Tuesday, June 29, 2010

trial run

My apparent absence from the Nikiverse has only partially been about work, as i previously claimed.
 Almost 3 weeks ago i found out that my mom's doctor had found abnormalities on X-rays of her lungs.
 That isn't much of a shock as she has 2 COPDs (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) and beat pneumonic MRSA last year, but this mass looked different and he ordered CT scans.
Those results were even less promising and he ordered a PET test.
  Cancer started to crop up in conversation and consultations.
And mom was trying to keep it to herself.
I only found out because i sorta bandied it out of her because i could tell that something was wrong. For a week i knew but my brother and sister didn't. My aunt (mom's sister) was going to fly to FL from OH to be with her for the test results, but she got sick and couldn't go. Then the test kept getting pushed back because the equipment was broken.
 I couldn't stand the set backs and the uncertainty and being so far away so i rearranged what had to be at work and finished off my end of the fiscal year paperwork and flew to FL yesterday.
 I landed at 12:30 and the doctor's appointment was at 3:45.
Good news!
 The dark mass is most likely not cancer (no one can be sure without surgery), but instead it could be calcified scar tissue. The tests did show that there is some artery blockage that will need to be addressed in the not-too-distant future and a hernia that might need surgical correction, but no cancer.
Most Likely.
I am certainly ecstatic that i was eating Sonic tater tots by the pool today instead of taking a crash course in chemo, but i remain just a bit unsettled.
 My mom has been a bit sickly since i was a child.
 I've spent a lot of times in hospitals and doctors' offices.
You'd think i would be prepared for this.
 During the day i could be stoic (or as stoic as i ever get) and believe that there was no use in getting upset until i knew what the diagnosis was, but at night it was a different story. I had to take some time off of work because i couldn't sleep which wrecked my concentration. I was afraid in a way that i haven't been in a long time. Even last year with the MRSA i was more concerned about how she'd tolerate the treatment than mom's mortality. She has survived so much for so long that i had trouble wrapping my mind around the possibility of a disease that might finally take her out.
The enforced information brown-out didn't help my nerves much, either. I convinced her last weekend that she had to tell my siblings cause we needed their support. That made it a little more bearable, but also more real.
My boss said something that has been top of mind for the last 72 hours. He said that even if everything went well with the test results i should look at this experience as a trial run for the real deal.
 Typing that makes it sound fatalistic, but that wasn't his intent; he meant for me to find comfort even in the terror, by giving it a purpose.
So tonight i rejoice that it was a false alarm this time, but find myself again unable to sleep as my brain busily files away tidbits of information to be used at a (hopefully much) later date.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

catching the light just right

The only clouds in the entire PA sky were low over the mountians, due west at sunset:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Impressions of Portland

Portland, Oregon.
There was a member of the team (Miss Marilyn) a few years ago from Portland; she was cool and kinda laid back, sorta hippie without being too crunchy.
I really liked her.
Francie had mentioned that after moving to Portland she was going to change the name of her blog to Francie in the Land of Lumberjacks and Hippies.
Those are the only 2 impressions i had about Portland.
I had no idea what to expect.
I found a nice sized city bordered by mountains, water and huge trees.
It was lovely.
There was a sense that everything was big, big, big.
Like Portlandia here, who is the 2nd largest hammered copper statue in America;
  kneeling at 38 ft,
she would be 50 ft tall if she could stand up.
 Of course, if a giant copper statue a top a downtown building were to stand up i don't think even i would stop to take a picture. [btw, my picture was taken at night and sucked so this pic was found on Flickr, by Dena]
 There were a lot of major manufacturers in and around Portland,
like Adidas.
The city seemed bustling with life and art. I didn't have a chance to take a lot of pictures because of my wedding responsibilities so i really want to go back and shoot the vast amount of public art.
Driving in the city was interesting as it was obvious that city planners really didn't want you to drive. There was a well defined bike lane all through the downtown area, as well as a lane designated for mass transit. If i were staying in a hotel downtown, i probably wouldn't need a car.
 Interestingly, there were a lot of street people out at night, but unlike the ragged homeless and desperate youth you see in most major cities, many of them appeared to be in their 20s and toting guitars along with the obligatory bag of clothes. Not sure what to make of that, just noticed it.
 For a big city, Portland also had several parks and arboretums and flora showcases. I wanted to go to the Japanese and/or the Chinese gardens, but i opted
for a grotto instead.
The city did remind me of Baltimore a little cause it was a port city and it was the crossroads of several major interstates.
Also, it isn't far away from the state border.
I drove into Washington state while i was exploring and though it didn't count as a new state, i'm glad i did since i discovered my new favorite state route symbol
  I'm sure he's very proud.
One thing that was vastly different from home was the presence of 2 large mountain peaks around the city. I could see Mt St Helens towards the northwest, but was never able to get a good picture of it.
 But Mt Hood -the highest point in Oregon- dominated the view to the east-ish. I wanted to get a good picture of it, so i started driving towards it, hoping for a nice clearing in the trees. I didn't really realize how far away it was from town because it was so big and obvious on the horizon; i inadvertently drove almost an hour away even though i had dinner reservations. It was worth the trip, though.
I did notice that drivers on the highways around Portland were very different from home. I don't know if it was specifically that city or a West Coast mentality, but dang did they drive slowly. I support lawfulness and all, but people were going the speed limit in 3 of the 4 lanes on the interstate. If you drive 55 in the third lane around home, someone might ram you.
One thing about the slower journey is that it gave me plenty of time to look around:

