Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

We didn't wind up going to the movie. Mom, my sister, and I went out shopping at Michael's, a grocery store, and a make-up salon called Ulta. I bought some Bare Minerals foundation -- the start-up kit, since I have no idea how to use the stuff. Kit comes with 2 jars of foundation, a jar of something called "warmth," three brushes, and a DVD explaining how to apply it.

Shortly after waking up and getting my coffee on the 27th (while I was writing the last post, actually), I noticed I had a scratchy throat. After shopping I came home and uncharacteristically took a nap. Woke up feeling worse. Got to use my Snuggee for the first time, 'cause I was having chills. Managed to make it through dinner, took some cold medicine and went back to bed.

We headed home the next day after brunch. I've been in my jammies, bundled up on the sofa with the TV on and the cat purring in my ear ever since I got home. I felt well enough today to go out and buy stuff for the little "party of one" I throw on New Year's Eve, but as soon as I got home I changed back into pajamas. I'm almost all right, except for an occasional chesty cough.

Now I'm gonna post this, log off, and curl up with the cat. Maybe I'll watch some of the stuff on my DVR. It's 58% full now.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Two-days-after-Christmas

Howdy! I'm in my sister's basement right now. Sorry, I mean "rec room" (inside joke). We got here just fine, though my parents didn't get to me until a little before three o'clock. They thought they'd be there around noon, and then I got a call from a town about an hour away at 1 pm saying they'd be to me in 45 minutes. The roads from here to the Lancaster area were fine, though it was a bit foggy in places.

Christmas Day we opened presents until around noon, I think, then played with our gifts until dinner time. Stretch cooked a crown roast of pork this year. I think next year he's going to fry a turkey--Ditter got him an electric turkey fryer. It looks like a Fry Daddy on steroids. Huge.

There seemed to be a few themes this year for Christmas: light, keeping warm, and bling. My mom gave us baseball caps with LED lights in the brim so that you can see where you're going. My parents also gave my sister and me wind-up flashlights. A lot of us got flannel jammies, and those fleecy blankets with sleeves (Snuggs, I think they're called. It's like putting on your bathrobe backwards.) I gave Mom and Dad a thing I found through Mighty Haus a while back. It makes burnable bricks out of newspaper. I figured they can use it in conjunction with their new coal and wood stove. And there was lots of jewelry to go around. And, based on a rant I emailed Mom about my slurping co-worker, I got a nice set of earphones. Yay! Now I don't have to raid my iPod every time I want to block sound!

Yesterday my parents took everyone to lunch at a place called Shady Maple. It's a smorgasbord. I was told it was large, but I wasn't prepared for exactly how large. Wow. Huge. And full. Mr. S. dropped us off at the front door and went to park, and we walked into what looked like a hotel lobby. I wish I'd brought my camera. I think the entire county was in there. After lunch we came home and most of us took naps. I played on the computer until everyone woke up again, and then watched TV with my mom and my sister.

Been a lazy few days. Today Ditter and I are going to see Twilight. 'Cause nothing says "Christmas" like vampires.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Kitty's in the doghouse

Running around like a nut trying to get packed and put together, one ear out for the phone (Mom promised to call me when they're about to head out), I walk into my bedroom and hear suspicious rustling. I turn on the overhead light and Delilah slinks away from the presents -- from Schatzi's present, to be exact.

Exhibit A

She got all the wrapping paper off except for one piece of tape on the back, and then chewed her way into the package. I'm mad and impressed at the same time. Looks like I'll be making a trip to the store before we head out of town.

They just called me as I was typing this. They're leaving now. If you wouldn't mind, please send good thoughts towards upstate Pennsylvania. The roads were all icy this morning, and it's still raining. My sidewalk is a mess but I don't know if that's any indication of what the roads are like. I hope they've cleared up some now that the sun is out and the salt trucks have been round.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pre-holiday freak-out

My mother just called to raise my blood pressure.

Well, that wasn't her intention but it sure was the result. She's at work right now, and has been looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow. It looks like her area's supposed to get freezing rain in the morning. She thought maybe she and Dad should leave this afternoon and stay with me overnight, then set out for my sister's house from here tomorrow morning.

Excellent idea, except for one thing. I'm not prepared for house guests right now. I'm trying to bake, wrap presents, do laundry, decorate for Christmas, and straighten up all at the same time. So springing a surprise visit on me right now? Not a good idea.

