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12/31/09
Out With the Old, In With the New

So. It's the last day of 2009.

I figured that I, like most bloggers, would do the traditional quick recap of the past year, but when I sat down to it, there just wasn't really much of the year that I wanted to remember. Don't get me wrong...it wasn't an awful year or anything. I was, and continue to be, incredibly blessed. It's just that I feel like I've been stagnant most of the year. Waiting on something. Trying to figure out where I'm really supposed to be going. Caught in a moment of static indecision for the past 365 days.

Of course, when I sat down to run through what my favorite bloggers on my blogroll were thinking, I was shocked that most of them seemed to be feeling the same way. (This is why I love my blog world...it gives me the ability to share more intimate thoughts with strangers that I've never physically met than I do with people I've known for years. And that comforts me more than they know).

Erin is plagued with fear of failure as she prepares to jump into new things in 2010 (although I know she will be fabulous). Big Mama admits that she spent most of this past year searching for answers also. (Her line here, "It’s been a year of me wanting to know all the answers, but at the same time realizing that knowing all the answers doesn’t require faith." totally blew me away. I mean, smacked me right between the eyes like a wrecking ball. To quote a Batman comic, "Bam! Ker-plow! Zowwie!". It's like she was talking to me personally.) So there's definitely comfort in that. For everything that 2009 did or did not throw at me, at least I'm not the only one. It's not been the greatest year, but I think that we all may feel a little bit closer because we came through it together.

So what's new for 2010, you ask? Well, it's time to take action again. This past year was great for resting and playing and taking stock of what was really important to me, but now it's time to go again. I'm ready to move forward again. To challenge myself. To grow. I admit that I'm a little scared that I have no idea what that will entail, but I'm ready for it nonetheless.

Bring it on, 2010.

12/30/09
Dumpster Diving

Sometimes the cats like to dig through the kitchen trash can late at night, looking for discarded treasures to bat around. This morning I woke up to find part of an empty cookie dough wrapper and an empty Midol blister pack.

It appears they are suffering from kitty PMS.

12/28/09
The Christmas Recap: Did I Mention the Part Where We Eat?

Hooooo-boy what a Christmas! I'm hoping all of you had a safe and fabulous holiday. Things were certainly merry and bright over here at the House of Quirk. The Seester and her hubby flew in from Chicago (not on a plane with terrorists and their exploding pants, thankfully) so the whole family was together for all the wassailing and yuling and merrying we could manage.

We started out early on Christmas Eve morning, doing what the Quirk family does best, which is eating. There's a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Gracie's out in Maryville that does authentic Southern cooking, and anybody who knows anything about good eatin' heads for Gracie's for breakfast. It'll take 10 years off of your life because Mama Gracie herself is back in the kitchen drowning everything in lard and butter and transfat deliciousness, but it's totally worth it because you will die with a smile (and fresh biscuit crumbs) on your lips.

After a fortifying breakfast of biscuits and gravy with a side of bacon and more gravy, the family headed over to the mall to pick out the official family Christmas ornament for 2009. It's a bit of a tradition that each year we get an official ornament depicting ourselves as teddy bears or penguins or whatever the ornament makers decided to group six of a kind of for that particular year. That done, we sent the boys home and Mom and the Seester and I headed to a sports store for a bit of last minute stocking stuffer shopping (where we also accosted a stranger in the checkout line, but that's a story for another day).

Having eluded store security, we headed home to bake-and I'm not exaggerating here-five boxes of brownie mix and 2 boxes of cake mix. (I told you that the Quirky family liked to eat). We made them in holiday shaped cake tin things and then decorated them with colorful icing. (They were adorable, although Heaven knows I'm going into a diabetic coma just thinking about them).

Then Tony and I took off for the Midnight Christmas Eve Mass (actually held at 9pm), which is, as always, lovely to behold (even with the woman next to me who sang lustily despite being completely tone-deaf. Kudos to you, woman who can't carry a tune in a bucket. Good for you for not letting the not-so-subtle glances from the people three pews in front not dampen your Christmas spirit).

Christmas morning has us back over at Mom and Dad's for the official opening of the presents. (I received a Dremel Multi-max (score!), some Van Gogh reproductions, a new PDA cover, The Big Bang Theory Season 2, a spa gift certificate, and a zippered hoodie with Tony's hockey team name on the front). Then it was over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house to chow down with the whole extended family (hence all the brownies and cakes). Christmas Day night saw us back at Mom and Dad's house, where the guys watched the Batman: Dark Night DVD (a Christmas present) while Mom, the Seester and I played cards in the kitchen. (I trounced them thoroughly).

On Saturday, Tony and I headed out to Turkey Creek to pick this up:

It's his new shiny red Dodge Dakota extended cab pickup truck. (It wasn't technically a Christmas present...the heat had gone out in his old truck and it would have cost half of the blue book value to fix it so we just traded it in for this bad boy). It's used pre-owned, but the former owners totally tricked it out with every optional chrome doohickey and truck-y gadget possible, so to say that Tony loooooooooooves it would be an understatement. He's named it Magnum because of the V8 engine. I call it P.O.R.T (Pimped Out Red Truck).

While Tony was out thinking up pointless errands to run in his new truck, I spent the afternoon with the Seester and Melanie. We laughed until we cried at some Youtube videos (they deserve to be a post of their own), and then various family members showed up for a rip-roaring poker game that evening. (The Seester's hubby, Patto, ended up wiping the floor with everyone. Cough!shark!cough!)

The Seester had to head back to Chicago on Sunday (booooo!), but we managed to get in another meal (surprise surprise) at a Japanese Hibachi place and then three games of bowling at the local bowling lanes first. (Why bowling? I have no idea. It's not like any of us have bowled in years, and none of us are really very good. I argued hard for the kiddie bumpers, but was eventually voted down). We did guys against girls, and had each managed to win one when my team totally imploded in the third game. (We were plagued by injury...otherwise I am confident that we would have smoked them). Still, a fun time was had by all, despite the fact that I cannot move my shoulder today.

So that was our Christmas. Lots of family, lots of laughing, lots and lots of food. I had to take most of today just to recover from it all. (Of course, I also maintain that those are the best kinds of holidays to have). I know it's a long post...I'm sorry. Feel free to read it in installments if that helps. Take your time.

I'll just be over here eating the remaining two dozen brownies.

12/25/09
Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Internets! Here's hoping you and yours have a wonderful holiday with laughter and cheer, and tidings of comfort and joy.

12/24/09
Busted

Bella gets into the holiday spirit a little early. (And with a present that wasn't hers).

I was just walking by and it ripped open all by itself, I swear!

12/22/09
Sleazy Santa- A Wonju Wife Exclusive

Wonju Wife is hosting a Christmas Blog Party called the Day that Santa Died over at her site, and yours truly is today's guest poster! (Don't worry, Santa's not actually dead dead...it's just about the time that we as children found out that "Santa" was really just Mom and Dad doing their thing.) Anyway, I fully encourage everyone to pop over to Wonju Wife and read my post about when I figured out the truth about Santa. Go on now...head over and visit Danielle's blog party. Tell her I sent you. And have a laugh as I shed some light on some of Santa's sneaky skullduggery.


PS- Don't send me hate mail in defense of Santa. I'm just joking. And I totally cleared it with him in advance. He's cool with it. Promise.

12/19/09
Low Strung

Just a quick pop-in to say that I have just recently discovered Low Strung, and I love them! They're a group of cellists originally out of Yale University that play rock songs on their cellos. My favorites are Livin on a Prayer, Fix You, and of course, Don't Stop Believin' (below). I'm seriously considering buying the CD for myself as a late Christmas present.


Just in case you need a little break from the Christmas songs.

12/18/09
Rain Inspired, Cookie Driven

Ack. It's rainy today. As a matter of fact, not only is it rainy, but it's about 34 degrees, so it's right on the cusp of being snow but not quite, which means we're just stuck with cold and wet without the winter wonderland look. (I'm not really a fan of snow due to the above mentioned cold and wetness, but if we're doing it anyway, it might as well look pretty, am I right?) I was supposed to go to the gym today, but nothing short of the house erupting into flames would propel me from my nice warm office chair and out into that dreary mess, so you're just going to be stuck with me blogging about absolutely nothing instead. (And don't even think about sneaking over to set fire to my house to stop me because I've already started the post so for better or worse, here it is). And in bullet form no less, which should be another tip-off as to how much thought I'm putting into this. (That's right folks! No unifying theme AND no paragraphs!) It's a wonder they even let me on the Internet.

