Friday, December 19, 2008

Visions of Sugarplums...

Looks like it's time for a break!

Before I run off to bake cookies and wrap stuff, here's one bit of news - Angela Nickerson of Just Go is having a giveaway as part of her participation in Passports with Purpose, a fundraiser to benefit Heifer International. Angela's giveaway post goes up at 10 am Pacific time today, and you have 'til Monday to enter! To learn about a great cause, and to enter for a chance to win a little something for yourself, click here.

Happy Holidays!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bundles of Joy

Some friends of ours just had their first baby, a girl. She was due on Christmas day, but she arrived early. Maybe she wanted to make sure she didn’t miss out on seeing Santa.

The news reminded us of when our own kids were born, and we started reminiscing. I thought about some of the things we’ve learned. Would it have been helpful to know some of those things ahead of time? Here, for instance, are some things I’ve discovered:

*You use words like wa-wa and boo-boo long after the kids have outgrown them.

*You go from buying one tiny bottle of ketchup every year to buying one giant drum of ketchup every month.

*Your car starts to smell like old French fries. Much worse when it rains.

*Shopping with children never gets easier.

*If you love walking around barefoot, be prepared to step in wet things and have no idea where they came from.

*If your child hasn’t played with something in over a year, you should give it to charity.

*Two days after you give it to charity, your child suddenly remembers it, and goes into hysterics trying to find it.

*You find yourself spelling out words in conversation – even when there are no kids in the room.

*No matter how many times you fold them, the towels rearrange themselves.

*A new roll of toilet paper occasionally makes it into the bathroom on time, but it never makes it onto the hanger.

*At some point your mother/father’s face stares back at you from the mirror.

*At the oddest moments, you realize how grateful you are.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas With Blurry Dog

Ho, ho, ho...


Ho, ho, ho...


Ho, ho, ho...


Ho, ho, ho...

Yes, that's more like it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Instead of Aides, Maybe They Could Call Them Hinders

My son came home from school yesterday and informed me that the playground aides are a bunch of meanies. No offense to anyone who offers their time to responsibly monitor the behavior and safety of school kids. However, I can’t help thinking some people choose this occupation because they actually enjoy yelling at kids and thinking up ways to spoil their fun.

The latest complaint came because one of the kids was accidently knocked down during a game of tag. This prompted the aide on duty to decree that from now on the kids would have to play a modified game of tag. The person who is ‘it’ could chase subjects until his or her hand was close to another player’s shoulder, and then call, “Tag, you’re it.”

In other words, they may continue to play tag…as long as they don’t actually TAG anyone.

Realizing right away the absurdity of this rule, the kids invented their own version of tag. They call it Telepathy Tag. They just stand there staring at each other, until someone calls out, “Tag!” Really, why bother running around and working up a sweat if you can’t actually tag anyone? Of course, they also realized right away that it was pretty easy to cheat at this game.

The aides also decided that the kids could only play on the monkey bars if they went one by one, in one direction only, and in an orderly fashion.

So, to get things straight, the new playground rules are: No tagging while playing tag, and no monkeying around on the monkey bars. I wonder what’s next. Dodge ball with no ball, and no dodging, either?

I told my son to wait 'til after winter break and see what happens. Who knows, maybe Santa will be good to them, and they'll lighten up a little.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Failure to Communicate

Parent-teacher conferences were last week, so one morning we had to get up and ready to leave the house a whole half hour earlier than usual. I knew it would be tough, but I thought with a little planning we could pull it off.

I got up early and pulled on jeans and a sweater so I could feed and walk the dog while my husband took a shower. I didn’t even slow down to get a cup of coffee; I headed straight out the door when she was done wolfing down her breakfast. Usually the dog tries to drag me down the street, but this morning I hauled her around the neighborhood. Yes, today I was walking the dog - not the other way around. None of that dilly-dallying to sniff gross stuff, either. We weren’t going to be late.

I got back in plenty of time to take a shower. I rushed upstairs to find my husband out of the shower and dressed already. I headed for the bathroom door, but something stopped me in my tracks. The shower seemed to be running. Occupied? Confused, I counted heads. Husband and me. One, two. Who was in our shower?

Ah, yes. I forgot that now that he has to share the bathroom with a teenage girl, my son prefers our bathroom. Who can blame him? He used to be afraid of the spiders lurking in the corners of the tub - now he fears being buried alive in beauty care products.

No problem. Resigned to wait my turn, I made good use of the time. I ran downstairs to make the lunches that the kids forgot to make the night before. If I slapped together two PB&J’s, we could still make it.

I ran back upstairs. The shower was free – thank goodness for boys and their uncomplicated grooming requirements! If I took a few shortcuts myself, we’d be outta here in no time. No shaving, no shampoo. I figure it’s okay as long as I smell good, right?

