Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pinterest Food Rules: A Guide

Okay folks, I know you know I'm addicted to Pinterest. This is no secret. I am the girl who plans on browsing for five minutes and ends up spending the next two hours pinning fan art from Howl's Moving Castle onto a board that she realized (too late) should really have been a secret board so no one realized how obsessed she really is. I use Pinterest for all sorts of things. I find crafts for the kids and teens at work. I find crafts to make as gifts or to make my life easier. I used a tutorial I found on Pinterest to make my own bike crate.

I also use Pinterest to find recipes for various Asian noodles, which I then consume in large quantities whilst watching The Gilmore Girls in and endless loop on Netflix.

While I peruse the various pins of food, I usually give up unless I find something quickly because the food on Pinterest is...not appetizing. Everything is drenched in cheese or canned soup with gloppy unidentified chunks of vegetable or meat inside, and it's just gross.

Now, I am not saying that the recipes don't taste awesome. They might. But no one will ever make these recipes for one important reason: THEY LOOK DISGUSTING. The finished dish you put out on the table should not look like vomit OR like a thick white goo. It should look like a meal, not like loose stool. Author and humorist Laurie Notaro even made a board dedicated to pinning only food that looks like it's pre-digested, so I'm not the only one bothered by this.

And now, visual evidence of the horrible meals I found in a five-minute skim of the Food and Drink category on Pinterest, just so you know I'm not making this up:

 What is this even? Blurry, dark photo of something oily, oversauced, and unidentifiable.
Again with the raw chicken?
These foods all cook at different rates, so I hope you like raw potatoes and overcooked chicken.
Why was this picture even taken? Cans, boxes, and raw meat.
Found on someone's "Mexican Cooking" board. There is nothing Mexican about this dish.
 Keep raw chicken off the internet. PLEASE.

Garnish cannot hide the sins committed here.
Most of these pictures are out of focus, perhaps the camera's way of protecting viewers.
Not one, but three cans of soup.
"Dump and Go" is something I do not want to associate with food.
No part of this recipe looks even slightly edible. Original source deleted blog in shame. 
This bread is made of cancer. 
We can fix this, Internet. I promise. Here's how we do it. We all have to follow this advice, on our blogs, our Facebook pages, our Twitter feeds, and our Pinterest boards:
  1. Don't take pictures of raw meat.
  2. Skip out on this "Dump and Go" thing. It sounds like a bowel movement and doesn't look much better. 
  3. If you don't have good lighting in your kitchen or a decent camera, forget trying to be a food blogger. 
  4. If you blog your meals, don't combine all your pictures into one long strip, if any part of it is badly-lit, out of focus, or RAW, it will make your readers projectile-vomit onto their computer screens, and they will blame you.
  5. If the finished meal is completely hidden under mounds of cheese or soup, you need to reassess your life choices.
  6. Putting your photograph through Photoshop does not help if it makes the raw chicken you photographed look Pepto-Bismol pink.
  7. Putting food into a muffin tin does not automatically make it taste good.
  8. Food coloring is not a good way to make your kids eat. It is a good way to give them tentacles and extra limbs.
  9. This is hard for me to say, because I love bacon, but adding bacon to a recipe doesn't always make a dish better. If you wrap it around a meat loaf, hot dogs, or other substances, it will stay flabby and gross. None of the fat will render out of it, and it will kill your gallbladder.
  10. If canned soup is your most-used ingredient, learn to make a roux and save your kidneys the horrible death they'll suffer if you keep using soup to make all your meals. Reduced sodium soup doesn't reduce the sodium enough to keep you healthy.
BONUS: Don't repin anything that breaks the rules, and save the rest of us from whatever the heck that rainbow bread is up there.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Glasses Reveal!

Yes, I did actually pick up my new glasses last Saturday! Mum and I got them right before we went to see Les Miserables at the New Huntington Theater.


I will now always go to shows at the New Huntington Theater. That production was amazing. Really, it was beyond words, it was so good. You need to check this place out. I have been singing music from the show ever since, and I continue to rewrite the lyrics of "I Dreamed a Dream" to fit whatever situation I happen to be in. "I dreamed a dream of yarn gone by, when wool was warm and sweaters toasty..."

Yeah, I know.

I can't wait for the next show. I don't even know what the next show will be, I just know I'm going.

Mum and I stopped by the eye doctor's office right before we went to the show. We got our glasses fitted, and Mum impulse-bought her reading glasses. Seriously, she pointed at the wall and said, "Laura, hand me those frames." She put them on and bought them within five minutes. I was impressed.

Clockwise: distance glasses, reading glasses, sunglasses.

The following Monday, I drug Jennifer along to Best Buy to finally get my stereo installed in Francis Focus. This allows me to plug in my iPod or iPhone and sing along to music that doesn't involve Nikki Minaj shaking various sections of her anatomy to the beat. Pro tip for musicians: If I've seen you naked, I won't buy your album. I do not want to see you naked. I do not want you to see me naked, either. I don't want any naked with my music, thanks.

While we were in town, I stopped by that branch of Sears Optical and had them adjust my glasses some more, and now they are all kinds of comfortable and don't fall down my nose every few minutes like my old glasses did. It is like magic. Suddenly, I can see! I can see more, because these lenses are bigger than the old ones, so I don't have to turn my head so much.

This is a rare luxury.

And driving back from my aunt's house after Christmas, the sun came out for a few brief hours, and I actually got to use my sunglasses. It's nice not having to squint all the time.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Risky Bisque-ness, Tight-Pants-Whistle-Dance, and a New Sweater

I spent my holiday vacation chasing after an abandoned sweater and then clinging to it with all my might, just in case it decided to vanish again. After it was recovered, it needed a bit of ribbing on one sleeve, the button band, and the buttonhole band. I jealously protected the sweater until Rachael suggested we meet up at Dash-In with Diana. I bundled it into the England sweater pouch and zipped it up. Then, we left for Fort Wayne.

