Thursday, December 22, 2016

Brutalism's Holiday Gift Guide 2016

Almost too late for the 2016 holiday season -- it's the Brutalism Holiday Gift Guide 2016. (Remember how much more timely and hilarious these were in 2013 and 2015? Whatever, 2016 has been a weird and awful's a Christmas miracle I'm hitting publish on this thing at all, besides...what have you done for me lately?)

And on that merry note, here is the Brutalism Gift Guide 2016:

1. Nothing says "Happy Holidays" like polarizing religious beliefs. And that's why the hipster nativity, featuring mustachioed, fedora-ed Segway-riding wise men carrying Amazon Prime boxes, a solar-powered (natch) manger, a 100% organic beef cow eating gluten-free feed, and man-bun Joseph and Starbucks Mary taking selfies with the baby Jesus has divided the public into those who think this is funny and those who think this is sacrilege, for chrissakes. 

And apparently, the crowd who finds this funny is voting with its wallets - this is selling to the tune of 500 units per day. #blessed 
You know what's sacrilege? Spending $129.99 on this.
Think of all the craft spirits and bow ties you could buy with that.

2. But enough divisiveness -- the next gift is all about unity, in that it brings together (finally!) the natural combination of Jewish holidays and rap music with the Dr. Dreidel! Sadly, this is just an art piece and not available for sale, because apparently, the artist hates money.
I love this idea and believe this line of Jewish holiday/rap artist paraphernalia should be expanded.
 My idea? "50 Gelt" (of course pronounced "Fiddy Gelt") - you're welcome. 

3. You know, anyone can inherit money and real estate, but it takes a special relationship to have the pull my finger farting Santa left to you in a will.

And that's exactly how this favorite Christmas item came to be a special part of the Brutalism Christmas - bequeathed by Mr. Brutalism's grandfather - an impeccably-dressed, charming, Italian-American who installed curb feelers and semi-truck back up beepers on his boat-sized Cadillac.He also told off-color jokes through his electrolarynx and once presented me with a platypus belt he had crafted (clarification: a leather belt with hand-tooled imprints of platypi -- not made of platypus).

I adored him.

Every year, we unpack the Santa and every year we share our favorite stories of Grandpa Carmen while listening to flatulent Santa say, "Now that's a real stocking stuffer."
FART la la la la la la la

4. Bear Spray

There are two separate instances when I've been relieved to have this in my possession -- and neither of those involved bears (#ironic). There was the fear of yurt invaders instance and the drunk-driver-through-the-backyard scenario.

I'm beginning to think that bears are not the real issue here.

This has replaced mace in my purse -- and my purse has been replaced by a small suitcase to accommodate it. (At this rate, I will likely develop a Popeye forearm from carrying this around. Totally worth it.)

5. The gift of fitness. But not some boring old gym membership or exercise equipment -- I'm talking about the gift of fitness that translates into a great story, which is why I suggest the following events:
The Surf 'n Santa 5 miler in Virginia Beach which issues each registrant a full Santa suit so the group can beat the Guinness world record of the most Santas all running together at one time (bonus - it is a twilight run and you get to run through the Boardwalk Holiday Light Show and then go to a party after with 5,000 other Santas).
Spoiler: I just did this with my family and (pending
verification by Guinness) we beat the existing record.
My mom helpfully noted that had we planned better, we could
have committed a crime during this event as the witnesses
would have to describe us as "dressed like Santa" - just like 5,000 others.
There's always next year.
The Great Saunter - a 32-mile walk around Manhattan every spring. You gotta love a physical endeavor that doesn't even pretend to exert you. We're sauntering. I may train for this by ambling...or strolling...possibly even traipsing. It's possible I might even get ready for this by simply watching a marathon. At least I won't be wearing a Santa suit.

6. A What Would Dolly Do tote
They're referring to Dolly, the cloned sheep, right?
If it's the blonde one that hillbillies lust after, it's definitely Dolly the cloned sheep. 
What would Dolly do? Probably not pay $165 for a tote bag, for starters. That aside, I love the sentiment. You may recall my most recent experience with Dolly, which is actually a time that I would have really appreciated her advice. (Or at least her tote bag to help me carry dinner for five.)

Bonus: perfectly sized to hold canisters of bear spray.

