Monday, December 12, 2011

Drunken Santa

We went to the city this weekend.  The city, as in New York City.  For my daughter's birthday, she wanted to go to the American Girl store, walk around (and buy some 5.00 pashmina scarves) and see the Christmas tree.   We planned a nice day - it was the immediate family, grandma, and my daugher's friend and her family as well.  Lovely right?  I thought so.  And we did have a good time.  But there was something disturbing about Saturday.  It was Drunken Santa Day.  Apparently, someone had planned a meeting of people dressed in all manner of lewd Santa costumes.  A pub crawl in Santa suits. 

Now, I have nothing against pub crawls, although I've never crawled from pub to pub, but hey, to each his own.  What bothers me is lewd, drunken, pub-crawling Santas.  As soon as we arrived at the train station, we saw an unusual amount of policemen, and my husband asked them, "Aren't there a lot of you guys here?  What's going on today?" to which one of them responded, "some Santa thing going on."  Santa thing?  Is this a new thing?  If not, how did I get through my youth without ever once seeing hundreds of drunken santas parading around New York slurring Christmas greetings to everyone and singing bawdy Christmas songs? 

We saw Santas in skin tight union-suit-like onesies, like giant red babies with beer cans instead of bottles, leering Santas, Santas wearing short skirts, Santas with their cleavage hanging out, Santas hitting on elves...  I even heard a Santa cat-call as we were crossing Time's Square.  Santas should just not cat-call. I'm sorry, that's just my belief.

I was torn between finding this whole thing sort of funny, and being grossed out. Don't get me wrong, I was not disturbed about having my kids see these crazy Santas. 

(excuse my horribly grainy photos, folks)

They're old enough to know that people dressed up in Santa suits are still just people.  I was personally disturbed. It's like imagining Santa doing any number of things you just should not imagine Santa doing.  (ugh - my eyes, my eyes!!)  Respect the suit.

Santa shouldn't do things like pass out in Penn Station, is all I'm saying.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sleep is SO overrated...

3:00 a.m.  
…suddenly… inexplicably… I’m wide awake.
Why can’t I ever be this awake at 5:15 on weekdays when the alarm goes off?
It’s 3 am.  What is it with me and 3 a.m.? 
I have to go to Wal-Mart tomorrow (or is that today?) and look for that Christmas snow blanket stuff so I can make that sample light-up planet for the play.
I should fold some laundry.
I should get up and wash another load of laundry right now – Lord knows I have so much of it.
Did I charge my phone last night?
I should wrap some presents.  I should have gotten those gift cards while we were out last night.  Damn.  I have so much to do tomorrow, how am I going to get it all done?
We need more guinea pig shavings – I should start a Wal-Mart list.
Would any other teachers besides Mr. S. even want to go to our class reunion? Let’s see… who else might still be alive?
It’s Rose’s birthday on 12/16.  Wonder how she’s doing…  Hope she doesn’t drop out of school when she turns 16.  Hope she doesn’t land herself in juvie… or get pregnant. 
Get Rose a birthday card.
Gotta go to Home Depot tomorrow for some chicken wire for the planets, and then Michael’s for the battery operated lights.
Christmas card pictures.  I have to take them tomorrow.  Where the heck am I going to take them?
3:45 a.m.
May as well get up and do that laundry.
Why am I putting the dirty laundry in the dryer? 
Wonder if Costco is going to get that cranberry white chocolate cookie dough again… yum.
My neck hurts – I should make more of those microwavable warmers – damn you, broken sewing machine!
I should put on some more moisturizer…  will I get added benefits from an additional application in the middle of  the night?
How many more paydays till Christmas?  I should have gotten those damn gift cards!
Oh, I still have to collect those pine cones for girl scouts next week…  where IS my glue gun?
Should I take the Christmas card picture in the field?
I should listen to my Playaway while I’m cleaning, but then, will I later fall asleep perseverating on The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest?   Better not.
I should practice some karate…  will I EVER learn uke waza?
What should I make for dinner?
6:10 a.m.  
 Oh, I think I’m getting tired… hallelujah!
Good thing it’s Sunday. 
Good night. Or is that good morning?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Finished Face Mask!

