Friday, December 26, 2008

$100 Chili Pow(d)er

"What are you doing up?"

CrafterKat caught me tearing open the remaining grocery bags at 3 a.m. I had just found the Winco receipt and flashed it at her. "I didn't buy the red beans for chili. I'm pretty sure the bag fell out of the cart before I reached the cashier."

"It's okay. I have some other errands. We'll go in the morning before the storm really hits."

The snow continued to fall Friday night; Saturday we woke at 7:00 a.m. and ventured out to get some final items. Fred's had a bag of red beans, Lowe's had the Styrofoam faucet covers but no Christmas lights, and K-Mart had...well, all the things we forgot at the other stores.

"Wait... I need to make Santa cookies... I don't think we have enough flour." I bought one of five bags of K-Mart flour.

"Wait," said CrafterKat, "I want to make s'mores." I picked up The Bag of Marshmallows. And a box of graham crackers.

We made it home by lunch and settled down for a long snowfall. I made $100 chili.

$100 Chili


2-3 cups dry red beans
2-5 slices of bacon, diced
1 onion, diced
1 lb. ground beef
1 can tomatoes, diced
1/4 to 1/2 t. of cayenne pepper (how spicy do you want it?)
1/2 to 1 t. of chili powder (you choose the spicy level!)
Salt and pepper to taste

Optional: A new $100 pot and pan set

Prep: Rinse the dry beans in a colander and set to soak in a large pot with about two inches of water. Let the beans soak for 2 to 3 hours. Drain the water from the beans, then add fresh water. This gets rid of some of the starch from the beans.

Put the beans (with fresh water) on to boil. Then reduce heat to low.

In a pan, brown the diced bacon (I used four slices--yummy!). Use a slotted spoon and scoop out the bacon; add it to the bean pot.

With the remaining bacon grease, brown the diced onion. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the onion bits; add it to the bean pot.

Brown the hamburger in the last of the bacon grease, drain it, and add to the bean pot.

Add the can of tomatoes, the cayenne pepper, chili powder and salt and pepper. Cook the chili for 1 to 2 hours or until you are too hungry to wait any longer!

Saturday and Sunday we kept tabs on how deep the snow was getting. Four inches, six inches... It was soon over a foot on our back deck.

I called my mother Sunday afternoon to fill her in. Yes, we are still alive. Yes, I made chili. No, I don't think I'll go in to work tomorrow. Yes, we have plenty of groceries. No, I don't think we'll have garbage service. Yes--

And then the power went out.
After a half hour, the power did not return. PGE reported that there were several thousand customers without power and they had no idea of when service would resume.

We bundled up and hopped in the old Mazda and drove 5-10 mph down to the Shari's restaurant for a warm meal. When we returned, the power was still out. A call to PGE told us that "power has been restored at 5:44 p.m."

Since this was obviously not the case we called around and found a hotel along the river that was open and, more importantly, still had power. "And if the power goes out," the manager said, "we've got lots of blankets, flashlights and glow sticks. I'll be here all night with our staff--we'll probably have a party in the lobby."

CrafterKat began packing suitcases while I reserved the room. As we maneuvered through the icy roads, we passed a downed power line a block from our home. An hour later we had parked in the hotel's snow-filled lot and found our room. Thirty minutes later, CrafterKat and Critter were soaking in the hot tub.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chili Weekend

We've had snow off and on (mostly on) for a week now. Monday was especially chilly when we woke--our heating system was on the fritz. CrafterKat had been up since 5:30 and the house seemed to get colder by minute. She woke me at 7:00--the house was 59 degrees.

The pilot light seemed to be working but the clear water condensate tube that ran from the heating unit along the wall and to the outside was clogged up--it had frozen solid outside the house. CrafterKat got an extension cord and her little heat gun--a mini hairdryer used for embossing--and warmed up the tube until the water started flowing again. The house finally got up to temperature around 10:00 a.m.

When I woke on Friday there was a note from CrafterKat asking me to head to the grocery store. "We're expecting near blizzard conditions," she wrote. Time to make grocery lists, figure out advanced food cravings, and stock up.

The snow had turned to slush by the time Critter and I hit the road at lunch time. Winco was packed--Critter and I methodically went through the list, loading the grocery cart with crackers, cheese, soups, cereal, bulk red beans for chili, bacon, chicken, yogurt... The cart was so full we could barely push it to the checkout line.

CrafterKat got home a few hours later. I spent the afternoon cooking the last of our Craft Party cookies. "Let's go get some dinner before we're snowed in," CrafterKat suggested. We took a bag of cookies to her brother's house on our way. Instead of pizza (our original plan) we joined them for dinner at Busters and caught up on the news. The Golden Poet shared her cookie baking stories--green Grinch cookies!--and The Renaissance Man shared his adventure cleaning out the dryer vent. The boys shared various tales of how bored they were; Critter agreed.

After dinner we dropped Critter back at the house and went out again for some final shopping, dodging snow flakes right and left. I explained to CrafterKat that I intended to make my Mom's chili for lunch on Saturday, pulled pork sandwiches in the slow cooker for Monday when her parents arrived for Christmas, and lasagna somewhere in between. CrafterKat frowned slightly. "You're not planning on making chili in one of my good pots are you?"

We have only two large pots. Large and EXTRA HUMONGOUS LARGE, purchased at one of those fancy cooking stores at the outlet mall. "Fine. Let's go to Linens and Things after we go to [store redacted in case my mother is reading this]. They're going out of business so we can probably find something there for cheap."

CrafterKat stayed in the car while I scouted the store. I found one pot with a strainer, took a pic of it with my cell phone, and sent it to her. She texted back: I come in. We poked around some more and decided upon a pot and pan set, marked down to $100.

"You know," I chuckled, "this will be like the Evil PXE's bread maker. He had a $100 bread maker which they never used. Six months later he was handing out $30 loaves of bread because he had used it so few times."

CrafterKat chuckled. "One hundred dollar chili!"

We made one final stop at Trader Joe's and called it a night. The snow was starting to fall pretty steadily by now and we were happy to be home.

