May 31: Plinky ~ hidden talent

Today’s Plinky prompt:

What's your hidden talent?

Are you double-jointed? Can you sneeze the alphabet? Share your unique skill.

platespinner Easy peasy lemon squeezy. My hidden talent is my lightning-fast typing speed. It is a very boooooring hidden talent, so I’m going to share others’ hidden talents.

  • My mom can twirl a baton like nobody’s business. And I inherited my typing speed from her.
  • Victor can calculate any two numbers in his head—add, subtract, multiply, divide, average, square root, cosine, pi, string theory. I might be exaggerating that a tad.
  • Katie is a dog whisperer. Dogs love her and do whatever she tells them to. Kinda the opposite of Son of Sam.
  • Darlene makes incredible origami stuff from memory.
  • Kathy can type with her toes. While this is “hidden” (thank goddess), it is not necessarily considered a “talent.” (But it totally should be!)
  • Jack? Um… well… we love Jack.

What’s your hidden talent? You know you’ve got one, and you’re dying to tell the world. Here’s your chance, Mr./Ms. Show Off.


May 30: Two thumbs “Up” (see what I did there?)

upposter We had decided our weekend plans would not include the new Pixar movie, Up, but y’know what? It was really hot today. Vic and I worked outside until we couldn’t take the heat anymore, Katie was at a friend’s house, and Jack was bored to the point of annoying the hell out of us, so when he suggested going to a movie this afternoon, we jumped on it.

One of the big things about Up is that it’s Pixar’s first movie presented in 3-D. Our nearby cinema is showing it in “regular” format and 3-D, and we chose a 3-D show. It was pretty cool, but I can’t say it was worth the extra $$, nor was the movie improved necessarily by the 3-D-ness. In fact, I think the coolest 3-D effect—besides the awesome glasses, of course—was the Disney logo at the beginning and end. ‘Course, we ooh and aah over any picture with a Disney theme park castle in it, so don’t go by us.

The movie, though, is fabulous—much more so than I expected after all the previews, trailers, and sneak peeks I’d seen. The story is sweet and adventurous. The characters are lovable and fun. The animation is stellar. It’s hard to believe they can improve over some of their earlier work but Pixar has done it again, folks. This one’s a keeper.

Upon leaving the theater, Jack said, “That was the best movie EVER!” That’s definitely five stars’ worth from him; remember, he’s the kid whose ratings system goes like this:

nonstop fart jokes = 5 STARS
songs or anything resembling art/culture = 2 THUMBS WAY, WAY DOWN (AND UNLIMITED FART SOUNDS)

I don’t remember any fart jokes in Up, but it was still a huge hit with Jack. He hasn’t stopped shouting “Squirrel!” in the middle of conversation all night.

And OH DARN, Katie’s going to want to see the movie too… we’re gonna have to go again. Shoot.

After the movie we went for a late dinner to California Pizza Kitchen. The last time we were there they gave us two of these contest things to use on a future visit. They’re all worth something—10% off your bill, a year’s worth of frozen pizzas, trips, cash, etc. The envelopes have to be opened by a manager, and tonight ours had the magic touch because both of our envelopes had $40 dinner vouchers in them. True, that’s no trip to Cancun, but it’s better than a punch in the face. And since we love that restaurant and go there (way too) often, we’ll use them. Maybe even tomorrow.


May 30: “Well worth it”

Sorry, Loveliest Lori, here’s one more…

Susan Boyle didn’t win Britain’s Got Talent. She didn’t need to; her talent has been seen (heard) by all the powerful people who can help make her dream come true. Here’s her final performance, before the winner was announced. I love what the judges said to her afterward, especially mean ol’ Simon.


May 30: Wedding invitation

My funny friend Sabrina e-mailed this one to me today:

click to view a larger version


May 29: Not today, Zurg

Victor and I were looking forward to seeing Up tonight, as we love Pixar movies and today’s Up’s opening day and Manullang Family Movie Night.  But the weather’s fab, and we think we need to enjoy it while we can. We’ll save the movie for next week when we’ll want to sit in a dark theater for a few hours to forget about the rain and gloom of springtime in Portland.

This sneak peek at the upcoming Toy Story 3 makes me ever so happy, though. Really, just the idea that it’s on its way is pretty great, but the teaser ain’t bad neither.  :)


May 28: ‘Nother Grandma story

Here's my proof. Grandma Tolle called me on May 20. Kinda.Imagine my surprise when my phone rang the other day and the caller ID said it was my grandmother. If you’ve been paying attention, you know Grandma hates my guts. I usually find it irritating and sometimes even a little bit cruel.

