Thursday, February 26, 2009

The 2nd Annual Grandparents Tour

Lucy at a rest area on last year's trip
Well, Lucy and I are gearing up for our 2nd trip together to Florida beginning next week. I say "and I", as if to infer that she actually knows what the heck we'll be doing next Tuesday!
We had such a fun trip last year despite poor Clyde leaving us back home on 2/29 (note to self: what day do I consider the anniversary of his passing in a non-leap year? Leave it to Clyde to chose to die on leap year day...bless his little heart). I thought, all in all, that Lucy did very well at each of our stops, including a one night stay in a Red Roof Inn in Jacksonville. This year, though, we'll forgo a stop and surge on ahead to Ocala (last year I wasn't sure how she'd do in the car for long stretches of time, obviously, she did fantastically well).
So, yeah; I've been preparing both us AND Mr. B for our absence. I've got food stock-piled in the freezer for him, have paid all of the bills, made arrangements for nearby family to check in on him (and Pete and Lily) from time to time, etc. I suppose in a way I feel guilty about leaving him, but, quite frankly, I think he prefers this. NOT that I'm gone, but, rather, HE doesn't have to feel guilty about working late 7 days a week as he approaches 4/15.
And, honestly, this is a break for me. Yes, I will still have Lucy to contend with (and, like a child, she needs regular supervision and care and love), it will be a hiatus from other responsibilities for a few weeks. It will be nice to spend time with our family, talking, lazing about, playing games, shopping, eating out, eating in, catching up, reading, taking walks, swimming (maybe Lucy will actually go into the pool at Father and Margot's this year), so on and so forth. If I go about this correctly, I won't let myself fret about things back home, either.
Obviously I will miss Mr. B and Pete and Lily. I'm probably most worried about the antics they'll get into left to their own devices for hours and hours on end. Suffice it to say, Mr. B will have his hands full of needy clingy kitties when he gets home each night.
Which, really, I'm sure will be nice for him!
Well, I'll be blogging before I go to be sure and maybe even get the chance to post a few entries from the road.
In the meantime, I'd best go figure out what to pack; not just for me but for Lucy as well. She has almost as much gear as I do!
Mrs. B

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Disco B's

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I'm posting this on my Blog rather than risking a revolt (or, at the very least, a bunch of annoyed people) if I posted this and tagged friends on Facebook :-)
5 things you usually have with you when you leave the house?
1. Cell phone
2. Purse/wallet
3. Keys
4. Lucy (the dog)
5. Credit card
5 books (that you'd recommend others read) in your bookshelf?
1. Water for Elephants
2. The Time Traveller's Wife
3. The Binding Chair
4. The Life of Pi
5. The View From Saturday (children's book)
5 movies in your personal collection?
1. Brave Heart
2. The Wizard of Oz
3. This Is Spinal Tap
4. Immortal Beloved
5. Juno
5 recipes you make over and over?
1. Burritos
2. Lasagna with Italian Sausage
3. Cajun Beans
4. White Chicken Chili
5. Penne with Asparagus, Walnuts and Bleu Cheese Pesto
5 things you need/want to do/will do today?
1. Scoop out the cat box
2. Meet with our financial planners and then lunch with Mr. B
3. Walk Lucy
4. Check the upcoming weather forecast for Florida
5. New car research
5 things you need/want to do/will do this year?
1. Visit the parents (all six of 'em!) in Florida
2. Keep working on getting back into shape
3. Get a new car (BMW crapping out on us)
4. Continue to work on Lucy's "behavior" issues
5. Go to Charleston in May :-)
5 things on your Bucket List?
1. Write and publish a novel
2. See the cherry blossoms blooming in Tokyo
3. Go on an authentic sleigh ride
4. Eat Figgy Pudding (Mr. B says he'll make it for me...)
5. Either host or attend a costume party so I can dress up as Elizabeth I of England
Mrs. B

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Busy Season Launch Party

Last night we co-hosted a party with John and Marilyn (John works with Mr. B) at their house. A good time was had by all as we celebrated the beginning of busy season. Celebrated? Well, if you can't do anything about it, you may as well embrace it; makes it not so awful.
John and Mark look pretty happy for two dudes about to start working every single day for 12 + hours.

So do Marilyn and I...for soon to be (temporary) Tax Widows.

Please don't go...please don't go!

Mrs. B

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Smile Pinki: The Smile Train Goes to the Oscars!

All: The Smile Train is the charitable organization that we, along with my mom and dad, donated our Christmas gift money to this past Christmas. I had no idea there was a documentary short about one of the children/the organization and now it's up for an Oscar tomorrow night! What fantastic publicity for this worthy cause.
Mrs. B
Believe it or not, this Sunday night, an 8-year-old girl from a tiny village in India may win an Oscar for The Smile Train.
Smile Pinki, a film about The Smile Train, may just win in the documentary short category.
Little Pinki, the star of the film, has flown all the way from India to the U.S. so that if we win, she can go up on stage and show the world her new smile as she holds the Oscar high! She would not only be the youngest person to ever win an Oscar, but also be a shining symbol of hope and inspiration for millions of children who are suffering with clefts. Desperately poor children who have been crying themselves to sleep at night for years, as they wait and wonder if anyone is ever going to come along and help them.

If you get the chance, please try and watch what may be the most important moment in Smile Train history: Sunday night on ABC, at 8:00pm EST. They tell us this category is shown on TV early in the broadcast which is good because Pinki has to be in bed by 9!

Watch out Angelina and Kate Winslet - Pinki and her new smile may very well steal the show Sunday night. She was in our office yesterday in New York and everybody on our staff fell in love with her. We are so proud that she will be out in Hollywood representing The Smile Train and helping raise awareness for all the children who need the surgery she waited six long years for. Doctors and nurses from more than 1,000 Smile Train partner hospitals in 75 of the world’s poorest countries will also be watching and rooting for Pinki.

