Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Taking It All Off

Remember the post about a month ago about me having something on my chin? (If not, thanks to the way nothing ever goes away once it's been put on the Internet, it can be found by clicking here.)

Well, this Friday morning we're going to take a stab at finding out what it is.

I'm not sure if this will be one of those dermatology consults where the guy just glances at it and says "hmm..." and that's it. Or if it's going to be one of those office visits where the doctor says "let's just look at that" and the next thing I know there's some kind of cauterizing tool coming at me to whack off the bump and leave a non-bump spot on my chin.

The last time anyone wanted to check on a skin bump was to look at a bump on my left shoulder, just off to the side from my neck. That time the doctor simply said "let's take a look at that" and as he was prodding it, he burned it off with some tool that was like a "hot knife going through butter" (which sounds better than a "hot wire going through skin"). By the time I realized what he was doing, he was telling me that it would be a week or so before I had any results. (It was just a bump - nothing exciting.)

This time, though, I've had some warning. So, for the past couple of weeks, I've been growing out my beard just for the heck of it. But this week, I'm gradually paring it down.

I've contemplated doing a "Wolverine" trim on it (after all, the only area I truly need to shave is right in the middle of my chin - and my hair has been a little unruly lately), but I'm not sure I could carry that off.

So I suspect that, on Friday morning, I'll be completely clean-shaven for the first time in years. (Usually when I want to go short, I simply trim it all down to a rakish shadow.)

I know it will grow back - or at least most of it will. We'll have to see what after-effects there are following Friday's appointment. But, even so, it's a little weird to think about it.

I suspect that the mirror on Friday afternoon will look a bit odd.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wrong-teous Indignation

It's amazing, sometimes, what people will get upset about.

I mean, I'm right there when it comes to getting upset with the Bombast cable company's crappy customer service. Christopher dealt with some of that, yesterday, which started with a letter from the company saying that we were about to default on some services as a result of our "downgrade" in our plan. Except that we just upgraded our plan.

So Christopher phoned them - using the number in the letter - which sent him into a dead-ended automated phone tree. When he finally got a person, she said "We only deal with new customers" and hung up. So, when he was pissed off at Bombast, that was - at least to me - totally righteous indignation.

(We eventually got it all figured out - they apparently had to downgrade our service in order to then upgrade it to get us the deal we had been offered. But no one had thought to tell us that. No one had thought to stop the letter from being sent. And no one apologized for the incorrect number on the letter.)

On the other hand, there is the "wrongteous" indignation that just amazes me sometimes. I saw a perfect case of it last week when we went to see a movie.

I was standing in the line for popcorn and pop (err... soda, for many of you), and the woman at the next register was definitely getting off on the wrong foot. She started by bringing in a big cup from the last time she was there, and asking to have it refilled. To which the counterperson politely explained that they don't have a deal like that. But... yeah... not an auspicious start.

As I waited my turn in line, I heard the woman order a whole list of things, including multiple pops/sodas and three orders of chicken tenders and some candy. The counterperson asked if that would be all, and when the woman said it would, the counterperson said "That'll be $37.50."

You'd think she'd said that it was going to be "Thirty-seven dollars and a kidney" from the way the woman reacted. There was a gasp. Then there was a kind of half-step away from the counter. Finally, she asked "How much are the chicken tenders?" (Because we all know that in situations like this the customer has never looked at the display to check on the costs before ordering.) "$7.75." "Seven seventy-five for 3 tenders? That's insane." "You get 5 tenders and sauce..."

At this point, I was trying to focus on my own order - dinner for Christopher and me of large popcorn and pop/soda, so it was close to $20. I figured that, in comparison, $37.50 sounded like a good deal for all she was ordering. I mean, basically, she was getting dinner and dessert - and drinks - for what sounded like 3 or 4 people.

"I'll just have 2. How much would that be?" "With two chicken tenders, it would be $29.75." "You're kidding me."

