On Vertical Challenges pt 2, or Laundry Day

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

Before I get tarred and feathered by every short person I know, I did get my sister’s permission before I drew this one (which is not to say she has approved the final product but… eh, close enough).

Also, blame writing credit has to be shared with my boy, who is very tall and has arms like a monkey, and finds my inability to reach things hilarious.


On Learning Experiences

Let me preface this story by saying that I hate balloons…

Let me preface this story by saying that I hate balloons.  I hate them with a violence that most would consider wholly unreasonable.  I tend to threaten bodily harm to anyone who introduces large numbers of balloons into my environment.

Balloons make noises.  They make that straining, stretchy noise when blown up, they make that nails-on-chalkboard scratching noise when rubbed, and they pop.  The popping is particularly upsetting.

That said, I was checking out at the grocery store today when a small child (who could not have been more than two) at the next register popped his balloon.

I flinched.  The cavernous store with its vast concrete floors amplified the sound such that it more resembled a gunshot than a measly little rubber sack rapidly losing structural integrity and deflating.  That is to say, it was really freakishly loud.

Normally, my next reaction would be something borne of extreme agitation; yelling obscenities if in the company of friends, giving the stink eye to strangers.  But I’m on such a cute-baby-high from the latest set of pictures from my brother, and the mother was so mortified, and the kid looked so bewildered with popped balloon bits in one hand and his mother’s keys in the other… I just couldn’t help but smile.

The mother started frantically apologizing to anyone within earshot, and then turned to the kid.

“Why did you do that?”

I smiled and responded, “Because you gave him something shiny!”

Obviously, he felt an innate desire to test what happens when Material A (shiny key) was applied to Material B (bright red balloon), andgot some very conclusive results.  More importantly, he learned something from his experiment, and I suggested as much to his mother as he vehemently turned down a shiny new blue balloon offered by an employee.

…and even more importantly, I now have one more soldier in my war against those bad, evil, noise-making balloons.

It’s nice to have useful skills!

So about five lifetimes ago when I was in middle school and still planned on being an engineer, I took a robotics class as part of Duke’s Talent Identification Program, otherwise known as Nerd Camp.  I had my first taste of programming and playing with serious power tools, and I learned to solder.  I still have the soldering iron and even purchased some non-lead solder thinking I’d use it for jewelry-making, but just haven’t had the wherewithal to try any of that seriously.

So when the boy’s car remotes both pooped out on him because the soldering holding the batteries in place gave out, I happily loaned him the soldering iron and all the appropriate fixin’s so he could repair the silly things.

This was at least a month ago.

Today, I finally gave up and fixed the damned things myself.  I have to say, it felt immensely rewarding and somewhat empowering to actually put the crafting compulsion to practical use.  It was really great to run outside, push a button and see the car halfway across the parking lot flash its lights at me to say, “Hooray!  You made it all better!”

The experience was particularly entertaining, because while I was playing with the electronics, he was the one slaving over a hot stove, concocting baked salmon that was absolutely to die for, with rice pilaf and green beans, and an outstanding Argentinian Malbec.  (As nice as I’m sure it will be to have functioning remotes again, I think I got the better deal from that particular exchange.)

Happy Tube o’ Meat Day!

There are few things in this world more pleasant than opening the oven and being enveloped in a cloud of garlic-gas.  (Unless you’re my mother, in which case that is apparently a very unpleasant thing.)

I had a pound of ground beef – a Tube o’ Meat, as it were – wasting away in my freezer.  I bought it planning to… I’m not sure what I was planning, other than to up my intake of iron for a change.

Anyway, I decided it was time to cook it tonight, so I did.  I got it good and thoroughly browned in my trusty non-stick skillet, then sectioned off enough for two small shepherd’s pies and the rest went into a nice big pot for some slow-cooked spaghetti sauce.

The shepherds pie is very loosely based on a recipe from one of my ancient Betty Crocker’s New [haha] Dinner for Two books and some of the recipes from foodnetwork.com:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

1 potato
1 tbs (-ish) butter
heavy cream
white pepper
garlic powder
1/2 lb (-ish) ground beef
Worcestershire sauce
ground black pepper
beef broth
marsala cooking wine
chopped onions
green peas

Optional seasonings: marjoram, oregano, whatever makes you happy

Cut potato into several chunks and boil until very soft.  Drain off the water, mash the potato with butter and a dash of heavy cream until very smooth.  Mix in white pepper and garlic powder to taste.

