Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lucky Monday ornaments

I love handmade ornaments, and Super Sock makes adorable gingerbread men. They have great expressions (like "What the?") and some of them look like they're dancing. I was planning on giving them as gifts, but when they arrived, I couldn't resist keeping a couple for myself. They will also make good pals for Angry Gingerbread Girl — unfortunately her string fell off after she kept turning her back, so she hangs out on a plate now.

I placed another order on Saturday.

Yesterday night, I came home to a box stamped with little gingerbread men. (The fastest shipping ever!) Plus, there was a hand-written card:

We hope our gingerbreads and ornaments will bring you much joy... we made you something VERY SPECIAL (unlisted)... just for you for your loyalty and kindness. PEACE.

And yes, the something specials are also supercute. Bonus! Thank you, Super Sock. And thanks for the little pack of cookies, too! The nice surprise was a pre-Christmas miracle.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sophia's ornament wreath

Jane's daughter, Sophia, made a beautiful ornament wreath last night. Sophia has extensive glue gun training and a fearless spirit — plus she worked in the finial ornaments, a challenge I hope to master someday.

Thanks, Sophia, for sharing your awesome work with us. Your grandma will love it!

Jane will be beading this weekend, but I don't have any crafty plans yet. Making an ornament tree is on my "someday" list... I was searching for cone-shaped trees but found this Christmas tree screen and now have a new ornament obsession. Onward with the glue gun.

Happy a creative Thanksgiving, everybody!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Another ornament wreath

Taking a break from outlet shopping and pie eating and tree decorating, my sister and I made this ornament wreath.

There were lots of gold ornaments left over from my Bead Style video, so we merged them with some of last year's leftovers and went for a more subdued palette.

Yukie had a great idea: Vary the size of the ornaments around the inner and outer edges of the wreath base, instead of just alternating two sizes. Then you'll have more flexibility in what to attach to the rest of the base.

Unfortunately she had this idea after we were done, and my wreath is a bit too tall to fit into a storage box. Oops. (At least this can be a 2014 problem to solve.)

If you want to make your own wreath, you can find basic instructions and extra tips in the Bead Room. Happy gluing!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sluggo's, still

Yesterday I had my birthday gathering at Sluggo's. Friends, drinks, and a doughnut pan from Kelsey? It was a wonderful outing.

We chatted about the movies Pat and Sandy saw, what Rob's reading, Jim staying calm during singles, Wendy's thoughts on digital publishing, and my struggle to become the 39th contact in Bill's phone. Good bar talk.

And Dave brought chocolate chip cookies, freshly baked. They were terrific with pizza and Jack and Cokes!

Thank you to all my dear friends for sharing my birthday with me. I wish only that I'd ordered the macho nachos. So at some point, let's do another coupon-worthy Sluggo's outing, before next year. Cheers!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Boat of Us

Last week, Kelly invited us for drinks on her boat. It was absolutely lovely to have a glass of wine with friends. I enjoyed waving at everyone and taking photos like a Japanese tourist.

Because summer was so busy, I hadn't seen Kelly, Lisa, or Julia for months. We caught up about state league and about some of the strange bad luck we've been dealing with.

Kelly made a fantastic salad — she roasts the tomatoes herself, no shortcuts! — and there was plenty of cheese and crackers and homemade salsa. This is pretty par for the course for Kelly; she has hosted many nights of wine and food and sitting on the couch.

So, thank you for a really relaxing time. I'm working on getting my sea legs so I can dismount from the boat by myself (thanks, Julia, for the help). Even Lisa, who's on crutches, disembarked without incident.

Sail on, everyone! (But not in the "would you please just go away" Commodores way, of course. I mean in the nicest way possible.) Cheers.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Oh no Papa, not more car hijinx!

When I pulled up to the vet's office last weekend, Papa tried to jump out of the car — from the front, which is a no-no.

She slipped trying to climb through to the back seat. Come on, Papa!

Another recent car incident: When Mom slammed on the brakes, Papa got tangled under the seat cover. She did manage to extricate herself by the time they got to their destination.

Papa, enough with the acting out in the car!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Irish Fest 2013

Our Irish Fest adventure started early: Traffic was backed up. Everyone seemed to be arriving at 4 p.m.

