26 December 2021

Another Win In The Little Drummer Boy Challenge, Huzzah!

I'm pleased to report that I won this year despite an hour at the dentist getting my teeth cleaned during which they played non-stop xmas music, xmas music at another doctor's office, and much roll of the dice tv watching. 

It seems crazy, but I've been playing The Little Drummer Boy Challenge since 2011. Honestly I wasn't going to play this year, rather I wasn't invested in winning. Once you've played, I find it hard not to be aware of what music's playing. That said, it was still nice to rack up another win.

The rules from the site:

It’s very easy: So long as you don’t hear “The Little Drummer Boy,” you’re a contender. As soon as you hear it on the radio, on TV, in a store, wherever, you’re out. 

The game begins the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) at 12:01 am and continues until midnight, Dec. 23. If you haven’t been puh-rum-pum-pum-pummed, you win. For this year, anyway.

In 11 years of playing, I've now won 8 times, but when I lost, I lost 3 years in a row. Currently I'm on a 4 year winning streak.

Happy holidays, y'all!

10 years ago on TTaTOutdated help

11 November 2021

More Than Words: Illustrated Letters from the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art

More Than Words: Illustrated Letters From The Smithsonian's Archive of American ArtMore Than Words: Illustrated Letters From The Smithsonian's Archive of American Art by Liza Kirwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall I enjoyed it though I do wish the book were physically larger. Often the letters are reduced in size making them hard to read. There are transcripts in the back (often the whole letters aren't pictured) but they are in an even smaller, all caps, light blue font. I like the blue but I see why black on white is the standard. 

16 years ago on TTaTThe Expedition

02 November 2021

New (to me) Word

In describing the efforts of the construction crew, my Dad said they were, "fiddledicking around."

Not really a portmanteau. A compound word, I reckon, made from "fiddling" and "dicking."

Somehow it's more offensive than either word on its own while also more hilarious.

10 years + 1 day ago on TTaT43. I Am Maru

16 September 2021


Mom and I were out for a walk to take a better look at the wood forms the construction crew had built today when I spotted something on the temporary road. I leaned over for a better look.

"There's a little turtle," I said. Its shell was maybe an inch and a half long with a tail that seemed oddly long to me, maybe another inch.

Mom was a few paces ahead but turned back to see.

"That's a snapping turtle," she said.

I wasn't sure if it was alive since it was so still and its shell was covered with pale dirt like from the construction site.

"It's dirty," she commented.

I crouched down to get a little closer to take a photograph. I was still a foot away when the baby turtle took off. It didn't go far but it was fast. I had entered its personal space and it was not having it.

At least it was at the edge of the road instead of on it then. Unfortunately it was on the side leading to the construction.

"It'll never get where it wants to go now," Mom said. "You should pick it up and move it."


"Over there," Mom said, pointing to the side of the temporary bridge that would lead down to the creek.

"Feel free," I said with a sweeping arm gesture.

"I don't want to," Mom said.

"Why not?"

"I don't want my fingers to get snapped," she replied.

"Gee, thanks," I said.

Having seen how fast it moved when I was still a foot away, I had no doubt it could swing around and bite me in a flash. I was not up for it.

"Sorry, little guy," I said as Mom and I walked further on.

15 years ago on TTaTMultiples of Eleven

27 August 2021

A Critical Thing to Know About Shingles

So a critical thing to know about Shingles is that you need to get treatment within 72 HOURS of your first shingles rash appearing so you can start the antiviral medicine which will reduce your symptoms, shorten the duration, and most critically, prevent ongoing pain (postherpetic neuralgia) after your rash clears.

I missed this 72 hour window by ~12 hours. Based on how my blistery rash looked, my doc estimated I will have 4 months of pain. (Trust me, it sucks.)

If you're 50+, get the Shingles vaccine! Learn more from the CDC.

Other key things to know:
If you had chickenpox in the past, you can get shingles.
Chickenpox and shingles are related because they are caused by the same virus (varicella zoster virus). After a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus stays dormant (inactive) in the body. It can reactivate years later and cause shingles. –CDC
You don't have to be over 50 to get shingles.

So be vigilant. I didn't know how it presented. I don't want that for you. 

If you have muscle pain and then a rash appears as well, get checked out right away! That is my anecdotal experience. I'm not a medical professional.

10 August 2021

How to Recognize You Have Shingles (Anecdotal)

For me, it started with a muscle strain, vertically along the middle of my spine. Like I'd pulled a muscle.

I'd been doing some odd things recently, like carrying heavy grocery bags over a foot bridge that was so narrow I had to carry one bag in front and one behind. So I didn't think much of it.

