December 28, 2008

Wrapping up the Loose Ends

At long last, now that many of you may have forgotten about it entirely, I can report on the final results of the giveaway portion of my Holiday Donation Drive. There was a bit of a delay because I didn't hear back from one of the first people picked so, once the time allotted had passed, I had my mom dip into the hat of names again.

I'm delighted to announce that Mom24 at 4everMom and Renee at Bearable Deals each won a $20 Starbucks gift card, which are headed out to them tomorrow in the mail. Also going out in the mail tomorrow is Toni-Lynn's gift card as the top referrer. Congratulations to each of them and many thanks for participating!

All I've received as a receipt from Second Harvest Food Bank is an email, so I don't really have anything to provide as evidence of my donation. Because, frankly, if anyone is skeptical about it, my copying the text of the email here won't offer much in the way of proof. I believe Second Harvest will send me something by snail mail eventually, so if anyone is truly suspicious of my sincerity in reporting to you that I made the donation, you can say so and I'll post what I get. But I know that I made it, I know that AmEx already processed the charge and I know that anyone who knows me will not doubt this.

I want to remind you that there are still a few days for you to make a donation to your charity of choice in time for it to count in this tax year, if the tax deduction is important to you. (Personally, I don't itemize, so it doesn't matter.) As one person pointed out in the comments during the drive, many employers will match all or part of your charitable donations; this is an incredible way to make the most out of your donation dollars. My employers in the past have done this and I always took advantage of it. I currently don't have that benefit available to me, but if you do, I encourage you to look into it now if you never have before.

As the year draws to a close, I keep thinking, "What next?" More than one person has said to me during the course of this that they really identified with the dilemma I expressed in my initial post about the donation drive regarding knowing who to give to when there are so many worthy causes out there and so many opportunities for people looking to take advantage of the generosity of others and our innate desire to help.

I'd be curious to know what causes and groups and charities you think are worthwhile and how you support them. Is giving money the way to go, because agencies like Second Harvest can make so much good from so relatively little? Is volunteering better because you're giving your time? Does a combination of both suit you? How do you decide where to spend your time and money when it comes to helping others? So many questions, almost as many as there are needs out there. I hope you'll share your thoughts so we can have a discussion on where the giving goes from here.

December 27, 2008

One More for the Road...or Home

Last week I took a break from the BFL because it was just too hectic to get my picks done in time for the Thursday night game. Because I didn't post my picks, I didn't have the chance to share with you that I was the Week 15 MVP. And because things were also hectic for Ms. Amy, I don't have a badge to put up for you, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

The Week 16 MVP was Instamom (and she's welcome, since my not participating practically, you know, handed the win to her). I believe that may make us tied for the most number of wins this season so this last week in the season is important to establish an über-MVP. Or not, if we both tank, I suppose. Anyway, here they are, one last time:

St. Louis @ Atlanta
New England @ Buffalo
Kansas City @ Cincinnati
Chicago @ Houston
NY Giants @ Minnesota
Carolina @ New Orleans
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh
Oakland @ Tampa Bay
Tennessee @ Indianapolis
Detroit @ Green Bay
Jacksonville @ Baltimore
Seattle @ Arizona
Washington @ San Francisco
Miami @ NY Jets
Dallas @ Philadelphia

Sunday Night Football
Denver @ San Diego
Total score tiebreaker: 42

I've also missed a couple weeks of game-day recipes, but I've got one for this week.

(photo by: Romulo Yanes for Gourmet at

This Spinach and Cheese Strata is something I added to my Epicurious recipe box more than a year ago and haven't made yet. What I like about this is that it's simple, it will feed a number of people and you have to make it ahead of time, so then you can just stick it in the oven on game day at the end of the first quarter or so. I would probably make a few changes to it -- by using broccoli instead of spinach (because a certain brother doesn't care for spinach much) and adding some bacon (because, well, why wouldn't you?) -- as I see in the reviews that other people successfully altered the recipe to suit their tastes. Enjoy if you give it a try!

December 21, 2008

The Results of My Holiday Donation Drive

Thank you so much to those who came to participate in my holiday donation drive. And a super big hand goes out to those who worked so hard to get other people to come comment. It was great to have so many new people stopping by and, of course, I would be delighted if some of you decided to come back every once in a while!

So, on to The Results. A total of 126 unique commenters were eligible for the giveaway drawing and 14 different people were tallied as having referred people to comment. Each referral got a separate chance for the Gold Card for each person they sent, for a total of 48 entries. Anymommy and Toni-Lynn were the superstar referrers, combined sending more than half of those people; I'm very grateful to them both.

I could have used a number randomizer to chose the giveaway potential winners, but that just seems so impersonal to me. I'm a "pick names out of a hat" kind of girl. And let me tell you, it takes a long time to cut out 174 little slips of paper! I actually got a hat and put the little slips of paper in, first for the gift cards and next for the referral Gold Card, and had my mom (an impartial party here if ever there were one) draw for us.

The two potential winners for the gift cards have both been notified by email tonight, and I will share their names here as soon as I hear back from them.

I can, however, share with you that the winner of the referral Gold Card was.....anymommy! It was a bit of a thrill to see her name on the little slip of paper that my mom handed me, because I know what a complete Starbucks nut she is.

But, I have to go outside the rules here a little at this point, for two reasons. First, as anymommy mentioned in her comment, while she lives in Washington state, at the moment she's in Saipan, in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. In case you're wondering, it's a beautiful island in the middle of the Philippine Sea, a.k.a The Middle of Nowhere. There happen to be no Starbucks there, which I think could be seen as a small personal tragedy. So her Gold Card will have to wait until she's back home -- there's really no point in having a one-year membership that she won't be able to use for a couple of months yet.

Second, as I was cutting out all those strips of paper I kept seeing Toni-Lynn's name over and over again, and I just knew that if she wasn't selected she was going to have to get a card, too. That kind of effort has got to be rewarded! Congratulations to Toni-Lynn and anymommy and thank you again for your help.

So I'm happy to say that we have a total of four winners for the giveaway. Of course, the biggest winner, I hope, is Second Harvest Food Bank. There were 129 comments counted toward the donation -- I decided to add in the comments that came in after the official finish -- and because I like round numbers, let's call that $130.

You may have seen that there was a comment that offered to add a latte's worth of cash to the pot, which came from the girlfriend of my brother (known around here as B2W3 because he's the Best Brother in the Whole Wide World). Well, she just bought a rather expensive latte! I'm putting her down for $20 -- she can afford it and I'm sure B2W3 will kick in at least half of it. :-)

That makes a total of $150 that has been donated to Second Harvest of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties in honor of all the commenters that came to take part. I have requested a receipt that I will post when I receive it, just to assuage any doubts (Mr. Garcia) that I really did do what I said I was going to do!

Thank you all again and I hope you have a wonderfully bright, festive, safe and enjoyable holiday time.

