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The CHA Diaries

It's really all in the preparation.

I wanted to wear jeans to the show and Kristi wanted to wear slacks. We discussed it on the phone before I left:

ME: But what about shoes? If we wear fancy pants (yes, I said fancy pants, and yes, I'm cool enough to pull it off) we'll have to wear fancy shoes.

KRISTI: Yes, I will wear heels.

ME: I'm frightened. And cold. So very cold. I see a light . . .

Not really.

Now I have a pair of low black mules that are comfy for all-day wear (and, interestingly, I ended up wearing them both days I was there) but CHA can test the comfiness of the comfiest of footwear, so I did what any reasonable woman would do in such a situation . . .

I went shopping.

ME: Hey John, check out my new comfy shoes for the show!

JOHN: You bought a pair of bedazzled Mary Jane Sketchers?

ME: Yep, aren't they cute?

I feel the need to point out that my husband used two impressively chick-like words in the above conversation. One was "bedazzled" and the other was "Mary Jane". (And let's not spend any time nitpicking that Mary Jane is actually two words, 'kay?) On the scale of "chickiness" Mary Jane is questionable because of its more manly connotations, but "bedazzled" ranks right up there with "control-top" or "exfoliate".

And I point this out only because it illustrates, once again, that John is a man of mystery that I still need to figure out. I did buy him a juicer, by the way. It was Karl's favorite thing in the world until last Saturday . . .

. . .but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I neglected to tell a story about my trip to the Netherlands. John, my juice-making bedazzler-knowing man of many layers, was accused of not existing. That's right. I was chastised for not featuring more photos of John in my layouts and projects. *I* wasn't in very many layouts either, but apparently that's not of concern. Probably because I'm a toad . . .

. . . but I'm getting ahead of myself again.

It was Saturday night in Eindhoven. It was Saturday early-afternoon in Colorado. The kids were at my parents' house and John was enjoying a kid-free weekend. (We won't speculate as to whether he was also enjoying a wife-free weekend.)

ME: Hey! It sounds loud there - where are you?

JOHN: I'm in a bar.

ME: Oh yeah? What's the occasion?

JOHN: Just killing time before my tattoo appointment.

Three words: MAN.OF.MYSTERY

Actually, I wasn't surprised. He'd been talking about it for a while. Apparently having a tattoo on just one shoulder is very "unbalanced". Or something.

So in honor of my fine friends from the Netherlands who feel proof-of-husband is in order, I offer a photo of John and his balanced shoulder art:


Mmmm -mmmm! Is it hot in here or is it just him?

Kind of amazing that he married a toad, huh?

I don't always feel like a toad. Just when I'm around Kristi. She is drop-dead gorgeous with her big green eyes and her long flowing blond hair. Walking a show with Kristi is an exercise in invisibility. Embrace your inner toad. BE the wallflower.

You know that situation where you're talking to a man and he drops his eyes to check out your cleavage? And perhaps you say "Hey, buddy, eyes are up HERE!" or something? You know what I mean, right? In my case, not from experience, but I saw something like it on TV. Anyway, Kristi is the "cleavage" in that scenario. She turns heads.

And that is why Benihana is my new favorite restaurant!

We went Monday night, fresh on the heels of a booth conversation in which I could have stood there with my finger up my nose or my hair on fire or maybe an Aborigine could have come screaming around the corner and hit me in the forehead with a blow dart and even while I collapsed to the floor in a fiery snotty quivering pool of lifelessness the man would have continued talking:

MEBK (Man Enchanted By Kristi): And you have FOUR kids? Impossible!

But all was made right, as all things often are, at Benihana. Ken, Kristi's husband, met us there for dinner. It's a Japanese restaurant where you sit with other people and they twirl knives and cook the food right at your table. After some soup and a salad the table chef (a man, and this is important) came out and made some delicious fried rice. We all got a little bowl of rice and then, because there was leftover rice on the grill, the chef came around and put a scoop on each of our plates.

Except Kristi's.

That's right! Out of 8 people, including 3 other women, Kristi was the only person skipped.

KRISTI: Hey! How come he didn't give me any extra rice?

ME: You're right! You're the only one who didn't get rice! Embrace your invisibility, toadface!

brrzzzzrrrrp (That's the Scrubs rewind sound)

I didn't actually say that, of course. What I actually said was:

ME: I think Ken paid the chef to ignore you. He wants me to feel better. Thanks, Ken!

KEN: I didn't pay the chef.

ME: Ix-nay on the onesty-hay - I was JOKING!

And then, while Kristi pouted and I gloated, Ken did a very sweet thing. He grabbed Kristi's bowl of rice and dumped a little bit on her plate.

Awwww. They're cute, those two.

Of course, it may have been cuter for him to offer some of his extra rice instead of just redistributing hers, but hey - it was a gesture.

But all my gloating came to a halt just a few minutes later, when the chef asked us how we wanted our meat cooked. He started with me. I had ordered Teriyaki Steak.

CHEF: How you want this cooked? Rare? Medium rare? Medium?

