the gift you hope you never give

Your regularly scheduled random ranting has been interrupted for a public service announcement. In this holiday season of gift-giving, consider the following…

Did you ever buy a gift for someone, and like it so much you want to keep it for yourself? Once you have it in your hands, you feel like you can’t live without that (insert option: new CD/video game/beautiful cashmere sweater).

Kind of like that, except that you truly can’t live without this gift. It is not to be wrapped in shiny paper or labeled with a card. A secret delivery, but you will not be present for the exchange. You will not see the smile on the recipient’s face, or know how it has changed their life.

Be an organ donor. Check the box on your DMV form – the tiny dot next to your smiling face may someday leave a legacy beyond your own – of many more smiles from the recipients of the greatest gift of all… LIFE.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.


icing by numbers

After the very succesful cookie baking last night, which finished ahead of schedule and without a hitch, the icing of said 81 (plus spares for a total of 94) cookies begins....

9:00pm - Scout entered the kitchen, and this is what he found... after 2 hours of work, I only had 11 snowmen partially decorated, and 7 circles with white icing. He asked me how I planned on finishing this, and I said I had no idea... so, he rolled up his sleeves, and joined me in the kitchen.

We came up with a plan of attack... base layers for all the cookies, accents will be applied later. I quickly realized that the amount of icing was not sufficient for the cookie inventory on hand.

9:50 - Another batch of icing (I swear this happened yesterday?)

9: 55 - Icing explosion in the mixer - so much white powder, I was expecting Kate Moss to show up at my door any second.

9:58 - What? Not enough sugar to make the icing... how did that happen? I had 10 cups of sugar at 7pm! Although our neighbors are very nice, I think this is a bit late for going next door for a cup of sugar. Plus, I need about 4 cups... of powdered sugar... not the standard request.

10:02 - Driving to the grocery store for sugar - hoping that they are still open.

10:04 - Phew... they are open until 11. Sugar in hand, headed home for the final stretch.

11:22 - Scout is ready to throw in the towel. He heads up to bed, and I finish up...

One hour later, all the cookies are decorated! Total investment: 5 1/2 hours, 12 sticks of butter, 20(ish) cups of sugar, and two tired decorators....

Plate for the contest:

1st place for Best Looking cookies!!!
1st place for Best Holiday cookies!!!
(did not win Best Tasting or Best Overall, but I think that is just cause voters wanted to give other people a chance!)

Scout's favorite: snowmen with green scarves
My favorite: peppermints or santa hats. Hey, I can have 2 favorites - it is my blog!


bake by numbers

Because I am one of those crazy people who likes the weird contests at work, I am on a mission to win our department cookie contest. But it is not just a cookie contest... it is also a cookie exchange. So, I need to make 81 cookies - 19 packs of 3 cookies each to trade and 2 dozen for tasting. Which means that I will get 57 cookies back at the end of the day on Friday. I will smile, bring them home and promptly toss in the garbage, because... well, because I see these people's hygiene habits all day at work, and frankly, I don't want to eat their cookies. Also, I don't want to buy new pants after eating almost 5 dozen cookies. So, here is the summary of my cookie making extravaganza, part 1:

5:00 - Assemble baking items

5:30 - Double batch of cookie dough in fridge to chill

5:40 - Dinner break - that was a tough half hour of work! We had leftovers, of course. Puh-lease... I don't cook on a regular day - I can't possibly cook dinner AND bake cookies!

6:30 - Rolling, cutting, baking - 4 dozen cookies - only 2 casualties! Fortunately for the vulture roaming around my house, they were the largest ones, so he made out pretty good as a result of my mistakes.

7:30 - Realize I don't have enough dough to meet my inventory requirements - dishwasher just finished, so I grab the mixing bowl (warning: metal is HOT when removed from dishwasher during 'dry' cycle), whip up another batch of dough and throw it in the fridge to chill - deja vu?

Blog break

8:30 - More rolling, cutting, baking

8:55 - Last batch in the oven - much quicker than I thought! I am a cookie making master!

9:00 - Yelling at hubs for emptying the dishwasher - hey, I appreciate housework, but he was in my production area - I was trying to get the cookies out of the oven, clean up, etc. and he was all up in my space. Then I had to convince him to finish emptying the rest of it when I yelled at him for walking away. Mixed messages? Who, meeee? (batting eyelashes)

9:15 - 7 dozen cookies snoozing away on the kitchen island, unaware of the fate that awaits them... first, a dressing of icing (as if there weren't enough sugar and butter in them already) to make them beautiful for the ball... then, a horrific battle scene in the office conference room, where the snowmen will be decapitated and the bells will be cracked worse than their fair mother Liberty.

