Saturday, July 28, 2007

My birthweek

Vacation time again. My birthday is coming up, and I decided to take the whole week off. "Calling in old," that's what an ex-coworker of mine used to call it.

Most of the week is a blank slate. Today I have a Loons event to attend. My official role is as Event Photographer. Here's hoping that a) it doesn't rain (it's threatening to. Very gray at the moment), b) people show up, and c) they enjoy themselves. I'll post pictures, if I have any.

Wednesday evening I'm going to dinner with a friend of mine. Saturday (my birthday) is Games Night with the Loon(s). Other than that, I have no idea what to do with myself this week. Love it.

On a related note, the Chief Loon has set up a website for our organization. She's asked me what I want my title to be (you know, since she's Chief Loon, we all need titles along those lines). I toyed briefly with "head cook and bottle-washer," but I think that means I have to cook. I dunno. Maybe an idea will present itself today. Right now the only thing on it is the notice for today's event, Mutts Gone Mad, with pictures from previous years and a link to my flick'r set for MGM 2006.

We had a costume contest the first year we did this. One little girl came dressed as a princess. We were worried at first that she hadn't understood it was an event for dogs. Then right before judging started her family put the costume one their mastiff --butterfly wings and halo. Perfect. Princess being guarded by a gargoyle. There were two other contestants: one dog dressed as a ballerina and one little terrier in a bathing suit. We judged by rounds of applause from the audience. Of course, they applauded for all three with equal enthusiasm. We shrugged and said it was a three-way tie for first place.

We were planning to have a costume contest last year as well, but it was so hot nobody wanted to torture their dogs with clothes. This year we've changed it to a costume/dog-owner look-alike contest. That way you can dress like your dog if you want to. Own a Dalmatian? Come in a white dress with black polka dots. Own a shih-tzu? Do your hair the same way. Things like that.

I sure do hope people come to this. We weren't as good with the advertising this year as we were last year. Chief said to me last night that what we really need is an Advertising Loon -- someone who's good with deadlines. Was that some sort of hint about what my title is going to be?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Street painting

Venus on Sunday
The Central Pa. Festival of the Arts was last week. One thing I had forgotten about last year was the Italian Street Painting Festival that is held over on Heister Street, away from most of the foot-traffic. I wouldn't have remembered it this year, either, except that I went over there to go see "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" Thursday evening, just as things were getting started. Lucky I remembered to pack my camera in my bag that morning.

I went back Sunday evening to see how things turned out, and just finished posting a whole mess of pictures on Flickr.

Accidental eavesdropping

I couldn't help it. I was the only other person on the bus (except for the driver, of course). These four teenage or twenty-something girls were behind me, playing what appeared to be one of their favorite games: Character Assassination. They were loudly, viciously, gleefully gossiping about some absent friend, tearing her apart flaw by flaw, calling her lazy, selfish, and rude. Given the examples they were citing, to me it sounded more like she had other priorities, didn't unthinkingly give them what they wanted, and told the truth. This is someone who no doubt they will greet with smiles and hugs when they next run into her. I tried to block it out, but this one sentence floated in my left ear and has lodged itself in my brain:

"When I first met her I hated her, but I wanted her to like me. Do you know what I mean?"

No, I don't.

And sadly, on some level yes, I do.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mom's birthday present

Here's the thing I made for my Mom's birthday. It's my first attempt at découpage, and it might be my last. It was time consuming, frustrating, sticky work, and I can't believe it took as long as it did to complete. Mom likes the box though, so it has that going for it.

This was a landmark birthday for my mother--one of those ending with a zero or a five. When my dad turned this age, we gave him a ride in a race car (I believe I've mentioned he's a huge NASCAR fan), so the bar was set kind of high for Mom. We had no idea what to do there for a while, and then in May the perfect gift presented itself: Cirque du Soleil is coming here at the end of September. Mom loves them. Whenever Bravo airs one of CdS's shows, Mom is right there for it, camped out in front of the TV. It doesn't matter if she's already seen it or not.

