Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lover of a life of leisure.

Raise your hand if you feel like you need to go on a juice fast.

(I'm raising mine.)

Nothing is more boring than moaning about how you've been eating a bunch of junk (well, not junk, but a surfeit of delicious baked goods and assorted holiday foods) and you're fat, right? So I won't, though it's kind of interesting to me to have these meaty pads atop my hipbones. Let's just say that I'm looking forward to the clean slate feeling of January 1, when leaves are turned over and raw vegetables are consumed and gym activities are undertaken with renewed vigor and the Christmas chocolate is out of the house AT LAST.

We got the last of the opera singers (I think, at least those who can legally get married) married off last night, in a very lovely and Christmassy service at which I predictably cried. There is plenty of evidence of the karaoke reception in my photostream. A really gratifying moment was when I was singing "Always" with my friend Andrew and there was a group slow dance out on the dance floor (thank you, my friends). It was also gratifying whenever the Brit danced with me, both jokingly and for serious, because I do love to shake it like a polaroid picture. I shook it so hard that my neck hurts today, in fact.

This has been a leisurely little holiday season, I tell you what. It's going to be shocking to go back to a regular schedule after days of reading entire books and evenings of family fondue night and playing Apples to Apples Junior with Henry, who is sounding out all the words on the cards like a pro. I gave him The Electric Company for Christmas and he is as into it as I'd hoped--I mean it's perfect for him aesthetically and pedagogically. Apparently he asked his dad to give him some skin the other day, so he is learning already.

We saw "No Country for Old Men" today, which was crazy and incredible. Highly recommended.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cookies.

I actually got off my heinie and did some share-worthy holiday baking this year. I can't believe I've never given you the following cookie recipe before, since I make these every Christmas, but I have made a halfhearted search of all my archives and can't find it. So here you go. Vegans, I strongly suggest that you try to veganize this recipe. It's the bomb.

Cranberry Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies
1/2 c plus 6 T butter
2/3 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 T vanilla
2 t orange zest (about one orange's worth. Don't skip this.)
1/2 t salt
3/4 t baking soda
2 c flour
1 c quick oats
1 c dried cranberries
1 c dark/bittersweet chocolate chunks
1/2 c walnuts (optional, but so very tasty)

Cream butter and sugars together. Beat in egg and vanilla and orange zest. Mix flour, salt, and baking soda together in a separate bowl. Add this mixture to the wet ingredients. Fold in remainder. Drop little wads onto a parchment-papered cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

The original recipe actually calls for 3/4 c of coconut and an extra 1/2 c each of cranberries and chocolate. While this is theoretically delicious, the dough gets unwieldy really quickly, and the measurements I've given yielded an extremely chunky and delicious batch.

I also made these cocoa-fudge cookies from Cooking Light, with some alterations. The original recipe is fine, especially with a teaspoon of cinnamon and some cayenne for that Mexican hot chocolate flava, but it has some fiddly measurements in it (7 tablespoons? really?), so I think the one below is better. It is also super, super easy. Vegans, I strongly suggest you veganize these too. Seems like it would be easy--no egg, less butter than most cookie recipes, and the strong flavors of cocoa and mint to mask any substitution-related flavors.

Mint Brownie Cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 c butter (you're going to melt this, so it doesn't need to be softened)
1 c unsweetened cocoa
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2-3/4 c Andes mints. Did you know they make Andes chips? This was an exciting discovery, since I foolishly assumed I would have to unwrap a lot of mints to make these cookies.

Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stovetop at low heat. Whisk in the cocoa powder and the sugars, right in the same bowl or pan. Stir in yogurt and vanilla. Mix remaining dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and then add them to the chocolate mixture. Stir in Andes mints (or other peppermint candy, if you like). Both times I've made these, the dough was very sticky--don't be alarmed by this. Drop little plops of dough onto a baking sheet, press some extra mints or chocolate chips onto the top if you like (I like), and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. DO NOT OVERBAKE.

I made some gingerbread cookies too, with candied ginger and everything, but they weren't anything to write home about (though that didn't stop me from eating them for breakfast). My mom's are much better.

I feel like a total doughball right now, by the way. Thanks cookies!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

365.

I am contemplating posting to this here blog every day in 2008 (there's even a site where you can sign up to do it). I'm not into making sweeping resolutions anymore, because the personal growth stuff is renewable and ongoing, but this one seems manageable. I made only one last year--Cheeto-free in 2007--and I am glad to say that I stuck to it, eschewing even Cheeto-like pretenders (with a minor slip-up when we were up north a few weeks ago and the Brit was boasting that the organic cheese curls were a cut above. I tried them.). I think it's a good idea to make a single resolution that you know you can keep.

Some other things are afoot, but they're boring things about taking vitamins every day, flossing more frequently (perhaps daily?), and orienting my diet vegan-ward.

On a totally unrelated note, I found this amazing website today--it's the Library of Congress collection of posters from the WPA Federal Art Project. You can browse by subject and see a stellar array of prints--silkscreens, lithographs, and woodcuts--publicizing things like conservation and public health initiatives and planned housing and theatrical productions. Beautiful design and typefaces. There were a LOT of posters about syphilis. Check out these conservation posters:
Please Keep The Park Clean.

Let Them Grow.

National Parks Preserve Wild Life.

And one about nurturing the young:
Still true today.

Someday I am going to get deep into WPA research for some reason, I can just feel it.

On another unrelated note, the Brit bought me the earrings from this post. They are even fresher in person. (You should see his eyes bug out of his head when he's playing WoW.)
Benazir Bhutto is dead.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Yule.

This was the whitest Christmas we've had in years. We're now in our second consecutive snow emergency so that the plows can do their thing, and my car is sitting outside waiting to be scooped out for the third time. Whatever other effects the snow has, it sure does make things cozy. At one point during the Harry Potter binge I was on the couch under a fleece blanket with the cat on my chest (almost suffocating me, PS, but in a cuddly way) and the book and the Brit handing me some tea and the snow falling softly and I exclaimed about how cozy things were about to get. Oh cozy.

Christmas was cozy too, and also hilarious. My grandpa, for example, had told my mom that he wasn't "going to mess around with money this year. Everyone's getting meat." Like meat is so much less messy than slim paper banknotes. Plus I was convinced he would forget that I don't eat meat, but then my meatbox had lovely salmon in it.

Also, the kids got a number of costumes for Christmas, so that when we showed up on the Eve, Henry was already dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow and we had to hand over Jude's Troy Bolton costume almost immediately to even things out. Then they swapped costumes. Then Henry got a lab coat, which suits him perfectly. He has, as you may know, abandoned magic for science.

Please note that this is a progression that took western civilization hundreds of years to make, and Henry made it in a year.

Then Jude got a Spiderman costume. He takes any opportunity to whip off his clothes, and sometimes he was just running around in his underoos. It was festive. And Willa has started smiling and cooing. And my brother is home, and we both got teary-eyed when we hugged hello. And then he gave me this for Christmas:
Teen Magazine August 1970.

I love giving the presents. Among other things, I gave the Brit World of Warcraft, which I am now installing on an external drive so that he can run it on his work computer. I imagine that when I get back from work tomorrow he's going to be on the couch all greasy and wild-eyed with maybe a pizza box next to him and his laptop illuminating his face. He claims he's taking me down with him, but I have a resolution about my dusty thesis and there are a number of other things, such as the Print Gocco machine I shall be buying with a wonderful gift certificate from my folks, that require my attention.

We wrapped up Christmas day at an Irish bar in St Paul, where a pair of musicians kicked out the reels and jigs and my sister Em and I welled up with pride when they sang about the County Down, and the Brit bonded with my brother and I listened to Hob's old friends talk about their doings while I nursed my Guinness and my laryngitis, and then two young men tag-teamed the bagpipes. Today I slept until noon.

I wouldn't be surprised to see tumbleweeds blowing across the hall at the office tomorrow, but I'm going there anyway.

Work it on out.

In keeping with my previous post about undertaking tasks with a good attitude, here's a niblet from Kahlil Gibran:
Work is love made visible.

And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man’s hunger.

And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distills a poison in the wine.

And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man’s ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Fa ra ra ra ra, ra ra ra raaaa.

