Author Archives: Swistle

College Student Care Package for Christmas/Finals

I just sent off a care package to Rob. I meant to FIRST write down what was in it, for a post. I remembered that right after I handed the box to the clerk. So this post will be a test of my memory. A second test of my memory, since I failed the first one about remembering to document beforehand.

I didn’t want to send too much stuff, because in a few weeks I’m going to be filling Christmas stockings and a lot of that is the same sort of things I’d put in a care package. But he has finals coming up and I wanted to send good snacks for that, and also I wanted to send some Christmassy stuff, so here’s what I put in there:

A package of trail mix
Two different boxes of protein-emphasizing granola bars
A theater-size box of Christmas M&Ms
One Little Debbie Christmas-tree-shaped brownie (the other kids ate the rest)
A box of red/green/white Tic Tacs
Four chocolate ornaments
A 50-light string of mini Christmas lights ($2.49 at Target)
A Christmassy pillowcase (I found two-packs at HomeGoods and Marshalls and TJMaxx)
A baggie of just his favorite flavor of the chewable multivitamins from the assorted bottle
Half dozen or so of the best pages from our page-a-day calendars

I would have added a candy cane, but I forgot to buy them. I meant to add a big green floofy curly ribbon, but I see it sitting here on my desk.

A Fair Amount of Complaining About Cleaning the Bathroom

I only need to do ONE thing today, I mean in addition to the usual things like dishes and laundry and meals and child transportation, just ONE extra thing, and that is to clean the bathroom. And not even the whole bathroom but just the sink and toilet and maybe I will dab a paper towel in the corners of the floor and that is IT, no one is asking me to do anything actually difficult. I don’t need to negotiate for a hostage or clean an entire house or stand at a cash register all day, ALL I need to do is clean one sink and one toilet and then I can play Candy Crush with a clear conscience, it is impossible to comprehend the privilege and luxury of my life, so why am I instead sulking at my computer? Gah. I will just write this ONE post and then I will do it. So soon, I will do it. Before you know it, you will glance up and there I’ll be, smelling faintly of lemon 409, proud and a little grossed out, and the bathroom will be about half shiny.

I don’t even have anything to write about, so what if I went and cleaned it NOW and then came back? I even have my radio in there! I could be thinking of what to write while I worked and listened to music! Ug, I don’t want to. And to think that just last night I was bragging about how good I was at making myself do things I don’t want to do, which is a complete and obvious lie: I am TERRIBLE at making myself do things I don’t want to do. Or, let’s think positively: I am strong-willed!

This morning instead of cleaning the bathroom I toasted some pecans, which is one of those things that seemed like way too much fuss to me until I did it the first time, and now I’m like “What is the big deal, you just put them on a baking sheet at 350F for four minutes, stir them, put them back in for another four minutes and then you have TOASTED PECANS.” I also made another batch of the vegetable dish because the oven could be efficiently shared with the pecans, and we still have leftover turkey. Then I planted an amaryllis bulb. Meanwhile the bathroom waits in vain for an equal share of my housewifely attention.

One issue is that we have one of those toilet seats that’s easy to completely remove, for easy cleaning. (It’s this one.) This is such a great feature, so why does it increase the mental burden? Partly it’s that it increases the grossness: now the toilet seat has been in the tub. I don’t really HAVE to remove it, I could just clean it as if it were a regular toilet seat—but the toilet seat and I both know that I could do better. Plus, it’s gross but satisfying to scrub the hinges under hot water.

It’s also discouraging that Paul leaves his nail clippers to rust-stain the countertop instead of lifting his arm slightly higher to put them into the cabinet, and it’s discouraging that a number of years ago William lit cotton balls on fire in the sink and stained it with yellow-brown marks. The sink/counter never looks clean even when it is, and every time I clean it I’m reminded that I’M NOT THE ONE WHO MADE ANY OF THOSE UGLY AND AVOIDABLE AND PERMANENT MARKS. Why DO we live with other people?

Seriously, it doesn’t even take very long. I’m going to do it right now, and I’m going to time how long it takes, and then won’t I feel silly for spending so long avoiding it?

