Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Functional Jewelry

"Diamonds or Pearls?" a recent Getting-to-Know-You survey asked. I answered garnets, but my honest alternative would have been: Skip the jewels and give me a beautiful fountain pen any day of the week.

I have, my entire life, had heart palpitations over a good pen with good ink in it. While you're at the jewelers, I will be browsing at Crane Paper, or Staples. Heck, I can't even walk by the school supplies in Target without detouring down the office supplies aisle.

My love of pens runs deep. My Grandfather collected pens. He wove elastic thread through pegboard and covered his garage with pens. One wall of his office area was also adorned with pens, shelves, erasers; I can remember running my fingers across them, pulling them out, returning them, playing at his desk for hours on end.

A few years ago, the cousin that ended up with all of those pens, upon hearing of my love for them, gifted me one of the 8-foot pieces of pegboard. One board containing 600 pens.

I removed them from the board, separated those valuable or restorable from those novel. Some are displayed in my curio cabinets. The rest, pictured above, are put away, I'm not sure what will come of them. There's a warehouse somewhere with thousands more.

So, through my Grandfather's influence, I came to love writing. Drawing. Pens. Ink. I love filling my own pens with any serious or whimsical color of ink I choose. Private Reserve's Hot Bubble Gum Pink, and Aquamarine are my favorites.

A good pen doesn't necessarily equate to an expensive pen. I have a few costly pens that write very well: A Mont Blanc, a Pelikan, and the pen pictured above, a Platinum pen colored as a koi fish, are some of my favorites.

However, my all-time dependable, never-dries-out, never-leaks, old faithful, is a $27 Waterman (found in any Office Depot or Staples). It's a real workhorse of a pen, I actually have several, and have given several away as starter pens.

I've picked up a few over the years that have history, and though I don't use them, I love them also. Some have been gifts, one called a Packard, given to me by a friend and auto collector. Another was recently found about 2 years ago, along with about 2000 others, in a wall in Germany, believed to have been hidden from the SS during The Holocaust.

One more was among my Grandfather's, I sent it to Vintage Pens & Sales in Columbus, Ohio, to have it restored. Filling it involves blowing a few puffs of air into one end, while the tip sits in the bottle. I tried it with trepidation and didn't do a great job of filling it....so it sits in in a pretty little velvet case.

My pens adorn my hand, and beautify my handwriting. I get more compliments on my pens, in a public venue, than ever I did any ring around my finger or bracelet 'round wrist.

I really do consider them "Functional Jewelry."

Friday, February 24, 2006

Lessons learned the hard way

I raised the garage door after work on Wednesday to find my kitchen rug suspended over lawn chairs, soaking wet, with drip pans under the corners.

A mystery! Did my kid actually shampoo rugs today? Highly unlikely, but a mom can still dream.

I opened the door into the house to find Brian and his friend in the kitchen with every old towel in the house, just finishing up wiping down the floors, laughing a little, and trying to look innocent. Brian spoke first "sorry, Mom, I'm sorry Mom."

Brian has learned the hard way: Do NOT use dish soap in a dishwasher! Apparently I missed all the fun, the water, the flooding, the 2-foot-deep bubble bath my kitchen got. In fact, it is Friday now, and my dishwasher is STILL full of suds. They simply will not go away, no matter how much scooping, vinegar rinsing, cancel/draining I do. I'm considering buying that anti-foam stuff they put in steam carpet cleaners next.

And I scolded my kid: "I hope you've learned your lesson! NEXT time there's a disaster in the house...

...will you at least take a picture of it so I can put it on my blog?"

[He offered to re-enact the scene, but I passed.]

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Art Night

Art Night tonight. Two were down and out with strep throat (awww) so we only had 4 in attendance, including me.

I had to wrack my brain and read up to find a new project, so tonight we tried oil pastels and turpentine. Actually I found an odorless turpentine substitute called turpinoid, that seemed a little less toxic, and at least wouldn't smell up the house.

I love the results, and the kids were just as thrilled with their work too. We were an excited lot at the end of our hour.

I'm not putting their real names in the net, so I've let them choose their own blog ID's. C-Dog and MadGirl have already (supervised-ly) posted on other entries they were highlighted in. The remaining 3 picked their names tonight.

So, Rolecall =

C-Dog (who is 10 almost 11, not 9)

Names subject to change anytime they wish.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Road Trip!

