Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wreath Witherspoon

The best thing to come out of the recent Mindy Kaling Project episode, which has sadly been on a steady decline. And yes, I took a pic of the TV--what.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Journal of Christmas Past

This is probably so insanely boring for others to read but I just can't help myself.  I've now taken it from celebrating my journalversary with my journal in my journal to celebrating it on my blog for actual humans to read and experience.  Reading old blips from someone's journal might be the last thing you want to do today.  But I've put 9+ years of myself on this thing. I don't know who reads it, who's read it but has since left, who's just read bits and pieces here and there, but it soothes my soul to know that part of me is out there. Just as with my journal. When I die I'll know I'll have left a stamp of some kind, good or bad.  Blogs are dumb; i know this.  But I love mine. I love my ugly dumb blog. And I love my journal. So it makes sense that they should be friends.

So in the spirit of Christmas, journals, and blogs, or Christmournogs (-- i feel weird) ...orrrr... blournmas...journogmas, (--winner) let's read about Christmases of Jen's past. Maybe I'll include my current thoughts in a festive color.  If only I could share those of the future and write my own little Christmas Carol.  Maybe I will anyway? Predict next year's Christmas? Challenge thought of, considered, and accepted.  Stay tuned.

Dec. 16, 1993
I think I'm really getting into the Christmas spirit. All the lights and music and decorations. Yes, I love it all.  I really like playing my own Christmas music on the piano just as long as nobody is there watching me.  I really hate that.  It makes me feel stupid.  I want Christmas to come, but I don't, you know? 
Just wanted to remind everyone I am thirteen at this moment. It's also the birth of the journal.
Dec. 17, 1993
OK. In PE, we took a bowling test which I did bad on because I didn't know how to score. I wasn't listening when the guy came and talked to us. Then, in English we continued reading the Christmas Carol and we took a quiz on it at the end which I missed one on. 

--hahahaha! Bowling in P.E.!! hahaha...  Also, wow, really? Didn't know how to score? :/  Looks like I could have studied harder at bowling (Hahahaa). Also, Christmas Carol(! weird!)

Dec. 18, 1993 
(I'm sorry, I can't seem to be able to move on from this year. So many goodies)
I was in a play this month called "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." I was a fireman and stagecrew.(well, not the whole stage crew. I was just on it.)  It was really fun.  
It was really fun! I wish I'd auditioned to be in more plays back in the day... 

Dec. 17, 1994 
Oh. Wait. Just kidding! Heh heh! Yesterday was the [journal] anniversary. Oh, well. We have quite a large Christmas tree. But then again, don't we always?
            Guess what! I missed one on my math test!! HALLELUJAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  IT'S A MIRACLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8th and 9th grade were both bummer years for math so I have counted and each and every one of those exclamation points is warranted and necessary, if I only missed one on a math test. 

Dec. 26, 1994
We had a great Christmas. Since it was on a Sunday this year, we opened our presents after church. I played the flute with Mom and Steph accompanying me on the organ and the piano. We played Chip Davis' version of "Still, Still, Still" and "O Holy Night."  It was not the greatest experience of my life. I messed up about 5 million times. After church we opened our presents.  I got a nice watch, a shirt and vest, Levis, a flannel shirt, a sweatshirt, pajamas, comfy slippers, a bathrobe, 2 necklaces, a bracelet, a jewelry box, candy, Tic Tacs, (yes!) socks, an extremely cool leather jacket!! 

I highlighted specific gifts because they just make me laugh. a) VEST. You know it was one of those fancy silky vests. Jessie illustrates. I'm thinking the one on the far right in the middle row:

b)  flannel shirt--YES! 90's-tastic! Was undoubtedly at least two good sizes too big. And then the slippers which I wore all through 8th and 9th grade. To school. With my white warm-up pants. RIP, you guys. Best slips of my life.  This journal entry also documents my addiction to orange tic tacs. Even now, every once in a while i'll have one and be like, ah yeah.. these are good. 

Dec. 28, 1996
Ah, how I love vacation. It is so great. I had a lovely Christmas. I got a heap of clothes, (including overalls. Yea!) A heap of earrings, and about 5 cd's. I got all of the Enya cd's. Yea!! I was so happy. I love Enya. Oh, yeah. I also got a watch. It has indiglo! Woo! Which reminds me. I have to go put it on. Just sec. OK. I'm back. I also got the Cranberries cd with When You're Gone on it. Shad gave me the tape (of Cranberries) with Dreams and Linger. Yea! 

 Oh. Man. let this be a testament to the value of including a list of your Christmas gifts in your journal. What a bizarre and lovely time capsule. OVERALLS.  Outstanding. Enya! Oh wow, I loved Enya so much. Indiglo watch-- remember when you pushed a button and your watch glowed?? And it was dark and you'd be like, excuse me, i need to see the time, and exaggeratingly stretch out your arms, thumb, and forefinger to display that eerie and beautiful green glow.  Let's not forget those excellent Cranberries CDs. So good. Oops wait, one of them was a tape.

 Dec. 7, 1997
Dave asked me to the Christmas dance! How fun!!   I came home one night and there were pennies all over my floor of my room. There was a note that said something like, 'deck your room with many pennies, falalalalalalalala,   Will you go to the dance with me? Fa la, etc. Look on the pennies, you will find fa la la, the missing letters, something something, fa la la. (I don't remember) anyway, the letters to the name were on the pennies so I had to search and search. Finally I found them.

1. Oh the lengths people would go when asking someone to a dance. and 2) that's kind of fun and clever, actually. Good one, Dave. 

Dec. 25, 1997 
Ah, Christmas. A lovely day. I am currently listening to my new excellent CD, the soundtrack to Star Trek First Contact. It is good. Mmm... I wanted this. ... I also got socks, 3 sweaters, a silky shirt and silky skirt, a black jumper, corduroy pants, and a lap desk thing (it's a plastic board with a cushion on the other side) so I can do my homework on the couch. 

