Thursday, December 30, 2010

Bad cameras and insincere apologies

Dearest Blogees and Blogettes,

Dani has left the house! She is gallivanting around New York as she unapologetically warned (if she did apologize it was insincere) and has left the blogging in the hands of her dear dad. Or maybe I say delinquent dad since this is the first post. If she loved you as she claims she would have also warned you about this as well. So while this may not be up to the standards of a Daniellian post I promise you it will be better than washing dishes or vacuuming the floor or what ever else it is you should be doing but are passed off to someone else by telling them you had to check email because you were expecting a message from the doctor about your sick mother.
I know you are accustomed to being called Chickadees but I couldn't bring myself to say it fearing you all would consider me to be an internet stalker. There is something a little weird about a middle aged (No that is not stretching it! Middle aged is a very broad term!) man calling young people Chickadees.

Since you brought up the subject of my age I feel the need to clear up some confusion. You may have notice a picture of a gray hair man that Dani included some of the earlier posts. Some of you may have assumed to be Dani's dad. You would have been correct in that assumption but don't make assuming a habit. Since the podium is mine for this brief moment in time I will use my 15 minutes of fame (Ok maybe you can read faster than that or maybe you're skipping word, lines, paragraphs or this complete post) to set the record straight. That was a poor camera angle and bad lighting. This picture is much better.

I know what you are thinking but I am not Elvis' twin brother. I am so tired of answer that question. Admittedly the resemblence is uncanny but honestly we are not related. There! I feel much better now that it's off my chest.

Tomorrow being the last day of 2010 would be an excellent time to make a second post so until then.

Be safe, be well, behave!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

I was going to post about something far more exciting but....

I hope you all had a grand, grand day after Christmas. Don't you always feel a bit sorry for days immediately following big events? The 26th must constantly feel inadequate.

My day before the 26th was lovely, of course. Other than the mysterious disappearance of our White Christmas VHS. I need Bing Crosby to have a completely happy holiday.

I also discovered something this year that I've never really thought about before: we are extremely apologetic gifters in our family. Just when the paper has started to be torn and before the whole item is visible:

"Now, I looked for it in black but..."

"I kept the receipt, so if you don't like it..."

"I was going to get that other item you asked for, but the store I was at..."

"I don't know if you'll use this but..."

Yup, that's us. All of us. It may be a problem. Is it a problem?

Christmas eve candlelight dinner.

The stockings were propped up on the couch with care.

He had no idea what it could be.

Christmas dinner. With the traditional mango salsa for the sweet potatoes.

Odd looking game on Christmas night.

I'm heading on a trip to New York to visit my dearest of many dear friends, Mel, for a week or so. There may be a guest blogger or two, I may check in myself. I may leave you all in the dust until I have nothing better to do. You'll just have to wait and see I suppose. Updates and pics shall follow.

I'm sorry that I haven't been and won't be round to visit many blog friends in the near future. I know you've been sitting around just pining for my return. It'll come, it'll come. My goodness, don't smother me! :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

A little rhyme for Christmastime

Written by yours truly for you only,

Though you’ve surely heard such verses oft

I think I’ll air them once again

For who could tire of hearing love

And Christmas greeting from a friend?

May the winter night, though drafty cold

Make more the home fires, warm and bright

May your icy fingers ache in bliss

Held to their friendly, thawing light

May your family gather round, but more

Important be your love than blood

May you call to mind the bliss of peace

And lay to rest all precious grudge

May you see a child, in home or street

Who has not lost the season’s joy

May his smile remind that any man

In spirit can be still a boy

May you drink concoctions hot and sweet

That spread to every tip and toe

May the swirl of spoons add love and cheer

Though stirring hands be just your own

May your table hold such yuletide treats

As pales your daily fare beside

May you think the while of brothers who

Still want for bread to feed a child

May you have the joy of giving gifts

Long sought but not anticipated

May their usefulness outlast the time

Of bows and trees and wrapping paper

May you not forget another eve

Of journey, trials, and painful birth

Unlike our festive Christmas-ing

And wonder how He counts our worth.

merry christmas, my lovely readers

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All this food and more....

