Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!!

I love Halloween. I think it might be my favorite holiday. Part of that is that I can wear my cool spider earrings and not get whacked up alongside the head with a newspaper. Man, that hurt. Part of it is that a lot of the things that I like are cool for one day - bats and spiders and snakes, oh my! and spooky old houses, and creepy trees and the crackling of leaves underfoot. I like that for one night a year, we dress our children up and send them off into the night to demand candy from strangers. It's the one time of year that all of my little spider friends can spin their webs in my corners and no one comments on it, or threatens to hoover them up.

One of the reasons I have always been so fond of it doesn't really apply as much anymore. No one used to be that into it. When did it get so commercial?!? I don't remember if I've ranted here before about those inflatable lawn decorations, but I don't like 'em. Well, I am kinda fascinated by the snowglobe ones with the snow flying around inside. But aside from those... one of my neighbors goes crazy EVERY freakin' holiday with those things. And I don't care what the stores tell you, planting seven foot tall, manical Easter bunnies in your yard is creepy not festive. But I digress. As usual. For Halloween, this neighbor has an assortment of inflatables in his yard. No, not that kind. Please. It's a family oriented neighborhood, although that would be really funny... Where was I? Right. Halloween decorations. This is not a large yard we're talking about here. But, he has a Frankenstein, the stack o'pumpkins with ghosts, new this year - a large black cat archway over the sidewalk, a witch, and the one that really freaks me out - the vampire Pooh. This is just wrong. OMG - I just searched for an image and found that you can get a whole Disney vampire family. I am so disturbed right now. The wonderful thing about Tiggers is that they vant to suck your blood?!? Eek. That's just not right.

This is totally not where I wanted to go with this post. Can you tell that I'm on my third pot of coffee? No, I'm sure not. Actually, you now have a pretty good idea of what trying to hold a conversation with me is like. ZOOOMMMMMMM - Let's go here! No here! No there! *blink* Who're you? I am a treat, let me tell you.

Now, what the hell was I *going* to babble about... Ooh, right. Cookies. Part of my problem today is that I'm sleepy 'cause I was up half the night on a wild cookie decorating tear. I think I've mentioned before my occasional Martha Stewart tendancies. I got in a mood last night and just went to town. Thanks to the Wilton Tent Sale (oh, how I love thee!), I have the equipment to go nuts for damn near any special occasion ever. My original plan was these cool cookies that you pipe out to make spider webs, but the dough was too stiff to get through a pastry bag, so I turned it into cut-out cookies instead. I raided my supply of cut-outs for a bat, a cat, a ghost and a pumpkin. Then I frosted them, and then I went bug nuts on the sprinkles then I went back and added details with more frosting.

My ghosties were white, with sparkly white sugar, and black eyes and mouths. My bats were purple, with sparkly purple sugar and red eyes. I turned the pumpkins in Jack O'Lanterns with green stems and black eyes, noses and mouths - complete with ragged teeth. And my cats were black with green eyes and white fangs. Ooh, my bats had fangs too. Wow, those were a pain. Did you know that it takes FOREVER to make little bat and cat fangs with white frosting and a toothpick? And teeth on a pumpkin... *eye roll* What was I thinking?

Once the icing dried, I arranged them festively on a tray and went and fell into bed. Here's the sad part, which I was expecting: They didn't make it 'till lunch. The office hoard descended like the sugar-loving buzzards that they are and there weren't even any crumbs left. Hell, I'm lucky to have kept all ten fingers. And I wasn't awake enough last night to take a picture so no evidence exists that they ever happened. Well, except for the pile of cookie sheets waiting for me to go scrub them.

Actually, there is some evidence. Completely without meaning to, I managed to wrap a trick into my treats. The black sugar that I used for the cats? It's really cool. And, as an added bonus, it turns your mouth a dark purple when you eat a cookie, oh say like a cat shaped one. *smirk* So, there are people running around here looking like children, with dark purple lips, teeth and tongues. And since I used the sprinkles to make the icing black for the details on the ghosts and the pumpkins, no one really got off color free. Tee hee.

