Monday, March 31, 2008

Life Happens...

I have avoided the dreaded (fabulous) Red Box (phew) and I'm back for a second post tonite. I have something I need to share, but first ***WARNING!*** COMPLETE LACK OF SPARKLE-PONIES Beloved Logistics Coordinator Wendy called out of work. Her husband died over the weekend. Really. He wasn't particularly old. He wasn't in perfect health (honestly, who IS?), but he wasn't terminally - or even critically- ill. He'd been home from work with the flu (we thought). Wendy went home after work on Saturday and he was dead. In their bed. Really. Wow. I have no comment on that. It just made want to reach out across the distances that separate us all and touch each one of you. I hope every person i have ever spent any length of time with knows exactly how i feel about them. Do YOU know how i feel about you? Have I told you what impact YOU have had on my life? Have you told everyone you know how you feel about them? Life is a blink, people. Don't waste it.

A Red Box "problem"

I thought it seemed weird when you could start renting DVDs at McDonald's. It seemed so... random. And for only a dollar it seemed somehow... sketchy. Then i started to see the Red Boxes in other places, like convenience stores. In fact, they seemed to be springing from the ground. I'm a little surprised we don't have one in the front lobby of the museum at this point. Over Easter I was really sick. I laid on my new-to-me loveseat eating Wheat Thins and watching movies that I had borrowed from Justin, occasionally drifting off to sleep. I watched Legend - both the US release and the far better Director's Cut (though i do so love the Tangerine Dream soundtrack from the US edit) - and its bajillion special features, Tron and its never-ending special features (i think it was the 20th anniversary release or some such nonsense) and Madagascar with its special features. [Have i ever shared with you how it think the very, very best thing to come from DVDs isn't the better picture and sound, but the room for special features? I heart special features...] Eventually i had to drag my pathetic self to the store. I was out of juice, and you can't get well without juice. And soup. I needed soup. Now i'm sure that i'd noticed that there was a Red Box in my grocery store, but it had never really made an impact on me. But i was sick. And there was a promotional code to get a free rental. How could i turn down a promotional code? So i tried it. It was easy. And the right DVD really did pop out. Since i got a free rental, i felt it only right to pay for another movie. So i rented another one. And it was only a dollar - technically $1.06 with tax, but still. The next day i was a bit better, but still not really up to snuff so i got 2 more. Basically, in 24 hours i watched 4 more movies and all of their special features - Enchanted, Nancy Drew, Bourne Ultimatum and Blades of Glory. (That would be 8 movies and extras in about 36 hours for those of you counting at home) It was a good way to pass the time while i was unwell and it was a bargain considering that all of the Red Box movies were ones i didn't see in the theater. Then this weekend rolled around. I stopped by the store to get some fresh fruit and visited the Red Box on the way out. The movie i really wanted (3:10 to Yuma) wasn't available so i took Transformers instead. ummmmmm, wait a second... i'd already seen that; i really, really liked it, but definitely saw it in the theaters. What's going on here? Yesterday when i returned it i found myself walking to the car with The Simpsons in my hand. crap - i might be outta control After i moved i couldn't afford cable. Once the budget opened up a bit i decided NOT to get it cause though i miss certain shows I really enjoy the time i have found without TV. The budget tightened up again and cable was no longer an option, but i toyed with NetFlix - it was cheaper and less of a time commitment than TV. But i am the kind of person that has to watch something new right away. I knew that every time a disc arrived that evening's plans would be swept aside,so decided not to do it. Now i have been charmed, lured, seduced by Red Box. It is so easy. And cheap. And available -BOTH of the grocery stores i shop at have one inside and both are 24 hours so i don't have to stand outside of the McD's in the cold, exposed at 3am. crap, crap, crap. You know how much i love movies. I had resigned myself to not being able to afford going to the theater. Now i am considering whether i can put a "Red Box" line item in my budget or just include it in "personal spending." This is not good, people; not good at all. You have to help me with my new fascination. Together we can keep it from becoming an addiction. Tell me how the red boxes are manufactured by starving kids. Tell me about whatever evil empire owns them. Help me to just say NO. If you see me carrying one of the red DVD cases ask me about it, or just cut to the chase and tap me on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper. (tap, Erin, tap - not HIT) It'll be okay. It'll all be okay. I appreciate your support in this. I'm gonna go now. I'm pretty tired. I donated blood an hour ago and am feeling like i could really use a nap. Or maybe when i return The Simpsons on my way home i'll pick up a movie from Red Box and chill on the NTM loveseat... CRAP