*there is the sound of country music, and someone seems to be attempting to sing along*
*the faint lemony tinge of 409 drifts to your nostrils*
*followed by a rather stronger scent of bleach*
*someone just swore, and there was a sound of a toilet seat landing too hard in the tub*
*there is muttering; it seems to be directed at people who don’t sit to pee*
*oh god oh god oh god okay that part’s done*
*the singing is sounding more cheerful*
*there’s the sound of the trash being emptied, so we must be close now*

Okay, DONE. It took 30 minutes almost exactly. I myself won’t feel clean until my next shower, but the bathroom is looking pretty good. The bowl water is bluish and bleachy, and no one else is home so I will get to be the one to flush it down later after it’s soaked for awhile. The mirror is cracked but shiny. The sink is stained but clean. The toilet seat…well, I won’t say WHO, but apparently SOMEONE let the bleachy spray soak too long, because there are now streaks in the whiteness. But we will not worry about it! It’s fine! It’s absolutely fine!

Christmas Earrings

May I remind you of Christmas earrings, for wearing all month to gradually increase the holiday spirit? I’m so sad and sorry the ones I mentioned in that post, the ones with a Christmas tree on top of a car, never came back into stock; those are the BEST ONES.

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I’m wearing these today, and freshly appreciating their subtlety. (I like flashy earrings too, but I like them a little closer to Christmas.) I’m sorry to say they ship from a company called Body Candy, which may give the wrong idea to another adult in your household when the mail comes.

Since the original post, which I am surprised to see was three years ago because it feels as if we were JUST talking about it, I’ve acquired a new pair:

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Lunch at the Ritz Jingle Jewels. These are the size I like: kind of smallish to mediumish. One reviewer says she thought they’d be rounded out all the way around like real ornaments, so I will mention that they are flat—or rather, not completely flat, but a flat piece of metal slightly curved. I love that they don’t match. Be prepared for a little bit of sticker shock: they’re not CRAZY expensive, but they were expensive enough that I used birthday money to justify buying them. They go up and down a bit in price; I paid $40 with shipping.


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I considered these, but I think having faint jingling near my ears all day would drive me crazy.


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Sienna Sky Cascading Christmas Ornaments. I have these on my wish list this year. One problem with a lot of holiday earrings is that most of them are sold as novelties, six pairs for under $10 or whatever, and then they bother my ears. Sienna Sky is a brand I really like: very light earrings, totally neutral to my ears. But…they’re expensive. So they make good gifts.

Charlie; It’s/Its

Every so often I use my ancient bottle of Charlie perfume, which is the perfume I wore in high school, though this is a less-ancient bottle than that. I do hope I didn’t use multiple sprays of it back then, because it is Quite Strong. Well, if I DID use a lot of it, I was in good company: I am pretty sure I still have other people’s Benetton Colors and Drakkar Noir residue in my nostrils.

This morning I had an academic revelation. It reminds me of the time when, in my early 30s, I suddenly realized that the horizontal line in a fraction MEANS “divided by.” You can SAY IT that way: “1/4” is “1 divided by 4.” Anyway, this morning’s revelation concerns its/it’s and may be as obvious to some of you as the fraction line, but to me it was mind-altering. I have been successfully using its/it’s (though I found a misuse in this very post), but I could not have explained to you WHY—UNTIL NOW.

Here is where my confusion was, before this morning: we say “Swistle’s name,” so why isn’t it correct to say “it’s name”? I know it ISN’T correct, but why?? HERE IS WHY: because “it” is a pronoun, and so it follows PRONOUN rules rather than NOUN rules (“Swistle” is a noun). This is no way to construct a language, but this is what we’ve got.

Here is what we do with possessive NOUNS: we leave the noun the same and we add an apostrophe-S or an apostrophe, depending on the particular noun and its singular/plural status. Possessive nouns: Swistle’s name, the cats’ names, people’s names, the tree’s name, the estate’s name, the babies’ names, the movie’s name. Apostrophes galore!