Christmas 42.
pirate nativity

I spent Saturday and Sunday reading the last two Harry Potter books for the first time. It was as heavenly as it sounds. By somehow remaining unfanatic in recent years, I'd avoided all spoilers and thus had the pure enjoyment of discovering the action right in sequence (all through the most productive hours of the day, which is one of my great pleasures). Since I am still dealing with laryngitis, this was perfect recovery activity and a great run-up to the actual holidays. Give it up for vacation!

As a result of my reading, my thoughts have been full of the YA fantasy tropes I've noticed over the years (I am part nerd, but you knew this already).

1. The hero isn't the smartest or the best. The hero is fundamentally ordinary, incredibly human, and achieves greatness because he or she chooses the right friends. (This is true in Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, The Prydain Chronicles, The Dark is Rising, etc.)

2. The hero's origins ultimately are not important. Blood family might play a role, but more often the hero is an orphan. The friends that the hero collects on his or her journey are pivotal. The message seems to be that family is crucial but created. Ties of friendship and loyalty always trump accidents of birth.

3. Evil is never eliminated but the good never, ever stop fighting it, no matter how hard it is or how hopeless it seems.

4. A wise white-bearded man guides and mentors the hero (without ever giving the hero any real answers). It's the Merlin archetype and it seems to be inescapable. (A notable subversion happens in His Dark Materials, but those books are more explicitly about religion and the man with the white beard is notably absent for most of the series.) I'm sure the Merlin archetype came from somewhere else, too, but I haven't read back that far.

5. The end of enchantment is another big one, though obviously it's not part of Harry Potter, since magic is sort of like the matrix in those books. In most other fantasy series, though--finite series, where things are tied up at the end--a big theme is that magic withdraws and the passages between worlds close up. Why? Because those who are left behind, the ordinary who answered the call to be extraordinary and do extraordinary things, now know and understand their own capacity. And they must also do the hard work themselves because no one else will do it for them.

I like these themes very much and they're part of the reason I keep reading these kinds of books. They are also very apropos during this season of celebration, which has at its foundation this one idea no matter which traditions you observe:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Merry Christmas everybody! Take care of your friends and fight evil.

Christmas 32.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Safety first.

Everyone is clearly keeping a low profile today. This is even true of those of us who actually went to work and may or may not be getting things done. I just wanted to share with you some of the things I encountered in a legitimate work-related search for vintage safety posters.








This is a campaign whose time has come, again.




(Which led me to this, some parts funnier than others.)


(I saved this to my hard drive as "Russian Safety.")


Yep, Ronald Reagan. My question is: why does this ad from the 80s look like it's from the 50s? Were they being retro even then?



Plus this guy:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Money for nothin.

Dear Minnesotans, did you know that you can donate $50 ($100 for marrieds) to the DFL and get it refunded right back to you through the state's Political Contribution Refund program? Here's a link to a secure site where you can donate. Full disclosure: this refund is actually available if you donate to any Minnesota political party, candidate for state office, or candidates for the Minnesota Legislature (as long as they've signed an agreement with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board to observe state campaign spending limits). Here's some more information on how it works.

Traditionally, Republicans have been better at both donating and claiming the refund. If you're a Dem who's been on the fence about donating or who doesn't have the scratch, this is a really easy way to support the party or candidate of your choice. The only catch: you have to donate by December 31, 2007.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shut it up, just shut up, shut up.

Shutting up really is interesting, man, even if it's forced. I don't think I'm huge talker anyway, depending on the company, but you know, what if you had to think carefully about every single thing you said because your speaking resources were so limited and delicate? It really cuts back on the driving-related swearing, I can tell you that. This all kind of makes me want to go on a silent retreat. But without the sneezing, fatigue, coughing, sore throat, and (unrelated) backache that seizes every time I cough or sneeze.

On the plus side, there are bagels and schmearing materials in the kitchen here at work (and I didn't bring lunch).

On the other plus side, here's my sister Em's response to my health-related complaints and feeling old:
Sorry you feel so shitty. I was just emailing back and forth with a couple of my friends about 2008 resolutions and concluded that our goals are totally old people goals. Like one of Sarah's was "stick to The Budget" and the other Sarah’s was "less dairy more yoga" and Elizabeth’s was "7 healthy bowel movements per week" mine had something to do with my retirement fund.

Then I said if we were really old our lists would look actually more ambitious but stupid and would include like:

• take cruise
• audition for broadway musical
• asian cooking class
• sky dive
• make love to a woman
• learn the computer

So I know what you mean about feeling old.
If you are bored at any point today, Free Rice is only like the best game ever, I mean if you're a vocab jerk like me (not that you would necessarily glean that fact from my recent entries). I am determined to get up past level 48. (Update: I hit 50. These are the things that make me feel good.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Balls.

You deserve to be reminded of this classic. Please notice how none of them are laughing during the performance, in contrast to every Adam Sandler sketch ever mounted on SNL.


Okay, I promise I'm going to stop embedding stuff for awhile. I have laryngitis, so I should really be banking all of my non-talking and funneling it into original blog content until I get my voice back. Today I am on total vocal rest, which means I am not going to say anything to anyone, and I will try to do the same tomorrow. I did a bit of talking yesterday while we were around the house and out and about--but I really shouldn't have talked at all. The Brit and I were tooling around at the Mall of Eternal Damnation for awhile yesterday, and instituted a voice-sparing thumbs-up/thumbs-down response system that he was getting a big kick out of. "This will probably be good for our relationship," he said.

"What, you mean if I don't talk so much?" I snorted. It's true that when you can barely speak, you think a lot harder about what is worth saying. So I'll just give him some laryngitis once I'm recovered and then we'll be all set.

Lovers of jewelry that can appear to be either classy or hippie/new-agey depending on your own personal style: I have been skulking around this ebay store today. I can't vouch for any of it, but the seller's feedback is 100% positive and it looks like you can get amazing deals on sterling silver and semi-precious stone jewelry. All of the auctions start at $0.95.

I can vouch for these cocoa-fudge cookies, which I made yesterday. They are super-easy, eggless (though not dairy-less), and rather delicious, like a flattened brownie. I doubled the recipe and added a teaspoon of cinnamon and they came out great, except for the sheet I baked too long.

The Christmas tree now only has ornaments starting about 30 inches off the ground. It's only a mild deterrent for the cat. I think he starts to feel jungle-istic when there's a tree (even a fake one from IKEA) around.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

17 times.

For Beyonce lovers/haters, allow me to present you with this wonderful video:



Last night the Brit said I looked like a Cossack from Tron, which I translated as ethno-futuristic. Sadly, I did not photograph my outfit.

I kept myself up all night coughing up my lungs and today I have no voice.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Check it twice.

Here's some art you should buy for your kids' rooms.


By Order of the Management prints by johnwgolden. He has lots of good dog prints, too.


Giraffe print by OrangeWillow. The zebra is also quite fine.


"Wishing tree" by amyleong, who has many dreamy fairytale-esque illustrations.


"The giant suburban bear monster visits NYC" print or really anything by matteart.


"Kiss the Mushroom" print by BirdNerd. I've been eyeballing her collage prints forever and finally bought some for Willa, thus prompting this whole list.


Bunny wall stickers from elly nelly. There are lots of grown-up wall decals in this shop, too.

Also, feel free to buy me some earrings from orno. Like maybe these? I've been coveting them for like a year.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tasty morsels.

Here are some things that are really filling my hole.
-My new laptop battery arrived in the mail yesterday and behold, it works! There was a sketchy moment when it seemed not to talk to my power cord, but that moment has passed and I am back online FULL TIME.
-This Peppermint Chocolate VitaSoy, which I am drinking hot. Tis delicious.
-These four fluffy little dogs walking a dude through the snow on Sunday. They were too far away to identify, but they were the type of dog that's moppish and low to the ground and they were beside themselves to be a in a field of snow. They actually made me laugh out loud. There aren't many things more physically joyful than dogs in snow, in my opinion.
-Christmas shopping on the internet with my sister. We've been going back and forth for days via email while we're at work, sorting out the gift-giving and sending links and swapping ideas and placing orders. Living in the future is so awesome.
-Hearing "Talking in Your Sleep" on the radio just now. Aw, heck, you can hear it too:

-The fact that Whole Foods now has crunchy organic versions of your favorite trashy kids' cereals, including Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch. I can't remember what it's called, but hipster parents everywhere are sure to rejoice.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Messaged.

