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"This is the most exciting day of my life...and I was pulled on stage once to dance at a Bruce Springsteen concert."
30 Rock


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as a 2005 BEST



Friday, December 30, 2005

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes

I know I promised not to talk about it, but I couldn't not plug the new blogs I nominated for Best of Blogs. I mean it's only fair, right?

Another for most humorous, Tommy over at Striving for Average. Two for best music blog, Nat from Mini-Obs and Deni from Last Girl On Earth. Finally there's Ham & Cheese on Wry for best LBGT. And a partridge in a pear tree.

Whew! I hope I got everybody this time. Nominations are open until January 3rd then the real voting begins. Please vote for somebody, anybody. Remember, even if they have some votes, they can always use more backup singers. (a big shout out to those who have nominated AOGB! It means more than you know.)

As I feel I say every year, I can't believe another year is already almost here. Where has the year gone?

Here's a quick look back at the year here at AOGB in a sort of "best of" list. Happy New Year, happy reading and I'll see you in '06!


Put Your Money Where Your Tsunami Is
You Were Always On My Mind, Cause Frankly, I Didn't Have A Choice In The Matter
Water On The Brain


Taking Over The World Nine Lives At A Time
Why Level 42 Isn't Just A Band From the 80's
The Lights Are On But Nobody's Home
All The Rest Have 31, Except for February


You Wanna Be Startin' Something?
I Chose The Road Less Traveled And I Got Screwed
You Make Me Feel Mighty Real
We Have Nothing To Fear But Things That Are Downright Scary


Making The Grade
I'm A Poet And You Didn't Even Know It
They Don't Write 'Em Like That Anymore
I Will Be Your Father Figure


Who's Keeping Score?
If You Can't Be An Athlete, Be An Athletic Supporter
The Waiting Is The Hardest Part
What About Prom, Blaine?
Tommy, Can You Hear Me?


Yours, Mines and Ours
Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too
I'd Like To Buy A Vowel


I Wish We All Could Be California Girls
Holding Out For A Hero
The Art of Getting By
Where The Streets Have No New Names


Wait Training
All This And Meatballs, Too?
Take Two of These And Call Me In the Morning
Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear?
The Man, The Myth, The Dressing
I Call Myself A Writer, But I Never Get Paid


Who's Gonna Drive You Home Tonight?
Excuse Me, But Can I Be A Jew For Awhile?
Don't Know Much About Geography
Like Sands Through the Hourglass, Those Were The Days of My Life
Who Can It Be Now?


Don't Call Us, We'll Kinda Call You
Same As It Ever Was
Chain of Fools
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
What Would Nancy Drew Do?


Top 10 Signs You Watch Too Much TV
Wisdom Teeth! What Are They Good For? Absolutely Nothing!
Sticks And Stones May Break My Bones, But Screen Print T-Shirts Hurt Worse Than Anything
These Are The People In Your Neighborhood


Every Girl's Crazy About A Sharp Dressed Man
Writing the Wrongs
Justice For All, Digits For Some
And the Pudding Make of Fig...Aah!
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

It's A Long Way Down To Holiday Road

So, the presents have all been unwrapped. The stockings no longer lay by the chimney with care, but instead with reckless abandon. Now it's time to survey the damage.

In the spirit of giving, a random honor was bestowed upon me yesterday. Red Orbit chose me as their blog of the day. Apparently Red Orbit is a site primarily devoted to space, science, technology and health. I was a shoo in. Kidding. I honestly have no idea where that came from. Yet with all the nominations flying around these days, I was excited to be chosen anyhow.

But enough about me, what about you? What is the best gift you got this year and just to add a little spice to your eggnog, what it the worst gift?

Lately there's been a lot of hubbub about the holidays. Can we say Merry Christmas? Should we take the word Christ out of the equation? Should we make our greetings more generic? What if we are talking to someone who doesn't celebrate holidays, period? AHHH!

I am fortunate enough to be somewhat removed from the mass hysteria. I work in a public school that simply does not bother with all of this nonsense. Why? Well the answer is simple. I don't think there are any students in my school who do not celebrate Christmas. In fact, I'm willing to place money on this. So, besides the teachers themselves, there is nobody who would protest about not being catered to, and really, isn't that what the whole fight is about anyhow?

That's why during read aloud time last week, I decided, in attempt to bring goodwill toward men, to read my students a little bit about different holidays. One day I read a book about Hanukkah. A few days later I read a book about Kwanzaa.

To say they were intrigued by Hanukkah would be putting it lightly. They had a lot of questions about the clothes they wear and the things they've heard and were amazed that Jews were among them, in their very school, working. I think I lost them the teachable moment though somewhere after "they get presents for eight nights". I can't imagine why.

During the Kwanzaa reading they were much quieter. Which brings me to my next question. They had some questions about Kwanzaa I really couldn't answer, although I was clutching the book that offered next to no elaboration. This is when it occured to me:

When did Kwanzaa become one of the big three, in the trifecta of the holiday season?

Growing up the battle for power (as sad as it sounds) was clearly between Hanukkah and Christmas. In my town, Hanukkah won hands down. In the world though, Christmas still seems to be reigning supreme and fighting a good fight. I mean it's like deciding who you like better, Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears. Do any of us really want to choose? Can't we just hate them equally?

But then, out of nowhere, you add say, Mandy Moore to the equation. No one knows what to make of Ms. Moore (the Kwanzaa in the scenario). Where did she come from? Where has she been all of her lives? You mean there have been people who have been fans of hers for years?!

And... scene.

That's not to say I'm down on Kwanzaa, it just seemed to have creeped up on me. And then, just when I think I've gotten used to Kwanzaa, the holidays go and say, guess who else is coming to dinner? Yes it's our new friends, Winter Solistice and Three Kings Day! Huh? What? Where were these guys hanging out before? Do I have enough fruitcake for everyone?

It is for this reason and this reason alone that I can understand the movement towards wishing everyone a happy holiday. I don't know when and I don't know why, but things have changed. A simple Merry Christmas just does not cut it anymore. Not only are there people who seem to celebrate all different things, there are others who seem to celebrate everything. I mean really, Christmukah anyone?

