Thursday, June 30, 2011

Whiny Toddler with Laptop

Today is the last day of June. Yes, you could look at the calendar and know this for yourself. But I'm celebrating, announcing and rejoicing in the fact that today is the last day of the month because today is also the last day of NaBloPoMo. Ahhhhh.

I am done. I have posted every day for thirty days. Almost. I missed the midnight deadline by about eight minutes once on our vacation earlier in the month and I missed posting last Saturday. I simply forgot. But I had posted twice the day before, so I don't feel too horribly about it. And really, who's counting but me?

Some of the time this writing everyday was painful and unpleasant. Some of the time I had to force myself to sit and do it, while moaning and wailing like a spoiled toddler. Some of my posts were dull and silly and rather unimpressive. But I'm learning that that is ok. That was the reason I signed up to do NaBloPoMo in the first place. To loosen up, to let go, to write something and post something everyday. To get in the habit. To realize not every post has to be deep and heartfelt.  I'm not in this to win a Pulitzer. Not to have praise heaped upon the genius of my work. Just to write something everyday. Express myself and share my viewpoint and my favorite people and places, basically to share my experiences and connect with you, yeah, YOU. Which I pretty much did.

I liked some of the posts I wrote this month. I enjoyed the vacation photography and the 7 Days this round, though I complained the whole time about how uninspired I was. (Again, whiny baby.) I enjoyed blogging during vacation, at least most days. But I found out, it wasn't impossible. Yet it also felt a bit like a chore.  And I don't want this blog to feel that way. I may try this whole NaBloPoMo thing again in the future, but it's gonna be awhile. I'm going to take a little break, work on a few San Francisco posts, and some other ideas I've got brewing and I'll see you next week, same time, same place, same me. You gonna be here?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

But It's a Dry Heat

Did I mention that we went to Arizona at the end of April? Oh, what? It's almost July you say? I hadn't noticed. So let's just pretend it's early May and I'm not nearly two months behind in posting about our family reunion/vacation weekend. Agreed?


After much arranging, conversation, and argument, the three Sands brothers and spouses and children, the Schuhrke families, stepbrother and spouse and children, and stepsister and children, all convened in Phoenix, Arizona for three delightful days of brother mocking, architecture, ice cold swimming, grilling, In and Out burgering, shopping and general merriment, topped with some Mexican seafood and more eating.

Tom and Bree, Joe's stepbrother and his wife, live in Phoenix and have two adorable kids, Trevor and Nathan. All of our families get along extremely well, our nephews Connor and Jack are close in age to Trevor and Nathan, and both Katy, my sister in law and Bree are teachers, so there is an abundance of good will, things in common and good conversation amongst the women folk too. Leslie, Joe's stepsister and Tom's sister, also lives in Phoenix with her three kids so it was a veritable family reunion all weekend.


And of course since we are in Phoenix, the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, Joe had to squeeze in a couple of architecture adventures. These photos are from the Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium on the Arizona State campus. I was back enjoying some leisurely alone time at the hotel while Joe was out attempting to photograph every possible attractive angle of this lovely building. It is pretty, isn't it? I got a quick drive by later, when I was fully awake and properly caffeinated.


After some early morning architecture photography and reading/lazing hotel appreciation, we headed over to Tom and Bree's house for a late breakfast, sun worshiping and just hanging out. Tom and Bree are wonderful hosts. We were never bored, hungry or unattended. Drinks, snacks, full meals, more drinks, just true family hospitality. It was a delight. And so nice to get a chance to spend some time with everyone together. Though it was too short a visit.


Tom is a motorcycle police officer in the city of Chandler. He is the kind of upright, strong, seriously funny gentleman that should be out there protecting the citizens. And the man's motorcycle boots, which had to be custom made, are the biggest boots I've seen in my life. The man has calves the size of small trees. Damn.

Bree is the warmest, kindest women. She welcomes you into her house, chaos and all. And never stops trying to feed you. Her laugh fills the house and she can silence a whining child with just a look. I wish she was my next door neighbor.


We sat outside in the rather mild, dry 90 degree heat. Jackson's cheeks were pinking up in the warmth and he kept asking Katy to poor her cold water on him. A little dab here and there, he asked for more, and when Katy obliged with a bit more than he was used to, he reacted kind of strongly, for about 30 seconds, then he asked again. Kids.



The little boys ran around the back yard, riding all of the different tricycles and bikes, playing in the play house, getting pinker and pinker. That little ginger, Connor, got some sunscreen reapplied and hopped in the pool with Uncle Jo Jo. The water in the pool was frigid. Unheated Arizona pools are warm and delightful by June, but in late April, not so much. And then there was the sprinkler.




