Thursday, December 29, 2005

PUNKED at Christmas...

As a kid, my Christmases were lean: the orange in the toe of my Christmas stocking a coveted treasure each year. And for many reasons when I was a kid, Christmas was a time of tension and anxiety for my family. That’s my excuse, as an adult, for viewing Christmas as one of the best opportunities all year to exercise my revenge on the past; a time to lavish gifts, affection and fun on friends and family. At Christmas, less is not more, more is more, and bah, humbug to everyone who thinks this somehow makes Christmas commercial. Quantity has always been appealing, but the gifts can be modest, and so Christmas has always been a time when I gave my kids gift-wrapped packages of pajamas, socks and mittens in addition to toys, books, and games.

When my kids were still young, we began writing clues on the tags. Originally, the clues were helpful (e.g., “Merry Christmas, Christo - the cat’s ______s” was the clue for a pair of pajamas). But eventually, we realized that it was even more fun to have the clues either obscure (“What rhymes with devotion but is not a love potion and didn’t come from the ocean” - scented lotion...) or downright misleading (“Merry Christmas, Mike - you don’t think earmuffs are dorky, do you?” for a video game he’d been coveting).

Christmas Eve has always found us sitting in front of the fireplace, passing out gifts, one at a time, and reading clues and trying to guess what’s in the package before it’s opened. We always begin with the youngest and go on up through the oldest. It takes hours to open all the gifts in this way, but even after getting divorced I’ve kept up this tradition, because it’s a lot of fun.

Somewhere along the way, long before the show, "You've been punked", we began coming up with one “punked” gift each year. I think it began the year that Alex wanted a Swatch wristwatch, and didn’t expect to get it. That year, I got her a Swatch guard to put on her regular watch. She accepted this modest gift with remarkable grace. A couple of hours later, after every gift had been opened, I suddenly “remembered” a gift still stashed in my bedroom closet - the coveted Swatch.

We all enjoyed her reaction so much that it became a tradition for us to punk an immediate family member each Christmas. The punked gift always has an element of spontaneity, in that the punking is never consciously assigned or rotated among family members, it just evolves, depending on circumstances. One year, as the punked gift, I gave Christopher a magician’s straight jacket...but that’s another story.

This year, with everyone grown, for the first time ever we drew names. To be accurate, we drew names for everyone except Xander, who at age 3 still has many years ahead of him of hauling in a full load of loot each Christmas in this family. Still, everyone was more than a little concerned about how it would all work; going from hours of opening gifts on Christmas Eve to opening just one or two gifts per person. This year, there were 10 of us at my house on Christmas Eve: Anthony, me, Alex, her fiancĂ© Chris, Katharine, Brenden, Xander, Melanie (Brenden’s mom), Mike, and Christopher. Katharine had issued an evite for the drawing, so none of us knew whose names anyone other than ourselves had drawn.

Nevertheless, shortly after I returned from Chicago, where I’d spent Thanksgiving with Alex and Chris, Katharine and Mike contacted me and told me they’d drawn Chris and Alex’s names and needed gift suggestions for them. I suggested Lyric Opera tickets, as I knew that was a luxury Alex and Chris would enjoy that simply isn’t in their graduate student budget.

Kath and Mike both agreed it was a good idea, and here is where the fun began. Katharine is younger than Alex by almost 3 years, and there’s always been a certain amount of sibling rivalry between the two, with Katharine feeling that Alex discounts many of her ideas in an older/younger sibling sort of way. Given that history, Katharine said that she wanted to think up bogus tickets to something awful, with the idea that Alex and Chris would think it was Katharine’s flawed idea of a good time. Mike and I loved the idea, and proceeded to let it stew in the back of our minds.

A couple of nights before Alex and Chris flew into town, I met Kath and Mike for a quick bite to eat. “I’ve got an idea for an AWFUL show,” I said. In response to Katharine’s, “What is it?” I said, “Hamlet on Ice.” :) Understand, there is no such show, and probably for very good reason. Kath came up with the idea of saying she’d heard about the show by listening to the end of a review on NPR (“Dunno whether they thought it was good or bad, because I tuned in too late, but they reviewed it!”). We also came up with the idea that the show was conceived when a group of actors who’d been performing Hamlet in Denmark went ice skating one night, after the show, and decided it would be a natural idea to perform Hamlet on ice. It sounded believable and incredibly awful. Katharine was immediately having fun punning:
“Something’s rotten in the SKATE of Denmark”.

Mike spent all day Christmas Eve designing and producing the bogus tickets. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a visual arts major at UA. He issued the tickets for Allstate Arena, a real arena north of O’Hare airport in Chicago. He dated the tickets for an incredibly inconvenient 7 PM Wednesday night performance. Among other things, Alex tutors on Wednesdays, and this meant she’d not only have to miss tutoring (which is frowned upon) but she’d have to come up with a substitute tutor (no easy task). He priced the bogus tickets at $58.00 each (slightly over our limit of $50 per person) and issued them not only for separate seats, but for separate ROWS (thank you, Sara, for reminding Mike to do that). Katharine bought card stock on which to print the tickets, and she also bought a perforating machine at Staples, who questioned the legality of what we were doing (but sold Kath the perforating machine, nevertheless).

