Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Not So Much

At least, not around here. We've got maybe an inch of heavy wet snow, it's windy and might snow/sleet another inch today. Farther north and west they're getting slammed with 12" or more, but it missed us. Again. The predictions are always "doom and gloom" then we get "meh." It's tiring getting all in a flap and then being disappointed, so I've decided to quit. If I wake up, open the shade and can't see the neighbor through the blowing, drifting snow I'll worry, the rest of the time I'll deal. It was pretty when I took the trash out last night. Beverly was covered with a nice layer of Snowstorm Bob, the snow crunched under my shoes, and the falling snow looked pretty in the streetlight's glow. I thought maybe I'd have to shovel before work but since they're talking about sleet or freezing rain today I'm going to leave the bit of snow on the driveway so that Beverly sticks to it when I come home from work. As much as I dislike shoveling snow, I hate chipping ice that much more. The city had trucks out spraying a salt brine on the major streets yesterday so driving to work should be pretty good once I get out of our court. I'll just take my time; I'm sure there won't be a crowd waiting for me when I arrive. I am so happy to have my laptop back from spring cleaning. It has all my bookmarks on it and the software to download audiobooks from the library (which I have to figure out how to download to my Kindle so I can put talking books on there) and I just like it. I'm used to it. Sue me, I'm old, er, mature.

February 28--Angelo Mannello, Mandolins. The music drew her out of the shadows. She had come to the small town a few days before and had kept to herself. She stayed in a small guest house and ate in a few cafes. She ordered her food and a half-bottle of wine but, except for the lady who ran her hotel, she spoke to no one.

At that point, inspiration fled (or I fell asleep) so that's all I got. Happy Leap Day! Go ask a boy to the dance.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


At least that's what the weather-guessers are predicting. There's a lot of Chicken Little-style hysteria flying around up here. You'd think we live in some southern state. It's WISCONSIN, people. Wisconsin, where we are proud when it's too damned cold outside and we're out there going about our business anyway. Wisconsin, where every car has jumper cables and some sort of shovel in the back. I don't understand the flapping and bleating that surrounds storms that have taken aim on the region. We've got trucks that spread salt or sand on roads, trucks with big plows on the front, a snowblower in every second garage, and most of us have enough "padding" that we're not going to starve if we get stuck someplace for a while. I'm off to pick up Porter and let her drag me on a walk. She needs extra exercise, last week she chewed through the carpet and pad, down to the sub-floor, in the sunroom where she spends her days, so I decided to do my part a couple days a week and take her out for a longer walk than DS can manage before work early in the morning.

February 27--Don Silvestro dei Gherarducci, Initial G with the Birth of the Virgin. "It's a good day when babies come," Maura said to no one in particular. Sadie laughed. "Only if you're on the one laboring on the bed." Every woman's head nodded, remembering the hard work to bringing life into this world. The women were crammed into one medium sized room on the lower floor of the school building. They had been there for weeks, ever since the storm plowed through town. Maura had just helped Luann Harper deliver her fourth. Luann's husband, Mike, was on the cleanup crew since the...zzzzzz.

That's when I conked off. I have a vague recollection of turning off the light, etc. but nothing else. I was tired. I had all of 6 customers yesterday. Poor me. Gotta run and get in a walk before the flakes start to fly. (The picture is of a previous Storm of the Century that fizzled.)

Monday, February 27, 2012

I'm Back!

Midnight to six-thirty seems like not enough sleep but I've got a 9 o'clock chiro appointment (the adjustments and some stretches are REALLY helping the numbness go away in my fingers, thank God) and then I want to drop off Kumquat, my laptop, on my way to the dive shop so she can have her closets cleaned out. I do that once a year just to keep things running smoothly; it's money well spent. Nothing of import happened between last night's post and this morning. Hmm, what can I blabber on about? There's a pair of cardinals visiting the feeder right now. I love the flashy red of the male but I really admire the subtle colors of the female, that pale greenish-brown with just a hint of red is beautiful. Good thing Durwood's still sleeping, there was a squirrel poking its head out of the birdie tree when I was packaging up the fruit I left out to thaw overnight. It looked so cute sitting there, but I know Durwood would have been tapping on the window to scare him away. Ah well, a man has to have a hobby. I've decided to give up cheating on my diet for Lent, starting today since I was not going to be on a diet when he made that pie last night. Today I'll start, and I'll end early when I meet Lala in Sheboygan on Holy Thursday for a weekend of walking and writing and goofing off. Not gonna diet then when we'll eat at Il Ritrovo and Weather Center Cafe. No way, Jose. We'll be there for the full moon and it just better be clear. Last year we were there for the Supermoon and it was totally awesome, this year we planned to be there for a full moon. No clouds needed. I'm just saying.

February 26--Andrea Mantegna, Baccchanel with a Wine Vat. The party after the last of the grapes are in at Sundown Ridge is legendary. Nearly all of the kids at the elementary school in St. Drake have birthdays nine months after the end of the harvest. Okay, maybe I exaggerate just a bit, it's probably closer to 75% than 90%, but, trust me, grape harvest babies are common around here. I'm one myself. One of the things I like best about those parties is that they're ours. Not for tourists, not to draw people in to buy something, but a celebration for and with the people we work hard with. Mario and Ed set out sawhorses with plywood tops on them. Gina and Claire and Luis' daughter Lacia spread white tablecloths that are held in place by bowls and platters of food. Bread, cheese, olives, fruit--basic finger foods, the richness of this valley, all washed down with the pale green wine of last season's harvest.

The clock just struck eight so it's time to sign off, eat breakfast, shower, and get this day on the road. Manana.

