Playing Catch-Up With ThinkIt

One of the problems I have every year with these prompts is that it takes me a day or two to think of an answer. That being said, I’m sure you will look at a few of these and think, That took her time to come up with? Jeez. Click!

So, without further adieu…

December 3 – If you could meet someone new in 2013, who would it be? Or would you rather spend more time with someone you already know?

No, I do a pretty good job of socializing as it is. I’m kind of making a career of it. Who would I like to meet in 2013? Anyone but my maker.

December 4 – What was the wisest decision you made this year?

They ask this one every year, and if I can think of anything, it’s stupid material stuff. I got a minivan that has made it easier to load the kids into the car and has cut down the squabble factor. I bought a new toaster oven that seems to do the trick. I started Practice What You Pinterest, but I can’t say that has turned out to be wise. Decisions? I didn’t really make any major ones this year, and I make too many little ones every day to single any out.

Oh, wait! I decided to avoid MSG. It’s made a world of difference with my migraines. That counts as wise, right?

December 5 – Interview 3 people about their favorite moments of the year. Share what you heard.

This was a fun one, and I actually got several good answers:

Michelle H. said that her best moment was her sister’s wedding and seeing her own daughters all dressed up for the event. She also enjoyed a moment the day before the wedding when she threatened to bitch-slap her sister.

Nadia had two as well. First was the day (May 23, 2012) when she had lost enough weight to fit back into her wedding gown. (Way to go, Nadia! I’ve kissed my gown goodnight until my daughter can wear it.) And October 31st, when she had officially lost 100 pounds.

That is one FINE looking man.

That is one FINE looking man. I bet he smells better than cinnamon.

Robin said the day after Election Day was the best moment for her. (Yes, many of us felt we could breathe easier that day…)

Meredeth gave some silly story about her daughter becoming potty trained, until she remembered that she had met George Clooney. Not to belittle A’s milestone, but duh, M. I would deal with diapers for a decade to have that guy press his shoulder into mine like that.

Michelle M. enjoyed seeing her daughter graduate high school to go study veterinary medicine.

Several friends said that their moment was when Notre Dame beat USC to go to the National Championship.

Three friends had babies this year, so those moments trumped all the others for them.

Kelly’s daughter underwent surgery that changed her life for the better.

Bill got pulled onstage during a concert to sing and dance with the band.

Kevin had a great one too. He said his moment was seeing his wife present their son with his high school diploma on a stage, where they shared an affectionate whisper. It was a message. “Tell Dad,” the graduate said, “the Phillies are tied in the tenth.”

For me, there were a million little moments. Edison’s excitement waiting in the audience at Asbury Lanes for the Potter Puppet Pals to begin; watching Craig, one of my fellow potter_puppet_pals1wizards “bonding” with two “gnomes” made out of potatoes, while sitting on a bench looking serenely at the lake; laughing with Manfrengensen until tears came out of our eyes; asking Clooney whether I tell him I love him enough and his response, “Uh, duh”; laughs with my lady friends who lunch/and/or/breakfast at Panera; hearing my son referred to as “a ringer” during  a Quidditch match; meeting our new niece and our new nephew; almost passing out while driving Manfrengensen to the hospital after his bike accident; holding my daughter’s hand; watching her try on the shoes I wore to my wedding; The Book of Mormon. I’m surrounded by magic every single day.

December 6 – How do you want get involved in your community this year?

I did a lot this year to get involved in my community. I still cook once a month for a local soup kitchen, and I started teaching Sunday school. I will continue to do those things in the coming year, and I will look for other opportunities, chiefly ones that involve aiding the poor in our area.

So there, all caught up…now let me get to the myriad other things I have on the docket today.

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Unplugged

Today’s prompt from ThinkIt:

Unplug for an hour, a half day, or a whole day. Choose a time that feels a little uncomfortable. How did you feel? What did you do? Reflect on your experience. How much did you unplug this year? How does this experience make you feel about unplugging in the coming year?

I did spend an hour unplugged today at church, which is nothing new, and not really any kind of sacrifice, but it does put me in touch with my thoughts. I do tend to feel the absence these days, when not connected to those unseen but so-compelling forces that draw us to whatever place this is. We used to live our lives in a moment. Now we kind of live it in a binary state.

