Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Super-Sense of Smell

. . . is NOT my favorite out of my superpowers.  I am far more partial to my super-sense of hearing, that allows me to hear gossipy women talk about me from two rooms over (gossipy women, beware) and to hear my children plotting things that they ought not.

Actually went to bed early last night, hoping to get a full eight hours.  At 4:09 AM (ironic; keep reading), I was awakened from a dead sleep by an awful stench:  one of the beasts (the well-mannered dog who almost never poops in the house) had decided to alert us to the fact that she is still having intestinal troubles by leaving a very smelly pile.  On my side of the bedroom.  Because she knew that I would wake up?  After all, it has happened before.  And it also makes me wonder:  if a fire breaks out in the middle of the night, and the smoke alarms fail, will I be awakened by the smell of smoke?  OR IS MY SUPERPOWER LIMITED TO SMELLING ANIMAL FECES IN MY SLEEP?

Anyway.  I punched Spouse (who can, and does, sleep through anything) and suggested that he take care of the dog mess.  My argument:  I had my bite guard in my mouth (yes, it can be easily removed), and if I had to smell the mess from close-up, I might gag, and if I gagged, I might choke on my bite guard, and possibly throw up, and I could aspirate the vomit, and/or the vomit would mix with the dog mess and make a bigger mess.  YES, I was reaching.  But Spouse is incredibly gullible when he is half-asleep.

Only problem is, when half-asleep, Spouse also has a tendency to half-a** things.  Thus:  he picked up the dog mess, flushed it, washed his hands (thank God for that), and then climbed into bed and mumbled, "There's a stain on the carpet.  You need to clean it."

Why me?

"Because that's what you do.  You get stains out of carpets."

True dat.  Stain removal is another one of my superpowers.  When we were moving out of our first married apartment and into our house, I was pregnant at the time, and my mother was very concerned about my hydration.  So she poured me a glass of some V-8 fruit-and-vegetable juice concoction that we had in the fridge - and she used the first vessel that she happened to come across, which was an opaque plastic travel mug (the kind they serve hot chocolate in at football games).  When I was half-finished with said concoction, my dad got a wild hair to help us pack.  (This almost NEVER happens.)  So he packed the mug.  He didn't notice that it sloshed.  I didn't notice that it was missing.  When we moved things over to the house, we staged boxes in the home office.  It was several days before we got to the boxes at the bottom.  You guessed it:  the box with the mug was on the bottom, and the mug leaked.  GINORMOUS REDDISH-ORANGE STAIN ON MY NEW (well, new to me) LIGHT-COLORED BERBER CARPET.  IN (of course) THE EXACT CENTER OF THE ROOM.

Did I mention that I was pregnant, and therefore hormonal?  Unfortunately for my parents, they were still in town.  I may have accused my father of ruining my first house and, therefore, my life.  Shrieking definitely was involved.  Then I became a woman obsessed.  Vinegar and water was applied.  Then a mixture of water and dishwashing detergent.  Much blotting followed.  The process was repeated, roughly, EIGHT THOUSAND TIMES.  I went through every towel in the house.  Spouse, at various points, attempted to physically (albeit gently) remove me from the general vicinity of the stain.  I refused to yield.  My mother, who knows me fairly well, told him to give up.  He gave up.  I did not.  AND I CHALLENGE YOU TO FIND THAT STAIN, because I nuked that puppy to the Stone Age.  (You'll have to look for it pretty fast, because the Berber is getting torn out shortly.  Bye bye, carpet, hello, stained concrete.)

So shortly after 4:09, I found myself, ironically, on my knees scrubbing my floor.  Not with 409, but with vinegar and water and a series of rags.  As it turns out, I was not far off on the gag-reflex prediction:  I failed to take out the bite guard, and I started to gag on it, and I was not ABOUT to remove it from my mouth using a hand that was sullied from poop stain-blotting, so I had to yell for Spouse to come remove it for me.  Kind of an amusing sequence, actually.  How my children slept through it, I'm not sure.  Apparently, sleeping through their parents' (and pets') weird nocturnal activities is their superpower.

Got the stain up, rubbed in a little baking soda paste for good measure (you leave it on, and then vacuum it up - it's quite effective) and then decided to spritz the air with this cedar-and-lavender spray that I acquired from The Container Store.  Very clean-smelling and odor-reducing . . . when used in moderation.  However, SOMEHOW, BECAUSE CLEARLY SOMEONE DID NOT WANT ME TO GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP, the spray nozzle was halfway unscrewed, and a bunch of the stuff leaked down the sides of the bottle before I could react.  So, instead of a horrible poop stench, we were left with a horrible cedar/lavender stench.  (Believe it or not:  jump ball.)

I turned on the ceiling fan.  I opened the window a crack.  EVENTUALLY, the stench dissipated.  But not before I broke out in hives.  (As you may recall, another one of my . . . um, I'm not going to call it a superpower . . . another one of my QUIRKS is that extreme smells can make me hive-y.)  So, if the smell wasn't enough to keep me awake, the itching was going to do the trick.

The moral of the story:  I was not meant to go to bed early.  When I do so, the universe goes dangerously off-kilter, and it finds ways to punish me.

Really, really odd and nasty ways.

Southern Girl 101: Sandwich Generation

Given that this is a post about being a Southern girl, perhaps I should have titled it "TEA Sandwich Generation"?

Mom had foot surgery on Friday, which means that she is wheelchair-bound until next Friday.  Being a good Southern daughter, I appointed myself chief cook and bottle washer for the duration.  In such capacity, I have been:

Baking.  A lot.  Chocolate walnut brownies, salted caramel bars, peanut butter buckeyes, pumpkin spice muffins (made healthy by the substitution of applesauce for the fat), etc.  Took those over to the house Friday morning, along with three houseplants (a basic green plant, a miniature rose and a kalanchoe) in decorated containers.  It was that or cut flowers, and - as noted in a prior post -  I'm more of a live plant girl.

Preparing meals.  And making sure to stagger my meats.  Because Dad's not much of a chicken guy, plus you want to introduce some variety.  Hence barbecue, followed by a really stellar chicken and mushroom lasagna (recipe to follow in another post), followed by pot roast, with some delivery Chinese thrown in.

Serving as meal traffic cop.  Neighbors and friends wanted to help out, as did my sweet mother-in-law.  Since it made sense for me to handle meal duties over the weekend when I was off of work, I took that shift, and plugged everyone else in around that.  Funny moment when the across-the-street neighbors, Roberta and Across The Street Bob, came over.  (Why is he Across The Street Bob?  Because my dad is also Bob.  Just Bob.)  Anywho:  Roberta and Across The Street Bob are Methodist, so of course Roberta came packing a cream soup-based casserole.  My dad found this notable, because (1) I am Methodist and (2) I have mentioned before the Methodist propensity to go the "cream of" route.  Call from Dad:  "They brought over a chicken casserole.  Pretty sure it had cream soup in it." 

Me:  "Which one?"

Dad:  "Um, cream of chicken?"

Me:  "NO.  Which CASSEROLE?"

Dad:  "Poppyseed chicken.  It was good - had some sort of breadcrumb topping on it."

Me:  "NO.  Not breadcrumbs.  RITZ CRACKERS.  Diced chicken, undiluted cream of chicken soup and sour cream, topped with crushed crackers, melted butter and poppyseeds."

Dad:  "Seriously?  You can just rattle that off?"

Me:  "Yup.  BECAUSE I'M METHODIST.  IT'S IN THE HANDBOOK."

Dad:  "There was a salad, too, with this mixture of nuts on top . . . ."

Me:  "Sliced almonds, toasted pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds?"

Dad:  "Actually, yes.  Now you're kind of scaring me."

For the record, the nut mix is not so much a Methodist thing as an Old Fort Worth thing.  It's called Tours Nut Mix, they used to make a salad with it at a restaurant of that name, and people still make the salad long after the restaurant bit the dust.  They even package and sell the stuff at local stores as "Tours Nut Mix." 

