Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Kringle

Last May or June, the Evil PXE (pronounced Pixie) attended the last campus administrative meeting before everyone went on summer holidays. It's a time for all entities on our campus to let the other administrators know about upcoming projects and concerns that might affect other departments. He returned to our tiny office bearing two small paper plates with a frosted pastry on each. "I thought you might want to try this. One of the other managers made it."

My eyes lit up at the sight and I almost burst into tears. "You brought me Kringle?"

He shrugged. "Yeah, I guess so. Do you want some?"

I gushed. "You brought me Kringle! My Mom only makes this at Christmas! I can't believe you brought me Kringle! Do you know how tough this is to make? Well, not really tough, just time-consuming compared to how quickly it gets eaten."

Last weekend we drove down to Eugene to spend Christmas with my Mom, the Social Butterfly. She called Mr. GoGoGo's house where we were staying, in a panic. "I can't find the Kringle recipe."

"But I rewrote it for you last Christmas when you made it," I continued, trying to keep my breathing regular.

"I've looked in the recipe box. It's not there. Don't you have a copy of it?"

At home, yes. "But I re-wrote it. On one of those new recipe cards CrafterKat made. The same time I did the Peanut Butter Fudge card."

"OOOOooooh! Then it's in the other recipe box. The one I don't use."

I exhaled slowly, relieved.

Christmas with my Mom was wonderful. And the Kringle one of the best ever. Even if I did forget to write down how much flour went into the pastry filling...

Christmas Kringle

Step I: Pie Dough

1 c. flour
1/3 c. butter
2 T. water

Mix the above ingredients like pie dough and then separate into two equal sections. Smooth each pile of dough into a long strip about three inches wide on a cookie sheet.

Step 2: Pastry Filling

1 c. water
1/2 c. butter
1. c. flour
3 eggs
1 T. almond flavoring

Bring the water and butter to boil. As you take from heat, add all of the flour at one time. Beat until smooth. Add one egg at a one time. Beat until smooth. Add the almond flavoring and beat until smooth again. Pile the filling onto the two pie dough strips, about one inch thick.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

Step 3: Frosting

1 c. powdered sugar
1 T. milk
1 T. butter
1 T. almond flavoring

Sliced almonds (traditional but optional)

Mix up the frosting ingredients and frost the Kringle pastry while it is still warm. Sprinkle with the sliced almonds.

Step 4: Aftermath

Eat. Go back for seconds. Then thirds. Wonder why Kringle is all gone.

Holly, Merry Times

It's been a little over a week since our state had A Perfect Storm, according to the weather reporters. Lots of rain, high winds, and power outages throughout the metro area. In fact our long-term summer intern, Princeton (now home for the Christmas holiday break), informed us that it took five days to restore power to his house. Critter had a second choir concert that evening over at the high school and had dressed up for the event only to have the concert cancelled a half-hour before she needed to be there.

The radio and TV began reporting power outages and highway closures due to fallen trees and car accidents. The rest of the evening CrafterKat and I finished up our holiday decorating. It was a But First evening.

First we had to separate out the boxes that we weren't going to use.
Then pile the boxes that needed to go upstairs.
Then climb into the attic and re-organize the boxes so the Christmas boxes are on the west side.
Only to discover the plywood panels hadn't been replaced after the kitchen wiring was done.
Redistribute the pink insulation into each bay.
Then push boxes out of the way to grab the plywood panels.
Wedge plywood panels into place and discover that one doesn't fit that spot.
Find an electrical outlet for the drill.
Pray that the power doesn't go out.
Perform acrobatic maneuvers to drill the plywood in without falling through the drywall into the kitchen below.
Perform human chain to carry boxes up the stairs and into a spot on the west side of the house.

We all clambered down and got into pajamas. CrafterKat, now coming down with a cold, scooped up her sleep gear to recover in the Craft Room. Critter brushed her teeth and began singing Christmas songs, "Have a holly, merry Christmas..."

CrafterKat stopped on the stairs. "Holly, jolly Christmas," she corrected.

Critter gave an annoyed sigh and almost stamped her foot in frustration. "If the English can say 'Happy Christmas' then I can say 'Holly, Merry Christmas'! It's just wrong!"

We chuckled, said our goodnights, and went to bed. Five minutes later the lights went out, the power returning a few short minutes later. Critter was back at my door the instant the lights returned. "The lights went out."

"Yes, but the power came back on." The Fuzzy Slug settled down across my legs, oblivious to the outage. I continued in a calm, unconcerned manner, "It may go out again, or it may not."

Critter remained in the hallway, unconvinced.

I chuckled to myself. "Do you want to sleep with me?"

"YES!" She grabbed her quilt, pillow and stuffie and leapt into bed, wrapping herself up in the blankets. I wished her goodnight after she was settled. "Goodnight, JewelGeek. And thanks for the Slumber Party!"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Clarence, you been rehearsin' real hard to get a new saxophone?

The day after Thanksgiving, we all piled into the Tink Tank for leftovers at Mr. GoGoGo's house. CrafterKat pulled out of my Mom's driveway, turned on the radio and tee-hee'd. Christmas music poured forth from the Eugene radio station.

"I found the one station here that is playing Christmas music all the time." She laughed again.

I sighed comically just as Bruce Springsteen's Santa Claus is Coming To Town came on. "So, this is the first of 300 times I'll hear this song this season." I sighed again, resigned.

For the record, I don't mind Christmas songs. Nor am I anti-Bruce (well, maybe a bit but mostly because the radio stations overplayed him so much in the 80's). I do, however, get ticked off with the repetition of the same songs every season.

Alas, my prediction is not proving true this year. It's the 14th of December and I've only heard Bruce's version of this classic three times.

Instead, every station seems to be playing the Snoopy/Red Baron song and the one about getting a hippopotomous for Christmas. Once or twice is fine--they are cute--but come on! Not every day!


I'm now half-expecting to see a hippo in my garage on Christmas Day.

After all, there's lots of room for him in our two-car garage
I'd feed him there and wash him there and give him his massage.

Well, Merry Christmas mein friend!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dipping In The Pocket Of Her Raincoat

Ah, rainy days in the Rose City. Now that the carpet and most of the furniture have been installed and delivered, we're beginning to sound like a Paul McCartney song.

Slipping Into Stockings,
Stepping Into Shoes,
Dipping In The Pockets Of Her Raincoat.

Ah, It's Just Another Day. Du Du Du Du Du
It's Just Another Day. Du Du Du Du Du

We're watching the new neighbors...

Spending time with our healthy friends...

Fighting for control of the couch...

Overseeing the melting of ice...

It's been a pretty busy few days!

Friday, December 08, 2006

House of Cards, Part 2

Note: House of Cards, Part 1 can be found here.

It’s been a little over a week since the new carpet has been installed in our home. Here’s what happened:

Friday, November 17
CrafterKat posts sofa, two chairs, and rocker on Craigslist at 9:15 p.m.
Phone rings non-stop beginning at 9:16 p.m. until we disconnect it at 10:00 p.m.
Furniture is brought upstairs and stored in Critter’s room.
JewelGeek sustains Craigslist injury moving overstuffed chair—bangs wrist against doorknob. Lovely bruise is just now fading…

Saturday, November 18
JewelGeek bakes cookies beginning at 6:00 a.m.
First Craigslist reader from Washington state shows at 7:00 a.m. to pick up furniture.
JewelGeek bakes cookies.
Second Craigslist reader shows up to claim remaining items.
We marvel at how empty living room is without comfy furniture.
JewelGeek bakes cookies.
CrafterKat brings up crafting supplies.
Cleaning. Baking. Cleaning. Prepping for party.

Sunday, November 19
JewelGeek bakes cookies.
Final cleaning and prepping for party.
Annual Craft Party!

Monday, November 20
Extra cookies taken to work.
We marvel at how empty the house looks without furniture.

Tuesday, November 21
Pack for Thanksgiving vacation.
Scritch kitties.
Dream of new furniture and carpet.

November 22-25
Thanksgiving in Eugene.
Eat too much food.
Play card games.
Scritch the Captain’s dog. Scritch the Egyptian Queen.

Sunday, November 26
Dismantle computers.
Move majority of furniture into dining room.
Take crafting party supplies downstairs.
Unpack, clean, recover from Thanksgiving.

November 27-29
Watch kitties race across open living space, devoid of furniture
Sit on wooden chairs in middle of living room, meals balanced precariously on laps.
Give up on eating while sitting on wooden chairs. Go to restaurants or get take out to eat in bedroom.
Move large oak bookshelf into kitchen, slightly blocking the refrigerator.