At this point, I decided that a photographic trail of bread crumbs might help me locate my knitting if it were lost again. So this happened.

5:25 PM: Knitting leaves with Rachael and Laura for evening out.
6:12 PM: Knitting arrives in Fort Wayne.
6:19 PM: Knitting arrives at Dash-In, meets up with Diana.
Dash-In makes the world's best grilled cheese sandwiches. They are the reason I need a panini press. Grilled cheese is nothing without tomato soup, and they make an amazing tomato bisque, too.

Of course, Diana has trouble with dairy. I have a tomato "intolerance" which is a nice way of saying that tomatoes decided a while ago to torment me by being both delicious and somewhat deadly to my digestive system. Screw the tomato intolerance, I am eating my tomato soup, come what may.

I call this risky bisque-ness.

7:00 PM: Knitting has tomato bisque and epic grilled cheese sandwich.
My back was to the bathroom, and I wish it hadn't been, because the bathroom was an ongoing comedy routine I was sad to miss. I mean, this one guy went in, did not lock the door, and then another guy opened it and walked in on the first guy. That happened in the first five minutes we were there. *  

Then, after we got our food, a man in a flannel shirt came whistling through the restaurant, then continued whistling in the bathroom. We pondered whether he was a hipster or a lumberjack. Apparently, the determining factor is pant-tightness. Flannel shirt +  Loose pants = lumberjack. Flannel shirt + Tight pants = hipster.

The hipster-lumberjack continued whistling his song inside the bathroom. 

We wondered why he was still whistling. Maybe he needed to whistle to get things going, due to urination anxiety. Maybe he liked the bizarre pseudo-goth music playing on Dash's sound-system. Maybe he just liked to whistle. Maybe he was also dancing. He came out of the bathroom and we determined he was indeed a hipster, doing a tight-pants-whistle-dance in the only room Dash-In has with acoustics good enough for his performance. Acoustics matter.

8:43 PM: Knitting crawls back into bag to head home.
8:45 PM: Knitting walks out the door with Laura, who clutches at it with white-knuckles.
10:54 PM: Knitting enjoys Gilmore Girls before bed.
Meanwhile, I decided that the reason my sweater was abandoned in the first place was that my purse was not big enough to contain knitting. The way to solve this problem is to get a GIANT knitting bag that, if necessary, I could live inside. When I'm taking my knitting somewhere, I'll move my wallet over to the knitting bag and it will act as a purse. 

I think this is a genius plan and it will be carried out as soon as I find a knitting bag I fancy.

I spent the remaining part of the week knitting and blocking and seaming, until I ended up with a completed sweater. I found buttons at JoAnn's on Monday, attached them, and then rocked my new blue sweater as often as possible after that at Christmas celebration-y events.

Knitting, finished, is hereafter referred to as "blue sweater."
Merry Belated Christmas and a Happy New (Sweater) Year to all of you!

* This reminded me of the busy Black Friday, many moons ago (I think I was 12 or so), when some guy ran into the Target women's room without realizing it, desperately slammed open a (locked) stall door and then saw me in there. In a raw panic, he shouted, "I'M SO SORRY. I'M SO SORRY. PLEASE, DON'T TELL ANYONE!" And then he ran back outside, past the women washing their hands at the sink who had all seen everything. We all then laughed at him for a very long time. Including now. 

He didn't wait long enough to hear me say I was totally going to tell EVERYONE.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

New Glasses and Sunglasses!

Mum and I went to the eye doctor, and it turns out, I was right. My eyes have changed. Well, one of them has. Lefty stayed the same, righty is one point worse, because my eyesight HAD to get worse than it already is.

Sigh.

I thought I'd have a horrible time picking frames, but after trying on a few, I picked a tortoiseshell pair with blue on the inside. I can't accurately describe this. You really just have to see them. Which you will, when they arrive and I take pictures, because yes, I forgot to take pictures of the glasses I chose.

I also found a pair of sunglasses I loved, and I showed them to Mum, who put them on because the only way I could see how the frames looked without squinting or standing half an inch from a mirror was to have someone else model them for me. They looked cute.

"These are so comfortable!" Mum exclaimed. "They are the most comfortable glasses I've ever put on!"

Now, to understand why this is a big deal, you have to know this about my mum: her nose was broken something like three times during her childhood. Then the doctor broke it again when he fixed her deviated septum and all the damage done by the previous breaks.

When all this was said and done, Mum was still left with a bump on the side of her nose about where the nose-piece of all glasses goes. So, most glasses hurt. To say these sunglasses were comfortable was a BIG DEAL.

And that is why Mum and I will have identical sunglasses.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thai and Thai Again, a Christmas Miracle

I love Thai food. Really. I love eating as much Thai food as I can and then bundling up extra Thai food to take home for my next meal. I have eaten Thai food for breakfast. I once woke up late at night, went to the kitchen, and ate cold Thai food out of a carton in the fridge, the room lit only by the light from inside the refrigerator.

Delicious, delicious noodles.
Today, I met Rachael and the Bitter Knitters in Fort Wayne, for coffee and hilarity. When all my sleeve decreases were finished, Rachael and I decided to try a new Thai place that had just opened not too far away. The restaurant, Kozé, was gorgeous inside. We ordered, I ate yummy spicy noodles, and then we left. I drove Rachael back home. I drove home.

I went into the house. I dropped my various baggage from the trip. I went back to the car and took out the leftover Thai food. I went back inside, put the food in the fridge, and I went for my knitting.

Which.

Was.

Gone.

I felt a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. My hands began to shake. A section of my brain turned off and another section turned on. This part of my brain said, "KNITTING KNITTING GONE KNITTING GONE WHERE LEFT? KNITTING KNITTING KNITTING."