Here's what my sister Em had to say about the movie Atonement:
I'd recommend it, even though I really dislike war movies and Keira Knightley is just running around like a ravaged skeleton.
Emailing my sister at work is a perk of being in an office all day.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I have a lot of feelings.

Here's a dirty little secret about me: I cry in church like all the time. I don't mean full on ugly snotface--more like unbidden streaming eyes and random upwellings of emotion. I try to hold it back, too, but I'm pretty sure I'm not fooling anybody, and I'm certainly not fooling myself. I may present a kind of analytical or well thought out front, but I am an emotional reactor. This is just one reason I would be a terrible therapist, doctor, or politician--or minister, for that matter. Just trying to be a decent human being is hard enough without also having to hold it together for the benefit of those you're trying to serve.

Anyway, I wonder what would happen if I started letting go a little bit more. There's one woman at church whose emotions are very close to the surface and she gets moved by just about everything. It's very endearing, and it just happens to be one of her noticeable characteristics. I'm pretty sure it's one of mine, too--but I've spent most of my life trying to keep people from noticing it, and like I said: I'm not fooling anyone.

The church-weepiness has been pretty ongoing ever since I got this gig 9 years ago. I kept thinking it would pass, that I would get used to being in a place where I could reliably expect to be moved by ideas, but the weepiness never has gone away. Sometimes it's brought on by nothing more than having a moment to sit in silence and think about the people I love who are far away from me or struggling with something. Sometimes it's the little electric shock of self-recognition when a reading or a sermon seems to illuminate the exact thing that's been on my mind.

I've been thinking a lot about service lately, about the things you do as part of your daily life to help the people around you, or to keep the household running, or whatever, and how easy it is for me to devolve into resentment and martyrdom about the stupidest things. I have often taken on tasks that it seems no one else wants to do just so that they get done, but I always take them on with a sense of exasperation and probably a little moral superiority, like for example when I would volunteer to play unglamorous positions in sports as a kid because no one would be goalie or catcher. It wasn't generally because I was so into the team. It was more like I needed to demonstrate that I was more responsible than everyone else.

Anyway, it's occurred to me more than once recently that if I'm going to serve--if I'm going to take on seemingly unrewarding tasks, or just step in and do what needs doing, I should do it with joy. I know this is easier said than done. But I am going to try.

This day has been kind of a rollercoaster. My alarm didn't go off, but I woke up in enough time to get to rehearsal. The service was long, but I still had time to walk to the co-op for coffee. I got to meet up with four friends I haven't seen in months and months for brunch, but I discovered en route that my wallet was missing. I'd only been to the co-op and church and you figure hippies and Unitarians aren't going to pick your pockets, so I didn't panic; still, losing a wallet is mighty inconvenient.

When I got home after the 2.5 hour brunch, I found that a neighbor I've never met had posted a note on the door. "Please call me," it said, in neat, deliberate, old-lady cursive. "I think it's important, about a billfold?" Some folks had found my wallet on the ground and reverse-searched my neighbors after they figured out that my number's unlisted. I got a call from my angelic wallet-finders in the middle of writing this entry, actually, and scooted back over to St Paul to retrieve it. I brought them a poinsettia. Turns out we have friends in common and they're coming to my concert next week. The woman hugged me when I left, and I got in the car and laughed and cried, a little hysterical and a lot relieved about how the world is sometimes exactly the way it is supposed to be.

Is it worth running constant ornament interference with the cat just to have a Christmas tree? He's tipped it over once, extracted no fewer than three baubles just while I've been writing this entry, and keeps carrying his favorite string over to the tree and hiding out with it. It would be a lot cuter if it weren't infuriating.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Have yourself a hairy little fishnut.

I sort of feel like I'm hallucinating, between the alkyd-based primer I've been slapping on the basement paneling, the spicy coconut-noodle soup I'm currently slurping, and fucking Celtic Woman on PBS. Why is Celtic Woman on like EVERY DAY? With the hideous pastel fishtail prom pageant dresses and the gagworthy arrangements of Christmas songs and the breathy breathy singing and the fiddling elf who scampers around the stage?

We put up the fake tree and the holiday flair last night. I should spend the rest of the day filling the house with delicious baking smells and crafts, just to complete the picture. I realized yesterday when I was talking about potpourri with the Brit (he wants some and I spent about 15 minutes sniffing all of the specimens at Target, with no winners) that I have been imagining something like two cozy housebound weeks of crafting and snow and hot beverages and, perhaps, making my very own potpourri--but this imagining is a relic from childhood and won't actually be happening over the holidays. Particularly since I'm having a hard time getting anything extracurricular done these days--e.g. crafty stuff, shop updates, thrift shopping.

It's zero degrees today. A good day to stay in and do projects.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Little things mean a lot.

One of my sister's friends recently asked Jude what his favorite part about having Willa here is and he sweetly replied "Her teeny, tiny vagina."

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The apple of my eye.

I was just emailing the Brit about how freaking good this honeycrisp apple is, and here's what he wrote back:
That makes me think: perhaps of all foods, the gulf between a mediocre apple and a good one is the most broad. Because when you buy Carl Buddig, you know you're getting mediocre ham from the get-go. An apple reveals all at the moment you bite in, and no branding can confirm what it will deliver. That's why this honeycrisp genus is such a leap forward. Always crisp, always sweet, always meeting those high expectations so often undermined by the mealy Galas of yore...
And until I get my new laptop battery, this is how posting is probably going to be: short, surreptitious, and largely stolen from other writers.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hojoto-ho.

Okay, I've failed on posting every day in December, already. But here's what happened: I had a gig all weekend, and it snowed and snowed with 35 mph gusts of wind slicing our faces as we tromped up the main street to get some pizza. These kinds of things leave you with only enough energy to order "Superbad" from Movies! On! Demand! and tool out in the hotel room. The movie was totally worth the $12 tacked onto my hotel bill.

Then the other thing I've been doing is rereading Watership Down, in a lovely soft old paperback that migrated over here from England and used to belong to someone called Fiona. So I have been thinking about rabbits a lot. And life lessons.

It was a good weekend, full of great conversations and high-quality relaxing. And the music, mustn't forget that--that was pretty good too. It's been ages since I've heard a performance of The Messiah, so the piece has remained pretty fresh for me. It's also incredibly exhilarating to be onstage when everyone stands up for the Hallelujah chorus. There are lots of pieces in the classical canon that have been overused and abused in many ways and have become a total cliche, but I tell you what, this abuse does not rob the music of its power. I like to think, par example, about being in the theater the first time anyone ever played that Ride of the Valkyries bit from Die Walküre. I mean wouldn't you have lost your shit? Shock AND awe. Beethoven 9 is like that too. The orchestra conductor at my undergrad institution was so worked up for her first rehearsal of Beethoven 9 that she stabbed herself up the nose with her baton on the first upbeat (for non-musicians: that is the very first cue before anyone has even played a note and everyone is waiting with bated breath for things to start). "I seem to have injured myself," she said, and went off to the bathroom. (I am pleased to report that this anecdote is still funny to me, over 10 years later.)

So anyway, there I was, buoyed up by the collective energy of about 1500 people, which was really nice.

It snowed here too and today I found that I had made the mental shift to winter, shloooop, just like that. One day you're a mittened pansy moaning about 40 degrees and the next day you're slopping hatless through a parking lot with big boots on and your cold face is just par for the course. There's still a bunch of shoveling to do and I'm going to put it off for 8 or 9 hours so I can read some more about rabbits.

Oh, and guess what, I can even tie this entry up neatly thanks to my selectively photographic memory: one year when I was in highschool, there was a commercial for a local energy company (I think) that featured the classic fat horned opera lady busting into your house and singing "Welcome to winter / In Minnesota / Here is your FUEL bill / Ha ha ha HAAAAAA!" to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries. I think of that still. How sad for the more important concepts that evade me.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Perfunctory day 30 post.

I'm up in gig-town, phoning in my final NaBloPoMo entry. It's supposed to snow a foot here tomorrow and I hope I'm up early enough to see the lake effect snow wisping and driving over the great lake. But then on the other hand I hope I am not up at all early because it's VACATION and I'm TIRED because it's BEEN A LONG DAY and there is a KING SIZED BED here. I hope to lie in and watch TV until I am forced to get up for hot beverages, or maybe I'll be decadent and force room service to come up with tea. You can order room service on the internet in this hotel. Perfect for those of us who do not enjoy the phone.