For Rickki


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New Furniture

Perhaps the greatest thing about being in a job that does not encourage affluence is that people feel compelled to give me things; I have the greatest friends ever. Who knew being poor could pay off? When Steve and Erin moved they bought new living room furniture. What to do with the old stuff? they thought. We'll donate it to charity they thought, which immediately made them think of me. They offered up a sofa, loveseat, ottoman, table and chairs. My current living room configuration offered no room for more furniture. However, the loveseat could certainly be replaced. That piece of furniture was bought in 197... something when i was a kid. I kinda remember getting it, but not really. It lived in the living room until it moved downstairs. Then it moved up to my bedroom, was covered with a pink slipcover and resided in the reading nook for years. Then it moved to my apartment as the main seating in the living room. It may be ugly, but it is the perfect size for me to nap on. Unfortunately, it eats people; once you sit down you might never get back up. I could never afford to replace it, but for free... it was time for the beloved loveseat to go. Ron lives across the street from the Kerst's old house. On Friday we were all off, so we commenced the fun. I drove to Ron's, where we hooked up with Justin for lunch; then off to pick up the loveseat. There was some question about it fitting in the truck, but Ron and Steve worked it with a bungee - notice how the hatch almost closes On to Catonsville! The loveseat is 65X35X35, while my door is 32 inches wide. Does it seem like that might be a problem? There was much discussion, plans made, geometry reviewed and we prepared to fanangle it in. The loveseat, however, strode confidently through the door with no issue and claimed the living room as its own. We took the old loveseat to the dump - sniffle - and then returned home for a well deserved lounge on the new furniture.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Maryland, My Maryland

Happy Maryland Day, people! A state holiday since 1903, Maryland Day celebrates the landing of The Ark and The Dove on March 25, 1634, when English colonists stepped foot on St Clement's Island (in the Potomac) for the first time. That would make us 374 years old and frankly, we look good for our age. Though we don't get the day off (we should) you will often see schools celebrating Maryland Day. Maryland, as I'm sure you know, was one of the original 13 colonies and the 7th state to ratify the US Constitution. Oh, how i love you Maryland. We have mountains (they're wee, but they qualify), oceans, the largest estuary in the US, marshland, farmland, a large-ish city, and the capitol of the US (DC sits on Maryland land). Deserts are pretty much the only thing we don't have. True, we have the most boring state quarter (the state capitol, really?!?), but the National Anthem was written here during a sea battle. My much talked about, but never written, book would be titled I Love Maryland and So Should You and would have have this awesome photo by team member Rob as the jacket art. I could spend an obscene amount of time telling about why Maryland is a great state and sharing interesting tidbits (as the only colony founded by Catholics, the Maryland flagpole is traditionally topped with a cross instead of a sphere), but i'll spare you. However, if you'd like to know why the State Cat is the calico, you can go here for that and other tantalizing Maryland trivia. Thank you for your attention. Fear the Turtle. Rock on Maryland!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Even More Easter Candy

It's like crack: you don't enjoy it, but you can't stop doing it. Last night I made more Easter candy. I had coconut filling leftover from Sunday that i had rolled into a log and put in the fridge. I sliced it into discs and then used a mini egg-shaped cookie cutter to make flat little eggs. After enrobing them in chocolate (that sounds easier, faster and more fun than the reality) I decorated them with chocolate cross-hatching. They still needed a little something so i dyed some sugar bright yellow to give them a cheerful dusting. Here are the results, displayed with a ceramic chocolate bunny that my mom painted years ago:

Random Lists Revisited

It is almost the end of Random List Month, so here is the next bit of flotsam floating in my brain: Words I Really Like the Sound Of, But That Don't Necessarily Pop Up In Everyday Conversation exsanguination laborious corpulent portico languid jejune recompense sepulchre thrice perfidy loquacious jaundiced abomination (and my favorite word) acquiesce

