Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Scene In Which We Wish You A Merry Christmas....

....and hope that wherever you are or whoever you are with this holiday season, you are surrounded by love.

....that when those same people surrounding you in love start surrounding you in burnt appetizers, dogs pooping in the corner and snotty-nosed kids screaming in your face, you'll remember where you stashed the vodka after last year.

....that you will remember those who aren't so lucky to be surrounded by love, and spend some of your time/money/energy to helping them have a better holiday. (You've still got 6 days to make a 2009 financial contribution to your favorite nonprofits!)

....and that, like Ebenezer Scrooge, you'll find the joy in the spirit of the holidays and pledge "I will honor Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all year long!

.....and a Haaaaaappy New Yeeeeeeeear!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Scene In Which.... It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

For those of you who don't know me well, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas ranks right up there as one of my favorite times of year. (My other favorites involving anytime I'm not wearing 19 articles of clothing to stay moderately warm, but I digress).

This year in particular, Christmas has entered our house in full-force, possibly because for the first time I have a job that allows me to make pretty Christmas arrangements! So while Younger Brother might describe it as "If Christmas were a person, it just threw up glitter in our living room," I prefer to think of myself as one of Santa's little florist elves.

An elf who really, really, really needs a housecleaner right now.

Because in order to make all these....

and these......

........and a whole bunch more like these........

my house started to look like this:

Things really started to get fun around here this holiday season when one of the elements on the furnace went out. Luckily, we were able to get it replaced. I have no idea what it was, but it is smaller than my hand and costs $59.

Which they very kindly credited back to me when the entire furnace went south a week later and had to be replaced. To the tune of $I-can't-even-say-it dollars.

At this point the only thing keeping me moderately sane are these babies:

which are the perfect holiday treat. If you've been following my blog for awhile now, you already know that I kind of *heart* me some Oreos, and these babies are some of the tastiest. Not to mention that ringing in at $3.50 for the pack of 12, you don't want to, don't need to, can't won't eat more than one at a time.

Back to the story.

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is getting to spend time with friends and family, like my good friend A. Last Saturday, we decided to venture out into the holiday spirit and wound up having a fantastic day. We started with yummy warm soups and sandwiches at Panera, then window-shopped in Broad Ripple and even crashed the Broad Ripple Village Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting Ceremony, which may become one of my favorite adorable holiday things to do. Seriously? Hanging out on the Ave with furry puppies wearing antlers and cute children all bundled up, watching Santa come down the street while you sip Starbucks hot chocolate? It. Does. Not. Get. Better.

After our holiday window shopping-and-parading, we headed to Butler University for their annual Rejoice! concert and enjoyed two hours of gorgeous music, then headed over to a local bar/restaurant for some post-concert cocktails and snacks.

At first the restaurant seemed promising. The host staff was attentive and found us a nice corner table in the bar area. The wait staff poured waters and brought menus. Our waiter greeted us and offered suggestions on drinks. As we were celebrating the end of a lovely holiday day, we decided on champagne and- because we are responsible adults- ordered some food to munch on while we sipped and chatted.

We ordered the Potato Gnocci, which promised we'd have our gnocci topped with oyster mushrooms, roasted tomato, sage, and balsamic with greens and a pumpkin puree.

This sounded like the perfect yummy food.

But somewhere along the line, we missed something.

Because when the sweet waiter brought us our plate, it had FIVE. LITTLE. GNOCCI. BITES.

Topped with two or three mushrooms.

Something that I think was our single roasted tomato.

On a bed of lettuce roughly the diameter of a water glass.

Adorned with a tablespoon of pumpkin puree.


I am not making this up.

We finished our gnocci rather quickly (imagine that!) and pondered our next move. Should we order something else? Would it be bite-sized as well? What about a dessert? Should we just pay and leave?

Our poor waiter got to advise us.

Waiter: "Take your plates?"

A: "Sure, thanks."

Waiter: "Another drink?"

Becky: "Well, actually, we need some advice."

Waiter: "......OK....."

Becky: "See, we've just had a lovely holiday day and been to a concert and we were really hoping to cap the night off with some cocktails and food and sit and munch and sip for awhile."

Waiter: "Um, I don't really understand that."

Becky: "What? Seriously?"

A: "Nevermind, that part's not important."

Becky: "Right. The point is - and I'm not being an asshole here, I promise- while we really, really, really liked all five of the gnocci we just ate, that little thing's just not going to cut it for us."

Waiter: *Befuddled Stare.*

Becky: "So what we're saying is- we either need to get your reccomendation on something a little more carb-laden so that we can continue to sit here in your lovely restaurant and sip champagne and celebrate, or we need to cut our losses, pay our bill and hit the McDonald's drive through."

Waiter: "Um....I'll go get you a menu. I'd reccomend some protein."

A: *calling after him* "Will we get more than two bites of it?!?!"

-A Few Minutes Later With Menus-

Waiter: "So, did you guys find something that looks good to you?"

A: "Well, we are thinking maybe the Mini-Donuts and Coffee Dessert."

Becky: "But we have some disclaimer questions. When you say mini donuts, what does that mean?"

Waiter: "Uh....about like this?" *makes circle with thumb and forefinger.* "Kind of like a donut hole."

Becky: "Right. And when it says there are donutssssss plural, how many is that?"

Waiter: "Five."

Becky: "Excellent. We'll do that. And she'll have the coffee since I don't drink caffiene."

Waiter: "Well, actually, it's like a coffee sauce."

A: "Oh, like you can dip your donuts in them?"

Waiter: "Right. Or you can, you know, like drizzle it over the donut holes."

I seriously do not know why we didn't get kicked out for laughing at this as hard as we did, or for the numerous times we cracked up after our donuts arrived.

But I know two things to be true now: first, friends that can laugh for hours with you about gnocci and donut balls are friends that you need to hold onto forever; and second, beware of gnocci appetizers!

Oh the holidays- the most wonderful time of the year!!

The Scene In Which The Birth of Baby Jesus Gets A Reality Check

One of the funniest things about being freinds with a pastor is that you get to have these really interesting conversations about how religion (specifically the Bible) can be (and is often) wildly misinterpreted.

And often times you get to have these conversations in public, which is even funnier. Take Wednesday, for example.

Pastor Jill had come to Indy for a luncheon she had to attend, and afterwards we planned an afternoon of Christmas shopping and baking. Pastor Jill, for all her many good qualities, isn't especially trustworthy in the kitchen, so baking together was a good way to ensure her friends at the church would get edible holiday treats- and let's face it, shopping is just fun.

We were talking about Christmas cards on our way into the mall when Pastor Jill hit me with her latest religious hilarity.

"Did you know," she asked, "that when you get a traditional Christmas card featuring Mary in a stable with the animals and the baby Jesus and the wise men and shepards all looking on, that's actually not biblically correct?"

"Um...what?" I said.

She then proceeded to explain how only two stories from the Bible actually describe the birth of Christ, and their explanations tend to differ.


It's very interesting and of course not being a pastor I immediately started confusing the details in my head (a likely reason that we've ended up on the happy-go-lucky manger birth story in the first place) so before you proceed with my tale, read Pastor Jill's info on the topic here at her blog.

"So, wait a sec," I asked after she had finished telling me this (in Von Maur). "Do you mean to tell me that the real story is that after Mary was knocked up by the Holy Spirit, either she or Joseph was informed of this by an angel appearing to one or possibly both of them, after which they discussed it with the other? And after the angel appeared to one or the other of them, during a time in which they may or may not have already been living in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a room that may or may not have been in a house, group dwelling of some sort, or former stable that may or may not have housed animals at some point, and laid him in something lined with straw that may or may not have been used to feed said animals at some point?"

"Pretty much," said Pastor Jill.

"And following said birth in said place," I continued, "The Baby Jesus was visited fairly soon thereafter by shepards who may or may not have been there because of the animals or because of the miraculous birth? But who, regardless, certainly did not overlap in visiting hours with an indeterminate amount of wise pagan astronomer priests who visited him in his house up to, but not later than, two years after his birth and who possibly bore gifts? And then left, but did not speak of it, because pretty soon after King Herod started offing all the male infants in the land?"

"Yep." said Pastor Jill.

"Wow," I said. "I'll never look at a manger scene the same way again!"

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Scene In Which Puff the Kitty Gets A Home

He showed up sometime in the late part of summer/early fall, when the days were still nice and long and sunny. He liked to skulk around the backyard of our condo and hide in the tall landscaping (where, I might add, he scared the CRAP out of me the first time I ever saw him!).
By day you could find him lounging around the backyard, occasionally napping on one of the lawn chairs and using our wooden deck as a scratching post.

