Friday, September 30, 2011

The new Kindles

I have loved my Kindle. (Ahem...both of them.) I reviewed it here.

And I'm not usually the type who "needs" to upgrade when I buy something and the "new and improved" version comes out.

But still my geeky heart...then I heard about the Kindle Fire. And the Kindle Touch.

And I'm going to have a hard time not asking Santa for a new Kindle.

Here's a quick run-down on the various Kindles now available, and the ones that will soon be available.

Amazon just repriced some of the current Kindles. The one I have (now called the Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi) is now $99 (was $114) if you order the version with Special Offers.


I have absolutely loved the Special Offers on my Kindle. (Check out my review for more info on the Special Offers and Sponsored Screensavers.) Don't tell Amazon, but I'd pay extra for the Special Offers. Lately the offers haven't been as good as they first were, but they still save me occasional money since I'm a frequent Amazon shopper. (For instance, I recently got some sunscreen for a great price with an offer for $10 off $25 of suncare.)

The Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi Without Special Offers is still $139. That's the same price as the Kindle Keyboard 3G With Special Offers. If you want 3G without Special Offers and Sponsored Screensavers, you'll be coughing up $189.

I suppose I should add that the Kindle DX (3G-only, larger screen) is still available. And it's still really expensive...$379.

For those who are budget-conscious (and who isn't?!), there's a new player in the Kindle game. It's more minimalist, and has a name that reflects that minimalism. It's just the plain Kindle (With Special Offers or Without Special Offers.)

This Kindle doesn't have a keyboard. You can use the simple controls to select letters on an onscreen keyboard if you want to shop for books on the actual device, or take notes. But this review comment describes that process as "cumbersome." Still, at the awesome price of $79 with Special Offers or $109 without, this is a good option if all you want to do is read on the Kindle and don't care much about note-taking or actually shopping on the device. (I will say that while I really don't enjoy the process of typing on the keyboard on my Kindle, I'm glad I have it.)

In my original review, I said I'd like a touchscreen on the Kindle.'s coming! At a great price!

The Kindle Touch (Wi-Fi or 3G/Wi-Fi) comes out on November 21 and can currently be pre-ordered. The Wi-Fi version is only going to be $99 with Special Offers, or $139 without...the same price as the current Kindle Keyboard Wi-Fi! The 3G version will be $149/$189.

Some people won't want a touchscreen. Personally I think I'd much prefer it. While the page-turning buttons on my Kindle are great, I don't really like the other buttons on it (below the screen.)

A touchscreen wouldn't be enough for me to cough up more money though, when my current Kindle works just fine. If Amazon wants me to get another Kindle, they'll have to do better than that.

Oh, what's that? They have done better? Well, hello there, Kindle Fire.

It's a 7-inch Android tablet (and of course an e-reader too!) This excellent blog post from Gotta Be Mobile compares the Kindle Fire to the Nook Color (from Barnes & Noble.) It points out that, while people will compare the Fire to the iPad, it really is more comparable to the Nook Color in size and function.

I love that the Fire (which will be released November 15 and is available for pre-order) will have Android 2.3 as its operating system. (I love my Android phone!) I love that it has a fast, dual-core processor. I love that it's from Amazon, and Amazon Prime Members can stream Amazon Prime videos for free. And I love that it's only $199. (The Nook Color is currently $249.)

I've thought about getting a tablet, but iPads have been out of my comfort zone, price-wise. And there haven't been any other tablets that have really tempted me. But this one just may be the one that coaxes me into the tablet world. It's one of the smaller tablets, but it's certainly way bigger than my phone!

The Kindle Fire wouldn't totally replace my Android phone. I imagine I'd end up using my phone mostly for (gasp!) phone calls (and texts), and I'd use my phone apps when I don't want to carry around a tablet or when cell service is available but Wi-Fi isn't. The Amazon Fire is currently Wi-Fi only. Edited to add: Call Me Cate has pointed out in the Comments that the app store for the Fire will be locked down to only include apps that work well on it. So it remains to be seen how many of my phone apps will be available for the Fire.

