Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sayonara, 2009

I have never in my life looked back at any year, on New Year's Eve, and thought "this year sucked!"

Until now. As many nice things that happened this year—and I do acknowledge and appreciate them—man, 2009 sucked swamp water.

My resolution of the year: Lots of fresh, clean water.

Oh, and I'm giving up my "How is That Woman Still Standing?" Title. I'm tired of being the poster-child for that award, y'hear, 2010? In fact, I'm burning the honor altogether, because I don't want to pass it on. After the bonfire, I'm heading to St. Louis, and I'm going to have dinner at Schlafly's, and raw oysters at the Oyster Bar for dessert, and then I'm going ring in the new year with friends and family (and Clint, he's both) and then I'm going to take 2010 by storm.

That is all.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Unveiling: Lovin' La Mama Loca

I'm only two posts in, so far, folks, but I finally did it: I started a blog about my mother's Alzheimer's, and all of the "fun" that comes with caring for her. Point your blog readers to

Lovin La Mama Loca ( and join me for the ensuing heartbreak and hilarity.

This is going to be good for me, I think.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Memories: IV

Brandi reminded me of a Christmas Memory Must; a time-honored dreaded Christmas Day event in our family: A Barry Manilow Medley-Duet, sung by me and Tim. The kids, especially in their teen years loved hated it. When Dad was alive, he looked forward to it so much that he'd go out into the garage until it was over.

Cue the lights, it's time for Mandy, folks. We'll go Up, Down trying to get that feeling again, because We Can't Smile Without You. My name is Lo(r)La, I am a Show Girl; We Write the Songs.

Our big finish is always Dr. Pepper....So Misunderstoooo-ooodddd, and for an encore, we're willing to be stuck on Band-Aids.

Sadly, we have no photographic or video evidence of our legendary song stylings.

I'll see what we can do to rectify that situation...but I'll have to trick Tim into it. It's easy; all I have to do is promise him that I won't blog it. Then he'll say "that's what you said last time," then I'll say, "I promise-promise-promise I won't blog you in this [compromising photo]."

Man, he falls for it every time.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Memories III: In the Works

As I think about Christmases past to write about, I am, these days, pulling up to The Country Casa with glee, our small tree glowing out the South window, and the porch lit up with Red, Green, and Blue lights that Clint surprised me with.

We still continue to put time and work into the house, and as we finally enjoy celebrating the holidays with our families here, we remember—fondly—also the time and work we put into bringing it together, dreaming about hosting, as Clint puts it, "gatherings" in the place.

Here's the front porch in September:

And last night:

You can't tell it from this dark photo, but the house is finished all the way to the tippy top now.

Building is fun, but accenting and adding our personal touches, and transforming the house into our dream is downright wonderful.

Our first Christmas here: A memory for the future.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Memory II

I declared that I would write 5 whole Christmas memories, and of course, I suddenly can't remember details of any Christmas in my entire life. I think I've been hypnotized.

Well, I'll stew on it for awhile, and in the interim, put these photos up, again. I think I've posted them every year...because it's funny every time. And there might be one new reader out there that didn't ever see this, and I wouldn't want him or her to miss out on this funny memory.

Here's my Christmas tree, c. 2005

And here it is after I left the house and Brian & Co. played a practical joke on me:

The entire story is here, if you haven't read it, or would like to read about it again.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Memories, I

I just started my Christmas shopping today, people. What is today, anyway? The 20th? The 21st? I don't know. I've been on autopilot, finishing out late soldier boxes. I am anxiously becoming aware that I have 3 days to finish shopping, plan a menu, and get into the holiday groove.

This is my first Christmas without my sister. Ever. Her lack of presence is a punch in the stomach to this family, at the same time we are determined to persevere.

Mom and I "lunched" with Tim yesterday. Yes, we lunched with him, a fancy-ass way of saying we got off work at noon and met at the same Mexican place we always meet at for lunch for the past 10 years.

While we were lunching, we reminisced about Christmas-es past:
When the kids were small, Teri & Tim had a Christmas eve tradition of visiting Candlestick Lane, our local "festival of lights."

Tim regaled us with stories of backing out of the driveway each Christmas eve, and Teri, taking one for the team, exclaiming, "Oh no! I forgot my _________"!! Tim would declare, "Dang it, Teri!!" and stop the car and let her race back in.

The kids, excited to see the lights, would join in on the eye-rolling at her forgetfulness, while she raced around placing Santa's gifts in approximately the same amount of time it would take her to find whatever it was she claimed to have forgotten.

She'd return to the car, and they'd be off to dim their lights on Candlestick Lane. Each year, when they returned, there would be a major discussion about getting right to bed—right now, right away!—before Santa arrived, followed by the inevitable, "Oh My God, we missed him! I can't believe he came while we were gone!!!"
Lunching we were, and laughing and laughing, while Tim told me about the kids whining about their forgetful Mom, and his thinking "she's putting out your gifts, you little brats!"

