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Posts tagged ‘Klondike’

Interlude and Deliciousness

Once again I’m struggling with bloggy guilt. It’s been too long, but I’m busy and tired and did I mention that I’m tired? Oh, and also, tired. It’s our crazy season at work, but every year it seems to surprise me anyway. And life has been interfering with pretty much everything lately, and we’ll talk about that, but not tonight because I’m not ready yet.  And of course it’s the holiday season so there are three times as many things happening and all at the same time, and there’s shopping to be done and gifts to make and Halloween decorations to put away. (What? I said I was busy.) And tired. The Tide and Drano and soda and toilet paper (read: all the nonperishable items) I bought recently stayed in the trunk of the car for about two weeks because unloading them seemed to be too much effort. (Thank you, Klondike, for unloading all my crap last weekend.)

Aside regarding the Halloween decorations: I put them away, in the attic, all by myself, like a normal human. This is pretty much the first time I’ve gone into the attic for more than a thirty-second dash since the first bat episode almost four years ago. Yay me!

Every year we shut down the “office” (air quotes now since we work from home and the office is virtual) between Christmas and New Year and given the way the holidays fall this year, I’m trying to figure out how many bonus days I can tag on. Two weeks sounds pretty awesome, not gonna lie. 🙂 I’m counting down. Wendy Staycation 2013 is going to be a blissful slugfest!

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Updated….I totally neglected to include the part where I’m not sounding lame! I had tap class tonight – woo hoo! I was TIRED (perhaps I’ve mentioned this) and it’s cold out and I really wasn’t feeling like going to class. But every week, even when I feel less than motivated, I leave class feeling happy and lively and in a supremely good mood. I love spending time with my friend Jon, and it’s great to have a standing weekly time to catch up with him. And the class is FUN. It’s challenging and Miss Donna is really pushing us now to learn more and do more and there still is not going to be a recital so stop asking. 😉  I love it, even when I feel clumsy and like I’m never going to get the hang of something. So YAY, it definitely helped me shake off my slump today.

Ok, now, back to where we were before I remembered that I forgot. 😀

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And because I sound of like a downer, let’s move on to something better, like DESSERT! A few of my Facebook friends asked for the recipe for the pear, cranberry & gingersnap crumble I made for Thanksgiving. It’s SOOOOOOOO delicious, and super-duper easy to make, I promise. And it’s fruit, so come on, it’s like health food. The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen, but I’ll share it here too, because I hate blogs that just tell you to click through to other things.

Crumble
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons packed dark or light brown sugar (I like dark)
1 cup gingersnap crumbs (About 16-18 store-bought cookies, smashed to bits. You could use a food processor to make really nice, even crumbs, but then you would have to wash it, which is why I never use my food processor for anything. I put them in a large Ziploc bag and pound the hell out of them with a rolling pin.)
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon table salt
Pinch of white pepper, especially if your gingersnaps aren’t particularly snappish
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Filling
4-5 large ripe pears (about 2 pounds) (The original recipe suggests Anjou, but I’ve used whatever nice pears I’ve been able to find in the store) peeled, halved, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick (Peeling the pears is the only part of this that sucks – they’re slippery. Enlist someone else to help, then delegate pear peeling while you do all the “hard” work – thank you, Klondike.) (There are a lot of parentheses in this step!)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) fresh cranberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Stir together the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, gingersnap crumbs, ginger and salt. Stir in the melted butter until large crumbs form.

In a 1 1/2 to 2 quart baking dish, mix the pears, cranberries, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk the sugar and cornstarch together then toss it with the fruit mixture in the pan. Sure, you could do this in a bowl but then you’d also have to wash that bowl and hooray for fewer dishes. (Thank you Smitten Kitchen.)  (I think I’ve also made this in a 9×13 baking dish before, too. There is plenty of crumble to cover a larger surface area, not to worry.)

Sprinkle the gingersnap crumble over the fruit. Set the crumble on a foil-lined baking sheet (in a 2 quart dish, mine didn’t come close to bubbling over but I see no reason to risk it) and bake it for about 45 minutes, until the crumble is a shade darker and you see juices bubbling through the crumbs. See how long you can wait before digging in.