I seriously cannot believe this day is over. We were on the road by 8, I did the masterclass at 11, and then I had two rehearsals and now here we are holed up in the hotel, watching a program about the weather in Alaska. I know, we are truly living on the edge. But there do not appear to be any decent pubbish bars in this town and do you know how much it sucks to look for some quiet nightlife when it's 0 degrees outside?

November, it's been real. So real, in fact, that I think I'll do my best to keep blogjamming every day in December. It's good for me, and if nothing else I can always post another baby picture. For example:
4 days old.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A star to the north.

The thing I read today that killed me the most, courtesy of Michelle:
Food for thought for any fellow defeatist-perfectionists and fundamentally lazy, fear-of-failure-paralyzed all-or-nothingists, from a book I'm reading about the business of freelance writing: "If you are not failing regularly, you are living so far below your potential that you're failing anyway."
My response? "I should probably tattoo that thing about failure in mirror script on my forehead and then sit in front of a mirror all day."

A close second came in the form of some notes I wrote in my (intermittently used) planner awhile back during a sermon. They go like this, but imagine them scrawled and emphatic:
VOWS are CONVENANTAL
NOT CONTRACTUAL
they are a confession of FAITH.
In a contract: you offer as little as possible in hope of getting as much as possible.
With a vow: you offer everything.
Sometimes I'm really glad I write things down.

PS, did anyone ever read that book, A Star to the North, by Barbara Corcoran and Bradford Angier? It's so out of print I can't even find a decent link for you. It's one of those kids surviving in the woods books I used to favor.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

And I want, and I need, and I lust.

I said I didn't want hot (read: stupidly high-heeled) boots, but I tried on a pair of these Fryes the other day and I have actually had dreams featuring them:

It turns out they're on sale everywhere. I am posting them here in order to purge them from my subconscious. Don't I have better things to think about?

Then on my lesson break yesterday I went to Anthropologie and tried on several perfect pairs of trousers. I know this is a common reaction to Anthropologie, but: that place hurts me. There are too many pretty things and I start thinking that I could actually give a crap about expensive clothes. It's easy enough for me to walk through a department store or all the vomity mall stores and say "feh," but what about when there's a beautifully-designed shop packed to the gills with the exact clothes you want to wear? It's a good thing I'm so cheap.

I am really busy this week, but so far feeling good about this busyness. Lots happening at work, lots of teaching, two new students last night, helping with the kiddos today, practicing diligently because I have a gig this weekend--an extremely famous and commonplace concert piece that I have somehow never sung before and it's too low for me. I am Ethel-Mermaning my ass off, or singing in Scary Man Voice (which is the phrase I use to get wispy high school sopranos to access their chest register). I also have to teach a masterclass before my first rehearsal. I have done this before, but never to an unknown population, so that will be good times, especially after getting up early to make the drive. But the Brit is coming with me and hopefully we will have a delicious if mighty cold mini-vacaycay in the hotel that is my payment for the masterclass.

Okay. Time to get Jude from preschool. Here's hoping I can figure out how to install his booster seat in my car.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Quotable.

Here's what Jude said about his sister on the way home from the hospital on Sunday:

"We will not sold her and she will never die."

Here's what he said when his mother told him I'd be picking him up from school tomorrow:

"I don't want any dirls to pick me up." (That's Jude-speak for "girls.")

The Brit's about to try to brush the cat's teeth for the first time ever. It should be good times.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind.

Whee, such a good mail day today! I got this fabulous letterpress calendar from ilee on etsy:



I bought it to give away, but it's going to be very difficult.

Then I also got some sockies from sockdreams. I wanted over the knee socks that would actually stay up, and I've always heard such great things about sockdreams, so I finally placed an order a few days ago. So far I am not super-jazzed about the O Basics, but I am extra super number one lucky dragon rice bowl jazzed about these:


They are thick, cozy, tall, they fit over my fat knees, and so far they are staying up. They're like leg sweaters.

Now for evidence that I have non-commercial interests, here is one of the things the Brit emailed to me at work today.

Jack Kerouac's Rules of Spontaneous Prose

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You're a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven

I don't know about you, but I want to be an old teahead of time. I do!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Voila.


Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
She's the cutest.

Baby baby sweet baby.

Jude just called and told me "Willa is out in the world." I'm going to go see our baby now. Pictures to follow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I get lost in your eyes.

This post is not going to mean a thing to you unless, in 1989, you were a young teenager who was still a little too captivated by top-40 radio. For those of you who are my exact contemporaries, however, you will probably cry and throw up when you read the following chart. It was a very dark year for music, if you ask me: NKOTB, Milli Vanilli, lots of hair bands and most especially their power ballads, Paula Abdul, etc. We also got "Love Shack," which you have to admit remains iconic, and Edie Brickell appeared on the scene, which is important only to those of us who veered off the pop charts and into the melodic and chick-heavy college radio-type alternapop. Oh, and to my friend/boss RJ. He really likes Edie Brickell too.

Billboard Top 100 - 1989
01. Look Away - Chicago
02. My Prerogative - Bobby Brown
03. Every Rose Has Its Thorn - Poison
04. Straight Up - Paula Abdul
05. Miss You Much - Janet Jackson
06. Cold Hearted - Paula Abdul
07. Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler
08. Girl You Know Its True - Milli Vanilli
09. Baby, I Love Your Way-Freebird - Will To Power
10. Giving You The Best That I Got - Anita Baker
11. Right Here Waiting - Richard Marx
12. Waiting For A Star To Fall - Boy Meets Girl
13. Lost In Your Eyes - Debbie Gibson
14. Don't Wanna Lose You - Gloria Estefan
15. Heaven - Warrant
16. Girl I'm Gonna Miss You - Milli Vanilli
17. The Look - Roxette
18. She Drives Me Crazy - Fine Young Cannibals
19. On Our Own - Bobby Brown
20. Two Hearts - Phil Collins
21. Blame It On The Rain - Milli Vanilli
22. Listen To Your Heart - Roxette
23. I'll Be There For You - Bon Jovi
24. If You Don't Know Be By Now - Simply Red
25. Like A Prayer - Madonna
26. I'll Be Loving You (Forever) - New Kids On The Block
27. How Can I Fall? - Breathe
28. Baby Don't Forget My Number - Milli Vanilli
29. Toy Solider - Martika
30. Forever Your Girl - Paula Abdul
31. The Living Years - Mike & The Mechanics
32. Eternal Flame - The Bangles
33. Wild Thing - Tone Loc
34. When I See You Smile - Bad English
35. If I Could Turn Back Time - Cher
36. Buffalo Stance - Neneh Cherry
37. When I'm With You - Sheriff
38. Don't Rush Me - Taylor Dayne
39. Born To Be My Baby - Bon Jovi
40. Good Thing - Fine Young Cannibals
41. The Lover In Me - Sheena Easton
42. Bust A Move - Young M.C.
43. Once Bitten, Twice Shy - Great White
44. Batdance - Prince
45. Rock On - Michael Damian
46. Real Love - Jody Watley
47. Love Shack - B-52's
48. Every Little Step - Bobby Brown
49. Hangin' Tough - New Kids On The Block
50. My Heart Can't Tell You No - Rod Stewart
51. So Alive - Love & Rockets
52. You Got It (The Right Stuff) - New Kids On The Block
53. Armageddon It - Def Leppard
54. Satisfied - Richard Marx
55. Express Yourself - Madonna
56. I Like It - Dino
57. Soldier Of Love - Donny Osmond
58. Sowing The Seeds Of Love - Tears For Fears
59. Cherish - Madonna
60. When The Children Cry - White Lion
61. 18 And Life - Skid Row
62. I Don't Want Your Love - Duran Duran
63. Second Chances - .38 Special
64. The Way You Love Me - Karyn White
65. Funky Cold Medina - Tone Loc
66. In Your Room - Bangles
67. Miss You Like Crazy - Natalie Cole
68. Love Song - Cure
69. Secret Rendezvous - Karyn White
70. Angel Eyes - Jeff Healey Band
71. Patience - Guns N' Roses
72. Walk On Water - Eddie Money
73. Cover Girl - New Kids On The Block
74. Welcome To The Jungle - Guns N' Roses
75. Shower Me With Your Love - Surface
76. Stand - R.E.M.
77. Close My Eyes Forever - Lita Ford
78. All This Time - Tiffany
79. After All - Cher & Peter Cetera
80. Roni - Bobby Brown
81. Love In An Elevator - Aerosmith
82. Lay Your Hands On Me - Bon Jovi
83. The Promise - When In Rome
84. What I Am - Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians
85. I Remember Holding You - Boys Club
86. Paradise City - Guns N' Roses
87. I Wanna Have Some Fun - Samantha Fox
88. She Wants To Dance With Me - Rick Astley
89. Dreamin' - Vanessa Williams
90. It's No Crime - Babyface
91. Poison - Alice Cooper
92. This Time I Know It's For Real - Donna Summer
93. Smooth Criminal - Michael Jackson
94. Heaven Help Me - Deon Estus
95. Rock Wit'cha - Bobby Brown
96. Thinking Of You - Sa-fire
97. What You Don't Know - Expose
98. Surrender To Me - Ann Wilson & Robin Zander
99. The End Of The Innocence - Don Henley
100. Keep On Movin' - Soul II Soul

