Sunday, February 28, 2010

Is winter over yet?

This morning I looked in the mirror after my shower and I looked like I had the worst sunburn of my life. Not the part of the sunburn when it's all red and angry, but after that when your skin curls up and flakes off like old paint, or some kind of zombie. Ick.

Beyond the the hassles of shoveling and bundling up, my patience is starting to wear thin on what this weather is doing to my "look." Not that I've really done much to battle it, but I'd rather not look like a creature from a bad sci-fi show.

Enter silk drops:

I'm trying something new.
I am the ultimate no-fuss hair girl. I roll out of bed, shower, and leave. Yeah, that's right, I intentionally skipped brushing my hair on that list because *gasp* I often don't even do it.

I have very thick, straight hair. Not thick in individual strands, but so many strands that my stylists generally get sick of the hour long blow drying required and insinuate that I should just leave with it damp. Which I often do, having the attention span of a kindergartner, and being terrible at mindless chit chat.

Anyways, my current hairdo is the simple stacked bob, and I like to wash it and run out of the house like a chicken with my head cut off about 15 minutes late, so there is very little fussing with it. Unfortunately, this dry weather leaves it to fluff and frizz quite oddly. I can combat this with a flat iron, but without making a serious adjustment to my morning schedule, that's not going to happen.

So when I got my hair cut last week I shared this conundrum with my stylist, who recommended I put "some STUFF" in it.

I have no "stuff." I think there are a few cans of glitter hair spray in the back of my cabinet, but outside of Halloween I rarely put gunk in my hair. I'm gunk shy. It makes me nervous.

But now I have gunk! She recommended these "silk drops" which she promised were easy as pie. I was skeptical, but for $10 I gave it a try. You just use a few drops, work it through wet hair, and and it supposedly eliminates the flyaways and fuzz.

I've used it 2-3 times so far, and it feels pretty good. It's a little fragrant for my tastes, but it doesn't make my hair feel greasy or gooey or stiff. I wasn't sure if it was really doing that much, or if my new haircut should get the credit, so I skipped a day (but still actually brushed it - go me!) and my hair was all fuzzy strange kinks. I think that seals it, this is good stuff!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

And so it begins...

The first Halloween project - though I probably won't work on it for a while, yes, I am already thinking of the 2010 party and have been since before the last one was done. I can't help it. It's a sickness.

But I also made a resolution this year to spend my party budget more carefully, and that means starting early so I can be discerning and wait for deals. I already blew my first chance - waited too long on some supplies I wanted and my amazing coupon expired. :( Boo. Hopefully it comes around again.

And then there's this fun and cheap project! I came across four of these frames at Goodwill and snapped them up immediately:

These frames stood out amongst the piles of junk and caught my eye from across the store. They're metal, probably a foot and a half tall, in various states of distress, and just SCREAMING for a makeover. At $3.99 each, I just couldn't pass them up and scooped up the entire pile. My plan is to screw off the back (yes, they are screwed together, very strange) and replace the dumb field pictures with something spooky that matches my theme. I don't even think I'll refinish the frames, I like the dinged-up aged look of them, the ornateness of the thick frame, and the unusual shape.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Few Clowns Short of a Circus

What did I sign myself up for?!?!? If you know me at all, you're going to think this post is a work of complete fiction, but I swear by my aching back, it all happened. I was too busy trying to access muscles that I didn't know I had, so I didn't snap any photos -but I'll try to include some I've found online to illustrate my points:

My first night at the Circus
by HeatherEve

I didn't quite know what to expect. Aside from two 60-mile breast cancer walks, I haven't exercised since I quit soccer in 9th grade (in favor of debate, which pretty much sums up my view on physical activity), and even then I chose the goalie position to minimize required exertion. I knew that the circus acts would require/build strength, and that I had NONE going in. I arrived early and watched a bunch of tiny children hula hooping while balancing on big spheres. Like this, only younger:

Behind them, a group of boys were launching each other off teeter-totters and catching them in chairs on poles. Over their heads a group of teen girls hung from the rafters doing something in unison. On either side were kids swinging on a trapeze and others racing unicycles.

I watched in awe, but I didn't really get nervous yet. I figured I had signed up for an entry level adult class, sure to be full of pudgy housewives.

Correction #1: There are 10 adults in the class. 7 have taken it before, most of them multiple times. I am pretty much the only pudgy one. Gulp.

The course description mentioned juggling, unicycles, Spanish web, and triple trapeze. The first two seemed pretty benign - skills necessary? Yes. Danger of death? Unlikely. I figured we'd start with a day of safety stuff, or maybe even unicycles.

So already you know, that is not what happened.

First up was stretching. I guess that made sense, and should have tipped me off about the level of exertion yet to come. As I struggled to touch my toes, I watched everyone around me do the splits and put their leg behind their head (okay, nobody but the instructor did that, but it still felt like everyone else was made of Jell-O and I was just pudding). Of the 3 newbies, the other two clearly have a background in dance, gymnastics or yoga. I have a background in office supplies.

