Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Event: Not Loving the Roller Coaster Today

You know, when I was nineteen, Grandpa took me on a roller coaster.  Up, down, up, down. Oh, what a ride!  I always wanted to go again. You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. 

I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it. 

Love that line, spoken by the grandma in the movie "Parenthood."  Love the grandma in the movie "Parenthood," who reminds me of my own grandma.  Love the movie "Parenthood," period.  Lots of great lines, like this one:
You know, Mrs. Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car - hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they'll let any butt-reaming a**hole be a father.

Wise words - and from Keanu Reeves, no less.  Also love this exchange between the matriarch of the Buckman family and the Tom Hulse character:

Why didn't you write us when you had a son?

I didn't know myself until a couple of months ago. You see, a few years ago, I was living in Vegas with this girl. Show girl. She was in that show, "Elvis On Ice?" Anyhow, we drifted apart as people do in these complicated times, and then a couple of months ago, she shows up with Cool and tells me, "You watch him. I shot someone. I have to leave the country."  THAT's a parent?

Okay, so that one's not packing a high wisdom quotient, but it's flippin' hilarious the way Hulse delivers it.

But back to the roller coaster thing.  I am generally on board with the roller coaster metaphor.  Life has its ups and downs, but the downs aren't all bad, because they give you a sense of perspective, and a greater enjoyment of the ups.  And then there's always the little thrill you get when you weather the bumpy part and emerge, relatively unscathed, on the other side.

Suffice it to say that the last couple of weeks have been a roller coaster, house-wise.  The insurance company "forgot" to pay our housing allowance, result being that we had to come four figures out of pocket and double-pay for housing (mortgage plus rent) in February.  We got reimbursed, but the parties involved were less than pleasant about it - not that I expect an apology, or even halfway humane treatment, at this point, but,  you know, still.  Ultimately, Spouse had to conference the CEO's office back in, and we were assured (not for the first time) that the insurance company valued our business, that this wasn't the way that they wanted their customers treated (really?  THEN STOP TREATING THEM THAT WAY), yada, yada.  We were also assured that a project specialist would be assigned to the file, to serve as a traffic cop and hopefully help generate some forward motion.  Still waiting on that call, but Spouse did receive an unpleasant call from one head of the adjustment office hydra, and I was the recipient of a whole lot of spewed venom from another.  We kept our cool.  We pushed through.  We may, FINALLY, be approaching some meaningful resolution.

It remains to be seen if we will be made whole, or close to, but it's likely that I will never get what, equitably, ought to be coming to me (and to Spouse) for HOURS spent trying to get various people to listen to reason and do their jobs.  And, certainly, I'm not gonna be getting those brain cells back.

Still, I should feel a little bit exhilarated.  I mean, I went into this latest round of "negotiations" kind of expecting the worst, and emerged cautiously optimistic.  But I am having trouble mustering any real enthusiasm.  Instead, I'm just tired.  No, tired isn't the word - emotionally drained is the concept.  The same level of emotional drainage that I experienced after the third day of the Bar exam:  I had taken a cab to the testing venue ( the car that I owned at the time was having "issues," and I wasn't taking chances - at least if a cab broke down, another one would be quickly dispatched to rescue me), but I didn't feel like waiting for a cab to take me home, and I didn't feel like riding home with a friend, so I walked, from Austin's Auditorium Shores to 31st Street.  If you have any frame of reference for Austin, you will understand that this was a bit of a hike:  all of the way across the bulk of downtown, and then all of the way across the UT campus.  At the time, the walk wasn't that big of a deal, in terms of being an anomaly:  after seven years in Austin, I had grown accustomed to walking everywhere, and I actually walked downtown a lot - to the bank, to my internship at the Attorney General's Office, etc.

What was a big deal was the fact that I have very little recollection of making the walk, because I was in a total fog the entire time.  The fog did lift when I hit Sixth Street, because that was when two tourists (both middle-aged ladies) approached me and asked if I was "from here."

Ummmm, yes.  I mean, I live here.

In that case, did I have any recommendations for a place to have lunch close by?

UmmmmSeven years, and I could not muster a name of a single restaurant.  Bear in mind, that Sixth Street and environs was, at least at the time, the epicenter for all things cool in downtown Austin.  All I had to do was LOOK UP and note the nearest intersection in order to give them a recommendation, or four or five.  Instead, I just stared at them with my mouth open.  For a long-a** time.  Until they got kind of disturbed.  It's possible that they thought that I was a recent releasee from a 72-hour psych hold at a local hospital.  They mumbled vague apologies, and got the heck out of Dodge.

