Saturday, November 29, 2008

Finished Object-let, Finished Object, and Super-secret Revealed

First, the object-let. That would be the 2nd sleeve of bi-color cables. Next step is to seam the shoulder seams and pick up stitches for the collar.

Next, the finished object. That would be the bedroom curtains (finally). It turned out that my inner turmoil regarding these curtains really boiled down to needing a second person to help straighten it out on the work surface. It wasn’t as out of kilter as I had feared, in no thanks to the lack of obvious grain in the fabric, or pattern that suggested an obvious cutting line.

These curtains involved a ton of hand sewing. Yes, the widths of fabric are machine sewn, but the hem is herringbone stitched by hand, inserting curtain weights at critical points. Then the lining is slip stitched by hand onto the wrong side of the main panel both along the leading and receding edge, but also herringbone stitched by hand at the seams. And there are two panels, so double everything.

And lastly, the reveal of my super-secret project. This what I will do: provide a link. This is what I will not do: name it by name. The reason is that this blog is where I pad around in my jammies, kick back, rant a bit, and maybe even pass gas. It happens. But this super-secret project is my other-me: the one who dines with city mayors, judges, and other officials; the one who might be tired and cranky but always tries to pack a smile and a sense of humor. So to avoid an awkward discovery through search engine results of stumbling across the “let it all hang out” me, I will refrain from sharing my project’s name here.

I hope all of you have had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend. Now it’s time to put the nose to the grindstone. I have one assignment due in two days, and two outlines for other assignments due on the same day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

More Reasons to be Thankful

We have experienced a host of life changes this year: a new house, after only owning one home where we had lived for over two decades; a contract on our old house; moving out of our old office that we had been in for five long years; starting a new business... The changes go on and on. And I am thankful for all those things. Thing is, I had no idea how thankful.

Yesterday I received an email from a former office mate, forwarding an email from the building’s owner. Or should I say previous owner? Seems that less than two months after we moved out, he sold the building to the only other tenant who had been there as long as we had been. And this tenant’s friends and former significant other had made my life so miserable up there, that I tried to be at the office as little as possible. I won’t go into details about what happened, only to say that it was behavior I hadn’t seen before above Grade 7, and certainly not in so-called adults. That doesn’t even count the business promotion schemes he pursued that made my office completely useless when it came to audio/video work on random days without any apology or forewarning.

We dodged that bullet by only two months. Given our five-year lease, that is really cutting it close.

I am thankful for the discovery of my cookbooks. Two nights ago we had chicken piccata. That recipe worked out so well I’ve marked the page. For Thanksgiving I’m making my usual and wonderful cranberry relish out of one of Jeff Smith’s cookbooks, plus trying a made-from-scratch crescent roll recipe from the Victory binding of the American Woman cookbook.

Yes, it is theoretically possible to make and consume crescent rolls that do not come out of a vacuum packed cardboard tube.

After the holiday I plan to test out that book’s recipe for sauerbraten, though I’m not sure how successful I will be at sourcing “fresh-killed beef” as it requires. I certainly am not going to get any fresher than that found in the meat counter of the local Hyvee.

When it comes to travel season, I have to prepare food in a completely different way. I’m a huge fan of the packaged pasta aisle, for example. But I don’t like the amount of processed food that I consume - the huge amounts of sodium and hydrogenated oils. Not that I’m a health nut, but I believe that our bodies are engineered to eat basic foods and not chemicals. So the more from-scratch eating we can do, the better.

Still working on curtains. Nacho is doing his best to supervise.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Me Week Concludes

I know I have promised you an explanation of why I hate my bedroom curtains, but that will have to wait. Because when I do share this, I want to say “but it all worked out because...” or “in the end I threw it in the trash with a lit match and ordered mini blinds instead...” but I am still in the midst, and the midst is where the conclusion is its muddiest.

Saturday was interrupted in the morning with a trip back to the old town to give the old house another once-over, and haul the leaf trash to the curb. My first stop when I returned to town was the travel section at Borders where I purchased a DK guide to Egypt. Word has come down from Mt. Olympus: “Me Week the Sequel” begins in February.

Later in the day was knit group where I worked on my knit meat in a cheesecloth sandwich curtain. By the time I returned home, Michael had logged off for the last time in China, and was preparing to board a fast train bound for the airport. Ah well.

