Monday, December 29, 2014

Stubborn? Who, me?

It should probably be seen as a sad state of affairs that my mother--who was up until recently famous for not knowing how to answer her own cell phone, which could neither text nor take a picture--now has a smart phone with all the bells and whistles, and pays about the same per month that I do. Not to mention the part where I whipped out my phone over the holidays to check a message, and got a round of 'oohs' and 'aahs' from the assembled family members, along with a "I didn't think they still made flip phones." Whereupon I had to admit that they didn't, and I'm a freak.

Yes, it's true. I'm clinging to outdated tech. Hard. I'm not even sure why--it's a pain in the butt to answer a text with the old keypad, where hitting the number 1 enough times eventually offers you A, B or C as options, and it's not worth taking a photo knowing it's going to be the size of a microchip and I'll have to text it to Arizona and have him send it to my email.

At the same time, though, I kind of like not having email access all the time, and there have been a whopping two times that I could've used internet access out on the road and didn't have Arizona right there with his work-provided smart phone to pick up the slack. So is it really so bad that I cling to my creaky old phone?

Then there's the car thing. My mom is currently car shopping and Arizona and I are (unfortunately) probably not that far behind her, so there have been some recent discussions of the new models with AWD … and the squirrel-powered engines that come standard these days. 

Okay, maybe that's not entirely fair … but this girl learned to drive in and around Boston, and still tends to take the 'when in doubt, aim and hit the gas' mentality, especially on the highway. Which isn't an easy thing to do when you feel like you've gotta whip your squirrels to get any acceleration!

If I could replace my eleven-year-old turbo Baja part for part and horsepower for horsepower (or keep it on the road forever), I would do it … except that Arizona doesn't exactly fit it with room to spare, and while Baby H will be a smallish package for some time, I'm told that won't last forever. At some point, we're going to need to transport large, gangling humanoid males in the midst of growth spurts. Sigh. 

So … we're either going to be stuck with squirrels, or we're going to have to upgrade the engine, which will come with a whole lot of crap we don't want, like back-up cameras and on-board navigation. All so I can get my RPMs up from squirrel to angry badger territory. I get the whole save-the-world thing, honest, I do! But when we come down to it, I'll cheerfully sacrifice some MPG for actual acceleration.

Yes, stubborn. But, hey, at least I own it (sort of), and I try not to let it affect other people. Except for the part where my beloved has to fold himself nearly double to get into our one car. Or the other week, when I had to ask the roadside assistance lady to Google me the number for a local taxi …

How about you, ReaderFriends? Do you have a something that you cling to, even when logic and the 21st century suggests life would be easier with the newer version? Please don't tell me I'm the only one!

Monday, December 22, 2014

On not breaking a leg this holiday season

Hello, ReaderFriends, and Happy Holidays to those who celebrate! 

Seeing how Arizona's spirituality lands somewhere between Navajo and agnostic, and mine is mostly self-assembled, our celebration is a bit of a mutt. We have a 'Winter Tree' that I decorate myself and Arizona surprises himself each year by enjoying; we do small gift exchanges with each other and my family and go spend time with his on Christmas day; and we take some time to be together and reflect on the year past and the one ahead.

And, weather and circumstances permitting, we take the bikes somewhere fun for a ride. 

This year, the usual tradition has been complicated somewhat by my super-pregnant, ordered-off-the-mountain-bike status. So we've adapted--going on some fun hikes, ostensibly scouting new biking locations for next year. How is biking going to work with a new baby involved? Beats me, but I'm sure we'll figure something out. (Crossing fingers.)

One of the coolest locations we've scouted is Rocky Neck, where an old WPA project building overlooks the sound on a lovely piece of state park. On the 'bringing things full circle' front, the first and only other time we had visited was to scout the building as a possible wedding venue. At the time, we deemed it too big (and frankly intimidating) for our small friends-family-and-barbecue plan. Now, though, Arizona declared it perfect. Because, you see, it has Good Rocks.

Here's the two of us scouting those rocks a couple of weekends ago and modeling our furry hats. (For the record, he was wearing said hat when he first came toward me across the ferry parking lot for our initial face-to-face meeting, and my original 'wonder if he'll be over six feet like his profile claimed' quickly morphed to 'jeepers, what is he, like eight feet tall?')

And here's Arizona this past weekend rocking the … er … rocks.

I, of course, was firmly planted on my hiking boots, taking the pictures (in a furry hat). And before I sent him off to have his fun while I hiked down to get a good picture angle, I gave him a kiss and hesitated. There was no real point in telling him to be careful, because if you're too careful on a downhill like this, you'll go over the handlebars. And I didn't want to tell him not to crash, because that's sort of inevitable in the sport, especially when you're scouting a new line. Break a leg? Just no. 

I went with "Have fun and try to land softly." And he did exactly that. So that is what I wish for you, ReaderFriends, as we navigate the holiday season and look to the year ahead. Have fun, and try to land softly.

--Doc Jess

Monday, December 8, 2014

An Open Letter to the Alarm Cat

Dear Pixel,

We love you dearly, and still marvel on a weekly basis that a bright, generous soul such as yourself found your way onto Route 95 that morning two years ago, and that you survived your dash across five lanes of traffic to where I had pulled over to help. And that, ironically, I had been on the way to the animal shelter, wanting a second kitty who was more amenable to cuddles and hugs than Lucy T. Cat, whose folder at the veterinary clinic is splashed with warning stickers and the nickname "Cujo."

The Universe got it very right when it paired us up--you are as soft, warm and cuddly as I could have asked, and you are Extremely Serious about your job of helping me write each day. I realize that some times it may feel as if there is no end to the pens and papers you must sit on, the computer keyboards you are required to walk across, and the effort it takes to poke me into the optimal position for your next nap. You take it all in stride, though, uncomplaining. You are a valued employee, and your annual review will reflect this, as will the raise we are planning for you next year. It is called a "catio" and will be attached to my office window and replace the scrubby bushes in the front yard.

However, in your annual review (and, well, pretty much every morning), it has come to our attention that you have taken on a second set of duties that you pursue with equal zeal: that of Alarm Cat. We would like to point out that we have small mechanical devices that perform this job adequately, and on a schedule of our choosing. Also, we would like to note that when these mechanical devices fail to raise an alarm around daybreak, this does not necessarily mean they have malfunctioned and need you to back them up. Similarly, you do not get extra credit when you anticipate them by anywhere from a minute to an hour. Sometimes us humans need extra sleep, too.

We can only assume it is your lack of faith in these devices that has prompted you to assume the duties of Alarm Cat, seeing how you have kibble in your bowl at all times; Squishy Food is not dispensed until 5 p.m.; and upon my awakening, you immediately repair to your window perch for an extended bath-nap combination that undoubtedly fortifies you for the busy day ahead.

We acknowledge the grievance you recently filed, regarding our closing of the bedroom door, and understand that this causes you great distress as you picture what might be going on outside of your reach, and assume it involves Cthulhu. If you could see your way to trusting the small mechanical devices more, and perhaps waiting for daylight before sticking your paw in my mouth, then we would be less likely to invoke The Door. 

