Nov 30, 2007

JackJack



My co-worker Sharon arrived in Florida this morning with all her family for a week-long trip to Disney World. Yesterday she entrusted her son Dylan's fish JackJack to Tricia who also works with us.

When she brought JackJack into the office on Thursday, we saw her at a distance walking very slowly towards us. We immediately thought the worse. Did her back go out just a day before her trip? Was she OK? Turns out she was walking slowly because she was cradling JackJack's fish bowl while balancing her purse, laptop bag and lunch trying to be careful not to spill the contents of his home all over the carpeting.

First we oooh'd and ahhh'd over just having a living thing in the office. His presence was an oddity over at Tricia's desk when typically we'd visit her to ask a SAP question or get a handful of M&M's. Now we found ourselves just visiting to see if JackJack was alive. The damn fish barely moved.

I found myself pressing my face right up to the fish bowl to see if he was still breathing. I'd see his little cheek fins moving this way and that and breathe a sigh of relief. JackJack Lives!

His subtle presence got me thinking what it would be like if we could bring our pets to work with us. My beagle Minnie would make a good cubicle companion. I imagine after a while, she'd settle herself down underneath my desk adjacent to my blue paper recycle bin and snore away the afternoon.

We're forbidden to eat at our desks and are only allowed water. (It really isn't a prison. I swear it's not!) Taking Minnie to work with me every day might not be such a bad thing because she'd probably lose some weight. Then again, I've been working at Bose for two years now in these strict no-food-only-water conditions and it hasn't done me any good.

I imagine having Minnie by my side would really help reduce my stress level-especially during this time of the year. Some emergency would come up and rather than taking shallow breaths or swearing, I could just lean down and stroke her tan backside. She'd make those snuff and huff sounds of disturbance because I was waking her from her deep sleep. I'd counter by moving over to her velvety ears fondling them in an manner most annoying to her until she shifted her position to indicate she was waiting to be left alone. By then I would be calm and ready to tackle the next problem. Need a product allocated and I only have three left to give? Back to Minnie gently rolling her over on her back to pet her fuzzy belly until my panic passed.

Pets at work could make sense. Just having JackJack around is proof that it works. Today something happened that I didn't want to deal with at the time and my first reaction was to wonder how JackJack was doing?

He's been left to fend for himself over the weekend. Hopefully he'll be warm and the cleaning people with their manic feather dusters won't bother him too much. We're all just hoping that he survives the week with us until Sharon returns on December 10th.

I foresee JackJack surviving his little stay with the five of us and leaving a hole in our hearts after he's gone. What will we do when there's no more of the JackJack death watch?

I'm thinking Sea Monkeys...

Nov 29, 2007

I Miss Her Every Day

Today marks the one year anniversary of my mother's death.

I scheduled a day off from work well in advance of this day because I just didn't think I'd be able to cope with the demands of work and knowing how I handled today so far, it was a very good idea.

I had wanted to run one of those memorial ads in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, but decided that it would make more sense to honor my mother's memory by giving a donation to Autumn Village Nursing Home.

I called and spoke to their activities director Donna a few days ago and she welcomed my gift idea saying she was looking forward to seeing me after all this time. She told me the residents would appreciate the gift and how I'd have to check out the new gift shop that just opened. Apparently a little boy who is the son of one of the CNA workers who had known my mother remarked upon seeing the shop, "Oh, Gloria would have loved this!"

Indeed my mother would have LOVED the gift shop because she was always helping out during the monthly bake sale and the quarterly yard sales. She loved helping sell crafts made by the residents and was always so proud of the money she collected.

She'd buy me these little gifts made by the residents that I truly had no use for, but I never had the heart to tell her I didn't want any of them. For years I went through an enormous amount of effort trying not to hurt my mother's feelings or her good intentions.

She bought me hand-made wooden pins, toilet paper holders, a sign with a pig sitting on a toilet reading the newspaper, a cutting board in the shape of a pig, knitted towel holders and countless other things that she thought I might enjoy. I took every gift home without her ever knowing my true feelings-that these things made me so very sad because it reminded me of the people who made them. These crafts were made with so much love and for the most part were the only things a person in the nursing home was able to give to their loved ones aside from their neediness and heartbreaking stories. I didn't want to look at these things let alone have them around my house.

