Friday, December 24, 2010

May the Force be with you. And also, bacon.

Hubby got a Christmas present last weekend that he used for the first time when making breakfast this morning.

Star Wars pancake molds.

This led to many bad Yoda impressions during breakfast. "Eat my face, you will!" "No more ears I have!" "Pass the syrup, please you will?"

There was a tiny bit of batter left over at the end, so Hubby made one regular, round pancake.  Oh wait, I mean, "the Death Star" - it's all in the marketing, of course.

It was a delightful Christmas Eve Day breakfast.  Especially the bacon - erm, "light sabers" (as the kid called them).  Of course bacon doesn't need the Force to be delicious......

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to age with dignity...

I believe that the older one gets, the more dignified one must be.  I mean, clearly one should aspire to be more like this:

than this (You really need to only watch the first 24 seconds of the following clip to get what I'm talking about...):

Now as it just so happens, we are currently wrapping up Heather's Birthdayweek*.  Yes, last Tuesday, I officially entered the End of My Late Thirties by turning 39.  Clearly, I needed to muster up all the dignity I could, now that my age has inexorably advanced another year.  Fortunately, my family was ready and willing to pitch in and aid me in my quest to age with dignity.

First, I received a lovely, talking/musical birthday card specially selected for me by my darling daughter.......

(It talks - in Wookiee - and then plays the Star Wars theme. Très raffiné, non?)

Then, when opening my birthday present from Kiddo and Hubby with suitable decorum, I sliced a small chunk out of my thumb on the corner of the box.  (Us elderly folk have thinner skin, you know.  We're quite delicate.  It wasn't that I was shrieking with glee as I tore into the packaging of my present, I swear.  That would not have been dignified in the least.)  Kiddo came to my rescue by providing this first aid:

(Confession: The above photo was a Dramatic Reenactment, as I've since recovered from my injury and am no longer in need of a stylish and dignified bandage for my thumb.)

I'm fairly certain I saw a similar bandage on the Queen of England's thumb in a photo a few months back...

Oh, and the present I got for my birthday?  Rock Band 3 - with keytar.
(Hubby, while taking the above picture: "You're not really going to take a picture to post on the internet of you in your jammies, are you?"  Me: "Of course I am!"  Cinéma vérité - doesn't get any more dignified than that!  Okay, maybe I should've opted for some soft focus vaseline-on-the-lens....  Also?  That was my attempt to look both dignified and rock-n-roll! simultaneously.)

Now, I've been playing the piano since I was four years old.  Four years old.  That means that as of last Tuesday, when I hit my late thirties (okay, fine, my late-late thirties), I've been playing the piano for thirty-five years.  I can read music.  I can sightread music, even.  I was sure I'd have the keytar locked down, is what I'm saying.  Turns out? Not so much.  I was only slightly more accurate playing the keytar parts than my cat would be.  (Speaking of the cat........

.....she enjoys Cheesy Eddie's carrot birthday cake with cream cheese frosting as much as the rest of the family.  But I digress...)

So, I tried to maintain my dignity whilst playing my new Rock Band 3 keytar, but I may have slipped with a colorful phrase or twelve while failing repeatedly to play the dang notes.  That is neither here nor there, however.

For dinner, I chose to go to a local Japanese restaurant for some teppanyaki deliciousness.  

True, the restaurant now occupies a building that was formerly a Hooters, then a Cheerleaders USA establishment, but it has been completely redone and reeks of classiness and elegance.  They don't even serve any drinks inside giant Buddha statues, for Pete's sake.  Being a teppanyaki style restaurant, the chef comes out and cooks the food right in front of you.  This enables the patrons to take part in the preparation of the meal, mainly by means of catching rice balls in their mouths which are flung at them by the chef.

Now some people

may not look terribly dignified while doing this...

(see how Hubby is gloating?  He was the only one at our table to succeed in actually catching the rice ball, rather than getting plonked in the face with a rice ball.)

Whereas I?

Dignified all the way, baby.  Jackie O couldn't have done it better.

Once we got home from our dinner (we were the only diners in the teppanyaki section, what with the major snow event occurring outside ((that I preferred to think of as "Mother Nature throwing confetti in honor of my big day")) and all), Hubby and Kiddo presented me with my Cheesy Eddie's carrot birthday cake, politely lit with just 4 candles instead of ablaze with 39.  (We more senior types can be lacking in proper lung capacity to blow out such a blaze, after all.)

This is how you blow out birthday candles with dignity:

I hope that you have learned a little something about growing old with grace and aging with dignity.  You're welcome.

* I long ago decided that an event as momentous as my birthday couldn't truly be contained in just one day.  Hence, Heather's BirthWEEK.  I celebrate it as often and heartily as possible.  In the past seven days, I have had three birthday lunches, one birthday brunch, one birthday coffee and two birthday dinners (well, one was a combo birthday-Christmas dinner, but such is the lot of the mid-late December baby).  Also, my Facebook wall was flooded with birthday wishes, which I adored receiving.  Seriously, I felt all Sally Field - "You like me! Right now, you like me!"   It just added to the awesomeness of my day.  Then even more messages came in over the course of the rest of my birthweek, which I'd gladly stretch out right up until Christmas, but remaining dignified really doesn't permit me to do.  Until next year...  My sincerest, most heartfelt thanks to all my family and friends who helped me celebrate this year.  You're all fantabulous!!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Awesome List

December is the time of year when folks compile Top Ten lists and Years in Review and Most Fascinating People and the like.  Well, I have decided to do my very own such compilation, entitled The Awesome List.  I am breaking it down into subcategories, because it's my blog and that's how I want to do it.  Here goes......

