Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloweenie Musings

The title greeting of this post, Happy Halloweenie? That's sounds awfully cheerful for someone who's not all that enamoured of the 31st. But that's how Ryan, my adorable small-sized southern neighbor, greeted me today, garbed as a small lion! Alex, my adorable small-sized northern neighbor, was less loquacious, but just as adorable (Thomas the Tank Engine.)

If only Halloweenie were only all about adorable children and unhealthy candy! Oh, wait. That's what it's SUPPOSED to be all about! But I find Halloween circa 2012 to be just a bit overdone. 

I mean, really. Halloween lights? I've only managed Christmas lights once in 20 years here on Ridgeland. And now I've got to figure out Halloween lights? 

And what's with all of the Halloween celebratory events several weekends BEFORE Halloween? Like children aren't getting enough celebration on the day OF Halloween? There are children who need more than one costume for this season, as their initial costume has worn out itself welcome, having been seen in so many venues. Good Lord. 

And when I was a kid, we had to sew our own costumes. Out of corn husks. Up hill. Both ways. In the snow. 

And speaking of snow, it certainly felt like it might this afternoon. Geez, it was cold out there, handing out the Blow Pops and Candy Corn. 

And speaking of candy corn: who knew?! Small children RAN from my house yelling, "She has candy corn!!!!" And they weren't running in terror. Somehow, I always thought that candy corn was the booby prize of Halloween Candy among children. Apparently not. Every child whom I gave a choice chose candy corn. 

There was, as has already been noted on Facebook, significantly less candy corn from which to choose by the time the trick-or-treaters arrived. Can't resist that stuff!

Jonathan tells me that it has a reputation as being particularly unhealthy, due to having carnauba wax as an ingredient. Isn't that an ingredient in the car product Turtle Wax? I don't care. Halloween need not be a healthy holiday. In fact, Halloween SHOULD NOT be a healthy holiday.   

Though I'm not advocating noshing on Turtle Wax or anything. 

I do enjoy my trick-or-treaters. I believe my favorite costume this year was the young man (middle school-ish) who arrived with a cereal box on his head. As he followed on the heels of several completely uncostumed visitors, I told him that I was happy to see any costume, no matter how small the attempt. 

His companion solemnly informed me that the cereal box WAS his costume: he was a serial murderer. :-) 

Tamer costumes? Many princesses. Many slightly older princess vampires. And more vampires. Obama. Pirates. No Romneys. Bears (as in Chicago football, not Ursus arctos horribilis.) 

I was lucky enough to get to trick-or-treat with Andrew and Lydia for a few houses. Andrew, dressed appropriately as a rocket, conversed at some length with everyone, including wishing them a Happy Halloween. 

Lydia, adorable as a bubbly bumble bee, was too busy picking up leaves to bother with candy. No extant photo, as she never stopped moving.    

Finally, as a post-Halloween cleansing activity, I offer the Oak Park Park District's activity on November 1st: The Great Pumpkin Smash on Barrie Park's hill!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Government should step in where food critics fear to tread

In life, there are sometimes those seminal moments. Wait. As a feminist, shouldn't I be referring to influential, original, creative moments as "egginal" rather than seminal?

Oh, how soon I digress. So, there are these moments that define us. As a person, a nation, a people. And one of those moments was posed before me, before the people of Chicago, this very morning. 

Ladies and gents, I bring you the Bacon and Bourbon Cocktail. It was touted in the Sun Times today as a "cool" cocktail. But it gets worse. It is not mere bacon and bourbon. Oh no. That would be sufficiently revolting, all on its own, though I can respect its possibilities. 

No, it's a cocktail that requires you to ruin a perfectly good glass (snifter? stein? plastic red cup? I'm not up on my cocktail ware) of Maker's Mark bourbon with both bacon and chocolate.

Now, my friends, I am aware--and even somewhat sanguine--about the propensity of today's society to push boundaries in the food flavor mashup department. And I wholeheartedly embrace the sweet and salt mix that might be inherent in chocolate and bacon as one. 

But bourbon, bacon and chocolate as a beverage is just wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Boundaries, people. As a culture, we need to get to work on boundaries. There are some things that just should not be joined. 

Y'all know I'm a rabid liberal with a capital D. And so I embrace joining all sorts of things--and people--that others aren't so excited about. But bourbon, bacon and chocolate should not be one of those things. 

Bacon and chocolate? I could see the possibilities there, dipping a crispy slice of bacon into warm chocolate, letting it cool slightly, then devouring. Bourbon and bacon? OK. Maybe. Little crunchy bits as flavoring. Even bourbon and chocolate could exist in my mind as a possibility, though a bad possibility. 

This new propensity to mix chocolate with alcohol is not healthy. Chocolate wine. Chocolatinis. I believe in segregated vices. It prolongs them. If you throw your chocolate in your drink, you've shortened the time of bliss. Eat your chocolate, THEN drink your drink. Twice as much fun!

Again, I digress. I am willing to hold all of the other above combos in my mind. But never the twain (or would that be "thwain" for three?) shall meet. Bourbon, bacon and chocolate is just plain wrong. 

But, Liz, you may be saying. This is clearly just a personal preference. You surely respect the right of others to assert their own individuality by choosing their own flavor mashups, however abhorrent to you.

No. No, I don't. As a Democrat, I believe strongly in the need for excessive regulation. I feel certain that President Barack Obama agrees with me, and will immediately understand the need for a Cabinet position for the regulation and prohibition of flavor mashups. 

Come on, people. You KNOW there are other flavor mixtures that you believe should be legally abolished. My friend, T, believes that the mixture of chocolate and fruit is an abomination, to be avoided at all costs. I am certain that she would be supportive of legislation to ban this. 

And what about some of those Jelly Belly flavors? It absolutely should be illegal, a punishable offense, for me to dive into a bowl of jelly beans and come up with a Buttered Popcorn among the Berry Blue, Green Apple and Tutti Fruitti. 

Come January 20th, 2013, you KNOW what political hot potato I'm going to be pushing. Join me, friends. Join me today by rejecting that which is evil. Order a nice glass of chardonnay. Or a gimlet. Resist the Bacon and Bourbon cocktail! TGIF!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Civil liberties or taking liberties with civility

You'll all be pleased to know I've been thinking about being civil lately. It is the height of election season, after all. And I've noted that folks are discussing politics and how uncivil our discourse about same has become. Some friends on Facebook are unfriending people who talk too much politics--particularly if they are the wrong politics, but sometimes any heated rhetoric will do to send the offenders packing.

I think the lack of civility in this realm is overblown. You don't have to look at much political history, whether in the United States, Europe, or the Byzantine Empire, to immediately grasp that civility has rarely been an important value to politicians or rulers. 

Nor do We, The People, be we voters or the merely ruled, seem to have spent much time throughout history politely and respectfully discussing our differences. Different opinions regarding governance or religion or economics throughout history tended to be resolved by some form of verbal or literal fisticuffs. 

At the same time, as I discussed last month I've spent a lot of time over the years preaching to my kids the importance of civil discourse if you actually want to communicate, which usually means you want your thoughts and words to be heard and understood. 

Like when you tell me that my opinion is really stupid and then proceed to tell me why your opinion is NOT really stupid, that doesn't exactly move me to listen to your opinion with an open mind and heart. In fact, it might predispose me to think your opinion is, um, stupid. 

Relatedly, while traveling in Minnesota this weekend, I listened to a rebroadcast of "On Being." For the uninitiated, "On Being" is a weekly show on NPR, billed as focusing on religion, meaning, ethics and ideas. 

This week's show was part of a series that Krista Tippett has been doing for the past year or so, the Civil Conversations Project, the idea that supporting intentional discourse between people who really want to build bridges between the polarized edges of issues can bring people together and create change. 

It was a fabulous hour of real conversation and movement on the definition of marriage primarily between two people who had held diametrically opposed viewpoints yet who have come to some points of agreement, with mutually respectful rhetoric.

Made me feel all warm and fuzzy about the future of humanity. Yes, it did. Truly. And I can absolutely see how this type of conversation is what we need in our increasingly polarized society. Is probably the only way we can move forward on issues of great conflict.

Do you feel the but coming?

Because it is coming. And it is an embarrassing but. 

Sometimes I really love--crave, even--reading (and sometimes viewing) obnoxious and uncivil rhetoric regarding subjects about which I care deeply. Why is this? 

Let's dispense with the obvious first: I am an immature twit incapable of having respectful and meaningful conversation about important issues. Point scored.

But wait, there's more here, I think. There is a bonding aspect to uncivil discourse. So often we/I feel alienated from others, listening to so many opinions that are so far from mine. When someone comes along with crazy rhetoric from my side of the planet (newsflash: I'm a Liberal with an annoyingly capital L) I feel included. I've been invited to the party. And I like that feeling.

Also, sometimes incivility can be really, really funny. Sometimes mean-funny, which makes me uncomfortable. Good girls aren't mean-funny. And good people don't want to hurt others for the sake of a laugh or two. But sometimes simply funny-funny incivility maybe could be ok? 

Because the more I age, the more I like, appreciate and desperately need funny-funny. I am always too serious. Anxiety sucks the funny-funny out of life. And so I am, of late, constantly on a serious hunt for humor of all kinds. And obnoxiously liberal rhetoric--or paradoxically slamming conservative rhetoric--can fit that bill.

Finally, I think that in this 24/7 media news cycle world, even issues of the utmost importance can become, well, boring. How many different ways can the economic crisis in Greece be discussed before the mere mention of same will put me to sleep within seconds? And the never-ending post-debate deconstructions? Oh. My. Gosh. 

But throw some annoying rhetoric in that bland retread of a soup and, viola, you've spiced up the story, regaining my interest. 

The problem with my spice of choice is that I'm afraid of what it leads to. That same bonding aspect to shared uncivil opinions has an equal, but opposite, alienating effect on the other end of the spectrum. Those of us at the ends of the spectrum become polarized, eventually pushing away from each other, repelled. 

Not sure I have the science right, but you know what I mean, yes?!

And it doesn't seem like that's such a great way to create a good working society in a world where we don't live in neighborhoods segregated by political party--and we don't want to! 

I don't have a snappy ending to this ramble, no current plan to save the world from its madness. Not even a plan for how I'm going to behave during these last two weeks of the presidential campaign. Maybe I'll try to use the spices of my choice on my meals, only, and leave the rest of you to choose your preferred flavor of political rhetoric. :-)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Glowing and debates

This is the blog post where I make a bunch of brief comments in an effort to keep myself posting semi-regularly even though I feel that I shouldn't as I have nothing unique or interesting to say. 

Wow. Now you'll CLEARLY want to spend your precious time reading on!

Politics. Perhaps it's simply because I'm currently listening to Rachel Maddow's book "Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power". I could not hear Romney speak last night about our need for a continued strong military without hearing shades of Reagan. 

There's a big enough threat in the Middle East, Governor, to keep our military industrial complex quite busy, thank you very much. No need to overblow the threat from the rest of the world to increase our already bloated military budget. It came off to me as both fear-mongering and corporate suck-up. 

Politics, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and Debates. #Debate. So last night was the second night I sat staring at the television, keeping company with the multitudes by being surrounded by my personal electronic devices. It was fun!

But. Speaking only for me, of course, I think it kept me from having real, continuous and serious thoughts about what the candidates were actually saying. When I think and respond in sound bites while reading others sound bites while trying to listen to sound bites, I am quite liable to only hear sound bites. Rather than a Big Picture. 

Again, y'all are probably possessed of a much more plastic (as in flexible, not fake!) brain than I am. But my mind is simply not facile enough to do all of that fun jumping around AND possess a measured perspective on what Obama and Romney conveyed to us as a package at the end of the night.

Of course, perhaps my goal is too serious. Perhaps, by the third debate, my goal should be to have fun jumping around. And I do enjoy politics. But, at the end of the day, it all seems pretty f'ing serious to me. Even with binders. :-)

Book review disguised as more debate. Appropo of Romney channeling Nixon in the perspiration department, the chapter in Daniel Smith's hilarious and dead-on memoir of life with anxiety, "Monkey Mind" regarding his battle with perspiration is hysterical. 

The rest of the book is very good, too. If you are anxiety-riven, you'll feel less alone and possibly get some insight into your own situation. If you live with someone who suffers, you'll get some great moments of empathy--and sympathy for your own plight. Smith's ability to inject levity into the most unfunny world of anxiety makes what some might be inclined to view as self-indulgent prose into hilarious, helpful good reading. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Thin Blue Line

I am a very, very patient person. I didn't start out that way. I was born impatient. I have always hated waiting. The months between taking the bar exam and finding out whether or not I passed were excruciating. The fact that I was waiting for a baby to finish baking did not help. 

And then there was the whole waiting for the baking baby to be born thing. Jon was due on Christmas Day. He had the unmitigated gall to NOT ARRIVE when due. What was I supposed to do the day after Christmas? Celebrate Boxing Day? I had no plans. I was supposed to be busy being a new mom!

Point made. Impatient, hate waiting. But I'm over all that now. Part of learning to be a grown-up and a parent was growing a buttload of patience. Apparently I'm going to need to grow a bumper crop for my continued work on this *&^% bathroom.

Because I made a mistake. A rather large mistake. In fact, were I to indulge in hyperbole, I might even say a mistake of epic proportions. I did something different. I tried to be prepared and professional in my approach to painting. I decided to do something that was, by all reports, supposed to make my life as a painter SO MUCH EASIER. 

I taped. I have never taped before. Even though I have very wobbly hands (familial tremor?) I found that I could, by painting slowly and carefully, achieve straight lines and thus not need to tape off areas. I was almost seduced into taping during my last project. Even bought some of that special thin blue tape that's supposed to be easy to remove, non-marring, etc. But I didn't bite. 

Until now. I pulled out that previously purchased tape and I taped my bathroom with a vengeance. I taped all around the bathtub. Taped the edge between the bathroom ceiling (remember the bathroom ceiling, now freshly primed, primed, painted and painted?) and the walls. Taped the woodwork. Tape, tape, tape, tape, tape, tape, tape. The thin blue line, all over my bathroom.

The result of this taping worm around my bathroom was supposed to be freedom: freedom from care. Freedom from slow and methodical painting. Freedom from using the watercolor paintbrush all along the edges of things. 

And it worked! It was so much more pleasant, just painting right up and over the tape, secure in the knowledge that the special blue tape was defending the wall, edge or ceiling from invading paint marauders. 

I did have a moment's concern when I finished. I couldn't quite remember how long I needed to wait before I removed the tape. Looked at the tape roll itself for advice. It said something about 14 days. I couldn't quite read it because I was tired and didn't have my glasses on and was too lazy to get my glasses because I'd just been painting for 5 hours straight. 

Clearly, I wouldn't want to pull the tape off immediately, right? After all, the wall and tape was still wet with paint. Paint would get all over. So I figured I'd better wait at least 24 hours. Then I got busy yesterday and 24 became 48 hours.

Ahem. I proceeded with the joy of ripping off tape. It was very satisfying for, roughly, 7.5 seconds. Then, something happened that my mind struggled to comprehend. As the tape pulled off, it pulled with it a lovely triangle of cream film. Revealing the old paint job. 

It is entirely possible that I screamed out loud. I may have screamed something fairly profane. It might have been so vociferous that my dog may have hidden under the computer. 

When I finished verbalizing, I went back to the tape. Tried very gingerly to pull off another tiny little swatch. Same result. Now, a wise woman would immediately stop what she is doing and google the topic at end. Or call her father to ask for advice. 

I, however, am not that wise woman. I persisted. I persevered. And, unfortunately, I continued to peel. Finally, I admitted defeat and walked the dog to the Hiolski residence. After consuming most of a beer, I posed the paint/tape question to the adults in the household and was told quite clearly that tape comes off while still wet. 

Harumph. If this is such a verity, why is there no warning label advising me so? I mean, really. Hot coffee has labels. My tape should've had a label. It's all the tape manufacturer's fault, clearly.

Of course, it might have had a label when I bought it five years ago, then threw away the packaging. Further, perhaps using tape that was five years old was also a mistake. Perhaps aging adhesive is suspect, and aids in over-adherence. 

Or, perhaps I should've read something about the process before I started. :-) But I was too impatient, just wanted to get going, for heaven's sakes. 

Google now confirms T's advice: tape comes off when wet or it can peel, as the paint has not yet fully adhered to the wall or primer below it. And again I say, harumph. 

So now I get to practice being patient. As the solution that I came up with (and have confirmed with Google) is to slowly, carefully and painfully score the entire line of tape with a straight edge. Then I will slowly, carefully and painfully lift the tape off. Bit by bit. Excruciatingly slowly. 

Then I will have further practice in being patient, as I will next have to traverse the same line of now removed tape with a small paint brush. Twice. To cover all of the paint I have peeled off. 

And remember that freshly-painted bathroom ceiling? On which I placed tape all over the perimeter? Think of the possibilities. I could potentially rip paint off of both the ceiling and the walls. I might have to apply four more layers of primer, primer, paint, paint to that ceiling. 

I believe I will continue to contemplate those possibilities for the rest of the evening over a very large gin and tonic. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. But how would it look?

So, I'm still working on that bathroom, plugging away for a few hours each day. For better or worse, the mildewy ceiling has been repaired, primed and painted. And painted. The wet drywall has been patched, sanded and primed. And the wall that no longer has tile mirrors has been primed, patched, sanded and primed. 

Now we get to the good part: choosing paint colors. Not. Oh, Lord. Just kill me now. I am terrible at choosing paint colors. Just awful. Even with assistance. Exhibit A: my kitchen. 

When I painted it (10 years ago?) I was quite inspired by my friend Ann's colorful home and art. I was also in love with the color purple. Not The Color Purple, though it was both a good book and movie. But eggplant. Or deep violet. 

After consultation with an artistic friend, I chose a purple. Which promptly became BLACK upon application. Yes, once I tell visitors that the cupboards are purple they say, "Oh, yeah. I guess that is purple." But at first glance, those cupboards look fairly ebony. Which gives the room a sort of gloomy goth vibe, I think, even with all of my colorful accoutrements.  

Perhaps if paint colors were actually given sensible monikers, like eggplant or deep violet, I would've had a better chance at choosing the right and proper color, both then and now. But sensible is clearly not a value at Valspar, Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore. Evoking a mood seems to be the plan. 

A lightly muddied brown called Puppy Paws? Awww! A plain tan labeled Balance? Om. Then there were the different shades of tan-ish, creamy yellow variations on Sand: Bermuda Sand, Imperial Sand, Riviera Dune, Desert Fortress or Sand Storm. What, I choose which shade name best fits my Bedouin fantasy location? 

Then, we have the evocative food names. Again, I'm looking at creamy tan-like colors. So we have Toast. Or Vanilla Brandy. Glazed Pears? Or Milk Toast! I'm gaining weight just looking at the paint chips!

Truth be told, in spite of being a word person, I did not look at the names on the paint chips until I chose the color I wanted. I was afraid I might be swayed away from a good color by a poor or annoying name. Hence, my bathroom walls are now wearing one coat of Riviera Dune. So far, so good. And no Bedouins involved.

After I apply coat two tomorrow, I have another challenging decision to make. Do I stop at plain walls or go on to some kind of more interesting additional application of paint? 10 years ago, I greatly enjoyed sponging my walls with a complimentary color. 

Sponging was lots of fun because it is, almost by definition, impossible to screw up. Dip your sponge into the paint, lightly press against the wall, repeat all over the wall. Too much paint here? That's ok. Too little paint there? That's ok, too. No pattern involved, merely random splotches that are SUPPOSED to be there--as opposed to the random splotches that I always forget to wipe up!

Once I mastered sponging, I moved into my experimental phase. I began using a scrunched-up plastic baggie to make my splotches. I became so enamoured of different ways to apply paint that I was known to embarrass my children by asking total strangers how they achieved that interesting effect on their walls. People were happy to share their painting adventures.

I think I am weary of splotchy walls, though. It occurred to me that I could simply add a border of simple shapes in a complementary color. My currently selected complementary color is actually Puppy Paws. I got all excited because I realized I could actually HAVE puppy paws as my border. Because everyone who lives here loves dogs and would think that was really cute!

But I believe I have determined that brown shapes, however identifiable, are perhaps NOT the best choice for bathroom wall decorations. :-) 

Thursday, October 04, 2012

The return of handywoman

I've had a rough few days. And, whenever things get rough, I get to fixing things. I used to try to fix people. Gee, that didn't work very well--what a surprise! So I've completely sworn that off (ok, I've completely tried to swear that off.) 

This leaves me with excess fix-things energy. While I've tried to use the fixing energy on myself, there really is only so much navel-gazing one can do each day. I can't lose more than 2lbs per month because I like to eat. And the volunteer organization with whom I am working only gives me one or two cases at a time. 

Which leaves me with excess fix-things energy. So I am in the process of rehabbing the downstairs bathroom. First, we need to define rehab. 
Rehab: (verb, of sorts) the process of redecorating and fixing up the bathroom enough so that it doesn't look like a crappy #$%^-hole any longer, even though I cannot afford to do the complete tear-down-to-the-studs rehab that desperately NEEDS to be performed to fix the leaking bathtub that may fall through to the basement at any moment
Besides the leaking and potentially falling bathtub, let me introduce you to the other problems in this bathroom. We have the always-popular cracked and moldy ceiling over the bathtub. It needs to be fixed in a lengthy process that will probably involve OSHA and Homeland Security. And swearing. I predict that there will be much swearing. 

An accoutrement to that would be the rotted drywall on either of the tub. And once I start fixing and priming dry wall, it's really just a hop, skip and jump to repainting the whole damn room.

There is one lovely facet of my bathroom that deserves its own paragraph: the wall covered with tiled mirrors. (Or would that be mirrored tile?) You're probably familiar with the software concept of feature v. bug, the notion being that one person's feature is another person's bug? Well, for 20 years, the wall full of tiled mirrors was one of my marriage's feature/bugs. He liked. I didn't.

I do admit that it is quite handy to have a very long and long wall full of mirrors. And it did make the bathroom seem larger and brighter than it actually was. Which I now know, as I've ripped those suckers off the wall!

Because I really, really don't like walls of mirrored tile. And I particularly can't stand walls of mirrored tile that are 30 years old, peeling, and framed by scalloped plywood. It's very 1970s. And, while I enjoyed the 70s, they are over.   

Or at least they are over in my downstairs bathroom. :-) So in preparation for this massive undertaking (hyperbole, anyone?) I've had several Google dates. Which brings me to another concern: the dearth of definitive instructions on the interwebs or elsewhere in life. 

Clearly, there needs to be a Big Book of Definitive Instructions. Somewhere. Because I just can't take this Googling around to find instruction, only to have to try to evaluate the different methods various self-proclaimed experts profess to be the best method for fixing my peeling and moldy bathroom ceiling. 

I am not an expert in this area. How the hell do I know who is right? HandyGuy A says swab down the ceiling with bleach twice will be sufficient to kill the nasty mold. HandyGuy B says whoa, Nellie, bleach will NOT kill mold on drywall. Something about tendrils or something. So I must apply an additional rinse of borax. Or buy something especially for mold removal. Possibly from him on his website. 

I thought that perhaps I could combine all of the suggestion, just do everything that everyone said. But apparently bleach and borax are not friends. 

Flustered by the non-friendship, I moved on. But this was only the opening salvo in the instruction search. Do I spackle? And what kind of spackle? Prime prior to spackling? Special primer with anti-mildew properties? And what's the difference between mold and mildew, anyway? Special paint with anti-mildew properties? 

And then there's the whole issue of a skim coat. Now that I've ripped off the mirror tile, I have a lousy looking wall. (Hi Lori!) Do I prime the divots? Spackle the divots? Spread a skim coat on the divots?

Again, I considered combining all of the possible pieces of advice. But I don't have THAT much energy. And we all know that you can't do what everyone tells you to do. You must choose. Take a stand. Make the best judgement you can and move forward. 

Deprived on the Big Book of Definitive Instructions, I will do what any sensible person should do with each of these issues: I will flip a coin.  

On the first round, it was heads. Bleach for all! And I suspect this won't be the last you've heard about my rehab adventures. :-)