Yes, that is a naked, headless, limbless mannequin torso on top of that car.
Because the word that best describes Portland for me is quirky.
Speaking of, hey there, big fella;
nice bandanna.

 I like that he is big enough for a state's 100th birthday and that he originally looked over the Expo Center. Now, he overlooks a strip club. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
 While looking for Paul Bunyan and a giant loaf of bread (which i never found cause i was lured away by Mt Hood and then had to rush back to town for delicious Thai food with the bridal friends and family) i explored some of the industrial parts of town and found not only the moved Expo Center, but a racetrack and a dog track (i didn't even know those things existed outside of Florida anymore).
Just when i thought i had a feel for the flavor of the city, i went around a corner and discover wetlands.
 Beautiful, but random.
Portland kept surprising me with its mixture of industrial, natural, artistic, eco-friendly, watery, mountainous, foresty, modern, and historic.
Quirky, people. Quirky.
Plus there was the added bonus of seeing my first giant redwood.
  I can't wait to go back.

Friday, June 18, 2010

the new love of my life

After performing for the kiddies and loading, unloading, reloading equipment into a van you want to go home to some cool refreshment.
But if you live in an old Victorian with high ceilings and no air conditioning there isn't much cool refreshment to be found; it gets hot, people.
Hot and sticky.
Which is when i reach for a frozen juice pop.
I love you.
That is frozen V8 splash Berry juice, people, so not only is it cold and delicious, it is a serving of fruit and a serving of vegetables.
 Such joy.
Such chilly bliss.
And how much did i have to pay for said joy?
 Less than a dollar.
I found this 8 popsicle mold at the dollar store.
Isn't it delightful?
 I have already gone through 2 different juice sets and there is frozen cran-grape waiting for me at home. We certainly have come a long way since Time for Timer taught us how to make Sunshine on a Stick.

love is stronger than reason

Perhaps you know that my BFF has moved to a farm and is raising chickens. And ducks. And bees. And rabbits. And 10,000 vegetables, including the imaginary rutabaga.
Would it surprise you to find out that she is addicted to Farmville?
Cause it sure as heck surprised me.
I mean she spends all day on a real farm and then all night on a virtual farm?
In retrospect it makes sense cause she can get all sorts of virtual animals that she can't quite afford yet in reality. [note- did you know you can buy cows on Craig's List?]
Anyhoo, she was telling me about driving to Indiana, not to go to the Interantional Circus Hall of Fame, but to buy some half-priced chickens and mentioned that she had stopped at some 7-11s to get Farmville codes, but they didn't have them yet.
Okay, i'll bite - what Farmville codes?
So 7-11 is doing this promotion with Facebook games and various items have codes on them and I really, really want a Neopolitan cow and maybe a sheep slide, but there aren't any 7-11s where I live and the one downtown by the university doesn't have them...
At this point i just stopped her.
I live 2 blocks from a 7-11.
I could walk there if need be.
So i went to 7-11 in search of Farmville ice cream, which has a code for a Neopolitan cow. And a Slurpee for the slide. But i didn't want to eat both, so i figured i'd just buy the Slurpee cup. So imagine me rifling through the Slurpee cups, looking for a Farmville one and then not filling it with Slurpee.
As i'm doing that, i notice that there are codes on the iced coffee cups. I don't drink coffee, but i figured if i'm buying one empty cup, i don't look more ridiculous buying 2 empty cups, right?
At this point an employee is definately giving me the hairy eyeball so i just asked her to help me find all of the items that have Farmville codes; i thought Rea said that there were 6.
She pointed out eveything and the mission was accomplished!
When i went to pay for my items some teenagers were looking at me a bit strange (who wouldn't?) so i explained that my BFF lived in a place where there were no 7-11s. Well that almost touched off a riot. These suburbanites couldn't even imagine such a universe and one girl is calling to her mom across the store, Mom. Mom. Did you know there are no 7-11s in Ohio?, like i have just proclaimed that they found water on Mars.
It was hilarious.
  Almost as hilarious as me buying multiple empty cups and then eating ice cream and a sausage croissandwich for dinner with those big-eyed farm kids staring at me.
I love you, Rea.

