Entries in responsibility is for suckers (28)


one item missing from the travel checklist

This is one of those "This will be a funny story someday" moments:

Sal has a conference in Mt. Vernon for a few days so I've tagged along. We've made this trip many times and we like the area so it's a fun little free getaway.

After an almost 6 hour drive thanks to Seattle's demonic traffic, we've arrived safely to a hotel room that's decent and quiet and are thinking about where we're going to eat. Start unloading the car, he gets the luggage cart loaded up, I ask, "Where's the suitcase?"

I don't think I've ever ever ever seen that expression on his face before.

No suitcase. Didn't get loaded in the car. I didn't load it, he didn't load it. No pajamas, underwear, change of clothes, toiletries, curling iron, brush, glasses, walking shoes, jackets. We did, however, remember the laptops and the lunch cooler full of homemade cookies and brownies, so we've got what we need to survive, at least.

We're now off to find some basic clothes and toiletries. And then dinner.


the madness has officially begun

For those just tuning in, after months (and months and months) of planning and financial wrangling, our massive series of home improvement projects are now underway. The good news is that we're going to be getting it all over with in one fell, relatively short, swoop. The bad news is that we might possibly be crazy. Because our plan involves accomplishing almost all of the following in 2 weeks:

  • new roof and gutters
  • repairing dry rot and water intrusion damage on the front facia and west gable/porch overhang
  • replacing all the plumbing (including installing shutoff valves, which I never realized how much I would appreciate in my previous life as a non-homeowner)
  • new furnace and thermostat
  • new heat pump to replace the decrepit and long-overdue-for-replacement water heater (no seriously, we have pushed our luck beyond belief with this water heater -- it was past its life when we moved in...12 years ago)
  • bathroom renovation, including: refinishing the original cast iron clawfoot tub; tearing out the tile floor and replacing with a new tile floor; installing wainscoting with trim and new baseboards; stripping paint from trim, window frame, both cupboards, and all drawers/doors; painting walls, cupboards, trim, ceiling; installing bathroom ventilation; installing a clawfoot shower kit; replacing the sink with a new pedestal sink & fixtures; replacing the light fixture; replacing window and cabinet hardware
  • replacing the attic dormer window (a 7 foot, 3 unit casement window) with a custom wood frame window
  • 12(!) Indow Windows for the main floor and attic (to make our original, single pane windows more energy efficient)
  • energy efficiency improvements -- air sealing, duct sealing, rim joist insulation, attic insulation, wall insulation, floor insulation

Today was actually Day 4 of this whacked out home improvement schedule of ours. The whole rolling snowball of insanity actually began last Wednesday -- which, I will note, was also my birthday -- with the removal of the tub. As mentioned above, it's the original cast iron clawfoot tub, over 100 years old and weighing about the same as a dumptruck. Much of its porcelain finish has worn off over the decades so we're having it refinished, which means it has to be physically relocated to the refinishers' shop in Vancouver.

The plumbers needed the tub out of the way before they could begin work, and the plumbing work needed to be done before the bathroom contractor could do their renovations, and suddenly we're in that song about the old woman who swallowed a fly. The kicker is that while the tub refinishers would pick up the tub, they would only pick it up from the street -- something about "liability" and "potential damage" and "holy crap all those stairs are you crazy, lady". Moving a tub that weighs a gazillion tons from the bathroom to the street is also not in the plumbers' wheelhouse, which meant we needed to hire movers -- because what's another contractor in a cast of thousands, really? -- to move it from the bathroom to the street. (It ended up being easier to just have the movers take the tub to the refinishers.)

Complicating all of that was the plumbing, which, like the tub, was also over 100 years old and thus had no shut off valves anywhere but at the main. So removing the tub meant turning off the water to the house until the plumbers could install shutoffs as part of the rest of the plumbing replacement, which is also why we had to time it closely with the plumbers' arrival, since we kind of, you know, need running water.

So the tub came out on schedule, and the plumbers worked their magic in two days, also on schedule. Next up on the schedule: the simultaneous arrival of the bathroom and roofing contractors today, who have this week to do their work so that the furnace, hot water heater, window replacement, Indow windows, and energy efficiency improvements can all be done next week. Also arriving today: 2+ inches of rain, finally ending months of abnormally dry weather.

Not all of the work will be done by the end of next week, unfortunately. The tub won't be back from the refinishers until mid-March, nor will the shower kit, sink, and fixtures. So what are arguably the most crucial and personally impacting portion of this whole complicated plan -- the tub/shower and toilet -- will also take the longest to be restored to normal.