Get this: I STILL have that lap desk. It is awesome and oh-so handy. 

Dec. 27, 1997
A few days ago, Amy, Brooke, and I went to the P.G. theater and saw Titanic. Very good, but very sad. It is so sad how all the people died. Did you know that 700 out of 2200 people survived? That's so sad. And it could have been prevented! If only the stupid people had made more life boats! Aarrghh! It makes me mad, but I guess there's nothing I can do.  

I just feel like I should include any and all references to Titanic, movie or real event.  This whole thing makes me giggle, especially that last line.  

Dec. 16, 1998
I am, of course, freaking excited to go home. Who isn’t? Me and Michelle decided that they should have finals at the beginning of the semester instead at the end, cuz that way, we will have just started school and we wouldn’t be quite sick of it yet, see. Plus, they have finals right before Christmas and that’s just not good cuz it makes us excited for the break and not care about the tests. But, I probably wouldn’t care about them anyway. Ha.
Aside from the fact that I'm in college and saying "cuz" a hundred times, let's talk for a minute about how taking your final final before Christmas break is literally THE best feeling in all the world. I think about it every year. Something deep inside my stirs and I try to get it back, just a flicker of that feeling, just for a second. THE BEST. Seriously, is there anything better?  I mean, giving birth....? Final final before Christmas....?  Ooooh it's hard. it's hard. (picture me weighing these out on my hands) Also, let's pay tribute to my mom who gave me the most amazing finals box ever, also something I still think/dream about. 

Yesterday, Mom brought me this big box of goooood stuff!  There was a loaf of raspberry swirl bread, cottage cheese, little pudding stuff, chocolate, V8 Splash (which I love) more food, little snacks, and more food still. Oh. AND a pomegranate! I was like, does my mom love me or does she love me! It was cool. 

Thanks, Mom. 

Dec. 24, 1998[talking about Christmas gifts I got for people] Oh, and when I got the 3 earrings, I also got free lip smacker, so I’m givin’ that to Ash. It’s hud-flavored, but she seems to like that stuff. :) Bleh. 

Hahahaha! Meeerry Christmas, beloved younger sister of mine. I always suspected I had a generous heart; this journal entry proves it. 

January 3, 2002
We played tons of games and saw tons of movies. Ahhh. :) Lord of the Rings was SO GOOD! I loved it! I need to see it again, stat.  Man... that is my kind of movie. Christmas was great.  I got some good stuff. I got my red coat! (Yeah!) And I got a hot chocolate maker! Woohoo!

a) when Lord of the Rings came out, it was the same time as Harry Potter. I remember the hubbub about both movies and discussions regarding which one would be bigger. I was convinced and argued vehemently that it would be Harry Potter because, it's Harry Potter! Isn't that funny? I didn't realize then that HP movies would turn out to be poop and that instead a seed of deep everlasting love for LOTR would be planted. It just shows how naive I was at 21, you know?

b) My hot chocolate maker is still with me and I love it as much as ever. Cocomotion, never say die! This thing is a dream. It makes hot chocolate so perfectly. Perfect temperature, perfect froth. 

December 25, 2002 7:17 pm
            Meeerry Christmas!  (Ok, I just saw I typed up there.)  Well, it’s been a great day. I know the holiday isn’t defined by what we get, but it’s still fun, right? So here’s what I got. First of all, I don’t think I ever told you I wanted a pet snake. But I did. (do.)  I think it would be the coolest pet! He stays in a tank but you can pull him out and play with him. And, you can watch him eat rats! I think that would be the coolest. So I told Mom I wanted one for Christmas but she and Dad were like “heck no!”  Not that I’d really expect to get one, but still.  So this morning I run upstairs and the first thing I see is a pile of presents with no one sitting by it (so that must be for me, I think) AND a cool loooong stuffed snake!!!  It was like when you’re a kid and you see something you really like or wanted and your eyes get all big and you’re super excited. I haven’t felt like that FOREVER!  I ran in and said “Is that my pet snake??” and leaped on the couch.  Ohhh I love him. Mom made him for me! He’s seriously 10 feet long (we measured) and he has buttons for eyes and a red felt tongue. And, the material is this giraffe print. So funny. I LOVE it.  Mom rules!  I carry him around all the time and snuggle up to him. Oh, after some contemplation I named him Snakey McSlither.  Ha ha. Oh, you love it! 

Oh man, this makes me sound like a freak. Especially because I was 22.  Sean has oft mentioned that there are so many stories i tell that lead him to believe i was a child and, turns out, i was in my 20's or something. My response was always like, whatever! I'm young at heart, man!  Buuuut after reading this one, I'm thinking it's just kind of weird.   But still cool. My mom made me a pet snake. And I did eventually grow up and do adult things, just so you know. This time next year I would be all married (and missing my pet snake) so see? I grew up. 

I think I'll end here because this thing is hecka long and i feel like it is less fun the older I get (waah, that statement sucks).  But you know, nothing beats reading your words as a 14-year-old.  And hey, I've gotta have something for next year's journalversary.  So let's all look forward to that.  Happy anniversary, journal. 21 years, you beauty.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Conceptual Christmas

Julian hasn't taken to drawing for much of his short squirty life. He's never been much into crafts either but he's getting more into both these days.  The first time he really sat down with me and worked on a project was when I showed him a book of mazes. He LOVED them and was kind of freakishly good at them.  So I feel like that shows he's got some kind of brain for something or other.  Don't you think?  Additionally, and this makes my heart burst with so much pride, he has a particular affinity for maps.  Whenever we'd go to the Botanic Gardens he would stop at the maps and find where we were and where we wanted to be.  In fact, I have a picture of him intently examining a map of Disneyland when we were there this summer, something I had meant to blog about but never did.

