Thursday, December 27, 2012

Post Hijacked By Crab Pretzels

You know what's in here?


No, I will not drink Guinness from a styrofoam cup.

Pete and I are in a motel in South Carolina. One that does not have glasses available, only styrofoam cups. 

Christmas is over and we're headed back north from Florida. Tomorrow we hope to make a stop in Hagerstown, Maryland, for some of these:

These are crab pretzels, which I am shocked to see that I haven't yet blogged about. We stopped in Hagerstown on the way down south. Growing up in Maryland I had heard about Hagerstown all my life on the radio for traffic reports and school snow-day closings but I'd never known where it was. We had a chance to stop there this trip so we did.

Hagerstown is great. It was founded in 1762 and has beautiful architecture downtown: colonial and newer brick and stone row houses. There's almost a New Orleans-y feeling to it, though waaaaaaaaay more laid back. Nowhere near as party. Tons of character. It's sandwiched between Pennsylvania and West Virginia but it's still definitely Maryland. Therefore you get crab pretzels. Pretzels from the Germans and fresh crab from the bay.

If, by chance, you are driving through the American Mid-Atlantic region and want to avoid the Beltway around D.C. I would recommend going through Hagerstown. We dined at Bulls & Bears Restaurant. If you hit the link the page will say it has "a New York style atmosphere." I don't know about that, but the crab pretzels are damn good and they have a great beer selection. Most of the beers on tap were of the artisanal variety, high alcohol. Tasty, but watch yourself if you're driving - which most likely you will be. I had the Yeungling's which is local, of normal alcohol content and very fresh on tap. A tasty lager.

That's probably all you need to hear about for this installment. No doubt there's more to come another time.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

I'm hoping we have a new Christmas tradition: Christmas Bocce. This was really fun. Pete, Marnee (Pete's mom) and I arrived first at the bocce court. Soon after Marc and their dad rode up on their bikes.

Here's where Marnee explained the rules to us:

Pete got those pants for Christmas. Sort of. Marc got them for Christmas, didn't like them and gave them to Pete.

Christmas Bocce!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve 2012

I'm at my in-laws' house in Vero Beach, FL, sitting in a rocking chair on their patio. My father-in-law has come out with his toy train track to see if he can figure out why the track is buckling. Pete is inside setting up his father's new fax machine. He keeps popping his head out of one door or another and saying "hi."

I'm not bored but I feel like I'm in a really boring play. Or maybe a very dull version of "The Nutcracker" with no music or dancing.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Drawing Party Plus Cake

I'm making an apple cake. Wanna see? It smells great.
I haven't tried this recipe before. It's from Smitten Kitchen. It makes a doughy batter into which you stir four eggs, one at a time until each is incorporated. Then the batter becomes pourable. I haven't made a cake with batter like that before either. Ah, yes, I should also mention that the large lumps you see are chopped apples. There are two layers of chopped apples macerated in cinnamon and sugar.

When I looked at the volume of all the ingredients separately I didn't believe they'd all fit in the pan. I wedged 'em in there. I hope it doesn't take two hours of oven time because of all the stuff in that pan.

It's for a party I'm going to on Saturday. I met the hosts once then got invited to this party. I'll only really know two people there but I'm going. This is how I'm branching out and expanding my life. I'm bribing strangers to deal with my social awkwardness with home made cake! Brainy!

So here are photos of some of the drawings I did at our drawing party in chronological order:

Warm up

I liked how the warm up went so I did this guy in a similar fashion

Then I thought I'd go more experimental and use a pen with a nib that you dip in ink. There were a couple of different nibs used here. I've never tried this before. I'll try it again soon though.

At this point one of us had been drawing pictures of our friends incorporating anagrams of the friends' names. He was using an anagram app on his phone but we found the anagram for our friend, Jeff, inadequate. I was trying to figure out a better one because I am WAY smarter than an app, particularly after two Guinnesses. Yeah. That was a big success. See how I tried to use some vowels twice with a crossword technique? That didn't help.

Then I drew this kind of terrifying thing. Creepy blonde lady offering you cookies or something. I'm suspicious.

The last drawing I started on at the party was the kind of thing I had intended to draw when I had the idea for the party in the first place. The original idea (if you don't feel like clicking that link) was to have a party loaded with friends and  some beers to entice me to do the kind of drawing I'm bad at. Looking back I think I did accomplish that goal. I did try to draw in ways with which I am unfamiliar and the results show a distinct willingness to fail.

The next day I did this self-portrait to see if I could still draw at least as well as I did in high school The answer is yes. Slightly better in fact. This drawing is pretty small, about 2"x3". A bit wooden and sad but the likeness isn't horrible. A fairly quick drawing. I think my drawing teachers from art school would be disappointed but they'd be nice about it.