ME: Medium Well

He stared at me, but I met his gaze with confidence. I have a history, when dining with Ken and Kristi, of ordering things that end up being grossly undercooked for my comfort. I have come to believe that in the sushi-loving area of Southern California they think it's really hip for patrons to chase their food around the restaurant and stab it with a steak knife before eating it. Keeps them slim. Or something.

Begrudgingly accepting my freakish love of fully-cooked meat, he moved on to Kristi. Or, as I like to call her, RICELESS Kristi! Heh.

CHEF: How you want your fillet?

KRISTI: Medium Rare

CHEF: Thank goodness!!!

ME: Hey! I can HEAR you!

But he had moved on to Ken, who also gave an impressively bloody order, and I, once again, faded into obscurity.

Make that RICE-FILLED OBSCURITY! High five!

Now I know you want to hear about what Karl loves more than John's juicer, but this post is too long already. You might also want to hear some particulars about the show itself, but, again, I'm making you wait. Otherwise I would have titled the post "The CHA Diary".

Logic, so good at the logic!

RKQOTD (Emma: (eating her dinner the first night after I came back from Holland) Mom, I think you're a little bit better cook than Dad. Karl: I think she's A LOT better cook than Dad!)

No, I'M ridiculous!

Moxie was bursting at the seams with TV shows when I got home Tuesday night. Unfortunately, having not remembered to change the "2 episode limit" the first installment of American Idol had been deleted. *sob*

But it should be noted that I don't actually LIKE the early AI shows where people, the majority of whom I suspect are not "all there", embarrass themselves on national TV. I prefer the show when it gets to just the good singers.

Plus, embarrassing yourself nationally pales in comparison to embarrassing yourself internationally, I always say.

I saw a highlight from that first show where Simon said "You're ridiculous!" to an apparently less-than-talented geeky-looking warbler. At which point the geeky-looking warbler replied "No, YOU'RE ridiculous!" At which point I called out "No, I'M ridiculous!"

My first utterly ridiculous embarrassing moment overseas was on Saturday, when I instructed my entire class of 27 people to make something incorrectly. I had simply forgotten how to make my own project! Feeling the sweat rising, I tried not to panic as I said, somewhat lamely "But why doesn't it spin? Mine spins. Why doesn't it spin?" and feverishly went over the steps in my brain while an entire class of underwhelmed students looked on with concern. Agitte figured out a way to save all the pinwheels, which shows how very smart and talented she is. She should probably write a book or something. Oh wait! She did! Thanks, Agitte.

I did figure out what I did wrong, though. Sunday's class went better. Here's what we were making:


All of the papers are from Basic Grey's Blush line (plus one sheet of Fruitcake) and they worked just perfectly for a Seasons theme.

I did not mess up on the other class, other than grossly underestimating the time to complete it, but truly . . . what else is new?!


Now & Then uses KI Memories papers, Rusty Pickle chipboard, CI letters & ribbon and Basic Grey magnets.

As usual, the owners, staff and customers of Akke Fietje were wonderful. They've already invited me back for next January and I was extremely flattered to hear that four people have already called to sign up for a year from now. I'm huge in Europe! (Or at least that's what the tee-shirt says)

On Monday I was back in Amsterdam to teach a workshop for retailers at Scrapbookmate's new spacious warehouse and office. The weather was mostly lousy while I was there, including the day I landed, Thursday, which made international news because of the storm that ripped up trees and diverted planes to neighboring countries. My plane landed roughly, but safely, just before the storm turned deadly. The severe weather was over by that evening, but the cold, wet and wind remained. The retailers workshops were chilly, but no major teaching mistakes. Clap Clap!

Here's what I taught:


This one uses Paper Salon stamps and Making Memories Kraft Paper and embellishments. The paper lantern is a well-established card technique that I take no credit for, other than drafting an original template.

Now despite the cold weather and a jam-packed teaching schedule, I managed a few firsts on this trip. I finally got to ride a bike through Amsterdam! Geoff, who is the brother of the owner of the distributor (is that enough "of the's"?) was nice enough to be my tour guide. I wanted to watch the Saints game on Sunday, so he suggested we ride to a sports bar where there would be lots of other Americans. Now Geoff claims to have only lived in Amsterdam for a year, but I'm not sure anyone from the States can get that fearless on a bike in only one year. He was dodging around trains, cars, pedestrians, street poles like a world class skier in the giant slalom. I was huffing and puffing behind him, stopping at streets, waiting on trains, taking wide turns and resembling a spelunker with a faulty head light. (Similes. So good at the similes.)

But we made it!

ME: huff puff Geoff, how can you ride like that?! huff puff Weren't you worried about the cars when you darted out into the streets? gasp puff

GEOFF: Nah. I just take a quick look and go. They're not supposed to hit you.

ME: Oh, OK, so they're not supposed to hit you. How comforting. I can tell that to the nice doctor who sets my legs.

Sarcasm. So good at the sarcasm.

Now Geoff said that the sports bar would be a lot of fun because of the atmosphere. All those other fans screaming and yelling, etc. Of course, he didn't mention that they'd all be Bears fans. It seemed that the guy next to me was maybe a Saints fan, but he didn't do nearly enough yelling. And Geoff, who likes the Rams, refused to become a "bandwagon fan" as he called it, so I was on my own to cheer my team to a crushing defeat.