So, there you have it, fellow geeks. Kindle's been doing a wonderful job at the forefront of the e-reader business, and it looks like they may hit a slam dunk as they enter the tablet business. (Wired says they "may be the best and kill the rest.")

I'd better start writing letters to Santa now.

Disclosure: I wasn't compensated in any way for this post, and won't be compensated if you buy these products.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chills & sweats

This morning I experienced chills and sweats. No, I'm not sick. I was volunteering at a 5K race. Ann came along, and we had to be there at 5:45 a.m.

The chills came into play because we've finally gotten to the point that our evenings and early mornings here are (sometimes) cool. This morning it was in the high 50s, and for an Arizona girl, that's cold, especially since I was wearing sandals and the grass was dewy!

Once the sun came up, I quickly went from four layers on top (sports bra, tank top, light jacket, and race shirt) to two layers (sports bra, race shirt.) And by the time we were finishing up at 10:30 or so, it was downright warm outside, warm enough that when I got home I really needed a shower.

Volunteering at a race was a great experience. It gave me so much more appreciation for what goes into the races I've run (all of which were staffed by volunteers!) This was a smaller race, so we got to do lots of different jobs.

We assembled big flags. We helped set up the registration tent. I climbed scaffolding to put banners on the start/finish chute. (That part was fun!) We stood on the race course to direct runners. And we helped tear down afterward.

We didn't get paid, but we did get swag bags (with some nifty free stuff), food samples, bagels and coffee for breakfast, and raffle tickets. (Ann won a book!) We also got tech tees that are really nice considering it was a 5K event. And more than that, I realized how important race volunteers are, and I know I want to volunteer at future races. It seems that if I'm going to be part of the running community, it's a good idea to help that community "run" smoothly!

Today I volunteered because my troublesome leg isn't yet ready to run a 5K again; in the future, I'll volunteer because I know it's not only a good thing to do--it's also kind of fun.

Even with the chills and the sweats.

Ann and me at the finish line. Hey, we may not have run the race, but honestly, we worked harder than a lot of the runners!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Phone Photos

A few recent photos from my phone, and my comments about them...

We live near an area where there was recently a huge wildfire. It was bizarre to see this line on the horizon between smoke and blue sky. I think it was the next day that the wind died down and the smoke really settled in, and the whole city was hazy (and smelly) for a couple of days. One (smaller) fire was near us. Friends in a neighborhood 3/4 of a mile from us were evacuated. Yesterday I finally unpacked my evacuation suitcase that I'd packed just in case. Thankfully we didn't have to use it, and most of the fires are out now.

This ad popped up on my Kindle. A show all about revenge is not my cup of tea. It kind of makes me mad, to be honest. Seems like it just caters to baser instincts we should all be wanting to overcome instead of nurture.

I found my first gray hair. So far the only one....

The hubs and I went out for my birthday. And discovered that in a dim restaurant, the flash on my phone is really bright. (And by the way, I was wearing clothes. My dress was sleeveless, and in all the pics I took of myself, my dress was out of the shot. I look a lot more...adventurous...than I really am.)

My new running shoes! No, seriously--these are Bedrock Sandals, and they're one of the many varieties of running sandals now on the market. Right now I'm still primarily walking, but with the short bursts of running I have been doing, these feel great!

We found a dead tarantula when I was walking home with Zoodle recently, after dropping off Chickie at school. Chickie is my little biologist and has a fascination with tarantulas. I used two leaves to pick it up and put it in the cargo area under the stroller. Then at home I used tweezers to pick it up and put it in a Ziploc, where Chickie could (and did) study it to her heart's content after school.

