Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Be patient with the gifts.

During this season of cheer, I wanted to let you know that I adore my dog (lest you think that I complain too much). Sure, she's mischievous, but I think that's a sign of her superior intelligence. And look at how nicely she's relaxing by my Christmas tree. I came home only once to find an ornament on the floor, so I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt. Good girl, Papa!

When we went to my parents' house on Christmas, Papa sat close by as my dad opened the gift Yukie sent: Pedi Paws. (I love it and hope we will have lots of nail-trimming fun.) She was rambunctious when we opened her new Frisbees — she tried to play with them by dragging them around — but she was good-natured when we made her model the hand-knit socks my mom gave me.

Papa was pushy going through this Trader Joe's tote, but I'll chalk that up to her excitement over the holidays. She has been a bit needy lately — holiday blues? — but I'm hoping some quality time at my parents' house (while I finish painting the bedroom) will be good for her. Cheers, Papa!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Painting disarray

I’m making slow progress painting my spare bedroom: the cleaning, prep, spackling, and taping took a long time. (I always forget that those are best done in stages.) Also, an unforeseen delay: Papa kept dropping tennis balls in front of me, so I had to maneuver around her (the bed takes up most of the room).

My color choice: Sherwin Williams Expressive Plum. It’s a plummy beige, sort of like chocolate ice cream. You can search for it and test other shades on their color visualizer. The color looks darker on my walls, but that’s okay. My new midnight blue velvet curtains look beautiful, if not quite as spectacular as in the Overstock photo.

I deliberated a while before committing to this redesign, but now that I've made some decisions, it's maddening how long it's taking. I only had time (and space) to paint two walls today. But I hope to be done by the end of the week.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Oh no, Papa! I'm trying to shovel.

Papa loves the snow. No matter how cold it is, she can romp off-leash while I shovel. She always comes bouncing back, Frisbee in mouth.

Unfortunately, I can’t be constantly focused on her when I'm shoveling. Sometimes she tries to play Frisbee by herself, dragging it through the snow with her front paws. Otherwise, if I’m too slow in dropping the shovel and tossing the Frisbee, she cries. Just once, a little gasp. If I ignore her and continue shoveling, she will try to block my way, scooting backwards while giving me Sad Eyes.

All said, she is a good dog. A great dog, in fact. As hyper as she is outside, she is also an accomplished snoozer. So we've been having a relaxing holiday. I wish you a happy holiday, too!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A jones for scones

With the blizzards this past week, I've had more time to bake. I made a few batches of florentines, which people liked last Christmas. Unlike last Christmas, though, there were no baking mishaps. Well, actually, just one: I didn't use quick oats in the first batch, so they turned out chewier than they should have been.

This morning, after playing Frisbee with Papa in subzero weather, I wanted scones. I rarely eat scones, unless I've baked them myself. Mine don't always turn out great, but I think I've had too many crumbly, flavorless disappointments from Starbucks.

An aside: I needed to use up some leftover buttermilk. How do you know when buttermilk goes bad? Does it, ever?

I tried a new recipe and threw in grated grapefruit peel and semisweet chocolate chips. The scones were good, but not my favorite. A couple of years ago, I found a great recipe on a bag of sugar. You can find it on the C & H Sugar website; just type in "lemon cream scones" in their Find a Recipe box (and select "All Words" in the drop-down box). That recipe uses heavy cream, not buttermilk. Also, I don't like golden raisins (they're like a waste of a raisin), so I substitute Craisins.

After my scones and green tea, I'm ready to start my housebound day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Oh no, Papa! I'm doing yoga.

Papa seems a bit lonely these days. I’m not sure why.

On Monday, when I came up from the basement after running on my treadmill, she was waiting at the top of the stairs. I did a couple of yoga stretches in the living room. When I did downward dog, Papa stood next to me and did it, too, then licked my face and neck. Then she ran around to stand across from me and licked my face and neck some more.

Oh no, Papa, I’m trying to work out!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Waffling

A couple of years ago for a Secret Santa gift, Lindsay (who used to work at BeadStyle) gave me a Hello Kitty waffle maker and this recipe. It was a cute gift, and I spent lots of time making beensy waffles in cat, rabbit, and bear shapes. I have since graduated to a big-girl waffle iron, but still remember Lindsay's thoughtfulness whenever I make waffles. This recipe yields stacks and stacks of them, so I usually make only half and still have lots of leftovers.

Lindsay’s Grandma Dort’s Waffles
6 eggs, separated
1 quart buttermilk
10 Tbsp. melted butter
¾ cup sugar

Mix together and set aside: ¾ tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. baking soda, 2 tsp. baking powder, 3½ cups flour, ½ tsp. salt.

1. Beat egg yolks till well mixed (use electric beater) in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add buttermilk and stir with wire whisk.

3. Add flour mixture and stir with wire whisk.

4. Add melted butter and stir with wire whisk.

5. Add sugar and stir with wire whisk.

6. Beat egg whites with electric beater until they hold up in peaks. Then add to batter and stir with wire whisk.

7. Brush (or spray) waffle iron with oil for the first one.

*Refrigerate or freeze leftovers.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oh no, Papa! I'm decorating the tree.

I put up my Christmas tree this weekend, and Papa sat very close as I tested the lights. She also lay down on top of them — a trifle dangerous as I tried to maneuver around her.

Oh no, Papa, I can't play with the tennis ball now, either.

By the way, her lump was just a fat deposit, as expected. That's even better than last year's Christmas miracle (when I didn't have to get glasses).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Essay: Almost 40-love

The months of drafts and rewrites were worth it: my first non-jewelry byline is in a sports magazine! "Almost 40-love" has just been published in the winter 2008 issue of Tennis View.

You can pick up a copy at Barnes & Noble or read it here to find out more.

