Thursday, January 29, 2009

Stale Buns and Magritte

This might give a hint at why I’m fond of surrealism. My husband and I sat finishing up lunch with my eleven year old son, who was busy attacking the remains of a semi-stale cinnamon bun. In between bites, he launched into a monologue about how he was the maker of all things manmade. It went something like this:

“I make the screws on the toothpaste caps. I put the toothpaste in the little tubes. I trim the hedges in all the yards (not a chainsaw). I cut the trees. ..”

My husband and I started laughing, but he kept right on. His delivery was deadpan.

“I make the printing appear in the books. I get inside the computers and make the letters that people type…”

At this point his address was interrupted just long enough for him to spit a small white clump onto his plate. It looked like a glob of icing, but made a ‘clink’ when it hit the plate. He continued …

“I make the light bulbs, and operate them. I make the cars. I put all the little parts together…”

Then, noticing my confused expression, he stopped to clarify, “That was a tooth.”

“No, it wasn’t,” I argued.

“Yes, it was,” he said. He picked the little white object from his plate and stuck it in his mouth, into the hole where it had just been. It fit perfectly.

“You didn’t tell me you had a loose tooth!” I said.

“It was just a little bit loose,” he said. Then he continued:

“I make potato chips and put them in their little baggies…”

My husband and I borrow a line for these little moments of random weirdness:

I am the walrus.

Koo koo ka choo.

For more surreal fun, check out this cool video inspired by the paintings of René Magritte:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Just Want to Wash My Hands

While trying to spiffy things up around the house, I decided it was about time I got a decent soap dispenser for the powder room. I ended up buying three different fancy-schmancy soap dispensers from two different stores, and not one of the stupid things worked. This sort of thing irritates me to the bone. How does a company manage to make it their business to produce and sell soap dispensers that DON’T DISPENSE SOAP?

That got me thinking about volumes of useless junk being produced every day. A lot of this manages to make it into my house. Every time my kids go to a birthday party or celebrate a holiday at school, they come home with bags of it. How many factories are spewing out cheap stuff that doesn’t even work for THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH IT WAS INTENDED? Never mind all the stuff that falls apart after a couple of uses. I’m talking about all the things that never did what they were supposed to in the first place.

We’ve got drawers full of pencils that are useless for writing, erasers that don’t erase, sunglasses that don’t block sun, pens that explode into pieces when you click on the cap, thermal cups that leak, markers that don’t mark, tops that don’t spin, squirt guns that don’t squirt, whistles that sound like wheezing gerbils, post-it pads that are sticky on both sides…I could go on and on.

But I have to get off the soapbox now. I need a good old bar of soap that works. No dispenser necessary.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Amelia Bedelia and Spanish Lessons

We’re several days my father-in-law’s visit, and some of you have been nice enough to inquire how it’s going. I’m feeling a little like Amelia Bedelia – intentions are good…execution leaves a little to be desired. And let’s just say it doesn’t help that the kids make fun of me every time I start doing charades.

Here are a few Spanish phrases that could’ve come in handy so far:

Espero que te gusten las sábanas de “happy face”. Las opciones eran esas o pingüinos. I hope you like smiley face sheets. It was either that or penguins.

Te recomiendo que no veas debajo de la cama. I highly recommend not looking under the bed.

No, yo tampoco sabia que las perras hacian eso. I didn’t know girl dogs did that, either.

No le hagas caso al perico, dice mentiras. Don’t listen to the bird. He lies.

No le hagas caso a la Tortuga, no habla bien español. Don’t listen to the tortoise. His Spanish is no good.

No le hagas caso al pescado, no tenemos ningun pescado. Don’t listen to the fish. We don’t have a fish.

No, las cosas normalmente no son como ahora. Algunas veces es mucho peor. No, it’s not always like this around here. Sometimes it’s much worse.

At least I knew enough to take Amelia Bedelia’s approach, and baked a big applesauce cake. I know Amelia Bedelia baked a lemon meringue pie, but I don’t have a lemon meringue pie recipe. I still remember hearing this book read aloud for the first time when I was in first grade. The reader, a big kid who had to be at least in third grade, pronounced it lemon MER-in-gyoo pie. But back to my point: no matter how you say it, you can smooth over a lot of rough spots with awesome baked goods.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Four Left Paws

I told myself I wouldn’t make any more posts about Luna for a while, because how much should you really blog about your pets? I know… I need to get out more. But I have to get this one in.