The ER doctor said the dormant chickenpox virus hangs out along the middle of your spine. Go figure.

I rolled out my back with rubber balls, kept doing my usual workout and it seemed to improve.

Sleeping Wednesday night, I started to have muscle pain. It felt like it had moved to the right. (The ER doc said Shingles migrates out along the nerves.) When I rolled over, it felt like my skin was tearing.

I assumed I'd gotten a scratch on my back somehow. When I looked at it as best I could on Thursday it was red in a couple places. I put some antibiotic on it which seemed to help and figured it would heal up in a couple days.

That was the first Shingles appearing.

Friday the redness on my back was larger and slightly raised. Redness and bumps also appeared on my chest. I thought this was a stronger atopic dermatitis reaction. It's a condition where rashes can randomly appear. I hadn't had one as pronounced, but again I didn't think it was related to the muscle pain which kept increasing.

I was psyched out because it was Friday and figured the doctor's office wouldn't be able to get me in and also I was still thinking I would start improving. Just that Wednesday, I'd gotten a notice from the local health system about new protocols to help prevent the uptick in Delta variant virus cases.

I really didn't want to go to the ER.

Saturday the pain and redness increased. Here my high tolerance for pain worked against me. I thought about going to the ER but things sort of conspired against that choice and I felt a bit better with a heating pad on my back.

At 6:30 pm, my mom asked to see my back. I said no since I already knew I was definitely having a much stronger skin reaction to something. She suggested it might be Shingles, and I immediately felt she was right. It had never crossed my mind (so I didn't like hearing she'd thought of it before but hadn't mentioned it because she thought I wouldn't listen).

I really didn't want to go the ER on a Saturday night though. My dad would have to drive and night driving isn't great for him and I knew it would really wear him out to be at the ER for 6 hours (and me too). My parents have been a couple times in recent years at night on off-days. It took forever.

Saturday night I had so much pain I don't feel like I slept at all. I'd been taking Advil this whole time for pain but it wasn't doing much.

Sunday morning, I waited for my Dad to get up and then asked him to take me to the ER. The pain was so high it changed my voice, made it higher and harder to talk.

I checked in and described my symptoms. It wasn't long before I was taken back to the triage nurse. I described my symptoms and lifted my shirt to show her my rash. She asked me to stand up because it looked like Shingles and that's contagious. They took my blood pressure which was super high because, guess what?, pain. My pulse oximeter rating was good though.

They whisked me off to a room since I couldn't be in the waiting room. Took 2 hours which is good compared to my past ER experiences. Still, it was a long painful 2 hours because the doctor came, said I had Shingles and that they'd get me 1st doses of an antiviral and a pain reliever but I didn't get those until right when they were ready to kick me out.

Anyway, the moral of the story is you want to start treatment for Shingles as early as possible. I didn't know how it presented. So this anecdote is how it started for me: Muscle strain first that migrated to the right and became painful. Some redness showed up on my back along with the first strong pain. So Thursday would have been the day to seek treatment.

If you are 50 or older, get the Shingles vaccine unless you have a medical reason not to!

Learn more here:

Shingles is no joke. Painful, grisly rash that blisters up. Trust me, you want to avoid this.

10 years ago on TTaT50% for "50 for 50"

03 August 2021


Average total rainfall in July where I live: 5 inches.

July 2021 rainfall total: 17 inches.

Not quite 10 years ago on TTaT, but fittingThe Power of Water, part 1

11 July 2021

Heavy Duty Dumpster Truck?

Turns out the official name for the heavy duty dumpster truck the construction crew started using last week to haul out rocks, boulders, & dirt is an articulated hauler. It's a beaut.

The articulated part is because the front can rotate independently from the back.
And yes, Volvo makes construction equipment. They also made the 2 large excavators they're using.

10 years ago on TTaTAs good as it gets!

04 July 2021

6 Pack

Thought I'd roll the dice and check for a 4th of July sale and saw my favorite underwear in a 6 pack with the color selection I like for a great price.

I checked the free shipping threshold price and started searching for the kind my Mom likes since I know she'd like some more too. Emailed her a link to check out and then went back to the sales page with the pack I want.

That's when I saw the only available size: 4.

Ah. Oh well.

16 years ago on TTaTsomething I love

21 June 2021

Utility Pole

Today the last line got removed and the power company removed 2 of the old utility poles. Doesn't take much to pull those suckers out. Just grab it with the robotic arm, wiggle it some, and then lift. Then 2 guys shoveled dirt into the hole.

I was shooting video and photographs of the process out of an upstairs window.

A 3rd man started walking across the yard towards the house and was looking right at me.

