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?