I must have kept walking, because eventually I made it home.  My roommates were waiting for me (my other, in-law-school-with-me roommate had beaten me home, on account of how she wasn't a total freak who WALKED THE ENTIRE WAY, and she warned them that the morning exam had been a nightmare - we were all expecting the examiners to zig, and instead they zagged, so no one studied the right material - which turned out okay, because when everyone flunks, well, there's your curve).  They handed me a glass of wine, and, if memory serves, took off my shoes and tucked me into bed, and then they turned on a cooking show (my way of destressing back then) and told me to wait for Spouse (who was then Boyfriend) to get there.

Fairly sure that the sound in my head while I was drinking said wine and watching said cooking show was ummmm.

When I got back to the office today, after a meeting at the house with various and sundry parties, there it was again:   ummmm.  The thought occurred to me (pushing through the fog) that it was really kind of ridiculous that I went back to work at all.  Years of conditioning, I guess.  But hardly in a mind frame to be of much use to clients.  Although, once I was at work, I didn't really trust myself to immediately venture back out in a car.  I needed to get lose my ummmms first.  Found myself desperately wishing that walking to the apartment was an option.  Trust me, it's not.  Walking to our house - actually theoretically possible.  To the apartment, not so much.  Another reason why the house is superior to the apartment.  Okay, getting angry now - but the angries clear the ummmms out.

Blogging also helps me focus, and relax - to the extent that "relax" is in the current rotation.  So, you know, thanks for listening.  And I really do hate to be whiny - but, I gotta say, this is one of those times when the merry-go-round, for all of its sameness, sounds like a not-entirely-bad proposition.

Sorry, wise fictional grandma.

Going home in a few, to hear about the Big Kid's day (heard about the Little Kid's on the walk home from school - the silver lining of a 2 pm meeting at the house is the opportunity for a 3 pm walk to and from the elementary school, something that I used to do with regularity but is a rare treat these days).  Probably won't watch a cooking show, but, hey, "The Voice" is on, and, also, "Smash."

Maybe one of my "roomies" will take off my shoes for me.  Just like old times.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Things I'm Digging: Nostalgic Geek Toys from Childhood

Batman-free post today.

Instead, this post is dedicated to another favorite of mine from childhood.

A high school friend posted something on Facebook today about her Little Professor calculator.  Remember the Little Professor?  He taught you multiplication and division.

This post isn't about him, either.  But waxing nostalgic about Little Professor got me thinking about my favorite educational toy from the '70s:

Ladies and germs, I give you 2XL.  2XL talked to you.  More specifically, he quizzed you on various topics , and you had to register your answer by pushing one of the red buttons on his front.  If you were wrong, he sort of made fun of you in a haughty, "I am SO above this" tone of robot voice.

I don't remember what the big red dial did.  But aren't all of the buttons and dials so awesome in a retro, ironic way?  Seriously - this was the height of technology back in the day.  Cutting.  Edge.  I thought I was the flippin' bomb diggity because I owned one of these.

By the way, this is the 1978 version of 2XL.  Until I Wikipedia'ed him just now, I did not realize that there was a Next Gen version, released in 1992:

By 1992, I was out of college and, thus, out of the market for primary school educational toys.

The critical difference between the two models (other than the fact that 2.0 is, marginally, cooler looking - First Gen appears to have been modeled after Rosie from The Jetsons, NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT) is that 2.0 utilized cassette tapes, WHEREAS FIRST GEN 2XL OPERATED OFF OF EIGHT TRACKS.

You read that right.

Message to my mother:  in the name of all that is holy, why did you elect to donate this gem from my childhood to charity, as opposed to saving it for posterity's sake?  Because you have met your grandchildren and you know that this thing would amuse the living Hades out of them.  I am almost tempted to procure one via eBay for $39.95, plus shipping.  Almost.

I believe that my parents purchased 2XL for me because they considered me to be smarter than the average bear and, thus, the type who would enjoy being quizzed by a glorified eight track tape player.  They were not completely wrong.  Except:  apparently, I was not smart enough to figure out that "2XL" translated into "TO EXCEL."  Get it?  Yeah, I didn't - another thing that I just learned via Wikipedia.

Apparently, I didn't log enough hours learning from my robot pal.

Kid Stuff: Boomstick Awesomesauce

In recent weeks, the Little Kid has taken to acknowledging his approval of cool things by saying, "Boomstick awesomesauce."

I know where boomstick is coming from.  Yes, I am aware that boomstick can refer to a sawed-off shotgun, but it is also a device (loaded with 12-gauge shotgun shells) that divers take with them to ward off sharks.  The Little Kid knows everything about sharks.  He also is a fan of the show, "Bones" (yes, our kids watch "Bones," with parental supervision - having grown up on "Quincy, M.E." I cannot deny them their generation's equivalent), and in a recent "Bones" episode the coroner types were all kinds of confused about a homicide that turned out to be the result of a diver's boomstick being discharged at close range.

"Awesomesauce" is a compound word that I have heard uttered before.