Total Quilt Post

I just want to show off. These are the first quilt blocks I've ever made. Precision sewing is not my forte but I thought I'd try it anyway. I made the decision when I made the January blocks that I'd use the same fabrics in both blocks of the month to have a teensy bit of continuity. It's supposed to be a scrap-ish quilt anyway. The teacher is using a 36 fat quarter bundle so all her fabrics blend. Mine don't. I sorted through my fat quarters and actually sorted out the ones I'd bought to go together, I figure I'll use those for bags or placemats or something. I picked out my orphans and some scraps of yardage, and they'll just have to play nice. For the background color of the blocks I'm using a bolt of a creamy white cotton that reminds me of, oh what's that stuff called, hopsacking (with a more prominent weave). It's a bit ravelly but it'll do and it blends well with all the colors.

Here's the January pair: (click to embiggen)

Didn't you know I'd pick red for the first ones?

And these are the February ones:

I really like them both but especially the big chevron one. I wish I'd bought the whole bolt of that blue-green and gold batik.

Now I only have to wait until Thursday to see the March blocks. Can't wait, I'll have the whole weekend to dive in and sew. That's it, I need to go post on my writing blog and then zoom off for the day.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Too Sleepy To Write Last Night

Reason #1 why I didn't post this morning is that I had a haircut appointment at 9:30 and I was not missing it for any blog posting responsibility. No siree bob. I was about ready to get a buzz cut because I was so tired of all that floppy brown hair. But when I brushed my hair this afternoon before we left for Family Supper I saw that I have lots more gray hairs sparkling in the dark brown. I think it looks pretty and I won't be dyeing it anytime soon. Besides when you're past 60 you need some gray hairs to give you credibility. After my haircut I drove to Walmart to get a couple zucchini for my soup and of course I had to cruise the Women's dept. where i glommed onto a pair of jeans for me. I realized when I was dressing yesterday that all of my jeans but one pair are way over 10 years old and really showing their age. The back pockets are coming adrift or have worn thin spots where they've rubbed against countless chairs, and the seams are worn in spots. A couple pair have a patch or two in unobtrusive places. Not that I'm going to toss them out or relegate them to the rag bag, but I need some jeans manufactured in this century. Some dress jeans, if you will, some jeans that hug my curves and make my backside look good, not the comfy, baggy, saggy ones I bought in the late 80s or early 90s. I'll pick up another pair in a couple weeks so I've got more than one "good" pair. Maybe I'll sort out the long-sleeved tees I ordered from Eddie Bauer about the same time. One thing that tells me, though, is that I've maintained my size pretty well over the last god knows how many years. Not good enough though, I need some style. (but I don't know what I'd do with it if I had any.) Reason #2 why I didn't post this morning is that I didn't write last night. I tried to stay up late reading a Carl Hiaasen book on my Kindle but I kept falling asleep so I gave up and turned out the light. I should post this and turn out the lights again tonight. Maybe I'll even manage to write a few words. Oh, I'm taking Kumquat (my laptop) in for her annual closet cleaning tomorrow and should get her back sometime Wednesday so posting might be sketchy this week, especially on Tuesday when I won't be at work. Fait de bon reve.

Pie to Die For

Tonight was Family Supper night in Shawano. HZ & JZ hosted and she made the tastiest roast chicken I've had in a long time. It was done to perfection and very moist. She steamed fresh peas and had baked sweet or white potatoes. DS & DIL1 made a lovely mesclun salad with blood orange supremes, Feta cheese, and avocado chunks in a light balsamic dressing and DS made some herbed dinner rolls from his Artisan Bread cookbook.

Durwood made dessert. He found the recipe for a Banana Split Upside Down Pie (oh, but it's so much more than a mere pie) in Better Homes & Gardens magazine and decided to make that. First you make chcoclate pie crust, bake it a bit, sprinkle the bottom with chopped semi-sweet morsels, and let it cool.

Then you make chocolate pudding, pour that into the cooled pie shell, top it with another solid chocolate crust, and bake all that. While it's cooling, you make fudge sauce.

To assemble the dessert you turn the pie over onto a plate, top it with sliced banana, fresh whipped cream (he used his mom's old crock with a beater on top to whip the cream), some of the warm fudge sauce, and plop a cherry on top. JZ contributed a raspberry and a blackberry as additional garnish for each plate. Durwood said that he thought that the recipe was wrong when it said that a 9" pie served 12. They were right. We'd have had to call the paramedics if we'd eaten another bite. We insisted on sharing the other half of it with everyone. No way were we bringing that whole half a pie back home.

I made a pot of Tuscan Chicken soup for next week's lunches. It's my old standby Fast Chicken Soup Base with zucchini, diced tomatoes, and sage in it. (Not nearly as flashy as that pie and not nearly as yellow looking either.)

This afternoon once the soup was simmering, I finished sewing together the second February block of my Block(s) of the Month quilt class. I'm anxious to see the March blocks.

I tried to do very little knitting this week to give my sore parts a rest, so all I have to show you is the brim of the third attempt to make a charity hat out of this danged yarn,

and the Maple Tree Scarf is up to week #8. I really like how it looks. It's pretty tree-like, don't you think?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

Remember that little square of green grass I showed you yesterday? (Scroll down if you missed it.) It's in hiding. Just when I think that all this blustery wintering is on the way out the wind picks up and snow falls. I've lived here for nearly my whole life, I shouldn't be fooled by a few balmy days, but it gets me every winter. At least the sun's out today. I'm working today--again. But today's the end of my 10-day string of almost daily working and I'll get my last-for-a-while super-sized paycheck on Monday. And tomorrow (tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow) I get my two-weeks-overdue haircut. I feel like a haystack looking for a pitchfork. I've been slicking it down with handfuls of gel but it springs loose and flops over my forehead so I look like an early Beatle. I guess that's better than having those mall bangs from the 80s. Cookie, Skully and I were talking about "mall bangs" last night, tight-rolled pants too. Remember pleating the bottom of your jeans and then rolling them up? Remember MC Hammer pants??? I was a grown-up in the 80s but my DS rolled his jeans when he was in middle school. Hey, I'm not throwing stones, I had bellbottom's so wide that you could camp under them and I steam ironed my hair so it'd be Ali McGraw straight in the late 60s and early 70s. Drove Mom nuts. Peace. Love. I am a dove. (Anti-war rally chant, anyone? God, we were young.)

