Friday, June 29, 2012

A Rant On My Parents' Behalf

My parents are in the Hamptons right now. We were talking on the phone earlier this week and they advised me that (a) they are really upset about something, (b) they want me to write about it on the blog, and (c) they can't remember what they are angry about.

In the interest of being a dutiful daughter, I'm going to try to do my best to express their outrage:

Dear Person(s) - Animal - Place - Object - Natural Phenomenon - Historical Event - Weather System - Whatever The Hell It Is That Irritated My Parents:

Stop it. Stop it right now. I have no idea what you are and/or aren't doing, whatever it is, you are really distressing my parents. They are so offended by your egregious conduct, they cannot even remember what they are upset about. Knock it off! I'm serious! I don't know who or what you are, so I don't know where you live, which means I can't make good on any threats, but if you don't treat my parents better in the future, I will send waves of hostility in your general direction, wherever that may be.

If you are an animal, stop pooping on my parents' lawn. If you are a noisy teenager, stop playing your drums at 4 a.m. If you are the neighbors next door, stop talking loudly about your most recent bowel movement. If you are the weather, please try to be less humid. If you are anything else, just knock it off.

I've got my eye on you, whomever/whatever you are,

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I Went to the Optometrist

Folks, it has been a busy week.  Busy in a good way, but still, busy. After much procrastination, I finally went to the optometrist on Tuesday. I had cancelled and rescheduled my appointment at least five times because I did not want to get my eyes dilated. I detest getting my eyes dilated, because afterwards, I have to lay in a dark room for several hours and do nothing. If I try to read or watch television or do anything that requires SEEING, I get a headache and want to die. Napping is the only thing I can do, except I only nap when I'm sick. (I'd make a lousy Spaniard).

I scheduled my appointment for 5:30 p.m. to minimize the inconvenience of dilated eyes. Except all my procrastination was for nothing. My optometrist has a new machine that takes a photograph of my eyeball and eliminates the need for dilation. Seriously? I could have done backflips right there in the doctor's office, except I'm clumsy and cannot even do a cartwheel. 

The rest of my appointment went well. Aside from the damn dilation, I always enjoy my annual visit to the optometrist. There's something soothing about the ritual of testing which lenses help me see the most clearly. Also, my optometrist bears an uncanny resemblance to John Lithgow. It's unsettling. While he was telling me about my retina, I kept hearing, "She turned me into a newt... I got better." Just try keeping a sraight face while you are having Monty Python flashbacks.

Now that I have my new prescription, it's time for new glasses. Although I usually wear contact lenses, my eyes can be bitchy demanding divas and I often have to wear glasses all day (for example, today). This means I must always have a reliable pair of glasses on hand. My current pair is getting old and is entering the "we could snap in half without the slightest provocation" zone.  This cannot happen. When I was in the fifth grade, I broke my pink plastic glasses and had to keep them together with scotch tape. I was already a nerd, and my scotch-taped glasses did not help my sense of self-worth. Although my self-esteem has improved drastically since the dark days of middle school, I still don't want to drive a car on an L.A. freeway while wearing a pair of scotch-taped glasses.

The hunt for new glasses is on.  Stay tuned.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Holy Crap, The Target Visa Card Is AWESOME

In my early 20s, I signed up for too many credit cards.  Here's the basic scenario: I would go clothing shopping; the clerk would tell me "sign up for our credit card and get 15% off today's purchase"; and unable to pass up on a discount, I'd sign up for my millionth credit card.

But then I matured into the wise, noble woman I am today [insert laugh track here] and I cancelled my deck of credit cards.  For several years, I've solely used my Amazon Visa card.  (Because I'm a book junkie, and free money at Amazon is way more valuable than air miles).

Whenever a store clerk offers me a credit card, I tune them out and mutter, "No thanks, not today."  I'm not going to sign up for an Old Navy Mastercard just so I can save 15% on a $7 t-shirt.  How cheap do I look?  (That's a rhetorical question, Mom). 

I've been offered the Target Visa card at least a dozen times and every time, I ignored the pitch.  I pretended I was paying attention to the clerk's speech; but really, I was thinking about something much more interesting, like (a) whether I want frozen yogurt or ice cream for lunch or (b) what name I would give a panda if the Commission for Naming Cute Baby Pandas ever called me in a panic.

But recently, a Target stores clerk got through to me.  Here's what transpired:

Clerk: Would you like to sign up for a Target Visa Card?  You will save 5% on all Target purchases.

Courtney: No, thank you.  Wait.  Did you just say 5% on all Target purchases?

Clerk: Yes.  And you get free shipping from the store's website.

