Monday, December 27, 2010

Oh no Papa, they're just boots.

Papa loves to open gifts.

Whether it's a bone or a frisbee or a gift that's not for her (sorry, Katy), she shreds the wrapping paper with abandon.

She is not always so excited about the actual gifts. Such as these boots. (Note her subdued mood.)

She allowed us to put them on, then refused to move — as if she were paralyzed.

Unfortunately, she can't be swayed by favorable Amazon ratings or reassurances that these durable boots will protect her paws from salt on the sidewalks.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Oh no Papa, not the garbage bag!

Doing my holiday baking, it's not unusual for me to have a cookie mishap.

Yesterday's disaster: crumbly shortbread.

My magical thinking — that baking would improve the messed-up dough — didn't work. I should have given up when the butter refused to combine with the flour.

So I threw the cookies away. I also took out the garbage right away.

By the way, I've been spending a lot of time with Papa lately. She gets lots of car rides while I'm doing last-minute holiday stuff. So I thought it would be safe to leave her unattended for an hour.

Unfortunately, she got into the new garbage.

She extracted the bag out without pulling out the garbage can. I came home to shredded plastic and a guilty look. Thankfully, the holiday season will be over soon.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wisdom, gone

Drinking soda through a straw. Eating crunchy tacos. Running on a treadmill.

Simple things, but I did them mindfully this week, in anticipation of getting my wisdom teeth removed.

My friends tried to reassure me with their own recollections. Charlie had four teeth removed at 3 p.m. and was at a party by 9. Carol's niece had hers done a couple of weeks ago, without incident. And, rationally, I doubted I’d have an experience like Chris' — a replacement dentist after four hours of unsuccessful tugging and breaking, followed up by weeks of soreness.

Still, I was tense. Couldn't fall asleep until 3 a.m.

Before I left work yesterday, Kelsey said, “Remember that we love you.” She knew I was morbidly afraid of not waking up from the anesthesia. (Yes, I know there is practically zero risk of that.)

So I spent Thursday night at Boulder Junction eating a last supper of chicken tenders and fried mushrooms, zucchini and celery, and chocolate chip cookies.

And today I went to the oral surgeon. He administered the IV, and I have no memory of even going under. Boom. Done.

I wouldn’t say it was anticlimactic — because it still hurts and pain is pain, after all. I did realize that the anticipation of pain is far worse than the experience of it.

But for once, I’m happy that I seem to be having the average experience. I look forward to returning to the world of crunchy food soon.

P.S. I did learn one other thing: spumoni is not a good post-surgery option. I can't chew the nuts or cherries.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Day off

I haven't been blogging because I've had a really bad cold. (You know it's bad when co-workers sanitize tools after you use them.) After my nightly cocktail of codeine cough syrup and Mucinex failed to help, I figured it was time to consult a doctor.

So I took the day off while waiting for the antibiotics to kick in.

In the meantime, I did something healthy: got a winter tune-up on the car. Oil change, brakes and tires checked. That always makes me feel safer.

Also, I bought extra dog food to store in the trunk. (It adds weight to the back of the car, preventing the car from skidding. Usually.)

Relatedly, Papa just got her stitches removed — and the lumps were not cancerous — so that's some more good health news.

I'm hoping some potato skins will be just what I need, and that Papa will not terrorize the house while I'm gone. We could all use some gentle treatment.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Office Grind

If you're interested in a he-said-she-said take on workplace dating, check out The Office Grind. The column originally appeared in print in the fall issue of Audrey.

Here's what the editor says:

"Is workplace “commingling” a good idea? Guest columnist Naomi Fujimoto says all’s fair in love and work, but Paul Nakayama wouldn’t touch that with a 10-foot laser pointer."

You decide.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Flavor of the month

Ever since I was a kid, I've gone through phases where I wanted to keep eating the same thing — ramen noodles or Chef Boyardee canned ravioli or, for the past two years, the chicken salad at Qdoba.

This month, that thing is Key lime desserts.

I've eaten a tart at Harry's, a cupcake from Georgetown Cupcake, and a mini-serving of pie at Bosley.

It would be hard to pick a favorite. The tangy tart? The light cupcake? The creamy pie? It's like comparing apples and oranges (groan).

So instead I'll just say that I'm lucky to have such wonderful friends. Sharing dessert and drinks is one of life's little pleasures. Or big pleasures, when you get to do it often.

PS: Michele, the owner of Bosley, offered to let me snap a photo in the kitchen, where the light was better. Alas, Katy and I decided to dig in instead.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Oh no Papa, not the holiday garbage!

