Thursday, October 17, 2013

Do You Ruzzle?

Dear Readers:

Can't blog anymore, because I'm completely and utterly addicted to Ruzzle.

I'd explain more, but I have another round to play and I'm developing a weird kind of carpal tunnel that's only in my right pointer finger and someone named "MonoBrow123" just requested a game, so as you can see I have a lot on my plate.


Atomic Auntie

Seriously, have you played this game yet?  Ruzzle is this great app for smartphones and notepads (I have it on my iPad, which is the best invention ever in the history of the world but that's another post altogether).  It's kind of like Boggle and Scrabble combined, and there are tens of thousands of other players online at any given time and it's just a big old word party.  Finally, a festival for geeks!  (Aside from Comic Con, of course.)
I've always been a logophile (for you language haters, that's a lover of words/word buff).  Taught myself to read at age four, and haven't stopped since.  I devour books, usually two or three a week.  My tastes vary widely, and I go through phases with my reading -- I'm currently into historical fiction, particularly Civil War stuff and anything related to slavery or Native Americans.  Why?  Dunno.  I also love memoirs, mass-market stuff and some so-called "chick lit."

I'm a former spelling bee wizard, going all the way back to 4th grade (but I was one of those kids who kept it up through 8th grade and went to the county spelling bee and did I mention that I got beat up occasionally and have absolutely no idea why?).  So in essence, words are kind of my thing.

When I first heard about Ruzzle, I thought, "Huh, whatever, another word game."  I downloaded it only so I could play my online buddies who told me about it.  Once.  Because I don't play GAMES on my iPad.  My precious iPad is for important online activities and such.  Well, except for that brief obsession with Disney Fairies Fashion Boutique but that was because one of the niecelets made me play it and hey, did you know you could level up faster if you "liked" other players' boutiques and you get three "likes" a day and there are bonus points if you dress a mannequin from head to toe in winter attire?
Don't ask.
So I guess there's sort of a precedent, if you will, of me being ... interested in gaming.  (Just the fact that I'm using "game" as a verb now is kind of rocking my world at this very moment.)  But I was blissfully unaware of this fact when I launched the Ruzzle app and played my first round, feeling a little smug because hey, I'm a wordsmith, just ask anyone who's ever been on the receiving end of my grammar police baton.
And I promptly got my ass kicked.
You can guess what happened next.  One word: Rematch.  And again.  And again and again and again, until I got this thing figured out.
A Ruzzle match is comprised of three two-minute rounds.  You can stop between rounds for as long as you'd like, but once you're playing a round, there's no pausing.  Time-out?  Uh-uh.  Which is frustrating when you get a good board, and you see a really great long word just as the time expires.
I started like most Ruzzle players, finding mainly two- and three-letter words, gradually moving my way up to seven letters or more.  There are "bonus" letters with a Scrabble-style double or triple letter/word score, which makes focusing on those areas of the board important.  You get to see the words your opponent found after each round, which leads to either a sense of smugness or humility, depending on your own results.  Plurals (i.e. "adding an 'S' to everything") become your friends.
I've learned that you can't judge a Ruzzler by his/her username.  "JuicyLips69" is most likely freakishly smart, and will come up with ZOONOTIC and HOTELIERS while you're plugging away with ZOO and HOTEL and feeling great because you found SMILES.  On the other hand, it's quite possible that you'll put "WordsAreMyLife" to complete and utter shame.

So, how addicted am I?  Let's see.  I've played (on more than occasion) for 6 hours straight.  I've stayed up so late at night that there barely seems to be a point in going to bed before getting up for work.  I've lost 3 or 4 pounds from not snacking in the evenings (because food would just get in the way), which is not something that has spontaneously happened to me, in the history of ever.  And I can't use a decently-sized word in casual conversation without speculating on its Ruzzle value.

Is there therapy for this?  There might be, but if there's a group I'm thinking it would quickly devolve into a great big Ruzzle fest and defeat the whole purpose.

Wanna play?  My username is (surprise!) atomicauntie.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Christmas in ... September?

This morning there was the teensiest autumnal nip in the air, just a whisper really but enough to make my mind leap ahead to dreams of spiced cider, hot chocolate, and roaring fires. (I'm really not much of a summer gal. I melt at temps above 70.) It will probably be a sweltering 95 degrees this weekend, but that little taste of fall was enough to also flash me back to what I was doing at this time last year, when I found myself waist-deep in glitter, musty Santas, and an army of knee-hugger elves. Allow me to explain.

