Jan 30, 2011

Donny's Girl + Friend

Photo by Bill Steber. Takes the best Coney Island photos.

Meet Heather Holliday.

Not to be mistaken as Donny's girlfriend, as she often is. An understandable assumption since oohh, I don't know, Donny lets her throw knives between his legs and whip cigarettes out of his mouth.

Heather and Donny have been performing together (and looking out for each other) from Coney to across the country pretty much since Donny moved to New York. Heather was super-young, super-shy and starting her path as well – playing the doe-eyed and modestly frilly-frocked sideshow equivalent of a magician's assistant.

But just like Donny came into his own about the same time he grew his trademark whiskers, Heather got all grown up as well. The biggest reason – she can swallow swords now. The second reason, her frilly frocks have gotten a little more "hotsy totsy" as Donny would say (as Donny would say and teach my six-year-old to say.)

Now that Heather's down-right dangerous her and Donny strike an awful smoking pose, watch them perform here. But even though Donny's always been a little shy with real life girls, he's never had a problem sidling up to a bombshell for a photo op.



Hmmm. Guess where he learned that from?

And one guess who has that picture of Donny and Heather already framed and front-and-center on his office desk?

Actually, Dad has Donny's business card strategically wedged in the frame to cover up Heathers, er, assets. He works for a state agency. But apparently doesn't think Disney World circa 1989 has a problem with a little innocent groping.

Jan 29, 2011

Black Sheep. Black Banana.



Black Sheep.

Found this retro 70's looking yarn-crafted sheep art at an antique store and hung it in our first baby nursery. Now it's in our bedroom. Note how the black sheep refuses to face forward.


Black Banana.

It's Saturday morning and about to head to my parents house to hang out with the family. Mom's already informed me she's making banana bread. We tend to get on banana bread kicks every once in a blue moon. Translation: I want banana bread, Mom makes it. Then she just keeps making it 'til we all get sick of it.

This time the trend spread to my Aunt Lynda who lives near Austin. She told my mom on the phone last week that she was seriously craving banana bread, but none of her bananas were ripe enough. Until, that is, she found like this seriously black, like 100% black banana accidentally hidden away.

So she mashed it up with the kind-of-overripe-but-not-great bananas, and apparently it was like pure banana extract. It made her banana bread like banana bread crack. Thus, Uncle Pete got hooked and couldn't stop thinking about the black banana bread.

Fast forward a couple days. Uncle Pete goes to visit some friends for the day in the beautiful scenic Hill Country of Texas. Sees that they have this disgusting black banana in the banana bowl that they are about to throw away and asks if he can have it. Comes back at the end of the evening with a sly look on his face and his hands behind his back, and then proudly "presents" this black banana to Aunt Lynda.

She's like all breathless and excited "ahhh, you brought me a black banana" and then promptly whipped up another loaf of what is now apparently the banana bread of the gods.

By the way, unlike Kathleen, this is the closest I get to writing a cooking/baking post. And it's about other people cooking/baking for me. My specialty is literally tomato soup and grilled cheese. And probably some twisted reason why I like fake food.

Just call me the black sheep of the family kitchen.

Jan 22, 2011

Uncle Donny

I only recently found out what it meant to have a "funny uncle" in the family. It's not very nice. But Donny who is the uncle to my kids is a whole other kind of funny uncle.


One who plays video games with you. Aw. See, that's nice.


One who pushes you around Lowes while your parents shop for a new dishwasher. And entertains you by letting you pick out whatever you want to buy in the whole store. Kind of killing two birds with one stone here as it's a few days 'til Christmas and he didn't bring you any gifts in his suitcase.

Charlie is torn between the 40 feet of hunter's rope, a long gold chain (he's always a sucker for anything that is shiny and therefore possibly worth money) or the irresistible giant dangerous corkscrew looking thingy. Which Donny could probably shove up his nose.

Charlie was allowed to get the rope. The lesser of three evils.


That is until you get tied up with it.


Once that gets boring, Donny invents a new game. Creepy Monkey Feet. All the cool kids are playing it! It's easy, all you need is a pair of men's leather gloves and a funny uncle!




This is where Donny indocrinated Charlie into his world view. He is yelling "wake up sheeple!"

Basically, after the video games, before the creepy monkey feet and on the way to Lowe's, Donny started telling Charlie about how people are mindlessly following "the man." This was triggered by Charlie innocently pointing out his elementary school as we drove by.

Donny told him that's where they put you in a box. And trained him to yell "wake up sheeple!" (sheep + people) all through Lowes, and through the rest of Christmas break at any given time: the movie theatre, the grocery store, parking lots. The weird thing is, was that Charlie's trained cue was whenever Donny started to sing the chorus to Elvis's "I Can't Help Falling In Love With You," he would then interrupt him mid-lyric shouting "wake up sheeple!" And then Donny would high-five him.



