December 28, 2009

Hat In Hand, Doing A Little Begging

I realize that posting here has been nonexistent for a while now. I apologize if you've come by looking for something new and finding nothing but BFL picks. I've just been too tired and busy to be creative. I had a holiday job that took up a LOT of time and energy, and I plan to write about it, but I needed to take the Christmas break to rest up, especially as I started to come down with a cold the day before Christmas! I haven't left the house in three days now, and it was a good respite.

During that time, I had a decision to make. Not a terribly important one, but one that I went back and forth, back and forth on for a while. The commenting system I've used here since the start got bought by another company a while back and they decided that the day after Christmas was the last day I could use it without paying. If I did nothing, I'd lose all the comments I had. I could export them but I had zero idea how to do that successfully and zero energy to try to figure it out. Honestly, I felt a little like I was being held hostage.

The larger problem is that this blog, technologically speaking, is being held together by duct tape and bubble gum. The banner disappeared and it's on the oldest Blogger platform available, which tests my abilities any time I want to make a change. It needs a complete makeover, but I can't decide which direction to go, so I've just kept it in a holding pattern. I really need a blog guru but haven't spent the time finding one and can't really justify an expense for it right now, given that I have been pretty delinquent in keeping up with it!

So why am I writing now? After all my back-and-forthing I decided to pony up and not lose my comments until I can figure out the direction I want to go in here (and see if I can find someone to fix the joint up for me!). So while it's a similar commenting system, there are changes and I don't really know if I've got it set up as it should be. I tried to keep the hoops you must jump through at a minimum, while trying to keep out meanies and anonymouths.

But I need you to help me test it. Even if it's just to say hi, I'd be ever so grateful if you'd leave a comment to this post to let me know it's working. If you have feedback about how it's working from the user perspective, that would be ideal. If you're feeling chatty, tell me what you're looking forward to most in the New Year. Thanks for your help!

[UPDATE: After getting some feedback, I took off the settings that required logging in, so it should be pretty seamless now. Thanks to those of you who took the time to help me out with this.]

December 13, 2009

Just Under the Wire

Another set of last-minute picks from me!

Pittsburgh @ Cleveland - no pick (Arrrgh, Thursday games!)

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

Monday Night
Arizona @ San Francisco
Combined MNF Score = 42

Good luck to everyone.

November 26, 2009

A (Turkey) Wing and A Prayer

Oy, again with the Thursday games! Thanks to Greis, I'm getting my picks in just under the wire. Usually I do a lot more thinking and researching, but since I don't have the time, I'm going with pure gut this time. Here's hoping!

Green Bay @ Detroit
Oakland @ Dallas
NY Giants @ Denver

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

Monday Night
New England @ New Orleans
Combined MNF Score = 42

Happy Thanksgiving to you all. I hope it's a filling, fulfilling and sweet one!

November 24, 2009

Happy Birthday: Revealing/Reveling

Today is my birthday.

In person, I'm always completely open about my age and will offer it without hesitation. I'm not a believer in lying about age; it's pointless because you're exactly as old as you are, no matter what you say, and there's no shame in proclaiming your actual age. Maybe this is due in part to my looking older than I was as a teen (which was good then) and then looking younger than I am as an adult, but it's just a strong belief for me.

However, I've been less forthcoming here and I was reflecting on that earlier today. I think the reason is two-fold: First, once it's laid out online, it's a fact frozen in time. Second, people often have preconceptions of someone based on their age, and that's something you can't overcome online because you don't "meet" them and see their personality.

I can't change either of those things, but I've decided that it just doesn't matter to me all that much anymore. Mellowing with age? Perhaps.

Today is my 42nd birthday and I'm happier with who I am than I have been at any other point in my life. I'm grateful every day for my family and my friends, both those I see in person and those with whom I interact solely online. I've come through a huge change in my work life and I'm finding my way just fine. The landscape of people in my life has also undergone changes, some of which were hard to take, but all I can do is appreciate the time I had with some people and not lament their absence. Are there some things that are missing, things that might make my life even fuller? Sure. But they don't diminish the person I am today. I'm not defined by them any more than I'm defined by my age alone.

So Happy 42nd Birthday to me. Here's a toast to number 43 and all those beyond, with a nod to all those behind.

November 21, 2009

Better Late Than Never

My picks. Yes, I'm late so I don't have one for the game on Thursday. I just couldn't get it together on Wednesday and I couldn't talk myself into caring. This season isn't really engaging me, I must say.

But I do wish everyone good luck and hope that I'm wrong on my pick against San Francisco.

Thursday Night
Miami @ Carolina - no pick

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

Monday Night
Tennessee @ Houston
Combined MNF Score = 49

November 12, 2009

Premature Prognostication

So. We're back at that point in the season when they start showing games on Thursday. I don't really get why they do that, to be honest; It's more annoying (to me) than anything. But surprisingly, the NFL hasn't asked for my opinion on the matter!

Last week my friend Heather won her first week, which was great, and my friend Kathy narrowly missed winning her first week! (Shakes fist at Denver) It's been a lot of fun and great competition this season.

Thanks to Greis reminding me, I'm getting my picks in even though it feels entirely too early:

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

Monday Night
Baltimore @ Cleveland
Combined MNF Score = 40

November 07, 2009

Stick to Whistling While You Work

I was watching TV tonight when I saw a commercial that sparked a memory: A woman was tooling around her lawn on a mower, whistling and looking generally happy and carefree.

When I lived in New York, we had a really big backyard. A big backyard full of lawn. Beautiful, but a lot to mow and it was my job to mow it for a number of years. We had a self-propelled lawnmower but not a riding mower; the lawn was big but not quite big enough to justify that expense. It was a job I didn't particularly enjoy but I tried to make the best of it. (Okay, I bitched and moaned about it generally, but in the end I got it done before the grass was high enough to lose the dog in it.)

One day while out mowing, with the motor roaring and making such a racket, I figured I'd sing to distract and entertain myself, seeing as how no one could possibly hear me over the mower. Right? (Ah, the naiveté of youth.) So I was singing my heart out, throwing in a little opera just for fun. Finally, sweating and singing my way through it, I finished and went in the house for a drink of something cold. I told my mom I was done, and that I'd been singing while I did it.

She hesitated and said, "I know. I could hear you. Loud and clear." (Read: I could hear your caterwauling and so could the neighbors.)

This would be the time to point out that I really can't sing. And I totally can't sing opera. At all.

Yeah, that was mortifying.

I think I was able to convince her that it was probably time for my brother to take over that task right around the point in time.

A Little Pride, A Little Crow

Last week was a good one for me in the BFL! I tied for the win with the charming Tom and earned this badge:


(Or at least half of it!)

There are some awesome prognosticators playing this season, so I don't feel terribly hopeful that I'll repeat this week, even though I feel good about my choices. But good luck to everyone playing and many thanks to Greis for continuing to do such a great job in organizing it all!

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

Monday Night Football
Pittsburgh @ Denver
Combined MNF Score = 51

Really no point in continuing with the recipes, so I guess I give up. If someone is actually reading and enjoying them, if would be helpful if you let me know. I realize it's my own fault for such spotting posting over the last few months, however.

