Friday, May 30, 2008

Where're we going, guys?

Today was the last day of school programming for the team; I was doing a Dinosaur program in northern Virginia. On the way home we kept out our Ornitholestes puppet for repairs. She looks so jaunty and ready to go on a road trip - if only she knew she was actually headed into oral surgery i doubt she'd be so happy.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Truth in Advertising

in case you were wondering how much juice is in orange soda...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Beauty and Duty

I woke up early this morning. I tried to convince my body that since it was a non-working Sunday we really should sleep some more, but it was having none of that. I read for a while and decided to make breakfast. However i was out of soda so i decided to go to Sam's Club to buy a pallet of Diet Coke (which i believe is the smallest quantity they sell). I arrived at the store to find that they weren't open yet. sigh. What to do... There is a tiny little cemetery and church about 2 blocks away from the Sam's Club on a side road i use all of the time to cut over to Rt 40. In fact, it is the road that you use to get into Jason and Kate's neighborhood. The grounds look so out of place sandwiched between houses and an industrial park. Time to explore. It really couldn't be more rustic and lovely if it was a movie set built for the sole purpose of being rustic and lovely. It has a tiny little name sign about the size of a shoe box on a post and a spiky black wrought iron fence with swinging gates There is the one obligatory obelisk, of course, but most of the markers are old traditional headstones Many of them are so old that the weather makes them impossible to read; the ones that are still legible are often carved in German. But what really drew me into this spot is the girl There is only one piece of statuary in the graveyard and she stands close to the road, in profile. I see her nearly everyday as i drive by and i have always wondered about her. Turns out that she is not a marker herself, but rather a statue placed next to a marker. It's odd because they don't match at all. In fact, the headstone doesn't match anything around it and isn't nearly as weathered as everything around it. Don't you love the mystery of such things? Was she the one placed later? Is the headstone a replacement? Could she have been atop the original marker? We'll never know. But it was nice to finally say hello to the face i notice from the road every day. Dontcha love they way the trees dappled the sunlight on her shoulder? In fact, the sunlight was so strong and clear that i wandered the grounds snapping pictures. Good Morning, Buttercups! On to the church itself, which sits at the back of the lot. Composed of awesome field stone (my favorite building material BTW) the Gothic Revival style chapel was built by German Lutheran settlers in the mid 1800s. There was a school... know what?... you can read the sign as well as i can Right after taking that ID framing shot (as we scrapbookers call it) i noticed that the large wooden door was ajar. CRAP! It is Sunday morning, Niki; you're out here snapping away during a church service, you boob. I prepared to slink away when it occurred to me that the church yard had been silent the entire time. And that i'd circled the entire graveyard without seeing a soul. And that there was no parking lot. Or cars parked on the street. And no information sign declaring the pastor's name, time of services and "thought provoking message" (CH HC - what's missing? UR! : really people, who comes up with those things? Is there a newsletter or something?). CRAP! I investigate and the door has definitely been forced. Crap, crap, crap. I really just want to go buy my legal stimulants and go home to make some breakfast. But i think we all recognize by this point that that isn't how this is going down. I'm no Carpeted Man, but I am civic-minded (check plus to anyone who gets that reference except Jonah who gets a check minus if he doesn't) so I'm gonna report it. Let's see... there's no information sign on the grounds. There's no "in case of emergency" call number on any of the windows. It is Sunday morning so everybody at the Lutheran church in town is otherwise occupied. We're in the county so we are out of the jurisdiction of 311 - "When There's Urgency, but No Emergency." Double crap. Time to call 411 and ask for the number for the cops. It rings. And rings. And rings. Then voicemail comes on... 411 helpfully gave me the number for the police training academy which quel surprise is not open on Sunday morning. There are times when i really despise automated services. Okay. I tried and tried not to be an ass, but after 10 minutes I was through with this crap and dialed 911 knowing full well that there is nothing that emergency operators and officers love more than idiots calling 911 for raccoons stuck in the chimney. sigh. I opened with "I'm sorry this isn't an emergency. What number should i call if there are suspicious circumstances but no emergency?" My operator was cool and took all of the details. I was prepared with my name, location, cross streets, description of the problem and everything. It was all going very well until she asked me what number i was calling from. CRAP! I don't know my cell phone number - i don't call it, i don't give it out to people, everyone knows that i keep the ringer off, heck i mostly use it to text Matt in CA. Can you say flustered? Anyhoo, to cover for my moment of babbling idiocy i told her i would stay until the officer arrived and gave her a description of my clothing for good measure (and to prove that i wasn't a psycho or crank caller). To say that Sunday morning in Catonsville is a slow time for the cops is putting it mildly. Less than 10 minutes later not 1, but 2 cruisers arrived. The cops took my statement, checked the grounds and cleared the building. It looks like nothing was stolen or vandalized. It was theorized that it might have been a homeless person searching for shelter. (yes, apparently there are some homeless people living in or near Money Magazine's 2007 "49th best place to live in the US" (i love you Catonsville); in fact, there is a guy who has been living in a tent behind the KFC for 15 years. Man, this place just gets more interesting the longer i live here) I chatted with one officer [the non-emergency number is 410-887-2222; he's been at the county for 2 years after 24 years at the state and some time in the Corp (Semper Fi); he recently returned from his wedding cruise where his best man (his wife's brother) won over $7K in Bingo and also won the Sexy Legs contest by wearing black stocking with garters and crawling across the stage; he grew up on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania where the historical society found a little cemetery which had captains from the local Civil War battle interred so his family deeded it to them] while the other checked on a similar report from earlier this year. Once everything was all clear i free to go to Sam's Club, which was certainly open by now. Of course I went by way of Burger King - screw cooking breakfast; i think i earned a sausage, egg and cheese croissandwich.