What was I going to say, though? "No, risk your lives tomorrow morning, I'm not set for company." So I said, sure, fine, come on down.

"Well, I have to run this by your father first, but I thought I'd give him this option, if it was okay with you."

"Sure!" I squeaked.

"He'll probably say we'll be fine tomorrow morning. So don't panic yet."

"Oh, it's too late for that."

She laughed and hung up. Called me back a minute later saying that the line was busy at the house, which means he's probably on the computer. I hung up, did a preliminary cleaning of both bathrooms, sorted laundry and threw a load into the washer, and started to unload the dishwasher. She called again.

"Still no answer at the house. I even sent him an email telling him to get off the computer and call me, but no dice. So I guess you can forget that idea. We'll see you tomorrow."

"Oh. All right."

"I was just thinking of safety."

"Yes, I know. You'll probably won't go down Wykoff Run if the weather's bad, yeah?"

Wykoff Run is this twisty-turny little two-lane road that goes up and then down a mountain. Very remote, lots of hunting camps on it. Dangerous in bad weather, probably, what with all the turns and inclines. Cuts about an hour out of the trip, though, which is why Dad uses it.

"Yes. Which means it'll take even longer to get to you. So. Sorry for the scare."

"No, it's all right. I need a poke to get me moving today. Got to get all sorts of stuff done, and I was having a hard time getting motivated. Thanks for the cattle prod."

"Anytime. See you tomorrow."

Whew. All right, gotta go finish emptying the dishwasher, clear off the kitchen table, finish wrapping presents, make more cookies, straighten the living room, clean the cat box, wash out and refill Delilah's water fountain, do more laundry, wash more dishes, pack, clean the bathrooms, change the sheets, empty the outdoor lint trap, and collapse. Not necessarily in that order. I should probably do the lint trap first, 'cause I'm going to need the dryer in a few minutes. Where are my shoes?

Here's an interesting little thing I found out today: my phone line is voice-over-IP, it comes from the cable company along with my TV and internet access. Before today, I've never had the TV on when the phone rang, so I didn't know that incoming phone calls get announced on the TV. When the phone rings, a little blue box pops up on the screen to tell me who it is. Neat, huh?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Can't wrap this

I could've used this a few days ago. All the Virginia and (now) California relatives got their presents mailed to them earlier this week. Monday night was spent sweating and swearing over wrapping paper, while the cat looked on in amusement.

“Can't Wrap This” video at DanceJam.com

Ah, yes.

The "California relatives" were "Germany relatives" until earlier this year. My Air Force cousin finally saw reason and is getting himself retrained again so that he can go back to babysitting the nuclear warheads. It's kind of scary when the safest place to be right now is next to the missile silo, no?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cookie recipe

As I promised in the comments of the previous entry, here's the recipe for the bar cookie that uses raspberry preserves. I found a recipe measurement converter online, so there are metric measurements in parentheses. I rounded up or down to one decimal point, when necessary

Raspberry Coconut Bars

3/4 c. butter, softened (170 g)
1 c. sugar (228.5 g)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (2.5 ml)
2 c. all-purpose flour (453.6 g)
1/4 tsp baking powder (1.2 g)
2 c. flaked coconut, divided (453.6 g)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (113.4 g)
1 12-ounce jar raspberry preserves (352.9 ml or 342.8 g)*
1 c. vanilla or white chocolate chips (228.5 g)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (177° C).
2. Grease a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan (33 cm x 22.9 cm x 5.1 cm. I looked around on Amazon.co.uk, and I think this would be called a brownie pan).
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Set aside.
4. In another bowl, combine flour and baking powder; gradually add this to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in 1 1/4 c. coconut (285.7 g) and the walnuts.
5. Reserve one quarter of the dough to use as topping. Press the rest of the dough into the greased pan. Spread with preserves. Sprinkle with chips and the rest of the coconut. Crumble reserved dough over the top; press lightly.
6. Bake at 350° F (177° C) for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Cut into bars.

This recipe says the yield is 36 bars. I think that may depend on how you cut them.

And personally, I don't think the white chips were necessary. I didn't notice them in the piece I ate. Also, the recipe didn't specify, but I used seedless preserves to save my gift recipients from getting jabbed in the gums.

