Curiouser & Curiouser

Life’s short. Get curious.

Animals? Lights? Animals AND Lights?!?! December 19, 2008

skink1

Things We Learned From This Year’s Wildlights (our local zoo’s annual light display) Experience:

1) Wildlights = Good (but EFFING FREEZING) Times

2) I heart manatees. (And, apparently,  faux, light-up flamingos as well.)

3) Animals do not heart the cold. (Most were asleep in their indoor shelters, so – more lights than animals.)

4) Tights, cords, thick socks, fur-lined snow boots, t-shirt, sweater, fleece, fur-collared coat, hat and gloves = still not enough clothing for 2 hours of Wildlights.

5) There is a reptile called a skink. J hearts skinks.

6) Definitely something to do on an off night. I heard the lines for this thing on the weekends had reached up to two-hour waits. (Oh HELL no – I don’t wait two hours for much of anything). We went on a chilly, weekday evening and had the run of the place. In fact, there were plenty of moments when we found ourselves completely. alone. (muah-ah-ah…) 🙂

7) The hot chocolate is at THE FRONT OF THE PARK. (Halfway through our tour of the zoo, we were jonesing badly for something toasty to drink; little did we know we’d passed the hot cocoa when we went left instead of right at the entrance. Granted, its discovery at the tail end of our trip made for a grand finale. Drinking hot chocolate with REAL whipped cream by a fire whilst watching the animated light show around the pond = priceless.)

** I hereby solemnly swear, from this moment to eternity, to never again use the word “heart” as a verb.**

~a

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The Sheeple “Discount” December 15, 2008

Filed under: humor,life,shopping,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 7:07 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

ME AT THE VERIZON STORE TRYING TO GET MY UPGRADE:

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Oh Wondermark, how cruelly and deftly you hit the nail on the head 🙂 First, the salesman (and I use that term loosely, because he was definitely fresh out of high school) tries to talk me into a $250 phone – his suggestion when I tell him I’m looking for something “basic.” Then this….  I should’ve known it was trouble when the entire sales staff was clad in football jerseys (it was a Sunday) and one of them actually told us a story about how she was so bummed about losing her commission on an expensive phone because of a mistake she made.

What’s a girl to do?

(Um… upgrade online next time?)

~a

 

In Which I Time Travel (The Only Possible Explanation) December 10, 2008

So I’ve been awake now for, oh, 3 and a half hours, and, up until about 5 minutes ago, seriously believed with all my heart that today was Thursday.

I have just been informed otherwise.

I swear I’m 27 going on 77 sometimes.

Didn’t help that I awoke late and rushed out of J’s house to be greeted in the face by fat drops of 33-degree rain and gusting winds (which generally are blinding when you have very long hair).

Which gets me thinking – I don’t know about you, but the winter in the state I live in goes a little something like this: Mid-November the chilly rains set in. By December, the odds of having more than 2 sunny days in a row match those of winning the lottery. Temperatures will undulate just above and far below freezing for months, resulting in alternating rain and snow. This may end, if we’re lucky, by April. (Although, I distinctly recall moving out of my dorm in May one year of college in an endless frigid rain).

Must we bend to this inevitable nasty weather, hang our heads like drooping flowers and give in to hibernation and lethargy for 5 months?? Easy as it would be to give in to temptation and live in sweatpants and pajamas and watch marathon sessions of The Office until May, I have to believe I can do better, that my curiosity and joie de vivre can thrive even when my world is a popsicle.

I feel like we’ve been doing a good job so far…. but it’s only Month 1. If we look at this as a 5k, we’re just getting warmed-up. So, here are some ideas we’ve done, and some still to attempt. Granted, some of them are specific to my neck of the woods, but feel free to swipe them for your own, and to offer additions, too:

When the weather is chilly, but not too precipitous:

1) Take a road trip to a nearby shopping destination (I’m NOT talking outlet malls. Think more along the lines of tiny, quaint and/or eccentric locales with town squares or main drags dense with little shops and eateries – if you look hard enough, they’re everywhere). A dusting of snow generally triples or quadruples the nostalgia-factor.

