Friday, December 2, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -- Inspired by SouleMama






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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NaBloPoMo vs. NaNoWriMo

Well, friends, it's the last day of November and I'm typing this, so I guess I can officially say I completed my first NaBloPoMo!  (That's National Blog Posting Month, for those unaware, and involves writing a new blog post every day for a month.)  Last night I mentioned to my  husband, The Vulcan, that I only had one more post and he said, "And then you'll never do this again..."  He's been with me through NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a couple of times and was really hoping I'd never take on one of these writing marathons again.  Then I heard about this blogging challenge and...

NaNoWriMo, which I've probably started about half a dozen times and completely two or three times, takes place every November.  The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in that month.  It's meant to be a freeing exercise, with quality thrown over for quantity.  They just want you to write.  It always sounds easy.  After all, if the writing doesn't have to be good, if the story doesn't have to make sense, it should be a piece of cake, right?  Nope.  It's actually horribly hard.  Believe me, I didn't aim for quality.  I literally put down any long, meandering thoughts that entered my brain and just tried to keep my fingers moving.  It was hard, I tell you.  That 50,000 word goal breaks down to just about 1,300 words a day.  That's a lotta words.  If you don't believe me, type some random thoughts in a Word document and then have it count them.  What you thought were thousands will probably turn out to be 135.  Imagine trying 1,300 words every day for a month.  Did I mention it's hard?

What about NaBloPoMo?  Well, I have to say writing 30 days straight is not easy either.  Unlike NaNoWriMo I actually do strive for at least a little bit of quality in my blog.  They may be overly wordy posts, full of thoughts and opinions no one cares about, but I do at least attempt proper grammar and spelling.  It was impossible to merely sit and let the fingers do the talking and not reread what I'd already gotten down.  While blog posts are much shorter than the 1,300 words a day, they also require tinkering to make them readable and maybe even occasionally enjoyable for the audience.  They are also full of little time-consuming bits like photos and hyperlinks and such.  The advantage was that my subject could change every day, unlike a novel where I just had to pick up the story and keep going.  The disadvantage was that I often ran out of things to say.  Yes, I could have resorted to that post about cat pee that I threatened on day one.  I'm a little amazed I didn't have to.  One night I had a blinding headache and could barely see straight, let alone write something worthwhile.  That's when a craving for sweet potatoes turned into a quick and easy blog post with recipe.  That, my friends, is called pulling something out of your ass.  It's also a basic strategy for getting through NaBloPoMo.

Which ultimately is harder then?  NaNoWriMo, hands down.  I will say, however, that both were challenging and both really did feel like marathons.  They both required stamina and pacing and lots of caffeine.  The writer inevitably hits the wall, that moment when she feels she can't say anything more, can't type one more sentence, wants to have a life again.  The choice is either to throw in the towel (as I did with NaNoWriMo a few years) or push ahead and just keep the fingers running.  In 2011, I can proudly say I did the latter.

So, now what?  Well, I haven't put up my Christmas decorations yet except for the tree, there's a two inch layer of dust on my piano, and no one has any clean underwear.  I guess I'm going back to the real world.  Good-bye NaBloPoMo...until next year.


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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

It's amazing Foghorn is still breathing air.  Sunday evening The Professor was finishing up some homework at the dining room table when he called me in.  There right at his place, scratched into the top of the wood, were the words "Go Away" and his name.  There was no doubt about who did it.  Mind you, this is a very, very old table that had belonged to my grandmother.  To say I was enraged would be an understatement.  (In fact, Uncle Chester wrote about it on her blog that night here and told me, "I didn't know what I was going to write about until I saw your e-mail.")

Foghorn was sent to her room where I ranted and raved and threatened with all manner of bodily harm.  Then her father got home from a McDonald's run and did likewise.  So, what punishment fits this particular crime in my world?  Well, the one I really wanted would get me arrested.  (What happened to the good old days when you could literally beat sense into a child?)  As a substitute, I started with unplugging her computer, so no video games, Netflix watching, or looking up things on Google.  I deleted all the episodes of her favorite show, Arthur, from the dvr and cancelled all the scheduled recordings for the week.  I allowed her to watch a little t.v. Monday night, but only the show of her brother's choosing.  And then there are the chores.  No, I am not using this as an excuse to get some of my housework done for me (although I am terribly behind because of NaBloPoMo).  I figure a little sweat might make the event more memorable.

Shredding old bills, under adult supervision.  (I don't trust
her not to put her tongue in the thing.)

Vacuuming all the pet hair off the stairs.