Sunday I had initially planned to have the curtains finished, but instead I nipped away at it, as well as progress on my super-secret project. At 6 p.m. I intentionally fell asleep in front of the TV with the volume turned up a little too loudly. I woke up at 9:46 and made a small pot of coffee to take with me to the airport. That’s when the call came. Mechanical woes on the last leg had delayed his flight. I watched a recorded version of that night’s Amazing Race, knit, and drank more coffee, then headed to the airport. Michael’s flight finally arrived at 12:45 a.m.

Thus officially bringing an end to the week. (sniff)

But with his return comes a trip to Kansas City before Thanksgiving to visit the Crate & Barrel store as well as possibly an Apple Store.

Tried a new recipe out of the Fannie Farmer cookbook. This was a potato mushroom casserole, and I highly recommend it.

The next recipe on my list will have to wait until after Thanksgiving, but when I do dive in it will be wonderful: sauerbraten. This recipe comes from the Victory binding of the American Woman cookbook. It calls for “fresh killed beef.” Instead, I’ll go for “beef fresh from the meat counter.”

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Welcome to Town, and a Much Awaited Cookbook Victory

I received a call this week. “Someone told me you are new to town. I’ve got a welcome package for you, and have been trying to reach you for a long time. It’s not too late. Can I send my daughter by this afternoon to drop it off?”

Hmmm. Had trouble reaching me. Would that have been the hangup message I received while in Traverse City? Frankenmuth? Santa Fe? Or perhaps the half dozen I received while I was busy working at the old house?

Sure, I replied. I had an errand I had to run in my old town that morning, but I would do my best to be at the new house around 3.

In the meantime, and between errands, I worked diligently on my bedroom curtains that are the bane of my existence. More on why later. I worked on my super-secret project. And I once again tackled the menacingly high towers of boxes that were squeezed into my garage, searching for that much desired box of cookbooks.

The day before had been warm and wonderful. I had flung both bay doors open so I could organize and sort from as many different directions as possible. After several hours, I had managed to clear a walking path down the middle of the west bay. My print rep stopped by to deliver samples of a new job. The last time she came by I was hard at work digging up suckers from the dogwood that was unwisely planted next to the drive. She returned a few minutes later with six-pack of my favorite beer. This time it was the garage.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Looking for the box with my favorite cookbooks.”

“Didn’t you label the boxes?”

I thought about smacking her, but took a deep breath instead.

“Yes, the boxes are labeled. But look at this tower.” It was a cluster of three towers, each comprised of book boxes stacked four or five high. “The boxes are turned every which way. I can’t see all the labels. I’ve narrowed it down to this area, or a similar set of towers in the basement.”

She fled the scene, claiming she had another call to make. At this point the sun was getting low, and I had other work that demanded attention.

The next day I searched the basement. It was not there. I opened each and every box in the dining room (where that box was supposed to have been placed) no matter how it was labeled. Nothing. So once again I turned to that really nasty cluster of box towers.

FOUND IT! Labeled “cookbooks—KITCHEN”.

Some items in this box could have been easily replaced. The cookbook containing my chili recipe that I clearly and vividly remember being in my Joy of Cooking, for example. Except as I went through the box I found no Joy, but a Fannie Farmer which had my recipe. So if I had bought a replacement, I still wouldn’t have my recipe.

Others would have been impossible. Like my Worthington Regional Hospital Employee Cook Book, printed the year we were married and given as a wedding present. This collection of recipes has some of the best, most dependable and delicious goodness that I have ever found in one place. It is my “go to” book, and I knew that where ever it was, it was opened to the Bran Muffin recipe that I had intended to try out, and was the sole reason for my having bought and moved a box of bran flakes cereal. My most used recipe is easy to find based on the size and number of grease spots on that page: Enchilada Pie.

Or what about my set of six Frugal Gourmet cook books? The Frugal Gourmet Cooks American is where my favorite cranberry relish recipe resides. But after accusations about author Jeff Smith became public in the 1990s, his career came to a crashing end. No, I never expect to see his cookbooks on the shelves of a new bookstore ever again.

With books in hand, I quickly put together a shopping list. Chili-right. I forgot it called for pork salt. And a new one for Mushroom Potato Casserole. One thing Michael has told me over and over about his China trip, is he is looking forward to having a one dish dinner. Not a dozen or more small bowls.

