Saturday, December 31, 2011


I got a start on reorganizing my crafting area in the basement into a functional area again today. I moved all Durwood's books over to a different shelf (for now) and am putting up shelving that will better hold all my yarn, pattern books and needles. I thought about putting a bunch of my books on Book Mooch but I don't want to replace books, I want to get rid of them, plus I'm not thrilled with the idea of paying postage to ship them off. Maybe I'll just haul them to Goodwill or donate them to the library for their annual book sale. It's a much bigger job organizing the craft area than I thought it'd be but I'm determined to work my way through our accumulated crap this winter, free up some storage space, donate things we no longer use, and make better use of the space we have. I want to have access to my newly reawakened interest in sewing there too, so I have to make nice space for fabric and all the sewing odds and ends I brought home from Mom's. And I can't forget to make a place for my watercolors. In other words I'm trying to shove 10 lb. of sh*t into a 5 lb. sack. Typical. I went over to let Porter out this afternoon and played with her for a while. Being out in the yard throwing a ball for her and chasing her around really blows the cobwebs out of my head. She's not supposed to be interested in or try to get at the chickens but that darned Henny & Penny cluck around and taunt the dog until she tries to run at them or burrow under the fence. I think I hear them laugh when Porter gets yelled at. Crazy birds.

December 30--American or European, Evening Dress. "I can't imagine wearing something like that," Meris said, her arms folded across her middle. "Me neither," said Diane, "who ever thought bustles looked good and how did they sit?" "I can't imagine." The women kept on walking through the exhibit marveling at the styles and admiring the fabrics. "I never imagined that peachy pink would look so good with that red, would you?" Meris shook her head. "I wish we could touch the clothes. I want to see the underwear too." Diane frowned at the red silk evening gown with its enormous bustle. "Do you think they made special chairs or sat on benches? And how did they ever go to the ladies' room?"

I'll bet they didn't wear undies because they could never have gone to the privy by themselves with all those skirts and frames and stuff. Crazy fashion. Happy New Year's Eve!

More Makings

I finished a couple of projects this week, little things. I needed one more soap sack so that everyone I wanted to give one to got one. This is the last one for a while since I ruined my wrists and hands with my marathon crocheting over the last month.

I finished up the teeny tiny tree I cast on the other evening. I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do with it. Maybe I'll take it to Friday Night Knitting tonight and someone will love it and adopt it. It's very small, about 1-1/2 inches tall, and it's stuffing is exposed if you look under its skirt, um, trunk.

Friday, December 30, 2011

One More Day After Today...

... and it'll be 2012. I couldn't be happier to see one year go and another come. In my extended family we started 2011 with three Grandmas up, DIL1's Grandma Carol was the first to go, then DIL2's Grandma Shirley, finally my mom pulled her little "burst appendix" stunt in late October so DS & DIL's Grandma Maralee rounded out the year at three Grandmas down. This is not a good score, people. To paraphrase Grandma Carol's daughter HJZ, "we don't like it one little bit."

What we do like, what I like are the gifts I got from the crafty people around me.

My pal Skully is into machine embroidery so she made me these flamingo kitchen towels. Aren't they cool? And she wrapped the package in a fat quarter of fabric in this gorgeous "sand and sea" print. She really knows me.

Cookie was making these coasters when we
were up at TC in November, and she made this snowman snow globe ornament that I immediately put on the tree.

DD gifted me a skein of Happy Hippie sock yarn in the Jungle colorway. She knows I only make one sock, and I love the colors.

And It's the Weekend Again!

Do I have the greatest job or what? Work two days, get a looooong weekend, rinse, repeat. I had one whole customer yesterday, one paying customer, that is. I did have one of those guys who comes in, asks a blue-million questions about all sorts of dive-y and snorkel-ish things and then doesn't buy any of it after taking up at least 45 minutes of my time. I actually enjoy educating people about things, equipment, and assorted science-y stuff, but it really sours the experience when they thank me and walk out empty handed. *sigh* I feel so used. On Wednesday a customer came in (well, not really a customer since I don't think he's ever bought anything) who has been coming in since before I started working there in 1993. His name is Ray and he's famous with the old time staff as the guy who signed up for dive class and on the first night in the pool when the instructor said, "jump in and swim 8 lengths" he jumped in, went straight to the bottom of the deep end and just stood there. Someone dove in and hauled him up. When they asked him if he could swim, he said no, and when they asked why he'd jumped in, he said "well, you told me to." He has spent the intervening years trying (unsuccessfully) to learn to swim, and pulling his own teeth so he could fit into dentures. Guess he had some lying around the farm and didn't want them to go to waste. Eesh. This year he had on a Harley jacket and boots, pleather pants, and a blue-plaid earflap hat with the flaps tied up. He was a vision. The customer in the store at the time (a guy) was struck dumb at the sight of him. I'll have to remember to tell ETO and JJ that Ray came in for his annual visit. I love my job.

I'm planning to make Black-Eyed Peas Gumbo (which I realize has no okra in it; I'll put it in because it isn't gumbo without okra) with some bacon and cabbage in it for us to eat on New Year's Eve. I've been reading about traditional ways to usher in the new year. We don't need any more bad news in 2012 so I'm going to cobble together a few random traditions to see if I can't fend off any bad juju that has its sights on the Malcolm clan for next year. So it's going to be black-eyed peas and cabbage for money, the laundry's getting done today, I'll sweep both porches tomorrow to keep old dirt from tracking in, and I'll take down the decorations and put them away to start the year fresh. There's no way I have time to clean the house from top to bottom or finish all my projects by midnight the 31st, but I'll clean the bathroom and tidy up, that should help. And if I'm awake at midnight I'll open the front door and back door to let the old/bad year out the back and the new/good year in the front, which is a Scots tradition I read. Thanks to Crazy Aunt Purl and her readers for all of the info about traditional and not-so-traditional ways to usher in the new year.

