Friday, August 29, 2008

A New Era Begins For GT Football

Yellow Jackets Wreck Gamecocks, 41-14

Sure, beating Jacksonville State isn't exactly a huge accomplishment. But the start of the 2008 season brought plenty of concerns for Jackets fans. A new head coach, with a new-fangled option offense. A young team (the youngest in the ACC, with only 8 returning starters). Less than encouraging reports from early practices. New uniforms. (Okay, that last one isn't really that big of a concern.)

But in the end, the Tech squad looked pretty good. The ground game is shaping up to be quite potent, with TDs run in by four different players (including Roddy Jones, a graduate of Chamblee High School, where Allison taught). Granted, there were a few miscues, and our kicking game looks like it needs some help (2 missed FGs AND a missed PAT? Seriously?). But Coach Johnson has a reputation for demanding perfection from his players, so I'm sure we'll see plenty of adjustments before we start playing real teams (like next week's ACC opener at Boston College).

This might turn out to be a good season after all.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Romantic Thrillers

I've noticed a theme in my reading as of late. In this recent spate of fiction, there seems to be a prevalence of love mixed with the threat of eminent danger.

After rereading a few familiar juvenile novels (The Twenty-One Balloons, Jacob Have I Loved and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler--all fantastic, by the way!) mostly because they were there, I was out of reading material. So I looked at the shelves of fiction we had actually unpacked, and chose a P.D. James novel, since I had really enjoyed her book Children of Men.

It was on that note that I have been reading a collection of books that I will dub "romantic thrillers," mostly because the phrase bedecked the cover of one of my recent reads, and it seems an apt description. So instead of just doing mini-reviews, this time you get a thematic assessment, too! Here goes...

  • Death in Holy Orders

  • Excellent P.D. James murder mystery which takes place at a high-church Anglican theological college set on a lonely British seaside. I'm a sucker for a good murder mystery if it's well-written, but I don't really enjoy the genre, per se. Mostly Agatha Christie and the like. However, I might have to check out more of Ms. James' novels, especially since her descriptions, attention to detail and characterizations are riveting. Here, the "romantic" part of this thriller was the landscape, which reminded me of Tintern Abbey or something equally Wordsworthian, desolate, and remote. Yet still, somehow, beautiful. I'd like to visit the east coast of England some day.

  • gods in Alabama

  • Not much to speak of, but it was funny. And there WAS a murder involved, and some definite romance, so I suppose it fits into this category after all. More of a Prodigal homecoming novel than anything else, though. If you've ever lived in a small Southern town, you'll appreciate the humor. Enjoyable, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

  • No Place Like Home

  • My go-to beach book author, Mary Higgins Clark. There are three things you will always find in a MHC novel, and this one did not disappoint:
    1. Murder, with the heroine somehow involved and usually in eminent danger herself.
    2. A romantic interest who steps in to save the day at the last minute, though usually the girl gets a bit part in the action, too.
    3. A happy ending for the couple, and proper punishment for all evil parties involved.

  • Thunder on the Right

  • A "highly-charged romantic thriller," or so the cover says, set at a French Abbey, with a twenty-something heroine on a holidy to visit her cousin. A fast, charming re-read, filled with evocative descriptions and lessons in culture and language (some French phrases were left intact). Though the setting is wildly romantic in the literary sense, there is, as always, a bit of romance involved with a young man from her past. Intriguing until the last.

    Mary Stewart was one of my favorite novelists in high school. You may know her from her Merlin trilogy, but I was first familiar with her other fiction. I remember finding a copy of The Stormy Petrel at an outlet bookstore, and I soon gobbled up all our local library had to offer. I appreciate her much more, now, since her books are chock full of literary references and allusions that I wouldn't have caught as a young teen. I was especially proud to understand the nods to Mrs. Radcliffe in this one, since I hadn't even heard of The Mysteries of Udolpho, much less read it, until grad school. Also, she always begins each chapter with a famous literary quote, and though I hadn't read each work she referenced, at least I could say I had heard of them this time!