And then the inevitable happened.

My well-intentioned neighbor began to put food out for him. As you can imagine, this was met with great gusto, appreciation, meowing, and..... hissing.

Yep. Our little backyard-crasher loved long as we kept our distance.

Time wore on. Well-intentioned neighbor christened the cat Creampuff (at the time, we kind of thought he was a she). The weather got chillier. The feeding schedule got more and more regular. The hissing continued.

And then the inevitable happened. Again.

I got attached.

Because though he still hissed at us, as Creampuff grew more and more used to seeing us around, he grew bolder, and after three weeks of coaxing and making sweet baby voices at him, he finally rewarded me with a rub against my legs.

Followed, quickly, by a swat.


As the days got even shorter and colder the third inevitable thing happened. My well-intentioned neighbor, who travels often for work, was planning to be gone...and I volunteered to take over the Creampuff-care.

(Ahem. You know where this was going to wind up.)

The next thing I knew, I was as close to a cat owner as my ridiculously allergic sinuses were ever going to let me be. I fretted over whether he was warm enough and procured an outdoor igloo from a friend for him to live in. I fed him twice a day and switched him from wet food to dry for better health. I grew sad when he'd show up on my porch and I'd have to close the door on him. We nicknamed him Puff, Puffy, the Puffster, Fluff, and so on.

In return, Creampuff adopted me. He faithfully came to my porch two, three, four times a day- napping on the rug in front of the door until well into the evening. If I came around the back of the house and found him there, he'd leap from his perch and follow me to the front of the house. And even though he still hissed occasionally, he meowed his appreciation every chance he got and rubbed my legs with reckless abandon.

And then he disappeared.

One Wednesday morning, I woke up and he never came by for his breakfast. His little brown bowl of food went untouched that day, that night, and straight on through Thanksgiving the next day. By Friday, when we left for Chicago for the weekend, I was despairing whether Creampuff had decided to move on, and realizing that I'd gotten waaaay too attached to the little guy over the past months. Despite abundant food and water, Creampuff stayed away Friday....Saturday.....Sunday.....

......and then, late on Sunday night, Creampuff came hobbling back shortly after we returned. His cute little face was a little matted up, and he was limping with a front paw held in the air pathetically.

I kind of cry just remembering it.

Cute Boy, who is even more ridiculously allergic than I am, pleaded on my behalf with his roommate to let us use their mudroom area to house the Puffster. Once we opened that door for him he rushed right in and never looked back- he wanted to be in the house with us so badly!

Puff stayed in the mudroom for two nights, showing his appreciation for the hospitality by coming down with a bout of ickykittypoopies and stinking up the place when he wasn't meowing to be let ALL THE WAY in to the house so that he could, presumeably, cuddle with us or hiss at us til his heart's content.

On Tuesday morning I loaded him into the kitty carrier (through the strategic use of yummy canned food placed inside, heavy boots and a swift knee!) and took him to our vet, where the Week O'Fun for Creampuff began.

Since all our housing options had been exhausted, Creampuff stayed with the vet for a week. He received antibiotics for his injured leg, a bath, flea treatment, neuter surgery, vaccines, and another bath.

And then, thanks to the kindness and generosity of two great people (ok they are Cute Boy's parents but I am totally not sucking up at all by calling them great because really? they are, and furthermore, they are probably not reading my blog!) CREAMPUFF FOUND A HOME!!

On Monday I went to the vet's office to take him to his new digs, and let me tell you, if this heartwarming little story has got you thinking that you want to go out and adopt like five cats, I will give you a whole bunch of reasons why you should think about it really hard.

Like several hundred reasons.

Like six hundred reasons.


In the end, though, it was all worth it. Because, as it turns out, Puff was just waiting for someone to take him in and love him. During his week at the vet's office, he mellowed to the point where the staff members were able to pick him up without being swatted or hissed at, and he even was able to be petted. When I arrived to pick him up, I went to see him in his kennel before they loaded him into the carrier and he LET ME PET HIM!! At that moment, I knew that every penny I'd spent on this little sweetie was all worth it, and I wanted to cry and take him home with me and spend all night cuddling with him and Finn.

But Puff, despite his new goodnaturedness, is still a fan of keeping it real.

So in thanks for all we had done for him over the past months, he allowed me to stroke his little head and back for exactly 30 seconds while he purred cutely, then turned his head around and bit me on the hand.

That's how I know he appreciated it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Scene In Which I Am My Mother's Daughter

Last weekend, my parents made the trip down to Indianapolis to visit the kiddos. Since Little Brother and I have been living together for about three months now, they wanted to check that we'd gotten everything moved in, unpacked, organized, and so forth. And, you know, not killed each other in the process.

Which was fantastic, as we....well, hadn't quite accomplished all that yet. Mom and I quickly set to tackling the last of the organizing while Dad and Little Brother installed a new deadbolt lock, a new draft guard on the door, and replaced a broken toilet seat (oh yes I said a broken toilet seat. Two guesses whose fault that was. Hint: NOT MINE.)

My mom wound up staying until Tuesday, and it was great to hang out with her and have her help me get my house back under control (a very, very, very rare occurrence in which I gave up control!) Because, you see, my mom and I are very alike in our love of all things organizing.

All of my life, I have physically resembled my dad and my dad's side of the family. And by "resembled," I mean that I am the female equivalent of his clone. Sometimes people who haven't met my dad will try to find a resemblance between my mom and I. Usually after about 30 seconds of squinting they offer something like "Your eyes are really similar!" which, I suppose, is true if you count that we both have two of them.

But on the way home Tuesday, my mom and I had a great conversation that reminded me that while we don't physically resemble each other, much of my personality comes from my mom- my volunteering, my need to be busy, my emotions, my desire to take care of everybody around me, my love of animals, my work with nonprofits....and, of course, the most important trait we have in common.

Total, absolute, chocoholics.

Actual conversation.

Mom: I'm craving something.

Me: Me too.

Mom: Something chocolate.

Me: I was just thinking that!

Mom: Like....a brownie.

Me: Ohmygod, me too!

Mom: With ice cream.

Me: Nah, with real icing. Wedding-cake icing.

Mom: Nope, I want ice cream. Oooh, maybe with a little Sander's Hot Fudge.

Me: Yeah, that's good and all, but I kind of want a brownie with frosting. And like, chocolate chips or something.

Mom: I guess. I still want the ice cream though.

Me: That's kind of weird for you.

Mom: I know?? I've really been into ice cream lately.

Me: Yeah, that's not like you at all.

Mom: No kidding! Do you know what I did last week?

Me: No, what?

Mom: Went to DAIRY QUEEN.

Me: WHOA! That IS weird.

Mom: I was reaaaaally craving one of those dipped cones- you know, the soft serve with the hard chocolate?

Me: Yeah, those are good.

Mom: What do you get when you go?

Me: I usually get a Blizzard.

Mom: Mmm. Those are good too.

Me: I get the ones with the Brownie pieces.

Mom: Yum. Maybe I'll make brownies when I get home.

Me: Yeah....or maybe I'll get a Hostess at the gas station when we stop. I think a Suzy Q could do it for me right now.

Mom: Mmm....I don't know. Maybe.

Me: Or a cupcake.

Mom: Yeah, maybe a cupcake.

We may not look like each other, but she's definitely all my momma!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Scene In Which I (Don't) Got?

As someone who has worked in the marketing industry, not to mention someone who dates a Cute Boy currently working in that industry, I'm a sucker for a good slogan.

Here's where I would share an example of a good slogan with you, if I could think of one at the moment. But I can't. Because all I really want to do is talk about how freaking sick I am of the "Got Milk?" rip-off campaigns that are constantly invading the advertising world, with little regard to the fact that this slogan was new, exciting, and innovative MORE THAN TEN YEARS AGO.

Back then "Got Milk?" was cute and quirky and short and sweet and witty and original and now it is none of those things, NONE, people, and I would like the universe to cease and desist on any new "Got?" campaigns, immediately.

Got milk? Got teeth? Got faith? Got hope? Got college? Got love? Got veggies? Got vegan? Got beer? Got pot? Got money?

I've been noticing the overuse of this phrase for awhile now, as I'm sure many of you have. The sudden need to blog in a rant-like state about it now maaaaaay or may not have something to do with the fact that I was cut off on the highway today by an a-hole with a "Got Hope?" sticker plastered to the back of his car.

