Fun Archives

Move over bullfinches and mockingbirds

I had never heard of the lyre bird before, but apparently it rivals the mockingbird in its ability to mimic sounds and songs. Below is a brief video. It gets real interesting at the 2 minute mark when it starts making camera, car alarm and chainsaw noises:

I had also never heard of David Attenborough before but found out he has a series of 10 DVDs called Life of Birds and I’m delighted to see it’s available on Netflix instant viewing. Watching a man tread carefully in a forest as he speaks in a hushed British accent to describe the birds he sees sounds like just the thing to do this upcoming rainy weekend.


What you can learn from The Cat in the Hat

Image and video hosting by TinyPicYesterday was Dr. Seuss’s birthday. Happy birthday Dr. Seuss! My 7-year-old daughter and her classmates made Dr. Seuss hats yesterday and have been wearing mismatched socks and clothing all work in celebration.

Here’s a good article about what writers can learn from Dr. Seuss. In reading the five points I noticed they could apply to just about anything else, too:

1. See the fun in what you do and share it with others.

2. It’s OK to be different.

3. Exaggerate if you have to.

I tend to basically exaggerate in life, and in writing, it’s fine to exaggerate. I really enjoy overstating for the purpose of getting a laugh. It’s very flattering, that laugh, and at the same time it gives pleasure to the audience and accomplishes more than writing very serious things. For another thing, writing is easier than digging ditches. Well, actually that’s an exaggeration. It isn’t. – Dr. Seuss

That reminds me of advice I got from Erma Bombeck in a letter many years ago. I wrote to ask her if it’s OK to exaggerate the truth as a writer and she said the truth is like bubble gum, you can stretch it, play with it, even swallow it.

4. Keep it short. This might be my favorite. As a writer I make my living as a short copy specialist and write best in 500 word chunks or less (one reason I like blogging). The “keep it short” maxim applies well to conversation and other forms of communication too.

It has often been said
there’s so much to be read,
you never can cram
all those words in your head.

So the writer who breeds
more words than he needs
is making a chore
for the reader who reads.

That’s why my belief is
the briefer the brief is,
the greater the sigh
of the reader’s relief is.

-Dr. Seuss


Erma Bombeck: Treat Friends, Kids the Same

I was looking at my blog stats and noticed someone found my blog by searching for this particular column of Erma’s.

Unfortunately that person had to go away empty-handed as I didn’t have that column posted here, so I thought I should correct that.

This column literally made me LOL, which felt good, as there have been plenty of reasons as of late to not LOL (the AZ shooting in January, blizzards, the political kerfuffle here in WI, etc.). Plus with all the client writing I have on my plate right now, it’s nice to let Erma do some of the heavy lifting.

Here’s Erma:

On TV the other day, a leading child psychologist said parents should treat their children as they would treat their best friend…with courtesy, dignity and diplomacy.

“I have never treated my children any other way,” I told myself. But later that night, I thought about it. Did I really talk to my best friends like I talked to my children? Just suppose…..our good friends, Fred and Eleanor, came to dinner one night and……

“Well, it’s about time you two got here! What have you been doing? Dawdling? Leave those shoes outside, Fred. They’ve got mud on them. And shut the door. Were you born in a barn?

“So Eleanor, how have you been? I’ve been meaning to have you over for such a long time. Fred! Take it easy on the chip dip or you’ll ruin your dinner. I didn’t work over a hot stove all day long to have you nibble like some bird.”

“Heard from any of the gang lately? Got a card from the Martins. Yes, they’re in Lauderdale again. They go every year to the same spot. What’s the matter with you, Fred? You’re fidgeting. Of course you have to go. It’s down the hall, first door on the left. And I don’t want to see a towel in the middle of the floor when you’re finished.

“Did you wash your face before you came, Eleanor? I see a dark spot around your mouth. I guess it’s a shadow. How are your children? If you ask me I think summer school is great for them. Is everybody hungry? Then, why don’t we go into dinner? You all wash up and I’ll take up the food. Don’t tell me your hands are clean, Eleanor. I saw you playing with the dog.

