Wednesday, October 14, 2009


So much sickness, Lone Reader. Tell me what the outside looks like...I cain't 'member.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What's for supper...Ma?

Sigh -it was a race out the door this morning. Dontcha hate that feeling?

It's a blustery, cold day here and my yard is full of forlorn tree branches, ripped from their rightful places. Seems like a good day to work from home and sip tea. or bourbon.

This house is over 100 years old. It does not care for the sudden swerve of autumn to avoid hitting winter head on. AIr conditioners must be moved, radiators drained, mice welcomed with tiny doormats and soft beds. (Remember in Tom & Jerry how nicely appointed Jerry's home was? Something like that.)

It feels melancholy in here, but not in a bad way...perhaps I'll watch the Donner Party DVD later today. (She's wearing it out. -Ed.)

Welcome to the fall, Lone Reader.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig.

Home as of yesterday from the Chequamegon Fat Tire Race, where my brother-in-law came in 50th in his division. (1,740 riders finished the race.) Yay - that was super exciting to watch and really an amazing feat. I also shot some tasty pix at the event, which was pretty kuhl 2.

Sadly, I am now ill. I think it's just a cold that sounds bad, but let me tell you - when you're in the Norske Nook, enjoying some delicious pie and you're sneezing every few minutes, people tend to look atcha a lot. I felt like screaming, "H1 N1! Protect yourselves!!"

I didn't. I don't have swine's just a poorly-timed cold.

More soon, love.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

I'm so outta here...

Off to the Chequamegon National Forest for the big Fat Tire Festival. My bro-in-law rides in it every year, and normally it's the same weekend as my big fundraiser at work. This year, the Jewish calendar intervened, the fundraiser got moved et voilå! We can go. Today the car gets packed and we take off to the woods.

I'll catch you on the flipside, Lone Reader. Stay classy, San Diego!

Love, Velma

P.S. The pic is apropos of nothing. Jeremy Messersmith posted it on his facebook awhile ago and I thought it was funny.

P.P.S. If you're an artist who recently made a bet with me, you owe me a drink, my friend. A $9.90 drink, at that. Don't think I'll forget either.

P.P.P.S. You look really great today!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Best Stranded on Tarmac Moment

Well Lone Reader, one time when I was flying to Cheyenne by way of Denver, we got stuck for awhile on the runway. (Not really news there. -Ed.) It was close to the Fourth of July. It was hot. The flight attendants were scrambling to entertain us.

This was interesting to me. I've been on stalled flights a zillion times. (Exaggeration, given that the woman never leaves a 15-mile radius of her house. -Ed.) Since when does the flight crew feel the need to perform for us? And yet...they told jokes, played a trivia game, asked us questions via intercom. At one point a flight attendant said, "I know! A bottle of booze to the first person to sing the National Anthem!" (Her exact words.) Two different people stood up and tried but stumbled a few lines in. I stood in the aisle and belted out a respectful, yet soulful version of the world's worst example of nationalism in song.

I received a large bottle of fairly bad champagne. It tasted briney and sweet at the same time, especially not recommended for pairings with tiny pretzels or Biscoff cookies. I was the superstar of the plane though, the girl who sang the national anthem on flight 1283 to Denver.

Monday, September 14, 2009

From My Mom & Dad's Bookcase

When I was a kid I was a voracious reader and, after reading all the Nancy Drew/Tree Grows in Brooklyn/Judy Blume books that were available at school, I raced through my parents’ bookshelves as well. Adult books I loved as a child included: Dummy. Alive. Sybil. Coma. Night.

My parents also owned books with more than one-word titles. I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X when I was 10. I loved it so much I carried it with me around for about a year. My conservative grandparents were visiting once when I asked my mom, “Hey – what’s a doobie?” because I had read it in that book. (Grandma didn’t seem to get the reference either, but then again, she’s the same woman who once told me that “Gay was still a good word and I should let anyone tell me otherwise.”)

My dad wasn’t much of a reader, but we always had copies of the Whole Earth Catalog and a lot of the Foxfire books. (If you want to learn how to build a dulcimer or butcher a hog, that’s where to start.)

Our Bodies, Ourselves taught a young girl a hell of a lot more than she would need to know for many years yet.

There were some real dreck on those shelves - I read some horrid books about Merlin called The Crystal Cave series. (They were horrible to me even then.) I read the Amityville Horror when I was 10 and Mommie Dearest when I was 12.

The moral is this: Read whatever you can get your hands on, kiddies. Even the liner notes from Herman’s Hermits Greatest Hits could feed you nuggets of information that you’ll draw from for the rest of your days.

What's Goin' On?

Lone Reader! It’s been so long! What has happened since our one-sided dialogue went on hiatus?

Hmmm…a visit from a dear friend, another friend bought a house and yet another adopted a baby. School started, I learned a few new acronyms, went to karaoke birthdays, work, work and more work.

I read Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, a novel about a 17th c. plague village in England. Good, not great. I’m currently reading Loving Frank by Nancy Horan. Jury’s still out, since I’m only 40 pages in.

I saw numerous movies including Chicago & Little Shop of Horrors (karaoke puts one in the mind of movie musicals) Frozen River (LOVED it), Mama Mia, 500 Days of Summer, Up, Funny People and A Perfect Getaway. Back to Little Shop of Horrors, I adore Ellen Greene. Sigh.