Here is the finished face mask.  In case you haven't noticed, I did change the pink color of the mouth - it was just waaaaaayy to pink so I toned it down a bit.  If you like the dotted design (try googling "Aboriginal designs"), I HIGHLY recommend you getting a round brush to do it with.  I used a small brush with a flat end, and I had to paint, rather than just dab each dot... too time consuming.  I went out and got myself a couple of round brushes this weekend.  I finished painting it last Saturday and then gave it a clear coat of Mod Podge during the week.  I gave it to my friend Gabby on Thursday and she LOVED it.  She said it was the best gift she ever got, and she hung it on the wall in her office.  She asked me, "How can you give this away?"  I really meant it when I said that the fun of it for me, was in the creation, and in her appreciation of it.  

Now, what next?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Painting the mask, otherwise known as - Uh Oh...

So, it's now time in the project where I take something that I think looks pretty good, and either make it better, or screw it up totally.  This is the painting step.

I googled some pictures of aboriginal art, mostly because I liked the dotted designs, and then I found a couple of pictures of African face masks.  I figured I'd try to incorporate the two designs together a bit.

I decided the other day that I am going to give this mask to someone I work with - I think she'll get a kick out of it, and maybe she can hang it on the wall in her office and get a laugh now and then.  If she hates it, maybe I'll hang it in my office - I can tell everyone it's my creative muse. 

I cut out a few basic shapes from a piece of scrap paper just so I could trace them and flip them over to get mirror images on each side of the face.  I cut an eye, two stripes for the side of Mr. Mask's face, and a teardrop shape for his forehead.

Next, I chose some colors from my stash...

I probably should have gone with more traditional earth tones (or is it Earth tones?), but I was trying to keep it peppy and match some of the colors in her office. Maybe that was a mistake?

I started painting and somewhere around the mouth I thought,

'uh oh...  looks like the Joker in Batman...'

...but then I thought it made a slight recovery when I added the green.  Much of the white space that's remaining is going to be black, and then I'm going to cover almost the whole thing with coordinating dots, which I think will tone down the bright colors quite a bit. 

Oh, and if my darling husband sees this, he'll know why there are still dishes in the sink. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Paper mache face mask - reconstructive surgery

When I last showed you my paper mache mask, it was still pretty crooked here and there - larger cheek on one side, more sunken eye, no upper lip.... basically, his facial symmetry was a mess, so this weekend I did a little reconstructive surgery.  Last night in the kitchen, I applied scrunched up table napkins to the hollows of the face and then added my friend, Bounty paper towels, to smooth it all out.  While I was doing this, my huband passed through the kitchen on his way our of the garage.

"What are you doing?"  What was he getting at, exactly?  He's seen me up to my elbows in flour and water from before we even went on our first date.

"Making a mask."

"For what?"

"For the hell of it," I said.

"Ah, cause you've got to much free time to kill?"

"Yes, exactly, I have too much free time on my hands." 

When I was done, I put a load of laundry in the dryer, and put Mr. Mask on top.  In the winter, when it's dry enough in the house to crack your skin, this works really well, but in the fall, when it's raining like Noah is planning to take his ark out for another spin, it's not such an effective method. Mr. Mask was pretty much dry today, except for his rather large nose.  If you paint before your item is completely dry, you risk a cave in or worse, MOLD, so today I put him in the oven for a while on WARM with the door open.  I put the heat on for about 3 minutes, and then turned it off for about 10 to 15 minutes.  After about an hour there was much improvement.  I gave Mr. Mask a white base coat tonight, you know, with all the free time I have, and maybe tomorrow, after trick-or treating, I may begin his paint job. But you know, I don't like to fill up all my free time with too many activities, so it may have to wait till Tuesday night. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Paper Mache Face Mask

In celebration of Halloween, I'm showing you a picture of a paper mache face mask I've been working on.  It looks a little flat from this angle, but it's not as flat as it looks. Looks a bit like a Stonehenge face, doesn't it? (It was not my intention.) It's been so damp outside I'm having a devil of a time getting it to dry. In this picture, it's still damp.  I last worked on this two days ago, and as of this morning, the cheeks were STILL not dry, so I put it on top of the dryer in the basement and dried a load of socks (I also have a dehumidifier down there, so I'm sure that helped.  Magically, this morning, it was dry.  I'm going to work some more on this over the weekend, and for the next one, I'm going to use a technique I saw on youtube - the guy covered a bunch of balloons of varying sizes and then after they were dry he cut them apart and had some very nicely rounded sections - even dupicates for opposing body parts, such as shoulders, or in this case, cheekbones. 

