Zimbabwean Money System

I saw this article on Yahoo! and it reminded me of my family's experience at a Zimbabwean market three years ago. While we there, the shopkeepers preferred to take U.S. dollars or South African rand instead of their own currency. (They even preferred pens to their own currency.) Now the Zimbabwean government has made U.S. currency legal tender in the country. People exchange the money so much that they have resorted to machine cleaning the bills to keep them in circulation.

Oh, Zimbabwe. How I hope things can change for your people soon.

Photos Revisited

Over the last few days, I've been playing around with the edit function in iPhoto. It's really a lot of fun and much easier to use than Photoshop. I thought I would share a few pictures that I've altered.

I think Sammy looks like a feline movie star from the 1920s or 30s.

Washed-out, antiqued Easter eggs

A secret garden, perhaps?

Parker and friends

Ice Princess

Let us pray . . .

Today I treated myself to a pedicure. My feet were feeling rough, and I had disliked my nail color almost since I had it put on a month ago. I'm really pleased with the result and feel more confident to face the summer now.

While I was sitting in the pedicure chair having my feet pampered, I was reminded of the last time I got a mani/pedi. It was at the nail salon in Henderson last month. I had my pedicure first and then sat down to have my nails manicured. The woman did all the prep work on my fingers (filing, cutting, soaking, etc.) and then leaned over to tell me something. I didn't understand her, so I asked her to repeat herself.

"Will you pray for me?"

Hmm. All these thoughts began to race through my head. Should I pray that she makes my nails look pretty? That she doesn't hurt me with those sharp tools? Or is this something more serious — is she going through some real life issues right now?

As I was sitting there looking very confused, she repeated her question and pointed to my purse.


"Would you like to pay me now?"

That made much more sense. I sheepishly took out my wallet and paid her.

You just never know what's going to happen when you get your nails done.

Riding the Train

Back when I used to ride the train every day, there was a man who often rode on the same car as me. What was so remarkable about this man was that he was wearing shorts every time I saw him. It didn’t matter if it was 9 degrees or 90 degrees — he always wore shorts. I was pretty amazed by him the first few times I saw him. I thought he must be one of those strong New England types who never feels the cold and laughs at the sight of me, a Texas transplant, wearing Big Blue. Then I began to wonder where he worked — it must be a pretty informal workplace if he’s able to wear shorts everyday. Did everyone else there wear shorts too?

It’s funny how you spend so much time riding the train and creating stories about the people who ride along beside you. There was one older lady who always wore her hair up in a fancy, almost old-fashioned bun. She walked very slowly but with purpose. In the winter she carried a ski pole to help her navigate the ice. I always wondered if her grandchildren insisted she carry it, or if she was self-assured enough to carry it herself. Another woman had the craziest, multi-colored backpack. I was desolate the few weeks she went without it. Luckily she went back to it, and all order returned to the world.

Sometimes I wonder what people thought about me. Did they recognize me because of my coats? (I tend to wear brightly colored numbers — mostly to ensure I don’t get lost in the snow.) Or was it something else? My hair cut? My smile? My inability to really run for the train, but a willingness to try?

I miss riding the train sometimes. I got so much reading done and had two whole hours of ME time every day. But sometimes, what I miss the most are the people.

Colorado Panorama

I finally learned how to stitch together the panorama pictures from my camera. This is the panorama I took at Rocky Mountain National Park in May 2009. You can see a bigger version here.

Swimming Lessons

A short video for your viewing pleasure . . .

If I had started Project 365 on Jan. 1st . . .

I was looking at some of my pictures from earlier this year and thinking about which pictures I would have used for Project 365 if I had started it on January 1st. This is what I found.

January 10th - Ice, Ice Baby

February 27th - Sammy scrapbooks

March 2nd - Jodi Picoult

March 6th - American Cup

March 13th - Yale University

March 16th - New Pond

March 27th - Caterpillar Tile

March 30th - Sammy examines the corner

A New Morning Routine?

I bet this will bring a smile to your face! :)

April Wrap-up

April has been a crazy, busy month, which is probably why I haven't written in my blog recently. I have been able to keep my Project 365 going at least, but I wanted to write some things down here before the month was over.

The first weekend in April, I flew down to West Virginia to spend the Easter holidays with my family and meet Esther's family for the first time. The days flew by as we painted eggs, jumped on the trampoline in the backyard, played with little kids, and enjoyed being together. On Saturday Mom and I attended Esther's bridal shower (Paul and Dad came later), and on Sunday we celebrated Easter. One of the highlights of this trip was visiting Ohio for the first time (having a Sonic Dr Pepper on the way back to the airport wasn't too bad either).

The next weekend was just as busy. I went to New York City on Saturday and then Stars on Ice in Boston on Sunday. Unlike last year, when the weather was still cold and damp, this year's trip to New York came on the perfect spring day. I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and then walked around Central Park, enjoying the beautiful flowering trees and gorgeous sunshine. I ended the day by eating dinner at a place called Pop Burger (great food, awful music) and buying a red velvet cupcake at Magnolia Bakery for the trip home. On Sunday I went into Boston to see Stars on Ice at the Garden. I didn't sit as close to the ice as I usually do, but I still loved seeing many of the skaters I had never seen before (Mirai Nagasu, Jeremy Abbott, Davis & White), as well as some of my favorites (Belbin & Agosto, Yuka Sato).

