The Apathetic Herbivore

My sister, Ashley, who many of you know and love from her personal blog HiFi Hilarity, has started a new food blog, The Apathetic Herbivore.

The blogger in action. She doesn’t mess around.

You should read it. That is all.

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Happy Father’s Day

My Dad at our wedding in November. His speech was great.

This year my dad turned sixty. He’s received a wide array of gifts over the years but this year I think I screwed up. What I mean is, that for my Dad’s 60th birthday I gave him a pretty cool gift (if I don’t say so myself). I gave him “60 Years of Memories.” I wrote a memory that I had of my father for all of his sixty years, so on his birthday he received a box with 60 envelopes that contained those 60 memories. I was impressed with this idea and he really liked it. All good things, right? Wrong. How the hell does one follow up a gift like that one? The only things that came to mind were: dairy farm in Vermont, herd of pocket pigs and an antique John Deere Tractor. Clearly, none of these gifts were going to materialize for a variety of reasons. What was my response to this problem? Shit.

So for Father’s Day this year I am going to dedicate this blog post to my father and give you a list of the top five reasons why he’s kick ass:

1. He can build anything. Examples? Horse barn, wrap around porch, childhood swing set, tack box, garden house, and so on.

2. He like to play practical jokes. I give his three best:

       a.) Taking a ketchup bottle out to the garage and spreading it all over a dish towel. He then proceeds to run into the house with his hand covered in “blood” screaming to my mother that he cut his hand with a saw.
       b.) Standing in the garage, when we thought he had gone inside, and making the garage door “mysteriously” go up and down multiple times. I was convinced there were ghosts for a few minutes.
       c.) Sneaking upstairs, scooting under my bed, and grabbing my ankles when I went to get into bed. He thought it was funny. I was busy screaming.

3. He likes/loves bad pop music. Some of his favorites include Enrique Iglesias, The Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion, and wait for it, Justin Bieber.

4. He has a good sense of humor. See his yearly Christmas letter, his blog, any random comedy central stand up comedian special, and general dinnertime commentary.

5. He’s far more creative than he gives himself credit for. Examples? Freddy the Fly, Marty Martin, my science project (the one with the trees) and countless Christmas gifts (lava lamp, cypress tree, GPS).

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Love,
Bri

Christmas 2011.

Christmas 2011.

Christmas 2009.

My MFA graduation 2009.

At Home

I just returned from a week in Pennsylvania. This is what I did:

Visited Ash and went to the Strip District.

Hung out at the Pike homestead.

Married my best friend, Nancy and her new husband, Shourin Sen. Congratulations Nan & Shourin!

Happy Mother’s Day

Today is day to celebrate all the women in the world who have dedicated the larger part of their lives to raising their children, their grand-children and sometimes other people’s children. On a smaller, more personal scale, my mother spent many of her mother’s days doing one of the following:

1. Attending Allegheny College graduation x2 (my sister and I both went there as undergrads)
2. Attending the Mother’s Day Show at the Erie Hunt & Saddle Club. I’m not sure how many times she did this, but I’m going to guess it was at least five. She also gets extra points for this one because it rained at least three out of those five times.
3. Eating “breakfast” in bed at 7 AM on a Sunday because we (my sister and I) were so excited to make it for her that we couldn’t let her sleep. It also important to note that her “breakfast” consisted of toast and tea. Ash and I were not yet the culinary connoisseurs that we are today.
4. Driving around Erie County on one of my father’s epic “Sunday” drives. Hey, Ash. Need a bathroom?
5. Enjoying a Mother’s Day dinner at one of the finer dining establishments in Erie. These restaurants included Outback, Olive Garden and Chi-Chi’s (spelling?). Yeah, Erie is the the capital of chain restaurants. Luckily, as we got older, we smartened up and started to look for fine dining establishments outside of Peach Street.

The point of this list? My mother is a good sport. She’s a very good sport, so I hope she spends today doing something she wants to do and gets a good meal out of it too. I sent her a small package that included this (I liked it so much I made one for myself):

It was a fun little project. Special thanks to Tisha for posting the link on my wall. If you’d like to make one, click on this link.

Happy Mother’s Day, mom. Love you.

On My 31st Birthday My Family Gave to Me…

My mom painted these for me. I LOVE them.

RJ and I are going to the symphony tomorrow.

My grandparents sent me this neat assortment of silver. My favorite is the little teapot.

Pear earrings from my parents. I borrowed my mom’s when I got married and she decided I needed some of my own.

Napkin rings from my grandparents. I love the designs.

These are from my mother-in-law. Royale Bouquet smells divine.

My card from RJ. I don’t like hearts.

His cards are the best.

Hifi Hilarity Guest Post

This post comes from my sister over at HiFi Hilarity. Check out her blog for my guest post and overall blogging goodness. Enjoy!

