Sunday, December 28, 2008

I Heart Thrift Shopping

Not only is MacGyver a top-notch carpenter, but he is a genius at operating on a budget. The other day he needed doors for our bathroom, so he took me to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, the Goodwill of home improvement shops. I had never been there, and marveled at the buckets of doorknobs, the $3000 widescreen TV for $600, the $45 washing machines, and the crap. I tried to take pictures of everything that awed me, but the employees were giving me disapproving looks. Here's a taste of the appalling treasures I found.

Note the illustration of a gloved hand. Is this supposed to imply that sophisticated ladies use this product, or is it a warning to never touch a mercury switch with your naked flesh? And it's only five cents! Has it ever been so cheap to poison yourself?

Among the mugs and chotchkies I found an old, old bottle of cologne. I couldn't wrap my head around this thing. I mean, it just screams mammy doll, and yet it is celebrated kitsch. Avon Small World Perfume...the smell of racism.

This would be just darling in the parlor. I was really hoping it was a chair with a periscope, but it turned out to have air-conditioning controls, so I guess it's from a hair salon. Or maybe it's really an evil robot from the future. I think we're safe as long as no one plugs it in.

It's a vinyl record! For your car! That caption reads Take a super adventure with "Kid James" through a very special book...the KID JAMES VERSION of the Bible! Discover the stories of Bible Characters who traveled...God's Super Travelers! When I was a kid we listened to our Bill Cosby: Himself cassette tape on road trips, not Christian propaganda. We would have considered this aural punishment. I hope whoever buys this burns it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Memorable Holiday Moments

-I spent all day baking on Christmas Eve. I was trying a fancy new recipe for brownies and had put the nice, pourable batter in the fridge to mellow overnight per the cookbook's suggestion. To my horror, I discovered the consistency had turned to that of stiff modeling clay. I had to dig out chunks of batter and mold them to fit the pan.

-At MacGyver's aunt's Christmas Eve party, his sister Sunshine reminded VBG's sister that she and a guest are invited to her wedding. Sunshine added that the guest does not have to be her boyfriend, and nearby relatives piped up and offered to let Sis bring their dogs. Why? Because dogs are much better people than that tool.

-I've been attending church semi-regularly since this summer, and I joined my family for Christmas Eve services. Before mass started I felt someone staring at me. I knew something was wrong, because I don't believe* it's actually possible to feel another's gaze. I looked over at the source, and discovered the presence of Nick from school. You could say I felt a wave of pure hatred wash over me if you wanted to put it nicely. I spent the first part of mass trying to convince myself I am a grown-up and I do not solve problems with sidekicks to the knee.

-MacGyver and I were in his parents' neighborhood for their Christmas morning get-together. He had the tailgate of his dualie open to wrap a rake, and I was carrying the wrapped presents when a terrier broke out of its yard and ran barking madly toward us. I love dogs, but I am scared of strange ones. In half a second I went from loitering in the street to standing on the tailgate, still holding presents. I guess I levitated. A Christmas Miracle!

-MacGyver's two and a half year old niece, KP, has seen me but has never wanted anything to do with me. So when she kept coming up to me to hand me toys, I was confused. She has better motor skills than Baby Bunny but is less intelligible, and I had no idea what she was very earnestly trying to tell me. Her favorite thing to hand me was a toy plate, a fork, and a Mr. Potato Head ear, so I pretended to cut off chunks and held the fork out. Very solemnly, she pretended along and ate what I offered. She didn't get tired of it, and every member of MacGyver's family got a chance to watch and laugh their asses off.

-This was the first Christmas I did not glue myself to MacGyver's elbow at his grandparents' Christmas party, and I went and made conversation with people independently. His grandparents' parties always stress me out because there's dozens of people who look vaguely familiar, but I can't remember their names, and I have no idea what to say to anybody. I am thinking that next year I should remember to take a pack of malt beverages.

-MacGyver grilled ten pounds of salmon for my family. Droooooool.

-Mercury abruptly announced "I'm too full to" and stopped playing with his sibs. When we figured out what he meant was "I'm too full to do anything but vomit" my sister rushed him to the bathroom, but it was occupied, so she tried to get him to my dad's bathroom. "Tried" is the operative word here. Mercury threw up all over my dad's bedroom carpet.

-Amidst all the gift unwrapping, Baby Bunny found me and crawled onto my lap. She smiled sweetly and grabbed my cheeks with both hands and tried to rip them off of my face.

