Speaking of engines…

First, I just noticed a couple of typos in my last post. To correct the worst typo… We did not have one child move from high school to middle school. It was the other way around, actually. Princess started high school last year, and she’s been having the time of her life. At the same time, Pixie started middle school. She’s doing well, but not having as much fun. A lot of that comes down to the fact that a number of her best friends no longer go to the same school. I’m hoping she’ll make new friends and start to enjoy school a bit more, but we’ll see.

Second, some days after I wrote that last post, we had some car trouble. The car had started shaking and shuddering a few times while we were driving it, but there was no obvious cause and the shop we take it to for maintenance couldn’t reproduce the problem. Since the shaking and shuddering stopped after we put new tires on the car, we thought the problem had been solved. Then last Friday, the car broke down.

While we were on the highway.

Driving into D.C.

For a weekend visit with family.


The car didn’t just break down. The power cut out. Power steering, power breaks, everything. Yet the lights and blinkers still worked, as did the radio, so the problem obviously wasn’t the battery. Hubster managed to get us to the shoulder of the highway, and then we proceeded to call AAA, various family members, and finally Uber, all in order to get the car towed to a garage and get us to our final destination – my brother-in-law’s house.

We had a lovely weekend staying with my brother-in-law and his wife and two boys. Saw lots of sights, played games, ate a lot of good food. Meanwhile, our car sat at a garage that was closed all holiday weekend. Then on Monday, we headed to the airport. The girls and I hopped into a rental car and drove home, while Hubster stayed back in D.C. to wait for the garage to open up and diagnose what was wrong with the car.

Well, Hubster called me just a little while ago and the news ain’t great. The engine is flooded with oil. It would cost $6600 to repair. We only owe about $2000 on the car, and we just put brand new tires on it to the tune of $1000. We are currently reviewing our options, but I don’t think we’re going to bother with repairing the car.

Anyway, we had a lovely weekend otherwise, and I got to revisit the tomb of “The Queen of the Magazine,” who, as far as I can tell, still isn’t dead yet, so she’s obviously in much better shape than our car! I gotta say, I love this woman’s monument. She looks like she’s having a great life.

Tomb for the Queen of the Magazine

“The Queen of the Magazine!”

Headstone for Evelyn Davis

Evelyn Davis is still kicking, as far as I can tell from her headstone.

ACW Episode 183 – Let me take you higher…

The Adventures of Cynical Woman Web Comic!

Click on the thumbnail above to view the full-sized web-comicky goodness!

This is the perfect comic. I drew it exactly as I had imagined it. The colors came out brilliantly, IMHO. And the story is 100% completely true.

The second day of our last-minute vacation to the Shenadoah mountains, Hubster decided to take us all hiking. There was one trail, Bear Fence Ridge I think it was called, that included the words “rock scramble” in the description on the map. I was hoping for an alternate/indie music festival. Instead, what we got was miles of trail that meandered over stones taller than Hubster and I combined. I use the term “trail” loosely here. The actual footpath disappeared as soon as we hit the first giant pile of rocks. From then on, we had to scramble over the rocks (thus the term “rock scramble”) and follow hash marks of paint scattered here and there over the ridiculously increasingly dangerous landscape. And did I mention that somehow the kids ended up taking the lead? They ran right out in front of us the moment we hit the worst terrain and skipped their way up to heart-stopping heights to balance on the edges of cliffs that offered a breath-taking view of a sheer drop that went 50 or more feet straight DOWN.

Every time we reached the summit of one of these piles of mountainous stone, I kept thinking, “This is it! We can’t get any higher up! There’s no way the park rangers would make this path any worse! Not when they must know it could possibly get people killed!” But then we’d head for that next hash mark and sure enough, there was an even bigger pile of rock to climb.

When we reached the highest summit, Hubster and I stood there, staring down at the sheer drop only inches on either side of us. That was when he turned to me and confessed, “Ya know, I have a sleight fear of heights.” I swear I came so close to decking him. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that if I hit him, I’d probably knock him off the mountain, and then I’d have to go down the cliff face and retrieve his dead body myself. After more than an hour of rock scrambling, I was simply too tired to do that, so I waited until we got back to the car in a nice safe parking lot to hit him.

