Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Looking for Art

Which way is the art?
How about this way?
Have you seen the art?  No, not folk art.
Aaah. Mr. Washington leads the way.

The portrait of Mr. Lyon tells one of my favorite stories.



William Morris Hunt seems to underpaint. I really like the effect.

Mary Cassatt


John White Alexander 

A few John Singer Sargent favorites.




Ikebana boat full of colorful dimensional glass pieces.

Mille Fiore by Chihuly



Neodymium Reeds

There's something about a large art installation that almost always grabs my attention. Add dramatic lighting and it's rather atmospheric.  I'm not sure what these abstract pieces mean, if anything, but the largeness of the work alone forces my transportation into its world rather than allowing me to wander into the painting or wonder what it would be like in the pose of the sculpture. 




Sunday, May 22, 2011

May Family Writing Night

Our best laid plans for a monthly Family Poetry Night hit a snag around the end of the year. Sadly, despite the fact that I sent out the assignment last month (after months of asking for the person who originated the idea to come up with some guidelines – but I’m not bitter), we were unable to reconvene due to scheduling conflicts until this week.  Happily, we’ve expanded poetry to other forms of writing and we seem to be back on track. 

This month, per Stephen’s suggestion, we each wrote a dialogue. I sent out links to Plato’s famous dialogues and to the video of Abbott and Costello’s Who’s On First.  I asked that each participant write a dialogue for at least two people of at least 2 pages long, with enough direction that someone else would be able to read it and give it meaning. The girls of the family came through with flying colors in making small but meaningful -- to us at least -- dialogues about daily life. The boy, an erstwhile English major, was an enthusiastic reader, but did not write, while the originator of the idea wrote six, idea-packed pages wrapped around a calm and courageous hero.

Let’s just say, Katy, Victoria, and I wrote dialogues that were performed collectively within nine minutes. Stephen’s dialogue took 16 minutes all by itself.  But it was pretty darn good in a Scarlet Pimpernel meets Sparrowhawk kind of way.

Here are the names and descriptions of the dialogues as presented (I think that titling a piece of writing is near half the fun of the project. Apparently, my daughters do not share my enthusiasm in that.):

Family Night Dialogue: Joe’s frustration with his little brother comes back to bite him.

Dialogue – Family Style: A conversation between co-workers.

The Importance of Knowing When to Be Earnest: A chance meeting at a hardware store.

A Match for Hastings: The compelling conversation of a condemned man and his executioner.

We are now taking suggestions for June Family Writing Night.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Good Night

Last night, from about 5:30 PM to this morning around 5:30 AM, Team CrossFit Woodshed participated in our local American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. We walked, we ran, we remembered, we celebrated, and we raised near $3000 for the ACS.  But we didn't sleep. Okay. I did.  A little. Between 3:57AM and 5:10AM - I just couldn't take it anymore!

Despite its nearly catatonic captain, Team CrossFit had its own stars of stamina: Jay and Jill with the thankless late, early shift, Craig with his running for an hour straight and then walking the next hour, Stephen with his 10 push-ups for every lap (720 push-ups in total - you know he kept his stats), Triple Team Tim, the quiet consistence of Ethan, Jared, and Laura, and my daughters (who are now both blissfully asleep), not to mention our fearless trainer who walked for hours and went home in time to ensure a burly barbell session at 6AM this morning. 

And just so you know, all cupcakes offered to you at 3:00 in the morning can be considered paleo-friendly cupcakes - by me, at least.


In researching the charity, I came to the realization that the American Cancer Society may not be the best charity for cancer research funding, cancer prevention, or most even the most efficient in allocating its funds raised. Having participated in the Relay for Life twice now, I will say that the event certainly does make the idea of surviving or living with cancer a viable, less lonely, and less frightening prospect.

This is worth my effort and time, and I want to thank the Woodshed Fitness community for theirs.

Friday, May 20, 2011

List Five: Five People I Love (and How)

The list was too easy so I added the how – turned out to be a more revealing exercise for me.