The tickets look and feel like real tickets. Kath, Brenden, Mike and I were the only people who knew these tickets were bogus. Alex and Chris were nothing short of amazed when they opened the envelope containing them. They thanked Kath and Mike profusely, and insisted they were thrilled with receiving tickets to Hamlet on Ice on a Wednesday night at an arena so far from their apartment that they’d have to leave by 4:00 to get there by 7:00, only to be sitting three rows and several seats apart from each other. Kath pouted, “I don’t think you really like them!” and they protested, “No, we DO, it’s just that we’ve never heard of Hamlet on Ice...” They did have to take a cigarette break by themselves on the patio to process this “gift”.

As usual, gift opening continued in an orderly fashion for another 45 minutes or so, at which time Kath, Mike and I descended upon Alex and Chris and exclaimed loudly: “Merry Christmas! You’ve been PUNKED!” and proceeded to give them the real tickets:

Two seats, together, to a Friday night Lyric Opera performance
of Verdi's Rigoletto.

They were incredulous. Everyone was incredulous. The bar’s been raised very high this year, and in spite of the big change in the number of gifts, once again, a good time was had by all. Merry Christmas everyone, and I hope you all had as happy a Christmas as I did.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Patrick's Saturday Six, Episode 87

1. You're producing a school program for the holidays and you learn that there will be major objections if you include in your musical selections the traditional Christmas hymns that reference the "true meaning of Christmas." Assuming that there are secular tunes (like "Frosty the Snowman") already included in the program, what do you do with the hymns? Do you allow them to go as is, do you use the melody and rewrite the words, do you include as many pieces of music from other religions as possible, or do you remove all but the secular songs? I’d remove all but the secular songs.

2. What percentage of your Christmas shopping is done at this point? When do you expect to have it finished if you haven't already finished? We’ve drawn names this year, and I still have to buy the present for the person whose name I’ve drawn, and I still need to shop for Xander. I expect to finish up next weekend.

3. What was your favorite board game to play as a kid? Is it still your favorite now? I loved Monopoly; my favorite these days is Scrabble.

4. Take this quiz: What famous artist should paint your portrait?
Salvador Dali should paint my portrait. I love to think about the world in a different way then everyone else. I’m very ambitious, and I like strange things. I am curious about everything and love to learn.

5. How accurate is this quiz's description of you? Very accurate!

6. If you could go back in time and have one more picture taken with a deceased loved one, who would you select and why? I’d select my mother, because the only photo I have of just the two of us is the snapshot above from when I was 5 years old.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The 5er

1. Where is the furthest you have traveled for Christmas and will you be traveling this year?
One year when the girls were little, we traveled 325 miles to my parent's house a couple of weeks before Christmas. That's the furthest we've ever traveled at Christmas, but this year, Alex and her fiance, Chris, will fly here for Christmas, a journey of a little over 1000 miles for them, and Mike will fly in from Tucson...dunno the exact mileage, but it's a LONG way away.

2. Do you celebrate any other holiday this month? Kwanza? Chanukah? Festivus? Christmas is the only holiday we celebrate in December (thank goodness)!

3. Who is the hardest person to shop for on your Christmas list and why do you think they are so hard to buy for? I shop year 'round, so this doesn't really apply.

4. How old were you when you stopped believing in Santa? Extra credit if you have a picture of you with Santa! What do you mean, stopped believing in Santa? What!?!? What kind of kiljoy are you, anyway? Do you mean to imply that Santa doesn't exist? :) I was 5 when I started thinking that there was no way that Santa could make all those stops in one night. Quite the little scientist, I pretended to be asleep when Mom checked on me so I could tiptoe downstairs to check out my theory. Yep, I was correct; Santa wasn't in the kitchen putting an orange in the toe of my stocking, but Mom and Dad were. I don't have any pics of myself with Santa, but I'm posting two pics of my kids with Santa: one of Alex & Katharine with Santa at Marshall Field's in Chicago, circa 1981, and one of Mike & Chris with Santa at Northpark in Dallas, circa 1989. Please note both Santas have real beards. I have a thing about that.

5. Fill in the blank; For me Christmas just wouldn't be the same without _______? My family. I can't imagine a Christmas without them, and I feel sad thinking of people who don't have family to be with at Christmas.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

just a few beautiful pics

The fruit and nuts are soaking in brandy, and as it's a beautiful day here, I went outside with my camera. Here's what I saw...

I've planted pots of pansies on my front and back patios. The first pic, of a big blue pansy, is from one of those pots. When I was a kid, in the frozen north, my grandmother had beds of pansies around her house in the summertime. Here in Texas, pansies are winter flowers.