The welcome wagon came at 2:30 bearing a blueberry coffeecake from an area bakery, and a reusable shopping bag filled to the brim with coupons and special offers. She tried to go over them with me one by one, but Nacho kept running to me and begging to be picked up. The voice lesson teacher I’ll never use. Other coupons will be shared with people who will get more use out of them than me, like a 2-for-1 entree coupon at a local restaurant that I hate (butter much?) but my in-laws love, or a free gallon of milk. Um, I’m all for milk, but I’ll never go through a gallon before it spoils. But some things will come in handy. Especially that coffee cake!

Next entry: curtains.

Friday, November 21, 2008

We Interrupt Me Week for a Geek Crisis

Admittedly, crisis is a bit of an overstatement. But I can claim it as an overstatement now that I’m looking at it in my rear view mirror. When I was in the midst of the problem with no foreseeable solution in front of me, knowing what an impossible road block not being able to solve the problem would pose, it was a crisis indeed.

I am in now beginning work on a super-secret personal work project. It’s work, but it’s our work, as opposed to an assignment for someone else. This work involves incorporating high def video, high-quality audio, and still imagery into a new video. We’ve been shooting the above components all summer long, and is a large part of why we have been so crazy busy, or should I just say crazed. We have had NO TIME this summer to import the video into Final Cut Pro, but have been shooting almost twenty tapes worth of content since early May. Well, I actually was able to do a down and dirty import of one tape between the first Arkansas and Kentucky trips, but that was one tape, and at our old office location. Since we’ve relocated, none. Part of Me Week plans included finalizing the production schedule, and importing all content. I scooped up the pile of papers strewn across the floor that generally represented one set of tapes, found the DV cable, power cord, and video camera, and sat down to work. I scrolled down to the Log and Capture menu in FCP. The import window came up, but instead of allowing me to actually import, a nasty popup message appeared: Unable to initialize capture device. Device is not connected or the capture preset is not setup correctly. You may still log offline clips. This might also happen if you play DV footage in an HDV device.

Okay, can I say now that this absolutely sucked? Being able to import the raw footage is a vital step in said video production. Everything had worked five months ago. Same computer. Same software (though with some minor updates). Same camera.

Reading similar threads on FCP forums didn’t solve it, though it did scare the crap out of me.

Could be a bad DV cable. So I swapped it. Still didn’t work.
Could be my preferences were wrong. So I followed the instructions for changing those preferences, but the tab it said to look under didn’t have the necessary option that was clearly visible in the FCP manual.
Could be I accidentally blew my firewire port on either the tower end (which cannot be replaced and would mean purchasing and installing a PCI card) or on the camera end, which would really totally suck.

From there the possible fixes became even scarier. So I restarted to see if I just needed to clear RAM or something similar, simple, and stupid. It didn’t work.

One forum suggested importing the video into iMovie. Not a great solution longterm, but the author suggested that sometimes that kickstarts the firewire port into working. So I did that. If it worked there, then I could rule the firewire port, DV cable, and camera out as the source of the problem.


I immediately re-opened FCP and selected “Log and Capture” in the menu, and all the right settings and controls were on screen as though nothing had ever gone wrong. Huge relief.

Struggling through this completely wiped me out for the day, even though it was only 9 a.m. when I got it working. So be it. I still had a box of cookbooks to locate.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Finally, Yeasty Goodness

Longtime readers of this blog may recall my frustrations with bread baking of late. I used to be a fabulous bread baker, not just of sweet breads, but also yeast loaves. When I close my eyes, I remember the flaky goodness of sun bread that I let rise on the window seat of my old conservatory. But for the past ten years or so, the yeast gods have had it in for me. Sweet breads? No problem. But there is only so long that a semi-sane person can dine on pumpkin or banana bread.

Now that I am somewhat settled in the new house, and not two days in the door and three from leaving it again, cooking has come to the forefront of my thoughts.

I unpacked all my boxes of cookbooks, thinking longingly of chili as cold descended upon us. But my warm thoughts quickly turned into confusion and an almost bizarre level of panic when I realized that an entire box was missing. And not just any box, but the box containing my tried and true recipes. Including my favorite recipe for chili.

A cursory search of the boxes in the dining room proved fruitless. As did the basement. As did the garage. As each minute ticked by without my precious books, my passion for cooking grew and grew. I attempted to satisfy this temporarily by cooking Faith’s honey whole wheat bread using a recipe I re-acquired from her blog. My previous attempt at the old house failed miserably. Like all the other loaves before it, it failed to rise even with the freshest ingredients and the utmost care on my part. But my most recent attempt at the new house?

