Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 will be the year I finally...

Care to complete the sentence?

I'm often not so much on the New Year's resolutions, but there are a few things that I've been wanting/needing to do for ages and years and ever.


I feel like I need to make a concerted effort towards the following, and a new year is the perfect point in time to begin.

2014 will be the year I finally:

1. Get organized. I am not kidding.
2. Stick to a writing schedule. Which leads to...
3. Write a whole book. Seriously, Lisa.
4. Embrace color.

Oh, hahahahahaha! That last one's a joke. Want to see my new scarf that my dear friend Jude knitted me to go with my neon orange jacket?
(No, I don't know why I always look so suspicious in selfies. Maybe that should be another resolution? Learn how to take a relatively normal picture of myself?)

Happy New Year! Love to all!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wishing you joy, joy, happiness, delightitude, more joy, and love. So much love.

This morning Jordan asked, "Is today someone's birthday?"

I started to say "No, it's Christ..." and then realized. "Actually, yes. It's Jesus's birthday. Tonight. Tonight is when Jesus was born."

"Who's Jesus? Are we going to his house?"

Parental Christianity fail.

But we love the holiday, nonetheless.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate Christmas!

To those who don't, wishing you a joyful day!

Love and hugs to all!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Powerocks Magicstick giveaway winner!

Dear entrant number 7, Ann AKA Snapdragon Surprise, you are the lucky winner of the shiny new Powerocks Magicstick!

Huge thanks to Powerocks for providing the Magicstick for the giveaway, and for introducing me to the product! I think I'm going to get one for myself now. I mean, after Christmas. Because, you know, Christmas spirit and all!

And with that, I'd like to share India's Christmas message:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

GIVEAWAY: Powerocks Magicstick! Because who doesn't need an extra charge?

Every so often someone contacts me and asks me to review a product or post a giveaway on my blog.

So far, I've declined, because none of them have been things I've thought I'd use. (Because why Why WHY are people not offering to send me pounds of chocolate or fabulous boots to review and offer to readers?)


Powerocks contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in either reviewing or giving away a Powerocks Magicstick - a portable charger for smartphones, Bluetooth headsets, cameras, GPS, e-readers, iPods, etc. Its 2800mAh battery capacity provides up to 2 full charges before needing recharging.

I should mention that they also make other devices that provide more charges or charge larger things, like iPads. Scroll down on this page for a chart.

The one I have is red, but it comes in a rainbow of colors. It comes with a USB cable and a little pouch, as shown above. And a push-button LED shows charge status. Easy, no?

Maybe you are an outdoor adventurer? Whose phone or camera needs a boost? 
 (I myself am an urban adventurer, and am not above scrounging power in a Starbucks for a quick charge. But I understand there is a paucity of coffee shops out in The Nature.)

I was given the option of either reviewing or giving away...and I was torn.

As I said, who doesn't need more charge? I could use it and write about how fabulous I thought it was and go on my merry way, never worrying that my phone would die. Fa la la la la, la la la charge!

But then I sat myself down and gave myself a talking-to. I said, "Lisa, it's almost Christmas. And look! The Powerocks Magicstick they sent you is red and cute and could make someone else very happy! Or maybe someone they know will wind up with it in their stocking. Happiness!"

I was stern. I had a tone. And thus, it was decided: my first giveaway!

So! If you are a person who needs a back-up charge for your smartphone or music or what-have-you, leave a comment. I'll pick a winner at random and announce on Monday, December 23.

You don't need to have a blog, just an email address so I can contact you.

Giveaway ends at 12:00 noon EST on December 21. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

No, this is not the cold you had last week. This is a plague of deathy death and it is much much muhuhuhuhuch worse.

Nick got a bad cold last week, and what did he do? He powered through. He coughed a lot - a lot lot - and said he didn't feel great. But on the whole, he still did all the Nick things that he always does. Work, home improvements, etc etc.

In fact, he's still coughing. It is a bad one.

Yah. And then yesterday morning I woke up with his cold.

But not just his cold. One that was much, much worse than his. I felt that he wasn't taking my cold seriously enough.

And how was he so mean as to give it to me? Doesn't he know that I have asthma and everything goes to my lungs and I always get twice as sick as him?

(This is, in fact, true. He's strong like bull.)

He was all, "Oh, stop being a martyr."

So then I walked around muttering about how he was raised by wolves and such. I mean, in between the Neti-potting and paroxysms of coughing.

He came home last night and said, "The first day is the worst. You'll feel better tomorrow."

