Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

A day for tricking and treating, costumes and candy - Halloween is neither my favorite or least favorite holiday. I wouldn't normally do it up big, but I happily attend other people's parties. I do, however, enjoy any excuse to give silly little presents. In college my roommate and I would make little baskets for various holidays and leave them in front of our friends' doors. I know they knew it was us, but everybody played along with the "anonymous" pres-nents. Every once in a while i like to do the same for my team members. Wednesday night i gathered up all of the Halloweeny things i'd been stockpiling all month: and then spent 10 minutes looking for the plastic insects and skeletons. I'm sure i bought them; in fact, i compared 3 different packages until i found exactly the ones i wanted. Where did they go? I looked and looked, but never found them. Oh well. This season's favorite find was: Mr. Yummy Mummy Gummies - just try to say it without smiling! First the glasses were beribboned with thick orange grosgrain ($1 for 4 yards - i love you, Dollar Tree) and thin black satin ; then I added a different painted Halloween sun catcher for each person: I'm a little alarmed by this fella. All of the loot was divided into 6 piles making sure that everyone got the same amount of stuff and that there was a variety of colors and flavors in each pile - pixie sticks, lollipops, crackle punkins, caramel eyes, sweet tarts, fizzy pops, jolly ranchers, sixlets, chocolate eyes, gummi mummies, pencils, rings, creepy hands and raisins (they're nature's candy, ya know). Then it all got layered into the glasses: It didn't take a lot of money or time, but i hope it is a nice surprise my overworked, underpaid staff! Trick or Treat!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My good deed for the week

The Red Cross called last week and asked me to be a platelet donor. My whole blood had tested well for platelets and they were running really low. Platelets are the jaggedy cells in your blood that help with clotting. They can be harvested from healthy blood and given to cancer patients, but they have a terrible shelf-life out of the body : only 5 days. On Saturday I went and had my first session of platelet apheresis where whole blood is taken from one arm and run through this machine, which can separate the blood into it's component parts: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The red and white blood cells and most of the plasma is then combined with an anti-coagulant and put back into your other arm. A donor can be on the machine for up to an hour and a half which will yield up to five units of platelets. Since it was my first time they only left me on the machine for 35 minutes to see how well i could tolerate the anti-coagulant and to get enough to calculate my platelet count. Next time they will know exactly how many units they can harvest from me. The process was far less gruesome than it sounds. They have you suck on some fruity Tums to offset calcium loss (that's what platelets are made of), cover you up with thick warm blankets in case you get cold (the blood going back into your body isn't 98 degrees anymore) and set you up with a personal DVD player (Russell and I spent some quality time in Ancient Rome). Holding both arms completely still was a bit tough, but it was harder not to nod off cause they make sure you are so comfortable. The worst part was the squeezing on my donating arm. Imagine this: grab a squishy stress ball (planet, heart, zebra, whatever you have at your desk), hold it in your left hand and squeeze, count to 2 and squeeze again, repeat for 35 minutes. My fingers fell asleep at one point and i had to figure out how to wiggle them enough to wake them up without moving my arm or dropping the ball and while still squeezing. Yikes. My receiving arm was a little sore and was rocking a small, hard hematoma (blood pool) which has turned into a lovely bruise, but overall it wasn't too bad. In fact, I am a bit proud that a girl who used to be hysterically afraid of needles laid quietly for 40 minutes with not one, but two needles in her. In the last few days i have related the story to several people who asked me if i got paid for my platelets. Apparently there are places that will buy your platelets! Who knew? The Red Cross Donation Center is definitely not one of those places; though i did get some cookies. I will go back, though probably not every two weeks, which is how often you can donate platelets. And for those of you who are wondering what they look like, here are my platelets (lower right corner)and some of my plasma (center) they kept to mix with them:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

i heart quirkiness

I really like my friends - they are an odd bunch to say the least. If you've ever perused my blog links over there you know that my life is full of a cast of characters. I am adding 2 more links that are super specialized hobby blogs : George is documenting her journey to master the banjo at Struck by Banjo and Kaaren has started a place to put the pictures of her awesome cakes at Kaaren's Kakes. Stop on by and marvel at the coolness of them both. Nice jobs, ladies.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Wagon

Thursday I was scheduled to go on the road by myself so Stacey sent a member of her staff to be my adult safety partner. Jami and I went to the lovely Pennsylvania town of Conestoga. As we were setting up, the PTO contact person enthusiastically told us that for lunch we should go to "The Wagon." After the first show was over the principal suggested that we have lunch at "The Wagon" while assuring us that we "could see it from the parking lot " and even walk to it if we wanted. Not knowing whether it was a really good restaurant or perhaps the only restaurant in town we did indeed venture forth to The Conestoga Wagon. This place is a little bit of everything to everyone - restaurant, bar, general store, meeting place and gas station. It was adorable, all decked out in frontier decor. All the sandwiches are names for friends and family - called The Legends. The food was excellent, plentiful and reasonably priced and the atmosphere was friendly and charming. I highly recommend that if you ever find yourself in Conestoga that you visit "The Wagon" - ask anyone in town, they'll point the way.