December 12, 2008

My Big Holiday Donation Drive, Now With Added Caffeine!

It's that time of year when thoughts turn to holiday traditions; family, gifts, food and fun being chief among them. For most of us, that is.

I'm fortunate. I'm fortunate and I know it, and every day I'm thankful for it. And times like what people are going through right now, in the U.S. and elsewhere, make me feel both fortunate and impotent on a daily basis.

I give. I give often and freely, both as often and as freely as I can. I don't give to every person or group that asks, but I try to focus on the things I see as important. This is an impossible thing, of course, because our priorities shift and change as time and situations change, and what's important to me isn't necessarily important to someone else.

But there's a healthy degree of cynicism in me that I can't shake because it seems like nearly everyone has their hand out at one time or another for one cause or another, and I'm left wondering how we got to a point where there's such great need for so many things every single day and how many of them are people playing an angle and trying to make a buck. For the clearly legitimate causes, it seems like it's a never-ending well of need that just gets wider and wider.

I've had it hammered in to my head that I have to plan for my own future, so I can't justify simply handing over every spare dollar to every cause I encounter, even if my heart is telling me to do just that. In that mythical, perfect world, I could do just that and I'd know that there would be help for me when I needed it. However, we all know that we don't live in that world and it would be foolish to not look ahead to my own well-being and be judicious about balancing saving and giving.

But when I think about how many people are going hungry in a country that has so, so much, it makes me queasy. I know there are parents out there every day having to decide between feeding their families and paying their bills, and people who really don't know where their next meal is coming from, neither of which is something I've ever had to face. The older I've gotten, the more I appreciate how my mother was able to balance what should have been a comfortable income against life circumstances and make sure that we were never without, and probably even had more than we should have. There are too many people, and that number grows every day now, knowing that they're not going to make that balance happen.

As much as I like the Toys for Tots and Family Giving Tree programs (the latter of which I participate in every year and I think it's very important for the people they serve), it's the idea of people going hungry at a time when so many of us are buying expensive, indulgent things for each other that is getting to me the most this year.

To that end, I'm hoping you will help me determine the amount of money I'll be giving to the Second Harvest Food Bank this year, as a part of my company's holiday giving efforts. Inspired by something AmyInOhio did in October for Blog Action Day 2008, I'm asking for you to comment on this post and ask other people to do the same.

For every comment (one comment per person and verifiable email address) to this post made between now, December 12th at 6:00pm PT, and December 19th at 6:00pm PT, I will donate one dollar to Second Harvest Food Bank. It would be fantastic if you would tell us in your comment the state and/or country where you live.

To sweeten the deal, I will be giving away Starbucks $20 gift cards to some lucky commenters*; one card if there are 100 comments or fewer by the end of the period, two cards if there are more than 100 comments by the end of the period. If you guys blow the lid off of this and there are 200 or more comments by the 19th, I'll give away four cards. And if you get someone else to come here and leave a comment, telling me by name that you sent them, there will be an additional incentive. One commenter who has sent at least one other person come here to comment on this post (and they name you in their comment) will receive a Starbucks Gold Card membership in addition to a $20 gift card.

If anyone who wins a gift card so wishes, they can instead choose to have me add that amount of money to the Second Harvest Food Bank donation total.

So there's a chance here to give a lot of money to a good cause and get some freebies for yourself at the same time. With the advent of Twitter and the like, I know you can reach out to a lot of people, and I hope you will. Thank you in advance for spreading the word and doing some good. If you're curious how far the donation will go, check here. I'll plan to provide updates as we go along giving the progress of the donation total.

*The fine print (sorry): All comments must have a name and verifiable email address to be counted. The Starbucks gift cards can only be sent to commenters in North America. The Starbucks Gold Card can only be sent to a commenter in the U.S. Comments world-wide, however, will count toward the donation total. Anonymous or inappropriate comments will not be counted, either for the donation total or the giveaways, and will not be allowed. Comment are moderated so they may not show up immediately. All winners will be contacted by email, so a valid email address is required and you will have three days to reply with a regular mail address that must be in the area described above. Any international winners will be notified and given the chance to have the card amount added to the donation total in their honor. One person could win both the Gold Card + $20 gift card and one of the other $20 gift cards...which would make you the most popular kid in school. The maximum amount that will be donated by me for this post is $500.

December 11, 2008

This Still Throws Me Every Time

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Thursday came upon me WAY too quickly this week. Again. No time for much in the way of pleasantries, here are my picks (in mint green, in honor of finally meeting Kirsten of The Norwindians this week!):

New Orleans @ Chicago
Tampa Bay @ Atlanta
Washington @ Cincinnati
Tennessee @ Houston
Green Bay @ Jacksonville
San Francisco @ Miami
Seattle @ St. Louis
Buffalo @ NY Jets
San Diego @ Kansas City
Detroit @ Indianapolis
Minnesota @ Arizona
Pittsburgh @ Baltimore
Denver @ Carolina
New England @ Oakland
NY Giants @ Dallas

Monday Night Football
Cleveland @ Philadelphia
Total score tiebreaker: 38

Please come back, MVP badge, we miss you around here!

December 06, 2008

Cooking Up a Winning Formula

On Thursday, I was so pressed for time to get my picks posted before the first game started that I didn't have time to deal with my game-day recipe. (Didn't know I was doing that? Huh. Where have you been? Check this out for the reason.) And it's a good thing that I got them in, because I'm currently in first! Um, with seven other people.

Anyway, a few days later I still hadn't found just the right recipe. PsychMamma to the rescue! She mentioned that she has a drawer stuffed with recipes she has clipped out of magazines; she said there are 10,381 of them, and I really hope she's only kidding. Somehow, out of the morass of possibilities, she picked out two just for us.

This was my favorite of the two, since it's the one I'd most like to eat! It looks both tasty and easy, and would be just right for a game time snack. Or, as PsychMamma isn't a football fan, for any social gathering. :-) If you decide to give it a whirl, I hope you'll come by and tell us how it turned out. I don't think I'm going to be able to make it tomorrow, but I am definitely going to try it soon. If you're lucky, I'll share the other one soon.

Goat Cheese Pizza Bites

Serves 6 - 25 minute prep time

2 1/2 c. green or red grapes, halved (or cherry tomatoes if preferred to fruit)
1 T. finely chopped rosemary
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. store-bought pizza dough
8 oz. soft goat cheese

Preheat oven to 450F
Toss together grape halves, rosemary, and 1 T. olive oil and set aside.
Divide dough into thirds and stretch each portion into a 10" circle.
Place rounds on grill or in the oven until cooked through, about 6 minutes (flip halfway through if on the grill).
Sprinkle grapes, goat cheese, and remaining olive oil on crust.
Heat until the cheese begins to melt (about 5 minutes).
Cut into bite-sized pieces.

Note: I often just spread all the dough in a jelly roll pan, bake and then cut into bite-sized pieces.

