Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Avatar


Yesterday afternoon, we went to see Avatar. The Young One, especially had expressed interest in seeing it after we saw the trailer. Himself ordered tickets online to the Imax 3D theater. I'm so glad we got the tickets ahead of time because the movie has been sold out, every show this week until New Year's Day. Even though we got to the theater with plenty of time to spare, the theater was packed, and we ended up having to sit down front.


I was a little worried the movie wouldn't live up to all the hype, but it did. In one word, it was wicked!
The Young One is heavily into computer games and graphics. She thought the movie was Halo2 and 3, and Assassin's Creed rolled into one. The movie also liberally borrowed from The Dragon Riders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey.
All in all great special effects and CGI. The Imax seats were equipped with an individual sound system called a butt kicker. You felt the movie as well as watched it. I was a little worried about watching the movie in 3D as I am prone to vertigo, but I didn't really have much to worry about. I think if we were sitting further up, I might have felt the theater start spinning, but sitting in the third row, I was able to look at the bottom of the screen to ground me.
If you can't get enough of the movie or just want to play, you can Avatarize yourself. I just love me as one of The People. My favorite color for skin tone, and no double chin! I haven't been that thin in some 25 years though I never had a graceful swan neck.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Favorite Quote


This month has been pretty wild and wooly. I decided to add an appropriate quote to my email signature from one of my favorite movies: This business will get out of control. It will get out of control, and we'll be lucky to live through it. - Admiral Josh Painter, The Hunt for Red October.

What's your favorite quote?

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Friday Five


Merry Christmas! This is a quiet day for us. No running here and there visiting relatives and delivering gifts. Today is a relaxing, family day. A pj day for those who wish. What could be more relaxing than watching movies while lounging in your pjs? Christmas movies to while the day away: (and not just for Christmas)

1. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The real one. The animated one. Can't get any better than Boris Karloff as The Narrator/Grinch. Not to mention the Chuck Jones' (from Bugs Bunny fame) direction.

2. It's A Wonderful Life. It's not Christmas until you've seen this film at least once during the season. Even though the film is in "dog view" (The Eldest's description for black and white) this is a true classic. Jimmy Stewart with the help of a bumbling angel learns how one's life effects others. And he gets to tell off the formidable Lionel Barrymore to boot.

3. Miracle on 34th Street, the "dog view" 1947 version with Maureen O'Hara and a little Natalie Wood. The lesson: one just has to believe

4. A Christmas Story, Ralphie tries to convince the adult world that a Red Ryder BB Gun is the ultimate Christmas gift and he won't shoot his eye out.

5. Another "dog view" movie. (Can't help it, I love the old movies) The Bishop's Wife. Dudley the angel as only Cary Grant can play him comes to answer the bishop's (David Niven) prayer for help.

I know it's supposed to be the Friday Five, but there's another movie or two to add. A Christmas Carol. I know lots of folks feel the movie with Alistair Sim as Scrooge is the definitive Carol, but I also love two other versions. The 1984 made for tv version starring Edward Woodward as the Ghost of Christmas Present and George C Scott as Scrooge. And try not to laugh, but I also love The Muppet Christmas Carol with Michael Caine as Scrooge.

A new favorite is Elf. I'm not a huge Will Farrell fan, but this movie is just too funny and sweet at the same time. No matter how out of place we feel we are with the rest of the world, we all have something important to contribute.

What's your favorite Christmas movie?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Last Minute Wrapping


It's been a hectic two weeks for me with a family problem and I'm woefully behind with holiday preparations. I had a couple of gift cards but needed something to put them in. I was hunting on the Internet for some sort of paper craft stocking or bag. Came across how to make gift bags from envelopes. Very easy to make with items I already had on hand. Envelopes, ribbon, glue. I printed some clip art to decorate the front of the bags. "Didn't they turn out cute?" she asked shamelessly fishing for compliments.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

3D Snowflake


Look what The Young One made! A 3D snowflake. The way the paper is shaped reminds me of Mobius strips. I thought this must have been a project in the AP Calculus class she's in. Nope, they made the snowflakes in psychology.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas

Heard this on the radio the other day. It's by the group Straight No Chaser. I thought their arrangement was pretty clever. What do you think?

Monday, December 21, 2009

In Honor of Mistletoe


Romance author, Katie Ganshert, has declared today the Official Kissing Day blogfest! Post your favorite kissing or almost-kiss scene. This can be from your own writing, or from a favorite book or movie.

