Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Adventures from Home: the Zoo

Way back when, now about 6 months ago, I was frolicking around Milwaukee with my delightful and adorable younger sisters.  We have a bit of a tradition amongst ourselves that whenever we are all home we go to a Milwaukee field trip or tourist destination.  Most often, since we are most often all home together around the Christmas holidays, we go to the Milwaukee Public Museum.  This time, however, we thought we’d take advantage of being home together in the middle of summer, and we head off to the Milwaukee County Zoo.

Like the museum, we’ve been going to the zoo pretty much our whole lives, on school field trips and randomkatrina and wendy running down the hill adventures with friends.  When I first started college at Carroll, the school had a day outing to the zoo where we could meet our future roommates.  Being long-familiar with the exhibits and offerings of the zoo, we all have our favorite spots.  My personal favorite is the petting zoo and, for some reason, the very steep valley that goes under the zoo-train tracks on one of the main walking paths.

At the museum, we like to imitate the exhibits.  We tried to do this at the zoo.  It did not work as well; the animals keep moving!

Katrina being a kangaroo

We found being the topiary, signs and statues a much easier task.

wendy and katrina being the topiary

  me and katrina as giraffeswendy and katrina imitating the ape statue (3)

Since we don’t come to the zoo very often, we decided to have an extra special treat and take a ride on the zoo train!  We all remembered liking the zoo train.  We did not remember it being so small!  Even Munchkinhead’s knees were up to her chest.   We had excellent timing for as soon as we boarded the train, a light drizzle started.

Rain continued on and off the rest of the afternoon, culminating in a fierce thunderstorm that made us feel like we were in Jurassic Park, all the more so for the scary dinosaur topiary with beady yellow eyes.

Standing in the foyer of the conference room building watching the wind toss around heavy tree branches, lightening momentarily sending spooky shadows everywhere, we decided to make a run for it.  To the aviary building.  Our umbrellas protected us from things worse than rain.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Adventures from Home: Hanging out with Daddy

When Alfred and I were little girls, our grandma would watch us while Mommy and Daddy were at work.  We’d spend our summer days running a muck around Grandma and Grandpa’s old Victorian home.  Playing tag around the outside of the house, swinging on the wooden swing on the front porch, imagining what it might be like to slide down the banister, jump over the railing from the floor above or do other crazy things our Uncle Steven had done has a kid.  (Though I don’t think we ever imagined launching ourselves through the plate glass front window.)

Grandma and Grandpa’s house was like a giant castle to us, full of games, toys, surprises and spooks.  The basement terrified us.  A trap door into a damp and murky 100+ year-old place is creepy enough, but those added psychedelic paintings my aunts put on the bricks in the 1960s were even more frightening.  The servant stairs also scared us a bit, but they were still one of our favorite places to play.  And of course, there were the piles and piles of books, the dollhouse with its adorable pink appliances and the puzzles Grandma was always doing.

Being at Grandma and Grandpa’s was great in itself, but there some adventures on which Grandma would take us that beat any fun we could have inside.  On really, really special days, we’d get to go visit Grandpa and Daddy at work!

The office was just a few blocks from Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  We’d go out the backdoor, through the laundry room that always smelled like a mix of dryer vent and fresh air, down the cement steps, past the iron water pump, to the back corner of the yard.  Here, there was a magical hidden gate that only Grandma and Grandpa could find.  (Probably because Alfred and I were too short to see it among the vines.)  Grandma would open the gate and help us down the steep stone steps into the alley.   We’d head down the alley to the main street, turn up the street, pass the large cemetery where my namesake is buried and head to the busy street of the Office.

The Office was built by my great-grandpa many years ago, along with several of the buildings surrounding it; including the house where he lived and my great-aunt still resides.  With it’s regal red brick, white painted shutters, high columns and green ivy wrapping around the corners, it always look steady, important, classic, and just like the doll house at Grandma’s.  All things that made me love it.

We’d have to be very quite going into the Office, in case Grandpa or Daddy or one of the other lawyers in the building were meeting with clients.  As soon as we knew the coast was clear, we’d go bounding into their offices.  Daddy’d say “hi”, wiggle his moustache, sit back with his feet up on his desk.  Across the hall, Grandpa’d reach into his secret drawer and pull out treats for us, packs of oyster crackers and breadsticks that he’d saved from the restaurants he visited.

If we got to stay for awhile, we’d photocopy our hands on the giant Xerox machine behind the counter.  Grandpa would pull out his automobile accident reconstruction stamp collection and we would make pictures of auto accident scenes to our hearts’ content.  We’d get multi-colored paper from the cabinet and write our own stories, illustrated in highlighter and felt pen.  We always had a lot of fun and felt very special to be “behind the scenes” in the Office.

The Office is still a special place to go. Grandpa’s no longer there to share his breadsticks.  But the paintings he used to hold us up to see still hang on the walls and I imagine him asking the same questions, “what do you think is at the end of that road?”

Daddy still says “hi” and puts his feet up on the desk, but now he also says, “There’s this thing going on with these people and we need to figure out this. Can you help?”  Now there are new reasons to visit Daddy at the Office.  And they’re even more special.Daddy at the officeme at daddy's office (2)

Daddy and me at the office.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

My First Knitting Project

Some people say, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”  I say, “when life hands you a ridiculously long commute, make a new wardrobe.”

One of the first things I did when my office moved several months back was map out the many different possible ways to get there and calculate the time for each.  The next thing I did was ask one of the ladies at church who I always see knitting if she could teach me how to knit.  She was delighted to teach me and we began a wonderful nearly-weekly knitting gathering at her house.