December 04, 2008

And To Think, I Used To Like Thursdays

Time certainly does fly, doesn't it? It flies just like a wing-footed wide receiver on a tear for the end zone. How's that for a sports metaphor, huh? Like a flash, we're back to Thursday, yet again, and I'm all a'dither because it's time for picks already.

It occurred to me sometime this week that I was in such a rush to post my picks last Thursday (Thanks again, NFL network!) that I completely forgot to include a recipe to make for enjoying during the games. Not that I have been at all successful in making either of the ones I have included, once Sunday rolled around -- something always seems to interfere with those best-laid plans.

But I am undaunted! This week's recipe is...going to come in another post because I have simply run out of time to find the one I want to use. Don't like it? Register your complaints here; it's their fault after all.

And on to my picks. Last week's late games were a complete and utter disaster for me, so I'm hoping for a better result this week.

Oakland @ San Diego
Jacksonville @ Chicago
Minnesota @ Detroit
Cincinnati @ Indianapolis
Philadelphia @ NY Giants
Cleveland @ Tennessee
Atlanta @ New Orleans
Houston @ Green Bay
Miami @ Buffalo
NY Jets @ San Francisco
New England @ Seattle
Kansas City @ Denver
St. Louis @ Arizona
Dallas @ Pittsburgh
Washington @ Baltimore

Monday Night Football
Tampa Bay @ Carolina
Total score tiebreaker: 43

You want to join in? Too bad. I don't want you to. Don't make your own picks. Don't go to Instamom's site. Don't link up your blog and leave a comment. And don't, whatever you do, go see the wonderful spreadsheet that the equally wonderful AmyInOhio makes for us each week to track the games. Don't even think about it. Do it and I'll have that wing-footed wide receiver leave cleat marks up your back.

December 03, 2008

The HoGGIEs - Kid-Friendly Edition

While everyone was out actually doing their post-Thanksgiving shopping, I took a break from my gift idea series. I found that very few people were staying home and, you know, reading blogs. I'm assuming they were all out there spending their hard-earned money on bargains. Yay for the economy! But now it's time for a new edition of The One Ping Only 2008 Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas Extravaganza, the HoGGIEs. Yay for gift-giving!

Next up as a fictional HoGGIEs gift recipient is my friend, Kirsten (formerly known as Mama Ginger Tree) who now makes her bloggy home at The Norwindians. She and I actually live closest to each other out of of all of the people over there in the Mo-mmy Blogger Lovefest, yet we have never actually managed to meet! We are hoping to rectify that soon.

One trip to Norwindia, and you will realize how central Kirsten's kids and husband are to her life. (That's NOT to say that anyone else I've "gifted" here or have yet to feature isn't the same way, it's just the first thing that comes to mind when I think about Kirsten.) So when I looked in the CB2 online catalog for what kind of gift I would select for her, it had to be something that she would share with her family.

Recently, in her Sunday's Simple Pleasures series, Kirsten posted a great picture of her whole family gathered on the couch in their jammies, enjoying a cozy fire on a rainy day. That picture was the inspiration for the gifts I ended up choosing for her.

A set of these Spoon Coffee Mugs, with a cute "hip pocket" for the spoon, and Comic Appetizer Plates, which just happen to have the same accent color, seem like just the ticket for a young, active family like hers. I'd arrange them in a basket with packets of gourmet hot cocoa, some "Yum" nibbles (like maybe some Mint Chocolate-Covered Oreos...) and some orange cloth napkins if I could find them, wrap the whole thing in cellophane and tie it with a big ribbon in that same orange accent color.

This falls into the family gift category, for which you want to find something that everyone in the family can use and enjoy. You know the kids are going to be getting a ton of toys from their family already, so while I love buying toys, that wouldn't really be a "family" kind of thing and they probably don't need any more this time of year. Something like a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant just for the adults can be nice, but then you're practically handing them a bill for a sitter, too, unless you know they've got built-in care. What I like about putting together a gift like this is that it isn't a pre-assembled set but goes together in a workable way and is just fun.

Go forth and gift!

November 27, 2008

Fowl Weather for Football

Hey! What do you know, another week with Thursday games! Quelle surprise. But it looks like Thursday games are here to stay (Thanks, NFL network!) so I need to work on not whining about it...even though it messes. everything. up.

If I can't whine about that, I can whine about not seeing the MVP badge around here for a number of weeks. I'm hoping for a Thanksgiving bounce to turn that around. So here are my cornbread-colored picks for Week 13, which will hopefully be lucky 13 for me.

Tennessee @ Detroit
Seattle @ Dallas
Arizona @ Philadelphia
San Francisco @ Buffalo
Baltimore @ Cincinnati
Indianapolis @ Cleveland
Carolina @ Green Bay
Miami @ St. Louis
New Orleans @ Tampa Bay
NY Giants @ Washington
Atlanta @ San Diego
Denver @ NY Jets
Pittsburgh @ New England
Kansas City @ Oakland
Chicago @ Minnesota

Monday Night Football
Jacksonville @ Houston
Total score tiebreaker: 49

Here is where I'd usually tell you all about how to participate if you're a blogger and you want to join in, blah blah blah. But, really, if you haven't gotten in to it by this point, you're just not going to do it. If you really want to, just to prove me wrong, you're more than capable of scrolling down to the ten or so other times I've given all the info. (I happen to know that the Commish is out of commission for at least a week, so she won't be around to complain about me skipping this part! Otherwise I might not be so brave. She's scary when she puts her Commish hat on, you know.)

November 26, 2008

The HoGGIEs - Zen Edition

Looks like today was not a great day for blog viewing (which I suppose isn't all that surprising given that it seems like nearly everyone I know is going somewhere for Thanksgiving, whereas I'm thankful for not having to travel anywhere!); that or people just weren't into yesterday's gifts. Well, they can't all be winners and I guess I just had my turkey a tad early.

Instamom is my blog friend who gets the HoGGIEs gifting idea treatment, straight from the CB2 online catalog, today!

I've written before about my friend, Instamom, and my admiration for her. If anything, I've got more of a girl-crush on her now than I did a month ago. She's probably wondering right now how she got to be sooo lucky!

For all the things Instamom and I have in common, there's one thing that is very different about our lives: She's swimming in a sea of testosterone in her house, with her dear husband and four sons! When it comes to indulgence, whereas I get to live the life of a single girl, with facials, massages, long luxurious showers, pedicures, etc. pretty much whenever I like, I can only imagine it's a little harder for her to get that precious, pampering "me" time.

One of the things I believe in most about being a woman is that you have to take care of yourself in order to be your best if you're taking care of others. I think that can be easier said than done for many of us, since women caretakers tend to put their needs in the backseat when there's too much to do for others.