Since I'm not a writer, my favorite kissing scene comes from a movie. I'm not really one for romantic movies. I prefer action and adventure, especially Westerns. I think one of the most romantic and sexy scenes comes from the movie The Quiet Man starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. There is something electric whenever this couple is on screen. In this scene in the graveyard, Sean and Mary Kate have just shared a deep kiss. She turns to him for comfort and strength during a thunderstorm, and he realizes how much he loves her. Add The Duke's bulging muscles gleaming through the wet, silk, Arrow shirt and THUD!

Do you have a favorite romantic scene?

Here is what to do if you want to participate in the Official Kissing Day Blogfest:
1. Write a post telling about the Official Kissing Day Blogfest. This way more writer/bloggers will get the word and be able to participate on Monday, Dec. 21st.

2. Tweet about it, using the hash tag: #kissingdayblogfest (I don't know if this will help get the word out, but I thought it might be fun to try.)

3. On Monday, December 21st, post on your blog an excerpt from your current WIP, or write a new scene that spotlights a kiss or an "almost kiss".

4. If you are not a writer, or are uncomfortable sharing your work online, post your favorite kissing scene or almost-kissing scene from any book or movie.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Friday Five


Five Christmas memories that were rather tragic at the time, but now are rather funny.

1a. When I was very little, we had a small, silver tinsel Christmas tree that stood on top of the coffee table. The ornaments were all the same. 4 dozen fushia with silver glitter balls. No lights. We had a spotlight that had a disk fitted over it. The disk was cut into 4 different colored quarters so whatever was illuminated would turn colors: red, green, yellow, blue. Like some psychedlic crack house.

1b. The reason we had the artificial tree was because The Brother (6 years my senior) climbed the real live Christmas tree at the age of two. Or rather he tried to climb it and the tree toppled over. Broken lights, broken ornaments, frightened baby. You would think by the time I arrived and was out of the toddler phase, the parents would have figured no one was going to try to scale the tree and gotten a real Christmas tree.

2. When I was 9 or 10 years old, Ma decorated the living room in what a fellow Italian once described to me as Nouvea Guinea. The sofa was white and gold and covered in plastic. Moss green and gold accents for curtains and throw pillows. The silver tree got dumped for one exactly like it in white. Four dozen gold ornaments, all the same, replaced the four dozen fushia and silver ornaments all the same. That year, I received a white and gold parka. A picture of me wearing the jacket was taken in front of the tree. I'm camoflaged.

3. Even though I felt bad about breaking some of the fuschia ornaments, I broke some on purpose. I wasn't fond of those pink ornaments.

4. When I was five years old and my cousin, Denise, was six. We had identical organza party dresses my mother bought for us. Hers was peach and mine was turqouise. We were visiting over her house (a triple decker in E. Boston). It was pretty close to Christmas and excitement and tension was high. I don't remember the cause, but we had a knock down, drag out, cat fight. Ruffled panties and petticoats whirling. Yelling and screaming as we yanked on each other's banana curls. Amid all this caterwalling in walked Santa Clause. Hand to God, the man himself! Red velvet coat, shiny black boots and belt, red hat with white pompom and his snowy white beard. He yelled at us for being naughty and fighting. Threatened us with coal in our stockings. We instantly stopped fighting and started hugging each other, crying and consoling each other because we were getting coal for Christmas.

5a. Because The Brother was so much older than me, he must have gotten annoyed that he couldn't snoop around to see what gifts he was getting. I was 7 when he spilled the beans. Being the good friend I was, I decided to share the news with Himself. We grew up next door to each other. He's a year younger than me. I'm not sure he's quite forgiven me yet.

5b. To take the sting out of the news, The Brother took me on the Christmas gift fishing trip. He found where Ma had hidden the stash. All the gifts were wrapped. With infinite patience, he showed me how to carefully remove the tape, open one end of the package, and gingerly remove the item. We'd open things up oooh and aaah. Then he would slide the item back in the wrapping paper without tearing the paper! and seal the gift up. Ma had no idea the packages had ever been tampered with. On Christmas morning, we would act surprised in all the right places. By the way, my ma worked outside the home full time so we were left alone to our own devices. What your mama don't know, your mama don't mind. It's the reason I decided to stay home to raise my girls.

Do you have any funny Christmas memories?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Stress


It's been a pretty stressful week. To cope, I've turned to two tried and true therapies: stress eating and shopping.


I tend to look for chocolate as my feel good food. (Actually chocolate any time is a pleaser. I think it should be considered a food group and moved to the base of the Food Pyramid) Since it's Christmas, the candy house has been well stocked. We went through a bag or two of Hershey Kisses and are now working on M&Ms which are not only extremely portable, can be easily gulped by the handful, and have no wrapper that has to be dealt with.