Although we got off to a slow start, this has been one of the most beautiful years for fall color in Texas that I can remember in over 20 years here. Even the oaks are turning a glorious red (that's the second pic), and the crepe myrtle leaves are red and orange (the third pic). I had discarded that knock-your-socks-off magenta geranium about 6 weeks ago. I set it out, in it's pot, in one of my flower beds, thinking it would go dormant. Geraniums don't like the heat of Texas summers, and it was yellow and almost dead when I set it aside. I guess it's showed me that it can make a comeback; look at that bloom! What a beautiful day.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

I love fruitcake. Well, not any commercially baked fruitcake, not ever, not under any circumstances, but...I have an old family recipe, a Southern recipe that's close to a hundred years old. I've made it many times, and it's delicious: a dense cake fragrant with various spices (cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg), and filled with currants and raisins, assorted dried fruits, pecans, and of course...brandy...LOTS of brandy. I'm going to start making it today. The recipe begins by mixing the dried fruits and pecans and soaking them in brandy overnight. How could a recipe that begins like that be anything but good? Tomorrow, I'll add the dry ingredients and then bake it, slowly, for hours. After it cools, I'll put it in a tightly closed tin, where it will stay, undisturbed except to be basted once a week with more brandy, until Christmas Day. Then I'll open the tin, baste the cake once more with brandy, and cut thin slices that I'll serve with a generous dollop of chantilly....

Mmmmmmmmm...I can't wait.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

a final burst of fall color

I was out running errands this afternoon and spotted this glorious tree, with all these different shades of red, orange and yellow, and still a bit of green. Beautiful, huh?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot: The Letter "G"

Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot: The Letter G
We're getting lexographic for this week's Photo Shoot: Snap a picture of something beginning with the letter "G." To play along, click here.

This is a picture of my Gameroom. I love this bookfilled room; my computer is in a corner off-camera, and this room is where I write all my journal entries, at my desk, here:

Saturday, November 26, 2005

foolish trust - the scorpion and the frog

I like this old fable. It's especially pertinent to me, as I sometimes have a tendency to trust too much. Today I received a painful reminder that it's time I took this story to heart.

One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river.

The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn't see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.

Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.

"Hellooo Ms. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?"

"Well, Mr. Scorpion, if I try to help you, how do I know that you won't try to sting me?"
asked the frog hesitantly.
"Because," the scorpion replied, "If I were to sting you, then I'd die too, for you see I cannot swim!"
This seemed to make sense to the frog, who liked to be helpful. Still, she asked. "What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to sting me and get back to the shore!"

"That's right,"
agreed the scorpion, "But then I wouldn't be able to get to the other side of the river!"

" do I know you wont just wait till we get to the other side and THEN sting me?"
asked the frog.
"Ahh...," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I'll be so grateful for your help that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"

The frog believed what the scorpion said, and so she agreed to take him across the river. She swam over to the bank and settled herself near the mud to pick up her passenger. The scorpion crawled onto her back, his sharp claws prickling into her soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. She kicked strongly through the first half of the stream, her flippers paddling wildly against the current.

Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in her back and, out of the corner of her eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from her back. A deadening numbness began to creep into her limbs.

"Oh no!" croaked the frog, "Now we'll both die!" She looked at the scorpion, still not believing what he'd done. "Why on earth did you do that?" she asked, sadly.

The scorpion shrugged.
"I didn't plan it," he said. "It just happened. It's my nature."
Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.

Gandhi said, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world." Ghandi was right.

Patrick's Saturday Six, Episode 85

1. Have you ever had a dream that you felt was a message from some "higher power?" Do you think it's possible to receive such messages through dreams? A couple of weeks after my mom died, she "appeared" to me in a dream, and said, "I just wanted to tell you that I'm OK; I feel really good now and I don't want you to worry." Then she added, "I can't stay", and disappeared. I think it was a message from my subconcious because of course I'd been thinking about her. No, I don't believe we receive messages from a higher power through dreams.

2. How much does a person's musical preference tell you about them?
In my experience, it tells LOTS. In terms of romance, I don't do well with people who don't have fairly sophisticated taste in music.

3. What time did you get up Friday morning? Were you part of the shopping madness?
I was still in Chicago yesterday and we slept in because we did not participate in the shopping madness. We got up at about 9:30 and eventually walked around the University of Chicago campus, where I saw that my old dorm (Flint) has been torn down and a beautiful new building for the B-school constructed in its place.

4. Take this
quiz: What religion do you fit in with?
You fit in with:SpiritualismYour ideals are mostly spiritual, but in an individualistic way. While spirituality is very important in your life, organized religion itself may not be for you. It is best for you to seek these things on your own terms.80% spiritual.60% reason-oriented.

5. Is the answer you received the religion you feel you really do fit in with? Yes.

Globetrotter2: Do you have any special nicknames for your significant other when you're annoyed or irritated with them? If so, give us a few of them (NO PROFANITY, please). I have just one, and this is reserved for reference, not as a form of address: my pet expression for a sweetheart with whom I'm currently irritated (yep, it's been consistent over the years and applied to a number of guys) is "His Nibs". So, for example, if one of my girlfriends asks, "So, what's going on with----" my reply might be "His Nibs wants me to become a vegetarian but it's not gonna happen..."

