Yoga Class - 24HourFitness Part Deux

I don't know about you, but when I think of yoga, I imagine a lot of breathing and sitting on my ass. I thought it was odd they made a class of it at 24 Hour Fitness, and not, say, at the place that does my nails, but who am I to judge.

The yoga clases start at an attractive after-dinner 7:30pm, and I really felt like I needed vindication after the Monday Pilates disaster. We thoughtfully prepared an after dinner.. nightcap, if you will, for the hot tub, and set out to get knee deep into yoga.

I have never spent so much time giggling on the floor of a class. I thought pilates was bad. It didn't occur to me that someone would devise a class that centered around spending a solid half hour on one foot. Every time I looked in the mirror, I giggled. The time the instructor chick requested 10 push ups having just spent 10 minutes on my palms and a left foot in 'plank' I was in giggle seizures. Heather did a little better than me. She can do the "Hovering Hamster"* pose and flip me off simultaneously.

And, the "Dancing Sheba" pose? Seriously? If I was able to 'cradle my foot' and stretch it out at a 90' angle to my other leg, and hold it parallel to the floor for an indefinite amount of time, maintaining balance and a pleasant facial expression, there would have been a lot more poles, heels, and cash in my future.


A Good Day at the Goodwill.

I recently sold on Ebay few skirts I really like but were sizes 2. Today, at a Goodwill by my work, where Jesse graciously lets me spend lunch sometimes, I found:

Ann Taylor Loft skirt, white with yellow flower awesomeness, size 6.
Also, not pictured, is Gap black silk skirt, size 4. It's pretty awesome as well.

A child’s wetsuit. We don’t have a child. But we have children visiting, and this past weekend, we tried to put an 8 year old into my wetsuit. No good. It was $2, and Jesse voted yes. We already have 4 wetsuits. I spent near $400 on my super duper, may as well be fur lined 4mm neoprene awesomeness, so $2 seemed like an awesome deal. It’s a size 6, and I can’t wait for Marissa and/or Anastasia to try it on!

A Dean Koontz book I don’t already have. I have a bit of a collection going, thanks to Jesse’s diligent checking of the book shelves.

There were also things I didn’t get to have. Like, the Z Gallery crystal candleholders. They are a little too over the top for me, but I wanted them a little as I saw someone else check out with them.

There was also this oil lamp. I mean, yes, it’s a little ugly, and sort of looks like they're sort of set in a pile of poop. But, I could just feel working with Sculpey clay, and baking a new base for it. Lillies, may be? And it would be awesome. But Jesse reminded me that I have a couple years worth of low priority projects like that one. Like, umm, those Danish Modern Tables I’m supposed to refinish? Or, may be, the sunflowers I was going to paint.. Or, the dress with the giant pockets that I cut out, but have yet to sew. Sigh. No Sculpey for me.

Or this teapot. I kinda like it. But I like how my old ugly cast iron one keeps tea warm throughout the evening. It's a hard, picking between practical and pretty..

And then. There was. This chair. If I had a lair.. This is exactly the kind of chair I would see my guests in. Missing a troll to fan my feet and someone to feed me peeled grapes.. Off white velvet looking deal with flowers. Jesse gets really nervous when I gawk at things like this, because he can never figure out if I'm genuinely appalled that somebody at some point in life actually had this. Inside. Their. Home. Or if if I'm trying to figure out if I have any use/space for it.


Hello Gym Pilates Class

A girlfriend is visiting and staying with us this week, and she got me motivated about 24 Hour Fitness. You know, the gym I have been a member of for the past 4 years, and about that many visits..

I lie, I used to go a lot. When I was single, my Friday AND Saturday nights were spent in the gym. I love that you can hang out there until 3-4 am. If I was gonna be a loser, I was going to be a fit loser. Enter Jesse, and cooking dinners at home.

I can’t even *really* blame Jesse, except that, if I got up at 2am to run amok at the gym he would drop kick me back into bed. He has a gallstone thing, so everything he eats must be low fat. He does, however, consume stupid amounts of bread, so may be it *is* his fault. Unlike him, a loaf of French bread RUINS me. But anyway.

Yesterday, having looked up class schedules of the nearest 24 Hours, I picked a PilatesFusion class at Newport Coast. I’ve heard about Pilates. I have no idea how some stretching would make one fit, but I can’t run, so I may as well start slow. I arrived, and went to get my own mat, unlike all the ladies who showed up with their own. I felt unprepared, and inspected my mat for bugs. All clear. I HAVE a mat at home, though, still safe and its packaging, so this cheered me up. Next time, I too, will have my very own mat. Ha. (Thanks, Jesse’s sister!)

They started to stretch as the instructor was setting up, but it seemed redundant to stretch before stretch exercises, so I inspected my mat again, and considered getting a different color. I also noticed I was the only one not clad in pretty leggings and fitted tank top. My gym outfits scream “I just got done peeling potatoes”, but it’s not really noticeable, to me, anyway, until I find myself surrounded by dressed up gym nymphs. Whatever.

The instructor came and introduced some breathing techniques. I considered leaving. But I had placed myself in a corner, where nobody would see me, and now it would be awkward, to walk across all these dressed up people, with my gym-issued mat, too-tight sweatpants, and a loose, but shrunken too short semi white T-shirt that at some point, very long ago, definitely before I washed it with some red socks, said “Nike Soccer”. I didn’t think my outfit through, and I’m pretty sure there were panty lines. I had to stay put.

And then came the ‘stretching’. I realized, that everybody else but me can put their ankles ridiculously close to their ears. I checked my posture, and wiggled around, but it was certain. I can barely touch my toes. I definitely can’t rest my head on the floor between my knees. There’s a chance I may never sit right again, having tried it.

There were leg raises, and my pants fell back to reveal my mismatched socks. I was a little horrified. I looked in the mirror, and amid gracefully scissoring legs, there was a pair twitching sweatpant frog legs. I realized the importance of breathing. Sometimes, you just forget. Like, when you concentrate on doing circles with a leg while your hips are off the ground for an unnaturally long time.

I finished every exercise earlier than everybody else. By simply laying back down. A plank? No thanks. Give me 4 more? I think not. The first 2 were a stretch. The instructor looked at me gently and with pity. I ended up leaving 15 minutes early. It was too much, and while we were doing floor exercises, at least there was the option of collapsing and ‘practicing breathing’ (trying to control panting). But it looked awkward to keep laying down during stand up stuff, so I had to cut my losses.

This morning, my legs hurt. My stomach muscles are sore. I am pleased. I will stretch at home, religiously all this week, and give it a go again, next Monday, with my very own purple mat in tow.

My Flying Squirrel and Riding Ethics

Jesse and I headed out to recently opened Rowher Flats for some post Christmas Day riding. We get there, and his bike won't start. Yawn.

Good news is, I have jumper cables, which means he has jumper cables, and he can jump start his bike from the truck. Oblivious to the fact that it'll take him 5 minutes, I'm picturing taking off the side panels, possibly the seat, to the get to the bike battery, which should take 10 minutes alone, assuming he has the tools. Armed with a faint memory of having jumped my bike, and it taking about an hour, (not including the phonecalls I had to make to ask how likely various steps of the process were to kill me) I decide to go on a warm up ride down the main road.

My girlfriend told me there are a set of small hilly bumps to ride along the main road, and I took the first turn off to the hilly things. They were a little more hilly than I anticipated or wanted to go through alone, so I stalled and paused at the bottom. A rider came from my right, and asked me if I was alright. I was, and I decided to head where he came from. (Lest I look like an uncoordinated sissy, turning my bike around in the middle of what looks like a well travelled intersection)

Figures that it was the only trail that didn't loop back to the main road, like I expected. It was a rocky single track, and while it wasn't above my skill level, I didn't want to ride it alone. It's no fun, sliding down a hill if no one is there to watch. There was no place for me to turn around, and the trail is a ledge of a sort. Eventually, it looked like it wash out after a steep downhill curve, and I decided it was time to really head back, plus, Jesse would look for me. He gets panicky like that.

In the midst of wrestling the bike, and devising ways of flipping it the other way that didn't involve a swift downhill slide, I saw Jesse, across the canyon. I waved. I was relieved. He saw me, knew where I was, and I didn't need to hurry. I sat down for a breather. My most recent attempt to lay the bike down and 'drag' it in a circle had failed. I watched as Jesse walked up and down the hillside. I figured he was on a trail and looking a way to get across, which would be crazy. Eventually, he would see the, let's call it, Ravine of Peril, and go get on the trail just like I did. Right?

Wrong. I start up the bike, and decide to run it uphill at the curve, and use the hillside at the 90' turn and my marginal clutch handling to turn it around. After a little while and an 'almost slide downhill' I succeeded. There was no end to how proud I was of my problem solving "in the wild" skills, and now I was ready to take the trail back to the main road to tell Jesse about it. Except, wait..

Jesse, apparently, had been furiously busy this entire time too. Not much for standing back and watching me be a genius survivor in the "wild", he decided I needed help. And what better way to help, than to show up in person. Taking the straightest route available - his line of sight, right across - you guessed it - the Ravine of Peril.

His bike (half dead, by the way) is at the bottom of the canyon, in a creek bed. He has hiked up to tell me this.

I am UNimpressed. I know, I hear the good voice saying, he is only doing this to help me, and he's sweet, and he's already frustrated, so I should be good, and calm, and sweet. But the bad voice tells the good voice to stuff it and kick rocks.

The bad voice is floored, and just can't imagine how someone would think it a good idea to go straight down a mountain side, (and then, presumably, come up), with a bike that may or may not be a 300lb pile of non moving bike parts. The bad voice wins.

I mean, really. If I AM to be hurt an in distress, how is he to help me if he's busy flinging himself all over mountain sides, throwing himself off cliff edges, and generally trying to find ways to lose body parts. Not to mention that it takes a long time to carry out all these adventures.

Sigh. His only (valid, in retrospect) argument was that, I was not on the main trail. Like I was supposed to be. But, are we REALLY going to talk about how I messed up, when HE is knee deep in cactus? At the bottom of.. the Ravine of Peril?! I didn't think so. Plus. At least I am ON a trail. Where, eventually, one would ride by and find me. Him? Not so much. You could set up a whole hobo house at the bottom of the Ravine, made out of bike parts and branches and nobody would know you're there.

His other argument is that I went and got myself lost "in ten thousand acres" of land. The 'ten thousand acres' bit is irrelevant, since he could see me clearly, when he started his flying squirrel descent. I win. Well, he probably lets me win, because, his bike is still stuck in a creek bed, and he wants company while getting it out.

