6/20/2011

20 Tips That You've Booked a Dubious Hotel


What's sad is how many of these I've draw from personal experience!
  1. Toilet has a slot for quarters
  2. Bed moves without quarters
  3. Towels stolen from other hotels
  4. Someone has written "redrum" on the bathroom mirror
  5. Gideon Bible is chained to the bedside table
  6. Roach motels have "no vacancy" signs in windows
  7. Nearest tourist attraction is "Mount Trash"
  8. Bloodstains
  9. Poorly disguised CIA surveillance vehicle in parking lot
  10. Desk clerk has creepy relationship with his mom
  11. Pay-per-view menu includes Scarface
  12. Gift store sells syringes
  13. Beds made with Batman sheets
  14. Bathroom contains complimentary bottles of shampoo, lotion, bleach
  15. Car mirror "tree" deodorizer hanging from TV arial
  16. Rotary phone with "9" missing
  17. Brochures for local bailbondmen in front lobby
  18. Dust turns out to be fingerprint powder
  19. Only fresh oxygen is coming from mildew in bathroom
  20. Local ghost tour passes right beneath your window

6/10/2011

70 Random Acts of Kindness

Hard to disagree that the world would be a better place if we all made the conscious decision to leave it a little better/happier/cleaner than we found it, every day. 

Here are some ideas for turning the ideal into action:
  1. Help someone load/unload their items at the store (especially heavy and/or awkward items)
  2. Return shopping carts to the corral or store
  3. If the bathroom stall you're using is almost out of toilet paper, resupply it for the next person
  4. Leave coupons on the shelf next to the items they discount, so the next shopper to come along can have the use of them
  5. Leave that lovely parking space right in front of the store for someone else
  6. Leave change in a vending machine; isn't it always a bit of a thrill to find coins in the coin return?
  7. Put change in a parking meter that has expired
  8. At the store, reshelve things that have been carelessly or inadvertantly misplaced
  9. Take the trouble to return lost items to their owner
  10. Offer to run an errand for someone
  11. Let someone merge into traffic in front of you
  12. Pay for the person behind you at the coffee shop/fast food line/tollbooth/bus or metro kiosk
  13. If it's raining, carry a neighbor's newspaper to their front porch so it will stay dry
  14. Send a thank you note for no reason to someone who deserves one - a teacher, a relative, or a community organizer
  15. Bake cookies and present them as a gift to someone deserving
  16. Let the guy in line behind you - the one that has only a few items - go in front of you
  17. Compliment someone you usually take for granted
  18. Say something nice about someone to someone else
  19. Deliberately turn a negative conversation positive
  20. Ask if you can help someone who seems to need help
  21. Give someone the benefit of a doubt
  22. Pick up litter in your neighborhood
  23. Leave someplace cleaner than you found it
  24. Beautify a public area
  25. Offer to babysit (or pet-sit) for someone who needs a night out
  26. Stop and listen to someone who needs to talk
  27. Stop to help someone who's car has broken down by the side of the road
  28. Help a neighbor or relative with yard work (planting in spring, mowing in summer, raking in fall, shoveling in winter)
  29. Hold the door open for someone
  30. Stop to help someone pick up items they've dropped
  31. Pay the tab for a serviceman who is dining at the same restaurant as you
  32. Send a thank you card (or package) to a serviceman overseas
  33. Donate blood
  34. Donate clothes, furniture, books, food, etc.
  35. Offer someone a piece of gum
  36. Give someone your seat on the bus/metro, even if they're not elderly or pregnant
  37. Make someone laugh
  38. Forgive someone for something they've done to you or someone else
  39. Share something - a book, a recipe, a meal, advise
  40. Cheer for someone at an event
  41. Help someone learn something (or figure something out)
  42. Leave a nice comment on someone's online post (Facebook, blog, review, etc.)
  43. If an employee at a store has been especially helpful, tell their manager about it
  44. Ask someone about their cultures/traditions
  45. Pull weeds
  46. Lend a pencil to someone
  47. Help someone tackle a chore you know they've been dreading
  48. Fix someone's favorite meal (or take them to their favorite restaurant)
  49. Become an organ donor
  50. Attend a neighborhood, work, or community event just to show your support
  51. Throw your trash away in the theater (or at the ballpark)
  52. Leave a generous tip; or, write a thank-you note to your waiter/waitress on the bill
  53. Give people copies of photos you've taken of them (or their children)
  54. Help someone feel better about themselves
  55. Volunteer your time or resources to a worthy cause
  56. Raise money for (or awareness of) a good cause
  57. Help an elderly or disabled neighbor (bring their trash cans in/out, drop off their mail at the door, fetch groceries from the store for them, etc.)
  58. Drop off flowers at the hospital and ask that they be delivered to someone who needs cheering up
  59. Say "happy birthday" to someone who isn't expecting it
  60. Brush the snow/ice off of someone else's car
  61. Clean the dishes in a common area, even though you weren't the one that dirtied them
  62. Let someone in a hurry cut in front of you
  63. Leave your newspaper behind at the restaurant or coffee shop so that someone else can read it
  64. If someone accidentally leaves their purse or laptop unattended, watch it for them until they return
  65. Roll up someone's car windows if it's about to rain
  66. Share your umbrella with someone
  67. Help someone get (or keep) a job
  68. Diffuse a tense situation
  69. Compliment someone on their dog (or child)
  70. If someone has thrown recycling in the trash can, move it to a recycling container