I dressed and hurried downstairs – ready to go! The kids were dressed and ready and sitting in the family room, backpacks packed. They looked up. I looked around.

“Where’s Daddy?” I asked. They stared back at me, a little confused.

“He’s walking the dog.”

So much for planning. On the bright side, the dog did appreciate her second helping of breakfast.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cheap and Easy Flowers

An easy way to make a contemporary looking centerpiece is to arrange flowers in rows – absolutely no design experience necessary! The arrangement in the picture was made with a $4 mixed bouquet I got from the supermarket. They are definitely not my favorite flowers, which is even better to demonstrate that this looks interesting no matter what flowers you use. The only items I added were the pinecones and berries – you could also add a row of small glass ornaments.

To make this centerpiece, line a rectangular container (I used a cookie tin) with wet floral foam and add a border by placing small pieces of greenery into the foam around the edge. Then cut all the flower stems to about 2 inches and insert them in whatever pattern you like. It’s a little like making a pattern for a rug.

Here’s another super easy arrangement that costs next to nothing. It reminds me of a frozen pond. Just add a couple of pine branches and a few berry sprigs to any tall clear vase, and fill with water (keep the branches short enough to stay under the water). To get the frozen lake effect, take a few pieces of plastic wrap and wad them up loosely to about the size of a tennis ball. Carefully insert them among the branches, shaping them a little to look more natural. Tiny air bubbles will get trapped around the plastic, giving the illusion of ice. Add a few small floating candles on top.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

This Is Her Jam

My baby got a boo-boo.

When my husband brought her home from water polo practice, the first thing my daughter did was hold her swollen finger in front of my face for a kiss. She explained how one of her teammates had kicked her hard right on the tip of her middle finger. After we packed it in ice and she felt better, I couldn’t resist asking her, “Well did you at least sing ...this is my JAM...? (If you have no idea what song I’m talking about, click here to hear Flo Rida's In the Ayer).

She laughed and said, “You’re not going to believe this, but I was singing that song RIGHT before it happened." She held the bruised finger up. "And then I thought, well whaddya know, this really IS my jam.

The incident reminded me of when she went to horse camp for a week. On the third day she fell off her horse and landed on her shoulder. A paramedic who was on site assured her it wasn’t broken. At home we iced it and the next day she insisted it was starting to feel better.

It was an all-day camp, and every morning I left early for work before she got up. She came home exhausted each night and ready for bed. So I didn’t see her much until the end of the week, when they put on a show for the parents to see what they’d learned.

The instructors handed out ribbons after each event. I noticed that instead of reaching for her ribbons, my daughter just leaned her whole body over with her arm tucked tightly against her side. Uh-oh, I thought. We went straight to the hospital for x-rays.

I’ll never forget the look on the doctor’s face when she asked, “This happened on Wednesday and you’re just bringing her in now?” It turned out I’d been letting her go horseback riding for four more days...with a broken arm.

Well, I wasn’t going to let THAT happen again. The next morning when her jammed finger was still swollen and bruised and she couldn’t bend it, we went for an x-ray.

The good news is, it isn’t broken and she’ll be back to playing water polo in no time. The bad news is, it isn’t broken and she’ll be back to playing water polo in no time.

Tough sport. Tough girl.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Picturing Houses

I’m in the middle of working on a picture book dummy, so I haven’t had time to start any new portfolio pieces. I thought I’d post some of my other art in the meantime.

A few years ago when we were on a super tight budget, I scrounged around the house looking for something I could make use to make art. When the kids were little, I took lots of pictures and always had double prints made to send the favorites to my parents. That left me with stacks of extra prints and rejects cluttering up the closets.

I decided to cut them up and use them to make collages. Here are a few pieces from a series of houses. The first one, titled Above the Abyss, was exhibited as part of a Regional Art Exhibit at the San Diego Art Institute a couple of years ago.

It’s strange to think that with the development of digital photography, my material resource might be running out. I’ll bet if I asked around, though, I’d find that many people have a similar stash of unwanted photos in the back of a closet.

I have plenty of sketches and ideas for more photo collages, but as always, I have more ideas than time.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Mixed Message

We were out holiday shopping and ducked into a little toy store that sells quaint wooden toys, mostly for toddlers and preschoolers. Many of the toys are handcrafted. A sign up front boasts that they’ll customize anything for you.

All decked out for Christmas, the store was reminiscent of Santa’s workshop. A bigger sign on the wall in the middle of the store announced a warm sentiment of the season:

And directly underneath the sign was this display:

I know everyone has an opinion on the gun issue, and a thoughtful argument to back up it up. And yeah, I played with cap guns when I was little and my brothers played war and we turned out fine. Well, maybe fine is a relative term, but let’s say we don’t want to go around shooting anyone.

It’s just that the juxtaposition of these images totally cracked me up. Really, an AK-47 is not the first thing that pops into my mind when I think of Tidings of Great Joy. Or toddler toys, for that matter. Does anything quite say Good Will Toward Men like a 9mm in baby’s stocking?

