Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I get the last post of 2008--YAY!

For 2009, I've decided to not only make writing goals/plans, but personal goals, too. Here are some of my personal goals:

1--I'm going to find time EVERY DAY to spend by myself.

2--I'm going to re-study Japanese again.

3--I'm going to read at least one new book a week (I may do a weekly post on my blog discussing the book I read--that could be fun!)

4--I'm going to learn at least 1 new dinner recipe a month.

5--I'm going to plan and book my dream trip to Japan!!

6--I'm going to come up with a sensible "diet" and exercise plan.

7--I'm going to use my foot spa and massage chair thingie at least once a week.

8--I'm going to get a for-realz massage at least once a month.

9--I'm going to get a new tattoo.

10--I'm going to make sure I drink at least one glass of tea per day.

What about you? Any goals you have for 2009? Funny, weird, serious--share 'em!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cranky old writer

Today's post is random rambling about things that drive me nuts, which is why I'm wearing my cranky pants.

1. Lose/loose - get it right people. The two words are NOT interchangeable. When you LOSE weight, you get LOOSE pants. Seriously, that makes me crazy.

I went out for a brisk walk yesterday, and this provided me with #2 and #3.

2. If you have kids, great. But your kids Christmas scooters (there were NINE of them) don't belong all over the sidewalk where I'm trying to keep up a certain pace. Don't you teach your kids the value of their toys? Or was that your way of telling your neighbors "screw you?" And don't pretend like you didn't see them. You were standing in the yard talking with your other slacker friends.

3. Keep your giant, slobbering dogs on a leash. I like dogs, but not when they come running at me. I don't know your dogs. I don't know if they're nice or mean. And I don't want my crotch sniffed, especially when I don't know whose crotch they sniffed last. (That's six degrees of separation even Kevin Bacon would back away from.)

And lastly, YOU KIDS STAY OFF OF MY LAWN. That is all. Now go read a book. Or tell me what makes you cranky?

Monday, December 29, 2008

sports movies

I'm a huge fan of sports related movies. Friday Night Lights, We Are Marshall, Bull Durham, Hoosiers, Jerry McGuire, Juwanna Mann (seriously, too funny)--you name a sports film, I've probably scene it. More than once. Hell my favorite TV Show of all time was Sports Night--which was about sports casters.

Last week, I spent some time rewatching favorite movies. Friday was Bull Durham. There is a scene in that movie that makes every girl weak at the knees. Crash Davis set the bar high for men all across the world with this speech: (strong language warning)

And yesterday, while folding laundry, I watched my all-time favorite sports movie, The Replacements, starring Gene Hackman and Keanu Reeves. It wasn't a blockbuster hit, but I could watch this movie every time it's on. Wait, I do watch this movie every time it's on. And I watch it other times as well because it's on my keeper shelf.

This is my favorite scene in the movie. It cracks me up every time. Is it realistic? I dunno. But it's funny as hell. The best part of the scene? The very last line. So watch it all the way to the end. (sexual content warning)

Are you a fan of sports movies and tv?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday Reunions and a Great Video Clip

Have you seen these guys? They are Straight No Chaser, an acapela group reunited after college when one of the guys posted a clip on YouTube. Hoping to connect with his old singing buddies, he got them discovered by Atlantic Records. And the rest, as they say, is holiday history...

What I love about the story is not the record deal or even the great music, though they certainly are terrific. What I like is how they got together after time, and life, and miles had drawn them apart. My own friends often wander home for the holidays. I see old students, kids I knew through my family home from college. I run into high school pals visiting parents, siblings, whomever... finding themselves back in Green Harbor for a little while.

I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday and will continue to do so as we head for a brand-spanking new year. And I hope you find a few old friends in the hustle and rush.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Day After

I used to think the day after Christmas was the most depressing day of the year. Something happened to me this morning, though. I realized I actually like this day.

  • There is plenty of nummy food in the kitchen, and I no longer need to make it.
  • The lights are still up and I can enjoy them without the constant to-do list streaming through my head.
  • There is still a "vacation" vibe, yet things start getting back to normal.
  • Did I mention the end of the constant to-do list in my head.

I can breathe! I can relax.
Happy Boxing Day!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas! Happy Chanukah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy Solstice (a little late)! Happy New Year!

Whatever you celebrate, I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

And so does Bailey!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Twas the day before Christmas...

It's Christmas eve, and I'm one of a handful of people in my office today. In some ways, it's cool--hello, RUN WITH SCISSORS while the bosses are out! In some ways, it sucks, though--I'd much, much rather be home. haha. So, for those of you who are stuck at work with me and have access to a computer, here are some online fun and games to check out:

--You can download the classic Elf Bowling game and wow your coworkers with your amazing ability to knock elves over!

--Into Mah Jong? Here's a Christmas Mah Jong game for ya.

--If you're an evil heathen like I am, you can watch the Ding Fries are Done guy on YouTube and laugh, laugh, laugh your work cares away.

--And last but not least, check out the picture that I found on (this pic made me snort out loud):

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Twist on Chrismas Songs

Here's a fun version of a old favorite. Have you heard this one yet? You might want to listen to it twice to really get the whole thing. Pretty awesome.

What's your favorite Christmas song?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Let's play a game

I'm going to make a list of things and you guess which ones are me, and which ones aren't. How well do you know me?

  1. Jeans, T-shirt, flip-flops is my outfit of choice. TRUE
  2. I'm naturally a red-head. FALSE (naturally a dirty-blond girl)
  3. I played basketball and softball throughout high school. TRUE
  4. I turned down a softball scholarship for college. TRUE
  5. I don't like listening to Jazz. TRUE
  6. I don't like old movies. TRUE (there are rare exceptions to this...)
  7. The first feature I notice on a guy is their butt. FALSE (it's a tie between eyes and smile)
  8. My favorite flower is a daisy. TRUE
  9. My favorite animal is a poodle. FALSE (flamingo)
  10. My all-time favorite movie is Dirty Dancing. TRUE

Now, go! Which ones are true and which ones are false?

Saturday, December 20, 2008


It snowed last night. Not the wimpy, little dusting we've already had, but the real deal that we've been waiting for. I don't care how old you are or how jaded you've become. Around here this is special an the kid emerges from the basement of every soul. It SNOWED. It covered everything and we awoke to a sense of softness, sounds made dimmer by the thick layer on the house. Morning light was more pearly and had no sharp angles to it. There as a smell... a slight, softened edge to the air like springwater, but with no trace of green. If you live in New England or a place with a similar climate you know what I mean. You don't need to look outside to know it snowed. You rush to the window because you know already.

And there it is... a thick blanket (the dustings don't count) made for careening down hills, sliding over big back yards, and building monstrosities of white. Snowmen, snow houses, igloos, you name it. The holiday decorations are suddenly magical. Every nativity scene achingly beautiful. The boats in the harbor decked out in ridiculous lights, wreaths, santa hats... nobody embraces the winter like our local lobstermen. I think you have to be slightly insane to do the job anyway.

We deck our lighthouses with holly and bay. We greet N'oreasters with grins and hot cider (usually spiced with something suspiciously stronger than cinnnamon). We build snow-lobsters and snow-forts and have snowball fights with mailmen we've known for years. We're not right in the head, I guess.

