Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Twelve Days of Halloween, Day Eleven: ZOMBIES, RUN!

It's the second to last day of the Twelve Days of Halloween! It's a grey blustery afternoon here in the Northwest. Yellow leaves are pressed against a slate grey sky and the ground is wet with our ever present yet often unseen precipitation.

It would be the perfect day to play ZOMBIES, RUN! and so that's my share for the day! It's a game in development Ryan told me about a few days ago during a car ride to Seattle. Imagine an interactive program for the Iphone/Ipod/Android device that makes jogging actually enjoyable.

The neighborhood never looked better.

The basic idea: you grab your jogging shoes and put in your earbuds while the game maps out your actual surroundings and places imaginary zombies to avoid, items to collect, and survivors to save. As you jog the zombies' moans get louder as you approach and you have to outrun them to survive! (Like I haven't pretended this before on a jog anyway, right?)

The best part? You chose your own playlist. That's right, you can create your own soundtrack to outracing zombies and saving the world. What songs will I choose? Uh, duh, the Deal Souls cover by Nine Inch Nails and Depeche Mode - Just Can't Get Enough for starters! Maybe a splash of Dazzle by Siouxsie & the Banshees? Really, anything I can rock out and air punch invisible zombies to. Oh yes, I will be air punching invisible zombies. I'm bringing my A-Game to ZOMBIES, RUN. I'm going all out, I'm doing it for the kids. If this doesn't end with me being arrested for suspicion of being on PCP, then I will have failed you dear readers.

Sadly this game isn't out yet, but it is expected to come out sometime in the beginning of 2012. Only a few months, and then it's just me, my Ipod, and Bone Crusher's I Ain't Never Scared against the neighborhood!

We're grabbing that med kit, grabbing that med kit!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Twelve Days of Halloween, Days Nine and Ten, Movie Nights and Pumpkins!

So sorry that I skipped yesterday! I was dashing around baking treats for a movie night and catching lunch with two lovely lady friends in Ballard!

I'm going to share two Halloween traditions today to bring us up to day ten.

First: Scary movie nights! Gather friends around, bake some treats, pop some corn, and watch great movies. Or even better, watch terrible movies. Last night we screened a little of both, the great Army of Darkness, followed by the indescribable Zardox and ever campy Barbarella. The season brings many get togethers, but a movie night can be a little more laid back and relaxing before the costume parties and candy festivities really take off.

Second: Pumpkins! The earthy smell, the gook, the seeds baking in the oven, the overly satisfying stab into the gourd, pumpkins are a hallowed hollowed Halloween tradition. (Like that?)

I'd like to share my wonderful friend Amy Forbes' talents in the pumpkin realm today! She carves the best pumpkins of anyone I know and I think everyone who knows Amy can say the same. Amy has the amazing ability to transform a pumpkin into a canvas. She treats the flesh very much like a wood carving, and creates beautiful lithograph-like images for the candle to light.

She also has a great deal of New England lore and graveyard knowledge, after years of historical cemetery classes in college and trips to old graves throughout the northeast. This lends an antiqued and genuinely eerie feel to some of her lovely designs.

They're even pretty in the daylight!

Aren't these fantastic? Many thanks to Amy for allowing me to share her delightful pumpkin creations!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Twelve Days of Halloween, Day Eight: X-Entertainment Halloween Jukebox!

Anyone working in a creative field, or any field where need your eyes and hands but your ears are left bored, needs a steady supply of entertaining noise. However, when it comes to finding a good Halloween themed playlist Pandora and Turntable can fall a little short. Where oh where can I find a site that will play Alice Cooper's Feed My Frankenstein followed by Blue Oyster Cult's Don't Fear the Reaper?

Take it from me, Pandora just don't understand. 

Ryan and I are both fans of the blog X-Entertainment. Year round X-Entertainment reviews toys of the 1980s, retro marketing campaigns, and other nuggets of forgotten pop culture. If there's something cool you remember but can't quite recall the name of, chances are it's there.

Halloween is a great time to tune in as the reviewer Matt tests out holiday dollar store finds, cheap make up kits, and the dark traditions commercialism has brought us. He is a collector of all things strange and cheesy and the Halloween music playlist he's assembled is out of this world.

Sure Pandora can play you the Ghostbusters theme, but will it bring you that and Elvira's Monster rap?

From to the theme from Teen Wolf, to Echo and the Bunnymen's Killing Moon, to Count Duckula, to Rob Zombie, to the Monster Mash, to Ministry's Everyday is Halloween, to Oingo Boingo's Dead Man's Party, to Marilyn Manson, to Mozart's Requiem Dies Irae this playlist actually has it all.

If you follow the link to X-Entertainment you'll find an adorable jukebox halfway down the page on the right beside some little ghosts. Click on that, or CLICK HERE to open the window for yourself.

At home or at work in his lab editing video, Ryan has been playing this in a spare window since before October. Today I'm baking Halloween treats and I have it playing on my own computer. After yesterday's scary music list, I thought this jukebox would make a great share for the eighth day of Halloween! This playlist will easily carry you through the Halloween weekend to come.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Twelve Days of Halloween, Day Seven: Truly Scary Songs.

Seven is a great number, so you know the seventh day of Halloween had to be something special.

Screaming Jay Hawkins, back when your
skeleton friend could still smoke on stage.

Here are seven truly scary Halloween songs. I'm not talking about Michael Meyers cheese fest or Nightmare Before Christmas play lists--although those are great too. I mean actual real deal 100% scary songs. It could be the melody echoing across the decades, or knowing everyone in the orchestra is long gone six feet under, or the rattling snare in the drums. Whatever it is, there is something just a little eerie behind the beat of these tunes.

