Sunday, November 28, 2010

Buzz kill

For three days I've listened to the buzz of snow blowers plowing through the first snow to create tidy pathways from garages to houses and back.  Chris has even come to rely on the goodwill of our nearly retired neighbor to take care of our front walk.  He rationalizes the hours of shoveling freedom this way, "men with snow blowers," he says, "they love doing it.  Snow blowing a sidewalk [and a path from our front door to our back gate, plus a space near the street for Costco unloading] only takes seconds for them.  It's empowering, trust me."  This, from the go-to man I hitched my wagon to.

The city took a day off from snow clearing on Thanksgiving and it showed.  Getting over the berms in the alleyway to the road made returning a Red Box movie an adventure sport.   And *sigh* it's only November.  I can handle this winter wonderland until about December Twenty-Sixth.  But who's counting.

On the upside, my mini Asian me's have come over to the dark side, or dork side, depending on how you look at it.  Surprisingly, they had a little help from their always seeking validation, mother.  My girls, Dee and Nar, are now sporting the latest marked down Old Navy (sorta) wooly sweaters.  Hurry and hop like little bunnies to find these gems.  Cyber Monday is fast approaching!  But beware, the world might possibly run out of wool, because we at dearheart, inc. love it so much.  Except for Hub, who thinks it's itchy and unappealing.

Here we all are, all nice and cozy.  I'm not itchy, who's itchy?  Anyone says they're itchy gets a time out.

And one parting, "the-Thanksgiving-it-snowed-shot": 

The Old Timers tell me it never snows this early in the season.  And by "Old Timers," I mean my cousins who have been here longer than me.  Last week, we also experienced record setting way-below-freezing lows.  Old Timers said that was an anomaly.  After two years of serious snow dumpage and then a freaky snow-less winter last year (still more anomalies), I'm not listening to anyone but Santa when it comes to all things that can influence my behavior, like the weather.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pottery-Barning it

I talked my so-over-it husband into helping me get the first coat of "Firenze" paint up in our dining room Sunday night.  He hates to paint and reminds me whenever the subject is raised that painting is my hobby but simply work to him.

Still, under the pressure of a deadline (we're hosting Thanksgiving), I was able to talk him into painting, so long as he could hear the Major League Soccer championship game from the T.V. in the living room.  Go Rapids! (our Colorado home team won).

It didn't help when I suggested he paint in a "Y" pattern versus his strict "Karate Kid" up and down strokes because he may leave streaks.  I know, I shouldn't be kicking gift horses in the mouth.  Or kicking husbands with my mouth.

The name "Firenze" evokes fire, but not passion.  It's one of this season's Pottery Barn paint colors.  I like the color, it's a deep pumpkin that says, "clean your plate!" in a warm, understated way.

I promised Chris the roller, so I tried to stay ahead of him with the trim work.  With each measured brush stoke along the bright white trim of baseboards and windows, I covered surfaces formerly dripping in a burgundy, bordering on ripe cherry, red.  That red was bold, it had something to say.

To me, it said, "Welcome to our Italian bistro.  Amore!  Sit down under our faux Tiffany light and let Mama bring you some gravy."

Unfortunately, my best spaghetti sauce still comes from a jar and I'm always aiming for an earthy, Asian aesthetic in my decorating.  Emphasis on aiming.  And that's really the problem, isn't it?

Not so much the aiming and missing, but that over a couple of decades of adulthood, the message we're trying to get on the wall doesn't really say much.  Slap up a nice, tactful color that won't offend potential buyers when we're empty-nesters.  Avoid getting too heated in a political discussion because of the anxiety that we may not know enough facts to support our positions. 

Actually, I find that these days, I avoid conflict of almost any kind because I'm just too tired to duke it out or afraid of the later consequences when I have to make small talk to that same person I pissed off at a park day.  You never know.  Better to just play it safe. Go with the colors closest to the embers.  Dark, smoldering.  Nothing flashy.

Maybe it's just age.  That transitional moment between fired up youth and a state of zen, but I find that I'm floating - not necessarily lost - somewhere between the preordained color that's just understated, and my red, the one that sometimes laps out beyond the encumbrance of the fire pit and makes a mark that can hurt.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Home, home on the subdivided lot

While living quite contentedly on my little city lot, couple of trees in front, couple in back, I was recently reminded by my children that I am most definitely NOT Pioneer Woman.

Which is a little bit sad really, because I come, at least on my mother's side, from cowboy folk.  Mom was raised on a farm.  She plucked chickens and rode bareback on a horse named Sugar, but left me to clean up the piddles of a poodle named Sophie in our basement.

Granted, we lived on a wooded, but food-producing-free half acre in the mountains.  I didn't grow up in the city, but I didn't necessarily hike in snowshoes uphill both ways to get to school.  We had buses for that.  And movie theaters.  And a 7-11 convenience store.  So I might as well have been a suburban kid, just with a 45 minute drive to the city and a sort of romanticized idea of rural life, because I believed that I kinda lived it.  Because of the trees, mostly.

But then I married a city boy and fell in love with things like take-out Thai food and well manicured city parks with domed glass green houses and paths adorned with old fashioned rose varieties.  So now we live miles away from fields of amber waves of grain and the farmers who tend to those fields.  We can't even relate to people like my actual cousins, who keep cattle alive for a career and wrangle wild horses for fun at rodeos on the weekend.

I am assured of this and my dorkdom because of a breakfast conversation I recently overheard between Dee and T.  Dee said, with authority, that "a unicorn is a horse with a horn.  And a pink horse is a pony."  A pretty one, I bet.

Later, T presented me with his cowboy-themed lunchbox and pointed to the saddle depicted on the side.  "This is a carousel," he said.  Then he pointed to the saddle horn and added, "that used to be the horse's head, but now it's gone."

