Friday, December 31, 2010

Martha Stewart Would Surely Cry!

But I did not. Ugly though it was, after it's unfortunate collision with . . . --my open purse! on the floor- -. . . my family and I still managed to enjoy this Kahlua Expresso Chocolate tart. It WAS still mostly intact on top of the bottom of the tart pan, and the floor was relatively clean. (Literally, moments before, I had cleaned up the clean (filtered, even) water that had poured from my refrigerator all over the floor. (Yeah, it was me that spilled the water.I was THINKING, deep thoughts, while filling a glass of water.))

But, Note to Self: It's NEVER a good idea to leave my purse lying around, open. I've had even worse "issues" with it in the past which should have thoroughly taught me a lesson by now.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tolerating the Parents

Tolerating the parents is a tough job, but someone's gotta do it!

Wish I could get the remote/focus working a little better, though. . .

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas 2010 and Pandemic!

I love this game, and of course, these people! And what a way to spend Christmas eve and Christmas night!

Our tradition is that on Christmas eve we get to open ONE present each, and usually direct each other to something we can share together. That often means a game of some sort.

This year, I opened "Pandemic" a board game by Z-Man Games. This is how it's described, "You are specialists at the CDC/Atlanta where you watch several virulent diseases break out simultaneously all over the world. The team mission is to prevent a worldwide pandemic outbreak, treating hot spots while researching cures for each of the four plagues before they get out of hand."

This particular game has a common goal, rather than individual competiveness; you have to develop a strategy of containment and eradication, together. This is about as opposite as you can get from a game of Monopoly or Risk, and I love how the dynamics elicited are so much more. . . well, cooperative!

The first night, we all died, and the world was wiped out. It actually was quite discouraging. . . .

But Christmas night, we triumphed and saved the world!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Please Don't Tell Them There's a Cure for Over-Compliance Disorder!

This is my little Christmas Gift to you; I'm sharing with you sordid details about two Sufferers of Over-Compliance-Disorder. Once I discovered they have this disorder, I've felt that I've had no choice but to exploit them mercilessly for your entertainment.

I got the Anonymous Doug (his real name) to prance into my office, wearing reindeer clothes, to deliver my present to the Anonymous Sheila (her real name)--not once, but twice! First, Doug had the unfortunate experience of arriving too early, before my camera was ready to capture him in the wild, and allowing him to encounter the General Public (although I had PROMISED him this would not happen.)

So after he was totally mortified, he agreed to re-create the event with the Wonderful Anonymous Sheila (her real name), for your edification and enjoyment:

But since I am mercilessly exploiting them anyway (but only in the spirit of Christmas gift-giving to you!), I thought I'd also include a few links to their past. . . . ummmmm . . . . . Compliance Behaviors.

Remember the ShamWow! battle? Here's the link: Oh-Woeful-day Shamewow Evil

Or how about the Gamboling and Cavorting in the Fountain: Gamboling & Cavorting

I want to make two final points which are particularly important should you acquire your very own Over-Compliants:

1.) Never promise not to use the photos, unless it will further your aims;

2.) I've never actually hurt them! (That little episode with the arrow in my brother's head doesn't really count; I didn't get to photograph it! . . . but maybe he'd consider a re-enactment. . . . ?)

Merry Christmas to All and To All A Good Night!

Happy Birthday, My Sweet Barnes & Noble Nook!

You know how we throw around the words "I love. . . !" so much, like I love my phone, my camera, my paint. . . .

Well, with my Nook, it really is a love affair! It's officially one year old today, and I was one of the "early adopters" with all kinds of initial angst. But there have been software updates, and features added that I never expected in the first place. . . . and I've read and read and read (not to my heart's content, because I don't think that could ever happen!)

But, oh, that library feature! It's just so wonderful to be able to access free books through your public library, and get to read the books on your Nook. I can bring hundreds of books with me, with just the weight of one paperback! And *poof* the book magically goes back to the library without me even having to drive there when I'm done! (Plus, I can check the books out, in my pjs, at two in the morning, if I want, right from the comfort of sitting by my Christmas tree!)

