Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A little more Goo Gone love.

Remember a few weeks ago when I wrote this post about being a Goo Gone GooRu? I had just received my box of fabulous Goo Gone swag and I shared my thoughts about each item in the box. Of course the whole post was sort of tongue-in-cheek but hopefully it was clear that I was excited about the goodies and overall I was very pleased.

Really the only negative things I said, again more tongue-in-cheek than actual criticism, had to do with the letter being a typed form letter instead of handwritten and the product they sent was sample sized instead of full sized. The truth is if I was Mrs. Goo Gone and I was sending free stuff to a total stranger who might end up doing me absolutely no good whatsoever, they'd be darn lucky to even get a sample size and I probably wouldn't waste paper on a letter of any kind. But that's just me.

Today Fed Ex brought me an unexpected package which I fantasized was a bomb for about 3 minutes before opening it. If I'm not expecting a package and I don't recognize the return address my mind automatically goes to mail bomb. Doesn't everyone's? I decided that satisfying my curiosity was worth getting my arms blown off so I opened the box and here is what I found:

That's right. A HANDWRITTEN letter and a FULL SIZE bottle of the Goo Gone spray gel which is my favorite variety of Goo Gone. How awesome is that?! Well, now it's awesome but at first I was mortified. The letter talks about how they noticed I was a little disappointed with my small bottle of product so they sent me a full size one. My first thought was, "Oh holy crap, they actually read my blog??!!??" I did a quick mental scan for anything negative I might have said about them in the past that could come back to haunt me. Then I remembered it was Tarn-X that I made fun of so it's all good. I don't imagine I'll be hearing from the Tarn-X people until they invent a 'Sunshine Fresh' scent, which will be about the same time Satan moves into an igloo.

Once again, Goo Gone impressed me. Of course we all know they have a great product but I wasn't expecting them to be the kind of company that not only listens to their consumers (who sometimes whine and complain for no good reason...ahem) but responds to them as well. That's so rare these days.

So what have I used my Goo Gone on lately? Don't laugh. I cleaned my crayons with it. No, I didn't clean crayon marks off the wall, I cleaned my actual crayons. They were dirty, what was I supposed to do?!

A few weeks ago I made this lovely piece of art by melting some broken crayons onto a canvas. You can read about that here. I used crayons that I already had on hand which had already been liberated from their wrappers and stored in ziploc baggies according to color family. Before I separated them by color family they were just tossed into a shoe box together where they spent years rubbing up against each other. I swear the blue crayons seek out the yellow ones just so they can leave little bits of blue all over the yellow.

That might not seem like a big issue to you but if you're using the crayons in a project where you need pure color, those little specks of blue can really mess things up. I dabbed a small amount of Goo Gone onto a paper towel and used that to gently wipe away all traces of unwanted color from my crayons. My white crayons were particularly appreciative.

I've decided I'll let everyone else use their Goo Gone to remove stickers, candle wax, crayon marks and the usual stuff like that while I use mine for the more unconventional destickifying tasks.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chromosomes and rabbit pellet ice on the surface of the sun.

The outside temperature gauge in my car.
Taylor and I spent this past week visiting family in Wichita Falls, TX. Temperatures hovered around 110, occasionally dipping down to a tepid 104. Wichita Falls has had 91 days of temperatures over 100 degrees this year which one might expect when living on the surface of the sun.

When we were just about ready to leave Houston last week I got a call from my sister saying that her daughter was being transported to Children's Medical Center in Dallas. My niece has some pretty serious genetic/metabolic diseases that require very specialized medical care that she can't get at home. With this new piece of information, we altered our route and drove from Houston to Dallas instead of Wichita Falls. There was no way of knowing how long my niece would be in Dallas so we wanted to make sure we got to spend some time with her and my sister on our trip. This ended up working out really well since Taylor and I made it to the hospital before my sister did. My niece was flown there but my sister had to go home and pack her bags before she could drive to Dallas to be with her.

Our trip to Dallas was uneventful except that Taylor finally got to see all 70 feet of the giant Sam Houston statue just outside Huntsville, TX. I promise it's Sam Houston and not P.T. Barnum although they apparently had the same barber. This was extra fun since we've already dropped by David Adickes Sculpturworx and seen some of the other things the artist is working on.

We make a pretty good team when Taylor navigates with Google Maps while I drive. She tells me which exit to take and when to watch out for when the freeway does funky stuff. At one point we were coming to a place where the freeway splits which normal people might call a fork in the road. Taylor said, "Okay the highway is about to look like a chromosome so stay to the left." A chromosome? Chromosome?! Who says that? "There's a chromosome in the road, take the left side of the chromosome." Freak.

I have to say this is the first time Dallas has ever felt small to me. The past few months of tooling around Houston have skewed my perspective. The little 4-lane freeways were almost cute compared to the 7 lanes I've been fighting with over the past few months. And traffic actually moves on the Dallas freeways, that's refreshing. Not one time did we get stuck in gridlock. Even on the chromosome.

The trip didn't become distressing (for Taylor) until we started to unload our bags at our hotel. We packed our clothes in IKEA blue bags and flea market totes since we thought we were going straight to my mother's house. Now Taylor was mortified to be checking into a hotel carrying her belongings in cheap plastic totes. I told her she should be thanking her lucky stars that I didn't throw everything into black garbage bags cuz I've done that before.

Lobby at Children's Medical Center in Dallas
Taylor & Kaelei passing time with a card game

If you've never been to Children's Medical Center before, let me warn you that it's HUGE. The only information my sister gave me was, "Don't go to the purple. Park in the blue or the green." That made no sense to me until I got there. The buildings and parking garages are color coded but even with that tiny tidbit of information I still had no idea where to go. We drove around the compound (yes, there are several hospitals taking up several city blocks) for a good 20 minutes just looking for a front door! We failed to find anything that looked like a main entrance so we decided to park in the next garage we saw which happened to be green. We also just happened to park on the same level with the skywalk which just happened to take us to Building D where my niece just happened to have a room.

My sister showed up a little while later and we stayed until well past visiting hours. We visited, talked to various resident doctors and nurses and my niece had a few tests done. She's a mature 13 year old and is an excellent patient advocate for herself but she's still just a little girl. I went with her to have the ultrasound and x-rays done on her tummy. While we were waiting for the x-ray tech to get ready, we discussed the effects of the morphine she'd been given over the past week and then we listed all of our favorite narcotics and which side effects we liked best and least. The 2 nurses that were with us, a man and a woman who were both very young, were cracking up and said that if we'd been having this conversation outside of a hospital environment they would probably have called child protective services. Then my niece had to take a pregnancy test before the x-rays and we pretended to be surprised and extra relieved when the test came back negative.

I made my niece a wrap bracelet while sitting in her hospital room but I accidentally dropped one of my vials of beads on the floor. The glass vial shattered and beads rolled all over the place. I cleaned up the glass and gathered up as many of the beads as I could but there were a few under her bed that I couldn't reach. I felt sure a nurse would come in, step on a bead then fall and break her neck. My niece agreed to claim she had never seen the bead before in her life and has no idea how it got there.

It was close to midnight when Taylor and I left the hospital and on our way out of the parking lot I discovered that me and my debit card had become separated at some point during the day. We looked all through my car and purse but it wasn't there. I decided the check-in guy at the hotel must not have given it back to me and if that was the case hopefully it was safe. We had enough cash to pay the $2 parking fee and since we were starving we stopped to eat at a Denny's near the hotel. Food first, debit card later.

We like Denny's food so we had a nice meal and watched the comings and goings of all the colorful people you see at Denny's after midnight. One such person was a black woman with lots of facial piercings and red hair. This particular red is not a shade you would normally see on hair. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen it outside a box of crayons. As if her unnaturally red hair and black skin weren't contrasting enough, she was also wearing a day-glow yellow/green shirt. She had placed a to-go order and was sitting in a booth next to the cash register waiting on it. When we were paying our bill, the waiter brought out her order and asked the cashier which person it belonged to. The cashier said, "The woman in the yellow shirt."  Taylor and I both looked at each other but held our comments until we got in the car. Okay, seriously?? The woman in the yellow shirt?? What about the hair?!! She is so NOT the woman in the yellow shirt, she is the woman with the red hair! Did the cashier think maybe she didn't want to be defined by her hair?! Of course she did, that's why she dyed it that color! It's not like she was the woman with no legs, that would have been insensitive. When you dye your hair to look like a crayon you want people to notice your hair. We were cracking up all the way back to the hotel.

When we got there I went straight to the desk and saw that the guy who checked us in had gone home and someone else was working now. I asked him if my debit card was there and after digging through some drawers he found it. Whew! When we got up to our room there were no less than a dozen messages on our phone from the desk guy who checked us in. He was Indian or Pakistani or some similar nationality and I will admit that I referred to him as Hadji but I really didn't mean it in a derogatory way. I meant it in the Jonny Quest way. Everyone loved Hadji.

So I listened to the messages and this is what I heard:

Hallo, Meesus Grreeen? You left your debit caarrd at the desk.
Meesus Grreeen? I have you debit caarrd.
Meesus Grreeen? Your not een your rroom. I have debit caarrd.
Hallo?? Meesus Grreeen? You forget to get debit caarrd.

I just love how Hadji took no responsibility in my debit card not being returned to me after checking in. Yes, I forgot to ask him for it after he FAILED to give it back to me! We spent the next day at the hospital then when we got back to the hotel that evening Hadji spotted us in the lobby and chased us all the way to the elevator yelling, "Meesus Grreeen! Meesus Grreeen! You left your debit caarrd! I trried to call you!" I told him that I got his messages and I thanked him for keeping my card safe and attempting to contact me. He said he said he called the night shift guy from home to remind him about my card (which evidently the night shift guy forgot about since he had to search for it) which was very nice of him. I had the feeling that Hadji lost sleep over my missing debit card which didn't even cause me to miss a meal.

Before we left Dallas to head for Wichita Falls, Taylor and I stopped at Campisi's for lunch. Jayson and I used to drive to Dallas just to eat at Campisi's then drive home. The restaurant owners have ties to organized crime which also means they have excellent Italian food. It was one of Jack Ruby's favorite restaurants and he ate there the night before he shot Lee Harvey Oswald. And baseball umpire Steve Palermo was paralyzed after being shot in the back in Campisi's parking lot. The restaurant has been totally remodeled now and I really miss how it used to be so dark in there you could hardly see. They had red velvet curtains, juke boxes in the booths, and the walls were covered with pictures of every nefarious character you can imagine dining there. Now it's all minimalist sleek and modern and I hate it. But the food hasn't changed so that's good.

My whole family still lives in Wichita Falls so we have our choice of places to stay. This time we chose to stay with my mother. My mom likes to watch movies so we watched a lot of them during the week. She is a huge Twilight fan and even has an Edward blanket, which I find disturbing on so many levels. We watched all the Twilight movies, Secretariat, Seabiscuit, Sweet Home Alabama, Steel Magnolias, Beaches, Flicka, The Time Traveler's Wife, The Water Horse, Aragon and I'm sure there are some I've forgotten. In one week I watched more movies than I've seen in 2 years. On the upside, I made a lot of progress on the rag rug I've been working on for months since it's impossible for me to sit and watch TV without doing something with my hands.

I helped my mother clean out some closets and helped her further by bringing home a car load of clothes, linens, and knick knacks. My mom lives alone in a 2-story house with 5 bedrooms and every single closet is stuffed full of clothes and junk. At dinner the other night my sister counted 11 umbrellas hanging on her coat rack by the door. Eleven. And she lives alone. I am so overwhelmed by the volume of her knick knacks that I can hardly breathe in her house! Mom has agreed that she probably needs to downsize a little so my sister and I are slowly trying to help her dejunk her life, which is sort of junking up ours but we have a slightly better handle on our hoarding tendencies than she does. Or that's what we tell ourselves.

When we weren't watching movies or cleaning closets we were eating. Mom made some Lebanese food which I can't spell but I sure can eat. During the week we had a pot roast, koosa (stuffed squash), yebrat (stuffed grape leaves), dpheen (chicken, rice & chickpeas), 2 cakes, 3 pies, breakfast burritos, and since that wasn't enough we went out for burgers one night and had pizza delivered another night. My mother's clothes have always been too big for me but by the end of the week they fit perfectly so I brought home the stuff she didn't want anymore.

Of course no trip back home would be complete without a couple of trips to Scott's Drive-In. They make my favorite hamburger on the planet as well as a pretty darn tasty frito chili pie and a decent frisco burger. They also have the best cherry limeade in the universe but when you order it make sure you call it a "cherry lime". If you say "cherry limeade" they'll know you're from out of town.

Next to Scott's is one of those ice vending machines similar to the one in the picture above. I'd never gotten ice from one of these before so it was a fun vacation experience! You put in $2, press the button and out comes a 16# bag of ice. You also have the option to put your cooler under the chute, press a different button and it will fill your cooler with ice. I don't know how profitable these machines are but the idea and convenience get an A+ from me. The only way it would be better is if it gave you nugget ice like Sonic has. We call it rabbit pellet ice. I've looked into buying a nugget ice machine and quickly abandoned that idea when I saw the prices. The small, counter-top, low end models are over $1000. Apparently it takes some kind of special process to produce ice in this manner. I'll just keep getting mine from Sonic. Thankfully, they sell it by the bag.

The rest of the details of my week back home are pretty much a blur now. Let's see...we visited with my Dad and stepmom and their two furry children. Taylor wanted to go swimming at my aunt's house and I didn't have a swimsuit so my mom gave me one of her old ones. It was basically a girdle with a skirt. I suppose it was cute as far as that type of suit goes, but I'm not used to being all squished into spandex like that. I'm not saying I don't need it...Lord knows a little spandex might help control the jiggling parts I didn't used to have. It's just that I usually let them jiggle at will because I like to be able to breathe.

We have several friends in Wichita Falls that I didn't even get to see on this trip and that makes me sad. You think a week will be enough time to see everyone you want to see and do what you want to do but it isn't, especially when you have several different family groups to work in to the schedule. We're thinking about going back around Thanksgiving so we can see everyone we missed this time. Of course that will definitely make my mom feel like she needs to cook more food and there won't be enough spandex in the universe to contain all my rolls and jiggling parts. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

All Wrapped Up

Chan Luu Wrap Bracelets
Wrap bracelets are everywhere, have you noticed? Well, they're everywhere except Sam Moon. I searched high and low for a $5 wrap bracelet carefully made with love in a Chinese sweatshop but came up empty handed.  The obvious solution was to make one myself.

I found several good tutorials online so I won't get too specific here. If you want specifics you should visit Sew Petite Gal who has a nice video tutorial that I found AFTER I had finished my bracelet. Figures. The Rings & Things Blog has some good instructions. Inspiration and Realisation has a tutorial but the one I found most helpful was from The Hollie Rogue.

The technique reminds me a lot of the macrame we did in the 70s. So much so that I almost wanted to light some incense, listen to the Doobie Brothers and pop open a Tab. You can still buy Tab, ya know, only now it has slightly fewer carcinogens. Actually it doesn't have any. Remember when the FDA announced that saccharine could cause bladder cancer and any product containing saccharine had to have a warning label on it? I remember. Well, I don't remember all the details (thank you Wikipedia) but I do remember when everyone quit drinking Tab because of the saccharine. Then in 2000 the FDA changed its mind and said that there hasn't been one single case where saccharine caused an increase in bladder cancer so it's okay to consume now. That retraction statement must have been whispered cuz I don't remember it at all.

Wrap bracelets. Right. I'm back on track now. You can buy a lovely wrap bracelet from Chan Luu for around $245.00 or you can make one yourself for free if, like me, you just happen to already have all the supplies on hand. See? Sometimes hoarding is good. When I come across some new craft or technique I want to try, nine times out of ten I already have all the stuff for it because I bought the supplies (or dug them out of a dumpster) ten years ago and even though I didn't need them right then, I knew there would come a day.

Supplies you will need:

Some cord (leather, cotton, whatever)
Some thread
A needle
A button
Some beads
Some super glue
A clipboard or binder clips
Some tape

How much you will need of each of those things depends on how long you want your wrap bracelet to be. Since this was my first try I opted for just a double wrap. I don't know what size my wrist is but I'd say it's about average, leaning toward the small side. For my bracelet I used 36" of cotton cord, 12 feet of beading thread, and about 65 beads. I got the beads off a broken garage sale necklace so I'm not sure what size they are. My best guess is 4.5mm. This produced a bracelet about 15" long which wraps twice around my wrist nicely. The measurements will vary depending on your wrist size, bead size and even the size of the button for your clasp. Just eyeball it.
Some of the tutorials have you start with the loop end, others have you start with the button end. I started with the button end. You just knot your cord and your beading thread in the button shank or on the back of the button if your button has holes.

Then put it on your clipboard or use some binder clips to attach it to something so you can spread it out like the picture. This helps to keep everything from getting all twisted as you work. From here I just followed the instructions on the tutorial and it turned out great!

 I did make one small change and I hate to even mention it because I can't explain it. If you ever did macrame you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. If you add the bead from the same side every time, your stitches on one side of the cord will be straight but they will be slanted on the other side. To fix that, I went back through the center of each bead twice instead of once so that the stitches on the cords would match. This means you will alternate from which side you add the bead. One time you'll add from the left, the next time you'll add from the right, etc.

I know, that makes no sense. When you make your bracelet just bring it by the house and I'll show you what I mean. I can show you, I just can't tell you.

As with most beading projects, the first 4 or 5 beads will probably look like crap. This is normal. After about 7 or 8 beads you will establish a rhythm and it will all come together. Trust me.
This is my finished bracelet and I really do love it! Oh, the superglue is for your final knot. Since I put the button on first, my last step was to make a loop for it with the end of the cord. I just made a slip knot, pulled it really tight, cut off the excess cord and put on a dab of super glue so it wouldn't "slip".

Since this was so easy I'm going to step it up a notch and make a quadruple wrap with charms on it. You heard me right. That's just my daredevil nature coming out to play.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Melty Crayons a la Pinterest

We've all seen this on Pinterest, right? You can buy one in JKCreate's Etsy shop for around $75 or you make one yourself for free if, like me, you just happen to already have all the stuff on hand.

When I saw this I knew I'd be trying it for myself but I also knew I'd be doing it a little different. I like the colors in spectral order (even though she didn't start with red like she's supposed to but I guess we can call that creative license and let it go) but that just won't work for my little pastel house.

I also knew I didn't want the wrappers left on my crayons and that has nothing to do with the fact that all of my crayons are different brands, sizes, shapes, etc. I just don't care for the wrapper look.

Here's the supplies you will need:
     a canvas
     some crayons
     some glue
     a heat gun

Complicated, I know. Before you ask, yes I divide my crayons into color groups and store them that way. These are not the crayons I color with. Those are in a different container. These are the ones I melt.

These crayons are leftover from years ago when we used to do faux encaustic wax painting. See the travel iron in my purple box? You hold the crayon on the plate of the hot travel iron until it melts then you use the iron to paint the melted crayon onto a canvas or cardstock or whatever. Encaustic wax sticks can cost $4 - $8 each which makes no sense to me when a crayon will work just as well. I suppose if I was a professional encaustic painter I'd use the good stuff but I'm not and don't ever intend to be.

Here's a short video on a basic encaustic painting technique if you're interested:

First thing you do is line up the crayons on your canvas and glue them down. Mine were all broken and different sizes but that didn't matter because I knew I'd be melting them all the way down. I took a picture of the crayons before I started melting them but I seem to have temporarily misplaced that picture. The glue I used was the one that was closest to me at the time and it worked great! It's that UHU All Purpose Twist Glue in the yellow bottle.

Let the glue dry then get out your heat gun and go to town. My beloved Weller heat gun is probably 15 years old and it's starting to make a funny noise, which I just ignore since they're pricey and I'm not in the mood to replace it right now. I guess when it bursts into flames in my hand I'll get another one. Once you go Weller you'll never go back.

You stop when you get the amount of melty you want. I wanted lots of melty. This was my first attempt so naturally I learned what not to do. Keep the heat on the crayons and try not to heat up the drips too much or your colors will muddy. Mine got a little too muddy in some areas so I put another crayon on there to melt over the muddy areas. That worked fine.

That's all there is to it! Let it cool then hang it. I put mine in the upstairs hallway on a narrow naked wall. I found that I like the top of the canvas where the crayons were attached better than the drippy parts. I like that blendy, smudgy look. Jayson likes the drips and even had some suggestions for other techniques that I might try.

This is something I would definitely do again, especially if I needed something kind of big but had a small budget to work with. It really does give a lot of bang for the buck.

Oh, I did attempt to melt the crayons by leaving the canvas outside in the sun since our temperatures have been 100+ degrees. A couple of them melted beautifully but most of them just got soft and never ran. I figured it was the cheap off-brands that melted and the brand names didn't. Crappy Crayolas.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mama Maggie Gobran Stole The Summit From Steven Furtick

Summit Doodle #1
I didn't think anyone could top yesterday's Global Leadership Summit speakers but someone did. And she did it before she spoke her first word.

At the beginning of the first session this morning we were handed a chunk of a broken clay pot and told to just hang on to it, we'd need it later. I love experiential worship and I've done the writing on the broken clay piece thing before so that was cool.

The first speaker of the morning was supposed to have been Rev. Stephen Sundar from India but he wasn't able to get a visa for the trip. Wess  Stafford from Compassion International filled in for him. I've heard Wess speak at a previous Summit and he has a powerful story and a genuine love for the children he has devoted his life to. His topic was missional, of course, and was a good reminder of how complacent and even lazy some American Christians are compared to those in countries such as Ethiopia where at one time just owning a Bible could cost you your life. One group of Ethiopian  Christians divided up the only Bible they had and each person memorized their section then destroyed the text. When they would gather, they would have a complete Bible among them but it was in the hearts and minds of the people instead of their hands. Some Americans have several Bibles sitting on a shelf that might not even be looked at for weeks.