"This is a blog post," Denise said as we drove around and were redirected to different parking lots. But the festival gods must have been smiling upon us; we paid five bucks for rock-star parking.

The store was in a new location this year, near the Miller Lite stage. Even though there were plenty of volunteers, it was busy so we jumped right in — Denise by the tchotchkes and me by the long-sleeved shirts.

The weather was unbelievably beautiful, one of those days when you just want to cling to summer, hanging out with your friends and refolding t-shirts warmed by the sun. (Or whatever you like to do on a sunny day.) Everyone who stopped by was in a great mood, even though we were already starting to run out of sizes. I got a chance to meet the fest's winning bakers, a family whose prize was gift certificates to the shop. They won for their molasses bread, scones, and lots of other treats. Yum!

Denise and I were done at 8, so we walked the grounds in search of reuben rolls and shepherd's pie. She had a second Miller Lite. "Why stop at one?" she said, a rare throwing of caution to the wind. (And she stopped at two, by the way.)

We were on the search for some twisted dough with cinnamon, which someone had raved about earlier. A couple times we felt like we were close to the dough, but the delicious cinnamon smell was from the roasted almonds.

It's really okay, though, because Irish Fest is not about trying new things. It's about going back to the same-ish things over and over and appreciating how good they are.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ketchup already

I'm at work on a Saturday — for the first time ever, wah! — to move offices. It's much easier to move when you wear shorts and comfortable shoes. Plus I can make lots of noise and wander back and forth without irritating Jane and Kelsey.

So why am I not shuttling stuff to my new office right now? Well. I've gotten most of it done, but I've grown tired. Repinning stuff from the bulletin boards is mentally exhausting. (So is realizing that I have two framed photos of Ginger and none of Papaya.)

It's humbling to relocate, to confront the harsh reality of a decade's worth of habits. Take, for example, the top drawer — prime desk real estate. Unfortunately mine became a wasteland of things I thought I needed and forgot I had.

I am a ketchup hoarder.

Which is weird, because I don't use a lot of it. Maybe that's why some of the packets were oddly bloated; the time in my office did them no favors.

Apparently I also liked plastic rulers (about seven of them). And a lipstick I bought in Japan eight years ago, which was almost gone and never got used anyway because I kept other lipstick stubs for makeup emergencies.

But this move has taught me a lot. Like: Sunscreen belongs in a drawer, not on the desk. As well as: It's tough to corral paper clips. And: Rubber bands eventually get brittle and break.

This is a tiring day. But I'm pacing myself by eating stuff from Jane's snack drawer: honey mustard pretzels and half a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies. It's all good, right? I mean, they are going to expire next month and no one wants stale shortbread.

Now it's time to get back to work. Jane, you're right about the change of perspective. I just didn't realize it would start with the process of moving.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kitchen table blues

Now that I've finally gotten a new kitchen floor, I noticed how shabby the table was looking. Instead of my usual reaction (fatigue), I got a burst of energy and decided to make it a weekend project.

Lucky for me, Denise and Jeremy were already planning to come over. Jeremy, who has a whole arsenal of tools, had offered to shave down seven doors to fit over my new floor. And Denise was up for helping me; she finds painting therapeutic.

Before they came over, I had sanded the table and primed it. Good planning, right?

While Jeremy worked in the front yard, Denise and I painted in the back. Papa hovered and got Pantone's Peacock Blue on her tail.

In my haste, I unevenly applied some of the paint. When I picked at the lumps, I realized that I hadn't sanded enough.

Uh oh. You can peel the paint right down to the wood.

I understand the whole embracing imperfection thing — or rather, I understand how other people might enjoy that sort of experience. But when you sand and prime and have a meticulous painter-friend help you out, can't you expect results that are a little closer to perfect?

I'm going to see how long I can tolerate the imperfection before I strip the paint and start over. I have a hard time with chips and splotches.

But for now, I'll focus on the bright spot: having friends with carpentry skills and painting skills and big hearts. Neesy, I always enjoy our craft projects. And Jeremy, thank you for the 5/16 of an inch. It's perfect!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Goodbye to the best neighbors ever

A couple of weeks ago, I had dinner with Joe and Sarah. It was a casual get together, like usual, and we talked about work and dogs and goings-on in the neighborhood.