So many books, so little time!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"There must be some kinda way outta here!"

"There must be some kinda way outta here!"---Bob Dylan, All Along the Watchtower

I'm with you, Santa! Time to put our feet up and take a break from the Christmas merriment/preparation.

And here's a few shots from outside the front of my house, at 1:36 am, hoping to see the total lunar eclipse on the winter solstice. I speak truth; I KNOW it was this time; I checked my exif data on the photo!

I couldn't see the eclipse because we were also in the middle of a snow storm and there was too much cloud cover. But look how bright it is! I think there was also a full moon (and an eclipse?????) and the reflection against the newly falling snow creaed the most incredible ambient light. I didn't use any flash for these shots!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Are You Racing as Fast as You Can?

Remember to keep your eyes on your goal (and not run into any walls or stub your nose on the ornaments on the way!) Sure, it's the holidays and there's lots of busy-ness, but remember to enjoy the ride along the way!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's Christmas! Cuddle with Your Moose!

It's winter; it's cold; it's the holidays: it's the best time of year to cuddle with your favorite moose!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Delta Airlines on the Naughty List; American Express on the Nice!

I definitely need to give credit to American Express for getting me a credit on my account yesterday, when Delta just kept dropping and tossing the ball. For those of you who asked about "Peggy" as the Delta customer rep, I have to say that "Peggy" actually was much nicer than Delta's reps!

And American Express never even hung up on me or sent me to some kind of "hold/Alternate Universe" to stagnate for all eternity! So they really are getting to be on the "nice" list. But Delta? They SCARE me!

Now, on to more festive, happier things! Maria asked about the errant Flamenco dancer and the back story on that ornament.

That's the thing about Christmas trees and ornaments; one way or another they come to resemble your family and philosophy about family.

Our tree is, shall we say, "eclectic." If I were a highly controlling, highly organized, person (shush, offspring!) I'd have "rules" about the ornaments. But there are none. Everyone gets to pick an ornament every year.
And it goes on the tree.

In childhood, I remember one year, we "had" to have our tree decorated in the style of my dear Auntie "I". Antie "I" made little poof balls, that kind of look like modern day loofsahs, in various bright colors. And that was all that was allowed on the tree. It was really lame. Whenever I take my glasses off and look at ornaments, and just see a ball of amorphous, feathered light, that's what the tree looked like.

Our trees now are decorated with ornaments that have quite a range of stories and personalities and mysterious origins. The Flamenco Dancer that piqued Maria's curiosity is on a miniature Fiesta Ware dish. Doug gave it to me in 1997, because he spotted it somewhere, and I collect Fiesta Ware. There's no logic why such an object should be on our tree. I mean, why are there half moons, and miniature Christmas Story leg lamps, Star Trek figures, Barbie dolls, and fish with big lips on our tree?

Nobody knows, but someone liked it, it came from somewhere, and all are welcome on the tree unless they misbehave!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Delta Airlines, Your Wings Are Being Recalled

I'd hoped to blog much earlier tonight than this, but 2 hours of my life were swallowed up by Delta airlines. Tonight, I wanted to book a flight for my son. Earlier this year, I'd applied for an American Express Skymiles card that promised a $100 certificate and frequent flier miles. And a few months ago, I got the letter in the mail providing the instructions to redeem the certificate.

Sounds so simple, right? But with Delta, nothing is simple! Oh, how I wish there were other airlines that serviced North Dakota! I think flight on a mosquito might be simpler!

But it's their customer service that is so very dismal! Of course, the directions to redeem the certificate did not work. And during the 8 phone calls totaling 86 minutes, I promise you I stuck to my resolve to remain polite. I can't say the same thing for the Delta personnel; what is it that makes them so cranky? Has someone been threatening to make them take a turn in the TSA line?

The Delta representatives seemed to have three favorite options when they ran into difficulty resolving my problem:

1.Play a form of "hot potato" by blaming American Express,and telling me to call them (press "one" for "pass the buck");

2. Placing me on hold, for a VERY long time (28 minutes IS long, isn't it? My sense of "normal" started to get a little distorted. And I really didn't understand the Indian music. It was pretty, but a little weird, and I started to wonder if I was really connected to Delta. After awhile, I just hung up (press "two" for "on hold for all eternity or until you feel really, really gullible and/or baffled.)