2) Take in a play. Chances are, you definitely don’t do this enough when the weather’s grand (although, here we have a Shakespeare in the Park company that puts on relatively entertaining outdoor shows), so take this opportunity to discover a community theater or local company. Some of the small, fringe ones put on the most intriguing stuff, so if you’re not exactly up for another rendition of “The Sound of Music” or “Death of a Salesman,” try one of these instead. (They also tend to be much more affordable than traveling Broadway series-type shows).

3) Local music. I cannot toot my effing horn loud enough on this one:) Having been on the stage-side of the music scene for so long, I know the winter months are bleak for musicians. Do them (and yourself) a huge favor: cozy up in a warm, little venue (I’m not saying you must go to some piece of shite dive bar only to have your eardrums blown out by an uberloud punk band – unless you like that sort of thing), grab a beer or a glass of wine, and be serenaded by an acoustic duo or a bluegrass band… or a girl who maybe rocks the piano a little too hard 😉 My roommate’s doing a holiday show in which she will front the band whilst tap dancing. Always ridiculously entertaining.

4) Go to the zoo. No. Seriously. I know it’s cold, but our zoo, and many others across the country, deck themselves in trillions of lights each holiday season, and usually offer features like ice skating, hot chocolate/cider stands and pics with The Claus’. Animals? Lights? Animals AND lights?? What’s not to love?

5) Go to the art museum. Yet another trip we don’t take nearly enough in the warm months, because, let’s face it, who wants to spend two or three hours indoors when it’s 78 degrees and blue-skied outside? Now, however, escaping into a brightly-lit, heated building sounds like a treat. Evil Twin and I have been known to hit up art museums whenever and wherever we can. One time we took the audio-tour of an Egyptian exhibit (with headphones that know which piece you’re standing in front of and give you details accordingly) and I can’t remember why the narrator was so hysterical (I think maybe he just sounded like a pretentious windbag, but who knows?), but Evil Twin and I couldn’t stop laughing at him, and because we had headphones on, our laughter was the only sound in the cavernous rooms and we kept getting dirty looks from the elderly volunteer woman. Awesome.

6) If it has snowed, but the temperature is tolerable, bundle the hell out of yourself, and go for a walk. Do it up right: slide around on the ice (J and I successfully redefined “ice dancing”),  stop to make snow angels in a fresh patch, nail each other with snow balls. Walk to a restaurant or coffee shop where you can warm up and drink something warm before heading home.

When it is just too effing cold to leave the house:

Before you resort to flipping on the television, please consult the following list:

1) READ!!! For the love of god, do not watch t.v. when there’s a good book around. (Check my reading list if you need suggestions)

2) Um. Blog? If you’ve got one, this is a good time to fatten it up a little.

3) Cook or Bake. Warm the house up by putting your oven to use. Now’s a great time to try out recipes you didn’t have time for before. AND you end up with something warm and gooey (and potentially chocolate??) to eat when done.  (Bonus if you make something that allows everyone to lick the bowl).NOTE: If you take the aforementioned dessert or meal and sit in front of the t.v. with it, you lose major points. Sit in front of the fire, or light some candles at the kitchen table, and chow down on whatever you’ve created while you watch the snow fall outside instead.

4) Clean the house. I know this sounds lame, but while Spring Cleaning gets all the glory, there’s something to be said for using all this time cooped up indoors to perk up your prison cell 😉

5) I don’t know how to put this….. um…..”Quality Time” with your S.O., if you have one. And by “Quality Time” I mean whatever that means to you and yours. I put intimacy WAY before Lost reruns.

6) Get your friends together for Rock Band. Or find out which one of your friends has Rock Band and/or MarioKart capabilities, and organize a winter concert and/or tournament at their place. I used to be adamantly anti-video game, but with the advent of the Wii, these things are much more valuable – not only can I actually play them (due to the more obvious controls), but they require interaction and can be great social activities.

7) Devote some time to your inner artist. Whether you play music, draw, paint, sculpt, craft or write (or anything else I left out), spend some time doing a little art for art’s sake. No pressure. No deadline. Just your imagination and a couple of hours to give it some exercise.

8 ) Speaking of which, just because you can’t make it to the gym, doesn’t mean you can’t get a workout at your place. Plenty of free downloadable workout videos exist on the internet, or, if you have an animal like Gabe, give that sucker the attention he craves, and I guarantee you will both get a workout.