Thursday, November 30
CrafterKat stays home, feeling poorly.

Jewelgeek greets Homer who has come to install the carpet and the vinyl floor for the bathroom. JewelGeek states that the vinyl is for the landing where he is standing and tells him it should match the vinyl located in the kitchen.
JewelGeek checks the van and is assured that it is the correct carpet and vinyl.
Kitties locked in master bedroom with CrafterKat.

JewelGeek visits eye doctor at 9:45 and learns she needs new glasses.
Optometrist assistant urges JewelGeek to buy thick plastic frames popular in the 80’s.
JewelGeek declines and orders pair that is the same model she currently wears.
JewelGeek returns home to mariachi music playing on portable radio for the contractors.
The carpet is mostly laid out.
JewelGeek checks on CrafterKat’s health and invites her to lunch.


Homer and his crew break the sidelight window next to the front door with their equipment.
We fetch heavy plastic from the summer remodel and tape up both windows, inside and out, in case the glass explodes.
We attempt to exit the garage through the car port doors only to find them blocked with rolls of 20-year old carpet. Exit through garage back door.
Back Tink Tank out and around two contractor vans to go to lunch.
Visit to Lowe’s after lunch to inquire about putting in new sidelights.

Returned to find first layer of smoothing agent on the front landing for the vinyl. Have to step on dry areas to get up the stairs.
Living and hallway areas are carpeted.
We retreat to master bedroom to wait for vinyl to be finished.
Critter returns home from school.

Second layer of drying agent on landing is not dry. Fetch heaters and crafting heat guns to dry the landing (it’s about 30 degrees outside).
Notice carpet installers are huddled around gas fireplace trying to get warm.
Circuit for heaters and crafting heat guns blows.

Notice carpet is not wall to wall in the living room as per our specs. Homer’s crew had carpeted to where the old fireplace mantel sat. This carpet was supposed to be one large piece from the fireplace all the way down to the end of the hallway.
Homer says he can melt the pieces of carpet back together and refinishes the living room.

Mariachi music doesn’t help the vinyl sealant dry faster.

Remind Homer’s crew to install the metal bars between the carpet and the existing vinyl (holds the carpet down and provides a threshold as you enter the kitchen).

Critter and JewelGeek sneak out for hamburgers and milkshakes from Mike’s by crawling over the living room furniture blocking the rear door to the deck.
Dinner was scarfed in the master bedroom as we waited for the vinyl sealant to dry.

Noticed that the carpet was laid over the wooden threshold to the master bedroom so we have two different colored carpets meeting about three inches inside the bedroom door.
Crew replaces molding on landing with regular nails instead of finishing nails and have nailed over the tape we used to keep the plastic from flapping away.
Crew leaves house at 7:00 p.m.

Move stereo stand into living room, under window.
Slide TV off of stand and onto wooden chest.
Attach wheels to TV stand and, eventually, lift TV back onto stand.

Check for hernias.
Family retires to bed, exhausted.

Friday, December 1

Saturday, December 2
CrafterKat leaves for mandatory training at her office.

JewelGeek takes down the old light in the hallway.
Confirmation phone call with the Renaissance Man about electrical wires.
Critter helps install new light purchased at Lowe’s.
Circuit blows.

JewelGeek drives to Home Depot.

JewelGeek figures out that both the red and the black wires are live. Returns home to install the new light fixture the same way the old one was installed.
New hall light is beautiful. No circuit is blown.

JewelGeek carves carpet away from floor outlet so cover can replaced.
Critter replaces heat vent covers with new ones.
JewelGeek and Critter move oak bookcase back.

Lunch is scarfed.

Critter vacuums. Sort of.
JewelGeek empties clogged vacuum tube filled with five years of kitty fur. Vacuum works beautifully.

Cherry bookcase is unearthed from dining room clutter and moved back.
Critter and JewelGeek watch Christmas movies until furniture shows up.

Furniture arrives at 3:30 p.m.
JewelGeek and Critter test the furniture, exhausted. It’s been two full weeks since we’ve had a sofa and chair.

Desks are brought back into the living room.
Computer is set up. Friday, December 8
JewelGeek's blood pressure is considerably lower and can now write this blog entry.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Luck Be a Lady

Critter is definitely learning cribbage FAST. A game we played after Thanksgiving taught me that Luck prefers young ladies. She scored a 24-point hand! (She lost the game to my advanced pegging skills. And the fact that she led to me.)

The next game, she scored a 20-point hand. (She lost to my last-minute 16-point hand, which I got to count before she could earn her remaining 3 points. Neener neener neener.)

The deck and board sit on the diningroom table, in the middle of a game, covered by the mayhem that was carpet installation. We'll get back to it soon, I assume, and hopefully with no card drama!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

House Of Cards

It’s been just over a week since we have had computer access at home. And quite a bit has changed in our Rose City castle. We left for Eugene the Wednesday before Thanksgiving for lots of good food, stories, more good food, and card games.

A typical Thanksgiving conversation at Mr. GoGoGo’s house:

Critter: (perusing her cribbage cards) I need help with this hand.
CrafterKat: You can figure it out on your own. That’s how you learn.
Critter: But I don’t know what to put into the kitty. Grandpaaaaaa!
JewelGeek: Sweetie, try and figure it out yourself.
Critter: Arrrrgggggghhhh!
CrafterKat and JewelGeek: One Eyed Pete! *

We ate far too much turkey, raved about the seafood The Captain brought up from Gold Beach, and helped (?) Chef Flip Flop prep for his cooking test on sauces. Cooking school is serious stuff—he had over 50 sauces to learn that weekend. “My teacher is going to give me a meat and say, ‘Cook this pork with a such-and-such sauce. You have to use this starch for the base and you have one hour and ten minutes. Go!’” No pressure…

Our food bliss ended Saturday with one final leftovers lunch. CrafterKat had a friend from the Seattle area stop by on their way home. She and her husband had been with vegetarian in-laws, dining on tofu turkey and nut stuffing. Their Thanksgiving dinnercan be summed up thusly: “No meat should squeak in your mouth.”

The rest of the weekend was spent preparing the house for the carpet installation on Thursday. Which meant we had to move everything back into the kitchen, an interesting jigsaw puzzle.

But a puzzle which The Little Man enjoyed immensely. The ceiling fan is soooo much easier to play with when you can stand on the television!

* The name we have given Critter's Pirate Cow

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Party Pics

Pictures from the Holiday Craft Party. Wish we'd taken more.

Provincial chestnuts... roasted in the oven. Pierce with a fork; preheat oven to 450 degrees; bake for 15-20 minutes. The chestnuts will be HOT, and the steaming soft nutmeat inside may split the hard shell and send bits of chestnut all over the kitchen. (Kinda nifty!) Peel the hard shell off. The lighter brown coating inside is edible, 'though not very tasty. The soft nutmeat is very smooth and buttery -- like Yukon Gold potatoes.

DIG, CraftKat, Bugs, and Daisy

DIG and her amazing, two-sided gift tags. "I just glued two pieces of paper together!"

Golden Poet with embossing supplies. Critter's teacher gift boxes. CraftKat's new mug!!

DIG, LadyLynn, and ScrapMaven - discussing the b&w scrap-pack of CraftKat's. Is it origami paper??? No - just expensive squares of print paper...

SassyGirl selecting "choice cookies." Also note our display of lovely parting gifts, and the ever inspiring kitchen.

Thanks for coming, everyone. And weren't the chocolate chip cookies TO DIE FOR???!!!

…And A Stick of Buttah

As usual, I had far too many cookies left over from the Craft Party. I brought a bag of pumpkin cookies and lime shortbread in for The Boys at work. It’s been a pretty stressful few days as we’ve switched to a new Internet Service Provider and fired up a new Internet Firewall server. The last time the Evil PXE upgraded our firewall it took him five hours. And that included building the server from scratch, installing all the updates, and configuring the firewall settings.

Two days later, and a week or two of reading up on the process, we had our firewall and a dozen websites functional again. The Evil PXE, in short, was fried.

At 4:15, he strolled by my desk, opened up the snack cupboard, grabbed two bags of Doritos, and announced, “It’s BF 2:30!”—our phrase for playing a round of Battlefield 2.

