Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa Rampage V

The Fifth Annual Santa Rampage, or Santa Rampage V, was held in downtown Champaign last weekend. For those of you not in-the-know, this is a bar crawl started by our friend Jeremy in 2007. Here he is, King Rampage himself, with Clint's daughter Jennifer:

Let's hear a nice round of applause for our leader!

You can't quite get a feel for Jennifer's clever-clever costume in that picture, so here's another, taken with husband Bill. I think they took home the best costumes of the year for the 2nd year in a row. The prize is braggin' rights, and that is it.

This is year #3 for Zymkie & Associates. Once you show up for a Rampage, you are hooked for life!

Here's me and Clint. I'm wearing the costume I bought last year but didn't get finished. See, that dress is a mini-dress, and I'm a maxi-girl. I added a good 12-inches to the skirt and stitched on all that fringe and fur. Before you go a'getting yourself all impressed at my seamstress skills, I'll reveal that the inside of that dress is a big giant mess. The fringe was the saving factor in the entire deal: it covered up all of my crappy hand sewing and bunchy seams.

Enough about me. Let's talk about my family. We actually recruited cousins this year! This is my cousin Rudolph. I mean, Mikedolph. I mean, Mike:

Mike is a reindeer. If you weren't sure about this, just check out his hiney for the proof:

Now stop checking out his hiney before his wife kicks mine. Here she is with my cousin Tammy and my brother-in-law Tim, at Memphis on Main:

The party always gets kicked up a notch at Memphis because there's live music. Cover charge is waived for Santas each year, which, let me tell you, keeps us loyal. Candy Foster and Shades of Blue was playing and you can see it wasn't too difficult to coerce us out onto the dance floor.

As it has been every year, the evening was too, too much fun. You just can't beat lots of beer and 70 Santas for a great Saturday night, y'know?

We cabbed it home at the end of the night:

Those in our household managed to stay up to scarf down some pizza rolls before finally retiring at 4 in the a.m. Yes, I said 4, that is 1/6th of tomorrow already!

We crawled out of bed and went back downtown at the crack of noon for the best breakfast in town, whether you're hungover or not: Sam's Cafe. They're famous for their french toast, but Jennifer and I decided to live it up. You know what's good for a hangover? So much food it takes two plates to serve it.

There are about 70 more pictures of all the fun here: HERE, CLICK HERE!

It could only have been better if my kid were in attendance again this year (and you, of course). I haven't seen him Christmas eve last year, and I miss him like crazy.

I miss him so much, in fact, that I think I'll go see him this weekend. I may catch you from the road, but if I don't, Merry Christmas, everyone!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Packages to Soldiers 2012: Wrap Up

I'm a little late with this post, but it's mostly due to spending the last week or so wrapping up loose ends to what turned out to be a FANTASTIC wrapping and packing event for our soldier babies.

As there is no RSVP for these events, I'm always anxious about what the turnout will be; it's simply unknown...until we know! Slated to start at 1:00, we had 6 or 7 people in attendance at 5 'til. Same at 1:00, and at 1:05. I had a quick, sick feeling when suddenly:

That's kind of how it was.

There was sorting and wrapping:

Stuffing of stockings:

And packing of boxes:

The boxes were tidied and filled with tinsel, then topped off with precious letters from children in Homer and Mahomet, IL, and from Enterprise, Florida (see, I TOLD you that you can help from anywhere!).

One of my favorite vets, Dave Martin, stopped by with a hefty check from the Thank You Veteran's Run. Dave represents at all of our events!

And our last stop, the next day: The post office. Here's a very frazzled Donna, our postal clerk extraordinaire. Even though we called ahead and emailed ahead, and Facebooked ahead, someone at the post office got transferred to another station at the last minute, and they were a little short-staffed.

Most people were understanding, or at least soothed with the homemade cookies we brought to appease them, but there were a few that crabbed at the two poor remaining clerks as if it were their fault.

Oh, and there was one near cat-fight when one lady told another lady to shut her yap, and that if it took FIVE HOURS to process the boxes going to our troops, then they should all damn-well stand in line for 5 hours and be happy about it!! Ooo! That was exciting!

But it was mostly lovely. People did, as they always do when we are taking this many boxes to the post office, hand me cash. It touches me every single time, strangers handing me cash, asking if they can pay for a box, or if they can help.