“Fred, you sit over there and Eleanor you can sit with the half glass of milk. You know you’re all elbows with it comes to milk. There now, your host will say grace.

“Fred, I don’t see any cauliflower on your plate. Have you ever tried it? Well, try a spoonful. If you don’t like it I won’t make you finish it, but if you don’t try it, you can just forget dessert. And sit up straight or your spine will grow that way. Now, what were we talking about? Oh yes, the Gerbers. They sold their house. I mean they took a beating but….Eleanor, don’t talk with food in your mouth. I can’t understand a word you’re saying. And use your napkin.”

At that moment in my fantasy, my son walked into the room. “How nice of you to come,” I said pleasantly.

“Now what did I do?” he sighed.


Another way we’re making winter less tedious around here

For some reason, even though it aired for eight seasons from 2002-2009 and was the most popular cable show ever, I only recently discovered the show Monk, which is about an Obsessive Compulsive Detective.

All the episodes are available on Netflix’s instant viewing so we’ve been watching an episode or two most evenings. I’m trying to carefully space out the episodes so they last us all winter. That all four of my girls like the show is proof of its broad quirky appeal.

Tony Shalhoub is the actor who plays Adrian Monk and knowing he was born and raised in Green Bay, WI adds to his appeal. I found out yesterday he helped produce and starred in the indie movie Feed The Fish, which was filmed in Door County, WI.  It’s only available to watch on Netflix instant viewing (the film never saw a wide release) and it took no convincing to get my daughters to watch it with me this evening.

All the scenes in the movie of the snow-covered Wisconsin landscape would’ve been enough to make me feel wistful, except I’m currently smack dab in the midst of Wisconsin and snow right now. The piles of snow are so high it makes turns at intersections an act of faith, where you hope there’s no car there to smash into you, and the temps have plunged back into the single digits during the day and below zero at night, so things like intellectually stimulating conversations and reading substantive books just aren’t happening right now, as we’re too busy burrowing in under the afghans my grandmother made and watching Monk. Oh, wait. Wasn’t this post supposed to be about making winter less tedious? Oops. :D

P. S.  I liked this interview with Tony Shalhoub. If you’re already a Monk fan you’ll like watching it too.


Bourbon Balls: One way to make snow days less tedious

Today Betty Givan from Betty’s Kitchen posted a recipe for Bourbon Balls, so I made sure to buy those ingredients while out stocking up before the storm arrived tonight.

Hey, it gave me an excuse to buy some bourbon. :D I hardly ever buy alcohol so when the clerk asked for my birth date, I was confused, and just said “May 31.”  And I hadn’t even had any bourbon to drink yet. Ahem.

Betty says Bourbon Balls are very popular in the south. I made them tonight and I can see why they are so popular. Or maybe it’s because I drank some Wild Cherry Pepsi with bourbon while making them that I came to that conclusion.

Here’s her video.

Here’s the recipe:


1 pound box confectioner’s sugar
½ cup butter, melted
½ cup bourbon whisky
6-oz. semisweet chocolate chips
pecan halves for topping (optional)

In a large bowl, combine 1 pound of confectioner’s sugar, ½ cup melted butter, and ½ cup bourbon whiskey. Stir until smooth. Refrigerate for about ½ hour, until workable with hands. With your hands, pinch off about a rounded teaspoonful of cold mixture and roll it into a ball. The ball can be up to 1-inch in diameter, but you should make all balls approximately the same size. Place the ball on a waxed paper lined pan, and continue making the balls until all of the mixture is used. Place the pan in the refrigerator or freezer, until balls are very cold, but not frozen. Melt 6-oz. semisweet chocolate chips in the top of a double boiler. (You may add ½-oz. paraffin to the chocolate, if desired.) When the chocolate is melted and the bourbon balls are cold and firm, use a toothpick to dip each ball into the melted chocolate. Swirl it around to completely cover the ball, and then remove it quickly and place it back on the waxed paper lined pan. Immediately place a pecan half on top of the chocolate dipped bourbon ball and press to set. Continue dipping until all bourbon balls are completed. You may leave the pecan off half of the bourbon ball for people who do not care for pecans. These are really delicious for a party or for a late-night snack. You may keep them at room temperature on serving day, but you should store them in the refrigerator or freezer for long-term storage. You can also place these in a decorative tin for Valentine’s Day gift! We love them and hope you will, too! –Betty

And here’s a silly Six Word Story that I wrote about bourbon balls (hey, there’s a blizzard here and I’ve both eaten and imbibed bourbon, so that’s my excuse):

Six Word Story #33

Death by frozen bourbon balls. Whodunit?