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'm in Chicago, with Alex and her fiancee Chris, who have prepared a wonderful feast that we'll eat in a few hours. Katharine and Brenden are cooking in Dallas this year, and Anthony will go there for Thanksgiving. Mike is in Bullhead, Arizona with Sara and her family and a lot of their UA friends; Chris is with Stephanie and her parents at Stephanie's grandmother's house in Austin. I wish everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot: Collections

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Your Collection
What do you collect? Everyone can play! Take a snapshot, post it on your blog or journal, and leave a link here
so everyone can stop by and see what you've got!

I collect photos of family and friends, and I mat, frame and display them all over my house. Here's a shot of the wall in my gameroom, to give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Robin's First Friday Five

The following is a new weekly meme set up by Robin of These are the Days of our Lives at AOL. She's hoping that this will give everyone who has stayed as well as those who have left AOL a common place within AOL to let people know where they now are.

1. What is the one thing on your Thanksgiving table that you will NOT eat? The only things on the Thanksgiving table that I won't eat are the tablecloth, napkins, centerpiece, and candles. I LOVE Thanksgiving. This year I'll be in Chicago with my firstborn, Alex, and her fiancee, Chris. They'll be cooking The Menu, which I devised in the 80's. It's so good that everyone in our family pretty much follows it. We start with a variety of cheeses and crackers, and then move on to roast turkey that may be cooked in a variety of ways, including brined, traditional stuffing, cooked INSIDE the bird, cranberries Grand Marnier, Julia Child's creamed onions, Craig Claiborne's gingered sweet potato puree, French salad (a delicious salad of julienned carrots, hard cooked eggs, red onion, Granny Smith apples, dill pickle...and I don't remember what else...devised in the 70's by my then father-in-law's Polish housekeeper), corn bread sticks, and pumpkin and mince pies.YUM!

2. Did you ever play in a pile of leaves as a kid? If so do you have a picture of you playing in the fall leaves? Post it if you do! This is me, in a pile of leaves in Wisconsin, circa October 1951. I'd just turned 2, and I was having a GOOD TIME, as you can tell by my expression. :)

3. When you think of Fall what are the three things that come to mind?
Football, turning leaves, and crisp, cool, "sweater weather".
4. When was the last time you had pumpkin pie? Was it last year or have you already had some this year? Thanks to Mrs. Smith's pies and my son Chris (who's a pumpkin pie fanatic) I'm pretty sure I've already had some this year, but I mean like back in January.
5. Tell us something really nice about the last person you read an email from. I got a great e-mail this afternoon from Tammy of The Daily Warrior telling me I was the first visitor to her journal. She has a great journal, so click on the link and check it out. I'm happy that I had the honor of being her first visitor.

Patrick's Saturday Six - Episode 84

1. What was the last movie you watched at a theater completely alone? Would you have enjoyed it more or less if you had gone with someone to see it? Last weekend I saw Jarhead by myself. I'd read the book and wanted to see the film, so I went and saw it. I'm a movie buff, and it makes no difference to me whether I go to the movies alone or with someone, although I do enjoy discussing a film with someone after the fact. But that's a pleasure to be had whether you've seen the film together or separately.

2. What was the last non-sexual thing you did around the house completely naked? LOL! Good question...since I'm an empty nester, I feel quite free to walk through my house nude, and it's a pretty regular occurrence. The last time I did it was yesterday morning, going from my bedroom to the laundry room to start a load of wash. I have to run past my front door, though, as there's clear glass on that door from waist height up.

3. How well do you know your neighbors? Would you like to know them better or not know them? I've lived in my house since 1984, and I've known most of my neighbors since then. Two of the guys, Charles and Tom, have offered to check out anyone I'm thinking of dating, so I'd say I have a pretty good relationship with my neighbors.

4. Take this quiz: How much of a conspiracy nut are you?
You are 25% Conspiracy Nut

Locator Image!

You are a little bit of a conspiracy nut. You know about the big conspiracies - but it doesn't take up too much of your time. You have accepted that people lie, and get away with everything - so you don't dwell on the loch ness monster too often.

5. Of the following "conspiracies" mentioned in that quiz, which single one would you most like the "truth" about and why? I don't believe that
governments around the world are developing deadly diseases like SARS, etc., to use in warfare, and testing them on their own people, but I'm fascinated by the origins of disease. I'm such a nerd, my dream job would have been to be an epidemiologist working for the CDC in Atlanta, and one of my favorite non-fiction books was Laurie Garrett's The Coming Plague, which was published a few years ago, but offered excellent explanations of how diseases flourish when the environment gets out of whack.

6. If you had to create a slogan that defined your life, what would it be? The harder I work, the luckier I get.

Friday, November 18, 2005

hood ornaments, past and present

Once upon a time, a couple of light years ago, when I was a bride in Chicago, my ex and I were offered a lift home from a party in a Rolls Royce. Of course we accepted. It was a memorable experience. Among other things, I remember that I felt enveloped in a sense of luxury from the moment I sat down inside that car. The seats were leather and beautifully cushioned, and it was so quiet. It was by far superior to the most luxurious car in which I'd ridden up to that point, a limousine in which we'd been driven from the church in which we were married (St. Chrysostom's) to our reception at my father-in-law's co-op on Lake Shore Drive a year or so prior to the ride in the Rolls.

