Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Reason for Office Specials?


Yes, I am relying quite a bit on the ArcSoft program to colour my office specials these days. I think it’s because I’m getting tired of having to photo-edit out all the page-rippling and muddiness caused by washing the watercolour pencils on copy-paper. It probably wouldn’t be a problem if I had PhotoShop here but instead I have ArcSoft, which is about as refined and versatile as sea lion on land.

I think I need to upgrade the office special to draw them not on copy-paper but on water colour paper. I know, it won’t be much of an office-special if I do, but at least it’s still something I created it on breaks at work while scarfing a Fresco crunchy taco! I’ll have to reflect on this decision.

I joined a little women’s gym (and spa) recently. It’s a small gym with brand-new, beautiful machines that have their own dedicated flat-screen TVs in front of them so you can watch Perry Mason or Jerry Springer while hoofing it on the elliptical and treadmill. It’s clean, beautifully decorated, welcoming and quiet during the day. Today, I went there, and because the Gym is near what is called a “Service Center” but what is really a “Feed the Tweeker-Meth-Heads Facility”, I had a little… um.. encounter as I was leaving. As I was pulling out after my workout, I’d lowered the driver’s side window to let in some fresh air, because the Prius was stuffy and reeked mysteriously of horse for some bizarre inexplicable reason… and this short, very hard-ridden, wrinkly faced bottle-black haired harridan comes stumbling by from the service center and asks in a Wicked Witch voice: “Hey.. can I get a ride?”

My response was naturally… “Uh… No.” She then flips out and says: “Well then you’re a fat f**king whore!” and my kneejerk response was “Yeah… a fat f**king whore with a CAR!” I drove off giggling, watching her just go off on this screaming ramble as she crossed the lot.

I think this is part of the reason why scenes like my office special are so prolific inside my head. It’s this world. What a world we live in… what a really dark, bleak sort of place it can be sometimes. It’s hard for me to find empathy in my heart for people like Hagatha there, with her snaggle-tooth mouth and sour face. I can think about all the circumstances that lead people to drug abuse… to alcoholism… and in many cases, these are things I’ve gone through, my sisters and brother have gone through, and yet none of us are screaming like banshees at strangers in cars as we walk out of service centers. We are all products of our environment and our choices—and it can go either way for all of us. We can succeed to some measure, or fail. We can try to be strong, or we can give up and hope we’ll be taken care of.

A wise old friend of mine once said to me after having fallen very hard from very high; “We are *all* only one step away from the street.” Nobody should fool themselves that they are insulated from the same fate as Hagatha… The only thing we can guarantee is to make better choices when faced with difficulties, and not expect solutions to come to us. We are responsible for ourselves alone.

I’m in this frame of mind because I watched a documentary called “The Bridge” recently. I do not advise that just anyone watch it. It’s pretty bleak and depressing. It’s about the Golden Gate Bridge… and those who are drawn to it to commit suicide. The movie shows actual footage of people jumping to their death, and interviews people close to those who jumped. There was not a lot of hopefulness in this documentary. It was very, very sad and I've been in a sort of funk since I saw it. It teaches a hard lesson… there are people out there who simply do not want to be, or cannot be helped. This world is just too hard for them. They handle it by jumping off beautiful bridges--or turning themselves into bitter, screaming crones by marinating their bodies in chemicals and alcohol.

I handle the difficult world by drawing tea parties.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A satisfying Sunday.

Last night was my special birthday ball. It was a delight. I was up Friday night until three AM trying to sew together the velvet robe that would cover my white gown. I made so many mistakes and blunders due to my fatigue, that I stumbled into bed nigh morning, and was too exhausted to do anything else that day besides prepare for the ball. Steph II had secured a rustic spot with open fireplaces by a shining lake, and had peppered the walkways with little lamps to guide party-goers in. She'd hired a caller, and there was dancing and an array of little noshy treats. There was also the most beautiful birthday cake known to man...

"What is your favourite flower?" she texts me the day before. "Tulip," I respond, "Whafferr?" I ask. "None of your business..." she retorts. I figure her mother is going to do a little arrangement... but no. Stephanie scored on so many levels with this cake. It shows true friendship; she pays attention. Cream and lavender... my favourite tones. Lovely designs. The cakes within... OMG... all flavours I love. Buttercream enough to make you melt... and a tasteful single candle instead of being evil and enumerating my years as some bratty friends do. :)

Guests brought me lovely gifts--something I did not expect at all. My husband actually got into costume and danced with me... it was so wonderful. As we drove home, hubby was still peckish, so we pulled into a Burgerville and discovered they still had, until the end of the weekend, their elusive seasonal Chocolate Hazelnut Shake.. my super-favourite nummy treat of all time. So delighted, we drove home, I noshing on this rare and delicious treat for the last time until Christmas 2010.