That did it.

"I do NOT have hope!" I snarled at the offensive driver. "I do NOT have hope that you are going to learn to drive ANYTIME soon, I do NOT have hope that I'm going to make it home without being rear-ended or sideswiped by some other a-hole on this freaking highway, and above all, I do NOT HAVE HOPE THAT ONE DAY SOON, SOMEONE IS GOING TO INVENT AN ADVERTISING SLOGAN THAT DOESN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH WHAT I DON'T "GOT"!!!!!!"

Deep breaths.

The sad part is, the "Got?" campaigns, because they are quirky and short, inherently leave the door open for products and personas as far apart as beer and President Obama to adapt them. Not so much the case with popular longstanding campaigns "It's What's For Dinner," or "The Other White Meat," which manage to be both quirky yet relevant to only a small series of products (or so it would seem, anyhow).

More deep breaths.

Thus endeth my rant on why you'll never see me parading around in a "Got Milk?" t-shirt or, heaven forbid, adapting the slogan for business use and handing out "Got Flowers?" cards at events.

After all, I do......Got Creativity.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Scene In Which I Confess To Being An Eating-Eavesdropper

One of the things that my friends come to realize about me is that, as I put it to Cute Boy today, "I have a nasty habit of being altogether too concerned with the conversations of dining pedestrians."

I think I meant dining peers.


Confession time: I am an eating-eavesdropper.

I can't help it.

It just happens.

Because no matter how interesting your own eating companion is, there always comes a point in the meal when you aren't talking because you are, well, eating. Or, if you are me, you spend a ridiculous amount of time working in various Starbucks and lamenting the fact that you have given up caffeine (which is a story for another day) and occasionally your mind wanders away from your work.


For example.

Right now I am sitting across the table from two college-age gals who are studying for an upcoming nursing exam.

Girl 1: "Ok, let's look at scenario 2."

Girl 2: "Ok. The patient is in his 50s and suffers from hallucinations that occur after seizures. He also frequently faints."

Girl 1: "So........would that be a medical diagnosis or a psychological diagnosis?"

Girl 2: "Ummmmmmmmmmmmm..........I think medical?"

Can I just say, I worry a bit for the future of the medical profession.

I kind of love these little moments in time when I get to glimpse someone else's day to day life. Today Cute Boy and I were having lunch at Panera and we overheard the table next to us talking about how life would be less stressful for "them," after "the baby comes before Christmas." They were an older couple, and I found myself wondering more about the story. Were they adopting a baby? Were they about to be grandparents? What on earth could be so bad that it would make a pregnancy more stressful than having a NEWBORN WAILING CHILD?? (This is where our own table conversation went to.)

But alas, I am destined to never know the answers to the questions I overhear. Did stay-at-home-mom's husband decide to take that job? Did gym-bunny pick a new Pilates mat? Is Costco really cheaper than Wal-Mart for toilet paper? Because, you see, as interesting as these conversations are and despite the fact that they are occurring in public places, there's an unspoken rule among eating-eavesdroppers that you do. not. acknowledge. them.

THAT would just be weird.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Scene In Which Cute Boy (L)Earns His Name

Many of my faithful followers (all SIX of you now......woooo!) know that I've been spending a lot of time back and forth from Indy to Chicago this past month, and will be continuing to do so for the next couple weeks.

This weekend, instead of making the trek back to Indy, I stayed in Chicago to dog- and house-sit for my parents while they were away. Now, don't get me wrong, spending a weekend with their two pups and my little guy is a pretty pleasant thing to do, but because Cute Boy decided to make the drive up here to visit, I was pumped.

It was a great, fun, relaxing, awesome weekend. We ate deep-dish pizza, took the pups for a long walk on a gorgeous fall day, hung around downtown on Saturday, went to Field Museum and saw the "Real Pirates" exhibit, ate at a fun restaurant, saw Jersey Boys, slept in and made yummy Sunday breakfast, and even caught some of the game before Cute Boy had to head home. I even introduced him to a childhood staple that he'd never seen before: The MOLD O' RAMA.

Segue to: A Random Side Note.

Mold-O-Rama's, if you haven't been so lucky as to have seen one, are amazingly awesome toy-making machines that make you a cheap monochromatic hollow plastic toy RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. You simply insert your $2 (and don't even get me started on how it used to be $.50!) and the machine, in all of it's 1950's glory, revs to life, pumps liquid plastic through tubes into a mold that pushes together, then releases to show off YOUR NEW TOY as a nifty pusher-thing deposits it into a vending-like bottom, where you gingerly pick it up whilst trying to burn the least amount of skin off of your fingers and hands.

And because Cute Boy is cute, and therefore understands and enjoys my nostalgic desires, we made 2.

Which turned out to be a good thing, really, because we left one in the cab on the way home. If anyone finds an orange stegosaurus plastic molded toy in the back of a Chicago cab, please let us know.....we miss Stegi.

But other than that devastating loss, it was a great weekend, and Cute Boy left this afternoon to return to Indy.

And apparently decided to catch up on reading my blog.

And apparently hadn't read the August post in which I first named him Cute Boy. Because.....

5:42PM Cute Boy Cell: "I'm anonymously and I think affectionately known as CUTE BOY to your followers??!!"

So, to Cute Boy: Yes, yes that is your moniker, yes it is an affectionate term, and I'm glad that you like it.

And to all else: Yes, Cute Boy is indeed cute, for many of the reasons you might already guess and for many more you may not already know, and very probably for many that I don't already know. So even though it might embarrass him a little, here's just a couple of the reasons for the name.

Because in addition to being well, cute (c'mon girls, he's blond, blue-eyed and athletic..... fellow glasses-sporting brunette bookworms of the world, can I get some applause??) Cute Boy also makes me laugh. And he likes to hold my hand (ok, sometimes). And he is just the right amount of a sarcastic a** sometimes, and a totally nice guy the rest of the time. And he likes my dog. And he drives to Chicago to visit me. And he thinks that I'm adorable and endearing even when I'm doing things that are totally not adorable or endearing like tripping over my own two feet AGAIN and headbutting the nearest inanimate object being a little clumsy. And because he thinks it is great that I want to do things like make Mold-O-Ramas to commemorate a fun day together, and because he really understands that that's what I'm doing when I want to do silly little things like that.

And that, folks, makes him Cute Boy.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Scene In Which.......I Return. Apologetically.

Tonight I got an incredibly nice text from a friend of mine who I haven't seen in awhile. Being the super nice friend that they are, they noticed that we hadn't spoken, and took time out of a busy day to shoot a hello my way- or more specifically, a "Hey, you doing ok, haven't seen ya in awhile."


I have no earthly idea who the text was from. Either they got a new phone, or it's someone that I accidentally deleted, or it's someone who gave me their number but I just never entered it, or a myriad of other possibilities. Actually scratch that. Those are mostly the only possibilities.


I felt bad. Here was a friend who took the time to reach out to say hey, and I had to respond with a "I'm REALLY sorry, but who is this?" text.

I haven't heard back.

It's like our generation's version of a Dear John letter. The Dear John text.

"Dear John I dltd u from my ph. pls dont txt me. l8r."

Wait a sec......I was going somewhere with this. Come back......come back.......come back.

Oh right! Apologies.

Because.................yeah. It's been awhile.


And let's be honest- I know it hasn't been all that long, but it's been longer than usual, and for that I apologize. After all, this blog is faithfully read by at LEAST five whole people, and even though I've been routinely waking up not remembering which city I'm in kind of busy lately, I've been neglectful.

Here's a glimpse at what I've been doing while I haven't been blogging.

DRIVING. Driving is a big one. Been logging lots of miles. Over 2000 of them since September 7, to be exact. Why? Because I've been.....

LEARNING. Yep. Back to school. I've been taking a class up in Chicago two days per week and driving back and forth on a weekly basis. I chose Chicago because I get to pop in and see my family weekly, I've gotten to catch up with some friends, and it lets me maintain the myth to my Indy flower clients that I've, um, actually had any formal training prior to this date.

NAPPING. Because all that driving and learning makes me sleepy.

SPENDING TIME WITH PEOPLE IN REAL LIFE. Because being gone a lot, even for good reasons, means- well- it means you're gone a lot. So I've been spending time in both places trying to make up for being gone with the people I'm leaving behind each week. And thanking my lucky stars that they are all wonderful, supportive -insert other praising attributes here- people.