I'll keep you posted.   

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Worry, Stress and a Crisis of Confidence

I don’t know for sure, but I’m betting I was a worrier from the day I was born… ‘When is my next meal coming? My diaper is wet!  Where’s mom?  Am I crying enough?  Am I crying too much?’  My worry and stress are circular things – each both causes and results in the other, and after the two of them do the dog-chasing-tail routine long enough, it almost invariable leads to a crisis of confidence.
Everyone has their moments of worry and stress but mine seem to be the creation clay of my personal nemesis, who aims her arrows with unfailing accuracy at my unique Achilles heels (yes, I have more than one) – no matter how miniscule.  I am, in short, my own harshest critic.  As a kid, I had looked forward to being because I thought I would finally have it all figured out.  Well, I am an adult, but I do NOT have it all figured out.  Still, I’m working on my nemesis.  We do battle at least a couple of times a week and I guess you could say I’m making slow, steady progress.   It’s just a fact, however, that there are those of us who punish ourselves for our failings more than society does, and then there are those of us you couldn’t beat the confidence out of with a big, wooden stick (…and there are those out there on whom I’d love to try out this theory).  I am convinced that strength of confidence is more nature than nurture. 
Why, if it’s not a huge chunk genetic, do I see my kids struggling through the same battles? Shouldn’t they at least have the advantage of starting with the confidence level that I’ve struggled so hard to achieve throughout my life?  I’ve been told by many people that I’m a calm, laid back sort of mom so I don’t think their struggles are a reaction to my demands.  They are so sensitive – their feelings are so easily hurt.  “Why didn’t I make the chorus, Mom?”  “Mom, I can’t spell in English, how am I going to spell in Italian?” I try to calm them down, and bolster them up.  I try to get them to see things as they really are, instead of how they look through in the harsh-critic mirror.  I'd prefer to don some armor and slash through armies for them like Joan of Arc, but all I can do is support their efforts and wait for their skins to toughen. 
It sure would make me feel better to beat one of those confident guys with a stick, though. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Good Chores (vs. bad chores)

There are certain chores that are more fun than the others.  This weekend, my son discovered that driving the tractor is one of them.  We had a HUGE pile of logs in the backyard that needed to be split for use in the wood stove this winter, and this was the weekend we picked to split them.  Now, at first thought, you might be tempted to say that sitting on the couch watching reruns of The Real Houswives of New Jersey might be more fun than stacking a monstrous pile of wood, but if you did, you'd be wrong.  There is something pleasantly satisfying about seeing the woodshed go from empty to full in the space of an afternoon...  something pleasantly monotonous about splitting the wood...

loading it into the wagon on the back of the tractor...

...and driving the tractor around to the front of the house where you or someone else then unloads it and stacks it in the woodshed.  It is what I believe, and I know it is what my son believes as well.  How do I know this?

Because I heard him singing several rounds of "Home, Home on the Range" at the top of his lungs as he drove around back for another load.

Hope you weekend was a good one, too.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The return of the Halloween Idiot

So now that it's October, of course, I'm wondering, what should I be for Halloween?  Nevermind the kids - they like to dress up for Halloween, but they prefer to look through a catalogue and know exactly what their costumes are going to look like.  Me, I like to dream big, and dangerously.

Actually, I start obsessing about a costume some time during the summer.  I never actually start making one then cause I am a procrastinator at heart, but I do start scanning the horizons, looking for ideas that appeal to me.  Last year, I thought I might want to be Poison Ivy from the Batman franchise (Played by Uma Thurman in the movie...  I really wanted to make those crazy leaf eyebrows...) but now, the thought of wearing all green from top to bottom and possibly looking like the jolly green giant... I wore a green suit to school one day when I was teaching and one of my ninth graders said I looked like the jolly green giant...  Did I?  and more to the point, do I want to again? Anyway, that was one idea, and then I thought of Mother Nature. Somewhat timely with the hurricane, I thought, but then I run the very real risk of no one knowing what the heck I am.  Nah, I'll pass on that.

The other day I saw a commercial with a Chinese New Year Dragon costume in it, and I thought, hey, GREAT idea.  I could make a giant paper mache head, decorate it like crazy, and attach a long sheet with semi-circular wire forms on sticks to form the body, and it would look AWESOME.  The problems with that are: 1.  I need some extra people to hold up the body for it to function like a Chinese New Year Dragon, 2. paper mache = time consuming, 3. takes up lots of space.  I'm not ruling it out, though.  Wouldn't it be so cool?

