Cock-a-doodle do!

If you marveled at Murphy's ability to put up with crazy costumes in the first two "Happy Halloween" posts, then you'll be even more impressed with this one.

Two Halloween's ago, we saw this rooster costume at Target for $10.  I wanted it SOO bad.  When we first got Murphy, we were told he was a cockapoo. We now have reason to believe that he is NOT a cockapoo, but that didn't stop us from nicknaming him "The Cock."  (It's one of those ridiculous inside jokes between Dave and I that we really don't ever expect other people to overhear.  Oh well... )  So, of course, when I saw this "cock" costume, I just had to have it!  But even I agreed that $10 was a bit much for a dog costume that he would probably hate anyway.

Fast-forward a few months and Halloween was long past.  However, that's the reason that Target had all of the Halloween merchandise on clearance for 90% off!!! What an amazing deal!  The rooster costume for only a dollar!  It was an easy sell for Dave as well, who actually convinced me to buy as many costumes as I wanted for Murphy for $1 each as long as I promised not to buy him any more costumes.  Needless to say, we had a deal.

Look! A rooster! And he LAID EGGS!

Now WHERE did I leave those eggs?

Unfortunately, because this costume was waaaay too large for him (it was a size small, and they don't make anything smaller - how do you dress your weiner dog or toy poodle with a Target costume!?!?) it was hard to get great pictures without the entire costume falling off.  But believe me when I say that it was super cute... and he loooved getting to lick the eggs.

There are a few more costumes that I need to debut, and even though it's Halloween today, I still plan to post them over the next day or two!

Mario and Shannon's Birthday

After the hot tub and breakfast on Saturday morning, we headed off to Philadelphia (or Belmont Hills, as I believe the neighborhood was called.)  We were staying with our friend Mario and Nicole, and the live in the one of weirdest and most unique houses that I've ever been in.  I don't have any pictures, but let me tell you about it.

It's actually really similar to a Pittsburgh house - literally built right into a hill where houses probably don't actually belong.  You walk in on the top floor, into a long and wide hallway, which probably could also serve as the dining room.  To the right of the front door is the kitchen, and at the end of the long hallway is the bathroom.  Even further back from that is the 1st of three bedrooms and the stairs leading down to the second floor.

The second floor is where most of the "living" occurs - it holds the living room and two other bedrooms, as well as the laundry room. There is a huge wrap around porch that is completely enclosed, which is great for dogs.  Then there's a basement below that.  

Perhaps the most curious thing about this house is the fact that all of the incoming and outgoing water is routed on the top floor.  This is why the kitchen and only bathroom are on that upper floor, even though it would make a ton of sense to have a bathroom down where the majority of the bedrooms are.  For the laundry room on the lower floor, the water from the washer has to be pumped up to the outgoing water pipe.  The house was cute, and had a lot of character, although now that I'm spoiled with two bathrooms and everything on one level, I'm not sure if I would love living there myself.

Anyway, onto the celebration.  We started off by going to a Belgian restaurant in Philadelphia called Zot.  It seemed very overpriced to me (at least by Pittsburgh standards) and the food was only so-so, but I had a wonderful beer called Fruli Strawberry (which was also overpriced) that I enjoyed enough that I might look for it at other bars now in the future!

After dinner we walked to a German restaurant that was just PACKED.  Uncomfortably so.  It's October, after all, and since much of Pennsylvania has at least some German heritage, it makes sense that people are out getting their Oktoberfest on.  Nonetheless, it was a little too crowded for our group to be able to stand and converse comfortably, so we moved on to our final destination - O'Neals (spelling may or may not be correct.)

At midnight, we toasted the birthday boy - Mario.

Me, with the birthday boy

And, Dave with the birthday boy. Notice how much happier Mario looks posing with me

 And finally, a not-so-flattering but hilarious nonetheless photo of Mario with his girlfriend (and our co-hostess), Nicole. 

Umm.. not sure.  Birthday boy and Nicole. That's all.

Noteworthy is that we were really only celebrating Mario's birthday that night, since through some sort of agreement Shannon's birthday was celebrated on the preceding Friday night and not to be mentioned.  I dont' pretend to understand.  However, since we were not present on Friday night, I like to think that we were celebrating Shannon's birthday as well!  Happy Birthday, Shannon!!!

Not sure what face this is...

But THIS is a birthday face!!! 

