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 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.