Saturday, December 31, 2005

Noncompliance, Anyone?

The house we own in Florida is in The Neighborhood, which (of course) has a community association. This can be a good thing, or a bad thing, but up to now it has not been a problem. The annual dues are low and there is very little Nazi-ism in The Neighborhood.

A few weeks ago they did a neighborhood-wide inspection to make sure everyone was in compliance with the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions. We were dinged on one item - and received a Very Important Letter in the mail requiring our "response within 10 days."

Never mind that the letter took 14 days to arrive.

Anyway, this is what the letter said, in part:

The following item(s) were deemed noncompliant and require your immediate attention:
- Mailbox needs repair.

So......what exactly did that mean? The mailboxes in The Neighborhood are required to be built in little concrete/stucco enclosures. After all, regular mailboxes on a post will bring down property values, right? We contacted our tenants (with a cc to the property manager) to have them take a look at the mailbox to see what exactly needs to be repaired.

The tenant replied immediately (c.c. to the property manager) with this:

There doesn't appear to be any problems with the mailbox. The handle is a bit loose, but I can fix that myself. Please advise.

The property manager responded a bit later with:

We can send someone to look at the mailbox next week. There may be a charge for an estimate.

Meanwhile, I had e-mailed The Neighborhood Association and asked for more specifics on the mailbox. This is the reply I received (c.c. to the tenant and the property manager):

I honestly cannot recall the issue with the mailbox. If you like, I could meet you at the house to re-inspect it and discuss bringing it up to code.

After another e-mail letting him know that we are thousands of miles away, we arranged for the tenants, the property manager, and a representative of The Neighborhood Association to re-inspect the mailbox.

Meanwhile, we received this e-mail from someone (?) in The Neighborhood Association (c.c. to the property manager, the tenant, and the inspector) :

Hello everybody, my name is Fran xxxxx, I am assisting Bev xxxxxx, I have reviewed the issues regarding the mailbox at 131 xxxx xxxx Drive. Please keep me informed as to the status of the repairs.

So, now we have the tenant, the property manager, the inspector, two anonymous people, and ourselves all involved in the Mysterious Mailbox Issue.

Finally I received this e-mail from the neighborhood inspector (c.c. to the tenant, the property manager, and the two anonymous people):

I wanted to expound on the condition of the mailbox at 131 xxxx xxxx Drive. The mailbox shows rust around the door hinges. All that should be required to bring the mailbox back into compliance is a little sanding of the hinges, and rinsing of the frame. Appreciate your efforts to bring this issues to closure.

Please let me know of the target complete date for compliance.

So.........we just sent/received 23 e-mails involving six different people and the issue is a rusty hinge?

A bit extreme, don't you think?

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Christmas Story

Once upon a time on a tropical island far away, there was a little boy known as Destructo. He was cute and cuddly and fun, as any toddler would be. He was also full of energy and had no concept of "sit still" or "shhhhh....".

On Christmas Eve, Destructo's family piled into the MomVan and headed to church, as was family tradition. Before going into the church, the family stopped to look at the nativity display on the lawn outside. Destructo was very intrigued with the "cow" and the "horsey" and of course, the baby. After a few minutes, they headed inside and took a seat.

It was all of twelve seconds later when Destructo decided he didn't want to be inside. He wriggled and squirmed and babbled random words until his Daddy took him outside.

Once he was outside, he made a beeline for the "cow", the "horsey", and of course, the baby. He and his Daddy stood on the grass looking at the nearly life-size creatures until the music began inside the church.

When they returned to their seats, Destructo's Mommy was ready with a diaper bag full of juice, snacks, and other distractions. After ten minutes, Destructo had worked his way through all the distractions, and still wasn't able to sit still. Destructo's Mommy reached into the bag and pulled out the Big Guns - the "pa-wo" (pacifier).

Destructo popped his pa-wo into his mouth and sat quietly playing with the Winnie the Pooh clip attached to the pa-wo.

