Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grand Poobah

I have agreed to become the Grand Poobah of the PTO.

Power? Money? Fame?

Just work.

Maybe they'll let me wear a cool hat?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Antiques Roadshow

A few months ago I was aimlessly flipping through the channels and landed on a PBS show called Antiques Roadshow.

Formally dressed and often thick accented appraisers look over people's cherished family heirlooms and yard sale finds. In every episode you will see people saying something like
Regular Lady: "I bought this pretty vase at a yard sale for 50 cents."
Appraiser: "Do you know how much it is worth mam?"
Regular Lady: "No clue"
Appraiser: "This is a rare, second century vase in mint condition. It is worth $560,000!"
Regular Lady: "AHHH!" (faints)

At the end of this exciting episode there was an announcement that the Antiques Roadshow was coming to Hartford. Free tickets. Just email PBS to get into the lottery.

Smelling like an adventure, I sent in an email. After a few minutes later I remembered just how unlucky I am (the only thing I ever won was my ninth birthday cake...6 people entered) I decided to enter my mummy to.

Wouldn't you know it, a few months later I received an email telling me that I had not been chosen for tickets but thank you and keep watching. Gee thanks.

Completely forgetting that I entered my mummy, I got a call from her a few days later. "Ummm, did you do this? Did you request Antiques Roadshow tickets? I got two tickets!"

Fast forward to Saturday. Mummy and I each rounded-up two family antiques that we thought might be worth something. A neighborhood signature quilt, a silver cup, old porcelain dolls and letters from Paul Revere.

We arrived at our designated time and stood in line for an hour. Like Disney World, that line was just a teaser. We still had to wait in four additional lines to speak with the individual appraisers. With the average age of the Antiques Roadshow viewer being somewhere around 78, that meant the lines were filled with chairs, wheelchairs and walkers. If my nerves were frayed and I was tired, they were certainly wiped out.

I'm still puzzled as to why the friendly people at Antiques Roadshow weren't prepared for lines lasting four hours in the painting section. Or two hours in the folk art section. This was the 90th Roadshow. Shouldn't they know how to make things run smoothly by now? Shouldn't they know that they are catering to an older audience?

The lines would have been worth it if I too had a table appraised at $300,000 like a particular weeping woman.

Mummy and I started at the "manuscript and books" table. We had letters from Paul Revere that my great grandfather may or may not have liberated from a certain state house. Turns out the letters are actually from Paul Revere's son. Not the Patriot himself. "Lots in the market. Not worth much" we were told.

Next up was the "doll" table. An 1870's Springfield Doll that had been well-loved and an 1880's German doll in pretty good condition. Not worth anything special.

Then came the little silver cup. Grandma Dot used to let me use it in my sandbox as a kid. I grabbed it from her house for sentimental reasons and now use it as a pen holder. Just recently I was dumping out the pens in a desperate attempt to find lip balm when I noticed the date. 1792. Seeing that the cup was that old, I hoped that maybe this would bring in a high appraisal number.

Turns out that Grandma Dot should not have allowed Little Gruppie to play with an eighteenth century silver cup from St. Petersburg, Russia. I dinged and dented the bottom of the cup reducing it's value "exponentially." Bummer.

Last up was my pick for the highest value. A signature quilt from 1850's Newburyport, MA. My grandfather's family arrived in Newbury, MA in the 1620's and apparently stuck around for a while.

The quilt spent many years in my mummy's hope chest and has been hanging on a quilt rack in my house for the last ten or so years. It is simple (like my tastes) and historical (I can be a bit of a history geek), so naturally I love the quilt.

"Sentimental value" the appraiser said. "So, umm, could you put a monetary value on the quilt?" I hopefully asked. "Zero" the appraiser said. She went on to say something about lack of color and bunching in the batting.

I'm looking back on my experience with the Antiques Roadshow as an adventure. I didn't find any lost money, but I did learn a little more about my family heirlooms. I saw hundreds of people who love antiques over new purchases. And really, what could be more green than antiques?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Green Sox

The family spent this weekend away. Again. It's not like I am ungrateful to have friends and family who will willingly take in the Gruppie Clan. It's just that I'm tired.

I haven't had a chance to sit in my hammock swing and just read. I haven't had the chance to watch all of the reality shows on my DVR. I haven't had the chance to unpack my toiletry bag. I haven't had the chance to play one game of UNO with the kids.

Hello. My name is Gruppie. I'm an overscheduled parent.

Enough with the poor me. I did get to spend the week with my mom in Cape Cod. I did get to walk alone on the jetty with my kids. I did get to really play on a playground where no one knew me and only my kids cared that I could get to the top of the rock wall. I did realize that I will either have to have another kid or loose a heck of a lot of weight if I want to be able to balance on one side of the see-saw with my kids on the other. I did have a great time with my family.