Oh god, why is he coming this way? I was still in my pajamas.

He yelled up, "Hello!"

"Hey," I yelled back.

"Did we do something wrong?"


"Because we saw the camera..."

"It's just interesting," I yelled.

"Oh. Thank you," he yelled, not really understanding I don't think but reassured.

"Thank you," I yelled. Heat was pouring in from outside and the sun felt like it was just starting to burn the backs of my hands, so I closed the window and pulled the curtains shut.

I peeked out a few minutes later and they were driving away.

15 years ago on TTaT#28, ahead of schedule

09 June 2021

We Should All Be Millionaires

We Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman’s Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power7. We Should All Be Millionaires: A Woman’s Guide to Earning More, Building Wealth, and Gaining Economic Power by Rachel Rodgers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're sick of financial advice that tells you to just stop drinking lattes (I don't drink coffee at all, yo), this book is for you. Rodgers encourages us all to expand to build wealth rather than to contract and scrimp forever.

She acknowledges systemic inequalities but also shows it's possible and vital to overcome them.

Learn more about Million Dollar Decisions, setting Boundaries, Pricing, and Systems.

If you provide any kind of service, I highly recommend this for strategies to quickly level up your income. If you sell products, there's still a lot of useful info, but the path to millionaire is less clear.

Everyone will benefit from reading up on valuing your time and setting boundaries. (E.g., your kids aren't entitled to your attention 24/7. Rodgers, mother of 4, shares a personal example of setting boundaries with her kids.)

04 June 2021


Yesterday I went out for a walk and a lone power company guy was on the street. He was friendly and said hello so I asked him when the power lines were going to get strung on the temporary utility poles.

He said they'd be back today barring weather issues. Thunderstorms were forecast but completely missed us. We didn't even get any rain. The storms may well have hit elsewhere causing outages, but either way, the power company isn't here today.

He did say he knows they are holding up the road work so they're trying to get it done. They will likely be here on Saturday and Monday.

We're 2 months in and my sleep is wrecked, y'all. Insomnia plus loud early, often pre-7 AM work is a terrible combination.

The road crew guys were here to pick up their roller today, banging around early, and also made a gravel pathway to the container that is a TEMPORARY shed. What a fucking waste of time and contribution to noise I did not need. That took them an hour and a half to accomplish!

I heard that the neighbor across the street spoke with the head of the contractors working on the road and temp bridge. If it's who I think it is, this old guy just breezes in once or twice a week, looks around, takes a few photos and leaves. I never get the sense there is a foreman of any kind directing their work.

Anyway, apparently contractor boss thinks the project is going well and that they will be done in OCTOBER.

Mind you, they started this process a couple months early and the permissions from residents whose yards they have overtaken/destroyed parts of run out mid-September. So,  "going well"? Eff you, guy.

I've been watching them work and it's pretty clear there's no single person in charge or directing their efforts. There's a bunch of work they've repeated many times. Not a model of efficiency.

Now I know I don't have a background in construction work. But I did work in film for years doing physical labor, and in charge of crews, where urgency was prized. I prized efficiency because it made things faster and took less effort. Also days were 12 hours long minimum.

I'm just saying if they had a plan that wasn't seat-of-the-pants every day, they could get a lot more done in the 8 or less hours (including lunch) they are here.

I just want them to finish, sooner rather than 4 months later.

My ability to focus is shot from fatigue and noise 5 or 6 days a week which makes it very difficult to work from home.

As you may tell from this rant, I feel at my wit's end with months more to endure. sigh.

10 years ago on TTaTBlood Rites

20 May 2021


When the CDC and FDA announced that the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine was approved for 12-15 year olds, I immediately thought of my neighbors because I felt sure that one of their kids fell in that age range. I really only know them to say hi to but I figured I'd mention it the next time I was outside the same time one of the parents was.

Yesterday I was out for a walk and taking photographs when the dad drove by and waved on his way home. Aha, this might be my chance, I thought.

As I headed uphill, I didn't see him but he'd set up the auto-return on their basketball hoop for his kids. It's this large net that angles up and away from the hoop that funnels the ball down a chute even if you miss and then shoots it out to you like someone passing a ball. The kids were taking turns shooting, each with their own basketball.

On the way downhill, I ran through what I would say if the dad was outside. As I got closer to their house, I saw him join the rotation with his kids, shooting baskets. I decided to speak right after he shot to make the least interruption.

He took a shot but the ball hit the rim and actually bounced outside of the netting and started to roll downhill behind the hoop. He took a step towards it but his son ran after it. Perfect, I thought. His daughter stepped up to take the next shot.

"Hey," I said.

