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I think the first half of the post title implies that I am eagerly awaiting the end of summer, but that’s a little… simplistic, I guess. Yes, I will be glad to have my regular schedule back. Yes, I will be dee-freaking-lighted that I won’t have any more camp laundry to do. But I am also trying to relish these last few weeks, primarily because I will miss all this extra time I’ve had with Carla, and secondarily because I am a little anxious about how the upcoming year will go.

In any event, I am reflecting on our First Summer of Camp and also looking ahead to Pre-K.

First, an update on camp. Turns out I had but the one Camp Fret (well, that I posted about, at least) and the rest of it all went pretty well.

We enrolled Carla in four separate camps, for a total of eight weeks. And I think it all turned out fairly well despite the fact that I had NO IDEA I needed to enroll her in camp in FEBRUARY and that I had to start researching/planning in January. That is RIDICULOUS. Nonetheless, I will know better for next year.

The first camp was the best camp. It took place entirely outdoors, in the woods.

Forest

Please ignore the wildfire in the background.

Carla ADORED it. She came home filthy and exhausted and absolutely joyful every single day. She was overflowing with details about what she saw and learned each day, and was bursting with news of whatever creature she had seen or held or been peed on by. There were many snakes. She learned about poison ivy and black capped chickadees and baby toads. She learned how to rappel down a ravine via a rope tied to a tree and how to make sculptures out of mud and how to cook a potato in a campfire. She had her face “painted” with mud. She played in the rain. She napped under a canopy of trees. I cannot overstate how wonderful it was. I hope it is offered again next year, and for a longer time. I will enroll her in a heartbeat.

I also cannot overstate how horrific the laundry situation was. The campers were outside literally all day, every day, rain or shine. When the sun was out, they played in a creek. So she was wet and muddy at all times. How can I convey just how muddy she was? Let’s see. I had to disrobe her in the garage before bringing her into the house. I had to carry her into her bathroom and immediately deposit her in the bathtub. I had to hose her down with the shower to de-mudify her before filling up the bath. She even had dirt and mud UNDERNEATH her underpants and dirt sprinkled into every inch of her hairline.

She wore Keens (with socks) and jeans and t-shirts, and I had to wash the Keens each night and set them out to dry because they were so concreted with mud as to be unwearable. I washed out each individual item of clothing under a running faucet and then plopped it into a washing machine full of Oxi and water. I let everything soak all week and then did a load on the weekend. And nothing ever got clean again.

Listen, I am no stranger to stain fighting! I am a wizard with Oxi-clean. But man alive, the camp laundry was a worthy foe and to this day her camp shirts and many MANY pairs of socks still bear the grim reminder that I did not always win.

The first camp turned out to be the most communicative, another reason I love it so very much. We got an email each morning from the head counselor, telling us what the plan was for the day and what the weather would be like and offering suggestions about clothing to bring. The head counselor also operated a camp website, and each day posted photos and a list of discoveries and activities undertaken throughout the day.

The second camp was fine. I’m not particularly clear on what the campers did all day, aside from coloring print-outs of Disney scenes. The main benefit was that Carla got to go swimming three days a week, which she loved. She seemed to enjoy it well enough, but she wasn’t vibrating with excitement at the end of each day, nor did she bubble over with talk about what she’d done and learned and seen. It struck me as a summer daycare, which is fine, I suppose; maybe that’s the POINT of camp.

The third camp started out disastrously. It was held at the same location as Camp 2, so I kind of assumed it would be similar. We got one email about it, the week before it began. The email gave specifics about the duration of the camp and what the drop-off/pick-up procedure would be. That was IT.

When I picked up Carla the first day, she told me I needed to bring her a snack every day. And I said, no, we’re going home to eat lunch. And then it became clear that she meant I needed to send a snack with her, to camp. And I asked, did the other kids have a snack this morning? And she burst into tears and said that yes, they all brought a snack from home and she was the only one who didn’t have one.

I mean, my heart is obviously broken. This is no doubt going to be one of those things she brings up with hurt eyes for The Rest of Our Lives. And I feel TERRIBLE. But I didn’t know! Camp 1 specifically told us to pack two snacks and a water bottle for the kids each day. Camp 2 said nothing about snacks, but sent out a weekly lunch menu, and also provided a water bottle that we would take home and refill and send with her each day. Camp 3 SAID NOTHING. So. Major Mom Fail. (And let’s spread the blame a bit: Major Camp Communication Fail.) Also, it seemed like Camp 3 involved a lot of watching Tumble Leaf and The Lion King. So I’m not planning on doing THAT ONE again next year. Whatever. Live and learn.

The jury is still out on Camp 4, but rest assured I WILL be packing snacks and I will fill you in on any disastrous outcomes.

As camp winds down, I am thinking ahead to Pre-K. I am fretting over whether I did enough with Carla academically this summer (unlikely) and wringing my hands over whether her teachers will be a good fit for her.

And, in the category of Frivolous Considerations, I have been scouring the internet for The Perfect First Day of School Dress.

Carla loves to wear dresses. I think she’d wear a dress every day if she could. But she has a very specific idea of what A Good Dress is, and so do I, and they tend not to overlap.

I will spare you another home-made Venn diagram.

Her requirements, insofar as I understand them, include:

  • Twirly
  • Very twirly
  • Like, so twirly
  • MUST TWIRL

My requirements include:

  • Not expensive, because she will outgrow it in a year, and also she is hard on clothing
  • Really. I’m thinking the $15 range would be ideal.
  • Not overly frou-frou, because it WILL get dirty (see above point re: hard on clothing) and frou-frou is hard to clean
  • Not ridiculous, which is, of course, a completely subjective thing
  • Not sleeveless, because I want her to be able to wear it all year long

Further complicating things is that her school doesn’t allow kids’ clothing to feature a) denim, b) characters, logos, or single images, or c) words.

So this Gap Kids dress, which looks appropriately twirly (although it features easily-rippable tulle), is out because it says GAP on it.

And this similar dress is out because it has a heart on it. (I know.) (A pattern of hearts would be okay, though.) (I don’t really get it, either.)

Anyway, I have perused many websites, searching for The Dress. Old Navy, Gap Kids, Target, Amazon, Zulily, Gymboree. Even Hanna Anderson, which I love but which I usually deem too expensive (usually, not always). I have found some possibilities, but nothing that exactly 100% fits the bill.

Shall we take a look together?

This dress from Gap Kids is pretty adorable. But I don’t know if it will be twirly enough for Carla’s taste.

Ooooh I LOVE this dress. Seems like it would have some good twirl, no? Although… $32 is WAY outside my $15 budget. And now that I am giving it a Good Hard Look, it seems like maybe it would be less twirly than… hangy. Maybe what I really want is this exact dress in MY size. For $32. Get right on that, Gap. Thanks.

Carters has… some cute options. But nothing that falls within that narrow slice of Perfectly Twirly and Meets Mom’s Requirements Too.

This is the Lands End dress Carla wore last year. I love it SO MUCH and would happily buy it for her again – maybe in the navy-with-birds pattern – but the original no longer meets the Twirl Standard. (Unfortunate, for a dress NAMED “The Twirl Dress.”) And it’s $39. AND we no longer have a Sears nearby, so I can’t take advantage of the free returns.

