Have Bracket, Will Pick ‘Em

All righty, basketball fans (or non-basketball fans who are gamers because they’ve decided to fill out brackets this year):

If you’d like to join our NCAA Tournament Challenge group on espn.com, it’s all set up and ready to go. If you’ve never set up an ESPN account before, you’ll need to do that; if you do have an ESPN account, you can log in after you click over to join our group.

You can start making your selections just as soon as the brackets are announced this Sunday. And don’t worry: if you’ve never filled out an NCAA bracket before, it’s totally easy. I usually go through and make selections for the teams I know a little bit about, and then I make the rest of my selections based on one of the following three criteria:

1) blind conference loyalty (I almost always pick SEC schools)
2) which city I like better of the two cities represented in a given game
3) which school’s mascot would most likely win in a toe-to-toe wrestling match

As you can see, my method is very fancy. And it probably helps to explain why my bracket pretty much self-destructs by the third round.

Even though the primary purpose of our little tournament group is just to have some good, clean fun, there will be a small prize for the winner (just for kicks and bragging rights, you understand). Last year’s winner was Jackie, and the winner two years ago was Kat. They are formidable competition (Kat almost won again last year), but I have no doubt that there are some brilliant basketball minds – and/or some excellent guessers – who are going to give them a run for the money in 2011.

I think that’s just about covers it, but if you have any questions, just let me know in the comments. Since I’m the only group member right now, I’m sure my username will be tickled to death to have a little company once some more people join the group. And if your husbands or boyfriends want to join the group, that’s totally fine – just tell them that they can’t whine when we all put the March Madness smackdown on their tournament picks.

(In my spare time, I sometimes enjoy some good-natured trash talking.)

(This is why it’s often in my best interest to watch rivalry games from the comfort and security of my home.)

Happy Brackets, y’all!

I Don’t Even Know What To Say

Last night Melanie and I were feeling all wild and crazy and decided we were going to record a new podcast. The last couple of times we’ve tried to record one we’ve had weird technical stuff happen, and the problem with the weird technical stuff is that WE DON’T HAVE ANY IDEA HOW TO FIX IT. Last night, though, we were confident that we were going to have some serious podcast victory.

Well.

Around 10:30 we both got on iChat, but unfortunately iChat was unwilling to recognize that we were online. No matter how many times we quit the application, opened it again, restarted our computers, etc. and so on and oh sweet mercy so forth, we continued to show up as “offline” in each other’s buddy list. In a fit of desperation I finally decided to re-add Mel as a buddy, and that did the trick. And reaching that solution only took about 45 minutes of our time. So it was an exercise in efficiency, really.

After we got an audio chat going, I started recording on my end, and after about 20 seconds we had a connection error. Tried again. Another connection error. Tried again. CONNECTION ERROR. By that point Melanie was on the Google, trying to figure out what the issue was, and on some Mac message board she saw that we might need to change our port settings. Quite frankly I thought that sounded like more of an activity you’d deal with when, I don’t know, YOU’RE BOATING, but in the interest of NOT LETTING TECHNOLOGY BEAT ME I followed the port-changing instructions.

And then we started another audio chat and got disconnected and Melanie called me on my cell phone and said, “I DON’T UNDERSTAND. ALL THIS INTERNET BUSINESS IS FOR THE BIRDS AND ALSO I’VE NEVER FELT LIKE A BIGGER NERD.”

After some more Googling we came to the conclusion that the iChat wasn’t interested in being our friend anymore, so we decided to try Skype, which is how we recorded our first few podcasts back in ye olden days when we used to record more than two a year. We both had to download Skype onto our computers because neither of us has darkened Skype’s doorstep in about two and a half years, but once we got Skype up and running, we were full of hope. Giddy with podcast promise.

So we started an another audio chat. We marveled at the sound quality (I have to say: it was spectacular). We made sure our sound settings were good to go, and, about 50 seconds later, we were disconnected.

By this point we had pretty much left all of our warm and fuzzy want-to-record-a-podcast feelings way, WAY behind, but we turned to Google one more time – just on the off chance that there was an easily fixable problem. But all we saw were reports of some horrible Skype outage right before Christmas and message board thread after message board thread about how Skype doesn’t always get along really well with Macs.

And at that point we had to admit that, at least temporarily, the technology had taken us down for the count.

So here’s my question: do any of you nice people have any suggestions for a better, more reliable way we could record the podcast? In the past we’ve done audio chats via Skype or iChat, I’ve recorded on my end using WireTapPro, and then I make a few edits in Garage Band and upload the file to Libsyn. We’ve tried recording directly into Garage Band a few times, but for whatever reason doing that has crashed my computer. So that might not be the best method.

