Saturday, December 28, 2013

Six Word Saturday

Losing track:  what day is it?

The extra time off work is messing with my equilibrium. I got up this morning really excited to read the Sunday paper.  Getting the morning paper here is a project:  I have to bundle up and walk out to the mailbox by the main road.  Imagine my irritation when I got all the way out there and there was no fat Sunday paper balanced on top of the mailbox.  God dammit!  Our paper delivery has been a bit unreliable lately, but it bugs me more when it is the Sunday paper.  I looked inside the mailbox.  Inside, there was a Saturday paper.  Stupid Saturday paper.  Who cares about the Saturday paper?  Yesterday's news.  I stomped home in a temper.  I am calling customer service!  This is an outrage!  I was just about to pick up the phone when I remembered.  Imagine what a great blog entry it would be if I had made the call.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Grownups at the Kids' Table

Ooof.  It has been a rough few days for me.

I have had a cold, and so has Chuck.  We handle illness very differently:  I keep blasting along regardless and double-dog dare the virus to stick around; Chuck gives himself a day of total surrender.  I find myself envious of his approach.  And you know how it is this time of year:  I am hosting something or attending something every night for the next week, including various over night house-guests each night through the new year.  Don't get me wrong!  I love it!  Well, I love the company.  I don't love the logistical puzzles or the self-applied pressure to clean out the inside of the fridge before my new MIL comes to stay.
 We had snow a few days ago, and were productive in the face of the storm.  Meet the '88 Isuzu trooper that Chuck rehabilitated and made into his "new" plow vehicle.
I got all of the wood stacked and tarped, and rigged lights on our stairs.  This is part Christmas aesthetic and part safety feature.  You can see our stairs are kind of scary.

Now it has been melty and drippy for a few days.  This has made the stairs much better, but our woodland "luge run" a bit worse.

Sara had a sledding party last night, so she was anxious about it; but judging by the pink, gasping faces and soaked mittens, a good time was had by all.  I like this kind of party:  Sara told me all I had to do was make dinner!  She invited five kids and Nate invited a couple of friends to keep him company, so nine kids, total.  

Sara's boyfriend, picture-perfect Nick, was in attendance.  Maria once asked me to describe him and give her an idea of what he is like.  It's very hard for me.  He is a darkly handsome, tall, polite non-entity.  He has yet to engage me in conversation.  I overhear bits and pieces of his conversations with others, which just confirm my assumptions:  he's very conservative.  Last night, in discussing gay marriage in Utah, which is legal since the courts overturned the state's marriage law two days ago ("Toto!  I don't think we're in Kansas any more!"), he told Sara and the other kids, "Well, if gays are allowed to marry, what will happen if there is some kind of crisis and only gays are getting married, and then no one will have children and there won't be any more people!"  HAHAHAHAHAH!  OK, I didn't laugh... I said not one word and kept at my self-appointed task of cleaning out the fridge, but with my ears perked up to hear how the other kids would respond.  Better that he have the (oh-my-god-I-can't-even-count-how) many logical fallacies of that statement pointed out to him by someone in his peer group.   Sara's friend Mo did the honors, and I kept my head down, snorting.  

At any rate, Maria, I keep my ears and eyes open and my mouth shut, for now.  

The kids came, they sledded, they played a lot of ping pong (and "Sting-Pong": when you lose, you get smacked with the paddle), they "chilled"... They ATE!!  I cooked a BOX and  a HALF of PASTA!  They ate it all.  I had them lined up down both sides of the big farmhouse table, and Chuck and I huddled like refugees at the kitchen counter.  I advocated on behalf of salad, and asked for particulars about the state of the luge run, but otherwise stayed out of the fray.

It was fun.  Fun to let Sara figure out the evening and the people on her own.  And it feels good that she loves having friends at our place and effortlessly refers to Chuck as her step dad.  

And while this hullabaloo was going on, I not only cleaned out the fridge, but did the ironing.  Quite a party!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How do you say Stapler in Japanese?

I had a lot of fun in Office Max the other day.

First of all, I ran into one of Sara's teachers there, who sang Sara's praises.  The teacher and I were exchanging pleasantries; the amusing part was Sara, who was with me.  She was so embarrassed that she was writhing in agony.  The teacher and I both observed this and  took things to the next level:  giggling together, walking out to the parking lot with each other, etc...  Teenagers are embarrassed by the strangest things!  Which of course adds a lot of entertainment value to even mundane tasks.

