Saturday, October 29, 2011

Crazy Is As Crazy Does

My mom had a garage sale last weekend which I was only vaguely aware of. That's one of the joys of living 350 miles away. However, that joy is slightly dampened with the guilt I feel about my sister having to deal with our aging nutso parents. My sister, Shamayn, has a disabled husband and 2 disabled children so the last thing she needs is parent drama. Unfortunately, she gets it anyway. It can be very frustrating in the moment but from 350 miles away parent drama can be relatively entertaining. Don't tell Mayn I said that.

When I talked to Mom she said she was putting some stuff in her sister's garage sale so I though that was the plan. Oh, and when I say "talked" I mean texted. We don't talk. Ever. Which is why we get along so well now. I didn't realize that somewhere along the line the plans changed and Mom ended up having her own sale. It didn't matter to me, I'm far enough away that I might as well be on another planet, which is another reason why our relationship has improved.

My only involvement in the garage sale process was to help my mother price some of the items which she felt had a value equivalent to that of The Holy Grail. When she first asked I suggested she use the same pricing structure that my genius friend Melanie uses. She doesn't price anything at her garage sales. She tells people to get what they want, bring it to her and together they will come up with a price that everyone agrees on. I think that's brilliant, especially if your goal is to get rid of stuff.

Mom didn't like that idea, I think because it was too easy. Instead, she asked me to troll eBay to find out how much she could get for her collection of Avon soaps, whiskey decanters from the 70s and some Madame Alexander dolls with missing limbs.  I told her that if she can find someone who collects disabled Madame Alexander dolls, she could probably get $10 for her collection. Otherwise they're worth $.25. Evidently Mom failed to hear the sarcasm in my typing. I should have reminded her that stuff is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. At a garage sale they're willing to pay a quarter.

Since that was my only contribution to the garage sale I sort of forgot about it until Shamayn called and asked if I was ready to hear about her weekend in hell. I figure since she has to saddle all of the responsibility for our parents, the least I can do is pretend to listen intently while she vents about them.

Shamayn told Mom she couldn't be at the sale on Saturday and since it was Friday she figured Mom had everything under control. We sometimes delude ourselves and forget that nothing is ever easy when it comes to our mother. The simple act of getting out of bed is a dramatic event of migraine inducing proportions for the woman. If she has to do more than sit in her chair and breathe, she freaks out and spews freak out on everyone around her. I love my mom, I really do, but this is just the reality of her.

At 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon Mom called Shamayn to ask if Mike, Mayn's husband, could go to the rental place to pick up the tables she rented for Saturday's sale. Who rents tables for a garage sale?! My mother does. And she waits until the last possible minute to ask someone to pick them up (and pay for them!) for her.

That's about par for the Course of Mom so Mike picked up the tables and all was well until around 7 p.m. when Mom called again. This time she told Shamayn she needed her to go buy some balloons and posterboard. No, she did not ask Shamayn if she would do this favor for her, she merely stated what she needed done and expected Mayn to do it. And she did. We've been brainwashed trained.

My mother is living breathing castor oil. Experience has taught us that it's easier to just hold our breath, do what she says and get it over with as quickly as possible. Arguing, refusing, complaining, suggesting an alternative or any other spoken words on our part would only result in a hysterical fit that would last for days and would only end after we admitted our mistake. Mayn took the castor oil.

Considering the timing and since it was just for a garage sale, Shamayn wasn't willing to put a whole lot of effort into the task. Mom specifically requested red and white helium balloons and past experience has taught us that showing up with any other color would be a killing offense. Mayn knew she could probably get everything at the Dollar Tree. They were out of white posterboard so she had to get red, thinking that since it was within the designated color scheme it would be okay. They didn't have regular red and white balloons but they did have the bigger mylar ones which are fancier so that's what she got. They were the right color, just not the type of balloon Mom was expecting.

When she got back to Mom's house Mayn caught holy hell for not getting the right kind of balloons or the right color of posterboard. Mom carried on as if the entire garage sale was now completely ruined and it was all Mayn's fault. This was traumatizing when we were children but now that we're grown (and certifiably insane because of it) we tend to roll our eyes and shrug it off as best we can. Mayn told Mom that this is what the store had so this is what she's getting and will have to make the best of it.

