Monthly Archives: February 2007

Twelve!

I almost never buy stuff for myself. But I really wanted this t-shirt. Since it’s a NON (now-or-never), I wanted to make sure I got it. Because it’s the awesomest thing that ever happened on Sesame Street.

I’ve got my eye on Pants as well, but that one has no deadline.

Also, it is snowing like crazy today; winter has returned after a 2-week hiatus. It’s making me really not want to go to the gym – when it’s snowing, I just want to go home and curl up in a ball on the couch. But I will go to the gym anyway.

Man, I am really boring today. Hm. I could do a virtual tap dance. There, wasn’t that awesome? You’re all thoroughly entertained, I can tell.

Last night, we watched The Departed. I decided afterward that if I had to pick either Matt Damon or Leonardo DiCaprio to sleep with (ie, death was not an option), I would pick Leo, but only because the way Matt Damon looks like Hillary Swank kind of creeps me out. Then I tried to get Hulk to make the same choice, but he said he didn’t care. Because secretly, he wants them both. I just know it.

Midwest bound

Here is the extent of my experience in the midwest:

1. Spent a week in western Michigan, with a side trip down to Sandusky, OH and an overnight stay in Toledo. Western Michigan: Pretty, green, muggy (August). UP of Michigan: Tree-y. Creepy guy at the karaoke place. Ohio: flat, ugly.

2. Spent 4 days in Chicago where I met EEK for the first time at an internet get-together. I got to see some cool stuff, meet a bunch of people I’d been interacting with for over a year, etc. It was November and cold, but I liked the city.

3. Spent 4 days in Indianapolis last fall for a work conference. Wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be, but not a place I’d choose to spend vacation time.

And that’s it. I guess one might consider Toronto to be midwest, but Canada’s a whole different country, and Toronto is about as cosmopolitan as a city as you’re going to find in North America. Totally not midwestern at all.

Today, I had my out-of-state travel request approved, and I’m going to Minneapolis on my birthday and will be there for a couple of days to do onsite conference planning for this year’s work-related conference. I don’t think I’ll have a lot of time to do anything on my own or sightsee, but at least I’ll get to see a bit of the city, since the hotel is downtown. I get in on Wednesday the 14th in the late afternoon, and the official meeting-type stuff doesn’t start until the next morning, so it looks like I might have one evening on my own to explore. Any suggestions?

I’m quite bummed that I have to travel and be away from home on my birthday, but I guess maybe we’ll just put off official birthday stuff until the weekend when I get home. This birthday will officially be The Beginning of Decrepitude, ie my late 20s (ugh), so maybe we’ll pretend it didn’t happen and I’ll celebrate the 1st anniversary of my 27th birthday. Heh.

Entitlement

To the parents I spoke to last Friday in the course of visiting a school district: Just because you are of higher average income does not mean your kid is more likely to be gifted than the poor kid 10 miles down the road, nor does it mean your kid is entitled to eat up more than his or her fair share of the relatively meager resources the school district has and must stretch to educate every kid in the district. I realize every child is perfect and should get special privleges, but come on, people, your kid is not necessarily gifted just because you own a million dollar home.

* * * * * *

I didn’t get to watch the Oscars because we were being big nerds at Toph and Amber’s house, they of the fall wedding that we’re in, and I’m sure glad my mom is not like Amber’s mom because she is driving them nuts about wedding stuff. Anyhow, they don’t have a tv that is useful for anything besides watching movies, so Hulk pulled up IMDB and we kept refreshing the winner’s list every so often, and when they announced my dad’s cousin had won again for sound mixing (Dreamgirls) I wooted a little bit but that was the extent of it. I’ve met this guy before at family reunions – he’s a nice guy, has good kids, you know, just a normal guy who happens to get nominated for a lot of awards and has four Oscars now. But he’s never acted anything but like a normal, everyday guy who happens to work on movies for a living. Anyhow, congrats to you, Bob.