As for "boomstick awesomesauce" - well, that was a new one on me.  But now it is stuck in my head.  And, God help me, I find myself using it.  Thus far, only when talking to the kids:

Mom!  Check out my paper airplane - I got it lodged in the ceiling fan!

Boomstick awesomesauce.

But I am afraid that it's going to slip out at work.  Perhaps in a client meeting.  I can feel it coming.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hump Day Miscellany

One:  I [heart] my new blog background.  It is so very me.  Quite possibly, it is my forever blog background.  Okay, probably not.  But it will be my default in between major holidays.

B:  My insurance company really, really wants to get sued for bad faith.  Seriously - it's, like, inexplicable.  Don't want to go into detail right now, because I'm working through issues in my head, and, also, I have instituted a 48-hour rule - I make myself sleep on things for 48 hours before reacting.  Once upon a time, 48 hours seemed like a humongous delay, but when you have been out of your home FOR SIX MONTHS AND STILL DON'T HAVE A FLOOR . . . your perspective changes.

How am I doing with the 48-hour thing?  Clearly, not well, given that I am, sorta-kinda, blogging about my frustration.  It's moment to moment:

Moment 1:  Seriously.  Am I on "Punk'd"?  Do these people completely not get it?  Because I have now explained the structural engineering and "laws of physics" issues involved to, roughly, eight hundred people, occasionally demonstrating said principles using pens and other debris on my desk, and ALL EIGHT HUNDRED OF THEM SPOTTED THE ISSUE IN FIVE SECONDS. 

Moment 2:  Calm down.  Call the adjuster tomorrow.  Move on to something else for now. 

Moment 3:  It's National Margarita Day.  I should have a margarita tonight.  That will cheer me up.

Moment 4:  Seriously?  A margarita?  How frivolous is it to celebrate National Margarita Day in the face of (pick one) a void of logic/complete lack of courtesy and/or basic human dignity/NO FLIPPIN' FLOOR?

Moment 5:  Is it cool to have a margarita on the first day of Lent anyway?

Moment 6:  But I really need one.

Moment 7:  Because, M________F_________, I HATE MY F___________ INSURANCE COMPANY!

By the way, for the record:  lesser people would become alcoholics in the face of all of this.  If anything, we have consumed less.  This fact was actually brought to my attention by my twelve year-old:

C:  Mom, why do you and Dad buy wine?

Me:  Um, because we're adults, and we like to drink wine?

C:  But you don't.  

Me:  What do you mean?  

C:  You don't drink it.  I watched you put the wine in the racks when we moved into the apartment, I walk by it multiple times a day, and IT'S SUBSTANTIALLY THE SAME AS WHEN WE MOVED IN.

Hmm.  I investigated:  by my count, factoring in bottles acquired since the beginning of September, we are down ten bottles.  But at least one of the ten was given away as a hostess gift, and my dad appropriated a Riesling the last time he was over.  Fairly sure we took one to a party and served one when we had folks over for dinner.  That leaves six bottles, which we have consumed over a six-month period.  No, that's not accurate:  at least one of the six I opened because I needed red wine for cooking, and somehow the cork didn't get put in tightly, and it turned to vinegar before we remembered to drink any of it.  Okay, that's not accurate, either - that happened TWICE.

Four.  FOUR bottles over a six-month period.

What does this tell about us?  Well, apparently we only drink wine when we are celebrating, or entertaining, and over the last six months we have done precious little of either.  I guess it's reassuring to know that we don't drink when we're depressed.  Because depression, WE HAZ . . . courtesy of USAA.

Tres:  Back to National Margarita Day falling on Ash Wednesday.   I was a cradle Catholic (because my mom prevailed over my Presbyterian dad), but as a mother faced with the challenge of bringing up my first child as a child of faith, I decided that I would have a better shot at it if I had a better attitude about organized religion, and to get to that point perhaps I should consider a belief system whose tenets halfway overlapped with mine. 

For the record, the straw that broke the Catholic camel's back for me was the concept of the infallibility of the Pope.  Weird, huh? It was never about birth control, or divorce, or the run-of-the-mill stuff, although I did take note that a lot of my fellow Catholics were talking the talk but not walking the walk, and I didn't particularly take comfort in that fact.  I was actually told by more than one person that I should take comfort in the safety-in-numbers thing:  it's okay that you don't believe that the Pope is infallible, because most of us don't agree with a lot of the stuff that the Church tells us.  Ohhhhkay - then, seriously, what's the point?  And, also, what's up with never reading the Bible?  I went through years of religious education, and no one ever suggested that I open a Bible.  Catechism, yes, Bible, no.  What's wrong with the Bible?  Fairly sure that there's some good stuff in there. (Editor's note:  Suspicions confirmed.)

Anywho:  I went around feeling like a hypocrite most of the time, and assumed that not believing what the Church told me that I should believe meant that I wasn't cut out to be a Christian.  Then the light went off:  nope, you just aren't cut out to be Catholic.  You have very strong, personally-realized beliefs about religion, but they don't happen to coincide with the beliefs of the denomination to which you (nominally) belong.  You aren't the first person to be in this position.  See also:  Martin Luther.

I always admired the people who went out, as young people or adults, and tried on various religions for size, and then ultimately identified the one that they could embrace with their whole heart.  Seemed more meaningful than simply being what your parents were.  Stupid that it never occurred to me that I, too, could do just that.  The whole guilt thing at work, I guess.  But I finally came to terms with the notion that leaving a faith and actually committing to another faith couldn't be less wrong than belonging to Faith #1 in name only.  Also, I knew first-hand that parents who are ambivalent in their relationship with a church don't stand much of a chance of cementing their kids in that faith.  I wanted my child to have a different relationship with God, and with his church, than I had growing up.

So we went out on a church hunt (but I did most of the pushing - Spouse, who has an excellent personal relationship with God, feels no particular guilt communing with the "Sports Reporters" on a Sunday morning).  We considered Episcopalian (or "Catholic Lite", as Methodist Spouse likes to call it) as middle ground - but it wasn't, not exactly.  Non-denominational wasn't our thing, either.  I started taking note of the people around me, and what they believed about religion, and what they believed about other subjects that were important to me.  And I started to notice a CUH-RAZY amount of overlap between "people who thought like me, and who I would pick to be my family if I had the option" and "Methodists."  It just about took a Venn diagram to show me the light - but, ironically enough, it was the cradle Catholic in our family who made the decision that we should all belong to Spouse's childhood faith. 

And we have never looked back.

Nevertheless . . . I still have a tendency to observe things like Lent (although, for those of you who aren't aware, Methodists are known to get ashes, too, and fast, and give up things).  So I didn't eat meat today, and I didn't snack between meals, not because anyone told me that I shouldn't, but because it seemed like the right thing to do.

And - for a second - I considered ignoring National Margarita Day because it was inconsistent with a fast day.  But then I decided to check.  Because I really, REALLY, need a marg.  (And I can't have a rum and Coke, or a 7 and 7, because I gave up carbonated drinks for Lent.  Believe me, Coke is a bigger sacrifice for me than liquor.  Specifically, Coke Zero - in the giant economy size.) 

So I hit the Interwebs, and on a Catholic Web site, I found a tip on fasting - specifically, that you should drink adequate fluids while you are fasting.  It didn't say what type of fluids, and it didn't specify that the type of fluid should be one that keeps you well-hydrated.  (Fully realized that tequila can have the opposite effect.) 

So I am having a margarita tonight.  To buoy me through the remainder of my fast day, and to keep me from calling our adjuster before the requisite 48-hour waiting period has passed.

Three Hints About My Pizza-Off Entry

1.  I'm not ordering it.

2.  Therefore, it isn't coming in a box like this.  (Although, come on, people.  Coolest pizza box EVER.)

3.  It isn't going to look like this.  Because pizza is our friend.  It shouldn't scare the bejeepers out of us.

So, by now, you totally have my selection figured out, right?  Oh, what's that?  Still in the dark ([k]night)?

[Evil Joker laugh.]

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Batman Wants Me to Enjoy Fat Tuesday - And I Really Am Trying

This made me laugh.  So I had to share.

What I'm not laughing about:  being separated from my Mardi Gras decorations.  And my St. Pat's decorations.  And my Easter decorations.  On account of how I don't, currently, live in my own home.  And some of my spring decor is in storage, while other items are in my attic.  Attic is, kinda sorta, accessible, in the sense that you can pull the ladder down and the footing tees into a structural beam, but were you to come down the ladder with a large Rubbermaid tote of spring decor and decide to step off of the ladder (because, sooner or later, you would want to get off of the ladder, as opposed to standing on it, potentially, for all eternity), you would have a logistical problem, in that WE STILL DON'T HAVE A FLIPPIN' FLOOR.  Come down the ladder backwards:  tumble into the exposed crawlspace, pinned to the earth by a large Rubbermaid tote of spring decor.  Come down facing frontwards:  assuming that you have excellent balance, you could place the Rubbermaid tote on the beams in front of you, and then step - well, where would you step, exactly?  I guess we could create a temporary floor in the hallway using large pieces of plywood.  That's what the contractors do.  But probably not worth the effort, or the risk.

So the extent of our Mardi Gras celebration will consist of consuming iced fleur de lis sugar cookies from McKinley's Bakery - oh, and we might attend a pancake supper tonight at our church.  But that's it.  No beads, no nuthin'.  Given the substantial likelihood that we may still be in the apartment in April (I swear to you that I DON'T EVEN WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT), I am planning on prowling through the carriage house at some point in the next few days, to see if perhaps some of the spring decor might be in the carriage house as opposed to the house proper.  If so, I'll just work with what I've got.

