Curtain & Pen Book Club!

Curtain & Pen Book Club!

I’m happy! I’m excited! I’m satisfied!

Something new has started on The Curtain and Pen’s Facebook page, and it seems to actually be working out.

Ladies and gents, I’m here today to introduce The Curtain & Pen Online Bookclub.

Every month and a half or so, an eager group of people from all over will be convening on that crazy Internet thing to chat about a book.  The beauty of this is that it’s always at 10 pm, and it’s always online, so you don’t have to put on fancy clothes, and the only bottle of wine you have to bring is the one that’s already on your counter… and you don’t have to share it with anyone.

Here’s the breakdown:

Step 1: Genre

To kick off a round of bookclub, I’ll start by throwing out three genres. Everyone will get about two days to vote for their genre of choice.

Step 2: Titles

Next, unless there are suggestions from club members, I’ll pick out three different titles from the winning genre. Another two days will pass to allow for clubbers to vote.

Step 3: Date

After we’ve got our book nailed down, I’ll follow tradition and throw out three possible dates… and two days of voting will ensue.

Step 4: READING YEAH!

Now everyone has about 45 days to read a book. That’s totally doable, right?

Step 5: Log in and wait for my signal

I’ll sit around my computer till 10 pm CST and post an initial welcome post. Next, I’ll ask a few questions in the comments. You can reply to those specific comments to start discussing. Just for an idea on time, the trial run lasted for about an hour, with five people participating, but I’m willing to type till I start falling asleep at my laptop.

The beauty of this book club is that you can still participate, even if the date/time doesn’t work for you. You can always hop on and add your thoughts the next day, because it’s just chillin’ out on Facebook, happy as a clam. In fact, you can hop over right now to get an idea of what it’s all about.

Go forth! Read! Seriously, please join us!

Even with only having a handful of people participating, we had a fantastic time. We got together with friends from all over to chat about something we’d been reading together, and didn’t even have to change out of our comfy pants or clean the house. That’s just plain living the dream, right?

Cray-cray on Vacaycay

Cray-cray on Vacaycay

I have at least three other blog posts sitting patiently in Word documents… all full of deep thinking, work-related, and emotional things.  They’re going to have to continue to be patient, because my brain is going on strike.  It’s time for a picture-based recap post.

Since Paul is working on a career track in the mystical land of academics, our summers are often filled with mish-mashes of side jobs.  This year, Paul worked for a local restaurant at the State Fair.  Just so you know, the state fair is NOT close to where we live, and lasts for almost TWO WEEKS.  Since I had no interest in solo-parenting for that long, we trekked out West and stayed with my parents for the first week, and Paul’s parents for the second.

LucyCanyon

Unfortunately, I don’t have many pictures to share from my parents’ house, as they live out in the country, and the kids spent almost the entire time in varying states of undress.  Lucy barely had a diaper on for about a week. So, in the interest of not posting a bunch of nude pictures of my kids… just know that they had a lot of fun.

It’s so nice out there.  The canyon is gorgeous, and the kids love to play with my parents’ dogs.  Charlie loves helping my dad fix bikes, and my mom spends the entire time chasing the kids around the house.  It’s the big old house on the prairie, and it’s nice to feel so free for a while.  My mom took Charlie to the little indoor pool in a neighboring town, and he was in heaven.  I had no idea this kid loved water so much!

vacaycay2

One of the main highlights was the window-well full of toads.  I remember this being a highlight of my childhood, too.  After it rained, toads would congregate down in the wells by our basement windows, and Alli and I would lay there and play with them for hours.  Lucy spent most of her time roaring at them, and it was hilarious.

vacaycay3

About midway through the trip, we visited Paul at the State Fair.  It was so so so nice to see him. We rode the Ferris wheel with Charlie while Lucy screamed indignantly in the stroller with Grandma, and we took an Old West Picture.  I didn’t really want to, but I’m so glad Paul pushed it.  That picture is hilarious. I was grumpy right up until it was time to take the photo, and then, of course, I couldn’t keep a straight face.  Guh.  Oh, well.

 

vacaycay5

The second week was spent with Paul’s parents, and the big highlight was their recently-purchased cabin on the lake.  I need to be honest here and say that I do not like lakes.  I liked them when I was little, and now I do not like them.  I think they are gross and drowning is scary.  BUT, this cabin is slowly changing my mind.  I even went tubing and enjoyed it. Charlie went fishing, fishing, fishing, and boating, boating, boating.  That kid learned terms like “jig head,” caught three fish, named a bait-fish, dealt with the death of said bait-fish, cried a little, then went fishing some more.  It was a full weekend.

vacaycay6

Lucy probably didn’t have as much fun as Charlie, since she couldn’t really do everything she wanted to do, and couldn’t fully communicate what she did want to do.  Next year, though. Next year, she will have a blast out at the cabin.