With my popcorn and pop/soda on the counter, I was about ready to walk away, but there was a little of that "can't look away from the train wreck" feeling. I took an extra moment to get my straws.

I was so glad I stayed, because, out of the corner of my eye, I could see a back-up worker pouring chicken tenders into some massive machine. As if it had been planned, I then heard, "I could go out to dinner for that much money! I've got to think about this. I'm just gonna go away for a while." She stormed off, wrongteous indignation coming off of her like the heat squiggles in a comic strip.

I'm pretty sure at that point the counterperson breathed a sigh of relief, although the back-up person had the look of "what do I do with the chicken tenders I just put in?"

I picked up my priced-as-expected popcorn and pop/soda, and walked over to get some salt.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Road Closures

At the moment, we are living in a part of town which is basically cut off from the world.

I realize that some of you are thinking that this should be old hat for me since I grew up in very small town South Dakota - in a town that you truly had to aim for to get to.

But as I've gone on through life, I've kind of tried to find places to live that were easy to get to. And, in fact, usually you can get to our house with about 2 turns after leaving a major metropolitan highway. Most days, there are two major highways that you can use to get to our house. And a major north-south street or three.

But, lately, one of the connecting routes has been closed for street work. And then there was another road closed for a few days for curb-and-gutter work, making it exceedingly difficult to get to our house from the West, East, or South.

The last time we had friends over, we forgot to warn them (because it's been going on for months, so we're pretty much used to it). So, of course, there were problems with travel.

A friend of ours is having a party this weekend, and sent out a cautionary notice, today, telling guests about the road closures.

I point all this out for one reason, mainly: I think someone needs to get to work on developing point-to-point personal transporters. They would make travel so much easier. And just think how much it would save on road repairs.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

8/28 Cooking Challenge - The Pooh Cook Book

Sorry it has been so long since the last 8/28 Cooking Challenge post. But, as I had alluded to previously, I had to go to my parents' house to retrieve the next cookbook. We went down there over the Fourth of July, and then it took me until last weekend to find an excuse to make the dessert that I stumbled upon.

Sadly, the book only has just over 6 columns of index, spread over 4 pages, so I couldn't really do Page/Column/Item. In fact, I really couldn't even do Column/Item. So I went with Page 82. Which is a lovely dessert called a Honey Chocolate Pie.

Oh... Backstory... Sorry, I almost forgot... The Pooh Cook Book came into my possession sometime in the mid-1970s. Unfortunately, it's not inscribed, so I don't know exactly when or from whom. But the latest printing date in the book is 1974, so I'm guessing I got it not long after that. As you might be able to tell in the first picture, below, it's simply a paperback book - no fancy anything - but it does include drawings from the original Winnie the Pooh illustrator.

In answer to a question brought up by "Glenda in CO" (Hi, Glenda in CO!) after the Confetti Salad post, this is probably a good time to point out that my mom was born in Canada - half French-Canadian, half English-Canadian - so we grew up on Winnie the Pooh. But we didn't just have the TV specials, we also had the original books with the line drawings. (If you remember that I mentioned that my mom also made salsa when we were growing up, that's because her family moved to Southern California when she was in about junior high.)

So, anyway, The Pooh Cook Book was a natural thing for me to have. And it's great. It includes recipe groupings for "Smackerels, Elevenses, and Teas", as well as "Provisions for Picnics and Expotitions." The Honey Chocolate Pie recipe comes from the "Dessert and Party Recipes" section.

One of the really great things about this is that the book (which sold for $1.25) was a "Dell Yearling" book for all ages, so the recipe was pretty straightforward. All of the ingredients are in that picture. 

I'm hoping you can read that - please ignore my fingertips.

Here's where it can get a little weird for some of you, I'm sure. You see, unlike many modern households, we don't have a microwave oven. Or... well... we do, it's just that it's in the basement on a shelf that we can't easily get to. The "microwave-sized" space on our counter is filled with a convection toaster oven.