My hands texted Rachael asking if there was any chance she had picked up my knitting with hers...?

I called Kozé. They had no knitting.

Part of me melted. Or exploded. It would have been better to leave my purse. A purse has ID inside it. Credit cards can be cancelled. Even if I bought the yarn I'd lost again, those days, weeks, MONTHS of work were gone forever. The yarn was in the parking lot? Or at the side of the road? Or worse, lost on the highway where it would never be found again, except perhaps by a road crew or a clean-up group, picking up trash and throwing it away in bags. I prayed.

My knitting would be tossed into a plastic bag and into a landfill. No one would enjoy it. No one would be warmed by it. I would never see it again. All that work was gone.

I called the restaurant again. I described the bag again, where we'd been sitting. I told them I wanted to check again before I made the hour and twenty minute drive to Fort Wayne again. They looked. Nothing.

Mum volunteered to drive because she thought I was apoplectic. We made it fifteen minutes down the road before my phone rang. It was Kozé. They'd looked again. They'd moved chairs around, crawled on the floor, and there was the knitting bag. It had been knocked back into the dark beneath the window next to our table when Rachael and I had left. It was safe.

"Oh, thank God!" I exclaimed. I thanked them profusely and told them I was on my way to them to get it. "Thank you so much," I said. "You have no idea, really. This is such a huge deal!"

I hung up the phone. I burst into tears. Mum burst into tears. (It's a sympathetic thing. One of us cries, the other cries.)

We drove to Kozé. We picked up the knitting. It's here, now, next to me at home. Mum and I celebrated on the way back with caramel apple ciders. I kept thinking, this is exactly like the parable of the shepherd except instead of a sheep it is yarn and I am a knitter and not a shepherd. This is the exact real-world application all my Sunday school teachers tried to give us. All the examples they gave (lost homework, toys, sweatshirts) fell short compared to the real deal.

The missing knitting bag, filled with an almost-finished sweater, stitch markers, scissors, a novelty needle gauge, an adorable sheep-shaped tape measure, a pattern, and the space pen Dad bought be because he thought it was so cool. All in all, several hundred dollars worth of stuff, safely home.

It is a Christmas MIRACLE. Rejoice with me, for I have found my lost yarn!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Rant from the Gym

Okay, I left the gym before typing this up, but the rant began at the gym and has grown and developed into what follows.

People come in to the library in their pajamas. They wear pajamas to the grocery store, college classes, to McDonald's, basically everywhere. This aggravates me, because if I bother to put on real pants and brush my hair before leaving the house, other people should have to do the same. But you all know this, you've seen it yourselves. You may not even care about it. And you are entitled to that opinion even if I think you're insane.

But here's the thing. I'm going to the gym now, and people walk in, get on the machines, and start working out...but they aren't in gym clothes. They aren't even in pajamas. They are dressed in jeans, boots, sweaters, flannel shirts...two women last night were wearing eyeliner and probably a tub of bronzer each. Then a man walked in and I swear he had just left the fields, because his boots were so caked with what I hope was mud that he left chunks of it behind on the elliptical machine.

I also think people have so much trouble switching from their pajamas to real clothes that they have decided that wearing leggings as pants is okay just so they can pretend that they didn't have to change in the first place. But if people love wearing them so much, why are these few people wearing jeans and fancy work shoes to the gym? It can't be comfortable. There has to be...chafing. In PLACES. But I understand not having an extra set of clothes, or thinking if you're just walking on the treadmill for fifteen minutes, it's not necessary to change. Because really, it isn't that important. Weird, but not important.

But the muddy boots. What is up with the muddy (we hope) boots? Why is the staff of the gym not saying, "Dude, you need to wear clean footwear if you're using the equipment?"

How hard is it to bring a pair of shoes not caked in filth to the gym with you? HOW HARD IS IT?

And who walks out of the field, looks down at their legs, ankle-deep in mud, and says, "You know, I could totally wear these to the gym. No one will care, right?"

WHO?

They even make the children in gym class switch to inside gym shoes. Do they not remember the special gym shoes from elementary, middle, AND high school? Does it not occur to them that making someone spend their night chipping mud off the elliptical machine is not courteous? And if your shoes are caked in mud and you still want to work out in them, and in the clothes you wore in the fields, why didn't you just stay in the fields to work out? Run with the cows. Cows like running with people. Cows used to run in the field along with me while I ran on the road. They did it all summer. They like it. It's herd behavior.

Is this a rural Indiana thing, or are people doing this everywhere? This worries me.

Leave the filthy boots at home. Let's keep it classy, Indiana.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Tweedy Brown Socks

Once, at American Eagle, I bought boots. They were clunky, 90's boots with orange laces, and they were perfect. They were stomping boots. You could walk miles in them. I loved them. This was probably 16 (or more) years ago.

When I bought the boots, Mum insisted on getting me boot socks, because reasons. We bought four pairs. One was blue fair isle. One was tan and red fair isle. One was a heathered blue, and one was tweedy and brown with a cream fair isle band around the cuff. The subject of my story is the latter pair.

I had the tweedy brown socks for a grand total of a month before one vanished. I was upset. Of all the socks, those were the most versatile, and they were thick and cozy. I missed them.

Now I have to break something to you. It's a bit shocking. I'm sorry to have to ruin your illusions, but I have to tell the truth. Here it is: At this point in my life, my mother was a stone cold sock-thief. She "borrowed" socks from all of us. No one was immune. She used Dad's socks, my socks, whatever pair matched her outfit, she borrowed, washed, and (eventually) returned. I immediately assumed Mum had taken the tweedy brown socks. I fumed.