150+ Ideas for Things to Do This Weekend (Adults)

What should we do this weekend? The question can be either exhilerating or annoying.  Exhilerating, if you've got a bunch of cool alternatives to choose from.  Annoying if, after a long week of work, you're simply too pooped to be creative and come up with a bunch of options to choose from. 

I've compiled the following list over the years to prevent annoyance and ensure that my husband and I take advantage of all the entertainment options available here in our community.  Your community may not offer all of these, but perhaps even the non-starters will get you thinking about alternatives.  After all, anything's better than staying home and cleaning, right?
  1. FOOD/EATING
    1. try a restaurant you've never tried before
    2. try an ethnic restaurant - something you've never tried before
    3. try a cocktail you've never tried before
    4. visit a "dive" you wouldn't ordinarily turn your nose up at
    5. take a cooking class
    6. prepare a new recipe
    7. invent a recipe
    8. bake bread
    9. try to replicate a favorite restaurant recipe
    10. cook meals for the week and freeze them
    11. prepare a picnic
    12. dine out of doors
    13. visit a farmer's market
    14. attend a dinner theater
    15. attend a "cook-off" or "Taste of the Town" event
    16. go in search of The Best ________ in town - chili, pizza, pie, etc.
    17. post favorite family recipes to an internet site
    18. create a family cookbook
    19. prepare a meal from old family recipes
    20. invite friends over for dinner
    21. progressive dinner party
    22. participate in a wine tasting
    23. visit a winery
    24. attend a wine festival
    25. sharpen kitchen knives
    26. have a BBQ/grill out
  2. SPORTS
    1. attend a high school sporting event
    2. attend a college sporting event
    3. attend a semi-pro sporting event
    4. attend a professional sporting event
    5. attend a racing event - cars, horses
    6. attend a sport you've never seen before - polo, rugby, etc.
    7. work out at a local gym/athletic facility
    8. participate in an exercise clas
    9. participate in a water sport - swimming, canoeing, kayaking, sailing
    10. organize a pick-up game
      1. At the YMCA/gym - basketball, volleyball, racquetball, handball, badminton, squash
      2. At the park - football, baseball/softball, soccer, field hockey, rugby, lacrosse, cricket, horseshoes, croquet, frisbee/frisbee golf
      3. Outside - golf, mini-golf, paintball, tennis, paintball
      4. Inside - Bowling, ice skating, ice hockey, roller skating, water polo, pool/billiards, laser tag
    11. participate in an individual sport
      1. at the YMCA/gym - swimming, weightlifting, yoga
      2. at the park - inline skating, biking, walking/hiking/jogging
      3. outside - watersports, spelunking, horseback riding, rock climbing, batting practice, skateboarding
      4. inside - martial arts, boxing, darts
      5. water sports - surfing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, sailing, boating, fishing, white water rafting, scubadiving, snorkling, paddleboats
      6. winter sports - skiing, tubing, boarding, sledding
  3. OUTDOORS/GARDENING
    1. go camping
    2. cook a meal over a campfire
    3. go hunting/fishing
    4. find a body of water and recreate (swim, canoe, kayak, sail)
    5. visit a scenic area/park
    6. visit a state park
    7. visit a federal park
    8. go birdwatching
    9. take a walk/hike
    10. start an herb garden
    11. start a vegetable garden
    12. start a flower garden
    13. create a terrarium
    14. fly a kite
    15. fly an RC plane (or launch a rocket)
    16. stargaze
    17. feed the birds/ducks
    18. chase fireflies
    19. pick wildflowers
    20. go on a nature walk sponsored by a local park
    21. hunt for fossils, arrowheads, etc
    22. launch (or watch) fireworks
  4. COMMUNITY SERVICE/GOOD WORKS
    1. volunteer at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, food kitchen, or thrift store
    2. sort through your belongings and identify things to donate
    3. participate in a fundraiser for a good cause
    4. give blood
    5. offer your services as a teacher/tutor
    6. campaign for a politician or cause
    7. commit random acts of kindness
  5. ARTS
    1. see a high school performance - drama, music
    2. see a college performance - drama, music, lecture
    3. see a professional concert - free/paid, indoor/outdoor
    4. attend a dinner theater
    5. audition for a show
    6. see a movie at home
      1. catch one of AFI's Top 100 films
      2. an old movie you always meant to see
      3. goofy old monster/horror movies
      4. movies from your childhood
    7. see a movie in a theater (or drive-in theater)
    8. go dancing
    9. learn to dance - ballroom, hiphop, etc.
    10. play a musical instrument with which you are familiar
    11. learn to play a musical instrument with which you are not familiar
    12. sing - join a choir, participate in a sing-along, karaoke
    13. attend a comedy club
    14. visit a museum
    15. visit a gallery
    16. expose yourself to a type of music you don't usually listen to - opera, country, celtic, orchestra/classical, etc.
    17. take a class to improve an artistic ability you already possess
    18. take a class to learn an artistic skill you do not possess
    19. start a new art project -
      1. drawing, sketching, painting, cartooning
      2. photography
