Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dear Mayor of DeGraff

Do you ever read the quotations endorsing a book? As a PR person, I am often in the business of suggesting quotes for busy corporate-type people, so I am interested in quotes and perhaps the hidden meaning within. Sometimes the hidden message is thanks for also endorsing my book or OK, now you really owe me but sometimes the message is straight up this is a fascinating read and I'm so enamored by this book, I will shout it from the rooftops. 

And then, sometimes you are the mayor of a small town and your PR person is either on vacation or is one of those people who pretends to be a PR person but is actually your sister-in-law who likes to plan parties and types everything in Comic Sans and you are asked to endorse a book called Side-Yard Superhero by some smiley professor guy who is a bigshot in the Ozarks, wherever that is. SO, you flip through the book you are asked to endorse that happens to be about your little town and you come up with Welcome to DeGraff, Ohio. I promise you will love our town.

Dear Mayor of DeGraff, Ohio,

Really? Welcome to DeGraff comma Ohio. Is that the best you got? I know this guy is only President of the University of the Ozarks in Arkansas (it's not like he's E. Gordon Gee, for heaven's sakes) but he's probably one of the most successful people to ever write a book solely about DeGraff. Perhaps the only person to write a book about DeGraff comma Ohio.

And in writing Side-Yard Superhero, Dr. Niece even invented a new literary term: Automythography: A work of nonfiction that looks reflectively at what we think we remember it; an iridescent memory based upon the author's truth and personal narrative.

And it's a good book. A touching book about life in simpler times. And simpler times are HOT right now, Mayor. We rural folk don't understand this fully but these people called hipsters and those soccer Moms on Facebook are ALL ABOUT simpler times right now.

It doesn't get simpler than DeGraff. Sorry, that may have come out wrong.

My point, Mayor, is that the story of paper boy Rickie Niece and his innocently genuine relationship with wheel-chair-bound Bernie is touching and funny and a wonderful slice-of-life featuring real people from DeGraff. Real people.

Mayor, I'm not sure you see the potential benefit for DeGraff should this book grow wildly popular. And I would think you would be doing everything in your part-time power to help. That's why I just can't believe you didn't have anything more to say about  Side-Yard Superhero than I promise you will love this town.

Since I am a PR pro, let me share some suggestions, free of charge:

Small-town life is full of characters and thanks to DeGraff son Rick Niece, ours are remembered in this touching story.

DeGraff son Rick Niece takes his readers back to a simpler time. Fortunately, not too much has changed here and we invite you to pay us a visit.

So many of us in DeGraff recall the time and place and characters in Rick Niece's book. Now everyone can share our memories.

Mayor, maybe you have done more to endorse this book than it appears. And if so, I applaud you and hope you take my gentle critique in the spirit in which it was intended. And even if you don't remember Rick Niece or you wish he wouldn't have told the story about the lady who ran around in her bra, then at least think of the memory of Bernie and how society might officially be kinder to people like him now, but there are still too few people--young and old--who are stopping their daily routine to really care.


Holly Michael

No actual Mayors were harmed in the creation of this blog post. I received a free copy of the book to read and enjoy but you probably already figured out that this review is entirely my own. Learn more about Side-Yard Superhero at

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Snapshots on the Farm

Spring is here and the farmers are busy. Sometimes there's even the rural version of a traffic jam.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Zou Bisou Bisou Cake

Today's blogging challenge is to cover three separate topics you've been meaning to cover while participating in a blog carnival and making delicious baked goods that look like Jabba The Hutt's ass. Go!

As a PR agency gal and lover of basic cable, I couldn't help but get hooked on AMC's Mad Men, so when I saw an online promo to host a Mad Men party for the season premiere, I jumped at the chance. I went to a site called House Party, signed up and was stunned as could be when I was selected to receive a box of goodies to throw my own party.

But there was a problem.

Not only did I get a great box filled with posters, character masks and a t-shirt complete with faux tie and lipstick smudge, there were also napkins. And cups.

Crap, my plan was to have a post-show gathering with my agency co-workers but now I was going to have to provide refreshments. Since we were getting together first-thing Monday morning after the show, I thought maybe a coffee cake would be nice.