Walking into Autumn Village this morning hit me hard. I was surprised by the sudden onslaught of emotions just driving into the parking lot. Things had changed since last November. For one thing, the half circle in front of the entrance now had a sign saying, "For Patient Drop Off Only" and there were little neon traffic cones in spaces that I had parked a gazillion times. It brought back memories of the countless times of parking in the front so my mother could shuffle out with her bright red walker and I could help pull her legs into the passenger's seat all the while listening to her gasps of pain as she bended her body into what would slowly become an uncomfortable position for her over time.

As I started walking to the first set of double doors I was flooded with the memories of standing out there in the freezing cold waiting to be buzzed in after a Tuesday or Friday night shopping adventure. My mother would swear up a storm because either the nurses or the aides were too lazy (in her estimation) to come open the locked door. She'd stand there seeing the ashtray just outside of the entrance and wince in displeasure over the smokers and their disgusting habit of course never seeing how ironic it was that she was one of those disgusting smokers for 75% of her life.

This same entryway this morning had two workmen on ladders blocking the entrance doing some sort of improvements. All I could think about was how fascinated my mother was with the little baby monitor video surveillance camera the nursing home had installed during the last few months of her life. We'd stand in the entryway waiting to get let in and my mother would rant about how certain nurses surely had seen us waiting from the nurses station and just to spite her wouldn't come to the door to let us in. She was a woman of many suspicions-especially when she was in the throes of her mania from manic depression.

I walked through the entrance and headed straight for the receptionist window. Standing there was Donna the activities director talking to an older lady that looked very familiar to me, yet I couldn't place her name or face. (After a years time, would I recognize any of these residents when before I was on a first name basis with practically all the first floor staff and residents?) She glanced in my direction and gave me the biggest smile of recognition. Walking towards her felt like walking underwater. Suddenly I found myself being embraced by Donna and I erupted into huge uncontrollable sobs which startled me. (I think I heard her tell the other woman, "Oh, this is Gloria Silva's daughter" and maybe the woman recognized the name...maybe not. But she smiled and I clung on to Donna for dear life.) I remember looking over Donna's shoulder and seeing the newly opened gift shop and I knew without a doubt that I HAD TO LEAVE NOW! I pushed the Christmas card into Donna's hand and said between sobs that I just couldn't stay. Spencer put his arm around me and I walked out of there as fast as I could without looking back once.

As we drove away, I realized with disappointment that I wasn't strong enough to walk through the nursing home to my mother's wing to visit Helen who I had seen was still in her same room facing the parking lot. Helen who had told me that she had found out my mother passed away in the night because she looked up from her bed to see the undertakers rolling my mother's body out of the room and how she cried the whole night long. Helen who had crocheted me the most beautiful baby's blanket when I was pregnant and who promised to teach me to crochet when I was up to coming back for a visit after my mother's death. After my mother died, I had bought this little teddy bear at Cape Code Crafters that was wearing a dress stitched with the name 'Gloria' that I had wanted to bring up last Christmas to Helen, but was never able to bring myself to do. The bear still sits on my dresser in the bedroom and reminds me of what I can't face yet.

I miss my mother every day and think about her all the time. This grief that I carry around inside of me seems to always be percolating just at the surface threatening to spill at the most inappropriate times-standing over a co-worker and realizing her hands look exactly like my moms which speeds me back to the night I sat by my mother's side tenderly stroking her hand while she thrashed about in agony never of course knowing that this was going to be the last night I held her warm hand. Driving home and hearing a Billy Joel song on the radio that reminds me how I played one of her favorite Cd's 'The Piano Man' to try to help calm her during the last hours of her life. I wonder to this day did she hear him sing 'Travelin' Prayer' as she was dying? I'd like to think so.