Mom told (not asked) Mayn to make a sign for the Avon soaps. Because they need their own special sign. Shamayn wrote out the sign then had to listen to Mom complain about how no one could read it on the red posterboard. If Shamayn had showed up with a custom built 10 foot neon sign for the Avon soaps, Mom would still have been pissed because it wasn't the white posterboard that she wanted. She then told Mayn to make more unreadable signs to put in the neighborhood.

When that was done she instructed Shamayn to have Mike put the signs out before 6 a.m. on Saturday morning. Mom looked at each sign and told Shamayn where she wanted each one (they were all the same) to go. She said, "Put this one at the end of the driveway. Put this one in the ditch at Doug's old house. Don't put it in the yard or the new owner will get mad. Put this one at the curve by the entrance. Make sure it's facing the right way so people can see it."

Then she handed Shamayn some stakes and a handful of screws with instructions to use these specific screws...don't use nails or staples. She said, "Put the screws here, here and here...not here."

Then she grabbed the balloons and said, "Put a white balloon with this sign, a red one with this sign, a white one here...".

To appease our mother, Shamayn wrote instructions for Mike on the back of each sign, "Put this f***ing sign in the yard. Put this f***ing sign at Doug's old house. Put this f***ing sign wherever the hell you want to." Those little passive/aggressive gems bring us such joy.

Shamayn reminded Mom that she would NOT be there tomorrow to help with the sale then she went home, took a handful of Ativan and went to bed.

At 6 a.m. on Saturday morning Mike got up, drove over to my mother's neighborhood and put out all the signs. At 7 a.m. Shamayn's phone rang and when she picked it up she heard, "HE FORGOT THE BALLOONS!!  MIKE FORGOT THE BALLOONS!!!! NO ONE WILL SEE THE SIGNS WITHOUT BALLOONS!!" Oh my gosh, the world had come to an end. Mike forgot to put balloons out with the garage sale signs. Actually Mike didn't forget, Shamayn forgot to give them to him which was probably a subconscious act of passive/aggressive rebellion. Shamayn assured Mom that she could still have a profitable garage sale without balloons but she knew that if Mom didn't make what she was expecting, it would forever be Mike's fault for forgetting the balloons. I have a vision in my head of us sitting around the dinner table at Christmas and Mom says, "Well, I'm sorry we only have a 16 pound turkey this year but it's all I could afford since Mike forgot the balloons."

Before she hung up Mom said, "You're coming to help later today right?" Shamayn reminded her, again, that she was not going and she didn't go. Good for her!

Evidently Mom was pleased with the outcome of her sale despite the big balloon fiasco. She didn't sell very many of the hundreds of hotel soaps she had collected and priced at $.10 each. She literally put a $.10 price tag on each and every little bar of soap. Bless her heart.

That's half of the crazy I was raised by. Yesterday I was reminded that you can't be raised by that kind of crazy and not be affected in some way. I was having a text conversation with my mother when I guess I accidentally called her while I was carrying my phone downstairs. Those touch screens can be so sensitive. When I looked down at the phone and saw that it was dialing I knew I was screwed because even if I hung up really fast she would see the caller i.d. and call me right back. Dammit, I had to talk to her.

We had a pleasant conversation mostly about the decluttering my mother is doing now that she's retired. She found a piece of paper that I wrote 20 years ago and she kept. I don't remember it but apparently I was going out of town for a weekend and leaving Taylor overnight with my mother for the first time. Taylor wasn't a year old yet and it was probably the first time I'd left her overnight anywhere. The paper was the instructions I wrote for Mom which she read to me:

"When Taylor wakes up in the morning give her a bottle and some cereal. Sometimes she eats lots of cereal and won't take her bottle but sometimes she just wants the bottle and not so much cereal. Either way is okay. She'll take a short nap in the morning and when you lay her down she should go right to sleep. If she doesn't just pat her back for a minute. Close the door because she's very sound sensitive....And put this one in the ditch at Doug's old house, but not in the yard. And put the screws here, here and here but not here....."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Alien Helmets, Haunting Regrets and Definitely Not a Chamber Pot

The little antique shop down the street from me, Vintage Gifts and Antiques, was having an open house last weekend so I picked up a few things that were on sale. And a few that were not.

I've been looking for an old wooden ladder ever since I saw an awesome one at an antique store in Lafayette a couple of years ago. I can't find the picture I took but it was a 6' wooden ladder that was covered in years worth of paint drips and rust. It was amazing. And it was over $100.