Karaoke songs sung:
River Deep, Mountain High (Tina Turner)
Tempted (Squeeze)
Fever (Peggy Lee)
What’s Up (4 Non Blondes)
Joey (Concrete Blonde)
Voices Carry (Til Tuesday)

My sister, brother, brother-in-law and niece all rode bikes in a fundraiser last weekend, raising money to fight pancreatic cancer. I’m proud of them, and consider myself part of the team, but will not be getting on a bike anytime soon. (Bring back the dance marathon and I’ll do it.)

Now the kids are back in school, the fundraiser is over at work and I’m back to a semblance of my normal self. This weekend I’m driving to the Chequamegon Fat Tire Festival with the kids. Should be fun and a much-needed break.

What’ve you been up to, Lone Reader? Has summer crept to a close for you or are you still going full-tilt as we head into the brief MN autumn?

You know I’ve missed you so. More soon and we’ll get back to where we once belonged. (from a facebook friend: “How many times am I expected to buy THE SAME DAMN Beatles songs on CD?”)

Stay the course, sweet baby!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A River Runs Through It

When we first moved to the Twin Cities, I was mystified by ramifications of the Mighty Mississippi in our midst.

Remember, Lone Reader, that I was raised by East Coast liberals who dragged their children to various places in Oklahoma and Kansas as they sought…hmm…what? They never really cared about greener grass. Peace from their own parents? Big sky country? Freedom from the long arm of the law? I dunno. One can see making the move from the ivy-laden confines of Cornell and Ithaca to the University of Oklahoma for one’s first professorial gig. A sad move, but an understandable one. Why, however, did we live in 3 houses in 4 years? And that’s right, one of those houses was on the edge of a reservation. (It WAS the thing to do in the 70s – send your kids to a reservation school.)

Alas, Lone Reader, I digress. As we moved around the lower Midwest, the constant was “going home” the biannual trek to New Jersey and New York. Every summer and over the winter holidays, we would pack up for the East Coast. While there, my parents would stock up on things one couldn’t get in the Midwest – Spatini spaghetti sauce seasoning, Red Rose tea and raisin biscuits.

What did it mean, then, I mused upon arrival in the Twin Cities, to live in a place where items where available only ‘east of the Mississippi’? Did one half of the metro have Dryer’s ice cream and the others ate Edy’s? Was the a black market of traders along the bridge swapping Hellmann’s and Best jars of mayonnaise in unmarked packages?

Eventually the river that turns one metro into two (among other things – Ed.) became commonplace…so much so that when a visitor said, “Take me down to the Mississippi” I replied, “We’re over it right now on the bridge – do you mean closer?”

Yes, river life’s got its own pace and it’s fast around here. But I still get a thrill when I find a jar of real Marshmallow Fluff on the grocery store shelves.

Happy Thursday, Lone Reader!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

And all the herring you can eat...

Photo by John Doman, Pioneer Press

Sparky the Sea Lion died. He was 31, which is crazy old in the sea lion world.

Back in the day, I was a video teacher for the local cable access station. I used to certify people on the three-chip cameras and I used to teach video to summer school students. In a desperate attempt to find a project for one of the add-on classes, I decided we’d do a remote shoot. A documentary about the long-time trainer at the Sparky the Sea Lion show, Norm Byng.

Mr. Byng had been working as a trainer at the Como Zoo in St. Paul for 20 years. My group of Hmong girls and I called him, he agreed to be interviewed and we set up a time to tape the Sparky show, along with his commentary, and ask him questions afterward. We prepped interview questions and finally met up with Mr. Byng. It was hard enough getting the girls to speak on camera…it was a nightmare interviewing the trainer.

Mumbling girl: How hasmdnthe reljrjmbrlsn?
Byng: What?
Me: Cut.

Replay that about 17 times.

The end knowledge that we gleaned was that the Sparky show had not changed in 20 years. Mr. Byng said the kids would know if even a word was changed, so he had said the exact same words, four times a day for two decades. That might’ve explained his deadpan, monotone delivery. He looked like lovechild of Nick Nolte and the Skipper and he had the vocal charms of Tom Carvel, yet he was beloved.

I don’t know if Norm Byng is still of this world, but today we mourn the Sparky that so many of us remember. He is saving baby dolls and balancing beach balls in the sweet hereafter.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Everchangin' Days of Blogs and Roses

Hmm…well Lone Reader, I find myself in a bit of a pickle. I recently discovered that, despite my cagey maneuvers, relatives are reading this blog and it makes me feel weird. (Velma seems to have missed the “You Know Anyone Can Read This, Right?” day at the blog seminar…Ed.) Is it that my outrageous double-life will finally see the light of day? Nah – I’m cool with that. Do I reveal secrets that were never meant to be blogged about? No. (Rosebud is a sled, Soylent Green is people and Sylvia Poggioli is really a man – Ira Glass told me so.)

I guess I thought of this a place to vent and maybe that’s not what it’s going to be anymore. Sigh.

More soon and love always,


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Free At Last!

Yay! Birthday time has ended! My mom's birthday was last night, thus bringing to an end the carnival of crazy. (In case you didn't know, my mom, both kids and I were born in the first two weeks of July. ..different years.) I'm so happy to not be making a cake today!!

Random things:

1. I had my first ever real martini on Sunday. (Clarification - I've had a BLT-ini, made with bacon vodka, and a lemon fizz martini, which I loved until the bartender sent a fresh one to me with the message "Sorry! The server grabbed it away before I put the gin in...")