  • The Moon-spinners

  • Another Mary Stewart novel, this one set on the isle of Crete. The heroine is on holiday from her job in Athens and stumbles upon a young Englishman in trouble. On the edges of the White Mountains her adventure begins, and she finds herself mixed-up with a pack of jewel-thieves. The film version starring Haley Mills is nothing like the book, but is entertaining nonetheless, if I remember properly. The Moon-spinners overflowed with classical allusions and even some actual Greek, which I asked Gaines' assistance in translating. Whenever I read a Mary Stewart novel, I feel like I've taken an actual trip to her locations, since her descriptions are always so vivid and enduring. A highly enjoyable re-read. (Thankfully I forget the plots of books I have read before, so I will probably enjoy this again in another ten years.)

  • Twilight

  • This seems to be on everyone's list nowadays, though it has sitting been idly on my bookshelf for over a year now. A friend from Seattle, Lindsay, gave it to me after Jacob was born, and for some reason I just never got around the picking it up. I've been enjoying it as a diversion these last few rainy days and nights, and I'll let you know if I want to read the rest of the saga once I get to the end. Though there has been no mention of murder (yet), the fact that this is a love story involving vampires MUST place it squarely in my category of "romantic thriller." Surprisingly, though the premise might seem too sci-fi for some, it is actually written in a quite believable way, and I have to say my suspension of disbelief is holding out. I appreciate it for what it is, so far. I would guess that it would be more appealing to women, though, just because of the style. Too mushy for the men. ;)


    More eBay goodness!

    It's a Caedmon's Call-apalooza this week at our Team Redd eBay page. We were unpacking our CD's and found, amazingly, more duplicates of some rare Caedmon's Call finds. I'm still not sure where we got this third Guild 1 CD, but it's there along with the EP Just Don't Want Coffee in all it's orange glory, as well as The Austin Sessions that came with 40 Acres. Happy bidding!


    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Make Way for Ducks

    Every Wednesday morning, and some other mornings during the week if we're not too busy, Jacob and I take a walk around the lake at our apartment complex. The paved (asphalt) trail is at least maneuverable with the stroller, though there are a few bumps along the way from roots, as well as some major hills! I definitely get a workout. The trail itself is about a mile and a half long, or so I've been told.

    Everytime we walk together I am instantly transported back to my childhood. The creek reminds me of the one that ran behind our house growing up, where I spent hours playing, splashing, building bridges and swinging across on a rope swing. The woods are quiet and cool, mostly pine, and invite me to breathe deep. At one particular place, there is a smell that reminds me of summer camp, and though it must be the aroma of a particular plant that I can't place, it catches me short every time.

    Because of an ample food supply, the lake is filled with many, many, ducks. Yesterday I counted no less than 55 along the hillside! There's also a gaggle of geese, and one strange-looking duck which we think might be a lone Muscovy. How he got here I have no idea! I must remember to snap a picture of the odd fellow!

    Jacob loves to visit his feathered friends and asks about them constantly. "Duck!" is a common word whenever we go near the office or the trail. When we were at the libary today, I picked up a copy of Make Way for Ducklings in honor of this newfound appreciation.

    We are blessed to have a bit of nature imposed on us in the middle of this large urban metropolis. I envision much exploring of the creek and lake as Jacob gets older. I am glad, at least, to be able to share this one echo of my past with him for these few years we are here. And now, I hope to share a bit with you!

    Here are some pictures I took last month on one of our walks:

    Two roads diverge...

    The creek, the lake, and the swampy areas in between are full of wildlife. I think this is a heron.

    The most well-fed waterfowl in the metro Atlanta area.

    A view of the gazebo behind the leasing office.

    A nice resting spot.

    View from the trail across the water where we often stop for a quick duck sighting. The hillside with the benches is a popular duck/geese hangout.

    Won't you come join us on a walk someday soon? :)


    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Cheap as Free at CVS

    I've been shopping fairly regularly at CVS for about 7 months now, trying to figure out how to make the most of our money by combining coupons and Extra Care Bucks (ECB) rewards. I've gotten lots of "free" items as well as things that we need for much less than the retail cost.

    Today, for the first time, I actually made TWO transactions in the same visit, using the ECB's from the first one to pay for the second...and I was pleased at how much money I saved.

