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I was supposed to fly home to Lincoln Monday night; I am posting this from Karin's living room in NJ. I like Karin's living room, but I'm still a little unhappy about this.

All seemed well when Karin and I arrived at the Newark Airport. When I checked in I learned that my flight was going be a half-hour late, but that still would leave me with an hour to make my connecting flight in Chicago so that didn't trouble me. I checked my luggage, got my boarding pass and chatted a while with Karin. Around 4 pm I suggested that she leave, as I didn't want her braving the rush hour traffic in Newark for my sake, so we hugged goodbye and I started towards security. I convinced the guardians of democracy that I was not a threat with a minimum of effort and headed for the bathrooms. When I got out I checked the Departure screen by reflex and saw to my horror that my plane was now said to be running an hour late. This was not good.

I elected to say calm (like panicking was going to do me any good!) and waited until a ticket agent showed up at the gate to make an official announcement. Her words made it perfectly clear that I was not going to make my connecting flight into Lincoln. This made me very unhappy for a number of reasons, one of them being I haven't flown a lot and I was a little foggy on what my options were. I was pretty sure that the ticket agent knew more than I did, though, so I got in line and waited patiently until it was my turn.

As I had suspected my flight to Lincoln was the last one that night, and so that was out. More surprisingly was the fact that she couldn't find me any seats that night to Omaha, either. In fact, she couldn't find me a seat to either city before 5ish Tuesday night. This essentially left me with two options: Fly to Chicago and hang around O'Hare for 24 hours OR stay in New Jersey and try again with the same flights on a different day. Being stranded in an airport in a city were I didn't know anyone was not attractive so I asked her to reticket me for Tuesday. She was also able to get a recall order on my luggage, so I didn't have to worry about losing that.

I called Karin and Ami and explained the situation, and they were (as I expected) willing to put me up for another night. I felt too guilty about the situation to ask them to make a trip to retrieve me, so I said I would make arrangements to get back to their place. Ami was able to tell me where to find the ground transport was, so after I recovered my luggage I arranged to take an airport shuttle to Wall township. Karin and Ami picked me up at the shuttle terminal, we stopped for a bite to eat and then we went home and crashed. It has been claimed that home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in, and if this is true then I have a home in New Jersey. I am infinitely grateful.

This afternoon we will make another attempt to get me back home. Wish me luck, and all prayers gratefully accepted!
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Friday day was extremely lazy for me. Ami had to go to his office to work, and Karin had to do some work from home (her office is in a series of boxes atm), so I got to laze around the house. I read some stuff, wandered around LJ looking for mood themes, and generally was non-productive. Eventually I felt inspired to put on my bathing suit and go laze in the pool, instead of the couch. After awhile Karin joined me, having done enough work to feel that she had earned a break. As we paddled around the pool she explained the computer algorithm she was working on, which sounded like an interesting problem, and how her department's search for a temporary instructor was going, which did not sound like an interesting problem.

After Ami came home we had a quick dinner and it was off to Friday's main attraction: the Friday night game at the Role Playing Society of Monmouth County. This Friday was their Big Eyes, Small Mouth game, and Karin and Ami has made prior arrangements with the GM to have me included as a one-shot character. Their campaign is set up so that all the PCs are male students at a high school, and most of them are bishounen. They have various personal crises to deal with, as well as the fact that the other high school in town is called Evil High and seems to be sitting on this universe's equivalent of the Hellmouth.

My character was a ninja and I decided to play her Ninja Nonsense style, so she had pale purple hair, dark purple eyes, and a school uniform one size too tight. I spent the session alternating between spying to see what Evil High was planning for the upcoming Cultural Arts Competition and trying to make time with Karin's character, who was our school's #1 Bishi. Oh, and there was also the time we were attacked by the three cross-bow wielding rabbits. I had loads of fun, and the other players seemed to find me amusing, so it was a good night.

Saturday we slept late and went out to brunch at a diner, at which the three of us once again had to confront the dreary reality that hash browns do not exist in New Jersey. Karin and Ami tell me that you cannot get hash browns anywhere on the East Coast, and that the time they drove a truck full of furniture from Nebraska to New Jersey they discovered the approximate location of the Hash Brown Curtain, which appeared to cut through western Pennsylvania. After eating we went to a grocery store and picked up a veggie tray and pop to take to their Saturday night game, which was D&D. Then we went home and baked a Mint Madness Chocolate Cake to take as well. This wasn't to be a true MMCC, because Ami suggested that we frost it with chocolate ganache instead of mint butter cream, but you can't really say that it was harmed by the substitution. We had been planning to make one for the RPS picnic, which was to have been Sunday, but during Friday night's meeting it was decided to reschedule it because a number of people had developed transportation problems.

My character was a bard who was a reporter for the local high society magazine. She had tracked down the adventurers because one of the members was the daughter of a socially prominent elven family who was soon to undergo the elvish equivalent of her Sweet Sixteen party. I roleplayed out my interview of the young elf, much to the amusement of the rest of the players. Later we were attacked by a kind of fay known as Red Hats, and eventually we had a battle royale with their leader in which two of the party members were killed. One of the players pointed out during the battle that I had no ties to the party and so had no reason not to just run away; afterwards I explained to him that my character could never do such a thing as it might result in another reporter scooping her on the story. All in all it was a fun game, and everyone liked the cake.