For possessive PRONOUNS, we don’t do that; instead, we use whole new words. “He” is a pronoun, so we don’t say “he’s name” as we would if “he” were a noun; instead we say “his name.” The possessive for “he” is a whole new word: “his.” “She” is a pronoun, so we don’t say “she’s name” as we would if “she” were a noun; instead we say “her name.” The possessive for “she” is a whole new word: “her.” “They” is a pronoun, so we don’t say “they’s names” as we would if “they” were a noun; instead we say “their names.” The possessive for “they” is a whole new word: “their.” And “it” is a pronoun, so we don’t say “it’s name” as we would if “it” were a noun; instead we say “its name.” The possessive for “it” is a whole new word, “its.” Which is not enough of a whole new word, in my opinion, and is confusingly similar to what we do to make nouns possessive. No wonder people have trouble learning this. It should have been an actual whole new word such as “eir.”

But it’s too late now; we’re stuck with it. The contraction “it’s” sounds the same as the possessive pronoun “its,” and that is just how it is. The contraction “he’s” sounds different from the possessive pronoun “his,” and the contraction “she’s” sounds different from the possessive pronoun “her,” and so everyone understands the difference. We only get muddled by “it’s”/”its,” and frankly we have good reason to be confused. Oh! And we also get muddled by “they’re”/”their,” ALSO for good reason: because THEY SOUND THE SAME, and because the NON-possessive form is the one with the apostrophe! Really, we should pat ourselves on the back if we get it right 50% of the time.

Whooo, thanks for hanging in there on this boring topic. It’s just, I finally have a mnemonic for remembering the it’s/its thing: “its” goes with “his”; “it’s” goes with “he’s.” (I would prefer to remember it with “her”/”she’s,” but the matching S-endings of “its” and “his” is essential for it to click into place in my mind.)

Turkey-Vegetable-Egg Scramble Recipe and Gift Ideas from Swistle’s House

I was going to tell you about one of my favorite ways to use leftover turkey, but then I realized it also uses up an atypical Thanksgiving side dish so let’s start with that. It’s an easy vegetable dish that I started making as a thing to go with salmon and rice. I’m afraid this is one of those recipes without good measurements; if I’d realized I was going to tell it to you, I would have measured as I made it last time. But I will try to at least give you an IDEA of the measurements, unlike my late mother-in-law who gave me her treasured cinnamon roll recipe that tells me to combine “cinnamon, butter, and sugar”—no measurements at all.

Cut up one red bell pepper, one small/medium summer squash or zucchini (I don’t peel it), and some carrots (I do peel those, or else I use baby carrots). The goal is to have about equal amounts of the three vegetables, all in smaller than bite-sized pieces because I like to have a couple of pieces combined with each bite of whatever else I’m eating; I cut the carrots in not-too-thin slices because I don’t like them to get mushy and cooked-carroty. I put all the cut-up vegetables in a 2-quart casserole dish because that’s the only one I have that has a lid, but they don’t fill it so you could use something smaller. I pour on some bottled lemon juice; my guess is that I put on a tablespoon or two. Then I add a pinch or two of thyme, and some ground pepper, and stir it all up. (You could skip the thyme/pepper or use a different spice.) Then I drop in a blop of butter, probably a tablespoon. I put the lid on, and I put it in the oven for roughly half an hour at roughly 350 degrees F, but really it goes in with whatever I’m cooking—so if I’m cooking at 400 degrees F, it goes in at 400 degrees F and I just take it out sooner. When it’s done, I give it another stir to mix the butter around, and I add some salt.

So! Now for how I use up the leftover turkey: scramble some eggs with cut-up turkey and a good scoop of these vegetables (ideally the right number so that every bite has one piece of egg, one piece of turkey, and one to two pieces of vegetable), plus as much Tostitos Queso Blanco dip as I can heap on a spoon. Just stir it alllll around.

Now. What was it I was going to say after the recipe part? Oh, yes! Today we are doing Gift Ideas from Swistle’s House: I am going to wander through my house finding things I highly recommend buying for other people. This idea seemed so great when I thought of it, but the execution was more challenging than anticipated: one’s own possessions sort of VANISH into the house, so that even though I periodically think, “Oh, I just love this shower radio; I should recommend it!,” I don’t then SEE the shower radio when I’m looking for gift ideas. Well, I did see the shower radio. But there are other things I DIDN’T see, is my guess.