 Again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mario and Shannon!!!


Time for another Murphy Halloween photo shoot post!!!

Murph-kin is actually a name for Murphy that Dave has decided to use for him during the Fall season.  Seriously, I can't make this stuff up.  But it's conveniently fitting when we decide to dress him up as a pumpkin.


Because this particular costume was WAAAAY to big for his body, he literally couldn't walk.  Thus, I was able to capture tons of pictures... since he couldn't walk away.

This was the closest that he got to walking away, but literally, he was falling out of the costume

The Great Murph-kin

He loves it! I swear!!

Halloween is less than a week away!  What are YOU dressing up as?

I miss our hot tub

In another life, back in another time, at another house, we had a hot tub...

[This picture has been removed]
The hot tub - oh, how I miss it!!!!

After a few drinks and a couple of hours at the Deller household (our first, brief stop in Lancaster), we headed to the father Hartman's household.  It was late - I think we got there shortly after 11 p.m. - and although we had requested that the hot tub be turned up for our visit, we were all so tired that we wanted to go to sleep after about half an hour of visiting.

But the next morning was a different story.  Dave's dad and step mom had had a long, rough week of work and dealing with some family issues.  So, we were not surprised when we woke up around 8:30 the next morning and they were still asleep.  Laying in bed, trying to decide whether or not we should try to fall back asleep, on a whim I said, "We could get in the hot tub!"  And the morning was born. 

This is the way to the hot tub, says Dave

I love the hot tub!!!

It was a cool, breezy morning.  But it wasn't raining, and that's what counted.  It was relaxing and was a great way to start the morning.  It definitely made me miss our hot tub....

However, we couldn't stay in there long!  Murphy was at the PetSmart Hotel, and we had a date in Philadelphia!

Road trip!

This weekend was a planned "road trip" weekend.  The agenda was Lancaster to visit some friends (which was ultimately detoured to Delta, PA) and Philadelphia for a birthday celebration.

Unfortunately, the driving on Friday night SUCKED... it was pouring down rain the entire time.  It was dark, foggy, raining and we were hydro-planing everywhere.  Dave drove, thankfully, since I hate driving in general (not because I'm bad at it, but because I do too much of it.)  The trip out was horrible and stressful and NOT fun at all....

Sooooo.... The pictures below are NOT from Friday night, and are - instead - from Sunday, on our return trip.  But since they are from a happier, more joyful time, I felt that they better represented the overall spirit of the road trip. And also because it's hard to take pictures in the car on dark, rainy nights.

Car fun!

In the picture above, you will see Murphy's preferred position when traveling in the car.  He wants to be in the front seat ALL THE TIME.  He sneakily tries to creep up to the front seat, and when I say "no," he stops.  But that does not stop him from keeping his front paws on the arm rest between the two front seats, and his hind legs on the back seat.  He will travel like this for hours.  Seriously.

We realize that it's unsafe and that if Dave ever has to slam hard on the brakes that Murphy will probably fly through the window.  But he is so insistent on being there, that we've given up trying to get him to sleep in the back seat.

My view when Murphy is on my lap

At some point, I give in, and let him come up front onto my lap.  He gets so excited and is SO happy when I finally say, "Ok, you can come up."  But, it gets annoying pretty quickly since my lap isn't exactly easy to balance two front paws on.

I go back and forth on how I feel about road trips.  There was a time in my life when I didn't think twice about getting in a car and riding to Orlando. Or to New Orleans. Or to Panama City.  I just went and it was fine.  Now, I dread the thought of having to be in the car for more than 2 hours.  The dread is usually much worse than the actual trip itself, but it's exhausting to "dread" so much.

Anyway, we were fortunate in that we did have nice weather on the return trip and we go to see a lot of rolling mountains with colored leaves.  Below is a picture from one of the turnpike rest stops.

The trees were definitely "past prime," but striking nonetheless

All in all, the drive home was much better than the drive there. Which is fortunate, I suppose. Tomorrow I will post some of the pictures from the weekend. Until then!... 


Last night I hit my head going down the stairs.  I don't really understand how it happened.  I'm not nearly tall enough to knock my mellon with just regular walking, like Dav emight.  And I'm certainly not the type that excitedly jumps down the stairs.  But somehow I did it.  And MAN did it hurt...