People who are Awesome:

~ My friend J.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned to J that I love December for its mail.  Not just because December brings my birthday around which means the occasional birthday card, but mostly for the holiday card mail.  I love holiday cards.  Photos, letters, the whole nine yards.  LOVE them.  I do a happy dance at the mailbox when I open it to find those sorts of envelopes therein.  (Seriously, pop by my street around 5pm any given day of the week that there's postal service and you will see me out there at the curb, shaking my groove thang.  Assuming, that is, that said groove thang isn't frozen due to our lovely weather - record snowfall, anyone? - in which case the groove thang doesn't get shaken until it is ensconced, once again, indoors, in which case you'll have to peek through the front windows.)  Well, J came up with a Most Awesome Plan, unbeknownst to me at the time.  She filed away this little tidbit of info and when December 1st rolled around, a Christmas card showed up in the mail from J and her family.  It was one of the first cards we received this year, in fact.  Then, December 2nd brought another card from her.  And the 3rd, and the 4th.  A cryptic note on my Facebook wall on Sunday the 5th led me to trek out through the snow to the mailbox where indeed, another card from her was waiting.  She's that good - able to get mail delivered even on the day that the Post Office doesn't do it!  And so it has continued each day of December.  Each card comes with a note in rhyme inside, no less - variations on the Twelve Days of Christmas.  It. Is. AWESOME and so is she!

 ~ I am fortunate enough to regularly rub internet elbows with some very classy blogging type dames.  Two in particular that I'd like to bring to your attention at the moment are Margaret from Nanny Goats in Panties and Anna from Life Just Keeps Getting Weirder.  The reason I'd like to bring these fantabulous broads to your attention isn't because they're sidesplittingly hilarious (which they are) or because they're foxy as all get out (which, obviously - have you seen Anna's moustache?) but because these two are giving away animals on their blogs right now.  For real - they've each partnered with Oxfam America to give away livestock (in Margaret's case, a goat, naturally, and in Anna's case, a sheep) to people who need it most.  Since I'm not nearly as cool, hilarious or foxy as Margaret or Anna, I'm not doing any such giveaway myself here on my little corner o' the blogosphere, but please, please, please stop by their blogs and participate in their giveaways (linked above) and support an organization as awesome as Oxfam America.  Charitable giving, especially of the sheep or goat sort, is AWESOME.

~ Another blogopshere goddess I adore is Aunt Becky of Mommy Wants Vodka fame.  The reason I am listing Aunt Becky now isn't for her full-of-the-awesome MWV blog, but for another blog she founded and runs that is super-duper-full-of-the-awesome.  This blog is called Band Back Together, and in Aunt Becky's words,
"Sometimes, you’re alone in the dark. You stumble around, breaking things, smashing your legs and arms into furniture and walls and crying because just minutes before you could see perfectly dammit! But there you are, alone in the dark.

Soon, though, your eyes adjust, and you begin to see vague outlines. Shapes emerge in the darkness, looming up around you. Everything is closing in around you. The walls have teeth. The darkness is omnipresent and it is terrifying.

Just then, as you feel the darkness overtaking you, a light is flipped on and you are bathed in it. You can feel the light all around you and it is warm and it is good. Your skin warms as you feel the darkness slipping away, inch by inch. Yes, there will always be a piece of that darkness inside you. You cannot go through hell without absorbing some darkness.

But the light will sustain you and carry you through."
Band Back Together is a place to be that light, give that light, soak up that light.  It is open for anyone to share their story or to lend an ear, shoulder or words of support to someone else.  I strongly urge you to check it out, because it is AWESOME.

Food that is Awesome:

~ December is the time of year when Perry's Ice Cream puts out their limited edition flavor, Peppermint Stick.  Peppermint Stick ice cream, drizzled with a generous amount of chocolate syrup, is heaven in a bowl.  I've tried other peppermint ice creams and none can compare to Perry's.  I even have been known to pay full price for a carton of Perry's Peppermint Stick, and full price Perry's is ridonkulously expensive. That is how awesome it is.  (And the fact that, per their website, Perry's Ice Cream is supporting The Make-A-Wish® Season of Wishes™ campaign by donating a portion of the proceeds from each package sold of popular Limited Edition Peppermint Stick ice cream to fund a child’s wish just makes it that much more awesome and makes paying the ridonkulously pricey price a little easier to swallow.  Especially when drizzled with a generous amount of chocolate sauce....)

~ A month or two ago, a Boy Scout rang my doorbell with his popcorn sales materials in hand.  Now, I am a fool for popcorn and a sucker for kids, so I said I'd buy something and scanned the offerings.  Well, my eyebrows kept creeping higher and higher up my forehead as I perused the items for sale - I am used to the Girl Scout cookies at a (relatively) measly $3.50 a box, and MAN everything on the Boy Scouts' sheet was a LOT pricier!  I finally found the cheapest thing on there, ordered it and forked over the $10.  (Hey, don't judge - that'd be almost THREE boxes of Thin Mints, y'all.)  I then found myself the proud owner of one three pound bag of popcorn kernels.  I usually spend a dollar and change for a bag o' kernels.  This was more than three times that.