I made another trip the following week, this time for a job interview. I drove out to Williamstown on Thursday for the interview and then stayed in Lenox that night. The next day I stopped at a bookstore in Pittsfield and then went to the Norman Rockwell Museum. That afternoon I stopped for a late lunch at the On the Border in Springfield (it's become a tradition every time I go out to Western Mass.) before heading on home.

The rest of my days have been filled with scanning online job postings, sending out resumes, and doing other random errands. I've also been able to exercise a little bit more, including lifting weights and walking.

Project 365

In my ongoing quest to keep myself busy, I've decided to tackle a new project: Project 365. The premise is fairly simple. You take one picture each day for a year and post it in a blog or photo album where others can see it. At the end of the 365 days, you'll have a pictorial record of the year and hopefully have improved your photography skills in the process. Most people start on January 1, but I'm going to begin tomorrow, April 1 (this is no April Fool's joke, I promise).

You can find my Project 365 blog at http://kendra365project.blogspot.com/. There's nothing there yet, but there should be something there by this time tomorrow.

Wet & Wild Weekend

As another rainstorm moved into New England this morning, I realized that I hadn't posted anything about the weekend Paul came to visit me two weeks ago. As the title suggests, it was a weekend of rain, rain, and more rain. It literally poured nonstop from Saturday morning through Monday evening. Luckily, the sun did come out on Tuesday, Paul's last day here. Here are a few highlights from the weekend.

On Saturday, Paul and I drove down to New Haven, CT, to see the Yale campus and eat at Louis' Lunch, the first place to ever serve hamburgers. We couldn't see much of Yale through the rain, of course, but we did manage to look around the campus bookstore and take a few photos. Louis' Lunch was an interesting experience. The place is tiny, but people were packed inside, waiting for their broiled hamburgers. We had to wait almost an hour to receive our food, but we both thought it was worth it. I did wish that I had ordered cheese or mayonnaise with mine because it was a little dry. We ended our time in New Haven by looking around IKEA and then drove back home.

The next day Paul and I went to church in the morning and then drove to South Boston to visit the JFK Presidential Library & Museum. Mom, Dad and I had visited it this past summer, but it was great to see it again (especially because it was dry inside). We spent a couple of hours there and then drove out to Brown Sugar, my favorite restaurant in Boston. (When I lived on Park Drive in Boston, the restaurant was right across from my apartment. I probably ordered out from it every other week. That branch is now closed, but I love going to the one on Commonwealth Ave.) We were lucky to find a parking spot nearby, even though we still got soaked walking to and from the restaurant. At least the food — Thai Fried Rice — was worth it.

On Monday we had planned to go into Cambridge to visit some of the museums at Harvard. However, we both decided we were tired of getting out in the rain, so we played a game of Scrabble in the morning and then went to see Avatar in the afternoon. That night we had roast and mashed potatoes, prepared by Paul, who is a most excellent cook.

The sun finally came out on Tuesday, even though it was still a little cool. Since Paul's plane left around 1 in the afternoon, we took the commuter rail into Boston and looked around the Quincy Market/Aquarium area. We then walked over to the North End and ate an early lunch. Since we were over there, we stopped at Mike's Pastry to pick up cannoli — yum! Then we were off to the airport to say our goodbyes.

Even though it rained almost the entire time, we both had a good time. It was nice being together just the two of us (and Sammy, of course).

$10 a Day

A few days ago I ran across this article in the Washington Post. The article focuses on Reed Sandridge, a Washington, D.C., businessman who was laid off from his job about a year ago. Inspired by his late mother, who had told him "when you're going through tough times, that's when you most need to give back," he began his "Year of Giving." Each day Sandridge gives one person $10 and talks with each about his or her background and what he or she plans to do with the money. He then records all of these stories in his blog.

This article really touched me and made me think about what I could do to give back now that I no longer am working. I definitely can't give people $10 each day (I'd be broke within a few months), but I am looking for opportunities to give back some of my time. It's inspiring to think that someone going through such a discouraging situation can turn it into something so positive and proactive. I'd like to think that the next few months could be that way for me.

I haven't yet decided what I would like to do, but I have begun looking for volunteer opportunities near me. Hopefully I can turn this time of loss into a season of "cheerful giving."

American Cup

Last Saturday I drove out to Worcester (Woo-stah or Wi-stah if you're local) to attend the American Cup, an international gymnastics competition held each year. I've watched the competition on TV for years, but this was my first time to go to it live. It was an easy drive out to Worcester and a beautiful day as temperatures climbed into the 50s. I didn't even have to wear a jacket. If only all spring days could be like this . . .