October 31, 2009

Pick(s) and Treat

Happy Halloween! I'm not sure if me posting tonight should be considered a trick or a treat...since it's just my BFL picks, I'm going to lean toward trick. But I'm going to do it in seasonal orange, so that's something.

Houston @ Buffalo
Cleveland @ Chicago
Seattle @ Dallas
St. Louis @ Detroit
San Francisco @ Indianapolis
Miami @ NY Jets
Denver @ Baltimore
NY Giants @ Philadelphia
Minnesota @ Green Bay
Oakland @ San Diego
Jacksonville @ Tennessee
Carolina @ Arizona

Monday Night Football
Atlanta @ New Orleans
Combined MNF Score = 67

As the treat, a recipe for Pumpkin Muffins with Honey Butter from Eat Drink and Blog.

Hope you got lots of little goblins and ghouls in your neighborhood tonight!

October 24, 2009

Back on Track

So last week I completely screwed up and forgot to make my picks! However, Tom and Vince did so well that it would've been pointless in any case. (It's my rationalization and I'll stick to it if I want to.) It wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't helpfully provided a reminder to others about making picks! Chagrined, yes.

But this week I'm on top of it. I still think the Tom/Vince juggernaut is going to be hard to beat, but hey, you never know. So here are my picks for this week, in bold and color.

Minnesota @ Pittsburgh
San Francisco @ Houston
San Diego @ Kansas City
Green Bay @ Cleveland
Indianapolis @ St. Louis
New England @ Tampa Bay
Buffalo @ Carolina
NY Jets @ Oakland
Atlanta @ Dallas
Chicago @ Cincinnati
New Orleans @ Miami
Arizona @ NY Giants

Monday Night
Philadelphia @ Washington
Combined MNF Score = 40

This week's recipe from Eat Drink and Blog is Orzo Italiano. I love orzo and think it's pretty underutilized. So if you're looking pasta that's a little different from the everyday, consider giving it a try. This recipe is simple and sounds delicious.

October 10, 2009

A Story About Toy Story

I've been struggling to come up with something that I'm willing to write about. Oh, there's plenty I'd like to write about, but I don't feel like this is the place. It just isn't, for me, beyond a certain point.

My life has, in some ways, changed so incredibly much in the last few months; in other ways, it's exactly the same, which can be its own problem. I'm not working for the first time in longer than I can remember. I'm grateful that I have the luxury of not feeling unbearable pressure to get back out there, though I am looking. There are other aspects, of course, but right about there is where I stop being interested in writing about it.

That doesn't make for much of a post, so you can see my dilemma. Finally today, however, I did something that made me feel like writing so I figured I'd get all that out of the way and move on with something other than just my football picks.

I never used to like 3D movies. The glasses were ridiculous, didn't really work half the time and the effect was never as good as it promised to be. But prior to last year, it had probably been decades since I'd seen a whole movie in 3D. I went to see Coraline while it was out in 3D and, while I liked-but-didn't-love the movie itself, I was pretty impressed with how much better the 3D effect was.

That made me more inclined to go see Up, which I enjoyed so much, and I was once again pleased with the improvement to 3D technology. After a while, I even forgot that I was wearing the glasses and that's really saying something in my book. Well, I forgot about them until I had to reach up and wipe the tears away, but that's not terribly relevant, now is it?

One of the previews at Up was for a double feature of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in 3D. It had been years since I'd seen them and I thought it would be interesting to see them again, both because of the 3D thing and to familiarize myself with them anew, as I'd heard that Toy Story 3 was in the works. (It is.) No one else I asked was inclined to go so I decided today that I'd go by myself, as they're advertising it as being in theaters for only two weeks. (I'm guessing that it will likely be extended if it's making money, but I didn't want to take the chance.)

I always experience trepidation about going to see what's considered to be a "kid movie" because I really dislike having the movie disrupted by noise. Now, the parents who read this could be bothered/offended by that statement. What I usually hear at this point is, "But it's a kid's movie, you have to expect kids and kid noise." I get that, I really do. And let me make it clear, I love kids and I love that they enjoy movies. But I also think there's a lack of accountability on the part of SOME parents -- some, not all, probably not you, but you can't deny some -- who take kids who are too young or too antsy to make it through a feature-length film. I also get the reasons for this. They are influenced by ads and by merchandising and beg to go, even if they're not ready for outside-the-home moviewatching; the older kids want to go but they're certainly not old enough to go alone, so you have to go with them and can't leave the younger one(s) out; it's cheaper to take kids to a movie than to get a sitter; it's a kid's movie, why shouldn't you take them, everyone else's kids will be making noise. I'm sure there are others.

My problem is that I had to pay to go see it, too. If a kid chatters and questions and exclaims throughout it, I'm not able to enjoy it.* I've been told to "just ignore it;" if I could, I would. But I can't and I have little recourse if it's a "kid's movie." I can't say anything because it's a kid. I'm supposed to be OK with it, no matter what. I really don't want to be the jerk. But when exactly can I go see it when there won't be any kids? Never -- there doesn't seem to be any time that some people won't take their kids to a movie. And, much as I wish there were, there aren't any "adult theaters" that don't instantly mean X-rated films, at least not around here. (I know some exist that are more like a dinner theater where they serve food and alcohol, and I imagine kids aren't allowed, but I've never been to one and they certainly don't have any near me.) So do I have to miss the fun of seeing a movie in the theater? Do I just have to wait until it comes out on DVD? No. I don't buy that, sorry.

So, for me, going to an animated movie is a crap shoot. There are times when it's absolutely fine and the kids there are practically angels or, if they're not, the parent takes them out until they can calm down (and I really wish that all theaters had a room where they could take them so that they could both see and hear while the soothing is going on, because I feel bad that the parent has to lose the thread of the movie) and we all enjoy ourselves. Then there are times when I feel like tearing my hair out, but I sit there and take it and stew, and any enjoyment is ruined.

Today, since I was going alone, I decided to ask for one of the assisted listening devices. I traded in my driver license and got a headset to wear. I figured I'd give this a shot, because I thought maybe it would help in case there were some kids for whom a double feature was just too long. So, there I sat, looking quite the fool with both the 3D glasses and the headset with the little flashing red light. (I purposely didn't look too closely at the headset; while I know they sanitize the glasses before they're re-used, I'm willing to bet money that they don't do anything of the sort for the headsets and goodness only knows how many other heads mine sat on. For the sake of a peaceful experience for everyone, I ignored that thought.)

And guess what? It worked pretty well. There was some buzzing that was especially bothersome during the quiet parts (I just turned them down for a few moments), they died out a couple times (I fiddled with them until they came back) and by the end of the first film my ears hurt a little from the pressure (I took them off for a little while and took off my earrings), but overall it was a pretty good solution. I could hear that there was noise from time to time, but it became peripheral and didn't prevent me from hearing the dialog, so I didn't mind. It's not a perfect fix, but it's a decent one that I'll use again.