Gymboree is usually my go-to for cheap twirls, but I’m not finding many candidates this year. Perhaps this one? But let’s be honest, I don’t really like it. I’m not anti-pink, per se. But this is SO pink. And the unicorns are SO gold. Meh.

Oooh! Hanna Andersson is having a back-to-school sale this weekend! I could totally do $19 for a First Day of School dress!

Hmmm. Okay, they have a very limited number of on-sale dresses available in Carla’s size. And the ones that are available seem… potentially not as twirly as they need to be. This one is cute… but is it First Day of School cute? More important, is it First Day of School twirly?

This one looks more reliably twirly… but I’m not in love with it. As far as plain-top-with-fancy-tulle-skirt dresses go, I like the Gymboree option FAR better. Especially because this one is $39.

Now, I DO like this one! It looks pretty twirly. And it also comes in a lovely purple, which is Carla’s favorite color. Which is important only because it’s buy-one-get-one-half-off, so I’d obviously have to buy two. (OBVIOUSLY.) That’s still about $23 per dress, but that’s reasonable. Maybe. My only complaint, really, is that it’s so simple.

Janie and Jack is having a 20% off sale on dresses! But… nope. The one I like best is STILL $79, with the discount. I cannot justify spending $79 on a dress that will likely end up covered in paint.

Nordstrom has a lot of choices, but very few under $30 and none that seem like they’d have the proper Twirl Level.

This Old Navy dress has potential, although I just can’t tell how well it will fill the Twirl Criterion. Sixteen bucks, though. That’s not too shabby. Although… do the sleeves read more “I’ve outgrown this dress and my mom hasn’t noticed” than “three-quarter-length on purpose”?

This Laura Ashley dress from Dillard’s is so adorable it almost hurts. Plus, it’s only $20. But… it’s much too summery. I don’t see myself flipping through Carla’s closet and choosing this one to pair with leggings and boots this fall. And it looks like it would be ruined in about five seconds, and that I would mourn its ruin. Dillard’s has a TON of really cute dressy dresses. Almost makes me wish that we had some weddings to attend so I’d have an excuse to buy one.

Oooh this dress from Amazon is pretty cute. And it’s under $10! The only thing that might be problematic is the ribbon (which ties in the back). Carla is notorious for removing belts and ribbons immediately. Also, it’s hard to tell whether it would have the appropriate Twirl Factor.

This one seems like it would meet Carla’s twirl requirement… and it’s only $11… but I think the tulle would last a day or two at most. And it has a belt. And I’m not sure if it really says I Am A Serious Academic (you know, as all Pre-K students’ clothing should). Actually, in my very subjective opinion, it veers pretty near to “ridiculous” territory.

LOOK WHAT I FOUND. This may not be right for The First Day of School, but no matter! I am adding this to my Amazon cart right now! How can I not? CATS. On a DRESS. Carla is going to FREAK OUT.

Well. So I haven’t found The Perfect Dress. Good thing it is so enjoyable to SEARCH. If you see anything that fits the bill, let me know!

 

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Carla’s rainbow cake turned out FAR better than I had hoped.

Rainbow Cake Final 4

Firstly, I asked Carla which order the layers should go. I said, “Do you want it to go ‘purple, blue’ like the Bubble Guppies song?” And she thought about it and said, “No, that’s wrong. I want it to be like a real rainbow.” Although she then asked “Where’s the white layer” and I had to assure her that there would be white frosting. (She has also since begun singing the song “blue, purple” despite the Bubble Guppies’ maddening insistence on “purple, blue.”)

Let’s back up a bit now. Because while the title and the first sentence of this post indicate Unadulterated Success, I will admit that there were some small setbacks. Especially when it came to the cupcakes. But a bit when it came to the cake, too.

For some reason, I am determined to make Carla’s cakes from scratch. I don’t know why. My husband (indulgently) thinks I am a wacko. My mother, who intuited my birthday-related stress from thousands of miles away, understood completely. She – who worked a demanding, full-time job throughout my childhood and beyond – made all of my Halloween costumes from scratch because of the same genetic quirk.

So I used my tried-and-true Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe for Carla’s cake. It is a good recipe, and it makes a very nice vanilla-y cake. But I realized only very belatedly that it is an oil-free cake. And – possibly because of that, although I can’t say for sure since I am a baking amateur at best – I think that makes it kind of heavy. I comforted myself for the heaviness of the cake by choosing to believe it makes the cake very easy to cut and layer. But I think perhaps next year I will try a different recipe. OR I will try to force myself to use boxed cake mix, which is what I used for the cupcakes, and which turned out light and fluffy and yet perfectly moist.

Of course, I was converting Sally’s recipe – which was for cupcakes – into what I needed for a six-layer rainbow cake. So I instantly made a mistake. My model cake used 8-inch cake pans. But I didn’t have 8-inch cake pans. I had three 9-inch cake pans OR two 6-inch cake pans. I decided to go with the 9-inchers, which resulted in super thin, super flat layers.

Rainbow Cake Layers in Oven

Too thin! Abort! Abort!

But! I stopped while I was ahead! I only made those two layers, and when I realized they would result in a very thin cake, I recalibrated. I mixed up another batch of Sally’s cake batter. And I went with the 6-inchers.

IMMEDIATELY better. They turned out very even in size.

Rainbow Cake Layers Six

They are not in ROY G BIV order here and it is Driving Me Crazy.

To get the color to be so vibrant, I used Wilton gel food coloring. And I ended up using a LOT of each color. Maybe 1/4 to 1/3 a teaspoon of each, which is a LOT. (Note: Sally’s recipe uses only egg whites, which I think definitely helps with the brilliant colors. Using egg yolks makes the cake more yellow than white.)

Rainbow Cake Batter Colors

I used my new Wilton cake leveler to cut the tops off the layers.  Okay, correction: MY HUSBAND used the Wilton cake leveler to cut the tops off the layers.

rainbow-cake-leveler.jpg

I carefully studied the directions (“directions”) for how to use it. And then I watched a video about how to use it, but I still couldn’t get it to work. My husband on the other hand got it to work just fine, and he did all six for me, which made me feel like he was being involved which was a nice feeling, and plus, I ended up with nice, flat tops to all the layers. I saved the tops in a Ziploc bag; they are in my freezer. (It turns out there are a lot of things you can do with leftover cake. I tried one of them – making a cake-pop-within-a-cupcake – with limited success, but there are other things to do as well. Might make for a fun project to try with Carla.)

Then I made the frosting – the same recipe that Sally used for her cupcakes.

Oh! And this is where I tell you my Shocking Vanilla News. Sally’s cupcakes and frosting both call for vanilla beans. And vanilla beans have always been expensive. I think the grocery store brand usually was about $11.99 for one decrepit bean. But last year I discovered that Penzey’s sells vanilla beans, and I was able to get two nice, plump beans per jar for $8.99.

That’s what I assumed I would pay this year, too; I have no concept of the changing price of vanilla beans. But this year, two beans was $18.99. EIGHTEEN NINETY NINE. I expressed my shock to the Penzey’s salesperson, who said that there’s something going on in the region that produces Penzey’s vanilla, and it was pushing the price up. She said she thought it would be temporary. But SHEESH. (Listen, I am selfishly NOT looking up the details about why the price is so high; I am hopeful it is something like an unusual drought and not a horrible civil war or something, but there are only so many things I have the capacity to worry about, you know? I am trying to limit the number of things I cry over these days.) It turned out it was a good thing I spent the $18.99 for two beans, because, as I noted above, I ended up having to make a second batch of cake batter.