Photo reprinted with permission from Luke Allen, at lukeallen.blogspot.com

Friday Night: 10 degrees outside, I was home by 5, in sweats, and spent most of the next 7 hours rotating between a good book, the laptop, stand-up comedy on TV...anything I could do that involved cuddling up under 2 blankets to keep warm. Sheer lounging.

Saturday: Housecleaning, a baby shower, drinks and appetizers with friends, with plans to duck out early and pick up another friend, Ilaiy, from the Champaign airport. A bit of a glitch in the plans, at 8:15 I got the word: flights from Chicago canceled due to cold weather; he's stranded for the night in O'Hare Airport.

Facing another evening staring at the boobtube is more than I can handle: ROAD TRIP!!!

I left my friends to their dinner (as originally planned) went to grab a cup of coffee before hitting the road, and ran into Atef, grabbing a smoke outside of Cafe Kopi.

"Hey, Lori, how are you?"

"Fine; you want to ride to Chicago with me right now?"


A tankful of gas, and we were on our way to Chi-town. We picked up a shivering Ilaiy (2 degrees there, his winter coat in my car) a little after 11, then headed downtown for dinner. Chinatown, we decided.

Photo from leehiphopshow.ipbhost.com

We sat at a great little place called Shui-Wah until 2 in the a.m. We passed up the fried pig intestines, went instead for hot 'n sour soup, seafood fried noodles, spicy beef, some odd oyster dish, and spicy egg tofu. Mountains of food and never-ending hot tea came to a grand total of $45. On top of that the waiters and host were very friendly and we chatted at length with them about their families; our waiter has a cousin that attends the Univ. of IL, and his son, age 12, hopes to come here too, in 5 or 6 years.

A diet-coke to go, and we headed back home; my head hit my pillow at 5:30 in the a.m.

When's the last time I pulled a stunt like this, I do-not-know!

It sure blew the cobwebs out of my head though! Winter doldrums disappeared, spring is around the corner, and I can stay up all night if I want to, yayyyyyy!!!

I need a nap.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Studio Tour Saturday

One of my art friends, "M" turned 12 last weekend. As part of her birthday suprise, her mother and I arranged a Saturday afternoon "Studio Tour Field Trip."

Our first stop was the studio at my workplace [pictured on an earlier post], with a tour of the artwork we've produced over the last few years.

Next: The Boneyard Pottery Studio. The owner, Michael Schwegman, was very warm and hospitable. He invited us to look around, and then sat at the potter's wheel and threw a pot and a bowl for M, explaining what he was doing, and teaching us about the molecular structure of clay, along with other scientific tidbits: Clay will constipate you, and is one of the ingredients in Kaopectate.*

He showed us the kilns, and told us about the different glazes and chemicals he uses. There was another lady there, I didn't get her name, but she was equally nice, giving M a hunk of clay to toy with, to understand the consistency of the starting material. There were some friendly cats standing buy to entertain us also. Everyone wished M a Happy Birthday and thanked us for coming.

They treated us like 3 visiting princesses. We bought nothing on this trip, but rest assured that The Boneyard Pottery will be one of my first stops when gift shopping from now on.

Our last stop was at a painter's home in Savoy, Illinois: Barbara McDonnell. Her artwork was hung in every room of the house, so we got a grand tour thru every room.

Her work was lovely, consisting of pieces in several different media: chalk pastels, pencil, and oil pastels. The subjects varied greatly. Her husband is a football coach in town, and so there were 2 large sports pieces in their living room. There were several landscapes, and a few portraits of her friends.

She showed us her studio, explained the media she's currently working with, and told us some about her artistic career. She was a very calm, serene lady, and I was most struck at what little fanfare she made about her art.

One thing I loved that she shared with us was this small workspace, that she prefers to her studio. She works here when she cannot sleep, she says, and she prefers the light in this room.

If she ever had any, Ms. McDonnell seemed to have cleared any and every mental hurdle that artists set in front of them; she is unconcerned about time or space or money or shows, though she has had her own shows and sold her art, and will continue to. She just Makes Art; it's as much what she is as who she is. I loved that.

A nice combination, her husband does woodworking and builds all of her frames for her; we also got a tour of his studio.

It was very fun and enlightening day with some very nice, and very accommodating people. I want to do MORE studio touring!

*Legal Disclaimer: Do not eat clay! Stick with the Kaopectate, if you must have it.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Girlz Night & The Troll Hole

Last Friday night was GirlzNight Out. Melissa and Marcy-Momo and I did a few warm-up beverages at The Blind Pig, then moved to The Esquire for more warm-up drinks and Bleu Pear pizzas.