You can watch a 3 minute trailer of Smile Pinki right now at our web site and you can also register to find out where you can view the movie or get a copy of it.
If you want to help us, please forward this email to all of your friends and colleagues and ask them to watch the trailer and watch the broadcast too. The more people that watch the better! And what a great way to introduce folks to the work we do.

For years we have been telling donors like you how miraculous this cleft surgery is and how it totally transforms the lives of the children who receive it.

But that being said, the story of Pinki just takes my breath away.
Question: How does a little girl living in desperate poverty in rural India, who didn’t own a pair of shoes when we met her, end up in Hollywood walking the red carpet and getting on stage in front of hundreds of millions of people?
Answer: She takes a train.
Thank you for helping us help Pinki and the hundreds of thousands of other children whose lives have been changed thanks to The Smile Train.
None of this would be happening without your support.
All the best,
Brian Co-Founder/President

Friday, February 20, 2009

Insurance Rant

This pissed me off so much, I just had to write about it (insert Mr. B rolling his eyes here :-) )
Ok, so, a few days ago (or more), I blogged about the bait and switch routine from the company that will now be providing MY medical coverage (Mr. B is medically covered through his job; it was cost prohibitive to cover me; one of the downsides of Mr. B working for a much smaller firm than KPMG). Got that all worked out, though, and, it won't be so bad once I get my doc to write me a generic prescription for my allergies.
On to dental. Again, we're currently covered through KPMG's COBRA plan. A decent Aetna Dental PPO which we've been very happy with.
Mr. B took on the job of finding new dental insurance and ended up selecting a plan through Ameritas. Ameritas offered both a PPO and a non-PPO. Mr. B checked to see if our dentist (Randy) is one of their providers. Only for the non-PPO (which as an aside is odd because he was a provider with Aetna's PPO, I don't understand why dentists agree to be in some plans and not others). Anyway, Mr. B definitely signed us up for the Ameritas NON-PPO (more expensive, too, but not much). In fact, the monthly premium wasn't too much more than what we're currently paying for the Aetna PPO.
The other day the plan documents and our policy show up in the mail. First thing Mr. B noticed; all of the information said PPO! 2nd thing; we received two ID cards. One had Mark's name on it, the other simply said "Dependent". Hello, my name is Dependent! I think not. Lastly, and most worrisome and annoying and the primary cause of this rant was this disclaimer: "Type One Procedures (such as cleanings and routine exams; (in other words, preventative procedures that are typically covered before deductible in most dental plans)) will not be covered until after being enrolled in the plan 3 months". Ok, problem; my next cleaning is scheduled for 24 March.
It gets better (worse): "Type Two Procedures (such as x-rays, fillings) will not be covered until after being enrolled in the plan 6 months". And, finally the shoe drops. "Type Three Procedures (such as anything major; root canals, crowns, etc.) not covered until after being enrolled in the plan 12 months". HELLO? The potential for needing these procedures are the reason why people have insurance IN THE FIRST PLACE! (Yes, I am yelling here!)
I got my back up about this and decided, yesterday, to do some more research on dental plans. To my dismay, I discovered that there ain't much to be had out there. Aetna won't cover individuals in NC (only through employers OR if you get their medical insurance, too (nice)).
Most of the plans I found were as bad, if not worse than the Ameritas one (and Randy was not a provider). Also, dental coverage is not as regulated as medical, meaning, they can pull shit that medical insurers cannot (for example, if you've been continually covered under a medical plan, a new insurer cannot not cover pre-existing conditions; however, I guess it amounts to a hill of beans that Mr. B and I have been continually covered by dental insurance our entire adult lives).
I got to thinking about it. Last year we each had two cleanings/exams and that was it (maybe an x-ray or two). We paid just under $1,000 (for the year) in premiums. I bet if I went and dug out the EOBs, they did not add up to $1,000.
Mr. B, since he's been going to Randy 20 years and feels he has a decent professional relationship with him, is going to call Randy, let him know what's going on, and see if he can't get Randy to agree to charge us what he was charging Aetna (preferred rates) AND also perhaps give us a discount on top of that for paying cash at the time of service. At this point, this seems the most reasonable thing to do. Hey, I did not fall off the dumb dumb truck (nor did Mr. B); we are not willing to pay over $1,000 a year in premiums for, basically, nothing. We can easily afford our routine cleanings/exams. And, if God-forbid something major was required, we can pay for that, too. With all the money we'll save from not paying $80+ a month for squat. BTW, this plan also has a maximum annual cap of what it would pay out of $1,000 a year per person, so, even IF something major happened (a year from now), it's not as though the plan would cover much, anyway (after having received a full year of premiums for nothing in return).
But, as wise people have said, "Don't get mad, get even".
Mr. B told Ameritas yesterday to take a hike and we will in essence, self-insure. I think we have a much better plan, anyway :-)
Mrs. B.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mrs. B's Book Reviews 2008: Wrap Up

