Saturday, December 29, 2007

The power of a table

When I was a girl the most important things were dealt with at the dining room table. This is where my mom and I met up each morning before dawn to have breakfast together and talk about the previous day. Mom often worked several part time jobs at any given time to make ends meet, and we didn't get much time together. The table was where I learned to sew and crochet; we put puzzles together at the table and played board games. I did my homework at the table, took my lectures at the table, and whenever I had to explain my bad behaviour to Mom, I sat at the table to do it.

A dining room table symbolizes adult-hood to me. I still do my homework at the table, and when I have something really important to talk about I still feel the need to sit at the table with a cup of coffee while talking about it.

The Husband and I don't agree on dining room tables, and he doesn't put the same level importance on them as I do. We've had several hand-me-down tables over the years, none of which I have been completely pleased with. The table he used when he was single was a small card table with folding metal chairs. I hated that table. The table after that was a fine table, from the 60s with a dark blue top but it had no chairs so we continued to use the metal folding chairs. Those chairs make me feel so temporary. The most recent table was glass-topped with matching chairs, but the chairs were not very well built and have been systematically breaking. The third of four chairs broke yesterday, and I was distraught. I persuaded The Husband to agree to a new table, which now lives right in my dining room. It is a wonderful table, with four perfectly matching chairs. I got up early this morning just so I could sit at my table with a cup of tea.

Since getting this table, I've also been more inclined to cook. If The Husband had known that the way to get me to cook was to buy me furniture, he would have done it long ago.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Cookie Emporium

I worked a half-day today. Ross came to work with me and spent the day shopping in Beaverton. Then I came home and baked. I'm not winning any awards or anything, but I'm quite pleased with my progress. When Tanya and I baked earlier this month we joked about opening a candy store. I'm starting to think I really should. I experimented with Fudge Tassies. This is a pastry batter poured into a muffin tin then filled with fudge and baked. It resembles a small chocolate pie. The batter is a little dry, consisting only of butter, cream cheese, and flour so it begs for something like whip cream. I also experimented some with my carmel. I've only made it once before, so I was not entirely sure what to expect. Last time it didn't hold a shape at all. This time I think I cooked it too long. It resembles brittle more than carmel, but I'm told the flavour is good. I don't actually like carmel so I don't know the difference.

Tomorrow my parents are coming over for coffee and homemade goodies, then I'll spend the rest of the day pretending it's a normal day and ignoring the fact that it's Christmas.

Happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Restless frustrations

Today left me covered in a sticky, oily unhappiness. I felt pulled in so many different directions, and I wanted to give up on all of it. It didn't help that I didn't want to go to work today at all. Once I got there, I didn't want to stop for lunch; didn't want to take my breaks because of all the things I need to do. I didn't want to be concerned that I didn't get all my accounts caught up, and I still have to plan for holiday coverage, and I must deal with several personnel issues before the end of the year, and payroll is due Friday. I didn't want to make the long drive home in the rain. I didn't want to worry about eating dinner, and the timing of our evening plans, and what time I would go to bed so I can get up at a decent hour and get to the office early so I can worry about it all over again.

Once again I feel so negative about everything, but I can't give any good, coherent reason why I am unhappy. I keep thinking (hoping) that moving closer to the office will help alleviate the biggest source of stress in my life. I've also started thinking about my overall stress levels in life. I realized recently that for most of my life, something relatively large would happen every few years. Something that would change my life, something traumatic or important. That has tapered off in the past couple of years, and I feel like my spirit is tensing for something. Like a big, dark, hidden thing is waiting for me and deep down I know it's there. I feel restless waiting for it. I want it to jump out and gobble me up so I can stop fretting over it and get on with the dying part.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

December babies

Today Colin would have been 40 years old. He used to joke that he hoped to be dead before he reached 40.

December is a busy month for birthdays in my life. I missed a best friend's birthday yesterday, and I feel awful. Happy birthday, RHG. I'm sorry I suck at this whole friend business.

Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer

I saw the first Fantastic 4 on my honeymoon. I'm sure the excitement of being on my honeymoon made watching the movie more enjoyable than the movie actually deserved. I did like it, but I think the associations with watching it lent it more coolness in my mind.

We watched the newest Fantastic 4 last night. Jessica Alba remains cuter than cute, but I was not overly thrilled. The silver surfer was awesome, but I didn't feel we saw enough of him. There could have been more pew-pew, and the effects were under-done. There were a couple of fleeting "oooh ahhh" moments for me, but for the most part I felt rather underwhelmed.