Confirmed Sighting

How do you know that summer has come to the Nikiverse? Chipmunks! Not these these! As i was leaving my house to go to Colleen's (by way of my office) I had my first chipmunk sighting! I freaking love chipmunks. They seem so industrious and purposeful, but not in a boring worker-bee way; they've got stuff to do and places to be, but they seem joyful to me. They run like every moment is precious to them and must not be wasted (or like they know there is a hawk living next door). Have you ever seen anything so fast? Plus they can turn on a dime and run with their wee tail straight up in the air. They crack me up. I only ever see one at a time around my house and then only in the summer. Therefore, just like goats mean spring, chipmunks mean summer. I wanted to get a picture, but have YOU ever tried to photograph a chipmunk? Wow - they're fast. I stalked Mr Chipmunk for a while and managed to snap this Sasquatch-esque pic to prove that it is indeed summer in Catonsville.

Public Service Announcement

Friends, don't inadvertently go to any price club type store first thing of a morning on the weekend day before the first barbeque holiday of the year. Gigantic displays of condiments block the aisles. Shoppers swarm over the hamburger buns like locust. Strong words can be heard in the lawn furniture section. It's like a mad house. Really people, stay away. That is all.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More Birthday Fun and a Quick Trip to the 1800s

I feel that birthday celebrations can tastefully extend for 3 to 4 weeks. After that you have to find another excuse to party. So for my birthday Jason and Kate took me to see Indiana Jones and the World's Longest Title (i mean really, who cares what the thing is called; we've been waiting 20 years for it). Commies and whips and motorcycles, oh my. There's no point in reviewing it here cause i don't want to watch my step around spoilers and either you're gonna love it or hate it. I'm firmly in the former camp. It was fun and made me smile, which all i'm really looking for in a summer movie. We went to dinner at the Mongolian Grill. I have never been to one before, but have always wanted to go. You pick all the stuff you want stir-fried and create your sauce and they do the cooking. It was interactive, fun and tasty - i highly recommend it. Dessert was hot Krispy Kremes straight off of the conveyor. Yumtastic! To top off everything, Kate promised me hand-knitted socks. She has picked a pattern called "Bubble Wrap Socks" and she let me pick my yarn. There were many colors to choose from, but i went with a purple/pink/grey combo from Yarn Pirate called "I Want Candy." To turn it from a skein into a yarn cake she pulled out a crazy wooden umbrella/clothes line looking contraption that attached to her coffee table. Its called a swift. You drape the yarn over the slat-things and run the end to a yarn roller (also attached to the coffee table) and then turn the crank No more winding by hand while Grandpa holds the yarn stretched between his arms until his fingers go numb. Oh no. This is the 21st century, people and we will use machines to wind our yarn. It was oddly therapeutic and fun to see the colors spool together; i asked if i could wind more, but she could tell that i would want to wind all of the yarn in the house so she said no. Knitters are nuts. Cool, yes. Talented, yes. But nuts. Don't believe me? Kate showed me the things she bought at the Sheep and Wool Festival a few weeks ago, including a bag of roving which is wool that has been washed, carded and dyed (lovely color combo, don't you think?) and a spindle to hand spin it into yarn Even i'm not this nuts. But it was neat to watch her show me how you mix spinning and gravity to twist the fibers tight. And i love that you can see her cat, Ophelia, in the picture. As soon as the yarn came out, the cat magically appeared. Thanks for the birthday fun, guys and i promise to share pictures of the socks once i get them (but no pressure, Kate).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Touching the Sky