It is our hope that the three of us, along with the Feline Workers' Union, will be able to negotiate some sort of an Alarm Truce in the year ahead. However, please note that your other excellent interpersonal and editorial assistant skills far outweigh the impact of your overzealousness in this other matter, and that we have no interest in altering the lifetime contract that was signed the moment I dug you out from underneath my car on that highway. We love you very much, and look forward to many more years of you being part of our family. 


The Management

Monday, December 1, 2014

An Ode to my George Foreman Grill

I don't know about you, ReaderFriends, but I rarely (like, almost never) watch a TV commercial or see an Internet ad and think "I gotta get me one of them." 

I mean, really. Why all the dollars spent on car commercials, most of which look the same? I'm going to pick a vehicle by reviews, word of mouth, price and research, not because some VIP tells me it'll make my ass look smaller, or faster, or more fuel efficient or whatever. Same with restaurants, beer brands, and car insurance.

Now, mind you, I'm a fan of ads as an art form, as tiny little stories that play out on screen. (For example, the new Netflix one at the airport gives Arizona and me the giggles.) But while I enjoy some of the insurance commercials out there (the All State deep-frying-the-turkey ad is one of my all-time faves), they haven't influenced my choice of provider (USAA all the way, baby!). And half the time I know I like an ad, but couldn't tell you for love or money what company it's supposed to represent.

So suffice it to say that what little brand loyalty I possess comes from my own experiences, not the idiot box. Mostly, anyway. Because, as with any rule, there are a couple of exceptions. 

My green nonstick frying pan is one, impulse purchased at Wally World following the questionable consumption of a late-night infomercial that showed happy little sunny-side-up eggs sliding cheerfully of said frying pan and onto a plate, with (allegedly) no lubrication involved. And to be honest, it's a good pan. Maybe not lube-free, but plenty sufficient for Bacon-and-Eggies Saturday. 

Then there's George. Do you remember those ads with George Foreman and his gazillion kids, all named George? I do. And how about the ones where he extols the virtues of his indoor grillers, with their fat-channeling grooves, quick preheating, and numerous health benefits? Sign me up!

Yep, many years ago, I succumbed to those promises and bought an indoor grill that looked rather like the UFO at the World's Fair--you know, the one where Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones bust the place up fighting the big alien Bug in the first MIB movie? Yeah, it was like that, and it served me well until getting lost in the move to CT. I didn't replace it at the farm--who had time to cook when there were chores to do? However, a few years ago, in the early days of my new post-farm life, I once again saw a commercial for George and his gazillion kids, and found myself hankering for fat-channeling grooves and numerous health benefits. 

Are there better mini-grillers out there? Probably. Could I have done some research and come up with a different option? No doubt. 

Instead, I drove down the street, found the proper aisle, and got myself another George. And you know what? We love him. We even bought him some accessories. And if he died tomorrow, we would go right out and buy him all over again. I use him for everything from seared tuna to waffles, and a whole lot of stuff in-between.

So what about you? Have you succumbed to a commercial? Have a gadget that you adore and would willingly buy over and over again? Have a recipe for me and my George? Do tell!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ah, yes, that old dental drill sound ...

Yep, that was my morning, spent in the dentist's chair. Mind you, this was a good appointment (to the point that anything involving the smell of your own seared teeth is good), in that the goal was to grind off the little orthodontic nubs, adjust my bite, and fill in the bottoms of my oft-chipped front teeth, thereby marking the end of my 11-month Invisalign experience and my entry into the world of Straight Teeth and a Decent Bite. 

(This as opposed to last fall, when I went headfirst over the handlebars of my mountain bike, smashed my face, and had all these people looking at my mouth and gasping, whereupon I was forced to assure them that yes, my teeth really had been almost that crooked and caved-in before my little stunt.)

Before and after pictures to come at a later date. Today, I'd like to share a few impressions (ha ha) from my morning in the torture chair. To whit (and please note, this is all said with affection and gratitude, because my teeth really do look and feel awesome):

1. Dear Dr. Y--Yes, that is my left nostril. Yes, your latex gloved pinkie fits neatly inside it. This does not necessarily mean you should use it as a leverage point.

2. It's bad enough that you're using the whiny drill thing that makes smoke and burning smells. I get that you need to keep water on the process to avoid heat or whatever. But could you decide whether to shoot the excess water up my nose or down my throat, and stick to that theory? It's the not knowing that's making me tense.

3. Given #2, I could do without the waterboarding jokes.

4. No matter how many times you tell me that giving up tea and Diet Coke will make it easier to keep my teeth white-ish, it ain't happening. Sorry. But, hey, you finally got me to floss on a regular basis, and talked me into the Invisalign. I'd chalk that up as a win.

5. If, when doing the dental impressions for my retainers, I mention that the first (unsuccessful) batch of glop was nice, with it's faint vanilla scent, that's a hint that I'd like to stick with that flavor. Not switch to the one that tastes like motor oil and toe cheese.

6. When you use wayyyy too much of the stanky glop for the second try and the stuff goes down the back of my throat and blocks my airway, don't be surprised if I start unceremoniously digging the hardening goo out of my mouth and wiping it on my shirt in near panic. I was primed by the whole waterboarding thing. Oh, and sorry about the flying elbow when you tried to step in and help. 

7. Finally, since it's Thanksgiving week, thank you for the past year of trays, check-ups, and pep talks. And, well, thanks to my mommy, who announced one day that since my childhood ortho wasn't particularly good, she would help pay for an adult do-over.

And so ... I'm back at my desk, trying to get the taste of motor oil and toe cheese out of my mouth and the sound of that whiny drill out of my ears for the rest of the day. Not to mention, twitching when Arizona turns on the faucet in the kitchen!

Wishing you a day free of the dentist's chair, dear ReaderFriends, and a most excellent Thanksgiving, should you partake.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Car-ma and Awesome Vanity Plates

As I grew up, the automotive theme in my family was "it's a good car if it gives you lots of warning, or at least makes sure you're safe before it dies." Which, granted, ascribes a fair bit of free will to our four-wheeled partners, but, hey, we named them, too.

Bun-bun the diesel VW Rabbit had a habit of dropping mufflers up and down the east coast (Canadian camping grounds, the Expressway leaving Fenway Park, etc.), but even sounding like a giant, percussion-heavy marching band, he got us where we were going. Steve the pickup truck stuck with me through my first couple of years behind the wheel before politely leaking gas to let me know that the connection between his cab and his bed was about to let go.

These days, Arizona's and my beloved Subaru Baja, Roo, is well on his way to joining those hallowed ranks of Good Cars. Last summer, he gave us fair warning that he wasn't feeling well on the day before a planned road trip. Which was annoying, sure, but better the day before than a few hundred miles down the road! Similarly, this past week, my sweetie and I were on our way to the dentist for his-and-hers cleanings, when one of Roo's rear wheels started making a godawful grinding noise and he dragged to one side, like a pony that had just gotten a pointy rock stuck in his hoof and was tossing his head and going "Get it out, get it out, get it out!"

We pulled over. We stared at the tire and brakes. Arizona stuck his head under, to see if we were dragging something. Failing to find anything we could see, we went through the usual "parking brake on, parking brake off, back up, wiggle around, go fast, go slow" routine, and what do you know? Things started sounding better and better, until we could only reproduce the grinding noise with a hard turn to the right.

