Thursday, October 23, 2008

Vote now!

The great travel website TripAdvisor is giving away 1 million dollars! They have selected 5 great causes and are asking the public to vote for the recipient of the money. Follow this link to vote for your choice of either Conservation International, Doctors Without Borders, National Geographic Society, The Nature Conservancy, or Save the Children. As of this moment, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières, my pick, is in the lead with 39% of the vote!! Visit TripAdvisor to make your voice heard and to learn more about each of these great causes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Would you like fries with that?

There is a massive billboard near my house advertising the no-scalpel vasectomy. This would not be that interesting, except that next to the photo of the doctor is this frightening statistic: Over 17,000 vasectomies performed! Yes, that's correct, that's seventeen thousand, for those of you driving quickly and doubting your reading skills. By the same guy. The picture shows a young-ish looking doctor, with very dark, thick shiny hair and equally dark eyebrows. Is this guy some kind of vasectomy machine or something? What exactly is a no-scalpel vasectomy and, more to the point, does it even work? I'm sure it's not too hard to do six million vasectomies if you don't do them correctly, right? I decided to look in to this bizarre phenomenon and got the scoop from his website. Apparently the guy isn't as young as his picture suggests, and he has been practicing locally for 25 years. That math is a bit more reasonable, but still. 17,025 vasectomies since 1983? That's 681 per year on average, although it probably increased over time as he became more successful. As it turns out, the procedure only takes...get ready...10-15 minutes (!!), so it's not that crazy to do 13 per week on average. In fact, now that I really look at the numbers, even if it takes 20 minutes, that's only about 4 hours of his time each week. Still, at over 17,000 procedures, it sure does give new meaning to the term "churn and burn". Eek!


Monday, October 20, 2008

And the winner is...

I know you've been waiting with bated breath to find out which of the road signs is a fake. So hold on to your hats, people...the impostor is indeed the one in the center. That is a photo from a trip we took to California two years ago. We were driving around in Sausalito, one of the most beautiful places I've ever been, and I was imagining that I lived there. I was thinking about how I would be drinking my coffee each morning overlooking the water, wearing those Himalayan knit booties with the tassels on them, and writing in my journal. OK, I don't do any of that except drink coffee, but it felt right for some reason. There was the sign, and at first we thought it was real until Jon pulled over and he got out of the car for a closer look. Someone had added the hat and guitar to a regular sign using black electrical tape. It was so funny that Sara wanted a picture. If you look closely, I think you can even see the Himalayan booties...

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Speed humps? I beg your pardon?!

When I moved to Florida from New England, I noticed that some of the road sign terminology differed from what I was used to. In New England, the signs read Speed Bumps. In Florida, Speed Humps. Three years later, this is still funny to me. Apparently this term is used in the UK as well, and this got me thinking about what other amusing signs we might find on our home exchange adventures in Europe. So let's see how good the rest of you are: which one of these signs is a fake?

Leave your answers in the comments!


Yesterday I got an email from Ståle, our Norwegian home exchanger, telling me that he and the family were going on a short vacation to Latvia. Huh? This stuck me as particularly strange, as Latvia isn't know for its tourism, at least not to Americans. I told him so, and it he promised to give me the full report when they return. In the meantime, I decided to check Latvia out and apparently I am not the only one who thinks vacationing in Latvia is strange, as there is a website called YouWon'tBelieveIt that extols its virtues. Maybe the website should be called You Wouldn't Have Believed It - it just seems a bit more positive. Apparently some of the cows in Latvia are blue (the color not the emotion) from drinking water from the Baltic sea, and all you have to do to become a werewolf is to get naked at exactly midnight and then run backwards through a tree root that's been formed into a loop. It sounds pretty good to me, and I definitely wouldn't have believed it.

image: TAVA

Old, old, old!

I was floored when I realized that Maureen McCormick, Marcia of The Brady Bunch, is 52 years old. 52 years old! Sorry, but I am not really able to wrap my brain around how old she is...or, more honestly, how old I am! Her tell-all memoir, Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice, is out today and reveals her history of drug addiction, bulimia, and a series of bad relationships, including her attraction to Barry Williams (Greg Brady). He really got around - Williams also had a brief relationship with Florence Henderson, who played his mother on the show. Eek.

photo: ABC

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Momager = Change!

Surprising news that you can't miss!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Going under the knife?