It could have been any sports bar in America except for a few differences, like the smell of pot, the game being called in Dutch on one of the bigscreen TV's, the sign that said you couldn't drink if you were under 16 years old, and the TV that was showing porn.

Yep, right over the bar were 4 TV's playing the following selections: NFC Championship, NFC Championship, Porn, NFC Championship.

And speaking of porn . . .

Segues. So good at the segues.

We had ridden by, but not through, the Red Light District on our way to the bar. In four other trips to Amsterdam I'd never been there, so I was curious. On my last night we walked down to get a closer look. I, rather foolishly, had not connected the name of the district with actual red lights. Duh.

But red lights there were, and a lot of them:


When we came up to the canal on the main drag I saw the buildings on the other side with barely-clad women in the windows.

ME: Are those mannequins?

GEOFF: Nope. They're real women sitting in the windows.

ME: Wild! They're in every window! Look at that! I should get a picture!

So I put my camera to my eye, zoomed out to get a wide panoramic view of the whole line of houses, and then noticed that the lights went out in the windows.

ME: (lowering the camera without taking any pictures) Huh. That's weird. They turned out the lights.

And then we noticed one of the window ladies shooting me the finger! (Apparently that is the same in Dutch as in English.)

ME: Oh.

GEOFF: Yeah, I don't think you're supposed to take their pictures.

ME: Why? Because they're modest?!!

GEOFF: Well you don't know - they might be secretaries during the day or something.

ME: Now you tell me.

At least the red glow of the lights disguised my embarrassed blush. I put my camera away and we scooted out of the area.

I only took a few more photos after the finger-flipping-incident and they were pretty blurry anyway. Amsterdam is very pretty at night.


My grand plan to stay up most of the night to get back on American time actually worked pretty well. It's only two days later and I feel nearly recovered!

Not knowing how I'd be feeling after the trip, I waited until the last possible moment to decide if I was going to CHA. I am. Booked my ticket this morning for a quick trip. I'll be at the show on Monday and Tuesday and would love to meet some of you crazy cats who are always nice enough to post comments on my blog. I won't be at a booth, so the best thing would be to tell me what booth you'll be at and then I'll track you down!

And to all my dear friends in the Netherlands - thanks again for a wonderful time! See you in June!

RKQOTD (Me: Karl, please try to have a good day at school today. It would really help me out. Karl: It would really help ME out, too!)

Da blog.

The floor of Chicago O'Hare airport is HARD! Equally hard is finding an electrical outlet. Harder still is finding one that works. So I'm sharing the one working electrical outlet in the entire C concourse with a nice man who took the only chair.

Maybe he's not so nice after all.


I am several gates away from where I need to be, though, so soon I'll have to wake up my buttocks and hop a flight to Amsterdam.

Bullet points shall have to suffice to answer all the unanswered questions:

  • The children have recovered from their malaise. Malaises? Does one pluralize that word? Is pluralize a word? They are puke-free and back at school. Joy!
  • It's Girl Scout cookie time again and once again I'm the cookie mom. Actually, I'm the TCM (Troop Cookie Manager). We're so much more than moms - we're trained cookie professionals. Anyway, if family is reading and you want to buy cookies from Emma, just call the house, since I'm not sure how often I can check my e-mail from Holland.
  • Kitchen John also recovered from his malaise and, consequently, so did the kitchen! They finished up last night, just in time for me to order a hasty pizza, since I hadn't started packing.
  • That should probably be "hastily ordered a pizza".
  • So the kitchen is 99.2% complete. Just a few minor items remain. Feast your eyes:


Oooh! Look at the time. I must fly.



Clara Barton was not a horse!

I debated sending them to school.

The fevers are gone but the hacking cough remains, and I wasn't sure about Emma's stomach, so I erred on the side of stay in bed a little longer. Er, caution.

I think it was a wise decision. Just moments ago I was in my bathroom fixing my face when I heard Emma say "Somebody help!"

I did not go to her aid.

See, it didn't sound like a real distress call. They were supposed to be setting up the Topple game and I assumed that she was having a hard time getting the board to balance on the base. Precarious positioning is the point, after all. (Alliteration. So good at the alliteration.) But shortly thereafter Karl came bounding up the stairs to find me. "Emma just threw up all over the counter," he explained.

She was surprisingly calm about the whole thing. I told her to stand still and not touch anything and luckily, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Karl's face as he turned to bolt up the stairs.

"NOT THAT WAY!" I cried, jutting out my arm to stop his progress. "Go towards the bathroom - RUN!"

But it was obvious he wouldn't make it, so I thought quickly and said "Here! Here on the counter!" and he upchucked a small amount immediately opposite Emma's. It's a large island that could easily accommodate a puking party of six or seven, I think. A puke-in kitchen, if you will.

EMMA: That's not very much! That's not throwing-up at all!

While I turned to suggest that the vomiting was NOT a competition, Karl decided that it was.