My sister, for some reason, has been operating under the idea that I am somehow cooler than her since we were children. I am well aware that I am cooler than most people (with an ego expanding more rapidly than the universe, apparently) but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m cooler than Bri. She’s older, and therefore most experienced in the ways of adulthood than I am, and subsequently less likely to have a psychotic episode when faced with the task of purchasing a mattress. She’s also a poet, which is a far cooler occupation than 99% of the population has, myself included. She’s a go-getter, an ass-kicker, and braver than the average grizzly bear. That last part may have been a little bit of an exaggeration, but she’s been braver than the average adult since we were children.
A notable example of her fearlessness would be the failed “camping” excursion of 1993ish.* My father, being the do-it-yourself-er that every man’s man wishes he was, had built a playhouse for us. This was not just an ordinary playhouse. however: it was a veritable fortress of fun and adventure, complete with a swing set and metal slide guaranteed to give you third degree burns on a hot July day. It also came with a tree house, lofted off the ground and only accessible via ladder. One summer day, my daring sister had the idea that we should “camp out” in the tree house. I’m quoting “camp out” because this clearly would not be the kind of camping real outdoorsy folks do: this is the kind of camping weenies do when they want to sleep outside but be comfortably close to hot water and cable. Our preparations would have made Suvivorman jealous: we loaded up with our sleeping bags, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and the requisite peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and hauled into the tree house for a night of adventure and intrigue.
I have mentioned before that my sister is an adept teller of stories (her occupation suits her well) and she, at the time, also had a knack for terrorizing her younger and dumber sister. After about 10 minutes, she started in on a cheesy scary story to test my fortitude. I persevered, having survived scary story telling before, and we were proud of our bravery. What I had underestimated was the power and vastness of the western Pennsylvania woods at night time. My parents had set up our homestead on an expanse of property surrounded not by neighbors, but trees. Foxes and deer were about as common as Labradoodles, and a lot scarier to a 6 and 11 year old. As we sat in our tree house, with nothing but the dark and the power of suggestion to keep us company, the sounds from the woods would begin to overwhelm our tiny ears and render our brains completely incapable of rational thought.
“Did you hear that? What was that? Who is that?” I would ask, huddled in my sleeping bag like a frightened burrito.
“It’s probably just a deer.”
“Bigfoot?”
“A deer.”
“Mike Meyers?”
My sister, despite her inherent childhood instinct to pick on her little sister, was a good sport and tried her best to reassure me that a serial killer was not waiting in the woods to stab me in the face. But after a few more screeches from the barn owls (which sound like banshees to untrained children ears) and few more snapping twigs, I couldn’t take it anymore and bolted back to the house, banging on the unlocked door for my parents to save me from whatever it was that wanted to eat me. My sister followed behind me, disappointed that I had chickened out, but damned if she would be sleeping in that tree house alone. She forgave me for being a weenie, but my father still pokes fun at the fact that his spawn couldn’t even go fake camping.
So, dearest sibbie, you may think that I’m cooler (and I am pretty awesome), but I still think you are the badass of the two of us. The Badass Poet. That should be your new blog name.
* The early 90s are a blur to me, probably because I was 4 in 1990.

Gnomes

I really like gnomes. When I was a kid, my mom owned this book:

To say that my sister and I were obsessed with this book, is an understatement. We read the entire thing cover to cover about a hundred times and then we set out to look for gnomes. Our favorite gnome hunting grounds was at my grandparents house in New Hampshire. They live up in the mountains near the Canadian border and every picture you take looks like something that belongs in The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. We used to look for “gnome holes” in the trunks of trees for hours.We would scour the ground for “signs” of gnome activity and every now and then we would swear we saw a flash of a red hat.

Gnomes was not the only source of information for our obsession. We also watched the television program “David The Gnome” religiously. If you did not experience this program on Nickelodeon growing up, you missed out. Here’s the intro to the series:

The second clip is from the series finale. As my sister said, “I wept like a child.” Well, we were children.

After all of this, it seems fitting that for Christmas my sister gave me a giant, red ceramic gnome. We also received not one, but two of these:

We now have three Steeler’s gnomes in our yard.

Letter Writing Kits

This Christmas my family put a spending limit on gifts. I was in full support of this plan because I already had brilliant ideas for Christmas for several members of my family. This idea came to me awhile ago when I was thinking about how I used to write letters as a kid. This particular memory of letter writing happened to coincide with meeting a new friend from Chicago who is involved in something called The Letter Writers Alliance. This all occurred a few years ago and it got me to thinking that I should start writing letters again. However, as usual, life got in the way until a few weeks ago when I could finally start putting my plan into action.

I wanted to write letters again, but I also wanted to people to write letters to, so that’s when the letter writing kits came into being. I thought they would make perfect gifts for my sister, my mother & my best friend for Christmas this year. I would assemble the kits and postmark their first letter on December 22, 2011  so they would receive them in the mail shortly after Christmas. Then they could pen their response to me using their new kit.