I was checking out when I over heard a situation at the check-stand next to me.  An elderly Asian man was there, bundled up to his ears in an enormous parka.  He looked anxious, and was making a "press the button" motion on the counter-top while saying a word in what sounded like Japanese to me.  This went on for a minute or so, but the cashier was stumped.  The gentlemen did not speak one word of English.  I watched his hand motions for a second, then inserted myself into the game of charades.  I made a "cutting" motion.  "Scissors?"  The man shook his head and made a "pinching" motion with his thumb and middle finger. Hmmm...  "Hole punch?"  I did a similar "pinch", but inserted a finger from my other hand in it, as if it were a piece of paper being punched.  His face lit up, but I wasn't sure, because that might look like paper in a stapler, too.  Then another customer called out, "Does he mean 'stapler'"?  The "press down with the heel of your hand" motion got his interest.  I asked the clerk, "Do you have a stapler back there?"  "Yeah."  He held it up.  "Is that what you want?"  Big smile!  Big nod!  OK!

The clerk said, "Aisle five", and went on to the next customer in line.  The Japanese guy's face fell.  He looked confused.  I held up five fingers.  "Aisle five."  I gestured at the aisle numbers.  "Aisle five."  Nothin' doin'.  I beckoned.  "Come with me."  We went to aisle five together and there was a wide array of staplers.  Heaven!  Stapler heaven!  He was thrilled.  He bowed deeply.  Then he grabbed my hand and pumped it energetically.  Then he gave me an enthusiastic hug.

If I had had a business card with me, I would have suggested he sign up for classes.  Or maybe I would have just enjoyed the moment.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Six Word Saturday

Sixteen years of sewing, finally done!

[This deserves a little more than six words for the sake of the back-story.]

When I started this quilt in 1996, I didn't know how to sew (and I still don't).  I had a few raggedy flannel shirts, and thought, "It would be cool to make a quilt."  If you look at the squares, you''ll see a green and blue paid with a few threads of yellow.  That belonged to Mike Ehlenfeldt, my high school boyfriend.  The brown and black buffalo plaid, and the pale green with weird little brown squares were Simon's.  I found the rest in rag bags and thrift stores.  Then, I saw an instruction manual in a handicraft store:  Make an Irish Chain in a Day.  Pfffft.  It assumed that the reader would actually own a sewing machine, a rotary cutter or have a clue.  I sure didn't.  But I looked at the pictures and thought, "I can figure this out".

Experienced sewers!  You would be shocked.  I made the squares by cutting out a piece of cardboard the right size and tracing around it, then cutting it out with a pair of scissors.  Many, many times.  Then I bought a spool of blue thread and a book needles and got started.  Tiny, tiny stitches in the evening after supper.  My cousin suggested that I get a ruler, a rotary cutter and a mat - thank goodness I did!  I remember sewing for hours and hours in 1996, after I had a miscarriage and needed to ward away misery.  I remember cutting the dark blue strips for the border the day Sara was born.

I rarely worked it after I had the kids, but I would have little spurts of productivity.  I asked for a sewing machine a few years ago, thinking that would speed the process.  By that time, I just needed to sew the borders on; but I didn't know how to use a sewing machine, so nothing happened.

Chuck is a good sewer.  When we started our relationship and he found out about this project, he insisted that I get the quilt back out, set up the machine at his place (my apartment was too small) and finish it up.  He taught me the basics of how to use the machine.

And here we are, at last.

Now there are other challenges.  I need to make a back.  I need to choose and piece together batting.  I need to make all the layers lie smooth.  I need to either quilt it or tie it.  I need to trim and bind the edges.  I have no idea how to do any of those things.  I'll figure it out.

Then, I will do things in a more ordinary progression and learn to make something SANE, like a tote bag or something!

Although I have this vision of a crazy quilt that is sort of fabric art and represents all the things I love to look at in my woodland home...

...or a tote bag...

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch

Ah!  Time to kick back for just a couple of minutes.  Perhaps Patrice will have some virtual goodies:  cyber cinnamon rolls?  Virtual fudge?  It has been a busy time for me.  My daughter is starting Indoor Track practice; my son's room was so messy he actually needed adult assistance to figure out how to conquer it.  I haven't blogged as much as I want to, but BOY, have I been getting some things done!

I finally gave in and ordered an eclectic roaster on-line (my antique oven isn't big enough hold things like a turkey), which of course meant that I spotted one at my local grocery store later that day.  I started baking Christmas cookies; I made the masa for tamales (I figure if I make all the components in advance, I won't feel so oppressed by making them on Christmas Eve); I organized my recipes, which were a disaster; I made suet cakes for my bird feeder.  We cut a 12 foot tree and decorated it last night.  The kids love these huge, spectacular trees.  Their dad doesn't like celebrating Christmas and won't get one at all, so I go a little crazy and they love it.  Sara turned it on this morning so she could look at it while she was eating breakfast.  OH!  And I finished my quilt!  I have been piecing a queen-size Irish Chain for....16 years!!!  it's not really finished:  still needs backing, batting, tying, binding.  But the pretty part is done.  This deserves its own blog entry.  I'll take a photo tonight, after I iron it.  