My favorite part of the post office trip is visiting with Veterans. Older gentlemen leaning on canes as they wait, laughing and reminiscing with us and with each other about care packages they received from their mothers. It is almost always their mothers I hear about, and I think about how young they were when they were in Korea, or Vietnam.

They laugh about the delicious boxes of cookie crumbs they devoured, and how much the letters meant to them then. Their boxes and letters clearly mean as much to them now as they did then, and their reminiscing reinforces everything we do: You know the efforts of this community and these events are still going to be remembered somewhere in this world in the year 2062.

To all of you that continued to work for our troops, to schlep out in holiday crowds and shop for them, to bake homemade cookies and write them letters, and to donate your hard-earned cash to make sure that everyone on our list had a really great Christmas box: 

Thank you.

From every fiber of my being, Thank you.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

I Have My Own Night Cream!

I'm not sure why, or even how at this point, but some years ago I signed up for a thingy that notifies me if my name or text or blogs appears on "teh internets."It's been so long since I arranged it that I have no idea how I did it—I just know that I get an email now and again, telling me what some other Lori Stewart has done to make it to the world wide web.

Any sighting of Gnightgirl, however, is always me, and so I'll get a notification screaming that Gnightgirl just posted on The Sandwich Life, which I already knew I did.

Tonight, however, I stumbled across this notification:

Click to embiggen.

Gnightgirl Night Cream? I have a night cream? Heyyyy! I've been Gnightgirl since 2005, and I never endorsed a night cream with my name on it! I clicked through that link, and sure enough, there I am. I'm being sold at Target, right alongside Isaac Mizrahi's cute little dresses:
Ok, the spelling's a little different, but tomato/tomahto, this is me! They stole my name from me!

Never you mind that I stole it from George Burns and Gracie Allen. ("G'nite, Gracie," "G'nite girl," "Gnightgirl.")

This is different. This is... I demand a...I...Umm

...a secret potion?

I wonder if I can get a free sample.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Spaghetti Dinner Wrap Up

Aurgh, so much to tell, so little time! I'm distraught that time constraints prevent me from telling it all properly, but I'm still here to give you the highlights.

The Spaghetti & the Pasta!

Rob Meister, of Minneci's Italian Ristorante went above and beyond with the spaghetti. And the fettucine alfredo...and the pasta with pesto sauce...AND the pasta arrabiata. All with bread and parmesan, and it was endless; every last person was fed, and fed well. I can't tell you how many times during the evening I heard how great the food was.

If you don't already know it, Rob is running for State Representative; go check him out here!

The Music!

Asking ThreeBird to play was one of the best decisions I made about the entire event; I have no idea what I'd have done to keep people present and entertained when they were done eating. ThreeBird, featuring Jammin' Jimmy Bean, Jesse Frances, and Dave Cooper definitely kept the audience captivated, and this event was more successful as a result of their playing for us that night. The crowd was wow'd, and Clint and I have already discussed future outdoor home concerts at the country casa.

Not to be overlooked, and represented in all of these photos, of course, is Bob Osiek, the Esquire Lounge, and all of the staff at the Esquire. The venue was given to us for nothing, and with bottomless free pasta, I imagine they sacrificed a few burger and pizza sales for us that night. The staff was incredibly accommodating, offering to help out wherever they were needed.

I suddenly have an idea of what it's like to dragged off the stage with a shepherds hook, on an awards show, for carrying on and on while you try to give everyone credit. There were so many that stepped up again. People that show up and work for us and do nice things, and I can't think of anything I've ever done nice for them, except to accept their services.

And oh! The guests that showed up and gave so generously, I can't thank you enough for reaching into your pockets for us. We made $4000 that Sunday night, and when it was all said and done, one thing kept occurring to me: I never directly asked anyone for money. While it was a given that the event was a FUNDraiser, I never wrote letters asking for money (well, one, but I was told to). I didn't ask you to empty your bank accounts. I didn't charge you for Minneci's spaghetti.

I didn't have to.

I didn't have to ask because you care, and you understand. And in every letter I write to every soldier I meet, or will perhaps never meet, I stress to them how much you care. How you leave your comfortable homes, and you gather to support them. I tell them, "Soldier, I'm not kidding; people just give me money to take care of you. So tell me what we can do."

Ok, friends, they're giving me the "wrap it up" cue, and it's time for me to get moving on the Christmas event. (Ahem. It's December 4.) I can't thank you enough, I really cannot.