Some huffing and puffing later, his bike is back on trail. He rides it up to my bike, and waits for me to hike up. I'm unimpressed still. I had no plans of ending up down here on a bike, and I certainly didn't want to hike it. I make it up, catch my breath, have a few dramatic sips from the Camelbak. We ride back. Halfway back, my bike just stops.

As I'm starting the bike over and over again, he's hanging back, in front of me. He's a perceptive man, and knows when to just leave me alone. Or, he thinks he knows. I would actually appreciate some manly input on why this is happening to me. I rock the bike back and forth, and don't hear the familiar swishing sound in the tank. Ahhhh.

Later at the truck, he tells me he found my bike on its side. My kickstand is too tall for the lowered bike, and to compensate I don't swing it out all the way. All the gas had leaked out. We didn't bring extra gas, since we had full tanks, and only wanted to do a couple hours of riding.

Afterwards, he took me on a 'tour' of the spot where he saw me (he's pointing to the trail), and where he thought it might be a good idea to get off the trail. (Note the drop off)

We spent 2-3 hours out there. Only may be did a mile worth of riding. Went through a tank of gas. But we came up with a new system. It was our first time riding alone, just the two of us, so, from now on - we don't leave without whistles.

-Long whistle if you're lost.
-Multiple short whistles to acknowledge the long whistle.
-One whistle: I'm fine, stay where you are, I'll get there
-Two whistles: I'm fine, the bike, for whatever reason, can't get going. Come help.
-Three whistles: Sh!t got real. Come get me.

I am excited to have a 'system'. I'm also excited that I'm with a man who will cross mountains, literally, to come make sure I'm ok. I will kick his narrow butt if ever he does it again, but I was reminded, once again, how completely smitten and lucky I am, to have my flying squirrel.

Did I mention we're engaged now? :D


I think I will

Jesse and I met in person exactly one year ago, on a Friday. We went out to a movie and drinks, we had dinner on Saturday, and on Sunday, before he left for Northern California where he lived, he asked me to be his girlfriend, during dinner at a tiny sushi restaurant by my house.

Today, we went to the same sushi restaurant for dinner, and then to the beach. It was just warm enough, and the new moon lit up the waves pretty, and he asked me to marry him.

I adore him. And said yes. :D

He is a sneaky critter and had been toting the ring around with him everywhere we went. Just in case, we ended up in a perfect spot earlier. I'm excited!!


Sold! EBay Skirts

Every one of the four I posted. Each went for 3 to 8 dollars. All in all, I made about $20. I am thrilled. I posted up pictures, wrote a note about how I’m too fat for them, and people bid, repeatedly, and bought my stuff. Somebody wanted my old stuff! Usually, it is I who gets other people’s stuff. My universe has come a full circle, and I. Am. Pleased.

I would love to make a hobby of finding cool things at yard sales and sell them on Ebay. The only snag in that plan, is that, inadvertently, I want to keep cool stuff I find.


Jewelry Exchange (Tustin, CA) – Review

I’ve been seeing commercials for Jewelry Exchange back in Chicago, years ago. They had them in Florida, too, and when this weekend it kept airing late Saturday night for the Southern California Tustin location, I decided I had to go see it.

Plainly, I thought they must just give diamonds away. Their commercials more or less suggest that for a few hundreds dollars you’re walking away knee deep in carats. I mean, they don’t say it outright, but it’s there subliminally. Basically, I figured it would be like the Los Angeles Jewelry District. Messy, cheap, good. Give or take a couple street vendor hot dog carts.

First of all, to start off a chain of disappointments, there were no hot dog carts.

It ain’t messy. They have a post office ‘take a number’ system. Though, Jesse and I hung out around counters and sales people would ask at random if we needed help. When you get around to it, they introduce you to a 'diamond consultant', who can sign out ONE diamond at a time. So, if you wanted to look at a couple side by side, you can’t – unless they get a second sales person to come in. It takes forever, between the items. This is the case for loose diamonds, anyway. The salesperson goes back to the “vault’, signs 80 clipboards, talks to a ‘manager’, signs a few more clipboards. Repeat for taking a stone back and getting a new one.

It wasn’t cheap. It was comparable to other retailers. Yes, you would pay more and have a much smaller selection of you went to Kay, Zales, or another mall establishment. But the variety of other ‘wholesale diamond retailers’ have the same prices. Our salesperson did mention they would work with you on the price. I don’t know to what extent, since we weren’t making an offer.

As for being good – I guess it ought be broken down into the product and the service.
If you know what you’re looking for, they have good quality diamonds. From our experience, you have to be pretty specific in what you want. I asked to see only GIA/EGL certified stones with specific parameters. He wanted “the stone to speak to us, before he presented its credentials”. When I pointed out I can see the inclusion pretty easily, he ignored me amd pressed on about the beauty of the stone. He then broke out a loupe so we can see the 'almost invisible inclusions'. Twice, we did this, with two different stones.

When I asked to see an I-J colour and a high clarity grade, he became visibly frustrated and came back with a heavily included G colour, that was the cheapest stone we had seen. Then he asked us if we were buying that day. The inference was, that if were aren’t to buy that day, what’s the point of dealing with us.

Our particular salesman was not rude. He was actually really nice, and once set on track, he would stay there. He expressed the hope that “the stones made a bigger impression than their representation" and that we would be back. In the background, though, two people were being pressured for a non refundable deposit. When one of them said no, a sales lady threw a fit. Literally. Doesn't do much for a warm fuzzy feeling.

They push strongly for this deposit. Jesse heard a sales lady say, "What, are you going to drag her in here?" because a young man was getting ready to leave. I heard a, “You want to make sure this diamond is still here”. Because a 'wholesale’ place that specializes in buying heaps of diamonds can't come up with another diamond for you? That’s assuming hoards of people shop there, and a majority of them after your particular diamond. Yeah, right.

I have since read online that their terms of agreement on said deposit are abhorrent, and are a sole reason to walk away. I have also read their reviews from various locations across the country, and 90% of them are terrible. Not bad. Terrible. Their terms of agreement also states they are not responsible for damage to a stone while in their care, and will only recut/repolish it. Umm. Re-cutting a stone? Oh, and “they are not responsible for loss of weight and stone value”. Of course not. I read about consistent refusals to work with previous customers on fixing their errors.

I guess by itself, it wouldn’t be a huge issue, had not 80% of reviews talked about damaged jewelry. These 80 and another 15% talked about the quality of their jewelry, all made in-house, as per their website. All terrible. Well. All 95%, but I'm all about statistics and probability.

Our salesperson told us it should be the last place we come. Because having seen all the other places, we will be ‘illuminated’ by the quality and diversity they offer, and their “lowest in California” prices. I was ‘illuminated’ by the fact that they can get some people to put down a deposit.

Having said that, they have a selection that you can see in person, which is a plus over shopping online, as he pointed out. Armed with the specs of a diamond you need, down to the table/girdle/culet measurements, and a price you’re willing to pay, you can go in there and be confident they will have a loose stone that matches your needs. We saw a beautiful .9 carat J colour VS2 Cushion Cut. He quoted us 3,300. Mondera.com offers identical in description stones for $2,300.

But, if you don’t mind the car dealership – manager – salesperson – back-and forth, you can work with them on a price. Judging from 100’s of online reviews though, I would definitely have it set elsewhere. And I definitely wouldn’t go there, hoping to be “illuminated”.

Don't let the waving commerical people fool you. It is a bit disappointing. They can be downright mean, if you don’t buy anything. And it might be a little scary if you do.


I got a bid!

I have finally got around to addressing the List as it relates to "Sell Something on Ebay". I put up some spare chandelier arms, having seen some listings sell. I got a bid on day 1!

9 days to go, and my house will be 5 chandelier arms emptier (win). Plus, it's about time I started unloading somewhere other than Goodwill, who's getting tired of my old clothes.
The whole Ebay thing is prety confusing, and I didn't even set the price. It did it for me, at $0.99. Ha.

Looks like Ebay charges me $0.55. I see that I am eligible to have this and 4 other listings within 30 days free, but how to do that, I can not figure out. Hmph.

Nonetheless, I'm all types of excited!

Speaking of clothes, I am tempted to try and sell some pretty skirts I got, but a search for "Ann Taylor silk skirt" yielded 236 results. All pretty cheap, and MAY BE 1-2 bids. I'm going to watch a few to see if they go in last minutes, and if so, I'll throw mine on there.

I haven't figured out how one might make any money selling small things, but it's kind of fun, and it looks like at the very least the shipping is covered.


Giniling, a Philipino Delight

My best friend introduced me to this years ago, and it is one of my favorite dishes. It is SO good, served with white rice, and it is just as good fried up with couple eggs for a breakfast omelet.

1.5 lbs beef
half a yellow bell pepper, diced
half an orange bell pepper, diced
tomato, diced
1 carrot, diced
and onion, diced
1 potato, diced
few garlic cloves, diced
tablespoon ketchup
3 tablespoons soy sauce
¼ cup frozen green peas
a handful of raisins

I toss in the garlic and onions first, then add carrots, then bell peppers, and potatoes.

Each vegetable goes in and cooks on low heat while I’m chopping the next. I love that there’s really no prep, other than chopping up vegetables. I add the beef in last, add salt, ketchup, and soy sauce, and mix.

It cooks over medium-low heat (I use cast iron pans, so everything I cook requires lower temperature). I taste it for salt and add more soy sauce if need be. Drain the mix, if necessary. I cook with really lean beef, so there’s hardly anything to drain.
Once the potatoes and beef are done, I toss in a handful of raisins and the green peas. Cover the skillet, and let it stand for a few minutes.

Concurrently, cook a pot of rice (1 part of rice to 1 part of water).

Serve the beef mixture over or next to 'sticky' rice.

SO good.

Next morning - toss with some eggs for an omelet. SO good, part deux.


Curtain Tiebacks

A really easy, almost instant gratification project. I have brown fabric to make a border for my living room curtains. I have been lagging on that, since it would require to take the curtains down and do some hand stitching. I also got enough fabric to make some throw pillows and curtain tiebacks.

The brown goes well with the green AND the pink AND the yellow. Score.

Two yard strips of 10" fabric, some interfacing, couple short pieces of gold cord and a couple of loop shaped hook deals you see on bras (but bigger).

Not really much in the way of construction: I sewed a tube, slipped the cord in and stitched one end close.

In retrospect, the cord is a nice touch, but you never see it. Another little hook or a ring stitched to the surface would have been fine.

After turning them right side out, I pressed, stitched the other end closed and hand stitched the little loop hook to the inside. I like the 'floating' look, but I think if I do it again, I will go with some brass rings to attach the the ends.

And the finished product:

The Christmas tree is actually what prompted this project in the first place. I didn't want the semi-finished curtains to hang all funny looking about the tree. Now, if only I got around to hemming the Green Fluff, seen pinned up pitifully behind the tree.. Otherwise, I'm pretty pleased. Top brown border still to come.


Stuffed Potato Nightmares - Cooking Fail

My grandmother put me up to this, probably just to have a good laugh. She claimed, that by boiling and mashing some potatoes, and combining them with an egg and some flour, a dough could be made, into which you fold a filling of meat, or mushrooms, or sauerkraut. Ha.

What I ended up with was a potato mix with a texture no unlike baby diarrhea.. It more or less told me to take a hike.

I called my grandmother in panic, who told me to just add more flour, because "you can't spoil it with flour". She took it back when I told her I used 4 times the recommended amount of flour (3 tbsp). Apparently, there IS such a thing as too much flour.

Anyway. It was awful. I tried spooning the potato mix onto the griddle, placing a spoon of meat mix in the middle, and covering with another spoonful of potato mix, but it didn't cook into a solid object, like, say, a pancake, and instead would move around on the griddle, like, say mashed potatoes.. with meat and mushrooms mixed in.

My incompetence in this potato thing is compounded by the fact that, unlike my grandmother, I can't throw them into a formidable layer of oil to fry. I make do with a thin layer of olive oil on the griddle, because of my low-far cooking efforts to keep Jesse's gallbladder stones happy. May be they would fry up into one piece. But trying to flip them on the griddle was like playing with raw, clumpy pancake batter. SO gross.

Luckily, Jesse has no idea what the finished product is supposed to be like. He ate up both my sad attempts, probably trying to figure out why I'd go such a convoluted way to arrive at a really mangled shepherd's pie.

I tossed a couple into a tupperware container, and having given up pretending they are to hold any particular shape, I ate it at lunch with a spoon, like shepherd's pie.

My grandmother shared a lovely story - when she was a newlywed, her husband killed a couple chickens and left her to make them into a meal. Remembering that in the village, her mom steamed the chickens to pluck feathers, my grandmother poured boiling water into the bucket, covered it, and came back few minutes later, ready to pluck away. As she went to pull a chicken out by its leg, the leg came out, to reveal a half cooked, still inside-intact chicken. Apparently, not meal grade anymore. Turns out, the chickens are only to be briefly splashed by the hot water, and never actually immersed, until they are plucked, gutted, and soup-ready. I think it was supposed to make me feel better - which, it did. I am super glad that my first encounter with any chicken is completely defeathered. :D

I'm going to use the remaining stuffing for some vareniki (potsticker like things). Assuming I can mix up some decent dough. As for the potato mix.. since I'm not really into heavily flour-fortifed mashed potatoes, I might have to let it go. SIGH.

The Christmas Tree - Fake or Real?

I never even thought about fake Christmas tree. It seemed so .. fake? I totally envisioned Jesse hauling upstairs a giant pine I deemed acceptable at the local lot. About 9 feet, long needles, fluffy, and possibly still with traces of fox fur from sheltering all things cute and furry in the wild woods. Never mind that we *apparently* have 8 foot ceilings. That’s Jesse’s problem.

Until we walked into Target for some lights, and there was the 7’5” Slim Cashmere Pre Lit Pointy Needled Happiness. It was $99 and looked magical. You can't see the trunk through the branches, and it's all types of fluffy (and pointy) It's a 'slim' version, and they make no full one that I could find. I was a little bummed - I think that cuts down on the number of ornaments I was going to wrap it with. But slim fits perfectly in our living room, without having to move furniture to the garage. Score.

Of course, I can’t just buy the tree. I must research every fake tree available. Speaking of which, did you know Macy’s sells pre-decorated trees? Themed and everything. I can’t find them online, but they were in the store. I only imagine they sell them with decorations, because they are pretty sad looking trees for $700-$900.

So, having read every online review (23 at Target alone and all but 2 magical) and posting an online poll on a favorite message board, we decided to go with fake.

It looks amazing. It did in Target, too, but running around and looking at all the other trees further convinced me it’s the most beautiful one. I even went to the lot – not only did they not have my favorite long needled ones, but they had baked a little in the SoCal sun, and looked dry and yellow. Dry and yellow in mid November doesn’t look good for December. Or January 7th – the Eastern Orthodox Christmas.


It's beautiful, on all sides. (No more spinning the tree around to find the fullest spot!)
Jesse didn't have to haul a real tree upstairs
It fits perfectly in the apartment
Pre lit - once you assemble the 3 sections together - it pretty much looks fantastic, even pre-fluffing.
It holds heavy ornaments


It doesn't smell like pine. To be fixed shortly by pine scented candles/wall plug ins.

And, while it doesn't smell like pine, it has adorable little pine cones.

