Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve at Grandma's

Every year, for decades, my grandmother has thrown a Christmas Eve party in her basement bar. The basement is decorated for Christmas 365 days a year just for the party because why take it down if you're just going to put it back it up? Here's a few of last night's highlights.

Here's mom looking healthy and happy! What a beautiful sight that is!
And my dad surveying the bartenders and making sure they are doing an adequate job.
The bartenders are usually The Man and The Brother-In-Law, but pretty much anyone who wanders back there can have the job.

Like this favorite fellow of mine. We have way too many pictures like this I'm afraid. They will come back to haunt us. I have no doubt.
The sister won the first game of Left Right Center and was fairly pleased with herself about it. The Brother appears to be trying to bit off a finger.
The Girl won the second game with a come out of nowhere last minute move.
And my godfather solved both of these bar puzzle games one right after the other. He actually got five of them before the evening was over but other people had to mess with them before I could get photographic proof.

But the best part of the party is seeing the family I only get to see on Christmas Eve. It ends up being a mini family reunion with lots of kisses and long hugs.

Merry Christmas to all three of you! I hope your Christmas season is full of beautiful moments!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Following the paper trail

We recycle quite a bit around here. Curbside recycling takes away the plastic, glass, aluminum and steel. We set out one big blue bag every other week with all of that.

We save all of the cardboard boxes that we acquire in a spot in the basement until the mountain reaches a critical mass. Then they get flattened and take a ride to the cardboard recycling bin a few blocks away. You might remember an earlier post about me finally giving up saving cardboard. It's still a difficult thing for me to do.

We have a bag under the kitchen sink where we collect all of our dead batteries from various gizmos. When that bag gets full enough (or breaks open and spills batteries everywhere) we take it up to the library where they have a collection bucket for them.

Old clothes go to Goodwill. Household knick-knacks go there as well if they don't sell on Ebay first. The Man and The Boy have a big pile of found metal in the backyard that they haul up to the salvage place for cash.

But this post today is about paper. The thing that we are most successful at recycling is paper. No one is more devoted to recycling paper than we. Every sheet, scrap, envelope, ad and magazine goes into our paper recycling bin.

Our recycling bin is a good sized box. I'm not exactly sure how long it takes us to fill it but it's not very long. Then it gets to the point where it's overfilled and someone says, "We really need to get to paper recycling." And then some more time passes and the paper has started an annex in a bag beside the bin and someone else might say, "We HAVE GOT to get to paper recycling."

This time around was the absolute worst. We have never been so lax in taking the paper away. It's been weeks of us saying that it had to go but not being taken. Finally today it looked like this:

It's the overfilled bin and FIVE extra bags!

The Man and I finally packed it all into the van and drove it one block to the paper recycling bin.

The schools in the city have a yearly contest on paper collecting. The school with the most tonnage by the end of the year wins cash from the recycling people. Our favorite school wins every year. I like to think that the paper we collect at home is the the factor that pushes the total over the top.
After we did this little chore, we went to vote. Our mayor is facing a recall and the special election is today. The wording on the ballot said, "Shall he be allowed to remain as mayor?" Pretty grim way to say it. By this time tomorrow we will know if he shall or not.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sketchy Santas

Enjoy this little montage I found. The song is a perfect fit with the pictures. The baby who turns and looks around 0:59 is The Girl's favorite. The Santas wearing masks are way too creepy for me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Cards

Have you ever see a person at the post office who appears to be doing all their paperwork for the whole year right there in the lobby? They got piles of stuff spread from one end to the other? They are shuffling though things and mumbling to themselves? That was me getting my Christmas cards ready. I had them almost good to go except for adding the picture. But instead of picking up my pictures andthen doing it all at home, I consolidated my trips and put everything together on that long blue counter at the post office. I even took the one chair they provide. I couldn't have the entire counter though because there was someone else doing the same thing only they were adding stamps. Luckily, my envelopes were self-seal. I would have really put on a show if I have to lick them all closed.