Oy, vay. 

Okay, something to cheer me:

It's not TECHNICALLY Batman as the King of Mardi Gras, but it's Val Kilmer as the King of Mardi Gras, and, once upon a time, Val Kilmer was Batman.  Now, he's Unkempt, Sorta Pudgy and Definitely Weird Batman.  Which makes this picture amusing to me.  Although it's kind of amusing in its own right, because WHAT IN HADES IS UP WITH THAT CROWN?  That is NOT a "King of Mardi Gras" crown.  That is a prop from the set of "Miss Congeniality."  Two words:  Pageant.  Crown.  You can't wear a crown like that unless you come packing a rehearsed speech about world peace.

Photo above is even more amusing.  On account of the stance, and the tights, and the stance coupled with the tights.  Not black Batman tights, mind you.  WHITE tights - or, possibly, ecru.  Paired with another set of movie props - Jane Fonda's boots from Barbarella?  But with a lower heel.  Okay, those are sort of guy-appropriate.  Heel-height-wise.  But not otherwise, on account of that they are metallic.  I'm married to a habitual boot-wearer (case in point:  he wore them with a tuxedo the weekend before last), so I know of what I speak.  Quilled ostrich:  appropriate.  Elephant:  also appropriate (although a little upsetting to his wife, but I choose to think that his particular elephant died of natural causes).  Silver metallic whatever:  never appropriate.

Not even with a tux.

Rhetorical question:  where were those boots in 1994 when I wanted to be Barbarella at my annual Halloween house party?  You would think that in Austin, Texas, THE CAPITAL OF ALL THINGS WEIRD AND RETRO, you could find one stinkin' pair of silver or white go-go boots in a size 7 1/2.  Yeah, apparently not in October, if you wait until Halloween week.  I ended up going in the completely opposite direction from Barberella and dressing as my friend Joe (AKA "a generic UT frat guy").  Boots were involved, but they were cowboy boots.  Baseball cap, plaid shirt over a Ducks Unlimited tee (I think I even had a duck decoy hanging around my neck), jeans and a beer in a koozie grafted to my hand.  Can't remember why I went the Joe route - was it a joke?  A dare?  Was it rainy and/or cold that night?  I do remember it being the most comfortable Halloween costume ever.

I also remember that as the year that Spouse (who was not Spouse then, merely Boyfriend) dressed up as Canteen Boy.  You know, the Adam Sandler character from Saturday Night Live who has a deeply disturbing relationship with his scout master, as played by Alec Baldwin?

Spouse's costume was also deeply disturbing.

Somewhere I have a picture of Spouse in that costume.  In close proximity to that picture are photos of Spouse and me at Galveston Mardi Gras, taken later that same school year.  My personal favorite is a photo of Spouse attempting the " Texas debutante dip" at a reception for the Mardi Gras queen, after receiving a brief (and hilarious) tutorial from one of our friends, herself an ex-Mardi Gras princess.

I would share that picture with you, but . . . wait for it . . . it's in storage.

Okay, back to Val.  Focus on Val.  The peace sign, the double chin, the fact that, once upon a time, this dude was Batman - I'm starting to get back into the Mardi Gras spirit.

Hey, a peace sign!  Maybe the pageant crown is appropriate after all.

Laissez bon temps rouler, party peeps.

Pizza-Off: It's So On

A couple of my crazy foodie friends have declared a pizza-off.

By "crazy foodie friends" I totally mean that they are crazy-passionate about food.  Not intending to cast aspersions on their sanity.

ALTHOUGH, said persons ARE having pizzas shipped across state lines in connection with said pizza-off.  So, you know, it the CUH-RAZY shoe fits and all . . . .


I have been puzzling over what to submit as my pizza-off entry, the issues being that the pizza-off is on a weeknight and is being held outside of Fort Worth.  As a result, my submission needs to be something that (1) I can assemble beforehand and (2) will withstand being transported (in a car with two rambunctious children) and then reheated.

I am pleased to report that I have arrived at a solution and that my pizza-off concept is officially locked and loaded.

And that's all that I have to say on the subject at the present time.

Let the mind games begin.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Eat This: Heaven on a Chip (Times Two)

Saw that someone Pinned the recipe for Chuy's Jalapeno Ranch Dip and swooned a little bit.  LOVE that stuff.  Thinking about the Chuy's dip got me thinking about my other favorite chip-dipper, Ninfa's Green Sauce:

so I went out in search of that recipe, too, and Pinned it, and now I shall share both delicious recipes with you.

Chuy's recipe is courtesy of the Heritage Schoolhouse blog, which is worth some browsing time, as it looks like a source of a lot of fun recipes.  Ninfa's recipe comes courtesy of Kim D. and

8 ounces mayonaise
24 ounces sour cream
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup tomatillo salsa
1 handful of cilantro
3 ranch dressing packets
1/2 cup pickled jalapenos

Combine all ingredients in a blender; process until smooth.


