Saturday, December 30, 2006

I'm Driving Down Highway 40 in my Big Old Pick-up Truck

So, I'm doing something I've never done before. I'm posting a video. But this has given me such enormous pleasure over the last 2 days that I just had to share it with you.

I am a huge fan of Brak. We recently got the latest Brak box set and I busily set about learning all the menu songs because they rule. Picture me sitting at home and happily yelling "Choose an episode! 9-14 there all here: The Eye, Poppy, Bully, Mother, Did You Move My Chair?" Ok, maybe it's better if you know the tune. But singing Brak songs is one of my favorite pasttimes and I freaked a lot of people out at the grocery store today, wandering around with my husband and singing, "I'm driving down highway 40 in my big old pick up truck!"

We got home and pretty much fell straight into bed from exhaustion. It's been a long couple of days. 3 hours later, we woke up and my small voice ventured into the darkness: "I'm driving down highway 40 in my big old pick up truck."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy Happy Glasses Time

So, I finally went to the eye doctor. After 10 years.

That was my much appreciated gift from my mom for Christmas--money for an eye exam. I went to Sam's Club today, armed with $200 and only spent 79 of it! So happy.

Then I went home and was planning to order my glasses from the Kim recommended 39 dollar glasses, but instead I ordered from 19 dollar glasses because I'm just cheap like that. But my glasses will be black and blue! And I'm so excited!

Let's recap: exam=$79, glasses (with shipping)=$20.40. Yes, it's true, I will be able to pass my driving test and renew my license in June having only paid $100 for glasses.

Why does God love me so much?

And does this mean that I can now order 100 dollars worth of seeds from the Burpee Catalogue that came today? Because I really, really want to.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Best Reading of 2006

So, I thought that in honor of the approaching new year, I would post some kind of list. I considered trying to do one every day until Sunday, but frankly, I don't have a lot to make lists of, and I'm too lazy besides.

I try, in general, to read a book a week. Sometimes I do better than that; sometimes I read only one book in a month, but as I've mentioned before, I don't get cable so that what free time I have can be devoted to reading, blogging, gardening and making stuff. Reading will always be first on that list. I don't think there's ever been a time in my life when I didn't have at least one book going, even if I was just re-reading an old favorite.

So I read a lot of books this year. And a few really stood out. Here they are, in no particular order. (Note: these are not books that came out this year. These are just books I read this year.)

The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
How is possible I waited so long to read this book? I'm so contrary sometimes. An amazing history lesson so tied into the fiction that you forget you're learning. More important to me than most, maybe, as my husband is in the comics business so, essentially, I was learning our bread and butter. But if you know me, you know that I read for story above ALL other things. A beautiful story.

The House on Dream Street by Dana Sachs
I'm slightly acquainted with Dana Sachs, so I put off reading this book for a long time. I never wanted to read it just because I knew her. But I got it at the library booksale for 75 cents. I left it to the bottom of my pile because I'm not so into travel memoirs. But this far transcends that genre. I was impressed by Dana's willingness portray herself fully, even when she was doing something that might make you think less of her. Brave, engaging writing.

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Another one I kept putting off. It seemed so gimmicky and the first chapter was just. so. boring. But a bengal tiger named Richard Parker so charmed me that I was hooked. The ending of this book is masterful. If it doesn't, as it claims, make you believe in God, it at least forces you to know your own heart, which maybe is the same thing.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer
Once again, I'm a contrary bitch. And I would have stayed one, as far as this book was concerned if it hadn't been the voice of Alex which ran a lovely counterpoint through the whole novel.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I admit that I am an absolute sucker for a good love story. And to me, this is one of the best. It haunted me for weeks. This book asks you to give in entirely, to give up not just logic but its facsimile as well--I stopped even trying to follow the "story logic" of Henry's time travel--and it is this, I think, that leaves you so raw and open to the story, just like love does.

A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
I read this after the controversy, so I knew what I was in for. But this novel swept me away anyway. I read it like a person on fire, reached the end, turned it over and started again. As I said, I read for story above all else. It was a great story.

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst
Something about the imperfect relationship between the two main characters really struck me about this book and lent it, for me, something beyond the standard grief/love story. Also, I am a dog fiend.

