Extra Extra, eat all about it. Feb 8, 09

I know, I know, I know. I fell off the blog wagon. We were back on track with regular posts and then I went and foiled it all up. What can I say. Basically my excuses are two fold... For the first chunk of time everything we were doing was very low on the photo-impact scale and I wanted to wait until I had a little more visual 'wow factor' but THEN I got hit by a major cake undertaken that sucked up the past few days. So - let's get right into catch up. And, since I know y'all hate the long blogs I'll try not to be too long winded. Margaret has basically adopted us. She's basically figured out that we can't be left to our own devices and has decided that we need some kind of adult supervision :) She's been amazing, and we're now fighting over ownership of her. I strongly felt that since I was so frequently out-numbered by Najuch's that it was only fair to make her a Froomkin. However, Rich and Janice feel she is far too practical, competent and bargain conscious to not be a Najuch. Harumph.

For the first couple days since my last missive I continued the ceiling diamond project.

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One of the first things I tackled after the last blog was a repair of something I had screwed up. I know - you're shocked. Ah, well - it's all about the learning curve, right kids. See, the area that I put the plaster of paris on to patch ceiling surface where there was a peeled area of missing texture...remember... well the plaster worked great. BUT I didn't know I was supposed to prime the plaster before painting it. Margaret informed of me of this AFTER the fact (which is why Margaret is not allowed to LEAVE the building...so she can tell me these things BEFORE I screw up). So when the diamonds were almost all done I realized that the area of the plaster just really was noticeable - even though the texture match was pretty good. The paint was just a duller tone - and you could really see where the patch was. So I bit the bullet - took the orbital sander to it (to knock down a little extra texture that was catching the light too much), ran primer over it, and then repainted those two diamonds over. And it was worth it. Hooray. So - remember kids - Plaster of Paris: Primer primer primer.

When last I reported I told you that we had abandoned the original yellow ochre color that was the final tone left for the fourth diamond. And then we looked at a sample of it on a test board and went 'ick'. So we replaced it with a taupe color called Moose Mousse which we all thought was peachy keen. So, I spend the standard like three hours it takes to tape around a set of diamonds and paint them with two coats. First of all when I started rollering it on, you could hardly tell that I'd even painted the area. It was VERY VERY close to the original color of the wall. Now, when it DRIED it was, admittedly, a little more beige than what was already on the walls, but after three hours of work it really did not provide a great bang-for-your-buck sense of satsifaction. It did look pretty... Really. Nothing wrong with it at all...

GIVE A MAN ENOUGH TAUPE... new-beige.JPG

But it just was bugging me. See the original design had a richer pallette of browns and was a darker color. This looked very pretty - but because fifty percent of the diamonds were now a light color, it was much less decadent than I had planned. So we slept on it, and then the next day I asked the pack leader if I could do it again and he made a noise like a wookie in labor, and then said yes. The good news was that I had only completed the outer lobby - so at least I'd only wasted half the time it should have taken. :) Anyway... rather than head all the way back to Fort Wayne to Lowes to get the paint we decided to take a look in the Sherwin Williams chip book since they were local. And I found something. And we went and got it. They're paint is actually quite a bit more expensive - BUT kids I do have to say I LOVE their paint containers. They are like a hybrid paint can/milk container - and it has a screw top lid (so now hammering, prying, hammering) and a spout. Yes, a SPOUT. I was very excited. So Jo Jo actually got more paint on the wall than on himself for once.

Believe it or not it's actually REALLY hard to find a very dark brown paint. The darker brown that was already on there (kind of a hershey chocolate color) I didn't think of as being THAT dark - but when we tried to find something that would contrast next to it, it was really not easy (which, come to think of it, might be why we ended up picking that ochre color months ago when we bought the paint for the diamonds?). Anyway - we found a color called Black Bean and brought it home. When I first painted it on I was a little panicky because it did seem pretty close to the other brown already up there... but after it dried it looked pretty darn good. And, after it's all said and done, I'm really really happy with it. And so is Rich. He actually didn't mind going to the darker color - because it really does make the whole place look more sophisticated and also will help give a real sense of color cohesion to the rest of the lobby. Now, we all actually agree that for some reason photographs don't really do this particular project justice. It's tough to get enough light in there for the camera to get a really true impression of what it looks like... particularly since I keep taking these pictures at around 11 pm. But... So - after five days, and like eight rolls of painters tape, and very very tired forearms here it is...