3 medium avocados
3 medium green tomatoes
4 fresh tomatillos
3 garlic cloves
3 sprigs fresh cilantro
2-3 jalapenos
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/2 tsp. salt, to taste

Peel avocados and place them in a blender.  In a medium saucepan, boil tomatoes, tomatillos, garlic and jalapenos for 15 minutes.  Remove from saucepan and place all ingredients in blender with avocados.  Add sour cream and blend until smooth.

(Note:  I would wait for the tomato mixture to cool down first.  Once upon a time, I decided to test whether pureed cauliflower, with appropriate doctoring, could be substituted for baked potato.  I did not wait for the cooked cauliflower to cool down before putting it in the blender.  BIG explosion.   Hot white puree EVERYWHERE.  Just sayin'.  Contents under pressure, and all that.  Let the stuff cool.  And then break out the chips.)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Things I'm Digging: Good Times With LiteralMSPaint


Spouse directed my attention to LiteralMSPaint's "video" for LMFAO's Party Rock Anthem.  (Click on "Party Rock Anthem" in the previous sentence for a link to it on YouTube.)  I laughed.  I cried, but also from laughing.  I showed it to the kids.  We watched it over and over.  And we wondered:  how flippin' creative are these people?

Answer:  very creative.  Delighted to learn that they have their own YouTube channel, which, right now, only features three videos - Party Rock Anthem, Chris Brown's Look at Me Now and Like a G6.  (EDITOR'S NOTE:  The Chris Brown song is the explicit version.  Don't watch with children.  You have been warned.)  I am hoping that they will add others.  And I am hoping that, by publicizing their work effort to date, I will increase the likelihood that that will happen.

You have to watch a couple of times to get all of the subtle nuances.  For example, I was initially confused by the Lloyd Dobler stick figure with the boom box.

Then I realized that he represented the concept of "WOO."  Get it?  Woo?  WOO!?  Double meaning?  Anyway.  Now every time I hear "party rock is in the house tonight" the image at the top of this post flashes in my head.

Check it out.  I guarantee that you will have a "good time":

Friday, February 17, 2012

Things I'm Digging: My Other Favorite Reading Rocks Table

My boys love "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda" and its sequel, "Darth Paper Strikes Back."  The books combine two of their great loves:  origami and Star Wars.  Thus, they were all over the Origami Yoda table at Reading Rocks - and it was one of my top two as well.  Points to decorator Courtney for enlisting her class (she's a teacher) to make their own Yodas and Darths, which she scattered around the table.  And BIG points for her BIG paper Yoda:

I also like the idea of enlarging images from the book (in this case, the origami instructions) and laminating them for use as placemats:

Wish I'd thought of this as a birthday concept for C (being the more origami-obsessed of my two) - and putting it in my pocket for a future birthday for PJ.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Crud

Meet my new friend, Mr. Head Cold. 

Okay, he's not my friend, particularly.  But we are currently joined at the hip - well, at the head.  My head, his - um, receptor - okay, suffice it to say that I have a head cold.

At least I made it through Reading Rocks.  And I didn't start to feel truly cruddy until after PJ was most of the way recovered from his crud, being a truly nasty ear infection.  The kind that just shows up out of nowhere, with zero warning until your kid starts hollering his head off, and less than two hours later, when you get worked in at the doctor (ON VALENTINE'S DAY NIGHT), the doctor informs you that, not only is your child's ear severely infected, but his eardrum may actually burst.  Seriously?  Because, like, TWO HOURS AGO, ALL WAS RIGHT WITH THE WORLD.  I guess the downside to having children with extremely high pain tolerances is that stuff is gonna sneak up on you.

But, apparently, we reacted in time, because his eardrum did not burst (although his new favorite word is "rupture" - he likes to work it into conversation).  Thanks to a whopping antibiotic shot in the thigh (which he took like a trooper and insists was administered using a syringe made out of an actual tree trunk - "IT WAS HUGE, AND IT WAS MADE COMPLETELY OUT OF WOOD"), an oral antibiotic and two types of ear drops (one of them a numbing agent), he actually slept through the night on Day 1, was pretty chipper the following day and, by Day 3, showed every sign of having recovered.  Good thing, because around dinner time on Day 2, Mom came to terms with the fact of her own respiratory distress, crawled into bed "just for a bit" - and slept fourteen hours.  You would think that, after fourteen hours, I would be substantially improved.  YOU WOULD THINK.

Yeah, not so much.

You parents out there know that this is how it always goes:  Child gets sick.  While tending to Child, Parent gets sick.  Child recovers, but isn't sufficiently recovered to return to school, so Parent must deal with Child who is NOW BOUNCING OFF OF THE WALLS when, really, all Parent wants to do is sleep, and not interact with anyone, let alone a hyperactive little person who is insistent that you WATCH THEM DO THINGS.