Courtney: So wait, that's a 5% discount every time I shop at Target?  Not just today?

Clerk: Yes, and free shipping.

Courtney:  Really?

Clerk:  Yes.

Courtney: Well, sign me up!

At this point, I think there should have been a parade with tubas and elephants.  Or, at the very least,Target could have fired a confetti cannon and buried me in an avalanche of balloons.  But alas, I just got a piece of paper that's my temporary Target Visa. 

Whatever.  There's a Target about five minutes from our house, and Target is my source for everything from laundry detergent to birthday cards to everything in between.  I am thrilled that I get to save 5% whenever I shop there!* 

*I think we all realize I won't actually save 5% every time I shop at Target.  Instead, I'll just end up justifying more stupid impulse purchases, and my 5% savings will get spent on Christmas decorations and cute umbrellas that we don't actually need.  But shh, don't tell my inner-Scrooge.  He's so exuberant about the new credit card, he might actually lift the shoe-buying moratorium that's been in place since April.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Current Obsessions

1.  Homemade Pesto: How did I live 33 years without making homemade pesto? It is so easy and delicious! I've got six or seven basil plants growing in the backyard, and the pesto whirls up in no time in the food processor. I don't follow a recipe with precise measurements. We make our pesto with basil, steamed asparagus, toasted pine nuts, olive oil, salt, garlic, and if I remember, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. I'd show you a pesto photo... but our pesto is not photogenic. It looks like primordial ooze.

2.  The Rivals for Catan: Nathan and I played this games at least 100 times late last summer, after he sprained his ankle (so badly, he might as well have broken the bone). After a several month hiatus, we are playing it again. It's the best two-player strategy game we have found. Buy it here. Warning: the rules are absurdly complicated and take several hours to master, but your efforts will be well-rewarded.

3.  Oscar Wilde: I just finished reading Oscar Wilde and a Death of No Importance, by Gyles Brandreth. The characters include Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Sherard (grandson of the poet William Wordsworth) and of course Mr. Wilde. This book is part-mystery, part-historical fiction, and both are done really well. I've already downloaded the next mystery in the series to my Kindle, but first, I'm reading The Picture of Dorian Gray,Wilde's only novel. Could Wilde have been more witty? If he lived today, he would have the best damn twitter feed!

Sunday, June 24, 2012


I believe in to-do lists.  I don't understand how people live without them.  If I had to choose between to-do lists and Mexican food, I would spend the rest of my life craving a cold margarita and bowl of guacamole - but I'd still choose to-do lists in a heartbeat.

Sometimes, when I'm writing a to-do list, I cheat.  I pad the list with stuff like "take a shower" and "check email."  Seriously.  My to-do list for an average day of errands might look like this:

- Go to Target: shampoo, soap, batteries
- Take a shower
- Pay and mail bills
- Home Depot: look at possible new screen doors
- Watch Downton Abbey

Seriously?  Take a shower?  Of course I'm going to take an effing shower!  I love my daily shower!  And watch Downton Abbey?  That's not a task!  That's my current BBC addiction! 

It's shameful, but I just love to cross items off my to-do list; so I purposefully include stuff that I know will happen, regardless of how productive I actually am during the day.  Some people live for runner's high.  I live for the thrill of crossing items off a list. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Don't Lie To Me!

 I just wrote a long tirade about the company that installed our new a/c unit. It was full of curse words and ALL CAPS, because I am a Tower of Rage and Indignation. 

Long story short, the a/c company lied to me about work that needed to be finished.  They said all the work was done and they just needed to submit some paperwork to the City; but now, I find out that oops, the work is not all done.  By "we just need to submit some paperwork to the City," the company actually meant "and we also need to install a new ground wire and change the polarity on two wires." WTF? Don't tell me all the work is done AND THEN ASK FOR THE FINAL PAYMENT when the work is not all done, and you in fact need to put in another effing wire.

I HATE WHEN COMPANIES LIE TO ME.  Don't lie to me.  It's insulting, it's rude, and hey, you're breaking a commandment. 

But I deleted my tirade. It was cathartic to write, but my tirade does not make sense, unless you spent the last six weeks dealing with this farthead company.  (By the way, "farthead" is my new insult of choice). 

So instead of a tirade, I'm just going to give you this picture of a tree:

I hate the a/c company, but I really like this tree.  So there's that.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

To Bee or Not To Bee?

