Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More to Come, I Swear.

I'm struggling to get caught up,, but this was a high point for sure. Had a great time with the people and the exchange of ideas, and a horrible time negotiating the facility.

I'm not disabled enough to require a wheelchair for daily life, but the huge amount of walking and stair-climbing here, plus the lack of a checkroom at the venues really created a hardship for some of us. Bless Shash's heart for having the compassion and kindness to walk sooooo slowly with me for the better part of an hour that it took me to make it from the end of the pier where the closing keynote was, to the OTHER end of the pier where the final party was. When we finally got in there, and I was faced with the stairs that led to the party, my spirit just gave out, and I sat on a bench near the restroom and cried instead of joining the party. After a half hour or so, I did make it up to the event, and found a place to sit down and put all my stuff next to me, and managed to snag an h'or d'oevre here and there. Thank you, Cynthia, for sitting and chatting with me, and I sure hope your ankle and foot are beginning to recover!

Not everyone who would like to attend BlogHer is going to be 30 years old, fit as a fiddle, with a completely sound and uninjured body that can take the stress of all that walking and climbing. I loved the experience, and I loved the people, but at the closing keynote, when, referring to the LONG walk we had ahead of us to get to the Children's Museum for the final event, a speaker made reference to our "evening constitutional," I was ready to pop someone.

Until I get my act together and catch up, you can hear the "Art of Crafts" panel here: craftsanity.
A little past 1/3 of the way through, you can hear me in all my hillbilly glory, talking about soapmaking, and if you listen closely, after I mention poodles, you will hear Amy Sedaris calling me "cuckoo." TO MY FACE. And THAT was the most awesome thing that happened to me during a panel. Also, see my flickr stream for waaaay too many shots of Amy than is probably mentally healthy.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

BlogHer Live-Blogging Session: It's Your Passion, Not Size, That Matters

Saturday, July 28, 2:45 PM
Small is beautiful according to some bloggers, who find establishing relationships with a more intimate community helps them get the most from their blogging without experiencing blog burnout. What would it change if you stopped checking your stats and logs? What would it change if you didn't care about who and how many were reading you? How would you blog differently if you were whispering to your best online friends, not broadcasting to the blogosphere? Jen Lemen explores the beauty of a more intimate online space with passionate bloggers Rachelle Mee-Chapman. Krystyn Heide stepped in to help at the last minute, so that Elaine could attend to her hospitalized husband.

Rachelle Mee-Chapman opens and describes the intent of the session, "Small is Beautiful," which is to celebrate and support a smaller blogging community. "If you are doing what you love, and can't stand *not* to do it, then this is the place for you." Quotes 'Joyful Girl' by Ani diFranco. Cleansing breath. Aaaand, we're ready!

Jen Lemen speaks, and explains that this is a topic dear to her heart, and that she submitted the idea for the panel along with friends.
I think I would trust Jen Lemen with my life

"Small" has different definitions to everyone, so we won't concentrate on that. Whatever you think of as "small" regarding your blog, just run everything through that personal filter. Asks attendees what appealed to them about this panel--why they chose to be here.

Comment: Curiosity about what the panel is about, when everyone seems to be obsessed with growing traffic.

Comment: Discouraged by some of the panels that focused so intensely on TRAFFIC and GROWTH, and wanted to come here and get tips on maintaining passion and not worrying about size.

Comment: Personal aspiration for developing COMMUNITY.

Jen talks about how, when you're focused on how many people are reading, what you feel about the validity of what you're writing may be affected. She emphasizes, "YOUR STORIES MATTER." Emphasize your "good angel!" Asks, What do you get out of blogging, if only one person reads it?

Comment: Began using online journaling for convenience, and does not care how many are reading it, but cares more about the final product and the quality of her writing because there is an audience, however small. "I go back and read my own posts, and that pleases me."

Comment: It makes a record to remind me, "Hey, I have a beautiful life."

Comment: Because of something I wrote, someone took a personal action that made a difference in her life. Even if it was just that one person, it made an impact.

Comment: Leaving something for your children, so they can have a "picture" of how you were at different stages in life.

Comment: Writing about my children, good and bad...they LOVE to read the stories, at ages, 10 and 12.

Comment: Doesn't have time to "reciprocate" by commenting, etc. on other blogs, and appreciates that the people who are reading get something from it. Also derives great satisfaction when someone gets a kick out of a post.

Comment: Have never checked stats, ever. Point of view of "writing for three people."

Rachelle speaks about allowing a stat-counter to "alter your voice." If you're trying to write in an uninfluenced voice, it's good to leave the stats alone.

Comment: Goes back and forth on the issue of stats. Have been an internet professional, it is of interest to see "how private" your blog is. It might affect what you post.

Comment: The things you must do to "brand yourself" seem antithetical to the way I blog, but the readership I've built is loyal, committed, and invested. (this commentor just had a piece picked up by Better Homes and Gardens magazine) "I don't want careless people in my space, because I have a lot of breakables."

Comment: Has noticed a trend in reduction of comments since the growth in use of feed-readers...which can be a good thing, in terms of "privacy."

Comment: Began blogging to keep friends updated. Then planned a major move and needed to talk about it, so blogged the process...became aware of "the world of blogging," and let it affect how she blogged, lost some of the personal impact to the core audience. This informed the decision to keep the blog small.

Jen: Does authenticity suffer when you worry about traffic?

Comment: Analogy of blogging as "junior high."

Comment: Checks sitemeter daily, just out of curiosity, does not let it affect content.

Jen: I want to make clear statements--to those I know, and to everyone--so more people can feel empowered about working toward their dreams. I want to take my "mission" viral. Anyone else?

Comment: (Tracey Clark) I really do want to share on my personal site, so that moms can take better pictures of their kids, and share the passion for photography. I don't want to worry about the stats, but I do want to share the message.

Comment: Uses search temrs to see how people find the blog.

Comment: Have a sketch-blog, to practice and improve artistic skills. Loves when someone takes something they saw, and applies it in practice themselves.

Rachelle talks about how inspiration is important, and that more traffic should not affect that.

Comment: We should have a common list of attendees here, because this group has a "tribal" feel!

Response: email jen.lemen@gmail.com, and she will help you sign up to a "Small is Beautiful" Google group and assign sk*rt tags on your blogs.

Comment: Began blogging to stay in touch with traveling husband, while at home with special needs child, and sought community. Didn't find a lot of info, so just started putting own story "out there" and to reassure/support others in the same position. Honored to be here, because EVERYONE has a great story.

Jen begins to close things up, acknowledging that we will not have enough time for everyone to speak...

Comment: Observing irony in celebrating "smallness" while "networking." Response: There is a difference between COMMUNITY and TRAFFIC.