Wess was followed by Jesus. Yes I meant to say that. I'd never heard of Mama Maggie Gobran before this morning but I will never forget her. Known as the Mother Therese of Cairo and nominated this year for the Nobel Peace Prize, Mama Maggie has devoted her life to helping the poorest of the poor in Cairo's Garbage City through her ministry called Stephen's Children. We were shown a short video clip of some of the work Mama Maggie is doing then she approached the podium to begin speaking. I don't know how long the standing ovation lasted but it was several minutes, during which time Mama Maggie radiated a kind of peace and humility that I've never seen before. She bowed her head then knelt to kiss the ground to ask that God bless it and its people. The woman hadn't yet said a single word and already there wasn't a dry eye in the room.

She spoke barely above a whisper with neither a smile nor a frown on her face. She had an expression of one who has seen unspeakable atrocities as well as unimaginable hope. She was the embodiment of peace. Jesus personified. Her session was 10 hours ago and she's still all that Jayson and I can talk about! And we didn't even see her in person, we were watching via satellite!! Every word that came out of Mama Maggie's mouth was a memorable quote but I'll try to squeeze it down to my favorites.

Memorable quotes from Mama Maggie Gobran:
  • True love is to give and forgive. Give until it hurts. Forgiveness is not between you and another. Forgiveness is between you and God. God holds our accounts.
  • When you die to yourself you discover the beauty and power within yourself.
  • When one has nothing God becomes everything.
  • When I touch a poor child I touch Jesus Christ.
  • When I listen to a poor child I’m listening to God’s heart beating for all humanity.
  • We build a church in the heart of every child we reach in a country where it’s not always possible to build a church.
  • To be in silence is to be fully inside your own self.
  • The silence is the secret – the first step – to finding treasure.
  • Silence your body to listen to your words.
  • Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts.
  • Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating.
  • Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.
  • Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit.
  • In silence you leave many and be with the One.

At this point they really should have just ended The Summit or at least given everyone a half hour to recover. That little 80 pound woman packed a Holy Spirit punch like nothing I've ever seen. Instead, Bill Hybels launched into a classic Willow Creek moment that was specifically crafted for the Holy Spirit to show up but He'd already been there and gone. Seemingly oblivious, Hybels went on to talk about Jeremiah, having a tough calling, and how sometimes to be successful in the eyes of the Lord means to look like a failure in the eyes of the world. Then he smashed a clay pot and we all wrote on our clay pieces and we listened to music and I'm willing to bet the only thing on everyone's mind was still Mama Maggie Gobran.

Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the Washington, D.C. public schools, was interviewed by Jim Mellado about the radical education reforms she instituted during her 3-1/2 years of service there. Rhee fired hundreds of teachers, principals and administrative staff, closed dozens of schools, and pretty much pissed off everyone in Washington, D.C. She implemented new testing procedures, new teacher evaluation processes, and began basing salary and bonuses on student performance rather than just teaching experience. You know what happened after she did all that? Kids started learning stuff. They started testing on grade level. The district's enrollment increased for the first time in 40 years. Teachers were held accountable for their students' performance. Rhee's solution to the problem was radical and unpopular but it was necessary and effective.

Memorable quotes from Michelle Rhee:
  • We focused on human capital: talent.
  • I would much rather deal with anger than with apathy.
  • Change is an essential part of leadership. Incremental change isn’t an option when drastic change is necessary.
  • As an elected official, if you turn your head to the people who are yelling the loudest you’ll be turning your back to the children because they don’t vote.
  • There is no national organization that is lobbying for the children. 
  • Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.

Psychologist and author Dr. Henry Cloud was up next and his session focused on how to deal with different types of people when it comes to truth or feedback. He talked about three categories of people (wise, fools, evil) and gave practical suggestions for how to deal with each one. He told a story about how he was confronted with the truth when he hired a trainer to help him get back into shape after gaining weight during a busy season of traveling. She was extremely hard on him but after a time he began to see progress. At one point during a workout he suddenly stopped and said, "Oh no!" When the trainer asked him what was wrong he told her that he was disappointed because he forgot to take a 'before' picture. She said, "Oh no there's still time." That made me laugh :)

Memorable quotes from Dr. Henry Cloud:
  •  I read one of my own stupid books...
  • A wise person changes when faced with the truth. He adjusts himself to match the truth.
  • Talk to a wise person. Coach him. Give him feedback. Resource him.
  • When you shine a light on a fool, they adjust the light. They try to dim it, to adjust the truth.
  • Do not confront or correct a fool, lest you incite insults upon yourself. Stop talking. Limit your exposure to the problem and protect your vision.
  • Fools change when the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of changing.
  • Evil people have destruction in their heart and they want to inflict pain. Have nothing to do with them.

I'd never heard of John Dickson before today but I liked what he had to say. It's hard to describe what he does because he does a little bit of everything. In his latest book Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership he investigates the role humility plays in a leader's life. He went over what humility is not (humiliation, low self esteem, hiding your talents) and described five characteristics of what humility is. Humility is common sense, it is beautiful, it is generative, it is persuasive, it is inspiring.

Memorable Quotes from John Dickson:
  • Humility is the noble choice to forgo your status and use your influence for the good of others before yourself. 
  • Humility is to hold your power in the service of others.
  • Humility will not make you great just as greatness will not make you humble. Humility makes the great greater.
  • Expertise in one area counts for very little in another. What we don't know and can't do far exceeds what we do know and can do.
  • To preach well to my church I have to listen to the wisdom sitting in the pews.
  • It wasn’t Jesus' teaching but his crucifixion that changed the way people thought about humility and greatness. Humility became connected to greatness at the cross.
  • Humility generates new knowledge and abilities. The humble place is the place of growth.
  • The most believable person in the world is the one you know has your best interest at heart.
  • The real power of effective leadership is maximizing other people’s potential.

Summit Doodle #2
I rarely talk about anything controversial or important here but I have to say a couple of things about homosexuality and Starbuck's CEO Howard Schultz's decision to cancel his Summit appearance due to an online petition. You can read the petition and Bill Hybel's response to it for yourself.

What I will say about Schultz is that I'm disappointed in him and it was hard for me to even consider doing what Hybels suggested to show him some good "Christian support". Anyone who knows me knows that I love Starbuck's and will continue to go there any time I have a craving for a $5 cup of coffee. But I will not buy his book because I have lost respect for him. I didn't lose respect for him just because he caved to pressure and cancelled his appearance. I lost it because he didn't take the time to investigate both sides of the conflict himself. Starbuck's officials met with Hybels to discuss the problem but Schultz wasn't there. I don't know if Starbuck's has attempted to have a conversation with the petition organizers but Hybels has and knowing him he will probably continue to do so until they accept :) Schultz stepped back and let his staff do all the dirty work and make his decision for him. That's why I've lost respect.