Fun Friday Potpourri

First, oh how I wish I could get my 7-year-old to agree to throw a birthday party with proper princess accessories like these:

(H/T Phil Thompson)

Next, snowmen like these would make winter less tedious:

Rose Is Rose

That’s a commendable effort by Vicki the Biker but it doesn’t top the Calvin & Hobbes snowmen:

I could go on, but it’s entirely possible your sense of humor isn’t as warped as mine, so click here if you’d like to see more strips like these (here’s a site that shows real life Calvin & Hobbes snowmen). I tried to get my kids to make Calvin & Hobbes snowmen during the snowstorm on Monday but they refused. Alas. If I want snowmen like that or princesses that carry saw blade guns, I guess I’ll have to borrow some other children. ;-)

That Vicki the Biker snowman reminds me of this “My Guitar Gently Weeps” video where, beginning at the 3:30 mark, Prince plays a guitar solo that is at least as good if not better than Eric Clapton’s version. Prince plays it with more panache.

A Facebook friend was looking for non-dictionary definitions of the word “family” so I posted Erma Bombeck’s definition (it’s always nice to have an excuse to bring on Erma):

The family. We are a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.

Finally, here’s Six Word Story #26:

Marriage. Boredom. Relocation. Overspent. Adultery. Suicide.

There. Madame Bovary in six words. :-)

Hope you have a great weekend.


Fun Friday Potpourri

How’s your New Year going so far? I like Charlie Brown’s approach to New Year’s Resolutions: “You know how I always dread the whole year? Well, this time I’m only going to dread one day at a time.”

This week my eight-year-old made Chili Cheese Nacho Casserole all by herself by watching the following Betty’s Kitchen video:

We like watching Betty’s videos. Southern accents like hers always sound so cheerful and soothing. The next time I have to hear bad news I hope it’s delivered in an accent like that. :)

This week I also discovered the music of Janelle Monae (I found out about her on a Top Music of 2010  Facebook post of a 53-year-old bishop, of all things). She’s 25-years-old – about the same age as Lady Gaga – but much more worthy of admiration, I think. She came out with her first album in 2010.

She was raised in a working class family and makes music for working class people, she says. In this video of her song Tightrope you’ll see her Michael Jackson inspired dance moves (unfortunately I can’t embed it here so you’ll have to click the link). She wears tuxedo suits like that every day as a uniform as a way to honor her working class parents. He mom was a janitor and her dad was a garbage collector and always had to wear uniforms.

Watching that video almost makes me want to get my ears pierced so I can wear white earrings like that. Her shoes are awesome, too, of course.

If that music style isn’t to your taste, then check her out here, where she puts on a black dress and sings with a symphony (for a better quality recording click here, although you can’t see the black dress there):

If I didn’t know better I’d think she was the singer from Pink Martini in this song.

She also sings in a folk style in a couple of songs on her album. She’s very versatile and a welcome addition to the playlist I listen to while exercising and cleaning.

One of my daughters received a Nintendo DS for Christmas and as it turns out I’ve ended up using it too. I’m taken with the New Super Mario Bros game because it’s similar to the Donkey Kong game I recall playing 20 years ago when I worked at Parker Brothers and had to be familiar with that video game in order to answer consumer questions. I had forgotten that I’m pretty good at these handheld video games and in the evenings I often find myself discussing Mario Bros strategy with the girls, which is fun.

John Grisham’s Confessions novel finally came in for me at the library, after many months on the waiting list, so that rounds out the fun for the week.

Tip on (as Janelle sings in Tightrope, which is shorthand for “stay balanced”).