Must be all the snow. :)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Warning: Reading this post may cause cavities

I'd like everyone to mee the newest member of Gwen's family. I'd introduce you more formally, but he hasn't exactly told us his name yet. (My characters ALWAYS tell me their name right away, I'm a little miffed at the Lil Dude for keeping it to himself.)

So far the names in the lead are:
Frank (Frankincense)
Clark (for my favorite movie Christmas Vacation)
Walter (Walter is our favorite weatherman and we got puppy right during an unheard of arctic blast. Ever try housebreaking a puppy in the snow? In the middle of the night?)
And Mel likes Wally. Updated at 9:15 Friday morning (Pac time)
Lil Dude has informed me that his name is Wiley.
And he says hello. And he also says that he would like one of you to talk Mom out of giving him the bath she's been talking about all morning.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eau de Burger

If you follow this blog, then you know that Gwen wishes someone would come out with a roasted turkey scented candle.

As much as I love the smell of a turkey roasting in the oven on Thanksgiving, that's just WRONG. Scented candles are meant for romance and relaxation, not roasted meat.

But what do I know? After all, you can now buy flame-grilled-burger-scented cologne.

Yes, that's right. Just in time for the holiday shopping season, Burger King has unveiled a burger-scented men's body spray called "Flame."

Utterly repulsed by this idea, I shared this disgusting tidbit with Mr. Brice, assuming he would agree with me. No such luck. Much to my utter chagrin, Mr. Brice is intrigued by the concept and is now asking for some for Christmas.

I sincerely hope he's joking.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The other side of the story

I've always been drawn to novels about minor characters who finally get their own story.

One of my favorite novels is by Jean Rhys called Wide Sargasso Sea, which shows the tale of the crazy wife in the attic from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. I love how the author breathed life into this character and really gave her an existence of her own.

Just a few days ago, I picked up a YA novel by Lisa Klein called Ophelia, which is from the POV of Ophelia from Shakespeare's Hamlet. I'm eager to dig into this looks fantastic! I've always wanted to know more about this mysterious character.

What about you--any good stories you've picked up lately that show the POV of a character from another book?

Also, what minor or little-known characters from books would you love to see featured in their own stories?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Email? What's that?

I just returned last night from a week long trip to Costa Rica. I'm tired, but it was a great trip that allowed us to see many parts of the country, from the beautiful coasts to the crowded cities. There are levels of poverty there that break your heart and yet, the people don't seem unhappy. but that's another post for another time.

While I was there I didn't check email or have a cell phone - a true tech vacation! Of course, I came home to 517 emails and spent several hours wading through them last night. That got me thinking...what's the longest you've gone without checking your email or using your cell phone? Could you give it up entirely? Or do you freak without it?

Monday, December 15, 2008

smell ya later!

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day and somehow we got to talking about how important the sense of smell truly is. For me, it's the strongest of our senses, which is why I try to use it in my writing.

The sense of smell is like a Trapper Keeper for your memories. That's the best way I can think to describe it. I think that's how you develop your 'favorite' smells--based on the memories they created when your Trapper Keeper filed them away.

Smells are also a little bit like a time machine. The smell of vanilla takes me directly to my grandmother's kitchen. It comforts me and makes me feel warm and safe. Wet grass transports me to stargazing on a hillside. The smell of crisp new money takes me back to a Christmas where I received a stocking full of the brand new bills. Honeysuckle and Gardenias are summer. The smell of cinnamon takes me to directly to a softball game because I always had an Atomic Fireball in my mouth.

What about you? What smells are in your Trapper Keeper? Where do they transport you?

Saturday, December 13, 2008


It has surprised me for a while now that schools, most specifically high schools and colleges, haven't led the way in the ebook revolution. Then yesterday my godson, Tommy, called to ask for good places to download classics, Hamlet and a few others, for his spring semester at a private high school. I was delighted to hear he and his classmates are welcome to use ebooks in lieu of a specific edition of these classic texts, and that he has a few teachers who have sought out text books available in the format.

It always seemed logical to me that high schools and colleges would want to jump in with both feet on this technology. Even disregarding the cost-- which would be substantial, the convenience and health benefits are huge. Rather than carting around a book bag that weighs more than most of the cheerleading squad, students could pack a light sack with a Sony E-Reader or an Amazon Kindle, some pens and pencils, and a notebook or-- better still, a netbook mini computer. Under five pounds and everything necessary for a full day of classes. Makes perfect sense to me.

Not only that, but students could purchase a reader for under $300 as incoming classmen, use it for high school, college, and grad school, and download many books for free. Certainly text book publishers would be smart to give bulk discounts. Imagine starting school in September or January, logging on to the high school home page, and downloading all your texts for the year. They don't tear, wear, get dropped in puddles, or have a place to ink "Bongo loves Daisy" with a big heart around it. How often, during debates and stump speeches, have we heard politicians bemoan the out-dated text books in struggling school systems?

Why hasn't this happened yet? Long ago many colleges required incoming students to own laptops and provided discounted models. Some even included the new computer in the tuition. And net-books, mini pc's, really evolved out of the "one laptop per child" movement that sought to provide small, scaled down, child-sized computers for kids.

I'd love to see this idea spread. It would be great for schools, great for ebook publishing, great for young people with straining spines and groaning pockets. And I'd love to hear from readers. What about you? Does your school district encourage the technology? Do you love or hate the idea?

Friday, December 12, 2008

update on Headache Town

The Headache from Hades took off for parts unknown...for a few days. Then it came back.
So I went to my acupuncturist who gave me two different kinds of Chinese herbs, made me look like Pinhead from Hellraiser for half an hour, and is making me put salt water up my nose three times a day with a dropper.

Sometimes I wonder if she just wants to see if I'll really do whatever she says. (I have a week off from blow drying my feet every night, though. Apparently, my spleen channels are more open now, but I'm Yin deficient, so we're taking a break. Yes, I really did blow dry my feet every night. See? I do whatever she says.)

Can I just say that I have NO idea how people can snort lines of coke or whatever other drug you can snort now? It is TORTURE for me to put saline drops in my nose. I hate that feeling. It hurts and I don't like tasting something that went in my nose first.

So. That is my update. I will let you all know how it worked and whatever new torture she designs for me next week.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What Are You Reading????

I'm looking for some good suggestions. What YA books have you read recently that you absolutely loved? Dish!

As Rhonda knows, I can't rave enough about Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle Trilogy. These books (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing are set in Victorian England and feature a young girl who dabbles in witchcraft with her friends at boarding school. It's a classic good-vs.-evil struggle as she battles with the evil Circe for control of the Realms, a magical world beyond ours.

I don't normally read much paranormal, but I'd heard a lot of good things about this trilogy, so I had to try it out. Besides, having written a time travel set in that time period (although mine is in France, not England), I was curious to read more about the era. And I'm so glad I did, because I LOVED IT!!!!!!!

From the start, I couldn't put the first book down. Totally devoured them. Libba Bray just blew me away.

So whatcha been reading? Anything good?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hardcover, trade paperback, or mass market?

When it comes to buying novels, what size/type do you prefer to purchase? Do you go for the hardcover version? Do you like trade paperbacks? Or do you prefer mass market paperback books?

What influences your book-type purchase--durability? Cost? Size? Type of book? Who the author is?