This? This is not one of those times.

My phone rings.

I see it’s Grandma. I consider not answering the phone, but the idea of returning a call in what Grandma considers “a timely manner” is worse than having to talk to her unprepared. Also, occasionally my mom calls me from Grandma’s phone.

I take a deep breath and answer. “Hello?”

Grandma: “Mary?”

Me, brightly: “No, it’s Jen!”

Grandma: “I guess I dialed the wrong number.”

Grandma hangs up.

I actually look at my phone. I stare at it for a second and then laugh out loud.

Grandma’s hung up on me plenty of times, but never so soon into the phone call.


May 28: A little drummer boy

Stephen’s band was written up in the Denver newspaper The Westword yesterday. Read the article here. They’ve posted more of their singles at their web site too. I love Heat & Light. They’re all great though.

Check out these band photos:


That’s Stephen, my way-cool nephew, on the far left. I think he’s on the far left because he’s the most important.


Here’s Stephen during a recent performance. I think it’s really nice that some girl loaned him her shirt for the show.  Heh heh heh…


If you ask me, this is the coolest thing of all—The Rouge is currently on the front page at Click the image below to check out the awesomeness (I added the yellow writing and arrows, obvy):


If they hit Portland while on tour this summer, as planned, they’re staying with us. I hope they don’t have any of those outrageous rock star demands that mean I have to spend the two weeks before they get here peeling M&Ms. And while I love the idea of The Rouge having their very own groupies, is it too much to ask that they don’t let said groupies into my house? I don’t want any groupie cooties on my furniture.

Rock star cooties are fine.


May 27: Don’t know nothin’

Whoa, I feel like a big dummy. While surfing the ‘net this evening, I found a mention of Chess in reference to Idina Menzel, and started investigating. And there’s a whole stage musical that’s been produced—several times!—that I had no idea even existed. It was written by Tim Rice and the guys from ABBA, and the most recent production stars, among others, Menzel, Adam Pascal (the original Roger in Rent), Josh Groban, and Kerry Ellis (Elphaba in Wicked in London and Broadway). This is why I feel like a big dummy about it:

  • I follow Broadway productions and their stars somewhat faithfully. Obviously not faithfully enough.
  • Idina Menzel, Wicked’s original Elphaba, is a performer I enjoy very much—loved her in Rent, loved her (on the soundtrack) in Wicked, loved her even in the non-singing role she played in Enchanted. And hello??? She’s married to Taye Diggs and, to quote Jack from Will & Grace, “I digs me some Taye Diggs.” So how could I not know she was in this big production, belting out that gorgeous voice?
  • Josh Groban’s voice gives me goose bumps in the very best way. It surprises me that I enjoy him so much, because opera is one of my least favorite kinds of music, but I think his sound is incomparable.
  • At least two of the songs from the musical were very popular when the soundtrack was first produced in the ‘80s: One Night in Bangkok and I Know Him So Well.

I’m not going to go into all the details about Chess; you can read them on Wikipedia like I did. But I have to link you to the Amazon page in which you can see a trailer for the DVD coming out in a couple weeks. The music looks/sounds like it’s incredible.

The performance is scheduled to air on PBS, so check your local listings. Around here, it’ll be on KOPB on June 17 and June 19.

It just hit me how I got into this thread of browsing: Norbert Leo Butz guest-starred on Law & Order: Criminal Intent tonight and I started digging around to find his filmography. He was the original Fiyero in Wicked and Freddy in Broadway’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. If you want to see a particularly fun performance, check out this one.


May 27: Just one more

I’ve spent a good chunk of time since I woke up this morning reading various responses to the California Supreme Court decision yesterday. I can’t let myself write about it anymore; it’s only making me angrier and angrier, the more I read. So YOU ARE WELCOME.

Instead, I’m going to talk about our landscaping project again, with a promise that this will be my last post dedicated to it. The thing is, I’ve gotten questions about some of the plants I put in and I figure this is the best way to answer them for the masses those two interested people.

I did quite a bit of research in my Sunset Western Garden book to find the right kinds of shrubs, trees, and flowering plants to put in our yard. I wanted as much evergreen as possible so that the yard wouldn’t look all broken-down and/or empty in the winter. I made a list of all sorts of possible options, and took it with me to the nurseries… only to find that few of these perfect selections of mine were actually carried by the nurseries. Grr.

