Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Things I Never Knew I Never Knew

I had an inquiry about my dress paintings that sent me searching for information on international shipping. I went UPS and FedEx to ask about rates, and decided I may as well fly the paintings there myself for the amount it would cost to ship them.

Then I did what I should’ve done in the first place – I got online to check the rates at USPS. The only problem was, it would have been quicker to drive to the Post Office and ask the question.

I got completely absorbed in the lists of things that are prohibited to send to other countries. For instance, did you know you can’t send salt to South Korea, or imitation pearls to Abu Dhabi?

I guessed there were economic or environmental reasons for the items listed, but some just made me curious. In case you’re wondering (and even if you’re not) here are a few things you can’t send by U.S mail:

Used bedding to Australia.
Honey or wax to Russia.
Pink colored quinine to Bangladesh.
Only pink? See, I didn’t even know quinine came in different colors.
Japanese shaving brushes to Tanzania.
Saccharine to France. I know it’s not the reason, but I want to think it’s because they’d never ever use a sugar substitute.
Seal skins to Great Britain, except from an accepted source. What? There’s an accepted source for seal skins?
Playing cards to Greece.
Butter substitutes to Canada. Not even if you can’t believe it’s not butter.
Musical cards to Bulgaria. I’m with them on that one. Those things can be so annoying.
Human remains to Belgium. Actually, plenty of countries listed human remains. Does that mean the other countries are okay with them? The same goes for perishable infectious biological substances, which is good to know in case you have a jar of fungi you want to pop into the mail.

The good news is, dress paintings didn’t come up on any of the lists of prohibitions. The bad news is, I spent the better part of an afternoon reading through them.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


My daughter celebrated her fifteenth birthday last week. After finishing our standard birthday dinner of pepperoni pizza, my husband and I started clearing dishes to make room for cake.

“Oh boy,” my son started, “here’s where Mom and Dad disappear into the kitchen, and we sit here and pretend we have no idea what’s happening.”

It’s possible there is a fine line between a tradition and a rut.

Before her birthday, my daughter told me she wanted to have her friends over to celebrate.

“But I don’t want to do the cake and presents thing with them,” she clarified. “That part should be just family, right?”

I’m not sure which part makes her squirm: all the attention, or allowing her friends to witness her immediate family that up-close-and-personal. Either way, we decided she could invite her friends over for lunch and swimming.

All we needed was a lunch plan. Pizza was out, since we were having that for dinner. I might have been a little distracted when I made the following enthusiastic (and very well received) offer:

“Why don't we make enchiladas?”

What exactly was I thinking? I’ve never made enchiladas in my life. Any recipe that involves shredding a large amount of chicken, followed by all sorts of fussing and assembling, sounds…you know…tedious.

Maybe the idea came to me because several people asked us about a week before her birthday if she planned to have a quinceaƱera celebration. The truth is, we hadn’t even thought about it. When it was their turn, both my husband’s sisters in Mexico traded the tradition and poofy dress for a trip to Southern California. One of my daughter’s friends just cancelled her plans for the shindig in favor of a shopping spree.

Fifteenth birthday. Formal parties and vacations and shopping sprees. So what did my daughter get?

She got to sit with me at the breakfast nook, and shred a big ol’ bowl of chicken. Think of it as quality mother and daughter bonding time.

I enjoyed it, anyway.

The enchiladas were so good, who knows? Maybe we’ll make it a tradition.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Home Sweet Home

One thing we did while back east was to take a drive around Long Island, NY. We saw a couple of places my mom lived when she was little, and the house my parents lived in when I was born. I didn’t live in Long Island very long – shortly after I was born my parents moved to New Jersey and then Virginia.

The picture, taken by my grandparents in 1952, is of the house my mom lived in from the time she was twelve until she got married. It was easy to find – the exterior of the house has hardly changed.

Luckily when the current owners of the house caught us snooping around outside, they invited us in. We explained what we were doing there, of course. They were just as curious to know what the house used to look like as we were to see what it looked like now. It was built in the 1920’s. It had a fabulous spiral staircase and a big sunken tub in the upstairs bath. The stairs are intact, but the tub had been replaced. With help from termites, it was probably in danger of sinking all the way to the first floor.

I enjoyed seeing the old places, but by the time we’d driven by the third house on my itinerary, the kids’ interest started to wane. While they argued in the back seat over some detail about Indiana Jones, I completely forgot to drive by the church where my parents got married. I’ll have to save that snapshot for another time.

One of these days I’d love to show the kids where I grew up in Virginia, even though my childhood home isn’t there anymore. My parents learned at a Department of Transportation meeting that plans to widen the main road included the demolition of their house. That little surprise hastened their plans to move back to Long Island.

In New York I have a house to go to, but few childhood memories. In Virginia I have plenty of memories but no house upon which to look back. Neither place really feels like home.

What’s your definition of home? Is it the place where you grew up? The place you live now? To me, it’s the place you can’t wait to return to when you are away from it.

It’s good to be home.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Wedding Gown Painting

I'm out of town (with very limited internet access), visiting the east coast for most of the week.
I thought I'd post a picture of a painting I just finished. The bride wanted a second painting of her dress for another family member, with a different color scheme. It was fun sketching a second pose of the same dress. The first pose is the one pictured in my sidebar.

Looking forward to catching up with my favorite blogs soon!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Zombie Mob Scene

Warning: A little fake blood and gore ahead...

A couple of independent filmmakers in our area are making a low budget zombie movie called Tales of a Fifth Grade Zombie Slayer. They plan to submit the short film to film festivals, and hope to develop it into a feature length film. For one scene they needed as many kid zombie extras as they could round up. My two kids and a couple of their friends joined in the fun.

The line to be zombified began forming at 7:00am. The director set up canopies in the back yard, and about half a dozen makeup artists got to work transforming neighborhood children into the pintsized undead. First kids got an airbrushing of a nice ghoulish grey, and from there they progressed to further stages of decomposition.

All this took place on what may have been the hottest day of the summer so far. More than 50 kids turned out for the scene. While they waited, they crowded together in the shade to keep their syrup-based flesh wounds from sliding off in the sun. When filming began six hours later, they were all looking pretty wilted…and probably felt perfectly in character. Fortunately the crew provided snacks and soft drinks to keep the zombies’ spirits up.

Zombie cheers!

Zombie stares...

Zombie knuckle bump.

And watching all those kids waiting around for the big scene brought my favorite image of the day...
Zombie satire: a whole line of zombie children slumped over their video games.