December 27, 2006

Holiday Waves

I was watching a special about tsunamis on cable recently and imagined a similarity with the holiday season. The holidays rush upon us, bowling us over with feverish activity, disrupting routines as well as digestive tracts. The first wave recedes only to be renewed as New Year's celebrations follow quickly on the heels of Christmas.

When The Boy was five, my mom made an advent calendar for him. She's so crafty, my mom. For the past sixteen years, that calendar has been part of our holiday decor. I'm a fool for tradition, but have learned over the years that traditions must bend with the times. The calendar, however, remains constant.

There are twenty-four pockets, each holding a handsewn felt "toy." Every toy has unique character, crafted with sequins and embroidery. Above is Santa and his empty sack. Each day the countdown to Christmas is marked by removing the item from the pocket of the day and attaching it carefully on one of the small velcro squares surrounding Santa.

I have distinct snapshots frozen in my memory of The Boy at various ages tending to his calendrical duties: him in his footie pajamas, his curly blonde hair tousled, standing on his tiptoes to reach the upper portion; him dressed in his elementary school uniform, expression thoughtful as he carefully considered where to position the toy for that day; him in what was his standard high school attire of khaki cargo pants and button-down shirt, untucked, his blonde hair so short the curls were nonexistent, standing eye to eye with Santa. More recently, The Boy towers over him.

This year my mom commented, "Oh that calendar is looking old." I hadn't noticed. It still looks good to me.

We'll bring in the New Year listening to the Atlantic waves crash on the shore in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a tradition that has adapted over the years from a family event inclusive of The Boy to a vacation with close friends. The Boy is heading north to the Big Apple, already forming his own traditions. But still. He'll be with us and, I trust, us with him.

Happy New Year, all.
Be safe.


December 17, 2006

Money. It's a Hit.

Money rocks, but cash is a drag. I'm a debit card kind of girl. It's the best of all worlds: living on a cash budget but not having to carry cash. I don't even want to think about life before it.

Using my debit card, I end up with a managable pile of receipts, neat pieces of paper I stash in one of three places until it's time to compile them to update our financials for the month. Those little receipts are individually input in the computer and voila! I know where the money went.

But using cash? I end up with bits and pieces everywhere. A $7.86 purchase? A tolerably tidy $10 bill becomes two one dollar bills, one dime, four pennies and a receipt.

The pennies end up jingling around in my pocket or the bottom of my purse. From there they make their way to the olive dish that sits atop the dresser where I empty my pockets each evening and fill them each morning. Why do I keep my pennies in the olive tray? Why not? Once they hit the olive tray, they can consider themselves out of circulation. I rarely pick them up again. The bottom of my purse is also a penny graveyard.

I've often thought of how nice it would be were pennies to fall out of favor. Every purchase would round to the nearest nickel. Could any sane person object?

Real coins, and by that I mean anything that is not a penny, go into my Poker Can which sits next to the olive dish on my dresser. When the Poker Can fills up as Poker Cans are wont to do, the whole lot is transferred into the Super Poker Can. This coinage system is only two years old. I'm not sure what I'll do when the Super Poker Can overflows.

Neat storage of bills in purse or pocket is another issue. I like my bills orderly and neat, denominations collated with all heads facing the same direction. That takes effort. Not to mention paper money is far from sanitary. It's the nature of the beast, trading from hands that have been god-knows-where doing god-knows-what into other hands with a similar history and so on and so on. It's a germfest out there, people.

I know, I know. I should be grateful to have money to spend, no matter what form. Even when it's pennies. Truly I am. Yet I am equally as grateful for my debit card, without which life would be less organized, less efficient and germier. Long live the self swipe!


December 12, 2006

Suburban Lesbian Bakes a Pie

Joanne's Pecan Pie to be exact.

My office holiday party is tomorrow. We'll have lunch at one of Old Town Alexandria's plethora of fine restaurants then return to the office for dessert and a gift exchange.

We do one of those roundtable gift exchanges. Everyone gets a number and presents are opened and traded around. (Is it rude to vie for the gift oneself brings to such an exchange? I must mull that over. I'd really like to have what I'm giving away.)

So back to the pie. It's a simple recipe and makes a damn fine dessert if you enjoy such things. Let's create one, shall we?

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Gather the ingredients:
One 9" frozen deep dish pie crust
2 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, beaten
36 Kraft caramels (unwrapped)
It is interesting that the recipe specifies the 36 Kraft caramels are to be unwrapped. Some details are best not left to intuition.

Into the saucepan go the caramels, the butter and the water. Over very low heat, allow it all to melt. Stir frequently. Watch it happen here through the miracle of timelapse photography!

Meanwhile, between stirs of the caramel mixture, blend together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt. Ummm ummmm good?

