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Princess Robin goes here

It took Robin 8 months to be willing to walk on the floor from one room to another in our apartment in Denver, and that stopped pretty soon after we started tearing up the house packing and organizing and getting rid of furniture and such, especially since Loki was likewise stressed out and (of course) took it out on her by chasing her and generally being a butthole. I had some hope that when we moved to a new place, one that didn’t already smell strongly of Loki (and Petra) everywhere, they’d each have a chance to carve out some territory and perhaps, if not become friends, they might at least get to the point of ignoring one another.

The house we’re in has a little bit of furniture (a bed and a dresser in one bedroom, a table in the kitchen) but it’s mostly devoid of such and so Robin has decided that she’s again not capable of walking from one room to another. Loki has already chased her a couple of times (and been admonished for it, of course) but it’s understandable that he be stressed out in a strange house that probably still smells a little like my mom’s cats, and there’s no familiar furniture or belongings, so I can’t blame him too much. Robin has taken to living on the refrigerator and has figured out how to open some of the empty kitchen cabinets and climb inside to hide from Loki/watch him from her high vantage point. We’ve been using the cat relax pheromone spray which I think helps some, but it’s pretty funny that we essentially have to take Robin to the bathroom several times a day and close the door to allow her to use the cat box, and when she’s in the bedroom with us and isn’t sleeping on the bed with us, she’s on the top of the dresser or exploring in the drawers.

But mostly, Princess Robin (as we call her) lives here.

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Recipe

Ingredients: butter, white sugar, brown sugar, eggs, flaxseed meal, water, vanilla, flour, salt, baking soda, brewer’s yeast, oats, chocolate chips

She thought she had everything she needed at home, but realized that they were out of most of the baking supplies normally kept around. A trip to the store was necessary anyhow, but she ended up going to both of the neighborhood stores (one that catered to a wealthy, healthy crowd and the other just a normal store). She forgot the oats on the first stop into the hippie store so had to go back a second time.

I wonder, she mused, as she walked around the neighborhood in the breezy spring afternoon. The yards were full of flowers and new plants and piles of mulch everywhere, signs that people would be spending the long weekend sprucing up their residences after a long, hard, cold winter. I wonder if anyone will ever do this for me.

Dissolve flaxseed meal in water for five minutes. Cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs, vanilla, and flaxseed meal, combine well.

The backpack was heavy, at least fifteen pounds worth of baking supplies weighing her down as she forced her way home through the cold gusty winds. I should have worn something other than a tank top and shorts, she thought. At least the pack helps keep me from blowing away. People were out on the sidewalks with their dogs, evening constitutionals resulting in perfectly preserved poop, something future generations of archaeologists would be scratching their heads to explain. Why did 21st century Americans worship the feces of companion animals and babies? The thought made her giggle a little, and then the reminder of babies sobered her again. Her project would be in support of a brand new little one, who needed as much help as he could get.

Sift flour, brewer’s yeast, baking soda, and salt. Add wet ingredients and mix until well-combined.

She passed the house where the first summer they’d lived in their new place, they’d noticed the young family out playing in the yard. A blond father, a red-haired mother, and two babies, one Asian and one resembling Winston Churchill, both around the same age. She remembered the comment she’d made to him, four years earlier, about how maybe that family had had a hard time concieving, and so they adopted a little boy from another country only to find themselves pregnant halfway through the process. I bet those boys are in kindergarten now, she thought. Wonder if any more siblings ever arrived.

Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

Nearly home, she welcomed the sight of one of the neighborhood roamers, a buff-colored orange tabby who came when she called him. She hadn’t seen him in a while; he liked to come around in the yard and tease their male cat, who was indoor only, but he must have spent the winter inside. Orange Kitty, as they nicknamed him, was very friendly. She was sure he had at least a couple of places on the block who would put out food for him. It’s hard not to care for a cute, friendly animal, she thought, much like how we’re programmed to take care of screaming babies who don’t let us sleep.

Drop by teaspoonfuls on parchment-lined baking sheets.