Right, well, my stomach has just informed me via strange noises that it is beginning to consume itself, so time for lunch. Promise I’ll be back to fill this list out a bit. At its current length, you’ll be out of ideas by New Year’s Day. While I scarf, please enjoy the following xkcd comic, entitled “No One Must Know“:

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~a

 

Trading Up December 8, 2008

Today, I post with a purpose, mes amis: to sing the praises of my favorite jungle of healthy sustenance, Trader Joe’s.

First, for those of you who do not live in one of the 23 states graced with these bastions of affordable organic wonders, allow me to paint a picture. Trader Joes’ (Trader Joe’ses??) are fashioned to appear as massive trade ships of exotic culinary treasures. Although relatively small compared to Whole Foods, Joe’s is packed with hard-to-find products, unusual produce and a staff that doesn’t look at you like you’re from another planet if you don’t smell like patchouli, make your own clothes and/or wear your hair in dreadlocks. Joe’s also has its own store brand that, in general, is EXTREMELY affordable (read: dirt cheap) and boast no artificial colors or flavorings.

For anyone who thinks they can’t afford such luxuries as organic or whole foods, you should know that on the whole, Trader Joe’s is even more affordable than my neighborhood grocery store (the only drawback being their size and specialty means I have to make a second trip to the regular store for certain items). Ok, I lied. There is a second drawback, and that is that there are only TWO Trader Joe’s in my city.

Seriously? You guys are always packed every time I take the trip out there; people love you; we would certainly love you even more if you were closer to home. (Pst…just by the way, Trader Joe’s, there is a really great furniture store that closed down and would make an exquisite location for something in the way of, say… a health food store?? Just a thought).

Perhaps, however, it’s not so bad that these stores require a mini-voyage. It makes the experience feel special, rather than mundane errand-running, and I definitely give myself the extra time to explore. (As a person with a wheat sensitivity, Joe’s has become a treasure hunt, with new gluten/wheat-free products showing up on every return visit: bagels, waffles, pumpkin bread, gnocchi… brownies!!) And, should you need any other reason to make the trip yourself, I have two:

1) A CNN study just rated Trader Joe’s fourth among “healthy” national grocery store chains (see full story here: http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/diet.fitness/11/11/Healthmag.healthiest.grocery.stores/ picture-23

2) A recent Facebook status thread reveals the secret behind Joe’s popularity with the female demographic:

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So, there you have it. Set aside an afternoon or even a Friday night (the store stays open ’til 10pm), and go explore the mounds of wild produce or foggy freezer aisles (and perhaps grab a bottle of well-priced organic wine, or experiment with a six-pack of an unknown import).

Enough with the plugs, though. Two and a half weeks until Christmas break (the company I work for gives us a mandatory 11 days off – we couldn’t come to work even if we wanted to – which we don’t, but still, a nice gesture). I’ll be out to my parents place for a few days, then down to North Carolina for New Year’s with J. Can’t wait to have the whole family together for Christmas, though. The Evil Twin will be coming up for the occasion, and little Bro will inevitably hitch a ride with me out to my parent’s place. The Gabe monster will get to go, too, and everything will be as it should be for a few days. And I feel lucky to say (because I’ve heard many a dysfunctional family holiday story from friends and coworkers) that this, for me, is what Christmas is about.

The only possible tiff I can see is that I bought the Evil Twin a present that I , myself, covet dearly, and I may, out of desperation, be forced to hide her gift (after she opens it of course), so that she will “accidentally” leave it behind, at which point I will have to make use of it until she returns so that it does not go to waste in the meantime.

(Kidding, of course! I would never!)

(Or would I?)

(Muah ah ah…).

~a

 

Halloween Escapades (Cont’d) October 30, 2008

But first –

I had to share this with you, as it’s got me mercilessly nailed-down:

I feel ya, Turn-of-the-Century Guy. Hang in there...

I feel ya, Turn-of-the-Century Guy. Hang in there...

Okay. Now, down to business.

Having resolved to go all out for All Hallow’s, despite the late start, we headed out into the streets of downtown last night for that all-important Trick-or-Treat necessity: the perfect costume. a mediocre costume. any costume at all!

As it was just two days before the Big Night, we knew we were in for a challenge. It was far too late for the make-something-witty-from-coffee-filters-and-a-glue-gun type of disguise. Sadly, we knew we had to go at least partially store-bought.