Sons of the Pioneers - Ghost Riders in the Sky: When my Mom was little her grandfather used to put this record on to spin and she would listen in the dark candle glow of her grandparents' kitchen and get chills. Years later she played the same recording for me. Who knew chills were genetic? This haunting version of a cowboy greeted with the spirits of sinful ranchers charged with chasing the devil's herd across endless skies is plain ol' fashioned spooky. The ghostly chorus of 'hi-yos' will slip up and down your spine the first time you encounter it.

Mia Farrow - The Theme to Rosemary's Baby: At first it's just sweet and vaguely creepy like all lullabies. ("When the bough breaks the cradle will fall" anyone?) The longer this melody goes on however, the darker it becomes. I think we can all agree, if we were home alone and this started playing out of nowhere we'd pull a Cowardly Lion out the nearest window.

Fantasia - Night on Bald Hill Mountain: It's certainly scary enough without the technicolor Disney nightmare orgy, but Fantasia amps up the terror level on this tune hard. Seeing this in the theater as a child was one of those traumatic innocence-shattering moments that only Disney can bring you. Is that a ghost? Is that a skeleton? Is that a skeleton on a horse? What's that other thing on a horse? Hey, what's that on that mountain--IS THAT THE DEVIL? Popcorn bucket right over the head, complete with muffled, helpless shouts to your snickering parent of "WHAT IS GOING ON?"

Josh Wink - Don't Laugh: A favorite Rhode Island tradition is the Roger William's Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular. If you have ever been, you already know this song. It is played every year in the scary clown area (yup). If you've never been, you're probably feeling nervous enough only knowing that it is played every year in the scary clown area. Or that there is such a thing as a 'scary clown area'. I can best describe it as Batman's Joker crawling under your bed after a trip to the dentist. As many techno songs it takes a while to rev up. Once it gets going, you'll want to turn it off pretty much immediately. You can skip to where the song begins to get creepy by CLICKING HERE, or listen to the whole song below.

Henry Hall & His Orchestra - The Teddy Bear's Picnic: I love Teddy Bears. I love picnics. So why is 'the Teddy Bear's Picnic' nightmare fuel? It just is. It could be because it sounds like a band of cartoon ghosts is playing back up to a cartoon skeleton, or because if you go down to the woods today you better not go alone, or because the marvelous thing to eat is you because bears eat people. I don't know what it is exactly, but this song is brought to you by every twig that ever snapped in the woods while you were alone.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins' - I put a spell on you: Marilyn Manson tried to cover this, and he did an okay job, but nothing beats the conviction and desperate ferocity in Screamin' Jay Hawkin's voice. Or the Fun House music style guiding those shambling, swanky horns. Not only is it a song about someone who's just not taking no for an answer, but Screamin' Jay Hawkins manages to sound like he is singing this from inside your closet. True story I put this on to test the link, and all our rats fled to hide in their hammocks. Our rats were not having any part of this song--that's how scary it is.

Napoleon XIV - They're coming to take me away HAHA - Confession: I cannot handle this tune. I know it's supposed to be funny, and the weird thing is I remember loving it as a kid. However at a certain point in my life something changed and it began to irrationally terrify me. If I ever remember what it was (no doubt in some kind of Lifetime movie flashback sequence) I'll let you know. In the meantime, I once threw a radio into a wall when this came on unexpectedly. I'm not proud, I'm just admitting it happened. The drums started up and I tore out of the shower soaking wet, slip sliding over the floor, and yanked the plug out of one wall in the same instant I let the wretched thing sail into another wall. I lied to my Mom that the radio fell, which looking back was even more dangerous than running with wet feet on linoleum to grab an electrical plug with wet hands.

It's something about the drums, which I know only because my heart withers every time Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women 12 & 35 comes on the radio with the bowel shivering terror that Napoleon whoever's awful voice is about to start threatening me. In the few long seconds before that horn laughs in, I feel pretty sickly. Whatever it is, I haven't heard this song in years and I gave it one more try this morning to check the link thinking, "It's cool, I'm a grown up."

Nope. Forget it. The voice tilted pitch and I was done.

I'm sure you have a song or two that grabs you by the guts the way these tunes get me. What are some spooky songs that get your heart ticking?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Twelve Days of Halloween, Day Six: Arsenic and Old Lace!

It's a beautiful, sunny day here in Seattle and upon waking up on any sunny day here my heart is immediately filled with dread. Did someone kill the Fog God? Will we suffer for this later?

Sunlight is viewed with some measure of suspicion here August-June. June and July sunshine is expected, even welcomed, an old friend who can only stay a few moments. Then August drizzles in and the sunshine finishes its cup of tea with a hard swig and is out the door. If it's sunny in October, something's wrong. Well, maybe not wrong, but something is off. It's a trick. Mt. Rainier is luring folks out of their home to eat them. Who can trust a mountain one can only see 8-9 days a year? Where is the mountain the rest of the time?

I digress! This spooky sunny day is the sixth day of Halloween! And while I have suggested the last five treats to you, I must insist on this one. If you are reading this and have access to Netflix or ye Olde Fashioned Video Store, rent 1944's Arsenic and Old Lace.

Arsenic and Old Lace is the hilarious tale of a newly married man who discovers on Halloween quite by accident that his entire family is completely insane. Now, he knew his brother who thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt was loopy, but who knew everyone else was even crazier? It's a great movie for Halloween, very funny and slightly spooky, but never all out scary.

You may be hesitating because it's black and white. First off, don't be silly. Some of the best movies are still black and white because they were made before Hollywood figured out its typical movie formula. Secondly, for a movie that's almost 70 years old, the plot and humor have held up wonderfully. It's a favorite in our apartment year round. In fact my engagement was postponed several days as Ryan searched the city for a telephone booth to propose in because of a scene in this movie.

It's got it all! Laughs...
Plus you get to watch Cary Grant make faces like this.

Even with its themes of serial murder and torture, I promise it's a thousand times lighter than any modern movie you could show children. Including Toy Story 3. It was a personal favorite of seven year old Georgia Dunn. My Mom and Nana showed it to me when I was little and had to contend with me hollering "CHARGE!" and running up the stairs for the next (twenty-two) few years.

I did three reports on Teddy Roosevelt
during my school years because of this movie.

So tonight, fire up the Netflix (because I know no one is actually going to the video store), break out the popcorn and apple cider, and enjoy one of the best movies around!

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Twelve Days of Halloween: Day Five, Candle Cove!

Ghost stories can take many forms, and with the internet they can even take 'message board shape'. The clever folks over at Ichor Falls cooked up a truly haunting tale of an old kids show called 'Candle Cove'. You can read it for yourself HERE. It's a quick, good read--but I warn you it is pretty scary, so only read it if you can handle being creeped out by your tv screen for the next few weeks. It's 8:35 am here and I already have the willies from reading it (and I've read it before). Looks like it's cartoons for me for the rest of the day!

Whoever created this got those teeth just right.

'Candle Cove' is my favorite form of the internet ghost story called "Creepy Pasta". Creepy Pasta is the Urban Legend's online cousin, with links, comments, and photos of folks playfully offering fright tales as testimonials across the web. While they're surely only stories (right?) they offer the same scare that the campfire uncertainty gave years ago. Someone tells you, "Now, this didn't happen to me, but it did happen to my cousin's friend" only now you don't have the flicker under roasting marshmallows to read their poker face. Somewhere across the internet they could be deadly serious.

(But they're not).

(Or are they?)

(Of course not).

(But maybe....).

The Twelve Days of Halloween: Day Four, Vincent Price!

I can't think of a cute lyric to divide Vincent Price into four parts, so I won't try. It's the fourth day of Halloween, and at this late hour in the last remaining moments before midnight I want to devote this day to Vincent Price!

Someone forgot to dust the lamp!

It wouldn't be Halloween without scary movies, and so many scary movies would not be their eerie selves without Vincent Price. His piercing eyes, his intensity, and--of course--his voice all lent a subtle creepiness to the silver screen. He found a niche in B movie horror, and no one has been able to hold a cobwebbed candelabra to him since. His voice is the pop culture heebie jeebies in vocal form. What would Thriller be without his dark sermon monologue and laughter croaking like an opening grave at the end?

As frightening as Price could be, whether he was playing every crazy girl you've ever met in 'The Fall of the House of Usher' or getting to the bottom of strangeness in 'The Fly', he also had a sweet charm about him. The following video clip of Price and Kermit the Frog is especially adorable.

Sadly Vincent Price passed away in 1993 while showing Edward Scissorhands a new pair of hands. However, he lives on in the shadows, waiting around every corner, especially when you walk out alone to the kitchen in the middle of the night. If you're lucky they say you can still hear him on the wind on a dark and mournful eve.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Twelve Days of Halloween: Day Three

"On the third day of Halloween my true love gave to me, three pets buried in a pet sematary."

I've had this song stuck in my head for a few days now. It always starts playing sometime when the leaves begin to fall, triggered by a handful of seasons when it was featured on the Halloween mix cds I would make for driving in my car.

The chords still bring to mind echoes of New England back roads rambling on hair pin curves though red, orange, and yellow stained woods. Wooden fence posts ticking by, fields shrouded in curling mist beyond crumbling colonial stone walls.

Ah, home.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Twelve Days of Halloween: Day Two Spooky Mini Pizzas!

"On the second day of Halloween my true love gave to me, two little pizzas wrapped like mummies!"

A picture from the Easy Cooking blog.
Look at the little spiders!

Day two of the Twelve Days of Halloween, and how about a snack? Check out these fantastic itty, bitty tasty pizzas over at Easy Cooking!

I adore Sandy's recipes, they're actually easy and very tasty. She's got these potato wedges that are out of this world! Ryan and I are planning a night of scary movies and Halloween food festivities with some friends, and these are one of the treats I will be making. I can't wait!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Twelve Days of Halloween: Day One, Halloween Specials!

"On the first day of Halloween my true love gave to me, a spooky special on the tv!"

Hello again, oh so soon! Today marks the beginning of the Twelve Days of Halloween and for the next dozen days I will be sharing a spooky story, movie trailer, song, or tradition of Hallow's Eve!

I'm easing into the scary with a celebration of five great Halloween holiday specials! The first four on the list include links to watch the entire special. Sadly the fifth cartoon I could not find full length anywhere on the internet. If anyone can find it, I'd love the link!

5. Disney's Legend of Sleepy Hallow: Icabod Crane and Disney's first incarnation of Beauty and the Beast's Gaston (no, seriously watch it) vie for the affections of the town beauty. Bing Crosby narrates my childhood nightmares in this genuinely spooky rendition of the Washington Irving classic. Chase that nerd outta town, Gaston!

4. Casper the Friendly Ghost -There's Good Boos Tonight: This wasn't strictly a Halloween special, but I remember it coming on tv every year in October and breaking my heart. Casper had the worst non-existence of anyone dead or living. Not only was he obviously a dead child which is sad enough, but he was also an outcast. In this haunted tale Casper finally makes a friend and teaches children every where the horrors of fox hunting. Watch it to the end, and if you don't cry at least once (sad or happy tears) then you have no soul.

3. Donald Duck Trick or Treat: Remember when Donald Duck was funny? I mean, ridiculously funny? Donald was always that bachelor uncle who wasn't really that different from your actual bachelor uncles. He clearly wasn't one for kids to begin with, and yet he was saddled with three nephews who loved 'jokes' like packing snowballs with ice or convincing Donald he was dying. In this 1952 cartoon the boys gain the sympathy of Disney's character Witch Hazel and make sure Donald thinks twice before skimping on candy again.

2. Garfield's Halloween Adventure: On October 1st I shared this gem, and while it's number two on this list, it's my own personal favorite. Garfield and Odie face a ship full of pirate ghosts who return at midnight for the gold they stashed one hundred years ago. It's still hilarious (and truly scary) after all these years. Plus the songs are awesome.

1. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! Without a doubt this is the most popular Halloween special of all television history, and so of course I couldn't find a link to the entire episode. Here are three clips from Charles Schultz's tribute to trick or treating, bobbing for apples, and social rejection. With eerie music, watercolor splashed October skies, and a certain doghouse flying beagle this cartoon connects with kids young and old year after year. (I always root for poor Linus).

I hope you enjoy these specials! I'm looking forward to the next eleven days. I've been encouraging folks to celebrate the Twelve Days of Halloween with their own favorite songs, games, movies, memories, etc of the holiday. So if you'd like to take part go on and take a stab at it! (Sorry Amy, I had to).

A Bedroom and a British Bunny!

I apologize for not posting for a spell, I have been deep in the mountains of many cardboard boxes, winter clothes, and extra blankets.

Last Saturday night I returned from Rhode Island to two wonderful surprises! The first, was an actual bedroom! Since moving to Washington almost two years ago, our bedroom has been 30% bedroom and 70% storage room. It was piled floor to ceiling with boxes full of books, old VHS tapes, video gaming systems, notes, sketchpads, etc. A great deal of the boxes belonged to Ryan, who has saved them as he moved from Rhode Island to Chicago to Seattle. Every few months I have wished aloud that we could finally organize them and have a proper bedroom vs how shall I put it..."A hobo fort".

While I was in Rhode Island staying in a cozy bedroom at Aunt Joanie's, I said again to Ryan how wonderful it would be if we had an actual bedroom where we could really relax. Inspired by my offhand comment, he stayed up until 5am that night sorting through boxes, closets, and drawers to make it happen! (What a swell guy!) I was so delighted when I walked in I nearly cried. We have been finishing the project together. I hope to have some "after" pictures to share soon.

My second surprise was the arrival of Uncle Brendan Rabbit from Isobel Morrell's shop Coldham Cuddlies!

Isn't he wonderful?

Having seen my illustrations, it should come as no surprise that I go nuts for adorable woodland creatures in snappy clothes. And this rabbit is something special. Isobel Morrell hails from Warminster, England, where she creates fanciful creatures by hand. Her blog is an entertaining read for any illustrators who secretly long to be toy makers (ahem)--and other folks will enjoy it too! Ryan and I fell in love with her shop a few weeks ago, and 'Uncle Brendan' has just confirmed this love. He's beautifully stitched, sturdy and soft all in one hug! His clothes are delightful. I love the fabrics and colors she chose for him. Besides rabbits, Isobel also makes coyotesbears of many typesfoxes, and puppets! She also provides a service mending elderly stuffed animals who need some repairing after years of play. (Am I the only person who tears up at the thought of elderly stuffed animals getting a second chance? I blame the Velveteen Rabbit).

Isobel is great to deal with too, we have been enjoying a regular correspondence since my purchase. She is friendly, swift to deliver, and focused on the details! While I shop Etsy pretty regularly, it's rare I do a write up on my purchases. When I read blogs, I always feel like plugs between sellers are pretty transparent and I want to reserve my praises for the truly rare and amazing creations. Some folks feature sellers week to week, and I never want to get into that. I don't want my blog to be a commercial, I want it to be like a shared cup of coffee between friends, you know? Working from home, talking to you lovely folks often is my own break to chat over coffee in the afternoon. And Uncle Brendan is something I would definitely pull out of my purse to show you--YES HE WOULD BE IN MY PURSE, HOW ELSE WILL WE GO ON ADVENTURES?--Really, how can I resist bragging a little about this sweet fluffy fellow? I mean, just look at him!

He's made fast friends with Kitty Cucumber and Henry Badger.

Fuzzy AND noble.


Since discovering Coldham Cuddlies, I have steered my sister and a few friends Isobel's way. Gracie particularly has fallen in love with Coldham Cuddlies' foxes, and has been besieging her boyfriend, myself, and all who know her to get Daddy Ferdinand Fox for her this Christmas.

So, the next time you've got a child--or a grown up child--to shop for, take a peek at what Coldham Cuddlies is offering! Whew, I'll stop now, before I get good at that!

And now I return to our new bedroom, where I have, like, 1000 tee shirts to decide the fate of! Or maybe I will just write about Halloween instead. Yes, I think I will do that. Stay tuned....

Friday, October 14, 2011

Memorials, babies, and proposals--life never stops.

My Opa's services were yesterday. They were beautiful. The church was packed with folks whose lives he touched, it was humbling to see. I was able to speak, as did my Mother, three uncles, and three cousins. When I spoke, I focused on his storytelling ability. And I was not the only one enchanted and effected by his stories, my cousins also brought up Rumpelstiltskin, the the Monkey's Paw, and others in their speeches. My Mom's speech wowed me because I knew her notes were only a few words scribbled down. Then she got up and spoke beautifully of the gifts Opa gave her: a love of reading, an appreciation of music, the respect of hard work, and the importance of organization. It was lovely. She is so eloquent, that wonderful Mom of mine.

Afterwards everyone gathered in the reception hall and shared stories of his life. A man greeted me and told me it was Opa who urged him to travel to China to teach as he had done, and when that was over Opa further urged him to mentor in the Newport schools. The man is still mentoring today.

The circumstances were so sad, but it was wonderful to see my family. And while we were sad, we were happy for Opa. He was a man of great faith, and we're certain he is rejoicing. He was an enthusiastic servant of God, his service and devotion to the church are inspiring. While we will miss him here, it's hard to feel justified in being sad when there is such an amazing life to think back on and be grateful for.

My visit to Rhode Island has been brief, but meaningful. Wednesday when I flew in my sister Gracie and her partner Reese were waiting for me at the airport! Nothing sets my heart and mind quite at ease like being with my sister. We can communicate so much with just a glance, and our jokes are all just ridiculous. We ran on the walking belt at the airport like two kids and I felt home. My friend Chuck invited us, Amy, and Justin to his place when I got in, and we had a chance to meet his new girlfriend the artist Angry Amy. I'm no psychic, but I see good things in the future for those two!

Today I visited Hoxsie in the morning, the bank where I worked for several years. It was great to see my wonderful friends there! And everyone is pregnant, well three of my good friends, it feels like everyone! They looked stunning and adorable with their little bellies. Then I went met up with Amy. A similar ease to being with Gracie falls over me when I'm with Amy. We have been close friends for eighteen years and enjoy a shared language of references to stories we've written over the years, humorous memories, school time adventures, the Who, Red Dwarf, ("and I've never read...a book....") Eek the Cat, Monty Python sketches, etc. Adam joined us soon after, still fresh from his crushing defeat when I beat him to New England. (On Wednesday Adam challenged me to a race as I flew to New England and he drove across New York. After I beat him I told him "Don't bring a truck to a plane fight!" To be fair, he had started his journey in Alaska--no joke).

We went to Clyde's for cider and donuts and laughed the afternoon away. We met more friends and some of my father's family for dinner. Aunt Lizzie had us laughing all night and Adam had us all in stitches with his epic tale of how he escaped mutant goats during his drive from Alaska. I finally had a chance to meet baby Lila, and! What a sweet baby. Chris and Will are already fabulous parents. Watching how Lila lit up every time she saw Christine made my whole day. And seeing Chris blossom into motherhood was truly beautiful. She had such a graceful ease with Lila, she was very calm, very soothing to her baby girl. After focusing on a loved one's life coming to a close yesterday, it lifted my spirits to see one beginning. And so brightly! She is a precious baby.

Tomorrow I fly back to Washington. Ryan and I plan to visit in February and it's already circled on my calendar. This has been the hardest visit I have made to Rhode Island since I left for the west. It was sad circumstances which brought me home, and then I was only really home two full days. I keep feeling like I have another 3-4 to go and I have to remind myself this is it. I didn't get to see everyone I usually do. This is my favorite time of the year in New England, I wish I had just a couple days more. All the doorsteps have pumpkins and mums, the neighborhoods are full of houses all decked out in Halloween lights and cotton spiderwebs. And I like the west coast, but I miss my family and friends here so much.

Still I confess, even though it's been just a few days I miss my husband. We spend so much time together, walking around without him at my side is a strange feeling. It's not just romance and cuddling, it's palling around and inside jokes. We're truly best friends, we just never tire of each other's company. I don't like to be leaving Rhode Island so soon, but I am excited to get back to him. For his part he has sent a steady stream of 'I miss you' messages, with 'I'm starving, please come feed me actual food' pleas peppered in.

SPEAKING of husbands--one of my best pals in the world, Tim McMahon proposed to the lovely Miss Sara Croninger last night! Preston, Kaela, and I have been happily hearing reports from him for oh, the last 2-3 months, as he braved family, fate, and finances to secure her ring. I don't know of a young man in modern times who has done so much to secure his lady love a ring he felt would be perfect for her, a ring that would live up to her in his heart. I really hope he tells her the tale with all of his usual Tim bravado, because it really was a heck of a quest. I could not be more thrilled for the two of them. Marriage at its best makes family out of friends, and they deserve all of the happiness it has to offer!

And so in the past few days I've experienced the celebration of a life lived well, a childhood friend's smile beaming up at me from the face of her baby girl, and the announcement of a new union of two friends on the horizon. Life, renewal, and love. I'm feeling blessed tonight.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rhode Island bound.

Opa's obituary was in the Westerly Sun today. You can read it here. They did a lovely job. Friends know I'm not typically a fan of that paper, but I'm really happy with the write up and more importantly I know my Mom is too.

I just booked my flight home. We had some wonderful news this past weekend that got lost a bit in the sad news. Ryan was promoted at work! In addition to the raise and prestige (which are certainly wonderful on their own) we finally have, drum roll, health benefits! I think we were more excited about the health benefits than anything else.

Ryan: "I'm going to go to the dentist every weekend!"
Me: "I'm going to go break my arm JUST TO FEEL ALIVE!"

The unfortunate thing about his promotion though is his first big assignment is Friday morning. Between the work leading up to it and the assignment itself, I will be traveling to Rhode Island solo. Ryan feels terrible, but my Mom told him, "Commitment to hard work is the best way you could honor my Dad right now, Ryan." I agree. I'm only in town for 2-3 days and I'm sad about the circumstances that bring me home. Still, it will be wonderful to see my mother and my family and friends however short the time span is. 

He could tell it to you better: My Opa

My wonderful grandfather passed away this weekend.

Some men die and you can't find much to say about them. The trouble with my Opa is where to start. In 90 years he lead the kind of live most of us can only dream of. He was born to Irish immigrants in Queens, NY in 1921. He was initially denied by the Navy, but when World War II dawned he took his chance to try to enlist again, and it paid off. (He would share this story with us when we faced rejection in life). The New York boy the Navy turned down reached the rank of captain by the 1960s. He was commodore of a fleet of three ships, with the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. as his flagship. When he retired from the Navy, he went back to school for his Masters. He taught history and German at Rogers High School in Newport and when it was time to retire from that he learned Chinese, and spent several years in China teaching English. He and my family were stationed in Germany during the American occupation after WWII. He worked in the pentagon, sailed the Mediterranean, attended Kennedy's funeral, and made a pilgrimage to the birth place of Christ. He traveled the world as a soldier, a captain, a teacher, and a missionary. He trained for the Olympics as a young man, he was a magnificent gymnast, a fantastic swimmer, could perform the parallel bars in his youth, and began every day with a regiment of push ups and standing on his head well into my childhood, so his 60s.

Opa in 1948

In addition to languages, he taught sailing, swimming, Bible studies, and up until two years ago was still volunteering in the Newport school system teaching young children to read. He was the kind of grandfather who took a personal interest in each grandchild, their education, and their well being. My outings with Opa included regular German and Bible lessons, with questions and assigned readings to be completed before our next visit. They also included fairy tales from all over the world, fables, and stories of his own experiences when he was young. We shared episodes of fainting in our teens and early twenties. When I expressed my shame over fainting in public, he told me a story of when he stood on a field in Germany as a very young man watching tanks roll in. That awful, cold pin pricking began up his legs and spine and he knew a faint was coming on. Not wanting to pass out in front of his Navy buddies, he casually bent down pretending to tie his shoe. He rested his head against his leg, the closest position he could get to putting his head between his legs without giving himself away. I was comforted, and armed with a tactic to avoid fainting in public that worked wonders.

He often shared his vulnerability with us, he walked us through his past realizations. He had another story of how he was at a dinner honoring one of his many military achievements, and he began to choke on a chicken bone. Too embarrassed to ask anyone to help him, he politely excused himself from the table and made the long walk to the lobby, where wordlessly he begged a doorman to assist him. The bone came up just as he began to see stars, and at this point in the story he would turn to you and say, "Can you imagine? I was so prideful that night, I nearly choked to death. I learned the hard way that night, never be too proud to ask for help." I would compare my grandfather to a philosopher before a soldier.

Opa and I, 1982

He had an incredible storytelling ability, and as his voice boomed and bellowed through a tale, he would take on accents, expressions, a twist of a hand, a cock of the head to portray each character. When I was nine he told me the story of Jane Eyre over the span of several of our visits, and later when I read the book for myself I realized many passages he had recited word for word. (Let me tell you, nobody could perform Mr. Rochester like my Opa). He told me the Monkey's Paw during a thunderstorm once, on a dark afternoon in my living room. I was just old enough to be too cool to be scared, but I jumped out of my skin when he slyly knocked on the wall as he told of the son coming to the door.

Each story was instructive, though the lessons would be understood later. At the time they were just wonderful stories. The Monkey Paw warned us to be careful what we wished for, Rumpelstiltskin (I tear up just remembering the voice he did for the little imp) taught us not to boast or make rash bargains. His personal stories, like the prideful chicken bone, taught us important truths. He urged us to do the right thing when it was most difficult, to stand up for others, and that how you treat those who serve you, waitresses, bell boys, cab drivers etc is the reflection of your true self. "Be good to everyone, not just your boss or your best friend. That's easy. Sometimes people make a good impression, but it's on the easy people, the people they need to impress. Watch how they treat those whose good opinion they don't need. If a boy takes you out to dinner and he is rude to the waiter all night: That's who he really is."

Opa and I playing drums with my rock band of stuffed animals.

He knew early on I loved fairy tales, and as he traveled all over the world he returned with new ones. Ye Xian, the Chinese fairy tale of a young girl and a beautiful fish, was one I asked for over and over again. Knight of the Swan was another favorite. My love of illustrating and children's stories come directly from him and the tales he used to tell me.

Two years ago he brought me to the Redwood Library, where he was a long time member. He was researching Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales, and teaching me the importance of finding original texts. "Publishers change words or passages with each edition. Always request the earliest copies of books you can find." He had ordered several prints of Andersen's tales, and carefully traced the sentences between two pages, comparing the same paragraph. He planned to read them aloud to a reformed men's group he was counseling through his church. He had tried many different stories with the men, before hitting upon Hans Christian Andersen, which they greatly enjoyed. He supposed it was the harshness of Andersen's realities striking a chord with the men who themselves had faced difficult times. He was only too happy to research Andersen for them, to give them the best representation he could find. I was grateful to be resting in the stacks beside him, for though he was 88 years old at the time I'd spent the day trotting to keep up with his strong, fast gait.

A lot of grandparents sit on the sidelines. They show up for Christmas with sweaters for kids, they send cards, they remain in the background. My Opa was like an extra parent, one more resource any of us grandkids could turn to for insight, for support (my Nana is equally present, they are both really amazing). To give you an idea of his role, he was the person who told me my parents were getting divorced and explained what that would mean. I was seven. We talked about it at length, and even as a small child I felt an equal part of the conversation. It wasn't something I had to just accept from an adult, it was something happening to both of us. He shared how he felt about it. He speculated how each of my parents felt about it. And he asked me how I felt about it.

My cousins and I were very lucky, we've been discussing this. I'll be 30 next month, and until now I have had both of my maternal grandparents in my life. Up until the last couple of months Opa was quite healthy, and his mind remained complete right to the end. Ryan was able to meet him in May and they discussed video games for much of the afternoon. Ryan explained his job, and Opa asked many questions. He was most interested in the tournaments Ryan plays in, and hearing about the Street Fighter World Championships at Evo. My 90 year old grandfather. How incredible is that? He planned to take us to the Yacht school in Newport this autumn. He brought me there to see how the large ships are repaired and restored and we both thought Ryan would love to see it too. And so I am sad that instead I am returning home for his funeral, but I am so grateful that we all had him this long into our lives.