So that being said, I'd like to wish you and yours a happy holiday season, even if your holiday is just taking a break from the holidays. After all, that's what the Brits call it. Everything is going on holiday.

Heh. Maybe they don't just sound smarter after all.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Tell It To Me YOU Tuesday "Ain't Too Proud To Beg"

I wrote a few of you privately about my last post on the Best of Blog awards. My concerns were this: I didn't want anyone to think that just because I was encouraging y'all to go and vote that I meant you had to go vote for ME. I know you probably already know this, but I didn't know, ya know? So I wanted to clear the air here officially.

That being said, a few of you actually did go out and vote for me, which I'm flattered and extremely humbled by.

But now, it's personal.

So if you have enjoyed visiting AOGB over the past year, I meekly ask you to consider nominating my little corner of the world. So far I've been nominated for best overall blog which is an extreme long shot, but hey so was Hilary Swank at the Oscars that one year, right? I can't promise you anything in return other than more of the same. If that's cool by you, great. If not, then well, you wouldn't be the type of person who would be voting for me anyhow now would you?

And of course, if you love someone else even more than me, please let them know by nominating them. I know I did. My nominations so far are as follows:

Best Education Blog(s)

Fred's World
Education Wonks

Best LGBT Blog(s)

It's Matt's World
Blah, Blah Black Sheep

Best Mommy Blog

The Daily Bitch

Most Inspirational Blog

Club Cav
An Audience of One

Snarkiest Blog

Tiny Voices In My Head

Most Humorous Blog

The Sound of Muzik

If you want extra credit, you can let me know who you voted for in the comments (especially if it isn't me). I love to "meet" witty bloggers I may not know about otherwise. Nominations are open until January 3rd, 2006. I promise not to write about this again. At least not until January 2nd and then perhaps again if one of my blogging friends makes the top 10. But otherwise, you'll hear zilch from me.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna get going. I'm not completely comfortable with this semi self promotion, so I feel like I should go wash the sheets or something.
Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas Classic: Oh Come All Ye Faithful...And A Few Of You Other Guys, Too

The third and final installment in the "if you haven't read it before, it's new to you" group of posts...Christmas Classic #3: Oh Come All Ye Faithful...And A Few Of You Other Guys, Too

Growing up Roman Catholic, I used to attend church nearly every Sunday. I made my penance, my communion and my confirmation. I sat through sermon upon sermon. My parents, however, were split right down the middle. Both mom and dad were also raised Roman Catholic, but the tradition of faithfully attending mass only stuck with mom. Dad was a special occasions attendee. Back then I wanted to be like dad, for reasons that I'm sure are obvious. This upset mom. As I grew older and went off to college, I ultimately did end up like dad. And mom? Well, she too stopped going. I guess all those Sunday's were really just spent trying to instill some faith in me. Funny how it backfired like that.

When she gets frustrated now that I don't go, I tell her that when you point the finger, there are always two more pointing right back at you. Well, in theory I tell her that. Actually I just send her more of a "look and sigh combo" that I've perfected over the years. I see that for her, shopping most Sunday mornings has replaced the morning mass ritual. There's the pot calling the kettle black. No, two wrongs don't make a right. You can feel free to fill in your favorite random idiom here.

For a few years I didn't even attend mass on Christmas. There were too many places to go, too many people to see. But this year, everything fell into place and lo and behold my family, with grandma in tow, all decided to venture out to the local church. With the wedding I did a reading in being just last week that makes a whopping two week in a row record for my church attendance. I just might be on to something. Nah, probably not.

Some things stay the same with your average, Roman Catholic parishoner. I live in a town that is predominantly Jewish, but on holidays such as Christmas, the RC's come out of the woodwork like you wouldn't believe. This particular mass was no exception. It was standing room only as the priest and deacons prepared to preach to a packed house. Not only did we not have a seat, we were standing in the dreaded back room. The one that is always too cold or too hot. The one where they have bingo nights. The one that is always only half full of chairs on nights such as these when EVERY YEAR they obviously need more. I'm no financial advisor, but taking some of the donations and investing in another 50-100 folding chairs might be a good idea. Or if we could only use call ahead. I mean it works so well for The Outback.

So as we stood in the too warm, crowded room of well intentioned, but already halfway out the door parishoners, I found myself resorting to the old standby's I used from many a Christmases past. When I was a kid, there were other kids that got to bring things to do like dolls to play with or books to read. I was not one of those children. At that time, I merely looked at those kids with envy. So instead, I zoned in on other people. If all goes well and you play cards right, you can sit (or stand as the case may be) near a cute baby or child. If you are lucky enough to have this location, you're golden. Cute children, whether they're precocious or obnoxious, help pass the time like nobody's business. And if you are really lucky, you have a few different kids to choose from. This particular mass I found a few children to focus my attention on, although it was far from being a banner year. There was the cute little blonde hair child who loved to hit her mom. Then there was the little boy in front of me who had a passing the time activity of his own as he played the original, "watch me try to balance on one foot for as long as I can" game of boredom. The other thing I notice about the little ones is that they too have their ways of getting through mass. Us Roman Catholics start early. Also, do you think it's really a coincidence some kids don't start ranting and raving at the top of their lungs until it is completely silent? I didn't think so.

I noticed the first reader at this particular mass sounded a lot like an extra from The Sopranos. I didn't know who the priest was either, but he too sounded like an actor I couldn't place. I'd like to tell you what these men looked like, but I couldn't see him from the nosebleed seats, or "stands" as it were. We actually used to have a priest who sounded exactly like Tom Hanks if you closed your eyes. All of these men make feeble attempts at humor before diving into the serious business, which in short, no matter how you slice it, is always "Jesus is the reason for the season".

As the priest thanked us for coming and subtley reminded us to be good Roman Catholics not just tonight but, all year round, people started filing out of the church. Most of them got what they came for. They put in their time and paid their dues, some of the literally. They scampered off to the cars, most of them to surface again during Lent or Easter. And it was in the moment that we walked out into the cold, night air and tried to cross the parking lot to get to our car as cars kept on whizzing by that I noticed the irony of it all. Jesus might be what got us there, but apparently one little sermon is not going to change the fact, unfortunately, most of these people still think they're more important than you.