Oh, then there's this other problem.  My husband wants us to be Sonny and Cher.  I don't want to be Sonny and Cher.  Of course, the first time he suggested this, I thought he wanted to be Cher, and he wanted me to be Sonny. I guess was thinking of a former boss of mine and his wife, that boss whom I credit for encouraging my Halloween idiocy, and if anyone reading this used to work with me, you know exactly who I'm referring to.  Anyway, no, my husband was thinking of a more conventional Sonny and Cher, but I still told him that I am not dressing up in those ghastly 70's outfits - no way.

So today I went to the fabric store for some inspiration.  I thought I'd check out the fabrics and see if anything spoke to me.  I saw some great stuff.  I always go for the textured fabrics like crushed velvet, brocade, and other 10.00 a yard plus fabrics.  Check them out:

At first when I saw these I was thinking of the dragon costume.  There was some nice gold panne there that I could have made scales out of, but that material is a real pain to work with - I've used it before.

I just love this fabric.  It almost makes me want to make some kind of Asian costume just so I can use it. 

Then I saw this little group, the colors of which are not done justice by my crappy photo...  too much red in the photo - maybe if I had the black swatch in the photo it would have turned out better...?

Just for the heck of it, I went over and started leafing through the pattern books (14.00 a pattern -YIKES!).  This one looked fun, although, I'm not sure exactly what she's supposed to be.  I noticed that none of them have titles...  I guess it's supposed to be left to your imagination what you are?  It goes with all the opulent fabric, though, doesn't it?  Looks like she's a covered up belly dancer. 

And then I saw a costume for Red Riding Hood and I thought, oh, that would be fun...  I could use the red crushed velvet for the cape, and when I got home later and googled pictures from the most recent movie, they showed her wearing an off-white and/or light blue dress - perfect - I can use that stuff I loved in the picture above (that should be about 60.00 worth of fabric !)  or I can use that black and red stuff...   I tried to pitch being a wolf to my husband. 

decisions, decisions...

Oh yeah, and I have to find a party to wear it to.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering and Forgetting

Today I am remembering that ten years ago this morning, I was sitting at the front desk of the preschool where I worked.  It was a beautiful, sunny September morning.  It was my father’s 63rd birthday. Teachers had just lead in preschoolers by the hand from the busses.  Belongings had just been stowed, and hello songs were being sung.  I was six months pregnant with my second child, a girl, and I was wearing a while maternity shirt and jeans.  My two year old son was home with my husband, later to go to my parents’ house when my husband went off to work.  Sometime in the mid morning, the school psychologist walked in and said that a plane had hit one of the twin towers.  At first, I thought, ‘he’s kind of an asshole - is that even right?’ But then one or two other people came in and said that it was.  ‘Weird accident,’ I thought.
News dribbled in and within a short time, we heard about the second plane.  How could there be two accidents like this?  I had a radio, so I turned it on to see if I could hear the news.  It quickly became very clear.  We were under attack.  We are at war, I thought.  I am pregnant, and I have a toddler, and we are at war.  And they hit the city.  My city.  I don’t live in the city, but I had visited often enough in my teens and my twenties… even taken a class there one summer.  When returning home from a vacation in Spain some years before that, I remembered seeing that beloved skyline as we flew into Kennedy airport and I felt like I was at home already.  I’ve been there, I thought, I know people.  In those moments and hours, the dichotomy of the world struck me hard… the preschoolers worried about starting school, learning to use crayons and hang up their backpacks, my own son, talking and walking but with so many questions about so many things, and then this – strangers from the other side of the globe attacking us with our own planes because…? 
People I knew were safe, thank God, but so many others were not.  People who were just as loved as the people I cared about.  I wanted to go home, and hug my child – hide under the covers and wake up and hear that this was all just a dream.  Everything, I thought, everything is going to change.
It has changed.  And yet, it has not.  In those days and weeks after that day, the collective unconscious was a tangible thing – caring, thoughtful, united.  We formed a circle of wagons, protective of each other.  We listened.  We were respectful.  We could see across the divide of semantic differences to the common ground that united us.  I believe that is the part we should never forget.  We should never forget the heroism that day of the people whose stories became known, as well as the ones whose stories are known only to God.  We should never, ever forget them.  I remember before 9/11, a teacher asking the class to define what hero was.  They could not.  Of course, this was before September 11, 2001.  Of course there were heroes before that day – from other times and places, but kids could not remember them, or could not relate.  And so we say, ‘Always Remember.’
For me, I am not concerned with the remembering; I know we’ll remember.  There are certain hurts that need to be remembered for the lessons we’ve learned from them.  What worries me is the forgetting, and mostly, with regard to our individual lives.    Can we let go of the small things that don’t need remembering?  Forgetting, i.e., ‘time heals all wounds.’  Can we unpack and leave behind a small piece of emotional luggage here and there?  Can we forget the pain and remember the joy? Can we forget what divides us, and remember what brings us together?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Back to School