      3. needlecraft/textiles - sewing, xstitch, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, quilting, rug making, tiedying, weaving
      4. woodcraft - carpentry, carving, whittling, woodburning, turning
      5. sculpting/modeling - sculpting, pottery, mosaicwork
      6. papercraft - scrapbooking, calligraphy, collage, cardmaking, stamping, origami, paper mache,
      7. plantcraft - basketry, bonzai, flower arranging, flowerpressing
      8. glasswork - stained glass, etching, glass painting
      9. other - jewelrymaking, beading, balloon animals, ironworking, silversmithing, rubbings
  6. INTELLECTUAL
    1. attend a lecture (live or on-line)
    2. listen to podcasts
    3. visit the library
    4. read a book
    5. participate in a book discussion group
    6. watch a documentary
    7. tackle a writing project
      1. start a journal
      2. non-fiction
        1. magazine article
        2. professional paper
        3. memoirs
      3. fiction
      4. internet publications
        1. post to a blog (yours or someone else's)
        2. post to a wiki
        3. submit a reveiw to a reveiw website
      5. poetry
      6. write a letter
    8. attend a reading/signing - book reading, poetry reading
    9. participate in a writing discussion book
    10. attend a cultural festival
    11. attend an event sponsored by a local embassy or government office
    12. attend an event sponsored by a local museum
    13. attend an event sponsored by the local library 
    14. start learning to speak a foreign language (or practice one you've already learned)
    15. solve a puzzle (jigsaw, crossword, sudoku, etc.)
    16. invent something useful
  7. PROJECTS
    1. spruce up a room - paint, rearrange furniture, change out accessories, etc.
    2. beautify an outdoor area
    3. yardwork
    4. work on a collection - organize, catalog
    5. work on your family's geneology
    6. organize photos into albums (paper or online)
    7. enter contests/sweepstakes
    8. tackle a household maintenance project
    9. create a list of household maintenance projects
    10. download useful software/apps
    11. figure out how to use a software program you haven't yet mastered
    12. start a compost bin
    13. clip coupons
    14. clean out a closet
    15. groom your pet
    16. clean/fix up the car
  8. ROMANTIC
    1. spend the weekend at a bed & breakfast
    2. watch a sunset
    3. skinnydip
    4. schedule time at a spa; get messages
    5. bubblebaths
    6. reenact a romantic scene from a favorite movie
    7. snuggle next to the fireplace
    8. dedicate songs to each other
    9. read aloud to each other
    10. have a pillow fight
    11. take a moonlight walk
  9. FRIENDS/FAMILY
    1. babysit a child
    2. babysit a pet
    3. visit a family member
    4. play with your dog/cat/pet
    1. play board games
    2. organize a card party - bridge, poker, etc.
    3. organize a "games" party (Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, etc.)
    4. organize a progressive dinner party
    5. organize a cocktail party
    6. organize a murder mystery party
    7. meet a neighbor
    8. organize a neighborhood "block" party
    9. organize a video game competition
    10. host a sleep-over
    11. visit the gravesites of family members
    12. get a family portrait taken by a professional photographer
  10. DESTINATIONS
    1. visit the beach
    2. visit the mountains
    3. visit a body of water
    4. visit a historic site
    5. visit a public garden
    6. go on a scenic drive
    7. visit places that have a special meaning for you
    8. visit a zoo, animal park, farm, or dude ranch
    9. visit a spa
    10. visit flea markets/garage sales/antique stores/antique malls in search of treasures
    11. ride on a train
    12. take a trip to the Big City (whatever your Big City may be!)
    13. visit a cave or cavern
    14. go on a cruise
    15. go to an amusement park
    16. go to a water park
    17. go shopping
    18. go window shopping for something extravagant (jewelry, ballgowns, etc.)
    19. attend church
    20. visit a planaterium
    21. visit the local airport and watch airplanes take off/land
    22. go on a pub/bar crawl
    23. attend a happy hour
    24. attend a fashion show
    25. drive to an orchard/farm and pick your own produce
    26. attend a craft show
    27. attend a local or state festival/fair
    28. visit a circus
    29. visit an air show
    30. go on a factory tour
    31. attend a Rennaissance fair/festival
    32. go hot air ballooning
    33. sign up for a ghost tour
  11. QUIRKY
    1. participate in a murder mystery weekend
    2. learn to juggle
    3. change your hair
    4. visit open houses
    5. test drive new cars
    6. take a long bath
    7. take a nap
    8. blow bubbles
    9. meditate
    10. join a club or group
    11. go on a scavenger hunt
    12. make a time capsule
    13. have a water balloon fight
    14. have an eating contest (hot dogs, pie)
    15. make prank phone calls
    16. gamble (games, races, stock market)
    17. listen to people communicate via CB radio
    18. play flashlight freeze tag
    19. get a tattoo (or bodypiercing)
    20. schedule a mani/pedi
    21. look up your horoscope; learn about your astrological sign
    22. learn to tell fortunes (palm reading, tarot)
    23. take an online personality quiz
    24. start (or add to) your bucket list
    25. make an obstacle course and then run it
    26. climb a tree