This little jewel was tucked in a corner and I was afraid it might be someone's actual step ladder that they were using. When I pulled it out I was was SO excited to see a price tag on it! And I was even more excited to see that it was $25 and the booth was having a 25% off sale! I grabbed that sucker PDQ. I haven't decided exactly where it will live or what will be on it, but it will be fabulous I'm sure.

My second big ticket item (over $20) was this most excellent brass bucket. It's large and heavy and has a strange engraving on it that is either some kind of maker's mark or carved by aliens. I don't know what it was used for but it's definitely not a lidless chamber pot. I know this for sure because I would not buy a chamber pot.
Oh the patina, the patina!!
I see letters, numbers and a swirlie thing.

I nearly had to bust an old lady in the kneecaps to get this away from her but it would have been worth it. It's a very weathered table leg that will eventually be...a more nicely weathered table leg. Or something. I'm kicking around a few ideas. The shop had about a dozen different legs like this and they were being snatched up fast at $6 each.

I added a few more doilies to my collection. I don't care much for doilies as doilies but I do like some of the fun things I've seen made from them. I don't know which fun thing I will make but I know it will be fun. I look for the handmade doilies that are $1 because they have some kind of stain on them. I can almost always get the stain out.

I also have a small collection of those vintage folding rulers but I didn't have a folding yard stick so I picked this one up. Hey, maybe I'll display all of them in my new brass bucket!

I use little trays like this all over the place to set stuff on or to hold beads or art supplies that I'm using. The tag said this was brass but I knew it wasn't. It was only a couple of dollars so I bought it hoping that there would be a silver finish underneath. Sure enough there was! It appears to be plated nickel silver and it's also the piece I'm going to experiment with when I try the recipe I found for removing silver plating. Nickel silver and tin can be really pretty on their own and I prefer that to cheesy silver plating. 
Brass colored but not brass.
All cleaned up.

I bought these because they were unusual and I like them. Right now the salt and pepper shakers I keep next to my stove are a couple of Coronita bottles fitted with shaker caps that a most helpful waiter at a Mexican restaurant gave to me about 20 years ago. They went nicely with the set of jelly jar drinking glasses I used to use. I guess now that I'm almost grown up I should probably put grown up shakers like these next to my stove.

These live in my art room with glitter in them.

You hardly ever see a Mellin jar with its lid still in tact and they always cost more than the couple of dollars I paid for this one. This is the sample sized jar and the beautiful blue/green glass doesn't show up well in the picture. Containers are my friends and right now this one is holding the extra box knife blades I'm using while cutting slots into a stack of old books to make a floating shelf out of. I should probably put some Band-Aids in there too. And a tourniquet.

I normally don't give copper bowls a second look but this one caught my attention for  three reasons: First, it hangs. That makes it a convenient container. (See above container references for established relationship.) Second, it was etched with a tribal looking design. The design so totally doesn't go with my shabby chic house but the overall coolness of the etching was sucking me in. Third, it was tarnished beyond tarnish. It was almost Oompa Loompa orange. It needed my help. I knew it would be a challenge but $6 was a small price to pay for something potentially fabulous.

Had I known just exactly what it would take to clean this bowl I would have left it in the store. The tarnish was very firmly attached. It was almost like it was tarnish plated. It mocked me as I spent 3 solid hours scrubbing it with vinegar and salt, Brasso, Noxon and whatever toxic combinations of those things I could come up with. It ate 3 Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Even steel wool required aggressive elbow grease to get through the funky orange patina...which was more tolerable when I sang funky orange patina to the tune of Funky Cold Medina.

I knew the cleaning process would also remove the black from the etched areas but I wasn't worried about that since I have liver of sulfur to put them back in. However, I decided not to since the etching still shows up nicely and without the oxidation it blends better with my house.

There is something strange about this bowl. I'm not exactly a metallurgist but you really don't have to be to know that metals like copper and silver will naturally tarnish when exposed to air. This process usually takes some time. However...this bowl retarnishes itself almost instantly. I am NOT kidding. I didn't notice it until after I had cleaned the outside of the bowl and started working on the inside. After scrubbing for a while I flipped the bowl over and saw that the areas I had scrubbed so hard to get back to their natural pink were already turning orange again! And a couple of spots were even going to purple/black right before my eyes. Unlike the old tarnish, this new tarnish was very easy to clean off but every time I did it came back in under a minute. That just shouldn't be.