My apologies for the lame title, but I could not resist. A few weeks ago, I noticed some bees humming around the tree in front of our house. There were just a few bees, so I did not worry about the situation. However, one of my neighbors called the City of Pasadena, and a person from the Department of Health did this to the front of my house: 

The bees themselves have not caused any trouble; but the red tape has prompted screams from teenage girls and sent neighbors running across the street. I realize the City was trying to prevent bee stings with the red tape, but I think they are just daring little boys to throw rocks at the tree until a swarm of bee descends upon my neighborhood like a Biblical plague.

A few days after the tape went up, the Bee Guy arrived:

It's hard to tell in the photo, but the Bee Guy basically stuck a vacuum cleaner in the tree to suck out the bees. This made the bees VERY ANXIOUS, ANGRY AND ANNOYED. Before the Bee Guy arrived, I had seen, at most, five or six bees hovering around the tree. Now dozens of bees were circulating the tree and having a collective nervous breakdown. I went outside for a better photo, but the Bee Guy shouted at me to get back inside. The honey badger might not care about getting stung by bees, but I do; so I watched the proceedings from the safety of my living room.

Poor bees! They just wanted to pollinate the flowers and make delicious honey! Why did we have to destroy their hive? If the City of Pasadena is going to kill all the bees, I guess we might as well outlaw flowers, sunshine, laughter and unicorns.

p.s. This probably does not need to be said, but I obviously need a beekeeper suit (or at least the beekeeper mask - very bad ass).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Labyrinth Perfume

I recently posted about my favorite children's movies, and my list included Jim Henson's Labyrinth.  Shortly thereafter, I was flipping through a magazine and noticed an ad with photos from that movie.  I assumed the movie was getting a theatrical re-release and rejoiced. But then I actually read the ad and discovered it was not an ad for the theatrical or Blu-ray release of Labyrinth. It was an ad for Labyrinth Perfume, the new line of Labyrinth inspired perfume.

I don't know where to start.  But first, just to get it out of the way: what the &$^( I mean seriously *(&$@) holy *(&@) are they kidding @^%(# what next &$@(*@)##!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In no particular order, several more thoughts:

1.  Labyrinth was released in 1986.  It's 2012.  Does anyone else see a timing problem?  If not, I suppose now is a good time for some Caddyshack ketchup, Pretty in Pink bathroom towels, and a Back to the Future wristwatch collection. 

2.  Is this a new trend I did not know about?  Are perfume scents based on movies from the 1980s the new "it" beauty product?  If so, then I need some Return of the Jedi perfume and Nathan needs some Ghostbusters cologne (it looks like green slime but smells like marshmallows and twinkies). 

3.  They did not just make one Labyrinth inspired scent - there are five!  Including one named "Hoggle" after the ugly creature that guides Jennifer Connolly's character through the labyrinth.  The scent is described as "fermented pumpkin, brown leather, dust, tobacco leaf, and dark woods."  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  DUST?  Is that really a desirable scent?  Are people paying money so they can smell like DUST?  And "dark woods"?  Correct me if I'm wrong, but is that just a fancy way to say "DIRT AND POOP"?  Holy crap, screw my legal degree, I've got plenty of stuff in my garbage can that I can jam into a perfume bottle.

4.  At $26 per bottle, it's a little too expensive for a gag gift.  And yet, I'm fairly certain I need to buy a bottle of Jareth for my Cousin Julie asap. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Favorite Cookbook

The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, is my new favorite cookbook. (Its full title is The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based On The Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs, but like I'm going to call it by its complete name). 

I think of The Flavor Bible as a cookbook, but it doesn't actually have any recipes. Instead, the book has lists of what ingredients and flavor work well together. Its basically The Most Amazing Flavor Index Ever. For example, I recently had some fennel in the fridge. I wanted to roast the fennel and mix it with some pasta, but I thought the dish needed something else. According to The Flavor Bible, goat cheese compliments fennel. The resulting dish - roasted fennel and goat cheese pasta - is one of the best things I've ever cooked; and I didn't even need a recipe.

I used to be a cook who relied heavily on recipes. I was too afraid to just invent a dish on my own. With The Flavor Bible, I have overcome my recipe addiction. Also, The Flavor Bible is great if you just want to know what vegetable goes best with your protein. 

If I have any downtime while I'm preparing dinner, I just flip through this tome for inspiration.  Gruyere pairs nicely with garlic? I had no idea. Leeks work well with mustard?  Interesting. And pork tenderloin works well with artichokes? That sounds like a delicious summer dinner!  

If you have any interest in cooking, I cannot recommend The Flavor Bible highly enough.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Resolution: Beach Day

In April, I wrote a list of Summer Resolutions.  Earlier this month, I crossed "beach day" off the list.  The day after our trip to Hearst Castle, we went to Goleta Beach, right near the UC Santa Barbara campus:

It should be illegal to build a college campus so close to the sea.  Do the students ever go to class?  What do they major in?  Surfing and sunbathing?  If you are the parent of a high school student, DO NOT LET THEM APPLY TO THIS INSTITUTION.  Your child will become a professional beach bum and probably die when a tsunami engulfs the campus.