Last week I noticed everyone on Facebook posting how sad they were that the summer was over.  Warm weather state residents didn’t miss a chance to brag that it was still quite warm in their home towns, but I for one am appreciating the cooler nights. The only down side to that is how COLD the water has become at the beaches.  I don’t know about all of you, but I can’t stand swimming in cold water.  Warm water is the only thing I’d really love about living in the south.  Then, wisely, someone posted that it was not really the weather that was bumming us all out about the passing of summer – it was the back to school aspect.  Back to school represents back to seriousness, back to reality.  Even if much of your reality continues through the summer, I think we all harbor a remembrance of summers off as children.  You always had big dreams for the summer – even if they didn’t become reality, the months of dreaming alone made summer worth it.  The best day of summer was always the first day of summer vacation – the best week was that last week in June…  it was almost like bonus time – summer didn’t really start until July 1st – that’s when you started the ticking of you mental summer clock. 
I have to admit, though, when I was a kid, fall was my favorite season.  Don’t misunderstand, I loved summer vacation and I was always sad when it came to an end, but there was something about fall that really appealed to me.  It represented the chance to do things differently – better.  The chance for new and good things… the chance to start again.  Late every August, I would trudge off to the store with my mother and sisters to buy school supplies.  I’d look at the clean, new notebooks, and although I got butterflies in my stomach, and I hated the thought of homework and meeting the other students in my class, I’d also think  “this year, I’m going to keep everything neat..  this year, I’m going to get straight As in every subject…  this year I’ll actually USE my agenda book.”  I’ve spent my whole life attending or working in a school, which continued that feeling on into my adulthood.  I worked in a preschool for bosses with yellow school bus ties that they wore every September.  Some years, I’ve done both, and my mind will forever function on the Summer Ends When School Starts mentality (Just ask my husband – we once had a very serious debate about when “the end of the summer” actually was.  I think I won.)
In my house, as a parent, I’m seeing this back to school thing with different eyes.  I see the war between “happily anticipating new things” and “anxiety about new things that are out of my control.” For example, there are the worries, “I don’t know anyone in my class?”  “What if I don’t like my teacher?”  “What if the work is too hard?”  (…and this year’s new ones…) “What if I can’t open my locker?”  “What if I’m late to class?”  Lots of times the anxiety jumps to the forefront, but  I talk them down, and the excitement – it’s there.  It’s my job to find it, and pull it out.  Make them embrace it.  Who does not need a new beginning?  If you’re seriously well-adjusted, you could make a case for every day being a new beginning, but how many of us are THAT well adjusted?  I’ll take once a year.  And New Year’s Day as a new beginning?  For one, it’s the middle of the winter – winter before the holiday, same old winter after the holiday.  After the holiday is over we go back to exactly the same routine as before.  We don’t even pull different bins of clothes from the closet.  Face it, New Year’s just doesn’t work the way back to school does.  I’ll take my anxiety and my new beginning in Early September, thank you. 
And a nice stack of blank loose leaf paper, too.  

Monday, August 29, 2011

Goodbye, Irene!

Can you see my mailbox?  It's in there.  The red spot in the center of the picture is the flag.  Nice, right?  I can't complain, though.  This is minor, really.  I heard some trees smashed into houses, cars, blocked roads and driveways...  we didn't have any of that.

We had a little of this:

a bunch of these, but not anywhere too worrisome...
(See the "tilter" toward the back in the middle?)

We had a few of these in woodsy places, but if it's in woodsy places, we can take our time taking care of them, right?