He also has a weirdly strong...uhh.. "horse sense," which Sean claims is a real thing, and because I can't think of anything better. He remembers places and can navigate his way there pretty easily, if he were to try, I would think.  This was evident when he was-I swear-barely starting to talk and we were driving somewhere and he shouted something out about that time we had been there months and months ago. 
During his preschool days all his pictures were unrecognizable until he told you what they were, which were maps of some kind or instructions for a new invention.  Which explains why it wasn't obvious at first-- it hasn't been invented yet!

So he's got an analytical, methodical way about him, I guess you could say. It's about form, structure. Logic. Function. He sees no reason to fill in the shapes or objects he's to color, he just puts a dab of crayon in the spot and calls it good. Why color in the WHOLE shape? you know? He sees no reason to continue. Or maybe just doesn't have the time.

When I asked him to draw me a Christmas tree, I had to laugh but then ponder. a) what's happening inside that brain? and b) it's kind of beautiful, actually, in its orderliness.

Tree boughs, check. Ornaments, check (TWO rows, in fact).  Star on top, check.  Everything's there! Done and done.  I was chatting with Sean about this and I asked him if there was a certain movement of art like this and artists involved.  He told me the movement is minimalism, which makes sense.  He gave me artist names like Carl Andre and Sol Lewitt and described them as schematic, like a blueprint. Meant to convey an idea more than an object or image, which is again, very applicable to Julian's work. He's often showing me maps or a sequence of events. It isn't just images sitting there, it's something going on. First the pirate ship went here, and then this happened, and then it went all around over to here where this happened.  There's action. His art gives instruction for something else.  As Sean said, he's basically a conceptual artist.  And he's giving me a lot to think about.  I think I'll just sit and look at this Christmas tree for a while. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Winter Sky

It's not officially winter yet, is it.  Yeah right, though. Who is December kidding, claiming to still be fall until the 21st.  So silly.  However, Utah has been experiencing some awesome mild temps.  People complain and demand the snow but I sit with an eerie, faraway smile on my face, knowing that I'll never have to endure another NY winter.  It feels like such sweet bliss.  The cold and the snow will come to Utah, but it will never again be like an NYC winter.  Never. Again.

Man, something I just love is a moody sky. Dark, billowy clouds. Grays and purples. So much more beautiful to me than a bright and sunny blue sky'ed day.   I feel like I can't see anything on those days, like everything is over-exposed.Anyway, on an overcast, darkly billow-clouded day, I feel like the world comes alive and so does my heart, and finally I can truly see. And I do love it.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

12/13/14 15:16:17

Someone on Facebook was all, "12/13/14 at 15:16:17 seconds on Saturday, you guys!"  Or something.  So I decided to set an alarm on my phone to take a picture of what we were doing at exactly 3:16:17 today, Dec. 13.  Turns out it was pretty uneventful, but still worth mentioning.  We've been living in my hometown for 4.5 months and still, all I want to do is just hang out at my parents'.  It is the BEST. I've told you that one of the reasons why I wanted to come back was that I was afraid I was completely forgetting my childhood, right?  And being back, I've felt things slowly trickle in. I just want to be around people who were around then and wait for my brain to make some memory synapses or some other brain word.  I feel so relieved that it could still be in there, it just needs a good jog.

Anyway, here is what we're doing today on this blustery rainy day. Happy 12/13/14 15:16:17.


My mom dug up a piece of sheet music meant for four sets of hands and one piano. All I can say about this is GOOD. TIMES.

It was so funny, so much giggling.  At some parts our fingers were scratching each others', one hitting a key the other just left.  It was pretty magical.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Merry Muffins

Today a sprinkle of magic Christmas dust befell me and I made delicious muffins.  Since I am often attempting to replace this with that and cut back on that, often they are, how you say, guh-ROSS. Dang that looks like Ross.  But today we experienced a Christmas miracle because they actually turned out. I can't explain it.

One time I was marveling at a particularly not good batch.  They didn't taste like poison per se, like something that should never be consumed.  But it does sort of make you question it.  I was bemoaning them but sort of in an analytical way, like, what are these muffins? It's sustenance, like I know what's in them and you can live off of that, but sooo bad.  "Disgusting" was my word. Then Sean came up with an even better one: Disgustenance:  Food, but at what cost?   Which delighted me. Whenever you make something gross that will, however, keep you alive, use this word.

I immediately made new muffins after that that were so sweet I could not partake but they were excellent.  Guess that's why people should follow recipes or something.

WELL.  This morning I found this weirdo muffin recipe on my bag of wheat bran and it was like "2 cups of bran, 2 cups of wheat flour, 3 tsps of gross, 0 cups of something good, half of what you should put in it, etc."  So I made some alterations but in a flippant, non-measurey kind of way, as I do, and which strangely makes it turn out weird! I know.  But here's what happened:

1.  Called for wheat flour. Since i was already adding wheat bran i was like, do i want to make everybody cry? Goodness. So i opted for white flour instead.

2. But, as i pretty much always do with any recipe using flour, i substitute some of it for almond meal which I love but is NOT an equal flour replacement so I'm always guessing there.

3. Replaced the called-for raisins with cranberries because, again, it's Christmas. And then I was like, oooh, cinnamon! And just sprinkled some in the batter because I'm pretty good at eyeballing individual granules.

4. Read that there was NO SALT and added some, poste haste. Why do people think that's EVER a good idea?  If you make muffins or a sweet treat with no salt then you might as well pull it out of the oven right into your trash can. What a waste.  Kind of makes me mad. I mean, how dare you?

5. When it was time to mix the bowl of wet stuff, i pulled it all out on the counter near the fridge. Exhausted from walking back and forth to the ingredients area to my work area, I tried to carry it all in one haul.  I had had an epiphany when i got to the milk portion and thought, don't you mean Christmas milk?? which, of course, is milk + eggnog.  So i grabbed that.  In my excitement about this idea, i snatched an egg out of the carton only to have it fly through the air and splat on the floor. It was strangely satisfying to witness, but not to clean, so much. I wasn't sure about the eggnog because it's something good, but should it necessarily be baked into something? I wasn't sure.