  • Can you believe that were exactly a week away from Christmas? That seems crazy to me. And yes, I know that the lights and the presents and the large conifer in my living room really should have prepared me for this kind of thing, but it just doesn't feel that much like Christmas to me yet. I'm not sure what's lacking. We have the cold weather, we have the decorations, we have all the stockings hung by the chimney with care. I even have my favorite Christmas music playing. I just haven't been able to wrap my head around the fact that it's only a week away.
  • That's not to say, of course, that I haven't enjoyed all of the Christmas cards that have been coming in the mail. It's been a good year for Christmas cards, and every time one arrives I get all giddy and dance around the house with it before displaying it proudly on my Snowman card holder. I know I've mentioned it several times on here, but the whole card thing is something I really get a kick out of. I guess because so much of my normal correspondence is through email and text messages and whatnot, actual Christmas cards through the mail seem extra-special. Like little presents, you know? And since so many of you who sent me a card this year also read the blog (bless your hearts), I wanted to take this chance to say thank you. They make my heart glow.
  • Since we seem to be rolling right along with the Christmas theme, I'm going to continue it by reporting that all of the presents that I ordered for this year have officially arrived (finally)! I've been doing the majority of my Christmas shopping online for years due to an irrational dislike of malls, stores and my fellow shoppers who populate them, so the Internet has always worked out well for me. This year, however, seems to have been an extra tough year for shipping. I had three items go AWOL and one item arrive damaged. (Lucky for me, I ordered all of my stuff really early this year so that I had time to file a claim and get replacements sent). Still, I probably spent four days requesting tracking numbers, taking pictures of damaged items, and going round and round in the United States Post Office automated phone system:

Phone system: If you are missing a parcel, please say 'missing parcel'
Me: Missing parcel.
Phone system: Did you say 'order stamps'?
Me: No! Missing parcel!
Phone system: Did you say 'schedule a pickup'?
Me: No! M-i-s-s-i-n-g P-a-r-c-e-l!
Phone system: Your local post office hours are Monday through Thursday, 7am to 6pm...

  • Fortunately, packages were eventually found and everything showed up in enough time for me to wrap them and place them lovingly under my tree, so it all ended well. I keep a detailed spreadsheet of what everything is and when I expect it, and I'm happy to report that as of yesterday, everything had been color-coded from red (MIA) to blue (wrapped and ready to go). Was it enough of a hassle to get my back to buying things in actual stores? Not a chance. Even despite the shipping delays, not once did I have to fight over a parking space.
  • Speaking of packages, there's a lovely little box that has showed up from Tony's Grandma. I'm cautiously optimistic that it has her world-famous Christmas cookies inside, but Tony won't let me open the box to find out. (He put it under the tree with instructions that it not be opened until Christmas in case it contained presents). I argued that if there were cookies inside, they could be going stale, but he assures me that any possible cookies would be in a nice sealed container to keep them fresh. I countered that we should eat them before the cats rip into it and devour the cookies themselves, but he pointed out that if the box has remained unmolested under the tree for this long, the cats do not care about what is inside. I argued that some Grandma cookies would be just the thing to get me into the Christmas spirit. He told me that any cookie-generated Christmas spirit could wait until Christmas morning. Sigh. He's such a cookie scrooge. (I'm such a cookie monster).
Oh my goodness! I just saw a snowflake float by! Looks like this dreary rain might just be turning over to flurries! And all these bullet points are holiday themed, providing a unifying point to my blathering! I guess maybe I am in the Christmas spirit after all. (And without Grandma's cookies too!) It's a Christmas miracle! Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men!

I still say we eat the cookies now.

12/16/09
Meez, Myself and I

You may have noticed my new little animated avatar over there on the sidebar. I added it (her?) on a whim one day because I thought it might be fun to play with for a few minutes. Now I have to admit it...I'm totally hooked on my little meez. It's like having a little personalized paper doll or Barbie or Sim character all rolled into one.

She's supposed to look like me, but I think the nose is still a little off. And of course, my eyes aren't that big. And the beauty mark needs to be a little higher on the cheek. But other than that? Pretty close to the actual me. Or as close as I can get anyway with the choices they offer. (I even gave her the J-Lo butt like the real version...just because she's digital doesn't mean that she can escape the junk in her trunk).

So far I've changed her outfit and activity every day. (My view towards my own clothes? Eh. Her clothes? So much fun!). She put on her workout stuff when I went to the gym. She worked on her computer when I blogged. She read a book while I read. She even wore a santa outfit for the Christmas tour of homes this weekend. I think the draw is that her "closet" has more (and cuter) outfits than my real closet. Sometimes I'll put outfits together for her and think, "Hmmm. That looks fabulous. I should see if I can find a similar thing for the real me". (Yes, I'm now taking my fashion cues from a pixilated image. I'm not proud). I spent the last week saving up my little pretend coins to buy her a Blackhawks hockey jersey to wear in honor of tonight's game (Hawks vs Blues, 7:30 in case you were interested). Those jeans and black ballet flats? Authentic replicas of my real clothes. (Although I have to admit that she looks better in her jersey than I do in mine).

I'm working on the alter ego version now. So far she has spiky blue hair and a motorcycle. And black boots. And maybe some tattoos if I can gather more pretend coins. (She's tougher than both the real and avatar me. I like her). She'll represent every crazy thing I've ever wanted to try by was too rational to actually do. Once I get the alter ego finished, I'll unleash her on the blog too.

I've lost almost two full days to playing with my little digital me. It's the complete freedom to reinvent yourself, but without any consequences. Dress up for the digital world, I suppose. I can totally see how people get sucked into spending all their times playing games with these online versions of themselves. It's addicting, and so far all mine really does is just hang out on the blog and blink.

Which, come to think of it, isn't that far off from what the real me does, but she does it in better outfits.

12/14/09
2009 Christmas Tour of Homes

Hi there, and welcome to my part on Hooked on Houses and The Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes! If you're a first time caller, this is where I live with my husband Tony and our Siamese cats. So come in! Come in! Make yourself at home. Let me show you around.

Thrifty Decor Chick is hosting a Christmas Tree party, so here’s our Christmas tree! It’s a tradition for us to go pick out a live tree each year. We always get the Douglas fir, because it’s Tony’s favorite (and I love the smell). Our ornaments are a hodge-podge collection from our lives, from my Baby’s First Christmas and the teddy bear shapes that used to hang on my crib mobile, to the ornaments we picked out each year as kids, to the University of Tennessee balls, to our first Christmas together. It’s a sentimental journey to hang each one on the tree, and it will be fun to continue to add to them each upcoming year.

Here are all the stockings hung by the chimney with care. (Well, almost with care. You may notice that Sebastian's stocking is hanging by a silver ribbon instead of the traditional red loop...that's because someone pulled it down in the middle of the night and ate the loop part. I know, I know, Bad Tony!)

This is something neat. Every year my grandmother gives everyone in the family a gold ornament from the Danburry mint. I used to hang them in the tree with the rest of the ornaments, but I think this ornament holder displays them better. I just love the detail on each ornament!

Here's my nativity scene, waaaaay up on top of the entertainment center and safely out of reach of all the pilfering kitty paws. (This is a trick I learned the first year after a certain wise man kept being kidnapped and hidden under the bed). You can get a really good view of it as you come down the stairs, and I figure that the heat from the DVD player makes the scene feel more like an authentic desert).

These are just regular ornaments that I tied with silver ribbon and hung from the chandelier. I think it gives the kitchen a funky, festive touch, don't you?

Merry Fishmas! Window decals are fabulous for decorating the fish tank, and of course they have their own little stocking!

So there you go! That's the grand Christmas tour! Thanks for stopping by to visit, and feel free to come back anytime. We're a little quirky here, but we think that's a good thing. And if you're new here, be sure to leave a comment and let me know where you're from so I can return the favor and come see your decorations also.

12/12/09
Coming to a Blog Near You!

Just to tempt your taste buds, this is some of the upcoming awesomeness you can expect on Quirky is a Compliment:

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

Has your interest been peaked yet? It should, my friend, it should.

12/11/09
Christmas Card Photos That Didn't Make the Cut

Every year, we take our own family photo for the annual Christmas cards. It usually involves me setting the camera on the self-timer and racing back to be in the frame while Tony tries to hold on to struggling cats who would rather be anywhere else at that moment. To say we do several takes is an understatement, and some years are more trying than others (difficulty of picture is exponentially proportional to the number of cats involved), but eventually we get a halfway decent family photo to send out to loved ones near and far. Recently however, I was flipping through my album of Misfit Christmas Card Photos, and I thought I'd share some of the ones that didn't quite make the cut.