ME: OK, Karl, is your stomach empty? Just in case, run to the toilet and hang out there for a while. Emma, you go to the kitchen sink and wash your hands and face with soap.

EMMA: And YOU should probably clean up all that puke so it doesn't soak into the counters and ruin them.

That's when I realized that I may have gone a little overboard with my "let's take care of the pretty granite" speech.

EMMA: I think I should probably have a bowl in case I need to throw up again. You know, like how Daddy always gives me a bowl when I'm sick?

What's this? A couple of days with Daddy and HE'S the sickness expert?

ME: Well I've given you bowls before too, you know.

She must have seen the injured look on my face.

EMMA: Yes, you also give us bowls . . .

She should have stopped right there, but I guess she really  wanted me to feel better.

EMMA: . . .in fact, it's always you. Daddy never gives us bowls. It's only you. You give us bowls. Not Daddy . . .

She trailed off while I looked at her in amazement. Then, giving a little shrug and raising my chin, I took my puke-stained kitchen towels to the washer with dignity.

I sincerely hope that Emma does not inherit my ability to say stupid stuff. There's some expression about being better to be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt. I tend to remove the doubt. Doubtless. No doubt. Devoid of doubt. Doubt be gone. Out, out damn doubt!

For example . . .

Out in Oregon a small group of women had congregated in Aunt Connie's kitchen. It was me, my sister Julie, my cousin Angie, her mother Aunt Kathleen, and Aunt Connie. Aunt Kathleen gave Julie and me our copies of her Christmas letter which I opened but hadn't started reading yet.

AUNT CONNIE: I read recently that it's very fashionable to give your daughter a name that starts with a vowel, so Karen, Emma has a fashionable name!

ME: Oh yes, and it became even more fashionable a couple of years after she was born, when Rachel from Friends named her baby Emma. Luckily we were slightly ahead of the craze, so there haven't been too many Emma's in her grade.

ANGIE: I know what you mean! Zach (her 3-year-old) was excited that he was the only Zach in his class this year so he didn't have to be "Zach M."

CONNIE: I think Jacob is the most popular boy name right now.

ANGIE: (who recently had a second boy) Yes, we had considered Jacob but it was too popular.

KATHLEEN: I remember when Angie was born the popular girl names were Jennifer and Heather.

ME: (addressing Aunt Connie, who teaches kindergarten) I suppose you have a lot of the same names among your students, huh? Like a lot of Connors and such?

CONNIE: (pausing) Um, no. Not really.

There was a pause in everyone's conversation then. Obliviously, I assumed that it was a natural pause, so I ducked my head to start reading the Christmas letter and soon after, while I read, the group started talking of other things.

And that was about the time that I was being reminded of Angie's second son's name, since he was mentioned prominently in the Christmas letter by his proud grandparents.

But you already know his name, don't you? You had it figured out as soon as I said that rather unfortunate thing about names.

Out, out damn doubt!

His name is Connor.

Oh snap! My head whipped up from the letter and with cheeks burning I stole glances at everyone in the room. They were talking of other things. I went through the stages of embarrassment in the blink of an eye. Do I say anything? Do I apologize? (confusion) Did they hear me? (disbelief) Will bringing it up make things worse? (avoidance)  Maybe it wasn't that bad. (disbelief) It's not like I said "Connor" was an awful name or anything - just that it was popular. (rationalizing) Oh who am I kidding? It was an idiotic thing to say. (acceptance)

But I didn't say anything. I just slunk out of the room and hoped to see an alien.

(So that the Men in Black would have to zap our memories with their little pocket pens, obviously. Sheesh. If you have to explain everything it loses its edge!)

Angie, if you're reading, I apologize. I'm an idiot. It starts with a vowel, though, so at least I'm fashionable.

I generally provide enough blogworthy material just by living my life. I do plenty of really silly things and I say plenty of really silly things. I try not to beat up on my friends and family unless they were photographed in the 70's, at which point they are fair game.

And I hope that Mom doesn't mind that I poked fun of her jeans pajamas. Aunt Connie wrote a beautiful letter to my grandmother years ago and the pastor read it at the funeral. She wrote about all the things she was thankful for about Lorna, her mother-in-law. Mostly we all bawled like babies, but there were a few things, like "I've never seen anyone fold a plastic bag like you do" that gave us a chuckle. Grandma had her quirks, and those quirks were part of what made her special and unforgettable. On the occasions when I turn to my friends and family for blog-fodder, it is in that same vein of appreciation for the uniqueness that makes them so unforgettable and so dear to me.

Of course, there are other times that I must use my family as blog-fodder simply because they've said something blogworthy and I will burst if I can't use it.

Clara Barton was not a horse.

I was working on the crossword puzzle on the plane. Owen was sleeping in Julie's arms so she, having not much else to do, was glancing over my shoulder and giving answers on occasion.

One of the clues said "Clara Barton was one."

I did not know who Clara Barton was. Pardon my ignorance, because according to John, everyone knows Clara Barton.

Except me.

And Julie.

Because once I had "blank blank R S E" I called out "Clara Barton was a HORSE?"

JULIE: What?