Yeah, I know...I sorta petered out on this one. Well, I just ain't into it. And, it's hanging out there undone so, I decided I'd at least list the books I read last year (and listened to) and a rating and leave it at that.
My rating system, in a nutshell: 1 Star = Shit. 2 Stars = So So. 3 Stars = Good Enough. 4 Stars = Really Enjoyed it and 5 Stars = Excellent; destined to be one of my all-time favorites.
Here are the left-overs:
Bridesmaids Revisited (CD) by Dorothy Cannell. I listened to this on my drive down to FL last year. It was an entertaining enough tale about a bunch of old broads living in a big house somewhere in England and the granddaughter of their dead friend all attempting to solve a mystery. 3 Stars.
The Babes in the Wood (CD and Book) by Ruth Rendell. Apparently, Rendell writes a lot of crime/detective novels featuring the same characters. This one was ok; the CD crapped out on me about 1/2 the way through and I was into it enough to go to the library and check out the book to finish it up. Something about two teenagers that go missing and are apparently murdered, but, are they? 3 Stars.
Temple of the Winds, Soul of the Fire, and Faith of the Fallen (Books/Series) by Terry Goodkind. I continued to plow through Goodkind's "Sword of Truth" series in 2008, knocking off three of 'em. Guess what? There is now a TV show based on his first book. Anyway, I enjoy his books and give them all 4 Stars. I only have 17,201 left to go :-)
Saving Fish From Drowning (Book) by Amy Tan. I pretty much like anything of Tan's that I read, although she's yet to top (IMHO) The Joy Luck Club. This story was different; a dead woman helps to guide her friends on an adventurous trip (that she had planned for all of them before she died). It's told from the dead woman's perspective; quite engaging. 4 Stars.
Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder (Book) by John E. Miller. Being that I'd re-read all of Wilder's books AND gone to her home in Missouri, I got interested in reading about her as a person. This book was pretty good and I learned things about her (and her family) that I did not know. Like, in her books, she says her husband was 9 years older than her but he was in, fact, 19 years older. Which means when he was courting her when she was 15, he was 29. Sorta UGH, that. However, the author did a fine job of describing how Laura came to write in the first place and how she and her daughter Rose collaborated on the Little House Books. 3 Stars.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (Book) by John Berendt. This is actually a non-fiction book but it's written more like you're reading a novel. I got interested in reading this book after our trip to Savannah in November 2007. It's extremely well-written (and the movie version pretty much does it justice). Berendt has a new book out now (another non-fiction) that takes place in Venice, Italy. Guess I'll have to track that one down! 4 Stars.
Guilty Pleasures, The Laughing Corpse, Circus of the Damned, The Lunatic Cafe and Bloody Bones (Books/Series) by Laurell K. Hamilton. If you like the Twilight books, you'll probably like these; an adult version of the human-vampire-werewolf love triangle. The heroine in all of the books (a series, obviously) is Anita Blake, a no nonsense vampire hunter. These books are really easy to read; adult mind candy! I read most of them while sitting by the pool in Puerto Vallarta. Like the Goodkind series, I have a lot more to get through! Hamilton pops out two or three books a YEAR. 3 Stars for all.
Genghis: Birth of an Empire (Book) by Conn Iggulden. Iggulden (famous for his series on Julius Caesar which I read and liked) tries his hand at telling the tale of Genghis Kahn. Pretty damn well, too. This is the first of at least two books. 4 Stars.
Twilight and New Moon (Books/Series) by Stephenie Meyer. If you don't know about this series, you're living in a cave somewhere (or you haven't been paying attention to the Flair on Facebook). The Kid read them and loved them (of course), so, I got curious and read the first one. And, like every other person who reads them (or so it seems), I got sucked in. Briefly, the books are about Bella, human, who moves to a town in Washington. She attends high school there and gets involved with a vampire family. She falls in love with Edward, one of the vampire sons (and vice versa). She has a best friend, Jacob, who also happens to be a werewolf. Lah-ti-dah, but, they are quite interesting and definitely mind candy. I gave Twilight 4 Stars and New Moon 3 Stars.
Ines of My Soul (Book) by Isabel Allende. Not really one of her best, in my opinion. As I write this, I cannot really remember who or what it was about, other than it had something to do with Chile in the late 1550s. I gave it 3 Stars because it was readable, just not (obviously) very memorable.
The Hand Maid's Tale (Book/Re-Read) by Margaret Atwood. Speaking from a woman's perspective, this has got to be one of the creepiest books I've ever read but it's very good. Flash forward several hundred years and you'll find a society where women are divided into three or four classes: Wife of someone important, wife of someone not important, house cleaner/servant and Hand Maid. Hand Maids get to have sex with the husbands of the important wives who cannot have children of their own. Once a month in a eerie celebration. There's more to it than this, but, even if there were not, it has to have intrigued you, right? Don't bother with the movie version, though. 3 Stars.
Wicked and Son of a Witch (Books/Series/Re-Read of Wicked) by Gregory Maguire. The first time I read Wicked was in March/April 2004. I'd just met Mr. B and, frankly, I wasn't paying a whole lot of attention to what I was reading then :-) I picked up the sequel and, in fact, there is now a third book in the series. So, I figured I'd better re-read Wicked and go from there. Since I'm a Wizard of Oz nut, I loved Wicked and liked Son of a Witch well enough. Some people have trouble with books that are, in essence, sympathetic to someone that we've all believed up to now to have been evil to the core. These books are fascinating; but, I wouldn't advise reading two in a row. A bit much. I didn't think the 2nd book was as good as the first. I gave Wicked 4 Stars and Son of a Witch 3 Stars. Note: I also have the third book in the series on tap to be read sometime in 2009 and hope to see the musical, Wicked, this year too!
Jordon County (CD) by Shelby Foote. Before Mr. Foote wrote his renowned books on the Civil War, he wrote novels. This one was one of his first (I believe written in 1954 or 1955). It's in essence seven separate stories about people that live in this particular county in Mississippi. The timing of the stories are all over the place; pre-Civil War, late 1800s, early 1900s, etc. I really loved listening to Shelby Foote when he was interviewed for Ken Burn's Civil War series on PBS. He was so entertaining and well spoken. This book was an early indication of his ultimate success. Now, I might just get motivated to read that Civil Wars series (I have the first book and know my brother has all three!) 3 Stars.
Telegraph Days (CD) by Larry McMurty. I LOVED listening to this; both because it was fairly well written (and fun) but also because it was expertly read by Annie Potts (Designing Women). This is a much more light hearted romp than McMurty's Lonesome Dove. It's about a young lady and her brother who are orphaned in the 1870s (or so). They live in "No Man's Land" (New Mexico) and end up running into all sorts of real-life characters such as Wyatt Earp (and his brothers) and Buffalo Bill Cody. Again, just a delight to listen to and I'd highly recommend this for a long road trip. It would probably be fun to read-read, also. 4 Stars.
The Memory Keeper's Daughter (Book) by Kim Edwards. A very somber but ultimately uplifting tale about a doctor who delivers his own twins during a snow storm. His son is fine, his daughter has Down Syndrome. He decides to tell his wife the daughter died and gives the daughter to the nurse to take to a home. As it turns out, the nurse can't bear to part with the girl and raises her herself. As you can imagine, at some point, the cat is let out of the bag. Although this book was over 400 pages, I got through it quite quickly. 4 Stars.
So, there you finally have it. Including the ones I already blogged about, I read 35 books last year. And, here it is mid-February and I'm about ready to finish up number eight. I thought having joined a Book Discussion Group, I'd end up reading LESS. As it turn out, it appears I'll end up reading MORE.
Mrs. B