Oh, my picture is from here. I've never tried to use power tools on a pumpkin before! Brilliant! Next year, my pretties... I'm firing up the sawzall! Bwahahahahahaha! Spend a few minutes on their site - this guy is a hoot. Must remember this next year. Must write a memo to myself to remember this next year. Wonder where I put my post-its. Hmm. Off to search. Later!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Boo! A Ghost!

I suppose that it's the right time of the year for a ghost story. In my world, any time of year is usually appropriate. Allow me to explain. Home is the old farmhouse that I grew up in. It was built in/around 1902 and it's only had 5 owners since then. My parents bought it in the early 1970s and have lived there ever since.

We haven't talked about it much as a family - my mom has decided that my brother and I just have vivid imaginations, but some odd things happen in that house. For one thing, I'd swear that the house recognizes us when we come home. Scott and I have both noticed how warm and welcoming the house is when we walk in - regardless of the actual temperature. Both of us have had friends that the house didn't appear to care for as well - there've been several people that just didn't feel welcome in our home, and were always freezing the entire time they were there - again regardless of the temperature or time of year.

For whatever reason, I think the house regards me as a plaything 'cause it (or whatever's there) has always been more active when I'm there alone. Lights turn themselves on and off, the curling iron gets unplugged, things occasionally move around. One morning in particular, the coffee pot turned itself off every time I left the kitchen. You do not trifle with my caffeine. I don't care what plane you exist on. Finally, I got pissed off enough that I yelled something along the lines of "G*dd*mn it! Leave my coffee alone, or I'll exorcise your ass!" The coffee pot flipped back on, and it's never screwed with my caffeine again.

I could go on for quite a while about the oddness that is normal around our house, but I have one tale in particular in mind. For my fifteenth birthday, my dad gave me a set of house keys. This was a VERY big deal - entrusting me with the keys to the kingdom so to speak. (Scott still doesn't have a house key.) He put them on a brass keyring with my initial. It was quite the moment.

I was phobic about keeping track of those keys. I knew where they were every second of the day. Then, one night, I put them on the dresser where I always put them. The next morning, they were gone. I tore my room apart. Then I tore the house apart. I tortured my brother, thinking he'd snatched them to screw with me. Nothing. Nada. They were gone. Vanished in the night. Finally I told Mom and Dad that I couldn't find them. Whew, boy, did I catch hell! I had left the door open to potential home invaders. Psychic ones, that would get their hands on my keys and just know where we lived and when we wouldn't be home so they could waltz in and loot our stuff. And the insurance wouldn't cover it 'cause they didn't have to break in 'cause I'd gone and given them a key. *shudder* It was thoroughly unpleasant.

Months went by and we started the renovations on the former master bedroom. (We were turning it into a library, with a loft and everything.) I came home from school, changed into my demolition clothes and started in on one wall. Dad was working on another wall. We pulled down the plaster (which I regret now. It was original, with the horsehair running through it.) and the lathe boards to expose the joists. This was the first time that this wood had been exposed to the light in like 80 years. So, about half way down the wall, there was a huge nail spanning the joists about four feet from the floor. This nail was squared off, about 14 inches long and about 1/4" in diameter. Dangling from that nail, dead center between the joists, under the original lathe and plaster walls, was my key chain.

I'm glad that Dad was there when I was pulling down the wall, 'cause otherwise he'd have never believed it. Hell, I didn't believe it. I whirled around to him and demanded to know how he'd gotten the keys in there. It took us quite a while to move that damned nail enough to get my keys out of the wall, and I think that more than anything convinced both of us that it was real. I have that keychain today. It's still got my house keys on it. That nail is still in the wall, between the joists. And I still have NO idea how my keys came to be hanging in that wall. As Mr. Shakespeare said,"There are stranger things in heaven and upon earth, Horatio,
than dreamt of in your philosophy." He wasn't kidding.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Slimy, Worthless, Untrustworthy Scum-Suckers

I'm speaking, of course, of recruiters. Some people are alive only because it is illegal to kill them. I don't remember who said this originally, and lord knows there are plenty of people out there that this little axiom can be applied to, but I think that recruiters are a particularly odious bunch. Them, and furniture salesmen.
(What part of 'please do not stalk me around the store' is SO hard to understand?!?)

