Saturday, August 8, 2009

Get To Know Me!

I'm not sure I have confided in all of you my love for organizing things.

By "organizing things," I don't mean taking things and organizing them. I loathe that, unless the "things" are pretty and shiny.

By "organizing things," I mean things that are designed to organize other things. I love them. I once went into The Container Store and had a brief out-of-body experience.

I have dozens of shoulder bags for work, church, and school. I haven't yet found "the one." You know, the one that will hold everything I could possibly need in an organized manner, be slim and attractive, and hang on my shoulder without falling off or hurting me.

I have dozens of purses. I haven't yet found "the one." You know, the one that will keep everything neat and organized, hold enough items to get me through an unexpected weekend away, but be small enough and light enough to be cute and feminine.

I have an inappropriate amount of affection for Rubbermaid. I can easily spend four figures in the Rubbermaid aisle at Wal-Mart. Easily.

I absolutely adore luggage. Sven won't really let me walk down that aisle at Wal-Mart, but I bet I could find a lot of stuff I like.

So, naturally, I found a hobby that combines my love for organizing things with my passion for shiny things:

I collect jewelry.

I hasten to clarify: I collect quirky, unusual, or antique pieces. I have nothing truly "valuable" in my jewelry collection.

Years ago, when my accumulated jewelry began to overflow the simple box my parents gave me as a teenager, Sven bought me a pretty red leather jewelry box. I have spent the last 12 years or so filling it:

I love this jewelry box. It had neat hidden compartments, and lots of different places to organize, so I could keep pearl jewelry in one part, silver in another, and gold in the rest. That being said, it did have drawbacks. The clearance for the ring slots was fairly low, so my higher-profile pieces were always in danger of scraping across the top. There were many compartments, but each was fairly small, so big pieces were really squished.

I don't wear a lot of jewelry, as a rule. Generally, I wear a wedding band. The one I wear now is stainless steel, $7.95 from What I do with my jewelry collection is take it out after the kids are in bed and play with it. I look at the pieces, put some of them on, lay them out, and just enjoy them. That's all.

After one such night last week, I came to a conclusion: I need a new jewelry box. My beloved red leather one was crammed full, and many of the pieces couldn't be seen.

It arrived today.

A train-case style, brown leather jewelry box. Here's the comparison between the old and the new:

Don't pretend you're not impressed.

The kids and I spent a happy hour this afternoon transferring all of my "pretties" to the new "pretty box."

I can already tell you I will spend many, many happy hours playing with my new "pretty box." There is room to spare.

Maybe, one day, there will be need for my little leather one again. Perhaps I will use it for my costume pieces, or my everyday pieces, and store my new bad boy somewhere out of the way. For now, Red Leather goes into the closet to wait.

She's earned a rest.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Good News, Bad News

I was cleaning my house today.

No, that's not all, but it's fairly momentous in and of itself, since I simply don't "do" household chores.

Anyway, I was cleaning my house the other day, and I uncovered a box we inherited when Sven's oldest brother, Olaf, passed away. Olaf, who was the oldest of the boys, was 7 years older than Sven. He was only 39 when he died; he passed away the day we brought Princess home from the hospital. Understandably (I hope), when Olaf's partner Jim gave us boxes of things Olaf wanted us to have, we simply weren't able to get through it all. We tried, but the demands of a newborn won out over everything else.

Then, two years later, another newborn came along.

So now, almost four years after Olaf's death, I uncovered this box. Inside the box was Sven's father's watch (Sven's father died when Sven was 17), some other costume jewelry pieces, and some mysterious bagged objects.

The bagged objects contained some real treasure.

As many of my readers know, I'm LDS. We LDS spend a lot of time on family history, or "genealogy," to use the technical, outdated term. My mother's family comes from a long, long line of LDS folks, so much of my family history, at least on her side, is done.

Grandma and Grandpa Debmom.

The Debmom Family Reunion, 1998

Sven's side, on the other hand, is a huge mystery.