She claimed she had returned both of them to the drawer (yes, she'd used them). She was certain they both were there. The two of us dug through the entire basement laundry zone, her sock drawer, my sock drawer, The Brother's sock drawer, Dad's sock drawer...but nothing. I held out hope that someday the sock would return.

Many years passed.

Right before I painted my room, I sorted out my sock drawer. I got rid of pairs with holes in them. I had purchased some new pairs of socks from Old Navy on major sale, I needed space for the new socks. I pulled out the lonely tweedy brown sock, I threw it in the bag of socks with holes in them, and pitched them.

Fast forward to this morning. My sock drawer would not close. The Brother and I had finally figured out how to take the drawers out of my furniture recently, so I removed the drawer. Inside, I found a treasure-trove. There were white socks, insteps for shoes, and various other objects that had jumped from the drawer to hide in the back of the dresser.

And there was the other tweedy brown sock.

It had to end this way, I thought as I threw the long-lost tweedy brown sock away. I had held onto that sock for years, convinced that I would only find the lost one after I had given up on the other. I thought I could wait it out, but it was inevitable. I would have been upset if I hadn't been so resigned to the situation. Apparently, 16 years is long enough to grieve for a lost favorite sock.

Poor tweedy brown socks. Now, they will live on as a metaphor for...something. A laundry anecdote. A reason to remove the drawers from my furniture more than once every 16 years.

* This problem has improved since I started obsessively doing all my own laundry and refusing to allow others to touch it for fear of shrunken clothes. Now no socks are waiting in a laundry basket, vulnerable and alone.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Laura Has a Freaky Tiny Face

The hunt for frames begins. It may continue for many months.

My eye appointment, at which my prescription will be updated so I can actually BUY glasses, is on the 15th. However, I realized when I set the appointment that I am an impulse-buyer of frames. I know myself. I know I will walk into the eye doctor and try on frames for two minutes, decide I like one, and buy it on the spot. This can not happen this time. For two reasons:

  1. I need glasses I can wear everyday. I stopped wearing contacts altogether, so I need a pair of glasses that is both trendy and classic enough to last several years. They also must be neutral enough to go with every outfit.
  2. I need sunglasses, too. Driving with a pair of sunglasses put over your actual glasses is uncomfortable. I mean, my sunglasses are huge, but nothing goes over normal glasses properly unless we're talking those glasses they give you after cataract surgery, and I don't have a pair of those sort. This means I need two frames--because I can't handle transitions lenses--and that means I need two AFFORDABLE frames. I still need to eat food, drive my car, and pay other bills.
I went into a place they have in the mall, which was nice. The brother got his glasses there. They look really good. While there, I learned two things that were sobering. First, women like their glasses to be jewelry, I guess? I do not want spangly things on the sides of my frames. I do not want those expensive crystals they put on wedding dresses stapled to my face. I do not want ornamental designs including the maker's logo. I do not want giant Cs put in a fancy ring around the side of my face, or a specific blue that means they can charge an extra $200 for the frame, or Fs or YSLs woven around with fancy silver work. Nope. I want glasses that, if abandoned at a lost and found, would cause confusion as to whether the glasses belonged to a man or a woman. I want gender neutral frames. Is that too much to ask? 

The second thing I learned is more difficult to cope with. It is that I have a freakishly skinny face. I knew this already, but this place didn't have a big selection of teenager glasses, so I couldn't easily find a pair made for a 12 year-old and move on. No, I had to look at the grown-up glasses, which were HUGE on me. So I went to the children's frames, and they were just a tiny bit too small. The one thing all the frame sizes had in common? Unflattering. Apparently, in frame-speak, I need the first number to be a 48 to a 50. No bigger. Most of the glasses they had there for women? 54s. That is four of something bigger than I can look okay in.

I might be doomed.

Usually, when I run into this problem (it has happened every time I've gotten glasses through my high school years, college years, and adult years), I just switch out the lens and keep the frames. I have only had two frames in the last 16 or so years. But these frames, unlike their predecessor, were worn every single day. They look a bit worn. They will look even more worn if I wait another four years to replace them.

What I need to do is eat a lot of food and gain weight only in my face. That will work, right? 

Now for a collage of failed frames.

This is what it looks like when you cannot see the phone you're using to take a selfie.
All of these frames were designed for children. The only one that looks too small is the upper right, which was the only pair Mum and I actually liked (if they were big enough). The adult size was so big, the bottom of the lens ended near my nostrils. The bottom right are good for sunglasses, but just good. Not great.

Seriously, I have a creepy stare of blindness.

Friday, December 5, 2014

This House Does Not Exist: How UPS Delivers a Package

5:00 PM   Laura returns home from Fort Wayne. Asks if a package has arrived. Family responds that no package has arrived.


5:05 PM   Laura checks tracking information for package and discovers that UPS has listed home address as "incorrect." Having lived in the same home for almost her entire life, Laura has the address memorized and can easily spot that the address UPS has is...the correct one.

5:20 PM   Having finally created what might be her 16th MyUPS account, since the website never recognizes her username or password, Laura saves the address just as it was before (since it was correct) and clicks the live chat button.

5:45 PM   Laura concludes conversation with UPS lady online. UPS lady "corrects" the correct address to be correct. It remains correct. Then she contacts the local UPS office, in Bourbon, IN. Laura thinks she wouldn't mind drinking some bourbon right now, if bourbon were less disgusting. She thinks. Laura has never tried bourbon, but she thinks it would probably be gross. UPS lady says local UPS office will call before 8:00 PM to

discuss shipping with Laura.

6:33 PM   Phone call from local UPS office. Laura takes cell phone to window in order to keep cell signal.

6:34 PM   Laura looks outside window to see actual real-life UPS truck sitting on road outside house. Watches UPS man walk around front of mailbox and past sign on mailbox labeled clearly with home address.

6:35 PM   Laura relates to UPS lady on phone that the UPS truck is outside. Watches as UPS man gets back inside UPS truck and drives away.