Naked cookies below:

Tomorrow: Icing Capades

worn out

I was sitting in an all day meeting today at work (it was scintillating - thanks for asking), and while willing myself to stay awake, I began to notice things that would otherwise go unnoticed. Gazing at my keyboard with the same intensity as if I had never seen one before, I noticed a dull spot on the shiny keys. Thinking it might be a stain (perhaps a dried drop of soda from lunch - with extra caffeine - to help my eyes stay open), I tried to rub it, but it did not go away.

Apparently I only use my right thumb on the space bar. I have worn a tiny spot on the lacquer from my single sided spacing. Of course I have done all sorts of typing testing since I made this earth-shattering observation. My left thumb does no work at all when typing. It just sits there, waving around in midair - as if it wants to hitchhike to another activity as soon as a friendly passer-by will stop and pick it up.

So, I guess I will have to resign from my proud title of "ten finger typer" and reduce my status to "nine finger typer" - which is still better than the hunt and peck method some people employ (ahem, dad).


21 questions

I got this email today, and thought instead of forwarding it, I would just post it here...

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper - I used to work at the wrapping kiosk in the mall at Christmas, so I like to do fancy bows and such - kind of dorky, I know - but it makes me smile. Sadly, it makes my friends nervous to give me wrapped presents - they always start with an apology about how they aren't good wrappers.

2. Real tree or artificial?
Real (and it smells SOOOO good) - but i reuse my grocery bags, so let's call it even on the tree killing.

3. When do you put up the tree?
Sometime in December... not too early, not too late.

4. When do you take the tree down?
Has to be down before my birthday (you all know how i feel about that).

5. Do you like eggnog?
Ewwwww... gross!

6. Favorite gift received as a child?
I don't think i can narrow it down...

7. Do you have a Nativity scene?
Nope, but lots of snowmen, reindeer and santas.

8. Hardest person to buy for?
Depends on the year

9. Easiest person to buy for?
Does "myself" count? ;)

10. Worst Christmas Gift you ever received?
Any gift labeled a "combo" bday/xmas gift

11. Mail or email Christmas cards (or neither)?
Mail - I LOVE stationary!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?
It's a Wonderful Life - or - Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer - or - A Christmas Story - or - Elf - or .... um, apparently i really like Christmas movies.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?
Not before December, and not until I have made a list. In red pen.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Not yet... but I have a collection at home in case we have an exchange at work - good thing I switched departments, else peeps might get the same presents they gave me last year.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Candy canes!!!

16. Clear or colored lights?

17. Favorite Christmas song?
I'll Be Home For Christmas

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?
Of course... but I have to sing the song in my head... you know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen... Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen... but do you recaaaaall... the most famous reindeer of all... Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer... (I'll spare you the rest)

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?
Nothing yet, but we have been looking for years, just haven't found the perfect topper. We have a star ornament hanging near the top of the tree, but it isn't quite doing the job.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
One present Christmas Eve (usually pajamas) - the rest Christmas morning.

Since question 18 was missing, I added my own:

18. Where will you wake up on Christmas morning?
Marco Island, Florida - with Scout, my parents, brother, sister and brother in law - and my parent's fake Christmas palm tree (from SkyMall)!


simple pleasures

Many of the simple pleasures of childhood fade with time. No longer does running in circles entertain me, roller coasters give me a headache, and pixie sticks make me worry about my next dental bill. One thing, however, has stood the test of time, bringing me joy beyond reasonable expectation: sign making.
I remember making signs to take to Yankee stadium when I could still count my age on my fingers. I can vividly picture sitting with my sister, working on our masterpieces. We each had rolls of narrow butcher paper - hers purple, mine orange. We made a lengthy purple sign that said "We love Dave Winfield." I don't remember where our seats were, but since we usually went to day games during the week, we relocated to some empty seats near right field - yelling, screaming and jumping up and down to get his attention. Taking a brief break from his job (hopefully between batters), he looked up from the field and waved to us! Which led to uncontainable excitement - picture us jumping around and screaming like... well, like little girls.
Arts and crafts still occurs in my house before attending events. Whether it is a professional baseball game, a marathon that a friend is running, or college graduation, I bust out the posterboard, paints and markers. Posterboard is always on hand - you never know when you might need to make a sign! Have to be prepared. Scout's motto.