* * * * * *

While we were at Toph and Amber’s, I perused some of the bridal porn Amber’s mom had foisted upon her. The bridal magazine, which was relatively thin and had more actual content than ads (so at least it had something going for it) was a specific publication for Colorado, and they had a somewhat useful list of event locations with details about each place, potentially saving people a lot of research time. That was pretty much the only useful thing about the magazine, though; the rest of it was suggestions for $15 apiece invitations and what colors your $100+ guest bags should be to match your fancy evening soiree in an art gallery. Of course, everything needs to match, you should spend thousands on a horse-drawn carriage ride to take you 100 feet, and it’s totally appropriate to expect your guests to give you lavish gifts to make up for the thousands you’re spending on the party where they get to eat rubber chicken and dry, fondant-covered cake and watch you be the center of attention for several hours.

I think that is the last piece of bridal porn I peruse. I’ve got a hard enough time with celebrity trash and fitness magazines at the gym giving me body complexes – I can’t afford for the Wedding Industrial Complex to convince me to spend obscene amounts of money on a dress I’ll wear for a few hours or to freak out if my monogrammed napkins match the color of the custom-dyed and printed rose petals. Ugh.

The voice of Stevie Nicks totally came out of the mouth of that swarthy gay man. It was impressive!

It all started because of the crackheads.

No, not really. It all started when I went outside on Saturday to shake out a rug and discovered a random, strange person sitting at our little patio table, smoking a cigarette.

Of course, the first thing I thought of (despite the freezing temps of this winter) was that she was a crackhead. Because we had so many problems with crackheads this past summer, and of course I am primed to see any stranger in the yard as someone dealing or consuming illegal drugs.

However, most crackheads don’t greet me with a jolly “Hallo!” and a big smile.

After I got over my initial shock, she introduced herself as the new, temporary neighbor living in the basement apartment of the house next door. There’s no fence to divide the property between that on which we live and that of the houses to either side, so I didn’t blame her for assuming the houses shared the backyard.

“The landlord doesn’t let me smoke in the basement, so I come out here,” she told me in her beautifully cute London/cockney accent. It was hard to determine her age; she was obviously just awake and still in last night’s makeup, a light-skinned black English girl bundled up in a parka. “I know your neighbors!” she told me. “I used to live in the big building up the block.” We started to talk, and then we talked some more, and I invited her in despite the becoming clean state of our apartment because she wanted to see my ring. “I’m just going through a divorce,” she told me, sadly yet matter-of-factly. Hence the move to the dingy, no-windows next door basement. “It’s only temporary,” she announced. “I have a new place and I’m moving in a week.”

Then she asked me if I’d like to go clogging at a gay bar with her on Tuesday. “Sure!” I told her. I’ve never been to a gay bar in Denver, and I’ve never been clogging, and somehow it’s only a block and a half away and I didn’t even know it existed because I’ve never walked on that street. “I’ll knock on your door Tuesday evening,” she told me.

I found out later she is my age, has lived in the States for the last 7 years married to an American, and spent most of her time in Key West teaching dance classes. Now she’s working two jobs bartending and serving at some local dives, and being the incredibly social person she seems to be, making friends wherever she goes. Last night, she knocked on the door and we went out to take our clogging lesson.

Now, I used to dance ballet. I also did some jazz and a little bit of tap. I’ve never clogged before, and wasn’t even quite sure what it was, but when we walked into that fabulously swishy bar last night and saw a floor full of men in jeans and tank tops clogging away to disco hits of the early 80s, I knew I’d made the right choice. Unfortunately, she’d had the time wrong and we’d missed the lesson (the boys clogging when we got there were advanced and practicing set routines). Six-thirty! we were told. Next Tuesday at six-thirty! So we vowed to return, and at the bar my neighbor saw a friend and immediately started dishing on his life, her life, their mutual romantic woes. He bought us shots and we watched the dancers. She spent a good twenty minutes trying to work another friend up to speak to a cute guy across the room, and we even had to give up our first-bestowed Mardi Gras beads to convince him. Yes, even gay men make you show your boobs for beads.

Later, the line dancing began, and we (re)learned the Boot Scoot. (I learned it 11 years ago at church camp.) “I’ve never line danced before!” she exclaimed. “It’s like I’m actually an American!” My neighbor and I boogied and laughed and had a great time, surrounded by guys who were perfectly friendly yet had no interest in trying to get in our pants. It was the first time I’d ever been in an environment like that – and it was kind of nice, in a strange way, to not feel the social pressure of the attraction/flirtation/hookup/avoidance dance that the boys around us were performing along with their clogging and line dancing.