Now it is the night of Day 3 (okay, technically we've rolled over to the wee hours of Day 4), and I can't sleep on account of (1) getting too much sleep the night before, (2) my head feeling like an overinflated Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon and (3) the running faucet that seems to have replaced my nose on the front of my face.

Logging off and chugging Nyquil.  Nighty-night from Yours Truly and her bestie, Mr. Head Cold.

Things I'm Digging: My Favorite Reading Rocks Table

Charlotte's Web won the prize for best Reading Rocks table, at least in my book. (Officially, it only got honorable mention credit, but I think it got robbed.)  What a ridiculously clever idea, and it was obvious that they read the book from cover to cover and made a lot of effort to incorporate very specific references (you can't see it in these pics, but they even had the word terrific "woven" into the back side of the web, just like in the story).

I also liked their use of simple and creative materials - blue paper plates became award ribbons and were tied to the backs of chairs, and pink-painted egg carton segments, with the addition of elastic, became pig snouts for the guests.

Love, love, LOVE it. What a creative twist this would be on a farm party for a little kid.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Adventures in Party Planning: Our High Concept Reading Rocks Table

It was sort of inevitable that our table at Reading Rocks would be somewhat improvised, given that we were in charge of decorating for the event proper. Also, most of my inspiration books and props remain in storage. So, "Polka-Bats and Octopus Slacks" it was - primarily because we had the book with us at the apartment, but also because I appreciate the aesthetic of the author/illustrator, Calef Brown. Simply put, his art was something that I could work with, and without burning too many additional brain cells.

It didn't turn out too badly, all things considered.

The main images are from four of the poems in the book:  The Bathtub Driver, Kansas City Octopus and Funky Snowman (shown above) and Mulligan Poker (shown below).  The things coming out of the "box" (the box comprising of four canvases L-bracketed together) are taken from various other poems - Polkabats, Skeleton Flowers and Sleeping Fruit.  I like the way that the Sleeping Fruit cascaded down the sides of the piece (thanks to Robyn's wire curlicues).

The main "tablecloth" (I use the term loosely) was a teal fleece blanket with a stripe running through it.  I purchased it because (1) it was cheap, (2) I knew that the color was harmonious with the images in the book and (3) the look of it reminded me of, um . . . something.  That "something" turned out to be the poem, Eliza's Pockets.  The blanket was the exact color of the jacket in the book image, and the stripes resembled Eliza's pants - so I cut out pockets from leftover scrapbook paper to look like those in the book and affixed those all over the tabletop.

I'm all about the happy accidents these days.  Also all about using the leftover scrapbook paper.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Doin' the Robot for Valentine's Day

PJ insisted on store-bought LEGO Star Wars valentines this year - and C isn't doing valentines anymore.


I had to insert whimsy where I could - so on Sunday afternoon (after I took a long, well-deserved post-event-planning nap) we decorated rectangular boxes of candy to look like robots.

Very simple robots. Did I mention that I was recovering from an event-planning marathon? Yeah, very simple robots, plus bags of Sweet Tarts, stuffed into a larger (also robot-themed) cello bag, and tied off with a pencil.

No, my robots aren't droids. But they are droid-adjacent. So they are, sort of, Star Wars-appropriate.

The robot sweater was a happy accident. It's what he wore to church that morning. Seriously - I was too tired to think up, or implement, wardrobe concepts to coordinate with blog posts.

I was doing well just to phone in robots. Robots without arms and sans antennae.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Things I'm Digging: Goodnight Cowtown

One of the tables at Reading Rocks that drew a lot of attention was for the picture book, "Goodnight Cowtown."

Live in Fort Worth but haven't seen the book? Well, it's just being released (this week, I believe?). Book was written by two local Junior Leaguers, with illustrations by a third. I have seen it, and it's awesome.

Learn more at

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Adventures in Party Planning: Event Prep Marathon

Except for brief periods for sleeping, personal grooming and wardrobe changes, I was at Ridglea Country Club from 8 am on Friday morning until midnight on Saturday.   I ate five consecutive meals there.  (I highly recommend the new Green Goddess Salad with the wine-poached shrimp.)

First on the agenda: Reading Rocks. As this year's featured children's book author, Joe Hayes, hails from Santa Fe and pulls his inspiration from folk tales and tall tales from the Southwestern US and Mexico, Friend Robyn and I knew that we needed to take the decor in that direction, but it took us a little bit to figure out how to put a child-friendly spin on "Southwestern." In the end, though, I think we nailed it.

It helps that we have crazy friends who respond to random Facebook appeals from yours truly with messages like, "Well, yes, I do happen to have a taxidermied coyote, and also an animatronic horse. Would you like to borrow both of them?"

