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Another Dose of Twin Randomness, Late-March Edition

by SweetMidlife

Howdy. Lynne and Leslie here. Welcome to the latest edition of that thing we do where we answer each other’s random questions. We have been trying to do it weekly, but I am afraid that if it call it that in writing, then something will come up and we won’t get to it for another month and then we look flighty. So aspiration-ally, this will be a weekly thing, but we will just call it a regular feature. And I said the phrase “that thing we do”, and now I have “That Thing You Do” in my head and I will be singing that sing for the rest of the day. But anyhoo, this week, instead of us each asking and answering different questions, we will be answering the same ones. We though that would be fun. We amuse each other and we seem to amuse you so we will just go with that.

Fox just broadcast The Passion, which was the Biblical Easter story, with the characters singing popular songs to illustrate the story. Let’s pretend that we were hired to musical direct a version, but all of the songs had to be by 90s boy bands. What would your entry be?

Lynne: Okay, this would be Jesus (I was inspired by NSYNC):
“Every little thing I do
Never seems enough for you
You don’t wanna get hurt again
But I’m not like them
My people, when you finally
Get loved by somebody
Guess what,
It’s gonna be me..”

Leslie: Fun! Here’s mine! Also Jesus, from the Backstreet Boys

“Well, My life is all I have to give

And with me, eternally, you’ll live

This world and the next I give to you

My life is all I have to give to you.”

Funniest thing your kid has done lately?

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Lynne: We bought the kid this guitar shaped like a dog that he gets to play when he poops on the potty, and yesterday was one of those good days, and we have no idea where he picked this up, but he does this full-on rock star yelp and knee slide. It is hilarious and spot-on C.C. DeVille. Does anyone get that reference? I do.

 Leslie: I saw that video. That scream was, as I told you, like the one The Who let out whenever David Caruso took off his shades leaning over a dead body and said something obnoxious. Over here, The Kid has noticed that the smoke alarm is right over  the stove and goes off all the time, which freaks him out. So if he sees so much as steam coming out of a pan, he says, slightly alarmed, “Open door! Open door! Open other one, too.” And then he points to the stove and says “Clean up, Mommy!” Adorable. (Snerk)

We are both working out more because yes. What’s your favorite song to sweat to?

Lynne: What keeps coming to my head is “Fergilicious”, because the phrase “I be up in the gym just working on my fitness” is the best line ever. And I use it often. Even when I am in my living room walking in place.

Leslie: I am going old school – still either “Born To Run” or “St. Elmo’s Fire,” because of the over-the-top anthem, and if you can raise your tired fist over your head and scream “Tramps like us!” that means you can breathe.

What TV show are you either hooked on or rewatching on the Internets?

Lynne: Actually, a bunch of things that come on Thursday nights. I watch the first part of “American Idol”, because singing, then I go to bed and wake up Friday morning and watch the highlights from the YouTube clips on the “Idol” Facebook page. Then I watch “Grey’s Anatomy” on Hulu, because it has roped me in again, and then I watch “Project Runway Allstars” on Mylifetime.com. I almost gave up on that show because I am over people talking about each other when I want them to just sew pretty clothes,but the talent this year is fantastic and the creativity is off the charts. It excites me to see what talented people can do. Love it.

Leslie: The “West Wing.” I wish I could vote for Jed Bartlet, even though he could get sanctimonious, because he didn’t apologize for being smart, and because I felt that he and his fictional staff really did want to make the world a better place. Also 90s Brad Whitford and his pleated pants were swoony.

How do you feel about two-piece bathing suits if you have back or belly fat?

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Lynne: You know what? I think there was a time when I was not cool with it, because I didn’t like my belly or back fat. But I am over that. If you are confident, do it. I will be wearing a one-piece this year, so my belly is covered, but you know what, my back will do what it do. Love it.

Leslie: I just ordered a full coverage swim top from Victoria’s Secret. because I have very covery bottoms. It could be a disaster and I am nowhere near svelte. But I have a nice cover-up, and if big fat dudes can sun like seals at the chair across from me shirtless, people’s eyes will survive seeing some back fat in the time it takes me to take my cover-up off and jump in the pool. Y’all will be fine. And even without the cover-up, you all will survive flashes of middle-aged fat. I’m not flaunting but I want to feel good about myself.

Best thing you’ve cooked lately?

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Lynne: I made cupcakes and buttercream frosting out of this Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that was outstanding. Yes. I said it. Those things were epic. I made them for our weekly small group from church, and people ate several. My poor son saw me making them before he went to bed, and he got up asking for them, but dang it. They were gone. Sorry, Little Boy.

Leslie: That vegan pesto I made the other day was delicious. With cashews. Cashews are my Windex. They fix everything.

So, guys, what you watching on TV? What you cooking? Can we have some? And what is your bathing suit situation this year?

 

 


I Wish There Was A Show Called “American Do What You Love And Get Paid For It”

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!

