‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Thursday, December 31, 2009

how Chris Brogan taught me to use my phone

Just a little warning: I had 3.5 hours of sleep last night and I woke up this morning all wide-eyed, with a teenager crush on the world. What I'm saying is, beware of majestically long sentences with rainbows and sugar sprinkles popping out of them.

At one point last night I was standing in the wings watching a Clutch show, and Chris Brogan taught me how to use my Droid.

It all started a couple years ago when I begged a mutual friend to ask Lindsay Maines if I could interview her husband. Lindsay did a quick Google background check on me, found that I was absolutely not to be trusted and we've been friends ever since.

Now I know the last two paragraphs are all linky-linky name droppy and all, but seriously, I don't know anybody. I am a shy little hermit. How I end up in these situations is completely beyond me. It seems the simple smallness of the world does all the work and sometimes it's just a matter of showing up.

Last night, we showed up.

I must here admit that I had the giggles almost all day yesterday. We, the Trouts, were going to see, ON PURPOSE, four hard core bands - a significant switch from the tea-and-crumpety pace life has taken lately.

This is fine for me because although I am an old and persnickety owner of chickens/knitter of felted squid/would-be player of mah jong if someone would teach me, I have a history of rock shows.

Chris, on the other hand, is just plain persnickety.

We spent most of the show in the balcony, staring saucer-eyed at the mosh pit. Have you looked at a mosh pit from above? It bears a striking resemblance to something you'd see on a microscope slide.

A few songs into the Clutch set, we met up with Lindsay (if you didn't click the link, her husband is the bass player), who scurried us back stage. And that's when things got surreal.

The next thing we know, Lindsay's heading back out to collect Chris Brogan (who I wrote about here). And the four of us head off to find a place to watch the show. On stage.

Standing in the wings, Chris Brogan and I both pull out our Droids for a picture. I notice the band is more glorious on his screen than mine so I poke around and discover that you can zoom with the Droid's camera. Wonder of wonders. Chris said he discovered it when he saw a guy at the Pixies show do the same thing.

Which means that not only are rock shows a business expense, they could probably be paid for out of the kids' 529 account.

So I basically went to a Droid workshop with a couple thousand of my closest friends (who were, I must say, pretty awesome as show crowds go). A few of those new friends we hope to keep forever and always. Because as tea and crumpety as we've become, we have an awful lot in common with people who love rock and roll.

For instance, we could all use a nap.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Twas the morning of Christmas
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Except for the mouse
Which is in the Havahart trap.

It should have heeded socio-traditional advice.

I think our kids are broken. It's almost 7am and neither is stirring. I wish they would wake up because I really would like to open my presents and it just doesn't look good for the kids to find their parents all squealey under the tree with ripped paper in their hair.

On another note, we saw Santa last night. He dropped by a party we went to and gave a little gift to each child. We have a picture of our kids sitting in his lap. Which is a Christmas Miracle.

We have this picture because Sugarplum and Studley knew that Santa was our Upstairs Neighbor. Otherwise I would have a picture of Santa, alone, with the sound of screaming just out of the frame. I have lots of those pictures.

It went better with Mrs. Claus when we had breakfast with her a few weeks ago. Sugarplum thanked her for all the gift-wrapping, since she had observed that Mrs. Claus probably did it all.

"Actually, we have elves for that," Mrs. Claus answered.


The kids woke up and we opened our stockings. Chris has been looking disparagingly at my awesome pile of loot, as if I had anything to do with his behavior over the last year. Can I help it if Santa thought I should have an entire box of dark chocolate covered almonds with sea salt and turbinado sugar? Santa knows how awful I am capable of being and was probably very relieved at the way things turned out this year.

We're taking a little break to brush our teeth with new toothbrushes, play with Studley's Cootie Bug and to say hello to our friends.


We wish you a very merry Christmas (or a happy Friday). May you get a pony.

the Trouts

Saturday, December 19, 2009

happy blizzard!

Can someone tell me why kids are so frantic to go play in snow?

It's barely light out, yet something primal woke them from sound sleeps and marched them to the slider in awe. Note: In this part of the world we call sliding glass doors "sliders."* I am not from this part of the world.

I am from a snowier part of the world. We made snow caves and snow angels. All winter there was snow snow snow snow snow. My mother, who was not from that part of the world, was fond of noting that our town often looked like a Christmas card. It was true.

I, too, woke up early to enjoy the snow. This is what I do to enjoy the snow: Make coffee, look out windows, enjoy the quiet.

