Saturday, December 30, 2006

Vote Early and Often

Ultra Fine Flair is on the Z List on Squidoo. Go there and show your support for UFF. It'll motivate me to keep the high-quality (if by quality, you mean frequency) entries coming in '007.

That link again.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Boxing Day

In Canada, December 26 is Boxing Day. This year, I celebrated Boxing Day on December 29 with my first trip to Gleason's Gym for some real, honest-to-god boxing training.

Since my office moved to DUMBO in May, I've been thinking about going to Gleason's. But there was that whole marathon thing going on, and time was at a premium, so I didn't do anything about it.

On Wednesday, after a nice long holiday break filled with wine and cookies, I caught up with a couple of my co-workers, one of whom told me he'd been to Gleason's and thought I'd really dig it. He gave me his trainer's card, and I called him immediately to set up an appointment.

This morning I met the trainer, John Douglas, for the first time. On Gleason's Web site, John says, "I like training ladies because of their never say die attitude and I would never deny them the opportunity to box." Right on. I'd told him on the phone that I've never boxed before, and he was really reassuring. When I walked into the gym today I felt a little nervous and giggly about it, and John was super nice the whole time. I warmed up for 10 minutes on the treadmill, then got down to business. First, John wrapped my hands (which made me feel totally hardcore), then we climbed into an actual ring (!) and he talked me through some basic combinations (just into the air for starters). A bell rings every few minutes (I'm not sure of the exact timing, but around 3 minutes), and during the "on" time, people are training, and in between "rounds," everyone rests. There's a 40-second warning bell before the round ends.

After a few rounds of air-punching, I donned a pair of white 14 oz. gloves, and John held up pads for me to punch. That part was really fun, and really exhausting. We moved next to a bag that's suspended from the ceiling and floor, and John instructed me to left-right jab it for the next few rounds. I kind of started to get the hang of that. We then moved to the speed bag, which was tricky to get the hang of. I did get better after a few minutes of practicing, and I'm looking forward to trying that again. We ended with a few dozen situps and crunches.

The cost is really reasonable - today I paid a $15 gym fee, and $25 to John for an hour of training. If I end up going more than once/week, I'll join the gym for $80/month. I loved working with John - he called me "Champ" a lot and was really supportive.

And as I write this entry, I've finally settled on a New Year's Resolution:

Kick Some Ass.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Go Bills!

DLang's Christmas gift from me was a pair of tickets to the Bills game on Christmas Eve. The drive to Buffalo from Waterloo is about 2 1/2 hours, so a 1pm game seemed well-timed for us to get back for Christmas Eve festivities (and a good day-long respite from my family, although I must say, all of the 'bergs were quite well-behaved this year). We donned our Bills jerseys and headed out at 9:30, and with a brief Tim Horton's stop in St. Catharine's, made it to Buffalo at noon. Parking near the stadium was only $10, and DLang was practically moved to tears at seeing the plethora of Bills garb adorning the fans streaming into Ralph Wilson Stadium.

We found our seats and they rocked - 5 rows from the field! (I'd bought them from a season ticket holder on Two Bills Drive.) The guy sitting next to me was there with his son, and they very generously shared their fleece blanket with us. Sitting next to DLang was a kid around 10 years old, there with his mom. At one point, the Bills kicked a very unlikely field goal, and D commented, "That's the most improbable field goal I'll ever see in my life!" The kid replied, "That's the only improbable field goal I've ever seen, because I don't know what improbable means!" Aw.

I have to admit, the highlight for me was seeing the Buffalo Jills. There's nothing like a pretty girl to brighten up your day, and it's even better if she's in a totally cute little Santa outfit and waving around silver pom-poms. I really love cheerleaders. Apparently I have the pipes to be one, too, because at one point the guy next to me asked if I'd been a cheerleader. (He later asked me if I'd been a singer. I told him no, I'm just really loud.)

Despite The Bills' heartbreaking 30-29 loss to the Titans, we had a fabulous day, and I was reminded of how much I enjoy fandom - there is really nothing like cheering your heart out for something. I also really like high-fives. At one point I went to buy us hot dogs, and a bunch of guys sitting along the aisle were high-fiving everyone who went past. It was awesome, and I'm going to try to incorporate high-fiving into my daily activities in the new year.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Every year my family includes Christmas Crackers with our holiday meals. Apparently this is a tradition adopted from the Brits, as DLang had never experienced such merriment until he was treated to a Christmas Chez Gutenberg. (I'm going to avoid reading the Christmas Cracker Wikipedia entry until after I've written this entry so as not to taint the reader's view with confirmation that my family really is a bunch of freakshows.)

For those of you not acquainted with Christmas Crackers, here's your primer. A Christmas Cracker is a tube about the size of a paper towel roll, tied so that it kind of looks like a big bon-bon. Running through the tube is a cardboard snappy thing, that when pulled apart, makes a snap kind of like a cap gun. All crackers contain a tissue-paper crown, a slip of paper with a joke, and a little prize.

My family has pretty strict rules about cracker usage. First of all, cracker-pulling is a two-person show. No exceptions. Each person holds one end of the cracker to pull it apart. My brother was particularly adamant about this rule this year. The next guideline is that you have to hold the end tightly enough to pull apart the cardboard snapper inside. This is kind of a given, but newbies tend to be light on the holding of the cracker, and it's disappointing not to hear the crack. (Sunny insists that you should hold the snapper between your fingers, but I prefer to just grab the whole end tightly.) And, you have to wear the paper crown. No exceptions to that, either.

This year we had two different brands of Chrismas Crackers. With Christmas morning pancakes at the Lesbians', we had extra-super-deluxe crackers from The Bay. Deniser brought these over and they were Fancy with a capital F. First, they were decked out with super-sparkly daisies, which I LOVED. Glitter everywhere. We cracked 'em open and found seriously the best prizes I've ever seen in a Christmas Cracker. For example: my prize was a little silver picture frame, and DLang got a little magnifying glass (that he actually really liked). The other sweet thing about these crackers is that each of the six crackers came with a different coloured crown! The jokes were corny, but hey, good clean wholesome fun often is.

Later at Shirley's, we had President's Choice Deluxe crackers. The prizes were considerably less good than The Bay's. My "prize" was a luggage tag (booooring). Dos got a keychain-whistle which wasn't bad, and a couple of the prizes were Christmas-themed (DLang got a little Santa tin), which is kind of OK. The crowns were festively red and green.

The PC version is a much better value (I don't know exactly how much they cost, but I'm pretty sure my mom wouldn't have paid more than $20 for the 8 crackers, while The Bay's version rang up at $30 for 6), but if you wanted to impress a date or something, The Bay's are worth the splurge.

I have grand plans to make my own crackers with kickass prizes for next year. I was thinking it would also be a nifty way to propose to someone (make your own cracker with the ring as the prize), but I also have visions of the cracker-pull resulting in the ring flying into some heating grate somewhere. I think I'll stick to mini-staplers and the like.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Black Christmas

A couple of caveats about today's post:

1. I've been in Waterloo for the past 3 days and the intarweb is a little hard to find in these parts. Seriously, I'm typing this entry on an iBook that's about 8 years old with a dial-up connection. (Sirrah! proudly told me yesterday that she'd ordered part of my Christmas gift from the internets. Then she said that actually she'd had Gregoire order it from work because their connection at home isn't secure. Aw.)

2. I've been drinking some wine. Probably more than half a bottle.

OK, on to your regularly scheduled programming. I have good things in store for you, Gentle Reader. The week in the Loo so far has been rather eventful, with Bartleby (Sirrah! and Gregoire's Labradoodle Extraordinaire) and Charlie (their in-utero baby who I've now felt kicking twice!). Yesterday involved some maternity shopping in which I tried on a faux-bump pillow (I'm going to be a supercute pregnant lady) and in which I cracked wise about a vibrating toy ("I have those, but mine aren't shaped like little lions."). Today I had a visit to Sunny's storage space to clear out a "few" (read: 15) boxes of my stuff that actually amounts to my entire high school memorabilia (totally kickass rocker picture of me to be posted next week when I have access to a scanner - I looked like Kim Mitchell for a while there) and, the highlight: My ABBA records. Awesome.