Fortunately, school was not in session, and the beach was relatively empty.  We played frisbee, frolicked in the ocean, and built sand castles.  Below is the Impenetrable Fortress.  We built it within the waves' range and fortified its structure with seaweed.  Then we watched to see how long it could withstand the waves.  Our little fortress survived for at least twenty minutes!  We built another castle closer to our beach towels and named it "Gondor" because it had a Lord of the Rings vibe; but alas, Gondor was not a photogenic castle.

Nathan and I previously shunned the beach since we have a pool and don't want to deal with Los Angeles beach traffic, but now we are hoping to have at least a few more beach days this summer.  To that end, I recently bought us a beach umbrella at the drugstore.  I also tried to buy some beach lounge chairs; but when I was testing a $15 chair, the damn thing collapsed.  I currently have a bruised butt, and I'm sitting on a heating pad as I write this.  (Sigh). 

When my butt recovers, I'm going to resume my hunt for suitable beach chairs; but this time, I think I'll look for something that won't jeopardize my tush.  I think we can afford a little more than $15 per chair if that's what it takes to keep my ass in one unbruised piece, thank you very much.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Hearst Castle!

Last weekend, Nathan and I finally made the pilgrimage to Hearst Castle, which is about five hours away from Pasadena (in between L.A. and San Francisco).  My family took two or three trips to Hearst Castle when I was growing up, but I have not been since my senior year of high school.  (Which, oh my god, was fifteen years ago.  I'm old).

This is how I like to describe Hearst Castle: it's a historical site; an art museum; a design/furniture museum; an architectural wonder;  a monument to wealth, capitalism and extravagance; a botanical garden; and a nature sanctuary; all rolled into one ridiculous package.

William Randolph Hearst built his "little ranch" on the top of a hill.  If you want to visit the Castle, you have to buy tickets for a tour at the visitor's center.  No tour, no castle.  A bus shuttles you to the Castle.  It's about a ten minute drive on a winding road, and the Castle and ocean views appear, disappear and reappear many times.  This is the same road that Hearst himself and his guests took when they were visiting the Castle.

I would need a helicopter or reliable jet pack to take a photograph of the entire 165 room estate (including the main castle, the three guest houses, gardens, outdoor pool, and tennis courts).  But I left my jet pack at home (and it's a very moody, unreliable brat), so I just took this photo for you.  It's the main entrance to the Castle.

The Castle is California's answer to the Palace of Versailles.  We first went on the Grand Rooms Tour and saw the Assembly Room, where people like Charlie Chaplin and President Coolidge played poker, the dining room, the billiard room, a sitting room, and the movie theater.  Every night, Hearst screened the latest Hollywood hit, and the staff watched the movie with the guests.  After dinner, the guests had to wait until the staff were finished cleaning up before the movie could start.

The dining room (below) is decorated with 600 year old Italian silk flags.  The tour guide is standing in front of Hearst's chair.  It's hard to see in the photo, but the table was always set with ketchup and mustard.

I love how the billiard room is decorated with a tapestry that belongs in the Met.

After the Grand Rooms Tour, we wandered around the gardens.  In the background of the photo below, you can see one of the guest houses.  (By the way, I'm wearing my Black Exercise Shame Pants, which are so stretched out of shape, Nathan was worried I'd trip over my own feet.  But we had a five hour car drive and I wanted to be comfortable!  Also, I'm perfectly capable of tripping over my feet at any time, no matter what I'm wearing).

This is my favorite statue in the gardens.  I call it "Greek Hottie Feeding An Ear of Corn To A Goat."

Then we sat down and admired the view.  If forced to live at Hearst Castle, I suppose I would eventually tire of the panoramic views of the Pacific coastline...

And the outdoor swimming pool.  I'd totally hate the outdoor pool after a few days...

Oh, who am I kidding?  Hearst's outdoor pool is my happy spot, and I would gladly pay $1000 just to swim there for an hour.  (The State of California owns and operates Hearst Castle, and this might be a good way to solve California's next budget crisis).  

Then we took the Cottages and Kitchen Tour.  Since we had made the trip to Hearst Castle, we figured we might as well take two tours. 

This piece of art was hanging in a tiny guest bedroom.  It's probably worth more than my house and all of its furnishings.