We fell apart in laughter, and then stopped for a second.

He picked up his napkin, still laughing, and said "I just made myself sad." He covered his face with his napkin, and we sat, for a second, silently laughing, silenty crying, and silently regaining our composure.

It was a moment. I'm sure she'd told me about their Christmases, while I was busy recording, mentally, my own memories of Brian, dancing around the house in the hat that Santa lost on OUR porch, continuing on, of course, hatless, to all of the other children's houses.

At any rate, I'd forgotten theirs, and I loved hearing about it.

I'm going to try to place up 5 more Christmas memories in the next 5 days. Get ready for Christmas syrup, I'm going to pour it on, and I invite you to join me.

Put your Christmas memories in the comments, or blog them and I'll link to yours.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

25 MORE things I haven't had time to blog about

This will be my 3rd "25 Things" list. It's actually stuff I haven't had time to blog about, and stuff I wouldn't blog about if I had the time, but I had to fill out the list.

1. Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful. We didn't celebrate until Saturday, which gave me 2 days (3, if you count Saturday itself) to cook, lounge, bake, knit, rest, and prepare the feast at a leisurely pace.

2. Tim, Brandi, Dane, and I went to see "It's a Wonderful Life" at the Virginia Theater. Our favorite movie on a big screen in a grand old theater. Sweet. I even ordered popcorn.

3. I bought the warmest gloves in the entire world at Farm & Fleet. They're lined with fleece right down to the fingertips. However, all of the fingers on the gloves are the same length, making me look like I have Mickey Mouse hands. I don't care. They're warm.

4. I'm getting better at knitting. I've finished two ok-ish scarves, and am readying to tackle a lacy shawl.

5. My phone rings Ray Charles' "Ain't That Love" when Clint calls me.

6. I put fresh spinach in any dish I can get away with: scrambled eggs, soups, sauces, stir frys, pastas, salads.

7. Today was Clint's last day of harvesting, working for a local farmer on his off days. Bringing in corn in mid-December is rare; it's often done by late October but autumn rains have made everyone run late.

8. I have started another blog about dealing with Mom's Alzheimer's, but I haven't had time to work on it very much. Hopefully, January.

9. I'm resolving to cut back, if not give up my worst dietary downfall: Salt. I bought my first shaker of "No-Salt." I suppose my arteries will thank me.

10. Low-sodium V8 tastes terrible. It needs more salt.

11. Brian ordered a banjo; he figures he might as well learn something while he's in Iraq. It came to my house, and I have to send it to him. I'll look around for a "how to play the banjo" book to enclose in the banjo box.

12. The Grandparents of a local soldier recently killed in Afghanistan attended the Toys for Troops Christmas Gifts to Soldiers event. Their presence touched and humbled me (and you know I gave them big hugs before they left.)

13. That's a tough one to follow.

14. I've been fighting a cold since Thanksgiving. I'm beginning to find it tedious, and I shall be done with it now.

15. Knitting is meditative for me; I can't wait to get to a point in the day where I can sit down and get in a zone, focusing on the rhythm of the stitches and forgetting about the days' troubles for an hour or so.

16. I've become a Facebook addict. One of the best things about it has been reconnecting with "long-lost" family. Messages from cousins kept me afloat this summer. When family members are slipping away from you, it's nice to have more step in and remind you that they're there.

17. I already told those Facebook people, so I might as well tell you, that last week when I was preparing my coffee in the morning, I was interrupted by 4 deer in the back yard. I was so mesmerized with them that I ended up running late, and throwing my carafe of coffee into my tote bag...without ever putting the lid on the thing. A tote bag is not a good vessel for transporting a pot of coffee.

18. Not to be overlooked, I've loved reconnecting with long-lost friends on Facebook, and making new ones. Did I mention I'm addicted to Facebook?

19. Who out there really has a snuggie? Is it really the greatest thing since sliced bread?

20. Twenty! There! My 20 More things list is done, and I'm going to bed.







Monday, December 14, 2009

Kick A** Red Beans 'n Rice

I recently had a hankerin' for some down-home, to-die-for, simmer-all-day-long, kick-yer-butt beans and rice. I perused cookbooks and settled on a recipe: Salt pork, tomato sauce, crockpot.

Blyech! I ended up with a giant pot of bland beans to serve over over bland rice.

I grumbled about it on Facebook, and it paid off BIG time. My friend Carla is thankfully on good terms with her ex (my friend also), Bruce. Cajun Bruce! Louosiana Bruce! Misplaced-in-the-Midwest Bruce. Makes the best Bloody Mary in the entire-world, and makes his son call you "Mz. [Lori] Bruce.