    (Just because I didn't want to take up too much of one cashier's time, I actually made my first purchase and then turned the cart around to go shopping for my second purchase. It worked out quite well, and I even got a different cashier the second time, so I didn't feel all weird buying from the same person twice.)

    Transaction #1:
    2 Crest Whitening Toothpastes, $1.99 each, got $2 ECBs and used a $1.00 off 2 coupon
    2 Oral B Toothbrushes, $1.99 each, got $2 ECBs used $1.00 off 2 coupon
    I Advil Infant Drops $5.79, got $5.79 ECB
    Used $2 off $10 coupon
    Total Spent OOP (out of pocket)= $10.57
    Extra Care Bucks Credit= $9.79
    Actual Cost= $0.78!

    Transaction #2:
    1 12pk Diet Mtn Dew (Sorry, dear, they didn't have 4!) on sale for $2.75
    1 Band-Aid Advanced Box, $4.99, used $.50 off coupon
    1 Neo-to-Go Neosporin, $5.99, used $1.00 off coupon
    Got $5 ECB's for buying $10 worth of Band-Aid/Neosporin products
    Used $2 off $10 coupon
    Used my $.9.79 in ECB's toward this purchase
    Total Spent OOP (out of pocket)= $0.53
    Extra Care Bucks Credit= $5
    Actual Cost= A profit of $4.47 in ECB's!

    If you're confused, I basically spent $6.10 (because of the ECB's) and got $29.72 worth of useful items!

    For those of you who are new to this whole CVS concept, you might want to check out Money Saving Mom for this and other great thrifty spending tips!

    A note to readers: I only buy things we would actually use, and if I realize when I get home that we have way more than we would ever need of one item (like, say, toothbrushes), I'll donate them to charity. It's all good, y'all.

    My next goal is to bring our grocery budget down to about $40/week. I like to think I'm at around $70/week now, but I know it's always a little higher with all the milk we buy. I always have difficulty with food expenses, especially since I like to buy fresh fruits and veggies.


    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    I have a "famous" childhood friend!

    When I was growing up, I lived next door to a family with three boys. They were the closest thing to brothers I had. We went back and forth between our houses and almost didn't even have to knock. We played war games and matchbox cars and Legos and did lots of running around in the woods, swimming, climbing trees, and riding bikes. And when they had been bad, I'd help them pick up pine cones to speed their punishment along so we could get back to crawling through the underbrush and shooting down enemy combatants with water guns.

    Now, two of those neighborhood boys are in the Air Force. The brother who is my age is Scott. He just celebrated his birthday last week, the day before Russia invaded Georgia. And I just got an amazing e-mail from his dad about something related to those events that happened this past week:

    Scott was in Europe and had just flown a mission into Afghanistan. They landed back at Ramstein, Germany, after delivering their cargo in Kabul. They were supposed to come home to Delaware, but were tagged for the first humanitarian mission going into Georgia. They took off enroute to Tbilisi, Georgia [on Wednesday, Aug. 13th]. Just after takeoff, the President started a news conference in the Rose Garden with Cheney on one side and [the] Sec of State standing on the other side. He said a humanitarian C-17 was enroute to Tbilisi and the Soviets had better honor their commitments to humanitarian aid and allow the aircraft to deliver their cargo. The Soviets control all the airspace in Georgia, and it was basically a free fire zone. Scott said the Soviet aircraft had taken out all the radar sites, and Bucharest center and Ankara center both told them that the airspace and airport in Tbilisi were closed. The ambassador to Georgia met the airplane and they delivered the cargo...

    Can you imagine the President of the United States waiting for Scott Motley to make his takeoff so he can start his news conference?!

    Scott and his crew even landed themselves on the front page of the New York Times! I know he's in the picture with his crew, but I can't figure out which one he is. Scott's tall and lanky and I think he may be in the middle, turned to one side, standing in the cargo hold of the C-17. I thought that was really cool! He may not be named, but honestly, how many people can you say who you know have had their picture on the front page of the Times? :)

    There was even a news story about the event on the local Alabama affiliate, WSFA: Conflict Between Georgia and Russia Hits Close to Home


    Thursday, August 14, 2008

    MPJ on Dave FM tomorrow!