This is how fast the UPS man drove away from my house as I watched him leave.

6:36 PM   UPS lady on phone loudly replies, "Really? Oh, crap. Crap, crap, crap. I'll call you back." Phone goes dead. Laura decides she likes this UPS woman. She also decides that the UPS driver is probably a moron without access to Google Maps or even that Apple map program that made all of those poor Australian people drive out into the middle of that nature preserve that's so large that it can not be crossed on a single tank of gas in any motor vehicle not specially adapted for the purpose until the hapless drivers ran out of gas and were unable to leave the preserve even on foot because desert, making it necessary for the Australian parks people to station a special truck in the preserve just to rescue the stranded motorists. Laura thinks the UPS man will probably not be a UPS man for very much longer.

7:00 PM   Laura realizes that the UPS man and his truck are probably not turning around and coming back to the house this evening. Laura holds on to hope that the box inside the UPS truck will somehow magically arrive this evening anyway, because it has her new teacup inside and she really wants to use it. It has bees on it.

via Anthropologie

7:50 PM   Laura waits for lasagna to come out of the oven. Laura waits for phone to ring or for the UPS people to finally come back. Laura accepts that neither of these things are likely to ever occur, since the UPS people are probably trained using this manual.

8:25 PM   Laura eats the lasagna. No call, no UPS man. Laura amuses herself by looking up funny UPS pictures on the internet and using them in a blog post.

8:41 PM   Laura checks tracking with the hope that the tracking information will show the status of the package that Laura expected to receive by phone. Tracking information reads: Delivered. Left at side door at 6:45 PM. Family begins to check side doors.

8:42 PM   Laura wonders if by "side door" UPS meant "side door of Hell."

8:44 PM   Mum shouts for Laura to come to garage entrance. Package was left proped against garage door. When door was opened, package fell into the garage. Package was filled with various breakables.

8:50 PM   Laura unpacks box to discover nothing broken inside. Also unharmed by being left in the rain for what Laura can only assume was two hours.

8:52 PM   Laura realizes that this means the UPS man must have knocked on the garage door and no other doors, due to various family members being home and near all entrances to the house for entire evening. UPS driver, Laura thinks, is really just as dumb as previously thought, and probably spends most of his days drooling onto his brown coat as he drives around the state chucking packages out into the rain regardless of their contents or "Fragile" stamps.

8:55 PM   Laura enjoys a cup of tea.

An Introvert's Guide to Holiday Shopping.

Do you hate being near more than five other people at any given time? Do you feel overwhelmed when in a room with someone shouting? Do you wish you were rich enough to call ahead and have the store shut down so that you could do your shopping in peace?

Here are my tried-and-true methods for coping with crowds at stores this holiday season without having a panic attack in the middle of Macy's.

27 Problems Only Introverts Will Understand


  1. Be bigger than you are. Here's the thing. People don't give you space when you're nervous about being in a crowd. They think they can step on you because you're trying to sink into the floor, so they do. As you walk, put your shoulders back, your chin up, wear imposing shoes and powerful lipstick (if lipstick is your thing). Basically picture yourself as Malifecent or Professor Snape as you shop. Nobody in Hogwarts was going to shove Professor Snape. Believe that people who bump into you WILL burst into flames, and the people will believe it too.
  2. Go with a plan. Write down what you need from each place. Go into the place, get the thing, check out. Do not browse. Do not wander around the store. Go, find, leave. This works for the grocery store and for every other place on earth.
    Wisdom from Hyperbole and a Half.
  3. Prepare to wait. You will stand in line for a while. Bring a book. This will help you stay in book world instead of crowded group of people world. Book world is always better.
  4. Prevent people from standing too close to you. See, people want to crowd in lines. Solution: get a cart even if you don't really need one. When you get in line, get in line in front of your cart. You get to choose how close you stand to the person in front of you, and now you have a cart-buffer between you and the creepily close-standing old guy behind you.
  5. nataliedee.com
  6. Pause to regroup. Does it help you to take breaks from people? Throw out your plan and do it. Sit in your car a bit in the parking lot before going inside the store. Have lunch at a sit-down restaurant instead of fast-food, because there will be less people. Go through the Starbucks drive-thru instead of standing in the crowd inside. All of these are good methods for recharging the dealing-with-people center of your brain.
Now, this still doesn't solve the overwhelming terror of wondering whether your friend or coworker will buy you a present when they haven't said whether they are or not, so you don't know whether you should buy them a present or not until they bring you something or you bring them something and then it's overwhelmingly awkward and you're afraid to ever see that person again. (My solution for this is to make crafty/tasty gifts for everyone. Then you're covered.)

Are you an introvert? What helps you get through holiday parties and shopping? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Hey, Remember That One Time...

My friend Jen does Flashback Fridays on her music education blog, and now it is time for me to do a flashback post of my own. A Flashback Wednesday Night, if you will.

I don't even know how to preface this, other than to say that this, this is why I'm still single.

Here you are. Bugs, Toad Girl, and GQ. 

October and November Favorites

I just looked back over the archives and realized I forgot to give you my favorite books of October. And since I am due to give you my favorites from November, I'm going back in time to give you both months in one post, because I can use my supreme powers as blogger to do that.


My favorite October book (and, let's face it, one of my favorite books of the year) is Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. It is the third in her Raven Cycle, and it was absolutely amazing. I love this series so much. I actually ordered a signed copy from Maggie's local indie bookstore because I wanted a copy she'd doodled in. I read it and then listened to the whole series on Audible, because Will Patton does such an outstanding job narrating the series. I fangirl Will Patton. He should narrate all of the things.

My favorite book of November is Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, which was terrific. I highly recommend it.


A.S. King is one of the best YA authors around, and her work continues to surprise and impress me.