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rainy Wednesday

I woke up this morning to a steady rain. Believe me, it was definitely hard to get out of bed as it was warm and toasty and comfy there with the pets cuddling with me. But, alas, Mr. B was already at work and so I felt guilty about lazing around so up I got.
I have quite a few things I want to get done today; some of them I already have accomplished (it is 10:45, after all). Being that Mr. B has my car (the BMW is in the shop...again...which, incidentally, has led us down the path of discussing potential new car(s)...probably a good time to buy one given all of the 0% interest deals going on now although I don't really want a car payment), I'm stuck home all day. Which means many of those little tasks that I've been procrastinating on should get taken care of today (if I can avoid the lure of Facebook, that is!)
As I write this, I am remembering that I still have books to review. Sigh. Sort of like that movie that is playing now, "He's Just Not That Into You"; I'm just not that into writing about books I read last year. Maybe what I'll do is simply list them, give them a star-rating, and have done with it.
Anyway, as I was sitting here at the kitchen table going over my new insurance policy, Pete got a hold of one of the milk jug rings and was scooting it all over creation. In fact, he's still playing with it, although it appears it is stuck under the boxes of Two Buck Chuck we have stacked in the utility room (for Margot and Father). I wondered where Lily was; she'd given up on the ring since Pete was hogging it.
I turned around and saw this:

She sure has good taste; hanging out in mom's Coach purse!

Lucy is sacked out on her bed. She seems to pick up on moods; e.g., I don't want to do anything so neither does she. It's too wet to go for a walk. Maybe I'll work with her later on playing fetch (the first part is getting her to willingly give me a toy or ball; we can do this inside sitting on the floor).

Ok, I'm definitely gonna get up off my butt now and go work out!
Mrs. B

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Fresh Perspective: The End

Not really the end; more like a new beginning!
Lucy and I had our second (and final, unless I want to pony up more bucks for additional one on one training) with Samantha and her two dogs this morning. BTW, it was VERY chilly outside; Mr. B reported it was only 19 when he drove to work! BRRR!
Anyway, to sum up today (and this particular series):
1. First and foremost, Lucy IS a good dog. Every training person we've ever met has said so and Samantha was no exception. She told me Lucy has a good temperament, is motivated to learn (especially if there is food involved) and that she and I obviously have a sound connection. Even the things that Lucy has done that Mr. B and I consider to be bad are not, really, all that terrible; especially given her background (roaming free).
2. Last week, Samantha had suggested that we allow Lucy a bit more head (lead) on our walks; in other words, don't require her to constantly heel. I tried this. Once. I just couldn't do it! Mr. B couldn't, either. It just did not feel right to allow her to get way out in front of us (which she'd do if given the chance; especially if we also trying to work with her on learning self-control and discipline). I did go out and purchase a "Gentle Leader" nose collar (something Samantha suggested as an alternative to the pinch collar). It is exactly what is sounds like; you place it over the dog's nose (and also neck) and attach the ring near the nose to the leash. Similar to steering a horse, a gentle correction on the leash pulls the dog's nose in the direction you want them to go (or, in Lucy's case, back by my side). I've been working with her and this new collar and so far, so good. However, it's apparent that Lucy need a lot more loose leash walking training!
3. Which brings me to the possibility of another class (with other dogs). Lucy basically did not pay Samantha's dogs much attention (if any) today. My guess is this is because she had a very positive experience with both of them last week; no issues. This is very similar to how she is with Mom and Dad B's dog Fritz and my mom and dad's dog Brook (and, also, brother Jon and SIL Shannon's dog Raven); which is to say, they ignore one another for the most part. Samantha felt Lucy would do just fine in a class environment, especially if I always kept myself between her and another dog. The dogs are busy working, not socializing, anyway. But, there are always treats in a dog class, which brought to mind Lucy's food aggression. Samantha sat down on the floor with Lucy on one side of her and her older dog and on the other and alternatively feed one, then the other, out of her treat bag. Absolutely no problems!
4. Guess who needs training now? ME! Meaning, Samantha said I had to show Lucy I owned the treats. This was by far the longest exercise of the morning as Lucy was extremely hungry and really interested in the treats. Samantha put several in her hand and Lucy immediately tried to get at them by licking and nudging her hand. Samantha would not give her a treat until Lucy backed away and looked at her, then, she'd give her a treat from her OTHER hand. She did eventually get it, but, she licked Samantha's hand for over four minutes the first time. After she figured this out, Samantha put a few treats in the palm of her hand and put her hand near Lucy. Of course, Lucy tried to gobble them; Samantha put her other hand over that palm, effectively blocking Lucy from getting the treats without pulling the treat hand away. The idea here was to wait for Lucy to not lunge for the treats. As with the other exercise, she figured this out (and faster). Next was my turn and I'm pleased to say Lucy sat patiently waiting for me to feed her a treat!
5. As for the jumping up on people (when excited), we're going to ignore that behavior. I don't mean let her do it, I mean, keep her on her leash when she is first greeting people. Stand on the leash to keep he from jumping up; ignore her when she tries (any attention, even negative, is attention and possible reinforcement of bad behavior). If guests are willing, we'll play "Red Light, Green Light". As they approach Lucy, they will talk to her like they normally would. The moment she tries to jump, it's RED LIGHT and they will walk away. The idea here being she'll learn the sooner she calms down, the sooner she'll get attention (and probably a treat if it's Grammy!)
6. Samantha told me she thought Lucy would be a perfect candidate for Canine Good Citizen (what, MY dog?) Yes! We'll just have to work on these few things. She feels Lucy is itching for a job to do; maybe visiting sick children in the hospital or the elderly in a nursing home. Not yet, though! She has to work on that jumping behavior! She also needs to learn how to retrieve (if we ever want her to go into canine agility). Samantha gave me a few pointers on how to teach her to do that as well.
Although I learned a few more things today (stop repeating myself to her was one thing; tell her once and wait patiently for her to do it and don't tell her to be nice when she takes a treat, just don't let her have it if she's not); the bottom line is this. Lucy was a fine dog before with a few rough spots. With continued training (for both of us), she can be even better and add more tools to her tool kit (me, too). Hey, just like all of us, right? When we just sit there doing nothing but the same old thing, life can become dissatisfying and we may find ourselves getting into trouble.
The best news of all for me, though, really was hearing my dog praised as a good, friendly, loving, affectionate dog. Samantha said, "You got lucky with that one".
Yes, indeed.
Mrs. B