There was mud and chaos and fun noodle mud bats and joy and little boys covered in grass and splattered mud. And I think everyone got a bath later.


And then tragedy struck. Jon Sands' one pair of flip flops broke. They just let him down, right there in the backyard. So we were forced to go shopping. It was horrible. Ok, it wasn't, it was awesome.


Did you know that Arizona has a decidedly higher ratio of sandals for sale at all shoe stores than anywhere in the Midwest? I base this on thorough research at DSW, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack and Famous Footwear. Because Jon Sands is picky. And until he found the perfect black, inexpensive flip flops, his mission was not complete. I bought two pairs of sandals during our quest. I was just trying to be supportive.


After Sandal Quest 2011 was completed, it was time to get back to Tom and Bree's and head out to dinner. Leslie kindly offered to watch the kids while she finished some college homework, thanks, Les. So the adults had a night to ourselves. Tom and Bree had chosen a down-home laid back steak joint just outside of town. We took the thirty minute drive, through the beautiful desert country to San Tan Flat Saloon. This place was wonderful. With a huge outdoor space filled with tables, fire pits, a big stage for performances, and packed with all kind of people. There was a wedding going on actually when we arrived. Right there in the middle, a very young couple got hitched, bridesmaids in short shiny blue satin and stacked white flip flops. My kind of restaurant. When the couple posed for photos after the ceremony, they made out so fiercely I was afraid they might lose a filling or two. While their proud parents looked away. Awesome. We went into the inside section of the restaurant, beers, laughter, steaks, air conditioning. It was a good night.


The next morning Joe had convinced his brothers to go on a tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home, Taliesin West. I was on the fence since we'd been there before. But the place is so peaceful and beautiful, and the weather was so mild that morning, that I tagged along too. We took the hour and a half tour, wandered around the campus and into select buildings. I could hear Joe vaguely grumbling that he knew more than the kind elderly gentleman who was our guide knew. Joe is discrete but you could tell. He kept interjecting stories for our small group. Wanting to make sure we got the full impact of the place.


And it was just a gorgeous as I remembered. Tucked into the landscape like it just grew out of the natural outcroppings. After the tour was finished, and roughly 400 photographs were taken, the dads of the group headed back to their families and Jon, Joe and I searched on Yelp for a perfect local restaurant. And boy, did we find it.



Baja Joe's. Oh, Baja Joe's. Your seafood appetizer tempted and sustained us until the main course. Abalone, octopus and fresh shrimp squirted with lime juice and left naked and perfect. Then the Sands brothers ordered the most fascinating and decadent seafood entree I've seen. It was delivered on a tall footed clay pot shaped like a fish. And covered in an array of seafood treats. They scarfed it down with the happiest most satisfied smiles I've seen on either one of them in a long time. See below?


Oh and melon margaritas, because it's vacation lunch.



After lunch we drove back to our home base at Tom and Bree's. More pool, more hanging out with the kids, and prep time for the barbeque that evening with the whole family, including Leslie's kids Anissa, AJ and Kayla.


Dueling photographs were taken.


Mothers were tortured with fun noodle antennae.

We caught up and relaxed and took turns running around after the kids. We shared music and stories and of course more food. Because what family reunion is complete without constant feasting?


The kids "painted and cleaned" the play house. They ran and screamed and longed to get in the pool but didn't. The evening began to wane.




The night sky dimmed and we quickly realized that we needed to capture a full family portrait on this rare occasion of all the siblings in one place and the same time. Tripods and cameras came out, crying exhausted children were calmed, and we got our shot.

I feel so lucky to a be a part of this crazy family. Joe and I headed back home the next morning, though we would have loved to stay longer like Jim and Katy did. I can't wait until we are all together again, and we can listen to the gentle, loving cruel mocking that comes from four brothers all sitting around the same table. Midwest Sands Schuhrke Extravaganza 2012?

I forgot to mention, most photos by Joe Sands, a few by Jim Sands and maybe one or two by yours truly.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble

Why hello there! I'm live blogging from a camp chair in Southmoreland Park right off the Plaza. I have secured excellent seats, I'm waiting for the lovely Kristen to join me and as usual the people watching is superior. Because I'm waiting for the Heartland Shakespeare Festival's production of Macbeth to begin. And I've already heard a parent dressed in tights holler for his daughter Kestral.

I love the theatre. I love outdoor productions and tonight is the last night where the temperature will be under 95 degrees. I expect this evening to include laughter, huge drama, witches, murder and vile ambitions. And hopefully just on the stage. So I'm going to sign off and sit here in the cool shade and wait for the tragedy to unfold. Oh and I'll be drinking some wine, as any true outdoor theatre goer must!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Is There A Gadget for That?

