Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Year!

I hope your February 29th is leap-tacular.

Daring Jump of a Forest Ranger, near Bright Angel Cove, Arizona
Source: New York Public Library Digital Gallery

Ski jumping at the Dartmouth carnival
Source: New York Public Library Digital Gallery

Watching Tiger jump through flaming hoop
Source: New York Public Library Digital Collection

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I Hope I Always Love The Circus

I saw a Cirque du Soleil show on Saturday with my sister Spucky.  We saw Ovo, in which the performers are all dressed up as bugs.  I have seen several Cirque du Soleil shows, so I knew what to expect - but it still blew me away.

The acrobats are my favorite.  No, wait, the tightrope walker is also my favorite - seriously, how did he ride the unicycle on a tightrope while pedaling with his hands and doing a handstand?!?!  And then there was the big closing number that involved trampolines and a rock climbing wall - that was also my favorite.

Let's just the entire show was my favorite. 

The circus tent was set up next to the Santa Monica pier right by the Pacific Ocean.  I saw my first Cirque du Soleil show in this exact spot, more than two decades ago when my mom was pregnant with Spucky.  I was nine years old and I was just enchanted.  A man had a fight with an invisible bouncer, and it looked so unbelievably real.  I really thought there was an invisible man throwing punches.  The memory still makes me smile.

Just seeing the tents pitched next to the ocean makes my heart thrill.  I hope I always love the circus.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Unsolicited Advice for Brides-to-Be: Wait A Few Days for Your Honeymoon

Nathan and I got married on a Saturday, and we left for our Maui honeymoon the following Tuesday.  If it is even remotely within the realm of possibility, do not leave for your honeymoon until a few days after your wedding.

The wedding was fun but EXHAUSTING.  We were worn out.  If we had left for Maui the day after our wedding, we would have just spent the first 48 hours of our honeymoon sleeping.  And hey, I have nothing against sleeping, but I can sleep at home.  When I'm staying at the Four Seasons in Maui, I want to at least have the energy to walk to the beach and float in the ocean.  But if I had tried swimming in the ocean the day after our wedding, I would have drowned.  The waves would have just carried me out to sea and I would have been a story on the evening news: Bride Carried  Out to Sea During Honeymoon Because She Was Too Damned To Swim.

More importantly, because we delayed our honeymoon until Tuesday, we were also able to take care of some errands before our trip.  About a week before our wedding, our sprinkler system crapped out on us.  The sprinklers are run by an automatic timer system, and our plumber broke that system.  (The fact that the plumber was in our basement a week before the wedding is another fun story). 

We could not get the sprinklers to turn on manually.  I spent hours circling our house, trying to solve this mystery because seriously, there must be a way to turn on the sprinklers manually.  But to this day, I have no idea where our manual sprinkler switch is.

The week before our wedding, Nathan did not have time to fix the sprinkler system.  And if I had tried, bad things would have happened.  I don't mean "bad" as in "breaking a fingernail."  I mean "bad" as in "flooding the entire house."  So the sprinklers stayed broken, and I watered the lawn with a hose to keep it alive in the summer heat.

Thank god for the two-day buffer between our wedding and honeymoon.  If we had left for Maui the day after our nuptials, we would not have had time to deal with the sprinkler system crisis and our lawn would have turned to ash while we were honeymooning.  But instead, we had time for our first Home Depot field trip as a married couple.  When you are a newlywed, even Home Depot feels romantic.  (Then we went to Wal-mart to stock up on sunblock.  Wal-mart?  Never romantic). 

Now Spucky, I know you are 23 years old and this doesn't sound like a big deal to you.  Oh no, the sprinklers broke!  Whatever will we do if the front lawn dies?  But talk to me again in five or ten years when you have a front lawn and a husband, and you will understand the gravity of this situation.  If our front lawn had died, a little piece of Nathan's soul would have died with it.  And if we had been in Maui while the front lawn was dying, he would have been stressed and constantly wondering about the lawn's health.  Take my word on this: when you are honeymooning, you do not want your new husband to be having a continuous nervous breakdown regarding the front yard. 

So do yourself a favor: wait a couple of days before you leave for your honeymoon.  In the days and even weeks before the wedding, you will spend an ungodly amount of time attending to wedding tasks.  It doesn't matter how organized you are or how much you get done in advance.  You will spend all of your free time either (a) putting out wedding-related fires or (b) recovering from the stress of the latest wedding-related fire.  You will not have time for Normal Life Stuff.

Maybe you will get lucky, and you won't have any errands or chores that need your attention between the wedding and honeymoon.  If that's the case: congratulations!  Go take your groom to the movies and gorge yourself on popcorn and candy.  Now that the wedding is over, you don't have to worry about fitting into your dress.

I got married in July 2011, and now I have lots of opinions about weddings.  My baby sister Katherine (aka Spucky) is ten years younger than me.  Someday, she will get engaged and I will want to go into crazy big sister mode and inundate her with advice.  Instead, I'm writing blog posts so when she gets engaged, she can read (or not read) my advice at her leisure. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Really Obvious Laundry Trick That I Just Discovered Yesterday

I've been doing my own laundry since I started college.  And since I started doing my laundry, I have been air drying any articles of clothing that would shrink in the dryer.

And yet yesterday, after about fifteen years of doing my own laundry, I finally realized the easiest trick for air drying your clothes: open the shade and put your clothes in a sunny spot so they will dry faster.

Are you kidding me?  I've been air drying my clothes for FIFTEEN FREAKING YEARS, and this trick only occured to me YESTERDAY?!?!

I will be seeing my mom and Grandma Shirley this weekend, and believe me, this issue will be addressed.  They have given me thousands of pieces of homemaking advice, and they never told me about this laundry trick?!  Who do they think I am, Martha Stewart? 

Confession: I Cannot Pack Lightly To Save My Life

I wish I was the sort of woman who has a talent for packing lightly.  You know who I'm talking about.  The sort of woman who packs a scarf, a dress, and a pair of capri pants and looks MAGNIFICANT during a two week European vacation.  It's as if she packed Magic Clothes that are perfect for every occassion in every climate.

But I am not that sort of woman.  I am the sort of woman who packs way too much.  For a two night trip, I'll pack eight outfits, convinced that if I pack less, the trip will be ruined. 

Last week, Nathan and I went to Las Vegas and Phoenix, and once again, I packed way too much.  For example, I brought a dress and high heels just in case I wanted to dress up for dinner - even though, I secretly knew I would just wear pants and flats at night to stay warm and comfortable.  Other items I packed but never used: a Southwest guidebook; bathing suit; flip-flops; a rain jacket; and several sweaters and t-shirts. 

Before a trip, I always tell myself that this time, I am going to streamline my packing list and only bring the bare essentials.  And every time, I fail.  Spectacularly.  But last week, even I was impressed by my ability to pack too much.

When we arrived at the Bellagio, Nathan offered to wheel my suitcase to our hotel room.  His suitcase weighed about 10 pounds (including the weight of the suitcase itself).  My suitcase weighed at least 60 pounds.

But I insisted upon wheeling my own suitcase.  If I had packed it, then I could haul it up to the room.

The next day, my chest/shoulder area hurt.  For several hours, I thought I had heartburn from eating rich food at the Paris breakfast buffet.  Then I realized the truth: I was just really, really, really freaking sore from pulling my too-heavy suitcase the day before.

Seriously?  It was a four night trip!  How did I manage to pack so much crap that I actually injured my shoulder?  And I wasn't just a little sore.  My shoulder hurt so badly, I could not carry a purse.  When I went to bed that night, I had to creatively layer several pillows to prop my body up into a comfortable position.  The next day, I was a little better, but I still had to take Advil to numb the pain.

I need professional help.  Can anyone recommend a good Packing Consultant?  Or maybe a trained Overpacking Therapist?  I need to learn how to pack lightly or next time, I might pull my arm out of its socket.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Arizona = Cactus Country

Last week, after our vacation in Las Vegas, Nathan and I drove to Arizona to visit his grandparents.  His paternal grandparents live in Nebraska but are wintering in Fountain Hills, a community close to Phoenix that is geared towards the retired set.

Before I go further, I should mention my first blog.  Before I started this blog, I had a blog called Wendy the Cactus, which chronicled the adventures of the world's most self-absorbed and delusional cactus.  I had a small cactus that I carried around everywhere in a ziploc bag.  I even took Wendy to Disneyland once!  But after awhile, I retired Wendy.  I was sick of toting around a small cactus in my purse and getting stabbed when I reached inside for my keys or wallet.  Also, Wendy is a bitch and channeling her negative thoughts was a bit of a downer.  But, when we were in Arizona, I thought fondly about Wendy.  She would have enjoyed Maricopa County and had a crush on half the cacti population.  Maybe one day I'll resurrect Wendy and she can write some guest posts for The Cranky Pumpkin.

Anyway, back to our trip to Fountain Hills, Arizona.  Can you guess what the town of Fountain Hills features?  If you guessed "an enormous fountain," give yourself a gold star!  The town has a lovely park and a fountain that shoots about 500 feet into the air. You can see the fountain from miles away.  I'm sorry, but I did not get any good photos of the fountain. 

Instead, I took about a hundred photos of cacti.  This was easy to do, because the Maricopa County landscape is dominated by the saguaro cactus.  

I noticed that some of the cacti had metal supports:

WTF?  I'm pretty certain the saguaro cactus evolved before cities and retirement communities were built in Arizona.  I'm also pretty certain that the saguaro cactus population was doing just fine before man learned how to work with metal.  Are these metal cactus supports part of the fossil record?  Do you expect me to believe that an elite cactus species with metal support systems recently evolved?