I just came home to a stick from a Tootsie Pop, on the floor of the living room.

Oh, no.

Isn’t it crazy how much garbage Papa extracted without fully knocking over the can?

To be fair, she had a tough day. I took her to the vet to have two lumps removed. He’s checking to make sure the one lump isn’t cancerous (he doesn’t think so but wants to confirm because it was near her breast).

So I think Pops was not herself after spending half the day being drugged, poked, and prodded.

Or maybe she was exactly herself. She gets nutty with garbage during the holidays.

I know my routine changes this time of year, but Papa, please don’t pitch any more fits. There should be a limit to how many times I have to use the vacuum cleaner in one day.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tennis surprises

What keeps me playing tennis — aside from the competition and camaraderie — is the element of surprise. You just never know what is going to happen.

By “surprise,” I don’t mean hitting a quirky little drop shot when your opponent expected a ground stroke.

I am referring to aberrant things. Things that don't make sense.

Patrice and I have played together for two years — more than 20 matches. Which is why it was surprising that we sucked in the first four games of our match in Le Club’s Great Turkey Open.

This is not hyperbole. Or humilty. We really sucked. (After the match Nan, one of our opponents, asked, “What was up with those first four games?”)

We had trouble hitting the ball. After a shaky warmup, I attributed this to my jitters. It felt like a big deal to play against Nan and Jody, someone whom I’ve known for years but never played.

Obviously if we could have just stopped doing whatever we were doing, we wouldn’t have gotten into a 4-0 deficit.

But somehow, shot by shot, we started to figure it out. At least we started to have rallies rather than ending points with our mistakes.

Surprise! We came back to win the set. And the match.

On Saturday we played a team I remember as The Ham Sandwich Girls. Last year, they won a three-setter, ate ham sandwiches, and came out and beat us in three sets. They then played a third match.

It is intimidating to play people for whom fatigue is not an issue.

But I really wanted to win. And don’t ever doubt it, so did Patrice.

I can’t really remember the match, other than that it was grueling and I got aced a couple of times. But we did it: 7-5, 7-5.

Then, surprise! It was not the championship match. (“It felt like it,” I said.)

We played once more and won in straight sets. And I enjoyed two turkey sandwiches afterward.

I should mention, I was nervous before our second match, too. But Jody said that things were different this year. So thank you, Jody, for the encouraging words. They really helped.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More cupcakes!

I came home from last Friday's festivities to find two pink and black boxes from Georgetown Cupcake. Michelle had ordered four dozen cupcakes — one in each flavor, plus some.

Yukie and I tried the vanilla with chocolate ganache and the chocolate mint. (The image is from Georgetown Cupcake's website.)

I later sampled the lemon, mint cookies and creme, milk chocolate birthday, and PB fudge. (If you check out the menu, you'll see photos of almost all of their cupcakes.)

All the ones I tried were delicious — the perfect ratio of cake to frosting. If I had to pick a favorite, the chocolate mint would top the list. That creamy mint frosting was amazing.

If you count the baking before my birthday, I ate cupcakes for six days straight. I think that's a respectable effort.

Thank you, Michelle, for the gift. It's like the party is still going on.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Candy rings and creativity

My friend Sarah always gives beautiful gifts like jeweled Swarovski pencils and personalized address stamps — and this week I was blown away by this solid chocolate ring from Promise Me Chocolate.

The "amethyst" is hand-painted milk chocolate with a champagne-y shimmer. Given my challenges making silicone molds, I'm especially impressed with how beautiful these rings are. The company also makes chocolate pendants strung on licorice (!) and truffles with flavored ganache fillings.

In addition to having a great eye for gifts, Sarah is incredibly creative. Check out her recent post at the PaperDolls of Saratoga blog for ways to make your own Thanksgiving placecards.

(And yes, Sarah made that bookmark — though I wish I could take credit.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cocktails, cupcakes, and Funky Cold Medina

My 40th birthday was awesome! Blue's Egg was a great venue to relive the 80s.

Or at least the music of the 80s: arena rock, power ballads, British pop, and so many one- and two-hit wonders.

Even though my taste in 80s music horrifies Jeremy, he put together a respectable song list. Sandra tried to rally people to dance — and was successful at one point. Must've been the Funky Cold Medinas, which were delicious with lemonade.