Here are a few of my favorites:

at a Rangers/Giants game in SF
(we were not cheering for the home team)
at little bro's graduation
(have to give my sis credit - she made these signs)
It was great - when they called little bro's name, we each had a letter, and jumped up - Gramps had the second "D", though, so he was "Tod" for a little bit until Gramps made it up to full sign holding position.

at the California International Marathon
(the "peanut" is pam's baby, who ran with her - inside her belly)
(note how I coordinated my outfit with my sign!)


obsess much?

Neatness is not my strength. I can still hear the disdain in my grandmother’s voice as she entered my bedroom during my teenage years – “Is that your UNDERWEAR on the floor?” I have gotten better at that. Okay, no, I haven’t, but I live far enough away that she will never have to experience that horror again, and when I stay with her, I keep my room fake neat (i.e., shove everything into my suitcase).

So I am not in danger of being diagnosed with OCD, but for some things, I am more obsessive compulsive than
Melvin Udall and his plastic utensils. Sitting at the top of that short list, you will find airline seat assignments. I am completely obsessive about getting the perfect seat for my flight. Well, truly, the perfect seat would be in first class, so I guess I am looking for the perfect seat in the cattle section.

It has to be an aisle – so that I can get up and use the spacious restrooms 45 times during the flight. Can’t be the seat in front of the emergency exit, since they don’t recline, and the only time my seat is not reclined is during take off and landing, and that is only because the flight attendants raise it for you if you don’t do it yourself (of course I tried fake sleeping – that doesn’t work either). Can’t be the last seat – double whammy with no reclining and the waft of blue toilet cleaner mixed with whatever the last visitor left in there. Not a huge fan of the first seat – no room to put your belongings at your feet. I like to have all my entertainment available at a moment’s notice. If I want to read, do sudoku, have a sip of $4.25 water I purchased beyond the security entrance, listen to my (not)iPod after we are above 10,000 feet, or whatever other fun treasures I lugged through the x-ray machine that are permissible on a flight these days – I would like to do so without unbuckling, opening the overhead bins and hoping that items have not shifted during flight.

My first choice would be an aisle seat in the emergency exit row. If there are two emergency exit rows, it has to be the second one, because the first one doesn’t recline – allowing for 3 extra inches of safety so peeps can squeeze through in case of an emergency where the plane actually lands and we have to evacuate – really, don’t you think people would get through even if the seats were reclined to the resting point of 94 degrees? Which leads me to the other reason I like to sit in the emergency exit row… I would like to be the first one out. Or, rather, the third one out. Apparently my priority for accessing the restroom without having to crawl over some sleeping stranger outranks my safety.

For my next flight (cross country during the Christmas holiday – sounds like fun, no?) the airline randomly assigned my seats. They are not to my liking. Yes, I am in the aisle (directly behind the emergency exits – ready to pounce if one of those suckers replies "no" when asked if he/she will assist during an emergency – hey, I’ve seen it happen) so what is my concern? Well, we have the aisle and middle seats. If the fun little buttons they taunt you with on the plane drawing they show you when you book your tickets online actually worked, I would have clicked on an aisle and window seat for myself and my lovely (but one seat away) spouse, respectively. Here is my master plan (don’t tell anyone, okay?): book the aisle and window seats – increases the chances of having the middle seat empty. Everyone wants a window seat (except me), so our row will most likely have 3 people in it now. But if the middle seat was the only one open, it could be the last seat assigned on the plane.

Weird that I don’t want to sit next to my loved one? Well then hold on to your horses (or mouses, as is the more likely case). On one of our recent flights, I put my plan into action, and booked window and aisle. Unfortunately, the flight was full, and the seat between us was assigned. We stayed in our seats. Yep, rode the whole however many hours sitting next to a complete stranger instead of each other. I think it is these little things that make our marriage stronger.

I was unable to change our seats due to the airline's strict rules on hoarding seats for platinum gold triple titanium club members, so I will wait until 24 hours prior to the flight to call in and request better seats. I am considering setting my alarm for 12:41 am to make sure I am the first to call in. Is that too much?