Brown ground beef.  Add garlic, onions, and peas.  Drown in beef broth and Worcestershire sauce with a splash of marsala cooking wine.  Season to taste with liberal quantities of ground black pepper and your standard Italian herbs.  Keep cooking a few more minutes, until the liquid ingredients have boiled down a little.

Line bottom of baking dish(es) with ground beef mixture.

Daub mashed potatoes over the top.  Don’t smooth out all the little peaks on top – that’s the part that browns!  Pour a little more beef broth over it to be sure nothing dries out.

Bake for 30 minutes or until potatoes begin to brown.

Handle with extreme care when removing from the oven and let it cool!


I like using the little baking dishes because I can eat one pie tonight and slap a cover over the second, refrigerate, and reheat for a second meal later in the week.

Now for that spaghetti sauce:

(same idea as the lasagna sauce, just with beef)

1/2 lb (ish) ground beef
1 large can diced tomatoes
diced onion
marsala cooking wine
half the contents of your spice cabinet (within reason)

Brown the beef.  Add liberal quantities of cooking wine, garlic, onion, and all your favorite spices.  This particular batch contains the following:

crushed red pepper
white pepper

Oh yeah, and – uh – some diced tomatoes.  Y’know… for a splash of color.

Let simmer on very low heat for as long as you can, stirring occasionally just to be sure nothing is burning to the bottom.  If it starts drying out, add beef broth (or more cooking wine).  Throw in an additional can of tomato paste for thicker sauce.

I fail!

I’ve been taking an improv class with the boy on our weekends together.  One of the very first concepts we covered was learning to fail.  Get out there.  Try something.  Don’t be afraid to fail if you have to.  When this happens in class, you yell, “I fail!” and take a great big bow, and then everyone else applauds and is generally supportive.

That said…

“I fail!”

Not only did I not manage to complete my four projects last week (day job-type things came up – I know, boo hiss), but I took the bag of supplies and projects in various stages of completion with me to work on over the weekend, and then proceeded to leave it all at the boy’s apartment.  I told him he is more than welcome to finish the last one for me, but he didn’t seem to be up to the challenge.

Take a bow!

So instead of showing off my beautiful amigurumi critters, I offer you…

…the aluminum foil origami gibbon I just made at Freebirds, after being struck by a mighty hankerin’ for a burrito as big as my forearm and loaded up with everything that is bad for me.

…now everyone else applauds?

Parting is Such Sweet… aww hell

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I realize that the retirement was planned at least two years ago, and that I moved away almost a full year ago, and that I have not only come to terms with Mom being in the mountains already, but relish the excuse to hang out and get away from the world, and try to get up to their place as often as I can afford.  Logically, there is absolutely no excuse for getting all choked up over Dad finally moving out of the state, but I’ve been dwelling on it all week.  I’m just a big baby.

Seriously, I cried a little over leaving the house.

I freaking bawled at Toy Story 3.

I promise I will bring the funny next week.

No, really.  I promise.  There’s like… a whole stack of half-finished funny sitting on my hard drive, right now.


…or I’m officially giving up on the “On X” title structure, because it is not all that clever and unnecessarily limiting.

Four-day work weeks tend to get me especially energized, so I’m going to try something rather foolish:

Four Projects in Four Days!

Why?  Pick your favorite excuse…

  • I want to feel productive for once and could use a challenge to break out of the summer doldrums.
  • I have several projects I’ve promised people that I’ve been putting off (some for 24 hours, some for nearly 2 years).
  • I spent the holiday weekend helping Dad pack up for the long-awaited post-retirement move to NC, so I have a stack of boxes of stuff I brought back that I’m feeling far too lazy to unpack this week.

I have four amigurumi(-ish) projects that I should be able to complete in a single sitting.  If all goes well, I’ll be able to include them in what is likely to be an epic post office run on Saturday morning.

And of course, there should also be a completed comic posted at midnight Friday.  (For those who keep track of such things, that will be my standing comic-posting target.  I’m going for the Saturday-morning-cartoon effect.)