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I do have to admit that my arm started to REALLY give out towards the end of it. As you may recall I have been blessed at the moment with golfers AND tennis elbow - so the tendons in my forearm were not particularly loving the painting on the ceiling marathon. It was particularly tough because you had to keep a pretty thin amount of paint on your roller - and therefore had to press with a good deal of pressure to get enough paint on the wall. If you got your roller loaded up with paint, like you normally would, then it would be a lot more likely to run under the masking tape and ruin the crisp lines. So it was a lot more work than it would have been to just paint the wall. Towards the end, Janice was kind enough to come in as my relief pitcher... Even though I was bummed that I couldn't finish one of my designated "jo jo projects" solo - it did actually give me quite a bit of satisfaction to hear Janice tell Rich "Hey, he's not just whining - this SUCKS!". I think it sucked more for Janice up on the scaffolding and having me below going... "careful you can't do it at that angle... don't get too close to the tape... don't put so much paint on your roller... put more paint on your roller... don't go so fast"

It actually was really tough for Janice because she has no depth perception (I don't mean that as an insult... I mean CLINICALLY she has no depth perception)... and she did a bang up job.

Anyway - when Janice was not acting as my stunt double, she was helping Rich. Originally she had planned on leaving Friday, but then with the weather and a change in Bob's shift schedule, she figured she might as well stay through till Sunday. Which mean she even gave up a day on her bowling league for us. And that kids, is no small potatoes. While I was playing Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, he was finishing up his lobby-wide wire swap out. With help from Larry he's now managed to replace out all the old icky wiring for all the lighting fixtures, plus run the new wire from the secret space for all the speakers and the recessed lights. PLUS with Janice on a ladder below, and with him poking his head down from up top, he installed all the hardware container can thingies for the recessed lights.

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Sometimes our work areas would overlap while I was painting and he was poking around... providing me with a unique opportunity to play ceiling whack-a-mole.

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Apparently this job was not easy. Very finicky and tough to get a grip on... And, although I am not an expert on cans (go ahead... write your own joke) they look pretty darn good to me. They actually are installed with these really nifty side arm things that extend out from the center like wings to screw into the nearby joists. So it's like an arm that attaches to the joist - and the can kind of locks into whatever position you want along the arm... it slides along to whatever position you want. Who knew. Ok. Most people. So sue me.

They also repaired the inside surfaces of the archways. Rich picked up some wood specially for this particular project and then did an incredible job cutting it to fit perfectly. So now, with just a little bit of filler, and a lick 'a paint they'll be perfectly smooth and clean. So much better than the original ugly old door jams that had remained for years.

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We continued to have food visitors... An avid blog reader that we'd never met named Krista who lives right down the street arrived not only with some super yummy hummus but ALSO a toy for Po. Shaped like a cat. So the next time Po stays at Cindy's house she will have been trained to kill their cat. This cat is stuffed and blue however, and Po is pretty stupid. So maybe we can convince her it's a dolphin. :)

Rich got all the new wire pulled in the lobby (and once the more messy work is done in the area he's all set to actually install the lighting fixtures.) At about this point my arm had decided to almost fall off completely - so I was pretty much forced to take a break from manual labor for the day (and caught up with some NY work and began the great cake-a-thon). Also while the diamond work was going on Rich and Janice were getting the rest of the walls sanded and scraped for preparation for skim coating. Janice is a speed demon with the orbital sander and in about a day and a half they had every surface that could be sanded knocked down really well and ready for goo. The wall with all the doors leading to the auditorium was more of challenge however. The paint in a few areas was peeling in places and we needed to really make sure that as much loose paint was removed as possible to prevent it spreading in the future when it was surfaced over. But the peeling paint was kind of a like a crack in the ice. You chipped away a little bit and it just spread. And spread. And spread. Janice spent like a whole day scraping on the scaffolding until finally around one area one door looked like this:

WHAT IF WE PAINT THE CEILING WITH "HEAD AND SHOULDERS"? peeling-removal.JPG

Janice did not like this job a whole heap. But, after all three of us went at it with a putty knife, most of the area was stripped of trouble spots and we thought we'd be ok.

JANICE GOT "THAT LOVING PEELING" scraping.JPG

The outer lobby was pretty peel free however, and after patching a bunch o' holes with joint compound and letting it dry overnight, they figured they were ready to start skim coating the outer lobby. You remember what skim-coating is, right? Ok - real fast - you water down joint compound into the consistency of pancake syrup, roller it on to the wall, and then run a trowel across it lifting off the excess. Let it dry. Sand. And then repeat it two more time. And then, your bumpy icky walls are now plastered perfectly smooth. Anyway. At this point I was now officially on full time cake duty for the next two days. So Rich and Janice had me give them a quick skim coating lesson. And I now see why Rich doesn't like classrooms. See, Rich can learn anything and do everything - but he learns it all from a book or from online. Like everything. He is not a classroom person. And I am a little O.C.D. This is not an ideal combination for teacher/pupil...because I'm like trying to give a detailed all-scenario encompassing explanation of skim coating and Rich is like "gimme the trowel". So they got their lesson and seemed to cope with their separation anxiety from me remarkably well for the rest of the day. That night in fact they asked how the cake work was going:

Joel "I'll have to work on it all of tomorrow". Janice and Rich in perfect unison: "Good".

It's nice to be missed.

SKIMMING THE SURFACE skim-coat-layer-one.JPG

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Margaret came over for skim coat day two and those kids seriously went to town. It was pretty amazing how much they got done. By the end of the afternoon they had sanded the first coat on outer lobby and applied and troweled the whole second coat. Rich rollered and the ladies skimmed. They even started to move into the inner lobby and do that too. Margaret, a plaster whiz, did a phenomenal job patching and filling some of the cracked original walls where they curve into the doorway alcoves leading to the auditorium. Then we extra Eckerts when school got out and Margaret and Larry's daughter Gretchen got roped in to help too.

And then... like the iceburg for the titanic... like the big wave thing for the Poseidon... like the Oscar for Cuba Gooding...

Disaster.

They started rollering the joint compound onto the walls in the inner lobby - just like they had in the outer lobby. But something very very icky happened. They applied the compound onto the walls and it started to bubble up. And the original paint that we had knocked down with the sander started to peel off onto the roller. And when you ran a putty knife against the wet compound it all peeled up in a big oooogly mess. Apparently Janice was pretty gutted. We had been doing so well - actually managing to get ahead of schedule almost... And then WHACK. First thing they had to do was scrape off all the joint compound they had put on this wall because it was making a big horrible mess. Then they had to examine the problem. Well, actually, first they had to blame Gretchen, since everything was going fine until she showed up, so it seemed fair to say it was all her fault :)

It seems that these walls, right below the beige color that they are painted, have another color of paint which was only used in CERTAIN areas in that room. It wasn't used anywhere in the outer lobby apparently because we didn't have this problem. But it's a nasty glossy yellow color. And, after consulting with Larry and Bob and Lowes and Home Depot and Dear Abby and Dr. Phil.... this is our theory: We think they used this color to prime the walls with in certain areas. But it's a semi gloss paint. And they put a semi gloss paint on top of it. And you can't prime a semi gloss WITH semi gloss because it won't stick to it properly. So there is really no proper adherence where this paint is. So the dampness of the watered down joint compound, plus the weight and stickiness of it apparently just cause it to peel away. And after further consultations, experiments and failed exorcisms, we learned that there was nothing we could really do except scrape it all off by hand. No primer, or Killz, or anything was gonna make it adhere with enough assurance. We could try and use paint stripper on a sixty by fifteen foot room - but we thought it might get a little fun with the fumes. Soooo. We went at it by hand. Mostly they...(I was cake-ing). They got a whole lot done...