February 24--Mark Rothko, No. 13. Grace thought it might be a flag. Leo said, "Bulgaria or maybe Chad." "Not Chad, doofus, " Grace said, "he's in sixth grade." The whole herd of them fell apart with laughter. Being on a field trip with a classroom full of fourth graders was a challenge. She never knew what would come out of their mouths and she bet they didn't either. One thing they all had was a native intelligence and an accurate bullshit meter. Every one of those kids could sense insincerity or falseness in a heartbeat.

Anybody know what I can do until Season 3 of Downton Abbey starts NEXT January? Cookie recommended that I watch it so I looked it up and watched Season 1 on Netflix. I raced through Season 2 on the PBS channel because it's only available for watching until March 6. Now I find out that the new episodes won't run until January 2013. Really, PBS? You get me hooked and then you yank it away for 10 frickin' months? You leave my beloved Mr. Bates unjustly imprisoned for life and I'm supposed to just quietly sit here? I'm going to lie down. But first I have to eat more prunes and Cheerios and then go to work. *sigh* Don't worry about me, I'll be all right.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mexican Squirrels

That's what Durwood says ours must be because they are not deterred by the generous serving cayenne pepper and chili powder we stirred into the sunbutter I slathered on the branches before I added the birdseed. He was railing about them being in the tree yesterday. I keep trying to tell him that I don't care as long as they stay off the feeders but he's focused. See that picture? See the green grass blades in that picture? I went out and took it this morning. It's Wisconsin. In February. That says it all about this crazy La Nina winter we're having. I have to take this laptop to the fixit shop next week to get the kinks ironed out. I try to take it in once a year to have all the corners swept and the closets cleaned out. I should have done it this week since I was at work so much but I was lazy, so next week it is. I'll get it in on Monday and hope to get it back in a day or two. That's the benefit of having a local ISP, I get real time, local help for tech questions and I can take it there for hands on work, not mail it away to some missile silo/service center/tire shop in outer Wyoming. I'd better get on the stick here and post my writing, I have to leave in about 5 minutes.

February 23--Ecuador, Seated Figure. "He doesn't look friendly," Nina said. "He sure doesn't," I agreed. We were looking at a little ceramic statue, bits of it gone, that sat on a stool or a stone and it hunched forward, looking at the world with a toothless smirk. "Maybe it, he, I don't know, is some kind of god." "Or gremlin," I said. "What does the sign say?" Nina leaned forward to peer at the small card lying next to the broken relic in the case. "It says only that he's from the first century B.C." She straightened and I heard her spine crackle as she did. "He doesn't look so bad for someone two thousand years old." "Yeah, but I still don't like the nasty little grin on his face." I hooked my arm through hers. "Let's go look at the jewelry exhibit. I'd rather look at shiny things than creepy little statues." Neither of them sensed the little eyes shining red in the stone sockets following their backs as they left the gallery.

And I'm running off. Later, dudettes & dudes!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Sound of Piledrivers

That's what we awake to these days. They're redoing the highway barely a mile away and they use the pile driver in the morning. Wasn't there a line in that Vietnam movie about... no, that was napalm. Sorry got my heavy equipment mixed up. (Oop, I just heard Durwood cock the BB gun, must be a pesky squirrel has found the sunbutter in the birdie tree.) I think they're making roundabouts where the on and off ramps are on Hwy. 41 through town. Durwood hates them but I think, once people learn to use them, they keep things moving along. I like 'em. We don't talk about them. We don't talk about a lot of political stuff either since I'm a real moderate and he's... not. I study what people say they'll do and how they conduct themselves and vote that way, he pretty much votes the party line. Oh well, I remember Grandma & Grandpa Stephan talking about cancelling out either others' votes in nearly every election. We could do worse than be like them; I really loved them. Still do, I'm sitting here smiling remembering how he smelled like cigar smoke and sawdust, and wore a driving cap for everyday but a hand-tied bow tie when he dressed up in a suit and crisp white shirt, and he looked fabulous. She was a blond flapper with a wicked sense of humor who never "got" clean jokes, always looked pretty, had smooth, soft skin, and made the best chicken & slickers I've ever eaten. (Slickers are wide, short, flat noodles.) I remember her combing her hair and putting on fresh lipstick just before he came home from work, and that they kissed a lot and he patted her fanny. She'd say, "Oh, Hack, " slap his hand away, and then they'd kiss again. I liked it. I could go on and on but then I'd miss breakfast and my chiro appointment. I'm glad I dredged up these memories for us to remember, you find some about your grandparents too. Start your day smiling.

February 22--Daniel Pabst, Cabinet. Emma tucked her book behind the cabinet door and closed it so softly there wasn't a click. She didn't think Michael checked the contents of that cabinet often. Her secret should be safe. It was hard for her to get used to living under Michael's rules. Her parents had been liberals, raising their children with freedom of ideas. "Libertines" Micheal called them when she protested that his narrow demands chafed. Most of the time she lived happily within his world but at other times she yearned for broader, less restricted thoughts and ideas.

