I Scream, You Scream…(349th new thing).

December 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Flashback: Blizzard of 1993, Lawrenceville, GA. Recently turned twelve year old Laura is officially snowed in with her family and friend who had the unfortunate experience of spending the night before the snow came and was thus stranded for three days. That’s a long time for a twelve year old. Laura, in her food experimentation phase, decides to make ice cream from the drifts of snow piled on the back deck. Previous exploits include microwaving bacon on a metal strainer (“sparks!”) and mixing flour and water together and nuking until solidified (“bread!”). Our heroine grabs a sugar cone from the pantry, an ice cream scoop from the drawer and heads into the frigid afternoon to scoop her some (non-yellow) snow. Then she flavors her ice scream/snow cone with vanilla extract. Half a bottle’s worth seemed like a good amount. Because who doesn’t love vanilla ice cream? Needless to say, the experiment was another culinary failure.

Now move forward to Day Three Hundred Forty-Nine when Laura once again sets out to make some ice cream. She finds a recipe online for an easy shake ‘n freeze treat. A large and small freezer bag, one filled with ice and salt, the other with heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla, and the new ice cream experiment begins. In a video montage, Outkast’s “Hey Ya” would be stuck on the “Shake it” refrain as Laura furiously jiggles the bag within a bag for several minutes. Two sore arms and five mental sing-a-longs of “Shake it like a Polaroid Picture” later, the cream and sugar and vanilla mixture turn to a state between a liquid and a solid.

The bag of slush goes into the freezer for an hour or so and when it comes out….ICE CREAM!

picstitch

The texture is more like frozen yogurt, but the taste is pure yum. Commence further culinary experimentation!

Not K2 Bound (348th new thing).

December 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

On Day Three Hundred Forty-Eight, Patrick and I joined friends Jonathan and Jess for a bit of indoor rock climbing at Wall Crawlers. The Js were seasoned scramblers, Patrick had joined them once before a few weeks earlier, but this was my first time scaling anything, unless you count Stone Mountain, which you shouldn’t.

Wall Crawlers Everywhere!

Wall Crawlers Everywhere!

We began our adventure by renting fiercely uncomfortable shoes. I felt like one of the title characters in the Roald Dahl classic, “The Witches.” You know, square toes fitting into pointy shoes? Except that these forced my toes to curl downward with no wiggle room. I was sure the footwear would be great for adhering to the knobby protrusions out of the fake rock wall, but were hell for walking around in a normal fashion.

Balancing Act

Balancing Act

Once the four of had shoed and harnessed up (more comfortable than the zip line harness), we headed over to the first easy wall we would climb. Patrick went first, being experienced and all, and so Jonathan could show me how the harness connected to the safety rope and carabiner. There was a looping process to create a fancy figure eight (sorry for the vague descriptions, rock climbers and knot hounds) that I managed to duplicate, but I was never the anchor on the ground for anyone else. I wouldn’t trust me either.

First Time at the Top

First Time at the Top

After Patrick had had his run up the first wall, it was my turn. I failed my first attempt, but finally managed to touch the bar at the peak on my third try. I felt pretty good about that. Then came the rapelling part, where I imagined myself in a Mission Impossible style descent, bouncing feet first onto the wall and jumping in great arcs. Instead I was slowly being lowered, the only action my feet were accomplishing, in combination with my hands, was keeping me from bopping into the wall. It was probably all they were good for anyway, as sore as I already felt after my first full climb.

More Experienced

More Experienced

Jonathan and Jess took their turns next, opting for far more advanced maneuvers than either Patrick or myself. Jess straight up did the splits across one wall…in jeans. Jeans! Whereas my only goal was to touch the bar at the top of the wall, the pair of them restricted themselves by only grabbing certain colors of hand and footholds, sometimes moving horizontally or diagonally in their quest.

Finally my aching limbs quieted enough for me to try another wall. This one seemed a little more difficult as is sloped toward us slightly at the top. I’d really have to hold on. I even have a video that Patrick shot:

While my form wasn’t perfect, I think I did a damned good job making it up the wall. My favorite moments were when my left foot had only the wall as a foothold around the 1:00 mark and at 1:40 when I took a blind leap at a handhold. Looking back, those were the two most frightening and exhilarating moments of the day.