As for me, I rarely buy books in hardcover due to the high cost. It has to be something absolutely spectacular for me to do so. I actually don't remember the last hardcover novel I've purchased.

My favorite book size tends to be trade paperback (and luckily for me, there are tons of YA novels that come out in this size). I'll typically wait until a hardcover book comes out in this size before buying it, even though that usually means waiting a while--the prices for YA trade paperback are usually very reasonable, and that's a hard allure to resist, because that means I can buy more. LOL.

If, however, given a choice with the same book between trade and mass market, I may buy the mass market version, since it's sometimes much cheaper. But if it's only a marginal difference, I'll still buy the trade paperback size, since I prefer that one.

How about you?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My Favorite Time Waster

Sometimes, I procrastinate. I know you're shocked to hear that. One of my favorite places to procrastinate is Image Chef.

You're welcome.

Monday, December 08, 2008

research papers for dummies

And by 'dummies' I mean ME.

My oldest son has 3 projects due within a week of each other...and then finals. This will be a busy week. (Of course, if he had started working on these projects when they were assigned instead of the week before they were due, this would be a whole different blog.)

I love to write. I do. I get to imagine things, then bring them to life on paper. Unfortunately, research papers are a different beast. And since my son's 8th grade teacher failed to teach him how to properly write a research paper last year, I'm doing it. (Of course, this entails that I must re-learn the process myself.)

BTW, it sux. Not the paper itself--he's actually done a pretty good job with that (although his spelling is atrocious!) What sux is the actual research and the dry delivery. No voice allowed.

Do you know how hard it is for me to watch my son write a voice-free paper? UGH! Especially when his written voice is so strong. But the guidelines were very specific. "Formal tone only."

"Pardon me, would you have any Grey Poupon?"

In college, we were encouraged to write with personality. Even when writing dry term papers, my professors always encouraged us to develop our voice. It made reading and grading the boring texts a lot easier.

So this 'formal tone' thing goes against my grain, but my son managed to do a good job of keeping is voice strictly monotone. I'm proofreading it for him today. I have a feeling that when I'm done, I'm going to need to write something colorful, lively, and full of me.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

BFFs Old and New

Paris Hilton may have taken the term "bff" to new heights, but it's been around a while. I guess today good friendships are on my mind for a few reasons. First, I got an email yesterday from a very old and dear friend I was missing without realizing it. Second, I have been spending a lot more time with my friends lately. And third, I am hooking up, later today, with some internet friends. I love meeting online friends in person.

My old friend Maureen dropped me an email to update her contact info and it was weird how I had been thinking about her recently. I think about her now and then anyway, but last week I drove through her old stomping grounds and had a Maureen moment... then I passed an ancient Hyundai on the highway. It was the exact make, model, and color of the little hatchback she drove during college, later purchased by me and driven into its grave. She was on my mind, and then-- kapow-- she was in my inbox.

Plus three of my bff's from high school have been constant companions lately. Roxanne I have known since we were tweens. Timmy was my first real boyfriend. Petie I have known since pre-school. We spent Thanksgiving together and it was great. The game-- for which I am eating crow, thanks a lot Rams-- drew a 6,000-plus crowd. I got hugged a lot this Thanksgiving and it was lovely.

Then there's Alan and Nonny, two friends from Romance Diva pals who are leaving my area soon. I couldn't stand the idea of letting them go without an in-person hug, so I am squeezing in a quick lunch before a meeting. I love those online-in-face connects. I got a pretty nice guy out of one of those. :)

I've realized, reflecting this week, that BFF means more than "best friends forever." I have many "best" friends. If I were forced to pick only one it would be Ahmed, though Max might get kind of ticked off. But I won't be forced to pick just one. For me it's not the BEST that counts as much as the FOREVER. It's a great blessing to have friends. And good friendships survive time and distance. One minute you're getting tackled at a high school football game by a guy you run into all the time at the grocery store... the next you've got a very dear and old friend popping up in your email inbox after ages. But the warmth and genuine joy is there, regardless.

So drop your friends-- old and new-- a line. Tis the season, after all. Spread some tidings of comfort, joy, and bff-itude!

Edit: Nonny and Alan outside Cheesecake Factory!

Thursday, December 04, 2008


Dear Reader,

Please be careful. There is a viral headache being passed around our blog. So far, at least three of the Nistas have had terrible headaches this week. I know nothing has worked for mine. Today it spread to my inner ear too.

The world doesn't seem to expect any less of me when I feel like 1/4 my usual self. So I need some creative headache cures that don't include burrowing back in my nest of a bed all day. Or any more advil because I'm one shy of an overdose.

So what crazy remedies did your grandma pass on to you? I am desperate.


It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

Every year, Christmas seems to come earlier and earlier. They put up the ginormous 4-story Christmas tree in the lobby where I work two weeks weeks before Thanksgiving this year. I think that's just a little excessive, doncha think?

(And it's definitely a "Christmas tree" this year, despite it being a federal government building. Normally it's a "holiday tree" and decorated in such inclusive colors as blue, silver or gold, but this year it's distinctly a Christmas tree with red ornaments, but I digress...)

I mean, okay, I understand that the economy sucks this year, and people are trying to make consumers head to the malls to spend, and what better way to do that than to remind people that the holiday season is here (even earlier than usual!). But a tree up 2 weeks before Thanksgiving? For crying out loud, I'm barely over Halloween by that point.

But fine. We're now a full week past Thanksgiving, and well into the holiday swing. I get that. I'm okay with it. But why must you play all my favorite classic holiday shows SUPER early?!

Case in point: "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer." Best. Christmas. Movie. Ever. I just love that little dentist wannabe Hermie the Elf, and the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys. And when Rudolph says "Ready, Santa!" at the end, it just tears me up inside.

Well, I hope you were able to watch it last night on CBS, because I was not. (I had dress rehearsal for "The Nutcracker.") Because according to this list, that was the ONLY time all season that it will be on this year!

What the heck? We're still 3 weeks away from Christmas, but no more Rudolph. Oh sure, if I'm interested in watching "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" (Dec 10, Dec 11, Dec 13, Dec 24), "Rudolph & the Island of Misfit Toys" (Dec 11, Dec 15, Dec 21), or "Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas in July" (Dec 13, Dec 24), then I have plenty of other options. And those are fine in a pinch, but they're not the true Rudolph.

So now I'll have to wait another 365 days to get my true Rudolph fix. It just doesn't seem right.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hump Day

Well, it's Wednesday again...and that means another fun-filled post from moi. Lucky, lucky you!

So, while pondering today's post (read: what the crap am I going to write?!?!), I realized what an odd phrase "hump day" is. I mean, it's not like you can go celebrate by dry-humping people...or at least not without their permission, anyway.

Of course, I googled it and found out that Wednesday is called Hump Day because it's like getting over the "hump" of the week. So, there ya go.

And while I'm on the topic of weird phrases, why is there a "poop deck" on a boat? I mean, EW...who really wants to swab THAT?

Here are a few other phrases that seem a bit off-kilter to me.

--pop a squat (or "cop" a squat): my relatives back in the hills of WV say this one. Okay, I say it, too. But that doesn't mean I understand why we refer to "sitting" like this.

--hot polish boy: when I first moved to Northeast Ohio, I saw a sign that advertised for hot polish boys. I was like, what kind of place have I MOVED to?!?! Then, I found out that meant some kind of sausage sandwich. Okaaaaaaay...