As an aside, this pleased me. I really hate handing a car to a mechanic and describing a problem he (or she, of course, but mostly he) can't reproduce. It's like taking a day off to ship a horse to the expensive vet clinic for a comprehensive lameness exam, only to have it walk off the trailer sound as a dollar.

Which left the question of what to do? Should we turn around? Keep going onto the highway? We would need to get on the highway with him at some point to get him to the shop, as it's ... Well, what do you know? The shop is right down the street from the dentist. 

So off we hied to get our fangs cleaned, then dropped Roo off with our most excellent mechanics, and picked up a loaner to drive home, only a half hour late getting Arizona back to his desk. And thus Roo (in addition to only needing a fairly easy and inexpensive repair) proved himself once again to be a Good Car.

Because did I mention we were planning an eight-hour, four-state drive on Saturday to visit a friend? Yeah, that. And while it wouldn't have been the end of the world to break down on some highway between here and there on a Saturday, it would've been a whole lot less convenient than toodling down the road with nice clean teeth for a two-hour repair.

Instead, our road trip passed in hours of pleasant conversation, Arizona's continued marveling at how us transplanted Bostonians choose to pronounce our place names (often only hitting one or two out of every three letters), and a game of 'spot the best vanity plate.' Because I can only guess that it's really cheap to get a vanity plate in Maine, because there were LOTS of them.

There was the SUV that was RN-N-L8 and doing eighty in the middle lane. It took me a second, but then I grinned. "Running late!"

There was the white hatchback that proclaimed itself a HERO. Since it was a Purple Heart plate and wore USMC stickers, I'll take that as fact rather than braggadocio. 

There was the big, badass pickup truck that claimed to be YR FATHR. I'm not sure if it was meant to be biblical, Star Wars or Jerry Springer, but it was memorable.

Then there was the usual gaggle of names, initials, and inside jokes that Arizona and I could only guess at. But it got us reminiscing about vanity plates we have known and loved, like the red VW Beetle named LADYBG, and a variety of horsey themed plates I have seen at the shows over the years, versions on EQUIT-8 and JUMP IT. 

My all-time favorite, though, was one I saw back when I was a kid, maybe on one of those familial road trips: a white VW Rabbit whose plate said IM LATE. 

Mind you, I was old enough (and had a weirdly esoteric sense of the world stemming from reading anything I could get my hands on) that at first I thought it meant someone was pregnant and, to quote Aerosmith, the rabbit done died. Upon following the in-car discussion, however, I acknowledged it was probably an Alice in Wonderland reference. And a cool one, at that.

Me? I've never had a vanity plate. Thought about it, sure, but I just haven't been able to settle on a seven-character string that works. It's made even more complicated by Arizona's and my choosing to be a one-car family, since we do most everything together anyway. So for now, we're ... well, whatever numbers and letters Roo is wearing (I think there's a Y in there somewhere). And we're grateful to him for giving us plenty of warning that he needs to see a car doctor!

How about you? Does your car have a name? Do you have a favorite vanity plate? Have you seen a funny/awful one? Let's collect them!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Battle of the sexes: to obsess or not obsess, that is the question

Arizona and I are headed for a major (happy) Life Change, and as the big old countdown to Holy Crap chugs along, I am aware of (and amused by) a major difference between the two of us. To put it in writing terms: I'm a plotter and he's a pantser.

A plotter does her research, thinks about the book's beginning, middle and end, and has a pretty good idea of what is going to happen before she starts writing. A pantser (no, autocorrect, I don't mean 'panther,' even though panthers are Very Cool) dives right in to writing the story and makes it up as he goes along. He might have a high-level idea of the story (hm... I think I'm going to write an alien love story set against a geopolitical movement involving hard cheese), but he figures out the rest of it on the fly.

I have been both a plotter and a pantser (nope, still don't mean 'panther') over the years, in both my stories and my life, and the thing is, I'm convinced that I eventually wind up with the same product in the end--I just got there two different ways. And just as when I'm in plotting mode, it would stress me out to have to shift gears and write into the mist (without a plan), when I'm in pantsing mode, I don't want anybody hovering over me, telling me it's time to plot.

So, too with me and Arizona. 

This past weekend, we went to an all-day class to help us prepare for our Big-Happy. It included videos. Do you remember the spaghetti films from Driver's Ed? The ones with lots of blood and gore, and messages like "don't drink and drive" and "don't drive distracted"? Yeah, they were like that. There were flip-books, too, and some unsettling Q&A periods. Afterwards, when a family member of Arizona's asked how class went, he replied, "It was fine. Good to know where to park and how to find the cafeteria."

Ah, the male perspective. 

Me? I came away from class feeling more settled about the whole process. I, too, am happy to know where to put the car and how to find food. But I also like knowing all the other details, including What Could Go Wrong and What To Do If It Does. See? Plotter. Arizona, on the other hand, would far rather pretend the day didn't happen--because if it did, then he has to worry that Something Might Go Wrong that He Can't Prevent. Pantser.

And you know what? I'm okay with that. In fact, I like it. It's one of the many ways we balance each other out. He reminds me to enjoy today and not spend so much time thinking ahead, while willingly (or at least without active foot-dragging) going along with things when I announce: "I need a plan." Not to mention, we really do seem to wind up at the same destination nine times out of ten, even coming at things from different directions ... and the tenth time is usually that much more interesting because of our different takes on things.

So how about you? Plotter or pantser? (Or, apparently, 'panther'?) Would you rather know what's coming or find yourself surprised? 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Paging Darwin ...

How the heck did it get to be November already? I mean, I see the leaves and my breath did the dragon thing first thing this morning when I went out to the car, but really? November? When did that happen?

Anyway, some of you may know that the N-month is the home of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), when (insert Carl Sagan voice) billions and billions of writers and aspiring writers (okay, maybe not that many, but that's how it feels sometimes) register on the handy dandy (if sometimes snail-slow) website, challenging themselves to write 50,000 words during the course of the month.

Mind you, they don't have to be good words. They just have to be words. In fact, you're not supposed to look back and revise. At. All. You're just supposed to write forward and Get It Done.

I was messaging the other day with a writer-editor-book-reviewer (WEBR) friend who is also doing NaNo this year, and we got to talking about how the whole 'don't revise' thing can be a real challenge, especially for the sort of writer who wants to get stuff perfect before they move on. It went something like this (paraphrasing):

Me: I try to keep reminding myself that my first drafts all come out pretty much the same, quality-wise, whether I write them in three months or nine. I just gotta push through and remember that at this stage, it's all fixable.

WEBR: If you're just starting to figure that out, I'm screwed. 

Me: LOL. Or, more like it's one of those lessons I find myself needing to learn over and over and over again ...

Which got me thinking about those sorts of lessons. You know, the ones where you tell yourself "I'm totally going to remember this for the rest of my life" but then find yourself--days, months or years down the road--either forgetting and doing The Thing, then kicking yourself because you darn well know better ... or (and here's where I get caught) thinking to yourself "maybe it'll be different this time, seeing how I'm older/wiser/thinner/fatter/whatever."