But today, today I woke up shaking, in a cold sweat, still with this giant quantity of phlegm sitting where my lungs used to reside. My body aches. I have no energy.

And I feel very, terribly sorry for myself.

I probably won't make it to Christmas.

However. Tomorrow, if I'm still alive, I'm doing a give-away on the blog.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

And then I was struck with Holiday Tourette's and have thrown our house into a bit of a panic

In terms of cooking, I'm good at steaming vegetables, making salad. I like to bake, and I'm good at making desserts.

Beyond that, I'm mostly good at buying stuff.

I am, however, not an actual food cook. Nor am I a particularly good planner. I get all stressed and frazzled and panicky before a party.

Which would make you think that I'd avoid having them, right?

Haha! Nay!

Because! Here's something I turn out to be terrific at: inviting!

I've said before that I have excellent taste in people. Funny, interesting, amazing people. I excel at meeting fascinating people. And then I like them very much and I invite them over.

But we usually have these casual parties where we buy a whole bunch of chips and guacamole and such and Nick grills some kind of meat and we have lots of beer and wine and friends bring stuff and it all works out just fine.

In this case, I've invited quite a number of people. With kids, we're currently almost up to 20. If they maybes can come, we pass 20. For Christmas Day dinner.


I don't know how it happened. It's like suddenly I was struck with Holiday Tourette's.

I'd be having a normal conversation with a friend and out of the blue I'd bleat something like, "Christmas! Day!" or "Dinner!" and then if they didn't already have plans there they are, coming over.

The lovely thing is, we like all these people very much, and it is going to be a FUN party. I am excited that they can come. (Particularly if I can convince any of them to play charades!)

The difficulty is, there are currently 13 adults plus a few maybes, and according to Betty, with the leaves in, our table can seat 12 uncomfortably. This kind of thing stresses her out, because she wants to set a pretty table.

Me, I think, ah, well, we'll sort that out. I don't mind if I have to take my plate and eat in the living room, and I know some of our friends won't either. Nobody is uptight. It's just nice to be together.


BUT! while I'm not above making a meal of popcorn, brownies, and bourbon for myself, I do recognize that for other people, and for Christmas dinner in particular, we need Actual Food.

My mom and Nick are thinking leg of lamb and ham. Friends have asked what we need, and have offered to bring sides, a salad. My friend Meg said she always makes a Bûche de Noël. I've determined that she was offering and not just bragging about her pastry prowess. Yum!

So here's what I am wondering, because we need to make a plan: Do you have suggestions for dishes? Non-complicated and yet yummy dishes?

And any other advice? 

Besides keep your mouth shut, Lisa, when you walk out the door henceforth and until the end of the holidays? And maybe beyond intermittently that because sometimes you talk too much?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Jingle bells, I am 12, fa la la la la, la la la Christmaspenisla!

Although we are not religious at all, and I was basically raised a heathen, I love Christmas. Love love love.

In other words, my attitude has improved significantly since I was the belligerent Mary in the preschool play.

Growing up in various countries, we had some suspect trees - one year in Dacca my mom flew home from India with two trees that we tied together to make one lopsided Christmas tree.

That was back in the days where plane rules were more relaxed and one could - and Betty regularly did - go through security with large pruning shears in one's purse.

No matter where we lived or what our tree was like, we always always always made a million kinds of cookies. Rolled sugar cookies and spritz cookies and jam sandwich cookies and bird's nests rolled in nuts and filled with jelly and fruitcake and bourbon balls and....

I had visions of recreating that but unlike Jessica and her cookiestravaganza, I lack the strength.

But!  You do what you can, right?

So Lyrae and I got all ready to make Christmas cookies and then, given my preference for waiting until the very last minute for everything, I realized I could only find a few cookie cutters, even though we have a ton of delightful old metal ones from my childhood.

My visions of Santa and reindeer and stars and the odd little Scottie dog that we always made were not to be.

But who cares, right? Christmas cookies can be anything, no?

So we found a Christmas tree and a bell. Also, a flower, a moon, and an airplane.

We made lots of each. Jordan happily helped with the sprinkles. A beautiful Christmas flower! A Christmas airplane! A Christmas bell!

Why a Christmas bell, Mama? (To go with the Christmas plane, naturally.)

The only trouble with the airplanes is that they seem to have a weak spot behind the wings.

Which, of course, makes them a little more, uh, festive?

Friday, December 13, 2013

In the end, I'm still Lisa

The Social Security office experience took over two hours but in the end it was totally worth it because I got the loveliest compliment and officially became American.

Let me sum up.

First I stood in front of the mirror and introduced myself to myself in a variety of ways.