ME: There's a clue that says "Clara Barton was one" and I've filled in RSE, so could it be that Clara Barton was a horse? How funny!

JULIE: Come to think of it . . . I think Clara Barton WAS a horse.

And so I filled it in. Shortly thereafter I solved the downward clue that required a "U" where the "O" was and then it hit me.

ME: Clara Barton was not a horse.

JULIE: What?

ME: Clara Barton was a NURSE!

JULIE: (laughing) Oh. Yeah, that would make more sense.

ME: (choking on laughter) You think? I can't believe you. "I think Clara Barton WAS a horse!" You had NO IDEA!

JULIE & ME: Laugh, chuckle, giggle, guffaw, snort, whisper "shhh, you'll wake up Owen!" laugh some more . . .

ME: (gasping for breath) You know this is going on my blog, right?

JULIE: (also gasping) Of course.

OWEN: Whaaaaaaaaa! (that's Baby for "Shut-up, already!")

And now I really should attend to the children. Kitchen John is a no-show, but he has a good excuse . . .

He's home throwing up.

Our house is like a gift that keeps on giving!

REQOTD (Emma, speaking aloud as she plays electronic 20 questions. Her word is "band-aid". 20Q: Would a basketball player use it? Emma: Yes! Especially if he got a boo-boo in a big game!)

Gogurt of the red variety. . .

. . .is red going down and red coming up.

And I know this because Emma made a valiant attempt to keep something down for the first time in a sickly three days and when she barfed up the Gogurt all over the bed . . .

. . . it was still red!

Huh. Go figure.

John had to stay home from work on Monday because Emma was sick and I was out in Oregon. It is a foregone conclusion that if I leave town something will occur to prevent John from being able to go to work. My neighbors used to joke that my absence brought on snow days, but now the snow days come whether I'm here or not, so that theory is blown.

Speaking of Oregon, the funeral was sad and beautiful. Grandma was a veteran so there was an honor guard, a flag on her casket, and Taps played hauntingly by a lone bugler at the cemetary. I saw relatives that I hadn't seen in over a decade.

On Tuesday we got up insanely early to head to the airport. So early, in fact, that Mom announced that she was going to sleep in her jeans. Julie suggested that she take off the jeans, lay them out by the bed, and plan for the extra 15 seconds that would be required to re-don them, but Mom would hear nothing of it.

And so we all stumbled to the rental van at 4 am - Mom looking perky after her extra 15 seconds of sleep - and headed to the airport. Hours later, when the sun finally came up, I gave John a call to see if Emma was better. The house phone went straight to voicemail. Unheard of! His cell phone went straight to voicemail. Heard of.

I would not take voicemail for an answer. I called Ev to see if her phone was working. It was.

I called Becky and asked her to look out her window to see if the van was in the driveway. She did. It was.

And so then I knew that Emma was still sick. Clever, huh?

John finally answered his cell phone and said, in one breath: "I can't talk long because the phones are out in the house and the internet is not working and my cell phone only has one bar left but you took the charger and Emma is still sick and I have a meeting in 45 minutes that I have to cancel and I'm leaving for a business trip tonight."

He sounded frazzled.

I was supposed to take a shuttle home since he would be at work, but he offered to come pick me up since he couldn't get any work done without internet or phone.

When the plane landed I called him again.

ME: Hey, we just landed. 30 minutes early!

JOHN: Well I'm still 30 minutes away. I had to take a detour by Karl's school.

ME: Karl's school? Why? Is he OK?

JOHN: He's OK. They called me to say that his glasses were loose and kept falling off his face.

ME: Yeah, he mentioned that on the phone this weekend. I told him I'd tighten them for him when I got home.

JOHN: It won't be necessary. They apparently fell off his face while he was using the bathroom . . . and the school has automatic flush toilets.

ME: WHAT?!!!

JOHN: He flushed his glasses down the toilet. They're gone.

See, now at this point I really felt like laughing at the random absurdity of it all, but John was speaking with a very "Get me to the nearest bell tower" edge in his voice so I restrained myself. He explained that he had to run Karl's spare pair of glasses out to the school, which is why he was still so far away.

JOHN: I can't talk. My cell phone is almost dead.

ME: Well there's a charger in the van, you know.

JOHN: Yes, I do know that. (edge, creepy edge in the voice) But, you see, it doesn't fit my phone.

ME: That's ridiculous. The charger at home fits both our phones so the van charger should fit both phones.

JOHN: You'd think so. Anyway, I can't guarantee that I'll be there at all. This day has been one catastrophe after another, so something will probably happen.

ME: OK, well I'll walk Julie and Owen to their gate and then I'll meet you outside baggage claim. Call when you get close.

He didn't call. His phone went dead right after we hung up. He was convinced that he would have to borrow a cell phone to find me, but in one of those "things are looking up" kinds of coincidences, I stepped out of the door just as he came around the corner and the pick-up couldn't have gone more smoothly.

And I jammed that charger into his phone, so that made TWO decent things in his day.

And Emma, who hadn't eaten in two days, was agreeable to eating drive-thru Wendys, so that made THREE things.

