Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Babies and birds in boxes, and the prophesies of friends

Last week, I had the honor of sitting with some lovely and talented ladies to make dolls late into the night. Of course, there was wine, good conversation and abundant laughter. The honor, however, was that Carrie had gathered us, our supplies and our talents together to make these dolls for Craft Hope. Being the clenchy, must.be.prepared. girl that I am, I arrived with prototypes.

The proud kiddos & their babies

The boys picked out their own fabric for the project and stuffed their own dolls to send to someplace that sounds marginally like Nicaragua when they say it. Bailey stuffed limbs, turned the dollies and stuffed hers. I had to leave the face drawing to Carrie - I might be able to pull off a face-looking face after several attempts, but just applying a face, willy-nilly, to a finished doll, as if there was no possibility of failure (and the probability of failure is, in fact, quite high in this situation, I think) is just not going to happen, especially with friends who sport mad skill in this area.

While we worked, Carrie was relating the story of a little girl, interrupted while throwing beached starfish back into the sea, by an adult who admonished her that there were too many, she was too small, and she would never make a difference. The little girl tossed another beached starfish into the surf, replying "well, I just made a difference to that one."

Eight more babies were made that night, around Carrie's kitchen table, and posted along on the first leg of their journey a few days ago. I hope they bring even a fraction of the joy and laughter of their making with them on their journey.

The next morning, with very little sleep and very little coffee on board, I noted a fluttering sound coming from the wood stove. I managed to convince myself that it was just a sound from the top of the chimney (and therefore relieve the rather pointed bout of cognitive dissonance one develops when one hears VERY LOUD fluttering coming from one's wood stove first thing in the morning - the kind that is screaming "THERE IS SOMETHING VERY WRONG HERE!!" inside your under-caffeinated mind...No, screaming voice, that is just the wind... settle down now. Thanks)

Then the peeping and pecking at the window in the stove door started.

When there is pecking, the only choice one has is to call The Husband on his morning commute and have a conversation that goes something like this:
Me: Honey, there's a bird in the wood stove.
The Husband: Really? You know, I heard a bunch of fluttering and a sound like something falling out of the stove pipe... I didn't think it fell all the way into the stove, though.
(silence, while I wonder what kind of person hears a damn bird fall down a three-story chimney and forgets to comment on it)
Me: I'm trying to figure out how to get a bird out of a wood stove. You know, without just opening the door and letting it fly around...
(eyeing the stove and wondering, in great detail, how I can disconnect the pipe and drag the stove to the front door with my hand over the opening... )
The Husband: Ok, well, just leave it in there. I'll get it in the morning. It'll be fine.
(Uh, no I don't believe "fine" is a state anyone would be in 24 or so hours after finding themselves suddenly in a wood stove. The best you could hope for "traumatized", I think. The worst? Dead. The karma that comes from knowingly letting a creature die in your wood stove... and the psychic trauma that comes with explaining to the children that, yes, there does appear to be a bird trying to get out of the stove, but we'll be leaving that for Daddy to deal with tomorrow? No. Thank you.)

So, after pondering how heavy I thought the stove might be - because, let's face it, the bird was already in a pretty perfect package, not withstanding being stuck and all - and then coming to my senses and admitting that uninstalling a wood stove and dragging it out on the porch to free the misplaced wildlife was probably not a good plan, I fetched the obvious solution: the collapsible butterfly habitat.

Bird must have been wondering what took me so long to get that idea because as soon as I slid the open top in front of the stove door, he hopped right in. And then he gave me the "idiot" look. Bird was gracious enough to wait for the children to come down and say good morning, and pose for some pictures. Then, he (she?) flew out of the butterfly habitat, across the street and into the tree where some friends (family?) were waiting.

meet Bird

So, to recap - Babies: on their way. Bird: happy, healthy and free (and possibly not scarred for life). Karma: intact. Making a difference, one baby (or bird) at a time: priceless.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cable... the final frontier.

Well, to be completely honest, "lack of cable".

We only got cable about five years ago, mostly for the high-speed internet connection. For a couple of years, in fact, we kept our satellite as the main television connection, with a redundant cable connection just sitting there...

Fast forward to two years ago, when we decided to "bundle" our communications, thus "saving" money. Comcast had been advertising the $99 triple-play quite heavily, and we were paying them nearly that much for just tv and internet. Ok, so the advertised deal only applied to new customers... fair enough, we haven't really ever met a company that valued existing customers until it was too late to retain them. With some discussion and finagling, we had our package. $113 a month would leave our movie channels (that we don't watch, but somehow positively affected the price), DVR, internet with "power boost" (no idea what that is... I think it's code for "does not work in the rain"), and add the phone with the usual bells and whistles. Nifty.