Now, I love popcorn.  I mean, love popcorn.  Popcorn is to snacks what December is to months for getting mail.  I bust out my air popper and make up a nice salty, buttery batch of freshly popped corn deliciousness several times a week.  So, I knew I'd use this popcorn eventually.  I will admit, though, that I was bitter.  Resentful of this popcorn.  "Gourmet popcorn?" I sneered to myself, the bag and to Hubby.  "How flipping gourmet can a bunch of corn kernels be, for Pete's sake?"  I refused to open up the new bag until I'd used up the bag I'd already had, and then the day came. Grudgingly, I got the bag out of the cabinet and opened it up, pouring the kernels into my popper.

I didn't want it to be good.  I wanted to be able to scoff at and mock the overpriced popcorn, even if it meant calling myself out for the sucker that I was for buying it in the first place.  I eyeballed my popper skeptically as it began to heat the kernels up.  They began to rise up through the chamber of the popper and tumble fragrantly out into the bowl.  They looked..... fluffy.  Large.  Fancy.  Still dubious, I buttered and salted the bowl as usual and took a bite.

It. Was.  AWESOME. Dagnabit.

Hubby asked me, a few days and bowls later, whether the fancy popcorn was in fact all that and a bag of chips (or whatever the hip-n-groovy youngsters are saying instead these days. The whippersnappers!  Also: Hubby did not actually use the phrase all that and a bag of chips.  That is merely my paraphrasing of his question.  Hubby would not want me putting such, ahem, hip-n-groovy words in his mouth).  I had to confess that YES, in fact this was the BEST popcorn I'd ever popped.

You can, therefore, imagine my great chagrin a few weeks later, when I wandered upstairs on a Saturday afternoon to take a little snooze while Hubby and Kiddo curled up on the couch to watch one of the Star Wars movies.  (Yes, Hubby has created a pint sized Star Wars buff in his own image - Kiddo loves Star Wars.  LOVES loves Star Wars.  Kiddo wants to be addressed only as Teebo the Ewok now.  The other day, she unironically quoted Yoda to me at the breakfast table.  But I digress...)  Well, I woke up a few hours later and came back downstairs to see the remnants of a popcorn snack in the sink.  Hubby passed through the kitchen moments later and broke the news: he and Kiddo had finished off the Boy Scout Popcorn.  That?  SO NOT AWESOME.  I was sad and resentful of my lot, stuck as I was now with the pitiful, lame, unfluffy, small, unfancy popcorn.  I figured I'd reacclimate eventually to my usual popcorn, but I didn't, not for weeks now.  

Fortunately, Kiddo's grandmother had the same exact situation at her house, as it turns out.  A neighborhood Boy Scout rang her bell and she, being an equal sucker for kids, bought the cheapest thing she could find on his sheet..... the popcorn kernels!  Better yet, Kiddo's grandparents don't eat popcorn!  They don't even own a popper!  So it was with great glee that I received their 3lb bag of awesome popcorn from them the other day and carried it home singing hosannas in four part harmony (no mean feat when there's just one of me, but I was that happy).  I was briefly tempted to parcel out the popcorn, to make it last, but I just can't do it.  No, I will enjoy bowlful after bowlful and then one day, a howl of misery shall ring out across the frozen, snowy tundra that is western, upstate New York for I will have finished off this second 3lb bag, too.

~ Cheesy Eddie's Carrot Cake.  Amazing morsels of delicious awesomeness that I hope to be cramming down my rapidly aging gullet come Tuesday, after blowing out enough candles to be visible from outer space.


Media Things That Are Awesome:

(I will confess in this section that I am in fact a day or three late and at least a dollar fifty short when it comes to the Latest and Greatest happenings on Ye Olde Interwebz.  Bear with me on that point, mmmkay?)

~ This one is in honor of my friend Andy, aka The Creative Junkie.  Andy shares a dream with me, you see.  No, not the Anderson Cooper covered in Nutella dream, that's hers alone as (a) I don't think Anderson plays for the correct team for this scenario and (b) I'm not really a Nutella fan.  No, she shares the dream with me of some day being involved in a flash mob.  She's blogged about it more than once, most recently right here.

Well, my dear Andy, this is for you: Improv Everywhere.  Check out their missions - the musical in the grocery store or at the mall food court.  The high fiving on the subway.  The dude who got "lost" at the Knicks game.  The Ghostbusters reenactment at the NY Public Library.  I have never wanted to live in NYC more than I do now, so that I could be an Agent in one of their missions.  A flash mob of one singing in the bulk foods aisle of Wegmans just doesn't have the same......... cachet.  Panache.  Verve.  Sense.

~ Speaking of flash mobs, didja see the one Mitchell participated in on Modern Family?  Because Modern Family is absolutely chock-full of AWESOME.  It is as hilarious as it is full of heart.  If you haven't watched Modern Family, or even if you have, take yourself over here to Hulu and watch the awesomeness.  Just make sure you have a comfy chair because you won't want to get up until you've watched every last minute of every episode! 

~ Since we can't spend our entire lives with our eyes glued to a screen, I'm also calling "AWESOME" on Pandora radio, specifically the holiday stations.  I made my own holiday station by plugging in my favorite artists and have thus been spared having to hear the utter dreck known as The Christmas Shoes or the insidious earworm of Feliz Navidad ever again.  Well, at least when my iPod is in range of the wifi.  It has made for a very happy aural holiday season this year.