Day 6

Aug. 3rd, 2007 11:04 am
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And the lost heart stiffens and rejoices
In the lost lilac and the lost sea voices
And the weak spirit quickens to rebel
For the bent golden-rod and the lost sea smell

Today Karin and I went to the beach. Despite living so close to it Karin rarely goes, because Ami is not a strong swimmer and doesn't like to go into the ocean. I'm not a strong swimmer in the competitive sense, but I like water and feel secure in my ability to keep my head above it. And I'm fascinated by the ocean. I grew up in beautiful land-locked Nebraska, and never saw an ocean until I was in my 30s. I was (and am still) impressed by it--so much water, and it's all moving. Swimming in the ocean is a salty, eye-stinging treat.

The first order of business, when we got to the beach and spread out our towels, was to anoint ourselves with sunscreen. I slathered it on thick, because I never go sunbathing, rarely go swimming, and have 100% German ancestry, resulting in large expanses of pasty-white, easily-burned skin. Then we went into the water and played our favorite game of finding a place where we were just over our heads if we stood on the bottom and try to keep our heads above water when the waves came in. There's an art to it, you see--you are floating on the surface of the water, and looking seaward you can see the waves move in, and when a big one approaches you jump or swim or whatever to keep above the peak and as the wave passes you have a moment of being on the crest of the wave, looking down as it passes. If you mistime your jump, on the other hand, you get slapped in the face by a mass of salt water. It's a lot of fun.

In between wave-jumping sessions we wandered up and down the beach and Karin helped me look for pretty sea shells. Some of the nicest ones I threw back because they still had inhabitants. But in the end I got a few handfuls, some of them intact shells and others interestingly shaped fragments.

We also discussed what we considered one of the nicest features of the beach: It has a horizon line. This probably only makes sense to other children of the Plains, but growing up in Nebraska one takes for granted the fact that half the earth is made of sky, and that the end of the world is a flat line off in the distance. The tree-choked hills of New Jersey are pretty, but too close in for comfort. Karin's lived in the East for about 15 years now and still hasn't completely adjusted. But on the beach everything is flat and covered with sky, which renders it homelike, in spite of the unnaturally large amount of water lapping around one's ankles.

Eventually we packed up and headed home. After a shower and a change we quickly made dinner (grilled sausages, grilled sweet corn, tomatoes with fresh basil, and Balinese cucumber salad) and the three of us headed off to Karin's university where there was a free chamber music concert by a group called the Simon String Quartet. I know very little about classical music but I like to listen to it, and since most of my collection is of symphonies listening to quartets was an adventure.

The program was Hayden's String Quartet in F Major, Opus 20, no. 5; Ravel's String Quartet in F Major, and Beethoven's String Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132. At the intermission Ami mentioned that the Ravel was his favorite string quartet ever, and I liked it the best of the three I heard. The Beethoven was also very nice, but I'm afraid the Hayden didn't do much for me. I saved the program in hopes of finding a recording of the Ravel quartet at a later date.

When we got home I checked the state of my skin and was pleased to see that I had only a light touch of pink on my face and shoulders. I would have preferred to have gotten away sun-burn free, but I'm not going to complain. We are supposed to go to a picnic help by the rpg club Karin and Ami belong to on Sunday, so I will wear a hat, or sunscreen, or both, to keep things from getting worse.
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On Tuesday Karin and I went to Longwood Gardens for the day. Longwood was once and estate of Pierre du Pont's, and he spared no expense in putting beautiful gardens and and fountains in it. (The story goes, it was originally a farm he bought to save a group of large, beautiful trees from being cut down for lumber.) At a certain point the estate was turned into a public garden.

While we were there we took a tour of the production greenhouses that supply the conservatory and outdoor gardens with plants. It was really amazing; one of the greenhouses is essentially a 'holding area' for trees that the conservatory designers don't need now, but might in the future, and there we saw some poinsettias that had been trained into 8-feet-high standards. Mindboggling.

Later the two of us went back to finish our walk around the conservatory (which has always been one of my favorite areas in Longwood) and we saw there was a plant sticking out of the glass roof. Upon investigating we discovered that their Century plant is blooming. Karin got a few photos of it on her digital camera, but we haven't downloaded them yet to see how they came out. I might have to figure out how to use the photo storage area of LJ so that I can put some copies of her pictures.

Yesterday was pretty lazy. I did manage to write out the bills I had brought with from home, and I wrote out postcards to my parents, workplace and selected friends. In the afternoon Karin and I went shopping and I bought a black skirt. This pleased me greatly, because though I have two black skirts one of them is a casual denim-y number and the other one is garnished with sequins, so the new one plugs the gap in the middle.