Bloom County Complete Library. Children ruin everything, including one’s cherished paperback Bloom County books. There are five hardcover volumes altogether (I have the first three, because those are my favorite era of Bloom County), and the children are not allowed to touch them.

Texts from Jane Eyre. These are even funnier if you’ve read all the books featuring these characters, I imagine, but I haven’t read Wuthering Heights and still laughed a LOT at Cathy and Heathcliff’s texts:

good that’s so much love


Tinted Chapstick in Merlot, for someone’s stocking. It’s $4.99 at Target, sometimes a better price on Amazon. It’s just the right amount of color for not needing to look in the mirror. I tried Hello Bordeaux as well, and it’s pretty good but a little bright on me; the Merlot is my definite favorite.

Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer in Plum. A more intense color; I need the mirror for it.


The promised shower radio. This surprisingly expensive item ($80 as I’m posting) happened because Paul ordered me a much less expensive one that we couldn’t get to work, and he got frustrated and ordered this one to replace it. Anyway, I love it. I use it the whole time I’m getting ready in the morning. If you don’t need Bluetooth, there’s a radio-only version for $60 at time of posting.


Drambuie. My friend Miss Grace suggested this when I had a lingering cough that was driving me crazy. I bought it as Very Expensive Cough Syrup (it’s around $30 for the bottle), but now I like to have a bottle on hand for occasional treats: it’s one of the only liquors I like the taste of well enough to sip. It’s sweet and warming, and I guess it tastes like black licorice but I strongly dislike black licorice so I don’t understand why I like it, then. To me it tastes more like honey and spice, not spice like pumpkin spice but more like…well, licorice. But I don’t LIKE licorice! It’s puzzling.


Honeywell Circulator Fan. I tend to run hot, and I hate being hot, so I love this fan. It’s just the right size to get a pleasant breeze going, and it tips to various angles. I discovered it because my sister-in-law put one in their guest room and I stayed over and it was perfect.


Munchkin Deluxe. I hate this game. But the children love it, and fortunately Paul will play it with them. We also have the Munchkin Apocalypse, which is a complete playable game on its own (but not Deluxe, so it doesn’t have the playing board) but can also be used as an expansion pack with the basic game.


Vintage Charm Lidded Bowls. These try very hard to imply that they are Pyrex, but as far as I can tell, they are not. They are INSPIRED by Pyrex. I do love them so much, and they have LIDS. The price goes up and down a lot; I got a pack of three bowls with three lids on a Goldbox deal for $20, but more often they seem to be in the $30s.


Melissa and Doug giraffe. Have I…mentioned this giraffe before, or is this a little awkward? I bought it impulsively on clearance at HomeGoods last year and it is one of the joys of my life. The comments/photos on Amazon are funny/entertaining and show that others feel the same about their giraffes. We often dress her in hats and scarves, but I happened to catch her in a contemplative moment right between wearing a small turkey on her head and being draped in Christmas lights and a Santa hat.


Anker PowerCore 5000 portable phone charger, or the smaller/lighter Anker PowerCore Mini 3350. My brother bought me one of these for Christmas one year and now I always have one in my purse. We have about five of them total because they help soothe my Disaster/Preparation Anxieties, too.


Dishers! I have the Oxo small (2 teaspoons) and the Oxo medium (1.5 tablespoons), both of which are good for cookies, depending on how big you like to make cookies. I also have a Vollrath size 20 (1-5/8ths ounce), which is good for muffins. They are surprisingly expensive, so they make nice gifts. Paul gave me the Vollrath one and I thought it was way too expensive until I tried it, at which point I added “more dishers” to my wish list.

TacoProper Taco Holders. Before we had these, it was impossible to contemplate dishing up plates of tacos for five children. By the way, I don’t have any but have you seen the triceratops taco holders? I love them.

Joie Oink pig spatula. A good spatula AND ALSO VERY CUTE. The mini ones are good for scraping the last bits of peanut butter out of the peanut butter jar and into your mouth.