Earlier this week I had an appointment with the dermatologist for a routine skin cancer screening, and was surprised when the PA (Physician's Assistant, like a Nurse Practitioner with more schooling) came in and didn't introduce himself or anything, just started in on the exam. I happened to know he was a PA because I saw the practitioner profile on the website, and normally I don't mind seeing a PA so it wasn't a big deal to me. He found a few areas of suspicion, as he called them, and as we were discussing whether to biopsy them, he said that some dermatologists would take a less aggressive approach, but he prefers to do the biopsy. Doesn't this sort of imply that he is also a dermatologist? It was on my leg so I let him do it, sort of in the same theory that you don't want your doctor to start your IV because although they can do it, they don't ever do it and therefore don't do it well. Let the nurse or the phlebotomist do it. So I didn't really care that this guy did a small biopsy on my leg but when he told me that he needed to do two additional ones on my face (!!), I wasn't sure I still wanted to go along with the plan. He seemed put off by my questions about how much of a scar would be visible, and said there wouldn't be any real way to predict until he did the procedure, but it would be just a small scar. Just two small scars, actually...on my face! What do you think? Should I let him do the procedure, should I ask for an actual doctor at the same practice, or should I go elsewhere entirely?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Home exchange shopping...

I was thinking about that funny TV commercial with the woman with the extra steering wheel who forces the guy off the road (I know you all saw it because I posted it a few days ago) and it made me think about our British home exchangers. He was concerned about driving in the US, and hadn't taken his host car out for a spin. It's a convertible and a great car to mess around with but he was uneasy because we drive on the opposite side of the road. At least the convertible they have is an automatic transmission. I just realized that their car, the one we will be using, is a stick shift and normally that's not a problem for us but we will have to shift with the opposite hand! Hmmm, I'm not sure how much I am loving that idea. I totally get his uneasiness, and realized that all of our exchangers might be nervous driving around in a new place, even if not on a new side of the road or with a different body part. So, we ordered a portable GPS for our car that we will be leaving for our guests. No, Mom, they're not going to steal it!
cartoon: Bill Junk

Monday, October 6, 2008

Trust me, you'll be humming this all day long!

Watch the whole just gets better and better!

Cracking myself up...

Sadly, this will keep me occupied for much too long. Too funny!

Home exchange: I heart Geordies

On Saturday night we drove about 80 miles west of our house to meet our future home exchangers from northern England. They were on their first trip to the States, on a home exchange near enough to our place that I thought it would be interesting to get together for dinner. I have to admit that I was nervous about meeting people that I had only traded a few emails with, and it's uncharacteristic of me to invite them to dinner. I have no idea why I suggested it. So we drove up to to the home they are exchanging, which made it even weirder since it's not even their place but also sort of cool so we could see what the house looked like. This particular house is small, what realtors would call quaint, and its affluent area and charming guest cottage make it a desirable home for exchange. I knew that the swappers have young grandchildren, so I thought this would be like an evening with someone's grandparents, all proper and polite with the kids bribed with candy to keep them quiet. I thought I was going for tea with the Queen. I was totally wrong. These people were amazingly young in both their appearances and in their spirit, and after a few awkward minutes of introduction we settled in for an evening of laughs and great companionship. They enchanted us with stories of home exchanges across Europe and shared tips and advice for us as first timers. It seems the people from this particular region of northern England are called Geordies, known for their friendly nature and hospitality, and I can't think of better people to show us the ropes.
photo: BBC

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Netflix begins with N!

My current obsession is Showtime's hit series Californication, with the amazing Broadway alum Madeleine Martin as thirteen-year-old Becca. You don't have to be a David Duchovny fan...well, yes you do but that's another get hooked on this smart and funny show because Madeleine Martin is such a treat. Here's the great news: Netflix has now picked the first season of Californication and you can see for yourself! Go one step further and pick up the Netflix player by Roku for a hundred bucks and you can watch on your TV. I bought one when it was first released, and I love it. Netflix also picked up the movies currently available on the Starz channel, so those of you without premium cable channels will really get your money's worth with the Roku player. The Watch Instantly library is smaller than the massive Netflix DVD library so not everything is available instantly, but there is no shortage of great stuff: 30 Rock (Season 1), The L Word (Seasons 1 - 4), Weeds (Seasons 1 & 2), and The Pursuit of Happyness just to name a few. Have fun!