meet the Team Marge mascot

During the birthday frenzy last month Jason and Kate gifted me my very first Build-A-Bear creation.
It was a Hello Kitty.
A tanned, South Pacific Hello Kitty. Wearing a grass skirt. And coconuts.
Kate suggested she could be the mascot for Team Marge, so off she went to Applebees for Friday night trivia.
Isn't she adorable?
She enjoys their dessert shots, especially the mousse.
When Karen saw her she said, she can be our Hello Marge, which made me laugh like an insane person so i took to calling her Luau Hello Marge.
A week later, newest team member Chris suggested Luau Aloha Marge, which i also liked, so i've decided to go with Aloha Hello Marge, cause how ridiculous is it to have hello in her name twice?
 She is a welcome addition to the team for her sunny disposition and her extensive knowledge of 13th century Popes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

not dead, just back to work

There are all sorts of posts in the queue - team mascots, new babies, Portland photos that magically reappeared after being missing for 5 days, art show opening and a use for radishes, among other things.
But i went back to work in earnest this week and started summer programming so i've been a bit busy.
 Don't despair - i haven't disappeared forever.
Like the picture of Paul Bunyan's giant a**, i will magically reappear in the Nikiverse soon.

Friday, June 11, 2010

impulsive much?

I just dropped my piece for the exhibition off at the gallery on my way home from the gym (great first impression on the organizers, Nik; you're brilliant. oh, and you smell).
I don't know if it is because i was fatigued from my workout or because i was overwhelmed by all of the art around me or because of the adrenaline rush of handing the piece over or simply because i am an idiot, but i suddenly found myself agreeing to bringing another assemblage piece to the gallery later.
 So i am now showing two pieces at the exhibition.
And much like the Richter scale i am now exponentially more excited and terrified.
I was already bringing cards to sell, but i noticed that other artists had smaller works for sale this weekend as well. I wonder if there is time today around sushi buffet lunch and trivia tonight to finish some pieces i am working on and have them dry by tomorrow...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Somethings are not meant to be

I took the morning off and am in the library to finally catch up on blog posts.
Today is the day that the last 3 posts from my trip out west were finally going to leave the queue. Each of the posts are photo-heavy; last week i had arranged the pictures in the order that i wanted them and written an outline.
 Today i just needed to fill in the stories that went with the pictures.
Simple enough, right?
Not if when you open the posts you find that all of the photos from those revisions won't load.
Every picture in every other post is fine, but the ones from that particular work session are stupid red Xs. Of course the pictures are on my hard drive at work.
Oh wait, did i mention that my computer at work crashed yesterday?
 Perhaps it is simply destined that i am not to share my impressions of Portland, my trip to the Grotto of Our Sorrowful Mother and the pictures from my airplane window. Mayhaps the hilarious red bandanna painted hanging from giant Paul Bunyan's back pocket will only live in my mind, along with the 2nd largest hammered bronze statue in America, a humongous pink peony, a 110 foot elevator precariously attached to the side of a cliff, the most disturbing statue i have ever seen and the Rockies from 7 miles up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, JP!

For the 21 years that i have known Jason, his birthday had been on June 8th.
Despite the fact that both he and his parents insist that he was born on June 7th, i just know that it is the 8th.
 Who are you gonna believe - the woman who actually gave birth to him or Niki?
Over the weekend, his parents were in town so we went to a japanese steak house to celebrate the big 4-0.
I like to call this one Jasons in the Mist
 as he looks on wistfully at the impending fried rice.
He really likes fried rice.
I, on the other hand, really like onion volcanoes
  but, i mean, who doesn't?
Happy Birthday, man - today, yesterday and everyday.