Comment: Rather than the blog getting bigger, the *world* has gotten smaller, which is what is important personally.

Comment: If you are writing with intent and authenticity, then checking your stats, whether you're at one reader or one thousand, will not have any affect on what you post.

Comment: In a world where we're bombarded with media messages, what is special about blogging is that it can be targeted to a specific audience, which could very well be an audience of one. It's more meaningful of someone "finds" you because they're "looking" for you.

Rachelle speaks briefly about growth informing content, and ending blogs when they cease to be coming out of passion, and begin to come out of trend-following. OTOH, writing passionately can be exhausting, so it is great to have like-minded internet community.

A virtual "love-present" for all attendees is at www.jenlemen.com!

NOTE: Several people have given this live-blogger cards with URLS, in response to comments about building community, and here is what I have so far:


If your blog is not listed, and you'd like it to be, just leave a comment here and I'll add it. If I have you here by mistake, just comment or email me, ninjapoodlesATgmailDOTcom.

Friday, July 27, 2007

BlogHer Live-Blogging Session: Blogging Is More Than Words

Friday, July 27, 4:30 PM
Many bloggers actually consider their online space a visual medium. Can the online rendition of your visual output really do it justice? What do visual artists get out of showing their work online? What about virtual collaboration? Gayla Trail moderates a conversation with bloggers Tracey Clark, Renee Garner, Keri Smith and Zoe Strauss, who are making the most of technology to further their non-textual art.

Gayla Trail moderates. The group is small enough to be very interactive, so the panel will be discussion-based. Panelists are Keri Smith, Renee Garner, Tracey Clark, and Zoe Strauss.

Discuss: The way visual artists use their blogs. What do you get out of showing your work on your blogs?

*Tracey (paraphrased): To get feedback. Putting something "out there" and then getting response immediately is how a lot of people start. Having people critique work in progress is challenging, but can be insightful.
*Renee (pp): Usually posts completed work, keeping the process more private, to increase exposure without really "chasing" it.

Question/comment--this process brings a different set of "eyes" to your work than might otherwise see it.
Question: How important are fonts? A. by Zoe--Can be unique and identifying, can set a mood, so to speak--Zoe has left hers alone for several years, and feels it is a part of her identity. Keri says that all aspects of your blog become a part of your self-expression.

Gayla asks Zoe why have an internet presence as well as a gallery presence, as an artist? She lists accessibility, transparency, and the value of viewing the process, especially in a long-term project.

Q: How much effort do you really want to put into promoting, as opposed to just finding a connection...i.e. using an artistic font that doesn't search well? A., by consensus: being websafe is important, especially for example, for people with disabilities, but you CAN have it both ways with just a little work. Keri says that for her, if she gears toward promotion, the work winds up different than she might have intended otherwise, and if you do what moves you, people will be drawn to it, and will find you. Tracey adds that, again, you can live in both worlds, if the way you choose to "promote" comes from the same place as the work itself. Gayla sums: If you're making it, you should LIKE it.

Q: Have you thought about how active promotion might change the context/interpretation of your work, the meaning of it. Zoe leaps to field this question, and says that if you are mindful of the context of your own work when you use the internet as a tool, then you can give that context.

Q: How do you sell your work, if the idea of self-promotion bothers you? A: Keri says she is pushed (by publishers, etc.) to promote her work, and resists it, but enjoys discussing her work, for example in interviews...the idea of how to make the distinction is brought up, and she says that it's really internal, and some things just make her feel "icky," like asking people to "plug" something in exchange for a freebie.

As women, we're often reluctant to accept compliments and attention--it makes us uncomfortable sometimes.

Tracey fields the topic of the term "selling" and draws a division between making something acccessible and "pushing" it on people.

What about the idea of "authority?" This depends on how comfortable you are being considered a "professional" or an "expert."

Comment about how women like these give others of us "permission" to present our art, in whatever form it takes.

Q: Do you know of any collaborative websites that focus on process? Keri mentions "52 projects" and "Learning to Love You More." Also "Supernatural" for crafting. There is a flickr group based on Keri's book, "Wreck This Journal."

Q: How do you build a community based around your passion? Tracey says that working through ClubMom gave her high visibility, but that the key is building upon SHARING everyone's work, because people really do want to share. Tracey is building a new community called "Shutter Sisters" (audiences gasps, "ooooooh!") that will be a supportive place for women who love to take pictures.

Gayla asks for discussion about how allowing interaction in sharing your process might shape your work--for Zoe, it doesn't. Comments on her blog are welcomed and responded to, but they do not make a dialog which forms her decisions as an artist. Keri and Gayla have both turned off comments on there blogs, to minimize distraction from the intent of the blog.

Q: Does blogging drain energy away from your primary work as an artist? Keri says that having a regular audience nudges her to keep work "out there" so that she's always creating--it "provides a space" for her to create. OTOH, it can set a trap in which she might be tempted to cater to her audience. Feedback can become part of an "addictive cycle," hence her experiment with discontinuing comments--she finds that direct emails can give a more insightful discussion, but admits to missing the regular feedback...which she characterizes as a little weird!

Renee discusses her blog's beginning, and how it has changed over time from a very personal one to one that focuses on her artwork. As she built a community, she also built a clientele, as people sought out her work. Positive feedback is good, but not required.

Tracy says she shoots far more pictures since having public feedback on them, because she's having a lot more fun, which in turn encourages her to share even more work, and reminds us that you can (and probably should) "unplug" from time to time.

Zoe talks about the difference of a gallery setting, and the different quality of the feedback from that source, and agrees with the idea that having an internet presence does push her to produce works regularly.

Q: A blogger/artist who maintains separate websites for her art asks about that distinction. Tracey describes her own website as "an online gallery," and describes the blog as giving her much more freedom to post anything she wants, and adds, "If any of you craft-blog? CRAFT-BLOGGING ROCK!" She goes on to discuss how blogging has changed the very way she looks at things, as she thinks about sharing her life with others.

Comment about how artists sharing their personal lives on blogs informs the context of their artwork, because you have a better feeling of what's "behind" the work.

Q: When you know that your work will be viewed mainly online, does it inform your choices as to what you create? Gayla says not really, but it does encourage you to get your work out in other places, and that she would never change the way she takes pictures to look good online. An actual print is always going to look far better than a scanned image of a film print. Renee adds that there are media in which an internet image is never going to look anything like it does in person.

Q: Have you ever posted something that you thought was brilliant, and then evolve in your thinking so that later, you don't like it as well, and changed it? No one on the panel has, and Renee adds the tangential comment that you cannot change what you do to satisfy an audience, without losing part of what makes your work special and unique.