I assemble my own from the bulk bins at Central Market.

Running errands.  Actually, the bulk of the errand-running has befallen to Spouse.  God love him, he is a wonderful husband, son-in-law and grandson-in-law.

Loading and running the dishwasher.  Mom insists on unloading.  It makes her feel useful.

Setting up the coffee pot in the evenings.  Because my mother trusts my father to turn it on, but not to fill the water reservoir and scoop the coffee into the filter.

Looking after my grandmother.  The day of the surgery, this task also befell to Spouse while I was with Dad at the surgery center.  But then my phone rang, and the caller ID said "Schools," which meant that ONE of the boys had taken ill/gotten injured/gotten in trouble.  It was the older boy, and he was puking.  So Dad took over child duty, and I hunkered down with Grandma.  We watched the Golf Channel and "Grease", and I tried to get her to eat lunch, but she didn't want anything that I offered her, so I ended up feeding her peanut butter buckeyes on the theory that, hey, peanut butter is protein.  Since then, I have been in charge of laying the groundwork for her morning routine, which includes laying out her morning pills on a paper towel, placing a teaspoon to the left of the pills (for her morning coffee) and a small juice glass of water (with which to take her pills) to the right, and then circling the pills on the paper towel with a broad-tipped green marker.  The circle must be green, and you only set out the spoon for her, not the mug, because she likes to get the mug herself.  I didn't ask.  She's 93; she can do whatever weird stuff she wants, as far as I'm concerned.  Including lunching on peanut butter buckeyes at 3 in the afternoon after refusing a proffer of a sandwich or leftover stir-fried beef.

Spouse says that he reserves the right to divorce me at any time in the future, on the ground that "yo family be crazy."  To which I say:  "Right back atcha."

And I really wouldn't want to have it any other way.  Crazy families equal normality in these parts.
      

Monday, January 30, 2012

Things I'm Digging: Picaboo


Sorry, Shutterfly, but you have competition for my affections.

Spouse e-mailed me one day in December to check that day's Groupons, because there was an offer for $120 to apply towards two Picaboo photo books, at a $40 price point.  $120 worth of value for $40?  Sold.

Having created said books, also now sold on Picaboo, for the following reasons:

Flexible page layouts.  Shutterfly allows you to minimize and maximize image sizes and move them around the page if you opt to use their "Custom Path" product.  My computer does not particularly like Custom Path and frequently shuts down the program and gives me a weird error message when I try to use it.  With Picaboo, the ability to customize your image arrays comes standard.

A trillion (fully searchable) backgrounds.  Seriously, I think that they have a trillion of them.  I even found a kelly green background with horseshoes all over it that probably was intended for St. Patrick's Day (you know, horseshoes for luck, luck of the Irish) but that was perfect for PJ's school photos, since his school's colors are green and white and its mascot is the colt.  Found the horsehoes by accident, but the site is set up to allow you to search for backgrounds using keywords like "horseshoes," or "soccer," or "Easter eggs," or "purple."

Thick, glossy paper.   The image pages are glossy and colorful, and even the end pages are luscious.  Great covers, too.

The two books together ended up costing me $127, so I applied my Groupon (easily, with little drama - there was a "pay with a Groupon" button) and paid the $7 balance with a credit card.  Done and done.  If you stop to consider what it used to cost me to create actual scrapbooks (around $40 for the binder and page protectors, plus the cost of photo processing and scrapbook paper, frames and diecuts), even $60 a pop is a bargain.  AND they only take up a half of an inch (if that) on a shelf.

BIG fan of book-style scrapbooks. And even bigger fan of Picaboo.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Things I'm Digging: My Perfect "Brown-Adjacent" Ponytail


For some time now, I have been coveting caramel brown hair like Ashley Greene's above.

Only to discover that it's not, technically, brown.

Tomato, tomahto.  It's brown to me.

And I wanted brown.  Because, let's be realistic - you always want the opposite of what you have.  And I'm a natural blonde.  Hairdresser, Colorist Extraordinaire and Friend Marge reminded me of this when I pointed to the darkest hair on my head and said, "I want to be a brunette.  Make me THIS color."

"Okay.  Two inconsistent statements."

She then proceeded to pull out the color chart and prove to me that even the darkest hair on my head was still, technically, blonde.

Okay, point conceded.  But make me that color, and we'll agree to let me call it what I want, okay?

So my hair is now this shade of "brown."  And I love it.  Photo to follow, maybe, if I get around to it.

My hair is also now roughly as long as Miss Greene's.  So, after years of short and sassy or shoulder-length blonde hair, I am rocking long and sort-of brown.  Spouse digs it, but then again Spouse is going through his own midlife hair crisis:  he has grown a beard.  And I have decided that I like it.  So now he's not allowed to shave it off.

We have decided that we are going to tell people that we aren't actually living away from the house because of the lack of flooring.  Rather, we are in the witness protection program, as is evidenced by our drastically different hair.  But we are not particularly good at being in the witness protection program, given that we have advertised our new location to various and sundry folk.

We crack ourselves up sometimes.

I am also loving this gadget:


It's the "Perfect Pony."  A weird rubber tube thing that goes into the middle of your ponytail.  It's supposed to make your pony thicker.  Mine is thick enough as it is, but I like the Perfect Pony because it allows you to position your pony exactly where you want, and it stays there.  Likewise, if you pouf before you pony, it keeps the pouf in place.  Added bonus:  you only have to wrap the elastic around the rubber thing twice, so you don't feel like your hair is being pulled out of your head, as can be the case with a normal pony.
Best five bucks I have spent in recent memory.

The new hair color was not five bucks, but it was well worth the price as well.

I have been sporting the new look for two days now, and I can report that, to date, I have not noticed any measurable decrease in the amount of fun that I am having.  In fact, I would say that, thanks to the acquisition of my new Perfect Pony play toy, I am having measurably more fun than I had when I was blonde.  Or, you know, blonder.

Tomato, tomahto.

Adventures in Party Planning: Happier Than a Pig in Slop


Happier than a pig in slop, in that I am simultaneously:

Making tabletop tipis (not to be confused with table tents) out of papier mache and decorative cacti out of paper lanterns, silk fringe and terracotta pots, all in anticipation of the Reading Rocks benefit in two weeks;

Pinning puppy party ideas to a Pinterest board that Friend Melanie created for such purpose; and

Brainstorming ideas for: 

(1) Our house-reheating party . . . whenever that is.  Can't really call it a housewarming; house-reheating seems more appropriate.  Hmm.  Considering junking the current key motif for an oven motif.   Oven mitts?  With a ribbon tied around the thumb, and a key hanging on the ribbon?  It's a work in progress.

(2) C's confirmation party.  Thinking we need to celebrate the occasion with a small brunch for family and close friends.  Hopefully we'll be back in the house by then, so it's also an excuse to entertain in the new kitchen.  Currently leaning towards a measuring tape theme.  Allow me to connect the dots.  Ephesians 4:7: "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."  Get it?  Also, the kid's growing like a weed (three inches to go, and he's at eye level with Mom), and he's obsessed with math and probably a future engineer, so, yeah, going with the measuring tape.   Color palette will be black, gray and yellow.  Planning on ordering some of these cupcake toppers from Southern Soiree:


I can thread a white measuring tape through my yellow ribbon plate (like the one below):


Not sure what I'll WRITE on the plate - not the Ephesians verse, which I plan to paint on a canvas.  The menu, possibly?  Or maybe I'll just tape one of these cool paper rosettes from Sweet Pea Florals to the middle of the plate, and use the rest to decorate a wall or something:


This bad boy from HomeMadeKarma is totally going on top of the cupcake stand:


It's a measuring tape, and it's Origami.  Or origami-ish.  Origami-adjacent.

C lurrrrrrrves origami.

(3) A Breakfast at Tiffany's-themed brunch.  It has its own Pinterest board.  (Okay, full disclosure, all of my pending party themes have Pinterest boards.  But I'm particularly enthusiastic about the BaT one.)