And then Patrick went up the same route. Spoiler Alert: I was much faster 🙂

Our afternoon ended with a trip to the bouldering wall, an area that our gracious hosts enjoy the most. There are no harnesses or safety ropes in this area, but instead a six to ten foot cave-like wall wraps around an area with a thickly padded floor. Numbered flags waved from a few of the holds. My arms had turned to jelly from pulling myself up into the air, but Patrick managed to hang on for a little while.

Jess Bouldering

Jess Bouldering

Then Jonathan and Jess played their number game on the boulders. Beginning with the hold marked with a “1,” Jess moved horizontally around the wall, her hand only grasping the number that came next. After she made it to about twenty, she dropped down and Jonathan took over for the next twenty or so. They made it further than they had before, past “100.” I was super impressed; I could barely even use my arms to pick myself off the ground. New Goal before turning 31: Develop Muscles.

Cards for Business (347th new thing).

December 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

With less than twenty days remaining until my 30th birthday, I decided to try a new approach in promoting this project. I would make business cards to hand out to friends, family, and randoms on the street. And that is exactly what I did on Day Three Hundred Forty-Seven (apart from the random distribution).

I’ve never professed to be a designer of any kind, especially not a graphic designer. I like to take pictures, and I like to make things, physical validations of time spent and not wasted. But actually designing something to represent myself and what I was trying to accomplish in a year? That was difficult. I thought about using the All Blacks logo I made many “days” ago, but that didn’t really fit me. What about a caricature? A simple design? Use the photo of a stapled telephone pole at the top of this page? None of it fit.

So finally I turned to my collection of Dover Publishing images. I figured a cute vintage image paired with my name, email, and website would work.

bness_card_template

Eh. Not everything I did this year was awesome.

(Assistant) House Manager (346th new thing).

December 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

When Day Three Hundred Forty-Six rolled around, I was about half way through my first eight-week improvisational comedy class. I had seen a few shows performed by Automatic Improv at Relapse Theatre, but that day would be the first time I worked one. I signed up to be “Assistant House Manager.”

I met John (who was acting as “House Manager”) a little after 7 to set up for the 8 PM show. Our duties included putting out enough chairs and arranging them, adding strips of paper and mini golf pencils to each seat encouraging people to join Automatic’s mailing list, and finally to guide patrons to their seats, filling up the front row first. It was not rocket science.

I managed to convince a couple groups of women to occupy the chairs closest to the stage. “No, you won’t be picked on,” I assured them. “It really is the best seat in the house.” Which are both mostly true statements. I even talked about classes with one woman who seemed genuinely interested in taking lessons. Points for Laura.

I shut the doors when the show was to begin and stayed to watch that evening’s show. After the show I performed all those tasks in reverse: Open doors, collect scraps of paper and baby pencils, put chairs away. I ruled this simple job. I couldn’t wait until it was our time on the stage.

Now Relapse Theatre is closed, and there may not be any more shows at which to House Manage or perform. However, there is still a chance to get the theatre’s doors open. Donate here to help.

Andre’s Fried Chicken (345th new thing).

December 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

There’s nothing that screams southern cooking like fried chicken, and over the past year I have tried a variety of the dish, from Popeye’s fast food to LeRoy’s lard cooked version. To complete the trifecta my friend Andre came over to my house on Day Three Hundred Forty-Five to teach me how to make my own fried chicken.

We began with a defrosted chicken. Andre graciously separated the bird into friable parts. Break the breastbone and hack at the body. It wasn’t the most enticing sight, but Dre’s skill with the knife proved efficient and quick.

Shake 'n Bake has nothing on this fried chicken.

Shake ‘n Bake has nothing on this fried chicken.

I grabbed a plastic freezer bag and per Dre’s instructions dumped a whole bunch of flour into it. Maybe like four cups. The mark of a true chef, my friend measures by eyeball and taste. I added some salt, then some more, and more still. A few quick turns of the pepper mill next. Then the garlic powder and Tony’s seasoning (Andre hails from the fair city of New Orleans). And more Tony’s because I apparently have a light hand with the seasoning. It’s my English heritage and love of bland food, says Dre. So we didn’t put as much Tony’s in the mix as he would normally. We followed up the coating with a healthy amount of dried thyme and…more Tony’s.