Monday, February 16, 2009

Which Of Henry VIII's Wives Are You Most Like?

I recently blogged about Facebook and what a time suck it can be. I know I mentioned all of the quizes you can take...well, it dawned on me (I'm slow now that I'm 45) that SOMEONE is creating all of these quizes. Who? The users!
I woke up this morning thinking about creating a quiz of my own. So, I did; the above referenced title.
It was fairly easy since I know quite a bit about Henry VIII and his six wives.
The process was fun, too (creating the quiz). You write out the results, then, write questions and possible answers that match up to said results. So, if someone took the quiz and picked all the answers that I had tied to, say, Anne Boleyn (or most of them), their result would be Anne Boleyn.
I can't cut and paste the questions, unfortunately. I think there were six or seven (you can put as many as you want); you'll just have to find the quiz on Facebook, ladies! But here are the results I wrote. I also included the pictures.
Divorced? Beheaded? Survived? Which of Henry VIII's six wives are you most like?

Catherine of Aragon
Steely, purposeful, intelligent; you are likely also highly religious with firm beliefs of what is right and wrong. You are generally admired and respected (but sometimes viewed as a stick in the mud and/or boring). You will not sacrifice your convictions for anything, which could mean you might end up divorced and alone.

Anne Boleyn

You are smart...maybe to a fault. You're wily and cagey as well as beautiful. Men admired you and most women can't stand you, which means you may have a lot of enemies. You are probably misunderstood; this may frustrate you and led you to do things that may leave you without your head.

Jane Seymour
You give the impression of being a sweet and innocent woman with nothing but good deeds on your mind. However, behind this mask lies a shrewd individual indeed, out for what you can get, which is usually someone else's man. You may land him, but, you may not last as long as you think in the game. And, after you're gone, he'll find someone else, anyway.

Anne of Cleves
You are not the most attractive lady in the world and sometimes you feel out of your element. It seems every other woman is prettier and wittier than you. You might sometimes feel tongue tied. You desperately want to fit in and to be loved. You'd be the perfect stepmother to motherless children because your heart is so big and in so much need of having someone to love. Your husband will likely divorce you, but, it will probably turn out to be the luckiest thing that ever could have happened to you as you'll go on to lead a long, happy life without him.

Kathryn Howard
You are a light hearted flirt who goes a little too far in the "let's fool around" department. Unfortunately, you are not terribly bright and you may find yourself continually at odds with important, powerful people. Although you are very pretty, your good looks will only get so far. Beware of whom you cheat on or you may end up in situation well over your head. Or, without your head.

Katherine Parr
You're no spring chicken and you've likely been married more than once with each marriage being more financially successful than the last. You are fairly smart and a bit stodgy but have a passionate heart, especially for men you are not supposed to have. You have luck on your side, too; at least until that last husband starts playing your own game.
Any guesses as to my result? Ready to go take my quiz?
Mrs. B

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Our Valentine's Day Dinner 2009

We decided a few years ago that going out to eat on Valentine's Day, was, simply stated, stupid. Especially on a Saturday night! We all know how restaurants jack up prices for events such as these.
So, last night, like prior year's, we made our own special Valentine's Day Dinner. And, it WAS special; not just the menu (Mr. B picked out the main course and I added on a starter, a vegetable and the dessert) but the fact we prepared most of it together, working side by side in the kitchen pretty much all day and well into the late afternoon. We even took a trip to the wine store to buy wine for the meal.

Here is what we ended up with for the menu and wine and a few pictures of the happy evening:
Insalata di Sedano e Olive (celery and green olive salad; also carrots, red onion, fresh Italian parsley, oregano, white wine vinegar and olive oil). Served with 2007 Villa Lanahta Italian Chardonnay.
Roasted Stuffed Pork Loin Genoa-Style with Garlic Flavored Jus. What was it stuffed with? Italian sausage, fresh breadcrumbs and pesto. OMG. To die for!
Also Wild Mushroom Risotto (Mr. B's recipe; the only thing on the menu we'd had before) and Asparagi alla Parmigiana. We paired the main course with a 2005 Rocco delle Macie Chianti Classico (yes, it had a Rooster on the bottle!)