Fast forward, 31 years, to Dallas, November 18, 2005. I'm getting ready for my weekly Friday night sleepover date with Xander (my 3-year-old grandson if you're a new reader). This afternoon I made a quick trip to Albertson's to restock my supply of milk, Hershey's chocolate syrup, pretzels, frozen waffles, waffle syrup, and fudgsicles (sorry, Kath and Brenden, but that's pretty much what we eat as we watch endless movies and build elaborate structures with legos). I parked in front of my house to unload my groceries, and when I came out to get the last of them, I saw that my crazy Bengal cat, Mia, was once again going out of her way to make me feel good about posing as a hood ornament on my VW.

I appreciate the sentiment, but somehow it's just not the same...neither the hood ornament, nor the car *sigh*

technical stuff - how to enter links to your favorite sites

I've had a couple of people ask me about listing links on blogspot to your favorite journals. This is easy to do, whether those journals are on AOL or blogspot or anyplace else. I've written instructions on how to do it, but when I tried to post them, all the html was automatically converted, giving the end result, sooooooo...I'll be happy to e-mail the step by step instructions to anyone who asks.

Now for the good part: I’ve spent a fair amount of time updating my list of favorites to reflect new addies, and I’m happy to cut, paste and send my list to you if you want it. That’ll give you all of my favorites, so you'll have to edit it to reflect your own, but it’ll save you a lot of time, and, as an added bonus (pointed out by Judith Heartsong, who immediately took me up on my offer yesterday) my list is alphabetized (just say Virgo Virgo Virgo).


So if you want the list, let me know!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...

OK, if I can figure out how to enter the links on this site, that means anyone can do it. Please note that I've linked everyone from my AIM journal into my new journal, and I've linked to the new addies for everyone for whom I have them, while I've linked to the old addies for those folks who haven't yet moved or who haven't yet posted their new addies. I'll update the links as needed.

I like it over here. Aesthetically, it's more pleasing to my eye, and I've had that impression at every blog I've visited so far, but that's not all. It took me a while to figure out how to enter links to my favorite sites; however, once I figured out how to do it, entering them and putting them into alphabetical order (remember, I am a Virgo) was a piece of cake compared to the way I had to do it before. And having figured out how to do it, I'll be happy to help anyone who needs help with it. Just e-mail me or leave a comment asking for help.

Also, before I even added links, I was able, for the first time ever, to record and post a voice message for FREE. And it was EASY.

Soooo...that's why I've posted a pic of Mr. Rogers on today's entry. My kids grew up watching Mr. Rogers. In fact, Christopher's first word was "RAH-GERRRSSS!" (delivered as an exclamation, as he pointed at the television set to indicate that he wanted it turned on to his favorite show...he was a little over a year old at the time).

I loved Mr. Rogers. His show moved at a slower pace than other children's shows, and he was all about The Neighborhood and being a Good Neighbor. We've all just had a taste of the opposite of that. AOL executives could have learned a lot from Mr. Rogers and Robert Fulghum (All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten), and America Online would have been better for it if they had.

Lily sent me a link to an article discussing how the fact that AOL is losing so many subscribers (300 an hour!) suggests that something is very very wrong. It's further confirmation that leaving was the right thing to do, and I feel terrific that so many of us who left are setting up shop, as it were, together, in Our New Neighborhood.

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It's a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I've always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So let's make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we're together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?

Won't you please,
Won't you please,
Please won't you be my neighbor?

Happy Birthday Katharina!

It was Katharine's 27th birthday today. We celebrated this evening with birthday cake, and she modeled the hat that was given to her by her co-workers today. Brenden not only gave her a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, but he dressed up as a delivery guy and delivered them to her! (Way to go, Brenden!)

It's hard for me to believe that it's been 27 years since she was born, in our bedroom, (we had a planned home birth) in Chicago. Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Hello it's me...

OK, I've MADE the MOVE...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I'm gonna miss you guys

I'm here via AIM, so I've been seeing a variety of pop ups and ads for some time now, and didn't realize that this was a change for most of you. Don't get me started on AOL; I'm here via AIM because AOL wasn't offering me anything I wouldn't rather buy somewhere else, and this confirms it.

I'm figuring out what I'm going to do, and when I decide, I'll post. Andi's maintaining a guestbook for new journal addresses here, so click on the link (it's listed in numerous other journals including Judith Heartsong's) and leave your new addy.