3. This one is a variation of #2. Tell the customer to "hold for a few minutes" and after an interminable amount of time, just disconnect the call. (press "three" for "ha!ha! tricked you!")

I will say that American Express actually showed some initiative in the process, trying to talk to Delta directly for me, noting that Delta had 2 different frequent flier numbers assigned to me, and eventually issuing me a credit, most likely because they also despaired that dealing with Delta held any hope whatsoever.

Kudos to American Express; Delta, turn in those wings and ground yourself to the sidelines.

Monday, December 13, 2010

December Challenges

1. I call it "whipping the angel into submission". Doug calls it "straightening it up."

2. Digging out. (I'm so sorry, Minneapolis! You make our 30 below, but NO SNOW look good!)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

And how busy were YOU today? (Less than 2 weeks to Christmas!)

Time to get these puppies in the mail! (Thank you, Doug, for braving the US Postal Service even when it's 30 below!)

And more about Doug's sweetness: the ornament above was just a little bit buried into our Christmas tree. Doug takes many, many, MANY UNTOLD hours in arranging very specifically the ornaments of our tree. He also really likes to put the ones that he knows I like to look at very much in my line of vision.

And this ornament is one of my favorites; it reminds me of reading to my children when they were little (not that I wore hats with feathers while reading, and my kids didn't happen to be bears.)

So when I mentioned that there was a green ornament in front of it, the next thing I knew, the green ornament was relegated to the blackness of the other-side-of-the-tree outcaste-land! Isn't that sweet?

Speaking of sweet, but not at all in a good way, we happen to turn on the tv a few minutes ago and come upon The Lawrence Welk Show. Any of you know of this? It's this god-awful variety show produced in the late 50s and early 60s, and OMG! It's frightening! the lime green pants paired with fluffy pink jackets, combined with sappy, bubble-gum songs, marshmallows and bubbles, 2 cans of Aquanet Hairspray per person,zimbie-grins, background accordians and ukeleles music is all so very gaggy! (Apparently, Lawrence Welk was born in ND, and ND has such little claim to fame that it strolls out this stuff every now and then, ummmmm, celebrate? Someone is singing "I could have danced all night" right now. Someone, please, shoot me now! I hated this in childhood; I hate it now; time to wrestle the remote control from Doug, sweet guy or not!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Almost Finished Kitchen

Here's a glimpse of my kitchen, almost finished and getting a little "festive" for Christmas! (Please ignored the dishes in the sink!) The contractor still needs to return and finish things, adding some trim around the windows, a cabinet door or two, paint touch-up, but I'm content to ignore those things for now, because I figure I don't have to pay some of the bills until it's all done!

One of my favorite parts is the lighting! True, maybe it would have been nice to be put in recessed lights in the ceiling. . . but not at the cost involved! But I do love the lighted cabinets I added above the stove! And really like the under-cabinet lights as well.

The cabinet immediately above the stove is waiting for the correct sized doors to arrive. . . . someday. And to the right, you can see our new refrigerator! I didn't intend to replace any of our appliances, but ours was almost 14 years old, and there was this really good Black Friday sale at Lowes. That, combined with a North Dakota refrigerator rebate meant I got a brand new stainless steel, larger, refrigerator with a water filter for about $800! I'm particular fond of the fact that food is not freezing in the bottom drawers of the refrigerator, and the drawers don't fall out when I pull them open.

I'm putting some of my Snow Village pieces in the lighted cabinets for now. And the lights have dimmer switches as well!

Some close-ups:

I added a fairly dramatic track light above the sink. I really like a lot of light to see what I'm doing in the sink. It makes it less likely that my hands will wander into the garbage disposal like in that particularly gruesome Stephen King short story I read some time ago. I think a dimmer switch might have been nice. . .

And you get to see my black sink again too! I never would have guessed how much fun it is to have a black sink! It makes no sense, but I really like it.