At 3:00 a.m. I woke up with a start. I did not recall paying for the bag of red chili beans; they'd fallen out of the cart before I reached the cashier.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


With the snow and uncertain road conditions, Critter has been out of school for a full week. It's now Christmas Break, there's more snow and ice is expected in the coming days. She hasn't seen her school friends for several long days. To say that she is bored is quite an understatement.

She's been playing telephone tag with a girlfriend up the street and after the third phone call I asked, "What's up?"

Straight-faced, she answered, "The air, the paint, the plaster, the wood, whatever comes after the wood."

The Land of Last Minute

I LOVE the holidays. All of the decorations, the lights, the shopping, the baking, the music, the crowds (yes, even the crowds). This is really MY time of year. I could live in it.

This year, I’ve been working so hard, I haven’t had much time for shopping or crafting. And this last week, the weather played roulette with the roads, making small windows of opportunity for shopping, which usually occurred while I was at work.

Today, it is supposed to snow all day (2-4 inches of accumulation), and turn to freezing rain tonight. Yikes. So if there is any shopping to be done, we have to go this morning. There is already some snow on the ground – we’ll be taking the Mazda which is already chained up for this weather, but which is missing the ability to defrost. (Give it a break; it is over 20 years old…)

And what is on the Last Minute List?

  • Dried red beans for chili
  • Stocking stuffers
  • Something for my grandmother for Christmas
  • Something for me for Christmas (and yes, I usually get my own gifts and wrap them…)
  • And I wouldn’t mind a really great movie to watch, since we’re going to be inside most of the weekend. But I can’t think of what that would be.

When we get home, I have to clean up our guest rooms. We used one room for the “kids” craft center at our annual craft party. And we’ve been using the other room as Wrapping Central. With my folks and grandma coming up on Monday (weather permitting), I need to make a place for them to stay.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute to do everything. Sheesh.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Recipe for Disaster?

CrafterKat and I enjoy shopping at Trader Joes but we do not have a store close to our home. If we are traveling close to the store for another errand, we inevitably stop in and get munchies. I love the ginger cookies; CrafterKat likes some of the chocolate things. And we always seem to get a bag of pot stickers or other frozen quick dinner item.

This fall, as we drove to Home Depot, we passed the old CompUSA store. It no longer looked desolate. It looked Trader Joesie. The store hadn't opened yet--just a coming soon banner--but we immediately called CrafterKat's parents (who are lucky enough to have a store a mile from their home) to tell them the news. For the next several weeks, whenever we were in the area, we drove by hoping it would be open.

Braving the snow today, on another "get this before the blizzard gets us" errand, we drove by and saw the lights on. CrafterKat and I were like kids on Christmas morning, browsing the shelves looking for munchies. We took our small horde to the cashier, grins on our faces.

The cashier looked over our pile. "BBQ sauce. Water. Bag of prunes. Chocolate.... I give up. What are you making?"

I pulled out my wallet and smiled. "BBQ for pulled pork sandwiches tomorrow. Water bottle for the ride home. Prunes for... Regularity?"

Saturday, December 06, 2008

And then there were eight...

Tomorrow is our annual Craft Party and I've been baking cookies for most of the day. I have to say, this is probably the cutest cookie I've ever made. I have only eight and intend on giving them to the handful of kids I know are coming.

The cookie dough recipe comes from one of my favorite cookie books (I really have only two) and is intended as an alternative to gingerbread dough. Teachers use this not-so-spicy recipe after reading The Gingerbread Man to their students. But I used it to make other little guys...

Butterscotch Bears

1/2 c. butter or margarine, softened
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
3.4 oz pkg. regular butterscotch pudding mix
1 egg
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. cinnamon
Handful of mini chocolate chips for decorating

Sift together the flour, soda, ginger and cinnamon and set aside. In a mixing bowl cream butter, brown sugar and dry pudding mix. Add egg and beat well. Add the flour and spices to the creamed mixture. Chill the dough for about an hour.

To make butterscotch bears, roll dough into the following sizes:

8 balls, 2 inches in diameter, for the body
8 balls, 1 inch in diameter, for the head
32 balls, 1/2 inch in diameter, for the arms and legs
16 balls, 3/8 inch in diameter, for the ears
8 balls, 1/4 inch in diameter, for the bear snout

Squish two ears to each head and flatten to about 1/2 inch. Add the ball for the body and flatten. Add arms and legs to the sides, and the snout to the face.

Warning: If the bear looks more like a pig at this point, don't panic.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. The bears will be slightly doughy when they come out. Quickly add the mini chocolate chips for eyes, nose, and buttons. Leave the bears on the baking sheet for a few more minutes to harden.

Makes 8 Butterscotch Bears

I would have made a double-batch of these--they are adorable--but I would have wanted Critter Help for it. She's on the tech crew for the high school production of Our Town, though, and was gone all day today for tech rehearsal. And when she came home, she wasn't quite dressed for baking. Tonight is Winter Formal.

Friday, November 28, 2008

You Remind Me Of The Babe

You remind me of the babe
What babe?
The babe with the power
What power?
The power of voodoo
Who do?
You do
Do what?
Remind me of the babe

--David Bowe as The Goblin King, Labyrnth

November has been a long, long month. Things seem to have gone in circles and I think we've finally broken the cycle.

Critter got sick in October with an enlarged lymph node. Not too worry, the bump on her neck went down pretty quickly but it took two trips to the doctor and a prescription of antibiotics to do it. And just when we thought we had it beat, November rolled in with another bout of it.

This time, though, the doctor said to wait it out--drink fluids, eat right, sleep lots. We tried that for a week with no sign of the lump going down. And now it hurt so much that Critter was having a hard time sleeping. After the third night of practically no sleep, the doctor finally prescribed some antibiotics. This time, though, it didn't seem to help. A trip to the Emergency Room got her a different prescription. A trip to the Ear Nose Throat doc got her a third, as well as more blood drawn and CT scan. It's Thanksgiving and she's finally finishing up her fourth set of antibiotics. One more doctor's appointment next week and I think we'll be finally over it.