The cuteness of the pig spatulas reminds me of my Happy Spoons (not shown—they’re in a utensil jar on the counter).


LG microwave. Speaking of expensive. But maybe you and a house-sharing adult like to buy each other household appliances for holidays. The price varies a bit; I bought it for about $150, but I’ve mostly seen it higher than that. It is not a compact microwave, by the way, and I hadn’t realized there was a difference, so that was a bit of a surprise (our old microwave was compact). I was like, “Look how it fits EXACTLY on the microwave cart! …..Ohhhhhhhhhh!”


Denim 24/7 Bootcut Jeans. I really like these. (Don’t buy anything on the Roaman’s site for full price: they are the kind of site that has constant sales.) I have them in a few different shades of denim (I particularly like Stonewash Sanded), and recently got bold and ordered them in Red Ochre, which reminds me of the red-orange Crayola crayon. I wish I’d been a little bolder and gotten the Golden Amber instead, which I wanted more than the red-orange but was also more nervous about wearing; I saw them on someone else and they were fabulous. Well. I’ll add them to the next order.


Wet Brush. I bought this because Kelly told me to (which is also why I have Daisy razors instead of the crummy ones I used to have). You don’t have to use it on wet hair. It’s the best brush I’ve ever owned, and Elizabeth and I now own four of them between us. For a gift, I recommend combining it with a Turbie Twist hair towel.


Duluth Fire Hose pants. If you are buying for a gentleman who prefers pants to be cargo and sturdy, I can tell you that Paul says these are the best pants he has ever owned. They have pockets upon pockets within pockets, and they seem beautifully stitched. Furthermore, his barber took one look and said “Great pants. Duluth?” Also, as the one who does the laundry, I can add that they don’t get all wrinkly in the dryer if you don’t take them out right away. They are kind of expensive; sign up for the email list first, because they have constant sales of the “25% off plus free shipping” type. If you need something to bring the total up a bit to meet a free-shipping requirement, Paul also likes their Big Ass Bricks of Soap.

End-of-Pottery-Class Report

You know what, actually I am not going to wait to write about the pottery class until I have photos for illustration. For one thing, photos basically FORCE you to praise the things I made, and though that would be enjoyable for me, it could be considerably more of a strain for you. For another thing, I now have just enough pottery experience to know that glaze is so pretty it makes every Very Poor pieces look deceptively great, especially in a photo. So I am just going to go ahead and tell you about the class.

To review, first I spontaneously signed up for a wheel-thrown pottery class, and I was surprised at and pleased with myself for having done so. Then I started the class, and after two sessions I didn’t really like it at all and was considering dropping out. Then, after talking to you about it, I changed my strategies and started doing things differently than my teacher wanted me to, and things were going much better, though I was still counting down how many classes were left, and taking Discouragement Breaks in the bathroom. I don’t think I’ve given any updates since.

After one glorious class where the teacher was out of the room and I was doing my own thing and having much happier results, the next session the teacher was back in the room and back to insisting (nicely, gently, quietly, but PERSISTENTLY) that I continue to try to make a straight-sided cylinder. I modified my strategy again: I chose to have some faith in her belief that learning to make a straight-sided cylinder would benefit me in the long run—but, considering the class was half over and there would be no Long Run, I would also work on things I wanted to have as souvenirs when the class was over. I did not want to end the class with nothing more to show for it than a collection of failed straight-sided cylinders. So each day I went in, I worked for awhile on cylinders, and as each one failed I tried to make something else out of it. I continued to feel happy that we were past the halfway point, and continued to think in terms of “Only four classes left!,” “Only three classes left!,” etc. I was unprompt in my arrivals and overprompt in my departures (“Oh, I just reached a breaking point so I cleaned up early”).

On the second-to-last day of class (“This class and then one more and then I’m DONE!”), I learned glazing, which is where you choose what colors to make things. And because I still had things to trim (i.e., partially-dry pieces that needed to be scraped to be thinner and more even), and could only glaze THOSE if they were done BEFORE the last class, I came in the next day for an Open Session: a time when students can come in and work on their projects without the teacher there. I’d never done that before, but I really needed to if I was going to finish everything, so I did.