Today is the day Hurricane Sandy is supposed to do its worst damage to our area. Hopefully everyone out there stays nice and safe today. I plan to hunker down on the couch with my latest stash of yarn and work on more creepy craft projects. I think pretty soon I’m going to start posting pics of the weird dolls I’ve been making. I’ve been showing the works-in-progress on Twitter, and folks really seem to like them, so I may start blogging about crochet and spooky projects on a regular basis once I’ve got a few more pieces made up. So you have something to look forward to! Or run away from screaming! Depends on if you like crochet, I guess.

ACW Episode 182 – Vacationing with the Hubster

The Adventures of Cynical Woman!

Click on the thumbnail above to view the full-sized comic!

This is exactly what it’s like to go on vacation with Hubster. I have been married to this man for almost 20 years, and he has just about damn near killed me every one of those years by taking me on vacation. I remember our honeymoon. It was a death-march through Disney World. In Montreal, he walked us up and down the mountainside of the Mont Royal cemetery, looking for some mythical passageway to the park on the other side of the hill. He never found it, and when I slipped and fell in red clay mud and ruined my best linen skirt, trying to follow him down a steep path, I nearly killed him and left him there among the crypts. And then there was the time he nearly killed my aging mother by walking her to death in the Virginia Zoo.

Anyway. A week and a half ago, the kids had a four-day holiday from school, so at the last minute, Hubster planned a trip to the Shenandoah Mountains. He and I both went to college at Virginia Tech, so we love it up there. The kids had never been, and we hadn’t had a vacation in the last couple years, so I thought, why not? It was only four days, and surely the kids would slow him down…

We headed to the Shenandoah National Park on Thursday and spent the night at the Big Meadows Lodge. Beautiful place, absolutely gorgeous. The main lodge has a large sitting room with lots of comfy chairs and couches, a roaring fire place, and a big picture window view of the mountains. While Hubster played checkers with the kids, I sat on one of the comfy couches and crocheted contentedly.

It was the last peaceful moment I had all weekend.

Before dawn the next morning, Hubster got us all up so we could hike to one of the local viewing spots and see the sun rise. The kids started complaining right off the bat, but I knew it was way too early for that yet. This was only the first of many hikes Hubster had planned for the day. When we made it to our destination and the sun came up, the kids suddenly got all ecstatic!  “WOOHOO! WE HIKED ALL THE WAY OUT HERE BEFORE THE SUN CAME UP!! IT’S SO BEE-YOO-TEE-FUL OUT HERE!! NOW CAN WE GET BREAKFAST?!”

So we hiked back to the lodge, had breakfast, packed up the car, and checked out before heading out on our next hike. Which was considerably longer and tougher than the first one. And the hikes only got longer and tougher from there.

Long story short, the kids discovered that day what I had known for two decades. Given the chance, their father will walk until every member of the family falls to the ground dead. And then he’ll keep walking, not realizing he’s left us all behind. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t love us. I know he does. But the man has to walk. And since I married him, I have to walk to. Until death do us part.

‘Nuff said.

I’ll try to post pics from the trip later on in the week. As exhausting as this trip was, it was beautiful.

Adventures of Cynical Woman – post mini-vacation

A good cartoonist would have a backlog of comics available when they go out of town. A good cartoonist would plan for surprise mini-vacations. A good cartoonist would have figured out how to draw without getting carsick while riding on the Skyline Drive.

I am not a good cartoonist.

I'll have a comic posted about the aforementioned surprise mini-vacation next week. For now, this will have to do.

Chicago, day 06 – Artsy Fartsy and a Fear of Heights

Day 06 of our trip, Hubster decided to take off from his very important convention. Apparently they weren’t doing any talks in his area of rocket scientist expertise that day, and he really wanted to hang with us girls. He did manage to see a bit of the Adler Planetarium and Shedd Aquarium (hey, that kinda rhymes!) on his own, in the afternoons after his conference was over, but apparently he missed his WO-man and kids.

