Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gingerbread in June

It was the weirdest idea for a party I'd ever heard of. Our friends wanted to know why we were doing it. Was it someone's birthday? Some event? Why gingerbread houses in June? We did it... just for the fun of it.

And fun it was, although there was a lot of work too. Case in point: If we invite 20 families, and 16 accept, we need materials for 16 gingerbread houses. There are 6 pieces per house, for a total of 96 pieces. That's a lot of gingerbread, folks. I went out and got larger bowls so we could make them three batches at a time, rather than one.

We cleared off the counters completely and set up five stations: two places to roll and cut dough; one to bake, one to cool, and one to store the finished pieces.

Now, the original plan was a cheery summer afternoon in the back yard, with drinks and tiki torches, and kids running around in the grass whenever they got a little too hyper on candy.


That plan was scuttled by a thunderstorm the size of Iowa. Then, our supplier of large folding tables called to say he didn't think it was a good idea to bring them over in the rain, as he'd have to put them on an open trailer. Oh. Now what? So... we improvised. A few phone calls netted us promises of four card tables, and we'd just do it all inside. No problem! The slightly worrisome part there is that we'd invited upwards of 40 people. I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but... our house isn't all that big. But we're all friends, right? It'll be cozy!

The adults were having a good time...

Fiona was helping Grandma Kerr...

...but the other kids didn't seem to be having as good a time as I thought they would.

I thought the kids would be all over the candy and the houses, but they were mostly milling about aimlessly, unsure of what they could do.

It was a time for drastic action.

It was time to break out THE KID ENTERTAINER OF DOOM!!!! BWA HAHAHHAHA...
No, wait, that's not right. I meant, the Cart, a.k.a. "Santa's Summer Sleigh."

Man, this thing is great for picking up girls! I had one under each arm for what seemed like an hour or two, just cruising around the island. They were laughing and screaming whenever I rolled up to the door and having a great time.

Eventually, though, my posterior, and the batteries that sit underneath said posterior, were reaching their limit. (I've discovered that you can tell how the battery is doing by checking to see if you can accelerate and use the turn signal at the same time. If you can't blink, you're low.) My passengers weren't too concerned about such things. We had "one last ride" several times, and then "OK, these will have to be short," and then, "really, last time." None of us cared — we were all having fun — but electricity really was in short supply.

"Can we have ONE MORE ride?"
"Well, I don't know. The invisible reindeer are getting pretty tired."
They just looked at me.
"It's almost out of juice."
They wanted to know what kind of juice it needed.
I tried again. "The batteries are low and it needs to recharge."
"So where's the charger? Can we have one more ride?"
"Will you help push when it stops moving?"
That, they understood.

They still excitedly clambered in for the slow, hundred-foot crawl back to the carport to plug in, though.

With the cart exhausted, they set out to answer another question I hadn't thought to ask: How many kids can you fit on a porch swing?

Start with, oh, five or so.

(Every now and then, you snap a photo, and look at it later, and you somehow realize, "This is going to be important later..." — perhaps as a sign of things to come, perhaps important for some other reason. This is one of those photos. It gives me hope and joy about the years ahead.)

He's not heavy, he's my brother... well, yeah, actually, he's heavy. Oof, get off!
Can you spot all eight kids?

Meanwhile, back inside, marvelous creations were taking shape:

Lots of creativity going on.

Maybe once the party is over, Deborah and I can make one, too!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mulberry Musing

I do occasionally wonder, while trimming my trees, why the lowly mulberry gets blessed with so many shapes of leaves, while the oaks and maples only have one.

Perhaps someone more mathematically minded than I can figure out the fractal formula for mulberry.

Van in sights, finger on trigger...

We found a van.

It looks great. I test drove it. Everything works, even the air conditioning. It has a clean, two-owner title. It's being sold by a doctor here in town (Dr. Thallemer; pronounced "tall-mer," as I discovered during the test drive) who largely wanted a newer model. It's a quiet, quick, and pleasure to drive, religiously maintained, and within $100 of what we'd budgeted.

So what's the problem?

The problem is a general unease, and the sense that God is telling me, "I've got something better for you." Better? It's driving me crazy, because the logical part of my brain is saying, "Come on! It's perfect! Buy it!" while my heart tells me, inexplicably, that I'm not trusting God in all of this.