The loss of our bathroom means using The Bathroom That Shall Not Be Named for toilet needs, which has the extra super duper bonus of being in the Totally Not Creepy basement. (As for bathing needs for 4 weeks, well, that's a whole other story.) This was planned insanity, to be sure, and we knew the loss of our bathroom was going to be a hardship. Somewhat less planned was that everything would get underway on my birthday, that it would coincide with a visit from The Albino and Family, or that it would come on the heels of a pretty spectacular winter storm that wreaked havoc with everyone's schedules. Completely not planned and really unnecessarily sucktacular was both of us getting struck with the flu riiiight as everything got underway, because apparently we stole Karma's lunch money in a previous life. Which meant spending the weekend that we were planning to do a lot of preparation for everything to kick into high gear instead doing a lot of sleeping and feeling generally miserable, trekking up and down two flights of stairs to go to the bathroom, and taking about four times longer than usual to empty the bathroom in preparation for the renovation.

But Karma's personal vendetta and flu obstacle notwithstanding, we were ready and waiting for the contractors bright and early this morning. It worked out that I had the day off as a work holiday, which was fortunate for coordination purposes, if not exactly relaxing when all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head. I had to stay out of everyone's way so I spent the day in the kitchen with the kitties while a bunch of guys ripped our roof off and another pair of guys ripped out the floor of our bathroom. And in my NyQuil induced haze, I sometimes couldn't tell the difference between all the hammering and the pounding inside my skull.

The area around our house looks like the aftermath of a tornado, the front porch is overflowing with power tools and orange power cords, the toilet is in the library, my desk is functioning as a temporary vanity/medicine cabinet, and our toothbrushes are now being stored in the kitchen. But the roofing crew managed to get three layers of old roofs off in the midst of a downpour without once springing a leak, the bathroom crew laid all the tile before they left for the day, and by the end of the week, we'll have more than half of that list up there crossed off.

So, onward.


dear internet: i've missed you

Sweet holy Batman, we have internet again!

We've been without internet since an outage on Wednesday morning that subsequently scrambled our modem and wireless router. Wednesday was bad news bears from start to finish, really -- internet down on a work-from-home day, news that the neighbor's insurance company was quibbling about paying for the damage to our yard from the neighbor's fence*, our first mortgage payment since the refinance not getting paid electronically as scheduled (and thus late), and bumping up against the data limit on our phones due to the lingering effects of being without computers for weeks on end. And to top it all of, I was fighting off some kind of bug thing, secretly worried that it was the flu.

*(Not the neighbor's fault. She argued on our behalf, and wants to make things right; it's not her fault her insurance is being a shithead.)

Wednesday was primarily lost to dealing with Comcast's phone tree hell and "technical support". For future reference, trying to get your internet up and running while simultaneously juggling your job duties, all while using only your smart phone AND checking your data usage every 20 minutes to verify that you haven't gone over your alloted amount? Shortcut to a panic attack.

The bug got the best of me yesterday, after a night of not-good sleep, and resulted in yet more lost time for some really pressing work stuff, not to mention cancelling my evening plans. And still no internet, but I didn't have the energy for eating, let alone for arguing with the internet provider about IP addresses and modem serial numbers. Never mind poor Sal, who had spent his entire morning on the phone trying to get it fixed while also trying to get all of his final grading done for the last day of class for this term.

But, as I said, hallelujah, we have internet again. It took three more hours of phone calls this morning with five different technicians at two different companies, along with some petty extortion – excuse me, “short term warranty fee” – from the last company in order to get them to fix the router remotely. I guess I should be glad it didn't involve a ritual sacrifice or something. Of course, our neighbor’s back fence is still laying across the back bed of our yard, her insurance company is now adamant that they don’t have to pay for the damage to our side, and that flu/cold bug is digging in deep just in time for the 3 day weekend Sal and I had planned.

But by god, at least we have internet.


really, universe? srsly

This is your one and only notice, 2014.


my unintentional year in review

It's both coincidental and not that the last post on this here website (7(!) months ago) was a reflection about how blessed we are. It would've been a good stand-in for the obligatory end-of-the-old-start-of-the-new year post, and I suppose still is, since everything I wrote about then is still true. But on the whole, 2013 was a hard year, and by the end, I wanted nothing more than to see it in my rearview mirror. Hence the dearth of posting.

I've had a lot to share. I have drafts of posts I never got the time to finish, loads and loads of pictures to upload, bentos pics to update, and of course Hall House projects to finish writing about. But things were busy, like they always are, and as the amount of things to post about built up, it started to become A Thing.