Emma puked up her entire lunch just before we pulled up to John's office. (We'll have to downgrade to TWO decent things)

So John jumped merrily out of the van, grabbed his overnight bag, gave Emma a pat on the head, retrieved his nearly-charged phone, brushed my lips with his, tried to look serious as he claimed to hate leaving me with a sick kid covered in puke, and practically SKIPPED off into his office building.

We got home just in time to get Emma into a bath before Karl's bus pulled up and he staggered off, unable to walk straight and crying tears that turned to steam. He was burning up with fever.


I've been washing my hands like a mad woman all day. Two sick kids. Bleh.

More later!

RKQOTD (Me: I'm getting you some Gatorade since you're sick. Karl: Mom, Gatorade isn't just for colds and fevers . . . it's also a cool and refreshing drink!)

Warmest hugs and kissy regards . . .SINCERELY!

So I'm reading the newspaper yesterday and there's an article about e-mail etiquette and sign-offs. Apparently people read quite a lot into the sign-offs. Using something like "Warmest" or "Warmest regards" is (naturally) very warm and fuzzy. Using a truncated "Best" is considered abrupt and can signal aloofness, especially in business e-mails. Using something like "Hugs & Kisses" or "XOXO" is considered by some to be TOO familiar, at least for business, but even that was debatable.

What was NOT up for debate, however, was one particular sign-off that was universally condemned . . .


OK, not really. I just put that in there to demonstrate my typical "sign-off", which is no sign-off at all. I just stop typing and put a K to signify that it came from me. I consider the "K" to be friendly, hip and, dare I say it . . . rather jaunty? Plus it communicates a warm familiarity with the reader, as if to say; "Oh we're friends - please call me K!"

(Nobody ACTUALLY calls me K, mind you, but it's my e-handle)

But apparently a lack of sign-off is a huge e-no-no. It seems abrupt, lazy and patently unfriendly. I came to worry that my jaunty K was no match for the injuries sustained by the emptiness just one line above it.

And so, if you've received an e-mail from me in the past two days, you may have noticed my new friendly sign-offs. I've been experimenting with Warmest, Warmest regards, Stay warm, All the best, and Warmest snow-free days. (It's snowing again today and might I just say: ENOUGH! ENOUGH ALREADY!)

I'm thinking about adopting Kindest, or Kindly, or Would you like fries with that?

Or perhaps I should go more chic, like Ciao! or Toodles! or See you on the flip side of the pancake!

(Everyone says "see you on the flip side", but I never really know what they're flipping. I've chosen pancakes. Maybe it will catch on.)

I wish there was a word for forming your fingers into guns, flicking your wrists to point them at someone, winking and making that clicky-click sound like you're asking your horse to giddy-up. Is there a word for that?

Sincerely in the kindest of best ways,


PS Would you like fries with that?



If you're thinking about remodeling your kitchen . . .


Just don't.

Or do, but move somewhere else in the meantime. The Fire Swamp, for instance. You could build a summer home there. I hear the trees are actually quite lovely.

We are so close to finishing this project that I can TASTE victory! Not because I've cooked it, mind you, but just figuratively speaking. Raw victory. Maybe dipped in ranch sauce.

Anywho . . .

Today we saw real progress. The dishwasher is installed! It fit! The garbage disposal is in. It works! The slide-in range is in and the elecric oven works, but the gas still needs to be hooked up for the burners. 

And then there's the microwave.

Behold this lovely piece of Sharp engineering:


This is the much-anticipated Microwave Drawer that we installed in the island. Remember the whole debate about "microwave high" or "microwave low"? John didn't want to stoop and I didn't want the kids climbing on counters. So we splurged on this fancy drawer that you load and unload from the top:


Yes, yes, I'm very impressed that you noticed the two hour difference in photography here. My original "closed" shot was blurry so I took another. You're very smart. Shut-up. (The Princess Bride)

The microwave is lovely. It operates very quietly. It popped our after-school snack very efficiently. It even says hello on the display and "enjoy your microwave drawer" when you first plug it in.

But . . .

K-JOHN: I still can't believe that you didn't bake us a cake last night!

ME: But I told you . . . the oven had a coating smell that needed to be burnt off. By the time I ran it for an hour it was too late for baking.

LEO: I really wanted some cake.

ME: Oh OK, you big babies, I'll just bake you one in the microwave. You see, I have this marvelous piece of Pampered Chef geniusry . . . the Rice Cooker (choir of angels). You put in a cup of rice and two cups of water and microwave on high for 12 minutes and you get perfect rice every time!

LEO: But I don't want any rice.

ME: Wait for it. The Rice Cooker (choir of angels) also cooks cake! I can put a cake mix in it. You can even add the frosting and it will be like a lava cake!

K-JOHN: No kidding?

ME: I don't kid about my Rice Cooker (choir of angels). In fact, I gave it a place of honor right here in the cabinet above the sink since I use it so much. (fetches the Rice Cooker choir of angels)

K-JOHN: Is that thing going to fit in your microwave?

ME: Uh . . .


ME: Whaaaaaaaaaa!

K-JOHN: I guess you'll just have to throw that thing away.

