Thursday, September 24, 2009

Good Times in South Dakota

We've had a fun time on our vacation so far. On Monday we drove the entire width of SD, to get to the Black Hills. The day started out cold and rainy, but on the way, we stopped in a few places. First, we saw the Corn Palace. We enjoyed the corn mosaics there but unfortunately it was still cold and rainy when we were there.

We pressed on, to 1880 town, which was the most interesting site we saw that day. It's a collection of buildings and artifacts from the era and the area. Vinny really enjoyed running around the town and looking at things.

Our final stop before Rapid City, where we spent the night, was Wall Drug. The Wall Drug billboards are amusing and entertaining as you cross the countryside, but Wall Drug itself is somewhat disappointing. We had dinner there and paid more than $30 for worse food than you could get at McDonald's for $15. My advice, should you ever find yourself driving across SD on I-90, is to skip Wall Drug and go see other more interesting things.

We stayed at a hotel with an attached waterpark in Rapid City, which Vinny really enjoyed. It seems like any hotel worth its salt in South Dakota has an attached waterpark, presumably because there's nothing else to do in South Dakota. ;)

On Tuesday, we went to the North and West areas of the Black Hills, stopping at Sturgis (home of the famous motorcycle rally), Devil's Tower, and Deadwood, where we saw the cemetery that is the final resting place of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Then we went camping that night at Big Bear Butte State Park. Vinny had been really excited about the prospect of roasting marshmallows by the fire and sleeping in a tent. We got to the campground about 30 minutes before sunset, and set up the tent and built a fire. We were the only folks camping at the campground, and it was extremely cold -- lows in the 30s F. We could hear coyotes howling all night, and Jeff thinks he heard something get eaten by a predator. We didn't get much sleep because it was so cold and we had to keep moving Vinny back into the sleeping bag.

We woke up before dawn and we just packed up and left. We had a breakfast at Denny's before going to see Mount Rushmore. Mount Rushmore was spectacular and really interesting to see. But we were feeling tired and dirty so we checked into a hotel in the early afternoon, and took showers and went swimming for probably nearly 3 hours with our swim-obsessed son.

It's kind of an odd contradiction, but Vinny both loves swimming and is terrified of the water. But he's getting less afraid of the water the more time he spends in it. By the end of yesterday he was able to "swim" a couple of feet between me and Jeff, and feel okay with the fact that his face was in the water (although head dunking is another matter entirely). We will have to sign him up for swim lessons or something, because he seriously loves the water so much.

Today we're going to head south to the Badlands and maybe even onward to Western Nebraska, which is also beautiful (rolling hills, not exactly what you think of when you think Nebraska). Ultimately we have to make our way to Lexington, Nebraska, for my grandmother's memorial service on Saturday. I'll try to keep you updated as the trip progresses!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Greetings from South Dakota!

Just a brief post to let my vast fan base know that I am alive and well. We are having a great time on our vacation so far. We spent the past couple of days with my sister Laura at her house. We left this morning and made it as far as Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where we are spending the night tonight.

We hope to make it to the Black Hills by tomorrow night. More later!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sew Much Fun

I really enjoy sewing, but I don't get much of a chance to do it. I took a couple of years of sewing classes in 4-H, so I have some basic sewing skills but nothing very advanced. I prefer making things rather than making clothes, because if my curtains are a little uneven, for example, it doesn't look half as bad as if my clothes are a little uneven.

I took the initiative when I bought Melvin, the tiniest, babiest computer, to order some fabric with which to sew a case for him. I wanted something pre-quilted, and this sunflower fabric immediately caught my eye:

So I made up my own pattern and cut it from the fabric:
I soon realized, however, that the double-pull zipper I had bought was of the wrong orientation. You see, it was a jacket zipper, so when the zipper pulls are apart, the zipper should be zipped together on a jacket.
But I needed the opposite for my laptop case -- the zipper pulls should open the zipper when they are far apart. So, I performed a little zipper surgery, cutting off the safety teeth at the ends of the zipper and rethreading the top zipper pull to the bottom of the zipper:
Then, I sewed the zipper to the fabric pieces I was going to use for the top and narrow sides of the case:
I also made some carrying handles for the case, and put them on the wider sides of the case. I should also mention that I decided to make this case appear to have no visible seams. I did what's called a French seam -- first you sew wrong sides together, as appears in the picture below.
Then you pin the wrong sides together such that they hide the raw edges, and sew the raw edges within the seam, as I did in this picture (you're looking at the inside of the case in this picture).
Here's the finished product -- first of all, the inside of it, with two pockets (one for the laptop, and one for the power supply and other accessories):
And here's the outside of the case
And here it is holding the laptop:
This project was a lot of fun and I hope that I will be able to find more time in the future to make fun projects like this again!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Nine Eleven

Today's normally somber mood is somewhat lightened by the fact that it's my last day of work before we go on vacation! But still, it is quite a sad day.

