Monday, December 29, 2008

Dromedary Desperado


You know that camel with all that shit on its back? The great big pile of crap on top and the camel staggers along and some village idiot tosses a straw on the camel's back because entertainment is hard to come by in the desert I suppose, and *SPLAT* the camel just splays out (I imagine this part) on the ground, all brokeny back because of that one last damn straw.
That camel? Has nothing on my freaking camel.

My camel is carrying not only a load of crap on it's back, but also another camel. With crap on it's back. A Big Load of It.

So you would never guess, after surviving a blessed Christmas holiday practically pulled out of your ass, and doling out generosity in the form of near human sacrifice (how much did you spend mailing things this year?) - all amidst a stark grey backdrop called my personal life - that the people trying to toss straws on your camel on your camel, would be your family.

Then again, maybe you would.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

On the third day of Christmas....blahblahblah...one bloody headwound.....

OH MY SWEET JESUS hates me give me a break.

Bubbles got this from Santa (maybe Satan Santa hates me).

And that, combined with a really stupid catapult-the-baby-brother-from-the-pillar 'idea' of his sister's, resulted in this:


(What you don't see here is the picture of my absolutely calm grim and blood-covered face)


And one visit to the nearest urgent care facility. Where the doctor took one look at my surly child and suggested that we would have 'better luck' if we cleaned out his wound.



This is not blood. Just the betadine solution.

'Better luck' apparently meant that one parent would hold him down while the other parent inappropriately took pictures tortured him with small gauze squares.

(I should have been a nurse. Except that I almost threw up three times while cleaning it.)

Then the doctor came back in and snipped a few bloody hairs out of his way and glued the wound shut. (Seriously? For $150 I get to clean it out myself and some glue??)



He was pissed.



She is so grounded.

(As in, her favorite gifts have been taken away and she is grounded from everything.)
(Yes, everything, and please pity me, because guess who suffers the whining?)






The end.




Friday, December 26, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008

Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows



Behold!
I am a rockstar, because I made marshmallows!

They were so easy, and so successful, that I have decided on my homemade gifts this year:
The ubiquitous jar of homemade cocoa mix, accompanied by homemade vanilla bean marshmallows, and maybe with a side of toffee (stay tuned).

I had heard that marshmallows were not that hard to make, and I have been more interested in candy making this year than the traditional cookie season here at Chateau Gwendo, so looked around for an easy recipe.
I know that gelatin is pretty gross, but I was not up for the failure potential by substituting agar-agar, so: la-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you-marshmallows-are-yummy-silky-little-pillows-speak-not-of-hooves-and-connective-tissues!!!

I found a recipe which is at least eighty years old (maybe 100!), thanks to Sugarplum and Cindy from Rosehaven Cottage, with the most simple ingredient list - most importantly, no corn syrup, which I was trying to avoid. This recipe doesn't even call for egg whites, so the result really is this magical result of kitchen alchemy.



And thank you, Cindy's Great Great Aunt Esther!







Marshmallows:

I wouldn't even try this without a stand mixer, as it really does need to whip for 15-2o minutes, and this would burn out many hand mixers! You will also need a candy thermometer, easily purchased in most grocery stores!
Have everything ready before you start making these - you want your pan prepared with the wax paper all ready for you.


Butter, for greasing wax paper, and powdered sugar, for coating
2 envelopes (or Tbsp) gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup boiling water
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean (approx a 3-4 inch section) (this was my own addition)

Butter a piece of wax paper that will fit your pan (the recipe called for an 8x8 inch pan, but I used my 7x11 pyrex- you could even use an 11x13, with the result of thinner marshallows). Fit the wax paper as well as you can into the bottom and sides of pan, dust bottom and sides with powdered sugar, and set aside.



In the bowl for the stand mixer, combine 1/2 cup cold water with the gelatin, whisk together and set over a pan of hot water while you boil the sugar.



Combine sugar, boiling water and salt in a heavy medium sized saucepan over medium heat.



Whisk constantly while it is on medium heat, bring to a boil, and then stop whisking. Put the whisk down and do not touch it again.


Let the sugar boil and boil. Watch your candy thermometer rise to 236 degrees - this should take 15-20 minutes - and then remove from heat.