Anyway. As per usual chez Dr. Sirrah!'s, we like to watch a movie. We thought a seasonal film might be in order, but Sirrah!'s choice, "One Magic Christmas," wasn't available, so we opted for the Canadian horror classic (and recently remade) Black Christmas ("If it doesn't make your skin crawl, then it's on too tight!") starring, among others, Margot Kidder (of "Superman" - and her affair with Prime Minister Trudeau - fame). Incidentally, Canada has quite a good selection of horror films. Last year at Hallowe'en DLang and I found Ginger Snaps (Tagline: They Don't Call It The Curse For Nothing) at our local video store and were not disappointed. Hot redhead goes all werewolf. I recommend it. And then of course there's our very own David Cronenberg - Crash is one of the hottest thrillers I've ever seen, but I digress. And Sirrah! is yelling "The Changling, Gill!" at me as I write this, so check that out, too.

"Black Christmas" is the story of a sorority house terrorized by prank phone calls ("It's the moaner again!") and eventually, murder. [Gregoire just told me that because of their primative internet connection, as long as I'm writing this we can't use the microwave. Heh.] So yeah, if you like a good holiday horror flick (and really, who doesn't) this is a great pick. There are some good Canadian accents (although it seems to claim to be set in the US of A, as represented by the American flag on one of the detective's desks). There's good suspense. And you can enjoy this movie without having to endure Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn in "Buffy The Vampire Slayer") or Lacey Chabert (of "Party of Five" fame), both of whom appear in the remake (and are really, really annoying).

I have to go because Gregoire wants to logon to his gaming newsgroup to write about our earlier game of Poison, of which The Wife (Sirrah!) won two games in a row. Tomorrow we're driving to Buffalo for the Bills-Titans game, and then we'll be back in the evening for The Box and hopefully a viewing of The Sound of Music. I bought extra Kleenex for the occasion.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Spirit

I really wanted to write about the Holidailies prompt for today, but then Christmas exploded on my dining room table and I kind of need to do something about that before I jet off to Toronto on Thursday morning. In an attempt to post before midnight, here are the day's highlights.

First stop: Barnes & Noble:

"Do you have a Barnes & Noble Card?"
"Would you like one?"
"No, thank you."
"You'd save 20% off of these hardcover books" [gestures] "and 10% off the rest."
"No, thanks."
"Would you like to know how much you would have saved if you had a card?"
[Scans books.] "$20."
"Oh. Actually, can you hold these books for about an hour? I have some other shopping to do and I don't want to carry them around." Read: My husband's business partner has a B&N card and I'm going to swing by their office and borrow it so I can save the 20 bucks.
Next stop: Lucky Jeans.
"I need some help."
"Sure, what are you looking for?"
"A new pair of jeans. Let me be honest with you. I'm 5'8" and 160lbs, and I don't want skinny jeans. Can you help me?"
"You're funny. And, yes." And, she rocked it. Awesomely, Lucky Brand jeans come with a fortune in the pocket!
Much of the rest of the day was spent wrapping presents. I cheated on my boyfriend by shipping some stuff via UPS, but, hey, all's fair in love and Christmas shipping. I am now in the midst of packaging up 40 (yes, 40) takeout boxes' worth of Christmas cookies for my lucky co-workers.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Stuff That Makes Me Cry

The Sound of Music
I've seen this movie at least a dozen times, and still. Still! It doesn't take long, either. Opening scene. Maria on the mountain, twirling around in her apron. The last time I watched it with Sirrah! she looked over at me 2 minutes into the movie. "Gillian! I can't believe this!" Yeah. How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria does me in.

TV Show:
Once More, With Feeling (the Buffy musical episode)
I know! This one's a surprise to me, too, but I went to the sing-along this weekend and had tears streaming down my face practically the whole time. WTF? (Shut up, Brianna.)

The Babysitter's Here by Dar Williams
DLang and Buddy used to put this song on just to watch me cry. "She's trying not to cry." "How are you feeling, Gillian?" "Ooh! Are you biting your lip?" "Are you OK, babe?" "Is that a tear?" Jerks.

Christmas Songs
In particular, Boney M's version of Mary's Boy Child/Oh My Lord. I don't know what to tell you about that one. Do They Know It's Christmas used to have an effect, too, but I think I'm over it.

It's pretty bad. I think I might be somehow allergic.

Monday, December 18, 2006


Today is my annual Christmas-Cookie Baking Day. (By "day" I do mean 24 hours, but they're usually not consecutive, because of bothersome things like sleeping and working that get in the way of the cookie baking extravaganza.) Every year I mark my calendar to spend the last, or second-to-last weekend before Christmas baking crazy-ass amounts of cookies. It's a family tradition, really. My mom does the same, and when we arrive at her house for the holidays she has stacks of Tupperware filled with baked goods. Family faves are peanut butter cookies and Nanaimo Bars, a delicious Canadian treat with a coconutty-chocolate base, a layer of vanilla custardy stuff, and a thin chocolate top. Delish. She also makes chocolate chip cookies, which used to be quite crispy, but not in the good way, in the greasy way. A few years ago I told her the truth about her chocolate chip cookies. Gently, of course.

"Mom, your chocolate chip cookies... aren't very good."

She looked at me and blinked. "I know they aren't. I don't know what to do about that."

I was so surprised! My infallable, domestic-goddess mom, didn't have a good chocolate chip cookie recipe! Crazy, that. I hooked her up with a couple of my favourite recipes, and her chocolate chip offerings have definitely improved.

My cookie to-do list this year includes Oatmeal Cranberry and Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread (both from the 2001 Martha Stewart "Cookies" holiday special magazine, which has proven to be an excellent investment at $5.95, Extreme Triple-Ginger Spice Cookies, Maple Stars (which I usually make as snowflakes), and my absolute favourites, Chocolate Chip and Peppermint Crunch Crackles (OK, maybe they're my favourites because I get to crush the peppermint candies with a hammer). Since I'm thinking about them (and my mouth is watering slightly), I think I might squeeze Nanaimo Bars onto the schedule, too. And I've been eyeing a recipe for Pecan Caramel Shortbread Fingers in that Martha Stewart magazine. We'll see how that goes.

Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Box

My family's Christmas is quite predictable. Christmas Eve, the Lesbians make VATS of pasta (usually fresh fettucine, with both meat and white sauces - Classico brand is preferred), and we all make the usual enough-to-feed-an-army jokes. After dinner we grab bottles and glasses and slip on whichever pair of Birkenstocks or slippers we can find by the back door, and nip out through the cold night to the studio in the backyard. The Studio used to be a way-too-small garage that was converted a while ago. It's now a cozy little cabin that houses a wood stove, a comfy futon, and, this time of year, the Christmas tree. Once we're all settled (wine poured, feet tucked under blankets, fire stoked), we open The Box.

I don't know when the tradition of The Box was started, but it has to be, oh, at least 15 years old. Sunny (one of the moms) gathers small presents all year, then wraps them up and ties coloured curly ribbon to each gift and puts them in a box. (I'm pretty sure she's been using the same box the whole time, too - it's giftwrapped itself, and 2 white stuffed bears sit on the top.) The curly ribbons are cut long and grouped by colour, and she has as many colours as there are people participating in the annual ritual. The numbers have ranged from 3 or 4 to as many as 6 or 7, depending on who's coupled on any given year. Each person chooses a colour (or is assigned one by the bossier members of the family). The rules are simple: You can trade, buy, sell, or give away any gift - provided you can negotiate an agreement.

Gifts range from a single sock, to a festively-decorated bathroom towel, to a little pouch (often hand-knitted by Sunny) containing 5 shiny Loonies (that's the Canadian equivalent of 5 bucks - sort of). Some of the presents are great - I have DLang and my wedding picture displayed in a silver flowery frame I scored from The Box last year. Some are of limited value (see: single sock) and require one to Buy! Sell! Trade! Most are gathered up at the end of the evening, occasionally one is left behind and I'm pretty sure I've seen a couple that have been recycled over the years.