...that's what Christmas means to me my love.

A late trip to Shady Maple, the Pennsylvania Dutch smorgasbord tonight with the family. And for the unenlightened, a smorgasbord is a buffet to which some overzealous person kept adding food until it just got out of hand. Right now I'm feeling like I will never eat anything ever again.

As it should be.

First a trip to the gift shop:
Do you love this? I love it.
A pastor said in a sermon once that it was no coincidence that Santa had the same letters as Satan, and I could never look at him the same again.

Lovely Yankee candles with Christmas scents.

Now to the main event:
This might be about a fourth of the dining room.

About the same amount of the buffet.

If you don't know what this is, then you're definitely not Pennsylvanian Dutch.

Round 1: Roll with apple butter, autumn pumpkin soup, chili, coffee, cranberry juice.

Dinner Convo: Dad: "So, do you think the people here are more overweight than the general population?
>>>>>>>>>>Me: "It's difficult to tell. Maybe we should take a poll."

Round 2: Redbeet egg, buttered noodles, eggroll, baked lima beans, chicken cordon bleu wedge, baked sweet potato.

Dinner Convo: Dad: "If you take food out of here they can get you for shoplifting.
>>>>>>>>>>Me: "Really?"
>>>>>>>>>>Mom: "Yeah, they search your pockets and pat you down when you leave."

Round Three: Shoofly pie. This will also be on the Mennonite test. Right after: What is "Mennonite?"

Dinner Convo: Dad: "Aw man, I'm already almost full. Not like the good old days, when we used to come and eat ourselves sick. I just can't eat like I used too."

Round 4: Ice cream, apple crisp, egg custard, fig and date pudding.

Round 4 defeats me.

I know, a poor showing on my part. I'll do better next time coach.

Hey, look at the time. It's Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Braving murderers in the shower for dear Sherlock

Late last night I watched one episode of BBC's new series of Sherlock Holmes. And first let me say, I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan, so a 21st century version of this classic sounded a little dangerous. But I think my skepticism proved unwarranted in the end. They captured the essence of the characters beautifully and wrote excellent new stories that fit the bill as far as cleverness and suspense are concerned. Go here to watch them online if ya fancy. (They won't mind that I stole their image if I plug their show, right?)

But something else you should know about me: I don't do scary movies. I don't do anything that even hints at scary. I occasionally leave the room when the previews for scary movies come on. My good friends could tell you. Don't try to convince me to bend the no scary movies rule.

Even the Sherlock Holmes episode I watched last night, not intended to be "scary" really, just suspenseful, was pushing it.

I had already stayed up until about 1 o'clock to watch it, at the beginning fooling myself that I was going to watch only a part and then off to bed. But then afterwards I needed a whole other hour to get myself out of murder mystery mode to go to sleep. Do you get that way?

This is basically how my paranoid thoughts went: I hear a noise in the kitchen, someone's in the house! Oh Lord save me, what if he comes in here? Blunt objects, blunt objects...or maybe better to play asleep? Oh, they're going upstairs. Must have been Mom or Dad. I have to brush my teeth, just don't look into the dark kitchen as I pass. Oh dear the bathtub curtain's half pulled! Could I see if someone were in there? Better pull that back. Whew, no one. Now for the teeth. Oh my gosh, this feels so normal... murder victims are always doing normal things before someone jumps out and slashes their throat!

I hear people enjoy being scared, but I just don't get it.

And finally, I could have sworn that Sherlock was the boss from Ugly Betty, actor Eric Mabius. I was rather proud of myself for remembering it, actually, but it turned out to be someone completely different, Benedict Cumberbatch. (Can you beat that name? Or imagine a little kid learning to spell it?)

(left)Benedict (right) Eric. My mom thinks I'm crazy. Back me up on this one.