1.    Me (first)
2.    Stephen (incomparably, as justice demands)
3.    Victoria (so much sometimes it hurts)
4.    Katy (for her positively wonderful self)
5.    Andrew (learning to let go and love anew)

And that concludes this Five Things List blogect. It actually ended up being a good exercise for me. 

If you decide to do your own list (or have done it and I didn't mention it) let me know. I'd like to read it. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

List Four: Five Things Make Me Happy I’m Alive

Sort of a silly title for a list in that everything but the ravages of a terminal illness (I’d imagine) makes me happy I’m alive. Here are five things I’m particularly happy to experience on a regular basis.

1.    Warm sun/green grass/blue sky (feel/smell/see).
2.    Sex (feel/smell/hear/taste/see).
3.    Red raspberries (taste/see/smell/feel).
4.    Baby heads (smell/feel/see).
5.    A tiny patch of fur just below my husband’s belly button (feel/see; anything more would just be gross). 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

List Three: Five Things I am Grateful For

Short, sweet, and concrete.  Literally, concrete.

1.       Internal combustion engine
2.       Concrete
3.       Bach’s Cello Suites
4.       Epinephrine/Morphine
5.       Plastic


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

List Two: Five Things My Body Can Do


1.       Replicate: Seriously, have you seen my older daughter? Not head size or height, but her face and – sadly for her – the legs?
2.       Heal: No more pinched nerve; no more SNAP! in the back; no more subconjuncitval hemorrhage.
3.       Man push-ups: 34. IN A ROW!
4.       Man pull-ups: One +, but nuff said.
5.       Odd motions: Cartwheels, backbends, cobra, handstands, the “I’m Bernadette”, Janet Jackson’s patented head move, squat for 5 minutes.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Late to the Five Things Party

This All About Me series of lists is inspired by Jenn, Kelly, Mel (fabulous, new-to-me, rocking strong blogger chick who wears all black with cheetah accents), Miranda, and Rachel. I wrote all of my lists the day after I'd seen the first list, but was not feeling particularly share-y. Now I am. I would like to figure out exactly why I expand and contract my personality at another time, but for now I offer you the first of my five lists of five things:

List One: Five Things I Love About Me (This was much harder than I thought it would be; maybe that's a key to my sudden contraction.)

1.       I am strong.  I can push, pull, and lift more now than ever before. My muscles thank me everyday.
2.       I am invicible.
2.       I am selfish. Understanding and acting in my self-interest is a requirement for my happiness, and damn it, I’m usually excellent at it.
3.       I am demanding. I insist that my people are also selfish; I have no desire, nor inclination to have to guess at motivations.
4.       I am just. I do not suffer fools lightly; most importantly, myself (another key?).
5.       I am dance-y. Whenever, wherever the mood strikes, I’ll shake it, whatever it may be.

For those of you uninterested in the Five Things lists, skip ahead to Saturday.  I plan to post one a day this week.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Bacon Number:3

Do you have a Bacon Number?  I do.

A Bacon Number is not about how much you love bacon - then I would be a one - but about the fewest number of movie/show links that will connect the actor Kevin Bacon and any other actor.  Or extra.

As a sophomore in high school I was an extra in a B horror flick called, at the time, The Coming. It was about the haunted life of a descendant of the Salem witch accuser Ann Putman, played by Susan Swift.  I was the girl's classmate and sat next to her on the bus. I got paid $25 a day and spent a night inside the Witch Museum for filming, an entire day in a cemetery, and a few days hanging around the set on Chestnut St. And, I didn't have to go to school those days.

It was a really fun experience. I think I am in the film for 2.4 seconds.

After a name change to Burned at the Stake, the movie went directly to cable. Despite being an amazingly bad movie (I did see it at one point), in it I am rocking the bad perm, gradient tint glasses, and a mauve A-line plaid skirt.  For these reasons alone my family would LOVE to get their hands on it.

Without further ado, here is how I am connected to Kevin Bacon:


That's me (via The Coming )> Susan Swift (via Harper Valley P.T.A) > Clint Howard (via My Dog Skip) > Kevin Bacon: 3.

