October 21, 2017

Things I Did Not Buy Today

I barely go to estate sales any more. Work's been busy, and Mom is back home. When the Mom handoff happens, my to-do list goes up. Plus we're taking her to Texas in two weeks.

But today is Saturday and the sun is shining and I want to bake a chicken, so I went to the grocery store by myself and hit an estate sale on the way. It was super funky. Cobwebs, fly specks, mold covering the sale items, all in a narrow house that spills down a hillside.

On the top floor there was a room filled with creepy artwork of internal organs and of people getting transfusions. I found the one of the lady in traction smoking in bed pretty compelling.

 And the walls of the middle and lower floor rooms were decorated with rows and rows of sombreros, or rows and rows of tiny dream catchers. This funny friend was on the wall leading down to the lower floors. Just in time for Halloween!

August 19, 2017

Chicken Club (tm)

Many stories from the Old Place involve Antwan. He was a 1983 Toyota Tercel -- one of those unfortunate models whose paint started sloughing off within a few years of its manufacture. By the time middlesis acquired him from a friend, he'd already gotten several coats of silver spray paint to augment his rapidly-departing factory finish.

Before he was mine, he spent a fair amount of time in the grittier parts of the City, where his original owner was a late-night copy editor at the local newspaper. Not long after she got the car she realized that people were hanging out in it while she was at work. She'd get into the car after her shift at the paper and it smelled like gum, or there would be a cassette in her tape deck that wasn't hers. Kinda spooky. This happened pretty regularly.

Anyhoo, a few years later I was lucky enough to acquire this prize automobile that did truly change my life with his steadfastness and reliability. And he needed a name. I was reminded of an old friend from the Irish bar who worked in IT at a hospital. When he got bored, he'd run database searches on different stuff. This was *around* 1985. He ran a search to see what the most popular baby names were that month at the hospital. #1 baby name (boy) was Antwan. I held onto that as a favorite name of my own and bestowed it on this new-to-me car.

As I have mentioned earlier, I wore Antwon down to the nubs. He had 183,000 miles on him at the end. But just prior to this I'd come to fully appreciate the humor in what a homely vehicle he was. I'd park around the corner if I was parking at an internship or applying for a job. And I pretended that I needed to carefully lock him, as if anyone would steal him.

I will say that this is wholly unlike the approach used by my old boyfriend's cousin who in 1987 drove a late-60's Dodge Dart with a towing sticker on the window. He kept it there so it looked like the car was going to be towed soon, and there were junk food wrappers and newspapers and a baseball glove and Neetsfoot oil, as I recall, in the back seat. This added to the air of abandonment. One day he drove us to the Met, parked in the red zone, and we looked at art for several hours, before returning home. The obnoxious stuff you do in your 20s...

Back to obnoxious stuff you do in your 30s. One day, while shopping at the 99c store, I came upon a pile of rubber chickens. The bummer was that they were stiff, not like the floppy one I had imagined I would some day own. Disappointment turned to joy as I considered all of the things I could do with multiple rubber chickens that even I, living on State Disability, could own. I bought several. Gave one to my sister, and put one in the car. Not long after, I realized the similarity in shape between my chicken and another friend's The Club anti-theft device. Hence the Chicken Club (tm) was born. Every time I parked I would dutifully whip out the Chicken Club (tm), wedge the steering wheel between the chicken's little beak and put the other part of the steering wheel between the legs. It may not have protected the car from theft, but it cracked me up every time I used it.

Here it is in action, so to speak. Today a friend sent me a portrait of me in Antwan, pulling away from a parking space in front of the Petroleum and Atomic Workers' Union Hall next door to our house, with the Chicken Club in its resting position, on top of the dashboard.

I needed to tell his story.

The Post-Bear World

We're a month out from our encounter with the bear, and it seems as if bears are everywhere. In the news, in a gigantic flag that hangs from the rafters of my office building. The story has gone a bit viral with my friends, who ask me to retell it for friends who haven't heard. When I tell the story my stomach gets a bit crampy.

