She’s a Streetwalker…For a Cause

Hey all you Chicago area people…this weekend is Misericordia’s annual Candy Days, where workers and volunteers get out into the streets of Chicago to get donations and give out candy. In the past it’s been Fannie May suckers, but this year they’ve got yummy Jelly Bellies.

As I might have mentioned, my sister works for Misericordia and I’d actually volunteered for Candy Days in the past (you meet a LOT of interest people when you’re standing in the middle of an intersection asking for money). Here’s a little more information on them:

About Misericordia: It’s a residential home for children and adults (about 560 total) with developmental disabilities, some with physical disabilities. All proceeds go towards upkeeping their homes, making sure they have great programming and overall maintaining the best care that they can receive to live life to the fullest. For more info, go to http://www.misericordia.org/.

So if you’re driving around and you see a volunteer in the intersection, dig up some loose change, make sure you don’t run them over, and get yourself some sweets, then give yourself a pat on the back for helping out. You might get lucky and see my sister out there (I’m not going to post it here, but I’ll post it up on twitter and facebook tomorrow morning.

My Latest Addiction

poupee.png

I am addicted to a Japanese fashion virtual dress up site called PoupéeGirl. I was introduced to Poupée by someone follow on DeviantArt who had asked if anyone had an account and I was curious what it was she was talking about. Basically, it’s a site where you get your own avatar/doll that you can dress up in different outfits.

Before I go on, let me state that I’m probably one of the most unfashionable people out there. Outside of my collection of lipglosses, I really don’t keep up with the latest trends or wear “cool” clothes. My work outfit consists of a t-shirt and lounge pants since I work at home, and if I do go out, it’s usually in a t-shirt and jeans.

But this site is totally addicting. To start, you get to pick out characteristics for your doll - eyes, hair, skin color…very much like creating a Mii avatar for the Wii. After that, you can dress up your doll - to start off with, they give you some basics…slim jeans, white blouse, black pumps, slim black skirt, etc. There are several ways you can get more clothes - by uploading pictures of fashion items (shirts, hats, makeup, shoes, etc) that belong to you, purchasing items in the market where people are selling clothes they don’t want, or exchanging shells that you get when visiting other user’s profiles. Poupée has it’s own currency, called “ribbons”. You get ribbons for dressing your avatar every day, commenting on other user’s uploaded items, selling the items your don’t need anymore, or, if you’re desperate, you can buy them. You can then use these ribbons to buy clothes - either from the market or from the shop that has really nice items for a limited time (they just had a kimono event - which is what my Poupée is wearing). I admit…I’ve purchased ribbons - not only do you get ribbons, but you get bonuses when you purchase. Pretty smart business people, whoever started this Poupée.

Here’s a few of the outfits that my Poupée has worn so far (I’ve been a member since late November):

Poupee

Now the hardest thing with the site (other than wanting to buy EVERYTHING in the market and not having enough ribbons) is that since it’s a Japanese company, a lot of the site is in Japanese. They’ve been slowly translating the site to English since they’ve been getting so many international members, but I’ve been using Babelfish a lot lately! Especially when other members who are Japanese send messages. Luckily, there are a lot of English sites out there that provide translations and forums to help us non-Japanese out. One of them is a community on livejournal. They provide a pretty good FAQ that gives some tips on using the site and what not to do.

Basically what I do with whatever extra time I’ve had lately is surf around Poupée, commenting on people’s items, collecting ribbons and shells, going to the market and buying virtual outfits for my virtual doll…she gets to wear clothes that I’d never wear in real life!

So…if you’d like to join, just post a comment here (make sure you enter your email) and I’ll send you an invite. You could join on your own, but if I invite you, you get a free article of clothing (I have no idea what it is this month) when you accept my invitation. It’s not a real article of clothing - it’s just virtual. *wink*

Chances are, I may post some more of my virtual outfits, just because some of the stuff is so damn cute…I think. As I said, I have no idea what’s fashionable, but I like to pretend!

Mini-Cheesecake Recipe

Just in time for the holidays, here’s my mini-cheesecake recipe, which I got from allrecipes.com. Here’s the original link - Cream Cheese Recipe.