Pour the sugar syrup slowly over the gelatin,


and with the whisk attachment, add the vanilla and vanilla bean seeds, and mix on medium for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture is fluffy and thick, and the mixing bowl is cool to touch.



Pour Plop the mixture into your prepared pan,





using a well-buttered spatula to scoop it out (hint: butter the stem as well!) and with a buttered metal frosting spatula or butterknife, push it into the corners and smooth the top until it is evenly spread. Really work it in there, or you will have giant air bubbles in the corners.







Dust the top with more powdered sugar and press another piece of wax paper on top.

Place in freezer overnight to set.

With a very lightly buttered, sharp knife, cut into strips and then squares.



Roll in powdered sugar to keep from sticking together, and store in an airtight container.



See? Rockstar marshmallows!







Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday Link Love

Chalk this one up to eye candy....


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Discord and Honesty

I was not trying to be an alarmist in my last post. I was feeling very alarmed, so that probably was evident.
And, completely justifiable.

I had just had a near miss head-on collision, lost the driver's side front wheel off my vehicle, and come home to someone who was silent and sullen, as opposed the the guys at the tire station, who were all praising my luck that I survived such a risky situation, and patting me on the shoulder consolingly.

Just a couple of weeks ago, dh changed all the wheels on the car. You see, this was cheaper than buying a new tire for the other set. I do not pretend to know anything about cars or the changing of their wheels, so I rely on him for this sort of thing. Sexist? Not so much. More of an issue of, 'I don't want to keep track of this and it's not my area of expertise, so I would rather pay someone or - oh you can do it? - okay, or trust my partner to do this.
On Saturday, I drove Supergirl to her holiday parade downtown and the car was making this horrible knocking noise. I pulled right into a tire place and asked them to please look at it.
When I came back a few hours later, they asked for $20, told me it was not a safety issue, but I should get it into a transmission place on Monday to be looked at.
I drove home, and when I got home, asked dh if he was sure he had put the new wheels on correctly, and he was insulted that I would ask such a thing - especially after the tire place had already seen it.
I asked him to drive the car and he refused. Probably out of sheer laziness and defiance, but this decision had drastic consequences for him later on.
I drove back to town (25 miles; 10 of them on steep winding mountain roads) on Monday for a meeting. When I got to town, the noise was horrible - it started to jiggle my steering wheel; seeming far less innocuous than before. By the time I found parking, it was creaking and knocking beyond any safe zone. I made it to my meeting, calling dh on the way to beg him to find me a transmission place very nearby to my meeting location.
He called back and told me to take it back to the tire place. I was exasperated and late, told him that the car was not going to make it anywhere at all and to come get me because I would probably call AAA and have it towed somewhere, sighed heavily and went to my meeting.
Two hours later, I emerged, remembered my dilemma, and crossed my fingers as I looked across the street and saw the tire place two blocks away.
Knock-knock-knock-KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK...got louder.
I called dh - "Take it to the transmission place! Or wait until Wednesday when our own mechanic can see it!" he chirped back.
OH..........KAAAAAAY!! Clearly the man was not on my planet.

I had to make it one more block, and snap! the steering went and I veered into oncoming traffic. The oncoming car was going about 30 and I was going about 3 mph, so he was able to stop in time, but not without a lot of screeching and cussing and honking and screaming at me to follow. I was trembling, knees shaking, and pulled (knock, knock, knock, knock, KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK) into the tire shop, where they looked at my ashen face and they again told me to take it to a transmission shop - it was only 1/2 block away! I was utterly confused at this point, and so I went back to the car, reversed about 2 feet, and - snap! clunk! - a sickening thud brought me to a halt. As I opened up the door to see what was going on, three guys came running out of the tire shop.
"STOP!" They all shouted at once.
"Don't go anywhere!"

"I'm not!!" I cried back, climbed out of the car, and saw my tire at a 90 degree angle to my car. Three guys ran out of the garage, and one guy reached for the tire and spun it. It came right off.