I encountered these via a CD tracklisting and just really, really had to share them with you because I was 14 in 1989 and life was really, really, really real, such that almost all of these songs have specific or even just generically teenage emotional memories attached to them, whether I liked the songs or not. For example, my sister Mol (she who is now finally in the hospital to push that baby out) was deeply devoted to the New Kids and had posters on the walls of our bedroom, which infuriated me. I spoke of the New Kids with nothing but derision. I really liked that joke about What has 100 legs and no pubic hair? The front row at a New Kids concert!

I also had a crippling crush on an extremely douchey boy for almost that entire year and I kept a special journal about it, which I've confessed before. I don't think I confessed that almost every entry had some heart-stabbing song lyric appended to it, written in tiny hand, like I wanted that soundtrack to be playing while I wrote or read the entry. MANY of these songs appeared in that journal, but I will go ahead and let you guess which ones.

Semi-related: who remembers the song "What About Me?" It was by a band called Moving Pictures. I have very strong sense memories for that song, too, like childhood riding around the neighborhood all melancholy on my bike. The song originally came out in 1983 but, get this, it had a weird comeback in 1989. Oh, shit, I'll just give you the youtube video because it's insane. It's like the most overwrought song ever.


In other news, I made this pumpkin bread and it is delicious and I'm going to eat a diet of it until it is gone.

Eat it.

Every year I make some sort of dish for Thanksgiving dinner and it ends up getting way sidelined, which is probably to be expected. I can't help making it voluminous and main-coursey, and everyone else can only manage to eat like two spoonfuls of it. This is okay, because I end up with lots of leftovers.

This year I made up a dish based on this simple lentil salad over at everybody like sandwiches. (NB: I can't keep up with many food blogs, but I really like this one because she basically looks in the fridge and comes up with her recipes that way, which is very consistent with the way I cook.) This salad will make you feel healthy and virtuous, I promise. It is also tasty and vegan.

A whole pantload of Lentil Wheatberry Salad:

+2 cups wheatberries. I used soft ones because that's what I had, but you could use hard wheatberries, and just find some cooking instructions on the internet. The soft ones cook up a little faster. You want to cook them until they are chewy, not mushy. For me this took about 45 minutes in 6 or 8 cups of water.
+1 cup of green lentils, cooked. You could use canned ones, but they cook up fairly quickly, and don't need presoaking.
+Half a red onion, diced.
+A bell pepper of your choice--I had an orange one--diced.
+A pomegranate, disassembled.
+A granny smith apple, diced.
+A half cup or cup of chopped walnuts or some other delicious nut.
+Chopped fresh parsley.
+You could also use celery, carrots, jicama, or pretty much any crunchy vegetable or fruit.
Mix everything in a big bowl.

For the dressing, I used:
+A bunch of olive oil.
+Juiced half a lemon (more would be fine).
+2 tsp of garlic powder (ditto).
+1.5 tsp cumin (or so).
+Balsamic vinegar.
+Salt and pepper.
Whisk together, pour over the salad, and mix it up. Sorry my measurements are imprecise. I had to keep adjusting this after I'd already mixed it into the salad. In fact, the whole process was improvisational and the dish kept getting bigger and bigger. But I'm fine with this. More for me.

This salad improves with age.

Much like you.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Things are stalled.

So my sister was having contractions all night, so that she got the wakefulness and anxiety, but then they stopped, so there was no payoff. So there's not much of an update to give you at this point, unfortunately.

Shit, I was going to come back to this post later in the day, and I FAILED. Does it still count for NaBloPoMo if I have the original timestamp and publish the post totally tardily?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Baby on board.

Well, not yet. But she's on the way. Pretty slick timing, since we were long finished with dinner and had gotten into pleasant heavy conversation, and Henry and Jude were already at my parents' house, and my sister and her husband could just go home after eating round two of dinner and labor in relative peace for awhile. I will keep you posted.

Today, and every day, I am thankful for my family--my family of origin, my extended family, the people I've added into my family over the years. Jude observed tonight that his family are his friends, and while he may actually have been in the middle of some meditation on the Power Rangers when he said that, I still thought it was cute and deep. More later. I hope you're all stuffed and happy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

These boots, and what they're made for.

I am having boot issues. What I really want to do is drop like $200 on a single pair of boots that is going to last for a decade. They have to be tough, good-looking, well-made, winterproof, and most of all they have to fit my gotdamn legs. I do not want "hot" boots, though super-flat isn't really my thing either. It's all probably a pipe dream and I'll have to have something custom made eventually, so in the meantime I am coveting the following:


Merrell


Caterpillar

And, oddly

Tsubo

Here's the thing about wide-calf boot sites. I have been all over them, and the boots look like shit, for the most part. It's possible that some of the boots at duoboots are high-quality, but generally everything just looks shiny and crap and like it'll fall apart in a year. And at $250+ a pop, there's just no way I'm taking a chance on them.

I wish I'd ordered these before Harley-Davidson discontinued them:


They're for kicking your ass.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I have millions of stories about teaching voice, but generally don't tell them on the internets because, you know, I try to respect my students' privacy and preserve my semi-sheer veil of pseudo-anonymity. I'm sure you understand. This is sad for you because it means you miss out on a lot of hilarity, but probably okay in the long run. There's a lot of you-had-to-be-there stuff going on in voice lessons anyway.

I've taken on some students over the years who have had little background in singing or who really wanted to improve their speaking voices instead of learn to be opera stars or whatever, and that's all fine and interesting and I like it because these people are generally adults who are taking a chance and they challenge my methods and my ingenuity and I learn a lot from them.

Earlier this year, I wound up with a student who, at some unspecified age near 60 and with an entire life outside of the arts, has decided he would like to sing. At that point he had zero, and I mean zero, background in music. I don't know if I can properly express how foreign this is to me. Singing is about as basic to me as speaking, and I really don't remember not being able to read music (though I don't consider this a prerequisite to musicality--just so we're clear). So to try to understand someone who isn't able to tell the difference between two pitches is a real challenge for me, and an interesting one.

That was several months ago, and I'm proud to say that my student has made a ton of progress, and I have had to think quite a lot about the way I present my ideas, and the best way to teach the basics of music theory, and all that kind of stuff. But I'm not really trying to toot my horn, here. I just want to suggest that it is quite an amazing thing for someone who works in a very concrete profession to choose to try something as vulnerable (and potentially foofy) as learning to sing. To come to a teacher, another adult, and say "I don't know anything, I am a total beginner, what do I need to do?" I try to give the guy props for this as often as I can, because in addition to deciding to learn something new, he tries absolutely every crazy exercise I ask him to do. This might involve hooting like an owl or marching around the room clapping for a half hour.

I think of this student in the context of my long history of easy achievement and just generally being good at stuff. I avoid stuff I'm not good at. Can you blame me? So I've been pondering ways I might challenge this part of myself and work on some new neural pathways. I don't know if that's going to mean taking a physics class or running a 10K, but I need to do something, specifically something that makes me flounder and feel uncomfortable and learn something new.

The other update: still no baby. My sister was really hoping to give birth over the weekend and then show up at Thanksgiving with the joybundle. Since that will obviously not be happening, she will obviously go into labor at Thanksgiving dinner. That's just my guess.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sleep: that's where I'm a viking!