She thought back to all of the blankets and hats and booties she’d made over the years. So many of those babies were children now, and it would be years before they could ask questions about where the blankets had come from. Maybe it’s because I had one on my bed when I was little, she thought, made by someone I never met, but it was green and pink and purple and it kept me warm. Maybe that’s why I do it. You knit things out of love, hoping that the person for whom you made the thing finds it useful, even if they don’t know who you are and maybe never will. And sometimes the families of those babies need extra help.

Bake at 375F for 8-12 minutes.

This baby, for example, this baby who was only 10 days old and back in the hospital with serious pneumonia. As an outsider, there is only so much you can do to help the people who are hurting. The baby had a charmed existence from the beginning, conceived in love after a beautiful lavish wedding and an adventurous honeymoon to relatively wealthy parents, causing no morning sickness, coming out only 6 days later than scheduled, of average size. He wasn’t named something-that-rhymes-with-Aiden or after a medieval profession. But even the best foundations don’t necessarily translate to an easy time of it later. The baby’s mama wants to breastfeed him after he comes home, and could use some help. So she volunteered.

Makes several dozen cookies. Nursing mothers should eat at least four cookies per day to assist with milk supply.

You feel helpless, sometimes, when a friend is in trouble. Sometimes you just wish there was something, anything, you could do to help. And sometimes there is. Maybe someday, she thought, someone will help me. It will be my turn, and someone will make a blanket. Someone will layer a lasagna. Someone will bake cookies to help me make food for my baby. But today, I’m the one with free hands, and I can bake, and pay it forward, so that if it’s ever my turn to need help, someone might be willing to do it for me.

Consensus: Not defective

I wanted to thank those of you who took the time to comment on my post about stuff. I had been thinking about it for quite some time before I wrote it, and I talked to Dan about it after I wrote it, and he helped me to clarify some things in my head.

It’s not that I don’t like stuff. It’s that I’m just not into stuff that doesn’t have a personal meaning FOR ME. As Dan pointed out in his post (along with photographic evidence), pretty much everything we have by way of decor has a personal significance to one or both of us. So maybe when I see the photos on the design and style blogs, I generally feel “meh” because the stuff they show doesn’t have any personal meaning or significance for me. I have a hard time imagining how most “stuff” will enrich or enhance my living experience unless I have some sort of personal tie to it, I suppose.

Our living quarters are not the only way in which this personal style, for lack of a better term, seems to manifest itself. Virtually every detail of our wedding, for example, was something that was personally significant to at least one of us. I started to make a list in my head and realized if I wrote it all down, anyone reading this would fall asleep – the venue, the decor, the apparel, the officiant, and just about everything else other than the date (March 29 was pretty much the only date we could do it taking into account the schedules of everyone involved plus our venue) meant something. On the site where I did a bunch of venting about wedding planning, there was a thread called “Repository of meaningful details”, and I never did get around to posting about ours there because it would read like a laundry list.

The funny thing about weddings, or home decor, or what have you, is that nobody really knows or cares about the stories behind the choices you make. Or at least, nobody will ever care as much as you will. I kind of like that I can look at the shelf in our living room and tell you what everything is, why we have it, and where we got it/who gave it to us. Maybe it runs in my family, because my Aunt Edy has a story about just about everything in her home as well. I even now have a few things that were hers, including a lithograph on silk depicting an Irish wedding from the turn of the previous century. I like the idea of everything having a story, and hope someday that I’ll have a kid (or two) who want to know the stories behind the things that we have.

* * * * * *

We spent a good chunk of Saturday going through and culling stuff, including 3 boxes of books and some kitchen things we don’t need/want anymore. It felt really good, and freeing, to know that just because we have something, just because someone gave something to us, or because we bought it, doesn’t mean we have to keep it. And just about everything we’re giving away or getting rid of is something that can be replaced later if we decide, down the line, that we can’t live without it.