I thought about the 14% grade I had just driven down to get to town. I thought of the drive on Saturday with both children in the car. I thought of the cliffs oh-so-close to the road on my way to town. I thought of my propensity to speed.
I burst into tears. Heaving, sick to my stomach, sniffling.
"Do you need a few minutes?" one of the guys asked me, patting my shoulder.
I nodded.
A minute later, the guys from the shop came out, one by one, and as they looked at my car and the wheel lying next to it, each one told me I was lucky to be alive. One asked me where I lived, and I said that I had just driven down from my mountain community. He looked at me with an expression that nearly mirrored my own.
The manager of the shop came out and said that whoever it was who changed the tires, was not capable of protecting me and I needed to know how to do it myself. Fair enough.
Still trembling, I left the car there to be fixed and called home, sobbing, "I....need.......a......ride......wheel.....off......car......"
The response I got was, "Well Bubbles is sleeping, what do you want me to do?"
Walking downtown towards a place with wi-fi - any place - it was dark and cold already, I was shaking and sniffling. I had called him two hours before to tell him I could not drive home.
I hung up and called a friend, who immediately came down the mountain to drive me back up the mountain.
When she came to pick me up, she hugged me, and said, "I am so glad you are okay! That is so scary! Are you okay? Are you?"
I was wondering at this point why dh wouldn't drive the car when I asked him to. The whole way home, she calmly convinced me that of course this was not sabotage - it was grossly irresponsible, but really, calm down, not sabotage... And by the time we arrived at my house, I believed her. She dropped me off, I walked into the house, and dh ignored me. Not one word. No apology. No concern. No 'oh I am so glad you are okay'.
Nothing. Wouldn't even look at me.
So, then I started thinking....well....I don't really have any reason to believe otherwise, do I?
When I said 'Just wondering...' I was just wondering. There was no hidden meaning in my question. It was just 'what would you think?'.

Between us remained silence and hostility; he was angry with the tire place, and I was angry with him. There was nothing. And frankly, I deserved more in that situation.

On Tuesday, new information came about. When I went to pick up the car (having had to borrow money to pay for it myself), the manager let something slip.
Seems they had not actually checked the tire or wheels on Saturday because they could not get it off - couldn't find the wheel lock! But never told me this. Until I picked up the car the second time. On Tuesday. After they charged me nearly $200.

Can you say gobsmacked?

This information made me feel like I was a teeny tiny baby spinning helplessly in a black hole. But I am not a baby, I am an adult who can only chastise herself for trusting someone who did not have their back. Twice. In one week.

Dh saw this as his vindication, when it really would have taken so little effort on his part to clear this up before it happened. He also saw this as an acceptable excuse from apologizing for being grossly irresponsible.
It would be an understatement to say that this serious situation was handled poorly, and it would be an unreasonable expectation to believe that I would come out of this situation feeling calm and or safe.

It is interesting to me that it would be fine for most people to read about statistics of families who break up after losing a child. That would be an acceptable read, because it is far enough removed from most readers' immediate reality and seems like a story about someone else. And sensational. And supported by statistics and books who warned us this would happen.
Or it would be fine to post about how we beat statistics, leaving out all the pain and anquish and unlikely endings as I stumbled forward to the part where we succeeded! We beat out all the statistics! Behold our awesomeness.

I have always tried to prioritize the protection of family members over my need to share. Sometimes we are faced with decisions that are difficult. Sometimes that line is hard to determine. But when I am knotted up, my stomach a pretzel and my mind terrified for what could have been, and I am alone....I must go somewhere to remind myself that I am here.

Do I want my family to remain intact and unbroken?
That would be my preference.
Will it come at the cost of safety, care, and respect?
No it will not.

Everyone has discord in their relationships; some of it is shared with friends, some of it is shared with those who care to hear about it. Our discord is no different from yours, yet it is worlds apart. Our discord is tinged with anger and regret and resentment and so is yours. Our discord carries with it the experience of parenting a child whose life is now over. Our discord represents a failure to survive that tragedy.
And yours?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Just Wondering........

Let's say that someone changed your tires for you and didn't check them but they told you that they did.
And let's say that you had a near death experience because of this.
Let's say the wheel came off of the car.

Would you think that someone was trying to kill you or just that it was freakishly irresponsible?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Do NOT eat while reading this because you might gag or throw up and choke and then threaten to sue me.