So, instead of melting chocolate chips and butter in the microwave, I do it old school with a make-shift double boiler. (Yes, I have an actual double boiler, but for small things that I'm going to need to stir, a bowl on top of a pan of hot water is *so* much more practical.)

I'm kind of frustrated with myself for not taking a picture of what was happening in the other bowl while the chocolate was melting. I was mixing together the honey, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. As the chocolate melted and I added in the evaporated milk, it started to look kind of splotchy, but at least you could tell it was doing something. On the other hand, the honey mixture kind of turned into a cross between Play-doh and gnocchi dough. I was ready to give up hope, but then I cracked in the two eggs and it became the amazing silky substance you see on the right, below.

(In case you're wondering why I'm not stirring in the above picture, it's because I couldn't figure out how to keep stirring while also pouring and taking the picture.)

When all was stirred and done, I had enough to fill a 9" crust (store-bought graham cracker, I admit), as well as two small baking dishes. I'm not gonna lie, I thought it was best to do the small dishes so that we could sample it, first, to make sure it wasn't going to be way too sweet or anything before serving it to Les Cousines.

The smaller portions (which had no crusts) puffed up and then collapsed a bit - they also had a firmer edge texture. The pie, unfortunately, puffed up and then stuck to the foil which was placed on it for the final 20 minutes of baking. So it wasn't the prettiest thing. But... hey... that's what whipped cream is for, right?

For the record, aside from the pie sticking to the foil, I'd say this was an unqualified, four-star success.

I'm very glad that we followed the recommendation of making this when we had "... friends in for lunch or supper or a dessert party", because it truly is pretty sweet (no surprise since a primary ingredient was honey). We served very small pieces, and still have some leftovers 3 days later.

Oh, and I do kind of wonder what it would be like with different types of honey. We used a local, non-flower-specific honey, but I think that something like an orange-blossom honey might add an interesting flavor, especially if you were to use a darker chocolate.


A sidenote to Irishred (Everyone wave hello to Irishred!), who also commented on the last 8/28 Cooking Challenge post: I always recommend those church cookbooks. But I almost always recommend them for other people. My shelves are way too full as they are.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Luddite Nights

Some nights I just don't want to deal with technology. I want to simply sit in a room with a book and read.

Or sit on the couch with Christopher and do nothing but listen to music.

Just turn off the electronics and have some quiet, without all of the white noise in the background.

Of course, to sit in the room and read at night, I'd probably need a lamp.

And to listen to music, I'd probably need the stereo.

And, frankly, we've gotten so used to all of the noise, the we tend to need either a fan or a white noise generator to be able to get to sleep.

So being a total Luddite probably isn't the best course of action for me.

Even so, on those rare occasions when the TV and computers are turned off, and the phones aren't ringing, and the quietude (with or without white noise) settles in...


I kinda love those nights.

(Unfortunately, when I'm in these moods, that also makes it really hard to blog. But I promise that a brand new 8/28 Cooking Challenge is coming soon.)

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hell Is...

I just finished reading a book which, throughout, references Dante's Inferno.

In fact, at one point, The Gargoyle (by Andrew Davidson) not only references the various circles of hell which Dante describes, but the main character is forced to cross some of them.

I would not be lying if I said that it was a very detailed book. Lots of information which obviously came from lots and lots of research. And I liked that. Mostly.

The amount of detail in recovery after a serious burn was incredible (if a bit gross). The detail that went into describing 13th-century book making was kind of cool. The fact that the book was 500+ pages long... well... that was good, I guess, since he needed to fit all of the information in.

But at times it just got too freakin' dense. It got to the point where the story kind of got lost in the details - for me, at least.

And some of those details were, in fact, in hell. I found myself feeling like I should stop reading this book and pick up Dante, instead. Which, on the one hand is kind of cool (I don't know that I've ever really thought about reading any Dante, before), but it was kind of hard to get excited about the book I was reading when I was feeling like I needed to go do research, first.