Ingredients:
* 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs i use honey grahams
* 1 tablespoon white sugar
* 1 tablespoon margarine, melted

* 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup white sugar
* 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
* 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
* 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 egg

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a 6 cup muffin pan. I use a mini muffin pan

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and margarine with a fork until combined. Measure a rounded tablespoon of the mixture into the bottom of each muffin cup, pressing firmly. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes, then remove to cool. Keep the oven on.

3. Beat together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla until fluffy. Mix in the egg.

4. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the muffin cups, filling each until 3/4 full. I use a big spoon to scoop the cheesecake mixture into the mini muffins Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 15 minutes. Cool completely in pan before removing. Refrigerate until ready to serve. I put blueberry pie topping on top of the mini-cheesecakes

Enjoy, and happy holidays!

Save the Daisies!

Pushing Daisies

I guess the rest of the world doesn’t share the same love of Pushing Daisies as I do. Maybe the world cares more for reality game shows or dark dramadies. But to me, Daisies is a breath of fresh air. It’s a whimsical fantasy that makes your heart flutter one moment and break the next, with the occasional song break in between. The colors are so vivid, and the sets out of an incredible imagination - it’s like Tim Burton lite. The tale is about a man who has the power to bring people back to life by touch - but with consequences. If he touched them again, they would die. But if he didn’t touch them again, within a minute someone else would die. One day, he finds out his childhood sweetheart had been murdered - he revives her and realized that he still loves her, but that he could never touch her again. For something so heavy, it’s actually very touching (excuse the pun). So they live their lives, along with the crazy supporting cast, solving crimes and making pies. It sounds silly, but it’s awesome.

So give it a chance tonight, I’ve heard it’s one of their best episodes yet.

4th of July (Vote for Redpac!)

This is several months late, but there’s a point to all this…

In July, we went to Detroit (well, a little bit outside of it) to visit Claudine and Dan for 4th of July weekend. Their neighbor across the street always puts on a good fireworks show. It was a pretty awesome show, except for the time that the cops came by and told them to stop. No big accidents, just a little law breaking. We had a great time, and some DELICIOUS bratwurst that Dan picked up while driving around in Ohio.

What was pretty cool is that Dan got his party sponsored by Greased Lightning. He got a party kit, complete with plates, napkins, t-shirts, foam lightning bolts, temporary tattoos - all the fixings for a fun party. All he had to do was submit a video to enter their contest. So click on this link to see (and vote for) the video that was made - that’s Johnny and Frank singing Greased Lightning, and my sister Fatima who’s spelling out the words with sparklers (I took the pictures). Make sure you vote for Dan’s video to win!!!

Here’s all the letters strung together:

Greased Lightning

Here’s more pictures from the weekend:

Redpac's Beer Stash Ice Wine is Awesome Tambourine Boy Carnivore Heaven The Band
Playing for Food Our Heavenly Bratwurst He Likes Rocker Chicks Party People II
Party People Fireworks Party's Over! The After Party With Lolo
Making S'mores See Steve Jump Disco Dancing Sparkler Circle Playing with Sparklers

DA: Calvin, Hobbes and Susie by ~sora1589

I love surfing around deviantART, there are some really incredible artists on there. I was thinking I’d share some of my favorite art with you guys, so I’ll start off with this one:


Calvin, Hobbes and Susie by ~sora1589 on deviantART

It was originally done by nami86. I love Calvin and Hobbes, and I like that this picture is one of Calvin, all grown up, in love with Susie, but Hobbes is still with him.

Join Me and an Army of Women

As some of you may know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. My mother, who died 5 years ago, fought breast cancer twice. I try as much as I can to spread awareness about this disease that touches so many.

So for the next couple weeks, my blog layout will be switched to pink, a color I’m not a big fan of, but in this case, I’ll make an exception.

Earlier this week, I found out about the Avon Army of Women, whose mission it is to get 1 million volunteers for breast cancer research. Go to the site, check it out - Avon Army of Women. You can volunteer yourself, you can support the cause by buying a pretty pendant, or you can spread the word. I know that there’s a chance that one day, I may get breast cancer myself, so anything I can do to help, I will.