Yes, please. Here is said coyote watching over various craft supplies (yes, tortillas can constitute craft supplies - keep reading):

It also helped that I had a (very sweet) connection at the Doss Center in Weatherford, who got me on the radar of the Center's Board of Directors.  Once upon a time, the Doss put on a wonderful summer program that allowed kids to play pretend as Texas settlers.  Seriously, it was really neat, almost like a live-action problem-solving exercise:  like real settlers, the participants had to vote where to establish their settlement, how to deal with the neighboring Native American tribes, and so on.  Really hope that they bring the program back, but in the meantime, they have a lot of Texana in the basement that is not in everyday use. And so it was that Spouse (darling, long-suffering Spouse) got to drive out to Parker County (hey, he had a hearing in Weatherford, anyway), retrieve a ranch truck and fetch, among other items, two old washtubs, a saddle, several cowhides, a buffalo hides, kerosene lanterns, spurs, branding irons, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam.

Saved us a bunch of money, and it really lent an air of authenticity to things (not that we didn't ultimately whimsy everything up).  We scored a couple of borrowed tipis from other sources, which meant we only had to rent one larger tipi and two fiberglass horses.

This is one of the fiberglass horses.  He, too, can be yours for the day, for the low, low price of $125. 

On a personal note, Robyn and I appreciated the opportunity to cross "install ginormous fiberglass horses in the Ridglea lobby" off of our shared bucket list. (We put the second ginormous horse under the photos of all of the past Club presidents.)

My favorite horse, though, was the sweet furry boy that moved when his motion sensor tripped:

Okay, not going to lie - kind of enjoyed watching the kids (and their moms) jump when he moved his head or tail.

More tipi action:

The little tabletop tipis for Friday night's cocktail reception were my responsibility:

Whereas getting the wooden cacti cut and painted was all Robyn:

Aren't they adorable?  She can tell you the paint color, if you are interested.   I only remember that it was Martha Stewart, because I remember thinking that it was funny to be using Martha Stewart paint on a free-standing wooden cactus.

More wooden cacti below. We split up the decoupaging and "cactus fluffing" duties. (Cactus fluffing. That's an ironic phrase.)

To vary the look (we didn't want all saguaro), we made round cacti out of green paper garden lanterns, using silk fringe (purchased on clearance) for "needles."

We also worked my paper patchwork books into various arrangements.  See, it really broke my heart to cut up books - even if those books were purchased from the Half Price Books clearance aisle (meaning that they were on their last legs).  So in the spirit of using every part of the buffalo, I turned the book covers into prop books.

The "RR" stands for Reading Rocks - or Robyn Rogers.  Depends on who you ask.

By the way, I call the photo above "Still Life with Decoupaged Book, Kerosene Lantern, Horse Tail and Kathryn's Drained Margarita Glass." (The margaritas at the cocktail reception were killer - and free-flowing. They sustained me after nine hours on my feet.)

One more photo of cacti and stuff:

(Click on the image to enlarge it and get the full effect.)

We also recruited local muralists to create their interpretations of Mr. Hayes' stories.  So glad that one of them chose the gum-chewing rattler:

Also glad that a team of table decorators did a gum-chewing rattler table, because I really had good intentions to paint one of the cacti pink, cover it with bubble gum and drape it with rattlesnakes, but I ran out of steam.  Here's a few shots of their table:

Other table decorators got the Joe Hayes memo as well:

I purchased a copy of the book in the bottom image - The Day It Snowed Tortillas - and had it autographed for the boys.  Along with the gum cactus, Robyn and I had good intentions about cutting snowflakes out of tortillas and suspending them from fishing line over the Central Market tortilla-making demonstration.  However, hanging them proved to be an obstacle (also an obstacle:  cutting the darn things out), and we were good just to get the truckload of papel picado banners that I ordered from San Antonio hung from the ceiling.  So we made do with a couple of vase arrangements that ultimately found their way onto the bar behind the breakfast buffet:

All in all, we were pleased with what we accomplished. The event itself turned out great, and pack-down after the event proved seamless, which was a good thing, because the Junior Woman's Club social committee needed to get in to set up for JWC's formal dance, and Robyn and I (as the immediate past social chair and twice-removed club president, respectively) did NOT want to be impediments. Been there, done that, you know? Also, Robyn was in charge of the silent auction for that event, so basically we took a break to eat lunch (Ridglea meal #4!), recruited the help of a certain twelve year-old (whose father and brother were busy returning Western kitsch to parts west) and, along with Robyn's mom (who was also a TREMENDOUS help on Friday) knocked out the auction tables.

All in a weekend's work.  And, no, I do not want to decorate for your event.  Going back to lawyering and mothering for a good long while!  But I will continue to trickle out kids' party themes culled from this year's Reading Rocks tables . . . .  There were some GREAT ones.