His Mommy and Daddy had just heaved a huge sigh of relief, when Destructo suddenly demanded, "Two pa-wo."

This was a good thing. You see, when Destructo is tired and ready to sleep, he always needs two pacifiers - one for his mouth and the other to rub on his nose. His Mommy quickly reached into the bag to get the second pacifier (which she knew she had grabbed from the MomVan before coming inside).

The pa-wo was nowhere to be found. His Mommy emptied the diaper bag while his Daddy checked his pockets, but there was no sign of the pa-wo or the Winnie the Pooh clip it was attached to.

This was not a good thing. The remaining forty-five minutes did not go well. Mommy, Daddy, and the Blonde Brother took turns supervising Destructo in the Cry Room.

When the final song had been sung and the Merry Christmases had been said, Destructo's family headed toward the exit. As soon as they stepped outside, Destructo demanded to see the "cow", the "horsey", and of course, the baby.

Destructo's Mommy and Daddy walked him over to the nativity display, where a crowd had gathered - a giggling crowd, which was a bit unusual to see at a nativity set. When the crowd thinned a bit, Mommy and Daddy stepped up to the edge of the display with Destructo.

Daddy pointed to the ox, and Destructo responded with "COW!!!"

Mommy pointed out the donkey, and Destructo shot back "HORSEY!!!"

As Daddy was getting ready to point out the baby Jesus, Destructo interrupted with "PA-WO!!!!!"

Sure enough, wedged crookedly in Baby Jesus' mouth was Destructo's pa-wo, with the Winnie the Pooh clip dangling down the side.

(This is where Destructo's Daddy admits that when he took Destructo back outside before church began, he saw someone he knew and was "sort of" paying attention to what Destructo was doing while he talked with his buddy.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

I Did The Unthinkable

Yeah, I made fudge with cheese in it.

I don't know why I tried, I should have known better. After all, I have been married to the Italian Hubster for nearly nineteen years. I know the Italian Food Rules: (1) Don't try new recipes, and (2) Don't mess with existing recipes. The only exception is if the Italian suggests the new recipe/modification, or if you can make him think it was his idea.

Food is the stuff of legends in his family. I don't know how many times I've heard the story about the time Tara didn't put enough water in the pasta and it all stuck together. Or the time MIL tried to sneak some Prego past FIL - he walked into the house, took one whiff of the air, and said, "You don't expect me to eat that shit, do you?"

Anyway, I may have just created the next Family Food Legend.

You see, a friend from a military spouses group (who shall remain nameless, but we all know who she is) has a recipe for chocolate fudge made with Velveeta. Yeah, I said Velveeta. Not technically cheese, but not your typical fudge ingredient. (Apologies to the Food Whore for using the V-word multiple times.)

One by one, members of our little group were trying the Cheesy Fudge and coming back with rave reviews. It's so creamy..... It's so easy..... It's to die for.....

I have my own tried-and-true fudge recipe that I've used for years and everyone loves it. It's creamy and so, so, so chocolatey. But I needed to know if the Cheesy Fudge would be better.

So I did it. I made both types and never told anyone that the secret ingredient in the "new" fudge was the V-word.

Other than the Diva, who said the Cheesy Fudge was "okay", everyone preferred the tried-and-true recipe.

That was a week ago. Fast forward to today.

The Hubster found a half box of Velveeta in the back of the refrigerator (we're not Velveeta people). He asked why it was there.

When I told him I used it to make the "new" fudge recipe, he went into full-blown Dramatic Italian mode.

After a moment of shock, his first response was, "Why the Hell did you do that? Who puts cheese in fudge? Why would you think fudge would be good with cheese in it???? I can't believe you did that to us!!" (This was followed by gagging and heaving sounds, even though it had been a week since he had eaten the fudge.) The drama continued...."My stomach is in knots!! I'm going to throw up just thinking about it!!" (This is the point where he shoved aside the bowl of soup he had been eating...) I can't believe you did that to me.....blah, blah, blah!!!!"