Friday, October 24, 2008


seen on the loading dock at a school It is unclear if he is merry or stoned, but either way he seemed happy to see us.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

okay, who brought the tse-tse flies?

I'm tired.
Not "had a hard day" tired or "pulled an all-nighter" tired - just plain tired.
In fact, i've been tired all month and i'm becoming unamused.
I went to bed last night at 10:00. Monday I went to bed at 9:30.
On Sunday i went back to bed after breakfast and slept until 11:45 - i was 10 minutes late to my first session.
I haven't gone to the gym in 4 days.
I have been liberally applying my favorite legal stimulants - Diet Coke, techno-pop and Russell Crowe movies - but nothing seems to help.
Normally i swing a third wind around 9:00pm and can easily stay up till midnight or later, even though i get up around 5:30am. Suddenly i've hit a wall and there is no third (or fourth) wind. Even when i've had a long day i can normally will myself through getting stuff done or if i go to bed early i will get up at 4:00 to accomplish things.
Not in the last month!
I never sleep this much unless i'm sick and as far as i can tell i am just fine except for the crazy sleepiness.
This is unacceptable.
Things are not getting done.
I had 4 birthdays this week and have sent exactly zero cards. In fact, i haven't even made them yet.
Crap, i don't even have stamps and when was the last time i was out of stamps?
I have 4 blog posts started, but not finished.
I need to write 75 thank you notes and have done 4 of them.
I have been working on a huge semi-secret project for a month; it should have been done already, but i can't seem to push through the last few steps.
I can not maintain all of the stuff i need to maintain and sleep 8 flippin' hours a night.
That's simply redonkulous.
I want my schedule back.
I'm supposed to donate platelets on Saturday - how am i possibly gonna be energized enough for that?
I need your help.
If anyone has suggestions about what might be wrong or legal ways to remedy the problem I'd gladly welcome them.
And if you've put a voodoo curse on me - cause that is what it feels like - would you be so kind as to lift it?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

dressing rooms make me nauseous

I really don't like shopping for clothes and try to do it as little as possible (you might recall that i recently bought fun socks cause i was wearing ones that were 15 years old). So when i do shop, i like to get it all done at once: Thursday after work and before i left for the conference i stopped into Fashion Bug to get some pants, only to discover that they were having a "Buy One, Get One For 99 Cents" sale. Two and a half hours later i left with: -purple flats -brown shoes -blue work shoes -brown boots -black boots -a skirt -a sequin tank / sweater set -black dress pants -2 pairs of jeans (blue and brown) -3 sweaters (burgundy, blue, black with silver) -4 long sleeve shirts (white, burgundy, purple, navy) And best of all i shouldn't have to go shopping again for a while. Except that i need khakis for work... boohiss