In other news, I finally got my Skip-It. And I stopped drinking coffee. And I made a second trip to Fair Oaks Farms, and this time I didn't flash anyone.

It's been a good couple of weeks.

And I promise to keep you better updated on the next couple!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Scene In Which My Mom Learns To Text

Recently my mom learned how to use text messaging on her phone. It went sort of like this:

7:34am - Mom Cell: Im learnig how to texts! Gits Fun!
7:35am - Dad Cell: Mom is learning to text
7:37am - Younger Brother Cell: Oh god, Mom is learning how to text.

Since then I've received a couple text messages here and there, mostly alerting me to cool new gossip like when people I know get engaged or are having a baby or something else fun. Unlike when we first introduced Mom to other forms of new technology 'round about the time I left for college, she now knows that technology does not always equal a real-time reply.... when she learned to use email.
Ring, ring....
Becky: Hello?
Mom: Hi Sweetie, it's Mom
Becky: Hey Mom!
Mom: I want to check my email. How do I do it again?
Becky: Double click on the Internet explorer.
Mom: It didn't work.
Becky: No, click two times, really fast.
Mom: Ok.
Becky: Did yahoo come up? (We had it set to come up)
Mom: Yeah.
Becky: Now type in your username.
Mom: What's my username?
Becky: (says username)
Mom: Ok.
Becky: Now your password.
Mom: What's my password?
Becky: (says password)
Mom: Ok.....I'm in.
Becky: Ok.
Mom: You didn't reply to my email!
Becky: Are you serious?
Mom: I sent you one earlier. Why didn't you answer?
Becky: We're on the phone!!!!!! when she learned to use AIM
MomName: Hey Becky
AUTO-REPLY from BECKYUSERNAME: Studying..... - then insert ironically witty alternative music lyric quote to represent the drudge of studying here -
MomName: Hello?
MomName: Becky?
MomName: Are you there>>
MomName: What does that MEAN?!>
MomName: Ok, call me later
(5 mins later)
MomName: Are you there>
(2 mins later)
MomName: Ok, bye

Yes, there have been lots of hilarious moments with Mom and Technology meeting over the past several years.....but I have to say that, by far, the MOST. ADORABLE. TECHNOLOGY. MOMENT. EVER is the one that just occurred when I received a text photo from my brother asking which of the 4 ties pictured he should wear to a function tomorrow. Because as tech-savvy as my parents may be now (and my dad is, I should mention, quite tech-savvy), they are still my parents, and when they do adorable things like this while trying to use technology it just makes me love them more.

"Younger Brother needs help picking a tie," I announced to the room at large (I am at my parents house this week). They are sitting on the couch watching the news with our two adorable golden retrievers and my little pup Finn.

I show the photo to my mother. She takes her glasses off her head, puts them on, squints at my camera's tiny photo, and says, "I can't tell the difference between any of those."

I show the photo to my father. He takes his glasses off, puts them on his head, squints at my camera's tiny photo, and says, "I can't see a danged thing in that photo."

I call my brother. "Mom and Dad can't see the photo," I relay.

"What colors are they?" my mom asks. "Tell him I can't see them."

"Mom couldn't see them," I say.

"Tell him to wear the red one," my dad adds helpfully.

"Wear the red one." I say.

"I don't have a red one," my brother replies.

Oh, bless. My parents are just fantastic.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Scene In Which I Just Kind Of Ramble....

.....because it's just been one of those weeks where lots of little moments are funny in a "taken as a whole that was kind of funny" way, and not so much in a "wow you should write a whole blog post about that" way.

Plus I am on some cold medicine, so I am kind of loopy. this week:

The bugs are out to get me. Seriously. Aside from the two mega spiders who have taken up residence on my porch and in my cherry tree, there is a massive cicada who likes to perch on the siding right outside my front door every morning. You know, riiiiiiight where I have to stand while I'm locking or unlocking the door. And He. Is. Watching. Me.

It's freaky.

Then, as Younger Brother was moving stuff in the other night, Mr. Big Moth decided that he wanted to live with us, as well. And flew in. And when I mention he was big, I mean, this thing was the size of a freaking bat. This resulted in about a half-hour of my mom and I alternately screaming like little girls and shouting instructions at Younger Brother as he attempted to squirt Mr. Big Moth with a water bottle to coax him off the ceiling so he could trap him against the wall with my tupperware cake plate cover.

It was midnight, ok? This was our super plan.

And it worked really really well, thank you very much.

Plus, if you need a laugh, just picture this: Younger Brother, having successfully trapped Mr. Big Moth, gingerly places the cake pan on the street outside my house, pulls the cookie sheet off the top, and sprints like you-know-what for the house.

Mr. Big Moth is clinging for dear, sweet, bug-style life to the cookie sheet.

I don't think I've ever seen Younger Brother jump as high, or shriek so shrilly, while simultaneously chucking a cookie sheet, frisbee-style, over the lawn.


Speaking of Younger Brother. He moved in. Which is great (because he does things like trap big moths for me), but man, the kid eats a lot. Seriously. What the heck is it with boys? They're like garbage disposals. But it's fun to talk to someone other than the, not that I talk to the dog.

It's also fun to have someone to run errands with, like the other day when I had to go up to Toys R Us to see if they had Skip-Its in stock yet. They don't. But they did have very cute reuseable grocery bags with elephants on them, and if you know me at all, you know I love elephants. So I bought two for a whopping $2 and had this very fun conversation with the checkout employee:

Employee: "Do you need a bag for these?" (Ummmm.....I am BUYING bags. Not only that, but I am buying RE-USE-ABLE bags.)

Me: "No, that's ok."

Employee: "Did you find everything you needed today?"

Me: "Nope."

Employee: "Did anyone help you find what you needed?"

Me: "Nope."

Employee: "Great. Have a nice day!"

Me: " too."

Other than that it's been a rather uneventful week. I had some meetings. I made some flowers. I did some marketing stuff. I sneezed a lot. I decided that although I really liked the Kings of Leon "Use Somebody" song and thought I was never going to get sick of it when it first came out, I'm kind of sick of it now. I decided that I really like the new Wilco song and will never get sick of it.

All in all, a good week. Hope yours was, as well!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Scene In Which We Go To The State Fair. Twice.

Let me just start by saying that I absolutely **HEART** the Indiana State Fair.

Seriously, what's not to love about a place that has fried Oreos? Not to mention adorable animals, fun 4-H displays, fried Oreos, biodisel trains, fried Oreos, music and dance, truly awesome people watching, fried Oreos, lumberjack shows, and all the knockoff sunglasses you ever could have dreamed of?

Did I mention fried Oreos? Oh I did. Thanks.

Growing up in another Midwestern, farm-filled state, I had been to State Fairs before, but nothing like this. Back then, you picked a weekend date you wanted to go, weeks in advance. On the morning of the fair you woke up early and packed a bag with a sweatshirt in case it got cold, a T-shirt in case it got hot, a rain slicker in case it rained, and an assortment of other items. Then you got in the car and drove for an hour or two or ten million (hey, I was a kid). Then you finally parked the car in the middle of a field somewhere, shielded your eyes to the horizon, located the mirage that was the Fair and started walking. Approximately ten days later when you finally arrived, you saw some animals, rode the burlap-sack-mega-slide, ate some corn and an Elephant Ear, and called it a day - and man, it was a GREAT day, too.

Then I moved to Indianapolis. Where the State Fair is. Which means that if I happened to have another craving for fried Oreos in the middle of this posting, I could save it, drive over there, buy some, and drive back before they got cold.

This, friends, is FANTASTIC.

The second best part of the Indiana State Fair is the people-watching. Especially if, like me, you write a blog that sometimes centers around the silly things people do or say.

For example.

Last weekend Cute Boy and I went to the Fair for a couple hours to eat yummy food, check out the animals and just kind of walk around. During the course of this walking we passed an outdoor amphitheatre.

Now, I'm willing to concede that outdoor amphitheatres can be used for a variety of things.


This one was set up with a big stage with the Stihl logo plastered everywhere. And two of those posts that lumberjacks climb with those spiked shoes. And lots of logs strewn about. And lots of big, old-fashioned lumberjack saws on posts.

"Oh, hey!" a woman behind us announced to her friends. "Do you think this is where the lumberjack show is?"


Back to the food part.
For you Fair newbies, I have three rules for the Fair and they are Pacing, Sharing, and Don't Waste Your Taste Buds.