I didn't realize what had happened at first. All I remember is grabbing my head and moaning.  I collapsed (in a controlled sort of way) on the stairs, and heard Dave say, "What happened?"  "I think I hit my head..." I mumbled in respond, staring into the carpet of the stairs, still not able to lift my head up.  Like the good husband that he is, Dave was quickly at my side, giving me a hug.

Tears were pouring out of my eyes, and I don't remember when they started.  I suppose that happened almost instantly.  Is that common with head injuries?  Once I became aware of the tears, I also realized that I was crying.  "Why am I crying?"  I asked Dave.  The crying confused me because 1. I am not a crier by nature, and 2. I didn't think that it hurt THAT bad.  (Ok, so it did actually hurt that bad, but it wasn't bleeding or anything!)

Dave walked me upstairs and I laid on the bed, trying to get control of myself.  I was sobbing in a very pathethic way, which I didn't like, but in retrospect realize that it was probably just because I was caught off guard by this whole "knock-in-the-noggin" event and was still shaken up.  It hurt to lay down.  Not because I was laying on my injured thinker - since I hit it at the very peak of my head - but because my long hairs that were attached to the egg on my head were under my shoulders and skull and every miniscule pull was torture.

Needless to say, my night was shot.  Our plans to celebrate Murphy's birthday in some dramatic and ridiculous way was out of the question, as was exercising.  I ate a dinner of soup and then sat on the couch and alternated between reading and walking last weeks episode of "So You Think You Can Dance."  I had a headache from the impact, would get an occasional stabbing pang of pain, and that was all the excuse I needed to not do anything the entire night.

Thankfully, sleeping was not a problem, and this morning it's much improved.  Washing and brushing my hair was nearly impossible and every time I go to pull my hair back in a tie I stop myself when I wince.  But I can say with confidence that I will survive, and that tonight NEEDS to be more productive. 

Did you ever use a minor injury as an excuse to just be lazy for a night?  I highly recommend it.

Happy Halloween from Murphy

In the spirit of Halloween, on Sunday, Dave and I (ok, I) decided to do a photo shoot of some of the many costumes that Murphy owns to celebrate Halloween.

I already know what you're thinking - "You're ridiculous."  BUT, he's SO tolerant of costumes and being bossed around.  He's a lady's dream-come-true.

The first set in the "shoot" was the woods, and the costume was "Sgt. K-9."  The problem with this setting is that it's just so damn exciting for Murphy!  His nose was to the ground the whole time.  We're pretty sure that he ate deer poop.  And we were constantly in fear that he would find the scent trail of an animal and suddenly take off.  And there was a cliff over our closest neighbor's driveway that he was oh-so-interesting in jumping off of.  So yeah, it was exciting....

 Don't mess with this Army dog

Can you find him? He's in the upper middle part of the photo.  
I know he's wearing camo, but if you look reeeal hard....

On the hunt for a deer.  See what I mean about his nose always being on the ground?

Actually, I'm pretty sure that he ate deer poop during that last one, but at least he was on their trail!  We like to call him "deer hunter" sometimes, although his deer hunting abilities are severly impeded by the restrictions of his leash and the fact that the deer know exactly how far he can go on said leash. 

And in other Murphy news, yesterday was his 6th (or should I say 42nd?) birthday!!! Happy Birthday Murphy!!!

Some Happy, Happy Hour(s)

This weekend was a whirlwind of activity.  Our friend from college (and Dave's former roommate), Shannon, and her boyfriend Chris - who will be referred to from now on as Crooney - were in town for a Saturday afternoon wedding.  Which meant Friday night happy hour (does happy hour run until 11 p.m.?) was definitely in order!

Me, Dave, Shannon, and Crooney - definitely my favorite picture from the evening

We started out at Mad Mex for happy hour and dinner but soon navigating to Hemingway's - our favorite bar from our college years that we just can't grow out of.  And why should we?  The have $1.50 drafts all day every day, and half-priced food from 9 p.m. to midnight.  It's an amazing place.

Although I am usually the designated driver (by choice), I asked Dave if he would be DD for the night, and he agreed.  (I think he realizes how lucky he is to have a DD 90% of the time.)  I had a great time, and although I didn't overdo it, I definitely did enjoy myself.  I did have a headache on Saturday morning but some fruit punch and mini-wheats before I went to bed on Friday night really helped.