I see a Christmas card greeting here. Peace on Earth…or in this case, Piece on Earth. Maybe the inscription could read:

I went to buy the kids some blocks;
But then I found a pair of Glocks.
Instead of spreading Christmas cheer,
The tots are popping at reindeer.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Seaside Dreaming

I’ve been thinking the view from my next house should be something like this:

In the morning I’ll sit on the balcony and drink something with a little umbrella in it. The outside temperature will cooperate. I’ll soak up all the sun I want and never get wrinkled. Some magical cream made with seaweed gel will promise to keep my skin soft and supple. The seagulls will keep their distance.

However, these guys will be welcome anytime.

Of course I’ll need a new means of transportation. It will have to be something sleek, with a posh interior and lots and lots of leg room. If I can’t be taller, I can at least have leg room.

This looks about right. Someone else will have to drive, though, because I will be much, much too busy trying to decide what color visor looks best with my adjustable forward deck sun pad. (Note to self: must check to see if Jimmy Choo flip-flops really do exist.)

When I get hungry I’ll pull up to my favorite seaport spot for lunch.

They will know better than to offer me white chocolate. I’ll go there every day and never have to set foot on one of these:


In the evening I’ll stretch out on a teakwood lounge on the back lawn. Someone will bring me a drink in a coconut shell. The mosquitoes will keep their distance. I’ll enjoy the sunset and wonder…

…why do tourists keep strolling though my back yard?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Basic Blooms

I like having flowers around the house but don’t like to fuss over them a whole lot. I don’t have a budget for anything from the florist, either, so I thought this month would be a good time to come up with some cheap and easy ideas for flower arrangements.

For the centerpiece above, I lined a basket with heavy plastic and transplanted two sixpacks of bedding plants from the nursery. If bedding plants aren’t available, a few small flowering plants would also work. Then I bought a dozen roses from the grocery store, cut four of them short, and placed them in water tubes to tuck into the dirt among the plants – three in one corner and one in the opposite. A little basket filler around the edge hides the plastic liner. Another plus about this one – it’s long-lasting.

Now – what to do with the other eight roses? I put them in a plain glass cylinder vase, and slid some pretty leaves from the yard and a few river rocks into the water around the edge of the glass. A few large leaves from the garden at the mouth of the vase filled the arrangement out a little. Of course it could be done in holiday colors, with pine or cedar branches for a more wintry look.

The best part – I ended up with two arrangements for under $20.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Love of Locks

How many people have a love/hate relationship with their hair? When I was growing up, my mother never let me grow my hair, so my impression is that I spent my childhood looking like a dork. I was sometimes mistaken for a boy. Still, as an adult I’ve gone from long to boy-short and back again many times.

My daughter’s hair has always been her crowning glory. People go crazy for it. Long, spiral curls people swear they’d kill for. The picture was taken after we straightened out as much of the curl as we could, so she could show her friends how long it really was – down to her waist.

So she floored me when she told me of her plans to cut it off. She didn’t want to be a slave to it – the long hours of detangling and styling. She worried about hanging on to it for so long she’d be too afraid to ever part with it.

She’d been scheming for some time. She planned to grow it long enough to donate, and still have a little left over for herself. Then homework schedules and water polo practice started, and plans turned to urgency. She needed a change, and she needed it RIGHT NOW.

We looked up Locks of Love. She was willing to part with the full ten inches required for a donation. In fact, she wouldn’t have it any other way. All that work not to have enough for a donation didn’t seem like an option.

In salon number one, a surly stylist balked at cutting ten inches. We walked out. At home I listened to more rounds of agonizing about whether this was a good idea. We flipped through the hairstyling magazines a zillion more times.

Salon number two was more reassuring. I watched for what must have been a full minute as the stylist hacked through that thick ponytail. I could sense daughter’s relief when the ponytail finally came off – no turning back now.

She’s crazy about her new above the shoulder look. While looking up the information for donating, I realized I had a ponytail I could donate, too. Some time ago, in one of my long-to-short whims, I promised a stylist I wouldn’t freak out if she cut it all off. I tossed the ponytail in a cedar chest because I didn’t think it was long enough to donate, and forgot all about it. I might never have bothered to find out, but it turns out it meets the requirements. So thanks to my girl, we ended up with two ponytails to mail away. Only hers is so thick, it ought to count for three all by itself.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

She Came From Planet Claire

You know how on Star Trek everyone could understand each other because they had those translator thingies that instantly translated alien languages? If only I had one of those to translate what’s in my brain into something everyone can understand, it could seriously reduce the amount of time I spend on writing.

Yesterday’s one-word meme is a perfect example. When I received it I thought, great! Short and sweet! Like free association. Then I started realizing how long it takes to translate the first thing that pops into my head into something that people might understand.