(4) An Alice in Wonderland-themed luncheon.  This is the Junior Woman's Club Past Presidents' luncheon.  We take turns planning it, and this year it's my turn along with two other ladies.  As it happens, one had a "hats off" theme her presidential year, the other had a "reflections" theme, and my theme was "young at heart."  One of my co-planners hit on the fact that hats plus mirrors plus "young at heart" equals a through-the-looking-glass Mad Hatter's tea.  Needless to say, I practically turned backflips when she suggested this concept.  Already planning a photo booth using a frame like this one:


(Image courtesy of Over the Top Studios.)

(5) A magnolia-themed luncheon.  This one's a toughie, because it's a HUGE luncheon, with a crazy number of tables (of all shapes and sizes), and the budget's practically non-existent.  Basically, we're supposed to take an existing supply of silk magnolia stems and do something fabulous with them.  Fighting the urge to go all "Steel Magnolias" and line up boxes of red velvet cake and bottles of pink nail polish down the center of the rectangular tables.  The event chair (Friend Cynthia) has mentioned the concept of napkin flowers, and I found the instructions for making napkin magnolias online.  Mulling around in my head a pale green and yellow color scheme (mint juleps and lemonade - a proper Southern palette) . . . .  Maybe line tall cylinder vases with scrapbook paper in those colors (fairly sure that we have a ton of those at our disposal), "belt" each vase with a length of contrasting grosgrain ribbon and attach a paper magnolia to the front of the belt?

Still mulling . . . happily.  Like a pig in her proberbial slop.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stupid Paint Color Descriptions, Revisited

I read some of the annoying paint descriptions from last night to Spouse.  And, God love him, he was more irritated by them than I was.

"That's just stupid wine snob talk.  I don't want to punch this person in the mouth - I want to aim lower."

Throat?

"Possibly.  Or lower.  Game-day decision."

Spouse announced that he was coming up with his own paint color palette, to include Warm Pee (okay, he didn't actually say Pee), Cat Yak and Skid Mark (which he described as a rich brown, so that should give you an idea of what kind of skid mark he's talking about - and if you aren't familiar with the term, then you were neither raised with, nor are currently raising, a boy). "For my whites, I'm thinking Spoiled Milk, Toenail Clippings and Melted Ice Cream Caked Into Carpet."

I have said it before, and I will say it again - there is a reason that we are married to each other.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Holy Fan Deck, Batman!

Benjamin Moore has introduced a new collection of paint colors, called the "Color Stories" collection.

And one of the new paints is called Gotham.

You probably guessed that it's a dark gray.  Actually, BM's copywriter advises us that "with shifting daylight, it's deep taupe . . . sepia . . . weathered gray.  Yet it consistently works within the whole picture."

I'm thinking that, perhaps, BM's copywriter used to work for the J. Peterman catalog people.

And hey - I just realized that Benjamin Moore is "BM" and Batman is also "BM"!

Okay, apparently I am somewhat sleep-deprived.  But I am also obsessed with finding a new paint color for our master bedroom, one that will go with the new color in the adjacent bathroom . . . which I also need to find.  Specifically looking for a grayish, taupe-y lavender for the bathroom, but not a deep taupe that is also kind of sepia when it's not busy being a weathered gray.

Sepia.  That's just fun to say.  And type.

(Yup.  Sleep-deprived.)

BM's copywriter informs me that Gotham looks good next to Warm Sand, which looks like it could be a promising color for the bedroom.  Wonder what BM Copywriter has to say about Warm Sand?

"Quickly, I ran out of the surf to lie down on the warm, sun-drenched beach. What a relaxing way to spend the day."

Um, okay.  So Warm Sand looks like . . . warm beach?  Yeah, not telling me a whole lot.  But I am advised that Warm Sand looks good next to Cake Batter and Amaretto.  Okay, that just makes me hungry.  BIG fan of amaretto-flavored things, and also of cake batter.  So amaretto cake batter is kind of a home run with me.

And Cake Batter looks sort of taupe-y lavender on my screen.  But I can't confirm, because all that BM Copywriter will tell me is that the color is "sweet, creamy and decadent.  Sometimes licking the spoon is just as good as eating the cake."

Yeah, no kidding, Sherlock.

Okay, sorry.  I stopped blogging for a moment in order to raid the kids' stash of Little Debbie Zebra Cakes.  Because a Zebra Cake was the closest thing to amaretto cake batter that I could readily access on short notice.  And it was delicious.  Sweet, and creamy in the middle, and sort of decadent.  Not "Marie Antoinette at the Court of Versailles" decadent, but a cheaper and tawdrier form of decadence.

Hmm.  Amaretto cake is to Little Debbie Zebra Cake as the Court of Versailles is to . . . um, I don't know, a hotel a block off of the Vegas strip?

Anyway.  Cake Batter, I am advised, looks good beside Dulce de Leche.  Okay, seriously, ENOUGH with the dessert names.  At least the description of Dulce de Leche is SOMEWHAT descriptive:

"A delicious blend of caramel and cream tones that lends an Argentinian air whenever it is used."

Yeah, okay, that last part is just stupid.  "An Argentinian air?"  WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?  I'm officially fed up with BM Copywriter - who wants me to know that Dulce de Leche goes great with Dark Chocolate.  Well, DUH.  And, also, Dark Chocolate is not to be confused with Mexican Hot Chocolate, a color that BM Copywriter describes as follows:  "Generations of mothers and grandmothers have gathered around large iron pots to hand-whisk the frothy drink."  OH, WAIT.  THAT'S NOT A COLOR DESCRIPTION AT ALL.  THAT'S AN INVITATION TO GET PUNCHED IN THE MOUTH.

On the bright side, the string of food names ends with Mexican Hot Chocolate.  Mexican Hot Chocolate looks good next to Ally's Earring (inspired by a "single, heirloom pearl") and Doily ("Hand crocheted, this delicate item served as a resting place for the beautiful antique vase").  Ohhhhh . . . now I get it.  BM Copywriter is confused and thinks that he or she is a contestant on the game show "Password," as opposed to someone who has been hired to make me, the consumer, actually want to purchase paint products.  Versus actually wanting to punch someone in the mouth.

Which might give rise to a new paint color, "Bruise," the description of which could be, "The blow delivered to the speaking portion of her face resulted in a contusion that did not break the skin but resulted in some discoloration."

Going to bed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Countdown to the New Old House: Psychic Electricians and Advanced Course in Deck Chair Rearranging

C and I decided early on that "The LEM" was a good moniker for the apartment because, like the lunar module Aquarius (AKA "The LEM") on the Apollo 13 mission, it represented our lifeboat - cramped, confining and occasionally more than a bit vexing, but a safe place that in practical terms represented a step up from the ailing mother ship.  So we had a general sense that we would come to think of it fondly, and would give it a heartfelt salute before sending it off to burn up in the sun.

The Apollo 13 astronauts only occupied their LEM for four days. 

We have occupied our LEM for four months.  Actually, almost four and a half - and counting.  So it's not entirely surprising that the other day, apropos of not much, C announced that "the LEM is sort of home now, Mom."

Yup.  Agreed.

Spouse did not take kindly to this assessment - on account of how Spouse (like his seven year-old Mini Me) is a grudge holder, who, on some level, considers adjustment to be an expression of defeat.

I would like to think that the twelve year-old takes after me.  My philosophy:  wherever you go, there you are.  Might as well be comfortable for the duration.   So I understood where C was coming from, and I was kind of proud of him.  Also grateful to receive confirmation that my nesting efforts had  paid off, at least from one other family member's perspective.

The inspector from our mortgage company confirmed today what we already knew:  the restoration of our mother ship is less than half finished.  We have a general sense that things will progress quickly once we get over the hump - but we have to get to the hump first.

Standing between us and the hump:  a final engineer's inspection, some more wrangling over estimates and the mechanics of relaying the floors, yada, yada, yada.  If we could just get the danged floors down - THEN we would be cooking with gas.