I've never really been what one might consider a "crafty" person. A little here and there, but nothing on the scale of, say, the fabulous Betty Crafter, who I swear could make something amazingly retrotastic from nothing more than duct tape, coat hangers, and, like, a corncob. But still, I have my moments. Last year, when I was off work for 5 months recuperating from brain surgery, I got crafty by necessity. I was bored beyond belief (who knew I'd miss going to work so much?), couldn't drive, and was thoroughly overdosed on daytime television. Reading was still a challenge then, and I had to find something to DO. I'd been stockpiling and hoarding adorable vintage 1950s-1960s Christmas ornaments and ephemera for the last few years. These are just a few of the little lovelies that were rattling around in my collection:

I mean, I had oodles of the things, more than I could ever fit onto even the most heavily bedecked retro tree, and I was also desperate for a way to fill my days. And then magically, I stumbled upon an awesome craft I could make from all this stuff: WREATHS! I (very ambitiously) decided to make wreaths for all the wonderfully caring family and friends who'd helped me through such a difficult year. One hot glue gun and 12 tinsel wreath forms later, I was in business. I turned my mom's dining room table into Craft Central (there was an appalling amount of mess, and I'm so grateful for the tolerance she showed to her deranged and very clumsy post-surgery daughter) and after 5 solid weeks and about 10,000 glue burns (note: this is a conservative estimate), I had a wonderful crop of handmade holiday gifts that I was pretty darn proud of.

Here's one of them on my friend Linda's front door.
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Kind of wonderful, no? I wish I had a better pic that you could zoom in on, because these suckers were just jam-packed with vintage goodness.

So that tease of autumn in the air already has me plotting what this year's holiday craftstravaganza might be, should I opt to go that route. Shhhh! Next week I have my first-ever crochet lesson at a nearby yarn store. On the horizon: AMIGURUMI! If my fingers cooperate and Gidget the Wonder Cat doesn't abscond with all the balls of yarn.  photo image_zps569789ba.jpg

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bubbling Over

I've been a goldfish keeper for many years, and darned if I'm not still fascinated by the delightfully mutated little lovelies. Faithful readers will recall my post last year about my ranchus, featuring photos of the softball-sized darlings who were my pride and joy and the kitschy tiki tank in which they lived.

Alas, I had to re-home those goldfish and that aquarium with a dear friend last year when I had health problems, and I figured I'd be fish-free for a very long time. But not many months had passed before I was absolutely pining for some goldies again. There's just something about them that feeds my soul ... if one's spiritual self can be said to flower in the presence genetically manipulated, garishly colored, glorified carp, that is. But I'm easy that way.

Since I wasn't physically able to maintain such a nice big tank any longer, I set my sights lower this time, finding a nice 30 gallon high tank on Craigslist and scaling down the whole operation to a more manageable level. (The ranchus, incidentally, are alive and well and thriving with my friend. Their growth has been astounding!)

This time around, I went with a goldfish variety that I've never kept before: the bubble eye. I've found that people have a visceral reaction to these fish when they see them, either "Omigod, those are freakish and hideous and why on earth would you keep them?" or "Hey, neat!" but rarely anything in between. And I admit that they're not everyone's cup of ... chowder? But I've always liked them and thought that this aquarium reboot was a good opportunity to give one a test-swim.

This is Hula, a red and white bubble eye of indeterminate (for now, at least) gender. I've had him and his buddy, Astro (a calico butterfly) for about six months now. Once I got over my initial fear every time I walked over to the tank that I'd find him with his bubbles deflated, Hula's been nothing but pure enjoyment. He's downright hilarious to watch, swimming all googly with those bubbles a-shimmyin' away beside him.

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And his sidekick, Astro:
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Did I go ahead and tiki-fy the tank again? Oh my yes.
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Remember, friends -- if it's worth doing, it's worth doing it retro. Best fishes!

Monday, July 22, 2013

That Was the Year That Was

It's been an ... interesting year so far, to say the least.  This week is the one year anniversary of my emergency brain surgery and subsequent recovery process.  If I had to assign a percentage to my wellness, I'd say I'm at about 85% of normal.  Not too shabby, considering the doctors, nurses and everyone else didn't hold out hope for my survival at one point.  Outrageous, huh?