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

some highlights

Firstly i would like to say that you should always visit a city right after one of their sports teams has made it to the championship cause everybody is happy and friendly; Philly was aflutter with baseball fever the entire time I was there. Secondly, if you go to Philly, be sure to get your picture taken with Ben Franklin and see some Mummers. Both pictures were taken at the conference kick-off on Saturday. It was definitely a trip full of hard work and hardly working. Like all conferences there were good sessions, sessions that were less than helpful, and sessions that were so unappealing that i skipped them all together and went on a hayride around Reading Terminal Market: thank you, harvest festival The all-day pre-conference session on Friday was most useful; it is the one day a year when the members of NEON (National Education Outreach Network) get together in person, instead of over the Internet. It is really great to be with people who do what i do, people who understand my professional joys and frustrations. We learn about new things, like these cool magnetic Lego DNA kits and hear about programs that are different or outstanding in some way, like the traveling festivals in Brazil that basically build a temporary science center in the middle of rural towns. There is a bit of workshopping, some useful roundtable discussions and normally some sort of theatrical craziness and/or singing (there were both this year). In the middle of the day i took this picture; you can draw your own conclusions: (the plush is a GIANT microbe of Scabies mange) The NEON session is run by my friend Jonah and it is always nice to spend some time with that faker. There aren't pictures from the weekend sessions cause who wants to see pictures of people talking or Power Point presentations? Monday was Outreach Live, where people sign up to go into a school and watch their fellow outreachers perform their actual shows with students; it is always a highlight of the conference for me. It is enlightening to see other people do my job; i always come away with a few good ideas to utilize and the confirmation that my team really are some of the best performers out there. This year i only got to see one show because i was one of the featured performers - team member Miriam and I did 2 presentations of our classroom program about polymers to the second grade. They went really well and I am proud of us. Other highlights (both work and non-work related) were exploring a new museum (to be discussed in a future post), seeing a performance of Bella Gaia at the Franklin Institute with violinist Kenji Williams having a hot pretzel wrapped hot dog from Fischer's Pretzels in the market the Pirate exhibit at the Franklin (the wax figures were so life-like they were kinda freaky and i got to touch some pirate treasure) and this harmonica player at the harvest festival who was holding a corn cob over his harmonica so that it looked like he was playing the corn (he was a real pill). One of my personal favorite parts of the annual conference is the Saturday night party : the hosting institution throws a giant shindig that highlights their city, state or history. The Franklin Institute went with an American Bandstand theme; different galleries were different musical decades and we were welcomed to the museum by their executive director dressed like a greaser on a real motorcycle in their foyer. The food was yummy and i think old Ben would defiantly approve of disco balls :

Thursday, October 16, 2008

can ya spare some brotherly love?

I am off to Philly for the national ASTC conference. Oh, how i wish the Green-Barr Consortium was still housed there. I'll be back on Tuesday. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

the most important meal of the day

I was at Sam's club when the raspberries caught my eye; they looked huge and plump and yummy so i bought some. Of course it's Sam's Club so i had to buy a gargantuan flat: I didn't know that raspberries were sold in any size besides the half pint. The berries were yummy, but the purchase was looking to be a mistake. How could i possibly eat all of those berries when i am leaving for a convention tomorrow? Inspiration hit early this morning; i was up at the normal time, but didn't have to be to work until 9, so i decided to cook down the raspberries and make slow oatmeal. The berries went into a saucepan with a sprinkle of sugar and a little water. I put them over low heat to start breaking down, but then turned it up to thicken: WHOA... steamed up the camera; let's try that a little further away I set the pan aside to cool and when i could finally taste it I decided it was just a bit too tart for oatmeal. What would be a good, slightly sweet base for my raspberry jam/compote stuff? Pancakes! After everything was cooked, plated and garnished my breakfast looked a bit like something they'd use on the set of a low budget horror movie, but i assure you that it was delicious!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


As i was walking out of the house Sunday afternoon i saw tiny circles of rainbows by my porch. There is normally a spiderweb up at the top of the column, but now there are 2 nearly symmetrical, and the sunlight was bouncing off of them just right. It looked kinds like the steps had eyes, but not in a creepy way.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crafty Table of Inspiration

This is so cool that i want one in my house. At a school last week this table was in the front foyer. It looks like a game of scrabble is underway, except that the entire thing is sealed in resin. On closer examination all of the words are something that has to do with school. I just love that the school thought art and functionality could go hand in hand.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wee Paper Owlees

Oh how i do do love school art. One of the best things about the start of the school year is that i get to see new crops of paper, weaving, paper mache, painting, and crazy collage. PLUS fall is my favorite season so a lot of the school art has an autumnal theme. (BTW, i am committed to using the word autumnal at least once a day until it is winter or the team gets so tired of it that they stage a bloody coup) Anyhoo... i was pleased to see the display case at today's school was bursting with many colored leaves in paint and paper and what else do i spy with my little eye? Wee paper owls in paper trees! They are even on paper weaving mats! That is so gosh darn cute that it made me want to make a few of my own.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


In case you haven't noticed yet, today is indeed 10.9.8!!!!!!

Double Yikes!