But it was also our last dinner as neighbors (I mean, barring some weird twist of fate which would make for a super-good story).

Over the years, there have been many shared meals and baked goods and conversations in the alley. We've said our hellos — and goodbyes — to Ginger and Ed and Papaya and Blue. And a big hello to Max, who's already a year-and-a-half old and will eat the charred burgers I make.

I will miss all of that.

Even though moving is a part of life, it never seems to get easier — even when you're moving for a happy reason like Joe and Sarah are.

So, my friends, thank you for being great neighbors and helping me find Jesus and giving me this adorable plant. You are the best neighbors ever.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Rohit's 30th birthday

Rohit is a polite and humble guy, opting for superlong workouts over the grand planning that comes with a milestone birthday. He reluctantly agreed to let us celebrate his 30th, with an "Anything is fine" attitude. By the way, I am convinced that's why all of his mixed doubles partners love him. He's very low maintenance.

Again, we chose Mama Mia's on Silver Spring. I love the big community table, the shiny garlic bread, the IPA, the dim lighting that makes dining there feel old-school.

Ro quietly held court at the end of the table while the rest of us talked about serious topics: Carrie's MCC match. Scott and Julie's northern California trip. Mike and Ro's 1-0 record. Rob and Sepp's dislike of cats and baseball, respectively. (Sorry, Peter and Julia — also, respectively.)

We reminisced about what it was like to be 30. Ro, we are glad to be your friend (and partner!). Cheers!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Donut money

Today I'm celebrating my 10th anniversary at Kalmbach.

It's also the 10th anniversary of my March Madness experience. Every spring, I've considered the fates of my favorite teams (and many of my not-so-favorites, too). I did my bracket alone this year, as I didn't have the foresight to check in with my friend Dave, who's a savant about college hoops.

Neither the risk nor the payoff is large — perfect for a conservative person like me. This year, my picks netted me a third-place finish (out of 57 people!).

I spent my $14.25 on Long Johns, crullers, and other deep-fried delights.

Ten years is a long time. But even as the people, the magazine, and the technology have changed, one thing has endured: our love of donuts. Cheers to the past decade, and to my co-workers who keep the tradition alive.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy 13th birthday, Papa!

Papaya turned 13 last Saturday.

I was late to the party: No gifts (delayed shipping). No special treats (forgot about my stash of Greenies). Not even good weather.

When I finally threw her new Frisbee, she fetched only after I pointed and screeched about it. Her back legs are getting weaker, so things like running and jumping and getting in the car are less enticing. Yet I came home twice last week to see she had knocked over a floor lamp.

Oh no, Papa!

The great thing is, even at 91 or so years old, she is as enthusiastic as ever about company. Not just me, either — Katy, Sarah, and Anna at brunch, Terry at coffee, the mailman at my parents' house.

Thanks for all the lovins, Pops!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Peter's birthday and March Madness

Life moves so fast: One day you're eating lasagna in honor of Peter and the next you're scrambling to make your tourney picks and wondering why people think Cal can't beat UNLV.


Even though St. Paddy's and Peter's celebration are so last Sunday, I didn't want them to go by without a little toast.

So Peter, in this world of deadlines and tournaments, happy birthday. Here's to your low-maintenance ways and high-energy tennis game. We appreciate them both!

P.S. If anyone wants the recipe (and some backstory) for the chocolate mint cake, they're here. As for the cool shades, you'll have to ask Nancy about those!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My bezeled pink druzy ring

I've gotten lots of compliments on the ring I made in class.

But I have to give credit where it's due: John helped me with just about every aspect of it. So kudos to him for the balanced bezel, the round band, and the clean soldering, among other things. (In case you were wondering, I did handle most of the filing and polishing myself.)

And thanks to Bill Zuback for the shot. He always brings out the best in jewelry.

I'm lucky to be able to work with so many experts!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

New York: Habits and some new places

I've been in New York only since Friday night, but I've been noshing my way through the city.

My first stop was Kobeyaki, just around the corner from my hotel. After a superlong day, it was nice to have a salty bowl of ramen with pork. The founders hope to turn it into a national chain like Chipotle — how great would that be?