Hey Lord, take a look around tonight And find where my baby's gonna be
Hey Lord, would ya look out for her tonight 'Cause she is far across the sea
Hey Lord, would ya look out for her tonight
And make sure she's gonna be alright
And things are gonna be alright with me

Hey Lord, would you look out for her tonight
And make sure all her dreams are sweet
Hey Lord, would ya guide her along the roads
And make them softer for her feet
Hey Lord, would ya look out for her tonight
And make sure that she's gonna be alright
Until she's home in here with me

Hey Lord, would you look out for her tonight
If she is sleepin' under the sky
Hey Lord, make sure the ground she's sleepin' on
Is always warm and dry
Hey don't you give her too much rain
But try to keep her away from pain
'Cause my baby hates to cry

Hey Lord, won't you look out for her tonight'
Cause it gets rough along the way
Said Lord, if this song sounds strange
It's just because I don't know how to pray

So won't you give her peace of mind
And if you ever find the time
Won't you tell her I miss her ev'ry day

Nov 28, 2007

Charlie Brown Xmas performed by the Cast of SCRUBS

A Charlie Brown Christmas Performed by the Cast of Scrubs

The cast of Scrubs remakes the classic Charlie Brown Christmas special.


Oh Christmas Tree


Just a thought, but did you know if you have the right book shelf and lots of books you, too, could build your own artifical Christmas tree? What a clever holiday hack!

You know those books are just sitting there collecting dust since you put them up on the shelves. So why not put them to good use and spread a little holiday cheer in your apartment?

Frank Visser, founder of IJM, is the mastermind behind this book tree. You can get bogged down in the pictures featured on his site or you can get a taste of what he's all about by visiting Emmas Design Blog to get a quick snapshot of some of her favorites.

'Course the disorganization of these books would totally not work for me and would drive me nuts as soon as I created the tree because I require orderly spines according to book height and alphabetization. But that's just me.

Nov 26, 2007

It's Worth It

This photo is called Princess Beia by Koosricardo. It is one of the many submissions in The Celebrity Star Wars 3 PhotoShop contests featured on the site Worth1000.com. You can see all the entries by clicking here.

I absolutely love this site when all I want to do is look at pictures and laugh. The contest titles alone are precious:

Celebrity Toys

Critter Superheroes

View to a Shill

Bald Celebrities

Doesn't it make you want to learn PhotoShop?

Nov 22, 2007

I Meant Well

bacon-tooth-picks While shopping in New York City last weekend, I came across these Bacon flavored toothpicks.

I immediately started thinking of who I could buy these for because they were just so unique and unusual. I ran through a list of potential recipients and then BAM! The person who came to mind was my wonderful father-in-law George. He likes Bacon. Grew up on a farm. I thought that I recalled him using toothpicks before. Seems like the kind of guy who would. A perfect choice.

I happily bought them thinking that I scored such a great stocking-stuffer for him. I was just so proud of my clever self. I buy the best gifts for people.

Then as I was unpacking all my treasures from New York, it suddenly occurred to me...

Dentures. George wears dentures.

Turkey? You're Suspect

Pizza

"If a meat isn't offered as a pizza topping, you know it's suspect."

~ Spencer 11/22/07 Thanksgiving Day

Spencer remarked today that I'm not a big fan of the turkey. He's got that right. I can enjoy a nice turkey and mayo sandwich for lunch, but that's the extent of my turkey consumption. I just don't like turkey. But isn't it funny that throughout the year there are countless decisions made about eating something with chicken, but never with turkey?

All of a sudden November rolls around and everyone is talking about turkey. My friend Jillian at work has got this Thanksgiving holiday nailed. She and her sister enjoy their tradition of wearing sweat pants and getting drunk while hacking at their turkey with forks and hands because they don't exactly know how to properly carve a turkey. (Jillian is English and sometimes I think the notion of her refined heritage bothers the hell out of her).

We went out to dinner today at The Crown Plaza in downtown Worcester and as usual, I passed on the turkey. You won't be hearing me lament about all the leftovers in my fridge after today because I left the buffet happy not to bring the foul meat into my home.

I think I don't like turkey because it's the only meat I've ever eaten that has the ability to crumble upon slicing. Little flakes of meat sticking to the carving knife grosses me out. I don't know why. It just does.

Lately I've been hearing a lot of buzz about Turducken. Something about a duck stuffed into a chicken and then put into a turkey. This poultry hybrid offers hope because at least there is chicken involved. And I just like the sound of it. Tur-Duck-En. Don't even get me started on Tofukey. I saw Tofukey in a health food store yesterday in a sausage-like format and I just can't go there.

Really the only good thing about turkey is my favorite insult circa early 70's: Jive Turkey. I don't use it enough to insult annoying people as in, 'You Jive Turkey!" Randall Graves would be proud. I'm taking back Jive Turkey.

Happy Turkey Day...You Jive Turkeys!