I got Zoodle to ride his tricycle on the way to and from school this morning. I realized that he's not quite as skilled at pedaling and steering as I'd thought! But by the time we were getting close to home again, he'd really improved his skills. (I do however, think we'll do more at-home practice before we try any more of those long treks to school on the trike!)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A story of friendship

A little over two years ago, I headed to church one evening for a women's Bible study. I don't remember what topics we were discussing that night, but something prompted me to open up to the women around me.

"I have a hard time being vulnerable enough to make the types of close friendships that I really want," I admitted, crying. "I want to start being vulnerable."

Opening oneself up to friendship can be hard. There's a lot of risk involved! I had a lot of friends, but I didn't have a best friend, and I wanted one. Yes, my husband is my best friend, but I'm talking about the type of friendship that a woman can offer! I wanted someone I'd automatically turn to when I needed a girlfriend to talk to--and I didn't have that in my life.

Afterward, a couple of the women came and talked to me. We said we wanted to be closer. One of those women was Ann.

Ann and I had been friends for a couple of years already. In fact, I'd felt that she was offering me deeper friendship. But I wasn't sure--we were so different! You've read about the ways that we treat books differently. It wasn't just that, though. Ann is German, and she tells it like it is. One day I told her, "You wear your heart on your sleeve!" and then had to explain the expression to her. She agreed that it fits her perfectly! You know where you stand with Ann, good or bad! I, on the other hand, can be overly concerned with how my actions affect others--so much that I try to avoid conflicts, even necessary ones.

But that night, something opened up in me, and something opened up in Ann too. Since then, we've built a friendship that has blessed my life more than I ever expected. I learn from Ann's honesty. I think she learns from my sensitivity too! We discuss parenting, and faith, and so many other things...and while we don't always agree, we sharpen each other like iron.

Recently Ann returned from a trip to the East coast. She'd visited New York City, and came back with an "I (heart) NY" shirt for me. "I figured you hadn't gotten one of these when you were in New York a couple of years ago," she told me with a laugh.

Well, I had gotten one, but I didn't want to make her feel bad, so I just laughed too, and thanked her.

Later, I realized, Ann would have just 'fessed up and told me the truth...and she'd want me to tell her too! So I sent her an email confessing that, thanks to her, I now have two "I (heart) NY" shirts. She thought the whole thing was funny, and so did I. More importantly, it was such a relief knowing that I could be honest with her, even with something so silly.

That's the type of friendship that I needed--an honest friendship with someone who stretches me in good ways. Having gone without it for so long, I have enormous appreciation for it now.

Recently we made it official and started using the "best friends" term. It's been an important way for us to to tell each other how special our friendship is. Does it mean neither of us will ever have another friend who's just as close? Of course not! I think one of the great things about our relationship is that we're each learning more about how to be a good friend. I hope that what we're discovering will help us develop other beautiful relationships as time passes, even as we continue to grow our own friendship.

And it all started with vulnerability. It started with me being willing to admit a weakness that was robbing me of what I needed. It started with Ann being willing to respond, offering her friendship--and accepting mine.

It was a risk. But most worthwhile things are. And I'm glad it's a risk we both took.


I love you, Ann! Thank you for being such a wonderfully devoted best friend!

Edited to add: Turns out Ann had a post saved in her Drafts folder that went right along with this one. She posted it today. It made me a good way! Here is her post: Click here.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New friends

Know what I love about kindergarten? It's giving Chickie and Zoodle opportunities to make new friends.

Chickie has 19 other kids in her class, and I love to hear her talk about them. Thursday and Friday we walked to school with one of her friends (and her mom), and Saturday we went to their house for a playdate.


Two little girls dressed as princesses doing a magic show for us? The illusions may not be impressive, but the pure adorableness makes up for it.

Zoodle has made a new friend too. We've been going to school about 25 minutes before it lets out. We get a nice spot near the front of the car pick-up line, and Zoodle gets to play on the playground with his new friend C while we wait for the bell to ring.