For me, the list of Lessons That Somehow Don't Stick includes the following, in no particular order:

Don't try to make your first draft perfect. Just get it done and fix it later. (See above)

The spot where food touches a microwaveable plate gets flipping hot. 

I initially learned this lesson about an hour after my parents got their first microwave, which was approximately the size of a large dog crate and covered in vinyl made to look like fake wood paneling. Being the curious sort, I found myself thinking "I wonder what would happen to chewing gum in the microwave?" So I loaded a couple of sticks of Big Red on a plate, stuck them in the microwave, and pressed my nose to the glass, watching as the sticks wavered and melted, then started bubbling like something out of a pink-tinged swamp. Awesome! The next step, of course, was to pull out the plate and see if the gum still tasted the same ... except that in the process of removing said plate, I put several fingers squarely beneath the melted gum, resulting in much howling, tears, and second degree burns. And I never did get to eat the gum.

You'd think that would've learned me, right? Wrong. I can't tell you how many times I've burned myself by mistaking the boundary between sort-of safe, non-food zone and the feck-that's-hot food zone post-nuking. Just last week, in fact, with clam chowder ...

Paging Darwin.

**As a corollary (why do I always think there are more Rs than Ls in that word?) to the Microwave Lesson: Glass pans that have been baking in the oven are hot everywhere.

I have no clue why it has taken me more than one burn to figure out that I can't adjust the position of the brownies or lasagna, or take them out of the oven, with my bare hands or a single layer of kitchen towel for protection. 

Well, actually, I do have a clue, but it's kind of embarrassing (a word that I'm convinced should have fewer Rs in it). You see, it never happens when I'm baking with a metal pan ... 'cause, yanno, you don't put metal in the microwave. Glass, on the other hand, goes just fine in the microwave, and you can handle it by the parts that aren't touching the food. 

Why would my brain fail to trip the mental fuse that says "You just opened the oven, blondie, not the microwave, so NO TOUCHY!" you might ask. Beats me. Paging Darwin.

I'm pretty sure I had one more of these when I was thinking about this post last night in the shower (as you do) ... but darned if I can remember what it was (paging Darwin). So I'll throw it out there to you, my ReaderFriends ... What lessons have you have to re-learn over and over again? (Please, tell me I'm not the only one!)

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Donut Quest and a Germaphobe's Nightmare ...

This past weekend, given that rare conjunction--gorgeous weather and an empty calendar--I set out to find something fun for Arizona and I to do, and came up with a visit to a local cider mill. From the website, it seemed to check all the necessary boxes:

Cool history for Arizona ... It has one of the country's oldest steam-powered cider presses still in use. Check.

Cool machinery for Arizona ... Ditto, with demos at 11, 1 and 3. Check.

Something for me ... Can you say freshly baked apple cider donuts?? CHECK! And I'm into old, cool stuff with demos, too. 

The morning began with a power outage that foiled our bacon-and-egg plans, but we're nothing if not flexible. We discussed breaking out the camp stove or sparking up the fire pit ... then we said "screw it" and went out for breakfast. Thus fortified, we did some chores and then headed over for the late demo and to score some donuts, the mention of which had earned a raised eyebrow from my beloved.

Arizona: Apple cider donuts? I didn't know there was such a thing.

Me: You'll love them. And if you don't, I'll eat yours. (No, autocorrect, I didn't mean 'I'll eat you.' That's a very different blog post, thankyouverymuch!)

Upon turning onto the proper road, we came upon cars parked on both sides of the and pedestrians jamming the road. Goodness. This was more of a thing than I had realized! We did some maneuvering, wedged the Roo into a safe-seeming spot despite my suckitude when it comes to parallel parking, and flung ourselves into what turned out to be a cider demo, free wine tasting, free hard cider tasting, a farmer's market with goat products, honey, and all sorts of other local stuff, a live band, and an incredible-smelling building with huge lines for the donuts. Wheee!

The cider-pressing demo rocked so hard that I didn't take any pictures, I was too busy watching (old stuff is cool!), but once we got in the donut line, we had time to look around, listen to some music, get to know our neighbors in line, and generally check things out. And I saw a couple of things I thought were pretty funny. For one, here's the line for the free wine tasting:

The railing on the left is the start of a twenty-foot ramp leading up to the wine booth. Decent line, right? Well, here's the back half of the donut line we were standing in. There were this many people again between us and getting into the bakery.

And there was another, similar line on the other side of the building!

Once we got closer, we were funneled between huge crates of these babies:

Which is cool, right? Hey, it's a cider mill. Why not buy some apples while you're there? And at sixty cents a pound, can you say bargain? Except that the slow-moving line gave us plenty of opportunity to watch every child between us and the bakery (the ones that had been playing in the driveway gravel and licking kettle corn residue off their fingers) reach in, pick up the apples, show each other the squishy spots, maybe toss them around, and then, when a line-glazed parental unit did a "put that back!" drop them in the nearest crate and scamper off. 

Me: Can I borrow your phone?

Arizona: Sure. Why?

Me: I want to get a picture of this. (My dumbphone sort of has a camera, but I can't actually email myself the resulting photos. Fortunately, hubby has a real phone.)

Arizona: Again, why?

Me (snapping away): Because this is a germaphobe's nightmare. Kind of like those ball pits at Chucky Cheese. Just think of all the people who have touched these apples, and where their hands have been! Kinda makes you want to wear a hazmat suit, maybe use a black light.

Arizona (looking suddenly jaundiced): Do those apples go into the cider, do you think?

Me: It's pasteurized.

Arizona: What about those worm holes? Can you get parasites from apples?

Me: Note to self--Don't joke to hubby about contaminants the day after watching a Monsters Inside Me marathon, especially when Ebola is in the news.

The donuts, by the way, were the bomb. As was the hot mulled cider. And Arizona is sold on both of them, cooties and all!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Are you a 'Weener?

Last year plus a couple of weeks, it went like this:

Me: Okay, I'm going to head out and do a bread-eggs-milk run.

Arizona: You want company?

Me: Your call. I know you've had a long day. But if you stay here, remember that tonight it's okay if people knock on our door wearing masks. 

Arizona (stiffening): Why is that?

Me: You know. Halloween? 

Arizona: That's tonight? 

Me: Mmm-hmm.

Arizona: Is there candy?

Me: A dozen or so Kit-Kats, by the door. (Between the ski-slope driveway and relative lack of kidlets in the neighborhood, ours is *not* a prime trick-or-treating house.) Save me one, okay?

Arizona (salutes): Got it. Don't eat all the Kit-Kats, and don't pepper spray the neighbors.

Me: Words to live by. I think I'll go embroider it on a towel.

It's true--we're not big Halloweeners. In fact, I'd say we're not all that big on most 'official' holidays, as Arizona would far rather give gifts when the mood strikes him, rather than being told it's time to buy-buy-buy! Granted, this hasn't yet translated to him randomly deciding to dress up as a pirate on a given Thursday for his own version of Halloween, but a girl can hope, can't she? 

Me, I just go with the flow for the most part, and put my foot down now and then when it's important to me. Like with our 'I don't care what you call it, but I'm decorating a tree and you're getting presents whether you like it or not' on December 25. And I know that when the day comes that I get an itch to dress up and do the Halloween thing, he'll be a sweetie and play along (especially if I tell him that we're dressing up as zombie mountain bikers). 