Incidentally, I might still try Ajisen, a noodle chain that started in Japan. It's right across the street. I'm staying in Chelsea this trip, again at a Hilton Garden Inn. I love the 5 p.m. cookies and the friendly service. Where else will someone rush to your room to help you work the remote?

As always, I'm having toasted bagels for breakfast. That's one of the things I love about New York: The around-the-block deli, no matter where you are, is always good.

Another thing I always try to do when I'm here: catch up with Leigh. After my class yesterday, I popped into McKenna's, an Irish pub near our dinner place. A glass of red wine and the smell of onion rings really take the chill out of a rainy day. Apparently their two-for-one happy hour runs for at least seven hours a day, so I'm saving my token for next year's trip.

Down the street at Crispo, Leigh and I caught up about the last two years of our lives and I ate too much bread and a shrimp and spinach dish. Then we were off to Bar Veloce for an Orangina.

So many places, so little time. But I always find something new. Yay!

Jewelry class in New York: What a druzy!

Lately I've been obsessed with druzies. I don't have lots of design ideas just yet, but I love the crazy colors and organic shapes.

Instead of starting with a strung necklace (or something even remotely in my wheelhouse), I decided to make a bezel-set ring. A couple of years ago, I'd met Kristin Hanson at the JA New York Show, and this year I finally got a chance to take a class at her jewelry design school.

They were a little concerned that I jumped into the fourth class of the series — I wouldn't get a chance to practice the basics that got covered in the first three.

Still, John walked me through sawing, soldering, filing, hammering, sanding, annealing, sizing, beveling, sanding, polishing, and cleaning. Even though I've designed strung pieces for years, this class made me realize how much skill goes into making a single piece of fine jewelry.

Of all the things I learned, the most surprising was the sawing: Who knew that it was easier with a light, relaxed grip?

There was even some two-part epoxying. Because I picked such a fragile cabochon, we couldn't hammer the metal around the stone and needed to glue it in. (By the way, if you're looking for druzy cabochons, check out de Druzy. She is happy to do custom orders and has super fast shipping.)

At the end of the day, I came away with a pretty awesome ring. It was a great experience, getting the chance to learn something new from an expert. Thanks to John and G and Kristin!

Friday, February 15, 2013

A snowball in Orange County

We really miss Papaya.

So my parents and I decided to visit the Orange County Humane Society. There were pit bulls, chihuahuas in sweaters, an energetic dachshund, and lots of barking.

There was also an American Eskimo, a plump seven-year-old named Cubby. Though he came in as a stray, he didn't seem terrified — just mellow. He didn't bark the entire time we were there. Dad thought he'd get along great with Papaya. Or maybe Yukie could keep him.

Alas, when I checked this morning, Cubby was gone.

But I'm glad. Even though I couldn't adopt him, it's reassuring that someone else could easily imagine him as their new friend.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Newport Beach 2013: Tuesdays with Julie

Julie and I were planning on Mexican food, but after all the Baja Fresh and tamales and leftover tamales, I was craving something not Mexican. We agreed on Mama D's, an Italian place that's a block away from the place we went two years ago.

Over wine and too much bread and pasta, we talked about the past (Father's Office as our favorite bar) and the present (Uni crostini: Really, Father's Office?).

All the biggies were covered. Love, work, health, death, travel, gentrification, why academics have been slow to get smartphones. After a cannoli and closing the place down, we promised to keep in touch, more than once a year. Maybe over a Skype happy hour.

Or maybe we'll just stick to our low-tech ways: I'll keep my ancient cell phone, and Julie will avoid answering her phone while driving (which is especially impressive given how much driving she does). But I'm good with that, even it makes me sound like a crusty, out-of-touch academic. There could be worse things.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Modern Dog: Meeting My Match

Ginger was my first dog. She made a good impression right away. Running up to the window and then cuddling while I talked to the adoption counselor, she knew how to work the Humane Society system.

That is not what happened with Papaya. Pops panted and peed on the floor; she had trouble with naps.

Now, four years later, I could not imagine life without her. (And I don't have to, since she's left many stains on the floor.)