Well, that concludes The Awesome List right now.  If I think of any more Things that are Awesome, I may do a Part Deux.  In the meantime, anyone care to chime in with something Awesome from your world?  How about holiday cards - love 'em, hate 'em, never send 'em, always send 'em?  Ever seen a flash mob live?  Ever been in one?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble, gobble!

(Above is this year's Kiddo and the Turkey photo.  You can check out previous years' editions here.)

We were supposed to have my sister, brother-in-law and nephews with us for Thanksgiving this year.  They were supposed to come up last year, too, but illness prevented them from making the trip (it was the dreaded swine flu, which had felled our house over Halloween).  This year, my sister and I kept careful watch on the kids, and no one was appearing germy, so we thought we were good to go.  A decently sized turkey and inordinate amounts of potatoes and broccoli were purchased and stored.  Fixings for pies were gathered.  The guest bed was unearthed from beneath the piles of clothes I'd been sorting upon it, beds were made up, the house was cleaned.  On the other end, my sister was packing up clothes and dog gear, making sandwiches and loading the cooler.  

You know where this is going, right?  Yep.  Late Tuesday afternoon, less than 18 hours before they were planning to leave, one of my nephews got sick.  Not just a little sick, either, but majorly sick.  Once again, the Thanksgiving trip had to be canceled.  Many tears were shed by the cousins here and in Jersey, and much disappointment and sadness felt by the grown-ups, too, but what can you do?  A sick kid is a sick kid and we all know you can't travel 6-8 hours with a really sick kid.  At least we will see them in a month at Christmas...

In a "making lemons out of lemonade" - or, more accurately, a "uh-oh, how are we going to eat a 16 pound bird plus four pounds of potatoes, stuffing and broccoli apiece" moment - I called up some friends who were neither traveling or cooking Thanksgiving this year and invited them to join us.  Happily, they agreed to spend their holiday with us here at Chez Smith, so I will not need to see if it is, in fact, physically possible to burst the drawstring on my yoga pants by sheer carbohydrate ingestion.  (Oh, and did I mention the pies?  I made two - apple and pecan.  Even did the apple pie's crust from scratch.  Go me!)

So, we will have a table full of friends and food in just a few short hours.  Wherever and however you plan to spend the day, I hope it is likewise full of family, friends, food and fun.  Also, if you have a pair of Thanksgiving pants, I am majorly jealous.

Gobble, gobble!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A truly remarkable woman

Earlier this evening, a dear friend of mine, with whom I worked years ago, sent me a link to a newspaper article about a woman who had just passed away.  She sent me this link because we knew this woman back when we worked together at Syracuse University.  This woman, Kathy Urschel, was a graduate student at SU then, and worked in our office for a while as a graduate assistant.  At the time (this was the early 90s), Kathy and I became friends.  We'd have lunch together when schedules permitted and we'd certainly chat (I've always been a talker - and so was Kathy!) a lot whenever she was in the office as well.  She was a hoot, funny and quick-witted and had a keen sense of observation that could leave me rolling in laughter in an instant.

Eventually, I left Syracuse, got married, moved around and lost touch with Kathy somewhere along the way.  I still thought of her from time to time over the past 16 years, and at one point (still in the early days of the internet and email) exchanged letters with her to reconnect and catch up.  Even with the passing of time since we last were in touch, I was greatly, greatly saddened to read this beautifully written article about my former friend when it arrived in my inbox tonight.  You see, Kathy Urschel was, simply put, one of the most amazing people I've ever known.  I found the following video clip that sums up her story, in her own words, better than I ever could:

The last time I saw Kathy was the summer before my wedding.  We had lunch together, picking up sandwiches from the place next door to my office and eating them on a bench on SU's main quad.  We basked in the sunshine of that midsummer day.  We talked about wedding plans and she asked me all about my newly chosen wedding dress.  It was the week before I was leaving Syracuse, and we promised each other we'd keep in touch.  Tonight, I'm left wishing I had taken the time to track her down and catch up again, now that it is too late.  Just a few months ago, I was telling my daughter about her and the thought crossed my mind to Google her and try to track her down.  I added it to my mental list of things to do and never got around to it.  Please, if you have a few minutes, read about Kathy's life and accomplishments.  She was such a remarkable human being, and I'm proud to say that she once was my friend.

Rest in peace, Kath. 

Monday, November 8, 2010

A little spy FYI

Earlier today, I came across the following piece of paper, tucked amongst a pile of books and magazines on the family room coffee table:

Now you know that if you happen upon a person wearing funny glasses, fake paper mustaches and old costumes, they just might be a spy in disguise.

You're welcome.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My haunted apartment

I moved into my first apartment back when I was in college.  It was the summer after my sophomore year, and a really good friend of mine and I decided we'd had enough of the dorms and found an apartment together near campus for the following year.  It was the first apartment for both of us, and I will admit I felt quite grown-up, signing a lease and paying rent and all.  (I was all of 19 at the time.)  We'd looked at several apartments, but with our budgetary constraints, most of the nice ones were well out of our reach.  We settled on a two bedroom, one bath on the outskirts of what was considered the "University" neighborhood - more grad students than undergrads were found living that far away.  The neighborhood was, how shall I put it?  BohemianArtsySketchy.  The building was right off a street that was known for its shops, bars and theaters - all of the decidedly alternative variety.  In short, had my parents driven up from Jersey to check out our proposed abode before we signed the lease, I don't think I would've signed the lease.  I probably would've found myself living in a dorm for another year.