How Tony really feels about Christmas card photos.


Because nothing brings the Christmas spirit like being able to see right up my nostrils. (Plus Tony is deliberately slouching because I asked him to sit up straight. If anyone deserves coal this year, it's him).


Notice anyone missing here? (this was a case of "Okay, I set the timer...Wait, did that just flash?")


Dixon makes a break for it. Everyone else tries to follow suit. (I'm laughing because the claws have severed an artery and the resulting blood loss has made me delirious)


Dixon sneaks back into the picture. Unfortunately, he and I are the only ones looking at the camera.


All the cats run away. Tony is resigned. I fall off the back of the chair seconds after the flash goes off.


This year, I had the bright idea of taking a separate picture of the cats. Ever try to get five cats to look at the camera at once?


"I'll give them a cat treat and you take the picture as soon as I'm out of the shot, okay?"

Somewhere around take 756, we get a usable picture. (Or to be more accurate, somewhere around take 755 my standards for what makes a successful picture drops dramatically). And then we end up with this:
Ya'll have a Merry Christmas, and may your family photos be just as much fun!

12/9/09
Meme Time!

I was looking over ye old blog here, and I said to myself, "You know what we need around here? More meaningless question memes." And so I set out to hunt for one, and I came across Sunday Stealing. It seems that they steal memes from all over the Internet. And they encourage further stealing of those memes.

So I did.

They stole this particular one back in November, but I liked it, so I took it anyway. They appear to do a new one every Sunday, and they don't really require me to think about what I'm blogging, (Dedicated to my craft, that's me) so get ready for more of these to show up.

From Sunday Stealing: The Strange Question Meme, Part 1

1. What is the color of your toothbrush? Hmmm. Blue? Purple? (checking) Yep. Blue and purple

2. Name one person who made you smile today. Tony-come to think of it, he's been the only person I've talked to so far today. I don't remember exactly what he said, but it was funny.

3. What were you doing at 8 am this morning? Sleeping, of course! Repeat after me: NOT A MORNING PERSON!

4. What were you doing 45 minutes ago? Catching up on all my favorite blogs.

5. What is your favorite candy bar? Symphony with almonds. Luvs me the chocolate!

6. Have you ever been to a strip club? Thinking, thinking...no. I don't think so. My initial reaction to those places is to bathe in hand sanitizer. Kinda like hanging out in a gas station bathroom if you ask me.

7. What is the last thing you said aloud? "Mason! Leave your sister alone!" The children are restless today.

8. What is your favorite ice cream? How to choose? Cookies and creme. I'm pretty boring when it comes to ice cream flavors. I just stick pretty much to my one favorite.

9. What was the last thing you had to drink? water. I try to make water my first drink choice when I can. Be kind to the one kidney and all that.

10. Do you like your wallet? Only when it has money in it! Heehee!

11. What was the last thing you ate? Nothing yet today. So I guess that would be last night's handful of chocolate chips (dark) for dessert. I can do that because the anti-oxidants are good for me, right? And it was just a small handful. (Okay, okay, it was two small handfuls. Shut up).

12. Have you bought any new clothing items this week? I bought Tony a t-shirt and a new pair of yoga pants for myself. The shirt was white. The yoga pants are a bright glow-in-the-dark, make-your-eyes-bleed teal. I was feeling adventurous. No word yet on if I'll actually wear them out of the house.

13. The last sporting event you watched? On tv? Hockey. Hawks vs. Nashville. In person? Also hockey. Tony vs. the wolves, I think. It's that most wonderful time of the year.

14. What is your favorite flavor of popcorn? Kettle corn. But the real kind, like you get at the fair. Not the microwave version. Must actually be made in an actual kettle to count. Then I can wolf down one of the giant bags all by myself.

15. Who is the last person you sent a text message to? Probably Mom. She loves those things. I find the tiny keys annoying.

16. Ever go camping? I wish! I think I would like camping, but Tony doesn't. He thinks that once the excitement wore off, I'd freak out because you can't really lock a tent and I dislike being unsecured while sleeping. Which means that I would keep him up all night listening for every rustle and snap of twigs and imagining serial killers lurking right outside. Which he's right...I totally would. But I think I'd like it up until that point.

17. Do you take vitamins daily? Not at the moment. I used to be really good about it, but now I've slacked off. Lack of a routine schedule and all that.

18. Do you go to church every Sunday? Mostly. Occasionally we'll miss one (usually due to hockey), but we try to get there on a regular basis. Enough that they know who we are.

19. Do you have a tan? A little bit. Most of it has faded by now though. Stupid winter.

20. Do you prefer Chinese food over pizza? Depends on the mood. Sometimes I'm feeling beef and broccoli, sometimes it's meat lovers thin crust.

21. Do you drink your soda with a straw? I don't drink sodas. Haven't touched anything carbonated for about 20 years. I find them rot-your-teeth sugary and I hate the feel of the bubbles. But when offered a straw in a restaurant, I usually use one with my water.

22. What did your last text message say? I have no idea. I'm not much of a texty person. Probably responding to one of Mom's.

23. What are you doing tomorrow? Lunch with Mom. Other than that, maybe a little reading...a little web surfing...it's a hard life.

24. Favorite color? blue. Have you seen my house?

25. Look to your left; what do you see? My long-term to-do list regarding upkeep on the house. It's long but uninspiring. I shall ignore it. Recaulking the tub can wait for another day.

12/7/09
Bella's First Christmas

Bella is very frustrated.

First her people brought in a tasty and delicious tree with fabulous smells all over it and put it in the middle of the living room. (Not only is it tasty, but it is tall and provides the perfect cover for ambushing her brothers). Then her people put a little bird-person with ribbons all over it and real feather wings at the very top as a primo kitty prize for climbing said tree. Then they covered the entire tree with kitty toys and shiny kitty balls, just perfect for batting and chasing.

But can Bella play with the shiny kitty balls or the hanging cat toys or the little bird-person perched on top of the delicious tree? NOOOOO!

Bella is not allowed near the tree. In fact, the Kitty Deterrent 3000 is guarding the tree, and Bella has been sprayed several times in her attempts to sneak in the tiniest swat or nibble.

Her people are so mean! Why bring in such a wonderful snack covered in toys if they do not want her to play with it?!? Why let the little bird-person sit way up there and mock her when Bella knows full well just how tasty those white feathery wings would be? Why is it automatically Bella's fault when her people come home and the bottom three feet of the tree have been de-ornamented? Have you ever heard of anything so unfair?!?

Poor Bella. So mistreated. So unloved. Such a frustrating time of year to be a cat.

12/4/09
Invasion of the Quirky-Snatchers

You may have noticed that the site has been down for a few days. The sad truth is that while I was passing the gravy with my family on Thanksgiving day, some evil hacker broke into my site (well, actually the site of my web counter service) and spewed malware all over it. Then, while I was stuffing myself with stuffing, the Blogger robots that roam the cyberterrain looking for spam blog latched onto my lovely little site and completely locked it down. And THEN, if that wasn't horrible enough, while I was doing the dance of "Oh no, I couldn't possibly...okay maybe one more piece of pie", Google robots zeroed in and slammed it with a "this site will kill your computer" tag. So in short, they completely quarantined my poor little blog, and not even I could get in to do anything about it.

So for the last several days, I've just been stuck. I emailed Blogger and requested a review, and an appeal, and peppered the help forum with pleas. And then I waited. All in all, it took exactly one week to get it back. And despite what you read on a lot of the help forums, the Blogger/Google people were really helpful during that time (special thanks to nitecruzer, who must have been going insane from the 16 forum messages that I sent going helphelphelphelpHELP!). Anyway, they were able to track the problem back to my web counter and remove the code for me. Then I checked everything else to make sure I was okay and requested a review so that Google would pronounce me safe once again. And now we're back in business (albeit with a few changes...you'll notice that we're now employing the hateful squiggly word verification for comments. I know, I know, I hate it too, but it cuts down on a lot of spam robots leaving potentially harmful messages, so it is the price that we must pay for cyber safety).

And because I can now attest first hand at how scary and frustrating and annoying it is to have your blog hacked, (I swear, dear hacker, that if we ever meet in a dark alley, I will cheerfully peel the flesh from your bones and then dance on your bloody carcass while I laugh) I am providing a quick overview of things that I found helpful. This, of course, only applies to Blogger blogs since that I what I run, but I'm sure there's a similar process for Wordpress.

