Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

Hello, friends! Happy New Year!

A non-zero number of you have asked about my writing schedule for 2011. I think this was spurred by the fact that you (they) saw less of me over at UpTake and Beyond Megapixels in November and December. The special project I was working on at UpTake occupied my writing quota – if you follow me on Facebook you may have seen the “playlists” I was publishing for a while (like this one). Now that the project is wrapped up, I’ll be going back to my regular posting schedule of two vacation blog posts per week. As for Beyond Megapixels, I’ve decreased my writing quota over there a bit (7 per month at the moment, plus the contributions of a very excellent guest writer), but we’re hoping that will pick back up in the new year (oh, and I know I pimped it on Twitter and Facebook, but if you haven’t read my latest article, you should! I’m proud of it, and it’s been getting really positive feedback! Which was the point.). Finally, I’m still writing for Demand Studios, to the tune of about three or four articles a week.

It strikes me, as I peruse the job boards for more freelance work, that I’m much more optimistic about being able to one day support our family on my writing income. It also strikes me that, as much as I love photography, it is to my writing that I continue to turn to pursue my ambitions. I guess one’s first love is always one’s strongest love. Plus, of course, it’s easier to freelance in writing when one has a full-time job – I can write at night and on weekends and only have to contend with my own schedule. It’s harder to line up photography gigs around a full-time job.

Not that I plan on backing off on my photography goals. Quite the opposite is true – I am now a card carrying member of NAPP and I bought a subscription to Kelby Training just last week (both tax write-offs!). I’ve only watched a few training videos so far, but the very first one, a photo walk of New York City with Jay Maisel, was worth EVERY PENNY of that subscription. If you’re serious about learning photography, and you’re looking for a great alternative to formal education, consider signing up for Kelby Training! It’s a truly excellent resource. And I’m totally plugging them for free – I seriously doubt that anyone at Kelby Media Group even knows that I exist.

Bill continues to encourage me on the photography front – he got some overtime over the holidays and wants me to spend it on gear. That was a supremely generous gesture, wasn’t it? So I’m looking at a 580 EXII Speedlite. Further along on the gear-purchasing front, I still have plans to turn Amanda’s bedroom into a small studio eventually, and now that I have Kelby’s “10 Essential Studio Techniques Every Photographer Needs to Know” training under my belt, I know exactly what I need. A wide roll of white paper on a rod and stand to serve as a simple yet effective background, this Elinchrom strobe kit, this Elinchrom softbox, and this Westcott strip bank. For $1600 and an understanding of how lighting works, I can do professional work that rivals, well, the professionals! So, that’s my next big purchase to be worked for over the coming months.

Then I’m going to get this 70-300 telephoto (there’s a much more expensive L-series of the same focal range and speed, but I’m not convinced the extra GRAND is worth it, and reviewers agree with me). This macro lens and this wide angle lens will wrap up all the lens purchases I wish to make. I hold no expectation that I’ll be able to purchase all of these within the next year, or even within the next two years. A wish list is named thus for a reason.

When I worked with my friend Karen’s daughter and her friends back in October, I found that I really enjoyed the experience. I think my niche just might be that sort of assignment. I like going to client’s homes or working on location (as my work with Sandstone attests to). My friends have asked my why I don’t want to be a wedding photographer – to which I respond that I don’t want that kind responsibility. I don’t want the responsibility of capturing the details of the most important day of a person’s life. I work much better in a less formal atmosphere. Hence wanting to develop my own studio, and enjoying location work that doesn’t involve gowns and cake and nerves. I would much rather attend a wedding and gift the bride and groom with the shots that I took as a guest.

I also like shooting a variety of subjects – people, sure, but also products and architecture and landscapes and food and sports. I guess I liken it to being a General Practitioner, rather than specializing in a particular service. One of my goals for this year is to further formalize my portfolio, which demonstrates examples of all of these types of photography. I have a portfolio on my media site, but it needs to be updated and re-vamped. Plus, it provides access to ALL of my photos on Flickr, and, well, many of them are NOT portfolio-worthy.

Finally, there will be a total overhaul of Snerkology, its domain, and its off-shoots. Snerkology (including the original site), World Famous Nosh, Snerkology Media, and Photos by Tiffany will all finally be under one roof, and hosted on Dreamhost. I am very excited about this in particular, as the site redesign has been a long time coming. Details are just about finalized (yes, I’m hiring someone, and she comes highly recommended), so rest assured you guys will be receiving regular updates. For now, I’ve just finished my own About.me page which helps to summarize my Internet domination. I think it needs a better picture on it still, but for now that one will do.