Moving all her books from the magazine holders in the family room
to the shelves in her room.  (I found out the hard way I need to put my
antique magazines up high.  St. Jimmi shredded poor Farrah
Fawcett in a cosmetics ad circa 1972.)

Cleaning all the kitchen cabinets with rags wet with
Murphy's Oil Soap.

Mopping up the doogy foot prints.  (Really, will this
rain ever end here?)

She would have had more chores, but I had to take The Professor to swimming class and wasn't home to supervise.  Instead she went to her room and did her entire weekly homework packet.  There will be more work for her today...and tomorrow...

I found it rather amusing that when she came downstairs this morning, right after the dogs had come in from the yard, she let out a howl and complained about the muddy footprints on her clean floors.  Yep, sure is terrible when someone messes up something you just cleaned.  Yep, wouldn't know nothing about that myself...

I would like to think she learned her lesson, at least about doing something this destructive.  I told a wide-eyed Professor if he ever wondered what they could do to push me to my absolutely limit, this was it.  And he said, "Now that I know we're not supposed to write on the table, I'll never do it."  As if no one thought it was a problem before.  Grrrrrr....

Sunday evening she came to me with a colored heart she had made.  On the back it said, "I'm really sorry.  I'll fix it."  Reading that, a person might think Foghorn would be suitably subdued for a couple days.  Not quite.  As I was getting ready to leave for swimming class and she was on a chair polishing cabinets, she noticed I had put on a new bright red lipstick I had purchased at the store that day.  (I was in the mood for Christmas red lips, for some reason.)  Now, I normally wander around here looking like something raised by wolves, so I think she was surprised.  She put her hands on her hips and said, "Why are you wearing lipstick?  Are you dating?  Am I gonna have a new father?"  She skipped half a beat and then said, "If so, carry on."


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Monday, November 28, 2011

INVISIBLE CHILDREN

Sometimes I worry about The Professor.  He inherited both his parents' tendencies to be introverted and antisocial.  He often views the world and its inhabitants with disgust.  He's known for his occasional misanthropic ramblings, especially when he hears of a person abusing animals or destroying the environment.  Then there are the moments when my heart swells with pride and I think I might not be raising a sociopath after all.  One of those moments came a few weeks ago when The Professor saw a program at school by the group Invisible Children.

For the past year, The Professor has talked about wanting to go to Africa some day and dreamily described the beautiful landscape.  The Invisible Children program shook him.  He learned of Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army who are trying to overthrow the government in Uganda.  To that end, they have abducted children, turning them into soldiers, and killed thousands of civilians.  In 2001 they were officially declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. Patriot Act.  The Professor explained to me his distress saying, "I thought Africa was this perfect place."  It broke my heart that the poor kid had his illusion shattered, especially since it was surprising to me that the illusion still existed for him at age 12.

He decided to set up a fundraising page on the Invisible Children website and set a goal of getting $150 in donations.  I thought that was a little ambitious, but he was determined.  Thanks to the generosity of family and friends, he blew past that milestone and raised $200 in just a couple of weeks.  This past weekend he received a large envelope in the mail from Invisible Children.  Inside was a certificate congratulating him on becoming a member of "The Benjamins Club", someone who has raised more than $100.  In addition there was a lovely reed bracelet from Africa, which now sits proudly on top of his desk in his room.  (Other bracelets and their stories can be seen here.)

Please take a moment and read the story of the war in Uganda and its effect on children here.  And if you feel inclined, please make a donation through The Professor's fundraising page below.  This kind of children-helping-children attitude gives me hope for the future.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

CHRISTMAS CHARITY CRAFTING

Today my mother, sister, and I took some of our handiwork to one of my favorite charities -- The League for Animal Welfare in Batavia, Ohio.  (Recycled Doggies has to get the #1 spot in my heart, for giving us St. Jimmi, but they both do tremendous work.)  For years now we've been donating craft items for the sale table at the annual Christmas party.  I must confess that I dropped the ball this year.  Usually I have at least a dozen little cross-stitch items that they can sell cheaply as stocking stuffers.  Because of my new-found knitting addiction, I only managed five items.  Luckily my mother and sister picked up the slack.

My mother made three of her small organizing totes in cat or dog fabric.  (I received one for Sweetest Day in a pattern of Airstream trailers.  Heaven...)  I use mine by my bedside to hold my iPod, lip balm, tissues, etc., all in handy little interior pockets.







My sister (The Inmates' Uncle Chester) provided handcrafted wire spiral bracelets with dog or cat charms.