If the Blogger Spambots shut you down:
1) Request a review from the link on your dashboard.
2) Sign up for the appeal websheet
3) Give them two business days from when you signed up on the appeal sheet, and then post a concise and polite post in the "Something's Broken" help forum, stating the problem and when you requested a review and appeal.

If Google tags you with a "visit and die!" warning (thus scaring away all of your faithful readers, to boot):
1) Check to see what Google found on Webmaster Tools
2) Fix the problem by having your site checked at Norton Safe Web, StopBadWare Clearinghouse, Unmask Parasites, and Dasient.
3) Search your source code for hidden nasties. The step-by-step instructions at How to remove "This site may harm your computer" are fabulous.
4) Request Google to review your site again to make sure you got everything.

Anyway, long story short: We're all clean and back in business. I'm safe, you're safe, and all the quirkilicious content is safe. Thanks for sticking with me while I was down.

11/24/09
Smile for the Christmas-Themed Birdie!

Oh ya'll, you would be so proud of me! I have officially (and before Thanksgiving too!) ordered my Christmas cards. Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart!

Each year, we do the photo cards of us and the cats (quit rolling your eyes...lots of perfectly sane people send out Christmas cards of themselves surrounded by cats. Shut up! They do!) and each year it sneaks up on me and suddenly it's the second week of December and I'm snapping pictures like mad in an attempt to get something halfway decent to send out to friends and relatives (who no doubt receive these lovely tokens of holiday cheer and go, "Good Lord, look at all the cats. We need to have an intervention") but between all the shopping and the decorating and the Charlie Brown Christmas Specials on TV, the whole thing gets all frenzied and all the cards end up arriving two days before Christmas and I swear that next year, I'm going to get them out earlier.

Well, this year I have finally done it! (Okay maybe not totally since they aren't technically in the mail yet, but I have the pictures snapped and the prints ordered and I'll go pick them up tomorrow and as God as my witness, those cards will be in the mail before the first day of December!)

I credit my success this year on some essential changes in strategy. First of all, instead of trying to get the two of us and five cats all sitting in the same place at the same time and looking in the same direction without anyone making a weird face or getting clawed to little tiny bits like we've done in photos past, this year I went with the much simpler two photo option. One of us, one of the cats. Period. (Of course, that's not to say that it was a cake walk to get Tony smiling at the same time he was sitting up straight at the same time at I wasn't caught by surprise with the self-timer going off, or equally easy to get five cats who can either be best friends or despise each other depending on what day of the week it is to stand still for a picture, but I managed it). Then, instead of taking them in to Walgreens or CVS to fight with the little Kodak machine to edit and get copies made, I just did my editing at home and emailed them to the photo department. And finally, instead of just doing photos and then painstaking stuffing each one into a Christmas card and writing some note on the inside, I've upgraded to the all-in-one 4x8 photo card with Christmas message already included. Now all I have to do is pick them up from the photo place, address the envelopes and toss them in the mailbox for pickup! Viola! Instant Christmas cheer!

So bring it on, Christmas. I am so ready for you!

And by getting the cards out right at the beginning of December, friends and family will have an entire month to make crazy cat lady jokes.

11/18/09
Hair Today...Gone Tomorrow! Okay, Still Hair Today

For all one of you who was curious about how things turned out with the haircut yesterday:
  • No bangs, faux or otherwise.
  • Long layers (apparently these control volume...who knew?) I did ask her to keep them long enough to ensure proper hair behavior during ponytail time.
  • Shorter pieces in the front to frame my face.
  • A tiny trim to shape up the ends.

She did take the time to blow it dry and flat iron it straight, which, considering the hour it took her, I will not be doing on a regular basis Thankyouverymuch.

(Although I do like how it looks when it's straight).

(Not to mention really shiny).

She did a pretty passive-aggressive sell for buying some salon shampoo and conditioner and straighter and smoother and shine serum, but I ignored it. (For $85 a bottle, that shampoo better be solving world hunger or something). Pet Peeve Time: It annoys me to death to be trapped in a chair while a woman with sharp scissors tries to do a hard sell on me for hair products. If I want them, I'll ask for them. Used car salesmen and timeshare pushers could learn a thing or two from this woman. The classier the salon, the worse they are about it too.

Anyway, fancy products or not, she gave me a great cut. I was really pleased with the result.

What do you think? My hair looks pretty good if I do say so myself. You should feel free to say so also.

11/17/09
Layers and Teasings and Bangs, Oh My!

Ya'll bear with me today. I have a cold.

Now, I know what you're saying. You're out there screeching "H1N1 flu!" and making the sign of the cross while wiping down the computer screen with Lysol. And if I had the flu, I totally wouldn't blame you.

But it isn't. It's just your average run-of-the-mill cold. Which on the up side, probably won't really kill me, but on the down side, it's all of the crappy cold symptoms and none of the sympathy.

(Moment of silence for my poor nose, which will probably never be the same again after this).

Anyway, as much as I know you're looking forward to a minute-by-minute description of all the sneezing and sniffling and OH MY WORD THE PRESSURE IN MY EARS, I'm not going to do it. Ya'll have all had colds...just remember back to how it was and pity me.

Instead, we're going to talk about a serious issue of national importance, and by that I mean my hair.

(Yes, again. Shut up).

I'm in serious need of guidance. I have a haircut scheduled in exactly 2 hours, and I don't know what I want. I'd like something different and, you know, stunning, but I have no idea what that looks like. I do know I don't want to go shorter...I'm just getting it back out to a length that I like after the last haircut's misunderstanding (I was gesturing at chin level for the length that I wanted the front and she thought I meant that I wanted all of it that length. And once you take that first hearty snip, there's no going back). So not shorter.

And I guess I could tell her to put layers in it again, but to be honest, I don't really see how they help. Mostly they just succeed in sneaking out of my ponytail holder halfway though my cardio so that by the time I've finished it looks like I went 15 rounds with my head in a blender. So no layers (or at least, not short ones).

And do I dare even think about getting...bangs? Normally, I wouldn't so much as consider such a ridiculous suggestion because I have a round face and a small forehead (two major bang no-nos), but the Seester (who also shares the genetic tiny forehead) recently cut her hair and the stylist gave her "faux bangs" which are really more side wisps than actual bangs but still have the totally enviable effect of looking AWESOME. And I am really really jealous. Of course, it's entirely possible that the faux bangs work on the Seester because she has straight hair, whereas if I tried to get faux bangs, they would scrunch and curl and poof and despite my best efforts end up looking like Sally from Peanuts.

Which looks lovely on her but is not so good when you aren't a little girl.

Or, you know, a cartoon character.

So maybe not with the bangs. Although that basically leaves me with just walking in and being like, "Well, I guess you could wash it, even though I did that this morning. But no cutting!" Which kind of misses the whole point of a haircut.

Not to mention I had to schedule this haircut two months ago because the holidays are quickly approaching and everybody is getting their Christmas photo hair styles, so if I canceled the appointment today I wouldn't be able to get another one until roughly 2012. (Which may or may not be the Apocalypse, in which case a snazzy 'do probably wouldn't matter all that much anyway). So, haircut good. Just as soon as I figure out what the heck I'm doing.

So any suggestions, oh wise Internet? Any advice you can give a round faced, no forehead girl with natural curl and a need to stay shoulder length or longer? I don't know what to do and I need ya'll to talk me down from the edge, because I'm beginning to see the wisdom behind Tony just shaving his head.

11/13/09
Today I Became a Flying Squirrel

So here's something that I don't normally get to say...

I went skydiving today.

My dad has always wanted to try skydiving, so last year I got him a gift certificate for indoor skydiving in Pigeon Forge. (I would have done "jumping out of an actual plane" skydiving, but my mother told me that if I in any way encouraged my father to throw himself out of a moving aircraft at 13,000 feet, I was out of the will). So we compromised with indoor skydiving (all of the flying, none of the plummeting towards Earth at a deadly rate of speed) and I told him that when he was ready to use the gift certificate, I'd go and do it with him.

So we did.

They start you out with a five minute video about how to stabilize yourself in midair, how to tuck and roll so that when you go ricocheting out of control (and you will) you can land without hurting yourself, and what hand signals you're supposed to use to communicate (because the fan is really loud and you can't hear in there). Then once we signed the waiver stating we wouldn't sue them if we died, they suited us up and away we went!

Here we are in our nylon jumpsuits. This man beside me, dressed in what looks suspiciously like a mouse mascot with a crash helmet, is my dad. I'm sporting the mauve/lime green/bright yellow combo. Stylish, no?