After I removed as much of the funky orange patina as I could, I quickly sealed the bowl to stop the tarnishing. Or at least slow it down. I had to do this in small sections: clean then seal real fast, clean another part then seal real fast, etc. It was a pain, but worth it.

So how does one seal metal to keep it from tarnishing, you ask? Well as all good domestics know, you wax it. You can buy pricey Renaissance Wax which I might do if I was going to eat out of this bowl but since I'm not some good ol' car wax outta the garage will work just fine. I prefer the Meguiar's spray-on liquid wax. I used 3 coats and the bowl was so dang reflective it was hard to get a picture of the engraving on the bottom.

I get the "Handmade in Columbia" and "Copper Art" part and I guess MT 6 is the artist's or manufacturer's mark. Or it could possibly be another alien stamp which might explain the instant tarnishing. Maybe it's not copper at all. Maybe it's special alien metal that can't breath our earth air and that's why it tarnishes so fast. Maybe it's not a bowl either. Maybe it's a hat. Next time you see a homeless person with his head wrapped in tin foil you will remember these words and understand how he got there.

I saw a few other interesting things that I didn't buy but probably should have. I really, really want this scale. It's the perfect size and color, it's worn in all the right spots, the pointer has a lovely shape, and I even love the number font. I just couldn't make myself pay the $29 they were asking for it. I'm going to wait a couple of weeks and see if it's still there when I go back. If it is, I'll take that as a divine sign that I'm supposed to buy it.

This lovely teal adding machine has been in the store for quite some time. I would love to have it because it's quirky and the color rocks but it's one of those things that doesn't have a purpose other than being decorative. I like things that have more than one purpose. I like things I can set stuff on or put stuff in or cover stuff with or turn into other stuff. This just sits there. It's going to have to try harder if it wants to come home with me.

I already have about a dozen of these but my hoarding gene makes me want more. Lots more. Like this whole tub full. And I think I need the tub too.

I'm not really into carnival glass but this pitcher caught my eye because it's the same color as the ram's head carnival glass bowl I have that used to be my grandmother's. They would make such a lovely set. Unfortunately this dealer failed to check eBay before pricing their pitcher at $65 instead of the much more reasonable $20ish going rate. 
Bad lighting in Harry Potter's room.

I think someone should go buy this frog jar right away. He needs a home. Just not MY home.

I saw this old Alka Seltzer bottle in the shop a few weeks ago and after much mental debate I decided I really didn't need it so I left it there. Now it's gone and I will forever regret not buying it. It's a container, I could have put stuff in it. Plus, it matches my house perfectly. And it was a measly $6. Why didn't I buy it?! I could have set it next to the adding machine, giving the adding machine the purpose of accompanying the oh-so-useful bottle. It's regrets like these that will haunt me until my dying breath.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Build Zone

I'm taking an online jewelry making class from Deryn Mentock called The Build Zone which will make me all cool and talented just like Deryn. Okay, so she doesn't exactly say that but I feel sure it will happen if I just do everything she does.

The class ends November 30 and registration is open until November 1 so run over there right now to sign up while there's still time. And if, like me, you're thinking it's a little pricey considering it doesn't include any of the required materials, let me assure you it is worth every penny. The class is divided up into four 1-week segments but Deryn has so graciously made all of the videos available upfront so you can work through them at your own pace. By "all the videos" I mean 20+. That's a bargain.

During the first 2 weeks the videos focus mainly on building the foundational skills you'll need to make the completed pieces in the last 2 weeks. I've made lots of different kinds of jewelry over the years but I haven't done a whole lot with wire and some of the other mixed media techniques she teaches.

I don't have all of the tools Deryn recommends but I've picked up what I thought were the most important ones then MacGyvered the rest. You can make do with what you have while you learn the techniques then when you can buy the good tools you'll already know how to use them. I'm slowly adding the tools and supplies I'll need to meet my life goal of being Deryn's Mini Me.

Some of the class members like using sterling wire and semi-precious beads which I love but my budget doesn't. Fortunately you don't have to have those things, especially if you're new and need to practice. I'm using mostly copper and steel wire and most of my beads are glass or stone. Or rusty metal. Or whatever else I can cannibalize from all the stuff I buy at Goodwill and the flea market. I'll pretty much use anything but plastic.