Having learned from previous mistakes, I did a crumb coat of frosting and then put the whole cake in the fridge overnight. This is what it looked like right before I did the crumb coat.

Rainbow Cake Pre Crumb Coat 2

And then the next day, I added another layer of frosting and decorated the whole thing with these little rainbow-hued non-pareils.

It was hands-down the best looking cake I’ve ever made.

I don’t think it was the best tasting, though. First of all, the cake was dense and heavy as I mentioned above. Secondly, the frosting was VERY sweet. I mean, it was just sugar and butter, so it wasn’t a surprise; I didn’t expect it to taste like pickles or something. But it was too much. Probably the thick top layer on top of the crumb layer didn’t help. If I were to do it again, I would find a less-sweet frosting to use. Maybe a cream-cheese style (which is my personal favorite) or something that was more like a traditional buttercream, with less sugar. A third option, I suppose, would be to layer the cake with something other than frosting. I would normally go for a curd of some sort, but that wouldn’t really work with the aesthetic of this particular cake. Maybe a whipped cream frosting would be okay.

The cupcakes were another matter.

If you will recall, I made the rainbow cake for Carla’s actual birthday. She and her grandparents and her father/my husband and I went out to her favorite restaurant for dinner, and then we came home to eat cake and open presents.

But her birthday party was several days later. It was a make-your-own-pizza-party at a popular chain and we invited twelve of her friends and it was DELIGHTFUL. But I wanted to make cupcakes for that party, see above RE: wacko, so I did.

Rainbow Cupcake Tray

I think I’d gotten a bit cake-saturated by the time I got to the cupcakes, so my head wasn’t in the game. Plus, I’d decided to use a store-bought cake mix, which made me a little cocky. So I kept making stupid mistakes. I forgot to add the water to the first batch. (I was able to salvage that one with math; I’d already separated the oddly too-thick batter into its separate colors. When I discovered my omission, I simply divided the required amount by six and stirred the appropriate amount into each color.) Then I forgot to add the eggs to the second batch. (That one I had to throw away.) Then, when I finally got to the frosting, I’d left the cream cheese out all day… and despite varying reports online about whether cream cheese is safe to eat after that long (answers ranged from “it’s only okay if you’ve left it out for no more than four hours” to “I’ve left it out all night and it’s fine!”), the resulting batch of frosting I made had a very weird texture and I couldn’t in good conscience feed it to twelve of Carla’s preschool friends. (I ate some of it and have lived to tell the tale. But I’m not going to use preschoolers as guinea pigs.) So I scrapped it and made some more too-sweet icing – although this time I used a Martha Stewart recipe because I was plum out of vanilla bean.

Making the cupcakes into nice even rainbow layers was HARD. I tried the “use a spoon” method. And then I tried the “put each color into a separate sandwich bag” method. And then I tried the “drop whatever you have in wherever it fits” method. I kept running out of one color or another, so that the layers were never perfect.

OH WELL. They were all pretty. And they were all super delicious as well.

And hopefully Carla is DONE with rainbows. Because I don’t know that I will have the kind of patience that comes with novelty if she asks me to do it again.

rainbow-cake-final.jpg

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Perhaps you are looking for some last-minute Christmas gifts? Or maybe you just like reading about what other people enjoy. In either case, here are some things that I am loving lately (and just to be clear, I am not getting ANYTHING in return for recommending any of these; I either bought them myself or received them as gifts):

Chef’n ZipStrip Herb Zipper

1-herb-zipper

Photo from surlatable.com

Okay, I didn’t realize this had such a ridiculous name. But it’s awesome. I got a bunch for people as stocking stuffers last year – including myself – and I use it ALL the time. It’s on sale for $6.36 at Sur La Table, if you have any people who like to cook on your Christmas list. 

Anthurium Plant

 

2-anthurium

Photo from homedepot.com

This summer, I was looking for a red lamp to add to my new office and I could not for the life of me find one I liked. But I DID find a really pretty plant with red leaf-like flowers (in a red ceramic pot) at my local Home Depot. I know, a plant does not have the same functionality as a lamp. But if you think of the lamp as more of an accessory, you will see how the plant fit the bill. ANYWAY. It is an anthurium plant, which seems to be a type of orchid. And it’s super easy to care for: I just put a few ice cubes in it each Monday and it remains lovely and shiny all week long. If you have someone in your life who isn’t great at caring for plants but who loves them AND has easy access to ice cubes, this could be the perfect gift. Okay, I am giving the Home Depot site the side-eye because I did NOT pay $32.99 for my anthurium. I can’t imagine paying any more than $15 for it. Maybe $20. I kind of want to dig through my old receipts just to prove it. Perhaps it is seasonally more expensive. If so, it would make an excellent Christmas in July gift.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling

3-kung-fu-girl

Photo from kvintners.com

Riesling is my favorite type of white wine. My mantra used to be, the sweeter, the better. But my palate might be changing or maturing or something (unlikely) and I have gravitated to drier wines of late. Kung Fu Girl is my current go-to. It’s probably what I would call semi-dry, so there is a hint of sweetness there. But it’s crisp and clean and also, bonus, I can usually find it for $10.99 at my local grocery store. I’ve also seen it at World Market, if you have one near you.

Lands’ End Shimmer Down Long Coat

4-coat

Photo from landsend.com

We live in an area of the country whose winters include snow and cold temperatures. And I happen to possess the variety of child who loves snow more than anything in life. So last year, my husband bought me a down coat from Lands’ End.  It was longer than I wanted it to be – it came all the way down to the tops of my boots (also from Lands’ End). And I felt like a marshmallow. BUT. It is AMAZING. I can be wearing a t-shirt-weight shirt and jeans, and as long as I have that coat on, I feel NOTHING. I can play in the snow with Carla for hours (or until her face is red and I have to drag her inside). I can even lie down in the snow and make snow angels and feel NOTHING. It’s truly the best. And Lands’ End has really good sales on a regular basis. It’s a bit pricy at $199, but if you get a code for 40% off, you’re looking at a much more reasonable $119 for a really great, really warm coat. Oh. I just now “got” why it’s called “Shimmer Down.” I say “got” because you CAN make a pun on “simmer down” just because the coat is made of down doesn’t mean you SHOULD.

UGG Tasman Genuine Shearling Gloves

5-ugg-gloves

Photo from amazon.com

Speaking of warm, these gloves are the softest, fuzziest, warmest gloves ever. Obviously, you can’t text with them on or anything. But I find they are perfect for driving before your car’s heater has kicked in. Or for, you know, being outside in general. They are pricey, at $140, but I looooooove mine so I think they might be worth it.

Bedford Cottage Eskimo Throw

6-eskimo-blanket

Photo from bedfordcottage.com

Perhaps you can tell that it is only 15 degrees here, based on these last three items. Well, I am in love with this faux fur throw, which is currently draped over my legs. It’s super soft and warm, but I also love it because it looks like it belongs on a chaise longue in some fancy catalog and makes me feel like the type of person you might refer to as “stylish” and “put together” and less like the type of person whose living room has seventy five Amazon boxes stacked in one corner and a bright blue toddler-height table with red, green, and yellow chairs in another corner and a giant bear from Costco behind the couch and the detritus of a Doc McStuffins vet station scattered across the hearth and pieces of a menorah puzzle strewn like tiny land mines about the carpet. You can buy it via the link above for $149, which I did not; I got it as a gift. But it’s possibly that you could find it elsewhere for less.

Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp 1.7-Liter Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Kettle

 

7-tea-kettle

Photo from amazon.com

I drink tea every day, and this water boiler has made it very very very simple. Just fill and press a button. And there are all sorts of temperature variations, so you can set it to the proper temperature for green tea… or black tea… or oolong… or whatever.  My husband – a coffee drinker – uses it too; on weekend for pour-over coffee. I really like that it maintains a specific temperature, too – just in case a toddler suddenly urgently needs you to come help her find proper socks. It cost $73?!?! Sheesh. That seems… excessive. Although it DOES do a nice job. And I really have no concept for how much these things do/should cost. 

Carole Hochman Ladies’ 3 Pair Ribbed Lounge Sock

 

8-costco-socks

Photo from costco.com

I grabbed a three-pack of these socks at Costco the last time we were there (what’s a trip to Costco without grabbing something that you simultaneously NEED URGENTLY and also had no idea you needed/didn’t need at all?) and they are sooooo soft and warm and cozy. They don’t look like much from the picture, but they are cushy and plush and I love them. Also: $5.99.

Laura Mercier Hand Crème Sampler

9-laura-mercier-hand-creme

Photo from amazon.com

Well, crud. I see this is either $51 through Amazon or not available. My husband got it for me last Christmas, and it was a PERFECT stocking stuffer. I wash my hands a bajillion times a day, so they get very dry. And there’s nothing less appealing than that powdery feeling of dry skin – well, I suppose cracked and bleeding finger webs are less appealing. I think it was, at one point, around $30 at Nordstrom. (And, keeping in mind that each of us is comfortable paying certain amounts for certain things and not for others, I find that $30 seems just on the high side of reasonable while $51 has me shaking my head emphatically NO.) I have just in the past month squeezed the very last glob of lotion from the very last sample and I would enjoy getting this again and again each year. Also, if you don’t want to gift someone ALL of the little lotions, you could certainly open up the box and give one sample to multiple people. Including, perhaps, yourself. Of course, all this is MOOT because it No Longer Exists. But I’m sure there are many other good hand lotion sets in the world.

Scrivener

10-scrivener

Photo from literatureandlatte.com

This may be a bit of a niche idea, but as a (would-be/trying-to-be/hopes-to-be) writer, I use this every single day. I never thought that I would like a writing platform more than I do plain old Microsoft Word. But I LOVE Scrivener. It’s very intuitive and user friendly AND it has a very simple tutorial on how to use it, just in case. It makes putting together your novel (or screenplay, I imagine) very simple. No more scrolling down in a long document, or opening multiple documents. You just create a new chapter or chapter-part inside an outline, and then you can move parts and pieces around with the flick of your mouse, OR read your entire manuscript in one flowing document. Plus, it allows you to assign (and customize) keywords to each bit of text, from which characters show up to things you need to research to plot points and dates – which you can then use to help you organize the manuscript in different ways, like, you can see at one glance every chapter featuring your villain. It’s fabulous and it’s only $45 and I love it so. If only it could do the writing for me…

Matymats Grippy Yoga Socks and Stargoods Yoga Gloves 

Photos from amazon.com

I have newly taken on yoga as part of my at-home exercise routine. Which means I have newly discovered that my feet and palms sweat when I do yoga. What can I say. The body is a mysterious wonderland. These socks and gloves help A LOT. No more sliding around while I’m trying to do downward facing dog or a triangle pose or other horrific contortion of limbs that my body is clearly not meant to perform. Both are about $15, but both come with multiple pairs of socks/gloves, which means I can match them to my sports bra. (No.)

 

Good luck with any last-minute shopping you are doing!

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Well, now that the World Series is over, I can refocus all of my Sports Stress on the election. It’s like a stress sandwich, with nothing delicious in the middle. So yay. Here are some random things, from my tired brain:

  • I went to Target the other day, and the cashier totally Kristen Wiiged me during check-out. “What’s ‘Thai sweet chili sauce’? Is it spicy?” and then, “Well, I KNOW sriracha is spicy!” and, “Looks like someone is going to be a princess for Halloween!” and, “Love that color nail polish!” and, “Oooh, what’s this? A top coat? And you have coupons for both!” I don’t have a problem chit chatting with the cashier, and I am sure it is DELIGHTFUL to see the variety of things that strangers buy each day, but it was mildly uncomfortable to have her COMMENT on it.
screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-8-39-28-am

Screen shot from nbc.com

  • One thing the Target Lady did NOT comment on? My taco shells. I bought two boxes and all but SEVEN SHELLS were broken.
taco-shells

WTF? Did someone at the store shake the box as hard as possible?

Carla actually EATS tacos, so we have them at least once a week. And I have never — NEVER — seen such a thing. I mean, in the one box, not a SINGLE SHELL was whole.

Well, I can bright-side my way to nachos for lunch, at least.

  • Halloween was SO FUN this year. Carla is at the perfect age, I think. She got really excited about dressing up (so much so that the hours between the end of her school day and six o’clock when trick-or-treating began took forever) and she was really pumped up by the idea of candy. She understood the concept of going up to people’s doors and holding out her little pumpkin. She didn’t really succeed in saying “trick or treat,” but she DID say “thank you,” so there’s that.

One thing I loved was that she would rummage around in people’s candy dishes, searching for the Perfect Candy. And some of them would helpfully choose something for her, and she would shake her head and say, “No, I have that already.” It was kind of adorable. Also a little bit embarrassing, but I’m choosing to believe that people felt more charmed than annoyed.

We made it all the way down one side of our block before she decided that she needed candy NOW. Instead of going up to the door, she sat down smack in the middle of one our neighbors’ driveway and started searching through her pumpkin to find something. To prod her along, I pulled out a bag of M&Ms and fed her one at a time after each house, kind of like training a puppy to heel. So she would dutifully march up to the door, collect her candy, and then turn around and open her mouth like a baby bird eager for a worm. We went through a bag of M&Ms and one roll of Smarties.

Our neighbors were so kind and generous. We have a great block, and most of the homes had full-size candies. And one of our neighbors was HIDING the good candy for the kids she recognized from our block, so when Carla finally made it to her house, she invited us in and gave Carla three full-size items. It was just so sweet. It made me feel giddy with the goodness of human kind.

  • The one negative moment this Halloween was a comment that I got about Carla’s costume, from someone who knows us well. Carla was a princess this year; last year she was a superhero. She chose both costumes, without input from me or my husband. Just, last year she was really into the superhero, so she wanted to dress up like that particular superhero, and this year she really wanted to be the princess.

Anyway, when Carla told this person what she was going as for Halloween, the person turned to me and said, “It’s nice that she’s interested in more feminine things.”

I mean.