I was able to find some of my choices, and between advice from others and being willing to take some chances, we populated the yard. Because I’m the biggest nerd ever, I created a spreadsheet listing all the plants I purchased along with their special needs, blooming season, what to expect from them in the winter, and all sorts of goodies like that. Here are photos I stole from around the ‘net:

  • Agapanthus (Dwarf Lily of the Nile)
    These are just about to pop.
  • Sea Thrift
    The sea thrifts are blooming now, and seem to be great little filler flowers. My neighbor’s got some that have really multiplied. I need to remember to keep my eye on these before they get too out of control.
  • True Dwarf Boxwood
    Ours are much smaller than these, and I plan to keep them that way. Either that, or I’ll groom them into Mickey Mouse ears. Or maybe I’ll groom them into daisies.
  • Campanula, Bellflower
    I got just one of these, and it looks much less full and flowery than the ones in this pic. Soon…
  • Weeping White Dogwood
    weeping dogwood 
    I think we missed the flowering stage for this year, but the shape of this tree will still make a nice background silhouette for the fountain. It could grow up to 20 feet high, so you can bet we’ll be keeping this one pruned well. Oh, and Vic said I needed to get a better picture of the fountain in order to show exactly how pretty it is, so here’s one:
  • Euphorbia ‘Tiny Tim’
    I think this is such an unusual plant; I couldn’t resist getting it. Although this photo makes it look like a succulent, it actually is much more fragile, almost like a clover (the surrounding plant is a different type). This winter we’ll find out exactly what “semi-evergreen” means as applied to this little perennial.
  • Hebe
    I got two of these; one like this one with a bit of a variegated leaf and white flowers, and another with a dark leaf and purple flowers. They seem pretty hardy. Both are flowering right now.
  • Hosta (Narrow-leafed Plantain Lily)
    Everyone tells me these things grow like crazy and are easy to transplant and spread. I just wish they were evergreen.
  • Blue Star Creeper
    This is the ground cover we put between our stepping stones.
  • Lavender
    Ours aren’t flowering yet, but they already smell delicious.
  • Asiatic Lily ‘Orange Pixie’
    orange pixie 
    Just about ready to pop. I love this bold color, and it ought to really brighten up our yard next to the agapanthus.
  • Black-Eyed Susan
    This is the only plant we’ve had a tough time with so far; ever since we planted it, it’s gone droopy in the hottest part of the day. Watering seems to bring it back within a few hours, but I have no idea if it’s going to live to bloom if we’re not constantly watching it. I don’t “do” high maintenance plants, so we’ll see.
  • Variegated Willow/Dappled Japanese Willow ‘Hakuro Nishiki’
    I mentioned this one the other day. I love it. It’s not evergreen, but even the branches are a pretty red color when bare. This happy little shrub will grow and grow, and helps with the erosion in the side yard.

I also planted petunias (the only annuals) and an azalea, and we transplanted all the periwinkle to the side yards and the pots on the front porch. Add to that our existing birch tree and Japanese barberry in the front side yard, and that’s pretty much everything we’ve got.

That’s it. No more garden talk. Promise.


May 26: Shame on California

idiot California residents, I’m embarrassed for you. What is wrong with your Supreme Court?

Today’s decision to uphold Proposition 8 is disappointing, though not surprising. What I don’t get is that they’re letting some same-sex marriages stand. I read a good interpretation of that bit on Twitter today: “the early gay gets the bouquet.”

Here’s an interesting response to today’s ruling, an article titled The Big Gay Shrug.

Someday. Someday our kids will wonder what the big deal was.


May 26: Plinky ~ criminals

At first I thought today’s Plinky prompt was an easy one, but then I realized how hard it was going to be to narrow down my answer. It’s like a question about my favorite ice cream flavor; they’re all pretty good, but which one really is best? Don’t make me choose!

What activity or behavior should be a crime?

Explain why this activity shouldn't be tolerated, and describe a fitting punishment.

My first task here was to think of something that isn’t already a crime, because, y’know, I think killing people isn’t such a nice thing... so I tried to think of some of my biggest pet peeves that are not currently considered criminal EVEN THOUGH THEY SHOULD BE. They are:

  • misspellings and poor punctuation
  • crimescenepeople that talk to me too early in the morning
  • chatspeak/LOLspeak in normal, outside-of-texting writing
  • excessive jewelry on men (“excessive” meaning “almost anything other than a wedding band”)
  • inconsiderate drivers (merging on the freeway at 35mph, not signaling, driving in the fast lane so cars have to pass you on the right, doing anything other than driving that keeps you from paying attention to the road, etc.)
  • using God as an excuse for your prejudices
  • monkeys

And I can only pick one? Fine. I choose the inconsiderate driving thing.