The other side of the bar had karaoke, so we moved over there to see a guy singing Frank Sinatra. He actually did pretty well. And then the couple got up there and started to sing “Leather and Lace” and I swear to Jeebus, the one guy sounded EXACTLY like Stevie Nicks. At first, I thought it was a recording, until he started really opening up with the vocal stylings. I couldn’t believe it. Who knew Stevie Nicks’ voice lived inside a gay man in Denver?

After the duet, we congratulated the two of them, and it turns out the guy has a normal, regular man voice. Weird.

It was time to stroll the block and a half home, each wearing beads and blinky light things. I invited her in to have some King’s cake with us – and despite its ugly exterior, it turned out to taste pretty good. “Next Tuesday,” we told each other as she walked out the door. And I’m going to try to find my tap shoes, because if I’m going to clog I want to hear the sounds made by my feet, to make sure they align with the rhythm of those fabulous men.

Culinary adventures

Yesterday, I had Presidents Day off work. Before he left for school, Hulk made me promise that I would do something fun and wouldn’t just spend the day cleaning or organizing the one room in the house that didn’t get scrubbed this weekend (the Spare Oom.)I assured him that I would indeed do something just for myself. I had been kicking around the idea of making a King’s cake in honor of Fat Tuesday, courtesy QIR. So on Monday afternoon, I went to the grocery store and got a few things to ensure I had what I needed for the recipe she posted. I’ve never made a brioche-type pastry, but I have made bread, so I thought it woudn’t be too terribly difficult. I also decide to keep a photographic record so I could share it with you, my loyal readers.

The first thing I had to do was proof the yeast. While it was unusually warm outside(over 50 degrees!), Hulk has had a bitch of a time getting pizza dough to rise this winter and so I knew I had to figure out some way to keep the yeast (and, later, dough) warm enough to rise twice. Making a trip around the house, I determined the warmest spot, once I turned the heater on (it’s climate-controlled to be 60F during the day when we’re out of the house, but noplace in the house was warm enough for rising dough without some heat).

The warmest spot turned out to be the bathroom.

I even wrapped the bowl in a towel after I took the picture, to ensure maximum warmth.

After the yeast had gotten all nice and bubbly, I returned the bowl to the kitchen and brought my laptop with the recipe all uploaded. You can see it here balanced on our rice canisters, with the gingerbread from Sunday night peeking out, and a nice dusting of flour on the laptop.

I mixed the dough and kneaded it for a few minutes as called for in the recipe. I didn’t halve the nutmeg called for in the recipe.

(You can also see the lime left over from making rum and coke for Hulk’s dad on Sunday night.)

After I put the ball in a greased bowl and set it in the bathroom to rise for an hour and a half, I read a book for a while and took a nap. Loki also took a nap. He had a very stressful day of napping, actually.

Awaking in kind of a panic (since I’d forgotten to set an alarm), I saw a slightly over-risen dough and punched it into submission. I twisted and twisted it like QIR had said to do, and stuck it back in the bathroom covered in a towel to rise for another 45 minutes. (I didn’t have a lemon to zest, but I did have an orange, so I used that instead – hence the orangey stripes in the risen dough.)

As with most baked goods in Colorado, I stuck it in the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes shorter than the shortest time called for, and when I checked it was beautifully browned.

I had to wait until today to finish the cake, since I was also planning a Chinese New Year meal and had to stop cake-making to start prepping the stir fry. (It turned out really good, btw.) Today, I took the cake out of its protestive plastic (the dry air here is murder on both skin and baked goods) and iced it.

The recipe said to sprinkle with colored sugar immediately after icing, so I had to color the sugar first thing. The green was OK, but I was missing yellow food coloring so I made do with raw sugar for the “yellow.” Also, for some reason, I could not get the purple sugar to turn purple. It turned out to be a sort of a sickly ugly red. But I tried really hard.