Even I've made new friends--the moms of my kids' new buddies! I don't remember much about 1982 (the year I started kindergarten), but I'm thoroughly enjoying my daughter's experience!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

First-time mom

For the last couple of years, I'd started feeling more and more like this parenting thing was going pretty well. Don't get me wrong; I know I'm not a perfect parent. But once I'd successfully gotten through so many major milestones with one child (sleeping in her own bed, potty training, weaning, etc.), and then started meeting those milestones with the second kid (often more gracefully on my part!), I began to feel like I knew what I was doing.

Until kindergarten started.

It's amazing; suddenly I once again feel like a first-time mom, navigating a whole new world! Some examples...
  • As I walked Chickie to school the first day, I came to a sudden realization--I didn't know proper crossing guard protocol. For instance, I didn't realize that when there's a median in the middle of the street, kids are supposed to wait there until the crossing guard goes ahead of them to the "second half" of the crosswalk. As I wondered how I'd reached my mid-30s without knowing how to follow a crossing guard, I realized that as a kid, I never lived close enough to walk to school. I'm proud to say that this old dog can learn new tricks; I'm now successfully following crossing guards with almost as much confidence as the grade-schoolers around me!
  • If you have kids, remember that tiredness that comes when they're babies, and you feel like you never get a full night's rest? For the first few weeks of school, I again felt that exhaustion. I've realized I've been spoiled! On mornings that I didn't need to get up early, I used to often let the kids watch some TV in the living room while I dozed in the adjacent bedroom. When I have to leave before 7:15 to walk my daughter to school, I don't have the luxury of sleeping in! I fully admit that I am extra-whiny when I don't get my sleep. Thankfully last weekend I took good naps on Saturday and Sunday, and this week I'm feeling more like my old self!
  • Then there are all the new procedures I am having to to check in at the office to visit Chickie for lunch or to pick her up early; how daily folders and Wednesday folders work; how the car pick-up line* works; how the discipline system works; and how to effectively communicate with the teacher (hooray for email!) wonder I was so tired the first few weeks!
Things are getting easier, and I think Chickie is adjusting to the new schedule too (though my sweet girl is not a "morning person" and doesn't love getting up before 6:30!) I'm looking forward to next year, when I'll be one of the seasoned grade-school-mom veterans.

*And am I the only one who hears "car pick-up line" and thinks it should have something to do with a Ford winking at a Chevrolet and asking if he can look under her hood? That's just me? Well, okay.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Book Review: Faithful Place.

Well, I suppose it was bound to happen. I read a book for BlogHer Book Club, and really didn't care for it.

That being said, it has really good reviews on Amazon, so it might be one you'd enjoy. Click here to read my review of Faithful Place, a dark mystery novel by Tana French.

And I'd be happy to send my copy to someone who thinks they'd enjoy it. Comment here with your email address so I can contact you. (I'm putting this same offer on my other blog, and I'll edit the post once I've promised the book to someone.) The book has been promised to someone!

Disclosure: I was provided with a free copy of the book and received a small stipend for honestly reviewing it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A labor of love

In honor of Labor Day, I'm thrilled to give you photos of a labor of love my mom and Mamma (grandmother) accomplished for me. My mom brought this on her recent visit, and I LOVE it!


Isn't it a gorgeous quilt?! I asked for "jewel tones," and I love the colors they used!


My Mamma did most of the piecing (sewing the pieces together), and my mom machine-quilted it. They are both experienced quilt-makers who do intricate, beautiful work.


I love the black background, and I even love the back of the quilt--because that's where the hidden gem of this jewel-toned quilt is discovered!


My mom used different colors of thread to quilt it--and I love the effect!


It's a great size for curling up on the couch on a cool winter evening (or on a warm summer evening when the kids and I have gotten chilled drinking smoothies!)


I'm so fortunate to be in a family with such talented and generous matriarchs!