I also realize as I type this that most of the people who will actually read this on Christmas will probably be Jewish bloggers and some of this might be boring to them, but that's ok.

Regardless of your denomination, I hope you have (or had) a happy holiday. Just try to be good to each other, pretty please with a Communion wafer on top.
Friday, December 23, 2005

Christmas Classics: Do You Hear What I Hear...Every F***ing Year?

First things first. A few people have expressed their concerns about the Best of Blog Awards I posted about earlier. Some don't like the concept of choosing a best blog, while others are confused on how to actually choose anything.

To talk to the first thing for a second let me just say this, the way I understand it, you can vote as many times as you want for as many people as you want considering there are so many categories. For instance, if you think 5 different people are deserving of a "best blog" nod, then nominate all 5 people. If you want to scatter nominations throughout the categories, you can do that too, whether it be for the same person or for different people. The panel has the final say though, on who becomes a top 10 finalist.

And to answer to the winnings itself, I understand how some people feel funny about choosing the "best" of blogging, but then again if you read a blog and truly believe it is great, wouldn't you want others to know about it, too? This is all about helping out the little guy people!

On the second note, for the actual voting itself this is how it goes...If you go to the link and scroll down you will find hyperlinks to all the categories. If you click on a link you simply leave a comment that includes the url of the site you are nominating.

Now, without further adieu, Christmas Classic #2: Do You Hear What I Hear...Every F***ing Year?

When I was a kid, I couldn't get enough of Christmas music. My parents would play Elvis Presley's "Blue Christmas" as we decorated the tree. I thought Elmo and Patsy's "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" was a HEE-sterical. Amy Grant's "Grown-Up Christmas List" was one of the most prolific songs I'd heard...ever.

But as the years have passed and I have grown older, my interests in all things Christmas have waned. In fact, lately I find myself groaning at the lack of originality that comes along with Christmas. This is not to say that I have a "Bah Humbug bravado", but I mean really, how many ways can you say joy to the world, goodwill towards men or even Feliz Navidad?

Beyond the lack of original phrasing, the fruit cake is all the more nutty since no one seems to have anything new to say about the season, period. Case in point, Band-Aid 20's remake of the classic "Do They Know It's Christmas?" I can sum up this remake in one word: UNNECESSARY. Sure, they all 2004'ed it up by adding Robbie Williams AND a rap, but other than that, I say if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The only good thing about this rehash is that I suppose the money goes to charity. That's a plus. Otherwise it's only purpose in my mind is to irritate and remind me of the startling and disturbing fact that it has, indeed, been TWENTY FREAKIN' YEARS since the original. Good lord.

All that being said, in the spirit of the season, I have compiled a list that breaks down my feelings on the ghosts of Christmas music past:

Top 10 Christmas Songs I'm Not Sick Of

1. "Must Have Been Ol' Santa Claus"- Harry Connick Jr.-
This my friends, is a classic waiting in the wings. Not only is this a great, original song, but Harry is also an equal opportunity holiday greeter, wishing warm Happy Hanukah from Harry Connick-ah wishes to all.

2. "Do They Know It's Christmas?"-Band-Aid
The only way to go is with the original no name crew, minus the famous a million times over, Bono.

3. "All Alone On Christmas"-Darlene Love
Cheesy? Yes. Classic. Hell yeah.

4. "All I Want For Christmas Is You"-Mariah Carey
see above

5. "Christmas Wrapping"-The Waitresses
One year, many opened presents ago, I made it my mission to memorize all the lyrics to this song. ("You mean you forgot cranberries too?") I am proud to say I still have it all up in the ol' noggin, just waiting for A Rock N' Roll Jeopardy-like duel.

6. "Last Christmas"-Wham
Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the last Christmas song that I can recall that actually had something slightly new to say about the holiday. Not to mention that to this day, it still remains Andrew Ridgeley's biggest claim to fame. Darren Hayes of Savage Garden redid this one a few years back. He's currently Ridgeleying it up somewhere along with John "Jingle Bell Rock" Oates.

7. "Same Old Ayne Syne"- Dan Fogelberg
I like to refer to this gem as my obscure Christmas favorite, but let's call a spade a spade here, most of my interests are nothing if not obscure. Believe it or not, this is actually one of my favorite songs...ever. It's not a traditional Christmas carol, but they usually pull it out and dust it off every year around this time. If you're a sadistic martyr like me and want a little drama with your egg nog, this one's for you!

8. "Reggae Christmas"-Bryan Adams
No, I most certainly will not apologize. This is a fun song. Christmas is meant to be fun. Now go away.

9. "Dominick The Donkey"-Lou Monte
Speaking of fun...when you take fun and add Christmas what do you get? Why Lou "Dominick The Donkey" Monte, of course! This song reminds me of my half, but who am I kidding, more like a 100% Italian heritage. "A dress for Josephine!" That line kills me everytime. Incidentally, if you like this song by Lou you would most certainly like his others considering they are

10."So This Is Christmas"- John Lennon
This one is the biggest "oldie" on my list that I still love. There are others that are good, but nothing that captures the season as well. It succeeds every year in making me reflect upon another year gone by with the opening line. "And so this is Christmas. And what have you done?..." It's in that second I both love and hate Lennon; both for his rhetorical question and his uncanny ability to make me feel inadequate about another 365 days, all at the same time. Thanks, John. You've given a gift that keeps on giving.

On the other hand, I hate, loathe, despise, detest, dislike, deplore, spit upon, shudder at the thought of, dread with the heat of a thousands suns....Paul McCartney's "Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time". No Christmas song before or since has made me want to stab myself repeatedly in the eye. How this can come from the same man who gave us classics such as "Hey Jude", I have no idea. It's like McCartney's musical skeleton that should have never gotten out of the closet.