I had to go to another holiday program at a different school yesterday. That's four shows in one December which ties a previous record. This show did not have the band and orchestra unfortunately. This was only kindergartners and first graders. It involved lots of props and interpretative dance and was winter themed instead of Christmas. Mostly the show focused on the music teacher trying to explain the pieces intermixed with her trying to hush the crowd. Strange show all the way around.

Yesterday was my last work day of the year. The phone rang this morning and I just let it go. The zombies are getting just to squirrelly to deal with. Besides that The Girl and Boy are on some funky midterm schedule that involves them coming home halfway through the day. I'd rather be home with them.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Too long and rambling to name

When I woke up this morning the house was so quiet. The kids were catatonic. The Man was out teaching thirteenth graders. A perfect time to sit and blog. It occurred to me that I've been blogging less since I started on Facebook. I could probably graph it out and see an immediate and obvious correlation. Maybe later. And just for me. I won't make you suffer through that.

After I pondered over where the graph paper might be and some colored pencils, it then occurred to me that my blog readers and my FB friends don't overlap. You are one or the other. I might have a few FB friends who occasionally stop by here if they have absolutely nothing else in the entire scope of their life to do, but not many. And the three of you are not on Facebook. So there it is.

(But just so you don't feel bad, my devoted blogosphere-ites, I don't update my status on FB that often either. Twice a week max. I'm in short supply all over.)


If you'll remember last year, I gave myself permission to blow off Christmas cards. Seems they were just that one straw too many. Now I'm not sure what my problem was. I whipped out those cards in one night thanks to the magic of pre-printed labels. But they haven't gone out yet because my choice of the Christmas picture got nixed by the girl. Nixed big time. Her idea of the picture would be a one where she and The Boy would be doing something bad and we would caption it with something along the lines of they chose to be naughty this year. My suggestion was trying to break into a car. There suggestion was breaking into a safe.

Awhile back I wrote about finding my little safe and the miraculous way I remembered my combination. Their idea was to dress up in black, get flashlights and get a picture of them being caught trying to crack it.

This type of picture is exactly as complicated to take as you can imagine. Here's some of our attempts, mostly at trying to get the lighting right.

There are literally dozens of pictures like these and none of them are even close to what they want to achieve. I'm giving them this weekend to either come up with a better plan or perfect this one. If not on Monday I'm sending out the picture I originally planned on.

Marco has been sick. He got sick the day after I spent the day shampooing the living room carpet. He got very, very sick in both possible ways all over my clean carpet. I'll admit I cried.

But he didn't seem sick. He was acting exactly like himself. Obnoxious, loud and annoying. He was eating and drinking and had a cold nose. We figured it must have just been something he ate and it was over.

The next morning, the same present waited for me by the Christmas tree. And the same dog was not acting as sick at all. The mystery grew.

Morning three Marco left us no late night gifts. It was over?

Morning four, no, not over. Worse than ever. Time to call the vet.

The diagnosis? Roundworms! Isn't that charming! Medicine and a shot for Marco and drops for the cats, just to be safe. (The cat medicine was banana flavored. On purpose. Why would they do that?) Since the late night decorating has stopped, I guess he is cured.

The vet went through all the ways that Marco could have caught roundworms but they all involved being around other dogs, which he hasn't. We have no idea why this has happened. Is it possible to catch roundworms from raccoons or squirrels? We've got plenty of those. Anyway, I'm going out to re-rent the carpet shampoo machine.

I've had to sit through three Christmas programs in the past week as part of my zombie duty. Three programs in three different schools. You could say I was just unlucky, but this happens every year. Teachers ditch on program day.

