Monday, October 30, 2006

A Restful Restroom Weekend

This weekend M and I gave our guest bathroom a makeover.

You'd think that after a highly stressful week at work, home improvement would be the last thing I'd want to do, but I discovered that I really love demolition. Attacking the underside of your ugly countertop with a mallet and then pulling it off with a satisfying rrrrrip! is very therapeutic! I highly recommend it.

I forgot to take pictures of the bathroom before we started, but above the sink was a mirror that stretched the entire length of the wall.




I think mirrors are supposed to make small rooms appear larger, but this one had the opposite effect. Even when you were in there by yourself it felt as though you were at a crowded party (which isn't really the feeling you want to have when you're in the bathroom, if you know what I mean). It was huge! Large enough to put on the ceiling over your bed, if you're into that kind of thing. Which we're not.


Featured: Liz's beloved putty knife with comfort-grip handle.
Did you know that I'm a spackle master?

The walls were a dingy off-white color, the faux marble sink was looking more yellow than sparkling white, and everything was construction-grade (see also: Cheapest Possible Option). I never felt very happy in there, and shouldn't you feel happy in a room where so many important things take place? (Fill in your happy bathroom memories here: ____________)

This is one of the last rooms in the house to get some TLC. Obviously we didn't care too much about our guests' bathroom happiness.


Can you spot the putty knife? Also, Post-Its stick to a wide
variety of surfaces, including ceramic tile!


The first thing I did was install the new toilet paper holder. I don't know why- it just seemed important. Then I patched the walls, sanded, painted, and caulked, while M acted as plumber.

Let's play a game! Look at the picture below. What do you suppose happened when M took this sink trap outside to clean it with the high-powered garden hose?

You'll shoot your eye out!


a) He discovered too late that the other end of the pipe was aimed at his face.
b) He discovered too late that the other end of the pipe was aimed at his crotch.
c) Both a and b happened within five minutes.


Here I'm either admiring the new shower curtain or
hating the old light fixture-- I'm not sure which.

Besides being quite good at patching walls, I'm also very good at painting. I've painted almost every room in our house. I don't have to use tape, people. It's true! I can paint along baseboards, ceilings, and trim with a steady hand. If librarianship doesn't work out, I have something to fall back on.

Ta-da!


M still has to hook up the rest of the shower fixtures and I need to figure out what to do with that naked light bulb strip, but it looks better already.

M picked out the mirror. I was impressed.

One member of the household was not impressed by our accomplishments. He spent most of his weekend tiptoeing fearfully around all the strange objects in the hallway, trying repeatedly without success to find out what was in that mysterious paint can ("No, Alex!").

They love their new faucet more than they love me.
Also, paint is stinky. Home improvement sucks.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I fucking love kale.

Sorry. It just came out.

May I present another ode to kale? No? Okay, fine. I'll just get on with it and post a recipe.

I made this on Monday night. It was delicious then, but even better tonight after resting for 24 hours.

(O, beautiful Kale!
Not like your mushy cooked cousin, Spinach.
You are so delightfully toothsome.)

(the ode just flew out of me.)


Curly Kale with Carmelized Onions
From the 2006 November/December issue of Vegetarian Times

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 T)
3 lb. curly kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup chopped almonds


1) Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, and cooked 10-15 minutes, or until soft and beginning to brown. Add garlic and cook 1 minute, or until fragrant.

2) Stir in kale and 2 cups water. Cover and cook 30 minutes, or until kale is tender. Season with salt and pepper. If making ahead, cool and store in airtight container. Just before serving, reheat kale mixture, then drizzle with vinegar and sprinkle with chopped almonds.


Did you catch that last part? If making ahead? Kale is one of those vegetables that tastes great when it's been sitting around for a while. And I'm thinking that anything that can be made ahead is a great choice for Thanksgiving dinner, which I am hosting again this year. Who wants to come? All the spare rooms are claimed but I have a leaky air mattress with your name on it!

Work has been kicking me in the bum lately, which is why I haven't been posting as frequently. I would love to tell you all about it, but since I don't like to discuss work here, this is the most I can give you:

First, schnizzlety schnizzle tolberone wonked out the berbery-burberry! And then I had to furritz the blossom-bottom while I was suffering from an infectionus sinusis (Latin?). On top of that, I was asked to blankety-blank the bar mitzvah's weiner schnitzel and bibbity-bobbity-boo, I have a paper cut.