Nov 20, 2007

DIY Tampon Turkey

I am not a crafty person. But someone out there is because they made a Thanksgiving Turkey centerpiece out of Tampons!

Visit Tamponcrafts.com for more crafts made out of Tampons.

Nov 18, 2007

Kim In The City - Day 2

I cozily awoke on the comfy couch around 9:30 wrapped in my winter cardinal pajamas. Looking out the window I could see the day was going to be cold and dreary, but was still looking forward to more adventures.

I craved coffee to awaken me from the naughty gulps of tequila from the night before. (Earlier I had popped a few aspirin because I had a slight throb going on in the front temple, but nothing that would qualify as any sort of hang-over.) Marty and Kate went out of their way the night before to buy coffee and regular milk for me being that they drink mostly tea and soy milk. We nearly ran into a snag when they couldn't find any sugar in the apartment. Kate offered a choice of some sort of natural sweetener that began with a "G" or honey, but at the last minute Marty saved the morning by proclaiming, "I found some organic sugar." Hooray.

We had breakfast at Veselka's where I enjoyed a hearty portion of pancakes and a slice of kielbasa. Who knew I could enjoy having breakfast in a family-owned Ukrainian soul food restaurant of the East Village on a rainy Sunday morning? It was delicious and I loved their little tumbler of orange juice with the meal. They also gave our table a whole dish of butter/margarine packets nicely arranged in the shape of a flower (or was that my imagination?) and you have to give a restaurant special props for that attention to detail because it seems in New England-butter is a scarce commodity and you always have to ask for extra.

Kate had hung an art exhibit over at NYU in the West Village so we headed over there so I could see where Marty worked and also to see the art exhibit. I'm a bit of a voyeur when it comes to seeing people's work spaces so this was perfect for me. I got to sit in Marty's Aeron chair which was like sitting on a fluffy white cloud of sheer comfort and got an inside view of how she spends her day being the assistant to the chair at NYU (not the Aeron chair!).

As we were heading back to the apartment to gather my things, I saw a shop that had the most colorful large bags in the window. Appropriately enough, the store was called Big Bag located on 49 East 8th Street in NY. Here was the purse shopping I had craved upon coming to New York. The shop was fairly small, but so very bright. They had an amazing selection of (you guessed it!) big bags, tote bags, laptop bags and wallets. After much deliberation, I bought a LovCat wallet with this blinged out heart clasp that was my biggest and most cherished purchase of the weekend. Note to self: save lots of money for the next visit to BigBag so you can buy more stuff.

We all piled into their car and Kate drove us over to Midtown East so I could visit Dylan's Candy Bar. Ralph Lauren's daughter created this amazing candy shop and walking into it is exactly what you'd imagine a trendy NY candy store to be: bright, filled with every imaginable candy and packed with sensational possibilities of decadence. When we first entered, Marty and I both thought the place was a little small until we saw the steps leading us down into the lower level. Ahhh. Relief. There really was more to see. I took tons of pictures and was happy to see the store personnel didn't tap me on the shoulder to stop me from documenting the experience every blissful step of the way. I nearly bought a Rainbow-Bright inspired winter scarf, but found the $40 price tag a bit too steep for my taste after the Lovcat wallet purchase earlier in the afternoon. But I did end up buying some candy and Marty surprised me during the checkout by handing me a Hello Kitty Pez dispenser and a bag of Christmas Pop Rocks.

While we were shopping, Kate was driving around the city so we didn't have to park the car. We called her to say we were "...ready for pickup M'Lady" when Marty exclaimed, "Oh, No!" I thought car accident, but what really happened is Kate got onto the Queensboro bridge ramp and nearly landed herself in Queens. Fortunately, she was only delayed a little bit and picked us up curbside rather easily.

With a little time to spare, we drove towards Times Square to squeeze in a visit to M&M World. It was OK, but inside felt way too manic for me. Lots of M&M merchandise and not enough candy. I have to admit I was also very disappointed that in both candy stores, I wasn't able to find much XL clothing. Ironic that candy stores sell super small clothing without any plus size offerings for girls like me with big appetites for destruction (I mean candy).

They dropped me off back at The Hilton where I visited a deli before boarding the Limoliner bus. Much trouble and drama ensued because they didn't have a seat on the bus ride home for me because I was scheduled to be on the the 4:15 departure bus, NOT the 6:15 departure bus. Silly me didn't think to call the folks at Limoliner to tell them I was changing departure times. Duh!

