Sunday, October 25, 2009

Because I love you and I want you to be happy...

...we are going to play a little game.

Lately, I have had some friends come to me asking for advice or another point of view, which I am more than happy to give. Everyone could use another voice in their head every once in a while. (What's that? Shhh... be quiet. I'm typing here. We'll talk later.)

Anywho...I figured there might be a few more of you out there, that need some advice, but are afraid to ask, so we are going to play the Spaghetti Noodle Game. Here's how it works:

Have you ever heard that if want to test your noodles to see if they are done, you throw them against the wall? If the noodle sticks, they are ready. Now, this seems ridiculous to me. I don't know why anyone in their right mind(s) would throw their food against the wall when they can just eat it to test to see if it's done. I didn't say it made sense, I just wondered if you've heard that. (You have? Great, but I'm not asking you, I'm asking them. Sshhh... I said we'd talk later.)

So, I'm going to take this pot of spaghetti noodles, full of random advice, and I am going to throw it out there. If any of it sticks to you, you are welcome.

Sometimes when things are stressful, spouses say things they don't do mean or speak without thinking. At moments like this, give each other a pass. Make up a little coupon that says, "This pass entitles you to immediate forgiveness for the dumb thing you said when we were in a stressful situation." Give your spouse a few and keep some for yourself. They may come in handy. Don't dwell on it, harp on it, or drag it on. Just forgive.

If you haven't touched that lotion, shampoo, perfume, makeup, tonic, or potion in the past 3 months, throw it out.

If you can't turn in a movie on time, sign up for Netflix.

Don't waft the blankets.

If your new shoes are a little big there are these pads with adhesive on the back that you can buy and put them on the inside heel of the shoe.

Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Did I mention that I love you?

You would be surprised at how little people think of you. They don't think you are little, they just don't think about you as much as you may think they they think about you.

Sometimes the voices in your head are just trying to help. (Yes, I told them about Netflix. Gimme another second. I have to click "Publish Post," then we'll talk.)

What do you mean you don't like my dinner?!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Halloween to outdo all Halloweens

Nathan Hale, a soldier for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, famously said,
“I only regret that I have but one month to celebrate Halloween,” or something like that.
I can relate to Captain Hale’s sentiments. I love the month of October and Halloween and each year I try to do it bigger and better than the year before.
Let them eat soup
I’ve inadvertently set a high standard for myself. My kids enjoyed last year’s Mystery Halloween Menu so much that they’ve asked that we do it again! If you missed last year’s article when I wrote about our new family tradition, here’s a taste:
“First, start by setting a fit-for-a-ghoul Halloween table. In order to keep the cost low, I use my holiday dishes, Halloween decorations I already have on hand and some skull straws and an orange table liner I purchased from the dollar store.
Now that the table is set, create a “mystery menu,” from the meals you were already planning on serving. If you are having spaghetti, change the name to “Worms and Gut Sauce.” Or, if you are having chili, change the name to “Ground Goblin Brains with Beans.” Just be creative with the names. If you have young boys, like me, you’ll score extra -cool-mom points for the gross-out factor.
Adding food coloring is another inexpensive, but fun way to add some creepiness to your Halloween dinner. For instance, Black as a Bat Meat Loaf or Purple People Eater Chicken Pot Pie.
With their stomachs full of a spooky, but square meal, a few pieces of candy before bed shouldn’t be a big deal.”
In an effort to “outspook” last year’s Halloween feast, this year I will make soup in a pumpkin. No, not pumpkin soup, but soup cooked in a pumpkin. The recipe and instructions from are as follows:

1 well shaped 5 lb. pumpkin1 c. grated cheese (Mozzarella or Gruyere)1 c. cooked ham, chopped2 c. toasted croutons2 c. creamPinch of nutmegSalt and pepper
Remove top of pumpkin. Scoop out seeds and stringy portion. Fill pumpkin with layers of cheese, ham, and croutons. Combine cream and seasonings. Pour into pumpkin, adding more cream, if necessary to fill shell. Cover with aluminum foil and place pumpkin in baking pan. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Bake 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring several times. Remove pumpkin from oven; place on large serving dish. Top pumpkin with lid and serve soup from pumpkin "bowl". Serves 4.

A recipe with ham, cheese, cream, and in a pumpkin, even, can’t get much better than that!
The early decorator catches the millipede

To “outhaunt” last year I had to start early. I started decorating for Halloween in September! It’s an illness, I’m sure.
Mini Me and I created a Halloween tree from a small tree branch we painted black and decorated with little ghosts hung by gingham ribbon. I stuffed and tied squares I cut from an old white sheet to create the ghosts “bodies” and Mini Me used a marker to draw on their spooky faces. Our ghostly tree is now a centerpiece for the coffee table in our living room. My next project was the outside.
I’ve never ventured far past the front door with my Halloween decorations, although I have admired the effort of others. A couple years ago, someone in my neighborhood recreated a spooky graveyard in front of their house, complete with headstones and cobwebs, minus the bodies, I think. I hope.
Decorating our front yard was a group effort. Boy #1, Boy #2, Mini Me and I created a giant millipede.
We used eight pumpkins of various sizes, a couple bags of carrots and a four foot length of rebar.
First, the boys performed the lobotomy on what would be the millipedes head and I carved the freaky face.
Mini Me was in charge of preparing the “body.” After I cut the pumpkins in half, she worked to “disembowel” them. Then, the cleaned-out pumpkin halves were laid end to end in an “s” pattern on the grass to create the millipede’s body.
Next, we drove the piece of rebar into the ground at an angle and left enough of the length sticking out to support two pumpkins and the carved-out head, giving the effect that the millipede was rising up to eat you, I mean, meet you.
Finally, we carved small holes in the side of the pumpkins to insert the carrots or “legs” of the millipede. The result is a great yard decoration to outdo anything we’ve done before, until next year.
If you pass out candy, they will come