Guess what? Martinis stink! (To me, anyway.) But it is true what Video Bob said - by the second half of the drink it tastes better.

2. You would not BELIEVE how big the marshmallows are these days. These are super gigante marshmallows from the Mexican supermarket. Dang O'Dell - that's large!

3. I heard an eight-year-old scream "Fire in the hole!" whilst rearing back a pitch containing said gigante marshmallows. Sigh. And when is your dad coming to pick you up from this play date, young lad?

Alright, Lone Reader, I must work. I have three grants due this week. Sigh. Keep your eyes on the prize and a marshmallow in each fist.

Love, Velma

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Best Bacon EVER & Other Food Notes

If you find yourself anywhere near the Saint Paul Farmer's Market, get yourself some Chase Brook Natural Farm bacon. DANG! It's some serious good bacon - almost like tiny little bacon steaks. Everyone in the house loved it. Plus you can feel better about it because it's a small family-run farm that practices humane, low stress farming and does rotational grazing. (See? I read my Michael Pollan books!) One cooking note: Because the bacon is thick and pretty lean, it does take a little more time and a little lower temp to cook to perfection.

The gluten-free Devil's food cake mix from Betty Crocker was good! It is a smidge sweeter than a regular cake, so I made a cream cheese frosting with a little less sugar and a tablespoon of buttermilk added. Buy two boxes if you're making a layer cake - each box makes a pretty tall 9" layer. I also lined the bottom of the pans with parchment circles, just 'cause I didn't want to take the chance of a crumbly cake for a party of 12. As mentioned before, the flavor improves the second day, so make it in advance. I layered them with raspberries and it was dang tasty and not noted by anyone to be gluten-free.

Costco has organic strawberries!! Yay!

The Lund's by my work has the most remarkable selection of salads and sandwiches. One really has to restrain oneself. (By looking at the price tags...)

On the list of things I'm loving right now: quinoa, fennel, Surly Furious and you, Lone Reader!

Birthday Mania, Part 26

Today I am making the lego-filled Lego piñata. Tomorrow, the Lego cake. This, Lone Reader, is the last year of the home parties. The kids are getting too cool for this home-spun fun. Today I'm sad about that, but ask me on Saturday afternoon and I'll be delighted.

He's Drivin' That Big Weinermobile in the Sky...

On Monday, Oscar Mayer died. He was 95. Whatever is in the hot dogs can't be THAT bad for you...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

OMG! It's my birthday!

In honor of the anniversary of my birth, I am again going to start the bacon vodka. Tonight, I cook 1/2 lb. of bacon and add to an insanely large container of Svedka vodka obtained from the font of all things large, Costco.

If you play your cards right, Lone Reader, I'll ask you over for a beautiful BLT-ini in three weeks. Yum. I think it'll be even better than last time, if only because I'm gonna throw some peppercorns in the vodka as well. Plus, tomatoes are in season, which will make the tomato water that much better. (I must add a note of caution here: the tomato water was the most onerous part of this project.)

Luv Ya, Lone Reader!

No More Regal Beagle for You.

Joyce DeWitt (of Three's Company and the following two decades of bitterness) was arrested on the Fourth of July for a DUI. Was she driven over the edge by the death of Michael Jackson? Was it perhaps the news that the latest Suzanne Somers cruise is filling up fast? Or perhaps a little too much celebrating about the latest Senator from MN? We may never know.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Birthday Marathon continues...

Well, Lone Reader, I’m getting ready for my daughter’s friend party. We’re going to Vertical Endeavors, a huge indoor rock climbing place. It’s hard to have a birthday so close to the Fourth of July…there are inevitably a lot of cancellations and missing RSVPs due to travel, etc. I’m paying for eight 11-year-old girls to climb and I think only 4 will be there. Sigh…it’s just money, right?

Yesterday we had a lovely Fourth with all the traditional accoutrements…Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest on ESPN, followed by a cookout and then fireworks and frivolity at my sister’s house. Joey Chesnut not only kept the title and the Mustard Belt by beating Takeru Kobayashi, but he also broke the world record by eating 68 dogs in the 10-minute regulation time. Afterwards he said he thought he could've hit 70 (the Holy Grail of competitive doggery) but the buns weren't going down easily. Haven't we all been there, my friend.

I DIDN’T go see Elvis Costello at Taste of MN last night. Sad. I know he was counting on me. Perhaps he’ll show up at the rock climbing today. If he does, he's free. (Diana Krall can pay.)

This coming week I have three parties to host and four grants to write. Dang O’Dell, the first two weeks of July kick my fanny. On the plus side, our new dog is a delight. His name is Emmett and he is too fine. Now if I can teach him to make birthday cakes or write grants, we’ll be golden.

In the interest of playing cupid, I post this from the Twin Cities’ craiglist ‘Missed Encounters’:

Judas Priest on Friday - m4w - 41 (Shoreview)
You: Black halter, Levi shorts, long black curls, 23 years old. Enjoying your very first Priest show with lots of Photos.
Me: Older concert-veteran with the Danzig shirt, goofy beard and the set-list on my phone.

Really had a great time seeing you enjoy the show so much. Your excitement and enthusiasm were catchy, and I felt 20-years younger. Thanks! You told me the name of a band to check out their Priest cover, and I've forgotten it...

Sir, if you’re 41 and a 23-year-old speaks to you, consider that your date.

Off to make a chocolate buttercream frosting…I'll NOT be making the cake pictured above.