What does make sense is having the kitchen aid mixer. After using my little handheld mixer for, like, my whole life, one day it occurred to me it might be much easer to have a stand alone mixer. I like to bake, but I had no idea how much easier this would be! This is one purchase I should have made about 20 years ago!

These are the "old" (5 years) cabinets, but with the new counter top to match the new counter top. With every thing organized differently, even this side of the kitchen looks new to me too now.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Santa is Breaking Out a Sweat!

. . . . because there's only two weeks and two days 'till Christmas! And Santa has no app for cutting down those Christmas trees or getting the elves in line. . . .

. . . or does he?????

Actually, on my DroidX I have an app for a Christmas gift list, but I think I need (want) an app to organize ALL of my Christmas events. If the app market doesn't have one, I think I'll create a hanDbase template for one for my phone, with the tasks of Christmas: baking, packages, Christmas cards, decorating, Angel Tree, Christmas tree, driving through the park, visiting neighbors, cookie deliveries, watching schmaltzy movies, and eagerly awaiting my children coming home. . . .

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Merry Christmas, Book Club Buddies!

I am so very fond of Christmas! Of course, over-the-top happiness occurs when all three of my kiddos get to come home.

But I also like decorating, and the baking, so I really enjoy when I get to have my book club come to my house for the monthly meeting. Last night, I got to try out my Caramel Pots de Creme on my group club members. True, I screwed up the recipe, managing to somehow put all the whip cream inside the recipe, rather than a third of it elegantly on top. But it still tasted wonderful! And next time I'm going to take on an idea presented of including a little kahlua in the "pots".

Note that I'm not even mentioning the book we read. . . because, really, are book clubs really about the books?

I think not.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Buck Up, Santa!

. . . Seriously, Santa, what's got you in such a snit? Is it your credit card bill? That you have to stop off in ND and deal with our windchills on the 24th?

I just have to say that I so enjoyed Nicki's recent posts of glum-looking Santas that it's got my scrutinizing my own Christmas ornaments to see who's dishing out Christmas- Story-level (the movie) stink-eye in my living room.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Oh, no! I Caved!

After months of telling my husband that we didn't need smart phones, he bought one. And I scoffed at it, and his Talking Tom . . . . rapture.

Wellllllllll, then my Palm Pilot died--my trusty, little, brain-of-the-household, with its lock-box like storage of all things essential to running our lives. . . like addresses and immunizations and Christmas lists.

And the Droid X looked very appealing after all.

OK, I admit it; it was the Nook android reader update that allows the synchronization between the Nook and the phone that got me. Which means I get to leave both the Nook AND the palm pilot out of my purse. . . leaving more room for my camera!

But then I discovered the Gallery for storing photos (38 of Bonnie alone!), and the Live Christmas Tree Wallpaper, and the Digital Chef (imports recipes from AND reads them out loud to you, advancing to the next step with a hand clap or "Yo!"), and Pandora and DoubleTwist and fmRadio; and weather apps to track road conditions, and the ability to set individual songs as the ringtones to people in my contact list (when Doug calls me, I hear The Beatles, "Oh, Darling!" )

And a Thanksgiving planner, a Christmas gift list, news feeds, a google reader app, and handDBase (which let's me use templates to create my own databases to my heart's content).

But no talking tom :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Status Report: The Kitchen Remodel and the Christmas Cactus

And were we successful in our race to complete our kitchen remodeling in time for Thanksgiving?

Well. . . . yes and no.

This is the stairwell and living room just outside of our kitchen, Tuesday morning, before Thanksgiving. And many of these boxes happen to contain all those little things you need for cooking, like bottles of oil, spices, pots and pans. . . .

But this is the condition of the kitchen Tuesday morning. The contractor was very apologetic about not having completed the kitchen by Thanksgiving. He finally heard our desperation to have a functional kitchen in which to bake and cook our feast, and he did manage to put the microwave back in, just above the stove, before leaving for the day. Luckily, on Wednesday, the electrician came and finished the wiring in order for us to actually power the microwave to use for Thanksgiving preparations.