Mostly, we had a whole lot of this:

...and some other stuff too minor to even mention.  It was a drama-filled weekend, but I'm glad to say in my house, we were largely unscathed. 

Hope you were, too.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Craziness... waiting for Irene

Cedar Beach, Mount Sinai

Today I went to the store intending to snap some pictures of the hurricane fever that's gripped the East Coast and instead, it was relatively quiet.  Two days ago, I stopped at a gas station to fill up my tank, (I didn't stop because Irene was coming for a visit, I stopped because my gas tank was EMPTY).  I had to wait in a line of cars just to get to the pump.  I had also planned to go to the supermarket but I put it off after attempting to buy school supplies in Wal-Mart and seeing lines that rivaled those of midnight on Black Friday.  I finally went today and consoled myself with the thought that I'd get some pictures of real insanity in the stores, but when I got there, it was almost a let down. 

No one's out anymore.  The bottles of water and batteries have been purchased.  Everyone is hunkering down, waiting for Irene.  Just an FYI - my grandmother's name was Irene.  She would have been so amused by all of this.  I think my grandfather would be even MORE amused, however.  He might have even commented that Irene was kicking some ASS...

This afternoon, when I showed my daughter a tree stump from a huge tree that fell down and blocked the road during Hurricane Gloria, I realized that landmarks are going to change around here in the next two days. So never mind the pictures of the preparation madness, instead I'm posting some more of the pictures I took at the beach the other day.  We can all hope together that it looks just as good a week from now.

Cedar Beach, Mount Sinai

Cedar Beach, Mount Sinai

Cedar Beach, Mount Sinai

Cedar Beach, Mount Sinai

Stay safe, everyone. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oh Brother!

If you are a girl, this, I think, is the essence of having a brother.  When I showed my daughter this picture, she thought her brother was trying to jump on her, but my son had already told me... he was trying to grab her belt and pull her into the water. 

I have three sisters, and I always used to wish I had a brother.  Brothers were something of a mystery to me.  They seemed so entertaining.  So funny, so... ridiculous.  They can definitely be a pain, but usually, their humor balances out their annoying tendencies.  I know this because now I have a son and a daughter, and even though I don't have a brother, I have an uncle who is just seven years older than me.  When we were kids, we used to play together.  Usually, this consisted of us fighting about what we wanted to watch on TV.  I always voted for cartoons, or something funny and NOT scary, and he always voted for Godzilla movies... which were bad enough on their own, but then he would launch into a very convincing rendition of a mummy with staring eyes.  He's stalk me around the living room with his arms out and say in a monotone, "YUM, YUM, EAT 'EM UP!" until I freaked out.  At first I tried reasoning with him ("Can you cut it out please?") and then I threatened to tell, which worked perfectly.  As soon as I threatened to tell, his normal voice would come back, "NO!!  No, don't tell, I'll stop, I'll stop."  Of course, this only lasted a couple of minutes. 

I see with boys, there is always a lot of poking, nudging, and physical comedy.  Girls... that's not naturally our strength.  Our silliness is less Three Stooges and more... I don't know... Friends? 

So when I took the kids to a local beach the other day in an attempt to "do" a few more things in the last bit of summer before the crazy routine of school and other obligations resumes, I was not surprised that while everyone had fun, they also managed to annoy each other, too. 

They complain about each other every day, but I really do think they really like each other.  I hope so.  They each miss the other one when they're not around.  After all, as I like to remind them, he was the first person on this Earth who made her laugh... 

Do you hear me, you two? you like each other... you really like each other.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sunday afternoon blues...

Even though we had so much to do this weekend that I felt like I should have put on my sneakers and a track suit on Thursday night, by late Sunday afternoon I had a major case of the Sunday blues...  Where are the laundry elves when you need them?  I was close to a mental meltdown when the hubby suggested we take a short ride out east to pick some raspberries, get some veggies, and maybe a pie. 

What a great idea!  I brought my camera but (stupidly) left it in the car while we picked berries.  Just in case anyone is wondering, here on Long Island, blueberries are pretty much done, blackberries are not quite at their peek, but the raspberries were wonderful!  We picked just one quart (enough to stain your hands in a somewhat alarming shade of red), but plenty of other people were picking baskets and baskets... some of them were even plopped down in the raspberry aisles, feasting on the contents of their baskets like kids in Willie Wonka's factory.  I should have taken the camera.