I guess I should make it clear that even though I consider myself to be a liberal fundamental Christian (I'm not sure what that means either but it seems to fit) I love gay people. Well that just sounded bad, but what I mean is that I'm not a judgmental person by nature. I like everyone equally: sinners, saints, bikers, soccer moms, gay, straight, drug addicts, even Junior Leaguers! Just about the only people I discriminate against are those who abuse children in any way. I think all pedophiles should be shot dead on sight. In those cases yes I am judgmental and very not like Jesus so obviously I've still got some growing to do.

Recently Blake Mycoskie of Tom's Shoes got himself in some hot water by speaking at an event held by the notoriously anti-gay Focus on The Family. You can read Mycoskie's response on his blog. For the record, I do believe that he had no idea that FOTF was so anti-gay because I had no idea until I read about this. If he had known and still chose to be affiliated with them how would I feel? Honestly I have no idea. FOTF could be an excellent vehicle for him to reach more people who need shoes and that's what he's all about. I don't believe that working with them makes him or Tom's Shoes anti-gay but I doubt a lot of people would see it that way. Some people believe you are the company you keep. I don't agree with that because Jesus kept company with thieves, tax-collectors and prostitutes and he was none of those things.

Personally I don't like FOTF, I don't support them and won't have anything to do with them simply because they are much too conservative and exclusive. I see them as modern day Pharisees and that's not who I want to hang with. I am more likely to hang with Hookers for Jesus or Bikers for Christ because they're more real to me.

I think it sucks to be Blake Mycoskie right now and I wouldn't want to be in his shoes, no pun intended. This is tough. I have decided that I will take the money I was going to spend on Howard Schultz's book and will instead buy a pair of Tom's Shoes.

Even though I was looking forward to hearing Howard Schultz, I couldn't be happier with his replacement. Author and business consultant Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite speakers ever. I've heard him speak at other conferences and he never fails to teach me something valuable while making me laugh. Ya gotta love that. Today he spoke from his new book Getting Naked which is about the power of vulnerability and speaking the kind truth to people even when it's extremely uncomfortable. He told several hilarious stories but the one that suck with me was about when he was sitting in at a corporate board meeting and during the meeting a woman did the absolute worst thing she could have possibly done. She farted. But that wasn't what was so bad. The bad part was that everyone in the room heard it and she pretended like it didn't happen and went on with her presentation! She wasn't his client so he couldn't say anything but Patrick said that if he could have consulted with her in that moment, his professional advice to her would have been for her to point at someone at the table and say, "pull my finger". I still laugh just thinking about it. As if that wasn't hilarious enough he went on to talk about how his wife grew up in a house full of girls but now she has a house full of boys and he described what she says after she farts. I sure hope she has as good a sense of humor as he does!

Memorable quotes from Patrick Lencioni:
  • One of the ways we manifest humility is by being vulnerable.
  • Vulnerability requires transparency, openness, sacrifice and selflessness.
  • Vulnerability runs counter to the dominant value in our culture – to avoid suffering at any cost. It’s counter-cultural.
  • There are 3 main fears of vulnerability: losing the business (client, ministry, friendship, etc.), being embarrassed, being inferior. 
  • It takes courage to enter into the danger with people and tell them the kind truth.
  • Editing yourself to manage your own image doesn't inspire trust.  
  • The best leaders are the ones who are open about their shortcomings. 
  • When we acknowledge our humanity it’s attractive, people want to be around us.
  • Be more interested in the other person than they are interested in you.
At this point we took a little break to take up the Summit offering and listen to Willow Creek pedal its wares. I shouldn't criticize, they do a lot of good things for churches and church leaders but they sometimes come off as a little too commercial. During this time Jim Mellado said three tragically overused Christian cliches in one sentence: unpack, start a dialogue and deeper level. Then I threw up a little in my mouth.

Erwin McManus had the unenviable position of wrapping up two amazing days. I have to admit I wasn't expecting much but he hit it out of the park. I've never heard him speak before even though I am familiar with who he is and what he does, especially when it comes to the arts in church. He is a true renaissance man who uses the many gifts God gave him without being all in-your-face about it. It's hard to describe what I mean by that. I've often said that I'd much rather watch a really well done secular movie with Christians in it rather than a really poorly done Christian movie. Most (not all) of the Christian movies I've seen are poorly done and I find myself wishing the people involved had done a really good secular movie instead. That would provide them with a lot more opportunities to talk about their faith and would lend credibility to their God given gifts and talents. IMHO. Anyway, this is what Erwin does.

One of his endeavors that I love is Temple Bags. Watch the little video about how they're made. Some of them are very pricey but when you see how they're made you'll understand why. The one that has caught my eye is the Swiss Bread Bag. I might just have to make it mine. Then go watch this Doritos commercial that was a finalist in the Crash The Superbowl 2010 contest. That was McManus, too. Oh and he accidentally led CNN's Soledad O'Brien to Christ just by telling her about a documentary he was working on.

Not surprisingly, his topic today had to do with creativity, innovation and story telling. He focused on Ecclesiastes 1:9 which says, "there is nothing new under the sun". When he told his wife that he disagreed and he thought Solomon was wrong, she told him he probably shouldn't tell anyone because he was going to hell :)

Memorable quotes from Erwin McManus:
  • We have an oppressive worldview that tells us there is nothing new under the sun.
  • God is entirely the God of the new.
  • We are God’s instruments to create the future. 
  • Evil people don’t wait for permission from God to create the future they have in mind. But good people sit idly by waiting for God to create a better world. 
  • We need to become the cultivators of human potential. 
  • There has never been an ordinary human being ever born yet most of us die painfully and tragically ordinary.
  • If we do something extraordinary and beautiful the world will ask us what fuels our motivation. 
  • Be the narrators of the human story. Whoever tells the best story shapes the culture.
  • We’ve taken on a false narrative in the Church that we were terrible, chose to follow God, and now everything is perfect until we die. We are afraid to tell who we really are. We need to be honest about the fact that we still struggle with the evil inside us.
  • Sometimes the truth is lost in a bad story and the false is perpetuated through a good story.
  • It’s not that hard to bring people to Jesus when you tell them a story they find themselves in.

Are you jealous that I was there and you weren't? You should be.  Sign up for next year, I will certainly be there whether or not I'm leading anything or even following anything. I never fail to walk away with not only good stuff for spiritual growth and the obvious leadership stuff, but these things also translate over into your interpersonal relationships, your friendships, your PTA meetings, bible studies, book club, even who you hang out with in your social media circles.

I also need to give a shout out to Tim Schraeder and Paul Steinbrueck who took much better notes than I did. Without their awesome blog posts all you would be reading about here is how cute Seth Godin's yellow glasses are, how Steven Furtick looks like the love child of Hilary Swank and Jim Carrey, and how Dr. Henry Cloud had one button too many open on his shirt and needed a few gold chains and a medallion to complete the look. And nobody needs to read that.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Steven Furtick Owned The Summit

Summit Doodle
I was going to do an indepth recap of today's sessions from the Global Leadership Summit but the last speaker of the day blew my mind so badly that I've forgotten everything else. The best I can do is hit a few highlights.

If you're not familiar with The Summit it's a leadership conference put on by Willow Creek Church that everyone should attend regardless of your leadership or spiritual position. Or lack thereof. It's just plain good stuff. They usually do a pretty good job of balancing the Jesus stuff with the business stuff and occasionally combining the two.