"Hey," the dad said with a friendly smile, turning around to face me.

Though I had thought of what I was going to say, it somehow came out all haltingly. "I was wondering if you had seen…" But at that moment I was seeing what he couldn't behind him because he was giving me his full attention: the ball return shooting out towards him.

I was supremely grateful it didn't hit him in the back. The basketball landed on the grass and rolled towards me.

"Sorry," I said. My inclination was to walk forward and pick it up but with social distancing, I held my ground on the street and let him instead.

I started again, "I was wondering if you had seen the FDA lowered the age on one of the vaccines."

"She already had her first shot," he said.

"Very good," I said with a smile. I wasn't at all surprised but mentioning it had still seemed like the thoughtful thing to do on my part.

"Hopefully it'll be his turn soon."

"Yeah," I nodded. "I just got my second shot."

"I can't wait for this to be over," he said.

I thought he meant the pandemic but then I realized he was looking beyond me to the massive ongoing road work on our street. I let out a low groan, shook my head, and said, "Yeah," in agreement.

Mission accomplished I took a step back to head home and let him return to playing with his kids.

"Have a good one," he said, smiling.

"Have a good one."

10 years ago on TTaTLife of Art SitRep #67 Cool at a price

30 April 2021

Life of Art #584 [Custom Graduation Guest Books, Logo Post-it Notes, Employee Photo ID Badges]

584 weekly updates. That's a lot of weeks. Over 11 years of my journey to create a life of art. Though that journey continues, this will be my last weekly Life of Art post. There may be some stray ones in the future, but for now they are draining too much of my energy that could be better spent on other tasks.

If you want to keep up with what I'm creating (I would love that!), please check out the

Products tab at Rocklawn Arts and sort by Newest to see my latest additions.

Follow me at Rocklawn Arts on Pinterest to see new pins on curated boards.

Follow me @RocklawnArts on Twitter to see new products and designs as I add them.

And now to this week:

Created three Elegant Class Of 2021 Photo Graduation Guest Books. 

This one has an abstract hand-painted pattern of black curves on white on the back and a white spine with black text:

This one has an abstract hand-painted pattern of white curves on black on the back and a black spine with white text:

This one has the same abstract hand-painted pattern of white curves on black on the back and a black spine with white text. The only difference is the year is shown as 202x so people will know it can be customized in the future:

Created Custom Business Logo Contact Info Large Faded Logo Post-it Notes, Custom Faded Business Logo and Text Post-it Notes, and a Custom Business Logo Contact Info Big Faded Logo Notepad:

Also created some light colored Custom Hospital Employee Logo Photo ID Badges:

Pinned to boards at Rocklawn Arts on Pinterest.

Shot more photographs I've yet to upload.

How was your week?

24 April 2021


A couple days ago, I was watching the construction going on out a window, taking photographs and shooting videos when a cop car sped onto the street and told the big dump truck that was only sticking out into the road a few feet to move.

He promptly did, parking on the road which actually took up much more of it, but fortunately didn't impede the next cop car, small firetruck, another cop car, and eventually 2 ambulances that went to the top of the street.

They were there for a long time. I thought no one could be seriously injured because the ambulances didn't blaze out with lights and sirens going.

Today we were speculating about what might have happened. A kitchen fire perhaps, maybe smoke inhalation to deal with or things to be moved outside. Whether Roscoe was okay, either freaked out by the ruckus or wanting to greet all the emergency responders.

I voiced the stray thought that the emergency vehicles wouldn't rush out if someone was already dead.

Horribly that turned out to be the case. It's not like my thought today caused anything to happen, well, ever, or a few days ago, but it still felt awful to have had that thought and been right.

I read his obituary and when I got to the survived by section, and they included Roscoe, their beloved family dog, I burst into tears.

I'm still crying now.

I didn't know him well but he was always nice when I saw him when I was out walking. He'd always say, "Roscoe, look who it is, go say hi to Claire."

23 April 2021

Life of Art #583 [What Happened This Week?]

This week looks like it mostly got away from me. I slept even worse than usual 3 nights in a row, so I spent more time taking in information than producing.

Though I did shoot a lot of photographs and video, most of which I've still yet to upload.

Pinned to boards at Rocklawn Arts on Pinterest.

Set up some stuff in the back end for my business.

Made monthly backups. Have you backed up lately?

22 April 2021

The Three Minute Meditator

The Three Minute Meditator: Reduce Stress.  Control Fear.  Diminish Anger.  In Almost No Time at All. Anywhere. Anytime.5. The Three Minute Meditator: Reduce Stress. Control Fear. Diminish Anger. In Almost No Time at All. Anywhere. Anytime. by David Harp and Nina Smiley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though the title may make it sound superficial, it's about incorporating meditation throughout your day rather than having to carve out 20-40 minutes or more at a special alter you've set up. I found it really helpful and it's a reference I will revisit.