Comment about not changing what you made in the past, but using it and learning from it as a part of the history of your development as an artist. Other attendees here really appreciate being able to see an accomplished artist's early work, because it inspires them and shows that everyone goes through a process, and evolves and grows in their art. Tracey reminds us that we are none of us perfect, and are more alike than not, and are all "equals."

Much assent with the mantra, "Don't undervalue your work!!" Leah Peterson mentions her craft-trading site, where no money is ever exchanged.

Comment about how everything discussed here translates well into other efforts, such as business, and how creative integrity equals success in many areas. Keri says that she has been learning that sometimes blogging encourages you to be neutral, so as not to be attacked for stating a strong opinion, but that there is much more strength and integrity in being true to yourself and taking a stand with what you believe or want to create.

Discussion about the idea of the "honorable starving artist," and how taking money for your work seems to make some artists behave as if money for art is somehow tainted. Artists: Stop that.

Tracey takes on the concept that when your work speaks for itself, it gives you the power to decide what you do and don't do, sell and don't sell. Zoe speaks about how these decisions are personal and individual, and everything can work for someone...you must be flexible and willing to adapt within your own personal parameters: It's all about balance. Discussion flows back to "the money issue," and how class/culture might inform our feelings about this issue. An important distinction is drawn between "selling out" and maintaining artistic integrity.

BlogHer Live-Blogging Session: Technical Tools to Build Traffic

Friday, July 27, 2:45 PM
Grabbing an audience and keeping them engaged is enhanced by technical know-how. We're going to help you get some, including how to use syndication to your best advantage, and a little DIY search engine optimization. This is a reprise of what was one of our most popular sessions at BlogHer Business in March, featuring, once again, Elise Bauer and Vanessa Fox.

Elise Bauer opens the session with the encouraging fact that her site receives over 50,000 hits a day and appears on over 200,000 RSS feeds! Her articles on the topic are gathered at www.elise.com/blogher.

Three Cornerstones for your content--it is:

USEFUL

ENTERTAINING

TIMELY

Community = the difference between broadcasting your message and engaging a peer group.

There is a shift in thinking between having a website and participating in a community, with feedback and interaction.

*Link out to other bloggers
*Leave comments on their sites
*Plan and participate in blog events
*Contribute to the community
*Participate in social networks (put your blog in your profile)

TOOLS:

*Google Alerts--get there by GOOGLING "Google Alerts." Heh. Sign up to the service and list keywords, and you will receive a daily list of mentions of those keywords, so you know who's linking to you and are able to reciprocate/interact.
*Technorati--same/similar service

*Google Custom Search--allows you to create a custom search engine for anything you want--Elise gives example using her food blog, and the custom search "grilled tuna." You can also have these searches added into your Google Reader.

SITE DESIGN:

Should be: Easy to load, easy to read, easy to find stuff on PCs AND Macs

Images under 15.5K ideally, or 31K
Page length and size under 100K
Font size MUST BE READABLE
Reduce Clutter
Avoid colored backgrounds for main text sections--hard to read
Search bars--best at the top of the page for visibility
Categories--categorize your entries
Multiple browser compatibility--check your site on IE, Firefox, Safari, for PCs and Macs
Screen resolution (lots of people may use 800x600 dpi monitors)
Find and fix broken links (Alexa.com has a free link-checker)

STATS--Measuring Site Traffic

Are you flying without an intrument panel?

1) Google Analytics
2) Sitemeter

*How do people come to your blog?
*Google or other search engine
*A link on another site
*Newsfeeds (Bloglines, MyYahoo, iGoogle)
*Social bookmarking sites (StumbleUpon, Del.icio.us, Technorati, Digg, Sk-rt)--Know your audience, *and how appropriate each service is to your content
*An email link (some blogs have "email this" links)
*Press--encourage your own press; Elise's example is calling her local newspaper and offering material.

Question: Can stat counters be used in tandem? Usually. Stat counters give differing results, sometimes wildly diferent, so it may be good to use more than one. AdSense removes "bot traffic," so offers a fairly accurate result.

Syndication--FEEDS
*iGoogle allows personalization/customization--PROMOTE your feed! There is an "add to Google" button with iGoogle.
*Google Reader (response to a question--when you first sign up, you get the 20 most recent posts from each site you subscribe to--after those are marked as read, you only get "new" posts)
*FeedBurner (recently purchased by Google) offers amazing statistics on subscribers to your feed, with charts, etc. with free upgraded service. FeedBurner "manages" your feed. (Comment: if you want to check this once a week, do it on Monday or Tuesday to get the most information)
--FeedBurner also offers "site analytics"...these services help you to get to know your readers
*Feed to Email--Readers can subscribe to your feed via Email, and never have to download a feed-reader. Elise has 7,000 subscribers to Simply Recipes this way. Feedburner can manage this.
*DISCOVERABILITY--Make sure the proper RSS code is in your header

Useful services:
www.alexa.com
www.websiteoptimization.com
www.problogger.net
www.successful-blog.com
www.emomsathome.com

VANESSA FOX TAKES OVER, and starts with search engine optimization.

Search is "reverse advertising." Potential viewers are broadcasting their needs.

An overview of search:
*Relevant, useful results
*Exactly what searcher is looking for
*Searcher spends as little time searching as possible

Mechanics:
*Discovery--i.e. following links from other pages, through a Sitemap submission
*Crawlability--search engines must be able to ACCESS the page and extract text
*Relevance--WORDS ON THE PAGE. Substance over "flash;" How well the page is linked and described by other sites (Vanessa will do followup posts on the technical "how to" aspects)

Search engines are LITERAL. Use keywords that will pull the searchers you want. Use text links instead of "click here," to facilitate search engines. Keyword research is important (Vanessa will follow up on this, also), and allows you to optimize hits from searches. Search your own site for keywords to test it. Text in graphics, videos, Flash, multimedia, etc. are not picked up. More general "long tail" keywords do add up over time.

Examples: Zappos.com returns 21% of all traffice for keyword "shoes," while Nike only accounts for 1% of traffic from that keyword. (From Feb. 2006) Nike's site is all flash, so Google sees a blank page here and there, and you can hardly find the word "shoes."

Question: Are meta tags irrelevant? Mostly, with a couple of exceptions--title and description.
*The title tag is crucial--every page needs a unique title with relevant keywords
*Keep it short, attractive, enticing
*Title descriptive of content
*URL descriptive
*Consider your domain name (Vanessa's is "vanessafoxnude," and half her traffic comes from searches for the word "nude!")

Questions: What is the relevance of description tags, i.e. Technorati? A: Not much in search engines, per se.
How important is "no follow?" When you link out to other sites--"rel" added to link so that the link doesn't "feed" the search engine? A: It depends a lot on your intended use of the page, whether it's revenue-driven, if you're linking to an ad, etc.