We really just call him Bruce. Bruce kindly responded:

"If you use the crock pot, soak the beans overnight and next morning put in onion, celery, green pepper, and at least 2 bay leaves (secret ingredient) plus pressed garlic and salt. Let cook all day with plenty of liquid. What you want is everything to break up so that its just a sludge of unidentifiable ingredients. ...add smoked sausage (which adds the taste no matter what kind of sausage you use)

Serve over rice, with cut up shallots/green onions and Louisiana red spicy hot sauce and/or Tony Chachere's cajun seasoning.

I'm not an overly religious person, but this Beans 'n Rice would bring me to the pulpit.
Aw, lawd, this was just what I was after! Hallelujah!!!

I'm not one to give advice, but I were, I'd advise you either to make a big pot of this stuff, or to come over the next time I make it.

C'mon over for beans 'n rice, you.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Santa Rampage Wrap-Up: 2009

The Third Annual Santa Rampage was, of course, a blast. There were 8 of us from "our house," and our mini party started out with appetizers at Billy Barooz before heading to the official Rampage. It was there that we started a new tradition: gather at the door of each establishment on our way out, and on the count of 3, let out a roaring "Merry Christmas!" It was such a hit that we twisted the arms of the 50 or so more that we joined, and incorporated it into our Santy Repertoires.

From Billy Barooz, we piled into a big honkin cab, and went to the first stop, The Tumble Inn. From there we went to The Brass Rail, The Esquire, Memphis on Main, Mike 'n Molly's, and Guido's. Am I forgetting anyone?

Part of the fun lies in folks creativity and imagination. There was a human snow globe in attendance this year, along with a Cowboy Santa, Pimp Santa, Monopoly Banker Santa, Hugh Hefner Santa, and a number of elves, reindeer, and snowmen. We got caught in heavy rain by the middle of the night, and we were all then Soaked Santa, but it didn't slow us down a bit.

I narrowed down my hundreds of photos to a select few to represent the evening, in this slide show.

You all just HAVE to come next year, it's on Saturday December 11, 2010. And, speaking from experience, go ahead and cancel all of your plans on Sunday, December 12. You're likely going to need the day to recover.

I'll fix up the rest of my photos and put them on my SmugMug gallery. If anyone that has any photos they'd to share, I'll add them to the gallery if you e-mail them to me. Show me what you got!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Santa Rampage: Saturday Night (Dec. 12)

Downtown Champaign
Saturday December 12, 2009
Starts: Tumble Inn, 7:30 p.m.

I'm late in reminding you this year, but there's still time for you to get a costume of sorts ready! Clint and I have proudly attended every single Champaign Santa Rampage.

There have been 2, and the second was better than the first, so it stands to reason that The Third Annual will be a great night.

Here's what you do:

1. Put on something Santa-y.

If you don't have your own Santa suit (who doesn't?) follow this guy's lead and borrow a sweater from your mother:

Meet us at The Tumble Inn at 7:30 Saturday night.

3. Enjoy a beverage.

4. Follow us.

Or, from the Santa Rampage group on Facebook:

Santa Rampage is a pub crawl that takes place in major cities all over the world involving tens of thousands of Santa's. It is a non-profit, non-political, non-religious & non-sensical celebration of holiday cheer, goodwill, and fun.

There is no good reason to dress up in cheap Santa suits, run around town, sing songs, have strangers sit on our laps, and decide who is naughty or nice—but it's a lot of fun—so Santa does it anyway. Our goal for ’09 is to triple the Santa’s from last year, so we’re shooting for 90+ Santa’s on this pub crawl!

There's an article in the E3 of Thursday's News Gazette about this event. I'll link to it when it's online

See you Saturday. I'll be the one dressed as Santa.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Christmas Event: SUCCESS!!

Our Toys for Troops Christmas event was a huge success, once again. I don't have a lot of time to tell every story, but I'll try to whip out some highlights.

Here's a report on one of the local news channels if you want more.

Our mailing list was larger than ever, as we received 60 new names & addresses the day before the event. We aimed high, and were short 16 boxes.

I found homes for all of those boxes in 24 hours. Everyone gets a box.

As always, someone stepped up at the post office, and pressed $50 in my hand. I imagine someone getting up, trodding off for some stamps, and handing $50 to a stranger with a bunch of Military Flat-Rate boxes, with no questions asked. I shake my head. It has happened every time I've taken these boxes to the post office.

I am always amazed at the number of donations we get in, with so little work from my end. I make no phone calls, knock on no doors. I write up an e-newsletter, and send flyers to about 100 local businesses, asking them merely to tape the flyer to their countertops. I depend on volunteers to help spread the word, print my flyer, and post it in their own offices, churches, and schools.

Spread it they did. We had tons of gift donations, over 60 volunteers at the event itself, and we received almost $2000 in cash donations. $1100 was presented to us by the Urbana VFW. Our shipping costs were covered, and we had enough left over to do a rush shopping jobs to help fill out 20 more boxes after the event.

How many times can I say: I can not thank you enough.

Here's a gallery of some photos from the day.