When I'm serious about drawing I don't use a pencil or pen so all of these drawings are a break in tradition for me. When I'm serious I use compressed charcoal and really big paper and a chamois (the kind you get for washing cars), a large eraser and maybe some sandpaper. It makes a huge mess - big piles of black charcoal dust and erasing crumbs on the floor. I really get into it. It's pretty physical. I find sketchbooks limiting. Pencils are too small and fine for if I'm really going to DRAW.

However, if I thought about it and really tried I could probably figure out a way to make a pencil or a pen work. People who are not me manage to make true art with those implements. I could do better than I have done.

I think that we all had a good time at the party. I had such a good time that I was really sad when it was over. I stood on the street corner with Pete and I didn't know what to do. The light had gone out of my life. The party was over.

Fortunately it was just about dinner time and Pete suggested we stay out and get a bite. So we had a nice dinner at Central Kitchen. Thanks, Pete!

Wow, restaurant websites tend to really suck. Too much flash! Too many fancy doo-dahs! People do not want things flashing in their faces when they're trying to find a menu or hours of operation.

Back to the topic at hand. I'm going to make this drawing party a regular thing. I want to do it twice a month. I think it's a great idea for me to practice willing public failure. If you're an artist you should be incorporating failure into every day. I feel that I do that. But I do it in private. It's easy, in private, to fail or to shirk failing. I guess I'm saying that I feel I don't fail well enough. These drawing parties are, for me, a fun place to fail publicly. This is a great habit to develop.

If I do this twice a month I can practice failing and exercise my drawing muscles and socialize. Win, win, win.

I know that if people have an option to come twice a month they're less likely to come at all. They'll figure "oh, I can always go next time." I do stuff like that myself. But damn it, I'm going twice a month.  If too few people show up and I get demoralized and feel far too unpopular then I can always cut it back.

Now here's how the cake came out:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

More Please

It may be that this year has given me a little taste for upheaval. It was a difficult year but I secretly found it exciting. I have learned SO MUCH this year and it has been fascinating.

I had things I love taken from me but I was also given amazing gifts which I could never have predicted.

I learned that when your heart is broken sometimes the only cure is more heartbreak.

I also learned that the saying "a broken heart lets more light in" is true. I was never more receptive to good things and gifts than when my heart was an oozing pile of crushed and broken flesh. In those times I was desperate for good things. I sought them everywhere and they were readily available to me.

Heartbreak itself has been a gift to me this year.

I might be waking up thanks to this year. I hope so.

I might find life more rewarding when it's unpredictable, when the unexpected happens. Earlier this year things I hadn't looked for happened to me. Now that's slowed and I could go back to the way I was before. I had been playing everything safe and comfortable, doing what others expected of me, letting what I wanted take the back seat. I DON'T WANT TO GO BACK TO THE WAY I WAS BEFORE!

Life is more fun when I actively engage it. When I take risks - or at least stop playing it safe.

I know it's crucial to make mistakes and you really do learn the most from screwing up. I don't know if something counts as a mistake if you know something's the wrong thing to do and you do it anyway. I guess the mistake there is choosing to do the wrong thing. But when you're not sure...

When I'm not sure I tend to play it safe. I don't want to play it safe anymore. Playing it safe leads to comfort and it cuts off opportunities. I learned this year that it's better to be uncomfortable. So now when I notice I'm not sure I'm going to choose risk.

I like mess. I like dealing with challenges. I like learning. I like feeling brave. That stuff doesn't happen as much when you play it safe.

I want to leave more room for uncertainty in my life. I want there to be holes to let the light and wind in. I want my papers to blow around.

I am asking for more chaos.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I mentioned a "ridiculous mini craft experiment" back on December 3rd. The experiment? I made my own iridescent glitter nail polish top coat. I did this to prove to my friend, Jenn, that you really could see the rainbow effect. Behold, film of the proof:

Okay, it's not really film. Or footage. Bits? I'm not tech savvy enough to know (or care that much) what to call it. But if anyone reading this knows, please inform me in the comments if you don't mind (Because I do care a little bit) I could just call it a movie. It does move.

Now we can all make fun of my crappy housekeeping! 

Another thing I want to share: my new favorite lipstick.

I think it looks darker in real life but pictures never lie, right?

I have scanned the drawings I did the other day, plus one that I did yesterday. I still have to process them though - make them smaller for posting. Maybe later tonight if I get my act together.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

For No Particular Reason

Here's me and my friend, Jamie, at the Weisstronauts' 14th Annual Holiday Jubilee:

Why? No reason. We took the photo because he thought our friend, Jill, who couldn't be there, would like my earrings. It was a fun night. Jamie travels a lot so I don't get to see him that often. It's always lovely when he appears though.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tree 2012

I'm pleased with it.

I haven't attempted to use the scanner yet. However, I did fix the Christmas tree lights. 