This house by the school we were at had a regulation sized flagpole in their yard. That's pretty weird, but even weirder is that it wasn't in front of the house - it was on the side. Okay - that's strange, but did i mention that it was on the side of the house towards the back? Or that there was inexplicably a life-sized clown painting at the base? I'm not making this stuff up, people.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Yesterday on lunch team member Lindsey and I decided to go to AC Moore cause you can never spend too much time in a craft store. As i pulled into the parking lot Lindsey exclaimed Did you see that? I flipped around and caught a glimpse of some sort of cart wreckage. As we circled around to investigate she said It's like a Greek tragedy, laying there with no one to see it. I mean, really, people - what happened here?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Walk to Emmaus

...and we're back. I got home Sunday night, but was still too tired yesterday to blog. Anyone who knows me reeaallly well knows that i am a woman of deep faith, but don't be shocked if this is news to you. I'm neither embarrassed by my faith or afraid to talk about it - i'm just private. In fact, God might be the only thing in my life that i do quietly. Layers, people, layers. [SHREK : Layers! Onions have layers. Ogres have layers! Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers. DONKEY : Oh, you both have layers. Oh. You know, not everybody likes onions. Cake! Everybody loves cakes! Cakes have layers. ... You know what else everybody likes? Parfaits. Have you ever met a person, you say, "Let's get some parfait," they say, "Hell no, I don't like no parfait"? Parfaits are delicious.] I spent this weekend on a spiritual retreat : 72 hours of learning, reflection and cleansing. In my busy life I rarely get a chance to just STOP, which is what i did this weekend. It was draining, but fulfilling, rejuvenating, but exhausting. There was even a night spent in silence. (can you even imagine me silent?!?) I had a good time and am very glad that i went. Plus i got spend the entire weekend at the Brethren Retreat Center with this view: Thanks to Erin and her mom, Ginny, who sponsored me. Thanks to all of you who sent love letters to me - it was overwhelming and affecting. Thanks to Rickki and my mom for contacting so many people. Thanks to God for the whole experience.

Friday, October 3, 2008


I am on a retreat this weekend sans cell phone. If you miss me, i'll be back home on Sunday night and back here on Monday. If you are bleeding out of your eyes, call someone else cause i won't get the message in time. (and wipe that blood off of the keyboard - it is gonna short out something) See ya!

Happy Birthday Dr Mel!

I heart you. A lot. (a lot more than i heart this picture, but that is another matter; it was hard to find a pic of us together since generally we are the ones with the cameras in our mitts)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Today's Post Brought to You by the Letter C and the Number 7

Fashion people always go on and on about cashmere : how it makes the best sweaters, how soft and comfy it is, how it makes strong, beautiful knitwear. Of course they never really point out how expensive it is; instead, it's always You'll get your money's worth with cashmere. But come on, people, this stuff is like $100 for a scarf. Needless to say, cashmere has never graced the Nikiverse. Until now. On lunch one day last week we went to a Salvation Army store to kill some time. I was looking at tank tops cause sweater season is coming and all of last seasons are too big. I wandered over to sweaters - my favorite item of clothing - and saw a lovely sweater set (cardigan over a short-sleeved sweater or tank in the same material for those of you who have no idea) in my favorite color - dark purple. I am not a typical sweater set kinda girl, but i have been doing a lot of interviews lately (anyone need a job, btw : i still have 2 openings) and need some nice office clothes. Upon investigation i found that it was not quite my size. sigh... then i saw the label : cashmere. I had to try it on. Though it is a little too big, it fit pretty well. And it's my favorite color - in cashmere. I can always roll those sleeves up. And how much for this great find?
Yep. 7 bucks. For cashmere. I love you, Salvation Army. I will drop extra money in the red bucket when the bell ringers come in December.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Definition of Cool

In college i sang in our concert choir and the music director was cool. He made all of the Victorian costumes for our annual madrigal dinner. He was a great teacher and director. He had control over rehearsals : imagine a room full of tired, cranky college students late in the afternoon four days a week chatting and being, well, cranky, loud college students; Marion hit one chord on the piano and the entire room stood up in silence. To this day when i hear certain chords i feel compelled to stand up straight and breathe from my diaphragm. Anyhoo, at my upcoming college reunion i am singing in the reunion choir. We are doing Mozart's Requiem, which is not an easy little piece to say the least. I sang it my senior year - 16 years ago- and figured i could relearn it, especially since the director offered to send out-of-towners a CD and/or a score to practice. I opened my package last night: As i flipped through the score my eyes caught this note: Wow, i thought, Marion wrote me a note; he's so cool. Then i noticed that there were more notations in the score marking phrasing, breathing and the like. Wait a second... that looks like my handwriting. Come to think of it, the "Hi Niki" looks a lot like my college roommate's handwriting. Oh My Goodness : he sent me MY score from my senior year!!! I am amazed. It should be pretty easy to relearn now since i have my own notes on which phrases and words gave me trouble before. It is crazy. How can he still have these? How can he still have sign-out sheets from 1992 to know that score #24 was mine? How can even still remember me since he's had thousands of students? And why would anyone go to all of the trouble of sending me my old score? Because Marion is just that cool.