For dessert, we had Torta di Nocciola (hazelnut cake). Wow, this was also quite good. We roasted the hazelnuts prior to using them. This really brought out the hazelnut flavor. We had a sparkling Mocata D'Asti with this (semi-sweet dessert wine).
For those of you who live close by, you can expect to see this menu replicated at some point for a family dinner.

Lucy did not get to sit at the table but she did get a few scraps

Mrs. B

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Pete and Lily Are Growing Up SO Fast!

And, obviously, they are both very healthy eaters!!! Newest pictures taken today, 2.14.09. Also, a few new videos are on You Tube (or will be shortly as soon as they finish uploading).
Mrs. B

Lily September 2008
Lily Today
Pete September 2008
Pete Today

Friday, February 13, 2009

Auntie Mrs. B and Holly

This was taken last Saturday when we were over at Doc and Analee's house. She's so cute! And, it really does look like we're smiling at one another. Actually, maybe she WAS smiling at me!
Last week (and into this week) was definitely "Family Week"! Mom and dad came over Friday night for a visit and dinner (in town for the weekend; taking a break from their hard vacation life in Florida!). Saturday, we went over to Doc and Analee's (mom and dad were also there) for dinner (this is were all the videos I recently posted on my You Tube page came from).
Sunday mom, dad, Jon, Shannon and their girls joined Mr. B and I at a DSO concert. We went over to Jon and Shannon's afterward to share all of the half-full bottles of wine left over from the wine "donation" (I put this in quotes as we had to use the word donation, not sales, as we poured wine and attempted to get $5 a glass from people. Actually, everyone did pay $5 and we even got a few tips!) and to visit more with the girls.
Wednesday, Shannon called and asked if I wanted to meet her and the girls at the mall for lunch. Sure!
So, it has been a wonderful family-filled week for me!
And, might I add, although I don't have any children of my own, I am lucky to have my three fantastic nephews and my four beautiful nieces. Auntie I can manage!
Mrs. B

A Fresh Perspective: Part Two

There was an obvious difference in Lucy's reaction to this new dog (young and male) than to the dog that had just vacated the room (older and female). The moment he came into the room, her ears perked up (which, actually, is not a good thing; you want the dog's ears to be laid down and forward; sorta floppy) and she immediately started her weird talking/crying noise. I can't describe it; I'll have to video tape her maybe and post it (not that I want a video of my dog misbehaving as evidence I'm a crappy parent!) Anyway, Lucy was far more agitated with this dog. Obviously he had not yet been completely trained in how to calm other dogs down! He looked directly at her several times (and also kept looking at Samantha for guidance; the other dog pretty much new exactly what she was doing).
Samantha got a bit closer with the young male and Lucy's tail started to bush out. Her hair wasn't yet rising on her back yet (a sure sign of aggression and/or fear or both) but she was looking perturbed. Samantha informed me that the bushed out tail was usually a sign of arousal, not aggression (great, that's all I need, a horny Lucy; but, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised what with the way she lays on her back with her legs spread wide open all the time, ha ha).
Samantha suggested something new. We each anchored our dogs to the wall on opposite sides of the room. We pulled out a movable fence that went from wall to wall width-wise across the room. The fence was about up to my upper chest and it, too, anchored to the wall. She instructed me to let Lucy off the wall (ha; as if!) and she did the same with her dog. They both went running up to their side of the fence and started to investigate one another with Lucy still waving that bushy tail around and, unfortunately, her hackles going up somewhat. Samantha told me the purpose of this was to let them get to know one another in a safe environment, meaning, if Lucy chose, she could run away and the other dog could not come after her. She advised me that when dogs are aggressive on the leash, it almost always stems from their fear of not being able to get away (because they are on a leash) if they decide they don't like the other dog/what is going on. So, as is often the case with fear in dogs, they become aggressive as a defense mechanism. The slobber and drool and all of that is from anxiety. BTW, this sort of slobber/drool is not the same as the slobber/drool a dog may get when, say they are panting or certain dogs that just are slobbery as a general rule.
After observing Lucy for a while, she noted (which we had already realized) that Lucy was ok with sniffing another dog but when it came time for that dog to sniff her, she freaks out. She said it was very apparent Lucy needed to build up her confidence around other dogs and the only way that could happen would be if we made sure she always felt safe around them. What does that translate to? Never allowing another dog to approach her on leash (and vice versa) when she'd feel she couldn't escape if she felt (in her doggie brain) that something was not right/was going wrong and, of course, being mindful of her interaction with dogs off leash (providing an opportunity for them to get to know one another with an escape hatch built in).
After five or so minutes of Lucy and the other dog running alongside their own side of the fence, Lucy visibly calmed down. Some of this was due to the fact the other dog was very subservient and only wanted to lick her. Samantha said he was SO subservient, he would try to put his head into another dog's mouth! Lucy never actually ran away from the fence (e.g., back to the other side of the room) but she did, at first, run towards me several times. Samantha said this (and she'd also observed Lucy standing pressed up against my leg when the male dog first came into the room) was indicative of Lucy looking to me for security. Eventually, Lucy did allow the other dog to sniff her and they actually started to play with one another through the fence. On this positive note, Samantha put her dog in the other room. Lucy looked perplexed as she stood there with a big goofy grin on her face. Another point from Samantha: Always try to leave her experiences with other dogs on a positive note; maybe when she's not even quite ready to say good-bye.
So, what had I learned so far from this training session (and, yes, I really was getting the bulk of the training here!); first and foremost not to put Lucy in a situation with another dog where she feels she's trapped and can't get away. Second, don't let her socialize with any dog that is aggressive towards her. Third, something apparently bad happened to her (which we'll never know what) and that is causing this; it's not her fault. Fourth, it's up to me to protect her and fifth, she really does want to be friends with other dogs so long as (and this is no different from us humans), they are nice to her.
Regarding the protect Lucy aspect, Samantha advised me to always, always, always keep my body between Lucy and another dog while we're walking. Meaning, if we are walking down the street and another person and their dog are approaching, make sure the order is other dog, me, Lucy. Even better if the order was other dog, other person, me, Lucy, but, obviously we can't control the other person. She showed me a quick technique of how to switch sides if need be while always keeping me between Lucy and the other dog. She told me to take long strides and just walk on by the other walkers; emitting to Lucy the signal that, "Nothing is going to get you; it will have to go through ME first!"
I'll wrap this up next time with a few more pointers Samantha gave me about our walks and how to keep Lucy from jumping on people when they enter our house.
Mrs. B