Also, I hate Reed Richards. I find this character incredibly annoying. I was hoping he would die. A lot.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Holiday baking

I was out to dinner with a co-worker recently, and she was telling me about a holiday baking tradition in her family. Everyone gets together and bakes cookies and visits and shares their sweets. She lives far from her family now, and seemed a little wistful about enjoying that experience. My family doesn't have any traditions unless one counts ostracizing targeted family members randomly or gossiping about each other privately. I thought her family sounded much nicer than mine. Sometimes the lack of tradition and love in my family makes me a little sad; I suggested that she come to my house and she and I could bake and laugh ourselves silly. Those who know me know that I don't normally prefer to spend my time, holidays or no, with other humans; also, I don't cook. So, my offer surprised even me, and she took me up on it.

We spent today messing up my kitchen and laughing our fool heads off. We had a really terrific time, and I now have enough cookies and candy in my house to send me into sugar shock. The first thing we made were fudge thumbprint cookies. These are excellent, chocolately cookies; they have peppermint extract mixed in, and powdered sugar outside. They are very rich, and would make me want to drink a very large glass of milk, if I drank milk.


I'm not sure rosettes qualify as a cookie, but they are my new favourite thing. These are made with a two-pronged device that looks like it should poke both eyes out at once; the ends of both prongs are threaded, and different shaped "irons" are screwed onto the ends. Heat a pot of cooking oil to somewhere between 265 and 275 degrees; dip the iron into the heated oil to prime it, then dip the iron into a batter that is nearly identical to waffle batter. Submerse the batter-dipped iron in the heated oil and work the batter off the iron. Ideally, the batter will retain the shape of the iron, and you cook it for a minute or so then pull it out of the oil, shaking off any excess. We used a star-shaped iron and a heart-shaped cup. We filled our cups with strawberry jelly and topped it with more powdered sugar.

I learned about spritz cookies today. I had never made, nor heard of, spritz cookies. Tanya has a cookie press from her mother-in-law, which I think is the best thing ever. Spritz cookies are created by first forcing your cookie dough into the tube of a cookie press, then cranking the dough out the end of the tube which has been capped with a sexy shape. Today's shapes were trees, snow-men, and stars. The stars really looked more like nipples, and the snow-men really looked like dog turds, but they were green and flavoured like almonds. I also made shortbread cookies and carmels.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. Baking and socializing and other such girl behaviour doesn't normally interest me much, but Tanya is enough like me that spending a day cooking with her is actually enjoyable. I am exhausted from a day of baking and laughing, but I had more fun that I expected to and I have so many yummy sweets to show for it.



Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is it too early to make resolutions?

I don't normally make New Years resolutions. I find myself less likely to keep them if I make a big deal about making them. This year, however, I resolve to visit my dentist more often. I don't have any particular trauma associated with dentists, except that I hate them. I hated going to the dentist as a child, and have only been twice as an adult. I still hate going.

My dentist is a nice enough fellow, but he hasn't got any breasts. I'd be a lot more inclined to keep regular appointments if he had breasts. Because I tend to avoid regular teeth cleaning, it's a particularly painful procedure each time. And, because it's so painful, I avoid doing it for the most part. I've finally faced the fact that I am simply making the whole ordeal worse by allowing myself to procrastinate, hence my resolution.

So, I've been to the dentist two days in a row. I had the hands of multiple strangers stretching my mouth to its capacity, and not in the good way. I'm cranky and in a lot of pain. I would like copious amounts of booze or drugs. Unfortunately, I am all out of drugs and the only booze in my house is of the very cheap, very old, very non-consumable variety.

Someone please call my house to make sure I haven't killed my husband.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Spiderman 3

Spiderman 3 came in the mail. I assembled a snack plate, closed the blinds, and cuddled up on the couch expecting to be dazzled. I was not dazzled.

I enjoyed the action sequences and the story; I liked the graphics. I liked the part where Bryce Dallas Howard was hanging from the ledge and you could see right down her shirt.

It wasn't awful, but it sure didn't hold my attention. I'd forgotten how slowly the plot seems to move at times.

Friday, December 7, 2007

I need some help

Want to help me name some characters? I'm in the process of writing a fictional story and I need some names. I used to struggle over names, so much so that in the past I could not get my story out until I had a name. As those who write fiction know, names will often emerge as a character's personality develops. Therefore, sometimes you have to write the character before you get her name. Now, I tend to give all my characters generic names while I'm writing them and develop them as I go before I give them their forever-name. My girls are always Jane, my boys are always Jackson, and my dogs are always Dog.