6. As I was substituting the nog, instead of measuring I just poured it in because, again, I'm really good at eyeballing*.  I tell myself, ah, i'll just add more milk in the end if it's dry.

*not really true. I just think you can't take risks like that with baking, yet I always. do. 

7. Instead of molasses (eww), chose brown sugar instead. But who knows if the measurements were the same? What did other muffin recipes call for in terms of the sugar? I remembered nothing. But I used the same amount.  And then at the very end when i was mixing it all up, I thought back to the disgustenance muffins and thought, juuuuust a bit more sugar. so I tossed in some more blobs of brown sugar.

8. It was pretty sticky when i was done and felt too lazy to add more milk, so i just went with it and filled the cups.

9. I also set the timer for 7 minutes shorter than it called for because who in the hey knew?

When the timer went off, they were ready.  And so good! What the? The craisins were chewy, the muffin was dense with goodness (but not TOO good), you could taste the nog in a non-gross way, and those blobs of brown sugar? Oh MAN, there were little melted pockets of them all throughout the muffins. So good! Do this with all of your muffins! ALL of them! I think I just invented something amazing.

Anyway, i'm just pleased.  Also, am reminded of these excellent moments.   Merry Muffins!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sick For So Long

Four score and seven years ago, I caught a cold.  And that brings us to today.

Geez Lou-ISE this has been a long one.  If I can recollect (that feels like an old person word, does it to you? i like it), it started the weekend before Thanksgiving.  Not a big deal, and it looked like it was on the outs about three days later when I woke up with a sore throat. And that felt very distinct, like, oh NO...
It felt different. Usually when I get a cold it lasts maybe three days, if it's lucky, and then it's gone. I never get sick! But when it took a turn, it felt different and I wasn't at all sure what I was in for.

Well, what i was in for was a silly cold. Nothing horrible, just stupid and lame and so outstandingly stubborn. It will not leave my body.   I've been sick for so long, it's not even gross to me anymore that used tissues are strewn about the house.  I'm just like, "what?" if someone questions or looks peculiarly at it. In fact, I'm pretty sure i leave them out because I bet there's some corner of that tissue i haven't used yet...

You could say it's a very healthy cold. I've been sick for so long, when Sean asks me "how's your cold?" I respond enthusiastically, "it's doing really well! Yeah! Just hanging in there like a champ!"

I've been sick for so long, I've forgotten what it was like before.  I'm like, "what? this is how my voice sounds. This is how it's always sounded. what's wrong with YOU?"

I've been sick for so long, if I don't have a tissue stuffed up my nose, Julian runs away, scared, because he doesn't recognize his own mother. Poor thing.

I've been sick for so long, my nose has long surpassed the raw, painful nostrils stage from all the blowing and wiping and, I'm pretty sure, has now created some kind of nose-blowing callous right at the very base. It's either a callous or snot-encrusted but either way, it doesn't hurt so bad anymore... (I feel like this is the kind of thing one says before they die from the ailment. kind of a dreamy, relaxed state. Maybe i'm experiencing some kind of cold zen?)

We've determined that it's because my body isn't accustomed to these weirdo Utah cold germs.  Which seems weird to me because, living in NYC, i feel like i must have been exposed to every disease imaginable.  But maybe my immune system is TOO good, TOO strong. It's been building up its defenses for King Kong and completely forgot about silly little cold germs and now it doesn't know what to do with them so it just sits idly by, too proud to fight something so piddly.  Or maybe it's too compassionate? Awwww... wook at the widdle cold germs! they're so cuuuute! it says.

Meanwhile, every day I wake up and it's exactly the same. I keep waiting for it to dwindle in some capacity, even by a tiny fraction, one small element, but no.  I've never known such constancy. It's remarkable!  And I'm now entering compliant acceptance. Coughing, sneezing, filling up buckets with snot, and snorting up the night out of one (if i'm lucky) good nostril are all just a regular part of my life now.  It's who I am.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Candy Class 'n Jokes

Over the weekend, my sisters and I took a candy-making class.  We sat in this lovely window-filled arboretum-type room and watched a candy expert make holiday delights such as brown sugar fondant, truffles, toffee, and peanut brittle.  My sisters are skilled chefs and bakers whereas I enjoy more of the eating aspect of foods, but it was a good time.  In addition to learning some interesting cooking tricks about touchy candy-making, we entertained ourselves by the jokes we and the circumstances around us, created.  Growing up, i got in the habit of writing down the jokes from a particular occasion, which seemed to come rolling in one right after another. I think it might just be my personality, actually, to find the joke in anything. A constant life quest, if you will.   Well, since I've been living away so long, it's been more difficult to be together long enough to have more than one funny thing arise-- enough to necessitate a list and/or stand out in one's memory, anyway. But I still do my best to remember and record what we have.

One of my favorite jokes about jokes (it's an existential joke) is when you have to explain your joke.  We make fun of this by saying, "see, the reason why that's funny is..."   I have been known to say something like this, or even repeat my joke long after the moment has passed because I just think it's a quality joke and I won't give up so easily.  Which takes away all the humor from the initial joke which depends a lot on the "in the moment" factor, though people might appreciate it, but hopefully adds some to the explaining of the joke.  See what i mean?

So, I am going to attempt to actually re-tell jokes that you had to be there for, to see if I can explain its funniness the best I can and see if you can laugh.  If you do, you know we are kindred friends.  If you don't, let me know and I'll explain why my explanations of my jokes are funny.

1.  The teacher said we'd begin by making brown sugar fondant.  She also mentioned that there were "no dumb questions."  Ash and I gave each other "we'll see" looks and I said "i'm sure i can come up with something--

Joke scenario, as if asking a question:  " brown sugar?" -said slowly, yet focused, as if I'm not ashamed to be asking such a question and view myself as a scholar, yet I really do not know what brown sugar is. Now that's a funny juxtaposition.