 

One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was when my parents came out to the cabin. We all rode in the boat, and it was so fun to see Charlie with all four of his grandparents.  Lucy just leans back and lets the wind blow over her with a big grin on her face. I have vague memories of riding on my dad’s old boat, and seeing him on the boat brought them back a little more vividly.

vacaycay4

Overall, it was a good trip.  The kids got so much grandma and grandpa time, and I am incredibly grateful for the help.  I know I would have done okay if we had stayed in Omaha, because I have one of the most awesome “villages” I could ask for, but the nights would have been rough and a little scary.  We’ve ended this two-week stretch feeling pretty drained, but it’s so comforting to be reminded of the support system we have and how many people there are who love us.

Coming back after this is the perfect reset.  We are starting the school year for both Paul (as a teacher) and Charlie (as a three-day-a-week preschooler), and I’m more than ready to get some routine in our lives, because we haven’t really had once since April.

Be prepared for a bunch of super-motivated posts that will last two months, and then peter out around Thanksgiving. (Pie!!!)

Good riddance, Summer! Bring on the Fall!

Awkward Conversations and Stuff and Things

Awkward Conversations and Stuff and Things

Oh!  Oh, hey, Blog.  Uh… How’s it, uh, how’s it going?

Fine.

Ummmm… Ah, listen, I know it’s been a while, and—

Stop. Just, stop.

No, I know, I should have—

No, seriously, stop talking about it.  You’re making this awkward.  Just write something.

Oh.  Okay.  I’ll just, ah … okay.

 

***

Well, here we are.  Every year, the month of May chews me up and spits me out.  Not always in a bad way, but sometimes in a bad way.  I was looking through all of my old Word documents, and was surprised/not surprised to find that I didn’t have a single May folder in my documents.  Has every every every May since I started blogging been so insane that I haven’t ever blogged?  Oh, well.  The Blog told me not to make this awkward, so I’ll just leave it at “Peace out, May, let’s try this a little differently next year, eh?”

Time for some Stuff and Things.

Paul

I generally try to leave Paul on the periphery of the blog, simply because he’s the kind of dude who wouldn’t enjoy reading sappy/stabby things about himself on the internet… but sometimes I bed my rules.  Paul graduated last month with his Master’s in Math.  This is HUGE.  This is what he’s been working toward since we moved here, and it’s finally happened.  I am CRAZY proud of him, and that’s all I’m going to say about it, damnit.

Terror

So, the other part of Paul graduating is that we are now in job-search-mode.  I imagine this is a bit what Kate Winslet felt like on that piece of Titanic door.  Well, I guess Kate was probably fine.  Maybe a little hungry and chilly… but her character, I’m sure, was pretty scared.  Drifting amid debris and dead bodies, waiting for someone to hear her desperate whistle-blows.  You know what?  I think my metaphor might be a tiny bit dramatic, but still.

Charlie

I need to do a MUCH better job of chronicling my kids.  Right now, Charlie is so, so sweet.  He’s INCREDIBLY sensitive, which can be frustrating, but is generally wonderful.  He cares about his friends, his toys, his plants, and gets very upset if he thinks something bad is happening to them.  He’s very into Star Wars Angry Birds, even though he’s never seen Star Wars, and has only actually played Angry Birds on an electronic device once.  He’s been playing the tabletop version for months now, and will still spend hours playing with it.  I HIGHLY recommend it, although I think you can only find it on the internet at this point.  He has two tiny little puppy toys that he got from a coin machine outside of the grocery store, and has named them Fuzzy and Fuzzy Wuzzy.  He LOVES these puppies.  Like, LOVES, them.

Lucy

Lucy, wow.  Lucy is a force of nature.  She is very tall, very opinionated, and very bruised right now.  She climbs on everything, falls off of a lot of it, and is better at wrestling than Charlie.  (I swear, I am actively watching her and being a parent.) She loves to dance to music, and loves to sing as well.  Her singing voice sounds a lot like, “Raahhoohraaahhhhhoohraahhhhh.”  It’s hilarious.

She throws some pretty insane tantrums, and it feels like she’s communicating with me like a grown human being much sooner than Charlie did.  She gives neck squeezes and really loud, sloppy kisses.  At this point, watching her and processing her personality is really interesting, and, quite frankly, makes me nervous/eager to find out what kind of an older kid she’s going to be.