So isn't it okay that all I have tonight is another ode to kale?

M and I went to see this Saturday night and George Wendt played the jury foreman. I had the nearly irrepressible urge to bellow "NORM!" when he came out on stage. No intermission, which I like. Intermissions always bother me. Can't everyone eat and drink wine and use the toilet before the performance, and be okay for a couple of hours? LET'S GET ON WITH IT.

I feel that this must say something about me, but I'm not sure what.

We went for some gastronomical entertainment after the show, then headed for home. As we were driving, I noticed a mattress on the side of the road.

Scene: M's 1998 Toyota, driving down some random street in NW Washington

(also, Liz has had two glasses of delicious cabernet)

Liz: That's so strange. Why do you always see mattresses on the side of the road? I mean, how do they get there?

M: Huh. I don't know.

Liz: I mean, it's not like people routinely carry mattresses around. It's not like you're walking your mattress and all of a sudden you get tired and have to abandon it on the street.

M: Um, yes. I really have no idea. Maybe someone leaves it there in case pedestrians get tired and need a place to rest.

Liz: BYOS. HAAAAAAAA!

M: ?

Liz: Bring Your Own Sheets.

M:

Liz: Haaaaaaaaaa!

M: That wasn't funny.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Going to Hell in a [hand-thrown] handbasket

On Saturday we made our annual trek out to the Blue Ridge Mountains to visit one of my favorite places in the world: Blue Ridge Pottery.

I started buying pottery there in 1997. When M and I got married, they made a set of dishes for us. Every year we go back to add a new piece to our collection.


It was a beautiful day for the trip. Cool, crisp, and sunny. The trees were just turning shades of red and orange, and though they will be even more beautiful when they hit their peak, it was still a lovely drive.






Hello, old friend!

Now the tough part... deciding what to buy.

If all goes according to plan,
I'll soon own one of everything. Mwa ha ha!



I think I see the one I want... that lovely red
serving platter with streaks of blue and purple.
Always coordinate your pottery with your outfit, ladies.


The tradition is to visit the pottery, then drive the 30 minutes to Harrisonburg, Virginia, for a late lunch at my favorite restaurant: The Little Grill. I had felafel in a pita and ginger lemonade. M and I split a piece of carrot cake for dessert. I almost licked the plate.

So what do you suppose we saw in our mailbox when we returned home from our idyllic drive in the country?

This:



I looked at this and thought it was an announcement for a breast cancer research fundraiser. It was folded in half, so all I saw was the lettering at the top, which looked like it said: Revelation and the BREAST.

I unfolded it, yelped, and dropped it on the counter. M came over to take a look. He thought he'd signed up for an Iron Maiden mailing list.

But no! It was simply a friendly reminder that we're both going to hell.


"RAAAAAWR!!" says the scary, toothy dragon. "HAVE FUN IN HELL!!!"



Here's a picture from M's mom's wedding. I mean, really. Do we look like the kind of people who are destined for hell?
Okay, maybe.
Sticking your tongue out at a wedding means
"Have a long and happy marriage!" in Devil-speak.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The best-laid plans...

My husband is the type of person who constantly runs into people he knows. This happens in restaurants. On the street. In line at the video store. While buying groceries.

We took Alex hiking yesterday. We were in the woods, literally in the middle of nowhere, and hadn’t seen a soul in thirty minutes. Up ahead, we finally see a woman in a pink shirt. I say hello as we pass her on the trail. Behind me, I hear M exclaim, “Oh my God! Hi, Jen!”

Yes. M even sees people he knows in the wilderness. I was pretty much speechless.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

M’s mom married Robert on Saturday. It was to be a gathering of 40 people; a nice, intimate ceremony. Trying to keep the costs low, she asked if I could take as many pictures with my camera as possible.

“Sure!” I said.

So we arrive an hour early on the day of the wedding. I was eager to jump into my role of photographer and decided to snap a picture of M shaking Robert’s hand.

“Okay!” I directed. “That’s great. Robert, get a bit closer to M. Now smile like you’re about to whisk his mother off to Mexico. Oh, right—you ARE! Okay… say cheese!”