I am married. I am married to Joe. Joe is fantastic. And Joe has a couple of unique qualities. He likes to shop online, a lot. We have frequent deliveries from his ongoing internet purchases and therefore a substantial supply of cardboard boxes in the basement. He always finds a good deal and prides himself on never paying full price. God, the man loves a bargain. And the best bargain is the kitchen or electronic gadget bargain.  Photography gadgets, wood working gadgets, technology gadgets, things to speed up or improve a process, change a staid everyday task into a stylish and smooth undertaking. These gadgets, from mango slicers to a tripod ball head, these gadgets get Joe closer to his goal. Because Joe is just steps away from being a perfectionist. He's actually more of a detailist. He focuses so completely on the task at hand and ensuring that it turns out as close to perfect as possible. The best example is the story his mother loves to tell.

She asked him to clean the bathroom when he was a kid. But instead of cleaning the bathroom, he cleaned the bathroom faucet so precisely that he took the thing apart. He took the faucet apart! Joe has a deep desire to make sure things are executed precisely and skillfully. Everything has a process. Photos are being framed. He sketches out mat cuts in Autocad and lays everything out on the floor before hanging, then measures, checks with a level and measures again.

He'll take 25 photos of the same scene to get the perfect shot. Thank god for digital. This would be why we have 3,000 photos to sift through from our San Francisco trip. 3,000! I might post them by Christmas.


Spaghetti dinner is being cooked. He perfectly measures the spaghetti, going to the trouble of opening two separate packages and measuring out the ideal portions, down to the strand. One package doesn't have just the right amount. 1/2 is too little and a whole package is too much. So 1/3 of two packages is just right, precise and skillful.

Watching him enjoy ribs or a lobster is a process unlike any other person that I've seen. He prepares each bite, does all of the work of removing the meat before eating any of it. So while I'm using wet wipes to clean off my saucy hands, he is just digging into a delicious meal. I blame this on growing up one of three brothers and really enjoying the feeling of being the last one finished so you can taunt your brothers with that fact. You took your sweet time to eat dinner, they devoured theirs and now they have to watch you eat that Totino's party pizza, slowly and cruelly. He can slow down, delay gratification and then savor every bite. I love that about him, and I'm always done eating first, always.

This is part of the reason that Joe and I work so well together and occasionally want to strangle each other. He has the details and the precision. I have the big picture, move it along, let's get to the next step mentality. He can get stuck and I can go too fast. We balance each other out. I want to push and he makes me slow down. If I were in charge alone all of our pictures on the wall would be crooked. And if he were in charge alone his kitchen faucet would be spotless, but the sink would be filled with dirty dishes. But somehow, together, it works.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The House Smells So Good

Homemade Cornmeal Honey Bread

Hey, new recipe alert! We had a great fish dinner this weekend. Some Parmesan encrusted pan-fried cod with sweet potato fries, green salad and berry shortcake for dessert. I finally cooked fish and all the tasty breading didn't fall off, it's a miracle! And since I haven't really baked anything in awhile and we happen to be out of bread I whipped up a couple of loaves. Joe found this great recipe for cornmeal honey bread and what about that doesn't sound tasty? Nothing!

And it was pretty delicious, though I was a bit skeptical since it didn't look like it was rising enough. But after plenty of time and a little kneading, it happened. That dough puffed right up. The melted butter basted over the top turned a rich crusty brown. And the house smells like amazingness. Yummy, carby amazingness. So go make it. You don't even need a bread maker. Just some time, some yeast and an oven. Heck, even if the bread tastes like cardboard (which it shouldn't) your house will still smell like a tiny, French bakery. I want to bottle that smell.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Mysterious Mr. Sands

The Mysterious Mr. Sands

Look, it's Joe! I love this man's face. I'm pretty sure this was his "sneaky" look. Watch out! He'll creep up behind you, quite possibly to peek down your shirt. Oh it could be more nefarious than that but, yeah, probably not.

Until next time, adios 7 days people, it was great seeing your creative faces, can't wait to catch you in the fall!

A Crafty Retread

Once again I'm thrilled that I had the chance to participate in the Blogher Book Club this month! A very large, heavy padded envelope arrived at my house, and tucked inside was this heavy weight summer read, A Discovery of Witches. So take a minute and go check out my review over here on Blogher.