I hadn't planned on turning to shopping as another coping mechanism, but Fate intervened. Some women shop for clothes or shoes, I tend towards books, DVDs, and electronics. I've been having problems with my cell phone, actually the battery to the phone, not holding a charge for more than one call. As luck would have it, my telephone up and died. I was hoping the phone would limp along until May when the contract would allow me to upgrade the phone. The battery for the phone would cost as much as the telephone did so I wasn't too keen on buying a new battery. I was less keen on getting a new phone and then getting whacked with all sorts of penalties for "breaking the contract"


Here's where Fate stepped in. The telephone company sent me a cheerful email telling me I was eligble for an early upgrade. I don't know whether this was to stimulate the economy, increase telephone company profits or make me feel better, but I rushed to the phone store and bought a beautiful new, sleek, slim Samsung Omnia II touch screen smartphone. A handful of M&Ms and the phone in the palm of my hand just melted away the stress.


That was until I tried syncing the smartphone with my computer. The two devices aren't talking to each other. The instruction booklet just said to plug the phone into the computer USB port and voila! The instruction booklet lied. No problem, I'm back to inhaling M&Ms by the handful and playing with phone.


What coping mechanisms do you use for stress?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wreaths


Finally got the wreaths made for my folks, my elderly neighbor, and my door. Had tons of baubles and ribbon in the dollar bucket so didn't need to make a trip to the dollar store. Still had two rolls of sumptuous ribbon with holly on it and decided this year that would be the ribbon for my wreath instead of blue ribbon. Found some pine cones and a few sticks of cinnamon and some berries to go along with my black bears.


The layout of the wreaths doesn't change much from year to year. I prefer to think of it as tradition as opposed to lack of imagination.


Do you make any Christmas or holiday decorations?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Macy's Calligraphy Ornament Personalizing Event


Last Friday, I had the opportunity to be a performing artist. I participated in the Macy's Calligraphy Ornament Personalizing Event held at the Providence, RI store. Management and the sales associates went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I had a lovely set up in the Holiday Lane/Trim Department. Displays were moved and a 6ft rectangular table covered with a red table covering was placed under an ornament festooned arch. I had plenty of elbow room to work and to spread my materials out.


I wasn't sure what the set up would be so I brought some scrap paper and a set of watercolor pencils along with my inks, pens, and markers. As it turned out, there wasn't any signage. So in the lull I quickly made a couple of quick and dirty signs to let people know I wasn't trying to sell them something or collect for a charity.


The illumintated initials are Kiesel caps (by Sherri Kiesel) They're very spontaneous and I thought would add a festive touch.


Some people came by to watch me work. Others stopped by to have ornaments personalized. Everyone was giving me compliments on my work. A two cowboy hat afternoon. A few people asked me how I got into this line of work. Rather than say the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice, practice, practice. I said I got my start writing on walls when I was four years old. LOL. I was also asked how I was so steady and could write so straight. Ah, the benefits of a parochial school education and a ruler. Snicker.


Seems the trend in ornaments this year was either fabric or glitter or glittered fabric. All of which I couldn't write on. Still there were plenty of ornaments to choose from. The cutest ornaments I got to personalize were bells shaped like a funky Santa and a snowman. They had dangly legs which were the clappers and beads all around the bottom which not only added color but sound. I did three Santas and a snowman for a woman who wanted her nieces and nephews names on the ornaments. The snowman was for a baby's first Christmas so she asked if I could write Baby's First Christmas on the back. I asked her if she wanted the year too.


"Can you do that?"


"For you, I can do anything." I added the year to the Santas too. The customer seemed quite pleased.


By far the easiest ornaments to write on were tiny Snow Baby ornaments meant to be personalized. Some Snow Babys had names stamped on a small envelope the baby was holding. If you couldn't find the name of your child/spouse/favorite person, there were blank ornaments available. These were quite popular. Because they were bisque, they took the gold ink quite well and looked very nice.


At the same time I was working, the Tassimo representative was in the kitchen department next door giving free samples of lattes. One of the sales associates got me a delicious hot chocolate which was a nice perc.


There was also some excitement in the store. Seems an elderly gentleman had some sort of procedure in the morning and stitches broke loose. EMS was called and 6 technicians swarmed over the department like a swat team. The man was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.


Shortly after the EMTs came by, an alarm went off and shouts of "Stop that kid" could be heard. Several people ran from the mall entrance behind the kitchen department through the main corridor towards the escalators. Some bright spark had tried lifting a phone from one of the phone kiosks in the mall and tried to make a getaway through Macy's. It didn't look like he got far.