But we aren't cooking with gas, or electric, or induction technology - on account of how the stove hasn't even been ordered, because there is currently no place to put it.

Metaphorically, and also literally.

I could curse the heavens, or sigh and wonder aloud if we will EVER going to get back in our house, but nothing like that is going to get us out of The LEM faster.  So I try to focus on the little things - like the fact that our electrician, apparently, is psychic.

On the day of our last city inspection, I found myself staring at the track lighting in our dining room, and the thought occurred to me that I REALLY HATE OUR TRACK LIGHTING.  It is functional, in that it illuminates the feature wall in the room.  But it is perhaps a little too functional, creating an overly harsh glare.  (Lovely Electrician Carlos confirmed my suspicions:  three lights on that wall equals overkill.  Two lights equals more than sufficient.)

Also, it is really, phenomenally ugly.

I thought about suggesting that we replace it with eyeball spots (two of them).  But then I decided that perhaps some battle-picking was in order.  So I held my tongue.

Call from spouse the following day:

"Carlos says that the track lighting needs to come out, at least temporarily.  Do you want him to put it back in?"

No, I do not.  On account of how we live in a 1920's Tudor, not the Playboy Mansion in the 1970's.

The day after that:

"So apparently once upon a time we bought a Craftsman lantern to hang where the ceiling fan used to be on the porch.  Want Carlos to install it?"

Yes, please.

The day after that:

"HEY!  Carlos installed the lantern over the front door, where the spotlight with the motion detector used to be."

Yup.  Noticed that when we drove up.  Noticed that the lantern looks really nice framed in the archway.  MUCH nicer than the spotlight with the motion detector that, design-wise, had an awful lot in common with the cursed track lighting.

"Did you put Carlos up to this?"

Nope.  Even better.  APPARENTLY, I AM CONTROLLING HIM WITH MY EERIE MIND CONTROL POWERS, because, pretty clearly, he is reading my subconscious thoughts.

And so we made haste to Lowe's, where a coordinating outdoor light fixture was procured to go where the lantern was supposed to go.  We also settled on pendant lights for the kitchen, and at Home Depot we acquired a bath fan with globe light fixture and multiple can lights.  Including can lights to replace the cursed track lighting.

In years hence, we shall refer to Saturday the 14th of January as "Lighting-apalooza."

By the way, I am getting very good at can lighting.  I know my insulation-rated cans from my unrated ones, and I understand the functional differences between, and optimal usage of, an eyeball, a baffle and a reflector trim kit.

I am available for consultations.  I also do weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Since Lighting-apalooza went down, I have been obsessed with crossing off other items on the pre-punchlist list.  You control what you can control, you know?  Hence the chart that I created on my computer, with wall plate specifications for each room on the left and columns for marking off quantities of single, double and triple toggle plates, rocker/GFI plates and the like.  It's all there - the model and SKU numbers, the unit prices.  Just not the quantities - because, after creating the chart, it occurred to me that, as part of the rewiring process, the outlet and switch counts changed significantly.  To complete the chart, I will need to go room by room and make note of the new outlet/switch situation - which isn't happening anytime soon, given that I still don't have a flippin' floor and therefore cannot progress more than a few feet inside each door, for fear of tumbling off of a plywood walkway and into the crawlspace.

So I must enlist the help of someone braver than me - like, say, one of my children - to confirm the outlet/switch situation.  Until then, the wall plate chart remains unfinished.  Not unlike my house.

I have found other deck chairs to rearrange on my own personal Titanic.  One of our favorite games these days is called the "There's No Better Time Game."  To play, you have to fill in the blanks in the following sentence:  "When you ____________________, there's no better time to __________________."

I'll give you an example:

"When you DON'T HAVE A FLOOR, there's no better time to EXTERMINATE YOUR CRAWLSPACE FOR TERMITES."

Then you write a check to the termite company.

That ends that particular round of the "There's No Better Time Game."  On to the next round:

"When you ALREADY HAVE AN ELECTRICIAN ON RETAINER AND SHEETROCK THAT LOOKS LIKE SWISS CHEESE, there's no better time to INSTALL CAN LIGHTS IN THE DARK CORNERS OF THE LIVING AND DINING ROOMS."  

The TNBT Game is a lot like Monopoly, in that it goes ON and ON and ON.  The TNBT Game is not like Monopoly, in that you use actual money instead of play money, and, also, a lot of rounds are played via telephone:

Spouse:  Did you try to call me?

Me:  Yeah.  Listen, at lunch, we were talking about J's fireplace and how she's thinking about building a hearth, and the thought occurred to me that, when you HAVE TO REMOVE THE WOOD TRIM AROUND THE TILE ON YOUR HEARTH IN CONNECTION WITH THE INSTALLATION OF THE NEW FLOORS, there's no better time to REPLACE THE TILE WITH SOMETHING MORE ATTRACTIVE.  A slate look, maybe.  And,  I dunno, we could replace the molding on top of the mantel with something a little more pronounced?

Spouse (not really listening, in that he is already planning on making his next move in the game):   Yeah, cool.  Listen . . . .

Me (still stuck in the last round):  Do you happen to know what size the tiles are?  They are small, right?  Like six inches square?

(By the way, our second favorite game these days is "Memory."  Our version does not involve flipping over cards.  It involves trying to remember the atomized details of the home in which we have lived for the last thirteen years.  "Does that door open to the left or to the right?  Is there a plug on that wall?  How big are those tiles?"  It's really quite pathetiicc.)

Spouse:  No, I think they're bigger. 12 by 12 possibly.  So the reason I didn't answer your call was that I was meeting with another foam insulation guy, and he's proposing hermetically sealing the crawlspace so it will have no ventilation whatsoever, and the underside of the house will remain a constant 67 degrees, without the need for insulation.

Me:  And this is something that we would want?  I mean, a constant temperature sounds good for the pipes.  But what if someone has to go down into the crawlspace?  Wouldn't they, you know, DIE of asphyxiation?

Spouse:  Um, well, you'd leave the trap door to the surface open.  That's something.

Me:  Is there literature on this?  Or are we just taking this guy's word that this is a good option?  And, also, how does he make his money if this process eliminates the need for insulation?

Spouse:  The foam's what they use to seal off the vents.

Me:  Ah.  That sounds . . . messy.

At this point, Spouse is getting frustrated, because I.  Am.  Not.  Seeing.  The.  Value.  Of.  The.  Foam.  Stuff.  So I decide to really frustrate him:

Me:  Long story short:  is this something that will save us a lot of money in the long run, or is it better for the house, or is it just a topic of conversation because it is cutting-edge, and you are fascinated with cutting-edge things?

Blunt, but a fair question:  Spouse is, from my perspective, easily distracted by bright, shiny objects.  And when he gets on a roll . . . well, let's just say that my deck-chair rearranging skills pale in comparison to his.   I'm still in the Masters program; he already has his PhD.

Which leads nicely into an explanation of the other part of the TNBT Game:  The Block.  If someone makes a "there's no better time" move when, actually, factually, there WOULD be a better time, then you have to call him on it.  Usually, I am the one doing the calling.  See "easily distracted by bright, shiny objects," above.

When Spouse has been getting quotes on crawlspace insulation, he has also been getting quotes on wall insulation - because THERE'S NO BETTER TIME.  However, since they install the wall insulation through tiny holes drilled into the exterior brick . . . THERE IS A BETTER TIME FOR THAT.

So I had to institute a Block.

And the game goes on . . . .   

I'm Officially Going to Hell - And I Have Company

The first grader's "read to Mom" assignment this evening was all about muffins.

And Mom's mind immediately went into the gutter - where the SNL "Delicious Dish" skit about Betty White's dusty muffin was playing on a continuous loop. 

"My muffin is yucky.  It is bumpy," said Katy.

[Snicker.]  You should go to the Health Center.  They have drugs for that.

AAAAAAAAND once the double entendre train left the station, there was no turning back.

"Don't be so picky," Jody said.  "I'll try it."