A few people embraced the 80s theme admirably: Jay accessorized with a flamingo tie, Linda layered an Izod vest over a blouse with tennis racquets, Bonch went Karate Kid, Amy got leg warmers from Goodwill, and Al wore Chuck Taylors (and told us about the lime green and pink pairs he used to trade with his high school friend).

I was a bit jealous of Denise's plastic charm necklace, which she actually got in the 80s. Out of respect, she removed the toilet charm, but I'd have liked to see it!

Without question the most daring getup of the night was Jordan in his black mesh half-shirt. Rad! We all admired how he truly went for it.

Big thanks to everyone who helped me organize the party. Serene designed the invitations, Linda helped me shop for my outfit, Yukie baked the cupcakes, Patty and Dave did balloon duty, Jeremy and Keith took care of the music, Alicia arrived early to help set up, and Erin and Kelsey handled the music trivia. I appreciate all the help!

Per our tennis group's tradition, Dianne handed off the gnome — which was a way better memento than the bruise she gave me at tennis Wednesday night. (Just kidding, I know it was an accident. Right?)

I signed the gnome's oddly muscular bicep and propped him up next to my TV, where he can amuse visitors with his halfhearted smile.

Thanks everyone, for your friendship and your festive spirit. I'm so lucky to have such great family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and teammates. You truly know how to party like it's 1989!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Oh no Papa, not the toilet paper!

For the “How did she do that?” file:

Saturday night, Papa opened the hallway door — as in, turned the knob and pulled the door toward her — and went upstairs.

I found a pile of shredded toilet paper in the bathroom.

Could’ve been worse: she did leave most of the paper on the roll. Thanks, Papa.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Weekend of Dianne

Dianne just celebrated a milestone: her 50th birthday. As you can see, the surprise party that Don planned had the desired effect.

Last Friday night, we all arrived at Laura and Kevin's house, parked discreetly, and hung out in the basement until Dianne and Don arrived. Dianne said he just can't lie — but he did a tremendous job of having his friends lie for him.

And though she thought it was odd that no one had asked what her birthday plans were, she was grateful for the cards sent by her 80-year-old aunt and the waiter from Lake Park Bistro.

Two things about Dianne: she will talk to just about anyone and she is super athletic. I actually met her at Highlander years ago, before I knew that she played tennis or that we'd be on the same team. Somehow, without knowing each other, we randomly started talking about how the Bucks were doing.

And on occasion, driving home from work, I'd see her running in Tosa. We were practically neighbors.

But back to the party. It was great — sandwiches on freshly baked buns, plenty of beer and wine, and cake. Like every good house party, we migrated to the kitchen to hang out. When we left, Dianne had two glasses in her hands.

She rallied for a birthday dinner on Saturday — a mellow outing at Cafe Hollander — and then brunch at the Knick. I could also have joined her at body pump on Sunday morning, but my commitment to fitness was better suited to attacking a football-sized chicken and Havarti omelet.

I really enjoyed Weekend of Dianne. Thank you for including me. And cheers to Don for his strategery!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oh no, Papa, it's just a Halloween hat!

Years ago, I bought this little hat for Ginger to wear at Halloween. She didn't stand for it — maybe because my parents and I laughed uncontrollably when we put it on her.

So I took a different approach with Papa. I just put the hat on, without fanfare or laughter.

Even though she cringed, she also posed for this yearbook-style photo. Her reward: lots of Frisbee in the yard.

I didn't even mind that she shook the hat so it looked more like a piece of jaunty neckwear. Tres chic, Pa-pa!

I'm writing this at my parents' house. Papa barks when the doorbell rings and barks when I open the door to trick-or-treaters, trying to force her way out. Still, one of them said, "Bye, Papaya!"

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Blue's clues

I had tried a Funky Cold Medina — the drink, not the song — at Boulder Junction a few weeks ago. Actually, John (of Thursday night tennis) struggled through a pint of it. He thought it would have been more tolerable as a shot.

So Carol and I went to The Klavier last weekend on a mission: to see if Mary, who bartends there, could improve the drink. The original has equal parts of Absolut vodka, Southern Comfort peach liqueur, and Blue Curacao. Topped with cranberry juice, it's purple and reminiscent of cough syrup.

Mary mixed a bunch of different options — shaking, tasting, throwing away. After a few tries, success: the final Mary Cold Medina was light and fun.

Perhaps this seems merely charming but not story-worthy?

There was a second Blue sighting: A Blue Hawaii played a cameo in this week’s episode of Hawaii Five-O. Quelle surprise! Its neon presence could not be ignored.

But wait, there's more.