I'll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Monday Photo Shoot

Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot: Landmarks
Display a picture you've taken of a famous man-made landmark. Significant buildings, big statues, great walls (particularly in China) -- if people put it together, it counts. Here are Mike & Chris, age 12, in the garden of the Musee Rodin in Paris in July 1998, beneath one of Rodin's most famous pieces of sculpture, The Thinker. This pic was taken by their Dad, with whom they were traveling.

warmbiz - the Japanese microwaveable bra

I'm not making this up. I found this story on Yahoo News, and I've cut and pasted it here:
TOKYO (AFP) - For the woman who wants to stay both warm and environmentally conscious this winter -- and isn't bothered by extra bulk under her shirt -- a lingerie maker unveiled a thick bra that can be heated in a microwave.
Triumph International modeled the bra in Japan which has launched a "Warm Biz" campaign urging people to bundle up to save on heating.
The bra pads are filled with an eco-friendly, reusable gel that can be heated up in a microwave or with hot water. For good measure, a pendant of a hot pepper dangles from the front.
But the bra isn't for those favoring understated attire. A long strap flows down from the back, which is meant to be wrapped around like a boa to keep one's neck warm.
"We hope this will not only help prevent global warming but also provide a little fashion chic to the office," Triumph's Japan branch said in a statement.
But for the time being, the bra, which comes with matching shorts, won't be in stores, with the lingerie maker instead using the technology to develop other warm clothing.
Japan, the land of the Kyoto Protocol, is encouraging people to set their heating at no more than 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit) this winter to save energy.
It follows a "Cool Biz" casual-dress campaign promoted by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who eschewed his tie for most of the summer, to reduce air-conditioner use and therefore greenhouse gas emissions. The drive is estimated to have saved enough energy to supply 240,000 households for a month.
Wow...I won't be buying one of these. I'll just smile, thinking of the money I'm saving, every time I have a hot flash.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Survey like none other

This is making the rounds in J-Land, so I thought I’d play too:

1. What sign are you? Virgo, of course...could there be any doubt? All my spices are in alphabetical order, for heaven’s sake!

My kitchen spices and inside a cupboard door

2. What's your favorite color? Overall, I’d say blue, but I also love the drab colors...browns and greys and greens.

3. How many waffles could you eat in one sitting? Two is about my limit on waffles.

4. Can you touch your tounge to your nose? Yes I can, and I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue, too.

5. If you had to choose between cats and dogs, which would it be? Cats...and here's my Mia, who wouldn't hesitate to go for my jugular while I'm sleeping if I said otherwise.

6. What's something you've learned recently? I learned how to make fire by rubbing sticks together (by first constructing a bow drill), in a desert survival skills course that I took with Chris.

7. What's your favorite quote? One of my favorite quotes, which I first read when I was 17, is from LaRochfoucauld: Only the truly firm are truly gentle; in the rest, it is only weakness, which is readily converted into harshness.

8. What's your favorite entry in your own journal? I like my Lady of Shalott, or Why I Blog entry.

9. What color is your bedroom? Off-white.

10. Where is your favorite place to visit? Savannah, and I like to stay at the Hamilton-Turner Inn.

11. What is one thing you want to accomplish this year? I’d love to find a job.

12. Why do you write in a journal? I’m attempting to re-acquire a little self-discipline.

13. What's your favorite joke? I love anything that makes me or someone else laugh, but I can’t remember jokes, and I hate questions like that.

14. Do you like the city or the country? It depends on whether I’m in the mood to hike or to experience some culture.

15. What style is your house decorated? Early Pottery Barn.

16. Who's your favorite artist? Matisse...he knocks my socks off every time.

17. Can you pat your tummy and rub your head at the same time? Yep.

18. Are you a nightowl? Yep.

19. What's something you love in your house? (If you have a picture you get extra credit!) Here you are: this is in my bedroom; it’s a lithograph by Yvonne Thomas, and I love it.

20. Do you believe in God? I’m a cheerful agnostic.

21. What hobby could you never give up? Photography, so long as I have my eyes.

22. What color makes you think of Hope? Dove grey.

23. What color makes you think of Love? Blood red...oh my luves like a red red rose...(Burns)

24. What's your favorite flower? Any of a zillion orchids...and they last forever! Here's a pic I took of one that was blooming in my kitchen recently:

25. If you had one wish for the world, what would it be? That we could live in peace.

26. Whats the best surprise you have ever recieved? Learning that I was pregnant with Mike and Chris.

27. What can you cook like no-one else? I make a pastasalad with spinach pesto that my kids love, and I make a pretty palatable apple pie, too.

28. What do you think about most? My kids.

29. Who is your favorite poet? Yeats.

30. And last but not least, if you could wrap yourself up in one word...what would that word be? Happy.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Saturday Six, Episode #83

Patrick's Saturday Six: Episode #83

1. You are invited to spend a night, alone, in a large house that is believed to be haunted. A close friend of yours whom you trust tells you of his or her own experience, and you have sufficient reason to believe that there may be a genuine haunting going on there. Without promise of any kind of reward for staying the night, would you agree to do so? Probably not. I don't believe in ghosts, but...having said that...I've been in places where I've gotten a "vibe", and if it's not a pleasant vibe, there's no way I'd hang around. I don't enjoy being scared.

2. What do you most enjoy about your job?
I'm currently unemployed and the thing I enjoy the most is not having a boss. When I was working in child psychiatry, the thing I liked best about my job was that I got to work with kids. I love kids, and I truly enjoyed working with them.

3. Who was the last person you had a conversation with? What was the main topic of the conversation?
I just had dinner (pizza and beer) with my daughter Katharine, and Xander was the main topic of our conversation.