December 29--Maurice Brazil Prendergast, The Huntington Avenue Streetcar. The pink was so pale that it nearly looked white. Nita smoothed her skirt and looked at the other passengers. She had the feeling of eyes on her, of the heat of a glance, but when she looked up on one's eyes met hers. She wasn't about to turn and crane her neck to see if the looker was behind her. That was too forward. She knew her manners. She sat with her knees together, feet planted flat on the floor. Her hands were in her lap holding her bag, they were relaxed, and her eyes looked out at the passing street. She wasn't a flirt, no she was not, but she wasn't naive either. She knew that the pale pink, the almost white of her dress made her skin glow. Her dark brown eyes sparkled in the afternoon light and there was one unruly tendril of hair that escaped her careful pins and danced like an imp in the breeze from the open window. It was nearly her stop. Maybe, just maybe a pair of friendly eyes would meet hers when she stood to make her way to the door.

Probably not, sweetie pie, I'm imagining a stalker, one dressed in a business suit with a sedate tie, who will dog her footsteps until she is his and no one elses. Ah, innocence. Gotta go flop the laundry around.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is That Sleet or Snow?

It can't seem to make up its mind out there. I'm underwhelmed with either one. So far I haven't won the lottery or made a magic wand so I'm off to work again today. I had a few customers yesterday so I didn't die of boredom and I finished updating one supplier's prices in the computer. Today I get to re-sticker a crapload of inventory. Good thing I don't dress up all fancy for work because I'll be crawling around repricing things. I think I'll wear my Copper Harbor hoodie and copper earrings, and pretend I just got back from the UP. Somedays pretending is all I have to keep me sane. My friend Cookie talked to a woman in an occult store in Milwaukee earlier this month and the woman suggested that she get out a notebook and Tarot card deck and choose a card when she awakes each morning. She's supposed to write down what card it is in the notebook and get on with her day, then at the end of the day she's supposed to look up the meaning of the card and write down how her day merged or didn't with the chosen card. Cookie said that lately the card's been spot on. I reminded her that she's got a deck of Archetype cards from my writing friend, Roi, that she could do the same with. (I am totally in love with the art on the cards. They are absolutely gorgeous and so very inspirational. That Roi's a genius.) I might just play along come next Sunday when the whole new unspoiled year begins. That'd be a good way to start, don't you think? (Oh, hell, it's time to get ready for work. I have to stop lolling in bed until nearly 8 o'clock.)

December 28--China, Square Tray with Two Boys. A and B loved to play in the garden when it was nice outside. A was the musical one. He had a small drum with a mallet. He'd march down the lawn or dance through the shadows depending on his mood. B always rode his hobby horse. He fought imaginary battles or rode out to explore foreign lands. They were happy little boys.

Camilla hated that damned Ming tray. Her mother-in-law had cursed her with it as a first Christmas gift and there was no way she could get ride of it. God knows she'd tried. Mac, her spineless worm of a husband refused to even suggest to his harpy of a mother that the fragile thing might just be an albatross to them. The tray never fitted their casual decor or lifestyle. It was too fragile to have a hot teapot or a cold glass on it. The thing was supposed to be over five hundred years old. What good was it if you can't use it, Camilla wondered. She had been sure that Mac had a backbone when they were dating but he'd lost it once the "I do's" were said.

As you can see I switched horses in midstream. Eh.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What Do You Mean I Have to Work Today?

It feels like weeks since I've been in the good old dive shop. Thanks to Mrs. Boss I had last Monday and will have next Monday off. Ahh. I do get my paycheck today so I can evict the moths from my wallet; that's a good thing. I ditched any plans to loll on the couch or shop for Wii games yesterday and went to Cookie's house to knit with her and Skully. I hadn't seen them in days and days and I needed to. We spent a few happy hours catching up and knitting. More engineering is needed to help Fifi Jr. stay upright. I tried to tie a couple of guy strings but that wasn't enough so I leaned her against the house. She looks a bit tipsy but at least she's standing instead of sprawled unladylike on the frozen lawn. The squirrels have made off with the two lowest bundles of suet and they're working on the third one. Durwood keeps reporting on it but I don't really care. It amuses me to watch them work. We need to win the lottery. I need unlimited time to pursue all my hobbies and stuff. A magic wand would be good too. I'll work on it. You do that too and maybe we can come up with something. I'm also thinking of renting a flamethrower to help clean out the basement--and maybe the rest of the house. I'm tired of the 1970s carpeting, linoleum, and avocado appliances and sinks. Ugh. I want new stuff but the damned old stuff is still good. I'm at the point where I want to scrape out all the stuff in the house and start over. Durwood doesn't like that idea but I swear that I'll keep him. Really, I will. And my laptop, sewing machines, fabric, yarn, all the tools power and hand, and a few other things, but most of it's old and never used. Clearing out starts next weekend. Cross my heart and spit.

December 27--Edward Hopper, The Lighthouse at Two Lights. It was an Andrew Wyeth day when Len and Gina took the picnic boat out to Two Lights. Uncle Mayo called the little Cris Craft "the picnic boat" because it was the perfect size to run up on a peach for a private afternoon of lunch and a nap. The sky was wide and six shades of blue, with a smear of thin clouds (for art) out over the inlet. The grass on the slope below the lighthouse had reached its full golden ripeness and waved like undulating silk in the cooling breeze. Len had proposed the week before, Gina had accepted, and the couple's happiness floated behind them like the fragrance of lilacs. Gina had spent the morning making chicken salad just the way Len liked it and crushed fresh strawberries for the lemonade. Mama warned her that cake would be too sweet with the lemonade; that cookies would be better. Gina insisted that cake was always a better choice. Mama cried and cried that she'd been sharp with her only daughter over cake versus cookies once the bodies were found over there below the lighthouse. That was before any of them knew what had happened.