Only then do I notice the message my camera has been flashing in bright red letters: NO CARD.

“Fuck!” I mutter. “Oh! I mean-- DARN IT ALL!”

The memory card was at home, in our computer. Where I left it.

M raced off to the nearest Ritz Camera store, about 15 blocks away.

“Where are the programs? And the guest book?” Robert looked confused. “Shouldn’t they have put them out by now?”

I went to the front desk to find out. It took 15 minutes and three hotel employees to arrive at the conclusion that they had no idea what I was talking about.

“For a wedding?” one clerk asked.

“Yes,” I said calmly. “For the wedding that’s happening right over there in 30 minutes.”

They all gazed at the room in wonderment.

“On Wednesday the bride and groom dropped off three boxes full of things for the ceremony and reception,” I said patiently, for the fourth time. “They were put in Carolyn’s office.”

“Well,” said another clerk. “Carolyn doesn’t work today, but I’ve left four voice mails for her. Hopefully she’ll call back.”

I looked at her.

“Do you suppose you could just LOOK IN CAROLYN’S OFFICE?”

“Sure, I can do that!”

(Liz bangs head on marble counter)

The boxes were not in Carolyn’s office. They finally tracked down the banquet manager, who seemed equally surprised that there was a wedding taking place in (now) 20 minutes.

“Oh!” said the banquet manager. “I think I remember seeing some boxes in a store room in the back. I’ll go look.”

“NO!” I said, lunging toward him. “Don’t leave. TAKE ME THERE.”

And there they were, in the store room! I grabbed the programs, guest book, and unity candle, and ran to the room where the ceremony was taking place. I returned to the banquet room to find the manager staring confusedly into the boxes.

“Where does she want all this stuff?” he asked.

I plucked a paper from one of the boxes and handed it to him. On it was a clearly written list detailing what was to be done with each item. He still looked confused. I spent the next ten minutes showing him where to put everything. Another banquet worker came into the room, surveyed the activitiy, and said, "Wow! How do you know where all this stuff goes?"

(Liz bangs head on the cake table)

The wedding was great. Robert, who has never been married before, was adorably nervous. After they exchanged vows, he recited As Long As Your Eyes Are Blue for M's mom. After a kiss, they clasped hands and turned to face their guests.

Robert's mother, who just turned 91 and surely thought she'd never live to see her son marry, was beside herself. As the minister announced the happy union, she whooped, "HALLELUJAH!"

And mom and Robert floated down the aisle to the music of 40 people laughing with delight.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Auto-Fill

I consider the Windows Auto-Fill feature to be one of life's little pleasures. You know how it works: type something just once, and the wondrous computing box remembers it for next time!

For example, I've recently been Googling for information on Dingle, Ireland. All I have to type is d-i-n, and presto:


My computer senses my need and supplies the answer. This saves so much time, and boy, do I love to save time. I'm the type who would rather hang 15 full grocery bags all over my body and struggle wheezing and gasping up the front steps than make two or three trips to the car.

Today I caught myself fantasizing about how incredibly great it would be if Auto-Fill and Google could team up to assist me in everyday situations.

What if I could conjure up a giant Google box to appear over my head every time someone started to ask me a repeat question? Before the first words were out of their mouths a list of possible questions would be supplied and they could simply choose the right one and hit Search.

I mean, imagine. This could really come in handy at work.

GOOGLE SAYS: Down the hall, to the right.

Thanks, Google Auto-Fill! That saves me an hour a day right there. How can you assist me at home?


GOOGLE SAYS: Don't count on it.

(Magic 8 Ball says: Plagiarizer! I'll SUE YOUR ASS!!!)



Wonderful. I suspect this could be useful for everyday social situations, too:




GOOGLE SAYS: Why don't you make up your own answer? That's more fun.


Google! Your tone is deliciously snarky today. I like it.


This would also be fabulously handy when you've just crashed into a wall or coffee table in front of your husband for the third time in under an hour:




GOOGLE SAYS: I think she just doesn't watch where she's going. Better check that bottle of Viognier, though.


I'd have to adjust the settings to ensure that my own personal thoughts and questions are not broadcast for all to see. I mean, what if I start to think, How do I get a rental car in Ireland? and suddenly the question How do I get rid of body odor? pops up? That could be rather embarrassing.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I spent my weekend surrounded by drunk people.