Thanks for reading it, in whatever version — past or present — you saw.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Oh no, Papa! How many toys will it take?

I'm trying to find toys (other than Frisbees) that entertain Papa. Also, her three Frisbees all got buried by the recent snow... oops. We need some indoor toys.

The Twist 'n Treat seemed like a good idea. It looks like a flying saucer and you can adjust the halves to make it easier or harder for the dog to get at the treats.

Just to be on the safe side, I turn my back to Papa when I fill it with dog biscuits. (She is very smart; I'd hate for her to just figure out how to unscrew it.)

Alas, it's not going to be a real option: First, she picks it up and drops it, making a loud banging noise. Wily. Then, she chews on it and bits of rubber break off. Not so good, because I can't let her play with the toy unattended.

I'm still on the hunt. If not the Twist 'n Treat or the Orka ball or the Tug-a-Jug, then what?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cutting an essay

Today I procrastinated. Checked Facebook. Played with Papa. Sprayed the bathroom mold with a bottle of bleach. Flipped through old magazines so I could recycle them. Tried a new recipe for flourless chocolate cookies. Checked the status of the bleaching campaign (mold is dissolving sans scrubbing!). Checked Facebook again. Ate cookies. (They're delicious, by the way. The recipe is worth trying.)

Finally, I could not avoid working on the essay I’m sending to my writing group. I insisted on having a deadline — to motivate me. (If you’re not a writer, no need to read on. There is probably nothing less interesting than learning about My Process.)

My fellow editor Hal once suggested cutting and pasting. Literally. I love this idea. It seems especially valuable when you have good writing mixed in with mediocre stuff.

So I chopped up a copy of my essay. And stapled. And organized. I stood at the dining room table moving the pieces, a reminder that writing is active. That’s hard for me to remember when I’m reclining on my couch, Papaya’s head nuzzled against my pink bathrobe.

My first cut: throwing away the title. I’ve always hated it. It says nothing and is uninteresting. (Um, hopefully it doesn’t reflect my essay.)

Other things I did: Removed the paragraphs with too much backstory. I tried to keep the forward-story stuff. And made notes in the margins summing up what the grafs were about and how they forwarded the story. I also wrote some new thoughts on scraps of paper.

I reworked transitions and did some rewriting. Overall, it's better. And shorter by over 300 words. I'd call this a productive day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Staples and a surgery smorgasbord.

Last week Papa had some lumps near her eye and a wart on her paw removed. And the vet cleaned her teeth. He performed these a la carte procedures because he thought it prudent to remove and analyze a lump near her belly. (It's probably just fat.)

Papa got 15 staples and is recovering nicely. No Elizabethan collar, either. Here she is convalescing on the couch. She was back to her usual hijinx almost immediately.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Big briolette necklace

Here's my big briolette necklace on the January 2009 BeadStyle cover. I bought those beads in March at the JANY show after much deliberation — and encouragment from Jean Yates.

Yes, that necklace is super heavy (better suited for display than for regular accessorizing), but I'm proud to say that I finally used the beads.

I did make an alternate that I love (and wore to my high school reunion). The clear quartz necklace is less dazzling but definitely more wearable. And right now, I'm liking gold more than silver.

Check out the issue for instructions for both projects.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Not the garbage again!

Papa got into the hinged garbage can in the kitchen. She pulled out Sunday’s Chinese food — the cardboard from the bottom of the carryout bag, the sleeve that held a couple of almond cookies. Sigh. The photo makes me laugh, though. She looks bloated (like she ate a lot of Chinese food) and even a bit repentant. Maybe she is trying to find the words for an apology.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another bedroom redesign

Yesterday I went to Sherwin Williams to gather ideas and paint chips for the guest bedroom. I'm exploring my color options. Eggplant? Midnight blue? Deep periwinkle? Berry? Just not Verve Violet (fuchsia), which would be too much like the master bedroom.

The bedroom will also require new bedding and pillows and light fixtures. And it’s desperately in need of a dresser. Again I’m back to the same questions as when I redesigned the master bedroom. Do I get the duvet cover first, because it's harder to find? And should I go with a print or a plain, high thread-count cotton?

Some backstory: when I first bought my house, I didn’t know how I wanted to use this room. I had competing visions of an office, library, and spare bedroom. Now that I have a laptop, I don’t need to use the room as an office. And bookshelves in the bedroom is bad feng shui, apparently. Now that I can finally commit to the purpose of the room (sleep!), I'm ready to paint over the icy blue that's on the walls.

More to come on this. I still need to collect paint chips from Benjamin Moore...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Not the Tupperware!

Last week I came home to find my (clean) Tupperware on the floor. Papa had pulled it out of my tote bag and chewed it. Oh no, Papa!

It's understandable. That was some good soup, and the smell probably lingered in the container, even after I washed it.

This is one of my favorite soups. I first had it when Linda, my co-worker at BeadStyle, brought it for a Kalmbach potluck. So here's the recipe. Those are her comments, but I would also add: I use Breakstone’s sour cream (the best!), 1% milk, and sharp cheddar. Also, I never add milk to thin it out, but that’s a matter of personal preference. And if you add an extra potato, the soup will be thick, like a chowder.

Baked Potato Soup
4 large baking potatoes
2/3 c. butter
2/3 c. flour
6 c. milk
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
4 green onions, chopped and divided
12 slices cooked bacon, crumbled and divided
1 1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided
8 oz. sour cream

Bake the potatoes. Cool to handleable. Remove the pulp.

Melt butter, add flour. Stir. Add milk, simmer until mixture thickens. Add potato pulp, salt, pepper, 2 Tbsp. green onions, 1/2 c. bacon, 1 c. cheese. Cook. Stir in sour cream. Add extra milk to thin, if necessary.

