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."


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.


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.


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


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?


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.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sometimes Benadryl Happens

I took an involuntary blog break this week due to copious amounts of Benadryl. Oh dear. Benadryl.

I hate taking the stuff. I only use it during episodes of extreme allergic reaction when I think I'm about to die of sneezing or asthma symptoms and am okay with the dying happening because that's how bad I feel. Only in times of desperation.

But Nancy had a cold. And I caught the cold. (Either that or the child who sneezed directly into my face this week gave me the cold. Meh. It came from somewhere.) When I get a cold, my nose runs. And when my nose runs, and when I sneeze, it triggers allergy symptoms. And asthma symptoms. It's as if I'm allergic to having a cold, which isn't possible, but the results are the same. This always ends in sinus infection, which I really could live without. Sinus infections suck.

Usually I push through it. This time I thought, It's Sunday. SUNDAY. I can rest today. So I decided to try a new way of treating colds--by not treating the cold but instead treating the allergies. I took a dose of Benadryl and slept. And slept some more.

And I did not get a sinus infection. It's like an early Christmas present, but without the pine-scented things that give me migraines!

Instead I lost half a week and spent the remaining part of the week catching up on everything I missed. It was busy. Very busy.

It has resulted in the printing of thousands of pages, which I will now assemble into reading logs for a new program at the library. Assembly means stapling.

Stapling means I will have "SWINGLINE" bruised into my palm for the foreseeable future.

This stack is about 50 booklets waiting to be folded. I have that many already folded. Eventually we'll need 500 total. Or more.

I'll be doing this for a while.