Last weekend was the first that all three of us felt good enough to go out for some fun. Sunday morning we hopped in the Tink Tank and drove downtown to a hole-in-the-wall donut shop (pun intended) called VooDoo Donuts. Donuts come in a variety of flavors and, er, shapes... You can even have your wedding performed there!

CrafterKat picked out her two favorites coated with kool-aid and tang. I picked a pumpkin spice filled donut, frosted like a football (later examination showed it was supposed to be a pumpkin--it honestly didn't look like that to me, though). And Critter? She went for the Big Daddy, a dinner plate sized glazed donut.

We took our pink box up the street and stopped at Stumptown Coffee. As a non-coffee drinker (I know...blasphemy), this was my first adventure here. CrafterKat loves their Americano drink; Critter had a mocha thingy (I dunno...). We sat in the back on little couches next to the DJ record player mixing section.

After we arrived, a hip Portlander stopped by our table, depositing his jacket and a Stumptown coffee mug on the glass table top. "Shhhh," he warned, and pulled out a Starbucks coffee and poured it into the mug. "Don't tell anyone." We laughed and watched him leave to check for his friend.

He shook his head, smiling, when he returned. "Well, aren't you ready? You've got your VooDoo dounuts. Your Stumptown coffee. What's next? Shots?"

We laughed. He turned to Critter who was starting her giant glazed donut. "What are you, twelve? I'll bet you've got the flask hidden in your jacket..."

Normally, I would have taken pictures of this whole exchange (the funky voodoo and Elvis decorations at the donut shop, the DJ mixing table at Stumptown) but my camera died in early November. More like, fried.

Best Buy said I could return the camera if I had the original receipt. I didn't. Which didn't make me a Happy Camper. But guess what? Best Buy will print up a new receipt for you and, after a few hours rounding up the rest of the camera, I was able to take it in to the Geek Squad for repair.

Geek Squad sniffed the camera. I'm not joking. "Smells like something burned inside," he told me. And he sniffed again. Nose hairs and all. At this point, I was wondering if I would have to douse the whole thing in alcohol after it was working again. "No problem, this is totally covered." With snot, I thought.

He shipped the camera up to Seattle for replacement parts and service, promising that it would be ready in about two weeks, probably before Thanksgiving, even. Sunday, when we returned from downtown, Geek Squad called. "Yeah, we weren't able to get replacement parts. You'll have to come in and pick out a new camera."

"Um... Any camera?" I asked.

"Well, something comparable."

"And if Best Buy doesn't have something comparable?"

"Well, then you'll get an upgrade. Just talk to the camera department people. They can help you find something."

I took my HP camera box into Best Buy, bypassed the camera guy, and looked for the 10 Megapixel cameras. My 2006 camera had that, and a 3x zoom, plus a lot of "scene selection" choices when shooting (e.g. beach, snow, nightlife, portrait, landscape, etc.). I finally found the camera that had these features and seemed sturdy enough that it didn't feel like it would fall apart on me after six months.

So our circle is all healed--Critter is feeling a whole lot better, we've got a new digital toy to play with, and we've sampled some of Portland's best (if not weirdest...).

Take care and Happy Thanksgiving!

~ The CrafterGeek Family

Thursday, November 06, 2008

My New Flame

First flame of the season. I couldn't stand it anymore -- I was freezing!

Instant heat. Ahhhhh. Even Fuzzy Slug came out of our bedroom to loll in front of the fireplace. Life is good. :)

Kitten Help

I ran across this photo while cleaning up something else on my computer. This was WAY back during our kitchen remodel. We were moving furniture around (including our antique Kitchen Queen), and King James and Southern Belle were helping, as only cats can.

On this gray, rainy day in Portland, this picture made me chuckle.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Public Service Announcement for Parents of Teen Daughters

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Where the Boys Are

Dear Humans Who Keep the Food Bowl Full:
In case you're wondering why the TV is warm (but turned off) when you get home, I caught King James with the TV remote and a bottle of the foaming liquid you sometimes imbibe. This time, I had the presence of mind to use your camera that you left on the computer desk. (Thanks for leaving the computer on, by the way. The CPU makes a lovely warm spot on the desk top from the heat trapped in the cubby.)

If you really want to punish the bugger, might I suggest you banish him from your bedroom? Indefinitely?

Your Beloved Fuzzy Slug

Vacation is What You Make of It

We “escaped” the first weekend in October to the Oregon Coast. It was grey and drizzly and required a sweatshirt to walk around outside. But it was heaven. JewelGeek, Critter and I hadn’t been away from the house on vacation since March. (And I think we went to the beach then, too, come to think of it…)

We shopped all the way down (gotta love outlet malls),
shopped at the beach (more outlet malls), and shopped coming home (Pirate Coffee, anyone? Pirate Coffee in Depoe Bay, by the way, is a “must stop” on our beach trips. Not only do they have some of the most amazing coffee beans, the proprietors are a hilarious older couple, who know everyone and who share their love of life with everyone. They have a fabulous latte called the Spicy Wench – espresso, steamed milk, Oregon Chai, and buttered rum syrup (in the right proportions, of course).

Oh yeah, and we flew a pirate kite on Saturday evening, just after the sun went down. The wind picked up, but it was still warm, and we got the kite WAY up there. Critter actually let out the string all the way. We read the bag later, and discovered kite had at 50-foot string. Wow. It definitely looked spooky against the night sky. I can understand why the pirate flag on the horizon stuck fear into the hearts of sailors past. It is quite an ominous sight.

We also recommend Captain Dan’s Bakery in Taft (the southern tip of Lincoln City, This establishment is operated by another husband/wife duo who take their pirate theme with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The pastries are good, and they serve Pirate Coffee (of course!). But the BEST part is the talking parrot. It’s an animatronics’ bird, which they’ll tell you they purchased at Fred Meyer around Halloween a year or two ago. It looks pretty realistic with its plastic beak and talons and feathers made from a low-nap, synthetic cloth. It squawks, tilts its head, asks for crackers (a special plastic cracker it came with), and has a vocabulary of over 100 words. But you have to coax those words out. Over time. As it learns them.