I can't figure out why I'm not exhausted right now. I was up early, I worked all day, I zipped over and taught a lesson to a new student, I went to a salon/forum kind of thing, and now here I am. Maybe I'm over-stimulated. Plus yesterday I was running all day on a handful of sleep, thanks to this:
This too was part of the scavenger hunt.
I think this is the last bachelorette party for awhile, but you never know when we might just smear dessert on our faces for the hell of it.

It was a good night. There was some (sadly half-assed) salsa dancing. There were shenanigans. About halfway through the night I remembered that I had an inflatable police doll in my trunk. You would be right to ask why. It's a souvenir from my 30th birthday party--which, mind you, was over three years ago--where my friend Jerry B did a dance in a leotard with said doll and gave me his dignity as a birthday present. Anyway, I inflated the plastic man and he came with us to the diner, which was our last stop of the evening. I didn't share any of my caramel roll and/or French fries with him, but he got plenty of attention.

I had a nightmare almost immediately after I got home, which I blame partly on the ridiculously extensive midnight snack. The nightmare was pretty benign in terms of content--a sort of bizarre poltergeisty thing where the house wouldn't let me and Madness in (yes it's true, you were in my dream)--the door was pushing back at us and there was a palpable unease in the air, even though it was sunny. I woke up hot and huddled, my heart thudding. I had to get up for my church gig a few hours later.

Sweet dreams everyone.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The peace of wild things.

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

-Wendell Berry

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What am I doing hanging round?

I used to be really into checking my site stats and the like, partly because I was so intrigued to know whether anyone was reading and partly because sometimes the stats would tell me exactly who was reading. I haven't checked them in ages because at some point I stopped caring about them, but today I looked and discovered that at least one of you got here because you googled "how to become a manatee." I hope you found what you were looking for, somewhere on the internets. Same goes for you, "peehole sex."

It's Saturday morning and I'm doing my most favorite Saturday morning activity: watching PBS and drinking coffee. Do you ever watch New Scandinavian Cooking? It's rare that any one of these chefs makes something that I could eat, but I am totally intrigued by the whole thing, especially the part where whoever is hosting sets up an al fresco kitchen station and prepares food while wearing winter gear (weather permitting). One time the chef, I don't remember who it was, skied to his location and busted out his sandwich and grilled it with a torch, which is bad-ass.

They've been running the Claus Meyer season of the show for awhile now--he's the Danish cook and reading his biography is enough to make you feel like a very small, sad, non-achiever. In fact, I believe I first googled Claus Meyer the same day I read a feature in some mag about Miranda July--another person who makes you wonder what exactly it is you do with all your precious time--and I thought, "man, what have I been doing with myself?" Claus Meyer is vigorous, good-looking, entrepreneurial, totally committed to local flavor and fair trade, founded and owns multiple businesses, is a professor, and runs marathons. Seriously, just go read his CV. You will cry. Unless you are similarly credentialed, in which case what are you doing reading totally off-topic blogs? Don't you have an empire to run?

I love cooking shows and my interest in them has almost nothing to do with whether or not I can harness the demonstrated techniques and recipes for my own use. It's the care lavished on ingredients and preparation, the attention to the food source, the sense of place and history--all of those things are interesting to me. It's a passion that I can totally appreciate, since we are what we eat. Today, unfortunately, I am a grocery-store croissant.

Hey, did you know that my sister's having a baby, like, next week?
Henry, me, and The Thing.
Just insert another little girl-face in there.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Back on the bus.

Dear Twin Cities, did you know that the MTC is unveiling some hybrid buses on Monday? And that rides on the green buses will be free until the end of the year? Quick, plan your trips on routes 17 and 18. Or just get on and ride back and forth. Good green fun!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Shit sandwich.

I am really not ever going to blog about my jobby-job, but get this: when I got into work today I found that I'd been moved out of my office. I knew a switch was coming, but what I didn't know is that the new inhabitant of my former office would throw away all of my files and have IT come and take all my equipment away. It was an awesome way to start the day.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

If that's what you're into.

From Tina:

This is the kind of stuff I enjoy.

Here, also, is a thrift score report, so that you know it's not all glue and crisis over here. I don't even mind telling you my secret, which is that the Burnsville Unique Thrift across from the mall is giant and full of treasures. All of the Unique Thrifts are great, though, and if you go on tightwad Tuesdays, your whole purchase is 25% off. Among the scores: an Issey Miyake winter coat that looks like a cloud, for 5 American dollars; two other fantastic vintage tailored wool coats, 4 bucks apiece; a wool Esprit dress from the 80s that is going to make some hipster girl very happy, 3 dolla. There's more, but I have to keep some secrets. I opted not to get the fuchsia neoprene DKNY minidress. Probably someone would have bought it from me, but I wasn't interested in trying to wear it for a photoshoot, though that probably would have been hilaaaarious.

Now about that crisis.

Around 9 every night, the cat starts tear-assing around the house, hurling his 17 pounds at the closed blinds, biting ankles, munching on the dried hydrangeas in the vases. He's trying to get something started. Sometimes I play with him and sometimes I am just annoyed, and sometimes I am doing something else so I ignore him as best I can. This is why I didn't notice that he jumped off the kitchen island with a tube of superglue in his mouth. He took it over to his scratching pad and bit into it and the glue spurted out. The ensuing sound of manic licking got my attention and then I really did freak the fuck out, I'm not kidding. Yanked the tube, grabbed the cat who became a fat slippery eel, chased him into the basement, carried him up the stairs, wiped out his foaming mouth and splashed water all up in his grill, all the while saying "oh my god oh my god oh my god what do I do what do I do what do I do." I mean if it's a person you call 911, you know?

He wriggled away again and I grabbed my phone, tremblingly looked up emergency vets, tried to call the Brit, whose phone ended up being 6 feet away from me. Ace was hacking and licking the wall, trying to get the glue taste out of his mouth. All of this took about 1 minute, after which time the Brit walked in the door, at the apex of my freakout. He clipped right onto my mood and started yelling, but took control of the cat while I found a phone number.

Eventually I got referred to ASPCA poison control (888-426-4435), which is where any emergency vet is going to send you if your pet eats something weird. You describe your issue, the phone rep talks to a vet, you pay a consultation fee. It ended up being okay, as I mentioned, because ingesting glue is not life-threatening for pets (except Gorilla Glue). I was advised to give him a taste treat (milk, tuna water) to help get the taste out of his mouth, and not to pick the glue off of his teeth.

He is subdued today, unsurprisingly. It could be sheepishness, or nausea. There is a little dab of glue right under his upper lip.

I have such difficulty with animals in extremis. You want to help them but they get in flight/fight mode and above all, they can't exactly tell you what the problem is (well, I mean, unless you saw them with the glue). Poor little buddies.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

FYI.

In case your cat is ever being naughty and trying to get your attention and bites into a tube of super glue, please know that it is not life-threatening. I would tell you how I know this except I am still on the downswing of freaking the fuck out.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Local flava.

Dear Minneapolis, did you know that the New French Bakery at 26th and 26th has a sale every day starting at 4? Rolls and sandwich bread are two-for-one and artisan breads are half price. You never know what's going to be available, but today I walked out with a sourdough boule and a heavenly good baguette for a grand total of $2. I cannot recommend this sale enough, if you're available to get your ass over to Seward between 4 and 6 Monday through Friday. (I don't know about the weekends.)

In the back-to-the-future department, the magic of websurfing landed me on a MN-centric blog written by a dude with whom I went to school between 6th and 12th grade. In fact, I believe we "went together" for about two days. Anyhoo, in scanning his front page I found this thing about praise and its paradoxically negative impact on kids. I have not bothered to investigate the source further because I have other things to read, but there's an observation here about so-called gifted and talented kids turning into quitters that kind of struck a chord with me. I wouldn't say I'm a quitter, but I do think I wasn't pushed enough as a kid because I was smart in a very school-friendly way. In fact, I just commented on Madness's blog today about how I could have used more sports-related life lessons while I was growing up. I have always gotten a lot of rewards for achievement, but have not been encouraged to persist with difficult things. Something to think about.

Even THAT niblet is not the point of having stumbled across this dude's blog, however: I clicked over to his flickr and learned, finally, that all those people I saw tooling around Nicollet Island on Segways while I was teaching at opera camp this summer were not actually in a gang. I am kind of disappointed about this. It was actually a tour of the riverfront area, which is sort of cool and made obscurely hilarious by the whole Segway thing. I cannot dissociate Segways from GOB on Arrested Development.