Last year, at some point, I noticed our bill had gone up to $130-something. Uh... huh? So The Husband called and discussed this with them. Alas, there was nothing to be done. That's the new rate, yadda, yadda. Fine. Whatever.

Late last year, the bill went to $140 and some change. Ooookaaaay? This raised an eyebrow and we began discussing our options. We're a bit hemmed in by having email addresses tied to our internet provider, do we reallly want to dump them?

Last month, I opened our statement to discover I had inadvertently paid the wrong amount for April. I had (gasp) only paid $140 and change. Oh, no, though, the NEW IMPROVED rate for April was... $189!! WHAT?!?! Ok, now that we have had very positive feedback from friends who have switched over to the new digital over-the-air programming (read: free, and many more channels than one would think), we are perfectly happy to kick Comcast to the proverbial curb, man up about the email address change, and switch the phone back to Verizon to provide nothing more than a dialtone and free access for telemarketers to call us.

(Note to actual people who call us on our house phone: speak up when leaving your message. Yes, we probably ARE screening, what with the dearth of caller-ID. Or, you know, just call the mobile.)

This morning, The Husband comes home from work and, in a moment of what has to be temporary insanity, opens the newly delivered Comcast bill. WHICH IS FOR $216!!! After he recovered from that mini stroke, he called to cancel our service. Because, let's face it, our cable bill has now increased $103 over the course of a year and these people are clearly high, or having some delusions of grandeur, or completely insane, or, my first inclination, high. Right?

So, The Husband gets on the phone with The Woman at Comcast, and she apparently starts quizzing him on what we hope to gain in our television enjoyment by watching free... and he actually engages in this conversation. Finally, he stands firm and tells her we're canceling and, guess what? There's a FEE for that. Yes, that is correct. Evidently, we are now financially responsible for their crap on the pole (which is on the pole whether we exist or not, and was connected to our house ten years ago when we moved in).

Ok, Comcast, try and collect it.

Oh, and the greastest irony (because I enjoy irony probably more than the next guy) is the line item in our bundled services price (which does not include any of said services, but is simply $33 for the pleasure of having our communications all go through them): "Rate lock guarantee".

Come Wednesday, when the DSL is installed, we will have a new guaranteed Comcast rate locked in - it will be $0. Good luck paying for your collective crack habit, Comcast.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Let there be cake!


So, as it turns out, my children really, really do not care for... apricots. Not just any apricot can inspire the revulsion in my children. Oh, contraire, it must be zee canned apricot. And, frankly, I don't blame them. The things are slimy, squishy, essentially a sweet, orange snot product. Yum.

So, I'm looking for something to make to use of the apricots. Tip for the day: there are few recipes calling for canned apricots. Dried? Yes. Preserves? Absolutely. Fresh? You bet. Canned? Not so much. Then, I decided to give up the quest and just make a cake. The Darling Man has been away all weekend, teaching, and a nice supper with actual food and, perhaps, dessert seems like a nice thing to come home to. Oui? But what kind of cake was still bugging me. Carrot? Spice? What about the ever wonderful - and addictive - Beehive Cake? Nope, that one's out due to the cream filling and the moratorium on discretionary spending (along with the "cook from the pantry challenge") this month.

But, hark! What if I make some sort of creation with carrots, lots of spice, those damned apricots and a pecan praline topping? Yes? Yum!!

So, behold the Sticky Toffee Carrot-Apricot Spice Cake!

Preheat the oven to 350
Generously butter a 9" cake pan, and cover the bottom with a circle of parchment (you WILL need this to de-pan).
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla (or, if you find yourself remarkably out of vanilla, amaretto)
1 can apricots, drained and pureed (if you exercised restraint and did not fill the case of apricots, congratulate yourself and use apple sauce)
2 large carrots, shredded
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp allspice
In your mixer bowl, beat the eggs until frothy, then add the sugar and beat until light and creamy. Add the vanilla, apricot puree, carrots, oil and spices and beat until combined. Add the flour, soda and baking bowder and mix until just combined.

Praline "Topping" (which is really the "bottoming" here)
In a saucepan combine 2 ounces each of the following:
chopped pecans
and cook it up until it's all melty and frothy.

Pour the praline mixture into the prepared pan and spread to cover the bottom. Pour the cake batter on top, and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. De-pan onto your serving dish while still God-awful hot and pick the parchment off (watch your fingers - the confectionary nepalm burns).

Thursday, February 05, 2009

And there you have it. I am a "Very Superior" 1930s housewife. Imagine that. On the one hand, I have a lot of appliances that help my cause, don't have to do laundry outside or anything (lucky for me, since it's 28 degrees and I'm on the 4th load today). On the other, though, I can't help but wonder where I lost points - is it my wonky stocking seams? Uneven, showing slip? That I wear pajamas (and sometimes a sweater) rather than a nightgown?