With the first official Langenberg Family Christmas approaching, I've been thinking a lot about traditions, and I've realized that tradition is way more important to me than ever before. They are what make my memories of growing up really special, and I am excited about continuing old traditions, and starting new ones, with my new family.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Zany Hijinks

Last night DLang and I rented a car to return a shelf to Ikea in New Jersey. The visit to Ikea itself was mixed - returning stuff there kind of sucks. There's a take-a-number system involved, which cost us our dinner of Swedish meatballs and ligonberry sauce, although we did enjoy 50¢ hot dogs on the way out. Interesting tidbit about food at Ikea: A friend of mine's wife is Swedish, and she claims that the food at truckstops in Sweden is all as good as Ikea food, which makes me happy because a) it confirms that Ikea's Swedish food is authentic, and b) it validates my belief that Ikea food is good. On the way back, I missed the ramp for the NJ Turnpike North, so we decided to drive through Staten Island and take the Verrazano Bridge. Zany hijinks ensued.

Part 1: As we drove past a sign for the Verrazano

"Wow, D! This route is awesome! It's so fast!"

"Gillian, you have no basis for making that statement."

"What are you talking about? We just passed a sign!"

"That sign had no information about distance. The last time I drove this way it took half an hour to get through Staten Island."

Minutes pass. We crest a hill and see the Verrazano in all her glory.

"Am I allowed to get excited now? Or do I have to wait until we're actually *on* the bridge?"

Part 2: Going through the toll booth

"Here's money for the toll."

"Give me enough to pay for the next person's, too."


"Give me $12. We'll do a good deed and pay for the next person's toll. It'll be nice!"

"Babe, no."

"Oh come on. I'll pay you back."

"I'd rather have the cash."

"We'll be like that person's Secret Santa!"

"Fine. You're going to blog about this, aren't you?"

"You're cute."

Kick Some Ass

Many years ago, my good friend Jon lent me The Pursuit of Wow! by Tom Peters. I was pretty new to the world of business books at the time (read: I was vaguely aware that there was section of them at Chapters). Jon (himself a business-school graduate) thought that I would get a kick out of Tom Peters' enthusiasm and passion, and he was right. While the book is business- and service-oriented, many of the tidbits of wisdom are applicable in one's personal life. (Take this review with a grain of salt; I haven't read the book in nearly 10 years. But it did leave an impression on me. Another grain of salt: I was 23, and particularly impressionable at the time that I read it.)

What I really took from reading Wow!, and another Tom Peters book, The Circle of Innovation: You Can't Shrink Your Way To Greatness, was that no matter what I'm working on, there's some opportunity to do it in an outstanding way.

Last weekend I caught a TBS-showing of "School of Rock." (Note to TBS programming-type people: Thank you for the good movie weekend on TBS. Thank you for showing Legally Blonde and for not editing the part where Elle says "Did you see him? He's probably still scratching his head," and Paulette replies, "Yeah, which must be a nice vacation for his balls." I laugh aloud just reading that line. Awesome. Thanks also for showing Mean Girls, which reminded me of how much I loved La Lohan before she got all grody. DLang just came in and announced that CNN reports that she's going to AA, and is hilariously quoted as saying, "I haven't had a drink in seven days. Or anything. I'm not even legal to, so why would I?")

Anyway. "School of Rock." Right before the end of the movie, when the band is about to go on stage, Dewey Finn (Jack Black) leads the kids in a prayer:

God of Rock, thank you for this chance to kick ass. We are your humble servants. Please give us the power to blow people's minds with our high voltage rock. In your name we pray, Amen.

And might I be so bold as to suggest that we don't just use it before a rock concert - no! Because, as it turns out, every single day, the God of Rock gives us a chance to kick ass.

(I proposed to DLang that we adopt this as our morning prayer, and he enthusiastically agreed. Thanks, Dewey, for the reminder.)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Skirting the Issue

"Hey, I was wondering if you could make me a Christmas tree skirt. I just use a blanket right now and it doesn't work, exactly, and it looks kind of fugly."

"Um... Well, sure, but you'll have to describe it to me."

"Mom, you know, a Christmas tree skirt."

"Hm. I'm sure I could, but I'm not sure exactly how it would work."

"Ma, I'm sure you've made one of these before." Long pause. "You know, the thing that wraps around the bottom of the Christmas tree! To cover the tree stand."

"Oh! I thought you meant a skirt for you, somehow shaped like a Christmas tree, and I was trying to figure out how the top of the tree would get around your waist!"

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Weekend Update


Last night, Mr. Electric and Dr. Funstuff held their annual holiday party. In past years, this party has been rife with scandal, and this year was no exception. While tearing up the dance floor, one of the guests of honour went ass over teakettle (over DLang) and landed on her face, resulting in a trip to the emergency room. Today's update: An hour and 2 stitches after arriving at the ER, she was back in business, apparently out drinking until 4am. Sue, you're an inspiration to us all. Meanwhile, back at the Fortress of Fun, there was an incident involving the Lego Death Star Lego, a candle, two shirtless men, and an explosion. The staff photographer was on hand, so we should have pictures shortly. Be afraid.

The lovely couple pictured here are Blake and Allison. Blake puts the Flo in Flocabulary, and Allison doesn't care if you spell her name with one "l" or two (but as my readers know, UFF is all about accuracy). Also, Allison and Brianna both look really cute in red dresses.


This morning I went to the local greenmarket to purchase the Langenberg Family Christmas Tree: 2006 Edition. A lovely Fraser Fir beckoned from the edge of the lot, and as the tree guy was sawing off the trunk for me, a woman walked up to inquire about the cost of evergreens.

Woman: How much are the trees?
Tree Guy: $10 per foot.
Woman (pointing to an 8' tree): How much would that one be?
Tree Guy: $80.

The woman walked away. I looked down at my 6' tree and panicked.

Gillian: Um, how much is this tree?
Tree Guy: $40. She was wearing fur--she can afford to pay more.

Lesson learned: Dress down for the greenmarket.

And finally, this afternoon I headed to Wall St. to assist at yoga teacher training. On the way to the subway afterwards, I passed the New York Stock Exchange, which is all dolled up for the holiday season. USA! #1!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Love Letter to the United States Postal Service

Dear USPS,

You don't mind if I call you that, right? USPS? It just kind of rolls off the fingertips.

Lately I've been thinking about our experiences together over the years. We had that long-distance relationship for a while, you know, when I didn't really talk to you directly. Despite me having to use someone else to communicate, you always came through for me. In 1998, you really helped me make the decision to move to the United States, with your promises of self-adhesive postage stamps and Saturday mail (both of which I love to this day, USPS. Thanks for those).

Lately, I've really enjoyed our electronic communications. The way you let me calculate postage, and even print shipping labels, without even having to visit you in person - those little things mean a lot to me. In fact, the other day when I needed to send something to my friend in Canada, you even sent me - for free! - the stickers I needed to properly label the package. That was really nice of you, USPS, and I appreciate it. I'm grateful that you continue to improve yourself - it makes me want to give you extra-nice stuff.

I also want to express just how happy I am whenever I receive something from you. I think about you a lot, and whenever I get email from our receptionist to let me know that I have a package at the front desk, my heart smiles in the knowledge that you're thinking about me too.

There is one little thing I was wondering about. Sometimes you seem a little distant, and after I see you in person I feel weighted down, and like the walk home is really far. And sometimes you're just not accessible to me when I need to see you. Now, I'm not asking for you to be available to me 24/7, because I know that wouldn't be healthy for you. But maybe sometimes, especially during the holidays, you could keep the doors of communication open just a little bit longer. That would really help me to feel more secure in our relationship.