This whole almost-not-making-it-home experience on Sunday night is well worth the read in another post, but for now let's end it here. My weekend in NY was wonderful and I'm looking forward to going back real soon. In fact, my friend Ginny and I will be visiting on December 8th so there isn't that long to wait for more adventures in the big city.

If you'd like to see photos from my weekend trip, click here.

Nov 17, 2007

Kim In The City - Day 1

See how happy I look? Marty took this photo of me on bended knee right after we came out of M&M World in Times Square, New York City. Bright candy plus bright lights = a very blissed out Kim.

That's right-this little country Worcester mouse ventured into the big city last weekend for one hell of a weekend.

You wouldn't imagine so much could be accomplished in merely two days, but I achieved many great things and went to several cool places.

Kate was kind enough to email me the bread crumbs of my trail since I'll never remember all the places we visited so here is what Saturday was like:

  • Rock Center at The Hilton Hotel where my LimoLiner pimped out bus dropped me off after a four hour bus ride from Framingham, MA. (More on that little adventure under a separate post.)
  • East Village where Marty and Kate live with their dog Lou. We had lunch at Why Curry? where I had a delicious Thai Iced Tea with a cleverly wrapped straw and enjoyed my first dish of Pad Se Ew. Later we visited Toy Tokyo where I had my Barbapapa fix of unaffordable toys.
  • SoHo -We shopped at Pearl River Mart. This was an amazingly large store filled with so many exotic wares. I bought Hello Kitty bubble gum, a bag of authentic Oodles of Noodles, a dinner plate with a cute hamster holding a bunny and various other little things. I felt like a dirty American shopping for knock off purses in China Town and ultimately was disappointed that a container of Dolce Gabana knock-offs arrived that weekend. My personal rule of thumb is you should only be allowed to buy a fake purse if it's a reasonable assumption you'd be able to afford it at full price.
  • Lower East Side - I had authentic Mexican corn on a stick and a big bottle of glass Coke at a small little place called Cafe Habana. The corn was cooked on a grill then dipped in an exotic cheese that resembled Parmesan and then sprinkled with a mild chilly pepper. It was really, really good. Unfortunately between the corn and the earlier Thai Food (and all the excitement of potential purse shopping), my stomach became upset and I had to stop at a Rite-Aid for some chewy Rolaids.
  • I got to buy 6 pomegranates from a street vendor for $2 a piece which was really a good deal. Kate did her best to haggle the seller down to ten bucks, but in the end Marty forked over another two bucks. Believe me, I would have bought more but one thing about living in the city is you don't have the luxury of a car and pomegranates are heavy fruits when you buy as much as I'm accustomed to. Kate was kind enough to lug them around Saturday night as she said their weight provided some balance to her aching back and feet.
  • Dinner at John's of 12th Street back in the East Village. I had this amazing appetizer called a Spedini. Imagine a fried donut covered in red sauce and lots of baked cheese. Do your best imagining what it would taste like because you'll never even get close. If you're ever in the East Village, check this place out just for the appetizer.
We retired back to their apartment where I managed to drink some tequila, catch them up on some good stories before crashing on their very comfy Pottery Barn wrap around couch. I slept like a rock until Lou decided to start barking around 4am.

I managed to get back to sleep rather easily because after all...I had such a big day.



Nov 4, 2007

Let Go My LEGO

I should be this creative.

Another thing that fascinates me is what people can make with Legos. I never really got into them when I was a kid. I'm sure that I had a set of them, but after you step on a Lego in bare feet (or a Weeble, for that matter), the toy loses it's charm.

But as an adult, I scour websites looking for stuff made out of Legos. Today I found a site showing Awesome Lego creations that I wanted to share with you. One of my favorites is this here Linux penguin sitting next to the computer. Boy, I wish I had that on my desktop and I run Windows.

For some reason anything related to Star Wars is big with the Lego artists. Check out the Han Solo in carbonite which took 10,000 bricks and nearly three months to complete. Amazing!

I have a subscription to Lego Magazine, but I can guarantee you it's purely for toy porn. There's no way I'd ever be able to create anything out of the bricks. I just love looking to see what other's can do. Call me a Lego voyeur if you will. It's OK. I don't mind. I know what I like and why I like it.

