Wednesday, December 31, 2008

What's For Dinner Wednesday

After making Pastitsio a couple of weeks ago, I knew that I'd make tonight's dinner choice soon. So, tonight's dinner is Cincinnati Chili.

However, only Ed got to enjoy a three way tonight. I'm saving my room for the pizza and other goodies we'll have at Bob and Maureen's. The dough and all the makings are ready to go and we're out the door.

We got to enjoy the Cincinnati style Chili tonight, but it was made on Wednesday. The tradition is that you order it in 'ways'. Allow me to explain

One way (really just spaghetti)

Two way (spaghetti plus Chili)

Three way (spaghetti, Chili and chopped onions)

Four way(spaghetti, Chili, chopped onions, and shredded Cheddar)

If you want a five way, you add beans. I don't like beans in my chili, so I stopped at the four way.

Ed and I have been having a heated debate for years. I believed that true chili is no meat, and Ed insisted that I was wrong, it wasn't chili unless it had beans. I found proof that beans are really considered filler (like bread in crabcakes) and if you put them in your entry to the chili cookoff, you'll be disqualified. That is the definitive answer, my friends.

Meanwhile, last night, we went to Bob and Maureens and ate pizza and appetizers. Here's one of the pizzas I made, Hawaiian to make Gameboy happy.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Two Thousand Great? Not So Much...

January 1st of this year, I posted that a coworker had said "Happy two thousand GREAT!". He was convinced that this was to be a fantastic year. I liked his enthusiasm, but I think his holiday revelry included some wacky weed. Hmm, is that what makes a year great? Guess I'll never find out the answer to THAT one!

I'm happy the year is behind us.

There were far too many negatives for many of us in the blogosphere. I won't rehash them all, but suffice to say, there was major suckage for nearly everyone I know. On the eve of the New Year, I'm going to look back at the positives.

1. I conquered Blog 365(6)! The last day off was in October, 2007. While the official event is over, I'll still keep blogging until I want to take a day off. It's so ingrained to post that if I haven't by 10:30, panic sets in. I don't think I can rewire myself all that easily. Heck, Joyce got accustomed to many days of the second half of the year having 2 posts!

2. I fulfilled my goal of commenting on at least three blogs a day. It was probably 5 a day, but I didn't keep records. The blog also went from 20-25 daily readers to 45 average readers. I'm happy to make the new friends, thanks for joining me!

3. I completed the Next Food Network Star Audition and submitted it. No, I haven't heard from them and probably won't, but it was a good learning experience. It was a lot of fun creating new recipes all year long.

4. Twitter and Facebook has brought many new (and returned old) friends into my life. Hitting a thousand tweets is a lot easier than a thousand blog entries (that will arrive in the coming couple of weeks-25 left to go!). Blogging has brought even more friends.

5. My leg has settled down and doesn't require weekly doctor visits. No, not great, but I don't want to hacksaw it off most days anymore! I've learned that the walker is my friend.

6. The kids have made good friends in the new neighborhood, though I'm still adjusting to having five or six boys in the house-LOUD is an understatement.

7. One of my online friends who we'd see when they visited WDW moved here in July. We feared that Maureen would think we were crazy people and not want to hang with us like Bob. Thankfully, she tolerates the strange well-and we enjoy getting together with them every now and then. Just wish it were more often. (on a similar note, I keep postponing meeting up with another online friend, but that's going to happen soon, right?)

8. I've learned what living on a shoestring really is that when I do have a job again? The bank account will grow quickly.

9. We dodge another hurricane, but it wasn't named after a relative, anyway! 2009 is worrisome, because Bill (my stepdad) will visit and Fred (Ed's uncle) is on the list, too. If we get to Peter, we're in a world of trouble. Then again, Bill lives here, so maybe the hurricanes that do come to call have to be named after relations that don't already reside in Florida-and we're not sure about Ed's family cursing us on the hurricane front. Soooooooo, batten down the hatches for Peter!

10. Might as well make this an even ten, right? According to Neil at Citizen of the Month, the color underwear you are wearing to ring in the new year symbolizes what you desire for the coming year. Red for finding love, yellow for money in Mexican culture-and yellow brings positive energy to the Peruvian way of thinking. Black is bad juju.

I'm going to cut this short, I need to go buy some yellow underwear. Just as soon as I get all these kids out of my house.

Happy New Year, everyone. 2009 certainly will be an improvement over 2008!!!!

Why is it...

that the first time we heard anything about losing EIGHTEEN channels via our cable company is while watching one of them at 12:30am? We're losing MTV, VH1, Spike, Noggin, Spike, Comedy Central, TV Land and others.

Guess who we're calling in the morning?

Only reason we found out about it is because VH1 started running a crawl chyron! it No information about this was enclosed in the bill this month.


Since I'm getting a bunch of Google hits on the topic, the channels TimeWarner and Brighthouse customers will lose are:

VH1 Classic
VH1 Soul
MTV Hits
MTV Jams
Comedy Central
TV Land
The N
CMT: Pure Country

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

When You Can't Be There

Someone has a UStream that's almost as good!

It sucks that we can't afford WDW, but there are a couple of people who have been very kind to stream a view of the Magic Kingdom and the ever important FIREWORKS. I'm waiting until 11:50 to see the preview of tomorrow night's spectacular.

What's great about it? No fight for a good spot, no schlepping back to the car and the best part? I can enjoy my lovely beverage while I view it.

Do you want to see some fireworks? Check out Dave's UStream. It's the one on the bottom. The middle window may have holiday IllumiNations tomorrow.

I Think I'm Going to Turn My Cell Phone Off

Why do I want to turn my cell phone off? Because the only time is rings lately is:
a. A bill collector wants money
b. A well meaning person wants to know if I've heard anything.

The answer to the questions
a. No job means no money, so bite me
b. Don't you think I'd let you know if I have finally gotten a job?

Yes, I am testy. See this post and you'll understand it a little more. Trust me, it's EVERY FREAKING PERSON I KNOW calling me to ask that damn question.

I know you all mean well, but it doesn't help. Instead, it just drives home that I'm a freaking failure.

/rant off

Monday, December 29, 2008

In the Home Stretch

Question for the long time readers:

When I said I'd blog for THIRTY days straight, did you think I'd still be at it over 420 days later? Yeah, me neither. However, here I am and the finish line is in my sights. I can see a bit of exhaustion (or really, the funkitude I'm trying to fight), in that I'm not full of topics of conversation the past few days.

Recently, Ed made a statement "You're signed up for next year, right?" Actually, there hasn't been a peep of a Blog 365 for 2009. Maybe there is somewhere, but Google hasn't found it. Nor do the forums have a topic posted about next year's even.

On January 1st last year, there were around 1100 people signed up. Now the site shows 1563. Any guesses on how many of those people made it through the whole thing? I know that Steven is still at it, Sandy, Lou and a few others(Jess? Can't remember if you're in the ranks still, since you post at the other blog.). The rules were reasonable, as long as you worked offline, you could post it online for the day it was created. This was a lot more forgiving than the NaBloPoMo and Holidailies rule.

The year has been good on the blogging front. I've made several friends and found a bunch of blogs to follow. I'm a little bummed that most of those won't be doing the daily posts anymore! Inspiring others to blog seemed to happen again this year, but as is typical, most fall by the wayside-Robin seems to be the one who's keeping up with a grueling pace that fells many a newbie! [Internetz: I'm sorry for the amount of garbage that 'abandoned blogs' seem to leave in your midst.]

Even better, this event inspired a blog cheerleader in one of my oldest friends. I think she's too intimidated to start her own because all the blogs she reads publish daily! Joyce, don't you remember the days when I posted two or three times a week? (don't worry, that won't happen anymore.) I love the fact that she comes back to me with blogs I should check out!