On this fateful day eight years ago, I was getting ready to go to class. I'd showered and gotten dressed, and was eating my cereal and surfing the internet when I got an email from my sister who was living in DC saying that she was fine, and not to worry.


So I went onto and I could barely get on and saw that the first plane had hit the twin towers and the plane had hit the Pentagon. There was speculation that a plane had hit the White House too. At that point I had to leave to catch my bus, but I remember thinking, "This can't be a coincidence."

As the day progressed, I was able to get more and more information. I watched them bulldozing and searching for survivors live on TV.

What were you doing that day?

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Vinny was really excited about his new fan, and wanted us to be finished installing it already. He kept on asking, "Are you done yet? Are you done yet?"

I kept telling him, "We'll tell you when we're finished, sweetheart." But within 5 seconds, he was asking again.

I just realized yesterday that "Are you done yet?" is very similar to "Are we there yet?" Hopefully he won't have that one figured out when we go on vacation next week.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Lucky Nines

Today is the ninth day of the ninth month of the year two thousand nine. And this post is dated 9:09 AM. Cool!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Labor Day Update

It was the best of weekends; it was the worst of weekends. A lot of money was spent, mostly on important stuff. A lot of work was done, and most of it not futile.
  • We bought a lot of stuff in preparation for our trip. For example, we decided that a portable DVD player that could work in the car would be a good investment for keeping a certain little boy we know and love happy during the long stretches of driving. We also bought some new DVDs to roll out one at a time after he gets bored with the old ones.
  • But, Vinny dropped my camera, lens-down, on the concrete floor, so I had to replace it. That's $100 down the drain.
  • I sewed a carrying case for the DVD player and a laptop case for Melvin, the tiniest, babiest computer* (I managed to get all the pictures off the damaged camera, so a post will be forthcoming). I had a blast sewing those.
  • We replaced the light fixture in Vinny's room with a colorful ceiling fan, which was a good thing. That boy is still obsessed with fans, and we'd bought that fan several months ago but just hadn't gotten around to installing it yet. Yesterday evening he was just wanting to sit in his room and watch the ceiling fan go round and round.
  • But, in that process, I learned not to use the Amps (current) setting on your multimeter to determine whether wires are live. One of the multimeter probes melted and burned when I tried that. So, don't do it, unless you want to replace your multimeter's probes at a minimum, and possibly the entire multimeter and some of the surroundings. Thanks to the spray of molten probe, I need new lenses on my glasses. (This is the one time I'm happy to be nearsighted.) Use the voltage setting instead!
  • I saw the movie The Gangs of New York last night. I did not realize how crazy and lawless things used to be in this country! I always chuckle at people romanticizing the past so much that they think they'd like to live back then. No, thank you! I'm sure that the Five Points area where the movie took place was much worse than just about anywhere else, but sheesh! Even the wealthy periodically had their homes mobbed, or people infiltrating disguised as maids or help staff who would rob them, etc. I'm happy for things the way they are right now, thank you very much.

* You have to be one of my sisters to understand how hilarious this statement is. Yes, ladies, I did name my new netbook Melvin!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Vacation Preparation

Sorry for dropping off the face of the earth there, folks! I've been so busy lately that I've had little time to think about topics for awesome blog posts. We've had a lot going on at home lately (such as planning our upcoming vacation), plus I'm trying to get lots of things done at work before this three-week vacation starts next weekend. We're going on a road trip -- out to the Black Hills, swinging South to Nebraska, where my grandmother's memorial service will be held on September 26, and then looping back home.

In preparation for this trip, we upgraded our membership to the local children's museum to a reciprocal membership, where you can get into hundreds of children's museums worldwide for free. The extra cost was only $30, so two visits to reciprocal museums is all it takes to break even. I've discovered that there are five children's museums in Nebraska -- presumably because there's nothing else to do in Nebraska? -- and we plan to hit at least three of them after the funeral.

Unfortunately, the Children's Museum of Indianapolis is not a member of this association, but we plan to begin our trip there anyhow, because I know Vinny will love it. We used to go there when I was a kid, and it was fantastic. Back then, they didn't charge admission, but I'm willing to fork out nearly $40 for my son to enjoy it.