When you join the class you will have access to a private email list where you can chat with Deryn and other class members. And there is a Flickr group where we can post pictures of our masterpieces. I'm in the middle of week 2 now so I don't exactly have any masterpieces to show but I do have some parts and pieces.
I was never very good at wire wrapping but I'm getting better now.

These s-links are fun and easy to make.

Practicing my s-links and wire wrapping.

Teeny tiny jump rings.

Twisted wire is the coolest thing ever!

Twisted jump rings are the coolest thing ever too!

I could make these head pins all day long.

Trying out head pins on some random beads.

Gathering up supplies so I can design a finished piece.

Check out those skull beads. Awesome, right?

I have visited a couple of local bead stores but I'm not really impressed with any of them. Beadoholique (I went to the one in Spring) has the best selection of tools and wire out of the stores I've visited so far. But like most bead shops they're expensive. 1960 Beads was just plain overpriced. There was an entire wall of strands that cost $50 and up. If you're into that, great, but I'm definitely not. Beads One is a new shop in Spring and is more my speed. They have mostly glass and stone beads, not a lot of tools and supplies, and their prices are good probably because their stuff is illegally imported from Asia. Did I say that out loud? I'm kidding, they are perfectly legal, but their beads are more like what you'd find at Hobby Lobby rather than an exclusive fru fru bead shop. And I like that just fine. Those are just the shops closest to me. I'll venture out and visit some more next week. (I love Houston.)

One thing I did splurge on for the class was a new torch since the one I have doesn't get hot enough for what we're doing. I really, really don't like fire but I'm getting a little more comfortable with it as I use it more. And, by some miracle, I haven't injured myself or caught anything on fire! Yet.

Monday, October 10, 2011

More Must See (and should probably avoid) TV

I've mentioned before that I don't watch a lot of television. I didn't watch any at all really until about a month ago when I got hooked on Arrested Development and some of the documentaries that Netflix offers through their streaming service.

Since then I've seen a couple more documentaries that I highly recommend:

Exit Through the Gift Shop made my list because it's about graffiti which I love, and Banksy who fascinates me. Actually the movie isn't really about graffiti but about this average French guy who literally stumbles into the world of street art and ends up becoming an artist himself even though he has no discernible talent whatsoever. All he had was the endorsement of a couple of well known artists and that's all it took for people to get sucked in. The guy has made a fortune by selling other people's art that his staff (not even he himself) has Photoshopped.

This film, like Catfish, was suspected of being a mockumentary but I think this one is for real.  It's really incredible to watch the phenomenon unfold around this hilariously clueless main character. You gotta see it.

My reaction to Koran by Heart wasn't what I thought it would be, but I'm not really sure what I thought it would be. It's about these Muslim children who go to Cairo to compete in a Koran reciting contest. The Koran is 600 pages long and is being memorized, in its entirety, by children as young as 7 years old. Children who don't even speak Arabic. Children who can't even read and write in their own language.

I think I expected to feel sorry for the kids, and I did to some degree. I thought maybe some of them were being pushed to enter the contest and really didn't want to be there. I thought the judges would be harsh on them when they made mistakes. I thought they would be a disappointment to their families if they lost. I thought all kinds of wrong stuff as Americans often do when it comes to other cultures and religions that we're not familiar with.

The kids worked hard to memorize the verses and they not only had to memorize them but also pronounce them correctly which is something that's not easily learned. Some of those who didn't win were looking forward to trying harder so they could do better next year. The judges were compassionate and understanding and gave the kids every opportunity to do their best. They were sympathetic toward one little boy who made so many mistakes during his recitation that he cried through the whole thing. The judges were moved, as was I, at another boy who recited with such heart and emotion that you could tell the kid was worshiping, not just reciting.

I did feel bad that some of the kids had been learning nothing but the Koran pretty much since birth so they lacked even basic reading and writing skills in their own language. I was surprised that they allowed girls to participate and the one the show focused on was just precious. Her situation was a little sad to me because both of her parents wanted her to be educated but her mother wanted her to have a career as well. Her father wanted her to have a college degree but made it clear that she was not allowed to work, she had to be a housewife.

This is a good one, I'd watch it again.

I like origami but I didn't think I liked it well enough to watch a whole documentary about it. The only reason I watched Between the Folds was because the Netflix description called it "riveting". That just cracked me up. I couldn't imagine origami being riveting so I had to see for myself just how riveting folding paper can be.