This is a CAKE, made by one of our sponsors,
Buffy Vance, of Madeline's Confectionary.

Former soldier (airman) baby and now vet
Jeremy Jay rocks the Free Hugs apron.

Friday, October 14, 2011


This picture was posted on Facebook this morning by my friend Frugalmom, at Fancyin' the Farm life. The caption reads "an intense game of Memory going on here."

Memory. My memory is that my sister, Teri, and I always called that game Concentration. We played it with our best friend, Ginger. She lived next door, and Mom started babysitting Ginger when she and Teri were 2 months old. We were constant playmates as children, and best friends as teens. Teri and Ginger were best girlfriends as adults, and I considered Ginger a second sister.

As kids, Teri and Ginger and I would kick our game of Memory up a notch by stringing our cards from one end of the house to the other. The 2 of Spades might be on my bedroom floor, while the 2 of Diamonds sat in one of Mom's plant stands. X-games? We started them in a small 3-bedrooom ranch in 1969.

My sister passed away 2 years ago, and Ginger died when she was 30, from an asthma attack. She left her husband and 2 young sons here with us. I am lately often melancholy about my lost loves.

At the same time I ache for them, I have a wonderful renewed appreciation of all that I have left.

I have referred to this summer of 2011 as "My Summer of Nostalgia."
  • In late June, my cousin Susie, whom I have not seen in 30+ years, sent me a note indicating she'd be in town, and maybe we could scrape together a few other cousins for lunch? Three weeks later, 40 Stewart-types gathered for a cookout. As my immediate family grows smaller, I hold my cousins nearer and dearer—dearer than they will probably ever know. Notes from many of them through Teri's illness kept me afloat.
  • My 30th class reunion was in July. Seeing so many friends in one place is a blast, and reminiscing about Teri was also sweet. Dan P. told me that to this day he drives with one hand, because my father told him, in a high-school shop class, that all of the best drivers do. I talked to Dan P. for all of 5 minutes that evening, but he gave me a gift: something new about my Dad, 10 years after his passing.
  • A new Facebook group put me back in touch with over 200 people that were part of our lives in the 70s and 80s, when my father was drag racing. Photos and stories have been brought to my attention, and more memories come to life.
Posted by my cousin Dan Stewart, on the racing Facebook site.
This was Dad's second car, out of 3.
  •  Last month Clint and I met up with two of those racing friends, a couple of boys from Bement, IL that used to drop in to visit me and Teri during our high school years. This drove my Dad batshit crazy. For those of you that know how big my Dad was, you'd know those boys were either brave or insane. I'll confess right now, and admit that I was a tad nervous about meeting up after 30 years—what if they were jackasses they didn't like me anymore? Worry was all for naught; we fell right back into our respective roles, and I laughed like I haven't laughed in years. We'd still be there laughing right now if Clint and I hadn't had to take our leave for another engagement. 

I am in love with my Summer of Nostalgia.

I feel blessed with every story, photo, and connection, and I am more prone, lately, to being jarred into waxing about long lost memories. Jarred, I tell you! Frugalmom's photo sent me racing to the keyboard with all of this!


I suddenly want to write about games of Concentration that spread through every room in the house. I want to tell you that Teri and Ginger and I made go-go boots from mud, and tried to feed our dead goldfish to a cat named Snoopy. I remember a painting of Susie's, a tree silhoutted on orange background, that hung in our Grandmother's house. And that guy on my left punched me in the eye when he took a swing at my high school boyfriend and missed.

Actually, I *totally* forgot about getting punched, but it sure was fun giving him crap when I was reminded.

That's how things are lately. Maybe it's my age; maybe it's recovering from the storm that was the last 5 years. Maybe it will pass, this sentimental, sappy side of me that I have poo-poo'd all of my life.

I seriously hope not.

Because I love this.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Click on it!

I blogged over HERE today. Thank you very muchy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nature's Doilies

Autumn again, my favorite time of year. After a rainy yesterday, a dense fog rolled in last night, leaving the countryside covered in dew. As much as I dislike me a spider—and you know I do—I was enchanted to step outside this morning and find our property looking like it had been scattered with doilies.

A spider web, even covered in dew, is still delicate and transparent, and difficult to capture with a camera. I took about 60 photos this morning, and managed to salvage 15 or so with a little Photoshop tweaking. Most of the webs seemed to be deserted, and the rest—well, thank God for zoom lenses.