The book was so good I just might loan it to you if you ask nicely! But you have to like witches, demons, vampires and haunted houses. But nowadays, who doesn't? Happy Friday and happy reading. (I'm determined to finish Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts tonight, I'm done reading about the Nazis. I need something happier and less insane.)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making a Ginger

Making a Ginger

I'm coloring my hair tonight. I hope its reddish and not orangish. That is all. Sweet dreams.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Posse

In classic Westerns the good guys and bad guys are clearly identified. The good guys wear white hats and the bad guys wear black hats. And while things may not be so transparent in our modern world, this is my band of white hats, my posse. These are the people who would confidently follow me into a tense gun battle with weapons blazing, covering my back and making sure I got out of there alive, and still on my horse. Not a black hat in the bunch. Even on that tattooed cowpoke in the middle.

So our tribe got together tonight for a little dinner celebration since my brother was unable to attend our Father's Day festivities on Sunday.  We had tapas, we quoted and misquoted David Sedaris' hilarious lines about Santa not speaking Spanish and certainly not eating tapas, from his essay Six to Eight Black Men. We ate little plates of seafood ceviche, white bean puree, chorizo, prosciutto wrapped dates, roasted potatoes, and ended with a saffron laden paella, served family style. I took awkward photos trying to squeeze us all in on a very small camera and ended up using Kristy's phone since we could see the screen as we took the shot. It was a good night. We talked and laughed and listened, and just were together. And my posse devoured that tapas, even with Salvador Dali looming over our table. Buenas noches!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice
Today's 7 Days photo, tweaked with the Camera Bag app on the iPhone.

On this, the longest day of the year, I had a long day at work to match. Roughly a twelve hour day, which involved driving from nearly one end of the city to the other over the course of three meetings, some office time and working at an event for a client. Satisfying but I'm a little tired.  I took these while driving home and enjoying the gorgeous mild temperatures, the wind blowing through my hair, Arcade Fire on the stereo, and the thought of very shortly going home and taking off my heels.

The drive home was beautiful. I sometimes forget that just outside of Kansas City, just a few miles from my house actually, you are suddenly in the country. Long winding roads, nearly empty of traffic, roads lined with tall old trees and small stores. Driving back from my client's event, the sun not ready to set but creeping down closer to the horizon, it lit up the sky to a bright blue with large fluffy white clouds hovering over the deep green of the woods. After a week spent in the flashy, eye catching, damn near gaudy beauty of Northern California, I just relished the twenty minute drive home. Motoring through my country. Rolling hills and corny shop names, country turning into suburb, turning into downtown, all in the flat, warm land of my birth.

Now I'm home. Dinner has been consumed, a little documentary on the Little League World Series has entertained, heels off, pajamas on, book in hand and a cold diet coke with a slice of lime. Welcome, summer.

Alternate Day 4
This was my 7 Days alternate shot, the dog is in my lap, but he's black and so are my pj pants.

Monday, June 20, 2011

I'm Berry Sorry

Keeping Berry Cool

This is my lunch hour (more like lunch fifteen minutes today.) It is already 91 degrees outside, humid, sunny and unless I'm in a pool, I have zero interest in being outside. So I ran down the street, grabbed a salad with berries and a delicious wild berry iced tea from Wendy's and relaxed in the car, with the AC blowing on high. The salad and tea were berrylicious. For something from a fast food joint it was shockingly perfect for cooling off before heading back to work. I listened to This American Life's Father Day podcast, I adore that show so berry much. And then snapped a couple of shots. Nothing fancy, nothing stressful and yes, I did reapply a nice berry lip gloss to go with my tea. I like themes.  And horrible puns. I couldn't help myself. The heat has gone to my head. I apologize.

Here's the cheesy alternate, where all of my high school theatre training came into action. "Look at how sweltering she pretends it is, while the 70 degree air actually blows on her face!" Acting! Thank you!

Alternate Day 3

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Vittles

Today's 7 Days theme is Black. So I got extremely creative by putting on a black shirt, brushing my teeth and proceeding to the grocery store. I had every intention of taking some very public, bold grocery store photos. Then I chickened out. It was really crowded at the store. I mean, lots of people in every aisle, lots of employees restocking the shelves, customers and kids everywhere I turned. And I may be bold, but I just couldn't make myself do it. Even the low key iPhone photos barely happened. I snuck a couple in the check out line, but my check out guy was cranky and unpleasant and there was no one to bag my groceries, so I gave up the camera, bagged the groceries, punked out and took photos at the car instead. I like to call this look "big sunglasses hide tired, no-make up eyes." Or "super-glamorous, un-showered, sweaty grocery shopping." Cause, damn, it's hot here today. 