As I said, Sven's dad died when Sven was 17. His parents had been divorced for over a decade at that time. His mother, Helga, was an only child; Helga's mother died when Helga was 18. Helga's father, Rufus, lived to be 97, but was a fairly incoherent man by the time Sven knew him. (He knew Sven as "the other one.") Sven's relationship with his paternal family was somewhat distant after the divorce, so he didn't get to know them very well.

In short, there was a lot of missing information. So, imagine my joy when we opened the box to see this:

Sven's dad's Bible

And this:

Cassette tapes of Sven's Uncle Snookie telling the family history and lineage

And these:
TONS of pictures and newspaper clippings, mostly preserved in the Bible.

That's the good news. The bad news was this:

Yes, when I opened the family Bible, I was greeted by a wad of anonymous human hair.

Many of the pictures had no captions or notes, so I'm writing letters to Sven's surviving aunt and great-aunt to see if they are interested in helping me find this information. I sincerely doubt they can help me with the hair.

But what a joy it was to see my children's faces echo some of the photographs! Having grown up myself with a strong sense of my own family history, I am so excited to get to compile some of this for Sven and my children.

We're a good looking family, if I say so myself. I know you can't see much detail, but trust me.

However, all of this got me thinking about the nature of family "heirlooms." There are some heirlooms that I love, I mean LOVE to have. My grandmother's pearls come to mind. In fact, I have a jewelry box so full of current and future "heirlooms" that I just ordered another jewelry box, so I can use this one just for costume stuff.

I have a problem. Don't judge me.

However, when I was going through the box, I laughingly pointed out to Sven that, ha ha, Olaf had saved two gas bills Rufus had received in 1956 for the house we no longer own in Beaumont, Texas. Ha!

"Heh," Sven said. "You know Olaf, he saved everything."

"Ha," I agreed. "Throw those away, okay?"

He didn't throw them away.

So, of course, when I broached the subject of throwing away the mystery hair, Sven poo-poo'd all over it. (Figuratively.)

I get that the Bible, which we're sure was Sven's father's, is an heirloom. It's cracked and old, but it's something of his dad's, so I have no problem keeping it.

But the mystery hair? Is that really an "heirloom?"

One of my friends made the point that she saves things because she knows who the things belonged to, but her kids don't so they can feel free to throw them away. (She pointed out that the things she saved were quite ugly.) Sven and I are keeping a wad of hair, hair belonging to various deceased persons, because that hair PROBABLY came from Sven's relatives.

So, I have contained the entire Bible in two gallon-size Ziploc bags, thusly:

and shall label the entire package "Papaw's Bible And Dubious Hair."

I'm sure my progeny will shiver with delight.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Mix Pix: Nix

Today's topic is: travel food.

As my readers are aware, I spent much of this summer in the car. My personal philosophy of car travel is:
1. Eating in the car cures everything (sleepiness, boredom, irritation), and
2. Calories consumed in the car don't count, so
3. I can eat things in the car I would never eat in real life.

Like Slim Jims.
I love Slim Jims. They have just the right balance of salt, spice, and grease. My car eating habits are such that the Slim Jim looks healthy to me; at least it has protein! But I would never think to buy Slim Jims to keep in my home. They are strictly travel food. Imagine my excitement last week when I found a Mega-Sized Slim Jim in a gas was about 18 inches long and had the girth of a cigar. I couldn't finish it. I think Sven had to shoot the second had a decidedly shifty air, as though it was planning to hawk the good silver. We simply couldn't have it in the house.

I have become totally disillusioned with snack mixes, the other mainstay of my travel diet.

It seems that every snack mix I buy contains roughly the following:

72% boring food item that I really don't care about

26% tasty food items that are okay

2% good stuff.

(The above formula does not apply to Cracker-Jack, which is now 99% caramel corn and 1% honey roasted peanuts.)

Chex Mix, the gold standard of snack mixes, has really let me down. I remember when I was a kid, when you had to make your own Chex Mix from the recipe on the box, Chex Mix seemed sophisticated and mysterious. Lawry's Seasoning Salt and Worcestercestercestershire sauce? On cereal? With peanuts? Whoa, are we at the White House? We loved the Mix, because it was so cosmopolitan.