That's not to say that the apartment was a total dive, mind you.  At least, I've seen worse.  It was on the second floor of a three story building - an actual apartment building, not a converted house, as so many of the student rentals were in that town.  The apartment's best feature was its HUGE living room with large windows and an interesting (albeit dingy with age) black-and-white tiled floor.  We envisioned turning the apartment into a 20s Art Deco style showplace, though that didn't get any farther than buying some black and white sheets with which to cover the hideous couches and black and white plates and mugs for the kitchen.

Annnnnyhow, it was not a bad place, despite the .........colorful neighborhood, and we happily moved in and went about our lives.  Thanks to Google Maps and my ridiculously good longterm memory, I can show you a picture of the building:

Now, this was an older building (as evidenced by the picture above).  Having grown up in a very old farmhouse (as in: 1740s vintage), I was used to the quirks an old building can have.  You know, the occasional creak or squeak or dripping faucet... None of that sort of thing fazed me in the least.  After a few years of living with roommates, I was used to those sorts of quirks, as well - a light left on here, a door left ajar there, things taken out and not put back exactly where they had been before.  No big whoop.  So, a few weeks into the semester, my roommate and I attended a party at a home occupied by a bunch of grad students (friends of her boyfriend's) that was in the same neighborhood.  In the course of chatting with some of these people, it came up that we lived just up the road.  Someone asked us where, specifically, and when we told him, he said to us "Oh, the haunted building on the corner?"

Haunted building?  Did he just say haunted building?

Yep, that's what he said.  We tried to inquire further, but the noise level and his alcohol level made getting solid details mostly impossible.  He and the group of people we were standing with all nodded vigorously in agreement that our building was most definitely said to be haunted, that much was clear.  My roommate went off in search of her boyfriend at that point, and it wasn't until later when he was walking us home that I realized how upset she was over the news.  I shrugged it off for the most part, chalking it up to a local urban legend at best.

Except all of a sudden, those creaks and squeaks and things that went bump in the night seemed a bit more.....ominous.  The faucet that would start running in the bathroom or kitchen sinks wasn't as easily dismissed as "Oh, she must've left the water running."  Ditto for the lights that we could've sworn we turned off at night before retiring to our respective bedrooms and then find on the next day.  Neither of us were prone to sleepwalking, much less sleep-dishwashing or sleep-toothbrushing, so finding the tap running or a light on in the morning began becoming more and more disconcerting.

Then, it happened.  I was home at the apartment alone one evening, my roommate having gone over to her boyfriend's place for dinner.  Around 10pm, she called me to say that she was staying over there, so I could put the chain on the door, which I went and did as soon as I got off the phone.  I decided to go to bed shortly thereafter, checking the lock and chain on the door, making sure all lights and taps and everything were off, and closing my bedroom door behind me.

Now, I am a sound sleeper.  One might say I sleep like the dead, even.  But that night, something woke me up around 3 am.  I sat up in bed, trying to figure out what it had been.  (Our upstairs neighbors favored loud, heavy metal music and seemed to have footwear solely composed of cement blocks.)  As I came fully awake, I realized I could hear noise coming from the living room.  I got up, turned on my bedroom light, opened the door and found the stereo was on.  The stereo that I had not been listening to before going to bed - I'd had the TV on - was on and set to the radio (I'd been listening to a cassette earlier in the day, so the knob had not been set to "tuner" when I'd shut it off hours before.)

I chose not to think about how and why it was on and instead rushed across the room and shut it off, then ran back into my bedroom, shutting the door behind me, and got back in bed.  Eventually, I fell asleep again.  When I next woke up, it was a little after 7 in the morning.  I got up, opened my door and............. the radio was on again.  On and turned to a station that played jazz way down at the other end of the dial, far from any of the rock stations my roommate and I preferred.  Also, the chairs that had been pushed in under the dining room table against the opposite wall were pulled out, away from the table, and set together a few feet into the living room, facing the windows.  As though someone had wanted to sit and admire the view while listening to some jazz.

In the light of day, I didn't feel nearly as freaked out, so I bravely marched across the room, switched the radio back to our preferred station and then shut it off and moved the chairs back to where they belonged.  I checked once again - all the windows were shut and locked (and besides, we were on a second floor apartment with no fire escapes or other easy means of reaching them), and the door was locked with the chain still on.  At first I was convinced my roommate had come home, somehow gotten in to the apartment despite the chain and had been messing with me.  This wasn't at all her style, but still.  Just to be on the safe side, I called her up over at her boyfriend's apartment.  Nope, she hadn't been home - in fact, I woke them up by calling.  I explained to her what I'd discovered overnight and that morning, thoroughly freaking her out in the process.  She never spent another night in our apartment the rest of the lease without her boyfriend sleeping over, and more nights than not she wound up spending at his place or going home to her parents' house, as they lived nearby.  I, on the other hand, continued to live in the apartment with whatever (whomever?) else had been there before our lease.  I'd even occasionally chastise them aloud for leaving a light on or the tap running, since the utility bills were only being split two ways.  Other than trying to avoid the laundry facilities in the basement unless it was daylight (the basement was spooky in and of itself, haunted or otherwise), I had no major issues with our building's other tenants, human or ......?  Throughout the remainder of the lease, lights would be turned on - usually in the bathroom or kitchen, and taps would be turned on in the sinks and occasionally the tub.  Every now and again, a drawer or cabinet in the kitchen would be open.  Things didn't always turn up where we thought we'd left them.  A few times, small things went missing - loose change, pens, that sort of thing.  