Wouldn't it be great if heart and head would agree on something once in a while?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Are Pickles and Ice Cream Next?

We're halfway to the due date now, and one thing I'm consistently hearing out of Deborah is that she's hungry, and almost as often, that she needs something to eat right away. This particular combination put in an appearance a few days ago: homemade apple sauce with cinnamon imperials melted into it.

Odd. But really quite good, actually.

Dancing pants

There are many things that I never thought I would say, until I became a parent. "No rhinos in the sugar!" is one of them. It never occurred to me that I might one day say such a thing.

I've also gotten answers to questions that I never would have thought to ask, such as, "What happens when you give your kids a pair of daddy's shorts and ask them to put them in his room?"

But thanks to being a parent, I now know.

Sure, you've seen it on TV, but there's nothing quite so surreal as watching your own pants dance around the living room. The fact that they're giggling doesn't help.

Impromptu Supper

We were standing around on the sidewalk with the neighbors, watching the kids play together. (The Volkers' kid likes the toys on our porch; our kids like the toys on their porch.) The conversation wandered to dinner. Deborah liked the sound of the pork chops they were having, they wanted to try the gallo pinto (black beans and rice) that we were having. So the Volkers invited us (and our supper) over to the cottage for supper.

The Volkers are, in local parlance, Lakers. It has nothing to do with the L.A. basketball team, and everything to do with the lake itself.

Chris shows off his new toy, a Sumo Tube. This is apparently a device for people who like to be dragged behind boats, without the bother of having to keep track of skis and other such unnecessary accoutrements.

Fiona cuts a somewhat less impressive figure.

So what do lakers do after dinner? Well... they go out on the lake.

On the docks. The speedboat, pontoon, and canoe are all theirs.

One of Chris's hoobies is what he calls the "Funtoon." This is, at it's most extravagant, a floating party, a pontoon boat complete with second floor (!) working water slide, tiki torches, coolers, and festival lighting and surround sound.

Reagan doesn't seem to mind that his swing goes out over the water.

Today, though, it was fresh from having the upper deck rebuilt, and outfitted mainly for a pleasant summer cruise around the lake.

The crew of the U.S.S. Funtoon.

It's not a bad way to spend an evening, actually.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Van Hunting

The hunt for the van is on.

I came across this one, that I really liked, but by the time I brought Deborah back to see it, it was gone. (We enjoyed the rare ride together out to see it, though...) I somehow had the idea that cars sat on dealer lots for weeks at a time. So I guess I need to be prepared to act when I see a good one. Wisdom, patience, wisdom, patience... I have an appointment to look at another one later today.

So, all you van owners out there, chime in on the comments: What's good? What's not? What features does your van have that you can't live without? (And if you say, "You can have mine," be warned that I may just take you up on it!)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

300 and 11

300? 11? What's that about?

I'll give you a hint: one is the number of posts I've made on this blog, and the other is the number of years we've been married. I'll let you decide which is which... although if you're complaining about my latest lapse in posting, or think Deborah and I are truly ancient, you might pick the wrong answer. :-)

We enjoyed the Art Fair for most of the day, and once the kids were in bed, and Paul installed in the living room with a book, Deborah and I returned to the Village to go try out Cerulean, which purports to be a "restaurant and sushi lounge." (I didn't see that there was any separation between the two, but that's what's on the sign.) The national-identity-conflicted menu also included tapas, but that didn't make it to the sign. Everything we got was delicious — Maki rolls for me, spicy vegetable rolls for Deborah (sushi and sashimi are no-nos while pregnant) and an umami-packed tapa of grilled asparagus with proscuitto and manchego. (Deborah says I ordered it for the manchego. I admit, I do miss it.)

The secret to a long and happy marriage? Keep flirting.

After the last pomegranate lemonade, they shood us out of the restaurant, and we took the cart out to the park for a nice romantic moonlit stroll along the beach (no, really!) and some tracing back and forth to see if we could figure out the exact place I had proposed.

I think I'm up for another 11 years. And I think Deborah is, too.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Art Fair

The first weekend in June brings a number of things to our neck of the woods (heart of the island?) including, most noticeably for us, RVs.

But, but, but, that's our backyard... OK, we don't own it, but it's our backyard nonetheless...