There. There's a little mystery to start this cold and sunny day. Bundle up, kids, it's ball-shrinking cold out there. Time to dig out the longjohns. Brrr.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Making Stuff

I love to make things, no, really, I do. (Exactly how many commas can I put in a nine-word sentence?!) I'd put these two sewing books on my Amazon wish list and my darling DIL1 & DS got them for me. DIL1 did say she had a hard time restraining herself from putting markers in the Zakka book and looking through it I can see why. I'll have to consult with her re: colors, etc. so the sewing can commence... once I can find my sewing machines amidst all the yarn and other things heaped in the crafting area down in the basement.

I've gotten a tiny bit of length accomplished on my Hellical Stripe sock, see? I made one unfortunate yarn choice so the contrast isn't as great as I'd anticipated but it's a logical way of making jogless, single row, stripes. Maybe I'll change out that one yarn for a different one...

Like a total goofball I also got out my size US1 DPNs and some sock yarn with sparkles to attempt to make the free knitting pattern of Christmas day which was tiny tre
es. Tiny is the word. Look! I'm 10 rows in and it's not big enough to cover my fingertip. It took me six or eight tries to get the first round done. There are only 6 stitches in the first round and the needles kept twisting around so I'd have to rip it out and do it over. Finally about 10 PM I managed to make it to the second round and then I kept going, zooming up to row 10 before calling in a night. This is my first go on such tiny needles with such teensy yarn. I don't like the llittle needles, not one bit. Size three's about the smallest I can tolerate. How do people knit on 00s? Or even 0000? Eesh.

DD and my nephew, CA, decided the bonsai needed to be
decorated for the holiday. Pretty cute, eh?

Back to Normal

I'm never really sure where normal is (yeah, yeah I know Normal [capital N] is in Illinois, I'm talking about the state of being normal) and I suspect I never even get to the outskirts, but today the sky is thickly overcast, it's windy, and colding down fast, I don't have to work, and we're having some kind of fish for supper. That's normal around 1510 and Green Bay, WI for Tuesday in the last week of the year. Durwood has a breathe-y doc appointment later this morning and all that's on my agenda is folding the sheets in the dryer and maybe seeing if I can spend my Christmas money at the preplayed Wii game store. If I feel like motivating myself off the couch, that is. DD & DIL2 made it home safely and in good time yesterday; that phone call's always a relief to get. I need to do some remedial work on Fifi Jr. today. She didn't weather yesterday's wind well at all. I'm sure I can find a stake I can secure her to to keep her on her feet, so to speak. When I was out shopping for stocking stuffers Friday I finally found something I've been looking for for years to put in them--kaleidoscopes. Not expensive ones, just cheap ones, but they're so much fun to look through I thought everyone would enjoy them. For Durwood Santa found a fake spider, I... uh, she... er, Santa couldn't resist it. I think he liked it.

December 26--Andrea del Santo, The Holy Family with the Young Saint John the Baptist. "Uncle Joe, do you mean to let Josh play with the globe? He might break it." That was my cousin John. When he wasn't dragging people into the river trying to push them under, he was tattling on everybody. John was the one who thought he was the rule keeper and the rest of us were rule breakers. He had a reputation, let me tell you. There wasn't one kid in our small town who hadn't been punished for something John ratted them out about. Mom always said we should be tolerant of John's ways but she wasn't the one he told on. John was her sister, Miriam's kid and since she thought that Aunt Miriam could do no wrong she was sure the same was true of John. My mom was a saint.

Okay, I blame that on Christopher Moore. Can you believe that there're only four more days of 2011? A. Mazing. It can't leave fast enough, this has not been a good year for a myriad of reasons. Good riddance. Shoo.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Survival Rate = 100%

That's right, people, the Malcolm family Christmas survival rate is a round, ripe one hundred percent, so I'm having a mocha Meltaway in celebration while I type. There were no arguments, no melt-downs, no tears all of the days of the family togetherness. DD & DIL2 left this morning for their long drive to Lexington; it was great having them here for a few days.

On Christmas Eve we went one more time to see the lights a
t Dousman & Platten...

and then DIL2 got out her guitar and played and sang us a few original songs. She's good, very good.

Christmas morning was present opening and visiting with family. We went to DS & DIL1's house for their first Christmas dinner using their heirloom china, sterling, crystal, and hand-crocheted lace tablecloth. The table was beautiful and the meal... well, the meal was the equal of any fine dining restaurant you could name with the addition of the care lavished on it by people we love. There was salmon spread and cheese spread, veggies, and Durwood's meatballs for appetizers. Dinner began with Caesar salad, followed by garlic mashed potatoes, steamed carrots, steamed asparagus, Yorkshire pudding (popovers), and perfectly done slabs of prime rib of beef served with an excellent California red wine for those who like it. Oh my, everyone's party manners were out in force, it was a lovely meal, perfect even, and spent with the people we love best. All three Grandmas who passed in 2011 were toasted and fondly remembered. It's an unhappy year when you start with three grandmas up and end with all three grandmas down. As HJZ said, "I don't like it one bit." Ditto.

Porter celebrated by gnawing on her very own smoky bone from her Chihuahua pal, Lucy. She was totally engrossed the whole evening.

During halftime of the Packer/Bear game we enjoyed HJZ's traditional cranberry muffins with butter sauce. Oh. My. So very good, and so very bad for you. We all swore to leap into fitness and healthy eating--next week, after the first of the year. I mean, really, isn't it rather foolish to think you'll get back on track in the week between Christmas and New Years? Better to just go on your merry way and hit the brakes on January 1 when you're suffering from one form of overindulgence or another. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it.