Thumbs up means "good to go" in skydiver-speak. We also learned the signs for bend your legs, straighten your legs, arch your back, bend your arms, straighten your arms and relax. Oh, and thumbs down, which means "I have grievously injured myself and need some assistance". (Luckily, we didn't have to use thumbs down).

"Good to go!"

The actual flying is done in a giant multi-story chamber with a big fan at the bottom and fluffy pillows all around the edges (for landings). The instructor flips on the fan and you get into "stable position", which is basically your arms and legs spread out and a slight arch in your back for maximum wind resistance. Then air speed picks up, and all of a sudden you've left the ground and you're flying! The feeling is incredible. It's not like anything I've ever experienced before. I never stopped laughing the entire time I was in there.

I will say that it isn't as easy as it looks. Even the smallest twitch in body position sends you rocketing off in some new direction. Because Dad and I were beginners, the instructor kept a hand on us to try to stabilize us somewhat. Dad and I took turns flying...trading off back and forth as the instructor corrected our posture and took us through some spin moves. (Because my back is super flexible, I kept trying to arch up to the point that I was loosing my wind resistance. As soon as I would correct it though, I'd shoot up into the air like a rocket).

While Dad and I were flying, Mom was good enough to take some video from the observation deck. And because I would never consider denying you the opportunity to see me impersonate a giant fashion-impaired flying squirrel, I'm posting it below.

Oh, you are so welcome.

So when you're running around doing your Christmas shopping this year and you just can't decide what to get that person who has everything, I recommend indoor skydiving lessons. It's a great family bonding experience, and an absolute blast to boot!

Thanks for experiencing it with me, Dad!



10/12/09
On Presentations and Computers and Guys Who Borrow Laptops From Their Children Without Asking

So I had my client presentation today, and I am pleased to report that it went very well, thank you very much. (Not that I really expected otherwise, but it's always nice to feel like you did a good job on something, am I right?) I've been working on this particular project for the last month and a half, and today was the big meeting where I sit down with the client to report my findings and make recommendations.

Oh, and collect a check for services rendered, which is also nice.

Actually, the presentation part is always my favorite because I am a total PowerPoint junkie. I really have to watch myself with these things, because I can throw together 600 slides in no time if I'm not careful. (I was very good today...only 21 slides for an hour's presentation. Minimalist, yet still delightfully informative).

Of course, the whole thing almost fell victim to PowerPoint DISASTER because at the 11th hour, my laptop decided that it hated me and didn't want to work anymore. (It does this thing where it says the battery is charged, and it's acting like the battery is charged, and then all of a sudden without warning it goes, "Whoops! No battery!" and shuts off). You can never tell when it's going to happen either. 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 45 minutes? Doesn't matter. It's like playing Musical Chairs only instead of music and chairs, it involves unreliable technology and creative swearing. (This, as you can imagine, is not something that you want to happen in the middle of a presentation either).

Anyway, right as things were looking darkest for our heroine, I sent out a distress email begging for a loaner laptop and a guardian angel came through by stealing his daughter's laptop and giving it to me without her knowledge. PRESENTATION SAVED! Thank you Guardian Angel! (If you're reading this now, I put the laptop back in your office along with some thank you cookies which you can either choose to share with your daughter or eat yourself...up to you. I don't judge).

But it was a good presentation, and for a client that I like working with, so that made it a good day. And even better, I've been signed on for additional work creating a marketing plan for another division for this same company, so hooray! I will not starve.

Of course, at least some of what I made today will probably have to go towards buying a new laptop (snarl) since the chances of me being able to steal some poor girl's computer on a regular basis are slim to none. I guess I'll keep an eye out for Christmas computer deals, but I'm not really sure what kind to get. I need to stay PC so anything Apple related is out. (I like Macs, but I'm more comfortable in the Windows world- blame it on being a business major). Beyond that, any suggestions? I need it to have a good sized screen, be light enough to carry around, and be able to run massive PowerPoint files without breaking a sweat.

And by the way, if anyone else needs a Marketing Consultant, I am so your girl.

11/9/09
Discovering the Treadwall

I have a confession to make. Before today, I hadn't been to the gym in two weeks. And maybe two weeks doesn't sound like a super long time, but gym attendance is a slippery slope. (Make that a slippery, cookie dough covered slope, because Heaven knows that my chocolate chip cravings certainly didn't take a two week vacation while the rest of me just sat around doing nothing). The point is, once you miss one day, it's really easy to miss a second, and then a third, and then a fourth, until suddenly two weeks have gone by and you just feel sluggish and gross and full of imitation Pillsbury.

I told myself that it was okay to miss because I was busy doing important things, or because I was tired, or because I was letting my neck heal a little longer, but I think the truth was that I had just gotten bored of my gym routine. I love my gym and everything it offers, but I have the attention span of a caffeine-buzzed gnat with ADD, so I need to mix it up on a regular basis to keep things from getting stale. And so today when I forced myself out the door and over to the gym, I promised myself that I'd find a new class or machine or something to liven things up.

Hooboy did I find something.

Enter: The Treadwall. What's a treadwall you ask? Well, it's a rock climbing wall that rotates like the belt of a treadmill, so you can climb and climb and climb and never get any higher than a few feet off the ground. And because you can adjust the speed of the wall, you can get a great workout out of it.

Now, I'm not a rock climber. I don't have any experience with it whatsoever. But as soon as I saw the treadwall, I was like, "I have GOT to get me some of that". And I bounced over, clicked the speed to turtle, and scampered right on up. And you know what? It's FUN! I like that you have to think about where you're going next. It's a puzzle that you have to solve as opposed to just setting the speed on a regular treadmill and zoning out. You have to pay attention; otherwise your foot will be way over on this handhold and your arm will be over on this handhold, and you best get things straightened out because you are rapidly sinking back to earth on your little rolling wall o' fun there. It's like Twister meets Tetris.

Or something like that.

Anyway, I've only done the wall once, but I'm totally hooked on it. Not that good at it, mind you, but hooked on it anyway. I can climb for about 10 minutes, halfway between the turtle and rabbit speed before my arms start quivering and I have to rest. But that doesn't really matter, because I'm sure I'll improve as I get used to it. In the mean time, it totally did the trick of rejuvenating my workouts. I was so excited when I left today that I called everybody I knew and told them that they had to come try this thing out for themselves.

So. Moral of the story? Treadmill climbing wall rocks. (Hyuck, hyuck. Get it? "Rocks"?) If you get a chance to try one out, by all means, do it. It's a blast.

Just make sure I still get my turn.
A Treadwall. How awesome is that?

11/4/09
We Take Security Seriously Around Here

Bella has picked up this habit where she'll run up to you, grab your leg with her front paws and then slowly slide back down to the floor. It's a lot like being frisked for weapons from the knees down.

Just something to keep in mind if you ever come to visit while packing heat.

Don't make me call in a cavity search

10/31/09
Acting My Age

Because no one is too old to play dress up and eat candy...

10/29/09
"The Curse" of Being Insane, That Is

It's been a bit of a rough week this week. Best just to duck and cover, for I am afflicted with the PMS in a major MAJOR way.

And while I know that this is firmly in the category or TMI (sorry Dad, sorry Dennis), I do not care, because caring is the first thing to go when suffering from the aforementioned affliction. (Well, that and the ability to squeeze into the skinny jeans). And since all the rest of you (that I know of) are female, you understand where I'm coming from. To quote the famous Stevie Nicks, "I need a little bit of sympathy, where is a little bit of sympathy....stand back".

The bad thing about PMS is it's like someone else has taken over your body, and you're just standing off to the side watching yourself and going, who IS this crazy person? And even though the rational part of you knows that it's coming, and that it's a complete overreaction, there's not a thing you can do about it except wait it out and be all, "Hormones! Why hath you forsaken me!?" 'Cause honey, NOBODY can do a mood swing like I do.

I first knew something was up when Tony and I were sitting in a restaurant a few days ago and the TV mounted on the wall in the corner was turned to ESPN 748's Trick Bowling competition. (First of all, trick bowling? Was it not complicated enough to just hit all the pins? Now we have to do it blindfolded and around chairs and with 4 balls at a time?) Anyway, I wasn't really watching because that's one of my SUPER HUGEST PET PEEVES EVER IMAGINABLE when someone watches TV over your head while eating, but Tony had gotten up to get something and I was just glancing around the room, waiting for him to come back. And I'm watching these bowlers with their ridiculous antics, and one guy decides to make it a family affair. So he gets his two little boys up there with them (5 or 6 maybe? I can never tell kids ages), in their cute little matching bowling shirts, and their cute little matching bowling balls, and the three of them roll their balls down the lane at the same time. And they get a strike. And the little kids are so happy! And they're all high-fiving each other and jumping around, and I was fine though all that, I really was. But then, Dad gets down on his knees right there next to the ball return so that he's the exact same height as his boys, and they give each other chest bumps.