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Painting is FUN (if it isn't your house)

Sunday morning, while i was chocolate egging, Erin phoned to see if i wanted to come paint later that afternoon. Who could turn down such a tantalizing offer? She and Steve are moving into their first mortgage on Saturday and want to have as much painted and done as possible. We were working on the study and the master bedroom. I spent time rolling on "Sandstone Cove" and edging "Scotland Road." Yesterday i came in and on my desk was the cutest bunny EVER (except Rickki, of course) with a post-it message: Thanks for "hopping" over to help us yesterday. Some "bunny" is very appreciative. Sure, several diabetics just went into shock from the sweetness, but check out how dang cute this bunny is You're welcome, Erin!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Adventures in Easter Candy

My cropping cronies were talking about this awesome mini-apple dumpling recipe from someone called the pioneer woman. While perusing Stephanie's new blog I Know It's Here Somewhere (welcome to the blogospere, Steph) I saw her link to The Pioneer Woman Cooks and went to have a look-see. Great, great recipes with fabulous pictures. (unlike the ones your eyes are about to endure here) I am enjoying reading through her stories and recipes and encourage those of you who love to cook to check it out. It inspired me to try something i've always wanted to do - make homemade Easter candy. You know i am on a tight budget so i went to AC Moore, armed with coupons and (showing much restraint) bought 2 things of chocolate, a microwave safe squirt bottle and the largest egg mold they had. The directions were very clear-cut (and i quote): A. Melt B. Pour C. Chill Really; those were the directions, along with some pictograms. Lying bastards. How dare you tantalize me with simplicity? It was not that clear cut; not at all. Okay, maybe it would be that easy if you weren't me. I decided that the molds were easily big enough to hold fillings. Sure, there were no directions for how to do molds with fillings, but how hard could that be? I have a great recipe for coconut candy that would make a dandy chocolate egg, so i whipped it up and got to work microwaving the chocolate, filling the bottom of the egg molds and then using a paint brush make a thin layer on the sides.This was a mess and a pain, made more complicated by the phone ringing, but i got it done and the mold went into the fridge for 2 minutes (did i mention the endless chilling and heating and chilling and heating...) then it was filled with coconutty goodness and another layer of chocolate was applied to seal everything in (yeah, precision squirt bottling would not be my Olympic sport) And back into the fridge for 10-15 more minutes. Patience not really being my strong suit either, I thought i'd try my hand at a big egg, no mold. Yep. I pulled out an egg pattern from the scrapbooking stuff, put a piece of waxed paper over it and painted on a layer of chocolate with my squirt bottle 2 minutes in the fridge to set and then i mounded up coconut in an egg-like formation and enrobed it in chocolate after it chilled, i trimmed off the nubbly edges and wrapped it in custom colored foil (i love you Sharpie markers). It actually came out pretty nice, so of course i have no picture of it! While waiting on the second batch of coconut eggs it thought Hey, peanut butter filling would be good. Sure, i have no recipe for peanut butter filling, but why should that stop me? I knew i just had to thicken the peanut butter and sweeten it slightly, so why not add some powdered sugar? Of course, without a recipe there arose some proportion and mixing issues. Right around this disaster I decided that there was no one on the PLANET that i loved enough to suffer through any more of the chilling, heating, heating, chilling, mixing, powdering, popping, molding, unmolding, heating, chilling, squirting, heating, AAUUUGGGHHHHHHH Okay. I took a little break, made some calls, and refocused. Deep breath and examine the mess, Niki. I figured out the right proportions for the peanut butter filling and got some of those eggs going. In the end i had 2 big eggs and 32 small ones which though not perfectly perfect were acceptable (after a little trimming) and (I'm going to assume) tasty. All in all i'd call it a good experiment and a learning experience; there are some things you just have to try for yourself. Will i do it again? Well, i'm not so sure about that, though there is a roll of coconut candy chilling in my fridge that i need to use for something. If you are contemplating making your own candy, here are some helpful tips from me to you: 1) having more molds would make it go faster 2) do NOT chill your filling 3) keep the squirt bottle in the microwave (cap off) and hit 30 seconds on 50% power whenever you walk by so that it is always liquidy and ready 4) forget the paintbrush for filling the nooks and sides of the molds; your fingers work way better 5) considering tips 3 and 4, remember that melted chocolate is HOT before you stick your fingers in it 6) skip it and buy the candy instead.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Found It!