And for those who care, the Packers won!

December 25--Simone Martini, Madonna and Child. Everyone stared. What else did she expect? She was Italian with olive skin, dark hair, and dark eyes. Her husband was the son of Middle Eastern parents whose parents had emigrated years before themselves. So their son should have been dark haired and eyed with olive skin too. He had his mother's eyes and his father's olive complexion but his hair, his hair was red. It was the red gold of the sunset or the color of a ripening tomato. No one in living memory in either family had had red hair like that baby boy's. Illaria cried when her grandmother teased her that baby Giorgio's hair was the same color as the butcher's boy and Hassan wouldn't say a word about his red-haired son as if he wasn't sure he believed that the child was his.

I don't have to work today. I plan to go play with Porter in a couple hours and loll around like a slug the rest of the time. Oh, and I will never again forget to toss knitting into the car. Football games are endless when you don't have any knitting along. The Yarn Harlot contends that knitting is what makes her suitable for nice company, after last night I have to agree. I was a tad whiny and petulant, unwilling to be placated by the offer of a ball of yarn and needles to just knit. Mature much? Hope all your boxes enjoy Boxing Day!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The first wave of Christmas-ing is over and we're resting before going over to the younger Malcolm's house for standing rib roast (!), Yorkshire pudding(!!), and other assorted delicious things that I don't have to make. Durwood's got a batch of BBQ meatballs in the crockpot for an appetizer and Mrs. Z's making her famous cranberry muffins with butter sauce for dessert. (No thanks, no lunch for me.) Brother AJ, his wife and son came over around 11 with bagels and cream cheese so we sat for a couple hours visiting and laughing. All gifts were well-received. DIL2 really liked getting Dad's old chromatic harmonica. I'm glad it will live with someone who will play it. We all remember him playing it when we were kids. Everyone's thrilled with the jams, jellies, and pickled things DD & DIL2 made for us. They make the most inventive flavors of things, like Lime & Peach or Blackberry Chocolate Spice. I think they should have a business. I also think there're probably not many jars left in the greater Lexington, KY area. So far no birds and only one squirrel has found the birdie tree, and the squirrel's only eating the stuff under it. They'll catch on soon, I'm not worried.

December 24--Hans Leinberger, Saint Stephen.
As you walk toward him you can see the breeze ruffle his robes. His smile is welcoming and you look forward to sitting beside him for a rest. Then you stand before him and realize that he's a painted carving. You have been fooled into thinking that he's alive, that his garments are fabric. You feel like a fool at first but then you realize how skilled the artist must have been to make something so rigid appear alive.

Not very inspired, pretty darned tired. Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Like Crack

I need to learn to knit faster. Lots faster. Lots and lots faster. I have way too many projects OTN (on the needles) now and I cast on more whenever the spirit moves me. Since there's not really much danger of running out of needles (I have a metric crapload in all the sizes in the free world plus crochet hooks from 3 generations of women in my family) I could easily dig myself into a deeper hole--and probably will before long. One thing I want to do next week is pull out all the UFOs (unfinished objects) and see what I can put in some effort on and finish. Like one of the two sweaters I have down in the heap. One needs only a sleeve and a quarter and neck edging. (Why do I put things away when I've got so little work left? *shrug*)

Remember I showed you that bag of sock yarn I got from Z-Dawg? I dug o
ut a pattern for Stashbuster Spiral Socks that has intrigued me for years and I've been looking at it and checking out the pages and pages of projects on Ravelry, but the pattern's for toe-up socks and I really don't especially like knitting socks that way. Then one of the Rav projects said something like "I'd rather knit socks top-down so I just took the process and made it my way." Revelation! I could knit it my way still using the spiral stripe part. *head-desk* So I picked out yarns and cast on, first on DPNs (double pointed needles) and then I transferred it to Magic Loop (one long circular needle) because the skinny sock yarn was sticking to the bamboo too much for comfort, now it's better. I'm excited to get past the ribbing and into the leg of the sock so I can add in the other three yarns. I decided to go with 4 different stripes, all variegated/self-striping so this should be one odd looking sock, but I don't care, it'll be in my shoe and under my jeans anyway. Who gives a hoot?

DD & DIL2 helped me decorate a birdie tree this afternoon. Durwood boug
ht me a bigbigbig jar of creamy peanut butter that I spread on some of the branches with a spatula, then I sprinkled shelled corn and birdseed on it. I popped some popcorn in the micro and tossed that into the branches and the girls zip-tied on little bundles of suet cake wrapped in colorful net squares. Durwood warned that squirrels will make off with the suet just as fast as they can but I don't care, squirrels gotta eat too. Hmm, maybe I'll cut up an apple and an orange and put them out there. Or not, maybe I'll eat those myself.

When I went thourhg Mom's doll room I found a box with a bunch of spoolies in it. Spoolies are tiny little Christmas ornament dolls made of tiny spools dressed in cute. I want everyone in the family to have one on their tree. Aunt B, d'you have a color request?

Here's my dishcloth swap cloth from Bay Lakes Knitting Guild last week. Don't you love the colors? Mitch made it on a loom, he knits exclusively on looms and m
an, does he crank out the stuff. He's a knitting machine.