And then November happened. Well technically, the end of October to the end of November, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I was apprehensive about 2013 from the beginning, and as soon as I returned to work from the holidays, found out I had good reason to be.  From the first day back, we were faced with some big challenges at the office that ended up taking months to resolve, a friend received terrible news, and it was looking increasingly likely that the plans I'd made for my milestone birthday would have to be cancelled. By the end of the first month, I had fired January altogether and put 2013 on notice.

at Manzanita, looking toward Neahkahnie MountainThankfully, my birthday plans didn't have to be cancelled, after all. I celebrated my 40th in several ways, with family and with Sal and with my own quiet little sojourn. And later, with the Albino, whose birthday is just a month after mine, and our mutual friend, Twinklebugs. A year in the making, we celebrated the entry into our fifth decade with a Girls' Weekend in Manzanita. We rented a house on the beach and when we weren't just staring out the windows, we were out on the sand and shopping and eating ridiculously good food and staying up very late talking.

the rapiers are the prettiest, but the longswords are the most funSigns continued that 2013 might not be so bad after all. In April, I attended the first ever Swords for Scribes workshop put on by my friend Kim and her partner. I got to handle swords and machetes and rapiers, oh my, and practice three different sequences and learn all the awesomely gruesome physics of blades in battle. We then vanquished a melon army and watched a live duelling session between people who know what they're doing. I also learned that I am madly in love with the two-handed long sword.

Lake Quinault LodgeOur summer technically kicked off in May, when we spent a long weekend at Lake Quinault Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula, which I planned to post about in yet another brilliantly-written-only-in my-head post. We lucked out with temps in the 80s all weekend and a cabin room with an unparalleled view. We dangled our feet in the water and snapped pics of an otter swimming around the dock and climbed the roots of an ancient Sitka spruce. We took an epic 5 mile trail hike, up ravines, past waterfalls, and through a wetland.

My mom and grandmother came out for a visit for five days at the end of May, and we ran them (gently) ragged, to rose gardens and the forestry museum, Powell's and a plant nursery. We enjoyed dinner at the OCI restaurant so Grandmother could eat the food Sal teaches his students to make, and we enjoyed dinner at our own humble kitchen so Grandmother could eat the food Sal masterfully creates. We made a trip down to my office, so she could see where I work at my "very grownup job". And we spent a significant time doing my Grandmother's favorite thing of all: Visiting. (My family doesn't just talk. We visit, which is talking taken to the level of an Olympic sport, because my family are world-class caliber visitors.) We started a list of the things we'll do during her next visit.

summer vacation in OceansideAt the end of June, we took our summer vacation to Oceanside and enjoyed a nice bit of time off together. We celebrated our 17th anniversary in mid-July with a driveabout, something we hadn't done in a long time. Our destination? The Arctic Circle in Prineville so we could have a Bounty Burger and fry sauce like the ones we had at the Arctic Circle in our hometown back in the day.

Crooked River Canyon, looking eerily similar to our Wyoming homeOur driveabout led us to the Crooked River Canyon and we had the best, best day of adventure, windows rolled down and singing to our favorite road music at the top of our lungs and making it to a gas station juuuuuust in time on the way home. We capped off our wonderful day with a romantic dinner of takeout pizza by candlelight and talking until late into the night, hands held and maybe tears of gratitude a time or two.

it's been more than 13 years since we'd last had a Taco Johns softshell, and it tasted just like we remembered(We made a similar nostalgic fast food daytrip on Labor Day weekend, this time to TriCities, which we'd never been to before but happens to be the nearest location of a Taco John's. Because sometimes, you just gotta drive three and a half hours for six pack and a pound.)

rain, rain, glorious rainThe beautiful weather that started in May continued almost unbroken through the first half of September, which is how I found out there really is such a thing as Summer SAD and wow, do I have every single symptom. If there ever was any doubt that the PNW is my homeland, this summer cleared that up definitively. I actually like summer okay, and Oregon summers are pleasant and mild for the most part. But I do battle insomnia and loss of appetite when the weather turns warmer and this year, they came with a low burn anxiety that had me agitated and restless by mid-August. But the rains finally came in mid-September and we crossed into blessedly cool and wonderful autumn at last. It took a few weeks, but I started to feel like my old self again.

Really, 2013 could've been an okay year, my struggles with the summer notwithstanding. But there had been one particular shadow casting a long silhouette across everything all year, and in the back of my mind, I knew something very hard was coming.

Back in January amidst all the work stuff, my dear friend and colleague and mentor, Geri, received terrible health news. The kind of news that measures time in weeks and not years. The kind of news that brings everything else to a stop. Two months, they said. Maybe three.

She leaped into a battle for more time. Not time for the sake of it, nor time increasingly occupied by specialists and last-ditch treatments. She was determined to have good, quality, make-the-most-of-it, leave-no-regrets time. And warrior that she was, she wrested eight extra months of time from that initial diagnosis and in true Geri fashion, she packed a whole lot of living into it.

I was one of many incredibly fortunate beneficiaries of that extra time so fiercely fought for. We met for lunch regularly and I visited her at home when treatments left her tired. We texted all the time. We played epic rounds of Word Feud and Draw Something until well past either of our bed times. She regaled me with tales of a life well-lived, of a fearless woman who blazed trails and kicked asses left, right, and center while wearing very fashionable footwear. I showed her whatever artwork I'd recently finished and told her all my funniest stories and caught her up on the latest goings on at the office. I got to visit with her and laugh with her and hug her and hold her hand. I got to make sure she knew, every time, how important she was to me.