6/07/2011

Book Look - The White Devil, Justin Evans




For as long as I can remember I've been a sucker for gothic thrillers, especially those set at British boarding schools. There's so much potential there - the ancient school buildings, the fog-shrouded landscapes, the sense of history frozen in time, the wafting hint of repression and unnatural obsessions. Alas, despite all that potential, no example of the genre has ever lived up to my melodramatic expectations. Either they're so poorly written that it's an effort not to gag at the overworked metaphors and lame cliches, or else they devolve into a climax so anticlimactic and silly that I find myself thinking: "Really? I've read all this way, and that's all you've got?"

And then, finally, a book that delivers the goods! White Devil is a literate, well paced, dense ghost story with characters that engage, writing that absorbs, red herrings so intriguing you'll enjoy being led astray, and a plot that keeps tightening the tension until the final sentences of the story's wholly original, wholly satisfying, wholly creepy denouement.

The story revolves around Andrew Taylor, a 17yr old American boy exiled by his outraged parents to an exclusive English boarding School after scandal and a death force him to flee his school in Connecticut. But the ghosts he's left behind are nothing compared to the ghost waiting for him at Harrow School - a pallid, spectral lad whose soul remains bound to earth by 200-year old cruelties and jealousies. Now add to the mix a bitter, washed-up poet grasping at his last chance to redeem himself; an eerily beautiful but precocious female classmate; White Devil, a bloody revenge tragedy authored by the troubled 19th century playwright John Webster; and rehearsals for a production of the life of the beautiful, scandalous, haunted Lord Byron (a Harrow School alumnus), to whom Andrew bears an uncanny resemblance ... set it all in an ancient boarding school complete with petty (and not so petty) adolescent cruelty, secrets concealed behind crumbling stone, and a string of mysterious deaths that begin soon after Andrew's arrival at Harrow ... stir vigorously, and enjoy losing yourself in a tale that is sure to keep you enthralled until the final paragraphs.

Props to Justin Evans, whose bio reveals no particular literary credentials, for producing this literate gothic thriller. It's not easy to produce extreme characters that don't come off as sterotypical, to create mood/atmosphere that doesn't come off as stagy, to construct a plot so dense that the story never stops delivering chills, and to resist the urge to wrap up the story with a full and pat disclosure that explains all. Evans writes with the mastery of language and assurance of a pro. How fortunate that the idea for this story fell into the hands of someone able to make the most of it!