Luna has to be the clumsiest dog ever. My mom had a Great Dane that knocked himself out running full speed into a telephone pole. I think Luna is even more of a klutz.

Maybe we should have realized this when, shortly after we brought her home, she tripped and sprained her leg stepping up onto the curb. Or by the way she pounces onto her dinner bowl and skates across the floor, smashing into the kitchen cabinets. Or how she sometimes leans against the sides of her crate and knocks it over onto its side. Then there was that time we let her run around a tennis court with another dog. She got so excited she leapt into the air, and landed right into a trash can.

When I take her for a walk, she gets so ecstatic at the sight of another dog coming her way, she jumps four feet straight into the air, flips over and lands flat on her back. She scrambles back up, limping but still trying to contain herself, while I try to slink away, wondering why I parade such an undignified animal around the neighborhood.

Take her most recent demonstration of agility. We were out for our morning walk, strolling along as usual. Luna stepped off the sidewalk into the dirt. She sniffed around for just the right spot. Delicately, she perched herself in order to, um…take care of her usual morning business. And then the big dum-dum lost her balance and toppled right over into the bushes.

Yes, Luna has invented the Squat, Drop, and Roll. Good thing she’s not a boy dog. I don’t think there’s any way she could handle balancing on three legs.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Cool Stuff From Mexico

As long as we have company coming from Mexico, and as long as I've been dusting off knick-knacks again (oh, the joys of dusting), I thought I'd show some of our souvenirs from Mexico. My favorites are the ceramic suns and moons:

This one is from Mexico City, a gift from my in-laws.

Next are the sun, moon, and eclipse we brought back from Acapulco:

And a colorful set of coasters with the same theme:

I also have some favorite critters:

A pair of ducks from my sister-in-law.

Cute bobble-heads!

And some puzzles the kids have outgrown. But they make such cute sculptures.

And here's an unusual conversation piece that was a wedding gift:

One extra-large rosary. It's about six feet long and weighs a ton. I keep it by the bed. If the giant-sized prayers aren't enough protection, I guess you could use it as a weapon, or an escape ladder.

Do you have any favorite souvenirs from exotic places...or just around the corner? I'd love to hear about them!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Situation (In a Shameful Distortion of Haiku)

my father in law
doesn’t speak any English
I don’t speak Spanish

he will be here soon
what is Spanish for awkward?
no time to learn now

in these many years
we both learned to say hello
and not too much else

I have no excuse
except that I’m a chicken
And can’t roll an ‘r’

a twelve day visit
that’s a lot of gesturing
and polite smiling

and what if I want
to schlep around in PJ’s
or sneak some ice cream?

it’ll be okay
fluency is relative
when there’s cerveza

Monday, January 19, 2009

Kudos for Kreativity

Yesterday Rena was nice enough to tag me with the Kreativ Blogger Award. I have to admit in the past I’ve been guilty of letting these things slide, but it’s definitely not for lack of appreciation. I’m not ungrateful, just a little disorganized. I figured I'd get right on this one.

For this award, I’m supposed to list seven things I love. I think it goes without saying that I love my family, so here are seven more things I love (slightly less than my family and in no particular order):

1. Dogs. I must love them to put up with how annoying they can be. I find their earnestness endearing, and those ears are ridiculously soft.

2. Cheese. It’s my weakness. Have you ever watched a Wallace and Grommit episode? I can totally relate to Wallace’s devotion to Wensleydale. And I’ve never even tried Wensleydale.

3. Floating in salt water. This is one of the best sensations on earth.

4. The colors blue and orange together. Think deep turquoise blue, and a bright peachy orange. That combo makes me drool.

5. Babies. Two things I'm crazy for are those little fluffy curls at the nape of their necks, and the look of utter complacency on their faces when riding on mom’s hip.

6. (Planned) Pratfalls. I can’t bear to see anyone getting hurt, but someone falling on purpose is hilarious. No matter how many times I watch Napoleon Dynamite, the scene where he falls over the fence cracks me up.

7. Ghost stories. Not fiction (although those are fun, too), but real accounts of run-ins with supernatural stuff. That fascinates me – I want to know more!

Now I’m supposed to choose seven creative bloggers to pass this award to. I think all the bloggers I visit are creative – that’s why I read their blogs! But the rules say to pick seven, so I nominate Louise, Linda, Carrie, Stephanie, ICQB, Michelle, and Bish. Thanks for the inspiration!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Art Therapy

Sometimes if I'm feeling uninspired or totally stuck, I try painting with absolutely no direction in mind. It's sort of like that writing exercise where you try to keep the pen moving for a specified amount of time. I'm not that great at that exercise - I always have to stop and think at some point.