I am pleased, indeed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Is it Just Me, or Was Last Night’s “Amazing Race” One of the Best Yet?

Dining on fatty sheep butt, strolling through a crowded market in a cow suit, making stupid mistake after stupid mistake (when oh when will they learn to freaking read the instructions!!). Yes, that episode has done well in its Me Week role. And judging by the previews, so will Wednesday night’s “Top Chef”.

Back to Me Week and work on the craft room.

Sometimes it’s the little things that really matter. I have had a sampler hanging on the wall of my old pantry for many years. It’s a sweet sampler, but it was in an aging document frame, and really needed an update to make it sing. Not only was the frame scuffed and flimsy, but the frame width was way too narrow for the image.

Stop #2 this morning took me to Michael’s where I came away with a new frame, plus coupons for 15% off your entire purchase sale this coming Sunday. Stop #1 was Super Target for a new entry rug, plus a wall organizer for the iron and ironing board. This week is all about getting things organized. Back to the sampler.

The new frame really did the trick. It’s a Vogart colonial sampler, and likely dates back to the 1940s, though I can’t be sure. I’m having trouble finding good information on the internet about it. It’s new home will be in the craft room.

A huge bite came out of the juicy center of my day, fixing the basement door that the buyers wonked up during a recent viewing. The tools required for this task included a miter saw, 1x4, 1" wood chisel, hammer, and copious amounts of cussing. At least it gave me another chance to take a photo of our “SOLD” sign seeing as how I forgot to bring the camera with me on Sunday.

Isn’t the most beautiful thing—ever?

Michael and I have managed a little more contact via the internet. He’s been sending me photos of Chinese women knitting in public. I’ve been sending him photos of cute cats. This morning’s photo from him was of a woman turning the heel on a lime-green sock.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Me Week, Day Two

proved to be not nearly as fun or exciting, despite the glorious temperature and warm sun beaming down. I managed to get a few things done around the house this morning (uncovering the water meter I’d buried in mulch a few weeks before - oops - thank you Mr. City Utility Man for being so understanding and complimenting me on how nice that garden bed looks now, raking some leaves, beginning the hard work of organizing my newest super secret project, etc.) but before I knew it, it was time to leave for my old home town.

While on this errand I had my first chance to see a nephew’s house, and now I understand why my extended family has been arranging so many work days at his home. Trust me: it still needs lots of work, and that’s a judgment I’ve made by only seeing the outside. I’ve heard about the inside, so I know it’s as bad or worse. I’ve lived in the hood for over twenty years, and only today discovered my town had a second hood, albeit from a more recent era.

I also made a bank deposit, and when I walked in the door of the grocery store where the bank branch is located, I heard the ATM beeping over and over and over, and an ATM card was clearly visible in the slot. So I grabbed it on my way in, holding it out in front of me like it was a stinky diaper until a teller slot opened up so I could pass it on. I mean, in case a thief was using it before I got there, I wanted my entrance into the store, and an unbroken line of custody, clearly visible on every security camera.

And then I went by the house. The For Sale signs now bear a “SOLD” sign. Took my weekly allotment of ten lawn and leaf bags to the curb for tomorrow’s trash day, dug through a Ziploc bag of keys that probably date back five jobs and several extended family residences to find all the keys for lock sets at that house. They’ll need to be turned over at closing. And discovered that someone - probably the buyer - pried open a door that was never meant to be opened again because the porch covers it up, and now the jams are sprung in away from the foundation, rendering the door 100% resistant to being closed. A pry bar, hammer, and cursing didn’t fix it, so I’ll need to drive back tomorrow with the proper power tools. My Realtor doesn’t feel it’s my problem, and that I should do something fun instead, but I think I should fix this if possible before the whole house inspection.

Because that’s how I roll.

Bought a CD at Borders with a 25% off coupon.

And not 5 minutes after I’d walked in the door, Michael popped up on iChat, giving us a chance to hit a few high points in our day before he had to check out of the hotel. He’s 14 hours ahead of my time zone, don’t you know.

Tonight isn’t a work night. It’s Amazing Race night. And that time should allow me to make a dent in the last sleeve of bi-color cables. I only have two more increases, then I knit a few more rows until it reaches its desired length, and begin bind offs.

