Monday, April 6, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #16

Welcome back to our live  coverage of...just kidding, it's only me with another Banana Bella contessignment. How was your weekend? Are you making it all right? I haven't yelled once today, so we're doing pretty well. The Kid had his first conference call with his entire class. He called it his "meeting," because he's been paying attention to Phil's telework. The school was reluctant to try it, because the mere thought of a dozen preschoolers on a video call is like having a migraine. It turned out to be really great. The kids were pleased to see each other, and it was cute.

Each kid had a chance to show off the crafts they've been working on during the "meeting." There were a lot of parents standing by providing interpretations of the works. "Yes, this is So-and-So's paper tulip. They enjoyed making it."

Can I take a minute to wax poetic about the many options for long-distance communication? I can't hear your response, so I'm doing it anyway. I've thought a lot about the subject since we joined the diplomatic corps seven years ago. It really sucks to be away from family and friends. It would be hard to describe how awful it is if not for the fact that we're all in the same boat now. I can't imagine doing this without email, instant messaging, internet calling, and video chats. And I'm so glad we don't have to do it without them.

In a webinar last week, the psychiatrist assigned to the embassies in this region talked about how to cope with chronic stress. The thing he kept hammering over and over was that we need to reach out to other people. So, your contessignment today is to send an ecard to someone.

There are many ecard sites you can use. I'll give you two options below, but I don't care what you use. Send a card, then tell me who the recipient is. You don't have to go into details, you can just say, "A family member," or "A friend," or "None of your f*cking business" (only don't censor your profanity, I think it's funny).

Reach out to somebody, because you can, and because the psych said we'll all lose it if we don't (paraphrased).

Blue Mountain ecards: HERE
Someecards: HERE

Banana Bella's taking every other day off, so you have more time to get this done (but just do it really quick right now, you procrastinator). We'll talk to you on Wednesday.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #15

It's Friday! Have a word search, and a lovely weekend.

We'll be back next week, every other day. Banana Bella doesn't want to burn out. If you're just catching up, feel free to send contessignments as you complete them. I'll give you ample warning before we pull a winner.





Thursday, April 2, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #14

Now it's time for Bella's secret message for you members of the secret circle. Remember, only members of Bella's secret circle can decode Bella's secret message. Bella is depending on you. Here is the message:

Word 1: HERE at 0:18
Word 2: HERE at 2:34
Word 3: HERE at 2:15
Word 4: HERE at 3:07
Word 5: HERE at kind of between 1:02 and1:03
Word 6: HERE at 2:34

Remember, don't tell anyone. Except me. Tell me, so I can give you credit.

p.s. The links mostly won't take you to the correct time, because the jams deserve to be heard in their entirety. If you want to skip to the secret word, that's on you.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #12

I'll tell you what, I am starting to run thin on ideas. I need a good brainstorming session. I still have several things in the pipeline, but I wonder if I should start rationing them by switching to an every other day system. Either that, or start pirating ideas off the internet. I'll consider all of my options, then make a dictatorial decision. That's en vogue now, right?

Today's contessignment is to complete this very great crossword puzzle. If you're a devotee, it shouldn't be terribly difficult. If you're not, I guess you'd better start reading.

Let me know if you run into typos. I won't do anything about them, but I like hearing from you.



Monday, March 30, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #11

Welcome back! How was your weekend? We had two really lovely days of sunshine. The trees are starting to pop out leaves, and the view from our windows is much greener than last week. April is coming.

This isn't digitally edited, my phone just can't handle spring.

I've always loved the idea of April Fool's Day, and always hated the execution. This is an especially poor time to pull mean-spirited pranks for your own amusement, but I don't think we have to forgo the holiday entirely this year. I think we're all desperate for something lighthearted, and it's possible to make a good practical joke that isn't cruel.

So, that's your Banana Bella contessignment today. I want you to come up with an April Fool's prank that is both surprising and kind. Your contessignment on Wednesday, April Fool's, is to do it. Send photos, or otherwise describe what you did, and I'll give you two contest entries.