    Matthew Perryman Jones (or MPJ, for short) is one of our favorite indie artists. Not only is he an amazing singer/songwriter (if you were at our wedding rehearsal dinner six years ago we used his song "Lead Me to the Water" in the slideshow), he's also originally from the Atlanta area. And he knows the Murrays, so he must be cool. :)

    I heard on the radio this morning that he's going to be playing a song or two LIVE on Dave FM, a local Atlanta radio station, tomorrow morning. Woot!

    It was funny hearing the DJ's (both female) talk about him-- they haven't met him yet, but they kept saying how "hot" he is and how he's "the next John Mayer."

    I'm curious to hear the interview tomorrow even more now! I believe it will be around 10am EST and you can listen live here.

    If you're in the mood for more live music, Matthew will be in Atlanta this Saturday, Aug. 16th at Smith's Olde Bar at 9pm. He'll also be at the WorkPlay Theater in Birmingham next Wednesday, Aug. 20th at 8 p.m with Matthew Mayfield (from the band Moses Mayfield. My college friend Matt was in that band.) Anyway, MPJ is always fantastic live, so check him out!

    If you just can't get enough of Matthew Perryman Jones, I just discovered this great MPJ fan website Breaking Out the Windows.

    Update from an e-mail I got tonight:
    Matthew will appear on both Good Day Atlanta (Fox affiliate) and Atlanta's Dave FM (92.9) this Friday, August 15. His appearance on Good Day Atlanta will be between 8-9 AM, while his appearance on Dave FM will fall between 9-10 AM (slated around 9:45). Be sure to tune in!


    Thursday, August 07, 2008

    Beach trip, here we come!

    Woo-hoo! We're off to delight in this:

    The place has WIFI, but we have no laptop. We are glad. We are bringing many books.

    We might even leave J with the grandparents and sneak off to see a movie on the big screen. (When was the last time we did that?!)

    Be back next week with lots of cute "Jacob not enjoying the sand" pictures.


    Action Shots

    Here are some photos from our recent events...

    Gaines serving up some waffles.

    Jacob and me with some new friends.

    Apparently, now that we have introduced Mexican Train Dominoes to our neighbors, everyone wants to play! It's the new trend! (Oh, and in case you're wondering...the A/C wasn't working the night the photo was taken. We were all melting, but folks stayed until the end despite the heat!)

    Monday, August 04, 2008

    The Longest July

    We've thought lots about posting things here. Really we have. We even started a couple of posts that never got finished. But if you're wondering about the dearth of blogging lately, here's what we've been up to in just the last three weeks (plus all the preparation, cooking, set up and clean up that comes with hosting an event):

  • Serving brunch for over 40 people.
  • Hosting a Game Night with over 60 residents. Pizza and dominoes are popular here.
  • Planning a Kids Club. Though only 2 came, they talked about Jesus. :)
  • An evening of coffee, homemade desserts, about 20 guests, and more dominoes.
  • Handing out breakfast-on-the-go to about 100 of our neighbors early one morning.

    And the piece d'resistance or the straw that broke the camel's back (depending on your perspective):

  • We threw a pool party on Saturday for over 150 people. Thankfully, we didn't have to prepare the food or man the DJ station. We just handed out meal tickets and served ice cream. LOTS of ice cream. :)

    We've realized that we probably overplanned this first month. (Ya think?!) Yesterday afternoon all three of us napped for FOUR hours. I think we all needed it. And then Jacob slept 11 hours straight last night! That's the most he's slept in one 24-hour period since he was about 6 months old.

    By the way, Gaines also took a week-long graduate course on his "vacation time" the week before last, and he's finishing the final tonight. It has definitely been an extremely long month. (I know, I know, the pool party was technically in August. But it all sort of runs together, ya know?).

    Thankfully, things are looking up! August, in case you hadn't heard, is National Ice Cream month. We will also celebrate our 6 year anniversary. Coincidence? I think not. I'm certainly looking forward to enjoying some yummy chocolate frozen goodness this weekend at the beach! Yay for a real vacation!