I can’t quite explain what happened, but on the day I went in for extra work-time, I went home feeling HIGH. My theory is that what did it was learning the last step in the process: now I knew all the basics for taking a 25-pound bag of clay and turning it into glazed finished pieces; and because some of my main anxieties are New Things and Not Knowing How Things Work (like, which cart does this go on when I’m done? and what do I do next? and where are things located when they’ve been fired? and when do I put on the glaze? and then what cart do I put it on?), learning that last step removed a bunch of anxiety. Another part of my theory is that the Must! Finish! adrenaline got mistakenly interpreted by my brain as excitement and enthusiasm. There is also room to question the effects of glaze fumes.

Whatever it was, I started to have a mad, mad, mad idea: Maybe I should sign up for the next session! I recognized this for the crazy near-the-finish-line idea it was. It was relief, that was all: I was having such a surge of relief that the class was almost done, and satisfaction with getting things completed, and sentimental feelings about my nice classmates, and as previously theorized I was mistaking it for excitement and enthusiasm. Also, one of the huge benefits of the class was that it made me appreciate OTHER PEOPLE’S work, so that now perhaps I could take the cost of another session and instead use it to buy some pretty things made by SOMEONE WHO KNEW WHAT SHE WAS DOING. I could support an artist AND end up with a much nicer-looking item than I could make! Win-win!

But then I kept thinking happily all week about getting back to the studio and glazing the things I’d trimmed. I kept thinking of more ideas I wanted to try. I thought about how neat it would be to be thinking about the glaze options AS I WAS SHAPING THE CLAY, rather than standing stupidly in the glazing room with no idea of what I wanted to do. And how nice it would be, now that I knew all the steps, to stagger things: do some wheel-throwing and then do some trimming and then some glazing, and have things at every stage of the process. And maybe I could come in for more open sessions, now that I was not trying to MINIMIZE the number of hours I spent there. And I had seen a marked difference between my first batch of items and my second batch of items, and I wondered if there would be another jump between the second batch and the third. And I went to a pottery store with my mom and didn’t really want to buy anything because I kind of wanted to keep trying to make all those things myself.

In short, brain-error or no, I WAS IN FACT excited and enthusiastic, and counting days until the next class instead of feeling increasing dread. And then on the last day I glazed my last items and I didn’t want to leave early and I was wishing I could have tried painting on the clay before firing, and anyway long story short is that I signed up for the next session.

Christmas Mugs and Country Music

Christmas mugs, gurl

I should be writing over at my poor neglected baby-name blog, but instead I want to talk about Christmas mugs and country music.

My ideal number of Christmas mugs is four: two smaller ones, two larger ones. The number of Christmas mugs I in fact own has been creeping up somewhat past that ideal, and then I added that happy squirrel mug this year, so I donated two others I don’t like as much, and left two more in the Christmas box, and just brought up these four.

The one with little drawings all over it was a happy find. My mom and I saw it years ago at Marshalls, and we both immediately loved it. I don’t remember how much it cost, but I remember it was more than I could justify at the time—like $12.99 for a single mug (it’s a Dunoon, which meant nothing to me at the time but now I know it’s an expensive brand), so my mom bought it as a gift for my sister-in-law. Then I pined for the mug for years. Then I put a search on eBay for it, and one day a search result came up, and I bought it. So now I have one and I am happy, and also happy to be mug-twins with my sister-in-law. If you feel any stirrings of pining in yourself, the mug is called “Little Bits of Christmas.” (If instead you are pining for any of the others, I got them all at HomeGoods: the Potter’s Studio squirrel is from this year, the larger Christmas tree mug is Fringe from last year, and the smaller Christmas tree mug is from a Myott pattern I’ve seen at HomeGoods and Marshalls year after year but haven’t yet seen this year.)


I have slowly turned from someone who likes a few country-crossover songs and owns one Dixie Chicks album into someone who has put a country station on one of her carefully-hoarded pre-sets. So you still would not call me a super fan at this point, and I still prefer Top 40 and pop-alternative stations, but there has been a definite change. My friend Surely said something long ago about how country music has more love songs for grown-ups—I think at the time I was complaining about how every single pop love song seemed to be about clubs and dancing and bodies rather than, like, LOVE. Anyway, here are a few country songs I like, in case you would be interested in sampling them:

If I Had a Boat, by Lyle Lovett. Country crossover: I first heard it on the alternative rock station.