After all the other stuff we’d done, I was dying to see an art museum. I mean, it’s Chicago, right? There are TONS of art museums and galleries in that city. But a mom on her own with two kids has no chance in hell of getting through an art museum with any enjoyment, so I traded sex convinced Hubster to take me to the Museum of Contemporary Art. It’s a nice museum. Very interesting art. I understand NONE of it.

Well, almost none of it. I did like the installations by Olafur Elliasson. These were rooms that had weird light effects and walk-in sculptures and such. One hallway had these overpowering yellow lights that leached all the color out of everything, so that when you went through it, you turned black and white. Freaky! Another room had a series of glass or plexi-glass hoops spinning on a string with a spot light shining through them. The light cast on the far wall broke into prismatic colors and did all sorts of swoops and swirls. Neat! Then there was the room with a free swinging fan hanging from the ceiling, you know, the sort of fan that you prop in the window when it gets really hot and your AC goes kaput? I sort of got that one (it reminded me of summer at my grandmother’s house), but Hubster didn’t care for it. He did like the room where one wall was covered entirely in reindeer moss. Yeah, I have no idea why that would be art.

The kids had no idea what they were looking at though, and things only got stranger as we moved through the painting gallery. Why some of those paintings are hanging in a museum is beyond me. I’ve seen more evocative images appear in Pixie’s diapers after a meal of blueberries and pureed squash. Yet someone things they’re art and must be preserved. I did get to see a real live Rene Magritte up close and personal. Loved it. Plus there was an Andy Warhol and a few names in there I recognized. Sadly, no photography was alllowed in the MCA, otherwise I’d show you some nifty pics with snarky commentary on the state of contemporary art.

Then we hit the gift shop, and I have to say, that’s the first time I’ve seen a gift shop that was a better museum than the museum it was attached to. The MCA gift shop had some amazing stuff in there, including all sorts of books on pop art and comics, manga, etc. They had a slew of Japanese toys, especially the little collectible trinkets that have become so popular these days. I desperately wanted to get a blank Munny doll so I could doodle it up all my own, but then I found a book on plushy art and that was that. I can’t wait to start making freaky little toys with my new-found knowledge };)

After the MCA, Hubster took us to the Hancock Observatory, where we took an elevator to the very tippy top floor so we could all look out a bunch of big plate glass windows and contemplate our deaths. Seriously, I am not a fan of heights, and I really don’t like standing at the top of a very tall building with nothing but a plate of glass between me and a leap to my death. Hubster swears he did not know about my phobia, and then proceeded to ignore it as he took the kids right up to the glass to peer out the windows! I sort of clung to the walls in the center of the floor, praying we would leave soon.

When we did finally descend (in what is probably the world’s fastest elevator – and no, the speed of our plunge did not make me feel better about heights), we headed over to lunch at the same food court/cafeteria/grocery store place Julie had taken us to a few days earlier (was it called Fresh Foods? I can’t recall). We got a huge picnic lunch and headed over to the Lincoln Park Zoo. After devouring everything (I have no idea why I felt starved, but I was), we toured the zoo. It’s a nice zoo, with a carousel and kiddie train, and an ape house and lots of other displays. Unfortunately, some of the animals were out for vet visits and the like. Other animals were hiding from the summer sun. I’d like to go back again sometime, maybe hit it in the morning before the heat sets in and the animals decide to take to the shade.

After a loooooooooong trek around the zoo, we finally headed back to the hotel, where we met up with Hubster’s brother Pat, who foolishly kindly volunteered to take the kids for the night. We sent him off with a smile and a wave, and then set about trying to find some adult entertainment for the evening. I think Hubster was hoping for Blue Man Group, but I nixxed that, opting instead for Harry Potter at the local IMAX theater. Yeah, I know, sounds lame. But you have no idea how infrequently we can get a sitter, and how badly I wanted to see Harry Potter.

The movie was grand. Dinner before hand was an adventure. We tried a Mexican place at the Navy pier, only to find ourselves seated in a wait staff dead zone. After 15 minutes of hoping someone would come take our order, we watched a trio of women get seated right next to us and promptly have their order taken. Their waiter didn’t even look at us as he hurried off to get their drinks, and me feeling snarky, I said, “Let’s leave this dump and go get some food!”