Now I must go quietly freak out about all my high school classmates who are in this guy's photostream. In case you check your stats and trackbacks, Ed: what up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Some people have real problems.

This is the title of the new Sia joint, which I haven't heard (and probably won't get; I have other listening agendas). I liked some of the last album--I was pretty obsessed with "Breathe Me" for awhile, well before it was the soundtrack for Six Feet Under's grand finale--and I do think she has pipes. She is also quite charming and I recently heard her in a live performance on The Current, in which she described the origin of the album's title. During recording, "some people have real problems" was a stock response to any privileged moaning such as we all engage in on a daily basis, some of us even ON OUR BLOGS. For example:

Yuppie: "Wahhhh, my ipod battery ran out in the middle of my workout!"
Other yuppie: "Some people have real problems."

I have thought about this line quite a lot lately, but in a serious way. Did anyone hear This American Life last week? Here's the synopsis, from the website:
Jason Minter lived through the worst trauma you could imagine: he was at a friend's house, a gun pressed to his head, while his mother and another woman were raped and shot to death in the next room by robbers. He was six. And even though he saw a series of therapists as he grew up, he's never been able to feel anything about what happened. He's never even cried about it. So almost 30 years after the crime, Jason decides to make a documentary, to revisit every aspect of his mother's murder, in hopes that he'll connect to what happened, and to her, in some way.
While I listened to it I was basically thinking, as I have so many times when I am trying to get over my cheap self, "I actually don't have any actual problems at all."

Then today, I heard an Indian anti-slavery activist share a version of this speech and I thought pretty much the same thing--except with the added bonus of being uplifted by hearing firsthand about people who are doing world-changing work. This stuff is easy to overlook if you spend any time watching the news or listening to NPR or reading about what a terrible place the world is.

At some point soon I need to do something besides throwing a few bucks in the collection plate.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Shorn.

I am shorn AND my hair lady is striking out on her own in January. Hopefully this means a price check, because I was really going to have to break up with her. She's at one of those places where somehow every time you go for an appointment, it costs more because your stylist has been promoted. But she communes so well with my hair that I have endured the suffering.

Saturday night has been much like my other nights this week, which is good news. The sad news is that I have no more netflix to watch AND Monday is a mail holiday. Woe, woe. In other news, I got a wedding invitation this week from some friends of mine in which the groom's name is misspelled. This will give him some good ammo against his wife, who apparently did the typesetting, in the future.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Valerie, call me; I'm the same boy I used to be.

All day I have been looking forward to a truly great evening and so far I am not disappointed. I went straight to the gym after work again, and though it is impossible to book a spot on any cardio machine at that time of the day, I am overall a fan of the post-work workout. It makes you feel SO virtuous. And good. So that was indeed part of my great evening, even though it involved sweat, effort, and a downgrade in wardrobe.

I've been going to this gym for almost a year now and have seen 4 people I know, one time each. But get this, today I saw my high school Algebra II/Trig/whatever the hell else teacher on the track. I definitely haven't seen her since 1992. She was a fascinating character back in the day, and probably the most motivational math teacher I had. It was in her class that I truly understood that the only thing between me and an A in math was the fact that I couldn't always be bothered to do the homework. "You've gotta crank it out," she would always say. "It's like learning a language. It's like running." She ran marathons and spoke with a weird accent that none of us could parse.

So seeing her was weird enough. But then while I was lifting weights after my run, I saw my 8th grade English teacher, who has not aged even one bit in the last TWENTY years, and I am not exaggerating. She was striding around wearing lycra pants totally legitimately. She is a person I think of occasionally, not because I always loved my English teachers (I did), but because she had an eccentric fashion sense that I now completely respect. Unfortunately that same fashion sense was anathema to a junior high school student. I'm just saying, she wore knickerbockers and her hair in two braids. Uh, and today she had on a really fringed shirt, so clearly nothing has changed there either. But whatever. As I curled my 12 pound dumbbell, I recalled how MMK and I told this English teacher about seeing Bruce Springsteen in concert, and our teacher got all interested and, totally unprompted, brought us a PILE of Springsteen records to take home and listen to the next day.

Neither of these women recognized me, which is unsurprising considering I am either 18 or 20 years older than I was when they taught me. Appalling.

Okay but back to my evening of delight. You will not be shocked to know that it involves Veronica Mars. What you do not know is that I decided I wanted some pizza and I went to the pizza joint in my gym clothes and bought two slices and ate one in the car on the drive home. And then I chilled some beer while I took a shower and I played String with the cat who is a MANIAC for the string, and I ruffled up his dandruff and groomed him, and then I washed my hands and ate my pizza and drank a beer and watched three straight episodes of V Mars in my softpants and LIFE IS SO GOOD. I have taken a break because I am about to watch the last episode on this disc and needed some more of that sweet anticipation.

I also have cookies.

On the downside, I have Steve Winwood in my head for no reason that I can trace.

Yeah, yeah, oh yeah.

A few notes on my condition, and the condition it is in.
Hair: a veritable LOAF. I have a haircut appointment tomorrow that *just* overlaps my morning commitment (what kind of jerk double-books herself on a Saturday, I ask you). If I don't make it to the haircut I am taking a clippers to my head (a longtime fantasy of mine--talk about low-maintenance!). Let me know if you've had luck with this application.
Legs: my calves are bigger than they were last year, thanks to my lackadaisical running schedule. That means that now all of my tall boots fit even more tenuously than they used to. Thanks, exercise! You are ruining my fashion. Also my back, a little bit, but maybe that's just because I'm overzealous. And by overzealous I mean I went to the gym on Wednesday and ran 2.5 miles. I know, it's crazy how hardcore I am.
Muffin top: I'm just a little bit suspicious about my midsection right now. Muffin top is not a thing I've historically contended with. Except yesterday when I contended with the top of an actual muffin right after the meeting where I spaced out Anne of Green Gables-style. Plus, who am I kidding: the only reason it didn't qualify as a cupcake is the lack of frosting.
Face: extra spotty!
Bank account: I just discovered that I actually had an overdraft for the first time in my life this week, thanks to some stupidly-timed transfers of cashola. The best part about the hours-long window where I, all unknowing, had a negative checking account balance was when my debit card was declined at a thrift store. Hahahahahahaha.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thursday meeting liveblogging.

I'm sitting in a meeting in which I have almost nothing, I mean really NOTHING to contribute, and it is also Nap Thirty, and I just now found myself looking around the table and spontaneously imagining how my colleagues would have looked in Olden Times, sort of like they were all characters in Anne of Green Gables or something. You know how Lucy Maud always described the crap out of even the most minor of secondary characters? That's how my mind was operating. All y'all ladies: you have buns. If I like you, you might have puffed sleeves. If I don't: corsets.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Close call.

I totally almost just failed NaBloPoMo. You know why? Because season 3 of Veronica Mars has been all up in my mailbox. I had hot ebay plans for this evening and instead, after a punishing run at the gym, I watched four episodes straight (with one hourlong break to talk to a friend on the phone). Ahhhhhhh, smartmouth girl teen TV, how I have missed thee.

I had a song I wanted to stream for you via Radio Blog Club, but naturally it is too 90s and obscure and I can't find it. If you have access to Trip Shakespeare and you like a slow altco groove, track down "If You Miss Me." It was the last thing on my ipod at the gym this evening, and it really filled my hole.

At the selfsame gym, I ran into a dude from undergrad, a former co-star of mine (operatically speaking), someone who actually has a shot at this music thing. I didn't know he was living here. He's looking at a career change already and I can't tell you how this refreshes me. Of course it also refreshes me when people I know and like are doing well in the opera world, but here's the thing: most people I know aren't enjoying it that much because it comes with so many sacrifices.

I just get a happy when I talk to someone who is trying to iron out all these life-choice wrinkles because it makes me feel less asea, less alone.

Now I have to go to bed so that I can get up and have a really really long day tomorrow. I will be thinking about V Mars all day long.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Bad idea genes.

I can't believe I didn't blog about this earlier, but Jude has more than once done this thing at family meals where he requests to have an "Amish dinner" and then he runs around the house turning off all of the electric lights while the rest of us are eating.

For him "Amish" is probably simply synonymous with "candlelight," but as far as I'm concerned that doesn't make "Amish dinner" at a three year old's instigation any less funny.