Omigod, it was riveting! I've seen some pretty cool origami and really thought there was no way they would be able to impress me. Boy was I wrong! Check out this short video by Chris K. Palmer, one of the featured artists:

Flower Tower 8-Fold (Uncut Silk Square) from Chris K. Palmer on Vimeo.

I also never realized the link between origami and math. There is a professor at MIT, who is also somewhat of a genius, who does mathematical origami. Pretty much everything he said was over my head but it was interesting anyway.

I don't even think you'd have to be an origami fan to like this movie.

Taylor is a Grey's Anatomy fan and just recently finished watching all 148 episodes in the Netflix catalog. I didn't watch all of them with her but I saw enough of them to get sucked into the story. When that was over I wanted to watch another series of some sort and The Tudors kept coming up as a recommended choice for me.

I'd never heard of the show but from the description I could see it was loosely based on the reign of King Henry VIII. I confess that I don't know a lot about Henry VIII other than he beheaded some wives and apparently ate turkey legs. I thought it might be fun to watch because of the period costumes and I might learn a little history in the process.

When I watched the first episode I noticed it was a Showtime series which explains why I hadn't heard of it. We only have basic cable and haven't had any of the movie channels for about 10 years.

Now I remember why we don't have those movie channels. O. MY. GOSH. It's all sex all the time. I'm talking graphic, disturbingly realistic sex scenes. And a lot of them. I realize the show is a fictional account of historical events but if it's to be believed everyone in 16th century England was doin' the deed all the time with whoever was available.

So did I instantly look away and immediately stop watching such an offensive program? Um, well, not exactly. I really could do without all the panting and moaning sex scenes as well as the nudity for no apparent reason. But I love all the costumes and some of the character portrayals are really not bad. Sam Neill played such a good Wolsey that I wanted to kill him myself. And the actress who plays Anne Boleyn is doing so well that I can hardly wait for her to lose her head. I have no idea if Catherine of Aragon was really as classy and gracious as the show portrays but that actress has done a fine job too.

And between those times when the king is busy exercising his conjugal rights with whichever servant is handy, I am managing to learn a little history which I later Google to make sure it's accurate. For instance, I'd never heard of Cardinal Wolsey before and now I know about him. I didn't realize that Catherine of Aragon was the daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain who funded Columbus's trip to the New World. I also didn't know that Henry VIII played such a huge part in the reformation of the church. I didn't know why Anne Boleyn got her head cut off but now I do. She didn't give the king the one thing he wanted: a son. Plus she was a manipulative little thing, she had it coming. 

This is not really a show that I would recommend unless you can overlook the gratuitous sex...or you're into that sort of thing. I can overlook it since I watch it on my computer where it's easy to skip those scenes that make me blush. Of course now I'm all hooked on the story so I couldn't look away if I wanted to. Anne just had her first miscarriage and I know she gets beheaded after a couple more but I thought Henry was supposed to have already met Jane Seymour at this point but she hasn't been mentioned yet. I'm compelled to keep watching just to check it for historical accuracy. No other reason. Really.

Dream On

This morning I woke up completely exhausted from the dream I had last night...or rather, this morning. This is not an unusual occurrence for me since I have narcolepsy which means I am pretty much all REM all the time and that's when most dreams happen. Some dreams do occur during non-REM sleep but most people never remember those dreams. I remember all my dreams, all the time, in vivid and exhausting detail.

The dream that wore me out last night occurred in Holland. It felt like it lasted for hours and hours even though the average length of a single dream is between 5 and 45 minutes, depending on how long you sleep. I've actually been to Holland before but my dream had nothing to do with that trip.

Jayson, Taylor and I were on a 2-week vacation in Holland. Apparently we had booked the trip with some big tour group since there were lots of people traveling with us and we had made some friends. It was the end of our trip and time to start packing up so we could head home. I am a chronic nester so repacking everything I had unpacked was quite a chore. Taylor was probably 10 years old so she wasn't much help and Jayson had sort of disappeared when it came time to work.