I like going out in the snow if it involves reaching a warm destination which serves food. I like going out in the snow when I am properly equipped and no particle of actual snow touches my actual body. Frankly, I cannot believe I survived my childhood.

The chickens, for the record, stand with me on this point. Did you know that chickens are quite expressive? Right now they have "this is not remotely funny" written all over their faces.

Meanwhile, the kids have made so many snow angels they are eliminating the need to shovel.

And I'm making more coffee.

Which I'll share with the chickens.

(child labor)

*In this part of the world, liquor stores are called package stores. Officially. So yesterday everyone was "off to the packie" in preparation for the storm. I love New England.

a career on ESPN

We had breakfast at Hole in One this morning. It's a donut shop. GET IT?!?! Hole in One?

On our way out, Sugarplum asked about the name and why they had golf clubs on their sign.

Me: Sugarplum, do you know what a hole in one is?
Me: Like in mini-golf?
Sugarplum: Yes! when you hit the ball and you get a goal without hitting it again. But it's much harder on a REAL soccer field.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

you'll get a live mouse for Christmas and like it. so there.

I think it's because our television is really awkward to get to. And once you get to it, there are no comfortable chairs. And it's drafty.

That seems the only explanation for why Christmas has become something altogether different around here. The people telling us what to do and how to feel are musicians. And lord knows they are a bizarre lot.

We have seriously been spending all our time going from party to fundraiser to charity rock gig to reckless celebration of all that's right with the season. We have not been shopping. We're not sure what we're supposed to shop for. But we do know we should send some cash over to the NOAH shelter and we should help underwrite a couple of radio shows we dig and make some woolies for women and kids or warm up those who are not loving the winter so much. We know this because instead of sitting in an uncomfortable chair, in a drafty room, watching tv, we've been hanging with our friends.

I know, I'm getting preachy.

But dagnabit, Christmas is not about getting a Lexus. And it's not about getting in a twist if you don't get a Lexus.

So I think I'm making everyone dorky little presents this Christmas, and contributing to some local organizations with what's left over. Maybe I'll make pipecleaner reindeer antlers and make some of these mice into Christmas gifts, if people are really lucky.

And yes, there's a big package on its way here from Amazon because we do not sleep on beds of nails and transcend all human desires. If we know someone really could use something, we try to get it for them. Also I ordered myself a new phone to take the pressure off.

But there's a balance.

Amazon doesn't sell the life we want. It just sells things to make our lives look like the lives we want.

Frankly, I'd rather have a life.

(I forgot to mention all the people who gave their time and talents to the "Christmas Miracle" cd. 22 tracks, one weekend. Benefits Fragile Footprints @ Jordan Hospital. Puts things in perspective, no?)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why my house looks so splendid

We had our annual Trout Towers Christmas Sing last night. It rocked. Friends came and played guitar, piano and saxophone. Choirs of angels did their thing. Chef/caterer friends took pity on my guests, saving them from my Cheez Whiz Surprise.

You are probably wondering how I got my house looking so terrific when all I do is sit around and Tweet. Wonder no more, I'm reposting my tips for party preparation. Et voila.

Since I am obviously so adept at this, I thought I'd share some of my tips so you too can enjoy your home during the holidays and beyond. Many of my tips won't apply to you because you may not have a house like mine. The magazines I read often have lovely ideas for things like organizing one's 45 square foot pantry, so I don't see how usefulness factors in to good, quality writing.

I have titled it "Tidying Up" because it has nothing to do with actual cleaning. The cleaning part is really the least of one's worries and may be considered optional.

I will go room by room. I read a lot of magazines and that is the way it's done.

Bathroom. This is a bad place to start because people will insist on using it after you've tidied and completely destroy the ambiance you've created. We will revisit this room later.

Pantry. Pantry shelves with no doors in the middle of your kitchen/dining/living area pose the first problem. Resist the urge to take everything out, clean the shelves and put everything back by color, size and nutritional value. Save that for another day or for someone else to do.

Dig around in the back and find those jars of things that looked delicious but you can't figure out how to use. Dust them off and set them aside. Push everything else to the back of the shelf and line delicious-looking things neatly in front. Make sure things like Artificially Flavored Banana Pudding are stashed behind the matching jars of lentils, black beans and wheat berries. Repeat for each shelf.