While we were there, Critter got it to make a crunching sound (to simulate eating the cracker), and say “MMMMMMmmmmm.” Apparently, it had never done that before.

And it has a memory. When Captain Dan starts turning the lights out for the night, he turns each bank off in order. The bird starts going crazy, because it knows that it is the last thing to get turned off each night. He says it is very creepy.

To add to the animatronics creepiness, Captain Dan and First Mate Kathy told us a story of the Furby toy they bought one year after the Furby craze was over. They had an original Furby – and had kept it for two or three years. It knew all sorts of things, and could (mostly) hold its own in small talk. So they bought this new Furby and kept both toys in their office at the bakery. After a couple of days, the new toy could say everything the original toy could. They only thing they could figure out is that the old toy taught the new one everything it knew… (insert Twilight Zone music).

So for a few blissful days, we didn’t have the phone ring, or listen to anything remotely political, or do much of anything we didn’t want to. We ate great seafood (I personally think mussels in beer broth is pure genius), and picked up yummy salt water taffy to share with my coworkers. The only sad part was walking the bay front and discovering that the Cat House was closing its doors. Clearly cat toys are luxury this economy cannot support.

We had a marvelous time. I miss it already…

Saturday, August 30, 2008

September Playmate

This frisky Capricorn enjoys long walks on the beach at sunset, cozy candle-lit dinners for two, and dancing until dawn at the local discotheque.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Meatball Madness

Growing up there were a few special dishes my mother would make only for parties or special holidays. Anytime we would have guests over, I'd hope that one of those dishes would magically appear: kringle, cinnamon rolls, or beer meatballs. Mom made the meatballs as an appetizer during the seventies--I don't think I'd eaten any since last November when I made them for our annual Craft Party.

They were as tasty and popular as I remember.

When CraftMaven announced her upcoming marriage, I offered to make her some for the wedding. CrafterKat and Critter came home Saturday and looked around the messy kitchen, spotting the tray of meatballs. "Is that it?" I nodded. "You better make another batch..."

Not only are these tasty, but they're fun to make. You even get to make meatball madness faces as you squish up the ingredients.

There's Beer In Here Meatballs


1 to 1.5 lbs. of hamburger

1 to 1.5 lb.s of pork sausage

2 small eggs

1 to 2 cups of bread crumbs (depends on the amount of meat used)

1/2 c. milk

salt and pepper

garlic powder or mushroom powder

Mix up the meat and gradually add the eggs and milk. Once combined, add the seasonings and bread crumbs, a bit at a time so everything gets absorbed. Shape the mixture into 1 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Place them close together--the meatballs will shrink a bit as they cook. Should make enough meatballs to fill one standard cookie sheet.

Set the oven to 500 degrees and cook for ten minutes.

Sauce (mix up in a crockpot/slow cooker):

1 lb. brown sugar

1 bottle of chili sauce

1 bottle of beer

Stir until the sauce is combined. Add the meatballs to the crockpot and cook on low for about an hour.

And remember to make the meatball face:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Noble Software

Back in 2000 when I first began working for the Evil PXE, I was asked to buy some entertainment software for the people who live and work on campus. I purchased some Hoyle games, a family tree tracker, and software to produce flyers, greeting cards, etc. It's been eight years now, and the software just isn't keeping up. We asked our intern, BMW Aficionado, to look online for the latest version of Print Master.

"We've got Print Master 12," I told him. "I'm sure they're up to 20 or so, by now."

He checked online and found that Broderbund had indeed updated the title. "They've got Print Master Gold 18 and Print Master Platinum 18," he reported.

Evil PXE smirked. "What? Are they doing the Print Master Heavy Metals series? Can you get Print Master

BMW Aficionado grinned. "The next version is Print Master Noble Gases."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Different Worlds

Part of my job entails going into teacher classrooms and prepping their computer for the new school year. It's entertaining to see how each classroom corresponds to the teacher's personality: one teacher has a couch from the Meszoic area, another has quotes from famous poets and authors in fancy calligraphy, and so on. Oftentimes, as I sit waiting for software to load, I'll glance around at the art their kids made, or wedding photos, or the stack of music CDs and think "they're not too different from me."

And then I find something that shows we are world's apart. How many of you have this on your To Do List?

Fix Fender Bass Amp
Tubas (check) Souzas

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The End of an Era

Last month marked Princeton's final day working summers in our department. To celebrate his new job, we took him to lunch at McMennamins and listened to tales of his engineering adventures with a company in Newberg.

Princeton: So they've got this AutoCAD program that we used when I worked on the NASA stuff but it's all coded in French and so sometimes the translations aren't quite right... You'll make a modification on a design and then click to adjust it and the program will say, "Unable to render model because model is dirty."

JewelGeek: And after the error message does it surrender to the Germans?

Evil PXE, throwing hands high over his head: To close the error box, click the Capitulate button!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Just so you know, it IS genetic...

From my brother, Renaissance Man...
Just fixed one of the white drawers in the playroom with the new slider (from a year ago??).

Works great - especially when I don't:
1. put them on upside down
2. backwards
3. at different heights
4. missing all but one screw.

If you avoid these problems (or fix them) then everything works great.

CrafterKat's comment: Home improvement isn't for sissies.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Sounds of Silence

Overheard at McMenamins

Critter, holding her drama monologue: How long is a Pause?

CrafterKat: What?

Critter: Well, it says in the monologue that I'm supposed to Pause right here. How long is a Pause?

CrafterKat, filtering through her drama knowledge: What sort of effect are you trying to achieve?

Critter, thinking: ...Quietness?

Friday, May 30, 2008

Just add water...

CrafterKat: So, um, when I turn the water on in our fancy, new bathroom (and to test the fancy new shower head we installed - You're welcome, Critter) - how 'come hot water comes out on the "cold" side and cold water comes out on the "hot" side?

Contractor: Well, (long pause, follwed by back-paddling...) Your water pipes must be all backwards, because we installed the cartridge correctly and...

CrafterKat: So, um, where's the little tool that came with the faucet kit, so I can remove the tub faucet and get the collar off to flip the collar around? I want people to know that hot/cold are reversed.