*Not sure whether jam is measured as dry or liquid, so I did both conversions. Wish I hadn't already thrown the label away.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Tweets you see when you forget your phone

I went to the grocery store after work today armed with a list of things I need for the First Annual Baking Extravaganza here at Chez Vee. I was really wishing I'd remembered to put my cell in my purse before I left the house this morning. I can be much more tolerant of irritations when I am able to secretly snark about them to Twitter.

1) I need a bag of white chocolate chips. I'm finding every kind of chip but that. Chocolate in various forms (dark, semi-sweet, milk, with mint, miniature), butterscotch, peanut butter, cinnamon, but no white chocolate. Am I the only person in town who wants this? Surely there's more than just the recipe I'm using that calls for 'em.

2) I need raspberry preserves (same recipe, as it happens). I find the jelly aisle (after passing it twice), and am to stuck behind a man who is...well, the only word for it is bogarting. Yep. He is bogarting the jelly. I need one 12-ounce jar of raspberry preserves. I can see them but I can't get to them. He is standing in front of me (us, really. Other people are trying to get at the jelly, too) and a little off to my left, swaying, weaving, browsing, dreamily oblivious of anything except the burning question of what should go on his toast. He has a jar of something in his hand already, but he is (I guess) trying to decide if this is the right choice. Dude, it's jelly. Pick something and go. Or at least get outta people's way. He sways a little to the left and I see my chance. I dive in, snag my preserves, turn around and smile grimly at the mother of two (one child in the cart, one hanging off of the edge) who is about to take my place, and move on. And yes, before you ask, people have tried speaking to him. He doesn't respond to "excuse me."

3) Hey look! A whole display of baking items! Three tables' worth! One whole table is covered with varieties of chips from Nestlé, Hershey, Ghirardelli...and still no white ones. Blast.

4) I am now stuck behind a mother and son tag-team of slowpokes. They're meandering cartless up the aisle, looking at everything and finding nothing in particular. They put just enough room between them that I could almost get through, and then close up the gap again right before I decide to try. Mom mentions something to the boy about snacks for his hockey team, maybe something individually wrapped, so I'm guessing that's what they're looking for. As we get to the end of the aisle I will them to turn left. My mind to your mind, your thoughts to my thoughts..... Crap. They're turning right. And I still can't get round them. I duck down an aisle I don't need just to get away from them and get stuck behind them again two aisles later. What on earth are they doing in the frozen foods section? Are they gonna give the hockey team succotash?

5) Just for the heck of it, right before leaving I go back to the baking aisle one more time in search of my white chips. There's a cardboard display that I don't remember seeing before, and on the bottom, shoved way in the back there is one bag of what I'm looking for. I grab it, toss it in the cart, and scurry towards the check out line. Oop! The Slowpoke Hockey Mom just picked that line. Keep moving, try another one. Hey, look! Bogarter made it out of the jelly aisle. Out of curiosity, I get behind him and see what he chose: store brand grape. Aw, c'mon. For all that wavering, he could have at least bought something by Bonne Maman or Trappist.

6) Passing me on their way into the store as I leave it is a mother-daughter duo, going over their list of baking needs. I hear mother say just before the door shuts,

"Don't let me forget, we need white chocolate chips too."

Rotsa ruck, ma'am.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A LOLcat that makes me laugh

Who'd've thought a cat would eat a snow cone?

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

I liked this one so much, I downloaded it to my terminal and am going to use it as desktop wallpaper after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Public embarassment, bad dreams, and stupid ideas

or, "What the past few days have been like."

Occasionally I have an anxiety dream. It usually involves having to take a final in a class I didn't know I was enrolled in and now cannot drop. Don't know the subject, or the teacher, or even the building the test is in. I spend most of the dream running around campus trying to find this exam. If I find the room before I wake up, it's usually as some faceless voice is saying, "Pencils down." Test's over, I missed it. Then I wake up, and have to calm myself down by remembering I'm not in school any more.

Last night the dream had a new wrinkle. My report card came in the mail (I don't know whether I was a high school student or a college one). I got all A's except for one B+. My mother was ranting and raving about the B+, wanting to know how I could let this happen, this could ruin my future, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Here's the kicker--my mother? Was my old supervisor from a year and a half ago.


I told my fellow refugee from Hell this story and she said, "You are really letting that holiday party invitation get to you, aren't you?"

We'd just been invited the day before to the annual holiday "celebration" at the old office, and neither of us wanted to go. We're going, though, partly because there are some people there we'd like to see, and partly to keep good diplomatic relations between them and our people.