I have a small collection of Christmas ornaments, and we’ll expand it a bit more this year. We already got some clear glass balls – to fill with glitter? And post Catholic Christmas I plan a full on combative invasion of Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Rogers Garden invasion for the sale ornaments. I do this every year in lieu of Black Friday. I might don elbow pads to better push people out of the way.


Thanksgiving, Ducks, and Whoops

I don't like turkey. I don't like any white meat in general, and turkey has so much of it, its annoying. I also find it tough and bland, and .. the list of its offences is really too long to indulge in. So, instead, like a good Russian, I make a stuffed duck on any qualifying holiday. Qualifying means it puts me in the mood to spend $17 on a bird. Spending $17 dollars on a fatty chicken like bird seemed appalling until a recent trip to Bristol Farms, where ducks come in at 9.99 per pound, so, $40-$50 a duck pre-tax. Jesse and I laaaaaughed and laughed our way out of the door, duck-less. I was on a duck research mission that evening, and found out that Whole Foods were $4.99/lb and Ralphs and Vons at 2.88 and 2.69 respectively. I got some nice fat 6 lb ones at Ralphs, and was pretty pleased. I still wonder - the ducks at Bristol Farms weren't frozen. What happens to these $40 ducks at the end of the night? I mean, do they toss them? Can I come in at 8:59 and make an offer? Are they available shortly thereafter at or around their dumpster? Just wondering...

Russian Holiday Duck:

a duck
4-5 apples.
a package of prunes
thyme, optional

I wash the duck and trim as much fat as I can. Rub the inside of it with salt and pepper, and stuff with cored and sliced apples. I don't peel my apples, since they tent to turn into much when peeled. Prunes are mixed in with apples and going into the duck as well.
I prick the duck all over with a sharp fork, or skewers, if the forks are too gentle and child-proof, to help fat escape.
Stitched close with my best surgeon work, toss the excess apples around it, and toss in the oven at 375'F for 2.5-3 hours.

Ducks are super fatty, and as the fat drains out, it helps if the duck is elevated on a rack. I don't own such a rack, so Jesse kindly rolled some foil into thick bars, and the duck rested on 3-4 of these. This way, it's not swimming in a fat-lake when you take it out.

I must warn for $17, you are not getting very much meat. But what you do get is exquisite.

We had dinner with Jesse's family, complete with an enormous 26lb turkey. It was pretty magical, and I even found some turkey leg meat I didn't object to entirely. Afterwards, we headed to my Aunt Diane's for tea and pie, where my father and step mother were visiting from Northern California. The children had dug a giant hole on the beach to play in, and aunt Diane showed us some 90 year old toys passed down in the family.

Friday morning, despite my incoherent objections, Jesse stuck to our plan and threw me in the truck, shopped for camp groceries along the way, and we arrived at Spangler (Southern California high desert) to camp and ride.

Jesse got me a WR250 a few months ago, and I'm still breaking it in. I just discovered this trip, that it's true - if you take whoops at a high enough speed they don't rattle your wrists, shoulders, and neck, and instead, you almost glide over them.

It had rained at night, we listened to the rain and wind in our tent, keeping warm in a sleeping bag with 8 blankets "just in case". There was no dust the next morning. A little windy, but you can't pick your weather, and having lived in Chicago, I'm excited to be out and camping at the end of November. Riding was beautiful and dust free.

We met some friends from ThumperTalk, a message board where I met most everyone I know. There was a band playing - for $600 they got a trailer and will follow you anywhere. There was a sea of toyhaulers and trailers. Jesse and I camp the old fashioned way, but we aren't proud, and are happy to hide out in a trailer when needed, watch Star Wars, even, and have Dave's biscuits and gravy Thanksgiving Trailer Dinner Special. (Thanks Denise and Dave!!) Not to mention the bathroom. Sometimes, and especially in 40'F, it's just nice not to have your butt hanging out in the wind.

I am thankful. Super thankful for all the happy things and people and blessings in my life.

*pictures to come


Want badly: Camping chair

Not just any chair. Alite Monarch Butterfly Chair.

Ever since Jesse and I both sat in my Crazy Creek on the beach on day, an inside pole snapped and it's only as good as a cushion now. I've been meaning to stalk upon another sale-d Crazy Creek.

Then, I saw this chair in REI, fell in love, and there's no going back. Sorry, Crazy C, We had good times, and I liked sitting low and close to campfires.. rolling you up and stuffing into my Camelbak on bike trips. And the beach.

Actually, I didn't even know what it was, and wasn't very interested while Jesse attacked the baggy, took out poles and asembled what looked like a really shady contraption. I was more interested in filling out my JetBoil collection, which happens to share the isle with chairs. When he assembled it, I wanted to sit in it, for sheer play - fall back, call it dumb, leave.

It was magical. It's a balancing deal, since the chair has 2 legs. Adding two human legs makes the four needed to maintain balance. But it's super effortless. I would know, I sat in it for a good 15 minutes in the middle of REI chair/camping cookware isle. You just kick your legs on front of you, and lean back.

I can picture it everywhere. Best of all! It stuffs little into a sack. The poles are aluminium and come undone. I want 4 of them for my living room, and 2 to keep in the truck. May be one for the office.

I looked online to find it cheaper than the $59.99 REI tag, no dice. Oh, but I want it bad..


Finally. Sewing Mid Century Modern Chair Cushions

I finally got around to sewing new, r e a l, cushion covers for my mid century modern chairs. I've had the fabric for months, a bright purple upholstery flower design we picked up at a San Francisco fabric outlet, and 'sewing cushions' has been on the List shamefully long.