On the way home we stopped at a grocery store and picked up supplies for dinner, which was a barbecued pulled chicken recipe Karin wanted to show me. It was very yummy. Afterwards we went swimming and then watched an episode of Princess Tutu--the more I watch this series, the more I want to see. A pity I won't get to see the end (actually, I won't even get through the first season), but I'm still glad I started it.
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I totally botched my Oven Technology roll this afternoon--I preheated the oven fine, put the cake in, and in the process of trying to set the timer I turned the oven off. I discovered this a half hour later, and after the traditional wailing and tearing of clothes I turned the oven back on. Either the cake was going to turn out ok or it wasn't, and I had little to lose by trying.

In a stunning display of how fool-proof this recipe is, it turned out fine. OK, the crust is a little chewier than is ideal but considering how it had been abused I'm not complaining. After our test-taste it was determined that I needed to up the amount of mint extract, but otherwise things look very promising for the picnic.

When I wasn't attempting to bake a cake I was painting my nails (burgundy frost, btw) and reading a very interesting book I had found in Ami's military history collection: Japanese Destroyer Captain, which was written in the '50s by the man who was the Japanese Navy's most successful destroyer captain in WWII, Captain Tameichi Hara. I've always had a special fondness for naval history, and reading about the Pacific destroyer battles from the Japanese perspective should be great fun. I haven't gotten very far in it, but one page has already given me pause:

It is strange that in 1941 I should finally find answers to my problems in a book written 300 years earlier, Go Rin Sho (The Five Wheels), by Mushashi Miyamoto. [....]Compared with Sun Tzu, Miyamoto's memoir is quite obscure. A literal translation of his prose would make little impression on Western readers.

I can't begin to imagine what he would think of me, and my relationship with Go Rin Sho!

Dinner was Caesar salad (authentic, right down to the coddled eggs) and grilled shrimp and scallops. I'd never had a real Caesar salad, so I found it very interesting to watch the whole production. Afterwards we decided to go swimming (pool in backyard!) and then we had the cake.

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We didn't get to Longwood Gardens yesterday. The weather forecast was very unpromising so after breakfast (English muffins and various spreads, Canary melon, grapefruit juice, fresh coffee) we decided to go do some shopping instead. I desperately needed some new bras, and Karin and Ami wanted to show me their other favorite kitchen supply store.

We went to the mall and spent a long time browsing in Sur La Table, the kitchen store in question. They had tons of stuff I would have loved to have bought, including a really cute bundt pan on clearance that made a cake covered with stars, but I have a perfectly serviceable bundt pan at home which I hardly ever use and given the size of my teapot collection (which I do use) I can't really justify buying bundt pans because they are pretty. I did treat myself to a bottle of lavender extract, though. It will make lavender cookies easier to make, and I've been thinking of experimenting more with flower-based liqueurs. I also picked up a cookie cutter in the shape of an "N".

During this time the heavens opened up and the sky spent a long time raining and thundering. We congratulated ourselves on our foresight and continued shopping. I eventually ended up with two bras, a summer top which wasn't really necessary but which will be useful and a new bathing suit that I really didn't need at all but it has been more than five years since I had a new one and this one was on end-of-season clearance. (Score!)

By then we were tired so we had lunch (I discovered I am not fond of the brand of blue cheese Ruby Tuesday uses on its Blue Cheese Burger: too acidic) and went home. The rest of the day was spent watching DVDs: Princess Tutu, Karin, and Rocky and Bullwinkle. Honestly, at this point I almost feel it would be worth getting a TV so that I could watch Rocky and Bullwinkle again. Princess Tutu is weird and wonderful. Karin is ok, but I don't think I'm shoujo enough to really become a fan.

We also made Pasta Carbonara for dinner, which I had never had before. Heart attack on a plate, but really good! Karin's version includes green peas for color and a bare nod to nutrition. Yum.

Today Ami had to go into work as usual, and Karin went into her office for a half-day. I'm going to amuse myself by baking a cake for dinner. Their gaming club has a picnic this coming weekend and I've decided to contribute a cake to the festivities, so tonight will be a test run. The recipe I'm using is very reliable but I'm using a different brand of flavor extract and I want to make sure I get the strength right.
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I flew to New Jersey on Friday to visit my best friend Karin and her husband Ami. I got no sleep the night before because with one thing and another going on this week I didn't have time to pack or clean beforehand and my flight was so early in the morning I decided I might as well give up and stay awake. Also, I can't read on a plane (I have the same problem with cars) so I could always take a few naps en route.

My flights went pretty smoothly, though there was some turbulence as we came into Newark. Karin was waiting for me as I came off the plane and we collected my suitcases after a brief hunt for one of them, which for some reason was piled next to the luggage carousel and not on it. On our way out to her car something in our conversation reminded me of the time Karin was taking me to the airport after a visit and she had forgotten to grab her purse, so she had no way to pay for the parking fees and I had run low on cash and didn't have enough to cover it myself. We finally had figured out a plan were I could pay it with my credit card at one of the parking kiosks inside of the airport and then she could take the receipt and run out to her car before the grace period expired. I reminded her of this and we then laughed really hard because that was the same trip where I had somehow managed to put her car into neutral when we were going down the parkway at 60 mph--and I wasn't driving. Strange, but true. More words about food and Kamikaze Girls )


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