Our first stop: a popular trinket emporium known for its seasonal treasures. This smelled like trouble, however, from around the corner. The large store was both packed and picked-over. It’s stock was on the cheap side (which is fair – they’re not much about quality goods), and while I wouldn’t have minded seeing J in a mash-up of random costume accessories (“I’m a mustachioed Grecian pilot bullfighter…. duh”), the crowd was a little overwhelming, and we knew of a slew of costume retailers not far down the street.

So off we went.

Now, if this isn’t a commentary on the State of the Halloween Costume I don’t know what is: The area in which we went hunting next is, any other month of the year, a string of (for lack of a better word) sex shops. Each has it’s niche (the gay men’s boutique, the ladies (read: exotic dancers ((read:strippers)) shop, and the hippies-love-sex-too store (which combines the best of kink and smoking paraphernalia). This particular time of year, however, our shady little strip becomes a bustling mecca of Halloween retail. So enamored are we with dressing naughtily (although, I suppose this is not such a bad thing if we considered looking like tartlets to be a departure from our day-to-day dress) that we now buy our costumes where we buy our porn. (I mean, you know… if, hypothetically speaking, we bought such things).

It is a little fascinating, however, to bare witness to the obliteration of taboo. There I was scouring racks of tiny dresses alongside cleanly dressed college kids, other couples… even one mom and dad searching with their teenage twenty-something daughter. And we’re all shopping gleefully, paying little mind to the assless chaps and ballgags on the wall behind the counter.

And unlike picking through cramped, disorganized costume houses surrounded by screaming children and unable to find anything in my size, here I had a multitude of options and, I can’t lie, a damn good time trying out different ideas.

The one downfall – scary dude at Shop #2, which was still a little quiet when we walked in. He must’ve been bored, or really wanting to sell us something, because he followed us around the store hand-selecting ridiculous costumes for me. (We’re talking lame, two-piece Wonder Woman, skanky vinyl gold digger…) After a good hour looking over my options, I found myself imagining the impending frigidity of midnight in November and gravitating toward anything fuzzy and/or fur-lined (Frosty the Snowvixen? Hell yeah! And nothing says Halloween like Rudy the Rednosed Rein Dear!).

In the end, I left pleased with my choice. J already has something that will match it nicely, and I feel confident that we will make a fearsome duo Friday night. We’ll be heading to a street carnival that evening, and I promise thorough documentation (at which point our costumes will be revealed in all their glory).

My one regret? That we didn’t have time to make our own. But we already have our idea for next year, so I can safely swear off store-bought from here on out. We will, however, have to hold several costume theme parties to make the most of our purchases in the meantime. Check your mailboxes for invites in the upcoming months:)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

~a

 

A Life Less Ordinary October 14, 2008

A Brief Photo Essay for Your Consideration

What a Large Percentage of Our City Did on Game Day:

– Pre-Gamed (ie. sat in a bar or a parking lot eating greasy, processed food, drinking heavily (or lightly, but still…) and possibly playing a game of cornhole or two if they really felt like exerting some energy.


– Went to game (ie. drank some more whilst sitting and occasionally standing and yelling sporadically at increasing volumes. For four hours.)

– Post-Gamed (ie. depending largely on alcohol tolerance, either A) Moved on to (or stayed at) a bar to continue alcoholic consumption in the name of  the home team, B) Passed out at home in front of television during post-game analysis.)

What I did on Game Day:

– Slept as long as the sun (and Gabe) permitted.

– Made and ate breakfast with J.

– Took a drive into the country.

– Visited a little town having a huge street fair.

– Walked the streets and explored all the booths (and saw such bizarre things as: grown men dressed in medieval costume and playing drums and bagpipes, belly dancers of vastly varying sizes and a supposedly radioactive mutant fish that, to be honest, I didn’t actually see, because there were plenty of other things upon which to spend $1.00)

– Escaped the street madness for lunch on the shaded patio of a cafe that doesn’t own a microwave. (HOMEMADE KETCHUP for the love of god!!!)

– Searched Basho for the perfect hand-printed t-shirt; came away with one-of-a-kind scarves, too.