When Hearst was decorating the Castle, Egyptian antiquities were "the rage" so he bought these Egyptian statues for the garden.  For 3,000 years, the statues watched over the Nile River.  Now they watch over tourists and the Pacific Ocean.

Below is the pantry.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It's the pantry, not the kitchen.  (Please don't show this photograph to my pantry, its self-esteem is already low, seeing as it's just a collection of shelves).

We also saw Hearst's wine cellar, but it was too dark for good photos (flash photography is forbidden inside the Castle).  I expected a vast cavern that stretched under the entire estate, but the cellar was just two smallish rooms.  Yawn.

I was morally obligated to strike a pose when I saw Hearst Castle's version of the Kitchenaid stand mixer.  (I no longer resent my stand mixer for taking up a huge chunk of counter space).

Lastly, before catching a bus back to the visitor's center, we admired the indoor pool. 

Some random thoughts if you want to visit the Castle:
  •  We bought our tickets online the day before our visit.  This guaranteed we got to take the tours we wanted, when we wanted. 
  • There is perfectly acceptable lunch food at the Visitor's Center.  It's nothing fancy, but it's convenient.
  • Strollers are not allowed!  If you have a little one, be prepared to schlep that child around.  The tours involve a lot of walking and stairs.
  • I first visited the Castle in the fourth or fifth grade and loved it.  Nerdy ten year olds will appreciate the tour. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Cranky Business Cards

I got my blog a present: business cards.

Every card looks like this on the front:

For those of you who lack Superman vision, it says: Rants.  Lists.  Stupid thoughts and lame confessions.  Book and movie recommendations.  Unsolicited advice you should probably ignore.  Misadventures and miscellany.  The secret to living a somewhat okay life (but not really).  The Cranky Pumpkin is a beacon of snarkiness but reserves the right to be sentimental at any time.

I think this is a pretty fair summary of my blog.

Then, on the back, each card is orange:

Sorry for the lousy photograph, but you get the idea.  The cards have different sayings on the back, including:
  • Got Cranky?
  • Read My Blog!!!
  • The holder of this business card is entitled to nothing.
  • Don't throw me in the trash!
  • SEX.  Now that I have your attention, please read The Cranky Pumpkin.
  • I like you.  p.s. I'll like you even more if you read my blog.
  • You don't smell that bad, but you should probably consider a new brand of deodorant.
  • Stop admiring this business card and go read The Cranky Pumpkin already.
  • Your wildest dreams will come true if you read my blog.
  • All the cool kids are reading my blog (by "cool kids," I mean nerds and dweebs).
  • Holy Crap!  How did you get your hands on such a bitching business card?
The last one is my favorite.  I had the cards made by Moo, and I'm thrilled with the quality.  I will be using Moo again for my business card needs.  They also make other products, like postcards and stickers.  I wonder if I need some Cranky Pumpkin stickers...

p.s.  I'm not paid to promote Moo, I'm just really happy with the product.  My cards came with some 10% discount codes for new customers, so shoot me an email if you want to upgrade your calling card.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pool Season!

Pool season officially opened for the Cranky Pumpkin household a week before Memorial Day.  Nathan usually opens pool season by cannon balling into the pool when it's still too cold to swim; I dip my toe in and then refuse to swim for another two weeks.  But this year, I'm proud to announce that I beat Nathan into the pool:

I intend to log as many hours as possible in the pool this summer.  To guarantee that everyone has a safe and fun time in our pool, we just have two rules:

If you want to dive into the shallow head and crack your head against the floor of the pool, that's fine - just don't drown.  And if you want to spray yourself with suntan lotion while standing next to an open fire on the grill, that's fine as well - just jump into the pool when your body sets on fire (and don't drown).

I designed our pool safety sign online and bought it from Build A Sign

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Question I Dread Most From People Doing Work On My House:

Our house has demanded a lot of attention this year: a new roof; a new air conditioner and furnace; a lot of attention from our plumber; and a few other things I don't care to remember.

After too many house issues, I now cringe when I hear this question: Can I show you something?  Because when my plumber or handyman or roofer asks that question, he never wants to show me something good, like a pot of gold or a baby panda.  He always wants to show me something bad, and by "bad," I mean "a problem that requires immediate attention or the entire house is going to collapse, and by the way, this is going to be expensive."

For example, when the air conditioner repair man asks, Can I show you something?, he's really saying, Can I show you the irreparable leak on your ancient air conditioner unit?  It just looks like a tiny leak and if it was just three inches over, I could fix it for $200 but now this is going to cost you at least $6000 for a brand new unit.  Bummer.