7. Emergency shoes - honestly, these might be the best things, ever:

I am old enough to know better, but still insist on wearing shoes like the ones pictured below:
My husband is unsmiling, having been down the impractical shoe road
with me many times before.
The emergency shoes fold up into a pouch that you can carry in your purse to pull out and wear if your feet hurt from the stupid (read: stylish) shoes you chose to wear.

Of course this invites the question of why not wear the emergency shoes in the first place instead of going through this whole "two pairs of shoes" rigamarole.

(Answer: It's because I don't hate capitalism, pinko.)

8. Epsom salts - these are not just for your great grandmother anymore. A fitness professional who tortures me three times a week just recommended soaking in these as the perfect cure for sore muscles. And they are magical.

However, when I first went to the store in search of this product, I was embarrassed to ask where it was -- and rightfully so, it turns out, as the Epsom salts are located near the canes, corn pads and reading glasses.

All I know is that my love for emergency flats, soaking in Epsom salts, and using the word "rigarmarole" seems to indicate that training for something called "the Great Saunter" is very on theme...

9. Prayer candles from etsy:

Our guest bath features Dee Dee and Joey Ramone and GG Allin.
It's one of the many things I have in common with Martha Stewart.
Of course, there are also hundreds of others including David Bowie, Prince, Dolly Parton, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Christopher Walken, Star Wars characters, Billy Joel and (rather inexplicably) the "Pam" character from "The Office."

10. A dumpster fire ornament - because it perfectly sums up 2016.

Please click on the link above to read the instructions for
how to craft this thing. The writer is fantastic.
Fingers crossed for 2017,

Monday, October 24, 2016

Tough As Nails

A short play:

Scene: nail salon

Dramatis personae: Nail technician, me

Nail technician (inquisitively, while massaging my hands): "Do you lift weights a lot?"

Me (somewhat proudly): "Yes, I do. How did you know that? Is it my fierce grip?"

Nail technician: "Actually, you have some pretty tough callouses on your hands."

-- fin --

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Figure It Out

A word problem:
Yesterday, my husband went on an 80 mile bike ride. At the end, he felt great and is excited to plan a 100 mile ride.

While he was doing this, I was working at my sedentary office job. Which was unremarkable, except for an event late in the day... 

During the afternoon, I caught my foot on a cord behind my desk, did an involuntary shuffle-off-to-Buffalo through the doorway of my office, windmilled my arms while trying to prevent the (inevitable) fall, and landed in a rather inelegant heap next to one of my colleagues’ desks in a large, open space in the middle of our suite.

Question: How much longer before my husband realizes he can do better?

(show your work)

Friday, September 09, 2016

No So Charming

Remember that time I wanted to register my domain name, yet instead of typing the URL for domain registry web site GoDaddy to do so I typed "DoDaddy" by mistake?  

Or the time my daughter was working on a school project and wanted to know whether Spain used Fahrenheit or Celsius as a temperature measure?

"Use the Internet to find out," I said. "A quick Google search will answer that right away," I said.

And it did:

Well, the Internet hath forsaken me yet again.

Last night, while planning for my daughter's birthday party, we were trying to decide what she could give her friends as favors at this year's candy-themed birthday party. I (helpfully) suggested since there would be so much candy and cake at the party, the favors should be something candy-themed rather than actual candy. Say, for instance, an ornament the partygoers could put on a bracelet or necklace. So we used Google to find ideas.

And while in retrospect it makes perfect sense, at the time I was gloriously naive.

"Candy Charms" is, in fact, an excellent porn name.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

And you thought Ramsbottom was bad...

While chatting with friends over the weekend, we discussed summer camps in which our kids participated.

Our friends noted that a few years back, they had registered their son for a week-long sleep away paintball camp -- as he loved playing paintball and they figured it would be fun for him. Besides, it was nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains - what a lovely setting and a fun week away!

However, our friends missed the fine print that also identified this camp as Seventh-day Adventist and vegan. Which means that their (omnivorous, non-churchgoing) son spent seven days playing paintball while praying for a cheeseburger.

I have never run a summer camp, so I'm no expert (although I do know enough to understand that names matter), but I cannot imagine the market that fits into the Seventh-day-Adventist-vegan-paintballers interest area is a very large one.

Then again, summer camp has changed quite a bit in recent years.