The Love/Avon Army of Women offers women the opportunity to partner with the scientists who are conducting research that will end this disease–once and for all.

Breast cancer has been around for decades, but it does not have to be our future. We can be the generation that stops breast cancer once and for all by figuring out what causes this disease and how to prevent it!

Sign up for your sister, mother, daughter, granddaughter, best friend, and the woman you met last week. This is YOUR chance to be part of the research that will end breast cancer.

It takes a just a minute to join. But the impact we will have will last a lifetime.

Please Join Me in Being One in a Million!

I Have a Bad Feeling About This

Usually, I LOVE the Olympics, but these upcoming games have me worried. I stuck up for the Olympics when activists in different countries were protesting the running of the Olympic flame, saying that politics should be left behind. But the closer and closer these games get, the more I realize that it was a horrible idea to give these games to China. It makes me upset that the spirit of the games is marred by the actions of the host country trying to show their supremacy and power.

One thing is the censoring of the internet for the media - something that China had said before that they would allow. Later, they said that they would relent and allow more internet access to restricted sites - but not all. Next is how horrible the air is in China - athletes are staying in neighboring countries because the air is so bad. It’s come to the point where sporting events lasting more than an hour (like the marathon) could get canceled if the air is poor. Can you imagine? You train your whole life, travel around the world running marathons, then cannot race because China never bothered in the past to care about vehicle and factory emissions.

joey cheekWhat sparked this post today is the latest in this clusterfrak that is 8.8.08 - the 2006 Winter Olympics golden boy (and all-round good guy), Joey Cheek, has been denied a Visa. In 2006 Joey made headlines by donating his medal winnings , about $40,000, to Right to Play, an organization that promotes sports to children in Darfur. He’s one of the reasons why the Olympics are as awesome as they are, and to me, embody everything that the Olympics stand for. He skated for the joy of it, for the competition with his peers, and not for the money, but along the way, made the world aware of the struggle of the people of Darfur.

He was planning on attending the Olympics to support other athletes who are part of his organization, others who also support efforts in Darfur. Unfortunately for Joey, China has ties to Sudan and Darfur, and not the side that he’s on.

Read more about it here.

But he’s not the only one having problems with visas. Even foreigners who are living and working in China are having problems with their visas - many of them having to leave China because of the tight visa restrictions. Hotels are fighting each other for travelers, since China’s visa restrictions are so tough, no one is coming to China to actually watch the games.

It’s all a little sad - these games should be about a celebration of sports and competition, but instead is becoming a hotbed of ill feelings and politics. China is working so hard to make themselves look good and keep their games safe according to their standards, but I’m afraid that it may all backfire on them, with the losers being the athletes themselves.

update: The US is going to protest Joey’s visa denial:

“We have sent in our embassy in Beijing to demarche the Chinese. That is where we go in and say we are concerned about this and we want you to reconsider your actions. We would hope that they would change their mind.”

Bringing the World Together

Once upon a time, a guy who had quit his job decided to wander around Asia. His buddy was videotaping him in Hanoi and suggested that he do his signature dance, which he started to do in every location he went to. His videos ended up being quite popular, and he got a lot of fan mail asking him to dance in their countries. He even picked up a sponsor who loved what he was doing and wanted to help him out - no strings attached. So he told his fans he was going around the world again, and this time, to join him.

The following video is the result of that 14 month, 42 country journey:

I love this video…it just makes me feel happy! The music fits the mood perfectly, and it’s so wonderful to see all the people dancing. Sure, you can say, “how much money is he spending?” or “how much gas was spent shuffling this guy around the world?” (comments I’ve seen on the video in youtube) but I feel that this video is worth it. He wasn’t taking private planes, or bringing around a 10 person entourage, and he was sponsored by a company. This isn’t a big production - just a guy traveling around the world who wants to dance.

You can visit Matt’s website here: “Where in the Hell is Matt?”

You can visit his youtube page here: MattHarding2718

Happy Monday!

Happy Father’s Day!