I lost nearly all the hearing in my right ear either as a result of the megadoses of antibiotics I was given, or possibly from scar tissue related to the surgery.  It's a bummer, but if that and being a bit off-kilter balance-wise and having a few short-term memory issues are all I have as souvenirs, then call me happy.  I'll have to be on anti-seizure drugs for a few more years, and they wipe me out, but I wasn't exactly a Type A personality to begin with.  I just take more naps than I used to.  So things are good.

To celebrate my recovery (or, to be perfectly honest, just because I wanted to), I've gotten a couple of new Disney tattoos.  The first is the Peter Pan gang that I was planning on just before all my health wackiness ensued (see the outline of the image a couple posts down).  I finally went ahead and got it in May, and it's lovely.  (Pics of that one coming soon.)

The latest is an Alice in Wonderland piece that I did in two sessions and just finished a few days ago. I wanted to incorporate Disneyland, not just the Alice characters, and I think my artist, the fantabulous Josh Green of the Hemlock Collective, right here in Sacramento, did one heck of a good job.  Five hours of ink time total, spread out over two sessions, and worth every ouchy moment.
Curiouser and curiouser, that I sat for the whole damn thing.

It's larger than I originally intended to get, but when I saw Josh's amazing artwork, I couldn't bring myself to change a thing.  Go big or go home, right?  At least, that became my mantra while lying in the tattoo chair, gritting my teeth.

Just planning to add Tinker Bell and some pixie dust, and I'm gonna call it done with tats for a long while.  They, you know, hurt.  Like, a lot.  I really don't enjoy the process of getting them at all.  But I do like having them.  And I can't wait to hit Disneyland and show them off.  I have this fantasy that I'll get front-of-line privileges on the Alice ride because they'll find my tattoo so totally fab.  (Note: This is completely and utterly unlikely to happen, but I dream about it the same way I like to plan how to spend my lottery millions every time I buy a ticket.  Custom tiki bar with Jungle Julep on tap, I'm talkin' 'bout YOU.)

I'll post some photos of the Peter Pan portion of the whole shebang (all the Disney pieces are on my lower right leg) once I finish the Tink stuff.

I plan to resume regular blog updates now that I'm doing so much better physically and my life is getting more normal again.  One heck of a year, for sure.  But it's been an amazing journey.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

If I Only Had a (Better) Brain

No, dear readers, Atomic Auntie has not abandoned you.  I'm alive and semi-well and ready to once again regale you with tales from my vintage-obsessed, retro-lovin' life.  But first, you deserve an explanation for my absence lo, these many weeks.  Bear with me.  I promise it's a good one.

 Mere days after my last blog post, things in my life went ... wacky.  It all started with a simple ear infection.  (I promise this gets better.)  Made an appointment for after work on a Wednesday, had it looked at, picked up antibiotics at the pharmacy downstairs.  Stopped on the way home for a smoothie (not to get off topic here, but if you haven't experienced a Citrus Squeeze smoothie, get thee to a Jamba Juice post-haste).  Felt flu-like while waiting for my beverage to be made (have I mentioned that the Citrus Squeeze is totally freaking delicious?) but attributed it to the ear infection.  Picked up my (amazingly yummy) drink.

And that's the last thing I remember for the next two weeks.

When I didn't show up at work the next morning, my boss called my family, who found me in my house, positively delirious.  I have no memory of this, nor can I recall the ambulance ride to the hospital, or having emergency brain surgery the next day.

See, that pesky little ear infection had turned into ever so much more.  It had probably been a chronic, mostly asymptomatic thing. And it had broken through my ear and taken up residence in my brain.

I had what's known in medical terms as a subdural empyema, basically a big old infected pocket of pus between my brain and the membrane that surrounds the brain.  Yay!

The neurosurgeon had to do a craniotomy to remove and flush out the infection.  Removed a rather large piece of my skull in the process, which a nurse later told me I was "lucky" he was able to reattach.  Shudder.

I was still in a coma post-surgery, but things went from bad to just plain awful.  I now had bacterial meningitis.  And sepsis.  And I was in organ failure.  I was on a respirator, and I'm told there were more than 10 bags o' stuff on my IV pole.

My vital signs crashed more than a few times.  One nurse told my mom that she should get to a church if she was the praying type.  Things were grim.  I was oblivious to all of it.

My beloved family and friends kicked things into high gear.  They took turns visiting and talking to me for hours on end.  Someone noticed that my vital signs stabilized when my loved ones were around.  They called in the pastor of my sister's church to pray over me, and had a raucous family gathering in the process (that's just how we roll).  Turns out they were having a moment of personal prayer and silence for me at work at that exact moment.