* * * * * *

One of the projects I have in the queue is a t-shirt quilt for Dan, kind of like the one I made Oldest Friend for her 30th birthday. It’s a perfect project for my current mindset: a way to preserve old memories for posterity, in a way that is productive and useful, and rids us of a whole lotta stuff we don’t need. Maybe I’ll start on that this weekend.

In which I feel old and also learn the secrets of the illuminati

This weekend was the annual Doors Open Denver event that Dan and I look forward to every year, because it is an excuse to poke our noses into places we wouldn’t normally be able to see, and also because it is a good excuse to walk around outside for several hours. We reviewed the list of places that were going to be participating a week or so ago, and decided on just five stops because there weren’t all that many places we hadn’t been that we still wanted to see.

Saturday was rainy, gray, and cold, so instead of doing DOD we ran errands instead. I found a frabjous pair of sandals that I think may last me several summers, so I justified paying twice as much as I normally would because a) it’s been a few years since I found a really good pair of sandals, so b) I’ve been buying a new pair every year or so that are just OK but I turn out not to like them for one reason or another, so c) end up giving them away when they are barely used and still wishing I had a pair of good sandals. Unfortunately, the store only had them in brown and so I was unable to get a black pair as well. Then I spent about an hour looking for them on the internets, but they were nowhere to be found, not even on the DSW website (which is where I’d bought the brown ones, only at the brick and mortar store). I love the brown ones but would have liked the versatility of having them in two colors.

Anyhow, Saturday was spent doing errands and chores and such, and then thankfully Sunday dawned with a warm, sunny spring day, which was just what we wanted for a Doors Open Denver adventure. After breakfast we met Scarlett and walked down to the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, at the corner of 14th and Grant. This was the first time it was a part of DOD and I think maybe the first time it was actually open to the public, so I was quite excited about getting to see the inside after walking by it for more than seven years on pretty much a daily basis.

When we walked in, we were greeted by a bunch of portly old men in funny hats, who proceeded to hand us pamphlets and then take us on a tour of the consistory (as they call it). They told us a bit about the history of the place, and then we went down into the function area (where there were tables and chairs and such) where a big prop and costume display was set up, and a Very Tall old man dressed in full Prince Charlie regalia gave us a lecture about all their props (PROPERTIES, as they all kept saying) and costumes. “We’ll answer any questions!” they kept telling us, as though the prospect of being asked questions by the general public was the most exciting thing that had happened in ten years. Who knows, maybe it was. Sadly, I neglected to pull my camera out of my bag to snap any photos of the prop(ERTIES) display before we were herded to a couple of poster boards showing the charity work they are involved with (focusing on speech language therapy for kids) and then up the stairs, past a really cool grandfather clock, and into the main auditorium area.

Internet, I have to say that this was really a neat experience. The auditorium had been built with seating for over 500 people, included a stage (with TWENTY-TWO DIFFERENT HAND PAINTED DROPS FOR THE DIFFERENT PLAYS THEY PUT ON, something they mentioned about six times), a full professional lighting booth, and an organ. But not just any organ, an orchestral organ. We were treated to a mini concert by the organist, who spoke in a normal tone of voice from his location halfway up the auditorium and we sitting across and below were able to hear him clearly. This is what really blew me away about the space; it had been designed before sound amplification in order to allow all 500 people to be able to hear a performance. It was the most amazing acoustics I’d ever experienced. In addition to the organ, I was interested in how similar to and how different from a church it seemed; no pews but seats around a center area, and a huge dome above with beautiful stained glass. Symbology was everywhere: the all-seeing eye, the double-headed eagle, the rose cross, the templar cross. And a whole bunch of old guys in funny hats desperately eager and excited to answer any questions we might have.

So, internet, here is the secret of the freemasons: They are not unlike drag queens. They’re a bunch of guys who like to dress up in funny hats and costumes and put on plays for one another.