Okay, so these cacti are growing alongside a busy road.  Maybe it would cause a problem if one of the cacti toppled into the road during rush hour.  But how often does that happen?  During our two days in Arizona, I saw some dead cacti but I did not see a single fallen cactus.  No, the dead cacti were still standing up and just looked brown and rotten.  

And what makes the saguaro cacti so special that it needs metal supports?  If the saguaro cacti needs metal supports, what about all the beautiful trees in Pasadena?  Do the trees in front of my house need metal supports?  Maybe I should start collecting signatures for a Tree Support Referendum for the next election...

And why do only some of the saguaro cacti qualify for metal supports?  Is there a government employee driving around Maricopa County and deciding what cacti need the supports?  That sounds like an excellent use of the tax payers' money.

Is there a government department devoted to preserving the saguaro cacti?  Maybe I'm just uninformed, but it looks like the saguaro cacti is doing just fine on its own.  I saw thousands of them.  If Arizona doesn't watch out, the saguaro cacti will revolt and reclaim the desert.  In fact, I think I'm going to go write a screenplay now called Rise of the Saguaro.  It will be like Hitchcock's The Birds meets Planet of the Apes, except so much better. 

I do not know who is responsible for building and installing the metal supports for the Maricopa County saguaro cacti population.  But instead of building supports, I think the authorities should start building cages for these cacti.  They look treacherous.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We Saw Elton John!!!

If you love Sir Elton John and you are the sort of person who gets jealous, then you should skip this post. 

Last Thursday, during our Vegas trip, Nathan and I saw Sir Elton John perform at Caesar's Palace. 

To be honest, before the concert, I thought Elton's songs were good and fun, but I have never gone out of my way to listen to his music.  I would not have ranked him among my Top 20 Favorite Musicians. But Nathan loves the man, and I thought the concert would at least be enjoyable.

It was the best concert I have ever seen.  No, that is not a strong enough statement.  It is the best concert I have ever or will ever see.  About halfway into the first song, I discovered the truth: I am a huge Elton John fan.  I want to steal all of Nathan's Elton cd's and hoard them in my car so I can listen to them all of the time.

Elton is nearly 65 years old.  Before the concert, Nathan and I talked about the fact that he is no longer in his prime but since he is a legend, we wanted to see him in concert.

Folks, I am here to tell you the truth: Sir Elton John is still in his prime. 

The man can sing, and he plays the piano as if the instrument was invented and built for him and him alone.  He played for nearly two hours straight, and he seemed to love every minute.  Maybe he's a diva, but he clearly loved performing and seemed genuinely grateful to be performing for so many enthusiastic fans.

I could go on.  Okay, I will.

He performed many songs with his band, and those songs were fun.  But, he also performed many songs alone, just Elton and his piano.  He does not need the back-up band.  He could have performed solo all night, and I would have listened with rapture to every note.

About midway through the concert, I had to pee.  I am cursed with a bladder that is about the size of a peanut.  But there was no way I was getting up while Elton was on stage.  Not even when he announced that he was going to perform some lesser-known songs.  If Elton had decided to play all night, I would have stayed glued to my seat, even if it meant peeing my pants. 

I have been to dozens of concerts; and many times, I have been disappointed because the recorded music sounds better than the live performance.  Not Elton.  "Elton in Concert" is even better than "Elton on the Radio/CD/MP3/etc." 

Also, too often, singers and bands play all their new music and neglect their old hits.  Not Elton.  He played every old hit I wanted to hear, from Rocket Man to Crocodile Rock to Your Song.  He even ended the show with Circle of Life from The Lion King.  (Okay, he didn't perform Candle in the Wind but he retired that song for Princess Diana.  And I probably would have wept if he had performed it.  Seeing as I got teary eyed during Circle of Life). 

The concert was incredible.  Sometimes I wanted to pinch myself.  I was in the same room as Elton John!  Granted, it was a very big room, but still, I was in the same room as Elton John.  And not only were Elton and I in the same room together, but I sang the lyrics to Rocket Man while he accompanied me on the piano (sort of).  How freaking ridiculously cool is that?  And to think, all these years that I wasted, not realizing how awesome Elton John is.  

Excuse me, I have to go steal Nathan's Elton John cd's now. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Vegas Adventures

Last week, Nathan and I went to Las Vegas.  Even though I have lived in Southern California for almost my entire life, this was only my third trip to Sin City.  My first trip to Vegas was in June 1994 when I was 15 years old.  We were there for my oldest cousin's wedding, and for a 15 year old in 1994, Vegas sucked.  I was too young to drink or gamble and just felt really awkward. 

Then, I went to Vegas again about five or six years ago with a work friend for a girls' weekend.  Shortly after we arrived, my friend announced that she likes to gamble alone and then she ditched me in the casino.  I was left to my own devices.  I won about $80 from a slot machine, but it was otherwise the worst girls' weekend ever.  