It's not finished yet, but it is now such a treat to get to pull open drawers for spoons, and open cabinets for bowls, rather than rummaging around in boxes in the living room! I'm hoping to soon quit looking for the microwave on the floor of the dining room, and remember that it's at eye level in the kitchen now!

And to celebrate the progress, and Dianna being home, my Christmas Cactus decided to bloom for the first time ever!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Snowy Night in Grand Forks . . . and

Out and about last night, and it was the first significant snow fall in Grand Forks. It's very weird for this to be so late in the year, and it was nice and fluffy. Look how strange in photographs. . . like little octagons falling out of the sky. . . .

. . . and this is STILL the condition of my living room/dining room/kitchen because we've been so abandoned by our contractor. Over the past two and a half week, he's told us 4 times that he was going to show up. . . and maybe tomorrow he actually will!

Four days before Thanksgiving, and my "work arounds" only go so far in trying to prepare for Thanksgiving. If Craig (the contractor) still won't surface, I'm thinking about repacking/rearranging all the boxes to retrieve more of what I need for baking/cooking, moving the microwave to our coffee table, and running extension cords. We think he actually may show up tomorrow after my extensive, pathetic, begging at LumberMart, where we bought the cabinets, and who referred us to Craig. They actually did get him to return our phone call last week!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebrate! And trashing a novel

I can be a positive and happy person; I really can! For example, look at this burst of joy that is in my office:

(double click for full oomph)

A dear friend of mine, Claudette, whom I've worked with for 20 years, recently retired. But this is what she brought to our office about a week ago! I may live in North Dakota, the veritable epitome of winter, but I have this exotic, tropical, plant blooming in my office. Now, if only the friggin' building would fix its heat, now that we're in the 30s. . . .

But the better reason, the more, glorious, over-the-top, joyous reason I have to be positive and happy is that my oldest "child", Scott, is getting married in October! The hibiscus doesn't even begin to compare to the delight I feel about Scott and Elizabeth!

OK, that being said, now I can sneak in some of my negativity, and it's about this book,
The Memory Keeper's Daughter

and my view of it, posted on Goodreads:
"This book does have a compelling central conflict that does pull you in right from the beginning, but I found little else to recommend this book. Dr. David Henry and Norah have twins during a blizzard in 1964; he delivers them, and tells her that the 2nd child, Phoebe, a little girl with Down syndrome, died at birth, and instructs his nurse, Carolyn Gill, to whisk the newborn away off to an institution. Carolyn cannot go through with this, and runs away with the baby.

Obviously, there are going to be some problems, and I wanted to know the outcome, of how someone could live with this terrible deception and what it would do to the people involved.

But the process of resolving it is needlessly, laboriously, drawn out--for many, many pages. Enough pages that if you have a chunk of hours of your life that you hate, you can waste them on the middle 7/8ths of this book. Otherwise, turn it into a short story, read the first 50 or so pages, and then skip to the last 20, and call it a day!

I did not like the main characters or find them to be particular believable, interesting, or likable. The only main character who showed any promise was Carolyn, who, although still not particularly believable, was somewhat interesting. This was sadly diluted, however, by frequent introductions of minor characters who seem to show no other purpose than to allow for endlessly descriptive, dull, detours and passages that delayed getting to any kind of resolution.

The experience of reading this book is like being told that something monumental and significant is about to be announced, like you are holding the winning ticket in a contest, and then enduring a great deal of hype only to be told something anti-climactic and lame, like "you just won a $2.00 off coupon."

Seriously, read something else!"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Black Sink and Two Steps Forward

I have no clue why, but I'm really enjoying my new black sink. And I don't know why I picked out a black sink, other than that on the spur of the moment, I decided to get a new sink, rather than put back in my old sink, and I suddenly decided that a deep, graphite, sink, would look nice again the new brownish speckled countertops.

Take two steps forward --

-- but one step back--

Note to self: when buying a sink, and you want to use your old faucet, count the holes in the sink. This might save the plumber having to head to the store to buy a faucet that will actually work with your sink.

So. . . it looks like I got a new faucet, too!