Mrguy has had a similar reaction, which is hard when you are already a naturally hyper-vigilant person. But I guess that when you've been surprised inside your cozy vacation home by a 600lb animal it makes you feel as if it can happen anywhere. You spend a whole lifetime training yourself *not* to consider every shadow a threat and then there is a bear in your living room, standing on the sofa, and on the third floor, using the sink in the bathroom. 

It makes you rethink things. I used to find survival manuals at estate sales and give them to my brother-in-law for fun. Now he's actually been in a life-or-death situation with a bear. And I can assure you that none of the manuals cover how to react when encountering a bear in the third floor hallway.

5 days after the bear I got my period. First one in 8 months. Mrguy said the bear scared an egg out of me. One month later, I got my period again. I texted my bandmate. She responded "Damn bear".

July 30, 2017

Fashionable Ladies

Ebay tracks what I've looked at and what I like, theoretically. But cue the sound of squealing brakes.

Just now I scrolled down to find that it had suggested that I buy vacuum-packed spicy duck neck, sold by fashionable-ladies 89. What did I do to earn this suggestion?

Too funny.

July 11, 2017

A Bayor!

It's the guy family reunion. 

As usual, we have too much to eat, some Balderdash, card playing and general merriment. 

Last night there was a little twist.

15 of us were at the dining room table yakking it up and finishing dessert and we had a little one upstairs asleep for the night by himself. All of a sudden the youngest at the table said loudly "BEAR" and we turned around. There was a very large bear (locally known as Brutus) heading up the stairs to the dining room. For one beat each of us thought it was a joke. And then we realized it wasn't and split.

mrguy grabbed our elderly cousin and carried her down the stairs. One nephew grabbed the mama and got her into the den. We, the daughters, all gravitated toward her and barricaded ourselves behind a piece of furniture in the den. By then the bear was in the living room trying to figure out how to leave. Everybody on the other side of the table from me ran outside and closed the door.

But there was a bear trapped in the house and a three-year-old sleeping by himself upstairs. My neph, the father, scaled the outside of the house with my brother-in-law quickly behind and got in via the balcony. They arrived just as the bear was retreating from the second floor (where he visited my sister's bathroom). One of the men barricaded himself in with his little one. The other grabbed a piano bench and brandished it at the bear. The bear went downstairs, back through the dining room, into a back bedroom and broke a window to exit. The caretaker shot rubber bullets into the air to scare him off.

It's going to be a bad day for the bear when he's trapped. There's a giant device there for bear catching, larded with sweet rolls.

A few shots from after the incident:

Mrguy's chair. I was in the folding chair next to him. At first the bear was scratching at the window below, but quickly turned around and walked up the stairs.

The bear was too big to exit via that tiny window, and there are gouges in the paneling underneath. He kinda wrecked things all over the house while trying to get out. 

He entered via the door below, and tried to exit that way but wasn't successful. He dragged a Costco pie out onto the drive and ate it there, along with the gigantic platter of spaghetti left over from the other night.

He is apparently not a coffee drinker. That would have been a real tragedy if he had eaten the coffee.

During his visit he took a poo on the ugliest chair in the house.

And he eventually blasted out the mama's bedroom window (now boarded up).

The next day we are *still* talking about it. So's everyone else in town, apparently. Our 7-year-old grandnephew will have the story of his lifetime, about how he saved his entire family. Could not be prouder of him and each of us.

July 4, 2017


In April I had a week that seemed like two weeks. I hosted a researcher friend (both at the factory and at home). This was so fun but a little nerve-wracking. Now both she and I have book projects penciled in to the forklift company calendar. 2022 is my year!
Then on the weekend mrguy and I had a fantastic day visiting a local art preserve. The next day we took the mama out to see one of her favorite jazz guitarists. The following two days I worked and spent the evenings with a visiting cousin, mom and bigsis (who we were hosting at our place).

Then the fun started. The following day I was scanning some material for a departing forklift employee, and saw something blurry in the lower right part of my right eye. I blinked a few times and then it dawned on me -- I'm having a migraine aura! This is awesome!! Then oh no -- I don't know if I'm going to get a headache.