Yesterday was a crappy day. Last week had many crappy days.
Today is status quo. Crappy, but predictable at this point.

All these lovely sunshine filled days keep reminding me of another day almost eight years ago. Since I can't get it out of my mind, I will fill yours with it.
If you don't like vile, then go away now.
You were warned.


I was first trimester pregnant, and had just made myself some soup. I carried it upstairs to watch a movie, sat on the couch and balanced the soup in my lap.
My cat came inside just as I was sipping, and she looked a bit funny, like she had something to tell me, but I don't normally think these things and chalked it up to being pregnant. Then I noticed a scab on her side that I had not seen before (pregnant=distracted), and she sat down on the floor in front of me to scratch it at the moment I noticed.
Suddenly, brownish liquid started spewing out her side, and I do mean spewing. A sickening smell filled the room and without warning, my stomach reacted and I vomited into my soup bowl, spilling hot soup and puke all over my knees and my couch*.
Which made it hard to stand up, because I couldn't figure out what to clean up first (soup, puke, or unexplained cat juice) and I could not really stop gagging until I got out of the room. My cat just had an abscessed abscess and she was totally fine after my vet friends (hallelujah) dealt with her on that Sunday afternoon while they laughed and laughed over the vomit story.
I, on the other hand, was permanently scarred. I can not to this day watch a cat explode without vomiting.






*(Guests of Chateau Gwendo needn't worry. It wasn't that couch - it was another, much older couch which was disposed of at the dump many years ago!)

Friday, December 05, 2008

Broken

I have been drained of all resources; I have nothing left.

Lied to, fucked up, dragged down, and made to be the lowest common denominator in the one person's life I am supposed to be the highest.

I've got nothing.

I am broken.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Discovery Kingdom: The Big Fun

After the wedding last month, we took our children to Discovery Kingdom, because I had heard they had a Thomas Town, and it seemed a perfect birthday excursion for our about-to-turn three year old. We convinced Cindy and Sophie Fig to come along with us since we had crashed their pad after the wedding, and they cordially agreed. The off-season admission price of $29.99 (which is now only $24.99 when purchased online) sold us all on the excursion.

I looked at their website and I think I got more excited than the kids, because I am a roller coaster fanatic, and I liked what I saw. My indoctrination to the roller coaster world started young.

My mother is a roller coaster fanatic, and when I was little, my mom was sick of sitting out the roller coasters at our nearby annual summer haunt, while her older children rode them. I was the fourth in a quick succession of siblings, and she had had enough of us cramping her style.
"Stand up straight!" She would nudge me in line, checking to make sure I had worn my clogs, affording me that extra inch of false height.
Once on the ride, I would shudder with the thrill of having made it through the height check, wrapping my mom's arm tightly over my shoulder and locking her hand under my arms, and grab on to the bar with all my strength. We'd barrel through the tunnel, creep up the hill, clickety, clickety, clickety, click...My bottom flew out of my seat over the first three hills, my mother would howl with laughter and push my shoulders back firmly into the seat each time, and then we rounded the sidewinding bend, smacking into each other and screaming in unison, giggling over the next few stomach-lurching bunny hops; flying together on the Blue Streak, and screeching into the platform, still howling with laughter.
And then running to get back in line to do it again.



::blink blink::
::end 35 yr old tape playing in head::



So the idea of riding this:





was very very appealing to me.


And this thing gets me hot (NOT the guy - the ride!):



So, yeah - they had a Thomas Town and that is why we were going. Right.


Actually, to maintain this facade for as long as possible, our first stop was Thomas Town.
Bubbles was happier than a boy with a train when he saw Thomas pull into the station. He was trembling with excitement...

And the train ride itself brought out all of Bubbles' secret words as he shouted them out:
"JAMES! PERCY!! GORDON!!!"
And then there was the rest of Thomas town: Harold the Helicopter, and Bertie the Bus.
And that was just enough until we headed off to the rest of the park.

Which, frankly, after a desperate lunch of fried food, turned out to be a bit disastrous.
There was a parade of people - a huge crowd suddenly appeared - and suddenly:

ZOMBIES!!