*I also don't believe Jesus was magical, and yet, there I was.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

One Year Later

Dear Mom,

The world misses you. Someone in Cambodia didn't get a cow from Heifer because you weren't around to donate. Most of the birdfeeders at the farm have been put away because you weren't here to fill them. Some asshole blew through a red light guiltlessly because you weren't there to yell at him.

I miss you. Arranging family get-togethers is like herding cats. I never knew how picky dad can be because you quietly fed him what he wanted. I'm still trying to figure out how to get the bloodstains out of the upholstery. You must have been some kind of magician to make order out of this chaos.

This has been the worst year of my life. The suck has been compounded by being unable to receive advice from you. You knew how to make people listen to you, and you always knew the best thing to do, and you had the balls to do it. Remember when you hugged a stranger in an elevator, and she hugged you back and cried on your shoulder? Or when I wanted to strangle my sister-in-law, but instead you visited her in rehab to help her? Or when you stuck to your diet just in case you got better and it made a diference? I've bungled so many situations this year, and run from confrontation on a monthly basis. It seems half of my success as an adult stemmed from your counsel.

At least I know that no matter how much I fuck up, you'll love me anyway.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Feedback for the Damned

Last week I met with the lady that signed my rejection letter. It took almost an entire month to get her to agree to a date and time, which must mean I'm really important, right? No? Screw you! Her explanations were unsurprising, mostly. It was the interview that killed my chances, people. I knew the interview was going badly before it ended, so I was not shocked. At all. My application essay was not received well either, it was about how a PT that I shadowed demonstated commitment to the core values* of the APTA while working with a client. And I had to do it in two pages.

She suggested I get more experience in the field and really work on become an outgoing person. Really? 'Cause I consider my antisocial tendencies as part of my charm. She encouraged me to put myself in positions where I am uncomfortable and am forced to talk to people. That sounds awesome! As awesome as performing self-flaggelation with live wires! She did not know that I was interested in research, which I mentioned during my interview. So, my interviewer apparently didn't share that tidbit with anyone, which makes my three years as research assistant seem unimportant. Then she told me I ought to apply to more than one program, despite informing her minutes prior that since I bought a house here, all my eggs were in her particular basket. Grrr.

I am making a plan to became the applicant they cannot turn away. Ideas, anyone?

*Accountability, altruism, compassion and caring, excellence, integrity, professional duty and social responsibility. Dude, I can barely list that in two pages.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

That's Good Enough For Me

One of the few holiday activities I have done this year is bake. I tried a new chocolate chip cookie recipe for a mini-road trip, made a carrot cake for Eid, and and ear-marked about two dozen desserts I want to try for Christmas. I like to tinker with recipes, but can rarely justify it.

I finally had a reason to experiment this week. I wanted to send orange-cranberry cookies to Anami and Joe, and the original recipe wouldn't do. I got the recipe from Evil Ducky, who got it from the internet. The first time she shared them I shoved as many into my gaping maw as I politely could, then silently wished for many more. I made my own batch a few weeks ago with dissimialr results. The flavor was awesome, but my cookies spread out and were more crispy than tender. On top of this, Joey is allergic to eggs, a staple of about every baked good on the face of the planet.

I began by halving the recipe, because I didn't want to waste too much sugar and butter on a potential failure. My taste is along the lines of there can never be enough cranberries, so I increased them by 50%. I also threw in more walnuts to give it better crunch. Then I was stumped. I knew egg replacer was an option, but I didn't know where to buy it. I usually decrease the butter to reduce spread, but with so many nuts and berries I really needed that batter to hold it together. So, I hit the books. Last week I got stood up at Barnes & Noble, so I perused the cookbooks to make the evening less of a waste. That's when I discovered Shirley Corriher. Her explanations about why recipes succeed or fail made sense, and I incorporated her teachings. I replaced the egg with more orange juice for liquid compensation, used cake flour rather than all-purpose for less gluten, and increased the brown to white sugar ratio to absorb more moisture upon standing. I would have used ghee instead of butter to reduce spread, but I didn't have any. It's not something I just have sitting around, OK? I chilled the batter for 24 hours and kept it in the fridge between spooning it onto baking sheets to help them keep their shape. I made them smaller than usual, because I imagined Joe would have them with tea. Hey, it made sense to me.

Ta daaa!