My knitting teacher is fabulous, and not just because she’s from Wisconsin (which I didn’t realize until after we began knitting together).  She’s always got several different projects going on.  That reminds me a bit of myself with my sewing.  And she often wears her creations on Sundays, beautiful shawls and skirts and scarves.   She’s sure that someday sooner than I think I’ll be making my own dresses.   I love sweater dresses, and sweaters.  No matter how much my body size fluctuates, they fit, and they’re so soft and cozy.

But, skirts and sweaters and the thigh-high stockings I can’t wait to make are still a ways off.  So far, I’ve done two starter projects and am working on a third, all in preparation for winter – or the part of my commute that feels like winter: a scarf, a hat and gloves.  The gloves I’m just starting.

I love them.  Especially the scarf.  It’s so soft and supple, reminds me of blankey.  It’s nice and warm, and, the extra special bonus that makes it so me, it’s sparkly!

me and amy

I’ll let you know when the gloves are done.  (If I don’t poke my eye out with one of these 5 double-pointed knitting needles sticking out of the project.)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years and 2000 miles later

On the 10th Anniversary, it seems obligatory to do a blog post about 9/11/01.  But my memories related to September 11th do not start that morning. 

My thoughts start two weeks before that day, when I finished reading Angles and Demons.  For those unfamiliar with the book, a very devoted Catholic stages an attack on the Church in order to revitalize the Church community and support for the church.  I remember finishing that book and thinking, “America needs something like that.”  Tired of people being ashamed of our country, of flags being uncool and patriotism being dead – and this was before I moved out to the Bay – it seemed that the last time our country had been supported by its people was World War II.  We need a cause to rally behind.  I didn’t expect us to get one, and I certainly didn’t expect it to be so dramatic.

The morning of September 11th, I was trying to sort out some credit card bills.  I called the customer service line.  The lady on the other end was all distracted.  “I’m sorry,” she said, “we just heard about the World Trade Center.”  “But that was years ok,” I thought, thinking of the parking garage bombing.  Then my roommate came rushing into the room, let out of her 8am class early.  “Did you hear?!”  “Hear what?”  She turned on the small tv atop our dressers.  Every channel, every single one, was showing the same thing, the clip of the second plane hitting.

There was lots of excitement, people running down the halls, exclaiming any news they’d gotten that others might not have yet.  Candlelight vigils on the campus’s Main Lawn.  Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” moved even those that hated country music.  American flags everywhere, not just cool again but practically required.  It was a cause to rally behind, and for most of us at my small Midwestern school, that’s all it was.

Ten years ago, I hadn’t been to New York.  I didn’t know anyone in New York.  I didn’t know anyone who would be on an international flight.  New York was like Harvard, a place that only existed on tv and in the movies.  It wasn’t until this week that I learned the plane that crashed in a Pennsylvania field was bound for SFO.  Even if I had known, it wouldn’t have mattered.  As a Midwesterner, I scorned those people on the coasts who flew from one side to the other, treating real Americans like they didn’t exist, “fly-over-country” nonsense.

Ten years later, I’ve been to New York.  I’ve seen the World Trade Center hole, and not because I went there to see it, but because it’s down the street from my friend’s dad’s office.  I know people there.  I know people who are frequently on international flights, including friends and family, and me.  I know some of the “coastal people,” heck, I’m even friends with them.  And while I still disdain the fly-over-country mentality, I don’t hate them.  Ten years later, the events are more real than they could have been to a sheltered twenty year-old.  And sadly, ten years later, the flags are mostly gone again.

I liked that patriotism; I’d like to see it back.  But I don’t expect it anytime soon.  It’s impossible to be both an apologetic and a patriot, and the loudest voices in our society are still demanding we be the first.

September 11th, 2001 may have given us a rallying cry on which to rebuild our patriotism.  But the events of the next 9 years destroyed it all again.  John Yoo said we’re safer and freer now than we were ten years ago.  He’s a good speaker, but I disagree.  When I feel trapped in my city because transportation out of it is either too long or too anxiety-filled due to the “heightened security measures” – not the risks, the measures – I do not feel safe or free.  I never feared the terrorists; I fear TSA.

They won. We have lost both our patriotism and our freedom.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Oh, Betty!

Betty’s my Buick.  My beautiful 1993 Buick LeSabre with 130,000 miles on her.  She’s the same as my daddy’s car, just a decade older.  I got her during law school, when I finally gave up on trying to get around Nashville solely on public transit.

Betty parked by a twin car in the Nashville Walmart parking lot 2009

Betty parked by a twin Buick in Nashville

She’s been holding up pretty well the past 4 years, several trips across the country, 100 miles a day on my drive-to-work days, still getting 20 miles per gallon (not bad for an 18 year-old boat!).katrina and wendy sitting on betty

Alfred and Munchkinhead on Betty down in Arizona

I love Betty.  Her interior is spacious and comfy.  She sails down the highway like a she’s surfing on air, even at 80 mph.  She’s a tough cookie, can take a hit and not even show a scratch.Aurelia washing Betty August 2008 (2)

Giving Betty a bath in Wisconsin

Betty’s a good car, but Betty’s starting to show her age.  Paint’s chipping off the way that’s common with white GM vehicles from the 90s.  Her underbody, well, as my mechanic puts it, “the underbody looks like a car from Wisconsin.”  She is.  The engine’s leaking oil from three or four different places, all minor leaks my mechanic doesn’t think are worth the cost to fix.  The muffler has a hole in it, actually several; one’s extra large and right by the catalytic converter. Oh, and the air conditioner doesn’t work; all the coolant leaked out.  But that doesn’t bother me.  All minor issues really; she still runs great and my mechanic thinks I can another two years at least out of her.