I think that’s quite enough ambition for one year, don’t you? AcronymCo continues to find me employable for some unfathomable reason, we have a trip to Maine and a trip to Indy planned this year, I have grand plans for debt payoff and eventual solvency (mostly), tax season is upon us so I have to get all of THAT crap together in the next few weeks, I have a workout schedule that I think finally jives with my level of ambition (snort) and my schedule… and I don’t understand what it is within myself that disallows even one SECOND of laziness.

I’ve been reading everyone else’s blogs on the subject of the coming year, so I know I’m not alone.

BRING IT, 2011!

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But I mean, well, GOD! Look at that, would you? We had that for our Christmas dinner and everybody FELL ON THE FLOOR DEAD, it was that good. And the gravy? That was supposed to be au jus but I thickened it? Was the BEST DAMNED GRAVY I have EVER made. I would totally take a bath in that gravy. And lick it all off when I got out.

(Head’s up, this is where the swearing and the all caps starts.)

Oh, ha. Speaking of gravy. Did I ever tell you guys this story? Back when Bill and I first got together – like, the first MONTH we were together, we were making fried chicken for dinner. He asked me if I knew how to make gravy. At that time, I did not. Because:

1. My ex didn’t like gravy (I KNOW, RIGHT);
2. My Grandmother had never taught me because she was the Gravy Maker Extraordinare and Get Thee Hence From My Kitchen You Amateur;
3. I usually stuck with buffalo wings and plates of asparagus when I was single;
4. I was 23 years old. How many 23-year-olds do you know that know how to make gravy from scratch, I ask you?

So. We’re in the kitchen, puzzling until our puzzlers were sore. He looked at me, looked at the drippings, looked at the phone, and visibly came to a decision. As I watched in growing HORROR, he picked up the phone, DIALED HIS EX-WIFE (who wasn’t actually officially “ex” yet, at the time) and ASKED HER HOW TO MAKE GRAVY. I could hear her incredulous, “You’re kidding, right?” from across the kitchen. But, here’s the thing. She told him, step by step, and didn’t include such waylaying ingredients as, oh, say, HEMLOCK. Which was nice. BUT, she told him in a mocking manner that was all, “Oh HO, you’re new pretty little plaything doesn’t know how to do EVERYTHING that makes you happy, does she?” Which was NOT nice. I don’t blame her, but still. Hey now.

(Of course, if I have to teach Bill’s next little chippie how to make my meatloaf, I’m gonna be all, “… and then you add a half-cup of chopped pickled herring… yes really! Trust me…”)

Anyway. He hung up, I beat him about the head and shoulders, and we made a passable gravy. And then, OH AND THEN, BY GOD, I learned how to make fucking gravy. BETTER gravy. Absolutely fucking AWESOME goddamn motherfucking gravy.

(End swearing/all caps zone.)

———-

New Year’s Eve is upon us. We are foregoing the partying, but probably not foregoing the hangover. Just gonna hang at home and watch movies, and feed whoever shows up. Here’s the planned nosh, in case you need some inspiration for your own festivities:

Bruchetta with toast points
Buffalo Chicken Dip, with tortilla chips and celery
Cheese Enchilada Chowder
– Finger sandwiches (chicken salad, ham, whatnot)
Four Bean Salad
– Chips and pretzels and whatnot

Of course, if you happen to be in the area, you can drop on by! Pajamas are encouraged. Pants are optional.

Bad. Kitty.

Posted: December 22, 2010 in Bring the funny, Holiday, pets
Tags: ,

I finished wrapping presents last night. I’d been storing them in the workout room until they were wrapped, and probably would have left them in there until Christmas had I not been claimed by an unanticipated and unwelcome motivation to exercise. So, in order to clear the weight bench and the floor, I moved the presents out onto the pool table. I figured they’d be safe enough there until the Grand Paper Tearing Extravaganza of Saturday afternoon.

I know you know where this is going.

I let the dogs in this morning – they’re so old, poor things, that the cold effects them more than it used to. I put them in their crate with the door open so they could lay in padded comfort, but still be able to venture over to their water bowl should they need a drink. I heard them shuffling around, the vinyl bottom of the pad making a rustling sound against the bottom of the crate.

Then the rustling got more enthusiastic… urgent, even. I hopped up, thinking that maybe Gypsy had gotten her foot caught between the bars – it’s happened before. I rounded the corner from the living room to the game room, and saw Ozzy digging at one of Bill’s presents in a SPECTACULAR, GLEEFUL fashion. I stood, flabbergasted, for a fraction of a second, then YELLED BLOODY BLUE MURDER at that asshole cat.