So, two more posts and I'll cross over that finish line. It'll feel a little like Forrest Gump, in that its more than likely that I'll keep running.

Thanks for being along for the ride. The year has been abundant with comments and new readers. It makes one feel good when a post inspires someone to share their opinion.

Let's see what 2009 brings, shall we?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

Today, I'm not in the frame of mind for a proper Soundtrack Sunday post. Instead, I'll let the iPod take over in the form of a Shuffle set. Let's see what eclectic musical journey the iPod takes us on today, shall we?

(I'm curious to see if it includes any of my recent additions.)

1. Allentown-Billy Joel, Allentown A good choice-I played this album to death when I got it-and crafted harmonies when Liberty let me down. Not my favorite song on the album, but there really isn't a song I don't like from this release. Scandinavian Skies and Where's the Orchestra rank higher on my personal favorites list.

2. Wormhole-Wendy Carlos, Tron Soundtrack. It's a sign that I let the kids use my iPod, even though they have their own. Whatever algorithms Apple uses to select songs on Shuffle must think that I really like this disc, even though it only gets played when Gameboy has control of my unit.

3. My Melancholy Blues-Queen, News of the World. Title fits my mood right now. I love the retro feel of this song and the prominent piano. Freddy, you were a genius.

4. Hard Promises to Keep, Trisha Yearwood, The Song Remembers When. Good simple song, kind of sad album.

5. Smells Like Cartoon Planet, Space Ghost, Musical Barbeque. The ridiculously funny show that needs to be released on DVD. You Tube shorts aren't enough, but the CD is always good for a laugh. Sing it, Fuzzy :"I'm a little teapot short and stout!"

6.Don't Wanna Be Like That, Joe Jackson, I'm the Man. The British Musical chameleon takes a ska/punk turn with this album. Toe tapping good.

7. We Shall Be Free, Garth Brooks, The Hits. A little preachy, but the message is a good one. Have to agree with everything Garth says.

8. A Nugget of Joy From Zorak, Space Ghost, Musical Barbeque. This is what happens with the iPod sometimes. Two tracks from the same disc in rapid succession.
The nugget of joy?
Zorak: The life of a rodeo clown is a painful and solitary existence. I know, for I am a rodeo clown.
Space Ghost: Oh you are NOT!
Zorak: I am, too!
Space Ghost: You. ARE. NOT!
Zorak: Well...I wanna be one.
Space Ghost: That doesn't count.

9. Veris Leta Facies, Eugene Ormandy, Carmina Burana. Remember how I said I'm the choir geek who blasts choral music at 11 when driving the beetle with the sunroof open? Here ya go. (This one is relatively quiet, though. Ecce Gratum, the next track is REALLY loud!)

10. Jessie the Yodeling Cowgirl, Riders in the Sky, Woody's Roundup. It's an album based around Woody, one of the main characters in "Toy Story". Not many groups can pull this off, but Riders in the Sky can and look way cool doing it.

11. I Before E Except After C, Yaz, Upstairs At Erics. Not really a song, more of a performance art piece. It's one of the few recordings where you hear Vince Clarke's voice. If you're wondering, Vince Clarke originated Depeche Mode, Yaz and Erasure. I like hearing Alison Moyet's laugh on here.

12. Beauty Queen, Lash, Freaky Friday Soundtrack. A few of the live action Disney movies geared towards teens have some really good soundtracks. This is one of them.

13. Shattered Dreams, Johnny Hates Jazz, Living In Oblivion The Best of the 80's. This brings back good memories of working at the AM radio station. We were an Adult Contemporary station, and in the course of my 7 hour shift, I'd hear the song a few times while it was on the charts.

14. Christmas On the Air, Joe Student. This must be in the shuffle because Chef and I have listened to my Christmas playlist a lot the past two months! If you want to hear it, I wrote about it last Sunday!

15. The Price I Pay, Robert Cray, I Was Warned. This disc was my first exposure to his music. The man sweats the blues. Listen to the album and maybe your life isn't so bad anymore. Hmmmm...

16. Only the Lonely, the Motels, Living in Oblivion The Best of the 80's. Yet another example of the grouping from albums. Always liked the song, never enough to buy any of their stuff. I was happy that it showed up on this really good 80's rehash disc.

17. Made Again, Marillion, Brave. This is one of Ed and my songs. Acoustic guitar and Hogarth singing builds from a fragile song to a powerful end. Much like the character in the concept album it comes from.

18. My Girl, The Temptations, The Big Chill. A song guaranteed to put a smile on your face. At least for me it is.

19. Mystified, Fleetwood Mac, Tango in the Night. I love, love, love Christine McVie's voice.

20. Give Me Back My Man, B 52's, Wild Planet. Transports me back to being a teen and bugging the Air Line staff for something by the B's! I'll give you fish, I'll give you candy...

How about you? Does your shuffle give you twenty diverse songs?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Battling the Blackness

Since I lost the job, I've had a hard time fighting the dark mood that that has been dogging me for two years, since My Stupid Leg went to hell in a handbasket and took me along with it. My usually chipper mood has been under attack and rarely present since August (and had been in hiding for a while before that). While I wouldn't say it's a full on depression, the only reason it isn't is because I'm fighting it. However, the fight is getting harder and harder.

The latest blow just happened do coincide with Christmas. That interview I had the first week of December was supposed to let me know either way by Christmas. At least, that's what I'd been told.

Last week, I got a call asking me to complete a new background check form. I got a copy of the report a week ago, which means they did, too. The fact that I hadn't heard from them was troublesome to me, but Ed thought it was a good sign, that they'd call me right away if I was out of the running. I tried my best not to get my hopes up. I really did. Well, Christmas has come and gone and all is quiet on the job front. Not a peep.

I was trying so hard not to get my hopes up about it because I figured I'd be disappointed. Well, even without thinking I got the job, rather that I interviewed well, it royally SUCKS to be the last on the playground when choosing sides for kickball. Again.

The letter that came yesterday, informing me that I will receive another 13 weeks of unemployment is only mildly comforting. I've been out of work for 18, with one offer of a part time job that got killed by a doctor's note. This one probably got killed by my shitty credit and the foreclosure.

It's been rough going, and the depression keeps dragging me closer to the abyss. This month's rent is being paid in part thanks to me cashing in the last few shares of my employee stock purchase program at a previous employer. I don't know what I'll do when February rolls around and I still don't have a job, because there's nothing left to draw funds from. Nada. Zip. I now completely understand how people become homeless.

It's hard to get motivated when you're probably going to get rejected again. Yes, the SSDI is moving forward with an exam in early January, but even if they do decide to approve me, that will take months for the decision to be made. In the meantime, how the heck do I pay the rent, the utilities and all the other things?

I thought I knew what being broke was before. That was trivial-I just didn't have an extra twenty bucks that week to go out to dinner with the kids. Now, it's a question of whether the money will be in there when the car insurance does the direct debit. A coworker wants to trade cars with Ed-the Jeep meets his needs, and the sedan would better suit Ed's needs. There's the matter of registering the thing-there isn't any money to do it.

Then there's stuff like Gameboy's meds. He'll run out of Fluvoxamine before the next unemployment check hits. The only reason why he's getting his Abilify is because his doctor has been giving us samples for months. The Strattera is only happening because we get a two month supply from Canada for the price of a 15 day supply here. It was suggested we call our congressman, but they're out of the office for holidays. The Medicaid story is a novel in and of itself. Hmmm, maybe I should email the story to those elected officials.

Today, Ed's off from work and wants to do something. We've had a major role reversal, in that I'm thinking "We have no freaking money to DO anything, what the heck can we do?" This has been the way my mind has been running the last four months. I think he's having a hard time with being the optimistic one.