First of all, gross. Second of all, what? Thirdly, REALLY?! Fourthly, why is anyone evaluating anything about the costume choices of a three-year-old? Fifthly, it makes me mad because – for a minute – it made me want to rip the princess costume off of Carla and dress her up like a lumberjack complete with beard and muscles (ALTHOUGH A LUMBERJACK COULD BE A PERFECLTY FEMININE PERSON TOO OMG) just for spite, and then THAT makes me mad because why? Why shouldn’t I just be delighted by whatever Carla wants to pretend to be, whether it’s a firefighter or a dragonfly or a ballerina or a freaking bowling ball.  Why should some stupid comment make me want her to be or feel or do anything other than what she wants? WAY TO RUIN HALLOWEEN, PERSON.

I don’t even care to unpack all that upsets me about that comment, or why it’s so gross and demeaning, or how it’s a symptom of a larger, more insidious problem in society, or how sad it makes me feel that Carla is going to have to face crap like this her whole life.

So I’m going to write it down here and be done with it and move on.

DEEP CLEANSING BREATHS.

  • My husband carved a cat pumpkin this year. That was fun. When it was dark outside, and the cat silhouette was back lit by the little flameless candles I put inside, it garnered a lot of compliments from trick or treaters. Carla and I did the messy part, taking the top off and scooping out all the guts and seeds. Then I roasted the seeds. Carla did not care for the seeds. My husband was eating some later in the week, and I overheard Carla say, “WHY do you like those Daddy?”

Pumpkin cat.JPG

  • Now that Halloween is over, I suppose I have to put away my Halloween decorations. I am not particularly good at decorating for holidays, but I really come through for Halloween and Christmas. I have some cats on pumpkins that I love, and a cool ghost, and a little ghost family for the bathroom. And this year I also found (at Target) a bunch of inexpensive multi-colored pumpkins with glitter stripes and polka dots. There are other things, too. I don’t really feel ready to put all the stuff away yet. Maybe this weekend.
  • I love how so many people go All Out with their Halloween decorations: zombies and ghosts and witches hanging out in their yards, pumpkin path lights, spiderwebs overtaking their shrubbery, graveyards sprouting from their lawns. I love it. Carla and I went for a walk a couple of weeks back and found a street where nearly every house had Halloween decorations, and it was so fun to point them out and discuss them together. I think it also went a long way toward making the holiday fun for Carla rather than scary. She seemed delighted by one neighbor’s human-size trio of glow-eyed witches and by another’s mechanized skull hanging from a tree. I’m glad it doesn’t freak her out.
  • I suppose now that I have to get rid of Halloween decorations, I can concentrate on Thanksgiving décor… But I don’t really HAVE any Thanksgiving stuff, aside from a fall-themed runner and maybe a non-jack-o-lantern pumpkin that I can keep using. I’m not sure what I WANT, in terms of Thanksgiving décor. But I really WANT it. Do you have any Thanksgiving or fall-type décor that you just love? Why can’t I stop typing décor?
  • And that makes me feel all giddy about Thanksgiving! I love this holiday! I can’t wait to pull out my Detailed Thanksgiving Timeline and start preparing for the meal. My parents are coming out for Thanksgiving this year, which should be super fun. I wonder if Carla will eat ANYTHING?
  • Of course, thinking about Thanksgiving gets me all excited about Christmas and Hanukkah, which I bet are going to be FANTASTIC, Carla-wise, this year. She is really going to “get” the whole idea of Santa Claus and I know she loved lighting the menorah last year, so it will be even more interesting this year. I think she’ll be able to look forward to things in a way she hasn’t before. SO FUN. I have some tentative gifts picked out for a few people, but now I can start gift-hunting in earnest. I also really want to get a tiny tree and some Christmas window clings for Carla’s room – she loved having her own Halloween decorations, so I think she’ll really enjoy Christmas ones, too. I have already put on the calendar our local Christmas tree lighting and food bank donation day, as well as our local menorah lighting. Maybe we will try to do a Santa Claus visit this year, too, if Carla is up for it. So those are fun things to look forward to.
  • Speaking of gifts (which I was, a while ago), my father-in-law AND father both have Major Birthdays this year. My father-in-law is first. And I am wondering, what the hell do you get to commemorate a major birthday for men who have EVERYTHING? Everything I think of seems either lame or completely out of the realm of possibility. Ideas? Anyone?
  • It’s a little hard to imagine Christmas with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having. I mean, we’ve been sleeping with the windows open and it’s NOVEMBER. On the one hand, this is awesome and I don’t want to waste it. On the other hand, I really want to wear the new vest and boots I bought, and I have a bunch of cute sweaters that aren’t being worn. So get with it, Actual Fall. At least the trees are super beautiful.
  • It’s so hard to believe that this nice weather is actually happening that I haven’t really been taking FULL advantage of the warmth. When it’s not raining, that is. I feel like I should be going for long walks outside with Carla. We have gone to the playground, a LOT, so that’s good. And she’s been playing in the back yard a bit, which is great. Okay, I suppose we also decorated pumpkins outside, and we’ve done chalk drawings on the driveway, and we did our Halloween Decoration Tour. So we’re not completely failing. But I kind of feel like I should go full on It’s Still Summertime, and put the patio cushions back out and fire up the grill more often. My parents got me a meat grinder for last Christmas, and so far I’ve only been using it to make ground beef for tacos and chili.

Freshly ground meat is SO GOOD. But the clean up is a little gross.

When really the BEST use would be for hamburgers. I think what’s holding me back is that it’s usually so dark by the time my husband gets home, that grilling isn’t particularly pleasant. We have a light on the grill, but it’s not particularly useful. Hmmm. Perhaps a really powerful, useful grill light would be a good candidate for a Christmas present??

All right, Internet. That’s all I have for today. What’s going on with you?

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So I was on vacation. It was wonderful but now I am tired. Here, have an alligator:

A small gator is still a gator.

I really miss blogging. As in, writing blog posts. And reading OTHER PEOPLE’S blog posts. Especially yours.

Anyway. Randomosity is a good re-entry into posting. For me, at least. For you, probably not so much. But I GAVE YOU AN ALLIGATOR so get off my back already.

* During my vacation, I somehow fell into a wormhole of books about Russia. It started with Child 44 which I got from my husband for my birthday. It was soooo dark and horrible and fascinating that I had to IMMEDIATELY, while I was in Florida at my in-laws’ house, Amazon Prime myself the next book in the series. (The Secret Speech.) And I really really REALLY wish I had also ordered Agent 6, which is the THIRD book in the series. But instead I also Amazon Primed myself the second in ANOTHER mystery/crime/thriller series (the Sweden-based Henning Mankell series starring Kurt Wallander) called The Dogs of Riga which, well, it didn’t have do with RUSSIA but it did have to do with LATVIA and continued the theme of Stalinist-era culture. And THEN I read Snowdrops, which was about modern-day Russia and the lasting effects of the Stalinist era.

Of the four, Child 44  was the best. Closely followed by The Secret Speech and then Snowdrops. I was disappointed in The Dogs of Riga. Namely because the author/translator felt the need to keep talking about how “the dogs” (in Riga, obvs) were after the main character and other characters, as though to really drive home the fact that the title was chosen for a Serious Reason.  Seriously. Every chapter after Wallander got to Riga mentioned the dogs. Sometimes there were dog mentions multiple times per page.  I GET IT. These are the Dogs of Riga. STOP BASHING ME OVER THE HEAD WITH IT.