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
I just finished this recently, so I haven't had as much time to reflect on it as I did the others. But it kept me sequestered for two days, grunting non-commitally in response to Thomas's questions and behind in my work.

Two old friends I revisted this year:

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
I hadn't thought of this before, but my feelings for this book are very similar to those for The Time Traveler's Wife. But added to this lovely novel is the insidious way that Amy Tan's dialect makes the world seem skewed and new, like seeing with different eyes.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Just finished this for the 4th time this morning. It was the perfect choice through my illness--familiar enough not to keep me awake with suspense when I needed to sleep, but elusive enough never to seem too familiar. There is something about this book that can never be owned no matter how many times you read it. I hate to make grand pronouncements, but this may be favorite book of all time. There's something so delicate about it, and yet it's as powerful as a sledgehammer.

Thank God for the library book sale and for the library of Ali, my sister, who keeps me in reading material all year long. I've probably read 120 books this year, altogether. For 8 of them to have been exceptional enough to mention seems like a great gift. 8 times this year, I sat up in bed, holding a finished book and crying, either for the characters, or because the book was over, or because someone in the world made something so true and beautiful that it made me afraid I could never do the same.

2006 was a good year.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas


No, seriously, I had a wonderful time. In spite of being sick as a dog--the kind of sick where your mouth fills up with canker sores and you can't breath through your nose so the back of your tongue kind of dries out and everything aches and it hurts to eat--my Christmas dinner (including ham) went very well, my family and Thomas's family got along together happily, I gave and recieved awesome Christmas presents, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, I'm home now and no one can make me move off the couch for 5 whole days. Then I have to throw another party.


Gifts Given:

What Would Bacon Do? Folder to my friend Jennifer
Inanimates and Librarian Tattoos to both my mom, and best friend, Kasey
9 weight fly rod to my dad

Christmas Dinner Menu:

Brown Sugar Glazed Ham
Waldorf Salad
Mashed Potatoes
Corn Pudding
Creamed Onions
Pumpkin Pie

Gifts Recieved:

Awesome new camera with docking and printing station from Thomas
Complete Freaks and Geeks from Thomas
and technically this is Thomas's gift from my parents, but it's too cool not to mention:
The Gnome Be Gone

All in all, a great success. But I am glad that there is a whole year before I have to do it again. Hope everyone else had a great time, too.

Thursday, December 21, 2006



Presents returned, replaced, bought, wrapped. Done.
House cleaned except for vacuuming and sweeping.
Ingredients for Christmas dinner purchased.
2 pies baked.

My parents arrive at 4 o'clock tomorrow. We'll hold Christmas a couple of days early: tomorrow night is our Christmas eve. Then Saturday, we'll all open presents, I'll cook dinner and all of Thomas's family will arrive. Sunday morning, my parents will leave and Thomas and I will get in the car and drive to Southport to spend real Christmas with his mom and Jessica. By Monday night, I'll be back in the car, this time on my way home, with 6 gorgeous vacation days in front of me, Christmas gifts to play with, and no one to entertain.

Bring it.

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the holidays. No matter how much I hum bug, I love the sight of my tree all lit up (if slightly lopsided) and the way the house is so sparkly and full of good baking smells. I only see my family a couple of times a year, so I'm really looking forward to their visit. I got them some really great things this year which I will post about after Monday, just in case they read this before they come.

I'll probably be dormant until Tuesday what with everything going on, so Happy Holidays to everyone who makes this place my favorite part of the day. I hope your days are merry and bright.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Bake-Bake-Bake, Bake-Bake-Bake, Bake your Cook-ie

Sorry to have been AWOL. The Christmas season, no matter how much I love it, takes its toll on me. In the last 24 hours, I have crocheted a hat, baked 5 batches of cookies, shopped, posed for Christmas pictures, wrapped 85% of the gifts I will give this season and written out 15 Christmas cards. Oh yeah, and I also went to work and slept.

Here is a glimpse of the Gilbert bakery:

For those I hold dear, including my waitress at Golden Corral, I have baked Irish shortbread, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, white chocolate macadamia, and chocolate chip cookies.

Now, to finish the shopping, wrapping, card writing, cleaning in frantic preparation for my family's arrival on Friday and the subsequent Gilbert-Wittig family Christmas dinner on Saturday (I'm making a ham! I've never cooked a ham before! My mother in law will be there!), pie baking, and christmas cd burning. God help me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Naivete Springs Eternal

This post, over at the awesome bluishorange made me recollect again, with giggling and grimaces, how woefully ignorant I am on the subject of drugs.