Prior to that, it was the Leg shit. I think I'd done halfway decent reconciling the fact that my leg is NEVER going to get better, that I'm not going to be the active person I once was. No, I wasn't happy about it, but I had made some sort of peace that there are things about me that are gone forever and things that I can only do when the moon is in the seventh house and Jupiter aligns with Mars.

I was chatting with a friend yesterday who really gets it. The whole "I moved to Florida and the job market sucks and my health issues really suck and I don't even have money to move back to where I used to live to get a job and I like it here but it is so freaking depressing not working and the fact that I'm a shadow of my former self is probably pissing my spouse off" blues. It felt good to voice some of the stuff that I can't to anyone else. I'm supposed to be the strong one, the resilient person, the nurturer and rock for others. My own demons are burying me.

Harder still is when I share even a small part of the story with people we know. "Can't your families help you out?" Um, that's a no. You don't want to go there. There are members of my family who have their hands out, thinking that I've got money they don't (ha), another whose in as bad straits as I am and yet another with her own health issues.

So here I sit, at the end of 2008 and hoping that 2009 will be an improvement over this past year. Knowing my damn luck since I've moved to this damn state, it'll probably get worse.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Low Key Christmas

Yesterday was a nice, quiet day.

I woke up at 7:15 to find the kids sitting on the floor staring at me. I told them to let Ed sleep and to have the stuff in their stockings. Miraculously, that was enough for them and when 8am rolled around, Ed awoke and they opened presents.

This year, we've been dealing with Gameboy telling us that he still believes in Santa, despite classmates telling him that it was really Mom and Dad. Somehow, we dodged that situation. We took the boys out Christmas eve to look at lights and kept them up way past their bedtime. Presents had no tags at all and we didn't mention Santa. Thankfully, it didn't come up. (It probably has helped through the years telling the kids that Santa buys things from Nintendo and Apple, because he can't make them as well and/or licensing concerns!)

So, the small piles of presents were things they really wanted and they spent most of the day playing the games. The two movies haven't been opened yet, but I suspect we'll watch both over the next few days.

My day of puttering in the kitchen was most enjoyable. The traditional eggnog pancakes were made and consumed. Then, the sides were prepped. At 2, the turkey came out of the brine and went into the oven. Eventually the ham followed and potatoes were boiled.

We had guests and I was glad to have company. We all were. Ed brought his mom over to visit Jane at the nursing home and we probably would have spent the day there. Personally, I am tired of going elsewhere for every holiday-it was nice to be making food in my kitchen and kibbitzing with friends. Maureen made us oodles of cookies and a pumpkin cheesecake to enjoy for dessert. Coaster Kid and Chef had fun playing with the games CK brought over.

Food and fellowship was enjoyed. Maureen got an iPod for Christmas, but it was shutting down their PC. Knowing we had a little experience with the things, they brought it over to our place. It ends up that it was programmed for Macs! Weird that they didn't get an error message. Discovered that Maureen has equally eclectic music tastes.

After dinner, it was nice to relax on the lanai and talk and laugh and talk and laugh some more. (especially since the house was pretty toasty after cooking all day!) I'd say it was pretty darn awesome in how low key it was.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Da Tree

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

(In the interests of downsized gifts, we downsized to our little tree this year. It's a fiber optic conniption fit-ornaments would be superfluous.)

The Eggnog pancakes that make Suzanne's men very happy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Delicious Dish That Isn't On Our Menu (Not Suitable For Work!)

But is too good not to share.

Step back into the Wayback Machine and enjoy this sketch from Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon and Alec Baldwin!

Season's Eatings! :)

What's For Dinner Wednesday

I love the fact that Ed is into good food, too. Once again, he was doing some marketing and spied a cranberry pecan pork roast. Without hesitation, he grabbed it, with Christmas Eve in mind.

I'm glad he did. The cranberry made a nice, tart braising liquid. If you've got an Aldi nearby, the steamed veggies are very tasty. Alas, this roast was one of those seasonal flavors. In talking about it, I think I'll get a plain pork roast sometime soon, marinate it in a cranberry sauce reduction, then stuff it with goat cheese, dried cranberries and pecans. I'll save it for a Wednesday...

Have a Merry Christmas, or 4h Night of Channukah. (The latkes got postponed, but will make it to the table before the festival of lights is over.)


I just checked over at Saffa Chick's and she's well into Christmas Eve on the other side of the world. Saffa and her husband, Milord, are enjoying an Aussie summer and as a South African transplant, the customs in the Land Down Under are different from her homeland.

It's always neat to hear of customs in other countries for the holidays. Thanks to the Internet and blogging, first hand accounts are becoming more and more commonplace. It makes me a little verklemft that my exposure to the world has broadened so much and these friends in the computer are sharing the holidays. Saffa and Milord's menu sounds great: cold prawns and ham. Perfect for warm weather.

Then, here in the states, depending on where we live, our traditions are very different, as are our menus. In moving down the Eastern seaboard, the menus are different. We've picked up some favorites along the way.

This year, one traditional favorite isn't on the menu. The crab cakes that became our must have when we lived in Maryland has to be skipped this year. Canned crab here is ridiculously expensive and we can't justify that kind of expense at the moment.

That's okay, there are enough food traditions to make up for it in this house. The day starts with a tradition I didn't even realize we'd created: Eggnog Pancakes. That's one that just evolved out of always having Eggnog in the house this time of year (btw, it is Gameboy's favorite drink EVER!).

Dinner is full of favorites. We'll have the ham that the kids have had for all but one of the past nine Christmases. This year, I get the turkey that symbolized Christmas in my younger days. Broccoli Bake, as Ed has said it is NOT a holiday without it. Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes and Sweet Potato Souffle are going to be on the table, too. Each of the menfolk have claimed one of those sides as their own.

Some sort of veggie will also show up on the table, too, but I think the adults will be the only ones to consume it. That's okay, I won't sweat that one. I will enjoy the bounty of leftovers that we can enjoy for a while afterwards.

Even better is the company with us. We've been fortunate to have friends move nearby and especially happy that they'll share part of the day with us. It's a tradition that I'm glad we can resurrect this year.

How about you? What foods signify the holiday you're celebrating that 'make' it just right? What traditions do you most look forward to each year?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Things I Want in 2009...

This list is not all inclusive, but is meant as a tongue in cheek request to any rich people who feel like bestowing gifts on random bloggers strangers in the coming year.

1. Ticket to BlogHer '09, Airfare and hotel accomodations
2. MacBook Pro
3. iPhone or Android. I'm not picky, as long as I can blog on the fly, it'll work!
4. A digital SLR. One that has video recording abilities so that I can video tape my gift wrapping demonstration to be posted next Christmas, because I think Jess hates me now!

Wait a sec, can I get on the panel at BlogHer if I offer a gift wrapping seminar?

Let's see if I can videotape a wrapping demonstration tomorrow...

A Tale of An Online Concert

Sometime last spring I happened upon Neil's blog, Citizen of the Month and in particular, the Christmahanukwahnzaakah Online Holiday Concert. It was fascinating to find all these people submitting their songs and photos of the season. I bookmarked the page and popped in from time to time to listen to a song or two.

At the time, I only knew two or three of the names on the list, but over the course of the year, it ends up I've visited many more. I'd check out a post or two of Neil's every now and again, and made plans to check out this year's event. It just seemed so wickedly awesome that even if I didn't participate, I was going to check it out.

Then, over the summer, I joined Twitter and have been having a good time following people who have fantastic abilities of summing up cogent thoughts in 140 characters. (Darth Vader? Fake SarahPalin? HolyGod? All there!). Not sure what happened, but I think Neil followed me first and of course, a quick glance at his twitter feed and I HAD to follow this guy. Find Neilochka on Twitter for yourself and you'll enjoy what he posts, too.