(The dogs are not actual canines, you know. They are the villains in the book.)

* Is it clear that I spent large portions of my vacation reading?

But I have a problem, Internet. When I want to read a book, I want to read it NOW. I was about 100 pages from being done with Child 44 when I noticed that it was nearly over (WOE!) and I’d be out of fascinating Stalinist-era reading before I knew it. So my husband and I went to Barnes & Noble.

Listen, I could write 10 bazillion words about the GLARING differences between my husband and me when it comes to books and book buying and book choosing and book reading. But I will spare you all that and just say: he is a price comparison kind of guy where I am an “if I want it and the price isn’t unreasonable, I will buy it” kind of gal. I guess this isn’t specific to books. But what I’m saying is, I wanted to buy The Secret Speech. At Barnes & Noble. Which is why we went there.

But my husband – who knew all this, and still drove me to Barnes & Noble for the PURPOSE of buying The Secret Speech – did not allow me to buy The Secret Speech at Barnes & Noble. (Note: I don’t mean “did not allow” as in he FORBADE me to do things. He’s not so much into forbidding me to do stuff.  I mean it as, he advocated against buying it there and, partly in the name of marital harmony, but mostly in the name of I hadn’t yet finished Child 44, I went along with his plan instead of just buying the damn book. At the Barnes & Noble. In which we were standing. BECAUSE WE’D GONE THERE TO BUY THE BOOK IN QUESTION.) Instead, he pointed out that we could order it much more cheaply online, and with Amazon Prime, not only would we get free shipping, we’d also get the book in two days.

Fine. I get it. Saving a buck blah blah blah. BUT WHY DID WE HAVE TO GO TO BARNES & NOBLE THEN?

* We went to the beach one night to see the sun set over the ocean. I unwisely decided I needed to dip my toes in the ocean while my husband took photos with his camera (mostly amazing) and I took photos with my camera (mostly blurry) of the beautiful clouds rolling in.

It rained, so we sat in the car for most of the pre-sunset time. (I mainly spent that time trying vainly to brush sand off my feet so I wouldn’t get sand in my father-in-law’s car. I failed. Which is why I am very thankful for dustbusters.)

Anyway, it was raining and I had my camera all dressed up with nowhere to go, so I took a photo of the raindrops on the car window with the macro setting of my camera. See?

Ooh. Aaaah.

And another raindrop photo – this one with a palm tree in the background:

The rain did let up right in time for the sun to slip into the ocean in a wonderful photo-op-tastic way.

* What’s the opposite of the beach at sunset? Snow and fog in the mountains!

* That Zooey Deschanel show on Fox, The New Girl? I find it quite charming. But the theme song will NOT get out of my head.

And it’s not the whole theme song, either. It’s just the beginning. The “Hey, girl… Whatcha doin’?” part. Over and over and over. It is making me want to punch things.

Also, whenever I watch that show I feel an uncontrollable urge to get bangs.

* Have I blathered on sufficiently long enough to talk about the bug now? We have had a few of these bugs in our house:

OMG IT IS SO GROSS. (Picture not to scale, dear god no.)

Do you know what kind of bug that is? It’s horrifying, obviously. But, like, its name? Or how to make sure I never see another one ever again?

* Speaking of bugs, a giant, pudgy brown flying thing just helicoptered past my window. Outside, at least. But dude: What the eff is that?

And now there is a big swarm of bugs circling the tree in the back yard. I AM NOT READY FOR THIS. IT IS MARCH.

* You know what eats bugs? A turtle.

That is totally a turtle. I promise.

I could really use a turtle around here right now.

* It’s possible I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a tendency to get hooked on specific foods. As in, I get so obsessed with them, I eat them every day and I crave them constantly. My current addiction is wedge salads. There is something so intoxicating about a half-head of cool iceberg lettuce luxuriating in a lazy river of creamy parmesan ranch dressing, bejeweled with rings of soft pink shallot and squares of crisp, salty bacon. I have been eating about five heads of lettuce a week. And much bacon. MUCH BACON.

* Did my use of the word “luxuriating” make you think of Toddlers and Tiaras? No? Just me, then?

* The second best thing about the wedge salads (the first best thing being the salads themselves) is that I now have a nice steady supply of bacon fat in my fridge.

Do you think that’s weird? I mentioned it in the company of several people a few weeks ago, and some of them gave me the “she needs to be institutionalized” face.

I don’t think it’s weird. I think it’s WONDERFUL. Bacon fat can enrich so many things! I get all drool-faced when I think about how rich and velvety my onion soup is going to be. Once I get over my wedge salad fixation long enough to make some onion soup, that is.

I have used the bacon fat to make lentil soup, however.   I’ve been recently obsessed with lentil soup, too. Lentil soup and wedge salads. I think that’s all I ate for a couple of weeks.

* I have finally found a reliable makeup remover. I don’t really wear a lot of makeup.  Just a little blush and some mascara; eyeliner and lip gloss if I’m feeling fancy. But I have the HARDEST time getting the mascara off my stupid lashes. For pale stumpy things, they sure get a good grip on the mascara.

The makeup remover in question? Those Neutrogena face wipes that Jennifer Garner is promoting all over the teevee. I didn’t hear about them from JGarn, though. I am pretty sure I heard about them from the Internet – maybe from you? – because I get about 98% of my info from the Internet.

Anyway: these suckers work. At least on stubborn mascara.

* Last week, for the first time ever, I went snow shoeing.

(Those are snow shoe tracks.) (And a tree.)


I don’t know what I expected, but it was a lot like walking.

* I suppose I should clarify that my vacation was two weeks long. We spent the first week in Florida. We spent the second in Montana. Probably I should have mentioned that earlier.

* If you are a) married or b) not married, you will likely already know this. But going on vacation can be really good for a marriage. It was SO FUN to just… hang out with my husband. I mean, our parents were around for a lot of the hanging out, which was great. But we also got to do fun stuff alone together. And eat delicious food together. And brave far too many flights together. And go skiing and snow shoeing and alligatoring together. And just enjoy each other without the specter of Work and The Hospital and Household Chores looming over us. My husband is pretty fun to hang out with, you know.

* Also, we watched the entire first season of Downton Abbey and most of the first season of Game of Thrones together. There is really nothing that brings a couple together like World-War-I-era British society drama and some fantastical intrigue.

* Can we talk about the gators?  My in-laws live in a gated community on a golf course. And the golf course abuts a pond of some sort. And there are LIVE WILD GATORS in the pondthing. GatorS as in Multiple Carnivorous Reptiles.

If you look closely at the left side of the water, you'll see TWO GATORS. They may look lazy, but they will bite you.

This is crazy, Internet. And yet, my in-laws have all these gators that just lounge near the golf course. Within simple slithering distance of golfers’ legs.

See! The top one is ACTIVELY BITING YOU! (Or cooling himself. Whatever. I'm not a scientist.)

The reason I have these photos? Is because we took our daily constitutional on a path that goes right next to the gator pondthing.  And I had my camera because the gators were there EVERY DAY and I knew to expect them.

How is this… okay? How do the people in my in-laws’ development not constantly fall victim to hungry gators? HOW?

* My husband and his parents were very nonchalant about the gators. TOO nonchalant, in my opinion.  Yes, I come from a part of the country where bears and wolves and cougars roam wild. So I get that The Wild is full of Wild Creatures, and that humans can totally co-exist with scary vicious animals who will for the most part leave you alone if you leave them alone.