Winter programs always involve trotting out the band and orchestra. At the first school (we'll call it Tolerable School), both the band and the orchestra were just terrible. It was painful and the only solace was that it was a very short program. The instructors made excuses that they had only been playing for seven weeks and this was as far as they got. Understandable, but still torturous. Two days later I had to sit through another program at a different school. Let's call it Miserable School. This time different instructors started out by explaining that their groups had also only been meeting for seven weeks. I braced myself.

In the end, both the band and orchestra at Miserable considerably outplayed the ones at Tolerable. They played the exact same tiny songs but Miserable had better control and sound. They also seemed happier at Miserable than at Tolerable. I'm handing this one to the instructors. The ones at Miserable really seemed into their zombies and were very excited to be there. The ones at Tolerable were phoning it in. Yay for good teachers!
The Man is home and the kids are up. What? Hungry? No clean clothes? The cat did what?

Friday, December 04, 2009

Christmas Tree Day '09

Today is Christmas Tree Day. We are celebrating it one day early this year since the actual date lands on a Saturday and the kids threw a fit. Getting out of school for half a day is a large part of the magic of Christmas Tree Day.

This morning I started thinking about all the past Christmas Tree Days. This will be our seventeenth tree sacrificed to the idea of jolly hollyness. We've had all kinds of weather for this adventure. Warm, shirt sleeve days. Knee-high snow. Sloppy, shoe-sucking mud. Toe numbing cold. And two years ago, we had to drive home in a blizzard. The one thing we didn't have was a camera with us every year. I only remembered to capture the day five times over the years. So I present to you a truncated history of Christmas Tree Day subtitled The Man and his Conquered Foe...



And today.
Let the merry times begin!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

On the first day of December

  • Had a fight with my label making program-- and won
  • Chauffeured my brother to school
  • Rented a carpet cleaner
  • Went out to lunch with The Man. Luchitas. The Best.
  • Went to town on the living carpet
  • Chauffeured my brother back home
  • Taught the carpet a thing or two more about clean vs. dirty
  • Picked up my own children from school
  • Gave the carpet the what for and the how come and the why not
  • Decided that the family could fend for themselves with leftovers for dinner
  • Took the carpet cleaner upstairs to frighten my bedroom carpet clean
  • Ran a large pile of teenagers all over town to their various things
  • Enjoyed a nice glass of wine in my very clean house

Monday, November 23, 2009

To new heights

A staple conversation of any family gathering would be the amazement over HOW TALL other people's kids have gotten. I know that when I was a kid and long absent aunts and uncles would tell my mom, "Look how tall she's getting!," it would take everything in me not to answer, "Did you think I'd shrink?". But I was raised better than that so I kept my smart ass remarks to myself.

In just a few days now, a big pile of family will descend on this town and start in on my kids and their height. So I will just put it out there right now and nip the debate before it even starts: Yes, they are taller. Much taller than when you saw them last. As proof I offer photos of the wall in our home where we measure them. Look and be awed.

This part of the wall covers their most recent measurement. How recent? How about today? This wall has little marks for the kids' heights reaching all the way down to the floor, back to the days where one of us held a kid up while the other made a mark. Sadly, those dates and initials are getting difficult to see way down there.

Some of the dates are just month and year. A few have day, month and year listed by their little mark. That first picture is not doing it for you? Here it is with some illuminating labels.Hmmm. Lacks scale. Let me spell it out a bit more. For The Girl, the change in height between her birthday and today (about eight months), is just a smidgen over an inch. The Boy grew just a smidgen less than two inches.

I'm afraid this photographic evidence will not stop the head shaking, utter bewilderment over the fact that children grow by my family, but I can say that I tried. In closing, try to wrap your head around this close-up of a part of the wall.
(The 4-1-09 initial belongs to E, but it got cut off.) What does it mean? Not much really but it is fun to look at.

Monday, November 16, 2009

You can dress her up...

Last weekend (actually the weekend before that at this point), The Man and I were invited to a fancy-pants poetry shin-dig thrown by The Lit. (That's the official fancy-pants literary society of Cleveland.)