As we stretched, the coaches came around and pushed and pulled. This scared me a little. I am not flexible. I've actually never been able to do a back bend. I expressed my concern when we reached that portion of the evening - "I don't think I can do this - "

At which point the tiny Russian woman grabbed my back and pushed it upwards, and all of a sudden I was doing this:

I'd be tempted not to believe it, but I DEFINITELY FELT IT, and still do today, so I know it happened. There was a burning sensation that took a while to go away, during which point I was sure I'd end up crippled. But no time to contemplate that, we were off to our stations!

Uh, what? Where's the safety lesson? Where's the ground work? No? Straight to the long trampoline? Okay...

As the coach waved us forward I didn't even know where to start. "Do I just jump?? I have a secret fear of trampolines. My father was a gymnast in high school, and had injured his neck on a trampoline. Ever since he was really guarded about them, and we were never allowed to play on them or get one as kids. So when we were turned loose to make tumbling runs down this sucker, I didn't quite know what to do. After a few passes of straight jumps, tucks, and what had to be the worst looking Russian's ever, I was encouraged to do front handsprings. That wasn't going to happen, I can't even do them on the ground. I settled for somersaults, despite having not done one of those for years either.

After two or three passes of that, I got sick and had to sit down. Awesome! I'd like to blame it on the spinning, but I've fainted enough times to know that was where this was headed (probably because I haven't had my blood pumping like this in YEARS), so I sat down and drank some water, thought I might vomit and carefully made my way to the ladies room, and eventually pulled it together again. Embarrassing? A little. But I knew it wouldn't be easy, and you have to start somewhere. And it's not like I'm worried about impressing this group of strangers. They're all nice so far, but they all seem to take it very seriously, where as I'm just in awe that people are letting me play with this equipment.

Anyways, when I got back, my group had moved on to the high wire.

THE HIGH WIRE. That's a real circus act. Okay, so this one was only about 3 feet off the ground, and they really call it the low wire, but you can see the progression. All that kept running through my head was the Bones episode when Brennan hurt her feet walking on the wire (very amusing episode though). This lizard child has better balance, but about the same belly as I do:

Bat, who appears to be the head coach asked if I was okay. I told him I hadn't exercised in 15+ years and wasn't used to quite this much exercise, but I was trying. He asked my job. "I work in a tax office."

"Ha ha ha, you sit at desk all day!"
That is very true. At least he could understand why I was so soft and wimpy :)

We had the option of using the giant pole, which I wasn't sure I could even lift, let alone not clothesline someone with, so I stuck with the other balance aid which was a cloth paddle called a "fan". It looks like a big racquetball racket, but solid fabric, and you flap it to move air and keep your balance.

Then again they turned us loose! Bat held one hand lightly as I tentatively stepped out on the wire. Ow. Ow. Ow. He kept telling me to slow down, which was probably better for my balance, but going fast was better for my feet, not so accustomed to having a big wire pressed into them. I never tried it alone (I have a feeling that is to come) but we did walk with limited assistance both forward and backward across the wire.

Next: time for round III, ding! On to the HOOPS:

This was by far my favorite "looking" act, but also the hardest. They were 2-3' off the ground, and to get on you hang from your arms and pull your legs up. With your stomach muscles. If you have any. Which I don't. Xena helped me force my feet up, at which point I was able to use my arms & legs to pull myself up to the hoop. We did a variety of basic but very cool looking poses while she slowly spun the hoop. Stuff similar to this:

I felt kind of defeated since it was so hard for me to get on that one, but hey - I know I'm weak and flabby, and I was proud that I tried it. A quick google search of "aerial hoops" shows this is both a circus and stripper act, so two very divergent career paths lay ahead of the kids who study this.

After this point I thought the evening was over, but again, I was wrong. We all circled up on one more set of mats for PUSH UPS AND CRUNCHES.


These are things I DEFINITELY haven't done (or wanted to) in quite some time, and it showed. My push ups are saggy and awful. The group counted off 30, I maybe got 15-20 of those in. Then crunches: I actually made most of the 50, which kind of shocked me. And I wasn't just faking it with my neck, I could hear my sweaty back peel off the mat.

And then they sent us home, and I wondered if I was going to die.

So far, this class is nothing like I thought it would be. It's probably better, but I'll reserve judgements to see how in pain I am the rest of the day. The coaches are really nice, it is DEFINITELY a work out, but it is way more fun to swing and bounce on things than do yoga or aerobics (never happen). Apparently we have a lot more "acts" to explore in the next 7 weeks, and you can bet I'll struggle with all of them, but hopefully I can stick it out!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I see London, I see France...

I'm not embarrassed about showing off my underpants. Why?

1. Everyone wears underwear. Okay, maybe not everyone, but most of us - so as long as I'm not modeling them (eek!) its no weirder than looking at socks or headbands.

2. These are all clean and brand new.

3. They were a total bargain! Valentine's Day stuff at Target was clearanced to 90% off last week, and I happened to find 3 packs in my size - that's 9 pairs of panties for $1.50. Score.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

You're VIRTUALLY Invited: Mini Contest!

I won another host package from, and my party pack arrived yesterday!