I enlisted to Jesse to draw a layout of the pieces I would need. Since I measured and came up with about 4 yards of fabric (3 and a half, plus half for error margin) I had to plan this a lot better that the 9 yards of brown fabric I had to hack away at.

I thought about doing piping on the sides – the original ugly orange had thick piping. Stitching it in would require a zipper foot, which I don’t have. I generally have a hard time finding parts for a 1922 machine. Might be it’s ONLY drawback.

I brought home some samples of cord I could hand stitch from the outside into the seam, but I am not convinced that the amount of work involved is proportional to the aesthetic benefit.

The following is probably only useful, nay, fascintaing if you’re interested in making chair cushions. If you are making mid century Danish lounge chair cushions, and have little to no sewing skills, its downright invaluable. I think, cause I looked all over the net for a tutorial and never found one. Otherwise, you can follow the picture trail to the finished product.

It’s a basic pattern of two squares for cushion (top and bottom), a long strip to comprise 3 sides, and shorter strip for the zipper top. With the seam allowances, the top “zipper strip” is made of two strips, each 3.5” as opposed to the one 5” thick “long side strip” that runs most of the way around. The cushions on the original chair were 4 x 23.5 x 24, so I went with that.

To make the top zippered side, I sewed the two fabric strips together, either because you’re supposed to do it that way, or because there would be no way I could keep them in place while I sewed the zipper on. So, I stitched them with the large stitch setting an inch from the edge, folded out the edges, and pressed.

From the wrong side, I laid the 36” zipper on top, centered. I found out too late that it’s the type of zipper that opens from either side. At first, I was disgruntled, but then I grew to like it. I don’t have a zipper foot, so being able to open it and move the ‘tongue’ down was really convenient when anchoring the ends of the zipper to fabric. The conventional one way zippers in longer lengths looked flimsy, with the small metal teeth that eat batting, thread, and get all stuck.. (In a related story, I heart JoAnn’s Fabrics 40% off coupons!)

I anchored the base of the zipper on one end, and trying to keep is centered (basting would be really good, if one had patience for that sort of thing) I stiched all the way down, about a ¼ inch in, anchored the other end the same way, and stitched back up along the other side, trying to keep same distance.

I was really tempted to rip out the stitches holding the zipper shut, but didn’t. I find if I stop and play, it extends the time exponentially.

Now, with the zipper strip down, it is to be attached to the long strip, which is to be sewn onto the square base. I wanted the zipper edge to look professional, so I closely inspected some porch furniture cushions on my aunt’s porch the afternoon prior.

The long strip is 68 inches long. You can make it up of shorter segments, but I was going for a seamless look. That, and I can’t be trusted to piece things together, that’s how things get out of control. The less pieces I have to work with, the better.

The zipper base is “hidden” in a pocket of a sort, and this pocket is attached to the zipper, perpendicularly, to stabilize it, not just along edges where it attaches to the cushion base. In order for this perpendicular stitch line not to show and spoil my seamless look, I sewed the zipper strip and the long strip right sides together at the bottom, and then folded the long strip back onto itself.

The math involved:
The zipper strip is 37”. Zipper itself is 36”, so half inch allowance on ends.
The long strip is 68”. Minus 23.5 of the bottom center width, leaves 44.5 to be divided into the sides.
44.5 divided by 2 is 22.25. So, coming up from the bottom center, I have 22 ¼ “ fabric strip.
The zipper strip is 37”. Subtract 23.5 of cushion top width is 13.5. Divided by two is 6.25”. So, from the top of the cushion, I have 6.25” of zipper strip.
I had decided that I will have 4” of zipper showing (to be able to open the cushion cover wider). I actually wanted more, but I liked the look of less zipper.
My cushion length is 24”. So, to have 4” of zipper showing, I need the rest of the long strip for that side at 20”.
I had 22.25, so I would fold 2.25” inches under. (A portion of this 2.25 is anchored to the zipper strip on the inside.
A picture shows it better. I ironed the fold, because I don’t baste.

The same is done on the other side of the cushion. They are completely symmetrical, so all the math is the same on the other side. 4” of zipper showing, 2.25” folded under, 20” remaining for the side. Bottom of zipper strip and long strip are anchored together with a perpendicular stitch line, that ends up hidden by the fold.

Now, all that’s left is stitching the side to the cushion.

I started at top center, making sure the center of the zipper strip is aligned with the center of the cushion. I had ½” allowance on the cushion, so once I stitched there, I would have to make the corner. Amazingly, it lined up with my mark on the zipper strip corner. I clipped the corner of the fabric to make turning it 90’ easier. I keep the square flat, and turn the strip 90 degrees.

Turning the corner, I stitched through the 4” of the remaining showing zipper side, and then stitched the fold that covers the remaining zipper and zipper base onto the cushion front (four layers of fabric for 2.25”). 24” inches later, I turned another corner, stitched the bottom, and came up to the other side. I stopped on this side just short of the fold. I wanted to make sure the fabric didn’t stretch as I sewed, and I wouldn’t have excess side strip (or, slightly worse, not enough side strip). I stitched from the beginning, top center cushion, going the other way along the zipper strip.