This event was a celebration of The Lit turning 35 years old. In order to give the event even more oomph, they sent selected writers a photograph and asked them to write a response to it. The Man got asked to do one of these pieces and that's how we got invited.

Here are the tickets they gave us.
That side of the tickets aren't as interesting as this side:See the two different categories? While not immediately evident, the difference between having a Platinum ticket and being a Lit Lover is this:

Platinum ticket holders got a chair to sit on. Lit Lovers had to stand. And that was me. The non guest of honor. The plus one. Whatever you want to call me, I was the girl with the shoes that were built for cute not for extended standing around in an art gallery that was once a church. It didn't take long for my shoes to end up in the coat room and I spent the rest on the night barefoot.

The next thing I discovered was that while I brought the camera I forgot to put a memory card in it. The meant I could take a grand total of three pictures. Which is a shame because the location was beautiful and the appetizer buffet was beautiful and all of the hobnobbers were beautiful and the band was kicking it out.

The band? Oh yes, a snazzy little jazz band. They played while the everyone mingled and sampled the knock-you-out yummy snacks. They played while people debated over bidding on the silent auction items and while the wait staff whisked dishes and glasses out of your hands the moment you were done. The played while I went through many, many glasses of wine.

When the writers got up to read their pieces, the band accompanied them softly in the background. Some of the writers were obviously shook up by this intrusion on their art. Most of them ignored the band. But The Man worked the music into his reading and it was so cool!He owed that room!

To wrap up, here's the program. (Very fancy paper I might add.)

And here's proof that The Man has amazing friends.

And here's the unimpressive cover to the book that contains all of the photographs I mentioned before with the pieces written for them put together by The Lit to sell. It's actually very, very nice on the inside but they must have run out of money by the time the cover came around to design.

And what have we learned through all of this? It doesn't matter how fancy the party is, I always end up barefoot and tipsy.

Monday, November 09, 2009

What do you do on a very warm Sunday in November?

Take an extra long bike ride!

(And then end up extra achy for the rest of the night.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Halloween Adventures

Let's start with the obligatory shots of our jack-o-lanterns this year.

Here's the whole group before they headed out to the yard. That monster in the back is The Man's that we got at a clearance price because we always wait to the next to last minute to buy our pumpkins. It isn't carved yet here, but it is cleaned out (the hole is in the back). Even empty it was still a crippling weight.
Here's what it ended up getting carved into. Spooky!

I went for a way too complicated design. It actually says Happy Halloween around the edge, but it wouldn't photograph well. And, yeah, it took me a long time to do!

Here's The Girl's sweet little creation...

And The Boy's creepiness.

The crew did go trick or treating this year, but instead of collecting candy, they collected canned goods for Trick or Treat So Kids Can Eat. The Girl, Boy and Other Girl in Our Lives went out two days ahead of time and put fliers on around ninety houses in our neighborhood about it. On trick or treat night, they decorated a wagon and went out collecting. They were so successful that they had to come back to the house and unload the wagon so they could go out and get more.

Here's our do-gooders.

Is The Girl a basket of laundry for Halloween?

Yes, she is.

She even smelled good.

But even bigger than trick or treat was the Halloween camp out I planned out at Timberlane right on Halloween. It was a huge day filled with archery, dipping candles, making caramel apples, creating trick or treat bags out of duct tape, a scavenger hunt, cabin to cabin trick or treating, a spooky hike in the woods, star gazing at the observatory and a costume dance. It was an amazing weekend and the weather cooperated beautifully.

The girls of my troop were in charge of the spooky hike: Explore the Lost Trail of Timberlane. This is an actual trail that nobody takes because it's not very interesting and doesn't go anywhere. A lot of Scouts aren't even aware that it's there. But we jazzed it up, Singing River style, by building a little cemetery in its depths.