Please, no autograph requests.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Truth in Advertising

The first foul-mouthed ninety seconds of this clip totally crack me up!


I was reminded of it by a more important and less funny issue: false advertising to kids.  Yes, I was almost a childhood victim of false advertising. Thanks goodness the FTC was there to protect me:

In a 2004 report, based on a speech delivered by J. Howard Beales, III, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, reported successes in targeting false advertising to kids.

A. Ballerina Dolls Don’t Dance, Toy Horses Can’t Stand Up,

and Bread Doesn’t Help with Homework
. . . A horse named “Nugget” was shown standing on his own; in fact, “Nugget” fell over without human assistance. In each of these cases, the ad was examined from the viewpoint of a child in the age group to which the toy was targeted. While an adult viewer might understand that special techniques were employed in such commercials, the child would expect the toy to perform as shown.

What girl growing up in the early 70s did not want Nugget? (Sing it with me now, Dusty, Dusty, Dusty, riding Nugget, Nugget, Nugget!)

Actually, I’m no victim, not because of some bureaucratic prohibition, but because despite my incessant pleas, my father told me straight out – You want a Palomino, I’ll get a Palomino, but I’m not buying you any dumbass fuzzy Palomino  for twenty bucks!  I’ll just paint the damn Barbie horse you already have.  And so he did. 

Love the white blaze and my father for painting it. 

Goldie represents the perfect nexus of childhood desires and parental responsibilities – minus one tail.  Maybe that’s why I’ve kept the damn thing all these years with nary a Barbie in sight. 

But I fear this no nonsense approach to parenting (colorful vocabulary optional but super-fun to say as a parent) is all too rare; there now seems to be a collective sigh of relief when we hear, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” where raising children are concerned.

This universal relief from our parental burdens, real or imagined, must certainly fuel the federal government’s recent charge to four ginormous bureaucracies (the Federal Trade Commission, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Federal Drug Administration, and the Center for Disease Control) to develop proposed voluntary guidelines for advertising unhealthy foods to kids under the guise of improving children’s diets. No doubt, keeping tabs on what your kids eat is downright time consuming, their incessant whining to “buy me Kids Cuisine” is totally irritating, and monitoring every single thing they watch on television or see on the computer is completely out the question! I can see why people might think that the prohibiting private companies from advertising to our children might lighten our parental burdens.

But any imagined benefits break down when we look at what is actually occurring here.

First, there is no force or fraud on the part of the advertisers impacted by this proposal, just that the smart guys—expertise is the word used in the proposed guidelines—in the bureaucracies think the advertisers’ products are unhealthful. The advertisers have done nothing wrong and yet they are supposed to voluntarily curtail their advertising, effectively making speech, for them, no longer free. 

They, the experts again, see marketing as an effective tool to encourage children to make better food choices, and voluntary adoption by industry of strong, uniform nutrition and marketing principles, like those proposed here, will advance the goal of promoting children’s health. The bureaucrats see using marketing to children as a tool they can use. On whose dollar, I might ask? But what is worse, by far, is that  the bureaucrats are trying to do my job!

The proposed guidelines are only voluntary in the sense that advertisers won’t be fined or put in jail if they don’t comply, but that they will not receive the sanction of the governing bodies and will most likely be served nasty innuendo in the press is understood. All “guidelines” become regulations by default, if not by decree.

This is the truth that needs to be advertised:  This proposal tramples on the proper role of government – the protection of individual rights – and slinks into the role of parent to our children, helping to reduce our overall responsibilities as adults and increase our reliance on the mighty, mighty government: a reliance which will not, by any stretch of the imagination, make for healthier children.