For instance, when I read the question, Your car? the first thing I thought of was noseprints, because my car windows are usually covered with them. Then I thought, that’s disgusting. People will think I’m not only crazy but a pig, too. So I changed it to pawprints. That made perfect sense to me, since I often refer to my kids’ hands as paws, and evidence of their paws is all over the car in addition to the dog’s. Besides that, their school used to give out bumper stickers with pawprints all over them and I’ve had those on the car for years. So even though technically it should be two words, pawprints seemed like the perfect one word description.

Then just before I published the post, it hit me. Who in their right mind uses the word PAWPRINTS to describe a CAR? That makes NO SENSE at all! I even went and woke my husband. I said, Honey, if someone asked me to describe my car and I said ‘pawprints’ what would you think?

He rubbed his eyes and didn’t even bother to look at me like I’m nuts because he knows that already, and said, Um…your dog rides in the car?

Sometimes I have to settle for close enough.

If by any chance you’re feeling like an alien, too, click here to watch The B-52’s Planet Claire video. It made me feel better, anyway.

Monday, December 1, 2008

In a Word

I was tagged by Melissa with this fun meme. Just in time, too. I’ve been so full of turkey and pie I haven’t thought of a thing to blog about.

Since the challenge is to give a one word response to the questions, I thought it would be a refreshing change of pace for writers who just participated in NaNoWriMo. So first I’ll tag Rena, Christy, and Stephanie. And because I know she appreciates the spare poetry style of Cinquain, I’ll tag Kelly, too.

Here are my answers:

Where is your cell phone? purse

Where is your significant other? garage
Your hair color? brown
Your mother? crocheted
Your father? checkmates
Your favorite thing? critters
Your dream last night? yoga
Your dream/goal? published
The room you’re in? red
Your hobby? flowers
Your fear? time
Where do you want to be in 6 years? coast
Where were you last night? bookstore
What you’re not? hungry
One of your wish-list items? camera
Where you grew up? Virginia
Last thing you did? rearranged
What are you wearing? verbena
Your TV? small
Your pet? unruly
Your computer? busy
Your mood? amused
Missing someone? Mom
Your car? pawprints
Something you’re not wearing? shoes
Favorite store? aromatic
Your summer? sandy
Love someone? many
Your favorite color? changes
When is the last time you laughed? Elf
Last time you cried? bills

As long as the holidays are upon us, I’m curious about this one…what items are on your wish-list?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thirty-Something Not Too Sappy Things to be Thankful For

The smell of brown sugar
Hot and cold running water
The sound of scissors cutting through construction paper
Shoes that don’t pinch
Funny movies
Toasted marshmallows
Yellow trees against blue sky
The crack of a baseball bat hitting a ball
The feel of dog and cat chins
The crack of a spoon hitting a crème brulee
A bed to sleep in
New crayons
A hammer
Taking longer than 6 seconds to put $20 of gas in tank
Really good hand lotion
Someone who watches your favorite TV show with you
Funny kids
Clever riddles
Once in a while finding money in a pants pocket
Double yellow lines down the middle of the road
Light switches
Warm socks
Citrus fruit
A friend who gets you


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tall Order

I have a tiny pair of Giacometti sculpture reproductions that I bought years ago in Florence. I noticed them standing on my bookshelf, as if to remind me that I’ve got tall people coming to visit. Having tall people over presents a whole variety of planning problems. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

I have to get up on a stepladder and clean surfaces I haven’t seen in a very long time. While I’m up there I’ll have a look around and think, hmm…so this is what the world looks like if you are one of those tall people.

I have to dust the books and pictures on the top shelves, because there are people who are actually tall enough to reach out and grab one for closer inspection. Oh, how I look forward to dusting. Especially the top shelves. This is what I get for never cleaning anything that’s not in my line of vision.

I’ll have to reposition the hanging plants so the tall people won’t conk their too-high foreheads on them. I’ll need to push back all the furniture in my tiny living room. Otherwise they wont be able to sit down without bumping their tree trunks on the coffee table. I wouldn’t want them to go knocking knick-knacks onto the cheese and cracker plate, now would I?

I’m not ungrateful, really I’m not. I’m not jealous, either. Okay, I’m a little bit jealous. I have to hem all my pants, and I enjoy hemming almost as much as I enjoy dusting. But I’m thrilled they are coming. Here’s a teensy weensy rhyme to express my appreciation:

I love my tall people, really I do,
My house just wasn’t designed for you.

Now I’m off to the drugstore to buy hair color. If I have tall people coming, I’m going to have to touch up my roots.

Monday, November 24, 2008

From the Department of Reinventing the Wheel All Over Again

Have you seen this? Watch. Explain...if you can.