Next we stopped at a farmstand.  Everything looked so GOOD... made me want to cook (well, almost).

Look, it's my cabbage version of Monet's "Irises" painting.  Ha, ha!

Don't you want to make soup when you see this?  I'm thinking a nice corn chowder...

Gotta love those sunflowers!  Unfortunately, the deer at my house love them, too.

I made raspberry jam when we got home - forget the laundry!  I didn't use a recipe (I like to live dangerously sometimes).  It came out a little watery, but it tasted great ("Mom, this is the BEST raspberry jam I've ever tasted."  Thanks, son. It may be the only raspberry jam he's tasted, but who cares?  I'm glad summer's not quite over yet. I still have a lot of things (besides laundry) to do. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Nyles - A Eulogy

I have struggled to write this for a week and a half.  I have been wanting to tell you the story of my dog, a much loved and integral part of my family, and that he has died. I’ve written drafts and thrown them out, rearranged them in my head and on paper, never quite satisfied that they would tell you the story of how much I and my family have loved him. Now, I can only see him in my mind, and I imagine him playing in the garden of God.
When he was a puppy, he was abandoned by his first family.  That summer day he waited on the side of the road until my sister came along and picked him up, according to God’s plan. I’ve wanted to show you how cute he was, with his black spotted tongue hanging out of his mouth, and his one black ear always folded down, even when he commanded them both to stand up, but I can’t show you, I can only tell you about it, and my words don’t feel like enough.
I want you to know that I’ll miss him because he made me laugh in spite of myself, like when he buried a ham bone in the yard, and dug it up a MONTH later when he wanted a snack.  I even had to laugh when he would pull my clean jeans off the clothes line and bury them in the yard, or run around with them in his mouth, trying to entice me into a game of Catch Me If You Can.  I like to think that once again he is young and energetic, now pulling God’s pants off His clothesline, teaching God his own version of flag football.
I know that he was not perfect.  He barked at the vacuum; he was afraid of our new refrigerator; he liked to sneak naps on the couch when we weren’t home (the warmth of one spot on the cushion always gave him away). He had a weakness for deli ham, even if it was in the supermarket bag, just dropped in the kitchen while the other bags were being brought in.  He also had an obsession with dirty baby diapers, which may have sent him to the Betty Ford Center if his supply had not been cut off when the kids were potty-trained. At least he had the grace to look apologetic every time afterward.
He was there for us.  He was always ready to play with my husband, to put his doggie-head on my husband’s shoulder as a gesture of affection as they both sat on the top step of the staircase each morning.  ‘I love you, Dad,’ it’s like he was saying. He was my compassionate listener, my companion who asked nothing of me except my presence, and maybe a table scrap now and then.  He would listen patiently to my complaints, and he never cared if I was cranky, had bad breath or was having a bad hair day.  He let the kids use him as their pillow, and once, my daughter even fell asleep holding his paw because I was unavailable to hold her hand.  I know that God appreciates these qualities now.  I know there are dogs in Heaven, because it wouldn’t be Heaven without them.
I will always miss his black, velvety ears, his soulful brown eyes and his bushy grey eyebrows, his obliging willingness to be a foot warmer in the winter and to walk with me to close the chicken coop at night even when the weather was horrible. I’ll miss the way he got up in the morning when one of us got up – even if it was 4:30 am.  I’ll miss his presence, and I can see it’s going to take me a long time to not see him in certain spots in the house, to not hear him breathing from his spot on the floor beside the bed in the middle of the night.  Just last night at 4 a.m., I had to convince myself NOT to check and see if he was really there. And I was fully awake.
Now there is nothing left I can do but offer this as his eulogy, my declaration of love.  I will miss him not forever, but until we meet again, when we will both play in the garden of God.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: Sisterhood Everlasting, by Ann Brashares

     Since it's way too hot out there to do anything but plop yourself on a beach towel and read a book, I want to suggest this one, but with a disclaimer - it's SAD.

      Last week, at the start of my "I'm going to be spending 6 weeks shuffling papers in the various basements of my workplace" saga, I took my sweaty (sun-deprived) self to Costco on the way home from work to pick up a few things.  I scanned the book table, although in the past few years I've promised myself not to BUY new books when I can borrow them from the library instead.  When I spotted this,  however, I HAD to buy it.  I'm a fan of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants books, and this is a new installment.  I had learned about the Pants series a few years ago when I was teaching 7th graders.  The girls in my class talked about it now and then, and when I checked it out for myself, I loved the dynamic between Lena, Tibby, Bridget and Carmen.  I especially related to Lena and Tibby, and those of us like them can sure use friends like Bridget and Carmen.  I have friends like that. 