Livingroom: Bookshelves are decorative - but such breeding ground for clutter! Go through all the shelves and remove socks, coffee mugs and the dog's brush from on top of the books. Many of these items will fit behind the books if you are careful. Also, moving books to the front of the shelf and keeping the spines in an even row gives the illusion of order. If you want to really go all out, organize books by subject - especially if you have lots of books on a particularly high brow subject. This makes it easier for guests to see what interesting people we are. I say "people" even if we are single because we always refer to ourselves in the plural when we are interesting, no?

Bathroom, a: If you have a powder room which is specifically for guests and does not have personal items on counters or in cupboards, skip to Bathroom, b. If you do not have a powder room, it's important to leave some personal items on the bathroom counter. This makes it look as though someone actually lives in the house and you are not squating in a model home with fake matresses. It may also satisfy the guests who are curious about your toiletries and ensure that you will not walk in to find someone sitting on your bathroom floor surrounded by the 16 rolls of toilet paper they had to remove in order to access your secret stash of 1970's cleaning products.

We once knew a general contractor who intentionally left things amiss for the building inspector to find. That way the building inspector didn't have to go looking for problems, potentially settling on a much bigger issue (like pulling up the foundation). Preparing your home for guests is no different.

While it is important to leave some things on your counter, it is acceptable to put away things like deodorant, lice combs and any secret products used to create your all-natural look which no one needs to know took 2 hours and 7 products to achieve. Organizing cupboard items is similar to arranging your pantry. Chose several products you don't use but would if you had time. Set aside. Push everything else farther to the back of the cupboard. Let's not kid ourselves here. It's already a jumbled mess in there, so just push. Place items removed from counter in as many gallon-sized ziplock bags as it takes and mingle bags with items in back for easy retrieval later. Place the items you've never used in front of everything else. Finally, set a time limit for how long people are allowed to stay in the bathroom.

Bathroom, b: If you have a powder room, lock the doors to all other bathrooms in the house.

General: Once you've hit the big trouble spots, consider your guest list. If there are any tall people coming, climb up on a stool and see if there's anything you don't want them noticing and reporting on later. Just last night I cleaned off the top of my refrigerator and believe me I slept better knowing that my extra smoke detector, last year's calender and pile of expired coupons would not be discussed on the car ride home. If there are toddlers coming, call the parents and tell them you have just fumigated for flying rats. There is just no way to trouble shoot effectively for a toddler, and they will probably pull a sock out from behind your books.

Finally, keep the lights low and you may be able to dispense with the cleaning part completely.

Good luck and happy entertaining!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I believe

I've been preparing myself for the time when Sugarplum and Studley ask me point blank if there's a Santa Claus.

I've prepared for this eventuality by treading lightly along the way. I am not (usually) the one who reminds them that Santa is watching and they will be SO HOSED on Christmas morning if they don't shape up. I don't tend to talk about Santa at all, really. I don't want to be called out for a big lie, no matter how goodwilled.

I try to neither deceive, nor undeceive. Especially the latter. Let it be known that I am not a spoil sport.

Still, there are questions.

Last year, our friend played Santa at a Christmas party. Someone spilled the beans, and the kids knew it was their friend behind the beard. Interestingly, it made Santa much more approachable. It was the first Christmas eve they didn't spend screaming their fool heads off while buried in my armpits.

That night, Studley explained to me that Santa needs helpers. Lots of helpers. This explains why one year, TWO Santas appeared at the same party. (One was drunk.)

This year, Sugarplum asked if she could give some of her toys to Santa, so kids who don't have much could get some extras. When my heart finished bursting with pride (that's a lie, it hasn't), I told her we could help Santa by dropping off the toys at one of our community outreach offices. Parents could pick up the toys and give them right to their kids. This would make us elves. And it would save us some shipping.

Sugarplum then began fretting about what happens to people who can't afford a Christmas tree. How will Santa know where to leave the presents?

I told her if Santa knows us well enough to give us a gift, he certainly knows where we'll go looking for it.

How does he do all this? Santa is legion. He starts as a whisper, and works his way into the loneliest places. He finds the forgotten. He doesn't need a tree, or plastic candy canes that blink or the fanciest lights on the block. He finds and cheers us, whatever state we're in. He does, however, like cookies.

This Christmas some friends of mine joined forces with We Can, and hosted Handmade for the Holidays. People were encouraged to knit mittens, hats, blankets, etc. for women and children in need. Did you know that there are over 20,000 single moms living under the poverty line on Cape Cod? Santa's got his work cut out for him.

It's a good thing he has lots of helpers - helpers who know about generosity and grace and joy and warmth.

Without them, Santa is nothing.