The only fitting punishment: “You are sentenced to six years’ of public transportation, and not the good, efficient kind that gets you anywhere in the city within a half hour. You have to ride the shitty suburban buses that take 12 times longer than they should to get out of the suburbs. And you have to sit by the person who has boobs and a beard, so you’re not really sure if it’s a man or a woman, but you can tell by its odor that it eats a lot of lentils and lives with at least 43 ferrets.”

What’s your answer to this Plinky prompt?


May 25: Done(ish)!

We’re down to the clean-up part of the front yard project. I’m all sliver-y from spreading barkdust and can hardly wait to take a shower and put on sliver-free clothes. So here, quickly, are a few snaps of the mostly finished product:

In this photo, we had left the periwinkle but excavated everything else from the yard. We then decided to transplant the periwinkle to the side yard, which allowed us to put the fountain closer to the front corner of the yard. It’s a bubbler—this photo doesn’t really do it justice. It really turned out nice, and makes a pleasant, relaxing sound. Not so relaxing, but amusing, is that the pleasant bubbly sound makes Vic do the I-gotta-pee dance.

Taken from the opposite direction (that’s the edge of the fountain on the far right), you can see the stone pathway leading to the front porch. We put ground cover between the stones but the bark makes it hard to see—anyway, they’re cute tiny-leafed plants and are supposed to spread like crazy. The kids think it’s awesome that they’re actually allowed to walk on them. Jack and Victor are putting the path lights together there on the front porch.

There are raised beds on either side of the path. I swept the sidewalk eleventy times this morning but you can’t tell. Stupid wind.

An aerial view of the yard. Guess who DIDN’T fall off the ladder while taking this picture! I know, I couldn’t believe it either.

And because we are who we are, there are little Mickey and Minnie statuettes near the giant birch tree in the side yard. You expected something else?


May 24: Godless liberal

On Friday I drove past a national cemetery and the kids pointed out the little American flags at each grave. I explained they were there because those people had fought for their country and this was one way that we honored them on Memorial Day. The conversation that followed went like this:

Jack: Mom, is there anything under the flags?

Me: Yes, there are people buried under them, in caskets.

Jack: What’s a casket?

Me: It’s a box that dead people are put in before they are buried in the ground.

Katie: That’s a coffin.

Me: Coffin, casket, same thing. It’s a box.

Jack is quiet for a moment. Then he speaks up again:

Jack: OK, so when those people are buried in the ground, are they in Hell?

Me, chuckling quietly: Some of them, I guess. But no, their bodies are in the casket in the ground. People that believe in Heaven and Hell sometimes think a person’s soul goes to Heaven or Hell when that person dies, not their body.

Jack: What’s a soul?

Me, suddenly thinking a sex talk would be much easier than this one: It’s the inside of you, but not your guts and stuff. It’s not something you can touch or see. It’s who you are, like your spirit.

He thinks some more.

Jack: Do I have a soul?

Me: I suppose. I think everyone does.

Jack: Do you have a soul?

Me: I used to, but I sold it to the devil.

This is just about the time Child Protection Services should take away my every parental right because I clearly am unable to raise these children to be decent adults. But they weren’t in the car with us, so NEENERS on them. We’re doin’ it my way, folks!

Jack, interrupting my laughter over how hilarious I find myself: Really?

Me: No, that was on The Simpsons. Homer sold his soul to the devil for a donut. Oh, and there was another episode when Bart sold his soul to Milhouse and the pets started growling at him, and when he went to the store he couldn’t make the doors open when he stepped on the thing. He thought it was because he didn’t have a soul.

Jack: Oh.

Me: Jack, some people really don’t know what they believe about whether or not we have souls, so instead they just make jokes about it.

Jack: Are they funny?

Me: Sometimes. On The Simpsons, always. But no one really knows for sure if we have souls. You just decide what you want to believe.

Jack: I have a soul. And I want to go to Heaven.

Me, to myself: Yes, and that’s how you’ll rebel against me, isn’t it? Become a Bible-thumping Jesus freak? Probably get a call-in radio show? And write books about how you barely survived your heathen upbringing? And after all I’ve done for you…

Me, to Jack: OK. Have fun. I’m going to the other place.

Katie: Why?

Me: Because Heaven sounds sooo boring. Angels and clouds and everyone’s always nice to everyone. Blech.

Katie and Jack, laughing: You’re weird, Mom.

I was raised—with the best intentions—that anyone who believed differently from me and my church was wrong. I want my kids to grow up with an understanding that not everyone believes the same way they do, and that’s alright. I suppose making jokes about their serious questions is not the best route, but just think about all the work I’m creating for their future psychiatrists. The economy will finally bounce back!