So how about you? Are you partying this year? Dressing up? Dressing up your house and expecting an onslaught of goblins and ghouls? Or are you going to eat all the Kit Kats and guard the perimeter like a certain someone?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Lumpy White Tights and Other Misheard Lyrics

Arizona (singing to himself as he putters around, collecting mountain bike parts off the living room floor): I been through the desert on a horse with no name, it felt good to be out on the range ...

Me (slaps own forehead): Oh, wow. That makes so much more sense!

Arizona: 'Scuse me?

Me: My whole life, I thought the line was "it felt good to be out of the rain."

Arizona: Why would he be out of the rain if he's riding his horse?

Me: Because he's in the desert?

Arizona: It rains in the desert, you know. Sometimes.

Me: Maybe it's the dry season. Or he had an umbrella. But, yeah, that's why "out on the range" makes oodles more sense. Kind of like the lumpy white tights.

Arizona (pauses, like he's pretty sure he's going to regret asking): What lumpy white tights?

Me: You remember Def Leppard, right? 

(Arizona and I are only a couple of years apart in age, and share many of our musical likes. Hair bands of the 80s are not one of them. Doc Jess = headbanger. Arizona = not so much. He also doesn't share my antipathy for the B-52s, while I don't act like I have a brain tumor when the radio plays Hotel California or Heard it Through the Grapevine.)

Arizona: *nods*

Me: Well they've got this song, Love Bites, that starts off with a whispered line that darn sure sounds like the lead singer is saying, "If you have lumpy white tights ... Watch out! Love ... Bites ..."

Arizona: Lumpy white tights? That's ... oddly specific.

Me: No kidding. And it was like he was inside my head, or saw the pictures from my fifth grade band concert or something. And he was singing just for me. Hey. I was thirteen, okay? Anyway, I sang it that way for the longest time, until one day I was studying the insert that came with my copy of the tape--the way you do when you're a squealing fangirl--and came across the actual lyrics. It was supposed to be "If you have love in your sights, watch out. Love bites."

Arizona: Meh. Boring.

Me: I know, right? At least the lumpy white tights make a girl think for a minute. Kind of like riding through the desert on a nameless horse, carrying an umbrella.

So what about you, ReaderFriends? What's your favorite misheard lyric?

Monday, October 6, 2014

That OMG Moment ... (aka Apple Rapture)

... when you realize that you've become your mother. Yeah, I just had one of those. 

Mind you, the Scallion (She is called thus because I often wear Many Layers that I successively peel out of or put back on to keep my reptilian body temp about right. So Arizona calls me the Onion, and my maternal unit, being smaller and skinnier than I, yet having the same tendency, is therefore the Scallion.) is an extremely cool person, practically a force of nature. I want to be parts of her when I grow up. Just maybe not *exactly* like her. 

Take, for example, apples.

This past weekend was one of those "ermagherd, winter's coming" fall weekends when native New Englanders are genetically programmed to start lining their nests. For Arizona and I, who are constantly waging war against our kW/hr reading on the electric bill (alas, our Little House In The Trees is a bummer for solar conversion because it's, well, In The Trees), this entailed shoring up the caulking and weatherstripping around our doors and packing away our two small window AC units. Which meant *removing* the weatherstripping we had used to airtight them four months ago.

Weatherstripping ... sigh. You can't get the stuff to stick when and where you want, and when you finally do, it's in the place where you're going to want to peel it off six months later while preserving as much of your wood finish as possible. Amiright?

Enter DocJess, a wallpaper scraper, a butter knife, a bottle of nail polish remover (in the house expressly for such purposes, as I can't remember the last time my nails saw polish), and a whole lot of contortionism (no Autocorrect, I don't mean 'a whole lot of contortionists', though that would've been entertaining). And let's just say that after a couple of hours of painstaking, finger-cramping work, getting out of the house and doing a different chore sounded really good to me. 

Me: What do you say we blow this popsicle stand and go get some supplies? We're running pretty low.

Arizona (makes face): On a Sunday? Yuck. Let's just eat what's here and go shopping some night this week.

As an up-until-recent-years lifelong bachelor who's been through some lean times, he's often perfectly content to subsist on whatever his environment provides, until the kitchen looks like it's been stripped by locusts and dinner consists of microwave popcorn and a mustard sandwich, hold the bread. Whereupon, he'll go hunting, slay a mammoth, and load up his cave for the next round. Me? Not so much. I want what I want in the food department, especially when I'm feeling a little put-upon by chores.

Me: I'll just run down the street, then, and pick up a few things to hold us over a couple of days.

Since Arizona (bless his father and general life view for this one) believes that Real Men Go Grocery Shopping With Their Wives, he grumbled only a little and said, "I'll get my shoes."

Me: We can buy beers.

Arizona (perks up): I'll drive.

So we went down the street to the expensive market where we don't do our big shopping (because, yanno, expensive), and we did the sort of supply run I usually associate with blizzards. You know--milk, bread, eggs, beer. (We've got batteries stockpiled.) 

Arizona: All set?

Me: Just need to a quick run through the fruit section. 

And by 'quick,' I mean twice the time it took us to do the rest of the store. Because ... APPLES! 

You see, apple season in New England is a wonderful time, when the selection of apples expands from the year-round Mac-red-delicious-golden-delicious sameness to offer new and interesting names. Gala! Braeburn! Fuji! 

Now, fifteen years ago, when I lived up in Massachusetts nearer to the Scallion, there was a neighborhood orchard that offered all these beauties (and more) fresh off the tree. Me? I lived on pizza, Dunkin' Donuts and Lean Pockets, and when my maternal unit waxed enthusiastic about the different apple flavors and her efforts to uncover the formula for a Perfect Pie (was it three Galas to Two Braeburns or the other way around?), I would nod and smile, and think, "Dude, they're just apples."

Mind you, I was more than happy to taste test, because she makes a killer pie. But apples were apples to me. Until yesterday, when I found myself jumping up and down in the Expensive Market and whooping, "HONEYCRISPS!!!"

Arizona: Dude, they're just apples. Aren't they?

Which they are, of course. But they're super yummy, too. What's more, they mean that the good parts of fall are here--like pies, gorgeous days, pretty leaves and dubious cornstalk decor. And we'd better remember to enjoy them, because pretty soon the world is going to be cold and white here, and the honeycrisps are going to be gone. 

So, dear ReaderFriends, enjoy the moment, eat an apple (or the seasonal indulgence of your choice), and remember to look around yourself and find something that makes you smile. The big things in life are important, but it's the little things that set the mood. I wish you a happy one today :)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Frosting Hubby's Nuts (and other questionable phrases)

Arizona (tosses me a pack of extra-long zip ties): Use these. Get 'em good and tight.

Me (eyeballs him): You got anyplace special in mind?

Arizona: Let's go with the wiring for starters. (*wink*)

You see, on this past bright, beautiful Sunday, hubby and I took the ferry over to Long Island to work on his boat trailer, in preparation for bringing his small-but-seaworthy Kit-Kat (named after his favorite food) over to our side of the sound for the occasional fishing junket next year. Which meant spending the day at The Shop.