So there you have it, my recommendations for repeat offenders this holiday season. Feel free to share one of your own. You can also feel free to kiss or dismiss one of my picks. I don't care. It's Santa Claus who sees you when you're sleeping and when you're awake. I just blog here.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005

You Probably Think This Post Is About You, Don't You?

As we all know, this time of year is full of eggnog booze, gadgets you can't use, Christmas trees and overdone wreaths.

Yet those of us in the blogging community also know this time of year is marked by a much newer tradition that is quickly growing in popularity...The Best of of Blog Awards.

For inquiring minds that want to know, here are a few facts...

Categories this year include:

* Best Adoption/Fertility Blog
* Best Book/Literary Blog
* Best Cooking/Recipe Blog
* Best Daddy Blog
* Best Education/Homeschooling Blog
* Best Knitting/Craft Blog
* Best LGBT Blog
* Best Mommy Blog
* Best Music Blog
* Best New Blog
* Best Overall Blog
* Best Poetry/Photo/Art Blog
* Best Sex Blog
* Best Sports Blog
* Best Weight Loss/Fitness Blog
* Biggest Blog Whore
* Most Humorous Blog
* Most Inspirational Blog
* Snarkiest Blog
* Best Podcast Blog

Nominations will be accepted until January 3, 2006. As far as I can tell you can still vote as often as you wish and you can also vote for yourself... but then again, does that really make you the "fairest" one of them all?

To read more about the rules go here.

And if voting in one popuarlity contest this season just isn't enough for you, head on over to Mr. Snitch's Best Posts of 2005 contest for more details.

If there are any other contests that praise the praiseworthy that I missed, just lemme know.

So in between the gift wrapping and the Chex mix snacking, stop on over and vote, won't you?
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday "He Sees You When You're Sleeping"

Santa Claus is coming! Santa Claus is coming! I know him! I know him!

Fess up...were you naughty or nice this year?
Monday, December 19, 2005

Christmas Classics: Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus

Around this time every year all of our favorite shows take a break. Cause everybody needs sometime away; a holiday, from each other. This is why I've decided to apply the same adage to things here at AOGB.

The following is a "repeat" post from last Christmas. It's the first of three I'm regifting, so to speak. Think of them as the Frosty the Snowman or the happy burning log screenshot of the blogging world. Soon enough I will bring tidings to you and all of your friends, along with a brand spankin' new post. But until then I bring you Christmas Classics: Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus

One of the hardest things about teaching third graders this time of year is the the unavoidable big question.

"Miss Branagan, is there really a Santa Claus?"

I was surprised no one had asked me, until a student of mine blindsided me the other day. So I did what any authority figure for eight year olds would do in my situation.

I lied.

Now I know we tell children it is never OK to lie. But isn't that in esssence, itself a lie? I figure this is one lie that God will forgive in the grand scheme of things. In fact, this is one of those rare situations in life where telling the true is actually the opposite of the right thing to do.

Third grade is a weird age because you're not quite a little kid anymore, but you're not quite into the "rolling your eyes, God this is embarrasing" preteen stage yet either. You still believe what adults tell you. You still get excited when a teacher swears something will be "fun" (often another lie). Empty threats still scare the hell out of you. Action figures are still cool. All of these things and more still apply to the average third grader.

Of course, there is always one kid who figures out the truth before everyone else. Whether he examines the plausiblity of a real life bunny hopping down the street or he just hears it early on from an obnoxious older brother, regardless the truth is out, the magic gone. Often this child finds it his or her duty to share what he knows what the rest of his duped comrades.

In fact, I think that child was me.

This is not to say that I ran around purposely ruining the wonders of Christmas for other children. Children "in the know" don't see it that way. Instead they see it as their obligation to open the eyes of their peers to the truths that surround them. Incidentally, these are also often the same kids that grow up to be very good conspiracy theorists, but that's another post for another time.

So no, I was not the type of child who ran around telling everyone I knew, nor was I the mean-spirited child who laughed at those who still believed. But I know I was the bearer of bad news to at least two little girls; my best friends.

God love those little girls, they sure held their ground. They said the information I had simply could not be true because they saw Santa leave their house one night. They had proof. I wouldn't leave well enough alone. I told them their dad probably dressed up. I think they were still on the fence. Talk about idealistic.

Now so many years later, I can't recall when I stopped believing or how I knew the truth. That part of the story remains blurry to me. But the way kids, especially my class, grow up so quickly these days, I was really surprised to see so many of them still believe at this age.

This is why I am humming a different tune this time around and decidedly perpetuating the myth. Now I know better. Children that know early on are not smarter. If anything, they often grow more cynical about the life around them at an earlier age. And really- what hurry is there to be cynical? As wise old woman once spoke a truthful adage in the lyric: "If I could turn back time, I'd take back those words that hurt you..." I know what you're thinking. The song sounds like it's about a relationship gone bad. Just trust me on this one. You simply gotta read between the lines.

This week I plan on reading the story of The Polar Express to my class since the dream of getting any hardcore work done in the remaining days before Christmas is a laugh. I read the story this weekend for the first time myself. Really it's premise is about the magic of believing. Now I have to be prepared for the hard-hitting questions and the "but how do you explain's?" that are sure to come at me. It's ok though. I'm ready to lie through my teeth. For now I understand the importance of believing, even if it is for just a little bit longer.
Friday, December 16, 2005

And The Pudding Made of Fig...Aah!

With the abundance of networks there are on television these days it's no wonder some of us never leave the house. Almost anything you can think of has an entire channel, or at least an entire program on a channel, devoted to it. I'm serious about this. Court TV, anyone?

Which brings me to my beef, no pun intended, with the Food Network. In some ways the Food Network is educational, teaching everything from how to make a turducken, a new word I learned this year, to how to boil water. It's easy access gives do-it yourselfer's the ingredients necessary to kick their cooking up a notch.

That is, of course, if your cooking manages to go as smoothy as it does on TV.

I don't know about you, but I always semi resented the television personalities on do it yourself cooking and home and garden programs. They make everything look ridiculously easy, and they manage to be somewhat witty while doing so! It's just not human. Try this at home and you might get one or the other, but definitely not both. I suppose this is why these people have a show and I don't.