So groceries procured, back home to unpack and start the cooking. We are having my dad and step-mom over for dinner tonight to celebrate Father's Day.  Joe is in the kitchen right this minute whipping up some deviled eggs, with a little Sriracha, which based on my sample taste tasting are supremely delicious, spicy, smoky and creamy. Then grilled burgers with a little avocado and Monterrey jack, a big ole green salad with strawberries, and some browned butter rice crispy treats. I just had to make them again. And maybe a Mojito or two. So Happy Father's Day to all the dads, step-dads, grandfathers, uncles and those men who step up and inspire! Hope your day is spent exactly how you'd like it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Win

Today was one of those perfect regular Saturdays. Not a vacation Saturday or some kind of amazing event, concert, family gathering, important kind of Saturday. But just an everyday, regular Saturday. The kind of weekend day that can so easily be taken for granted in the midst of chores and errands and activity and duties. But I just thought that today hit that perfect balance.

In part I was simply glad to be home after our delightful, rather jam packed vacation. And I have plenty to write about that. But I thought before I dove into the additional fantastic stuff we got to do last week, I would document what a good normal weekend day looks like.

We started the morning later than normal. Both of us slept in until 9 am. For me, this isn't a huge stretch but the fact that Joe slept in until this late hour was a damn miracle. So good start. Then coffee in my favorite curse word dottery mug, followed by two hours of lounging on the couch catching up on some shows we like, including the disturbing yet shamefully entertaining My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding. Watch this thing, it's bizarre and frightening and unfamiliar, and so fun. Late brunch, farm fresh eggs, toast and a piece or two of bacon. Then an hour spent flipping quickly through the nearly 4,000 photos that Joe took on our trip. I'm not kidding. I took about 200, and the man took almost 4,000. I can't wait to show them to you this week. Obviously sorted out and heavily edited, but they are wonderful.

After the decadent lounging and photo overload, it was time to actually start knocking stuff off the to-do list. Joe headed to the basement and didn't reappear until nearly 5 pm. He was replacing my garage door opener. I'm not sure there is anything sexier than a man who can handle those kind of household repairs and fixes. He doesn't complain, he just gets the tools he needs and makes it happen. He's good at it. He's competent and confident in his abilities. Hot. I cleaned house, laundry, changed sheets, and then got some help setting up our pressure washer and went to town on our white deck furniture. Never buy white deck furniture. While it looks pretty and bright on the deck, it gets filthy over the winter and looks disgusting by March. But you know what? I LOVE a pressure washer. Those things are little miracle workers. Two hours later and our furniture looks brand new. My hands are kind of tingly still from the vibration of the washer, but small price to pay. Now if only the cushions had held up so well over the last seven years. Might have to replace them next summer. So the deck is sparkling, the house is nearly spotless, I'm filthy and wet, but it's time for girl's night out

(7 Days is back, by the way!I kind of waffled on whether I was going to do it or not this round. And took this photo just in case I changed my mind. Which I did. Of course. So welcome back, 7 Days! If you don't know what the heck I'm talking about click here.)

Showered, decked out in actual jewelry, wedges and makeup, I went off to meet the ladies for dinner at Yias Yias. My brother is the sous chef at Yias Yias, it's a European style bistro restaurant, and the food is always great. Mike came out and greeted the six of us, we got to see him all decked out in his chef coat, and then it was dinner and drinks time. Everyone, except the two pregnant ladies, sorry Tara and Amy, got wine or a martini and then Mike sent out a charming little salad for each of us. A mix of heirloom tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, strawberries, mint, basil and beets. It was light and summery and a perfect start to our meal. More wine, more conversation, my pretty friends. (I specify pretty because they are, and because on girls nights they ditch the pony tails and spiff up for our gatherings, it's like the old days before kids, and they all looked particularly great tonight, bangs and red hair and all!)  We noshed on some flat bread pizza, some pasta, and nearly three hours later a little chocolate souffle and philo dough wrapped brownie for dessert. We were stuffed, happy and ready to return home to the men and little people.

I got home and Joe and I headed out for a spontaneous late night movie, since we don't have little people at home yet. And the dog doesn't mind if we leave him, or at least he can't tell us he does. We headed over to our favorite movie theatre, joyfully saw the new shelving and lights going in at the Trader Joe's, it opens in less than a month, (Yeah!) and headed in to buy tickets to see Super 8. Just as my friend Emily said, it was the perfect combination of ET, Goonies and Close Encounters. Set in 1979, it's nostalgic, sweet, scary, action packed and the best popcorn movie I've seen in ages.  Great end to the day.