We watched the Philly's lose and the Panther's win and later in the night some other friends joined us.  Believe it or not, the next afternoon at 2 p.m., we went to Station Square to start over again, since the wedding reception that Shannon and Crooney were attending was on the Gateway Clipper.  We were home around 5:30 and Dave went out again at 10 p.m.  I bowed out on that one, as I was definitely spent.

Then it was on to yard work on Sunday.  Which - now that I think about it - were NOT happy hours (but only because I hate yard work.)

Fall is in the air

In case you didn't notice, fall has definitely arrived. In fact, since I took these pictures (on Sunday), winter actually pushed right past fall and is now in the lead. Sorry fall....

What's more beautiful - the dog, or the colorful leaves?  I can't decide....

I suppose that the nice thing about being a dog is that you don't really care what season it is.  You don't have to get all of your winter clothes out of storage, your bathroom habits remain the same, and somehow, even when there's a 50 degree difference, you're still just as happy sitting in the sun in the cold winter air as you are in the humid, summer air. 

Lady, PLEASE. Enough!

What is perhaps hardest to believe is that they're calling for snow this weekend.  We have BARELY begun the month long process of raking leaves.  We raked two weeks ago, but skipped last week (due to tailgating).  So we HAVE to rake this weekend before all of the leaves get gross and slimy and packed down and start killing our grass.  It might have already happened.  But now we're going to have rake in snow and rain, with temperatures in the 30's. 

Does anybody else miss Fall already?

A bad night at Zumba

Since June, I have taking a Zumba class that meets every Tuesday and Thursday night.  Zumba is basically aerobics that focuses it's movement on Latin-style dance steps to make the workout more interesting.  If you're not familiar with Zumba, there are plenty of videos on YouTube, click on the link below to see a clip of a Zumba class.

I've been with the same instructor since I started the class in June.  Last night, however, she was not there, and there was a sub in her place.  She was awful and when I got home, I had to do a demonstration to Dave just to show him how non-aerobic this particular instructor was.

First, a little background information.  My main complaints about my regular instructor is that she was a little flighty.  She could easily distract herself and sometimes messed up on her routines which then of course messed us up as well, since we follow her to a T.  She's the kind of instructor who likes to clap and cheer and she's really overall energetic, even though I'm not like that myself.  However, I will NEVER complain about her again.

This new instructor (who, from here on out will be referred to as NI) was older and slightly over-weight - not a great sign for an aerobics instructor.  While she had some of the same songs on her iPod as my regular instructor, her routines did not compare in any way.  She had one or two moves that she used and then just repeated throughout the entire song, whereas Ember (the regular instructor) had full routines for every song with a lot of variety.  In one song that we already knew, there was a portion where Ember would have us do squats.  NI just had us stand there and put our arms up and down.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I didn't break a sweat.  And I'm pretty sure that my heart rate never went above my regular resting rate.  I was horribly disappointed and tempted to leave in the middle of the class, but didn't want to be rude.  Because I calculate my meals for the day knowing that I will burn X number of calories during this class, I had to go home and run for 25 minutes and then bike for another 25 just to burn enough calories to meet my goals.

Tomorrow is my next class, and I'm crossing my fingers that my regular instructor will be there.

My Diet Secrets

I don't have much news on the diet front from the past week or so.  I have been maintaining rather well although this past weekend my wild fun Saturday and "I'm sleepy, let's eat" Sunday did sort of stall my progress. 

So, instead of telling you that I weigh exactly the same as I did last week, I'm going to share some of the things that keep me motivated and happy, instead of lazy and full of cravings.  I'm going to share some of my diet secrets.  (And ok, so I know that these actually aren't "secrets" at all. They are my "strategies for success," but that title just doesn't sound nearly as interesting as secrets.)

1. Planning ahead
And I mean serious planning. On Sunday mornings I write a list of all of the meals that I'm going to cook that week, Sunday through Friday (Saturday night is usually a free night.)  I write out menus, including side dishes, to make sure that the meal averages out to between 500 and 600 calories - the max range that I allow my dinners to be.  Then I only buy groceries for those meals.
In addition to the menus, I plan out every calorie that I intend to consume for breakfast, lunch, and snacks that day.  I weigh, cut, and measure everything that I eat, and pack it up into little ziploc baggies.  I know that I am ONLY allowed to eat those things - nothing more.  For dinner, I eat my pre-planned dinner.  Then I work out for at least 30 to 60 minutes.  If you don't like planning or routine, then this type of dieting is NOT for you.  It leaves very little room for spontaneity (what I like to call "Saturday.")