Based on what the Google has told me, our method of recording is pretty typical and should be a best-case-scenario for two people in different cities, but for whatever reason iChat and Skype are giving us tons of trouble lately. The iChat method worked fine back in May, but since then it’s been a big bust whenever we’ve tried to record something.

Is there some bigger and better way to talk online that we don’t know about? We just have so much pointless, absolutely meaningless information that we long to share through the podcast format, and given the technical frustrations of late, I thought I’d check with y’all for possible solutions so that we can continue with our particular brand of nonsense as quickly as possible.

That is all.

And just FYI: I think I’ve pretty much hit an all-time high with this post in terms of BRINGING YOU THE NERDY.

(I just typed “BRINING YOU THE NERDY” by accident. But I would imagine that nerdy becomes somewhat more potent when immersed in salty water.)

Happy Wednesday, y’all.

I’d Feel A Little Ashamed If I Weren’t So Rested

This past weekend was the first one in months – MONTHS, I TELL YOU – when we didn’t have one thing on our calendar. Not one thing. And listen: you have never seen three people EMBRACE THE NOTHING like we did these last three days. We reveled in the nothing. We picked up the nothing and swung it ’round and ’round in a big bear hug and then told it how much we adored it. We were ALL ABOUT the nothing.

And granted, there were little bits of something thrown in for good measure. We went out for Mexican food. We did a little Christmas shopping. Alex saw a movie with a friend. We watched TV. Read. Napped. Cooked. Wrapped presents. Went to church. But more than anything else, we relaxed. And IT WAS GLORIOUS.

So all that to say: I was planning to put up my post for Nester’s Christmas Tour of Homes today – even took a few pictures Saturday night – but then I realized that my house looks just like it always does. My tree looks almost identical to last year. I decorated my dining room the same way. I’ve put up the Christmas card tree. But I don’t have anything new and inspiring to show you. I do have live wreaths hanging on the windows this year instead of fake ones, but that’s not exactly an earth-shattering development. Unless, of course, you’re fundamentally opposed to fake wreaths, in which case I would imagine that you might be sort of tickled that I’ve embraced the live greenery.

Anyway, you can certainly look back at my Christmas Tour posts from the last few years if you’d like to see the ways things typically go around here in terms of decorations, but if I were you I’d head straight to Nester’s. There will be more beautiful ideas than you can shake a stick at – and you should totally add a tour of your own house to the linky. It’ll be more fun! So much fun! Just more fun!

(Sorry. I was having a Martha moment.)

(By the way, Martha is having a Christmas party for “the girls” this week.)

(“The girls” are all in their late-70s and early-80s.)

(And that makes me smile.)

All righty – I’m going to resume with my relaxing. You may not believe this, but I’M READING A BOOK.

I KNOW!

Enjoy your Christmas touring with The Nester today – I’ll see y’all tomorrow!

Five.

Yesterday was the fifth birthday of this here little blog. So I celebrated by making a stuffed pork roast, dressing, homemade gravy, squash casserole and strawberry pretzel salad.

Okay. So maybe that stuff was technically for Thanksgiving. And maybe nobody else at the table had the foggiest idea that the blog was having a birthday. But still. It was the best pretend birthday party that a blog could ever hope to have.

Mama’s pecan pie didn’t hurt.

Anyway, before Sister and I set out in search of some new Christmas ribbon for me and some new shoes for her, I just wanted to stop and make sure y’all know how deeply grateful I am for each one of you. Thank you so much for reading and commenting and emailing and putting up with my crazy. I’ve had big fun with you people for the last five years, and oh, I am thankful.

(insert powerful-yet-tender ballad here)

(preferably a duet with Phil Collins and the incomparable Marilyn Martin)

(preferably with a music video where someone rests his or her head against a wall while he or she sings with great emotion)

Here’s to five more, sweet internet. Or at least one more. Because five more years seems like sort of a lot right now, and long-term goals stress me out a little bit.

By the way, here’s what the little man looked like five years ago.

I think I just died.

I love y’all,
Me

Keely McSassy

I met my friend Keely when I went to Uganda and she was the trip photographer. From the get-go it was crystal clear that Keely is one of those people who comes equipped with an extra measure of awesome. She is a blast and a half – wise beyond her years and hysterically funny. She can have a super-deep conversation or she can quote “30 Rock.” She has style for days. And I love her to pieces.