But it’s not like there’s a field near my parents’ house that just has BEARS MILLING AROUND or anything. It’s not like my dad goes out to water the lawn and there are wolves taking a nap behind the shrubbery and he’s all “lah dee dah, wolves, whatever.” My mom doesn’t hear about a copse of trees that’s hosting a cougar family and purposely walk past it each day in order to get some sunshine and exercise.

No. If there are bears or wolves or cougars anywhere in the vicinity, they STEER CLEAR.

Are gators that different from bears and wolves and cougars? NOT TO MY KNOWLEDGE.

* I told Kristina about these the other day.

They have lemon curd INSIDE them!

They are the beautiful and delicious lemon-filled cupcakes I made for the Super Bowl. Yes, I realize the Super Bowl took place over a month ago.  Errr… nearly two months ago. Nonetheless.

We had about ten people over for the Super Bowl party. Not a single person ate a cupcake.

Which means that I ate them all.

(Not ALL. There are four sitting in a container in the freezer, waiting for me to remember to take one out to defrost it BEFORE I am in the mood for a cupcake.)

(To be fair, we had a LOT of food at our Super Bowl party. And we had a LOT of desserts. As in, my husband made brownies and two flavors of homemade ice cream AND one of our guests brought an ice cream cake. So my beautiful cupcakes didn’t really stand a chance.)

* Have you seen those toilet paper commercials about the “backup roll”? The whole point of the commercial – other than to sell toilet paper, I imagine – is to push this little decorative toilet paper cozy (cosie? cozie?) that holds the backup roll. Or may the commercial is selling the decorative cozy? I don’t really know. I just know that backup rolls are important. Not important enough for me to buy or want a toilet paper cozy, mind you. But important. There is NOTHING WORSE than not having a backup roll. It’s either a problem NOW or it’s a problem LATER when you’ve skipped into the bathroom without remembering that you ran out last time.

That’s why I try to convince my husband that we need more toilet paper every time we go to Target. My goal is to have 50 rolls under every cabinet in every bathroom at all times. A sort of Extreme Couponers stockpile under all my sinks.

Yep. I think I’m ending there. On backup toilet paper.

This may be the most random thing I’ve ever written.

[Do I have to say this? I bought all the Neutrogena wipes/Stalinist-era novels/toilet paper/cupcake materials/Amazon Prime memberships mentioned in this post with my own money because I wanted to. I am not being compensated for talking about them. And all the opinions expressed here are my own. But please: feel free to send me all the makeup removal products or mystery books or cupcake paraphernalia you want. I would totally love that.]

[Also, you should probably know that the best photos in this post were taken by my husband.]

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Oh my gosh, hello! How wonderful to see you!

I wasn’t expecting company today – thank you so much for stopping by!

Would you like to come in? The place is kind of a mess these days, but at least it’s warm.

Hungry? I can’t eat sweets, but I’d love to watch you eat my favorite cupcake of all time.

Lemonlicious. I am so going to eat 10,000 of these bad boys in February.

No? You just ate? Well, you have admirable self control my friend.

But I feel like I’m failing at my hostess duties if I can’t force you into consuming something. Can I get you a drink? I may have a strawberry Bellini lying around.

Mmm. Bellini-y.

There. That’s better.

Now that you’re nice and liquored up, can I get your opinion on something?

Please, let’s head into the living room. Right this way.

That's not our furniture. Or our clock. Or our giant TV. Or our freshly vacuumed floors.

Let’s talk about my fireplace.

I know. The dark green wall has GOT to go.

It’s a bit too tall for us to reach though – even with our extension ladder. (Although my husband has the brilliant/terrifying idea to set the ladder on the hearth and very carefully paint the tippy top of the ceiling. Yeah. No thanks.)

But don’t worry – we’ll figure SOMETHING out!

And we’ve already got the replacement paint color picked out. It’s called “Hinting Blue” from Sherwin Williams.

Oooh! Aaaaaah! The caption is twice as big as the swatch!

 

But let’s try to ignore the wall and focus on the fireplace.

Still not our furniture or giant clock. Man. The clock and the TV make the fireplace seem much less huge than it is. Perhaps I need to invest in a giant clock?

It’s lovely. But… it’s kind of hideous.

I mean, it’s SO HUGE. And so very… bricky.

If I had magical powers, I would paint the brick and mantle white, I’d add tall light-giving windows to either side of the fireplace – like this or this – and I’d find a classy way to mount a (bigger than our actual TV) flat screen TV above the mantle.

CLASSY, I said.

No, I really think it can be done in a classy way.

Okay, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

Anyway, since I am neither a successful coke dealer nor the inventor of actual Coke, the windows will have to wait.

Unless you have a brilliant and cost-effective way to insert windows into the side of a house?

No?

Too bad.

But I do still have dreams about painting the entire fireplace white.

What’s that?

No, I have no idea how to paint wood OR brick.

But! I have been pinning a lot of white fireplaces on Pinterest! Didn’t you know that if you pin enough images that you unlock a level where little robots climb out of your computer and do your every bidding?

I’m thinking that I can get away with just painting the mantle. You know, if I can figure out how to do that.  I’m envisioning a result like this.

Of course, our fireplace doesn’t have that same kind of fancy wood surround.

Those knick knacks are mine. Don't you love the artfully casual way they are strewn about the mantle and the hearth?

Sigh.

Maybe it will look less awful once the green paint is a distant memory?

What’s that?

Oh, you’re so sweet. Thank you for saying it isn’t that bad. I know one girl’s ugly fireplace is another girl’s beautiful focal point. I just need to find an easy, cost-effective way to DO THAT.

Well, it looks as though you’ve finished your drink. And I really should get back to work. Shall I show you out?

If you have any thoughts about what to do with this monstrosity, or any ideas for general fireplace sprucing, give me a ring.

It was lovely to see you. Thanks for stopping by! You are welcome in my home any time!

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The last time I let you inside my apartment, you really seemed to like it.

And I’m nothing if not accommodating and/or conscious of your voyeuristic needs, Internet!

(Also, am stretched beyond my limits and have no time to write deep, insightful blog posts.)

So today I invite you to take a peek inside my bedroom.

Internet, allow me to introduce you to my bedside table. Otherwise known as a night stand.  Or Additional Book Shelving, clearly.

This is the view I have of my bedside table when I am sleeping. Or, you know, just lying there. Because if I WERE sleeping, I wouldn’t see anything except the inside of my own eyelids and possibly a shirtless Tim Riggins making me cheesecake. (Man, I WISH I dreamed about Tim Riggins. Or cheesecake.)

There’s my nice IKEA lamp on the left there… My Giant Stack O’Books… The little heart-shaped picture of me and my husband… The photo of my mom as a child… And the little Portuguese jewelry dish my husband brought me from, well, Portugal (what, did you expect me to say Thailand?). (Also, why does the word “Portuguese” have two Us in it?)

Of course, that’s only what you can see from THIS angle.

Here is the full frontal view.

Yes, I just typed “full frontal.”

My nightstand is cute, no? It was part of a matching set of bedroom furniture my husband and I bought when we first moved here for residency.

