Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Week of Busy...

Tomorrow will be the first time this week I won't be running hither and yon with tasks, chores and appointments.  It's funny how nothing happens for awhile, then suddenly twenty things happen at once.  Feast or famine, for sure.  All I really want at this point is to stay on the mountain, pour myself a nice, big glass of wine, settle into my cozy chair and read a book. 

Come on, Friday.  (Though I'm not actually going to wait until tomorrow for wine...) 

Here's a good thing: Max is finally good to go.  He had the gnarly chest sutures taken out this morning and got the perfect health cookie from the vet.  I wasn't sure two weeks ago that I would actually get this far--what with the restitching and the Conehead the Barbarian thing--but hey, time has a way of passing, no matter what our obstacles.  And since Max has now collapsed in his bed and is contentedly snoring, I'm pretty sure he's one happy wee dog to be done with the vet, the cone and the itchy bits.

Tuesday afternoon, fairly gloomy and dreary, when a bright lance of sunshine appeared out of nowhere across the valley at the back of the house.  In the barrenness of Winter, I could suddenly see the gentle haze of new green in the fields below.  The rest of the valley was still bleak, but with that one ray of light, this small section gleamed with the promise of Spring...

Then yesterday, hiking back from the mail box, I noticed my daffodils are sprouting!  I'm so excited!  I planted that huge bag--over 100 bulbs--last Fall, but planting in bedrock, I wasn't convinced they would grow, even with my pick-axing and composting.  However, thanks to the miracle of Nature, and the indomitable will of plants to grow in the crappiest of environments:

Along the driveway.  Look, you can just see them poking up next to the wall...

Okay, here, let me just show you a close-up instead...

And further up the drive, more little shoots...

I can't wait to see the tall green stalks, the golden yellow heads, the cheerful sign of hope that another Winter is past, and Life prevails...

And yeah, I'm going to bore you senseless, dear readers, with many photos of my hardy, against the odds, growing in stone daffodils when they've bloomed.  Though I know you won't mind, because truly, who can resist such simple beauty...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Birds: Cage and Shadow...

A few months back, when Mom was at my place for Thanksgiving, we went out on Black Friday--against my will, but that's another story--and in our travels we wandered into Pier 1, where I saw this elegant wire bird cage filled with potpourri.  I really liked the clever idea, but at $40 for the cage and an addition $20 for potpourri...well, let's just say I didn't like it that much.

Last week I was at the shop where I buy my favorite specialty teas--Yorkshire and Om chai--and what do I see on a shelf, but this very interesting little wire bird cage.  It's sweet, but I can't think what I would do with it.  

Then I got home and suddenly remembered Pier 1, Black Friday, and the bird cage.

This morning I went back to the store, and though I expected it to be gone, it wasn't...

My $6.00 bird cage.  No, really.  $6.00.  It's brass, about 12" tall and has three little bird silhouettes attached around the outside.  It is totally amazing.

So, I buy the bird cage, walked next door to Pier 1 and found a bag of potpourri--on sale--that worked perfectly.  Cilantro Citrus.  Fresh, spicy, clean scent.

Here it is, my adorable $16.00 potpourri birdcage, in my main bath.  But you know what's even better than not spending $60.00?  Mine is actually cooler than the one at the Pier...

And since we're (more or less) on the topic of birds...

The other day.  I'm reading, dogs are napping, peace and quiet--BAM!  I jump, the dogs leap to their feet barking, the three of us stare at each other while we wait for the house to collapse or the world to end.  The boys run to the front windows and growl at the road, though I'm sure the noise came from a different direction.  I walk toward the large window that looks over the back garden and am stunned to see this:

A bird ghost.  A shadow bird.  An imprint of horror because this must mean the corpse is 20 feet below lying in a heap of deadness on my back path.  Little birds used to crash into my windows quite often, but since putting up my prayer flags the kamikaze stuff has pretty much stopped.  I've never had such a large bird hit the window with enough force to leave this kind of ghostly definition.  If you click on the photo, you can actually see his eyes, beak, and feathers.

Resigned, I go downstairs, through the garage and out the back door, already cringing at what I will find.

Which was nothing.

How could this bird hit with such velocity, and live to tell the tale?  I looked all over the yard, down the driveway, over the embankment, into the pines and trees...nothing.  A mystery of survival.

I don't have a ladder tall enough to wash this window, and though I hoped the rains would wash away the shadow, that hope didn't pan out because the window is not only in a sheltered corner of the house, it's tucked under the eaves.  So, I had to call Jeremy, the one guy in my small town who has tall, tall ladders and washes most of the nearly inaccessible windows for miles around. 

When I told him I needed him to wash a bird ghost off my window, he hesitated, then said he'd be right over.  Once he saw what I was talking about, he shook his head and said he'd never seen such a clear outline, even down to the beak, and he'd been washing bird dust (his words) off windows for years.

Jeremy is convinced the bird flew down the mountain on auto-pilot, then croaked.  I prefer to think the bird might've had a really bad headache, but lived to tell his friends about the day he met his own reflection at Mach 4...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sunday In My City...And Yeah, I Know It's Monday...