If you’re feeling particularly feisty about this and are tired of the government trying to tell you what to eat, what to buy, how to live, who to love, and how to parent – tell them so.  If you’re not fed up with the incessant destruction of the rule of law and the veritable orgy of this government of men, take a gander at what the federal government has in store for you today.  Maybe you’ll change your mind. While you still have that choice.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Don’t Play Games with Me


One of the other games we played on Mother's Day was Krypto. Krypto is a math card game so my youngest agreed to play it only under Mother’s-Day-induced-duress. It can become a hair-pulling game (explained well at the Wikipedia link above) in which you have to mathematically manipulate five randomly drawn number cards to combine into a sixth objective number card- first.  If you don’t see the simple connections right away you tend to get easily frustrated by how close you can come to the objective.  Happily, close doesn’t cut it in math.

While playing the game, I ran into an interesting conflict of my values.  Because I am delighted that my mother is playing Sudoku, or Jumble, or other word and number games to keep her mind active, I was happy to see her on board with the idea of playing Krypto. True to herself, she was a very enthusiastic player and did not stop or become sidetracked trying to cajole the reticent twelve year-old into playing.  I appreciate this behavior more than I’ll express here.

Oddly, however, when both my mother and my twelve year-old shouted at the same time that they’d “Got it!” and my mother put her hand down on the cards, I lowered the boom on my mother’s hand like lightning!  As if my speed in slapping my hand on top of hers was not enough to make her stop her explanation of the solution – giving my daughter room to solve it – I squeezed her fingers. 

I became the Mama Bear.

In squeezing, I became the Grizzly Mama Bear.

As I felt my mother’s weakened fingers giving way under my death grip, I released them immediately.  But no matter how badly I felt about my instantaneous use of force against my mother, my clear priorities were to give my child that chance to explain her answer in the hope that she would triumph over the numbers and no longer shudder at the mere mention of math games.

My daughter gave her explanation, scored the point, and has probably learned not that playing with numbers is fun, but that playing with mom is dangerous.

**************

Because playing Krypto is fun (minus the finger squishing) here is a hand for you to play:

Combine the number cards:

6, 7, 15, 16, 17

By using any of the four basic mathematical operations, using each card only once, and resulting in the number 20.

(After a few hours of looking at this set periodically, we gave up on it.)

It’s so simple once you see an answer

Monday, May 9, 2011

My Dog: The Reuleaux Triangle of Genetic Disorders


Check out the Border Wars post on these three dwarf genetic disorders and the breed standards that demand them. It's really interesting.

As much as I find my Izzy a delightful little photogenic and lovable beast, next time, it's a real, full-size dog for me.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The 4C's of Mother’s Day

Cappuccino
I got up before the crack of dawn and made myself a cappuccino with my new, inexpensive cappuccino maker. It was delicious! The foamy thing worked and the drink looked so beautiful that I couldn't go back upstairs with just one fabulous creation and a cup of regular coffee – so I made another. Second one, not so good. Oh well. When my parents got here, I had the chance to make another three: the first was excellent again! the second, okay; third, meh. (So far, my success in cappuccino making is a lot like my success in pull-ups: I need a lot of recovery time and even then only the first one is worth a damn.)

See the cinnamon float?
Competition
After enjoying some sweet potato frittata, cooked by my daughters, and bacon, cooked by my son, we played a few friendly games of Set.  Okay, a few cutthroat games of Set, but all in good fun. When they broke out Suds, all of the sensible people ran away. This left my parents to play a few rounds with the girls. My son and his girlfriend, who were working in the garden, far from the house, could still hear my mother’s raucous laughter/cackle.

Chickens
Before and after my parents' visit, I was outside in this gloriously bright but cool day and decided to start the long, hard, winter clean up! I had to move the chicken kennel (a large dog kennel for the chickens to be outside while we're gone for any appreciable amount of time) nearer the coop and clean out the various piles of extra cedar shingles, old trim, 4x4s, interior molding, and other assorted piles of poo that have been hanging around that section of the yard for ever (yes, I meant two words).  And then I raked. Then I had to rake some more. I actually didn’t even get started with the winter clean up (tons of broken branches and pine needles), yet I still made a lot of progress (yay). There is no grass near the coop right now, but after some more work, I hope to turn the chicken corner of our yard into a grassy chicken playground. 