Maybe next they'll come up with a rowing machine that actually FLOATS on WATER!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Turkey Pot Luck

I promised the kids that this Thanksgiving I’d make sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top. I haven’t made them that way in years, because my husband’s not so crazy about them. They were my absolute favorite when I was little, and I thought the kids should get to experience them. Hopefully hubby won’t mind scraping off marshmallow goo just this once.

That got me thinking about memorable Thanksgiving dishes. I’ll bet everyone has a standout from their past. Mine is from a Thanksgiving years ago when I was still single. I drove up to San Jose with a friend of mine to visit my brother, and we were all invited to some friends of my brother’s for Thanksgiving dinner.

It wasn’t until we were on route to our hosts’ house on Thanksgiving Day that my brother remembered we were supposed to bring a dessert. Of course by then everything was closed. We stopped into a convenience store, but I really didn’t think Ding Dongs were going to make a very good offering.

I looked around for something to work with. I found a graham cracker pie crust – off to a good start – but what to fill it with? Donettes? Gummy worms? Cheese in a can?

We found a six-pack of those little chocolate puddings and a tub of Cool Whip – success! We peeled back the lids and emptied each individual pudding cup into the pie shell, and then smothered it with Cool Whip. Instant convenience store chocolate cream pie!

The crazy thing was, it was a hit. And not just with the kids. It wasn’t traditional or elegant, but you can’t underestimate the power of chocolate and phony cream. Hmm…maybe Ding Dongs would have worked after all.

So how ‘bout it? Got any memorable Thanksgiving dishes you’d like to share? Serve ‘em up, with all the gooey details.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Diamonds Are Forever...Except When They're Not

My best friend left me. No, not the handsome dude in the photo. Diamonds are supposed to be a girl’s best friend, but if you are a flower girl on a mission, they just might leave you.

First, I blogged about my anniversary. Then Rena challenged everyone to post a wedding photo, and then Carrie wrote about diamonds hidden in sticks of deodorant. All that reminded me of how I LOST the DIAMOND right out of my engagement ring.

Recently I was a floral designer for a special event company. Big corporate types threw giant extravaganzas with varying themes. We provided the flowing volcanoes, the ten foot tall elephant sculptures, the authentic Mexican produce carts, all with exotic coordinating florals. Sometimes clients wanted weird things. One day I was commissioned to come up with a container large enough to create a giant floral that would incorporate, among other things, a Styrofoam lemon bigger than a Thanksgiving turkey.

I combed the warehouse for props. I found an oversized megaphone that looked promising - just the right shape for a vase. More digging turned up a large umbrella stand. If I shoved the four foot long megaphone upright onto the umbrella stand - voila! I’d have one extra-large floral urn.

I just needed about five pounds of hot glue to hold it together. I melted dozens of gluesticks to fuse the cone to the base, so the whole display wouldn’t topple onto a chocolate fountain and splatter someone’s spiffy attire. I painted the entire thing a blinding yellow to match the overgrown lemon. The result was dazzling.

I can’t say the same for my ring. I felt something pokey on my left hand and looked down to find four empty prongs where my diamond used to be. There was only one logical explanation; my diamond was now embedded in a hunk of glue in the hollows of a giant megaphone.

I considered melting the whole thing down, possibly ending up with no diamond and no job, either. I figured it was futile to try to find it.

There should be a moral in there somewhere. Loose stones sink in cones? Four prongs don’t make it right? If life gives you lemons, make lemonade - but hold the ice?

So diamonds might be a glue’s best friend. But hey, I still have that handsome dude in the photo.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Little Italy

Some Saturdays go something like this: What do you wanna do? I don’t know, what do you wanna do?

Last Saturday we decided we wanted to drive downtown to Little Italy. Here are ten things you can do when you are going to Little Italy:

1. Three quarters of the way there, try to remember how to get there.

2. Get lost.

3. Try to say Little Italy ten times really fast.

4. Search purse for coins to feed the parking meter.

5. Listen to some arguing about whose turn it is to put the coins in the meter.

6. Get up as close as possible to really tall buildings. Touch the tips of your shoes to the base of the building, and then look straight up.

Wheee! Be sure to wave to any people looking down from their balconies.

7. Try to figure out where those weird reflections are coming from.

8. Check out shops filled with fancy Italian stuff, like handmade paper masks and Murano glass.

9. Most importantly, and the whole reason for the excursion to Little Italy:

Buy freshly filled cannoli. It’s the world’s most perfect culinary creation.

10. Leave with 40 minutes left on the parking meter, for someone else to enjoy.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I'm a Lion Fool

Here is my explanation followed by an explanation.

I feel kinda bad. I might have caused some confusion when I posted my small cat tale on Friday. Silly me, I thought it was obvious when I was relating real facts and when I was spouting pure nonsense. Turns out either people think my life’s way more interesting than it really is, or everything I say just sounds like pure nonsense. Which makes me a little tempted to start making everything up, just for fun.