So that's how my Saturday rolled out. I always make sure to capture the big, exciting, monumental events on this blog, but I don't think I often capture the mundane, average kind of days. And though nothing spectacular or life changing happened today, it was exactly the kind of day I wanted. Balanced, fun, productive and spent with the people that make me laugh. How was your Saturday?

Friday, June 17, 2011


This is a gross and strange way to start a post, but here it is. Yesterday I walked in to use the bathroom in the late afternoon. I selected my favorite stall, yes, I have a favorite stall, don't you at work? It has nice natural light and the toilet doesn't automatically flush four times like the others. Valid reasons for favoritism. Anyway, I entered the bright confines of my favorite stall and opened the toilet lid and there was sitting a nasty used tampon. I'm not squeamish. But this surprising, unrequested peek into some other woman's bodily fluids pissed me off.

Our office is a quiet building most of year. Our floor only has two other companies with office space, one more on the ground floor and several in the basement. The bathrooms on our floor stay quite clean and empty most of the time. But then summer rolls around. The building is invaded. The irritating-company-whom-I-shall-not-name-but-you-can-guess knife sales trainees take over. They use one of the empty offices. They shout their mantras once or twice a day and applaud vigorously on command. They used to spread out and take over the hallways with their notebooks and cellphones, making their loud, scripted cold calls. They leave bits of frayed rope and pennies cut in half scattered in the halls and parking lots. But worst of all, they use the bathrooms. And here's where I get judgmental.

This group of trainees are generally young, high school/college age. And there's no polite way to word this, they are dirty, messy, loud little bastards. Not all of them I'm sure. But enough of them to make a daily impact on my clean little world. They don't flush. They don't throw away their paper towels. They pee on the seat and leave it. Now, maybe I'm just a priss or a goody two shoes. But this is rude and gross, right? Don't parents teach these kind of polite public habits anymore? There's no one to complain to either, other than you. These are anonymous bathroom de-foulers. We probably can't justify setting up video surveillance to catch the culprits. We just have to suffer through the few months of the summer and relish the time when they leave.

My irritation reminds me of a character from Ally McBeal, a show I barely tolerated when Joe wanted me to watch it with him in college. This attorney on the show, played by Peter MacNichol, whose only other role I can recall was as the strangely accented art museum employee who gets possessed in the 2nd and awful Ghostbusters movie. He plays John "The Biscuit" Cage and his defining character trait, other than being persnickety and odd, was that he owned his own personal toilet flushing remote that he used religiously before he entered a stall. He hated seeing other people's remnants. And suddenly I find myself feeling like The Biscuit.

In fact, I'm jealous of The Biscuit. I lack a toilet flushing remote. I'm not sure those even exist and yet I want one. I can't just leave the groddy tampon sitting there unflushed. I can't leave the paper towels on the floor or the pee on the seat for the next person. I can't leave it alone. I don't want someone else to have to deal with the nastiness or the rudeness either. So I clean up someone else's mess and wash my hands about a thousand times. But here's the question, are you the kind of person that will go out of your way to clean up after a stranger? Is this just me? Am I the weirdo here? I hate the fact that my eyes have had to witness someone else's used tampon or floating poop. I feel this way in every public bathroom. It makes me want to yell and scream for having been forced to witness someone else's dirty ol' humanity up close. I don't have this issue with baby diapers or helping the elderly, or people who can't care for themselves. I once had to help one of my disabled clients shower diarrhea off of himself. It took forever, it was unpleasant, it was an experience I hope to never repeat. But it didn't make me angry. Because it was necessary. Those snotty teenage girls forgetting to flush their tampons, well that's just rude. End of rant.

What gets you all riled up? Possibly beyond the rational scope of the actual problem? (Which I fully admit might have just happened in this post, but as long as I don't start finding my ramblings posted on passive aggressive I think I'm ok.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Voice of a Telemarketer

I like to think that my writing sounds as close as possible to how I sound in real life. Not that I'm ever as clever or well spoken as I think I am, or as my writing can be when it's edited, which it always is at least briefly.  I could probably use an editor in real life as well. This editing process would have to include significant control over my facial expressions and tone of voice too.  I have a reputation for not being able to mask my emotions and opinions when sitting face to face or over the phone. For this I would make a lousy lawyer or poker player. I can pull off tactful communication, but I have to really think about it before I speak. I just put my foot in my mouth on Sunday while hanging out with with some family in fact. It happens often.  I spoke, with a strong and rather judgmental opinion, in response to an embarrassing story that a relative shared. I just flopped my opinion out there in the room like a sweat sock filled with kitty litter. It was abrupt, potent and unwelcome. Like telling someone their baby is ugly. Yes, everyone in the room knows the baby is ugly, everyone has silently agreed to this fact, but everyone else says "Oh, look at those little ears!" or "What a cute little outfit!" or "He/She looks just like you two!" Not me, I basically said, "Damn, I'm sorry, but that baby is ugly." I meant it in a helpful way. I meant it out of love. Thankfully this family member tends toward the verbal blunt side, so I think she understood where I was coming from, but I felt bad about it.  And her babies really are dazzling.