ME: My Rice Cooker (choir of angels)? sniff

K-JOHN: No, I meant the microwave!

I called Evelyn to tell her the sad, sad news. She, too, has the Pampered Chef Rice Cooker (choir of angels) and could understand my pain. She's a good friend, though. She didn't diss my microwave at all, telling me that I could just switch to boil-in-a-bag rice and my life was still worth living.

Thank you, Ev.

Speaking of Ev, a bunch of girls are going out tonight to celebrate her birthday, which was the day after Christmas but we've had two blizzards so this is the first night that works, so I have to fly like the wind, Bullseye.

I shall raise my margarita glass in honor of the Rice Cooker (choir of angels) and then I will find a good home for it

REQOTD (Me: Hey kids, let's get a cake mix and then whenever the oven is hooked up we'll bake a cake to celebrate! Emma: But we didn't throw a party for the refrigerator or the dishwasher.)

On Kitchens and Blizzards

Thanks for all the well-wishes on the loss of my grandmother. Surprisingly, I'm a bit tongue-tied on the subject (I know - weird!) so I think I'll just talk of lighter subjects.

Like kitchens and blizzards.

Now technically the second storm wasn't a blizzard because we didn't get the same intensity of wind. It was just a nasty dumping of snow on top of the crusty snowpack from the week before and this resulted in . . . what's that word again . . . oh yes -  A MESS!


These are the streets outside my house. That particularly nasty patch swallowed many a car and even a Jeep last Friday. We are on a side street that is not considered a commuter or bus route, so the plows simply don't come. Ever. We are on our own to dig out, pack down, camp in, whatever.

They haven't collected the trash in two weeks.


Considering the state of the weather (and our county was declared a disaster area, btw), I received a miraculous phone call from the granite installers on Friday.

KEITH: Uh, yes, I hear that you have some pink flamingos infesting your palm trees. I feel that we simply MUST try to get out there to remove them!

ME: That would be wonderful! Just don't trip over my sand castle.

Banter. So good at the banter.

And, true to their word, 4 burly guys showed up with some honkin' slabs of granite and proceeded to turn my kitchen from this:


to this:


Karl is checking out the cavernous sink. I can hide SO.MANY.DIRTY.DISHES in there! Whoo hoo!

We ate our first meal at the island Friday night. A lovely microwaved pork roast and rice, and swore that we would never again eat on that rickety card table in the basement.

Things just kept getting better. Although it was a holiday weekend, Kitchen John showed up on Saturday to hook up the faucet and, if he had time, the dishwasher. It finally stopped snowing about mid-afternoon and, wonder of wonders, the sun came out!

Hearing that the roads were navigable, Emma and I decided to escape to Lowes for a while. We had been working on taking down the Christmas tree and decorations and figured that one of those big plastic bins to hold the tree was an immediate need. (Actually, we just had cabin fever, but let's go with the first one)

There wasn't anything particularly special about the outing, other than when I almost hit a woman with my automatic van hatch door, but the purpose for mentioning it is to explain that we were gone for a couple of hours and had no idea what was transpiring in the kitchen.

When we got back we saw that the dishwasher had been brought in and parked in the refrigerator spot.

K-JOHN: I won't be able to hook up the dishwasher because I need a longer water line, but I did get the faucet hooked up.

ME: No more washing dishes in the bathroom sink? Bless you! Bless you!

So K-John left and we ate meals at that gorgeous island and hid (er, washed) dishes in that cavernous sink for the rest of the year. (See what I did there?)

As of this morning the kitchen looks like this:


The microwave is just temporary. The new one is being delivered tomorrow and will be installed in the island across from the fridge.

Here's a closer look at the granite:Kitch5_1

Isn't it pretty?!!!

I had hoped that the contractor would be back today to finish installing appliances, but I got a phone call from Ed, the owner.

ED: Hey Karen - got your message. We'll be there in the morning. We really need today to regroup from the holidays and the storms.

KAREN: OK, no problem. Can you stick with it, though? Can you give me all three days of this week and have this thing wrapped by Friday? I have to leave Saturday to go to a funeral and I won't be home until Tuesday.

ED: Yes, that's our plan. We'll try to get everything done by Friday. There might just be a few loose ends after that. I know we have to replace a couple of doors. Oh, and John told me about the dishwasher problem - that we had a little mess-up there. We may have to shave some stiles to get it in.

ME: Huh? I thought the dishwasher wasn't hooked up because the water line wasn't long enough. What's this about it not fitting?

ED: (backpedaling furiously) Uh, oh yeah. Maybe that was it. The water line. Yeah, that was it. Now I remember.

Now let me just interrupt Ed for a second. Is he REALLY going to try to pass that off? Does he REALLY think that I will believe that he mistook a "waterline length" issue (easy fix) for an "opening width" issue? (not so easy fix)

I had my tape measure out lickety split!

ME: OK, I'm measuring it now. It looks like you're an eighth of an inch shy of 24". Is the dishwasher really that tight? Let me measure it . . . ok, it looks like you've got a 1/16" discrepancy here.

ED: (in one long breath) OK, well maybe John didn't know that we can often squeeze them in we'll figure something out tomorrow bye.