At any rate, I went home last weekend to interview for a job. I was a bit suspicious during the phone interview when the VP of HR asked me to describe what the recruiter told me the job description was. Then, during the plant tour, the veep asked if the recruiter had talked to me about smoking. Erm, no. Well, it turns out that this company does not hire tobacco users, and they've specifically told the recruiter to find out prior to an interview whether or not the applicant uses tobacco. He apparently sent them a smoker and they told him that if he didn't start screening the way they wanted him to, they weren't going to use him anymore. I don't smoke but the HR guy is all up in arms 'cause the recruiter didn't ask me.

Then, I went and made it worse when I asked if they needed me to fill out a travel expense report or something. The recruiter told me that I would be reimbursed for mileage. My asking about it was the first time that the interviewer had heard anything about it, so the recruiter lied to me to get me to travel over 1000 miles round-trip, take 2 days off of work, and spend over $200 in gas and tolls to be there for this interview. Nice. He did this without knowing (since he didn't know whether or not I smoke) if I was even qualified, by the company's terms, to work there.

As I was leaving, the HR guy told me that having to work with this recruiter, and having to relocate me, were going to be obstacles in getting the job.

I wish I could even say that I was surprised. My dealings with recruiters have been nearly uniformly poor. Let's see, there was the time I drove to Michigan for a first interview for what I thought was a process engineering position. Turns out they were hiring for a warehouse supervisor. Then there was the time I drove five hours to an interview only to be told that since the job called for travel in Latin America, they weren't going to be hiring a female since male engineers in Mexico aren't, apparently, capable of dealing professionally with a woman. The recruiter sent my name in as Erick A to get me the interview. The back of my head nearly blew off during the course of THAT little conversation. And the list goes on.

What is wrong with these people? If you get paid based on matching the person with the job, perhaps you should keep in mind that the key term there is "matching." Sending me to so-called opportunities that I've grossly over- or under-qualified for, or to jobs that you know, based on conversations about my goals, are NOT going to be anything that I'm interested in doesn't help either one of us. So why?

Why? Why? Why? *growl*

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Comfort Food

I'm back. For now. I may have mentioned once or twice how I feel about fall. It sucks. Everything dies, it gets cold, the sun goes into hiding. Ugh. There's just something about a dreary autumn day that makes me feel small, alone, and well, desolate.

I retreat into a funk and find it nearly impossible to get anything done. I overslept on Monday. Tuesday, it got bad enough that I just called in sick and slept all day.

Finally, sometime yesterday afternoon, my sniveling self pity made me disgusted enough with myself that I hauled me out of bed and got crackin' - in a small, mostly insignificant way. I did a load of laundry - the bathroom rug and my junk towels; I took the trash out; cleaned out the litter box; watered plants; straightened up the kitchen; then - ugh! - I ended up scrubbing out the fridge 'cause when I dug around for the stew meat, I discovered that the package had been shoved to the back and kind of tipped and it bled all over the back of my refrigerator. Yuck, yuck, yuck! Now, my hands are all cracked and dried from the bleach, but you could, if necessary, perform a sterile operation safely on any inside surface of the fridge.

Then I made comfort food - braised beef and noodles. Yum! I'm feeling better now, although I did burn the roof of my mouth. Ouchie. So, if you're all depressed on a grey fall day, spend a few hours making this, then curl up with a cat, and a good book. Things will fall back into place in fairly short order.

Braised Beef and Noodles
from the kitchen of... my mom

Trim excess fat from package of stew meat and cut (if necessary) into bite sized chunks. Add enough olive oil to a large pot to cover the bottom. Brown beef, then add about half of a coarsely chopped onion and 3 or 4 cloves (not the whole bulb, the little cloves!) of garlic, minced. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is soft.

Add water to fill pot. (Last night, I used a stock pot and filled it about half way - with approx. 8 cups of water.) Add 2 teaspoons each of garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. (Depending on your fondness for pepper, you may want to add closer to 1 tsp - 2 is kinda peppery.) Simmer, covered, for 2 hours.