Have you ever watched a two year old paint? It's clear that the reward is in the activity itself. I can't paint with that kind of abandon, but I try...

Sometimes it sparks an idea. Sometimes it gets the creative juices flowing again. Sometimes it's just fun. Somehow, it always makes me feel better.

What do you do to get unstuck?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hop, Skip, Jump...

I asked my daughter what they’d been up to in PE these days, and I was surprised to hear they were practicing tinikling. I remember learning this dancing game in high school. Half the class sits facing each other in long rows, with each pair holding a pair of bamboo poles. They beat the poles in rhythm two times against the floor, and then once together. The rest of the class hops in a line between the moving poles. If you miss a beat, the poles snap shut around your ankles.

Maybe to avoid the punishment of bruised shins, now they use elastic bands. That reminds me of another elastic-around-the-ankles game we played when I was little - Chinese jump rope. I haven’t seen anyone playing that since I was a kid. I tried to teach it to my own kids when they were little, but I don’t think they were impressed. It looks like a giant game of cat’s cradle with a lot of skipping. As I recall, it was pretty easy to get all tangled up and land face first. Or maybe that was just me. I’m a klutz.

Now that I think of it, I hardly ever see kids playing regular old jump rope anymore. Once in a while I’ll hear of jump ropes being dragged out for a charity jump-a-thon, but that’s about it. Some years ago I got appalled by the lack of playground equipment at my kids’ school. I went to Home Depot and purchased a bunch of rope and made a whole bag of jump ropes. I made short ones for individual jumping, and long ones for group jumping. I tied the ends into loops and tightened them with zip ties. They were very cool.

They were a big hit, too. But it was short lived. I don’t know what happened to them the following year, but they disappeared. Maybe they were lost, or maybe they were taken away when the kids started whacking each other with them. Who knows?

I know kids still play hide-and-seek. And red rover. How about red light, green light? Or Mother, may I? What were your favorite playground games when you were little? What do kids play on the playground where you live?

If you want to see a fun tinikling demonstration, click here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


The kids are mad at me. I took the big chair away.

With help from Luna, destroyer puppy extraordinaire, the big grey chair in our living room is finally headed for the trash. It’s been on its last legs for some time now - tired and threadbare. Once Luna got hold of a little string on the side, it was all over. She ripped it open like a sack of dog food, exposing all the foamy goodness.

My husband and I dragged the chair out to the garage. I called for it to be picked up on Thursday. The only trouble is: it’s the MOST COMFORTABLE CHAIR IN THE WORLD.

I have to admit, it’s like a giant hug. It’s the only chair in the house you can sink your whole body into. It’s the kind of chair you can flop into and sling your legs up over the side. Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I came downstairs to get a snack, walked to the living room, and immediately missed the comfy chair. I longed for the same chair that has been such a constant eyesore I’ve been just waiting for an excuse to get rid of it. What can I say…it is as comfortable as it is hideous.

It has such an odd shape I’d never attempt to try to sew a cover for it. It’d be ridiculous to reupholster it – it would probably cost three times what we paid for it. I once tried covering it in one of those ready-made slipcovers; it looked as though one of the hippos from Fantasia had been tranquilized and dumped in the middle of my living room.

So now the chair is torn, and so am I. Do I get rid of it, moving forward in the hopes of replacing it someday with a more eye-pleasing (and possibly even more comfy) one? Or do I hang on to it, slap a patch on it, and try to continue to look the other way as I flop myself into its weary but welcoming arms?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Things To Do

1. Resolve to make more to do lists.

2. Make to do list for rest of January.

3. Mail illustration samples (and $$) for critique at conference.

4. Cross off first three items and congratulate self for being so productive.

5. Buy chocolate to celebrate.

6. Finish picture book dummy.

7. Find something to send for First Pages critique.

8. Make copies for illustration portfolio.

9. Buy more chocolate, and hide it from rest of family.

10. Make illustration display.

11. Order business cards.

12. Remember to feed family breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and wash enough clothes so no one has to go naked. Repeat! Repeat! Repeat!