This one is for Sandwich Thins, which appear to be little bread circles you build sandwiches and stuff on. I've never tried them, but I generally like bread, so this should be fun.

The party pack looks pretty good this time around! Last time the product was good, but the "party" stuff was cheesy. This time it seems much more practical. Here's what I got:

A plastic cutting board (not sure about this)
Coupons for 5 rolls of Sandwich Thins

And for ALL the guests:
$1 off coupons
Grocery list pads
Reusable cloth shopping bags
Recipe card sets with sandwich thins recipe ideas

So far, so good! I'm planning on enjoying these with my "book club" next week, but I think I have an extra set or two that I'm willing to give away to a virtual guest! If you are interested, send me an email at:


With your mailing address (US only please, purely for financial reasons). I'll check the responses on Tuesday, March 2nd, and just to keep it really interesting, I won't announce the winner(s)! You'll just have to wait and see if you get something in the mail :)

"Literature" might be a stretch...

Could these book covers BE any more embarrassing?!?!?

Clearly it was time to consider making some book covers, ala 4th grade. Here's the step by step tutorial that I used to refresh my memory, and about 4 seconds later I had an easy mask for my terrible literature.

Before: woefully bad book you don't want people to see and judge you by (though you are not above reading it), and a piece of 11" x 17" paper. You can use any kind of paper you have lying around, this happens to be what I have access to. Paper bags are the old standby for their durability, but I'm really just looking to cover up the outside without damaging these (mostly borrowed) books:

Remember this ridiculous thing? I found myself with time to kill at a coffee shop last night, and this was the only book in my bag. I actually tried to hold it so that nobody could see the title and author. Definitely time for a book cover. 4 folds is all it takes - I didn't even need a scissor:

Voila! Formerly embarrassing books now cleverly incognito! I thought about writing something witty and misleading as an alternate title, but I kind of prefer the understated mystery of the plain white cover.

Kenyon books, you're next!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Flashback: Fiesta Crafts from the Vault

Hubby and I lived for a short time in the tiny little town of Walker, Minnesota. Have you heard that name before? Perhaps you are even attending this weekend's International Eel Pout Festival, which draws 10,000 (drunk) people to the ice. Sometime today they'll all stagger back to their real lives in Eagan and Wayzata, leaving a huge mess and a population less than 1/10th of that behind.

I didn't love living in Walker, let's be honest. I tried it, it wasn't for me, and I moved on. But damn, they had a great little Mexican restaurant. And that little Mexican restaurant had a great little pollo wrap. Mmmm. I miss that sandwich and it's bacony-chicken goodness. And every year that Mexican Restaurant had a Cinco de Mayo celebration, with which came a pinata contest.

Yeah, couldn't pass that up.

Year one was fairly impressive:

This guy is about 2 feet across. That's honest to goodness paper mache, the skeleton being a giant "punch ball" balloon with an accordion folded strip of cardboard for the "rays", all wrapped up in layer after layer of newspaper strips and flour paste. It took forever to dry so I had to do a bunch of thin layers, but it came out awesome. Then I decorated the front with tiny scrunched squares of bright crepe paper, dipped in white glue. That took WEEKS, at which point I ran out of time and totally phoned in the back. Oh well, I still got 2nd place. :)

My attempt the next year was much less exciting, though I did actually finish it:

The base was just a really big balloon, and my focus was more on the decoration (that technique with little paper squares takes FOREVER!) The "basket" is basket weaved crepe paper, and would have been way cooler with a strange little assortment of figures peeking out, maybe like these guys.

So if you ever go up there, and these are still hanging around (7-8 years later?), feel free to toss some interesting action figures into the basket. And don't look at the back of the sun, it just ruins the illusion. And also try the fried ice cream banana split, though they only have bananas once in a blue moon.

Cinco de Mayo is about 10 weeks away, which means this is the perfect time to start your pinata if you want to finish it strong! I can't say I really understand the holiday, but crafts + margaritas win me over every time.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

There is a book review in here somewhere...

How did I not have a "vampires" key word for labeling posts yet? Apparently when I first started sharing my secret shame with all of you, I didn't plan on making it a regular feature. Room to grow I guess. But since a sad amount of my life takes place on the vampire bandwagon, it's time for another installment of "those naughty books!"

Brief interruption: true story, minor digression: I was introducing the amazing Krista to my mother, and for some reason my primary technique for introductions involves describing people by what they were for Halloween the prior year. Yeah, it makes no sense to me either, but I can say the name "Krista" a million times and hubby won't know what I'm saying, but if I say "Meg Griffin Girl" he immediately gets it. Confused?

Clarification: Halloween 2008, Krista won "Most Original Costume" for her spot on Meg Griffin portrayal:

Is that not a spectacular yet simple home made costume? Love it! and it totally went with our "Hollywood Halloween" theme. Then, last year Krista once again pulled out a big bag of awesome with her twist on the Wonderland theme - VAMPIRE ALICE:

She made the red dress and white pinafore from SCRATCH, and I always give huge bonus points when people go to the lengths of pulling out a sewing machine and ironing board for costumes. That's commitment. And hello, how lovely are those fangs?!?! In a strange twist of fate, those creepy realistic chompers have a warning label cautioning you not to drink red liquids with them in. Apparently they stain - so sad. Maybe with a straw. Of course, in a pinch, Long Island iced tea works too.