I love springtime in Maryland. We have had a typical spring, for us : you never know what the weather will be and the temperature can vary by 30 degrees in 24 hours. There have been several rainy, dismal days each week separated by GLORIOUS, sunny days. Everything is green, green, green. I really don't mind the nasty days -as long as there aren't more than 2 in a row- if it means that the flowers and trees are bursting. Plus, when the weather changes on a dime, like it did yesterday (from dismal to sunny around 5:30pm) the sky can be amazing. Witness these clouds that looked like they were coming down to blanket the earth

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread

For my birthday, team member Amy gave me a starter of Amish Friendship bread. I had never see it before, though we were talking about it at Erin's parent's house on my birthday. It is a sweet fermented bread that you cook from a starter and share with others, kinda like sourdough. So your friend gives you a bag and instructions of what to do on what day. It takes 10 days of mushing, adding ingredients and fermenting before you bake it. Some days you can easily see the fermenting in the form of bubbles, or the bag filling with gas Right before the addition of the final ingredients you scoop out four starter bags, keeping one for yourself and giving three to your friends. There are a lot of variations and additions you can make to the batter, but since this was my first batch I just did the standard cinnamon-sugar. You are supposed to cook it in 2 loaf pans and i discovered that i don't own 2 loaf pans, but somehow i do own 4 mini-loaf pans. There were no timing directions for them, of course, so i tested them every 7 minutes until i was happy with the consistency. I realized this morning that the recipe called for a large box of pudding and i used a standard size so i was afraid they wouldn't be good, but it turned out okay. The mini-loaf i gave to Erin was almost finished by the time i got back from my show; in fact, she had given up slicing it and was devouring it directly from the foil, like a chipmunk She finished it about 45 seconds after that picture was taken, causing this face and then a less-than-dignified licking of the wrappings I take that to mean it was good. You can start your own, or you can wait 8 days when i will have 3 more starters to share. I love friendship you can taste!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Williamsburg Redux

Last week was so crazy busy that i never got a chance to share Rickki's pictures of our Williamsburg trip. Firstly, i think this picture captures the fact that there is nothing i love quite as much as i love a roadtrip (in many of the pics you will see a tiny dog named Scooter that is Zachary's; Rea took pics of Scooter everywhere we went so that he could tell Z all about our trip) The reason for our trip was the scrapbooking retreat. Rickki had matching shirts made for us and I made us matching nametags. Understand that neither of us told the other what we were doing; basically, we just share one brain. (i think she got the tall half of the brain) It was beautiful on Saturday, so we took a little break from the scrapbooking goodness and went to Colonial Williamsburg, starting at the Visitor Center fountain and flowers in front of the visitor center, with a mini metal model of the town There is a walkway to the town and on the bridge from the visitor center there are plaques that help put you in the colonial mood as you walk back in time The walk goes through an underpass, past a creek and winds through some lovely farm with split-rail fences. Did you know that i love split-rail fences? The walk is less than half of a mile and you know you're close when you spot the windmill; there's no more electricity, people. The Governor's Palace was once considered to be one of the most beautiful buildings in the colonies. All of the Royal Governors and the first 2 Commonwealth governors (Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson) lived here while Williamsburg was the capital of Virginia. It burnt down in 1781. The building that stands there now is a reproduction, opened in 1934. In Williamsburg you pay to tour the buildings or participate in various activities. Since we had limited time all i really wanted to do was walk around and see some dudes in tights. Mission accomplished, though technically i guess they are stockings, not tights. Here i am with the cobbler (why is the same word used for a guy who makes shoes and a bubbly fruit dessert?) and Rea is outside of a tavern. We had a lovely walk about and then ventured back to the 21st century Where, of course, there were gift shops. One of the featured items were colonial Hotch Potch cards that had drawings of "posture masters" making letters of the alphabet with their bodies. Along with the cards there were all manner of Hotch Potch items like magnets, keychains, mugs, puzzles and of course Hotch Potch dolls. The dolls themselves weren't so bad, but the GIGANTIC ones used for decoration were creepy It was a fast, but nice trip. I'd like to go back sometime and really DO all of the activities. You can even rent Colonial outfits and i think we all know that i want to do that.