I managed to finish pinning the hem of the bedroom curtains, but it was slow going as I have discovered that having a cat on the opposite side of the curtain attacking you through it as though it’s the greatest game on the face of the earth, tends to slow the process down a tad.

Tomorrow’s plans are even less exciting.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Me Week Beginneth

Me Week, 2008 began in Saturday’s pre-dawn hours. We backed out of the garage at 3 a.m. and headed to the airport where I put Michael on a plane to China. Yes, I said China. I was back on the highway and pulled into the garage just as the first rays of dawn began to peak over the eastern horizon. These are barf hours. (And while I usually have my car radio permanently set to the local public radio station, the risk of driving off the road in a deep slumber spurred by “Hearts of Space”, forced me to switch mid-way home to the most obnoxious radio program I could find.)

This has all the makings of the best Me Week in the history of Me Weeks. Why?

Well, I told you the house has a contract pending, right? One week after the listing started in one of the worst markets (economy-wise) my seasoned Realtor ever recalls in her career. Full asking price. The agent knew our crazy schedule and the fact that Michael would be leaving the country, so she and her husband arranged to come to our new house last night to sign contracts and review the inspection and closing process. Afterward, she and her husband went to one of the many great area restaurants for a “hot date,” and Michael returned to packing while I puttered and periodically stuck my head in his office asking “did you remember X?” and “can you get me Y before you leave?” We were up at 1:30 a.m. to finish up and head out.

I have a long list of things I want to accomplish this week. Me Weeks are never about sitting around on my bum all day. They are about accomplishing neglected things, or starting long messy processes that are best attempted solo.

Me Week sort of started yesterday. Between work, our travels, and getting the old house on the market, we have a huge laundry list of small odd-jobs about the new house that a stranger off the street might look at warily, but to which we have turned a blind eye out of necessity. Like, for example, the handful of ceiling fixtures left that we’d dropped for the sheetrockers to be able to do their work, but have never found the time to re-seat. That’s mostly what I did yesterday. That and straight out replace a handful that had fugly issues. Between the ones I did, and the last two entry lights that Michael hung late in the afternoon, we officially are done with ceiling fixtures save for an empty electrical box in the bedroom which is waiting for the perfect ceiling fan that we haven’t found yet.

Next up is the craft room. Here’s the before picture:

Well, not the official before. That would be a white room. But Michael managed to get the room painted to my specs before he left the continent, and now I can officially put things away.

Another focal point of Me Week are the bedroom curtains, now temporarily pinned up over the traverse rod:

By the end of this week I hope to have the bottom hem hand sewn, the pinch pleat tape in place, and the lining attached. In other words: done. Note mother, daughter, and bond pair #1 in the foreground.

Adorable, aren’t they?

Me Week Day #1 included:

Small progress steps on both,

Knitting on sleeve #2 of bi-color cables in front of the fireplace,

A nap. Because jeez louise, I’d up since well before the crack.

And calling my MIL to let her know that Michael’s plane departed Los Angeles despite the fires north of the city, high winds, and the threat of power outages. Conversation shifted to the old house. She was under the impression that our signing contracts last night meant the house was no longer ours. Uh, no. My BIL and SIL have shrugged off this sort of disconnect from reality and time to her being an old woman. Then she shifted the conversation to questions about the buyers and concerns that they are going to take care of the property as we have.

Okay. This is sore subject for me. I have seen a number of property shows like Property Ladder where the previous owners are shocked and insulted that the new owners aren’t in love with the duck border that they installed in their kitchen. Or friends and acquaintances like the woman who was put out that the new owners of her house chose to remove the cannas she had planted along her fence. IT’S NOT YOUR HOUSE ANY MORE, PEOPLE! Back to the MIL conversation.

She went on to bring up Larry’s old house, which was a few doors down from ours. Larry had been a family friend. He was a lifelong bachelor who lived in a trailer home until Michael and I bought our house. Then he bought one on our block and moved in. Larry eventually fell in with the wrong crowd, lost his professional position at a state agency, and had to sell. MIL apparently has never approved of the manner in which the new home’s owners have kept his old property.

I explained to her that it was none of our business what the new owners do to our house after the house closes. Neither is it our business what the owners of Larry’s house has done to his old house. And besides, Larry is dead. (BTW, his old property doesn’t look bad at all.)