Remember how this started out as a book review?

So one day, about 5 paragraphs ago, I was introducing Krista to my mother and explaining that she was in my "book club" and dressed up as Alice last year, Meg the year before. My mother gave a look of confusion "Oh, I don't watch those naughty shows..." assuming each was some sort of half naked character on a smutty vampire series. Egads. I'm developing a reputation.

AND IT'S ALL KRISTA'S FAULT. She is the local purveyor of all such smutty vampire media for a growing circle of us embarrassed but eager consumers. She got us all hooked and since she has the least willpower of all, she buys all the books immediately upon publication, reads them overnight, and then is nice enough to pass them around to the rest of us. I have previously admitted reading all of the Twilight books (terrible, but intriguing) and the Sookie Stackhouse novels (yum!) and then Charlaine Harris' other serials (not great, but good enough). Then for some reason I decided to spin out on my own and try selecting some books, which has not been nearly as successful. Thirst was awful (I had to erase that sentence 3 times to avoid bad unintentional puns - "sucked" and "bit" were my original choices, but even I couldn't do that to your ears. Eyes. Whatever.) After that fiasco (I'm still not sure if I'll give the other 2 stories in the book a chance) I dove into the Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series. I had high hopes. Another series to follow would be GREAT, especially one with a bunch of books already out so I don't have to wait a year between installments.

But I'm not loving Anita Blake. :(

It is definitely not anywhere near the craptacular nature of Thirst, but I'm not at all hooked either. I am finding it really hard to like the heroine, the weird religious undertones (souls are very important to her...which is not a given for me, and not well explained) and of course there is the problem that the covers look like romance novels (which I'm somehow more embarrassed about than if people actually knew they were vampire stories). The characters have annoying names I mentally trip over and argue with (Nikolaus for a woman just seems to be trying to hard), Jean Claude & Phillip just all blend together to become one cheesy vaguely French bustier ripping leading man - Jean-Phillipe-Claude-hopper. Blah. And there's all sorts of misty allusion to some dark thorny past that really needs to start coming out more significantly because I am just kind of bored.

I made it through the first book, not nearly on pace with books I've liked more, and it did pick up some towards the end, but I'm not sure if I'll be trying out any more of the series. Krista passed off a Sherrilyn Kenyon book which has an even MORE embarrassing cover, and the title "Fantasy Lover" that I'm planning to try next. I think I might have to start making little brown bag book covers for this kind of smut, sort of how a hobo hides their cheap liquor in a bag to lessen the shame. And hide from authorities.

I'm also mixing this up by starting "The Help", which I hear is very good despite zero vampires. An though I've borrowed it in hard cover so it doesn't fit in my purse, it is much less embarrassing to take out in public.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Retiring from the craft fair circuit...

I think I'm retiring the mosaics. It was fun for a while, but they are so fragile and labor intensive, not to mention semi-dangerous. I'm ready for my fingertips to heal, to vacuum up the glass shards, and move on. I am clearly the kiss of death for craft fairs I attend, and that fact was driven home astoundingly with last weekend's Champlin Women of Today craft fair. Total BOMB.

I had high hopes - this group has a history of highly promoted, well attended shows. They're big - 150 crafters, a whole high school gym. But clearly, the tide has turned on craft fairs.

In the week before I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to throw together a bunch more mosaics. I finally got the right grout again (white, sanded), and since the show was just before Valentine's Day, I thought I'd focus on heart shaped photo frames:

These all came out really cute, I especially love the rainbow one. This is just after grouting, so they weren't polished up yet - I was very happy with the end product.

I was not happy when I stabbed myself with a scissors during the whole process, but that's another story.

So I finished all these guys up, wrapped each one in bubble wrap, hauled everything out to my car (2 tables, 1 chair, 2 giant art stands, tablecloths, signage, extra bubble wrap, all the mosaics including 3 giant wall mirrors...)Then I arrived at the school and hauled it all inside...

And it was all for naught.

My booth looked really nice, though I was pretty exhausted by the time I got it all up. My previous craft fair experience with aprons was so much easier - they're not fragile, they require little care other than some sort of folding, and they're much lighter than mosaics. Setting up these suckers requires muscle. The show had a lot of helpers, came around with a coffee cart, and I had a nice wall space so nobody behind me would knock my stuff over - so far so good.

Then I started to look around. And to get nervous. First bad omen: non-craft booths. Lots of them. Someone selling "the best pillow you'll ever own," a bunch of food mixes (probably Tastefully Simple), a chiropractor, TWO salsa vendors...uh oh. The line between craft fair and crap fair is so thin already, I'm hesitant to waste any time with shows that are all home party plan vendors.

To my right was a custom t-shirt booth, some of their designs were cheesy (a lot of puns and grandma-esque stuff) but a few were fun (sparkly - yes, I am a Bingo Queen at heart) and they made them right on the spot with a giant heat press. That was kind of cool - definitely a toy I briefly thought about acquiring.