I know it’s a bit late, but Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. Ben, who does not yet have the hand eye coordination or spelling skillz to write a post, would like to say a couple words:

Hey blog-o-sphere. I just wanted to let you all know that my dad is the best. Even though it’s obvious that I prefer clinging to my mommy because she plays really fun games with me, I love my dad too. He’s really good at throwing me up in the air and makes me feel like the tallest baby in the world when he lets me ride his shoulders. He takes me to fun places, like baseball and basketball games. He teaches me fun words when he yells at the TV, but mommy says that they’re words I shouldn’t repeat. He’s good at throwing my basketball in the hoop, and even lets me have a turn once in a while. When we’re driving around together he gets me Happy Meals at McDonalds because he knows I love fries and chicken nuggets. He likes to hug me and give me little kisses when I’m sleeping. I know he loves me a lot and I love him, too. Happy Father’s day!

Barack Obama made a great speech today, talking about the importance of fathers in the lives of children. I’ve got part of the speech below and you can click on the link for the whole speech at the bottom, or watch the 24 minute youtubed version below. I’d have to say my favorite quote from this massive speech is this: “We need to show our kids that you’re not strong by putting other people down - you’re strong by lifting them up.”

Good morning. It’s good to be home on this Father’s Day with my girls, and it’s an honor to spend some time with all of you today in the house of our Lord.

Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation. They are teachers and coaches. They are mentors and role models. They are examples of success and the men who constantly push us toward it.

But if we are honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing - missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.

You and I know how true this is in the African-American community. We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled - doubled - since we were children. We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.

Yes, we need more cops on the street. Yes, we need fewer guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Yes, we need more money for our schools, and more outstanding teachers in the classroom, and more afterschool programs for our children. Yes, we need more jobs and more job training and more opportunity in our communities.

But we also need families to raise our children. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - it’s the courage to raise one.

We need to help all the mothers out there who are raising these kids by themselves; the mothers who drop them off at school, go to work, pick up them up in the afternoon, work another shift, get dinner, make lunches, pay the bills, fix the house, and all the other things it takes both parents to do. So many of these women are doing a heroic job, but they need support. They need another parent. Their children need another parent. That’s what keeps their foundation strong. It’s what keeps the foundation of our country strong.

I say this knowing that I have been an imperfect father - knowing that I have made mistakes and will continue to make more; wishing that I could be home for my girls and my wife more than I am right now. I say this knowing all of these things because even as we are imperfect, even as we face difficult circumstances, there are still certain lessons we must strive to live and learn as fathers - whether we are black or white; rich or poor; from the South Side or the wealthiest suburb.

The first is setting an example of excellence for our children - because if we want to set high expectations for them, we’ve got to set high expectations for ourselves. It’s great if you have a job; it’s even better if you have a college degree. It’s a wonderful thing if you are married and living in a home with your children, but don’t just sit in the house and watch “SportsCenter” all weekend long. That’s why so many children are growing up in front of the television. As fathers and parents, we’ve got to spend more time with them, and help them with their homework, and replace the video game or the remote control with a book once in awhile. That’s how we build that foundation.

It’s up to us - as fathers and parents - to instill this ethic of excellence in our children. It’s up to us to say to our daughters, don’t ever let images on TV tell you what you are worth, because I expect you to dream without limit and reach for those goals. It’s up to us to tell our sons, those songs on the radio may glorify violence, but in my house we live glory to achievement, self respect, and hard work. It’s up to us to set these high expectations. And that means meeting those expectations ourselves. That means setting examples of excellence in our own lives.

The second thing we need to do as fathers is pass along the value of empathy to our children. Not sympathy, but empathy - the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes; to look at the world through their eyes. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in “us,” that we forget about our obligations to one another. There’s a culture in our society that says remembering these obligations is somehow soft - that we can’t show weakness, and so therefore we can’t show kindness.

But our young boys and girls see that. They see when you are ignoring or mistreating your wife. They see when you are inconsiderate at home; or when you are distant; or when you are thinking only of yourself. And so it’s no surprise when we see that behavior in our schools or on our streets. That’s why we pass on the values of empathy and kindness to our children by living them. We need to show our kids that you’re not strong by putting other people down - you’re strong by lifting them up. That’s our responsibility as fathers.

Click here for the whole speech…