2. Television
Without exercising, dieting is nearly impossible.  I can lose weight without exercise, but the results are way slower and much less satisfying. Similarly, without television, exercise is nearly impossible for me, as it is my primary source of motivation to work out.
Dave and I are lucky because we've been able to afford a treadmill and exercise bike for our basement family room.  (We justify the cost because it's "for our health" and if we didn't have it, I would pay to join a gym anyway.)  Anyway, at 8 p.m. each night, I like to watch a little TV.  So instead of just sitting around and watching TV, I've made it a habit to work out while watching.  Whether it's sitting on the exercise bike (which is much quieter and overall less mentally taxing) or walking or running on the treadmill (louder but produces greater calories output) I try to not watch TV without moving.

3. Cashews and Mini-Wheats (a.k.a. Protein and Fiber)
What they say about protein and fiber making you feel full for longer is actually true.  The unfortunate thing is that protein and fiber aren't in the most flavorful foods (like buffalo chicken, my personal favorite.) But I've found some great ways to get my protein AND satisfy my craving for intense flavors.  For me, cashews fill the oil void, where I feel like I'm eating something totally tasty and bad for me, but it's actually not that bad.  Black beans doused in cumin and cayenne pepper gives me a similar hot taste a buffalo chicken, but with more protein and less "fried."  In fact, I'm starting to not enjoy eating meat much at all anymore, and would much rather have beans or avocado or something similar.  We'll see how that progresses...

4.  My Clothes
Back in 2008 I had my mom take permanent tucks into all of my pants that were too big for me.  That was back in the day when I was at my smallest.  Now those pants don't fit anymore, and since it's fall, the elastic wasitband skirts that I love to wear to work in the summer are no longer appropriate. 
Anyone who knows me knows that I hate to be wasteful. Some might even call me a pack rat.  I like spending money just as much as the next girl, and love shopping - especially by myself when I can linger and try things on for as long as I want - but I have a hard time getting rid of perfectly good items when it's my own damn fault that I got too fat to fit into them anymore.   I will NOT spend money on an entirely new wardrobe of bigger clothes when I can lose weight to fit into the ones that I currently have.

So, while I realize that motivation is truly an internal process that differs for each individual, these four things are currently really working for me right now.  What are your "secrets?"

Pickle 'Splosion

My office reeks of pickles right now. While I was toasting my bread for my lunch sandwich, I was pulling my pickle jar out of the refrigerator and somehow it just slipped out of my hand. And then it EXPLODED.

Seriously.  Our floors are carpeted, and yet the jar must have landed in just the right way to cause it to shatter (also know as mass chaos.)  The jar was nearly new - only used on day so far, so there were a LOT of pickles in there.  There was pickle juice dripping down the wall.  Broken glass and hamburger dills everywhere.  I stood in place for a solid minute before saying "shit" and walking to the bathroom to get paper towels.  I am often complimented on my ability to remain calm in all sorts of situations at work. Most people think that this is a positive characteristic, but sometimes I find my inability to react downright annoying.

So by now, 32 ounces of pickle juice had slowly seeped into the carpet.  I picked up all of the pickles and most of the large glass pieces by hand.  I sopped up as much of the juice that I could, but there were so many glass shards that I was afraid to step on the paper towels in my dress sandals (yes, I am still resisting wear socks.  It's fall, not winter!)  I put up a sign on pink paper - "Please be careful - glass shards below" and a co-worker called the cleaning staff to come up and vaccuum.  They came and they vaccuumed up all of the glass shards and much of the juice. 

But it still smells like pickles, and no amount of Febreeze seems to be helping.  I have a feeling that I'm not going to be favorite colleague of the week...

PY Get-Together

For those of you "not in the know," PY stands for Professional Year and is a sort-of-graduate degree program that only results in a teaching certificate, but earns credits that can be applied to a Master's degree later on if so desired.  Last Sunday (the day after the bonfire) there was a mini-PY get-together at Fuel and Fuddle in Oakland for brunch, and we took what is now the "annual" post-bonfire PY picture (annual because it's happened twice now, so it's tradition, right?)