My beautiful old copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Read it.
I mean, not this one specifically, just the stories. Any copy will do.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Not even trying for the two-month resolution

I've recently been reading about everyone's New Year's Resolutions on their blogs. They look quite impressive, chickadees, almost enough to knock my self-esteem down a peg. But actually I'm still feeling pretty good, because to be honest, I really don't believe you.

Tough love up in this house.

I don't think I'm the only one who has broken-new-years-resolution syndrome. And also, I'm just more focused right now on getting over my chronic never-get-done-what-you-resolved-to-during-break syndrome. I think every year I make pie in the sky resolutions about how much I'm going to get done during winter break, but don't do most of it.

But I've decided that this year will be different. No resolutions. (That sounds suspiciously like a resolution, Dani.) I'm just going to try to enjoy being home, not watch too much TV, try to do useful things, and not put too much pressure on myself. That sounds pretty good, huh?

And to kick it off, last night I made the above collage full of pictures and sayings (cut from the Mary Engelbreit calendar I get every year) I thought might be encouraging while I'm home for these two months.

And now, in that spirit, I'm going to go finish cleaning my room and listening to the Intro to Religion lectures I downloaded off iTunes U.

Happy Monday!

I think if you click the top photo you might be able to see some of the pieces more clearly. I've really got to stop this adding on of messages after the initial message. Just say what you have to say all at once and get it over with Dani!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Tube of Me: VlogBrothers

Alright, so you may or may not realize that I'm a rather new blogling, but I've actually been following quite a few Vlogs on YouTube for a much longer time. And though I've never actually felt the least desire to be on the production end, I'm afraid my old friends the video blogs still have my heart. Settle down, settle down. Y'all will just have to kick it up a notch to compete.

And because I honestly get some good kicks out of this habit, I thought I'd take some time to share with you some of my favorites every now and again. My first series, in which you're forced to care about my opinion. Doesn't that sound fun?

I'm starting with VlogBrothers not only because I affectionately think of them as the sort of the cool big brothers of YouTube (I've always wanted an electronic older brother), but because today they start something called the Project 4 Awesome which you'll probably see if you go anywhere near the tube of you today.

It's basically a big day promoting different charity organizations, or, in the traditional VlogBrother way to phrase it, decreasing world suck. You can donate, promote, and otherwise educate yourself about a lot of different organizations. Score a million for those of us who say electronics are not quite the ruination of a new generation, right? (But we could exercise more, admittedly.)

On any normal day, the VlogBrothers John and Hank Green send each other (and their large following of "Nerdfighters," of which I'm now proudly a part) fun and intelligent videos about everything from giraffe reproduction to John's adorable son Henry to the French revolution.

I always get a good laugh out of them. And with all their connections, I see them as something of a "gateway vlog," if you will. But be warned: they're probably more addictive than weed. (Do I get in trouble for that? Ah well.)

Enjoy! (And maybe you'll even find it in your generous heart to go check out P4A and all their worthy causes. Guilt, guilt guilt.)

You won't see me around this weekend. I'm planning an internet fast. Except for email, probably, which is usually unwise to avoid for too long.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Like a heavyweight champion, or....something

I love how everyone else right now has pictures of beautiful Christmas decorations, and I'm once again like, "Look at my messy room!" And introducing my beautiful 80s burnt orange carpet.

Man, ducklings, my cup overfloweth!

Actually, that probably wasn't the correct usage of that phrase, since I'm really going to talk about the things I have to do instead of my blessings. Not that I don't have blessings, I have tons. I just don't want to talk about them. I mean, it's good to talk about blessings and everything, just not terribly interesting. Yeah, you're right. Stopping.

Also, I very much welcome female ducklings as well.

Why don't I just give you a list? I'm pretty good with lists.

Things I have to do:

-practice that song for church I've irresponsibly neglected. it's kinda dull. sshhhh.