If you're blanking on ideas, here are a couple:

1. Hide nice notes, paper hearts or smiley faces, in unexpected places around your home.
2. Put big googly eyes, or a funny face on your window or front door for passersby.
3. Surprise someone with a "popsicle stick" joke through email, voicemail, social (apps), chalk writing in front of your house, etc. Click HERE for a list of kid-friendly jokes.
4. Pull some good, edible food pranks. My sister is great at making cake look like dinner, and dinner look like cake. Google has a lot of fun ideas.
5. Toilet paper and egg someone by dropping off a box with toilet paper (or tissues or whatever), eggs (chocolate, plastic with toys, or the kind from chickens), and any other nice little things you think they might like or use. I'm talking about a care package, okay? It's a care package. Leave them a surprise care package. Obviously don't do this if it's going to be a health risk to you or them. That would not be a kind prank for either of you.

I'm going to take it real easy this year, and make jello in my kid's old Play-Doh cups.
It's going to blow his little mind. I'm not sure if he's ever had jello before.

This list is non-exhaustive, and there's no reason you couldn't do them on a day that's not April Fool's. If you're not able to get this contessignment done by Wednesday the 1st, do it when you can, and let me know...preferably before the contest ends, which is yet TBD.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #10

Your last Banana Bella challenge for this week, unless I come up with something really excellent and time-sensitive over the weekend, is to read THIS short story by Lucy Maud Montgomery. L.M.M. authored the Anne of Green Gables series. She's funny, without being mean, and opines on nature, without being insufferable. You should read more of her.

This particular story comes from L.M.M.'s Chronicles of Avonlea. which is sort of like an expansion pack to the Anne of Green Gables universe. You can find a downloadable copy of the entire novel, plus a lot of her other stuff, at Project Gutenberg. I've embedded a pdf of the story I especially want you to read below. If you read it and like it, let me know so I can add another contest entry slip in your name. If you read it and hate it, let me know so I can remove you from the contest entirely. I'm kidding. I think.

Have a wonderful weekend. Meet you back here next week.




Thursday, March 26, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #9

Today's contessignment is to make a paper tulip, and give it to somebody. If you can't give it to somebody, give it to yourself. You've earned it.

This idea is 100% ripped off from The Kid's kindergarten. It's one of two art activities they suggested for this week. Thanks, school!

I got a cardboard paper cut while making my Peeps diorama, and I can guarantee you'll be distracted by the band-aid in these pictures. I am fine. The red that looks like blood is actually gel crayon.

Step 1: Get your stuff. You need a square piece of paper, plus a bigger piece of paper, and/or a stem-like thing..

Step 2: Fold the square paper diagonally to make a triangle. 

Step 3: Fold the triangle in half.

Step 4: Unfold that triangle, so you're back to your first triangle.

Step 5: Fold the bottom-right point up like this. 

Step 6: Fold the bottom left point up like this.

Step 7: Fold in that little point on the right side.

Step 8: Fold in that little point on the left side.

Step 9: Flip your paper over, so all those visible folds are on the backside.

Step 10: Glue your paper to a cool stem...

...or glue it to a less-cool stem...
...or glue it on a piece of paper and draw a stem.

Final step: Give it away, to yourself or someone else. Let me know how it goes, with a picture or a quick message. Remember that you can catch me on any of my personal accounts, or at janeandphilandstuff@gmail.com.

Thanks again, School!


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #8

I'm totally absorbed by my Peeps diorama. I've found my calling, and I am pursuing it. I really, really want to eat those Peeps.

Today, your challenge is to watch a nice show. I do mean a nice show, not some sort of entertaining-but-horrifying true crime thing. If you won't have time to watch a nice show today, at least choose one to watch before the end of the week. Let me know what you're watching. I'm always interested to hear what people are watching, so I can disregard their recommendations for months, until I finally decide to watch for myself, and then act like I discovered the thing. Also let me know so you can get another entry into our big winner drawing at the end (TBD) of this contest.