We laughed and watched him wearily sit down at his desk to fire up the game. Our newest staffer reached for a cookie in the ziplock baggie closest to him. Evil PXE comically swatted at his hand and then hugged the cookies and his Doritos tightly to his chest. “Hey! That’s my lunch!” I stared at him blankly for a moment until he yelled his manic/nervous, “What? What?!

I smirked. “I’m just watching how many of those shortbread cookies you’ve eaten today. You’ve probably eaten a whole stick of butter by now…”

He hung his head. “Don’t tell me that…”

Lime Shortbread Cookies

2 c. unsalted butter (4 sticks)
1 c. powdered sugar
4-6 limes, zested *
1 t. vanilla
4 c. flour

2 c. powdered sugar
¼ c. lime juice, freshly squeezed **

Cream the butter, powdered sugar and zest until well combined (use a stand mixer if you have one). Add vanilla and mix until well incorporated. Slowly add the flour until well combined.

Lay out some wax paper and squeeze/roll dough out into two equal logs, about 2 inches in diameter and 11 inches long. Wrap the dough with the wax paper and chill until hardened, about one hour.

Slice the cookies from the log about ¼ to 1/3 of an inch thick. Place the cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet. Set in a 325 degree oven. Bake until cookies are lightly browned on the edges, about 20-25 minutes. Don’t over bake!

Set the cookies on a rack to cool. Mix the powdered sugar and lime juice together in a small bowl and spoon over the tops of the cookies.

* I zested six limes and one thumb. Just kidding...

** I used closer to ½ c. of lime juice for the frosting. The icing was too thick with just ¼ c. of juice.

This recipe came from another blogger and can be seen in its original context here.


I did it to myself again.

I drank coffee after lunch.

And at 1:00 AM last night, I was WIDE AWAKE and surfing around and around on the Tube. Did you know there's nothing on after 1:30 AM? Nothing with a plot, that is. Well, SciFi, but I was trying to get sleepy, not scared witless.

Today, I'm not having any coffee. It's lunch time, and all I really want to do is sleep. I get a little silly when I'm sleep deprived. The good news is that everything is really funny to me right now. The bad news is I still have at least 5 hours to go in the work day, with a super important meeting towards the end, and I'm not sure how I'm going to make it. Probably wouldn't be in my best interest to fall asleep in front of my boss...

Ah, what a viscous circle I have created for myself.


Of the four new cookie recipes I baked for our annual Craft Party, this is the one that CrafterKat said I had to make again. I chose this one because I thought it would be perfect for dunking in a large cup of coffee or glass of milk. Turns out I was right.

Gingersnap Sticks

1 c. unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 ¼ c. + 2 T. sugar
½ tsp. vanilla
2 small eggs or 1 ½ large eggs*
1/3 c. molasses
3 c. flour
2 ½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
2 ½ t. cinnamon**
2 ½ t. ginger (ground)
1/8 t. black pepper (ground)

Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside. Cream butter until soft. Add sugar, and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until fluffy. Add molasses and beat until well-incorporated. Slowly add the dry ingredients until all is well blended.

Line a bread loaf pan with plastic wrap so that the some of it hangs over the outside of the pan. Press the dough into the pan, packing it tightly. Make the top as level as possible. Cover the dough with the remaining plastic and then place a second bread loaf pan onto the mixture (stacking them). This will even out the top of the dough. Freeze the bread pan loaf sandwich for several hours (overnight is best). This dough gets soft quickly, so work fast before it turns into a gooey mess!

Slice the brick into thin slices, no more than 1/8” thick. ***

Place the slices on a parchment-lined cookie tray with plenty of space between. With this much butter, the cookies will spread.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until the edges turn dark brown, about 12 minutes. Keep an eye on them—there’s a fine line between under baked and burned. I took them out at 12 minutes and they still looked like a chewy cookie. By the time I had tasted one 30 minutes later, they had crisped considerably, like a true gingersnap.

* Based on my chocolate chip recipe from Alton Brown, I used one egg and one egg yolk. Seemed to work well.

** The Costco-sized cinnamon and nutmeg containers look surprisingly similar. I’m pretty sure I used nutmeg and no cinnamon. This is what we tech/geek people refer to as a feature!

*** Do you know how thin 1/8 inch is?! My knife skills are not that precise—I was lucky to get them about 1/4 inch thick. The dough was incredibly hard. Trying to cut the ginger brick with a wicked long knife, I ended up with white indentions in my palm from the top of the blade. CrafterKat asked why I kept rubbing my left hand on Sunday; I told her, “My knifing hand hurts…” Perhaps I should call these Jack The Ripper Gingers? Next time I may just roll the dough onto a cookie sheet and freeze that.

I should add that I found the original recipe here; I've reprinted it with my comments. One thing I enjoy about sharing recipes is the little stories that go with them. I liked how this chef got the recipe!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Party, Party, Party

WONDERFUL holiday craft party this weekend. JewelGeek baked all day Saturday and right up to the last minute on Sunday. Our livingroom, now suddenly devoid of couch and occasional chair*, was filled with card tables and folding chairs. Craft supplies overflowed from the long bookcase to the computer desk. Little "guest presents" lined the half wall between the kitchen and livingroom. And cookies, veggies, coffee, and crackers covered our kitchen counters.

It was wet and grey outside, but roasting warm inside with 15 people in attendance. One of our biggest crafting events EVER. These are all amazing women, who would probably craft full time if they thought they could make any money at it and get dental insurance...

ScrapMaven sat at the computer desk, working on her holiday cards, and doled out supplies as people asked for them. It was an unintentional choice of seating - she was just looking for an open space - but it worked out great, as she really knew where everything was. After almost of year of scrapbooking together, she has a pretty good handle on what I have. Or at least knows I probably have the required supply around somewhere. Oh, and the other guests decided ScrapMaven hoarded the good stickers, when after the event they rummaged through the sticker box and found some they hadn't seen earlier...

GoldenPoet, who usually addresses her holiday cards at this party every year, took a break from addressing this year and decided to craft. She stamped and embossed happily in a corner seat, leaving with quite an array of vibrant Celtic note cards. She was so engrossed in her work, she missed it when her number was called for her guest gift. Fortunately, there were some left when she realized what was going on. :)

Critter decorated her teacher's gift boxes. We found small Chinese take-out boxes at JoAnns in pure white, which were perfect for the little items she is giving this year. She doodled cute designs and phrases on all of them. Oh, and she ate almost all of the cheese.

Several of my coworkers came. It is always exciting to see coworkers outside of the work place. I like watching people relax and become themselves. There is something about crafting that forces us to drop our facades and give in to the fun. I'm serious - glue sticks should be in every First Aid kit for stress relief.

SassyGirl, Bugs, Magenta, and Daisy crafted their hearts out. I saw a million little pieces of paper become gift tags, some serious photo organization, and some cute foamie kits assembled for public display. At one point, the room was completely silent, except for the whir of the heat gun. And I think more than 1 tongue stuck out in concentration.

Two of my dearest companions from my arts days rejoined the group. I hadn't seen one of them, DIG**, for over a year. She got lost, as usual, and arrived a bit late. I tried to convince her to stay late, too, but to no avail. And LadyLynn brought her neighbor with her. In her usual, charming, elegant way, she talked up our event to her neighbor, and then sheepishly called us to see if it was ok to bring her along. [Of course!] While DIG and LadyLynn visited quickly in the kitchen, LadyLynn's neighbor made a whirlwind of crafty items. At one point, I saw her freehand a beautiful card. (Must be nice to have talent!)

I should have taken more pictures. (I think JewelGeek snapped a few, which I'll post soon.) I should have spent 5 minutes sitting with each person, watching what they were doing and visiting. Instead, I got engrossed in my own craft project, and eating, and suddenly the event was over.

We hugged goodbye (it's a woman-thing), and packed bags of cookies up for our guests. I had SO much fun. It was hard to let everyone go. The house was mighty empty afterwards.

On the plus side, everyone asked when we were doing it again. And I'm thinking a Spring-themed craft party might be fun...

*We gave away our couch, a rocking chair, an occasional chair with ottoman, and another occasional chair on craigslist Saturday morning. But that's another Blog entry...

**DIG - Directionally Impaired Girl

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dressed For Success

Critter awoke this morning after eight and quickly pulled on the first clean* thing she found: a cornflower-blue, summery camisole top and a somewhat matching broomstick skirt. She answered her e-mails, chatted with people who came by to pick up some old furniture, and shivered while playing an arcade game on the computer.