It was so pretty. It was a sawtooth shape of jagged triangles -- white with rainbow edges, as if I were looking through a prism (I used to play with a prism as a kid). As I turned off the scanner and went to talk to another archivist who gets migraines, the pattern had doubled, making a second line of these beautiful shapes.

She and I concluded that I was, in fact, having a migraine. There was no time to lose. I didn't want to have a headache at work so I got in the car and hauled it to the Big Brown Box. I waited and...no headache. I had an ocular migraine. Score! I was a little funky and had aphasia for a few hours, but now I know what a migraine looks like. 

Now I have something in common with Hildegarde of Bingen (besides the obvious).

June 17, 2017

China Beach

Years ago the most famous fish restaurant in the region went out of business. We went to its sale, and bought some soup cups. They are probably the same brand as the ones we used in the diner where I used to work, so I had to have them.

Years later, I wish we'd bought more of them. I've been looking at ebay, and etsy and Google, and discovered that there was a nearby beach where the company that made the cups threw out their seconds. Mrguy took me there today because I needed to put some new things into my eyeballs and because I looked at the tide schedule and saw that it would be low tide in 20 minutes.

The day was gorgeous.

The birds were unimpressed with us. There were seagulls, pelicans and some sort of rail or other shore bird with a ridiculous and handy) curved beak.

At first glance the beach looked regular, albeit green.

On closer inspection it looked a bit like dead fish, until you figured out that these were old plates. If you moved them you'd dislodge a crab or other little friend.

I wish I had a blue soup cup like that. So cool.

Most of the china is tan or white, but occasionally you'll see a pop of color or a bit of a pattern.

After walking the beach and smelling the warming seaweed (as well as hearing the sounds of the nearby racetrack), we were ready to head home. I wanted to feel the water on my toes so I stepped closer to the incoming inch-high waves. And then I sank up to my ankle in mud (in the photo you can start to see my left foot go). I felt like I was in an episode of Gilligan's Island, where he's stuck in quicksand. I *almost* had to give up my sandal in order to free myself, but I finally pulled it together (literally, figuratively) and returned to terra firma.

Then we went to the British-German deli and celebrated our spontaneity with sandwiches.

So ends a quick but awesome adventure.

May 15, 2017

Death of Big Wally

Big Wally is no more. Let us all observe a moment of silence.

A few weeks ago I came into the lady bathroom to find a leak on the floor underneath him. Mrguy put him out of his misery and escorted him to the trash can. He had a good run, Big Wally, and there's only so long (40 years or so) that you can keep a corrosive substance in a can under pressure.

He has been replaced, not in our hearts but on the shelf by Free Expression Paint (red).

May 14, 2017

Catmother's Day 2017

Our pie-liking friend brought us flowers for Catmother's Day.

For my very own sweet mama's day I am staying home and letting the "good daughter" handle. Mom's not entirely in love with this plan, but as I explained yesterday I am letting bigsis do the sexy stuff (and she's also taking one for the team by escorting her to the doctor tomorrow).

I observed mama's day yesterday. Youngest neph and I had lunch with the mama, then I did a service call with AAA to get her battery jumped and drove around for an hour to get it juiced up. I went out to the airport, then through some sketchy neighborhoods by the cemetery then back to her place. I considered reprogramming all of her radio stations to NPR while I was at the controls, but I gave her a mix of NPR, her usual republican radio and the spanish rock station, which was playing some seriously groovy tunes. Too bad I couldn't actually take the mama out for the drive, but she had a hot date with her physical therapist. As I left she could barely keep her eyes open and neither could I :)

Mrguy and I woke up this morning with the realization that we are not 25 any more. After yesterday with the mama and a gig with our Hawaiian band the night before, we are pooped. I am still in my jammies at 5:45pm and...why bother?

The evening will see us eating turnips. It's turnipzeit! Like spargelzeit but a lot less tasty. I have some simmering in dashi, and I'm substituting turnips for green beans in an udon salad, and hopefully that will be the last of the turnips from our recent veggie box. Maybe I'll smother some under the beurre blanc I made last night (beginner's luck -- it was fabulous).

Oh, and there's rhubarb, Man, I love the rhubarbses. Plain, stewed with lots of sugar.