She also donated handmade lever back earrings with beads and animal charms.  Other homemade-y goodness from Chester can be found in her Etsy shop here.



And then my donation, rather paltry this year.  I always do cross-stitch items and managed two holiday cards with needlework inserts, two cat-themed bookmarks, and a Scottie dog Christmas hand towel.  I swear in 2012 I'm gonna do one item a month so that I'm sure to have a nice group of items come November.


The Inmates always enjoy going to the League and seeing the animals.  We can only say "hi" to the dogs through glass, but we are free to wander in and play with kitties in the cat rooms.


Ack!  Not the Dooney!  That cat was loving
Grandma's purse strap.

 



I made the mistake of telling Foghorn that I've had my eye on a blue-tick coon hound mix named "Confetti" who looks a lot like our St. Jimmi and I want to adopt her so I'll have a set of bookends.  That led to Foghorn promising me everything under the sun if I'd take Confetti home today.  She doesn't realize that, despite my stern voice and practical arguments, I'm always dying to bring a new addition home and it was all I could do not to start filling out paperwork.  We have two cats and two dogs as it is.  One more critter, on top of the Inmates, would push The Vulcan over the edge.  (It might actually be fun to watch his breakdown.  Yet another reason to consider that dog...)


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Friday, November 25, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. -- Inspired by SouleMama




Yes, I know.  This post should have been put up yesterday, as I always do my Wordless Friday thing on...well...Friday.  I got completely confused on what day of the week it was and missed Friday completely.  I blame it on the L-Tryptophan.  Anyway, having already counted my blessings, I will stay almost wordless and simply give you the photo of two turkeys...and a turkey.



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Thursday, November 24, 2011

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY 2011

Like many Americans, I'm not feeling too chummy toward big business right now.  As a result I was thrilled to hear about Small Business Saturday.  The idea is to fuel the economy by patronizing local, small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Given my choice I'd much rather line the pockets of an individual with half  a dozen employees than help provide some CEO with a $2 million bonus.

We'll be helping the economy in Milford, Ohio today when we attend the small town's Christmas walk and hit all the little shops on the main street.  Below are some of my other favorite Ohio-area small businesses:

Amethyst Book Store, Symmes Township, Ohio:  Wonderful little store full of New Age-y goodness like crystals, incense, jewelry, and meditation tapes.  The Professor is particularly fond of the Happy Hotei he got during Camp Gonnawanna a couple years ago.   They also offer psychic readings, if that's your sort of thing.  (It used to be mine, but now I've decided I don't want to know what lies in my future.  I'm afraid to ask.)  They are located at 11914 Montgomery Rd.  Although their MySpace page seems to be outdated, you can see some shots of the interior here.




Aglamesis Bros. Ice Cream and Candy, Cincinnati and Montgomery, Ohio:  A local favorite, especially in my family, they have what I consider Cincinnati's best ice cream, as well as incredible candy.  I'm partial to the Oakley location, which still has an old fashioned soda fountain charm to it.  There is also a Montgomery location.  More information can be found on their website here.




Roving Acres Farm, Pierpont, Ohio:  Yes, people I'm sure are sick of me rambling on about how wonderful their yarn is, but the fact is it's fabulous.  It's one of those small, family-owned farms that I wish were more plentiful.  They're wonderful to work with and produce gorgeous, high quality yarn.  You can check out their website here and their Etsy shop here.











Young's Dairy, Yellow Springs, Ohio:  While I stand by my conviction that Aglamesis is Cincinnati's best ice cream, this small dairy about 65 miles northeast of downtown could give them a run for the money.  Rich, delicious ice cream in a wonderful country location, complete with goats to be fed and cows you can personally thank for the milk.  They also have a restaurant and miniature golf course and Young's was the location for this past fall's Wool Gathering.  Check out their website here.






American Strength Karate, Loveland, Ohio:  If you're looking for a great place to learn karate in the Cincinnati area, you should definitely try American Strength Karate in Loveland.  Shihan Reuben James has been involved with karate for over 30 years.  He's an excellent teacher, patient with his students but accepting nothing less than each person's best.  He's also an incredibly nice man.  The Professor earned his blue belt earlier this year.  More information can be found at his website here.



The Professor's hamburger cake from 2010.
Servatii Pastry Shop & Deli, Cincinnati, Ohio:  With 13 locations, it's one of the larger of my favorite small businesses.  We've been buying our birthday cakes from Servatti's since I was about six years old and for my money they can't be beat.  They have a wide selection of cakes, pastries, and bread, all equally delicious.  And they can create just about any kind of cake you can imagine.  They've done some custom cakes for me with beautiful results.  Check out their website here.