Oh, and the movies? They were just as good as the first time, enhanced by the 3D, and I was surprised at how much of both of them I had actually forgotten over the years. I suggest you go if you have the chance. With or without the kids.

* For any movie, if some inconsiderate jerk talks, has a ringing phone, kicks my seat repeatedly or -- my favorite -- sits there and translates the movie for someone with them...the entire's a problem. But if it's a teen or adult, I do have recourse, and I'll take it. I'll speak up or move or get an attendant or just leave and ask for my money back, depending on the severity. Movies that are designed to appeal to kids are a different matter. And I'm not expecting perfect silence; I'm not an idiot, that's unreasonable. I'm not talking here about "normal" movie-viewing noise. I'm talking repeated or non-stop disruption, in case that wasn't clear.

Quick But Tasty Picks

Here are my picks for this week's BFL extravaganza:

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

Monday Night:
NY Jets @ Miami
Combined MNF Score = 37

(EDIT: Forgot to mention that my picks are in bold and gold again.)

And even though I don't think anyone particularly cares whether or not I include a recipe -- given the complete lack of feedback on the ones I've posted thus far -- I'm going to go with The Best Cookie Ever because it's easy, yummy-sounding and contains a perfect amount of chocolate. I plan to comfort myself with it while losing yet another week's worth of picks.

Good luck to all the other participants this week!

October 03, 2009

Another Week In Football

So far I'm really not doing well with my BFL picks. But last week I (and almost everyone else) was beaten to a pulp by Vince so I really didn't have a prayer! Congrats to him for a big win.

The only thing I'm going to do different this week, however, is change the color of my picks. Yes, it's girly but I've got nothing.

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

Monday Night:
Green Bay @ Minnesota
Combined MNF Score = 45

And for the Eat Drink & Blog recipe this week, let's go with Sour Cream Banana Bread because so far this football pool has been somewhat bananas for me. And really, is there anything more yummy than banana bread with chocolate chips in it?

(That last question is called foreshadowing, by the way...if I get around to writing the next post I have in my head, that is.)

September 26, 2009

Looking for a Win

I did respectably well with last week's BFL picks, but the big winner was Radio Carla. There were upsets, just not the ones I guessed! Congrats to Carla and thanks to all the other participants for a fun first week.

This week I am in charge of the spreadsheet while Amazing Greis is off on her long-awaited cruise. I guess this means I have to pay more attention than I did last Sunday. The whole day went by and I didn't see a minute of a single game, except in highlights. I will ask for your patience on any intra-day updating as I'm not sure I'll be home all day; it's supposed to be close to 100 degrees here tomorrow and there's no air conditioning in this place. If it gets too hot, I will be heading out!

Don't forget that this is a week-by-week pool. You can jump in and out at your leisure -- there's no penalty for missing a week, apart from just not being able to win that week! So if you've been on the sidelines because you don't want to commit to it, worry not and join us at any time. All the rules (and there aren't many) are at Greis' site.

Before I get to my picks, this week's recipe pick from Eat Drink & Blog is "Freaking Delicious Orange Rolls." I think these would be great for an early Sunday game and I look forward to trying them. (If any of you actually ever make any of these, it would be fantastic if you'd let us know!)

My Week 3 Picks, in bold and gold once more:

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

Monday Night:
Carolina @ Dallas
Combined MNF Score = 50

Good luck everyone!

September 19, 2009

It's baaack!

I didn't really intend for my first post in my "new" life to be a bunch of football picks, but sometimes life just surprises you and you just have to roll with it.

My last day at work was September 9th, and I keep meaning to come here and write about it but thus far the spirit hasn't moved me. The NFL waits for no woman, however, and the BFL has woken from its summery slumber to provide us with more fun for this season. This year the hosting is kindly being provided by Amazing Greis; I'll go there to link up and poke fun at my competition as soon as I finish this. There are some new participants this year and I think it will be a lot of fun.

Last year I tried to present a new recipe for many of the weeks of the season, to help with your tailgating and game day food needs. This year, the work has been taken out of it for me with the introduction of Eat, Drink & Blog! There are great recipes over there, so instead I'll point you in the direction of a good one over there with my picks. This week's is "Those Potatoes," which sound pretty much like heaven in a dish to me. The only thing that would make it better is bacon; I think I'll add that when I make it.

Here are my (winning!) picks for Week 2, in bold and gold:

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

Monday Night:
Indianapolis @ Miami
Combined MNF Score = 38

It's not too late for you to join in if you're interested. We take it week by week and you can jump in at any time; football knowledge is not actually required. Hope to see you on the virtual gridiron!

August 24, 2009

I'll Have What He's Having

I've decided that I really just need to consult the Food TV program guide in order to plan my meals for the week. It would make things a lot easier.

It's no secret that I love food, probably too much. And I've come to learn that I'm highly suggestible. I'm probably a food marketer's wet dream: Show it and she will buy. The "Lobsterfest" commercials alone have sent me running for the nearest crustacean. But the tantalizing lure of the Food Network, so easily accessed day or night, is by far the greatest culprit.

The worst: Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Unwrapped and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives are perpetual troublemakers. A more recent addition is The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Any one of those can easily determine my latest food obsession. Oh, Bobby, you're challenging someone who makes the best Pad Thai? Yeah, I'll be getting to a Thai restaurant sooner rather than later. Hmm, and the best fried thing you ever ate is French fries at some restaurant in NYC that I'll never get to? Well, golly, I'll just have to go to my favorite place around here and have some! Making it worse: my mom suffers from the same affliction. If we both watch the same show and are taken with the subject, neither of us can rest until we have it. After a Throwdown on pot stickers (or dumplings as they called them) we were both jonesing for them so badly that we had them twice in one week. Good as the ones we found were, I'm quite certain they're not up to the standard of the ones on the I keep searching.

The best: Iron Chef America and Chopped. As much as I enjoy Iron Chef, I wouldn't eat, make it 95% of what they make, so those are "safe" to watch. I can be incredibly hungry and I will never crave maple-glazed veal sweetbreads, no matter how much I love maple syrup, thank you very much.

But it's not just things on TV. A picture that a friend shared today showing what she was making for dinner threw me into a tizzy of "I NEED pierogi and I need them NOW!!" I had to settle for frozen mass-produced ones from the grocery store instead of the handmade ones I feel sure she had enjoyed, but they did the job and I savored them.

However, they were followed with an hour of online research into where I can find better ones locally. For next time, you know.

August 17, 2009

Hey, hey, hey, I like being cool

No, not "cool" in the figurative "Oh, she's so cool, I want to be just like her" sense. I mean the literal "I like the temperature to be cool pretty much constantly" sense. I can't even pretend to be cool in the former sense, although once in college these two young girls took in my car and belongings as I was moving back in to the dorm for a new year and asked me, "Are you cool?" I still have no idea how I was supposed to answer that. (It was a pretty cool car, I must admit, so I guess I had them fooled.)