[Snicker, snicker.]  Ah.  The experimental one.  There's one in every bunch.

"Try my muffin," said Molly.  "It is fluffy and yummy."

My, my, my, Molly.  We sure are convinced that our . . . um, something . . . doesn't stink.  Let me guess:  you're a fan of landscaping?

Yup.  Irish moniker notwithstanding, pretty sure you're Brazilian.

[More snickering.]

For the record:  I did all of my snickering, and all of my double entendre-ing, in my head.  I kept a completely straight face for the entire duration of the six-page booklet.  And then, at the end, I said, "WOW, honey.  You did a really great job reading that.  You should go read it to Daddy."

"But I don't want to read it again.  It was kind of a stupid story, Mom."

"Oh, but I think that Daddy would enjoy the story about all of the different kinds of muffins, with all of the muffin-modifying adjectives.  You should at least let Daddy read the muffin story to himself."

The inappropriate person in my head is now rolling around inside my cranium, laughing her own personal head off.

You have to give the kid credit:  he KNEW that the muffin story wasn't all that and a bag of chips.  The look on his face pretty plainly said, "I don't know what you're so excited about.  And this bothers me."

But, dutiful child that he is, he brought the muffin story 'round to Dad.

"Um, Dad, Mom wants you to read this story . . . to yourself."

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three . . . .

AUDIBLE SNORT.  From three rooms away.

One thousand four, one thousand five . . . Spouse comes around the corner.

"Thank you for sharing the muffin story with me, Mommy."

"You're welcome.  We're both going to Hell - you know that, right?"

"Yup.  Save me a seat if you get there first."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Kid Stuff: The Education Gap

It exists, people.  The education gap that the media is so fond of referencing.

It exists in my house.  

Specifically, between my children and me.

C's school has figured out a way around the age-old dilemma of "do we teach the kids what we think that they should actually learn, or do we teach them the [insert name of current state-mandated skills assessment test]?"  They carve a short class period of out of each day (the "Star Period") that is devoted to test-teaching.  At the beginning of the year, they administer diagnostic tests and figure out who is behind in what subjects.  The students are then assigned to a Star Group that focuses on their weaknesses.  So, the kids who need math and science enrichment but are doing just fine in English and social studies get additional practice in math and science only, and so on.  Result is that actual class periods are used for actual learning, and no one gets bored to tears by being forced  to sit through remedial instruction that has no applicability for them.

C is one of the students whose tests revealed that he didn't need no stinkin' remedial instruction in any subject, thank you very much.  So his Star Group utilizes Star Period to work on individual and group projects that are designed to keep their creative brains engaged while benefiting the school community and Fort Worth in general.

(Are you starting to understand why we love our middle school?)

Currently, C and friends are planning a flower bed in the shape of the school mascot.  Geometry is involved, as they had to grid out the bed and figure out how many black and how many white pansy plants they are going to need.  Mom actually was able to contribute a solution to the problem of how to make the Yearling's mouth and nostrils stand out without utilizing plant materials that would blow the scale.  (Answer:  white marble chips for landscaping,  $15 for a 40-pound bag.)  Next step was to create a Power Point presentation that evidently C's group plans to send to a local nursery as a follow-up to an initial request for a donation of plant materials.

So, let's review:  my child is already proficient at community fundraising, which is an avocation of mine, but he is WAY BETTER AT IT, because his "ask" is presented as a FREAKIN' POWER POINT. 

Mom doesn't speak Power Point.  If I litigated, I probably would speak it - but I don't, so I can't.

Midway through work on the Power Point the other night, C asks:  "Mom, can you download an image of our mascot to this flash drive?"

Me: "Sure.  All you have to do is go to Google Images . . . ."

C:  "No,  I know HOW to do it, Mom, I just can't do it.  Dad installed an image blocker on my laptop, so really I just need to use your hardware for a sec."

Oh.  Um, points for Dad.

After downloading an image, we discuss where the plants ought to go, versus the rocks,  and I draw him a crude sketch.

C:  "Cool.  [Grabs my digital camera.]  Can I take a picture of your drawing and include it in my Power Point?"

Me:  "Fine with me, but it has my notes scribbled on it, and it's kind of messy. Maybe we could generate a similar drawing using Paint?"

C:  "Good idea."   [Dashes out of the room.]

I play with the image that we downloaded earlier, erasing the background around the Yearling and superimposing circles to represent the individual plants.

Me:  "Hey, come in here, and I'll show you what I'm talking about with the Paint thing."

C [from another room]:  "Did you save the image to its own file, erase the background and use the ellipse tool to draw circles where the plants need to go?"

Me:  "Um. . . yeah."

C:  "Already did it, saved it and plugged it into the presentation."

A few minutes later, I'm in the kitchen, he's curled up in a living room chair with a computer on his lap, and I hear a disembodied robot voice begin to read aloud the text of his Power Point.

Me:  "Um, honey, what's that?"

C:  "I thought it would be cool to automate the presentation to read  itself to the listener, but the free tool that I downloaded is worse than Dragon, and to get it to read some things correctly I would have to type a lot of the words phonetically.  Not worth the time, since I have to take an Accelerated Reader test tomorrow, and I need to finish the book that I'm reading - oh, wait, I just thought of a book that I read over the summer that is worth 30 points.  I could just take a test on that.  I think I remember most of the plot."

Me:  "Okay.  What book was it?"

C:  "Catch-22."

Me:  "JOSEPH HELLER'S CATCH-22?"

C:  "Is there another one?"

Me:  "Explain."

C:  "I checked it out of the library."

Me:  "Does Dad know that you read Catch-22?"

C:  "I think so. Maybe not.  Why does it matter?"

At this point, I am trying to remember if there is anything objectionable in Catch-22, or if I ever actually read it myself.  In high school?  Definitely not in sixth grade.

Me:  "Well, if memory serves, you were ELEVEN last summer, and Catch-22 is more of a high school book?"

C:  "Mom, it's a war novel.  It's really good.  A classic, actually.  A character says W-H-O-R-E in it, but that's as bad as it gets."

[???????????????????????????]

Before I can offer a rebuttal, the first grader inserts himself and demands my attention.

PJ:  "Mom, are you online?  Can you Google mangroves?"

Me:  "???????"

PJ [talking extremely slowly]:  "MAN-GROVES."

Me:  "Like the tree?"

PJ [sighing, still taking slowly]: " No.  Trees, plural.  Mangroves are a type of FOREST.  We're studying BIOSPHERES, and I want to show you a picture of a mangrove, because they are really cool."

Me:  "???????" [while dutifully Googling mangroves]

PJ:  "THERE. See that?  The trees grow out of the water, and fish live in the space between the tree roots, and these cheetah-looking cats - what are they called? - OH, YEAH, THEY ARE ACTUALLY CALLED FISHING CATS - THE FISHING CATS EAT THE FISH."

Shouldn't you be learning about colors right now?  And eating paste?

I try to recover.

Me: "Hmm.  This picture looks a lot like the river at Grandma's, where it passes under the bridge."

PJ:  "Um, yeah, Mom.  That's where mangroves are located - in river beds."

Recovery attempt #2.

Me:  "Makes sense.  I've never seen a fishing cat in Grandma's river, though - or one of these monkeys that they mention?"

PJ:  "Riiiiiight.   Because the monkeys are native to Brazil."

We're in good hands, people.  Really.   The next generation, THEY.  GOT.  THIS.

All I've got is a slight headache.  And a dawning understanding of where I stand in relation to the education gap.  Clearly, on the disadvantaged side.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Kid Stuff: Lawyers and Plumbers Are Interchangeable

Earlier in the week, we left PJ with his grandmother for a couple of hours while we retrieved the big kid from after-school Whiz Quiz practice and ran another errand.  Grandmother being a good grandmother (and experienced mother) made PJ finish his homework before proceeding to turn on the TV.

Homework turned out to be a writing assignment tied to the week's theme of "Career."  PJ had to answer the question, "What jobs do your parents have, and what do they do in those jobs?"