Someday I'll get to visit Lego Land California. But until then you'll find me surfing the 'net ooohing and ahhing over the amazing things people can build with these little plastic bricks known as Legos.

I Eat Play Doh


i eat Play Doh., originally uploaded by jleighb.

Yes, this is a perfect example of how Play-Doh can appear so delicious to a little kid that you just want to eat it like a scoop of ice cream. (Read the next post and you'll understand)

SPAM/MAPS

Thought this was a neat topographical 4' x 3' map of our world made out of the SPAM luncheon meat.

Who knew this mysterious foodstuff was so pliable and artsy? Myself...I'm just discovering the wonders of Play-Doh modeling.

Jillian at work bought a bag containing miniature tubs of brightly colored Play-Doh from the local supermarket to give out as treats during Halloween night. I snagged the color black because I had never seen it before. If you were like me as a little kid, you smashed together a whole bunch of colors because it was mesmerizing only to discover a short time later that you somehow mistakenly created some ugly brown color. Based on that little confession, black was my obvious choice.

But the really cool thing that came out of her purchase was discovering the hidden talent of my other co-worker Tim. He quickly made me a stalk of corn out of a few different colors and I nearly fell to the floor in amazement. Who knew this guy had such mad Play-Doh skills? Eventually fellow cube mates heard me squealing in delight over additional modeling and they also joined in on the fun.

As the day wore on, he made a little Nemo fish to put in Heather's plant, a beautiful worm to hang on a paperclip that I swear looked like the real thing and a gorgeous flower so intricately detailed that it included the stamin on the inside of the petals.

It got me thinking that being able to manipulate Play-Doh like that was a real art form. I went over to Flickr to find a Play-Doh group so I could keep abreast of other talented people's creations. I joined Play-Doh Maniacs although I haven't seen anything too exciting made out of Play-Doh. Plus there's only like 13 members (including me) so you can imagine there isn't a big pool of activity going on unless the other 12 people are modeling. 'Cause I'm just lurking hoping for someone to make something cool.

So getting back to the meat map-did you know MAPS spelled backyard is SPAM? Funny how manufactured meat gets me talking about manufactured clay.

EAT ME CRUNCHY



It's anarchy in the UK People! Back in 2001, the clever folks over at GrayMatter invented a cereal bowl for the 70% of us who prefer to eat our cereal crunchy instead of soggy.

So I ask you: do you like it hard or soft?

The photo to the left is a sliced open version of their cereal bowl that has a built in shelf that allows the majority of the milk to be secluded from the cereal. (Never fear-the shelf is removable and you can go back to your old way of cereal eating very easily)

I saw this and immediately wanted to buy one. It costs about $4.50 Euro bucks and I think after the conversion to US currency it will be about $6.00 plus shipping. I tried to place my order, but got hung up with the HSBC secure e-payment because I didn't know the issue date and number of my credit card. However, I tried again and simply ignored this requested information and was able to order the bowl.

So until my EATMECRUNCHY bowl arrives, I'll have to make do eating my Pirates of the Caribbean cereal the old fashion way. But knowing that my favorite cereal is "...a chocolaty, crunchy, sweet breakfast cereal..." I think buying this cereal bowl was a very smart choice indeed.

Nov 3, 2007

You'll let me in, won't you?

Why I Love SkyMall

I admit to stealing the complimentary copy of SkyMall on my recent trip to the Southwest for business.

I found myself flipping through the catalog during the flight. I wanted to dog-ear just about every other page with cool stuff I wanted to buy with my disposable income.

Upon returning home, the glow of my trip slowly burned away and all the things I wanted to buy from the SkyMall catalog seemed just so extravagant when I looked at them again. I just didn't need that Cuisinart Soft Serve ice cream maker.

But then I came across this little beauty called the Dough-Nu-Matic and I had to rethink everything. You mean I could buy a little gadget that spits out little donuts and it only costs $129.99?

This gadget purports to make a cute little donut in 50 seconds and a dozen of 'em in six minutes. Somehow I think that's faster than printing a Word document using my Lexmark ink jet printer.

I have decided to rethink my aversion to Skymall after finding the donut maker. I visited their site and signed up for their mailing list...I'm seconds away from ordering the voice-activated R2-D2!