Wondering if it is harder to survive the Zombies or the Seventh-day Adventist vegan paintballers,

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

All That Jazz

Chicago is one of my all-time favorite cities - I have traveled there so many times I have now lost count - including for the Chicago Tribune Peeps diorama contest finals in 2011, and a trip in 2004 during which I was inspired to name this blog. In between, I had many fun and work trips during which I fell in love with the city all over again.

It's true what they say...Chicago is a big city with a friendly, Midwestern sensibility - people are so cheery and helpful...with the notable exceptions of those who are causing Chicago's murder rate to spike, and the irate woman who stepped in front of my husband on the sidewalk, gestured aggressively toward me and angrily sputtered, "How about you open her asshole and clean it up...because it STINKS!!!"

Which of course, I found very offensive.

I mean, it's 2016 for chrissakes, I can open and clean up my OWN asshole, thank you very much. I don't need to rely on some MAN to do that for me. Way to set the women's movement back a hundred years, irate lady on the street.

That aside, Mr. Brutalism and I enjoyed doing many of the touristy things we have never done, visiting our favorite museum and showing our daughter around. With that, here is Chicago 2016, what we learned:

1) When a friend suggests bringing all of the postcards from the classic Masterpiece board game to the Art Institute of Chicago to create a challenge for your 10-year-old of finding and identifying those 24 works of art...DO THIS! We ended up spending three hours in one of our favorite art museums and she was engaged the entire time. Brilliant.
This is fun for your kid!
This is (apparently) not!
2) When possible, ride the El. You can avoid traffic, save some money and feel like locals by riding the train instead of taking cabs. If you want to counteract that feeling of being a local, go to the top of the Willis Tower and do this:
After this, we danced and sang on a parade float and made lunch reservations
under the name of Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago.
3) If you get a chance to go to a Chicago sporting event - GO! Chicago fans are the best. Especially during a Cubs game that goes to THIRTEEN INNINGS and also during which the two young women sitting next to your husband shamelessly (and drunkenly) flirt with him to the extent that your daughter leans over and whispers to you, "Should I tell them he's taken?"
Instead, I told them he was the Sausage King.
4) You are obligated to take a photo at the Cloud Gate sculpture ("The Bean") in Millennium Park. 
If it was Millennial Park, you'd instead be obligated to take
a photo at "The Beard".
5) You should absolutely take an architecture tour from a boat on the Chicago River to gain an appreciation of the fantastic architecture in the city - including contemporary, art deco, Gothic revival, and (our favorite, natch) Brutalism styles.
Not from the tour, but a cool shot of art/architecture near The Loop.
6) You will want to try the foods for which Chicago is famous including deep dish pizza, Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and Garrett's popcorn. You will then want to try Prilosec and apologize profusely to all of your vegan friends.

7) You should get tickets for Second City before your trip and not find out later that the (sold out) early show is for all ages. (We assumed it would not be family-friendly, and therefore our #FOMO was sadly realized.) #amateurs #thestruggleisreal #improviseTHIS

8) The fun of a gigantic soaking tub in your hotel suite (look! I'm eight feet tall!) 
You can tell that those are my daughter's feet, right? After I posted
this thinking it was hilarious, I'm not sure it is obvious.
(Always funnier when you have to explain it.)
somewhat makes up for having to call the concierge at 3:45am on the first night of your stay to announce that the bachelorette party entering its ninth hour on your floor is now testing your patience. (A direct quote from me to concierge, "I know it's a Saturday night and I want them to have fun - it's just that the screaming and horn-blowing is now making it hard to sleep.")
In case you were wondering how we knew it
was a bachelorette party, the penis confetti in the
hallway shed a little light...
9) When traveling with a kid (or really anyone who suffers from general ants-in-the-pantsiness), it is a great idea to run out some energy in Maggie Daley Park
Yay! Running around is good!
While Maggie Daley Park receives an "A" for effort, I'm not
sure this suggestion has been so effective, Chicago.
10) You should plan to schedule a walking tour with Chicago Greeter. We really wanted to do this during our trip, but ran out of time. How perfectly Chicago is a walking tour provided by volunteers to welcome you to the city? Bonus: they probably know the route that avoids the irate woman.

My kinda town,

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Praise be!

You know that friend? The one who is impossible to buy for because he has impeccable taste and chooses every item he owns with care because he wants to be surrounded by only beautiful and meaningful things?