But with the Internet, now the Food Network is really cooking. You don't have to catch every step Emeril did when basting that turkey, it's all spelled out for you in an easy to print format on the Food Network site, along with a zillion other "try me and you'll be pulling your hair out" type recipes.

Yes, if you've got the time, they've got the ideas. And if you don't? Well, don't worry. They've taken care of that too! Consider programs like that of the relentlessly perky Rachael Ray. Rachael teaches things like how to make 30 Minute Meals and how to eat on 40 Dollars A Day. Just give Rachael a number and she'll meet it. She's got this down to a science, now anyways. The other day I was watching a Christmas 30 Minute Meal and relishing in the fact that she had to rush a bit. Cause I mean really, what is up with this 30 minute meal stuff anyway? You can't fool us. You made this stuff on tv, the land of editing. There's no accounting for crying children or ringing phones in the 30 minutes is there, oh no. Cause before you know it, the soufflee is slightly burned and you realize you don't have anymore milk. I'd like to see Rachael cook in real time and see how smoothly things ran. I'm just saying.

Within those 30 Minute programs it gets even funnier. She breaks down how long it takes to make each item, driving the point home that this just cannot be any simpler. She made a 15 minute pasta with sauce, a 5 minute fudge dessert and a 2, count 'em, two minute appetizer! Well I say, why stop there? Why not the 2 second vegetable! Just look at them and bam! Their done. Now that's what I'd call progress.

Better yet, I'd like to see how the other half lives. Because you and I both know that not all meals are easy to make. You've tried making some and I've tried making some. So the question becomes who is going to address those? I want to see Rachael tackle a 2 Hour Challenge, a nice companion piece to all of this easy shit. Now that, that would really seperate the men from the boys.

The other thing about the Food Network is how much the idea has caught fire. In fact, there are, dare I say, almost too many cooks in the kitchen these days. Years ago you wanted to learn how to cook? You watched Julia Child or some random old lady on public television and you were done with it. No back then you pretty much knew how to cook or didn't. It was a baptism by fire either way. None of this holding your hand garbage and there weren't nearly as many selections either. And the product tie ins alone can make these people so rich. Plus you don't eve really have to be an actual cook, you just get points for trying! I mean those old time cooks must have been kicking themselves the day they first heard about George Foreman's grill.

Despite my love/hate relationship with the Food Network I watch occassionally, mainly because my mom enjoys watching it. She doesn't attempt making any of it, of course, just watches it. But sometimes watching the Food Network is a frustrating experience. If I could compare it to anything, I'd compare it to a guy going to a strip club. You know you can look, but you can't touch.

These chefs create beautiful dishes that make our mouth water, but if we can't put our food where our mouth is, what's the point of that? Instead most of us don't start cooking we sit there, salivating, waiting for our next meal. We don't have Smell-O-Vision and we can't taste a sample like at Sam's Club, so what's the point? All we get is to watch the host sample their delicious dish which of course they are going to rave about because they made it!

In a way this is a good thing. I mean could you imagine how much we all would weigh if we could try all the stuff they make on these programs?! It's funny how much progress we have made in the land of healthy eating because on most of these shows, you would never know it. Most of the things they make are not only hard to eat, they are also hard to justify eating, no matter how little they will tell me to make it.

That's why I adopted a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy to all of this. I came up with the perfect Food Network program that not only teaches you how to eat, it teaches you how to eat and be healthy. It's called, drumroll please....

Watch What You Eat

Get it? You're watching as in it's on tv, and you're watching as in counting calories!

I know, I know. I thought it was ingenious too!

Now if only I could get someone to cook the actual food, I'd have it made, literally.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Justice For All, Digits For Some

So yesterday was my day in court for the fender bender I had back in October.

First the bad news... besides the accident itself that is. Tried as I might to convince her otherwise, my principal would not let me come in late and instead made me take the entire day off. I know. Poor baby. Taking the whole day off. Only when there's so much to do and you can't do any of it, a day off isn't as welcome as you might imagine, but that's another post for another day.

Now you might recall there were no witnesses to the accident, however a co-worker of mine was a witness to the officer's handling of the events. So she insisted on coming eventhough I told her she didn't have to. The kicker being SHE was allowed to take part of the day and I wasn't. My principal rationalizied that she needed less coverage considering what she was missing. Whatever. Beggars can't be choosers.

I arrived at court early considering I've been through this game before, a game, by the way, I've become far too hip to playing as of late. Only depending on who you're playing with, the rules change slightly. Since I work in this town normally I pretty much know the rules. The rules are there aren't any rules. It's a free for all. A crapshoot. Expect the unexpected. Surreal. Picture Disneyland only without all the magic and talking characters.

Of course I got there early enough, but early don't amount to a hill of beans in this neck of the woods. No sign in sheet + no order = NO FAIR. So after being the second person to arrive, we got word that we had to line up if we wanted to talk to the prosecutor. Suddenly I went from second to thirty-second in under 60 seconds. I felt like Nancy Kerrigan after she lost it all at the 1994 Olympic games.

Finally, it was my turn. I went in and talked to the prosecutor. Instantly I knew that this was not a man to be afraid of. Why? Well, because he decides to break the ice...with a joke.

"Branagan? Let me guess. You're guilty of impersonating an Irishman."

Then he gets to the business of actually...taking care of business.

He looks at the charge and then takes out a copy of the accident report. As soon as he sees the name of the officer who wrote up the ticket he begins to roll his eyes and make NO ATTEMPT to hide his emotions toward the man. I can't really do it justice with a picture here so I'll have to settle for a semi-translation with words: "HE'S AN IMBECILE."

Now he didn't elaborate as to why he didn't particularly er, trust? this officer's judgment, but let's just say he made it clear that he did not. He didn't even need to ask my side of the story as the rendering the officer of the scene of the crime spoke for itself. Basically, he drew the accident as if I had turned and more or less AIMED for the car in question. The prosecutor said he highly doubted that was what happened, but that he was very familiar with the intersection and that without an eyetwiness camera, there would be no way to call it. In short, his opinion was that no ticket should have been issued and that it should be dismissed.