So we hit the Hagen Daaz cafe nearby and got some nice sandwiches. End of dinner adventure. (I know, some adventure, huh?)

After the movie, Hubster and I walked back to the hotel. It was near midnight by now and I’d been on my feet several hours, but since the kids were with their aunt and uncle, and we had a hotel room to ourselves, we did what any husband and wife would do – quickie sex and then off to lala land! Seriously, I wasn’t up to much. I did manage to wake up for sex the next morning, but I made Hubster go get me coffee first.

So that was day 06. Here are a few pics.

Hubster and kids, at the top of the Hancock Observatory, creeping me out by standing so close to the window.

One of the views from the Hancock Observatory. I think our hotel is in there somewhere.

They think they’re being so funny. We actually did see a window washer working outside the Observatory, and I nearly died of a heart attack.

Pixie discovering how big the great apes truly are.

Princess on the Lincoln Park Zoo carousel.

The hottie who is the Hubster. Yeah, I know I’m a lucky girl.

And the train ride at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

I know, I should have had more pictures from the day, but with the no photo policy at the MCA and so many animals out at the zoo, I only got a few good snaps. Tomorrow will be even more sparse, since the big exhibit at the museum we saw then was a no photos deal too! But then, I’m pretty sure everyone’s tired of seeing my vacation photos, right?

Chicago, day 05 – Adler Planetarium, and Pixie’s Surprise

Day 05 of our trip to Chicago, I was back on my own with the kids again. Not a problem though. One bus stop took us to three different museums, each of which would have taken more than a day to get through. So once again, we hopped the 146 bus and headed out to Soldier Field. This time, we bypassed the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium for the Adler Planetarium. This was probably the nicest planetarium I’ve ever seen, with a display on historical astronomical instruments, among other things. Unfortunately, Princess and Pixie weren’t exactly enraptured with the planetarium. The shows scared the bejeezus out of Pixie, and most of the displays went right over a six-year-old’s head. We spent a couple of hours there, and then retired to the Field Museum, where we promptly got lost in an exhibit on Ancient Americas.

Several thousands of years of American history that you never saw in any school book blended right into an exhibit on Pacific Northwest and Arctic peoples, with side exhibits on costumes of Native American tribes. We spent HOURS going through all this, and it amazed me how much Princess took an interest in the displays. But then, she likes “Indians,” as she tells me.

After several hours lost in ancient history, we finally found our way out of the museum and headed back to the hotel, where we collapsed. I can’t even recall what restaurant we went to that evening, I was so tired. Oh wait, yes I can.

We went to Gino’s East to get deep dish pizza. Gino’s East is very dark inside. Patrons are encouraged to color all over the walls and such, so the place kind of looks like a pit, covered in graffiti and all. But the food was supposed to be good, so we sat down to wait for our deep dish pizza. Deep dish pizza takes a long time to make, so we were prepared for quite a wait.

While we were sitting there, Hubster looked over at Pixie, who was sitting next to me, and said, “Sweetie, what’s in your hand?”

Now it was very dark in Gino’s East, remember, so I had no idea what I was getting when I turned around and said, “Pixie, hand it over.”

Nope, no way to tell my child was about to hand me a turd. Which she had just pulled from her own shorts.

I dropped it immediately, not quite shrieking, and Hubster wanted to know what was wrong. I made him crawl under the table to retrieve what I had dropped. Then I carted Pixie and the turd, wrapped in a napkin, to the ladies’ room. I had no diaper bag with me. Pixie is supposed to be potty trained, right? Anyway, no change of clothing, no baby wipes. All I had was paper towels and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. So I sanitized my baby’s butt. Used up half my bottle of sanitizer in the process.

The underpants Pixie was wearing went into the trash. After repeatedly washing her hands and mine, we finally went back to the table. When we got there, the pizza was ready.

Hubster said, “See, you had something interesting to do while we waited for our pizza.”