The speakers always include a variety of church leaders, businessmen, authors, educators, non-profit pioneers, and celebrities. Some of my favorite past speakers are Terri Kelly of Gore-Tex, Jack Welch of GE, Christine Caine of A21, pastor Harvey Carey, Patrick Lencioni of the Table Group, authors Chip and Dan Heath and Bono I really need to say it? I also enjoyed Blake Mycoskie of Tom's Shoes but mainly because I think he should marry my daughter.

I love how during one session Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric who teaches management at MIT, struggles to finish his awesome talk on business management with a minimum amount of profanity; then in another session Harvey Carey gets me so fired up for Jesus that I want to move to Detroit, serve the homeless and be black. Where else can you get fed like that on so many levels? Even the folks over at Fast Company recognize the value of this unique juxtaposition of spiritual and business leaders. Seriously, you should go. Yes, it's pricey, but it's worth it.

One thing I look forward to each year is seeing Bill Hybels, the founder and senior pastor of Willow Creek Church, cry. Well that just sounded mean. What I meant is that he's cried at every Willow Creek conference I've ever seen so I think they schedule it in. In fact it should probably be printed in their official schedule of events: At 2:47 p.m. on Day 2, Hybels will cry. Nancy Beach cried today so maybe she's filling in for Bill. That would make her the pinch cryer. 

Obviously I'm not a huge fan of Bill Hybels but he's okay. I'm not really sure what it is about him that I don't like. He's a pretty good speaker, he's obviously a gifted leader, he seems to be a genuinely nice person, he's humble and he gives me the creeps for no good reason. Maybe some day I'll figure it out. Today he talked about just some leadership stuff in general. He must not have a new book out right now.

Memorable quotes from Bill Hybels:
  • Say what I told you to say. Don't make me come down there. --God
  • When the leader stops learning, the leader should stop leading.
  • An organization's future is tied to its ability to attract and sustain good leaders.
  • If you don’t deal with challenging people in your organization, you discourage and demotivate your best people.
  • Churches are in the life transformation business.

Len Schlesinger, president of Babson College, was the second session of the day. His talk was on the characteristics of a serial entrepreneur and how you might be surprised to find that some of the most successful ones often don't start with an idea and they aren't huge risk takers like you might think. He gave some very clear steps on how to start, how to proceed and how to sustain an entrepreneurial venture. That's like the biggest word I've used in 6 months, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to throw it out there.

Memorable quotes from Len Schlesinger:
  • If you can't predict the future, create it.
  • Entrepreneurship is a discipline that can be learned.
  • Stop worrying about what you want to do, and worry about what you want to do next. 
  • Fear of failure prevents action.
  • Successful entrepreneurs start with the things they care about.

Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey was the next speaker and can I just say that the man needs to run for president NOW? He's done amazing things in Newark and could probably do the same for our country if he can get the chance before politics changes him and he becomes one of "them". You know...a professional politician.  He told a story about Mahatma Gandhi and a little boy with a sugar habit then basically applied the moral of that story to his real life. He wanted to make changes in Newark, especially in the areas where drugs and crime were the most prevalent, so what did he do? He moved in with the drugs and the crime. He got an apartment in the projects and that was his home. The man has degrees from Stanford, Yale and Oxford where he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. Yet his mentor in Newark was an uneducated elderly woman who managed his apartment building in the projects. You've gotta respect that. This guy is seriously amazing.

Memorable quotes from Cory Booker:
  • You are the result of a grand conspiracy of love. Now what will you do?
  • What you see in the world is less about circumstances but how you see them.
  • The world you see outside of you will always be a reflection of what you have inside of you.
  • Before you tell me what you teach and preach, show me how you live and give.
  • Who you are speaks so loudly that I can't hear a word you say.

Reverend Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil is on fire for the Lord! She taught from Acts 2 which is when the Holy Spirit showed up at Pentecost. The woman is spirit filled and contagious! She has a global Christian worldview and talked about what Jesus commissioned us to do in Acts be his witness in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Jerusalem is home, where everyone is just like you. Judea is close to home but it's not home. We may visit there but the people are a little different from us. Samaria is the place we avoid like the plague. The people are different and we don't feel safe yet Jesus tells us to go there too.

Memorable quotes from Rev. Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil:
  • It takes a catalytic event to move us from where we are to where Jesus wants us to be. 
  • Pray for a divine mandate: God, break our hearts for what breaks your heart.
  • Don’t go into a community with answers. Go in with a desire to learn. Learn the language of the people. Acknowledge your need for them.
  • I don’t want to just talk about Pentecost, I want to experience it!

I've been a big fan of Seth Godin for years and I've read several of his books. In another life he would be my dream date. Well actually it would be a tie between him and Malcolm Gladwell. If you've ever seen these guys you probably think I'm on crack since it's unlikely either of them would ever be described as attractive. But I'm telling you, their brains are HOT! Don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly content with the brilliant Adonis that I'm married to. I'm just saying that in a parallel universe somewhere I am bizarrely attracted to unattractive middle aged geeky Jewish men with either way too much unruly hair or none at all. I can't explain it.

Memorable quotes from Seth Godin:
  • We're seeing the death of the industrial age. Is this the end of the job? There's something after the job--the artist. 
  • You have a chance in this post-industrial age to do things differently.
  • It is impossible to do art and always succeed.
  • If failure is not an option, neither is success.
  • Every revolution destroys what was there before, then it creates something new.
  • Too many people are walking around holding on to something while it rots.
  • Make art. Give gifts. Lead. Make a difference.

Steven Furtick is dripping with awesome sauce! His talk was about having the audacious faith to believe that what God said is true is actually true. He joked about being the youngster who would bring some stupid to The Summit to offset all the wisdom we were getting, but what he brought was an inspiring reminder of the childlike faith that we're all suppose to have and reminded us about how faith without works is dead. At 31 years old he's the pastor of a mega-church whose weekly attendance at all locations tops 10,000. And this church is only 5 years old. He talked about Elisha in 2 Kings 3:9-20 and I've seriously never seen anyone get that fired up about an Old Testament prophet. For that I can forgive the skinny jeans he wore.

Memorable quotes from Steven Furtick:
  • How are we going to get from inspiration to implementation?
  • If all you have is good ideas it doesn't make you a visionary. It makes you a day dreamer. The difference is having the audacity and courage to act.
  • One of the reasons we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with other people’s highlight reel.
  • We can’t expect God to show up in our work unless we do our work God’s way.
  • If you will do what you can do, God will do what only he can do.
  • We can position ourselves, learn and get training. But only God can make it rain.
  • Faith doesn't wait around for water, it digs a ditch. If you will dig the ditches, God will send the rain.
I'm not sure how anything can top what we heard today but I'm looking forward to hearing them try tomorrow! Jayson and I decided that we'd sit someplace different tomorrow just so we can make the people who sat there today panic. It's one of our favorite church activities. When I mentioned this on Facebook I was called a passive aggressive queen, a spiritual trojan horse and a rebel rouser. And I take each one of those as a personal compliment!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crackling With Elmer's

I hope you're not still buying expensive crackling medium at the craft store for all your crackle finish needs. You do know there's another way, right? It's cheap, easy and effective. I'll show you how.

You start with whatever it is you want to put a crackle finish on. It works on just about any surface. I've crackled both wood and metal. Today I'm crackling a wooden frame I got at a thrift store for $3. It's actually a nice frame but all the other frames on my wall are light colored and this one just overpowers the whole wall.