Pacing means just that. Seriously, the Fair goes for two weeks. Even if you're only going to attend once, don't eat everything in the first minute/hour/day/trip. I've seen this rule be violated and it's not pretty. Cute Boy and I did well this year- pineapple whip, curly potato, and Hot Wisconsin Cheese during our first trip, and corn dogs, chocolate-covered bacon (this was actually kind of gross but the guys liked it) and fried Oreos on the second trip with friends.

Sharing is another pretty self-explanatory one. One fried Oreo is great. Two is yummy. Three is heartburn. Four is vomiticious. Therefore, naturally, one serving is four Oreos. Note: Sharing must also be combined with Pacing. For example, even if you are getting ready to call it a day, you and your friend should not order both the fried Oreos and the fried Pepsi at the same time and split them. Trust me, this Does. Not. End. Well.

Finally, Don't Waste Your Taste Buds. The State Fair is the one time each year that I allow myself to eat complete junk, repeatedly, without guilt or any attempt at balance (though not without heartburn). This is just not the kind of splurging that you want to waste on, say, a hot dog.

Sometimes you can combine the two best parts of the State Fair into one experience- like the people wearing the COPS shirts that sat at our table over by the curly potato booth.

COPS, as in, C.O.P.S., as in, Christians Obediently Preaching Salvation. The shirt posed the question, "Wha'cha Gonna Do When HE Comes for You?" which is, apparently, from Ephesians....though I can't say I remember the Bible using too much hip slang like that.

Yes, I totally snuck a photo while pretending to shoot Cute Boy with our curly potato, which probably means the answer to that question is some variation of going to hell. Regardless, whatever I do, I hope it involves fried Oreos.

All in all, it was a great year for the State Fair- I'm already looking forward to the next one!!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Scene In Which Things Aren't Always As They See(m)


It's such a small word, yet one with so many possibilities.

You can have hindsight.....and if you're lucky, maybe gain a little insight.

You can have forsight......

You might use a line of sight to describe something your eyesight allows you to see, particularly when sight-seeing....

And every day, we use sight-descriptive words to convey thoughts and commands, or to otherwise communicate, with the world around us.

"Look at that."

"See that?"

"Watch this."

And it's only when something challenges our notion of sight that we realize, perhaps, how much we rely on these funny little blobby things on our faces to do so much.

This week, Finnigan got to go to the eye doctor.

Finnigan, for those of you who don't know, is the lil bubbers (um, yes, that's what I call him....) that I adopted from the shelter about two years ago. We figured he had a rough first couple years of life, since he tends to be a little more skittish when things fall on the floor or, for example, when I trip over a box, stub my toe, and curse all while dropping a full (open) can of coke on the floor where inevitably my laptop case and other paperwork are lying, like I did today in theory.

He's spent the past two years with me making up for rough times by being allowed on every couch, chair, bed or other perceivably comfortable perch in the house at whim, napping in the sun, dining on the choicest of doggie kibbles, taking frequent walks through our lovely neighborhood, and having lots of playdates with other doggie friends. Not to mention being hugely spoiled by Grandma and Grandpa, where, among other doggie delights, there are sometimes scrambled eggs or liverwurst for breakfast.

We've always known that Finnigan didn't have the greatest eyesight. When I first got him, one of his regular vets noticed an absence of nerves on part of his left eye - a birth defect that probably cut down on his peripheral sight. Since he's been known to bump into a couple things, well, that made sense.

But at our most recent visit, the vet recommended that I take Finn to a specialist for an eye evaluation. It was looking like he was developing cataracts, and since he is only 4, we wanted to see what her thoughts were.

So, earlier this week, we jumped in the car and headed up to the eye doctor. I filled out about 20 forms and explained his issues and we got put in a room and waited about 10 minutes for the opthamologist. She got out the BIG magnifying glassy thingie (um, I'm sure there's a technical term for it) and spent about two minutes looking in each of his eyes.

Some of you probably realize what is coming.

"Well," she said, "He doesn't have cataracts. He has permanent birth defects in both eyes. He likely never had any sight in his right eye. He may have had a little bit in his left, but now he has a detached retina. There's so little of a chance that he has any sight that I would say he is not a candidate for surgery. He is pretty much blind and has been this way since birth."


Folks, let me tell you, I did not see that one coming.

But the more and more I thought about it, all the little things starting making sense (ahhh, yes, hindsight), like the fact that he moves well around trees and cars and big stuff that he can sense and smell, but the stuff he tends to run into is more like the little signs in your yard, or big sticks that have fallen across the sidewalk.

Or the fact that he has never learned to walk without a leash, and can't be let off of one in a big field without a fence somewhere, because (and at this point I'm hitting my head like, duh) he can't see you!

Or that he loves being in the water but not swimming, because, hellooooo Mom, he can't see where the edges of the pond or lake or pool are.

Or why he, ummm, never loved playing fetch much. Yeah. About that.

Despite this, Finnigan has never done anything that a "normal" dog wouldn't do. He loves to walk, and run, and play on the floor with Grandpa. He loves to get treats and go on car rides and sniff freshly mowed grass and chase birds (yeah, I still can't explain how he can chase birds). Because of his blindness the vet thinks that he has a fantastic sense of space/objects around him and an unbelievable sense of smell. He still loves going to PetSmart and knows the voices of our human friends and the barks of our doggie friends. He's memorized the layout of my house and can run around from room to room unhindered. The truth is, if we had never gone to this eye doctor, we may never have known he was blind.

So I would say that despite his lack of sight, Finnigan can still see the world around him.

It's just not the same way you or I see it.


Now there's some insight.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Scene In Which We Feel The (Water) Burn

One of the perks of working from home is that my schedule is a little more flexible, so now, I've got enough free time to go back to my salsa dance class, my belly dance class, my ballet class, and my yoga class that I've been neglecting for the past year or so.

Unfortunately, one of the non-perks of working from home is I'm sorta not getting one of those awesome paycheck thingies every two weeks, so while I have enough time to go to all those classes, they'd cost me over $45 per week if I did. Riiiiiiiiiiight.

So I'm saving money by joining a gym. And buying a Skip-It. Which you'll read about soon enough.

One of the coolest things about joining a gym during a recession is most are willing to let you try them out for FREE, so last week, I went up to a gym on the north side to try their dance and yoga classes, and to check out their facility. I skipped the tour of the locker room, figuring that it would be like most every other locker room I'd been in- bunch of lockers, couple benches, racks of towels, the inevitable scale, couple of old-model hair dryers, and there you have it. Sad, sad mistake.

Anyway, today I ventured back up for my second visit, this time to try "Aqua."

On paper, Aqua looked easy and fun. "An aqua exercise class designed to invigorate and improve cardiovascular conditioning, total body strength and endurance using the buoyancy and resistance of the water to give you a safe and fun workout. Options for all levels."

Hence, there I was, bobbing around waiting for class to start with about 12 other women ranging from 30s to 80s, including a woman who was a dead ringer for Estelle Geddy, dressed in a floral print suit and sporting a hot pink swim cap.

Innocently swimming laps on the other side of the lane marker from our class was a guy about my age.

We got started.

The class consisted of a bunch of repetitive movements like marching, jumping jacks, lunges and other leg movements, occasionally mixed with opposing-arm movements.

First you do all the motions facing forward, THEN you do them facing each side and moving back-and-forth for resistance, and THEN you do them facing backward. Our buddy in the lap lane was getting first a rear and then a frontal show. Yippee.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the best move, called "the frog," or something like that, that basically involves jumping from foot to foot in the water (lots of bouncing) while lifting the knee of your other leg sideways towards the top of the water. Theoretically, it's designed to work your inner thighs.

In actuality, it kind of makes you look like you're trying to high-kick your neighbor while simultaneously flashing her all your bits.

I'm preeeeeeetty sure "the frog" is when we lost our friend in the lap lane.

After a couple rounds of moves, we swam over to the wall and did flutters, crocodile legs, and scissor legs. And after legs, the instructor announced it was time to work on our arms and herded us all to the shallow end of the pool. Then, she disappeared into the equipment room and came back with a huge armful of POOL NOODLES.

And passed them out.

In my heart I knew what was coming, but until my buddy Estelle saddled up, I was reeeeeeeally hoping we'd be sitting on them sideways.


Ride 'em cowgirls.

I mentioned the pool has windows into the club, right? Yeah. Moving on.

Our next instruction was to - using only our arms - propel ourselves to the other end of the pool and back. I felt reasonably ok with this. I don't have the best arms in the world, and I haven't worked out in approximately forever, but I figured I could get through it with decent effort.


