Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


One Month to Alaska

We've passed the one month mark! On May 9th my mother, Kate, and I will be heading off on a class trip with her school. We're taking about 80 people (kids and chaperons) on an Alaskan cruise, organized through an outfit called Educator Cruises. As I understand it, this is the first time Holland America has had one of these educational cruises and we're kind of a pilot program that could really blossom into something with them.

Last week I met with Kate's teacher and went over the basic schedule and what kind of curriculum we're going to have for the kids. Since it's an educational cruise there will be lectures, reading, writing in journals. The field trips and outings are meant to be educational. In one stop our school will be hosted by the local 8th grade class who are intimately involved in the salmon hatchery and wildlife center, echoing some of the environmental curriculum (like hatching salmon eggs) that the ORCA students have done over the years. There's a lot we can cover in lessons and I feel really good about that aspect of the trip.

Of course, we can't spend all seven days doing nothing but school work and field trips. There will be chances for the kids to go shopping and buy souvenirs when we're off the ship but there's a lot for the kids to do on the ship, too. Apparently teens on cruise ships are well taken care of. There will be a couple of receptions/parties for the group on the ship plus the teachers plan to have a fitness "club", a walking "club", swimming groups. The ship itself has a Teen Center with a teen's only arcade and a dance club. There's also a basketball court that I know some of our boys will be eager to visit. There will be two formal dinners where the kids will get to dress up and try foods they have probably never seen before. Can't wait to see that, heh.

Anyway, the cruise isn't for another few weeks so in the meantime I've been puttering away at my to do list, knocking off minor things here and there as I have the opportunity. I put some spring flowers in the planters on the front porch, ordered some garden supplies and seedlings, replaced the cheap plastic handle on the powder room toilet with something in brushed nickel (which matches the toilet seat I replaced last year), put a medicine chest in the guest bathroom, bought a proper display shelf for some figurines I received as birthday gifts when I was a girl. Nothing important (except maybe the gardening order) but small things that let me feel like I'm accomplishing something. I have a few wish list items that I'm hoping to find, like a fire pit or a chiminea to add to the patio, and a new fixture for the kitchen that has a pull out faucet.

My parents are coming out for a visit at the end of May, when my brother graduates from medical school at OHSU. Kate and I will be back from the cruise for about two weeks before they come but I'm trying to get some cleaning, organizing, and rearranging done before the cruise so I don't feel too much pressure about the state of our affairs before they arrive.

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The weeks roll on

First off, thanks to everyone who helped make my birthday so great! Getting all the messages with recipes of all stripes from so many of you was like opening up dozens of little birthday presents. I was positively inundated and it was a delight. I'm still deciding exactly how I want to put the birthday book together, so if you still want to send something to me but were afraid it was too late, please do. I'll finalize the book after Christmas sometime, I think.

We're still in limbo on the heating issue. I have been exchanging e-mail with a plumber who I hope will come and install a pressure gage and a heat exchanger so we can keep an eye on the system and reduce the chances of anything truly catastrophic happening while we limp through this winter (and try to figure out how to get the additional tens of thousands of dollars a full "rip out all the walls" replacement of the existing system).

I swear everything in the house is choosing this time to break down! Not only am I dealing with the heating system BS and coaxing the clothes dryer to limp along for just a while longer but the dishwasher is not getting the dishes clean and it seems to be intermittently leaking. Then his morning when I went to the refrigerator (the refurb fridge I bought a couple years ago when our came-with-the-house fridge died) and the inside was HOT. Not just warm, not "oh, the door didn't get shut all the way" room temp, but hot enough to melt the butter I had on the top shelf. Why? Apparently something broke somewhere and the inside lights were on ALL NIGHT even though the door was closed. The bulbs got so hot they melted the cover of the fixture (which fell off into the fridge) and proceeded to heat up everything else within 10-12 inches. I had to unscrew the bulbs to shut the lights off and they were so blisteringly hot that even working with an oven mitt and (eventually) a leather glove, I still managed to slip and burn a blister on my finger. Lovely way to star the day. Ha.

My mother came up for an unexpected visit after my birthday and it was fun to see her. She sat in the kitchen with me, reading over my recipe books and cooking magazines while I turned the last of the summer tomatoes into marinara sauce and whipped up a dinner from The Herbfarm Cookbook (pork tenderloin so good that Kate had seconds, took it in her lunch, and begged me to make it again within the week). She's driving down to Arizona at the end of this week to be around for my grandmother, who is having yet another medical issue (this time multiple lumps in her breast) on top of her heart problems and failing kidneys from the last two near death episodes. Mom wanted me to drive down with her but I just don't have it in me. I hope I don't regret not going. Grandma wrote to tell me she fully expects "another miracle" but every time something new comes up I can't help worrying that this will be the one. Mom promises to keep me informed.