So I had low expectations for last week's Vegas trip.  I assumed I would spend the entire trip feeling disoriented from the dim casino lights and ill from eating too much crappy food at overcrowded buffets.

But holy crap, we had so much fun.  I officially "get" Vegas.

We drove from Pasadena to Vegas last Wednesday morning.  By "we drove," I mean "Nathan drove and I sat in the passenger seat taking photos."  It was a rainy day, and for about five minutes, it snowed.  Fun fact: in the past 4 months, Nathan and I have been in two snowstorms, both in Southern California (the first was during our November 2011 Palm Springs trip). 

Do you watch Pawn Stars on the History Channel?  That is one of our favorite t.v. shows.  Before we even checked into our hotel, we visited Gold & Silver Pawn of Pawn Stars fame.  The stars of the show (Rick, the Old Man, Big Hoss and Chumlee) were all on vacation (boo), but it was still cool to actually walk into the shop.  It was a lot smaller than I expected it to be, and not a lot of merchandise was for sale.  About half the shop is devoted to souvenirs for the show, e.g. Chumlee t-shirts and Old Man shot glasses. 

After paying our respects to Pawn Stars, we went to Circus Circus, hoping to see one of the free circus shows.  We did not get to see a show, but we walked around the midway and discovered a carnival game with the best prizes ever: Minions!!!  (If you do not recognize the minions, go watch Despicable Me immediately if not sooner).  Nathan won me a mid-sized minion, and it is now proudly displayed on our living room sofa.

Next stop: the Bellagio!  Nathan booked us a room online for the cheapest price available, and then he bribed tipped the front desk clerk $40 for an upgrade.  The clerk gave us a room on the 28th floor with amazing views.  Not only did we have views of the Strip, but we were the last room on the floor, which meant we were the corner room and had views of the Strip in both directions.  Best bribe tip ever.

In addition to the usual shampoo and lotion, the Bellagio provides a complimentary loofah for its guests.  How bitching is that?  (And yes, the complimentary loofah is now in my shower at home).

We had an unobstructed view of the Paris hotel, which is across the street from the Bellagio.  I don't know which I like better, the late afternoon view of Paris:

Or the nighttime view:

But the best part of our rooms at the Bellagio was our view of the fountains.  Before we left, Nathan told me the Bellagio fountains are really impressive.  I imagined the fountains would be like something you see at a fancy mall.  Wrong.

The fountains are HUGE and they can do all sorts of tricks.  They can act like a geyser and blast water 30 stories into the air; but they also delicately twirl water around like graceful dancers.  The shows are synchronized to music, like Elvis/Viva Las Vegas, Sinatra/Luck Be A Lady, the Star Spangled Banner, Andrea Bocelli/Time to Say Goodbye, Michael Jackson/Billie Jean, and Copland/One of His Famous Uplifting Pieces. 

Here you can see the fountain apparatus underwater.  As you can see, this is not your average shopping mall fountain!

And here are the fountains, in action.  I cannot say enough about the Bellagio fountains.  They are beautiful and inspiring.  Think of the best fireworks display you ever saw, and then merge that with the best ballet performance ever, and then make that aquatic.  That's what the Bellagio fountain shows are like.  

At night, the shows are lit up and run every fifteen minutes.  During our first night in Vegas, Nathan and I felt like we were "slaves to the fountains."  We were tired and just wanted to zone out and watch television, but every fifteen minutes, we crawled out of bed to watch the next fountain show.  We could not, in good conscience, lie in bed while one of the Modern Wonders of the World was right outside our hotel window.

The Bellagio also has a beautiful conservatory that was decorated for Chinese New Year.


Despite what my photos may suggest, we did not spend our entire trip at the Bellagio.  We ate some amazing meals at other casinos, including one of the best Italian dinners of my life at Rao's.  And don't even get me started on the breakfast buffet at Paris' Le Village Buffet - I ate a crepe that is easily one of the five best things I have ever eaten in my life.  We also went to the top of the Stratosphere and walked around the Venetian's "canals." 

We were in Vegas for about 36 hours, and we gambled for about a total of 20 or 30 minutes (playing a Deal or No Deal slot machine - we won $3).  We also only had two drinks each.  So, we did not exactly have the Hangover or Swingers Vegas experience.  But so what?  We had fun, just in our own Vegas way.  I cannot wait to go back!

Unsolicited Advice For Brides-to-Be: You Have To Be In A Committed Relationship With Your Deodorant

You trust your groom.  But do you trust your deodorant? 

Spucky, I know your to-do list is formidable, but I need you to take a moment and think about your armpits.  Are they sweaty?  Are they smelly?  Did your deodorant stain your favorite cardigan last week? 