Here's a flattering photo Phil took of me early in our marriage. This is what I want you doing. 


And here's a list of my nice shows:

  • Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (there are free episodes on the Mr. Rogers website, HERE)
  • The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)
  • Troop Beverly Hills (1989)
  • Persuasion (1995)
  • Heavyweights (1995)
  • Pride and Prejudice (1995)
1995 was a good year, yeah?
  • The Birdcage (1996)
  • Malcolm in The Middle, the entire season (but THIS SCENE is one of my favorites [I hope you can access it from wherever you are])
  • Parks and Recreation, Season 3, specifically "Flu Season" and "Ron & Tammy: Part Two"

My list in non-exhaustive. Tell me what you're watching!

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #7

I am now involved in a Peeps diorama contest. I chose to do it because I wanted the Peeps. I'm really motivated to get it done, because as soon as it's photographed, I can eat them. I completed phase 1 of 3 this afternoon. I think the spirit of the contest is to involve the whole household, but nah.

What are you doing today, besides competing in the caption contest below?


Monday, March 23, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #6

Welcome back! We hope you had a productive weekend. What we mean is that we hope you had ample opportunity to catch up on all of your Banana Bella entries. Remember, each entry increases your odds of winning the name draw at the end. And, I hate to tell you this, but Terry the Vanquisher has already put up a steady showing. We all know what happens when he's in a contest.

Just a reminder that you can send your entries to me via whatever route you can reach me. If all else fails, I do have a gmail associated with this blog: janeandphilandstuff@gmail.com. I'll check it for your sake. If you can't send me a picture, just tell me about what you did. We all have a lot on our plates.

Well, true to the forecast, it is snowing in Budapest today. It's a wet, springtime snow, so nothing is sticking to the road or sidewalk. I still don't like it. In honor of weather that I do like, here is your Banana Bella task for the day:

Take this sunny coloring page, make it pretty, then put it somewhere where you can admire it freely.







MONDAY BONUS! For an extra entry, find the poem this drawing is based on, and tell me two other very famous things the author has written.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #5

Today is the last warm and sunny day in the forecast for a week, so we've been trying to soak it up. Accordingly, I don't have an elaborate contest entry for you today. I have a very simple, important one.

Today, I want you to think of someone you've been meaning to reach out to, and I want you to reach out to them. You don't have to give me any of the details, unless you want to. Just let me know you've done it by sending me "#5 Done" in a message.

Keep it together, together, friends!


Thursday, March 19, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #4

I'm writing to you today from the balcony. It is a beautiful, sunny day. Most importantly, it is spring. I'm wearing shorts in honor of the occasion. I am tired of fabric touching my shins. 

At this time, I'd like to take a moment to recognize all of those in the Southern Hemisphere who are entering fall. Our thoughts are with you. 

All right, back to our own enjoyment. Nothing screams "spring" like a windsock, so that's your assignment for today: make a windsock. 

First, you're going to need to gather your materials. 


Just kidding, sort of. I actually followed through and made a toilet paper windsock as a joke; but then I realized a toilet tube actually works really well for a miniature version. So... joke's on me?


Well, anyway, take a toilet paper tube, or a piece of  paper that you've rolled into a tube, and decorate it. Tape or staple ribbons, or something ribbon-like, to the inside of the tube. Make sure there's plenty of ribbon hanging out of the bottom. Tape or tie a string to the top of the tube, and hang it somewhere windy. Maybe not too windy. A mild breeze.

Send me a pic, or just tell me you did it. We believe in the honor system. That being said, it's way fun when you send pictures. We laugh hard at you. With you. We laugh hard with you. 

Our actual windsock, made from an old calendar, and leftover ribbons. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #3

Sometimes it's hard to distinguish Bella from stuffed animals. One time, I was cleaning up The Kid's toys by kicking them into different piles, and was launching into a kick when I realized I was aiming at Bella. That was a close call for both of us. 