Meanwhile Pramas and I have been tag-teaming the several hours a day to research the ins and outs and every minute aspect of Dragon Age: Origins now that it's available for the Xbox. When Chris was working on Box Set 1 for the tabletop game he had access to documents with much of this information in spreadsheet or table form but seeing it all put together and working with the visuals and the game play is a different beast and very inspirational. I'm LOVING the game, it's exactly the sort of game I want. The depth of characters, the richness of the world, the ability to do more than just roam from room to room killing things... I'm a sucker for the writing, the voice acting, the development of the NPCs. I adore the refinements to the relationship system with each Bioware release. I'm finishing up my second run through and already plotting my third. In short, Bioware owns me. Good thing we'll soon have the tabletop game out (it's been out for approvals for a while now and I'm biting my nails to nubs hoping we can get it approved and out to stores before the end of the year!) because I'm smitten with the world and want to explore more. Speaking of, I think my shift is starting any minute now. Fereldon here I come.

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I spent a lot of time the other night reading up on the Gilded Age because I was thinking about writing up a political post. Found I don't quite have the stamina to wade into that right now.

Instead, Chris and I spent a Kate-free weekend at home. Because Zipcar has removed virtually all Zipcars south of I-90 and I was driving Kate up to her dad's,in honor of the rare sunny weather, I chose a fun little Mini Cooper car from a U District location. Chris met up with me when I returned the car and we had a nice walk and dinner out before heading home together.

Saturday the weather couldn't have been more different! Unfortunately arm and shoulder injury prevent me from doing many of the things I normally handle solo, so Chris had agreed to spend Saturday helping me get our yard in order before the HOA "make sure you're up to code" spring deadline this week. The day was rainy, cold, and windy and not at all good weather for handling our landscaping plan but it couldn't be helped and Pramas was such a good sport. He pushed heavy carts, ran the lawn mover and trimmer, carried heavy bags of mulch, pulled up old weed barrier fabric, and anything else I needed. We removed weeds and nuisance plants, laid new weed barrier, spread a bunch of bark. This morning I was able to remove my formerly beautiful trailing rosemary bush that died after the winter storms and trim back a few bushes and trees in the back yard before I ran out of time. Chris and I spent a couple of hours together, had a little brunch and then it was time to pick up Kate.

Despite my previously stated desire to go to Belize for my 40th birthday this year, in order to do that trip the way I would really want to do it we'd have to spend far more than I'm comfortable committing to this year. I talked it over with Chris today and we're going to spend our saved vacation money on putting in a proper patio and a barbecue so we can enjoy our house over the summer instead. Kate is only spending two weeks of her summer vacation (and not even consecutive weeks) with her dad this year and aside from Chris heading to Book Expo in a couple of weeks we personally have no convention travel booked until GenCon. I don't don't want to be all smarmy and say we're planning a "stay-cation" but that does seem to be how it's shaping up and I'm plenty happy with that. Belize can wait until I can do it the way I really want to do it.

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Reclaiming My House

We're making some changes around the house.

Before the Green Ronin Summit I did some serious cleaning and reorganizing that will be ongoing through the fall and into the winter. We've gotten rid of a couple dozen boxes of old books, a few VHS tapes, and I'm seriously eyeing many of my CDs now that I've ripped them to MP3 (and backed them up to boot). Chris has been going through the office with an eye toward paring down our gigantic game collection, and Kate and I went through the books, toys, clothes and miscellaneous items of hers that were taking up the whole guest bathroom and making it unusable over the last couple of years. Yet more obsolete electronics were recycled, seven giant boxes of Styrofoam peanuts were donated to our local UPS store, and I managed a trip to the dump for things that were truly garbage as well.

I also moved and organized a lot of Green Ronin's files. Contracts that were spread out between multiple file boxes are now largely concentrated in a single filing cabinet and one file box and located in the upstairs office. We're now moving on to the next step of reclaiming our garage and possibly the attic as well. In an ideal situation I would like to install an attic ladder for both our house attic and the yet-to-be-finished garage attic. If we can significantly clear out the garage, I'd also like to insulate and finish the garage completely and turn it into a usable room. My mother's house has a converted garage that was a laundry room/family room with a carpet and a wood stove and a small area divided off to be a pantry/storage area with shelves and a chest freezer. In my fantasy, it could be a place where Chris could set up big minis games or where Kate could keep a drum kit.

Why yes, I do have a rich fantasy life, why do you ask?

Anyway, even if I don't accomplish everything I'd like to I do plan to move to separate the Green Ronin parts of the house more from the everyday life parts of the house. My daughter is going to be 13 in a couple of months and I'm all too aware that the time I get to spend with my family is precious and fleeting. I'm really, really trying to keep GR business out of my carved out "personal time" even as we're constantly under the gun to make up for lost time cost to us by flaking freelancers, or slow approvals, or incommunicado third parties, or whatever. I have a zillion things to handle for GR and I'm chipping away at them but that balance thing just has to happen for me to keep my sanity and not look back on my personal life with regrets.

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