Eesh, I'm not liking that Michael guy one bit and why doesn't Emma run away? Haven't got a clue. We've got a 30% chance of having snow tonight and tomorrow. I almost hope it does snow just to cove up the boring, brown grass. Have a day!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A New RED Car

Skully says the color is Arrest-Me red because red cars get noticed by the cops. JJ says red cars get hit in parking lots and on the road because red gets noticed. I don't care, I finally have a really red car. Not black cherry, not maroon, but R-E-D red. I've named her Beverly, don't know why, it just sounded right. I'm also happy to have cargo space rather than a trunk because it's hard to lift a tank and SCUBA gear into the trunk, it's easy to put them into a hatchback. I spent yesterday morning on the phone to get registered for my writing class and the afternoon getting the HHR checked out by my mechanic's shop, then picking up Durwood to go adopt her. I spent a lot of time schmoozing with the car dealer years ago when I bought my first car from him and we've bought 2 others since then, and I knew and liked his (diver) dad whom he adored, so he gave me nearly twice what my old car was worth on trade-in. My eyes bugged out of my head when I checked the value of the Malibu on the Internet, and then the blue book on the HHR was nearly two grand higher. A good deal all around. See? It pays to make a personal connection. Then we went to the grocery and on the way home decided to stop for supper at a local cafe. It was a "bad breathe-y" day for Durwood. That's what he says when the particulates in the air or some meteorological condition makes it hard for him to breathe, so he didn't feel like cooking. It was twenty bucks well spent. And he finally got a callback from the woman who wants to rent the other side of the duplex. We were about ready to call the other people but we'd rather have a single person than a family with 2 small children (which I think is too many for that tiny place anyway but you can't discriminate). He'll meet her to get the security deposit to hold it and she can move in April 1. That's a load off our minds--and why I got to go adopt Beverly. Good thing I did because Joe the car guy was about to call a woman looking for a car and tell her about the HHR. I love it when all my karma fits like a glove like that and everything falls into place right where I want it to.

February 21--Lewis Carroll, Alice Liddell as "The Beggar Maid." They were always playing make-believe. Alice and Robert and Catherine had no end of imagination, and the attic was stuffed with trunks and dressers and boxes of old clothes and props like hats and canes and brollies with ruffles or fringe. They spent hours up there rummaging around until they'd found costumes for their latest production. Their mother believed in setting no limits on her children's reading materials so they could as easily be pirates or the "heathen Chinee" as lords and ladies. Alice was the ringleader, she was the one who sat with her notebook and pencil writing out the parts. When they staged their skits out in the garden, their neighbor, Mr. Lewis Carroll sometimes attended. He always had his own small notebook that he wrote in throughout the entire performance.

I was tickled to see a picture of the "real" Alice in Wonderland. I have a book that was at Grandma Stephan's when I was small with Alice and Through the Looking Glass in it; I remember loving it. She looks like an interesting child. Now I'm off to do whatever it is I do on Wednesdays (work) and swan around in Beverly when I do. There'll be a lot of "oomsheah-ing" going on while I drive, even if only in my own mind. (Oomsheah (oom-she-ah--accent on the first syllable) is a word Great-grandpa Gerst made up for when people strut around showing off.) See where I get it from? There are generations of storytellers behind me, snickering I'm sure. Now I have to go commune with Beverly--after I eat my cheerios and prunes. Mmm, prunes, I've loved them my whole life. I get that from my Grandpa Angermeier, he used to share his with me after supper. None of the other grandkids like them, only me. No shit.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Meet Beverly

On this drizzly, snowy February Tuesday I bought a new-to-me car. It's an "arrest me" red Chevy HHR with charcoal and light gray upholstery. I've decided to name her Beverly, don't know why but it seems the perfect name for her. I haven't named my car since I was in high school and we called Mom's 1950 Chrysler 4-door "The Black Beauty." Eeeeee, I have a new vehicle, one that I can easily shove my dive gear and other cargo into. I was so over my sedan.

I had to go spend my anniversary gift card from Barnes & Noble. I looked at knitting books but then I remembered that I'm trying to not knit for a few days, maybe a week, to give my wrists and hands a break. (Frequent chiro visits are helping a lot, so much that I cancelled my nerve test.) So I looked at sewing books. I was temped by a "One Yard Wonders" book but finally settled on a book called Carefree Quilts. It's my kind of blocks, not many straight lines, bright colors, and most of them are a bit wonky to boot. I'm really enjoying making the Block of the Month blocks so it was a safe buy. I finished the first of the February blocks on Sunday and have the second one nearly done. I planned to finish that one today but I spent the afternoon going to adopt Beverly, then Durwood and I went to the grocery and on the way home we stopped at a cafe for supper. I've decided to start referring to the basement sewing area as my studio. The word lends it a bit of dignity and makes me feel good about being there. I like it; it's my own special space.

Life is emerging in our front yard in the form of Daffodils and Crocuses. Those little shafts of green make all the difference on the gray days.

You can uncross your fingers, Durwood found us a renter. That was quick. Hallelujah!

Busy Signal, Grrrr

Today's the day for Life members of The Clearing to register for classes. Over the phone. Battling other people for space on the 5 lines. Lots of busy signals in my ear. A-a-a-a-nd I just got through so I've signed up for a Women's Writing Retreat the second week in September. Hooray. Hooray. Hooray. September seems like a long way away but it's like a little light gleaming in the distance promising a week of peace, solitude, and the company of like-minded women. Oh, and excellent meals. Ahh. I put more than half of the fees down as a deposit so I just have to save $415 to have it all paid for. That won't be hard because I put $50 per week in my stash savings cache, piece of cake because half of that's there already. Didn't want to beggar myself because I meet Lala in Sheboygan on April 5 for a long weekend and I need to pay for my room out of that. Meals and incidentals come from a deeper layer of stash that builds more slowly because it grows when I work more hours and get paid extra, for instance this week $100 will go in, next week too, but then I might not make any deposits for a couple months. It all depends on when Mrs. Boss takes off again. She has a mania for traveling so I never worry that the back stash will go broke. One of the things I love about my job is that I don't have any co-workers. It's just me and the customers whenever someone wanders in. So I can get my work done (or not some days) in peace and then knit and watch Downton Abbey episodes (I have to catch up; I'm on Season 2 episode 2) or surf the net reading blogs. Mrs. Boss doesn't mind if I watch, she's addicted too only she started watching earlier so she's caught up. Since I was too sleepy to write last night I thought I'd put on a poem I wrote about how I feel up at The Clearing.