This trip began the kids and myself tagging along on Hubby's business trip to Boston. We stayed in an amazing suite (upgraded!) with beds so soft they felt like clouds. The kids begged to stay in the room for the rest of the summer. (OK, I begged a little too.)

The family took in our first Red Sox game together. Those of you in the Massachusetts area understand what it truly means to be part of the Red Sox Nation. For those of you who live elsewhere the feeling can be summed up in one word. Insanity.

Red Sox fans have to be the most loyal fans in the world. They love their team and don't mind dressing head to toe in Red Sox gear to prove it.

At the game there were just as many women, if not more than, as men. A fact which surprised me. These woman knew their stuff and yelled it often.

Little Guy is a huge Big Poppi fan. When Big Poppi first got up to bat Little Guy yelled in his tiny voice. Hearing Little Guy yell made our nosebleed section go crazy. That's all it takes. A little strawberry headed five-year old to make the Red Sox Nation Roar.

I was pleasantly surprised with how nice everyone around Yawkey way really was. People who saw our matching B hats on the T (Subway) went out of their way to offer directions. The T drivers (yes, we ended-up taking a few trains) announced when the Kenmore or Fenway stops were coming up and reminded everyone going to the ball game to get off.

Another example of the kindness of the Red Sox nation lies with the Irish fans. Quite a few members of the Red Sox Nation are Irish and tend to have skin as wimpy as mine. One of these members offered me sunscreen after noticing that the weird ballpark purchased sunscreen was not actually working. She then confessed that it wasn't her sunscreen and she had borrowed it from someone a few rows ahead.

Each time we bought a Fenway frank or Cracker Jacks from a roving seller our row passed down our money and passed up our food. Their willingness to help happily surprised me.

Long story short the Red Sox got smeared by Toronto. It was messy. At least it we weren't playing the Yankees.

PS I forgot about the GREEN part of our Red Sox experience. There were recycling bins throughout the park. There were also a group of people called the "Poland Spring Fenway Park Green Team." They walked around collecting plastic bottle from the fans in the stands. Not wonderful, but a great start.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Maybe I Don't Get It

Yesterday Hubby called me up and suggested that the family make a trek to the movie theater that night. Long week...stormy night...WALL-E was still playing locally.

Cute little robot. G rating. None of the usual violence. It was a go.

Partly because I am cheap and partly because the idea of creating excess trash disturbs me, I usually bring the BIG PURSE to the movie theater. SIGG bottles filled with water. Cloth bags filled with air-popped popcorn. "We are not opening the big purse until the lights go out." You get the idea...

Yesterday I made the mistake of going to the theater hungry and way too tired to prepare. "Yes kids, you can get the three-in-one snack tray. Yes, I would love extra butter on my popcorn. May I please have a trough of soda?"

Then the movie started.

Then my guilt started.

WALL-E is a sweet cautionary tale of a time when the earth is too polluted to support human or plant life. People live in a space ship confined to chairs with television screens perpetually in front of their faces. Bones have shrunk from generations of misuse and humans have lost the ability to walk or even use their arms.

The only "living" things left on earth are a surprisingly lovable cockroach and the cutest little robot that was left behind for the past 705 years in an attempt to clean the earth.

A love store ensues, of course, and there is lots of tame action.

Color me surprised.

Here I was, sitting in the theater. Clutching my three used napkins and plastic straw. Assuming that I was going to be entertained by the usual dancing princesses or talking race cars.

Oh no. I've just been horrified about the future health of the earth by a children's movie. Are cartoons allowed to slap you in the face like that? Somebody unfreeze Mr. Disney. Quick!

In my family's two hours at the movies, we created nearly a half of a bag of trash. More than we created all week at our house.

So what if we try to act as environmentally responsible as we can at home if that all goes out the window as soon as we close the front door.

When WALL-E hits on-demand and DVD, I completely recommend you take a look. Even if you don't have anyone in the house under the age of ten, this movie can be a true wake-up call.

And, I promise that you will have a completely different perspective on cockroaches. Aren't they sooo cute?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I Wanna Stapler

An author. My Little five year-old guy has proclaimed himself an author.
Little Guy has spent his non-beach hours drawing on scrap paper and then attaching the pages together with stickers. This method of bookbinding is not one that is sure to catch on since really only the top and the bottom pages stay stuck.

Like any good amateur author/bookbinder Little Guy has requested a stapler.

The chance to buy a new green, stapleless stapler that punches the layers of papers sounded fun to me. Where would a girl in the 'burbs think to look for this eco-stapler?

Staples? That was exactly what I was looking for, so why not shop in a store with the product in the name. Also, the ads claim that shopping there is "easy."

Lies I tell you. After talking to three separate sales associates I was told that Staples does not carry staple-free staples.

This stinks of irony.

What is a budding author with green thoughts to do?