Over to the right there, where the Prompt Me header lists Magpie Tales and Haiku Heights, I've added a new badge:  Sundays in My City.  The idea is to take photos of your part of the planet, sharing your Sunday with others doing the same.  I really liked that, so thought I'd give it a try.

It would be nice, though, if I actually lived in a city.  Were I still in Seattle, or Edinburgh, no problem, I could share all day and well into the night.  But here, in the backwoods of southern Oregon?  Not so much.  Still, I'm going to give it a shot, though maybe not every Sunday.

Course, right off the bat I missed posting the Sunday part of this exercise, but only because I had other things (Ozzy's birthday and the Max haiku) to write about yesterday.

So, here are a few shots of a Sunday walk through the grounds at the VA where the boys and I go every weekend because it's quiet and peaceful, and the complex is beautiful.

The main hospital building.  So very imposing and Thomas Jefferson-like.  (I actually took this photo last Summer, though it was a Sunday.  That still counts, right?)

Each of the buildings has a different window architrave, though my favorite is this spiderweb design over the entrance to the Business Office...

Last Saturday, I took a shortcut through the buildings because the rain went from drizzle to downpour in a nanosecond, and it was the fastest way back to the car.  As we came around a corner, an intriguing manhole cover caught my eye at the edge of the path.  The next day--yes, Sunday--I took my camera.  What an artistic and unusual cover: A salmon and dragonfly...go figure.

Okay, this might have been a poor start to a Sunday In My City post, but it was my first, and as the weather improves I should be able to wander about more, do some exploring.  However, I live in a very small town, so I guess my mission will be to expand my horizons, look for things that aren't obvious.
Like art in a manhole cover...

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Birthdays, Pens and Portals...

Today is Ozzy's 10th birthday.  Ten years.  How is that possible?  There have been so many changes since that wintry cold Sunday in Edinburgh when he came to live with us.  I can see him clearly in my mind, this tiny little creature, all fluffy blacks and whites, shaking and scared...until I picked him up and cuddled him, and just like that, he was mine.  I still pick him up the same way and he still snuggles into my neck.  

Where has the time gone?  Wasn't he just a puppy the other day?  I won't go into how it tears at my heart to see the gray around his eyes, see the signs of age in his face; how hard it is to swallow around the lump in my throat.  But we don't need to go there, not today.

Happy Birthday, sweet boy...and just look at your handsome 10 year old self:


I was reading a post on Lynn's site (Paperback Writer) the other day about the 2013 Handwriting Contest, sponsored by Fahrney Pens.  You have to write a story, haiku, poem, whatever, that relates to handwriting or pens in some way, but you have to actually write it.  By hand.  The winner gets a totally cool pen worth over $300.  I used to love writing and had a pretty good hand, though nowadays it's far easier and faster to type.  Still.  I was intrigued.  Yesterday I wrote my haiku and sent it off.  It doesn't matter if I win or not, it was the fun of it, and the act of holding the pen and writing the words.

My handwriting used to be much better, but I'm out of practice.  Here's what I wrote:


Late yesterday, walking back from my hike to the mail box, the clouds, the sky, the winds high in the atmosphere, were making the most incredible display of shapes and colors.  I tried to hurry the boys along so I could get my camera, but as is usually the case, the minute I hurry, they lag.  By the time we got home and I snagged the camera, it was already too late to take a picture of a bizarre cotton ball effect in one section of clouds, though I did get these...

But then.

I was closing the blinds as it was getting dark, when this most beautiful vision of cloud and sun appeared on the horizon.  It was so amazing, I almost forgot to take a photo.  I think this is one of my favorite shots of all time.

I'm calling it Portal.  Can you get what I mean by that?

Our world is so fantastic.  I wish everyone could see it...

Haiku Heights 206...Rescue

Eyes filled with lonely

My heart knew you at first glance

Rescued and so loved

Max came to mind for this week's Haiku Heights prompt.  Two years ago, lost in the ice and snow of a bitter December, paws worn, thin and hungry, he was found by a policeman who took him to the local shelter.  Two weeks later, he came home with me.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Week 4 of the 52s...Charley's

Wow, I barely accomplished my goal this week, though I probably could have used extenuating circumstances as my defense, what with the Max drama and two trips to the vet.  Luckily, I managed to find one thing new after all, by a fluke--which is right up there with that coincidence thing I don't believe in.

Yesterday, after walking the boys, I decided to take a different route home.  I have a serious aversion to sameness and ruts.  Besides, I took a self-defense course years ago and the first thing we learned was to vary the routine.  So, driving along, I pass this BBQ place that has intrigued me since I first got stranded moved here.  It's a dive-type place, which could mean really good food or really bad.  I do love barbecued ribs, crunchy and flavorful...and beans with a bite...and depending on where in the country: hush puppies or corn bread.  I'm pondering all this as I drive home, mouth watering. 