-finish unpacking that suitcase above which has sat open on my floor since I arrived (days ago)

-write the essay for my Peruvian Social Reality class for which I interviewed a Hasidic rabbi (weeks ago)

-file those insurance papers for camera and cell phone which were stolen (months ago)

Things I want to do:

-read the books I got from the library yesterday. Are you shocked that I've never before read a whole Virginia Woolf novel?

-learn how to make Pisco sours. National booze of Peru. Or is that Chile? Let's all settle this over a nice Pisco sour.

-learn how to make oboe reeds without a teacher. Is there an app for that? Just kidding of course. I'm way too cheap to have a phone that can download apps.

So anyway, that's what I'm up to...and I've made a firm resolution not to spend much time on the internet/TV today. I'm not even going to make a sarcastic comment about that, because I'm getting in the mindset where I know I can do it. Si se puede. As if I'm a boxer before the big match.

There has gotta be a better metaphor here. Suggestions?

Also, I'm playing around with the design. It's not there yet. Be patient.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is this one gold or platinum?

My dearest blog readers/followers/acquaintances/mockers,

Happy slightly-longer-than-a-month anniversary! I love y'all. Truly, truly I do.

Are you saying it back? Well, this is awkward....

I love when you leave me glowing compliments telling me I'm the best blog you ever ever read and you can't imagine why I haven't accrued a thousand followers by now. I love when you nominate me for prestigious blog awards. I love when you send me large checks in the mail.

If you're not doing those things, you're behind your peers.

Actually what I love is that you all have great blogs as well (subtle hint that I'm great? of course!), and we can follow each other and get to know each other in this very odd, unconventional sort of way. Or at least it seems that way to my very boring conventional mind. My mom was looking at the comments yesterday saying, "Who's that?" And I said, "Another blogger." She responds, "You don't actually know them? That's sorta weird."

Yup. And awesome.

One request: Could you coordinate and stagger your visits so as to avoid really big spikes in my graphs that make all the other visit times look all pithy and pathetic?

When my secretary printed me the stats.

I still love ya, just ya know, all relationships take work.

But seriously, thanks kiddos. We've just begun.

Onward and upward,


Monday, December 13, 2010

Inspiring encounters and peaceful cars

Have you ever imagined how your car feels at the end of a long drive? I mean after you pull into the driveway, turn the key, and just sit there for a moment. She sighs deeply as the motor slowly winds down to a stop and the gauges sink below O. In the peace that follows you realize that even on idle the car was making all of these movements and noises and efforts only now noticeable because of their absence.

That is what home feels like. From the minute my family greeted me in baggage claim with a beautiful bouquet of roses, to the opening of a care package sent by a lovely best friend, being home is like being that sighing car.

All three of the plane rides went fairly smoothly. The best part of the trip was meeting a twenty year old Peruvian girl named Andrea in the baggage check-in line, who was heading to Florida to work for four months. We spent our Panama City and Houston layovers together.

It was her first time traveling alone and out of the country, and no one was going to be there to pick her up at the Orlando airport. She was going to spend the night there and in the morning find a ride to another town where there would be an equal absence of friends and sleeping arrangements. Not to mention her English was on a basic level. Can you imagine? I can't. I had a family with flowers and I still seemed more nervous than she was.

All I can say is that it's for all the brave, ambitious, resourceful Andreas that I cannot wait to be an English as a Second Language teacher. Inspiring.

Andrea took this one after several tries in which she was unsatisfied with my photography skills.

You know you're in the States when....

Saturday, December 11, 2010

It gets worse before it gets better

Ten hours and counting until I leave for the airport. My room currently looks like this:

No judging people, no judging.

That's Julie and Julia in the background there. Love it. My favorite character is Paul Childs, played by Stanley Tucci, an underappreciated actor who is absolutely brilliant in everything he does. Definitely brightening up the packing experience for me.

The next time you hear from me I will be in the states.

See all you lovelies there!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Strange children love me!

