Archive for December, 2007|Monthly archive page

I have achieved the impossible… make that WE…

I now have a clean garage.  There’s a giant dumpster packed to the gills sitting outside my house to show for it.  There’s also about 10 items on Craigslist too, but that’s just gravy compared to the sheer glee of walking into a garage (walking!  not sidling, not stepping over things, on things, in things, you get the picture) and knowing what is in every box we chose to keep now residing on our newly assembled heavy duty shelving.  It really is a Christmas Miracle.

This is the backstory- we moved into this place nearly 8 years ago in a hurry.  Lots of stuff we didn’t know what to do with, so stuff just wound up in the garage.  Boxes we never unpacked (you should see some of the clothes I found… ewwww!), some things were believed to be lost, and the space just became overtaken by STUFF.

We tried to clean it out a few times, even ordered the dumpster once, and made a little progress.  Not enough progress to make it last, though.  It always reverted to its prior state of insanity.  It got to the point that no one wanted to go in the garage for anything anymore.  I myself had managed to avoid it for weeks until the need to get wrapping paper came up last week.  I decided to take action, and used Angie’s List to hire an organizer.  I found Diane Luck, and she agreed to fit me in to her busy schedule- very much in demand- and come do my garage sight unseen.  I told her the whole family was going to participate, including my teen daughters who normally run the other way when stuff like this comes up.  I gave everyone plenty of notice about the date we’d be getting it done, and no one asked me to postpone or cancel.

I guess they were as fed up as I was.

Diane said we could get it done in one day, and I was skeptical to say the least.  She was wrong.  We actually did it in SIX HOURS!!  Six hours of concerted effort on everyone’s part, four trips to Goodwill and a huge dumpster filled to the brim, and I now have what I consider to be the cleanest garage I’ve ever had in my lifetime.   My husband was so thrilled by the end of the day, he nearly shed a tear.  He did go to bed early, and I think I might actually follow him.  For tonight, my insomnia is cured.

And, it will get cleaner from here.  Once the Craigslist items are sold, or picked up for free as a last resort, and the items set aside for office stuff are moved to a soon-to-be leased office, there will be even more room- enough to park a car!  With the doors fully open on both sides!  And we don’t drive small cars!

I think the key was having hired someone to come out.  It didn’t cost me nearly as much as you’d think- less than $300- but having someone come out and get in there with us (she’s a machine folks, worked nonstop!) made all the difference.  We couldn’t just postpone- we’d made real arrangements and spent money- and there was no looking back.  We actually swept the floor of the garage.  There was enough floor to sweep!  Enough floor for my youngest to ride her old scooter in circles in the garage!   And we all did it together, as a family.  How wonderful it was- a cold, windy day- they didn’t complain or lobby to quit.  I love my family.
A clean garage… it’s a thing to behold.   Almost as great as the teamwork it took to make it happen.

12.11.07 Sponge Candy

For the uninitiated, sponge candy (aka honeycomb or seafoam candy) is a quandary. Here you have a lovely lightweight block of something covered thick and dense in high quality dark chocolate, with no idea what to expect inside. It is too light for it’s size- odd for a chocolate covered candy. One bite explains everything. That crunch reveals a firm interior that crumbles away like sandstone, only tasting of caramel-y, toasty sugar. 2-3 bites to a piece, and you’re done, wondering why no one ever told you about this wondrous thing before.

It’s so hard to explain, and there are so many ways to get it wrong. It should never be rock hard, never difficult to bite through, never chewy inside, never shiny inside, never beige or yellow inside- only the darker colors of cooked sugars are allowed. The interior should crumble easily, and melt slightly when pressed with your tongue, kind of like a fresh malted-milk ball. There must be a thick coating of high-quality chocolate- milk or dark is your choice. I’ve preferred the dark since I was a little kid. The English have an impostor candy bar from Cadbury called “Crunchie”. I had one once, and it seemed to break every rule of good honeycomb and I never had one again.

The only way to get this done right is by people who make it by hand in small batches with care. It was more common in CA (try Chocolate Heaven @ Pier 39 in SFO) where I grew up, and it took ages to find it here in OR. There are a couple of shops on the coast who sell it, but no one local to me makes it anymore. I thought I was going to be in a honeycomb wasteland for the rest of my life.

Then I discovered SpongeCandy.com! The answer to my prayers during the cold months- they only ship Nov 1- sometime in the spring in order to avoid customers receiving melting candy on warm porches. They do milk and dark, in just about any combination, and the candy is consistently perfect. I’m not kidding here. It’s amazing that they get this kind of quality from such a persnickety product. The folks who make the stuff in Buffalo call it Sponge Candy, which I’d never heard applied to the Honeycomb candy I grew up with.  No matter what they call it, it’s the best anywhere.  They pack and ship so carefully, the candy is always in great shape when it arrives.

If you want something different, and like chocolate, give this a try. You won’t be sorry- it’s the best!

12.10.07 Where have I been? Wish I knew…

Two whole weeks without a post.  Not a peep.  Guess I’m not cut out for this blogging business after all.  Not that things haven’t happened over the last two weeks don’t interest me.   Huckabee taking the GOP lead, and getting nailed with  the early-release rapist/murderer story combined with his statements about people with AIDS needing to be isolated from society.  Like lepers.  Wow, that’s some compassionate conservatism if you ask me.

Then there’s Obama and Oprah doing the Big O Show in Iowa and SC.  Now I saw Oprah in person at an event in Seattle a few years ago, and she was very energizing to listen to.  She can make you believe for a short few moments that you can fly.  It looks like the crowds in IA and SC were flying the O-skies this weekend.  Obama will see a jump in those states, just not sure if it’s enough to push the polls all the way in his direction.  Some folks don’t like Oprah, feel she’s a rich lady who chooses to help those in South Africa rather than her own country.  I say the reason she does that is because of the privacy factor.  If she wants to be personally involved, it’s hard to do that in America with everyone trying to make a buck off photos and stories of how you’re “failing”.  Of course, she’s always maintained well more than an arm’s reach to the public when it comes to her need to “do-good”.  We see it as done only for her show, but how are we to know what she does with her money anonymously?

Despite the O-factor, I don’t know that Obama will pick up enough steam to really push past Hillary and Edwards.  Edwards has the best caucus machine in IA, and I’m rooting for him to win it.  Even with all of Oprah’s help, Obama hasn’t changed his speeches, hasn’t changed things up.  It’s the same old thing.  Is Obama a one-trick pony?  Will he come alive?

Politics aside, we’ve been doing holiday stuff all week, candles, decorations, watching our favorite holiday movies.  Without contact from my grandmother, this will be a very different holiday season for us.  Less pressure, anxiety, more casual and hopefully more enjoyable.  Much to my dismay, a couple of moments of old-style holiday scrooginess crept up on me today and I’m not proud of it.  I keep thinking that she’s casting evil spells over me, planning my demise, wanting me to be as perpetually unhappy as she is.  Of course, I realize this is all in my own head and she can’t do a single thing to impact my life if I don’t allow her to.  I just can’t get my head to shut up.

A good friend of mine said I was doing the right thing by setting limits for acceptable behavior, which shows that I finally recognize the value of my own happiness and that of my family.  That I finally chose to set those limits rather than force all of us to endure the constant misery of this person is really an OK thing to do.  That it will show my kids they have the right to put themselves first rather than someone who is never supportive, always selfish and needs to manufacture drama 24/7.

I hope my friend is right.   In the meantime, I’m enjoying the snow flurries, the holiday lights, and the idea of freedom in planning holiday time with my family.