And I lost it. Right there in the middle of the restaurant. I am bawling.

Luckily, the place wasn't that crowded and I was able to pretend that I was just having an allergy attack to the peanut oil or something rather than crying over trick bowling because, hello, insane much? Of course, Tony comes back from the salad bar to find me sniffling into my napkin (sorry bus boy guy) and instantly knows something's up. He listens patiently through my choked sobs of bowling...chest bumps...little matching shirts! and looks confused. Then he remembers back to last month when he walked in to find a similar episode of me crying over a pickup truck commercial (those slow motion bounding through the mud scenes were so moving!) and he figures it out.

Luckily, Tony's one of those smart guys who knows better than to make some kind of snide comment (or any comment for that matter, because there's a greater than average chance that I'm going to take everything as snide). He just does a really masterful job of trying not to laugh and changes the subject. Actually, I think he might even enjoy this particular week a little bit because he knows that this is the week when all of my "no junk food" rules go flying out the window. (Double whammy this week because it's Halloween and you can't go three feet without coming across some bit of chocolate covered goodness). So he waits. And sure enough, before long I'm prowling around the kitchen, a slave to the chocolate craving.

"WHY DO WE NOT HAVE ANY CANDY IN THIS HOUSE?!?" I growl.
"You don't buy candy, remember? We're eating healthy", He replies.
"Screw healthy! I need some chocolate". Right now. Chocolate. Right now!
"How about an apple? That's what you told me to eat for snack the other day". He lets the tiniest smirk slip. He's deliberately poking the bear.

It works.

I erupt into a 10 foot high monster, with red lasers shooting out of my eyes and my hair aflame. "CHOCOLATE!" I roar in an evil demonic voice, "BRING ME THE SACRIFICIAL CANDY BAR OR I WILL DESTROY THE ENTIRE WORLD!" He grins, triumphant. "If you insist, dear", he tells me, "I'll go get us some chocolate". (Somewhere, in the small sliver of my rational brain, I hear the word "us" and know that my best laid healthy plans have just been shattered, but for the moment, I do not care. There will be plenty of time for self-loathing later).

So here we are, eating cookie dough straight out of the wrapper and sniffling over SportsCenter (well, I'm sniffling, Tony's just watching while he absentmindedly pats me on the knee). In another day or so, I'll be able to lock the PMS monster back into her box for another month. I'll go back to pushing apples as acceptable snack foods, fit into my skinny jeans (well, maybe once I work the cookie dough off), and watch commercials without spontaneously erupting into a crazy person.

Precious sanity for exactly 28 more days.

10/28/09
Significant Objects

I found the most fabulous website today! It's called Significant Objects, and basically the premise is that "A talented, creative writer invents a story about an object. Invested with new significance by this fiction, the object should — according to our hypothesis — acquire not merely subjective but objective value. How to test our theory? Via eBay!". Basically, they take junk- little trinkets and whatnot that they've picked up at garage sales and thrift stores, a writer volunteers to write about it (giving it a story), and then they sell it on ebay to see if having a good story behind it increases the object's value. (People know that the story is not true...it's just for entertainment value). For example, there's a little Russian figure on a wood base that was originally purchased for $3, but with the story (which is wonderful) sold for almost $200 on ebay.

Interesting social experiment, but the thing that sucked me in were the stories. The most oddball, creative, wonderful stories about the simplest objects. Stuff you'd never look at twice had the most fascinating (if fictional) stories! It makes a wonderful writer's exercise if you feel the need to stir the creative juices, and the site itself provides a wonderful way of keeping me entertained while I procrastinate about work.

If you get a chance, and you have a few minutes to kill, I suggest popping over to the site. I particularly enjoyed the Wooden Animal .

You might want to stay away from ebay though.

10/27/09
The Garlic Years

Hi there...just a quick pop-in to say that I saw this on Slate the other day and thought it was interesting. It's an article called The Garlic Years, and it's about the cyclical fascination with vampires that we seem to go through every few years. I mention it because every time I see the preview for the movie The Vampire's Assistant, or HBO's True Blood, or the CW's Vampire Diaries, I say to myself, "Still with the vampires? Enough with the bloody (no pun intended) vampires already!" I don't know about you, but I'm pretty vampired out. (Yes, I know that I myself posted not too long ago about the New Moon movie and Bram Stoker's Dracula and therefore am guilty continuing the dialogue, but nevermind that right now...I'm trying to make a point). The good news is that if history is any indication, we should be coming to the end of this particular rein of fangs and we'll be off to another scary fascination.

Personally, I'm hoping for dragons.

10/25/09
Honesty

Honesty is important in a marriage. Take this morning for example, when I first woke up and gazed upon the visage of my adoring husband:

Tony: Wow, your hair looks like a flock of birds have been tap dancing in it!

There's also such a thing as too much honesty.

10/24/09
Bar Fight? My Hair Will Take. You. Down.

I just wanted to pop in and tell you about this awesome ruffled motorcycle jacket I saw the other day. Normally, I am more motorcycle jacket than ruffle, (it is my deepest darkest wish to have a motorcycle...specifically the Ducatti 848, but I'd be willing to take a Suzuki Sportbike too if Tony wouldn't freak), but I have to admit that I like the certain feminine charm that this ruffle exudes. Because it's important to have something that says "I'm still a girl even though I'm whacking people upside the head with a pool cue in this biker bar".

And even though I like the jacket, I probably wouldn't have given it a place on the blog except for one thing: the model's hair. Do you see this girl's hair? The wavy, highly um...volumized hair? The hair that looks like if you were in fact wearing that jacket in a biker bar, the hair would actually be the one doing the pool cue swinging?

That is my hair, people.

In its natural state, doing what it pleases, that is exactly what my hair would choose to do. And while it is my fiercest desire to actually have the hair of the other model wearing this jacket (go on, click the little thumbnail), this first girl's hair is actually the hair twin of my own, color notwithstanding (mine is mousy brown). Now, I have always thought that having hair of this...this magnitude was a bad thing. All my life, I have called it the bedhead/rat's nest/struck by lightning look, and for me, poofier is not better.

But now I am confused, because apparently Nordstrom, (who is rumored to know something about looking fashionable), has deliberately taken a picture of this poor girl with her hair like that, and have now posted it on the Internet like it was a good thing.

Is this a good thing, Internet people?

Please tell me if this is, in actuality, a desirable hair style, because I'm afraid that I have been battling against this very thing for so long that I may be blinded by my prejudice against it. Is the big hair back? Should I step away from my smoothing serums and defrizzing creams and just let my poofy hair fly? Because if Nordstrom is indeed not smoking something, and this really is the future of hair fashion, then I am sitting on a hair gold mine. I can so do the poof. I have poof in spades.

Not to mention it'd be nice to be able to rely on my hair in case I ever got into a bar fight.

10/23/09
Green Acres Is The Place For Me!

It's not that I haven't written because I don't love you guys. It's mostly that I haven't written because I haven't been doing anything, and I love you guys too much to subject you to little episodes of me sitting on the couch while staring at my own feet. (Holy Smokes! Look at my toenails! Didn't I just cut them...what, two days ago? I am a toenail growing freak! Mental note to cut down on the Flintstone vitamins). Still... I figured that a bunch of nothing is better than nothing about nothing, assuming you were able to follow that in the first place.

Anyway.

So last night I spent an hour laying in bed, trying to remember all the words to the Green Acres song. Don't ask me why. No, scratch that, I do know. Earlier in the day I had been talking with my neighbor about his German Shepard, and I mentioned that Tony always liked German Shepherds, and if he had his way, we'd have one. Actually, if Tony had his way, we'd have German Shepherds and goats and sheep and cows and more cats (Heaven help us) and we'd live on a farm out in the middle of the country with our little animal menagerie, and that led to the phrase, "Faarrrm living is the life for me!" I couldn't remember what came after that line though, even though I could clearly picture whats-his-face from the show pitching hay and whatnot during the opening credits. I did manage to recall all of Eva Gabor's part, and even the part where they go back and forth with the "The chores!" "The stores!" "Fresh air!" "Times Square". Then he says, "You are my wife!" while forcefully dragging Eva into the country (and don't think that didn't get my feminist dander up...I mean, I realize it was a different time then, but if Tony just up and decided that we were going to live in the middle of nowhere, you can bet we'd be having several discussions about it first) and they finish the whole bit with "Green Acres we are theeeeeere!". Anyway, the longer I thought about it, the more I remembered, but I still don't have the first part after "Faarrrm living is the life for me!" If anybody has that odd little nugget tucked away somewhere in their long-term memory, let me know how it ends, huh? I know I could just Google it, but that seems to be cheating for some reason.

