Monday, October 30, 2006

Challengee's Responses

I decided to post links to those that posted a response to the household pictorial challenge in a separate entry, so's they don't get lost in the chaos.

Playah #1
: Doh! Nancy beat me to this by a year.

Playah #2: Larry Jones was on the same wavelength as I was, this weekend.

Playah #3: Sveny has responded to my slap with a white glove. Stay tuned.

Numero Quatro: Barry's going to play, if Baghdad Internet and Blogger allow!

Cinco: Andy T's in Please hold.

Playah VI: Score! Finding Blanche has a few of her favorite things up here!

7. Kimber the wolfgrrl linked to these gorgeous dishes, just like her own.

Ocho: Ilaiy sent me this photo, taken from his cell phone. Mmmm, cardamom and ginger crushed together in this thing for delicious tea, as I remember.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Commentary & A Blogger Challenge

I had a lovely, late sleep this morning, shuffling into my living room at 9 in the a.m. This is what one corner of my living space looked like:

In addition, I have crystals that throw multi-color rainbows in various shapes and sizes throughout my home, when the sun is shining just so.

Thing is, I'm a working stiff (who isn't?), and am rarely in my own home to witness that which I've set up. I relish mornings in which I can lounge in PJs, sip coffee, and watch the natural light show that I've set up in my home.

Today, I was reminiscent of Morphological Confetti's last blog entry, "The D.C. I See." Stephen's blog moved me, as it always does, because what most people are racing by and missing, he is capturing in thoughts and photography. And I'm pretty sure he's racing to his own job, and taking care of his own family and his own daily responsibilities and obligations, as we are. But he tunes in.

I contemplated my home. I think that we also often miss things in our own homes. We are busy acquiring STUFF. Stuff that we MUST have, STUFF that gives us joy to bring home and unwrap, and set about our space. And STUFF that we often give little thought to, once we acquire it: There! Mine! Now what?

As coffee was brewing this morning, I got out my camera, and I looked around my house, and I took a few shots of a few things I like.

This spider plant, dumped into a bowl I got for $2 at a garage sale this summer. It sat outside on my porch until I brought it in for winter.

This guy. I've had him for years, and used him for both visual aid and decorative touch.

A small leather purse. You may think you've read about it before, but you haven't. It was begifted to me by a friend after I wrote about a different leather purse just like it, last Mother's Day. It sits now, in front of one of my favorite pictures of my son.

This photo hangs inside my front door. These are the shoes of the boys that crashed in my den during their teen years, playing PS2, IM'ing girls (sometimes even me, in the next room), and eating me out of house and home.


Would you all be willing to slow down for just one second, and find one or two material items in your house that bring you joy/memories/sentiment?

Will you photograph them and put them on your blog, or write about them, if you don't have a camera?

If you don't have a blog, send me a photo, and I'll post it, with your blessing.

Those that play, let me know, and I will link to you here.

It's not that I want to place excess value on material items. It's just nice to slow down and acknowledge those things that put a smile on our face. We need not to rush by them.

Spread the word: Game On.

Saturday afternoon in photos

"Severe wind advisory" was's report for today, but Severe Sun lured me to a'wandering about with the camera for the afternoon. I had no idea where I'd end up, but I managed to get there, in 4 hours time.

First stop was UI Athletic fields, filled with several frisbee football games. A tough sport on "severe wind" day. Those with the wind consistently overshot their boundaries, while those against battled wobbly, tipping tosses. It was the first time I've used the "sports" mode on the new camera, and I was pleased with the results.

This at the cemetary on St. Mary's Road:

I stopped into Jane Addams, a downtown used bookstore. Though I usually like this place, I found it chaotic and overwhelming today. Blindly browsing through a million billion books was not for me on this afternoon. Still, I like the look of the place, and would have taken more pictures if I'd felt I wasn't interfering with other, more serene, browsers.

Taken out of my car window, at Crystal Lake Park (because no single female in her right mind gets out of her car in that park):

And my favorite for the day, also taken out of my car window. This one in Urbana, in the neighborhood East of Lincoln Square. Apparently this gardener had had it up to here! These signs were posted on each corner of her lot, causing me to hit the brakes and back up for a quick snap. If you can't read it here, click to enlarge.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Chestnut Surprise

I was in the mood, Sunday, for some Udon noodle soup, so stopped into Am-Ko to pick up a few essentials. I rounded the corner to the produce to find the scene above: 6-8 women giggling and carrying on, and hovering over baskets of somethings.