Keep hope alive! Joey Chestnut rules, Kobayashi drools!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

UPMC (Update after a Pomegranate Mojito and Cake)

Well, I've survived birthday number one, Lone Reader. My daughter's actual birthday was today. Her friend party is on Sunday. The family party is on Monday, my birthday is on Wednesday, my son's birthday is on Friday next week and his friend party on Saturday. Holy diabetic coma.

I tested a gluten-free cake mix today - I was in Byerly's and saw a Betty Crocker devil's food cake mix. I want to make a gluten-free cake for the family party because I have a niece with gluten intolerance, and wouldn't it be nice to not have to have her bring a separate dessert? Anyway, I made the cake and it was okay. I don't really like chocolate cake or cake mix cakes, so I guess, given that, it was fine. I'm gonna doctor it up with fresh raspberries, buttermilk and cream cheese frosting.

I'm also going to begin a new batch of bacon vodka. The BLT-inis shall be fine - this is a better time of year for the tomato water.

I'm not going to see Elvis Costello this weekend at the Taste of Minnesota. Here's the deal: I'm a little leary of seeing someone whose music I love in a festival setting. Ya know - a sea of drunks, none of whom give a bleep about anything except a drug-induced stupor and their crazy loud friends. (You'd think she'd be used to be used to this from her upbringing. - Ed.) It makes me sad to miss my beloved Elvis, but we'll always have that special moment behind Memorial Hall. Sigh. And again, I'm legal now, Mr. Costello.

Missing you, Lone Reader...why don't you call anymore? Is it the many bizarre texts I've sent? I'm back on my meds, so no worries. In the words of one of my internet stalkers, "If you send me a picture for my cell phone, I promise I'll leave you alone."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let Us Eat Cake!

It's funny how fast the backpedal begins - during November's election, we heard the chant of "60! 60!" as the magic number needed in the Senate. Now that we've got it (thank you Big Al!) the spin goes the other way. A story in the Huffington Post quotes an anonymous Democratic operative as saying, "Sixty is an imaginary number." Dude! We just got our Senator after 8 months of handwringing, vote-counting agony. Let us have our glory for more than a few hours!

Here's a link to Steve Martin dressing like Michael Jackson, dancing to 'Billy Jean'. Way weird.

One of the WORST songs to have stuck in your head? WIlson Phillips "Hold On for One More Day" Sweet Jesus, help me.

Antiques Roadshow just had its first $1 million discovery. "For 13 years, we've been hoping to feature a million-dollar appraisal on 'Antiques Roadshow;' it's been our 'Great White Whale,'" executive producer Marsha Bemko said. This is exhibit A. why it didn't work out for me in public television.

Birthday month is commencing here at the Shack deWhack. Both of my kids, my mother and I were all born in the first two weeks of July. Apparently October is a good month for gettin' busy in my family.

Let the wild rumpus begin, Lone Reader!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I'm Back!!

What was I doing whilst away? Take a guess…

a) NOT hiking the Appalachian trail
b) selling Demerol in LA
c) moving a drummer into my house
d) giving birth to SJP’s twins

It’s a trick question – they’re ALL true! I’m back with a twinkle in my eye, a lilt in my voice and an enemy in my freezer. AND a new senator!! What a day!

Happy July, Lone Reader!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Words that Velma cannot stand

I have had two employers, in two different cities, who both forbade the word “brainstorm” in the office. One of those two also told me to never use the word “innovative” in his presence. (Believe me Sir, it never crossed my mind.)

Are there words or phrases you simply cannot stand, Lone Reader, whether for overuse, misuse or just plain ol’ irritation factor?

Here’s my list:
Whatever (used with exasperation)
too much information

my bad


phone tag



perfect storm
bucket list
and the worst word in the English language: smegma.

Don’t drink the Kool-Aid, Lone Reader!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Good Ol' Summertime

Holy mackerel, Lone Reader - this has been a whacked out few days. I have pulled muscles lifting heavy things, taken several bags of belonging to Goodwill ("What's that you say, child? Your Furby is missing? Do tell...") and begun to watch Motel Hell on DVD. I say begun to watch because I fell asleep about halfway through. That is one weird flick, man.

School is wrapping up for the young 'uns and thus brings to mind the lovely summers of my youth...dawdling in the dappled meadow, silently sketching dragonflies in the glen...oh wait...that was on the Waltons. My summers were spent fighting with my brother and praying for the rapture that would save me from from the commoners and plebeians of Little Axe, Oklahoma.

My kids have three weeks of day camps lined up. This, Lone Reader, will not be sufficient time in which to ply my trade. Sigh. What to do...shall I set up a "Do Your Own Damn Laundry Day Camp" in my basement? Perhaps.

Stay classy! Don't let Grandpa at the rheumatiz medicine!

Campbell's Soylent Green Soup

From the category of Ewww...

A worker in Germany has died after being boiled alive in an industrial soup vat.

The worker was scrubbing the inside of the 6′ 6″ pot when the lid accidentally shut, triggering an automatic process of adding boiling water to the pot. Several hours later, the man was found well-done and floating in a broth redolent of Kartoffelsuppe, a classic German potato soup.

The factory, a subsidiary of American soup giant Campbell’s, has been provisionally closed while an investigation takes place.

Monday, May 11, 2009

You Lookin' At Me?

