Monday
Mar122012

boom roasted

I have successfully thwarted the Universe's attempt to make me huddle in a corner out of fear and defeat. Apparently, the Universe didn't get the memo that NOBODY PUTS BABY IN THE CORNER. The memo came via a cheesy 80s dance movie so that might be why the Universe missed it.

Anyway, despite an extraordinarily stressful weekend and being very tired on top of it, life is surprisingly in order at the moment. I feel like saying "BOOM ROASTED" after every accomplishment, as in "YOU THINK YOU CAN TAKE ME DOWN UNIVERSE? BRING IT. I WILL GIVE YOU A WEDGIE AND STEAL YOUR LUNCH MONEY AND TIE YOU TO THE FLAG POLE."

The stress came in the form of a catastrophic web server failure sometime Friday, which meant The Hallway, Writer's Cramp, and all my clients' sites were down. Not only did I get everything restored LIKE A BOSS, I still managed to finish the design work for my clients' platform upgrades that I had originally planned to finish Friday, complete the rollout schedule for said upgrade, send out monthly traffic analysis to clients on schedule, and complete and send invoices. BOOM ROASTED.

Not content with website kung-fu, we still managed to stay caught up on or catch up on the various household chores on our to-do list for Saturday: dishes done, laundry folded and put away, downstairs vacuumed, GROCERIES BOUGHT, dinner made. BOOM ROASTED.

And it wasn't even all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy at our house this weekend. We fit in our first game of Pandemic since we bought it, caught up on all of our shows, fit in a day of writing and art, and read several chapters of a new book. BOOM ROASTED.

All of this despite losing an hour of time, and in fact, we got to bed at a reasonable hour TWO nights in a row, like real grownups! Also like real grownups: clothes laid out and bento packed, ready for Monday. Even the browning bananas that were at risk of going to waste got turned into delicious bread, just in time for both tonight and tomorrow when I'll be having a couple of neighbors over for tea. BOOM ROASTED.

Got anything else to throw at me, Universe?

lunch, matryoshka:

  • chicken lo mein (chicken, carrots, onions, green onions, bean sprouts, celery, noodles, secret sauce)
  • peas
  • Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Bento: Pinova apple
Thursday
Mar082012

dear asshole in the truck in front of me

Despite what you may have been told, ownership of a truck the size of Mongolia does not, in fact, entitle you to drive like a meth-addled monkey. Indeed, neither your state license nor the vehicle title conferred on you the entitlement of squashing everyone in your path as if playing your own real-life version of Frogger. Perhaps that was a feature advertised to you by the salesman at time of purchase, in which case I would advise you to file a claim of fraud against him, since trying to run me off the road isn't going to be of much help in that regard.

It may also surprise you to learn that riding 2.57 centimeters behind my bumper for three miles and flashing your brights at me doesn't actually make me go any faster, especially when both I and the cars in front of me are already going faster than the speed limit. I apologize that five miles an hour over the speed limit simply isn't fast enough for you, but since my vehicle doesn't possess the capability for, you know, physically pushing the vehicle in front of me out of the way, your efforts at getting me to do so are sadly ineffectual.

And although it might have seemed temporarily satisfying to cut around and in front of me as soon as traffic opened up, it was not necessary to attempt to remove my bumper when you did so. You may be under the mistaken impression that my bumper was an optional and unwanted accessory on my vehicle, but I assure you that I do actually wish to keep it attached. Interestingly, bumpers mitigate the damage to the vehicle in the event of collision, so that makes them a very nice feature to have.

Lastly, I realize that flipping me off in the rear view mirror was your way of providing feedback after all that you had suffered while driving behind me on that stretch of freeway, and while I applaud free expression, you may wish to reconsider how you choose to make your opinion known. In fact you may wish to follow my own example of a smile and a wave as I passed you a few minutes later when that nice highway patrolman pulled you over. Just a suggestion.

Sincerely,

The Driver You Harassed On The Way To Work This Morning

Tuesday
Mar062012

brother-sister weekend ftw

This weekend was a Brother-Sister Weekend, when I was on deck to host Guy for a weekend of wacky fun. Because when people think of me, "wacky" is totally the first adjective that comes to mind.

WE HAD THE BEST TIME YOU GUYS. We unleashed Guy's inner Picasso and marathoned a TV show and stayed up WAY too late both nights playing Zombie Fluxx and Nerts and slept in ridiculously late and ate all the things and and aaaaaaaand it was pretty much the greatest. Also, there was a care package of chocolate, chocolate, and chocolate from Sister as consolation for the package lost by FedEx. Because she is a wise woman who knows that chocolate is the healer of all things.

In conclusion: WE WIN AT BROTHER-SISTER WEEKENDS THE END.

lunch, matryoshka:

  • stir fry (chicken, broccoli, carrots, onion, collard greens, baby bok choy, garlic, secret sauce)
  • jasmine rice
  • sesame seeds for garnish
Sunday
Mar042012

breakfast of champions

Waiting in line at Gravy for a late breakfast on a beautiful Sunday. Life is good.
Thursday
Mar012012

signs that it's time to go back to bed and try again tomorrow

but the day wasn't all bad, thanks to a rare snow fallYou put your bra on inside out, wondering all the while why it's so hard to get on, and spend the entire day feeling like Something Is Not Quite Right.