Birds On The Brain

Last week Durwood and I talked about maybe getting a real tree for Christmas this year so we stopped at a few tree yards to see if we could find one and in our price range. We didn't find one and gave up. This morning I went out to fill the bird feeders and the need for a birdie tree really hit me. It's a bright sunny day with new snow on the ground, just the kind of day I like to be out playing in the yard so I went to find a new bird feeder and then went down the street a block to the neighborhood greenhouse. Which was closed for the season. But there was a pickup truck in the lot, the gate was open, and one of the garage doors was up too, so I wandered around (good thing I wore my boots) calling out to see if I could find anybody. I was standing next to the side door of the cashier's building preparing to set off into the wilds of the lot when the door opened and a (fairly good-looking) man poked his head out to see what I wanted. I asked if he had any misshapen or rejected trees I could use for a birdie tree and he pointed to the half dozen or so leftovers in the yard. They all looked too perfect to be left behind to me but what do I know. I asked how much they were, he said "ten bucks," and I said "sold!" I had a ten spot in my wallet so I handed it over and picked a tree. This one. It's perfect. I can't understand why it was left but I'm glad I ignored the big red "closed" sign and walked in. (Actually I was prepared to damn myself to Hell for stealing a Christmas tree if there was no one around. Thankfully my immortal soul is safe--for now.) He cut the string tying it to a stake, shook the snow off, and shoved it into my trunk for me. When I got it home I nailed it into a holder Durwood made a few years ago, dragged it into the back yard and stood it up. I put weightbelts on the stand so it stays there until we get enough snow to hold it up. After DIL2's nap, we're going to make little net bags of suet cake, pop popcorn in the micro, and spread creamy PB on the branches that will hold birdseed and shelled corn on. I'll post more pix once it's decorated. Oh, we played a fun party game last night called Who What Where. You draw 3 cards, a who, a what and a where and you have to draw it so that the other players can guess, like Pictionary but all the guessing happens at the end when you pass your drawing around so everyone can guess on their guess paper. We didn't keep score, just played. You try drawing "Snow White making out in the ER" and see how far you get. DS & DIL1 came for supper (meatloaf, baked white or sweet potatoes, and mixed carrots & kohlrabi), it was great to all be together for the evening. By the time bedtime rolled around I was too bushed to write so I'll say sayonara for today.

P.S. I thought I'd show you that we haven't forgotten Porter, the grand-dog and Henny & Penny, the grand-chickens. That's a peanut butter filled knuckle bone, some squeaky balls and some cheeseburger flavored treats for Porter and some shelled corn for the chickens. Lord.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A True Friend

DD's oldest friend (her mother was in Labor & Delivery and I was in Recovery at the same time giving birth to KS and DD) stopped yesterday with a package. She had read last week on the blog how I felt bad about not putting Fifi, my 9 ft. tall flamingo lawn ornament out this Christmas but just wasn't in the mood this year. In her package was this--

a 3 foot tall flamingo made of wire, garland (pink!) and lights. I'm calling her Fifi Jr. and next Christmas she won't be alone out there. Cross my heart.

KS, you are one in a million! I love you. (Your mother sure raised you right.)

I got all the gifts wrapped yesterday. It took a lot longer to wrap what isn't really much of a pile but I enjoyed it. Do you put bows on your gifts? I didn't put them on, it seemed wasteful somehow, but maybe I'll take a minute and bow the presents today. I can use all the festive I can muster and bows are festive, right? Today DS is off work so we're all going to Kroll's for lunch to stuff ourselves with burgers on hard rolls with a pat of butter on top. Hey, don't knock it 'til you've tried it. Come on up and I'll make the sacrifice to take you there. They have fried cheese curds too. Mmm, fried cheese. They're so good you can feel your arteries slowing down with every bite Anyway, DIL1 will be off in the evening so we'll have family dinner of meatloaf, and I'm still hoping to pop into Friday Night Knitting to show off my family for a few minutes. And I just realized that I have to go get Porter's Christmas gift. I spotted it a month ago at the birdseed store; it's a giant rope ball that she can chew up to her heart's content. I'm certain DS & DIL1 will love cleaning that up. Maybe we'll leave it here for when she comes to Grandma's house... (OMG, I'm turning into a dog person! No, this can't be happening! *gasp* At least I'm a one-dog person--so far. *whew*) Can I get some extra days or maybe a clone, please? It's not that I have a whole lot of stuff that I need to do, I want to do a bunch of things, with people and without them, and there aren't enough hours in the day or days in the week. And not just during the holidays either, I'd like extra time for the rest of the year and into 2012. I don't want to age faster, you understand, I just want time (and money) to do all the stuff I want to do when I want to do it, and without having to quit my job, get a divorce, or go on Welfare. Is that too much to ask? I don't think so.

December 22--Paul Gauguin, A Farm in Brittany. At this time of day the farm looked deserted. Lucas stood beneath the beech tree in the field behind the creamery. He watched the light change from yellow to red-gold as the breeze dropped like someone shut off a fan. He felt the sweat trickle down his neck and reached in his pocket for his handkerchief but it wasn't there. He frowned and looked back toward the orchard where he and Toulon, the hired man, had been clearing brush. He thought he saw it flutter on a branch but there was no wind. he whistled for his dog, Kip, to come as he turned toward the house. As he walked downhill he heard the shrill ringing of the telephone. His wife, Martine, should get it. She would be in the kitchen making supper for him but the thing kept ringing. Why hadn't Martine answered? Where was Kip? He broke into a run, reluctant to call out in the suddenly eerie silence.

Ooh, the hawk just zoomed through the backyard chasing some poor bird. I call the feeders "the hawk buffet" because he/she uses it as a hunting ground. In the winter the little ground-feeding juncos are its preferred prey. The hawk chases them into the patio doors so they flop stunned onto the cement and it can scoop them up. The juncos aren't as clueless as all that and usually get away. It's amazing to watch, especially when the hawk misses because it looks around to see if anyone noticed. Happy daze!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Look What We Got!