So I turned to Pinterest and found a great new recipe to try.

I was out of town all weekend, so Sunday night before settling down with my remote, I whipped together this concoction that fortunately tasted a lot better than it looks. I didn't even bother to rotate these photos, because even this way, you can see the trenches of cinnamon that formed and the calorie-free pools of melted butter.

This recipe was unique in that you are to drop the brown sugar/cinnamon on top of the batter and swirl. Next time I will pour half the batter and then add a layer of cinnamon before pouring over the rest of the batter.

My agency colleagues thought my coffee cake tasted great, even though it did resemble the dimpled ass of a certain galactic blob, and we had a good time chatting about Mad Men and a lot of other shows we have loved over the years.

I caught my friends re-enacting the Draper birthday party scene using these character masks. Just KIDDING. Everyone knows Betty wasn't invited.

It's kind of a let-down now that we have to wait a whole week to find out what happens next on Mad Men. You can tell I've had the show on my mind--I even caught my niece doing some baby Draping.

Baby Draping FTW!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sign of the Farmpocalypse

Every issue of Sports Illustrated has a brief quote titled Sign of the Apocalypse, a humorous but true sports news item that makes you wonder--have we gone too far? In that spirit, I present another installment of Sign of the Farmpocalypse, because I just can't make this stuff up.

The New York Times is holding a why it is ethical to eat meat essay contest to be evaluated by a "veritable murderer’s row of judges."

The comments on this article are as interesting as the whole premise. Many are reasoned and scholarly, although my favorite answer to why it is ethical to eat meat was simply, bacon.

Stay tuned for The New York Times next ethical dilemma: Why is it ethical to breathe air?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Snapshots on the Farm

Farm kids always have little secret places to go. This one is in the middle of the farm and also a million miles away from it.

UPDATE: Feel free to sing along

Islands in the stream, that is where we farm
Find a mossy rock, and an old deer bone
Wade away with me, in your rubber boots
And we will play in our hideout, uh-huh
From one farm kid to another, un-huh

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Cup Runneth Over

I didn't drink any green beer on St. Patrick's Day. I didn't go to a bar but I did spend time with a wee little guy, however, this post is about what I did with the kids today.

Eight years ago, the day after a rare March snowstorm, I cranked out my second baby before noon and barely broke a sweat. Since we held his party on the night before St. Patrick's Day this year, Justin had a free agenda for his Saturday birthday.

The day started and nearly ended with a marathon Monopoly game, in which no matter how much I tried to bankrupt myself by buying more houses for Pennsylvania Avenue, I kept afloat. Once Justin lost everything on my green properties and Ryan amassed a $32+ million fortune, we finally ended the game.

Then, since six hours of Monopoly wasn't enough to break me, I took all three kids shoe and athletic cup shopping. At one point, when Ryan was in the sporting goods store dressing room trying on underwear--actually a padded short thing for baseball--the door popped open for me to check out the fit and Morgan ran in,  grabbed the removable cup and had it pressed up against her knee before I could stop her.

While I whispered to Morgan, that is for the pee-pee, Ryan was supposed to be taking the thing off and putting the cup back in for purchase. When the door popped open again, I saw he had the cup in sideways, giving a very interesting silhouette to these size M youth pants.

Once we were back home and dinner was over, it was back outside for these farm kids for their daily three-person farm yard kickball game. In case you want to play at home, remember, the gravity wagons are a home run.

While I didn't imbibe on this popular drinking day, in so many, many ways my cup runneth over.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The East Side

This is the east side of my house. No big deal, right. Except that my knowledge of cardinal directions is so poor that Husband will be very surprised that I know this.

Also, I never take photos of this side of my house. You can see our porch-turned-kitchen and fake-door-that-opens-into-the-refrigerator from here.Also, the weedy flower bed that sent both Husband and I to the doctor multiple times for poison ivy last summer.

