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Friday, January 09, 2009


Thirteen has to be a lucky number for me. Both my daughters were born on the thirteenth day of the month, and they were 13 months apart. After that second daughter was born, I suggested we go for a hat trick, March 13 the following year for Thing Three. The artist formerly known as Frau Lobster was not amused.

So anyway, Lucky Thirteen strikes again, Em is about to become an official, certified organic, 100% Grade A teenager whether I like it or not.

Really, she's been there for about three years now, so the numbers are just beginning to catch up to her attitude and mood swings. It's either brown sugar or battery acid, but lately it's been more brown sugar.

Anyway, I made a card. I haven't bought a greeting card in years. Hallmark may be a fine corporate citizen, I love taking my kids to Kaleidoscope and Crown Center is the only shopping mall that doesn't give me the willies, but I'm a graphic designer. I started doing this when I worked for an ad specialties manufacturer that used Indigo digital presses from HP that let me do one-off cards with good print quality. Always on 80# matte card stock (whatever was cheap by the truckload, Luna, Matrix, Monte, whatever). There was only one paper in that soul-killing cubicle farm.

For about two years, though, I work in a small, quality-led print shop with a color copier that beats an Indigo for print quality. And a cornucopia of paper stocks on hand and a scoring machine and whatnot to do it right. No die cutting equipment, but letter press work and offset work aren't often under the same roof. My former employer had both, but not in a way I could use to make my cards more Hallmarky.

So anyway, Em has been all about orange lately. Wants her bedroom painted orange, claims her orange shirt is her favorite and so on. So I spent about four hours trying to get the design of her card as orange as possible. The color copier is a four color device, building colors out of cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Four color process is awesome, but it has its weaknesses. And its achilles heel is orange. The DocuColor does better than the Pantone solid-to-process guide says you can get, but still.

This ornate Victorian thing, I used a similar design on the family calendar. It's fairly 'hot' these days, graphic design being as full of shit as fashion or interior decoration. I think Victorian/Edwardian scrollwork backgrounds are probably bell bottoms in the world of graphic design. In a year or two, the sight of them will make me throw up in my mouth and I'll be embarrassed to ever have given cards or calendars with such noxious visuals.

At least that's how I tend to react to the stone/marble textures that ruled a decade ago. Or Photoshop 'emboss' effects that seemed so exotic until they showed up in grocery store newspaper inserts.

Then there was the cake. Well, still is the cake. I haven't frosted it yet. I made the same recipe as the last two years, Chocolate Mayonnaise Cake from the Joy of Cooking, but I tweaked it this year.

I melted the 4oz. unsweetened baker's chocolate and set aside. Then I mixed three eggs plus two egg yolks with 1-2/3 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon of Mexican double-strength vanilla extract. This is a doubling on the vanilla and the two yolks are extra.

After I'd beaten the eggs, sugar and vanilla to all hell, I mixed a cup of mayonnaise into the melted chocolate (JoC calls for 3/4 cup) and beat that until it cried 'uncle.'

Then I mixed it all together and beat in 1-1/3 cup water and 2 cups of flour in steps, about 1/3 or each at a time. Em helped, wanted to take over and do it herself I think.

Then bake 30-40 minutes (the toothpick came clean at 35 minutes) and cool on a rack. Tomorrow, I have to pick up the frosting and some other details I'll need for the birthday festivities. I'll be making pizza for Em and four guests, two of whom are sleeping over. And before that, we have the relatives over for cake & ice cream and before that there's a two hour cheerleading clinic. Then there's Em's present, pierced ears. She's had them once before, not long after the divorce I think, but she lost patience with cleaning them and took the studs out and let the stuff heal up. That's what I did when I got pierced at 18 just because I could.

I'm inclined, on some levels, to get pierced along with her. Now that I know about my nickel allergy, maybe I'd have better luck this time with hypoallergenic studs. I can tell Em is not sold on this, the idea that men could get their ears pierced.

Maybe just one, she suggested. Which is what I did last time because in 1989, only a gay guy could get both pierced. But when she asked me to name one man besides 'the freak with the hoops that stretch his lobes out' who had both ears pierced, I realized I could name two coworkers, one of whom has both ears pierced twice, wearing four hoops.

So that's three men counting the 'freak' in a company of ten people. Of whom, six are men and one of those is in his seventies, and another is a Jehovah's Witness, who I don't think believe in jewelry. So I guess if I succumbed to the tattoo thing, maybe earrings are inevitable...

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