First and foremost THOSE GIRLS CHEATED. Seriously, at least 4 of the 80s gals, Estelle included, were TOTALLY USING THEIR LEGS. least, that's what I told myself as the pink swim cap bounced merrily past me while I was "working through the burn."

But overall, I felt pretty good about my first class.

Until it ended.

Remember when I said I hadn't toured the locker room during my first visit, choosing instead to rely on past locker-room experiences? This was a bad, bad idea. Because apparently, what I've missed in gym-membership-etiquette over the past two years or so is that most gyms NO. LONGER. PROVIDE. TOWELS.

Gym Membership- $39.99.

New Swimsuit- $15

Water Workout With Seniors- Free

Having to Dry Yourself Off With Your Cotton Yoga Pants-


Monday, August 3, 2009

The Scene In Which We Maybe Add An Ad....Thoughts?

I'm debating adding ads to my blog- and I'm letting YOU decide!

Here's why I'm thinking Yes:

First off, it's really easy to do- way to go, Blogger.

Secondly, I think that having ads on your blog has become pretty commonplace, and therefore is not as shocking as it might have been even six months ago. What?? She only has 54 readers this week? How DARE she think she can have an ad?!?!

Thirdly, and most importantly I think, this isn't a product-review blog.* Therefore, at no time are readers in danger of getting sucked into a story only to find out that the DAY WAS SAVED by WONDERPRODUCT, which YOU can OWN TODAY, by convinietly CLICKING OUR AD!

*Disclaimer- I do, or might, occasionally mention products I use/like. However, I am not an official reviewer and therefore have no relationships with any of the companies, do not recieve payment, do not recieve free product, and are not asked to review. If that ever happens, I will let you know - and if BMW is reading, I'd love to start with you, preferably your "Convertible" line.

Finally, the obvious but also most self-serving reason- getting paid for ads on my blog. In case you missed it back in June, I sort of, kind of, a little bit quit my job? and while I am doing just fine with my company and also with a fantastic lab in Chicago that I am doing marketing/admin work for, a little extra bit here and there sure wouldn't be turned down, if you know what I mean.

But for argument's sake, I'm still not entirely sure that I want ads. Will they make my blog less genuine? Will profiting ever-so-slightly from sharing the hilarity and beauty I find in the world around me make it less meaningful? Will I just be another blogger putting in my time to keep my readership up, not because I really have something that ohmygod I just HAVE to blog about??

So, since you're the ones who will ultimately be affected by this change, let me know what you think. There's a poll up in the sidebar (like, um, where the ads would be) for the next week, and you can also leave me a comment.


Friday, July 31, 2009

The Scene In Which I Am Not A Fizz-icist

This scene maaaaaay have started because I maaaaaay have had a small issue translating military time when reviewing our itinerary, and as a result, Traveling Companion and I maaaaay have arrived at the Madrid train station to catch our overnight train to Paris about, oh, two hours earlier than we actually needed to.


Regardless, we were hungry and we needed some down time anyway, so during the small, ummmmm, interlude between the time we needed to arrive and the time we actually did arrive, we went bowling in the Madrid train station (yep, I said bowling) and bought snacks for the trip, including a bottle of Coke to go with our sandwiches.

Now, maybe a year or so ago, a friend of mine was over at my house after a party helping me clean up, and we had several half-finished bottles of soda. Before putting them away, my friend shook the bottles so the bubbles bubbled up. Seeing my look of curiosity, they explained that it helps retain the carbonation longer if you do that before you put them in the refrigerator.

Because I am not all that scientifically inclined (the only two C's I have ever received have both been in science, and in fact I was so horrible at chemistry in high school that I opted out of physics and took botany instead. As I'm now a florist because of this experience I'd say it turned out rather well, but that's another story), I didn't question the validity of this statement, and because the two-liters did in fact stay fresh for several additional days, I went with it.

I'd like to think that this slight ineptitude towards all things math or science is sort of endearingly, adorably cute, but in fact it's just sort of embarrassing (though, I will admit, funny) when scenes like the following happen.

Back to the train.

We had opened the bottle of Coke and drank about half of it. I happened to be the last one to take a drink, so after I screwed the cap back on, I absentmindedly shook the bottle gently and placed it back in the bag.

And looked up to see a puzzled look on Traveling Companion's face.

TC: "Why on earth did you just do that?"

Me: "Because it keeps it carbonated longer if you shake it a little bit."

Moment of silence.

TC: "Are you joking?"

Me: "Nooooooo......?"

TC: "Ahhh hahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah...."

Me: "What?!?!"

TC: "Hahahhahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!"

Me: "Stop laughing!!"

Traveling Companion eventually composed himself enough to assure me that I was, indeed, misguided on this point, and (still-chuckling) several days later, he explained the actual scientific principles to me.

After that he also informed me that this was "like something a 12-year old tells an 8-year old as a joke and then when the 8-year old turns 12 and realizes that it's not true, they tell another 8-year old because it's funny," to which the only good response was to scrunch up my face and offer some variation of "your mom."

I'll tell you what, though- that damn Coke stayed fizzy for two days after that train ride.

That's all I'm saying.

The Scene In Which I Go To Barcelona, Madrid, and Paris

I am going to apologize in advance because I'm totally not going to do any of these cities justice.

I got back from my trip nearly a month ago and I still haven't written these posts. Hellooooo, I work from home now. If I can't get them done by now, let's face it, it's never going to happen.

And they were going to be really funny and insightful, too- full of witty anecdotes and accolades for the lovely B&B we stayed at in Barcelona (Ally's Guest House- STAY THERE!), lush descriptive passages about strolling around Barcelona's Montjuic hills where the Olympics were held and down the bustling Las Ramblas, viewing lovely art at the Joan Miro museum, and my take on Sagrada Familia (From an artistic standpoint, incredibly important. From a personal standpoint, I totally hated it.)

Then I would have told you about Madrid and the lovely time we had strolling around the Reina Sofia, the Prado, and through the Plaza del Sol. I would have described in vivid detail how we encountered the Madrid Pride parade almost by accident, and how Traveling Companion and I had a fantastic time mingling with people from all over in a huge crowd of thousands and thousands dancing in the streets until the wee hours of the morning, and how hilarious it was when we weren't sure who was getting hit on because of the language barriers.

And our overnight trip to Paris on the train, when we arrived at the station nearly two hours early because I, well, have a small problem telling military time. For more, read The Scene In Which I Am Not A Fizz-icist.

Paris, as you can imagine, would have been full of the descriptive prose you might find in a Victor Hugo novel, inspired by the trip we took through his house/museum. A lavish review of the Eiffel Tower views at sunset. A hilarious reporting of our trip to Versailles with our two spontaneous Canadian friends, Ashley and Kristin, who spent four hours of our trip with us and at least three of those hours being shocked that we a) had only brought one backpack each on the trip with us, b) had been wearing the same clothes multiple times, and c) had not, and were not, planning to do any shopping on our trip beyond the two sundresses I bought in Madrid.


I had even planned a funny (as in, laugh AT me) post describing our flight home from Paris, during which we encountered the type of turbulence that makes the pilots yell for the flight attendants to sit, the aforementioned attendants to squinch their eyes closed, and for half the passengers to actually scream as we nose-dive several hundred feet in about, oh, two seconds.

But that story was too anti-climactic, because after the seat-belt sign was turned off again, I cajoled one of the flight attendants to sell me a small bottle of wine, which I downed my second Xanax with and spent the rest of the flight in a drooly haze.

So instead, I'll leave you with a story that happened in Madrid, which I will carry with me the rest of my life, as I will all the memories from this fantastic trip - those which I have been able to write about, and those which I haven't. It's better live, so if you know me, ask me to tell you this story sometime.

It was Sunday in Madrid, and Younger Brother had merrily made his way to campus to check-in with his summer program while Traveling Companion and I made our way to the Prado museum. After several lovely hours there, we left and went in search of a quick bit to eat before taking the metro up to visit Younger Brother's new dorm for the month.

As fate, coincidence, karma or whatever you'd call it would have it, the bar we chose was closing for the day- but we stayed and had a glass of wine before walking up the street. With each step taking us closer to the metro station, we were growing hungrier and slightly tipsier (ok, that was just me.)

And then, like a beacon of shiny light, the answer.

Doner Kabab.

Two tables, four stools, three husky waiters, and some yummy-smelling, unidentifiable meat spinning slowly on a spit spewing out 400 degrees of heat at the customers just inside the door.