Gradually add the melty mess to the eggy mess.
Stir in the pecans.
Voila! Ready for the pie shell!

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

We haven't heard from Joanne in years, but I think of her every time I bake her pie.


December 10, 2006

The Eyes Have It

Turns out reading glasses have revolutionized my humble existence. Everything is easier. Why did it take me so long to conform? (Stubbornness chafes more often than not. I should give up that habit.)

It has not been easy to develop appropriate routines for proper eyeglass usage. Like remembering to always have them at hand, when to put them on and take them off, the exact position to perch them on my nose so I can peer successfully over the top, and how to keep them safe and accessible in my travel bag. Circumstances dictated I follow the advice of similarly handicapped individuals and purchase multiple pairs.

Circumstances being because I broke the one pair I owned. That's right. It took me less than a month to snap an arm off. Dainty fragile little things, my reading glasses. Now I own four pair.

I broke them at work. (Don't ask how, the story is too ugly to share. It was brutal.) Off I traipsed to the local CVS on my lunch hour to purchase a replacement pair. I grabbed two instead. The blouse I was wearing that day partially influenced my color choice: one pair I selected perfectly matched one of its colored stripes. I emailed Wendy a one-liner upon my return to the office: "I bought some really sassy glasses today." Her response: "OMG you bought PINK glasses!?"

The other pair is plain black. Or so I thought until I pulled them out of the package. That's when I saw the white scrollwork down the earpiece. The bright office light glinted off the rhinestones. Oh no. No no no! Pink glasses I can handle. Black with rhinestones and white florally decoration is beyond my limit.

Chalk up yet another practical application for a black Sharpie. It even did an admirable job of masking the rhinestones.

I threw the broken pair away.
Ten minutes later I picked them out of the trash.
I taped the arm neatly back on with scotch tape.
They'll live in the bathroom and no one but me will know.

Well. Wendy will too.
But her I can trust to keep my secret.


December 6, 2006

It's the Weather

Last Friday we had a high of 75 degrees.
It was humid, too. Tasted like late summer.

Monday we had a high of 40 degrees.
It was crisp and clear.
It still is. Now it tastes like winter.

Tuesday as I made my way to the Metro station, I noticed as I always do the Permanent Puddle. It exists no matter what the weather, occupying an outside corner on the upper parking deck of the garage. The position of said Permanent Puddle requires me to take a longcut to avoid trapsing through it. (It's usually too deep to tiptoe through without your socks getting wet. I am certain. Don't ask how I know.)

Tuesday the Puddle was ice. I squelched the immediate desire to step on it, walk across it, slipslide a little on purpose. I could almost hear how the edges would crackle underfoot.

I wish I had done it. The first ice patch of the season deserves celebration.


December 5, 2006

Reality TV Transcends the Ages?

Image jacked from somewhere on the internet.
Kudos to the anonymous artist!


December 4, 2006

Go Ask Alice

Trees glorious trees! Their awakening in Spring is a sign of renewal, their plummage splendiferously shady in Summer and a riot of delicious color in Fall, the barren dark branches reaching toward the sky setting just the right mood in Winter. Who could ask for anything lovelier to decorate the horizon?

Right about now, I could. It's a passing fancy. See we haven't yet gotten around to tidying up Mother Nature's leafy detritus. My father always proclaimed, "What God put down, God will take away!" or something of the sort. I have no childhood memories of raking leaves. Who knew then how lucky I was to be spared such labor?

Now is not a good time to romp in our backyard. The thick brown coat of leaves obscuring the grass masks all signs of whatever dangers may be hiding beneath the crunchy layer.

And yes, there is danger. Grave danger. We have two dogs, dontcha know. Said dogs take care of all their worldly business in our backyard. It's nigh on impossible to scoop in the Fall. Even with my glasses.

Alice visited us the day after Thanksgiving. It was a warm sunny day here in the Nation's Capital. She thought of better things to do than to sit around chatting in the living room with the old folks. We romped in the yard. The backyard. Three year olds have their own special brand of romp. Alice loved the dogs and the dogs loved her. Pixie had never been up close and personal with a miniature human before; she was greatly intrigued. Dudley was, as always, a gentleman.

Alice made the rounds of our yard several times. Pixie spreads her toys far and wide. Alice insisted on tracking down each and every one. She would carefully pick them up, give a brief sniff and test the texture gently against her cheek while squeezing to discern density and squeakability.

Somewhere in our travels, she picked up dog shit on her shoe. Those cute little saddle shoes. I snatched it off her foot in the nick of time just before she stepped back into the house.

Wendy washed Alice's hands. I cleaned and polished her shoe. That cute little dog shit-covered saddle shoe.

We like it when mini-people come to visit. Even when they insist on wandering through the minefield.