Well like, duh. That's what I'd been saying all along!

Only I wasn't in the clear just yet. Since I had decided to plead not guilty, the girl who was driving the other car was given a summons to appear. So I saw her sitting out there but of course I hadn't said anything to her. The prosecutor had to talk to her and make sure she didn't want to file a complaint outside of the ticket that he was about to throw out.

So the prosecutor asked me if I could tell her to come in for a minute. I told him I could...if she understood English because at the scence of the accident you might remember she was all "No Hablas Englais" in the officer's face. So I approached her with trepidation. I don't like to cop to stereotypes. I mean I work in the town with the population day in and day out. But this particular chick totally looked like she was gonna go Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight on my ass. I'm just saying.

So she went in. She came out. I went in again. Apparently she didn't know why she was there. She didn't want to file any complaints, the insurance covered the damage to her car and she didn't have any braces around her neck to conjure up any mysterious injuries that may have occured after she left the scene, so it was all good. So the prosecutor said he asked her if she wanted to go home. She said yes. So he said so leave. Just like that.

Oh and her conversation with the prosecutor? According to him? In perfect English.

Motion to adjourn.

All that was left was to go into the court room and have it officially dismissed by the judge. What can I say? Just when you think that you're out they pull ya back in. Lucky for me I only had to wait for a few minutes and got to listen to a rather amusing testimonial between one defendant and the judge which ended with the judge giving his personal cell phone number to the defendant so he could "see how things go". I can't make this shit up if I tried.

Finally I had my moment in front of the judge. I could not make out one word the man with a mouthful of marbles was saying. Very pleasant man, just completely incoherent. It was what I would imagine having a conversation with Ozzy Osbourne would be like. I said thank you. I walked out. I paid nothing. I could have been dismissed. Otherwise I could be in contempt of court right now.

If only I had his cell number to double check.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday "4 Out Of 5 Dentists Recommend Trident"

I haven't done one of these Tell It To Me Tuesday's in awhile so I figured it was about time.

Tell me all about a site that you love, blogging or otherwise, that you want to share with me and anyone else who might stop by. Don't forget to tell us why it's so fab! Who knows? Today's suggestion just might be tomorrow's blogroll addition!
Monday, December 12, 2005

Why Rudolph Really Had A Very Shiny Nose

Recently I wrote about the frustrating gift giving process. Well I was sorely remiss in not mentioning a tried and true, "I don't know what to give you but I have to give you something" gift.

That gift, of course, is anything that smells good.

Smelling good products include candles, lotions, perfumes/colognes, lip balms and bath oils. You can give these gifts anytime of the year to anyone, however for some reason the varieties seem to be in greater abundance come Christmas time. Coincidence? I think not.

A candle is good because not only does it smell wonderful, it can also perfectly accent a room, depending on who you are. Sometimes it manages to compliment the room so much that actually burning it seems almost a sin. Then again if you're anything like me, burning a candle brings with it a whole new set of problems considering I'm deathly afraid of having fire that close to my fingers, but I digress.

However once candles are lit it is SO WORTH IT, because no matter how great the smell is while a candle is lit, the smell after you blow out a candle is even ten times better. This alone is the only reason I look forward to birthday cake. Even if it's not my birthday I like to get right up in there to get a good whiff. Now if only they could create a candle that smells like a candle burning out I'd be all burn baby, burn.

Then you've got the rest of the lot: perfumes/colognes, oils, lip balms and lotions. Now this is a crap shoot. If there's one thing I'm certain of it's that you don't come between a girl and her perfume. Most of the time the same can be said for men. People are highly protective of their chosen scents as was I circa 1990 with my Debbie Gibson Electric Youth perfume, thank you very much. So if you don't know what scent the person wears you are taking a real gamble in trying to find one for them. Most people first off, are hesitant to change. Even others might take it as an insult that you don't like what they wear now.

This is because some people have an uncanny ability to tell what the perfume or cologne is just upon scent. I swear these people were forest animals in another life. I have no idea what you're wearing when you're wearing something. All I can tell you is this: it smells nice or you clearly bathed in in it and you're wearing too much because yes, for the last time, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Which brings me to the bath related items. You know these gifts. They come packaged, pretty as a picture but most of the time when you open up the gift you see it's really a sampler set in big girl's wrapping. But that's not the issue. No, I'm here to bring to your attention an epidemic that has caused many a regifting crises over the years, the fact that many people, including myself, are allergic to certain ingredients in these gifts. Sure I'd love to use your peppermint lotion and candy cane bath bubbles, but my skin, unfortunately, would disagree with me on that. I haven't been able to take bubble baths since I was a little girl for this reason alone. So sometimes I cheat and use different scents, but most of the time, I usually end up paying for it later.

Finally there are lip balms, glosses, what have you. These gifts my friends are highly addictive. Why? Well the candles, lotions and perfumes have one very important thing in common: they all smell good, sometimes good enough to eat, but as well all know, they aren't edible.

Enter the lip balm. Now you and I both know you can't exactly chow down on a lip balm, but since the balm is applied directly to the lips, a lick, or two or twenty isn't going to hurt now, is it? And the flavors are so creative. Any snack you had when you were a kid is now a lip balm, somewhere, somehow. But the added bonus is that this gift is actually helping you while it makes you smell good! It's keeping your lips from getting drier, and sometimes even shinier, if you can manage to keep it ON your lips, that is. So hate me if you must, but I'm all about beating out those eight year old girls for the latest lip balm flavors.

As far as I can see it there are only two down sides to any of the purchases I mentioned above. One thing is that many of these items come pre packaged so you can't sample the goods, per se before gifting it. This is very important and has made the difference between pretty candles that smell like shit, to pretty candles that smell, well...pretty. So my piece of advice to you there is to not give a smelly gift if you can't smell it first yourself. Remember, the nose knows.

The other potential downside is not knowing the person you are giving the gift too. Not only are there allergies to consider, there are also hurt feelings. If you are the one person in your office who always gets gifts that smell good I'd start thinking one of two things:

1. Nobody knows me well enough to know of anything else to get me
2. Should I have a complex that I like, smell or something?