LETS MAKE A PEEL peel-disaster.JPG

It's honestly not horrible...it's just very, very slow work. And if you're doing it for hours it definitely starts to kill your hand. They did figure out that if you spray water on it beforehand and let it sit for a while that it really does help loosen it up. Margaret and Larry came by this afternoon (Margaret found me an un-opened hobby airbrush at Goodwill for me to try out for my cakes - wheeee) to check out our progress, and Margaret said "well why don't we get you some of the community service kids for this?". Gretchen is involved in some groups that wanted to come and get some community service hours wracked up at the theatre - and we hadn't really had a clue how we could utilize a bunch of them at once. Eureka! This is like a perfect larger group activity - because the more people you have doing it, the faster it goes...it's not a specialized skill...and it's not dangerous. So, hopefully tomorrow, we'll get a gaggle of hormones bouncing around our building working off all that teenage angst on OUR WALLS :)

Gretchen's sex-ed class continues to provide enormous entertainment for all of us. (Frankly I don't think we actually need to pay for the rights to plays... we're just gonna put this thing up on stage). The kids have apparently all been giving business size pieces of card which are called ATM cards. Yes, just like your cash machine card. Except ATM stands for: Abstinence Till Marriage. Of course, the real problem with those particular ATM cards is that you can't use them everywhere for withdrawls. Especially sperm banks.

Apparently they are supposed to carry these around in their wallet. As a reminder. Or as some kind of viriginity ID in case they want to apply for an Aztec Sacrifice. Apparently Janice asked Gretchen if it was like one of those cards that you get punched at subway... if you said 'no' to a boy ten times did you get 'one free'.

But, it turns out that teenage pregnancy is quite the issue in these parts. Gretchen actually told me that if you look at the statistics you can see that the year they opened the multiplex in Huntington the teenage pregnancy rate dropped considerably since kids actually had SOMETHING else to do to pass the time. Which has inspired me to propose what I feel should be our first major marketing campaign:

"Musical Theatre: the hummable alternative to morning sickness and labor pains".

In other news... I think my entire life can be summed up by the fact that we actually had to call the Maytag Repairman. Frankly I thought when he arrived he'd be a whole lot more excited to actually GET a call. Not so much. The washing machine was making a weird grinding noise. Turns out that we had thought we could be more economical by not hooking it up to the hot water line...but we were wrong. When the guy was fixing the thing that needed fixing he said to Rich (covered in paint, dust, joint compound and goo) "you can watch me do this if you want in case it happens again... something tells me you might be good at these things".

I also managed to kill our utility sink. I mean kill. Like I took an elephant gun and shot a hamster. See, I'm NEW TO THESE THINGS PEOPLE. I don't KNOW stuff. I thought a utility sink was CALLED a utility sink because it was like super heavy duty. And I thought that basically meant if it could GET down the drain then if could GO down the drain. So even though I hadn't been cavalier about it, or crazy or anything, and I had scraped out a lot of the excess goo from mastic and mortar and joint compound and plaster and dri lok before I was cleaning them.... I did flush a lot of that kind of stuff down there. Apparently I wasn't supposed to. And the other day it stopped draining. And rich sent a snake down it (not a real one... the flushy plumber snake thingy) and it went 'thud'. And stopped. Pack Leader not happy. I felt AWFUL. I just didn't know. We don't have a hose to wash stuff out in the alley...and I've had to get goo clean somehow... and I just didn't know that's not what I was supposed to do. He tried liquid plumber, he tried chemicals. Nothing. And at first I thought, Ok, well it's sucky, but at least he can detach the sink and just clean out the little pipe below and clear it out. But the blockage was apparently like six feet into the pipe - UNDERGROUND. Which would be like thousands of dollars worth of stuff to have Keith tackle. And I cute as I think Josie is, I don't want to pay for her college tuition QUITE yet. After a day or so of sweating it out, Rich apparently cracked it today. He had to pull out the whole sink and then managed to run a snake or something down the pipe into the concrete, break it up, and pull it back out. Amen. And I live to blog another day.