Friday, June 4, 2010

did you forget something?

When one is walking along a busy thoroughfare in a bustling Northern Virginia suburb next to a construction site one does not expect to see random footware lying about.
  Especially when it is a holiday and there are no construction worker's feet anywhere to be seen.
Not to mention, who in the world would wear flip-flops at a construction site?
There are some mysteries that we may never solve.

supper for a thunderstorm

Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot.
 It was hot today; Summer is definitely making a bid to push Spring aside.
Around 5pm the storm clouds rolled in and thunder echoed through the house.
I was sitting in the sunroom, reading a book on my glider (did i mention how much i am enjoying not going to work?) when the first few drops started to fall.
I thought i'd roast some of the asparagus that i bought at the farmer's market yesterday for dinner and eat it in the sunroom, on my glider (really; i am seriously liking not going to work).
After calling Jason and Kate again to verify cooking instructions (i don't know what it is about 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness, at 400 degrees that refuses to stick in my brain, but i have to call them every time i roast veggies; mayhaps i should write it down somewhere...) i drizzled the spears with some olive oil and then on a whim (like everything else in my life isn't) i sprinkled on a handful of some dried tomato and garlic pesto mix that i've had forever (i think it is from a Tastefully Simple party 5 years ago).
It smelled yummy as i popped it into the oven.
 I didn't want anything heavy cause the storm was just breaking the heat so, inspired by the italianesque spices on the asparagus, i cut up some sharp provolone cheese and thin sliced pepperoni.
For a touch more protein i started to slice a hard-boiled egg, but decided at the last minute to mix up some herbed egg salad with parsley and dill.
Once all three things were on one of my beloved pink dogwood plates, i stuck it in the fridge to be chilling.
Speaking of chilling, i poured an inch of fruit juice into a glass and stuck it into the back of the freezer.
25 minutes later the asparagus was ready and i stacked it on the chilled plate and headed back out to the glider.
I poured more fruit juice into the frozen glass over the juice-cicle and settled in to eat and watch the storm. 
Since there was no crusty bread (i hardly ever have bread in my house; it goes bad before i eat it) i stacked my yummies on melba toast (am i the only person who actually likes melba toast?).
The chilled plate cooled the asparagus enough that i could eat it with my fingers, without it actually becoming cold.
The only thing missing would have been some stuffed green olives, but alas i had none in the house.
The thunderstorm never really became a rain storm, but my finger-food supper was just right for rocking in the glider with a book and icy cold fruit juice as the temperature finally fell.

i continue to blame Rea

I'm pretty sure there is no graphic art of a huge chicken on a traffic box on a street corner in downtown Baltimore. I mean, why would there be? We are miles and miles from the nearest farm/hatchery/eggery/or Perdue plant. I'm pretty sure i imagined it because my cousin and I have been talking about $1 chickens on Craig's List.

Next, i'm gonna start believing rutabagas are real.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm pretty sure i don't want to know...

... what sort of catastrophe turns a gas pump into a twisted wreck with all of the glass and screens shattered. I just hope that whatever it was happened while the pump was off. Caution, indeed!

it's not easy being grilled cheesee

I have found heaven,
and it is filled with grilled cheese.
This is a (relatively) new restaurant in Catonsville that is right at my exit from the Beltway so i see it every night when i get home from work. I finally got a chance to try it last week and was so glad that i did.
  Grilled Cheese & Co serves variations of toasted bread with cheese. It doesn't sound like an earth-shattering idea, but it is. Imagine a row of sandwich presses, each perfectly toasting your bread from edge to edge and the smell of cheese in the air.
sigh... it's wonderful
They have a small dining room with seating for about 40-50 that was immaculately clean. The menu is written on the wall and the prices are competitive with other sit-down sandwich places. I opted to sit at one of the 2 outdoor tables with umbrellas cause it was a lovely day and though the view is not exactly picturesque i hardly noticed, since my eyes were locked on my Blue Ox combo with sweet potato fries
Behold! That would be roast beef and blue cheese grilled with horseradish sauce. They did not skimp on any of the ingredients and the side portion was large enough that i took some home with me.
With my soda it was $9.50.
Plus, the sandwich was so good that i couldn't stop thinking about it and went back to get another 3 days later. If you aren't Jason (or a vegan), give Grilled Cheese & Co a chance. You'll be so happy you did.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Catonsville Bicentennial Fine Arts Exhibition