On the other side of me was a very chatty grandmother selling..."a little of everything" was how she described it. Her words are nicer than mine.

I was across from a guy selling soaps, behind him was someone selling fabric purses that were cute but too small for my purposes, and the rest of the show was 50 people selling dish towels. Okay, maybe not 50, but I swear there were a ton of towels.

And no customers.

Seriously, no customers. Fewer than 100 people through the doors, in my guesstimation. There were a few sales (I saw those darn pillows in a lot of hands), but I'm not sure anybody made their booth fee back. Most of the people I heard from (including myself) didn't have a single sale the entire day. It was bad enough that people started packing up early, and the show organizers even pulled the plug and "released" us an hour ahead of schedule. Clearly it was a total disappointment for all involved.

For a split second I considered just leaving the whole display there.

Then I packed it all up again and headed home. I still haven't had the energy to unpack the car and get it all back into the house, so I'm driving around with a car
packed full of strange things. The whole thing had taken a definite turn for the DEPRESSING, so it's a good time to stop. I still like making them (though I don't love grouting) so it might stay a hobby - and I don't think my products were at all bad, I just had a knack for picking poor shows. Oh well.

Moving on!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Craft Flashback

I have always greatly enjoyed getting mail. And sending mail. In college, I was an excellent pen pal, sending off strangely shaped packages and tubes to my besties who went to school out of state. I think getting a package in the mail, regardless of what is inside of it, makes you feel loved. I've slipped a little in recent years, mostly because postage has gone up so dramatically, but I still like to send little care packages whenever I can. Here's the cute box I sent to Ryan last week:

He was having a Valentine's Day party, for which I sent a batch of my famous PBCs, packed inside an adorable frog Valentine holder. Which I thought I snapped a photo of, but guess not. Drat. I decorated the outer box with Hershey's Kiss stickers, I thought this was a fun foreshadowing of the chocolate wonders inside, along with a sweet Valentine message. I also used silver foil duct tape to seal it shut, which matched the foil stickers (no regular old grey duct tape for me, pshaw!) I was a little worried that it wouldn't arrive on time, but the one bright spot on Saturday (more on that mess TBA) was when he called after receiving the package and said "Does your mother know you make these?!?!?" Then we proceeded to make plans for opening our own naughty bakery, ala Marge Simpson.

See, mail is fun! It leads to all sorts of adventures :)

So with that in mind, here's a shot from the vault, taken somewhere around 1999 or 2000. Yep, I'm finger painting on the floor of my dorm room. I'm pretty sure these got rolled up and sent to either Jana or Ryan.

I have no idea if the symbols actually created or message or were just background - who knows, those were wild days. While half my roommates were out partying, there I was...painting.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Way beyond the Birds & the Bees...

This past Sunday might have been the first Valentine's Day hubby & I went out to dinner since our first year together, and it was really a very enjoyable evening. For our 10th anniversary together I booked us tickets to the MN Zoo's "Love Tour," a special adults-only view of the zoo followed by dinner in Discovery Bay. I didn't really know what to expect - other than the menu, the website was pretty scarce on the particulars. We weren't sure if it would be inside or out, whether to dress up, and somehow I missed that the whole focus of the tour was mating rituals, though in retrospect it makes sense. Apparently the idea was started with the San Diego Zoo and now all across the country it's become a fun adult night out.

It was a snowy, slippery evening on the roads, so traffic was not fun. I had neglected to do laundry for several years, so I had nothing to wear and hated my hair. And I still wasn't sure if we should dress up or not, but somehow we made it to the zoo in plenty of time. When we arrived we were told that - Hooray! - it was all inside. The tour was strictly in the "Tropics" area, and the dinner was in Discovery Bay, all within the same building. Excellent.

As for dress code, we saw people on all points of the spectrum - from cocktail dresses and ties to jeans and sweaters. We were somewhere in between. I'd say about anything goes, it just depends on what you want your night to be.

We hung our coats and headed up to meet our tour, where were were greeted with complimentary champagne and photos! It was a great start. I'll be honest, I had really expected to be nickled and dimed (especially since it was a fundraiser) but I never reached for my purse all night - everything was included in the ticket, it was very convenient. They even gave us all a souvenir photo in a nice little folder. I look unenthused, but isn't hubby adorable?

Then it was off for our tour! I forget our guide's name, but she was very nice. The tours are all lead by staff who volunteer for the event because it raises funds for travel and other zoo business. They take groups of 10 couples/20 guests at a time so everyone can gather round and hear the juicy stories. Just as we entered, we were greeted with three butler-passed hors d'ouvres - here's a pic of the bacon wrapped shrimp, which was really tasty:

It was a little awkward juggling my champagne, camera, napkin, purse, and three appetizers, one of which was large and flaky. I would have definitely preferred if the appetizers were spaced out along the tour rather than all up front, but hey, it's for charity. And they were really good - even picky me not only tried but devoured them all!