Either way, the outcome is not good.

So please, Christmastime or anytime, heed my warnings when you decide to give a gift that appeals to the senses. If you do, you'll most certainly enjoy the sweet smells o success.
Friday, December 09, 2005

Ask And You Shall Receive

The Christmas countdown is rapidly dwindling, and with it is the time left to buy that "perfect" gift. You know, that special something that special someone just can't live without.

You would think in this day and age it would be easier to shop for others with all of the choices there are out there. No longer is a hat and scarf set the best thing you can find for grandma. You can get creative and, if you can't find it in the stores, that's not a problem either. You can just order it online have it delivered straight to your doorstep.

But with all of the advances we've made in gift-giving-ology, I personally feel the same struggles year after year.

What do I get?!

Before I gripe let me just say that I'm luckier than most. I can afford to splurge a bit as I have no rent or mortgage payments hanging over my head. I have no children. I don't have any brothers or sisters. No, it's just a few key gifts that I need to purchase and yet, those still manage to stump me year after year.

Shopping for mom and dad for instance has never been fun. This is because my mom loves to shop, much more than me, and so she pretty much has everything she wants already, because she has already bought it for herself. Sometimes she still likes to wrap presents and address them to her and sign them from Santa and act all surprised when she opens them. Who she is doing this for I have no idea.

Then there's my dad. My dad isn't that much of a shopper, unless it's supermarket shopping which oddly enough he LOVES. But still, anything he "needs" mom picks him up on her shopping spree.

Neither one of them have hobbies. Neither one of them are particularly into electronic gadgetry. My mom isn't a cooker, a baker or a candlestick maker. My dad isn't obsessed with sports. See my dilemma?

So in the past I've managed to conjure up a few gifts that have showed, at the very least, thoughtfulness on my part. When I was younger and had no money to speak of, I'd make them musical mixes. I've purchased CD's they would never purchase for themselves before I could just download them. Another year I found gifts commemmorating each of their individual heritages, Irish and Italian.

But most Christmases, more often than not, I do the copout gift. A sweater. Some perfume. A computer game. Something that shows it's the thought that counts, but little more than that.

Which brings me to my next point: Do you think it's better that we all tell each other what we want or is it better to be surprised? Cause personally, I go back and for on this one.

The advantages to knowing what people want is the guesswork is eliminated. They don't have to act like they like that hat and scarf set you gave them and you don't have to act like it's a gift you believe in either. This way both of you know where you stand. And when you think about it, it's not so absurd. Children make lists all the time. So why, as adults, do many of us stop doing this?

Of course there are disadvantages. If you get someone exactly what they wanted and you know that they know there's no reason to even wrap the damn thing then, is there? Hey! Here's the new XBox360 you were eyeballing. Don't even bother feigning surprise. We both knew you were going to get it.

I think this is why I always liked the way my parents did it. Some gifts were surprises, some were things I asked for. So this year I wanted to try and do the same for them. I came up with the idea of getting them tickets to see The Jersey Boys in NYC. Only problem is I had to consult with them first. One, I need to know which day they can go and two, this was the only year my dad decided to try and get creative and said he might get that for my mom. We are talking about a man who never shops for Christmas or birthdays or anything, so while I was glad he took an interest, this also forced me to show my hand, so to speak.

And how about those we don't know all that well but we have to find something for anyhow? These are people like your coworkers and acquaintances, needy, etc. As if it wasn't hard enough trying to predict who is going to get who something, then you have to figure out what to get them.

Sure, there are always tried and true generic gifts you can spring for, but if you're anything like me, you feel lame doing it. Still, you usually end up doing it anyway. This year I opted for the "backup" gift idea, purchasing a 6 tin cookie set from Sam's so I have a gift ready just in case an unexpected coworker decides to surprise me in a different way.

Then there's the third tier of gift giving- the Secret Santa. My friend made me do it. So I chose a name of a girl I know, but don't know. It's a 15 dollar limit, but the week of Christmas you have to purchase little dollar store gifts, sort've as hints, and leave them in their mailbox. Only problem is if you don't really know the person well, it makes it very hard to give hints. So I talked to a friend we have in common to get some ideas. This way the awkwardness when you exchange gifts with a semi stranger will, at the very least, be cut in half.

Of course as has been said time and time again, all this gift giving manages to do is cloud us from the real truth: Jesus is the reason for the season. Besides, it's the thought that counts. And you can be my baby, it don't matter if you're black or white.

Wait. That doesn't seem right.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Writing The Wrongs

Ok, so the Random House thing was a false alarm (no offense, Jerry). Move along people, nothing to see here.

Then again, at least I can say my name has ended up in print.

Some of you might recall my latest (God I can't believe I just said "latest") brush with the law. The court date for this issue, by the way, is rapidly approaching as it is just under a week away. I called the cop who swore to "help me out in any way possible" but he never returned my calls. I have my witness, a co-worker, going with me though as backup.

In the meantime, I decided not to just sit by and do nothing. So I did the only thing I know how to do; I wrote a letter to the local newspaper. Below you will you see the letter I wrote and they printed. Since it's been printed I've had a few teachers come up to me, teachers in a huge school I never talk to, commending me for writing it and one even suggested starting a petition on the matter.

But to bring the letter up when I'm in court or not to bring the letter up? That is the question...

Stop! Look! Listen! Get a Light! (Thankfully, the only thing about this article that isn't mine)

I am a teacher who works in the _________ school system. On Oct. 18, I was leaving school and traveling down ______ Street. At the end of ________ Street, I proceeded to make a full stop at the stop sign before making a left onto ______ Street, just as I do every weekday.

I made the left and was in my lane, only to suddenly feel impact. I did not see any vehicle before or during the impact, only afterward when we pulled over to assess the damage. Thankfully the damage to both vehicles was relatively minor and no injuries were incurred. This still did not stop the attending police officer from issuing a ticket since I was turning and, therefore, decidedly did not have the right of way at the time of the accident.