We sat on two of the stools next to the only customer in the place- a girl, probably about my age, TINY, sporting a blue flannel shirt, a humongous shoulder bag, and a head full of red hair that she kept shaking wildly the entire time we were there.

She recommended the falafel enthusiastically (around a mouthful of it) and then proceeded to quiz us on our lives at the same time she filled us in on hers.

She was there for an artists retreat- had taken a class elsewhere in Spain for a week and then come to Madrid for vacation. She didn't know anyone and didn't speak Spanish well.

She was from Philly but had gone to school in Pittsburgh and wanted to be back there, although she wasn't sure if she should make the move, since she taught art and didn't have a job lined up and thought that was maybe too risky and what did we think??

Because this was karma, or fate, or whatever you want to call it, both Traveling Companion and I had actually just recently quit our own, steady, responsible jobs- him to move cross-country for grad school, me to start my own business. So we told her this.

She was as enthusiastic about this as she had been about the falafel, perhaps more so, and by the end of the lunch she had decided to go for it. To make the move.

Like so many people we met abroad, we never learned her name. We didn't exchange info or promise to keep her posted. Instead, we shared a 20-minute conversation over falafel gyros and the sense that there are people in this world who you are destined to meet, for whatever reason.

And then, in a whirl of blue flannel and red hair, she was up off her barstool, tossing her bag over her shoulder, and out the door, leaving us only with a "Okay guys- I don't know- good luck with your lives!"

Good luck with your lives, indeed.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Scene In Which I Go To Milan

Halfway through the trip we spent a ridiculously brief time in Milan, with the sole purpose of our presence in that city being that we needed to catch the overnight train to Barcelona from either there or Rome, and Milan was closer to Florence, where we had come from.

But I felt like it would be rude not to mention Milan, especially since in the three hours we were there I think I basically managed to ensure we'd never be invited back, at least not to that huge open-air shopping center that's right across the street from the Duomo.

You see, on one end of the shopping center, there's the Duomo, and on the other side, there's a fountain with some nice benches for, say, resting in the middle of a 6-city, 13-day whirlwind tour of Europe. Hypothetically.

We'd been told that the Duomo was the one thing to see if we only had three hours in Milan, so when we arrived, we hopped on the metro and came up in the plaza immediately adjacent, took some photos, and then.....sort of shuffled back and forth staring at each other waiting for inspiration to strike.

So we wandered through the shopping center, which in case you are wondering, is THE place to be if you have a ridiculous amount of money to spend on things you don't really need that have labels with ridiculous names on them. In short, it was shopping high-society style, and needless to say the three backpackers from Indiana weren't going to be doing much spending there.

And on the other side we found the aforementioned fountain with the nice benches. Younger Brother and Traveling Companion settled down with books, and I relaxed in the sun for a few minutes, then decided to leave them (and my backpack) there and take in the Duomo.

Which was lovely. Go, if you go to Milan.

I spent about 30 minutes inside the niiiiice, daaaaark, cooooool cathedral and exited reluctantly back into the humid, sunny afternoon.

And that's when I saw the gelato cart.

If you know me, you'll already know that there was no question at this point, it was just a matter of digging out some cash.

If you don't know me, there was no question at this point, it was just a matter of digging out some cash.

I figured the boys would enjoy gelato as well, and as it was REALLY REALLY frozen solid, I felt that I could carry the three cones safely across the small street, through the 100 yards or so of the open-air-shopping mall, and to the fountain.




Within the first three steps, the cones began to sweat. And then they began to trickle. And then they began to melt.


Seriously, the townsfolk of Pompeii had more reaction time when the volcanoes started erupting than I did when those three cones started doing the same.

So I did the only thing there was to do, really.

I tucked my head down, mushed the three cones together in the hopes that they would support each other like little Leaning Towers O' Melting Gelato, took a deep breath, and lit out for that fountain like my life depended on it.

I should mention at this point that I've been using the term open-air shopping center rather loosely in this post, thus far.

Because it was far nicer than what you're picturing.

Tiled floors.

Marble walls.

Golden chandeliers.

Flagship stores.

I'm pretty sure that they frown upon women in blue cotton dresses from Old Navy blitzing down the main corridor, melting gelato running in rivulets down their hands and arms, wearing the kind of panicked expression that one wears when you realize that 100 yards may seem like not much but is actually a REALLY REALLY LONG WAY AWAYand that you are in real, immediate danger of losing all 7 euros worth of rapidly disintegrating sugary goodness right down the front of your dress.

In the end, I made it out to the boys with all three cones relatively intact, though I will say that most two-year olds eating gelato don't fare as badly as I did, wearing-ice-cream-wise. My hands were a mess, my arms had streaks of gelato all the way to my elbows, my feet had drops dotting them, and even my dress bore the brunt of a couple errant dabs, not to mention the couple strands of hair that had dragged through one of the cones during my panicked flight.

And if/when I ever go back to Italy, the first word I'm learning is "Bowl."

The Scene In Which Younger Brother Doesn't Actually Like U2

As was the case with several interesting things on our trip (Baby Jesus, Brown Cow, etc.) Florence was the place where this scene originated.

Younger Brother, Traveling Companion and I were sitting at breakfast one morning commenting on the amount of album covers that had been framed as artwork and hung in the communal area of the hotel. Quite an eclectic mix, actually, and rather as an afterthought I pointed out a U2 album.

Younger Brother took a bit of cereal, chewed, and swallowed.

"I don't like U2," said Younger Brother. "Well, actually, I don't like anything they did after 1992. I guess before that was OK. But now everyone's all 'Oooooh, U2, la la la,' and Bono's is all 'AIDS in Africa' and I'm over pop stars trying to pretend like they're going to change the world. And in that one song, when they count One, Two, Three, Fourteen, I don't care what it means, it's dumb."*

Bite. Chew. Swallow.



"What?" I said.

"What?" said Traveling Companion.

Younger Brother looked at us like we had perhaps lost our minds, then proceeded to go on one of his 5-minute long rants about the completely strange reasons as to why he likes or doesn't like something, in this case, U2 and "Bow-Noe".

If you've never seen this happen, it's hilarious.

(Massive apologies to Younger Brother- I HAD to relate this story!)

I'm totally not judging him for his dislike of U2 or of Bono in particular. He has his reasons, and while I personally like the band, I respect that. Cool. Right on.

And if it was Traveling Companion, instead of Younger Brother, who had uttered this pronouncement, we would have conversed, finished our cereal, and moved on with our lives in general.

But it's Younger Brother, and hilarious irony tends to follow him, even in Italy.

So suddenly, U2 was everywhere.


It was akin to, say, someone pronouncing they don't like the color green.......right before taking a big trip to Ireland in the springtime.

The news was covering Bono's latest press conference right as we walked by. Restaurants were playing U2 songs. Fans of U2 (because of course, they were touring in Europe at the same time) were wearing shirts, Bono's face flashing at us as we walked down the Italian streets. Even the street musicians were in on the act, covering U2 songs on the corners and in the train stations. And in Barcelona, U2 was actually playing a concert the first night we arrived, and you can imagine the amount of U2-mania that generated- all this only serving to add to our hilarity, and unfortunately irritate Younger Brother even more. Literally, RANDOM STRANGERS were talking to us about U2. Even after we left him in Madrid and went on to Paris to fly home, U2 followed us.

"Uno, Dos, Tres, Catorce...."

*Younger Brother's quote created from a series of paraphrased one-liners from the rant, nearly three weeks after it actually happened.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Scene In Which The Baby Jesus Is Everywhere

In Spain and Italy, particularly in Italy, there is quite a bit of religious art.

More specifically, there is quite a bit of art centered around Jesus.

Even more specifically, there is quite a bit of art centered around the Baby Jesus.

The Baby Jesus is, in fact, everywhere.

And occasionally, he is a ginger.

That's right, all you "Jesus is white, brunette and a chubby cherub" folks- Jesus was, in at least three paintings, a flaming redhead looking for all intents and purposes like he's about to pull the tail of the kitty sitting near him, just outside the frame. There's also several remarkable paintings of him holding a bird, which wouldn't be creepy in the least until you realize the bird looks kind of dead.

He's tall. He's short. He's chubby. He's skinny. He's sitting. He's standing. He's smiling. He's frowning. He's sleeping. He's yawning. He's cute. He's creepy.

Beyond the paintings of Jesus with the obvious choice of Mary, it was also apparently quite fashionable to have your own portrait painted with the Baby Jesus, or to have someone else painted into a group scene as a gift.