And, because I'm me, I spent October listening to Howl's Moving Castle, The Castle in the Air, and The House of Many Ways (all by Diana Wynne Jones) repeatedly. And then in November, I listened to The Raven Boys, the Dream Thieves, and Blue Lily, Lily Blue. I then started The Raven Cycle over again, because that's just how good Will Patton is at narrating books. Why start a new book when you have one you love AND Will Patton narrated it?


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Richard III, Who's Your Daddy?

Proving once again that history is way more interesting than the Kardashians, we now know that the skeleton found under the parking lot in Leicester is--or rather was--indeed Richard III. Not only that, we know that somebody in Richard III's family tree was a bit naughty...

See, Richard III's maternal DNA is exactly as expected. Totally boring. Yep, his mum was totally Cecily Neville. They checked. But his dad's DNA was NOT what we expected, meaning Richard--or his father, or some other male relative further up the family tree--was born on the wrong side of the blanket, as Shakespeare would say. A cuckold. Meaning that TV shows based on the English royal family aren't too far off when they show everyone having a wild good time together regardless of marital status.

I tried to find a nice way to say it.

So, Cecily, or one of Richard, Duke of York's paternal ancestors had a little more fun than the Catholic church wanted them to have, and that means that there was a break in the royal line, which means that SOMEBODY shouldn't have been king. This is a BIG DEAL.

Read all about the historical debauchery here. s

Monday, December 1, 2014

General Updates! Which Are Exciting! Because Reasons!

Hey, I forgot that I didn't have a post scheduled for Friday, because I'm a responsible adult who keeps track of things. Heh.

Here are your weekly updates from the world of Laura.

The ukulele is just as easy to learn as the internet says it is. Also it is fun. Also my fingertips are swollen, red, and slightly numb.

It is possible that The Brother and I have found a gym we can join that is moderately affordable (if we share the cost and do a family membership with Dad.) I've had to take some time off due to the cold and due to my lungs shriveling up with exposure to cold air, causing near-death. I have very wisely filled this free time by eating to combat boredom. The Brother has been working out with Dad, and when I got a bit of extra free time, I joined them. I like this gym. It is a good gym. This is especially fortuitous because I took one look at this picture and decided I needed more exercise, even though the problem is mostly caused by me deciding to sit in an incredibly unflattering way on the edge of a chair. Since this is how I nearly-always sit, fitness must happen.


Since this picture was taken, I went back to said gym and did a 5K on the elliptical machine and a 10K on the stationary bicycle. Also I listened to a beautiful hour of The Dream Thieves on audiobook, which I highly recommend.

I have found a blogger I enjoy very much, and you should read her stuff. Her name is Kate Brannen, and she is hilarious. 

You should all read Gloria O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King; it is brilliant (just like A.S. King is).

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ukulele Update

Hey, remember that one time I made a humiliating video of myself fake-playing a cardboard ukulele (labeled "beige flats") for a crowd of stuffed animals at the library?

Well, it paid off, because the library has a shiny new ukulele to use for children's programming! Sometimes being a hopeless case gets your library free stuff. Sometimes. Other times it just gets you 300 magazines to the face when the bookend that was wedging them in place slips.

I've resolved to create a practice schedule, and I found a YouTuber who does ukulele lessons. He comes highly recommended. I'm ready for finger-calluses and to make all who overhear my practices cringe and flee in horror. I am going to learn the ukulele. I am READY.

To top that all off, I know a real live person who plays--she can help me--and Jennifer can help! Jennifer can do anything musical. She has skills. Basically, Jen is Julie Andrews without the habit and the children wearing clothes made of curtains.

The only way I could be happier about this situation would be if the ukulele came with a box of DeBrand's Chocolates.

Happy Ukulele Day, everybody! With any luck, someday I'll be this good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Not Exaggerating

My room is where cold winds always seem to strike the house in the wintertime. It whistled through the old windows, howling me to sleep at night as I shivered under my comforter. I learned the best ways to keep warm, first with socks, then as the problem seemed to worsen (how this is possible, I don't know), with a heating pad nestled at my feet and, still later, an electric blanket.

I used to come out and stand next to the space heater, shivering, and say, "My room is SO COLD. It never gets warm. The heat coming out of the vent is cold. Everything is cold."

"This room gets that way, too," Mum would say. "It's not insulated out here. Imagine if your room wasn't insulated."

But it felt like my room wasn't insulated. The walls were always freezing cold in winter. I remember once opening my curtains to find a sheet of ice, a quarter of an inch thick, along the right side of my window. Because yeah, the old windows* wouldn't close, so the wind had knocked out my storm window, blown through into my room, and frozen the moisture from the ice storm in my bedroom instead of outside. Half a roll of packing tape mended that storm window until spring. A year or so later, we painted outside and The Brother and I accidentally painted my windows shut. We just left that window alone, because it never closed all the way UNLESS it was painted shut. My room was cursed.


My single vent was insane, too. It spanned the length of one wall, but upon closer examination, the actual working vent was only two feet wide, not six. The people who installed the vent just felt like extending the vent over the floor for several feet for no reason whatsoever. You can look down through the vent and see all the pills that have fallen through the vent over my lifetime, sitting just out of reach as they become either more potent or more poisonous with each passing year. The cure for cancer could be sitting down there, peculating, waiting for a more-powerful vacuum hose to free it from its prison.

"The heat comes out of my vents ice cold," I told my family. "It is like air conditioning."

"It's very cold outside," they would reply, or "That's how horrible the wind is, Laura."

Clearly, there was nothing anyone could do about it, because they would have done it already, right? I hoped the new windows would fix it, but no. Same problem. To make matters worse, my allergies are so bad, I have to almost close the vents at night, so the little bit of heat that would come out of the vents, after the furnace had been running for an age, was trapped out of my room while I slept. I kept thanking God for my electric blanket every night as I fell asleep.