Unbelievable! I hate it when people think I'm stupid.

I'm sure the dishwasher will fit. They'll figure out something. As I discovered when installing the cabinet hardware - 1/16" is a fixable problem. Which reminds me of a joke:

Question: How many engineers does it take to install 29 cabinet handles and drawer pulls?

Answer: What are you talking about? That's not my dog!

(If you've ever seen VeggieTales Larry's Wonderful World of Auto-Tainment that will make a slight amount of sense.)

In any case, it took DAYS to get those pulls installed. I measured, re-measured, shot a laser, measured again, tapped a starter hole, measured once more, re-measured the pulls themselves to make sure the holes hadn't moved, said a little prayer, and drilled. All that measuring paid off, though. They are all very straight, very level, very centered and very in-line with each other.

Clap. Clap. Clap.

I don't make New Years Resolutions. As a rule, that is. I don't limit my resolutions to just New Years. I resolve to do stuff all the time. I rarely succeed, but I'm tremendously good at resolving.

However, in the interest of light and lively conversation, I asked my husband yesterday if he'd made any New Years Resolutions.

JOHN: Just a few. I'd like to be more patient with the kids and yell less. I'd like to meditate more . . .or . . . at all . . .

Let me just interrupt John here for a second. He is a mysterious man at times. Definitely there's a mother-earth spiritual side to him, but it doesn't often show. My sister Julie drew his name for Christmas and asked me for ideas. I was out shopping with John one day and he mentioned that he'd like a v-neck sweater or a meditation CD. So as not to forget, I immediately texted Julie the ideas, including a picture of the sweater he was looking at.

A few minutes later he bought the sweater, meaning she was down to the meditation CD which she apparently thought was a joke.

TXT FROM KAREN: Forget sweater. He wants meditation CD.

TXT FROM JULIE: And a fruitcake?

TXT FROM KAREN: Not a joke. Repeat. Not a joke. Really wants CD.

She called me to confirm that it wasn't a joke, said she'd look around for a CD and would he, perhaps, enjoy the pan flute? (That really WAS a joke!)

In the end she made him a book of quotes- very meditation-ey - and gave him an iTunes gift card so he can shop for his own CD.

Which brings us back to where we were, before I so rudely interrupted the story for another story.

JOHN: . . . or at all. And . . .

ME: There's more?

JOHN: I think I want to get a juicer.

I'm not sure that buying a juicer qualifies as a resolution unless it's tied into something like eating healthier or drinking more juice, but in any case, it was one of those classic unexpected comments that gave me pause to consider how many things I still have to discover about John. And it solidified my first resolution:

I resolve to buy the man a juicer.

Yesterday Ev and I were out shopping and I told her about the conversation. "Does he really drink that much juice?" she asked. "No," I admitted, "But maybe that's just because he doesn't have a juicer!"

Logic. So good at the logic.

As for the yelling, the kids are particularly bad about yelling and fighting with each other. Not all the time, mind you, but enough to make John construct a resolution around it. He called a family meeting in the kitchen:

JOHN: There is too much yelling in this house, so we are going to have a "Yell Jar". Anyone who raises their voice in anger will have to put a quarter in the jar.

ME: That's right. You two need to learn to work out your differences without shouting. We should always use calm voices with each other. You wouldn't yell at a classmate if they bothered you, would you Emma?

EMMA: (solemnly) NO!

ME: Well then why would you yell at your brother, whom you love?

She had no reply. I think she was debating about the "love" part more than the yelling part.

KARL: What will we do with all the money that's in the jar at the end of the year?

JOHN: Go to the mov. . .

ME: (simultaneously) Give it to charity.

JOHN: . . ies.

Pause while John and Karen look at each other. John somewhat sheepishly.

ME: I don't think we should be rewarded for yelling. We should give the money to someone less fortunate.

KARL: Like the movie people?

ME: No. I don't think the movie theater counts as a charity.

JOHN: All I know is, it's going to be a good year for the poor!

So far there's about a dollar in the jar. Emma had to drop the first quarter. A little while later they fought over whose turn it was on the computer and Karl was called up to drop a quarter.

ME: Karl, you yelled at your sister instead of asking her nicely. Go get a quarter for the jar.

KARL: I think I'll just get two quarters for good measure.

All I know is, it's going to be a good year for the poor!

RKQOTD (Karl: This new Hot Wheels radar gun can be set to "miles per hour" or "kilometers per hour". I think it should be pronounced "kill-AH-meters per hour" and not "KILL-o-meters per hour". KILL-o-meters sounds like a meter that kills people.)



My grandmother, Lorna Madsen, passed away on Saturday, December 30th, 2006. She was 83 years old.

The doctors gave her two to six weeks to live. She lasted seven. If I were to ever publish a dictionary I would put Grandma's picture under "Strength". She was a tough lady, and I'll miss her.

I'll paste in a couple of Grandma layouts from over the years.

Grandmas_legacypsd Grandmas_legacy_journaling

A_woman_of_warpsd A_woman_of_war_journaling

Rest in peace, Grandma.