So when Keely emailed me last week to tell me that she was going to be in Birmingham for Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God concert (her hubby is a musician on the tour), I was tickled to death. And I would say I cleared the calendar so that I could go to the concert, but the thing of it is that there was nothing on my calendar. Just a big ole bunch of white space. And maybe a short grocery list. But even still, I wouldn’t have missed Keely + concert time for the world, EVEN IF I THAT MEANT I HAD TO CANCEL MY NON-EXISTENT PLANS.

That’s what you call a commitment to friendship, people.

The concert was last night at a local church, so late yesterday afternoon I picked up Keely, and we hopped down the road (NOT LITERALLY, SILLY) to a little Mexican place so that we could eat chips and salsa and drink tea and visit. We blazed through about 75 topics over the course of an hour, and then we headed back to the church so that we’d be there in time for all the purty singing. We hung out for a little bit with a couple of Compassion buddies before the show, and while we were talking I snapped a few pictures of Keely’s accessories because 1) I am just that annoying and 2) I wanted to document her sassy style.

Oh, if I could count the number of times I’d pinned a large flower to my purse – well, I’d have to count all the way up to zero.

And I don’t know if y’all can see the cute necklace or not, but it’s a vintage-looking pendant with a “K” on it.

SASSY.

The boots, quite frankly, were a revelation.

And then – AND THEN – right before we walked to our seats, Keely took the big flower off of her purse and put it on our sweater.

You know, I don’t know that I’ve ever had the fashion wherewithal to MOVE AN ACCESSORY AROUND. The only thing that comes to mind is when I’m getting ready to grocery shop and I take a clippy off of my purse strap so that I can put it ON MY HEAD and get my bangs out of my face.

Or maybe when I was in the 10th grade and used a ponytail holder to tie the bottom of my t-shirt over on the side JUST LIKE I LIKED IT.

Not really the same thing as a kicky flower, is it?

The concert was absolutely wonderful – sort of heartbreakingly worshipful, really – and if the tour is going to be anywhere near you, you should totally go. If you’re not familiar with the Behold the Lamb of God CD, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but if you can’t make it to a show this year, it’s worth the $10 (or whatever) to share this music with your family. It tells the story of Jesus throughout the whole Bible – Old and New Testaments – and it’s just an incredible way to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find a sassy scarf so that I can feel all jaunty and breezy as I plow through some work stuff today. I would attach a snazzy flower to my sweater, but unfortunately I’m fresh out of snazzy flowers. Maybe I should just walk outside and find a sprig of holly. But that might be a little weird. And also prickly.

Happy Tuesday, y’all!

p.s. Several of y’all commented or emailed me to ask if I could share my notes from Beth Moore’s session on discernment at Deeper Still in OKC last weekend, so I wanted to let you know that I posted them over at AllAccess. Hope they’re helpful to you!

Christmas Tour of Homes 2009

So for the last several years I’ve have had more fun! just more fun! so much fun! hosting a bloggy Christmas Tour of Homes. Honestly, the Tour feels like a holiday tradition to me; I love getting my house ready for Christmas, posting pictures on my blawg and then gathering ’round the warm glow of my computer monitor so that I can look at everybody else’s decorations. AND I DON’T EVEN HAVE TO DRIVE ANYWHERE.

Earlier this summer I started thinking about the whys and wherefores of this year’s tour, and the more I thought about it, the more I kept coming to the same conclusion: it’s time to pass ye olde bloggy torch. It’s not that I don’t love decorating my house, because I do. It’s not that I don’t love hosting the tour, because I do. I love the whole kit and kaboodle. But the problem is that I’m not very, um, creative. My house looks exactly the same every single year, and I just felt like the whole decorate-your-house-for-Christmas thing might be more fun if it was in the hands of a super-creative, gifted-at-decorating person.

Well.

Not too long after I’d decided that some torch passing was in order, I found myself sitting in a hotel room in Charlotte with bunch of bloggy friends. One of those friends was The Nester. And I love The Nester. She inspired me to paint my kitchen cabinets AND to make no-sew drapes for my kitchen windows. She is laid-back and approachable and real and wonderful. Anyway, while we were sitting in that hotel room, the subject of the Christmas Tour came up. I mentioned that I had been thinking about changing the format or handing it off to someone else. And then I looked over at Nester and thought Well clearly she should be the person hosting it, MY WORD.

Long story a little bit longer: Nester has oh-so-graciously agreed to take over the hosting duties. I AM THRILLED TO PIECES. Oh, I’ll still participate in the tour and then sit around the warm glow of my monitor and look at all of your houses, but Nester is going to run the show. And it’ll be fabulous.

I mean, even her blog button is a delight.

So mark your calendars, girls. December 14th. A new and improved Christmas Tour-o-Homes. I can’t wait.

And I hope I’ll see you there.