Thursday, May 30, 2013

A brick and mortar story

Oh, my body is going to be very angry at me tomorrow. I learned how to do masonry today and every tired muscle in me is wondering why. Two years ago, at the wall build at our hall, I thought it would be "fun" to join the masonry crew for RBC. For that project, because the wall parts were so stinking heavy, the newbies were not expected to do any actual laying. We just came back through and cleaned up and made it pretty. I thought it was "a blast" and asked the overseer to put me on the crew. So I was tickled to get invited to do masonry at the Rancho Cordova build. My friend Nina and I went together, and on the way I explained that as newbies, we would not be doing any of the actual placing of the stones. We would just come back and make it pretty.

That idea fell like a ton of bricks. There were three sizes of stones we laid today - Little, Middle and Stonehenge. Lifting up a Stonehenge one, slapping mortar on the back in just the right way so it didn't fall off and make the wall look like a bunch of newbies put it up required great strength. As my back was screaming and my arms were shaking, my body was saying to my brain - "You set your alarm clock for this?"

It's all in the wrist. And back. And arms. And...

With our work in the sound department, we know our installation is going to last quite a few years. The drink department is crucial, but the lasting impact? A few hours at best. But knowing that these stones are going to be there for a very, very long time was a gulp feeling. I kept stepping back to see our work. There are some parts that look just wonderful. Other parts? Some well placed bushes ought to do the trick. I wonder if Stonehenge had any newbies?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Videle, Romania. You can almost see Bulgaria from there!

Not to make anyone jealous or anything, but here is an exciting YouTube video showing Videle, the town village in Romania we'll be visiting. Like I said, try to not be overwhelmed by the hubbub - the razzle-dazzle energy emanating from this tourist hot spot. The best part of it, this is where we'll celebrate our anniversary.

No really, I think that is the best part. Me, Ernst and the town village goat. If my Romanian doesn't improve in this place, I am hopeless!

Please tell me these aren't the bathing facilities.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Pepe Le Pooch pummels putrid pest, people prepare potent potion

How to have a nice little swim party with friends.
Some young friends of ours have been asking for months to come and paddle our kayaks in the pool. The grownups' schedules finally meshed and we were able to have them over last night. The weather was just perfect, not too cold to swim, not too hot to enjoy being outside. A little paddling, a little talking, a few kayak races for the girls, some swimming, some more talking - a nice relaxing evening with people who are so easy to be with.

How to end a nice little swim party with friends.
We left the wet dog outside to prowl the yard while the guests came inside to continue the conversation. Ugh, what is that smell? Oh yes, she did it again, Molly got hit by another skunk. This time was particularly pungent. We heard her barking at something, it started to get pretty loud. Ernst went outside to investigate. There was a bit of silence. Then Molly came running around from behind the shed gagging.

So ended that evening. Our friends scrambled to find their things and get out the door before they were permeated with the stench. Ernst changed his clothes that got tagged just being in the vicinity of the ruckus. He put on some junk clothes to perform the anti-skunk remedy. We need to get a washing machine with a skunk setting - boiling hot with an extra rinse cycle.

Self control is not one of her strong points.

What can't she get about this? Black and white animal. Stinks. Stay away. End of story. Even for a slightly colorblind animal, it shouldn't be that difficult. It's time to invest in a restaurant-sized bottle of vanilla extract.
"It was this big!"

Thursday, May 23, 2013

21 Years, 10 Months and 3 Passports

We were sitting around the other night talking to a friend visiting from Ecuador. Jason was telling us all about our friends from Tahoe that have moved there and the adventures they've been having. As we listened about how hard it is to get any official paperwork done there, the discussion turned to visas and passports. I saw Ernst get a look of panic on his face. I realized it then too - Did our passports expire? As he ran out to the office to check, I heard him say, "I think they're good til August!!" Nope, they expired in April and we had to get new ones.

My scary passport story happened in Kiev, Ukraine - 20 years ago this summer. We were in line at the airport to leave. We were hot and tired and, after one week in the former USSR, we were looking forward to getting back to Austria. It was the trip of a lifetime, but seven days in Kiev in 1993 was one day too long. We were standing around trying to look calm in front of the gun toting guards, longing to get on the plane and eat food that had been nowhere near Chernobyl.

I was fanning myself with my boarding pass and my passport - my essentials for getting on that precious airplane. Then I looked down and only saw my boarding pass. I started repeating very loudly "OMG, I lost my passport! OMG, I lost my passport!" Others standing in line started helping me look for it, including Milton Henschel and Theodore Jarecz. The OMG statement just kept coming out of my mouth like a mantra. The thought of having to go back to that sad city and find the US embassy and spend another night there - it was just too much to bear. A large man in the next aisle lifted up his foot and there it was! My little blue book had flown quite a distance with my vigorous fanning. Lesson learned - don't use important legal documents to cool yourself unless you're in a country that you'd like to get stuck in for a few more days.