--boob tube: dude, this one's charming. I usually just say TV. haha

So, what about you--any phrases that are weird or make you laugh? Do share!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Cheap Gifts

No, this isn't a tirade on $5 Rudolph sweaters or half-price ties that play Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. It's a few suggestions on some less expensive, but great, gifts to give this year. With things being tight all over (and I'm not talking about my pants), homemade gifts are a fabulous way to feel extravagant without spending massive amounts of cash.

If you're good on the computer:
* A CD of family pictures set to music and edited with one of the movie maker programs complete with a custom label.
* An offer to build a website
* An offer to teach someone how to build a website, make a movie or whatever other computer skills you have

If you're crafty:
* Homemade bath salts - I make a lot of these
* Homemade body scrubs - ditto
* Jewelry - I even opened my own shop, I got so good at this.
* Hand-painted items - this category is endless. Example: Paint a flower pot and fill it with some seed packets and gardening gloves.

If you sew:
* Reusable grocery bags - you could even monogram these or dress them up with iron on transfers
* Make ties (see here for instructions)
* Sew a custom stuffed monster!

If you cook:
* Make cookies/cocoa/soup in a jar
* Offer to teach someone how to cook!
* Make a recipe book with pictures.

For more crafty gift ideas, Google is your friend - just type in homemade gifts. The ideas are endless! Or check out this blog: Craftzine. Christmas doesn't have to be expensive. Get some friends together and make a day of gift-making. How much fun would that be?! Have you ever made your own gifts before? What kind of stuff have you done?

Monday, December 01, 2008

too much family?

We host Thanksgiving every year (except for last year when we were busy painting our new house). This year, we had 23 people. Not a record, but still, that's a lot of family and friends.

At one point, when I was being chastised about my political views and my weight gain, I was quite sure there is such a thing as too much family. But then I realized, this year was special. We had 3 generations of aunts in the house for the first time ever. Me, 2 of my aunts, and my great aunt.

That was pretty darn special for my kids and my niece and nephew. And who knows if we'll be able to have that happen next year?

So yes, there is a thing as too much family. At times they have no boundaries and no tact. But all the inappropriate conversations and huffy political attitudes aside, too much family is the only way to experience the holidays* because sometimes, history is made.

*not recommended without a lot of wine...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thank Heavens for My Portable Life

This week we've been talking about what we are thankful for. And just yesterday my bff Roxy said to me "what the heck is in that bag?" Know what? I'm not just thankful for big, roomy bags. I'm thankful for the massive, gigantic piles of crap I can cram into them. I LOVE my bag and all that it contains. And for this I give thanks. Here's why.

From my Rosetti of New York Hobo bag I can most likely launch a military invasion of Canada from Au Bon Pain or Starbucks. Now, I have nothing against Canada. I'm just saying they should be nice to me. Because I have a computer (upon which I am typing) with wifi.

I also have a small computer accessory bag in which I have included a usb connector, two jump drives, an SD card with 8mb of memory, a small wireless mouse, a spare phone charger for my cell phone, and the plug to the computer.

Should I be confused about directions, the future, the past, or anything else I can always pop out my mini tarot deck for a quick reading. This also doubles as a way to make a living if I end up trapped behind enemy lines or something. Hey, I've done it before.

I also have another matching bag in which I have tweezers, clippers, a nail file, band aids, antibiotic cream, baby aspirin, a safety pin, q-tips, lip balm, mineral powder makeup, and tums.

If you are wondering where the photos came from, I have a small digital camera and another flip camera for taking video shots. It connects directly to the computer, so I could be filming you or taking your still life right now. The video camera is very small and only take an hour of video without an SD card... oh yeah, I have one.

No, I'm not James Bond. I'm not QUITE that cool, but I am close. And if I have to prove my identity or simply share my awesomeness with the world I have two very nice business card holders. One has my personal business cards; the second has my pen name and writing info on it. For going incognito.

Bored? I have a Nintendo DS Light with both Solitaire Explosion and Assassin's Creed. You never know when you need to brush up your card skills OR practice killing people. The pink is just a smoke screen. I'm not licensed to kill but don't be fooled. I can be pretty dangerous.

I am, however, pretty blind. So I need my glasses. Also I have sunglasses. And a pad and pen in case a brilliant plot comes to me out of the clear blue sky. So I can jot down notes, then boot up my computer, and write the great American novel. Out of my purse. Just sayin'.

In case I need to fund my secret mission I keep my wallet, with credit cards and money and change, along with my lottery tickets handy. You never know when you may need a few million dollars. Secret missions get pricey.

And yeah, I have my own sound track. So my Mp3 player is fully charged and ready to go, tucked into one of my outside pockets. It's all crammed full of my action hero / novel writer tunes plus The Chipmunks and Television's Greatest themes, plus lots of other ultra cool sounds. It's an 8mb ZenV. LOVE IT.

Just in case things get tough I have oxygen. Canned. Shaken, not stirred. My man unit loves me so much he buys me the flavored kind. This is "polar rush," which tastes kind of like blue Gatorade. I prefer Mandarin Splash, but I'm out. Not crazy about Tropical Twist, which tastes like a musty pina colada. But the Fresh Mint is nice. Yeah... even when I wheeze and cough... I'm cool.

What else is in here? Gum, Juicy Couture Perfume travel size, matching lotion, extra pens, sweetnlow packets, notecards, a few paperclips, all manner of items that somebody like me, or-- say, McGeyver-- could find use for.

For all of this I am immeasurably thankful. My sack of tricks allows me to be a completely portable person, able to do pretty much anything from anywhere. So... I challenge you, readers. What'cha packin'?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gwen is thankful for...

I'm prewriting this because I just know that when you read this I will be in a turkey coma. Somebody better sit by my hospital bed and read books to me.

My thankful post? This year is my happy happy joy joy. The problem is that youtube is like a casino with no windows and all the doors are hide to find--once I get in there, I'm gone for a long time. I don't know where the time goes. I especially love to find old clips from soaps or movies I haven't seen in twenty years. Patch and Kayla 1986? You betcha.

I also love to find music videos, or homemade music videos that people make with their favorite couples on tv. Or the top 100 movie kisses--those rock!

My favorite though?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Thankful for...

As I'm sure you've figured out by now, we're having a Theme Week here at Fictionistas. Mel's thankful for tweezers, Kristen's thankful for butter, and Rhonda had a long list of things she's thankful for.

I, for one, am thankful for my new little doggy, Bailey!!!! We just adopted him on Saturday, he's awesome.

Awww, isn't he cute? :)

I'm also thankful for leftovers. Here's a yummy recipe to help you use up your extra turkey:

Thanksgiving Chili

1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp olive oil
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can solid-pack pumpkin
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 can reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp orange juice concentrate
3 cups cubed cooked turkey breast

Sautee onion, yellow pepper, garlic, oregano, and cumin in oil until veggies are tender. Stir in beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, broth, water, brown sugar, chili powder, pepper, and orange juice concentrate, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Add turkey and heat through.

Makes 8 servings.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It's the day before Thanksgiving...

...and I'm stuck at work. Anyone else working today? Our office is like The Dead Zone. LOL

Anyway, this week, the Fictionistas are discussing what things we're thankful for. I, too, am thankful for tweezers and butter, which Mel and Kristen posted about.