But then there’s the door.  My front driver’s side door won’t open.  I’ve had that fixed once before.  - The parking structures around here have these poles in really strange places and I’m not so good at seeing them. – I’m not sure it’s worth the several hundred dollars to fix it again.  The window still rolls down; the door just doesn’t open.  Luckily, I’ve moved enough beds on Betty that I know another way to get in and out of the car. ;)

Betty the Buick

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Crazy Knobs

I’ve worked in hardware; I’ve worked in maintenance.  I’ve sold many, many different kinds of doorknobs; I’ve installed doorknobs; I’ve fixed doorknobs.  But, I had never seen a doorknob like this before.

Two and a half years I’ve lived in my fabulous little apartment and just the other day I accidentally discovered that I can lock the front door from the inside.  I thought it only had a deadbolt and chain for inside-locking.  From the outside,  I knew I could use a key to lock the deadbolt and the doorknob.  Two lock options inside; two lock options outside.  Seemed decent to me.

Then I was fiddling around with the knob while saying goodbye to Short Fabulous (whose goodbyes are never short) and I discovered I could lock the door from the inside!  There’s no button, no little switch, nothing on the knob itself, just a bump.  But, if you turn the knob while pushing it in, voila! locked. 

Short Fabulous was not impressed by my discovery.  Neither was Mr. Trizzle who placidly stated that he was familiar with such doorknobs when I tried to explain my astonishment with bubbling exclamations and half-sentences.  Apparently those doorknobs are quite common out here.

DSCI0425Bump on the knob





I’m excited to have learned something new, but I am also rather worried.  It is possible to lock myself out of the apartment now.

Friday, September 2, 2011

100 Trips to the Gym

How do you get the most value out of your gym membership? Go!

DSCI0411This past weekend I made my 100th trip to the gym.  As of that date, each trip to the gym cost me $2.99, and it’s only going down from there.

I purchased my two-year gym membership from Costco last Thanksgiving season, and the day after Christmas, headed to the gym with Mr. Trizzle to start on the adventurous path of the Stripped 5x5.

There’s lots of things I love about going to the gym.  It feels good; it’s fun; people don’t bother you because they’re too busy looking at themselves in the mirror (unlike on BART); and most of all, I can really see results.  I’ve dropped a size in clothing, but that’s not so exciting, it just means needing to buy new clothes.  And I can’t brag about weight loss because I’ve gained nearly 10 lbs.  But boy have I gotten stronger!

When I first began going to the gym eight months ago, I could barely bench press 30lbs and couldn’t deadlift enough to move an airline-weight-approved suitcase.  Now, I can bench press half my own weight and nearly deadlift Mr. Trizzle’s weight.   Mr. Trizzle’s doing even crazier things, nearly bench-pressing my weight, deadlifting two of me.  That’s fun to see, watching the numbers go up, watching the plates on the ends of the barbells get bigger, get more numerous.   But the really really great part is when I see the difference in everyday activities.

I can move through the BART trains without struggling with all my might to open the doors between the cars.  Sometimes, I can even open them one-handed now.  When I move heavy bankers boxes of files off of closet shelves or boxes of cds down from my storage unit, I can control the box and bring it down in one smooth movement, inside of momentarily hoisting and then sort of guiding its fall to the ground.  I can move the bookshelves, mattresses and tables in my apartment by picking them up instead of dragging them across the floor, which I bet my downstairs neighbors appreciate.  And the speed of my ball when I bowl has gone up to 16/17 mph.  That’s nice for making some fun strikes.

In fact, there’s really only one kinda downside to the gym.  Ok, two, and both are so worth the benefits.  One, I’m hungry all the time, even more than before, and not just oh-I-want-something-to-munch-on kind of hungry; I-need-protein-now kind of hungry.  That can be a bit tough sometimes, so I carry Cliff bars with me everywhere.  Two, my shoulders and arms are starting to not fit in my clothes.  I busted all the sleeve hem stitches out of a dress one week at bowling, and there’s another dress I love in which I can no longer raise my arms above my head.  But that’s easily dealt with; I love me some sweaters. Nice, stretchy sweaters.

I’m so glad Mr. Trizzle helped me get a visitors pass to his gym way back in November.  It was enough for me to get my own membership, and I love it.  The Stripped 5x5 has been a great starting workout, and I’m looking forward moving up to the next program.  And to watching my cost per gym visit continue to drop.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Adventures from Home: Leon’s!

long custard trailsThe smooth, creamy deliciousness slowly emerged from the spout, making a long tube of glistening delight.  Sliding down the tilted metal pans and into the open freezers waiting below, the fresh custard filled the stainless steel containers.  The young man in his white paper hat reached his scoop into the tubs, piling the frozen custard high on top of cones for the waiting customers.

Melaxid and I stood near the window, watching the frozen trails and the scoop man, reminiscing about our college days, sharing stories of our latest adventures and wondering why the mint custard was coming out of a churner labeled “Butter Pecan.”  Alfred and Munchkinhead stood nearby, slowly devouring their own cones of rich frozen custard.

Leon's signThe reflections of ourselves as we peered into the long, boxy building.  The young man in white with his white paper hats.  The metal freezers and custard churners.  The long lines of patrons stretching from the walk-up windows deep into the surrounding parking lot.  The neon lights at the top of the tall sign-post in the parking lot, blazing “Leon’s.”  It all had a beautiful and surreal 1950’s quality about it.  That’s one of the best things about Leon’s.  The other is, of course, the absolutely amazing frozen custard.