You know what’s weird? When they change a popular bus route for that mainstay of the Twin Cities’ summer – road construction. The Selby Ave bus now goes down Marshall. This means that each time I drop the kids off at school I am ceremoniously greeted by throngs of anxious proletariats, congregating on seemingly random street corners, expectantly gazing eastward as the minivans roll by.

The first few days I thought, “What the Hell are YOU lookin’ at?” (Okay, sometimes I still think that…)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

Lest you think that my Mothers' Day must involve bacon, I give this:

I just had the most divine breakfast - an apple muffin and a Tab with ice. It was delivered by two singing children, along with cards and sweet homemade gifts. I am so in love with these kids.

And to the crafty moms out there, here's a funny picture from an old knitting book.

Happy Mothers' Day, Lone Reader!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


My 7-year-old son is undergoing testing for cognitive processing disorders. We have spent 9.5 hours in academic testing in the past week. It is really, really hard on him. Between filling out reams of questionnaires, making copies of every paper he's ever laid a hand on in school and explaining the entire thing again and again, I’m so beat down. I need several days in an isolation tank. Got one, Lone Reader? And are you coming over here to clean my house? ('Cuz I kinda think you promised...)

Friday, May 1, 2009

Amalgam w/ bad counting

Number 1: Yes, it's true! You can now purchase a Tramp Stamp Barbie!

Numero Deux: I LOVE this installation by Luzinterruptus at The Prado.

Okay, I didn't see it, but I LOVE the pictures from it. I'm kind of a sucker for art that uses plastic bags, I admit. I once witnessed a beautiful dance on the banks of the Mississippi in which 40 people performed with plastic grocery bags. It was maybe a decade ago and I can still see how the one woman looked when she turned to the wind, her arms outstretched and the blue plastic billowing above her head.

4. On Fridays I can't count right.

17. Wuzzon for this weekend, you might ask? Some museum time at the Weisman, going to see the newly installed cherry in the Mpls. Sculpture Garden. (I've taken SO many pictures of forlorn visitors, gazing longingly at the spoonbridge with no cherry.) I'm also getting ready for the garage sale of the century - man, that's a lot of work. Oh, and playing outside. And of course, writing to you Lone Reader, you li'l devil, you.

Happy weekend! Love,

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sticky Ursine Love

Believe it or not, this comes from the Star Tribune...I'd say it's a slow news day, but is there such a thing anymore? (It's a snoutbreak!)

Wyo. police arrest woman after finding her in hotel room with barrel of cinnamon bear candies

What can we learn from this story, Lone Reader? 1) Don't call 911 after stealing something. 2) Don't eat at a place called "Poor Boys Steak House." 3) My sister, who loves cinnamon bears, is not alone.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two Shorts

Two short things:

1. I didn’t take driver’s Ed. I was taught to drive by my college boyfriend’s best friend in his 1967 Mustang. Later, when that very friend was now my boyfriend (oh, the drama, Lone Reader!) he taught me to drive stick shift on his old MG. If you can drive a cruddy old MG, you can drive about anything.

One of the high school driving teachers was known for telling students not to drive over a paper bag in the road. He told the girls to imagine that it was a bag full of kittens. He told the boys to picture a bag full of bricks. Why? Because girls don’t want to hurt kittens, and boys don’t want to jack up their cars.

2. Things I’m sick of:
Swine flu
Norm Coleman
Susan Boyle
American Idol
D’Amico & Sons

Happy Tuesday, Lone Reader! Luv ya!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Twine Ball Part I

I loaded up the family over Spring Break and headed for Darwin, MN – home of the Largest Ball of Twine assembled by one person. It’s a fairly boring drive, straight out west of the Twin Cities, but as we approached the twine ball we sensed the change in the air. “What’s that smell?” I murmured. “Sisal” answered the westerly breeze.

Yes, it IS a large twine ball. Sadly, it’s completely encased in a glass pavilion, which makes both photography and tactile appreciation darn near impossible. Still, pretty impressive. There’s a mailbox near the pavilion with a guest book in it. I may have written in it something to the effect of “That’s a pretty impressive ball of twine…almost as impressive as the one in Cawker City, KS.”

Yeah, I’m startin’ a twine war, my friends. Are you with me or agin me?

Happy sunshine day, Lone Reader!

Monday, April 6, 2009

I give good blurb.

- I was pretty taken with this photo of Sam Spenser's beautiful installation outside the Wapping Project in London. Then I read it was sponsored by Veuve Clicquot (thus the color of the umbrellas) and it lost its fizz.

- Number 5 on Google Trends is “MN Unemployment”. Something tells me that the recovery is still pretty distant…

- In “Monsters vs. Aliens” there’s a young gal who’s been rejected by her love for the mere fact that she’s turned into a 50-foot woman. As the freakishly giant animated version of Reese Witherspoon sobbed about her broken heart, my daughter leaned over and said to me, “Mom that’s so sad. Size doesn’t matter.” If you say so, baby.

- I got all excited about this story talking about scientists at the U of M studying cures for consistent itching. Then I saw that it said “itching”…nevermind.

- There’s an interesting article in yesterday’s NYT about the next Pixar offering, “Up.” It appears that the merchandising gurus are unhappy with trying to sell products based on a movie featuring a crabby old man and little adventure scout. Is anyone really concerned that Disney won’t make ENOUGH money? Besides, I love John Lasseter. The marriage of Pixar and Disney seems to have produced bigger support for Pixar-style movies, as opposed to formulaic Disney films being all Nemo-ed. We all know, though, that eventually everything will be Pixney/Dixar…is this the beginning?