The Monsignor does his usual thing. I am glad all that singing of the Our Father is over. Never could get into that. Not to mention that the Monsignor sings like an alley cat in heat. Plus it’s nice to see the purple and pink of the Advent season. I love the holidays.

Two rows up I see the lady who brings her two young sons, one of whom always insists on being held while she’s standing. The kid has to be at least six or seven years old. How does she hold him up like that? She must work out. I wonder what she benches. I should try to bench something. Who am I kidding? I lift the lightest things I can find when I go to the gym. And that phrase right there is laughable. When. I need to start doing that…

So here I am, sitting in a Catholic church feeling guilt. Shocker.

6a00e54ffb0bef8834016760e71ebf970b-800wiThree rows up, there are those two ladies…are they sisters? Are they twins? They have the same sort of fashion sense, and totally the same hair style, like the one Lucille Bluth has in Arrested Development. I wonder what they talk about.

The Monsignor steps up to the plate for the Gospel. I swear, I don’t know anyone else in the world who consistently makes the word “you” a two-syllable one. After the Gospel, he reads his homily, which is all about…I really need to be sure to clip Clooney’s fingernails today. And the Princess really needs to wear leggings under her dresses if she’s going to sit like that. I wonder who cleans this place, and how often. The lady behind me just coughed into what sounded like her hand. I’m going to have to shake that hand in a few minutes, and then, would it be rude to use hand sanitizer before I go to get Communion?

The lady at the end of our pew is the lady with the terrible RA in her hands. I wonder how much pain she is in. How does she deal with that?When I shake her hand to wish her peace, her hands, despite being covered by wrinkled papery skin, are as soft as kid gloves.

I wonder what people think when they shake my hand. Can they tell how many times a day I wash my hands? Do I have the tell-tale sandpapery fingertips of someone who uses her hands all day in the kitchen?

I have not unplugged much this year. In fact, if anything, electronics have coiled their sparking tentacles even more tightly around my brain. I used to think that I didn’t need all of this, and I wonder at what point the changover in thinking occurred. Knowing that makes me think I should try to step away a bit more in 2013, but is that just another layer of guilt to lay on?


The Year In Pictures

It’s that time of year again, and this year, I really hope to keep up with ThinkIt’s Year-End Blog Wrap-Up. The prompt for December 1st is the Year in Pictures. I had a hard time reducing it to one moment, so I collected these, in no particular order:

This year, I discovered Pinterest, and have spent a good deal of time trying out ideas from the site and blogging about them.

This year, I discovered Pinterest, and have spent a good deal of time trying out ideas from the site and blogging about them.

Met this guy at PetSmart.

Met this guy at PetSmart.

Met this guy in the back yard.

Met this guy in the back yard.

Over the summer, I spent a week as a counselor at a wizard-themed camp. It was really fun, like working in an acting troupe for a week.

Over the summer, I spent a week as a counselor at a wizard-themed camp. It was really fun, like working in an acting troupe for a week.

We also discovered Breaking Bad this year and got all caught up on all five seasons so far.

We also discovered Breaking Bad this year and got all caught up on all five seasons so far.

Some of the best moments of the year were spent looking at this.

Some of the best moments of the year were spent looking at this.

Aaarghhh.

Aaarghhh.

IMG_1174

Is it me, or has this been the "Year of Bacon"?

Is it me, or has this been the “Year of Bacon”?

Family vacation

Family vacation

I’m surely leaving out many memories of the year, but hopefully they will come back to me as we continue this process over the next few weeks.


End of Year Musings Week 4 – Something New

Monday, Dec 19: Something New
Knitting, a new language, underwater basketweaving… what new things did you learn this year? 

This year, I started making cakes for the kids’ parties. It’s not even close to looking professional. There’s no fondant involved, but it’s fun, and the kids will remember these.

Cake for Clooney's First Holy Communion

Clooney’s really into cars, so when it came to putting together this cake, the idea just kind of came to me…blasphemous as it may have been. The strip of road on top was made from the part of the cake that I had to slice from the bottom to make it even. It was devil’s food on the inside just to make sure I had my foot planted firmly on the road to Hell.