El Horno

I live in a brick ranch house that I'd like to think would make the fabled three little pigs give a second look were they hoofing around in my neighborhood.

The house was built by my grandfather Anthony Silva back in 1969. He had been a retired stone mason and decided at the tender age of seventy that he wanted to build his own home after the house he lived in with his family on Archer Street was taken over by eminent domain with the construction of Interstate 290 in Worcester.

Rather than moving the house which was much too expensive at the time, he decided to buy several plots on land off of Lincoln Street for both himself and his eldest son Arthur.

After my grandparents died and deeded the house to my parents, my mother did her best to make use of the bricks. As she suffered from undiagnosed Manic Depression when I was growing up, I can recall the many manic days and hours she spent kneeling on the grass arranging these leftover bricks in a myriad of clever landscaping designs around gardens my father grew and flower beds they tended together.

With the passage of time and the advent of my mother's more serious mental health and other complicated medical issues, the flowers died and eventually the weeds overtook all of my mother's intricate brickwork. When I moved back home in 1998 after the sudden death of my father, cleaning up both the inside and exterior of the house fell to me. It was an exhausting process. I found myself slowly removing all of the bricks to make mowing the lawn easier for me and began creating a pile of bricks in the corner of the backyard.

At times I looked to having the bricks professionally removed, but was always discouraged at how expensive it would be to make such a simple improvement to our yard. Then one day I thought to post an add on the Worcester County Freecycle Group hoping that someone-anyone-might have a use for them.

In a six degrees of separation moment, a woman named Lakele contacted me who quite coincidentally was a regular contributor to a blog I helped create for students learning English As A Second Language. We exchanged a few emails and made loose arrangements for her to come to the house anytime she'd like to collect the bricks.

Gathering all the bricks was very labor intensive because the bricks had to be moved from the very far end of my backyard, put into a wheel barrow, rolled down a steep incline and carefully arranged into the trunk of their car until the back end sagged from the weight of it all. But over time they took nearly all of my grandfather's excess bricks-even the broken in half ones. Lakele said she wanted the bricks to make an oven for their backyard.

The photograph above is the end result of last summer's project. They indeed built an outdoor oven aptly titled El Horno in Spanish. You can read Lakele's post on the Write-Write-Write blog by clicking here.

Lakele might have thought I was being very generous by donating all of my bricks, but in fact her oven making skill did what I consider a great honor to my family. She put to good use all of the bricks that my grandfather used to build the house that I'm living in today and my mother so lovingly touched all those years ago.

Duran Duran Live (10/28/07)


Michelle and I went to see Duran Duran perform at The Chevrolet Theatre in Wallingford, CT on October 28th. It was an amazing concert and I'm so glad that I got a chance to see them perform all the songs off their soon-to-be released Red Carpet Massacre CD.

We got stuck in some really unexpected traffic on the Mass Pike, but eventually made it there with time to spare because unannounced to us-there was a mysterious 1 hour delay. Good Doobie that I am, I asked Michelle as we were leaving the car what she was going to do as no cameras were allowed during the performance. Without hesitation and like the seasoned concert goer that she is, up came her Patriots Football sweatshirt and in slid her digital camera between her cleavage. I simply would have never thought of that.

I was very disappointed that I didn't walk away with a t-shirt to commemorate our concert experience, but the red/black baseball shirt with the awesome crest on it was insanely priced at $50. It was a good thing the hand-scrawled sign of "Cash Only" was posted because believe me, I came close to buying it. But considering the price of admission was $55, how could I justify spending nearly the same to buy a t-shirt that I might soon find on EBay?

We killed time by eating Nachos and Super Pretzels and experienced a no-wait line in the Ladies bathroom before the concert. I people watched enjoying the sea of mid-thirties women decked out in bedazzled shirts with designer handbags slung across their shoulders. I purposely ignored the jumbo-tron plasma televisions showing the Red Sox playing in what would be the last game of '07 The World Series.

We had 20th row seats thanks to Michelle's Ticketmaster savyness, but we weren't able to sell our first set of tickets probably because the concert wasn't sold out and the band added a second performance on Monday night. I tried selling them on the Bose bulletin board and she tried both Craigslist and EBay, but sadly no takers.