Leslie and I watch a lot of “American Idol”, and this is the last season, so they are talking a lot about their legacy and how awesome the show is, and want to talk about Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, its’ biggest stars, like all of the time. And I get that. Those ladies are the biggest stars that the show has produced, and the show also heavily touts hit-making alumni Phillip Phillips, Chris Daughtry, and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson. And that makes sense, because the show is called “American IDOL”, which means that they want to produce people who we literally want to be. But we have short attention spans, so the people who we were all nuts about last month kinda fall away to make space for the next new thing.  I was really happy when a few weeks ago, as part of their “You used to really love this show” extravaganza, the show brought back former contestants to sing duets with current ones. Some were ones who had several radio hits after the show, like Daughtry and Jordin Sparks and Fantasia, and some were ones who have had careers in other venues, like Tony-nominee Constantine Maroulis or Haley Reinhart, who has been featured in a bunch of videos by Postmodern Jukebox where they put pop songs to jazz beats. Watch her, She’s amazing. So I got all excited when the show said that these folks were coming back, because I wanted them to highlight that success doesn’t always look hit records. But no. While the show brought on a big display commemorating all of Daughtry’s platinum-selling accomplishments, what it basically did was have the others talk about what they learned from the show, for the show’s sake. And I get that. Talking about all the amazing things you birthed is awesome. But I think that the show missed a great opportunity to send a heartfelt message that could add to the well-being of the young people of America, which I know isn’t their top priority, as well as really secure their legacy as the springboard for greatness, which is their concern.

And that’s this.

As wonderful as it must be to be a mega-superstar, there is something to be said for being able to make a living doing what you love, even if it’s on a more modest level, and this is what “American Idol” has done for many of its former contestants, like Taylor Hicks and Kris Allen, who aren’t burning up the charts currently (although both each have had hits), but have used their time on the show to have, well, careers in music. As in people pay them to sing. As in they don’t have to have second jobs. Because enough people want to hear them that they can live pretty nice lifestyles doing exactly what they love to do. I am not hating on Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, because those ladies have earned the careers that they have. I admire them. But obviously, everybody can’t be at that level and sustain it, and it is bothersome that we chew people up and get over them so quickly, that in the public’s perception, if you aren’t selling out stadiums, you must be living in your mama’s basement cooking grilled cheese on a hot plate. There is a lot of space in between there, and “Idol” alums occupy every rung of that, with many of those folks occupying the higher rungs of that ladder, which means that they earn a living singing, and they appreciate the platform that they were afforded. Most working musicians, especially the ones who were gigging before their “Idol” days, recognize that a place in this show can make you in a big way, but that it can also be a springboard into playing bigger venues and having your own bus instead of taking the Greyhound. Leslie interviewed Phillip Phillips the year that he won the show, and he told her something that has stuck with me. He said that at first, he didn’t have his eye on the title of American Idol, which he went on to win. No, his initial goal was to make the Top 10, because those performers get to go on tour, and he knew that he would have a job for the summer. Don’t miss that. One of the biggest stars to come out of the show’s later years knew that having a well-paid job touring around was a huge blessing, because it offered you the visibility to work that into something more.

Most "Idol" alumsdon't have to play music in their mom's basement anymore, unlike my kid. He is only 3, though.

Most “Idol” alumsdon’t have to play music in their mom’s basement anymore, unlike my kid. He is only 3, though.

And many “Idol” contestants have done that, including the ones I mentioned above, as well as Allison Iraheta, who made it to the #4 spot the year that Adam Lambert and Kris Allen were on. She has her own band called Halo Circus, and also sings backup vocals on “Idol”. And I know that some people look at that and say, “You sing back-up? That must be a letdown. Too bad you aren’t famous.” But she has a job. Singing. And although she likes singing her own music, I am sure, her time on the show has given her a highly visible regular gig, one which many singers would love to have. That is an accomplishment. I am an actor, and the periods of my life where I was only acting were brilliant. I was never famous, but I was able to eat doing what I adored. And shoot, that is everything. That’s a good lesson for everybody, because if only famous people are successful, that means that there is no room for anyone else, which means that everyone else is unworthy, which I refuse to accept. Excelling is awesome, and making lots of money is, I am sure, a wonderful thing, but also living the dream of being JUST a performer is up there. And I honestly think that if “Idol” bragged on the careers that their less-famous alumni went on to, it would make the show look better in the long run, because they would be able to define what success looks like. But since they, and we, are so hung up on “Idol”-dom, they missed a chance to say that they produce people in the big leagues, meaning that they produced people with careers. In music. And to me, that is brag-worthy.

 


Seasonal Randomness: Lynne and Leslie Ask Each Other Questions About Spring

by SweetMidlife

This is the latest in what is actually becoming a regular feature on our blog, where the Sisters Streeter ask each other whatever comes to their brains. Today, it’s about Spring. At least it will start out that way.

Spring 2008, on our 37th birthday. We like this picture.

Spring 2008, on our 37th birthday., Lynne in black, Leslie in brown flowers. We like this picture.

First, Lynne asks, Leslie answers.

Lynne asks: I am over the cold, but it is getting warmer here in Maryland. Cold to you in South Florida is like 65 degrees. But are there differences in Spring? How do you ring in Spring there?
Leslie answers: Personally, I got to polo, Spring Training and turn the heat off from the 5 days it was on all winter. Ha ha. #warm.

Lynne asks: What is your favorite Easter ensemble to wear? Are we too young for big church hats? I feel like we should be wearing big church hats.
Leslie answers: I love color, pastels that are swingy. And I might, at 45, be ready for big church hats, because I’m kicky.

Lynne asks:  When you dig down to the bottom of an Easter basket, are you looking for jelly beans or malted eggs?Leslie answers: Both. Especially the licorice jelly beans everyone throws into my basket because I am the only person who likes them. Bring them to me, bring your black jelly beans, bring them on home to me. Yeah.

Lynne asks: Favorite Easter memory? I have one, but I wanna see if it’s the same as yours before I answer because I want to see how in sync we are. And speaking of N Sync, JC Chasez should have had a bigger solo career.
Leslie answers: Ooh, I don’t know! That’s not fair! I can’t think of the thing it is you are trying to get me to remember…was it in Saudi? My most recent favorite Easter was going to Palm Beach Polo when a bunch of NFL stars were there, and this girl straight out of Real Housewives of Atlanta was literally sprinting across the parking lot putting her good heels on trying to get to the door faster and my husband turned to me, poker face intact, and said “Wow. She has NO IDEA there are rich professional athletes here.” Ha ha #iaintsayingshesagolddigger. What’s yours? And you know I believe JC was the real talent. Sorry JT.
Lynne responds: Yep, it was Riyadh in 1983, and we went to a sunrise service, and I remember how the sun looked coming up on all that brown, and I remember thinking how cool it was to be in the Middle East on Easter, close to where Jesus physically lived. Yep.

Lynne asks: What is your favorite spring song? I mean a song that makes you wanna roll your windows down and breathe in the air. And again, I know you live in Florida and could have been doing this anyway, but humor me?
Leslie answers: “Here Comes The Sun” by the Beatles. No question. It’s been a long cold lonely winter. It feels like years since it’s been clear. Yes yes.

OK, Leslie’s turn:

Leslie asks: Do you ever forget which way you’re supposed to turn your clocks in the spring?
Lynne answers: All the time. I even know that “Spring Back, Fall Forward” reminder, but I have to take a minute and remember  what that even means. I still sometimes have to do the “Put your right hand over your heart” thing to remember that my heart is on the left. I am not kidding.

Leslie asks: Feelings about certain fabrics and colors seasonally? Is white before Easter OK? Are dark wool things OK for spring? Asking for a friend.
Lynne answers: I think white is fine before Easter and after Labor Day, and I say this on no authority but hearing some fashion person saying that somewhere once, and also because I want to sometimes. And I think if you aren’t sweating, wear the dark wool. It makes you mysterious or something.

Leslie asks: Is it ever OK to pick flowers or fruit off someone else’s tree or bush without their permission?
Lynne answers: No, because that makes you a stief. A stealing thief. Just say no to stiefing.

Leslie asks: Favorite park, anywhere in the world, where you’ve had a gorgeous spring experience just enjoying not being in the winter and cold and wrapped like a mummy?
Lynne answers: It was actually in Knoxville, Tennessee, I think, and I was in a touring play and we were heading to Atlanta as soon as we left. There were these gorgeous flowers, and the cast all laid in the grass. And I remember that we needed that tranquility, because we then got stuck in Atlanta traffic, which is the opposite of tranquil.

Leslie asks: Going back to the Easter basket question for a moment, are hollow bunnies worth it?
Lynne answers: Young Lynne would have said no, because I thought hollow bunnies are a trap, because you sink your teeth in and they fall apart, and solid bunnies are so rich. But then Older Lynne is like “I can hurt my teeth on a solid bunny.” But then Young Lynne tells Older Lynne to take a look at her life, because more chocolate is always winning. So to answer your question, no.

So hey! What are your favorite things about Spring, like music, and food, and things to do? Tell us below!

 


Lynne and Leslie Ask Each Other Random Questions About Randomness

by SweetMidlife

Howdy! So, a few times before, Lynne and Leslie have done this thing where we ask each other random questions based on a theme, like Christmas, or New Years. Today, we are going wild and just writing about whatever the heck comes to mind. We hope you like it.

Leslie with the Afro, Lynne with the locs. Hi!!

Leslie with the Afro, Lynne with the locs. Hi!!

First, Lynne asks Leslie a bunch of stuff.

Lynne asks: “You went to the 30th Anniversary showing of ‘Pretty In Pink’ a few days ago. Was it as good as you remember? As cute as he was, wasn’t Blaine, even though he was played  by Andrew McCarthy, who was my fake boyfriend, a huge drip?”

Leslie answers: I plan to write more about this at length, because at length is what I do, but Blaine was honestly being a teenage boy, even though it was distracting that the same actor had played a 23-year-old college graduate in “St. Elmo’s Whiners Fire” the year before. If he looked younger you’d probably go “Yeah…he’s a jerk. He’s 18.”

Lynne asks: “What is your favorite thing to eat on a cold day? You live in Florida, so when I ask you about cold days, that means 50 degrees. But let’s play anyway.”

Leslie answers: The answer is always cheese grits.

Lynne asks: “What’s the funniest thing the toddler who lives with you has done lately?”

Leslie answers: He has become obsessed with the theme from “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour” which reminds me that the Banana Splits were basically the Monkees. They even had dune buggies and a guy with a Southern accent. Sue them, Mike Nesmith. Sue them.

Lynne asks: “Who is your favorite ‘American Idol’ contestant and why? And wasn’t it lovely to see Ruben Studdard come back and sing last week? That dude is the real deal.

Leslie answers: Of all time? It’s between Fantasia and David Cook, because they both prove that talent and preparation are a baseline for success, whether you’re an illiterate single mom who feels the lyrics of a decades-old song because she approaches it as important, not just words, or a young guy who’s been gigging forever and has a vast musical knowledge he can draw on. There was joy in them. And that’s rare. Also, Ruben gets better. How is that possible?

Lynne asks: “Favorite 90’s love song?”

Leslie answers: There are so, so, so many. I have two answers – “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” by Bryan Adams is my favorite love song written in the ’90s, because it’s brilliant. But if you think of “90’s love song” as a genre, and I know that you do, it’s a tie between Backstreet Boys’ “Shape of My Heart,” which was actually recorded in 2000 but is the most 90s thing in the world; 4PM’s version of “Sukiyaki” which makes me weep, and “Now and Forever” by Richard Marx just because.

OK, so now Leslie asks Lynne some stuff and drinks her coffee and judges people. Silently through her coffee.

Leslie asks: “The Good Wife” is ending soon and it’s an attempt to clean up, in seven episodes, three seasons of crap done to a good show. What are, in your opinion, the best and worst show finales, in terms of wrapping up loose ends and telling the story that was meant to be told.

Lynne answers: Okay, it’s not the best or the worst, but it is actually an example of good and meh in one episode. I hope that saying this doesn’t get me banned from Gen-X membership, but the last episode of “Friends” was all over the place for me. When the show first started, I was crazy in love with it, because they were in their early-20s. and so were we, and I found so many things in common with them, like losing grandparents, and having the group dynamic of friends with good jobs who could order appetizers and dessert when you went out, and also having the friend (who I was one of) who drank water and made a meal off of the free bread. And as the show went on, the friends grew and went through things we all go through, like marriage and breakups and loss of jobs and being close to your friends and then not so close, and finding your way back and all of that. And by the last episode, I loved where most of them were, like Monica and Chandler adopting twins and moving to a bigger place, and Phoebe getting married, and Joey was headed off to his short-lived spin-off. But Ross and Rachel, the supposed great love story of the show, had, for me, become selfish people who had a daggone child together who you never saw. The show missed the perfect opportunity to show you how your life changes when you have kids, and that you can’t hang out like you used to, and how your friends have to adjust. But no, the show couldn’t break up the “6 people hanging out” aspect and baby Emma became a footnote. And that bugged me. And even though I am glad that Ross and Rachel were happy at the end, I also remember thinking that I really didn’t LIKE them as much because of all of the petty things they did to each other, and so it was a little bittersweet. Sorry, “Friends” fans.

Leslie asks: Onion rings or cheese fries?

Lynne answers: Onion rings covered in cheese

Leslie asks: I’ve been thinking a lot about history lately, and what to tell my kid and others about painful things in the past. What is the thing you are least looking forward to explaining to the toddler? (Deep, yes. But this coffee is good.)

Lynne answers: That’s deeper than I was thinking you were gonna go, twin sister. But there are so so many painful parts of history, and I think that the hardest ones will be where people are mean to each other. That’s so many ones. And I guess I will tell him that there are people in the world who do evil things, and I wish that they didn’t, but that I want him to be a person who doesn’t do those things, even when people tell you that it’s okay or warranted. That’s simple and hard at the same time.

Leslie asks: OK, so who is your favorite “American Idol” and why? Because it’s a good question I stole from you. Been caught stealing, once, when I was 44….

Lynne answers: LOVE THAT SONG. And I have several favorites. Fantasia, definitely, because she was just HER. She was polished but young, and polite and sweet, and had such a story filled with a lot of downs, but she made big ups from it, and even though she has had a bunch of ups and downs since then, she still seems like a real, genuine person who is still trying. And that voice is everything. My other all-time favorite is Kris Allen, and it’s not only because I think that he is just a great musician and a really nice guy, but also because he was SO not the favorite of the judges that year, as he was up against the AMAZING Adam Lambert and also Danny Gokey, who have both gone onto big careers, especially Mr. Lambert. And as you would point out, the judges would give Adam these huge production numbers with fire and stuff, and they would stick Kris out in the audience on a broken milk crate and a busted light bulb hanging overhead. And he would give these wonderful performances and the judges would be like “Are you still here?”, and he would take a a deep breath, because he knew what they were doing, and he would continue to knock out wonderful performances.

Leslie asks: Favorite karaoke song?

Lynne answers: It’s the former Disney-goddess combo of “Genie In A Bottle” by Christina Aguilera, and “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. You can dance to them.. I went to a karaoke birthday party recently, and someone else selected the Britney for anyone to sing, and I got up and did it like “Wow, this song? Well, if no one else is I GUESS I will.”, and my bestie Johnette was like “You knew every word.” and I was like “Yeah, I may have practiced this before I left the house.” Because I did.


Some lite rock for your snowy day…for those who have a snowy day (Sorry About the Snow)

by SweetMidlife
Air Supply is the official cure for snowy day blues. It's scientific.

Air Supply is the official cure for snowy day blues. It’s scientific.

One of the twins who runs this blog, Lynne, is currently snowed in up in Maryland. The other, Leslie, is enjoying an unusually cold winter day at her home in….Florida, where it is currently a chilly 63 degrees. This is Leslie. We even turned the heat on last night! And I might need a jacket!

Please don’t kill me. Oh, that’s right, you can’t. You’re snowbound and can’t go anywhere.

#YEAHIKNOWISUCK.

For reals, people, I know what it’s like to be snowed in, as a Maryland native and someone who spent the better part of her early adulthood in Pennsylvania, where I routinely worked up a sweat shoveling and de-icing and rock-salting and warming up and hoping little old ladies didn’t slip up on my part of the sidewalk and break a hip and try to sue me. I remember not wanting to move out of that one warm, slept-in spot in the bed but knowing you have to get up and start that whole snow dance all over, unless you’re super-snowed in. And that is what pizza and boxed wine were invited for.

So I am not without compassion, and have five quick suggestions for passing the time as you’re waiting for the snow to stop. I wish I were there with you (no I don’t. But if I were we’d have such fun.)

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1) Sing-along to the cheesiest stuff you got: Snow-ins are no time for pride. And if you’re like me, who never had much shame about loving Air Supply and Bonnie Tyler and some deep, deep Jeffrey Osbourne, you know that singing at the tip of your lungs with abandon is an excellent way to pass the time.

2) Do your own cooking show: I have a bunch of cookbooks, some of which I’ve bought and used…sometimes…and others that people have sent me as gifts or in hopes that I will become vegan (And those vegan cookbooks are boss. Thanks, Rissa and Nathaniel! ) When I’m stuck or lazy, I like playing “Chopped” in my own kitchen using whatever’s left in the fridge and cabinets, sometimes using those books as inspiration. It’s good use of your resources and yummy.

3) Board games are your friends: The last time we had a tropical storm scare, the husband and I played Scrabble. He swore he won. He did not win. I promise you this. Start your own good-natured family word fight, or “Monopoly” grudge.

4) Binge-watching stuff you’d never binge watch: Assuming you have power. Well, if you didn’t have any you might not be reading this, so, yeah, do that. I hear “Sherlock” is good.

5) Have a good, long, silly talk: One of the things about screens and apps and online everything is that we sometimes ignore the people right in the room or at the table. As soon as you read this, put the phone down and talk to your spouse, or your partner, or your kid, or  your mom, or whoever is sitting across from you. Delight in the natural, beautiful, fluffy-white excuse you have to just breathe, and be.

 


One Day, You Too Could Be Jessica Fletcher!

by SweetMidlife

Howdy! Lynne here.

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So I had this medical thing that I will tell you more about later, and in the time leading up to it, and now in my recovery, I have been watching a lot of “Murder She Wrote” on Netflix. I ain’t gonna lie. I am binge-watching it. Now, I have written before about my love for Jessica Fletcher, Angela Lansbury’s brilliant crime novel writer who also solves lots of actual murders. To be truthful, since she is always at parties where people get murdered  and then she solves said crime, I would run if I saw her coming. Like, bye. But from the safety of my living room, I enjoy spending time with her, because I am safer that way. In most of the episodes that I remember from the show’s original run, and from the bulk of the reruns I have seen on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, Mrs. Fletcher is already a famous novelist with a loyal following, and a million nephews, nieces, and old friends who give her an excuse to be in fabulous locales (she even filled in as a congresswoman once. Yes.) and also return to her beloved town of Cabot Cove, solving all the murders. But I found the very first episode of “Murder, She Wrote” on Netflix, and at the start of it,  Jessica is a widow in a small town who bakes cookies for the community theater, and whose nephew (See? Lots of nephews.) has passed the manuscript that she let him see but didn’t think that anything would come from to a big editor, who loves it, and before you know it, her book is a best seller, and she is whisked off to New York City and taken to the first party she winds up being bad luck at. It was really cool seeing the beginnings of a character that I love, and even more, seeing some things that I think we can all learn.

Listening?

Good. Here ya go.

It’s that even though Jessica Fletcher didn’t start out planning on being a big hit writer, that is exactly what happened, and it happened because her passion for writing and her knack for mystery shone through even a work that she thought no one would see. And even though she initially was reluctant when her nephew told her that he had showed her book to someone, she then stepped into the opportunity and ran with it. And although the stardom part was new, she was ALWAYS kind of nosey, and being a big writer didn’t give her the talent for figuring stuff out. Nope, sister already had that.

Which means that you, too, probably have stuff that you dream of doing. Maybe it’s writing a book, or getting a degree, or starting a business, or whatever, but it’s something that you feel really very strongly about, which is why you are good at it. And you probably already have in you whatever it is you need to bring the dream to life. So when your nosey nephew sends someone your book, go to New York, okay?

Cool.


Ring of Fire, or The Saga of the Wreath

by SweetMidlife

Happy 3 Days Before Christmas from Lynne!

I have always wanted to be a crafty person. Not Beastie Boys-crafty, but Martha Stewart-crafty. However, to be successfully crafty, you have to have follow-through and adequate preparation, 2 things that I have not always had at the same time. There have been some successful projects, like when a friend gave me an old wooden table and chair set that had been in her attic, and I painted the table blue and decoupaged a big yellow sunflower in the middle, and I painted the chairs alternately blue and yellow. Then I had this idea that I was going to decoupage a lot of stuff and sell it, after only successfully doing it once, but umm, that went nowhere. Over the years, I have been alternately crafty, sometimes having great momentum and just doing the thing, while other times talking myself out of whatever project I had in mind because I hadn’t really thought about what it took to do it well.

Which brings me to the wreath.

My husband and I bought our house in 2011, and found out that we were pregnant the day that we closed on the place, which was the day before we moved. The combination of being new homeowners, finding out that we were going to be parents, and also being in a new city where we didn’t really know anyone (we had friends in family within 40 minutes of here, but that’s not the same as having people RIGHT THERE), made me really want to establish this place as ours. To really add something to our home that was made with our hands. And that inspired me, if I am remembering it right, to buy a copy of some magazine not long before Christmas time. I think that it was like Better Homes and Gardens, or Women’s Day, or something like that, and as I flipped through the pages of do-it-yourself ideas, I saw something that would look amazing in our house: it was a door wreath made out of actual hot peppers.

“Oh my gosh!”, I thought. “This is perfect.” My husband is from San Antonio, TX, and loved Mexican food and all things spicy, so this would be a fitting thing for our front door. Plus, it was unique, and I just knew that whoever came to our place over the holidays would see it and laugh, and be impressed by my talent.

Yeah.

So I went to JoAnn’s Fabrics and bought a wreath frame, and I think I got ties to attach the peppers to the wreath. And I took the magazine with me to the grocery store, and I picked a peck of peppers (yeah I said it!),  and I went home to start my project. I was so very excited, because I knew that I was going to knock this thing out of the park, y’all. And I started tying peppers to the frame, and it was looking really fresh and lovely, and then my fingers started to hurt from the pepper juice, and my hands were getting red and raw and irritated. When my husband got home from work, I was like, “I have no idea how the people in the magazine could stand this. My hands are burning!”

And my patient husband looked at me, and he looked at the picture in the magazine, and he looked back at me, took a deep breath, and he said, “Babe. It’s because the ones in the picture were dried first. That’s why your fingers hurt. You are working with fresh peppers.”

Ahh. That makes sense. And when I looked at the picture again myself, I saw that this was true. My zeal had overrun my actually taking a good look at what I was doing. I don’t have photographic evidence of my sad craft, but here is my recollection of it.

Yes.

Yes.

So I think that we cooked with some of the peppers I bought, and held onto the rest in the fridge for as long as I could so I wasn’t totally defeated. Now, what to do with the wreath? And I had this idea, but this one was actually good. I went out to CVS and bought a large bag of gift bows. And I stuck them all over the wreath, and they looked way festive, and I put the wreath on the door. And some of the bows fell off. Pretty much every time we closed and opened the door, we lost some, and I spent that winter taping and re-taping bows to the frame, and for the most part, it looked non-jacked-up. Pretty, actually. But bow wreaths don’t keep well in the shed. So when I fished it out the next December, some had fallen off, so I did more bow surgery. And that lasted that Christmas season, but I think last year I looked at the trash bag we had it in in the shed, and saw wayward bows, and decided that I didn’t want to even be bothered. But this year, though, I decided that I was gonna do something with this thing. This is what it looked like when I got it out this year.

Yeah.

Yeah.

When my son and I decorated our tree, which is pre-lit, we started with the ornaments and loaded it up with dangly goodness. Then I looked over and saw the bag of garland we forgot to put on. But I think that was meant to be, because then I remembered my mostly-naked wreath, and decided to do this….

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Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh, I like it, I like it.

It was easy, and it used stuff I already had, and my kid got to supervise, and it didn’t hurt me. Those are good things in decorations, I say. Yes, I do.

How about you? Have you had any decoration-fails? Any decoration wins? In-betweens? Tell us!

 


These are their stories: Five lessons I gleaned from my “Law and Order” marathon

by SweetMidlife

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This is Leslie, and I’ma be honest – pretty much every day has the potential to be a ‘Law and Order” marathon, because between my DVR and my brain, I got ’em all – The original series, which us weirdo fans call The Mothership, “SVU” and its sleazy weirdness, and even “Criminal Intent,” with its brainy detectives outsmarting criminals who think they’re brainier (Spoiler Alert: They aren’t!)

But this week I’ve been even more drawn to the predictable procedural nature of Dick Wolf’s legion of crime series, which he’d packaged and packed off to Chicago, the setting of “Chicago Fire,” “Chicago P.D.” and “Chicago Med” (I never get tired of the game where people start coming with fake spin-offs – “Chicago Crossing Guard,” “Chicago Lunch Lady,” “Chicago Stadium Security Guard.” That last one has promise.) I think it’s because I spent time in a hotel last weekend, and nothing goes together more than a comfy bed and hours and hours of “L &O,” with no decisions to make or action to take other than rolling over to find the remote and turn it up, man!

But they’re not just veg-worthy: The series also has great lessons, like these:

– Always pay attention to where you’re walking, particularly in a crowded city or are cleaning a luxury hotel, because you might just stumble over a dead body.

– Follow your instincts, but not your world-weary prejudices: Stabler and Benson on “SVU” were notorious for not only assuming the guilt of the most obvious suspect, but being really nasty and wall-throwy and yelly about it, like “You know you killed her! Just admit it! You know you…Oh, sorry. Not your DNA. So sorry. Backing sloooowly away….”

– If you’re a juror, don’t flirt with the defendant. He’s using you and then he might try to kill you. Don’t be that person.

– If a rumpled detective shows up at your house late at night and starts quoting your Greek philosophy or poetry, he is not just there to show off. He’s there to arrest you and he knows you did it and you’re a dirty liar.

– If you suspect that you are in a Dick Wolf procedural, and the jury has come to a verdict and it seems like it’s all over, but you look up and there’s still ten minutes left, then I would not make any plans, because it might not go your way.


Deck Your Halls With Macy’s Heart of Haiti, Fa la la la la, La la la la

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!

This past summer, we told you in Sweet Midlife Land (a real place, we have decided) about Macy’s Heart of Haiti home decor line, a fair trade initiative that partners with Haitian artisans and sells their creations in selected Macy’s stores as well as online. Now is a perfect time to check out Heart of Haiti as you finalize your Christmas lists: the products are way beautiful, very unique, and your friends and family not only have a beautiful piece for their house, but they get to know that they are truly helping an artisan who depends on these purchases for their livelihood. It’s pretty, and with a heart.

In case you don’t remember from when we wrote about it back in June, Heart of Haiti was started shortly after the island nation was devastated by a massive earthquake in 2010. It helps the country’s large artisan community of 400,000 which makes up Haiti’s largest sector of employment. 550 artisans work for Heart of Haiti, and in turn, they support 4500 of their families and extended family. Buying their work actually puts food on tables and sends kids to school. This is no small thing, friends. No small thing at all.

The piece that we are featuring is a beautiful papier mache vase made by artisans in the seaside Haitian town of Jacmel, where they have been practicing this technique for hundreds of years. And this isn’t like the papier mache that you did in 6th grade art class that your mom put in her living room just because she wanted to be nice. No, these are really beautiful and sophisticated pieces that add a decorative touch to your home. Look at this video of one artisan talking about her pieces, and about how being about of this initiative helps her and those around her.

I was thrilled to receive one of these vases to put in my home and make a part of our holiday decorating. It comes with a glass insert that you could use to put fresh flowers in, but you could certainly remove that if you wanted to display dry things. You could even just put nothing in it, because it’s that pretty. I myself put a Christmas-y bouquet in mine, and put it on our bookshelf above the TV, where my guests can ooh and ahh over it. Actually, I am looking at it from the couch where as I am sitting and I love it. Wanna see?

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There’s a tight shot so you can see it up close in all of its handcrafted glory.

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Here’s another where you can see how it pairs with not only my Christmas decorations, but also how good it looks with my everyday decor.  This is good, because when the holidays are over, I plan to keep using the vase by itself, like this.

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So, as you complete your holiday shopping, you should really check out Macy’s Heart of Haiti. You can give to your friends while giving back. And that’s a perfect gift. You can find the Heart of Haiti line here online (as well as pieces from Macy’s other Gifts That Give Hope initiatives, including Paths of Peace, that works towards economic sustainability in Rwanda) and also at these select Macy’s stores: Herald Square, Downtown Brooklyn, Downtown DC’s Metro Center, Chicago’s State Street, San Francisco’s Union Park, Downtown Seattle, Dallas Gallaria, Downtown Portland (Ore), Atlanta’s Lenox Square, Dallas Galleria Mall, Miami.

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

 


You Should Play Outside With Your Kid, and a Really Cool Book Series About That

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here.

I like air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, and TV and my couch all of the time. And I like it sometimes when I can enjoy all of these things and have my kid occupied and happy with the TV, or with his toy keyboard or train track. I even let him ride his tricycle in the house, so he can get activity, and also where I can watch him and stay in the house. With my air conditioning, my TV, and my couch. I am well aware, though, that this isn’t always a good thing, because we aren’t doing things TOGETHER, and some of the best memories that I have had with my son, and shoot, that I have had period, happened outside, be it at the playground, or playing in our backyard in the sand table, or as in my running days, putting feet to pavement and seeing what it do in nature. When my son asks to play outside, which is often, I know that I should be doing more to make that happen for both of us.

So, I have this friend from Facebook, Marni Penning Coleman, who has actually become a friend although we have never met as far as I know. We DO know a bunch of the same people, and have one very good friend in common, and got to know each other in this Facebook group for parents in our area who are part of the local theatre scene. Last summer, Marni asked people if they would be in a test group to read, with their kid, this book that her sister had written, and that Marni illustrated. Add free things and a cool way to do stuff with my kid to the list of things that I like: I said yes. It turns out that the book was the second in a series of interactive books written by, Marni’s sister, Rebecca P. Cohen, called PJ’s Backyard Adventures, about a little boy named PJ who discovers amazing things when he plays outside. The book we read, Play at a Paris Playground, follows PJ as he takes his imagination global. Both books are bunches of crazy crazy fun: You can read the story about the things that PJ finds as he explores, PLUS you can color the pages, PLUS there is a cut-out of PJ that you can play with. Here’s us playing with it (note that our test copy was a printout. The actual book is a paperback. All awesome) …

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Cool, huh? But wait! There’s more! It ALSO turns out that the PJ series is just a part of a whole movement that Rebecca has started called Be Outside and Grow, that encourages folks to get out of their homes and into nature. Again, I need more of this in my life. I got to talk to Rebecca about how getting out is a good thing. And here is some of that conversation…

How did the whole Be Outside and Grow idea start?
Be Outside and Grow is the belief that time outside is good for us. A few years ago, I realized I wasn’t living every day the way I wanted; I was always rushing to spend time inside. Time outside was limited to weekends and rare vacations. As I began to spend more time outside with my children, my family grew closer, we had more fun, and I learned more about myself. Being outside with my kids reduced my stress and allowed me to engage in their sense of curiosity and wonder. I wanted to help more families experience the benefits of fitting in outdoor play into every day. My first book, 15 Minutes Outside is about that journey to get outside with my kids every day and includes low to no-cost ideas for every day of the year. The book is a helpful resource for parents, grandparents, caregivers, and teachers. With my new children’s book series, PJ’s Backyard Adventures, I want to continue to encourage outdoor play in children at a time they are also learning to read. The main character, PJ, is the essence of every child: curious and full of wonder. Children really relate to him, especially in that he loves to wear his pajamas, boots, and fireman’s hat! It’s the type of engaging early reader series I wish I had for my children.
Why can you connect with your kids more outside than you can by staying in the house?
Something magical happens without four walls around you. Each person literally has more space to be themselves. Inside, my two children would bicker constantly. Outside, they were best of friends. Studies have shown that unstructured outdoor playtime reduces aggression and improves cooperation. Everyone has fifteen minutes to step outside – its doable – usually the fun can last an hour or more depending on your schedule or result in child-led creative play where you can sneak off to tackle the next item on your to do list feeling reinvigorated and grateful for having created a precious moment together.
Did the PJ books grow out of the Be Outside and Grow movement, or vice-versa?
PJ’s Backyard Adventures is my version of 15 Minutes Outside for kids, and connects children around the world through outdoor play. Children naturally engage in imaginative outdoor play, but there are many activities competing for their attention. Having needed an early reader series that would engage my family – not just picture books that my children couldn’t read or sight word books that felt like a chore – I created what I thought would have excited my children to read a book. Children can relate to PJ, who uses his imagination in his backyard to travel the world. In each book, PJ travels to a real place outside that kids and parents would love. The latest PJ’s Backyard AdventuresPlay at a Paris Playground, is about the playground in The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. There are eight ways that children can engage with each book, from coloring to finding a hidden Dolch sight word on every page. I’ve read the books to over 500 children ages 2-8 in North America, Europe, and China, and the excitement with PJ is the same. Every type of learner finds something in the book that holds their interest and prompts further curiosity and play, from the seven continents to decorating their own pj’s, hat, and boots and cutting out PJ from the back to take with them on their own outdoor adventures.
Did you know from the beginning that you wanted your sister to do the illustrations?
I had the idea for PJ’s Backyard Adventures for several years before I persisted in finding a publisher and an illustrator. I had a goal to publish the series by the time my nephews were old enough to read it, and time was running out! In my head, I knew exactly what PJ looked like, and I asked my sister Marni Penning Coleman if she would bring PJ to life. A talented actress and graphic designer by trade, Marni drew an entire Winnie the Pooh mural the night before her son’s first birthday. She always liked to draw, but thought her drawings were too “cartoony” – which ended up being perfect for children’s illustrations.
Aren’t sisters the best? (I write with mine so this one is rhetorical. HA!)
With whom else can you have insanely productive one-hour weekly video Skype meetings in your pajamas? And when family life takes over, no one understands better than sisters. I’m enormously impressed with Marni’s ability to illustrate books with a toddler hanging on her most of the time!
What cool stories have you heard from your readers about their adventures?
Most of the coolest stories are about discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary just beyond our doorstep or noticing the nature around us at any moment. Positive reviews and kind personal notes keeps me going. A mom recently wrote to me that she didn’t realize how much time her children really wanted to spend time with her, and they would ask her for fifteen minutes outside together every day. Kids meet PJ and they immediately want to cut him out and take him outside. He is a playmate who understands them in every way. I have wanted every child to find something in PJ’s Backyard Adventures that excites them, and I am in awe of seeing this dream come true.
Lynne again! Rebecca’s books, PJ’s Backyard Adventures :Who Is PJ?, PJ’s Backyard Adventures: Play at a Paris Playground, and Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect With Your Kids are available on Amazon by following those links. And I did receive copies of both PJ books (the Paris one to test and the first one later) but everything that I said about them is absolutely my opinion. They are wonderful books. And encourage us to spend more time outside. And they will do the same for you? Hey, what are your favorite things to do outside with your kids?

 


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