Did we have ghosts sharing the apartment with us?  I couldn't say for sure.  I will say that whatever dwelled there (beyond the death metal Neanderthals upstairs) was fairly benign.  Nothing malicious or harmful ever transpired in the apartment, beyond the slightly higher utility bills.  I never did find out the story behind the building's supposed haunting.  I'm still curious, though...  So, what about you?  Do you believe in ghosts and hauntings?  Have you ever shared a home with a poltergeist?  Can you come up with a more rational explanation for the goings-on in our apartment that year?

And on that note, Happy Halloween to you and yours from me and mine!  I'll leave you with our jack o'lantern for this year, carved by Hubby and Kiddo (I do NOT do pumpkin guts) earlier this afternoon:


Thursday, October 14, 2010

One way to cure the blahs

So, I've been having a bit of a blah day.  It started out with not wanting to get out of my toasty, snuggly bed while it was still dark outside, but I had to get up and get Kiddo up and at 'em and off to school, so up I got, while Hubby rolled over and went back to sleep for a few more minutes.  *grumble*  While walking through the still-dark house to get to the living room light, I stepped in something cold, wet and oozy - cat hairball.  *grumble grumble*  Kiddo was spectacularly grouchy and griped about every.  Single.  Thing.  From her breakfast to her clothes to her hair, she moaned and dragged, requiring me to have to prod and cajole and, okay, nag to get her rear in gear and out to the bus.  *grumble grumble grumble*  Then, due to my Man Hands With Sausage Fingers, I apparently had entered the wrong time on my iPod Touch (darn that little scrolly-wheel thingy!) when I got the email with the shift assignments and thus, showed up an hour late for my volunteer shift at class pictures, missing Kiddo's class's turn in the process.  *grumble grumble grumble grumble*  Top that all off with the weather, which is gray and rainy, and by midafternoon I was ready to just crawl back into bed and try for a do-over on today, or just sleep through until tomorrow, whichever occurred first.  Seeing as how neither of those options were practical or possible, I went another route.

I did this:
and then, when Kiddo got home from school

I had this ready to go:

(Side note: Great Value brand marshmallows, which are Walmart's generic brand, are the only marshmallows I can find that do not contain artificial food coloring.  Isn't that nuts?  Seriously, every other white marshmallows, from store generic to fancy-pants brand, contain blue food dye.)

Once we had all the elements in place

we got to work -

and then partook of the deliciousness..........

And that?  Cures the blahs just about as well as anything else I could think of (short of crawling back into bed and/or having Hugh Jackman and George Clooney show up on my doorstep to engage in a serenade duel while bearing flowers and chocolate) today.  Plus, I've got a pot roast in the crock pot, so no fussing at the stove for dinner.  I have to go to a PTSA meeting over at Kiddo's school tonight, but I won't think about heading out into the cold and wet again just yet.  I think I'll toast myself just one more marshmallow first...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sick Day

This picture was taken about 20 minutes ago.  This scene is a vast improvement over Saturday night-Sunday morning,, which began with the chilling words "I just threw up - in my sleep" called weakly and tearily down the stairs to where Hubby and I were sitting on the couch watching a movie.  Hubby took the worse of the two clean-up tasks, taking care of her bed and its various casualties (there were several of the Stuffed Animal variety) while I took care of getting Kiddo cleaned up and tucked into bed in the guest room.  Once everything was all squared away, we returned to our movie, though with a few more cases of Filmus Interruptus due to Vomitus Childus, I'm left wondering if I've judged Paul Blart, Mall Cop a bit unfairly...

The Vomitus Childus continued throughout the night, I think six times in all.  A bleary-eyed call to the pediatrician Sunday morning confirmed that yes, there is a bad stomach bug going around, with the silver lining that it has been lasting no more than 24-36 hours.  (I, of course, instantly suspected our old enemy, strep throat, as Kiddo has proven especially susceptible to strep over the years and for her, strep = major barfage.)  We stayed in yesterday, watching Annie and E.T. while snuggled on the couch, and yes, I cried while watching E.T. as I always do.  It's this scene that gets me every time:

(I'm a bit misty-eyed just looking at that still photo.  Yeesh.)

So, here we are today, Kiddo home and tucked in on the couch, both in our jammies, with the fire crackling and a pile of books by our sides.  My schedule for the day had to be rearranged - I had meetings to attend and errands I was intending to run - but such is life, right?  I can think of worse ways to spend a dreary Monday, anyhow.  Well, so long as we don't get another round of Vomitus Childus that is.......

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Haiku: Almost perfect Saturday morning

All slept in til eight.
First fire of the fall roaring.
Just need some bacon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Should I cue up the Chicken Dance or hit publish?

So as I mentioned in my previous post, something bad did happen while we were on vacation last month.  I've been pondering whether I have the guts to post this, but now that I've actually been called out as a chicken by my friend Andy, who begged me to blog about this once she'd finished laughing her head off at me as I told her the story (really now, I share my deepest, darkest vacation horror story and she just flails about laughing.  Not a dollop of sympathy for my plight), I feel that I have no choice.

I'm warning you up front, any men who might read my blog regularly, occasionally or who accidentally stumble upon this whilst doing some creepo pervy Google search: this is NOT what you want to be reading.  Promise.  If you have never owned your own set of ovaries, do yourself a favor and move on.  Seriously.

Now that it's just us girls in here, I shall begin my Tale of Horror and Woe.