The breakfast that you could've sworn you packed does not, in fact, exist.

You wonder what that annoying clicking sound is as you drive to work, only to realize that it's the turn signal that you forgot to turn off three exits ago.

You repeatedly enter your debit card pin as your computer password, getting increasingly irritated at someone in IT for no good reason.

Every attempt at drinking water from your water bottle has resulted in water dribbling down the front of your shirt and caused you to check for a hole in an insulated stainless steel container instead of, you know, your head.

My life, ladies and gentlemen.

lunch, black strawberry:

  • salmon cake
  • pumpkin seeds
  • green beens sauteed in sesame oil, with black and white sesame seeds
  • peas
  • carrot sticks
  • candies made by Chef Sal: nougat (with dried cherries and pistachios), chocolate caramels, and mango gelees
Monday
Feb272012

tragedy and triumph

The tragedy: my mom sent me a package for my birthday that was supposed to arrive last Saturday (18th) via FedEx. The package, I would learn later, included the last quilt my mom made (hung on the clothesline "so it would smell like home"), a very valuable ivory carving from a family friend she had received when she was a girl and that I had always loved, the carousel horse music box she had handpainted when I was younger, and her Depression glass candy dish that had been on our receiving table at our wedding.

When the package didn't arrive, we looked up the tracking number to learn that their records show it having been delivered at 8:24 AM on the 18th, delivered at the front door of our address, no signature requested. Which was impossible, because Sal was home Saturday until mid-afternoon and no one came to the door, nor were there any delivery trucks on our street all morning. The delivery driver confirmed a few days later that he had accidentally delivered it someplace else but couldn't remember where.

A week of checking with neighbors, multiple contacts with FedEx (including via Twitter), and their delivery driver checking a list of addresses in our area with our house number have turned up nothing, and the package is now officially unrecoverable. My mom and I are both heartbroken. (The tiny blessing in this is that at the last minute, she reconsidered including her diamond ring or my great grandmother's amethyst ring in the package.)

The triumph: So that has been a dark cloud over the whole of the week, tinging everything else. But life marches on, and so did we. Saturday, we finally made it to OMSI for the BodyWorlds exhibit, which is closing here soon and which Sal has wanted to see since the first exhibit that came through the year before last. ProcrastiGirl also wanted to see it, so she joined us for a fun Saturday afternoon and evening. Which worked out really well, because I had absolutely no desire to see the exhibit, so that gave Sal someone to go with, while I headed next door to the planetarium to indulge my inner astronomy geek.

Afterward, we stopped at Guardian Games for the first time, after hearing my friends from Nerd Night (aka neighborhood game night) rave about the place for months now. Stepping through the door was like crossing into Nerdvana. Their inventory is ridiculous (they advertise 14,000+ games in stock), literally wall-to-wall games of every sort imaginable, with game tables and vending machines set up in the back, and staffed by the most sweetly helpful game geeks ever.

They had in stock all three of the games we were thinking about getting for ourselves: Dominion, Pandemic, and my most recent obsession thanks to last week's Nerd Night, Last Night On Earth. Sal and I debated about what to get for at least fifteen minutes, and nearly walked out of there with all three when it became clear it was going to be a Sophie's Choice situation, but reason prevailed and our bank account heaved a sigh of relief, and we walked out with Pandemic and consoled ourselves that we would be back soon. Well, and also consoled ourselves with Zombie Fluxx (because even Fluxx can be improved with zombies). And my own set of swirly purple and pink dice, which means I am officially That Girl.

lunch, Paris slimline:

  • last of the spicy meatballs
  • boiled eggs
  • carrot sticks and peas
  • tangerine
  • pumpkin seeds
Tuesday
Feb212012

reports of my demise are only slightly exaggerated

I hadn't intended to be away so long, but then Hall House was collectively bombed with the ebola virus and both Sal and I have been occupied with, you know, not expiring from collapsed lungs or whatever. I haven't had any appetite while I've been sick, so no bentos, either, and thanks to the ebola eating my brain, I'm a little fuzzy on what exactly has transpired in the last few weeks so I don't even have a lot to report that doesn't involve phlegm, Nyquil, and chicken soup. (Except to say that before he succumbed to the Virus From Hell, Sal did make me the most absolutely astoundingly awesome and incredible chicken soup I have ever ever ever eaten ever in the history of the universe. So there's that.)