Add 3 beef bouillon cubes. Boil for 10 minutes. Add 4 potatoes (peeled and quartered, lengthwise) and half a bag of egg noodles. Cook until potatoes are done.

Optional bit that we always do: removed meat, noodles and potatoes from pot. Make a paste of flour and water. Bring liquid to boil, drizzle in flour paste slowly, while stirring constantly. Bowl for a minute or two, stirring constantly. When thickened to taste, put meat, etc back in pot.

Note: the image above is the soup tureen that Mom always serves this dish in. I love this pattern - Johnson Brothers "The Old Mill." It's one sure way of getting me to do the dishes 'cause I pitch a fit if she tries to put the tureen into the dishwasher.

Monday, October 16, 2006

What the ....??

So, suddenly, my blog went apeshit. Why did the blog part of my blog migrate to the bottom? And, my blog roll and past events look bigger. Why is it doing this? Gah! Just when I was thinking I knew what I was doing!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

EEP! Snow!

It SNOWED today. I'm so not ready for this. Wah! Whine! Moan! Complain!


Okay, so I went wandering off looking for an appropriately dreary picture for this post, and I found the coolest pictures! (The one above is an example.) Check out this site - for some odd reason, they're growing their own snowflakes. Rather like chiapets, I guess.

Since I'm capable of switching focus with lightning-like quickness (read: attention span of a hyper fruit fly), I went from totally bummed to totally intrigued. These people have the right idea! Live someplace warm and grow pretty snowflakes. I like snowflakes on a one-on-one basis; it's when they form a mob that we disagree. And the pictures are beautiful - the post office agrees. Stamps with some of these images will be available in October.

Now, I guess I'm not so bummed about the snow. I guess. *shiver* What was I saying before I got distracted with the pretty shiny things? Hmm. Not a clue. I'm cold. Winter sucks. Is it spring yet? Why in the world am I living near Chicago? I've lost my tiny little mind. Actually, it probably froze solid and shattered. I need more coffee. Later!

Monday, October 09, 2006


I love dragons. I always have. They're just so cool. And quite by accident, I discovered a new author who has become one of my favorites: Naomi Novak.

Her publishing company took the unusual step of having her first three novels come out in a single year. This was awesome, since I devoured all three in a weekend. This sucks, 'cause now I have to wait for a year for the next one. NOW, dammit! How dare you attempt a life?!?! Just sit there and write!

Anywho, her books are about the adventures of a former sea captain who, during the Napoleonic Wars, manages to accidently bond with a young dragon. Temeraire was captured from the French as an egg and hatched before the ship could get into port. As England is struggling with the French, and dragons are crucial for aerial combat, Lawrence reluctantly gives up his ship for a life in the Corps, defending England from the air. Temeraire ends up being a very rare Chinese dragon, known for their grace and intelligence and the two of them get into all sorts of fixes.

It's a very engaging series, and makes me even more bitter that I can't have a dragon of my own. For a quick taste, you can check out a short story (set between the first and second books) on her website.

So, curl up with these books and a cup o'joe and enjoy. You can thank me later. ;-)

Newest news: A movie is in the works, directed by Peter Jackson. I loved LOTR, so I'm not too worried about the books being butchered by some witless movie dork. Really, I'm not. *gulp*

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Golf Outing

Okay, so I'm not a golfer. I've never actually done it before. Not even at a driving range. I'm not even particularly capable of miniature golfing. The last time that I went miniature golfing was several years ago, and I nearly killed an old guy. The hole in question required you to whack the ball up a hill and under a little bridge. It curved around in a loop until it went over the little bridge to the hole. I was having a bit of trouble getting it up the hill - it kept rolling back to where it started. So, I had a mild temper tantrum and WHACKED it whereupon it lifted into the air, hit the little bridge, rebounded back through the air and whacked the guy standing behind us in the forehead. He went down like he'd been hit by a hammer. Turns out he had a concussion. So I'm not exactly batting a thousand here. And mostly, I'm okay with that.

