Laughing all the way

July 2, 2014

CSI: Newcastle

I’ve said it here before: If The Sainted One ever tried to build a house, he would bleed to death from unintentional stabs and slices.

He is the Official Family Chef, but has knives that can’t cut through gelatin without effort because I won’t let him have anything sharper. There’s a secret spot in the garage where I’ve hidden a  Japanese hand hoe that will chop the most stubborn greenery into submission, and although I could use help in the garden battling the weeds, I love him too much to let him near it.

Even the simple act of checking out a bed frame …

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A mighty wind

May 1, 2014

In September, we rented a large houseboat on Lake Roosevelt with my sister Susie and her husband. After taking possession, we cruised up the lake and found a perfect spot for the night: a protected little bay, embraced by wooded peninsulas. The Sainted One ran the boat on shore and we tied up.

That was the night the Seahawks game was delayed due to a freak windstorm, and to get to Qwest Field, it had to get across Eastern Washington — and Lake Roosevelt — first.

It was hot and still when we retired early, so I was pleased when a breeze blew through the open stateroom window until that breeze grew into something less appealing. Staggering out of our staterooms, we had to hold onto the walls to keep from hitting the deck. We turned on our phones and they began simultaneously ringing: High wind warning, the messages from the marina said. Batten down the hatches, because something wicked this way comes.

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Not a very pretty picture

April 3, 2014

You might come to believe by reading this column that my life consists primarily of going to parties, drinking, and then doing something that I regret, and honestly, you would pretty much be right.

This particular column has to do with a recent “Paint and Sip” adventure. You may have heard of these: “paint and sip” or “paint and pour” or — my favorite moniker — “Arts & Carafes,” where a group of people recreate a painting under the tutelage of an artist and under the influence of alcohol.

For Christmas, my nephew gifted my sister Barb with tickets for one of these evenings, paying also for myself and our other sister Susie. It had all the elements for potential fun/disaster: my sisters, alcohol and a task best done sober, Jackson Pollock notwithstanding.

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At last

March 5, 2014

I don’t consider myself to be unlucky, but I also don’t think of myself as someone who wins a lot. In fact the only thing that I can remember winning was in grade school: an Easter bunny cake that the nuns raffled off to benefit poor people in China. I was thrilled when my name was chosen, but less thrilled when I realized what a month on display in the sunshine atop the radiator does to a bunny cake. The coconut fur was the consistency of steel wool, and you needed a circular saw to carve yourself a piece.

In time I became familiar with defeat, and always attempted to be gracious and magnanimous, so I feel especially comfortable in Seattle, the bridesmaid but never the bride, close but no cigar, loud but no Lombardi. The Sonics left, the Mariners disappoint and the Seahawks … well, the Seahawks …

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Dog gone

February 6, 2014

When we moved to Olympus almost 24 years ago, our Good Neighbors to the South (the GNS) were already ensconced in their brand new home. Randomly Loud Son was a toddler, and Lovely Daughter was yet to be born. And sometime in the early 2000s, there was another addition: a puppy, a black Corgi mixed with Some Other Brand. His name was Lenny.

Lenny was the only dog in a string of three homes that included the GNS, ourselves and the GNN (Good Neighbors to the North.) He was generally a benign addition. I can’t remember ever chasing him from the yard, or replacing an upended plant or shoveling up his leavings.

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Laughing all the way – Life of Pie

January 2, 2014

During the holidays, I make pies. When my mother — an excellent baker — passed away, I inherited Christmas Eve and pies. I don’t how that happened, but my sisters are nearly as useless as I am when it comes to food and domesticity, so it may be that as the eldest I felt a misplaced sense of responsibility.

Knowing that we all sucked at it, 20 years ago we videotaped Mother in the kitchen making pies. I transcribed the session after the fact so that we would have 3×5 recipe cards for reference. In doing so, I literally wrote out exactly what Mom said as she did her demo, thinking it funny and assuming that we would remember what it meant. “After adding the water,” she said (and I carefully hand-printed on the cards) “Go like this.” The videotape has long been lost, and so whatever “this” is has been lost as well.

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The Play’s the Thing

December 4, 2013

Plays loom large in our family background. We’ve produced skits on Thanksgiving Day for years, terrifying orphan invitees and leading a grandson to sing in loud and crowded karaoke bars today.

I was introduced to the joys of acting in the second grade, when we were barely able to string together decent sentences or walk without tripping. In spite of this, our teacher — who had clearly chosen the wrong profession — had us onstage in powdered wigs and long dresses, reciting lines of dialogue and doing the minuet.


Although the acting part was fun for me, I was most taken with the process of creation. Because of my naturally overbearing and bossy nature, I started directing my sisters in plays that we put on for our parents and anyone in the neighborhood that we could entice with free ice cream and cake.

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Giving a spit

November 12, 2013

Long ago, our fraternal grandmother told us that our great-great-great-grandfather was the famous Cherokee Yellow Bird. Of course she also told us that my grandfather discovered radar but that his secrets were stolen, which explained why there were no statues of him in the town square.

That should have put me on my guard, but I craved a more exciting background than the one provided by our known German/English heritage, which was filled with brewery workers and pattern-makers and was as boring as sturdy shoes and white bread.

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Just say no

October 4, 2013

I hate shopping. I have never understood the joys of just looking for the sake of looking. The Sainted One and I only go to stores when we’re ready to buy, and in those cases, the process is a snap for the seller because we already know what we want and come prepared to spend. If there was a way to physically mark us as easy buyers — like back in the Depression when hobos would mark the homes of friendly people who would give them food — salespeople would kill themselves and each other to get to us first when we walk through the door. But shopping for clothing, shoes, accessories, tchotchkes, I’m just not into it as a sport.

Ignoring my better judgment, I recently weakened and accepted an invitation to a personal shopping event in Newcastle. For the uninitiated, a home owner throws a party with drinks and food, a clothing representative brings a wardrobe so you can view and try on the pieces, and then you can order items that are shipped to you later. It was a beautiful night in a beautiful home with an expansive view, both of my sisters were there (a situation that often leads to all manner of excess) and did I mention that there was alcohol? I went too far. I admit it.

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I got a BUI. Buying Under the Influence.   Read more

Old habits die hard

August 30, 2013

Recently I had my nails done for the first time ever, but because of a Midwestern grade school background that included lots of nuns, it was most likely a one-time event.

I’ve long been a devotee of what I call “Nun Nails”: short, clean and unadorned, like those of my Catholic grade school teachers. My schoolmates and I had innocent crushes on the young parish priests, but the nuns were regarded with an anxious mixture of fear, respect, fascination, fear and fear.


My holier-than-thou friends and I spent lots of time hanging around the church campus. Every Saturday we’d ride our bikes to the rectory where we would spend all morning folding the Sunday bulletins, and after school on Monday we would be there again, tasked with opening the Sunday collection envelopes and marking the weekly tithe in a massive leather-bound book that weighed almost as much as my Catholic guilt.

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