I often make this in the morning and put it in the crock pot on low for the day, but I don't put in the sour cream until the end. I usually serve it with bowls of bacon, sour cream, cheese, and onions, so people can add extra. This fills my crock pot, so I'd say it's about 2-1/2 to 3 quarts of soup — about 6-8 meal-sized bowls, but that's just a guess.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Birthday stuff

I had a busy weekend celebrating my birthday. After Thursday's smoky Sluggo's revelry, I took Friday off. Yesterday, I ate broccoli and burgers at Elsa's with Katy and Sarah, my childhood pals (we've known each other for over 30 years!). After that, we had dessert while they worked on German paper stars. Katy talked about collars and the numbers 3 and 12 while Papa and I respectfully kept our distance.

Finally, tonight, I went to dinner with my parents. I had fried food for the third time in a week! (Though, that might explain why I'm so tired.) I hope your weekend was also filled with friends and french fries — and puppies and babies and a new pair of shoes!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Only if I say it’s okay.

I now allow Papa on the couch. (She’s a good snuggler.) Here is her approach:

Step 1: Sit on floor politely, without being asked.

Step 2: Inch closer. Rest chin on couch and give best soulful gaze.

Step 3: When soulful gaze is ineffective, stealthily place front legs on couch. Avoid eye contact.

Step 4: When invited, lift back legs slowly, slipping off couch a few times as if unsure of footing.

Step 5: Make self comfortable.

Yes, I took some of the photos at different times. But trust me, we do this routine daily. I think she skips some of the steps when I’m gone.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New York hotels (and expectations)

In January, I'm going to New York to scope out jewelry trends at the winter JANY Show. I got my flight and just needed to book a hotel room.

Well, maybe not "just."

Booking a hotel room anywhere can be an ordeal, but New York has so many hotels, it always takes me a while to figure out the best strategy. Even after five business trips, I don't have a surefire way of getting a decent room at a reasonable rate.

With the imploding economy taking its toll on hotel bookings, I thought I'd have a decent shot. Also, I hoped that there wouldn't be many tourists visiting during the coldest time of the year.

How to do this? Should I research the TripAdvisor reviews and call a hotel directly? Or try a discounted booking site like booking.com or Quikbook?

A few years ago I stayed at The Gershwin for $119 a night — their regular rate. It was more of a hostel than a hotel, but I didn't mind the hardwood floors or the lukewarm-but-never-hot shower because I didn't expect a luxurious room. And expectations are everything.

Now, being able to research and compare hotels down to the tiniest of details can be a curse. Until I saw someone's review, the speed of the elevator, for example, had never been a consideration. I just want a clean, quiet room. I don't need a rooftop pool or a monogrammed robe. I would, however, like a working thermostat and free wireless.

Anyway, here's what I did: I went to Bidding for Travel, checked the winning bids on Manhattan hotel rooms, and then gambled at Priceline. I bid $170 for a 3.5-star room in Midtown West. After that got rejected, I bid $175 and added Midtown East as a parameter. Bingo!

I know it might have been smarter to reserve a hotel on my credit card and then cancel when I found a better rate closer to my trip. But, in case you haven't noticed, I don't like to leave stuff up to chance.

By the way, here's where I'm staying. Looks nice, doesn't it? After my trip, I'll let you know if this "treasure of rare distinction" lives up to the hype.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Not the bed!

Sometimes I come home and my bed looks the same, except for a few blades of grass sprinkled on top.

Sometimes I come home and the extra blanket has lots of wrinkles.

And once in a while, I come home and the sheets and comforter are flipped back. Almost like someone took a nap and tried to make the bed again.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A week of tennis

Tennis was on my mind last week. Often.

1. I heard that my essay will definitely run in the winter issue of Tennis View. Yay! This is my first non-jewelry byline, and I am really excited about it. I'll give you more details when the issue is out at the end of November.

2. I went to a party held for our summer tennis team. As you'd expect from any party, there was good food and good company. An unexpected bonus, too: each of us wrote (anonymously) what we thought the strongest part of each person's game was. This was an inspiring party activity — we got to express our appreciation for our teammates and we learned some surprising things about our game. Thanks especially to whoever complimented my "eye-of-the-tiger determination to win." Love that. Nice '80s flashback, too.

3. I played singles on Saturday. Sue is a fabulous player, and those long rallies and running around the court made for a nice nap afterward. I kid you not: two hours of tennis can really sap a person's energy.

This week won't have as much tennis, but it should be good anyway. Happy new week!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Not the Kleenex!

Papa did some shredding while I was at work. Here's a photo of the tame version.

Because I forgot to shut the bathroom door when I left, she saw fit to also shred stuff there.

Oh no, Papa! Not the Kleenex.

Maybe I can leave old tax documents and credit card statements in the garbage and she can shred those. That would be helpful. Or, I could buy her a scratching post. Do those work with dogs?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wauwatosa East, Class of 1988

I dreaded going to my 20-year reunion — Sarah and Katy, my closest friends from high school, weren't going. But my stylist met me at the salon on his day off to approve my outfit and do my hair and makeup (“very Zhang Ziyi,” he said), so I was pretty much committed.

Walking in was the hardest part. But I heard someone squeal "How arrrrrrrrrre you?!" and figured it wouldn't be too bad.

It was a blast. Imagine a party where everyone is thrilled to see you and hear how you’re doing. Lots of hugs, along with the usual “What do you do” and “Are you still in the area” –type questions. Occasionally I had to look at nametags (which also had our senior pictures on them), but most people looked the same. In a good way.

Okay, maybe there were more glasses and gray. And less hair (again, in a good way; hair was very large in the '80s).

Here are a few photos. I could tell you who everyone is, but that would spoil the fun. (You can click on the photos and read most of the nametags.) And Katy, do you recognize everyone in the third photo? All of us went to Jefferson (a 30-year grade-school reunion!).