I Could Use a Love Song, by Maren Morris. With country songs more than with pop songs, sometimes I like a song for the lyrics more than for the tune/artist. This one is me feeling moony while listening to my Peter Cetera Pandora station.


’80s Mercedes, by Maren Morris. This one is the opposite: the lyrics do nothing for me, but I like the rest of the song.


Unforgettable, by Thomas Rhett. Another one where I like the song okay but don’t love it; the real reason I’m including this is that it has shown me the bar pick-up that would work on me: “Then I tried to guess your middle name; for 30 minutes bet we played that game.” Yes. That and a gin-and-tonic gets you your best possible shot.


No Such Thing as a Broken Heart, by Old Dominion. I really like this song and also the video is fun to watch.


Sippin’ on Fire, by Florida Georgia Line. The first song I liked by them was the crossover remix they did with Nelly: Cruise (I like the original version too, but I love how much fun they all look like they’re having making the remix).


Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not, by Thompson Square. I appreciate the way they manage to rhyme “not” with “what”: Are you gonna kiss me or not / Are we gonna do this or wat.


Hurricane, by Luke Combs. Sad and I like it.


Every Little Thing, by Carly Pearce. Sad and I like it.


Games, by Luke Bryan. This is the song where I ran out of things to say about the songs, so now I will just list them.


What Ifs, by Kane Brown.


Small Town Boy, by Dustin Lynch.


In Case You Didn’t Know, by Brett Lynch.

Be Yourself, Unless You Can Be Holtzmann

The art center where I took the wheel pottery class did a Student Expo at the end of the term, with work on display from all the classes. The teachers did such a cool job setting all the projects up as if they were pieces in a museum. My pieces, which had previously looked lumpy and tipped to me, now looked like Significant Primitives With Artistic Value. And I will have more to say about the pottery class, now that it’s over, but I want to wait until I have all my pieces back (some things haven’t been fired yet) (or do I mean kilned) (anyway they’re not done) so that I can illustrate the post with a picture—and because the way those final pieces turn out will contribute to my final evaluation of the class.

What I wanted to talk about today is that as I was looking at all the art, a guy came up to me and started telling me about the acrylic paintings I was looking at. I thought he must have been a member of that class, so I nodded and smiled politely. Then I moved on to the next display, with work from another class. He followed me, and started telling me about that display too, standing at Friend Closeness instead of Stranger Distance. I showed even less interest. I started being more deliberate with my body language: closed, turned away, stepping back to Stranger Distance, no eye contact, sounds instead of words, leaving the display as soon as he joined me and going to one across the room rather than to the next natural one along the path. He kept following me and talking, and there was no one else in the room. I had been feeling uncomfortable from the beginning, but now I started to feel increasingly anxious. Why was he telling me all this? Why did he know so much about every single class? Did he work here, or had he taken all the classes, or was he Not Quite Right and he was making it all up?

Then Paul, who had been looking at something in the next room over, came over and joined me. The guy turned into mist and vanished. I was relieved, and also upset. I felt as if I’d had to use Paul’s protection—and that the guy had respected Paul’s mere existence as a man, when he hadn’t respected my clear social signals to leave me alone. The guy had been nearing the point where, if Paul hadn’t been there, I would have had to either leave the building or else start an uncomfortable confrontation. But Paul just appears next to me, and THAT’S what communicates to this guy that I don’t want him near me? If he were actually genuinely thinking I wanted to have him following me and talking to me, he would have stayed and continued “educating” me even with Paul there, and in fact would have included Paul in his informative lectures; his swift departure indicates that he knew perfectly well I didn’t want him around me, and that he was counting on social pressure to keep me from saying anything to stop him.