Her partner very kindly notified me the morning she died, and my colleagues very kindly shouldered the responsibility of figuring out how best to notify our staff, and my husband very kindly asked me what did I need. It was a pretty fall day, season of my heart, all blue sky and autumn colors ablaze in technicolor intensity, the kind of day that's so brilliant your soul feels too small to contain it all, and as I sat looking out our kitchen window, I knew it was a day to be outside, breathing that air and digging in the earth, connecting to life in a profoundly simple way.

the lilac my mom bought for my new homeIt's a tradition in my family to plant something to mark events and occasions and to remember those we love. A lilac for a mother's day, perhaps, maybe a pretty clematis for a birthday. A favorite rose bush to mark a great grandmother's passing, a silver leafed tree to mark a daughter's graduation, a willow for a significant anniversary. Geri was a gardener -- she would appreciate such a tradition. A tree would honor her well.

At the nursery, as we wandered among maples and oaks and birch and ash, I thought a lot about her, touching each trunk -- was this Geri's tree? This one? Maples are my favorite, but the birches kept drawing our attention. The birch is a symbol of renewal and strength, the first to leaf when spring hasn't yet taken firm hold, quick to repopulate after the ravages of fire. Resilient in times of adversity, spreading beauty and comfort where they're most needed, a symbol of hope and a reminder that the dark days will brighten. Yes, that was Geri.

Geri's treeWe decided on a birch variety called 'royal frost', which has red and burgundy leaves in spring and summer, turning gold in fall, and striking salmon-colored bark until it matures. We made a prominent place for it in our back yard near the stump of the old apple tree we had to take down last year, tucked in among ferns and bleeding hearts and snowberries and heuchera. That pretty salmon bark stood out beautifully, the last few leaves burning dark burgundy against the late October sky. Damp dark earth, sharp scented bark mulch, a hummingbird hovering nearby as if to oversee our informal little ritual.

The serenity of that day became a touchpoint of calm in the weeks that followed. There was the office remodel that became both a logistical and scheduling headache, the abrupt demise of my laptop a week before my clients' websites needed their monthly updates, the scramble to get the house ready for an appraisal for a refinance that moved faster than expected. There was my granddad in the hospital, and a week later, my dad. My granddad's surgery went well, thankfully. Dad's surgery did, too, but there were complications and days of worry and frequent check-ins, waiting to hear if everything was going to be okay.

There was Geri's memorial. There were the hard days that followed.

There was a health scare for Smaug that saw us at Dove Lewis (emergency veterinary hospital) at 1 AM on a Monday night, where we waited for nearly five hours through a series of tests and scans, ending in inconclusive results and us returning home long enough for an hour nap before our regular vet opened for more tests.

There was me forgetting the disk with the scans from the hospital in the rush to get out the door, which meant Sal had to bring them to me instead of getting a couple of hours sleep before work, and all of that complicated by a financial snafu that threatened to derail the refinance, which Sal heroically straightened out while we waited for the vet. Afterward, there was a mad dash to the office for a meeting, still in my clothes from the night before and barely able to keep my eyes open. There was a text from Sal when I got out of my meeting that his laptop stopped working because of course it had.

the day Smaug returned from her ordeal at the hospital and the vetSmaug's recovered, thankfully, from what turned out to be an e.coli infection. But she and Hobbes will be 18 in a few months, and she doesn't bounce back like she used to. They've been slowing down a bit this last year, but she seems to be aging quicker since this last incident. I have a feeling that this was probably our last Christmas with her, and as close as she and Hobbes are, wouldn't be surprised if he follows her soon after. They both seem okay, but something seems to have changed, and I feel like she's giving us little signs to prepare ourselves. Maybe for months, maybe for longer. Maybe not.


So we make extra extra sure to enjoy our time with them each day, and continue to be grateful for the many years of joy and immeasurable love they have brought into our lives. We will let them go gracefully and painlessly when their time comes, whenever it does. I don't know how I will face those days, or a home without their delightfully demented and crazed little selves. This is the price we pay for love.

But if the month of November was heavy with grief, it was not unrelenting. ProcrastiGirl got engaged and her obvious happiness is an infectious sort of joy. The appraisal exceeded our hopes, the refinance closed successfully, and we'll be able to start some long overdue projects soon. The laptops were replaced (after a not insignificant amount of sturm und drang, but compared to everything else, it's hardly worth a mention), and I was fortunate enough to borrow one from work in the meantime, managing through two months of client website updates without a hitch despite the disarray of our technology while we waited for our new laptops. Family and friends provided support and encouragement throughout the chaos. We squeezed in time for little diversions to relieve the stress. We enjoyed our annual Hall-Smiley Thanksgiving Extravaganza of laughter and fun and food and love.