Well, that's about it. I just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know how important you are to me. I know this is a really busy time of year for you, and I'm thinking about you, USPS, and I'm looking forward to our extra communications this holiday season. I have all the faith in the world that you can make it through to January, so hang in there!


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What Would Vanna Do?

Whenever I hear someone complain about his or her job being useless, or feeling ineffective at work, I say, "Hey, it could be worse, you could be Vanna White! She doesn't even have to turn the letters anymore - sure, she touches them and they light up, but that's a formality. When someone solves the puzzle, the letters light up automatically. She just stands there!"

I haven't thought much about Ms. White in a while. My parents (the lesbian contingency) are Wheel Watchers (hee), so about the only time I see the show is when I'm visiting. She was brought back to my consciousness this afternoon, when my brother sent me a link to a site about Girls of the NES, on which Vanna is featured along with the likes of Linda from Double Dragon, and Princess Toadstool. The very clever author of this site writes, "Vanna White fucking rules," and I'm inclined to agree, for the following reasons:

1. Vanna hasn't aged. She's been the "co-host" (and I use that term loosely, because her hostingness is debatable) of WoF since 1982. After minutes of scouring the interwebs, the earliest dated photo I could find was this one from 1981, called a Las Vegas cheesecake glamour photo (hilarious!). Cute! And from the official Wheel of Fortune web site, in Vanna's Style section no less. The woman is 2 months from 50, and look at those legs! Look at that skin! Look at her hair! She looks terrific. Well played, Vanna.

2. She's crafty. Say what you will about crafts, but I like 'em. Vanna crochets, and she has several stylish pattern books available, including Vanna's Afghans All Through The House and Vanna's Favorite Crochet Gifts.

3. She's a serious actor. Vanna's IMDB listing proves it. In addition to the many appearances she's made as herself, she portrayed Channel 102 News Anchor in Double Dragon: The Movie. And she held the title role in 1988's made-for-TV movie "Goddess of Love" (which I just added to my Amazon wish list, because, awesome).

4. In 1987, Vanna appeared in Playboy. When I was in college, I had a roommate named James. To put it bluntly, James was a dick. When I broke my foot, James was eager to run errands for me (and frequently "borrowed" my car without permission). When he moved out, he took with him a month's rent, over $1000, from me and our other 2 roommates. He did, however, leave behind a stack of Playboy magazines (to which he had subscribed, further proving he was "that guy"). After James' departure, I thought it would be funny to leave the Playboys in the bathroom, and in the year I lived there, I read a lot of Playboys (no, really, the articles are really good!). (Occasionally after we had people over, I'd notice a particular issue would have disappeared. Most of them reappeared after the next get-together. Heh.) Anyway, Vanna, Playboy. Props to her. If you're going to appear naked in a magazine, that's the place to do it. I did find a picture of her cover shot, and while I'd rather see breast cleavage than ass cleavage, she looks cute, and the PLAYBOY title is quite clever.

5. She was recognized in the Guiness Book of World Records in 1992 as "Television's Most Frequent Clapper," and according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, she averages 720 claps per show. (Apparently, Wheel of Fortune is the Most Syndicated Television Game Show. Who knew?)

6. She's a muse. Weird Al has a song about her called Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White. And in 1987, some dude named "Dr. Dave" recorded a song called "Vanna, Pick Me A Letter" which I remember really, really well and can even sing (as DLang can attest), however, it seems my self-proclaimed intarweb-searching queendom is at stake tonight because I can hardly find any info about it. I did find the lyrics, and they're genius:

Vanna pick me a letter,
No one does it any better
I dream about you (Hey, Vanna, is that an all-over tan or what?)

7. Earlier this year, Vanna got her own star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

8. She has fans. They're called, "Vannafans." Aw.

And so, gentle readers, next time you find your job unfulfilling, ask yourself, "What would Vanna do?"

Post Script: Writing this entry has me lamenting the days of shopping with one's Wheel of Fortune earnings, during which my brother and I would yell at the contestant's poor selections.

Winner: "I'd like to buy the player piano for $1500, Pat, and the antique carved giraffe for $450."

G: "What? That guy is an idiot! I totally would have bought the big-screen TV!"

Pat Sajak: "Sounds good. We'll put remaining $85 on a Service Merchandise gift certificate for you!"

Good times.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Do They Know^WCare It's Christmas?

This year, I attended an 80's-themed Hallowe'en party. You can see DLang in that video about halfway through, decked out as Robert Smith and vamping with Madonna, and I'm near the end as Cyndi Lauper also with Madonna (who was clearly a total lip-sync whore). One of the songs they played was Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

Confession: I used to love this song so much that hearing it actually made me a little teary. And by "used to" I mean as recently as last year. It reminds me of high school and Brit pop and my first-ever cassette tape (Wham!'s Make It Big) and makes me all sentimental.

After hearing the song a few times on the radio this year and listening more closely to the lyrics, it still makes me tear up - only now, because I'm laughing so hard. There was a famine in Africa in 1984 when the song was recorded, and I'm sure that when Bob Geldof was inspired to record the song to raise money for Africa, he had the best of intentions. Let's review the lyrics to see how they've held up since the song was first recorded 12 years ago.

While the first verse is grasping a little for a good rhyming scheme, the words are relatively innocuous:

It's Christmastime,
there's no need to be afraid
At Christmastime,
we let in light and we banish shade
And in our world of plenty
we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world
at Christmastime
That's a nice sentiment. Let's continue:
But say a prayer,
pray for the other ones
Hm. Who are these "other ones" for whom George Michael asks us to pray?
At Christmastime it's hard,
but when you're having fun
There's a world outside your window,
and it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing
is the bitter sting of tears
The "bitter sting of tears" - that's classic. And it only gets better.
And the Christmas bells that ring there
are the clanging chimes of doom
That's dramatic.
Well tonight thank God it's them
instead of you

Can you say, "white man's burden"?

This next part is one of my favourites:

And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life

"We feel sorry for Africa, because it doesn't snow there. And also, they don't have Christ, which we as famous British rock stars know that everyone needs, oh, and George, can you pass the eggnog? No, not that one, that's Sting's vegan mix without the rum. Right, that's the one."

Where nothing ever grows
No rain or rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Really? Because it's very important that EVERYONE know it's Christmastime. (You'd definitely have that impression if you went to my hometown, where the local Tim Horton's has a Nativity Scene as big as a Honda Civic. The first year I lived in NY I vowed that I was going to meet a nice Jewish boy and bring him home for the holidays, but it didn't happen, well unless you count D2 but he only lasted 4 months and they didn't overlap with the holidays and anyway he was a jerk. It's also further proof that the world is a funny place when you feel the need to insert multiculturalism and religious tolerance into your half-lesbian family.)

Here's to you raise a glass for everyone
Here's to them underneath that burning sun

"Thanks for that eggnog, that's the stuff. I heard Bob was going to get us some ice, too. No, we're not going skating, Sting. Go back to your tofunog. Simon, tell Boy George I'm going to be in the third stall, he'll know what I'm talking about. Cheerio!"

Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

Monday, December 04, 2006


Just like Sandra Lee is semi-homemade*, I'm now semi-famous! A Datalounger posted a link in the forums to Ultra Fine Flair. While the Kwanzaa Celebration Cakestravaganza isn't exactly how I'd like to be known for my culinary prowess, I'll take it. And might I encourage you to also read about how I made croissants from scratch?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Happy Holidailies!

It appears that at least a couple of people have stumbled on UFF from Holidailies. Without further ado, here is a totally cheap intro to this blog (format plagarized from The Write Coast, another Holidailies participant).

Sunday Meme: Finish the sentence

I’m always: a redhead.

I say too often: "That's so awesome!"

I think flowers are: an awesome (hee) gift, especially cut flowers, because their entire purpose is to make someone happy.

My favorite Beatles song is: "Octopus's Garden"

My parents are: women.

I hate: raisins in stuffing.

I love: daisies, good red wine, and things that are orange.

I was born: on the first day of Summer!

Sometimes I try too hard: .

I work well on things: with other people.

