part, if that, trust me:

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Collecting… or Hoarding?

Posted in Uncategorized on May 20th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

When does a collecting hobby cross the line?  I’ve heard of people who collect things and sometimes get kinda crazy about it…  Like this one guest on Dr. Phil who collected Star Wars stuff.  No problem there, but once he started talking about the details of his obsession, it became obvious he had an unhealthy problem.  His wife felt like she came in second place to the Star Wars stuff all the time, and he even had a storm trooper costume he wanted to be buried in.  When Dr. Phil pointed out the fact that the guest would never fit into the costume, he insinuated that he would be dismembered or whatever it took to get his body into the costume for burial.  I guess it’s easy to say you’ve crossed the line when your spouse or the people you live with start to get annoyed and ask you to give them more room for their  stuff and to get rid of the things you collect.  Or maybe it’s obvious you have an unhealthy addiction when you start to spend more money on your collection than things you should be spending it on to ensure a healthy lifestyle, like food or clothing.  Anyway, the reason I’m bringing this up is because my husband and I are developing an extreme board game collecting hobby.  It started years ago when we visited a few garage sales and saw some games we both had as kids, so we picked those up.  Then we started visiting thrift stores in the area, and we enjoyed doing that so much that we visit often and pick up several games each time we go…  it’s kind of like treasure hunting – you never know what you’ll find.  Games are anywhere from 25¢ to $3 and since they usually have all the pieces, it’s a pretty fun hobby to check out all kinds of different games.

Now, we’ve moved to a bigger house and have allowed ourselves a big game closet.  The problem is, we’re getting so carried away that we’ve outgrown the game closet – there are games now stacked on the floor since we’ve gotten so many that they no longer fit on the shelves.  When we go out to thrift stores, I can’t even remember what games we have and I’m always tempted to buy more, but my husband says, “we already have that one”.  It’s really not that big of a problem, I guess we just need a bigger closet…  we do invite friends over nearly every weekend to play games, so we are getting use out of them; it’s not like they just sit on the shelves (or floor!) collecting dust…  And the only family member whose living space is getting crowded because of all the games is the parrot.  He’s been screaming at me while I fold laundry so much lately that I don’t mind if he gets crowded out!  But I can just tell that it’s becoming an addiction because when we’re at the thrift stores, I always feel like getting new games, even if we already have them apparently…  I don’t see an end in sight, but I think it’s still in the collecting stage; it hasn’t graduated to hoarding yet.  After all, the duplicate board games we have are only for spare parts, and the other day, I had a brainstorm:  If we knock out one of the walls in our game closet, we can combine it with another large closet and have more than twice the space for all the games!  For some reason, my husband doesn’t share my enthusiasm for this idea…