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ranting About The Health Insurance Industry

It's Thursday morning and I'm in the mood for a rant!
Seriously, I am a bit annoyed!
My COBRA coverage (through Mr. B's former employer) runs out 2/28. It's been pretty decent coverage through Aetna but it's also been awful having to pay the monthly premium (Mr. B is covered through his current employer at no cost to him which is nice but to cover me would be real expensive).
Maybe two months ago, I began exploring options for my medical coverage. I'll tell you, it is a confusing process. There are so many plans, levels, options, caveats, etc. I finally decided to utilize to help me weed through it all.
I plugged in my basic information and up popped several different insurance companies each with several plans (e.g., lower monthly cost but higher deductible, office visits covered before deductible or not, etc., etc.)
I decided on one from United Health Insurance as it fit my needs pretty well (and my doctors are in their network, which is pretty important to me). The monthly premium is actually less than what I'm currently paying (albeit the plan itself isn't quite as comprehensive but good enough).
They required a three month premium be submitted with the application (refundable, of course, if the application was denied).
Last Saturday I got a call from them wanting to know about my prescription for Clarinex; the dose, how much I take, how long I've been taking it, etc. Well, gee (I thought), if that is all they have questions about, I'm set.
Today I got word that I'd been approved BUT the premium would be more than they originally quoted me PLUS there were certain restrictions. What restrictions? Oh, and the email said someone would call me within three weeks to see if I'd accept the terms.
Say what? Three weeks? Sounds like a hostage situation to me since my other coverage runs out in three weeks!
Thankfully, I'd kept the number from last Saturday's call on the answering machine. I called them and, after a LONG hold period (I'm sure they do this on purpose in hopes people simply give up and hang up), I talked to a representative.
This is what she told me. They'd moved me from preferred premium to standard, which meant another $25 a month (not awful; still cheaper than what I am currently paying). And, they assigned a $1,200 deductible for brand drugs. It was $1,000 before. So, in essence what they had done was change it so they would never pay for the Clarinex (a brand drug; can't get it generic). There is no deductible for generic drugs, just a $15 co-pay. As for the premium, she told me that all on-line applications are automatically given the premium rate but almost everyone moves to the standard (more expensive) rate after going through underwriting. As for me, she said since I had an on-going prescription, that meant an automatic move to standard rate because it indicated I had some sort of medical history.
Well, no shit, Sherlock; I'm 45 years old; of course I'm gonna have some sort of medical history!
Anyway, I told Mr. B, fine, I'll get around this by having my doctor write me a prescription for some sort of allergy medication that can be had in generic form. I'm not married to Clarinex; it's just what I was first prescribed and it worked so I stuck with it. I'm sure Allegra or some other such medication will also be fine. And then they'll have to pay for it.
I'm ranting about me, of course, but whenever something like this happens, it always makes me think about all those people out there who cannot afford their medication (and cannot easily switch it or simply stop taking it). It is against the law (now) to not cover a preexisting condition (so long as a person has been continually insured) BUT it's not against the law, apparently, to put a high deductible on brand drugs before they are covered; so high, in fact, that they are NEVER covered. I know a lot of certain medications that people need TO STAY ALIVE are not in generic form. I know there are a few prescriptions that I've received of late for "menopausal" issues that are still under patent and therefore there are no generic forms of them and I'll be stuck paying full price (good thing I loaded up on them this week while they are still covered by my current insurance company).
It infuriates me, is all.
It also brings to mind how much more people who have no insurance have to pay for services.
A few years ago, there was a blip in my coverage right at the time I had to go to the ER for a minor thing. So, I got all of the bills; from the hospital, from the doctor, from the lab.
If I'd have paid those bills, I would have been out over $2,000 (including $50 for one antibiotic pill and over $350 for a doctor's assistant who came and told me I had a UTI and that's it).
Since my insurance ultimately paid it, I didn't pay a dime. What did the insurance company pay? Well under $500 for the whole sha-bang. That's because the insurance company had agreed to pricing with the doctor, hospital, etc. So, they charge one thing knowing the insurance company will only pay half of it.
But, the poor sap without insurance is stuck paying the higher amount.
Good luck to President Obama in trying to fix this God Damn mess!
Mrs. B