I hope it won't be another decade before I see my classmates again. But I guess that's the beauty of Facebook; we can get updates almost hourly about each other's lives. Hope to see you all soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Not the DVD player!

My sister suggested that I've been making up Papaya's antics for dramatic effect.

I have not.

However, Papa does not always provide entertaining material. Thus, today's post.

One day I came home and found the DVD player on, with the tray open. Is my bored-er collie so starved for stimulation that she'll watch Shaun T's Hip Hop Abs?

Oh no, Papa, not the DVD player.

By the way, sometimes reenactments are necessary in order to illustrate her capers. I do have journalistic integrity, though: I have not thrown dental floss or shredded paper towels on the floor for "Oh no, Papa!" visuals. You'll just have to take my word for it, these things did happen.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Maple syrup: treat or travesty?

Okay, maybe that's overdramatizing the conflict a bit. But really, I just got this online newsletter from Cooking.com, which declares maple syrup "liquid gold."

I don't think so. Or am I missing something here?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Not the couch!

It may be wishful thinking, my attempts to keep dogs off the couch.

When Ginger first lived with me, she respected the furniture. As she got older, though, she'd lounge wherever she pleased. (She did this when I was gone. Other acts of disobedience she committed in front of me.)

I tried different solutions. Like turning the couch cushions up. That worked but was unsightly. Then I put foil on the couch. That might have deterred her if she were a cat. Instead, I came home to wrinkled foil. So I put books and magazines on the couch. That was unsightly and I didn't like finding my books and magazines on the floor. After all my efforts, Ginger became fond of my favorite chair. By the way, the other side of that brown pillow used to be a patchwork of colorful metallic threads. She shredded those.

Still, I do what I can. I never allow Papa on the furniture. Even when she puts her front paws on the couch and stares at me. "No," I say. She seems to understand.

Alas, she gets on the couch when I'm gone. Oh no, Papa!

It is probably time for a new couch.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

And then there was light

If you live in Milwaukee and have never been to BBC Lighting, their showroom is worth a visit. Not just for the Swarovski chandeliers and Waterford lamps but for the free popcorn. How often do you go to a store that encourages you to eat while you shop? You can also browse their selection of framed celebrity photos. It’s a surreal experience.

Today I bought a semi-flush mount fixture. Not too boring, not too modern — a good fit for my tiny kitchen. Then Denise and I hung out with Papa while Jeremy installed the new fixture. (So handy — thanks, Jeremy!)

Now the kitchen beams out 300 watts of light. It's a vast improvement over the 60 watts I'd gotten by with over the summer.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Not the grill!

Last week, Papa's frisbee got caught underneath the fence in my backyard. When she tried to wrench it out, she knocked over the grill.

Oh no, Papa! Not the grill!

Fortunately, there wasn't any food in it — just ashes and half-burned coals.

In this photo, Papa is keeping a respectful distance from the Weber. And from the tower of Brussels sprouts. (They were my favorite thing in the CSA bounty Christa gave me.)

I love Brussels sprouts. The mini cabbages never tormented me as a child, so now I enjoy them baked with olive oil and brown sugar. I could've grilled them, but I thought the grill had been through enough in one day. Right, Papa?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Games and pie

I’m taking a short break from essay writing and working on something straightforward: a review of Say Anything, a new party game. We played it at Joe and Sarah’s mock Thanksgiving dinner while we ate pie.

Reviewing this new game got me thinking about my favorites: Taboo and Scrabble. I just discovered the coolest thing on the Scrabble site: their word builder. You can type in seven letters and pull up a list of possible words. So you can improve your game and build your vocabulary, if you like that sort of thing. 

Incidentally, you can easily eat pie while playing Say Anything. This is maybe a good standard by which to measure a party game's playability. Then again, I cannot eat and play Taboo because the game evokes nonstop edge-of-my-seat excitement. For real. Some tips: 1. Michelle knows tons of pop culture stuff. 2. Don't pass if you play with Katy. 3. If you play with Yukie, she and Laura, her college roommate, can get each other to guess "corned beef hash" with one clue. 

Yukie will be visiting over Thanksgiving, so we'll probably play some games and eat some pie. Till then, I'll finish up my review and get back to my other writing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Oh no, Papa! Not the wall!

Starting today, I'll be posting once a week about Papa's hijinx. For example:

I bought Papa a treat ball that I was hoping would entertain her during the day. I imagined she'd roll it around, delighted when her efforts yielded a miniature dog biscuit.

Effort #1: The treats were too small. Within moments of dropping the ball, Papa had eaten all of them. Also, the sturdy rubber ball, moistened with drool, now picked up fuzz and dog hair from the floor.

Effort #2: I put bigger treats inside the ball. Papa could not remove any of them. I, too, had trouble pulling them out, even though I have opposable thumbs. The ball went missing for a couple of days.

Effort #3: Christa gave me a treat bottle (one of Luther's castaways). It's made of bulletproof plastic. I filled it with smallish treats and waited for Papa to happily tug the knotted rope to dispense the treats. This did not work. Papa tried to gnaw open the bottom of the bottle, which also did not work. That was an improvement, because at least she found the toy stimulating.

Effort #4: Papa's next move: banging the bottle against the wall.

Oh no, Papa!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Las Vegas sparkle

Three weeks ago, Tom and I designed jewelry for his fiancee, Meg, to wear.

On September 6, they got married at the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel. Here's a photo he took as she was getting ready for their wedding. Doesn't she look gorgeous?

I love how jewelry comes to life (not literally — and not like beads talking, of course) when someone wears it.

Though I don't do too much custom work anymore, putting this jewelry together was fun and low-key. And look at what Tom brought back for me as a souvenir: an ornament! He called it "an homage to ornaments" (and, later, "an ornament of ornaments").

