Monday, May 18, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together Contest WINNER!!!!!!

I know I promised we'd announce a winner for our Banana Bella: Keep It Together contest on the 16th, but I forgot. To my credit, I did remember in the middle of the night, and had brief anxiety, before I fell back asleep. I finally counseled with the Master of Ceremonies this afternoon, and we are pleased to share with you that we have found a winner. 

Before I announce the winner, I'd like to take a minute to drag it out like they do on reality shows. Thank you for all of your entries. It was fun to see what you did, and it helped make the last few months more enjoyable. This has been a really weird time for all of us, and I hope you're making it out all right.

As for the logistics of our final draw, for every entry you submitted, I wrote an abbreviated version of your name on a piece of paper. I folded each paper in half, smeared them all with peanut butter, set them on the floor, and gave Banana Bella the thrill of her lifetime by allowing her to pick the winner. 

This is the first paper she nabbed, and she almost swallowed it. I had to dig it out of her mouth. She did not want to let it go. Poor Banana Bella. I compensated her after with a bigger, better treat. No animals were harmed in the making of this win.

And the winner is...

..."K" stands for...

KAYLA C!!!!!!!!!!!

Congratulations, Kayla, for finally defeating Larry in a contest. He put up a very strong showing, but unfortunately not strong enough for Banana Bella. You earned this win. 

Thanks again to all of you. I hope we won't bring this particular Banana Bella contest back in the future. The next one will be under pleasant circumstances. Until then, keep it together. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together END DATE

Hello, All! Happy Labor Day to the world, except America. Once a year, I read about why America celebrates Labor Day in September instead of May, and then I forget what I read. It's kind of like a fun annual tradition.

The past two weeks have been busy for us, and I frankly needed a blog break. I used the time to gauge your interest in continuing the Banana Bella contest, and the masses have spoken, by not speaking. Y'all are over it. Let's end this sucker.

I promised I'd give you good, long notice before we pulled a winner, so you can continue to send entries until May 15th at 11:59pm PST. After that, you'll just be doing them for the fun of it, which is not terrible, but not as exciting.

There won't be any new contessignments. You are welcome to complete any you may have missed, and as an extra incentive for you to be a socially-conscious human being, I'll let you repeat NUMBER 5, NUMBER 11, and NUMBER 16, as many times as you want between now and May 15th, for an extra entry each time.

If I feel ambitious between now and then, I may come back here and write a few regular posts. Yeah, right. At any rate, you'll find me here on May 16th, announcing our Banana Bella Keep It Together Contest Winner. Beat of luck, Babies. Keep it together until then.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #20

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

Hello. Friday, again. I've had a lot of home work the past two days, because Phil had a lot of work work. This afternoon is the first sustained break I've had, and I'm using it to sit in the balcony sun again.

Prior to the world going viral, we'd planned a trip to Greece this week to celebrate Greek Easter and two birthdays. That didn't happen, though I really appreciate Mother Nature bringing Athenian weather to us.

In light of the Greek holiday, and the trip that was, your Banana Bella contessignment is to choose a way to celebrate Greek Easter this weekend. You might dye red eggs (which, traditionally, you should have done yesterday). You might make the braided tsoureki bread (which you also should have done yesterday, if you wanted to be culturally accurate). Or you might want to spend a little time reading about our experience with Greek Easter. Two years ago, I made a nice reference guide to those blog posts HERE.

However you decide to celebrate, celebrate. We've all had a long haul of it, and we deserve to have a little fun and lightness. Let me know what you do, and have an excellent weekend. I'm going back to my sunshine.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #19

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

Happy Songkran!

Songkran is a festival celebrating Thai New Year. Traditionally, this is when Thailand, and many other Southeast Asia countries, would reset the calendar. Now, they've adopted 1st of January as the official start, but kept the traditional celebrations in place. April 13th is fixed in most parts of Thailand as the annual start date of Songkran. Other places still go by the solar calendar to determine the date. Thailand fixed their start date in part because Songkran has become a huge source of tourist revenue for the country. The traditional custom of sprinkling water on others as a blessing for the new year has turned into a massive water fight, with buckets, SuperSoakers, and hoses. It's...awesome.