I have probably already forgotten the best parts, but here is some of the trivia I learned on our "Love Tour:"

We started with turtles. According to our guide, the male approaches the female and basically pokes and annoys her like a schoolyard crush, until she sucks her head into her shell to get away. Because there isn't a ton of room in the shell, this means her rear end pokes out - at which point the male slowly makes his way back there to accomplish his business. But, since turtles are so slow, sometimes by the time he makes it around she's popped her head back out - and hidden the goods. Apparently this can go on for 30-40 times before both parties end up in the right place at the right time. And now you know.

Komodo Dragons are supposedly the most dangerous animal to be bitten by at the zoo - they have so much bacteria in their mouths that they don't even try to kill their prey right away - they take a few bites, and know it won't be long before their dinner falls dead from infection. They keep up this bacteria level by eating the lower intestines of their prey - which most animals avoid. BUT, these animals also have very human-like hands with long fingers - in the same general purportions as we do. Our tour guide actually called them "gentle lovers," because despite the biting and clawing, they also engage in "a lot of foreplay and stroking with those long fingers." Apparently the male comes on to the female by stroking her back, if she doesn't bite his head off, he goes for it. And really, isn't that how most relationships work? :)

The gibbons weren't on display right now because they are basically in family therapy. Tia, the female, is an unfit mother. After her first pregnancy, she birthed the baby and then instead of bonding, she threw it across the room for hurting her. That baby was sent to the National Zoo with a foster monkey. Tia was actually put on Depo Provera for a few years, like a human. But recently she birthed another baby whom she hasn't harmed, but also hasn't bonded with. They're off display as the zookeepers try to create a familial bond, but it looks like baby #2 will be off to the National Zoo too. Kind of a downer part of the tour, but in general the gibbons are great entertainment. They have sex frequently "despite whatever school group is watching," and also engage in a lot of self gratification. Apparently Tia is so insatiable that they've documented her male partner (who used to shtoop her mother, to make this even more of a monkey soap opera) physically SIGHING when Tia sticks her butt in his face to indicate it's go time. But I guess he still sucks it up and gets the job done.

The only two animals who were actually "feeling the love" during our tour were these two gay turtles (they unhooked just as I got close enought to snap a photo, drat!). Apparently there is a large effort to "trade" gay zoo animals to create love matches wherever possible - we heard about camels, swans, and several other species who have been juggled around between various zoos and societies to allow for coupling of homosexual animals. And apparently tigers have been known to swing both ways, engaging in homosexual behavior when there is a lack of female partners available to them, and changing that behavior when a hetrosexual mate is available.

Pigs, like this dude with the mohawk, literally "screw." Males have spiral genitalia, and females have "oddly shaped cervixes." I'm sure you can find a diagram on the Internet somewhere.

There was more, much more, but it's all a jumble in my brain. I know there was discussion of bird parts which likened their "bow-chicka-wow-wow" to bagels - his with cream cheese, hers without, and at some brief point they are smushed together in a "kiss." Also, most birds only have one ovary and one teste - as our guide said, gotta streamline everything in order to be light enough to fly! Some animals are actually shown "porn" to instruct them on how mating should work - specifically giant pandas and sun bears came up in the discussion as being "taught" how to make whoopie after watching videos of wild animals. And I distinctly remember our guide using the transition "speaking of testes, here's something interesting right this way!"

It was really a fun tour, and totally worthwhile to see the zoo without screaming children dripping ice cream and goo all over the displays while yelling at the animals. The hour went by quickly, and as you can tell, we all learned quite a bit :)There were a ton more animals and behaviors that I didn't document, so there is a lot more to learn if you decide to go. And there will actually be a lot more "monkey love" on the tour next year, as a new section of primates from Africa are currently being built!

After the tour, we were presented with a few tables of animal sex trivia - match the penis to the animal, artificial insemination, and a looped video they called "dolphin porn" of two dolphins caught on tape (apparently this is very exciting). Because of the late hour we didn't linger at these tables, we were ready for dinner.

Our table was right next to the shark tank, which was great! We had a gorgeous view and soft light from candles as well as the aquarium. The tables were all little intimate tables for two, and they were really spaced out well. All but one we saw had a great view of at least one of the tanks, and even the table without the view was eventually moved to a better spot. A live jazz trio played in the background, and the whole mood was very calm and enjoyable. MUCH nicer than a frantic over-crowded restaurant would have been!

Our tour let out just as the 2nd dinner seating was to begin, so all of the tables were set and ready. The event was sold out, but I didn't think it was crowded at all - it was really a very nice, relaxed feel.

The rolls were good, set on a plate with a tiny purple flower and decoratively formed butter balls, the meal was off to a good start. We were offered more champagne, again included with the meal. I would have liked to have additional beverage options, even if that meant paying for them, but it was probably easier not to deal with any money handling from their side of things.

The salads were already waiting before we sat down...which is never a good sign. It was nice to be able to dig right in, but a salad is most enjoyable when it is crisp and cold. These were almost warm, which meant they were pretty limp and faded by the time we got to eat them. The dressing was an interesting Asian-fusion that I didn't hate, and the sesame stick again suffered from a lack of freshness (not at all crispy anymore, boo).