Thank goodness i found the smell!!! Remember how there was a crazy, bad smell in my car that i couldn't find? I searched and searched and cleaned to no avail. On yet another round of cleaning i found the offending mac and cheese frozen dinner lodged under the driver's seat. It must have fallen out of a grocery bag at some point. It was actually caught up in the underside of the chair, so every time i moved the seat forward or back to look for the smell, it moved too. I have no idea how long it was under there, but it was gross. Now my car is truly clean and smell-free. YAY!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


YIPPEE! I am halfway done! I'm working on reading the Newberry Medal books. "The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." (quoted from Lists of Bests) Of course a lot of these books feel more like young adult literature, but that is neither here nor there. The Newberry was first awarded in 1922 and there has been one every year since. I read quite a few of these books when i was a kid, but there are a lot of them i've never even heard of. In the summer of 2006 I decided (for some reason i can't even remember) to read them all. This is taking forever to accomplish. I am finding that some of the books are really good, but many of them reflect the time in which they were written and feel dated. You just never know what you're going to get. I am a fast reader and these are normally quick reads, but i really have to be in the right mood to pick one up. I track my progress at Lists of Bests and when i just added I, Juan de Pareja (1966's winner about a Moor slave in Spain who learns to paint even though it is illegal at the time) my percentage went to 50! Finally i feel like i am making some headway. I do so love trackable progress.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Good and the Bad

You know how much i love the art i see in schools. I love the colors and the textures and the wild abandon that the kids and their teachers put into every piece. Some are beautiful, some not so much. Some showcase true talent, some not so much. Some make me laugh out loud. Good or bad I am often amazed by the creative things i see in schools. I was at a private school in DC when i was struck by the wide, WIDE range that school art can have. In the corner of the kitchen, on top of the fridge was this Oh, paper mache - you are not a forgiving medium, are you? Is this a green goat? A lizard in a skirt? A battle ready orc? A giant paper weight? The ugliest kid in the tall flags section of the marching band? Play leftovers? Something from the world's most twisted diorama? What IS it? Why is it in the kitchen on top of the fridge? On the door leading into the kitchen was this Wow. I love, love that mural. I loved trying to pick out all of the different artists whose styles were represented. I especially love that these 2 pieces of school art are only about 10 feet away from each other.

Geeks Ahoy!

Maybe you saw that for Random List month Kate P did a list of how she knows her husband is a geek. I'd like to add to it. Saturday around 9pm i get a call from Jason who wants to know if i want to wait in line with him to buy a Wii at midnight. Yep. Apparently the Palmateers decided that they wanted to get a Wii for Kate's tv (yes, there is so much technology in that house that they have humongous his and hers flat widescreens). Since they are a bit scarce (most retailers around here get a few at a time and sell out immediately) Jason went searching on the Internet. Turns out that Sam's Clubs were getting big shipments and opening at midnight specifically to sell Wiis. Kate wasn't feeling real well (i'm not saying that was a cover story, but she was still up when we got home!) and he wanted company. Sure, i was in mid-project. Sure, i was losing a precious hour of sleep that night to Daylight Savings Time. Sure, i had to get up at the butt-crack of dawn to go to work on Sunday. Sure, it was just about the geekiest request i'd ever heard. But did i go anyway? SURE! Here he is, buying his Wii and Wii Play (with extra wiimote) at 12:06. though you do have to wonder who's geekier - the guy buying the Wii at midnight or the girl taking the picture of the guy buying the Wii at midnight