I'm already looking forward to the holidays. (In fact, I practiced by eating a turkey dinner with all the fixins at Joe and Sarah's house on Sunday. With apple pie for dessert.)

Okay, one last thing about ornaments: If you get a chance, check out the November issue of BeadStyle. I've got an ornament project there. Because it's never too early to start the holiday crafts.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Papa likes accessories

Last week was busy (and this week isn't necessarily looking better), but I wanted to let you know what Papa has been up to. Normally I would blog about my life, but I feel incapable of that right now because I have a raging headache. So instead I offer you a photo essay, "Papa Likes Accessories." With some backstory: On Thursday, Papa broke a nail playing frisbee. Luckily, the vet fixed her up right away. So here she is with her neon gauze wrap. She didn't mind it too much.

On Saturday, Denise and I went to Botana's for dinner. We came back to play with Papa. She let Denise put a gift bow on her head. She didn't mind it too much.

Okay. Next post, I promise an update that's not about my dog. I hope you are all making jewelry and writing and not having a headache. See you soon.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Come to Papa

You know how, when you're reading something online and you scan the list of "most emailed" stories, occasionally you get curious enough to click through? That's how I found this essay written by a guy who loves cats. I haven't read anything else by him — nor am I typically intrigued by essays about cats — but I do enjoy reading about people's attachment to their pets.

Apparently, I enjoy writing about those attachments, too. Be prepared for more installments of "Papa did the darnedest thing!"

Look — here's Papa again. She's in the kitchen, waiting for me to come up and give her some lovins. She always hangs out there when I'm in the basement doing laundry. It's a lovely habit. Doesn't she look thrilled to see me?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I need a new zip code

Did you catch the 90210 premiere tonight?

I love that the spoiled-brat character is named Naomi. My favorite moment: when Naomi reads Annie's pilfered paper in front of the class, wearing short shorts. (I almost thought the hot English teacher would believe she wrote it.) Sheesh.

A few things left me feeling unsettled. Here are my questions, in no particular order:

1. When Adrianna's at the club, why is she drinking red wine? Shouldn't that be an overpriced martini?

2. How does Silver get a half million viewers to her blog? She must not be as alternative as she fancies. (She does wear some cute outfits.)

3. Should Annie's mom really be using words like "Crazytown"?

4. Where's the hopelessly geeky character? Where's Andrea?

5. I'm glad Nat rehabbed the Peach Pit, but if he owns the place, wouldn't he know how to use the espresso machine?

Groan.

I may have to just ask Hal for recaps. By the way, he also provides humorous summaries of One Tree Hill and ANTM, if you need them. In fact, we just discussed today how many of the Tree Hill kids' problems stem from weak and/or inattentive parenting. But I'm not here to moralize. I just want an entertaining TV show.

Maybe 90210 will get better. I just hope Rob Estes has enough time to be a full-time dad, a school principal, and a detective on Women's Murder Club.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Who's your Papa?

I gave her a new name: Papaya. She looks at me curiously whenever I say it. I call her “Papa” for short. She also doesn’t mind “Foxy Lady.” (When she's getting a belly rub, her face looks pointy, like a fox.)

Last night, Joe and Sarah came over for ice cream. Papaya lounged around and farted. It seems she feels perfectly at home.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I’m adopting her. Come by and meet her!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Adventures in doggysitting, again

A month ago, I dogsat for Maiah. Jessica agreed to let me take her this weekend so I could see how she handles being with me for a longer time. So far, so good.

Yesterday we played frisbee and she went for a walk with my parents. They liked her just fine. Also good: she didn't pee in the house.

Maiah woke up this morning and grumbled until I pet her. She loves to give kisses and isn't picky about where — eyelids, mouth, arm, thigh.

What else? She pants a lot (and seems to have some type of dialogue going in her sleep). I'm hoping she'll calm down a bit, at least at nighttime.

On an unrelated note, Yukie emailed me this link about a dangerous dog toy. I'm usually not an alarmist about these things, but after reading the post, I felt like I had to get the word out, even if in a limited way.

Okay. Time to get ready for some non-canine social time. I hope you're doing something fun with your time away from work.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Fun with Art

Today, Tom (an art director I work with) and I designed wedding jewelry for his fiancee, Meg. The process was surprisingly painless. And in the spirit of true collaboration, we even came up with the title of that blog post together — very right-brain/left-brain, yes?

On a somewhat related note, I made a necklace out of lint balls last week. Lint balls, I tell you! I can't take full credit for the necklace, though: Jay, an illustrator in the art department, retrieved the specimens from his dryer.

I'm enjoying these creative challenges. Next up: a necklace with very large briolettes. But that's a story for another time.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The good life

I'm having a great time in my personal essay class with Media Bistro — it's a talented group of people and I'm doing more writing than ever. Wish you were here!

This week's assignment: "In 750 to 850 words, write about an event that taught you something about the world." The world is a big place; I could spend a week just choosing a topic.

But thanks to a suggestion from Katy over a peach-pomegranate mojito at Good Life, I've decided to write about getting separated from my mom at Narita Airport in Japan. "I'm 34 and I can't find my mom" — isn't that brilliant?

Well, it could be after a few revisions.

The assignment was due yesterday and I'm not quite done with the first draft. This is why I've been absent from my blog — I'm doing a lot of writing and critiquing and rewriting. That, and I've been staying up late watching the Olympics. So once I get out of Asia, I'll be here more often. Talk to you soon!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Irish Fest in the sexiest city

In their August issue, the editors at Marie Claire dubbed Milwaukee the sexiest city. They like our "something for everyone" vibe. So here we are — Denise, me, and Debby — at Irish Fest, in "the nation's summer-festival epicenter."