The towering steel building (it always sounds capitalized when the clan talks about it) resides in the back yard of an uncle's property, and is packed full of ruthlessly organized tools, spare parts and equipment. It's also a veritable archaeological record of the vocations and avocations of three or four generations of males, most of whom have stayed local and worked at one point or another as contractors, handymen, welders, sailmakers and marina guys.

In the back of beyond, there are a few pieces of construction equipment from the contracting business that The Admiral (Arizona's grandfather, a nickname, not an official rank) had with his father, and the flat-bottomed boat that he used for his beloved clamming and oystering runs. Closer to the front are parts to The Admiral's current boat, which he still (at almost 91) loves taking out fishing.

The next layer belongs to Arizona's uncles, who use The Shop most regularly--working on everything from ice boats to a classic Chevy that's mid-renovation and lovingly swathed in layers of protective cloth. And in the back, mothballed cars from the family's racing days, looking like decommissioned X-wing fighters, their chest-wide tires racked on the walls, so slick it's hard for me to imagine them staying on the track. (Then again, I guess the didn't, always.)

There are traces of Arizona and his brother, too, in the mountain bike wheelsets hung on the walls and the familiar handwriting on this box or that, and the utter familiarity with which my hubby opens up the huge accordion door so we can get to work.

Okay, technically it's more so he can get to work and I can dig up a folding chair and hang out, working idly on my computer until he needs me for a "here, hold this" or "can you find me a..." moment. But it's a beautiful day, the view is gorgeous (a nursery in the middle distance, with all the fall mums coming into bloom) and I've got a pint of late-season strawberries at my feet. Over the course of the day, all three uncles will put in appearances at The Shop, and we'll visit a little with The Admiral before we catch the ferry home. What could be better?

The Shop seems like a living thing to me, with the big compressor cycling on at odd moments and air hissing out from the tank in between. It's the sort of strong family center that I've never had before, and that I know Arizona cherishes. And it's the scene for plenty of 'let's see how a romance writer and her similarly-wired hubby can make almost anything sound dirty' conversations. To whit:

Arizona (hands me a tube of beige spooge): You're in charge of lubrication.

Me: Always.

Arizona (indicates the wheel lugs): Slick them up good, all the way from the shaft to the shoulders.

Me (snorts): On it. Are you in charge of screwing?

Arizona: You bet.

(We get the tire mounted in companionable amusement.)

Arizona: Okay, now put a blob of grease on each of the nuts.

Me: Like totally cover them?

Arizona: Yep. The tires'll be going in the salt water. We'll rinse 'em off after we use the trailer, of course, but anything we can do to protect the metal--especially where there's steel--is a good thing.

Me: Gotcha. (Gets to work. Discovers that it's tougher than you'd think to get the spooge to stick to the sides of the hex-headed nuts and go down into the cracks. Finally comes up with a system.) Oh, it's like frosting a really tiny cake that's too warm for the icing to stick. Why didn't you say so?

Arizona: Not the first metaphor that would've come to my mind.

Me: What is?

Arizona: Grease my nuts, baby.

Me: That's not a metaphor.

Arizona: Maybe not, but it gets the point across!

And with that ... happy Monday, ReaderFriends. I wish you calm seas, sunny skies, and greasy nuts!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Shoe Slut versus Pen Slut

I'm roaring down to turning in the revisions of Mustang Ridge V (The Search For Solid Conflict), so will make this quick. But whilst sort-of-watching a TV show called Extreme Collectors yesterday, I got to thinking about the Things We Collect.

The episode I saw featured a woman who had an entire room devoted to My Pretty Pony collectables, a man with 74 Cadillacs (that's not the year, that's how many cars!) and a guy who had hundreds (maybe thousands?) of cookie jars ranging from cute to creepy (my opinion; I don't think the show used the word 'creepy').

Though to be fair, the guy with the cookie jars had some plan to turn them into funerary urns, which the host found weird but I kind of dug. I mean, really, if you've got to keep my ashes around for the cat to sneeze in, then I totally want to be in a cookie jar. Wasn't there a book that opened with a woman driving along with her friend's ashes in a Mr. Peanut? (Cruisie, maybe? Early Tami Hoag?)

Anyway, over the past couple of weeks, I have hung out with my friends the Shoe Slut and the Pen Slut. They are self-proclaimed as such, and live up to the titles most cheerfully. (I made the mistake of showing the Pen Slut my favorite pen, which was a giveaway on an author tour I went on, back when my publisher sent me on tour. I almost didn't get it back.)

Arizona used to date a Shoe Slut (a different one, granted), and I think he still finds it amusing that, if we count bike shoes, he has more pairs than I do. Being a bit of a prepper, he tends to want to stockpile food. Since our kitchen is approximately the square footage of a Port-A-Potty (though smells much better), I have kept this down to a dull roar, with the exception of cat food. Although Lucy T. Cat and Pixel T. Kitten share one small can of wet food each evening (for 7 cans per week, if my math serves me right), for some reason we have 50+ cans of cat food stacked in the cabinet. Heaven forbid that the grocery store is out of the preferred flavors some week! Which, I guess, makes him a Sheba Slut. (I'm so not telling him that, btw.)

Which got me thinking that I'm not really a Slut for anything. Books come and go, food doesn't stick around long, and while I adore my cowboy boots, I tend to have two Really Nice Pairs that see a lot of use. Gloves, maybe? Between biking, the barn and New England winters, I have maybe eight or ten pairs. I don't do the see-it-buy-it with them, though.

How about you? Do you collect? Are you up to Slut status? Any suggestions for what I should think about collecting? If you had to have a cookie-jar urn, what kind of a cookie jar would it be? And have a great week!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

WriterBrain Versus the Room Key

So this past Friday was a little crazy. Having failed to finish my revisions on the fifth Mustang Ridge book (or, rather, having finished one pass of revisions and deciding it needs one more before I can in good conscience turn it in; rather manically toying with the idea of renaming it Sagging Middle at Mustang Ridge; and giggling when I pictured the cover art to go with), I turned my attention to getting myself to a certain Sheraton in the middle of Connecticut, where I was booked to spend a weekend of quality Writer Time with my peeps, listening to Cherry Adair give her most masterful Master Class on Writing. (No, autocorrect, not 'Wiring'. That's a different master class, and probably a different Sheraton.)

And, yes, the above was one hell of a run-on sentence. You're welcome.

I had a to-do list, and I to-did it, from vacuuming the homestead (where the cat-hair bunnies had started procreating) and packing sufficient semi-matching clothes, to making a supply run so Arizona would have food while I absconded with the One Car. All while trying to make a 5 pm departure time, because when you're driving on Route 95, why not plan it for rush hour on a Friday? Just as I was wrapping up (no, not warping up; this isn't Star Trek, though come to think of it, warp speed would've been nice), I got the kind of text that one tends to get at the beginning of a girls' weekend. 

It was from my most excellent roommate, G, and it read (paraphrasing, but pretty darn close): I'm in the bar with the troublemakers. We're all checked in. Push door handle up. Do. Not. Push. Down!