And even after she was gone, Geri was still working her special magic. It was thanks in part to her that reconciliation came from an unexpected quarter, renewing a lost relationship. That loss was an old wound, deep, but long since moved past. But she healed it just the same, as if to remind me that she's still got her eye on me. On all of us. That was the kind of person she was, to have an impact on all the lives that surrounded hers. Renewal and strength, spreading beauty and comfort where they're most needed. Yes indeed, that's Geri.

Christmas Eve fogHeading into December, I think 2013 decided we'd had enough. December came with spectacular bouts of fog and downright frigid temperatures, conjuring something akin to the winters we grew up with -- as close as you can get in the PNW, anyway --which it made it feel more festive somehow. We had some much-needed time off together, in which we baked cookies and listened to Christmas music and watched every single one of our Christmas movies. A few days before Christmas, we dressed up for a nice night out -- dinner at Veritable Quandary followed by the tree all lit up at Pioneer Courthouse Square and enjoying being out and about in our city all dressed up for the holiday. We went to all the movies we wanted to see and took walks through the neighborhood and brewed beer and spent time in the studio making glorious artistic messes.

winter vacation in OceansideBetween Christmas and New Years', we made our winter pilgrimage to Oceanside, enjoying unusually warm days, a bit of sunshine, and the sounds of the waves soothing us to sleep at night. Sal found four intact sand dollars, the first time we've ever found one intact, let alone four, and that seems like a good omen. And we ended the year the same way we started it, with our Smiley family and all the little traditions we've created together for the last day and the first.

That's by no means all of our highlights -- nor all of our lowlights -- of the complicated year we've just put behind us, but they're the parts I wanted to share here, to memorialize. I won't remember 2013 fondly, but I do want to remember that so many good memories happened this year, too, and maybe 2013 was a lesson in taking comfort in those things amidst the difficult ones. To remember the symbolism of Geri's tree: of renewal and strength, spreading beauty and comfort where they're most needed.




official memos

Dear January,

You are officially fired from 2013. Please collect your things and turn in your keys, HR will have your final paycheck.



Dear 2013,

You have not gotten off to a good start with me. As you'll recall, I had some reservations about you before you even started, so it's in your best interest to try to gain my favor. You don't want to follow in 2012's footsteps -- that path doesn't end well for anyone. So step up your game, 2013, and consider yourself on notice.



say hello, wave goodbye

Goodbye, 2012. You weren't my worst year ever, but I'm not sorry to see you go. You weren't that deadbeat 2008 crashing on my couch and playing Halo all day in your underwear, but you didn't do much to distinguish yourself, either. Not that you all have to be like 2006 and 2007 and being a mixed bag isn't necessarily a strike against you. But you started out a better friend than you ended up being and the more I got to know you, the less I liked you. Plus, you were kind of bitchy-nice. At least 2009 had the decency to just punch me right in the face instead of this passive-aggressive bullshit.

As for you, 2013, your reputation precedes you and it is not reassuring. Turmoil, disruption, chaos...those are generally the characteristics of a toxic personality that I could not wait to be rid of. But maybe all those rumors about you are mistaken. I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, but don't push me, 2013. Ask 2003 and 2004 what happened when they ganged up on me. If you can find them.

Of course, you're bringing me the big four-oh right off the bat. That's a gift I have mixed feelings about, though not for the reasons you might assume. But I'll keep an open mind and see what you bring me. You might be one of those challenging friends that's hard to get to know, but one worth having just the same.


the gerbils have gone on strike

<-- So that's pretty much been my life in the two weeks since I first started writing this post, except without the adorableness. The gerbils who make my computer go are way meaner and far less eager to help than kittens.

The good thing is that my problem (hard drive failure in my laptop) happened in slow motion, which gave me time while I waited for a new drive to get here to double and triple check my backups, make a list of programs I'd need to reinstall, copy critical files to a flash drive so I could use other computers (i.e., Sal's) while mine was down, and all the other things that make starting over much easier. I'm the most prepared I think I've ever been for an imminent hardware crash.

But oh, how much it sucks nonetheless. Even though I knew it was coming and had time to prepare, and have a second computer at my disposal and a smartphone to keep me connected to email, just the thought of the hours of reinstalling the OS and software, swapping out disks through endless reboots, the inevitable glitches and unexpected errors, etc. etc. etc. made my stomach churn, nevermind actually having to suffer through all that. Pile on the fact that it requires hours I really, really don't have right now, that I was up against a deadline for getting everything up and running again due to work and my website business, and most importantly, my book was being threatened in whatever minuscule way...well, let's just say I have morphed into a female Bruce Banner, on the verge of hulking out at any moment.