And I woke up the very next day.

I wish I could say that then I lived happily ever after, but it just didn't work out that way.  My muscles had atrophied during my coma, and I had trouble controlling them due to the brain injury.  My short-term memory was shot.  I was transferred to a fantastic rehab facility where I had five different therapies a day, from physical to occupational to speech to mat exercises and walking.  I worked hard, but the results I saw were beyond rewarding.

Now I'm home, staying with my mom for the foreseeable future.  I can't drive (although I heart my disabled parking placard when someone takes me out!) or stand up in the shower or go shopping for more than an hour or two without being totally wiped out.  And I've started having seizures and they're driving me bonkers tinkering with the dosages of the anti-seizure meds.  Oh, and the sepsis made a lot of my hair fall out and what's left is an inch long, because they shaved my head for the craniotomy, and gray because they won't let me dye my hair.  I'll be off work on disability until after the new year.

But you know what?  I'm alive.  And happy.  And totally overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from my family and loved ones.  It's going to be a long road to full(er) recovery, but I'm working hard.

Life is GOOD.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Odds 'n' Ends

Each year, I anxiously await the arrival of my tax refund so I can go on a spending spree.  I know it's not financially advisable to let the government have control of my money all year, only getting it back as a lump sum later on, blah blah blah, but it's just so much fun to have all that cash arrive at once.  Most years, I plan a big or medium-sized purchase that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise.  Two years ago, I got a new couch.  Another year, I had an amazing barkcloth duvet cover sewn for my bed.  My goldfish tank and its accoutrements are another tax refund buy.

This year, though, I decided to forego the big purchase and try to keep some of the money in savings in case something weird comes up (and with a house built in 1939, something almost always does).  I couldn't resist spending some of it, though, on little odds and ends that are making me exceedingly happy.

First, I found these pretty little vintage lustreware fish and bubbles, which are right at home with my vintage mermaid plaque collection on the dining room wall.  They're wonderfully sparkly.  I already had a set of 3 of these in blue, and it's nice to also have the pink.

My pink and red kitchen has an anthropomorphic motif (mostly anthro fruits and veggies).  I couldn't resist these adorable vintage salsa containers, and they're currently perched on the back of the stove.

These jolly little fellows are vintage ceramic gnomes that I placed right smack in the center of my gnome garden.  They weren't expensive at all, but I have to confess that right now, they're my favorite gnomes of all.

I have a total jones for Norcrest bluebirds and owls, and I've collected the ceramic figurines for a while now.  Recently I came across two wonderful sets of vintage ceramic bluebird wall plaques, and I absolutely can't wait to get them hung in the living room.  I got a really good deal on both sets.  This is the one I like best.

So, yeah, I really do love vintage 1950s ceramic ... stuff.  And as always, I firmly believe that volume is a good thing when it comes to almost any collectible.  Why have 3 bluebirds fluttering on the wall when you can have 6 instead?  When it comes to quirky decor (or what some uninformed, ignorant individuals might term "clutter," gasp!), less is less and more is always MORE.  Believe it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Where Have All the Mascots Gone?

As someone who loves pop culture, I'm particularly fond of advertising.  When done well, a commercial or ad can be an absolute work of art, even entering the American lexicon if it's catchy enough ("Where's the Beef?", "I can't believe I ate the whole thing," etc.)  But I especially adore commercial campaigns that feature a unique animated mascot (or "spokes-critter," if you will -- and I know you will).

Sadly, you just don't see as many product mascots as there were back in the golden olden days of my youth.  Or at least that's my perception, although I will allow that because I watch much less kid-oriented television than I did as, well, a kid, I'm no longer the target audience for those type of ads.  But still: Where have all the mascots gone?  Below, a few of my all-time faves.

1.  Milton the Toaster
Good old Milton was the spokes-toaster for Kellogg's Pop-Tarts, a delicious little breakfast treat that I still enjoy today (original unfrosted strawberry remains my favorite).  I think Milton is a particularly ingenious mascot, as the obvious choice would have been to go with an animated (and no doubt singing and dancing) Pop-Tart, the actual product being advertised.  But instead, the good folks at Kellogg's opted to turn an everyday kitchen appliance into a character.  Gutsy, no?  And effective, because I gobbled those toaster pastries as a kid like nobody's business.  I miss Milton and wish he was on the airwaves once again.