Most creative marriage proposal ever

A man made a video using two muppets as a way to propose to his girlfriend (you can read more about it here). He showed it as a trailer at a local movie theater. Awwwww:


Erma Bombeck’s “Family Christmas Newsletter – December 9, 1971

I’ve never been able to bring myself to write a Christmas letter. The late humor columnist Erma Bombeck explains why better than I ever could:

I regard the family Christmas newsletter with a mixture of nausea and jealousy—nausea because I could never abide by anyone organized enough to chronicle a year of activities: jealous because our family never does anything that I can talk about on a religious holiday.

For years I have been assaulted with Frieda and Fred’s camping adventures. Marcia and Willard’s bright children (their three–year–old has a hit record) and Ginny and Jess’s kitchen table version of “The Night Before Christmas.”

“You know something?” I announced at dinner the other night. “We’re a pretty exciting family. This year, instead of the usual traditional Christmas card, why don’t we make up a newsletter?”

“What would we say on it?” asked a son.

“What everyone else says. We could put down all the interesting things we did last year. For instance, you kids tell me anything you did in school that was memorable.” Silence. “This is no time for modesty. Just spit out any award or recognition you received throughout the school year.”

Finally, after five minutes, one son said, “I passed my eye examination.”

“See?” I said excitedly. “I knew if we just thought about it a bit — now, where have we been that’s exciting?”

“We got lost that Sunday and went by the Industrial School where you told us one of your uncles made license plates.”

“I don’t think our Christmas list wants to read about that,” I said. “Let’s see, have I been anyplace?”

“You went to that Sarah Coventry jewelry party last spring.”

“How about that?” I said excitedly. “Now, keep going. Anyone get promoted? Married? Divorced? Hospitalized? Retired? Give birth?” Silence.

“Anyone say anything clever last year? How about the year before that? Did anyone compose a song? Write a letter? Belch after dinner?” Silence.

“Anyone protest anything? Stop biting their nails? Scrape a chair in the Christian Science reading room? Get up in the morning before ten?” Silence.

“Anyone lick a stamp? Kick the dog? Wash their gym suit? Sit up straight in class? Replace a lightbulb? Breathe in and out?

They all sat there silently contemplating their year. Finally, I brought out a box of Christmas cards.

“What are you doing? We thought you were going to send out a family newsletter for Christmas?”

“No sense antagonizing the poor devils who sit around and do nothing all year.”


Fun Friday part 3: Peanut Butter Krispies flashbacks

Last night it occurred to me I should make the Peanut Butter Krispies  my grandmother used to make, seeing as how we’re going to be snowed in this weekend. For some reason it’s been many years since I’ve made them. Silly me.

I had them ready when the kids got home from school. I took one bite and was immediately transported back in time to my grandparents’ brick ranch house in Dwight, IL. When we’d arrive on a Friday evening for a weekend visit she had Peanut Butter Crispies for us but we had to wait until after dinner (which was always, always sloppy joes) before we could eat them. Then my parents and grandparents would start playing pinochle at the kitchen table so my brother and I would go play bumper pool in the basement, drink the Mountain Dew my grandfather would always buy for us because he knew it was our favorite liquid refreshment, snack on stale Pringles and overly-salty popcorn, wish our cousins were there, pretend to smoke the cigarettes in the piano-shaped cigarette dispenser, and then go to bed in the pink bedroom around 2 a.m. because all the caffeine in the Mountain Dew kept us awake.

When my 15-year-old daughter bit into one of these bars after school she had an immediate flashback to when she was in preschool playing Ring Around the Rosy but instead of saying “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down” she would always mistakenly say “Ashland, Ashland, we all fall down.” I used to make Peanut Butter Krispies regularly back then.

Below is my grandmother’s Peanut Butter Krispies recipe. Maybe it will make you have flashbacks too:

1 c. Karo light syrup
1 c. sugar
1 c. peanut butter
6 c. Rice Krispies

1/2 c. chocolate chips

1/2 c. butterscotch chips

Bring to a boil the syrup and sugar. Add peanut butter and Rice Krispies. Press into a 9×13″ pan.


1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. butterscotch chips

Melt and spread over Rice Krispies.