Me

I’ve got one really solid extra-curricular goal for my life right now.  All of the other normal goals are still there: be more productive, be a good parent/wife, be healthier, blah blah blah.  My ONE GOAL MY ONE DAMN EXTRA GOAL is to finish my book club book every month.  No excuses.  Netflix will always be there, waiting to melt my brain with a lovely 6-episode-embrace.  I used to read all the time, as much as possible, and now it actually feels a little awkward reading a book by myself.  How in the hell did that happen!?

Right now I’m reading The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton.  I’m about halfway through and enjoying it, for the most part.  I’ll try to write a bit more about it when I finish.

I just finished reading The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.  It was, UGH, so good.  I cheated on my last book club book with it, and was absolutely satisfied and emotionally attached by the end of it.  If you like historical fiction, a little bit of relationship drama, and a little bit of the supernatural, this one is for you.

 

Here’s the part where I am usually tempted to promise a blog post sooner than a month and a half from now, but the Blog told me to just shut up about it already, so I will.

Self High-Five

Self High-Five

The next prompt in our little blogger’s group involves highlighting something we do well.  A talent, an accomplishment . . . anything we do that gives us a feeling of satisfaction.

 A lot of my blogging revolves around self-betterment.  I know that this, in itself, is a fairly noble practice . . . but I’m pretty good at focusing on the betterment and completely forgetting about the things I have actually accomplished.

I have always loved to take pleasure out of small things.  When the “big” things are sometimes too stressful to bear, I can usually take a moment and find something little to ground myself.  In high school, it was music and lipstick.  There was pretty much nothing in my little world at that time that couldn’t be fixed by a new CD and a trip to Lexington for a fresh shade of lipstick.  In college, it was . . . well, college in general.  If I couldn’t focus in my room, I could go to the library and work among the smell of old books.  If I needed distraction, I was never more than a cement bench away from a good round of people-watching.

Now, my favorite little thing is a hot snuggle with a mug of some kind of beverage.  Coffee, tea, hot cocoa . . . you name it.  And, despite my decoratively-challenged nature, I have managed to actually create a cute little sanctuary for my favorite form of stress-relief.

In college, all of my friends knew to buy me a coffee mug for any kind of gift situation that came up.  I ended up with an extensive collection of new mugs and quirky mugs from various thrift stores . . . and I loved them all.  When we moved back to Nebraska from Austin, I had to trim down the collection quite a bit.  It was sad, but I soon realized that even the thinned out version of my Mug Army was too excessive for our cupboards.

dowell1

Somehow, I had a momentary stroke of domestic, housey-house genius.  I had Paul mount a leftover shelving unit to our dining room wall, and then move our abandoned changing table under it.  Suddenly, I had this little space that was perfectly suited to house all of my warm beverage paraphernalia, as well as open up some room in our cupboards.  I even stuck some decorative contact paper down to make it look pretty . . . all by myself.  I know that shouldn’t sound like such an accomplishment, but that kind of thing stresses me out.

dowell2

I’ve also developed a little obsession with decoupaging jars.  I have entirely too many empty jars lying about the kitchen, waiting for me to be motivated enough to do another batch of Mod Podging . . . but when I get them done I get a really weird feeling of intense satisfaction.  About gluing paper to jars.  Gluing paper.  Onto jars.  I don’t know.

dowell3

I’m transitioning away from bagged tea to loose-leaf, and these cute little jars are perfect for tea storage.  Seriously, sometimes I just stand, sipping coffee, and stare at all of my jars.  ­My preciouses.

Anyway, what can I say?  I’m totally proud of my little beverage sanctuary.  It’s like the land of lost mugs.  No longer do mugs and coffee pots and tasty tea leaves have to sit around the kitchen, getting pushed out of the way, longing for a place where they can truly belong.  It’s also visible proof that I’m getting a little bit better at defeating my decorating deficiency, which is something I’ve battled with since we got married.

Most importantly, though, it’s an example of my love for the little things in life, and I’m pretty excited to see a big reminder of that whenever I grab a cup of coffee.

What about you guys?  What have you done lately that warranted a self-high-five?

A Twinkling Inheritance

A Twinkling Inheritance

In my late elementary days, probably around 5th or 6th grade, I really used to be into fingernail polish.  I had a ridiculous amount of the stuff, and I loved the bright, fun colors the best.  One of my clearest and most favorite memories in the whole world involves two bottles of pastel blue and pink polish, and my Grandpa Blessing.

You see, I had developed this technique in which you swirled the two colors together (a very scientific and professional method) on each nail, and came out with this goopy bubblegum blob that I swore was so cool.

Now, I don’t remember the events that let up to this, but the scene in my head is one of my Grandpa patiently watching and chatting with me while I globbed baby pink and blue swirls all over his weathered, manly-man fingernails.

