Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wintry Mix Deluxe

Ferns, Firs, and Fog
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
I've decided that it is imperative that I get out for a walk every day from now on. I've been slacking off big time when it comes to exercise and fresh air and I'm really starting to feel rather crappy and unhealthy. B and I were just about to head out a few minutes ago when the skies started dumping quantities of Wintry Mix, nay, Wintry Mix Deluxe (rain, snow, and hail--a dollar extra per pound) down on our little corner of Portland.

We got out yesterday and hiked through Forest Park in the rain and fog. (See, we are true Portlanders.) Love it, love it, LOVE IT--even though my rainpants got splattered up to the thigh with mud and my hiking boots now look like freshly dipped boot-shaped chocolates. I kept going on and on about how very similar the atmosphere was to Lord of the Rings (LOTR, pronounced "loater") and Middle Earth and all that Tolkien stuff. At some point the friend we were hiking with pointed out that she owns all the LOTR DVDs and that, really, most of the action does not take place in forests that look like this, this, or even this.

It didn't? I have to admit that I only ever saw the first Loater movie and we fast-forwarded through much of it, but I had the impression that it was all ferns and fog. Seems like it should have been.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blue Light Special

Blue Light Special
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
B and I spotted this house on our annual Christmas Eve Walk/Pub Crawl™. It's my absolute favorite of all the many decked-out houses we've seen this year. In my opinion, it's impossible to have too many blue lights. They are, quite simply, the very best color for Christmas lights to be. Also impossible, taking a decent photo of Christmas lights, but I kind of like this blurry impressionistic look.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Dave

Rather than have to utter the unwieldy term "Christmas Eve Day," B and I have taken to calling the hours before nightfall on December 24th, "Christmas Dave." We are highly ingenious, are we not?

We have no plans for Christmas other than to lounge and loaf. I'll probably continue on with my craft marathon. I finished the Quant headband a week or so ago.

Finished Quant (the first one I made)

I'm quite pleased with it, and it's been cold enough that I've even gotten the chance to wear it a few times.

I'm now working on one for my sister that, sadly, is not turning out too well. I spent an hour dithering back and forth in the yarn shop over yarn. She is very particular about colors. Her favorites are shades of brown, gold, and green. Basically, the colors of '70s-era kitchen appliances. I'm personally not overly fond of any of these colors. I probably had the perfect yarn in my hand at one point, but when I thought about having to spend an extended period of time with it transforming it into a Quant, I had to put it back on the shelf.

What I fear I did was buy some yarn that I liked, and talk myself into believing that it fit my sister's criteria. It does have some brown/burgundy tones and some green in it, but really it's overwhelmingly blue--my favorite color--and the blue comes even more into the forefront because of the nature of the entrelac style (texture? whatever it is).


Quant WIP

On top of that, the gauge seems to be off and there are some mistakes in it. I think I'll just rip it all out, and start over with different yarn. There's a lesson here about knitting things for other people. There's too great a chance that A) he/she won't like it B) it won't fit C) it will never be worn D) all of the above.

And speaking of making stuff for other people, the "Keep Portland Weird" notecards I made for the handmade gift exchange party were the most unpopular gift of the evening. What an accomplishment! Out of something like 17 gifts, mine was the absolutely last one to be chosen. It sat there on the table with all the other gifts, nicely wrapped (I thought) in Christmas-themed National Wildlife Federation wrapping paper with a little pouf of shiny red-ribbon curlycues that I'd laboriously spiral permed, but time and again it was passed over. Finally, it was down to two gifts. Mine and one that had been damaged in transit. Surely, I thought, mine looks more appealing than the one with the wrapping paper half torn off of it. Apparently not! The shoddily wrapped present went first. The last person had the choice of "stealing" one of the already opened gifts or taking my gift. She said she wanted to open something, so she took my gift and put me out of my misery. She kindly said she liked it, but who knows?

Obviously, I shouldn't be so invested in any of this, but it took way longer to make the notecards than I'd anticipated. I'll bet I spent a total of 12 hours on them. I had to reglue them at one point (I failed to remember from my brief stint as a Girl Scout that glue sticks are total crap). Then they started to curl, so I had to flatten them under a stack of volumes of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Then I had to trim each one verrrrrrry carefulllllly with manicure scissors, so they would fit in the envelopes I had for them.

But I still wasn't done.

As in previous years, I realized at the final hour that I needed something to put the gift in. I didn't have any suitable boxes, so I spent even more time constructing this elaborate handmade folder for the cards and envelopes. By the time I finished making that, I was really starting to resent the whole thing and found myself thinking, "I sure hope whoever gets these appreciates them," but fully realizing that I'd gotten to the point where no reaction or explosion of praise was ever going to be big enough.