I taped off the areas I didn't want to get paint on. Whatever color your item is now is the color that will show through the crackles. So if you want the base color to be different, paint it now. I thought the golden brown color of the frame would look fine showing through the crackles. Actually, I was just too lazy to paint it.

Now you slap on a fairly thick layer of plain ol' Elmer's glue. I buy it by the gallon at WalMart because I use it for a lot of different thing. Sometimes I even use it as glue.

I found instructions for this technique on several different websites and they were all a little different. One site said a thin layer of glue won't crackle, another said a thin layer of glue will give you finer crackles. I avoided this controversy all together by just using a thick layer of glue.

You're supposed to let the glue set just until it's tacky. Don't let it dry all the way or it won't crackle. Personally, I wasn't aware that Elmer's ever got tacky. In my experience it goes from extremely wet to extremely wet but with a skin on top. Then 4 days later it's dry and whatever you put it on is buckled beyond all repair. That's the joy of Elmer's.

One website said it should be tacky in about 5 minutes. Another said it should be tacky in just over one hour but under two hours. Normally I would average two conflicting suggestions but that's a big dang gap. So here's what I did. I brushed on a thick layer of glue then played Zuma Blitz while waiting for it to tack up. I got my best score EVER in Zuma so naturally I got all absorbed and played a bunch more games and forgot all about my wet glue. By the time I remembered it was mostly dry. You could call that a mistake but I prefer to call it research. Each game of Zuma lasts one minute and I only have 9 lives so I probably wasn't playing for more than about 15 minutes. That bit of valuable research told me that the one hour drying time must be for people who live under water and I should use the 5 minute drying time suggestion. See? Research.

I slapped on another layer of glue then tried not to wander too far away from the table or else I'd forget about it again. I used the leftover glue that I left sitting out in a bowl so it had thickened up and started drying faster. I liked that and decided to make sure I leave the glue out for a while before using it since it not only dries faster but it sticks better since it's not so runny. I really hate Elmer's glue, I just have to say that.

For the record, I don't think it ever got what I would call tacky. In fact it was still pretty wet when I brushed the paint over it. I think the key is just to make sure that you're able to paint over it without mixing the paint with the wet glue. Letting the glue thicken helped with that a lot. Also, you want to load your brush with lots of paint so that you can cover an area with one stroke. If you go back over it or use back and forth strokes, you are more likely to get some glue mixed in with your paint and then your crackle is screwed.

I did the four sides of my frame one at a time which worked just fine. If you try to do too large of an area you run the risk of your glue drying before you get the paint on it. After painting one section I moved to the next section and brushed on the glue. By the time I was ready to paint the second section, the first had already started to crackle.

Here is the finished frame which blends nicely with the rest of the frames on the wall. Well, except for the couple that I haven't painted yet. I can't say exactly how long it took the whole thing to dry but it took a while. I set it outside in the sun (100 degree sun) for a couple of hours which worked great.

I have a theory about how this works. I don't know for sure and it's not like it matters but it fascinates me so I have to try to figure it out. I think that Elmer's glue buckles paper so badly partly because it's such a wet glue and partly because it seems to shrink as it dries. Shrink is probably not the right word. It draws up. Paint doesn't shrink when it dries and the paint dries a heck of a lot faster than the glue. So basically the wet glue draws up under the dry paint causing it to crack. I think it's plausible. 

So now you know how to crackle on the cheap and believe're a better person for knowing.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Don't Hate Me Because I'm A GooRu

I know I'm probably going to make a lot of people jealous with this post and I'm sorry about that but it must be done. I recently mention in another post that I am an official Goo Gone GooRu. I got that status by being contacted by the advertising agency who represents Goo Gone and evidently read something I said about it in some post that I've forgotten about. Obviously it was flattering so I'm glad I didn't do to them what I did to the Tarn-X people. I doubt I'll be getting any Tarn-X coupons any time soon.

The Goo Gone gal asked if I wanted to be an official Goo Gone GooRu. All I had to do to get this highly coveted title was share some Goo Gone tips on their Facebook page. In return I'd get some Goo Gone swag. To be honest, I thought this was some kind of hokey spam thing but I like Goo Gone and I don't mind telling people about products that I like so I agreed to be a GooRu. I figured I'd share maybe one or two tips but I wasn't going to invest a lot of energy into it until I got the swag I was promised. And that's not because I was being greedy, it's because I still wasn't sure this whole thing was legit. I've seen companies deceive consumers to get free market research so it wouldn't have surprised me to find that this was something similar.

I was surprised that the gal who first contacted me kept in touch with me and sent updates as to the status of the swag shipments. She even asked my t-shirt size. I started to think I might actually get some free stuff from them.

In her last correspondence, the marketing gal said that the packages had been shipped but it could be 4 weeks before I received it. That was on a Friday. The following Tuesday Fed Ex dropped a Goo Gone goodie bag on my doorstep! I just love it when people do what they say they're going to do. That's so rare.

Here are the contents of my Goo Gone goodie bag. Try not to be too envious. Even though I'm a GooRu, I'm still human just like you. Well, just like you only better.  

As you can see, I received a Goo Gone tote bag full of highly collectible Goo Gone paraphernalia. I haven't worn my t-shirt yet, I'm waiting to debut it at just the right special event.

Although my letter wasn't handwritten and personalized like I thought it should be, it was printed on a nice glossy paper so I'll give points for that.

I will also award extra bonus points for the bumper sticker which I must admit is extremely clever and the marketing genius who came up with it deserves a pat on the back. However, I was slightly disappointed to receive a tiny bottle of Goo Gone instead of the full size product. The tiny bottle might have been more tolerable if a $1 off coupon for a full size bottle had accompanied it but it did not. Goo Gone should have consulted me before they made that little faux pas.

Next to the bumper sticker my favorite item in the goodie bag has to be this scraper. Notice the ergonomic thumb indention. I am very impressed with not only its functionality but with the overall design of the piece which is pleasing to the eye as well as to the touch. Kudos Goo Gone! I also received 5 Goo Gone rags which I will use as my designated sticky removal rags. That was a very thoughtful and useful item to include.

I have to say that I am very pleased with my Goo Gone swag and I will fulfill my obligation to share my Goo Gone success stories. I actually have them on a regular basis since I frequent thrift stores who like to price their items with a grease pencil instead of a price tag. This is an effective way to keep shoppers from switching price tags on items (shameful as it may be I'm sure it happens) but it's a royal pain to get the grease pencil off some items, especially wood. All I can say is thank God for Goo Gone, otherwise these items would be ruined and I would be out tens of dollars. 

Monday, August 08, 2011

Weekends at Casa del Verde

Our friends from Lafayette, Chad & Jamie and 2 of their kids, came for a visit this weekend. We always have fun with them and enjoy them being here. It's not always easy staying in someone else's house and you often feel like you'd be more comfortable in a hotel. But they seem to feel comfortable here and they're no trouble at all for us so it works out.

Just so you can get a feel for the tone of the weekend, here are some memorable quotes:

  • "Hold on Mom, I gotta finish killing the princess."

  • "Eat a good breakfast so we're not tempted by the meat on a stick."

  • "We have a rogue ear plug baby, better check your butt crack."

  • "Is that a spatula in your pants or are you just happy to see me?"

  • "M & Ms are supposed to melt in your mouth, not in your crotch."

  • "Is that a stick of bamboo or are you just happy to see me?"