When you're tech savvy, I think people assume that these kinds of things don't faze you. But I can tell you that when you're trying to resurrect what is essentially your day-to-day life in a fancy metal box and you're only a blue screen of death away from utter devastation, you're just as liable to commit ritual seppuku as a less tech savvy person. You'll probably just do it in a really geeky way.

Anyway, I'm still here, I've successfully avoided hulksmashing anything (yet), and I seem to be reaping the benefits of all that preparedness, since the transition has been relatively smooth thus far. (With the exception of about 30 heart-stopping minutes very late Monday night, when I thought I had accidentally overwritten my backup. Sal happened to call in the middle of my building freakout to tell me he was on his way home, and I'm pretty sure nothing I said was coherent, but I don't know for certain because I've blacked it all out.)

Since I had a post mostly written before my laptop started bidding adieu to this mortal coil, I'll just quote it below. More for me than for you, if only to remind myself that we had a life before the gerbils went on strike, and we will again soon. (Also, I won't try to post makeup listings of my bentos in that time, but you can see them all here.)

(post originally written on August 14th, 2012)

Sal did the Bridge Pedal Sunday, riding his bike on a route that crossed all 10 city bridges. It's about 35 miles altogether, plus the 18 miles he rode to and from the race start/finish. Whew! We met up for lunch and drinks when he was finished, which is proof that I'm way smarter, since I skipped right to the good part with none of that silly bike-riding nonsense.

Sunday was officially hot enough that we set up the bed on the back porch and have been sleeping out there since. It's supposed to be even hotter later this week, so we're going to be out there for a week or more. [ETA: And so we did, for a full week, and it was glorious.]

Getting to sleep outside is pretty much the only upside when it gets hot. It's like camping, sort of! We camped all the time when I was growing up -- the really real kind of camping, where you hike into remote areas and cook your food over a firepit you dug yourself and the nearest bathroom is a good 20 miles away -- and I miss that kind of summer getaway sometimes.

It always takes a couple of nights to get used to the change and remember the details of sleeping outside: the rustling of the raccoons on their nightly sojourn through the backyard, the scritchy screetchy sounds the possum family makes as they shuffle under the porch and around the side the house, the occasional mortar round sound of an apple falling onto the porch roof.

Or, I should say, it always takes me a couple of nights to get used to those details. Sal sleeps like a damn rock, and whether it's the creaking sound of a floorboard that may or may not be the footfall of an axe murderer, or the unidentified but very clear sound of something rustling about under the apple and maple trees where it's too dark to see, he sleeps blissfully on.

I've gotten used to the nighttime sounds of our neighborhood wildlife, and with the exception of the apples, no longer shoot bolt upright in bed every time there's a new sound in the dark outside our screened-in porch. In fact, I've even been able to enjoy my current reading material -- a book about the zombie apocalypse -- in this setting, read under the covers with a flashlight*. Without nightmares! I think I'm officially a Big Kid now.

*(I have read many a book with a flashlight, snugged down inside a sleeping bag out in the middle the damn wilderness, but it's been a long while. It's kind of made me all nostalgic. )


weebles wobble, but they don't fall down

Although they have been known to spontaneously combust.

Man, getting ready for vacation takes a ridiculous amount of work. I'm not even talking about trip prep, which is a whole other raft of crazy. Just taking care of responsibilities so you can be carefree for a brief period of time. Job stuff, mostly, but even just trying to get the house in order so we're not spending our vacation cleaning is like trying to put out a forest fire with a cup of water.

We're both busy, it's no mystery why the house can so easily go from untidy to chaos in a matter of days...logically, I know these things. But after days of too little sleep and WAY too much stress, my reasonableness meter redlines and I'm all, "HOW CAN TWO ADULTS POSSIBLY HAVE THIS MUCH LAUNDRY WE DON'T EVEN HAVE THIS MANY CLOTHES WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH US I VOTE WE CHUCK EVERYTHING AND JUST WEAR UNIFORMS ALL THE TIME." Pile onto that the aforementioned pre-vacation job stuff and my inner overachiever coming out to play, and reasonableness leaves me to stay with its mother for a few days.

Which is why Sal's perfectly normal, "How was your day?" was met with a hyperbolic, overzealous, and borderline hysterical freakout on Thursday night. Only one more day before vacation commenced and it felt like it was never going to get here. There were no tears or anything, but something about the crazed look in my eyes must've tipped Sal off that countermeasures were in order. He offered to give me a foot massage and secured his title as Prince Among Men for another year.

So our vacation has officially begun and we are gleeful. Gleeful, I say! We have plans for around-the-house stuff and not-around-the-house stuff and lots of sleep and time together and kitty snuggling and movie watching and book reading. There will be absolutely nothing that resembles work of any kind. There will be beer brewing, of course, and writing, of course, and bike riding and meandering through the stacks at Powell's.

And probably more foot massages because those are totally the greatest.