So when I saw this great Pebble Mat on CB2, I immediately saw it as an affordable, durable (did I mention four boys?) and unique gift of luxury for one of my favorite busy moms.
It's like a little Zen moment right there in your own bathroom. Imagine feeling those smooth, soothing stones on your feet as you bundle yourself into your fluffy robe after a bath. Plus it doesn't scream "girly" so it wouldn't be completely out of place in a house full of males.

And because they would just make this present, I wouldn't be able to resist adding a set of these water-resistant Splash Lights to float in the tub:

This is what I call a "She'd never get it for herself" gift. It doesn't have to be expensive, it just has to be something that you think your friend would say she'd love to have but would probably not spend the money to buy because it's not a necessity. It's definitely a step up from a bottle of bath gel, which has the same feeling but not the originality factor.

Go forth and gift!

November 25, 2008

The HoGGIEs - Rock Star Party Edition

Today's HoGGIEs gifting "recipient" is AmyInOhio! Back we go to the CB2 catalog on our one-stop shopping trip. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, please see yesterday's post.)

I've had the great pleasure of spending time with Amy -- we were roomies for our trip to DC last month -- and we've been friends online pretty much since I joined AllMediocre. How could we not be? It's not possible to be immune to her humor, wit, enthusiasm and effervescent personality! She's one of those people who's the life of the party and will be the first one to put one together when an occasion arises, so her gift would be a basket of fun things to help her throw that fabulous rock-star-worthy party.

First up are these stylin' little Money Appetizer Plates based on an Andy Warhol image. Because what represents the rock star life more than money and parties? But they're so affordable that I'd be able to get a bunch of them -- there's nothing worse than not having enough plates for guests to enjoy all the nibbles you've slaved over making...or wisely bought from a caterer!

Along with a stack of those plates would be a set of these stylish and nifty Stainless Steel Snack Bowls for serving up some tasty nuts to go with the freely flowing liquor.
I'd take all of these out of their boxes and wrap them up in cellophane with gold ribbon, putting a bunch of chocolate gold coins in the bowls to stick with the theme, place them in a gift bag and, for the pièce de résistance, tie one of these little beauties to the handle in lieu of a gift tag:

This is definitely a theme gift, which is one of my favorite kinds. The important things to note:
  • Don't go overboard and buy anything or everything you find that fits the theme. Pick just a few items you think they'll really like and use.
  • Think about how they will use them -- buying just two of those plates isn't very helpful.
  • Keep the theme cohesive so they aren't left guessing; if you have any doubts, make a reference to it in your card (such as, "To my favorite Rock Star, Party On this Christmas Season!").
Go forth and gift!

November 24, 2008

The HoGGIEs - Birthday Edition

It's my birthday! It has been a great two days (we celebrated as a family last night - and I was delighted to get a Wii!) and I'm looking forward to the coming year even more than I have on birthdays past. Thanks so much to family and friends for making this one special.

It's time now for the next installment of The HoGGIEs, The One Ping Only 2008 Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas Extravaganza. I'm sure most of you are familiar with Crate & Barrel, but I wonder if you know about CB2, Crate and Barrel's little sister of an online store. I'm not entirely sure that the aesthetic of CB2 differs from that of Crate and Barrel all that much, but CB2 is a little more affordable and it's where all of this week's gifts can be found.

I think that one of things people have a hard time with each holiday season is selecting gifts for friends who aren't people they've known "forever." You know them pretty well and you want to delight them with a something special, but you feel like you have to walk fine lines between too impersonal and overly personal or too practical and too silly, and sometimes an additional line between too expensive and too inexpensive. It can be difficult, to be sure.

To offer some ideas on how to approach this dilemma, I've selected gifts from CB2 that were all inspired by some of my fabulous bloggy friends, most of whom I've never met in person. Hopefully, they'll let us know in the comments if what I pick is something they'd actually like to receive and how they'd feel if a friend actually gave it to them this year. Not that these are the gifts they're really going to be getting from me! (Sorry, they're not, ladies. You're my Guinea HoGGIEs in this experiment, so please be honest in your assessments.) Let's take a look at the online Holiday Catalog and see, in no particular order, what I found.

First up is PsychMamma! Over the course of the last six months or so, she and I have gotten to know each other and have had some great discussions. She's a kind, caring and very aware person and she shares a lot of herself in her blog. Among the things I've learned about her: Her daughter has many allergies, so she need to be careful about the things she brings into the house; she is very eco-conscious; and she has a fine appreciation of the simple, beautiful things in life.

As soon as I saw these in the catalog, I immediately thought of PsychMamma:

Your first thought may be "Towels? Are you kidding? It's a holiday gift, not a wedding gift!" There are two key reasons why I think these would make a great, if unusual, gift for her.

First, they are Bamboo Bath Towels, a blend of 65% bamboo and 35% combed Egyptian cotton. According to the catalog, bamboo yarn absorbs faster than cotton, is softer than cotton, and is naturally antibacterial. Not to mention bamboo is grown in a pesticide-free environment. Eco-friendly, anyone?

Second, the color is gorgeous and is a perfect match to the morpho butterfly she has on her blog banner, and I know she loves that picture. So while they're practical, they're beautiful and I think she'd appreciate the thought behind them.

One of the keys to giving a gift like this is the presentation. Sticking them in a box and wrapping it up (or letting the store do it, if they're even still doing that now) isn't going to cut it; do that and it will seem like a wedding gift! I'd roll them carefully, tie each one individually with a ribbon in a contrasting color, arrange them in a gift bag and place a silk or paper butterfly on top to make sure that connection is there visually.

The lessons to take away here are:
  • Think about aspects of the person that stand out to you and work with those.
  • Don't limit yourself to traditional gift items; be creative.
  • How you present the gift makes a difference.
Go forth and gift!

November 20, 2008

Did Anyone See Where I Left My McBratty Pants?

So, the Commish was ON FIRE last week and picked every single game with a winner correctly; the crazy tie was a non-issue in any case because we all picked Philly to win. In doing so, she became the first BFLer to win two weeks in a row. I don't think I need to tell you how fishy it is that the person in charge of this loose assemblage of bloggy football goodness managed to nab back-to-back badges, do I? Mmm-hmm, didn't think so.

Now, sadly, she's been laid low by nasty Mr. Flu, which leaves me unable to trash talk her chances this week. That sucks almost as much as not coming close to winning these last two weeks, but far less than actually having the flu, so I forgive her and want her to feel better. Because almost everyone I know always says that when they're sick all they want is soup, this week's game day recipe is: soup!

This will probably be one-time thing because, unlike 99% of the world (apparently), I don't really like soup very much. There are some exceptions, and this recipe from our local paper is one of them -- it's quick, hearty but not heavy, doesn't have tons of ingredients and is perfect for autumn. It could, however, use a new title; "Squash Soup with Sausage" really doesn't sing. Clearly the author of the recipe was all out of naming imagination that day. I'm going to go with "Sack 'em, Squash 'em Soup."