I'm really going to hear it from FIL.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Huh?

I may have mentioned that the Hubster is in the market for a new surf board.

We have looked all over the island - literally - for The Perfect Board. He knows exactly what he wants and has found it a couple of places, but he just can't bring himself to spend that much money.

So we keep looking.

A couple of weeks ago he learned that the place that makes a majority of the inner core piece for surf boards has gone out of business. This is big news on the island because it means a shortage of boards and increased prices.

So the search has become more intense.

Last night we went to a surf shop near campus, the same one we went to
this day. Last time we were there, he found The Perfect Board....but it was $565. He wasn't ready to spend that much, but now that there was a price increase on the horizon, he said he might consider it.

We walked into the store and he immediately spotted his Perfect Board. He took it out, looked at it from all angles, from a distance, up close, everything.

This is when Ditzy Salesgirl arrived. She looked the part of a beach bum, tan, sun-bleached hair, wearing a flippy white skirt, a tank top that exposed most of her belly, and no shoes.

This is when the Hubster spotted the price tag on the board: $665. They hadn't even put new tags on - just changed the first number in the price from a '5' to a '6'. This is the conversation that followed:

Ditzy Salesgirl: Is there anything I can help you with?

Hubster: I was here not too long ago and this board was $565.

Ditzy: (Trying to explain economics to him...) Yeah, there was a company that made parts for surf boards. They went out of business so we raised the price on all our boards by $100.

Hubster: That's not right - this board was here before the company shut down. It didn't cost you any more.....

Ditzy: It's just what we do.

Hubster: So you raised the price on all your boards?

Ditzy: Yeah. By $100 each.

Hubster: No one is going to buy them at that price.

Ditzy: Yeah. That's probably true. It's okay though. If we sell them all, then we won't have any left. Then what would we sell?


Okaaaayyyyy.......I must have missed that day in Economics 101.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Family Christmas Classic

There is nothing like a long, sarcastic e-mail from my Good Sister-in-Law to remind me how fortunate I am to be far, far away from family for the holidays.

It seems it is time for the Annual Christmas Ornament and Cookie Party, which is an idea so demented it could only spring from the mind of the Sister-in-Law From Hell. The tradition began sometime in the early '90's and has been dying a slow, painful death ever since.

(Just to clarify, Good SIL is the Hubster's sister. SIL From Hell is the person married to the Hubster's brother. There is no common DNA involved.)

I was there the first year, but have managed to opt out every year since. (Thank God for the Marine Corps!!)

We had flown in early on a Saturday afternoon, and Mother-in-Law let me know that SIL From Hell was having an ornament and cookie party that evening. I was invited, but not expected to bring the "one wrapped Christmas ornament and one dozen homemade Christmas cookies" as the invitation stated. I felt bad going because (1) I wasn't bringing anything, and (2) I really didn't enjoy attending SIL From Hell's little functions.

MIL, Good SIL and I arrived a little late, because SIL From Hell never runs on time for anything. There were a few guests already there, and SIL From Hell was making some last minute adjustments to the Christmas decor on her dining room table, which we assumed would be used for a buffet. She had put down a red tablecloth, a punch bowl, and a few Christmas-y decorations. The guests were instructed to place their wrapped ornaments on one end of the table, and take their one-dozen homemade cookies into the kitchen.

About half an hour later, SIL From Hell emerged from the kitchen and shouted, "Let's get this par-tay started!!!'' This was followed by a truly frightening, cackle-y laugh, one that could only come from within a truly demented person. She was carrying teeny, tiny paper plates and cups, plastic spoons, and napkins, all of which she arranged ever so neatly on her table.

She then began a series of trips to/from the kitchen, each leading to stares of disbelief from Good SIL and I, followed by snickers and giggles when SIL From Hell was out of earshot again.

The first trip brought two large bottles of Hi-C Fruit Punch and two trays of ice cubes. After filling her punchbowl and mixing the brew, she returned to the kitchen.