Did I mention that it’s delicious? Because it IS! And it’s so pretty! Look! Pretty!

pears & cranberries, pre-crumble

Pre-crumble topping

Just out of the oven - yum!

Just out of the oven – yum!

Ooh, and I should mention that the Lovely Lettie is the one who put me onto this recipe in the first place, a few years ago when I was doing my annual plea for new dessert recipes for the holidays. 🙂

Who needs brown paper packages tied up with string when you have self-sealing envelopes?

A while back I posted a list of things that drive me crazy. Lest you think I’m a supercrab who only focuses on the negative, I thought perhaps we should have an equally obscure list of things that I adore beyond reason.  Let’s call it….

Things that make me unreasonably happy and sometimes I go on at great length about how much I love them:

  • Priority Mail prepaid flat-rate forever envelopes. Delivered to my home, for free. Or maybe they charge $1 to deliver, I’ve lost track, but still totally worth it for my work-from-home set up.  All I have to do is stuff them full, address them, and leave them outside my house for Mailman to pick up. Postage never expires. No waiting in lines. No fake nuns.  Woot!
  • Dropbox – It’s perfect for file sharing for work, since we’re in different locations. It’s perfect for volunteer work where people need access to the same documents. It’s perfect for accessing random crap from my phone, when I’m nowhere near my computer, like the list I made of movies that I used to own but no longer do but would like to again, in case I see one in a bargain bin somewhere. It’s perfect for everything. And it’s the easiest thing in the world to use. My mom was telling my about a medical emergency her husband had a few weeks ago (he’s fine, I promise) and in the story she had to leave the hospital to go home to email someone a document. My immediate reaction was, “I need to show you how to use Dropbox”.
  • Self-sealing envelopes. I know it probably seems that I’m obsessed with mail. I’m not. But I do like mail, and I do NOT like the taste of envelope glue. Plus, you know, George Costanza’s fiancée Susan. But mostly I can’t believe it took so long for someone to come up with these and now that they exist I appreciate the crap out of them.
  • Shazam. An app on my phone can listen to a few seconds of music and tell me what song it is and who sings it? THAT SHIT IS AMAZING! For this reason alone I consider my smartphone a worthwhile investment.
  • My scarf from Ireland. 3Names and I spent a marvelous week traipsing around and all I knew was I wanted to bring home some piece of knit something. I looked at loads of sweaters, but they were all big, bulky-looking affairs that aren’t my style and probably would have made me spontaneously combust. One day we were in a little shop on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, where it’s literally like going back in time. In amongst some of the more typical souvenir-type items, I found a lovely, soft, colorful knit scarf, long enough to wrap around my neck twice when it’s really cold. The tag said it was hand-made in Ireland. Was this a trap for a gullible tourist? Ha! When I took it to the clerk to pay she said, “Oh, my neighbor Maggie made this.” I wear the crap out of it, but gently, so as to extend its lifespan, and when someone comments on it, I get all happy-like.
  • Fuzzy Blankie, capitalized because that’s its name, not just a description. Fuzzy Blankie was a gift from Sunshine a few years ago and it turned me into Linus. It’s warm. It’s soft. It’s fluffy. It’s comforting. It’s soft. (It’s so soft it deserves to be mentioned twice.) It’s white, and somehow, miraculously, the Queen of Spill (that would be me) has managed to keep it remarkably clean. Dogs are not allowed to lie on it.  Fuzzy Blankie is always there for me when I need it.
  • Compliments from strangers. No explanation required.
  • When Ruby Dogwonkafonka sticks her face right up in mine and burps. I know that sounds disgusting. Ok, it is disgusting. But it makes me laugh every time. Partly because it seems so deliberate, and she never looks sorry. And her timing is impeccable.
  • This one set of hand-me-down sheets that my dad gave me. I have no idea why he didn’t want them anymore. (I know exactly why he didn’t want them anymore; they didn’t match his décor.) They are so soft and comfy that they have made all other sheets completely inferior. I am on a quest to find something that will be their equal, but so far I haven’t found anything. Or anything that I can afford. But. I. Will.
  • This video. I am not sure how many times I have watched it, but I would guess it’s in the neighborhood of 36,284 times. I think it’s hilarious. (FYI, you’re only committing to a minute and thirty-eight seconds of your life if you click the link.)
  • The infamous rainbow shower head.  
  • This blog post. It makes me laugh my ass off. After Beyoncé, it’s the thing I’m most committed to getting the entire world to read.