I didn't actually make this one, I have to admit -- my mom did. Her improvisational improvement was to add some little meatballs (browned before being added) since we had some ground beef handy. Personally, I liked the meatballs better than the sausage and I could see doing it with one or the other or both like she did. If you try it and like it, I hope you'll let us all know. I'm going to try to make a batch this weekend, probably with just meatballs and with a little less thyme (the flavor of the thyme got a bit more intense than I would have liked after a while, but that could have been because she used dried thyme instead of fresh -- your results may vary).

So, what teams will I be rooting on while I slurp my soup?

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh
Philadelphia @ Baltimore
Houston @ Cleveland
Tampa Bay @ Detroit
Buffalo @ Kansas City
Chicago @ St. Louis
NY Jets @ Tennessee
New England @ Miami
Minnesota @ Jacksonville
San Francisco @ Dallas
Oakland @ Denver
Carolina @ Atlanta
NY Giants @ Arizona
Washington @ Seattle
Indianapolis @ San Diego

Monday Night Football
Green Bay @ New Orleans
Total score tiebreaker: 50

Note to the NFL: The Thursday night game thing is getting annoying. Please reconsider.

If you want to participate, go see The Commish, follow her instructions, link yourself up and help us try again to take the winner's badge away from her this week. If you can't do it before tonight's game, just do it before Sunday's games start and you'll just be one game down... just like probably more than half of us will be for picking wrong tonight.

November 18, 2008

Let the HoGGIEs Begin!

Any time I can combine two of my favorite things, it usually makes me pretty happy. Make it three favorite things and it's a sure bet that I'm near-ecstatic. In this case, the three favorite things I'm going to combine are food/baking, giving gifts and helping people find the perfect gifts for others.

In the past I've done mini gift guides here, but I wasn't feeling it last year (and probably the year before, I don't remember that far back --if you're curious, hit the archives over there) so it has been a while. This year, while I'm still resenting the fact that we continue to rush every single season and holiday to the point of the ridiculous, I'm starting to see things online and in stores that are making the part of me that loves the holidays stir just a bit.

So, here's the first installment of The One Ping Only 2008 Holiday Gift-Giving Ideas Extravaganza, the "HoGGIEs," and I can hardly bear it. Ba-da-bum!

Behold, the Build-A-Bear Workshop® Cake Pan from Williams-Sonoma.

Does a cake get much cuter than that? From the online description:
At Build-A-Bear Workshops, you can make your own stuffed animal. And now you can enjoy the same experience in your own kitchen, using your favorite cake batter. [The] pan bakes a three-dimensional bear cake in two halves that can be joined and decorated with icing.
Information of note:
  • $39.95, available here at Williams-Sonoma
  • Made in the USA by Nordic Ware
  • With your purchase, you’ll receive a $5 coupon valid with a $25 purchase at any Build-a-Bear Workshop.
  • It's not just a holiday item, you could "dress" the bear in different ways...or let him go bare naked, I suppose.
Who is this gift for?
  • A woman with every kitchen tool known to mankind already
  • Someone with kids under 6 who likes to make their cakes
  • That friend who still has stuffed animals on her bed after the age of 21
  • A person with no baking skills, whom you don't like very much
Go forth and gift!

November 12, 2008

Recipe for Success

What goes better together than football and food? I mean, what else is there to do while watching 200-300 pound men running up and down a field for a few hours than eat?

I think it's time to get a head start on prepping and fine-tuning your menu for the big game in January. We try to rush everything else in this country, why not get ready now for a few hours in February? The inauguration will be over so we'll need something else to obsess over.

So for the rest of the season (or as long as I feel like doing it, we'll see) when I make my picks I'm going to link to a recipe I've found to share. You can begin delighting your friends and family right away, and you'll have them perfected by the time the Super Bowl lands in Tampa Bay. Really, there's nothing worse than trying to bust out a new recipe under the pressure of cleaning the house and expecting hungry hoards to land on your doorstep. Practice now, reap the praise later.

Depending on how late I end up sleeping in on Sunday (Two notes: 1. I have no kids, I can sleep in as much as I want, and 2. I'm in CA so the games start a tad earlier here than for much of the country), I may or may not make the recipes myself that day but that will be the "goal." Ha!

This week's recipe, from the recently completed 43rd Pillsbury Bake-Off, wasn't a winner in the contest but sounds pretty good to me: Breakfast Quiches to Go. I don't think they're particularly breakfast-y but are simple to make and would be a good game snack. Just call them something else so you don't have to endure any stupid "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche" cracks. Like here I'll call them "Niner Nuggets" or something; Amy could call hers "Bengal Bundles" and Insta-mom (this past week's MVP!) could call hers "Chargers Cups" -- you get the point.

OK, so here are my picks. They look delicious in that lovely shrimp color, don't they?

NY Jets @ New England
Denver @ Atlanta
Detroit @ Carolina
Minnesota @ Tampa Bay
Baltimore @ NY Giants
Oakland @ Miami
New Orleans @ Kansas City
Philadelphia @ Cincinnati
Chicago @ Green Bay
Houston @ Indianapolis
St. Louis @ San Francisco
Arizona @ Seattle
Tennessee @ Jacksonville
San Diego @ Pittsburgh
Dallas @ Washington

Monday Night Football
Cleveland @ Buffalo
Total score tiebreaker: 30

I'm going to assume that if you haven't joined the BFL by now, you're not going to do so. If I'm wrong, go see the Commish, follow her instructions and help us try to take the winner's badge away from her this week. Or if you're going to sit on the sidelines but want to see if I can trounce the competition for the fourth time, check out the nifty spreadsheet throughout the course of the games and see how I'm doing. Just don't get any crumbs from the Niner Nuggets in your keyboard while you do, okay? They're a bitch to get out of there.

November 10, 2008

Not really closing thoughts

I haven't really been up for coming back to share my thoughts and feelings that resulted from the election last week before this. And we all have Keith Olbermann to thank for my being up for it now.

Last Wednesday was incredibly difficult for me. It was hard to be so happy and so sad at the same time. Of course, Tuesday night had been inspiring and amazing to witness, and there was such elation all across the country. But just as President-elect Obama was finishing his victory speech, it started to become clear that Prop 8 was very, very close to passing. Talk about a thud back down to earth.

Wednesday night, however, showed that the fight wasn't over. And now, almost a week later, it's quite clear that the fight is far, far from over. There are hundreds or thousands articles on all the aspects of "What happens now?" and "What is happening now?" out there for you to read, if you're so inclined, so I'll just give you this one that sums up the latest.

Which brings me to tonight, when I read this commentary from the aforementioned Mr. Olbermann. It sums up so, so well how I feel about this subject and why I'm committed to continuing the fight to make sure Prop 8 is voided -- as I read it, it was exactly what I would have liked to write last week. It inspired me to put it here for you to read and finally get some of my reaction to the situation off my chest.