Alas, no, it's my unquenchable desire for chill that I'm talking about here. It's why restaurants where I'm a regular bring the BIG glass of ice water when I sit down and why other restaurants are pestered by me for "a glass of ice...just ice" pretty much constantly. It's why I have a fan going on my desk at work when other people have a heater going under theirs. It's why the A/C is on in my car more than it's off. It's why I walk around in short sleeves in the winter, while the people I'm with are dressed for the Arctic. It's why driving in a car with my mother, who's always cold, is like a punishment from the gods of temperature control. It's why the windows in my room are open year-round AND a timed fan is going in there much of the time, too. It's why I sometimes think that moving to Alaska is really my only option, eventually. (A certain Ms. Palin and Alaska politics have made me rethink that, but I'll definitely be going back to visit.)

I like to joke that it's because my thermostat is broken. But honestly, I'm not sure what it is that makes me seek out the frigid instead of the fiery, I just know that it extends to all areas of my life. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a complete wuss when it comes to spicy foods (though I have gotten better!) and can probably guess that my favorite thing about Costco is the cold-storage room where they keep the fruit.

The reason this comes to mind is that I just read a post by my friend, Twenty Four At Heart, at her blog of the same name wherein I got to interview her as a part of the Great Interview Experiment started by Neil of Citizen of the Month. When it comes to temperature preferences, Twenty Four and I are poles apart, but somehow we get along just fine. I hope you'll go over and read her responses to my questions and say hi.

August 04, 2009

An Unconventional Memory Lane

This morning as I left for work, I detoured to the trash enclosure to toss a bag in the dumpster on the way to my car.

Because I'm always running late, I've got this chore down to a science and it's a tribute to economy of motion: Flip gate latch, open gate, three brisk steps in, sweep lid up with one hand, fling bag in with other hand as turning around, three brisk steps back out, close gate and dash.

This morning, however, I was brought up short as I was taking those steps back out. There, on the cinder block retaining wall in front of the recycling bins, was an old metal box, open, full to bursting with photographic slides. The old-fashioned kind that almost no one gets anymore, since you need a slide projector and screen to view them.

I could see handwriting on the crisp white cardboard of some of them, so I lifted a few out, one by one, and held them up to the morning sun. Roses, a spring garden in bloom, a pregnant woman in 70s-style clothes grinning at the camera, the view from the top of a nameless tram.

Even though I really needed to get going, I stood, transfixed. Here was a box of someone's memories, left next to -- but not in -- the trash. As though whoever had put them there knew they needed to go, but couldn't bear to actually be the one to throw them away.

Questions tumbled in my head. Who did they belong to? Why had they been abandoned? Had the person who took them, collected them and arranged them so carefully over so many years died? Was there no one in the family who would have wanted this treasure trove of history? Did it upset the person who left the box behind to have to do it?

I stood there and contemplated closing the box up tight against its fate, tucking it under my arm and taking it with me. But I don't have a projector. I don't have a screen. I don't have a clue whose memories were sitting there in that unusual box, one step away from the landfill.

It saddened me to put the slides back, shut the lid, and walk away.

But most days it seems that I hardly have room for my own memories. How could I try to take on those of a stranger?

August 02, 2009

Finding Balance at BlogHer

I knew that it would take me a while to get around to writing about BlogHer, and now that most everyone has already published their posts, you should be good and warmed up for mine.

The overall theme for me at my first BlogHer was "Balance." Right from the start, it was a trip filled with ups and downs and I had to roll with them the best I could.

UP: Got to the airport on time and sailed through security (even though I forgot to take my netbook out of my purse).
DOWN: My flight was at the gate the absolute farthest from where I went through security (in a new terminal that I didn't even know was open and I was at the last gate of it).

UP: There was a food vendor open in this new terminal (Note: A vendor. One.) so I was able to grab some breakfast.
DOWN: By the time I had, miserly pastry in hand, my group was boarding and I couldn't really enjoy my chocolate milk.

UP: I was able to get an aisle seat in the completely full flight.
DOWN (Big Down): A man I shall forever refer to as The Hick From Hell took the middle seat next to me. Four of the worst hours in my life on an airplane ensued. Before we'd even left the tarmac, he opened his mouth and started spewing the most ignorant, bigoted, hateful, I've-been-hand-fed-by-the-right-wing-rabblerousers-and-I've-swallowed-it-whole crap at full voice. As we were surrounded by a very diverse crowd (hello, you're in San Jose, asshole), I both feared and hoped that someone would take issue with him. (They didn't.) Then he started drinking Jack Daniels at 8:00am (he ordered three, for a four-hour flight) and my revulsion was complete. Thankfully I had my MP3 player, very good earbuds and extra batteries. I ignored him, completely, which annoyed him. So when we were back on terra firma and I whipped out my phone to reconnect with sane people, I was subjected to his "Gee, I'm just a hick" ridicule for being one of "them people" who are pathetic (because we're able to use a cell phone; they are "beyond him") for being connected. Blood boils once more. I get the fuck out of there the moment I can. Oh, except that I let the lovely Mexican family sitting across from us (and technically behind us) exit first, just to piss him off.

DOWN: Waiting a really long time for the car to take me to the hotel.
UP #1: During that time I got to hang out with and get to know the charming Christina, who I'd been introduced to by the equally charming Andrea. She kept me from gnawing my arm off because by this time I was so hungry my head was starting to hurt.
UP #2: When we'd gotten a call from the limo company and moved outside to wait for our ride, we were approached by a woman who asked if we were bloggers, too. We'd walked past a group of women who were also waiting, unaware that they were waiting for the same car. (We should have some sort of sticker or tag to be able to identify a fellow attendee.) We carted our stuff over to where they were standing and I was thinking about calling the limo company again to ask where the hell this guy was, when a woman comes up to me and asks, "Maura?" I looked back at her with what was probably a classic blank stare, trying desperately to place her. I couldn't. Then she said her name and I almost got knocked over by a blast from the past. Linsey and I used to work together when I first moved to California. I hadn't seen her in around 16 years! We lost touch when I left that job, as so often happens, though I thought of her often and wondered what she was up to. I don't know how she recognized me right off, but it was a total trip getting caught up. A trip we took in a stretch SUV limo with neon lights; it felt like a bachelorette party with nine of my newest (and one oldest) friends.

UP: The beds at the Sheraton. (Slept like a dream.)
DOWN: The beds at the Sheraton. (Slept right through breakfast because I was so cozy.)

DOWN: People I thought would want to spend time with me made it fairly clear that they really weren't interested in doing so all that much.
UP: People I didn't know I'd get to spend time with wanted to do so and it made for some very memorable and worthwhile moments.

UP: The swag.
DOWN: The swag drama. Was there too much of it? Yes. Was there some really neat stuff that I'm glad I got a chance to sample? Yes. Did I like being able to bring gifts back to my friends and family since I barely left the hotel and didn't do any shopping? Big yes. (The not shopping thing was kind of weird, but good for the old wallet, certainly.) Did I ever behave in an unbecoming manner in pursuit of any swag? No. I was appalled by the behavior I heard about and was really glad I didn't witness any. There was only one swag bag I really wanted and that was the one from the Room 704 girls, who threw a hugely successful party. (Possibly too successful.) I love those girls like you wouldn't believe and I wanted to have a piece of them...I mean, the take home with me. My bag was long gone by the time I got to the party.
UP: Because they rock, hardcore, I did get a bag from my girls, even though there were some shameless people who took bags that were marked for people. It was classic Room 704 style and I'm grateful that they went out of their way to do that for me.