Vanilla, chocolate, butter pecan and the flavor of the day.  Two scoops through five scoops posted on the sign, ranging from less than $2 to just under $5.  Of course, you can always ask for a single scoop, the light-blue clad cashier will turn to the scoop man and say “1 down” meaning one, one-scoop cone.  When I was in high school, I got the five-scoop cones.  Now-a-days, I’m content with the regular two-scoop.  It’s better for my pocket book, too.

We always go to Leon’s when we’re home.  It’s an absolute must.  Sometimes we don’t even go home first; we go right from the airport or the train station.


me and mel at Leon's (1)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Adventures from Home: Munchkinhead has a Job

Pretty Little Munchkinhead, she’s got the pretty little museum bug.  I suppose we all have it, thanks to Daddy’s summer vacations, but some of us got it worse than others.  Alfred’s got it pretty bad, what with her masters degree in museum collections stuff.  Munchkinhead’s just working on discovering hers, and she’s had the perfect summer job to help her do it: Trimborn farms.

One day, while Alfred and I were both in Wisconsin, we went with Munchkinhead to the farms, to explore while she worked.  And explore we did, every adorable and crazy photo op we could find.

We stood in the limestone kilns, before we knew they were limestone kilns.

me and wendy in the kiln

We peered through fences,i see youpeekaboo (2)





ran through the grassy green meadow.

sisters running in the medow (1)

found things to play with,

me and the bell

and, rested for a bit in front of the museum house.

                                            me and wendy in front of the main house (2)

Only for a bit, for there was so much more to explore.  Like the barn,

Wendy and the barn

and, well, that’s not actually the barn.  Munchkinhead straightened us out later.  The barn is much bigger and has some holes in its roof where the rain gets in.

Munchkinhead actually taught us a lot about the farm before we left for the day.  She taught us about the plants in the garden and which ones we could eat.

eating the plantsThere was lemon mint, anise and chives.  I liked the lemon mint the best.  The fuzzy texture was fun.  All we needed was some rum.

By the end of our adventurous morning, running across the yard, climbing up hills and wanting to roll down them, we were quite tired and opted to take a nap on Munchkinhead.

me and wendy sleeping on katrina's shoulders (3)

She was not so pleased.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peace Corps: Preparation for Life

100_1300When I was in the Peace Corps, I didn’t realize it was preparing me to live in the Bay Area.

For most Peace Corps Volunteers, there’s plenty of things they learn that they realize will be useful when they get back to the States.  How to write a project proposal, outlining objectives and goals, maybe even how to start a fire.  I figured learning how to wait patiently for public transit, how to cook rice in a pot and how to deal with creep crawly things would still be useful tricks when I got back.  But there’s a whole bunch of other things I never expected to use in the US.

This past weekend, my friend Meg&Jack came over and we had a rummage sale.  I suppose bartering isn’t a surprising element at a rummage sale, so I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to find myself drawing out old market day skills.


My strategy was to decide the price I was willing to pay for the item before getting into negotiations.  I was less interested in paying the absolute lowest amount possible than in paying no more than I thought something was worth.  If the seller wouldn’t go done to my pre-set value price, I walked away.  For the rummage sale, I sort of just flipped the strategy, thinking how low would I be willing to go to part with something.  Since the sale was mostly stuff I was just trying to get rid of, this went well for buyers.

Making do with limited language skills

The surprising bit was how much I had to use my I-really-don’t-know-what-you’re-talking-about skills, and even more surprising, occasionally my smile-and-nod-cuz-I-don’t-give-a-vampire skills.  Nearly every person that came to the sale had a thick accent with varying degrees of English skills. 

There were the two Spanish women who asked on nearly every item, “is there another price?”  And the woman from next door who I think is from South-East Asia.  She’s got Tibetan prayer flags on her porch, but along the I-80 corridor of the East Bay, nearly everyone has Tibetan prayer flags.  An African woman stopped in briefly, but I didn’t get a chance to find out where she was from.  A younger gentleman who could have been British, Australian or even South African (I can’t tell!) came by looking for some action figures.  And there was an older gentleman who sounded as though he came from Eastern Europe a long time ago, his accent softened by years of English.  These people were all very nice and we talked only of items for sale.

I really have no idea what you’re talking about

The smile-and-nod-cuz-I-don’t-give-a-vampire skills came in with my downstairs neighbor, an elderly man from Bangladesh whom I had never actually met before this day.  He told me, and then Meg&Jack and me, repeatedly, that we shouldn’t have a rummage sale on the small street.  We should put everything in our car and just sell it out of the trunk on the busy road.  He came back later, after Megan&Jack had left and gave me the entire history of Bangladesh.  It wasn’t until about 10 minutes into it that I realized he was saying “Bangladesh.”  Understanding maybe only every 5th word, I think I got the gist. I definitely got as much as I wanted to get.  I was so relieved when he left. 

Then he came back and gave me his whole family history.  It was so, so much like a conversation that would have happened in my Zambian village.  “I moved from here to there on twenty-three April 1965 and then I went to visit my cousin in nearby city on seven June 1942 and stayed there 1, 2, 3 weeks.”   Years clearly not making sense, going backwards in time, numbers being confused.  “On 18 February, I moved here, but then I travel to India for visit to my brother and I stay 6 weeks.”  Etc, etc.  Then it got so much like a Peace Corps village story it was surreal.  “I am very poor.  My brothers and my sister, they send me money.  But my brother, he only gives me food, no money.”  And another 5 minutes about how poor he is.  In Zambia, I would have assumed a person was telling me this because they saw me as a rich muzungu and wanted me to give them money.  Here, with my neighbor saying this, I had no idea what was up.  Smile and nod; smile and nod.  And be thankful when the poor man’s cell phone rings.