What is it? That's where they usually set the live crabs. Remember years ago when my kid grabbed the tongs and pinched my leg, setting me flailing about that very aisle?

But it's not crab season, and I just couldn't help myself: I nudged right up between them, to get a peek. Just as I was determining that there was something in a hard shell, one of the women turned and smiled. "I'll bet you're wondering what we're doing, aren't you?"

Honestly, yes. I am.

"It's chestnuts" she told me. "We love them." And she proceeded to share with me 2 or 3 different techniques for cooking chestnuts, telling me to be sure to split them first, "or they'll blow up."

I didn't end up buying any chestnuts, but I did stand back and watch these women, scooping up enormous bags of them. It was nice, observing another "Girls' Night out" in a different setting. One that was a bit culturally different from my own, but still the same. Clearly strong friendships. Lots of laughing. A bit of shopping. Promises of cooking. Maybe a little gossiping. And saying "hey, hi" to a suddenly-shy girl watching from the sidelines.

It's nice to accidentally end up in a place in which you feel blessed to have been there for a particular moment.

I left smiling, and wishing that I'd had the nerve to go ahead and try to cook a chestnut. I don't get it: how do you split a chestnut? And I'm just not sure what to do with one, once I get it cooked up. How do you even know when it's done? It's in a shell!

But I'm not one to pass up an adventure, especially one handed to me on a silver platter. So, by God, I'll go back this weekend and pick out my own bag of chestnuts, if there are any left.

And, if I blow up my kitchen? Well. At least I tried.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sam's Cafe

Boy, did we ever get a good tip a few weeks ago: Sam's Cafe, in downtown Champaign, is now serving Lebanese food on Thursday and Friday nights from 4:30 to 10:30.

I repeat, this is downtown Champaign, on Walnut Street. It's right in the middle of the block that houses Cafe Kopi, Bacaro, and Radio Maria. Since the diner is usually only open for breakfast and lunch, there are an amazing number of Downtown Nightowls that aren't even aware the place exists.

Our party of 10 swooped in last Friday night around 7:00. The owners were friendly and encouraged us to move as many tables together as we needed. The food was phenomenal. And get this: dinners run $6.50 each.

You heard me right.

Here's a few of the plates we ordered Friday night. All were served with warm pitas on the side, and there are more on the menu that aren't pictured here.

Chicken, tabouleh, garlic sauce

Dolmas to share

Falafef, hummus, tabouleh

Ummm...sorry, I missed just what this is.
I'm not a real restaurant critic, I just play one on blogger.

Yeesh, I missed what this is too, but Atef seems to be enjoying it.

Salad! Yum!

Everything about this place is right up my alley. Give me a small, family-run diner with knock-your-socks-off food over a franchise any day. No contest. With places like this in our town, you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming into a Chili's or an Applebee's.

So, Eat at Sam's.

Oh, and the opinions expressed here are also endorsed by a few of my friends:

If we can't convince you to try this place out, no one can.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Autumn Days

I'm taking advantage of gorgeous fall days, hitting the road and playing with the camera. It even smells beautiful.

Back to it, will blog ya latah.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Quest-ee-yown

Do you back up your blogs?

How do you go about it?

I set each month up, do the old Ctrl+A (select all) Ctrl+C (copy) and then move to Microsoft Word, and then Ctrl+V (paste), and I save it as a MSWord document.

Tai recently had a hellacious week in which her blog completely disappeared. I can back her up on that, as I just happened to link to her blog this week (of which the disappearance had nothing to do with, I am sure). Two years of some damned good writing appeared to be down the drain, and I was nauseous for her.

But, voila! Her blog is back, thanks God. And what is the best measure for her, and us, to take, in case there is no miraculous recovery?

Input appreciated.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


It's that time of year: Ghosties and Ghoulies are on the forefront. Who among you have had what you perceive to be a REAL experience with a poltergeist or apparition?

When I was a kid, my mother told me that she'd seen her grandmother's ghost. It is my opinion that she could have perhaps saved that information until I was older than 7 years old, but that's just me.

Her grandfather had remarried after his first wife died, and my mother was staying at his house, with his new wife, Sally Bennett. While staying the night with them, my mother awoke to find her grandmother standing at the foot of her bed. She was transparent, and mom said she rubbed her eyes and sat up, to ensure she wasn't dreaming.

Mom recounted the story to Sally, who replied, "Yes. She's here all the time."