I did have a lovely birthday at home with family the weekend before last and spent last weekend on a self-imposed writing retreat, so there's been some fun mixed in. And despite still feeling far less than 100%, Sal managed to make a few stops along the Zwickelmania tour, proving that not even pending death will keep him away from good beer.

lunch, Lunchbot Duo:

  • spicy meatsa balls
  • steamed broccoli
  • peas and carrots
  • Murcott tangerine
  • raw pumpkin seeds

Also, this was my lunch from 2/2/12, but I had trouble getting the picture to load that day and then got sick, so here you go:

lunch, Lunchbot Duo:

  • smoked sausages
  • boiled egg
  • roasted root veggies (chiogga beets and parsnips with caramelized onions and garlic)
  • steamed broccoli
  • Anjou pear
  • sunflower seeds
Thursday
Jan262012

proof that it takes very little to turn things around

Yesterday I was having...well, not a bad day, exactly, but a pretty intense one. Many things going on at work that needed close attention and I had (stupidly) scheduled 3 appointments for the day, two of which were in quick succession. Those latter two were late in the day, the second one ending just before I would need to leave for Nerd Game Night, which was a bit of a drive and would be at a house I hadn't been to before. And somehow in between all of that and before leaving for game night, I needed to stop at the store for chips and salsa (game night is a snack potluck), get the cats fed (incuding enough time for Smaug to rinky dink around while eating, because she's a true diva), change my clothes, pack today's bento, and have some dinner.

The grocery store was such a zoo that there were even lines at the self-checkout. I get up to the checkout and realize I've forgotten my purse, which has both my debit card and my reusable grocery bag.  Great, just great, I thought. This is the Universe telling me that today is not my day. It's time to go home, change into my jammies, crawl under the covers, and wait for tomorrow.

And then I remembered that I just randomly happened to have a few dollars in my pocket that might, just might be enough for my items. Which was kind of miraculous beause I never have cash. Not only was my cash juuuuuust enough to cover my purchases, the total came to an even dollar amount, one of the items on my list of "Things That give Me A Cheap Little Thrill". I love it when totals come to whole dollar amounts! It's like the Universe coming into balance, double underlined, with a red check mark.

So I headed to game night feeling a little less frazzled and played Fortune and Glory for 4.37 hours and then Forbidden Island and geeked out on LOTR and the adorableness of cats and everything turned out all right in the end.

lunch, origami squares:

  • sausages
  • molded egg
  • roasted root veggies (with more under everything else) - parsnips and chiogga beets roasted with some onion, garlic, dill, and a little olive oil and salt and pepper
  • steamed broccoli
  • Golden Nugget tangerines
  • sunflower seeds
Tuesday
Jan242012

in which the room fairy transforms a little girl's room with magic

The Fabulous Miss M turned four late last summer, and it was officially time to graduate from a toddler's room to a little girl's room. But this is the Fabulous Miss M, and we are her godparents, and so this was not to be just any room because she is not just any little girl. I am her Fairy Godmother, after all, and so there had to be magic and treasure and copious quantities of pixie dust.

the 'before"Her room was a bright, deep jungle green with pale green on the ceiling and in the alcove created by the bay window. Fantastic colors for her nursery, which was decorated with a mixture of the bright colors of Kenya (where her mother spent part of her childhood) and the lush green of Ireland (where her mother and father spent a very formative 6 months together), reflective of their love for travel and world cultures.

But it was time to make the room reflective of her, and Miss M has very decided opinions about what she likes. Which meant pink. And purple. And sea turtles. And stuffed animals that include a rhino and a seal and monkeys and a frog and Pooh and of course, the requisite teddy bears. And books. And dragonflies. And yellow. And ladybugs. And all of those wonderful decorations that had adorned her walls before -- the handpainted sun and moon from Mexico, and the cloth doll from Africa and the vibrant metal gecko from South America. There was the antique doll in a silk-covered egg from her grandma and the big pink piggy bank wearing a tutu and tiara and the origami crane folded from rainbow paper from her father. And the artwork from Uncle Sal and Aunt Bitty commissioned on the occasion of her baptism and commemorative of our solemn vow to become her godparents.

I was gifting the bedroom furniture (bed, dresser, desk, and bookcase) that was mine when I was little, which is kind of a cream color with yellow details and canopy, along with a full set of bright yellow curtains to match (a pair of princess curtains, another pair of full length curtains, and a shorter pair for a smaller window, all with tiebacks and ruffles), which meant yellow also needed to be incorporated (a color she likes, thankfully). Yellow, pink, and purple can go together quite well, so I felt pretty confident about coming up with a design that would work. And I added a fourth color into the mix -- the mint green on her ceiling and in the bay window -- to finish out the palette and give it a nice balance to keep it from being too cutesy.

The key would be finding bedding that would incorporate at least three of the colors. Luckily, we found not one, but two great options pretty quickly: each of them incorporating three of the four colors. We took Maddie with us to help us narrow it down -- and of course, she loved them both. Nice to have options! Sister picked the one with ladybugs and flowers with pinks and greens and yellows, and it arrived as a surprise from Santa on Christmas morning. (The bonus was that it was a full bed-in-a-bag set, so it had the comforter (reversible, even!) and sham, along with the most adorable pink polka-dotted sheets and pillowcase ever. AND there was a collapsible pink laundry hamper with a flower "lid" as a matching accessory! How cute is that, I ask you?)