When the owner of the air conditioning company asks me, Can I show you something?, he's really saying, Can I show you the asbestos in your basement?  We're going to need a separate company to remove the asbestos and then we have to install all new ducts.  Thank god, because my kid needs braces and now I can charge you another $2000.

When the guy prepping my house for our new air conditioner and furnace asks the question, he's really saying, I just removed your old furnace and I discovered a leaking pipe.  The pipe is going to be completely inaccessible tomorrow afternoon once we install the new unit, so you better get your plumber out here immediately if not sooner. 

When the Sears delivery man says, Can I show you something?, he's really saying, They stopped making ducts like this in the 1950s so I can't properly hook up your new dryer which means your house is probably going to go up in flames.  Yes, I know Sears sent me to install your new dryer, but this is not my problem. 

And my personal favorite: When the plumber asks the dreaded question, he's really saying, I need to show you the concrete wall that is blocking my access to the leaking pipe that is rotting your floorboards. I'm going to need to drill a hole into the foundation of your house. You should probably have your heart attack now before we go downstairs into the basement just to make it easier on the paramedics.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Omaha Zoo

Over Memorial Day weekend, we went to Nebraska for Nathan's cousin Lauren's wedding.  While we were there, we spent an afternoon at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium.

Before I continue, let's get this out of the way:

As a Southern California native, I grew up assuming the San Diego Zoo is the greatest zoo in the world.  It does, after all, have pandas.  I've also visited the zoos in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, London, the Bronx and Central Park.  The Omaha Zoo does not have a panda, but it's still my favorite.

Nathan has taken me to the Omaha Zoo twice, and we have still not seen all the exhibits.  There are so many animals!  Many of the animals are outside like at a traditional zoo, but there are also enclosed "environments" like the Desert Dome and the Lied Jungle. 

(And, because I'm feeling really mature, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that I have not yet had a chance to visit the Grewcock Butterfly & Insect Pavilion, but I just want to mention the Grewcock Pavilion because it's called "Grewcock" and holy crap, how does anyone ever say that last name with a straight face?) 

My favorite part of the zoo is probably Skyfari, which is like a ski lift that crosses over the park.  You fly only about twenty or thirty feet above giraffes, monkeys, ostriches and other fun animals.  If you ever visit Nebraska, I highly recommend the Omaha Zoo.

Oh yeah, I might have gone crazy with my camera while we were there....

Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Travel Reads

Summer does not officially start until June 20th, but in my heart, it's already here.  I'm hoping to do some armchair traveling this summer from the comfort of my swimming pool (I'll leave the armchair in the house, but you know what I mean).  These are my favorite travel memoirs:
  • Bill Bryson's travel books, especially A Walk In the Woods and In A Sunburned Country.  In the first book, Bill attempts to hike the Appalachian Trail (which actually cut through my college campus).  In the second, he travels through Australia.  I still laugh when I think about these books.
  • The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift In the Equatorial Pacific, by J. Maarten Troost.  The author and his wife move to a remote South Pacific Island.  By remote, I mean "once a month, a container ship arrives with supplies and sometimes, every few weeks, an airplane stops by."  One time, the container ship arrives without the monthly beer supply and the entire island goes bat sh*t crazy.
  • No Touch Monkey!  And Other Travel Lesson Learned Too Late, by Ayun Halliday.  The author goes on crazy adventures in Romania and Bali so you don't have to. 
  • A Year in the Merde, by Stephen Clarke.  There are a lot of memoirs written by Brits and Americans who live in France and rhapsodize about how the French are the most amazing people in the world.  Not Clarke.  Clarke lived in Paris for a year and had a terrible time.  This book chronicles his misadventures.
  • A Year In Provence, by Peter Mayle.  If you dream about operating your own vineyard and living in a drafty estate in the French countryside, then this is your book.
  • Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia, by Elizabeth Gilbert.  The title summarizes the book better than I can.  I think a lot of people felt obligated to hate this book since it was on the bestseller list for so long, but I adore it.
Can you recommend any good armchair travel books?  If so, please leave a note below in the comments!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Being a grown-up involves a lot of crappy stuff, like paying bills and taxes, but there are also perks, like going to Disneyland whenever you like. 

Last Sunday started like a normal Sunday.  We went to our favorite bagel shop for breakfast, played a lot of Mario Kart Wii, and grilled some chicken for lunch.  We were planning to swim and bum around the house after lunch, but then we decided to go to Disneyland.  BECAUSE THAT'S THE SORT OF CRAZY SPONTANEOUS ADVENTURERS WE ARE!  WE EVEN SOMETIMES GO TO NEW RESTAURANTS WITHOUT CHECKING YELP!  WE ARE WILD AND CRAZY - WATCH OUT!