I can still feel the sensation of my hair standing on end, as I asked my mother, "weren't you scared?!!" Mom gave this matter-0f-fact answer: "well, no! She's my grandmother! I loved her."


I was very very close to my own Grandma Stewart. While most of my cousins were older, and off having god-knows-what-kind of fun in 1974-75, I was but 11/12, and happy to travel and hang out with my Grandma.

She died when I was 12 years old; I had spent the night with her, which I did often. My father just happened to be traveling that weekend, and my mother and sister, on a whim, decided to stay also. An odd turn of events, as we lived less than a mile from one another, and it had never occurred to my mother to sleep over before. But this particular night, while my Grandmother decided to sleep on the couch, my mother just took the spare bed in her room.

We could not wake her the next morning.

I really thought I might die from grief.

And, on the day we auctioned off her belongings, and my father had worked so hard to settle her estate while siblings fought tooth and nail over petty issues, he walked back into her house, one final time.

As he walked into the house, a small card, as from a floral bouquet, fluttered down from above, landing at his feet.

"Thank you" the card read.

Had it been on a doorsill?

Holy crap! I was 12 years old, my mother had claimed to talk to ghosts, and now eerie messages were falling out of the sky to my father. I was NOT interested in having any part of this, and that very day, I made one big, big change in my life:

My prayers, which used to start, in my mind, as "Dear God" or "Dear Jesus"... morphed into a whole new format. They went something like this:

"Hey God, how's it going. Can you put Grandma on the line? Thanks.

Grandma. Look, I have to be straight with you. I love you and miss you like crazy, all, but I'd really appreciate it if you could just refrain from any extraterrestrial visits; I'm just not sure I could take it. I'm not as strong as Mom is. I mean it, Grandma, you will scare the CRAP out of me if you show yourself.

And tell jesus forgive me for my sins, and I'm sorry I made Teri eat dirt, and all that jazz.


So far so good.

Have you any supernatural tales to share?

Monday, October 16, 2006

News You Can Use

Or not.

For the most boring blog entry ever, I present to you:

New dental floss infused with toothpaste. I love this stuff, it's all soft and yarn-y. They stopped making yarn-y dental floss a couple of years ago, and I was all sad. I had to go back to using the waxed stuff, which they claim "glides" but it really "slices." "Slice" is a sucky name for dental floss, though.


My friend Diane and I are in different magazines this month. That's right: We're famous.

Diane was interviewed by my anOTHER friend, Jennie, who then wrote about her in an article for Ancestry magazine. They are both quite prestigious now.

I am merely in a write-in blurb in Cookie Magazine; they asked "how do you get your child to talk more?" And I wrote "WHEN my child was x-age," we did THIS...only they edited to read "my son rides his bike along next to me when we walk..." Boy, anyone that reads that and knows us is going to think he is one Mama's Boy Soldier.

I will neither confirm or deny that.


I got an e-mail on my personal account today, from my boss. It read "hot tea is ready."

Catch-22! Do I pretend I didn't get his e-mail because I'm working so hard? Or do I go get a cup of that kick-ass tea he makes with his home-grown mint?

Eh, he obviously knows I'm online. That tea is some good stuff. Puts me right to sleep.


At Tai's recommendation, I picked up Lemony Snicket's Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning. I'm not thrilled to love it, as there are 12 more in the series, and this is going to cost me, big time.

I'm also reading Kane and Abel, by Jeffery Archer, and mucking through The Portable Dorothy Parker, which I love, but like to read in bits.


At my mother's requests, I am going to try to sell my father's archery equipment. I've brought home both hunting bows and competition bows. I know nothing about either, and guess I'll get about researching the issue. If any of you have any advice, feel free to e-mail me.


This is some old news, but while I was in LA, I succumbed to an eyebrow waxing. If I do say so myself, I'm blessed with good eyebrows. I never touch them; I don't pluck, wax, or string.

Still, the little pedicure girl that made my big toe bleed kept telling me that I needed some tidying up, indicating that I had a looming uni-brow. I figured it would only cost $10 to find out what LA eyebrows look like, and hell, they'll grow back if I hate it.

They make you lie down for this procedure; had you any idea? I came running out of the surgery room, raising my eyebrows at Lori for her inspection, and she responded "they look exactly the same."

Yeah, except since that very day, I've had a purple blemish tucked right into the arch of my right eyebrow—dont look at it! I'm just saying: I think I came home with heinous LA scar tissue. For only $10.

Thank God I passed on the Brazilian, eh?