And to step out of the 'granddaughter box' I am grateful to have known this incredible person. Captain Charles S. Quinn Jr. was larger than life, yet remained down to Earth. He was a decorated Captain who played in the grass with his grandkids, who shared his faith, hopes, and wisdom. He made mystery games for us to solve, with clues, red herrings, and elaborate back stories for each of the characters. When I was envious my older cousins got to spend the day at school, he turned our walks down to the general store for candy dots into important business. I spent many childhood mornings sitting next to him as he stood on his head, collecting his thoughts and preserving his circulation. Then we'd head out to the kitchen, a poached egg for him, Life cereal for me. Those mornings I have been thinking about the most the past few days. What I wouldn't give to be five years old again for a moment, surrounded by blue flowered wall paper and wood cabinets, listening to my Opa tell a story about a patient Mickey Mouse carefully planning a fishing trip, complete with Donald Duck's exasperated voice at the other end of Mickey's phone, ready to skip steps and hilariously mess it all up.

He was one of the best, most brilliant people I will ever know. I can't believe how lucky I was to have a grandfather like him. God could not have picked anyone better for my cousins and I to love.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Best Laid Plans

A few years ago I was going through a rough time. And I don't mean I was wearing all black and writing bad poetry in the back of a notebook (though I have done that too). I had a string of truly unfortunate events happen. I had a fibroid tumor that made my body go haywire for about eighteen months. I had a brief failed marriage that kicked up quite the small town scandal. And naturally I was sad, so I packed on twenty pounds.

I landed in a small apartment in Hope Valley, RI. This wasn't my first stop. No, my first stop was to move back home with Mom for four months. That was humbling but necessary. No one comforts quite like our Moms. My Mom is a no nonsense tough cookie, but every night she poked her head into my childhood bedroom to ask her 25 year old soon to be divorcee if she'd like popcorn. Or maybe apple slices. She welcomed me back and I put two suitcases on my bureau and settled into my twin bed, still surrounded by left at home stuffed animals. Shy button eyes and floppy heads tilted to one side as if to ask, "What's wrong?"

For four months I hid out in my childhood bedroom. Instead of stitching the giant Scarlet Letter "D" the town would have had me wear into my clothes, I spent most of my time reading. The first day I was alone in the house I had crept into a storage room Mom doesn't like me going into and pulled out all of the great classics nine year old Georgia would have recommended to you. Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing, Superfudge (and Fudge-a-mania), The Indian and the Cupboard, The 100th Thing About Caroline, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Letters from Phillipia, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and Bunnicula to name a few.

"Bunnicula, you just get me."

When I did emerge it was into the company of my sister and the pals I grew up with, Amy and Preston mostly. Tim was living in Germany at the time, but kept in touch with concerned emails. Before long I shook up my childhood bedroom cocoon, and moved into Band House for another four month stint of licking my wounds. I landed in my small apartment in Hope Valley just in time to go to court to finalize my divorce.

If I hadn't been down before, that knocked me all the way. I have nothing bad to say about my ex-husband, he is a kind man and remains a good friend. One both sides the split was devastating, we just did not work out. People judged it harshly, but no one understood what we went through trying to make it better before we decided to part.

There was no light at the end of the tunnel, but something in me just kept feeling my way along the walls. I don't know what it was. It wasn't direction. I didn't know where I wanted to be. I didn't know what my next step was, or what I wanted out of life beyond drawing. I didn't want to be with anyone ever again, and yet every guy I'd known since high school came flooding down the tunnel after me. Close friends understood how irritated I was with the steady gentleman invites to coffee or dinner, the ims just to talk, the 'thinking of you' emails. Ryan 3000 miles away in Seattle read an essay I posted on all my blogs entitled, "To Every Guy Out There Who Is Thinking of Asking Me Out: DON'T". (He decided to give me another couple of years).

I worked at a bank in those days, and it gave me an auto pilot to click on and off. I'd wake up, get dressed, and go to work. I grew very close to the girls in the office during my sickness and the divorce. The days ticked off. I would make my little meals, eat them by myself and go to bed. I'd go to work, wait on customers, and make jokes for my teller and banker friends. When I'm down I'm more of a clown than usual, humor is my coping tool. Preston got me a part time job making posters for a local theater and I threw myself into that every evening.

Sometimes terrible things happen to us. I had my future all laid out and a tumor and a divorce set the blueprints on fire. I was shaking the magic 8 ball over and over only to have "Better not tell you now" roll to the surface every time. In a lot of ways it was like free falling and reaching in every direction for something to catch me.

I loved myself. Terrible things had happened, but I loved myself, and at some point I scooped myself up and carried me out of the fire. I started attending the plays for the posters I was making. I stopped coming home to an empty apartment--I got a cat. And he was awesome. I accepted invitations, I made potluck dishes. I started dating, I stopped dating, I dreaded dating, then I'd try it again. I shared the first date disaster stories with friends. I screened movies at my apartment for friends, I threw holiday parties, I put up my own Christmas tree, I fixed my own broken drawers. I programmed the DVD player. I lost twenty pounds.

Many starlit nights, as I dragged my trash out into the dumpster my landlord had seen fit to hide in the woods, I would wonder what life had waiting for me down the road. I would hurl the trash high into the clanging metal bin and run lest there be any racoons ready to spring out. And as I walked back, boots crunching in the New England frost, I would look at my little apartment all light up on the second floor and at some point began to feel contentment. I reached a point when I just had to let go of mourning my ruined plans.