And maybe your armpits are well-behaved right now, as you sit in an air conditioned office and drink a refreshing iced beverage.  But what are they like at 1 a.m. in a crowded bar?  What are they like at midnight after you have spent all night dancing in a bridesmaid dress? What are they like when you are doing something really stressful? 

You need to make sure that on the Big Day, your deodorant is going to do its job.  You have to be 100% certain of this.  Not 80% certain.  Not 95% certain.  Not 99.99% certain.  You need to be ONE FREAKING HUNDRED PERCENT certain that your deodorant will keep your armpits gloriously fresh until the bitter end of the reception.

If you are harboring even a scintilla of doubt about your deodorant, it is time to start auditioning new brands.  Have faith.  If you persevere, and keep an open mind, you will find your soulmate deodorant.  Hey, maybe you need to use a generic brand in ugly packaging or something made from organic goji berries.  Maybe your armpits are crying for man deodorant.  There are tons of options.  When it comes to choosing a deodorant for the Big Day, don't settle for something that will crap out on you halfway through the reception.

The Holy Grail of deodorants is Fresh Sugar Roll-On Deodorant Antiperspirant.  As I write this, it retails for $18.  That might seem like a lot of money for a stick of deodorant, but it is made from crushed unicorn horns and stardust.  Okay, that's a lie.  I made that up.  But this stuff is so good, it might as well be made from unicorn horns and stardust. 

Spucky, please, do not neglect your deodorant.  No one wants to be the bride with sweaty armpits.

I got married in July 2011, and now I have lots of opinions about weddings.  My baby sister Katherine (aka Spucky) is ten years younger than me.  Someday, she will get engaged and I will want to go into crazy big sister mode and inundate her with advice.  Instead, I'm writing blog posts so when she gets engaged, she can read (or not read) my advice at her leisure. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Crappy NASCAR Adventure

Nathan and I recently drove NASCAR stock cars at an actual racing track in Southern California.  First, we listened to a 45 minute lecture about safety and the driving of the vehicles.  Our instructor told us that we could easily hit 120 mph after our first few laps around the track.  Since I regularly speed along the Los Angeles freeways at 80 mph, I figured I would at least be able to hit 110 mph in a race car.

When I finally drove around the race track, I topped out at 40 mph, max.  My top speed may have been closer to 32 mph. 

Here's the track:

This is an actual NASCAR race track.  There are races here on Saturday nights, but the track itself is not even half the size of a soccer field. 

And it was a tight oval:

We were constantly turning.  The "straight away" was about 10 feet long.  I would hit the accelerator and .4 seconds later, it was time to turn again. 

The best part was getting to play dress-up in the racing outfits:

(I'm the short person with the white helmet.  Nathan is the tall person with the black helmet.  Just in case there's any confusion - the helmets make it difficult to tell us apart).

Here's Nathan standing by our race cars.  Do you see the blue Dodgers car?  I drove that bad boy.  I had to climb in the window and once inside, dang, it was claustrophobic.  But I was excited!  I was going to drive a real NASCAR stock car!  Danica Patrick, look out! 

But when I finally drove the car on to the course, my only thought was "Don't crash."  I had paid for the privilege of driving 20 laps, but after I had survived the fourth lap, I had had enough.  The car was noisy and every time I accelerated, it sounded like the entire thing was going to explode.  And I really did not want to be trapped inside an exploding race car.  

I had assumed driving a NASCAR stock car would be an exhilarating experience, like zip lining or going on a roller coaster.  But my "don't die" instinct is just too strong.  On a roller coaster, I just have to sit and enjoy the ride.  I'm very good at sitting and enjoying the ride.  But when I am in charge of the death trap, and I have my foot on the pedal?  It turns out I'm very good at being a wimp.

Next time I feel the need for speed, I'll just rent a golf cart.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Look! I Got You Flowers!

As a telecommuter, I usually work from my living room couch.  The couch is in the front of the house and positioned right next to a window that overlooks my street.  For the last two weeks, whenever I look up from my laptop, this is what I see:

Daffodils!  Aren't they glorious? 

I have nothing sarcastic or funny to say about these flowers.  They just make me smile so much, I had to share.

The one on the far left is named "Gus."  The rest don't have names.  I'm not that crazy.  Sheesh.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Abandoned Furniture Myth

I enjoy looking at "home tour" photo spreads in magazines and blogs.  It's fun and inspiring to see how different people decorate their houses.  Usually, I just admire the pictures.  I'm not interested in reading about Jane Doe's decorating philosophy.  But, if I see a piece of furniture or artwork that I like, I check the caption to see where it is from.  This is a bad idea.  If I like a piece of furniture, it's never from Crate and Barrel or Pottery Barn.  Oh no, that would be too easy.  Nine out of ten times, if I like something, the owner claims that they just happened to find the item on the street.

Are you kidding me?  In my 33 years, I have seen a lot of abandoned furniture and it was all TOTAL AND COMPLETE CRAP.  People don't just abandon a $6000 couch on the curb.  No, if they have a $6000 couch that they no longer want, they sell it or give it to a loved one.