Cream 1/2 cup softened butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/4 cup white sugar together till smooth. Add 2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice and 1/2 teaspoon orange zest. In a separate bowl combine 1 1/4 cup cake flour, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon salt; stir into the orange mixture. Mix in 1 1/2 cups chopped, fresh cranberries and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 12 minutes at 375 F, until the edges are golden. Let them continue to bake on the sheet for a few minutes, then remove and cool on wire racks. In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 teaspoon orange zest, 1 1/2 tablespoons orange juice, and 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread over cooled cookies. Makes 32 to 36.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Dear Santa Claus,

How are you and the Missus? I hope you are well and the North Pole isn't melting too much. I'm sorry I haven't written in so long. We're still cool, right?

I have been very good this year. I have done all of my homework and flossed every day. I haven't punched anyone in the face, and I only yell at people when I am in my car and they can't hear me.

Down to business! This year I want:

-My cats to stop shedding.
-To lose 12 pounds.
-Winning Powerball tickets.
-The library to order all of my requests.
-The economy to stop sucking salty balls.
-Michael Keaton to be funny again.
-This shirt.
-These cookbooks.
-My serotonin level to be awesome.
-Laurie Notaro to comment on my blog, because she loves it.
-Grad school to realize it can't go on without me.
-A helicopter to fly me to San Francisco at my whim.
-A favorable prognosis for my brother.
-To look like Mariska Hargitay. But younger.
-A decent job.
-More cowbell!
-Christian Bale *wink wink*.

I trust you will use good judgement to choose which gifts to bring me. In return, I offer tasty baked goods and coffee. Please inform me of any food allergies.

Hugs and kisses,
Laura Danger

Monday, December 8, 2008

I Get Around

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I would love to visit the lower 48 by the time I'm 30. It's possible, though not likely. Six years ago I had visited very few of the western states, and then a couple of major road trips later I had a big chunk of the US filled in. Two more big road trips (that I'm too broke to do) could get me through New England and the rest of the West. Mississippi and South Carolina will probably be done separately. The big problem with that is: why would I ever want to go to Mississippi? Arkansas and Alabama are my least favorite states, so why would Mississippi be any different? During my entire drive through Arkansas I had a look of abject horror on my face. I decided the state would have a better reputation if they diverged the highway away from the white trash. The image of 50 broken washing machines in front of a rotting trailer home is burned into my memory. I do think it's a little odd that I have never been to Pennsylvania. I mean, it's right on the other side of Ohio, a neighboring state. I'm not trying to ignore you, Pennsylvania, you're just so unassuming and the glitz and excitement of other states (like Nebraska!) draw me in the opposite direction. Maybe if you weren't so, well, Amish I'd notice you.

Gas is almost cheap right now, I should just pick a state and aim for it*. Oh look, there's a state park in northern Mississippi that's less than 6.5 hours from my house. It even sells ice! How convenient! I'm changing my mind about the South already!

*This won't actually be happening, due to finals. Sigh.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Ratings: Keys

Esc: Not once has the Escape key ever gotten me out of trouble, in fact, I've never used it successfully for ANYTHING. I'll be working an unfamiliar program, something goes wrong, and I think "I'll just Escape!" I push it and nothing happens. I push it again and nothing happens. I don't give up easy though, I just whap it faster and faster until I feel stupid. It's frustrating, like a spermicidal condom breaking and thinking I'm still OK, I have this dandy backup, except OH WAIT IT'S NOT HELPING. What we need is an Abort key. D+

Caps Lock: Who thought of this? How often do people type in all capitals? Did some keyboard developer's pinky get a cramp holding down the shift key? No sane person actually needs a Caps Lock. Sometimes I get emails in all caps, and it shows the sender is either very angry, or very lazy. Good to know. B

Insert: This stupid key has only ever messed up my formatting. I actually had to look up it's function to talk about it. I'm still not sure what it does. What's this overtype mode? Would my life be better if I used it? WHAT'S GOING ON*? C-

The Space Bar: Poor anonymous space bar, it doesn't get a symbol even though we use it more than the letter E. It's such an accomodating key too, so long I can hit it no matter where my hands are. I can use either hand! Genius! A

F2: Imagine you are one of 12 siblings, and only your oldest sib has any respect. But wait! You know Little Mister Perfect better than anyone, you know all his dark secrets, like the incident with the Lucky Charms, smack, and five Canadian Mounties. You even have photographic evidence and a written request for the negatives to be released in case of your untimely death. Who has the power now, F1?! B+

*I didn't even think to use Caps Lock. It's that unnatural.