She pushed herself away from the computer, hugging her cold arms. "I'm gonna put some pants on and dress like a woman..."

*clean is a relative term...

Thursday, November 16, 2006

That Politically Correctly-Named Winter Holiday-Time Is Upon Us

So, suffice it to say that I LOOOOOOOOOOVE the holidays. Correction. That should be THE HOLIDAYS; all caps because I am, in fact, screaming this. At least, in my head.

And about this time of year - or so close to after Halloween, the carved pumpkin hasn't even shriveled yet - I haul out the decorations and put up the lights on the house (if I bothered to take them down the previous year...) Every nook and cranny twinkles, sparkles, and overflows with snowmen, Santas, gingerbread men, colored balls, and everything Christmasy.

All of this is in preparation for our Annual Holiday Craft Party, which we host on a weekend in November for our spirited female friends. I reason that the house should reflect the season we are trying to jump-start. And JewelGeek bakes cookies. Heaven.

THIS year, however, we are having our carpet replaced. On November 30th. Well AFTER the party. And we have to move everything out of the way.

Which means no furniture.

And no decorations.

Until December.

I think I'm going to cry...

Glory To Pasta Everywhere

Critter sat at the dining table yesterday evening, taping together a DNA strand for science, and humming to herself.

"Is that the Battle Hymn of the Republic?"

Critter giggled. "Huh? No, I'm singing 'Noodle noodle noodle noooodle. Noodle noodle noodle nooooodle.' I've been singing it all week."

CrafterKat sighed. "That's the Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Saturday Errands In Which We Discover Vegetables and The King

I started my morning by running quick errands: mailing the mortgage check at the local post office, picking up a prescription, and going to the bank to put a savings bond in the safety deposit box. We've been meaning to do this last one for several weeks but can never make it during the work week. Didn't occur to me that if the post office was closed for Veteran's Day, the bank might be, too. Sigh.

Visited Target next and checked on items that might be purchased for Christmas gifts. I gave CrafterKat a call and filled her in on certain items which shouldn't be discussed here...

Met up with Critter and CrafterKat for lunch at Sweet Tomatoes, one of Critter's favorite restaurants. I was then informed that I shouldn't discuss Christmas things on the cell phone as Critter overheard the word 'gift certificate' in my conversation. "I guess you won't be getting any, then," I answered.

She ignored me. "Oh, and you have to find a better hiding spot for Christmas gifts." Sigh.

Critter wolfed down salad and a baked potato and bounced through a re-telling of her phone conversation with LaLa and Mr. GoGoGo. "I called and LaLa answered and I told her--um, asked her--if we could have brussel sprouts for Thanksgiving 'cause I really like 'em and she said 'what?!' and told me I had to talk to Mr. GoGoGo because she couldn't hear very well. And so Mr. GoGoGo got on the phone and I said 'can I have brussel sprouts for Thanksgiving?' and he said, 'why?' and I said 'because they are my favorite vegetable in the whole wide world and if you can't have them at Thanksgiving then what's the point?' And he said 'plain or with cheese?' and I said, 'no just butter'. And, so, yeah."

We swapped parental duties and I took Critter to the mall for some clothes shopping. "I'm so hyper," she said. "I had Starbucks, you know, an egg nog drink, and it was so nummy and when we went to Pet Smart for cat food and I told CrafterKat that we had to be calm because the animals all know when people are hyper and they would all go Roowfff and Meeeeowwww and Cheeerp and Squeeeeek..." We laughed.

The first store didn't have what she wanted so we began the long trek to the anchor store at the opposite end of the mall. As we passed a bridal shop, I was informed that Critter really liked the red gown displayed by the front door. "I'm gonna have a black and red wedding, you know. I'm gonna wear black and everyone else is going to wear red. And it's going to be at night. On Christmas. In Las Vegas."

I chuckled. "Is Elvis going to be there?"

She nodded. "Oh, yes. He's going to marry us."

Thursday, November 09, 2006

If Music Be the Food of Love...

(Continued from Nano-Meter)
So on our way home from visiting the computer store geek with little or no helpful information about iPods, other than to say that the iPod Nanos were best, we discussed the fact the Critter didn't have enough money to buy the Nano AND the 2-year protection plan.

[Side note -- I generally disapprove of protection plans. Seems like if they think their product is likely to have a problem in the time allowed for protection coverage, then they ought to fix the product. But in this case, the protection plan covers the cost of a new battery -- as many times as necessary, I think. Given that Critter goes through batteries like water, and that you cannot access the Nano battery by yourself, this seems like a good investment. And what they hay, it's "her" money.]

Critter DID receive a BOOT LOAD of gift cards for her birthday. Three of them were for Fred Meyers. And it occurred to me, as we were driving home, that Freds sells electronics...

So, we stopped at Freds. With her gift cards, she could afford the $200 iPod Nano AND the protection plan. They had one in electric blue. Critter went home a happy kid. And after only two hours of sitting at the computer, she had every CD she owns on the iPod and was bobbing her head in time to the music.

Last night, Critter asked me if I knew the song "Bicycle" by Queen. [Editorial: Duh! I'm an '80s chick!] She was ecstatic when I downloaded my 2 Greatest Hits CDs to her iPod. Suddenly, I was hip again. But only for a moment.

40 Days

Our newly re-elected governor took on the media late yesterday to blast them for making such a big deal out of the rain in Oregon. As he said, it has been raining in Oregon since time began. Why should that be the second story on a national news telecast? (TV Producer: Um, because of the flooding at the coast, two missing people, nearly-drowned cows, evacuated homes, and millions of dollars in damage, duh. That's news, Baby!)

Narrator: So Noah began to build the ark. Of course his neighbors were not too happy about it. Can you imagine leaving for the office at 7 AM and seeing an ark?
Neighbor: (enters whistling) Hey! You over there.
Noah: What do you want?
Neighbor: What is this thing?
Noah: It's an ark.
Neighbor: Uh huh. Well do you mind getting it out of my driveway? I've gotta get to work.
Noah: [ignores him, continues sawing]
Neighbor: Hey listen, what's this thing for anyway?
Noah: I can't tell you, ha ha ha.
Neighbor: Can't you even give me a little hint?
Noah: You want a hint?
Neighbor: Yes, please.
Noah: How long can you tread water? Ha ha ha.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


This past summer, we decided to teach Critter how to budget and balance a checkbook. We agreed upon an amount to allot her every other month, gave her a check register, taught her some basic rules of conduct (write everything down...) and sat back to watch the experiment.

Now, really, we kept the money in our regular accounts and just allotted an amount to Critter. So we still had to be with her for any purchases. Or she could take out cash at the Bank of Mom. (And write it in her checkbook, of course.)

When Critter realized she would be receiving an ok-amount-of-money every 60 days, rather than the paltry allowance every week, she decided she wanted to save up for an iPod. Save up is relative. If there was the opportunity to go to a movie, she withdrew funds. But she did manage to save quite a bit from installment 1 to installment 2.

This past weekend, we made her read about iPods before we'd let her look at them in the store.

Critter: What's an MP3?

JewelGeek: It's a file type. Like .doc or .xls or .wav.

Critter: iPods play MP3s.

JewelGeek: Yes. And there are other brands that are also MP3 players.

Critter: Uh-huh. And iPods.

JewelGeek: [pause] You know there are a couple of different types of iPods, too.

Critter: [reading] Shhhh. Don't bother me with details.

And later, when she actually talked to a store clerk about them, and reported back to us...

JewelGeek: So what did you learn?

Critter: iPod Nanos are best.

CrafterKat: Why?

Critter: Uh... They're cool looking. And they're small. And they play music. And they come with headphones.

CrafterKat: And what about the battery-life?

Critter: Uh...

CrafterKat: And memory? How many songs do you get for how much memory?

Critter: Uh...

JewelGeek: Do you remember what he said about the protection plan?

Critter: Uh...

All: [pause]

Critter: The one with 4MB memory is only $200. I have $233, so I'm going to get one of those.

JewelGeek: But with the $60 protection plan, you don't have enough money.

Critter: Oh. You mean I read all this stuff and talked to the store guy and learned all the stuff and I'm not going to get an iPod?!!!!

To be continued...


Been raining hard in Portland for a few days. We picked up a Pineapple Express on All Saints Day. Warm, super wet weather has marked the season. Along with Christmas carols at the local mall...

I noticed this morning that our deck swing (now enrobed in its winter protective tent), was situated in front of the kitchen window. Sometime during these blustery rainstorms, it must have been pushed across the slick Trex deck to its new location. I wonder how long it will take for JewelGeek to notice...