May 7, 2017

Sometimes A Guy Just Wants To Eat Some Pie

I have a friend who stopped eating sugar but enjoys dessert. He mostly does without rather than tripping on it. But he really enjoys dessert so when we come over I try to make some.

Yesterday I was with the mama and bigsis for bigsis' birthday. This involved going to the mama's, helping her get ready for her physical therapist, hanging out, getting her ready to come to my house, reminding her many times that Mother's Day is next week, listening to her complain about all kinds of things (while trying to counter with the "glass is half full" version of whatever she just said). Then hanging out with sis and then doing the other mama stuff in reverse when I took her home. Whew!

While I was at mom's I noticed a handy hoard of apples, some quite wizened. I took them home with me and fed them to my people today. This allowed me to play in the kitchen for the first time in weeks and use favorite implements, all for the greater good.

First, my apple peeler that the big guy (mrguy's dad) bought me. It has officially given up the ghost on this final pie, but after 22 years I'm ok with it. I spent some of the baking time ordering a new peeler online.

In the background you will see the sweetener I used. I do not believe in agave sweetener. I think it's bogus and that creating it is probably a worse use of environmental resources than producing cane sugar, but this pie is about love, and not the environment, so I used it to make our friend happy.

Here are the OXO canisters that I bought recently. If you don't have any...they're the best. The guys at work use them for storing coffee grounds, and they're an extremely satisfying object to use. They're airtight and with a small nudge that circle in the top pops up to become a handle. Having a clear container allows me to admire my flour shovel. It's the little things that make me happy, people!

Yes, you'll notice the prepared pie crust in the background. mrsguy doesn't have time for crust and if you have a problem with that she has a problem with you.

I don't really traffic in cinnamon, so I dug out some coriander from the spice drawer. One of my favorite things about the kitchen. Those big sacks in the photo are smoked paprika. We bought some in Hungary and have been strung out on it and I panicked when we were running low but found the exact same kind on Amazon. There is no smoked paprika in the recipe, but I did plump some green raisins and throw those in.

Eventually there was pie, and it made our hosts and their parents happy. I left the rest of the pie with them, and our host promised to eat some for breakfast which, frankly, is a pretty amazing time for pie (also a great time for cold lasagne, cold pizza and leftover twice-baked potatoes.

Playing in the kitchen. Such a happy girl.

March 26, 2017


T minus 9 days until our trip to Germany. I'm deep into the excitement of planning. Could I possibly have more fun on our vacation than I'm having during the planning phase? I kinda doubt it. I keep telling myself that if for some reason we had to cancel our vacation I would still be satisfied.

I'm especially excited about the food. Germany has its drawbacks in that arena, most notably the giant wobbly knuckles of pork that are on many menus. But it's also a country that embraces vegetarian food, and is rapturously enthusiastic about the appearance of some seasonal foods.

Spargelzeit is asparagus season. It is likely that our vacation coincides with Spargelzeit, or as every sidewalk blackboard outside of a German restaurant declares, "SPARGELZEIT!!" Remember my amazing airline meal on the way to Italy? It even had asparagus dessert. This is the kind of thing I'm hoping for.

We're a little early for Grüne Soße season, but I'm hoping. It's a condiment that is heavily identified with Frankfurt, the first stop on our vacation. There is a Grüne Soße season and a
Grüne Soße Festival, the whole nine yards. The festival is in May, so we'll miss it. However I've asked Mr. Piston to help us find some when we're in town. He reports that he loves green sauce. He also loves Girl Scout cookies, and I am bringing him four boxes of Samoas. This is how cultural exchange works. Maybe I'll bring him some cranberry sauce, also. The people of the world love cranberry sauce and it's hard to find elsewhere. I once carried two cans of it to Japan.

Meanwhile, I got my German culcha on yesterday at our local German / English deli.

Many rabbit chocolates abound.

March 19, 2017

Squirrel Broth

I was on the sofa with a cold last week. One evening I had a hankering to leave the house for a minute and get some fresh air, so I took my blanket out to the deck and watched the sun set. I was going to miss it entirely if I didn't just get up and go, so I ignored mrguy's entreaties to put on some shoes. As happens in such circumstances he called out "Don't go all William Henry Harrison on me," by which he means that he doesn't want me to go to inaugural day without my hat and then die. Then I started talking about squirrel broth, therefore setting off the age-old argument about which president died of a cold and which one, lingering from a gunshot wound, asked for squirrel broth.