    He totally goes with the chair with the missing leg, no?

    He totally goes with the chair with the missing leg, no?

  • Tomás, the colorful metal t-rex Klondike gave me for Christmas. Whose boyfriend is better than mine? Come ON, I have a t-rex in my freakin’ living room.  (My style is, um,eclectic.)
  • My next door neighbors, Jim & Phyllis. They give me vegetables from their garden and chili and baked goods from their kitchen. They let me borrow tools and ladders and a power washer. They keep an eye on me. And my house. And my dog. In a nice, neighborly fashion, not a Gladys Kravitz way.
  • Crack cookies. They don’t actually call them that at The Fresh Market, but they should. They actually call them something like Heath bar cookies, and they are stupid delicious. I make people eat them so I can get them to concede that they are, in fact, freaking amazing.

As said when the other, negative list concluded, this is not all-encompassing at all. It’s just my version of Maria von Trapp’s raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. (When did this blog become so full of nuns??)  Personally I think my list is a little better than hers, but she had to deal with Nazis so I’ll cut her some slack.

Aside

Symptoms of Adulthood

Sometimes I have random thoughts like, “I wonder what would happen if I got in the laundry basket and rode it down the stairs like a sled”.  And then I remember how lame my health insurance is and I decide perhaps that wouldn’t be the best way to test it.

Klondike also just reminded me that the stairs are pretty steep and the landing zone at the bottom is small and full of walls and corners and things.

We need to talk.

Ok. I have calmed down. I am not going to post the hotheaded rant I wrote earlier in the week. I will say this nicely. Ish.  But after the Facebook thread I was in a day or so ago where many of us shared the same issue, I decided some of you really need to hear this. And if you read this and wonder if I’m talking about you, I am. And eighty-two other people.  And your kid’s school.

Your family is celebrating a milestone of sorts and that is swell and I am happy for you (well…ok, now I’m just being polite) and I will even look at some of your pictures on Facebook. Knock yourself out with the pictures and the happiness.

However.

Your child did not just graduate from kindergarten. Or fifth grade. Or pre-school. Or eighth grade.

As a noun, a graduate is a person holding an academic degree or diploma.
As a verb, to graduate means to receive a degree or diploma on completing a course of study.

Did your kid get a diploma? Then he didn’t graduate, sorry Charlie.

At what point did we decide that merely advancing to the next year in school merits this kind of pomp? Is it just me, or does it take away from the truly special occasions when we make every little thing into a Life Event?

And lest you think you’re powerless against the system, Klondike just sent me the following message about his son:

‘’Btw, you’d be proud of A. He decided 8th grade ‘graduation’ is stupid so he didn’t bring home any of the literature and thus none of us attended.’’

Atta boy.  😀

Frazz is on board too, and you know how much I adore him.

frazz graduation

Aside

My dad lies.

I thought I shared this story with you a while ago. Apparently I did not.   Klondike & I took a day trip somewhere, and I asked my dad to come by and feed the pack and let them out. (Klondike brings his two dogs up when he comes.) This conversation took place the next day…..after Dad’s report that all the dogs behaved nicely and ate their food immediately upon being presented with it.

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Me: You are so busted. Did you bring over cottage cheese (to stir into the kibble) when you came to feed the dogs?

Dad: No.

Me: Ohhhh, hahahahaahahaha! We found a spoon in the dish drainer and neither one of us had used it for anything so I thought maybe that was where it came from, and that that was how you got all the dogs to eat right away. Hahahahahaha!

(pause)

Dad: Tuna

Me: What?

Dad: I didn’t use cottage cheese. I used tuna.

Me: Um.

Dad: I had some tuna I didn’t like so I stirred a little bit into the dogs’ food and they all ate as soon as I put the bowls down.

 
Oh, my dad. He thinks he’s so funny.