Thinking about this in the days afterward, I’ve wished a bunch of things. I wished I were Holtzmann in Ghostbusters. She would have glanced in his direction and then licked a gun or something, and he would have backed away, first slowly and then much more rapidly. I wished I were someone who would say the uncomfortable thing and get rid of the guy myself. I wished for, like, a completely different culture, where women don’t have very good reasons to feel nervous about the risks involved in strange men and confronting them.

Christmas Prep

Rob came home for Thanksgiving and it was great. He started one prolonged fight with Paul about the rules to a game and whether a rule had to be explicitly stated or could be implied, but other than that it was just great. He and William stayed up late talking every night (I got up to pee at 3:30 and they were STILL TALKING), and there were lots of computer/math discussions at the kitchen whiteboard, and I sat nearby feeling contented to have all the babies home. Sure was LOUD, though.

It turns out there is a students-only charter bus that goes from Rob’s college, which is 8 hours away, to a stop 40 minutes from our house, and it is one of the best things to ever happen to my life. There is a woman who coordinates the whole thing, and she has a clipboard and you best believe she checks it eleven times to make sure EVERYONE is on that bus before it leaves the school, and on the return trip she sends an email to all the parents to let us know the bus has arrived safely back at the college. And it costs less than gas and meals would cost me if instead I drove to get him.

Anyway, after I dropped him off at the bus, I went home and sipped brandy (doesn’t that sound classy? actually I mixed it with diet Coke and swigged it down fast to avoid tasting it) and started CHRISTMASSING THE HECK OUT OF EVERYTHING. I got out the Christmas dishes and the Christmas CDs and the Christmas lights and the Countdown to Christmas calendars and the Christmas wreaths and it is just everywhere now. I want pretty Christmas lights and I want them EVERYWHERE I TURN.

I ordered our family pictures to put in the Christmas cards, a task I usually put off until the point of agitation and inconvenience. I scheduled a get-together with my friends, and we’re going to do a Yankee Swap and eat all the Christmas treats. I put a big gold bow on a floor lamp. I got out the pine-scented hand soap. Last year I was too sunk in despair for any of this, but this year GURL IT IS ON.

Melissa and Doug Advent / Countdown-to-Christmas Calendar Sale

There is a good sale this morning on one of my favorite Advent / Countdown-to-Christmas calendars (normally $16-17ish, this morning $11.68 at time of posting):

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I bought one a number of years ago, and it’s one of my favorite holiday things to bring out. Even Rob, who is now 18, still wants a turn choosing which ornament to put up next. It’s all wooden, nice quality, and nice and flat for storing. I like that there’s a little box for the ornaments that haven’t been put up yet.

I don’t want to wait long for this, because I’m worried the price will go up—but IF THE PRICE STAYS LOW and doesn’t, say, suddenly go to only third-party sellers trying to get $50 for it, I will do a giveaway of one of these mid-day, U.S. addresses only. No comment-content requirement, but if you’re like me and you get shy trying to think of what to say, tell me if you had an Advent / Countdown-to-Christmas calendar when you were growing up, and/or if you have one now.

[Edited to add: Jessica (Nov 24, 2017 @ 1:49) is the winner!]

In fact, let’s talk about that even if you don’t want to enter the contest (just make a note of that in your comment), and even after I’ve picked someone, because that’s a fun topic and it’s after Thanksgiving now.

When I was growing up, we made a paper chain, alternating red and green links. Each night we could take off one link. Inside each link was written an activity for that evening: sing Christmas carols; watch a family slide show (real slides! we had a screen!); make gingerbread houses; read a Christmas story; draw a nativity scene. (I think my mom must have sorted them to make sure we didn’t have a bigger activity on a busy night.)

When the kids were little, I bought a really cute drawered unit with one drawer for each day until Christmas—but it was too hard to think what to put in the drawers, so I gave up on that. Now we have the Melissa and Doug one.

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Also, this year I bought the Lego Advent Calendar for the first time, at a price significantly lower than what I see it is today. I’ve been tempted every year, but they’re so expensive, and then last year I thought, “By gum, I’m going to buy one!!”—and then it sold out, and I was disappointed. So this year I bought one, and we will just see. I’ve heard such mixed reviews of delight and disappointment, I think my expectations are nicely managed. It’ll be fun to TRY, even if it is not all that we hoped.