UP: The keynote address let me hear the words of some bloggers I'd never met or read before, and there were both hilarious and poignant moments. (If you weren't there, you should absolutely go read those posts, or watch the videos of them being read. Some incredible talent there.)
DOWN: Many of those words made me want to put my head down on the table and sob like a child. It was all I could do to keep it together, and if I hadn't been seated between two guys (the fantastic brotherly duo of Ben and Matthew) who I'd pretty much only just met, I very well might have. Then again, pretty much everyone was crying, so I probably could have.

UP: The people. The bloggers and tweeters I knew online and got to meet in person, the bloggers I met (in any way) for the first time, the people I only got to say "hi" to, the people I met and talked to in line and never saw again, the vendors who brought their wares for us and were so kind in talking about them, and the woman I had lunch with on Saturday because she looked like she needed a place to sit and we had such a lovely time.
DOWN: The talk by and about some people.
BIGGER UP: The people I got to spend significant amounts of time with during those four days. Just the best people and I am so delighted that I got to have that experience with you Stacey, Renee, Marinka, Kirsten, Kari, Issa, Heather, Caitlin and all of the individuals linked to above. Thank you for helping me keep my equilibrium at BlogHer.

July 28, 2009

BlogHer Thoughts (After a Fashion)

I have no idea where to start with any sort of post-BlogHer recap. There are so many moments that could be captured, so many people that could be mentioned, so many stories that could be told. (And so many that can't be told.)

However, whether you were there or not, you have to go watch this first before I begin. Go ahead, I'll wait here, sorting through my swag. (Trust me, it's worth it.)

There, in a nutshell, you have a fairly accurate picture of BlogHer09. From its lows to its highs, from the absurd to the astounding, from the asinine to the amazing, from the ridiculous to the revealing, it was all there. (If you're more into the words than them newfangled moving pictures, A Mom Two Boys' recap has a very similar take, albeit from someone who was there.)

I'll have more, and a couple of pictures -- be afraid, be very afraid, some of you! -- but I just needed to get my feet wet. (Not quite like Undomestic Diva, who got more than her feet wet in Chicago.)

I realize that pointing you to other people's recaps before I've done my own may not be the best move, because you will be all BlogHer'd out -- like you aren't already -- but hey, it's a start. And I just need more time to pull my thoughts together in any sort of coherent fashion. (And maybe read some more of other peoples' recaps to keep getting more ideas.)

July 22, 2009

Get Thee Gone to the Windy City

See all those ladies over there to the right, underneath "Mo-mmy Blogger Lovefest" in the sidebar? In a mere 24 hours from now, I will be under the same roof as almost every one of them. And, at long last, I'm excited about it!

I've had a lot on my mind and haven't really had much time to spend thinking about it or getting geared up, mentally, to go. I've done what I needed to do -- make hotel reservations, get a roommate, book a flight, get transportation set, order calling cards, request time off -- but it has seemed so distant and I did all that on kind of an autopilot. But the time is here and I'm "there" now; I can't wait to get going and hit the ground in Chicago to soak up the experience. I'm not in the least bit anxious about actually going or nervous about meeting people, but I do wonder if it will live up to my expectations.

Since no one has ever asked me about the title of my mini blogroll there, I assume that either a) you get it, or b) you don't care. (I suppose there is an option c) you never even noticed it because blogrolls are "so four years ago." I don't care. I like them.) No one can deny that "mommy bloggers" rule the roost in blogging these days, and the vast majority of my online female friends fall into that category.

Sometimes I feel a little lost as a non-mom blogger in the mix. The fact that I go my own way and don't really fall into line on the way other bloggers seem to feel you "should" do things (you know, like post more than twice a month) probably doesn't help. Then add in that there are simply some things my friends encounter and feel are things that I will never encounter or feel because I'm not a parent. It means that not only are our lives really different, but our blogs are vastly different, too. Not that that's a bad thing, it just leaves me wondering where I fit in sometimes and I'm curious as to whether that's going to be more apparent or less apparent this weekend...or make no appreciable difference whatsoever. I started thinking about it when reviewing the panels that will be at BlogHer, as a whole bunch of them revolve around mommy bloggers. The good news is that the panels I choose to go to will likely be a little more lightly attended!

But don't go expecting that I'm going to come back from it all full of vim and vigor, bursting at the seams with all sorts of great bloggy ideas and such. This is me, after all. If I get around to posting about the conference, that will be one in the Win column. You can come here after reading everybody else's post-BlogHer wrap-ups and maybe I'll tell you all about the mommy bloggers behind the scenes, once they've really let their hair down. "BlogHer Exposed: When the Squeeing Ends and the Drinking Begins."* Photos will cost a little extra. Send bribes to my nonexistent Paypal account, m'kay? See you on the flip side.

*Yes, that will be the only time the word "squee" ever appears on this site.

July 14, 2009


I didn't really intend to have a month plus go by between posts. I've had ideas and started a few times, but haven't quite gotten there. In the month before a bloggers' conference, I really should get some new material up.


Crossroads. I'm at one. A big one. And it has me feeling both liberated and tied up in knots.

If you've been reading here for any length of time, you're likely aware that I never talk about work in this space except in the most general of terms. I believe that, unless you're totally anonymous, it's just not a good idea; even if you are anonymous, it's risky.


I recently found out that I'm being laid off. It adjustment. I've never been in this position before and it comes at an interesting time for me. My mind is constantly occupied by thoughts of "What next?" And, frankly, it's a big question.

For better or for worse, I have a couple months to ponder that very question. You'll forgive me, I hope, for not going into detail here when it comes to the possibilities and how I'm weighing them. For the moment, I'm still gainfully employed after all.


Not for long.

June 11, 2009

Hitting the Road

Hi, blog. Just thought I'd drop in and say howdy. Make sure you weren't feeling too lonely. It's hard not to, I know, believe me.

Since I really don't have much to say, I thought it would be a good time to mention that I'm going to BlogHer '09 this July. Many of you reading this already know that, but it's a good excuse to put up the nifty badge that BlogHer so thoughtfully provided:

I'll Be Live and Uncensored

I'm still not thrilled with the idea of being in Chicago in the hottest part of its year, but I really want to go, so I'm going. I've already told people that if it's super hot I literally may not leave the hotel the entire time and if there's a brownout or they lose A/C, I am outta there! I think they may not believe that I'm serious. Let me assure them, I am. Even though that hotel is going to be swimming in alcohol, there is not enough alcohol in the city to keep me there if it gets sweltering.

I've traveled quite a bit this year. A bonus of this particular trip is that, with it, I will finally earn my first free ticket on Southwest. I've been a part of their Rapid Rewards program for years, but I've never flown enough in one year to earn a free ticket. (And, before that, when they would stamp your card and you had longer than a year, I could never keep track of the damned card long enough to add them up!)