Gee, wonderful.

Anyway, here are the pictures from day 05 (but no pictures of the turd, I promise):

Adler Planetarium

Lots of nifty astronomical intruments, including sun dials and astrolabes.

The only thing in the Adler Planetarium that held my kids’ attention, the fun house mirrors.

One of the many statues in the Ancient Americas display at the Field Museum.

I felt like this after so many days running around and seeing the sights.

And that’s day 05!

Chicago, day 04 – OMG! American Girl!!

Day 04 of our trip was divided between laundry and sightseeing with my sister-in-law Julie. I love Julie. I hate doing laundry in a hotel. The Embassy’s idea of laundry is to put one tiny washer and dryer on the 10th and 14th floor. The set up on the 10th was busy, so we had to make several trips back and forth between our hotel room on the 6th floor and the washing machine on the 14th. The kids were naturally bored. Meanwhile, I slaved over the last three days’ worth of dirty undies.

Fortunately, Julie came to save us at noon. She whisked us away to the Disney store and then to the freakiest place on Earth, the American Girl Store. You know yours truly is not American Girl material, not by a long shot. I don’t do the girlie girl thing, and I sure as hell don’t get into dolls and kids wearing matching outfits. American Girl is just too mundane and too commercialized for me. I saw a lot of families walking through that store, Moms chasing after daughters who brought their dolls with them so they could get just the right accessories, Dads dragging behind, arms loaded with doll stuff. Someone should have put those guys out of their misery. Someone should have put me out of my misery. I was just freaked by the whole Stepford atmosphere. But Princess and Pixie were in seventh heaven, running from one display to the next, oohing and ahhing over the dolls and their overpriced stuff. All along, Julie just kept laughing at me. Remember how I said I loved my sister-in-law? Maybe not so much in the American Girl Store.

We ended up getting two small (6 inch) dolls. I insisted on the historical dolls, so we got Josephina for Princess and Kaya for Pixie. We also got books on each doll. Then Julie got us out of there before my stomach turned itself completely inside out. We hopped on a bus and headed back to the hotel where we deposited our loot, then headed back out for the Millenium Park.

Millenium Park was cool. We started off with the big Bean, which is a giant bean shaped chrome sculpture that reflects everything at weird angles. It’s HUGE! And outside the Bean there were a group of kids doing a re-enactment of the big fight scene from Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince. Then there was a display of modern sculptures by Chinese artists, as well as the fountain area. In the fountain area there are two tall pillars that display video images of faces. After these giant faces smile for a while, they purse their lips and spit, and a stream of water comes shooting out, soaking everyone. The girls loved it. After a while in there, we caught a rehearsal session of a local symphony (they were damned good!), and then Julie guided us back to our hotel.

Hubster came back a little later and took us out to dinner at a place called Big Bowl. They serve Thai, Chinese, etc., there, and all of it is good. But Pixie was a little too tired to enjoy. She fell asleep at the table, almost nodding off into her plate. Fortnately for Hubster, Big Bowl wasn’t too far from our hotel, because I nominated him to carry our sleeping offspring back.

And that was day 04! Here are the pics:

Julie discusses the joys of American Girl with Princess (I didn’t dare take a picture inside the store, for fear their security would break my arm).

Our loot after a day of shopping. Hubster is so broke now.

Fans re-enact the ending to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince at the Bean.

More Harry Potter. Their MacGonigal was very good.

Julie (foreground) and the Bean (who’s proper name escapes me, but I think it’s called Cloud Reflection Sculpture or something like that).

Inside the Bean, looking up. Look for the bright flash. That’s me with my camera, reflected in the celing (and Julie’s ponytail is in the foreground).

Escher Princess…

…and Escher Pixie.

Giant Toy Dinosaur in the Millenium Park! Made in China.

Rinse and spit! Faces pillar in the Millenium Park.

At the symphony rehearsal, I asked Julie if Chicago was always like this. She said, “Like what? Awesome? Yeah, pretty much.”

Dinner at Big Bowl. Pixie was worn out!

And that’s pretty much day 04!