Nowadays, not only can you buy pre-made, bagged Chex Mix, you can buy it in various varieties, savory and sweet. You can get Traditional, Bold -n- Spicy, or Cheese Lovers; you can also get Sweet -n- Salty, Peanut Lover's, Chocolate Lovers Turtle, and Lawn Clippings -n- Pebbles. Chex Mix has really let me down, though. My last bag of Sweet -n- Salty promised "candy coated chocolate pieces" (translation: blank m&m's). At the very bottom of the bag, amid the crumbling remnants of the wheat Chex, I found three brown candies. That was it. Those could have gotten into the bag by accident. I don't think they should list something as an ingredient in the mix unless there is a sporting chance of you finding it when there is still "mix" to be had.

Gardetto's Mix, on the other hand, is the Cadillac of snack mixes. It doesn't delve into the namby-pamby world of sweetness, it's all about the savory, baby. Surprisingly, Gardetto's is made by General Mills, who also makes Chex Mix! Huh. Gardetto's has pretzels, but it also has bread stix, sesame bread stix, and rye crisps. Yummy.

On this last trip, I discovered Planter's Trail Mix. I will give this one my highest recommendation. Salted peanuts, almonds, and cashews, with raisins, dried cranberries, and, of course, Chocolate Coated Candy Pieces. No pretzel filler. CVS Drugstore brand trail mix was good, too. Real M&M's in that one!

At last! I know what I'm doing next summer...

Sunday, August 2, 2009


The following is my itinerary for our final summer trip, a two-day expedition to San Antonio. I'm pleased to say that I followed this itinerary to the letter.

7:30 a.m.: Wake up, look at clock, realize you wanted to leave at 7:00, shrug, go back to sleep.

8:30 a.m.: Allow Sven to wake the household.

9:00 a.m.: Begin putting children in the car.

9:02 a.m.: Discover the neighborhood cat on our front porch.

9:15 a.m.: Begin putting children in the car.

9:28 a.m.: Pull out of the driveway. Nod wisely when Sven points to the clock and says, "See, we left by 9:30."

9:32 a.m.: Get fuel. Go in to get snacks while Sven drives home to retrieve the Shamu Sports Cup that entitles us to $.99 refills at Sea World.

9:45 a.m.: Sven returns. "We're not going back again," he grumbles. "That's fine," you say. "Did you get the kids' beds?"

9:46 a.m.: Princess says, "Daddy, we don't say 'dammit.'"

9:52 a.m.: Sven gets the kids' beds, you get the DVD player and an assortment of movies the children will hate and cry about.

9:58 a.m.: "See, we left by 10:00."

12:45 p.m.: Stop for lunch at The World's Slowest Chili's.

1:52 p.m.: Back in the car.

2:30 p.m.: Make the obligatory stop at Buc-ee's for fresh fudge and dubious jerky. Sven vows, "We will not get any stuffed animals on this trip."

2:37 p.m.: Leave Buc-ee's with a screaming Princess sobbing, "But I wanted to see the animals!" and Dexy pointing over your shoulder, crying, "Want that! Want that!" But you are stuffed-animal free.

4:03 p.m.: Arrive at Natural Bridge Caverns. Sven and Princess do the cave tour while Dexy and you "mine" for "gemstones" in Texas' Longest Sluice. Don't pretend you're not impressed.

5:30 p.m.: Go to the drive-thru safari. Purchase 4 paper bags of food and get the strict instruction: don't hand feed the animals, keep your hands inside your car.

5:45 p.m.: Sven hand-feeds an antelope. It goes well.

6:00 p.m.: You hand-feed a zebra and pet it on the nose. The zebra, sensing your weakness, puts its entire massive head inside the car. You coolly scream and throw the entire bag of food at the zebra while Dexy (on your lap) looks mildly concerned. The zebra takes the entire bag of food and finally leaves. You keeps your window rolled up for the remainder of the trip.