With them, Santa is the manifestation of kind-heartedness.

And you better believe I'm going to tell my kids that's real.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ginger Lace Cookies

I'm feeling gifty. And cheap.

So I'm giving you my grandmother's recipe for Ginger Lace Cookies. If I can't fit in my clothes, nor should you.


Hazel's Ginger Lace Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
1 egg
4T molasses
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda

Beat together the butter and sugar, add the egg and the molasses. In a separate* bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Add them to the butter mixture.

Roll dough into small balls (about a tablespoon, aka superball-sized) and roll balls in sugar. Do not press down.

Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.

I'm taking a batch of these to Studley's Winter Festival at school, where he will sing Jingle Bells with eight of his short compatriots. If you are wondering what Christmas is all about, I'm pretty sure ginger cookies and singing 4 year olds factor in heavily.

*I can't write the word "separate" without thinking of A Separate Peace, on which I wrote a brilliant book report in high school. I did not receive an A+++ because I spelled "separate" wrong 40 quajillion times. Stupid word.

I can spell it now because of The Offspring: "you gotta keep 'em sep-a-rated."

I should teach English.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

an extra freebie post you'll wish you hadn't read

Whenever I have to change my clothes in the middle of the day, I envision my upstairs neighbor (the male one) coming around that end of the house and, feeling pranky, jumping up to scare the daylights out of me.

I can picture his face as he does this: All happy and funny and then all horrified and staggering.

He would either a) die himself dead or b) poke himself in both eyes with the nearest branch, screaming "gah! my retinas!"

I've taken to changing in the bathroom.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

in which I am all that

Chris went to a cd release party last night and I did not.

I did garner this quote, though:
"Chris, who only mastered the CD, was there ... and Susan, who is pretty much the embodiment of all that is musical and good on Cape Cod, was not. What the ???" -Bill O'Neill

Bill is a music writer who's been published in the Boston Globe, the London Sunday Times, CMJ New Music Monthly, the Harvard Independent and the National Enquirer. I am ripping up my resume and having that quote printed on a beer koozie.

He brings up a good point. What makes actually being INVOLVED in a project more important than sitting on one's couch thinking about how great the project is? That's like saying TURKEY is more important than GRAVY.

Which is totally us because, if I may be honest, I wouldn't be involved in the music community nearly so much if it weren't for Chris. I've had to roast him for YEARS to get to the gravy.

Although I didn't get to go to the party, I did make the coveted liner note cut. For which I am grateful. And a little boasty.

I have some thoughts on liner notes.

Young people who are credited in liner notes should be credited in a very small font so they and their peers can bask in the glory amongst themselves. The rest of us should be in 14 point.

Finding myself in the liner notes reminded me of scouring albums for mention of myself as a teenager. There were all these random names in the Special Thanks section, so it seemed reasonable that eventually mine had to show up. Besides, you never know when you'll discover, via liner notes, that Trent Reznor has a secret crush on you.

Which is probably going to happen once he gets ahold of one of my beer koozies.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

how many people can you cram in your kitchen?

I just read a Lifehacker thingy on figuring out how many people you can fit in your home for a party.

I was curious about it because we have this annual Christmas sing and I'm never sure how many people to invite. Our house is not big. The first year I invited twice as many people as I had chairs because, hello, it's about the dorkiest party ever and I was pretty sure no one would come. I was right.

But! The people who did come were freakishly enthusiastic because guess what? We have dorky friends. Who like to sing. So they asked us to have the party again the next year. They campaigned, actually. Because apparently no one else is dorky enough to host this particular sort of party.

I know this because I've been trying to get someone else to do it for years.

A woman I babysat for in high school had a Christmas sing at her house and it was the best part of the holiday. Cookies, decorations, music - what's not to like? I can't even sing. I've been angling for an invitation to a similar party ever since. Invitations have not been forthcoming.

Anyway. It's been going on a few years now and it seems I'm totally blowing the lifehacker calculation. I invited 75 people and then asked Chris to invite the people I forgot.

So... 5 feet times 75 guests equals... how big is 375 square feet? I can't picture it, but I think we'll have people sitting in the tub. Good thing Chris can rig speakers throughout the house.

The calculation should be altered for Christmas parties, I think, because there are so blasted many of them. Weirdly, people feel they should show up for their own office parties before they come to my singy thingy. WHATEVER.

It's okay. I'm not afraid.

It's December and our lives are full of eggnog and open houses and music music music (the noise noise noise noise).

Which is a lifehacker calculation all of its own.