The competition included both the men's and women's all around. I realized a few days before that I knew very little about any of the competitors besides Rebecca Bross, Jonathan Horton, and Fabian Hamb├╝chen of Germany. However, it was still exciting to see world-class gymnasts performing right in front of me. The men's events were especially impressive since I had never seen them before. I was in awe as they performed on the still rings and pommel horse. Those guys have to be the strongest athletes per ounce — I can't imagine a football player being able to do some of the things gymnasts can do. It was nice to see Rebecca Bross win with Alexandra Raisman of Needham, MA, finishing second. Maxim Devyatovsky of Russia (with his New Kids on the Block ponytail) won the men's title.

I had only one big issue with the event: lots of screaming little girls. Pardon me as I step up on my soap box. I appreciate that USA Gymnastics is trying to bring in young fans and get them excited about attending gymnastics events. I think they do a great job with that and believe that U.S. Figure Skating could learn a lot from what they are doing. However, these girls need to understand that it is not appropriate to scream for another person (JOHNNY!) while a gymnast is performing. (And the mothers need to stop egging them on and teaching them how to scream louder. You learn manners at home!) It's perfectly fine to scream during the short breaks between events or when the crowd is doing the wave (even if I still will exercise my right to cover my ears). Just please respect these athletes who are doing amazing things and could hurt themselves if they lose concentration. And please respect the other spectators who also paid to enjoy the event. Stepping off soap box now.

The competition ended around 3 p.m. so I drove over to the shopping center in Millbury. I ate a late lunch/early dinner at T.G.I. Friday's and then looked around a few of the stores. I headed home soon after that. I'm so excited for the warmer weather and longer days; hopefully I'll be able to get out on day trips a little more now.

My sweet, sweet kitty

It's hard to be too sad when you have this guy around.

Olympic Fever!

Kim Yu-Na at Skate America

I was talking with my mom earlier today and realized that I hadn't written on my blog in a long, long time. (I was complaining that I don't get to really write anymore — I'm probably one of the few people who would ever say that.) Since my time over the last week or so has been filled with the Olympics, I thought I would write down some of my thoughts.

Figure skating, of course, is my favorite sport of the Winter Olympics. Since I follow figure skating all the time, the Olympics sometimes offer me mixed feelings. I love the wonder and pageantry of the Olympics but usually feel discouraged because my favorites almost never win. It's also strange to hear and read comments from people who never watch the sport any other time. (Everyone is always an "expert.") This Olympics, however, has been a little different. I've actually been happy with all three podiums so far. The pairs competition started things off wonderfully with Shen & Zhao finally winning the gold after four tries. Then Evan Lysacek won the men's competition, the first time an American man has won since Brian Boitano won in 1988 (also in Canada). Last night the dance competition concluded with Tessa Virtue & Scott Moir of Canada winning the gold and Meryl Davis & Charlie White of the U.S. winning the silver. I was a little upset that Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto couldn't pull off the bronze medal, but other than that, it was a beautiful podium. (Check out the medal ceremony; it has to be one of the most heartfelt ones I've ever seen. Oh, Canada!)

Rachael Flatt at Skate America

Tonight the women's competition begins. Unlike most years, the U.S. doesn't have a particularly strong female skater, but I'm excited to see how Rachael Flatt (above) and Mirai Nagasu do. The favorite in the competition is Kim Yu-Na (top picture), who is absolutely wonderful. I had the chance to see her back in November, and even though she didn't skate her best there, she really is something special. She also has a huge (and I mean, HUGE) following in Korea and the Korean community. Michelle Kwan was always very popular when she skated, but Kim surpasses even her in that regard. I'm also looking forward to seeing Mao Asada, Miki Ando, Akiko Suzuki, and Joannie Rochette skate.

Besides figure skating, I've enjoyed watching many of the other events and rooting for the Americans. I'm so proud of Bode Miller for redeeming himself after Torino four years ago and Lindsey Vonn for fighting through her injury to win gold in the women's downhill. I was also impressed to hear about Hannah Teter's organization Hannah's Gold that provides cleaning drinking water for a village in Kenya. Apolo Ohno has also been a lot of fun to watch as well.

It's hard to believe that next weekend will be the end of another Winter Olympics. Hopefully someday I'll be able to attend one in person, but until then, I'll have to rely on NBC (and my rogue Russian feeds).

I ♥ Big Blue!

It's the thick of winter up here in New England, which means that I am completely indebted to Big Blue, my huge puffy jacket. I've had Big Blue for three winters, and I think a huge part of my survival up here has been due to the warmth and comfort that the jacket provides.

What makes Big Blue so great . . .
  • It's basically a sleeping bag with sleeves (the original Snuggie!). I don't feel too much of the cold once I have it on. I've joked that I could fall down and be covered with snow for two weeks but still survive because of the insulation.
  • It's padded. I fell down the steps of my apartment last year, but because I was wearing Big Blue, I didn't feel too much.
  • When I pull the hood up, my face is almost completely hidden. Great for when I don't want to be seen.
  • It doesn't matter if it gets wet because it's waterproof.
  • It's big and blue.
Today I decided to be brave and leave the house without Big Blue. Bad idea. It was so cold on the way to the train that I considered going back to my apartment to change jackets. Luckily, I made it through the day, but Big Blue will definitely be making a comeback tomorrow. It's too cold to go outside without it!

I ♥ Big Blue!