Donny hiding out from the "man" in Charlie's bunk.


With a captive audience, Charlie is happy to show off every item in the treasure box he keeps under his bed. It's filled with spray-painted rocks, little vials of gold dust and fancy casino tokens from my father-in-law – and castoff Kathleen jewelry. I think he's hinting that the gold chain from Lowe's would make a mighty fine addition to this loot.

So fast-forward a couple days into holiday break. I'm walking into Target with my handlebar mustached brother, and my cute little blonde mop-headed Charlie...

Donny: (singing) "Take my hand, take my whole hear –"
Charlie: "Wake up sheeple!!!"
Donny: "That's right Charlie. Baaa Baaa – ooh, this Target has a Starbucks?"
Charlie: "I need to go to the bathroom"
Me: "Okay, there's a family bathroom over here, let's go."
Donny: "That's just the man telling you you have to go pee in a box. Just putting you in a box... uh, yes, sorry... I'll have a Grande Latte."


Oh yeah. We're really stirring up the status quo here.

"High-five Charlie."
"Right back at ya funny uncle."

Jan 20, 2011

Brownie Points. Bacon Badges.


Knowing my affinity for fake food, a friend sent me this link to this bacon patch from artist Lee Meszaros on Etsy.

It's part of her merit badge collection. This one is awarded to someone who, you guessed it, "brings home the bacon." And as a working mom/creative director, multi-tasking/multi-personality, busy-life/busy-body professional gal, I'm definitely bringin' it.


But in simpler times, I was a Brownie.



You have to be a Brownie when you're little (I was six here), before you become a Girl Scout. I think that's how it works? I wouldn't exactly know, since I was a Brownie for all of like one year and then my mom probably decided it was just more effort than it was worth. Piano lessons were more likely to benefit me in the long run, and required less... er, outfitting.

Because, man, was I all about the outfit. The beanie, the little snap tie, the sweet peter pan color, the brown striping, the zip-up jumper, the freakin little tassels that fold up under the top of the knee socks (my favorite part) and of course, the classic brown Hush Puppies.

The funny thing is, that I would wear this entire get-up to every single Brownie meeting. Whereas the other girls wore, oh, like a Brownie t-shirt and jeans. Maybe the striped blouse with kakhis. Definitely not the beanie. Or the sock tassels.

At the time I thought those other girls were just "too cool." But at the same time, while I perceived this, I was too little to be shamed into not wearing what I thought were awesome duds. It's like getting to wear a costume! Not even on Halloween! Hello?! But the conformity shame kicks in when your the ripe old age of seven. Hmm. About the time we quit Brownies. Maybe my mom was more perceptive than I give her credit for.

I did earn a few patches along the way. My own little merits. Probably for things like friendliness, honesty, helpfulness, sock flair. Soft stuff. 'Cause I don't remember learning any hard skills, you know, like building a fire with two sticks or tying awesome knots.

But if I had merit badges today? They'd probably be:


Tara Merits


Donny Merits

Donny was a Cub Scout for a brief stint as well. Long enough to build a little matchbox car. But he traded in his navy blues, his yellow neck kerchief and his Webelos beads for a black trenchcoat and Dungeons & Dragons at the age of eleven.


Kathleen Merits

Now, Kathleen's are easy to pick out. Miss healthy-fare/hiking-far. Miss still knows how to have a messy night out on the town. Miss invitation designer/inviting danger. And, no, she never wore a scout uniform even for the shortest amount of time. Why is no one surprised by this?

Jan 12, 2011

Growing Up Pine Valley


There are two places that we lived growing up as kids. First in the piney shady woods of East Texas on the lake where our dad was a fishing guide. And then later, along the sidewalk and shrub lined streets of the suburb/college town of Norman, Oklahoma.

But really there was a third place.

It was called Pine Valley.

If you don't know where Pine Valley is, it is vaguely within driving distance of New York City. I'm guessing Connecticut. Because sometimes the inhabitants of Pine Valley would take a brief foray into the big city. You know, like if they were fleeing their evil twin, or going to a banquet to honor their humanitarian efforts only to be reunited with their long lost wife who they thought was dead because we all saw her go off that cliff and her car burst into flames.

Pine Valley is the fictional hamlet where for forty years now, the daytime drama All My Children has resided.

And this woman?

Susan Lucci a.k.a. the infamous, irresistible, unsinkable and apparently ageless Erica Kane.

This was our "Other Mother."