We don't have much in common, but he has a flair for cracking me up with his wit-and his tales of dating post divorce would make an excellent sitcom. That would make lots of sense, since he IS a writer by trade. One day, to paraphrase my favorite modern era Christmas song "In his profile was the blog I'd been checking all year!" He was the guy who had the online concert I'd found in March and we were chatting back and forth on Twitter fairly regularly, along with a few others.

Along comes November. Neil announces there will be another ChristmaHanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert. Sign me up! I'm not the best singer, but I enjoy it and odds were good that no one would want my choice. And I was right-my rendition of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" is the only one.

So, this means I have to record it, right? Ahhh, not as simple as it sounds. I had no microphone. Let's join Utterli and see how recording via a call from the cell phone works. Um, sounds like an AM radio broadcast when you live too far from the broadcast tower. Scratch that.

Go buy a microphone. Now, use the microphone to record on Utterli. Good. However, I can't get that to Neil in a format he can use. Download a home recording program (Audacity, since it appears the Sonic Foundry that we once had was probably about 5 hard drives ago...). Get to work.

Go to record. Hmmmm, I can barely hear what I'm recording and the VU meters are barely recognizing the microphone. A light bulb goes off in my head: "Hey, ding dong, remember how you 'cleaned up' your hard drive last month? You got rid of a bunch of stuff that said you never used it? Well, did ya ever think that maybe, just maybe, you dumped the drivers you need for the laptop to recognize the microphone?"

Yep. I did. I'm a doofus.

So, it's 10pm last night and I decide to go into my bathroom recording studio to grab the needed driver and record my piece. Simple, right? Not quite, because Microsoft didn't have any drivers that worked with my laptop and HP used two different sound cards with my series Pavillion. By 11:45, I finally have some drivers for the NVIDIA card and figure I'm done.


The next thirty minutes were spent trying all manner of getting the $%&#@@%@ software to recognize the microphone. The meters were showing signal was getting there, but the program wasn't getting crap. Fed up, I decide to pick the laptop and microphone off the vanity and retreat to the living room.

Then the stupid darn thing started recording!

I quickly put the thing down and try again. Nothing. Stupid Bastitch, you're a Fargin Icehole. You worked A HALF MINUTE AGO!

I abused the microphone by hitting it against my laptop did some more troubleshooting without getting the thing to record again.

Defeated, I dragged my crap back to my perch in the living room and tried some more. Ed came in and assisted. We changed how the VUs were displayed (I'm used to the original way, he's used to the 'skyscraper' view). We changed the gain and how many dB's the darn thing would auto record at. Nothing.

I gave up, visions of a MacBook that wouldn't materialize floating in my head. I suppose I'll join in next year.

Then it started recording. Neither one of us could figure out what the heck just happened. I was going to bring it back into my bathroom recording studio and set up shop. Ed urged me DON'T. MOVE. A. THING.

Thus, it's recorded in the living room. In two takes. With breathing so poor that I hope that no one ever plays it for Tal Thayer, because he'll have a coronary at all the 'no breath' places that I did actually breathe, lol. I don't want that hanging over my head, okay?

I just was making poor Neil wait past the midnight deadline for my song and I wasn't going to make the man wait any longer for a better recording. He's not making money off the concert, he's doing it out of the goodness of his heart, one that's pretty darn huge (even though he does his best to hide the fact.)

So go, enjoy the concert Neil's arranged here. If you want, get your favorite holiday goodies together and sit in front of the monitor and enjoy.

(Psst, Joyce and Rich? I didn't get my Messiah sing in this year, but Loralee provided a snippet that is lovely!)

Now that I've told you about it, I'm off to check it out myself. Had to spread the word, first you see. (and wonder how many stories there are about recording the rest of those songs!)

Thanks, Neil. You ROCK! Maybe Santa can bring you a woman who will adore the awesomely quirky guy you are!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Something's Afoot

After that really good interview and follow up last week, I've been saying to myself that I probably won't get it. It's hard to get my hopes up. Perhaps some of that had to do with the fact that it was the ONLY thing in the pipeline. That's not how things happen for me.

When I left the previous job, I had two things going on. When I left Disney, I had three things going on. It's just the way it works and if that doesn't happen, then I assume nothing will.

Well, today, a few things have happened to make me think that it won't be long.
1. I have a meeting tonight for a sales job that a former coworker pitched to me. It's definitely out of my comfort area, but I figured that I should at least go see what he's got in mind. (I am NOT a fan of cold calling to pitch a product.)

2. Bob sent me an email about a job Maureen found during her job searching yesterday. It combines my experience and education. Better yet, when I called a Prof at my old college to get some information that I needed for my cover letter, he suggested I put his name and phone number for a reference. Sweet.

3. SSDI called. I have to have a physical for them, since the last time I saw a doctor was when I had health insurance. The claims rep was really nice and helpful, informing me that they've got ALL my medical records to make a decision. However, they need to see what the current state of My Stupid Leg (trademark pending) really is.

Maybe Santa heard my request for a new job for Christmas?

Monday Funnies-the original and two parodies.

One of my top movies of all time:

BTW, this is one movie that begs for you to listen to the director's commentary throughout the movie. (It IS a bloody model!)

Then, the greatness inspires others:

And even more:

Tis a silly place!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

Yet another huge influence on my musical tastes is a friend featured here. Some back story and a holiday song are my focus today.

Back when I was 11, my brother got involved in a classmate's low wattage radio station. I thought it was cool, radio junkie that I was. Little did I know, a few short years later, I'd become friends with Joe ('Joe Student' is his on-air moniker) and have a show on his radio station. At first, he engineered and I was the 'talent', the voice on the air. Later, I learned the art of engineering, thanks to Joe's teachings.

Thanks to the many hours spent at Joe's house, recording shows, I learned a lot about new wave music, enough about radio broadcasting that I wanted to make it my career and even more about how talented musicians are everywhere.

Joe is self taught on all the instruments he plays. Even better, he BUILT some of his instruments. He made a drum synthesizer from what appeared to be a piece of cardboard and carpentry nails (I know there had to be more to it), long before one could find Synsonics drums. For a college class, he convinced his Mom that the project for that semester needed to be a vocoder-so he built one from a kit. Heck, the entire studio that we broadcasted from was built partly from kits, but mostly from Joe's ingenuity. His approach to music was the same as it was for the radio station.

He's the first friend that I owned recordings of his music. Unfortunately, most of it was on cassette and has not survived poor storage. It's a shame, because I really enjoyed the synth-based tunes and witty lyrics. ("Cities of Glass" was one of his albums that was played nearly non stop when I got a new car in '88!)

It made sense that he'd find a career in the radio field. His technical skills were snatched up by a Long Island radio station after he got a bachelor's in Electrical Engineering. With the paycheck came upgrades to his instruments and recording equipment.

Not long after, I moved to Maryland, I got a job in radio. My tenure was short lived, because the wallet couldn't tolerate the paltry pay. However, Joe still is making a living in the radio industry, now creating software for radio stations. For his coworkers, he provides an in house radio station. The internet gets a Live 365 channel from him, too.

His experiences in the field inspired this song. Never one to be verbose, this is his succinct explanation of what is about to come:

As far as origin, you probably know it: it sucks to be a DJ and have to work on Christmas but at least you can share in the joy through the songs you play. That about sums it up!

Several Christmases ago, he sent Ed and I a CD that gets trotted out every holiday season. It contains of Joe's holiday songs, a few of Ed and his band's, a recording of me that is atrociously bad and will never be shared here!

Once I got the iPod, the selections on that CD that I enjoyed most were quickly added to my playlist. What this means is that each holiday season, we hear "Sleigh Ride" and "Christmas On The Air", Joe's humorous look at life as a radio DJ stuck broadcasting Christmas Day. (I didn't pull a double shift my one year as a paid radio DJ, but I did have my usual 7 hour gig that night.)