From left: Ashleigh, Kristin (hidden), Dave, Allison, Scott, Me, and Matt

Only Ashleigh, Dave, Matt, and Scott were actually in the teaching program.  There are a few other people from the program that we still keep in touch with but they weren't able to make it.

I have a "blog in progress" about what I call Teacher Talk.  Teacher talk is a unexplained phenomenon that occurs whenever teachers get together - ALL they can talk about it teaching.  For us non-teachers, this sort of banter gets old really quickly, so I conducted an interview with Dave to try to get to the root of the problem.  I also tried to explain the non-teacher perspective, since if you tell a teacher that he or she talks about teaching too much, they quickly get defensive.  So, expect that to be completed later this week.

Pitt versus Conneticut - Another tailgating story

The content of this post has been removed by request. 

Here's a picture to prove I was actually there.

Pitt Game and Tailgating!!!

Being faithful University of Pittsburgh alumni, Dave and I try to go to at least one game a year and September 19th was "that game" this year.  I actually enjoy going to football games.  Dave enjoys the tailgating more, but this time, we had really good seats care of my brother-in-law, which means that Dave is actually able to see the game.  That helps significantly in keeping his interest.  

First shot of the day - literally and photographically speaking

I bought all of us $5 t-shirts from the truck down near Pitt's student union, and considering that a regular Pitt shirt runs around $20 a pop, I think we looked pretty sharp in our knock-offs!

Don't you agree?

We had the best parking spot that we've ever gotten.  We were in the "gold" lot, which is the one right next to the stadium. That's great in itself, but the particular spot that they parked us in was only 1 car away from the being the closest to the stadium!  There was one vehicle to our right, and then beyond that it was a party of people, with music playing, kids games and bouncy things.  It was great.  To top it all off, the car to our left was a media person who had his car valeted there, so we were able to spread out instead of being confined to an area the width of our car. 

Our $5 shirts were totally different shades of yellow. Now that's quality.

As you can see from the sky in the background, the weather was absolutely beautiful.  It was a breezy, sunny day.  I wore jeans, expecting it to be cool, but I was HOT in the sun, and actually rolled my jeans up.  Once the sun set, I was comfortable, and I'm not complaining at all - I couldn't possible ask for better tailgating weather.

Pitt was playing Navy and right before the start of the game military helicopters flew overhead.

Or were they Navy helicopters?

Although I did partake in the tailgating festivities, I designated myself as the designated driver to keep my next-day hangover headache at a minimum.  As the only sober person there - and probably the only person who watched the entire game since Dave was drinking and Laurie and Kevin were busy making new friends - I can confirm that Pitt did, indeed, win.  I think the score was 27 to 14, although since it was almost two weeks ago since we were there, don't quote me on that.

We stayed for the after-game fireworks and feared that traffic was going to be a nightmare but actually lucked out by getting onto the HOV lane within minutes of leaving the parking lot and we FLEW home.  The HOV lane - if you didn't already know - is the best thing about living in the north hills.

Up next, the after-party shenanigans...

Pitting the I-phone against the Blackberry Storm

I wrote the other day about how we decided to dump Verizon as our cable, home phone, and internet provider, based on their unwillingness to entice us to remain customers.

Well, actually we're looking to jump ship from Verizon altogether, and have been investigating AT&T as a cell phone provider because I am sooo ready to jump onto the iPhone bandwagon.

The problem?  Well, because Dave's entire family is on our "family plan," the entire group has to wait to cancel until the person with the latest contract is allowed to cancel.  That means that if we want to leave Verizon, we would have to wait until the end of February, which seems SOOO far away when Dave and I are ready to switch NOW.  (And, he and I are both eligible to cancel now as well, but it's financially wise to have the whole "family" switch with us if they are willing to as well.)

So, now we're also considering the smart phone options that Verizon offers as well.  I am strictly interested in getting a touch phone, and want something that is as similar to the iPhone as I can possible get.  Which means my only option is the BlackBerry Storm.

Isn't it pretty? If only looks were everything.... 

The scary thing, there are very mixed reviews on the Storm, which might mean that it's not all that great.  The third-party electronics sites reviews are generally neutral, stating features and functions that it either has or lacks, but these sites don't really say whether or not they would recommend the phone.  And, most of these sites are only reviewing a sample phone that they received for a short period of time, so most of them can't comment on the long-term reliability, which is concerning.