Sometimes I do, too. 😉

The pack

The pack

Tourism Fail

Klondike and I recently spent a few fun- and friend-filled days in my favorite big city, Chicago. We had a marvelous time; how could you not when there’s theater and deep-dish pizza and the original Marshall Field’s store (which I refuse to acknowledge is now a Macy’s)?

It was a thoroughly marvelous time, with one glaring exception: our trip to Shedd Aquarium. The aquarium is wonderful, and we had a splendid time once we got tickets, but actually getting tickets was beyond absurd.

I had scoped out the situation online a few weeks before our trip, but I actually found their site sort of confusing and couldn’t determine what level of ticket we would want, so I figured we would just buy them when we got there, understanding we might have to stand in line for a bit. A bit? HA!

There’s a big plaza in front of the aquarium. When we got there around 12:30 on Saturday, the line extended down the stairs from the entrance, up one side of the square, across, and then back up the other side, in a giant U. I caIMG_4047n’t even begin to guess how many people were waiting. But the line was moving, slowly but steadily, so I felt pretty optimistic in spite of the chilly temps and biting wind. Forty minutes later, we had made it up and across and just had up the last side and up the stairs until the promised land of INDOORS. That’s about when the line stopped moving. Every once in a while there would be a brief forward surge. Slooooooowly across the plaza, finally to the stairs, where there was a tent so we had a little shelter from the wind. Very, very, very slowly up the stairs, and into….the vestibule! More waiting, with no idea what lay beyond. Eventually through the revolving doors into the lobby where we were met with…a rat maze to wait in to buy tickets! Oh, yes, and we were greeted with a sign telling us that all the aquatic shows for the day were sold out. Total time to get in and buy tickets? Approximately 2.5 hours.

The facility kept throwing salt on the wound, too. We went to put our coats into a bank of lockers that only accepted quarters, and the change machine was out of service. We wanted to buy a soda, and the machine wouldn’t accept cash (out of service) – we had to use a credit card. To buy a soda.

In the end we had a great time; the jellies exhibit was super cool, and how can you not love seeing dolphins and beluga whales and otters and penguins and turtles and sea horses? But it felt like perhaps the least tourist-friendly tourist attraction I’ve ever been to. Oh, and did I mention that if we had purchased our tickets online the day we went, there would have been a FIFTEEN DOLLAR SURCHARGE? Each. I live someplace where everything is cheap, so maybe I just had Big City sticker shock. To find out, I did a little comparison shopping of the other big attractions in Chicago.

Art Institute: $23 ($2.50 service charge for online purchase)
Museum of Science & Industry: $18  (add ons for special exhibits = $8 each)
Field Museum: $15 basic / all access $30 ($2.50 online order fee)
Adler Planetarium: $12 basic (all exhibits, no shows) or $28 full access plus two shows (can’t buy online?)
Shedd: $8 basic, but that doesn’t include half the exhibits and you can’t add the jellies exhibit (which costs more) to that ticket. $28.95 for all exhibits PLUS $3 for jellies. Also, $4 for aquatic show, which was sold out.
Total experience = $34.95, but IF PURCHASED ONLINE THE SAME DAY AS YOUR VISIT it’s $49.95

So yeah, Shedd is steep. To feel so under-appreciated as a visitor was a drag for almost seventy bucks.

A reasonable person might be thinking right about now, “Hey, it was Saturday, they were busy, good for them, how could they help how long the line was?”

I’m so glad you asked!

Here are some of the ideas that occurred to us during our hours-long wait that they could have done to improve the experience. To those of you at the Shedd who are surely reading this, please feel free to claim these ideas as your own. Be a hero in the office.