Fast forward to this week. We are painting my bedroom. This results in us keeping the door to my room closed to prevent paint fumes from filling the room and to keep a certain little dog from exploring inside and tracking paint all over the house.

Mum spent yesterday sanding my window frame (which we did not replace) and staining it. She finished, closed the door, and put a blanket down at the bottom of the door to keep the smell of wood stain inside.

Later, when I came home from work, she took me to see the window. It was the same temperature inside my room as it was outside, give or take a few degrees.

"Oh, Laura. You can't work in here," Mum said. "I'll open the vents."

"They are wide open, Mum. This is how cold it gets when the door is closed."

Silence.

Mum stared at the open vents.

"I always thought you were exaggerating. You're so good at exaggerating when you tell a story."

Nope. Not exaggerating.

This means that for many years, whenever I told my family about how I could not feel my toes, how I had used a screwdriver to chip away the ice on the wooden window frame, how I had two sweaters on and three pairs of socks and still couldn't get warm, they thought it was a bit. They thought I was doing cold-weather stand up as a part of my special winter routine of hilarity. But I wasn't. All that time I was shaking under four blankets--one electric--they were thinking I was making the number of blankets bigger so they would laugh.

Guess what? I wasn't. I felt an overwhelming urge to light myself on fire.


All that time, no one looked to see what was wrong because Laura is so funny. Laura is not funny. Laura is cursed by the powers that be and their mighty armies, Laura is pursued across the face of the Earth by the hated hordes of ice spirits, chasing her down and freezing her fingers and toes until the joints tighten and cramp and even knitting cannot keep them warm. Laura is doomed to rail against the freezing temperatures, a Cassandra amongst her family, forever ignored even as her prophecies come true around her.

In their defense, Mum and Dad felt awful about it. Dad instantly went into my room after turning the thermostat up to 80 degrees, pressing his hand against the vent and waiting for it to warm up. I made him hold his other hand a foot from the vent so he could feel that yes, it came out tepid, but within seconds the already-chilled room cooled the tepid air down to ice. Meaning, the "heat" from my vents did nothing, even if it did come out vaguely warmer than room temperature. He went downstairs to investigate, closing off the basement vents to see if it would make a difference (nope).

Apparently, the duct work that leads to my room has to cross the entire length of the basement from the furnace before it reaches me. This gives the icy basement ample time to chill the once-hot air before it reaches me. Dad proclaimed that he would insulate the duct work. I told him that was the only Christmas present he needed to give me.

Mum proclaimed that she was disassembling the duct work to see if there was a blockage inside it. I just sat in shock, wondering what it was about me that made my serious face look like funny-joking face.

I quietly resolved to rip the horrible vent out of the wall when I replace the carpet in my room in a few months, then to buy a much-smaller vent to fit just over the actual duct, because the current vent is the stupidest thing I've ever seen.

The Brother told me we could install a salmon cannon between our rooms to share both heat and the occasional fresh/saltwater fish.

I really want a salmon cannon.

Hopefully, the various solutions Mum and Dad have come up with will actually help. But really, it just feels good to be believed.


* We fortunately now have all new windows, so the howling of wind is no longer audible through the cracks in the window frames, and I can open and close both windows without any punching at all for the first time in my life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Viking Mummy Chicken Funeral

We had a Viking funeral. For a mummified chicken.

You actually did read that right.

See, some kids at the library had a project for class involving mummification. They were to take a chicken from the supermarket, immerse it in salt, spices, and a few other things, and it would mummify. Then, they were to carefully wrap the chicken--now chicken jerky, or rather, chicken mummy jerky, and then they would be done.

But the problem with that project was that at the end, you have a mummified chicken in your house. Or garage, I don't know where they kept King Cluck. Yes. The chicken's name was King Cluck.

Now, I am a weird adult. And before I was a weird adult, I was a much weirder kid. When I heard the story of King Cluck, I thought it was the coolest project ever, and I wished I could have been in on the mummification process, because it sounded awesome. But I am not a student anymore (weeps quietly), so I don't get to have fun.

EXCEPT.

One of the kids ( you don't get names, because privacy), suggested that instead of putting King Cluck in the trash, or leaving him on a shelf in the house for ages, eventually abandoning the mummy in the house for future owners to discover, perhaps behind a wall or wedged into a rafter, that they should give the mummy a Viking funeral.

The chicken got lots of swag for the afterlife. I got to fish it all out of the river after the kids went home. Totally worth the cold.

Now, this has all kinds of history points, because it means that instead of just doing a project on Egyptian history, now they could do Viking. And they did research. They learned a lot about Viking history and funeral rites. They learned everything except horrific things they used to do with the Thrall they sent off with the dead king into the afterlife. I don't just mean killing her.

Some of that water was frozen. Also I discovered that my right boot leaks.

The only problem was that they wanted to send King Cluck off in a boat and set the boat aflame. They had no place to do this.

FIRE.

I invited them over.

One of those balloons popped half a second after we took this picture.

I made them an awesome scroll that I aged in the oven, which I wrapped up and sealed. And then we walked down to the river and put King Cluck in his homemade raft, complete with Thrall (egg from the grocery, therefore not murdered for this ceremony), food, and other stuff to use in the afterlife, and we set the thing alight. It went downstream for a while, sunk, and I assume mummy King Cluck is now in Valhalla, very confused by the entire experience.


I used a stick to push it out to the current, and then it headed downstream.
Now, either the kids will have a better understanding of history OR they will never be able to eat chicken again. Or barbecue. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

You're Welcome

All of you need this video in your lives. Watch all the way to the end. You will regret nothing.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Gingerhell

It all started with a pin. A pin on Pinterest of children at a library, decorating gingerbread cookies for story hour. Here it is.