A few days before vacation, Kiddo, her grandma and I hit the outlet mall for some back to school shopping.  This was necessary because Kiddo decided to outgrow the sneakers we'd gotten for her in April, going through just one size in a year apparently not being good enough for her.  Annnnyhow, while we were there, I popped into the Jockey outlet, because I needed new undies and the outlet is my favorite (read: cheapest) place to get them.  I've worn plain, cotton, Jockey for Her undies for years now.  Decades, even.  So, we ducked into the shop, Kiddo on the verge of totally losing her shizzle, all of us low on shopping energy and motivation and hungry for lunch and I just wanted to grab what I needed and go.  I made my way back to the large display area where row after row of multipack Jockey for Hers can be found.  I paused briefly, trying to remember exactly which style it is I prefer.  (I once bought the wrong style and spent the next several months always feeling like the lower-riding-than-my-usual-kind-of-undies were falling down.  Way uncomfortable.)  My eye finally fell upon the kind I prefer, so I grabbed two boxes from the row with my size and headed to the register.  The next day, Hubby did all the pre-trip laundry (yes, I have that awesome a husband, y'all - he does the laundry all the time!) and when I went to pack, I found my new undies (including some colored ones for a change of pace - red!  Blue!  Red and blue paisley!) neatly folded and awaiting me.  I promptly packed those along with a couple other, older pairs out of my drawer and thought that was that.

Then I woke up that first morning of vacation in the hotel and grabbed a pair of my new undies out of the drawer.  "Hmmmmm," I thought to myself, "these seem a big bigger than usual."  I chalked it up to their being new and therefore not shrunken from being washed a thousand and ten times and hopped into the shower.  When it came time to get dressed, I stepped into them.  They were definitely...............roomier than I recalled.  Uh-oh.  I pulled on my shorts and discovered that once I'd fastened them, my new undies were showing above the waistband.  Well, not so much showing as billowing above the waistband of my shorts.  As in a few good inches of underwear material.  Ack.  I found myself tucking my underwear back into my shorts (because what is more comfortable in the heat of late summer Florida, not to mention more slimming, than having a few extra inches of fabric jammed about your midsection?) and trying to get on with my day.

Okay, menfolk, if you ignored me before and are still reading, seriously, you may want to check out for the rest of this.  It's not for you.  This is your last chance to bail out.

So, ladies, it turned out our trip coincided with that certain time of the month and as such, I had to utilize certain items in these voluminous drawers of mine.  Now, I prefer the external, winged variety of such items.  I had attempted to affix one of such items securely to the pertinent section of my, okay, I'm just gonna say it, my granny bloomers.  Off we went to the parks for a day of fun and excitement.  As we were walking from one thing to the next, I felt an odd sensation.  As though something had............. shifted.  Come unstuck, as it were.  And it had.  It had, I mean.  Unfortunately, it only came unstuck for the briefest of moments before resticking itself, backwards.

I'm going to give you a moment here to envision exactly to what the resticking occurred.  You with me?  Yep, I'm going to guess you are.

I shifted about as discreetly as possible, but no amount of shifting was going to help and in fact any and all movement was further complicating the situation.  I told Hubby I had to utilize the facilities, insisted on leaving Kiddo with him (as she normally accompanies me not only into the bathroom whenever we're out someplace in public, but also into the stall with me), and made my way as gingerly and speedily as I could to the nearest ladies' room. Yes, walking was trickier than usual in this situation.  In the stall, I discovered that what I had suspected was correct.  Egads.  I proceeded to cowboy up (no need to put on my big girl panties - already had that taken care of, now didn't I?) and rectify the situation as quickly and quietly as possible.

You know how painful it is to wax your eyebrows, or perhaps your upper lip?  This?  A thousand times worse.  If ever I had contemplated waxing anything below my chin (which I haven't, for the record), I am now soundly convinced not to, ever ever ever.  

When we got home, I pulled out a pair of the same style undies and checked the tags.  Turned out the granny bloomers I'd inadvertently bought were three sizes larger than my normal size.

(The black pair actually fit me.  The paisleys?  Not so much.)

Of course now that they'd been opened, washed and some worn, I can't exactly return them.  So now I know I'll be all set if I ever want to, say, go hang gliding or parasailing or if Kiddo wants a new swing for the backyard... and thus concludes my Tale of Vacation Woe, also known as How to Achieve a Partial Brazilian While Wearing a Ginormous Pair of Drawers. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

So, a week ago yesterday we got home from our best family vacation yet.  It was our annual End of Summer trip to Walt Disney World.  (In case you weren't already aware, the entire Smith family *big, red, puffy hearts* Walt Disney World.)  We really had a ridiculously spectacular time.  

We had a totally awesome room with a view in Kidani Village at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort....
We were chosen, out of the blue, to be the First Family of the Day one morning at Epcot:

Then, two days later, we got up slightly before the crack of dawn, put on our homemade, matching, bright yellow Disney shirts and headed out to the Magic Kingdom in the hopes of being chosen as First Family of the Day, but knowing that lightning doesn't often strike twice.  We were the first people onto the first monorail of the day and then the first people in line at the turnstiles.  We chatted with a lovely Cast Member (as all Disney employees are called) who worked at the turnstiles.  We were chosen.  It.  Was.  Amazing!!! 

First, Kiddo was given her very own envelope of pixie dust.  Then, we were taken on a tour through the Magic Kingdom in the antique fire truck, before the park opened.  The Cast Member giving us the tour even let Kiddo get behind the wheel...