When we were there for Christmas, we broke out the paint color wheel and decided on wall colors. I narrowed down the pinks and purples and let Miss M pick her favorites of each; we settled on a pale pink for the walls, with a medium pink and medium purple and the mint green leftover from the ceiling as accent colors. (The yellow would all be coming in on the fabrics and furniture.)

color blocks in progressI'd also proposed a simple color block design for the walls, both because it's easy to execute and it's not too young, so it should grow with her for awhile. Update the bedding and change out some of the accent decorations, and it can still fit her well into grade school.

Sister and Guy did the work of getting the room cleared out the weekend before we were scheduled to come, along with getting the walls painted with the pale pink base color. I'd also asked Sister to get me detailed measurements for the room so I could figure out the room's layout. Or more precisely, so I could mock it up in Google Sketch up and try out furniture configurations.

You're laughing at me right now, aren't you? Mock me if you must, but aside from being super nerdy, it has the advantage of letting other people see what I picture in my mind.

So we arrived on a cold and wet Saturday with a moving truck full of furniture, armed with paint brushes and blue tape and ready to get down to business. We got all the color block areas masked and with the four of us painting, managed to knock the painting out that day. While we waited for paint to dry, we settled on the final room arrangement -- having the 3-D model of it made it easy for me to show them different configurations and the pros and cons of each.

color blocks finished!Part of the room makeover wasn't just to make it look pretty, but to make it work better for Miss M (and by extension, Sister and Guy) in terms of storage and space. They have a nice organizer for her toys but weren't using the closet because the bifold doors were too bothersome for Miss M to open so the organizer was just pushed up against the closet doors. They had a really nice bookcase, as well, and a dresser, but both were packed to the gills, so they clearly needed more.

I suggested removing the closet doors and using one pair of the curtains to cover it, which would be much easier (and prettier) for Miss M to access. Then we could put the toy organizer in the closet, along with plenty of room leftover for an inexpensive closet organizer system for more storage. I also incorporated a couple of large underbed storage drawers to move puzzles and games out of the bookcase but still keep them accessible. The desk could hold all of her art supplies (previously stored in the computer room and kitchen), the bookcase could hold more books and tchotchkes since it's taller than the one they were using, and the dresser has three huge drawers that could hold all of her clothes with room to spare.

I'd come up with an idea early on in my planning to turn the alcove in the bay window into a secret little nook for reading books and playing pretend and hiding out from mom and dad. Thanks to all the curtains I had, I could use the shorter pair for the windows themselves and the princess pair over the opening, since they swag low. I didn't say anything about it to Sister and Guy until we arrived to start painting because I had to be sure the curtains would be wide enough to cover the opening. They loved the concept so they were really excited once we got started hanging curtains.

I hadn't decided yet on cushions for the nook by the time we got started, figuring I could get some inexpensive throw pillows if I didn't come up with a better idea. But when we'd opened up the closet to see if the organizer would fit inside, I noticed two body pillows on the shelf inside and asked if I could use them. Sister was only too glad to put them to use, and we scored a great pair of inexpensive body pillow-sized cases with zippers at Fred Meyer. Instant cushions! (With washable covers!)

i know, right? how could we not have that rug???Also at Fred Meyer: the underbed storage drawers, a drawer organizer for the top desk drawer, an adjustable desk lamp in purple, a small white ceramic table lamp with plain white shade, inexpensive "jewel" earrings (figured I could poke holes in the lamp shade and bejewel it with star-shaped "gems"), and an impulse buy that was a must-have...a hot pink shag rug with silver sparkles. (When I showed Sister that it was both machine wash and machine dry, she agreed it was a must-have, as well.) Along with the paint and the truck rental for moving the furniture from our house to theirs, that was the entirety of the expense for redecorating the room.

Curtains hung, it was time to clear out all the tools and miscellaneous paint supplies so we could move in the furniture. By that point it was after midnight, so the plan was to get the furniture in place, the canopy up, then get some rest and finish the room in the morning.

But what kind of Fairy Godmother would I be if Miss M didn't wake to a room completely transformed? I couldn't very well have her get up in the morning and find her room partially put together, which none of the finishing details that actually pull it all together. We promised room fairy magic, by god, and there was going to be room fairy magic, dammit.

gem encrusted lamp, fit for a princessSo I sent Sal, Sister, and Guy to bed, and then I stayed up to finish the room. Organized and merchandised the bookcase, made the bed, hung pictures and decorations and small wooden shelves, created a reading nook, and just generally pulled it all together. (I bejeweled the lamp shade the next morning.)

Miss M was very good about not sneaking a peek in the morning before we were all up to see it with her. (And actually, I was more impressed that Sister didn't peek, since she was at least as excited as Miss M, if not moreso. But she said she feared my wrath if she did, so clearly I have her properly trained.)

Once we were all up, we traipsed down the hall together for the unveiling, urging Miss M to open the door and see what the room fairy had done to her room. She went in...and promptly shut the door behind her! Oh my god, that kid. Cracked us the hell up. She wanted to see it by herself first, dammit! We laughingly pleaded through the door for her to let us in so we could see, but she was having none of it. The room fairy came for her, not for us plebes.