After the Masonic temple, we walked over to 12th and Pennsylvania, our old stomping grounds, to tour one of the many castle-y mansions of Capitol Hill. This particular one is now a bed and breakfast, and has been lovingly restored on the inside (they’re still working on the outside). The woodwork was really amazing, and some of the tchotchkes were a little weird (Santa faces on gourds), and the best room was the penthouse suite complete with an oven that was at least 50 years old. Possibly more.




We made our way up 12th street and through Cheeseman Park, and ended up at another castle-y mansion (likewise a bed and breakfast, though a much larger one). This house was very similar to the Molly Brown House we’d toured during last year’s DOD event. It was full of stuff everywhere, so probably very similar to the Victoriana of the original house, and featured one of my coworkers who is also an amateur historian sitting in the turret corner on the first floor signing books she’d just published about Capitol Hill. What I liked best about this particular house was the amazing stained glass window, utterly unique for the time period at which the house was built.



Only a few blocks further to the north was the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys. I didn’t know this place even existed, but it looked interesting when I saw it on the list of participating places for DOD. The only thing that irked me was that we weren’t allowed to take photos inside. But the collection, while not huge, was definitely interesting, with a pretty good mix of miniatures and toys (not as many dolls as I was hoping to see; there were mostly barbies and a few others). The really humbling bit came when I walked into a room to see the Fisher Price dollhouse I’d had and played with as a child. The furniture inside was obviously much newer and not the original furniture that came with the set, but the dollhouse itself was the exact one I’d once had. I even remembered pushing down the plastic bit to ring the doorbell – something I hadn’t thought about in at least 20 years. The doorbell in this particular one didn’t work, but that didn’t stop my brain from traipsing down memory lane.

And then, in the next room, there were a bunch of original Lego sets and a Nintendo. The original one. I think there is nothing in my life thus far that has made me feel as old as seeing my childhood toys presented in a museum’s collection. MY TOYS ARE NOW RELICS. I might as well just up and expire now.

We’d planned to go to the Denver Society of Model Railroaders’ display in the basement of Union station, but we’d already been walking for over four miles and I was wearing my new sandals, and it was really warm outside and we’d gotten a lot of sun and I was tired. So we didn’t end up going. We bought some beer (both of the real- and girl- variety) and went home and were lazy for the rest of the afternoon.

mmm cookies

I started baking when I was around six years old, helping my dad (who was the cookie baker in my family) stir batter and plop it onto tiny cookie sheets that fit in our large toaster oven (we didn’t have a real oven until I was 10). I started baking on my own when I was maybe 8, picking blackberries and then bringing them home to make things like blackberry cobbler. I make a mean pie crust and have been baking special birthday cakes for people since I was 17 or so. When the baking urge comes upon me, I tend to just follow it.

Today, I got the baking urge. It took me a while to decide what to bake, and was thinking for a while I might do something with nuts and chocolate (inexplicably, I have the desire to start baking some of my family Christmas cookies…and it’s not even Thanksgiving yet. What gives?) Then Dan said Oatmeal Chocolate Chip and that sounded pretty good to me.

Here’s an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie I made up.

1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1.5 cups rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium-sized bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla and eggs, mix. Add flour, baking soda, salt, oats, and spices, mix. Add chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until cookies are set.

A small post about Christmas

When I was a kid, we never put the Christmas tree up (or, technically, brought the potted Douglas Fir planted above my placenta into the house) until a week before Christmas or 10 days at most. I never understood why so many people I knew put up their trees the day after Thanksgiving but we had to wait until so close to the day. My mom always talked about how it was a compromise, because my dad’s family didn’t put their tree up until Christmas Eve. Which in my opinion was completely n-v-t-s nuts, but I never really questioned WHY they didn’t put the tree up until Christmas Eve.

I was reading a blog written by a Catholic blogger today, and she mentioned Advent and said something about being unable to wait until Christmas Eve to decorate. Then, like a bolt from the blue (or the yellow or the green) I made the connection between what she wrote and my dad’s family practice. Because my dad was raised Catholic. THAT’s why they didn’t put up a tree or decorate until Christmas Eve. It had never occured to me before.

Huh.