Thursday, March 6, 2008


I have a gap under my front door. Both the metal piece and the weather stripping have been missing since i moved into the apartment. Besides being unsightly, it creates a draft that blows directly onto the loveseat where i sit to watch movies, do paperwork, play games, eat or basically anything i am doing in the living room. Normally i just wrap my legs up in a blanket, but on Saturday I decided that i had had enough. Why don't you have your landlord fix it? you say. Please, service from my landlord is slower than traffic around the DC Beltway. You're pretty handy Nik; just go to Home Depot and buy the stuff to fix it yourself, you helpfully suggest. I am not spending money (even a little) on something i shouldn't have to fix; that's why i pay rent. Obviously the only solution was to make a draft guard. Yep. Make a draft guard. That sounded easy in my head. Let's remember, however, that i am not very good at sewing at all, and this thing would have to be large enough to block that gap and sewn by hand. Piece of cake, says I!
I knew it would have to be sturdy so i decided to use denim; in the fabric pile i found the remnants of an old pair of shorts. I realized it would have to stand up on its own. That would require side panels i decided (as if i had any clue how to sew in side panels) so i grabbed the leg from my favorite pair of retired purple jeans. Finally, I wanted it to be really heavy to block the stupid draft so i needed stuffing with a bit more heft than cotton batting or fiberfill (neither of which i had anyway); look at that pile of old uniform shirts. Perfect
Next for the design. Every idea i had involved some creature with legs. Let's examine that... a) that is WAY beyond my skill level; b) the idea is to be on the ground to block the draft. okay... snake? no. eel? no. really short weiner dog? no. fire demon? maybe. How about just the head of a creature, maybe some sort of door guardian? Door guardian it is! I drew a very (VERY!) basic design and got to cutting. And cutting. And sewing. And cutting. And sewing. This crap was hard, people! More cutting, more sewing, etc. Do you have any idea how long it takes to cut a polo shirt into 1 inch strips? Of course, there was no measuring in this design. I don't know enough about sewing and seam allowances (whatever they are) to need to measure.
As it started to take shape, she slowly took on her own personality. All of the exposed seams (that would be about 50%) were done in dark purple thread to contrast with the light denim. Eyes of vintage purple and AB crystal beads, cute triangular faux mother-of-pearl nose from Grandma's button box and a bright pink Sharpie smile. Of course, there had to be hair so i used 2 different fibers with purple components. Don't even ask how i got it (mostly) evenly distributed and sewn into her head seam. A little scissor action so that she could rock the bangs and we can all see her eyes and Voila - DOREEN! She's lopsided, lumpy and a bit homely. But she has bright eyes, always smiles and is perfectly capable of guarding my door and blocking that draft. Take that, ditzy landlord lady!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Paging Dr Bunyan, Dr Paul Bunyan

Team member Rob and I found this awe-inspiring statue outside of a medical complex in Delaware. What else do i need to say?

Monday, March 3, 2008

knit hat

With knitting being such a popular hobby there has been an upswell in the popularity of knit accessories. You can't go anywhere without seeing scarves and hats. Several of the blogs I read have featured knit hats. It is quite fashionable to wear them as full time accessories, not just to go out and play in the snow. I just never really saw the appeal of the knit hat. Last month when i was helping to clear out the antique store there was a knit hat that was being thrown away. I snagged it because there are several team members who currently rock the knit accessories. I wanted to wash it first (cause who knows how much dust was in it) and as it was drying I noticed that it is the same shade of teal of a tank top i own. And a purse. And a sweater. And another sweater's stripe. And a T-shirt. And a v-neck shirt. And a pair of bead earrings. In fact, i realized it was the same color as a lot of things that i own, so i kept it. Saturday night i was wearing the tank top with the striped sweater over it (and the earrings, in fact) so i thought maybe i should try the hat. I have to admit that it looked pretty cute. The picture proves that i need a roommate because i take awful pictures of myself, but it also shows the awesome knit hat. (and yes, i did enjoy playing with Picasa to get the focal B&W)

March Madness

No, it isn't a post about basketball; instead, it's the March weather in Maryland that is mad. Yesterday I was lying in bed enjoying that lazy feeling of waking up without an alarm clock for a change when i thought What is that sound? I listened hard and realized that there were birds singing outside of my window. BIRDS! It was the first time i have heard them singing by my window since November; it was 18 degrees 5 days ago. It was glorious and sunny yesterday and today. That means that it will snow next week. For most of the world March is "In like a lion, out like a lamb" but here in Maryland it can easily be the other way around. I intend on enjoying the proto-Spring while it lasts.