On top of that, user-generated content about the phone - even on Verizon Wireless's own site - isn't great.  They give the phone 3 out of 5 stars, and there are a variety of negative comments.  Below are some of the negative comments that I encountered, and my "justification" of whether or not it's an issue that bothers me.

1. The keypad is annoying. 
I know no other keypads, so this would be the standard for me.  Most people that hat the "soft" keyboard are used to the hard keyboards on older BB models. It would have to be really bad for me to hate it.

2. The battery dies quickly.
This actually might be the standard for smart phones, since I read this about other phones as well.  This could definitely be annoying, but with a car charger I could probably deal.  I am currently used to charging my phone once every other week or so - I know that won't be case with a newer phone.

3. The phone locks up a lot.
This could definitely be annoying, and I've heard about other BlackBerry's - not just the Storm - that do this as well.  Some people have gone through 3 or 4 phones, which is crazy to me.

I don't know what to do.  Ultimately if it was up to me, Dave and I would switch to AT&T tomorrow.  We would both get iPhones and we would live happily ever after.

I need to TRY a Storm.  I need to find someone that I know that has one who will let me sit down with it for 10 minutes and play around with it.  I want to try to type a text message, make a call, browse the web, map directions for an exotic destination.  I feel like I can't get a sense of whether or not I'll love the phone if I can't  test these things out before buying this $100+ phone that has mixed reviews and signing on to a two-year contract that will raise my monthly access fee by an additional $60 for the two of us.  At the Verizon stores, they only have a fake, unusable version of the phone with a plastic sticker that shows what the screen might look like.  ATT, on the other hand, had a fully functional iPhone available for use with tons of apps and features readily available for playing with.  That fact alone makes me like them more, and I know that I like the iPhone because I was able to use it.  Anyone out there already own a Storm?  If so, do you want to spend some time with me while I use your phone?

I'm so impatient but I'm also trying to be reasonable.  I know that we'll save money if we stay with the Hartman family plan, and I wouldn't mind getting a new phone sooner rather than later. Staying with Verizon means that could happen, versus having to wait until February to switch to AT&T.  If I could confirm that I would enjoy the Storm, life would be so much easier...

The World of HD

Dave and I have long been hold-outs - for no particular reason - in upgrading our cable package.  I have long wanted a DVR, but couldn't justify the cost, and we don't watch a ton of TV - usually just an hour or two a night, plus the Today Show in the morning.  So exorbitant channel line-ups and high-definition options just didn't seem necessary.

We were Verizon Fios customers, and we were happy enough with what we were getting, but our contract just expired and the rates were going to go up.  Around the same time we started getting advertisements from Comcast showing similar rates to what we were paying now but with significantly more features - namely, free HD and a DVR for a full year.  The DVR was enticing, but I hate the hassle of having to sit at home waiting for the cable guy, having to deal with all of the equipment returns, etc. and for me, it wasn't really worth the hassle, so I told Dave that it was up to him.  He called Verizon to see what they were willing to give us to keep as customers.  Their answer?  A big, fat "NOTHING."  They weren't willing to work with us at all, and top of that - as I mentioned above - they were raising our rates.  We are people of principle who value good customer service, so after that encounter we immediatley cancelled with Verizon and signed on with Comcast.

He decided to go with it, and yesterday Comcast came to set everything up!

A quick side note - when Verizon Fios first installed here over a year ago, our house was not equipped for Fios.  It took 7 trucks, including a cherry-picker basket truck to run all of the appropriate lines from the street.  For those of you that are familiar with our house, you'll know that it's set in the middle of a pretty steep hill.  The pole that is the connect between the street lines and our house is set into the steepest hill of all right next to our driveway.  It's literrally a dirt cliff.  Apparently, when Verizon was setting up their lines on this particular pole with the easy-breezy cherry picker, they decided to rip out and totally disconnect the cable lines that Comcast woud need if we ever used their service again.  This created quite the dilemna for the poor guy sent to do our installation and resulted in Dave setting up multiple ladders to help the Comcast guy anchor his ladder on their loose dirt cliff. 

We watched some of the Steeler's game on Friday night, and kept switching back and forth between the HD and standard cable channels.  The difference was remarkable.  We never really felt that we noticed it on other people's TV's but now that we're really analyzing the quality it's truly remarkable.  Dave kept exclaiming about how amazing it was, and said something ridiculous, like "My world is now filled with vivid color."