My childhood was: happier before I went to therapy. (It's true.)

I love to read books about: people.

I’m addicted to: the bean.

I drink too much: of the bean.

My earliest memory is: standing up in my crib and saying, "Hello, World!" (which my mom says I did every morning).

The last place I went on vacation was: Connecticut.

I think living far away from: most of my family is probably a good thing.

I want to live closer to: my best friends (who are spread out over 2 countries), Sunny, and the Pacific ocean.

The President is: American. Don't blame me.

The Media is: busy.

Right now, I should be calling: my mom.

The glass is: full of sparkling water.

If I could go anywhere it would be: Paris. No, Santa Cruz. No, Waterloo. No, Madison. No, Andalucia. No, Brazil. Ack!

Life is: a trip. Someone should sell tickets. I'd buy one.

I love the TV show: The O.C.

I don’t get enough time to: be alone.

One of the nicest things someone has ever done for me is: be my friend no matter what.

When no one’s around, I really like to: sing along.

My all-time favorite movie is: "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

If I had a million dollars: I would buy you a green dress.

My dream job would be: working with food and people.

My dream life would be: the one I'm living.

I hope: Memphis lives forever.

I would like: Denver to win the Super Bowl.

I dream about: everything. I had one about breastfeeding a few months ago. It was lovely and peaceful.

I have nightmares about: losing love.

In five years, I want to: be a mom.

On my desk is: a decorative Kleenex box.

My favorite website is: Dooce, because Heather's writing inspires me.

NYTimes Article

Here's a link to the article I mentioned yesterday. It's worth reading.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Context: The Sequel

This morning on the hour-plus trek to Central Park to run the 7th of 9 NYRR qualifying races I need to complete this year for guaranteed entry to next year's NYC marathon, I flipped through the NYTimes Magazine, and almost skipped an article entitled, "The New, Soft Paternalism." (The Magazine section on isn't updated to this week yet; I'll add a link tomorrow.) On first glance, the article appeared to be about gambling self-blacklisting. However, I turned the page to the following highlighted text:

According to Hume, the self that inhabits your body today is only similar to, not identical with, the self that will inhabit your body tomorrow.

That's kind of not what I surmised yesterday.

The article goes on to say that "the self that will inhabit your body decades hence [will be] a virtual stranger."

This got me thinking about my own convictions; the ideas, opinions, and *values* that I consider to be so strong that they are unchangeable and define who I am.

About 6 weeks ago, I attended a workshop entitled "Managing Difficult Conversations" (based on the book "Difficult Conversations"). My biggest takeaway from the workshop was the concept of an "identity quake." The book surmises that
three identity issues seem particularly common, and often underlie what concerns us most during difficult conversations: Am I competent? Am I a good person? Am I worthy of love?
When any of these issues are challenged, we can be knocked off-balance, or have an identity quake.

Now, about those convictions. When a challenge to one of these convictions involves an identity quake - that is, my belief that I am competent, a good person, or am worthy of love is questioned - it becomes much more difficult for me to change my mind, because I believe it (the idea, opinion, value, or belief) defines who I am. Although it doesn't happen all the time, I've certainly caught myself sticking by something I've said simply because I said it with such certainty that changing my mind would be second-guessing my very self.

That is, no matter how much I value someone's opinion, if I'm in a state in which I believe my identity is challenged, I'm less likely to objectively consider a different angle. On the other hand, if I'm confident in Who I Am, it becomes OK for me to change my mind about something, even something I once believed absolutely-and-without-a-doubt. Aha! There's that context again.

It seems to me that it takes a good deal of self-confidence to change what one holds as a firm belief, and that it might even be a sign of strength to change a fundamental conviction.



Pronunciation: 'kän-"tekst
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, weaving together of words, from Latin contextus connection of words, coherence, from contexere to weave together, from com- + texere to weave -- more at TECHNICAL
1 : the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning
2 : the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs : ENVIRONMENT, SETTING

NYC has been unseasonably warm this month. Today, December 1, the temperature reached the high-sixties (that's high-teens for you Readers-of-the-Commonwealth). I've found myself strangely annoyed by this warm-spell, and couldn't quite figure out why I've been longing for a temperature drop when I really hate being cold. I then realized that it's all about context. If this was March, or April, I would be praising global warming for bringing us an early respite from Winter. As it is though, it's December, and in the context of the Northeast, we expect December to bring near-freezing temperatures and snow (and fuzzy sweaters and wooly socks).

A few years ago, two of my best friends (Sirrah! and MFD) were living in sin with their respective significant others (who were, to be clear, not each other). Sirrah! really wanted to get married. MFD didn't (but his girlfriend did). When I talked to Sirrah!, I was all, "Dude, WTF? If he doesn't propose to you soon, I will!" (Kind of funny, actually, because Sirrah! and I have long agreed that cohabitation would destroy our BFFship.) However, when I talked to MFD, I had the opposite opinion: "Marriage is overrated! She should just enjoy living (and breeding) with you." It's all about context.
There is a very old Sufi story about a man whose son captured a strong, beautiful, wild horse, and all the neighbors told the man how fortunate he was. The man patiently replied, "We will see." One day the horse threw the son who broke his leg, and all the neighbors told the man how cursed he was that the son had ever found the horse. Again the man answered, "We will see." Soon after the son broke his leg, soldiers came to the village and took away all the able-bodied young men, but the son was spared. When the man's friends told him how lucky the broken leg was, the man would only say, "We will see."
(Source: Yoga Journal)

This story is usually used to illustrate gratitude, but it also helps me to appreciate the value of context. The two concepts are, of course, related, and the point of this story is really that the people, events or things for which we are grateful may depend upon the context in which we experience them.

We can create context, too, and many of us do so regularly, often without even realizing it. When I complimented Brianna's manicure yesterday, she said she loves manicures, but doesn't get them often: "If I always got them, it wouldn't be special." (Manicures in NYC are cheap; getting one weekly would cost about half as much as buying a latte every day at Starbucks.) Bri is creating a context in which she doesn't take a luxury for granted. Similarly, if I want to develop a particular skill, I would do well to associate myself with people who have that skill and from whom I can learn.

I'm starting to realize that one's self can be context-sensitive, too: My context is the set of interrelated conditions in which I exist. The answer to the question, "Who am I?" might vary depending on when, where, why, and how I am at any given moment. However, I think there's a fundamental answer that isn't context-sensitive, one that has to do with core values. There is a me that doesn't depend on any external settings, and just *is*, and the challenge to answer that question at the most basic level is both exciting and daunting. Further, I'm more likely to find that "me" if I put myself in contexts that are nurturing and supportive to those values.

And with that last sentence, I'm pretty sure UFF can now be classified as "New Age."

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Blogging Fun Continues!

Welcome to December! Friends in NY - you might think it's actually late-April from the weather (the flowers on my block certainly do, as they continue to bloom rather enthusiastically), but no, here we are, only 24 short days until Christmas. W00t!

Though the end of November means that NaBloPloMo is over, Holidailies is just beginning, and I've signed up as a Portal Participant. That means if you look at the Holidailies site, you'll see Ultra Fine Flair listed along the left side, which also means that Blogger better watch out, because traffic to UFF is going to SKYROCKET!

And you guys can say you knew me way back when.

Kwanzaa Celebration Cakestravaganza

A few days ago, Brianna IM'd me a link, which I unfortunately clicked.

Go ahead, click it. I dare you.

I watch the Food Network a lot. It's like my porn. Nine times out of ten, when DLang comes home later than me, I'm sitting on the couch, eating something of questionable nutritional value (hi bag of chocolate chips!), and watching FoodTV. I can watch just about anything on that channel, but should Sandra Lee's show "Semi-Homemade" come on air, I'm out. I'm all for convenience, but come on Sandra! A few weeks ago (while searching frantically for the remote control to END THE HORROR) I glimpsed her scooping out the insides of a pumpkin pie and a cheesecake, and mixing them together to make a pumpkin cheesecake filling. It was just wrong.