"Hi! I'm Odette!"

"Nice to meet you! I'm Sadie."

"My name's Willoughby."

And I just felt foolish. It felt like when I put on very bright lipstick or a serious suit and hose and conservative shoes. When I would go to conferences with a whole lot of Men in Suits in Finance and I'd try to act normal and not blurt out weird shit.

In other words, I just didn't feel like me. Plus, I like the LJ. It is me. In the end, I couldn't let go of that.

(Also, Nick had started writing emails addressing me with names like Clothilde Nighthawk and such, and I was quite sure that even if I got to a place where I felt normal with a new name, I'd be living with names like Barmela Shoefoot for the rest of my life.)

So I decided to get rid of my middle name, keep Lisa and Jordan, and add Nick'slastname.

So I marched off to the Social Security office, waited for two hours (reading - without guilt - all the while!) and then this lovely young woman called my name.

I told her I was worried that too much time had gone by since my marriage and she assured me that people often take years, and it was no problem.

She was very pleasant and smiley and after looking at my paperwork she burst out with, "Wow! You look amazing! I hope I look as great as you when I'm your age!"
Flattery will pretty much get you everywhere with me. Perhaps you know this? I'm not proud of the fact, but it is true.

Anyway, I told her that she looked like she was a teenager, although obviously she was old enough to be working, so I was certain she'd look amazing in her 40s. Also: wear sunscreen.

At which point she asked me if I had (no!, such big regret) because looking at me she wouldn't think I was even 30.

I told her she'd just made my year.

And by the way, what was her name again? Because maybe I'd just go ahead and change my name to that instead.

I jest.

You have to bring proof of U.S. citizenship, and so I had my passport with me. She asked where I was born (India, which it says inside).

Towards the end she said, "So, while I'm in here, I'm just going to go ahead and check the box that says you're an American citizen."

"But I've always been an American. My dad was in the foreign service, so I've had an American passport since I was born."

In fact, for the first 21 years, I had a diplomatic passport. Which I guess is why my American box was never checked.

That doesn't sound very good, does it?

In any case, when you think of it, two hours isn't very long to become officially American in the  system and to delete and add a name.

As Jordan likes to say, "I had a big day."

Because I am a hugger, I had this momentary urge to leap over the counter and give her a big hug. But I just thanked her and wished her happy holidays instead.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Say my name, say my name

When my mom was learning Spanish, she started saying, "Arroz is arroz is arroz."

Yah, so. When Nick and I were engaged and he asked if I was going to change my name, my initial reaction was something like OH THE HELL NO.

And then I considered changing my name entirely, because I've never liked Lisa. I was going to take his last name and change my name to Jordan Nick'slastname.

But then a good friends of mine gave me a look and said, "Go ahead and do what you want: you'll always be Lisa to me."

And, at the age of 39, it did seem silly.

And then we went ahead and had a kid and named him Jordan and that settled it. Option off the table for me. Plus, I wasn't actually changing my last name.

I knew Nick would love it, but he also understood - there was no way he'd give up his last name for mine. He got it.

But in some ways, it would be easier for us to have the same last name. At Jordan's school, and eventually, India's school. It's not insurmountably complicated. But it would be easier.

And actually, I'd drop my middle name, keep my first and last name and add his to the end. Legally, we'd have the same last name.  How big a deal is that, I decided?

Fast forward to this past March, when, in a fit of folly, I offered to change my name as a gift to Nick for his birthday. Would he like that? In response, he sprinted off to get the key to the safe-deposit box, zoomed to the bank, and returned with our marriage certificate.

In other words, yes.

Right. So. Ready to change my name! What's in a name, right? Arroz by any other name...

But every time I made a move toward doing so, I got all clenchy and twitchy. Change my name? This name I've had for two score and then some?

Every once in a while, Nick would check in on how it was going, and I would respond with a totally involuntary shoulder twitch and say I was working on it...

So now, it's what he would like for Christmas. Would I go ahead and do the paperwork?

But I just read an article in the Sunday Times that was about names and apparently if you don't have your intended last name on your marriage certificate it's all kinds of difficult?

I've been looking on the web but am not clear on it, so I probably need to just go down to the Social Security office and ask for help.

But! If it's going to be all complicated, maybe I will change my entire name! All those names I liked that Nick wasn't OK with for our daughter can now be back on the table!

I could be:


The idea of which makes me alternately nervous and excited.

Whatcha think?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

When you can stick your finger into it without it burning...

Jordan has been fantasizing about making a snowman for ages.