I haven't yet planned a trip that will utilize the free ticket. You may now commence the entreaties/begging to convince me that I should use it to travel to your area this fall. Any bribes should contain chocolate, cupcakes, bacon or, preferably, all of them...just not necessarily together.

June 03, 2009

Up, Up and Away

I saw the neatest thing on my way to work this morning. Hovering above the highway that's the worst part of my commute, just shy of the point where I have to make a decision -- either to stay on the bad road or exit to a better highway but with a nerve-wracking and dangerous merge -- was a zeppelin advertising the new movie, UP.

Seeing zeppelins is not a terribly unusual site around here because a company, Airship Ventures, started flying them out of Moffett Field in Mountain View last fall. They tend to fly by where I work, near San Francisco Bay, and it's always a nice sight. There's something really magical and relaxing, at the same time, about seeing them floating along.

But to look up and see the cheerful ad for the movie, with that enormous, iconic bunch of balloons just made me smile. A lot. Which is quite an accomplishment for me at that time of day. It seemed so right and perfect and made the drive a little less stressful.

P.S. In going to their site to get a link, I saw that they have a small feature about the UP promotion on their site. (There's a picture; you can see what I saw.) For one moment I thought, "Oh, cool, I can take a ride in it!" Then I saw the price. I'm sure it's worth it, but man! I think I'm going to have to save that for a really special occasion.

June 02, 2009

Coming Along

Just wanted to give a quick update on my leg, but first thank you for your kind words and support. I appreciate it.

So far it seems like I'm healing really well. I spent two straight days icing it, elevating it and staying off it as much as possible. This was fairly easy to do since I spent most of that time sleeping. One day back at work and then I spent the weekend relaxing and continuing to use it as little as I could. Monday I "upgraded" from the crutches to a cane because the crutches were hurting my hand and if I can't have my leg, I need my hand! But seriously, with the problems I've had with my right wrist, I can't take a chance on injuring it further.

Thursday I go to an orthopedic surgeon. I'm not certain whether it's good, bad or indifferent that they're sending me to a surgeon for a follow up instead of a run-of-the-mill orthopedist. I'll see what he has to say and go from there; I'm not about to fret over it. I just have to be careful not to overcompensate by straining my other leg, which I've noticed having little tweaks in the last day.

Now that I've put you all back to sleep, thank you and goodnight.

May 28, 2009

That Last Step Is A Doozy

Long-time readers of my blog will recall that I broke my shoulder a few years ago. Ah, good times. I actually do look on that time somewhat fondly because it's also when I adopted Finn. But being hurt and recovering? Not so much.

Since that time I've been pretty careful and I always remind myself, when I do trip, not to try to catch myself if I fall. Aside from my knees showing signs of simply getting older, I've been pretty lucky since then in the getting hurt arena. To help keep my knees from getting creaky, I've taken to using the stairs when leaving work; I've found that if I do it regularly, they bother me less.

On Tuesday, I headed for the stairs like normal at the end of the day and was pleased to note that my knees didn't "crackle" at all, like they often do if I haven't done the stairs in a while. I did notice that my one calf felt a little tight and no sooner did I think it than *SNAP!* Something that felt like a giant rubber band snapped in that calf and man, did it hurt.

I still had two set of stairs to go so I took it r e a l l y slowly and continued down. A coworker came by and asked if he could help, but what could he do? I think the poor guy was afraid he was going to have to try carry me down the rest of the way, but I set his mind at ease and kept going. It took me what felt like forever to get all the way down and to my car, but I made it, one halting step at a time.

Long story a tad bit shorter, I ended up going to the ER and what I suspected was confirmed: I'd torn a muscle in my right calf. I've always had kind of tight muscles in my calves so I'd feared that it would happen one day, but not in such an innocuous situation. Just like with my shoulder, there's not much they can do to fix it so I just have to stay off of it and see what happens. I've spent the last two days icing it and elevating it, and sleeping like a fiend because of the pain medication. I have crutches that, frankly, wear me out and I haven't been on them since I got home from the hospital.

I think tomorrow is soon enough. Take pity on the next poor schmo you see hobbling around on crutches, OK?

May 21, 2009

Ping: A Short Bite

Sometimes, I think I constrain myself here by expecting that a post needs to be a certain thing. This is odd because I'm the one always telling other bloggers, "Your blog is what YOU make of it! Don't let other people tell you what it 'should' be!" You'd think I'd take my own advice more often; no time like the present.

It occurred to me yesterday during a conversation with another blogger that sometimes I want to just say something without a beginning, a middle and an end. Something more like a tweet on Twitter. Without it, you know, being a tweet.

And because there's no sense in having a theme on one's blog if one doesn't use it, henceforth, such little gems here will just be known as a Ping. Perhaps not terribly original, but it will get the job done.

Today's Ping: I'm going to Seattle this weekend. I've been looking forward to it for ages and I'm excited to be on my way. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and I'll be able to take and share some nice pictures. I hope you have a nice long weekend, too.

May 18, 2009

Year of Living Generously - A Brief Update

I haven't forgotten that I have a blog, I promise. I've just been really occupied with other things -- much of which had to do with the title topic -- and I haven't had the energy or motivation to write.

As you may have noticed, if you've been here before, the color scheme recently changed. I, along with scores of other bloggers, have gone purple in honor of Maddie. Of course, my scheme was actually already purple but I went with a shade that was suggested by Mrs. Flinger, whom you met not too long ago.

I should note here that I wrote all of that rather disjointed intro above almost a month ago. I am not going to go into why there was such a long gap, mostly because I'm not interested in finding a way to articulate those whys to anyone. If that sounds snotty, I apologize; that's not my intent. I'm just not in a place where I'm up for it and I want to say it simply.

My life, mentally, has been different since April 7th. It's not a mistake that my last post and the one that has stayed up there for over a month was the remembrance from the day of Maddie's service. I haven't found a way to express why the events of April have had such an impact on me, to myself or anyone else. All I can say is that they did.

I also want to say that, while I'm going to continue on with 2009 being a year that I give as much as possible, I'm going to stop trying to write much about it beyond this. It's part of what's holding me up from posting. I wrote about how I've struggled with it right from the start and it hasn't gotten any easier.

Since the world said goodbye to little Maddie, most of my giving efforts have been focused on raising funds in her name for the March of Dimes and in helping to fund support for Maddie's parents, who have had such a difficult time since their world shattered. I talked about the March of Dimes in connection with the Spohrs back in February, though I could never have imagined at that point how much would have changed and how much would have happened between then and the date of the actual walk. If you aren't aware, the Spohrs' team alone raised over sixty thousand (yes, sixty thousand) dollars for the March of Dimes and raised so much more awareness of the organization and its mission, since that time. If ever the word "outpouring" were appropriate, this was it; there was an absolute outpouring of caring, commitment and cash from people around the country and beyond, both for the walk and for Maddie's parents. The wave of caring continues on and if you're interested in hearing about what's happening, please check out the March for Maddie site.

I wasn't able to participate in one of the walks, so I instead donated to pretty much anyone I knew who was going to walk. Because I have so many wonderful and generous friends, that was quite a few people and I was happy to set my credit card on fire as they donned their purple and their tennis shoes and set out to make a difference.