Chicago, day 03 – Shedd Aquarium

Day 03 of Chicago, I was on my own with the kids. Hubster headed off very early that morning for his conference. I got up as he left, somehow pulled myself together (the day before had been very long) and then had to pry two cranky children out of bed. Once I got everybody up, dressed, and fed, I hustled the three of us out of the hotel and down the few blocks to the bus stop where we hopped onto the 146 again and headed back out to the vicinity of the wonderous Field Museum.

In the same area as the Field, there is also the Adler Observatory and the Shedd Aquarium. Princess and Pixie were determined to see fish this day, so the aquarium was our goal. Prior to that, we took a detour into the Children’s Garden nearby the Field Museum. It’s a small garden with some interesting sculptures and a giant spider web jungle gym thing that kept the kids entertained for an hour or so. I actually had to drag them from the jungle gym to the Shedd Aquarium, but the whining stopped once we got inside and caught our first glimpse of fish.

Princess desperately wants an aquarium of her own, so she was enraptured with the Coral Reef display in the center of the Shedd. We got there in time to see one of the feedings. A diver hand fed all the rays, sharks and fish while a woman stood outside the tank and explained what was going on. The diver had a mic set-up, so he was able to help narrate and answer questions. I told Princess and Pixie that when they were old enough, we’d take them scuba diving. Hubster and I have been diving once, off the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I’m dying to go again someday.

After the feeding was over, we saw the display on the Rising Amazon, which looks at the annual flooding of the Amazon River and how it affects the people, plants and animals that live on the banks. Then we hit the Wild Reef display, which looks at the reefs in the Philipines, and the conservations efforts going on in that area to protect the wild life while still letting the local population survive off of fishing the reefs.

Then it was lunch time. I have to say, as much as I like the Shedd Aquarium, it’s dining facilities leave something to be desired. The upper cafe is apparently dine-in. They had a side bar where I tried to order a small meal for myself and the kids, but apparently yours truly is too blind to see the sign (in white letters on a beige sign board) that says the side bar doesn’t serve food until 2PM. So we headed downstairs to eat in the self-serve cafe, which turned out to be a zoo, and not the good kind. We finally got food, two bowls of macaroni and one bowl of chili, with drinks for the bargain price of $35, and escaped outside to eat on the terrace. The food was good, but for $35, I would have expected something gourmet.

After that, the kids claimed they were too tired to do any more and wanted to go back to the hotel and swim in the pool. I relented, and we magically made it back to the bus and then back to the hotel. I say magically because I know jack squat about public transportation, and because in spite of our best efforts, we have yet to be able to find a map of the bus routes in this part of Chicago. Our hotel doesn’t carry such a map, which I think is an absolute disgrace, right up there with the $15 a day price for internet connection.

Anyway, we made it back to the hotel, got into our swim suits, and spent an hour in the pool. Then we waited for Hubster to return to the hotel. He decided to hit the Adler Observatory after his day at the conference, thinking we might be there, but he got there half an hour after we left to go back to the hotel. Still, he had a nice afternoon, and when he joined us back at the hotel, he took us to Portelli’s, a place that serves some very good hot dogs. I had my first hot dog Chicago style, loaded with peppers, onions, mustard and a pickle spear. Once again, I was thankful for the walk to and back from the restaurant. Our meal wasn’t huge (though the cost for four of us at Portelli’s was cheaper than the cost for three of us at the Shedd cafeteria). But it was enough that I wanted the time and activity to help me digest. Along the way back, we stopped at Argo Tea for a quick cup. They have the world’s best Darjeeling there!

And that was pretty much day 03. Here are the pics from that day:

Princess and Pixie at the entrance to the Children’s Garden at Soldier Field.

They’re over the moon about Chicago.

The spider-web jungle gym!

It’s a loooooooong way down!

Each sculpture in the garden is a variation of the Earth…

Like this one, the Water Earth!

Feeding time at the Shedd Aquarium!

Crown of Thorns Sea Stars.

Is it a rock, or a fish?

I think we found Nemo…

You think this turtle can get us all the way back to our hotel?

And that’s pretty much day 03!