Photo: one of my Zambian neighbors who would come over and just talk and talk and talk and I rarely had any idea what she was going on about

Friday, August 19, 2011

Adventures from Home: Batons, Balls and Bugs, pt. 3

A long, long time ago, when Alfred was still a Schultz and we hadn’t mytwirlersyet left the safe bubble of St. Francis, a little girl picked up a flyer at a parade.  “Leslynettes Baton Twirling Corps.”  Alfred was delighted – she already had a friend from school in the corps - and it wasn’t long before she was marching down the street in a little blue leotard with red sequined sailor collar and small sequined anchor on her hip.

Twenty years and more costumes than you can count later, that little twirler still knows her parade routines.  So do her sisters, who also eventually joined the corps, although never becoming close to as good as she was.  Fishtails with two batons simultaneously, only Alfred.  Regular double and occasional triple toss-turn-arounds, only Alfred.  Crying in the corner in her hula skirt, a very cute little munchkinhead.  Almost hitting the judge with her baton, yeah, that’d be me.

But for us, not being good at something has never been a reason to not have fun doing it.  So when we found those old baton cases in the back hall closet this summer, we were more thrilled to pull out our old metal rods and do a few tosses.

“No, I think that was routine 4, routine 2 had something like this.”  We tried to sort out which routines we could remember.  “Well 3 is certainly the easiest,” one of us piped up, followed by all three of us in unison, “Up, up. Down, down. Out 2-3-4, out 2-3-4. Up. Out. Shoulder 2-3-4 and down.”  “And 6, we all know 6.”  It turned out we remembered a good number of them.  Of the 6 main routines, we knew 1, 3, 4 and 6.  So we had a little parade around the front lawn.

Always feeling more graceful than we looked, we took over the dirveway doing thumbflips, tour jetes, toss-turn-arounds and leaps.  Then we decided to have some real fun, a strut off!  With some more of our favorite routine at the end.  Daddy sat on the porch with his iced tea, laughing as we outlined an invisible square with our high steps.

Mommy’s not-so-little twirlers


Munchkinhead clearly won the strut off. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Adventures from Home: Batons, Balls and Bugs, pt. 2

Katrina going for the ballIf you’ve been following this blog for the past 8 years, or if you happen to wander down to the toy box and explore old posts, you’ll know that another practically mandatory part of a trip to Milwaukee is a nice energetic game of roof volleyball.  (Fully explained in this 2003 post.)

An early morning downpour had left the grass shiny with moisture.  The wet blades squished between our toes and dampened our feet.  The ball was a little deflated, smaller and more pliable than it ought to be, but that will happen to children’s playground balls when they sit unloved in the closet 11 months of the year.  We’d be darned if we were going to use the hard soccer ball that was our only other option.

Lined up on the grass, one front row player, one back row, one picture taker from the porch, we were ready to start.  “Volley for the serve!”  The ball flew through the air and bounced onto the lower roof.   The roof almost never uses its back row, towering high above the front row that covers the porch and garage.

Even though we were only doing a 2 player team, rotating in, we still went full court, from the south end of the roof to the north end of the grass.  Half court has gotten to small as we and the tree at the south end of the court have grown.  Super court is too hard, both in terms of difficulty of coverage and in terms of playing surface; it includes the driveway.

“Whop!”  “Blat!”  “Thud!”  The ball bounced off gutter, ricocheted off our hands and occasionally slammed into the front window, or a cup of water resting on the porch.  “We’re Frosted Flakes, we’re great!”  Our old cheer went up, along with some very bad cheerleader-esque jumps.

It was a tough series – that roof never seems out of practice – but we came out a head, taking the series 2-0.  Don’t worry roof, you’ll get another chance soon.  Probably in winter, when you like to steal the ball and keep it for yourself.

Monday, August 15, 2011

My Bowling Skirt

I like to bowl.  I like to sew.  I like to bowl so much, I joined a bowling league.  And at the bowling league, I discovered I bowl better in skirts.  “Well then,” I thought, “I ought to sew a skirt to bowl!”  And I did.

bowling skirt in progress (2)

Cutting out the materials was pretty easy; everything was felt. and the pattern only had three main pieces and a handful of appliques.

The hardest part, and the part that took the most time, was sewing the sequins onto the bowling pins.  But even that wasn’t too difficult.

ball and pins

Since the skirt fabric was black, I needed a different color for the ball.  My bowling ball is a beautiful swirl of silvers, golds and dark greys with black.  It looks like outer space.  It’s pretty, so I needed something pretty for my skirt, too. This blue-grey felt has an embossed paisley pattern, giving it a little bit of color fluctuation and shimmer when it moves under the light.  It’s fabulous.

Some snip snip here, and some stitch stitch there, and pretty soon I had a great new bowling skirt.

me in my bowling skirt (2)

It was quite a hit with the bowling league. :)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Adventures from Home: Batons, Balls and Bugs pt. 1

I was hoping for hot weather. You know that beautiful heat wave the whole rest of the county’s been having lately?  Yeah, the Bay Area has it, too.  It means we get temperatures in the ‘70s.  So when I was heading to Wisconsin, I was really hoping for some nice 80 degree weather.  I wanted to go swimming, wanted to go swimming so much that we even helped Daddy open the pool.  Of course, opening the pool means cleaning the pool, skimming and vacuuming, getting rid of all those dead bugs.

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(World take note, I’m not wearing shoes in that picture. Look hard now; you won’t see that very often.)