Because, being 29 and mostly friends with artists, writers and other n'er-do-wells, I'm around people who are familiar with drugs of various kinds and legalities, and people usually assume that I, too, have experienced my fair share. Which would be totally wrong.

I'm often at a loss to try to explain how very, very inexperienced I am. But this story fairly well sums it up: When I was 18, I was hanging out with some kids from DC, going down to the Mall to see the fireworks. I grew up in Metro-area Maryland, so this was a pretty-near annual occurance.

If you've been to the Mall for the 4th of July, you know that in addition to some kick-ass fireworks, our Nation's capital also hosts the Great American Smokeout. When I was a kid I assumed that this was a group of people marching on Washington to abolish cigarette smoking.

So, here I am, laying on my blanket next to my way-cool friends. The fireworks are booming around us and I smell their familiar, pungent smell. I take a big sniff and sigh. "Don't fireworks smell weird?" I say to no one in particular.

Everyone looks at one another as if to decide who will get the glee of making fun of me for this. "Meg, that's pot," someone says.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Tis the Season to be Yacking

This is one of the few days that I'm glad I don't have children.

The last week of school before the winter holiday is hard enough: the kids are wired, sleepless, restless, overexcited, filled with Christmas candy snuck from santa dishes, and then conversely lethargic, grumpy and full of attitude. But today one of my poor little girls yacked EVERYWHERE.

I have to give my class credit: for a bunch of elementary school kids, some under 6, no one screamed, threw up in response, or held their noses. In short, they did not make her feel any worse than she already did, but that was already pretty DAMN BAD.

I cleaned it up--just mentally adding it to the list of bodily fluids I've had to touch in the years I've been teaching--held her, got her some water, told her no one was going to hate her, that this happens to everyone. I regaled her with the story of when Greg Miller threw up on my desk in 2nd grade, got her to smile. But it was nice to hand her off to her mother, to know that I won't be up all night checking on her, that my puke duty is over for today.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

When Doves Cry

So, this afternoon I let the dogs out and after a few minutes they scratched at the door to be let back in. They often do this when it's cold; they're not wearing their winter coats yet.

I went into the spare bedroom to lay down and read with them for a while before I started my school work. Gertie was prancing about, ready to jump in bed and she'd brought a big toy with her. Gertie doesn't usually play with toys, so I was happy that she was feeling playful.

"What have you got?" I asked her. And then, for real, "What have you got?!?"

I didn't recognize that toy. And it was really big and gray. What the hell could it be?


It was a huge dead dove.

I ushered her out of the house post haste, but she would not drop the dove. I offered her cheese and carrots; I screamed and yelled. Finally I had to go put on gloves and pry the bird out of her mouth.

I suppose I should be thankful. Years ago, the only other time she's done this, I came stumbling home from Lula's at 2 in the morning, never turned on the light, peeled off my clothes and crawled in bed. With a disembowled bird.

Friday, December 08, 2006


It is really, really important that everyone read this post.

I've been giggling over it for days.


Well, the tree is up.

Poor Thomas, I dragged him all over town because no one had the right Christmas tree, and I'm very intense about my tree. Last night, as we lugged the tree home and tried desperately to get it to stand up, I cried copiously and wished terrible things on the tree and everyone and everything around me. Finally, after being poked in the eye 3 TIMES by the tree, we got it up and I hung the lights. But, of course, we'd just begun.

I have 3 humongous boxes of ornaments. And by humongous, I mean really fucking huge. Triple stacked, each one. It took us almost 3 hours, all told, to get everything onto the tree. At one point, during the last stage, which is the little tiny balls that are the size of blueberries, I referred to myself as "determined" when it came to the tree. Thomas sort of chuckled to himself. "I'm not sure 'determined' is the word I would have used," he said.

We like to refer to our tree as "T:3, Return of the Tree," inkeeping with our tradition of naming our trees. Last year's was, of course, "T:2 Electric Boogaloo." We'll start working on a rhyming sequel name for next year ASAP. What rhymes with four? "T:4, It's blocking the door"?