The whole torrential rain-thing makes me think of Bill Cosby's "Noah" routine. (I'm dating myself, aren't I?)

God: I'm gonna make it rain for a thousand days and drown 'em right out.

Noah: Riiiiiight. Listen to this, you'll save water. Let it rain for 40 days and 40 nights and wait for the sewers back up.

God: [pause] Riiiiiight.

Monday, November 06, 2006

TLC, TCBY, And A Pirate Cow

Random Car Conversation #112

"I'm going to get a dog and name it TLC and then get another one and name that TCBY."

We glanced in the mirror at Critters prouncement. "Oh?"

"Yep. What does 'TCBY' stand for?"

I chuckled. "The Country's Best Yogurt."

She scrunched up her face in mock serious thought. "Well, then I'll get a cow and call it TCBY."

CrafterKat and I shared a smirk as she turned onto the freeway. "You mean in addition to the ones you already have?" she asked.

Critter stopped looking through her purse. "Wait... Huh?" We shared a quick laugh as it dawned on her what we were implying. She rolled her eyes and drawled, "Noooooowahhh! Not as in 'have a cow!' I mean, a live cow, you know, like, not a dead cow!"

CrafterKat chuckled again. "Noah," she repeated, drawing the word out like Critter's pronouncement, "you could call it Noah!"

Critter slapped her thigh and repeated, "Noooooowah! I mean, arrrrggghhh!"

"Oh, and you could have a pirate cow," I added.

"Oh, yes," CrafterKat agreed. "Maybe with a peg leg and a patch over one eye..."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Monster Cookies for Doc Spidey

We've known Doc Spidey (the smiling one in sunglasses next to Sir Werewolf) since high school and have shared many stories over the years. Doc Spidey sang in CrafterKat's high school jazz choir, he portrayed Snoopy in drama alongside CrafterKat's Lucy, and he scared me half-to-death while watching Alien. You know the scene where the alien pops out of the guy's chest? Well, I didn't...

Some of his adventures and family outings have contributed to our family vernacular. Playing D&D with his Nice Necromancer in his little dungeon apartment spawned the phrase "I wanna see you dance!" Seeing his family dog gave us "Don't squeeze, Daphne!" (Bladder control was not one of the poodle's strong suits...)

We've ordered taco pizzas that he has prepared and road tripped to Bend to see him perform Sondheim. And we've given him as many Zen hugs as we could when we learned about his dad's recent motorcycle accident.

So we've shipped off a batch of Monster Cookies for he and his family as they prepare for Dad's arrival home from the hospital. Monster hugs all around to Doc Spidey and his family.

Monster Cookies

3 eggs
1 1/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 t. vanilla
1 c. sugar
2 t. baking soda
1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. peanut butter
4 1/2 c. oatmeal
3/4 c. chocolate chips
3/4 c. M & M's

Combine all ingredient's. Use an ice cream scoop to form balls of dough (they should be around the size of golf balls). Place the dough on a cookie sheet with plenty of space between each cookie. Cookies will spread! I average nine cookies per tray. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Pink Lady

Grease is the word. Except on October 31.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Don't Look Ethel!

Did I mention I found The Book?

The Golden Poet stopped by over the weekend and I handed her the zippie of leftover sugar cookies for her boys. She and I speak a similiar language. "Ethel's?" she asked.

"Of course."

"They're the best," she answered.

I agreed.

Ethel's Sugar Cookies

3/4 c. shortening (part butter or margarine)
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1/2 t. lemon flavoring or 1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt

Sift flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Mix shortening (I usually make this 1 stick of butter and 1/4 c. of shortening), sugar, eggs, and flavoring thoroughly. Add flour mixture and blend well. Cover the dough and chill for at least one hour (overnight is better).

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Roll dough 1/4 inch thick on lightly sugared board (I like using sugar instead of flour when rolling out cookies). Cut with cookie cutters and place on ungreased cookie sheet or parchment papered tray. Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until cookies are a delicate golden color.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Just Follow The Happy Feet

Critter's school is having Spirit Week. Today is Wild Sock Day.

The Butterfly Strumpet

For those who don't know me, I work for a large non-profit that has ministries in a variety of areas. Suffice it to say, our campus computer users range from the misinformed to the tech savy. The latter does not usually apply to the residents of said organization who are, shall we say, a bit removed from the world due to the lifelong values they uphold. Yes, I think that's vague enough... :-)

Late last week we had a frantic e-mail from the lady who runs the Residence that her computer would not let her onto the Internet--it kept booting up to a pornographic website. I stopped by, changed her home page, and explained that somewhere along the way, she had probably clicked on something that had changed the page to that. No worries, though, it was an easy fix.

Over the weekend, however, there was another note from her that the Front Desk computer was infected. Suspecting it was the same issue as before, I made a point to swing by there first thing Monday morning. The receptionist had not yet arrived so I was greeted by Resident #1 who said the Internet was not working.

"Well, I think it is. I think someone just accidentally changed their home page to an innapropriate site. Do you know who it was that noticed the problem?" I logged in and pulled up the Internet; Google's website flashed into place. I nodded to myself--it was not computer-wide, it was just that one user.

"Well, I don't know. I'll page." She sent out two pages over the intercom and received no reply.

I began sifting through user accounts on the computer, looking for anything unusual. I logged into the computer as one common user and found that the home page took a long time to load--this was probably the user. I quickly closed the program as Resident #2 entered. "The computer has a virus," she informed me.

"No, no. Not really. Someone just clicked on something that changed their home page to a pornographic site." I clicked a few more times in Internet Explorer's tools, and changed the home page to something they were more likely to use.

"Well, can you check mine?" Resident #2 asked.

"Are you getting an inappropriate site? Do you see pornography?"

She adjusted her glasses, "What's pornography?"

I chuckled. "Well, um, you'd know it if you saw it." She gave me her credentials and I logged into the computer as her. A few mouse clicks and I had opened up Internet Explorer to a familiar blue website with a butterfly logo. "You've got MSN."

"Is that pornography?"

Monday, October 23, 2006

Pike's Pumpkin Paradise

Since being in Seattle last May, I've been craving pumpkin cookies like we found in Pike Street Market. Huge monster-sized treats of spicey goodness. This weekend, I found a recipe that comes close. Make them extra big so you don't have to go back for seconds so quickly!

Pike's Pumpkin Paradise

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
2 t. ground cinnamon *
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/2 c. white sugar
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 t. vanilla

Icing (if you want, but in no way necessary!)
2 c. powdered sugar
3 T. milk
1 T. butter, melted
1 t. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl (or your stand mixer!), cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the butter mixture. Beat until creamy. Mix in the dry ingredients.

Drop onto a cookie sheet by large spoonfuls (the bigger the better, in my opinion!). I was able to get six to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Keep the mounds a bit thick--the dough will spread some but it will end up a cake-like cookie after baking. If you flaten it slightly (which I did), it will hold the icing a bit better.

Bake for 15-20 minutes (I baked it for 15 and they turned out yummy).

To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, milk, 1 Tablespoon of melted butter, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Add milk as needed to achieve drizzling consistency.

Our cookies didn't really last long enough to ice... I think next time I may have to do a double batch.

Edited 11-21-2006

* During our annual November Craft Party I inadvertently grabbed the Costco-sized container of nutmeg instead of cinnamon. Still delicious!

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Blog By Any Other Name

After work I trudged up to the attic to find The Book. I was certain it was up there somewhere and it was getting imperative I find it soon as I need to make cookies. Need. I've got a beautiful new kitchen and I can't recall how to make my famous maple cookies. Nor Ethel's Sugar Cookies. And I hadn't laughed at the recipe for Trix cereal balls in several months.

After several boxes of antiques and Christmas decorations I did find an old plastic tub with items from Eugene. One of them had old t-shirts, a music box with plastic hair ties, a collection of calligraphy pen nibs, and a paper-clipped bundle of papers from high school.

I climbed back down the ladder with the papers and joined CrafterKat and Critter at the dinner table. "Guess what? I had a Blog in the ninth grade!"

CrafterKat laughed. "That would be called a Log..."

I only vaguely remember writing in a journal in the ninth grade--we were given a topic each day and had to write for the first ten minutes of class. The more of a page you filled, the higher points you received. And somewhere in there we were to use the journal to craft a short story that took place on a river. Mine had an Indiana Jones feel to it and the only bit I recall vividly was the exotic Asian dinner I made up consisting of a large water snake from said river.