You can read Meeting My Match to find out how Pops won me over.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Team Cahill Park: Mixed combo playoffs

In preparation for Sunday's playoffs in Madison, I carbo loaded at lunch with Patrice on Saturday. That night, I watched a DVD she gave me about the 2012 Ironman. It was so inspirational, seeing how determined the competitors are not only to finish, but to win.

Alas, that is not my story. At least not this time.

Our team's one win came from Adam and Jody, who played beautifully together. It was fun to watch all the setups and great angles. Way to get it done, 6-2, 6-2! (This is even more impressive because NEL took all three courts against the Madison team, losing only three sets the entire day.) Congrats!

Adam and Kelly had played together at #1 doubles earlier, staying tough until the very end: a 10-8 loss in the third-set tiebreaker. What a great effort — and so, so close!

Meanwhile, Terence and Julie were on the court next to us. They also lost a close match, 6-2, 7-5. Terence said they were up 5-4 in the second set. That is always heartbreaking.

Rohit and I lost 6-4, 6-4. Aside from being our first match loss, this one was painful because we were tied until our opponents broke my serve at 4-4. In the second set, we were up 3-1 and then 4-3. Why couldn't we take that second set? Then it was 4-4 and they broke my serve again.

Yes, I know that you win some and you lose some. But having been competitive in the first set and up in the second, it's hard to accept a straight-set loss. Ouch.

Terence, who's always comfortable offering his opinion, said we played it too safe. (Carrie pointed out that that's also what he said about himself.) My opinion: that we made just a few too many mistakes at critical times. But Ro also felt like that's the best we've ever played.

I wish I could've seen more of Sepp and Nan's match. I can't believe that dude in the blue shirt was only a 3.5. For real?!

The last match to finish — Scott and Linda — was a nailbiter. After losing the first set, they played to 6-6 in the second. As our entire team stood by the railing, Terence said, "It's all about the mental toughness!" Which could've jinxed them, if you are totally mental and believe in that kind of stuff.

Their opponents edged them out in the tiebreak, 7-5. Again: So close.

As I learned at combo playoffs last year, losing makes me hungry. So we went to the Great Dane, where I had an Old Glory beer to honor the bygone days of Rohit being undefeated in mixed doubles. Then I had a chicken pot pie. Comfort food.

And I started to feel better. Though it wasn't a triumphant day score wise, it's hard to wallow when you're sharing cheese curds and chocolate torte and the guys are daring Ro to try a Habanero Hellfire chicken wing.

Jody, thanks for putting together such a great team. Patrice, thanks for the ginormous lunch and pre-match pep talk. You were right; I was fine. Plus I had a lot of fun, even if I do owe Mike $10. Cheers, Team Cahill Park!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Fading out 2012

New Year's Eve was fun, relaxing, and — this being a group of tennis players — competitive.

After our spaghetti dinner, we played Taboo. Jody would give concise clues while Scott and Sepp called out lots of answers. Arguably her most brilliant success of the night was "Cop. Snack."


Meanwhile, Julie stayed focused and gave one-sentence descriptions. "This is the person who..." "Usher!" "This is the person who..." "Conductor!" The guys lamented their tough cards: anatomy, radon, Sputnik. Our team did get a little lucky with pen, rainbow, and Kermit the Frog.

I was excited to watch Love Actually, but my movie choice drove Jody and Randy away. A few minutes in, Sepp said he would not be able to stay awake through the whole thing. Oops.

So I sort of watched it while Julie, Scott, Julia, and Sepp played a slow, unorthodox game of Scrabble. There were words that were not words, words that were not connected to anything, the spilling of tiles. Several times. Julie bowed out, leaving a war of attrition among the remaining players.

Then she noticed it was midnight and so we hugged and had an airing of grievances. Actually, we did talk about the ups and downs of the year. Life can't always be awesome — new tires, anyone? — but I can say that this was the perfect New Year's Eve.

So as I sit here with a cup of tea and a piece of regifted yet delicious gingerbread loaf — my "slicy" — I look forward to the new year.

Thank you, Julia, for bringing us all together. I appreciate the carbs, the games, and the blankets. You are a wonderful host.

Happy 2013, my friends!

PS: I don't have pictures from the evening (Scott in the Packer snuggie would have been a classic). This is a recent one from my Wednesday night court. That's one routine I'm happy to keep!