I was considering palettes for a crystal bracelet I’m working on, and one of Pantone’s colors for spring is Blue Curacao. It’s part of the “Exotic Journey” palette (on page 2 of the color forecast).

Blue Curacao for spring?

What does it all mean?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Getting in shape, one decision at a time

Today I did a body sculpt class at Highlander.

Back in the 90's I used to love step aerobics, but now I'm more of an elliptical-machine user. I hadn’t taken an exercise class in years.

Until tonight.

I was on the elliptical — on my usual machine, where I like to wave to friends and chat so I don’t get too bored — when I saw Mary. She was heading to the class, and said it worked everything and didn’t require tons of coordination. Sounds perfect, right?

So I set myself up in the back of the gym.

Lunges, squats, more lunges and squats. Some with weights, some not — Gretchen kept us busy. When she smiled and said, “Nice job. Looking good!” I pretended she was talking to me.

I tried to balance with my two-pound weights while Mary — who used to play college basketball and throw bales of hay on her family’s farm — had no such problems.

I could not double-time the footwork on the step (though, yes, it would probably help me with my tennis footwork). And I opted for the girly pushups at the end of class.

The good news is, the class was really fun: just enough reps to feel the burn but not so many that it got boring. At least I did not spend the hour marching in place.

I also made a resolution: Until my birthday, I'm avoiding Boulder Junction. Though I once went there and had two potato skins and a La Croix, that is not my typical post-tennis fare. I am a pushover for the buckaroo platter (fried jalapeno poppers, fried mozzarella, fried zucchini, fried calamari). And why not have a second Newcastle?

Two small steps.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dog naps

My preschool art teacher just blogged about naps.

Her post reminded me of the first time I dogsat Papa (or Maiah, as she was back then): July 26, 2008.

That day, I took long walks and played Frisbee with her. But when I tried to take a mid-afternoon nap, she sat by my bed. Panting. As if she was waiting for me to let her know what was next.

It was not restful. But I know how hard it is to fall asleep in a strange place, so I tried to relax. She did, too. (Kristin had warned me that Maiah was neurotic.)

Now, Maiah Papaya is an excellent sleeper. She sleeps on the couch and on the bed, curled up or in her side-of-beef pose. When I have friends over and we sit on the couch, she rests her feet on me and her head against the other person.

Hijinks and forty winks, she has mastered them both. And really, sleeping and causing chaos are both about living in the moment, not worrying about what's next.

Papa, you've come a long way.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How to make a birthday bracelet

If you want to learn how to make a birthday bracelet (like the one I made for Jean's 60th), visit the BeadStyle Bead Room.

While racking my brain over what combination of beads to use, I figured something out: It's all about the chain.

So decide on the chain before choosing the beads, because the math matters!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Oh no, Linus, not my purse.

I was at Michelle’s house a few weeks ago when Linus decided to explore my purse.

Looks like he got bored.

Yoshi also liked bags. (Do all cats?)

Speaking of bags: I'm glad to hear that SunChips is discontinuing their compostable bags. Those bags were just plain loud. And no one likes an indiscreet snack bag.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Two milestones: Ron and Jean's 60th

We celebrated Ron and Jean’s 60th birthdays at O’Donoghue’s on Saturday.

O’Donoghue’s is becoming one of my favorite places to hang out, even when I’m not eating fish fry. (Though, I was there for fish fry last Friday.)

During the party, I ran into Kelsey, Erin, Caitlin (Erin’s sister), and Colleen during one of their regular Odie’s outings. We talked 80s movies; their memories of Can’t Buy Me Love are surprisingly vivid. (Kelsey’s take: “And then, surprise! He gets arrogant.”)

Now back to the 60s: Ron showed off his “I have no idea what’s going on” t-shirt and Jean's message was “Damn, I make 60 look good.”

The karaoke festivities started with Ron’s version of “Bye Bye Love.” Then a group of tennis ladies (sans moi) sang “Dancing Queen,” “Bad Romance,” and another Lady Gaga tune that I can’t remember.

Beer flowed freely.

And there was jazz, caricatures, and magic, too — including the retrieval of a $20 bill from a lemon. And Shappy made an appearance, relinquishing the gnome after only one week. But such is the nature of the gnome — sometimes he takes long weekends, sometimes he gets comfortable in one place. (He stayed with Carol for a couple of years.)

After a night of buffalo tenders and cheese sticks washed down with Harp, it was time for cake in the shape of a tennis court. Chocolate with raspberry filling. Fried food and dessert — a winning combination from our friends.