And then you’ll all owe me big time.


May 24: She’s back

…and her voice still gives me chills. She’s incredible.


May 23: Couldn’t think of a title

sleepyastronaut My back has begun to hurt so much that the only way I can sleep is to sit up straight on the couch with a heating pad on a pillow. If you’ve ever tried to get a decent night’s sleep while sitting up straight then you know how much it sucks to be me. On the other hand, I have much more sympathy for astronauts now.

Lots more yard work today, but for the most part I played supervisor. I wasn’t allowed to do much because Victor’s being super-bossy of my back pain. I know it’s supposed to make me feel loved that he doesn’t want me to stress my back even more, but I think he’s just tired of hearing me whine. Of course, he gets the bed to himself when I’m sleeping on the couch, so who really knows what his ulterior motive could be. I just know there must be one.

I learned a long time ago not to buy aquarium fish at Wal-Mart, as they come pre-diseased. Today I learned not to buy nursery stock at Wal-Mart. All four of us were covered in aphids after walking through their garden center. Y’know, I’m not even all that worried about having an aphid infestation in our newly landscaped front yard—it’s just way creepy to have little bugs all over you.

There’s good news, though. My cough is virtually gone. Gotta love antibiotics for doing what they’re supposed to.

Soooo tired. Done writing now.


May 22: Manual labor

I’m trying to spend as much time as possible working on the yard right now, and when I haven’t been doing something yard-related, I’ve been trying to sleep. My back is killing me (insert “excessive hoeing” joke here) and I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m also still coughing quite a bit and have sore muscles from that.

In other words, I’m busy. And achy. And letting my blog slide.

The good news? Our front yard re-do is nearly done. Today I’m going to figure out the fountain and buy the last of the ground cover and shrubs. I’ll also be shopping for annuals to fill in some of the bare spots. We hope to have bark delivered this weekend before the rain comes back and washes our new yard downhill.

It’s exciting to see all our hard work paying off as this project comes together. I look forward to enjoying it even more once we put away the wheelbarrow and rakes, hopefully with a frosty beverage in my hand.

Don’t know when I’ll post another update, as the weekend weather forecast is perfect. I’ll definitely post some photos when I’ve decided our hard work is photo-worthy.


May 20: Chuckles

Unless you want to hear more about my yard, you’re going to have to deal with me having nothing else to say right now. But that’s never stopped me from actually posting. Here are some miscellaneous giggle-worthy links and photos.

The Loveliest Lori sent me these little gems:





All of these prints—any many more—can be purchased on a number of different products at Anne Taintor.

The Lovely Lori H shared the link to a hilarious web site called Texts From Last Night. They’re anonymous text messages (only the area codes are used) that probably should never have been sent. Here are a couple examples:

(902): My brain says no but my pants say off.

(323): You got in a fight last night?
(818): Yeah! Some dude in the bathroom...he was standing there and I notice he's got the same shirt as me on so I'm like...dude you should have called me, we look like idiots...he didn't say i got pissed and hit him...completely decimated and my hand was all bloody and covered with glass afterward...weird dude, never saw him again that night or since.
(323): Um...Did this guy happen to look almost exactly like you?

I typed “503” in the search box and was relieved to find just a few texts to/from northwest Oregon, and none from me. Not surprising, really, since I text very little and about very boring things. But this one caught my eye:

(503): We are walking down to the lake and then i dont know. Where did you sleep?
(509): Places.
(503): Plural? Please tell.

…because it could so easily be an exchange between me and Sherilee. Not so much the I-don’t-know-where-I-slept-last-night kind of thing, but the whole you-did-something-stupid?-OK-I-still-love-and-accept-you-but-need-details. The fact that it’s between our two actual area codes is a bit suspect too, although I think if this were to actually happen that she’d be the sane 503 one. I’m not more interesting than she is, but of the two of us, I’m definitely the dumb one.

Texts from Last Night is a big time-waster of a site, but lots of fun, in the same vein as Overheard in the Office, Overheard in New York, etc.

I don’t remember where these images came from, but I love them:

gossipalcohol unnecessaryflesh

A new-ish site—so not yet a major time-suck—of funny photos: Awkward Family Photos. Let’s hope we never see ourselves on that one.

The Onion re-printed the best of their earthquake preparedness tips. Two of my favorites:

Look out your window often. If you see a large, zig-zag-shaped crevasse moving rapidly from the horizon toward your home, step either to the right or the left.

Do you have a treasured childhood toy? Perhaps a stuffed animal, such as a teddy bear? Well, let's see Mr. Bear help you now.

That’s all for now. I’m off to the nursery again.



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