Zombies with blood, zombies with hatchets in their heads, zombies with chain saws...and if that wasn't enough....zombies dragging a glass stagecoach which carried a captive human, non-zombie woman, beating on the glass in futility. As a former Halloween devotee, it was kind of cool...but, as a mama, it was...a bit much.

It was far too scary for the kiddies for sure.
Apparently, it was the season for the popular 'Fright Fest', the publicity for which had somehow escaped our radar.
After a hasty exit from the park and a short email of complaint a few days later, which suggested that non-publicized bloody zombies and small children in strollers did not mix, I received a phone call from customer service rep Dave (Superman) Miller.
I was shocked to receive a phone call in response to my email, and Dave was definitely the nicest guy to call me that day.
"It's a fine line," he said, "between the fright fest and the family environment."
"Well, zombies are fun if you are fifteen. Or even twelve, I suppose. But not so much with the stroller set. Way too scary."
"I am so very sorry that the zombies scared your children. That is unacceptable."
"Well Dave, I completely understand the need for zombies at the fright fest, but the thing is, the zombies need to be better trained to avoid children. I realize that organizing a zombie training can be difficult, having to schedule it in the middle of the night and all, but it's something you should think about."
Dave started laughing.
"I absolutely hear you, and I will take all that into account. I want to invite you to come back to the park though - on us - and give us another chance."

This was the best customer service I have witnessed in years - and in a recession! - these people actually may survive it. With their level of customer attention, they deserve to survive it. They are very kind.

I thanked Dave and said that we would love to go back, and he gave me a secret code which would allow our family back into the park anytime between then and Christmas. He suggested the Holiday in the Park festival, saying it was very family friendly, and hoped that our experience would be improved.
When I realized that the Figs had also been part of the debacle and, although they were not terrified by the zombies, did have to leave abruptly, I called Dave back and asked if he would add two more tickets to that secret code. He emailed and called me back right away, saying that two more passes had been added to our voucher.
Yes, seriously.
I told you. Nice.

We weren't able to coordinate a Holiday in the Park evening (the park is only open 4-10 pm this month for this event), but did manage to agree on a Sunday to dedicate to 'Do-over Day' at Discovery Kingdom.
Which was last Sunday, when we met the Fig and Figlet at the entrance like clockwork, checked in smooth like butter, and high-fived upon entering. We were ready for the do-over.

When we took the exit off of the freeway and the roller coaster giants were visible from the road, Bubbles screamed out, "I see it! I see The Fun! I see The Big Fun!" and then started on an endless stream of, "I ride Thomas. Go ride Thomas. Go ride Harold. Go ride Thomas now. I go ride Thomas/Harold NOW NOW AGAIN!" (repeat x8)


We picked up the flashpass, based upon the lines from the previous visit, took Bubbles straight back to Thomas Town because he just would not shut up about it until we did because he really was the most desperate one of all of us. and it was no less thrilling than the first time. Dare I say it was even more exciting?



After that, we dropped all pretenses of 'parks are for kiddies!' ran straight for Tony Hawk's Big Spin - the one coaster which Supergirl is tall enough to ride - where we were greeted with NO LINE. Okay, maybe a 5 minute line. We decided to hang on to the flash passes until later in the day if we might need them.
Tony Hawk's does not disappoint. I can ride any roller coaster but not so much on the spinny things. Like those red hooded classic Tilt-a-Whirls? Those things make me sick. Ferris wheels? They make me wicked scared. But certain other spinny things are okay. Watching the spinny roller coaster, I decided it would be okay. It is awesome fun - when the four-person car shoots around those top curves, the car spins and it looks like you are going to fly off the track - like I said, awesome fun.
Spinning while flying wildly on a roller coaster track is something every roller coaster aficionado should try.
We took turns riding Roar, which is a classic wooden roller coaster with a long ride and a lot of clickety-clacketing, which I personally found to be a little to bone-jarring, but dh loved it.

For some reason, I was coerced by Cindy to go on this insane ride, and when we got on, Sophie wanted to ride in the very front seats, and guess who got to ride with her, with Mom screaming from the row behind? I am still not sure how that one happened, miss slick.

We visited the walruses, which we discovered, after commenting on their extreme sociability, included the famous Jocko, a movie star walrus. Jocko is a big show-off, who comes right up to the glass and thrills your children with flips and flipper-clapping - he loves children, and our children found a mutual attraction.