In my family, the tree was serious business, and involved a complex series of compromises between my parents' family traditions.
1. The tree must be a Douglas Fir.
2. The lights must be the large old kind. They must be colored, and they must wink intermittantly.
3. Ornaments must be glass ONLY. They can be any shape or color, as long as they are glass.
4. The tree must be finished with tinsel.

Thomas and I have a douglas fir for the first time, but sadly, I cannot afford the big winky lights. And I despise tinsel.

Very early on in our relationship, Thomas's mom was cleaning out her house and offered us a huge box of Christmas ornaments. We looked in, and there, in the box, was one of the most amazing collections of old glass ornaments that I had ever seen outside my parents' house. There were many, many that I recognized from my own tree. It was one of those moments in which I knew we'd be together forever. It's nice to be able to uphold some of my family's traditions and still be using his family's ornaments.

Though our tree is 99% glass, we do have some exceptions. Ornament spotlight of today:


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Happy Wednesday

I miss posting every day. No, really.

Recently, I've been enjoying many happy displays of what Thomas and I refer to as "Dog TV." We don't have cable, and we watched our new box set of the Sopranos in one crazed, drooling bout, and so we have returned to the entertainment provided by the two small, red maniacs that happen to live in our house. (P.S. Whose good idea was it to release the Sopranos season 6 in two parts so that I would have to pay 60 dollars TWICE to get it? Much like when Stephen King released the Green Mile by chapter, I have to say, Um, I think you're rich enough. But thanks for playing. However, unlike me, my husband could not wait).

Episode 1: Triangulation.

These dogs

are watching this cat, out the window

who, in turn, is watching this squirrel, up a tree
None shall move for over an hour!

Episode 2: Drunken Brawl

Episode 3: Beagle Racetrack

Gertie is approaching the speed of sound in her efforts to one.

I know, I know. When am I going to grow bored of taking pictures of my dogs? The answer is NEVER. Dude, they are 9 and 14 now. If I were going to get tired of this, I would have done it a long time ago.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Tom Fleming: A Photo Diary

Tom told me this weekend at our first oyster roast of the year that he feels he must act out every time we get together so as to make it onto the blog. He asks himself, is this blog-worthy? I had no idea there was some motivation for his antics. I thought he was just like that.
(Note to Tom: of course I know you're just like that).

Here are some fine images of my friend Michelle trying to throw a hat onto Tom's head.

Then Tom started trying to throw it onto his own head.

I'll let you decide what he has created here:

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Things In My Purse

I know I should be on vacation from this blog, but I can't be. I'm all devoted and stuff now. Anyway, I just want to tell you about some things that have made it into my handbag over time.

My mom used to say that you could tell she was a mother by the contents of her purse--not because there were bottles or diaper pins in there, but because there was a hammer, some crazy glue, 5 carrot sticks and a butter knife. Because who knows how those things got in there? I needed them! I'm a mom!
Once she went to some event at the White House with my Dad who used to work on Capitol Hill and was detained by security because there was a screwdriver in her purse.

Though I am not a mom, except to Gert and Gonzo, my purse seems often to fill itself with strange and interesting things.

There used to be a great picture of me sitting in a bar with a pile of things around me from my purse. I'd been looking for my cell phone. In my left hand, I'm holding the cell phone. In my right, I'm holding up a package of potato nails, because they had been in there too. (For those not familiar with potato nails, they are long aluminum nails that you put in a potato to help them bake more evenly and quickly. People always ask me that when I tell this story).

Once, in Jackson's Barbeque, the hushpuppies were so good that I decided to wrap the extra ones up in my napkin and carry them home in my purse. Then I forgot about them. There are still traces of hushpuppy goodness in there.

I had a wrench in my purse for almost a full year because my friend Jennifer needed help building her grill and I brought it over to her house in there.

All this occurred to me because last night, at my terrific friend Michelle's house, I put a tomato in my purse. The aforementioned Jennifer had brought nice ripe tomatos from her garden. I took one, and having no better place to put it, I stuck it in my purse. Miraculously, it made it home in one piece.

Once I put a lit cigarette into my purse by accident. I was sitting at the bar, and someone told me it was time to go home, so I started packing all the things around me away into my purse. I'm surprised I didn't add the whole ashtray, a couple beers...
Clearly, it really was time to go home.