As a teacher in the town, I am extremely concerned about the safety of intersections such as these. I know that I made a full and complete stop and naturally looked both ways. I also know that this street constantly has cars exiting via numerous side streets and filled parking spaces, which also, by the way, severely manage to impede vision. Highly traveled, residential intersections like this one are prevalent in _______. Yet although the intersection has a high traffic volume, there is no traffic light. As a result I have been told unavoidable accidents have occurred at this stop.

Not only is there constant traffic occurring in both directions, especially at peak times such as morning and afternoon rush hour, this particular stop is less than a mile away from a school, an elementary school nonetheless. Pedestrians, including minors, cross at this intersection all the time without even a crossing guard in place.

I feel the safety of this intersection for both the visitors and residents of this community has become unnecessarily compromised by the absence of a traffic light. I whole-heartedly believe it is in the community's best interest to constantly reassess where traffic lights are necessary, if not for the welfare of the drivers, then for the better of the community and safety of the children.

Janet Branagan
Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Tell It To Me Tuesday "All I Want For Christmas"

Last year I asked my students what they wanted as part of some writing assignment. One of my students wrote this:

"I want to go to China because all of my toys are made there."

So tell me, what do you want this Christmas season?
Monday, December 05, 2005

I'm Not Talking About Moving In, And I Don't Want To Change Your Life

Yesterday I received an email from blogging friend Rachel over at Souls Road. She wanted to let me know of some (perhaps premature) exciting news on the blogging front.

At times, curiosity has been known to get the best of many of us bloggers. Rachel is no exception. She was checking out the page that tells who who visits your blog. Incidentally this is always a fun page. For one thing, you find out just how much the same five people who always visit your blog visit you. For another, you discover those who Google phrases such as "simcha dancing" men and somehow end up at your blog. The last phrase by the way, is a true keyword search that brought someone here mere moments ago, I kid you not.

So Rachel saw a visiting page on her site that when she followed it, came from visiting my site. Where it was before that I don't know for sure, but my guess is it had something to do with Kevin Bacon.

That site was Random House, New York.

Rachel sees this and emails me and I in turn blog about it, to YOU.

Cause this whole thing has me thinking: Was the Random House appearance truly, dare I say it, random? Was it some lowly intern who happens to work there, mocking us unintentionally? Or was it something more?

Blogging about it here might backfire when the culprit who works in the mailroom sheepishly ends up revealing themselves in the comments, but I figured what the heck, I'd blog about it anyway.

Because I had to do something.

I don't really know what the chances are that Random House is interested in little ol' me. It's not like I sent them any manuscripts that they unceremoniously dumped and/or ignored. And it's not like this blog has the same following as Dooce or This Fish, though that doesn't stop me from wishing it did. So what, truly, are the chances that a girl like me would be literally plucked from obscurity?

Part of me wants to scream Wait Random House! Come back! I can do better! You ain't seen nothing yet!

Another part of me wants to play it cool, albeit unsuccessfully like Angela Chase who not so secretly pined for Jordan Catalano in the classic nineties show My So-Called Life.

Whoever you are, I hope you return again, even if it was just an intern. Cause we all know the guy sweeping the floors today is calling the shots tomorrow.

I'm not asking for a commitment. All I'm saying is random Random House person, feel free to stop by again. Maybe we can grab a quick nightcap sometime.

No pressure, really.
Friday, December 02, 2005

Every Girl's Crazy About A Sharp Dressed Man

If I could walk in the shoes of the opposite sex for only one day, there would be a lot I'd love to do. In fact, I think it would be great if both sexes had the chance to go all Freaky Friday every once and awhile. Men could get a feel for what it's like to have pregnancy cravings and PMS, while women could get an idea of what it feels like to be obsessed with sports, beer and breasts.

But since in this day and age this just isn't possible I have to settle for the next best thing, living vicariously through the opposite sex.

One thing that women, as a gender, are known for are their feelings toward fashion. When the going gets tough for women the women get shopping. Even I, yes I, have been powerless to the powers of a good pullover every once and awhile. Still, I am a far cry from the obsessive shopper most women are. I am a get in and get out kinda girl. Sure I love relishing in the purchase, but the actual scavenger hunt part I could do without.

In this way I am a lot like men, but this is where the similarities in fashion end. Because I've thought about how I'd feel about fashion if I were a guy and the answer is a simple one: I'd be all about the tie.

Seriously. I don't know why more men don't jump on this. For girls, fashion possibilities are endless. We could go shortsleeve, we could long. We could wear pants, we could wear a skirt. We can go school girl or go slut...or if we're really lucky, we can even pull off a successful combo of both.

But for men, self expression in the form of fashion is not quite so easy. They could wear pants or they could wear...pants. They have the nail biting choice between dress pants and casual pants, but that's about it. Some might argue this is the way men like it, but I beg to differ. I say this is precisely why men don't care about what they wear, because there's nothing to care about.

Think about it. Without the tie a suit is just a suit. A guy is just a guy. The tie is an accessory some men add, the way some women might add a piece of jewelry. But men clearly need the tie more so than the women need that necklace.

Men need to build on this. With the tie, the chances to express oneself are immeasurable because the tie is one form of fashion for men where a vast array of choices are eviden. And as we all know, the more choices there are, the more chances there are to show your true colors.

There are ties with a lot of colors, ties with cartoon characters and ties that "tie" into holiday themes. Then there are more subdued ties with solid colors or soft pastels. Each and every tie says something different about the guy, just like different articles of clothing say something different about a girl. Which, by the way, reminds me of another argument for how men secretly care more about fashion than even they realize. Most men put in their two cents about what they like to see on girls. If they didn't care about fashion at all, would they even care to comment? Huh! Huh?!

If any of the above hasn't convinced you let me now bring it full circle. Ask most girls and they will tell you this: from day to day they might not care what their guy wears, but when they get all dressed up they go ga ga for a guy who can clean up nicely. So men, if you're reading this, if you're not going to do it for yourself, at least do it for the ladies in your lives. And for those of you who aren't tied up the same applies, tenfold. So it doesn't matter who wins in the ongoing battle of the sexes.

Cause in my mind, it always comes down to a tie.



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