     So when I saw this book, I was anxious to catch up with these friends... 

     But Holy Moses, this book was not what I expected!  The book was barely underway when tragedy struck.  Was I misunderstanding the handwriting on the wall?  What was going on?    How would it all end?  YIKES!  I was looking to find out what happened to Kostos, and in that, I was not disappointed.  Other than that the book is aptly named, and if you are fan of the series, you can't not read it.  Just be sure to plop a box of tissues on the beach blanket next to your beverage.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Stinky Room Rescue

     For about 6 weeks over the summer, I have to work (filing and organizing) in a variety of stinky rooms.  Most of them are basements, but I've already experienced some above-ground rooms that are stinkier than some of the basements.  When I get back into the stinkiest of the rooms, I'm going to check the air conditioner filters and wash them out (since I doubt they're pristine) and then maybe I'll judiciously spray some Lysol.  Still, I can't stand the smell of Lysol.  Also, these rooms I've been in and basements in general are definitely dark, depressing and dusty. 

     On that note, I decided to make up some Stinky Room Spray.  I have a variety of essential oils that I just love, and thoughtout the year, I put a few drops on my plug-in diffusers; I have one in my office, and another at home.  Everyone who comes into my office for the first time comments how, "it always smells so good in here," and some of the kids even say it smells "happy" and "girly."

     I'm working with about 8 other women, so I don't want to use anything that's too unusual or allergy invoking.  I've sprayed this on Thursday and Friday and so far, everyone's commented positively.  Here are the oils I used:

Tea Tree Oil - I got this bottle at Wal-Mart for under 10.00.
Lavender Oil - about 10.00 - You'll most likely have to get this at the health food store.
Peppermint Oil - Somewhere between 5 and 10.00 dollars.  Also from the health food store.

     You'll also need a bottle of distilled water to fill your spray bottle, and a spray bottle of your choice - I got mine in a pack of 2 at Dollar Tree (that's 50 cents a bottle - 2.8 ounces each).

     Fill your spray bottle with distilled water and add an equal number of drops of each of the three oils.  Each of the two smaller bottles in the picture have dropper inserts, so it's very easy to measure the drops.  The Tea Tree oil doesn't have a dropper, but you probably just carefully approximate.  This is not rocket science here.

     Put the cap tightly back on your spray bottle and shake well, and, for an extra cooling effect, put the bottle in the refrigerator.  Mint oil is cooling and great in the summer.  I made some mint oil spray for my daughter's teacher last year and she loved it.  my daughter said she was spraying it around like crazy when their classroom was really hot.   

     If you're interested in essential oils, you have to check out The Complete book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood.  I Love, love LOVE this book.  It describes the properties of dozens of essential oils and give loads of recipes for mixtures you can make on your own.  I love essential oils.  They can even make a day in the basement tolerable.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bucket Man

This evening we went to Walmart to look for some items for our upcoming trip to the beach.  After striking out, I thought we'd go to Home Depot and get some sturdy buckets for catching fiddler crabs, jellyfish, and whatever other little items we might find at the beach.  We got four small plastic paint buckets (I thought the white would be better than the orange for pictures) and headed home.  My always entertaining son decided to carry the buckets to the car on his head, which would not have been a problem if he could see where he was going.  He conceded temporarily and took them off his head so he could cross the parking lot, but a few minutes later when we were driving, I saw him in the rearview mirror, sitting there serenely, with a bucket on his head as if he wore one every day.

Once we pulled in the driveway, he (somehow) vaulted out of the car and began stalking around the yard like a possessed zombie, calling himself Bucket Man, and reminding me very much of the Black Knight (ala, "it's just a flesh wound") from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

In between laughs with his sister, I ran in the house to get the camera so I could photograph the elusive Bucket Man for posterity.   I'm glad I was able to get these few pictures before he suggested his sister give him the remaining bucket for one of his feet.  She was happy to comply, but when he was standing up again, he inadvertently placed his bucket on her flip-flop shod toe, ending all the fun with her howl of pain. 

Thanks for the laughs while they lasted, Bucket Man, it's been a tough week.