I started packing up all of our stuff, frustrated at how many toys Taylor brought with her. I would get a few bags packed and take them downstairs to be loaded into the transport. That's what they called it...the transport. It was the huge vehicle that was driving everyone in our tour group back to the states. It was really long like a train but it didn't run on rails. I never did see where they stowed the luggage, which was my main concern, but I did see where all the people sat. The transport was open, like a big flatbed truck, and it had super long goal posts mounted on it. Yeah, football field goal posts. All the people were sitting on the goalposts, straddling them in a most uncomfortable looking way, waiting for the transport to start its 3-day journey back to the U.S. My dream brain temporarily forgot about the ocean it would somehow have to cross or how everyone was supposed to straddle those goal posts, exposed to the elements, for 3 days.

I continued to frantically pack bags, and by bags I don't mean suitcases. In typical Green family fashion we had packed all of our belongings into tote bags and plastic grocery sacks. There was lots of activity around the "hotel" as everyone else was packing up too. I say "hotel" because it wasn't really a hotel. It had lots of dorm-like rooms and a little coffee shop on the second floor but the first floor was a big warehouse with lots of loud industrial equipment. I would pack up a few bags, take the elevator to the first floor then wander through the maze of scary equipment until I could exit through the big overhead doors to see the transport waiting in the gravel parking lot. We were piling our "luggage" in one spot until we got it all done, then it would be loaded on to the transport. After depositing my load I would then make my way back to the elevator and up to our room, #1426, on the second floor.

Just before I finished packing, I had one of those dream time-warps where you blink and it's like 3 hours later. I grabbed my final load and when I got to the warehouse on the first floor, all of the equipment was quiet and there were no people around. I had to manually open the overhead door and when I did it was dark outside and the transport was gone. So was our pile of "luggage".

I quickly went back up to the second floor and found Jayson relaxing in the coffee shop and visiting with a couple of the employees. I was in a panic and screamed at him that we missed the transport. He calmly said we'd just catch the next one but the employees said there were no more transports. Jayson and I both went back down to the parking lot and stared at where the transport should have been. Then another overhead door opened and several employees came out carrying all of our other luggage that they had stored since we missed our ride because of the random time warp. I was really relieved to see our stuff.

Jayson started talking to the only employee who spoke English, asking him what our options were. For some reason all the employees were Hispanic instead of Dutch, I don't know why my dream brain did that. Anyway, the guy said it wasn't a problem, it had happened before and he showed us how they handle it. Another employee drove a regular flat bed truck up to where we were standing and the English speaking guy said we could drive it home.

I was all worried because we'd already paid for our return trip on the transport and we didn't have extra money to spend but we also didn't have any other choice. Jayson said they had to charge us for the use of their flatbed and it was more than what we already paid for the ultra luxurious goal post fitted transport that we missed. I was slightly concerned about the 3 of us fitting comfortably in the cab of the truck but I was more concerned with how our 20+ pieces of luggage would fare if it started raining. English speaking guy threw some cardboard onto the bed of truck and I began to fashion it into a holding area for our belongings. I asked him for a tarp to put over it in case of rain and he said we really didn't need one.

I told Jayson that he needed to talk to the employee guy about a tarp because we darn sure needed one. Jayson explained that we weren't going to drive the truck all the way home like the transport, but we would only drive it to the nearest major airport, which happened to be in London. From there we could book a flight home and they would pick up their truck on their next trip to that area.

I was all freaking out because we couldn't afford the airfare to get home, especially since we had 20 pieces of plastic Kroger luggage to check! My dream brain still didn't remember about the body of water we'd have drive across to get from Holland to London.

Then there was another time warp and my dream turned into an infomercial about the guy who owned the hotel we were staying at. He had moved to Holland from the U.S. back in the 60s and opened an amusement park which was still on the grounds of the hotel. The amusement park consisted of one single ride: a rickety wooden merry go round.

And then I woke up. Exhausted and stressed and confused as to why all my dang dreams have to have that much detail. Sometimes I just wish I could have a pleasant little vague dream with fuzzy suggestions instead of stress-inducing details that I absolutely don't need. Either that or a lucid dream, which is just about the coolest thing in the universe. During a lucid dream you are full-on dreaming but inside your dream you aware that you are just dreaming which means you can consciously control the events or the direction of the dream. It's freakin' awesome. I've heard that you can train yourself to have a lucid dream but I have no idea how to do that. I've had several of them but they're random and they're just about the only dreams I have that I actually enjoy.

I don't waste time trying to interpret dreams because I really don't believe they have any kind of deeper meaning. My Daddy used to say, "I can tell you what that dream meant. It meant you were asleep, that's all it meant." I choose that interpretation since some of mine are too disturbing to even say out loud. Am I the only one who has dreams that I'm embarrassed about? Please say no.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Cooking is all about the right tools.

