Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An Anvil... and a Rubber Mallet

I was invited to attend a party for someone who makes armor, so I thought an interesting item to take would be an edible helmet. I use the word "edible" loosely, here, because I was making it from fondant, which is basically play-dough made from powdered sugar, corn syrup, and shortening. Fondant tastes so bad that I can make cake decorations with it and leave them to dry overnight on the counter and know without a shadow of doubt that they will still be there in the morning, untouched. The last time any of my kids willingly ate fondant was when Harrison stole, then ate only half of, the number "4" off his Incredible Hulk birthday cake. All his siblings gave up a collective "Eeeewww!" when it was discovered. Above is a photo of 5lbs of untinted fondant.

One assumes a helmet would be silvery grey. I wanted the color a bluish-grey. From pics of helmets he'd made, they started out a regular metal color, and then he did some kind of metal voodoo that made them blue. I had to add a lot of blue, because the fondant just wanted to be teal, at first. Unless your faithful steed is a My Little Pony, teal just won't cut it. No one wants to say they were struck down by a warrior in a teal helmet.

Here, I've fashioned the helmet from rolled-out pieces of blue-grey fondant. I then mixed silver dust with vodka (you didn't think I'd leave out the vodka, did you?) and brushed it on with a pastry brush. I lightly sprayed silver dragees with dark brown food-grade spray paint, and when dried, pressed them into place as rivets. Using the tip of a paring knife, I "pitted" the helmet in an attempt to make it look battle-worn. This helmet is larger than life-size; the band that goes around it was 36" long! The more I worked on it, the more Steampunk it looked. It wasn't supposed to be steampunk. It was supposed to be... oh, I don't know.. not steampunk. I just couldn't help myself.

Close-up of rivets and pitting.

While I waited for the helmet to cure/ dry/ harden, I got busy making edible treats people would actually eat...

Peanut butter cups...

White chocolate-covered oreos with fun designs...

The Rorschach inkblot cookie above is a hammer... no wait, an alien profile.

Does this mean I'm crazy?

More oreos...

Chocolate mustaches...

Treats that double as photo props are always a hit!

I also made peanut butter pretzels dipped in chocolate, and chocolate shot glasses. I didn't get pics of those because they were not made of fondant, and were not safe to leave out on the counter for any length of time.
It's a good thing I made all the edible treats; within minutes of arriving at the house with the finished helmet, the bull in a china shop birthday boy came to me with a look of sadness. He said the helmet broke when he tried to take it out of the bag. I wasn't concerned; fondant often gets a crack or two in it. A little water rubbed on the crack and I can usually patch/ repair it pretty well. I looked at what he brought me and burst out laughing.

It was just several large pieces of dried edible play-dough in a bag. I decided then to leave the helmet-making to him, and stick with the chocolate. It didn't last long; I'm already thinking about the next helmet, and possible ways to reinforce it, so it's able to withstand the wear and tear of being a party centerpiece.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ten O'clock Scholar

There are only two places in the world where time takes precedence over the job to be done. School and prison. -William Glasser

My daughter has decided she no longer enjoys school. Many days are a fight to get her to go into the building. Next semester, we'll try online learning, interest-based learning, and possibly a part-time job.

Random Phone Pics, December

Yeah... I just don't have these boots, anymore. (Shudder!)

Not sure if this is an improvement, but I like the effort. And since it's lipstick, it wipes off. I hope they do more!

This is a real book. And you thought crazy old cat ladies only cooked with it!

Barnes & Noble gardening section.
We're doing it! We're doing it! There are books on mainstream bookstore shelves treating cannabis as, well, a plant- and not some horrible drug that was produced by the government and accidentally unleashed onto our children.

Organic gardening section...

Tattoo section...

I actually want this book!

The department of redundancy department.

Bachelor Chow is really going downhill, if you ask me!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Marriott Marina Hoo-Ha Hotel

Marriott Marina Hotel is very... Ladylike.
From the outside, it looks like a couple towers. But inside, it tells a different story.
I always look at the exit maps, when I get to my room. I want to know in which direction to crawl, and how many doorways to count before I'm at the exit, in case there is a fire.
So each time I left the room, I was faced with this diagram:

As you can see, we were staying in a very sensitive part of the hotel.
Also, as a how-to instructional sign, I'd say it's spot on.
Each time I took the elevator, I dissolved into a giggling fit.

What a perfect place for an elevator shaft!

It wasn't just the floor plan! The Marriott "Muffin" theme carried over into the decor! Throughout the hotel were several examples of smush-mitten interior design:

I loved staying in such a female-friendly hotel!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Prison Break

The last Thursday of every month is supposed to be my 'break', or my day off, which means that we use the day to go on homeschooler field trips (some break, huh?). This time we traveled to Moundsville, WV to see the Grave Creek Mound (a hill made by native americans that once had a few skeletons buried in it) and the retired WV State Penitentiary, directly across the street.

First, we visited the Mound. Our delightfully androgynous tour guide (whose name is withheld not only out of politeness, but because it has escaped me)

had us walk in the cold rain and wind to the top of the Mound on the uneven, slippery stone path that spirals around the outside of the Mound.
There were several people behind me, and 3/4 of the way up, I had to step aside to suck wind reflect on the beauty of the autumn mist and let the others pass.
Once I had sufficiently stared at the colors of the wind, I continued up the path, and a realization hit me. "Man, I have got to stop walking up hills in front of people!"

At the top of the Mound was the traditional phallic monument so often found where men have "discovered" something everyone else already knew was there.

After a slideshow and pinch-pot making, we were released for lunch in the prison's education building.