This is a Golden Snitch, which is a Harry Potter Quidditch thing, if you are not hip to wizard lingo.

For his 11th birthday, Edison wanted to go all Hogwarts, and we had quite an elaborate party. I did a couple of practice rounds of these cake pops before the final product. They were devil’s food on the inside as well. The wings were made of melted white chocolate that I piped out onto wax paper before applying to the pop.

The Wicked Witch of the West spelled out The Princess's name with her broom there as well. The sign was made on cardboard, and held up with chopsticks that I "borrowed" from PF Chang. I might also note that this cake weighed 14,000 pounds.

And then there was The Princess’s Wizard of Oz-themed party. (Quite a year of wizards for us over here.) The inside of the cake had layers that were the colors of the rainbow (or as close to the colors of the rainbow as I could get without putting our party guests into a food-dye-induced coma.)

For each cake, I just kind of used my imagination along with a lot of humor, patience, and icing. I’ve never taken any kind of decorating class, and I don’t claim to be Martha Stewart or anything. (And I think if Martha saw these, she would breathe a sigh of relief on that note.) Like I said, it was fun to make them, and I hope to do more cakes for the kids in 2012.


End of Year Musings Week 3

 Week 3: Experiences

Monday, Dec 12: Travel
Did you take a big trip this year? Or maybe even just a little one? Where did you go?

I took a few trips this year. First, Manfrengensen and I went to NYC in May, and we saw The Motherf**er in the Hat, starring Bobby Cannavale and Chris Rock. We also saw Midnight in Paris, and it was fun seeing a Woody Allen film in the city. And then we returned there in July with the kids when it was hot as Hades. In the Fall, we went to Orlando to visit Disney World and Universal. It was such a great trip, and we were sorry when it ended, even though the kids had Manfrengensen burning the candle at both ends.

Tuesday, Dec 13: Getting Lost
Share a time that you got lost this year. Did you learn anything?

The only time I can think of that we got lost this year was when Manfrengensen accidentally went toward the Magic Kingdom Park instead of the hotel. He had to turn the rented mini-van around and cross five lanes of traffic (and maybe even a bit of grassy divider), which he did in a hilarious goofy way that had us all laughing and white-knuckled at the same time. But hey, it was a rental, right?

Wednesday, Dec 14: Reconnecting
Where do you go to reconnect with you? Did you experience a place where you found solace?

Massage is always good for that. But really, I think I find solace in my husband and my family. That’s always the best place to be, even though sometimes the solace can be in short supply.In general, I’m pretty happy with myself these days. It’s taken a long time, but you know what? I am who I am, and that’s all I can be. I’ve come to accept that that’s a good thing.

Waiting After Traveling by Waleed Arshad

Thursday, Dec 15: Indulgence
What did you indulge in this year? Get yourself or someone something extra special? Do something you’ve never done before?

This year we bought two pieces of art by Iraqi artist Waleed Arshad. I saw his work in a local coffee shop and just fell in love with it. By the time I went back to the shop, the exhibit had changed and it took me a couple of months to track down Arshad. I actually bought two paintings, one from his Ancient Symbols collection (which was what I had seen at the coffee shop), and one from  an earlier exhibition. It’s not just a decoration in our living room. When I stop to look at it, it speaks to my heart. Just some amazing work. If you get a chance to visit his work when it’s showing in a gallery, or even if you can take a moment to explore his website, please check it out.


Friday, Dec 16: Helping Out

How did you get involved in your community this year?

I’ve been pretty involved this year. I chaired the Book Fair at The Princess’s school in the Fall, which was pretty crazy, and yet really fun. I also helped with the Christmas pageant at my church. Another thing that I do every month is cook for the local soup kitchen, which involves making a bunch of chicken and desserts. I really enjoy doing that. I like to cook, and it makes me feel good to help out every month.

Saturday, Dec 17: Choice
What was the wisest decision you made this year?

I’ll let you know when I make one.

Sunday, Dec 18: Technology
What technology changed your world this year? Pick a gadget, a website… how did it make a difference for you?