So it was on this day that we stopped arguing and looked it up to find that it *was*, in fact, William Henry Harrison who died of a cold. 

I did not die of cold, as I used my blanket to keep my feet from touching the ground. And it was Garfield, lingering after a gunshot wound, who called for squirrel broth.

We can't recall where we learned of this story, but it smacks of Ken Burns. Or Sarah Vowell. And it seemed to be a little too good to be true. So then *that* needed investigating as well, because the story we had heard is that there were two girls who, upon hearing that the president had called out for squirrel broth, sent their pet squirrel to the capital to be made into soup. After some digging in Newspapers.com I was able to verify the names of the girls, and via Ancestry I was able to confirm that these young ladies did, in fact, exist. What actually happened to the squirrel is up for debate. Ellie and Laura Hoke, I hope that your family has held onto and celebrated this story. I am so jealous.

 Hmmm, did they let it go or did the president's children keep it?

While researching this topic I also learned much about the indignities of Garfield's passing. Newspapers of the day spared their readers of no minute medical detail in reporting on the president's condition. Temperature, pulse rate, what he said to the doctor during a sponge bath and after vomiting. He received nourishment by both mouth and enema. To say I was surprised is an understatement.

The Enquirer had nothing on these people.

So ends the argument about William Henry Harrison v James Garfield. Mrguy is right.

Germany 2017: The Lead Up

I am German, but I'm not German. Some of my ancestors came from there a very long time ago and I enjoy researching their stories and learning about the places where they lived. Until a few years ago I thought this was impossible. This is the story.

25 years ago I knew that my Germans, who had an uncommon surname, had lived in a small town in Ohio. I was able to track them through the census, and learned that they ended their lives in Texas.

A few years ago I decided to put more effort toward finding out more about this family. My ancestor's tombstone mentioned his birthdate and the place, Freiberg, Saxony. Could I somehow learn more about his connection with Freiberg? I did more digging on the American side. He was a soldier in the Mexican War. He had land. He applied for a passport once, and traveled back to Germany.

The breakthrough came via Google Book. There was an obituary for a guy with the same surname. Then I hired a German researcher to figure out whether this could be the father. Over the last few years she and I have worked together to unearth records about the family. She finds specific things for me (like birth records or marriage records), then I do more research using what she's found. I've ended up learning about the Enlightenment in Leipzig, the lives of portrait painters, and about the Sorbs, the smallest Slavic minority.

It's been a blast. In two weeks we're visiting Saxony to visit places and see things that have been uncovered in the research. I cannot wait.

March 17, 2017

Kiss Me, I'm Gonna Be Irish

Readers of mrsguy know I'm really into genealogy. I love research. I love stories. I love history.

I think many of us of a certain age can credit Alex Haley and Roots for this. The year that it came out, I remember being asked to put together a family tree, and that's what got my dad writing two long bits of narrative about the family that I still refer to for inspiration to this day. My mom did this, as well.

Pop was Irish. This I knew clearly. He grew up with that identity (although his mother was born in Norway) but not very much information about where or when. We were told that the family was from Limerick, and when we visited Ireland many years ago we went there. It took a person on a genealogy forum for Limerick to dispel me of this notion. She knew that my family name wasn't common in that area, and found records in another area that showed the births of ten of my grandfather's siblings. Years later she provided me with the actual birth records.

Pop always wanted to become an Irish citizen. After Brexit, so did I. After our election, I was all LET'S DO THIS THING!! Not that I don't love being American. I do, and I'm never leaving, and it's all going to be ok, but I need a mental escape hatch. I've researched the steps and the many many many pieces of documentation I will need, but I'm going to do this.

On this St. Patrick's Day, kiss me I'm *gonna* be Irish. And mrguy, too, because he's married to me and I'm more Irish than he is.


Next year we will break in my new passport on a trip to Ireland.