I asked Joe if I could share this here and happily, he's agreed that I can share one of those songs that has to be played many times for it to feel like Christmas for me. This year, Chef can sing all the words-which means that I've done my job as a parent!

Merry Christmas, Joe! Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Amazing the Kids

If you asked me when my enjoyment of Nintendo began, it's easy to say. It wasn't when the first NES came out. No, that was torture for a retail employee who sold that hot commodity during Christmas season. For me, it was a few years later, when my friend Dave got a Gameboy.

Each time I visited NY, I'd grab that thing and play Tetris while staying at his apartment. Don't ask me what other games he had for that thing, because all I knew was the Tetris and the Russian inspired music that accompanied fitting blocks into holes and getting rid of rows.

A few years later, when I was managing for Babbages, we started a game trade in program. Two of our regulars (who greatly resembled Josh Mostel and David Paymer in City Slickers) decided to trade in all their Gameboy games towards some new games for their new Sega Saturn system. They had a treasure trove of games, but now they had a Gameboy with no games and we didn't take them in for trade.

In talking to them, I asked how much for the Gameboy. One said "10 bucks?" and I got myself a Gameboy with a case. That same day, I snagged a used Tetris for a few bucks and was good to go. Over the next few months, if there was a good game, I bought it. Slow times at the store were spent looking on BRIAN (Babbage's Retail Inventory Allocation Network) to see if any stores had cheap games they couldn't unloadweren't selling. Thanks to that, I got Dr. Mario, Donkey Kong, Rocky and Bullwinkle and a few others for five dollars or less.

But all I really played on my Gameboy was Tetris. Oh, I could spend hours playing that game. It didn't require me to have supple wrists or lightning fast fingers.

Once I had a bouncing baby Gameboy, well, I really didn't have much time for the plastic Gameboy. It went by the wayside until the boy child was old enough to discover it on his own. He loved that thing! That Christmas, he got his first Gameboy Advance. A first generation one, that didn't flip open. Thus, the child became Gameboy.

Ed and I liked that the Gameboy Advance (GBA) would play the older generation games. A couple of years later, both boys got the newer GBAs for their respective birthdays-but they still played the original games. Other than Donkey Kong and Dr. Mario, I think the games were mostly ignored.

This is a Nintendo house. If money were no object, I think Ed would have a P2 and P3 to replace the Playstation purchased back in '96 when I still worked at Babbages. We've had all three generations of handheld systems from Nintendo (and still own all of them), the Gamecube and the Wii.

I like how Nintendo has made everything backwards compatible. The Wii plays the Gamecube games and thanks to a nifty little add on, the Gamecube will play the Gameboy Advance, Gameboy Color and Gameboy games. Talk about getting your bang for your buck with the games.

Today, my child Gameboy decided to play a blast from the past on the Gamecube. The familiar Russian music came on and my child was playing the game that had engaged me for hours many years ago. While I folded laundry next to him, I watched how he played, but didn't quite get the concept. (For all the logic in his head, I think the spacial relationship deficit might be an Aspie issue).

I offered suggestions for his next game and he jumped from 120 to 176-and he was really happy about it, because he had TWENTY rows! Twenty rows, Mom! Mind you, most of those were still on the screen-but he got there. Tempted, I asked if I could show him how to do it by demonstrating.

He handed me the controller. This is huge, the fact that my Gameboy relinquished the power. I started playing and it all came back. The strategies to get three rows, then four cleared at the same time. The game kept beeping at more levels. Both boys stunned that wait a minute, Mom knows what she's doing with a video game.

That needed 1x4 never showed up when I needed it, so I ended on the 4th level. However, this is much further than either child has gotten in this game. To them, this was incredible.

I've achieved Rock Star status with my kids. All because I loved playing this particular game 15 years ago!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On the First Day of Christmas Break...

The neighbors called and asked for one, and then the other child to come over and play! Woohoo!

Let's just say that Gameboy obsesses about the games so much and isn't asked to play much around the neighborhood. I'm probably a little protective, because he's gullible.
However, when we went around to sell Chef's Popcorn and then Gameboy's Greenery, we met another family with boys around the same ages as mine. A nice family.

Both times I'd visited their house, the two boys hijacked whatever child was selling and Mom, Dad and I would talk for a while. Their kids go to private school, so they don't get a lot of interaction with some of the kids in the area. They share some interests with mine, too.

When we dropped off the greenery, we got to chatting again and exchanged phone numbers. One son has called me a few times to ask for Chef to come play. Today, he called for Chef, then I got another call. I suspect they're going to do something that needs four people.

I get to clean in peace.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Teacher's Gift

These were a big hit with Chef's teacher:

The recipe makes so much that we have a container leftover for us, too. Oh, and a lot of candy cane debris in the pan, too.

I'm hoping Gameboy's teachers liked their popcorn. Usually, the middle school teachers don't get much in the way of gifts, but we find that the ESE teachers do have to have a lot more involvement with their students, so we send a token of thanks.

Now, the kids will be home for 17 days!

Edited to add the recipe for Peppermint Bark:
2 bags GOOD QUALITY Chocolate Chips (I used Ghiradelli 60% Cacao)
2 bags GOOD QUALITY White Chocolate Chips
1 tablespoon Peppermint Extract
Candy Canes, crushed

Take a cookie sheet and line it with wax paper or foil.

Next, use a double boiler(or a bowl atop a 3 qt pot half full of water) and melt the chocolate chips, stirring constantly (if I've got Scharffen Berger in the house, some of it will get melted into this). Once melted, spread out onto the cookie sheet and cool in the fridge for one hour.

Repeat the process with the white chocolate. At the very end, add the peppermint extract. (Do it sooner and it will seize and get crumbly) Quickly spread it over the chocolate layer.

Top with the crushed candy canes and chill for an hour or more.

Break apart as you see fit. I flipped it out of the pan and used a pizza wheel on mine.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Day Before Christmas Break

The past two days, I have volunteered at Chef's school. The PTO was having a holiday bazaar. It was interesting seeing how the young minds work when presented with various gifts and a budget.

Then you have Chef, who wasn't given any money, and he's bugging Mom to buy stuff for him, Dad and his brother. Today, he even tried to get me to buy my own Christmas gift because he wanted me to have one!

After I ducked out, Ed and I headed over to an FYE that is closing. All the movies and CDs are now half off. No sooner did we walk in the door did Ed see something he's been scoping out online for a ridiculous price. My eBay auctions pretty much got that for him, because I don't want to pay full price later on!

Things are shaping up for some wanted items under the tree. There won't be much, but what is there is things they'll be happy to get.

I'm hoping the teachers are happy, too. Cub scout caramel corn for Gameboy's teachers and some homemade peppermint bark for Chef's. It ends up she doesn't eat nuts, which I didn't find out until after we'd purchased a tin of the scout popcorn for her. It won't go to waste in this house.

As for me, I'm still waiting for the gift I want most. A phone call. One telling me that I've got the job. They told me I would have an answer by Christmas, but I'm getting impatient!

Much like two boys, the day before Christmas break!

Step Into My Time Machine

This afternoon, I needed a box to ship out an item I sold on eBay. A big box. Off to the garage I go, to see if there was an empty box of the size I required (highly unlikely) or one halfway full that I might relocate its contents (highly probable.)

I found one, half full of various Disney items and the thought that I should eBay the contents of the box crossed my mind. There was a Walt Disney World bag inside this box, and it contained a brand new "Four Parks, One World" photo album-and some pictures.

All aboard the wayback machine to 2001, folks. Today, you get to see Chef as a 2 year old. I though they were from the year before, but he didn't have a lot of curls around his first birthday. These mesh up with the quantity of curls he had on our first two trips to Walt Disney World in April and September of 2001.