CrafterKat and I reviewed them after dinner, chuckling at my precise cursive scrawl and comments that were written in the margins. This one takes me back (the links are all 21st century--remember we couldn't do this on paper back then...):

September 12

Video Games

Video games seem to be the "in" thing right now.

I enjoy playing video games but probably not as much as most people my age.

I have an Atari at home and I have the cartridges Pitfall, Asteroids, Circus, Super Breakout, Space Invaders, and a couple others.

My favorite is Pitfall. You are the man named Pitfall Harry and you're looking for treasures, gold, silver, a diamond ring, or money bags. But you have to watch out for alligators, snakes, fire, lakes, scorpions, rolling logs, and of course pits. My highest score is around 75,000 points.

My favorite arcade games are Centipede, Galaxian, and Donkey Kong. The game I despise the most is Pac-Man.

What's the use of a little yellow sphere gobbling up tiny white specs? Ghosts are chasing you. So what? That is one game you really waste quarters on.

~ Jewel Geek

If memory serves, I really only liked Galaxian because it was a) like space invaders and b) Duran Duran played it when on tour. Pac-Man was stupid because 1) I didn't get it free with my Atari console like other people did which bummed me out and 2) I always got eaten by the little ghostie things. Circus was the cheap version of Super Breakout. Since my parents didn't want to shell out $45 for Breakout, I got this rather lame game where you had two circus clowns jump up from a see-saw and punch out colored blocks, er, balloons. I did eventually get Super Breakout but only after much gnashing of braced teeth.


Journal 4

My favorite television station is MTV!

I think its great to "see" songs by your favorite artists. Mine are Duran Duran, Men at Work, INXS, and others.

When you get too see your favorite groups move to words it can do wonders for you!

The VJ's (video jocks) all have there own personalities.

Alan Hunter--my favorite likes mooses (he has moose and mini moose to talk too), fruits (he is one), and the uncensored version of Girls on Film.

Martha Quinn--she looks like a mini mouse with make-up.

Nina Blackwood--considering she was a Playboy Centerfold at one point in her career, I don't really like. Simon LeBon does though!

Mark Goodman--he's okay. When he came back from Calif. he played two D.D. songs in one hour. I was happy.


J.J. Jackson--No he's not related to Michael but he was the first to premier "Thriller." My friends and I call him Whopper.

~Jewel Geek

Friday, October 13, 2006

Four Bucks of Hometown Goodness

I only ever recall going to one high school football game growing up. At that time, our high school didn't have a football field on the campus--all games were held at Autzen Stadium. And it was usually cold and wet. I don't really recall anything about the game except that Leech drove (she was a year older than I) and that we huddled under a too-thin blanket, trying to stay warm in the Eugene drizzle.

But this isn't Eugene. And the high school has it's own quaint football field with covered bleachers. Cars lined both sides of the street and a very full parking lot. CrafterKat and I were amazed at the turn out. I whispered, "Welcome to our future."

CrafterKat found a place to park, handed off a cell phone to Critter, and got in line to pay our football admission. Four dollars a person. I had to blink. That's it? Teens and pre-teens milled around the track oblivious to the game but extremely excited to be 1) away from their parents, 2) outside at night, and 3) socializing.

We found an empty bleacher and spread out blankets. The stands were filled with young families and proud fathers. Boys with saber-long Pixie Sticks poked their siblings. Young girls wore Gladiator shirts and smeared mascara under their eyes to imitate NFL players. Moms sold fresh corn on the cobb to raise money for the graduation party. It felt like the whole small town had turned out for this event--it was quite obvious that people who didn't have high school kids were attending the game just to have a family excursion.

Within two minutes our Gladiators had intercepted the ball and scored a touchdown. The crowd went wild and I admit I was a little misty-eyed. We bought a flashing football pin and a licorice rope, clapped for the thick-legged cheerleaders, and cheered on the team.

The night was warm for October and stunningly clear. There was a small hometown feel to this event that I've never experienced. Perhaps it was the high school band playing renditions of Ease on Down The Road and the Magnum P.I. theme. Or the announcer thanking the small businesses like Uncle Al's car mechanic shop, a family dentistry, and a concrete cutter for their financial donations. Or the local Harley motorcycle club dropping off the Senior Gladettes for the half-time dance.

No drizzle. No wind. CrafterKat and I huddled under the blanket and soaked in small town warmth.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Car Names

I don't know about you, but I like to name my cars. My first car was a little white, 2-door Toyota Corolla. I called it the "Washing Machine" because it was always dirty. My next car was a 4-door, white Mazda 323. It was my grandmother's car (don't ask...) with intermittent wipers and air conditioning. After 20 years, the air conditioning has gone out... I just call it the 323 or Maz.

So while putting the cute Tinker Bell stickers on my new Sienna, and the fancy new Tinker Bell mats under my feet, I was thinking about nicknames for this car. Tigger. Green Machine. (Nah - that's Mr. GoGoGo's truck.) Tinker. Tink.

Tink Tank.

Hee hee hee.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Flashback Weekend

My mother, the Social Butterfly, called early Friday morning and rasped, "I don tink I'm cummin' ub tis weekend. I'm all stubbed ub." We shared a brief exchange of sniffles and I wished her well. I was finally coming off of my week-long cold stint and was hoping that CrafterKat wasn't coming down with it.

Saturday morning CrafterKat woke especially early and painted the final two walls from our remodel. We had the archway by the stairs and the little half wall that needed to be painted creamy beige, also known as peach. It was a bit of deja vu--we had painted part of the wall by Critter's bathroom and done touch-ups down the stairway a few weeks earlier. Her measurements from February are now gone. In fact, she actually shrunk a bit, as the floor was higher in the kitchen last winter when we began the remodel.

That afternoon we enjoyed fabulous pot stickers and hot and sour soup at Hong Kong 97 before heading out to see Sweet Charity, starring Molly Ringwald. I sort of knew the story--I had seen a few clips of the movie with Shirley MacLaine--but hadn't ever watched it all the way through. We had several good laughs, especially with Charity and her beau in the elevator. At one point, a man dressed as Andy Warhol strolled across the 1966 stage to the delight of the audience.

"Why is everyone laughing?" Critter asked.

"That man with the white hair? He's supposed to be Andy Warhol, a famous artist from the sixties. Do you know him?" She shook her head. "He painted a huge Campbells soup can?" Another blank look. "Um, Marilyn Monroe? He painted her in blues and greens and such?"

"Who's Marilyn Monroe?"

For the rest of intermission CrafterKat and I tried to explain, pulling out current comparisons (Madonna's Material Girl video) and movies Critter might have seen. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? No. Some Like It Hot? Nuh-uh. How to Marry a Millionaire? Negatory.

We are the generation bridge, we determined, as familiar with our parent's era as our own.

Sunday we visited Bridgeport Village, a new shopping mall in Tualatin. It's an outdoor mall and instantly reminded us of Downtown Disney--wide pedestrian areas with elite shops and a variety of restaurants.

We passed a gelato restaurant and a candy kiosk with a variety of sugary delights. Critter pointed to one giant glob of sugar the size of a tennis ball. "I once had a jawbreaker that big. I had to pound it into pieces with a sledgehammer."

CrafterKat laughed. "Are you old enough to remember Farrell's?" Critter shook her head. "Well, it was an ice cream parlour in Eugene and when you left the restaurant, you passed this huge selection of candy like that." She chuckled a moment and continued. "Renaissance Man bought a jawbreaker like that and worked on it for several weeks and then decided that he'd take a sledge hammer to it. I didn't know it at the time, mind you, I just heard the loud whack from the garage. He came inside and admitted that he had missed the candy and left a huge dent in the concrete. 'I'll give you half if you promise not to tell.' And I never did..."

We picked up Critter's copy of the Black Stallion and Satan (not Satine, as she insisted) and then perused the shopping directory for a place to eat. Pastini's won. I laughed as we opened the door and whispered to CrafterKat, "I always think Pastini is something the Sand People would say... 'Pasteeeneeee!' as they go charging down a sand dune..."

She shook her head at me. "You're weird."

After lunch we took a leisurely stroll through Crate and Barrell and tried out various couches and chairs that might fit in our living room...until we glanced at the price tags. Most every chair that might fit cost more than two car payments. We'd take turns saying, "How good is my taste?" and flip over the price tag. I think CrafterKat won with a deliciously soft, coffee leather chair (ottoman not included) for $2000.