We happened to secure a table underneath 2 televisions, in which Olympics extravaganza was blaring. You know what it's like to sit under a television in a bar; every time you glance around, all eyes SEEM to be on you, but they aren't, really.

So, after some time, Mel, sitting on one side of the table alone, confides in us: "I feel like this chick behind me is staring a hole through my head, every time I glance around the bar, everyone at the table behind is turned around looking this way." She knew, of course, the TV situation. We are not a catty lot. As I was laughing and assuring her, "they're watching the Olympics..." the woman behind her got up and stormed our table:

"Rest assured, that even though you three are SO LOVELY that I might WANT to watch you all night, I was just looking for a friend who was to appear on TV tonight!!"

!!! Did I say "!!!"

Mel tried to explain what we'd said, but the other woman said, "I've clearly offended you!!" and she put her coat on and huffed out.

When I was 22, this would probably have made me cry. Might I just say that I appreciate being 30+ 40+ years of age, in which I could only think, "get over yourself."

And still I contemplate how some people are just happier if they can find something to be outraged about. Good for her, we made her day.

As long as we're talking about The Esquire, then, I will reveal a creepy secret that few male customers are aware of: The Troll Hole!!!

This is the downstairs lady's room at The Esquire:

This little half-sized door is not normally open; I had to open it to check that no drunk, crazed, rapin' and pillagin' troll was hiding inside. I have to open it every time I use this restroom, to check; for who on earth would willingly pull down their pants to pee NOT knowing for sure that The Troll Hole is unoccupied? Not me!

I actually haven't used the downstairs bathroom for years because of it; I just risked my life for blog-fodder.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

I await all local comments, male and female.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

rough sketches

I'm tired and braindead tonight, and putting ridiculous mental pressure on myself to have something besides the Valentines post up. Yeah, I take down my Christmas tree on the 26th, too.

So, here's something. These are the rough sketches for two 8 x 10 portraits I'm doing of me and my son. They're faceless because the final paintings will be. They're colorful and whimsical; I'll post the paintings when they're done.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Korean Ginseng Drink

Momo and I did a quick run to The Green Onion, a local asian grocer, on Saturday night, to pick up one little ingredient. We ended up filling our basket with cookies and candies and newfangled beverages to try.

This was MY beverage: Korean Ginseng Drink. Doesn't it look exotic and exciting!! It has an entire ginseng root right inside! That might be pretty tasty.

I was right! It WAS tasty! I tasted just like a bottle of water that had some stinky root rotting away inside of it for god-knows-how-long, with undertones of potting soil. And pond scum. I tried 2 sips of it, and both times the hair rose on my skin; I had goosebumps for a solid 2 minutes after each sip. I have them now, just writing about it.

So, my final advice is: You should try it, because then you can say you have.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


A rare event on Monday: Brian and I went out shopping. I mean TOGETHER. The TWO of us! Whoo, Hoo!! I was buying, of course, but when your kid is 19, it's worth the price of a pair of Adidas Samba's for 2 hours of his time.

After shoes, we intended to run into Gordmans for cheap socks, then dash back out. Howevahhhhh, we passed a planter in the shape of a teacup on the way out. I had to stop and admire it, and Brian said, "too bad you don't have your camera."

What?!! Why in the heck did I buy a camera the size of a credit card if not to have it with me everywhere I go? I DO have my camera!! So, I took this picture:

HA ha ha! "Well, THAT was fun, let's see what other pictures we can take!" Oh, he WENT for it, can you believe it? We broke into a Whose-Line-Is-It game of props, and ran back through the store.

HAR HAR, he's drinking from a cat now. We crack ourselves up! Quick! Put this on your head:

Ya killin me! Next, to the art! LOOK!

A self-portrait!!! Wheeze, we are are so funny!!! Where's some more art?!!!

Yeah, Ok. NOT Funny. Let's go try something on. Hold these up!

He actually asked me, "Mom, are these really men's?" I love it when I am a source of wisdom! Let's keep going! Hold up this nightie! "Yah. Like that's going to happen." All right, then, put these on:

Look at that face: the fun is wearing off. Well, let's pay for the socks then. In the meantime, didn't we have an unexpected good time?!!

For those of you who have been inquiring, yes, he still plans on joining the military. I've only put off updating you until we/he has a solid plan...In the meantime, I will continue to underhandedly, surreptitiously, convince him that continuing on with college...well...you know. In the meantime, I am going to keep a deathgrip on stolen moments like these.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Today is list(less) day.