We probably could have actually gone swimming despite the cooler air temperatures if the filter hadn’t been broken.  After all, mid-70’s is decent pool weather when the pool water is also decent.  But the filter being broken meant the water couldn’t run through the solar heater.  Sixty degree water is not fun for swimming. 

The closest we got to getting in the pool was Munchkinhead and me playing Follow-the-Leader me and katrina being bunny rabbitson the stairs.  The water near the surface was warmed a bit by the sun, so we were ok on the first stair.  The second stair wasn’t too bad either, but the third stair, brrrrrr, frigid.  That just made the adventure even more fun as we scrambled to get across the stair and out of the pool as fast as we could. 

Alfred was not interested in playing Follow-the-Leader with us, nor was she interested in getting wet, so she took lots of pictures for us.

Sufficiently soaked and amused, we wandered off to our next adventure.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Big Field, Small World

army men in centerpieceIt was my second Giants game and I was excited, both because of the fun of baseball and because of the excuse to wear my orange pants.

A friend of mine had an extra ticket to an outing sponsored by his law firm, so he invited me to join the group.  This was extra wonderful because his daughter was going to be there and she and I had been trying to meet up for months without success.

I wandered down the long carpeted hallway and finally found the room where everyone was gathered.  It was a neat little room.  A few couches set near the back for those that were less interested in watching the game, regular baseball seats just outside for those who really wanted to watch the game, and stools behind large windows for the baby-bear folks who wanted a little of the game and the indoor warmth.

Bottled water and other beverages enjoyed an ice bath in the sink.  A table at the side of the room held all the fixin’s for do-it-yourself tacos, West Coast style.  Nothing like what we’d have on taco night back home. Small corn tortillas instead of hard shells.  No ground beef, but your choice of carne asada or soupy chicken.  Rice and beans, guacamole and cheese made up the other filling options.  On another table across the room, taco dip!  Almost exactly like Auntie Gail makes.  I especially enjoyed the little cinnamon covered bits of baked flour tortillas.

I made myself plate and scooted outside to catch the start of the game.  The nice gentlemen sitting near me and I began to small talk – after all, this was a fun group outing with lots of new people.  They were both attorneys and had come up from Vegas for the game. 

Then the gentleman sitting next to me asked that standard Bay Area question, “Where are you from originally?”  Because no one’s from the Bay Area.  (You should see the reactions people have when they meet Mr. Trizzle, who is actually from the Bay Area.)  “Milwaukee.”  His face lit up, “me, too!”  Then my face lit up.  It wasn’t long before we were talking frozen custard stands, Summerfest and familiar roads.

We were laughing about what a small world it was when we discovered it was even smaller; we both have connections to Vanderbilt!  Then we had more familiar streets to discuss and of course plenty of conversation about how beautiful Vandy’s campus is. 

I also got to spend a good amount of time chatting with my friend and catching up with his daughter, who I’d really like to get to know better.  (Due to our crazy schedules, this was only the second time we’d gotten to meet together.)  Plus, I got to meet several other fun people including one lady with totally awesome shoes.

Don’t worry, I still watched the game, though it wasn’t much of a game to watch.  The Giants lost 6-1.

Photo of baseball centerpiece from Crazy A Xi’s wedding.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Adventures from Home: Game Night

One of the best things about the Schultz house – and all my Wisconsin friends can attest to this – is game night.  Game night isn’t a particular night; it’s any night when we happen to play games.  Board games, card games, even Twister.

During my last trip this past June, one of the first things we did was have a game night.  And lucky for us, well lucky for him too, The Great Ecclestone joined us.  Game night is fun when it’s just part of the family; it’s super fun when friends are involved. 

The Great Ecclestone walked into the house as Daddy was yelling from the family room to someone in some other room and Katrina was stomping down the hallway muttering loudly to no one in particular while Mommy yelled back to one of them from the computer room.  The Great Ecclestone smiled, “nothing’s changed around here.”  He was right, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Game 1

We decide to spare The Great Ecclestone’s ears, especially since he’s a professional singer, and opted for board games over Beatles Rock Band.  First on the list, a new game that the family got for Christmas last year.  I spent Christmas in California so I hadn’t played this game yet, but Mommy and Munchkinhead had. 

Katrina with box on her headLast Word” is a boisterous game that involves quick thinking and shouting over your neighbor in order to be the last person to give a correct answer before the timer goes off.  Correct answers are words that start with the letter given on one card and fall in the category given on the other card.

I thought I had a pretty good “m” word for “things found on the internet” when I said “mommy.”  (She likes to play a lot of Farmville and CafĂ© World.)  But, I was really impressed when Munchkinhead tried to answer “Mozilla.”  I say tried because she couldn’t quite pronounce the word and had trouble spitting it out.  (Bay Area and internet-y friends, remember we’re playing this game far from the tech-focused coasts, where most people probably don’t even know Mommy trying to thinkwhat Firefox is, let alone Mozilla.)  I think we gave it to her anyway just because it was so brilliant an answer.

I have no idea who won, which means it probably wasn’t me.  But,  I do remember we had a ton of fun playing that game.

Games 2 & 3

As the night wore on and the Amarula began to run low, the standards started to come out.  Someone wound up with a giraffe on their head, sitting positions were exchanged for lounging and out came the household classics, “20 Questions” with Reifenberg Rules (the rules in the box aren’t as much fun) and “Whoonu”, the game from Cranium where you try to select the things you think your friends will like most. 