Grandma:  "Do you know what your dad does for a living?"

PJ:  "Yup, he's a lawyer."

Grandma:  "What about your mom?"

PJ:  "Um, she does something with pipes.  I think she's a plumber."

PJ then proceeded to write his essay and insert it in his backpack.  Grandma did not want to make a big deal over things and possibly upset him, so she waited until we returned and she was back home to relate the story to us via e-mail.

We chuckled a bit, and then inquired:  what does Dad do for a living?

"Lawyer."

What does Mom do for a living?

"Also a lawyer."

Is it possible that you told Grandma that Mom was a plumber?

"It's possible."

Why would you tell Grandma that Mom was a plumber?

"It's possible that I was trying to be funny."

He then showed us his completed essay (which we confirmed that he wrote on his own, without promptng from Grandmad).  It read as follows:

My dad is a lawyer.  My mom is a lawyer, too.  Lawyers help people with contracts and other legal matters.

Okay, fair enough.  Points for "other legal matters" and for recognizing that Mom is not the kind of lawyer who goes to court.  (Dad started out as one of those courtroom lawyers, and he still goes to court a fair amount, but his practice has grown to encompass a lot of business law as well, so an emphasis on contracts is pretty spot-on.  Apparently, the kid pays attention.  Situationally.)

And I guess I do have a lot in common with a plumber.  I spend a lot of time pushing through clogs - in the flow of information, in negotiations between parties - and I do put up with a fair amount of . . . um . . . yeah, you can complete the sentence.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Things I'm Digging: Star Wars Pancake Molds


They were a gift from my mom, and they are already a big hit with the boys - and with me, because they are quite effective if you use the batter recipe that comes with the molds.  (Gotta give Williams-Sonoma credit: they always include recipes with their cookie cutters and other molds, and the recipes actually work with the products.  See also, the sugar cookie recipe that accompanies their "message in a cookie" cutters.)

The boys love breakfast for dinner - and PJ now loves wearing his breakfast-for-dinner as a mask.


Yum.


Only hiccup is that I failed to bring a skillet with me to the apartment that was wide enough to accommodate the Yoda mold - so we had to make do with storm troopers and multiple Darth Vader clones.  (By the way, that isn't snot coming out of Darth's nose in the picture at top; it's melted butter, thank you very much.)
I'm going to experiment with Bisquick next, but I suspect that the buttermilk recipe that came with the molds may become a permanent part of our repertoire.  They weren't that much harder to make than box mix pancakes, and I always feel very virtuous when I bake from scratch.

Thinking about investing in an electric griddle when we move back into the house.  Having an induction cooktop limits your nonstick pan options, and I can't fathom making pancakes on a non-nonstick surface.  Also, an electric griddle would give me plenty enough room to bake Yoda (he of the elongated Ernie-from-Sesame-Street head and ginormous ears).  I would even have room to bake a Darth clone next to him.

Yup - definitely need a griddle.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sausage-Making Update

Inspector liked the foundation - wants a couple of plumbing lines tied up to the beams and joists in a few additional places, but we have the go-ahead to begin putting down the insulation underneath the subfloor.  
Inspector will come back next week and confirm that the plumbing tie-ups were done to his satisfaction and will sign off on insulation and electric at the same time. 

While we were there, lovely electrical contractor Carlos took me around my kitchen (well, as best as one can move around a kitchen with no floor - basically, I stood in one spot, turned in a slow circle and pointed at things), and asked intelligent questions: 

Do I want electrical outlets in my pantry, so it can be illuminated?  (Yes, please.) 

Are the shelves in the pantry modular, such that they can be moved to accommodate the plugs where they are currently located on that wall?  (EXCELLENT question, and one that will be passed on to Lamar the Cabinetmaker.) 

What's going on THAT wall?  (Non-cooking, office-type work space - need a phone jack and a utility plug.)

Do I want a light over my bar sink?  (Yes, please.)  In the cabinet, or underneath?  (Um, possibly both?)

Do I want a light over the kitchen sink?  (Nope - the can lights that we just installed should be all that I need.)

Then I asked him MY important question:  since we're re-sheetrocking basically everything, can we go around the house and make all of the outlet penetrations at right angles?  With the floors and with each other?  So, say, the two cockeyed light switches in the hall (one works the attic light, one works the hallway light) are actually straight and parallel?

Answer:  Yup.  I LOVE YUP!  It's such a beautiful concept.

Also love the concept of outlets and light switches that don't look like they were installed by a group of baboons working in the dark.  While intoxicated.

Countdown to the New Old House: This Is How the Sausage Is Made


Thought I'd provide a little tour. Starting at the front door: check out our mail carrier's helpful reminder to himself. "VAC," I believe, stands for "vacant."

Lovely. Thanks for advertising.

Here's our red tag.


Hopefully it's coming out of the window TODAY, Wednesday the 11th of January. HOPEFULLY.

This is how you walk through the living room and dining room:


I will go as far as the plywood rectangle on the right.  And then I stop, retreat, and enter through the back door.  Although entering from the rear has its own unique challenges.  THIS is our home office:


The home office is affectionately referred to in our family as "The Island of Misfit Fixtures."


MESSAGE TO CONTRACTORS:  the ceiling fan can go to ReStore, because, frankly, I don't have a place to put it.  BUT I WANT THE PULL-DOWN SPICE RACK.  That sucker can, and will, be repurposed.  Possibly in my new craft closet.

Hey, look!  I have an electrical outlet over my mantel now!


Thanks, City of Fort Worth, for requiring an electrical outlet . . . um, every so many linear feet.  I didn't pay attention when Spouse told me how many feet.  All I know is that I have a plethora of (THREE-PRONG!) outlets now, including one that will permit me to illuminate my holiday garland.  Woo hoo!  And, yes, I am excited about three-prong outlets, and you would be, too, if you lived in a house that was pushing the century mark.  I already had them in some rooms, but not in others.

Not quite as thrilling:  the inexplicable chunk taken out of the molding and wallboard in the living room.


It looks like the work of a drill . . . but why was a drill anywhere near the ceiling?  Did they accidentally drill DOWNWARDS when they were pulling electric in the attic?  Seriously, people, there's enough sheetrock to patch and baseboards to replace without you screwing up other junk.

An example of an area where a sheetrock patch is required:


THIS hole excites me, because . . . THIS hole is where the old junction box used to be.  The box that became superfluous when they built the addition and moved the fuse box outside.  The box that, years ago, I was informed could not be removed, because it contained capped-off wires, unless we completely redid the electric.  HA!  Gauntlet accepted.  Electric redone, and awkwardly place junction box GONE.  GONE, BABY, GONE!   Along with the hideous ugly metal door that covered it.  Sayonara!

Remember reading in the Bible about Joseph's "kitchen of many colors"?  Well, here it is in all of its glory!


What's that you say?  It was a coat?  Okay, but you have to admit that, right now, my kitchen has MANY HORRIBLE CLASHING COLORS.  You have:  the pumpkin orange (that would be the current wall color); the Pepto-Bismol pink that the owner before our seller favored; the Martha Stewart green that was Owner Twice-Removed's go-to when the Ugly Paint Store ran out of pink; some segments of unfinished wood; the wallpaper (contributed by the immediately prior owner) that we left behind the refrigerator when we texturized and painted because we were too lazy to move the refrigerator; and the tile backsplash that looks absolutely ridiculous floating in mid-wallspace.  It's all going bye-bye.  I am told that it's entirely common to install cabinets on top of whatever wall surface or color happens to be there, but I am seriously considering having everything textured and painted the same way so that some theoretical future buyer, should they need to move a cabinet or appliance, will be surprised and pleased to find a kitchen of ONE uniform color.  It's my little way of paying it forward.

Here's the hallway leading out of the kitchen.  What to look at first?  The horribly chewed-up door molding in the foreground?  The horribly chewed paint in the lower corner of the wall?  The fact that the doorway molding (original to the house) was separated from the wall when the baseboards came out?  It's all being repaired and repainted, people - so focus on that gorgeous LVL board that was installed to shore up the original beams.  I HAVE LVL BOARD - just like the people on HGTV! 