Now, in all my years of using the World Wide Web, I've seen some crazy shit - however, I don't think I've seen anything quite like Sandra Lee's Kwanzaa Celebration Cake. It's offensive and wrong on so many levels. For one, the recipe includes a store-bought angel food cake, corn nuts, and canned apple pie filling. Those things DO NOT GO TOGETHER. (Frankly, canned apple pie filling doesn't go with anything, although when we were grocery shopping for Project: Kwanzaa Celebration Cake, Brianna charitably suggested that a non-baker might use it to bake an apple pie. She's nicer than me.) Next, the recipe is on, Now, I know Thomas Keller isn't exactly vying for a slot on the Food Network, but there are some respected, reputable chefs who contribute, and what exactly do Mario Batali and Wolfgang Puck think of the "food" that Sandra "cooks"? Thirdly, look at her, and think hard about what this woman knows about Kwanzaa.

Let's look at that picture again:


Anyway, we decided to get together and create this culinary delight. A quick stop at Key Food and $20 (we also bought ice cream) yielded the necessary ingredients. (Brianna had the more reasonable ingredients at home, like vanilla, cinnamon and cocoa. Somewhat surprisingly she also had corn nuts, which is good because we actually couldn't find those at the grocery store.)

I sliced the angel food cake in half and placed the bottom on Brianna's grandma's silver platter. (We really are just that classy.) Brianna mixed up the frosting, and despite my protests and the recipe CLEARLY stating that we should use a large bowl, she insisted upon adding the mix-ins directly to the frosting cannister, claiming, "That's how Sandra would do it." Spillage was minimal. We then frosted the cake (Sandra doesn't use a crumb coat) and got to the fun stuff: Canned apple pie filling. 21 ounces of it.

"There's no way this is all going in that hole."

"Make it fit. Come on, just jam it in there."

Hehe. That's what she said.

Next came the fun stuff: pumpkin seeds, popcorns, and corn nuts.

Why, Sandra? Why? What compelled you to put corn nuts on a cake?

Three Jim & Gingers later, we had assembled our masterpiece. Either Sandra's cake (and thus her hole, hehe) was much bigger than ours, or she was daintier than her recipe called for with those toppings, because, dudes, look at this thing:

(We forgot the candles.)

We actually did taste it and then rinsed our mouths with turpentine, because turpentine was less offensive to our taste buds than store-bought vanilla frosting mixed with cinnamon and cocoa. Then we drank some more bourbon.

Photographic evidence is available on Flickr.

Brianna's recap of our cakestravaganza is on Random Access Babble.

Thursday, November 30, 2006


I love Chinese takeout. We don't have it very often, but the other night, due to an extreme lack of grocery in the Langenberg fridge, we called Red Hot and ordered up chicken with hot pepper sauce & peanuts, beef with broccoli, and fried pork dumplings. Red Hot rocks. The delivery arrived so quickly that I suspect they prepared it on the way over. The hot pepper chicken was deliciously spicy, and the broccoli was crispy, and overall, yum. Red Hot also sends along an orange to cut up for dessert, which is always a happy surprise to me when I unpack the goods.

My two favourite things about Chinese takeout, though, are the little boxes, and Fortune Cookies.

In Canada, Chinese takeout doesn't come in little boxes. It usually comes in those aluminum pie-plate-like containers with cardboard lids. And, you know, those containers do a perfectly fine job of holding a serving of chow mein or General Tso's Chicken. But the little boxes are just so cool, and seeing Jerry & George eating Chinese takeout out of them always caused me much envy. Not long after I moved to California, MFD (also Canadian) visited one weekend and we ate Chinese takeout out of the little boxes and were so totally excited about it that we actually took pictures. (Those little boxes are also perfect vessels for Christmas cookie distribution. For a couple of years I bought them from The Container Store at 69¢ a pop. Last year I realized that it would probably be much more cost-effective to purchase white ones from a Chinese restaurant, and sure enough, most are willing to part with them for 25¢ each - woo! More money for sprinkles!)

So, yeah, love the little boxes.

The other thing I love is the Fortune Cookie. I like the shape of Fortune Cookies. I like the taste of them (Red Hot's are chocolate-flavoured and yummy). And, I love the fortune. Fortunes are so fun. Yeah, adding "in bed" at the end is funny (and if you've never seen the movie Guinevere, it's worth watching just for the Fortune Cookie "in bed" line - hilare). I vaguely remember a superstition about eating the whole cookie before reading the fortune, but I don't know where that's from. I've heard that keeping a fortune in one's wallet is really common. I have two in mine right now. One I keep because it is totally hilarious: "Avoid compulsively making things worse." Good advice, eh? The other I have because it's totally true: "You are the master of every situation." Ha. And I'm going to keep the one I got the other night, because it makes me happy: "There will be someone sharing your warmth."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gillian's Head

Remember the TV show Herman's Head? I only saw a couple of episodes, mostly because my brother *loved* it. Every time the main character (Herman) had to make an important decision, actors representing his emotions would weigh in.

That's how my head is working today. The internal dialogue is so present that it's like there are people standing around me giving me advice and ideas and telling me how I feel, and none of them can agree on any of it. Fuckers.

Take this morning:

Genius: We're awake, but we're not going to look at the clock because then we'll have a better chance at falling back asleep.
Wimp: Crap! We saw the clock. It's 6:30. Our alarm is going off in an hour. There's no way we can fall asleep before then!
Animal: Feh. We're just going to get up now.
Genius: Why don't we just reset the alarm clock to 8:30?
Wimp: We'll never get to work by 9:30! We have a meeting!
Angel: It's OK. We need to sleep. People at work will understand.

And so on like that, all day. I'm often aware of this dialogue, but when these guys are all bickery, decisions take a lot longer (and are ultimately a lot less certain). I'm going to put them to bed early tonight and maybe they'll be a little more agreeable tomorrow.

(Adventures in "baking" have been postponed until Thursday.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

So Much For That Second Post

"Hey Gillian, can I talk to you?"

"Instead, how about I just lay down on the floor and you kick me?"

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sneak Preview

Tomorrow's post is going to be very special for a number of reasons. For one, it involves the following ingredients:

1 (10 to 12-ounce) purchased angel food cake
1 container (16 ounce) vanilla frosting
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (21-ounce) container apple filling or topping
1 (1.7-ounce) package corn nuts
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/2 cup popped popcorn

Be afraid.

(I'm still going to post tonight, making today an extra-special 2-post bonus day. Hopefully that makes up for spending the weekend in Colonial Times, before the internets were discovered.)

Country Roads

This weekend, DLang planned a weekend getaway for us at a Connecticut B&B. Getting away from NYC for the weekend is more complicated than getting away from most places, because it involves renting a car. In Brooklyn, most car rental places are closed on Sunday, so the car-rental adventure includes finding parking on Sunday night when one returns.

Friday morning, still slightly hungover from turkey and pie, we walked down to Enterprise Rent-A-Car on 3rd Ave. in Brooklyn. We stopped for coffee and egg sandwiches and arrived around noon to pick up the car. After completing the paperwork, the (very pleasant) clerk told us, "We don't have any cars right now, so you'll get the first one that comes in. Is that OK?"

I'm pretty even-keel, and my default response in this kind of situation would be, "Sure!" and I'd smile and make DLang sit out on the curb with me playing rock-paper-scissors or something until the car arrived. On Friday, however, Gillian's Cranky Stars were aligned, and I replied, "No." The girl looked a little surprised, but I continued: "That could take several hours, right?"

"Oh no, it shouldn't take that long," she replied. Right. I asked her about our other options, and she told me we could have a pickup truck. My husband looked quite startled when I told her we'd take it. He started to make arguments about gas and parking, but I was pretty sure I wasn't going to wait around for a car to come in. She asked me if we'd prefer a small or large truck, and we unanimously answered, "Small."


This is Kevin, who had to drive us in his own car (to which he referred as "The Tank") to the Enterprise location in Bay Ridge to pick up our pickup. He is standing beside the small pickup truck! I wonder what the large one looked like.