See how bright the upper-left corner is? I'm pretty sure that it was that bright for us TIMES TEN. 

This free HD/DVR deal is good for a year.  Why can't cable companies just extend their best offer to all of their customers?  I'm pretty sure that we're going to resign ourselves to swtiching cable providers every single year, whenever our current provider decides to raise our rates and won't extend any promotions to us.  We already spend well over $100 for cable and internet, and for me it's impossible to justify spending any more.  Which means that in a year from now, we'll probably be handing out with the Verizon Fios man once again.


Dave and I have quite a nice set-up in our yard for hosting bonfires, and generally we have one at least one or two per year since we've moved to this house.   We decided to make October the month of our official "annual" bonfire, which would we call Oktoberfest bonfire.  And Saturday night was the date for this year's event.

The fire

Everything went well. The people that were there were a diverse, yet great group of people.  We drank beer and Blue Maui (well, I drank Blue Maui), we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and just enjoyed a beautiful October evening that wasn't too cold.

In total, there were 11 or so people there, which is a great number, but it's far smaller than we were expecting, and I was a little sad.  Over 20 people had ultimately RSVP'd, either through our e-vite or via e-mail.  But, for some reason, at least 10 people (I say "at least" because some said that they might bring a guest) who had previously told us that they were coming either texted us last minute to say that they weren't coming, or just didn't show up at all.

I'm starting to realize to that I might be totally behind the times in thinking that a phone call is more appropriate than a text message if you're cancelling plans for someone.  Text messages are so impersonal to me and I think a lot of people use them as an easy "out," to not have to actually "face" the person by actually talking to them on the phone.   And, to add insult to injury, it costs me an extra 20 cents per text message every time someone "wrote" to cancel since I don't use text messaging, and an additional 20 cents if I decided to reply (which I mostly did not.)   So, it cost me nearly to $2 just to have people not come to my party.  Of course, I guess that I should be grateful that I knew at all that they weren't coming....

This weekend made me realize that perhaps our bonfires are just not as appealing to others as they are to us. Or perhaps we're having them too frequently (we did just have one this past May.)  Or perhaps there was just something in air last night that made everyone want to stay home.  Even though these events are pretty low key, we still had to do a lot of prep work to get the house and the yard ready for guests.  I'm having a hard time putting my finger on why I was so upset by so many people bailing on us, but I know that in the long run, it doens't really matter anyway.

Oh well - we had a great time with those that were there, and appreciate them all the more.

My New Rings

I have long wanted a "placeholder" ring for my engagement and wedding rings for when I travel, am outdoors for long periods of time, or in an situation where my expensive jewelry might be at risk.  When we went on our honeymoon, I only wore my simple wedding band since we were afraid of losing the engagement or it being stolen by leaving it in the hotel room.  But I was sad, and I felt naked without my engagement ring. 

Soon after - while my rings were being sent away to be soldered together - I purchased a cheap bling-ring at Claire's to use as a placeholder.  But they only sold their cheap knock-offs in size 7, and being a size 5, I foolishly thought I could make it work.  No such luck. Not to mention that the cheap metal turned my finger green after only three days.

So I recently made a purchase on for a fitted platinum overlayed sterling silver and cubic zirconia bridal set.   And I couldn't be happier.

Can you tell which set is real and which is the fake? 

For those of you who know what my original engagement ring looked like, it should be easy to tell the difference since one ring is a three-stone setting and the other is a solitaire with side-stones.  But if you DON'T know what my setting looks like, can you tell the difference?   If so, what gave it away?

I, for one, am amazed at how similar the two rings are.  Dave was so blown away that he declared that he should have purchased silver and cubic zirconia in the first place and saved us all a couple thousand dollars.  I actually almost (almost) agreed.

Side view

The set on the left (4-prong with larger side stone) is my original white-gold and diamond ring set.  The six-prong setting on the right is the silver/cubic zirconia set.  I love how similar it is to my original ring set, but I also love the slight difference, and am excited to get to wear it out soon!  I'm not sure when that will be, but I'm fairly confident that no one will know the difference, and I'll definitely be taking these to our vacation - wherever we end up going.  I'm not yet sure how the metal will wear over time, and I hope that it doesn't turn my skin green, but I hopefully silver cleaner will take care of that!