And, as Forrest Gump said, that's all I have to say about that.

So now, while life goes on as it inevitably does, I have this new appreciation for the impact that we can have on each others' lives. I've realized, however, that I don't need to write about it, I just need to do what I'm moved to do.

April 14, 2009

April 08, 2009

For Too Short a Time

A little over 24 hours ago, the world lost the light of a star and the universe gained one in the heavens. Madeline Alice Spohr left us last night, a mere 17 months after she got here to spread magic with her smile.

You may remember that I wrote about how her parents were raising funds for the March of Dimes walk to be held this month. None of us could ever have imagined that Maddie wouldn't be here for the walk, leading the way in her little pink car.

The blog world reeled today as the news of Maddie being gone spread via Twitter. There were tears and heartbreak and an outpouring of grief. But then that world started to pull together and spread an amazing amount of love and support along with the sad news. Heather and Mike asked that donations be made to the March of Dimes in lieu of any flowers. And my world, my online world, responded. For much of the day I felt numb with disbelief and grief, but I found myself transfixed watching that page for donations as it grew and grew and grew all day long. At this time, the team has raised over $20,000 in honor of Maddie. Just take a look at the widget to the right to see where the donation total on Heather's page currently stands. It boggles the mind and warms the heart, even a heart that's broken into tiny pieces right now.

The simply amazing Meghan at has dedicated a page on her site For Maddie and it has all the information about how to make a donation (**Updated - the button to do that appears to the right, too. Please help if you can**), where to send any cards, etc. to Mike and Heather, information about the funeral service (which will be updated as the details become available) and a list of all the people who have written posts in honor of Maddie, to celebrate her life and mourn her death. Over 200 bloggers have added the links to their posts there, among them some pretty incredible writers, all of us needing to share our love for a little girl who could touch our hearts across the Internet with her trademark open-mouth smile and wide-open eyes.

Maddie, you are loved and missed beyond reason. Thank you for brightening my world, for too short a time.

April 01, 2009

What the Deuce?

At long last (at looooong, looooong last), the Internet's least-successful giveaway has come to a merciful close. The charming and lovely PsychMamma, as the only participant, walked off with the big prize. As she's currently off vacationing in the sun and sand, I'll let her know when she gets back and her tan has worn off.

Clearly, the hurdle of having to make a donation was a higher one than I anticipated, so I apologize to those of you who would have liked to participate but just weren't in a position to do so. When I chose to do this, I didn't realize that the minimum was $10. I'm still going to make an additional donation to the film, including one to match PsychMamma's generosity, and I'll try to do better next time in the giveaway department.

Moving on: Tonight I went to the reading and signing event for Heather Armstrong's new book, "It Sucked and Then I Cried." While plenty of people apparently gave her shit about calling it a "San Francisco" signing when it was actually south of there in Mountain View (actually the publisher's doing, which didn't surprise me), I was grateful that it wasn't in SF. This way I actually had a chance to go; if it had been up in the city, I wouldn't have been able to get there for it. As it was, parking was a pain and the small bookstore was packed. I was there a half hour early and every seat was already gone, and most of the decent floor spots were taken. But I copped a little step stool that was innocently occupying a corner unattended and settled in.

I'm not going to give you a recap of the event, as it's a "you had to be there" kind of thing, and I'm not going to tell you to go buy the book. If you like Dooce, you probably will; if you don't like her, you probably won't; if you don't have a freaking clue who I'm talking about, what are you doing here?

But I will tell you why I bought it and why I went tonight: She makes me laugh and I respect what she's done. The shy and retiring Mrs. Flinger went to the event in Seattle last night, and she posted about it, too (hers has video!). She conveniently wrote for me how I felt about going to see Heather and the experience overall:
Heather was absolutely hilarious. She was real, honest, pregnant (yes! BY GOD she isn’t lying about a pregnancy to make money! I know this shocks you.) and actually made the crowd comfortable. She’s every bit a normal person as you can expect some chick from BYU gone badass to be.
Feel what you will about her, to those who resent/hate/despise/"can't stand" her, whatever. To me she's a genuinely funny woman with a talent for telling a story and I wanted to give her props for being the blogger and writer she is. I'm not a fawner. I don't fawn. I didn't go there to fawn. I didn't have a funny story to tell or a need to make her remember meeting me. I didn't tell her, "Oh, I'm a blogger, too!" I didn't have my picture taken with her. I didn't bring a present for her gestating baby. I didn't tell her "how much I lurve your blog" or anything like that. I went there to show my support by buying the book, listening to her interact with her readers, and have my book signed.

And maybe to have something to write about to end the drought caused by the misery of that giveaway. Maybe.

March 11, 2009

Year of Living Generously - Hollywood Edition

Have you ever wanted to work on a movie? Whether it's in front of the camera or behind it, I think a lot of people have wondered what it's like. I had the chance to do that shortly after I moved here to California from New York. For me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and while it was hard work, I wouldn't trade having done it for anything.

A friend I've known for as long I can remember is a talented writer and had made an award-winning short film in college. A few years after graduating, he'd developed a screenplay and decided to raise the money to make it here in San Jose, completely on a shoestring budget. At that time, I was doing temp work so I had a lot of free time and flexibility, and I was delighted to help work on his dream project.

Raising the money took a lot longer than shooting the movie. At that point in time, I was struggling to get by as it was -- even with a nest egg, California was an expensive shock to my wallet -- so while I wasn't able to give much cash, I gave many, many hours. I had enough of garage sales to last a lifetime and a half, let me tell you. But it worked. Combined with all sorts of fund raising efforts, from hitting up our parents to asking local merchants for in-kind donations, and a few of my friend's own credit lines, we were ready to shoot in the summer of 1995.

I became the mistress of wardrobe, for reasons that were never clear to me. I'm no fashion plate, but it was a job I could handle. It involved a lot of Poloroid photos for continuity -- this was before the advent of the digital point and shoot camera, remember -- and a lot of waiting around. Oh, and I was also a driver because, well, because I had a car.

In two weeks -- the hottest two weeks of the entire year, I recall -- I learned how to sleep almost anywhere, ate more bagels than I had ever eaten before, fell a little bit in love, witnessed someone getting fired, had a near emotional meltdown, and watched the magic of movies come to life. I even had my name in Variety when they did a tiny notice about the film; apparently wardrobe is a position that got listed routinely.

It was an almost surreal time, and it was also one of the most stressful but rewarding experiences in my life. While the movie never got picked up for distribution, it did have a big premiere locally; I got to see my name and hard work up on screen, popcorn in hand. That was a night I'll never forget.

It was the type of experience that anyone who plans to work in movies should get a chance to have, because it's literally a "from the ground up" kind of environment. Journalism students at Middle Tennessee State University are getting that chance in a film called "The New True Charlie Wu," which is shooting right now in Nashville. When I saw the introductory video from the film's writer and director, Bob Pondillo, on the Charlie Wu site, it really resonated with me and took me back to those days when the film was gearing up and the sky was the limit. Like the film I worked on, this one is being funded entirely by fans in exchange for your name in lights...or at least on the big screen. The details on how it works can be found here. But, in short, you will get a screen credit based on how much you -- and the people you refer -- contribute to make the film a reality.