Today, you get Chef in all his high chair glory. I'm hoping to find the infamous Cake Monster picture, but these are equally cute. Take a look at the picture of Chef in the top left of the blog banner and you'll see he's still got the same impish gleam in his eyes!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's For Dinner Wednesday

There are some absolutes in food:
Every culture has its own dumpling, like the Japanese have Gyoza, the Polish Pierogies, the Italians Ravioli, and the Mexicans Empanadas. In a similar fashion, every society has their own pasta and meat casserole.

Tonight's dinner was the Greek 'lasagna', Pastitsio. Ed and I were discussing WFDW the other day and I'd mentioned things I was considering. He requested this, even though it's only been consumed when we dine out. He, Chef and I love it-we honestly have yet to eat ANY Greek food that we don't like.

I'm glad Ed suggested it, because while it was time consuming, it was relatively easy to do and quite yummy! The beef closely resembled Cincinnati Chili, so I will probably do that again soon and you'll see a future WFDW featuring a Four Way. Yum!

What I'd always thought was just a simple Bechemel sauce topping the dish really is a custard. It begins with the butter, flour and milk, but a lot of eggs are blended in to give it that thick consistency.

The laughable part is that the recipe I made said "Serves 20". If they're 20 people with tiny appetites, sure! Chef was so happy, he ultimately ended up with four helpings. I guess Pastitsio is now in the regular dinner rotation.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Proof I Have a Life (or something resembling one!

SUPPOSEDLY if you've seen over 85 films, you have no life. Mark the ones you've seen. There are 239 films on this list. Copy this list, check which ones youve seen, paste this here.

(x) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean
(x) Pirates of the Caribbean 2:Dead Man's Chest
()Boondock Saints
( ) Fight Club
( ) Starsky and Hutch
(x) Neverending Story
( ) Blazing Saddles
(x ) Airplane
Total: 6

(x) The Princess Bride
( ) Anchorman
( ) Napoleon Dynamite
( ) Labyrinth
( ) Saw
( ) Saw II
( ) White Noise
( ) White Oleander
( ) Anger Management
(x) 50 First Dates
(x) The Princess Diaries
(x ) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Total so far: 10

() Scream
( ) Scream 2
( ) Scream 3
( ) Scary Movie
( ) Scary Movie 2
() Scary Movie 3
( ) Scary Movie 4
(x ) American Pie
( ) American Pie 2
( ) American Wedding
( ) American Pie Band Camp
Total so far: 11

( x) Harry Potter 1
(x) Harry Potter 2
(x ) Harry Potter 3
(x ) Harry Potter 4
( ) Resident Evil 1
( ) Resident Evil 2
(x) The Wedding Singer
( ) Little Black Book
( ) The Village
(x) Lilo & Stitch
Total so far: 17

(x) Finding Nemo
() Finding Neverland
() Signs
( ) The Grinch
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
() White Chicks
() Butterfly Effect
( ) 13 Going on 30
() I, Robot
( ) Robots
Total so far: 18

( ) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
( ) Universal Soldier
( ) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
( ) Deep Impact
( ) KingPin
( ) Never Been Kissed
( ) Meet The Parents
( ) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
( ) Joe Dirt
Total so far: 18

( ) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
(x) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
() Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
( ) Halloween
() The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
() Surviving X-MAS
( x) Flubber (the original, yes. the remake, no)
Total so far: 20

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
( ) Practical Magic
( ) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 20

( ) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
( ) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
( ) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles
(x) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
( ) The Mask
( ) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 22

( ) Bad Boys
( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Slevin
( ) Ocean's Eleven
( ) Ocean's Twelve
( ) Bourne Identity
( ) Bourne Supremecy
( ) Lone Star
( ) Bedazzled
( x) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
(x) Ice Age
( ) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
Total so far:24

(x) Independence Day
(x ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
(x) Christine
(x) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
( ) Maid in Manhattan
( ) War of the Worlds
( ) Rush Hour
( ) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 28

( ) Best Bet
( ) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
( ) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
( ) Sideways
( ) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
( ) Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
( ) Big Trouble in Little China
( ) The Terminator
(x ) The Terminator 2
( ) The Terminator 3
Total so far: 31

( ) X-Men
( ) X-2
( ) X-3
( ) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
(x) Sky High
() Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
( ) Catch Me If You Can
(x) The Little Mermaid
(x) Freaky Friday (both version, should I count this twice?)
(x ) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
() Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
(x) Shrek 2
Total so far: 38

( ) Swimfan
(x) Miracle on 34th street
( ) Old School
() The Notebook
( ) K-Pax
( ) Krippendorf's Tribe
( ) A Walk to Remember
(x ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
( ) The 40-year-old Virgin
Total so far: 40

( ) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
( ) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
( ) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 43

( ) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
( ) Elf
( ) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History X
( ) Three
Total so Far: 43

( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(x) Monsters Inc.
( ) Titanic
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 45

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
( ) Hulk
() Dawn Of the Dead
( ) Hook
(x) Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
( ) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
( ) Waterworld
Total so far: 46

( ) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
() Army of Darkness
Total so far: 46

(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
() Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 52

() The Matrix
() The Matrix Reloaded
() The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
() Team America: World Police
() Red Dragon (can’t bring myself to see if the book got mangulated)
( x) Silence of the Lambs
() Hannibal

Total 53

Think Good Thoughts

Remember how I had that interview almost two weeks ago, the one that I thought went really well? It seems to be moving forward, but I need good thoughts and prayers.

Yesterday, I stopped in at my former employer for the first time in many months. Why? So I could get the General Manager to fill out a form I needed to qualify for food stamps-a proof that I'd lost my job. The warm welcomes from those still there made me feel very good, there were many hugs and several requests for my phone number. (Side note, why does it seem that everyone in the Lakeland area has had bad phone JuJu the past few months? Nearly all of us had to replace phones!)

The GM turned to me and told me he got a phone call last week asking about me. He didn't get the company name, but told me that they asked A LOT of questions about me, my management skills, my sales abilities, etc. Now, most companies will just verify dates of employment and rehire status. He said he figured that if I was still looking for a job, he felt that he had to help me out and answer her questions. He said they spoke for 15, 20 maybe 25 minutes.

I crossed my fingers that it meant what I think it meant, that the most recent interview was considering me. Phone calls were made to my two business references, but I haven't heard back.

A little while ago, I got a call from my old stomping grounds in Maryland. Due to the volume of work in front of the manager here in Florida, other HR staffers are doing some reference checks, etc. The gentleman explained that they've changed their background check company and he asked if I would fill out a new form and fax it back ASAP. I told him I would gladly do so.

This form is thorough. The only thing that worries me is the credit check. Thanks to the foreclosure and each of us being unemployed in the past year or so, my credit looks like utter crap. It would seriously SUCK if I get this far, only to be turned down because my credit score isn't good.

I know why companies do this-the conventional wisdom is that those in credit crisis *might* be more likely to be a poor employee. Might. It's a pretty strong assumption. Over the years, I've had good credit and bad, but I've been a hard worker and a loyal employee. To me, nothing is worth ruining my good reputation with an employer.

If you can, please spare some positive thinking for me. Please? I know that my DNA, criminal, driving and education records will come back exactly as what they need! Okay, I'm joking, they don't need my DNA, but I'd give it if it helped me to get the job!

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Tutorial For the Wrapping Challenged

Last year, I took step by step pictures of wrapping a Christmas gift in order to provide instruction to those who say they find it hard to wrap gifts. This year, it gets posted to the blog instead of on a message board.

How did I gain such experience? Each year, my Mom organized her restaurant's holiday party. Each employee got a gift or two, there were raffle prizes and gag gifts. In all, there would be about a hundred gifts to wrap. Who helped out? Yours truly.