But I wouldn’t do that. Instead, from now on I’ll be sure to post a warning when I’m telling tall tales. I even have a new label in the sidebar called Total Fiction Prompted By Cool Photo. Because very often when I see a cool photo, I can’t help but make up a story to go with it.

Now for the REAL story behind the lion cub in the picture: She was called Nala (at least temporarily), and she was rescued from a circus in Mexico, along with several other animals. The adult animals were sent right away to new homes, but Nala was in the foster care of a friend of my brother-in-law for about a month. My brother-in-law had the chance to play with her and take pictures of her at his friend’s home.

He reports that although her teeth were not sharp, her jaws were super strong! He’s a big guy, too – which makes me think twice about whether or not I’d really want to roughhouse with one of those. I’m pretty envious, though – how many people get to play with one of the big cats?

Probably the most exotic pet we’ve had was a giant pill millipede from Madagascar. It was my husband’s, actually. To me it looked just like a lobster tail, except when it rolled up into a ball. Then it looked like a croquet ball. We had two little ones, too, that looked like chocolate truffles when they were all rolled up.

So that’s the truth, and I ain’t lion.
No, I really mean it, and I’m not just kitten around.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Who Said This Wouldn't Hurt A Bit?

Caitlin thinks it's bad enough she got dragged to the doctor’s office to get a dumb ol’ shot, but this waiting room is the pits. The chairs are hard to stretch out on, and everywhere you look, nothing but beige, beige, beige. Not even a single Highlights in sight. She’s already eaten both parenting magazines, along with a stack of brochures that had pictures of rhinos on them and some words about a virus. There are no toys to be found - not even one of those wiry things with the loop-the-loops and the tasty little wooden beads.

After playing about ninety-nine rounds of rock/paper/scissors with her dad, Caitlin decides she has really had enough. There’d better be a pretty impressive sticker waiting for her after this. And a big fat meat sandwich, too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mouse Surprise

Here is the finished painting for my bug’s eye view study (the evolution of this one is described here and here). This turned out to be one of my favorite pieces. I’m not sure if it’s the slightly unusual angle, or just that I’ve always found little furry critters irresistible.

I keep wondering, though…what do you suppose that mouse is thinking?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Even in Southern California

My daughter decided to try out for water polo this year. I admire her willingness to try it, because even in Southern California, I think of swimming as a summer activity. Maybe that’s because we don’t have indoor pools in this area, and it takes some determination to get into a swimming pool in the middle of November. Sure, we still get the occasional Santa Ana to spike afternoon temperatures, but water polo practice will not take place on a sunny afternoon. It may be sunny California in the daytime, but you can still see your breath at night. By mid-winter we even get frosty mornings.

To my dismay, we had very little notice to get our hands on a suitable swimsuit for practices. Even in Southern California, swimsuits are a seasonal item. We ran around to half a dozen discount stores in hopes of finding one left on a clearance rack before giving in and realizing we’d have to face the Big Sporting Goods Store at the mall. Naturally, the Big Sporting Goods Store keeps a rack of big name brands with big sticker prices all year long.

Price tags aside, there is something to be said for a limited selection. The search for a one-piece was nothing like the battle that took place at the beginning of the summer, when I took my thirteen year old bikini shopping. She must’ve tried on about seven hundred or so. We fought bitterly over strings and cutouts and animal prints and weird sparkly embellishments. In what I believe was store number fifty-nine or so we finally found the one suit that we could agree on. One that didn’t make me think over my dead body or make her think only someone who still likes Strawberry Shortcake would want to wear this.

As we drove from store to store, the air in the car was downright chilly. It wasn’t because we were cranking the AC in the summer heat. Even in Southern California, a teenage girl sure knows how to master the cold shoulder.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Loads of Thanks

Thanksgiving is coming, and I realized I’m thankful for several things that all have to do with clean clothes.

The other day I spotted something I haven’t seen in a long time. If I hadn’t been the one to unearth it, I might not have recognized it at all. Does this object look familiar:

It’s an empty laundry basket! Woo-hoo! I got so excited when I saw it I ran to get the camera. I knew it would disappear like a comet, and it could be years (maybe a decade even) before I laid eyes on it again.

This rare event made me think how thankful I am that the little apartment-sized stacking washer/dryer we bought 14 years ago is miraculously still going! It was the only thing that would fit in the shoebox of a cottage we lived in when my daughter was born. As much as I enjoyed seeing those Styrofoam peanut-sized baby socks hanging from the clothesline, we were relieved to have a dryer of any size.

I’m thankful for the repairmen who’ve taken pity on me over the years and somehow magically held the thing together with paper clips and super glue. I’m even thankful for the one who scolded me (and all American women) for cramming it way too full with every single load. How else could I possibly hope to ever see the bottom on the laundry basket? I’m thankful for the last repairman, who told us it was safe to keep using it even though the dryer now makes a sound like we’re torturing guinea pigs in the garage.