I need help naming the following:

  • Female: my main female character is a business professional; creative, artistic, personally conservative and socially liberal. She's lonely and sexually frustrated.
  • Male: my main male is undefined at this point, but I'm looking for something that suggests inner darkness and negative qualities. He is not an antagonist.
  • Female character's dog: companion, protector; gender unassigned.

These characters are all very raw and naked so far. If you have some names to offer, please email them to jade@autumnweave.com.

Thanks!

I'm imagining you with your hair on fire

I work for a major trucking company in the Portland area. My job is “customer support” and entails a lot of things, namely data processing and minor accounting. Unfortunately among the things I must deal with on a daily basis is interacting with complete morons who don’t know their asses from their elbows, and have all the manners of a barnyard animal. I had an annoying call today, from an annoying woman who spoke in an annoying, breathless tone of voice.

“I need help printing invoices”, she breathes at me. I’m in customer support; I process payments. I don’t provide help printing invoices but I’m a helpful sort so I say, “I’ll be happy to help in any way I can. What are your invoice numbers?” This is a stall tactic on my part; I do possess the ability to verbally troubleshoot a printing problem over the phone, but first I like to identify that the invoices in question are actually those I have access to before spending too much time on the phone.

“I don’t know. Where would I find that?” is her reply.

You see, usually when people call me wanting to print invoices it is because they know they have a payment waiting for them to post; or, they can see the payment on the web and just need a paper copy to walk down to accounts receivable. Usually by the time they call me, they have all the necessary information together. What this woman is doing is the equivalent of calling up the bank and wanting to discuss some random transaction on the account, but not being able to give appropriate information in order to identify the transaction. Internal sigh.

I try to unclench my teeth before asking, “do you have information indicating that there are invoices available to you which need printing?”

“Hmmm, I’m not really sure”, she answers.

“I’d like to direct you to the dealer help desk ma’am. Please call …” I begin, only to be interrupted as she tells me that she doesn’t understand why they would be able to help her. She doesn’t have a technical problem, you see, and the help desk only deals with technical problems. I can see her mentally rolling her eyes at me, as though I am the idiot.

“The dealer help desk has tools and resources to assist you with many problems you may be experiencing, ma’am, and they are very helpful over there.” I say, grossly exaggerating both this group’s ability to use the tools at their command and their helpfulness towards anyone who does not bear doughnuts.

“I don’t want to speak to them,” she tells me again. “I got your number from someone who said that you could help me. So, help me!” She ends on a little commanding wheeze.

“From whom did you get my phone number, ma’am? Can you give me that individual’s name?” I ask her, recognizing this tactic. People say this all the time, as though, by mentioning the elusive ‘someone’, I’ll suddenly change my mind about being able to help her.

“WAIT! Wait, here it is,” she yells over me and rattles off an invoice number that isn’t part of my system. I recognize it as a number in another department within the company and explain to her that I cannot access that database.

“What do you mean? I’ve always called you for these types of invoices!” she bellows at me, seeming to forget that moments ago she informed me that someone else directed her to call me. I’m starting to suspect that I’ve got a big fibber on the other end of the line.

“I apologize ma’am, I do not have access to that sequence of invoice numbers. You need to call the help desk for proper assistance, and I’ll be happy to provide you with their number if you’ll let me know when you have a pen handy.” By this point, my voice is even and smooth as silk, a sure sign I’m imagining her with her hair on fire and the pointed end of something rusty up her ass.

She interrupts me again to describe how she’s worked for her dealership for four years and she has always had trouble obtaining invoices from my department. I find this amusing because I’ve worked for the company for nearly twice as long as she has and I've never provided her with these particular invoices and because seconds ago she told me that she has always called me “for these types of invoices”.

Which I think is a very good point and say to her, “So that I understand your situation better, is it that you always call me for these types of invoices or that you always have problems obtaining these invoices? I’m positive that it can’t be both, and I need to know where to direct you so that you receive the customer service that you deserve.” Which is none at all.

Silence from my mouth-breathing friend. A couple beats go by, bringing more silence.

“If there is nothing else I can help you with, please have a nice day,” I say in my same calm voice; I’ve moved on from fire and rusty things and am imagining that I’ve murdered this woman’s puppy and am beating her to death with it when she says “but you haven’t HELPED me at all!”