1. Here's a poignant blog must-read by Sven; read it, love it, cross your fingers; it may be published in a larger forum. http://svensguide.blogspot.com/2006/01/comprehending-surprising-statistics.html

2. This new blog craaaaacks me up, plus it links to other blogs that craaaaaaaack me up. Check it out: www.tinyoranges.blogspot.com.

3. Tonight is ArtNight for me and the kiddies. Last week someone left in tears, so we're trying again this week, to make graphic shapes using watercolor mask and watercolors. No pressure!

4. Speaking of language barriers, I was busy yakking to Ilaiy last night, listing off all the vitamins I take. For some reason I thought that constituted brilliant conversation. He stopped me when I got to Calcium. Shocked, he was shocked! He asked me, "what in the heck do you take cow semen for?"

5. 2 weeks ago I taught the kids to use grid system for drawing. My long term plan for them is to have them design something, transfer it to a larger canvas, paint it, and, if all goes well, put it in a community art show. Here are the drawings that evolved. I'm so proud of them, this was the first time they'd ever tried this!

M, Age 12. Dinosaur.

K, Age 10. Polar bear

C, Age 9. Chili peppers
[Uh, age correction in comments, from C-dog. My bad.]

J, Age 6. Iguana
[Another age cx. Oops.]

Sunday, February 05, 2006

You're It: A BlogTag of a Different Sort

Score! I finally found throw pillows that met my strict throw-pillow criteria: soft & cozy (usable!), and just the right shade of red—not maroon or orange. I'll confess right now: Savoy Walmart (screaming kid capital of the world). $7.88. I went in for onions. I came out with onions and pillows.

Look at the picture:

And this close up:

The tags, you notice, are sewn right into the pillow's seam.

Here's my second confession of the day: There are some areas in which I am not home-makerly expertised. I cannot get a floor clean with just a mop. I'm not that good at arranging furniture.

I cannot remove a tag.

Look, there HAS to be a secret to this! What idiots would sew the tag right into the seam?!!! I contemplated my new pillow for some time. I thought, "I cannot possibly tear this tag from this pillow without tearing open the seam."

I weighed my choices then: I can cut this tag veryvery close to the seam. Then I'm going to end up with an unsightly white strip-o-tag, that I will NEVER get out! That's crazy! I know! They have surely sewn in some break-away tag. There's a perforation just within the seam! Yeah! They are geniuses, and all I have to do is give these tags (there are 2 sewn in here) a good hard yank, just SO....

Doh!!!! DOOOOH! Did I say Doh! Well, that's not really what I said, let me tell you.

Look, I can't remove a tag from a pillow, a t-shirt, a mattress, or a wash towel.

I have, ONCE in my life, successfully cut an itchy tag out of the back of my a shirt while I was still was wearing it. Now it's my poor-man's gambling addiction, the thrill of the adventure: CAN I cut the next tag out of my shirt while I'm sitting at my desk in my cubicle? C'MON LUCKY SEVEN!! COME TO MAMA!

Hell no, I can't do it, how many shirts to I have to nip holes into the collar before I figure that out?!! I need a 12-step program.

So I'm left with the pillow that needs some stitching, and one pillow left with the tag. I could just deal with the Minnie Pearl look, but I'm sending out a plea:


Wednesday, February 01, 2006

White Lies Wine

Being a connisseur of fine cheap wines, THIS caught my eye at the grocery store the other day.

White Lies, by Beringer in Napa Valley.

"Made For Women By Women!" the sign reads.

A Woman's Wine, as opposed to a Men's Wine! What could that possibly mean?! Is it injected with chocolate and Midol? Does the bottle come with a candle? roses? batteries?

I took the photo, left the wine, and came home and looked it up.

Oh. Eh. It's WineLite. 25% fewer calories. Less alcohol. Fine.

I should have left well enough alone, but nooooo...I had to go and read this interview with Beringer's Director of Innovation, Tracey Mason, and the Director of Wine-Making, Jane Robichaud, on BusinessWeek.com. Here are a few excerpts:

We recognize that women don't always need that regular 14.5% alchohol content wine. With that level of alcohol, we often won't have that second glass, or we'll stop ourselves at none at all.
BWA-haha! "One glass!" "We'll stop at none!" Oh, stop; ya killin' me! That's rich. Well, Ok, I'll concede, someone might worry.

They do want to make sure that you know it's NOT DietRite Wine.:

Diets are associated with tasting bad. [Their focus groups] also said "Don't make me feel bad or like I'm giving something up."