Work has also been a little nuts.  I have a huge grant proposal due day after tomorrow, which I hope will infuse my program with some much-needed funding; and I have been hammering away at that since Thanksgiving.  We are going to do a couple of big holiday events for the students in my adult English as a Second Language program; and we are working on a contribution drive for our new building.  Our students (low-income immigrants and refugees) and volunteers have dug deep and raised over $2,000 to contribute.  Everywhere I turn, there is a job that needs doing.  But I am very happy.  Whew.  Blah, blah, blah, Patrice.  Sorry.  I have been dominating the conversation.

1.  Have you baked any Christmas cookies yet?

I have started, but I am planning to cut back a lot this year.  I used to eight different kinds, but we eat fewer cookies in my new life than we did in my previous one.  So this year, I will just do special requests:  Mint Sticks for Sara; Rum Balls for Nate; Raspberry Strippers and Almond Biscotti for Chuck.  And a Plum Pudding for me.  I have finished the brownie layer of the mint sticks, which broke again as I was removing it from the pan (a holiday tradition).  I will glue it back together with bright green peppermint icing tomorrow.

2.  Have you finished your holiday shopping, yet?

No.  But I have a carefully laid-out schedule of places to shop for different gifts, have already done most of my on-line shopping,. etc...  Plus, we don't do a lot of gift exchanging:  second hand and homemade are major components, so I'm about where I should be.

3.  If you had a team of reindeer, what would you name them?  

They would all have the same name:  the name I call everyone in my family:  "Na-Sar-Si-Chuck", followed by, "Uh...", then "YOU"!

4.  What was the most memorable Christmas gift you ever gave or received?

When I was a kid growing up in Wisconsin, our family friends, the Wilsons, often brought us kind of crazy gifts.  The best year was when I was about 7 or 8.  Mr. Wilson brought two packages, each one bigger than our entire tree, wrapped in rolls and rolls of paper.  When opened, they revealed huge bails of empty plastic milk jugs and instructions on how to use them in the construction of a swimming raft.  My dad built it and it floated in Little Hills Lake, where we have our cottage, for many years of swimming and diving pleasure.  It was still afloat when I was a college student.

5.  Patrice has asked for something new.  Well, the latest news from our barn in the canyon is that our sewer line froze.  In the place where we live, we have a septic leach field for gray water, and a holding tank for the toilets.  The showers drain fine, but the toilet line froze.  Poor Chuck has been working madly to try to get it thawed out, and called me a few minutes ago to say that he thinks that the heat he applied to it over night has worked.  I would not recommend one of his other remedies, though.  Pouring boiling water down the line may or may not work; but it will certainly melt the wax ring that seats the toilet to the bathroom floor.  The kids were strangely thrilled at the opportunity to pee off the back porch, despite the near-zero temperatures and quantities of snow.  Nathan did this with pleasure and style, of course.  Sara... less style.  "Sara, I said to piss OFF the porch, not ON the porch."  "I thought I had it nailed, Mom, but my aim needs work."  They will be disappointed to find, when they return in a few days, that we are back to living like ordinary people.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch

I'm off to Patrice's for a Chat on the Farmhouse Porch.  It has taken me a long time to get there, because the roads are so bad.  First major snowstorm of the winter here in Utah.  The skiers are happy, but the commuters are less so.  .

1.  Please tell me the three most valuable things you learned as a child or young person.

That being a "drama queen" is annoying in a child, but it makes you a really great English as a Second Language teacher as an adult; that learning to navigate an argumentative supper table crowded with older siblings is a valuable skill for the future; that wearing black tights with black shoes will elongate the look of your legs.

2.  Do you participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday?

NO!  NO!  A thousand time NO!  I hate to shop at all!  And I try to do as little gift exchanging as possible for Christmas.

3.  Do you pray?

No.  I'm an atheist.  Sometimes I wish I did, but I don't.

4.  Have you ever been invited to any parties to celebrate Christmas or New Year?

Yes!  I love parties!  I love attending them, and throwing them as well.  Last year, we went to an open house on Christmas Eve, had friends over for Christmas brunch and threw a party for New Years as well.

5.  Have you ever owned cowboy boots or a cowboy hat?  Or a cowboy?

No, to all of those (and a sigh of regret about the cowboy...)  I would like a pair of cowboy boots.  Maybe someday.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Looking for the Blessing

So, the low point of my day today was (as is often the case) my rental property and my tenants.  The kids in the upstairs unit are late with the rent again, and I have just fielded their second noise complaint.  That means I will have to write them up and, if they rack up another complaint, I will have to evict them. 

It has made me especially tense because one of the people I would have to evict is my step-son.  Yuck. 

Let's see... How to put lipstick on this pig...  I should be grateful that I have this nest-egg.  Not everyone has money to invest in a run-down piece of shit like mine.  Tomorrow is a new day.