And then one day, you stumble across a gift so perfect, so unbelievably HIM that you snatch it up and send it to him for no occasion?

Yes. It's a GG Allin prayer candle. 
And of course, you browse the entire site and end up also buying yourself a GG Allin prayer candle to go along with the Dee Dee Ramone and Joey Ramone prayer candles you already own:

A tableau in the guest bathroom. Because nothing says, "Welcome
to our home" like the Bishop of Bloodletting, the Father of
Feces-flinging, the Cardinal of Coprophagia, the Deacon of  Dung...
(I could go on forever...)
You also end up purchasing a candle for your friend who has an unnatural obsession with Billy Joel to present to her for Christmas:

I'm going to force her to sing, "We didn't start the fire" whenever
she lights this.
I have not been this happy with a purchase in a long time. And have already added the following to my wish list of prayer candles: Sarah Silverman, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Leo DiCaprio, Henry Rollins and of course...Ron Jeremy.

Thanks to Etsy shop Granny's Hope Chest for making this girl's dream come true, for ensuring a happy Christmas for my friends, and for sending bonus smarties along in the package.

Guessing their usual order is not 2 GG Allins and a Billy Joel,

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Mother's Day - Winning off the Field

I had a great Mother's Day weekend. My husband and daughter served me breakfast in bed followed by ice cream in bed, then allowed me some alone time to work on puzzles in GAMES magazine (Antisocial nerdo, party of one...)

After that, I was presented with a list of potential activities for the day:
As appealing as it sounded, there was simply not enough time for "pull dad's finger."

I (incorrectly) assumed that we may do one of the activities I selected, but apparently, my checking activities that sounded fun committed me to doing them all...and in the order in which I ranked them.

And none of these were small endeavors...the fashion show was comprised of 20 outfits, the bike ride was a 16-mile trek, and the golf game involved so many mulligans that it took quite a while to complete (albeit with the best scores we've ever had.)

It was fun (as promised in the list header) but the real gift seemed to be that after the day full of activity, I slept a solid 8 hours -- something I have not done in years.

It helped that all of this also followed a rather busy Saturday. It began with the annual 5K run at my daughter's school, and a Kentucky Derby party that afternoon.

In between, my daughter also went to a piercing and tattoo parlor with her best friend.

Keep your shirts on -- her friend was getting her ears pierced. It was only my daughter who was getting the facial tattoo. (Bieber is such a wannabe.)

Excited about the Derby, her fascinator, and her new face ink.
(Not necessarily in that order.)

I love a good theme...and the hosts of the party did not disappoint by decorating with red roses, serving Kentucky Fried Chicken, derby pie, benedictine and mint juleps.We also bet on the horses and came away with winnins' in the four figures (counting the places after the decimal)

It was very similar to the real Kentucky Derby experience, except that this time around, I was not four months pregnant. (As far as I know, anyway...)
This is me at the 2005 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville.
I am pregnant and in high heels, which seems to concern the woman behind me.
Yes. It's the same hat in both pictures -- what am I? Made of
money for assorted Derby hats?

Hope all you mothers had a great weekend, too. (see what I did there?), 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

There Will Be Nobody Left To Hire Us

I wish I had read this just one more time before sending to several hundred people:
"I am excited to announce [NAME] will be joining the program as a Program Manager focusing on customer engagement and execution."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Costa Rica - Pura Vida in a Helmet

The Brutalism family is back from a spring break trip to Costa Rica. And as I like to do with all of our international trips (to Indonesia/Hong Kong, Iceland/Netherlands/Belgium, and Italy), I've captured what made traveling to this lovely Central American country so memorable. 

1) From the DC area, you can get to Costa Rica via Panama. And if we learned anything during our 20-minute layover between flights, it is that the most insanely gorgeous people live in Panama. Forget the hats and the canal -- if the Panama tourism board wants to promote reasons to visit this country, it should focus on the fact that every person who works in the airport looks like a supermodel. 

Yes, I'm painting with a broad brush here...but it's a broad, beautiful brush, so I feel that's okay.  

Panamaniacs. I'm including this as it is the only
photo we have in Panama. 
2) With the lush landscapes and laid back lifestyle, it is easy to quickly develop a taste for the pura vida that is Costa Rica. It is also easy to mistakenly text your friend that you have developed a taste for the "puta" vida, to which she will (non-mistakenly) respond, "Well, you were a sorority girl."