Look!  An electrician signed the wall.  Because, apparently, Blackmon Mooring did not box up the chalk on the picture molding, and the electrician mistook the entire wall as a chalkboard.  (Actual chalkboard to which the chalk related now hangs in the foyer here at the apartment.)  Or maybe he was just REALLY PROUD of the work that he did in the hall (although I note that, while he has removed one of the three uneven plug and switch covers on that wall, he didn't straighten up the remaining two . . . and so the "sheetrock patch" portion of the punch list expands).

Perhaps he read the part above about everything getting repaired and repainted.

Here you see boxes and boxes of hardwood flooring stacked in a bedroom, getting acclimated to the house.
  

Small problem:  the wood inside turned out to be the wrong color.


Wood on the left:  the original wood (as damaged by 130,000 gallons of water).  On the right:  some red s**t that does not remotely resemble the sample.  We took it back to the showroom, and they agreed.  Apparently, the manufacturer applied the stain to red oak instead of white oak.  We selected a darker shade that is supposed to camouflage variations in natural wood colors - but the manufacturer is also getting a stern talking-to.

While we were at the showroom, we visited our kitchen floor and held it up to a dark wood, similar to the lower cabinets. 


Then I saw a large slab of the granite I was planning to use and decided, once and for all, that I didn't like it.  Too yellow.  I have been living in denial, but no more.

The quick trip to the showroom became a LONG trip, but I THINK that we have settled on an engineered granite (Cambria) product that brings out the reddish-brown in the lower cabinets, the putty color on the upper cabinets and the pale green that is going on the walls.

Yeah, I know, it looks busy in the small sample - but I have high hopes.  Bigger sample is on the way.


Spouse drove the (female) showroom rep crazy with his various, way-out-there product suggestions.  It was refreshing to listen to someone else tell him,  "Listen.  You have a lot of pattern in the floor, and a two-tone cabinet thing going on, so - while the granite that you are holding in your hand is beautiful in the abstract - IT WILL COMPLETELY DERAIL YOUR KITCHEN, AND YOU NEED TO LISTEN TO YOUR WIFE, BECAUSE HER INSTINCTS ARE REALLY, REALLY GOOD."  Okay, I'm paraphrasing - but not a whole lot.

Spouse did resolve the backsplash dilemma, when he brought over a sample of a way-too-contemporary metallic tile.  On the BACK of that sample was a sample of a coordinating product utilizing the same tile in very thin widths, translating into a backsplash that is the correct color for our kitchen and that also has a little bit of modern flare to it, while still reading "traditional."  Consultant and I LOVED the B side of what Spouse picked (and Consultant and I rejected).

Spouse insists that all of his random stumbling-in-the-dark behavior up to that point was just a warm-up.  "I was working up to that backsplash."

Of course you were, honey.

Progress being made on all fronts. And sausage SLOOOOOOWLY being stuffed back into its casing.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Shadow Boxes Are a Gateway Craft

At least, that's what the twelve year-old tells me.  And  I guess he's not wrong.

First art project of last weekend:  these shadow boxes.


The boys' "old" bathroom featured initial canvases from Pottery Barn Kids, but the colors are wrong for the "new" bathroom.  Friend Robyn spotted these letter plaques at Hobby Lobby.  The price was right at $6 for the two of them.  But I wanted to beef them up a bit - so I bought two white shadow boxes on sale for $14.99 each at Joann, along with two sheets of dark brown mulberry scrapbook paper.  A little hot glue (and some McGyver action to make them project from the background for a three-dimensional effect), and we were done and done - for under $40 for the pair of them.

Next, I stenciled a canvas to hang on the same wall:


Not sure that I love it, but it's growing on me.

Then I painted the four canvases that will form the base of our Reading Rocks table centerpiece.  The inspiration book:  Polka-Bats and Octopus Slacks.  


Canvas #1:  "Kansas City Octopus."


I didn't get his head exactly right, but did I mention that I gave myself three and a half hours to finish all four?  And that I did everything freehand?  But, if asked, I will swear that I meant for my versions to look different.  You know, artistic license and all.

Canvas #2: "Funky Snowman."


Canvas #3:  "The Bathtub Driver."


Canvas #4:  "Mulligan Poker."


I screwed up his jaw.  Again: free-hand.  But this is probably my favorite one.  Can't really articulate why.  He just makes me happy.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Things I'm Digging: LEGO Brings Back the DC Crew


Oh.  My.

LEGO is bringing back Batman . . . and he's bringing some friends along.

Stumbled onto a press release for the LEGO 2012 DC Universe Super Heroes collection.  Which, among other products, includes these oversized, Bionicle-type buildable figures.


Oh.  My.  Indeed.  Over/under on how many sets follow us home from Super Target?  Gotta get 'em while they are available.

Momma has her eye on the Superman vs. Power Armor Lex set:


I could give a rat's patoot about Superman, Lex or his power armor, but I have to have a LEGO Wonder Woman.  End of story.

Apparently, a sequel to the LEGO Batman video game is coming out at some point this year - also featuring Wonder Woman.

I predict that that one will be purchased with allowance money the day that it is released.   Further prediction:  one dollar of allowance money will be applied in advance to buy a reservation card, thus guaranteeing that the game will be acquired the day that it is released.

Oh, boy, oh, boy.

Weekend of Jubilee

Stayed up late Friday night . . . then slept in.  UNTIL. 10. AM.  First time in at least five years - probably more like a decade.

Also stayed up late Saturday night as well, but couldn't sleep in due to church plans.  That's okay, though, 'cause I took an afternoon nap.  BOO YAH!  Sleeping in and napping in the same weekend.  Unheard of.

Took down the Christmas decorations Saturday morning.  Then sent the boys (big and little) to:  retrieve a ranch truck; shuttle the Christmas decorations back to the mother ship; return the truck; and do my grocery shopping.  That gave me a lot of time to myself (particularly because the trip out to my mom-in-law's turned into a trip to deliver her donation items to Goodwill, and I also have it on good authority that the big kid got to practice his driving - yes, he's only twelve, but if you start him out in the right place there's nothing that he can hit except cows, and they are pretty good about moving out of the way).

So I:

Made three pieces of art for the boys' bathroom, started experimenting with paper mache projects for Reading Rocks,and created my half of the ten-top table centerpiece that Friend Robyn and I volunteered to make on top of our general duties as decorations co-chairs.

Baked white chocolate gingerbread cookies.

Put up meals for the week (chicken paprikash, Rachael Ray's Indian summer chili, filling for quesadillas).

Cleaned a little - but only a little.

Did some billable work.

Watched football.

Read the first 100 pages of the second book in the "Percy Jackson & The Last Olympians" series (C's favorite book series, so I promised him that I would read them, and I have to say that I get why he likes them).

Finished two Picaboo scrapbooks - just have to put them in my online cart and apply my Groupon, and they will be in hand in five business days or less.

On Sunday, we popped in at my parents' after church and ended  up ordering in Chinese takeout.  My fortune cookie fortune told me to take note of the date that was three months away, because good things would happen on that date.  Took me a minute to do the math and realize that three months from 1/8/12 coincided with my birthday and Easter.

Pretty cool.

After taking my afternoon nap (BOO YAH!), I helped the Big Kid with his science project (engineering-based, focusing on methods of earthquake-proofing tall buildings).  Nothing like spending a couple of hours of quality time constructing skyscraper models with a twelve year-old to put the cherry on top of a weekend. (Seriously, I like stuff like that.)

Hoping that the week shapes up to be half as productive and enjoyable.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Countdown to the New Old House: Mad About Molding

For a change, I'm mad about something related to the house in the good sense of the word.


This, ladies and germs, is a 42" upper kitchen cabinet - primed only, and lacking a door, but will you look at that molding.

Hello, lover.

