Monday, November 30, 2009

I'm A Wreckerator!

Those who know me know that when I screw up, I like to screw up BIG. So there's nothing more comforting for me than to go lurking at Cake Wrecks to laugh loudly at the screw-ups of others.

One Sunday last spring, some stupid remarks by an idiot named Kanye West prompted a post over there with a children's book theme (to see this post, click here. You'll be glad you did.). When I saw my kid's favourite book featured in cupcake-cake form, I knew I had my cake theme for his next birthday. All I had to do was wait about six months.

Well, the 4-year anniversary of the day that joy and evil converged and came screaming out of my uterus has arrived! Yes! Rosemary's Baby is 4! And, just as I promised myself, the Very Hungry Caterpillar cake was the main attraction at dinner tonight!

So, for reference, here is the cake I aspired to copy:

And here is the cake I made:

This, of course, leaves me in a bit of a quandary. On the one hand, I could keep finding gorgeous cakes to replicate and then scratch my head when I end up inadvertently creating the wax-museum-in-a-heatwave version. Or, I could hire a pro to finally get the job done with a bit of skill and expertise. An easy decision, right? There's just one problem.
I follow Cake Wrecks...

Sunday, November 29, 2009


My 150th post should be something more than a hodgepodge of chatter...but it won't be. So, without further ado, I give you post #150!!

Firstly, our tree-trimming party. Firstborn enjoyed trimming the tree:

Rosemary's Baby was more into the hot chocolate.

And, don't most highly-anticipated family events end like this?

Or this?


I've decided I need a new apron. The last one I made about a year ago in a very light fabric, and has ended up looking like this:

Gross. My plan this holiday season is to go through my fabric stash and find a nice DARK one for my next apron.

Speaking of crafts, I finally got around to making myself a beaded wreath for my front door.
It's a little thin for my liking, so I'll work on the design and try again...someday. It'll do for now.
And, I have been remiss in thanking Tater Tot Mom for this award:

A fabulous award from a fabulous blogger! Thanks!!
Finally, despite my strict adherence to my no-impulse-purchases rule, I have decided that it's okay to buy myself a Christmas present. As much as I'd love to be one of those moms in the magazines who refuse to give up who they are and resort to (horrors!) wearing non-designer clothes while they cart their trendy little toddlers on bi-annual trips to New York and Paris, it's just not do-able for me. Until grubby little boys stop smearing maple syrup on my jeans, I couldn't relax in anything I paid an arm and a leg for. That said, my $7 down parka from Steve and Barry's that leaves me covered in feathers every time I take it off has got to go. It's time for a proper, high-quality, grown-up, nice winter coat that will hopefully last me a few years. So, this is what I've ordered for myself online:

It took me about a week to actually go through with the purchase. When I did, my mouse hovered for a moment over the "white" option in the drop-down menu. The idea was just so wintery and bright. But then my brain conjured up an image of me putting it on for the first time, two muddy dogs immediately jumping on my back, Rosemary's Baby projectile-vomiting tomato soup on my front, and a frustrated dry-cleaner screaming at me "What do I look like? A miracle worker?!!" Then I contemplated going with charcoal because it would show less dog hair. But in the end, I had to admit that my love-at-first-sight moment had been when I saw the black one. So I ordered that. Between the Chinese restaurant opening next week, and this coat coming in the mail, I have a lot to look forward to this December!
Enjoy your weekend, everyone!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Christmas Miracle Comes With Soy Sauce

First, I'd like to thank everyone for their really lovely comments. There's no denying that this Christmas will be more of a struggle than usual, but knowing there are so many people out there pulling for me really makes me want to kick some Christmas butt and have the best damned holiday possible. And today, something has happened that is going to surely make that more likely.

Before we had kids, the Captain and I established a holiday tradition of our own. Like many Canadians, we started ordering Chinese takeout on Christmas Eve. We loved this tradition, and once the kids came along, it made a very hectic night just that little bit less stressful, because I didn't have to have a meal on the table on top of stuffing stockings and frantically wrapping gifts. Unfortunately, the last time we observed this tradition was 3 weeks after Rosemary's Baby was born, on Christmas Eve 2005.