What else am I thankful for? Here's a running list (and believe me, this isn't the half of it! but we all know I can rattle on and on, so I'll keep it short):

--I'm thankful I still have a job
--I'm thankful I have love!!!
--I'm thankful for my family and friends
--I'm thankful for adorable shoes that go on sale at Target for 75% off
--I'm thankful for jeans that fit without being too tight or awkwardly cut
--I'm thankful for good chocolate
--I'm thankful for good chocolate (this one was worth saying again, LOL)
--I'm thankful I have writer friends like The Fictionistas!
--I'm thankful for my agent and RULE
--I'm thankful for my Samsung Blackjack cell phone...I looooove that thing, LOL
--I'm thankful that I'm already done with Christmas shopping (nyah nyah!!)
--I'm thankful for books...GOD, I LOVE BOOKS
--I'm thankful I'm a woman in the 21st century...thank you to those women who paved the way for me to vote, own property, etc.
--I'm thankful I can listen to all types of music
--I'm thankful for tolerance, understanding, and patience

What about you? Any random things you're thankful for?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ode To Butter

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for butter. I adore it. Unlike olive oil (which I also like) or animal fat (which I'm not such a fan of), butter is one of those things that I could eat on its own.

Yes, that's right, I just said I could eat butter and nothing else - which is not to say that's how I eat it. I much prefer a good slather of butter on a hot biscuit or a fresh ear of corn or a glistening lake of butter in my well of mashed potatoes.

Butter is sweet and creamy and delicious and natural. Not only that, it's good for other things. Here are 10 uses for butter you may not be aware of from First magazine:

1. Rehydrate dry, brittle nails

To give dull nails the glow they once had, apply a dab of butter to each cuticle. Rub in with your fingertip then slip on a cotton gloves and wear over night. The butter nourishes the Keratin by replenishing lost moisture. Come morning, wash off with soapy water to reveal party - pretty hands.

2. Cut Snow-Shoveling time in half

Snow has covered the drive way and quests are due to arrive any minute. To clear the area fast, use a paper towel to apply ¼ cup butter to your shovel. The fat molecules in the spread form a water resistant barrier that keeps flurries from building on the shovel and weighing you down. And since the snow slides right off each scoop, you can get the job done twice as fast.

3. Make old candle look new again

Have you ever pulled a box of holiday candles from a box from last year and the pillars look dingy due to a filmy white residue? The quick fix: Rub ½ tsp. butter onto your hands, the run your greasy palms over the candles. The friction created by your hands dislodges dust and dirt, while the milk fats in the butter infuse the wax with moisture. This freshens up the festive decorations and gives them a glossy sheen.

4. Sooth Fluffy's holiday anxiety

Altered environments (such as Christmas decorations filling up you house and unfamiliar guests) can stress out pets. To ease your kitten's angst, apply 1 tsp. butter to the top of one paw. The cat will then clean herself, which will distract her from the commotion that's making her anxious (just long enough to make her comfortable again). Plus, most animals love the rich, creamy taste of butter as much as humans do.

5. Erase watermarks from wood

When a misplaced glass of water leaves n ugly white ring on you nice wood table, reach for the butter dish. Just before you go to bed apply 1 Tbs. of the spread to the mark, rubbing it into the surface with a soft dry cloth. The next morning wipe away any excess with a soapy sponge. The butter's semi liquid components replace lost moisture, while the milk fats reseal the grain and restore the wood to its original luster.

6. Slice sticky foods with ease

Have you ever cut the large marshmallow in half but the residue left on the knife is so hard to get off and you hate having to scrub forever to get it off? Well next time before you start rub a dab of butter over the blade. The grease in the spread leaves a no-stick film that makes it easy to slice though gooey food. Even better, the cutting tool rinses clean with a little soapy water, no scrubbing needed!

7. Swallow big pill without worry

The more pills you seem to have to take the bigger each one gets. If you are having problems swallowing the big pills try this little trick. Roll the pill in a small dab of butter before swallowing. The greasy spread coasts the capsule, lubricating is and helping to effortlessly slide down your throat.

8. Prevent Cheese from molding

When putting the cheese away to prevent the mold from growing and having to waste chunks of cheese try his trick. When putting the cheese away apply a thin layer of butter over the cut edges just before you wrap up the wedge and return to the fridge. The milk fats in the butter form an airtight seal that prevents bacteria from attaching to the cheese and causing the mold to form.

9. Remove ink stains from plastic

Your son is playing with your daughter and happens to hit your daughters doll on the face with an ink pen and your daughter starts screaming. To get the ink stain off and stop the screaming just rub 1 tsp. of butter onto the spot and let it dry for 30 minutes then rinse with a wet, soapy sponge. The fat sweeps into the pores of the plastic, dissolving the ink's oils and breaking down the color residue so it washes away with ease.

10. Silence a squeaky door hinge

Your front door is causing a loud high pitched squeak every time it opens or closed. When you can't find the WD-40, rub a dime sizes dab of butter on the hinges. The slick stuff coats the dry metal and acts as a lubricant, smoothing the parts so they can move against each other without making a sound.

With all those uses, plus butter's deliciousness, how can you not be thankful for butter?

Monday, November 24, 2008

What Mel is thankful for...

Let's face it. We're all thankful for pretty much the same thing--in one aspect or another. Family, friends, and food just about sums up any typical Thanksgiving speech.

And yes, I'm thankful for all those things. But there's something missing from that list that we should all be more thankful for. Something that is constantly taken for granted. So today, I'm going to say it out loud so it can't be ignored any longer:

I'm thankful for the plucked/waxed eyebrow.

It's true. If it weren't for this amazing grooming technique, we'd all look like 2-legged woolly mammoths.

Have you ever seen a unibrow up close? Once you see one, you can't look away. It hypnotizes you in its hairy evilness. And before you know it, you've let your next appointment slide. Your beautician calls and says, "Yo, what's up?" and you answer, "Dude. Sorry. I'll check my schedule and call you back." But you don't. And you don't know why.

That's the hairy evilness working its hairy magic on you.

Fast forward one month. You had a dream about Sasquatch and it freaked you out. So you go to the bathroom and splash water on your face. You look in the mirror (cue creepy Alfred Hitchcock music) and your eyes widen in horror.


The unibrow is trying to take up residence on your face!

Quickly you begin to pluck. Your face stings and your eyes are watering but you don't care. You can't let the bushy brow take over. You can't be responsible for spreading the hairy evilness!

Yes, you can do your part to stop the bushy brows from propagating. All you have to do is pluck or wax. That's it. Keep the fur to a minimum and the hairy evilness will eventually die.

I'm thankful plucked eyebrows. What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Giving Thanks for Good Friends and Good LOSERS

Long ago, when the world made sense, Marshfield High would be beating the daylights out of Duxbury for a league championship this Thanksgiving. But in this time of madness the Rams play in the Atlantic Coast Conference, where they have a record of 9 and 1. Duxbury's Dragons took the Patriot League, undefeated at 10 and 0.

So Turkey Day is no big deal, right?

Wash your mouth out with soap, blasphemer!

This is a yearly battle between not only two football teams, but two ways of life. There's Duxbury, home of rich people who think they are better than everyone else. And there's Marshfield, home of regular people who find being better than everyone else comes naturally. So we don't have to walk funny.