Here's a sampling of a few of the cards (arrayed on the freakin' folder I had make). Please say something nice!

Keep Portland Weird Notecards

OK. I just had to get that out of my system. B says that I am too hung up on the need for approval. It's totally true. I am and always have been. But I don't know how to get over that.

On the flip side, the Amy Sedaris Lil Smokey cheese ball (one of two) I took to the party was a smash hit! At one point a whole swarm of women were gathered around it acting like it was the best thing they'd ever eaten (I kept my yap shut about the fact that it had a stick of butter in it). Go figure. Here's all that was left at the end of the party. It had some pretty stiff competition, too, including regular gingerbread men and hash gingerbread men (distinguishable from the regular ones by their missing heads and limbs).

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lipid Overload

What is it?
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
Instead of going out to celebrate B's birthday tonight,* I stayed home to make this strange-looking concoction. What is it? The batter (or frosting?) for a "mountainous" Lady Baltimore Cake? Fluffer-Nutter for a crowd? Curdled eggnog?

Have a closer look, and gaze into the abyss (if you dare). That distinctly pinkish hue is probably what's throwing you off. What we have here is Amy Sedaris's Lil Smokey Cheese Ball. There's nothing "Lil" about it, let me tell you. She recommends that you chill the protoball overnight and then form it into a ball the next morning. I decided I'd give myself a head start by mooshing it into a sort of centralized glob before sticking it in the fridge to chill.

That centralized glob is about the size of a softball--a sixteen incher! I guess I'm going to have to split it into two before I take it to the holiday party it's destined for. What, I wonder, happens to guests who show up at the door with two cheeseballs? Does a hostess even really want a single cheeseball entering her house? Myself, I'm fond of cheeseballs, but I spread a bit of this stuff on a couple of crackers and, glurg, I'm feeling a bit woozy--no doubt because the (not at all) Lil Smokey recipe calls for 2 cups of grated smoked gouda, a full pound of cream cheese, and a stick of butter. What was I thinking making something with that much fat in it? I did use Neufchatel (1/3 less fat) instead of regular cream cheese, but still...lipid overload!

*B woke up with a terrible sore throat this morning, so his birthday dinner is being postponed.



Saturday, December 15, 2007

Saturday Crafternoon

I spent most of the afternoon working on this.

Quant Headband

Yes. Another rubbish photo of a knitting project. I don't know why, but it's seemingly impossible to photograph knitting well. I promise I am not knitting a woolly, jumbo-sized vorticella. (Nor are the colors nearly as similar to sewage sludge as they may appear to be.) I am, in fact, knitting this headband thingie (the Quant, I believe it's called) featured in the latest issue of Knitty.

It's part of my ongoing lifelong quest to find a way to keep my ears warm in winter without crushing the vigor and vim out of my hair and mashing it flat to my skull. This could be the answer. We shall see. In the meantime, I'm having great fun with entrelac knitting. I am always attracted to baskety-looking woven things (e.g., huaraches) so, of course, now that I know entrelac knitting exists I find it highly appealing. I've never tried it before, and it's one of those things that is a lot easier than it looks. And if I say it's easy that means it's super-duper E-Z. I'm the person who—despite knitting two cardigans, a sweater, and a pair of socks last winter—had to at the beginning of this project look up how to make a knit stitch and a purl stitch. I wasn't certain I remembered how. Yes. I am that bad at retaining basic skills I've supposedly learned. It's sad, terrifying, hilarious, and pathetic.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

While Waiting for the Coffee to Brew...

I called the chocolate orange 800 number again this AM while I was waiting for my coffee to brew. I had a few minutes, so whyever not? It didn't turn out to be the laff riot I'd hoped for, but here's my report anyway.

First, the customer service person asked me if I was sure the chocolate orange was a Kraft product. She'd never heard of it. She made me read the bar code on the package to her--twice. Then she asked me to "bear with her" while she went to look up some product info on the chocolate orange. After a few minutes, she came back on the line and told me that the chocolate orange was a chocolate product shaped like an orange that when unwrapped "falls" into slices like an orange. Not exactly 100% accurate. But that wasn't the information I was looking for. I insisted that she give me some guidance about proper whacking protocol, and she was forced to abandon whatever printout she had in front of her and use her own noggin to come up with an answer. In short, she had to wing it! I'm sure Kraft discourages that, but what else could she do? I think at that point I was a pretty convincing "tough customer." And the customer is always right, so I had her over a barrel!

After giving it a few moments of thought, she suggested I just pound the orange on the table. Since the phone call wasn't as mirth producing as I had hoped, I floated the idea that maybe I should bash it with a hammer. I just wanted to see if she'd at least chuckle at the thought of that, but she quickly dismissed that suggestion (with a touch of derision, I thought). Lighten up! I don't know what to do with people who are entirely without a sense of the absurd.