6:45 p.m.: You do not go to the gift shop. Stuffed animal count: 0

7:00 p.m.: Eat dinner at the Magic Time Machine, where the waitstaff includes Dorothy, Harry Potter, Lara Croft, and Elizabeth Swan. There was also a Naughty Alice in Wonderland, but you're not sure why she was there. The children get balloons.

7:52 p.m.: The Balloon War of 2009 has commenced in the back seat of the car, where Princess insists that she needs to Hold On to Dexy's balloon, Just In Case.

8:30 p.m.: You find your hotel and check in. You immediately begin putting the kids into their swim gear, knowing this will be the best way to get them tired enough to sleep.

9:00 p.m.: You still haven't gotten anyone into swimwear except Sven.

9:20 p.m.: All are now in swimwear and heading down to the pool.

9:24 p.m.: You get into the pool, populated by a polite family finishing a poolside dinner.

9:40 p.m.: The Rowdy McYell family arrives at the pool. They appear to have 28 children, all between the ages of 11 and 14. These children begin to dive into the pool.

9:42 p.m.: You, having been kicked twice by the same child, turn your gaze to the McYell parents, only to see them making out in the deep end of the pool while holding their baby. Not wanting to disturb them, you make Sven, Dexy, and Princess stick to the shallow end of the pool.

9:45 p.m.: The McYell boys begin diving into the shallow end of the pool. Mr. and Mrs. McYell move their makeout session to the center of the pool.

9:46 p.m.: Princess informs you that there is a monster in the pool, so you need to go.

9:52 p.m.: You are back in the room, promising the children a hot bath.

9:53 p.m.: You discover the bathtub lacks a stopper, so there will just be a quick rinse in the shower.

9:55 p.m.: Princess discovers that her left buttock will block the drain, so she takes her bath.

10:10 p.m.: You take your shower.

10:30 p.m.: Children asleep, Sven goes to get garbage bags. You check your blog, e-mail, and Facebook, then play Bejeweled until you are ready to go to sleep.

10:37 p.m.: You are ready to go to sleep.

11:25 p.m.: Sven comes back.

11:45 p.m.: Sven is asleep.

12:30 a.m.: Sister Act is on.

1:30 a.m.: You are asleep.

2:22 a.m.: Dexy comes to your side of the bed, whimpering.

2:25, 2:37, 2:58, 3:12, 3:31, 3:48: Dexy pulls your hair and kicks you.

4:00 a.m.: Dexy is finally still and you go to sleep.

6:00 a.m.: Alarm goes off.

6:10, 6:20, 6:30: Alarm goes off.

7:00 a.m.: You wake, realizing that Sven, Princess, and Dexy are already up and getting dressed. "Getting up today, Lazybones?" Sven teases. You aren't amused.

8:15 a.m.: Check out of the hotel and set off for breakfast.

8:20 a.m.: Denny's.

9:15 a.m.: On the way to Sea World! Yay!

10:00 a.m.: Sea World opens with the playing of the National Anthem. You go immediately to feed the dolphins.

10:15 a.m.: You feed and pet a dolphin!

12:00 p.m.: Shamu show. You, again, sob throughout.

12:48 p.m.: Ice cream.

1:12 p.m.: You proceed to the Sea Lion holding tank and purchase a small paper tub of partially disemboweled fish and squid to feed them.

1:13 p.m.: Your paper tub falls into the pool, necessitating retrieval by two surly Sea World employees wielding a 12-foot net.

1:17 p.m.: You proceed to the World of Penguins.

1:24 p.m.: You, having seen the entire World of Penguins, prepare to leave.

1:25 p.m.: Sven takes Princess back through the World of Penguins, Just To See.

1:27 p.m.: Sven purchases two stuffed animals: a pink penguin for Princess, a crazy rubber-haired penguin for Dexy. (He already bought Princess a Shamu necklace.) Sven hangs his head in shame.

1:58 p.m.: You load the car and leave for home, secure that you have gotten enough use from your Fun Cards to justify buying them.

2:01 p.m.: Sven says, "Don't worry, Princess, we can come back for Labor Day."