Then last night I had another doozy. All I remember from it is a bit about having to go to a morgue to ID my sister's body. And then I woke up sobbing. I had to talk myself out of calling her at three a.m. today to see if she was all right.

What the [bleep] is up, brain? Halloween was months ago, why are you scaring me now?

Then there's the fun bit on the bus this morning. It was raining quite heavily when I left the house. Everyone on the bus and all their belongings were dripping wet. I was talking to a friend and (now) neighbor as I went to get off at my stop (ahead of her, thank goodness) took one step and went jeet, BOOM! down the steps. Three of 'em. Hit my tushie on each one as I passed. I got to the bottom and, clinging to both hand railings, announced unnecessarily over my shoulder to the rest of the bus:

"The steps are slick!"

I drew the attention of people from 50 yards away, it was that impressive a fall. Bus driver asked me twice if I was okay, and then pulled up along side me as I was about to enter my building and asked if I was sure I was all right. I said, "Well, my bottom hurts, but I did just smack it three times. I'm fine."

And I am, for the most part. I'm going to have a beaut of a bruise when it finally shows. Right now it hurts a little if I shift in a particular direction, so I try not to do that.

When I got to work (after relating my story to my team, laughing so hard at myself that I was starting to tear up. I bet it looked hilarious!), I found Santa had stopped by. One teammate had given me shortbread, another gave me a bag of Jordan almonds and a big bottle of bubble bath/shower gel/shampoo. It's from a company called Philosophy, where my sister gets her perfume. Scent is Snickerdoodle. Food. Dessert, even. But I took a good whiff of it, and all I smelled was cinnamon. Not bad. It's a scent I think I can live with.

So tonight, after I got home and got myself some dinner, I decided to go soak my achy bottom in a bubble bath. I don't do baths very often. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've taken a bath since my mother announced I was old enough to start using the shower. I don't think I'll be doing it again soon.

Try this: Take a small stock pot, fill it almost to the top with hot, soapy water. Then, from a height of about three feet, drop in a bowling ball. The resulting mess will give you some indication of what the bathroom floor looked like when I sat down in my too-full tub. And I wasn't in there very long before I noticed some of me was getting cold, and the water was getting lukewarm. So I emptied some out, refilled, and proceeded to slosh around, getting even more water on the floor in the process. Turns out I couldn't really soak my achy bum because it hurt when I leaned back. Or moved forward. Or stood up.


So now here I am in my jammies, lying prone in front of the laptop on the floor of the upstairs hall (I'd brought it upstairs to play some nice soothing classical music while I soaked. Really, really glad I didn't put it anywhere in the bathroom, but instead left it outside on the carpeted floor, well away from Lake Snickerdoodle), smelling of cookie dough, with an achy behind, and afraid to go to sleep for fear that my brain's gonna toss me another hand grenade tonight.

So. How are you?

P.S. Ditter's fine by the way. She says dreaming about a death usually means there's a birth round the corner. She's been trying to make me Auntie Vee for a little while now, so, fingers crossed.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Nifty music widget

Blogger Buzz pointed out a nifty little widget from iLike. It allows you to make play lists and post them on your blog's side bar. I noticed (after trying a few of the links) that it allows 25 free plays of each song. I don't know if that's per IP address or total for the blog. I guess I'll see when (and if) we hit 25. Someone let me know when that happens, okay?

I like remakes, the odder the better. I just like seeing what happens when people put their own spin on someone else's song. Sometimes it becomes so popular, folks think it's the original. Take "Woodstock," for example. That's a Joni Mitchell song, but I always thought it was a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song until a roommate of mine played me Joni Mitchell's first album.

I found some of my iTunes playlist entries on iLike, but not all of them. I've listed nine. One I found while actively looking for belly dance music, the other I hunted down after hearing it in class (that would be "Rock el Casbah," and "I Put a Spell on You," in that order. The rest are ones I've heard on the radio, found on CDs I've bought, or heard on my sister's favorite Sirius satellite radio station.

Hope you like 'em.

P.S. Some day, when I know how to do it, I'm going to put a choreography together for "I Put a Spell on You." I wonder if it's long enough and slow enough for a sword dance. Ha! Like I know how to dance with a sword yet.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tag, I'm it

So Hotch Potchery gave me an award -- my first ever:

But I have to earn it. So here's the meme I have to answer for this award. I gotta tell ya, part of the reason I haven't posted in a couple of days is that the questions stumped me.