If you ever visit us, be sure to stay on the west side of our house--or maybe the south, who knows.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Engaging Reactions

Eight years after I met the guy of my dreams at the county fair, seven years after we went on a first date that fizzled, three years after we went on another first date that ended after a Cincinnati Reds rain delay kept us out until 3 a.m., my Husband-to-be finally proposed.

He came down to visit me at college and... let's tell that story another time. The important thing to know is that I said yes 17 years ago today. The other important thing to know is that I could once fit into those jeans--damn.

This is our engagement photo. It was taken by some local guy who was trying to break into photography. I doubt this is in his portfolio.

Some of the best stories from this day are how/when we told our parents about our engagement. The first issue is that we got engaged late at night on a week night, so we had to wait the entire next day to catch our parents after work. (Remember, this was back in the days before cell phones when you had to wait for people to be in their home to call them.)

The call to my family went like this: 

RING, RING: Hi, this is Susan. (my little sister)

Me: Susan, Todd asked me to marry him!

Susan: What did you say?

Me: I said YES! Tell Mom and Dad to call me back.

Susan to Dad: (holding a catalog) HollygotengagedcanIbuythis?

My parents were thrilled and my sister got herself a new inflatable tanning bed thing.

The call to Husband's family went like this:

RING, RING: Hi, this is (Husband's) Mom.

Husband: I'm here with Holly and we want to tell you something.


Husband: We got engaged!

Husband's Mom: When did you get the ring? Why didn't you tell us you were doing this? Are you happy? When is the wedding? Another question? Another question? Another question?




My future mother-in-law and speechless but happy father-in-law recovered enough to send me flowers, while my happy parents said yes themselves to whatever my little sister wanted. Husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary last fall.

I still like to think we're as happy as the two kids in this photo, taken 20 years ago.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

4th Blogiversary!

Four years ago TODAY, I sat down during a blizzard (yes, we used to have those in the winter) and started this blog.

My target audience (that's the PR person in me, that I even had a "target audience") was the 98 percent of people who don't live on farms. I even set rules to keep legitimate farm people away--today you can call us the two-percenters. I saw this blog as a way for me to have fun entertaining non-country folk while educating them on agriculture AND stretching my creative writing muscles to help my PR career.

I recently updated the style of this blog. It's my slightly-more-girly-feminine-but-country-looks-like-dining-room-wallpaper-you-will-hate-later look.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

PR Idea of the Week

I have to imagine the conversation went something like this:

Hotel manager: I just went to a conference and I'm inspired to change our culture to be totally customer-centric.

Hotel PR person: Great, I have some great ideas about a campaign to...

Hotel manager: Don't worry, I have a fantastic idea. Our new program will be called Inn Action, get it?

Hotel PR person: head hits the table

This is a REAL program at a REAL hotel I stayed at in Detroit.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

My Christmas Pin(e) Tree

Partly because I'm trying to win something over at Momminitup (There is something to win this week, no? That's OK.) and partly because this is one of the many things from 2011 I forgot to blog, may I present my Christmas fruit tree. Only 299 days until you can use this one!

I found this idea on Pinterest. Actually, it was featured on Momminitup from a blog that was located on Pinterest.

Anyway, I was inspired. I took a green Styrofoam cone (If I do this again I will cover the cone with lettuce or something that appears more edible.) and used toothpicks to attach green grapes, blueberries, kiwi, strawberries and cheese cubes. I used a lemon slice for the star because I didn't really have a big enough piece of cheese or fruit to fit my star cookie cutter.

What made this as a beautiful Christmas treat was the antique dish that I served it in. I took this to my grandma's house on Christmas Eve and it was immediately devoured by the dozen or so great-grand children in attendance. Clean-up was easy. We tossed the cone, rinsed the dish and we were ready to go.

A parting tip: If you use a large cone, don't underestimate the amount of time it will take to attach all of this fruit. Don't leave it until the last minute, BUT this thing doesn't fit in the refrigerator very well. Don't put it together too early or you may have to debate sitting it outside for a while.

Lastly, if your goal is to keep up with your sister-in-law's awesome fruit Thanksgiving turkey, complete with fruit kabob feathers, remember to bring your tree to the right family gathering.

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