The floor manager later told me, it was a pretty quiet day.


My four hour shift went by quickly. I had a pleasant time. Hope I get called back again next year.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Friday Five


Last week, I ranted about some of my pet peeves during the Christmas season. Today, five things I like about the Christmas season.


1. Ornaments. Wood. Glass. Home-made. Expensive. Inexpensive. Because my mother decorated our Christmas trees with 3 or 4 dozen of the same ornaments, I love variety. I started collecting ornaments when I was 15 yrs old when a friend made some ornaments for me. When I travel, I try to find a souvenir that can be hung from the Christmas tree. The most precious ornaments I have are the ones my girlies made for me when they were little.


2. Lights. Even though I whine about the electricity bill, I enjoy the display Himself puts up especially the candles in the window with the blue "flame". Looks like a Bunsen burner. What else would a chemist have? I love taking a ride to look at the houses decked out in lights. There's a house at the five corners, owned by an electrician, that has a zillion lights and figures in the yard. The lights are choreographed to music. He has his own radio station so you can sit in your car, watch the light show and listen to the music. He didn't put up his lights last year. I drove by the house before Thanksgiving and he was setting things up.


3. Making wreaths. I look forward to this activity. I make wreaths for my elderly neighbor, my folks, my home, and one for Himself to place at the cemetery for his folks. The layout of the wreaths tend to be the same year after year. Call it tradition instead of lack of imagination.


4. Christmas cards. Home-made, store bought, religious, secular. I look forward to making them and receiving them.


5. Cookies. I think this is the best part of the season. Making them and eating them.


What do you love best about Christmas?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weathergram


A weathergram is a small work of art done on a 10" x 2 1/2" strip of Kraft paper or paper bag. It's meant to be hung outside from a solstice to solstice or equinox to equinox. It's meant to weather, become one with nature, and ephemeral. Weathergrams were introduced to the US by Oregon calligrapher, Lloyd Reynolds back in the late 1970's. They are based on an Oriental tradition.


Traditional weathergrams have a short poem or quote written on them. The topic usually is something to do with weather or nature. The poem begins with a versal, usually in red, freely written Italic and the artist includes his/her chop.


The weathergram pictured is not traditional. (I rarely make traditional weathergrams). It was made in memory of Ann of the Tassels who passed away last month after a long battle with breast cancer. Her family has requested them and they will be displayed in the family yard. Ann would have liked that.

Like most calligraphers, I first met Ann through Cyberscribes, an online calligraphy discussion group. I had the pleasure of meeting her in person at Odyssey 2001, the international calligraphy conference in Boston, Massachusetts and again at Legacies 2005 in Dallas, Texas. The weathergram captures my first impression of Ann. She was such a free spirit. Her red hair was quite short except for a small braid at the nape of her neck. The weathergram reads "Free Spirit" done in Cardinal Red Ziller's Ink, Weaver Writing using a Nikko G nib.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snowflakes


In case some of you can't get enough of snowflakes, you can make your own at Make-A-Flake All the fun of making paper snowflakes without the mess of paper schnibbles.
The Young One drew a name from the cowboy hat. And the winner of the Ornament Giveaway is....
LINDA!
Congratulations, Linda! And a thank you to all who played.
Linda, please email me and we can get the particulars down.
Today turned out to be a snow day for the Young One. We're happy dancing! Do you like snow? Snow days? Do you do anything special to celebrate?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ornament Give Away


I'm on a roll! The past couple of weeks, I've won some wonderful blog contest prizes. Thank you to: Myra Johnson for her novel Autumn Rains. A lovely story and a delightful read. The contest for the book was sponsored by Erica Vetsch. Thanks to Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey for their exciting novel The Swiss Courier. I'm almost to the middle of this page turning novel. This contest was sponsored by Georgiana Daniels . Saturday I found I won an Old Farmer's Almanac calendar from the ladies at Seekerville. My head is so big from these wins, I'll have to wear two cowboy hats!

I had so much fun, I thought I'd pass the fun along. Leave a comment, and you'll have a chance of winning a lovely Christmas ornament suitable for gift giving. ("Mom", "Grandma", "Grandpa", "Nana", "Joy", "Baby" also available. Designs and colors may vary.) Names will be drawn from the cowboy hat and the winner will be announced on Wednesday's blog. I have no problem sending the ornament outside US borders, but I can't guarantee you will have it in time for gift giving.