Meta description tag--describe your pages YOUR way, not the search engine's way
*sell your site, but don't mislead
*incorporate target term
*at least 200-250 characters in length
*each page gets unique meta tag
*use your blogging software

Question: Does cross-posting harm your search stats? Answer: Not really, you just get duplicate results, so the engine will only choose one as "most authoritative." If one source is more important for your purposes, block the other one.

Question: Googling Vanessa's name returns a specifically desired post in the #1 spot...how did she accomplish that? Answer: Not sure, she didn't do any special coding--probably number of links.

Questions continued, but I had to relocate to live-blog the next session. This was great!

Chicago-Bound


departure
Originally uploaded by ninjapoodles
Hey, everyone? If you're flying? Make sure you've remembered to RENEW YOUR DRIVER'S LICENSE. Otherwise, you get the personal perp-walk through security, with lots of extra attention! Ahem.

Also, I miss my child already.

Also also, this is my new haircut. If you are already at BlogHer, LOOK FOR ME sometime after lunch. The expression will most likely have changed to one of dazed, exhausted confusion. Help a sister.

ALSO also, sitting in the airport terminal, Twittering, offloading pictures from camera to computer, flickring, then posting to my blog? I LOVE YOU, Brave New World.

Hey, we're boarding! Later, 'taters.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Overprescribed Eyes

Well, not hers. She kept asking, "Do my eyes LOOK like there's anything wrong with 'em?"
"Do my eyes LOOK like there's anything wrong with 'em?"

I had an appointment with the optometrist today, and made one for Bella, too. She's never had a real checkup, and since she's all into learning to read now, I've noticed her squinting and leaning in close when she's working on a tough word. I suspected it was just "body-English" used in figuring out those words, but it couldn't hurt to be sure. Neither Alex or I had any eye problems as young'uns, but on the other hand, my sister was bumping into walls by the time she was 6. So, it was nice to be certain. But wait a sec--let me show you the eye chart they started with, before the doc came in and realized that she had a good grasp on letters and he could use the regular charts:
It Might Be Time To Update the Children's Eyechart

OK, the second and fourth items from the left? How many children younger than reading age would really recognize those items? Fortunately for Bella, with her Electric Company DVDs, there is a telephone like that in the office of Fargo North, Decoder. But that other thing? That is a "Jeep." Young people, topless Jeeps were common in the days when dinosaurs, and other creatures who were alive in the 70's, roamed the earth. Bella identified that glyph as a pair of glasses, for which she was given full credit.

She loved the whole experience, mostly because we went to a really good doctor, who is great with kids.
Better?  Or Worse?

Then it was my turn. I'd switched eye docs to come here, and I think it was a good choice, because I came out with a prescription that is half as strong as the one I've had for the last five years (I went suddenly nearsighted during a prolonged surgery several years ago...luckily, just a little), and MUCH more comfortable eyes. I'm sharing this in case anyone else might be in the same boat, and not know why. My previous prescription was -1.0 in each eye. I wore glasses mainly for driving and watching movies, or anytime I needed to see something at a distance. I could only wear them for a little while at a time, though, and I'd have to take them off and rest my eyes. And I couldn't wear contacts at all, though I went through several brands and types trying them. I just couldn't tolerate them for more than two or three hours, and they made me miserable while they were in. I could see better, sure, but ugh. So I was stuck with the glasses.

If this is happening to you, try getting a second opinion about your prescription strength from another eye doctor. It turns out that I'd been "overprescribed" for YEARS, and every time I wore my glasses, or especially contacts, my eyes were forced to "hyperfocus," and naturally became strained and irritated. My new prescription? -o.50 in each eye. I've been wearing a pair of contacts in that strength for 8 hours now with no eyestrain whatsoever. UNREAL. But HEY--now I'll be able to SEE at BlogHer! Everyone who's more than 30 feet away won't look like this:
The Girl Knows Irony (by Bella)
This photo, by the way, was taken by Bella, when she turned off the flash and shot our eye doctor as they were both moving. I kind of love it for its natural irony.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Five-Minute Child-Directed Blizzard

Or, "I can't believe what you people are charging for this, ice-cream-selling restaurants!" I've been wanting to try a do-it-yourself, single-serving, kid-friendly ice cream project for a couple of weeks now, because it has been SOOOO hot outside, and besides, Bella loves to do things ALL BY HERSELF. Wanna try it? SO easy. We used half & half, but you could use anything from soy milk to skim milk to full cream. Ditto flavorings. We had some Heath chips, so went with that, and tomorrow we'll probably try some crushed pineapple. Next I'd predict pistachio, peach, blueberry, strawberry, Dutch chocolate...really, you just toss whatever you want into the bag before you start freezing it. It's incredibly personal. So, here's your extremely simple pictorial:

Gather your ingredients. For one serving of ice cream, you need 1/2 cup half & half, 1 Tablespoon of sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, plus any "extras" you might desire. To freeze it, you need one qart-size baggie, one gallon-size baggie, about a half-bag of ice, and a couple handfuls of rock-salt. Also essential to the operation is one enthusiastic child.

Dump ice and rock salt in larger bag.

Combine ice cream ingredients in smaller bag.

Drop smaller bag into larger bag, and give enthusiastic child the go-ahead to start burning all that energy she's been driving you crazy with all day. The bag can be shaken, turned over repeatedly, rolled on the counter, whatever, as long as it's moving.

The longer the ice cream is agitated, the harder it sets up. So if you have a preschooler freezing the ice cream she's going to be eating HERSELF, it's probably not going to be frozen rock-hard. After less than 5 minutes of shaking the bag, Bella's ice cream was exactly the consistency of every bowl of homemade ice cream I ever had as a child--soft, but well-frozen. Now nothing's left but to get it out of the bag and into a bowl (I just snipped a lower corner off the bag and squoze out the frozen goodness like I was piping frosting)...and, of course, the all-important taste-test. This batch was pronounced "just right" by the only critic that mattered.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Because I Just Didn't Have Enough Internet Presence

Yeah. The two blogs, flickr stream and Twitter were just NOT ENOUGH. I finally caved to pressure and created minimal presences on Facebook and MySpace. I still don't know what Facebook really is or what purpose it serves, but you can find me on it here.

As for MySpace, I have a few really stubborn friends who use it instead of a nice, traditional, staid Old-Person-Blog, and some of their pages are "friends only," which means I had to create an account just to be able to view their blogs. SO, if you are one of those very few (and this includes my sister's dog), please "add" me, or "friend" me, or "poke" me, or "nudge" me, or give me a "wet willie," or whatever the heck it is you young people have to do to authorize me to get all up in your bidness.

Find me on MySpace and be my friend!