I got an iPhone this year. I was always against the smartphone revolution, though now, I have no idea why. The other day, my friend and I were having lunch, and she mentioned that her daughter wants a pink scooter for Christmas, but the salesman at Dick’s told her that they don’t make a pink scooter any more.

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “Target has pink Razor scooters out the yin-yang.” And to prove it, all I had to do was punch “pink scooter” into the Target app on my phone. Sure enough, there was a pink Razor there that was in the same price range as the black concession she had purchased at Dick’s. What did we do before iPhones? We wondered. We settled for no pink scooter, that’s what.

Prompts courtesey of Thinkit.com


End of Year Musings Week 2

WEEK 2: Place

Thursday, Dec 8: Inspiration Spaces
When you need inspiration, where do you go? What place really did it for you in 2011?

If I want inspiration, all I have to do is go to bed. I don’t know why, but my muse is most likely to come for me there.

Friday, Dec 9: Home
Why do you live where you do? What makes it home?

I always thought, growing up, that I would end up in another town. A bigger town, a more exciting town, and I did leave a couple of times, but I always came back. It’s home because I know the place. Everywhere else I have ever lived, I never really got to know the geography. No matter how many times I drove those streets, I always felt like a tourist.

My dad still lives here with my stepmother, and Manfrengensen’s parents are only 20 minutes away. Living so close to their grandparents, I think, is just a great thing for my kids, especially in a world where proximity to family is an increasingly rare treasure. So what makes it home is family.


Saturday, Dec 10: Work

Describe your work environment or desk. Did you make any changes to it this year? How do you work within that space?

My desk never stays clean. It is a study in entropy. And everyone else in the house seems to put their crap on my desk too. So let’s see…in adition to the computer and its mouse, there are the following items: In the far right corner is a stack of blank yellow pads, which I like to use to keep notes in. The one that I am currently using to write my ideas in, however, is in the kitchen at the moment. On top of that stack is an empty manilla envelope. No idea what it’s doing there, or how it got there. On top of that are a note from the post office; instructions from Edison’s doctor about how to care for this current bout of bronchitis; two 39-cent stamps from the Comic Book collection featuring Green Lantern and Plastic Man, still attached to a larger, ripped and worn paper platform, from which all the other super heroes have been plucked and sent to points beyond; an invitation to next Friday’s Festivus celebration, and two snowmen crafted by my daughter using a foam kit at Thanksgiving.

That’s just the right hand corner, mind you. There’s also a pencil cup filled with every kind of writing instrument, save my favorite, the Pentel Flair Felt Tip, which some people in this house like to steal from me; a pair of headphones from my Rosetta Stone Italian course; Nirvana’s Nevermind, in its CD case; a pad of blue post-it notes with some etchings regarding Manfrengensen’s work; a toy store receipt; a roll of tape; some notecards in a box; a Hello Kitty memo pad with notes about a car deal I was considering two months ago; an emory board; a gift receipt from Target; three coupons to Macy’s; A Harry Potter LEGO minifigure (WHAT’S HE DOING HERE?); an origami Ninja throwing star; a list of items Clooney’s art teacher is collecting for the local ASPCA; the directions for the Smart Slicer I bought before Thanksgiving; a desk lamp; two speakers; and a Christmas cactus that is so dry it’s basically begging me in its silent plant language for a merciful death.

And the that’s just the top of the desk. I could tell you about the shelves underneath, or the bookshelves surrounding me here, but that might get embarrassing.

Seriously, how do I get anything done in here?

Sunday, Dec 11: Gathering
When you want to gather with friends, where do you go and why?

Well, I have been gathering quite a bit at Panera this year. It seems like every once in a while, I get a place, where you are most likely to find me at certain hours of the day. These days it’s Panera.

Also, we have had quite a few parties and gatherings here at the house. We’ve only been here for a year or so, and it’s a really comfortable space to have people gather. The yard is large, with a swingset/playground, and the basement has lots of things for kids to do as well. It’s nice to bring people in to visit.

Prompts courtesy of Thinkit.com


End of Year Musings Week 1

Every year, I try to do one of these daily wrap-up memes, though I have to admit that I have some trouble keeping up. I’m more of a brewer than a spewer, so let’s see if I can catch up here to the people working with thinkit.com.