As soon as lunch was over, our tour guide, a good-natured middle aged man whose name also escapes me, was gathering everyone in the prison courtyard, out on the rain. Not wanting to carry my purse, our lunch tote, and the coffee mugs through the prison, I ran back to the van to stash those items. Running through the rain made me have to pee, so I ducked back into the education building to use the restroom. When I came back out, the crowd of kids and adults was gone. There were three possible doors they could have gone into, so I approached the newest-looking one with a handicap ramp. In front of that door, the sidewalk was dry. No large crowd of wet sneakers had gone in that door. I walked over to the second door, and it too was dry. The third door was the creepy old prison door and it did have a few wet footprints in front of it, so I opened it. Holding the door open with my shoe, I saw there were some footprints on the old tile floor inside, but not many. I gave it a shot and went through the door. The door shut with a heavy clang, and I was in a dark lobby.

I listened for the sound of a couple dozen rowdy kids tromping through echoing hallways, but heard nothing.

My phone had enough signal for a text, but not a call. I texted Melinda "Where are you guys? This place is creepy!" and got no response.

I found myself walking along dark halls lighted only by the windows of the rooms I passed.

Sometimes it was so dark I used my camera flash to see what was ahead of me.

After many twists and turns, I heard voices up above. I felt tremendous relief and hurried toward the sounds. I came upon a female tour guide with a handful of adults.
I was confused. The guide stopped her presentation and looked at me with her eyebrows up.
"I'm looking for my tour. They are a lot of kids, and a few adults."
"They probably finished already."
"No, they just started. I ran to put stuff in my van, and when I came back, they were gone."
"Ma'am, they probably already wrapped up and went home."
"No... (deep breath)... they just started. A lot of kids. They came in here... somewhere."
"They aren't here. But it's okay; you can just join our tour."
"That's okay, I can keep looking."
"Ma'am, I can't let you just wander around the prison. It's ten acres. You can get lost. There are places even I have never been in, here."
"Thanks, but I need to find my group."
"Ma'am, there are no other tours.... Just follow us and we'll go into the- "
I ran out of the room toward (I hoped) the way I'd come in. I listened hard for the sound of kids in the building, but all I heard was "Ma'am? Ma'am! You can't just wander the premises..." growing fainter down the hall.

I texted Melinda again, "Where the hell ARE you guys?!"
she responded, "We're on the tour! Where are you?!"
I turned down a hall and instead of more cracked plaster, I was greeted by newer painted walls. Hopeful, I kept going, and followed any path that had new-ish paint.

It was not many more minutes before I came through a set of double doors, and saw my group (yes, my group!) approaching from the other side.
Melinda: "Where WERE you?"
"I got lost! And this place is really creepy!"
Later, I looked through my photos and saw a couple creepier-than-most images. If it's late at night, and you're sitting in a dark room alone, it's easier to spot the orbs and shadow people.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Things They Don't Have in San Diego

Every scrap of garbage is recycled, right down to gum wrappers. No Taco Bell wrappers, no water bottles, no soda cans... all along the sidewalks, gutters, parking lots, all you see is clean.

Buildings are huge canvases, but oddly enough, with the exception of intentional murals, they remain "street art" free. I found one example of graffiti, on the side of a parking garage, but I like it too much to call it vandalism.

Dog Poo.
San Diego allows each resident to own up to six dogs, and many try to meet this quota. However, all residents are hyper-aware of where their dogs 'go' and clean it up. Their motto: "Your dog doesn't know any better, but you do."

Fast Food.
With all the fast food places designed to look like regular buildings, it's hard to find the golden arches. I found it was just simpler to eat at the little place around the corner. You'll get fresh, local produce in a restaurant owned by actual people.

No need to look down when walking. Men do not spit on the sidewalks, they do not roll down their car windows, they do not lean out their truck doors to expectorate where you walk. WV men, take note.

None! No squirrels, pigeons, raccoons, dogs, cats, skunks, possums, deer, seagulls, seals.... I don't know if these animals are smart enough to look both ways, or if drivers here are watching the roads instead of spitting out the windows... All I know is we walked and drove all over San Diego for an entire week and I never saw one flattened critter.

I think maybe all the cats are strictly indoors, or they just don't have them here. No stray cats in alleys, no feral cats by the dumpsters.... hey, come to think of it... no dumpsters.

Lords of Dogtown

San Diego- Where Citizens Are Legally Required to Own a Dog

When you move to San Diego, you are encouraged to bring your own dog. If you do not have a dog, one is provided to you at the airport. In Hawaii, they put a lei around your neck; in San Diego, you get a dog. You do not get a choice of breed; they will choose this for you. Even if you are homeless, you will be expected to have a dog. In the event you are a homeless dog owner, passersby will be more likely to feed your dog than to feed you.
Dogs in San Diego do not poo. This is true! There are dogs everywhere, and I walked all over San Diego for a week and saw only one piece of dog poo on the sidewalk. Dogs just do not poo in San Diego. Ever.
Signs on the fronts of stores and office buildings read, "No pets permitted with the exception of service animals". I've come to the conclusion that either dogs are not considered pets, or... everyone in San Diego has a service dog? Because there are dogs in gift shops, department stores, ice cream shops, museums, grocery stores, on the trains, in restaurants... they are like Visa: Everywhere you want to be.
All businesses have bowls of purified drinking water at their entrances, for thirsty shopping dogs. Shopping all day takes a lot out of a dog, you know. You can tell a lot about a town by what's on every corner. In San Diego, there are Dog Washes, Starbucks, and Liquor stores on every corner. (In the more uppity areas, the Liquor stores are called "Wine and Gift Shoppes"; same thing, but they offer wine tasting on the weekends.)
We visited the beach, to put our toes in warm sand (and icy water!), and saw the signs alerting everyone that dogs were absolutely forbidden on the beach...
But dogs can't read...
and their owners don't care.

Next time I come, maybe I'll get my dream dog: an American Mastiff puppy.