Today, we had breakfast with the inlaws, followed by a trip to see my equine cutie pie. There were two highlights to this particular visit: 1) he would be able to try on the horse blanket my husband gave me for my birthday and 2) my brother in law, Joe, brought his camera so he could take some shots for me of my cinnamon cutie. I think he did a bang-up job. I don't like having photos taken of me... but there were a few I could live with. :)

"I am noble and strong..."

"But can you see the sweetness in my eyes?"

"Do I not make a fine silhouette with my rider astride?"

A little run in the sunshine never hurt anyone.

Gawd, I love my horse.

"Hey, camera-boy... got any carrots?"

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Monday office special.

I’m in such a weird mood. I had a lovely weekend… one of the best times I’ve had in ages… Husband was laid off last Wednesday… The dog is getting sicker and sicker… yet I can’t get rid of this great feeling I have from this weekend. I had this amazing weekend with my husband. We didn’t do anything majorly out of the ordinary, but there was this... I dunno… easiness about that we haven’t had in forever. I think it might be that there is no more looming departure awaiting us. We’re not trying to squeeze in quality time, or grumbling about what needs to be done between now and his having to leave… that whole dynamic is just gone. We’re together for the time being, it’s nice, we laugh and talk and are the best of friends like we always have been.

Tag got his first horse-shoes on Saturday. It was his first time by the way he was behaving. The Farrier, Mark Dietrich did a hot-set on Tag’s feet. He showed up with his trailer and little heating kiln thing and anvil, and he hammered and shaped the red-hot size-5 shoes, and Tag was not happy AT ALL and was getting all worked up. But then we discovered that Tag’s carrot-whoredom transcends all things, and even the scariest thing, like having one’s feet smoking is nothing at all, when there is a little green bucket full of carrots nearby to obsess about. He got almost half a bag of carrots and some apples, but the job was done, and now he makes such a delightful clatter when he walks. ADORE. And his feeties will be safe from further bruising (he tends to knock about a bit because he’s large and bumbling).

I lunged him a bit and then let him free to run, and made him gallop, and boy is that horse beautiful! I’m so in love with the beast. He chased hubby up and down the arena, and he played with his purple horse-ball, and then he went to his room for the night. Hubby and I then went to Joe’s Crab-Shack.. that was fun. Sunday, Valentine’s Day, hubby had one of his ex-coworkers up, a guy named Fraser from Canada up for lunch. Apparently Fraser had been homesick and complaining about the shocking lack of brown gravy in American food. Those Canadians like their brown gravy! So Hubby told his friend to come up and I’d make him a batch of brown gravy for lunch. I made steak and fries, and a huge batch of simple brown gravy (I did not make cheese curds for Poutine... I am not *that* motivated)—I deglazed the steak pan with beef stock, a little bit of milk, some extra salt and pepper, a little touch of Worcestershire sauce, a little bit of corn starch and voila… Fraser was in heaven. He’s like: “There now… It’s runnin’ through my veins again… my blood type … is gravy.” He slathered his steak and fries in it and dug in. Nothing makes me happier to see someone mack down on food I cooked. I like it that I softened his home-sickness a bit. Then the boys went to play with handguns (Canadians aren’t allowed to have those) and then when they came back, Fraser headed back to his hotel and hubby and I went to a nice romantic dinner at our favourite mountain restaurant, the Rendezvous Grill and Taproom. You know it's bad when you don't have to say anything, and they pretty much bring me my escargots -- they know us fairly well there.

Tomorrow, Flower gets tested for Addisonian Disease… if she doesn’t have it, she will have to be scoped in the tummy.

I’m off to go ride Tag and spend some quality equine time.

Enjoy my new Office Special. I made it this morning during a long phonecall. I call it “The Sewing Circle”. It’s made with the regular items, except this time I used the watercolour pencils and wet them down with q-tips I found in the office bathroom. I’m resourceful when I need to be. ;) I haven't sent it home to lighten or mess with on Photoshop, so it looks pretty muddy. Sorry.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Friday! And Birthday Not-So-Blues!