Why give to help a movie get made? It's simply another kind of giving to education, really. The next generation of filmmakers has to learn their craft, and this is how they do it. And, let's face it, we need movies. It's been well established that, in difficult economic times, people turn to entertainment to help them escape from sometimes difficult realities. Equally true is that they need our support when they're getting started even more than they do when they've "made it" in Hollywood.

For this month's project in my Year of Living Generously, here is what I propose: Go, check out the site using my referral URL -- -- and see what it's all about. Sign up and make even the minimum donation (which appears to be ten dollars), then come back and put your individual referral URL in the comments. For each of you who does this by the last day of this month, I will give an additional five dollars to the film. Plus, one person who makes a donation and makes a comment here will win two tickets vouchers to AMC Theaters in North America. There may be another, special prize that will be announced later.*

Fifteen years later, I'm in a different place in life than I was in the days of the endless garage sales. This is my way of honoring that incredible time and paying forward the chance I was given to participate in it. It may not sound like much, but seeing your name on screen for the first time is a memorable moment, and it's one I'd like to share with you.

+++Update: Initially I did not realize the minimum donation was $10. Because of that, I am upping the prize to four ticket vouchers to AMC or Cinemark or Regal Cinemas, winner's choice+++

*The pesky fine print: All comments must: 1) have a name; 2) have a valid referral URL; 3) have a verifiable email address; 4) be made here by March 31, 2009 at 11:59 PDT to be counted. The AMC ticket vouchers can only be awarded to a commenter who lives in North America. 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 deleted. All potential winners will be contacted by email, so a valid email address is required and you will have five days to reply with a regular mail address that must be in the area described above. The maximum amount that will be donated by me for this post is $500. All decisions about the donation and the giveaway(s) are mine and are final.

March 08, 2009

Since You Weren't There

These are some of my favorite pictures from my little roadtrip last weekend. The page may take a while to load, but hey, it's the weekend; relax and enjoy it.

March 05, 2009

Just Because

March 02, 2009

Mining for Edible Gold

I think I might very well have had the best meal of my life tonight. If not, it was damned close to it. I certainly can’t remember one that I enjoyed, end to end, any better. And it was in one of the last places you’d expect to have a life-altering meal.

OK, life-altering might be a slight exaggeration, but it inspired me to do two things I don’t normally do: write about it on a weekend (note: I can’t post it tonight, but I’m writing this on Saturday) and go back the next day for another meal.

I’m spending this weekend in California’s Gold Country, which, if you’ve never been here, I highly recommend you visit the next time you have a chance, especially in the spring. I’m a little early for the riot of flowers that pop up here every year, but their promise is in the air already and the daffodils are poking their heads up.

I’m staying in Angels Camp, which is famous for being the setting of the Mark Twain story, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” Nearby is the town of Murphys, which I’ve been to a number of times and I always enjoy coming back for both the familiar and the new. It’s a small town, so the landscape of shops and restaurants does change each time I visit, which can be both a blessing and a curse. This time, it was a blessing.

I strolled up one side of the main street and down the other, popping into various shops, window shopping and helping the economy a bit. It was too early for dinner, but I wanted to scope out where I would be eating because, hey, you just can’t leave these things to chance. As I came out of a neat tea shop, I noticed that there was a new (to me) restaurant called Mineral right next door. It was set back off the street a little, with patio seating in front, but they had a sign out front with a review from the paper of a nearby city that gave it five stars; not something you see every day. It said that it was a vegetarian restaurant, but not entirely vegan, and that it didn’t limit the deliciousness. I was intrigued, but a little disappointed that there wasn’t a menu out there to peruse. But five stars? Yeah, I’d consider it.

When I was ready for dinner, nothing else I’d seen had interested me as much as the promise of Mineral, so back I went. It was still pretty early and I was the only person there, which was fine because it’s a really small place and who doesn’t love a little personal attention when indulging in a good meal? I checked out the wine list first, and was happy to see that they had Prosecco by the glass, as it’s my preferred wine with bubbles.

When I opened the menu I was surprised to see it was really pretty short: a half dozen small plates, two salads and three large plates. As there are a lot of things I can’t or won't eat (and, okay, some people might call me “picky”), I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t find something I’d want. When I really looked, though, I saw that while I wouldn’t be in to everything on the menu, what I was into looked promising.

I started with a small plate of white bean hummus that had just the right amount of olive oil and paprika around the edges, with olive "dust" sprinkled on top, and was served with a trio of things to scoop it up, each one better than the next; sourdough baguette slices, thin toasted croutons and even thinner, super-crispy, almost translucent potato chips. The hummus was smooth and just garlicky enough, with a little kick from the paprika. The chips were nothing short of amazing and combined with the hummus they were divine. I’m not ashamed to admit that I ate almost every smidge of that hummus (that I could get to without picking up the dish and licking it clean) and then wished there were more.

It was probably a good thing there wasn’t, though, because next up was an entrée from the heavens. Now, I will be the first to tell you that I am not a mac n’ cheese girl. It wasn’t something I ate growing up and I’ve never had a taste for that fake cheesy taste of the stuff out of the box. But in the last few weeks, I’d heard a bunch of people talking about wanting to have that when the weather has been so cold and it made me wish I liked it. So when I saw it on the menu, I figured this was as good a place as I was ever going to find to try it…and I was right. This is what macaroni and cheese should be. It was made fresh with aged white cheddar and garlic butter, then topped with just enough toasted bread crumbs. I swear, it melted in my mouth and I believe I whimpered just a little bit when the cheese hit my tongue. I got a half order (a really nice thing for them to have available) and while I really wanted more of that, too, it was actually just the right amount for a single serving. It was incredibly satisfying and not the least bit heavy, and it felt really decadent to enjoy it with the Prosecco.

I was glad to see during my entrée that some other people were filtering in to the restaurant. This is a place that should be filled every night. Since there was no rush, however, and I wasn’t stuffed because the portions were just right, I decided to go ahead and get dessert. Perhaps not surprisingly, on such a spare menu, there was only one dessert selection but it sounded fascinating: Indian Spiced Fried Chocolate. I know! Fried. Chocolate. I had no idea what to expect but there was no way I could resist it. What came to the table was a small plate of four small, golden spheres, resting on an espresso port reduction and sprinkled with a touch of gray sea salt. The server, who is also one of the owners, said that the best way to eat them was to roll them in the sauce and pop them in your mouth. That was a little daunting because the “Indian Spiced” part gave me a little pause -- with something like that I usually want to taste a little first before going all in. But sometimes only the brave are rewarded, so I did exactly what she suggested and went for it.

Oh. My. God. The fried exterior was just thick enough to contain the chocolate, a little crisp and not at all greasy, and when my teeth broke it open there was this luscious ooze of almost bitter chocolate, with just a hint of spice and sea salt, that mixed with the espresso sauce and made love to my mouth. Four times. I then had a food-induced “little death” and passed out. The End.