I'm looking forward to going to my book club on Monday night to see what everyone else thought of the book. But I'm also looking forward to the fact that tonight I'm watching bad TV where no real thought is required.

p.s. - In response to the comment on the last post - I do also believe that Hell would be having to wear blue spandex - especially with the beak and claw-foot boots of the Blue Falcon. The cape, though... that might be cool.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


I'm sure that, when you read "DinoMutt," you automatically thought of this:

Because, who wouldn't? He was an amazing sidekick for the Blue Falcon back in the 70s. Kind of Scooby-Doo meets Inspector Gadget.

But, as you can see, the spelling is different, so obviously I'm talking about a different dog.

In my case, I'm referring to the lovely, definitely-non-mutt pooch who lives with Christopher and me. When people ask what toys she likes, it's very easy to answer: She likes tennis balls (regular, inexpensive ones - nothing high-end), and dinos.

And she likes them in that order. She likes to run around and play catch (not "fetch," mind you, but catch - it's a game that goes both ways). Then, when she's tired of that, she likes to settle down with her dino for a good chew.

For those of you who are now totally confused, this is a Nylabone Dental Dino in the preferred Tyrannosaurus Rex style:

And, thus, we have our very own DinoMutt running around in the house... or curling up on the couch cushion... or settling in for the night on the comforter.

All that, and we don't even need to don spandex Blue Falcon costumes to have her around. Which is a win-win for everyone, really.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

In the Hot Seat

At work, today, I volunteered to re-do some work done by one of our contractors because... well... I had missed a step in the explanation of the task we had asked her to do.

Consequently, because I had missed that step, instead of writing up a list of needed changes for a document, she had gone into the actual interior layout and made changes and comments. Which the author can't actually see.

Normally - assuming the contractor has been given all of the details of the task - we'd have done something like sending it back to the contractor for a re-work.

But since this was pretty much my fault, I figured it was up to me to fix it. Which means that I had to push myself to scan through a 261-page novel and transcribe the changes before the end of the day.

And, in the process, I lost a day of work on an edit which is due on Thursday.

That would be the metaphorical hot seat.

At the same time, though, the air conditioning in the new office seemed to be having some problems. As the day went on, the temperature in the various offices gradually went up.

I suspect that even the ombre hombre might have become uncomfortable (in response to Dragonfly's question: unfortunately, he's muscular, but not prettily so...).

The keyboard started to feel kind of tacky/humid. My t-shirt started to cling to my back. The office became annoyingly cloyingly sticky.

That would be the literal hot seat.

Here's hoping the heat breaks for all of us - metaphorically and literally - soon.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Sweet Serendip-Ombre

Remember how, on Friday, I was talking about the Ombre Hombre? (Please at least say that you remember, since it was only 2 days ago and I thought it was a really decent play on words.) If not, feel free to take a moment and refresh your memory by checking out the post, here.

(Really. I'll wait. The rest of this post is pretty short, and without the reference from Friday, it's just not going to be worth it.)

(Seriously. I'm not kidding. If you don't remember the ombre hombre and his tank top (and flip flops), then this juxtaposition is going to just seem like I'm sending you to someone else's blog for no reason.)

(Okay. You've had your warnings. I'm going on.)

So, having posted about that on Friday - and even given an example of ombre - you can imagine how surprised I was to find that one of the blogs I follow - Cake Wrecks - featured ombre cakes in the their Sunday Sweets today: Ombre Treats. (You ought to click through that and check out some of the cakes. They are way cool.)

I'm thinking that if the Ombre Hombre showed up with one of those Ombre Treats, I would forgive him the rest of the fashion issues.


Friday, July 12, 2013

The Ombre Hombre

(NOTE: It may help you to enjoy this posting if you know that "ombre," in fabric, is when a color gradually fades from one end of the piece of fabric to the other, like this: 

Okay. Now that that has been covered, we'll move on...)