2. One joke occurred during the truffle lesson.  To my understanding, one makes truffles using ganache, which I have made before.  You just melt chocolate in scalding hot cream. But the teacher was doing all kinds of things, adding this to that, mixing in this, and I was confused.  I leaned over to Ash and said, "Wait. When I make ganache I just scald the sugar--i mean cream--" and then we burst out laughing. 

Ashley's joke: "Let me stop you right there..."

My joke continuance: "...and then I add two cups of salt..."  

This comes from a Friends episode when Rachel, cooking-illiterate, defends herself in the kitchen and says, "How hard can it be? If the recipe says 'boil two cups of salt,' you just boil two cups of salt!" 

Funny, right? Also relevant because of my own cooking illiteracy.

3.  We were sitting on about the third row of about four rows total.  In the middle of a lesson, a woman behind us hiss/whispered or hisspered*,  


(I've decided whispering should be notated using italics, as should joke quotes)

And the teacher stopped abruptly, turned her attention to the woman and said, "yes? did you have a question?"  And everyone realized that was her name.  Slight pause, slightly awkward, the hissperer apologized and said, "oh, no, i was just calling my friend.." her friend being a woman, also named Susan, who was apparently sitting on row one. And we all laughed at that one.  

Of course the joke continued, however, us laughing at imagining hissing at the teacher right in the middle of their lesson, like they won't get noticed. 

Jen:  "SUSAN! hey, Susan!... you're doing it wrong!"

Ash took a more positive spin:  "SUSAN! ... you're doing great!" *thumbs up*

Ha ha! Loved that one.

 *making up new words gives me such a high, i cant even tell you. A hissper is a strong whisper. Not as loud as the whisper yell, but not a soft whisper either.

 4. For one recipe, the teacher began by melting about four sticks of butter in a pan.  She couldn't do anything else until they were all melted of course so she was giving tips and answering questions and explaining other candy-making tidbits as she stirred.  Some people asked questions about what kind of pan to use, utensils, greased or non-grease? etc. While she was doing this, one woman raised her hand and asked,  "Could you cut the butter before putting it in the pan?"

Jen, speaking as the woman with the question:    "... because maybe YOU should have done that...?"

And then we made jokes, imagining ourselves to ask the teacher passive aggressive questions.

"Are you sure you're doing that right?"
"So is it supposed to look all lumpy like that?"  -- i just made these up off the top of my head, because we ended at just imagining it, but you see what i mean.  Funny!

5.  While stirring the toffee, the teacher explained you had to look away every once in a while because if you stare too long at it, you can't tell when the color's right, which is of utmost importance when making toffee (apparently). The color, by the way, should be the color of a brown bag, so if you have one of those handy, use it to compare.  This made me laugh out loud, though no one else really saw the humor.  Just picturing stirring and then suddenly darting your gaze away at something else, then zipping it back again.  Maybe this is a cheat, but I've taken another velfie for you:

Additional jokes-- said as a continuation of the lesson, as if the teacher, in an instructional tone:  "So.. as you stir and look away, just have something for you to look at--perhaps a garden scene or ocean waves-- any photo of your choice will do."

6. I had my own side joke with that one because when it finally (it took a while) came time for the toffee to be ready, the teacher said, "I think we're getting close... oh, too bad I don't have a brown bag here!"   and some woman held up her brown clipboard they had given us to take notes on.  I  (to my sisters, of course), motioned as if to smack the clipboard out of the woman's hands and said, "that's not brown bag! You can't just use any brown willy nilly!"  And I laughed at myself.

Well that's about it, I guess.  Six. Not too shabby.  It was great fun and we did learn seemingly super useful tips. I mean, the things i could tell you about your thermometer...   

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Julian Christmas Quote

Because a good Julian quote is like Christmas. He and I were discussing whether we had run out of an item and, while he said we were all out, I on the other hand felt certain we had more. I did some digging and sure enough, there were a few more, and we rejoiced. Julian, acknowledging he was incorrect, remarked,

And I thought I was so stupid! But I amn't!

And thus a new catch phrase was born. I don't actually know what it means, since he was the one who thought we were out. But oh well, so funny.  Amn't.  :D  Why not, right? 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Johnny Cash Christmas

Now that it's December I'm finally able to listen to my more mainstream Christmas Pandora station.  But every time a Johnny Cash song pops on, I just have to laugh. It gets funnier and funnier the more I hear.  I just don't know what to do with his voice singing words like, the little lord Jesus laid down his sweet head...  Or,  The first noel, the angel did say...

I like Johnny's voice, I do. But he's got a sort of drunken quality about him (could have been authentic) or like he just woke up.  It's a strange juxtaposition, to be sure.  Here, listen for yourself:

Johnny Cash sings Christmas songs.

That being said, there is definitely a place for Weird Christmas, though.  Weird Christmas songs, I mean. The off-the-Christmas-beaten-path songs.  The ones that you hear and you're like, what... how...?  what were the circumstances that led this to be a) recorded and b) broadcast on the air? They always sound a little bit like festive dirty little secrets.  Or like it was some kind of Christmas song type of prohibition. People secretly gathered in someone's recording studio basement during a time when Christmas music was banned and stuck it to the MAN.  And then some radio producer is like, guess what album I found at an estate sale! let's play it! Or there's some catastrophe down at the radio station and everyone is scrambling all over the place, papers flying everywhere, meanwhile they're on the air so they mouth playing anything, an-y-thing!  I'm getting carried away here, but my point is that the weird ones are delightful.  Do you have any weirdo Christmas songs you secretly/not so secretly love?

Sunday, December 07, 2014


I wrote this thing in the summertime as we were raising and revering the caterpillars.  I feel like I'm talking about caterpillars a lot these days, but if I love something so much, how could i ever say just one thing about it?  So here you go:

Watching caterpillars journey through their life's purpose, watching them grow and transform and be what they are meant to be is one of the most amazing things to experience.  Amazing.  It seems small and simple and a little bit trivial but it's one thing to know about it and quite another to witness it. It's powerful, nature at its best, most beautiful.  There isn't one among us, i'll bet, that doesn't love and even revere a little bit, the butterfly.  