Me, Every Stinkin' Day

Courtesy of the fine folks at Toothpaste For Dinner:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Weary of Stating the Obvious

Me: "Bella, you do know that you wear me OUT, right?"

Bella: "Yes. I do!"

Me: "Why do you do it, then?"

Bella: "It's just WHAT I DO." (pause) "And I'm tired of telling you things you already know."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Progressive

Some interesting moments with my child lately--and to think I've been concerned about her being overly influenced by her uber-conservative preschool. Not to worry, apparently.

First, one day she wanted to watch "Crashbox," an educational children's show on HBO Family. So when I went to turn on that channel, I missed it by one, and hit regular HBO, on a scene in "Lost World:Jurassic Park ," featuring Jeff Goldblum's "Ian Malcolm" character onscreen having an argument with his daughter "Kelly", played by Jessica Lee Chester, in the presence of whoever Julianne Moore was supposed to be playing. Anyway, in the space of that 30 seconds, in which no one is referred to as "Dad" or "Honey," or anything like that, Bella somehow knew that Kelly was Malcolm's daughter, I guess just by the dynamic between them, and told me, "Mommy, that man's daughter is being good to him." I was slightly surprised that she'd identified Kelly as the daughter, since, firstly, Julianne Moore certainly looked young enough to be Goldblum's daughter, and secondly, Chester is of a clearly different ethnicity than Goldblum.
Just out of curiosity, I asked Bella, "Which one of those girls is his daughter?" She looked at me like I was nine kinds of stupid, and answered, "The one in the red shirt." I think I'm going to like living in this new generation through her.

And then. There are things that you know you'll have to deal with, sooner or later, and sometimes they catch you by surprise when they don't come up on your Parenting Timetable where you think they should. Today, when we were having one of our lovey-dovey moments that comes between the whinings, Bella hugged me and told me, "I love you, Mommy." I answered, "I love you, too, Baby. You're the best thing I ever did." Then she threw me off my game just a little by announcing, "I'm gonna marry you!" To which I immediately and cleverly responded, "Uh...uh...well, well...WELL...ummmm...You can't marry ME, Sweetie. You have to find your own husband so I can get to be a grandmommy!" And then my world-wise preschooler daughter informed me that, "Well, sometimes women marry women and men marry men." THAT I had an answer for. "Well, nobody marries their own parent," I said. There. Took care of THAT.

But she wasn't done. "I'm not going to be a parent, anyway. I am going to be an artist." I asked, "So...no babies for you, huh?" She could tell she was killing me with all this, and she was having a ball. Finally, a sly grin, a sideways look, and the concession, "Well, I think I will be an ARTIST PARENT."

You know what, kiddo? That's exactly what I always wanted to be. More power to you, Baby, and may both our dreams come true. And just as a bonus? May there always be poodles.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gettin' Our Huhr Did

Yeah, it's that time.
For some of us, including Gabby and myself, it's PAST that time. And since I'm not showing you MY nappy hair, here's Gabby's!
See that silver pile behind her? Yeah. Enough hair to make a whole 'nother poodle! And Michelle DID finally trim Gabby's topknot, after many threats to leave it this way.

"Summer Nekkid" is definitely the favored trim among the Ninja Poodles, though not everyone got to be stripped. Halle is big and fluffy, and poor Glory is being dredlocked. The girls all got finished yesterday, and the boys are on schedule for tomorrow. Maybe I'll actually be able to get a whole group photo, for once!

All Delta cares about is that being clean and groomed means more snuggle-time in the people-bed.
She is a bit of a TiVo-hog when it's time for "Ninja Warrior" or "Flight of the Conchords," though.

My favorite part of the afternoon, though, was when Michelle helped us figure out a solution for treating Odette the kitten's gross neck-wound. It wasn't always a gross neck-wound. Once, it was a tiny, shallow puncture from when she and Jack were playing too rough. Unfortunately, she could *just* reach the spot, so she would lick and lick and lick it with that sandpaper tongue, and eventually, the thing reached proportions of ulcerated grotesqueness. And it was never going to heal, ever. Once it got bad enough, Jack got in on the act. Between the two of them, they attacked it every time it formed a scab, and made it worse, and the surface area larger. I knew Michelle would think of something, though, so I took Odette out to the mobile and plunked her down in the tub while we finished up the dogs.

Michelle slathered the wound with tri-biotic ointment, which we'd been doing, and Odette had been licking off, for the last 3 weeks:

But then--THEN--the genius began. You can't just wrap VetRap around an animal's neck. You need something with some thickness to it, some padding, to act as a buffer. Lightdays to the rescue! Yep, this is a cat getting a maxi-pad wrapped around its neck.

Followed by some gauze,

...and finally VetRap. Which rendered the kitty immobile. Which (oh, so wrongly) makes us laugh.
But hopefully now the wound will heal, and in the meantime we're having a lot more Odette-related peace than we're used to. I'm not sure she's moved much from this spot, and this position.

Monday, July 16, 2007

In Which I Bring My Problems to the Internets for Solving

It's late, and I'm tucked into bed, hubby already sleeping, surrounded by a whole mess o' sweet, warm, good-smelling poodles. Yep, Michelle was out with her mobile grooming unit today, and all the girls got spiffed up. The boys have their turn on Wednesday. They're outnumbered, so they always have to go last.

Speaking of dogs--problem the first: Dogs + wood floors. What do you do? We tried SoftPaws for a while, but on OUR dogs, they don't last long. They wear through long before they're outgrown. Especially on Delta, the Traction Queen. Do you just have the floor people put 70 layers of acrylic down over the wood? There's only wood in the central part of the house, which is good (the giant living room has laminate that LOOKS like wood, which I personally think should be mandatory in any home that is not intended for use as a museum, as the stuff is indestructible), but it's the part of the house where dogs and kids can get up the most momentum. Thoughts?

Speaking of the house--problem the second: Ugly/Boring (take your pick) glass-front cabinets in my tiny kitchen. Which used to be painted eggplant-purple when we moved in, and which is now painted exactly the color of Supa's kitchen, but mine was totally painted FIRST, haha! Anyhow, there are a number of ways to go with the cabinet thing. Right now, the entirety of the cabinet structures, top and bottom, is the same color, which is to say a chalky kind of almost-white that matches every other inch of trim in the house, and which trim is not likely to change since it matches the very nice, very expensive wood blinds that are custom-fitted to every window in the lower floor of the house. Lose those blinds? NOT LIKELY. So. I can paint the cabinet doors to match what tiny bit of wall color is showing (much like the amount of wall-paint showing in Supa's pics, linked above), which would mean just painting a "frame" around the glass of the door. OR. I can paint the inside of the cabinets so that it would extend the yummy warm color, which you would then see through the glass. OR. I could do both. OR. I could paint the shelves. OR. Any combination of the above. See where I'm going? What would you do?