Contractor: Oh, um, I think that's with my tools here somewhere...

CrafterKat: Well, drop it off tomorrow evening, and I'll rotate the collar.

Contractor: Uh, okay...

So the contractor showed up some time the next day and put the cartridge in correctly so the hot/cold are they way they are supposed to be. I was just beginning to fume because I hadn't seen him yet in the evening, when Critter asked if I had seen his business card/note in the bathroom. I hadn't. It said "Sorry, my mistake." The little tool to remove the faucet was on top of it, too.

And that was it.


We still had to install the shower curtain rod. It's one of those super-cool, hotel-style rods that curves outward to give you more elbow room in the shower. And we found a matching green/blue curtain!

Only trouble was... we had to drill through the porcelain tile to mount the brackets.

Mr.GoGoGo and I labored for almost 4 hours to drill 4 holes. Now, granted, part of that time was running to a hardware store to get carbide-tip drill bits (because the steel ones from Home Depot wore out in like 2 seconds). And part of that time was spent resting, because we were drilling over our heads and applying even pressure to the drill, plus squirting the holes with water so the bits wouldn't overheat...

Oh yeah. The bits overheated. In fact, before we figured out we needed to the add water constantly, Mr.GoGoGo's bit heated up so much, the shaft let loose the tip. Which fell in to the tub. On top of the plastic shower curtain. Which we didn't notice until we hung up the curtain, and found something like 8, triangular-shaped holes, and a metal lump (the drill tip) encased in melted plastic.


It is a very fine bathroom. Now we just need to pry Critter out of it every once in a while, so I can take a bath. :)

And for the grand finale

Finally, the new countertop arrived, and the countractor could finish the bathroom. It was a mad dash to the finish line, with a lot of "little" stuff towards the end:

1) Install the countertop
2) Install the glass tile backsplash around the countertop

3) Install the granite window sill (former backsplash from the countertop), and finish tiling around the window

4) Install the towel bar and grab bar for the shower

5) Put the toilet back in
6) Hang the mirrors (us)
7) Touch-up the paint

Voila! "Instant bathroom"!

Tiles and Tribulations

Our gorgeous glass tiles went in next. You can see the little spacers in this picture that kept everything straight (mostly) and even.

I went to the manufacturer's website and copied the image of each tile color. Then I created the pattern on my computer and printed it out for the contractors. We went through a couple of copies, before I got smart and put it in a plastic sleeve.

It took something like three days to do this much of the tile. Apparently the little glass tiles were a pain in the neck. As it was the contractor's idea in the first place, I didn't feel much sympathy when he complained.

The brownish stripe beside the bathtub tile was an area of fresh plaster. The contractor was trying to feather-out the edge of the porcelain tile, so we wouldn't have to install a trim (which would have looked awful!)

And you'll note that the new white tub is in!

But the countertop is not... Where, oh where is our countertop??

Turns out, we got a GREAT deal on the granite countertop because it was being discontinued. So the last remaining version in our color was shipped to us from Bellingham... And cracked on the way down. Our contractor had his supplier scouring the West Coast for a replacement. Which was found... eventually.

Thank goodness this isn't our only bathroom!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Suzie Q

The contractors listen to KGON, Portland's classic rock station. Lots of The Doors, Pink Floyd, Stones, CCR, U2 (ok, NOT so old), Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Pat Benetar... You get the idea. I had to excuse myself and go downstairs one evening when I walked in on the contractors singing Suzie Q to the radio. Too *&$# funny!

On the plus side, they got a lot of the tile work done that day.

All the way up to the window sill. The 12x12 off white porcelain tiles are glossy/smooth, and give a 5-star-hotel feel to the bathroom. The little glass shelf is a nice touch - barely useful, but pretty!

The next couple of days, the contractors focused on getting the rest of the beige tile in, leaving a space for the colorful glass tile we had purchased to use as a "belly band." I swear, do contractors just sit around making these names up??
You'll note the height of the forthcoming colored tile band. I don't want to even think of what the contractors would call this...

Pink Is the New White

Had a shock on about day 4 of the bathroom remodel...

We weren't sure what the contractor had in mind. All of the walls were suddenly pink! This was tragic! Not at all what we asked for.

And odd...

The new tub was in. (Not the drywall, yet. Needed the special backer board for tile work.) Tub is white, like we planned.

And the components for the new bathroom fan were in (and the old, nasty soffit was gone).

So what was with the pink?

Turns out, the contractor uses a tinted mud when he re-textures a room, so he knows where he has been. All of this would be painted (or cleaned off, as in the case with the sink handle and the back of the door.)

Speaking of the door... All of the doors in the house were the 70s dark brown, hollow core. The contractor suggested we could put a new wood veneer over the door to get rid of that nastiness. It was about on day 4 or so that we figured out it would be cheaper to replace the whole door, frame/jam and all. So the contractor wasn't worried about getting stuff on the door at this point - he knew we were going to replace it.

We DID decide to put a new veneer on the little 15-inch-wide pantry door that is next to the bathroom. It was the only door left in the house that was still the nasty dark brown. Now it looks like mahogony. Oooooooh, aaaaaahhh.

Demo Delight

Mmmmm, bathroom demo... Mmmmmm.

So removing the tub and drywall revealed a small problem. No, not rotten wood (although we definitely feared that). Nope, this problem is a hole at the tub drain in the subfloor that goes all the way into the soffit/low ceiling in the garage. We assume it was to provide easy access from underneath. You could go in to the garage, pop off some drywall in the low ceiling, and fix the plumbing. Kinda handy.

But with no insulation, it meant the old cast iron tub was the same temperature as the air in the garage. Brrrrr. We had this fixed.

Speaking of the tub... Here it is in all of its black iron glory. It's resting on the debris from the surrounding wall - all of the tile, mostly. I kept thinking "So glad I didn't have to haul this thing out of there..."

Ah, so nice to have this tile gone.

Up next, "Pink Is the New White".

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hook, Line and Sinker

Random Family Conversation #213

Critter: ..and so my friend Sam is getting married tomorrow!