He took off like a bat outta hell, and now he’s glaring balefully from the safety of their litter closet.

I KNOW it’s my own fault for putting temptation in his reach, but he’s honestly never messed with the presents before. Oh, sure, sometimes there’d be gnaw-marks along the edges, or toothy impressions crimping the ribbons, but never outright destruction. Besides, Zoe is the one with the obsession for chewing on crinkly paper. I figured I’d have to defend the presents from her, really.

Obviously, you can tell how upset I am, since the fraction of a second AFTER I finished yelling bloody blue murder, I thought “Blog post!” and grabbed my camera. Heh.

For those of you who care.

I decided upon the prime rib, and I’m not gonna lie to you, Marge(*), that shit is EXPENSIVE. Like, $18.99 per pound, expensive (damn AJ’s anyway… but they DO have the best meat). And a four-rib roast is 10-12 pounds. So. Yeah. You do the math. This “counts” as a Christmas present, though, this dinner that we do. Which is why it tends to be lobster or prime-rib expensive.

As a point of interest, I just ran a quote through Maine Lobster Direct’s website, and a half-dozen “large” lobsters (around 1.65 pounds each) would have run us a tad over $160.

Anyway! I’ll probably make mashed potatoes to go with it, though I do love Pioneer Woman’s Crash Hot Potatoes. But I’m too lazy to do both, and Bill likes to dump gravy on stuff, so mashed it is. Maybe I’ll add bacon and cheddar and chives and make loaded mashed.

This is fascinating stuff, isn’t it? Onward!

I’ll probably steam up some asparagus for the veggie, and make either these bacon onion cheddar biscuits, or these cheddar biscuits ala Red Lobster (Bill loves those).

We will, of course, have baked potato soup. It’s tradition.

The family isn’t much into sweets or desserts, but Robert would KEEL ME DED if I didn’t make at least one batch of Magic Cookie Bars. I’ll probably make a batch of Irish Cream Brownies, too. I seem to recall Bill really liking the Walnut Chews I made a few years ago, so maybe those will make an appearance as well.

It all really depends on just how much cooking I feel like doing that week. This weekend I need to make a batch of Killer Fudge to hand out to my co-workers next week (I’m off the week after). I’m the favorite because I do food instead of Christmas cards. Heh.

So. That’s the menu. Who’s comin’ over?

(* Totally stolen from Wil.)

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my U.S. readers, and happy Thursday to all of my non-U.S. readers!

I have some work to get done this morning while the house is quiet (I was too busy making pies yesterday to meet my quota), and I have a feeling I’m going to break into the pumpkin pie I made in a minute, here. I’m sure it’ll taste good, but it looks… wonky, and it’s not something I wish to grace my sister-in-law’s table. Which is FINE BY ME, because pumpkin pie for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning just sounds right.

And I’m all about doing the right thing.

Plus it’ll give me a chance to make some more of this. Which is also the right thing to do.

Home is weighing heavily on my mind today, so in light of this I will share with you another song that brings tears to my eyes. I hope you are where you wish to be, right this very second.

I’m baking today, and I’m actually kind of looking forward to it. I like puttering around the kitchen, listening to music and making the house smell good while the cats keep me company underfoot. I’m getting two of the more complicated pies out of the way today, saving the third (a cream pie) for tomorrow morning. Tomorrow I’m throwing together the veggie casserole, cutting up veggies and cheese and summer sausage for a pair of platters, mixing up a couple of tubs of dip, and that’s the total extent of my Thanksgiving preparation. Which is fine by me, though I actually enjoy the hustle that accompanies sole responsibility of the Thanksgiving meal.

I haven’t given much thought to what I’ll prepare for Christmas. It’ll either be lobster, which we haven’t done for a couple of years, or last year’s standing rib roast, which I need to do again and take pictures of this time.

I’ve given NO thought to Christmas presents, none at all. Since the kids became adults, we went from the usual PILE of presents under the tree, to a single gift for each and cards with money. And no tree. Somehow, it seems harder to pick out just ONE present for each, than a whole ton of loot for both of them.

I told Bill I want a watch from Fossil that doesn’t have a leather strap, and perfume that isn’t Clinique Happy. As for Bill, I know he just wants to continue to arm himself in preparation for the zombie apocalypse. I should totally get him an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle.