Speaking of cabinets, problem the third: Bella needs a toy/book storage system. She has a large room, with a very good-size walk-in closet (little does she know at this point that she has reason to thank Mommy's defunct uterus for dividends in living space). What have most of you found works best as your children go into Pre-K and onward? Toy boxes? Shelves? Chests of drawers? A series of wall-sconces attached to pulleys and levers that expose hidden storage areas behind paintings of monocled barons? Honestly, I want to know. Because she has a lot of crap stuff.

Speaking of "stuff," a term that could be extrapolated to mean "detritus," problem the fourth: Every time it rains (which is a LOT), half the dirt of Pulaski and Lonoke Counties washwa STRAIGHT down the mountain and deposits itself squarely in front of our door. This really can't go on. I think I can demonstrate the problem. You see, UPHILL from our house, NOTHING grows on the ground. Just big stupid trees. Below the trees, nothing but rocks and dirt. NOTHING. See?
driveway
So there is nothing to stop the rain from stripping a good-sized layer of dirt from the hill and laying it to rest in our doorway. Here is what even a moderate rain looks like, as it washes mud right out through the fence and onto our driveway:
water, water everywhere
Do you see that? Below, we have grass. Above, NO GRASS. Now. I ask you, internets--if I, as I am itching to do, invest in about 3 rows of Bermuda sod right along the bottom of the fenceline, and tend to it as if it were my very own precious, precious baby...do you think it would take hold? And if so, would it have any affect on the runaway erosion that has obviously been going on here for at least a decade? And if THAT worked, could I not just add on to that sod, one row at a time, at least in the areas that are able to get sun in between the big stupid trees? Keep in mind that I am POOR, so no grand landscaping schemes, please.

Speaking of stupid, problem the fifth: Should I be worrying about what to wear to BlogHer? I mean, I just don't seem to be sweatin' it yet. Should I? If I just show up in a Houndstooth t-shirt, jeans, and sandals or Vans, and I run into Isabel Kallman looking like she just stepped off the set of "Breakfast at Tiffany's," am I going to run screaming from the room and spend the rest of the conference live-blogging what's available on pay-per-view from my hotel room? People who are going should be telling me how they're going to be dressed, and NOW. Don't make me show up in a tuxedo t-shirt out of sheer bewilderment.

And back to speaking of kitchens, problem the last: Tonight (but much to late for it to actually have been our dinner) I cooked what was sold at the market as a "new cut" of flank steak, "second only to the tenderloin in terms of tenderness." Well, I think that's a bit of balderdash. Anyway. I marinated it and roasted it in the same marinade (ginger-sesame teriyaki). Then I thinly sliced it against the grain, and stored it, with marinade, in a Ziploc bag until tomorrow. Sooo...what do I do with it tomorrow, when people are all hungry all over the place. Just go ahead and go Asian? Thinking of possibly baking some bread, too...if I have some yeast. Maybe a cheese bread, even.

Or maybe I'll spend the day watching Electric Company and reading Little Golden Books, and the family will be forced to dine on Totino's Pizza Rolls. Although actually? My daughter begged for a bowl full of broccoli for dinner tonight, and also wanted an entire box (serves 4) of frozen carrots. In one of the most surreal exchanges of motherhood so far, I heard myself telling her that if she ate all her broccoli and still wanted the carrots, I'd cook them for her. She did, and she did, and she ate EVERY LAST CARROT. Who is this kid, anyway? My sister?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Why You Should IM With Jer

me: OK, 20/20 tonight is about Hell.
From TiVo: "Hell; crime and eternal punishment; unrepentant killer. News"
emphasis mine
Jer: wow
they get all the good footage
me: Who did they send?
Jer: I'm hoping Geraldo

Thursday, July 12, 2007

One Morning in July

I had a good morning. It was almost magical in its...well, not perfection, because it was hot and muggy and it started way too early, and Bella did throw a minor tantrum in a public place at not being allowed a candy bar, but it was, in a way, a dream come true. I dreamed all my life of becoming a mother. And in those daydreams, every day was like today. That's a good feeling.

My friend Kerri is off in some Mexican jungle on a mission trip with a church group, and I've been looking after her horses (and one of my own, since Misha is currently camping out over there) in her absence. She had the farrier scheduled for today at 8:00AM, so instead of causing her to have to reschedule that event, I hauled my carcass up and got over there in time to meet him and hold horses for him. And I am by no means a morning person, so this was not something I looked forward to.

When I got my groggy self up and dressed, I headed up to Bella's room to wake her at what was an uncommonly early summer wakeup time for her, as well, and she'd been late getting to bed the night before.

Me: "Bella, sweetie, you need to get up and get dressed so we can head over to Kerri's to meet the farrier."

Bella: (in mid-air, as she literally LEAPS from sound asleep to fully awake and in motion) "OK! Let's go!" (thumping quickly past me, and on down the stairs) "I am going to wear my orange dress, with the pink flowers, and my pink sandals that light up! OK?"

Me: "Uh, yeah...what?"

So we were off in record time, and did our duty while the horses got their pedicures.
From there, we headed back toward home, and stretched the 10-minute drive into at least an hour by stopping the car along the country highway several times to take pictures of things that Bella spotted and found photo-worthy. She'd spot, point, and instruct, asking, "Didja gettit?" after each shot. It was a blast, and I do love her eye for a drive-by "shooting." The still-growing flickr set is here, but these are just some of my favorites that my daughter demanded immortalizing:
By this time, Littlebit was hungry, and I remembered the new little coffee-shop that had opened not far from our house, "The Daily Grind," and decided to give it a try, thinking they'd at least have some kind of muffins or something. What a find this was! (For all you locals, I'll be writing this place up for the Times blog, probably tomorrow.) Every kind of breakfast food under the sun was offered, from light pastries to heavy fare, and Bella went like a heat-seeking missile straight for the cinnamon scones ("cimanon stones" at first), and then settled on the idea of a very grown-up "cup of coffee" in the form of hot chocolate with marshmallows. Yes, I'm aware that it's July in Arkansas. I got my "everything" bagel and a schmear, and joined her at a little corner table, where we took our time having a proper "tea party." Have I mentioned that this was the best day ever?

The proprietress was charming and solicitous, and even provided Bella with a tiny silver pitcher of cold milk with which to cool down her hot chocolate, and I probably don't have to tell you that this development positively enchanted a certain little girl who has a penchant for all things dainty and dramatic.
We positively lingered over our late breakfast, then lollygagged about outside looking at the pretty landscaping around the restaurant, and Bella dug a penny out of her ridiculously tiny purse to toss into a fountain/birdbath and make a wish. Just in case you get swarmed in the next few days, I feel it only fair to inform you that her wish was for there to be "beautiful butterflies all over the whole world," because they are her "favorite pretty things and [she] loves them."