It's not over. It's so not over. Discrimination by law can't stand. If you supported Prop 8, either in thought or in action, please read the commentary if you've gotten this far and haven't. Ask yourself the questions he poses.

And know that this is how a whole lot of people feel, and we're going to make sure you hear it:

November 06, 2008

Week 10 - Time Flies

Yay! I had a lucky week and made one risky pick that made the difference for me, but it was close and came down to the tie-breaker. I do believe that this makes me the BFLer with the most badges thus far, though if I'm wrong I'm certain that someone will come along to smack me down.

This week has an early game tonight, so even though I practically just got this beauty of a badge up, it's already time for my picks!

In the spirit of bi-partisanship, to celebrate our historic election, I'll make my picks in red AND blue. (Yeah, it's cheesy, but I'm tired of trying to pick a new color that will actually show up so I'm going to run with this.)

Denver @ Cleveland
New Orleans @ Atlanta
Tennessee @ Chicago
Jacksonville @ Detroit
Seattle @ Miami
Green Bay @ Minnesota
Buffalo @ New England
St. Louis @ NY Jets
Baltimore @ Houston
Carolina @ Oakland
Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh
Kansas City @ San Diego
NY Giants @ Philadelphia

Monday Night Football
San Francisco @ Arizona
Total score tiebreaker: 47

Bye week: Cincinnati, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Washington

By now you know the drill; if you want to participate, go see the ever-lovely Instamom and link yourself up. I'll warn you, though, these people are good. We have a near real-time spreadsheet of results and standings (thanks to the equally ever-lovely and ever-competitive Amy), and it's rare for someone to run away with a win -- it's close almost every week.

October 31, 2008

Standing Up Against Hate

So blogging was light this week, I realize. But the only thing on my mind is the election. Other people have pretty much got the blogging end of this race covered, plus I have other outlets on a daily basis for having election interaction with like-minded people, so I haven't felt compelled to write about it here.

For the Presidential race, that is.

But as important as that is, and believe me, it's bloody freaking as important as anything I've ever voted for...except for voting against Proposition 8 here in California. The idea of the sheer hypocrisy of people voting -- actually going out there and making a conscious choice to cast a vote -- to change our state Constitution in order to TAKE AWAY A RIGHT from another person, based on intolerance, hate or dogma, whichever you chose, makes me almost physically sick.

It is discrimination, no matter what way you slice it, and the fact that my state might actually sanction discrimination leaves me inchoate. Does anyone even remember how as a country we were disgusted by the idea of apartheid? People demonstrated and protested and railed against an unjust treatment of a group of people a half a world away; the idea of that kind of subjugation of black people was simply repugnant. But somehow it's okay to just decide that because some people think being homosexual is "wrong" they have the right to say an entire portion of our population can be subjugated in this way? Who the hell do you think you are? Do you even think through what it is you're saying about yourself? About our country? How can you have that little respect for another human being?

And before you even dare throw around the word "sanctity" or bring up any variation of "it's in the Bible" -- save it. There's such a double standard around every one the religious arguments and I'm not having it. There's plenty of other places for you to share your particular brand of "faith," please go find one. You don't get to decide that only some people are worthy of the love of fellow man that your belief system puts forth.

If you have even a shred of doubt about the negative impact of taking an action like this, I implore you to learn more and vote No on Prop 8 if you live in California. Please. We are better people than that.

Now, as bizarre a transition as this may be, I have to put my picks up for the Blogger Football League. I certainly know that the Commish will understand because she is just as firmly and vocally opposed to Prop 8 as I. (It just took me longer than her to put my thoughts in order to express here.)

This week, no colors; my picks are in all caps. I'm so tired of our country being divided by "color" that I just can't bring myself to do it.

Detroit @ CHICAGO
Jacksonville @ CINCINNATI
Baltimore @ CLEVELAND
TAMPA BAY @ Kansas City
ARIZONA @ St. Louis
MIAMI @ Denver
Dallas @ NY GIANTS
ATLANTA @ Oakland
NEW ENGLAND @ Indianapolis

Monday Night Football
Pittsburgh @ WASHINGTON
Tiebreaker score: 40

If you have a blog and you want to participate, just make and post your picks, then go visit Insta-mom's site to link up your post before the first game of the week on Sunday. Good luck to all my fellow BFLers.

October 28, 2008

One Week - Hope over Fear

Tune in at 8 p.m. ET on NBC, CBS or FOX tomorrow (Wednesday) to hear what the campaign is calling “The Closing Argument.” And don’t forget to vote next week. Or, better yet, find out where you can vote early and do it this week.
Picture & quote courtesy of Amy in Ohio. Text courtesy of PsychMamma. They are my sisters in hope.

October 24, 2008

Football and Fealty

I've figured out my football pool mojo -- I win on even-numbered weeks. This is week 8, so that badge is coming home again this week. This week I'm not going to try to pick a special color, just something that show up decently against all that purple.

Oakland @ Baltimore
Arizona @ Carolina
Tampa Bay @ Dallas
Washington @ Detroit
Buffalo @ Miami
St. Louis @ New England
San Diego @ New Orleans
Kansas City @ NY Jets
Atlanta @ Philadelphia
Cleveland @ Jacksonville
Cincinnati @ Houston
NY Giants @ Pittsburgh
Seattle @ San Francisco

Monday Night Football
Indianapolis @ Tennessee
Total score tiebreaker: 40

Byes: Chicago, Denver, Green Bay, Minnesota

OK, so the picks part is out of the way and it's time for the links part. Last week I got slapped on the wrist from the Commish because I didn't link to her in my picks post. I was tired. I apologize. But I was really tired. This week, I'm not tired and even if I were, I'd still pay my way in the currency of blogs and show the appropriate link love.

So, please, if you are interested in participating, post your picks on your blog, then go visit the one, the only, the amazing INSTA-MOM and join our merry band of football freaks. But really, you should go visit her anyway -- now -- and read every word she has ever written...or at the very least check out her most recent post where she has hot guys from the NFL there for your viewing pleasure. One of the selections is mine. And she chose a HOT picture of him that made my knees sweat just a little. I'm not going to say which one, but if you go visit her to see for yourself -- NOW -- I bet you can figure it out. Ooh, just posting that link singed my fingers, he's that hot. (And, to paraphrase the words of the very fabulous Insta-mom herself, it was hard not to slap myself silly after writing that.)

Let me close by paying obeisance to her right here and now in such a way that she will never, ever again be able to doubt my devotion to her, links or no links.

I - is for the Inspiration, which she provides daily
N - is for Nurturing, a quality she shows even to a fish she didn't want
S - is for San Diego, a place she loves and the team she roots for
T - is for Tolerance, since it's an attitude she embodies
A - is for AllMediocre, because that's where we met
M - is for Males, as she is surrounded by them at home
O - is for Obama, whom we both strongly support
M - is for Mom because, duh, she's a great mom

What's that spell? A great friend whom I'm going to meet eventually. ☺

October 23, 2008

I'm baaaaack!

