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 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 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.

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.

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.

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.


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!

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'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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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, 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'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.

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.

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'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.