  • We get along so well because they're just as inappropriate as we are. 

    We spent half of Saturday walking around Traders Village in 100 degree heat. That's my excuse for our inexcusable behavior at the Sausage On A Stick stand. This is the highlight of the Traders Village experience for Jayson, who never met a sausage on a stick that he didn't love.

    Chad was a little doubtful at first, maybe because his conscience was telling him not to follow his friend down a path that could lead him to behavior he might later regret.
    Chad's facial expression went from bad... worse.

    Obviously Jiminy Cricket had the day off because not only did Chad follow his friend down the forbidden path of the sausage on a stick, but he took his wife with him. The whole incident was like a modern reenactment of the Garden of Eden with Jamie playing the role of Adam who took the sausage from Eve (Chad) because he had been deceived by the serpent. That would make my husband the serpent. Oh well, it's not the first time!
    Check out Chad's expression now.

    As if the Thibodeaux children hadn't been scarred enough already, they then had to witness a set of exposed plastic butt cheeks wearing some kind of funky peek-a-boo butt lift panties. I had to pose next to the mannequin legs just to show that women don't need artificial enhancements to look beautiful and shapely in their baggy overall shorts they got at Goodwill. In fact, I was looking so stylish that a woman stopped me on the street just to compliment me on my sense of style. See?? I can still turn the heads of drunk flea market lesbians without the butt lift panties.

    With my freak magnet still pulling 4 G's I managed to attract the attention of not only drunk flea market lesbians but the proprietors of one of the booths. We'll call them Bob and Sue. I was just casually looking through all their goodies, not even taking a particular interest in anything when I made a huge mistake. That's right. I accidentally made eye contact with Bob just as I was leaving his booth. I had to chew my own leg off to get away but not before I had the whole story of Bob's cancer and how he wouldn't have made it without Sue and how this was their first weekend at Traders Village but they have an eBay shop that I can visit any time. And since they live in Magnolia and I'm in Cypress, if I see anything I want in their eBay shop I should send them an email instead of bidding and they'll remove it from the auction. I won't have to pay full postage, maybe just a couple of dollars and they will meet me at the Wal Mart in Tomball with my goodies because they're not about taking advantage of people, they just try to make an honest living.

    Seriously, they were nice people and I shouldn't make fun of them but I had just unwillingly invested 20 minutes of my life into their life story and all I could think about was how I hoped they made enough money at the market to buy a second set of false teeth since they were obviously sharing one set and it appeared that Sue got them at meal time.

    I know, that's unbelievably awful of me but it was hot and I was cranky.

    After we had sweated down to half our body weight, we went to James Coney Island to bulk up before the next stop on our journey. Jayson and Chad were particularly excited about getting to spend the rest of the afternoon at Sam Moon! They didn't complain nearly as much as we thought they would, maybe because it was nice and air conditioned in there.

    If you've never been to a Sam Moon you really should go. They have the mother lode of cheap jewelry and accessories for women. They have about a million purses of all styles and price ranges as well as luggage, tote bags, belts, scarves, hats and gift items. They even have hair, which I was surprised Chad didn't buy.

    This Sam Moon has some really cute clothes and shoes too but they're a little pricey. They had some adorable boho looking lace shirts for $25-$30 each and the sandals I liked were $54! Pretty much everything in the store is probably made by 6 year olds in Chinese sweatshops so there's really no reason for anything to cost over $10. And most of it doesn't. You can get some cute crystal chandelier earrings for $5.

    In their section of gift items and travel supplies Jamie spotted this travel urinal for women. Of course we were fascinated by it and even had to Google it for more information when we got home. They advertise that you can use it standing, sitting or lying down and it is leak proof and reusable. We agreed that this product is so stupid it definitely had to be made by man who has no clue how we work.

    When I got up Sunday morning I came downstairs to find that the coffee was already made and Chad & Jamie were unloading the dishwasher. Obviously, this made me happy :) Not just because they saved me from having to do it but because they're comfortable enough here to root around in the kitchen to find what they need. I like a house guest who is comfortable enough to open the fridge and say, "I'm hungry, whaddya got?" Cuz then I say, "sandwich stuff, make it yourself." And we all get along great!

    Actually we might be getting a little too comfortable with each other. I am a compulsive labeler and will stick a label on just about everything in my house. I do this because sometimes my family, bless their hearts, is stupid. It irritates me to have to constantly tell them where to find something or where to put it away so I solve this problem by clearly labeling everything so that they can do it themselves. I figure that way everybody wins. And nobody dies.

    After seeing my kitchen drawers labeled "coupons" and "receipts" and my bread box labeled "bread", Chad said he expected to see my furniture labeled "chair", "table", etc. Then he picked up my bottle of olive oil (which pretty much everyone calls EVOO now, right?) and asked what it was. He was acting like he was all confused because the bottle didn't have a label on it. Smart ass. I immediately fixed it by attaching a clearly marked label:

    We went to Chinatown to explore the Hong Kong City Mall. As if getting around in Houston wasn't difficult enough, this is what the street signs in the Chinatown area look like:

    There's plenty of Asian architecture in Chinatown and everyone drives the way people in China drive: badly. As soon as we stepped inside the mall Jayson and I were both instantly transported back to the trip to China we took in 1998. We were the only white people there, we were taller than everyone else and the whole place smelled like feet. Aaahhh memories. Jamie and I felt like we blended fairly well despite our fair complexions since we were both carrying our new Sam Moon purses. We bought them from an Asian lady in an Asian store so that makes us practically Asian. 
    Hong Kong City Mall parking lot.
    My new Sam Moon purse.

    The Hong Kong Supermarket is at the center of the mall and seems to be "the" place to be on a Sunday afternoon in Chinatown. After browsing through a few of the aisles we could see why. You can buy a gallon can of olive oil for $15 and the salmon heads were on special for $1.99/pound. The fish area of the market was particularly pungent and filled with all kinds of fresh and frozen fish, crabs, snails, stingray, shrimp, and other unidentifiable delicacies.

    The grocery shopping carts are lined up inside the mall so that you can push your cart around the mall and into the different stores, not just the grocery store. That was weird. People would come out of the grocery store with bags of noodles and huge spiny fruits, then they'd push their grocery cart over to the shoe store then into the bubble tea shop. If you do buy a bubble tea at the mall I recommend you go to the shop right across from the supermarket and get the coconut flavored one. I had a sip of Jamie's and it was delish, even though I like mine without the snot balls at the bottom. All the teas are made with fresh fruit and there's a little Asian girl in the back beating on a sugar cane to use for the sweetener. That's just good stuff.
    Grocery carts in the mall.
    A masked Thibodeaux.

    Jayson bought a BB handgun because that's what almost 50 year old men do. The kids got toys, Jamie got jewelry, I got origami paper, Chad got a stick of bamboo. Jamie also bought 2 money trees that I also feel very invested in for some reason. Maybe because we had to Google them to find out what they were. They basically look like marijuana with a braided trunk. Hers are small right now so we expect they'll only produce small bills for a while. Maybe by this time next year they'll be dropping 100s. If the money trees die...well we just don't want to think about what that means.

    A money tree with braided trunk.
    Jayson eating a "cupcake".

    We had a great weekend but by the end of it the kids were completely exhausted from all the fun, so much so that they fell asleep in the middle of Phineas and Ferb. Aren't they cute??