I thought we should do more than just hand her a few tickets, so I went to a local craft store and bought an unfinished wooden box, along with glue, paint, sealer, rubber stamps, ink pads, and assorted equipment to turn it all into the box you see above. I also wound up buying a little fold-up patio table to working outside with the the paints and sealer. Not really interested in knocking myself out with paint fumes. The cut-outs are from greeting cards by an artist named Patience Brewster. I liked the whimsical feel of them. A lot of them looked to me like costumes you'd see in Cirque du Soleil, though my favorite one doesn't really. I put that one on the inside top of the box.

I wasn't able to be there on her birthday, so I went up on the 4th of July and stayed until the following Sunday. I was going to make her birthday dinner on Saturday, but my parents' reflexologist called and asked if she could reschedule their Friday afternoon appointments for Saturday. Small family emergency. Her grandson was visiting and he was horribly homesick. She'd decided to take him back home. That's a six hour drive. So we flipped Friday and Saturday's activities.

I made dinner--chili, though it's more like a goulash than what everyone else thinks of as chili. It's what I grew up knowing chili to be. When I ordered it in a restaurant and there were no egg noodles in it, I was disappointed. This is some sort of Depression-era recipe of Grandmom's. I think the noodles are thrown in to make it feed more people. I got what I consider to be a great compliment on that from mom: "It tastes just like my mother's did." Then there was a devil's food cake I made from a Weight Watcher's recipe, topped with strawberries and a low-fat Cool Whip. She and Dad went out onto the porch while I did the dishes, then I called my sister on my cell phone, handed the phone to Mom, and we sang happy birthday to her on the porch and over the phone as I gave her the box.

First she was just excited that it was Cirque du Soleil. Then she got a good look at the tickets: "Floor seating ?!? Row eleven!! Oooooh, I have to call your aunt."

She told me later on that weekend that more she thought about the present, the more excited she was getting. And she's relieved that she doesn't have to go ride in a race car.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trying out Pictobrowser

This is a nifty little widget. Thought I'd try it out and see if I can get it to work on my blog. Apparently I can. If you want to do something similar, just click the "INFO" link and you'll get instructions.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Signs you're approaching Harry Potter overload...

  1. While explaining the layout of her garden, your mother points out that the romaine has been placed within a small circle of snap peas so it won't get too much sun and bolt. Your immediate mental image is of lettuces lifting themselves out of the ground and running full-tilt for the edge of the forest. Warning.
  2. Because the weather is absolutely gorgeous today, you decide to take stroll through campus over your lunch break. In your travels, you notice one particular area where it seems to be raining quite heavily. You look up for the teeny raincloud that must be making this happen instead of down for the half-hidden sprinkler in the ivy that actually is causing it. Danger.
  3. You knock a plate off a table. It breaks in two. You have to fight the urge to grab a pencil, tap the pieces, and say, "Reparo!" Seek help now.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Just in time

Centerpiece in reds
A few weeks ago I decided to bite the bullet and call the Circuit City protection plan folks about my poor blind camera. I was all set for another couple of rounds of "Chase the FedEx Guy," but it seems their policy has changed. They no longer repair cameras under $25o (mine was $249). What they do instead is get you to send the camera back to them, and they send you a gift card for its full purchase price. You can use that card to replace the one that broke, or for anything else you want.

So I did that, and last Wednesday I bought a new camera. Same brand, but a little bit of an upgrade. I have a 12x optical zoom now. I think the last one was 6x. This one also has the option of focusing manually, which eliminates a problem I used to have with the old one--sometimes the camera would focus on the background instead of what I wanted to be the foreground.

Got it just in time, too, because my friend's birthday party was Friday. I took a ton of pictures, some of which I put on Flickr. The set isn't complete yet, mostly because dial-up takes forever. I did bring the laptop onto campus yesterday for a wireless connection, but only got done about half of what I wanted.

I've been up to my neck in a project for my Mom's birthday. That's where I've been lately, by the way. There was a fair amount of hand-dirtying work, and no matter how many times I washed up I still felt sticky. I really didn't want to accidentally prime/paint/glue/varnish myself to the computer, so I just stayed away from it. As soon as Mom's birthday has passed, I'll show you what I did.

P.S. If you were here earlier, this photo was smaller and darker. I've been editing 'em and replacing 'em. The pictures looked fine on the camera's monitor, but a lot of them seem a little too dark everywhere else.