What do you think of blog contests? Do you like them? Hate them? Let me know.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Performing Artist


Several years ago, I created a line of personalized Christmas ornaments for a few craft fairs. I'd personalize ornaments while people did their shopping. Looks like I'll be calling on the skill of writing on glass again. You may remember me mentioning I had an assignment coming up where I would be asked to write on different materials. I'm happy to say, the details of the assignment have been worked out.


I'll be performing at Macy's Calligraphy Ornament Personalizing Event at the Providence, RI store on Friday, 11. December 2009 from 3pm - 7pm.


Stop by the third floor, Holiday Lane/Trim Department to say hello and watch me work. Purchase an ornament from Macy's, and I'll personalize it with a name for free.


Hope to see you there!
What are you working on this week?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

First Snow


The weather moves from one extreme to the other. From warm temps. and blooming geraniums to cold temps and snow. We got a couple of inches of snow last night. I'll grudgingly admit it looks pretty outside my front window, but is it July yet?


What's outside your window?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hanging On


The weather Thursday was ridiculously warm at 63o F and also very welcome. I needed no further encouragement,opened the door to the sunroom, and sank into my chair. Bliss. Looking out the window I saw the geranium The Brother and his wife gave me for Mother's Day. I did a double take. It was blooming! In December! Several pink flowers and buds all over the plant. In December!
Made me think how I cling to those last days of warm temps. I brought the plant inside. Hopefully, I won't kill it and will have the reminder of warmer weather when I look out the kitchen window and see snow.


What's the weather been like in your neck of the woods?

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Friday Five


I'm a grinch and the first to admit it. This time of the year can see me at my grinchiest. Five things about the holiday season, I could do without.


1. Why do some of the radio stations (e.g. Oldies 103) insist on playing Christmas music a week after Halloween? Geeze, Louise, at least wait until Thanksgiving is over and done with.


2. In the same vein, why do stores have to put up their Christmas decorations before Halloween is over? I was buying Halloween candy the day before Halloween, and Target managers were filling up the seasonal aisle with Christmas trees and lights. Hello? How about putting out the cornucopias, Indian corn, and pumpkins first?


3. Then there's the hoopla about Black Friday. I know some people adore the thrill of the hunt. But I can't possibly think of anything I want or need badly enough to camp out in front of a store Thanksgiving night so I can be first in line. That goes for getting up in the middle of the night to be ready for the dawn deal breakers. Thanks, but no thanks. You go have fun and tell me all about it. I'm going to wallow in bed.


4. This might be a hot button. Why do I have to be politically correct and wish you Season's Greetings or Happy Holidays? Why can't I say Merry Christmas? I celebrate Christmas. Why can't you accept my Merry Christmas greeting in the good spirit it is given? If you don't celebrate Christmas, can't you just smile politely and move on? I wouldn't be offended to be wished Happy Chanuka, Happy Kwanza, Blessed Be or any other holiday well wishes. I would smile politely. Thank you for including me in the joy of your celebration.


5. Another pet peeve, and possibly another hot button topic, is being asked what I want for Christmas. This also extends to asking me what my family members want. You know what Himself and I want? College tuition payments. You know what my girls need? College tuition payments. Truthfully, beyond the age of 10, I think gift giving should be dropped. It just seems to get so out of hand. The pressure to buy the perftect gift. The expense. The worry you will be underwhelmed with my gift. Seems we've lost the real meaning of the season. How about we get together and share each other's company over a cup of tea or hot chocolate? How about you make a donation to your favorite charity, school, or worthy cause and I'll make a donation to mine?


I warned you I was a grinch. What about you? Are you a grinch? Are there things about this season that bother you?


By the way, Merry Thanksgivoween to you and yours.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Time


The other night, I watched the movie Multiplicity where Michael Keaton clones himself so he could have more time to get things done. Wouldn't that be great to have an extra you or two? One to clean the house, one to look in on elders, one to shuttle kids, one to work...You'd end up gaining time to do the things you wanted.


I had an appointment scheduled today, but it was cancelled and rescheduled. I feel like I've gained an entire day!


What would you do if you had extra time?




Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent Tree


December 1. Time to put out the Advent tree. From the time my girlies were little, I had a tiny, Christmas tree with tiny ornaments. Each day, the girls would take turns hanging a little ornament on the tree to countdown to Christmas.

The girls are grown now. The excitement of the little tree with its ornaments has long since worn off though The Young One still indulges me. The little tree gets me in the mood to drag out the Christmas decorations later in the month. I secretly wish the little tree was our Christmas tree. Small, doesn't take up much room. Easily fits on a table. Easily moved. and Easily taken down and put away.

Do you have any pre-holiday traditions?