But... every year my company has a golf outing, open to everyone. Last year, all of my friends went and had so much fun that they're STILL talking about it. So I determined that this year, I would not be left out. It was originally scheduled for September 24th, but we'd gotten so much rain that the course was underwater, so it was rescheduled for October 1. I thought Sunday was an odd day for it, but maybe that's just my ignorance showing through.

I ended up on a team with a friend, we'll call her Laverne, who has also never golfed before; another friend - we'll call him Lenny - who golfs once a year or so and Lenny's 11 year old son. We'll call him Squiggy. Squiggy's never been on a golf course before. I told Lenny that this outing probably wasn't the best place for a child and it was okay to have a threesome but he'd "already told Squiggy and he was excited."

A point to remember. I do not have children. I prefer it that way. OPKs (other people's kids) are okay in small doses if they are well controlled. A choke chain works. Lenny, who is a very close friend of mine, does not believe in discipline. Actually, he and his wife are completely subservient to their little angels, to the point that they've not been invited to peoples' homes because other people don't want their uncontrolled beasts running amuck in their houses. But I digress.

Laverne and I were in one golf cart, Lenny and Squiggy in another. Let me pause here briefly and backtrack.

My friend, D, WAS going to take me to the driving range prior to this little expedition but the weather and her family schedule didn't cooperate. She did, however, set me up with spare clubs. Right-handed ones. Have I ever mentioned that I'm left-handed? Right, well. I am. More ambidextrous than most but still... left-handed. D and I drove together to the golf course, which was in the middle of freaking nowhere. It took us over an hour to get there. But we arrived, and they handed us beer and keys to the golf carts, nearly in one motion. That just seems wrong to me, but whatever.

So, Laverne and I in one golf cart, Lenny and Squiggy in the other. Tee off was at 1:00. At 12:45, Squiggy is whining that he wants to go. Go now. Why should we have to wait, let's just go... with the cart in reverse, so it was squawking that high pitched beep noise. Before we even started, and I'm ready to really hurt Squiggy. Finally, mere moments before I snap and start pounding on the brat with a nine iron (or a six, what's the difference?), the guy in charge makes his announcements and we're all off.

Here's something odd. The golf course has an air strip running right down the middle of it. It's a tiny one - just grass with rows of cones but it separates the first nine holes and the second. The whole day was spent being buzzed by cute little planes taking off and landing. You had to make sure the coast was clear before crossing back and forth over the fairway. Very early in the day, we nearly lost the beer cart 'cause the lady crossed in front of a plane taking off and froze in the middle of the runway. The plane pulled WAY up and managed to miss her by about two inches. Very exciting stuff. I'm told that this is not normal for golf courses.

So we get to the first hole, which for us was hole 6. This was to be a scramble, playing every shot from the best and using at least three shots from every member of the foursome. So Laverne sticks her tee in the ground, balances the ball and gets ready to swing... and Squiggy yells that he wants to be first, runs in front of her and puts his tee in the ground about 9" ahead of hers. And Lenny remains quiet. Squiggy nearly brained Laverne going first as she scrambled backwards out of the way. It took him several tries to hit the ball, which went about four feet beyond the tee box. He then yells that we will be using his shot. Laverne tees again, gets ready to swing and Squiggy starts yapping, just to distract her. She hits, then I hit. Okay, I swung a couple of times and then connected but it wasn't too bad. Then Lenny nails the poor little ball a couple hundred yards. Holy crap! If it were a baseball, it woulda been outta there!

So we hop in our carts and we're off! Laverne and I split it equally - she drove the first nine holes, I drove the last. Lenny let Squiggy drive. Actually I suppose a better way to say it was that Squiggy didn't let Lenny drive.

The entire day was an exercise in not bashing that child's head in. We didn't talk to anyone else, because everyone knows what Lenny's spawn are like and won't come anywhere near them. At every hole on every shot, the child yelled, squealed, barked, threw balls, drove the cart in front of the tee box - whatever he could do to distract you from hitting your shot. He ripped the hell out of the course - several pounds of every sandtrap onto the green, divets the size of the rodent in Caddyshack, stabbing the flag into the ground, moving the markers. Ooh, and on several occasions, someone yelled "fore!" and a ball came bouncing by, and Squiggy took them. He left that day with quite the collection of balls from other players. The entire time, Lenny was correcting him - but he never once followed through with anything. Squiggy didn't even look over at Lenny while Lenny was telling him not to do something. Lenny told Squiggy four freaking times that he was done driving for the day, and when it was time to move on, Squiggy hopped behind the wheel, and Lenny sat down next to him and didn't say another word about it. Once, Lenny got the wheel away from Squiggy, and used the opportunity to show the little darling how to skid sideways to a stop a la Dukes of Hazard. Fortuately, that was near the end of the day, so there weren't too many huge ruts from the cart.