For that price, the chair had better come with a built-in sound system and brew its own coffee!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Little Brain Dead

And now, a few words from Critter:

So yesterday on the 7th JewelGeek and I were out getting a book to replace the one that I had misplaced for school. She had not been feeling very well the past few days so she was a bit brain dead. It was about 7:30 pm and we were trying to get into our new van, JewelGeek pushed the button like three times and we finally got into the car. As she sat down she said, "Did you see what was happening???"

And I said, "No what???"

"Well every time I hit our button to get in the car the other guy’s car lights go off," she said.

Then I was like, "Whoa!!! Do it again." And she did. "Jewelgeek those are our lights. They go off when you push the lock and unlock button."

"Oh!!! Sorry I’m a little tired...."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Banana Splits and Strawberry Shortcake

Evil PXE (pronounced Pixie) and I made a Costco run at lunch today. I treated him to a hotdog and soda (CrafterKat and I call this a Cheap Date after the many hotdogs we ate there one summer) and discussed the Intel lay-offs, car mat accessories, and our kids.

Yesterday was Critter's first volleyball game, I told him. I dragged myself out of bed--I've been sick on and off (mostly 'on' CrafterKat would say) with sniffles, sneezes and coughs--and went to her first Intramural game. I found the gaggle of yellow t-shirt clad kids and cheered her on. She was the first to serve for her team and scored early on. Despite early successes, The Banana Splits lost both of their games. It didn't seem to phase Critter much--she encouraged her teammates with a hearty "Way to go!" and "Go Splits!"

Evil PXE shared stories of playing whiffle ball with his four-year old daughter and the challenges facing them as she approaches Kindergarten. "My kids are so different!" he repeated several times and recounted how when his daughter was his son's age (he is two), she was already figuring out the whole potty training routine.

"He just doesn't get it. Doesn't even know it's happening, you know?" He sighed and ate another bite of his hot dog. "I think I'm going to have to buy some cool panties or something."

I laughed. "You might be careful how you say that! You mean underwear for him, right? Girls wear panties, boys wear underwear."

He nodded and laughed good-naturedly.

"Underoos, right?" I asked.

He nodded again and pretended to hold up a pair of small undergarments, raising his voice an octave. "Yes! I need to buy cool panties! Maybe with Strawberry Shortcake on them..?"

Friday, September 29, 2006

Wheels Part 2

She’s beautiful! So clean. So soft. So pure.

Yes, after an afternoon tip-toeing around the subject, I finally made moon-eyes at my sweetie over dinner and told her the car was the color of mint-chocolate-chip ice cream, and I really wanted it. I had already prepared for the down payment. She had already put her foot down on the monthly payment and been confirmed by the car dealership. All we had to do was go back to the dealership, fill out some forms, pay the down payment, and drive away.

Two hours later… My goodness, these guys wheel & deal! It took me an unusual amount of time to realize that the finance guy (a new one – although the slimy one was still there), was trying to “sell” us a long-term maintenance agreement and add the costs to our monthly payments. I think I listened intently for 45 minutes before realizing what was going on. And then I had the wherewithal to say “Look, we can only afford to pay what we negotiated on the floor.”

He finally gave up and we signed the forms, signed over the down payment, and were rewarded with waiting around for the car to be “detailed.” Um... it’s 2 days old…

By now it was pitch black outside. I fiddled with the headlights, adjusted the power seat (hee), and tried to figure out where to put the gearshift so we could drive. No lights on the gearshift. You’re supposed to read the dashboard lights to know which gear you’re in. As I’ve not had that feature before, it stumped me.

We pulled out slowly into traffic, my dad behind us in his Camry. “Let’s take the freeway,” I offer. We live less than 5 minutes away on the surface streets. The freeway gains me maybe 3 more minutes in the minivan.

“Ok,” JewelGeek grins.

My dad follows suit. JewelGeek and I don’t really say much. We play with the radio a bit. We squeeze each other’s hands, and suddenly realize we’re really far apart.

The minivan stinks. “New car smell” is stinky and no one will convince me otherwise. I begin formulating a plan to convert its stinkiness to Green Apple as soon as I can get my hands on a Yankee Candle car freshener. The blue dashboard light is bright and futuristic. It’s so cool.

We park in the gravel beside the house. Tomorrow (Sunday), my dad and I will clean out a side of the garage so we can park it inside. [We later figure out that I have to fold in the driver’s side mirror in order to fit inside the garage…]

I love it. Today (Friday), I took a nap in the back during lunch. The carpet was soft and warm against my face. My toes (freed from the slip-on sandals I’m wearing today) played gleefully with the fuzziness and cold metal pieces under the middle row of seats. I could hardly hear the roar of buses 8 floors below me, or the police siren. And although I can pretty much nap anywhere, the fact that I actually fell asleep hard in the back of my new minivan just further confirms for me that this was meant to be a part of my life.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wheels Part 1

Friday, I took my 1987 Mazda 323 to the garage for oil/lube change. I also asked them to check on the rough idle and the "hiccup" when accelerating from a stop. A new hose, new spark plug wires, new filter for something, and $350 later... I seriously began thinking "I've got to get a new car." My mechanic told me there was nothing seriously wrong with my Mazda, except that it was old. And I could look for a new car now, while I could still drive my Mazda. Or I could look for one later, when my Mazda finally gave up.

That was right before lunch. Lunch was a staff meeting, and I went in sulking and wondering aloud if I should start researching cars. I got all kinds of comments/help/advice from my coworkers. Some of it was actually helpful. After the meeting, I starting doing my homework.

Some time ago, I saw a Beetle and commented that a sparkly blue Beetle with black accents would be cool. And the license plate could be "Scarab". So of course, JewelGeek immediately wanted to know if I wanted a Beetle. Um... no, not really. It was a fantasy, not a serious musing.

I want a Toyota - reliable, good maintenance records, good gas mileage, comfortable, etc. I looked at the Prius a LOOOOOOOOOONG time, before finding out it costs 3 times as much to repair because of all the specialty hybrid parts. I looked at Camrys. They look exactly like JewelGeek's Camry. And my parents' Camry. Another stable, ho-hum sedan with nothing particularly interesting about it. And for the same amount of money, we could get a minivan.

Hmmm. A minivan. So, I looked at the Sienna. And I liked what I saw. Ok - mediocre in-town gas mileage. But this wouldn't be the primary commute car. This would be for road trips, and hauling stuff to the dump, and carrying our bikes to a flat park so we can ride for hours, and driving out to the Gorge on a Sunday afternoon to watch the windsurfers.

By Friday night, I was pretty sure I wanted a Sienna. We got pre-approved for a loan through our credit union. And we called my parents to see if they could come up on Saturday (a day early) so Mr. GoGoGo could go with us to look at cars.

Saturday morning, we did what we could around the house and tried not to stare out the window to watch for my parents to arrive. Had lunch. Looked online (again) at local dealerships for good inventory so we could test drive, and took off with Mr.GoGoGo.

We went to our local Toyota dealership. Met a nice young sales guy who had only been working at the lot for a week. He had to ask a coworker where the Siennas were. And then had to walk back across the lot for the key for the one we were to test drive.

We walked up to a beautiful mint-chocolate-chip-ice cream green, 2006 Sienna, with power windows, power mirrors, power side door, programmable garage door openers, multiple "lighter" plugs, separate air controls for the middle/back passengers, 7 seater, easy-fold-down back bench seats, more cup holders than you can possibly use, new-car-smell, grey stone cloth interior, tinted back windows, automatic, 2 wheel drive, and 12-miles on the odometer. We put 5 miles on it during the test drive.

We forgot to try the radio, but we played with everything else. I had a whispered conversation with JewelGeek while the salesguy chatted up Mr.GoGoGo. I could hear everything they said, everything JewelGeek whispered back to me, and hardly anything of the road. I wasn't even sure my turn signal was on at one point.

The finance guy (different from the sales guy and 4 times slimier), pushed hard for us to walk away with a finance plan and the Sienna. JewelGeek, bless her heart, is one harda** negotiator.

The finance guy made the fatal error - "What can I do to get you in this car today?"

And JewelGeek let him have it: "Lower the price to $20,000."

Long pause. "Um, seriously, what can I do?"

My reply -- "We cannot afford the finance plans you've offered."

FinanceGuy: What can you afford?

JewelGeek: $350 a month.

Me: And $2500 down, maximum.

FinanceGuy: Give me a moment...