Eventually, I was allowed to come in. She was just all grins and barely-contained excitement. We walked around the room to see all the "magic". "Aunt Bitty, it's my bed from your house!" she told me. "I know!" I said. "The room fairy came to my house and brought it down here so you could sleep in your bed all the time!" She showed me her desk, and all of her books in her new bookcase, and the dragonfly garland that used to hang over her bed. And then I showed her the nook, which she hadn't yet realized was there until I lifted the curtains a bit and helped her climb up. I'm betting there'll be many hours spent in that cozy little spot.

Finally everyone else was allowed in, and the looks on Sister's and Guy's faces were nearly as priceless as Miss M's reaction. I suspect Sister kinda wished it could be her room there for a minute. To be honest, I kinda wished the same thing.

see the full transformation

I love how the room turned out. I love that Miss M loves it. I love that Sister and Guy are happy with it, and that Sal is always game for these adventures in interior decorating with me, and that our Smiley family allows us to come into their house and slap paint on their walls and rearrange their furniture and turn it all into an episode from a TV design show.

But most of all, I love how much fun we had together doing this, and all the good memories we made that weekend, and that Miss M believes in Fairy Godmother magic, and basically, that we are an amazing and wonderful little family.

Monday
Jan232012

drive-by posting

I'd hoped to have the post for Miss M's room makeover up by now, but obviously haven't. I've sorted through all the pictures, just need to write it up -- hopefully I can get it done for tomorrow.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • beef stew (beef roast, tomatoes, potatoes, onion, carrots, celery, collard greens, garlic)
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrot sticks
  • almonds and sunflower seeds
Monday
Jan162012

despite needing 20,357 hours of sleep, i feel surprisingly good for a monday

It's because I (we) had a really terrific weekend. We spent it with our Smiley family, doing a wholesale makeover of the Fabulous Miss M's room. I'll have more about the makeover in a future post (hopefully tomorrow) once I've had a chance to organize all the pictures, but the basic summary is that we had an outstanding time together, one of the best family weekends ever.

Friday evening, Guy came up to help me get the moving truck we'd need for all the bedroom furniture before the rental place closed. After we dropped it off at home, I took him to the Lucky Lab for dinner, since we haven't taken them there yet and it's one of our regular haunts. And the reason it's one of their regular haunts is because their pizza is hands down the best. (Guy will quibble that it's not quite the best, and that some pizza place in Moose Jaw, Montana has the best pizza, but he is clearly cracked in the head.) Had a great time visiting and devouring pizza (and he reported that their beer was also terrific), then home to relax while we waited for Sal by playing a hundred thousand hands of Nerts, which I taught him how to play at Christmas.

Saturday morning, the guys got my old bedroom furniture that we were gifting to Miss M hauled up out of the basement, down the stairs of death to the truck, while I gathered up my various decorating supplies and tools, and by late morning, we were on our way. We spent the day working on her room (taping, painting, putting up curtains, moving in furniture), music cranked up and laughing ourselves sick while Miss M did a marvelous job of keeping herself occupied with Disney movies, puzzles, and coloring books in the middle of the floor. After a really long but productive and hilariously fun day, everyone headed to bed around 1 AM.

Everyone except me, that is. I stayed up while everyone else went to bed, because I wanted to finish the room and have it all ready for Miss M when she woke up. I finally dropped into bed around 4 AM, utterly exhausted but pleased with the finished room and excited for her to see it.

She loved it. LOVED. IT. She remembered my furniture from "her room" at our house (it used to be the guest room furniture, where she's slept during her visits since she was born, and she has always considered it her room because of it) and the little reading nook I created for her was a huge hit. The hot pink sparkly throw rug may have also caused a bit of excitement. And the lampshade dotted with star-shaped "gems".

Sister and Guy loved it, too, and thanks to all the storage we added and a few easy changes, they'll be able to contain more of the kid chaos, which should make their lives a little easier. And Miss M now has a room that more properly befits a little girl who loves pink, purple, dinosaurs, books, sea turtles, cooking, and princesses.

So even though today I'm sore and exhausted, I'm walking on pink and purple-colored sunshine, because seriously, after a weekend like that, how could you not?

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • rad nah (the rice noodles are underneath) with sesame seeds for garnish
  • green leaf lettuce, carrots, and sunflower seeds with a simple vinaigrette hidden under the lettuce
  • Braeburn apple slices
  • almonds
Friday
Jan132012

the kitchen ninjas strike again

The new ad for OCI is up on their site! KITCHEN NINJAS FTW!

This is the commercial Sal spent a Saturday at the school for a few weeks ago. A whole day of shooting and there are only two brief shots of him.... The appalling lack of Sal-ness aside, however, they did a really terrific job conveying all that's great and awesome about the school and it's unlike anything out there for culinary schools (::coughWesternCulinarycough::). It will pretty much make you want to sign up for classes. I mean who wouldn't want to be a kitchen ninja????

OCI "Rock Montage" Commercial from Actual Industries on Vimeo.

 

Tuesday
Jan102012

luckily, our idiocy wasn't fatal

Great news, everyone! Sal and I are no longer going to die in a tragic house fire! WE ARE NOW LEGIT RESPONSIBLE GROWN UPS YOU GUYS.