Thursday, August 7, 2008


In the past I have written about my love for the new television network, Planet Green. Not only is the channel great viewing for people like me who get easily jazzed by watching others save a little chunk of the earth, it is great family viewing during this time of violent television.

The kids and I caught a recent episode of Renovation Nation. The show visited TerraCycle, Inc. As my family uses the company's worm poop on our lawn and gardens (while snickering of course), the show caught my eye.

Besides harvesting worm castings, the friendly people at TerraCycle, Inc. have been collecting old juice pouches from local schools and upcycling the pouches into bags.

I have two feelings on the upcycling of juice pouches; On one hand, I feel that it is a great use of trash. Instead of vanquishing the trash to the landfill, the pouches are given a second life. On the other hand, I absolutely detest the bags. By using the bags we are giving environmentally uncaring companies free publicity. Also, we are promoting the consumption of these unhealthy, sugar-laden drinks to young kids.

Maybe that's what today's environmentalism is about. Good work, but you have to take a little bad with you good.

After the show aired, Girlie slept over a buddy's house. The buddy's friendly mummy served the same juice pouches that were featured on the show. My Girlie rounded-up the empty containers, punched holes in them, added string and drew pictures on the plain side of the package. Viola! Girlie created her own upcycled purses.

Gosh she makes a mummy proud...

Oh yeah. Then she decided to paint the nails of the very expensive American Girl doll her grandma bought for her. Just like saving the Girlie isn't perfect. She mixes a little bad with a lot of good.

After a long day of playing Cinderella, I finally unearthed the purse for it's close-up. Whew!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Not In My DNA

Some people have been bred for generations to excel in the same areas that thier ancestors exceled. Some may excel at swimming, others at math and others at the art ofpaper folder folding.

My genes have spoken to me loud and clear. I do NOT come from a long line of animal people. There is no possible way that my ancestors farmed with animals. No way in hell.

Recently Hubby surprised me with a trip to a horse stable in Litchfield, CT during our tenth anniversary weekend. After going on a total of three trail rides over the course of my life, I have been dreaming about trying riding again.

I had even bragged to hubby about trail riding. "Just sit on your horse and it does the rest." "These horses are trained to walk the trails in their sleep." "They will match us with the sweetest horses."

Brave Hubby had never been on a horse. That didn't stop him from being giving a horse that more accurately resembled a giraffe. He received exactly zero seconds of riding instruction. Stairs were punched over to the horse. "Get on"

I was the lucky recipient of a horse who decided to bite another horse who dared to walk by his stall. Aggressive? stable would pair an aggressive horse with a beginner rider for a relaxing trail ride. Right?

The ride started with the horse biting my captive foot. Yes, I was told the horse was going after a bug. Yes, they were lying in order to make me feel better.

After the shark bite, the horse decided that he didn't get enough breakfast. So he suddenly jerked of down the embankment to munch on some weeds. He munched again and again as I was being told to "pull the reigns harder" and "kick harder." My little horse did not seem to get the horse memo on what pulling the reigns meant and decided not to follow this direction.

And what about this kicking thing? As a person who owns an eight pound cat and a glass full of sea monkeys, kicking an animal repeatedly over a thirty minute period seems abusive.

Next, my horse bucked-up and decided to kick the horse behind it. Luckily the sweet woman behind us was an experienced rider who volunteered to go on this ride. After the face-kicking, the leader then reminded us that I was indeed riding a "mean horse" and everyone else should keep their distance.

By this time my hands started shaking out of pure fear. A first for me. That fear motivated me to demand to turn around.

Hungry, meany horse kept eating and kept veering off down embankments while I held on with my shaky hands. Then all of a sudden he started backing up (who knew that horses had reverse). No amount of yelling, pulling of kicking (while quietly apologizing for kicking) would make this horse go forward.

The woman behind me started screaming "oh no....oh no...oh my God!" Which could only mean that she was completely freaked out. Then my horse started to violently throw it's head back and forth. I felt like I was going to be thrown off.

Cue the ugly crying.

"Let me off!" "I'm done!" Get me off of this thing!"

"Against the rules. No one is allowed to dismount their horses." My rule-loving self complied for maybe three seconds until I realized that this crazy horse lady couldn't force me to do anything. They can't possibly have horse detention. Could they?

"I AM getting off of this thing! Come and hold on if you don't want it to run away!"

I proceeded to get off of the horse, walked by poor hubby stuck on top of his giraffe horse and walked out of the woods. Still shaking and $70 poorer. Leader yelling something about my bit coming unattached.

Not this Gruppie's actual horse. Pretty darn similar.

Here is the kicker (punny huh?), Hubby's boss has a house in the area. He has only visited the house twice this year. The last time he drove to his vacation house he noticed a horse throw a rider and then take-off, saddle and all, down the main road where the trail rides travel.

That crazy, unsafe stable has imprinted a fear of large farm poor ancestors.