For festy fun, we wandered and shopped. And of course we ate — reuben rolls, potato pancakes, and shepherd's pie. 'Cuz what could be sexier than comfort food and getting your photo taken with a leprechaun and a big-headed doll?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Pompkin

Yesterday I visited the Ozaukee Humane Society to see Pompkin, a 6-year-old beagle mix rescued from a puppy mill. When I stood at the fence, she craned her neck but wouldn't get down from her bed. The volunteer suggested I drop a treat in her cage, but I still couldn't get her to come over. She just looked at me and trembled.

When it was time to meet her, she had to be coaxed into the introduction room. She clung to the counselor but let me pet her. Eventually, she rolled onto her side and I rubbed her belly and her leg. If I stopped, she'd lift her head up and look at me, but she kept shaking. The counselor said Pompkin sometimes cries at night, and they think it's because her puppies were taken away from her too soon and she's still looking for them.

I hope someone adopts her soon. Maybe you?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Memories of Nevin's

Through the magic of Facebook, I reconnected with Don, who managed Nevin's Pub in the mid '90s. I used to cocktail at Nevin's to make some extra cash during grad school, but I also spent many non-work nights there with baskets of clam strips and cream cheese balls and pints of McEwan's, hanging out in the front room with my best pal Joanna and other friends who couldn't bear to be away.

Saturday, Don and I caught up about what everyone has been doing since 1997. We've both left the restaurant business, but we laughed about all our crazy mishaps like no time had passed.

He used to quiz us at the beginning of our shifts about the restaurant's history and the menu:

"How many ounces is the burger?"
"How do you ask for change?"
"Tell me about the Irish bacon." He was so disappointed when I couldn't.

But he was also a good-natured guy, so all would be forgotten by the time he'd have to help me schlep food to the tables. He could carry an armful of plates and never lose the pencil he kept behind his ear.

I, on the other hand, wasn't a good server (which probably doesn't come as a surprise). Even though I gained a command of the menu, I was ill-equipped for the job overall. From experience, I've learned that if you're carrying a tray of beers in one hand and a basket of fries in the other, it's better to drop the fries if something needs to go.

Still, I miss the days of Monday night Scrabble and shepherd's pie. And to this day, if I'd need to order a bunch of drinks for friends, I'd do it Nevin's style: start with the Guinness, then the mixed drinks, then finish with the beers (darkest to lightest). I'd make you proud, Don.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Way beyond the sea

This feels like old news by now (the event was last Saturday), but I've been wanting to show you the finished bracelet that I donated to Kathy's Garden Party.

By the way, last week was crazy, which is why I've been absent. So instead of doing a fresh post with new thoughts, I'll just give you the link to the BeadStyle blog. Which, by the way, is updated almost daily by the editors. If you like jewelry, it's worth checking out.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Say hello to my little friend

Today I got a card from Linda, a friend (and sorority sister) from back at my days at Cal. Even though she lives in San Francisco, we try to get together every year or two.

Linda loves dogs and used to feed their family dog with chopsticks. Her memory of Ginger made me laugh:

I remember this one time when we cooked breakfast at your place and she just loitered around the kitchen, waiting for little droppings that would hit the floor. (Who needs a broom.)

Linda also sent a Shining Stars stuffed animal. My little friend arrived with a password — very curious — so I went online. After entering the secret code and selecting my age (7 and up), I registered his name (Sir McBarkbark) and got to name a star. The website gave coordinates for “Ginger,” my star in the Hercules constellation.

Thanks for the thoughtful memento, Linda. I’ll take good care of Sir McBarkbark.

Again, thanks to all my friends for your kindness. I'm glad that there are so many people whose lives — and food — Ginger touched.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Small-world bracelet

Here's a six-degrees story for you: Stacy, our copy editor at BeadStyle and Bead and Button, brought in this bracelet she received as a gift six years ago.

The connection: I made the bracelet, years before we knew each other. Her friend bought it at M.E. Lou (a Brookfield boutique where I used to work). And yes, that's the original tag that went with it.

Who knew that Stacy and I would end up working in offices right across from each other? Things were so different in 2002, back when I stored all my findings in 35mm film canisters and she was just graduating from high school.

About the bracelet: I've always been fond of tanzanite crystals (and I remember liking the 6mm alexandrite Czech fire-polished glass beads, too). If I made this today, I'd use a lobster claw (instead of a spring clasp), and I'd probably use more aquamarine chips — they're so subtle, you can barely seem them.

Stacy still likes the bracelet. That's one of the perks of making jewelry — years later, having a connection with people who wear my designs.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Adventures in doggysitting

Yesterday, I dog-sat for Kristin's sister's dog. Jessica wants to find a good home for Maiah and was kind enough to let me have her for a day.

And what a day it was. You know how, when you dog-sit, the dog gets the royal treatment? A long walk in the early afternoon, a leisurely stroll after dinner, and frisbee just before it got dark out. Maiah also let me brush her.

She is a sweet girl, a caramel and white lab and collie mix with dark eyes and a black gumdrop nose. She loves kisses and belly rubs. I was impressed at how she kept her cool in front of Mickey, the trash-talking sheltie. And she was nice to the mailman. (Ginger was, too, except when he was too slow giving her a treat. Then, she'd bark at him.)

My biggest concern? Her incontinence. She's very lovey dovey — but can I handle a dribbler?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ginger's charms

Today, I made a necklace with the tags from Ginger's collar. The back of her Planet Dog tag is engraved with her name, my name, and my contact info. And I just noticed that the drawing looks like her.

Behind that, the green rabies tag hasn't retained much of its original bell shape. It's worn from years of clanging, but I attached both tags because they jingle. If I jump up and down, I can make the same sound Gigi made when she trotted around. (Or, I could just shake the necklace.) And of course I added a heart.