There’s a matching nightstand for my husband’s side of the bed. (His is topped by electronics – a Kindle, an iPod, an iPad, an alarm clock, and his phone – and a puzzle book, in case you were curious.) Also part of our bedroom ensemble is a tall, skinny “lingerie chest” in which I store t-shirts and folded sheets and other such non-lingerie items.  There’s a matching dresser and mirror, filled entirely with my clothing. (My husband has a separate dresser in the closet.) And there’s the piece de resistance: the beautiful sleigh bed.

All of the items are made of solid wood of some sort, which is one reason we loved them. None of the cheap out-it-together-yourself Target-brand particle-board stuff we’d been using for the past umpteen years.

I’ve heard on HGTV that you shouldn’t be too matchy-matchy in your furniture selection. But I am not savvy enough to pair non-matchy items and have them look like anything other than a poorly-planned yard sale. Plus, this set of bedroom furniture was RIDICULOUSLY cheap.

Anyway, now you can see just how cluttered well-organized my nightstand is.

Let’s take a closer look!

This is the right side of the nightstand.

You’ll notice that I have a glass of water sitting precariously close to the edge. But! It’s on a coaster!

There’s a pad of paper and a pen, for late night snippets of poetry that come to me in between dreams of Tim Riggins nightmares about work. Sometimes the late night snippets are good and useable. Other times, they are mysterious. Such as this scribble: “If ever my own grandmother.”

Um. What now? I admit I like the rhythm of the phrasing… but I have NO EARTHLY IDEA what it’s supposed to mean.

In the back row, there’s that photo of my husband and me. I blurred out our faces and we look even creepier than we normally do. (We’re REALLY creepy.)

In any case, I love that photo. We’re sitting on the couch in my dorm room back in college. We’re both wearing sweatshirts. My hair is pulled back. We’re comfortable and loungy. And we’re deliciously, deliriously happy. I hope we’re always always always like that.

The frame I’m not so crazy about. It’s a remnant from my college days and I frankly think it’s tacky. BUT the photo is cut into the shape of a heart to fit the frame, so I can’t very well re-frame it. Thus, it stays on my nightstand.

Next to that is the photo of my mother as a child. I’m not sure why I love it so much. But I do!

You’ll also see my Word-a-Day calendar.

For years, my husband and I would receive Something-a-Day calendars for Christmas gifts. Or we’d buy them for ourselves. He usually learns a language. This year, he does a daily Sudoku puzzle. I, on the other hand, prefer learning new words.

Except… I suck at Word-a-Day calendars.

As you can see, this is not only stuck on January 22

… It’s also stuck on January 22 of 2010. As in last year. As in, I didn’t even make it ONE MONTH before I had to wave the white flag of Something-a-Day surrender.

Every once in a while, I will rip off a page and learn a new word. I think I changed it to “revenant” about six weeks ago. No, wait, maybe that was in January of this year? I can’t remember. In any case, despite the fact that the word before “revenant” was on the calendar for MONTHS, I cannot remember what it was.

At this pace, I’ll be done with my Word-a-Day calendar by 2179. And I will know zero words.

My lack of Word-a-Day stick-to-it-iveness is depressing me. So let’s take a closer look at the little jewelry dish my husband gave me.

As you can see, it doesn’t really hold jewelry. This is because I now have a big beautiful Pottery Barn (I think) jewelry box with a hinged lid and drawers and little compartments for rings and such. It was a gift from my in-laws in 2009. And it holds all of my costume necklaces and bracelets. I keep my (very limited supply of) nicer jewelry elsewhere because I am paranoid.

So, instead of jewelry, the dish holds my bedside essentials.

Namely:

– A small bottle of OPI lotion for my dry hands. I got it for free as a Christmas gift from one of the girls in my book club. (I suppose if I say it was a gift, I don’t need to have the whole “for free” thing in there now do I.)

– A tube of Burt’s Bees chapstick – critical for my chapped lips.

– Two hair ties, because I usually have my hair up in a ponytail when I drop into bed. But I do not like sleeping with my hair up. So I put the hair ties in the dish for safekeeping. (They disappear easily.)

Now let’s take a look at the floor in front of my nightstand.

There’s the infamous Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Someday, when I’m more mature, I will read it again. Until then, it may sit on my floor.

Under it is some sort of trashy magazine. Glamour or Marie Claire, I’m not sure and I’m too lazy to go into the other room and look. Whenever I read those kinds of magazines (which is about twice a year), I fold down the pages of interesting tidbits I want to remember. And then I save the magazine, so I can go through it again and remember the tidbits. And then I get busy and eventually throw the magazine away, un-examined. It’s a flawed plan.

This little exploration of my nightstand is revealing more about my personal failings than I anticipated.

That white machine in the foreground is my noise machine.

My parents got it for me a couple of years ago and I LOVE it. It has multiple settings of soothing sounds.  The ocean. A distant thunderstorm. (Those are my favorites.) A babbling brook. A country evening.  And you can add or remove additional sounds – like a buoy clanging, a loon calling, a frog frog-sounding.

Without this bad boy, I would NEVER sleep.

Last, but certainly not least, is my Giant Stack O’Books.

Normally, they are stacked all willy-nilly on my nightstand. But I turned them all around just for you!

My husband and I are both book multitaskers. We normally read at least two books at a time.

Sometimes, my husband will get exasperated by my Giant Stack O’Books, and he’ll thin them out and put away the ones I’m not reading or am done reading or am simply “reading.”

I have read bits and pieces of the majority of the books: Lisa Scottoline’s Look Again; The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille; The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson; and My Life in and Scientific Advertising by Claude “The Great” Hopkins.  I’ve actually read that last one before, but it’s a book I keep beside my bed and pick up now and again for inspiration and writing reminders.

I want to finish Culture Code and Finkler, but I haven’t felt motivated to do so. Look Again and the only book in the stack I am not going to name… I am keeping on my nightstand because I HATE to leave a book unfinished. But… I have a short attention span my time is valuable, so I have a hard time forcing myself to read something I am not enjoying.

—SHORT TANGENT—

Last year was one of my worst years EVER for unfinished books. I swear, every other book I picked up was utter dreck. (I don’t think “dreck” is really a word, but I heard it on Top Model and liked it’s snappy onomatopoeia-ishness.) (I totally spelled onomatopoeia correctly the first time! No spellcheck needed!)

Among the books I picked up and promptly put down last year? The Anthologist, which I had super high hopes for. The Last Song, which I was biased against from the beginning, but forced to try because it was a book club pick. And Beat the Reaper which received enthusiastic reviews from my husband, but didn’t quite capture my attention.

This year, I’ve had better luck. But not stellar.

—END TANGENT—

The book I’m currently reading – Amy Tan’s The Hundred Secret Senses – is on top. Under that is the book I just finished – Jeannette Walls’s Half Broke Horses (which I LOVED. Best book I’ve read this year.). Why haven’t I put Horses away? Oh, I suppose it’s because my husband normally does the book re-shelving. He enjoys it so, and I would never want to strip him of his book re-shelving happiness.

I haven’t read John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces yet. Nor have I started The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. But I’m looking forward to both. Hopefully they won’t wind up in the “meh” column.

Well Internet, there you have it. A very up-close-and-personal look at one of the most private areas of my home. I hope you enjoyed it!

What do you have on your nightstand?

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