I decided it was time to finish the recipe binder project that I started before we moved. The task was too daunting to finish at that time so I saved it until I knew I could devote 100% of my full attention to it. Yeah, I procrastinated.

I love to collect recipes, it's just a shame that I don't cook. I've always thought I might cook more if my recipes were in order. Just like I'm convinced that I could be a gourmet chef if I had me a big Viking stove and a Sub-Zero fridge like this one.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure if I had that fridge I could crank out one darn fine grilled cheese sandwich. Alas, it is not meant to be. So I'll be happy with my recipes neatly arranged in my repurposed binder.

I got the binder as a gift when I graduated from high school, uh, 27 years ago. It was a photo album that had those magnetic photo pages in it. I did use it as a photo album for a long time before I learned that magnetic photo pages will eventually eat up your photos over time. I removed the pictures, tossed the pages and let the album sit dormant for several years. It's covered with a pretty fabric, I couldn't just toss it.

I gathered up my recipes which were crammed into an over stuffed recipe box, an old school folder, one of my many junk drawers, and countless other nooks and crannies that I used to shove stuff in before I got all organized.  

Some of these recipes are family favorites but most of them I have collected with the intention of trying them but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Since I started this project during the Big Clean Sweep of 2011 before we moved, I didn't have time to do more than basically sort everything into categories. 

I used page protectors and index tab sheets that I already had on hand. I started out using a different binder but soon saw that it wasn't big enough. That's when I switched to the pretty floral one.

I used my well loved Brother PT-65 Label Maker (which is no longer available but there's newer model) to categorize my recipes. I knew I'd probably have to break them down further later but this helped me to get them sorted for the time being.

After I had each recipe in its appropriate category, I shoved them all into sheet protectors (one or two per category) and shelved the binder for about 6 months. I knew I needed to look at each recipe to see if I still wanted to keep it but that would have to wait until after we moved.

So...we moved. I pulled out my binder and read through each and every recipe to determine its chances of ever being made. Some of them came off product packages that don't even exist anymore so I tossed them. I also tossed those that called for ingredients that are hard to find or that I will likely never use for anything else. I don't like anise and will never buy it so why do I have a recipe for anise cookies? I'll never buy saffron, I don't care how pretty it is, so I chunked the saffron rice recipes. I also tossed the ones that looked like they would take more than 30 minutes to prepare because realistically I will never invest that much time into a meal. Unless it's a crock pot meal. I can work that crock pot like nobody's business. You toss stuff in it in the morning, forget about it all day, then eat it in the evening. I love my crock pot.

After all the purging here is what I ended up with.  I covered my index pages with sheets of pretty cardstock to make them sturdy. And pretty.

The cardstock was 12 x 12 so I had to cut it down to make it fit the 8-1/2 x 11 index pages. I used some of the scraps I trimmed off each sheet to make new tabs.

I would love to have my recipes all printed out on matching pretty paper but that will never happen. That's a time investment I'm not willing to make, plus I just can't get rid of a recipe that's in my grandmother's handwriting.

So instead of all matchy-matchy, I went for more of an old school scrapbook look. Some recipes take up a full page but I was able to glue several small ones to a single sheet of computer paper before slipping it into its sheet protector. I did try to put 'like' things together to make them easier to find within each category.

At the back of the binder I put some pocket folders that I had so I could slip in recipes that I'm too lazy to file right then. 

To celebrate my recipe organization I made San Francisco Pork Chops last night. They were very good. I can't remember where I found the recipe but it might have been from the Crock Pot Girls. Give it a try:

2 Tbs EVOO
4 1" thick boneless pork chops
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 Tbs packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbs cornstarch
1 Tbs water
Serve with mashed taters or rice

In a large skillet heat oil over medium-high heat. Season chops & brown 1-2 minutes on each side until golden. Place chops in crock pot. Add garlic to drippings in skillet until lightly golden. Add soy sauce, broth, brown sugar & red pepper flakes. Cook & stir until sugar has dissolved. Pour over chops.

Cook on low 7-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours.

To make the gravy, remove chops from the crock pot. Mix together cornstarch & water. Whisk it into the sauce then return chops to crock pot.  Cook on high for an additional 30 min-1 hour.

I served mine with mashed potatoes and asparagus.