When will I remember to wear my work gloves when raking?

All the chickens in a group, but Alpha who's in the coop.

Cher
As if this weren't enough celebration and productivity, the oldies station wished me a Happy Mother's Day by playing this old favorite as we were on the way home from Agway and so I got to hone my Cher impersonation (ask Stephen - it's pretty good).


No matter how things change, some classics will always delight me.


Hope your Mother’s Day was full of the things that make it sparkly and magical for you!




Thursday, May 5, 2011

My Evening in Pictures (one of them even moves)

Turns out my afternoon was full of reading, reading, reading, some driving, then some more reading.  I am happy to report that I finished Emma early this morning.  I'd like to write five things I've learned from Emma, but because I was reading my daughter's giant book, Jane Austen ~ Seven Novels, didn't want to mark it even with a pencil, and temporarily misplaced my paper, I can not now find my favorite of her quotes about why Mr. Knightley is a superior man! (I believe that Emma and I are of one mind on that particular subject.)  So deep is my disappointment, that I may not explore the subject any further in writing. But I'm all set for the book club meeting.

Enough of that. That's another evening entirely.

Without further ado, here is a 51 second glimpse into my evening last. Because you needed to know.




Also because you needed to know: Yes, that pull-up bar is hanging in the doorway to our downstairs bathroom, I don't think that loud crack was the molding giving way under my immensity, that is the Declaration of Independence on the right, and some fine children's art resting on the floor  on the left while the bar temporarily interferes with its more permanent position on the wall.

Finally, I really am that excited by being able to do almost two pull-ups.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My Morning in Pictures

I was planning to do a Day in the Life in pictures, but I forgot how badly blogger handles photos.  So here is my morning in pictures - because you needed to know.

Jane Austen and coffee in bed (no cappuccino, yet).

CrossFit, coffee, and water.

Why So Negative?
In which I have a dumbbell complex.

My non-commuter's morning commute.

The Diva does Algebra. (The shades are part
of an allergy attenuation plan. - now if we only had
a "geometric idea" panic attenuation plan in place . . .)

Showing my mettle as a modern housewife:
Pressing some buttons

Turning some knobs
Hitting some keys (with the ever-present bottle of Blu Italy sparkling water
and bowl of chicken soup for breakfast - just outside the picture).

Making things happen!

Discuss why I have strings attached to the
tulip in this month's chalkboard doodle.

The UPS man cometh: He taketh away bad cappuccino maker
and leaveth more books! Love the UPS man. 
And now that it is noon, I must return to Jane Austen. My neighborhood lady friends are dependent upon my insightful contributions to our book group. (That and they vetoed my idea that I could talk about the three movie versions of Emma that I've seen instead).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fashion Finds

First, as the last person on earth who saw one darn thing about the Royal Wedding, I am recently fascinated by fascinators!  Who knew that these elaborate headpieces had their own very special name? I surely didn't, and yet I have long been a fan. I have purchased many of these for my daughters over the last fifteen years or so, starting with the one that gave me license to say "Girl! You got a duck on yer head!" over and over again.

(Yes. It is proper to feel bad for my children.)

Here is my favorite Royal Wedding fascinator, or hat as the case may be, as modeled by Miriam Gonzalez Durantez.


I'm not a big fan of turbans as a rule, but the big vibrant splash of coral floral petals works wonderfully on her.

Another find (via Building Atlantis) is the New Dress A Day blog in which the author uses thrift shop clothing and shows us how she remakes them into something she'd wear. Like the DVF Experiment, this blog takes one fashion plan and runs with it over a set period of time. I love the idea. And after having scoured her before and after photos, I have gleaned the four secrets of her success and now offer to share my wisdom with you, or any would-be imitator: take out the shoulders pads, shorten the length, add a funky belt, and wear boots whenever possible. It also helps if you are thin and lovely.

You're welcome.

Finally, in searching for a vintage or new cocktail dress to try to copy or buy outright if the price is right (no success yet), I found that in addition to different views of a dress and the ability to zoom in, lots of fashion websites now have a video of a model walking in the dress!  This is a very cool addition because if that skinny stick figure with poofy lips doesn't look good in it, there really is no hope for mere mortals like me.

Front shot still of Lotusgrace
silk organza cocktail dress. 

Go here and see the dress in motion for yourself! My impression of the dress thanks to the video: something bunchy about the waist that the stills do not exhibit. Phew! That just saved me $488. Not really, but that's sometimes how my mind works.  A little scary, I know.

Monday, May 2, 2011

When the Dog Barks

I know that the words to My Favorite Things are “when the dog bites,” but this is about dogs barking, not biting, and as such is about as far from my favorite things as headache-inducing, sleep-depriving, nuisance sound can get.

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out the best course of action in a given situation.  Of course, I want to do the right thing, but I simply don’t know what that is beyond what I've already done.  I rarely ask for advice, frankly because I like to keep my own counsel, but I'm currently at a loss. Here's my problem:

I have only one neighbor whose property line runs contiguous with ours for about 150 feet; all of my other neighbors are across, up, or down the street.  This one neighbor has two large dogs – nice dogs from what I can tell – that she keeps on her property. They do not roam about the neighborhood and as such, she appears to be a responsible dog owner. She and her family often go away for the weekend and leave the dogs behind.  They have a kennel in the back yard for the dogs and I’m not suggesting neglect.

The problem arises when she, or whomever she has entrusted to check on the dogs, forgets to put them inside at night.  That alone, of course, would cause no problem for me, but for the fact that when the sun goes down the dogs bark ceaselessly into the dark.  Sadly, for me, the dark is in my backyard and our shared wooded area so that the projection of their barks from where they are kept into the back of my house is not only direct, but also somehow magnified by the layout between the two spaces. Therefore, those of us with bedrooms in the back of the house receive the full effects of the deep, rich, and constant canine concert.

This has happened at least four times in the last two years, most recently on Saturday night between 6:15PM and 12:20AM. There seemed to be a bark break between 11:20 and 12:15.

Yes, this is my pathetic whiny voice: I’m tired and quite angry at this point.

The last time this happened, last spring, I told the neighbor casually the next time I spoke to her months later and she acted shocked: “You need to tell me. I have no way of knowing unless you tell me!” and then she proceeded to complain about other neighbors’ dogs.  It would seem reasonable that I needed to tell her about the problem except that she knows her dogs have a barking problem; her husband told me shortly thereafter  that the dogs have barking collars and they are working with the dogs because other neighbors have complained. Also, when you leave your dogs alone for a weekend – of course you're not going to have any idea of the problem they are! 

This time, I couldn’t get to sleep and the thought of discussing the problem with her as she deflected her responsibility got me too riled up. I asked Stephen to call her the next day (not my usual M.O. so you can tell how angry I was). She made the same excuses to Mr. Permanently Good-Natured: deflected her responsibility by talking about other neighbors’ dogs. Then she made some excuse about “the kennel door being left open.” Not a speck of responsibility for the fact that her dogs were out barking all night.  Actually, when Stephen said all night she corrected him saying, “Well, we got home at midnight.”  At 12:20, the dogs were still barking. I don’t know what happened after that.

I don’t want to be a bad neighbor.  I’ve tried discussing this with her several times since the last time, even commenting once that I hadn’t heard them recently, but the inexplicable kennel door being left open, as opposed to somebody not closing the kennel door, keeps happening.  My daughter couldn’t sleep.  I  couldn’t sleep. (Stephen can sleep through Armageddon.)
  
If we were on friendlier terms with them, I would offer to close the kennel door for them when they are out, but we are not on such terms, nor will I make further efforts with someone who has clearly been insincere to both me and my husband in the past.  I want to convey how serious the problem had become and so I have decided that I will call the police next time. 

Really, I’d rather not start down that road.

So now I’m thinking about buying an ultrasonic dog barking deterrent – like this http://tiny.cc/gs4v7.

Any suggestions, advice, comments?