We had two habitats with several monarch butterflies in each.  With them you have to provide their food and what they eat are milkweed plants.  One evening I went out in search of some to replace the old chewed up and slightly withered leaves.  Imagine our luck when we found one with a caterpillar on it! A wild one! Excited for him to join his friends, I carefully carried him inside.  Somewhat a delicate process, i took out the old ones and laid them on the table with the caterpillars scattered about.  I put in the new ones and then snipped off the leaves of the old and laid them on the fresh leaves of the new plant.  While I did this I talked to them because they are special, and I felt that i would do anything to keep them alive. I would not treat this lightly, this great undertaking of the caterpillar.  They had grown so big since we first saw them and it's a pleasure to watch them. Eating and shedding, growing and changing. 

Late at night I sat at the table just thinking and I remembered I like to be up at night sometimes. I've forgotten this.  The night is quiet but my thoughts are loud, and clear, and pulsing, and though I am, I don't feel alone.  I went over to the dining room table where the habitats sat and watched my friends eat. Just sat and watched. I tried to number them all. Some were hiding, some were upside down, two were eating together at the same leaf and I wondered if maybe this process could be sort of a social thing.  Their stripes are mesmerizing and I love the way they glide around.

And I spotted one high up on the habitat, near the opening, not on a leaf, not eating. And not moving.  He was smaller than the others and as I watched them I kept glancing up at him hoping to see some movement. And then I felt my heart tremble because I was struck with the thought of what if he never makes it down? What if he can't find the food? What if he's already lost? And then my heart groaned and trembled some more and I may have shed a tear. Maybe because it was late and i was in loopyland but also, it was really very sad. He is so near the things he needs but for some reason he's not going to them. And I can't do anything but watch. I've provided him all that i can.  I tried to gently nudge him from the other side of the case, urging him to move and find his way, feeling weepy and desperate because I just want him to live. Just live, little thing, and become. 

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Tree Deco-ration

I feel like Christmas tree feelings and preferences are ever-changing.  I have my opinions that feel like they might last forever, like an evergreen, if you will, but then I wonder if my preferences and tastes will change? Will I one day want that fake tree? I KNOW, right? How could i say such a thing? But then I see some amazing trees and try as I might, I'm never going to be able to put and keep real snow on my real tree.  So maybe a magnificently flocked one would be kind of fun? Who can say??

I'm in support of change. And I vote that it's ok to change one's views. Just because you say it once doesn't seal it up as yours forever.

This year I badgered my mom every day to tell me when she'd be decorating her tree which is something I've missed for over a decade. I carry a lot of nostalgia around with me and I always love me some childhood Christmas magic.  Then, when we helped her, it was great, but we had maybe one single ornament that i remembered from my youth.  She had gotten new ones over time which is perfectly fine and natural, even. So i was like, people change, Jen. Trees change. I accept it, and may even embrace it.  Now, would I ever do theme trees? One year a Star Trek-themed tree? Another year Jurassic Park? --I was getting ready to answer these questions with a "probably not" but now that I'm picturing it.. these trees would be awesome.  So, again, who knows.

This year we got a grown-up tree. One that goes all the way to the floor. I've always loved our tabletop bush-trees but it's pretty fun to have a full-sized one. We don't have nearly enough supplies for it. I have mentioned so many times how much I love my ornaments (I won't even post a link to previous posts.  Restraint!)  and I still do.  And now we are seeing Julian remember and love them too which is pret-ty darn magical.  It's just the best. I tell him the back story of when and where we got them. Every ornament has a story, even if the story is "and i loved it so much! the end."    And it is all so good. It's just so good.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Of Bees

Nothing like a good Julian quote to make my Christmas spirits soar, or buzz, rather.  He said this gem to me the other day:

"Mom, whenever I see a beehive I will climb up to the bee hole and sing the bees a lullaby."

Bee hole!

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Thumbs Up

As I sit here eating my daily chocolate with pop rocks in it*, I contemplate the important things in life. The serious things. And things that might often get overlooked.  One topic in particular is bouncing around on my mind and, like the pop rocks in my mouth, its deafening snap and crackle cannot be ignored. Today I am going to talk about something of a serious nature that, in my opinion, affects each and every one of us.  I know it's something you've been curious about and I feel the time has now come to discuss...  

*a real thing. blow your mind.

... the thumbs up.

The thumbs up sign is the unsung gesture, warranting far more attention than it receives. I am certain everyone has an opinion about it and I'd love to hear what you think.  But here's what I think:

Do i like the thumbs up? Yes, yes I do.  How do I use it? I use it sincerely, sarcastically, like Chandler,

subconsciously, you name it. I think we all understand what the thumbs up means: "Good job" or simply "good."  "way to go."  The "I feel positive about this" gesture. Let's not forget about thumbs down. A firm thumbs down can say enough for a lifetime. It's simple, direct, can be harsh at times, and straight to the point. But did you know there's more to it than that? And more than one way to go about a thumbs up or down?  Get ready for me to expand your thumb horizons.

1. My niece came up with this one and it is sheer brilliance. It's filed under "sarcastic thumbs up" but in a really effective and highly insulting way. What it is is the slow removal of approval via the thumbs up. You give the person the impression you're pleased but oh, wait--wait, NO.  You are NOT pleased. What they just said is not acceptable. You could go further to say it means your time is up and say your prayers.   It's drawn out and dramatic, with facial expression to match.  Here's a video to illustrate:

Just makes me laugh. Try it today on someone you highly disapprove of.

By the way, it's real hard to do a video selfie. velfie? I'm just sayin'.   #skillz. 

2. This is a variation of the thumbs up or down. It could be called the lazy man's thumb or maybe it's the cool guy's? Marching to the beat of a different thumber.  This is done by pointing the thumb directly down the center of your closed remaining fingers, instead of to the side. What it does is make it so you don't have to thrust out your elbow to give a thumbs down.  Sean, with whom it originates, demonstrates this technique.