It’s amazing how much you can learn about people you’ve known all your life, or all their life as the case may be.  For example, I had no idea that mommy likes sailboats.  I put the card in the envelope to get it out of circulation and because I had nothing better, and then bam, she rates it super high.  She loves sailboats.  Who knew!?

Nelson laying on floor

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Brown Velvet Sandals

I wasn’t expecting the second post in my shoe series to be another obit, but life is full of surprises.

I’d been debating taking my brown velvet sandals to Goodwill for sometime, but not having any good replacements already in my closet,  I was hesitant.

These sandals, much like my black wingtips were a product of the Spice Girl era and my Bakers infatuation, or perhaps better said, my Bakers era and Spice Girl infatuation.  Round 4” heels and a thick platform front, soft velvet crisscrossing over my foot and wrapping around my ankle.  They were comfortable, but clunky.

I didn’t get them for any special purpose.  No, by the time I bought these shoes I was long past the basic-shoe life of my youth and beginning the collection that would eventually turn into the Great Wall of Shoes, producer of Shoevalanches.  These I bought not because there was a special occasion or a certain outfit, but because they were cute and I had an allowance or a job.

The item I remember wearing them with most was a brown stretch-velvet skirt I had fashioned out of a large piece of fabric.  I’d wrapped the fabric around me, held the edges together out to the side and made a seam a few inches long down from my waist.  Hemmed up all the sides and the result was a long skirt with bias drape accentuating a high slit. 

My best memory of those brown velvet shoes was with that brown velvet skirt, imagebut it wasn’t a brown velvet skirt that day.  It was a brown velvet shirt.  I was going to a sorority event that I happened to be around for on a visit home from Zambia.  I’d gained so much weight in Africa that practically none of my clothes fit.  The best I could do for a fancy-dress event was to wear that skirt as a tube top with a long red skirt designed to be a petticoat for a formal dress. As an undergarment, the petticoat skirt was made to fit at my hips.  On this evening, it was snug at my waist.  A strange combination to be sure, but it totally worked, and those brown velvet sandals helped bring it all together.

So, I was debating about keeping them or passing them along, but I didn’t get a chance to decide.  Not very long ago, the decision was made for me.  I was walking to work from the bus stop.  My left shoe was making an odd noise and I felt a shaking under my toes that seemed odd.  “What is going on with my shoe?”I thought.  As I picked up my leg to take a step, my velvet-wrapped foot rose in the air.  The platform stayed on the ground.

broken shoe

Luckily  I had my gym bag with me and could put my gym shoes on right away.  Now, I just need to find some new brown sandals.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Adventures from Home: Congratulations Grad!

One of the great things about going home over Fathers’ Day weekend, and one of the reasons I chose that weekend to go, was that I got to see a whole bunch of my relatives at my cousin’s graduation party!

Emily, one of the youngest cousins (and Mommy’s god-daughter), graduated from high school this June.  A great reason to have a party!  There were balloons and glow bracelets, both of which I put on my wrists.  The tables were scattered with bowls of snack food and little metallic graduation hat cut-outs that my aunties delighted in hiding in everyone’s purses, camera cases and knitting bags. 

DSCI0263The dinner spread was a true smorgasbord of standard Schlaikowski delights.  Little wienies, a pickle and olive plate, Auntie DSCI0247 (2)Gail’s taco dip, fruit salad, coleslaw, buns and some sort of gravy soaked meat to put on the buns, potato and tortilla chips, and a stack of crackers and cheese.

It wasn’t a super hyper dance-crazed party or anything like that, but it was still a ton of fun.  Our little first-cousins-once-removed provided so much entertainment only the most stubborn teenager could be bored.  They ran in circles, climbed up walls and played fetch with a large, neon pink, stuffed dolphin.  That was all in addition to their usual just looking cute.

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I didn’t have a dolphin, but I was content to just play with my food.

black olive claws shrunk

(That worked better when my hands were smaller, or maybe I need bigger olives.)

It was a great party and wonderful to spend time with my large family. :)  Huge shoutout to my godparents for arranging it and being fabulous hosts!  And, Congratulations Emily!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Homecoming Wingtips

A new series.  It will bore some – *yawn* shoes, and they aren’t even sneakers *double yawn*.  But, there’s at least two people who will enjoy; thank you Pretty Little Munchkinhead and Renzephyr.  And I feel like writing about shoes.  This first post is also a bit of an obituary.

Growing up, Mommy did a very good job of keeping us practical, sensible, frugal.  (Little did I know she was even repressing her own desire for cute, fun shoes.  The things you learn when you grow up…)  We generally had about 4 pairs of shoes, give or take.  A pair of white dress shoes for summer, a pair of black dress shoes for winter, maybe a pair of brown dress shoes, too, and a pair of white canvas shoes for everyday wear.  Sometimes we had other types of tennis shoes; sometimes we had some dress sandals or some jelly shoes.  But, those were the basics.*

Then came high school, and everything changed.  Sophomore year homecoming, my first big dance.  I didn’t go freshman year.  A boy I didn’t like asked me to go with him.  Not wanting to go with him, but not wanting to hurt his feelings, I told him I wasn’t going.  A group of friends asked me to go with them, I told them I wasn’t going, too.  I wanted to go with them, but I had to stick to my story.  Mommy tried to convince me otherwise, but I was stubborn in Aurelia homecoming 1996my refusal to everyone.  Sophomore year, I just had to go.

My dress a beautiful silver, shiny here, dull there, an ever-changing pattern of texture as I moved.  Of course Mommy made my dress.  A pattern of hers from the 70s.  I should have listened to her when she said to just cut off the extra length and make a smaller hem.  Now, when I see the dress, the large hem looks like an odd seam on the thin fabric.  At the time, it didn’t bother me at all.   I loved my dress.