I’m really thankful that none of our neighbors have complained or called the SPCA or even suspected foul play. Only one woman asked what those ear-splitting death screams were, and she didn’t even raise an eyebrow. You have to appreciate a neighbor who doesn’t turn you in to the Homeowner’s Association even when she has to live next door to the sound of screaming banshees.

Yep, even though shrieking to be put out of its misery, Good Ol’ Stacky keeps on spewing out loads of clean clothes. And I’m very thankful for clean clothes, even if they never, EVER get put away.

Friday, November 7, 2008

In The Mail

This week, I sent away something fun in the mail, and I received something fun in the mail.

On Monday I sent a painting off to a client. I’m always nervous about sending art in the mail. I wrapped it three times in bubble wrap and I still wanted to crawl inside the box and go with it to make sure it got there okay.

I recently started offering custom dress illustrations. I love dresses (even if I don’t wear them much) and I realized women usually have at least one dress that has a very special event or memory attached to it. It’s a shame that after one wearing it’s usually stuffed in a box or banished to the back of the closet. The painting in the picture is one of my samples. My website is kind of a work in progress – I plan to make a few changes in the design and add to my gallery when I get the chance. If you’d like to see more, visit my site at Painting The Gown.

Now for the fun thing I received this week. On Tuesday, I got my prizes from Stephanie’s Title Contest! I was so happy to see that cheery CaféPress envelope in the box! Here’s what I got:

That’s Sheila the Zombie Cheerleader, urging me to be creative – or else! And next to Sheila is my new blank journal featuring The Leaf Napper, a sweet napping dog. Hmm…sometimes a good nap is just what I need to be creative! See more of Stephanie’s charming designs at her CaféPress store.

What’s in your mail? Have you sent or received anything fun lately?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Do Back In '92

Tomorrow is my sixteenth wedding anniversary. I googled to find out what is the appropriate gift for a sixteenth anniversary and came up with silver hollowware. Now I can’t get the image of The Tin Man out of my mind, and there’s nothing even remotely romantic about him. He’s squeaky and rusty and he doesn’t even have a heart.

My husband and I went back and forth on how to celebrate. We don’t get out much – our current schedule makes a night out a little tricky. And just when the kids got old enough to be home without a babysitter, we brought home Luna - the couch-eating, gadget-stealing, counter-jumping canine tornado. I’m afraid if we left the three of them alone we’d come home to find both kids locked in the dog crate and Luna using the parrot’s feathers to floss her teeth.

So, we could go to dinner and yawn over a plate of blackened bass with pesto, and risk returning to a pile of rubble, or…

…we could go out for breakfast! Why didn’t we think of this before? I’ll find something more frou-frouey to put on than what I usually wear to eat a bowl of Fruity Cheerio’s. (That shouldn’t be too hard.) We’ll drop the kids off at school and drive to that swanky little beach resort where we got married. We’ll stroll around with the boutique and business crowd and pretend we have disposable income, too.

Anyone can go out on a Friday night. But sipping Bloody Mary’s in the salt air on a Friday morning, surrounded by a bunch of people with freakishly flawless complexions – now that’s an occasion.

Celebrating anything?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Seven Things

I was tagged by Kim with this meme. I’m supposed to list Seven Unknown Facts about me, which hopefully won’t be completely boring to anyone but me and a couple of immediate family members. So here goes:

1. The house I grew up in had a lake behind it that we swam in. One summer, we noticed the sudden appearance of freshwater jellyfish. They were the size of quarters, and apparently harmless, so we swam along with them.

2. In high school I kept a crayfish as a pet for two years. I started out with two that I brought home from science class, but I wasn’t aware that they are not very discriminating about who they eat.

3. I had a crush on Pete from The Mod Squad and I wanted to be Laurie from The Partridge Family.

4. I sometimes wear men’s cologne.

5. I’ve been to Paris three times: the first time I was left stranded by my travel mate, the second time I got engaged to my husband, and the third time I went with my whole family.

6. I have met two Nobel Prize recipients.

7. I’m fascinated by crop circles. What are those things? Fifty or sixty of them appear every summer in the UK alone. Freaky!

Now it’s your turn. If you haven’t played yet and would like share your list of seven things, consider yourself tagged!

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Know, Halloween Is So Last Week...

…but last week I didn’t have pictures to compare Halloween Then and Now.

Another Halloween has passed, and the kids spent some time over the weekend swapping tales and emailing photos. That got me reminiscing about past Halloweens, and thinking how much has changed. I dug through the photo albums and found this gem:

It’s Halloween 2000. How perfect - a princess and a pumpkin! The princess is so pretty! The pumpkin looks good enough to eat! I think the theme this year was More Kinds of Sugar than the Ingredients in Candy Corn. Hmm, that’s a long theme.