The bar thing? That made perfect sense. The troublemakers? Check and check. All's good with the room? Awesome. But I've got to tell you that the handle thing sounded pretty ominous, especially with the punctuation. Was that Siri being 'helpful' or was it a dire warning? And what handle? Should I beware some door, or (horrors) did we have a quirky toilet?

Sure, I could've texted back and asked her. Instead, figuring it was the sort of thing that would make sense when I got there, I loaded up the One Car, snuzzled Pixel T. Kitten, told Lucy T. Cat to watch the perimeter, assured Arizona that I had all the proper safety gear with me (New England vs. Arizona: I keep a down parka in my car; he packs jugs of water), promised to text him when I got there, and kissed him see-you-Sunday. And off I went. 

The drive was uneventful, and I even secured the sort of parking spot Arizona likes, far from the crowd, under a light and with landscaping on one side. (This after our poor unsuspecting Suba-Roo got sideswiped whilst parked at a Mass Pike rest stop. He's all better now--and kudos to the woman for sticking around to give us her info--but I've stopped rolling my eyes when my beloved parks nine miles from the Walmart entrance.) Checking in was no problem, schlepping my boatload of crap (some trips I pack light; this wasn't one of them) to the fourth floor was straightforward, and our room was right on the corner. 

There was a sign on the key-card-reader-thingy. It said: PUSH DOOR HANDLE DOWN.

I froze. Wait. Hadn't G said to push it up? Yes, I could've gotten my phone out and checked. But I like to live dangerously. Or follow instructions. Or something. So I swiped my card, waited for the light to turn green, and pushed the handle down, as instructed. 

The door stayed locked.

Ruh roh. Had G said to push it up or down? What if she had said Don't. Push. Up? Would injudiciously pushing it up wipe the memory, meaning that both of us would have to get our cards re-keyed? Or, worse, wait for the maintenance guy to replace the card reader on our door? (Both of which have happened to me more than once at conferences.) 

Or (and here was where the WriterBrain kicked in) was the device wired to a hefty blob of C4 stuck on the far side, ready to start counting down from three at the proper up-push signal? Might it trigger a guillotine? Hey, maybe the whole hotel would go into lockdown, with blast shields thudding down to cover all the doors and windows, sealing us in. The members of the new Republic of the Fourth Floor would be forced to live off the vending machines and whatever snacks we had brought with us, pooling our resources and developing a Lord of the Flies society, except with my blankie rather than a conch shell. Yikes!

Palms suddenly sweaty, I put down the rest of my crap, making a respectable pile in the doorway (including a box of granola bars and several six-packs of Ritz-and-peanut-butter crackers that I could add to the Fourth Floor collective, perhaps making up for the fact that I was the one who Pushed The Handle Up). Then, holding my breath, I swiped the card again. And this time when the light turned green, I pushed up. 

And darned if the door didn't open, just like G had said it would.

So in the end, all was well. Nothing blew up, and nobody got locked on the fourth floor to reenact the fall and questionable rebirth of society. I got into the room, changed into a t-shirt that read Romance Writers' mating call: "Hey, honey, want to do some research?" and headed down to the bar to get started on my weekend. 

And who knows ... Maybe one of these days I'll write a book about a hotel going into lockdown--with the hunky hero and scrappy heroine trapped together, of course, and forced to team up in order to vanquish the villains and get everyone else to safety--and you'll all know exactly where it came from!

Monday, September 8, 2014

DIY Take II ... Less of a Disaster!

Since some of you got a laugh over my plumbing oops a month or so ago (which I later used as an excuse to have PlumberTodd swap out the fixtures in the shower thankyouverymuch), I figured I would semi-redeem myself by sharing this past weekend's Build-A-Desk adventure.

Okay, so maybe I've been doing most of my writing on the living room couch lately. Maybe I haven't been using my treadmill desk nearly as much as I should. And, okay, maybe the whole litter-box-in-the-office routine has put a thick layer of dust on Things That Would Rather Not Be Dusty. In my defense, the rest of the house is clean-ish. (No, autocorrect, I don't mean 'my house is clannish'. It's clean. Ish.) Anyway, I got a wild hair last weekend and launched Operation Office (OpOff). 

I cleaned. I dusted. I washed. I decluttered. I donated. And when I was done, I had a small, mostly empty space containing a treadmill, a bookcase, a litter box (now with a lid on it), and an empty wall that was crying out for a little desk.

I had a few criteria for OpDesk: 1) a small surface area, to discourage clutter and fit in the small room; 2) no drawers (ditto); 3) not a lot of $$; 4) zero wobble; and 5) padding on the top (my mountain-biking-dislocated elbow, while back to normal in strength and function, gets sore when I lean on a hard surface for too long). Which left me with ... half of a massage table? An ottoman on stilts? Hm. Hey, wait! thought I. What if I make my own? 

Cue trumpets as I hied off to Home Despot (as Arizona calls it) for a quarter sheet of sanded plywood, two porch-rail spindles, and six brackets.

Total spent on materials, ~ $60. It would've been less, but I bought the pretty brackets and a yoga mat to use for the padding. The primer and paint was left over from last summer's Paint The Shutters project, and was promptly applied (with much Cursing of Gnats, since the glossy blue Rustoleum is a strange attractor, and for every bug I picked off the surface, two more did the dive-bomb thing). Then, using the pretty brackets, I mounted the plywood to the wall. 

This was my first mistake. My second was assuming that the wall and brackets were all built on something approaching straight lines and ninety-degree angles. The end result? My carefully cut-to-measure table legs were far too short, dangling from the tabletop like something MC Escher might have done on purpose.

Me? Not so much.

Well, hell. (Note to self: next time, mount the legs first, then stick it on the wall. I'm sorry to report I was too annoyed to take a picture of my levitating desk.)

Not to be sunk for a second DIY project in a row (or confessing same to Arizona), I invoked Homeowner Logic. To whit: When we bought our cute little house, we replaced the gnarly vinyl stick-on flooring with nice laminate, so I shouldn't put my still-a-little tacky painted table legs directly onto the floor. Instead, this project clearly required a layer of adhesive felt and a pair of rubber furniture feet. Success! (And free, 'cause I already had the felt and the feet.) Which yielded (cue fanfare number two): 

(See? Even Pixel T. Kitten approves.)

And would you look at that? My 'hmm, that's about the right color' choice of yoga mats was spot-on. 

Okay, so the folding chair (complete with splatters of blue spraypaint from Project New Front Door) is a little grotty, but I'm currently debating between stealing Arizona's desk chair (he keeps talking about replacing it with something taller, after all) and getting one of those inflatable balls and seeing if I can avoid getting bucked off it while I write. 

So there you have it! A semi-successful (well, except for the Mickey Mouse shim job on the legs) DIY from Doc Jess. And a couple more pictures, because so often in online interviews, I'm asked what my writing space looks like. 

My treadmill desk (a far less sophisticated DIY project, complete with pipe clamps holding it onto the treadmill):

Random bookcase of stuff--a copy of each of my printed books on the top shelf, giveaway books on the bottom, favorite research books second to the bottom, and desk toys and keepsakes in the middle, each with its own story. 

And... the view, complete with the all-important kitty shelf! (See? I'm not the only one who likes padding on her horizontal surfaces.)