I had a beautiful dress; I just needed beautiful shoes to go with it.  Off Mommy and I headed to the mall, and there, at a store called Bakers, we found those beautiful shoes.  So, so many beautiful shoes at Bakers.  It would soon become a favorite store of mine.

The shoes we picked out were black wingtips, a retro style on a 3” stacked heel.  Big and clunky, but big and clunky was the thing.  (Thank you, Spice Girls.)  We pulled out the thick black laces and replaced them with silver laces made from dress scraps.  Platforms for a 1970s pattern; that worked pretty well.

Those shoes then became my everyday school shoes for the rest of the year.  We put the black laces back in.  I remember sitting in Kuj’s trig class coloring in the dots on the wingtip detail with my silver gel pen.  And after that wore off, with my copper gel pen. Both colors looked good on the black shoes in ¦¦¦¦¦¦¦¦

The shoes, in better days.

By the end of high school, the heels were so worn down that there was a 1.5” difference between the inside and outside of the heel on the back.  in college, I found a good cobbler who was able to completely rebuild the heels and I got several more years out of those shoes.  Many years in fact.  It wasn’t until just a few months ago, 15 years after Mommy bought them, that they finally left my closet.

The heels were starting to feel wobbly; the stitching was coming out the sides.  I had other black shoes with stacked 3” heels that served the same outfits and were in better shape.  They weren’t completely done, but they had gotten to dress-up-box-only state.  So off they went to Goodwill.

black wingtips (2)

I got a lot of good use out those shoes. :)


*Of course, this isn’t counting the heaps of twirling, parade, ballet and gymnastics shoes that could be found in strewn around the house in random places.  But those don’t count.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Adventures from Home: Daddy’s Day

“Trains, planes and automobiles,” we would always say, laughing. Describing how all three of us had come home for whatever adventure or holiday.  Alfred would drive, Munchkinhead would fly, and I’d come choo-chooing in.  But not this time.  This time it was only planes and automobiles.  I suppose you could add feet if you count Katrina’s walking out of her bedroom.  But no matter how we all got there, the important part was that we were all home.  Home and going to church together.

You see, it was Father’s Day – which is a special enough reason – but, this was an even more special day.  Daddy was worship leader. 

Mommy, Alfred, Munchkinhead and I shuffled into a pew behind some familiar heads and beamed proudly at the back of Daddy’s head in the front pew across the aisle.  “That’s our daddy"!”  we thought. Well, not Mommy; but you get the idea.

Suit and tie, microphone in hand, Daddy stood up front welcoming everyone.  He always looks so spiffy when he wears his suits. I think I especially like it because seeing him in a suit reminds me of when I was little and he’d come into day care to pick us up. From across the room we’d spot him coming in the door, the tall guy nicely dressed in a suit.  And here he was again, easily spotted from across the room; the tall guy nicely dressed in a suit.

There was a guest preacher that day, from a different denomination.  She seemed pretty nice.  Reminded me a lot of a kindergarten teacher. Although, for some reason, most female pastors remind me of kindergarten teachers.  my current pastor in Cali may be an exception.  I was super excited to hear Daddy’s children message, but the guest pastor got to do it instead.  Oh well, Daddy still did a great job and it was wonderful to be back in church with my whole family.


Family at church

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Happy Birthday Mommy

They say it’s your birthday.  (*air jamming*)  Well happy birthday to ya. (more *air jamming*).

That’s right folks, celebrating another 32nd birthday, please welcome to the stage, Mommy!


animals mommy as bush baby

She’s a little startled to be welcomed back since she hasn’t had a birthday wish on here since her 50th birthday.

I’m sure all my readers have pretty nice mommies.  Some may even have great mommies.  But nobody’s, nobody’s mommy’s as awesome as mine.  (Well, except Alfred’s and Munchkinhead’s.)

She’s kinda like that combination hookah-and coffee pot from the beginning of Aladdin; also makes julienned fries, will not break, will not… She sews, she floats, plays Wii guitar and Farmville.  Will not yell, will not…

mommy and katrina on couchYou know, she has something else in common with Aladdin, too.  They both have a monkey.

But seriously folks, Mom_me is fabulous.  She taught me how to sew and how to be nice and how to vacuum and how to make red velvet cake.  She gave me her good-taste-in-shoes gene, maybe to make up for also giving me her ugly-toe gene.  And she taught me how to be there for those around me, for my friends and my family, even from far, far away. 

She answers the phone in the middle of the day when I call just to mommy as computer piratesay “hi, I’m walking.”  Schultz-Beins-278She plays silly games with my sisters and me, going through long lists of people who weren’t in Wham! or donning bejeweled eye patches.  She sings along with us, whether it’s squealing the last “feed your hea-ead” of the family theme song or putting a hat on your head and spinning it around, that’s what I said.  And she takes good care of her grandchildren.  (Photo of Mommy holding her grandchildren used with permission courtesy of Jill Brown Photography:

Aurelia and Mommy at Mel's wedding 2009She takes me all sorts of great places, like church and Jo-Ann Fabrics, and shoe shopping.  Plus, Mommy’s my standard date for all my friends’ weddings.  This works out perfectly since they all adore her, too.  The photographers usually ask if we’re sisters.  Since we’re now perpetually 4 years apart in age, I guess that’s acceptable.

And like a good mommy, she’s always there.


WisconsinAurelia and mommy killing cats Thanksgiving 2010


Tennesseeme and mommy


Californialots o blue Thanksgiving 2009


even Africa

3 generations on safari