They (it's written by David Harp and Nina Smiley, twin siblings) present lots of meditation exercises to try so you can find what suits you. Also, they present practical uses for it to help you wrestle control of your thoughts. Wrestle isn't the right word, build up "Mental Muscle" over time with consistent effort even in short amounts of time.

If you've struggled with meditation, are new to it, or are looking for practical applications for it, I highly recommend this book.

10 years ago on TTaTLife of Art SitRep #63 In the realm of distraction

16 April 2021

Life of Art #582 [Custom Gradient Yoga Mats and Medical ID Badges]

Created several Yoga Mats with gradients featuring custom names or a custom name and monogram, as well as checkered gradient versions.

Created several new Custom Employee Photo Medical ID Badges:

Pinned to boards at Rocklawn Arts on Pinterest.

Shot more photographs.

How was your week?

09 April 2021

Life of Art #581 [Custom Burgundy Class of 2021 Graduation Gifts and LGBT Pride Face Masks]

Created a variety of Burgundy and White Class of 2021 Graduate Typography gifts including Tote Bags, T-Shirts, Graduation Cap Topper, Air Freshener, Bicycle Playing Cards, Magnets, Keychains, and Coffee Mugs. You can add a name or school name to many of them.

See the rest of the new gift items in this collection:

Created Class of 2021 Graduate Name Chic Navy Typography Tote Bag and Class of 2021 Graduate Name Chic Red Typography Tote Bag:

Also created Rainbow Stripes LGBTQ Pride face mask and Rainbow Stripes LGBT Pride face mask:

Pinned to boards at Rocklawn Arts on Pinterest.

Shot a lot of photographs, most of which I've yet to download.

How was your week?

07 April 2021

Dinner at the Lake

Today is the first day I've eaten dinner out in over a year.

And by dinner out, I mean we took a mini picnic made at home with us to the lake and ate it while we sat in the car, looking out over the view.

To be fair, this is always how we'd eat at the lake except we'd usually pick something up for dinner and on the way home debate whether or not to pick up dessert somewhere. Ben & Jerry's or a slice of cake from the fancy bakery section at the grocery store.

Today was just dinner and people watching. Two groups of people on either end of the bulwark midway in the distance, a couple of kayakers, two small boats, a fisherman with two poles.

Blue water rippling. Puffy clouds with some blue sky peering through. Late afternoon sun hitting the trees, houses, and low mountains beyond the far side of the lake.

I wore my old sunglasses, the one's without a prescription, and it was the right choice. They are tinted ever so slightly pink, not that you can tell when wearing them. They just make everything look more awesome. The sky and the water, more blue, colors more vibrant. I lifted the shades up to check. The lake view and mountains in the distance looked quite nice, but with my sunglasses on, it looked amazing.

15 years ago on TTaTI smell bacon

04 April 2021

xvi, sedici, 16, seize, sweet sixteen!

Happy 16th blogiversary, TTaT!

Also Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!

Looking back through 16 years of writing, drawing, and photography, I've chosen one post (or occasionally two) from each year from my Best of TTaT list (you can also find it in the header under Highlights).

So... of 2819 published posts (not including this one), these are currently my favorites:

Sixteen years of Taller Than Average Tales, ultra-condensed

One Year Ago

Tacos and the bear

Formalwear Claire

To Be King Again

20 self portraits from 1996, day 2 and Haiku: Irony

Gettin' My Groove On... (vol. xv) and Light It Up, vol. 1

Biggest Bear Yet

Temporal Transportation

Fleeting Diner Love

Evening Stride

Best Part of Winter

Sheep in Disguise

Snow Falling and On Voicelessness

Spring Sightings and In the Category of Odd


Something big and black

2021 (so far):

Thanks to everyone who has read and commented over the years! 

10 years ago on TTaT6 years of TTaT

02 April 2021

Life of Art #580 [Custom Class of 2021 Graduation Mugs, Magnets, and Keychains]

Created a variety of graduation gifts including coffee mugs, keychains, and magnets featuring a chic typography emblem that reads: "Class of [YEAR] Graduate." Designs are available in navy blue and white, red and white, and black and white. The year can be customized on all of the designs.

The Class of 2021 Graduation Coffee Mugs also include a custom name or school name:

Class of 2021 Graduate Magnets:

Class of 2021 Graduate Typography Keychains:

Pinned to boards at Rocklawn Arts on Pinterest.

How was your week?