I got the idea for this necklace from Lisa Havelin, a metalsmith who makes reliquaries to memorialize your pet. I've been trying to think of ways to do that; it helps me deal with feeling sad.

Yesterday I went to sleep with one of Ginger's favorite toys, her fleece buddy. It was covered with dog hair and crusty drool. A few swipes with a wet paper towel took care of that, but I don't feel the need to keep any whiskers or tufts of fur. The tags will do just fine.

By the way, here's a dusty photo of her that's on my bulletin board at work. Carole, BeadStyle's art director, says this is her favorite photo. (We think Gigi looks like a dachshund. I suspect she was a shepherd/hound — beagle or dachshund? — mix.) She looks pensive here; I love the slightly furrowed brow. If you click on the photo, you can see her squeaky pork chop in the background. She loved to run around the living room, chomping and squeaking and trying to get you to chase her.

Okay. I think that's enough about Gigi for today. (She'd get annoyed by too much attention.) Thank you for all the poems, cards, hugs, and phone calls — and for reading about her. Today definitely felt better than yesterday.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Goodbye, Ginger

I just got home from putting Ginger to sleep. A few hours ago, she collapsed and fluid collected around her heart, which made it hard for her to breathe. Putting her down was unexpected — she was fine up until 8:00 tonight. My parents walked her and fed her dinner and it was business as usual. I was trying to relax in the living room while she barked at the dogs who walked by.

It’s almost 1 a.m. and I just walked into my house, to total silence. I’d gotten used to walking into a quiet house — lately, when I came home, Gigi would be asleep on a chair or the couch or, sometimes, in her own bed. She was getting old, and my arrival wasn’t a big enough deal to merit her waking up.

Now, there’s just silence. And reminders. Seeing her water bowl and her basket of toys and knowing she won’t be there when I wake up tomorrow, these are painful things. I won’t hear her Strawberry Snortcake sigh, I won’t get to flip her ears back, I won’t feel her lean into me when I give her a hug.

This is the last picture I took of her, a couple of weeks ago. She didn't care for photos or dumb antics like balancing toys on her back, but she'd tolerate stuff like that if I praised her and didn't laugh.

I think she liked having my parents and me there as she dozed off on her final slumber. We pet her and told her she was a good dog. She could be really naughty, but she was still the best. I’ll miss my cranky old lady.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Post #100 and the unexpected

It's been one year since I started this blog. In 365 days (actually, 367), I managed 100 posts. Even though most of them turned out to not be about jewelry, I'm happy that I have this place to share my thoughts. And thank you for being a reader and leaving your comments!

Today, nothing especially interesting happened. Crummy weather, an uneventful walk to the grocery store, and baking a batch of brownies. I know, a lack of blogworthy events rarely stops me, but I've been preoccupied with the first assignment for my online essay-writing class: to write about a moment that taught me something unexpected about myself.

This is a challenge.

Even though I'm constantly learning, most things I learn about myself are expected. Which is good — constant epiphanies would be exhausting ("And then I realized, I could give up booze or dessert but never fried food!").

Nonetheless, I'd like to come up with 500 words about an "a-ha" moment. Anybody got any ideas?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Changes large and small

Today I found out that my friend Jeremy is leaving Kalmbach. I’ll miss the ice cream sundae bar on his birthday and his deadpan use of French (“Enchant√©”), but I’m excited for him. Making a change that big takes guts. It's hard to leave what you know.

Yesterday, I played doubles with Judy, the captain of our tennis team. We both wanted to play the deuce side. (With our regular partners, we always play the deuce side.) Judy was willing to rock-paper-scissors me for it, but I volunteered to take the other side. (She is really good at rock-paper-scissors, so maybe I chose the inevitable.)

Even though I was nervous because I was out of my comfort zone, it worked out okay. Better than okay, actually. We won the first set 6-1. We lost the second set but stayed with our setup, and then we won the third set.

It was nice to try something new and be successful at it. The tennis was competitive and fun and my backhand only imploded once. I'd like to try playing the ad side again. Nothing to be scared of, right?

Sometimes, saying yes brings a change for the better. Recognizing the opportunity is half the battle.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Just desserts

How does karma work? If you mistreat someone, does it come back to you immediately, or down the road?

I must have been incredibly annoying in a past life (if not recently). That's the only explanation I can muster for the experience I had playing tennis on Saturday. Imagine two and a half sets with Ben, the scary guy from Lost. Except that Ben seems a little bit better at conversation.

Bad idea: saying yes to tennis because I didn't want to be unkind.

Other than that, my weekend was pretty sweet. On Friday, Katy made a fruit tart with peaches, blueberries, and blackberries. It was excellent and it helped me with my eat-more-fruit resolution. And on Saturday, I went to Balistreri's with Joe and Sarah. Things always seem better when you're laughing with friends.

Also, look what I found at the grocery store: four-ounce cups of Haagen-Dazs. Delightful! I probably didn't need to eat dessert for the third time this weekend, but I couldn't resist. Bad idea? (By the way, you probably didn't need to see the plum, but it was there and I wanted to show how tiny the tubs were. They're about the size of a tennis ball. In case you don't know how big a plum is.)

I'm an ice cream purist; I don't need gummy bears or candy bars or granola mixed in. (Though, I did like the mochi balls at Pinkberry.) Haagen-Dazs is so good, I'll eat flavors that I wouldn't usually want (like coffee or strawberry) in other brands of ice cream. I just wish the spoon was wood instead of plastic. Not that I used it — I needed a regular spoon to scoop the ice cream out of my waffle bowl.

I hope you're occasionally doing things that are against your nature. And having a good time of it. You can always try change in small ways — like in four-ounce minitubs. Those help alleviate the effects of karmic retribution.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The power of yes

I just finished reading Yes Man — Danny Wallace’s book about saying yes. Some of what he found was good (a new girlfriend and trips around the world). And some, not so good (credit card offers and internet scams). He made the leap of faith anyway and saw his adventures through.