Then, each Christmas Eve from the time I was about ten or eleven, I'd be holed away in Mom's bedroom for part of the day or evening, where I'd be entrusted with wrapping everyone else's Christmas gifts. It was a fun way to spend the holiday, finding out what everyone else got!

Somehow, at each department store I worked at, I'd make the mistake of sharing the fact that I know how to wrap gifts. That meant being drafted to go back to the dreaded gift wrap department (like on Mother's Day-such fun!). Yeah, more gifts. Then, I started working for a retailer that provides complimentary gift wrap and once again, I would spend a lot of time wrapping.

Today, you get the wisdom of my experience:
I need to preface with this with two things: Use a table or flat surface and do whatever you can to be eye level with your folding. At work, they would typically find me at the workstation on my knees so I can improve the folding.

I couldn't use the table when I photographed this demonstration, since it would have ruined the surprise for Chef when I took these! Enjoy the view of my bedspread! Also note, I do not normally recommend using packing tape as your adherent-but it was all I had in the house and time was of the essence for getting the tutorial on the board last year. (I wonder if someone is going to bump that thread up?)

Step one: The package before application of tape:

Step two:Bring the paper to one end of the box for a more polished look. Apply tape on each corner of the box.
Step three:Cut your paper so that there is enough to fold over when you get to the other side.
Step four: 'crimp the paper' by pulling it taut, then press down along the edge of the box with your thumb to indicate where you will fold the paper under. It'll make a gentle bend that you will fold under.
Step five: Fold the paper under, then tape at top and bottom of the box. It helps to tape one end, then smooth down the paper to the other end to prevent a gap in the paper.
Step six: On the side that doesn't have the seam, fold down the bottom left corner, making a right angle triangle. Apply tape to the bottom left paper, then smooth the paper up against the package and apply more tape. This will be a little like an origami paper fold, you will fold the bottom left, top left, top right, then bottom right.
Step seven: After you've applied the tape, fold the paper again so that it matches the appearance of the first fold you made. Most people find it easier to get crisp folds when they fold the item away from themselves.
Step eight: Fold the paper down and smooth against the box. Anchor with tape on the bottom.
Step nine: Once you have anchored the paper, smooth the paper over to the right, then make another triangle with the right corner, folding from the top down.
Step ten:Fold the paper over, smooth and anchor with tape. It's best to put that piece of tape as far down as possible.
Step eleven: Fold paper up, smooth and anchor with tape. One side is done!
Step twelve: I'm showing this side with too much paper to show how you can fix it. Repeat steps 6 through eight. Do your best to get the paper flat through smoothing and anchoring with tape.
Step thirteen: Fold over the right corner into the package Smooth and anchor with tape. It will look something like this.
Step fourteen: Fold over excess paper towards the box and smooth edge of folded portion.
Step fifteen: Fold paper up to top of box and anchor with tape. You are done.
Top View of finished product:
Bottom view of finished product:

Now, we all know that Santa wraps in different paper from the rest of the gifts, right? That's how Ed sussed it out when he was a kid! I suspected way too young because Santa's handwriting resembled a certain female in my house, so nametags have been made on the computer in our house.

I make a pretty darn good bow with ribbon, but that's far too complicated to explain without having people do it in front of me, so you'll have to suffer with store bought. Hey, that reminds me, I need to head to the dollar store and get a bag of them.

Hopefully, this helps you have pretty presents under your tree (or next to your menorah?) this year.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Suzanne's Soundtrack Sunday

'Tis the Season

Yesterday, Ed and I were sitting in a restaurant, eating the best fast food breakfast ever and trying to get warm (at the time, it was 42 degrees. In Florida. Brrrrr!) On the store music, there was a progression of Christmas music, some good-some bad.

A good one came on-Elton John's "Step Into Christmas". Why is it good? Because the band is totally invested in the song. Ironically, it is the B side to "Ho Ho Ho, Who'd Be a Turkey at Christmas", but you probably haven't heard that one, have you?

It led to a discussion of what is good and what isn't. The head scratchers and the ones that you are drawn to, year after year. Ed's favorite just may be the Carpenters. They definitely aren't phoning it in. Personally, the songs are just too darn treacly to listen to more than two at one time.

The best efforts are the originals, the new ones that will become classics in the years to come. My favorite is "Christmas Wrapping", because it's offbeat and different.

The humorous? The artists that don't celebrate Christmas, but they've got an album about Jesus's birth-or even several. I guess that can be chalked up to pleasing the fans who do celebrate Christ's birth.

The worst? The ones that they're rerecording the standards, but you can eliminate the vocals and not tell the old from the new. The ones where the band sounds like a lackluster wedding band phoned it in. They don't bring anything fresh to the genre.

The best thing an artist can do is release a holiday single if they don't have the inclination to put the effort into a whole album. This way, everybody wins.

The best

Things I Love About Living in Florida

Seeing these at a farm stand in December.Granted, at 3.49 a quart, I wasn't buying them-but there was that option.

Instead, I got a dozen Blood Oranges for 1.19. I was hoping to get some Satsumas or some Honeybells, but heck, for 1.19, I'll be VERY happy with those Blood Oranges!

The fact that I can go to a farm stand in December and find plenty to choose from is definitely a plus to living here.

I wonder how much those oranges would fetch in Chelsea Market right about now?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another Day, Another Scout Activity

The Suzanne household was up at O Dark Thirty to head back to the church to send Gameboy off on a camping trip. Too bad it was cancelled-apparently, only two boys were willing to brave the 40 degree morning! Oh well, we did find out that his campout next month is the same place we went with the cubs last month. Nice campsite.

At nine, Chef's pack did their good turn for America by painting all the curbs in the church parking lot. This is a very good thing, because the lot isn't well lit and those suckers are hard to see at night. We had nine gallons of donated paint and maybe a gallon ended up on those painting. The PSA for the day: Safety Yellow and Traffic Yellow are NOT the same!

It was home for some naps and then we brought everything over to Mema's to make some dinner. I think she enjoyed the fried chicken, oven fries and veggies. There is a request in for some baked potato soup, so that's on tap for tomorrow.

Right now, we're relaxing from the full day by enjoying some Smarshmallow brownies while watching Iron Chef:Battle Sugar.

Anyone Else?

A few days ago, I made an offer of FREE holiday goodies, made by me, to the first three to comment that they wanted to participate in the "Pay it Forward".

I've got Saffa and Grace in. Anyone else?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Yet Another Reason Why We Travel for Scouting

One thing that hasn't changed since we moved is which pack and troop the boys participate in scouting each week. Why do we travel, when there are local groups the boys can participate in (and Chef's friends are even active in)?

One minor reason is that Gameboy has had so many changes in his life. PreK, Kindergarten and 1st and Second Grades resulted in attending three different schools. Then another for third grade, fourth and fifth another and sixth and seventh, two more schools. It's inherent in Aspies to act out with changes. We figured this was one thing that we can maintain the same faces for another six years-if he wants.

The major reason is that these people have been phenomenal in accepting Gameboy's differences, while also guiding him towards being more self aware and independent. Everyone is on the same page with him, firm but nurturing at the same time. It's a testament to the leadership that I have no qualms leaving him there for the meeting without having to stay to whisk him away if he's a troublemaker. In fact, I think he does better when Chef and I leave.

When you look at how these leaders handle my one child, you see that they're invested in ALL the boys in similar fashion. More than a few have boys who have grown into adulthood and yet they still are quite active in the organization. This particular troop has had some amazing retention numbers and of those, a staggering number become Eagle scouts. This troop CARES and greatly for the boys and for what BSA can do for them. We were really blessed with an amazing gift when the former District Chair said this troop would be the perfect home for our boys.