Today we sanded down the second coat of skimming inthe outer lobby. My goodness. It's like a dust storm. With three of us sanding the place becomes a snow storm within five minutes and you end up looking like you fell into the packaging vat at a Talcum factory. We opened the doors and it was really funny - cuz if you stepped outside and looked into the theatre it was like a scene from The Fog.

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Larry suggested we take a stab at 'wet sanding' since it produces a heck of a lot less dust. As wacky as it sounds, apparently they make a sand paper you can dip in water and it prevents the dust from becoming airborne. You just keep dipping it in water and cleaning it off and smoothing. So we may give it a shot. But the walls are looking pretty great - the outer lobby only needs one more skim coat and it will be ready for priming, which is pretty phenomenal news.

Ok - so now onto what Jo Jo did with the latter half of his week. You remember how Jean Anne hired me to make cake for 200 people. Well that was today (Friday). The cakes were for the Farewell Open House for Mike Perkins, who for the past thirty years has been the editor of the Herald Press (our local paper). He was also the gentleman who did that article on us about the youtube video. So before I even knew who this thing was for Jean Anne had booked me for it and I was just doing the same kind of cakes that I do for Nick's every week for the birthday thingy. But then I found out it was for Mr. Perkins and he was such a nice guy...and he really seemed like a true old-school journalist who really cared about his work...and I thought it was really sad he was leaving just when we got here... and the Pork Queen RAN ME DOWN PEOPLE. She was like "wouldn't it be SOOO nice if ONE of the cakes was decorated SPECIAL". And when the Queen commands.... the subjects obey. So. Now i was making cake for 200 people... and some part of that had to be fancy. Fancy how I did not have a clue. At first I was like "I don't know if I can do this... or if i have time.... or blah blah". But I really wanted to do it, and the Pack Leader said it couldn't be a bad thing for people to see a cake that I had done if I wanted to start doing it as a little business. And so he thought that it was time that was justifiable in spending away from renovation. So I said yes. And he's a newspaper man, right. Which means it had to be a newspaper cake. Right? Right. ARghgh. So anyway, i basically spent a day baking and two days decorating. We got this huge freaking sheet cake pan that is like twenty inches by thirteen inches and takes nine eggs per cake. NINE. Anyway - so I made two giant white cakes and got them in the freezer. And then iced them. And then started.

I do have to share with you though a fun and nifty new Jo Jo trick that I learned. And, as you know, when I learn I share - since you ought to get SOMETHING out of reading this nonsense, right? I was going crazy trying to figure out how on earth you ice the top of a cake perfectly smooth. I know that most of the time for wedding cakes and stuff they use fondant - which is rolled out and then laid on top. But I knew that you COULD get flat iced cakes - and I just didn't know how. And if it was supposed to be a newspaper I needed a large flat white iced surface. And I didn't want to use fondant because a) never done it, b) didn't want to do that cuz I don't think it's as tasty.

Here's what I learned. And I found this on many, many websites so I'm not making it up. Apparently they teach this at the Wilton classes and all kinds of places. You ice your cake like normal with a spatula or whatever - getting it as smooth as you can. Then you let it sit for fifteen minutes or so and 'crust'. You know how the icing gets a kind of crispy surface when it's out in the open - ok - that's crusting. So - fifteen minutes pass. Then you are supposed to take a Viva paper towel (for some reason they ALLLL said Viva, which I didn't use... I think that they say Viva because it's one of the few plain no-pattern printed dora-the-explorer-all-over-it paper towels) - you take paper towels and lay it on top. Then, you can use a thing called a fondant smoother (which is basically a flat piece of plastic) or you can use your hand - and just iron the cake. Seriously - like you're ironing.... you just press the paper towel and smooth. And it works. Amazing.