Our new state of non-dumbassitude is thanks to Sal, who spent some time Saturday and Sunday installing the nine(!) smoke detectors that have been sitting in a bag in our basement since before Christmas last year. You might not know it from the epic procrastination evidenced in such a fact, but I am extremely anxious about housefires, and particularly, a fire in my house. And given that we live in a very old house with wiring that marks every evolution of domestic electricity* since the early 20th century, I am understandably paranoid about our house erupting in a big ball of flame. NOT PARANOID ENOUGH TO ACTUALLY INSTALL SMOKE DETECTORS IN A TIMELY MANNER OR ANYTHING. Just paranoid enough to worry about it incessantly.

*Trufax: If we ever win the lottery, the first thing I'm doing is having the house totally rewired, top to bottom. Which will be difficult, since I don't actually play the lottery, but that is my plan for what to do with a big wad of cash. Well, and it may not be the first thing, because I would probably take a trip to Europe and then buy a bit of land on the coast to build my yurt, and then what would likely happen would be that while we were busy doing these other fun things first, our house actually would burn down from a fire started by the old wiring that we finally had the money to have replaced and that is what we would call irony.

We did have a couple of detectors that were already in the house when we moved in: one in the kitchen, one in the little landing area between the bedrooms, bathroom, and dining room. But then the one in the kitchen kept going off whenever we so much as breathed in its vicinity thanks to not having a vent system for the stove so we took that one down with vague promises to ourselves that we'd do something about it soon and then never did. And the one in the little hallway area -- which is probably the least helpful place for one, since it's basically so protected that the house will be a smoking ruin before any smoke would get to it to detect -- weremoved when we started redoing the guest room and library (the hallway connects them) so we could paint the ceiling and we, um, never got around to putting it back. BECAUSE WE ARE TOTES RESPONSIBLE LIKE THAT.

So now we have detectors on all three levels and in almost every room of the house. We even have two that have 10 year batteries! Because when we do finally stop being morons, we do that shit right.

lunch, pink natural lunch:

  • spicy meatsa balls
  • steamed broccoli
  • carrots
  • Pink Lady apple slices
  • raw pumpkin seeds
Thursday
Jan052012

first bento of 2012

Back to work, back to bento. It's strange how much I miss it when I'm on vacation, although I appreciate the break from doing them. I didn't pack one for Tuesday (first day back to work after 17(!) days off) and I really regreted it by the end of the day. I don't know why I'm always so surprised by how much it affects me.

lunch, deli club:

  • molded eggs (which looked better last night)
  • herb roasted turkey slices
  • peas as gap fillers (including underneath the eggs and turkey
  • raw pumpkin seeds
  • satsuma
Saturday
Dec312011

and we will eat like kings...

...damn hell ass kings.

AWWWW YEAH. It's time for the Annual Hall House LOTR Special Collectors' Extended Edition Marathon, in which we power through 14 or so hours of LOTR goodness to ring in the New Year, Eru bless us every one.

Preparations for the accompanying feast are underway, as you can plainly see. There are nine different cheeses, four meats, three different breads, and three kinds of crackers. And of course fruit and vegetables galore because we are all about healthy balance at Hall House. There are also a shitload of our goddamn glorious wings. Sir Not-Appearing-In-These-Pictures would be the sour cream chocolate chip cake currently baking in the oven and the BBQ meatballs that will be the main course of tomorrow's feast when we finish the marathon. (Yes, we break it up in two parts. We make our own rules.) This event is not for amateurs.

I think I hear Sal in there sneaking wings so I'll cut short the end-of-year wishes to just say love, health, and happiness, everyone, and may 2012 be a terrific year for us all.

Saturday
Dec312011

ending the year on a hopeful note

The last day of the year, when we're all looking ahead to the next, seems like a good time to post something hopeful and heartwarming. Sure, it's older than dirt in internet years, but the good stuff doesn't have an expiration date.

And for good measure, here, have another:

 

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you.

-- Gaelic blessing

Friday
Dec302011

Late lunch in Paris

Okay, not literally Paris. But pretty close, wouldn't you agree? Late lunch at Petite Provence after sleeping in, heading to Omsi for the BodyWorks exhibit (and then skipping it for another time because of the crowds), then a bit of shopping for Sally at River City Bicycles for some new bike gear. Collage is across the street so I suspect that will be our next stop, but not before we indulge in a pastry (or three)!

Wednesday
Dec282011

vacation thus far

Sal @ Lovejoy Bakery, contemplating life, love, and the intricacies of laminated doughsOur WinterFest Vacation crossed the halfway mark a few days ago, which means we have successfully developed amnesia about all things work-related and managed to cram in a buttload of seriously awesome fun in the last week and a half or so: four days at the coast, WITH the cats, and no one ended up in handcuffs or a morgue; homemade gifts completed on time and delivered intact, and eventually gifted successfully; Smiley-Hall Christmas 2012 celebrated in the usual grand and entertaining style, with said homemade gifts exchanged during the festivities; a day of utter slothfulness that involved reading in the library with a cat on each lap and staying in our pajamas all day; full seasons of Dexter, Parks & Rec, and Sherlock (re)watched; and today, a Day of Portland that included Powell's and two(!) bakeries. And there are still four days left!