- I’m really overwhelmed with work right now, but I love where I work. My various ambitions in life have been: archeologist/singer (at 8 years old, I signed a pact with my best friend that we would have each other mummified upon death, even if it was illegal), ASL-proficient public defender (inspired by Lowell Meyers and the book “Dummy”), opera singer, journalist, graphic designer, art historian/professor. I think I really would’ve liked being a prof, but as a city gal I’d be pretty unhappy with the first few rungs of academia…teaching at Southern Methodist Polytechnic East Campus would be hard for me. Nothing against SMPEC, but I like the Twin Cities now. (If you had asked me yesterday, when it was snowing, the answer might have been diff’rent.)

I’m taking dinners to neighbors for the next two nights, Lone Reader, so I should prolly go. And work. Happy warm up, darlin’!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Tubes, Lubes and iPhone's the bacon report.

Three really unnecessary new bacon products:

Bacon in a tube (actually an April Fool’s joke from ThinkGeek) (thanks, SMarty, for the tip!)

Bacon Lube. ‘nuff said. Perhaps also a wee prank from the folks that brought you bacon salt.

Pocket Bacon for your iPhone
"Pocket Bacon brings the sights and sounds of sizzling bacon with you anytime and anywhere. Choose from one of six cooking surfaces, then slap down fresh strips on the pan and hear them hiss."

I might use one of these three, but I’ll never tell which one.

Watch this site for my big ball of twine pix soon!

Sizzlelean, Lone Reader, sizzlelean.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Protocol, Willie Ames & Pot Pies

1. Here it is, almost the end of National Protocol Officers' Week and what have I done? Damn it, how time flies when you're thinking protocol. The cynical and jaded side of me is suspicious, since the week was sponsored by The Protocol School of Washington, but then again, don't protocol officers need love, too?

2. Nobody told me that Willie Ames lives in Olathe, Kansas (which is just 40 minutes from my dad's house)! (Did you know that for years my ringtone was the theme from "Charles in Charge"?) (Did we care? -Ed.) Or that he was having a huge garage sale?! I heard he's finally getting rid of the kid who played Nicholas on "Eight is Enough". I smell a road trip...

3. Col. Sanders is filling potholes in Louisville, Kentucky. Now you know what they do with the leftover biscuits.

4. The amazing crop art of Col. Sanders above is by Elizabeth Schreiber. (Should I enter the MN State Fair crop art competition? I'm always tempted...)

Have an awesome weekend, Lone Reader! Keep your powder dry!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Roundball and the Cinema

Hello, Lone Reader! Today’s post in three parts:

I. Basketball
Tomorrow is the KU vs. Michigan State basketball game. I’m having some peeps over. It should be a tough game, but I think we can swing it. I do have my big foam finger from 1988, which will be making an appearance at the party. Hopefully I can convince someone to wear the red and blue wig as well. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!

II. Crap movies
Perhaps because of the suckola weather, I’ve been watching movies like crazy lately. (For those not in MN, yesterday it snowed and it’s been grey and damp for days.) I decided to begin Crap Movie Fest ’09 with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, featuring Beatles songs sung by the Bee Gees, Peter Frampton and, believe it or not, George Burns, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, Aerosmith and so many more. Wow, that’s a bad movie. It appears to have stolen a plot from Scooby Doo, with the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton playing apparently mute rubes who are chased by the Bad Guys. OMG. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen “She’s Leaving Home” sung by actors dressed as evil cyborgs. The highlight of the film was the finale, with a bizarre assemblage of celebrities (all of whom lacked the common sense to pass on this train wreck) singing Sgt. Pepper. Where else can you see Bowser from Sha Na Na, Leif Garrett, Carol Channing, Gwen Verdon and Seals & Croft all singing along to the worst soundtrack ever committed to celluloid?

Next up in the bad movie category was Xanadu. Brief disclosure – I LOVE XANADU. I’ve seen it several times. The acting is truly remarkable. It’s almost like it’s early computer animation – the wooden expressions, the not-quite life-like delivery of lines. With one of the lamest plots ever (a muse comes to Earth and falls in love) Olivia Newton John, the forgettable (and forgotten) Michael Beck and, sadly Gene Kelly struggle to keep the film afloat. Poor, poor Gene Kelly…you must’ve really needed cash to be the performing monkey in this charade. There’s a painful music video-type sequence with Gene Kelly popping out of dressing rooms in various outrageous get ups. It puts one simultaneously in the mind of the Banana Splits and the pathetic old hooker on the corner, pretending that no one can really see the folds around her lips under the smear of magenta gloss.

III. Better movies
I recently watched Religulous, Rachel Getting Married and Milk. Religulous feels like it’s from the makers of Borat, perhaps because it was. There’s a very fine line between pointing out hypocrisy and contradiction and really making fun of a person’s beliefs. There were certainly funny moments, and thought-provoking factoids, but there was a lot of mean-spiritedness, homogenizing all religious people as lemmings, or worse, bigoted cowards.

Rachel Getting Married and Milk were both harsh, but solid. Excellent performances in both, surprising for me since I don’t much care for Anne Hathaway’s pop-eyed ingénue thing.

This has turned into a novella, Lone Reader, and I must go. Life, not blog, calls me. Stay warm, watch good movies and go Jayhawks!