Back to my point. I hope my writing sounds like me. The tactful, graceful version of myself that I like to portray. Minus slandering the aesthetic appeal of babies. Who knows if it actually does, how does one gauge that from the inside? Impossible. But since I'm getting a little tired of my own writing, everyday is just a lot for all of us I think, I thought I would mix it up over here and do a little video. For my three or so readers who've never met me in real life, I thought you might want to hear what my real voice sounds like. I always have a perception in my head of what bloggers or online friends sound like in person. Sometimes it's totally off, sometimes dead on. When I met my lovely internet friend Catie for the first time last week, she sounded exactly how I thought she would. Though she was taller than I expected and cursed like a drunken sailor, a trait I deeply enjoyed. Anyway, back in January my friend, Bethany participated in this very cool little accent video blog.  She read a list of words and answered some questions that help showcase the different dialects and regional slang/terminology of English speakers everywhere. Fun, right?

Much like Bethany said, I love language, written, spoken, charaded, whatever. I find accents fascinating and charming, particularly because mine is so dull.  I have the mild friendly accent of the Midwest. Born and raised in Missouri and Kansas, I have a prime telemarketer's voice. I've been told that my voice is mid-range, pleasant and accent free. Testimony to this fact is that I've been asked to record the voice mail master greeting and extension lists for the phone systems at my last three jobs. I am possessed of a mild mannered lady robot voice. You can call my office and hear me anytime. Weird. So I read the list of words and answered the questions, and actually brushed my hair first, so here we go!

See, total telemarketing gold. I never thought I had an accent actually until I was working in Philadelphia and two of my teenage clients rolled on the floor laughing when I said caramel, Barbara and water. They tried to make me say them over and over again. I acquiesced for about three minutes and then when they ran off to grab their friends to make me perform for them, I ended that little game. I'm no one's monkey. Ok, I'm happy to be the dancing monkey, but not for a large audience of tough Philly teenagers. I'm sensitive. And they were merciless.

So here are the words and questions. Give it a try yourself, but please leave a comment with a link if you post your video online. I'd love to hear your voice too.

Aunt, Route, Wash, Oil, Theater, Iron, Salmon, Caramel, Fire, Water, Sure, Data, Ruin, Crayon, Toilet, New Orleans, Pecan, Both, Again, Probably, Spitting image, Alabama, Lawyer, Coupon, Mayonnaise, Syrup, Pajamas, Caught

And here are the questions:
  • What is it called when you throw toilet paper on a house? TP'ing
  • What is the bug that when you touch it, it curls into a ball? Potato Bug or Rolly Polly
  • What is the bubbly carbonated drink called? Soda
  • What do you call gym shoes? Tennis Shoes
  • What do you say to address a group of people? Hi, guys
  • What do you call the kind of spider that has an oval-shaped body and extremely long legs? Daddy Long Legs
  • What do you call your grandparents? Grandma and PaDad, Nanny and Pawpaw
  • What do you call the wheeled contraption in which you carry groceries at the supermarket? Cart
  • What do you call it when rain falls while the sun is shining? Sun shower
  • What is the thing you change the TV channel with? Remote

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fire It Up

Tomorrow's NaBloPoMo Prompt (which I mistakenly did today since it was already posted, oops!) -  
"What is the best way to fan the flames of creativity?"

This question is a great one. I think everyone is born with creativity. This doesn't mean I think everyone can paint with the talent of Marc Chagall or write with the artistry of John Steinbeck or capture the world like Ansel Adams. But I think we are all born with an innate creativity. I think many people lose sight of this as they age. Kids can be so free and loose and certain in the art they create. They use color and shape with abandon, they seem surprised when parents can't tell the exact creature or object they've drawn, because they have presented their own perfect version of what they see. But then something happens. We become self conscious. We lose our connection to that magic creativity that used to just flow out of our little finger tips, through finger paints, or clay or crayons. Maybe it's that negative feedback from family or teachers or friends, unintentionally skewing our own view of our artistic abilities.  What happens? Where does it go? How do we get it back?