Me (slightly confused but figuring it has to be a teenager thing): Oh? And, um, why is that?

Critter: In drama class, we're doing this scene and Sam is getting married to the hotest guy in the class. (she giggles excitedly) Omigosh, he's so hot. He's got this one kinda lazy eye and it's soooo cute! We call him 'Phonics'.

Me: Oh?

Critter (smiling): Yeah, cause we're Hooked On Phonics!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bunny Hop

Have you ever danced the Bunny Hop? Two hops forward, one hop back, and some fancy toe tapping. That’s an apt description for selecting our fixtures for the bathroom remodel, too.

Bathtub – plain white. Cast iron with white enamel.
One hop back: Tub will take a week to arrive.
Towel bar – chrome with porcelain accents.
Vanity cabinet handles – chrome with porcelain accents.
Light fixture – went to Home Depot, didn’t like anything there.
One hop back: Went to Lowe’s, settled on chrome 4-light fixture with white shades.
Sink faucet – chrome with interchangeable porcelain or chrome handles, 4-inches on center.
One hop back: Need 8-inches on center to accommodate new granite countertop.
Shower fan – purchased 2.0 sones fan with 50 CFM (CFM? Horsepower)
One hop back: Need 0.5-1 sones with 70+ CFM
Toilet paper roll holder: burnished steel with porcelain accents.
One hop back: Need chrome with porcelain accents.
Granite countertop for vanity with white under-mount sink – GREAT deal at Home Depot. Half the cost of what we thought we’d have to spend.
One hop back: Only one countertop of the style/color we like, and it’s in Bellevue. Will take a week to arrive.
Decorative tile for backsplash and shower surround – found cool tile shop; want glass tiles.
Multiple hops back: Would take 2 weeks to special-order our tile choices; nothing in “seconds” section of store (which no one told us about until AFTER we got home); researched other glass tile retailers in area; found a hole-in-the-strip-mall distributer who could order my tile and have it in a week. SOLD!
Mirror – went to IKEA, found exact item, paid $20 and came home.

On the plus side, the tile distributor was eccentric and fun. His son works the cutting machine on the special orders. He has a new puppy, who comes to the store and hangs out. When I was checking out tile and sending JewelGeek photos on my cell, the puppy was following me around and cooling herself off on the granite slabs. They also have a store bunny. He hops around the store merrily, rolling in the dust and generally surprising the customers. JewelGeek took a picture when she went to pick up the tile…

It at least made us laugh.

April Bathroom

As with any remodel, you have in mind a timeframe for getting the job done. Our goal was to have this job completed over the month of March, with an unveiling April 1. Please pretend it is the first of April, alright?*

When figuring out what we needed and wanted in our new bathroom we decided it had to be functional first and foremost. Our first thought was this one but we nixed it because CrafterKat and I don't really wear high heels. It seemed a pre-requesite. Plus the windows would look into the back of the fridge and the microwave.

I told CrafterKat that we should really honor the concept of bringing the outdoors in. We have white peacocks that roam our neighborhood and I thought they'd be great central theme for the bathroom.

So what did we have on April 1? This beauty features a two-person jacuzzi bath and shower. A fireplace seemed an absolute necessity, so we had one of those installed, too. And a design plus? This bathroom, as opposed to my Peacock Bathroom, actually has a commode.

We toyed with the idea of installing a Korean appliance in the bathroom but I didn't think I could handle watching my father-in-law make some of these faces (especially the guy's reaction at the 24 second mark).

In the end, we spared no expense and decided that Critter didn't really need to go to college after all. Nor did she need all that bedroom space so we reconfigured the bathroom to be in her old bedroom. We think she could easily roll out a sleeping bag on the tile floor.

* In other words, April Fools. We will get new photos up of the real bathroom soon!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

When Life Hands You Avocados…

I recently had one of the most hilarious discussions with a colleague about the housing fashions of the 1970s. She grew up in a home with red shag carpeting in the livingroom and three “classic colors” bathrooms (powder blue, avocado, and beige). In the early 80s, her mom redecorated the livingroom – yup, mauve and light blue. Yikes!

Our home is a mid-70s split-level. When we moved in, it still had the lovely amber sidelight windows at the front door, an amber glass globe chandelier in the foyer, and architectural “details” such as arches and rod-iron decorative grill work. It even had the ORIGINAL avocado green electric stove/oven in the kitchen. “The horror! The horror!”

We’ve been updating/remodeling almost non-stop for the last several years. JewelGeek and I have similar tastes (thank goodness), and the temperaments to live with chaos for a while, knowing that it WILL end and a better thing will come of it. A few years ago, we remodeled the kitchen. That same year, Mr. GoGoGo and I remodeled the downstairs bathroom over a weekend. This last month, we tackled the main bathroom. Why? Well, when Critter came out with a piece of green enamel from the bathtub and asked if it was supposed to do that, we knew it was time.

So, here is our Guacamole Bathroom, pre-remodel. Absorb.

Notice the iron peeking through the avocado enamel.

The lovely, green and orange “veined marble” laminate on the vanity.

The white with gold-vein 4x4 tile surround above the avocado tub.

The mysterious floating soffit in the ceiling above the halfwall. (We assume there was rod-iron grill work in here at one point, too, to match the other stuff in the house.) The drywall damage in the ceiling is from a roof leak we hadn’t noticed. And the all-important globe lighting on oh-so-classy brass chains ties the whole 70s theme together.

Feel our pain. And prepare to be amazed…

Thursday, April 10, 2008

American Idle

Last night as Critter watched snippets of American Idol, I sat at the computer to play some online sudoku. As I opened Yahoo, I read an entertainment news headline that I thought might earn me some Cool Mom points--either the Wow-Mom-Knows-My-Music or the I-Understand-Your-Pain variety. It seems that Critter's Pete Wentz of The Fall Out Boys is now engaged to Ashlee Simpson, Jessica's younger sister.

"Oh, honey," I sighed, "it looks like your Pete Wentz is engaged."


What?! The rock guitarist you sighed over in the doctor's office? The good looking member of the group? I kept my voice calm. "You know, the guy you like from the Fall Out Boys?"