Sure enough, a few moments later, he was back with another offer. Which JewelGeek folded up and buried in her hand. "I have to sleep on it." He started to protest, and she held firm. "You're not going to convince me to buy a car at this moment. I'm going home." And we left.

JewelGeek wasn't quite shaking with anger, but she was definitely giving off waves of annoyance and impatience. So, at home I was careful not to talk about "The Minivan" unless JewelGeek brought it up. And then I danced around lightly, asking broad, open-ended questions, and offering simple replies to her musings.

Buy it now. Buy it later. Do nothing. Those were the options. She just had to pick. I just hoped she would pick the option I wanted...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Cash For Cash

Our Little Man is a big stinker. On purpose. He is notorious for letting us know when the kitty litter box is not clean enough, according to his high standards, by leaving us little presents. Sometimes in the downstairs hall, sometimes in the laundry room, but mostly in the little shower bathroom.

If only he were a little more curious about the toilet, we've often thought, we could maybe do away with the litter box once and for all.

And then I found the website for Citikitty. For about $30 you can train your cat to use the toilet. Sounds pretty good to us, if we can find the spare change.

Spare change...

I e-mailed CrafterKat and told her to have Critter start counting up the coins I set aside each day. When I came home there was a huge pile of quarters and pennies on the computer desk. We filled a zippie and drove to the nearest CoinStar machine that makes gift certificates payable to

Critter jiggled the zippie in her lap and sighed. "I wish we could get cash for cash."

I laughed. "What do you mean by that?"

"You know, like when you turn in cans and get money? I wish you could do that with coins. Turn in like twenty dollars and get a thousand dollars back. That'd be awesome!"

I whole heartedly agreed.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nitty Gritter, Grabbers, and Clinchers

Critter raced out of her room. "Come see! Quick! We've got peacocks!" CrafterKat and I glanced up from dinner preparations with what must have been an incredulous look. "Well, okay, pea hens!" she ammended.

Peacocks? Here? I tried to picture these large, proud birds strutting down our paved drive. "Are you sure they aren't pheasants?"

I wiped my hands and followed her back to the room. No sign of any large colored bird outside her window. "You're too late. They went up the street," she informed me.

"Well, take the camera and see if you can get a picture."

A nice diversion from the homework routine into which she is slowly settling. The last diversion was having a Sleepover with Annie May last weekend. I was greeted with a "It's very nice to meet thee," from Critter and a "Yo" from her friend. The fishing hat with LaLa's wedding gown is a nice touch, I admit.

Critter is learning that eighth grade is vastly different from seventh grade. I attended the Open House last week and discovered that she'll be getting lots of homework.

Her math teacher and her science teacher won a grant to have a Smart Board installed in their classrooms. It's a way for them to project websites or pre-written documents (done on their computer) up on a screen. The kids or the teacher can then write on the Smart Board with special pens or manipulate the website by just touching the screen with the fingers. The kids love it and try to be the first to finish in class so they can "write" on the board. Very impressive!

Her block teacher will be covering the beginnings of our government (the jury system, the Constitution, etc.) and the history of America through the Civil War and Industrial Revolution. He is also strengthening their writing skills--encouraging them to backup their position on a topic and pull the reader in.

Science class will be studying genetics this year as well as review of the scientific process. Critter informed us she'd be bringing home worms later this week. "Um, why?"

She grinned. "To see what they do. I'm gonna let them go in the Compost bin outside." I relaxed a bit when 'outside' was mentioned.

They have a new choir teacher this year, a young woman from the high school who will be here exactly one class period each day. Her hope is to build the choir program at the high school by strengthening their skills before they get there. She's playing different music each morning--country to opera to punk--and having the kids discuss it afterwards. Should be interesting...

Her math teacher is teaching pre-algebra plus reviewing basic math skills or The Nitty Gritty. Fortunately, her teacher has a good sense of humor and seems to be a patient man. I've already been informed that I'm the parent that deals with Language Arts stuff, not math... Sigh.

PE isn't too different than last year. The only new routine is that Critter is going to participate in intramural volleyball after school. A sports physical is required now for this type of activity, vastly different from my memories of team sports. Show up, run around the court and then, if you're still breathing, begin training.

I picked her up early, double-checking that she had everything for tonight's homework crusade. She rolled her pre-14 year old eyes. "Yes, I've got everything from my locker except for a pen and some pictures."

"What do you have for tonight?"

"Ten math problems and Grabbers and Clinchers."

My mind raced. Grabbers and Clinchers? What is this, some fly-fishing reference? "Um, what's that mean?"

"Clinchers are really good endings. And Grabbers are really good openings when you're writing. I gotta write a paragraph with a Grabber. You wanna hear it?" She proceeded to read me her Grabber story opening on the ride up the elevator. I agreed, it was pretty good.

And this story's Clincher? Her snapped photo.

"See? They're white pea hens!"

Well, maybe albino pea hens, I conceded mentally. Certainly not pheasants.

CrafterKat laughed. "They're egrets!"

We called LaLa (our bird officianado) and found out that they ARE, in fact, peacocks. White peacocks. Wandering around our neighborhood. How cool is that?!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Cinnamon Autumn With a Pinch of Molasses Drama

Last weekend, in my mind, was the beginning of Autumn. Mostly because I was able to do this.

Well, maybe not gingerbread cookies, but it was the first opportunity to bake in the new kitchen. Notice how tiny the old kitchen looked... I can't believe that I ever survived nine years with so little counter space. And my head is extremely happy, too. I can't tell you how often I've bumped my noggin on those old cabinets above that penisula.

Now when we bake or cook, it resembles this:

Last weekend was action packed--and baking cookies was the perfect way to begin. Friday night I had decided what cookies to make (chocolate chip, peanut butter, and some sort of molasses cookie). I made sure that I had unsalted butter (the only ingredient I wasn't sure was in the freezer) and went to bed.

Saturday morning I retrieved said butter and pulled out the stand mixer [insert sounds of angels singing here] only to find that it needed to be thoroughly washed. It had been stored under the computer desk in the living room for three months and had accumulated several ickies inside the bowl. Sigh. I methodically washed the bowl, the stand, and any other little bit that connected to the mixer.

With the butter melting on the stove, I began pulling out all of the flours and sugars needed for Alton's recipe. And then went looking for the flour sifter... Not where it used to be, snuggled down with the measuring cups. Found it one drawer down from there. Sifted the flour and went to add baking soda. No measuring spoons with the measuring cups. Found them somewhere else. Are you beginning to see just how much bigger our kitchen is?

The first batch of cookie dough went into the fridge while I pondered which kind of molasses cookie I wanted to make. Time to get The Book. Which was not on the new bookshelf we purchased for the living room. Nor was it in the cookie cutter drawer (yes--we have a drawer for cookie cutters!). Nor was it nestled among the DVDs and computer games on the large oak shelf from Mr. GoGoGo's old law office.

I believe at this point I suffered a minor heart attack.

After several deep breaths I was able to locate a hand-written molasses cookie recipe. That called for shortening. Which we hardly ever buy. Sigh. I had just enough for the recipe and was able to store that in the fridge.

Then a quick shower, lunch of mac and fromage, and we were off to see Wicked at the Keller Auditorium. Wicked is the story of Oz happenings before Dorothy was blown in from Kansas, centering on two girls who become the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch. The women had incredible storylines, fantastic songs, snappy lines, and great costumes. I'd highly recommend seeing it if you have the chance. Critter enjoyed it, too, saying it was "almost better than Hairspray" which she attended with the Social Butterfly and myself.

After the show, we went to New Seasons Market and bought flavored brauts and garlic chicken for dinner. Once home, the baking began. If only I could find the parchment paper to line the cookie sheets.

I foraged up in the attic and found two rolls of it. Unfortunately, they were in two more boxes that were destined for the kitchen. Sigh. We thought we had unboxed everything when I brought the eight other boxes down in August.

And no sign of The Book, either.

At the end of the evening the whole house smelled of molasses. And a bit of peanut butter (which used up the last of the shortening!).

Sunday morning we baked the last of the cookies and headed off to the Scrap Maven's house for a day of scrap booking. I brought cookies and a borrowed laptop. CrafterKat had the remainder of our Disneyland photos to paste. Huggy Girl brought her daughter and many cute "nekked baby" photos. The day was spent in scrapbooking and cookie bliss. With a few dashes of garlic and rosemary brauts on the side.

And after a week I still have not found The Book...