You may be wondering how someone on the cusp of thirty (ack!) managed to become exposed to Green Acres in the first place. I mean, it quit running in 1971, 9 whole years before my blessed birth. Well, 3 words for you: Nick at Nite. Do you remember Nick at Nite's TV Land? It was the Nickelodeon station after 8pm, and they showed wonderful old shows like Green Acres, and the Patty Duke show, and my all time personal favorites, Dragnet and Mr. Ed. (Who doesn't remember "A Horse is a Horse, of course, of course?") Good times, good times. I remember the Seester and I racing through dinner so that we could catch the beginning of the shows. It didn't matter that some of them were in black and white. (As a matter of fact, I don't think we ever even questioned it. It didn't occur to me that these were even "old" shows...I just figured that they made them look like that on purpose). And it turns out that the antics of family shows from the 60's are just as hysterical to a 5 and 7 year old growing up in the early 80's. (Remember Arnold the pig that used to live in the house? And the time that whats-his-name had to climb the telephone pole to make a call and he split the seat of his pants? To a 7 year old, that's comic gold, my friends, pure comic gold. I remember laughing until I almost fell off the couch). I wish they still made shows like that.

Do they still do TV Land? Not having anyone in the house under 4' tall, we don't get the Nickelodeon channel. And if they do, do they still play these old shows? And if they don't, am I the only one remembering them? Like I said, Mister Ed and Dragnet were my favorites, although I didn't catch Dragnet as often because it came on waaaaay after my bedtime (10:00!), which was a shame, because I thought Joe Friday was about the coolest thing since sliced bread.
Anybody else have an old favorite?



PS- Actually, in a shocking coincidence, while setting up the links to Green Acres above, I just saw the headline that the guy who wrote the song to the show died a few days ago. Vic Mizzy, the composer to not only the Green Acres song but also the one for the Adams Family, died earlier this week on the 20th. He was 93. Now, how weird is it that a song that I haven't thought about for probably 20 years suddenly popped into my head right after the guy dies? I like to think that it was the Universe's way of giving the guy a proper send-off, an exit cue if you will, and my subconscious pre-sleep brain waves picked up on it. So hat's off to you, Vic Mizzy! You and your annoying catchy tune have wormed your way into the brains of generations.

Not to mention keeping me occupied while I wait to fall asleep.

10/11/09
Corelli's Mandolin

I know I keep doing book reviews on here, and you're probably all "Quit reading and go do something funny and/or humiliating already", but I just had to pop in and say that I just finished Corelli's Mandolin and I absolutely loved it. I laughed even as I cried, and by the end of the book, the characters will feel like family to you. It was brilliant and witty while also being horrifying and brutal. The writing is honest and laugh out loud tongue-in-cheek. It'll tear you up and turn you inside out, but you'll love every minute of it. I'm putting the other books of the "trilogy" on my list right away".

10/8/09
Spinach and Broccoli and Tofu, Oh My!

I mentioned in passing a few days ago that I'd been cooking with the Sneaky Chef recipes in an attempt to eat more veggies painlessly. (I know I should be eating fruits and vegetables...I'm just to lazy to actually do it. Something about the buying and the washing and the dicing and the cooking makes me just want to throw my hands up and reach for a frozen pizza instead. Plus, those suckers seem to turn moldy and mushy seconds after I get them into the crisper. Nothing destroys a vegetable's will to live like disappearing into the never-ending abyss of my refrigerator). So when I saw the Sneaky Chef books, I thought what the hey, I'll give it a try. That was last week, and I wanted to come back and give ya'll a follow-up on how that's working out for us.

Which, in a word, is AWESOME.

Now, I'm not much of a cook. Never have been, probably never will be. Toasting a pop-tart is about the extent of my culinary prowess. However, these Sneaky Chef recipes are fool me-proof! One, she has a lot of tidbits about adding things to pre-packaged stuff like Spaghetti O's and Kraft Mac and Cheese and instant chocolate pudding, so it's not like I had to immediately go from my previous "open can, dump in bowl" style of cooking to gourmet chef overnight. We still eat a lot of box mac and cheese. Only now, we do it with cauliflower and zucchini hidden in it.

The other thing is that when I actually feel like trying to cook something, the recipes are easy to follow, don't require a lot of weird stuff, and don't take long to throw together. Tonight I made a homemade lasagna that was delicious, and not much of a fuss at all. (Tony was so impressed! He normally approaches all of my dinner attempts with wary concern. You make one tomato pie with a graham cracker pie shell by accident, and you never hear the end of it...) But this one was great! Annnnd, he got 4 servings of vegetables in one meal, and didn't even know it! Hee hee!

So far this week, we've eaten carrots, sweet potato, blueberries, spinach (if he only knew!), cauliflower, zucchini, great northern beans, broccoli (another of Tony's "never!" foods), rolled oats, whole wheat, and tofu (yes! Tofu! Normally I wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot pole, but it was invisible and tasteless in the lasagna! And really filling!) all hidden in our food. Tony doesn't have a clue, and even I can't see, taste, or detect a change in texture, and I'm the one who put the stuff in there!

The Sneaky Chef is targeted towards getting your kids (or husband) to eat better without telling them (thus the sneaky), but I find that it works just as well for the completely aware yet stubbornly veggie-phobic. I KNOW that they're in there, but I swear I couldn't tell you that anything in the recipe was healthy. And while I'd tell Tony if he asked, it's so well hidden that it doesn't occur to him that his pizza has an extra boost, so why should he care? It's health without effort.

Believe it or not, I'm not being paid to endorse these books. Sneaky Chef doesn't even know I exist. I just came across the books in the library one day and thought I'd try them out. And since they worked like a charm, I thought I'd pass the information on to you. Think of it as a "Works for me Wednesday" only on Thursday.

You're welcome. Can you please pass the spinach?

10/5/09
New Moon

I saw the movie trailer for the New Moon, the next in the Twilight series today. Apparently it comes out November 20th, and all the Twilight fans are gearing up for it.

Here's the thing: I enjoyed the Twilight books just as much as everybody else- as a matter of fact, I have all of them sitting right here on my bookshelf, and I'll pick one up as a palate cleaner or a quick read between other books every now and again. And a year ago, I admit that I was all psyched up for the Twilight movie too.

But.

The movie was "eh". I'll say it- I was disappointed. Just didn't do it for me. Now, to be fair, very very few movies can ever stand up to the book that it is based on, so perhaps I expected too much. (For me, a movie doesn't stand a chance against the written word). But even allowing for this, after seeing Twilight last year, I walked out of the theater going, "Well, scratch the rest of the Twilight movies off of my list...they just can't do it justice". And that was that.

But.

Oh, the trailer makes it look good, doesn't it? Very exciting and dramatic and hoo-boy that Jacob Black certainly grew up nicely. (The fact that he spends most of his time running around sans shirt doesn't hurt either). And the fight scenes! I don't recall Edward getting into a WWF match with the Volturi in the book, and I hate when movies take liberties that weren't there with the original story, but all the same it looks very suspenseful.

So I'm torn. On the one hand, New Moon was my least favorite of all the books, AND movies are always lousy when compared to the books, AND judging from the first Twilight movie, I'm just going to be annoyed with it. But on the other hand...it does look kinda exciting, doesn't it?

I guess we'll just have to see.

So how about you? Are you a Twilight fan? Will you be going to see it next month? You only have 44 days to decide!

(PS- if truth be told, I think my veeeery favorite of the Meyer books was actually The Host...while I like the Twilight characters, I love The Host's plot twists. That one just never gets old. And I was very excited to read that that one will also be hitting the silver screen at some point. That one I'll definitely attend).

10/1/09
The KD3000

A house with five cats and no discipline would be anarchy; therefore, Tony and I employ the "Kitty Deterrent 3000" for all our kitty behavior modification needs. What's the Kitty Deterrent 3000, you ask? Basically a spray bottle full of water. (Kitty Deterrent 3000 sounds better though).