We took a minor detour and Nathan got his First Annual Summer Buzz Cut at SuperCuts.  For a thirty-two year old man, Nathan has had an impressive full head of hair; but he has been talking about buzzing his hair off for the summer for a couple of years now.  The stylist looked to me for approval, but I did not try to knock the clippers from her hands.  We are both pleasantly surprised with how Nathan looks.  I just hope his hair grows back the same, and the buzz cut did not turn him into the next Carrot Top.

But I digress.  We left Pasadena around 1:10 p.m., encountered almost no traffic, and entered Disneyland around 2:30 p.m.  Between parking the car, riding the tram to the park, and buying tickets, we made good time.  If you live in the Los Angeles area and the park is open until midnight, I highly recommend this strategy.  The park will be crowded when you first arrive, but then around 8 p.m., it starts to empty.  So you get a normal day at Disneyland without the freeway traffic.

My second favorite ride at Disneyland used to be Star Tours, but the ride has been updated and the changes made my soul hurt.  First, the ride is now 3-d, but the 3-d vision did not improve the ride.  It just meant I had to wear stupid glasses.  What about patrons who are wearing glasses?  Are they supposed to wear the stupid 3-d glasses over their normal glasses?  Second, there are now dozens of different Star Tours experiences, so the ride will always be different.  In theory, this is a cool idea.  In practice, we were sent on an adventure inspired by A Phantom Menace AND I HATE THAT MOVIE SO EFFING MUCH.  As I was riding Star Tours, I just kept thinking about how much I hate George Lucas for taking a dump all over the Star Wars franchise.  It's hard to enjoy an amusement park ride when you are having bad flashbacks to Jar Jar Binks

I may never ride Star Tours again... but Space Mountain is still my favorite ride at any park.  And we rode twice!  All in all, we had a great trip to Disneyland and got to ride all of our favorite big kid rides, from Splash Mountain to Haunted Mansion, with one exception: the Matterhorn.  The Matterhorn was closed on Sunday, and it was also closed during our last visit in February 2012.  Apparently, I'm cursed, so if you want to ride the Matterhorn, don't go to Disneyland with me. 

A special message for Disneyland's Director of Operations: The entrance to Disneyland smelled like raw sewage on June 3, 2012, both when we arrived at 2:15 p.m. and when we left around 10 p.m.  Also, an alarming number of park patrons smelled like urine.  The Happiest Place on Earth should smell like unicorns and fairy dust, not urine, poop and vomit.  Please fix these problem, thank you.

A special message for the grown men wearing Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland: you look stupid.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Great Sugar Detox of 2012

Earlier this year, I conquered my caffeine addiction - and I feel great!  I feel less edgy, sleep better, and have more energy.  But most noticeably, my face looks better.  My skin feels softer and smoother; I get fewer zits; and there's less redness in my cheeks.  (In my case, the "redness" was like "the unhealthy flushing of a fat ass," and not " the pleasant blush of a cheerleader.")

Now I'm ready to tackle my sugar addiction.  I know I will be healthier and happier if I can cut back on my sugar intake.  But I'm an addict, so I need to purge the sugar from my system.  

I have no idea what my sugar detox will entail.  Should I just eliminate white sugar from my diet?  Or should I also eliminate things like honey and dried fruit?  Fruit has sugar, but I'll be damned if I'm giving up my blueberries and watermelon.

I don't intend to break-up with sugar forever, but I think I need to detox for awhile in order to control my sweet tooth.  Right now, I crave dessert daily, and by "dessert" I mean "ice cream, cake, and pie."  I'd like to get to a place where I can have a sugary treat once or twice a week (and maybe, eventually, once or twice a month - but I'm not yet emotionally prepared to think that way).  But how do I get there?  Should I eliminate sugar for a week?  A month?  Or maybe I should start with baby steps and just take this day by day?

And how will I feel without sugar?  Energized?  Lethargic?  Giddy?  Depressed?  Will I start preaching the Gospel of Sugar Detox?  Or should I just crawl into a ditch right now and die?

Wish me luck.  If you hear about a Pasadena woman who gets arrested for engaging in lewd acts in public with a cupcake, you can safely assume it was me having a meltdown.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My DIY Merit Badges Tote Bag

Although my Girl Scout days ended decades ago, I still love the idea of earning and displaying merit badges.  So I made myself a merit badges tote bag: 

I was going to be lazy and just sew badges on to the front side of the bag, but I went overboard when I ordered the badges.  So now both sides of my tote declare my commitment to nerdiness:

I tried to only use badges that I have legitimately "earned" at some point in my lifetime.  The etiquette badge is questionable since I still struggle with utensils at restaurants, but I did attend cotillion lessons for two years. 