The real reason for all those RVs, though, is the annual Art Fair, which is a lot of fun for us to go and browse. Not that we buy much — we generally can't afford it — but it's fun to go be inspired, and talk to the artists. This is the fourth or fifth one, so many are familiar faces now.

The talent and variety are amazing...

Irridescent glass tiles...


One of my favorites from the show, a landscape by Dick Heffelfinger.

We didn't end up buying much, but did take home a few small pieces by some local artists.

We got to watch this young artist paint a rock, and then, we got to take it home with us! And the artist, too!

Friday, June 06, 2008

They're catching on...

People are starting to catch on to something I've known for years now: motorcycles get about twice the gas mileage of cars.

I'm seeing a lot more small bikes on the road, Honda Rebels especially, their 234cc engines buzzing cheerily down the road. (The Nighthawk I used to have, with the same engine, regularly got more than 80 mpg.) People have stopped asking if I can do wheelies, and have started asking what kind of mileage I get on That Thing. TIME magazine suggested motorcycles as an alternate form of driving vacation.

Even one of the banks here is using it to fish for loans: "Gas prices too high? Talk to us about a motorcycle loan!" (This is shrewd on many levels — motorcycles loans command much higher interest rates than just about any other loan type, and they're giving every guy out there an excuse to tell his wife, "Yeah, but it's for the gas mileage, dear!").

It's hard to argue with the cost of the vehicle. People are on triage waiting lists to buy a Prius at upwards of $20k. A very nice used motorcycle can be had for... $2k. If you're going to spend money to save money, why not spend less to begin with?

* * *

I stopped at the gas station last night to top off my tank, as I no longer have a reliable gas gauge other than my odometer. 137.1 miles since last fillup; 2.77 gallons. $10.65.

You math majors have already figured it out: Even with my upright, aerodynamic-as-a-brick-flying-sideways position... 49.49 mpg.

Ever wonder why motorcyclists are usually grinning?

Now you know one more reason!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

23 Links to Go

Partly to keep the kids from asking every day when the babies are going to come, and partly to remind ourselves to get ready, we hung up a paper chain in the living room, and Deborah and the kids remove one link each Saturday.

23 links to go. Are we ready...? Nope. Extra car seats? Check. Minivan? Nope. Names picked out? Nope. Know where we're going top put them? Nope. Maybe we're so used to this (?!) that we think we can wing it...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Pink Link

Deborah and I have been relaxing in the evenings by playing old N64 games, particularly Zelda. Deborah has been working through Ocarina of Time again, and I'm hacking my way through Majora's Mask.

This has not gone unnoticed by the kids, who are fascinated by the interactive quest and its mysterious puzzles and oddball objects. The kids have taken to playing "Zelda" with each other, equipping themselves with Swords (wiffle bat), Megaton Hammers (toy hammers), and, their favorite, Fire Arrows, most of which look suspiciously like paper towel tubes.

Fiona, dressed for adventure:

"I'm ZELDA!" ...OK, never mind that Zelda is actually the princess you're supposed to be saving, and that the hero's name is actually Link. You can be Zelda.

I included this picture as a premonition of things to come... "I have conquered this living room. Now, off to break all the boy's hearts!"

Monday, June 02, 2008

M.C. Hammer: Men Playing with Fire

I've often joked that I am an artist who likes to play car mechanic on weekends. I'm sure that somewhere else, not terribly far away, there is a mechanic who spends his days off painting. So, what do you do if you spend five days a week managing systems for military avionics?

Well, if you're my friend Mike Carl, you build a forge in your garage, and hammer out knives.

Mike, being a ham. I convinced him to put the cup down so it wouldn't look like he was drinking while playing with fire.

This is a homemade forge, using firebrick, a small blower, and a casing built from a section of a torched-off oxygen tank. The remaining tank makes a lovely bell sound.

One iron in the fire.


Stop! Hammer Time! Mike says you don't have very long to work the metal once it's out of the fire — I'm sure that anvil absorbs a lot of heat — so you have to plan ahead, know what you plan to do, and, ahem, strike while the iron is hot.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

If She Washes Your Bike, Marry Her

Wash my bike? Pshaw. I have a team of cute girls in pink swimsuits to do that for me!

The average age of these hotties is 18.

There's a saying among motorcyclists: "If she washes your bike, marry her." Deborah trains Fiona in the proper technique...