By the following Christmas, we'd moved to the place we live now. It didn't take long for us to realize that the convenience we'd always taken for granted of ordering a pizza or running out for fast food was no longer at our disposal. The nearest Chinese restaurant was now a 30-minute drive down the highway if driving conditions were good. On a snowy Christmas Eve, it might be an hour each way. Our Christmas Eve tradition was dead.

We halfheartedly attempted a tourtiere tradition for a couple of years, but it just wasn't the same. No one was quite as excited about eating pie (though it was still delicious), and anyone who knows my patience for rolling out piecrust can see that there was absolutely no way this was going to fly on the busiest night of the year. Last year, I dejectedly heated us all up a plate of leftovers from the fridge. Halle-freakin'-lujah.

Today I picked up my local weekly newspaper. When I opened it up, I nearly dropped it again. For there, on page 3, was a full-page story about a new couple in town, originally from Hong Kong, but long established here in Canada, who had bought up one of the many abandoned commercial properties in our tiny town, and were establishing a business. And I know I don't need to tell you the nature of that business. They're opening a CHINESE RESTAURANT right on the main strip! Opening day will be in early December! Our Christmas Eve dinner is back on!

Rosemary's Baby was caught somewhere between amusement and confusion when I started jumping up and down in my kitchen and screaming. My mother called after I'd posted on Facebook that I'd just heard amazing news, thinking the Captain was miraculously coming home for the holidays, or perhaps that I'd won the lottery. When I told her my actual thrilling news, she sounded puzzled at my excitement. To be honest, I was even a little thrown off at how my pulse raced when I read the news, and how close I was to crying real tears of joy over the prospect of a plate of chop suey and fried rice.

But I am someone who feels that things are not random, and that there are powers at work in our universe that transcend our little lives. I believe in looking for a higher reason for ordinary things. And now, after a year filled with tribulation, this one Christmas where the Captain won't be with me, that tradition we established all those years ago--before kids and pets and mortgage payments--has been handed back to me. I can't help but think that all those prayers and thoughts and all that positive energy that was sent in my direction was received in the form of this small sign. So I thank you all for this gift. I feel now that my Christmas will be merry after all.

And if it isn't, at least there'll be egg rolls.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas Cheer

The last week has been a little insane.

First my close friend emailed me to say her husband was in the ICU on a respirator with H1N1. Things got bad enough early last week that he had to be put on kidney dialysis. His kidney and liver function was so weak, it was looking very, very bad there for a few days. The good news is that he has now turned a corner and, while he has a very long way to go, he is most definitely on the road to recovery. He is a great guy, and for this good news I am so very thankful.

Then came Friday. I got a phone call in the afternoon from the Captain's uncle. I could hear in his voice that something wasn't right. He didn't beat about the bush. The Captain's father had had another heart attack, but this time he hadn't survived it. It took me about 8 hours to get in contact with the Captain, and because he was so far from base, the satellite communications were terrible. He could hear me, but all I could hear was a dead line. I yelled down the phone that he needed to call me until he got a better line, but four calls later, the situation hadn't improved and I had to just start yelling "YOUR FATHER HAS DIED!" down the line. This was HARDLY the way I had envisioned breaking the news to him.

The Captain is no wimp, and he's doing just fine, choosing to continue on as normal and get the job done...whatever "the job" actually is. I'm not really allowed to know much. But, rest assured, he hasn't gone off the deep end and run into enemy fire with his rifle, or collapsed in a heap on the ground, sobbing. And we are doing fine here too, though I can't help but feel now that I'd really just like to get 2009 behind me. Between Rosemary's Baby's autism diagnosis, the deployment, and now this, I can't help but think 2010 can only be better.

I'm working hard to get into the Christmas spirit here. The tree, as I've mentioned before, is up. Or down, depending on Rosemary's Baby's moods. But it's on display either way. And I have the 24/7 Christmas music station going. The traditional one, not the modern one. I managed about 15 minutes of the latter before Donnie Wahlberg stated "this is a very serious message..." and I had to resist the urge to punch something. When faced with the choice, I'll take Dean Martin over that junk any day.

But it's not completely working yet. I can see that this year, with the Captain missing from the festivities, I'm going to have to work extra hard to feel festive. So I've made some decisions.

Firstly, I am going to fill my own stocking with stuff. I was going to leave it empty, but I realize now that filling it will give me maybe just the slightest lift on Christmas morning. Even though none of it will be a surprise, and certainly none of it will be expensive, I figure the little bit of joy those few new little bits and pieces will give me is well worth the effort. And I also won't have to explain to the kids why Santa skipped me. Bonus!

Secondly, I'm celebrating American Thanksgiving. I'm not actually American, but my parents and most of my siblings are. And I have lived in the U.S. and I love the U.S. and all my bloggy American friends. So why wouldn't I celebrate with you all? I still have much to be thankful for, and it'll be helpful to have an official kickoff to the holiday season. I may have to have roast beef or ham instead of turkey at this late stage, but it'll be a celebration and a chance to give thanks for my many blessings, and that's what counts.

And lastly, I will embrace my inner Grinch. This isn't to say that I'll walk around scowling and making the holidays miserable for everyone else, but I'm also not going to pretend that things are ideal either. I did that after we had Rosemary's Baby diagnosed, before I felt like things were really going to be okay. I was like a supermodel, roughed up by her drug-addicted glam-rock boyfriend, pretending to the world that "Women's Shelter Victim" was the hot new look for young girls. Pathetic. The constant putting on a happy voice and telling everyone how positive I was feeling and how much hope I had for the future was bloody exhausting. I'm not adding that job to my already overwhelming holiday season, thank you very much! Besides, I'm pretty sure the miserable side of being alone (but with kids) at Christmas could make for some pretty funny blogging. Time will tell.

So, I'm not beat yet. This holiday just won't be the same without my husband here, but I think I can still probably salvage a little Christmas cheer. In the meantime...


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oh, Christmas Tree

I have just spent the last hour unwinding the lights on my pre-lit tree. I spent the hour before that trying (unsuccessfully) to find the loose connection that was stopping the big section of lights in the middle from working. At this point, my nice, fake, low-maintenance tree has taken about twice the work of a real one. And it isn't even decorated yet.

The tree arrived yesterday. I know I should've just taken it back, but once I had it together, the idea of taking it apart, packing it up again and lugging it back to the store with kids in tow was just too much to bear. Also, there is the slight possibility that the lighting malfunction may have had something to do with the fact that Rosemary's Baby, seeing a full-sized TREE in our living room, couldn't believe his luck and tried to climb it. Both he and the tree ended up in a horizontal position on the floor. So this one time, it may not be the fault of Sears. Though they still have a lot to answer for in the women's underwear department.

All of this would be less galling if I wasn't still feeling a bit under-the-weather. This cold has gone on long enough. But I've promised Firstborn a tree-trimming party tonight, complete with hot chocolate and marshmallows. I'm going to rest up today, and hopefully I'll be in the mood for it by then.

In the meantime, I can't believe it, but I have pine needles to sweep up.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things...

When we moved to this house, it was largely to get our dogs to stop barking. Living on base or in the city, they'd sit by the window watching for bikes, or scooters, or passing children. And when they saw those things, they'd go bananas, barking and jumping at the window. I guess in the absence of any real threat to their turf, they had to find alternatives.

We moved out here where there was nothing outside the window but a highway and a big farmer's field, and we heaved a HUGE sigh of relief that there was nothing left for the dogs to bark at. So, you can imagine our irritation when, in the first five minutes of living here, they switched from bikes and kids to local wildlife. A squirrel scampers past, and they bark. A few birds drop in looking for crumbs, and they bark. A fox or deer stops on the front lawn and practically poses for my camera, and Rusty and Jerome make like they're going to bust right through the front window, scaring our guest off before I can even get a shot. It's very annoying.

Then came haying season. You could look out into that far-off field and see the teeniest, tiniest distant piece of farm equipment chugging along, cutting or rolling or picking up the hay--whatever it is the farm equipment does (hey, I'm a city girl!). It was almost invisible to the naked eye, it was so far away. But guess who, with their limited canine vision, still managed to make it out and identify it as a threat? ALL SUMMER LONG!

So I got myself into a very bad habit. When the dogs started barking, I stopped bothering to check if there was an axe murderer on the lawn, and just started yelling "SHADDAP!!"

I'm not sure why I continued doing it because it has never, in fact, shut them up. But I did continue and it became a bit of a pattern. Which brings me to today.

Rosemary's Baby, as you may know, has autism. He has some very limited language but is fairly non-verbal. To help him with this (among other things), I send him to a couple of different preschool morning programs. Today, upon picking him up, I was told that he'd had a great day, and had made some new progress in that he'd started shaking his head when he didn't want something. I agreed that this was great progress for him and thanked his aide for letting me know. She replied cheerily with, "No problem. Oh, and he also told me to shut up."

My mouth literally dropped open in horror. I was mortified, and as I spluttered out my apologies, I knew I had no one but myself to blame. Because he doesn't talk or consistently respond to my directions, he seems younger than he is. Because of that, I treat him like a baby and I assume he doesn't understand things that he obviously does. Under all that funny behaviour and lack of verbal communication is a regular little 4 year-old taking it all in. And apparently, letting it all out as well.

I can only, at this point, accept it as a learning experience. No more yelling at the dogs, no spilling my drink and thoughtlessly saying "oh, #*%@!!" and assuming no one is listening from the other room. And if I want to put a positive spin on this, I could note that he did express something verbally, which is definitely a step in the right direction. But in future, even if there's a circus of wildlife parading around our driveway, and the dogs are pulling down the curtains in a frenzy of barking, I'm going to have to completely keep my cool. As it turns out, Rosemary's Baby is looking to me to set an example.

And if today's events are anything to go by, I should be scared to death.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

And Now I'm a Grammar Nazi

The Suburban Princess has posted a grammar lesson today on when to use "I" and "me" in a sentence. It has inspired me to offer up a lesson on my own grammatical pet peeve.

Rest assured, I am not reading all your blogs and even noticing errors, let alone mentally correcting them with my imaginary red pen. I don't expect bloggers to follow the rules of grammar, and I'd rather enjoy the blogs I love sans judgement. But if you're interested, I figure I'll (finally) make minimal use of the English degree I got 15 years ago and share this little tidbit.

The one grammar error I see more than any other in my local newspaper looks something like this:

"The people that cause the problems in our community don't want to fix them."

or this:

"Mr. Brown is the person that people should see if they want gardening information."

So here's a very basic, very simple rule to remember: if you're writing about a person, you want to use the word "who" (ie. "The people who cause the problems in our community..."). For anything else, use "that"( ie. "Bobby has a toy car that runs on batteries.").

The only area where this could possibly be confusing is if you're writing about a group or a team of people, in which case you'd go with "that" (ie. "The Greendale Jets were the basketball team that our school needed to beat this weekend.").

Basic? Absolutely. But I think it must be one of the most frequently ignored grammar rules in our language. I could get into essential and nonessential clauses next, but I think you've all been punished enough.

NOW, the first person who can read through this post and find a spelling or grammar error wins a Ferrari*! Go!

*Disclaimer: Ferrari is figment of blog author's feverish imagination. She has flu.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Drabby Pic and Recap

First, here's a drabby pic of me breathing a sigh of relief that my children have gone to bed:

'Nuff said!

Now, onto my Remembrance Day recap.

I fought with myself for a few days about whether or not I'd go to our small town's annual ceremony. As the only military family in town with someone currently serving overseas, it'd look good for me and the kids to show our faces. And there was about an 8% chance of us getting through it quietly and without incident. On the other hand, that meant that there was a 92% chance of Rosemary's Baby ruining everyone's moment of silence by breaking free and noisily climbing the town war memorial while I frantically stage-whispered at him to get down. So in the end, I decided it was just safer to stay home. Small townsfolk remember these things and talk about them for years.

But I wasn't going to sit around the house in my pyjamas, acting like it was just another day off. Firstborn and I had talked about the meaning of Remembrance Day, and I'd told him we'd be watching the big ceremony from Ottawa on TV and having a moment of silence at home to remember those who had fought to protect our freedom. So, at 10:00, I turned on the TV.

We don't have cable, and our local CBC station was recently shut down, so we are now down to one channel, CTV. I'd assumed all along that CTV would have the common decency to be recognizing this solemn occasion and would broadcast the ceremony happening in Ottawa, or at least one from the capital of our own province. I was wrong. CTV had apparently decided that they had a choice. They could take ONE LOUSY HOUR to recognize and remember the many selfless people who have sacrificed their lives and served our country in the last 110 years, or they could continue their proud legacy of crap and run today's episode of The View. I don't think I need to tell you which one they picked.

So, first I got up on my soapbox and lectured a bewildered Firstborn and Rosemary's Baby about the complete lack of respect for our veterans. Then, I stomped over to the computer, muttering something about Elizabeth Hasselbeck and her incessant chatter under my breath, and found the CBC website, where there was a live feed of the ceremony available for us to watch. 5 minutes of chopped-up internet viewing later, Firstborn declared the whole thing boring and wandered off to play lego. Rosemary's Baby had long since left the room to go press buttons on the washing machine, and I was left to try to pick Charles and Camilla out of the pixellated mess that was the video.

I watched the whole thing on principle, only stepping away a couple of times to make sure Rosemary's Baby hadn't gotten trapped in the dryer. The highlight for me was when the reporter talked to a 90 year-old World War II veteran in a wheelchair. He told her this would likely be his last time coming to Ottawa for the ceremony because he'd decided to sell his house and move into a retirement home. Adorable! I wanted to reach through the screen and give him a hug, and I spent the remainder of my morning blubbering.

Next year, I think braving the town Remembrance Day ceremony with my wicked children might actually be less infuriating!

War Stories

With apologies to old hippies everywhere...

When I was a kid, we did a Remembrance Day assembly at school every November 11th. It was always the same. Our well-meaning teachers, who had come of age right at the time when Woodstock, love-ins and LSD were in vogue, yanked out the sheet music to such hippie-tastic numbers as "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and put us to work celebrating the relative peace and freedom we continue to enjoy to this day.

I understand what they were trying to do, and I don't blame them for it. But I think those assemblies may have glossed over something very important. Remembrance Day is not about promoting peace. It's about remembering war.

On May 24, 1941, the HMS Hood was destroyed by the Bismarck at the Battle of the Denmark Strait. Some 1428 crew were killed, including my grandmother's little brother, a 21 year-old kid who, like so many others, had left the family farm to fight the good fight.

Every family has at least one story, from one point in history or another, that ends like this. So very many young lives were cut short to protect our freedom on this planet, and so very many others came home forever changed by what they'd experienced. The least we can do is to focus for one day a year on their sacrifices--ugly and unpleasant as those sacrifices were--and remember that they did that for us, and for our children and grandchildren.

Ten years ago, when I taught grade 3, I had my students ask their parents to tell them their family stories, and we made a wreath for Remembrance Day with the names of all our family members who had served in a war and what they did. I ended up hearing many stories. Every child had at least one name to put on that wreath, and I suspect some of them would never have had the stories passed down to them had it not been a homework project. I like to believe that in some way that that Remembrance Day project helped to keep those stories alive for one more generation.

This Remembrance Day, with his dad being overseas, Firstborn is showing some interest. My plan is to keep the frightening details of the Captain's work to myself for now. But I will also not be putting a daisy chain in my hair, donning a broomstick skirt, and hugging a rainbow as I croon "Blowin' In the Wind" either. Instead, I plan to tell my child the family story of my great uncle and the war in which he made the ultimate sacrifice. And I hope that one day, Firstborn will want to tell that same story to his own children.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Well kids, the time has come. Because I'm now so popular--or possibly because my profile picture is so sad and creepy--I'm starting to get a fair bit of spam offering to improve my sex life with Viagra and/or enlarge my penis. For the record, I'm happy with my penis just the way it is.

So, just so you don't think something's wrong when your comment doesn't immediately pop up, I'm enabling comment moderation. Bear with me here. This constitutes new and confusing technology for me and it may take a day or so to figure out. As long as you're not offering me sex toys, being blatantly abusive, or threatening terrorism, your comment will (eventually) appear.
William Shatner, this is your cue.

Comment Moderation...The Final Frontier...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Real vs Fake

The Captain has only been gone 2 weeks. Already I've committed the ultimate marital sin.

You hear stories about the things wives get up to while the husbands are serving overseas. The wife who moves a new guy in the minute her husband's gone. The wife who clears out the bank account and does a runner. The one who takes all his extra tour money and spends it on new shoes. I never thought I'd become one of those nuts who does something crazy while he's away. But I have.

Yesterday, I bought one of these:

Okay, fine. For the average marriage, this is not the ultimate sin. But when the Captain finds out, things may get a little heated.

You see, the Captain grew up with a real Christmas tree in his living room every year. It's a tradition that is important to him, and one on which he will not compromise. I grew up with a fake one, so the idea of a real tree doesn't bother me too much. I admit, I like the gorgeous, fresh pine smell that fills the room when you bring it in. But since I'm on my own this year, listening to Firstborn whine every waking minute he's not allowed to be on the computer, chasing Rosemary's Baby out of every forbidden cupboard in the house, and yelling at Rusty and Jerome every time they bark at a passing squirrel, that lovely smell is not worth the extra stress of having to go out, pick a tree, lug it home, saw off the bottom, set up the stand, water it daily, watch for fire hazards, untangle strings of lights, and lug it back out when we're done with it. Ordering a fake, pre-lit tree online that will end up costing about the equivalent of 2 real trees, and that comes with its own stand and no need for watering is well worth a lecture from my husband this time around.

The other advantage of a fake tree is that I can put it up as early as I like. I'm thinking I need as much extra Christmas cheer around here as I can get this year, and having my tree up and the carols going before November is over may be a good way to get me into the Christmas spirit. I figure it's worth a try.

And if it doesn't get me tap-dancing around the house singing White Christmas at the top of my lungs, at least I'm not sweeping up pine needles.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Stephanie's Group Blog Thursday today is about freebies. I actually have very little advice to give on getting stuff for free. I do go to and print up coupons, and I do enter contests and giveaways when I can, but that's about the extent of me finding things for free. What actually made me want to post when I saw Stephanie's blog today was that she talked about her credit card rewards. And I have some very strong opinions (who ME?!) on credit cards.

When the Captain and I graduated from university and headed cross-country to find our fortunes, we were in some debt. Certainly not the kind of debt a lot of people come out of school with these days, but for two out-of-work kids with rent to pay, the $30,000 or so we did owe was overwhelming and caused us huge amounts of worry. So, when we both got good jobs that paid better than anything we'd ever had before, we set about the task of paying off that debt and acquiring some savings for the future. It was the best thing we could've done.

We lived like college students on his income, and used mine to pay down the debt and build up that nest egg. And when the credit cards and student loans were paid off, it was like a huge weight had been lifted. We rarely argued about money, and we rarely do now, and I think that is probably the biggest gift in all of this. So many marriages are bogged down with that extra stress, and frankly, marriage can be hard enough without it.

So if I was to be asked for advice on this (because giving out unwanted advice is not something anyone should get in the habit of, and I've also never dealt with $200,000 in student loans like many of you out there have, so I'm no expert on serious crippling debt), I'd tell anyone coming out of school to keep living poor, and pay down those debts as best you can. In the end, you'll appreciate the inner peace more than you would the fancy car or the leather furniture that credit card can get you.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I've Got This Theory About Muppets...

Today being the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street, I've decided to share with you an insane little theory I've been working on for years. Let's see if you can figure out what it is.

When I was a wee thing, I loved Bert. Bert was my favourite of all the muppets. His bottle cap collection was so awesome. And all those paper clips! WHO has that many paper clips? The answer, some 30 years later, is ME! I'm an organization nerd. I like order, and I cannot relax in my own living room if it's a mess. I'm anal. I'm bossy. I'm cranky. I'm...Bert.

Sister #1 is just a year younger than me. When we were little, she liked the Count. She ended up being the more academically inclined of the two of us, and she grew up to become an actuary, which means she has a very intricate understanding of the world of finance. She doesn't live in a creepy castle with bats (though that would be cool), and she doesn't wear a black cape, but she might have a widow's peak if I pulled her hair back (hmmm...note to self: yank sister's hair back during next visit). But she's great with numbers, and that's got to count for something. Har-dee-har-har.

Do you see what I'm getting at? There seems to be a corelation between the muppets we liked and the people we became. Did the muppets we identified with as children shape who we are now? Or were we already those people even way back then, and that's why we liked who we did? Or, is it just a coincidence?

Did anyone else out there like a muppet they ended up emulating in adult life? I think I may have finally found my perfect PhD thesis here...