We coated the first batch of chicken pieces in the seasoned flour while the oil heated in the pan. It was actually a combination of vegetable oil and Crisco. The vegetable oil was a small bottle to begin with and I had used half over the year making various dishes that weren’t risotto. The Crisco was a throwback to some pie I made at some point. Together they merged in the pot to just be enough to fry some bird.

Before and After.

Before and After.

Once the oil temperature reached whatever it is supposed to be (Dre eyeballed it), we gently set a few pieces of meat into the pan with a sizzle. Little rivulets of blood oozed into the liquid. Once that subsided, I turned the pieces over with a pair of tongs. After ten minutes or so, Dre determined that they were done. I picked them out of the oil and set the pieces onto a paper towel draped plate to drain. Then we repeated the process until all of the chicken parts were floured, fried and drained.

Perfect Southern Deliciousness.

Perfect Southern Deliciousness.

We supplemented our meal with some Andre-approved smashed potatoes and cornbread. And it was delicious! The skin was crispy and flavorful, the meat moist and tasty. Sorry, Days 87 and 116, Dre’s fried chicken trumps yours. And I did it myself (or at least mostly solo).

Knitting with Betty (344th new thing).

December 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

I bought a deal for half off a BYOB knitting class. I didn’t bring any booze, but on Day Three Hundred Forty-Four I redeemed the voucher for a one-on-one session at Yarning for Ewe. Love those pun names.

I walked in and immediately met Betty, the middle aged Indian owner of the shop and my teacher. It was to be a class of one. She let me choose a yarn and called to her husband behind the counter to grab a pair of nine inch number seven needles. I had thought maybe I had knitted earlier this year, when I used the Knifty Knitter to make a tea cozy, but it turns out that was more akin to crochet. Knitting, as I quickly learned, was performed with two wooden sticks (like chopsticks with a bulb at the end). The yarn was looped from left to right needle, forming a growing piece of woven fabric.

photo (7)

I sat next to Betty as she showed me how to “cast off,” or initially loop the yarn onto the sticks. It took about fifteen minutes, but I gradually got the hang of the process. Several times she would snatch my work away for examination and say “Yes!” or tsk tsk and proceed to unravel all my threading. That sucked. Any ideas of walking out of the ninety minute class with a new scarf around my neck were dashed, repeatedly.

Finally my casting was approved and I advanced to the “knit stitch.” I picked up on this quickly and was growing to enjoy sitting by Betty as she answered her phone and nodded approvingly at my progress. The phone conversations were hilarious. First an angry lady named Jennifer called in reply to Betty’s phone call minutes before. Apparently she and her friend had signed up for a class the previous weekend, but Betty had been having health problems and went to the emergency room. Jennifer very furiously explained that phone calls were not her primary method of communication (she didn’t want to receive them), that she had emailed Betty earlier in the day, and that she was very disappointed that she was not informed that the class had been cancelled. While I understood her point, my growing affection for my teacher made me think of Jennifer as a class act beotch. After hanging up, Betty sighed with exasperation and explained to me that it was very hard to call students when she was in the emergency room. I told her I hoped she was feeling better as she checked my work.

After a couple of rows of the knit stitch, Betty taught me the “purl stitch,” except she pronounced it as “pull.” This one was trickier to master, especially after I had been chugging along at my previous stitches. Basically the purl is a backwards version of the knit, when you loop your right hand needle into your left hand one from above instead of below. But this isn’t a knitting tutorial, so if you’re interested, Google it.