NudgeryFaire on Etsy:  In the interests of full disclosure I will say that this is my sister's Etsy shop, but The Inmates' Uncle Chester also happens to produce really cool, unique merchandise.  In fact, she spent Thanksgiving making me a custom spiral bracelet with beads and purse charms.  She has frequent sales, including one for Black Friday (15% off with code:  NDGBF11), so check her out here.




What are some of your favorite small businesses or small Internet shops?  Please share in the comments.  And please shop small businesses this Saturday!



















GIVING THANKS



THE TOP TEN THINGS I'M GRATEFUL FOR IN 2011:

  1. With the exception of Foghorn's outpatient visit, no one went to the hospital this year.  When you've spent as much time in the antiseptic healthcare kingdom as we have in the last few years, that's truly something to be thankful for.  (I can hear my mother and sister now screaming, "Don't jinx it!  Don't jinx it!")
  2. Perfect weather, perfect outcome, perfect day at Wrigley Field.  (Go Cubs!)
  3. A new minivan with doors that actually open without being kicked.
  4. The adoption of our beloved St. Jimmi (even she does have a penchant for chewing my antique books).
  5. My mother getting over her bronchitis/pneumonia well enough to cook Thanksgiving dinner.  My sister and I in the kitchen trying to put it together would be have been too tragic for words.
  6. A kick-ass Paul McCartney concert.
  7. A kick-ass David Cassidy concert, during which my beloved took my hand.  (And I don't care what those other b*tches thought, he liked me best.)
  8. My newly-acquired obsession for knitting.
  9. Discovering Mad Men.  (I know, I'm several years late to the party, but I quickly made up for it by buying all the seasons on dvd.).  Many happy hours spent with knitting in my lap, licking the television screen admiring Jon Hamm's acting.
  10. My fabulous family and friends who were there for me as usual.  (I'll even include The Vulcan in this -- he's getting me a new purse for Christmas.)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!






Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GIVING THE TREE THE TRIM

Ever since my oldest child was born, my sister has come over on Tuesday nights.  Originally it was so I could get a little rest and a break from a colic-prone Professor.  Later it became a couple hours to get something done uninterrupted or get some alone-time, whichever was most needed.  Despite the fact that my youngest is now eight (and that Chester adds as much to the chaos as she does to alleviate it), she still arrives dutifully every Tuesday evening.  And for the last 12 years, on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, she's helped put up the tree.  Yes, it's a little early, but as you'll see the quality of my live-in help is questionable, so I'll take any able-bodied person I can get.

Of course, it wouldn't be tree-trimming without Christmas music.  As I mentioned yesterday, there are a number of tunes that make Chester writhe in pain, so we started with those...


video


Foghorn "helped" by hanging ornaments off her pants,
ensuring that the decorating process would take
twice as long.

Yeah, The Vulcan refused to touch those ornaments.




The Vulcan arrived just in time, as usual -- after the tree
had been hauled in from the garage, assembled, and
half the ornaments hung.


It didn't take long for The Inmates to become tired
and they began the first of their innumerable
breaks.


It's a long process with three two kids in the house.


Oinkers as the tree topper.


Poor St. Jimmi looked unnerved during the whole event, as
if she couldn't figure out what was happening.  Later she got a
hair up her ass and after rolling on the floor, raced through the house
at top speed.  She managed to crack me on the calf with her shoulder
as she zoomed by, nearly knocking me into the tree and leaving
bruises and a noticeable lump that is still there this morning.


Chester finally lost her sense of humor.


The Professor puts on the finishing touch.


Foghorn got the honor of turning on the lights, but during
the countdown Chester cracked her knee on the cat
perch concealed behind the curtain.  A few minutes later she
nearly fell backwards into the glass door of my antique china cabinet.


Ready for presents!
The whole experience was just exhausting.



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Monday, November 21, 2011

THE TOP FIVE MOST WONDERFULLY ANNOYING CHRISTMAS SONGS

The Inmates' beloved Uncle Chester is not one to keep her feelings under wraps.  Therefore, when one of her most-despised Christmas songs comes on the radio (or on the cd I specially burned for her), her discomfort is obvious.  She usually lets out a howl, her face contorts, and she grabs the sides of her head.  This delights The Inmates no end and ensures that they will torture her with spontaneous renditions of her most-loathed tunes every few minutes for the entire month leading up to Christmas.  My sister has so many hated songs, in fact, that it was hard to narrow it down.  I think she will agree, though, that these are the ones most likely to send her into a frothing-at-the-mouth fit.