Though I've been spotted making horrendous faces over the taste of a martini, those crazy Maryland girls introduced me to my new favorite drink: a Dirty Martini. It is a martini with a shot of olive juice in it. Dirty Martini, where have you been all my life?

Just what I needed at 43.75 years of age: hard liquor and more salt.

Still. It's fun to order a drink with the word "dirty" in it. "Naughty" would be a good runner-up.


Dirty martini is what I'll order at Boltini's on Saturday night, around 7:30, at The C-U Blogger's Meet-Up.

I've been asked to stop telling God and the whole world about myself, but there I go, posting dates, times, and places, where I'll be, on Saturday night. All you stalkers beware: At least 20 bloggers got my back Saturday night.





Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rewind Part II: Girl's Night in Columbus, OH

A few months ago, Maryland bloggers Wendy and Kristin contacted me with a hare-brained idea: Let's meet somewhere around the half-way point for a Girl's Night Out.

We didn't think it was hare-brained, but there were those in Wendy's circle that did; they insisted that we were axe murderers, and that she was crazy. Likewise, someone in Momo's office summed Wendy and Kristin up in the same manner. Simply put, "They're murderers."

We doubted it.

Last Saturday, we met them in Columbus, OH, in an eclectic, artsy neighborhood called Short North.

We were so excited when we got there! I threw the car in park and we frantically walked in their direction. You should have seen the waving and carrying on, when we spotted them across the street!! Hooting and hugging ensued, and we were off from there.

My head is still spinning about just how lovely the day was. I knew we would have a good time, but I was also aware that putting any 4 women together for 12 hours can be cause for potential friction. Hell, I don't dare put some of my own friends in the same room, for one petty reason or another.

Hey Mikey! We played very well together! Some of my favorite parts of the day were those in which we grabbed a booth in an empty pizza place, and gabbed away over diet cokes. And again, crashing in a cozy coffee shop, eating granola bars and talking more. Our lives, families, jobs. Hurdles and highlights. We covered a lot of territory, some serious and some pure fluff. For an R-rated example of just what all we managed to cover in our conversation, click here.

We ended up at Haiku for dinner. By the time we were seated, we were on our 2nd drink, and were having so much fun that we couldn't have cared less what we ate. Kristin's brother Dan showed up with a friend, Jen, and we were 6, screaming and laughing for hours. Some of the pictures are in 4 separate entries of Just One.

We moved on from the restaurant, to a divey little bar. For a drink. A good idea, as we clearly didn't have enough to drink at the restaurant:

I think those were just MY glasses.

This is a photo of the path to the ladies room, in our divey little bar. Now you know why women go to the restroom in pairs.

We met Sarah in the restroom, and escorted her out and back to civilization. There was no way we were leaving her down there alone! We women gotta stick together.

We photographed OTHER Girls having Girl's Night Out. These high school girls at the next table joined Marcy in a chorus of some rap song that I don't know because I'm way too old. And for the record, I never looked like that in any dress. Ever.

Who are these people? I have no idea. I came home with lots of photos of lots of people I didn't know.

We got free hugs. Free! Heck, I might have even coughed up a dollar to hug this cutie.

And, at midnight, we all agreed to get tattoos, and walked 9 blocks in heels to the tattoo parlor to do just that.

There are reason tattoo parlors close before midnight, and a Gaggle of Martini-Filled Girls is just one of them. Thank god they were closed, god knows what I'd otherwise have written across my ass right now.

After not getting tattoos, we hopped in a cab and mucked back to the hotel, saying our goodbyes around 2 in the a.m.

Crazy, those naysayers told us we were, for driving 6 hours to meet one another.

Crazy not to, I say.

We left with new, I am sure, lifelong friends.

As Wendy told me before she left, "my world expanded today."

Yeah. Mine too.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Rewind, Part I

I'm suddenly on Fast-Forward, and panicking about what I might not blog if I don't blog it now.

For weeks now, Momo and I have been in cahoots to meet Wendy and Kristin, The Two-Most Dynamic East Coast Bloggers from Maryland. I was looking forward to it last week when Brian's father called me on Wednesday, and offhandedly mentioned Brian's trip into town. This weekend.

WHAT?!! My son, whom I have not seen in 3 months, is coming to town this weekend? THIS weekend? I need to plan! Or Re-plan. Or something!

And why didn't he tell me? Wahhhh. I pouted. How come his Dad knew he was coming into town and I didn't? Sniff. Maybe I should call him more. Maybe I should call him less. Do I drive him crazy? I am, after all, driving myself crazy just thinking like this!