May 24, 2009--Free Write at The Clearing, Ellison Bay, Door County, Wisconsin.

I left the crowded city of myself
shedding personas
right and left
to get a bit of peace.

The smiling extrovert
fell away first,
that weight was
a relief to lose.

The chains of know-it-all
dropped away
with a clatter.

The mother-skin
clung tightly,
left beads
of blood where it stuck.

This week I try to
burn only one candle
for my true self
who the rest of the year
gets pushed way
into the back of me.

Enjoy your day. It's drizzly here. Odd for February.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I went out and got in my car yesterday afternoon and look at what I saw! Flower bulbs are up! Yahoo!!! There are daffodils, the same daffodils that I planted when we first moved into this place in 1978, and some crocuses I planted a couple years ago. I had to replant since the ones I had in the ground got all confused with a warm winter a couple years ago so they make leaves whenever the spirit moves them and never make flowers. We can't have that, now, can we? The reason I got into my car was so I could drive up to the corner used car lot to get the VIN number of the car/wagon/SUV that I'm lusting after. It's an "arrest me" red HHR. (Ooh, baby, come to Mama.) If the woman who looked at the duplex on Saturday really rents it, I can have it, otherwise I need to wait so we can use that money to pay the duplex bills until it's rented. Man, I hope all her references pan out and she rents it. (I hope, I hope, I hope.) DS & DIL1 came over to reattach our washer for us (well, DIL1 said she came for eye candy, DS did the work) so I (happily) spent the afternoon and evening in the basement doing laundry. While I was down there I worked on the February quilt blocks for the Block of the Month Quilt Along I signed up for. Since I'm trying not to knit or web surf too much to give my wrists a rest, sewing has to satisfy my urge to make things. Durwood made a lovely chicken stir-fry for supper and we had a good talk. It's so great to have that person you can talk to, just plain old talk. I know I complain about him not being gone like he used to be, so I don't really have any at-home private time, but he's really the person I like spending time with the most. He's who I look for when I'm sad or frustrated or hurt or happy. I hope you have someone like him in your life.

February 19--John Sanderson & Thomas Roberts, Dining Room from Kirtlington Park. Lila stood just inside the door of the yellow room. The far reaches were in shadow and the crystals of the chandelier tinkled though she felt no breeze. The rest of the house was alive. This room was dead. She edged along the wall toward the tall windows that overlooked the garden. Maybe if she opened the draperies. Maybe if sunlight flooded in. Maybe if fresh air pushed inside forcing out the stale air, maybe then she could stand to be in the room. Her hand tugged the pull that should have opened the drapes but it came off in her hand. Determined to let in air and light she fought through the heavy brocade, coughing when she inhaled dust, but finally her hand touched glass. She was between the draperies and the French doors. Her hands found the latch. She pulled and tugged, searched for a lock button, but the doors wouldn't open. She pushed and rattled the handles but gave up and turned to fight her way out of the suffocating space but she couldn't find the gap. Couldn't lift the hem to crawl under. The folds of the heavy fabric twisted around her, choking her, keeping her there in that limbo between light and dark, between life and death.

Look at that. I made a story. Finally. Hot damn. I'm off to eat my Cheerios, take a shower, go to the chiro, and go to work. Ah, work, seems like I was just there--and I'll be there every day (except for tomorrow when I have a nerve test of my wrists/hands/arms until Sunday). Think of your paycheck, Barbara, and cheer up. Adieu, mes amis.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Back in Business

My yoga teacher/knitting friend, MH. was cleaning out her pantry and found seven (7!!! musta been on sale) jars of organic Sunbutter (butter made from sunflower nuts instead of peanuts) and asked if I'd like it for the birdie tree so it wouldn't go to waste. No one in her family likes it. I think I might have figured out why. Not only has all the oil separated out and is nearly impossible to stir back in (I had to use my Kitchen Aid mixer) but the "death" date's September 2009. DIL1 picked up a jar and said, "Barbara, why would you feed your family rancid food?" I assured her that neither Durwood (who hates peanut butter with a white hot passion) nor I intended to eat any of it, I'm using it to spread on the birdie tree so the birdseed sticks to the branches. As an added squirrel-deterrant we mixed in a good amount of cayenne pepper and chili powder. Birds don't have taste buds so they don't notice the pepper, it won't hurt them. Squirrels, however, DO have tastebuds as do all mammals, they should hate the stuff. I suspect that the squirrels just won't care; they'll eat the birdseed just to make Durwood mad. I have a non-agresssion pact with the squirrels. I put out corn for them, pay extra for "squirrel-proof" feeders (that sort of work), and have put Slinkys on the crooks with feeders on them (squirrels don't like Slinkys), and so I don't mind if they dine on the birdseed on the tree--but Durwood does, big time. I try to counsel patience, after all they're just squirrels and not rabid wolverines, but he has this vendetta against them and is sure he can train them to stay away from "his" birds' food. Of course, he also wants to tell the hawk that frequents our yard which birds it is allowed to eat. Good luck with that. Hope springs eternal, plus it gives him something to do when he gets bored. Last night I was so tired after supper I was paging through a quilting book I'd just bought and was chilled so I pulled an afghan over my legs, and promptly fell asleep. So I went to bed and tried to write my nightly prompt. Here's what I got:

February 18--John Sanderson & Thomas Roberts, Dining Room from Kirtlington Park. It wasn't a human-sized room. The proportions made Lila feel insignificant.

That's it. I woke myself up about 10 minutes after writing the last word, put it all on the nightstand, and turned out the light. Ah well. I'm glad that I've got the birdie tree back in business. Thanks, MH!

Happy Birthday, Skully!