The attire in my office is... well... casual. 

I don't mean "business casual" - you know, like khakis and polos. 

I don't even mean "casual Friday" casual, where jeans and polos are the norm. 

Nope. Ours is the kind of office where the boss comes in in cargo shorts, a t-shirt with something written on it, and flip-flops. And, you know, since all of the rest of us are allowed to do the same, it's not all bad. 

Today, though, I came walking out of an office and almost ran into one of our IT guys. After which I promptly turned around and walked back into the office so that I wouldn't say anything stupid. I was greeted by one of the office's occupants asking "Anything wrong?"

"No. Well, I just hadn't expected that."


"Have you seen what he's wearing?"

"Yeah. I'm not used to seeing guys in tank tops. Especially not at work."

"He wears those all the time," [sidenote: this guy works out a lot, so aside from the workplace thing, the tank top is otherwise not a problem] "but this one is... ombre."

"It's what?" (Okay. Yeah. I realized that I sounded pretty gay knowing that it was ombre - and pronouncing it correctly - but I am who I am.)

"Ombre. It goes from dark green at the top, and then kind of blends with his khaki shorts at the bottom." 


Sometimes I think that, maybe, a dress code couldn't hurt.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chatting 'em Up (and Down)

As social spaces, elevators are really weird.

There isn't anywhere else in the world where people are forced to be in such close quarters but aren't expected to speak, but - instead - to just stand and pretend no one else exists.

I mean... sure... in a public bathroom you kind of ignore each other, but in most public bathrooms you're not crammed in next to each other with nothing to do. Unless you're waiting in a line in a bathroom, and line-waiting has its own set of rules, so that doesn't count.

Otherwise, if you get shoved into a small space with another person, there's kind of an expectation that you'll say something - even if it's just "excuse me for invading your personal space."

In the building I used to work in, you saw a bunch of the same people every morning in the elevator. We all got to kind of know each other - at least enough to say "good morning" - and we would push the floor buttons for each other. At the end of the day, we usually took the stairs (much faster), or the people from my office would all get in the elevator together and chat all the way down.

The thing is, though, that people kind of freak when you continue a conversation in an elevator. You can talk on a phone, and people will ignore you. But if you talk to another person, you get that "what are you doing?" look from everyone else.

In our new office, there's really no one around in the elevator in the morning. In the past week, I've only run into two people who weren't from my office. And we both did the "I'm not looking at you, so you're not here" thing. And I got off the elevator on the 5th floor feeling kind of annoyed with myself.

You see, I like it when people look me in the eye, or smile, or even say "hello," when getting on the elevator. If I'm going to be alone in the elevator, I'd prefer to be alone, and not just feel that way.

Our new parking garage, on the other hand, is a whole different thing. Every morning, I enter the garage elevator and there are all sorts of random people. But everyone looks stressed. Which is no fun. I held the door for someone, today, and she didn't even acknowledge me for it. She was too busy pretending she was alone.

At the end of the day, though, I've mostly been walking to the garage with people from work. And we tend to continue our conversations in the elevator. Which confuses the heck out of the other riders. They kind of look at us like we're doing something wrong. And we don't really care.

During a conversation about the possibility of installing a zip line from the garage to our office for a quicker morning entry, last week, I actually caught one guy listening and nodding in agreement with us.

It wasn't a breakthrough - and I haven't seen him again, so we couldn't discuss it more - but it was movement in the right direction. (In this case, up.)

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Celebrating Everyday Good Grammar

While Christopher and I were driving home today after spending a weekend at home, I came across a billboard that I really liked.

(Oh... Before I continue... that sentence may have seemed a bit convoluted. I should say, "While Christopher and I were driving back to Minneapolis today after spending a weekend at my parents' home in South Dakota, I..." I know that I confuse Christopher sometimes with that phrasing, so I figured I should clarify the context for all of you.)