Now it's your turn to pick Bella out of the mess. She's hidden in each of the three photos below. Let me know when and where you find her.

FIND THE HIDDEN BELLA



ROUND 1






ROUND 2







ROUND 3

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #2

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Your assignment today is to do one (or more) of the following:

1) Listen to jigs and reels while you enjoy a beverage you've dyed green.

See: HERE




2) Learn how to do a simple jig.

See: HERE



3) Close your eyes and color a picture of a rainbow. We ordered our colors in advance, which, in retrospect, is definitely cheating. Bonus points if you add clouds, pots of gold, clovers, etc.







Let me know how you've decided to celebrate. You know that old Irish proverb, "Pics, or it didn't happen." Wishing you luck, and a golden day.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together "Contest"

Hi, friends,

I wanted to let you know that we are safe and well. We hope the same can be said of you, and will be thinking of you throughout the next several weeks. Unless we're told otherwise, we have decided to stay put in Budapest. We have what we need, and we're optimistic that this crisis will pass in due time if we all do our part.

To the actual point of this post, the other night, I went online to find a fun, mindless distraction. I did not find it. In light of that, I decided to create my own fun, mindless distractions. It gives me as much pleasure as one can possibly feel under these circumstances to announce the Banana Bella: Keep It Together "Contest."



I've put "Contest" in quotations, because I'm not going to run this the same way we've run our other Banana Bella contests. For one thing, you have to do a whole bunch of fun stuff if you want a prize other than the satisfaction of doing a bunch fun stuff. In the coming days (or weeks or whatever) I'll be posting a currently-undetermined number of things to do. For each thing you do, I'll write your name on a piece of paper, and throw it into a hat for a big random prize drawing at the end. The more things you do, the more name-papers you'll get in the hat. Wahoo, right?

I'm not sure what the prize is going to be yet, and I'm not sure when I'll draw for it, or deliver it to the winner. I run a very amateur ship around here. Let's all be cool, and accept the promise that the winner will get something, somewhere, sometime. 

Ready? 

Scroll down for your first task. I backdated it, so you'd have to read this overview first. Sucker. 

Banana Bella: Keep It Together "Contest" #1

It's Banana Bella! Or is it? Print this page, connect the dots, and color it in. When you're done, show me your masterpiece. You can send a picture message to my US or Hungarian mobiles, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Line, email, or whatever.

Are you wondering now why it takes me so long to respond, given how connected I am? I am an enigma, or just really easily distracted.

Get to work!

UPDATE: I've added a photo of this page, in case you'd rather color it in photo editor on your phone.





Tuesday, February 4, 2020

2019 Christmas Card Challenge

To celebrate the fact that we finally announced who won last year's challenge, it is with joyous pomp and circumstance that we hereby proclaim the opening of the 2019 Christmas Card Challenge.

Listen, we're capable of taking better photos than this, but we choose not to share them.

This year, as with all previous years, the cards have been hung at random with a single piece of tightly rolled masking tape adhered to the middle of each card. As we are no longer in Thailand, where the humidity turns every adhesive into construction-grade cement, we hope for an exciting, speedy event, with lots of losers off the top. I cannot describe the pleasure in hearing a card flop to the ground. It is truly magical.

Best of luck to you and yours,

Jane and Phil
The Christmas Card Challenge:
Organizers
Originators
Ombudsmen

Monday, February 3, 2020

2018 Christmas Card Challenge Winners!!!!

And the winners of the fifth annual Jane and Phil Christmas Card Challenge are:

The Alameda relatives!

Hanging in glory up there on the Thai wall.

Now, a word about this win. It actually happened back in June 2019. Devotees of our family know that we were in the midst of a PCS during that time, otherwise known as hauling a** out of Bangkok for our next post in Budapest with a summer-long pitstop in America. Phil was alone in Bangkok when the deciding card fell. I asked him to send me a photo. He did, and I never did anything with it. 