How's your soup, Sean?

What if I took that soup away, Sean?

So Sean, right? So, you just stick your thumb up or down wherever your hand lies, elbow resting comfortably to the side of the body.  Maybe you're too cool to stick out the elbow and you're just like, yeah whatever, fine.  This is the Too Cool Thumb.  Looking at the above pic, it looks like it's a thumbs down coupled with a clenched fist which could give it an added menacing touch. Extra BURN! This thumbs down says I hate what you just said and you're going to get punched for it.

3. This last one was also invented by my niece. It is the snap + thumb combo.  What you do is snap your fingers and quickly throw up or down your thumb. If up, it adds a peppy, enthusiastic touch, as if to say, yeah! i like that! let's do it!  If paired with the down, it could mean, i like you, but that idea sucks!  Anna demonstrates:

Those are just a few examples of variations of a beloved hand gesture that may be offensive in some cultures.  Maybe it is our duty to use these variations on said cultures to see if we might not cross those divides that separate us, unifying us in brother/sisterhood and our approval/disapproval.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Of Birds

I have mentioned before that I really like birds. Who doesn't like birds? If you really don't like birds, then I will conjecture to say that you are just jealous of them. They can fly and you can't. Also they sing and are really pretty. Dang, birds are kind of jerks, aren't they. Think they're sooo special.  

Just kidding though, I really do like birds. I used to sit by the window in my Brooklyn ground floor apartment whose backyard was some kind of strange bird oasis, an urban aviary. We saw blue jays and cardinals and I experienced first hand the kind of maniacal magic of the mockingbird (feels weird not to say mockingjay).  I used to sit out with binoculars and actually bird watch.  Remember that class in college when I was the smart kid?  Appreciation of Nature.  Part of why I loved it was it was taught as if we were meant to enjoy the thing we were to learn. I know, whaa? It's a crazy concept, but it worked. Our teacher brought in live animals like giant stork-like birds, a boa constrictor, and possibly others.  We talked about what was interesting about them and what we could learn. It was here, for example, that I had my first "frogs are the vilest, most disgusting organisms on earth" lesson when we learned about marsupial frogs (-- suckers. I challenge you to click on that link and NOT throw up. They lay eggs and carry them on their backs! *muffled puke sound*). Our teacher also had us write in our nature journals (YES) what our least favorite organism was, then we were assigned to write a paper on something interesting about it.   During the bird section of class, we were to go out and identify some insane amount of birds.  To help us along, our teacher would take us out in a big van to some town 20 minutes south of campus where he knew some birds could be found (this sounds like the sketchiest field trip ever).  But we did find a barn owl and it was awesome. 

As anyone, I have a lot to say about owls. I will spare you most of it but here's a bit more. Remember that owl that we saw at the Dry Farm, welcoming us in the old rickety barn like an eerie statuesque guardian of the farm? Well here's that picture again, because it was CRAZY. 

Aaaaah. Why are owls so eerie? mystical, even. like i'm scared of it, but also revere it. When we moved into this little cottage in the woods, one night I heard this little hooting sound.  All was quiet. I was certain it was Julian, who used to make hooting noises when he was an infant and for some reason i regress him to that state whenever he's sleeping. I made Sean go check on him and after he came back to tell me Julian was completely out, we realized it was an actual owl we both just sat there, trying to take in the fact that we went from living in a place where we heard cars, sirens, and people's intimate conversations on a nightly basis to a place where owls actually hoot outside your window.  I reeled, a bit. 

One more thought on owls before i move on to the next bird (yup).  I recently visited a friend who had her Christmas tree up. Now, all trees are great. Who am i to judge a tree? Well if i were, I would judge her the WINNER, not only for her tiny chandeliers that made my brain explode but her snowy hedwig owls scattered all around.  AMAZING. 

Here it is in its full owlery splendor:


Since we live in the woods we have a lot of birds here.  The other day i was walking back after taking Julian to the bus stop and in the quiet misty morning I heard a strange rattly sound. I knew the sound, it was one of nature's rattles or shakers, (like an instrument. also could be used for babies i guess) which are these seed pods: 

The question wasn't what, but who? Or what?  Wait.   Anyway, i looked up in the seedpod treetops and saw a bird pecking at it in such a silly way, I wondered if he was just having a good time. Was he trying to get at the seeds to eat? Or was he like, hee hee hee this makes a funny noise! Also, I'm pretty sure he was perched on the seedpod he was pecking which probably isn't the best idea but who can say.  All was silent except for this rattle rattle rattle! I laughed and declared it the best thing about my day.  I took a pic and realized the thing was completely camouflaged so I told myself it was in the middle of the pic. Now, looking at it, I'm not sure. But its estimated location is indicated in the diagram below: 

Sean just walked by and told me Julian told him that tree was the Party Tree.
Because they make such good noisemakers, see.  You know where we'll be for New Year's. 

On another walk back from the bus, I encountered an entirely different species of bird. We've deduced it's maybe a chickadee or a finch, but they live in the dreary brown bush down the lane and they're tiny, bright yellow and flit about, and it's just the happiest contrast ever. Watching them will cheer you up for sure. 

To end this bird tale, this little house is nestled right up against a hill with trees on it so when you look out the back window, you're looking right at a hillside. We remarked that it feels so weird, like you're peeking into a diorama or something.  So we bought a bird to gaze upon on our "nature scene" and I think it does just fine there.  

Here it is with the fairy house in the back. Sean had plans to make some kind of hobbit hole but seemed satisfied with that when Julian and I presented it. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Holiday Lame

This morning I went to my favorite news website that has interesting and serious headlines of world events and read this one:

How to Burn Off 24 Favorite Holiday Foods.