“I have two numbers you may dial for assistance. One is the aforementioned dealer help desk with which you are unreasonably reluctant to speak; the other is my supervisor, and I’m certain he would be equally happy to assist you. Please let me know when you have a pen handy …”

She agrees to take my supervisor’s number and gives this as a parting shot: “I’m going to suggest that you find a different job. I’m extremely disappointed in your ‘customer service’.”

To which I replied, “I appreciate the suggestion, ma’am. Have a nice day.” Burn in the hot place, cupcake.

Knitting project: scarf

I learned to knit when I was in the third grade. I went to a private Jewish school and they taught us dozens of interesting, important things. Like how to speak German, how to play the flute, how to identify poisonous plants like night-shade, and edible plants like licorice and mustard. They also taught me to knit. None of the third-graders could read, but they knew how to knit a pair of socks!

I don't recall very much about it, but I must have been good at it. I was good at everything back then. Then, I didn't knit for twenty years.

I do not recall why I wanted to knit again after so many years. I think perhaps I saw a friend knitting a scarf and I thought it would be a grand thing to know how to do. I crochet, and am fairly good at that. I decided a year or so ago that it was time to expand my knowledge base and take up knitting. I purchased all sorts of knitting accoutrements; friends encouraged me by buying me instructions books and magazines. Jeff encouraged me by promising to wear a scarf if I knitted him one.

Like everything else I do, I want it to be perfect. Stitches must be perfectly spaced, with even tension. No gapping or flapping, please and thanks. If I cannot do it perfectly, I don't want to do it at all. So I have many unfinished projects, and my husband still has no scarf.

After all this, I think I've finally got it. I am using a soft grey cotton blend yarn, very light-weight; it is 12 stitches across (I have a small neck) in ribbing (I'm purling two / knitting two) and so far it's probably three feet long. It's not perfect, and I am trying to learn that it's okay to be un-perfect.

I have no idea what I'll worry about now.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

When I should be getting ready ...

... I'm playing with lotion instead. This is my Japanese Cherry Blossom lotion. You probably cannot tell that from the photo. I squeezed it out onto my hand and it came out in this funny, elongated shape.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dissecting metaphors: To beat a dead horse

In coming to terms with metaphors and my unreasoning dislike of them, I would like to get to know them better. Some metaphors I know the root of, and such interesting roots they have. Other metaphors make my ears bleed to hear them.

To beat a dead horse:

I understand the meaning of belaboring a point beyond which it is useful or advantageous to do so, but I don't know why this particular term is in use. Personally, I prefer to describe someone as belaboring a point beyond which it is useful to do so, but that's just me. I used to have an employee from Nepal. He would bring me copies of newspapers or emails and ask me what certain phrases meant and "beating a dead horse" was one of them. He envisioned folks standing over the bloody carcass of a horse and beating it with clubs. Understandably, he couldn't comprehend why such behaviour seemed to be so prevalent nor why some people needed to be told not to do it.

According to wikipedia, it was a description applied to Parliament in reference to that body's apathy towards a Reform Bill.

Also from wikipedia is the term used as slang for wages paid to men in advance of the work being performed.

I understand the use of the metaphors in these contexts, but I still don't fully comprehend the origins.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Everything is better with red shoes

These are my fabulous new red shoes. I am horrible at taking photographs, so if you don't understand why these are so cute, just take my word for it: they are adorifying.

Struggle

"Dig in to yourself, to the place that feels empty and tired and frustrated and angry. What do you ache for?"

Aerolin always knows what questions to ask that strip me naked. I ache for balance. This is the thing that is lacking in my life now, has been lacking for a very long time. My biggest, most enjoyable hobby does not nurture the creativity in me. Likewise, my creative expressions do not pull at me like my 'hobby' does. I like them, and they are a comforting, warm bubble in which I can float when I need to disconnect and unplug but they don't sustain me. I have to plug back in, have to level my fishing, have to farm herbs, have to fuck with my spec, have to stab things in the eye. I have to check my blog, and your blogs, and forums, and read Questionable Content. Questionable Content makes me laugh and laugh.

The thing that I spend most of my time focused on? Work. I like my job. I complain a lot, but I like it. It challenges me daily, keeps me motivated, and frustrates the hell out of me. I cannot seem to unplug from there either.

Without some stress in my life, I'm not motivated to continue doing what I'm doing. If I'm not challenged by my circumstances, I get bored. I'm not happy unless there is an obstacle to over-come or a goal to work towards. I don't know if this is because I have had so many challenges in my life ... do I need these challenges because my life has been fraught with stress or is my life fraught with stress because I need these challenges? Do I need to have some obstacle in my way because I've always had obstacles in my way? Does it even matter?