DD & DIL2 arrived last night tired and a bit bedraggled from the looooong drive, but they're here and they're all ours until Monday. Yippee! And on a less happy note, we got this. Just enough snow to be annoying. Not enough to be breathtaking or even Christmas-y, it's just enough to make your shoes and hems of your jeans wet. Bah. I'm sure DIL2's HHR Hobbes is wondering what the white stuff is. He's a Kentucky car and doesn't see much snow. DS called this morning and DIL1 has to work earlier than thought tomorrow so we can have a family dinner. Good thing Durwood made a 3 lb. meatloaf yesterday, eh? (I have adopted the Canadian "eh" rather than the Midwestern Belgian "n'so"since we're so close to Canadia here in the frozen north, way closer than we are to Belgium.) Durwood is the king of gigantic meatloaves; he once made a 5 lb. one when I had the flu, the kids were in grade school, and he had to be out of town. There were gallons of gravy and a mountain of mashed potatoes to go with the VW-sized meatloaf. At the end of the week, the kids and I had a little ceremony over the garbage disposal and consigned the remnants to the Great Beyond. Too much of a good thing is just TOO MUCH sometimes. Today I'm going to battle inertia and my urge to make 5 bags of unwrapped gifts for the 5 members of my immediate family and take the pittiful, paltry pile of gifts I have downstairs and get them modestly covered for gifting. I'm battling my Scrooge-iness at every corner, folks, and I think I'm winning. I had a little gift making mishap yesterday before work but I won't be sharing that until next week. No appliances were harmed but it was a near thing.

December 21--Joseph Leyendecker, At Tea. Peter and Mason hated having to go to their mother's house for tea. Tea was such a female beverage and Tea, with a capital "T," was a feminine ritual with all its attendant rules and rites. And then there was the Inquisition that their mother subjected them too--who were they seeing and where had they been, how were their studies going and what about jobs. She never ran out of nosy questions to ask or reasons to look down her narrow and pointed nose at them. "We have to go," Mason said buttoning his collar with a wince. His face was pink from his fresh shave and his damp curls sprang away from his forehead. Peter stood in his socks frowning at his summer suit. "It's too damned hot to get togged up in this." But they both knew that Mama controlled their allowances so they finished dressing and went to earn their rent.

The men/boys looked so pained and disdainful in the painting I just knew they hated being there and hated what the prune-y middle-aged woman was saying to them. Don't you just love the image of Peter in just socks, his little willy hanging there all forlorn? Merry holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Not Much To Report

I haven't been knitting or crocheting for the last week because all the cotton-crocheting I did enraged (there's no other word for it) enraged my hands to the point that I had to go and buy a new wrist support and I've been wearing them nearly constantly for the last week. Evidently I'm having Carpal Tunnel problems. Will I need surgery? Lordy, I hope not but I haven't seen a doc for it, this is self-diagnosis at its finest. My fingers get numb and it's hard for me to do fine motor things like put on earrings. Feh. I hate this.

Mitch took a picture of my Kiss Under the Mistletoe dishcloth that I took to Knitting Guild last week and forgot to take a photo of before I went. Thanks, Mitch! It was a fun and simple gift to craft, and we had fun admiring all the dishcloths and then passing them around whenever Terri said the secret word until The End. I got one Mitch made on his loom. It's nice and squishy and bright. I'll take its picture soon. Cross my heart.

Wednesday That Works Like Friday

It works like Friday because it is my Friday. After today I don't have to work until next Monday so I have four glorious days off in a row. It's no mistake that those are the exact four days that DD & DIL2 will be home for Christmas. Can I plan or what? The weather's cooperating today too so that the girls aren't driving in snow, sleet or rain which they could very well be driving in in late December through the Midwest. Indiana is very long when the roads are bad. Hell, Indiana is very long anyway but especially when the weather doesn't cooperate. I got the tree up and decorated last night. I'll probably take it down on Tuesday after the girls leave but at least I've made the effort. (I'd better take its picture so I don't forget I put it up.) It occurred to me to print off a picture of a Christmas tree and just tape it to the living room window but then I decided that that was just too over the top Scrooge-y. Nothing is wrapped, no cookies have been made but it'll be Christmas anyway. We have the tree, gifts to give and our family will be with us. Yep, that's Christmas. I hear DS & DIL1 made English Toffee so we can cadge some of theirs (I'll offer to trade some Party Mix) and I plan to crank out some shortbread cookies and maybe spritz tomorrow or Friday, or maybe Saturday if that's the way the wind blows. I can get the girls to help; it'll be fun. Oh, and by the way, booger.

December 20--French, Parasol. Miss Elizabeth was very regular in her habits. She rose daily at 6:15 AM winter and summer. In the winter dark she drank her tea at the kitchen table watching the eastern sky lighten with the growing day. In the summer she carried her teapot and cup out to the patio where she could watch the drab little sparrows and the energetic chickadees at the feeder. When the sun was up over the horizon Miss Elizabeth would set down her tea cup and open her parasol. Not an umbrella, no, this was a silk and lace confection meant never to get wet. Its panels were painted in pastel scenes of millage life in Victorian times intercut by swaths of the most delicate lace and the lace edging was a full six inches deep. When her neighbor chided her for using such an ancient and delicate item in such a utilitarian way, Miss Elizabeth drew herself up to her full height of just barely five feet and said, "We were both created in the same year,the parasol and I, and since I am still in use, it should be too." And that was the end of that discussion.

