Jim Henson’s Studio Visit

We had a lovely visit with Christian’s old high school pal who is working across the street from our apartment at Jim Henson’s Studios while her daughter is at a two-week intensive at the American Ballet. The studios aren’t open to the public so it was a nice little coincidence that she was working so close to our apartment making it easy for us to horn our way into a private tour. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of any of the creatures beyond the entryway (see my photos below) because they’re all disembodied and/or hanging on curtain rods as they’re built or repaired. Gotta keep up the illusion that they’re alive, ya know?

This I learned: Big Bird’s feathers are all individually hand-stitched along the stem (?) to reinforce them and help slow down the decay and prevent breakage. Each and every individual feather. THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS. He’s huge!

It’s not a big warehouse or studio and actually is a quiet little creative space tucked behind an unassuming door on a generic floor of the Standard Motors Building. Everyone is relaxed and happy because, DUH, they work making Sesame Street, Muppets and Fraggle Rock characters among other things, but also because there are no computers. They don’t need them. They’re making stuff with their hands. So nice.

North Platte’s Town Hall Event

Big thanks to the folks of North Platte, Nebraska for inviting me to speak at their Town Hall Lecture Series. Past speakers have included some very big names including my inspiration, the lovely Jeannette Walls, author of THE GLASS CASTLE.

My sister-in-law drove all the way from Missouri to meet up and brought my nieces along for the trip. It was great learning how to loom rubber band bracelets, teaching them how to make things with Bucky Balls, touring Buffalo Bill’s ranch and, generally, just seeing their pretty faces. The girls were mostly happy about my hotel pool and seeing their cousins while I’m pretty stoked about my bull horn turned beer bong necklace.

BUT…the reason I was in town was to give a speech about my life turned memoir and what BURN DOWN THE GROUND means in the literal and figurative sense. There were about 400 people in the lovely Neville Center, including students from the special high school for “troubled” kids. I had no idea they were going to be there but was overjoyed when I found out they were. I hope my story and message about choices and reinvention resonated with at least ONE of them.

Huge thanks to Keppler Speakers and the amazing ladies of North Platte. Who knows if our paths will ever cross again but I will carry the experience with me forever and always.

Repurposed Yankee Candle Jar

I’ve held on to some empty Yankee Candle jars knowing they’d be good for something, but the adhesive they use on their labels was impossible for me to remove. It’s stickier than a whore in a honey factory. Sorry, I don’t know why I went there.

I didn’t use the jars because the leftover gunk made them ugly and tacky (tacky, in the sticky sense. I didn’t want to use the word “sticky” again and, well, now I’ve gone and used it twice.)

So, the jars. Sticky and ugly. Years pass.

Today, I got creative (i.e., procrastinating from things I should be doing) and decided to dig out the jars and try cleaning them again. Lo! [Insert sound of clouds parting and angels with trumpets doing their thang.] It turns out Tea Tree Oil is the rubbing the jars needed. It wasn’t like a Pledge commercial where it’s Swish! One swipe and all the dirt is gone. But it didn’t require a ton of elbow grease or time. Cleaned and dried, I added a chalkboard label from a pack Christian got me for Christmas. (True love, people.) Now I’ve got a jar that’s full of ideas.
Old Yankee Candle Jar  Tools Needed Idea Jar

Cemeteries & Geocaching

God, I feel gross.

I took Griswold to Fosterdale Cemetery this afternoon. There’s a request from a woman on an ancestry forum trying to find her ancestor’s burial plot there and a Geocache happens to be hidden there, too. So, I thought it’d be a nice little adventure with purpose.
Fosterdale Cemetery founded circa 1873
The cemetery is a tiny little thing off Route 17B not far from Yasgur’s Farm and Bethel Woods where Woodstock took place. There are a lot of veterans buried here, and many flags decorating headstones were knocked over or the sticks broken from the fierce winds we had a few days back. I was sure to keep Griswold on the paths except for when I uprighted or repaired the flags. I wasn’t able to find the headstone for the ancestry researcher after two sweeps. Bummer.

I headed over to where the cache was stashed. The description said it was “far away” from grave sites. But my GPS said I was within a foot from it, and I was fairly close to a very elaborate memorial for a young man killed in a car accident on September 5, 2011. I thought I must have my coordinates wrong, because it felt just a little too close to a grave to hide a cache.

But there it was, buried under some gravel. I opened it, took out a trackable, logged my name and was re-burying it when I noticed a truck driving up. I took a seat on a downed tree and plopped Grizzy on my lap to wait and see where they were going.

To my horror the truck stopped a few feet from me, the driver got out and knelt down in front of the young man’s grave. When he stood, a male passenger got out and the two of them checked on the shrubs and trees that were planted around the marker (and the cache), cleaned the granite benches engraved “Forever 21”, straightened a cross and spotlight and smoothed out gravel.

I wanted to get up and walk away but I was frozen with absolute mortification. I had a baseball cap and big sunglasses on so the men couldn’t really see my face, and I didn’t make a peep.

Here I was having “fun” trekking around for some silly hidden treasure in the same place where they pour out their adoration, devotion and grief by meticulously caring for the dirt that covers this boy they love.

As they drove off, I started sobbing. Tears poured out of me like a waterfall. Niagara Falls on my face.

Before coming, I’d worried about taking Griswold to a cemetery out of respect for the dead. It turns out I was the one I should have worried about. Guh.