Jumping up on the counter? Squirt. Tearing holes in furniture? Squirt. Generally reeking havoc? Squirt. It doesn't hurt, but the shot of water to the side is just enough to make them realize that whatever they're doing probably isn't the good idea that they thought it was. It's been so effective that all of the above bad habits immediately ceased and we were able to put it away completely.

Until Bella, that is.

It's been three weeks since Bella came, and while inner-house cat relations remain somewhat strained, I think we're sloooooowly getting used to each other. Every now and then though, Bella slips and decides to chase her brothers around. The first few weeks, Tony and I chalked it up to just adjusting to the new environment. We scolded, we made "angry face", we carried her back downstairs. Today however, I sat Bella down and explained that enough was enough, and any further ambushing/chasing/swatting/hissing and generally giving her brothers panic attacks would not be tolerated. Poor Mason won't come out from under the bed and I'm not administering kitty Prozac, so knock it off already. And as fair warning, the KD3000 would be enforcing. She was all, "Sure Mom. Whatever".

Sure enough, about three hours after our talk, I was in the office, working away, when who should I hear come tearing up the stairs hissing and spitting and otherwise terrorizing Sebastian? Why yes, it's dear sweet Bella on the warpath. So I did the resigned kitty-mom head shake, and I got the KD3000. And I got her with two quick squirts to the flank.

(Non-cat people think that cat people are crazy when we talk about a cat's expression, but I swear even a blind man could have interpreted the look on Bella's face...I just wish I had a camera). She stopped dead in her tracks and her eyes got absolutely huge as she turned around to look at me. It was a cross between "OH NO YOU DIDN'T!" and "WHAT THE HECK WAS THAT?!?" I gave the spray bottle a gunslingers twirl, blew the top of the KD3000 and stuck it back in my belt loop before drawling, "You behave now, little lady".

She'll think twice before chasing Sebastian again. She'll also think twice about my sanity.

9/30/09
Much Ado About Nothing

I'm calling this post Much Ado about Nothing since none of the things are really exciting enough to be a post on their own. (Actually, it's not even really much ado. It's more like A Passing Mention About Nothing, but that didn't sound as good, which I'm sure is why it didn't make it past Shakespeare's editors either).

I'm currently reading Bram Stoker's Dracula as part of my classics book list. And I admit that while I'm woefully out of touch when it comes to vampire lore, I was shocked to discover that Stoker's Dracula is light years away from your more "modern" vampires such as Anne Rice or Twilight or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For one thing, Dracula has more rules than the Old Testament. He can't fly over moving water. He can't come in unless invited. He needs his home dirt from Transylvania. He's OLD. (Which isn't really a rule so much as just a shock since all the Hollywood vampires are young and dashing). Despite the limitations however, Stoker still manages to make those modern vampires look like cuddly little bunnies by comparison. (Ooooh! That just reminded me of Bunnicula, the lovable children's books about the rabbit who sucks the juice out of vegetables. I loved those books when I was a kid!) Not to say that Stoker is all grisly and graphic like you'd expect in today's books, but he writes so that you know Dracula's coming for the character and there's not a thing anybody can do about it. (I was up until 3:30am last night reading and yelling, "Don't open the window! He's out there! Don't open it!") I'm not normally a fan of the whole horror genre, but I must say that I'm really enjoying this one. Still, that Dracula? Seriously. Bad. Dude.

So I've invented this fabulous new snack recently, and rather than package it commercially and make a fortune off of it, I'm going to share it with you for free because that is just the kind of warm, loving person that I am. (You're welcome). Anyway, it's kind of based off of Garlic Triscuits which are hands-down one of the top five most awesome snack crackers in existence thankyouverymuch. (I can throw down an entire box of those things in one sitting if I'm not careful. Loooooooove the garlic triscuits!) As a matter of fact, that's really how the whole invented snack thing came about, because I was blowing through Triscuits faster than, well, something really fast, and was all, "I need to find a better outlet for my garlic wheat cracker cravings". Hence, my garlic Triscuit homemade knockoffs! Tris-quits! Or Garlic-o's. Or whatever.

9-10 cups of spoon size shredded wheat cereal (original, not flavored or frosted or anything)
1 packet dry Hidden Valley Powdered Ranch dressing
2-3 tbsp garlic powder (depending on how much you like garlic)
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread cereal out on baking sheet.
Mix oil and ranch powder and garlic together in bowl. (It turns a freaky shade of green. Don't worry about that).
Pour oil mixture over cereal, stirring to coat evenly.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
Eat as many as you want because it's basically just shredded wheat, and everybody's grandma knows that shredded wheat is crazy good for you, right?

So here I am, reading my book and popping my Tris-quits until garlic oozes out of my pores. And with Dracula, don't think that that was a coincidence.

Finally, because even pointless posts need three points (Commandment seven of the Bloggy 10 Commandments), I'll tell you that I've just picked up two Sneaky Chef books in an attempt to get the House of Quirk eating more veggies. I'd like to claim that I'm just doing this as a way to totally sneak veggies right in under Tony's nose, and while I suppose that is technically true, I'm also sneaking veggies in under my own nose. Veggies that I'd never normally eat. Veggies that I do not even like to look at. But I gotta tell you, it really works. Tony is completely oblivious to the extra ingredients, and even though I know that they're in there, I can't taste them or see them or pick up on them at all. So far, I've only tried two or three recipes, but everything we've eaten has been totally me and Tony-approved. So we're eating healthier and not having to sacrifice taste. So hooray for hidden veggies! Just don't tell Tony about them.

9/21/09
Eulogy to My Jeans

It is a sad day in the House of Quirk for today my oldest, softest, most loyal pair of jeans have officially died. They were a pair of Express jeans that I bought back in high school, which due to some mysterious loophole in the first law of thermodynamics*, continued to fit me even though I've climbed more than a few sizes since then. (My guess is that the cotton fibers had an almost superhuman quality to stretch and stretch and stretch. It's the only reason I can think of that an otherwise normal pair of jeans could go from fitting my skinny little high school self to my walking-to-classes-gave-me-the-thighs-muscles-of-the-Incredible-Hulk college days to my early married 20 lb jump). Still, these jeans went through it all. Sure, they had both knees ripped out (by use, not as a fashion statement), and paint splotches on them, and holes in the pockets, and some worn spots that were so thin that they were by definition transparent, but they were also REALLY REALLY soft. And faded in all the right places. And totally broken in. They were my workhorse jeans. Jeans you didn't care if you got messy in. Jeans that weeded flower beds and stained furniture and painted bathrooms and at the end of the day laughed and said, "Is that all you got?" And even though there was that little hole in the butt from the time that I was sliding along the roof to string Christmas lights and could therefore never wear them out in public without being fined for indecent exposure, the jeans knew that they were loved. And respected. And more than a little worn.

And so today, when it was rainy out and I had no errands to run and needed to climb behind the dryer to rescue that bottle of fabric softener that had fallen off the shelf last Tuesday, I turned to my faithful working jeans to help me get the job done. "Okay jeans," I told them. "We're going into dangerous territory today. The area is heavy guarded by dust bunnies and dryer lint fuzz, not to mention awkward to maneuver around. It's going to take some flexible twisting, and we're going to get linty". And the jeans never flinched. Just saluted and dove right in.

I'm not going to lie. It was bad back there. I've never seen so many dust bunnies. But my jeans had me covered (literally) and we were doing okay. That is, right up until I made the final lunge for the softener, and the jeans snagged a screw on the back of the dryer and went down in a hail of glory. RIIIIIIIPPPP! I tried to apply pressure as I inched my way back to safety (no jeans left behind, you know), but sadly the wound was too big, too gaping, and once the tear started, there was no stopping it. The entire right cheek gone in a matter of seconds. I told the jeans it would be okay. I told them that they could still be house jeans; that nothing had changed...that the rip just added character, but we both knew that it was a lie. They were less jeans and more in the way of chaps now, and even I can't work with that kind of draft on my derriere.

So goodbye to you, faithful jeans! We honor you for your many (many, many) years of service to the cause. Through good and bad, thick and thin, yard mowing and manure spreading, we salute you! May your final resting place be peaceful, and may you always feel the warmth of the dryer in your denim.

Amen.




*That's the one about matter not being created, which makes no sense because I swear these jeans magically adjusted from, "Someday I'll have some curves" to "Good Heavens! This is more than just junk in my trunk...this is the entire U-haul!"