1.  "Poppa Santa Claus" -- Old Bing Crosby outdid himself on this one.  And since it's almost December, soon The Inmates' cheery little voices will ring out with Chester's favorite line:  "And when the circus clown put on a lady's gown, they laughed so hard the chandelier fell down."




2. "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" -- The most atrocious little girl voice in the world, but who wouldn't love a hippo in her Christmas stocking?  The Inmates zero in on Chester's hatred of the way she says "hippopotamus-us-es."



3.  "Santa's Got an Airplane" - There could actually be a whole Beach Boys sub-category for Chester.  She hates "The Little St. Nick" and she hates "Santa's Beard" (especially when Mike Love's nasally voice sings "you're not really Santa Claus...")  For sheer torture value, though, the winner is "Santa's Got An Airplane" with the particularly annoying (to her) "loop-de-loop flip-flop, Santa's got an airplane..."



4.  "That Holiday Feeling" - Who the hell could find fault with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme?  I'm not sure which line bothers Chester the most.  It's probably either "you think you're such a smarty, come on let's have a party" or "when Santa Claus begins his flight, I hope he gets a flat tonight."  (The sheer lack of logic in the last line drives Chester crazy.  A flat what?)



5.  "Jingle Bells" - You would think "Old Blue Eyes" could do no wrong...  Well, not in Chester's eyes.  Of course, she's not fond of Frankie Baby to start with, so it's not a shock she loathes many of his Christmas songs.  This one is at the top of her list, though, and The Inmates know it.  Pretty soon they'll be leaning close to her ear and crooning, "I love those J-I-N-G-L-E bells...BONG!"




I could have easily made a top 10 list for Chester.  After all, there's no Partridge Family or Bobby Sherman on here.  I don't even have a track from The Ruth Lyons Christmas cd, with Bob Braun doing "Sing a Song of Christmas."  I don't know....I might just have to do a part two for this blog post...













I HEART BUILD-A-BEAR WORKSHOP

About five years ago, my sister gave me one of the most ridiculously awesome (or awesomely ridiculous) gifts ever.  I received a pink faux suede jacket with pink leopard trim and matching hat.  Oh, did I mention it was sized to fit a critter from Build-A-Bear Workshop?  Tucked in with the outfit was a gift certificate that would buy me any stuffed animal of my choice.  I was delighted.  I've always been fonder of stuffed animals than is normal and my mania has not diminished with age.  I was immediately drawn to a lovely little leopard doll, christened "Dooney" (for reasons obvious to anyone who ever reads my blog).

A few months later it was the Christmas season and The Inmates were happily torturing Uncle Chester with her least favorite Christmas song -- "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."  It's one of those annoying songs that makes Chester writhe in agony, so The Inmates spend most of December serenading her with it.  She thought it would be fun to really get each a hippopotamus for Christmas, so off we went to Build-A-Bear Workshop.

In the years since we've bought dozens of outfits and I acquired a male black bear to go with Dooney (named, of course, "Bourke").  They reside permanently in front of the fireplace and have become my favorite seasonal decor item.  They're set for Valentine's Day, Fourth of July, Christmas, Thanksgiving.  There are bikinis and wet suits and skiing outfits with gear.  The Professor rarely gives his hippo, Harold, a glance these days.  Foghorn occasionally gets her hippo, Nancy, down to play, but just as often she takes off with Dooney and I have to race behind her with threats of bodily harm if she damages my leopard.

I'm ashamed to say I have not gotten them dressed for Thanksgiving yet.  I don't know what's wrong with me.  It just won't be a holiday until my furry friends are dressed up as pilgrims and Native Americans.  In the meantime, I give you a taste of the Build-A-Bear freak show in my home.  Enjoy.

We're not actually Jewish, but my son really likes the idea
of celebrating Hanukkah.  Every year we have a menorah and how
could I resist dressing Bourke up in a yarmulke?



Pilgrim Harold.

Dooney decked out in New Year's finery, Harold as
Santa (with beard, no less), and an angelic Nancy. 
(Dooney recycled the same outfit for the royal wedding
in April.  She looked divine with the addition of a
mini tiara.)

Get out the green beer!

Skateboarder dude.

Dooney in her 4th of July get-up along side (what else?)
two Dooney bags from our visit to the Williamsburg
Dooney and Bourke outlet.


Nancy and Harold hanging at the beach.

Foghorn with a vacationing Dooney
in her grass skirt, lei, and coconut boobs.


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