I don't even know what to think here. I'm so confused.  I should be trying to burn calories but also find delicious recipes for the dishes from whence they came? Aaah, my brain. The headline comes with a picture of a woman snowshoeing but I feel like she should also be holding a lattice-crust pie.   
I feel like this crosses the line of Holiday Lame.  You know what i mean, like that one time when I got, amongst the fifty-thousand other shopping spam emails, one sad one from Williams-Sonoma.  It was getting pretty late as far as last-minute shopping went and the subject said something like... wait a second, let me see if I can find that one.

*time passes*

Ok, i found it. And I'm sorry but I make myself laugh, i just DO.  I'll just copy and paste what I said originally.

4 Hours Only: 25% Off Caramel Apples - In Time for Christmas!
 Wow, really W-S?  Caramel Apples? In a 4-hour time frame?  So pathetic.  *purchasing  caramel apples*

Ha ha! It makes me want to combine the two and make something completely festively nonsensical like, 

Hurry! This Pie Recipe Won't Last. Get it Now by Doing One of These Top 5 Christmas Ab Workouts!

Heh heh.  *punch self in arm*    Anyway, because i'm a facilitator of things including writing creatively, i challenge you to give me one of your own.  Or just send me some Holiday Lame you may come across. Where people's excuses to tie something to the holidays is just, you know, lame.

Monday, December 01, 2014

The Weird Things We Say

Sometimes I feel like I have a pretty easy time of letting go weird things people say because I have experienced so many awkward interactions Thwith them and I'm aware (but usually too late) of how something I said could easily have been misinterpreted. I guess I'm thinking in terms of potentially being offended.  Now, I am offended by some things, but when it comes to weird crap that's said by some, I'm usually just entertained, and try to give the benefit of my doubt. (I'm trying to change up that phrase but it's really sounding like nonsense to me. I'm trying to break it up to understand it but ???  Benefit..of the..doubt. Say wha?)

As for the experiences, a couple stand out in my mind. These are recent events and I really should do a better job of keeping an awkward interactions log because I really do delight in them, as I have come to love and revere the awkward hug.  (time to bring back that gem)

This first one took place soon after Julian and I arrived at my parents' house this summer. My mom had a spare razr scooter and determined to still get out and do stuff even though it appeared we'd entered a residential ghost town where the sidewalks are merely for show, we took it to a nearby park (parks--also for show).  After a few turns and a really decent knee scrape, we made our way home in the sweltering heat.

On the way we passed by a kid's birthday party wrapping up. The grandpa was working a snow cone machine and hollered to us, "Snow cones! Get your snow cones here!"  *SCREECH* went our brakes and we turned back.  His adult daughter was with him. Let's call her Jamie. We'll just call Grandpa "Grandpa." Here's how it went down:

JEN, attempting to be grateful and friendly: Thanks! This is so great!
JAMIE: Yeah, come on over and choose your flavor.  We have blue or gray..."
JEN laughing: Mmmm... gray..!  :D

While she prepped one, I chatted with Grandpa.  Then...

JAMIE: Ok, Julian. you can choose blue raspberry or grape.. or there's a red one here.."

JEN: Oh, grape! I thought you said 'gray..'  ha ha.

JAMIE:   silence. 

JEN (not ready to let go):  that's funny...

JAMIE: Oh, yeah that's funny (but mostly crickets chirping)
Then it was my turn to choose.
JEN: um... red? oh wait, was there red? (I couldn't see in the box very well)
JAMIE: Oh yeah, there's Tiger's Blood.
JEN, (enthusiastically): Tiger's Blood! Oh man! Is there any other flavor??
(meaning, it's the quintessential snow cone flavor, right? Right?? Classic! But...)

JAMIE and GRANDPA:  No, that's all we have.
UHHHHHH... yeah.  So i had to quickly explain, "No, no, i mean, it's the best flavor. Yes, that is great. Thank you. THANK YOU!"  once again so they didn't think I was an ungrateful jerk-stranger.

A snow cone snob. As if! -- "Uhh... do you have any other flavors? because i'm not eating that. I only eat organic snow cone."

Ha ha!  Ohhh man. So good. They didn't really respond to my efforts but oh well, I really tried my heart out.

Here's the second example:

At Kindergarten pick-up.  Standing outside his classroom waiting for the bell to ring. Weeks prior, it had been an early out day (EVERY Monday? For real??) and I had forgotten. I was in the middle of sweaty panic-shopping in the middle of a gargantuan suburban supermarket when I got the call from his school. AAGH, I felt terrible.  I had to have my sis pick him up and everything.

Well, turns out it's not all bad.

a) when i arrived home shrieking, "Julian, my BABY, I'm so sorry!" he simultaneously said, "Mom, I'm SO SORRY I forgot to remind you it was an early out day!"  like it was all his fault. *Jen sobs even harder*

and b) he told me he made a friend at the office, a little girl named, we'll call her Adele, whose mom had also forgotten.  And thus the tots bonded.

So whilst waiting at school pick-up another day, I met a woman who was, turns out, Adele's mother. When I heard this I exclaimed, "Oh, ADELE!" since it was a big deal that Julian had made a friend (dude takes his time) and explained how the two had met.  She held similar feelings of guilt over the whole "forgetting our kids" thing.  I was also laughing about it and shrugged and said, "well.. it'll probably happen again."  She replied, in a somewhat affronted tone, "I hope not!"  I thought it was a bit much and my mental reply was like, well, i might. so deal with it, lady.  It wasn't until much, much later that i realized she thought i was telling HER that she would probably forget her daughter again when really i was referring to myself. Ha ha! As if!  I loooove these moments of total misunderstanding because it paints me in such an absurd light. I love imagining me saying these things in that context.  

"you'll probably forget your kid again because i know everything about you in the 2 minutes we've talked and you are a bad mom." 

It could drive a person crazy, knowing that someone out there thinks something that's just totally false. But you know what, this has happened SO many times in my life, i have no choice but to let it go. For one thing, it amuses me just so much so there's definitely a trade-off.  And for another, it is a great lesson for me, to remember to give people the benefit of the doubt when they say weird crap, because of the past bucket-full of mine.

Anyone else have experiences like this? They're so good. Please share.