It’s going to be a freaking long Christmas Eve.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Pah-tah is Canceled; Time to Celebrate


No Open House because we have accepted a full-price offer on our house. Yeah us! Fingers crossed, closing will be December 17.

I won’t spend the money before we have it in hand. There’s a myriad of potential disasters that could prevent closing. But still... I’ll take my victories where and when I can.

More immediately, my compulsion to rake leaves has diminished exponentially. Why mess with it? The new owners will have all of 2009 to finish it up. ;-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Let’s Pahh-tah!

The house is finally on the market, and home shoppers have started taking the tour. In fact, one couple has been to the house three times. I hope they aren’t too keen to make an offer because...

It’s Open House time!

This Sunday my real estate agent is holding an open house. She’s hired students to hand-deliver a slew of invitations to two select neighborhoods. I have volunteered to make snacks and spiced cider. Did I need to? No. But the harder she works, the more I’m willing to do on my end.

This will all happen at the beginning of “Me Week 2008.” I am almost unable to contain my excitement about “Me Week” and the plans I have made. To prepare for this, we were waiting outside Hancock Fabrics at 7:45 a.m. this morning to take advantage of their Veteran’s Day notions sale (50% off) plus the special 8-10 a.m. special today only of an additional 10% off the entire purchase. Yes, I went crazy. I bought: four spools of thread, and 42 brass rings. And as for the early hour? We had an appointment in our old town at 9. It was this or nothing.

Curtains are clearly in my sights for the week, as is downloading and editing video for my latest super-secret project. However...

This afternoon Michael received an email from one of my most time-demanding editors asking for a reminder of my email address because she is lining up a stable of freelancers for a new project. “Me Week 2008” may have to be canceled until February, 2009. Oh, sure. I could turn it down. But let’s face it: I’m a work whore. (shrug)

Last night was one of my greatest moments of pleasure at the new house. Our chimney sweep came by yesterday afternoon to finish installing the mechanism that opens and closes our new damper. It was cold. It was raining. We had a fire. And not just a fire. But a crackling fire *and* Irish coffee with whipped cream. Yum!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Package, and Some Spooky Goings-on

After our whirlwind tour of the post offices of NW Arkansas on Wednesday, we stayed two nights in what is purportedly one of the most haunted hotels in North America. In fact, I am told (though haven’t independently confirmed this) that the TAPS guys were here, and their stay is included on Season 2, Part 2.

I’m not saying there are ghosts. I’m not saying there aren’t. But several members of my group got shadows or even distinct orbs on their photos. One woman I travel with, “M” (who I really really like) took several shots from the top of a 4th floor staircase looking down. The shots were all taken from the same location and using the same camera settings, but in only one is a very large very distinct white ball-like light, which is not visible in the others.

I did not get any such images on my still photos. I haven’t reviewed my video yet... perhaps there will be something there. But having said that, the place just *felt* like it was full of spirits.

Some spirits are happy folk. Others, not so much. One living on the 4th floor pours alcohol down the drain and sets those “silver books” out in the hall as she doesn’t like them. “Silver books” being laptops, of course. Uh... that would piss me off just a tad. One room has been closed off to guests permanently after several guests reported waking up to several faces looking down on them, among them a surgeon approaching with a scalpel (this hotel had been a hospital at one time). And since its sister hotel has a ghost that can actually pull the bed covers off of guests, closing this “surgical” room off is a wise move. On our floor and just a room away was a small boy ghost in short pants who likes to play with a ball. Hotel workers have seen the hotel poly dactyl cat, Frisco, outside this room, chasing after something that they can’t see. Before I knew about this I did spot Frisco coming down the stairs from that floor and wondered what she had been up to. Hmmm.

And Friday morning, our last morning there, I woke up to find child-sized hand prints in the condensation on the glass.

Just sayin’.

And the package? Yes, it did arrive in L.A. on time, and the VISA is being processed. This isn’t a trip I will be on. This is a week of unexpected “me time” which will be wisely and deliciously spent making curtains, putting things away in my craft room, doing yard work, and baking bread. When the trip came up at the 11th hour, I said to Michael, “that’s fine, but you’ll have to finish painting my craft room first,” because I can’t place furniture and load bookshelves, etc. until that is done.