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

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

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

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

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

taking reservations now for halloween 2012

greatest carved pumpkin ever or GREATEST carved pumpkin ever?I was thinking late last night, as I was packing my lunch yet again at half past midnight (SERIOUSLY I KEEP THE HOURS OF A COLLEGE FRESHMAN), that if I were a kid, the night before Halloween would be second only to the night before Christmas. The anticipation of showing off my unquestionably awesome costume that was sure to blow the minds of every kid in school (Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun had nothing on me), the chaos of kids hyped up on excitement and way too much sugar that turned the classroom into Mardi Gras and ensured not a damn thing was going to get done that day, the thrill of traisping around the neighborhood in the dark as if on a clandestine mission. And the candy, oh, the glorious candy!

I really love Halloween, but it's been years since I partiipated. As an adult, the potential for Halloween fun is vastly expanded, from costume ideas to decorating budgets to party epicness. But as an adult, the excitement of being nine years old has long since vanished (along with the energy that went with it) and the prospect of planning the kind of party you envision looks suspiciously like work, work, and more work.

Still. I do so love a good Halloween party. It is, after all, the themed party to beat all themed parties, and we all know how I love throwing a themed party. It might be too late for this year, but it's not too early to start planning for next year....

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • chicken pot pie made by Sal (chicken breast, peas, carrots, kale, onion, bacon*, with a lovely flakey crust he just whipped out like it was nothing)
  • peas
  • apple slices with cashews as gap fillers
  • yogurt-covered pretzels with dark chocolate-covered raisins as gap fillers

the downside of time off

Days like this remind me why vacations are a double-edged sword. I was so on top of things before I left two weeks ago, feeling mighty chuffed and all-around confident about being gone for a week. Yet I returned on Monday and it's as if I was gone for a month instead of a week, and it's going to take at least another week or two before I actually have everything back under control. Urgh.

lunch, pink Natural Lunch:

  • smoked sausages
  • hard boiled egg
  • green beans, with corn underneath everything
  • Gala apple slices

apparently, not low maintenance enough

I worked on a presentation I have to do Monday basically all day yesterday, and I do mean all day. As in, from the time I got up to the time I went to bed, with a few breaks sprinkled throughout for an errand, zoning out with Tumblr for a bit, a few games of the new Angry Birds, and some kitty cuddling. BUT! I am also triumphant, because despite the long-ass work day, I still managed to A) make a decent dinner and B) pack a delicious little lunch as a result. Behold, for I am multi-talented.

Also, one of the pieces I wrote for this week's Prompt has prompted me (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) to look for a local landscaping company to come in and get the yard whipped into shape. Because the spring that's been delayed by, like, three months thanks to the 77 straight weeks of cold, wet weather appears to be exploding into existence in the space of approximately 6.432 days. Which means that the winterizing work we didn't do on the yard last fall has now come back to haunt us liek whoa, and I simply cannot take it any more. Looking out my windows to my wonderful yard should not cripple me with guilt. So perhaps if we splurge on a one-time infusion of professional help, we'll magically be converted to grown-ups once again and resume caring for our low-maintenance yard on a more regular basis. THIS IS A FOOLPROOF PLAN I THINK WE CAN ALL AGREE.

lunch, black strawberry:

  • chicken teriyaki meatball
  • rapini and caramelized onions sauteed with just a smidge of stir fry sauce
  • short grain brown rice
  • blood orange halves and kiwi slices
  • dark chocolate covered raisins

there was an old woman who swallowed a fly

I was late to work this morning and it's all my mother's fault.

See, I spent the weekend writing -- with middling success -- while Sal brewed another batch of beer. He's supposed to be posting about these ventures in chemistry here, and in fact has a page set aside on this website for that purpose, but has as yet to actually do it. We'll see if me guilting him publicly will move him to do it.

Anywhoodle, I did, as I say, spend time writing but was hampered to some degree by a new Scrabble-type game on my phone thanks to my mother, damn her, who talked me into giving it a try.  "We can play against each other!" she said with glee. And since I don't get to see as much of my mother as I would like, I figured it would be fun to share this enjoyable little diversion with her throughout my day.

Of course, I don't have many games installed on my phone for a reason. I know full well how easy it is to get sucked in, and I try to be oh-so-careful about squandering my precious free time. I only recently broke my hour-per-day Angry Birds habit -- and that only because I conquered all the levels and got three stars on everything and unlocked all the golden eggs, for both the regular Angry Birds AND the Angry Birds Seasons (including, yes, the Valentine's Day levels), although we're of course not counting the recent addition of the "Ham 'Em High" level, which I conquered but haven't mastered AND ANYWAY my point is! I did not need this distraction.

But this was my mother! How could I deny my mother? And anyway, it would require little from me: I could submit a word when I had a quick moment, between phone calls, or waiting for the microwave to defrost something, whatever. Perfect!