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I'm late on announcing the winner of the crochet giveaway! Thanks to all who were brave enough to guess how many stitches are in my mom's purse.

The purse has 4217 stitches.

I was so surprised when the winning guess came in, because it's very close! The winner is Ann, who guessed 4280 stitches. Wow, only 63 stitches away from the real total...that's only 1.5% difference! Great estimating...from someone who doesn't crochet!

It just so happens that I'll be seeing Ann tomorrow, so we'll be discussing what prize she chooses. Congrats, Ann!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

First funeral

One of my friends lost her grandmother this week. Thursday I got a text from my friend, asking if I could sing at the funeral on Friday.

My friend felt bad asking me for the favor, but it made me feel so good to be asked! I sing, but I don't do a lot of solos, and it meant a lot that she'd trust me.

The songs went great, but that's not really what this post is about. This post is about my kids, attending their first funeral.

My original plan was for The Engineer to take half the day off so he could watch the kids during the afternoon service. But then I found out that there would be a room for kids at the funeral home, complete with childcare. I had to take Chickie out of school 30 minutes early, which was a lot better than The Engineer taking four hours off work! So I packed up Zoodle, picked up Chickie, and headed to the funeral home.

The kids had come with us to a memorial service a few months ago (again, staying in a separate room during the service.) But there wasn't a casket at that service. At this one, there was, and when we arrived, it was open.

Kids, of course, don't have the same attitude toward death that adults have. In fact, I don't think my kids have thought a lot about death in the past. When one of their friends (the deceased's six-year-old great-granddaughter) asked Chickie and Zoodle if they wanted to see her grandma, they eagerly agreed.

As my friend's husband (who was accompanying me on guitar) and I practiced our songs, Chickie and Zoodle repeatedly followed their friend to the casket to peek in. I later heard that their friend even touched her grandmother to show my kids that she wasn't alive.

Sound weird? Yeah, it does. But I think it was such a healthy, concrete "introduction to death" for my kids. They didn't know the woman who had died, so they weren't dealing with any negative emotions. They were just interested. Afterward, they had questions about what it means to die. We were able to talk about the body and the spirit, and how the woman's body had stopped working, but her spirit had stayed alive and is living with Jesus.

My kids have now looked at someone who is dead. That's a bridge they crossed earlier than I expected they would. And maybe since it happened so early, in a completely un-traumatic (and dare I say, even positive) way, just maybe it will help them not to fear death. I hope so. It was also good for me, talking so candidly with them about a subject that can be hard to contemplate.

Even funerals can be learning experiences for kids--and for moms too!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Discount Birthday

I'm 34 today. I really like birthdays. As I've gotten older, I think I've started expecting less on birthdays, and that makes it more fun. Instead of being on edge, wondering if my husband (or others) will fulfill whatever expectations I have, I can really enjoy whatever comes my way. It's nice to be celebrated, whether in big ways or in little.

I didn't really have a list of "wants" this year--instead, I'm looking forward to spending some time with my husband. Tomorrow night we'll head to Maggiano's. We love good Italian food! I purchased a Maggiano's BuyWithMe voucher recently. In my opinion, a dinner out is even more fun when it's discounted! We recently babysat for some friends' kids, and we'll be "cashing in" when they take care of our kids tomorrow.

In mid-April I got a very cute dress at the Ann Taylor 40% off sale. I posted this photo on Facebook, saying that I needed to plan a date night so that I could wear the dress.


It's taken over four months, but I'm finally going to get to wear the dress! It'll be great to have some much-needed alone time out with my man.

And tonight, I'll get some dessert:

I got a Groupon for Marble Slab Creamery several weeks ago, and have been saving it for my birthday. I'm getting a great discount on a cake I plan to thoroughly enjoy. I might even share!

All in all, as I eat my discounted food, wear my discounted dress, and appreciate free babysitting, I think it'll be a birthday full of rich blessing!