What goes in a letter writing kit? Well, this is where the creative side of my brain begins to have fun.  Here I give you a list of what I included:

1. Stamps

I bought these little boxes at Michael’s. Digging in the bins to find the right initials was fun.

2. Gold Seals.

The shopping gods were with me. I found all the right initials. Again.

3. Whimsical note cards (whimsical is such a great word).

Who doesn’t like wine or clocks?

4. A membership to the Letter Writers Alliance & a starter kit

Courtesy of The Letter Writers Alliance.

5. Good pens.

6. A beautiful box to house all of these fun items in.

These are the letters I wrote to my sister, mom & best friend

I did the stamping to make envelopes look prettier. I forgot how much I loved stamps. Those are gingko leaves on my sisters envelope. By the time this post goes up, they will have received their letters and hopefully will be writing one back to me.

A List to Sum Up the Past Two Weeks…

Took a break from blogging to manage a busy week or two. During those weeks the following events occurred (not in chronological order):

1. Our dog, Kweli, suffered some terrible dog plague and proceeded to throw up everywhere. Everywhere includes a pile of old sweaters in R’s closet that thankfully “were going to be donated anyway.”

2. Binoculars were purchased so I could watch the birds at my bird feeder.

3. I bought my wedding dress.

4. I became newly aware that eye glass frames are incredibly expensive.

5. I discovered that my Kindle cover caused my Kindle to reset all the time. The answer? A new Kindle cover with a reading light.

6. Elizabeth Bishop had a birthday.

7. I am going to Seattle in April for a conference.

8. My sister visited. She’s awesome.

9. I learned I am teaching all online classes this summer.

10. I went mini golfing with my colleagues in Liberal Arts & Sciences.

11. I went to a talk given by a survivor of one of the death camps in the Congo.

12. I ate the most amazing brunch ever at Zest & then drew all over the tables (see pics below).

13. I had a fun book club meeting where we discussed Murder on the Orient Express.

14. I attended a performance by my community college’s chapter of the Odeon Society.

15. I chatted with my best friend who I don’t talk to nearly enough.

16. I bought Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker.

17. I got my taxes done and almost had a heart attack when the accountant thought I owed $5000. Thankfully, she was wrong.

18. We began the registering process at Crate & Barrel.

19. I ran almost three miles at 5.3 on the treadmill.

20. I sent out more poetry submissions.

21. RJ and I celebrated Valentines Day with a trip to Santorini and Best Chocolate in Town.


Spring Musings

This past weekend kicked off my spring break from teaching and I think this might be the best spring break I’ve had in years. I’ve gotten a lot done around the house the first half of the week and plan to work on writing the second half. My sister was in town for her birthday (March 7th) so that was a fun way to kick off the weekend.


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I finished reading Shanghai Girls for our book club this month. I think it’s going to be an interesting book to talk about in terms of structure and content.

My initial impressions of the book are mixed. I’m not the type of person who needs a neat and tidy ending (I won’t spoil it for those of you who’d like to read it), so I actually liked the symbolism of the continuing cycle of the generations that came into play at the end of story. I also liked the story of the two sisters. I felt Lisa See’s portrayal of May and Pearls’ relationship was honest and candid. The two characters were written very well. However, the overall style of the writing, for me, seemed disjointed. I think because this is a historical novel, the historical parts of it seemed heavy handed at times. The balance between the narrative and the historical fact didn’t always work. For example, you’d be caught up in a deeply personal scene between characters and then all of a sudden a fact about the Japanese invading China or the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor would sneak in. It took me out of the narrative. I suppose it is possible that Lisa See did this on purpose to mirror the disruption the characters were feeling in their own lives due to these conflicts, however it doesn’t seem consistent enough to be considered technique.

I think my biggest problem with the plot itself is that I already knew everything about the sisters as a reader. In the final climactic moment of the story, as everything comes to a head, I already knew about their flaws, so as they revealed them to each other, I just felt bored.

I am looking forward to discussing this book with my colleagues at school. Who knows my opinions may change…
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What would you do if someone invited you to their death? When I was in 10th or 11th grade I dabbled in speech in debate for a very short time. The subject of my speech? Euthanasia. Even in my teenage years when I didn’t know anything, I felt that it should be a person’s right to die. This was before I watched my aunt be ravaged by ovarian cancer. Before my grandfather was diagnosed with lymphoma. Before nineteen year olds were diagnosed with breast cancer. This was before I became aware that it cost over two million dollars to treat colon cancer in this country.

Chuck Palahniuk published “Live Like You’re Dying” in MensHealth. In this article he recounts attending a dinner party where he didn’t know the outcome was death until the guests were asked to join hands and light candles. Check out the article. It will give you some food for thought.