Yeah, I said it. You wanna make something of it??

All kidding aside, this rivalry is old and fierce. And since these days we are no longer competing for the same league championships, it's all about pride, bragging rights, and talent.

So there will be a few dragons with a lot less fire come Thursday. And I will have no voice from screaming "COME ON RAMS SLAY THEM DRAGONS!" And then we'll all end up in the same place having a drink and some turkey.

I dated the same guy throughout my high school years and he was from Duxbury, as were many of my closest friends. We straddled the borders of Green Harbor and Gurnet, beaches side by side. Many of those Duxbury kids are now Marshfield adults, with their own children wearing Rams green. So the Thanksgiving Day game is a big gathering of friendly rivals, families, and old friends.

But for the few hours on the field it's a blood bath. Don't get the idea it isn't.

This year my Ahmed is going to England for his dad's birthday. My bff Roxy, originally a Duxbury Dragon, now lives down the street and her kids are Rams. She got stuck with dinner and can't cook, so I'm going over to bake her turkey.

And my Rams will be baking some scaly turkeys on the field earlier that day.

Yeah, in the end it's all about the love and the cranberry sauce. But for a few hours it's about mud and colors, fans and feuds, blood and guts and glory.

Then we all get together for pie.

Go Rams!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

This makes me sad

This a picture of actress Lara Flynn Boyle posted on TMZ on Thurdsay. She looks so unhealthy to me...and perhaps the picture is photoshopped--but it's as good as time as any to remind our readers that having a healthy relationship with food is best beauty secret there is. If you know someone you suspect has an eating disorder, please understand that telling them to eat something will not fix the problem. It's like telling an addict to just stop doing drugs or drinking--the problem goes much deeper than the way the sick person is manifesting it. Eating disorders are treatable diseases.

Here are some things you can do:
  • Talk to them. Let them know you care and that you are worried. Don't blame them or shame them--just let them know your concern.
  • Urge them to talk to doctor or get counseling.
  • She may not feel she needs help--but she does. Try to get a parent or teacher involved.
  • Don't let the discussion turn into a fight. You may need to back off and keep your involvement open-ended. It doesn't mean you give up--it means you don't let them push you away and keep the lines of communication open.
  • Eating disorders require specialized help--while you are equipped to love and support your friend or loved one--she'll need the kind of medical and psychological treatment from professionals.

To learn more about eating disorders, please visit

Tents of Hope...and a winner!

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Jennifer was in DC to visit me and her cousin (who is doing her residency at DC Children's Hospital). Since I don't work on Fridays (it's normally my writing day), I played tourist with Jennifer.

We spent the morning and early afternoon at the Holocaust Museum, which is an amazingly powerful experience, although it's incredibly depressing. Trust me, every time I go, I swear I'm never going back. But Jennifer had never been, and it's a place everyone should go to at least once, so I went. But once I started crying, I realized I couldn't take it anymore, so we left and went out to lunch instead.

After lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian's cafeteria, we decided to walk along the Mall.

There were tons of people on the Mall, setting up what looked like tents. So we decided to investigate. As we got closer, we discovered that the majority of the tent-setter-uppers were teenagers, and that the tents were hand-painted. So we inquired as to what was going on.

Turns out they were setting up for the final event of the year-long Tents of Hope project. Tents of Hope is a "national community-based project that envisions a powerful union of artistic creativity and social concern in response to the crisis in Darfur." Kinda appropriate after we'd spent the morning at the Holocaust Museum.

Tents of Hope wants to draw attention to the millions of uprooted people in Sudan, many of whom are living in tents after being violently forced from their homes. The goal is to raise both awareness about Darfur as well as funds for humanitarian relief.

It was so heart-warming to see so many young people involved in a project like that. So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I challenge our readers to give back -- to your community, to others in need, to people halfway around the world -- this holiday. Spread love, hope, peace, and humanity.


Now for the winner of yesterday's haiku contest. Rhonda read through all the posts here and on Myspace, and because they were all excellent, she had a very difficult decision. So congrats to Sela Carsen for making her giggle the most!

To recap, here is Sela's haiku:

Do these shoes go with?
Maybe a different skirt.
Oh. My. Gawd. My hair!

Congrats Sela!!!!!! Please email Rhonda at rhonda [at] rhondastapleton [dot] com to collect your gift card! Happy Amazon shopping!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Haiku contest--enter to win!!

I was thinking about what to post today and decided to have a contest. YAY! The winner will get a $10 Amazon gift card emailed to them.

Today's contest--write a haiku about high school life from the point of view of a teenager (it could be an imaginary one, or someone you know/knew in school, or even yourself). It can be funny, serious, or whatever floats your boat.

For those who may not be familiar with haiku form, it's 3 lines of unrhymed poetry with 5 syllables on the first line, 7 syllables on the second line, and 5 syllables on the third line.

Here's my laaaaame example:

I hate our school food--
Pizza doesn't go with corn!
Sandwiches for me.

Okay, give it your best shot and enter the haiku contest today no later than midnight, EST! The best haiku will win, and the winner will be announced on tomorrow's blog post.

Good luck!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Only Stuffing Should Be In The Bird

Thanksgiving starts the holiday season for a lot of us - the weight-gaining season. In an effort to combat that, I thought I'd share the recipe for the *good* version of pumpkin bread I'll be baking today! This recipe comes from Hungry Girl. If you don't subscribe, you really should. It's a great source of diet tips, food alternatives and revamped recipes. (The only thing I've changing in this recipe is adding a few tablespoons of golden flax meal for added fiber. And possibly some walnuts.) You can see this recipe on the site and its comparison to regular pumpkin bread here.

Right Said Bread

After getting a BAZILLION requests for pumpkin bread, we figured it was time to make some. And after EIGHT attempts, we got it just right. Try it and see!

One 15-oz. can pure pumpkin
1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup fat-free liquid egg substitute (like Original Egg Beaters)
1/2 cup Splenda No Calorie Sweetener (granulated)
1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)
1/4 cup Ocean Spray Craisins Original Sweetened Dried Cranberries (or regular raisins), chopped
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine both types of flour, Splenda, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and pumpkin pie spice (in other words, all dry ingredients except for the Craisins or raisins).

In a medium bowl, mix together pumpkin, egg substitute, and vanilla extract (all the wet ingredients). Add this mixture to the bowl with the dry ingredients, and stir until just blended.

Slowly sprinkle chopped Craisins or raisins into the batter, making sure they don't all stick together, and mix to distribute them.

Spoon batter into a large loaf pan (about 9" X 5") sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the top of the loaf is firm to the touch. (Bread may be moist inside. This doesn't mean it's undercooked.) Allow to cool, and then cut into 8 slices. Enjoy!

Serving Size: 1 (thick!) slice
Calories: 143
Fat: 0.5g
Sodium: 281mg
Carbs: 31g
Fiber: 4.5g
Sugars: 9g
Protein: 5g

POINTS® value 2*

HG Alternative! To make this bread into muffins, evenly distribute the batter among 8 cups of a muffin pan sprayed with nonstick spray. Cook for 35 minutes at 350 degrees, let cool, and enjoy!

If you make this, let me know! I'd love to know what you think. Do you have any tips or tricks for making Thanksgiving a little easier on the waistline? Share!

