Thursday, April 15, 2010

A major award

Check it out, I'm now a famous photographer!

See the teeny little picture of a lion in the upper right hand corner?  Yes you can, put your reading glasses on and squint a little harder.  See it now?  That's MY picture.  Yes, that's right, Schmap (whom everybody knows, they're practically the next Google Maps) discovered it on Flickr and chose it as one of the elite 3,402 shots of the Oregon Zoo to display on their website.  There is no monetary compensation involved, but obviously this major exposure will open all sorts of doors for me on my quest to get somebody to pay me for pressing the shutter button.

I'm on my way, people.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I don't like you, pineapple upside-down cake

So I've been reading and laughing my way through Amy Sedaris' hosting book, I Like You.  I bought it mainly for the comedy, but as I'm leafing through it I start to realize that the recipes in there actually sound good.  And lo, Easter is coming, my mother and I have been missing pineapple upside-down cake, and there is a recipe for it in Sedaris' book.  Last year I hosted Easter and had no time for dessert.  My mom tried to find a pre-made p.u-d.c. at the grocery store to no avail.  So I decide to try Sedaris' version.

Now, nobody who bakes is going to tell you this is a hard cake to make.  I've made it before and it takes little time.  It all sounds well and good, except...the recipe says to mix the pineapple juice in with the butter & brown sugar that goes on the bottom of the cake pan.  Well let me be clear's what it says:

  • Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch cake pan or an ovenproof skillet.  Stir in the brown sugar and stir until it dissolves.  Take off burner and add your pineapple juice. 
I did this, and I had a pool of pineapple juice sitting on top of my brown sugar/butter mix.  To that I was supposed to add the pineapple rings and then the cake batter.  And I said, "That can't be right."  Who leaves a pool of liquid sitting unmixed in a cake pan?  So I scrapped the whole mess out of the pan, mixed it up on the burner and re-poured.  Now I had a sort of slurry sitting on the bottom of my cake pan, but I forged ahead with the rest of the recipe.  I knew it was too soupy, but I said, hey, maybe the drug-addled comedienne knows better than me about this cake.  After all, I haven't made this in about 10 years.

Here's what fell out of my cake pan 45 minutes later:

Those fucking cherries and rings were arranged in a meticulously PERFECT pattern.  I wasn't crazy, there was too much goo on the top of my cake, and it came out like a soggy sponge.  Also, my cake pan must not have been big enough because when the cake rose so did the evil brown pineapple bubbled right out of the pan and onto the bottom of my oven.  NEVER MIND that I neglected to put a protective cookie sheet under my cake pan, something my mom taught me to do 20 years ago.  You just keep that comment to yourself, missy.  All I know is that when I put the oven on last night it smoked for 45 minutes.  I had to scrape that sugary crap off of the bottom with a spatula, and the oven still smoked for another 30 minutes afterward just to remind me why I quit baking years ago.

But Amy, I still like you, even if you practically came over in the flesh and ruined my morning by baking a bad cake and leaving me to clean up the mess.  So I'm going to try this again, and I will substitute some of the liquid in the cake batter for the pineapple juice.  It's going to be fabulous.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I did not expect to buy a kitchen sink and new counter tops Saturday night and be 1/2 finished with cutting and installing them by Sunday night.  Behold, the power of Home Depot.

I'm off for a well-deserved shower, beer, and bed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

All work and no play

feels really damn good sometimes.

Renovations on the bathroom resumed yesterday.  We did some good work for about 12 hours straight. We're working on tiling in the bathtub, and we're nearly ready to lay the one row of tiles it will take to complete the job.

Also, we hung the new soap dish.  I don't know why but looking at it makes me incredibly happy.

I've got a picture somewhere of what the bathroom used to look like...I'll dig it up, but in the meantime, imagine it if you can.  I live in a house built in 1961.  The fixtures in the bathroom probably date back to when the house was built.  Someone had the good sense to not install PINK TILES, and for that I am eternally grateful.  Instead, they used an adobe color.  Not a color I would have chosen, but totally acceptable.  That's the best part - we're leaving all of the tiles on the wall up.

The tub and sink were installed to "match" the adobe color, and they were the color of flesh.  FLESH.  Why, how lovely, your tub matches your skin tone.  Now you can bath and have the comfort of knowing you are partially camouflaged!  The sink was embedded in a cheesy yellowish linoleum top, complete with caulk sticking out all around the sink.  This linoleum top rested on an oak colored vanity that, while actual wood, was thin, flimsy, and old.

Also, it the bathroom was carpeted.  We've got a horrible tan wall to wall carpet (perfect for displaying every black dog hair that rests on it), and the previous owners must have liked it so much they decided to keep laying it right into the bathroom.  Perfect for absorbing the water that you shed when exiting the shower, trapping it, and turning it into mold!

Finally, the upper part of the walls were wallpapered with a lovely small print design featuring hearts and ivy or some such shit.  Around the entire top portion of the room was a wallpaper border showcasing geese.  It tastefully matched the rest of the wallpaper.