Yoga after work tonight. Can't wait.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday That Feels Like Wednesday

That's because I'm working today. I'm working today because DD & DIL2 are coming home tomorrow and then I won't have to work while they're here for a very short visit. They'll leave already on Monday the 26th but I'm just thrilled that they'll be here at all. I know it's not cheap to drive from KY to here and their jobs are important and demanding, but I'm happy that they'll be here all the same. Durwood's planning what he'll cook, having a good time figuring out how much meatloaf to make for a supper and sandwiches, and he said we can have ham & cabbage stew too. I love ham & cabbage stew. There's nothing like a bowl of hot veggies with a bit of dark pink ham, lots of carrots, (mmm) and onions on a cold, almost-winter night. Talk about comfort food, and I finished the cheese grits for breakfast. I always forget how much I like grits (with cheese, plain I need a lot of butter so they don't "fit the plan" quite as well) but I'll flag that recipe and make it for a treat now and then. I made a cauldron of chicken soup last night with lots of green beans and a little broccoli that was abandoned here by Lala when she left. I love making soup that I can toss all the leftover veggies into so that it's got lots of colors and flavors and it goodgoodgood for you. If your chicken soup is pallid and nearly flavorless I highly recommend you try making Pam Anderson's Fast Chicken Soup Base. You start with a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store deli and go from there. You use the bones and darkest skin (not the slimy fatty parts) to simmer in the broth and then you can take off in any culinary direction once you've got the base. Add curry and chickpeas for Middle East chicken soup, add 5 Spice Powder, a bag of stir fry veggies, and some bean sprouts for Chinese chicken soup, add a can of stewed tomatoes (or Rotel if you like spicy), black beans and cumin for Mexican, add tomatoes, oregano, and cheese tortellini for Italian. The sky's the limit. I vary the broth mixture, sometimes adding beef or veggie instead of all chicken, to make it taste different. It's fast (hence the name) and easy and makes enough for serving and saving. What's not to love? Making soup always makes me feel like I'm taking extra good care of people. It's addictive and waaaaay better than the canned stuff. Now, go make soup!

December 19--Alexandre Cabanel, The Birth of Venus. How did she just appear there in the surf? Wade had been standing on the shore for an hour trying to work up the nerve to paddle out past the break to where the waves were born but he was certain he'd spend more time under the cold blue-green water than riding the surface in the sun. The gulls raucous cried felt like bullies' jeers as she paced up and back. There was a group of four of them swarming above a seal out on the submerged rocks. He kept his eyes on the quartet of birds and the inert seal. It was pale furred, almost albino looking and he turned to walk toward it.

I suspect that this painting was an excuse for that French guy to paint a naked girl, and the longer I stared at it the more I realized that she's lying there looking at him from under her arm, daring him to put down his paintbrush and come over and DO something about the fact that she's lying there all nude and available. She's naughty, I can just see it. Bad. Bad girl. Well, off to keep the world safe from SCUBA diving. Stay dry!

Monday, December 19, 2011


On my way to work I needed my sunglasses but there was an enormous, ominous sheet of gray clouds sliding down from the north (just like the weather guy predicted!) that has settled like a giant garbage can lid over the city, blocking out the cheery sunshine. Bah. It was lovely having Lala visit yesterday and sleep over. She and I went for a walk out along the bay marshes (we saw an eagle nice and low in the sky--score!) and then we folded origami for a while. After a lovely supper, made by the even lovelier Durwood, we went to hear the FREE Christmas concert put on by the Baylander Chorus (Barbershoppers/men's chorus), Chantelles (Sweet Adelines/women's chorus), and a Lutheran bell choir. Those bell choir bells are odd sounding, not bad sounding but not like a real bell with a real clapper, kind of electronic sounding. Heh, I just looked them up on Wikipedia and here's what they say: One of the two major defining characteristics of English handbells are their clappers. The clapper on an English handbell is on a hinge and moves back and forth in a single direction, unlike a school bell in which the clapper swings freely in any direction. It also has a spring that holds the clapper away from the casting after the strike to allow the bell to ring freely. Furthermore, the shaft of the clapper is rigid, such that the bell may be held with its mouth facing upward. That explains a lot. Anyway, the concert was good. We got to sing along on a lot of the traditional carols and I like singing. Before the concert we drove to see the house at Dousman & Platten. Lights! Lights! Lights! I can't imagine their power bill for December. Seeing all the lit houses made me sorry I hadn't put the flamingo and palm tree out this year, but I haven't been in the mood. Next year.

December 18--Iran, Plate with a Hunting Scene. The only way was to ride the camel. Claire looked in vain for a horse, even a donkey to ride but none of the tours of the Valley of the Antelope had anything but camels. Darren and Millie were already mounted, Millie patting her camel and giggling about sheiks and harems. Claire finally let herself be persuaded to perch awkwardly on the bony back of a bad tempered camel named Saddam. She barely understood the camel driver's instructions about controlling the creature. He said his name was Johnny Depp but she was sure it was a nom de caravan meant to make tourists feel comfortable. She kept smiling and nodding. It struck her that she was doing the same thing her Guatemalan gardener Mario did. He understood most of what she said, she thought, but he smiled through it all and just did what he thought she wanted him to do instead of asking questions. It nearly drove her mad. She wondered if Johnny Depp complained to his wife about them after a long day of tourist tours. All thoughts fled as Saddam lurched to his feet almost pitching her off, first forward, then back. There was no time for philosophizing or even thinking on your first camel ride, she realized as the string of camels started striding along, Saddam bringing up the rear. She caught sight of what looked like a tawny dog with horns far in the distance. It was either the antelope the valley was named for or a statue put up for tourists. It was far away so until it moved she couldn't be sure it was real. Johnny Depp spent the trip riding next to Millie pointing out interesting sights, ruins and rocks mostly, and making Millie laugh. Trailing behind on Saddam with his bad disposition and what sounded like a digestive problem, Claire felt like an ugly stepsister. She had just decided to stop brooding and urge Saddam to catch up with the others when something whizzed by her head. Her eyes widened with horror to see an arrow protruding from one of the little antelopes. Hamir, the assistant camel driver, rode out across the rocky desert and came triumphantly back with the carcase draped across the camel's neck. Claire got a little lightheaded thinking how close she had come to being shot. Hamir rode up next to her, patted the little creature, and with a big grin on his face said, "lunch!"