It was an interesting experiment, being part of Alltop. It's a great idea, but the Ping just didn't belong there. How do I know this? Because in the three months since I was listed there, I haven't receive a single visitor from it. But during that same time, I became even better friends with the AllMediocre bunch and continued to have people visit me from AllMediocre even though I wasn't a member anymore.

So at the big dinner in DC (which was, by the way, a.k.a. AllMediocHer '08, and I hope there are many more to come), I announced my return to AllMediocre as a member. I've sent in my resignation, so to speak, to Alltop with my thanks for the experience (and literally just received an email from Guy confirming it) and I've come home to my AM peeps!

To celebrate, I created my own AM badge, which now graces my sidebar in spectacular fashion, if I do say so myself. (Because the other ones? Not enough purple.)

So I'm back, bitches. Let mediocrity reign once more!

October 20, 2008

In Which I Steer My Way Through a Sea of Glass

My poor blog. I've been neglecting it horribly and boy do the numbers reflect it. Well, we'll be football-less until Friday, since I didn't come close to winning the badge this week, I'm afraid. Congrats to Tom on his fantastic picks and great win!

So, where does that leave us? I suppose I'd better get on with the Chihuly pictures before too much time goes by and I forget what I'm talking about. When last we were at the exhibit we were in the Reeds, and now we move on, fittingly enough, to...


The first of the two old, wooden rowboats was filled with pieces known as Floats, like large marbles of every color and size. Not surprisingly, they resemble the glass marbles Chihuly was enamored of as a child. Having a boat filled with Floats has a bit of a double-meaning, since the pieces are actually based on Japanese fishing floats and they have been literally floated in other displays. I think I'd really like to see them in water sometime, as it would have a more organic feel.

The two boats were placed stern to stern, adrift in a big, black, endless shiny sea. The next boat was filled to bursting with pieces of Ikebana, also of every color and description, which made up for the lack of pictures back in the second room.

It was hard to get a bad shot, but equally hard to get a great one. The official shots of the exhibit had better lighting, if you want to check them out. It was a very static part of the exhibit in a way I can't really explain. Oh, and the room was packed with people, so it wasn't quite as enjoyable a part of the experience, though I loved the explosion of color.

October 16, 2008

Calling on the Luck o' the Irish

It seems as though I no sooner get my MVP badge up and it's time to make the next week's picks! It's just so unfair -- there's really no time to sit back and enjoy the glare of though there were any...

So, here we go again, in yet another color: a little lucky Irish green.

San Diego @ Buffalo
Minnesota @ Chicago
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
Tennessee @ Kansas City
Dallas @ St. Louis
Baltimore @ Miami
San Francisco @ NY Giants
New Orleans @ Carolina
Detroit @ Houston
NY Jets @ Oakland
Indianapolis @ Green Bay
Cleveland @ Washington
Seattle @ Tampa Bay

Monday Night Football
Denver @ New England
Total score:38

If you want to know more about the BFL, please just scroll down to the last set of picks because, really, I'm tired and I'm not up for linking everyone up again! Please wish me luck, the competition gets a bit more intense every week.

P.S. I had to post this twice, because the first color green I picked was nearly impossible to see. Sorry if it showed up in your reader twice.

October 14, 2008

Bratty McBratty Pants Shares the Wealth

Woo-hoo! I had a good week in the BFL and I get to share this week's honors with RadioCarla -- we tied right down to our choice of score for the Monday night game. Ms. Carla is making a habit of tying for the top spot.

Next week? I'm shooting for being the sole winner. If you think you can best me or, you know, Carla, step on over to Insta-mom's and take on the BFL's finest. And Amy In Ohio. (I had to, she's the one who named me "Bratty McBratty Pants" after all.)

October 12, 2008

Memeing It Up to the Power of Six

This past week, I was tagged for two different memes by two of my mommy blogger friends. I believe in multitasking, and they're somewhat related, so I'm going to tackle them both at once here.

First was the always-entertaining and mysterious Marinka. If you aren't reading her yet, get started. I'm pretty sure she's Russian royalty in hiding in NYC, but she will neither confirm nor deny. She's a fan of my photography so she's pretty OK in my book, no matter what's behind that gauzy veil. She tagged me with the six odd things about me meme.We'll get to that one second...since that's kind of one of the odd things about me.

Next, the marvelous and magnanimous Mama Ginger Tree sent me a candy-gram from the Candy Cane Forest and tagged me with the Sixth Photo meme. The rules are to choose the sixth photo from your sixth album and post it along with a description or the story behind it. I don't really have any photo albums, so I took the CDs I've burned my photos onto -- which I spent a great deal of the weekend working on -- and picked the sixth one in the stack, then went to the sixth photo on it. Here it is:

It was taken in January 2005 in Hope Valley, near Tahoe. As you're probably not familiar with it: Hope Valley is a gem of a spot about a half hour from the south shore that's a popular area for cross-country skiing and sled dog training. I found a nice article about it that can tell you more if you're interested. You can see the tracks on the snow from people skiing and traipsing around, but you can also see that it's uncrowded and unspoiled.

It was a beautiful, clear day and this was taken during a break from snowshoeing. I like cross-country skiing, too, but I've found that snowshoeing is just as good a workout but a lot more enjoyable (i.e., less falling over). One of the photos that came after the one above is a favorite of mine, and it's related, so I thought I'd share that one, too.

On to the six odd things about myself.

1. I'm not a fan of doing the expected. I've mentioned here before that the more popular a book is, the less inclined I am to read it. Or if everyone else is turning right, I'm probably going to turn left. I'm not a non-conformist, really, because I do like following the rules, but if you have something with choices, I'm probably not going to take the one everyone else does.

2. The way I know I'm sick, like with this cold that's still dogging me, is when the roof of my mouth starts to itch.

3. I have an irrational fear of skunks. I can't explain it, I can't figure out why, and there's no good reason for it; I've never been sprayed. Spiders? No problem. Snakes? I think they're pretty cool, actually. Mice? No squealing here. But a black and white striped bit of vermin? I completely freeze up and my mind goes blank.

4. I pretty much won't answer the door or the phone if I don't have to. If I'm not expecting you to come by my house -- or you don't have a warrant to search the premises -- I will probably not even open the door. When I lived alone, I almost never answered the phone because no one who called it was someone I wanted to talk to; everyone else had my cell number.

5. I can flip my tongue over both ways in my mouth. Try it, it's not easy. It comes in handy for my one and only bar trick: quickly tying maraschino cherry stems with my tongue.

6. I am fond, really fond...really, really fond of ice in my beverages. "Ice is nice" is pretty much the motto I live by. Friends and family have become accustomed to my ordering extra glasses of ice, repeatedly, pretty much everywhere I go.