Your Banana Bella contessignment today is to celebrate Songkran, in one or more of the following ways:

1) Wear a gaudy, brightly-colored button-up, short-sleeved shirt. I'm talking about a Hawaiian shirt. Pineapples or hibiscus prints will get you a bonus entry. Lots and lots of people wear shirts like these during the festival, and not just tourists. Though, if you are a tourist in Thailand in one of these shirts on Songkran, you're going to get soaked.

2) "Sprinkle" some water on someone. The rules are that they can't be very old, very young, or obviously carrying a cell phone. If they are wearing a floral shirt, they are fair game. If they are wearing a fancy suit, they may also be fair game.

3) Order take out from your local Thai place, and give them a big tip. Splurge on the mango sticky rice.

4) Give a small donation to the Prattanadee Foundation, HERE. Making merit is traditional during Songkran, and this particular organization helps provide vocational and life skills training to women and girls in Thailand.

Let me know what you've done to celebrate! Sawadee pee mai thai! Happy Thai New Year!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #18

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

Today is Good Friday. Does it feel like a good Friday? Good Friday, in the Christian tradition, is marked as the day on which Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem. You remember from our live blogging of Easter in Greece a few years ago that the Orthodox Christian faith is on a different liturgical calendar. For Orthodox Christians, Good Friday will take place next week.

It's understandable to view Good Friday, and the events occuring on it, as a real bummer. Crucifiction is an awful way to kill someone, and it was a particularly unearned punishment in Jesus' case. Yet, Christians view Jesus' crucifixion as a gift that ultimately allows mankind to be reconciled to God. It is that gift, called Atonement, and Jesus' subsequent resurrection from the dead, that Christians celebrate during the Easter season. 

So, why should you care? I'm glad you asked. First of all, you should care because religion shapes the way people make decisions, both on an individual basis, and in global politics. Learning about different religions gives insight into historic and current events. For example, did you know that the Jewish festival, Passover, began this week? Do you know what that's all about? Do you know how Passover fit into history, and how it's observed today? Did you know that Ramadan will be observed worldwide by Muslims beginning in two weeks? Are you impressed by me? Are you planning to give me a standing ovation the next time you see me? Are you even still reading at this point?

A brief, floral interlude, because I have taken a lot of spring photos. 

Second, you should care because the name of today's religious observance relates to your final Banana Bella contessignment for this week. Good Friday is a good Friday when you view it as a celebration of a gift that attempted to (and Christians would say succeeded in) putting goodness and hope into a world where it's sometimes hard to see goodness and hope. All three of the Banana Bellas from this week are supposed to give you an opportunity to do something nice for others. Today's assignment is particularly explicit. I want you to give something that will help make this a good Friday. Your gift can take many forms. If you want to donate money to a person or organization, that's great. If you want to send another note to someone who needs it, that's also great. If you're not in a position to spend money, I did a real quick Google search, and found some non-monetary ways to give:

7Cups Volunteer Listener: HERE
Crisis Text Line Volunteer: HERE
Bookshare Volunteer: HERE
Learn To Be Volunteer Tutor: HERE
Red Cross Digital Ambassador: HERE

I can't vouch for any of these organizations. I haven't researched them thoroughly. The point is that there are many ways you can make this a good Friday. Don't feel limited by my suggestions. Go do something good, and let me know you've done it by sending me a message that says "It was a good Friday."

Wishing you a joyful weekend, whether you're celebrating Easter, or decidedly not. We'll see you next week.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #17

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

How much illegal social research do you think "smart assistants" conduct? I'd be running all kinds of studies, out of pure interest. Today, my assistant is studying the effects of mishearing every single command, and responding calmly when the command is eventually yelled with needle-like enunciation because nothing else is working. Mark it on the calendar. Today is the day my device became sentient.

To celebrate that achievement, as well as to continue our Banana Bella contest, I'd like you to please take a pretty spring picture, and share it; preferably outdoors, without violating stay at home orders, or societal expectations for decent behavior. If you can't take an outside photo, take an inside photo. If you can't take a photo at all, draw a picture. I don't care. Just find or make something spring timey, and share it with someone(s). Let me know what you've done (and show me, too)!

Here's mine:

From our walk this morning.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #16

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #13

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #12

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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

Thanks again, School!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #8

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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: 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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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.





Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Banana Bella: Keep It Together #2

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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.


2) Learn how to do a simple jig.


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"

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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. 


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

**Sorry, doll, this contest is over. Feel free to do the work, but you won't get a prize.**

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:

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


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.