Now three years later I live on the opposite coast, I'm married to a wonderful guy, and pursuing my dream of illustrating full time. Remember that when your plans don't pan out, when you're at your lowest low. When you're hiding out in your childhood room with your feet propped up on a suitcase and your head resting on a giant stuffed bengal tiger named Mr. Huffington, reading 
The Celery Stalks at Midnight and all seems lost. Maybe your plans didn't work out because something better is planned, something you could never predict.

Incidentally, this burst of gratitude hit me this afternoon when I heard a snippet of a song on the radio that gave me a lot of comfort during that time. It was a guilty pleasure back then, as I thought the lyrics were a little corny. Now they seem dead on.



The Princess and the Krampus

The title of this post would make for one heck of a good story!

This week two of my commissions were directly opposing, and so naturally I felt it only made sense to write about them together.

Good children: My friend Dave from my URI Gaming Club days (that's right) contacted me last week with a request to paint a princess for his young daughter Riley. He wanted something in the fairy tale department, and I can't tell you how delightful it was to create a lovely princess complete with woodland creature admirers. Painting this brought me to the realization that I love drawing foxes (expect to see more in the nearby future). I hope this can be a painting that Riley treasures through her childhood and beyond, and that the princess and her animal friends inspire many stories!

Oh, what up humming bird?

Bad children: Around the same time my friend Aaron over at Screwtop Reviews asked if I'd be willing to design a Krampus for his holiday season. Krampus is a wonderfully wicked figure of Christmas lore in the Alpine regions. It's said that he travels with Saint Nicholas to punish the bad children as the old saint rewards the good ones. On December 5th there is a holiday celebrating the impish creature and Aaron had the idea to send cards out to commemorate it! (This is one of those ideas I wish I had the moment it was told to me--so cool!)

Aaron and I also go way back, all the way back to Chariho High School where we took speech and writing classes together. For a long time my drawings were in the horror realm, so he knew how excited I would be to take a crack at the mythical holiday beast! Three key elements to Krampus are his horns, his long creepy tongue, and the switches he carries. With Aaron's permission I gave him a bat-like nose.

Name's Krampus!
Nice to beat' ya!

I think Krampus would be a lot of fun to have here in America. Coal in the stocking really pales in comparison to an indignant snow demon tearing apart the living room on Christmas morning. What do you suppose he and Santa talk about as they travel in the sleigh? Do they get together on the weekends? When Santa is laying out on the beach somewhere sunny and warm off season, does Krampus call his cell, you know, just to say hi? (Cut to Krampus laying out on a remote, wind swept beach in Antarctica growling into a phone "Chris, what's shaking?")

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

3 Cheers Sale!

I'm 3 orders away from 200 sales in my Etsy shop!

That might not seem like a lot, but it's a big deal to me. Opening an Etsy shop to sell my prints this past year has been incredibly rewarding, and I don't just mean financially. Connecting with so many creative folks, sharing my work with people beyond friends and family, and mailing prints all over the world has been an amazing experience. The knowledge that I am coming up on doing that 200 times blows me away. I am so happy for this last year, and so hopeful for the year to come!

To celebrate I'm having a sale! Today (and the next few days, until I reach 200) if you order from my shop and enter the coupon code "3cheers20", you'll get 20% off your purchase!

I have been getting the hang of using coupon codes lately, and I really like them. I am mastering them before the holidays. Fellow Etsy shopkeepers, there is a great 'Holiday Boot Camp' happening right now to get us ready for holiday orders! CLICK HERE to read about it. I'm doing my best to follow their steps, as I have found Danielle's advice very helpful in the past. I love the holidays, but they can be stressful enough and this will be the first Christmas I throw running a small business into the mix!

Plus adorable pictures? Am I right?

Monday, October 03, 2011

My Big Fat Wedding Updates: Wedding Photos

Our wedding photos are in!

Ryan's friend Mike Bucchino of VII Studios took our photos, and he captured the day beautifully if I may say so (it is my wedding, so I might be a little biased!) Here are 25 pictures to sum up the happiest day of our lives, complete with Keith Apicary, a metal bouquet, a ninja, and a ferris wheel!

My bridesmaid Kaela saving the day!
(True story: I'm terrible at painting my nails).
The wind really thought I would look better
with my veil pressed against my face and my hair in my mouth.
My brooch bouquet!
Ryan and his best man, grooms ninja, and usher respectively.
(Megan, Matt, and David).
Nathan Barnatt performing our ceremony as Keith Apicary.
It was a very funny ceremony and I was marrying my soulmate.
Smiling came easy!
That gun is a microphone.
We pinky swore our vows.
What's stronger than a pinky swear?
Exchanging rings....
The big moment!
Mr. and Mrs. Ryan S. Faillace!
What you don't see here is we're about 15 feet in the air on a life guard chair.
The wind gave us a break on this one.
Hello, ocean!
Ninja portrait!
Our kids will ask about this one someday.
And this one.
Keith Apicary, ladies and gentlemen.
The groom facing off against his ninja,
a proud moment for any young bride.
Ryan and his best man, his sister Megan.
My bridesmaid Tim being a good sport
and carrying every parasol we could pile on him.
My Maid of Honor Preston and I, being our ridiculous selves.

All the ladies!
All the gents!
And the little palm grove
where it all took place.

Okay, it was 26 photos. One for good luck! I hope you enjoyed them. It was not a typical wedding to be sure, but it was certainly packed with love, laughter, and joy. If you'd like to see the video, (the episode of Talking Classics with Keith Apicary marrying us!) it is posted right HERE.