Why the look of panic when realizing we had let our little blue books expire? Because this summer I'll be fanning myself in Ireland and then holding my passport close in Romania! We're going first to Dublin and meeting some friends in the Romanian congregation there. Then it's off to Bucharest to work in an area about 40 kilometers outside the city. Kind of a goofy European vacation, but it was the same price to spend some time in Ireland first as it was to just travel to Romania only. While waiting for our new passports to arrive and getting ready for the trip, I'll have to practice saying "ODM, mi-am pierdut pașaportul meu!"

Stamped in my memory.

Costa Rica is pretty, but don't go in July.

If you smile, the border agents give you more stamps than your husband.

Go to China, just go!

EU country stamps have little symbols of planes, trains and automobiles. Cute.
Polish is impossible, but Poland is pretty.
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Ein bisschen.
Prague was way better in 1993 before Rick Steves had to go and tell everyone about it.
I'll say it again, go to China!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pampered pooch pilfers pan of pickled peppers

In truth they were not pickled. The pan was full of roasted mushrooms and bell peppers, but pickled has a better ring to it.

Peppers prepared for people
Ernst came home the other day from Costco with gobs of produce. Great, we love our veggies. But of all the weeks! With four long days of volunteer work ahead of me and a last minute house guest thrown in, what was I to do? The rule should be - you buy it, you cook it. But life being life, I got busy and had a Veggie Chop-a-Thon, because I love to celebrate the fact that my husband lives on plants and never complains about it. I made three dishes that required lots of washing and chopping, dicing and slicing: a yellow curry Thai dish, a nice big salad and a large pan of roasted peppers and mushrooms. I spilled some raw veggies on the floor, but the dog would have nothing to do with helping me clean up. Finally, I had the produce under control, dishes loaded, sink and counters cleaned, floor wiped up and dinner almost ready to be gobbled down. Ernst got a little taste of the roasted vegetables and declared them delicious. I decided to wait for the rice to finish, but man did those mushrooms smell good.

While crashed out in bed, I heard Molly barking. I could see she was in the kitchen and could hear she was very unhappy about something. "Ernst, go help Molly, I think she got her tennis ball stuck under the cabinet." She was not barking at the ball. She was barking at the now cooled pan of roasted veggies Ernst had left sticking out of the oven. Did she want them? That ship had sailed - she was barking because she had almost polished them off and was mad that she couldn't quite reach the rest! That night we all had a plant-based dinner - Molly was sent to bed without any kibble.

Poor pan of pilfered peppers

Pretending penitence for purloining produce

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Going bananas over animal prints

The Elephant quilt
Two baby quilts in a row, I could get used to this. Lighter fabric, smaller size, cute prints. Not to mention the huge selection of adorable baby fabric in the stores. Finding the perfect look should have been so easy - a walk in the park.

When I was shopping for the black, white and yellow elephant quilt, all I seemed to find were warm-colored safari prints. I went nuts over a banana and monkey print combo - audibly lamenting that I was not making a monkey quilt. So when I checked out the baby registry for the second quilt, I was tickled to see the parents were going with a safari theme - a warm-colored one at that. The bananas were in! And the monkeys and elephants and giraffes. No lions and tigers or bears, but most of the major players are here. It was back to the fabric stores to find all the animals I thought got away. Of course then I saw some grey, white and yellow elephant fabric I missed the first time. Ugh! Buying all new fabric - it's a zoo out there.

Bananas and monkeys


Mama elephants and baby elephants

The whole collection

After I cut out all the squares and sew the Xs on them, I grab a nice clean sheet to lay them out on to choose the pattern. Even for the small baby quilts, I have to do this on the floor of the living room so I can step back over and over to see if the layout is balanced. That's why I use the sheet, to keep the quilt squares clean and fresh. After the design is set, I stack up the rows and number them for sewing. I come back to the sheet for the snipping process, keeping my quilts fresh and clean until the entire process is done.

All squared up

"Ah, fresh from the wash. Is that lavender Downy?"

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Naturally, diet is a touchy subject

Lately I've been rethinking what to call our diet.

Vegan? Sounds like we spray paint people who wear fur and leather.
Plant based? Sounds like we only eat kale and banana shakes.
Plant centered? Sounds like the nursery department at Target.

I'm still thinking, but I hope we never sound like this!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The post closet cleaning spring rain storm

What a wonderful feeling - a purged closet all ready for the hot weather.

  • Summer skirts lined up in a row. 
  • Summer blouses waiting to be ironed. 
  • Sandals waiting to show off my twinkle toes. 

Now if I could just find the umbrella, where did I put the umbrella?

The Good

The Bad

The Ugly

Monday, May 6, 2013

An elephant hunt for Noah's quilt

My mission was clear from Noah's great-grandma - make an elephant themed quilt in grey, white and yellow. So many aisles I walked up and down, looking for just that. I saw lions and tigers and bears, oh my did I. But all the safari animals were in warm earthy colors, not right for this baby's ensemble. I even saw some monkey and banana fabric and exclaimed, Monkeys, why could it not be monkey themed? The monkeys had to hang tight, they were not for this quilt.

My elephant hunt continued on - they had to be hiding somewhere. And then they appeared, adorable as can be. White elephants, rows and rows of them, on black cotton. Black is the new grey, right? Like 50 is the new 40? Whatever, I found the cutest fabric for the elephant quilt for Noah from his great-grandma!