There's even a video you can watch: CAKE VIDEO

So - I got that done. And then I started icing. I was doing a lot of stuff I'd never tackled before - so I really wanted to make sure I didn't run out of time - so I kind of stayed up all night day before yesterday just to get the lions share of it done. I was trying to do a portrait, and use paintbrushes on the icing, and a lot of text (that I'm not great at)...so I wanted to make sure I didn't totally screw up and end up down to the wire. The hardest thing about all of it, honestly, was that the thing was so freaking big. I tried to decorate to two halves separately, but realized I'd never be able to get them slid together without killing the decorating...so I gave up on that. And normally I'm able to support my elbows on the counter and be stable - but I couldn't do that working on a cake that was like three feet wide.

I used these icing markers I'd never tried before to draw the portrait, and then painted the shading with a brush and black food coloring watered down. And then the rest of it was all stuff that we'd found out he was interested in etc... He likes the Philly's (which Janice had to tell me was a baseball team), he's really excited about his new grandson (who's last name, we luckily found out in time, is NOT Perkins), and he's a big racecar fan. Babies, Baseball, Racecars. All three subjects, on which you know, i am a total expert. I winged it.

And - about a zillion hours later it looked like this:

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Jean Anne came over and saw it and loved it. Cakes never come out looking exactly the way I want them too... so I'm not a good judge of how good they look when they're done. Anyway - she loved it and Rich and Janice thought it looked great, so we took it over to the huge walk-in fridge at Nicks kitchen since now that it was together there was no fridge at the theatre that could house it. That night I made the other two sheet cakes (lemon and chocolate) and got them stacked in the freezer (as per Linda's miracle system) to ice in the morning. Since I'd had no sleep the night before I slept in pretty late, got up, iced the cakes and Rich and I headed over to Nick's cuz we were going to help Jean Anne get the stuff for the event over to the Herald Press and set up and stuff. So I get there ahead of Rich and I go into the fridge to get the cake. I get the cake. i bring it outside of into the back room and put it down. And I look at the cake.

And I have a total nervous breakdown.