March 8, 2017

European Vacation 2014, Part 11

I'm going to cram the last of the vacation into one post.

On our final day we went back to find the flea market. along the way was this gorgeous building.

I fell in love with these Gmundner dishes.
This mess was so disturbing that I quickly snapped a picture (so I could see what it was all about later) and walked on. Lots of dollies with their tops off (ewww) and then pig dollies with their tops off. I blew it up so you can fully appreciate the horror.

Yikes! Luckily there was more interesting stuff nearby, including the Secessionist Building:

We wound up our final night in Vienna with a traditional meal and a bit of conversation in broken French with a nice couple at the next table. 
 The city looks magnificent lit up and foggy.
The rest of the trip is a bit of a blur. Turns out Trzesniewski has an outpost at the Vienna railway station. And they make little boxes that fit perfectly on the armrest of your train seat. That's pretty snazzy.

Our final hotel was by the Frankfurt airport, and had no nearby restaurants. It was late when we got there, and the only place open was a Chipotle. Not quite what I was looking for, but I recall really enjoying my burrito, my margarita and some Stevie Wonder.

 After that we were on our way home. Sorry it took me so long to post this, but even at home on the sofa with a cold it took me days to do this.

European Vacation 2014, Part 10

We ventured out to go to a non-existent flea market at Am Hof. Then we went to see the modern auction items at Dorotheum auction house. What an eyeful! Mrguy was able to see many things in person that he'd only seen previously in catalogs or the Internet. He was a very happy boy. And I liked the cheap stuff being sold in a room on the ground floor.

On the way to something else we inadvertently discovered the Loos House, which was one of our intended sights. At first mrguy was calling out the garish marble, but then he realized what it was attached to. Here's the building across the street, Hofburg palace. Story has it that Emperor Franz Josef had the shutters nailed closed on that side of the palace after Loos built the building which, you can imagine, was a huge middle finger to the architectural norms of the time.

Loos House is currently a bank, but the bank expects and supports architecture nerds with a friendly attitude, historical displays and free chocolate.

After that happy accident we went to Trzesniewski for many egg salad sandwiches and equally teensy beers. A friend had told me about this place earlier -- an all egg salad sandwich restaurant with tiny beers. What a weird concept! We shared a table with a lady who wore fur, was in Vienna because she needs it for her life, and loves Peruvian gold.

Then we took the train to our second lunch at Cafe Pruckel. Super cool furnishings and my soup was tasty. Mak, the design museum, was across the street. The Vienna 1900 exhibition was a mind-blower.

Evywhere we went we saw amazing buildings. Like the Vienna chamber of commerce. The guards said we could could come in so we did. I slipped upstairs to take some photos of amazing furnishings. Then we found the postal museum (Loos) and took pictures in there.

This, my friends, is a heater.

[This was written while we were in Vienna]
Our hotel in general is amazing. I'm sitting in a window seat looking out onto a city square with a full-on horse statue with a dude on it, and museums and giant green patinaed domes on buildings around me. When you walk out the front door, you can smell the Lippizaner stallions. I will remember this forever. So swank. They give you business cards with your name on them to give to people if you're doing business in town. The soap comes in little phase boxes.

Tomorrow's our last full day of fun. The rest is travel. Shopping. I want to shop.

European Vacation 2014, Part 9

Today -- Vienna by train.

This hotel was a super splurge. Across the street from the opera house, and near the horse stables, which you can smell if you open the windows. Some would call this a bug. I consider it a feature. And it's right in the center (museums, shopping) of town. Mrguy was super into the design details here. Like the name designer coat hooks. Our bedside lamps are shaped like birds. There is a window seat with a view of some amazing old (for Americans) buildings.
 First stop outside the nest was the American Bar by Adolf Loos. It's not very photogenic at night, but was gorgeous to our plain eyeballs. 

Then we looked for dinner and I found us a vegetarian restaurant. Strangely tasty, plus the accordion music was great. The owner helped me with the CD info, and I bought it when we came back.

For some reason accordion music has been doing it for me the last few years. 

On our return, and none of this was very far from the hotel, our neighborhood had turned into the International Bad Behavior Zone. Run!
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