Flash forward a bit with me here and I'll give you an idea what I mean.

So over winter break, while my kids were out of school, I needed to go to a client meeting. My mom, who can usually take off from her flexible job, was at a conference out of town. My husband was on a tight deadline at his job. So... I called my dad to see if he could take off a couple hours from his place of work to come babysit for an afternoon.

He was totally game. Since a.) it would be nap time for the kids, b.) I ordered him a pizza, and c.) it was during All My Children, and apparently the size of our flat screen TV was acceptable... oh, and HD enough. You know... 'cause it's like you're there.

It was really funny, because Kathleen and Donny and I hadn't watched All My Children for years. But my parents, especially our dad, have never kicked the habit.

My parents actually started dating back in the very early 70's, it was sort of an office romance. They'd take their lunch breaks together at my dad's puny little apartment around the corner from their downtown office building, and watch black and white episodes of All My Children over tuna sandwiches and Ritz crackers (I'm imagining the tuna and crackers part, it just feels right).

When we were young kids, starting in the eighties and into the nineties, the VCR entered into our lives, and mom or dad would set the timer to tape All My Children, 11:00 am on the nose. Back then I think it actually aired at noon, and then sometime in the mid nineties the network moved it back an hour. Don't ask me how I remember that.

Actually, you know how I remember that? Because if for some reasons someone either a.) forgot to set the timer b.) forgot to rewind the tape that was already dangerously close to the end of space or c.) the fates decided to momentarily make the power go out during the day... and we all came home and settled down to watch whether or not Jessie and Angie were still on the lamb, or what hi-jinx Hailey, our favorite first soap opera goth girl complete with black hair and black lipstick (surprisingly back then a not so buff or blonde Kelli Ripa of Regis & Kelli) was up to, and it didn't record? No, no, no, that can't be right it had to have recor... ahhhhhrrggghhhh!!! It didn't record!

Yep. All hell would break loose. It was like the end of our day was just f'd.

I think it ingrained good coping mechanisms in us kids for a future of DVR'd programs that abruptly cut off during the last minute, usually a weepy Grey's Anatomy last minute or funny little last joke on The Office last minute. Yeah, if coping means cursing the TV and moping for a good ten minutes afterward.

So, the other day when dad came over to babysit, as he settled into my couch, remote in hand, I started quizzing him. I felt nostalgic and wanted to catch up on my old All My Children memories. See who was still around. Is Phoebe Wallingford still alive? Nope. Is Palmer Courtland still alive? Nope. Are Tad and Dixie still around? Nope. Is that... wait... is that Erica? She looks EXACTLY THE SAME! Yep.

The number one lesson I learned from Erica Kane growing up? I mean, besides that it's okay to get married nine plus times? That when you wear really gigantic earrings, you always take one off when you answer the phone.

Now, if you saw our dad, especially growing up during his fishing guide days, complete with coveralls and fishing cap, you wouldn't peg him for someone who "needs to see his stories." But I remember one Thanksgiving family gathering at our grandparents house. All my mom's sisters and their husbands were there. And there was actually a gap in the sports on the TV, and as all the guys sat around the living room, my dad (I don't know exactly how he asked this in any sort of macho way) but somehow got that TV tuned to All My Children.

I remember I was eleven or so, like lying on the floor behind like my grandpa's armchair reading, oh, probably a V.C. Andrews novel or something, and there was this particularly steamy, but fairly innocent beachy sex scene unfolding on All My Children. (Probably in stark contrast but eerily parallel to some dark, cobwebby but fairly innocent sex scene in the attic unfolding in the tattered pages of my V.C. Andrews.)

So my Uncle Pete, gives out this appreciative chuckle and says loudly, "Ooohh... ho!" "Now I see why you like this show, Scott!"

And my dad, beer in hand, says in the most sincere and dry and perfectly serenely spoken way:

"That's not why I watch this show.
I watch it, because, it's like the characters are my family.
And every day I want to see how they're doing.
It's like... it's like... I'm part of their lives."

And I just laughed quietly to myself behind my paperback, while on the screen that red leather bound and gold embossed cover of that floating All My Children book closed on another daily chapter.

Happy Birthday dad! Lunch tomorrow? Don't worry, I know you've got All My Children "taping." Weird side note. I think Susan Lucci is actually the exact same age as my dad.

Jan 3, 2011

Last Day Of Winter Break


It's been a good go. Two-and-half-weeks off. But last day of winter break for Tara, means having to go back into the real world now.


Where doors no longer jingle.


Where Charlie will go back to learning first grade spelling... instead of Hogwarts' spells. Expelliarmus! Stupefy!


And where Sam will be required to wear actual shoes.