We all love the penguins who are also goofy and think that your hand is a fish:

video


We had somehow missed the shark tunnel the first time around, but never again:


video


There is also Stingray Bay; a tank where you can touch the rays (free), and a Dolphin tank where you can watch the dolphins play and be fed, or pay $10 to feed and touch them (we opted out this time, but I think the cost sure beats the $250 Waikoloa dolphin experience -with imported dolphins).

We found ourselves back at Thomas Town and Looney Tunes Seaport, where there are also many rides for children of all sizes - the girls would go ride the slightly more thrilling rides over there like balloons, mini-roller coaster, or swings, while Bubbles rode the more sedate trains, planes, and helicopters. Cindy went to grab a bite, and came back with the most delicious looking crepe I would never expect to see in a large park. It was consumed before it was photographed.
While Cindy worked on an equally delicious looking spinach salad, Supergirl asked for her own spinach salad. I think that Cindy discovered the yummiest secret in all of the park's food offerings (if you are looking for some options beyond fried or chain food), because at the California Crepes booth (next to Ben & Jerry's by the Looney Tunes Seaport), there is a European woman making all this food fresh, including her mini-donuts which I bought on a whim (6 for $2.99) and were instantly devoured. The spinach salad ($5.99) and the crepes (~$8.50) were jewels among concession stands, and we definitely will be visiting that stand next time.

We headed over to the animal side of the park since we had missed that the last time, and I was impressed beyond my expectations.
The kids loved Odin, the non-vicious, bottle-fed white Bengal tiger:


And the super-hammy photogenic baby giraffes:


And then we split up so that dh could take the littles to the killer whale show, and Cindy, Sophie and I could crunch in some eleventh hour serial roller coaster riding.
First, we hit Boomerang, a looping coaster that goes backwards. It was a bit jerky for me, and the backwards part gave both Cindy and me a slight headache.
We were hoping to ride Kong, a suspension coaster we missed the last time, but it was closed for painting, even though I told a nearby attendant that the aesthetic of Kong was not what I was going to be prioritizing. (waaaaaaaaahhhhhhh)
However, we did ride Medusa a few times in a row (a three minute, 15 second ride!) before we lost Cindy to a lovely shade of pale green. I heart Medusa so much; it is a five-across, floorless coaster with no fewer than seven inversions, gliding like silk along its lime and lilac glowing tracks.

When we re-grouped for our final ride spree, Supergirl raved about Shouka, and Bubbles cheered throughout the whole show, duly impressed as he should be, with a four thousand pound mammal jumping thirty feet out of the water.


video



We wearily ran staggered back to the other end of the horseshoe shaped park to catch a few more rides on Tony Hawk's Big Spin and Roar. Cindy and her stomach had completely had it by this time, so we totally took advantage of her parenting skills and dumped Bubbles off on her while we took Sophie on endless circuits of Tony Hawk. The lines were still minimal (note to self: November is a great time to go here!) but we whipped out the last of our fast passes, and got three rides instead of one in our last fifteen minutes.

I was so enthralled with this place - the cleanliness, the best of marine and wildlife, the best rides, the funny an animated childrens ride attendants, and the attentive customer service, that I was ready to pay up the extra $24.99 (before leaving the park) to buy season passes for the entire family, but (sniff sniff) I had traveled light that day, and brought only my ID and a pocket full of enough cash for the day.

Dh teased me - we live near the Boardwalk, where I have bought passes for Supergirl for the past few years to the tune of $70/year. Never again. She only can ride the kiddie-rides, and they charge as much for a child as for an adult who can ride the thrill rides. Also, it is filthy and they charge even more for parking ($20) than Discovery Kingdom ($15).

Also, comparing the experience we had at Legoland this summer, I don't think I can stress enough the canyon of difference between positive customer service, and useless and potentially dangerous customer upper management (Safety Manager, tm).

I will definitely bring the family and friends again - though I will always regret not bringing the cc with me to upgrade to the season passes that day.

In the meantime, I will dream of this, this, this, and this, and the day my children are tall enough to join me on these rides. While I am waiting, any nanny takers? I will pay for your admission - we will take turns on the big thrills.