And then we discovered a recipe for gingerbread which seemed okay. It said it would make 40 cookies, and we did the math (April did the math, actually) and figured that if we made three batches of the 40-cookie recipe, we would have 120 cookies. This would be enough for story hour and several preschool visits.

So then April said, "You've got a standing mixer, right?" And I said yes. "Can you mix them?" And I thought, sure. That isn't too many more cookies than what I've made in the past, so I could mix them up and bring them in, no problem.

I went to the grocery store. I bought supplies.

I went home. I had run the recipe through a calculator, figured out how much of each thing I'd need, and I began to mix things together. I had tripled the recipe and then halved it, thinking that I'd  be able to do the liquid ingredients for one and one half of a batch, transfer it to a big mixing bowl, and then add in the flour and water.

That was when it all went wrong. I think when I opened the first bottle of molasses it released evil powers or the gateway to hell opened up and spilled forth sticky agents of darkness. It was all falling apart and there was nothing I could do about it because once you start pouring molasses, you are COMMITTED. There is no escape, there are only cookies and all the places the molasses has adhered to you, your shoes, and the counter.

The liquid ingredients for a batch and a half wouldn't fit in my standing mixer. In fact, the liquid ingredients for ONE batch would not fit into my mixer. That was when I should have been afraid, but what I actually did was move it over into a giant mixing bowl and keep going.

The problem quickly became that, when the flour was added, it wouldn't fit inside the mixing bowl. But by then, I had already mixed the other batch and a half's liquid ingredients inside the standing mixer, so I was committed. All of this had to be mixed, or I'd be throwing food away.

I could hear my grandfather telling me not to throw good food away, and I was still thinking (since not all the flour had been added, that I would need all of this stuff to make my 100 cookies. Right?

Wrong.

Soon I had to beg Mum to help. She brought a giant stock pot--one we use for canning--and I put all of the cookie batter into it. By then, everything was sticky, everything was ginger. Molasses stained both my arms. I kept sticking to the floor. I put all of the stuff--all three batches of cookies--into the stock pot. It was half full.

I can use this stock pot to can like ten jars of tomato sauce or salsa or various other substances! This pot could fit half a human! You could lop off my upper torso and either half of me would neatly fit into this pot. This is a pot for people who want to boil ten cabbages at once. This is a pot that can heat up vegetable soup for dozens of hungry roofers. This is a pot that works for a living. The very idea that the still very sticky cookie dough could fill even half of the pot was frankly, terrifying. It meant that soon it would fill more of the pot, it meant that I would not just have 100 cookies or even 120. I would have enough cookies to cover the walls of my kitchen like doughy wallpaper.

I began using a giant wooden spoon like a paddle to combine the stuff, like a peasant laborer. I realized quickly that this was why so many aristocrats were beheaded or burned at stakes, because their serfs had to mix food like this EVERY DAY and didn't get to eat any of it because they had to instead feed the aristocracy while they sat wearing hats so big they caused permanent vertebral damage only repaired by the guillotine.

When it was finally combined, it was the size of my dog. My dog weighs 20 pounds. I had been mixing for three straight hours. My gingerbread weighed forty pounds.  I divided the gingerbread into four great hunks, approximately ten pounds each. I had long ago given up on the idea that I would only have 100 cookies.

I thought probably it would be between 300-400 cookies. I went to bed, and when I tried to get up, I stuck to my pillow because somehow I'd managed to get gingerbread on my head or neck during the mixing process.

I took the gingerbread to work. It looked like I had a body in my trunk, but really it was gingerbread.

Today we rolled it out, cut the cookies, and baked them. We worked for another three hours. So much gingerbread. So much rolling of dough. Six hours of my life were stolen by gingerbread. SIX HOURS. There is no escape.

April did not want me to take this picture. I took it anyway.
We did not have 300 cookies. We had more. We had more than 400 cookies. We actually had 404.

I actually do not have a line down the middle of my forehead, it is my bangs attacking me.
Four. Hundred. And. Four. Cookies. I could be buried in these cookies. You could live on these cookies for a week. Maybe longer.


Guess what? That is not all of the cookies. THIS is all of the cookies.


In fact, that isn't all of them, either. This is because we encouraged the rest of the library staff to come sample a cookie or TEN cookies.


But because there are 404 cookies, Red, my friend from Twitter, told me this: "404? Wait, that means there are no cookies! 404 not found error!" And that made him my favorite. And then Allison at work made me a sign to go with the cookies because she knew how happy it would make me.

404 ERROR, Nothing Found.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Painting Party

Good morning.

Yesterday I went on Pinterest to look at room decor and accidentally ended up making two loaves of bread. These things happen. This is what Pinterest does to us all.

Also I have decided to paint my room. I decided this the day they put in the new windows at our house, and I had to hang my new curtain rods and I looked at the walls and I thought, "I must repaint in here, it looks like death." So I went to the paint store and found a color for the walls and now I have to go back because I forgot about the ceiling.

Here is the wall color:



I decided on this because I want my room to look like this one, but with a bed instead of the couch. Although I like the couch. I just would rather sleep on a bed than a couch. Personal preference.

Via South Shore Decorating Blog.

I like it. I want the gallery wall. I want random pictures of lines and an angry person in a red triangle. I want this in my life. Also I want flowers that I'm not allergic to. And a basket.

Because I am me, I'm planning on choosing my ceiling color and then prepping my room for painting on Friday (my day off) and then running to buy paint in the afternoon. If I am lucky, I can start painting on Sunday.

See, when I plan projects, I just want to DO them. No waiting around. No excuses. Want to paint? DO IT NOW. And if you can't do it now, you better do it within the week. I guess it's good I'm not procrastinating.

At any rate, painting party at my house this weekend.

BLOG DESIGN BY DESIGNER BLOGS