February 22 will mark the beginning of my 39th year on this planet. They have been 39 very interesting and varied years. I've lived in a variety of places, and done many things. I've gained much experience, I've had hard life-lessons, successes and failures... grown and evolved as a person, and changed quite a bit. I have loved, I have lost, and I have loved again. I have however... always hated my birthday. It's a month that usually brings on a depression for me. I have always been whiny about how my birthday has been an afterthought to those who are in my life... it has bothered me for years. I'm a huge baby about it.

Those of you who have followed my blog and who know me personally, know very well what last year's birthday was like for me. It was the birthday to end all birthdays. It was the advent of the destruction of the whole year of 2009. It was HORRIBLE. I am not exaggerating.

Thanks to a new and wonderful friend, however, I don't forsee a birthday of abject tears and solitude, or one of watching Xena reruns alone while putting away an entire bag of cheetos and wallowing in self-pity, or wondering if my marriage is over. My birthday whining has guilted one of my dear BFFs and the otherwise known 'Steph II the Evil Pastry Chef Who Doesn't Update Her Blog' into taking action. I mentioned to her about not having a cake for years, and my whining spiraled down from there. I told her about the forgotten birthdays... the birthday when my mother actually bothered to make a cake, but my brother put his whole hand in it and eaten the massive chunk before I got there... the birthdays where I had to remind people, and was treated like a last-minute burden... the birthdays I spent alone feeling sorry for myself while seeking comfort in food... the birthdays where I got 20 puzzles from my classmates in some last-minute scramble on my mother's part for a party... the birthdays where not one mention of it went by... The birthdays of being invisible and not mattering. It was a real poor-me-fest.

In part, Steph II stealthed around as best she could and arranged this:

Mind you, she couldn't really stealth to the last moment, because I'm the one who has the massive ORS member email list... and she needed me to use it. So I was clued in a while back. But I still have no idea what to expect. It's the first event I will attend where I haven't been sticking my nose in to some extent or other.

I'm going to be honest. I'm sort of... at a loss. I have no idea how to react to this. I feel like it's wrong in some way that all this special attention is being paid to me, and then that whiny selfish person inside me is so excited I could explode. I'm freaking out a little bit... what if I act like a total dork? What if I'm not effusive enough? What ... OMG, someone's throwing ME a party! HOLY CRAP! I've never had a real fuss made before. I've seen other people have fusses made over them--I'm good at making fusses... I've helped with surprise parties and other things like that... but never once have I had someone do something this special for me. It is emotionally crippling in a way... because I have no basis of comparison... no idea what is going to happen. Am I going to blubber and cry like an idiot all night? I dunno--knowing me... I might. So embarrassing! I wonder if Steph II is going to make me a cake? TEE HEE!

I resolve to take it in stride... to just try to smile and not let my heart swell out of my chest and for the tears to flow too much. I'm such a dork.

Anyway... some famous folks I share my birthday with:
Drew Barrymore.
Ted Kennedy. :(... RIP
George Washington.
Steve Irwin :(... RIP

The real question is... Can I crack out an entirely new costume in 10 days? Only time will tell. :) SQUEE!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I followed the trail to where the sky meets the earth
I found the falls where the rivers end.
I stood at the crumbling edge of the world
And watched pieces of my world descend.

I climbed to the summit where the earth meets the sky,
I found the ice where the rivers are born.
I stood at the craggy top of the world,
High above the swirling storms.

I wander the paths of the forests once more,
Which were revived by the nourishing rain.
The roots of the trees are clutching the soil,
Keeping everything from crumbling away.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yay economy.

My husband was just laid off from his job with Vestas.

They apparently are implementing a 90% labour force cut from certain departments. Rumour has it that 140 poor souls were set adrift today, clutching the heartless agreement package in their hands, wondering what to do next.

I used to boast what a good company it was. ::sigh:: My poor husband is shell shocked. Having been with Consolidated Freighter for ten years, and going through the hellish bankruptcy process once, he has PTSD when it comes to this sort of thing. I guess one upside is.. no more travel.

So much for those environmental incentives that promised to boost green projects around the country and create more green-collar jobs... none of that happened... but the banks and insurance behemoths sure got their bailouts and the executives got their golden parachutes... no bitterness here, I promise.

I wonder how likely it will be for my husband to find a new job at that paygrade today in Oregon. About as likely as it is for pigs to sprout wings and fly, I'll wager.

No health insurance for him now, either. What to do, what to do?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reaching out for a shadow.