But Momo gave me a good verbal slap upside my head: "He was going to surprise you!"

Thank God for girlfriends that can set us straight, before we get about making a scene!

When I called Brian and let him know that his Dad had let the cat out of the bag, his first words were "I was going to surprise you." Of course you were, sweety. I knew it all along.

Short story long, he told me not to cancel my plans for Saturday—he wouldn't be home anyway.

I saw him, and the 2 guys he brought home with him, on Friday night. I hung out with them Sunday afternoon, and took them out for dinner on Sunday night. And I spent 11 hours with them on Monday, escorting them back to their base in GA.

I'll write about the Girls Trip next. In the meantime, here's what 6 months in the Army will do to your kid:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Meep Meep!

I'm home. 733 miles each way. I have a quick observation, before I Zzzzzzzzzz, sink into bed:

Truckers are MUCH friendlier when you aren't lugging three 20-year-0ld men around with you. Yesterday, not even one trucker honked his horn at us.

Today, it was 11 hours of foghorns, and my honking and waving back. "Hi! Hi, truckdriver! Sayonara now, I'm driving 80 mph today, but thanks for the nod!"

Thanks go to Pobble, for encouraging me to flirt with them.

It was so much more fun than counting dead deer.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Room 211

It is...either Monday or Tuesday; I'm unclear on the date or the time zone, at this point. I've locked myself into a hotel room somewhere in Columbus, GA. I've promised a concerned friend that I'll stop revealing "too" much about myself on my blog, so I'll say only that I'm in Room 211.

I had a hell of a day, taking 11 hours to drive a trip that GoogleMaps said would take me 14 hours and 51 minutes. Apparently that GoogleMaps guy doesn't have a lead foot and a son that wants to get home and get some laundry going.

It was an amazing trip, with me, my son, and his buddies Standish and Lathrop. We jammed and sang along with Bob Marley on the iPod, and bonded with serious, loving conversation. We honked at truckers and passed licorice out the window to other fun-loving travelers.

Yeah. And then she woke up.

Fine. I embellished. There WAS singing to Bob Marley. It was mine. There was licorice, and an iPod...but the rest of the day went as such:

Brian warned me he'd probably sleep until we hit Southern IL.

Mmhmmm. Try Nashville, TN. It's ok, there were 2 others in the car to keep me company:

Yah. Click to enlarge.

Luckily, though,

1) They were amazingly gas-free, even in their sleep; and

2) I love driving.

3) I'm pretty good at keeping myself occupied, and am never short of a headgame. I tried to keep a running tally of dead deer along the roadside, but lost count somewhere around 9,765.

4) I kept a point-n-shoot camera at the ready. With the blog in mind, it was a mere 12-hour hunt for blog-worthy photos. To boot, I almost never ran off the road.

Yeah. I remember being here, but it was the first bridge of the day, and they're all a blur now.

Followed these guys for a while, that was kind of fun.

What a freakin' catch-22! How many damned quarters do they get from THIS ladies' room scale? I weighed my purse and ran off with my numbers.

I've so much more to write about the last 4 days.

I'll tell you later. In the meantime, Room 211 needs a 6 a.m. phone call.

Is there such as a thing as a "snooze" on a wake-up call?

Friday, October 06, 2006

He's home.

Aaaaaaand, she's off!

This is me, most of this week:

Waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

But, it's almost here. And this will be me at the end of Friday's workday:

In the next 4 days, I will travel over 2,500 miles. I will tag up to Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia. I will meet people. I will see friends.

I will spend an entire day, and then some, with my son.


He's here! He is, at this moment, in this town, having traveled all night and gotten in during the wee hours. He is sleeping at his Dad's house, which is about 1/2 mile from where I sit right now. It's taking all I have not to just march down there, bang down the door, and hug the stuffing out of him. Wake up! Wake up! Wake up and hug your mother!

So, a lot going on this weekend, he'll be busy tomorrow, and I am going on a fun little road trip, that you will, in all likelihood, read about next week. I'll be home Sunday, to share a shindig with Brian, his friends, and more family. Monday and Tuesday will be another trip, to deliver him and his buddy back to their base in Georgia, and then a nice long, 14-hour drive home, on Tuesday.

Don't worry: I will drive nice and safe, and I promise not to flirt with truckers. If I find time, I'll drop a few pix here, but otherwise...see you Wednesday, kiddies!

Oh, before I forget, here's my Saturday traveling companion, singing a very long song that she wrote for just such occasions: