Friday, January 25, 2013

Just when you thought the holidays were over… check out my groovy Christmas tree


Y’know, it’s funny how the smallest things can inspire someone or motivate them.  Can I share a little secret here?  I’ve lived on my own since moving to Pittsburgh twenty plus years ago, and I’ve never hung a single holiday decoration, let alone put up a Christmas tree.  Oh, I’ve bought a few holiday odds & ends over the years—chili pepper lights, some ornaments, candles—but I just packed the stuff away or gave it to my mom.

And then a couple weeks ago, I saw something & decided that it was time for a change.  I know Christmas is over, but better late than never, right?

I had my reasons for not decorating; the first couple years I reasoned that I wasn’t going to be here anyway, I’d be spending the holidays back home.  And then for the last decade, it’s become my busiest time of year (work-wise).  I know what’s coming, so come December who has time for any holiday spirits when you’ve got 101 New Year deadlines?  I just told my sister Shawn a couple weeks ago that one of the first things I wanted to do when I retire was enjoy Christmas again.  (Gosh I know that sounds hammy but it’s the truth!)

Okay so a day or two after this past Christmas, my sister told me about her friend Randi & HER blog, and a recent one she’d written about her family’s ceramic Christmas tree.  Curious, I checked it out and enjoyed reading about this great green decoration from Christmas Past. 

(If you’re curious like I was, click HERE to read it.)  Smile

Anyway, I don’t know what came over me but I couldn’t stop thinking about that ceramic tree.  My grandma owned one for many years, my mom did too & displayed it atop the tv.  I decided I had to have one!  

I inquired about them in a couple local stores that sold holiday decorations, but no luck.  The hardware store up the street from me becomes a Christmas Shop every year right after Halloween—but when I asked Joe (the owner) if he carried them, he said “Oh wow, I haven’t seen one of those in years.”  I began looking online (the ceramic shop Randi’s blog provided was too pricey for me).  Ebay was no better, I saw several listed—for several hundred dollars.  (I just wanted a ceramic tree, it didn’t have to be vintage!)

And then I found TeresasCeramics, who made them to order (and at a very reasonable price too).  I wrote her, told her about the ceramic trees I’d seen online & asked why hers were so much less in price.  She kindly responded that she couldn’t say, but assured me I wouldn’t be disappointed.  I said okay & ordered one.  She was right; I got mine a couple days ago & it looked so nice I couldn’t resist plugging it in.  (Well, just for one night!)

So Christmas may be over, and my new tree is going into storage, but I promise that it’s coming right back out next year; along with a jolly Santa cookie jar, some flickering window candles, a fresh pine wreath for my door and anything else I can get my hands on.  Thanks again everyone! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Once upon a time, there lived a rooster who pondered flying the coop


Once upon a time there was a lonely rooster named Doug who lived in a big chicken coop with a lot of other fowl.  Well, he wasn’t so much lonely as he was alone; he spent his daylight hours in a much bigger coop downtown with a flock of hens but his nights were his own, where he pecked on his computer & read books and watched tv to his rooster heart’s content.

And then one night, thirty or forty sleeps ago, a pair of noisy cockadoodles moved into the coop adjoining his; they began making lots of bothersome noises, often at late hours when he was trying to sleep.  They were more like bats than birds, flapping their wings loudest at night.  The rooster was unaccustomed to all the ruckus, and would perch on his sofa and blink rapidly, his feathers ruffled.  One night the cockadoodles got especially loud, and Doug went into a flurry, scurrying next door and crowing loudly at them.  The noisome duo could barely conceal the smirks on their beaks as they promised to keep things down.

Things remained calm for awhile, and then the rains came.

So it was one Wednesday night, when the rooster went downstairs to retrieve his mail, that he was met by another rooster, Old Bill.  Old Bill was not only the oldest bird in the henhouse, he’d lived there the longest too; so the other birds would go to him for various wrongs & the like, even if there was nothing Old Bill could really do.  “Hey Doug, how are things upstairs?” Old Bill asked.  “Are those two birdbrains still at it?”  Doug laughed politely and said “yes… but to be honest I’ve got other concerns right now, Bill.”  Old Bill widened his eyes.  “Such as?”  Doug said “Oh, last week the ceiling in my bedroom sprung a bad leak and it took forever to get someone to look at it.  They finally patched the roof, but I’m tired of waiting for someone to look at things inside.  I’ve been giving a lot of thought to flying this coop, to be honest.”

 Old Bill clucked a couple times.  “Doug please don’t do anything too hasty, we’d hate to lose you.  Hey, I have an idea.  Let’s have a meeting.”  “A meeting?” Doug asked. “With who?”  “A couple of the other old timers here” Old Bill said.  “we’ll come up with some answers.”  Doug said sure, why not.  Old Bill said to give him an hour, then meet him downstairs in the laundry room.

So an hour later, Doug the rooster headed to the basement.  There was Old Bill, accompanied by two hens, Peg & Thelma from the second & third floors.  “Doug, Old Bill says you’re thinking of flying the coop?” Peg asked.  Doug shrugged his wings, unsure of how to respond.  “So I hear you’re stuck with Tutti-Frutti!” Thelma said, and shook her head.  Doug laughed and nodded.  “I met that pair a week ago” Thelma added.  “The chubby one is the wife!”  Peg giggled and whispered “Thelma, tell Doug who YOU’VE got…”   “Mexicans!”  Thelma squawked.  “All they do is play loud music and cook beans!  The fumes alone give me gas!” 

Doug stood there, a bit taken aback as Old Bill & Peg laughed.  “I kid you not!” Thelma huffed. 

Old Bill spoke up.  “Well, you know Doug here lives on the top floor, and he’s dealing with a leaky roof right now and isn’t very happy about it either.” 

Thelma looked at Doug and said “Peg, tell Doug what happened to your bathroom ceiling back in the day.”  Peg said “Oh that was almost fifteen years ago… remember when they used to put us older hens all on the same floor?  And we’d meet in the hall & swap dishes?  I miss that!”  Thelma rolled her eyes and sighed.  “Get on with it Peg.”  Peg said “Right... well, this is when I worked downtown, before I retired.  I came home one night and really had to use the bathroom, so I rushed inside and wouldn’t you know it, my bathroom ceiling had fallen in & smashed my toilet.”  “Oh my gosh!  What happened?” Doug asked.  “A Chinaman lived above her & was running a laundry here, that’s what!” Thelma squawked.  “His tub was full of clothes and it all came tumbling down!”   “I can still remember all those wet shirts”  Peg said.  “They were everywhere!  But they fixed it up real good.”  Thelma turned to Doug.  “And what was your problem?  You had a drip?”

Later, as Doug the rooster & Old Bill were heading back upstairs, they stopped on the second floor landing.  “I can hear that music from Thelma’s neighbor now…” said Doug, and Old Bill chuckled and nodded. “I’ve told Thelma she should ask ‘em to turn it down, I even offered to do it for her.  But she insists it’s not a real bother.”   Doug said “So what was the purpose of that so-called meeting?  Was it your way of telling me things could be worse?”  Old Bill smiled.  “It wasn’t my intention Doug… but I think it worked out that way.  Did it help?”  Doug said maybe it did, and realized how much he liked Old Bill, and a few others there as well.  He wished the old rooster a good night & walked the rest of the way upstairs by himself.

The End

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

I’m not making passes at this girl who wears glasses—I just like her music a lot

A few years back, I was visiting with family & my teenage niece Drew was showing me her new iPod, and I said “Who do you got on there, the Spice Girls?”  Drew said “No Uncle Doug!  I’m listening to Beyonce!” I said “Who’s that?” and her mother (my sister Donda) said “He’s teasing you Drew, everyone knows who Beyonce is.” 

I wasn’t kidding, at the time I really was clueless!  Let’s just say I’ve never been good at keeping up with the Top 40.

(Of course I know who Beyonce is now, and have known for awhile.  It just takes me a year or so to catch up with the rest of the planet)

Nerd smile

So the other day I was stumbling around Google, looking at photos of girls who wear glasses (nope I can’t explain why) and came across this young woman, Caitlin Hart.  She was wearing headphones too, so I went to YouTube & did a search, and it turns out she’s a talented artist who specializes in cover songs (like those so-called kids on ‘Glee’). 

Cover StoriesCaitlin’s album ‘Cover Stories’ from the Amazon mp3 store—I bought it!

Besides her work as a solo artist, she also sings with a pair of young guys, Jake Coco & Corey Gray—who like her, specialize in singing cover songs but are all pros at self-promotion, thanks to Twitter & YouTube. 

You gotta admire their ambition.

Knowing how out of touch I am with the music scene, I asked my friend Danielle (who’s a bit younger than me & has a husband who plays in a band) if she’d heard of Caitlin.  She said no & asked what else I knew about her.  I said not much, other than she’s young, lives in Los Angeles & wears dark glasses.

DANIELLE:  Does she have long straight hair & wear skinny jeans?

DOUG:  Well as a matter of fact she does--why?

DANIELLE:  Sounds like a hipster.

DOUG:  What’s a hipster?

DANIELLE:  Shaggy hair, dark heavy glasses, skinny jeans, funky sneakers.

DOUG:  Oh ok—so she’s cool!


ANYWAY, I just like this girl’s voice a lot (though I think all three of them have a great sound).  I’m not ready to start a fan club, I just wanted to share one of their covers & be able to say “I knew these guys when” if they manage to hit it big. 

Here’s one of their “homegrown” videos which impressed me a lot—I hope you enjoy it too.