After being tagged for this meme, you must:

1. Say one nice thing about a man in your life.

Erm. First roadblock. What man?

I guess I can write about my father. I'm always impressed by how much he knows and can do. He fixes most things that break in the house all by himself (and unlike Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor of Home Improvement, we don't have to call in repairmen after). He and mom are finishing their house all by themselves, with occasional help from local Amishmen when it's a job my Dad can't do alone. Mom says so far the only thing he hasn't done is masonry, but that was before they put together a stone wall to cover the chimney box for the wood and coal stove they just installed.

2. List at least 6 ways that you measure (get it?) success in your life (or your blog):

And again, stuck. I really don't know how to answer this question, because I don't consciously think about success much. I'm more interested in happiness. Because you can be successful and still be unhappy (the head of the department where I used to work comes to mind. I suppose she's successful -- tenured, published, nationally respected, locally feared. She's also bad-tempered, sharp-tongued, and miserable), and that's really a yes-no question as opposed to a measurement.

So I spent a couple of days trying to figure out how I measure success. It's usually small things:
  • Did I finish a project, and am I pleased with the result (my latest scarf, for example)?
  • I have a whiteboard on the side of the fridge where I list to-do items related to the house. Are they getting done, or is the list just growing?
  • I used to beat myself up about my housekeeping, but I don't any more. I'm messy. Deal with it. So there's a former measure of success that I've abandoned because it makes me unhappy.
  • Except for the kitchen counter. By Sunday night, I need to have the counter completely clear and clean and ready to get messed up again the next week. I don't know why that is. It started when I moved in.
  • And I suppose last month I measured success by posting a blog entry at least once a day.
That's five. I can't think of a sixth. And I kinda cheated, cause one of them is a measurement I no longer use.

3. Assign this award to 6 other bloggers, and leave them a comment telling the blogger you've assigned them this award.

Hmm. All-righty. I'm not going to inflict this on six people, though, just two: JustMe of Peanut Butter and Bacon Sandwiches, and Strings of the String Section (she made the mistake of writing that she likes these things). Anyone else who wants to do this, consider yourself tagged. To get the award, right-click on the image at the top, save to your desktop (or wherever), and then upload it to your blog.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Just one word

Hotch Potchery got tagged with this meme, and didn't feel like tagging anyone else. I decided to tag myself. The point (I think) is to answer each question with one word only. Here goes:

Where is your mobile phone? kitchen
Where is your significant other? unmet
Your hair color? brown
Your mother? eclectic
Your father? talkative (my mom says Dad never met a stranger)
Your favorite thing? varies
Your dream last night? traveling
Your dream goal? 135
The room you're in? yellow
Your hobby? embroidery
Your fear? cancer
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Europe (just for a visit)
Where were you last night? home
What you're not? vindictive
One of your wish list items? makeover (preferably after I hit my dream goal)
Where you grew up? Philadelphia (suburbs)
The last thing you did? dinner
What are you wearing? clothes
Your tv? off
Your computer? laptop
Your mood? relaxed
Missing someone? no
Your car? nonexistent
Something you're not wearing? shoes
Favorite shop? Target
Your summer? eventful
Love someone? yup
Favorite color? no (I like 'em all except orange)
When is the last time you laughed? today
When is the last time you cried? dunno

Well, there you go. I'm not tagging anyone either. Feel free to tag yourself.

Monday, December 01, 2008


Done! I made it through National Blog Posting Month. I posted an entry at least once every day. Sometimes twice, but that's probably just enthusiasm.

Here's what I learned in November:

1) Wow, I'm chatty. Even when nothing's going on, I can find something to talk about if I try hard enough.
2) Writing more often makes me want to write more often.
3) Commenting on blogs is a way to make friends.
4) Provided you're wearing a good enough mask, you can tell your secrets to the Internet and you won't get struck by lightning.
5) No matter how many times I reread Lolita, all I'm ever going to see is an educated, snobbish pervert with an excellent vocabulary mourning over the girl who ran away after he destroyed her. Sorry, literature community. That's all I get out of it.

And with that, I bid you good morning. I have to go Christmas shopping now. I don't know whether I'll be able to keep up the post-once-a-day pace in December, but I think I'll be posting more than I used to. And I'm pretty sure I'll participate in NaBloPoMo 2009, provided Eden doesn't self-destruct by then. There were over 10,000 of us this year, and she added us all to the blogroll by hand. Someone needs some software, I think.