Finally, FINALLY, we finished - at a bit after 6:00 and went in to dinner. That was about the longest five hours of my life. And on top of it all, dinner sucked. The salad was good. Our other choices were squishy California mixed vegetables, instant mashed potatoes, very fatty ribs and half cooked chicken. Yummy. We sat at a round table for 8, so others got to experience some of the joy that is Squiggy. He took only a huge plate full of mashed potatoes, and spent dinner playing with it - molding it into a castle using the water glasses and bread sticks. They took our scorecards, and then had people go up and chose from a table of prizes bases on their scores. Squiggy went up and helped himself to as much as he could carry. The guy in charge had to come to our table and extract items to put back. Once again, Lenny was completely ineffective.

D and I left as soon as we could. On the whole, I wouldn't mind trying it again - with left-handed clubs and without children. On the way home, D said she had no idea how I didn't do damage to Squiggy. I'm not sure either.

* The drive to the course was fun and scenic.
* I had fun with Laverne.
* I really liked zipping around in the golf cart.
* It was a BEAUTIFUL day and I was happy to be out in it.
* Golfing, if you have good company, the proper equipment and some clue what the hell you're doing, may not entirely suck.

Not So Positives:
* We'll probably have to find a new course next year, 'cause the owner did NOT look happy with us. Turns out their insurance doesn't allow for children driving the carts, which he told Lenny and Lenny ignored.
* I've learned that good friends can be pretty crappy parents.
* I've learned that the same good friends can evidently be completely oblivious to their offspring's unpopularity. At one point during the day, I looked at Lenny and said "Next year, the kid stays home." Yes, exactly like that. During the course of the day, Lenny tried to get either Laverne or I to switch with him in the cart "because Squiggy's driving was so bad." Evidently the whole concept of not letting your child drive is foreign.

The Next Day:
Lenny and I IM (instant message) back and forth throughout the day. When I came in on Monday, I wondered if Lenny would be talking to me, based on how I treated his child the day before. I logged on and almost immediately got a message from him thanking me for my patience with his son's behavior.

Here's the really weird thing:
I can't decide if Lenny is really that clueless or if he's hoping that I'll take his children in hand. He said something at one point about how he felt his son would be a good helper for me. I replied back with "Only if you want to see him hurt. I demand obedience from my minions, and I'm willing to beat them until I get it." He said he was fine with whatever methods I decided to employ. Then he said something about how next year, he and Laverne would share a cart and Squiggy and I could duke it out. I responded with "Not bloody likely."

Oh The Irony:
Also the next day, Lenny was complaining about how his back hurt. He whined for quite a while about it. I thought it was from the swinging, since he didn't golf that frequently. Nope. It was from Squiggy driving. Apparently they were playing a game where Squiggy would slow down and drive past a ball and Lenny would lean out of the cart and grab it on the fly. Except that Squiggy would wait for Lenny to lean out and then would slam on the brakes - and he kept doing it throughout the day. This is why Lenny's back hurt. Okay, maybe this is just me, but if you have back trouble anyway and your kid pulled something like this, how would you react? Continue to allow it to happen? Beat the brat senseless right then and there? Take the wheel of the golf cart and wait 'till you got home to pound on 'em? Probably most parents would go with something like option three. Option two looks best to me. Lenny chose option one.

Sometimes I ask for others' viewpoints before I say anything because I frequently do not look at things the same way as others. This time, however, I've had nearly everyone that was there tell me that they have no idea how I put up with Squiggy for the day.

Aww well, live and learn. Next year, I shall have left handed clubs and I shall pick my foursome more carefully!