When we got home, we spent some time with the boxed DVD set of "The Electric Company" that I'd finally gotten around to ordering for her, and sang all the songs and tried to sound out as many words as possible before Bill Cosby or Morgan Freeman could. And here is where I take a minute to let everyone know that, if your kid is at all interested in learning to read, you can't make any better investment than DVDS OF "THE ELECTRIC COMPANY."
We've had them for about a week, and Bella has gone from knowing the sounds that the letters in the alphabet can make, to READING COMPLETE SENTENCES in that time. Seriously. Why is there no equivalent to this show around any more? I was reading competently at age 4, and my own mother swears by the influence of "The Electric Company."

TEC does tend to wear a body out, so we did take a nap break. Come on, I told you it was the best day ever--you had to know that would include at least a short nap. And with Bella, "short" is the only kind of nap there is. Bella made the peanut-butter sandwiches for lunch, and we spent the rest of the afternoon playing "Sphere" (your kid will be better at this than you would ever think possible) and reading. THE REST OF THE DAY, excluding a short dinner break when Daddy came home. Until her bedtime. And it never got boring, not EVER.

What did we read? Well. Here is where I get to share with you a rare moment of mothering inspiration, because frankly, this is genius. Bella LOVES looking at pictures on flickr. LOVES IT. And I noticed that many flickr photos have simple titles, descriptions, and tags. That gives you a LOT of words, which are associated with real-life images, and endless hours of reading practice material. Tags in particular are great, because they tend to describe the subject of the photo, which helps with comprehension. I don't guess any developmental stepping-stone has made me as giddy as this whole reading business. It's just phenomenal. She's got the concept of the silent 'e' knocked, as well as being able to swap out long and short vowel sounds, and hard and soft consonants. I am completely in love with this child, and her sweet, ever-growing brain.

Yep, it was a good day. Getting to have this time with my daughter before school starts and I go back to work has been a real gift, and I'm appreciating, and loving, every minute of it. Even with the Loudest Child in the Universe, bless her little noggin. Now, sing along with me:

Easy Reader, that's my name;
Uhn, uhn-uhhhhhhhn;
Reading, reading, that's my game;
Uhn, uhn-uhhhhhhhn.

Top to bottom, left to right;
Reading stuff is...OUTTA SIGHT!
Easy Reader, that's my name;
Uhn, uhn-uhhhhhhhn!



Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Order of the Phoenix" One-Minute Movie Review

We were fortunate enough to have been offered VIP tickets to a catered preview-screening of the latest Harry Potter film, which opens tomorrow. Here you see the excited faces of Bella and Grayson after the meal but before the movie:

I'm a 'VIP'!  What's a 'VIP'?

stoked

We don't have "after" shots, because we were just so desperate to escape once it was over, we didn't think of anything else. Nutshell review from Alex and me: Longest movie evaaaaaar. We are pretty sure we could have pieced it together in 27 minutes, with plenty to spare.

My 10-year-old nephew, Grayson, rates every movie he sees with either a numeric 1-10 quantity or a percentage, and he's usually pretty generous. He's a HUGE Harry Potter fan, both of the books and the movies, and should represent the bullseye demographic. His favorite of all the movies so far is #4, "Goblet of Fire." That one got an 8.6 on a scale of 1-10. How did "Order of the Phoenix" measure up? 5.2. 'Nuff said.

Bonus impressions: The photography in the first 5 minutes was just beautiful. In the entire remainder of the film, every single character is so sallow and sunken-eyed that they appear to all be suffering from scurvy. And the Scariness Factor was slightly intense in the first 10 minutes, but not too bad at all after that. Bella was not terribly perturbed.

Top that review, Peter Travers.

Ask And It Shall Be Answered

The Internets, they are powerful. Thanks to the generosity of several people, and the opportunity to sing for my supper by live-blogging the event for BlogHer, it looks like I'll actually be able to attend the conference in a couple of weeks, after all. Sheesh, who knew one whiny, wishy-washy post was all it took? Now I just have to face my own trepidation at leaving my BABY and getting on a PLANE to go away from my HOME. The good news? Shacking up with Kelly and Shash. Snuggling with JenB. Meeting SO MANY PEOPLE that I'm overwhelmed at the mere thought.

Thank you, additionally, to everyone who offered assistance in shifting my carcass out of central Arkansas for a couple of days. People who think that relationships formed via the internet can't be "real" are...to be pitied, I think. Also thank you to my husband for doing the heavy pushing required to even get my brain on the "going somewhere" track. And my MIL for frequent-flier miles.

Bella and I are getting ready to meet Alex and the rest of the fam to go to a preview screening of the new Harry Potter movie. I fully realize that means that I may be signing myself up to spend a couple of hours window-shopping with a preschooler while everyone ELSE watches the movie, but hey, I'm a mom. I can deal. She won't hear of not going, and she's seen the previous ones, though occasionally hiding her eyes during scary parts. I was the same way as a kid, fascinated by creepy, scary, spooky stuff. Fortunately Jer tipped me off about the Nightmare Snatcher. I would have loved one of those when I was young.

Right now, Bella is all dressed to go, and her sandals don't match her dress, and she's put on a headband that isn't quite right with everything else, but you know what? She's clean, she's happy, and she feels empowered, so I'm shutting my critique-trap. I do, however, think I'm going to try to talk her out of her "baby-carrier," which consists of a stuffed plush poodle strapped to her waist with a pink faux-suede belt.

We just spent 5 minutes looking at each other and giggling, for no apparent reason. Life is good.

I posted about a poignant encounter in downtown Little Rock over at the Times. Check it out, it'll warm the cockles of your heart.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

BlogHer Chicago: To Go or Not to Go?

There probably isn't really any question, because we are so broke that it's irresponsible to even think of leaving town for a couple of days, much less spending $200 on registration, much much less whatever it would cost if I COULD find a place to stay. But the thing is, I can get there without spending any money. The thing that kept me from going last year, air-fare, is not a factor for this year.

I want to go. I really do. Wonderful friends will be there, and great learning opportunities will abound...I just can't seem to make it all come together. Which is probably a clear sign that I shouldn't be thinking of going.

But I want to go. Did I mention that? Help me dither, internets. Isn't it fun? And if you happen to have an empty apartment on Michigan Avenue just sitting there going to waste, drop me a line.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

As Promised...


FUTAB 4th
Originally uploaded by ninjapoodles

Unheard

Delta the big wimpy poodle is sitting bolt upright in our bed, on Alex's pillow specifically, shivering and staring into space with glazed-over eyes that have the whites showing all the way around.