3) Driving in Costa Rica can be an adventure - many roads are not paved, none of them have shoulders, and our GPS continually mocked us by announcing a speed bump, dangerous bridge or escuela zone every kilometer or so. I was gringo-knuckling it the entire time. 

What our GPS did not feel was important to include in the dangerous bridge category was the CROCODILE BRIDGE, which we found by literally stumbling across it.

Costa Rican GPSs have an odd sense of what is dangerous.
(I'm fairly certain that's a human head.)
This happened. 
4When none of you has ever ridden a horse and you speak only a little Spanish, it might not be the best idea to go horseback riding with a Spanish-speaking guide. Particularly while heading up a steep, gravelly path when, without warning, he whistles to prompt the horses to break into a gallop. 

(It is here I proudly announce my first-ever attempt at humor in other than my primary language. While my horse took off at full speed, I screamed toward the guide, "Como se dice en espanol, "WHHOOAAA?")
The guide laughed appreciatively with at me.
(Or at my helmet. Hard to tell, really.)
5) Even when you're not naturally an adrenaline junkie, you become suddenly willing to zip line 450 feet above the ground through a cloud forest, "Tarzan swing" off a 150-foot-high platform, and walk across suspended treetop bridges that are held together with zip ties and luck. 

(You might also become willing because your 10-year-old chides you by calling you a "cream puff" when you initially hesitate at the idea of jumping off a perfectly good platform.)
Yet another helmet. Which should help
tremendously when you fall 450 feet.

So not a cream puff.

6) You become used to roommates such as the one below during your trip, something with which you would normally not be okay. 

It helps to be so physically exhausted from a day o' activity that you would rather sleep with a lizard on your face than stay awake another minute.

The Costa Rican Face Lizard.

7) When you wake up one morning and share a bizarre, convoluted dream you had overnight, your husband will patiently listen to the ridiculous details. Even when it involved him sitting in a refrigerated grocery case next to another guy who threatened to expose himself until you spilled hot coffee from the carafe you were holding onto his lap.

Then when you ask him, "what the hell do you think that dream means?" - he will pause a moment and inquire, with a straight face, "well...was it Costa Rican coffee?"
He should be a psychiatrist.

8) When you stay at a resort that has a huge array of natural hot spring pools and soaking tubs heated by the nearby volcano, you are slightly hesitant to use them because you have read about brain-eating amoebas that tend to congregate there. 
This is the amoeba - Naegleria fowleri. More commonly known
as "terrifying clown amoeba that will forever haunt your dreams."
But she wanted to, so we let her. 
Solid parenting.
9) When you are driving through the "downtown" area of Monteverde and see a restaurant billed as one of the "World's Top 10 bizarre restaurants" you of course go there for dinner. (It was not really bizarre...just kind of cool since it was built around a huge tree.) You also decide to have ice cream -- for breakfast -- and are surprised by the huge amount of people doing the same (both turistas and Ticos...)

The cloud forest area of Monteverde is known for its dairy farms
thanks to Quakers settling there and farming.
Breakfast of champions.
10) You can tell how hospitable a country is based on its toilet tissue. During my semester abroad in college, the UK scored a big, fat "F" with its non-absorbent, waxed paper-like TP, which I can only assume was payback for that whole "independence from them" thing. Conversely, Costa Rica, with its fragrant, pillowy-soft version, receives an appreciative "A+." 

I was so excited by this, I wrote down the information from the toilet paper label, as I'm hoping to score some stateside. (Note: never has the phrase "hoping to score some" been used in such a lame context.) 

British TP

In addition to the above, we saw the most gorgeous beaches we have ever seen, watched wild monkeys and sloths climb in trees right near our hotel balcony, experienced the rain forest, cloud forest and beach, and had an adventure-filled vacation. We'd go back in a second...particularly if we were routed through Panama...

For what we learned, Indonesia and Hong Kong, click here
For what we learned, Italy, click here
For what we learned, Iceland, Belgium, and the Netherlands, click here
For what we learned, London, click here
For what we learned, Bahamas, click here
For what we learned, France and Morocco, click here
For what we learned, Southern Spain, click here
For what we learned, Peru, click here