To whit: Gameboy is not a motivated child. We and his teachers fight him to do classwork, homework and chores. It's a different situation when he's at scouts. Yes, he doesn't want to do some of the tougher things, but if the boys are called upon to volunteer for anything, his hand goes UP. He understands that scouting means volunteering, and doing his share. Which is why we ended up at the church tonight.

Our council and district leadership has changed over the past three months. We are lucky-we got three rising stars, all of whom wanted to be here. Two of the three relocated from great distance and one across the state. One specifically asked to be in this district, that it was the best of the best.

Tonight, our Troop had a spaghetti dinner to welcome these three people to break bread with the leaders, scouts and their families. Gameboy volunteered to be here and on Tuesday night, Chef asked the Scoutmaster if he could help out, too and was told he was most certainly welcome. Two boys in class A's and two parents were there.

The eight boys made quick work of setting up, while the Scoutmaster and an Assistant tended to the kitchen. At the appointed time, only a dozen or so adults were there (Ed and I the only non leadership present), but the room ultimately had 35 people-considerably less than the 70 expected. Offers were made to enjoy seconds, thirds and fourth helpings. I have to say, Scoutmaster knows his way around the kitchen, you'd never know the meat sauce was started with a Ragu base!

Afterwards, our Scoutmaster spoke, then each of the newest members of our counsel said a few words. As they did, it made me consider where we were with two boys three years ago. How far one boy has come in learning patience and teamwork and realizing that there's more to life than his precious video games. How another is still 15 months from moving up into Boy Scouting, but the boys of the troop still treat him as one of their own.

They spoke of improving what I already feel is an amazing program. That retention can be better, that the camps can be improved, that there is more that we can do for the boys. Meanwhile, I looked around that room and could not think of any one of those leaders who gives less than their all for the boys, every week.

On a more personal level, I think of how much change they've made in the life of one boy. My boy. We'll never be able to say how much of the improvement in the past three years is medicine and how much is Scouting, but I suspect that these adults can overcome much of what the medicine cannot.

And that is why we travel for scouting.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The eBay Game

The eBay game is when you list a bunch of items and try to predict what will sell and for how much. THEN, the item you thought that might not even sell is the one that has the most bids and most people watching.

I've got a half dozen things up for sale, and will probably put a few more up tomorrow. We're in negative financing each month-there are medications to be bought, electric to be used, food to be fed and all that other stuff day to day. I'm crossing my fingers that all this stuff sells at a decent price.

The added benefit is the removal of excess 'stuff'. I'm thinking that I'll play this eBay game for a while and a bunch of the Disneyana stuff can go to homes that will actually have to room to display it!

This has happened before. Ed sold a bunch of cd's a few years ago and one of mine went for a whopping $37.00. Not bad, considering that I'd purchased it used for 3.99. Sometimes it's good to buy a rarity by a one hit wonder.

Have you ever played the eBay game? Sold something that you figured you'd maybe recoup what you had paid for it, only to have it be the hot ticket of the day?

Next up, checking to see if one of my Disney Art framed posters is for sale anywhere at all. It might fetch a good price and if I can assure myself that I'll earn the price of purchase, I'll put it up. We shall see.

The downside of playing the eBay game is that you want to constantly check on your auctions, to see how they're doing. It's misleading, though, because most of the action happens in the last twelve hours. So, I've got to be patient, playing the eBay game.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What's For Dinner Wednesday

This time of year, I start to get a craving. Not Christmas Cookies, not figgy pudding,and not eggnog(well, maybe for that). For potato latkes. Yeah, I know, I'm not Jewish. However, as a kid, there wasn't a Channukah that went by without Mom making them. Granted, we had them with a decidedly non kosher meal of pork loin, but it was a given that one of the Monday dinners in December would have them as a side item. You can count them among the comfort food of my youth.

The Pavlovian response in me is that once the calendar hits December, I need to have some. The difference is that Mom would buy the box of Streits (which are really good), and I'm cheap and make them from scratch.

Tonight, they were served with leftover Bacon Cheese Chicken. I'll eat a salad tomorrow, lol!

Considering that we all enjoy them, I suspect that I'll make them again on the first night of Chanmukah to recognize the miracle of the oil that lasted for eight nights.

The Life Cycle of Gingerbread Men




This was part of the open house at Young Chef's this past Saturday. We miss visiting each week, but it was good to see everyone for this event. They raised money and collected canned goods for ECHO, a local agency that helps the homeless. Pretty cool.

Once I'm back to working, I don't think it will just be Chef attending classes. Gameboy is anxious to participate, too. Hey, if it means he won't expect me to be his short order cook and make his pb&j's, it's money well spent! :)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Paying it Forward: A Holiday Giveaway

Today looks like it'll be a day of borrowing, but this one means three of you get something in return. I was just reading over at LouCeeL and he's joined in a holiday gifting event that gives of one's own talents. He got the idea from If Mom Says OK. Okay, the rules, because without them, there would be anarchy. We wouldn't want that, now would we?

1. Be one of the first three bloggers to leave a comment on this post, where the first word in the comment is "Yes". By saying "Yes" as the first word, you signify you want to participate in this giveaway. Being one of the first three to say "Yes" will then entitle you to a handmade item from ME!

2. Winners must post this challenge on your blog, meaning that you then must Pay It Forward, creating a handmade gift for the first three bloggers

3. The gift that you send to your Three Friends can be from any price range and you have 365 days to make/ship your item. This means you should be willing to maintain your blog at least until you receive your gift and have shipped your gifts. And, remember: It’s the Spirit and the Thought That Count!

4. When you receive your gift, please feel free to blog about it, sharing appropriate Linky Love!

5. If you are not one of the Top Three Commentors on Today’s Post, you’re still a Winner in this Time of Grace and Giving. Please take this Symbol of the Seasonal Spirit and post it on your blog; start your own Pay It Forward Chain, and encourage your Bloggy Friends to do the same!

I love this idea, that you can have a piece of a blogging friend's time and talent with you all the time.

As far as talents go, I'm not up there in the realm of Lou with art. However, I did comment that I can share my photography, calligraphy or cross stitch abilities. I also realized that if you're in the continental US, you might get some edible crafts. All I know is that you'll have to wait until I am gainfully employed, but it WILL arrive on your doorstep. Just think, you'll be surprised sometime in 2009 with something from me.

Merry ChristmasKwanzahChannukah!

Borrowing from Saffa Chick

Saffa had this meme today and of course, I wanted to borrow it! Most of our list doesn't overlap, either.

What you do is highlight the things you've done. Italicize the things you want to do, and leave the ones you don't in plain text.

1. Started your own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.

3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii. (I will get there, if only for surgery!)
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland.
8. Climbed a mountain.
well, the east coast idea of one...
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sang a solo.
11. Bungee jumped. (not in this lifetime)
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea. from the beach-very cool
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. (Calligraphy)
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown your own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked. (once was enough, thank you)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.(when you don't abuse sick days, they really believe you're sick!)
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb.
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a Marathon. (not bolding, but I'd like to walk one)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. (on the list, someday we'll get there)
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing. (lame ones, but yes)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David.
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance. (and who WANTS this one?)
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater. (at least there's one in town if I can ever get the double feature to jibe with what I'd like to see)
55. Been in a movie. (I have no proof that it didn't end up on the cutting room floor, but I was an extra in a Dorothy Puzo movie)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Got flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma.I got my gallon pin, but I can't donate anymore.
65. Gone sky diving. (not planning to, either)
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check. not intentionally, though
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar.
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle. (as a passenger)
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.

82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life. (not directly, anyway)
90. Sat on a jury. (no, but I sat in the jury pool)
91. Met someone famous.
92. Joined a book club.
93. Lost a loved one.

94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit. (worker's comp case
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee. (no, but by wasps, yes)
100. Read an entire book in one day.

**Thanks to Jess for the added instructions!