"When is it going to snow I want to make a snowman when is it going to snow when is it going to snow?"

So finally, it did. And there's not a lot, but enough for leafy snowballs and snowpersons. We headed out with neighbors and their kids, and together we made a, uh, snowalien.

Someone suggested we make it a snowzombie but I seriously can't handle zombie anything. Ghosts I find interesting. Zombies, terrifying.

Anyway, ours is a vegetarian snowalien. Don'tcha think?


In other winter news, my cousin Lyrae and I decided to make her grandmother Florence's fudge.

Florence was my Gramma Lillian's sister. She was a North Dakota farm wife, and never had a recipe, but one time my mom watched her making it and wrote it down as they went.
So my Gramma Lillian used to have a cardboard toilet paper roll in her kitchen. There were matches glued all around one end of the roll. They called it a Swedish flashlight.

The Swedes and the Norwegians, neighbors all, had the same jokes - the butt of them depended on your ancestry.

So the fudge.

We cooked it and cooked it and cooked it, following the somewhat vague instructions. Is it supposed to look like this? Is this simmering? This is definitely simmering. Why isn't it getting hotter? Is it too hot? Why is it taking so long to cool?

I think we initially kept the heat too low trying to get it to the "soft ball" stage. We even used a candy thermometer with a line that actually says Soft Ball and Hard Ball.

At one point Betty, Lyrae and I were all huddled around the fudge pot, with Lyrae holding the thermometer upright, Betty dipping in a spoon to see if it was sheeting, and me adjusting the temperature. And then we were all, "How many Norwegians does it take..."

In any case, my favorite part of this recipe is toward the end, when it says, "If you can stick your finger into the fudge without it burning, fudge is ready to beat."

Eventually we turned it up and it got to soft, or anyway, soft- but hard-enough ball and we said screw it, and then I beat it until the gloss went away, which doesn't happen and doesn't happen and doesn't happen and then suddenly! Happens!

Ultimately, the fudge is fantastic. If I do say so myself.

And it only took us three Norwegians most of a day.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Tales from the house of fruitcake

When Nick doesn't like something, he makes it clear that not only does he not care for it, but that he couldn't imagine anyone else liking it. This happens sometimes with vegetables. He's practically offended.

My father was exactly like this. He would almost fall on the floor gagging to show his distaste for something you'd chosen to enjoy for which he'd already expressed his dislike.

It drove me crazy.

Also like my dad, Nick speaks authoritatively, no matter what the topic. When I'm not sure what I'm talking about, you know it. Probably because I begin my sentence with, "I'm not exactly sure..." or "I think..."

Whereas when Nick doesn't know, he still sounds totally confident. He could seriously tell you that the moon is made of felt, and sound totally credible.

Which sometimes makes me question whether I know what I'm talking about.

(Felt? Really? I always thought it was made of...I don't know...moonish stuff?)

His is an ability I admire, and one I'd like to have, but don't. Which is not to say that it doesn't irritate me when I'm pretty sure I know what I'm talking about but then start second-guessing myself...

So the other day, when he saw three large containers of dried dates on the counter - labeled, by the way, "DATES" - he made a face and said, "What are those?"

I knew where this was going, and so as not to be rude, I rolled my eyes before turning to face him.


"Oh. Prunes!"


Now, I know for a fact that this man knows a hell of a lot more than I do about history, politics, and a variety of other topics, but he doesn't know his fruit. And I'd have bet good money that he couldn't tell a date from a dromedary.

"No. Prunes are dried plums and dates are dates."

"Yeah, but aren't these dried? When they're dried, they're prunes. They're the same thing."

"Dates are dates. They come from date palms. We had them in Egypt. Dried plums are prunes. They come from plum trees. I'm telling you."

"Then there's another word for them."

"No." I said this authoritatively. (Although maybe there is?)

And then he took a bite of one and said, "Ow! Dates have pits!"

Which I could've told him.

"Well, what are they all for?"

"Fruitcake. Betty is making fruitcake."

"Fruitcake?! Why?"

Why? This why held not bewilderment, not a plea for an explanation, but rather the unvoiced: Why the fuck would anyone make fruitcake? Everyone hates it! Ew yuck gross bleah if I had to eat fruitcake I'd throw it on the ground and stomp on it yucky yucky poo poo!


"[Dear friend who has terminal cancer] loves it it. As do other people." (unvoiced: so shut the hell up.)

And on a side bar, cancer is kind of like prison in conversation, don't you think? It trumps pretty much everything.


Basically, Nick's lucky I haven't ever put any raisins in his anus while he's sleeping.