Then, I made the icing with powdered sugar, lemonade, lemon juice, and a skosh of water. It looked like jizz.

And here’s the final product. QIR, I bet it’s far uglier than any king’s cake you’ve made, but at least I tried, right?

Tomorrow: the story of the surprising new neighbor and how we went out clog dancing with gay boys tonight.

Alphabet adventure


Last spring, Hulk had an assignment for one of his art classes that took some explaining. As we were walking to the grocery store one day, he described this project as his teacher had described it to his class: a found alphabet. Meaning, he and his classmates were required to find all 26 letters of the alphabet in the outdoor world without actually taking pictures of lettering (like, on a sign or whatever). Though I’m not especially artistically inclined, I found myself getting really excited about this project, and since his teacher had told them about the thing before spring break, Hulk had a chance to take all his photos when we went to the Bay Area.

We spent several days walking around San Francisco and Berkeley, and my eye began to be attracted to letter shapes. We found letters on buildings, on sidewalks, in decorative details and occuring naturally in plants. Sometimes unexpected objects resembled letters from a different perspective. We spent time with several people during the trip, and told everyone about the letter project so people wouldn’t think we were freaks when Hulk pulled out a camera and took a picture of a bench or a wet ring left on a table in the Indian fast-food place. We ended up finding several versions of each letter – sometimes in lower case, sometimes in upper – and Hulk had quite a few to choose from when putting together his final alphabet.

Here is the final project (photo-wise, anyhow; his actual project involved a book he made out of the photographs, and it’s really cool). The letter you see above is my favorite photograph.

Gory details

We’ve been talking for a long time about wedding stuff, particularly since Christmas, because of some family/friend-related stuff (my sister got engaged last fall, so we have to work around her wedding, tentatively planned for spring of 08; we’re in a wedding this fall for some of our best friends, etc.) So we’d pretty much already settled on a time (Fall of 08, but possibly spring – long story) but I had no idea he was planning to propose soon (he told me “within the next year”).

We’ve also been looking at (and talking about) rings and stones for over a year.

On Monday, I came home from work to find a box with a suspicious return address on the back porch. I didn’t investigate too closely, not wanting to ruin any surprise that I knew he wanted to do. So when he got home from school that night I told him “there’s a box on your dresser” and he said “o rly?” and then he disappeared into the bedroom for a while and came back out with a big smile on his face.

So I was a little suspicious. We had decided a few weeks ago to go out to dinner on February 15 (Valentine’s day is for amateurs; he’s been a server for a long time and knows how tough VDay can be for a restaurant, and it’s a lot easier to get a reservation and good service the day after). So I decided to surprise him on Wednesday, and I made him a really nice dinner and dessert that we ate when he got home from class that night. After dessert he said “Do you want your present now?” and I said “I thought you were giving it to me tomorrow.” He said “You might want it for tomorrow,” and went into the bedroom and came out with a pretty box. Inside were peridot earrings and a pendant and I squeed a little. So pretty! And obviously, that’s what must have been in the mysterious box.

So I totally was not expecting anything but a nice dinner Thursday night, and he surprised me by taking me to a REALLY nice restaurant. We had wine and dinner and he insisted on ordering dessert. In between dinner and dessert, he took the silver claddagh ring I’ve been wearing for 5 years (on my right hand of course) and did a magic trick with it (he’s been doing slight-of-hand type tricks since he was a kid, but usually with cards and coins). Anyhow, this was a trick with a napkin, and as he told me the story of unscrupulous fortune tellers during the renaissance era, he took my silver ring and turned it into the white gold with sapphire you see above and asked me to marry him! WHEEEEE!!! I was totally shocked and didn’t even realize what was happening until he opened the napkin with the pretty new ring. It was totally HIM to propose that way, and I was thrilled, and surprised, and I keep looking and my hand and doing little happy dances.

The ring is exactly what I wanted and he had a co-conspirator who’s one of my best friends and totally knows my style, so I guess she knew all about it beforehand. Some other friends knew. Also, my mom knew and you, the internets. He’d promised me that everyone would know before I did, and he delivered.

The restaurant gave us the dessert (and some champagne) for free. I bet the server got a nice tip.