He's with Mary. He's with Joseph. He's with the Holy Family. He's with the Brown Cow and the Gray Donkey. He's with Saint Anne. He's with the Angels. He's with the Saints. He's with the Martyrs. He's with Saint George. He's with Saint Peter. He's with Saint Paul. He's with Mark the Abbot of Some Unknown Church in Florence. He's with Paul the Descendant of Mark the Abbot of Some Unknown Church in Florence. He's with The Neighbor Who Invited You to that Ball Last Summer. He's with the Holy Mother of the Abbess of the Order of the Flowers of the Forest. He's with the King. He's with the Queen. He's with the Royal Children. He's with the Guy Who Should Have Been King but got Killed Instead. He's with the Deacon of the Priory. He's with the Prior. He's with Larry, the guy who comes to the stables to feed the Brown Cow and the Gray Donkey.

Those more religious than I will argue that these paintings represent the intangible "He is EVERYWHERE" argument, and I have to say that I agree with them on this point, because the Baby Jesus is quite possibly the most-painted subject ever.

In fact, if the Baby Jesus were living among us today, I daresay he'd be more sought after than Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's kids - that is, if they didn't just adopt him themselves.

I just don't buy that he was a ginger.

The Scene In Which The Brown Cow and Gray Donkey Make Their Debut

It happened at Galleria Accademia.

Strolling through the first of many Italian painting galleries that we would stroll through that day, I was distracted by a flurry of activity, a hushed giggle, a minor interaction in front of a small painting in the corner. An American couple, probably not more than a couple years older than I, were examining the painting closely.

Husband: "See? See?? I told you! It's hilarious!"

Wife (wearing a classic "Really? Seriously? This is what we came to Italy for?" expression on her face): "Mmmmmmmhmm."

They moved on.

Naturally, I had to go see what had so amused Husband, and thus encountered the Brown Cow and the Gray Donkey for the first time.

The painting was one of perhaps a couple hundred we would see over the coming weeks depicting the Birth of the Baby Jesus in the Manger in Bethlehem. The Baby Jesus is kind of a popular subject in Italian and Spanish art, as you'll learn more about as we move through the trip.

This particular painting also featured a Brown Cow and a Gray Donkey in the background of the scene, sharing a stable stall.

And from the looks of things, Gray Donkey was a bit - er - surprised by Brown Cow.

Hence Husband's, and quickly followed by Younger Brother and Traveling Companion's, hilarity.

As we moved past the painting into the next gallery, we began to observe an interesting phenomenon. Previously unnoticed, Gray Donkey and Brown Cow were suddenly EVERYWHERE.

Apparently, we missed the memo that all the Spanish and Italian painters from the 14th to the 17th century received about the only animals that were allowed at the Birth of Baby Jesus, because these two found their way into probably no less than 200 paintings we saw.

They grazed on hay outside the stable. They lay in the mangers next to Baby Jesus. They stood affectionately behind Mary. And they, ummmmm, had relations.

A lot.

Throughout the trip, we continued to see Brown Cow and Gray Donkey in works of art spanning hundreds of years and multiple countries. We Googled them several times, but came up empty. Brown Cow and Gray Donkey are apparently a mystery that has been lost to this time, and while we can guess as to their origins, we can't ever really know the truth.

Now, the inevitable morals of this short story:

First, no matter how much you think you know, don't ever assume you know the whole story. I personally have never read a Bible that specifically mentions the Brown Cow and Gray Donkey....yet for hundreds of years, painters from different countries speaking different languages painted them as a matter of fact into this very important Biblical scene. Coincidence?

Second, look beyond the obvious. Beyond Gray Donkey and Brown Cow, many pieces of art (and many things in life, for that matter) contain tiny little details that, when caught, can cause you to look at something in an entirely new way.

And, most importantly, third: When a 14th-century religious painting captures the attention of a 30-something American male tourist, it's probably something you're going to want to see.

The Scene In Which We Learn To Drive

We interrupt these vacation blog postings for an important service announcement.

To all drivers of bluish-green, dented-bumpered, rusted-out pickup trucks out and about in Indianapolis today, we'd like to bring your attention to the following suggestions for better road etiquette:

When driving down a neighborhood side street, it is considered impolite to drive 45 miles per hour.

When driving 45 mph down a narrow neighborhood side street, it is considered impolite to arbitrarily decide that the street is a one-way street, regardless of however narrow you personally feel the street becomes due to the row of parked cars along one side.

When driving 45 mph down a narrow neighborhood side street that you have arbitrarily decided is a one-way at the moment, it is considered impolite to take up the entire rest of the street with your vehicle by weaving back and forth.

When driving 45 mph down a narrow neighborhood side street that you have arbitrarily decided is a one-way at the moment and thus should be driven on in a weaving fashion, it is considered impolite to honk ferociously at other cars coming the opposite way.

When driving 45 mph down a narrow neighborhood side street that you have arbitrarily decided is a one-way at the moment and thus should be driven on in a weaving fashion while honking ferociously at cars coming the opposite way, it is considered impolite to give said other drivers the finger.

This concludes our public service announcement for today.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Scene In Which I Go To Florence

Part 2 of our journey found us in Florence, after an early-morning train ride from Venice during which Traveling Companion taught me to play gin rummy. He then proceeded to kick my ass at it for the next four train rides (final scores will be revealed in the Paris blog entry!).

I would say that Florence was amazing, but I already used that for Venice. Florence, rather, was unexpected.

After two relatively tranquil and absolutely gorgeous days in Venice, where there are no cars and enjoying life seems to be the priority of everyone you meet, I was expecting Florence to be more of the same. To sweep me off my feet with its romantic grandeur. To escort me up cobblestoned lined streets. To show me beautiful old churches with bells pealing above. In short, I've seen "Under The Tuscan Sun" way too many times, and since Florence is in the heart of Tuscany, I wanted to be Diane-freaking-Lane, and while I was at it, I wanted my hair to look as good as hers did in that movie despite the heat, humidity, and low water pressure.

The jackhammers drilling down into the street in the construction zone outside the train station weren't part of my grand vision.

As we made our way down the grit-encrusted asphalt under the chain link construction barriers to our hotel, the taste of dust on our tongues, hungry and tired after getting up at 4 AM to catch our train, I really wanted to go back to Venice.....and possibly never leave again.

Luckily, the boys, recognizing my despair and dropping blood sugar, graciously escorted me to the nearest cafe where we enjoyed a most delicious lunch and I made a full recovery as we planned our next two days.

Well, that's kind of the way it happened, anyway. I certainly didn't do anything like announce that if I didn't get fed I was going to kill someone in the middle of the square outside the Duomo.

Regardless, we ate. And it helped me like Florence more.

In our two days in Venice, we visited Santa Maria Novella, the Duomo (photo, above left), Palazzo Medici and the Medici Museum, San Lorenzo, Palazzo Strozzi, Palazzo Davonzati, Palazzo Vecchio, where the mayor of Florence lives, and watched an extremely bizarre movie about voodoo that featured Billy Zane and was inexplicably show in German dubbed over English (and that was all Day 1).

On Day 2, we went to Piazza de Pitti and visited the Boboli Gardens (right), where we saw tons of amazing statues. Despite there being some serious inclines, Boboli Gardens was one of my favorite places in Florence and I'd recommend that you visit, when you make the trip. We also went to the Galleria d'Accadamia where we saw the David, and where we first made the acquaintance of Brown Cow and Gray Donkey (for more on this infamous twosome, check out their posting later). We finished Day 2 with Piazza della Liberta and Palazzo della Mostre, where we discovered a lovely little fountain that didn't actively forbid wading (pictured left), and later, a small park where it is actually legal (as it is most places in Europe) to drink in public. Later we ventured back to Palazzo Vecchio with a picnic dinner to watch the street musicians that perform nightly there.

In a seemingly unrelated aside that proceeded to take on a life of its own, we also discovered that Younger Brother is not a fan of U2. Specifically, he is not a fan of anything that U2 did after 1991 and, more specifically.....well, I'll leave that for it's own post.

On Day 3, before we had to head to Milan to catch our overnight train to Barcelona, we visited the Uffizi Gallery, where (in addition to Brown Cow and Gray Donkey), we saw a guy wearing a shirt that said "Advertising Helps Me Decide." If that's not a bigger plug for half my friends' professions, I don't know what is.

Florence is different from Venice in just about every regard, but it wound up being a wonderful place to spend two days, and I'd definitely return. Next up- Milan!