On the way to Connecticut, we played a little game called Spot The Cell Phone Tower Disguised As A Tree:

We spent Saturday in the town of Putnum, Connecticut, and since it is known as the "Antique Capital of the Northeast", we looked at some antiques (like "scrapbook", I am opposed to the use of "antique" as a verb). We ate a very delicious lunch (mmm... crabcakes) at 85 Main, and drank fancy coffee-based beverages at a little cafe up the street. Before dinner, we hung out at the b&b and played a couple of games of Scrabble (1-1) and a couple of games of Chez Geek (thanks Merman!) which I think I mostly lost.

Hilariously, on Saturday night we ate dinner at a "Southwestern-influenced" restaurant -- hilarious because we were pretty much as Northeast as we could get.

Before we left town on Sunday, I stopped to photograph a truckful of decoy Canada geese. Awesome.

Our truck came in handy on the way home, when we stopped at Ikea in New Haven for some retail therapy (and Swedish meatballs). I really love furniture assembly and when we got home I put together our new bathroom cabinet then banished DLang so that I could organize everything, which surprisingly makes me really happy (surprising because I'm not very organized at all).

Tomorrow morning our weekend adventure will continue when we attempt to pick up our monster truck from the parking garage (an excellent call by my husband, and well worth the $30 it's costing us for the NIGHT, and yes, I know, in places like Madison it costs like 25¢ to park for a week, that is, if the attendant feels like charging you at all). Furniture assembly and organization will continue all week, so check back early and often for updates.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Happy Turkey Day, American friends!

Last year DLang and I celebrated U.S. Thanksgiving in Argentina. Our Thanksgiving meal consisted of a buffet lunch with fellow turistas in the Andes Mountains on our way back from visiting Puente del Inca.

This year, we spent the afternoon with friends in Brooklyn. There were about 15 adults and 2 babies representing at least 5 countries (including one guy from Kazahkstan, yes, really). JSol cooked up an amazing turkey and we had side dishes from my absolute favourite restaurant ever (including a freaking amazing winter squash soup). Have you ever noticed how Thanksgiving dinner has this remarkable expanding property, whereby it looks like a reasonable amount of food when it's on your plate but halfway through eating you're totally full?

My contribution to the meal was 3 pies: banana cream, pumpkin, and maple pecan (for the latter two I used recipes from The New Best Recipe, which I cannot recommend highly enough for good recipes for practically anything you can think of), accompanied by bourbon whipped cream. (I realized today that if there is a maple variation for a recipe, I will almost inevitably chose it, and I always have gallons of maple syrup around. DLang says it's genetic.) We also brought along some Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Squares that I made last weekend.

My future Thanksgiving food goals include deep-frying a turkey, the mere thought of which makes my mouth water (even right now when I am so full that I can't even button my jeans), and cooking a turducken (mostly because it's hilare, although I hear they're actually quite good).

As for giving thanks, well, I think gratitude deserves its own posting. Right now I'm thankful that it's a long weekend and that I can spend the evening in my jammies drinking tea.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Invest Your Passion

Aspiring to blog daily about something relatively interesting (or at least, something about which I have enough of an opinion to write a couple of paragraphs) has caused me to spend more time thinking about things that fit that category. This morning's thoughts led me ask myself, "What am I waiting for?"

I've envisioned some pretty great stuff for myself and my life. I have ideas about how I'd like my living space (clean, organized, a little cluttered, crafty, colourful, happy), my food (fresh, local, unprocessed, home-cooked), my body (healthy, toned, muscular, fit), my mind (clear, sharp, uncluttered), my friendships (caring, respectful), etc. Being really explicit about my goals has helped me to accomplish some of them (OK, some were gimmes, like running a marathon which I added after I was past the point of no return in training) and I think I can continue to add to and check off the list, thus creating the life I want to have and becoming the person I want to be.

Like many of my friends, I sometimes choose goals JUST because they're challenging, (see also: Marty McFly). When I graduated from high school, I could have studied either English (creative writing) or Math in University. I chose the latter, because I thought it would yield a more lucrative career (which I'm sure it did), and also because Math is more challenging, and fewer women go into that field of study, so BRING IT. Above: "His only major character flaw is his persistent desire to show others that he isn't a coward, which sometimes causes him to take unnecessary risks."

My recent epiphany about self really got me thinking about who I want to be. This morning it became apparent to me that there are certain parts of myself that I've been repressing somehow, and certain things that I haven't been doing because I'm afraid of being judged or of doing them wrong or of failing or because I'm waiting for Something To Happen.

I tend to feel a twinge of envy towards those people whose lives have been affected by some big challenge - you know, that Something Happened - because it gives them an obvious place in which to invest their passion. An abundance of choice can be daunting, and having infinite opportunities for passion-investment can be downright paralyzing!

On the other hand, though, it's kind of exciting: What if you could do anything and be anyone you wanted? And if that's the case, what you waiting for?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


If The Universe used my tags might include: daughter, sister, wife, friend, catmom. (I guess it would depend on The Universe's tagging preferences - the tags could also be more specific, like DOSsister or DLangwife.) I might be able to browse The Universe's items and tags and look at all the items tagged "redhead" or "SirrahBFF," and I'd certainly have some expectation of what an item with any given tag would be like.

Lately I've had a lot of expectations of myself in different areas of my life. Obviously, we all do, and that's OK. What I realized, thanks in no small part to therapy (to which I should probably just devote one whole entry because being in therapy has been such an interesting experience), is that the real conundrum happens when I try to meet other peoples' expectations about who I should be.

To wit: Last week, I glumly told my therapist that I'm afraid I'm not going to be the person that other people want me to be, to which he enthusiastically replied, "That's great!" I laughed and asked him what he meant. He said, "Can you imagine the pressure of trying to be who someone else wants you to be?!"

Later in the same session, he asked, "What if you were afraid of not being the person that *you* want to be?"

It was a total "Aha!" moment, the kind that makes me keep going to therapy even though for the rest of the year it's costing me $125 per session OUT OF POCKET because my awesome health care plan is sure that any mental health problem I might have can be neatly resolved in 30 sessions per calendar year. Thanks Oxford, and whatever.

Anyway, thinking about self reminded me of 2 things. One is about my friend C, whose husband taught her the mantra, "I'm C, who the fuck are you?" It's a lot less Stuart Smalley when you put it that way.

The second thing is a Cary Tennis column I read earlier this year about self:

There are many ways to describe a self: As a set of memories, for instance. You are the storehouse of all that has occurred; you are the repository of and expert on all events occurring to you, a curator of memories, a collector.

Then there are your talents and abilities, the things you do with particular relish or style. Most interesting to me, though, is your collection of incidents of maximum impact, moments of insight, life-changing events: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, the thing that has made all the difference. Some of these things involve unknowing knowledge, unsayable understandings. Certain things work for us: certain painters, certain tunes. That we can know dependably what works for us is also a measure of self.

I've said this about a zillion times and it seems like right now I need to remind myself about it: Sometimes I look to other people for validation of myself. The interesting thing about that is, if someone looks to me to validate him- or herself, does that automatically give me credibility and/or validation? And if so, then why not just take that other person out of the loop altogether and believe in whatever I believe in?

In other words: I'm Gillian. Who the fuck are you?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Movie Reviews^H

Casino Royale

On Friday night DLang and I braved the opening-night crowds to see the newest James Bond flick, Casino Royale. (Obligatory tangent: When I lived in Ottawa and the extreme sub-zero winter temperatures necessitated hibernation for 1/4 of the year, I attempted to watch all of the James Bond movies chronologically. I think I only made it to You Only Live Twice before giving up, but then I married someone who has not only seen all the films, but he's also read all the books on which they were based.) James Bond is now played by Daniel Craig, and you know what they say about a man with two first names. Heh. Anyway, Daniel Craig is hot. As James Bond, he reminds me a bit of Jack Bauer in 24. He's a little edgier and less, well, charming about everything than his predecessor. Bond girl Eva Green (please click that link, SFW and I swear you will not regret it) was pretty good, all smoky-eyed and cleavage-y, but the plotline involving 007 getting googly-eyed over her added an unnecessary (and even boring) 20 minutes to an already-long film. (When I complained about the lengthy Venetian vacation, Bond-expert DLang informed me that in the books, Bond even quits the service at one point and *gets married* which makes me happy that screenwriters and directors have some liberties with the stories.) There are some awesomely over-the-top scenes, like the crane chase, which had me laughing aloud in delight at it's absurdity. Mads Mikkelsen is good and creepy, and Ivana Miličević's dress in the casino scene is mesmerizing.