It was a good thing the park was empty at that point!

We were hanging out in front of Mickey's house in Toontown when all of a sudden, a whole gang of characters (and I mean characters) showed up:

After shmoozing with the gang for a bit, we all boarded the train together...

The train pulled out of Toontown and made its way to the front of the park.  Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit were seated in the row directly behind us, and Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen (who, btw, *hubba hubba hubba* - total hottie!) and Chip & Dale were also in our car.  Kiddo chatted with all of them, cracking up Alice, Tiana and Naveen several times, but she was mostly enthralled by her new BFF:

Before we knew it, we were approaching the train station at Main St. USA and rolling right into the middle of the morning opening show - a show we've seen countless times before (we're diehard Rope Droppers) and a show to which we know every note and word of the medley.  It was surreal pulling in to the station and being part of the show instead of just a spectator singing along from down in the crowd.  (Not that I did, you know, sing along or anything.  Okay, fine, I did.  I sang a few bars as we stepped onto the platform.  But I didn't project or anything, nor did I engage in any dance moves.)

We were introduced to the crowd and got ready to officially open the park for the day by counting down with Mickey:

After we opened the park, we had a little more quality time with the big Cheese and one last photo op -

and then we had to say goodbye to Mickey because he had places to be and people to see.  It was a somewhat bittersweet parting.

Being First Family of the Day at the Magic Kingdom was really a dream come true.  It was so incredibly cool and fun and we wish we had a video recording of every single second of it.  We did luck out in that a woman who belongs to a Disney-related message board that Hubby frequents happened to be in the crowd at Rope Drop that day and she sent us the video of the show portion, which was so awesome of her - a total stranger! - to do for us and we were so psyched to get.

Besides the Nothing Will Ever Top This Unless We Get to Have a Dinner with George Clooney and Hugh Jackman Instead of all the Princesses aspects of the trip, there was all the usual fun.

The traditional spin on the Flying Dumbos...
Kiddo and I also did our traditional self portrait while riding the boat across the lagoon to the World Showcase at Epcot -
We met lots of various characters, royal or otherwise:

We ate lots of fantabulous food -

Teppan Edo, one of our all-time favorite WDW restaurants

Hubby pretending he's eating all the table's bread pudding at 'Ohana

dessert at the 50s Prime Time Cafe

Hmmm, I seem to have mostly photographed desserts.  We ate lots of great other food, too, including steak and shrimp and lots of fruits and veggies.

Of course, there were also the rides.............

This ride is the Astro Orbiter.  Yes, it really is that high up. I refuse to ride this one anymore, and so was photographing with both feet safely on the (two stories up) platform.

Kiddo decided she was "big enough" and "brave enough" to ride some rides that in previous trips, she hasn't liked at all, namely Expedition Everest, the Tower of Terror and Dinosaur.  Now, I was quite skeptical about this, since she had most recently tried EE and ToT just last summer, but Hubby thought it was great that she wanted to try them again and so, she did.  And she hated each one.  Again.  (And yes, I might have unleashed an "I told you so!" or three, too.  Le sigh.)  One of her favorite rides at WDW, however, is Splash Mountain.  (It's actually a family favorite!)  Kiddo was clamoring to go on it the very afternoon we first arrived in Orlando, so we did.  Hubby brought along our new waterproof video camera and aimed it back over his shoulder at Kiddo and me when we reached the summit and took the first plunge on Splash Mountain for this trip.  Following, you will find a chronological series of stills taken from a maybe 5-6 second long segment of that video footage, starring Kiddo (and portions of my left boob):


Isn't that something, how Kiddo goes from giddy with joy to sheer terror back to giddy with joy again in a few second span?  In the last two frames, she is actually complaining that she didn't get wet enough and was still so dry that she wanted to go again.  So we did.  Several more times over our trip, as it turns out, and we recorded a few other splashdowns in this same manner.  Kiddo has the same gamut of emotions each time.  (Taken out of context, of course, there are a few stills there that might be alarming, but when you look at them in context or see the video footage - which Hubby has yet to edit and convert or whatever it is he needs to do to render it playable on the interwebz - it isn't so much alarming as it is just hilarious.  Even Kiddo cracks up watching it.)

As you can see from all the pictures above, for this pixie-dust sprinkled trip, there was sunshine the entire time.  The pool was delightful, all the folks we were seated with at the different restaurants were good company, the crowds were light to nonexistent.  There was nary a bad thing to be said for this particular vacation (besides the occasional blister from all that walking in sneakers while sweating profusely in the late summer, Central Florida heat).  Well, okay, there was one bad thing, and I promised my friend Andy I'd blog about it, so here goes, for those of you who are still reading all the way to this point.

Kiddo was eaten by a shark.

No, really, she was - look:

Okay, okay, fine, she wasn't.  I mean, she was, but it was just Bruce and he knows better, so he spit her back out pronto.  She's a bony little toothpick, anyhow, hardly an appetizer for a big shark like him.

There was something else that happened, but it deserves its own post - or rather, my fantabulous and lengthy vacation recap post deserves to stand on its own and not have the Vacation Tale of Feminine Woe spadged on to the end of it.  (In other words, yes, Andy, I'm chickening out.  For now - I cut and pasted the VToFW into a draft and will do a separate post soon.  I promise.)  

So, for now, I will leave you with fireworks over the castle and an end to the recap of our best vacation, ever!