Unrelated: here is the difference between the genetic code and a genome sequence. Here's a good excerpt:
[The genetic code is] a description of how a string of information (aggtgcgatagct, or k2 p2 ssk turn) can create a product with a shape and function (an enzyme, or a sock).
The genetic code is almost identical in every single living thing: that means you and your cat and your pot plant and the bacteria eating your teeth. All those leaves and brains and hair and having-more-than-one cell fripperies are just modifications of a basic mechanism, billions of years old, for taking DNA information and making it into protein activity.
If you do not find this breathtaking then you are dead inside and you should probably stop reading this and quit your job and lead a life of solitary contemplation in a turf hut until you are capable of human feeling.
In the Building Treasures for Myself in Heaven department, I got up at 3:30 this morning to take the Brit to the airport. On the way home I clipped a trashcan in the alley and knocked my passenger side mirror off. What a dumb thing to have to spend money on. PS, I did the same thing to my Saturn back in 2000. Feh.

Monday, November 05, 2007

I hear his voice and I see the inside of his skull.

Okay tell me this: why is it so hard to find good pictures of interesting haircuts on the internut? If you do any kind of google search for anything related to hair, you get a million crappy sites with bad pictures of celebrities or weird interfaces where you can slap a cartoon mullet on a picture of yourself.

Today's title is courtesy of a line I really enjoyed from our Deadwood viewing this evening. The Brit is leaving for the Dominican Republic tomorrow on a mandatory work-related thing that involves a very fancy resort. He's been downloading doom rock to listen to on the plane. Meanwhile, winter is rearing its freezing head in Minneapolis and I am going to spend my free time watching Veronica Mars and listening to whatever is the opposite of doom rock. Children giggling? There will probably be at least some of that.

Yesterday there was a baby shower for my sister Mol and her alleged girlbaby. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of pink. Em and I bucked the system and bought them a lime green Bumbo, which Mol somehow hadn't even heard of. Clearly she does not spend as much time on the futureweb as I do. Mol had a mandate that there would be no lame games or hooha at this shower--just a bunch of women telling birth stories and girlhood stories and whatever. Also pie, though that may not have been an actual mandate. A family classic baby story goes like this: my mom had been nursing Mol in bed during the night, and she woke up to hear the baby crying. Without even thinking, and also in a delirium of sleep-deprivation, my mom scooped Mol up and started walking around the house looking for her. The baby wasn't in the crib. She wasn't anywhere. And my mom started thinking in desperation that she was going to have to wake my dad up and tell him, confess that she had lost the baby and then what? What would they do? (Mol, meanwhile, had stopped crying.) So Mom caved and woke my dad up and made her tearful confession, at which point he groggily pointed out that she was holding the baby. How like him to sleep through all of that.

On an unrelated note, my sister Em, who was plagued by various fears as a child, related one last night that she'd forgotten about until that very moment. She was talking about Mom reading Caddie Woodlawn to her and how that had instilled a serious fear that the entire family would be scalped. Em described this while laughing so hard at herself that she was crying. Em, back in the day, suffered from what she called "historical fears," which is maybe not so crazy when you think about how history tends to cycle.

Also, after she read Hatchet she started planning ahead for emergencies and would carry around, like, a granola bar and a tube of Chapstick in case she got lost. The Chapstick was not for lip protection, mind you. It was for if she, for some reason, had to shield her entire face from the cold.

As for me, I was exclusively afraid of things that go bump in the night and prayed nightly for protection against ghosts, goblins, witches, "count draculas" (this was actually how I phrased it), and "anything related to that" (also direct phrasing). I fed this fear by reading John Bellairs books, and then later Stephen King and The Exorcist. What was I thinking?

Speaking of supernatural, did anyone else see that PBS thing about ghosties or whatever the other night? Maybe it was "Supernatural Science." I wasn't really watching it, but there was an awesome little thing about how very low-frequency noises have physical effects on people that are totally consistent with supernatural experiences: the sense that you're being watched or that you're not alone, prickling heat, cold sweat, seeing shapes moving in the periphery. The dude investigating this had had a creepathon experience alone in the lab one night, and he couldn't let it alone--which led to the discovery that the new fan in the lab was emitting this sound that had caused his weirdness.

I love this kind of stuff. I definitely prefer it to ghosts.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

By request.

There really isn't a special secret to my photo setup for wardrobe pictures. It's actually kind of bootleg. For most of the pictures, I use a backdrop (AKA tablecloth) that I use for ebay and etsy photos; it's strung up on this wire thing from IKEA and I can just push it out of the way when I'm done. I have a little $15 telescoping tabletop tripod from Target that fits in my (admittedly giant) purses, so I can really take it anywhere. The tripod is critical for getting good head-to-toe shots. It doesn't have to be a good tripod. I would really like one of these gorillapods, though, because then finding a flat surface upon which to set the tripod wouldn't be necessary. But generally I just put my tripod on a table.

The other thing I do is set my camera's timer to snap 5 shots in succession. It's a lot easier, I find, to get one decent shot this way, particularly because the whole process is kind of funny and by the third shot or so you're too internally amused to look weird and stiff.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Don't believe the hype.

The beginning of a phone conversation with Jude:

Maven: "Hi Jude, whatcha doing?"
Jude: "Taking off a band-aid."
Maven: "Oh, did you have an owie?"
Jude: "Yes, Mama is taking it off fast."
Maven: "That's good; then it won't pull on your skin so much."
Jude: "Yeah."
Maven: "What else are you doing? Are you playing?"
Jude: "I am hanging out. And then when I'm done hanging out, I'm going to do some fast Michael Jackson music dancing."
Maven [dying]: "Oh, that sounds like a good plan."

My sister and BIL have been painting to make the new baby's room ready. Mol told me it's lavender and fuchsia. I laughed really hard about this because I thought she was joking, but she wasn't. I'm sure it looks better than it sounds. They're having a girl, can you tell?

Anyway, once they started painting the one room, everything else started to look a little busted and dingy. You know how that goes. So they painted the boys' room too, but get this: BIL had to use a paint scraper to get the boogers off the wall next to the boys' beds. I have seen both kids wipe boogers on the wall, so this was not surprising to me, but I am laughing about it still.

Other things I have laughed at recently: season two of Extras, which is excruciating. I laughed especially hard at the special features on the disc, like this one about how Ricky Gervais likes to tape up his editor. The dude is mental, but it is hilarious.

I laughed less at American Gangster last night, but that movie wasn't supposed to be funny. Worth seeing, though, even if Denzel is just sort of doing his Denzel thing, all charismatic and smooth with his shiny veneers. Spoiler: there are a lot of close-ups of smack being shot, so if you're woozy about needles, stand warned.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Oh look, I'm embedding songs now too.

I can't get enough of this song:

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A freedom that you and I think is dumb.

I just finished off a box of what Country Choice calls "snacking cookies." I wasn't really aware there was another kind of cookie. I like the idea of Dinner Cookies. Technically any cookie can be a dinner cookie, but what if someone actually marketed a dinner cookie to busy professionals on the go? It could be a sort of weird savory cookie, like a dog biscuit.

I'm a Pepper.My family had a dog for a short, special time when I was about 7, until we understood that the reason my little brother was scratching his own skin off was because he was allergic to the dog. The dog's name was Zipper and he was a Doberman/German Shepherd mix. To be honest, I don't remember very much about having a dog except the barrel of dog food out in the porch, where we used to play such bizarre games as Little House (on the prairie, obvs), Dairy Queen (you would come to the window and order a peanut buster parfait and get a small tower of wooden blocks to eat), and Orphanage. The kids freely sampled from the dog food barrel. I'm not saying it was right; it's just what we did. Those little pellets were obscurely enjoyable. Not quite the way a dinner cookie would probably be, but still.

Have you ever read Down and Out in Paris and London? It's about George Orwell's broke ass in Paris and London, about the life of a kitchen slave and a tramp and what poverty and hunger do to the brain. The things I'm finding most interesting are his observations about the concept of "honest work" and how many manual labor jobs are, in the end, serving nothing and no one. I might have more to say about this later. Right now my eyes are bugging out from a day of staring at a computer.

About the heading. Every time, and I mean EVERY time, I deal with my Mr. Bento in any way whatsoever, I get that Arrested Development song "Mr. Wendell" in my head. You try living with that two or three times a day.