13. Research publishers to submit other picture book that you wrote over summer.

14. Notice that Tupperware cabinet is seriously in need of organizing.

15. Try to stay focused.

16. Learn entire Spanish language before father-in-law arrives…in eleven days.

17. Buy beer.

18. Breathe. Repeat! Repeat! Repeat!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Possum Tales

I’ve got possums on the brain, and piles of possum drawings all over my table.

I like irony, and it appeals to me to have a character that most people find kind of unappealing. Of course, I’m one of those strange types that actually think possums are cute. My character is named after a flower (pretty and sweet?). I found lots of pictures of baby possums – they are funny and scrappy-looking.

We have many possums here and they occasionally wander into our yard. We have rats, too – I’m also fond of them, but not necessarily when they’re scurrying around my back yard. So possums are a welcome sight. They help keep the rat population under control.

We had one possum take up residence under our back deck for awhile. We named him Gulliver, and his travels back and forth through our yard kept us amused for some time. He wasn’t very stealthy; his clumsy scaling up and over the fence woke us up every night. During the day we could see his grey coat through the cracks in the deck. One day Gulliver wandered off, on to his next travel adventure.

Later we had a skunk move into Gulliver’s spot under the deck. We named her Petunia. We decided it was pressing our luck to have a skunk in such close proximity to the house, so we decided to have her relocated. We called someone to set a trap in the back yard. The very first night, we heard a commotion in the yard. The trap had worked! I couldn’t believe it had been that easy.

In the morning I went to get a peek at Petunia. I snuck up as quietly as I could so I wouldn’t frighten her. However, the beady eyes peering back at me belonged to a fat possum. Where did he come from? And where was Petunia?

The second night brought success. Petunia was ready to be taken to a new home further inland. The only problem was our yard has no access except through the house. A sticky situation would soon become a stinky one if poor Petunia got spooked. So I instructed the kids, as Elmer Fudd would say, to be vewy, vewy, quiet as Petunia was escorted through our family room.

After that I put a large owl decoy on the fence to try to discourage any more critters from moving into the yard. My husband watched one night as a young possum walked along the fence right up to the plastic owl, gave it a swat that sent it soaring off the fence, and kept right on going.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Possum Poses

These are a few doodles I made while working on my picture book dummy. I managed to get to my first goal, which was to finish my manuscript and send it for a critique at a local conference coming in February. I’m hoping to get a dummy finished before the conference, so I can include it in my portfolio. I still have plenty of scribbling to do…

Monday, January 5, 2009

An Interview With Corfu, The Amazing Talking Bird

The kids are back at school today. Winter break is officially over. Everyone in the house seemed to have a pretty good holiday, except Corfu. That’s not too surprising, ‘cause he’s always a little grouchy. Don’t let that innocent look fool you. I decided to have a word with him:

Corfu, I know you stayed up late on Christmas Eve. What did you do when you heard Santa coming?


You were supposed to be asleep, you know. So I’m guessing you actually saw Santa. What was your impression of him?


Now why would you say that? Tell everyone what Santa brought you.


That’s not true. What about that nice rope perch he brought you?


Is that so? What do you plan to do with it, then?


That doesn’t seem very appreciative. What’s that I see on your shoulder?


That’s what I thought. A big ol’ chip on your shoulder! Maybe your New Year’s resolution could be to work on your attitude…and your vocabulary?


I give up. Maybe next year.

If any part of your festivities were, um, a little sub-par… feel free to commiserate with the bird.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Holiday Highlights


Here’s a quick rundown on the holiday season at our house:

Santa brought me a new robe and fuzzy slippers. No need to get dressed.

We had frost, which is the closest we get to a white Christmas.

I threw a fit because my husband shaved all the wax off a giant hunk of Jarslberg cheese before serving it.

When someone at a dinner party started introducing the wines, it became painfully obvious that I use the eenie-meanie-miney-mo method of wine selection.

The dog ate the Christmas cactus.

My daughter declared that our holiday light display looked like a construction zone.

Not all the gingerbread men were merry:

The day after Christmas, the salespeople at Kohl’s were a little snippy.

Among my son’s Christmas presents were balloon animals, juggling sticks, and a fedora. Santa must think he has a great future as a street performer.

I ate so much I feel like I have a whole holiday ham stuffed inside my shirt.

We saw the movie Seven Pounds, which coincidentally is the size of the holiday ham we had, and also the number of pounds I gained.

The dog’s new combination rope-and-bone toy turned out to be the equivalent of puppy nunchucks. Now we all have bruised shins.

Here’s hoping you had a great holiday season, and that the highlights didn’t include bruised shins.