Week 1

Thursday, Dec 1: Favorite Photo
Have a snapshot that encapsulates your year? Or one that represents a great moment? Maybe it just looks dang cool. Show ‘n tell time — let’s see those pics!

We did a lot of family traveling this year, and just generally had a good time together. In this photo, I am at Universal Studios, Florida drinking Frozen Butterbeer in Hogsmeade Village. This is also the year that I discovered the pleasures of Harry Potter, both in a literary and cinematic sense, and I have Edison to thank for that. Drinking Butterbeer – that was a great moment.

Butterbeer may just be the most delicious thing I have ever imbibed. If you go there, think not of calories, but experience.

Friday, Dec 2: Favorite Music
You know SmallBox likes the rock. We can’t resist asking about your album of the year. Why did it grab you?

Hmm. Hate to say it, but my musical taste pretty much died with Kurt Cobain. This year, I listened to a lot of Green Day (the last two albums) and Weezer, but I still like my Elvis Costello and Aretha Franklin.

Saturday, Dec 3: Favorite Read
What did you read this year that inspired you? Share your favorite book or article.

Wow. That’s hard to say because I read some good books this year. I loved State of Wonder by Anne Patchett, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann and The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. As far as inspiration goes, I know that while I was listening to The Marriage Plot, I felt my own voice more strongly then. I don’t know if it was the rhythm of Eugenides’ prose or what, but it really pushed me in a positive way.

Sunday, Dec 4: Favorite Meal
Did you eat something this year that knocked your socks off? Maybe you tried something new that’s now a fave. Describe those tasty morsels.

Another good question that’s hard to answer. My favorite restaurant is in Margate, NJ, which is south of Atlantic City (in fact, if you look at your Monopoly board, and you see Marvin Gardens — that’s actually in Margate.) Anyway, my favorite restaurant is Tomatoes. They have a crab pasta that’s awesome. It’s more crab than pasta, just chunks and chunks of sauteed-in-garlic-and-olive-oil white crab meat. Good stuff.

Also, anything my father makes, is just to die for as well. He also makes a kind of crab pasta that’s really good, and sometimes he does the same thing with shrimp that makes me wish I were more like a cow — you know, like I had four stomachs

Lucy is a building shaped like an elephant built in 1881. She's right off the beach in Margate.

to put the stuff in. It’s heavenly. He will spend an unbelievable amount of time preparing meals for us as well. He preps his food so lovingly. In fact, I have seen him wash a piece of lettuce and then carefully dry it with a paper towel like it’s a newborn baby.

Anyway, this scampi he makes has little bits of carrot that he slices into small, paper-thin squares. He puts a little clam juice in there too. It’s just the best stuff on the planet.

Monday, Dec 5: Events
What event stood out for you this year? Where was it? Who was there? What did it look like?

I didn’t actually attend any notable events that I can think of right away. In terms of current events, we spent a lot of time in our house talking about natural disasters. Clooney was obsessed with news from the tsunami in Japan, and was thrilled (as well as freaked out) to be in the path of Hurricane Irene, which forced us to cut short our week at the beach.

Tuesday, Dec 6: Community
Where do you go where everyone knows your name?

Everywhere I go.

Wednesday, Dec 7: Neighborhood
Tell a neighborhood story. Did you meet someone new? Run into an old friend? Find a hidden spot you love?

I have made a few new friends in the neighborhood this year, which is cool. Clooney’s got a new bus stop and I really like the ladies who gather there to drop off/pick up their offspring. I have quite a few stories, I guess, and we have had some laughs there in all kinds of weather. I wrote about one of the days here: Random Notes.

Recently I made one of the ladies laugh, and that laughter still rings in my ears for some reason. I don’t know, maybe she didn’t expect me to say what I said, but her laugh just burst out of her in a really delightful way.

It started out with a compliment about her boots. They were really cool knee-high numbers, and she had calves that were just right for the fit. “Yeah,” I said, “I just don’t have the calves for knee-high boots. If I wore boots like that, my head would turn blue.”

I don’t know, that just tickled her funny bone for some reason. And it was a beautiful thing.