Anyway, fast forward eight years. Let’s see what my little darlings came up with for this year:

Oh look, it’s The Joker and Amy Winehouse! I guess this year’s theme is Creepy, Yet Freakishly Talented. One of these costumes frightened small children, and the other one scared the beejeezus out of the parents.

Hey Ms. Winehouse, why so serious???? Oh yeah, she’s grumpy ‘cause she just got her braces on and has to give half her candy to her little brother. Maybe that’s what put that big smile on his face.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Here is the painting inspired by my very silly Owl-o-ween Tale. I think Winona Screech and friend Jemima Snow are doing their best to be brave trick-or-treaters, but Winona’s baby brother Ewing does not look convinced.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pretty But Useless (No Name Calling)

I was feeling uninspired and thought I should get out of the house. I went to Pier 1 down the street. Maybe sticking my nose in the new reed diffusers was all I needed to recharge. I leaned in to sniff the citrus basil when something caught my eye. A big, shiny metallic swirl on a throw pillow drew me in – it looked like those cheesy special effects that put characters in a hypnotic trance. I had to walk over and touch it.

Ouch! I checked to see if I needed a Band-aid. That eye-catching spiral might as well have been cut from sheet metal. Which made me wonder – aren’t pillows supposed to be soft and cuddly?

I checked out the selection of throw pillows. Sure, they were nice works of art – but what about, um… function? Some were completely encrusted with colorful seashells. Or buttons. Imagine the pock marks you’d end up with if you fell asleep with your face against that. Some had layers of mystery fabric and stitching that poked out like wires. No matter how much polyester fluff you stuff in it, a pillow made of sandpaper would still scratch, right? How about a pillow made of glass, like Cinderella’s shoe? That’d be pretty, but I wouldn’t put it on my couch.

So what is the purpose of a throw pillow, exactly? I always thought they were supposed to make you more comfortable. Or are they called throw pillows because you have to throw them aside to get comfortable?

If they’re just for looks, why not hang them up? That’s what I finally did with the frilly rosette my mom sent years ago. I got tired of having to throw it on the floor every night before I crawled into bed.

And somehow that reminded me of one of my favorite examples of absurdly non-functional art: Meret Oppenheim’s fur-lined teacup.

Got a favorite looks-pretty-but-does-nothing item? Remember, no name calling!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Angela Nickerson of Just Go! is hosting a blog party today! She invited everyone to share their strangest or scariest trip. I thought of strange trips and scary trips, but then I tried to remember my first trip ever. That trip down memory lane was strange, scary, and a little surreal:

It was dark, and my brothers and I were tired and sticky in the back seat of the car. We arrived late at night at the house of people I didn’t know. My mom took me to the room where a girl named Joyce slept. Joyce wore baby doll pajamas – I loved those pajamas! They looked so pink and fresh. I didn’t have pajamas like that.

Then Joyce’s mother took a brand new pair of pajamas out of a drawer and gave them to me. They were just like Joyce’s, only smaller. They were perfect! I slept at one end of the bed with my feet pointing one way and Joyce slept at the other end with her feet pointing the other way – did you ever have to sleep that way?

In the morning I met Joyce’s little brother. His name was John but everyone called him John-John and he wore thick glasses. I never saw a boy so little wearing glasses.

John-John did not want to eat his breakfast.

The grown-ups took us to a place called Lollipop Farm. It was a petting zoo, but I don’t remember petting anything. I don’t remember any lollipops, either.

I do remember an enormous, snuffling pig. Pigs weren’t supposed to be terrifying. In story books they look like you can pick them up and put them on your lap.

I did not want to pet the pig, even if he did sort of look like he was smiling.

That’s all I can remember of our trip to Syosset, New York. When you are small so much is confusing and strange. You are dragged from one place to another with little explanation. You meet people and have no idea whether they will be in your life forever, or only for a day.

I looked up the Lollipop Farm. It was owned by Harry and Alice Sweeny and located at Jackson Farm in Long Island until the late 1960’s. Lollipop was the name of the family goat and mascot. Alice Sweeny even wrote a picture book called Lollipop Farm, published in 1950. The location is now home to a Border’s bookstore and a pizzeria.

For more travel tales, hop over to Just Go! and join the blog tour! Happy travels!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happiness Is An Unsuspecting Tourist

Sterling Pick cannot believe his good fortune. He watches patiently from the pier as Mr. McNeely from Farwell heads his way with a tray full of crab cake sandwiches. He knows the best moment to snatch a crab cake right out of the bun will be the moment Mrs. McNeely holds that new digital camera in front of her sunburned face. No doubt she can’t resist snapping a picture of a handsome seagull, looking remarkably tame as he perches just inches away! To Sterling’s delight, three children waddle in flip-flops behind the bemused couple. If he plays his cards right, there will be French fries, too.

Here’s hoping you’re as happy as a seagull with a crab cake.