She nodded but continued to watch Billy Crystal and Lindsey Lohan Miley Cyrus. "Oh, yeah. I'm not much into him anymore..."

No Cool Mom points for me, it seems. "Oh? Is he sooo 2007?"

She rolled her eyes. "Yeah, sooo 2007."

Well, maybe one Cool Mom point.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Miracle Worker

In high school, CrafterKat encouraged me to participate in the after school drama program. "You don't have to be on stage," she explained, "there's lots of stuff to do behind the scenes." So I took a chance, stepped out of my comfort zone, and joined the zany group that routinely performed. My first production was The Miracle Worker, the story of Helen Keller. CrafterKat played the role of Aunt Ev and I, not being a seamstress or mechanically inclined to stage craft design, assumed the role of Properties Manager.

It was my job to make sure that the furniture got moved on stage for different scenes, that the actors had their walking stick or suitcase, and that the table was set for the big food fight scene when Annie first arrives to teach Helen. I remember that the bassinet used in the opening scene was mine, an antique that my parents had kept for me for my future children. The doll that Annie brings Helen was my own, a Raggedy Ann my grandmother had made. And the food fight? I cooked up a batch of food before every performance that the actors would secretly eat when they were supposed to be "frozen" on stage.

Helen's parents were played by the high school drama redhead--a statuesque singer with a charisma streak that was off the charts--and a somewhat portly young geek who was new to our school. The contrast between these two was quite acute. Everyone knew the redhead was going to continue in the drama arena after school--she could sing, act, she was humble, and very nice. The new guy was a bit harder to read--he could act, yes, but he had this very subtle, quiet humor that could leave us in stitches if his comment was above a stage whisper. Our redhead became a stage actress back east (Chicago?) and we wouldn't be surprised if our young geek had a writing role on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

There's a part in the play where Annie takes Helen to a summer hunting cottage off the Captain's vast estate to teach. As the main stage represented the house--the dining room, Annie's bedroom, and the infamous water pump in the front yard--we had little room to represent this important spot. The theater had two aprons, little bits of stage that jutted into the audience and cradled the orchestra pit. The front of the apron was perhaps eight feet wide but the part that attached to the main stage had to share space with the stage exit, so it tapered to only three feet.

We outfitted the apron with a little table and chair, and one rather large potted tree to represent that it was a summer house. The spot worked fine for Annie and Helen--there was plenty of room for the roughhousing that occured when lessons were portrayed--but it was tight for everything else. And it was not much better with a director who kept changing his mind about set design, lighting, entrance cues, and placement of props. That stupid potted plant moved to all four corners of the apron and the actors would adjust their stance and position each time.

At last, the director made a decision--place the plant at the cottage "entrance", the part attached to the main stage. The audience would be able to see Annie and Helen and the plant would be out of the way. Never mind that it was an obstacle to the Captain and Helen's mother. The Captain would battle the foliage with his walking cane, and keep one hand on the redhead to keep her from falling into the orchestra pit.

As the director paused rehearsal--yet again--we heard the Captain casually sum up his existence in the scene. "This is my wife. This my plant."

CrafterKat and I busted a gut. From that day on, we've used this simple statement in tight quarters when something else keeps interfering, usually a home improvement project when something isn't going quite right. Stuck under a leaky sink or moving a heavy bookcase? This is my wife. This is my plant.

As Bill Cosby says, "I told you this story so I could tell you another."

E-mail to CrafterKat:

From: JewelGeek
Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2008
Subject: JewelGeek's Day

8am Ask MS Dean if the chalkboard on the drama stage is magnetic. She was to check yesterday afternoon.

10-noon E-mail Evil PXE about not finding magnetic boards and who should I talk to about ordering one.

2pm Per Evil PXE's e-mail, check Athletic Center for floater board used in coaching.

2:15 Discover that there are mounted boards in the Weight Room. Wrinkle nose at smell.

2:30 Discover that the other boards are cork bulletin boards. Not magnetic.

2:45 Find a white board with past principal's old schedule in the Athletic Storage Room!

3:00 Laugh at the names of people who don’t teach here anymore. Haul board back to office.

3:05 Discover that it is not magnetic.

3:06 Cry a little on the inside.

3:15 Go back to Storage Room WITH magnets. Find chalkboard on wheels.

3:16 Pray

3:17 Rejoice. Chalkboard is magnetic

3:18 Worry about yanking board without talking to Athletic Director.

3:25 Find Academic Dean and tell her about Board, explaining that the coach diagrams look to be from football season.

3:30 Ask where to get money to buy magnets.

3:35 Head to Athletic Cent-- Wait. Bathroom

3:37 Think to self. It’s a good spot, you know?

3:38 Wonder if there is a White Board already in the Conference Room…?

3:40 Nope.

3:42 Enthusiastically walk towards Athletic Center, heading for stairs.

3:45 How am I gonna lug the thing up stairs? Elevator is too small…

3:50 Cry a little on the inside.

3:55 Pray and head to back boiler room, down the hall from the conference room.

4:00 No broken chalkboards on wheels.

4:05 Behind fake stage foliage, one white magnetic white board.

4:06 This is my plant. This is my magnetic board.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Black is a great color--it sets off your wig!

A great perk to my job is the artwork produced by hundreds of tiny (and not so tiny) hands. The women who have lived here for over a hundred years have paintings and ceramic statues in the upstairs Residence; beautiful, hand-sewn quilts are constantly produced for baptisms, baby showers, and wedding gifts. In the schools, students decorate the hallways for dances and Spirit Week (this January it was superheroes). Art projects are proudly displayed to parents and friends. But it’s the little kids’ work that I enjoy the most. My old office used to be closer to those classrooms and it was always a joy to run an errand that direction—dancing paper leprechauns stand outside the kinder room, homage to Monet flower gardens done in tissue paper crowd around another door, and state maps wallpaper another corner.

Every winter, though, we’re treated to a surprise on the upper most floor—The Hall of Presidents. You can tell these kids spent quite a bit of time making them. I love every one of them. I’m assuming that there is a corresponding paper to each portrait but I’ve never seen them. I can deduce, though, what might have been on the paper…

George Washington, 1789-1797

Everyone knows that George Washington served as a general in the American Revolution and was voted unanimously as the first president of our country. What many don’t know is that he loved Quaker oatmeal. Would eat it night and day.