(Yes, I got the title from A Christmas Story, though it has no relation whatsoever to the content of the entry. It’s my blog and I can be nonsensical if I want to. Still, wouldn’t that make a GREAT name for a blog or alternative music band? The whole quote goes, “In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.” It’s my favorite line from the movie.)

I’m working on a new project for UpTake, which involves creating “playlists” for vacation destinations. It’s a really neat, really FUN concept. Check out my first one, “One Day in Portland, Maine“.

I’ll be on vacation next week… well, from AcronymCo, anyway. I’ll be working on these playlists throughout next week, as the editors would like as many as possible completed by early December. But they’re so fun to do that it doesn’t seem like work. Wish ALL of my gainful employment worked out that way.

Thanksgiving plans worked themselves out. Bill and I will be headed to his sister Karen’s, and I will only be obligated to provide supplementary food items. We haven’t hashed out the menu details yet, but I’m going to suggest that I bring Connoisseurs Vegetable Casserole, THE Pie(tm), and this recipe for Pumpkin Cream Pie provided by the lovely and talented Pioneer Woman.

I have something REALLY REALLY cool to share but it will have to wait until I can scan some pictures. In the meantime, I will amuse you by telling you that Bill got drunk the other night and ordered one of these. When queried, he retorted, “No, it does NOT light up.”

Oh, the humanity.

Figuring out Thanksgiving

Posted: November 15, 2010 in Holiday
Tags:

I’m trying to figure out Thanksgiving. Robert and Amanda “probably/kind of/maybe/I don’t know” have plans with their mom, or with the families of their significant others. Bill’s sister hasn’t returned my call yet to let me know if anything is going on with Bill’s side of the family, but the last time I mentioned it to her she didn’t have any ideas for plans. I figured we’d all get together and have Thanksgiving with Grandmother Claudine, especially since this is the first holiday without Grandpa Ed. But it seems she might be heading to the Carolinas to visit with her sisters.

As long-time readers are aware, I tend to plan Thanksgiving out completely within the first week of November – sometimes even before that. This year, Thanksgiving is next week and I’m plan-less.

Then I got to thinking, what if I DON’T PLAN THANKSGIVING. I mean, entirely. What if I don’t cook a turkey, mashed potatoes, pies, the whole shebang? Especially if the kids have other plans, what if I just… skip Thanksgiving? Bill is anti-leftovers and isn’t that big of a fan of turkey. He’s not a dessert guy, either. So I’d put all this effort into a big meal, of which one plateful would be consumed in under fifteen minutes, and then my refrigerator would be packed with leftovers that we wouldn’t eat.

So what if next Thursday comes and goes, and we just have a normal, run-of-the-mill Thursday night dinner?

It’s a fascinating thought. I mean, screw it. I’m not going to force an assload of food onto people that don’t want it/won’t eat it/don’t care.

We can be thankful without a turkey. Seriously. When did overgrown fowl become an integral part of gratitude for the blessings in our lives?

Yeah. Screw it.

So last night my brother-in-law George (my sister Wendy’s husband) called. This is unique in the fact that he has never initiated a phone call to me, like, ever. It was 9:30 our time, 12:30 their time. I immediately thought something was wrong. But there was nothing wrong, he was just calling to brag on my sister, who was elected as Androscoggin County’s (that’s in Maine) Register of Probate in Tuesday’s elections. She’s already Chairman of the Board of Selectmen in her home town (Poland). She’s also something called an “AVCOG Commissioner”, whatever that is. (Okay, I just found it, it’s the “Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments”.)

The point being, my sister is knee deep in a grass roots campaign to take over the government in the State of Maine. She could pull it off, too.

———-

We have a marker board calendar on the wall in our kitchen, that we use to plan our dinner menus, write appointment reminders, and list birthdays and holidays. It has a space on the right-hand side to write memos and lists and whatnot, and we use this area to list the items that we need at the grocery store. It’s a common refrain, when someone tells me we’re out of this, that, or the other thing, for me to tell them to, “Put it on the list!” So, my husband does this funny little thing where he purposefully mis-spells the items and leaves it to me to figure out what the heck he means. “Kooking Spra” had me chuckling the other night. Other recent items have been “Kat Fud”, “Kofe” (Coffee), “Basco” (Tabasco), “Groni Chz” (Kraft Mac & Cheese), and “Pit Stop” (deodorant).

It’s just one of those silly little things that he does, that I’d miss if he stopped.

Yeah yeah, I’m having a warm fuzzy fit. What of it?