Next trip.....a crockpot full of beans and weenies. Let me repeat that - she brought out beans and weenies.

The third trip was the jaw-dropper. She brought out a HUGE tray of homemade Christmas cookies. By HUGE, I mean approximately fifteen dozen homemade Christmas cookies. Coincidently, there were approximately fifteen guests there, and each had brought one dozen homemade Christmas cookies.

So, we made idle chit-chat with SIL From Hell's dysfunctional friends while we dined on beans and weenies and our own Christmas cookies, then washed it all down with lukewarm Hi-C Fruit Punch.

Finally SIL From Hell announced that it was "time to do the ornaments!!"

She made a huge ordeal of it - parading the stack of wrapped ornaments from her dining room table on to her coffee table, arranging and rearranging them until they were just right, and asking everyone to take a seat in the living room.

When all was right in her little world, she selected one wrapped ornament and carefully unwrapped it.




Then she walked over and hung it on her tree.



This was repeated fourteen more times.

When she finished, she thanked us for coming and whisked us out the door.



And that is one reason I don't miss spending the holidays with family.


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

D.A.R.E. (not)

I'm not one to condone drug use, but moody teenagers are much more pleasant to be around after they have had a bit of Vicodin.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Experimental Friday

I spend way too much time experimenting with photo editing programs.

This is the beginning photo, shot through my living room window one day last week:

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This is what I came up with for Experimental Friday.

I really need to get a life.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Goin' North Shore

This weekend is a rare weekend without soccer, so the Hubster and I decided to make a quick trip up to the North Shore. He's in the market for a new surfboard and I'm always up for a photo op, so we headed north.

There are two routes to the North Shore. The first is mostly highway, through the center of the island, quicker but not really remarkable. The other is a two-lane curvy road along the coast, a gorgeous drive (especially at sunset) but about 30 minutes longer. We decided to take the highway up and the coastal drive home.

One of the things we love about Oahu is the variety of landscapes packed into one small island, as we noted on the 45 minute drive from our house to the North Shore. The area we live in is a relatively flat beach community, mostly surrounded by water. From there we drive past lush rainforests and waterfalls, over (actually through) the mountain and into an industrial area of the island. After that, there are the pineapple fields, the huge pine trees, and finally the farmlands (yes, there are cows!) of the North Shore. The Hubster, being the environmental geek that he is, informed me that the different areas are referred to as 'microclimates'.

Oaky.

Anyway, we spent a long time browsing numerous surf shops, but had no luck finding the board he was looking for. The problem? Apparently 1/2" in width makes a HUGE difference, and the Hubster couldn't find the right size.

Next stop was Pupukea, which I have declared the Most Photogenic Beach on the island. I love taking pictures there, and make a point of stopping every time we are in the area. If you are ever on Oahu, go there - not because it is a 'typical' beach, but because it is not. It is very rocky (sharp, sharp, slice-your-feet-open rocks), and not really suitable for swimming. In the summer the water is completely calm, and very shallow so you can walk out quite far (wear water shoes!!) to explore the tide pools. In the winter it is the complete opposite - huge waves crashing on the rocks make it too dangerous to go out.

I got my pictures and we headed home, taking the slow road along the coast as the sun set. It was one of those days that made us remember how fortunate we are to be living here.

Pupukea, towards Waimea, as the sun is going down:

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Pupukea, towards Sunset Beach.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Yellow Friday

Another oldie.

Destructo used to hate being in the pool at our Florida house, partially because the Blonde One and the Wildcard had a tendency to be wild when they were in there, and partially because Destructo was only a few months old.

So, after we moved out and were staying with the Hubster's family for a few days, I made a trip back up there to prepare the house for the tenants. I took Destructo because, well, I was breastfeeding and didn't have any choice.

I took him in the pool and he loved it. It was calm. It was July and the water was warm. And the waterfall totally fascinated him.

Here's my Mellow Yellow shot of Destructo.