I can see the wood-paneled walls of the kitchen, and I can see the pretty little glass of whiskey (bourbon? I don’t know my brown liquors very well) and cola sitting on the table next to an ashtray.  Vices?  Of course, but I didn’t care.  I was painting my Grandpa’s fingernails.

I don’t know what we talked about . . . probably the fake rival “magazines” that another girl and I were creating.  (Seriously.  We would draw pictures of nailpolish bottles and clothing and hand them around to people.  [Mine was totally better.  I’m sure Grandpa agreed.])

I painted and talked, and Grandpa listened and talked back to me.  He sipped his drink and I sipped my Fresca and turned my head every once in a while to see if there was a squirrel perched on the corn cob feeder out in the yard.  It was a nice summer day and the hot breeze was trickling in through the door screen.  There was probably a football game going on in the living room that looked like a perfectly-preserved vintage time-capsule.  I can promise you that there was a line of big, fat, ripe tomatoes from Grandpa’s garden lined up on the windowsill above the sink.

If you wanted, I could tell you what was in all of those cupboards, and that there was most definitely a box of Neapolitan ice cream in the freezer, waiting for Grandpa to make the most amazing malts in the whole world.  The cupboard on the wall between the stove and the sink housed a container of Carnation malted milk, and it was just waiting to meet its frosty destiny in the pit of my sister’s and my stomachs.

It’s been a very long time since I’ve last seen my Grandpa, and I sometimes find myself quietly wishing to be painting his nails again, and to talk to him about things that are much more important than a fake fashion magazine and the fact that my parents won’t let me see the most recent Brad Pitt movie.

I can’t, though.  All I have are my memories, and this one is one of my favorites.

Lucy shares the same birthday as Grandpa Blessing, and I think she’s inherited his twinkle . . . the warning twinkle in her eye that lets you know she’s about to give you a little hell. . . but with as much love as possible.  The most good-hearted elbow-jab you can get.

I don’t think she could have gotten a more perfect birthday gift from her great grandpa.

A Little Context

A Little Context

Social Media gets a lot of heat in the perfection department, and it’s totally understandable.  It’s easy to hop on Instagram, look at all these perfect little moments viewed through a hip filter, and feel like an utter piece of disorganized crap.

I may have felt that way at first, but after being around it for a few years, I’ve started to appreciate these images for what they are: Moments.  I don’t blame anybody for seeing that they’ve stumbled upon one little moment of perfection in the midst of their chaotic day, and wanting to snap a picture of it . . . and then make it look all nostalgic and ephemeral though various warm-fuzzy filters.

That being said, I’m a firm believer in the importance of authenticity, and would like to present to you:

Contextagram

How’s that for a clunky name?

I think what’s missing from Instagram is an extra caption . . . the “context” caption.  Sometimes you just need a little context to truly see something for what it is.  Like this photo:

photo (6)

The caption?

“Decoupaging food jars to make DIY tea containers.  Hopefully this doesn’t end up in the #nailedit file.”

You guys, how crafty do I look right now?  I’ve got Mod Podge, a cute idea, cute jars, cute scrapbook paper, and a glass of hipster beer.  I’M SO CRAFTY RIGHT NOW.  (So, it’s not right now . . . it was a couple of weeks ago, but still.  Stick with me here.)

Ready for some context?

Those jars have been sitting in our cupboards for nigh on two months now.  EVENTUALLY, I soaked the jars in vinegar water to remove the smell, forgot about them, let them sit in frigid vinegar water for hours until I finally mustered up the effort to scrape the labels off and wash them again.  After the kids went to sleep I poured myself a beer and began the process of decoupaging the scrapbook paper to the jars so that they would be cute while they held my loose-leaf tea.

They turned out okay.  Air bubbles and wrinkles, but still pretty cute.  I’m quite proud of them, actually, despite their flaws . . . enter, Instagram.  Because, in a rare moment of quiet and put-togetherness, I noticed that I had been crafty.  Snap, filter, sip, and paint on some more glue.

I am not really a super-crafty lady.  I dabble in Pinterest projects every here and there, and not every “here” is as successful as the “theres.”  Life around the Bonk house is a little more organized than it used to be, but Martha Stewart would still give raise a pretty snooty eyebrow if she walked in our door.  So, you’ve got to appreciate the moments when you get them right.  Right?

Now, I’m not going to say I’ll do this on a weekly basis because, let’s be honest here, can anyone count on one finger the amount of times I’ve kept a “blog series” going?  I sure can’t.  I would like to do this more than once, though.  We’ll shoot for that.

Contextagram, though.  Not sure if that name works.  I’ll think on it.