Once I turned the corner, and was a couple inches into the side, I stopped, and made sure that when folded, I had exact amount of ‘side strip’ as I did cushion side. I pinned it in place, since I don’t baste. Again, basting would probably help tremendously, and you can just stitch merrily your entire way around the cushion. I have a psychological thing about undoing stitches, of any kind though, so I am left to measure obsessively, pin, and hold my fingers crossed. (And sometimes undoing the finished product…)

Voila. It’s a cushion bucket of a sort:

Keeping in mind my pattern orientation, and for sake of uniformity, I simply sew on the other square cushion side, just as the first one, turning corners, notching the corners if need be. I started at top center, and I make sure when I get to my seam allowance, it lines up with the”corner” mark on the side strip.

Amazingly, everything lined up right. I guess that’s what happens when you only leave yourself a ½” seam allowance as opposed to “3-4 inches margin of error area” approach I like.

I probably should have ripped out the ‘basting’ stitch holding the zipper together, BEFORE I stitched the cushion shut from every side, because it’s a little hard to do from the inside, since the zipper tongue is sandwiched between zipper teeth and fabric stitched shut. I guess once the zipper is sewn in, there’s little value to keeping it closed while you sew.

I took out the stitches, and it looks beautiful. Had a used the flimsy zipper, it would be completely hidden, but it was a trade off – I like the bigger plasticky zipper teeth.

Less likely to eat batting and foam, I think. I love how much better, stiffer, and more stable the upholstery fabric makes the cushion as opposed to my temporary cotton fix.

Finished dimension: 24 x 23.5 x 4.

The chair back cushions are same, but only 15” tall. I got a 30” zipper, instead of 36”, because I won’t have it go as far down the sides. May be only an inch of zipper showing. It was midnight when cushion #1 reared its finished head. Tonight is cushions #2, 3, 4 time.


Chair 1 complete!


Seen Out and About

At a weird “estate sale”,.. (ones where stuff looks old and ratty and in someone's driveway, yet priced at thousands).. this spectacular $1900 couch.

Had it been $30, I’d have dragged it home, where Jesse would have to build a loft to support any more “pieces” . Luckily, it was $1870 over our budget.
It is my personal opinion, that if you sell $2000 couches, you should put them in a setting other than your ratty driveway, but the guy seemed pretty excited about his couch. It was "an investment piece", and "would probably sell for $9,000 in an intique shop down the street. You never know, it IS Orange County, I guess. I just don't know how many people cruise around yard sales with $1900 in pocket.

Still, I am guessing stripped to dark walnut and upholstered in something less .. blue and flowery, it would be awesome.
- Ceramic parrots? Swinging on my porch? Bright colors and everything? Yes, please! I had talked the guy down to 5$ a parrot, but he wanted me to buy all, and I really thought that 4th was hideous.
It would be cool to paint them ivory, and have black stars/flowers/swirls painted all over. But Jesse seemed to think they would then lose their “parrotness”. Parrots fail.
It’s probably for the best, our 2nd floor deck isn’t nearly big enough to accommodate 4 big hanging parrots, without knocking into them incessantly. Jesse suggested taking the 4th one and using it as target, like those clay pigeons, but I don't have the heart to blow up something brightly painted, even if it is hideous.
- I did find some awesome Paul Frank shoelaces, and ALMOST got a pair of flippers. Then Jesse informed me I can get flippers in a myriad of colours that aren’t orange and blue, so I skipped away with visions of glittery purple pink flippers. Watch out, SoCal beaches.
- A book on survival. I’m pretty sure I can survive just fine anywhere, but I’ve seen Jesse pick through his “white only” chicken meat at Flame Broiler. I’m fairly certain eating tree bark is not a concept he’s on board with, so he needs all the help he can get.
- An old book on the psychology of male/female conversation..having. I intend to read it, and analyze everything Jesse says thoroughly for a couple weeks, until he either has a breakdown, or the fun runs out.
- A first edition of Tom Sawyer. It’s beautiful, old, and has few coloured pictures. I have been meaning to pick up a copy at Barnes and Noble, as soon as Jesse has finished Huckberry Finn. I’m convinced it’s imperative he reads all happy childhood classics to make up the giant black void he must be suffering (he hides it really well).
Other things worthy of note:
Clay fish. After the parrot fiasco, I was certain I need to get them, paint them ivory and black, write “here, fishy fishy” and hang on a bathroom wall.

They sold before I went back to them, but above is my nostalgic concept drawing.. Drat.

Various chairs.

This ceramic life size statue/lamp.

I mean, if you were going to go completely over the top, why not do it with crystal ball grapes, lights, and a lady wearing all types of bright foldy ceramic clothing? $449.

- Black leather gloves. $2 They are super thin. I'm thinking, cat skin? I shall cut off the fingers, and wear them with sundresses that my tattooed forearm otherwise prevents wearing at work. I've rectified it in the past on super hot days by Ace bandages and a cut off tube sock (striped yellow and green, even) and I am thinking this might be an upgrade. Hopefully, He Who Signs the Paychecks will agree, or I'll have to find other uses. They'll likely still have to do with sundresses and excersizing individuality. Ha.

Total weekend shopping cost – about ~$7, plus gas. AND, I wore my weight vest everywhere, so I imagine I burned 80,000 calories hopping in and out of the truck. WIN!