Monday, November 17, 2008

book to tv (or movie)

Every writer dreams of selling the tv or movie rights to their book. When I first started writing Bite Me! I imagined HBO picking it up as their first edgy teen vampire show. Too bad fellow Arkansan Charlaine Harris beat me to it.

I happen to be addicted to TRUE BLOOD, the HBO series based on Charlaine's Sookie Stackhouse books. I'm sad because next week is the last episode of the season. And now I'm fighting the urge to read the books.

But not for the reason you think.

I've heard from several people who've read the books, that they don't like the show. I adore the show and I don't want anything to change that. (I will say, I'm tired of Bill the Vampire though and ready for Sookie to hook up with that hot blond vamp, Eric. I've been told to read book 5 for I might just have to go there....)

As a writer, my desire not to read the books disappoints me. I would want people who watch and love Bite Me! to run out and buy my books. (I mean, DUH!) so why am I so resistant to purchase/read Harris's books?

I dunno. Because I love to be surprised, I guess. It's very rare that I love a movie/tv show more than the book. And if I read the books, I'll probably stop watching the show. And I don't want to do that.

What about you guys? Can y'all enjoy a movie/tv series after you've read and loved the book? Or are you so die hard about the books that you can't enjoy the show with all the 'creative licenses' the directors take?

And do you think I should suck it up and read the books? Or just sit back and enjoy the show?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Love's Many Facets

Yesterday I got a "save the date" card in the mail. An old friend from college is remarrying and planning a wedding in the spring, right around my birthday. I'm thrilled, because she is having a traditional Hindu wedding and I love participating in cultural events unfamiliar to me... though this will actually be my second Hindu wedding. Padma, the friend, was a Women's Studies student with me long ago in our undergraduate days. I very clearly remember the big, fat, hairy debate we had with some fellow students. It sparked the beginning of our deep friendship, one that had begun with casual friendliness in class. Then one day Padma mentioned that her marriage was arranged.

KA freakin BOOM.

The horror, the shock, the moans of distress! Only Padma was happily married. She was born and raised here in America by parents who had emigrated during the 70s. Padma was asked, when she turned 15, if she would like an arranged marriage. Since her sisters and brother had been successful in this undertaking she agreed, knowing that she could "cry off" and change her mind later if the courtship proved disastrous. This is a big decision to make at 15.

But as it turned out she began writing and speaking on the phone with the prospective bridegroom, who was 18 at the time. They became pen-and-phone-pals and he visited the US from India a few times. When she turned 21 he came to stay with an uncle for six months and they were married after that. And lived happily until, very sadly, he passed away a few years ago after battling cancer. They had two beautiful children together.

And Padma's family, loving her very much, wanted to see if they could find her another match. They did, a widow who had a story much like her own. This time around the two families met, arranged, and a quicker path to direct courtship took place. After a few months they discovered that both their families were compatible and that they were quite fond of one another. Padma told me on the phone this morning that she fell in love with him and both of their children are very happy with the match.

We recalled, giggling as old friends do, that day in our Women's Studies group meeting, the shock and dismay that met her pronouncement. And certainly there are arranged marriages that go terribly wrong. And certainly both she and all her classmates were aware of the plight of many women in Pakistan, India, throughout Asia who are victims of horrible civil rights policies. Honor killings, non-existent protections against rape, and worse.

But there are good families everywhere, too. And the true intent behind arranged marriages can be beautiful. Padma often expressed relief that she was not burdened with the "dating scene." She felt a tremendous lifting of pressure, allowing the people who knew and loved her best to make a choice for her. Of course Padma's wonderful family had only the best intentions and left the choice with her.

Still, so many of our feminist friends expressed disgust. But how many of us read and adore historical romances? Tales of true love found in arranged marriages, weddings of convenience, weddings of a shotgun variety. We read, gleefully and voraciously, these stories of society ladies who fall for men they marry in circumstances involving everything but love. And young adult literature certainly celebrates fairy-tale style love, more traditional love, unrequited love, even vampire love these days.

Love, I suppose, is not such a simple thing to define. And tolerance, openness, a willingness to explore can't hurt. So this May I'm off to celebrate a love affair different from my own, a wedding with sights and sounds, colors and ceremonies unlike those I have celebrated. But love is precious, and no matter how we get there, worth celebrating. So congrats Padma and Hithri! I can't wait to share your special day.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Something happens to me right about this time every year--I begin gearing up mentally and emotionally for the craziness that begins the week of Thanksgiving and ends January 2nd when reality pokes itself back into place.

I love the holidays/I hate the holidays. I hate the stress/I love the traditions.

This year will be the first in 8 years that I have not cooked dinner on Thanksgiving. We are going to my sister-in-laws and I'm happy/sad. I am excited to see my sister and the kids--and wow, not cook. But...I have a feeling I'll still cook a traditional meal because I NEED leftovers. So I'm thinking that there really won't be any less work involved this year. More if you factor a 3 hour drive with 4 teens and *gulp* two dogs.

What? You think I'd make the dogs stay home alone on a holiday? If the kids have to come, then you can be sure I'm bringing the only member of the family that listens to me.

And we are bringing one more thing. One tradition I won't give up. Every year, we watch "Christmas Vacation" on Thanksgiving to put us in the holiday mood. Usually, it happens after the kitchen is clean and we are all slumped over mid-way into our turkey coma. This year will be no different.

So, besides the traditional meal, what Thanksgiving traditions do you look forward to? Do you watch the Macy's parade? Have a family football game? Hide the good dessert from the kids?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Take Your Blog Reader To Work Day: Cara Cooper

It's been quite a while since we did one of these. I believe the last one was Gwen's interview with Todd from Fafarazzi.

Anyway, the point of Take Your Blog Reader To Work Day is to bring you interviews with interesting, innovative, provocative, and sometimes unruly people out in the world living their dreams and being successful at it.

Today, please welcome Broadway performer Cara Cooper, who is currently traveling the country in the National Tour of Spamalot. Previously shows include the original Broadway casts of Legally Blonde, The Wedding Singer, All Shook Up, and Urban Cowboy. Oh, and she also played my daughter in the Sparta High School production of Fiddler on the Roof a long, long time ago. LOL!

Amanda: Cara, thanks for joining Fictionistas today. One of our favorite themes here is following your dreams. How did you get started in your career?

Cara: Well, I guess I officially got my start in the performing arts when I was about a year old and I was cast in a "Huggies" commercial. When it came time to shoot, however, I had learned how to walk and wouldn't crawl for the spot like the director I was fired, ha! I did bounce back and do several commercials after that, but as I got older, I got sick of going in and out of NY so I quit showbiz. Who knew that years later I would attend NYU's Tisch School of the Arts for musical theater and start all over again in the "biz" I was lucky enough to have an agent see me perform in a show in college and immediately start to freelance with me. I booked my first show before I graduated and actually left school a couple of weeks early (and finished my school work while I was rehearsing the show). So I didn't get to walk in my graduation, but that night I was performing in a production of "A Chorus Line" playing Val and living my dream.

Amanda: What has been your favorite role? Your favorite show?

Cara: Hmmmm...this is always a tough one. I have had the opportunity to play so many different parts and understudy even more, and each one means something different to me. I always learn something new about myself and my craft with every role I play. I don't know if I could choose. As far as favorite shows are concerned, it's the same story. That wasn't a very good answer was it? Sorry!