Someone somewhere is discharging fireworks--far enough away that none of the human occupants of this house can hear them, but presumably somewhere within the AR/LA/TX/OK/MO/TN area. So, if you're within 500 miles of central Arkansas, and you're shooting firecrackers, knock it off, wouldja?

If we have the predicted thunderstorm today as well, I am going to be peeling this dog off the ceiling.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Past Week (Better Than A Poke in the Eye or a Rat and a Pickle)

Is past. It's over. That's about the best thing. That it's behind us. Well, that and that my husband did NOT, in fact, have to participate in a scene from "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Because he was sunk in a powerful depressive cycle, and so help me, the words "if this Lamictal increase doesn't work, we can always try ECT," flew out of our doctor's mouth like they were on wings. Maybe I'm wrong, but I felt he had the same look on his face that surgeons get when they're answering the question, "is an operation really necessary?" The whole idea just gave me the shivers, and not simply because I'd never be able to chunk that marble water-fountain through the window and carry him off.

So last week was really tough on Alex. And when things are bad for him, they're bad for me--not that I pretend to have any idea what depression that serious is really all about, because I don't. I just hate seeing him suffer. And I also get lonely when he's sleeping 22.5 hours a day. Anyway, whether as a result of the full moon waning, the med increase kicking in, the mere suggestion of running enough juice through his synapses to power a Hamilton-Beach blender for long enough to make a strawberry-banana smoothie, or all three combined...he's doing much better now.

We're beginning to get things in order around here. Instead of just watching "Neat," "Clean Sweep," and "Clean House" on TV all night long while sighing wistfully, we're taking action and trying to de-clutter. Alex has done a good majority of the heavy lifting, leaving me free to putter around organizing, shelving/unshelving, storing, selling/donating, and doing "detail" work on our living spaces. This house is so unbelievably odd in design (seriously--did we just not NOTICE before we bought this place how very very WEIRD it is?) that, while space is plentiful, maximizing its livability is a real challenge. I am probably going to post pictures and invite input as I tackle some of these problems one at a time, because I know that the answers are out there, and that YOU HAVE THEM.

Bella and I have been given the gift of these last few weeks before school starts "off," and I am loving spending time with her, and being able to dress her in normal, little-kid summer clothes instead of having to make her look like an extra from "Big Love" just to go to day-care. Alex called home one day and, listening to her in the background (although, with Bella, it's never really the BACKground), asked me, "How long will it take her to get tired?" To which I replied, "I don't know yet. It's only been a week." I still don't know.

We've entered a whiny stage that is driving me crazy (I'm talking mostly about Bella here). Why just ask for anything when you could start up your siren and make your most melodramatic facial contortions and squeeze out a few tears for added effect? Also, I think I'm ready to bestow my very first Maternal Curse on my child, as my mother (successfully) did on me so many times: I hope that when Bella has a child of her own, that child will demand a never-ending supply of Band-Aids for every possible malady, from skinned knees to hiccups to offended sensibilities. And that when Band-Aids are denied, for reasons as trivial as the fact that you can't stick a Band-Aid to your EYEBALL, that child will make begin to make sounds which will be heard by dogs long before they fall on any human ears, and will be inconsolable and will also not forget about the non-Band-Aid-having EVER, regardless of distractions offered.

Speaking of noise, you know what we haven't heard yet this year? One single firecracker. Well, I take that back. I was so befuddled by the lack of firecracker noise, HERE, in rural Arkansas of all places, that I actually went outside tonight and just listened. There were firecracker noises, after all. Know why we can't hear them from inside the house? Because those sounds are drowned out by the multitude of locusts, cicadas and FROGS which are in concert all summer long. There is one particular frog that I'd like, quite honestly, to murder with my bare hands. I'd do it slowly, and then hang his little carcass above the koi pond, or put it on a pike in the landscaping, as a warning to all his little frog-buddies. Barometer species, my hind leg--just SHUT UP, you horny little amphibian freaks.

We've seen a few movies in the last couple weeks, and have enjoyed Netflix's new streaming movie feature as well. Kinda neat to just order one up and have it here instantaneously. Most recently we saw Marky-Mark in Shooter, which was remarkable in that it's a Rambo-esque, revenge-driven bloodfest...wrapped around a liberal sensibility and message. Yeah, I know. Weird, huh? Ned Beatty plays/represents Evil Incarnate (*cough*BushAdministration*cough*) in this one. Also, Casey Jones from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie was another bad guy. Irritating Alex throughout (this movie was his pick; mine for the same weekend was Breach, which I found interesting) was my glee at the name of Marky-Mark's character: Bob Lee Swagger. I'm sorry, I just couldn't get over it, this not being a comedy or based on a comic book. And then, when the secondary good-guy character was introduced as Nick Memphis, I nearly lost my mind. At one point, my husband actually threatened me thusly: "If you say his name one more time, I am just going to turn this off." He maybe should have thought that threat through, because it was about as effective as when I was "punished" in college for having a "bad attitude" (I know, right? ME?) by being forced to SIT OUT Razorback Marching Band rehearsals, when in the first place I was participating against my will (because I wasn't good enough, as a freshman, to earn one of the two spots in the symphony orchestra) earning my scholarship, in the second place it was 102 degrees outside, and in the third place these rehearsals were three hours long and took place on ASPHALT. So because of my bad attitude (due to the hating of everything to do with "marching band"--my blood pressure still rises just thinking about it), I had to lie in the shade with a book instead of sweating it out under the sun on the blacktop with my better-behaved peers. GENIUS.


Oh, and my husband also made the baseless accusation that if I were pressed into service as a field-surgeon on Marky-Mark, like the girl in the movie was, I'd take advantage of the opportunity to get a peek at his "funky bunch" before he woke up. The nerve. It just so happens that the placement of the bullet-wound would have made peeking unnecessary.

I think the 4th of July is going to be lazy and food-filled for us, probably over at Mom's with the rest of the gang. What about you? And while I've got you here, what's up with Canada Day? I heard someone describe it as "their Independence Day," but isn't Canada a constitutional monarchy? What are they independent from? That said, I fully embrace and celebrate Canada and all things and especially people Canadian. If nothing else, they'll keep you busy looking up words like "toque" and "gonch." I haven't met one yet who wasn't cuddly.

I'm kind of hoping we'll maybe get to get out and see "Rat's Patootie" (sorry, Mom, we're not correcting her, because it's just too funny) like Bella wants. I could go for some animated-rat-based escapism right now. Which segues into the best Bella-quote of the entire week, which I still haven't figured out, "Mommy, I love you more than a rat and a pickle."

Jealous?