And that's the end of my tail ... er, tale!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Here Snakey, Snakey, Snakey ... (aka Domestic Superpowers)

The other day, it went like this:

Me (doing a boogie-woogie victory dance in the living room): That's right. Uh-huh. I rock!

Arizona (looks up from reading on the iPad): What did I miss?

Me: This! (Holds it out with a flourish.) I successfully folded a bottom sheet into almost a rectangle.

Arizona: And this is important because why?

Me: I don't know. It just is. Sometimes. When I feel like bothering. Otherwise they just get wadded up.

Arizona: Um ... Congratulations?

Okay, I'll admit it. Sometimes I still get the occasional "look at me, doing wifey sh*t" moment with him. I like keeping our little house fairly neat, and have been known to mend his clothes, especially when a favorite goes down. As far as he's concerned, I have two domestic superpowers: the ability to iron patches on things (I can and have sewn stuff back together for him, but it's not my favorite, so I'll iron-on wherever possible!); and the ability to rescue the little string or elastic thingie from inside the waistbands of any pair of gym shorts or sweatpants. He was suitably impressed when I recently re-strung a pair that had lost their string entirely (all hail, the power of the extra-long shoelace). Hey, we all have our little moments of brilliance, right?

Now, Arizona was a bachelor for a long time, and is fully capable of taking care of himself ... in a very guy's-guy sort of way involving lots of takeout, frozen pizza, canned chili, and boxes of Triscuits. When we were first dating, I was pretty sure he only had one pair of pants and two shirts--not because they were dirty, but because they got very familiar, very quickly. I later learned that he hates shopping, so when he finds something he likes, he tends to buy multiples, usually in the same color. The joke used to be whether he should wear his tan pants, his tan pants or his tan pants. Lately, he's gone wild and added gray. 

The same goes with food. The first time I met Arizona's BFF, he looked in the freezer, snickered, and said, "He's still living on frozen pizza, huh?" Now, granted, that was my freezer, and my now-that-I'm-single-I-can-eat-whatever-I-want diet, but I have since re-emerged into the land of fresh ingredients, salads, and actual cooking. And I'm doing my best to lure Arizona out with me ... with varied success. Grilled chicken, steak or shrimp are all okay, especially if they come with a baked potato or refried beans, bonus points for tortillas, because then I can sneak in some lettuce and fresh tomatoes. Other than that, though ... Well, I'm developing a strategy. 

It's called Feed-The-Snake.

On one of the horsey forums I follow, there's a subsection called The Menagerie, where folks get to talk about their other pets. Usually, it's questions about crate training the puppy or 'Why does my cat pee next to the litter box?', but there's a lady on there who has these lovely amelanistic (ha, autocorrect, choke on that!) corn snakes, and breeds one clutch per year. From when they first break their shells (pip), she takes lots of photos, and lets us follow along as they emerge from the eggs, get temperament tested, get their first meals, and go off to their new homes. This year, it's been extra fun because a couple of them were purchased by other members of the forum, who have picked up their stories.

Backing up a little, though. Before they go to their new homes, the breeder lady makes sure they are "confirmed eaters." With some, this means little more than putting the hatchling in a little Tupperware that's different from their home container (so they don't get used to biting finger-sized pink things at random), and dropping in a thawed baby mouse (pinkie). With others, though, she had to get more creative--heating up the pinkies, cooling them down, covering the cage, making the food seem to move ...

Back when I was a little kid, I had a terrarium in my bedroom, and would "borrow" critters (frogs, turtles, snakes, etc.) from the great outdoors, keep them for a couple of days or weeks, and then put them back where I found them. Or I would catch tadpoles or caterpillars, watch them metamorphose into their final forms, and then release the adults. Sometimes, this meant the same sort of tempt-the-critter when it came to eating, with me often putting a bug or bit of meat on the end of a piece of uncooked spaghetti and making it look like it was trying to escape.

Which brings us back to Arizona. When it comes to fruits and veggies, it's not enough to simply dump them in his cage--er, leave them on the counter. Through trial and error, I have uncovered a handful of healthy things that he will eat if I cut them up in bite-size pieces and leave them in front of him while he's in snack mode on the couch. Pepper strips with ranch dressing that he doesn't know is yogurt based, chunks of cored apple, orange sections with all the icky white stuff picked off the outside ... I don't quite have to hold them up and do "Here, snakey, snakey, snakey ... would you like a nice thawed mouse?" But I do it sometimes, because it makes him laugh. And then he eats the darned pepper, because I made it for him, and it's there, and its the right size and shape, and apparently, feeding the snake is another of my domestic superpowers!

What's yours?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Caption That Photo- The Charity Cowboy Man-Titty Edition

Calling all my wonderfully creative (and occasionally naughty-minded) ReaderFriends! I need slogans for half-naked cowboy types. Think you're up for it?

Okay, here's the sitch: the rescue (fully nonprofit, accredited and aboveboard) at which I volunteer does these really awesome Men of Beech Brook Farm calendars. This involves us posing and photographing half-naked (and sometimes more than half-naked, lol) local hunks--friends and significant others of the volunteers, local athletes, Navy guys, Coast Guardies, etc.--as they interact with the rescue's horses and donkeys. As you might imagine, this is *not* a hardship for most of us.

Then there's Photographer Guy. 

Now, PG is plenty openminded and a Very Good Sport--he's a valued volunteer, a board member, the adopter of a rescue horse and a star of the 2015 calendar lineup (and no, I'm not telling you what month). He's also a trained graphic designer, as well as a fellow Battlestar geek and my go-to for movie recommendations. The calendar is his baby, and he does an amazing job. However, this means that over the past few months, poor PG has spent a whole lot of his time posing, photographing, cropping, arranging, rearranging and discussing half-naked male cowboy-types. And, as you might imagine given that I'm involved in said conversations, they don't always stay G-rated.

Okay, they *rarely* stay G-rated. (hangs head) Though in my defense, I wasn't the one that said "Is that a piece of his you-know-what showing?" Which then commenced an extended analysis of the photograph (and flesh-colored object) in question. In great detail. With lots of zoom. And giggling.

(It's a piece of the saddle, by the way. We swear.)

ANYWAY, the photos are in and done, the calendars (complete with centerfold!) are in production for delivery beginning in October, and the pre-order forms are live ... and, like many of us, the rescue is scuffling to make ends meet. We really need this fundraiser to be a success. So we're looking for ways to get the word out! PG, being a Very Good Sport, came up with this flier:

Which I think is pretty awesome. And, no, I wouldn't mind nailing--er, pinning that guy to my wall. (I would apologize to Arizona for that, but he enjoys a good cheerleader carwash as much as the next guy.) When PG posted this, though, and suggested that we do a new one each month he added a semi-plaintive: "Could you guys come up with the rest of the slogans? It's really not my thing."

So, to help out poor Photographer Guy, I'm appealing to you! I need some pithy sayings that we can pair up with pictures of horses and hunky men. They should be naughty but not too naughty (though if you want to get raunchy in the comment trail, be my guest), and make us want to have a copy of the Men of Beech Brook 2015 hanging on our walls.

And ... go!

Oh, and want to pin that guy to your wall, or know somebody who would? Preorder here!