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Fresh Perspective: Part One

After several months of saying "I've got to get Lucy more training", I finally did so yesterday. We had a credit with a facility not too far from us and not far at all from where I pass after dropping The Kid off at school on Tuesday mornings. I definitely did not want to start another class with Lucy until we got her dog aggression under control. Or, understood it enough to realize we could NOT take her to any sort of class where other dogs would be present.
So, I signed her up for two one on one sessions with a trainer named Samantha. Actually, I'd spoken to Samantha on at least one occasion (right after Lucy ran out of our garage one day and jumped on the neighbor's dog). When I'd explained Lucy's aggression towards other dogs while on the leash, she simply said, "Don't let her socialize with other dogs while she's on the leash". That was good advice (and similar to what our vet had said to me).
Anyway, we arrived at the training center early so we sat in the car about 1/2 hour; me drinking my coffee and reading the paper and Lucy thumping her tail and drooling.
Samantha arrived. I took Lucy inside a big long empty room which had several bowls of water placed around it and many hooks (for attaching dog leashes to). Samantha wanted me to let Lucy roam around and get her bearings off leash. And, Lucy did roam. And explore. And drink out of every single bowl of water. And investigate Samantha.
While Lucy pranced around, we discussed Lucy; her history, what her problem areas were, what she did well and what I wanted to work on: Her aggression towards other dogs (especially while on leash), her protectiveness over her food and her jumping on people during the initial meet and greet.
First off I have to admit I probably needed this session just as much, if not more, than Lucy. I was getting frustrated/embarrassed/irritated/angry at Lucy for her poor manners towards other dogs (and for attacking Pete and Lily). Walks were not much fun as they were spent continually telling her to heel and, basically, holding her in place on a tight leash. Not to mention, the rush of adrenalin when another dog (and therefore a potential troublesome encounter) approached. I've said this before and I'll say it again; I've seen more people that do not control their dogs around our neighborhood than do.
Finally (and this is hard for a strong "J" to admit), although I learned a lot from reading Cesar Millan's books and watching his show, I had to admit to myself that not all of his techniques were working well for our Goose (or us). I mean, we just cannot walk her three hours a day to wear her out (Cesar's answer to everything is "go for long walk"). And, since we don't live in LA, taking her to Cesar's Dog Psychology Center where he and his pack of dogs could properly socialize her is out of the question! But, I did want her to be socialized and knew the best way to do it is for another dog to show her how.
Samantha put a different harness on Lucy and attached her to the wall. I had her leash on her regular collar, held loosely in my hand. Samantha brought in one of her own dogs, a 5 year old Boarder Collie. She told me that her dog was trained in calming anxious dogs down. It was very interesting to observe. Lucy was somewhat straining towards the dog as she entered, then, a bit of a growl, then, her weird talking noises; pacing, back to me for some security, back out towards the dog, etc. All the while, the collie did nothing but walk on her leash with Samantha and sniff the ground. She did not even look in our direction. Samantha said she wouldn't until she told her it was okay to do so. After a few minutes of this, Lucy visibly calmed down to the point where she lay down on the floor next to me (still watching the collie). Ultimately they walked closer to us (not within range though) and Samantha said not to be alarmed if I saw her dog's teeth; that was her smile. Sure, enough, I looked at her dog and it was grinning at us.
Lucy managed this pretty well so Samantha put that dog away and went to go get another one; this time a one year old male Border Collie who was not as well mannered as his half-sister!
Mrs. B

Monday, February 9, 2009

Blog Burn Out Or Facebook Time Suck?

After almost three years of blogging almost every day, I think I've hit the Blog Burn Out stage. Meaning, unlike even a few months ago, my heart ain't into it quite so much. Maybe this means I'm finally going to devote the time I have been spending here writing my book? I'd like to think so, but, another thing that's been going on (likely a big contributor to the reduced time I'm spending here) is I discovered Facebook a few months ago and I'm having a lot of fun on that platform/social network.
You don't blog on Facebook but you can chat with your friends, post your status, send emails, post links (like pictures and videos) and the like. I suppose if you wanted to you could blog (by posting a note), but, this is meant to be, I think, quick and dirty stuff. Fun stuff, too; like taking what seems to be a never ending slew of quizzes like "What 80s Rock Band Are You?" or, "What Mental Illness Do You Have?" or "What Disney Princess Are You?", etc. BTW, the answers to those quizzes for Mrs. B. are: Journey, Obsessive Compulsive and Belle (from "Beauty and the Beast").
What's even more intriguing to me is finding friends. I have a modest number of them right now; a few over 40, which is nothing compared to the hundreds The Kid has. But, with the exception of a few of the 40, I do communicate with them via Facebook; comment on their status, post something on their wall, send them messages. I've found people from my childhood, high school, college, and professional life. Additionally, the majority of my family is on Facebook.
One other thing I've gotten hooked on via Facebook is something called "Pieces of Flair". In essence, all these are are buttons people have made with pictures, slogans, sayings, quotes; you name it. You can search the Flair Directory (and you'll probably find exactly what you want several times over; I was looking for something that said "I'm Your Huckleberry" (from "Tombstone") and found at least 10 (I ended up making my own, anyway)). Then, you send it to your friends, or, some of your friends. The Flair you collect you post on a cork board. Ok, I know, this is SO SILLY but I get a real kick out of searching for pertinent Flair to send people and/or making my own Flair.
My Flair Collection (So Far)

You can become a fan of just about every sort of group, magazine, TV show, movie star, musician, high school, college, employer, etc. If you do this, you'll get periodic updates from these groups about what's going on. A lot of high schools and college organizations are using this to plan reunions.
Then there are the games. Just about every sort of game one could think of. From standard card games to video arcade games to some funny ones like "Who Has the Biggest Brain" (sort of an IQ test game) and typing games (you have to type the word that is in the middle of a ghost before it gets to you; the ghosts start coming in more numbers and faster, faster, faster).
One very silly thing about Facebook that somewhat annoys me but I usually play along are all the applications of sending your friends things; and, there is an ENDLESS array of things that can be sent. Such as, plants, fish, sweets, hugs, Johnny Depps (this one cracked me up), cocktails, vampires, Disney stuff, mardi gras beads; on and on and on.
An off shoot of this is "Kidnap" where your friends kidnap you to the hide out (usually another country) and you have to escape by correctly answering a question about that location.
So, if I'm not here, it's because I'm dorking around on Facebook. Until I get tired of it, I guess!
Mrs. B