So, there you have it. And because I don't like to do the expected, I'm not going to tag anyone in particular for either of these memes (I'm supposed to pick, you guessed it, six people for each of them). If you want to do either or both of them, just let us know in the comments so we can come by and see; self-tagging, if you will.

October 10, 2008

Picks and a Plea

So, I've been a slacker in the posting department lately. Sorry about that. I was off partying in DC from Thursday through Monday, and I came back with such a special gift from that trip: a cold. Tonight is the first night that I've felt capable of posting and I've got to post my picks for the BFL today so that's what you get.

Last week my results were pretty middle-of-the-road and Amy In Ohio, my DC roomie, took the MVP badge away from me right in front of my nose. Let's see if we can't bring that baby back home with some picks in hot orange!

Baltimore @ Indianapolis
Detroit @ Minnesota
Oakland @ New Orleans
Cincinnati @ NY Jets
Chicago @ Atlanta
Carolina @ Tampa Bay
St. Louis @ Washington
Miami @ Houston
Jacksonville @ Denver
Philadelphia @ San Francisco
Green Bay @ Seattle
Dallas @ Arizona
New England @ San Diego

Monday Night Football
NY Giants @ Cleveland
Points Total: 37

Please go see my good friend, Insta-mom, to see what picks the other BFL members have made or if you want to join in. Feel free to trash talk them on my behalf while you're there; they can take it.

I've got about a million pictures from DC to look through, and I'm planning to post some of those, plus I'm not done with my tour through the Chihuly exhibit. It looks like I've got a lot of resting ahead of me this weekend so that I can kick this cold, and I plan to spend some of that time here getting those posts ready and doing some site cleanup.

In the meantime, a small plea from me: Are you an American Express cardmember? If you are, please go here and vote for Kiva to win the Members Project competition. They've made it to the Top 5 organizations vying for the $1.5 million award to further their mission. There are just three days left to vote in this final round and I'd really love to see Kiva be able to expand its worthwhile operations. I've been a member with them for over a year and, as you may have noticed from a couple of their things in my sidebar, I'm a pretty big supporter of their cause. If you've voted in the prior rounds, all those are wiped clean and you get to vote again for one of just these five organizations. It's a super-easy way to do a good thing. Thanks!

October 02, 2008

The MVP Weighs In On Week 5

Here we go again, kids! I feel like my beautiful badge down there just got here, and already they're trying to take it away from me. Well, I'm not going down without a fight. I'm still MVP until the end of the day on Monday and I'm going to enjoy it.

I'll be going away for the weekend, to kick up my heels with a kick-ass group of ladies, and I don't know if I'll have reliable Internet access. So, here are my picks for this weeks match-ups, a little early.

Buffalo @ Arizona
Tennessee @ Baltimore
Kansas City @ Carolina
Indianapolis @ Houston
San Diego @ Miami
Chicago @ Detroit
Atlanta @ Green Bay
Seattle @ NY Giants
Washington @ Philadelphia
Tampa Bay @ Denver
Cincinnati @ Dallas
New England @ San Francisco
Pittsburgh @ Jacksonville

Monday Night Football
Minnesota @ New Orleans
Points total: 44

My picks are in that rather lurid shade of aqua. If it looks crappy against the purple, I'll change it. Maybe. Doesn't really matter, because regardless of what color they're in, my picks are going to make the others cry.

You know the drill: You can join us at Instamom's site. (And while you're there, read about feeling your boobies.) Post your picks, grab a badge, link up with us and talk some smack on Sunday.

September 30, 2008

Pigskin Pool Pride

The title is a nod to the Commish, as I know she is a fan of alliteration -- I have to stay on her good side this week while I enjoy


Yeah, baby! Amy in Ohio is bawling her eyes out right about now, but there can be only one winner and this week it is ME! I would like to acknowledge the support of Mama Ginger Tree who so kindly said that if it couldn't be her -- and it almost was as those experts of hers made some mean picks -- she would live to see another day if it were me. (I takes my inspiration where I finds it!) I'd also like to congratulate the other 10-3 players for the week; it was fun to have it go right down to the wire and not be settled until the final play.

You're all welcome to come back and visit the badge this week, since it could be yours next week...or it might not! I'm hopeful that I've found my groove on picks, so I'll be doing my damnedest to give you a run for your money.

September 28, 2008

In Which I Get My Behind Back in Gear

There are still so many more rooms and pictures yet to go, so I'd best get on with it.

The next room of the Chihuly exhibit contained only one piece. Simple, right? Yeah, not so much. It was so big and so dramatically lit that it was hard to get a good picture of the whole thing. But the glass was a fantastic shade of purple so I loved it and ended up spending more time just looking at it than taking pictures.


The concept is, as you can see, fairly simple and reflective of nature while not being an actual representation of nature. Reed-like tubes of glass are placed in a base of "fallen" birch logs.

For some reason, even though I never changed any settings on my camera, certain of the shots made the reeds appear in different shades. Not accurate, but still pretty! For some other perspectives that keep one color throughout, see the official pictures of the piece here. But, really, who wants to be that dull and predictable, right?

Over the years, Chihuly and his team have done Reeds, sometimes also called Spears, in different colors, some of which can be seen here. Most of them are displayed out in nature, and I especially like this one. The simultaneous strength and fragility of the glass is amazing.

I want to dedicate this section of the exhibit pictures to my friend, Anymommy, a.k.a. Stacey. To me, she and her family are the Reeds. The reeds themselves are her children; gorgeous, colorful, unique and rising from a strong base. The birch tree base is Stacey; steady, bountiful, supportive and beautiful in her own right, but even more beautiful together.

September 26, 2008

Batting .500 - Looking to Improve

Ahh, nothing like a mixed sports metaphor to start things off right. Last week I ended up even on my picks, and the win went to Amy In Ohio. But she's getting a little cocky. So it's my mission to take her down at least one peg.

Any bloggers who want to participate are welcome, so if you're interested, please go visit the Commissioner's site and add your picks, as posted on your site, to the Mr. Linky thingamabob and pick yourself up a badge.

Here are my picks for this weekend's action, slightly more clearly delineated this week, since last week's didn't show up as much as I would have liked. (And, yeah, it's done in pink. You got a problem with that?)

Atlanta @ Carolina
Cleveland @ Cincinnati
Houston @ Jacksonville
Denver @ Kansas City
San Francisco @ New Orleans
Arizona @ NY Jets
Green Bay @ Tampa Bay
Minnesota @ Tennessee
San Diego @ Oakland
Buffalo @ St. Louis
Washington @ Dallas
Philadelphia @ Chicago

Monday Night Football
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh
Combined final score: 39

This is going to be a fairly busy weekend, so it will probably be Sunday before I can pick back up with the photo tour. There has been so much going on in the news late this week that I just haven't been able to concentrate enough on posting them yet. Even I can't believe that I'm actually this caught up in the news and the election this time around, but it's just too compelling to ignore.