I had already spent a goodly amount of time telling “M” about our crazy-busy summer, and she knew about our tour of the post offices of Arkansas to get the VISA application shipped. As we stood around waiting for the ghost tour to begin, she asked if it had made it.

“Yes,” I said. “And today he finally received his registration papers for the Egypt trip. Do you know when it needs to be mailed?”

“No,” she answered.


And we laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Citadel of Solitude

I’m trying to recollect... was something going on last Tuesday?

The midway point of a lovely press trip to NW Arkansas fell on Tuesday - on exactly the one day we were in an information-free zone. A cabin smack-dab in the middle of the rural Ozark Mountains, we had no television, no wi-fi, and only one radio channel with poor reception. (BTW, the cabins were in a lovely setting, and I would love the opportunity to spend more time there at a later date.) A lodge house where we had dinner did have wi-fi, at least, so the few of us that brought our laptops were nose to the screen gleaning as many election results as we could get before being shuttled back to our cabin in the woods. And, of course, Michael and I had our own crisis going - a work-related thing involving emergency passport photos and an overnighted VISA application. And being in the woods far from an airport or major city, both these things challenged our travel savvy to the max.

After a brief stop at the lodging office to use the owner’s printer (to print out said-VISA application), and to moon over his cockatoo Lemondrop (the sweetest bird on the face of the earth), we temporarily left the press trip to high-tail it east to Harrison where we were informed the Post Office was a passport processing center so we could get our photos taken there as well as ship it out. Photo taken, check enclosed, VISA application filled out, passport enclosed, we handed the overnight envelope to the clerk. The package needed to get to L.A. no later than Thursday. The clerk accepted it, and then said it would be guaranteed for delivery by 3 p.m. Saturday.


No airport in Harrison means it has to be trucked to Little Rock and overnighted from there. The closest post office that could send it overnight was in Fayetteville - where we had been the day before - so we hauled butt west, past the rural Ozark Mountains, past the city that would be our last stop on his trip, all the way back to “the Post Office on Dickson Street” which was the only direction we were given. Fortunately, and oddly, we knew where it was because in our travels we had already used this post office twice in 2008.

(Yes, we recognize that that is weird.)

We missed our lunch at Bubba’s, but the package got in the mail. Fingers crossed it will get to its final destination today.

Why is this VISA important?

More on that later.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Farewell Begins

Yesterday, through a miracle of nearly Biblical proportions, we finished the house. We spent several morning hours doing the last minute cleaning upstairs, raced over to the agent’s house to talk price and sign papers, then back to the old house to finish the lower level and the back yard. When we backed out of the drive, the car was stuffed full of our vacuums, cleaning chemicals, and trash cans.

There are many things I will miss about the house. For many of the years that we lived there, we plotted and planned our renovations, abandoning some, seeing others through to their conclusion. But in the last five years or so, the house was done. Not done as in every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed, but the kitchen was done. The bathrooms were done. The extra storage built-ins done. The landscaping was done. Everything at that point forward was a re-do of things we had already done once before.

We asked the realtor if there was anything she thought we needed to do before it was listed. She said we had set the bar high, and the only thing was to hire a professional crew to clean the basement. I have to admit, it was pretty gross. I called the crew she suggested and made the arrangements. “She said you know her drill,” I said. “Yes,” she answered. “Get the ugly out of the windows.”

The next day we had the entire morning free. I managed to get curtains hung on the sliders in the dining room, and exported the teaser spot for my newest super-secret project (soon to be revealed) before throwing clothes in a suitcase, printing copious maps to three accommodations for us and three B&Bs to interview, gathering up a few knitting things, and notes to write copy for our old home’s sale flier on the drive. Then we were out the door and on our way to Arkansas.

While we are gone, my fingers are crossed that the alarm at the new house cooperates with the pet sitter (something she hopes for too, I’m sure) and that the alarm system at the old house cooperates with the cleaning crew as well as the realtor.

The listing starts on Tuesday.

Now for some old news. On the drive home from the old place about a week ago, we witnessed the birth of one of the most incredible rainbows I’ve ever seen:

And this was the price of gas at my (now not so) secret super-cheap gas station on the day we signed our house papers:

Note that the middle quality of gas is less expensive than the lesser quality. Sometimes it pays to pay attention.

Now that my visits to the old place will be much less frequent (though days of raking are definitely in my future) and therefore my gas stops will be less frequent as well, I am full of largess with regards to its location.