Fortunately, wonderfully, I was able to find the photo on my phone last week. I wasn't actually able to download it anymore, due to the content having expired, or something like that. I chose the next best option, screenshotting it so I could prove up on the blog. I cropped out some of the screenshot, but left the little icons at the bottom as evidence. 

Many congratulations to the champions of the 2018 Christmas Card Challenge. Your winnings, as is typical for us, will arrive later than expected, if expected, and unexpectedly, if unexpected. 

For a look back at how the 2018 Challenge began, click HERE. To fall down a rabbit hole of Christmas Card Challenges, start HERE.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Lately

Boy, it is hard to sit down and write. The amount of backlog I need to work through on the blog is a real deterrent. I've heard that the best way to start writing is to start writing. To that end, I spent the last half hour composing a treatise on the business aspect of celebrity gossip, and its similarities to international diplomacy. Unfortunately for you, that is not what you'll be reading today. Instead, you get to read another "Lately" post that will be mostly photos with comments. I think that will set a nice foundation for everything else, and will be more fun for you. 

What I really hope to do, what I plan to do, is go back and fill in the blanks on our residence in Thailand. Rather than file things out of order, I think I'll backdate the posts to fit where they're supposed to fit chronologically. I'd ultimately like to turn this blog into a nice, readable history for our family. Recently, The Kid has told me a few times that he "can't remember that" when we talk about things he's done and seen. That bums me out. So, I'm going to force myself to sit down in front of this laptop and bang out some posts to make sure he has a reference of all the cool things that Phil's hard work, and wanderlust have birthed. On your end, that means you'll have to do some snooping if you want to see the things from our Thailand life that you haven't seen. Listen, a little exploring is good every now and then. It helps you hone your research skills, should you ever get really into celebrity gossip to the point that you're writing your magnum opus on it.

Lately, as in the past month or so,

We had our first, and so far only, snowstorm in Budapest. I made this snowman by myself. This is how I spend my time instead of working on any of my other, meaningful projects.

Parliament was pretty after the snow, but it's pretty anyway, so I don't think we can credit the snow.

We've been learning about Central European winter, and the creepy (at night), depressing (during the day) fog that it brings.


One of us attended The Nutcracker ballet, while the child and dog were at home with a babysitter, and the breadwinner was working in...Bosnia? I want to say Bosnia. The dancing was great. The sets were beautiful. The ballet was staged in three acts for some reason. Why three? Why not two? Is it really necessary to have two intermissions for The Nutcracker? The Erkel theatre is the temporary home of Budapest culture, while the Opera House undergoes renovations. It was fine.

We took the train to Austria. This is the station in Budapest. Pretty grand.

My sister, Anne, sent an outstanding fudge recipe, plus all the ingredients to make it. I originally intended to share it with friends, but it never left the house.

We celebrated HanukkAdvent. I made perfect latkes for the first time ever. I didn't write down the recipe, so it will never happen again.

The weather was rainy in the days before Christmas. Parliament looks pretty in the rain, but, again, I don't think it's the rain doing the work.

Phil performed his annual parental duty of hurriedly putting crap together on Christmas Eve.

He did a good job

I made the traditional Christmas morning breakfast of Ebleskivers...
...and overnight blueberry french toast.


On Boxing Day, we joined a thousand other people who also spontaneously decided to go walking in Normafa in the Buda hills. The wind was blowing, and it was very cold. Some of us don't tolerate cold well, and made it an unpleasant walk for the others. Once we were back in the car, sitting in the sunshine, I was a lot nicer.

We visited Memento Park, an open air museum with communist statues from around Hungary. The Kid volunteered to hold Bella's leash, which was mostly okay.  

That's it. That's all you get for now. Believe me when I say I have much more for you, including some cool shots from Memento Park, and plenty of the Parliament. Keep an eye out for backdated posts. Or don't. It's a new year. You do you.