Powell's a complete madhouse today, by the way. We avoid anything that even hints of shopping in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, but apparently, a mid-week afternoon three days afterward is still a time to be wary. Holy buckets.

I did, however, come out of there with two new bento boxes, of all things. The "Syrup O'Clock" line is new to me, but clearly adorable. They had locking two tiers that went with each of these designs, as well as a nesting set of square boxes for each, but I managed to resist. I do have some willpower, you know.

These are each 240 mL, which will make them perfect for my "Greek yogurt mixed with fruit" mornings. (The 300 mL sidecars are too large for a portion of yogurt and the 100 mL mini sidecars are too small. These are, therefore, the Goldilocks of my bento box collection.

Sunday
Dec182011

and then we said "open", and everyone went bananas

Whew! We have officially survived the week of All The Things and are now on Day 2 of our Winterfest Vacation, aka Two Glorious Weeks (And A Few Days) Of Not Working Dammit.

The week of crazydom was not without its fun, however. Friday was the long-awaited holiday party at my office, and you will perhaps be a little surprised that a company party could be described as "long-awaited", and in some years past, I would agree with you, but this year...oh this year, I have a story to tell.

Way back in August, the Executive Team decided to "go big" for the end of the year party in recognition of everyone's hard work. We upped the party planning committee's budget for food, drinks, and decorations. We also decided to do swag bags, since our company has never really had products with our name and logo on them before. The swag bags would include a reusable shopping bag, a really nice insulated steel coffee tumbler, an insulated steel 1 liter thermos, chocolate bars with our logo imprinted, and polo-style shirts with our logo embroidered.

But that was only the start.

We usually have a raffle drawing every year for prizes (usually gift cards), but we wanted the prizes to be really big this year and for everyone to go home with something great. We couldn't send everyone home with a big screen tv or anything, but we could make the raffle prizes pretty spectacular and then surprise everyone who didn't win with something awesome, too. And when I say "spectacular", I mean it: 2 iPod Touches, an XBox Kinect (w/an NCAA Football game and the Michael Jackson Experience game), 2 Kindle Fires, 2 16x zoom cameras, an HP laptop, an iPad, 2 Kitchenaid Professional stand mixers, and a 50" plasma screen TV. For the remainder, the committee was given a list for shopping for the surprise gifts so they would know what we meant when we said "awesome": cameras, iPod nanos, Garmins, Kindle Touches, Wiis, Keurig coffee makers, cookware sets, and a food processor. (The Executive Team was in charge of the big gifts, so that even the committee didn't know what they were.)

So the committee has been on a series of shopping sprees for everything on their list for the last two months, increasingly running out of room as our storage unit. Space became even more of a problem for the raffle items, since we couldn't even let the committee members see those. At the end of the Executive Retreat on Tuesday, we assembled all the swag bags, then had to cram them all amongst our cars' trunks. But it was coming together and we were downright gleeful about what was about to come at the end of the week.

The committee worked their tails off all week getting the conference room decorated for the party (last year was the first time we did it at the office, and they made it look really terrific; this year, they outdid themselves). Wednesday, the committee and the Executive Team wrapped the surprise gifts, hiding things inside other boxes so nothing could be guessed. We stacked them all up along the far wall of the conference room, and I'm pretty sure that when everyone filed in at the start of the party, they assumed the prettily-wrapped stack of boxes were just for decoration to hide the IT station that runs the projector and sound system in the conference room. Little did they know....

The raffle gifts were set up on tables at the front but covered with cloths when everyone came in, with the swag bags all lined up underneath the tables. Once everyone was seated, we welcomed them to the party, took care of housekeeping (party schedule, turn off cell phones, etc.), then showed them the contents of the swag bag that they would be getting at the end of the party. We then announced how the raffle would work -- everyone got a ticket, which they would place in a bag in front of whatever item they wanted to try to win, and we would draw from that bag for that item.

And then the fun began. We slowly revealed each item. The iPod Touches were first and got a surprised gasp, and it just kept escalating. By the time we got to the iPad, the room was a constant buzz, and when we showed the TV, everyone flipped out.

After everyone had a chance to mingle and put in their tickets, it was time to eat, followed by a fun Mad Libs style game at each table. And then it was time for the main event.

The raffle items were a huge, huge hit. As terrific as the raffle was, however, the best was yet to come. "But wait! There's more!" we said. Pointing to the pile of boxes in the back that most everyone assumed were just for show, we told them that the they were in fact not for show, and that we would draw all the tickets of those who hadn't won, and when their name was called, to go pick one out of the pile. There were only two rules: don't shake any of the boxes, and don't open them until we tell you to.

Getting through the remainder of the names took awhile, and I think everyone assumed that whatever was in the boxes would be something okay, but nothing nearly as great as the raffle items. Maybe another swag item, or a set of knives, something like that. Nonetheless, everyone was still having fun.