My friend Skully's having a birthday today (I won't tell you how old she is but she doesn't look it and she totally doesn't act it.) I had to make her something to celebrate so I went downstairs the other night and made her a fabric basket to hold random crap in her sewing/crafting room. The cool thing about the lining fabric is the little skeletons GLOW IN THE DARK! I bought this fabric in Houghton, MI and I'd forgotten that it does that so when I had finished the basket and was ironing it I was surprised when the little frolicking skeletons turned pale radium green. (You don't think she'll get radium poisoning, do you?) I found that cool polka dotted gift bag to put it in and I'm giving her a jar of my homemade cocoa butter & aloe cream. It's the best thing for winter-dry hands.

Happy birthday again, Skully! Hope the next 62 years are even better than the last 62! *hand over mouth* (oops, sorry)

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Snow & A Tattoo

Don't worry, not mine, my friend Skully got a tattoo for her birthday. I'm not a tattoo girl. It was barely snowing when I got home from knitting and watching Skully get her tattoo last night and everything was covered with snow when I opened the curtains this morning. Isn't it pretty? It didn't last though, by the time I left work at 4 o'clock and went to feed Porter and let her out to potty. We played with the squeaky ball for about 40 minutes running up and down the yard. I'm surprised that I can still run, but I can. Amazing what an old broad can do with a bit of focus. Today at work the computer took over 10 minutes for Word to log on, then when I typed a word it took nearly 3 minutes for it to appear. I gave up, turned the #%$*& thing off, booted it back up, about half a dozen times. It started to work around five to four. Of course. I was going to post but it would have taken all day to type a sentence. Gah.

February 17--Japanese, Theater Coat. Suni like to work in the bamboo groves with Mr. Lo. The canes were thin and supple, the color of the finest jade, and the long, thin leaves whispered in the breezes. If the air was very still she could hear the stretch of the bamboo as it grew. She rememvered the pains in her legs one summer as she grew fast. The pain made her cry in her sleep. She would wake in the dark sure that a beast was gnawing at her legs. Her mother would come in and lie down beside her, stroking her hair and telling her that these growing pains meant that she would grow tall and beautiful. Today the wind blew strong so that the leaves sounded like hands clapping. She turned her back to the wind and dug her cultivator into the soft earth so that the bamboo could breathe.

Now I'm hungry and there's some yummy leftover spinach lasagna calling my name. Sayonara.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Not the Brightest Fish in the School

I'm afraid that Dragon, while handsome, isn't very smart. It has seemed to me that he really wasn't eating the food I gave him. At first I had some wormy looking things that floated and neither of us ever saw him swim to the surface and eat it, so I went back to PetSmart to find a different food. That time I consulted with one of the clerks and bought a pellet-type food. He didn't seem to eat that either. He doesn't seem to eat the plant I put in there either. I was getting worried that he'd starve to death. The other night when I changed his water (pee-yew) I sprinkled a few of the worms on the shallow water I put him in so I can clean his bowl/vase. He ate it! All of it. So when I put him back into the big bowl I put in some more. He ate that too, and kept looking for more. Since I hadn't ever seen him eat since I'd bought him way back in January, I figured he was hungry. I've been feeding him 2 or 3 times a day since and he's gobbling it up. Thank goodness he's gotten over his anorexia--and figured out that there's food in that bowl after all. Well, since I've had a few chiropractic adjustments I'm figuring that I've got "mouse elbow & shoulder" on my right side and maybe carpel tunnel on my left. I promised my friend Lala yesterday that I'd wear my wrist braces in the day too, not just when I sleep, so maybe that'll help until I see the nerve doc on Tuesday when he can tell me what I can do about it. I hate the numbness and tingling in my hands, especially the left one. I can barely hook my bra and put in an earring in that lobe. Sucks to get old.

February 16--Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, The Spanish Walk. No matter how hard she watched or how many times she slipped into the tent Giselle couldn't figure out how Max made Rogelio prance like that. The music would play and Rogelio would begin to move his forelegs up and out. Max sat like a statue on his back and Ro would move. Sometimes it would be wrong and Max would curse himself or old Benito would call out in Spanish, then they'd restart the music and begin again. Giselle hid under the bleachers to watch. She knew there was no way she could ever ride like that. There was no way the daughter of a clown and a high flier would ever get to learn to ride a horse in the ring. You just couldn't change fate that way. Her fate was to fly.

It's Friday. I have to work. I even have to work tomorrow. And next week I only have Sunday and Tuesday off. I'm so overworked. Poor me. *sigh* I'll be all right, don't you worry about me. I'm strong. I can make it. *sigh*

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Foggy Day in London Town...

Whenever a song comes to mind for a post title I always wish I had a font that's a ribbon of lines with a musical staff and notes so all of you (who are younger than me) get it--and it looks like a song. But I don't. So I can't. You'll just have to imagine me sitting here singing. In my head. In your head. Okay, I'll stop. Cookie and I went to the beer & food pairing dinner at Titletown last night where they paired beer with chocolate. A tall order in my estimation, but they managed. We had cocoa & espresso rubbed beef satay with a peppery sweet and sour sauce to dip it in, then cocoa & basil fettuccine carbonara, followed by chicken cutlets with cocoa & raspberry mole sauce and quinoa croquette, broccoli rabe and scrawny carrots, and finally cocoa & white chocolate mousse with fudge on the bottom, a strawberry and a little cookie on top. We had a variety of beers, one with each course, even dessert. DS says that the trick is to have the beer (or wine, for that matter) slightly sweeter than the food. They served us an oatmeal stout that was amazing with the mousse, the chocolate brought out the caramel flavor in the beer. We sat next to JZ, HZ, and their friends so there was lively conversation to go along with our yummy grub. It was a fun evening, and a steal at $30/person. I have to tell you, when DS & DIL1 got home from work last Friday and saw my tracks in their snowy yard their first thought was "crop circles," then they thought someone had been dragging something like a tray around, finally they figured it out--snowshoes! Too much fun.