I don't think I've ever attended a "Pizza Party," but I have eaten a lot of pizza and can make a damn good pizza from scratch.  Besides, every merit badges tote bag needs some pizza!

My claim to the laser tag badge is tenuous at best.  I played laser tag once, for about 30 seconds, at Universal Studios in the 80s.  Also, I knew a kid named Michael who had his own laser tag gear, with all the equipment.  But Michael was a little prick and just taunted me with the fact that he had laser tag gear and I did not.  Is is possible to earn a badge by coveting someone else's toys?

I chose the hay ride badge for two reasons: (1) I recall at least one hay ride from my early years (I just remember the hay was scratchy and uncomfortable); and (2) it's tough to tell in the photo, but there's a pumpkin on top of the hay.  Since my blog is The Cranky Pumpkin, obviously I needed at least one pumpkin on my tote.

I bought my badges from here and will use them again if I want more patches.  In fact, I already want more badges!  They have a new gardening badge THAT I MUST OWN.  (What else can I make with merit badges??)

I agonized over the tote bag and spent weeks looking everywhere for the perfect one.  I wanted a bag with exterior pockets and handles large enough to go over my arm (I hate bags with short dinky straps).  I went with this bag but it's currently unavailable on Amazon.  Shit.  Why didn't I buy more bags when I had the chance?

Then I just hand sewed the badges on with needle and embroidery thread. I have a huge stash of DMC embroidery thread from a cross-stitching phase, so I was usually able to match the thread to the badge.  But I wanted the bag to look homemade and a little tragic, so I did not worry about matching thread colors or making pretty stitches.

I stabbed myself with my needle about 82 times while making this bag.  The 82nd stabbing hurt just as much as the first.  I tried using a thimble, but thimbles are for wimps.  

My tote bag has exterior pockets, and the bottom two rows of badges are sewed on to the pockets.  I accidentally sewed the pockets shut about eleven or twelve times, because I was paying too much attention to the television. 

If anyone asks me about the tote bag, I could just tell them that I really like merit badges.  But maybe I'll invent a club, like The Society of Recreational Education.  That sounds much more legitimate and impressive than "I really like merit badges." 

Monday, June 4, 2012


I tend to have long term monogamous relationships with my shoes.  In elementary school, I lived in my white Reebok high tops.  I must have had five or six pairs of those shoes.  In high school, there was a Doc Martens phase (shudder) which was followed by a Converse sneakers phase.  (The Converse sneakers violated my Catholic high school dress code.  Most girls rebelled by smoking in the bathroom or going to class stoned.  I just wore my Converse). 

I still have a pair of Converse sneakers in my closet, but these days, I am in a serious relationship with my navy blue Toms:

I just bought my third pair, and it's a miracle I only bought the blue.  I want red Toms!  And beige Toms!  And the Valentine Toms with cute hearts!  I want all of the Toms!  (Well, I already own a pair of sparkly silver Toms that I have never worn outside.  I keep trying them with different outfits, but they always make me look like an asshole.  I'm officially too old for sparkly shoes.  So, to be clear: I want all of the Toms, except the sparkly Toms that make me feel old).

Toms are great for running errands, knocking around and ambling around your neighborhood.  They are the house slippers that can easily go to the mall, grocery store, or even a nice restaurant.  But these are not the shoes you want to wear if you anticipate a day of serious trekking.  The soles offer some support, but not enough if you are going to spend all day on your feet. 

Bonus: when you buy a pair of Toms, Toms donates a pair of shoes to a child in need.  (Which totally justifies purchasing an entire rainbow of Toms!  Hello, red Toms - I'm looking at you).

Friday, June 1, 2012

My Favorite Organizational Trick

I am a natural slob who prefers a neat, organized house.  My impulse is to just leave things lying around and to hoard everything, but I hate clutter and mess.  Yes, I am a paradox.

I am always looking for new ways to keep our home organized and tidy.  If I have a mindless system to put things away, it's easier to subdue my slob tendencies.  This is my favorite system:

It's a shoe organizer hung on the back of a closet door.  I saw this idea online years ago but cannot remember the source.  I use it to store pens, paper clips, stamps, labels, envelopes, and other doodads.  (Score yourself ten points if you can spot our lifetime supply of highlighters). 

I use this system for office supplies, but it could work with anything that is small and not too heavy: make-up, jewelry, Lego's, your collection of vintage souvenir spoons, etc. etc. 

Just don't use the shoe organizer to store your bricks, anvils and barbels.  It stores a lot of clutter and is pretty amazing, but it has its limits.