This may haunt me for weeks.

Friday, December 14, 2007

There should be a test

I mean, how else would I have known - before 9:00 in the evening while waiting for my children to finish supper a short hour after their bed time - that I would totally suck at this parenting thing? 9:00?? Who does that? And bacon and eggs, no less. I mean, it's not like I've been waiting for some fete de cuisine to emerge from my oven...

What does it mean that the children in question are asking if they can have a snack before bed... WHILE THEY'RE CHEWING THEIR FOOD!!!!

So, here's a question: If I actually give them tea, can I call this disaster of parental feeding "High Tea", even if I don't serve it in our fictional nursery? How did I get to this place of cavalier feeding and desperately trying to affect English-isms to throw people off the scent? Did I temporarily lose my ability to tell time? Was I DOing something?

In times like these, I have the nagging (screaming) feeling that I need a very rigid schedule. You know, so we don't eat supper in the middle of the night, for instance, and everybody has clean underwear. But then I wander off in the middle of making the schedule...

I'm sure there should be a test.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A little bit mental, not so much rock-n-roll

Is it, perhaps, the imminent kickoff of the frenetic holiday season that is wearing on me today? Maybe it's the weather, though at a sunny 63 degrees F, that seems unlikely.

There are the usual UFOs. I now have three necked sweaters (that's three sweaters that have necks, not a throng of sweaters with three necks each... that would indicate a very large error in pattern reading) and one with most of a sleeve. My green beret is still where I left it, whimpering in its bag. I have a sock that's gone rogue on me; I cannot conceive of how the foot part got so large, when the leg part is normal to skinny. That will have to either be ripped out or Quinn will have to develop more toes and a large hump on the one side.

I have my crap together for Thanksgiving. I have been assigned the blessing (ordination has its drawbacks, like people assign you the blessing at Thanksgiving and you have to come up with something to say... thank you Elizabeth Strong and the UUA for providing inspiration) and delivery of "something delicious". I tried to pass the children off as delicious blessings, but the mother-in-law is a crafty one and saw right through that. So, instead, I will be bestowing Outrageous Brownies (thank you Ina Garten) and some apple crisp for the delicious part. Since I have my crap together - and items that are easy to whip out this evening and park in the fridge - we're meeting a friend at the park for some play and to deliver candy corn - which is evidently scarce this time of year - and some eucalyptus salve for her hacking preschooler.

The only thing left, then, is that Thanksgiving, upon us in less than 24 hours, marks the beginning of collective psychosis, in which people line up outside retailers at midnight or 4 a.m. to start their lunatic shopping. And I'm not sure why I'm feeling tense about this. It won't be me out there. I will be rising early to pick up my food co-op order, not to enter retail hell. There will be coffee. I will come away with 15 lbs of rolled oats.

All will be right with the world.

And, in case anyone needs a reminder in this area, make a cup of tea, take up your wooly work, turn up your volume and click here.

A delicious and blessed Thanksgiving holiday to all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Did I drop dead?

Nope. I know there are a number of people who would be surprised to hear this, since I've been in some sort of cyber-hibernation but, as it turns out, I am alive and knittin'! And, of course, geekin'.

There are several reasons for my absence. One is that my laptop died. Actually, it died twice. I have named it Lazarus. Evidently, it didn't take... or there's one resurrection per customer. Hard to say. I'm not a scholar, you know.

The other major issue is that we ripped out the kitchen. I felt very poetic because we tore down the object of my oppression on Bastille Day. That's July 14th. I would now post "before and after" pictures, but I'm waiting for "after" to occur. Oh, and also, the "before" pictures are locked in the stubbornly unresponsive Lazarus. Meanwhile, we have a "functional" kitchen and I've almost moved entirely back in, which is creating some chaos on my newly expanded counter space, since there are some unfinished areas of cabinet where I can't so much put in the "stuff".

There are other WIPs... I have a trio of cabled sweaters for the wees that are only waiting for necks and sleeves. I think they would be moving faster if I worked on them. Actually, that's the plan: I'm going to put them (the children, not the sweaters) to bed early tonight and work on necks. Then, I'll concentrate on the sleeves over the rest of the week.

My green beret with the cabled band has been heard sniffling in a bag of other wooly goodies. I think it's lonely. Haven't studies shown that wool fails to thrive when deprived of human contact? I'll work on that after the sleeves. Or maybe before. You know, just to quiet the moaning.

There have been socks. And pictures of socks. See above for the explanation regarding the absence of pictures. I would take new ones but, as socks are wont to do, many have disappeared. I'm assuming they simply migrated north in the warm weather and will reappear now that it has cooled off.

Do not speak to me of delusions.