It's doesn't look like much but it was much more spooky by flashlight, I assure you. My girls, donned head to foot in black, were supposed to creep along the path alongside our hikers making scary sounds. Unfortunately, the moon was unbelievably bright, the trees are very skinny and all of the leaves were down in that part of the woods. It didn't take much for the hikers to see "the ghosts" ducking around trying to stay invisible. Their blood curdling screams though were very impressive though.

I didn't take very many pictures of the weekend. With this event being my baby, I spent the majority of my time running around like a madwoman making sure everything was going off as planned. I hope the other leaders took pictures of the indoor archery and Pinecrest covered in caramel. I hope there are shots of our flag ceremonies and the table settings. I saw cameras out at the dance, but there was also a fog machine (that set off the smoke detectors!), so they might not have come out. And the food! I hope someone got a picture of the meatballs with the cheese and olive slice eyes! So cool!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Four Day Weekend

A four day weekend, smack in the middle of October, is a beautiful thing.

We spent Day One doing absolutely nothing. Nothing at all. We didn't even take Marco on a walk. The highlight of activity was watching three episodes of Fringe back to back. I think I did a load of laundry...maybe not.

Day Two was a bit more active. The Girl and I experimented making mini stuffed french toast pockets for an outdoor cooking competition. The Boy and Man suffered through the taste testing for us like champs. They both kept coming back for more and more. Later, The Boy left for a weekend camp out with his troop. It was cold and rainy. I'm so glad they had a cabin and not tents like they were originally planning. The Girl and I spend the evening watching Once Upon A Time in Mexico because even though there's lots of guns and blood and explosions, that movie is a chick flick. Big time.

Day Three was another Cross Country meet for The Girl. This one will be remembered for the mud and the cold. It was a big sloppy mess the entire time. Kids had mud kicked up their legs all the way to their faces. This is a teammate of The Girl's who really got covered.

This is The Girl. Her shoes were entirely caked and then filled with mud. I thought they were ruined for sure, but a trip through the washing machine brought them back.

After a long shower and a rest, the three of us along with The-Other-Girl-In-Our-Lives took off on a Sweetest Day adventure. We went into Coventry to have dinner at the Mongolian BBQ. The wait was lengthy so strolled (More like sprinted. It was really cold.) up the road to Big Fun.

As I was taking this picture, someone knocked on the window. It was my sister and my BIL Jim in the neighborhood for the exactly the same reason as us! As Professor Horrible would say, what crazy wacky happenstance! (The reason shall be revealed soon.)

We tried to convince The Man that he should buy this fez, but he talked himself out of it.

It was still a bit of a wait at the restaurant when we got back. The girls were losing all hope.

Eventually we got our table and ate and ate and ate until we could eat no more.

Finally it was time to go the theater which was our true destination for the night. In honor of Weird Al's 50th birthday, the Cedar Lee was showing UHF. There was an accordion player who knew every Weird Al song and took requests.

There was a Wheel of Fish that everyone got to spin to win a prize. Here's The Sister with the soundtrack she just won.

When UHF first came out, we sat in practically empty theaters to see it. Seeing it in a room full of people who all love it and sing along was such a fun experience. And there was birthday cake too!

On Day Four (Damn, this is taking forever!) The Girl and I went to the before mentioned outdoor cooking competition. The cooking had to be done in a fire circle and you had to bring all your food and cooking supplies. We choose to make stuffed french toast, in little bite sized pieces, served with bacon and fruit. We wanted to do a tropical theme, so the fruit was kiwi, pineapple and strawberry.

Table setting to your theme was part of the competition.

Our dish doesn't look like much just sitting in a big pile, but it was tasty, even cold. That's powdered sugar in the coconut cup.

We didn't win the grand prize, but we did win the Yum-O Award which includes a giant bag of butterscotch chips and a huge box of Nilla Wafers. Strange prizes but better than the troop that won the over-sized bag of Cheerios.
Back to reality today. For the kids at least. I'm going for the five day weekend!