Green eyed monster

I’ve been feeling a little sorry for myself lately. I hurt my neck again last weekend and spent all last week in a good deal of pain, was unable to exercise as much as I wanted to, and we had to scrap our plans to go camping over the long weekend because if sleeping in my own bed makes my neck hurt, I can’t imagine what sleeping on the ground would do to it. So we didn’t go camping.

Good things, exciting things, are happening to lots of people around me (and people I know from afar) – Dan got to volunteer during the DNC, which was super exciting because he saw all kinds of famous people speak and got to experience the positives of the ridiculousness that was the week, while I just had to go in and out the front door of my building and wear a stupid ID card. Also, Loki chose Dan to deposit the mystery rodent upon, though that may have just been timing (I wasn’t home). Leah is writing about how awesome her gestating wombat is these days (a wombat, I might add, that is my wedding baby since that’s when he was conceived, ie, had I gotten knocked up right at the wedding I’d be as far along as she is). Hillary just got married, Jive Turkey is freshly stuffed with a mini turkey of her own, and Amanda‘s due soon with Baby Brown #2. My sister just started her phD program and my husband is taking some awesome classes that involve him making movies of John Wayne vs. the Wolfman and subverting billboards (McDonalds: 100% beef rat). My other sister got a fabulous new job, EEK is moving in with Zipp (and got a new kitty!) and even my landlord just casually mentioned she had a baby in July (when I didn’t even know she was pregnant!). A FOAF* had a going-away party on Friday to which we were invited; he’ll be doing secret govmint work in Afghanistan, and we toasted to his new endeover with fancy, expensive infused vodka. All in all, great things, life-changing events, excitement and adventure.

And me? I’m fielding phone calls from angry school districts who have to start doing additional burdensome paperwork, thanks to a change in rules from the Feds that I had no say in. I’m annoyed that my body just doesn’t want to give me a break and feel I deserve a new neck, a new shoulder, and new hips at the very least. My out-of-state-travel request for the possible Philly trip is languishing in the upper eschelons of bureaucracy, I am tired of all of my clothes (and wish the ones I have fit better – I’ve figured out that it’s muscle gain that’s made the difference, not fat, which is better, I guess, but I’m still annoyed that my clothes won’t fit), and we don’t have a trip on the horizon other than Thanksgiving, which is eminently frustrating. Nobody has any plans to visit us and our 87 coffee mugs. My toes need polishing. My attitude needs adjusting. And the season abruptly changed yesterday, going from 90 degrees to the mid 60s (Monday vs. Tuesday) and the air feels like fall. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the change of seasons and love fall, but with the job I have fall is an exhausting two months of travel and being ON and wanting out.

Also, my office is moving to another building, and our cubes are going to be tiny, cramped, and overwhelmingly crowded (right now, I sit in a dark basement amongst only 8 other people, which makes for ease of longer lunches, leaving early, and little noise and office gossip, but after the move that all goes away. The only upside? Actual light). I have to go through all my files, toss/recycle years worth of paperwork, and pack everything up by the end of this week. Blech.

But I’ll tell you something. Even though I may be jealous of other people, people with big exciting lives and projects and loves and novelty, I can honestly say there are some people I’m glad I’m not. Bristol Palin? I wouldn’t trade lives with her in a hot second. I don’t live in a hurricane zone, my cat is a mighty hunter (we knew this due to his prowess at bug catching/eating; this may have been his first opportunity to catch a mouse), and my husband thinks I’m pretty even if I don’t sometimes. Our zucchini plant is finally setting fruit (very tasty, I might add) and the bell peppers are finally ripe enough to eat. We’ve got herbs coming out our ears and will have a second crop of tomatoes shortly. And having an empty uterus (for quite some time yet, relatives who read this blog!) means I get to drink mojitos with home-grown mint, eat sushi to my heart’s content, and keep eating cold turkey lunchmeat as an afternoon protein-y snack.

Give me some other reasons to be happy, internet. What’s floating your boat these days?

*FOAF = Friend of a friend