J in spankin' new Basho jacket

J in spankin' new Basho jacket

... and me in aforementioned scarf

... and me in aforementioned scarf

– Paused to watch a trio of street musicians; dropped a dollar (remember, the one I didn’t spend on the fish? I knew it!) in their guitar case.

– Explored a tiny bookstore (granted this was a brief encounter, as we soon discovered the store specialized in a bizarre selection of new age psychology, astrology and self-help books. Oh – and also local authors. Which, oddly enough, fit nicely into those categories as well).

– Ditched the shuttle ride to our car in exchange for a late-afternoon walk down a country road.


-Stopped at a local dairy to feed the goats and eat homemade ice cream (3 effing scoops of peanut butter ice cream, banana slices, peanuts and chocolate sauce topped with whipped cream and a cherry, b#tches!!)

– Ran through a pumpkin patch at sundown (alongside a smattering of children all under the age of 7) seeking perfection (And finding it. Three times. Like puppies in a pound – I couldn’t leave any of them behind. So we spent entirely too much money, but I can sleep at night:)

Zee perfect pumpkin...

Zee perfect pumpkin...

– Drove home as night fell, windows down, singing along to the i-pod at the top of our everloving lungs.


So – whose time was better spent? You decide.

I’m not here to judge – just to present the facts.

(We can live better)

~a

 

There’s No Place Like… October 2, 2008

Filed under: humor,music,shopping — curiouserx2 @ 7:17 pm
Tags: , , , ,

WAY IN WHICH I FOOL YOU INTO THINKING I’M AN AVERAGE GIRL #1: I do love to shop.

But today’s spree is more business than pleasure. The task at hand: shopping for space. More specifically, a practice space for the band – looking to add one more in a long list of temporary homes, each of which has had its own unique and charming features:

Exhibit A: My brother’s attic.

Yes, it was a long, relatively open space, and his drums were already in place. Everything was actually on the side of swell until the viola player showed up and we suddenly had a bandmate that needed to stand up. It became apparent we needed a room with more head room. Or any at all.

Exhibit B: Another band’s basement practice space.

This was actually not so bad, save for the fact that we were crashing someone else’s home. And those someones smoked many packs a day. And therefore so did we. For the sake of both sides, we decided to search for something with a little more privacy.

Exhibit C: An honest-to-god, downtown practice space.

Although we shared the building with several other bands (and frequently used our downtime to create alternate lyrics to their songs – “Just one f@#$ing chorus…. is all this song would need…. just one f@#$ing chorus… instead you just repeat…. the verses… forever… and ever….”), we did have our own, spacious room two days a week. In fact, we thought we’d found effing Shangri-La until things began to disappear.

First, it was the baby grand, which, granted, we knew was leaving with the previous inhabitant. Then the heat. Probably I should have been suspicious of the giant, industrial tube that hung limp from the ceiling like a giant, sad elephant trunk. The day it began to perpetually spout lukewarm-to-frigid (but never, never warm air, mind you. Never), we knew it was trouble. In the summer, the output from this tube became stuffy, stale. Like the building was breathing on us. No matter the time of year, it seemed we were destined to suffer at practice.

Next, the equipment began to vanish. First cables. Then mics. Then a switch of the PA head. Then the PA speakers, first replaced by smaller, significantly shittier versions, then gone altogether.

We were then informed our rent would be raised the following month. (Which would have been a great joke, except that they were serious). Moving on…

Exhibit D: My basement (our current situation)

Here we have no PA at all. We have no working mic or mic stand. I plug into the viola’s amp, she plays unplugged and my brother attempts to drum rock music as quietly as possibly in order for anything at all to be heard. It is sucking the life out of us.

But we do have a huge wall of mirrors in front of us upon which we can see all the stupid faces we make whilst playing. So we’ve got that going for us:)

So you can see the need for a new home. I’m on the prowl, but the space market in this town is admittedly a little bleak. I’ve seen everything from some dude offering up his (unfinished) basement to a “studio” renting out its “recording rooms” as “practice space” (the pictures blatantly show a garage partitioned off with plywood and drywall).

But all’s not lost. I am a savvy shopper afterall. (And – now that the basement floor has started to seep after heavy rains – a highly motivated one)

This one I like...

This one I like...

And rounding out the Not-So-Much category (No guys, seriously... it's a great space! Look how much fun we're having in our space!)

And rounding out the Not-So-Much category