Now that we are in June I can share more about the art exhibition in which i am showing a new piece of work. To celebrate the 200th year of the founding of Catonsville, some local artists decided to put together an exhibition of various types of art being created by people living and working in the local zip code. A call went out for submissions and i was intrigued. By no means would i consider myself a fine artist, but i saw this as a chance to try something new. In all the years that i have been painting i have only shared the two pieces hanging on my wall in my studio and the two pieces that i have given as gifts. The rest have either been buried under piles in my studio or cut up and used in other mixed media pieces. I figured it was time to hang something on a wall for other people to see. I was excited to submit the piece and then i regretted it completely and then i was so excited again that i wished that i had more time to submit another piece and then i was trepidatious. Excited, scared, excited, scared - it oscillates between the two every day. I really want people to come and see the mixed media with acrylic painting that i finished. I am terrified of having it hang next to trained and professional artists. I'm proud that i am even trying this. I'm scared no one will come. I'm scared people will come and laugh. I am all over the emotional map about this. That is where all of you come into the picture. Wouldn't you love to come see some local art and witness me being a basketcase? Mayhaps you would like to purchase some handpainted cards? Perhaps you'd like to bring your kids to do some crafty things. Did i mention refreshments? SATURDAY JUNE 12th 1:00-5:00 is the opening reception with all of the activities. SUNDAY JUNE 13th 1:00-5:00, the gallery will be open with the artists, as well. Many of the pieces will be for sale. The exhibition continues through July 16th. This will hopefully be a fun time for everyone and a character building experience for me. Please come say HI, if you can. I'll put a counter on the side of my blog to help you remember.

all keyed up

After the farmer's market i came to the library to try to get caught up on blog posts as there are 9 currently in the queue (yes, i still have Portland posts to finish...sigh). They started locking the bathrooms here a few months ago, but since i live less than 2 blocks away i haven't needed to get the key. Until now. I can't explain why, but the key holder makes me happy: It is decoupaged on both sides with nice handmade paper and beautiful stamps from around the world. The workmanship on the decoupage is excellent with hardly any seams, lumps or bubbles. I appreciate that somebody in the library took the time to make a utilitarian object so lovely.

I blame Rea

I am taking a few days off this week as we have finished school programming for the year (except one Starlab on Friday that has been a scheduling nightmare for a month) and don't start summer programming for 2 weeks. I can really use a wee respite after all of the work/financial drama of May. Today i went to the Catonsville Wednesday farmer's market for the first time. I really like farmer's markets, but this one runs during the day on Wednesday so us working folks are denied the chance. To address that issue, Catonsville has introduced a Sunday market which i plan on hitting this weekend. Anyhoo, it was a nice little market at the Bloomsbury Community Center, with a butcher, a fishmonger, an egg seller, a bakery, 2 nurseries and several produce vendors. I didn't take any pictures cause i was too focused on asparagus. I like to support local businesses, but i also like that the prices are sometimes lower from the farmer than they are from the grocery store. I got broccoli, asparagus, sugar peas, granola bars and eggs. Here is where i blame my cousin. You see, the local farm fresh brown eggs that i bought were definitely NOT cheaper than the grocery, but when i saw the table with the chicken-print tablecloth and the jaunty stuffed chicken sitting next to the cooler all i could think of was I wonder what kind of chickens they have. People, i barely knew that there were different kinds of egg-laying chickens before Rea started her egg business and now i feel compelled to ask what type of chickens laid these eggs. After a lengthy chicken discussion (where the girl selling the eggs said that their chickens are mostly mixed breeds, bred for egg size and color and i was very proud that i could name at least 4 of the gazillion breeds of chickens that Rea owns), i bought a dozen even though they were more expensive than the store; I felt like i owed it to my chicken owning cousin to buy local. So Rea, i am doing my part to sustain local eggeries (what is the word for a place that produces eggs?). Though if you were to move a bit closer than BFE Ohio i would gladly buy them from you instead.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

you got sparkles in my glitter...

...no, you got glitter in my sparkles
Or so says my friend Douglas who sent a birthday box of pretty ponies ready to become glitter ponies or sparkle ponies depending on my mood (and in my color palette, too).
I'm gonna glitter everything in sight!
Thanks, baby!