The accidental humorist

The other day, I was having a hell of a time thinking of something beginning with the letter N that Sam could bring to school for "Share Day." We were running late and trying to get out the door without forgetting anything, and I asked him what to bring that started with N. He thought about it for a minute, and then came up with the ultimate solution: Nothing.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Home exchange: call me herring and put me in the lake

I guess I am not a perfect home exchanger. I know, I was shocked too. It seems that I inadvertently screwed over the Norwegian family when I told them that we were probably going to exchange with someone else, even though I was trying to be considerate. I was thinking that they would be pleased to hear that we were still available, but instead they thought that I was sort of a jerk for making them an offer and then rescinding. That's not what happened, really it isn't, but I do see how they could see it that way. I knew it was serious when I no longer got replies from the woman I had been talking to, and instead it was the man who answered. Yikes! She is not even talking to me now! After my carefully crafted apologies (yes, there were two), they understood and didn't have any hard feelings, and in fact wanted to exchange with us after all. Can you believe it? Sara was so excited that we'd be going to Norge and I was filled with daydreams of the kids playing blissfully outside, making snowmen, drinking hot chocolate and eating reindeer jerky. I'm kidding. Sara doesn't even eat jerky. We were fortunate to find this kind family who accepted my apologies, especially when I was really the only jerky around. Kall meg sild og legg meg i lake (yep, you guessed it).
photo: GAN

N is for...uh, I don't know

Friday is "Share Day" at Sam's school and he is supposed to bring in an item that starts with the letter of the week. This week we're on letter N. Believe me, I have tried and tried to come up with something that he can show, or even tell, that begins with N and I am horrified to admit that I can't come up with a single appropriate thing. The kids already made noodle necklaces today (hey! those were my 2 ideas!) and tomorrow for snack time they're making nachos, so I am done. Nunchuck? Noose? I don't think so. Last week we kicked some preschool ass with Hess helicopter and now we're in trouble. Nookie? There's always the Norway guidebook, but that is super lame, and I doubt that the 4 year-olds really care what Arthur Frommer has to say. Nantucket? Kids love limericks, right? Sam can't spell, so he doesn't know what starts with N, and Jon will fall out of his chair laughing if I tell him I can't think of anything. Nightmare? You betcha! Please (!!) leave me your ideas in the comments...I am going to take a nap.


Home exchange: Germany Schmermany

I've been fortunate enough to find 2 families who want to exchange their homes with us, and when the German exchange fell apart I started to wonder. Was I crazy to look for a 3rd exchange? Would it be possible for us as first time exchangers to coordinate a 6 month exchange in 3 different countries, working backwards, with only a few months lead time? Luckily for my family, I am particularly drawn toward problems that seem almost impossible to solve. I went back to my old files on a family in Norway, our other target country. We had discussed an exchange, but they seemed to lose interest over time and they had received another offer, so I thought that it was all over. My daughter Sara had really wanted to stay in Scandinavia, and she kept telling me that she could understand Norwegian because of its similarity to Swedish. I speak Swedish, Mom, so I'll have an advantage in Norge. She pronounced it the Swedish way, Nor-ee-yuh. The problem was that I had already told this family that we were most likely going to exchange with the German family, so by now the Norwegians must have made other plans. Oops. Hey, they had been straightforward in letting me know that they had another offer, and I did the same for them. I didn't want to string them along unnecessarily, and I thought I was being considerate. Apparently I was the only one who thought so, and the Norwegian family was not too happy to hear from me again.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Little pink ribbons for you and me

October is breast cancer awareness month! Please be sure that you (and the women you love) are getting regular breast cancer screenings and talking to your doctor about what tests are right for you. Breast self-examination is important, and you can download and print BSE cards for free from Susan G. Komen for the Cure®.

More than 25 years ago, Nancy G. Brinker (left) founded Susan G. Komen for the Cure to honor her sister who was dying from the disease. The foundation became the world’s largest source of private fundraising for breast cancer research and invested nearly $1 billion by 2007. One billion dollars! Please help me support the mission started by Mrs. Brinker and donate today!

photo: Susan G. Komen for the Cure®

Tears of joy

I recently got back in touch with some friends of mine from a very long time ago, friends I haven't seen for 18 years. While the reasons to get back in touch were sad, I learned that the Associated Press had done a beautiful and moving story about one of these old friends. Seeing this short piece was exactly what I needed to help me heal, and I wanted to share this sweet story with you. Please click here to check it out (my friend is the one in green).

image: Meredith Haley Sonson

Home exchange poll: vote now!

What do you guys think???