4. Take this
quiz: What kind of "smart" are you? All-Around Smart: You are all-around smart. Essentially, that means that you are a good combination of your own knowledge and experience, along with having learned through instruction - and you are equally as good with theoretical things as you are with real-world, applied things. You have a well-rounded brain.

20% theoretical intelligence
20% natural intelligence

Ummm- OK, I said I wasn't good at math, but even I can see that 20% + 20% only adds up to 40%...meaning that maybe this quiz is sort of a DUD.

5. What was the last food that you totally ruined -- to the point that it was inedible -- when trying to cook?
I don't have a clue. Although I don't cook as much as I once did, I enjoy cooking, and I'd have to be pretty distracted to ruin something to the point it was inedible. I made black bean burritos for dinner last night, and topped them with a sprinkle of grated extra sharp cheddar, a dollop of sour cream, and some jalapeno jelly. They were great, and served with an ice cold Corona with lime...yum...that's a good dinner, and it takes about half an hour.

6. STRANGELY-OBSCURE QUESTION #1: If you had to do over again, would you change anything?
The only thing I'd do differently is I'd go to medical school. I would have been a terrific doctor, and I regret that I didn't do that when I had the energy.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Scalzi's Weekend Assignment #85

What magazines do you subscribe to and why? If you don't have any current subscriptions, you can list some of your most recent subscriptions or magazines you want to subscribe to.

Extra Credit: What was your first magazine subscription?

Currently I have just 2 magazine subscriptions: Texas Monthly and Saveur. But I buy a lot of others almost every month. Here are some of them (and I've included hyperlinks to the websites):

Bitch (feminist response to pop culture): OK, for starters I admit I'd love this magazine for the name's so in your face...but there are plenty of other reasons to love it, starting with the articles. Bitch is published quarterly and not carried everywhere; I buy it at B&N. Also you can go to Bitch on the Web (no, that's not a hyperlink back to my blog).

Cottage Living: I love decorating magazines, and this one is a favorite. It has good photography and great ideas; nothing too fancy.

Discover: I've loved this magazine since it first came out, 25 years ago. With articles on everything from prehistoric pasta to stoneage beer to the physics of bras...what's not to love?

This Old House: I'm a dweeb in some ways, and this is one of them. I loved this show on PBS in the old days, when Bob Vila was still on the air with Nawm, and I STILL love the show on cable, and I love the magazine. What I'd like to know though, is, why do I get the carpenters with missing fingers? Why can't I find a carpenter like Nawm???

More (celebrating women 40+): "Celebrating women 40+" *sigh*...that has a nice ring to it. There's lots to celebrate re women over age 40 (and a certain 41-year-old, red-headed, blue-eyed, hairy chested guy with no tan lines whom I know, um, rather well, would agree) ;p And this magazine does a good job of pointing that out...I mean, that there's much to celebrate generally, in all women over 40...oh, nevermind...just take my word that it's a good magazine.

Oprah: I tried to not like this magazine. You've got to admit, there's something a little...uh...narcissistic about having a magazine with your name and picture on the cover EVERY MONTH, year in and year out,'s Oprah...and she's...likeable. And the magazine is interesting to me, year in and year out.

Real Simple: I like the "Problem: yada yada yada. Solution: yada yada yada" pages, and I like the recipes.

Saveur: Kath gave me a subscription to this cool cooking magazine, which has some great recipes and interesting articles.

Texas Monthly: I subscribed to Texas Monthly last spring, when Chris and Alex were coming from Chicago to visit for spring break and I was planning our road trip in which, among other things, we did the Lockhart Barbecue Circuit (yes, there is such a thing in Texas).

There are four BBQ restaurants in Lockhart: Black's, Chisholm Trail (no website), Kreuz Barbecue, and Smitty's Market. It's estimated that about 5,000 people visit these 4 restaurants each week, meaning about 250,000 people each year eat BBQ in Lockhart (dunno if that's accurate, but it's what it says on the web). We sampled at all 4 restaurants and agreed that Black's was the best, that as it may...while planning our road trip, I read detailed accounts of trips to the Texas Barbecue Circuit at Texas Monthly online, after subscribing to gain access to the archives on the website, and subscribing resulted in my receiving the magazine in the mail each month. It was well worth the $15; in addition to great recipes, it has great articles on various road trips around Texas.

Weekend: This magazine is published every other month, and it's a laid-back magazine with good photography, good recipes and travel ideas, and quite a few good, relatively inexpensive decorating ideas in most of the issues. Check it out.

EXTRA CREDIT: What was your first magazine subscription? That would be Stereo Review, back in my audiophile days, when I was 19 and the world was young and so was I...I told you I'm a dweeb sometimes - but not all the time...(just ask the redheaded guy...)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Katie bar the in a conservative state...

In 2003, the State of Texas enacted a law banning gay marriage. To date, that law has not been challenged in Texas courts. Nevertheless, conservatives voiced fears that "liberal activist judges" might recognize gay unions in spite of the law. For the record, even if the law were challenged and some "liberal activist judges" did recognize gay unions, it’s unlikely that the all-Republican Texas State Supreme Court would do anything to overturn the 2003 law.