John Adams, 1797-1801

John Adams, our second president, was instrumental to creating the Declaration of Independence. He was the first president to move into the new White House located in Washington, DC. Sources say he is the great, great, great grandfather to the Hensen Muppets.

Thomas Jefferson, 1801-1809

What hasn’t been said of the great Thomas Jefferson? Writer of the Declaration of Independence at 33, served as the minister to France in 1785, built the impressive Monticello estate, and made the smartest real estate purchase in the history of the country. He often performed concerts on the White House lawn as Ziggy Stars-And-StripesDust.

John Quincy Adams, 1825-1829

Son of President John Adams, John Quincy served under President Monroe as Secretary of State and helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine. No candidate for the 1825 election had the majority of electoral votes, so John Quincy’s appointment was decided by the House of Representatives. Upon becoming President, Andrew Jackson (who had lost the election), charged that a “corrupt bargain” had taken place and began an earnest campaign to wrest the Presidency from Adams. Historians now believe the “corrupt bargain” was in fact a pact with the netherworld; he lived the remainder of his days as an undead zombie.

Andrew Jackson, 1829-1837

Andrew Jackson was elected by popular vote; in his first message to Congress he recommended eliminating the Electoral College which lost him his bid for presidency before. The current Democratic party grew from political discussions during this era. Hostile cartoons circulated calling him King Andrew I. There was, perhaps, a bit of royalty within him; presidential biographers are uncertain if he is related to the King of Pop or Don King.

William Henry Harrison, 1841

The Whigs, the other political party to develop during President Jackson’ term of office, nominated Harrison in 1840. He won by a majority of less than 150,000 but swept the Electoral College vote, 234 to 60. Les than a month in office, he developed pneumonia and died in office. Funeral attendees included Pikachu, Vampire Hunter D, and Sailor Moon.

Millard Fillmore, 1850-1853

Under President Fillmore’s term, California was admitted as a free state, the Texas/Mexico boundary was settled, and the slave trade abolished in the District of Columbia. Despite these achievements, President Fillmore could still not find a pair of sunglasses that fit.

Rutherford B. Hayes, 1877-1881

The closest election in history, Rutherford B. Hayes went to bed thinking that his democratic rival had won. Hayes election depended upon contested electoral votes in Louisiana, South Carolina and Florida (can anyone say déjà-vu?). The final electoral vote: 185 to 184. His first action? To banish wines and liquors from the White House. This may explain his fondness for prancing in the forest singing, “I’m a Lumberjack and I’m okay.”

Theodore Roosevelt, 1901-1909

After the assassination of President McKinley, Roosevelt became the youngest President at age 42. Before he came to office, he served as a lieutenant colonel of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. Some say he was more comfortable in the saddle, then sitting in the Oval Office. He is most often remembered for saying, “Speak softly and carry a big stick of sun tan lotion.” Near the end of his tenure, however, he had an unfortunate run-in with an Amazon Witch Doctor; many historians claim he was the first Flower Child. Woodrow Wilson, 1913-1921 Woodrow Wilson campaigned for President on a New Freedom program which stressed individualism and states’ rights. In 1917, President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. After the Germans signed the Armistice in November 1918, Wilson went to Paris and crafted the Versailles Treaty, the beginnings of the League of Nations. While abroad, he reveled in his androgyny, singing “Wilkimmen, beinvenue, welcome, im cabaret, au cabaret, to cabaret!” In his spare time he built computer consoles.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953-1961

Eisenhower had a prestigious career in the military during World War II. He commanded the Allied Forces landing in North Africa in 1942; two years later he was responsible for the D-Day landing in France. After the war, he worked for NATO until he was persuaded to run for President in 1952. As President, he continued most of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs started by his predecessors, and ordered the desegregation of schools and the armed forces; the soul patch he sported illustrated his solidarity.

John F. Kennedy, 1961-1963

The youngest President to serve, Kennedy was also the youngest to die in office by an assassin’s bullet in Dallas, Texas. He was dedicated to human rights, promoted the Peace Corps, and called for new civil rights legislation. After the Bay of Pigs, he proposed a nuclear test ban treaty and promised to land a man on the moon. He is sometimes mistaken for his brother, Ted Kennedy, mislabeled in this picture. Richard Nixon, 1969-1974

During his term of office, President Nixon ended the fighting in Viet Nam and improved relations with the USSR and China. When the Watergate scandal broke, Nixon challenged government officials. “I know nothing, I didn’t see anything, I wasn’t there, and if I was there, I was asleep.” In the end, he made America an offer we can’t refuse and resigned from office.

James Carter, 1977-1981

A peanut farmer in his youth, President Carter worked hard to combat an energy shortage, improve the national park system, increase social services, settle differences between Egypt and Israel, and bring home US hostages held in Iran. Some historians, however, claim that Carter is much older than he looks, pointing to portraits of Jimmy “Lestat” Carter from the 18th century and stating that he wears high-collared jackets to hide tell-tale vampire bite marks.

Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989

Actor turned politician, President Reagan sought to achieve “peace through strength,” increasing defense spending by 35%. After seeing a George Lucas film he was heard to ask, “How much would one of those Death Stars cost?” Shortly after President Reagan took office in 1981, he was shot by a would-be assassin. It’s said he developed his love of karaoke during his hospital recovery.

William Clinton, 1993-2001

President Clinton was the first Democratic president to win a second term of office since Franklin D. Roosevelt and sought legislation to reform the country’s health care system. Even though he dispatched peace keeping forces to war torn countries and campaigned against drug trafficking, President Clinton’s lifelong goal was never realized. It is said that he was bitterly disappointed when he did not get the part to play the saxophone-playing child in The Simpsons.

George W. Bush, 2001-

In his second term of office, the Blue Fairy appeared and tapped President Bush with her wand. He jumped up, exclaiming, “I’m not a puppet. I’m a real boy!”