Saturday, March 14, 2009

Happy Pi Day!

How will you celebrate? I'm going to have some damn pie, that's what I'm gonna do. (I have a bit of a head cold that is causing me to curse...excuse me.) (Yeah, right. -ed.)

No more of a post than that today - I'm nursing myself back to health with copious amounts of Tab. (Don't you judge me, Lone Reader!)

Happy warm up!
Love, Velma

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

#1 in Gratitude Journal: No Kangaroo Ninjas

Mon Mar 9, 2:07 pm ET
CANBERRA (Reuters) – An Australian couple thought they were being attacked by an intruder when a kangaroo crashed through their bedroom window and started jumping on them.

"My initial thought, when I was half awake, was it's a lunatic ninja coming through the window. It seems about as likely as a kangaroo breaking in," Beat Ettlin told local media Monday.

The three-meter (9 feet) kangaroo smashed through the window in Ettlin's Canberra home Sunday night. While Ettlin and his wife and young daughter took refuge under the blankets, the injured kangaroo jumped on top of them, gouging holes in the furniture and smearing blood all over the walls, said the Australian Associated Press. The next thing Ettlin heard was his 10-year-old son Leighton screaming from his bed: "There's a 'roo in my room!'" Ettlin, a 42-year-old chef, wrestled the bleeding kangaroo, got it into a headlock and dragged it out the front door. The kangaroo disappeared into bushes. (Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by Dean Yates)

This makes my morning with two crabby kids and a grant due seem better. Ya gotta find your bliss where you can, Lone Reader.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Buttermilk Pie

So, I made buttermilk pie yesterday...blecch! I had buttermilk left over from another cooking adventure and thought I'd try a super easy recipe in the ATK Family Cookbook. OMG, it is so dang sweet. Yowza. So, for not wanting to waste the buttermilk, I threw a fair amount of butter, sugar eggs and flour away as well.

On the plus side, I'm thinking of serving it to the squirrel to send him into a diabetic coma.

Today is National Napping Day!

Yes, it's national napping day. How will you be celebrating, Lone Reader? I'll be celebrating by breaking up numerous arguments (no school today) and working on a federal grant. Sigh. It seems like there might be a more appropriate way to celebrate...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Open Letter to the Squirrel in My Attic

Image from Grey Squirrels Disturbing on cafepress

Dear Rodent:

You don’t get to judge me, Mister. Okay, I have a lot of Christmas decorations up here…eleven Rubbermaid tubs, to be exact. So what? Like you don’t hoard crap? At least mine is dutifully labeled. And so I have every piece of paper I ever laid a finger on in grad school – big deal! I might need to know something about 17th century Dutch genre paintings by Jan Steen and then where would I be? I can’t ask you for input now, can I?!

It’s been fun for you, I’m sure, reading my old research papers, mocking my pseudo-intellectual art historical prose. It was the 90s! Everyone wrote like that! And yeah, that IS a Colin Powell GI Joe doll in the corner. It’s propped up on the cedar chest – you know, the one with the broken lock? Who knows what’s in there…I digress.

Look, I’m going to give you a choice here. We can play nice or we can play hard. Scenario A has you coming down out my attic on your own accord, allow me to dress you in a vest and small hat and then walk you about my neighborhood on a long silver leash, demonstrating your willingness to be my personal mascot/sidekick for wacky high jinx and crime solving. Scenario B has me throwing your squirrelly ass out a third story window. What’s it gonna be, Mister?

You have until high noon.


PS If you’re looking for nesting materials to take with you on your way out, I’ll happily contribute my ex-husband’s 43 old copies of Wired magazine. The box can follow you out the window.

Friday, February 27, 2009

My Love Triangle with Oprah Winfrey


When I was about 20 years old, I went to visit my mom in Chicago. My then-boyfriend (now ex-husband) and a good gal pal went with me. We decided we really, really wanted to go to the Oprah show. Well, what were three enterprising 20-somethings to do when there were no tickets available? That’s right, answer the call that appeared at the end of the show that said, “Are you in a love triangle and only two of you know it? Call the Oprah Winfrey Show!”

I made up a long, involved story…I seem to recall it involved the secretarial pool, a pound of Parmigiano-Reggiano and the Russian mob. It worked – we were in. We were specially seated on an aisle, and right before the show started a producer came over and asked me surreptiously, “You guys are the triangle, right?” I nodded knowingly as she put gaffers’ tape on the backs of our chairs. When the show began, we dutifully cheered and watched as the dregs of humanity were put on display. (This was before the Pope-rah of today, back when she used to have pretty sordid talk show fare.)

Ms. Winfrey looked smaller than I’d have thought, and slightly tired.

The first and second segments went well, then on the break, a different producer came over to me and said, “You guys are up next. We want you to stand and reveal the truth after this break.” I replied, “Ummm…yeah…I don’t really feel like doing this now.” She was pretty angry but I held my ground. Okay, I toyed with idea of standing up and proclaiming myself to be the other woman, but hey, it just didn’t feel right. She stormed away and we watched the rest of the show unbothered by the camera crew.

When we left the studio, Oprah was perched on a high stool over to the side of the exit, saying goodbye to all. As we drew close to the once-and-future queen of daytime, I noticed how drawn and almost desiccated she looked. Later we would learn that she was three weeks into the liquid diet that led to her 67-pound weight loss, and the famed show where she pulled a wagon filled with fat onto the set.