I’ve found a long-lost cousin. Now I’ve lost him again! What to do? Language is such an issue, it upsets me that we never learned Hungarian. :( I sometimes do name-Googles… searching around to see what family members are on the web. I also have been sleuthing around for any archived information on my uncle Tamás (Thomas). He was a bit of a playboy bachelor who lived in various places in Europe, including Switzerland and France. He was my father’s younger brother, and we saw him a few times as children but rarely had contact with him.

I distinctly remember going to see him in Switzerland when I was little, and going skiing with him. I was very young. I also remember once or twice he came to Brussels when we lived there and took us skating (I rode on his shoulders). Before his horrible death, he was living between his two residences in Hungary and France (or Switzerland?), married (I believe) to a younger woman and he had finally slowed down enough to have a child. A little boy. We didn’t really have all that much information about them. But then, one day a few weeks ago, I was Googling, and I found an email. Mind you, my family’s last name is very rare. There is a town in what is now Croatia by that name… but the family name is limited to my eldest brother and his wife (who hyphenated), his three boys, daughter and my father; oh and one of my sisters. Other than that… that’s it for that name. I changed my name when I got married (I got tired of people not being able to pronounce it), and so did my cowgirl sister. So I saw this email belonging to a Viktor.

I emailed him. I wrote in English, and then I used an online interpreter (I know, shame on me…) to translate the text into Hungarian. He responded. We managed to cobble together a very muddled conversation using online translators (we’re a long way from Star Trek’s universal translator, that’s for sure), I even thought he might speak French having been born in France… but I don’t think he does. I think what he was saying was that he was 14, or that he lost his father at 14… That’s how bad the translation was.

My uncle Thomas was brutally murdered while in Hungary. He was shot in the back of the head and his house was set on fire with him in it. We don’t know the whole story, but he was a businessman, and we think perhaps he was dealing with less than savoury people. It all seems very Hollywood to talk about it… and also very sad. I remember it was early 2001 when we found out. My dad, who is not an emotional person, was devastated. After that, all mention of him and our young cousin was gone.

I guess with Daddy being so ill, I’ve been feeling it necessary to explore his past, to find information on his brother's family. I was so happy to have found Viktor. When we were sure he was our cousin, he asked for pictures of my uncle, and for more contact information, but when I replied, his email bounced. I hope we don’t lose him forever. In this information age, I’m hoping we’ll find our way back to each other so he can know that he has a decent-sized little family over here in the United States. I told him so, but we never know how clearly it was translated. If only my dad was healthy enough to take over the discourse with him.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cell phone pics and an Office Special.

Last week, this little Mazda Miata outside of Jack-in-the-Box on 82nd caught my eye... namely for the sentiment on its diminutive bumper. Yep. I'm right there with you buddy.

Flower awaiting her $400 ultrasound. They had to put that floppy cone on her head because she wouldn't leave her IV fluids alone. Poor thing. Good news is, she seems to be improving a bit. :)

Last night--want to know why he looks so attentive and perky? I crinkled a plastic bag. Yes, he thinks it's me getting him carrots. The whore. He's getting SO much better every day. I finally brushed the mud from his knees last night, poor boy. We went out during a break in the rain last night, and watched the bright moon light up Mount Hood. I love how his little radar-ears rotate towards every noise, and how he takes deep breaths that make my saddle creak. I can't wait to start trailing with him. I'm pretty sure that is his raison d'etre.

The Muse

An Office special that isn't a total fail for once. :) I coloured it on the cheap photo-editing software. Speaking of software... my sister Helen sent me the Adobe Photoshop CS-2 upgrade... I still have Photoshop seven. ::DROOL:: Nothing tickles me like new software. ;) I call this office special 'The Muse'.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A weekend of barn drama, a massive cake fail, and dog barf

This weekend was a doozie. Saturday, I enjoyed a nice breakfast at our local spot. We are regulars there, and we are often there when other regulars are there. That day, we played a game of musical tables as a couple of the young kids from the mountain were hunting down a pair of stolen skis. My little laptop was drafted into the task of searching craigslist for said stolen skis, and we gossiped all around. People came and went from our two extra spots at our table, passing through to speculate, to chit-chat, to browse craigslist and search other information out… It’s funny how small towns are. Everyone knows everyone. After that it was to HR Block to get our taxes out of the way, only to discover we were getting a very plump return… So we happily smiled at one another and were on our way. It was a good morning. It was nice and peaceful and stress-free. That didn’t last very long.