Just before the concert began, two men seated themselves next to Michelle and I. One of them warned us of their impending heavy beer drinking and advised us not to become annoyed with them. Throughout the concert, their warning resulted in multiple trips to the bathroom and lots of beer refills. As predicted, one of those little buggers got up to take a piss more times than I cared to count and at one point towards the end of the show, I looked over to my right to see one of the men staring at me with bleary eyes as he smiled and shouted, "Are you having a good time?" I don't know if he was hitting on me, but considering he was a man at a Duran Duran concert let's just say I didn't find his interest in my concert enjoyment (no thanks to him!) too flattering.

Duran Duran played all the songs from their new CD and the crowd was on their feet throughout. A girl sitting behind us started loudly complaining that she wanted to hear some classics, but I forgave her bitching when the band played the song 'Box Full o'Honey' and she confusingly asked her boyfriend, "What did they say? Salami?"

Considering this concert was an obvious warm-up, stretch-their-toes performance in preparation for their two-week run on Broadway in New York, they did an admirable job. Lead singer Simon LeBon moved around the stage a bit more slowly than expected, but after warming up really got his groove on with overly dramatic arm swinging and hip thrusting much to the delight of me (and all other Simon fanatics). John Taylor kind of loped around the stage playing the bass guitar, singing backup and doing his best to impersonate a tarantula come to life. (I can't help it-he's just all limbs and lanky). Nick Rhodes was surrounded with many keyboards and a strategically placed Macbook Pro. (I secretly wondering if he was surfing the 'net the whole performance?) and Roger did what he does best-hugging the shadows playing on his drum set.

I got a little shot of adrenaline when I saw mega hip-hop producer Timbaland dancing as his image was projected on one of the silk screen backdrops behind Simon, but alas no Justin Timberlake cameos. It's a good thing because my poor heart would have literally stopped beating that night. (When I heard last year that Duran Duran was collaborating with Timbaland and my boy Justin Timberlake on their upcoming album, I defined it as my own personal music trifecta.)

It's a lot to ask an audience to watch a live performance of completely new material. I was fortunate to have heard their song 'Night Runner' from a sneak peak thanks to Entertainment Weekly and had also heard their single 'Falling Down' several times before the show. It was a nice touch that they showed their new video during the performance and I noted that this version contained ample nudity not seen before. Michelle, at one point, commented that the bulk of their new songs kind of sounded like porno music. Her apt observation reminded me once again of how ecstatic I am of the Timbland/Timberlake influence. FutureSexLoveSongs indeed!

They transitioned from their last new song 'Last Man Standing' to 'Notorious' which whipped the crowd into an already heightened frenzy because FINALLY everyone recognized a song. Seriously, Simon's voice was amazing during the entire performance and I particularly loved that song. (American Idol judge Randy Jackson would have approved of Simon's perfect pitch)

When they played 'I Take the Dice' Michelle was barely able to hold her camera steady as she capture the performance on video because she was so excited. That song was historical for both of us because we had never heard it performed live until that night.

Just as I was leaning in to tell Michelle that I would lose my shit if they played 'The Reflex'--BAM! My dream came true and Michelle got the video rolling again. I became consumed with emotion and began crying as I happily bounced to/fro because that is my favorite song in the enormous Duran Duran catalog. 'The Reflex' reminds me of being a teen and what it felt like to stoke my Duranie obsession with any spare money I could get my hands on. For me, that song evokes memories of buying 13" remix albums, plastering my walls with 8x10 photos ripped out of TeenBeat magazine while my grandmother bitched at me for putting holes in the wallpaper and watching MTV world premiere music videos in my basement.

The encore performance of 'Girls On Film' ended an amazing evening. I left feeling satiated with nostalgia and continued bright hope for the band's success with their new CD.

Read Michelle's blog about the performance along with links to the two videos she shot with her Kodak EasyShare camera and some great photos posted on Flickr by clicking here.


If your curious, below is the Set List of their 10/28 performance:

Red Carpet Massacre
The Valley
Red Carpet Massacre
Nite-Runner
Falling DownBox
Full o’Honey
Skin Divers
Tempted
Tricked Out
Zoom In
She’s Too Much
Dirty Great Monster
Last Man Standing
Notorious
One of These Days
I Take the Dice
Ordinary World
Do You Believe in Shame?
Lay Lady Lay
A View to a Kill
The Reflex
Sunrise
Girls on Film