2.  Fruit Pie the Magician
Fruit Pie the Magician was one of several mascots for Hostess snack cakes and pies (others were Twinkie the Kid, Captain Cupcake, Happy Ho Ho, and King Ding Dong).  The Hostess commercials of the 1970s were fabulous.  I especially loved the Ho Ho ads, because they featured animated kids kayaking down a chocolate river inside a gigantic Ho Ho (with their ever-faithful guide, Happy, leading the way), and the idea of encountering a larger-than-life pile of that amazing creamy white filling made my 5-year-old brain positively spin.  ("You wouldn't want to eat a whole bunch of the white stuff all at once," my mom said.  "You'd be sick of it after a couple bites."  LIES.  Crap then, and crap today, Mother.)  The Hostess gang was brought back for a special "retro wrapper" promotion in 2011 -- except for poor little Fruit Pie.  Why the oversight?  Is it because the other mascots represented snack cakes, and poor Fruit Pie's domain was the lowly pie?  Those icing-glazed fruit-filled turnovers are still incredibly delicious (I like cherry the best).  Just say no to pastry discrimination!  Bring back Fruit Pie the Magician!

3.  Punchy
Punchy is still the mascot for Hawaiian Punch today, but his personality has morphed quite a bit since the early days.  Once upon a time, Punchy's schtick consisted of walking up to unsuspecting folks and asking, "How about a nice Hawaiian punch?"  When the unaware individual answered, "Sure!" Punchy would quite literally punch them in the face.  Seriously.  Naturally, this very successful ad campaign resulted in many playground fistfights and horseplay, at least at my school.  And for the record, "But I was just being Punchy!" really didn't fly with the yard duty ladies.
As you can see, Punchy was kind of a dick.

4.  Chicken of the Sea Mermaid
They still depict this lovely lady on their cans today, although I prefer her earlier incarnations (they've since gotten rid of her awesome topknot and turned her scepter/spear into a wimpy little magic wand).  I ate a lot of tuna as a kid, and our house brand was always Chicken of the Sea, no doubt due to my early-onset mermaid obsession.  No Starkist or Bumblebee for us -- I was loyal to CotS.

Ask any mermaid
You happen to see
What's the best tuna?
Chicken of the Sea

 5.  Grimace
I was never really sure what exactly Grimace was supposed to be, but that purple amorphous blob was my favorite of the McDonaldland gang.  McDonalds commercials were huge during my childhood, and back then nobody had a hissy fit about companies marketing unhealthy products directly to children, their target consumers.  It was pretty much an advertising free-for-all.  I loved them all, from Mayor McCheese to the Hamburglar (who, looking back, was an unbelievably anti-Semitic caricature of a greedy stingy Jew, yikes), but Grimace held a special place in my heart.
Short, gray-haired old man with hooked nose who steals and hoards Filet-o-Fish sandwiches.  Vocabulary consists solely of incomprehensible and muttered "robble, robble, robble."  You make the call.

Going to McDonalds was a real treat when I was a kid, something you looked forward to and didn't do very often (once a month at the very most).  It was a big deal, and I relished every trip.  I've never been a fan of the current (and totally played out) "I'm Lovin' It" McDonalds campaign, but oh, how I adored the jingles of yesteryear, from "You Deserve a Break Today" to "Shamrock Shakes, They're a Beautiful Green."  I'm old, people -- I remember when they first introduced Chicken McNuggets, an event that totally rocked my childhood world.

For God's sake, I even owned an official McDonaldland playset, complete with action figures and a wind-up train.  It was boss.  And I had the Playskool McDonalds, too, which was also unbelievably cool.  It had little trays of food and the employees all wore those awesome hats.  Where have all the fast-food employee hats gone?  Hot Dog on a Stick is one of the only holdouts.
The Playskool McDonalds.  See the pointy little hats?

I'd like to see how modern parents (all around my age, incidentally) would utterly freak out if a fast-food chain came out with retail toys for kids today that were sold in stores.  Can you imagine?

Do I love any of the advertising mascots of today?  Hard to say, as I don't watch much in the way of kids' TV programming (except for Cartoon Network and Boomerang, which totally rock).  There doesn't seem to be as many spokes-critters as in yesteryear, though.  And instead of selling fries, last time I saw Ronald McDonald he was preaching about healthy lifestyles and the importance of exercise.  I understand that McDonalds has agreed to stop targeting children under 12 altogether, and the rest of the McDonaldland posse appears to have vanished entirely.  I'll miss those guys.  It's years later, and they didn't turn me into an obese adult fast-food junkie.  I'm just sayin'.