I would totally ride a camel. I think a two-humper would be easier to sit on than a one-humper, but I'd give it a shot. What's a little indignity among friends? Lentil soup for lunch today. Aren't you jealous? It's homemade.


P.S. That's Saturday and Sunday night's writing. I think I'm going to combine them from now on since there's only one "art" for each weekend.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Sun Was Shining For a Minute There

I had high hopes that it'd be sunny today, but so far no luck. The weather prognosticator said it's supposed to be sunny tomorrow, that's when I really want sunshine because my friend Lala is coming up to visit tomorrow. We're going to take a walk, either along the bay, river, or creek, they're all outside so I'd like it to be nice. Then after a lovely dinner of salmon, parsnips, and squash we're going to a Christmas concert. I'm looking forward to it. That means that today I get to clean up this sty, change the sheets on the guest bed, and swamp out the bathroom. It really needs it since there's been very little of the cleaning action since Mom died. (I typed "died" first and then I deleted it thinking that word would offend some people but, dammit, that's what she did, she died, and if I can't just say it, well, bite me. I'm not a euphemistic sort of gal, I'm more of an in your face, call a spade a spade kind of woman, so you'll just have to deal.[sorry for the mini-rant, it's that kind of day, back to our regularly scheduled blogging]) The party mix turned out fabulous yesterday. I came home from knit night and put it into the Tupperware. Amazingly, about 2 cups of it stuck to the bowl I used to scoop it from baking pan to Tupperware. I made the sacrifice and ate it. (I am a saint and sometimes martyr. Just ask me.) DS told me the Christmas dinner menu yesterday and we're having Yorkshire pudding! I've never had that and I'm so excited to try it. Durwood's making some sort of meatball appetizers (he's got meatballs on the brain since he learned a trick for making them uniform, he's considering reopening the meatball sweatshop when DD & DIL2 are home and making some Italian Wedding soup; I'll take pictures) and DIL1's mom's making the dessert. I won't have to do anything but look pretty. (Hmm, that may take more concentration than I planned... oh well, I can put on my bright red cashmere sweater and dazzle people so they won't notice I'm not Angelina Jolie. I know, there's a red sparkly sweater way in the back of my closet, sparkly will confuse them--AND I have some jingle earrings and a jingle headband, that'll distract 'em too. I'm set.) It should be a good day--presents, family and good food, oh and Porter too. I'm just now learning how comforting it is to sit and stroke a dog when you're sad. Porter is nearly always willing to be petted if I sit on the floor. She climbs into my lap and sits there as long as I'll pet. Works for me.

December 16--Mesopotamia or Iran, Striding Figure with Ibex Horns, Raptor Skin Draped Around the Shoulders, and Upturned Boots. Pip was quick on his feet. Miss Daley would hardly be back to her lunch in the kitchen and he'd be out of bed. He learned at an early age how to get from the nursery on the second floor to the study where all the good things were. He liked the big atlases with the vast blue of the oceans hemming in the colorful continents and dotted with islands. Interspersed with the books were artifacts collected on Pip's ancestors' trips all over the world. Pip's father, uncles, and grandfathers had all gone off exploring to see more exotic parts of the world than the staid life they led at home and Pip was fascinated by each and every one. Only during his daily afternoon rest, he was too old for them to call it a nap, was he able to spend the time with them that he wanted.

I'm off to eat Cheerios and then attach the dust buffaloes that have infested our happy home. See ya!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Look, DIL2, Snow!

Well, not much but it is snow. DIL2 always hopes for a white Christmas up here in the wilds of Wisconsin. She hails from Kentucky where snow is more of an emergency than commonplace winter weather. I have to say that a bit of snow would make me feel a bit more Christmas-y too. I've still got the autumn colors wreath on the door and no ornaments in sight, unless you count the flamingo in board shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and a broken ukulele I got for ninety-nine cents at JoAnn Fabrics last week. I just stirred the batch of party mix for the last time so the fragrance of baked cereal and Worcestershire sauce is wafting through the house. I could so eat handfuls of the stuff but I don't want to burn my mouth. I'll wait until it's cool. Er. Cooler. I can't promise to wait until it's totally cool but I will wait a few minute so any nuts I might snag in my grab won't burn holes in my tongue. I'm wanting to go see the lights at the botanical garden but if it doesn't snow I think I'll take a pass. We've been kicking around the idea of getting a real tree this year but we found no tabletop trees today and the regular ones are $25 and up. Is that what a dead tree goes for these days? Good grief. Looks like the fake one (ten bucks brand new at KMart--that was the first letter our kids learned to recognize, the big red K for KMart) wins again. I splurged some of my allowance this morning and bought myself another new black neoprene wrist support. The old beige one looks dirty and scraggly even if I wash it, it looks bad, so I decided I needed a new one. Another new one. They do make my hands and fingers feel better. It sucks getting old. A female Red-bellied Woodpecker has discovered our feeders. You can't really see but her head's nice and red, only the males have the red bellies but their heads are red.

December 15--Charles Cromwell Ingham, The Flower Girl. She gathered the cut blooms. They felt cool and damp against her skin and their mixed fragrances were so sweet she felt a headache begin to grow behind her eyes. In the still room off the kitchen she plunged all the cut stems into a galvanized bucket of water. She cupped her hand to capture the cool spiciness of the red-tipped carnations.

And now I have to go eat some party mix. I feel like Pepe LePew wafting along on a visible scent. It's pulling me down the hall. I can't resist.