I almost forgot to take a photo of the entrees, so forgive my sliced open steak. It was very well done, by which I mean over cooked and kind of disappointing, but what can you expect from a catered meal that has been held in warming racks for hours...It had interesting seasoning and I still ate it, but I couldn't help but wish it were medium rare instead. Or even medium. But it wasn't awful and I ate most of it. I skipped my fish, but hubby ate both portions, and said it was good. Both of our favorite parts were the baby red potatoes decoratively cut to look like mushrooms. I'm not sure it was worth the effort, since under the candlelight I thought they actually WERE mushrooms at first, but once I figured it out they were quite tasty. I'll be honest, I didn't waste time on the baby vegetables either.

I had my eye on these big slabs of crem brulee cheese cake. Mmmmm. Again, I was disappointed that they were on the tables from the start, since I strongly prefer a chilled, solid cheesecake and these were getting a little melty and foamy...but they were still very good. We took our time with coffee and dessert, despite the snow building up on the roads outside, and nobody rushed us along.

Take home favors from Max Chocolates - a pair of heart-shaped truffles.

All in all, we had a really nice time, and I'd definitely recommend this event. The food wasn't the best, but it wasn't awful - and the atmosphere was definitely much more comfortable than a restaurant on Valentine's Day. It was expensive at $175/couple, but that includes a $65 charitable component (tax write off), and from there if you figure the tour at $20 each, the dinner ends up being about $35 each - it was all definitely worth it in those increments. It would be an especially good choice for a "new" couple - a slight break from the norm, still a fairly grand gesture, lots of time to talk and cast moon eyes at each other, with a definite sexual undertone. If we went again we'd probably go earlier - we're too old to be eating that late, let alone on a Sunday. The event has sold out for several years, so look for it early if you are interested.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Funny Valentine...

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't teach old dogs new tricks. On our 10th Valentine's Day together, my hubby continued his new trend of great (and completely unexpected) gifts with this beautiful locket:

He had actually given me a large and unique hand forged locket a few years ago that is GORGEOUS, but sadly it is not at all comfortable to wear - it turns out that the individually formed links have a point that scratches and catches, so I wasn't able to wear it that often. Hubby took that into account, and decided to replace it with this delicate silver one on a smooth chain. I still need to add photos:

He claims he went to several stores before picking this one out at Bibelot - I'm impressed! Thanks honey :) Love you lots!

By the way, my Valentine to him was Clue. Yeah, the board game. It's a long story...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Hallmark - I mean Valentine's - Day!

How do you fight back against the consumerism and still have fun on a so-called "Hallmark Holiday?" By making your own cards, of course! I've never been huge into celebrating Valentine's Day, but hey, any reason to craft is a good one. And who is in love with these little guys? Me, definitely! Here are the rest of my Valentines:

I didn't send out a ton, so don't be offended if you didn't get one - hey, it's not like you send me mail either :)

I love how all of these turned out, both inside and out. For example, here's a front:

and it's corresponding inside decor:

The orange heart was where I wrote my little personal message, very simple and sweet. J'adore! Hope your V-Day is full of sweets and admiration.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Martha saves Valentine's Day?

Dove Promises are sort of like fortune cookies only chocolate. I prefer the dark chocolate, though the caramel filled is also worth selling a kidney. For Valentine's Day they're heart shaped, and each has a foil wrapper with a fortune or tip (a.k.a. "promise") printed on the inside. For example, here's one found on the web:

Not a terrible idea, right? Sort of like how Snapple has the little trivia under their caps, and Laffy Taffy has bad puns. I can get on board. And I'm pretty forgiving with a mouth full of chocolate. But apparently to further celebrate V-Day, Dove got Martha Stewart to pen all of the "promises" this season.

And they're ridiculous.

Martha, I love you, but your projects do not transfer into a 10 word epitaph.

"Replace tea bag tags with red paper hearts."
Now, my husband loves tea, but I can't see him caring whatsoever were I to adorn his morning spot with red paper hearts. In fact, he probably wouldn't even notice.

"Gift wrap a chocolate bar with pink craft paper and doilies."
Please see above commentary regarding the effectiveness of paper embellishments.

"Glue silk petals on a jar to create a vase."
Now I'm crafty, but I just can't envision this looking good, at least not without some visual direction. Sorry Martha, but this is like MacGuyver saying you can make a bomb out of a pencil, dental floss, and a remote control. It might be possible, but it's not exactly intuitive.

"X and O cookie cutters make hugs and kisses sugar cookies."
So does Cub Foods, and then I don't have to do the dishes. Bazinga! Actually I think this could be cute, but it's a little "Captain Obvious", isn't it? Well, that trend continues...

"Keeping a bouquet in a cool area will help the flowers last."
Uh...duh? And this isn't even the worst, I swear I had one that said to keep chocolate out of the sun. Seriously. I should have saved it for you all.

I've eaten most of the bag, and I can tell you that the only remotely cute idea I've found is this:
"Hide love notes underneath each chocolate in a sampler."