Well. We've had an epic game going since Friday, and are down to the last three tiles of the entire game, each of us with three left. I'm leading by over 100 points, thanks largely to a 45 point word score off of one of her higher scoring words late in the game. And thanks to that I'm now addicted, playing another board with her while we wrap this one up (and maybe possibly several other boards against random other players, as well) and really, my mother is responsible for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, here. I AM NORMALLY VERY RESPONSIBLE OKAY.

So this time suck I did not need, as I say, and it's the primary reason I still have three baskets of unfolded laundry. NOT because I opted to watch three episodes of Princess Tutu Friday night when I could've been folding laundry, nor because I spent Saturday morning searching for old An Evening at the Improv segments on YouTube. And it was also not because I spent a few hours minutes browsing Tumblr for new and pretty campaign pics for the Fandom Cage Matches, and especially especially not pics of my beloved Leslie Knope who understands my deepest truuuuuuuths. I also did not browse for new bento boxes as a reward for my promotion, nor did I start a new bookmarks folder of creative space decorating and organizing idea. I totally did not do any of those things. You can't prove anything.

Nope, it was all because I whittled away the time playing a not-Scrabble Scrabble game with my mom on my Droid and so my clothes did not get folded and my socks did not get mated which is why I had to dig for a replacement pair of socks at the last minute this morning because I stepped into a pile of cat vomit in the kitchen because our linoleum is the exact camoflaged pattern for cat vomit, and that is why it's my mother's fault that I was late to work today.

lunch, pink natural lunch:

  • rice pilaf with broccoli and onion
  • wilted spinach and bacon salad
  • Braeburn apple slices

dinner @ Prompt, deli club:

  • ham & smoked gouda skewers
  • Braeburn apple slices
  • dried cherries and yogurt-covered raisins

a vp, a chef, and a maestro walk into a bar...

Guess who now has something in common with Joe Biden?! Thanks to a promotion a few days ago, I am now the Vice President of Internal Operations, which means that I'll basically be doing what I've been doing for awhile, but with a more impressive business card.  My mom will be thrilled that I (sort of) share a title with Joe Biden, since she loves him. Of course, that also means that I have something in common with Dan Quayle, but I suppose the laws of physics dictate that the universe must remain in balance.

It's also meant being addressed as "Madam Vice President" by Sal every chance he gets. "What would you like for dinner, Madam Vice President?" "I do believe it's raining outside, Madam Vice President." "Be careful not to step in the cat barf, Madam Vice President." I suppose it's payback for when I learned his students call him "Chef" in the same way you would call someone "Doctor", as in: "Chef said the chocolate has to be tempered first" or "I remember Chef's lecture on the importance of oven spring in bread baking". I teased him about being in that episode of Seinfeld where Elaine is dating a symphony conductor who insists on being called "Maestro" by everyone. (Even though he's never asked his students to call him that, they just do.) So I...may have had the mockery coming....

lunch, deli club:

  • baked potato with strips of smoked gouda, with steamed broccoli as gap fillers
  • more broccoli and a lone spicy meatball
  • mandarin halves with blueberries as gap fillers

insert clever title here

this has nothing to do with today's post, I was just fondly remembering our trip to the tulip festival awhile back with The Albino and Mr. T.It's a busy week ahead, including a Wednesday-Work-From-Home-Day in the office instead. I actually have a presentation that morning (hence the reason I have to go to the office) as part of an office-wide meeting. Tomorrow is an off-site executive work retreat, and I took next Friday and Monday off. In other words, some added disruption to my already cracktastic schedule. I'd say that the change in routine keeps things interesting, but I don't actually have a routine so it's quite interesting enough as it is. At least "boring" isn't a word that in any way applies to my job.

We spent the weekend generally avoiding responsibility and opting instead to do things we wanted to do. I spent most of my time in the studio, working on revisions and later, doing some collage work, while Sal bottled his latest batch of beer and started a second batch of sauerkraut. Oh, it's a fermenting frenzy over here at Hall House. I know he's a qualified chef and everything, but there are days when I suspect he's just randomly sticking stuff in a jar to see what happens.

Now that the studio is finished (I know, I still need to get those pictures up), we're ready to get the attic eave closet doors done. Finally! And in fact the only reason they're getting done is because we won't be doing them, but rather, hiring someone to do them. Otherwise, we'd both be drawing Social Security before they'd get done. We got a personal recommend for a local carpenter who specializes in cabinetry. We've given him some leeway on the design so I'm excited to see how they turn out.

lunch, Ms. Bento:

  • Sal's Whatever's In The Fridge Soup -- chicken, Swiss chard, potatoes, carrots, onion, golden chiogga beets, celery, garlic, mushroom broth, oregano, thyme
  • homemade ciabata and a Babybel cheese
  • pineapple with pomegranate seeds as gap fillers
  • cashews, dried cherries, and yogurt covered raisins