If you find a free couch, it will look like this:

If someone has an amazing dining room table or a gorgeous wardrobe, and they claim they found it in an alley, you know what I think?  THAT PERSON IS LYING.  That person has a trust fund and is too embarrassed to admit she spent $45,000 at an auction for a freaking wardrobe.  So, when her house is featured in a magazine, and the editor asks where she got the wardrobe, she lies and says that she found it abandoned on the street.  

BULL.  CRAP.  The only thing you ever find on the street is this:

No one just leaves a leather armchair on the curb.  The only thing that gets abandoned is a crappy old lounge chair that will collapse if you even think about sitting on it. 

The magazines and blogs have given me a complex.  I feel as if someday, if I just have enough faith, I will find the most incredible piece of furniture waiting patiently for me on a curb.  But apparently my faith is weak, because the only free furniture I ever find is total, complete and utter GARBAGE. 

I have found a new purpose in life: to liberate mankind from the "abandoned furniture myth."   

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

When I was browsing Valentine cards at the drugstore, I was shocked and appalled to discover that there were no Benjamin Franklin themed cards.  Are you kidding me?  Mr. Franklin was the heart throb of the 1700s!  The ladies in Paris were nuts for him.  If he was alive today, Benjamin Franklin would be a rocking sex symbol.  

I did my best to remedy the situation and designed my own card for you.  Maybe next year I will release my own series of Founding Father Valentines.  Heck, maybe I'll just design an entire line of cards!  Thomas Jefferson wishes you a happy birthday, George Washington hopes you get well soon, Alexander Hamilton wishes you a happy anniversary... (don't worry, I'll still keep blogging even after I become a greeting card magnate).

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Unsolicited Advice for Brides-to-Be: No One Cares About the Escort Cards

These are the escort cards from my wedding:

Let's take a closer look:

Look at the love and attention that went into these escort cards.  We could have just printed a sheet that listed everyone's table assignment, but no, we had individual cards.  With pink ribbons!  Green stamped hearts!  And keys!  Old vintage keys!

Let me tell you about those keys.  I spent an ungodly amount of time searching for those keys.  I found online stores that specialize in old keys, but their product seemed too expensive and sterile.  (Yes, I actually thought the keys were "sterile" - that's how crazy a bride can get).  I went to antique shops in Pasadena and discovered that their keys were even more expensive.  So I scoured eBay and finally found a legally-blind retired locksmith selling sets of pretty keys at a reasonable price.

Even then, I hesitated.  The keys were uncut.  If you take a closer look at the photos, you might notice that the bottom notch for each key is flat.  The keys were never actually used for a lock.  The horror!  The horror!  I spent weeks, freaking weeks, agonizing over whether the wedding guests would think I was a fraud for using uncut keys with the escort cards.  Finally, I realized I was being bridezilla about the stupidest detail imaginable, and I bought the keys.

I think the keys looked lovely on their display board but ... nobody cared.  My wedding guests still compliment me on my dress, the venue, the photobooth, the sweets table, and the basket of free flip-flops we provided as "spare dancing shoes."  But the escort cards?  I have not heard a word, positive or negative, about the freaking escort cards.  I'm sure most people threw their key out, and I bet some guests were annoyed that they had to hold an antique key during the cocktail hour. 

On the plus side, if I ever start collecting antique keys, I will have a sentimental reason to justify the new hobby.  But, if you are planning a wedding, and you are trying how to devote your time and resources, here's my word advice: spend no more than two minutes thinking about the escort cards (and even that amount of time is probably excessive).

I got married in July 2011, and now I have lots of opinions about weddings.  My baby sister Katherine (aka Spucky) is ten years younger than me.  Someday, she will get engaged and I will want to go into crazy big sister mode and inundate her with advice.  Instead, I'm writing blog posts so when she gets engaged, she can read (or not read) my advice at her leisure. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Scavenger Hunt: The Valentine's Day Edition

Valentine's Day is next Tuesday, a work/school day.  I will be safe at home, telecommuting. In the evening, Nathan and I will have a home cooked meal, because I refuse to eat dinner at a restaurant on Valentine's Day.  So this year, I will miss the spectacle that is Valentine's Day.  (Damn).  But, in case you are out and about, here are some things you might see:

  • A bouquet the size of an armchair
  • A scary pink teddy bear (bonus points if it's the size of an armchair)
  • A woman having a nervous breakdown because her husband sent tulips - not the red roses she specifically requested
  • A terrified man, who just realized what day it is
  • A man rehearsing an elaborate proposal that will later go viral on Youtube 
  • A woman rehearsing the way she is going to dump that cretin who is never going to propose
  • Small child/baby dressed up as Cupid (very cute)
  • Small dog/cat dressed up as Cupid (very humiliating)
  • An adult dressed in reds and pinks, in a way that makes you smile and think "life is good!"
  • An adult dressed in reds and pinks, in a way that makes your soul hurt
  • A balloon bouquet that looks shockingly expensive
  • A florist on the verge of a nervous breakdown
  • A deliveryman who is lost and carrying a cumbersome bouquet
  • A single person who will not stop talking about how much she/he hates Valentine's Day, how it's a stupid commercialized fake holiday, how she/he does not need a gift on Valentine's Day to feel validated, etc.
If you can locate half of the items on this list, congratulations!  You are very observant!  And if you locate all of the items on this list?  I'm sorry, you need a new hobby.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Rain Boots Kick Your Boots Ass

For years, I have coveted a pair of rain boots with a fun, cheerful design.  But I live in Southern California.  How can I justify a pair of rain boots when I live in a Mediterranean climate? 

But Pasadena gets a fair amount of rain, and wet shoes suck, even if you live in Southern California.  So I finally bought myself a pair of rain boots with a whale design.  And then I bought a pink rain jacket because I like to wear bright colors on rainy days.

My rainy day outfit makes me so happy.  I shamelessly wear the boots even if there is just a light mist outside. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Feed the Birds

Did you know that February is National Bird Feeding Month?  Yeah, me neither.  And, the National Bird-Feeding Society has not updated the page on its website for 2012, so maybe the tradition died with 2011.  Regardless!  A half-loaf of stale bread was languishing in my bread box, and the Pasadena weather was exceptionally gorgeous last week.  I decided to partake in the National Bird Feeding Month festivities.

I walked to a nearby park that has several picnic tables and a swing set.  I have eaten lunch at this park before, and the birds always swarm and forage for scraps. 

It was late morning when I arrived, and I could hear the birds.  I scattered the crumbs for the first slice of bread.  Knowing the birds would be cautious, I tossed the crumbs far away from me.  Nothing happened.  The birds ignored the crumbs.

Hmm.  I scattered the crumbs for a second slice of bread.  Still, no sign of any hungry birds.

I realized the grass I had been scattering the crumbs on was wet, so I tossed the crumbs for Slices 3 and 4 on a dry walkway.  A few birds flew to some neighboring trees, but they just continued their morning songs.  Maybe it was too early for breakfast?  But doesn't the early bird catch the early worm??

By the time I had scattered all of my bread crumbs, one bird had swooped down, landed on the walkway, looked at the crumbs, and flown away.  Said bird had not eaten anything.  And that was it.  I could see and hear dozens of birds, but they were all rejecting my bread.  What the eff?

Were the birds intimidated by my presence?  This seemed unlikely, since they were haunting a CITY PUBLIC PARK that is often full of rowdy children.  But, just in case, I walked away for five minutes.  When I returned, I expected to see a frenzy of birds attacking my crumbs.

But no.  The birds were still in the trees, and my crumbs were still on the ground, just as I had scattered them.

Dejected, I walked home.  What was wrong with my bread crumbs?  Did the Southern California avian community collectively decide to go on the Atkins Diet?  Or, are the birds of Pasadena boycotting National Bird Feeding Month?  WHY DIDN'T THEY WANT MY FREAKING BREAD CRUMBS???

Excuse me, I have to go write a letter to the National Bird-Feeding Society.  Something needs to be done about these uppity Pasadena birds. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Valentine Pumpkin

I realize the pumpkins on display in my house are started to look a little dated:

But how can I throw them out?  Look at them.  They are so festively orange, so perfectly plump.  You might as well tell me I need to throw a kitten into the trash can. 

So I Valentine-ified my pumpkins:

I am particularly proud of the pumpkin on the left in the photo above.  Please note how the placement of the hearts mimics a Jack- o'-lantern.  This eases the pumpkin's transition from Halloween to Valentine's Day.  In a past life, I must have been a pumpkin stylist.

This year, Cupid gets to take a break.  The Love Pumpkin is the new mascot for February 14th.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Unsolicited Advice for Brides-to-Be: You Don't Have To Decide What You Want to Do Right Away

Nathan and I got engaged on July 13, 2010, and we got married one year later on July 23, 2011.  We had a wedding with approximately 100 guests, but we did not decide to have that wedding until January 2011 - six months after we got engaged, and six months before I walked down the aisle.

During the first six months of our engagement, our wedding plans changed about a dozen times.  We were going to have a wedding, no wait, we were going to elope.  We were going to have a very small wedding, and then a big reception after the honeymoon.  No, wait, let's just have the wedding.  No, wait, let's elope.  Shit!

Nathan wanted to do whatever I wanted to do.  This is every bride's dream except... I had no idea what I wanted!  Before the proposal, I knew I wanted to spend my life with Nathan, but I had given almost zero thought to the wedding itself.