———-

Lord have mercy, I have been so flippin’ BUSY lately. We have a new project at work that is deploying in two weeks, which means this week I have four nights of meetings that go at least until 6:00 (tonight’s goes until 7:30, waaaaaaaaah). I have those same meetings scheduled for next week, too, but on top of that I have the second half of my Six Sigma Green Belt training next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, eight to five. Which translates to not getting any of my regular work done, AND having to sit in night meetings. Still not getting work done. Then I have to train my group, probably next Friday because the project coordinator wants everyone trained before deployment on 11/15. And then it’s stabilization meetings every night THAT week.

So, yes, deployment week is the week before Thanksgiving. Which is just in keeping with the mandate that AcronymCo seems to have, that All Major Projects Must Deploy The Week Before A Major U.S. Holiday. Every year. EVERY FRIGGIN’ YEAR they do this.

I’m a bit behind on my articles for BMP, UpTake, and Demand Studios this week, because I gave myself a break last weekend for Grandpa’s funeral. I’ve been doing them during lunch and in the evening, this week. But this weekend I HAVE TO get my articles done for the week following, because I’ll have ZERO time to do them during the week.

———-

Oh, fuck. Thanksgiving. When am I going to have time to plan that??? Thank God I have that whole week off from work, because I have a feeling I’m going to go into a menu-planning frenzy that Monday.

I got up at 6:45 this morning. Not sure what the hell is wrong with me.

I submitted an application for a new writing gig, and just as I hit “submit” I realized that I was one digit off on my area code (though it’s correct on the resume that I attached). SIGH. That’s what I get for trying to be productive before 8:00 in the morning. Hopefully it won’t make a difference – I get the impression that they communicate primarily via e-mail, and that I got right.

I got a ball head (this one) for the new monopod (this one) that I bought, and I can’t understand how I lived without one before. I’m going to need to get either a ball head to go with my tripod, or a new tripod that jives with the ball head. Also, typing “ball head” so much makes me feel a little dirty.

Two weeks from today we’ll be in Maine. Contrary to my usual habit of starting lists months in advance, I only started making a travel list yesterday. We’re going to try to pack light and do laundry a couple of times while we’re there. Yeah, whatever. We always have the “pack light” goal, and the last time we flew we nearly had to cough up an extra $50 for going over on the weight allotment.

Once I passed the age of ten, I fell out of love with fireworks. Now, I did go see fireworks last year while I was visiting with Heather – that was, of course, much more about being with Heather and having a good time, than seeing fireworks. The time before that was back in 2003, when Amanda and her friend and I were visiting my sister and her family in Maine. We went to the annual fireworks show on the Eastern Promenade the night that we arrived. I went because my sister and her family were going, we were in Maine, the girls were excited about it, and we were in Maine. Hmm. Now I’m wondering if I really fell out of love with fireworks because it’s such an exercise in torture to see ’em in Arizona (too fucking hot, even at night).

I am currently participating in Women to Women’s Personalized Program for hormonal imbalance. Since I went off the pill, I felt like my body needed a reset. I’m a couple weeks into the three-month program, which involves taking these essential nutrients, along with this herbal equilibrium supplement, on a daily basis. Since Women to Women was my gyno when I lived back in Maine, I really trust them. I will, of course, let you all know if any of this made a difference once the three months are up.

Speaking of supplements, Gadget and Gypsy are wicked old and creaky. Gadget has his bad back and his seizures, Gypsy her bad hips and her reverse sneeze, plus Gypsy is pretty much stone blind and deaf now. Then Gypsy started getting fatty tumors – one over her eye, one on her nose, one on her belly. I was looking around for a nutritional supplement that would address a multitude of ailments, and came across NuVet Plus. After half a bottle, I started seeing a noticeable difference in Gypsy’s fatty tumors, and neither dog seemed quite as gimpy. I’m now just starting their second bottle, and the tumors on Gypsy’s eye and nose are gone. Gadget hasn’t had a seizure (at least not that I’ve seen) in a long time, and I only had to dose him with aspirin once in the past two months for his pain. Of course, no supplement is going to help Gypsy’s vision and hearing, but we just yell louder and gesticulate more dramatically to get her attention. Poor dumb dog. So. Yeah. I recommend the stuff. They make it for cats, too!

Today’s plans involve something along the lines of laundry, grocery shopping, sun-bathing, and a light weights workout to ease myself back into my fitness routine. It’s been a week since the Essure procedure and I feel pretty much back to normal. Well, as normal as it gets for me, anyway. We have no plans at all for the long Independence Day weekend, other than perhaps grilling up some burgers and dogs on Sunday, and maybe catching a movie.

What plans have you guys made for the weekend?