So much for authenticity.  Or honoring your mother.  I guess we'll have to hunt for culture elsewhere.  Maybe it's on sale at the mall.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fireballs and other bullets

This past week, my little brother, business minded and frugal, forked over some cash at the post office to send left over Halloween candy to my kids. Of course, it's the devil in disguise because all I do is graze at the great cardboard trough after the kids go to bed....

Bro sent the package o' calories the first year we were here when the only candy eating kid in our house barely had enough teeth to gum a Tootsie Roll. I suppose that was his point. Save the sugar for his sis.

See, Trent (this name has been changed to protect those that would be perpetually annoyed - if they knew - that I blog) may be the little brother, but he came in first in the game of bringing home grand babies. Trent's oldest just turned 11. He's another sweet T-named kid that I adore and doted on, almost to a fault, in that fleeting time after marriage, but before kids.

I remember a much anticipated "date" with auntie, when I took my nephew, then three, out to a movie. When I met my baby brother in the parking lot, he leaped out of the car with all the efficiency of a gazelle fleeing lions. Before I had reapplied my lip gloss and zipped up my purse before getting out of the car, Trent had removed the car seat from his vehicle and secured it in mine. While I made silly faces at my nephew, Trent grabbed a worn baby blanket, sippy cup, and a bag of wipes from the floor of his back seat. He then presented me with a soft lunchbox looking thing in the event of an "accident."

I remember secretly scoffing at the idea. An accident? At this age? So, armed with my, "I like kids, so I know everything about kids," sense of the world, I bid Trent goodbye and tromped into the movie theater with my nephew, gear free. I then proceeded to buy Sweet T the biggest bag of gummy bears he could spot in a concession stand line-up, and a tradition was born.

In the few Halloweens that Chris and I spent back home before heading north, we hosted Trent's kids for trick or treating in our suburban neighborhood. The candy gettin' was good and easy and I was able to do extra doting. Every Hallow's Eve, when all was said and done, I would pack up every Nerdy candy pebble and snack-sized bit of chocolate left in my house and send it home with Trent's kids. I would make a big production of it - ask the kids if they wanted it - never minding that their dad may have a different opinion. An opinion based perhaps on spending a nanosecond with a real live child.

I recall chuckling when I walked them to their big ass kid car, Trent cursing me all the way. While he faced a 40 minute drive home and the pajama routine after that, my mind was likely on the glass of Pinot I would pour immediately upon reentering the house and the bath I would draw later in the night before floating to bed.  Good times.

But now, karma or whatever comes home to roost, has entered my building. And it keeps on coming in the form of candy. Sometimes even the good stuff. Along with the caramel swirled chocolate bars he throws in there for me, there's a sweet side to Trent's revenge. Kids love candy and the person who gives it to them. And that's what bro is aiming for. He always was a good shot.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pointillism and Pastry

It occurred to me while I piped the thousandth too-red-for-a-lizard-tongue icing star onto a little triangle of cake, that I might make better use of my time.  I was decorating a leopard gecko cake for my cousin's son's tenth birthday and going way too far with the birthday boy's cake request:

"Can you make it look like my pet gecko, Echo?"  Cute.
"He's yellowish/tannish with spots all over."

At this point, I have spent more time with this lizard cake than I ever want to spend with any real lizard.  I first had to determine if my cake making obsession could accommodate a hairless creature with lots of craggy clutchers (difficult to get frosting on those toes, or whatever they're called).  Also, as any given post on Cake Wrecks demonstrates, "yellowish/tannish" cakes often end up in the poop category.  And I don't care that no one is paying me to bake them a cake, I don't want my shit to - even accidentally - look like poop.

So, I put my dormant brain to work on this one and did some reconnaissance on the Internet.  You know how they say, "measure twice and cut once" in construction circles?  Well, the same thinking applies in the very intricate process of homemaker cake baking.  Since leopard gecko cake pans are not a dime a dozen at baking supply stores, plus, because I'm cheap, I had to find a picture to work from, create a pattern, and cut a frozen cake.  Voila!  Red neck cake pan!

I settled on a stylized cartoon of a leopard gecko printed on a coffee mug.  Mostly because it was cute and less poopy looking than pictures of the real thing.  After the kids went to bed, I got to work and opted out of a domino game called Mexican Train with my husband and his parents.  I consider that game a feel-bad, low-strategy time suck, so I was happy to avoid the three hour game session due to emergency cake decorating.  But maybe that's because I always lose....

While piping away, I realized two things about my technique of choice.  One, it's slow as all be and that is likely why real bakers who are trying to pay actual bills don't pipe millions of frosting stars on their cakes.  It slows down cake production to the point of bankruptcy!  So smooth is best, people.  As if you didn't already know that.

I also realized that my piping and attempts to create an ombre effect (hello, Martha Stewart!) in the transition from white lizard underbelly to black speckled top, I was engaging in rudimentary pointillism, a recognized painting technique, exquisitely developed in the 1800's by French impressionist, Georges Seurat.  I referenced his work before, in describing an equally mundane experience in my life.

So my point, and I do have one, as Ellen Degeneres would say, is that I may be able to eke beyond self ridicule here.  This cake business can 1) save me from other dreaded activities, 2) actually see completion because I only work from deadlines, and finally, 3) constitute actual artYep, I said it (art), in that louder than you might think inside-my-head voice.  

So what's the verdict, is there a poo vibe?  Also, never mind the gray raccoon tail.  I interpreted the shading in the graphic image too literally.   Remember, art is a process.  That's the point, right?

P.S.  The cake was served to people who know a thing or two about geckos.  Turns out, the ginormous gray plume serves as some kind of food storage camel hump that's supposed to be gray.  So, it's about science, not art.  Or survival, maybe.