I, for one, will never, ever, ever Geocache in a cemetery again. Once home, I logged in to the Geocaching website. The cache was placed in 2010 before this young man died. I logged a note for the owner about what happened and that it was time to move the cache. I hope he does. And I hope Mr. Telesky is resting in peace, and I’m sorry I messed up what should have been a private moment.

Telesky Memorial

Pug Zu = Griswold the Grizz Monster

For Christian’s birthday, I bought a doggy DNA kit. We got the results today and now we can answer the frequently asked question, “What kind of dog is he?”

Our little Grizz Monster is a Pug and Shih Tzu mix with some other mixed breeds in his ancestry.

His curly tail & fawn coloring are all pug, which we suspected. The Shih Tzu was a surprise even though people have asked if he was that or lhasa apso (they’re basically the same breed). We thought for sure terrier was in there. Perhaps that’s part of his mixed breed great grandparents.

We’ll never know that for sure. But what we do know is that he is perfect and loved.

Deaf Book Club Skype Call

Rock House LibraryI’m at the Rock House and had a Skype call with a book club in Minnesota comprised of deaf women and mental health professionals working in the Deaf community. The whole thing took place in ASL.

Man, I love technology and so wish this convenience had been around for my parents and grandparents. How wonderful to simply click a button on my laptop and be visually connected with no need for a special service or interpreter.

We had a nice chat about my book, family, the Deaf community, and mental health issues before signing off so I could make a trip to the dump and walk with Griswold around the lake.

While they’re busy reading books to help them in their important (thankless?) careers as therapists and DV counselors, I’m busy reading, too. I read THE BEDWETTER by Sarah Silverman (enjoyed it) and just finished Tina Fey‘s BOSSYPANTS (really enjoyed it). Tonight I’m starting Sara Barron‘s latest book THE HARM IN ASKING then it’s GIRL WALKS INTO A BAR by Rachel Dratch.

I’m highbrow, what can I say?

Baked Tilapia in a Lemon Butter Caper Sauce

I’ve never been much of a fish eater (except that one time in college!) but lately I’ve been eating more fish tacos, tuna, catfish and tilapia than all my years of life combined. Note, they’re all mild flavored fish. I still can’t stand the smell and taste of fishy fish and tilapia is about as mild as they come. IMG_2396

This recipe serves two and takes 20 minutes, tops, from the fridge to your belly.

INGREDIENTS:
2 tilapia fillets
2 tablespoons melted butter (I use Land O Lakes Light Butter for an even healthier dish)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Garlic salt
Capers
Oregano

DIRECTIONS:
– Place tilapia in an ungreased baking pan. I line my pan with foil to avoid cleanup.
– Combine the butter & lemon juice and pour over the fillets. Sprinkle with capers, oregano and garlic salt to taste. Throw on minced garlic or powder if you want more garlic flavor.
– Bake uncovered at 425° for 10-15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork. I always go for the full 15 minutes because I don’t want to see the fish again anytime soon, ifyaknowwhatImean.

Bam. That’s it. Seriously. That’s it.

In this photo, I’ve paired it with roasted asparagus, onions and cherry tomatoes drizzled with lemon juice and a dusting of parmesan cheese. Ignore the pink, flowery plate. They were left by the previous owners and we never bothered buying dishes of our own.

Ekobrew Reusable Keurig Filter

Re-usable Keurig CupRecently my Facebook newsfeed was filled with links to reports and news articles about how bad Keurig coffee cups (K-Cups) are for the environment. Oh no! I love my Keurig! In the city, I usually grab a cup at the deli but that’s not an option for me when I stay in the Catskills. Christian doesn’t drink coffee, we rarely have overnight guests and we don’t have a dishwasher, so the Keurig is quick, easy and hassle-free. This bad news was a buzzkill.

Fret no more! Today, I found this little guy sitting right in my grocer’s coffee aisle: a reusable filter for Keurig! I had no idea this existed and, dammit, why didn’t I think of it?!

I’ll never buy a K-Cup again. Besides being wasteful and harmful to environment, they’re pretty pricey. So now I can save money on better, fresher coffee and lessen my carbon footprint. A little Googling tells me there are other brands available, too.

Why does anyone use K-Cups at all? One guess is because, like me, they don’t know about this option. So, here’s my PSA. The more you know!

Spring has Sprung!

Spring has finally sprung and Griswold is making sure I got the memo. The normally very non-morning boy stood over my face staring at me till I woke up yesterday morning. This is the first and only time in his life he’s ever done this.

When I had my 103-degree fever and slept for almost 72 hours straight, he lay with me, quiet and content the entire time. During a stay at the cabin last Christmas, I had tried and failed to convince him to wake up to go outside for three days in a row, so I made the bed around him and went on with my day till he decided to finally get up.  On the third day, I got his attention with a promise of a treat to which he merely poked his monkey face out from between two pillows (see photo).

The winter has been brutal. With the temperatures finally reaching into the low 60’s, Griswold must smell the trees, garbage and urine wafting through our open windows like a cartoon finger tempting him with pie. After a long week working on Christian’s new comedy special and producing his solo show, a long walk around Central Park is just what the doctor ordered for us both. And it was. Miles of walking with a nice break soaking up the sun at Bethesda Fountain had us both pooped.

This morning? He clawed at my leg, panted and whined, hopped in my lap only to hop back down and back again. He was acting like his skin was crawling, just itching to be outside! Are you kidding? Well, alrighty, let’s go out again. Today we walked all over Astoria Park, found a Geocache and I even ran a few laps around the track while he sat and watched. I’m not sure what tomorrow will bring, but it’s time for a trip to the cabin, I’d say.