Once upon a time, I told Lamar the Cabinet Guy, "I really want crown molding," and I waved a sample image in his face for, like, a nanosecond.  It did not matter, because Lamar is THE CABINET WHISPERER.  In addition to being a mind reader and, also, the bomb diggity.

This is exactly what I had in mind.   And this is the molding that is going to make the rest of the crown molding in my house look sick.  I will probably spend a bazillion dollars upgrading other stuff to get it remotely in the vicinity of this molding.  But, right now, I don't care.

Imagine how excited I will be when there's an equally awesome door attached to this bad boy, and when everything is painted Benjamin Moore's "Refined."  Isn't that a fantastic name for a paint shade?  Makes you feel good about yourself for having selected it, since, you know, the paint reflects the purchaser.  (Okay, I made that up.)  "Refined?  Well, yes, I am.  Thank you so much for noticing."

I can't adequately describe "Refined."  It's technically a white, I think, but it's like one of those Farrow & Ball whites that look white against darker colors but stand on their own as a color in other circumstances.  I guess you could call it a gray, or a beige - or a greige.  But it definitely has some green in it.  Sometimes I think it's yellow.  I have it painted on a board (a piece of the maple that Lamar is using for the upper cabinets) next to a swath of the color that I am going to paint the kitchen walls, and I walk around the apartment and hold the board up to different light sources.  It appeals in all contexts.  Although I am terrified that I will hate it when I actually have a ton of it in my kitchen, but Lamar assures me that I made a good choice.  (He's a guy, so he doesn't use descriptors like "a greige with a greenish cast," but he did recognize it as "one of those whites that isn't really a white," which puts him far ahead of Spouse, who - bless his sweet little heart - only had the eight-crayon box as a child.)

Kitchen walls will be Benjamin Moore's "Wind Chime."  "Wind Chime" is one of those paint names that sounds pretty but isn't particularly descriptive.  I'll cut to the chase:  it's a cloudy pale green with some aqua in it, to harmonize with the adjacent dining room, which is a cloudy pale aqua with some green in it.  I am terrified that when I go in to buy the paint, or send someone to do it, I will slip up and request "Tea Leaf," which is a similar color that I have decided is too aqua and doesn't contain enough green.   Which is weird, because "Tea Leaf" actually has the word LEAF in it, so you would think that it would be greener, right?  I can remember the name "Tea Leaf," precisely because it has a context clue for green embedded in it.  I have to struggle to remember "Wind Chime," because, based on 41 years of observing wind, it doesn't seem to have any color associated with it whatsoever.

Maybe I should write "Wind Chime" in Sharpie Marker somewhere on my person so I won't forget it.   Oh, wait, I just blogged about it.  So perhaps I should write "January 7th blog post" on my person in Sharpie Marker, so I will remember where to look.

The name of the stain for the lower cabinets likewise doesn't match the color itself.  At all.  Yet, somehow, this makes me remember the name?  Because, seriously, people, my mother-in-law inhabits an Arts and Crafts ranch house straight outta Frank Lloyd Wright that is stacked to the rafters with Stickley furniture, and her son and I share her affinity for all things Mission and all things oak.  So believe me when I say that Sherwin Williams' "Mission Oak" is completely misnamed.  It's espresso.  Period, paragraph.  But it's what I want for the lower cabinets and the pantry.  And I can remember the name because it's "Mission Oak."

PJ went with me to Sherwin Williams.  He absorbed snippets of my discussion with the SW reps about "Mission Oak" (the name of the stain) and "Mission Oak on Cherry" (the relevant sample of the stain on the sample card, since the cabinets are cherrywood).  Specifically, he absorbed, and retained, the word "Cherry."  BECAUSE HE'S BUDDY THE ELF.

Lamar the Cabinet Guy:  What stain did you pick out?

Buddy [playing on the steps in the front yard while Lamar and I talk]:  Cherry.  I went with her, and she picked Cherry.  Like the fruit that they put on ice cream and in Sonic drinks.

God, I love that kid.  Now arriving:  the one-track mind.  One-track mind arriving on Track . . . well, I guess that would be Track One, huh?

I like cherries, too.  And I'm fairly sure that the molding on my cabinets will be the cherry on the sundae that is my new-old kitchen.

Friday, January 6, 2012

At a (Happy) Loss


No one in the immediate family is participating in a sporting event this weekend, nor are we planning to attend any. 

We don't have tickets to anything at all. 

No one's having a birthday party. 

I don't owe any organization any volunteer hours.

I am nonplussed.

Occasionally, I find myself looking forward to a weekend that, a few days out, appears unscheduled.  But then, inevitably, events start to stack up.

It is 3:57 pm on Friday.  And nothing is stacking.

And I'm rapidly progressing from nonplussed to giddy.

Okay, so I skipped lunch, meaning that I have to go to the mall on the way home to return the second of the Hoodie Buddies that the elves ordered the week prior to Christmas.  (Because, I am informed by the Ship-to-Store Gods, if I do not claim said item by the end of the day, they will "send it back."  But what does that MEAN?  I already paid for it.  Am I to assume that part of "sending it back" will involve crediting my card?  You know what they say about assuming.  Well, actually, about "assume."  Anyway, I am going into the store to take care of things.)

Then I am meeting Lamar the Cabinetmaker and Spouse at our actual house, where I will be introduced to my new cabinets.  Well, cabinet, singular.  A door, actually.  Lamar wants to make sure that he got the molding right.  We're also going to play with stain and shellac.

Yay.  Progress.

And then what?  Oooh, I know, dinner out - utilizing one of the many restaurant gift cards that we never seem to remember to use.  I can feel good about having dinner out on a Friday.  I don't feel quite as good about dinners out on Saturdays, because, theoretically, I have the entire day to plan and make something.  Compare and contrast with a weekday.  That's when dinner out really comes in handy.

On the way back from dinner, I'm going to buy some stretched canvas.  And then I'm going to go the apartment, and, I think, actually do nothing.  Until I feel like going to sleep, and then I will go to sleep and JUST WAKE UP WHENEVER THE HECK I FEEL LIKE IT.  Probably at some point on Saturday morning - but who knows?

I will probably clean a bit (the sure sign that you are a busy working mom:  you actually get excited at the prospect of having time to clean), after taking down the remnants of the Christmas decorations.  Some of which I will drive over to our actual house, and I'll pick up around the yard while I am there.  That will take care of working out - bonus.

I'm definitely going to paint, and work on centerpieces for Reading Rocks.  Yay, crafts!  I will get some actual billable work done, too.

I might do some grocery shopping - or send the boys (big and little) out with a list.  Then I could bake, and make soup.

Critical points:

1.  Strictly speaking, I don't have to do any of the above.

2.  I can do things in, basically, any order that I choose.  (Well, taking into account the laws of physics.  It would be hard to bake with ingredients that are not actually in my possession, because no one has gone to the store.  But you get my drift.)

3.  I can add things to the mix.  Fun, spontaneous things.  I could call up my parents, or some friends, and say, "Hey, let's get together for no particular reason!"  That almost NEVER happens - unless we have car trouble and have to call for rescue, or some other ultimately-happy accident occurs.

4:01.  Yup.  Definitely giddy.

(By the way, appropos of not much:  "nonplussed" is quite possibly my favorite word of all time.  Why?  Because it started out meaning "perturbed," and then, for some inexplicable reason, and on some unspoken signal, everyone collectively started using it to mean "unperturbed" - thus, the bipolar dictionary definition reproduced above.  See?  Meaning #2 is the polar opposite of Meaning #1!  Isn't that hilarious?  Okay, it's hilarious if you're a total word geek.  And a giddy word geek, at that.

Why did we change the meaning?  Who knows?  See "inexplicable," above.  HEY, WE'RE AMERICANS!  We don't need no stinkin' badges, and we don't need reasons to corrupt our language. 

Although, based on the Italicized portion of Meaning #2 above, the Canadians may share the blame with us on this one.  Just sayin'.

Giddy word geek, signing off.)