At the stable, I’d been working with a young girl to prepare her for an English riding contest coming up. I’m one of the only serious English seat riders at the stable, and after all the years in saddle and competing, I have a bit of experience to share. I also taught pony-club lessons from sixteen… so I am marginally qualified to give this girl some insights. I was doing well with her, teaching how to work her horse in a certain way to get him to do what she wanted him to do. She was succeeding; but as with learning any skill, it takes work. It’s not instant gratification. Saturday, I walked in to discover that the barn owner, who has never ridden English, had decided to override my instructions, and instituted instead a more severe tack setup for the girl’s horse; a draw-rein system that would force the horse’s head down, instead of teaching the girl to get the horse to do it himself. Putting something like that into the hands of an inexperienced rider achieves nothing. At all.

I’m of the doctrine that force is not the way to go. Easy, at the expense of the animal is not horsemanship. There is no instant gratification in ethical horsemanship. And in the long run, it’s not going to help that girl win the contest. It’s teaching *her* absolutely nothing except that if it’s hard, just use something that will achieve your ends—even if it’s short-term and hard on the horse. I hate it when people use severe bits, draw-reins, and other rash solutions for situations that require only patience and skill. I think the girl should be taught how to get the results she wants herself. And that rein system is not legal for competition anyway, so how is it supposed to help her in the end? Not to mention that the reins did nothing to help the horse, his head was still hanging low as it does in Western style riding… and he ran entirely on his shoulders… translation from horsese: The stupid draw-reins didn’t work right anyway. The barn-owner had tried a really severe bit first, and the horse reacted adversely (naturally)... so she decided a slightly less punishing alternative was in order. I just don't get that!

I didn’t want to contradict the barn owner and make waves--the girl has been her student for a while in western riding. So I am stepping back. But it burns me quite a bit, because it’s teaching the wrong message. It’s teaching that dominance supersedes cooperation. That equitation is about making the horse do what you want it to do, instead of *asking* it to. It’s frustrating to say the least.

To top my stable-time off that day, they had just ran the sprinklers to settle the dust in the arena, and I was cantering around the tight bend with Tag, and his front legs slipped out on mud, his whole front end went down, sending me sailing over the top of his head. His legs are fine, I was sure to check. Dan took a few spins around the arena at a nice walk and he was fine. .. Poor thing. So you can imagine I was not in a bright and cheery mood when I left on Saturday.

Today, I am sore and grumpy. I will go riding today, but I am telling the girl’s mother that I won’t contradict the barn-owner’s instructions--and I will recuse myself from further assistance.

Then Sunday, I went into the task of making a Southern Red Velvet Cake for my coworker’s birthday. What a f*%#$ing disaster! Lessons learned:

1) Don’t experiment by switching white flour with wheat flour on an untested recipe.
2) Don’t use smaller cake pans on an untested recipe.
3) Don’t pick an untested recipe for a special occasion.
4) In fact… when standing at the supermarket, looking at flours and thinking things out… just defer to Steph II… When you’re lucky enough to have a BFF that’s a pastry chef, WTF are you doing not calling her when venturing into a project like a million-ingredient doozie like Southern Red Velvet Cake from HELL? ::sigh:: Hindsight. Hah!

The recipe was from And baking was NO joy. The recipe has a zillions ingredients. I’m serious. It’s like… sifted flour, vanilla, cocoa powder, vinegar, baking soda, butter, salt… a whole little pot of red food colouring (don’t ask about my pink-sink or my pink stained hands)… the cream cheese frosting (which if anything, tasted like heaven on a spoon) had marscapone, cream cheese, vanilla and whipping cream… OMG it was good. But also very bad. SO SO BAD.

The cake came out dry as the Sahara (the center was moderately moist). I figured the icing would save the day. I spent Saturday night toiling over a gum-paste lily flower and some little pink apple blossoms to decorate the cake with. I cut the cake into four layers, and iced them. I decorated the cake with the flowers… stuck them in the fridge, and by 10 PM, the icing had slumped down into a pile at the base of the cake-stand, and the lily had slid off and shattered at the bottom of the fridge door.

I wept. I truly did. I burst into tears. It’s not just the cake though—because all through my baking session, Flower was sick. She was vomiting all over the house in every corner. She would run around and eat up every little random thing she could find and then hork it up into a corner. I was so frustrated and burnt out, and my husband had left Sunday morning for ten days and I thought I was going to have an aneurism.

I’ve never been grateful for a Monday before. Even if that means I have to sneak off to Safeway to buy my coworker a cake. I’m close to tears even now. Funny the things you get upset about. I really wanted to make something special for her this year. I feel like a fool.

[UPDATE] All Safeway had was a sweaty Tiramisu. WTF!!!!!!


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