February 15--Edward Hopper, The Lighthouse at Two Lights. It was a long hot climb up to the lighthouse. It looked easy and gradual but once you got started the slope seemed to stretch out and up. You had to pull yourself up on the long grasses in places. Toby and Nat had grown up on the mainland in Bayfield but on summer afternoons they'd row across to AnaMaria Island to deliver Toby's mom's bacon buns to Mason's Store and get ignored by the summer kids who played tennis all summer and sailed around the island like white butterflies. They kept a couple of old 3-speed Huffy bikes chained to a tree behind the store. Mrs. Mason gave them sandwiches-bologna on rye with her homemade mustard pickles, a couple oranges or bananas, and two cans of no-name soda in a brown paper sack. They'd strap the bag into Nat's handlebar basket and off they'd ride across the waist of the island to the windward beaches to look for driftwood they could sell to Angus Finchley. Angus carved faces in the wood that the tourists fell all over themselves to buy.

I'm off to the chiro before work to get my bones rearranged and a few knots rubbed out of my neck. Later, dudes & dudettes!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

See? I Was Right--But I Didn't Bake

Durwood went to the grocery yesterday and bought 2 gorgeous NY Strip steaks that I cooked to perfection on the grill. He sauteed some mushrooms, baked an acorn squash, and steamed that asparagus. After our feast (saving half of our steaks to have another time but I ate all my mushrooms) we had clementines. I got caught up in reading a library book on my new Kindle Fire and didn't bake. Besides we don't really need to eat something big and chocolaty, although I was thinking I should have gotten two of those giant chocolate-dipped strawberries at Copps for us--or even one. (They were big, only one would fit in the palm of my hand.) But we survived without chocolate. He had 2 Chips Ahoy and I had my semi-frozen yogurt and 3 Newton Thins. (Have you tried those? They're thin, crispy cookies in 4 flavors. My fave's cranberry & citrus. Yum.) I'm really liking my Kindle. I signed up for Pixel of Ink (thanks, Cookie!) and and get daily Facebook posts with a few free books to download a day. They're not NY Times bestsellers but I've liked the ones I've read, and am thinking I might knuckle down and rewrite my manuscripts and think about publishing them online. Maybe. If I can ever recapture my writing mojo. Bah.

February 14--Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Diana. "You're going as what?" Martha looked at her sister like she'd grown a second head. "Diana, my namesake, you know," Di flung her arms out, "the Goddess of the Hunt." She mimed shooting an arrow with the bow in her hand. "The one I like at the Met where she's standing on one leg on an orb." Martha nodded. "But the statue's naked, Di. You know she's naked. You're not going to the party naked." She wrung her hands. "Are you?" Di shook her head. She opened her bottom dresser drawer and drew out a small flat box. "I'm wearing this." She drew out what looked like Peter Pan's disconnected shadow from the movie. "I found it in a dance shop." She held up what looked like golden skin by the shoulders. "See, Mart? It's a body suit in the perfect color. I'll pull my hair up and spray it gold. I found some gold makeup for my face and hands. It'll be great." She smiled at her sister who looked anything but convinced. "I'll have to shave my pubes so I don't look all bushy down there. You can help... oh, Mart, don't cry."

What a crap day it is. All dreary, kinda foggy, and there's a crow cawing in the tree next door. If Ichabod Crane rides by, I'm outta here. Survive the day. Oh, I just remembered that Cookie and I are going to a beer & food pairing dinner. Beer and chocolate. I do believe that things are looking up. Hasta la vista, babies.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

There was a mushy card at my place at the table when I got up this morning. It was lovely and touching and sweet. We don't usually do gifts since we've been Valentine's so long there's not much left to gift each other. I'm guessing there'll be something especially yummy for supper since we got some fresh asparagus the other day. Mmm, maybe I'll bake a little something we can share for dessert. Something chocolaty. We'll see. Skully and I walked in the mall this morning since we're not sure of the condition of any of the trails. Last week it was icy and she slipped a couple times, so walking indoors was a better choice. I showed her the quilt blocks I made last weekend and she approved of them, even the backs. I feel all proud. She's been quilting for ages so she knows all the tricks and tips. It's good to have a friend who knows stuff. I've got a chiropractor appointment later to get my bones rearranged, hoping that it'll help alleviate the numbness in my arms and fingers. Next week I'm going to have some sort of test to see if I have carpal tunnel and what to do if I do--or don't. (I don't think I can study for this test.) Durwood just called down the hall to say that the History Channel's running a special on the history of the bra. Excellent Valentine's Day programming choice. (I don't think he's watching.) I need to go to get my nails done today too. They're so long that 90% of the time I type a number when I hit a key on the top row. Annoying. (He is watching the bra show. There's either scantily clad women or nothing else on.) I stopped at the grocery on my way home from walking and the man ahead of me in line checked out, took two steps, and abandoned his cart in the middle of the wide aisle. Really?!?!? I did my good deed for the day and put it away. Honestly, some people's kids...

February 13--William Morris, Pink and Rose Wallpaper. Julianne dreaded starting work in the dining room. When she and Matt talked about buying the old house she had envisioned dark gleaming woodwork and elegantly appointed rooms, not months of dust and stripping acres of wallpaper. They had fallen in love with the house and property the first time they saw it. It had such potential, the gardens needed trimming and weeding, the house needed cleaning and a bit of sprucing up. They negotiated a lower price, signed on the dotted line too many times to count, and it was theirs. They didn't have nearly enough furniture and what they did have seemed to huddle together in the spacious rooms with their soaring ceilings. Matt said, "We're young, we'll accumulate things, everyone does." Julianne and her sister scrubbed floors and woodwork. They cleaned bathrooms and washed windows. One afternoon the girls were finishing washing the windows in the front parlor when Julianne scratched up a flap of the hideous psychedelic wallpaper and peeked under it. She was surprised to see beautiful, old floral paper in pink and green behind it ugly stuff. She pulled harder and a large strip of the top wallpaper pulled away leaving the paper below it looking fresh and new.