  • Encourage more people to buy tickets online ahead of time. If the website had told me to expect a 2+-hour wait, I would have worked harder to figure out which tickets we wanted.
  • You know those signs they have at Cedar Point and probably every other amusement park in the world that say, “Your wait from this point in line is 8 million years”? GET ONE. If we had known what we were getting ourselves into, we might have bailed. Of course, we’d just paid $19 to park the car, so maybe not. But at least we would have been informed.
  • You know those aquarium employees or volunteers or whoever they were who walked around outside periodically surveying the line? They could share information, like announcing things like the aquatic shows being sold out, in case that was a deal-breaker for anyone. Or, ‘’Hey, we know it’s cold, we’re glad you’re here, hopefully you’ll be inside soon (although we really have no idea because we run an inefficient operation).”
  • You could give out wristbands or tickets or numbers or something so we could go sit in our car to stay warm for the first hour or so.
  • Make us aware of the Go to the Head of the Line option sooner (rather than after you’re already 2/3 of the way through the line), especially if you’re going to charge 50% more for that option.
  • You could – hold on, this is a wild idea – HAVE MORE PEOPLE SELLING TICKETS ON BUSY DAYS, like, say, Saturdays. As far as we could tell, the only reason it took so long to get in was because it took so long for tickets to be purchased. Perhaps you were at capacity at some point. I have absolutely no idea because you provided zero information.
  • Act like you’re happy to see us. When we finally make it to the person waiting to take lots of money from us, have her acknowledge how nice it was for us to wait so long to see your fishies.
  • Make sure once we’re inside, everything is PERFECT. If that means loading more quarters into the change machine by the lockers midway through the day, do it. It’s not rocket science, people, it’s customer service.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when someone treats a captive audience like that’s what they are. Be better than that. Wow me with how well you handle the situation rather than shrugging your shoulders and letting us stew and fret. In the end, we spent as much time waiting to get in as we did enjoying the exhibits. And we did enjoy the exhibits. Really, truly. I highly recommend the aquarium. I also highly recommend buying your tickets in advance. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And here are some pretty pictures to offset my angst. 🙂

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“They move around a lot.”

The Avett Brothers were in town last week, and as you may or may not recall, I got tickets for Klondike (and me) for Valentine’s Day. (He was totally fake-surprised.) Some might say, “Gee, she got HIM tickets for a concert SHE wanted to see….”  Fortunately, Klondike likes it that I’m selfish. Wait. No. That’s not what I meant. Never mind, that’s not what this post is about. 😛

Anyway, I was right, back in the last post when I was supposing that the concert would be something to see. They put on a spectacular show. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.

A friend who has been a long-term fan of the Avetts had said something a few days before the concert that I thought was kind of odd. “You know, they move around a lot.”  Um….ok. It’s not as though I haven’t been to a concert before. I’m familiar with the idea of a live performance compared to….I don’t know, the radio?

Yeah. No. They move around a lot.

I have been to concerts where they put on a good, lively show. I feel like I saw Billy Joel climb partway up the rigging or something many moons ago.  But I have never seen someone gambol about a stage while playing a freaking cello. Not a guitar. Not a banjo. A CELLO. Well, never until last week. There was much bouncing and dancing and wild hair flinging and general music-making mayhem by all. With some low-key, pretty songs interspersed. In short, it rocked.

I will say, there were some other things that set this apart as a unique concert experience for me. I sort of felt that they let us in by mistake. I’m pretty sure everyone else in the sold-out audience was president of the fan club, whereas Klondike and I just enjoy their music and a good show. It seemed that every song they played was everybody’s favorite.  You know how everyone sings along with Billy Joel when he plays “Piano Man”? Every. Song. was a singalong. Almost to the point of being annoying – I didn’t come to hear you sing, I came to hear them sing. EVERY SONG. It was so peculiar. (ps, I tried to come up with an example other than Billy Joel to show some diversity in my concert-going history, but nothing captured it better than “Piano Man” did. Trust me when I say I’ve been to lots of concerts across a wide spectrum of musical genres.)

This also was an evening to be reminded that I am old and out of practice. I haven’t been to a concert in, oh, a while. I forgot that they don’t necessarily start on time. The other things I buy tickets for, like theater and sports, are pretty precise with the timing. Concerts, not so much. I also forgot that there is always an opening act, even if they don’t tell you there will be. And the standing – it never once occurred to me that we would stand the entire time. Old. Out of practice. Sigh….

But all in all, an outstanding (snicker) experience, and I’m quite happy that I didn’t miss the boat.

For your enjoyment.

Please note, they’re quite restrained (and short-haired) in this clip. It’s not to illustrate my points, I just really love this song. 🙂