Friday, January 30, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

First it was fun, then it wasn't

A big ice storm came through the upper Southland on Tuesday / Wednesday and coated everything in its path. We had three snow days in a row, which was pretty fun until the power went out last night around 5 PM.

We're almost out of firewood, so MB and the dog and I are probably going to go stay at my parents' house and the cat is going to spend the next few days at BoMB's place. I hope to be back home, back in power, and back online by the weekend, but no one knows for sure.

In the meantime, here are some fun pictures I took and managed to upload before everything went pear-shaped.

Missing everyone!


More pics and a few Indy-in-the-snow videos are up on Flickr if you're interested.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I learned a long time ago not to ask why

Noise from the kitchen:  *thud* ... *thud* ... *thud thud thud*

vbg:  What are you doing?

MB:  The dog's hitting the dishwasher with his tail.

dog:  *stands in kitchen doorway, tail facing out, watching MB*

vbg:  Uh, no he's not. I'm looking right at him.

MB:  ...

vbg:  So what were you really doing?

MB:  Pretending to be the dog hitting the dishwasher with his tail.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

You say butter, I say jam

I saw this neat free-association thing on this blog and thought I'd give it a shot. It was kind of fun, though I think all it proves is that I'm really tired. At least that's what I'm using as an excuse.

I say ... and you think ... ?

1. Unwanted :: pounds
2. You’d better :: not shout
3. Woman :: hear me roar
4. Weighed :: heavily on my mind
5. Upright :: citizen
6. I feel :: happy
7. Ill :: news is an ill guest
8. It’s like :: my mind just went blank (no, seriously)
9. Poor man :: teach him to fish (??)
10. Great :: Gatsby

Also, new review up at the book blog (where you can also comment to win a copy of my friend Steph's book).

Reading:  Plum Spooky by Janet Evanovich and The Daily Coyote:  A Story of Love, Survival, and Trust in the Wilds of Wyoming by Shreve Stockton

Playing:  Dave Matthews Band station on Pandora

And, HA:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Third Thursday Lolkitters

a week late because apparently I can't count

Click the photo to vote for Kitters!

View the collected weekly lolkitters on Flickr.

A special giveaway

Today is a very good day, because today I get to give away a book written by someone I know and love. My homegirl Stephanie Snowe, also known as That Chick Over There, is officially a Real Live Author. Her first book is entitled Meeting Mr. Wrong:  the Romantic Misadventures of a Southern Belle, and it's available on Amazon for the ridiculous bargain price of $9.95.

Of course, I encourage everyone to go buy Steph's book, but you can also leave a comment on this post for a chance to win a copy. To enter, you can either tell me a funny bad date story, or go check out Steph's blog and then tell me about an entry that made you laugh. If you do both in two separate comments, I'll give you two entries in the random drawing.

For a review of the book, go here. For a sneak peek at the first four chapters, go here (it's in PDF form). You may not want to read the sneak peek at work, unless your coworkers are used to you snorting with laughter at your desk.

Steffus, my sista-chica, I am so! damn! proud! of you. SMOOCHES.

Details:  This is cross-posted from my book blog. I'm giving away one book, and you can comment here or there. The contest is open to everyone (everywhere) and closes at midnight on February 2nd February 4th. The book comes out on February 3rd, and I'll ship the winner's copy as soon as it arrives from Amazon. If you decide to buy a copy for yourself (which I hope you will), you can still enter to win and pass the book on to someone else or give it away on your own blog. And if you don't win, please buy the book, because everyone needs to read the chapter about the guy with the pet birds. TRUST ME.

Don't read this unless you watched Top Chef last night

O.M.F.G. I cannot BELIEVE Leah didn't get sent home. I cannot believe that she is still in the competition and Radhika got sent home. WTF?? Does Bravo really think we give two shits about the Leah / Hosea love story? It's a cooking show! Yeah, Radhika sucked as a hostess, but she's a chef, not a hostess. She's not on the show to win Top People Person. And Lord knows I love hippy-dippy Carla, but Radhika has been cooking circles around her for weeks. Can we please keep the people who actually can, you know, consistently COOK?


Monday, January 19, 2009

Comfort fail

Every Summer as far back as I can remember, my parents took us camping. They would find respite care for the foster kids and we would take a week for just us, camping in our big musty canvas tent until the year I turned twelve, and camping in our RV after that. Back in the tent days, when my sister was still really little (she's six years younger), I was usually allowed to invite my cousin Amethyst along to keep me company. She's three years older than I am, but until she started high school we were pretty much inseparable.

One year, we got to go to a cave as part of our trip. My love of caves goes pretty far back, clearly. I don't know for sure how old we were on this particular vacation, but I'm guessing I was about ten, my sister was about four, and Amethyst was about thirteen.

As with most "show caves" -- ones that are set up to give guided tours to visitors -- the guide had a talk to give that mixed cave facts with local lore. Near the high point of the tour, the crowd was ushered into a large cavern with benches, where we sat down to listen to the tale of an old cowboy who had done something-or-other in the cave. I don't remember anything about the story, only that at the end they insinuated he was still in the cave without being too overtly scary. Another guide put on a cowboy hat and walked up the back side of the giant rubble pile we were in the cavern to see, so that his or her be-hatted shadow was cast across the top of the rubble mountain at exactly the right moment. It was all very well done as far as I was concerned.

After the story, the guide announced that it was time for us to all experience total darkness. Every cave tour I have ever been on has included this. You're thirty, fifty, eighty feet underground, and they instruct everyone to stay put, and then they turn off all the lights. You literally cannot see your hand in front of your face. There is no light at all. None. It's wicked awesome, quite impressive, and a little bit eerie. As the lights went out that day, just after the end of the semi-spooky cowboy story, it occurred to Amethyst quite suddenly that my rather sensitive little sister was probably pretty scared. The crowd fell silent as the guide doused her flashlight, plunging us all into impenetrable black, and Amethyst quietly reached over and squeezed my sister's hand reassuringly.

As thirty people sat quietly in the dark, listening to the nothing of the soundless cave, a tiny, quavering voice broke the silence:   "Who's holding my hand?!"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Daddy's girl

I usually hesitate to call myself a daddy's girl, because to me it means prissy princess types and those horrid girls who end up on My Super Sweet Sixteen. But I do have a good relationship with my dad, and there are some memories of him / with him that I treasure. Today's playoff games reminded me of one of them. I was a cheeky monkey as a little girl and liked to show off and impress people. I also already had a freakishly well-developed knack for memorization.

Because of this, my dad and I had a game we would play. He'd name a city or state, and I'd name the pro football team that played there. There were only 28 teams back then, but that's still a bit of a trick for a kid under the age of ten, right? I knew the entire NFL roster, though for years I couldn't figure out why the Steelers were called the Steelers if they didn't steal stuff. I also thought the Redskins played in Washington State. For some reason, I always had trouble remembering the Seattle Seahawks.

One day we were going through the list while Mom made dinner. New Orleans? Saints. New York? Jets and Giants. Houston? Oilers. Philadelphia?

I didn't answer fast enough, and Mom called from the kitchen, "Cream cheese!"

To this day, every time I watch an Eagles game, I remember that night and I smile. I think I am a bit of a daddy's girl after all.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Oh, hai

Okay, I admit it...I've been sneaking around behind your backs. For a good reason, though! The lovely Kerri Anne is letting me write on the very cool 5 Minutes for Going Green. So far I've submitted pieces on cool ways to recycle Christmas cards, green party tips, and freecycling.

Besides my articles, 5M4GG runs cool giveaways, offers tips on all kinds of green endeavors, and features freakin' sweet recycled notecards. I definitely recommend checking them out! If things go as planned, I'll be posting there once a week. Email me if you have any cool ideas for green tip articles!

In other news, even though I pretty much dropped the ball on my garden blog halfway through last Summer, I'm starting to look forward to getting the vegetable patch back up and running for a second year. I got the book Worms Eat My Garbage from the library and am excited to an embarrassing degree about trying my hand at setting up a worm bin. Luckily for me, my friend D already has worm bins set up and thriving, and she's willing to give me advice and guidance. Also luckily, MB has said that I can keep the bin in the basement as long as I'm the one taking care of it. If it works, I promise I'll post about it. Winter has just started to really sink its teeth into us this week, so I'm not sure why I'm borderline obsessed with my garden right now. Denial? Defense mechanism? It sure is nice to dream about ripe tomatoes and pretty zucchini while it's -- no lie -- 5 degrees Fahrenheit outside.

There's probably more to say, but it's 11:30 already and I've stayed up way too late this week, so I'm going to call it a night and leave you with this sad but funny (and true) comic from Married to the Sea:

Reading:  Bloody Jack:  Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy by L.A. Meyer

Playing:  Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette

Monday, January 12, 2009

Would you like to take a survey?

The day after I posted my list of 9 goals for the year, evilducky told me about a local women-only art show that I can enter. I'm allowed two entries for the fee, and I have to register by February 9th.

I'm definitely using this photo:

However, I cannot decide on a second. And so, I am turning to you. Which of the following should I also consider submitting to the show? I've been advised to print them in size Embarrassingly Ginormous, so they'll either be 16 x 20 or 11 x 14, depending what kind of resolution I can squeeze out of them.

Pink flower:

Oak leaf:

Light through leaves:

Autumn in Alaska:

A shell of his former self:

It's that time again

Today is the day where all across the internet, we're supposed to leave comments on the blogs we read. For me it might turn into Delurking Week, since I have almost 1000 posts backlogged in my reader, but that's my own fault.

Anyhoo, if you're reading this, please take a moment to leave a comment and tell me something about yourself. It can be really simple...what's your favorite color or number or breakfast cereal? Leave me a link to your blog, too, if you have one, so I can visit! And as always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Speak up, sonny boy, my hearing aid's not working

I kidsat tonight for my usual charge, the Kid (who is now six years old. SIX!!), and his best friend, who is four. Around 8:30 I got the boys settled down on the futon on either side of me and let them take turns choosing from a big pile of storybooks. At one point, the Friend piped up, "How old are you?"

VBG:  I'm 27.

Friend:  By the time I'm your age, you'll be dead!

VBG:  I hope not. I'll be 50, the same age as the Kid's dad.

Friend:  When I'm your age, you'll be old!

Knock it off, kid, or I'll bop you with my cane.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pimping like a painted whore when the rent's due

My dear friend Stephanie / Chick's book is available for pre-order on Amazon as of today:

The more orders she gets, the better she'll do in the rankings. She's a first-time published author, and trust me when I tell you that she deserves all the success in the world. Her book's only $10, and I promise it'll make you laugh. Please consider pre-ordering, and pass the word on to all your friends who like books, laughing, and doing nice things for people!

Friday, January 09, 2009

There but for the grace of God go I

I am not still very often. Even when I am physically sitting in one place, my mind is whirring away. It astounds me that I can ask MB "What are you thinking about?" and he can honestly answer, "Nothing." I'm never, ever not thinking about something, and I'm usually thinking about several things at once. In a way, I think this contributes to me being a generally happy-go-lucky person. I'm usually too busy bouncing from one idea to the next, from projects to tasks to daydreams, that I just don't have time to worry about what-ifs. Lately, though, things have been catching up.

This economy scares the shit out of me. We do just this side of all right most months, but definitely could not survive on either income alone. I've been told not to expect a cost-of-living adjustment this year, and I don't make that much to begin with. Of course, I am not going to complain too much, because everyone at my boss's wife's company had to take a 5% pay cut just last week. MB's company supports the auto industry, so you can guess how comfortable that feels at times like these, when automakers are making unhappy headlines seemingly every day. Just yesterday, a friend of mine who is pregnant and in school found out that her husband is getting laid off from his tech job.

While we're here, let's talk about the pregnancy thing. In early December, I had six pregnant friends. Six! The future was full of hope and fat, happy babies. As of last week, I had three pregnant friends, and not one of the other three pregnancies had produced a baby, fat or otherwise. Three respectably healthy girls, my age, with what had appeared to be normal pregnancies, and then all those hopes, just gone. And while I know that it must just be an ugly coincidence, I have started to stare worriedly at my remaining pregnant friends. I send bursts of thought at their babies, sternly admonishing them to stay put (for all the good it did the last three times). It's very sad and very scary and very unsettling.

And while I know that probably we'll be okay, that really all we need is each other, that if we were (please let's not) to lose everything but each other, we'd somehow someday come out the other side, the still moments are starting to be less comforting. Sometimes when the quiet minutes sneak up on me -- while I'm driving, in between the morning bustle of walk, shower, pack lunch, crate dog, find bag, locate keys and the day at work -- or lying in bed in the dark, MB already asleep beside me -- sometimes then I can't stop thinking. I start to worry about jobs. About this house we just bought. About the baby we want to have. About my dad, less than a year from retirement, holding his breath that nothing gets screwed up. About friends' suddenly and seriously ill spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents -- only a few, but a few is too many. About my friends, their jobs, their families, their babies.

In the sunlight, it's easy to flit from one thing to another, forgetting about all the seriousness that's going around. If I avoid the dire headlines and focus on what I'm doing, I can forget how narrow the ledge is that we're all walking these days. But in the quiet times, I sometimes feel like I'm staring down something that's staring right back, reminding me that it's all so goddamn precarious.

Photo Friday

View the entire Photo Friday collection on Flickr.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

God help us all

One of my friends at work is 12 weeks pregnant, and yesterday she admitted that the infamous Pregnancy Brain is setting in already. She said it's driving her nuts because she's usually not an absentminded person.

Tonight I came home from work, greeted the dog, and -- like always -- fed the cat. I got a can from the shelf, opened it, and spooned some delicious kitty cuisine onto his plate*. Then I put a lid on the leftovers in the can, set his plate carefully aside, carried the capped can to the office where he eats, leaned over the gate, and set it down. The worst part? I didn't even notice anything was amiss until the cat ran in to eat, saw the can, and looked at me like I was losing my mind. And I'm not even knocked up.

Reading:  Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Playing:  the Stardust and Iron Man soundtracks

* Yes, the cat eats from a plate. That's what he used at his first owner's house, and we thought it would be good to be consistent. Like the cat is some kind of culinary snob and gives two shits how his food is presented.

Monday, January 05, 2009

What I go through for you guys

Here's how Kitters "helps" me blog, most nights...all fifteen pounds of him:

Let me preface what's about to come by saying that if you have a weak stomach or hate bugs, you should probably just go watch the Kitters video a few more times and then come back tomorrow. Also, if you really like Shredded Wheat? Uh...I recommend the cat video. Seriously.

So I was driving home from dropping my sister off at our parents' house, and trying to come up with a blog post to go along with my cat video (which you should totally be watching instead of reading if you're not sure about this part LAST WARNING TURN BACK NOW), and it dawned on me. Why not tell the Shredded Wheat story?

When I was a kid, I spent the night at my cousins' house a lot. There are three of them, and we're what my mom calls "stair-stepped" -- I'm nine months younger than MacGyver, who is sixteen months younger than Anthony, who is a year younger than Amethyst. We only lived two blocks apart and Amethyst was one of my best friends growing up, so I spent many weekend nights at her house, and she spent just as many at mine.

I don't recall how old I was when this happened, or what caused me to choose the cereal I did that day. I had never actually eaten Shredded Wheat before, which makes it even more mysterious that I'd choose it over whatever all my cousins were eating. I do remember my aunt telling me that the Shredded Wheat was kind of old, and telling her I didn't mind. So she poured me a bowl, and I have to admit the cereal was kind of terrible. This wasn't cute little bite-sized Frosted Mini Wheats, it was the kind without frosting, where the pieces of Shredded Wheat are huge, like small hay bales in your bowl. But I couldn't exactly change my mind after she'd poured the cereal and added milk, so I slogged grimly forward.

Until the moment, that is, when I looked down and saw a two-inch-long multilegged thing hotfooting it across the surface of my Shredded Wheat. I do not know if it was a millipede or a centipede, and I do not know how it came to be in that box of cereal, but I can tell you that it was years, years before I could eat Shredded Wheat again. And just telling you this story, I'll probably end up with an all-night case of the heebs.

So yeah. I warned you, right? Hey, at least I didn't tell the one about my mom and the Twinkies...

(And yes, this post was written with the help of my faithful assistant, which is why I am rapidly losing feeling in my left hand. Send helpaslk;awlie'oaf l oie[oawi

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Nine in Oh-Nine

The awesome Kerri Anne posted an absolutely kickass list of goals for 2009, and it inspired me to come up with my own. I'm historically very bad at keeping resolutions and following through on stuff, so this might be a struggle for me, but I'm going to see what I can do.

1. Develop better eating habits. I'm going to start simple, by making it a goal to eat a small, relatively healthy breakfast each weekday. I also will try to add fruits and veggies to my daily diet, since I am absolutely terrible about that.

2. Get into a sustainable exercise routine. Realistically, I will not exercise every day. Probably not even every other day. But thanks to evilducky, I have a weekly yoga class now, and I'll be taking a six-week Pilates class starting at the end of the month. I'm going to try to keep the momentum going as long as I can.

3. Enter a photograph in an art show Now, I can't control whether or not I get into a show, but for two years I've looked at photographs at art shows and thought, I could do that. So at least once this year, I'm going to get a photo printed, frame it, and pay my fifteen bucks to see about getting that sucker in a show.

4. Launch a ruthless assault on clutter. I got rid of at least three full SUV-loads of crap when we moved into our house last February, and I've managed to excise a few more boxes of junk from our lives since then. I'm going to keep on rolling, because life is too short to spend it dusting / washing / working around stuff you don't even like, want, or use.

5. Try at least one new recipe each month. We don't cook very much, and when we do it tends to be the same stuff over and over. We have a dozen or more cookbooks in the kitchen, which we've barely touched. I lack confidence in the kitchen, so I never want to try anything new lest I fail and waste all the time and food. I may come to regret it, but I'm going to bust out some new recipes this year. Even if I only add one new favorite dish to our rotation, it'll be worth it.

6. Redecorate at least one room in our house. Our house is fab, but it came with some really unfortunate wallpaper. I'd like to have at least one room (or the staircase) stripped, repainted, and re-curtained by the end of the year. Maybe we'll go really crazy and even hang some art!

7. Get the piano tuned and practice regularly. I took years and years of lessons, but after a long break from regular playing, my sight reading is pitiful. I want to get the piano tuned and then go back through my old primers and polish up, and then get back to where I can play classical pieces again. (I should probably apologize in advance to MB and the pets for all the crap playing they're going to hear during my remedial phase.)

8. Read the magazines I pay for. I have had a subscription to National Geographic for years, and it's time to put an end to my habit of guiltily stacking them in the office so I can "read them later." At the end of this year, if I haven't actually cracked any of those yellow-bordered covers, it's time to admit that I am merely pretending to be a cultured NG reader.

9. Waste less food, and be more prudent about what we buy. Right now we have a freezer full of stale ice cream sandwiches and popsicles and Toaster Strudels, and a crate by the fridge full of ancient chips and pretzels. I think there are at least six partial boxes of cereal in the pantry. We never intend to be wasteful, of course, but I'm bad about buying a different variety of something I already have at home, just because I'm craving it (i.e. a box of Kix when I've already got Cheerios at home, Fritos when I'm still working on my Cheetos). It's time for this to stop, I think. I'm making it a goal to clean out all the hidey-holes in the kitchen, and then to be thoughtful and responsible about refilling them.

And, let the year begin.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Photo Friday

View the entire Photo Friday collection on Flickr.

Betcha Didn't Know

A while back I was tagged by Geek Girl for the quirky facts meme. I've been linked for this before, but there are always more weird things to share.

Share 6 non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself.
Tag 6 random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs.
Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Link to the person that tagged you.
Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

1. When no one is looking, I always ride my shopping cart across the parking lot at the grocery store.

2. I have sworn off pantyhose for life. I was "required" to wear them on a college trip, only to discover that the ones I'd brought were sheer black ones from high school and didn't match my dress. So I threw them away and vowed never to buy another pair. So far, so good!

3. I volunteer at the local nature center, and one of the most fun things I do is lead owl pellet dissection workshops. It's super rad.

4. When I was a kid, my mom always gave us Sprite or 7-Up when we were feeling pukey. Now I can't stand to drink either one, because they make me feel like I'm going to puke.

5. I hate rollercoasters. I want to like them, but I just can't. They nearly give me panic attacks. I like spinning rides, though, so I'll go on the Scrambler with you anytime.

6. In high school I had a goldfish named Godzilla, whom I won while trying to win a tiny little lizard in a ping pong ball toss game at a carnival. I would play Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" for him all the time, and if I turned the stereo up too loud he'd freak out and it would look like he was head banging.

Let's see...I am going to tag Joy at A Spot of T, Ari at Beyond My Slab, Black Sheeped, Cadiz, Kerri Anne, and Daisy.

Reading:  My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman

Playing:  the Stardust soundtrack