I'm trying to balance all that I have and I feel like I am failing at a lot of things. I am trying to learn that it's okay not to be in top form. It is okay that I'm not perfect. It is okay that I don't have all the answers. Is it okay that I had a corn dog for breakfast?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Herbal muscle rub

Recipe courtesy of a dear friend, Crystal_Dragon.

First, make some Arnica oil using 6 ounces of olive oil and about 1/4 cup of dried Arnica flowers. (CAUTION: Arnica can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people so gloves may be needed. Do not get Arnica in an open wound or near mucus membranes as it is toxic when used internally) Heat the oil and Arnica flowers in a double boiler for 2 to 3 hours, then strain the oil into a container. NOTE: Arnica is great for reducing swelling.

Next, make a deconcoction of Cramp Bark and Prickly Ash Bark. Place 8 ounces of water in a pot with 1/8 cup each of the Cramp Bark and the Prickly Ash Bark. Simmer over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, then strain into a container. NOTE: Both Cramp Bark and Prickly Ash Bark are "warming" herbs and go deep into the muscle tissue to help maintain blood flow.

Now, place the bark deconcoction and the oil in a double boiler with 1/2 ounce of beeswax, an emulsifier (to keep the water and oil from separating - I used an emulsifying wax) and a little citric acid concentrate (as a preservative to extend the shelf life). Heat the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it's uniform in appearance. Pour into clean, sterilized jars and allow to cool. You may need to stir the mix as it cools in the jars to maintain uniformity. Once it's cooled, it's ready for use! Store in sealed jars in a cool dark place. Recipe yields about 12 ounces.

Ages ago, I made a batch of Crystal's herbal muscle rub for Jeffery. He's got chronic lower back pain and I just can't do much for him. Rubbing his lower back is akin to trying to massage concrete. Not only is it boring, but I have problems with my wrists and rubbing this area on his back makes me cry because I can't feel my hands.

I learned one very important thing: storing the mixture in a 'cool, dry' place is not a suggestion. Really, store it in a cool, dry place. I made this over the summer, and it moulded before I could use it all. I must have skimmed over that part when reading the instructions, much like I space out over anything that instructs me to 'pat dry' and don't realize why until I'm rubbing my skin raw instead of patting. Seriously, throw this shit in the fridge.

I did not get the opportunity to use very much of it, but I really liked this recipe. I had fun cooking it up; Jeff went out and bought a double boiler for me and he helped me make it while watching a movie. It smells sort of funny and it's a lot of work for a lazy girl like me, but I'll make it again.

Scattered energy, rancid thoughts

I had so many thoughts today; I was going to vomit out my thoughts here to keep them from strangling me. All day during work I became distracted by blog-thoughts: how I was going to mash my words together, how I was going to get it all out of my head. I was going to make you laugh and cry and love me. I couldn't concentrate on work then, and I can't concentrate on writing now.

I went to the library after work today and picked up the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for this year. These books used to be categorized under "reference" and were not eligible for check out. Either they have re-classified the book or someone is going to lose a job, because they let me check it out. I also picked up a guide book about writing query and cover letters. I am excited and want to finish a project, but damned if there aren't too many things I need to master before anything is fit for submission.

This is the thing that holds me back: I'm not perfect.

  • My dialogue is all crappy.
  • My sentence structure is sloppy.
  • I don't know when to end paragraphs.
  • My writing is too loose.
  • My characters are unlovable and cold

Give me something technical to write and I can knock your socks off, roll your eyeballs back in your head in ecstasy, and make you burst out into a cold sweat. But fictional shit between fictional people in a fictional world? I fall flat on my face. So I don't complete anything, never write a thing from beginning to end, have never made any serious attempts to get something published.

I think my lack of exercise is impacting my mood. I think about running and I want to run, but the rain is pouring out of the sky in sheets and my house is so warm and brightly lit and inviting. I cannot bring myself to run out into the wind and rain and cold after I put on my red striped pajamas and big red cozy socks that feel heavenly, like sliding my feet right into the warm carcass of a bunny. So I think about it (which is a step in the right direction at least) and I plan to do it another day and I feel proud that I remembered about the exercise. Enter rationalizing and self-justification and DOUGHNUTS.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

First snow

It is snowing in Washington. It's not very serious yet, just wee flurries. My nose is very red and my cheeks are flushed. I do not enjoy the weather here.

My fans