So... We were driving back from South Dakota to Minneapolis... and I saw a billboard  that I really liked. Unfortunately, I was driving - and Christopher was sleeping - so we couldn't get a picture of it.

I thought I'd just be able to do a quick online search and find an image of it, but unfortunately I struck out at that, as well. So you'll just have to trust me for what it was.

It was a Miller High Life billboard, and the tag line was: "Celebrate the Everyday Every Day."

They got the "Everyday/Every Day" split right!

So many places these days use those interchangeably. They advertise "Try our New Specials Everyday" or "Every Day Low Prices." And, every day, those everyday mistakes make me cringe.

I'm not usually a big beer drinker. I don't know the last time I had a "Miller High Life" beer. And I doubt that I'd drink one every day. But that billboard might make me pick one up some day, at least. At that's not an everyday occurrence.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Voyeuristic Voyages

Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, I am currently "watching" two different pairs of friends travel around on the other side of the Atlantic in Ireland and France.

As someone who loves to travel, but has only made it out of the state of Minnesota twice in the past 8 months - both times to South Dakota - I have to admit that this leaves me both thrilled for each of these couples and also rather jealous.

And... Well... Having written that, I'm not sure what else I really have to say about it.

I wish them all good travels and look forward to hearing all of their stories. I also wish for my own travels in the near future - and my own stories to tell.

Maybe that's the best thing about having friends who are travelling: The fact that their travels make me want to plan my own. Like hearing about a great meal makes you want to try to cook something like it on your own.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, let's just say that I hope to flatter the heck out of all of these travellers as soon as possible.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Running on Empty-ish

Earlier this week, I took my car in to fill it up. I usually fill the tank as soon as it drops below a quarter, but we were busy last weekend, and so it simply hadn't happened. By the time I got in, the needle was down to the bottom of the E. 

Pumping gas, I watched the numbers flash by, assuming that it would take somewhere between 12 and 13 gallons, since the tank holds 13 gallons. 

As I passed 13, I started to wonder a bit. When it stopped at 13.66 gallons, I realized that my previous assumption that the tank held 13 gallons would need to be revised. 

Apparently my car actually has a 14-gallon tank. 

Either that or I was literally running on fumes. 

Some weeks can be like that. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Weekend Wrap-up and a Bad Quote to Ponder

We had a pretty decent weekend. The wedding we went to was the perfect blend of casual and formal for the couple, and it was just really great to see it all happen.

Unfortunately, it kind of tired us out. Especially since it was the first real outing Christopher has been on in the past week or so - aside from making it to work last Friday. (Nothing like a summer sinus infection - compounded by seasonal allergies - to really get you down.)

So while we both stayed in on Friday evening, and then I went to brunch with a friend on Saturday (where I received a new cookbook to add to the list for the 8/28 Challenge), we both did make it out on Sunday. Only one problem: Going to a wedding on a Sunday made it seem like yesterday was only Saturday. Getting up this morning for work was painful.

Which, unfortunately, was compounded by the edit I'm currently working on.

The author seems to have completely ignored all of the times when his automated Spellcheck pointed out words that were spelled incorrectly. He got very close with "bosterious," I'll fully admit, but using "He looked out at them and said high" instead of "hi" (which, sadly, wouldn't have been caught by Spellcheck) is more the kind of problem I'm running in to.

Perhaps my favorite error of the past week is one that I came across today, which seemed good enough to share, here:

"His head pounded from his uncle's laughter. He took the anecdote, sat for a couple of minutes, then lifted himself off the couch and headed without a word to the bathroom where he vomited."

I figured, since most of my blog is anecdotal, that would fit right in. Although I do hope that I don't leave any of you nauseated and running for the bathroom.

(Spoiler alert: In case you're wondering, just a few pages later his uncle is actually poisoned. So I wonder if the typo was actually just Freudian foreshadowing...?)