I am a creative person. I classify myself this way because even though I can't draw beyond very basic Pictionary skills, and I wouldn't know what to do with a paint brush beyond adding another coat to the wall, I can look at raw materials: beads, paper, wire, a blank computer screen, piles of photographs, an ugly wallpapered bathroom and I can see something different. I can picture the changes I want to make. I'm willing to take risks to get it there.  This doesn't mean I'm always successful or that I always feel creative. There are dry spells. I can go days and weeks without making anything. Like many people I let regular life get in the way of my creativity. Maybe that's because I'm fickle with the things I like to try, make, work on. I can jump around with hobbies a bit and I'm not an artist, I'm more crafty. I don't feel like I'm working to communicate something greater than, "ooh that's pretty!" I think there's value in "ooh, that's pretty!" though. Maybe not the same value as say poetry or sculpture, but "ooh, that's pretty!" brings pleasure to people. The daily pleasure of wearing something beautifully hand crafted, or the pleasure of waking up in a bright red bedroom with your favorite photographs hanging on the walls, or the pleasure of reading something that makes you smile and feel connected. While I'm not Rembrandt, I like to think that my creativity, in addition to making me frequently happy, makes others happy too.

I fan the flames of my creativity with a few things. Wandering around the internet looking at the websites and blogs of incredibly prolific, flexible creative types. Wandering around museums, talking and engaging with people that are interesting and kooky and different than me, wandering around flea markets and antique shows, Michael's and Hobby Lobby and Urban Arts and Crafts. I listen to music that makes me emotional and passionate. I study new hobbies and try new things. And I just absorb and consume and read and look and fill my brain with ideas and colors and inspiration. And then I shut it all off and throw myself 100% into whatever project consumes me. This may not work for everyone. This might clutter your head up with nonsense. This might overwhelm you with other people's success and obscure your own vision. But it works for me. It inspires me. It feeds me and connects me. There is a limit. I know when I've seen too much and need some peace and space from other people and hit that "pretty overload." I listen to myself. I back up and go quiet and get a little alone time so I can hear myself again. And then sometimes I just let those dry spells take over for awhile. Dry spells aren't all bad. Sometimes I watch corny gay dating shows like Can't Get a Date. Sometimes I just read or write silly stuff or take random photos. Sometimes I don't make anything at all. And that's ok too. Though I kind of want to redecorate my house right now. Maybe 10:30 at night is too late to start a new project. Maybe just move some knick knacks around. Alright, I'll wait until tomorrow and get some sleep like a responsible adult. How about you, what do you do to get inspired? Do you consider yourself creative? Cause, yeah, I'm pretty sure you are.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Settling Back In

I'm sitting on the couch. I had every intention of working out right now. Like this very minute. Or maybe right now. I'm wearing work out clothes and shoes even. And I'm still sitting. Comfy, with a cold glass of ice water and a computer on my lap.

Tina Fey is on the TV. And though I am deeply ashamed, and not at all surprised, that I didn't force myself to work out, I still managed to get re-settled back into my regular routine fairly smoothly. I made it through the work day without falling asleep and dreaming about crashing waves and bright blue horizons or the incredible dim sum from Yank Sing. I hit the grocery store after work and stocked up on a variety of healthy food for lunches and dinners and planned out a few meals. Laundry is going. Bags are unpacked. My anxiously awaited Erik Larson book about the Nazis just came available so I stopped by the library too. Plants have been watered and pruned. Dinner cooked, dishes done. Not bad for the first day back from vacation.

Salted Brown Butter Krispy Treats

And then I had the deep desire to bake something homemade, after all of our vacation eating out,decadent and entirely easy. What might that be? Cookies make the house too hot when it's so humid and warm out already. Brownies are too rich and I lacked two key ingredients. Fruit salad, eh. So Rice Krispy Treats it is. And how to take Krispy Treats to the next level? Just follow Smitten Kitchen's recipe.

The recipe is just as easy as regular Rice Krispy Treats, just with browned butter and some kosher salt. Super simple. I didn't have unsalted butter on hand so I used salted and just cut back a bit on the kosher salt. I might cook my butter a bit longer next time. I was in too much of a hurry and unhappy with the inconsistent heat on my stove burners. So I took it off the burner once it looked slightly brown and had that nutty smell. They were delicious, more buttery and flavorful than regular treats and the cereal to marshmallow ratio was ideal. Gooey but not loose, solid but not dry. Tasty. Nothing makes me feel more at home that the smell of something yummy recently cooking in the kitchen. That, and a pile of dirty dishes.

Now I'm off to wash my face, put on my pajamas and read about the Nazis. Or maybe I'll end up sitting here for another thirty minutes reading about Anna Nicole Smith. Who knows?