Yes! Drunk people, everywhere! All weekend long! I could hardly believe it myself.

M’s band had a show on Friday night, so I met my friend at a coffee shop a couple hours early for some good ol’ female bonding. There’s nothing like getting into a good conversation with your same-sex friends, is there? I should have kept notes on all the different topics we covered, but to hit on the highlights: allergies, men, all the places within the FDR memorial where you could probably have sex without being discovered, men, and oh- you should HEAR the inappropriate things her gynecologist said to her last week. Outrageous!

There weren’t any drunk people at the coffee shop, as far as I could tell, just a lot of people getting buzzed on espresso. But we walked to the club where M’s band was playing and suddenly, BEHOLD THE DRUNKEN GLORY. Not me, though. I was high on life. And my soy latte.

In less-swanky clubs and bars, people don’t usually try to hide how drunk they are. WOOOOO! The more raucous, the less able to walk a straight line, the better! They put it on display for everyone to see because they are having SO MUCH FUN.

For contrast, I present the Virginia Wine Festival, which M and I attended on Saturday. The festival was held in a huge field in beautiful Leesburg, Virginia. Well, it used to be beautiful before they hacked down all the trees and planted all the fields with strip malls and miles of townhomes and mansions. I know this because my good college friend grew up on a real, live dairy farm in Leesburg and I had the good fortune to visit and live out my farm girl fantasies before they sold off the land.

Weep.

Anyhow, I got a good, long look at Leesburg because we were stuck on Route 15 for TWO. BLESSED. HOURS. We made it to Leesburg in just under an hour, which led to an obnoxious display of self-congratulation.

Then we hit the ENDLESS WALL OF TRAFFIC THAT WAS ROUTE 15.

I rather dislike Route 15.

Anyhow, we finally made it to the festival, and once again—drunk people, everywhere!

Except that unlike the drunk people at the club on Friday night, many of these people were drunk but were pretending that they weren’t. You know what I mean. The eyes are trying to focus, she’s nodding very deliberately at the winery representative as he explains how this Vidal Blanc is produced only in certain years when the conditions are perfect, and all the while she keeps stepping to the left because the floor (er, field) seems to be tilting. But NO, I’m not drunk! I have a Coach bag and matching sunglasses and cute red shoes, I’m not DRUNK you stupid whore.

Except that she totally is.

I was surprised by how many college-aged people were there, probably because in college I knew nothing about wine (except that I liked it, all of it!) and didn't have much of an inclination to study up. Some of them seemed like they were really trying to learn about wine, but others went from table to table, knocking back every taste in rapid succession. Some of them also puffed on cigars, which made me giggle a little—just the ones who tried to puff in a serious, vaguely menacing way, a la Tony Soprano. Really-- if your mom is still buying your socks, you just won’t look right with a cigar in your mouth. Take it from me, yo.

We had some nice, stinky cheese and lots of good wine, taking home only one bottle (alas, for the entertainment budget was rather depleted for the month) of delicious 2004 Viognier from Breaux. For the past two nights I’ve hinted subtly to M that I’d like to open it (“I’D REALLY, REALLY LOVE TO DRINK THAT VIOGNIER TONIGHT!”), but he insists that we should wait until we’ve prepared a dinner that will pair nicely with the flavor of the wine.

I know what pairs nicely with the flavor of the wine. My tongue!

It’s probably best to wait, as my sinuses have decided to attack my face and I can’t taste much of anything anyhow.


To: Sinuses
From: Liz
Re: Recent disruptive activity



Dear sinuses,

I have recently been informed that you've been behaving in a manner unbecoming of my face. My cheeks hurt, my jaw hurts, and there is only one specific position in which I can sleep that even slightly lessens the sensation that my eyeballs are about to pop out of my head.

I understand, sinuses. The pair of you are nothing but cavities. Being simply empty space, you feel unimportant compared to the heart, lungs, fingernails, and other body parts. So you felt the need to make your presence known, didn’t you? Hey, look at us! We can do something, too! We can be really super annoying!

YOU’VE MADE YOUR POINT.

I would like to threaten legal action, but the only lawyer I know is no longer practicing. Cut it out, or I will find a way to get you.

I’ve walked face-first into walls before, and I’ll do it again.

Xoxo,

Liz

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