Hm. Now I'm not sure if I'm amused or insulted. The interview goes on:

Q: What makes White Lie different from all the other wines out
there aimed at women?

Any wine with a pretty flower on the label might appeal to women...


...There are lots of feminine-looking labels out there but without our humor and edginess. We went a step further to think about what's actually in the bottle, and not just on the outside of the bottle.

"I Can't Believe It's Not Wine" Wine?

Q: Why the tongue-in-cheek name White Lie?

It's something that we as women all do....

We as women have cornered the market on the white lie? Goo-goo! Giggle.

...We're having fun by winking at ourselves. We all tell little lies like "My hair
is naturally this color," and "I always get up early to exercise."

And "I don't drink."

All Rise!

Jury's Returned. The verdict is:


C'mon; if they had said they were developing a low-cal, low-alcohol wine for smart, dynamic women on the go, women concerned with their caloric and alcoholic intake, I could have rolled with it. Here's what I'm hearing from their statements, though:

It's a faux wine for a woman that lies about the amount of exercise she gets in each day, and is too insecure to admit she covers her gray. She's in denial and extremely sensitive: she can not bay-ah to hear the word "diet" because it makes her feel bad. She's a bimbo that bases her wine choices on the pretty-pretty flower on the label...unless she's feeling a teensy bit naughty, then she'll choose "White Lies." That's just so cute.

What those slick marketing people know but aren't telling you is: She's going to drink 2 bottles of the stuff in one sitting, to make up for the lack of alcohol.

Shhh... Don't tell her we know though; it will make her feel bad.

Language Barriers & Trash Bags & Benadryl

I sauntered past a frustrated Mexican girl in Walgreen's the other day, simultaneously speaking into her cel phone, and to a clerk: "que es el nombre?" and then "KLAHR-ee-teen" she told the clerk, who continued to stand there in a stupor. Just take a peek at the look on her face:

Ok, I just HAD to put my nose into it: "She needs Claritin."

A few minutes later, the clerk approached me and thanked me saying, "I had no idea what she was saying; I was getting ready to take her to the Glad Trash Bags."

NOT Claritin, but wrap it around your head
and pull the drawstring tight. Allergies go away.

Aurgh! I can handle stupidity in a person until it seems voluntary. So, I slapped her across the face and screamed "Glad Trash Bags??!! Were you even TRYING? Can you not even SOUND OUT an accented word?"

In my mind.

I'm always amazed when Americans expect everyone else in the whole world to learn OUR language, thus saving us the hassle of learning jackshit, and then look down their noses at accented English or a foreign language.

Soon after the Claritin incident, I got an e-mail from my friend Ilaiy, who grew up in Bangalore, India. A frustrating day at work, and he wanted my honest opinion:

....[D]o I sound that bad that people cannot understand what I am saying?

Apparently he'd been explaining something at work, and after he was allll finished, the two guys he was talking to laughed at him and said, "we have no idea what you just said."

Ilaiy was brought up speaking English. He speaks 5 languages fluently, and understands 2 more. He received his Master's degree in the United States. He is clearly not lacking in vocabulary. There's the occasional transposition of V's and W's which makes the word "Volvo" pretty amusing, but his English is otherwise clear and understandable.

So, what is it, he wants to know, that makes some people "choose" to misunderstand him?

What do I say? How can two coworkers become so paralyzed with "Ve" over "We" that they toss up their hands and declare themselves completely in the dark? How can "Claritin" become "Glad Trash Bags"?

I tell him that we weren't introduced to other languages as children. Nor other sounds for letters, other than the ones we make.

I tell him that people are intimidated by others that know more than they do.

I tell him that people fear looking stupid.

I tell him we're lazy; memorizing an entire dictionary full of words in another language seems overwhelming.

I advise him to politely ask, when it happens again, "Where did I lose you?" or "What didn't you understand?"

Maybe it will be a gentle nudge to the paralyzed in question to listen more carefully. We could all stand to do a bit of that.

As for me, I have a basic understanding of a second language, and I don't use it, and I'm more than a little ashamed of it. SO, I've pulled out my spanish libros and am brushing up on my vocabulario. I'm looking into refresher courses in the community. Our spanish-speaking population grows here, and they need help, baby! Our hospitals need translators. There's only one insurance store in our town that has spanish speaking agents. Only one car dealership.

By the way, the girl at Walgreen's ended up in front of me in the checkout line.

She purchased Benadryl.