Amanda: What type of training is needed to make it on Broadway?

Cara: Everyone's road to Broadway is different so it is difficult to say. First and foremost though, you have to have a thick skin! You have to be willing to be rejected so many times before you get there. So perseverance is key. Of course, training is of the utmost importance as well. I spent so much of my youth dancing and that training has definitely been a huge factor in my Broadway career. Training in just dancing however, is not enough. You have to be a triple threat - a singer, a dancer, and most importantly an actor. You have to be able to tell stories through music, movement, and dialogue. And truly, the training never, ends. I am still taking classes, trying to better myself and my craft.

Amanda: What is a typical day like for you?

Cara: Well, right now, I am on the National Tour of Spamalot with my husband. My days are usually focused on working out, exploring whatever city it is that we are performing in and taking care of my dog, Lucy, taking her on walks and to the park. Around 5pm I try to sit for a bit and get a little rest before my "work day" begins. I get to the theater an hour before the show starts in order to get ready. In addition, I am an understudy in this show so once every two weeks I have a 4 hour rehearsal on a non matinee day, and when we are putting new people into the show, we will also have rehearsals then. After the show, my husband and I might watch a movie or get together with cast mates, but we try to go to bed at a decent hour which is hard to do because your adrenaline is running from performing. It sounds like a very leisurely life, but it takes alot of energy to do 8 shows a week so it is necessary to have the time to rest.

The difference when I am working on Broadway is that many of my days are also spent auditioning for new shows, so life gets alot more busy.

Amanda: Think back to good ol' Sparta High. Did you see yourself living a different life than you are now?

Cara: I definitely dreamt of being on Broadway, but I am not sure I fully understood what that meant. I am part of a truly tremendous community of artists and individuals and I feel so lucky for that. I also never dreamt that I would meet my future husband while doing a show, and that 6 years after we met we would be traveling the country together working in the same show and sharing a passion for what we do.

Amanda: If you could go back in time and tell TeenCara one really cool thing about her future, what would that be?

Cara: That she would perform on the Tony Awards! I always remember watching them with my family and just thinking that maybe someday I would get to do that, and I did!

Amanda: OK, fine. Now you're making me jealous. I always wanted to perform on the Tonys! Anyway, moving on. We talk about prom a lot on this blog, do you have a good prom story?

Cara: Hmmm...this is a tough one. I definitely loved the prom, getting dressed up and putting on makeup and everything. I am not sure that I have a good story about it....sorry.... again!

Amanda: Our signature interview question. You're stranded on a deserted island and your iPod only has 3 songs on it. What do you hope they are?

Cara: Oh geez! This is really tough. Well, they would have to be three really different would be "Electricity" from Billy Elliot the musical. I am obsessed with that show right now. The way Billy expresses what if feels like to dance really sums up the feelings that got me involved in the performing arts. Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides" would be a really great song to reflect on while stuck in the middle of the ocean. And the last spot would go to Jason Mraz's "The Remedy" to keep me from worrying about getting off the island!

Amanda: Do you have anything you want to plug?

Cara: I would just encourage everyone to support the arts!!!!! See a show at your community theater, a national tour, on Broadway, or put one on yourself!


Thanks for joining us, Cara! And since you refused to elaborate on prom, here's a picture of us from dance class 20 years ago...MWAHAHA!

(I'm second from the right on the front row, and Cara is two down from me -- the blonde in the middle.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things to do before I die

I love making lists. There's something unbelievably satisfying to me about making a list, then crossing off the items as I accomplish those deeds. I feel like I've set goals and did them.

So, in the interest of setting goals, I'm going to list out things I want to do/accomplish before I die:

--meet the president of the United States
--go to Japan
--travel around the world
--go skinny dipping (yes, that's right--I've never done this. LOL)
--lose *cough cough* pounds
--spend one entire day doing nothing but reading in bed
--buy a pair of ridiculously expensive shoes and wear them out on a date
--create a scholarship for single moms at my alma mater
--make a decadant 7-course dinner for my family
--see Sting in concert from the front row (what a big dream this one is! *cries*)
--go to the super bowl or the olympics
--go snorkeling
--sing in a professional concert
--visit every state in the US
--spend one entire day being pampered at a spa, head to toe
--make a hole in one in golf
--pick up Japanese again and continue studying it until I am fluent
--go ghosthunting in a haunted house overnight

I could go on and on. But right now, I'm more interested in knowing what would be on YOUR list. Please share!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day, so I thought a simple post would be best.

These are the veterans in my life:

*My great uncle, who gave his life on the beaches of Normandy.

*My grandmother, although not in any branch of the service, she worked as a riveter and so I count her anyway.

*My father, named after that late great uncle, who served in the Army and would have been sent to Vietnam had the war not ended when it did.

*My brother, whose service in the Coast Guard meant such things as boarding drug smuggling boats, rescuing sinking ships full of Haitian refugees and transporting other military special forces on ops.

* My twin cousins - both retired after 20+ years given to the Navy and Air Force.

*My husband - nearly 22 years of service to the Air Force creating and building technology that meant sending fewer soldiers into actual combat.

Who are the veterans in your life?

Monday, November 10, 2008

listen to your inner voice

When your gut is telling you to do something--you need to listen.

I'm the QUEEN of ignoring my inner voice. I've made friends with people who I know will not be good for me. My guts would say, "She's nice but something isn't right." and I would say, "That's not fair. We don't even know her yet, how can you make that judgment?" Then sometime in the future I would be saying to myself, "Damn. I knew she wasn't right, but did I listen? No."

I've circled 'C' on a multiple choice test even though my gut said, 'B!B!B!B!' and of course, when the test is graded, that was the one question that kept me from getting an A.

As an adult, you'd think I would've learned by now, right? Wrong. Just Saturday, I said to myself, 'Self. You need to back up this book.' and instead of backing it up right then and here I said, 'Self. I do need to back up this book. I'll do it tomorrow after I write a little more.'

What happened on the morrow?

My computer didn't start back up.

And where does that leave me?

Wishing I'd listened to my inner voice.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Thank Them For Serving

This week, Tuesday to be exact, we will be celebrating Veteran's Day. I think a lot of people let the holiday pass without giving it a great deal of thought. It's an awkward day-- falling between Halloween and Thanksgiving at a busy time of year for students and parents. But it marks a quiet tip of the hat to those who have served all of us, with all they had to give. Our men and women in the armed services risk their lives every day. Even those not on the front lines know they can be called at any time. They leave children and wives and husbands behind, travel when and where we send them, and for little reward.

They keep us safe.

And the thing that blows me away is how infrequent they get any thanks for it. I ALWAYS stop to thank service people. It takes five seconds. Just say "thank you for serving." That's it.

What will amaze you is how often an elderly gentleman with liver-spots on his hands will fill up a little. Or a young man, handsome in his fatigues, will grin from ear to ear. You may just get a blush or a quiet thanks. You may get a first-hand account of the Battle of Midway at the Stop and Shop while you wait in line. We are losing our World War II vets to age, and their stories go with them. They saved the world. Surely they have earned a quiet thanks.

Whatever the response to your gratitude I can say from personal experience that you won't regret it. Thank them for serving. These brothers in arms have given you so very much.