Cheers to Ron and Jean — 120 is treating you well!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Marilee's bridal shower

Under the guise of “book club,” we surprised Marilee with a bridal shower. (And there was also a short discussion of books.)

Dianne asked us to bring something fun as part of a “recipe for a happy marriage.” Our group — women who are single, newlyweds, in long-term relationships, or married for 20-plus years — had fun with this.

When it came time to open gifts, Sandy’s was first: a fire extinguisher (“for when things get hot”).

Um, could anything else compare?

Fortunately Marilee loved the cozy socks, fuzzy slippers, books and rules of romance, honey, spices, and other stuff we brought. Carol gave her seven bananas with the wish for “a bunch” of love and good times for every day of the week. Nice!

Colleen also picked out a special gift from all of us. Reading the card, Marilee paused and said, “I’m a little scared.”

But it was a totally perfect gift. Totally.

Of course we also ate — plenty of food and cake. And whoever made the bar cookies with M&Ms, I loved those. I took one out of my purse later that night.

Congrats to Marilee and Brad, and thanks to Dianne for being a great organizer and hostess!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A jewelry adventure: More metal flowers

After I finished my ornament project for the November issue of BeadStyle, I had a few metal flowers left — perfect for whipping up a more casual silver version of the September cover necklace.

The experience was more challenging than I expected.

The biggest flower, a 4-inch magnolia, had only only one hole (in the center), so I punched holes in two petals. Then I noticed that, in the gold version, I had connected the biggest flower in three places.

It wouldn't be a big deal to punch another hole in the silver flower — except that once you do it, it's there. No going back. I'm hesitant to connect the coreopsis in two fixed places. At least with the gold version, the rims of the center flower have some give with the jump rings.

After much rearranging (opening and closing of jump rings), I finally settled on this design.

At least the earrings were easy.

To highlight the sleek, organic shape of the plated lily pads, I just attached them to earring wires. Super simple, and I'll probably wear them all the time!

Same with the cut paisley drops. I'm a fan of long, lean shapes. The drops, which are almost 3 inches long, look great without any beads or chain attached. I won't be wearing these with the necklace (too much bling), but I'm always happy to forgo large necklaces in favor of statement-y earrings.

One lesson learned: It's best to order as soon as I spot something I like. The Beadin' Path offers lots of vintage stuff, but I've occasionally made the mistake of overthinking a purchase while the coveted item got snapped up by someone more decisive.

PS: Jim Forbes shot these photos. I love the crisp background! Check out his portfolio — my favorite series is "Three Windows."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Press Pause Moments anthology

I just got my copy of Press Pause Moments, a collection of essays about life transitions.

The timing couldn’t have been better. Fall is always a season of change, and I’ve been thinking about what things I’d like to change (or not) as my 40th birthday approaches. (More on that another time.)

One of my essays appears in this book, and so does one from Michelle Mach.

Michelle and I live somewhat parallel lives blogging, designing jewelry, and freelance writing. In a “small world” moment, we got a chance to meet at the Bead and Button Show this summer and thought it would be fun to cross-blog about the book.

The first words of her essay:

“Good-bye! Good riddance! Good luck! Good grief!”

Yes, that crazy mashup of feelings when you make a big change is totally relatable. Michelle not only made a big career change, she had the insight to write about it. Reading her story reminded me of academia — that feeling of being both at home and not at home.

So get a copy of the book and check out “Confessions of a Former Good Girl.”

You can also find out more about Michelle on her website or her blog, Beads & Books.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Shappy's 50th birthday

Today we celebrated Shappy’s 50th birthday. His brother and sister-in-law, Steve and M.J., hosted a wonderful surprise party at their house.

They're both terrific hosts: Steve rolled out pizza dough and told us about the workings of their brick oven, and M.J. gave me a tour and picked mushrooms. (Last week, they harvested 30 pounds!)

I spent a lot of time by the oven — the better to sample each pizza as it came out.

Each one had a supercrisp crust, and I loved all of the different toppings: wild mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, pesto with feta. I wandered away and unfortunately missed the pepperoni with heirloom tomatoes.

Check out this Journal Sentinel article if you want to read more about their talent and hospitality (Steve also makes his own cheese!).

Shappy’s brother Dave and tennis friend Sande sang and played guitar, and we all sang Happy Birthday for our friend who looks like Billy Joel. There was also some brotherly hazing among Shappy, Steve, and Dave.

We’re still trying to figure out if Shappy was surprised.