Our love triangle dissolved that very day. We were on TV oh so briefly, not unlike Oprah’s skinny jeans. Some things just aren’t meant to last, Lone Reader.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Iceman Cometh?

Lone Reader, I am so happy that Tuesday is over…aren’t you? I was up bright and early to get the kids to school, then off to the capitol to advocate for the arts with over 800 arts advocates, organized by Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. After, I was off to Sweeney’s for a quick quaff with other artsy types, pick up kids, run to piano lessons, home for a fast dinner, off to play rehearsal, then board meeting, then home. Dang. It was a surprisingly art-filled, chaotic day.

Now it’s Wednesday, the day before THE STORM. Some media outlets are predicting 6 – 8”, so who knows how much snow we’ll get tomorrow. I do know that tomorrow night is the opening night of my daughter’s play. Believe me, LR, the show will go on. I need this beast to end…rehearsals three times a week for the past month and this week every night for 3 hours. It’s killing us.

A few things that caught my eye recently:

From LarripinLabs on etsy:
Cross-stitch patterns for portraits of famous physicists.
(This is Richard Feynman, Nobel Laureate, bomb-builder and generally goofy guy.)

Tilt-Shift Photos made easy:
Now you can manipulate your own pictures of real scenes to look like model photographs. Super fun. I wanted to mess around with my own pictures, but since my computer crashed they’re all in a folder called ‘Canon’ and are a bloody mess. It’s too depressing to open.

Iwasaki has all the amazing fake food you can imagine, beautifully detailed.
Mmmm that bacon looks good…

From Komodokat
Kawaii toast charms

And lastly, I bought a book for a Christmas present. Okay, it was on the Urban Outfitters clearance shelf. Still, it was wildly adorable and I thought I’d give it to a friend’s daughter. It was Kawaii Not by Meghan Murphy.

I learned about kawaii, the phenomenon of wide-eyed cuteness that is so celebrated in Japan. I also learned that this was not a book to give a friend’s child. Still, it was pretty dang good.

Happy snow day, Lone Reader!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mr. Jiggs and the Cold Hard Truth

This photo of Mr. Jiggs is by Michael Nichols from Brutal Kinship, a book by Nichols and Jane Goodall.

So the news story about the pet chimpanzee that attacked a woman in Connecticut has me thinking about my ol’ pal Mr. Jiggs.

Mr. Jiggs was a very famous chimp. He starred in many, many commercials, movies and bar mitzvahs in his 30+ years as a performer. He was written about by no less than Jane Goodall in her heartbreaking book Visions of Caliban (co-authored with Dale Peterson.) He had a lovely profile in the New Yorker in the mid-80s.

My paternal grandparents lived in Park Ridge, New Jersey. I spent months each summer there and every Christmas break, as the Velma family made its Ma & Pa Kettle journey cross-country to go to the place my parents always called “home.” (As a child I wondered what to call our ever-changing residences, since they were clearly not “home.”)

Park Ridge defies what most non-Easterners think of as New Jersey…it’s non-industrial, mall-free, treed and fairly affluent. Not only are my unhinged parents products of this environ, but also The Roches and Karen Duffy. More notably, the borough of Park Ridge had two august neighbors in the form of Richard Nixon (who lived in Saddle River) and Mr. Jiggs of Hillsdale. As a child, I was infinitely more interested in Mr. Jiggs, although my parents would occasionally drive by Nixon’s estate and command us kids to glare.

When we would go see my Aunt Marge (who was not an aunt…discuss) we would sometimes see Mr. Jiggs outside his house. He was a 190-lb. chimpanzee who lived in Hillsdale with his trainer, Ron Winter. He had a swing in the yard, and would sometimes sit on the porch and wave. The very best was when we would see him riding around on his custom motorcycle.

In reading about the chimp attack in Connecticut, I did a little research, or what passes for research in the days of Google, on Mr. Jiggs. He had a truly remarkable career and seemed to be deeply loved by his owner. Ms. Goodall and Mr. Peterson describe his life as apparently joyous, albeit profoundly artificial. Some disturbing facts, however: Mr. Jiggs was actually Ms. Jiggs. (Apparently girl chimps just aren’t as funny, i.e. Michelle Bachman.) Mr. Jiggs had had his front teeth pulled. And most upsetting, Mr. Jiggs lived each and every day in a metal vest and collar that could deliver electric shocks from Mr. Winter, should the need arise. Mr. Jiggs, for all his gleeful appearance, lived a life of gender dysphoria with cold metal and a swift jolt at the ready, should his true nature emerge.

It’s like when you get close to a college cheerleader – what seems so fresh-faced and innocent at a distance is actually a half-inch layer of suntan Max Factor covering cystic acne and sweat.

The seamy verities of owning wild animals ain’t cute, Lone Reader.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Better to have blogged and lost, than to kill a tech sales dude

Things I've lost in the past 10 days:
my address book (not that big a deal)
all my digital photos (feels devasting...trying to get a grip)
all of my iTunes (very upsetting)
my false sense of tech bravada

Things I've lost in the past 10 years:
a dog (found)
a sauté pan (found)
untold numbers of socks and shoes
30 pounds
a car key
my innocence (quit laughing, Lone Reader)

Things I've gained recently:
a sexy new computer
a credit card to pay for said computer
a Time Capsule back up system
8 pounds (still ahead of the game!)
many, many new friends
tremendous love
you, Lone Reader, you sly bastard

I guess I'm doing okay, after all.