Something had happened to the cake. There were all these places on it where the writing was smooshed and runny. Like some of it you couldn't read. I said to Jean Anne "what happened". She said that Cindy had dropped a loaf of bread against the side of it this morning but they thought it was fine. I was like "Ok...this is not the side...this is not fine". I had no idea what to do. I was so upset...I just left the restaurant. I don't mean I stormed out or screamed or anything. Rich walked in as I was leaving and i just said 'I need you to do this". I came outside, went upstairs, cried a little. I was just upset that they didn't tell me... See they didn't want to tell me because they felt bad and didn't want me to be upset about it. But the thing is people... it's just ICING. It's not granite. You can FIX icing. I scraped off about three hundred mistakes on that cake, re-iced it and then started over again. You can fix something if you have the time too. So I was just upset that they hadn't called me when it happened at seven am. And, I think they didn't have any idea that it was as damaged as it was because in the darkness of the fridge it probably looked pretty safe. Anyway - Rich comes back and says "you've got half an hour - you'll feel better if you try to fix it". So I did. Now, while Rich had been at Nicks and this was going down he ran into Steve Updike, the Mayor, who was apparently with some downtown development people who wanted to see the theater. So - at the exact moment I'm having a total nervous breakdown AND trying to repair this cake they show up at the theatre. Jean Anne calls me and says she'll drive the cake to the back door so I run through the Mayor and people and say "sorrryyyyyyyyy" and leap into the auditorium....yell for Rich to open the door... then Jean Anne doesn't show up. I misunderstood. She came to the front door. So I run through the mayor again and rush get the cake and clamor upstairs with it whereupon Po gets out because i have to have the door open too long to get the cake inside. Po races down the stairs - the backdoor of the theatre is still open. I now have only twenty five minutes to repair enough stuff that should take me two hours properly. I run downstairs chasing the dog between the Mayor and these people I've never met. Seriously it was like a very bad Chevy Chase movie. I just keep yelling "I' do apologize, normally I'm very charming and calm" and now Rich is trying to help me get the dog. So we get the dog. I run upstairs. Thank god the only parts of the cake that were damaged were black icing and red icing. Black icing was easy to mix and easy to match perfectly - so I popped open a thing of chocolate frosting (cuz it's tough to make white icing get black enough) threw the black food coloring in it, and filled a piping bag. I also had premixed red icing (which I HATED and will never buy again - see Red icing is really hard to mix, you end up with pink usually, so I normally buy the premixed Wilton red... but I couldn't get it...so I got this stuff called Cake Mate. Crap. Don't buy it. Doesn't flow nicely. Cracks when it dries. It dyes the icing below it and runs a little. Crap crap crap.) But - in this instance i was VERY glad to see this crap icing premixed and ready to go. And, THANK GOD I didn't throw out the extra icing that I had just mixed for the other two sheet cakes. So - I scraped off half the bottom headline, all the black lines on the right side of the cake, where it said editor in chief and then re-iced the cake. And then with my hand shaking like I was supposed to be performing open heart surgery, I tried to fix it. And lettering is REALLY hard for me - and normally I screw up every five seconds and have to start again... But I got through it. I also used a knife and kind of scraped away places where there was smoosh and just revealed the clean white right below the surface (which was a good thing to learn is possible - and a lot easier to do if the cake has been refigerated and the icing has become cold and solid). I was still so upset about it - it didn't look nearly as crisp and clean as it did the night before. But Rich said it was much better than it had been a half an hour and that it was ok. So he took it. I told him I didn't want Jean Anne to tell anyone who decorated it because it wasn't how I'd wanted it to look...and he told me I was being an idiot and refused to do that...and off he went. Like fifteen minutes later Jean Anne called and put a lady from the Herald Press named Judy on the phone and she said that Mike had seen it and almost cried and that he loved it and asked if I would come so they could thank me. So I did. And, even though I was upset that it wasn't as great as I had hoped it would be for him, they did love it. And I'm glad I went. Although it's very weird being out at a function on my own without the pack leader. Because I'm not used to talking to people. In public I'm VERY SHY in large groups and with strangers and Rich normally does all that stuff and I kind of stand nearby and then pepper in comments. But I don't like DO the chit chat. So it was a challenge. Luckily by now I know the official press release answers for lots of things - but sometimes people ask questions like "How much did you pay for the building" and my brain is going "Aaaaa what would pack leader do what would pack leader do... quick....light up the Bat Signal... helllllllppppppp". According to Janice the official answer for the questions should be "Buzz off, none of your business". I don't think she'll be jointing our public relations team in the near future.

So, after all that Jean Anne and i went to pizza junction to recover. And all is well in the land of pork and icing. And she now knows... to CALLLL MEEEEE.

And now a final news brief:

Luke, the Prince of Pork, is sick :( Very sad news. Alane (his Mom and provider of the amaaazzzing tortilla soup) and he are battling an infection. I am particularly saddened by this since Luke is my new best friend. Let me tell you why. This is a true story as relayed by Alane. Keep in mind this is a five year old. Apparently Alane was reading the blog the other day and Luke walks past and looks at the computer screen and sees a picture of me. Luke says "I know that guy". Alane says, "Yes that's Joel Froomkin". And Luke, very seriously says, "Joel Froomkin? You mean Joel AWESOME."

So, I am officially announcing that as of today I no longer will answer to any other form of address other than "Mr. Awesome". I'm having business cards reprinted. Jean Anne is only allowed to refer to me as "Your Awesomeness".

So that's it for now.

Yours, Awesomely, Jo Jo