I didn't love the Chris Cornell rendition of "You Know My Name" (which is too bad, because I LOVED Soundgarden and was really sad when they broke up) - it just didn't get me all quivering with anticipation like Madonna's "Die Another Day." And I'd be interested to hear what other women think about the torture scene. Without spoiling it for anyone, let's just say it was gender-specific and I'm not sure I fully appreciated the extent of the implied pain.

Overall I'd give it my stamp of approval. Get it? Stamp?

(Oh, and while I was researching the links for this review, I found this little gem: There was a short story in the "Octopussy and the Living Daylights" collection called "007 in New York" in which Bond "muses about New York City, and his favourite recipe for scrambled eggs, during a quick mission to the Big Apple to warn a female MI6 employee that her new boyfriend is a KGB agent." DLang, that is so going in your Christmas stocking this year. Also, wouldn't "Octopussy and the Living Daylights" be an awesome band name?)

I was planning to also review Transamerica, which we watched on Saturday night, but it took me way too long to write the Bond review so I'm signing out for tonight. Hasta la pasta, amigos.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Well, friends, 'tis the season and all that. The weather here in the NYC has been unseasonably warm, and yesterday while lunching in a Murry Hill diner, I found it a bit disconcerting to hear Christmas muzak. Thanksgiving (a.k.a. Turkey Day in the US of A - I almost died the first time I heard someone unironically wish someone else, "Happy Turkey Day!" because, hilarious) is on Thursday, and Christmas just a month after that and there's all kinds of consumerism to be had between now and then.

I've been diligently tagging gift ideas on the internets but so far the only thing I've purchased is DLang's Xmas non-surprise present (tickets to the Bills game, in Buffalo, on Christmas Eve, because I'm totally the best wife ever, right babe?). I'm hoping that once it snows I'll feel more spendy and maybe even get inspired to make something awesome for my friends. A couple of years ago I gave people homemade spice rubs, which were really fun and easy to make. The year I had knee surgery I knit a lot of scarves, and hand-made winter accessories are still an option, especially for the toddlers on my list (at least, the ones living in the North). My brother's ex-girlfriend has themes for her Christmas gifts - one year it was cuddling, and she gave us all blankets and hot chocolate, which I think is really awesome.

Anyway. In all this thinking about giving and generosity it occurred to me that all of us have gifts for people around us that don't cost us anything. This week, I'm going to challenge myself to give something every day in the form of a sincere compliment, preferably to a stranger.

Want to join me?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dear Internet: I am not cool.

Dear Internet,

Today I took a class to learn to make pop-up greeting cards. On Thursday night I excitedly shopped for supplies (like the baking supply place, I really shouldn't be allowed to walk into a stationery store without adult supervision). $75 later, I was equipped with, among other things, a self-healing cutting mat, an X-Acto knife, and a bone folder. W00t!

I arrived at the class bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to cut-and-paste my way to awe-inspiring greeting cards. The first thing the teacher did was show us how to use a roller rubber stamp. Yes. A rubber stamp. Now, here's where I'm going to sound like a big snob and probably offend someone you know (but bear with me, OK? Because I swear I'll redeem myself). I'm, well, not crazy about stamping. It's one of those things that I look at when I'm at Michael's and think, "Hm, those are cute," and then go look at supplies for whatever legitimate craft I'm shopping for.

Anyway, the instructor presented us with the rubber stamp and told us how to roll it on the first piece of cardstock as the first step in making a simple "step" pop-up card. Cutting, folding, colouring-in, and pasting ensued, and within half an hour, voilà! One pop-up greeting card, replete with hand-coloured farm animals.

Despite the first card's creation requiring liberal use of rubber stamps, I assumed that, you know, not *all* of the rest of the cards would employ stamps. I was wrong. Each and every card not only employed rubber stampage, many required the use of several stamps in a set. These stamping sets are sold in catalogues, and if one is so inclined, one can host a "stamping party" (à la Tupperware party) with kickbacks (free stamp sets!) for the hostess, etc.

I haven't redeemded myself yet, have I?

OK, Internet, I admit it, I really enjoyed the class. The pop-up techniques are smart and easy and yield really cool results (you'll see!). I'm still not going to run out and buy a bunch of rubber stamps (although I admit that I've had my eye on a few at Paper-Source, like this one and this one, in case you're Christmas shopping). I definitely underestimated the popularity of stamping as a hobby, and the skill of the people who are really good at it!

After the class, I left L a message to tell her what I'd been up to, including a warning that she better not tell anyone because it's totally not cool. She called me back and crazily coincidentally, she'd been out buying stamps for her Christmas cards! (I don't think hers are quite as, um, cute as the ones we used today.) I then stopped by DLang's office to show him and Dr. Funstuff the fruits of my labours. They were surprisingly impressed, and DLang even seemed OK with the knowledge that his wife is now 32 going on 50.


P.S. I didn't just realize that I'm not cool. I've known it for a while.

P.P.S. I still don't think "scrapbook" should be used as a verb.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Finally Fall

Today is dark and smells like rain and feels like fall.


I Heart NY

After a 4 year hiatus, I returned to California this year. Twice. The first time was for a short visit in the Spring. I played in the Pacific Ocean (literally - on that visit, I surfed for the first time). I marveled over the green, which is indescribably different from the green anywhere else I've been. I talked tech with my friends and laughed at all their geeky jokes (especially the ones involving regular expressions). I inhaled fresh eucalyptus and jasmine and swooned over citrus trees (which are magical to me).I even brought back a suitcase full of Meyer Lemons, which are yellower and juicier and sweeter than regular lemons, and made marmalade from them when I got home.

The second visit was this Fall for the marathon, and that trip included stops at the Santa Cruz Monarch Butterfly Preserve and the Monterey Aquarium, and the most amazing walks on the beach I've ever experienced.

And now I'm back in New York, and after all that romanticizing about the West Coast, I've decided to remind myself why I fell in love with this city in the first place.

I love the New York City subway system, aka the MTA. I love that you can go anywhere in the whole city (and all the boroughs!) for only $2, and not only do you not need a car because the subway is so awesome, it would really be a pain in the ass to have one.

I love Time Out NY. The Get Naked 2006 Sex Poll results published in this week's issue had me laughing out loud. And I wasn't just laughing because Jamie Bufalino is hilarious, but because NY is full of freaks, and I love them, too. (In finding those links I just discovered that TONY has a blog! Sage, meet TONY blog. TONY blog, meet Sage.)

I love New York Cake Supplies. It costs me $60 just to walk into this place. I used to work only 4 blocks away, which was much more dangerous. Rest assured, I'll be making a special pre-Christmas-cookie-baking trip.

Want to take a class? On anything AT ALL? NY has one. This Saturday, I'm attending a class about how to make pop-up greeting cards. (Yes, that does mean I'm upping the ante for your next birthday card.)

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon Inflation - I'm there. (A few years ago DLang and I went to the parade itself, and it must have been the coldest Thanksgiving Day Parade EVER, and he is a really good sport.)

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Sing-Along - I'm extra there.

New York City is the culmination of your wildest fantasies: available 24/7; wearing whatever you want, whenever you want; willing to keep you up all night for whatever amount you can afford to spend. It will feed you any type of cuisine at any time, day or night. It will show you energy beyond what you thought possible from a city.

And, it will inspire you.