But that wasn’t enough for conservative Texans, who proceeded to draft a poorly worded constitutional amendment, Proposition 2, to "defend marriage as a vital societal institution that should not be changed" and to "guarantee that state courts won’t be able to force Texas into recognizing gay unions".

Yesterday, I voted against Proposition 2, but I was in the minority; conservative Texans voted overwhelmingly for it, approximately 70% to 30%.

Katie bar the door.

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

Monday, November 07, 2005

Scalzi's Monday Photo Shoot: Before & After

We had a house fire in October, 2002, when a small fan, left running, shorted out. We were out to dinner when it happened, so luckily, no one was hurt, but we had major damage to the house and in fact came close to losing it. The photo on the left was taken in my front hall, looking into my dining room, on the day after the fire. The photo on the right was taken this evening. It's a dramatic difference, huh? The stairs still aren't finished, in part because I've been trying to decide whether to tile them or put in hardwood (they were previously carpeted).

Sunday, November 06, 2005


This is going around J-Land so I thought I’d play too:

Two Names I Go By: Judi and Jude

Two Parts of My Heritage: All my ancestors were Norwegian, but I have a strange affinity for things Russian, including the language (I was a C student in high school French but aced Russian in college)...uhhhhhhh....Grandma? Is there anything you'd like to tell me?

Two Things That Scare Me: Dubya and Michael his nose falling off?

Two of My Everyday Essentials: Coffee and contact lenses

Two Things I’m Wearing Right Now: Earrings and Chanel 22

Two of My Favorite Bands or Musical Artists: Natalie Merchant and Paolo Conte (Italian cruisin’ music)

Two of My Favorite Songs: Black Eyed Dog (Nick Drake) and Santa Baby (Snoop Dog)

Two Things I Want in a Relationship: Brains and humor (and the combination's hard to come by!)

Two Truths (confessions): Most of the time I’m pretty much a straight arrow (that’s one) BUT (this is two), in graduate school, there was a dweeby guy in our class who made life difficult for all of us; he was always whining about how life was unfair, how he was treated badly, yada yada yada. At the end of the second semester, fed up with his incessant whining, my best friend and I began stuffing penis enlargement ads in his graduate school mailbox every chance we got...he COMPLAINED to the administration about it (how dweeby is that?!?!?), but we were never caught. ;p

Two Physical Things that Appeal to Me: I like hairy guys...and blue eyes are a plus

Two of My Favorite Hobbies: Photography and home improvement projects

Two Things I Want Badly (material things): Mexican tile in my guest bathroom and new kitchen countertops

Two Places I Want to go on Vacation: Machu Pichu and Annapurna

Two Things I Want to Do Before I Die: I’d like to write some decent fiction and, like Ms. Lillian, I’d love to do a stint in the Peace Corps before my time on this planet is over.

Two ways that I am stereotypically a Chick: I love to get dressed up for a date in high heels and an outlaw dress and I’d rather go without underwear than without mascara.

Two things I wouldn't normally admit: I’m too self-conscious to enjoy dancing and I have a thing about red-haired guys (no tan lines!) *sigh*

I’d love for others to do this too, so, if you’re so inclined, answer these questions and leave a link. Thanks!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Live and In Person - Meeting Friends from J-Land

Live and In Person - Meeting Friends from J-Land

Picture from Hometown

Just a quick note before the VIVI awards tonight. This afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting three of my fellow journal-writers who live in the Dallas area. Left to right are Vivian Sullinwank (Nwanyioma's Journal), Judith (Mirror Mirror on the Wall), moi, and Donna (Dust Bunny Protector).

Thanks, Donna, for organizing this get-together and good luck everyone at the VIVI's tonight.

Friday, November 04, 2005

abnormal minds, etc.

OK, I got this from my ex, and it's FUN. It's also've gotta try it!

At the end of this message, you are asked a series of simple math problems.

Answer each immediately.
Don't stop and think about it.

Just say the first thing that pops into your mind.

This is a fun "test"... AND kind of spooky at the same time! Give it a try, and you'll see how many people you know fall into the same percentage as you. Be sure to mention in the comments if you are among the 98% or the 2%. You'll understand what that means after you finish taking the "test".

Now... just follow the instructions as quickly as possible.

Do not go on to the next calculation before you have finished the previous one.

You don't ever need to write or remember the answers,
just do it using your mind.

You'll be surprised.


How much is:

15 + 6

3 + 56

89 + 2

12 + 53

75 +26

25 + 52

63 + 32

I know! Calculations are hard work, but it's nearly over..

Come on, one more!

123 + 5


Scroll further to the bottom....

A bit more...

You just thought about a red hammer! , didn't you?

If this is not your answer, you are among 2% of people who have a different, if not abnormal, mind.

98% of the people doing this exercise answer a red hammer.

If you don't believe this, pass it around and you'll see.

Be sure to put in the comments if you are among the 98% or the 2%. I'm among the 2% myself, but I'm happy about that, because as Twain said: "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect.".

Have fun!