Of course, I just ate a bag of chocolate to discover this idea, so I'm not super keen on starting over. Plus, it is t a little weird to open someone's gift and handle all their candy? That sort of messes up the fancy packaging that probably accounts for most of the product price. I think I'll suffice with our fancy dinner this year. But let me know if you try the petal vase or doily wrapping.

Or, come visit me at the Champlin Park Women of Today Craft Fair, and buy your lover a beautiful hand cut glass mosaic photo frame or mirror! I have some new heart shaped frames just for the occasion :) Directions in the sidebar at upper right!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Strange Things I Learned This Week:

I have learned many odd things this week, mostly courtesy of the interwebs. For example, I was introduced to the following topics which had previously not even existed within my brain:

1. Elizabeth Báthory, serial killing queen.

2. France's totally creepy national anthem.

3. The VW Beetle's sinister origin

Such a wide world we live in :)

Love is in the Air...and MUSIC too!

My last and final prize expenditure from the Amazon windfall was this car adaptor for my ipod. I used it on the way to work this morning and I love it!

Flash back to 1997 cruising in the Plattmobile with Rancid and Green Day blaring on the radio, I'm definitely LOVING having my whole music collection available in the car! Whoo hoo!

I wasn't quite sure what to expect as I've heard mixed reviews on these adaptors, but for me it looks like it'll work out well. It plugs into the cigarette lighter, and you tune your radio to the frequency it lists and voila, the ipod is broadcast through your car radio. I'm so glad I went with this for my last gift, I'm sure I'll use my ipod in the car all the time now.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


My mother will appreciate this:

Okay, I'll stop whining for a little while...but probably not long.

Love is in the...Zoo.

We don't usually do anything fun for Valentine's Day, I basically have the same feelings about going out to eat on that night as I do for New Year's Eve and spending money on chocolate, flowers, and stuffed animals is just gets my hubby in trouble. I blame my mother, who was once presented with a gorgeous opal and diamond ring on her anniversary only to dissolve into tears wailing "but I wanted carpet!" (In her defense, we had red shag at the time. But the ring is GORGEOUS).

Anyhoo, this year will be a little different. The hubs and I actually have Valentine's Day plans, and they're pretty good ones! In January we celebrated 10 years together, which I felt warranted a gift. TEN YEARS. That is 1/3 of my life. A decade. Forever. That's at least worth dinner.

I was actually out of town for the evening, but I left hubs a card tucked into his Kindle case (extremely clever on my part). The front had a photo of two penguins, and inside was the menu and our reservation for:

MN Zoo Love Tour

(Photo courtesy of City Pages)

Our annual Valentine event is a perfect way to spend a romantic evening out. This year’s event will again provide a glimpse into the private lives of a variety of animals. From courtship to breeding, our furry, feathered, and scaly, indulge in exotic romantic rituals. For adults only (ages 21 +) the Love Tour is a one of a kind experience. After your tour enjoy a sumptuous dinner in Discovery Bay.

Date: Sunday, February 14
Time: Tours start 5:45 p.m. and run every 15 minutes until 7:15 p.m. (Each tour is approximately one hour).
Dinner seatings at 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.
Price: $175.00 per couple
Includes tour, dinner, and special keepsake.

Proceeds from this event benefit the Minnesota Zoo’s Conservation Programs.

How fun will this be?!?!? It's actually sold out now, so I'm glad I didn't wait (these were also purchased prior to reconciling our taxes and finding out we owe WAY too much - oops). My hubby LOVES the zoo and I'm generally unenthused about watching other people's poorly behaved kids scream and run and show no respect for the animals or other families - but the Love Tour is ADULTS ONLY! That's right folks, I get to stare at the lemurs all by myself, without some snotty drippy kid banging on the glass and throwing their G.I. Joes into the enclosure. That might be worth the ticket price alone.

And then there's the dinner:
Butler Passed Appetizers
Louisiana Shrimp, Blackened Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Chili Orange Glaze
Bulgogi, Korean BBQ Beef with grilled scallions and soy glaze
Wild Mushroom Phyllo Purse, Vegetarian Wild Mushroom Duxelle Stuffed in a Phyllo Pastry

Toasted Sesame Ginger Salad
Mixed Greens with Frissee Surrounded By Julienne Pea Pods, Carrots, and Cucumber Drizzled with Toasted Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette with Wonton Stick

Sea to the Land
Sirloin Encrout & Poached Halibut, freshly sautéed julienne mirepoix, roasted garlic mushroomed red potatoes, steamed patty pan vegetables and baby zucchini. Served with maitre d’ butter and veal demi glaze

Tofu Provencal
Tomato Stuffed with Tofu and Mirepoix, served on a grilled portobello mushroom with garlic red mushroomed potatoes, steamed patty pan vegetables and baby zucchini. Smothered in white wine sauce

Crème Brulee Cheese Cake
Crème Brulee Cheese Cake with chocolate drizzled hearts and crème anglaise

Will I like all of these things? No. Do I even know what they all are? Not hardly (and neither does my spell check - but they're copied straight from the website). I can identify sirloin, potatoes, and cheese cake, so I figure I won't go hungry :)

Hugs, Kisses, and Valentine Wishes...