As a little girl, I never dreamed about my wedding.  I didn't stage weddings for my stuffed animals or draw pictures of brides.  My stuffed animals were usually stranded on a desert island and trying to escape from an evil witch; and in the second grade, I was obsessed with drawing haunted mansions.  

By the time Nathan proposed, I had been to many weddings and I had some idea about what I would want to do if I had a wedding.  But I had not given any thought to whether I wanted a big wedding, no wedding, or something in between.

I needed time to wrap my mind around all the options and decide what option was best for us.  But from the day we got engaged, everyone wanted to know what we were doing.  They were especially interested in the when and the where.  For me, it was overwhelming.  I felt obligated to decide all of the logistics for our wedding just because people wanted to know.  In the rush to make a decision, we came dangerously close to getting married by an Elvis impersonator in Vegas.  (Seriously, for three days in November 2010, that was the plan). 

In retrospect, I realize it was okay to take some time to mull over the decision.  But at the time, I felt bad that I hadn't planned my dream wedding when I was five years old.  Spucky, if you know what you want your wedding to be like from the moment you get engaged, that's awesome.  But if you don't, that is also awesome.  If you want to elope and get married by Elvis, please take lots of photos. But don't get married by Elvis just because you feel pressured to make a decision.

Spucky, I am writing these blog posts to share my wedding advice with you.  But I'd like to take this opportunity to apologize.  When you get engaged, I will be bat shit crazy excited and I will want to know what you are doing, immediately.  I'm sorry!  I will be obnoxiously excited because I love you.  I will want to know all of the wedding details so I can mark my calendar and block out the entire month before your nuptials for errands, pedicures and meltdowns. 

But if you need a few days, weeks, or months to decide how you want to get married, give yourself that time.  It's not like you are buying a pair of shoes.  You are planning your wedding.  You and your groom should not make a decision about your wedding just for the sake of making a decision.     

I got married in July 2011, and now I have lots of opinions about weddings.  My baby sister Katherine (aka Spucky) is ten years younger than me.  Someday, she will get engaged and I will want to go into crazy big sister mode and inundate her with advice.  Instead, I'm writing these blog posts so when she gets engaged, she can read (or not read) my advice at her leisure. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mmm, Chili (and oh yeah, the Super Bowl)

The Super Bowl is on Sunday!  Woo hoo!  I'm not really that excited!  But I thought I should use some exclamation marks!  Super Bowl!!!

I will be watching the Super Bowl, mostly for the commercials, Madonna and the possibility of inclement weather.  If it's snowing or raining, it's amusing to watch the shivering players and fans.  (My parents like to watch news footage of blizzards, especially if cars are sliding down roads.  So I blame them).  

During the Super Bowl, I'll be eating this chili.  It is outstanding and ridiculously easy to make.  Seriously, if you have a can opener, you can make this chili.  We eat it with sour cream, shredded cheese and Fritos.  When I am feeling virtuous, I just eat the chili by itself - it's still delicious.  But since it's the Super Bowl, I don't think I'll be feeling virtuous on Sunday.

I realize people have a lot of strong opinions about chili.  There are probably competing academic societies and if there's ever a Chili Symposium, it will end in violence.  My favorite chili recipe belongs to the "ground beef and kidney beans" genre.  If you like that type of chili, then you will love this recipe.  If you prefer chunks of beef in your chili (shudder), then don't even click the link.

I hope something interesting happens during the Super Bowl.  Then, on Monday, while I am telecommuting, I can have a conversation with myself at the water cooler about the crazy thing Madonna did.  But even if the Super Bowl is boring, I know my chili dinner will be delicious.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Forget Groundhog Day. I'm Celebrating Meerkat Day.

Today is Groundhog Day.  I have no idea what I'm supposed to say.  Happy Groundhog Day?  Feliz Groundhog?  Mazel tov?

Groundhog Day would be a 1000% more exciting if we replaced the groundhog with a meerkat.  Have I mentioned how much I love meerkats?  Let's just say I have a "daily meerkat" calendar on my fridge and it fills my soul with joy and delight.

Animal Planet has a series called Meerkat Manor that I highly recommend.  The meerkats of Meerkat Manor are the Kardashians of the animal world.  They fight, play, scheme, and snuggle.  And they all have different roles, from leader to outcast and babysitter to warrior.  

The meerkats should have an action toy series, a line of clothing at Sears and a signature perfume.  There should also be a Meerkat Day.

Instead, we have stupid, lame, boring Groundhog Day.  When the groundhog emerges from its burrow, I hope a hawk swoops down and kills it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why Does February Only Get 28 Days?

It just seems unfair.  All the other months get at least thirty days, and some months get THIRTY-ONE days (those greedy bitches).  Maybe someone should have taught January and March how to share.

And then once, every four years, February gets a 29th day?  Like that is supposed to make it feel better? 

Of all the months of the year, I assume February has the lowest self-esteem and has logged the most hours with a therapist. 

Everybody, let's give February a hug!