While I struggled with the purl, the phone rang again, and this time it was a rep from Living Social, calling to finalize a second promotion. With the earpiece volume turned up high, I was able to hear both sides of the conversation clearly. Basically LS wanted Betty to raise her website prices to make the deal price half off the regular. I began to question the value of my previous Groupon and Living Social purchases. What really goaded me was the way the woman explained it. She asked Betty to send her an email with both the original price and the half off price of the deal. Shady shady. Then Betty called her youngest daughter, who at twenty-three may have still had a rough relationship with her family. The mother explained that she needed the prices of classes to be removed from her website and her daughter, speaking increasingly more quickly began to get frustrated. It turned into a minor screaming match in their native tongue. A little awkward for me, but I kept my head down and kept on knitting.

photo (8)

By this point Betty had me altering my row of knit stitches and purl stitches. After her phone call with her daughter she checked my work and scolded me. “You dropped a stitch! But I’ll fix it, here.” She took my mini blue beginnings of a scarf away and furiously picked at the threads until everything seemed to be correct again. I received it back, making sure to properly regard my needle work from then on. I didn’t, but at least I was faster.

I was eventually hustled into buying the second class after two hours had passed. Betty told me I was already learning part of the next class, and after hearing how she was losing money on the first half off deal offered, I agreed to stay for another hour as my “second class.” She told me stories throughout the afternoon about a girl who had come in to the shop Monday at 11AM and stayed until 4PM. All I thought was, “Brown noser.”

I stayed for about four hours total, watching Betty teach the next group of students, three friends how to begin. I giggled to myself when she chastised the beginnings of their work but knew she was actually a sweet lady, and that they would indeed learn something. I promised I would schedule my next class soon as I left. I really did intend to, but I need to practice on my own first. How else will I be able to bring back some more dropped stitches for Betty to fix??

Lucid Dreaming (343rd new thing).

December 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve always had extremely vivid dreams. I remember as a child coming downstairs on weekend mornings and spending almost an hour telling my mom about some adventure I had while I was sleeping. My dreams fall into two categories: adventurous or boring. I either join some band of pirates and travel around attempting to save the world with my super powers or I have a mundane conversation with someone I see on a regular basis about something we would normally talk about. The latter is always awkward when I awake and think that the conversation actually occurred. It’s even more awkward when I try to remind someone of what they said. “Yeah, we talked about going to eat dinner, don’t you remember? You said you wanted Italian right before we jumped on the backs of those unicorns–Oh, I guess I dreamed it.” Seriously, this happens often.

The essence of lucid dreaming is being aware that you are dreaming while you are in the dream, and I thought it could come pretty easily to me. I may have even had a lucid dream or four before, but Day Three Hundred Forty-Threee was the first time I entered into one consciously (or unconsciously depending on how you see it.

After extensive internet research that involved looking up “lucid dreaming” on wikipedia and “how to lucidly dream” on wikihow, I felt like I was set. I skimmed through the latter article and decided that after only sleeping about four hours the night before, I was a prime contender for an afternoon lucid dream. I read that marking your hand with an “X” and then seeing the cross on your fist while dreaming is a sign that you are in a dream (and aware of it). I didn’t want to be called underage or straight edge, so I opted out of marking my real live appendage, but I did manage to see an X on my hand in my dream.

I fell asleep curled up on the couch wedged next to Murphy, and was quickly dreaming. The dream began with Patrick taking me to a park or restaurant or something. We were eating. Then we were being accosted by zombies. Not real zombies though, just people dressed as them. We were involved in some sort of game of tag where the object was to kill those acting undead. We were given a super soaker each, and if you hit the monster in the mouth, he would die.

Patrick and I separated pretty quickly and I found myself alone, not knowing who was playing zombie and who was playing human. I think I may have doused some of my fellow teammates. At this point I looked down and saw the X on my hand. Holy crap, I was awake in my dream! I really felt like from that point forward I was making the decisions and not just my unconscious. I carefully looked around and squirted some walking dead, watching them fall. I ended up in a sort of recovery hospital and remembered having the thought in my dream that maybe these humans were actually being attacked and the zombies would eat me if I didn’t shoot them (with a watergun). That was strange.

I woke up for a brief moment to hear Sports Center blaring on the TV. As I fell back into my dream, the conversations around me turned to the NFL, upcoming baseball season, and Linsanity (this was several months ago). Damn you Sports Center, for polluting my dream zombies.

In the end, I ran out of water in my super soaker. A fat balding zombie got me. I still don’t know if they were real zombies, or actors as zombies, but it was never a nightmare. Besides, I guess it doesn’t matter since it was a dream. I was just stoked that I had consciously made myself aware that I was in such a state.

Where Am I?

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