For a reason I can’t remember, Lindsay has dubbed this my Summer of Bad Ideas. I’m not sure where to start. A few years ago, Denise did Summer of Denise, where she said yes to every social invitation she got. (I think she was busy all but one weekend that summer.)

I am intrigued by potentially bad ideas. Or ideas that might seem bad at first glance but are actually exciting little gems of experience. Any suggestions? I'm open to the possibilities, but I'd definitely prefer love over debt.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

No downward dog

I tried to do yoga tonight, but Ginger was suspicious. She paced, wheezed, and stepped on the foldout poster that shows the poses. She also rattled the blinds trying to nose her way to a view of what was outside. None of this helped to quiet my mind.

When she sleeps, she’s unaware of what’s going on around her. I can rub her nose or stack a toy on top of her. In this photo, the toy stayed for a few minutes, even after she opened her eyes.

I wish you a deeply relaxing 4th.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The inner game of tennis

Tennis has consumed my free time these last few weeks. A typical week: two matches, social doubles on Wednesday, a class on Saturday, and practice on Sunday. It feels like too much.

Fearing I was becoming unidimensional, I was less than excited to read The Inner Game of Tennis. But the book came highly recommended by a couple of players I know, so I figured I could get through it.

It's actually a great book that transcends the sport. It reminds me of Fight Your Fear and Win. At least, the goals of the books seem the same: to help you achieve peak performance in high-pressure situations. The tennis book shows how overanalysis and attention to your game can actually undermine your success on the court.

Too bad I can't finish the book in time for my match tonight.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Shedding a tear for Dale

Dale and Paul's wedding was beautiful. She looked gorgeous and maintained her composure — as she had all week. And I got misty-eyed only once: as predicted, when she walked down the aisle.

I almost always cry when the bride walks down the aisle. There's something about the magnitude of the event that gets to me. Seeing a friend in a different context at that moment, embarking on a new life. (I can be both a hardened cynic and a hopeless romantic about love, but weddings typically bring out the latter.)

By the way, it is best not to cry in front of Dale unless the situation truly merits it. Worthy situation: a breakup. Unworthy situation: a Bucks game. (At our next Bucks game, Dale said, "You're not gonna cry again, are you?"). Last week she preapproved my crying: "I hope somebody cries for me." A worthy situation.

At dinner, we had a fun table. Here are Joe, Simone, and Pat. Joe is married to Shannon, Dale's good friend who handled all the wedding details. And Simone flew in from Ireland for the weekend. She used to live in Milwaukee and looks forward to moving back here. And Pat went to high school with Dale; they were in the same homeroom. There were lots of friends from childhood, college, and the present.

Incidentally, dinner was fantastic (roast chicken and brussels sprouts). Dale doesn't like brussels sprouts, so she had rigatoni. A bride who eats red sauce on her wedding day — so bold, so low maintenance!

After dinner there were more cocktails. And fireworks (from Polish Fest, I think). Then we said goodnight and hopped in the convertible, and Pat played the Outfield ("Josie's on a vacation far away") at deafening volumes as Fest-goers stood on the corner looking puzzled. Good times.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

27 dresses, continued

I discovered that my green silk dress was too low-cut.

So, on Tuesday, I went to TJ Maxx during lunch and found a brown dress with an ivory satin waistband. Conservative but pretty and flattering — exactly what I'd want to wear to a wedding. After work, I bought some gold Guess stilettos and a champagne-colored clutch. Fun!

I tried the ensemble on at home. As I sat on the couch watching the Celtics beat the Lakers, congratulating myself on my thrifty ways, I felt uncomfortable. Constricted. Something was not right.

My dress was too tight in the ribs. And no, it wasn't available in a larger size (yup, I went back).

Luckily Serene gave me a dress — a brown (stretchy) dress with a chartreuse floral. It has two straps that tie around the neck. Cute and it works with the shoes and purse. I raided the BeadStyle workroom and found a few jewelry options: peridot earrings, a chrysoprase memory-wire cuff, and a lemon citrine necklace and earrings. I'm not sure which pieces I'll wear, but I'll decide tomorrow. Well, I have to decide tomorrow. I know I'm spending too much time deliberating about this, but the dress debacle falls into the same category as the hunt for a picture frame: small decisions present way too many options.

In other news, Dale is handling the last few days before the wedding admirably. Her routine has been remarkably similar to mine: work during the day, tennis at night. The only difference is that she is way more laid-back about what she's wearing tomorrow.

See you after the wedding.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

27 dresses

I didn't see the movie, but I tried on at least that many dresses at Forever 21.

(I waited too long to buy a dress for Dale's wedding. It's this Friday.)

A few of the 27: There was the lilac chiffon number that I couldn't quite zip. (And that wasn't available in a large.) The black ruffly dress that fit okay but seemed too somber for a wedding. The blush pouf that showed off my tank-top tan lines from tennis. The green and white print halter style that accentuated my broad shoulders. The black satin miniskirt (size large) that was cute but too clubby.

Forever 21 had tons of dresses, jammed into arrangements that appeared random. Because I haven't been 21 for a while, I had to forego the dresses that were strapless or had bows. And, I don't wear red; the Stanford shade looks too ethnic on me. Even at the eleventh hour, I have my standards.

I finally settled on a ruffled silk dress that's the same Celtics green as the one I wore to last year's Cool Jewels party. (That's me and Dale in the photo.) I would've preferred the dress in turquoise, but they didn't have it in a medium. So I bought the green one. Which seemed like a reasonable compromise after two hours of effort. Now I just have to figure out the shoe situation. I may do that Thursday.