Once everyone had their items, we gave them the go to open their boxes, and the next two minutes were the best two minutes of chaos pretty much ever. You know what it's like when kids are allowed to just go berzerk on Christmas morning and open packages all at once, and it's just a flurry of patterned paper and exclamations and noise and excitement? Now imagine that in a room full of adults who weren't expecting it at all, and who had enjoyed a glass (or two) of wine and beer, and you will have an inkling of what it was like for that two minutes.

It didn't matter that they weren't all iPads or stand mixers. They were nice gifts that no one was expecting and in many cases, wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves but really wanted. We encouraged people to trade if they got something that wasn't as useful, and by the time everyone left, I think they all ended up with something they were glad for. I tried to talk to as many as I could to find out if they had fun and to hear their individual story about whatever gift they got. For several, it was going to make a difference for an otherwise tough holiday -- a Wii for kids who wanted one but wouldn't have gotten one otherwise, or an avid reader who was struggling with sight issues but couldn't justify a Kindle, or a new set of cookpans to replace the mismatched set that were older than I am. A laptop that would make it possible to work from home, an iPod nano for someone who wanted but didn't own an iAnything (exact quote), a camera for someone who could now take nice pictures of the new grandbaby.

There's nothing I love more than giving gifts, except perhaps giving them to someone who really needed that little boost of magic and hope and joy. I've been blessed with some really wonderful gifts in my life, but nothing is ever quite as fulfilling as being able to do that for someone else. And Friday afternoon was some of the most fun I've had in quite some time.

Best. Company Party. Ever.

 

As you can imagine, the week was so busy that I'm behind on posting bentos, so there's some catching up to be done here:

Tuesday's lunch, Paris slimline:

  • shrimp sauteed with garlic, toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • kale sauteed with garlic and caramelized onions (wow, lots of garlic today)
  • brown rice
  • sunflower seeds
  • carrot sticks and steamed broccoli
  • satsuma sections

Wednesday's lunch, Lunchbot Duo:

  • boiled egg,
  • shrimp sauteed with garlic, toasted sesame seeds for garnish
  • garlic butter dipping sauce in the little cup
  • kale sauteed with garlic and caramelized onions
  • brown rice underneath everything
  • apple slices
  • carrots and celery
  • sunflower seeds

Thursday's lunch, Fit 'n Fresh:

  • romaine lettuce
  • boiled egg
  • carrots, celery, radishes
  • apple slices, mandarin
  • sesame seeds
Monday
Dec122011

seen on a local store sign: mace-free holiday shopping

It's a whirlwind here at Hall House while we power through these last days before our (GLORIOUS) winter vacation begins. The culprits: work, as always, and our usual hectic schedule, piled on with extra-curricular activities. Last weekend, for example, Sal was at the school shooting their new commercial, yet more evidence that I am right and he will be a celebrity chef someday. Right? He would totally blow all those other posers out of the water. Not that he would ever seek the limelight, of course, but with that laugh and that face and that gift for both baking and teaching, the limelight seems to find him regardless.

I've been recovering from an unfortunate tumble down some stairs, which has been a bit of a setback in getting done what needs to get done, but I haven't let it slow me down much. Which is a good thing, because there wasn't much room in our jam-packed schedule for any slowing down. In addition to powering through to vacation, and some important activities, there is also readying ourselves for the Smiley-Hall Family Christmas, an epic annual event that is not for amateurs.

Although we don't technically participate in holiday gift-giving, we do have a gift-giving responsibility as part of the Smiley-Hall Family Christmas. To wit: handmade gifts and stocking stuffers all around. And of course presents for the Fabulous Miss M, because obviously. And as a family, we are seriously badass at the homemade gift thing.

Which meant venturing forth this weekend into the bustling masses at the exact time of year we generally try to avoid them. Thankfully, the local shops -- while bustling -- weren't so teeming with humanity that we were tempted to contemplate homicide. Like the shopping ninjas that we are, we managed to get all of Miss M's gifts*, supplies that we didn't already have on hand for the various planned homemade gifts, stocking stuffers, AND groceries for a kick-ass spaghetti and meatballs dinner Saturday night.

*(Sadly, the WAY AWESOME Grammy and Nonna's Toys, where we have gotten every birthday and Christmas gift for Miss M since she was born, will be closing after the first of the year so that Grammy and Nonna can move nearer to their grandkids. If anyone's interested in taking over a really successful and beloved neighborhood toy store, I'm sure they'd love to hear from you...)

Yesterday was spent in the kitchen, each of us working on some of our homemade gifts. There seriously must be some kind of productivity drug in our water recently, because we are crossing things off our to do lists at a ridiculous pace. NOT COMPLAINING BY THE WAY. This week is going to be insanely challenging due to everything ever landing on this one week on the calendar (NO SERIOUSLY I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING), but if we can actually survive to the end of the week, then it's easy peasy for the rest of 2011.

lunch, pink Natural Lunch:

  • hard boiled eggs
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • satsuma
  • sunflower seeds

lunch (from last Tuesday), Fit 'n Fresh:

  • red and green leaf lettuce
  • beets, carrots, celery, radishes
  • egg, cashews, apple slices
  • simple vinaigrette of oil and apple balsamic on the side