Anyway, I suppose it could be argued that I was wasting her time, just yanking Kraft's chain, but if Kraft is going to slap an 800 number on every ding-dong thing they manufacture—especially something with the slogan "Whack & Unwrap!"—then I say they've got it coming to them! (Is it any wonder that I count Consumer Joe as one of the funniest books I've ever read?) Plus, have I not helped her do her job better? The next time someone calls with a question about the chocolate orange (and we are in the heart of chocolate orange season, after all), at least she'll know what it is...for crissake!

I was just about to hang up when she got all perky and tried to badger me into allowing Kraft to harangue me with phone calls and send me all sorts of Kraft Krap, like e-mail updates about E-Z Cheez. But I politely declined. And guess what? They'll never be able to track me down because I gave a fake name!!!! I am quite clever.



Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Whack and Unwrap!

Imagine my glee last night when I saw a giant display of these chocolate oranges at the grocery store!

Chocolate Orange

It was hard to restrain myself and only buy one, as these are the very confections that started my love affair with the orange-chocolate flavor combo. I know that some of you may be turning up your noses at the fact that I bought the milk chocolate version rather than the dark chocolate version, but deal with it.

Little-known chocolate orange facts:
  • They're distributed by megacorporation Kraft Foods but manufactured in Poland.
  • They contain real orange oil but fake vanilla.
  • The chocolate orange I purchased will remain fresh until September 9, 2008. Not that it will last that long!
  • All I'd have to do to fulfill my daily iron requirement is eat 13 of these things.
  • The slogan/tag line for chocolate oranges is "Whack and Unwrap!"
Don't believe me?
Whack & Unwrap!

That slogan alone would be enough to make me buy one if I wasn't already an unwavering convert and disciple of chocolate oranges.

I guess I didn't remember that chocolate oranges had to be whacked before they could be eaten (perhaps because in my first encounter with one it had been prewhacked for me).

I found myself wondering how I was supposed to whack it? And where? There are no instructions. I called the 800 number on the package, not because I was truly baffled about the whacking, but just because, I guess, I was feeling like yanking someone's chain. I wanted to see what the customer service person would say and how seriously they'd take me if I asked them to walk me through the orange whacking protocol. Should I be ashamed of myself? It's a moot point because all the customer service drones were gone for the day.

So I just slammed the thing into the countertop a couple of times.

Whacked & Unwrapped!

I'm giving myself an A+ in whacking and unwrapping.



Sunday, December 02, 2007

All Shopped Out

I have to make something to take to a handmade gift exchange later this month. Since I'm pretty crappy at making things with my hands, it's always a challenge to find something that fits my limited skill range. Last year, I made these refrigerator magnets. Required skills? Cutting and gluing. I was able to manage that. Only just.

This year, I decided I'd make notecards using digital photos I've taken and this cool faux printmaking technique. I even came up with the scathingly brilliant idea of having the theme of the notecards be "Keep Portland Weird." Sadly, the printmaking technique (simple though it is) is way beyond me. Here's one failed attempt. It's weird all right, but it's also ugly and unidentifiable.

On to Plan B. Why not still make notecards, but just print the photos directly onto the cards? But does that really qualify as handmade and suitably labor-intensive? I decided I'd snazz up the photos in Photoshop, you know, make them look a bit artsier and weirder.

Six hours later, I find that I've spent most of the afternoon not doing fun right brain things, but doing taxing, left-brain, un-Saturday things like measuring pieces of cardstock with rulers and trying to remember how to use a crochety 11-year-old version of QuarkExpress to do layouts. Not that I ever really knew how to do that. It was about 6:00 PM before I opened up our equally ancient version of Photoshop and got it spluttering along in OS 9.

I've never properly learned how to use Photoshop either. My approach is basically, "I wonder what this will do?" Click. Apple Z. "I wonder what this will do?" Click. Apple Z. And so on and so forth.*

Fun! But also strangely exhausting. Since it's been about six years since I last spent any quality time blundering around in Photoshop, I had to refamiliarize myself with all the filters and that took ages. So many of them are just nuts, too.


Penismobile on the Chopping Block


Wacked Out Penismobile

Daft! Why would anyone want an effect like this? (I will admit that it was fun to see how kooky I could make this thing look. I could have kept going, but you get the idea.)

Also, I have this sneaking suspicion that a lot of these effects have just been so overused that no one ever wants to see them again. Will I be giving a gift that has 1996 written all over it?

Well, it's too late now. I've invested so much time, I don't want to start over on something else, so Photoshopped "Keep Portland Weird" notecards it will be. I do quite like how this one turned out. If it's one big late 20th-century cliche, please don't tell me.

Toothy Totem Pole

*For all you non-Mac people, Apple Z is the key combo for "Undo."

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