Got a mental picture now?  Can you feel yourself just melting into the luxury of such an elegantly designed bathroom?  Great, now get ready to annihilate it.

Renovations began with pulling up the carpet, under which we found a perfectly acceptable tile floor, covered in carpet glue.  They also layed large white tiles around the toilet, which the carpet did not cover.  So I got to chisel those up and still have to deal with scraping the remaining grout off of the lower layer of tiles.

Next came sink removal.  That was satisfyingly easy.  The top of the vanity popped right off and we actually saved the vanity for reuse.  I used a combo stain/gloss coat in a nice deep reddish brown, and it came out great.  We also replaced the knobs with some simple brushed nickel ones.  The drawers still need some attention to make the work properly, but we saved about $500 by not investing in some laminated piece of crap.  A granite top is patiently waiting to be laid on top.

Next was tub removal.  This was a royal bitch...first we popped off a single layer of tiles surrounding the tub, and then Chris sawed through the wall board so we could pry the tub out.  The flesh colored beauty was also cast iron, and had to be sawed in half just to enable us to pick it up and carry it out of the house.

Then came wallpaper removal, and an endless cycle of sanding, plastering, sanding, plastering, ad nauseum, and I'm still not frigging finished.  I started painting before I got it all perfect because I simply couldn't take it anymore.  I'm nearly done now, but not quite.  A word to potential home buyers - don't buy a house with wallpaper you don't like or don't plan to paper over.  One, two, even four walls, sure, but OUR ENTIRE HOUSE WAS COVERED WITH SHITTY WALLPAPER.  About 1/2 of it still is, and I have come to accept that I'm never going to finish the job.

In the midst of peeling/sanding/plastering/painting hell, we cut a hole in the wall to accommodate the new medicine cabinet, and replaced the light fixture.

Then came new, WHITE tub installation.  This wasn't so much difficult as it was aggravating, because after the first try we discovered it was leaking.  I assumed we had bigger problems and needed a plumber's help, but Chris knew better...turned out we didn't screw in the drainpipe well enough.  Another lesson learned - always use the right tool for the job, remember that you already bought the damn thing, and know where it is before you say "fuck it" and use a plier handle to tighten the drainpipe.

So we're probably about 70% through the entire job.  The tile around the tub needs to be laid, as well as all of the new tile on the floor, the medicine cabinet will be screwed in when the wall stops looking like shit, and the sink & vanity go back after the tile is laid.

On a good day, I'll say the work is fun.  It totally depends on the job, my mood, and how defeated I'm feeling by this old house.  Demolition is the most satisfying, hands down.  Repetitive work is hard and frustrating, but hey, I'm a programmer, I sit on my ass all day and so I (sometimes) enjoy having something manual to do.  Tasks involving power tools that have the potential to remove my fingers, and electricity, which has the potential to stop my heart, are terrifying, but that's where Chris really shines, and I appreciate his knowledge and expertise.  But putting on the finishing touches?  Like the silly soap dish?

That shit is priceless.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Box

The Box was originally written by Richard Matheson, entitled "Button, Button", and published in Playboy in 1970.  The Warner Brother's version is based on the same premise.  A box is left on the doorstep of a family - a couple in their mid-thirties with a single child.  It contains a button.  If pressed, the couple will receive one million dollars in cash.  Consequently, someone unknown to them will die.  If they chose not to press the button, the box will be retrieved within 24 hours, "reprogrammed", and presented to another family with the same options.

This is a CREEPY MOVIE.  I cannot divulge anything else because I hate to be the spoiler, but if you enjoy a psychological thriller, and don't mind a little sci-fi and suspension of disbelief, I highly recommend this film.  It isn't often that Hollywood produces a film where the premise revolves entirely around an issue of morality.  Yes, I know, lots of films try to cram a lesson or two down our throats before the credits roll, but this one was entirely about the consequences of our choices.

So would you press the button?  Is a million in cash worth more to you than a stranger's life?  What if you were the stranger?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

An accurate summation

"You didn't lose anything, Beth.  You just discovered it was never yours in the first place."

~My Dad

Monday, February 22, 2010

A random act of...littering?

A very strange thing happened to me in San Francisco.  Sara and I were headed down the escalator into the underground to catch the metro.  A youngish, lanky, red-headed fellow was on his way up and passing us as we went down.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, he whips a cardboard box at me.  It was some sort of empty food container, and it hit me squarely in the chest.

My immediate reaction was to whip around and stare at him, but already he was above me and I was lookng at the back of his head.  "WELL THAT WAS UNUSUAL!!" was all I thought to yell.  What I felt like doing was running back up the escalator and sucker punching him in the back of his head.  But I am not stupid, and resisted the urge to start a physical fight with a strange man on the street of a strange city.

Sara missed the incident, as she was in front of me on the down escalator.  When I told her what happened, she mused..."He was probably on drugs."

Clearly he was taking the wrong drugs.  Or perhaps he wasn't taking the right ones.

Dear box-man, I am only wondering...why me?  Was it coincidence?  Or did something about my appearance make you so angry you had to whip something at me?