I had a perfect name in mind for the sister last night but didn't write it down. D'you think I can remember it? No. I'm putting a picture of me and my valentine on here today so you can see how cute he is. Have a loving (and chocolaty) day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Back To The Grind

The only redeeming feature of going to work today is that it's payday. It seems like such a bother to have to be there ON TIME and nicely dressed. Not that I'm a slob but I have to make sure I stay warm enough so I pile on thicker clothes. A good thing is that every day since I started weaning off Paxil (last Wednesday) my weight has crept down and I haven't changed my habits hardly at all. The thing that galls me is that a tiny shift in caloric intake (I know it isn't stylish to count calories anymore so sue me) or PointsPlus (better?) makes a shift in my weight. I feel like I'm balanced on some sort of pinnacle and I could go either way--and I usually go the wrong way. But I eat lots of healthy food and Durwood doesn't mind making it so it's all good. I'm determined to start really getting up when the alarm goes off so I can exercise before I have to get ready for the day. Really, I am. I know Durwood doesn't believe me but really I am. Cross my heart. I like to complain, okay I admit it, I LOVE to complain but overall I'm pretty happy with myself and my life. Are you?

February 12--Alexander Gardner, Abe Lincoln. When he was a boy he yearned to read long into the night but candles were too expensive so people like him rose and slept with the sun. Think about that. In winter the sun sets before five o'clock. I can see him folded nearly in half to read by firelight. So great was his need to learn that he walked miles to school. Do you think he had shoes? Lord, I hope so. I can't imagine walking in an Illinois winter in bad shoes or no shoes.

And that's where that ramble mercifully ends. I'm off to keep the world safe from SCUBA diving. Have a day!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Staying in Touch

In the past 24 hours I have spoken to most of the people I love best. There's Durwood, of course, my roomie and personal chef. DS called for advice on how to sew grain bags together to make a brewfest table cover. I called Aunt B, left a message, and she called back. We chattered away for half an hour or so not really saying much of import, just catching up on each others' lives. I look at that as one long "I love you" with the added bonus of getting to brag (even more) about my family. This morning I talked to both my brothers, DD, and DIL1. The only one I missed is DIL2 and she's got a cold so I thought I'd let her nap this afternoon while DD's at work. (Oh, by the way, it's almost 4:30 PM. Me and the Old Guy went to Sam's and Walmart, then I went to JoAnn, so don't believe the posting time.) Next I want to whip up some curried cauliflower chicken soup for next week's lunches and maybe some hummus to have for lunch too. I bought a cucumber and some Roma tomatoes to slice and take along to put on my garlic Melba rounds with a schmear of hummus and my soup. Doesn't that sound good? I think so. Right now Durwood's in the kitchen leaned back in his chair snoring away. That man is a sleeping savant. He can nap anywhere anytime.

February 12--Alexander Gardner, Abraham Lincoln. He looked tired, Alex thought. No wonder with the job he had but the tall man was gracious and cooperative as he got the vignette set up for the photo session. Alex wanted a spare setting, no swags or draperies, no potted ferns or peacock feathers, Just a plain wall, a muted carpet, a chair and a table. Simple, like the man. Lincoln was taller and thinner than he'd thought. Stringy almost but with the kind of wiry strength that convinced Alex that he would work hard and achieve his goals.

Happy birthday, Abe! Time to make soup.

I'm a Making Fool + Supper

I lined up all the things I'm making or made today and took their pictures. I lost my mind the o
ther day and cast on another Purse Stitch Scarf using one of the skeins of yarn I bought last Saturday. I knit a few rows just to see how the yarn looks and now I'll put it away. I will. Cross my heart.

I've been working s-l-o-w-l-y on the front of the Red Marl sweater. I had actual work this week at the dive shop so I kind of didn't get any knitting done there.

This is the third attempt to turn this one single skein of Lion Brand Wool Ease Thick 'n Quick into a hat. This pattern will work or I'll light a fire in the back yard and melt/burn it. Or eat it. This is Crazy Aunt Purl's Brangelina Hat. I've made about 6 of them, maybe more, and I know this makes a good hat. I WILL get this hat made this week--or it's time for a barbecue.

The Helix Hat got a few rounds knitted on it at knitting guild last week but it too is suffering from my lack of ambition.

Speaking of knitting guild, the program at Thursday's meeting was seaming. We were to bring a pair of swatches and Pat taught us how to sew them together on the stockinette side and reverse. It's amazing to see; I sewed with white yarn and look at the seam on top. It disappeared. Pretty cool, eh?

This is week 6 of the Maple Tree Scarf. Yesterday's snow added a much-needed bit of white to break up the brown/black/green of the past no-snow days. I really like the way this looks so far. I'm excited to see how the greens look once leaves start to show.

For reasons unknown even to me, I signed up for a Block of the Month class (free!) on last month. I printed out the basic supplies info and the patterns for the first 2 blocks but haven't had the time or inclination to begin. I did today. Instead of buying any fabric I'm using a bolt of natural muslin colored cotton that Mom had and all of the fat quarters and yardage that I've been collecting with
no idea of what to use it for. I must confess that neither of my blocks is all square and straight but I like them and I am not going to redo them. I like them the way they are, plus I'm sure I'll get better at it as the months pass so I'll be able to track my building skill whenever I look at the quilt.

I realized when I sat down to the lovely supper that Durwood made for us tonight that I'm always showing you what I'm making and seldom what he makes. So here it is: Chicken
Marsala, fresh asparagus, noodles. You're really sorry you weren't here to eat it; it was delicious. Thank you, Durwood, you're the best.