I'm VERY proud of my extremely basic electrical skills, let me tell ya. They didn't have replacement bulbs at the hardware store so I had to buy a whole new string of lights. Boo! The new string came with replacement bulbs! Yay! The little plastic doohickey that holds the glass bulb in the new set was not compatible with the sockets on the old set. Boo! It was close enough to make a temporary circuit though. Yay! I figured out which bulb had burned out on the old string with a light from the new string. The glass bulbs are compatible, so I replaced the bulb in the old doohickey with a spare from the new set. Now I have TWO working sets of lights! Yay! Go me!

Now you can behold the beauty of my confectionary tree! I like it so much that I'd like to have some people over for a drink and to look at it. Not too many people - our place is puny (as it should be) Very unlikely to happen though, at least before New Years.

I miss having parties. The last party we had was this one, in 2008 (with the blow-by-blow here) We could maybe fit a total of eight people in here comfortably but only for cocktails. Two people would have to sit on the floor if we were going to feed them too.

I want to have a blow-out! We used to do that every few years. I want to have a blow-out because I want to go to a blow-out. I can't go to someone else's blow-out because I'm not really a party person and I get to feeling really awkward around a lot of people I don't know. I guess I could go but I wouldn't blow it out there. I'd probably do my best to schmooze then leave early. Defeats the purpose.

If I'm going to have a blow-out it'll have to be at someone else's house. My party, their house.

Well that's enough rambling for one night. NaBloPoMo can get a blogger into some really bad habits.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dreaded Drawing

So I pulled it together and organized a drawing party at a local pub. Pete was there and so was Liz. Our friends Ken and Selena were there too. Our friends Kate, Nate, and Hope couldn't make it this time. I'll show you what I drew once I figure out how to work our scanner.

I hope everyone had enough fun that they'd want to do it again. I'll invite more people next time too.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Yule Candy

I almost forgot to post these pictures from

Christmas tree candy! If I won the powerball I would be sorely tempted to fill a large room with a multicolor Christmas forest. It could be really fun! Build in little snow covered hills and dales, paths and grottoes. Populate the place with multicolored fantasy animals, a gingerbread house perhaps? I have issues.


Today I made chocolate cupcakes and brownies. The cupcakes are for a friend. I made the brownies so Pete wouldn't be disappointed. Tomorrow I will ice the cupcakes with chocolate ganache. Cupcakes and icing all sinfully vegan from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World, which, as we all know by now, produces the best, most delicious cupcakes I've ever eaten. The brownies are not vegan. I am not vegan.
I loaded the brownies up with Guittard Extra Semi Sweet chocolate chips and walnuts. They came out very soft and chocolate IN THE EXTREME!!!! They would border on obscene in a brownie sundae. I might have had them for dinner by accident. 

Here's a scene from my two-day thank you card making exploit:
The mess I made. You can see some of Fay's beds over to the right in the picture. Also, I got some Christmas ornaments at Lord and Taylor. 30% off! They have great Christmas ornaments there.

I'd never experimented with rubber stamping and embossing powders before. Gotta say I had a lot of fun. These were my successes:
Not bad for a first try. Not especially inspired but I think the heartfelt gratitude comes through. I only really need three so I'll have to choose which I like best.

Those embossing powders are really fun. Here you can see the difference between plain gold ink, gold ink with gold embossing powder and gold ink with brown gitter embossing powder. Much fun to be had if you were to go nuts with this stuff - and you think this kind of thing is fun.
Once you start off with large photos it's really hard to go back to small ones in one post.

I did another ridiculous mini craft experiment yesterday and there's a movie that goes with it. I think I'll save that for tomorrow though. This is good enough for one day. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sorry Fellas!

I think the guy on the right looks disappointed with me. The other two can't be bothered. I've been neglecting my tequila. How will I ever make it up to them?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Perfect Day

I would just like to put down for posterity that today I am happy and satisfied. That's correct, I am completely happy with what I have in this moment and I don't wish for anything more or different. I have felt like this for over twenty-four hours.

Clearly I'm having some kind of hormone imbalance. I hope it continues.

Today and yesterday were perfectly ordinary days. Nothing special happened. I've been making thank you cards for the people who wrote me condolence notes about Fay. I've seen several good friends, eaten normally, paid the bills, I got a massage. I've been meditating regularly but I've slacked off on the running since Thanksgiving. I know I'll get back to it in a timely fashion. I didn't get everything done that I wanted to do, only, yes I did. I did the things I really wanted to do and the less important things I let slide. I did the things that were really important to me. So now I'm happy and relaxed.

At least I think that's why I'm happy and relaxed.

I had been feeling disconnected and a bit lost and down lately. Last night I realized that right now is a magical time. Right now everything's great. I know I am loved. I have good food to eat. I have fun things to do. I can be with good people. Today I am free. I know everything changes and that it's not always going to be so nice. So I will enjoy what I have now.