Tomorrow's my last day in Lima! Well, until I come back in February. That didn't sound as dramatic for an opening. And Sunday I'll be traveling ALL day. As in, 2o hours or so.

But let's not think about that just now.

The singing children mentioned in the last post, and present but hardly visible in above picture, were the main event of a Christmas Extravaganza, which is where we headed after that lovely beach photoshoot.

Well, it wasn't called that exactly. It was HSBC Navidad, like the bank, which sounds a little less charming. I say that even though one of my favorite parts of the show was at the end when Santa said, "HSBC wishes all the children a Merry Christmas!" Santa lives in the real world, kiddies, where you can indeed put a price on Christmas joy. (sarcasm, sarcasm.)

Another of my favorite parts was watching all the young families that came out in force to watch the show. All those cute little pudgy faces, their big round eyes staring up at the flashing lights with their mouths slightly open in awe. I felt like there was a million beautiful photos just waiting for me to take them, but discretion made all my sly attempts turn out blurry messes.

And there was one little girl in particular in the arms of her parents right next to me who was so painfully cute that I just had to make funny little faces at her. I did not anticipate, however, that they would make her she reach out her arms and lean over for me to hold her like I was a fun aunt.

I wasn't sure what to do at first: Don't know them at all. We're in a public place. They'd probably be weirded out by a stranger holding their baby. I want to just squeeze those pudgy little cheeks.

That last one won out.

Her parents, as predicted, were a little miffed. Especially her mother. But more from surprise at their daughter's eagerness to leap into the arms of a complete stranger than that I actually took her. (Imagine if I had candy a sketchy white van...I understand their concern.) The woman said, "She never goes to people like that..." I held her up and ooh and aahed over the show for a bit in Spanish and then gave her back. After which her mother tried to distract her with food and balloons.

I swear, that is the first stranger's baby I have ever held! That I remember. And I'm fairly certain from their reactions I'm the first stranger the baby ever wanted to hold her. What brought it on? A combination of my new found child magnetism and the great mood children get in when they're up past their bedtimes, obviously.

Or, if that doesn't work for you, I do have an alternate theory. The children's programming here, even what does not come from the US, is brimming with whiter people. Not to mention the pictures of white children on the sides of childcare buildings. Not to mention the way many of the adults around them treat white foreigners with special consideration.

White privilege is one of the things that is so much more apparent to me in Lima, though of course it still exists in the states too. I've had many, many conversations about it, and I'm not gonna get way into it here. But the thought that it might have had something to do with the special moment I had with that little girl is unsettling and saddening.

In fact, maybe I'll just go back to thinking I have a new found child magnetism.

Fireworks followed singing children.

Everyone fleeing the scene afterward. It reminded me of the 4th of July.

Whew! That was a long one! Make it through? Virtual cookie for you.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

In which you wish you were me

I just had the most enchanted evening! Perhaps the most I've had in all my time in Lima. A dear friend, a visit to the beach, a churro from Manolos, some lovely children singing Christmas songs.... maybe more details later. Maybe not. But right now, the best of the photos from the beach.

I have about a million more where these came from. And I'm not sure how I chose the one outfit which would match this scenery perfectly. I must have had a moment of pure clairvoyant genius.

Can you imagine how wonderful it is to see a sunset after months of dull gray skies? I'll tell you: Really really wonderful.

P.S. I went to Da Mario today (follow that to get caught up on my love of that restaurant) for the last time before break and they were all like "You haven't come for two weeks now!" I heard the Cheers theme song, folks, it was magical.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Swimming pools and movie stars

So it turns out that I live only a couple of blocks from the travel agency where Zac Efron works. Who knew?

What do you think? Attempt at subliminal advertising? Blatant face-dropping? Should I call Zac's publicist?

And hey kiddos, in case you don't read the comments below, Sensible Footwear just pointed out to me that we also have a Pussy Cat Doll on the left there. I think I didn't recognize her at first because of all those clothing she has on.