For the first time ever, I will meet the trick-o-treaters half-way; I will pass out candy from my driveway.
We are going to give our door bell a rest. Secret Agent Man and I will set up a couple of lawn chairs and light the fire pit and watch the costume parade as it comes and goes. What a great night it’s going to be with our fire, our bowl of candy, and hordes of ghouls, fairy princesses, and Jedi knights. I’ll be sad when it’s over.
I can imagine Captain Hale during the American Revolution doing something similar. Standing around the campfire with the other soldiers, trying to stay warm and thinking to himself, “October is almost over, perhaps now, I will just give my life for my country.”

Friday, October 16, 2009

It's things like this that make me love being a woman

Givin' the Kathy Van Zeland a break. This is my new "baby" from Nicole Lee!
Say "hello" everyone.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

It was the wedding of the year! I'm glad I was there.

Congratulations to Jim and Pam! True love forevah!!

In honor of National Poetry Day and my favorite month

I love poetry that is accessible and relatable. I don't like reading poetry that requires a secret code to understand. I think that negates the purpose of being a writer; to clearly communicate your message. This is an example of one of my favorite poems about my favorite month.


The month is amber,

Gold, and brown.

Blue ghosts of smoke

Float through the town,

Great V's of geese

Honk overhead

And maples turn

A fiery red.

Frost bites the lawn.

The stars are slits

In a black cat's eye

Before she spits

At last, small witches,

Goblins, hags,

And pirates armed

With paper bags,

Their costumes hinged

On safety pins,

Go haunt a night

Of pumpkin grins.

-John Updike

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Make your travel treasures part of home sweet home

A noren (Japanese door curtain) frames a collection of masks. Japanese postcards add the finishing touch on either side of this “Great Wall” of souvenirs.

If you follow of my articles, you may remember a month back I wrote about having a yard sale to help pay for the souvenirs for our upcoming family vacation. We had a wonderful time at Walt Disney World (thanks for asking). We came home with lots of goodies: stuffed animals, water bottles, caps, sunglasses, and, of course, Mickey Mouse t-shirts.

Mere days after our return from Disney World, Secret Agent Man left for Asia. He visited the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Xiamen, China.

We love to show off the things we collect from our travels. Nothing says, “Nah-ner, nah-ner, look where we’ve been,” than a home with well-placed souvenirs.

Whether your souvenirs are from your own travels or gifts from another jet-setter, here are a few tips on how to shop and incorporate travel treasures into the décor of your home.

Black, the universal color
When you are perusing the wares in Peru, it may be hard to remember the correct shade of green you have in your living room. One way to avoid a mismatch it to always buy a decorative souvenir with the color black in it. Black is the universal color of decorating. If it has black it can be worked in somewhere, somehow into your present décor. Black reads as sophisticated, simple, rich, clean, and modern all at the same time.

Buy in pairs in Paraguay or triples in Tripoli
One little Buddha statue may seem lonely on a shelf, but two Buddhas equal bookends! Sometimes it’s hard to find a place for one Chinese scroll or one bottle of sand from your favorite beach in Mexico. But, if you buy them in two’s or three’s then you have an instant grouping that can go anywhere.

If you buy in multiples you may end up, advertently or inadvertently, starting a collection. My brother-in-law has an impressive collection of masks from around the world. Some he has collected himself, others were gifts. Over the years it has become a prize family collection that’s displayed proudly in their Atlanta home.

Go big or go home
Instead of bringing home a suitcase full of magnets, key chains, and snow globes, invest in one big souvenir, perhaps a painting, a big pot, or carved wooden plaque that can be hung over a doorway or mantle. Larger items make a statement.

One of my favorite souvenirs is a giant fan that my brother brought home from his time in Japan. The intended receiver was my mother but, when I had a big niche above my stairs to fill, that fan turned out to be just the right size for the space. Everyone who enters Casa de Payne comments on it.

Hanging in an adjacent hallway is a kimono that my brother also brought back from Japan. Again, the intended recipient was my mom. After we all took turns wearing it for Halloween, the kimono found a place of honor on the wall. It hangs by the sleeves on a curtain rod.

Postcards from Paris
I don’t have a nice camera and I am not a good photographer, so I depend on postcards. But, I don’t just bring them home and stick them in a drawer, I frame them. One of my favorites is a collection of vintage-style postcards I bought in Hawaii. I used a dark wood, collage frame to show them off. I have another framed collection of postcards Secret Agent Man brought me from India. I picked three of my favorites that were taken in the palace of Mysore. I used a gold frame to compliment the throne of the Raja pictured in the postcard.

Show off a Great Wall of souvenirs with color
Every great wall of souvenirs I have seen has been displayed on a wall painted in a beautiful color, one that sets off the collection. I recommend a rich, dark color. Add enlarged, framed pictures of the origin of your collection, especially if you are in them.

Don’t travel globally, think locally
We are so lucky to live in an area with so much natural beauty, with artisans and photographers that have been inspired by that beauty. Buy local souvenirs. Create a “Colorado” room. I love pictures of our home state, especially over-sized pictures of the Colorado National Monument.
Epcot or Estes Park, gadabout or a homebody, you don’t have to have your passport stamped to have your own Great Wall of souvenirs.