The day goes on.  Weather is terrible with drenching rain, fog coming and going; the perfect kind of day to stay tucked indoors.  I'm talking to my mother late in the afternoon and she asks me what new thing I did this week for the 52s.  I tell her I might have to pass due to Max and the Alien Reptile Eyelid Incident

But then I remember the barbecue joint.

After we finish our phone call, I stand at the window for a few minutes, wondering if I really want to go back down the mountain in the pouring rain and miserable fog.  Then I had two thoughts:  I really want to try that barbecue, and I don't want to bail on the 52s as early as the fourth bloody week!


See those giant fan vents on the roof?  Not only for venting the wood smoke, but to entice anyone who drives by.  The smell wafting along the highway even made the dogs drool...
It's very spartan inside, with old dinged-up wooden tables, posters of cowboys and sprawling ranches on the walls.  They also apparently have music on Thursdays--CW women and guitar-playing guys.  The most impressive thing was the staggering amount of sauce bottles on the counter, from Kansas City, Cajun, Tex-Mex, Regular Texas, and at least 25 more flavors I can't remember. 

The menu was extensive and I had a hard time choosing, but eventually ordered a small dinner of baby back ribs, potato salad and bourbon baked beans.  The hush puppies are included in every meal.  Then I had to pick my sauce, which was not easy, what with the incredible selection.  I chose Sweet Baby Ray's.  And yeah, partly because of the name, though I did ask what it tasted like first.

Here's my plate.  This is half my order--and I got the small dinner.  I'm having the other half for dinner tonight.  (Sorry there are no hush pups to be seen.  I ate them in the car before I even got home.  There were only three, about the size of golf balls, that popped straight into my mouth when I wasn't paying attention...)

Those bourbon beans?  OMG.  Dark, deep, hearty and delicious.  I wish I'd ordered an extra portion.  Potato salad was fine, though I'm picky about potato salad so I wouldn't order it again.  But the ribs...thick, crusty, scrumptious, especially with Sweet Baby Ray's sauce, which was sweet and spicy.  (I have no idea who Ray is, but man, he invented a great barbecue sauce).

So, I managed to find a fun, new thing to do for Week 4 after all.  And let me say, I'm more than happy to be having the same dinner again tonight...

Friday, January 25, 2013

And Speaking of Whiskey...

I want to wish my family and friends a wonderful Burns Supper tonight.  I wrote about this annual celebration last year, so won't go into it again, though I am posting a photo of Robert Burns, Scottish national poet...and in my opinion: 18th century hunk.  Today is his 254th birthday and all over Scotland there will be Suppers and poems and haggis and pipers...and of course, whisky (spelled just so, in Scotland).

Swoon-worthy Rabbie Burns...

So, later this evening I will raise a dram to The Bard, with my most favorite whisky of all time--and believe me, I've tried just about every variety--but to me, for my palette:  Dalwhinnie, distilled in the Highlands, tasting of clear, cold waters, smoky peat and...Scotland.

Dalwhinnie Distillery, off the A9, heading north to Inverness...

Here's my bottle, bought at the distillery above, missing just a few wee drams; one for Burns last year, and once for New Year, last month.  (And yes, I'm hoarding it...and will until the next time I'm in Scotland to buy a new bottle).

The little label around the neck says The Gentle Spirit.  How cool is that for a whisky?  I'm so looking forward to my drink tonight.  The smell alone brings back so many memories, and adventures, but the taste?  Ambrosia...

Closer view of the label...

Happy Birthday, Rabbie.  I'll be there in spirit to celebrate, with the essence of Scotland in my glass...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Vacation or Whiskey? Choices, Choices...

Just when I thought things were doing well with the boys and their vet experience of last week, I was brought back to reality by Max rubbing his head along the bottom of the couch, tearing out the stitches in his eyelid.  Naturally, this required an emergency run to the vet as his eyelid split open like something from a bad alien reptile movie.  So, more shots, stitches, and a very miserable past few days for everyone.  
Now, despite his crying and shaking, not eating or drinking as long as he wears it, he is encased against his will in the Cone of Doom.  Still, even that might not work if he gets too worked up.  The vet said the surgical thread used on his lid is so fine it can break easily if rubbed too hard or too often.  Uh huh.  Great.  Max is going to look like Rocky Balboa, or maybe Scarface, if we can't get this healed up pretty soon.

Because of all the drama, I haven't been able to do much.  I have to keep an eye on him at all times, and occasionally shout with the Mom Voice if I see him trying to scratch or rub against that side of his face.  Honestly, I feel for the guy.  I've had stitches.  They itch, they pull, they're nasty and uncomfortable.  And that's before they've been yanked out, ripped the skin, then had to be replaced. 

So, I need a vacation--at the least a timeout--but I can't have one.  Who would monitor my boy?  Pay attention?  Yell with the voice of authority that freezes him in mid-scratch?

And the whiskey?  Don't even tempt me.

Though...hmmmm.  I wonder if Max would be interested in a little marinated doggy biscuit...?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hidden Magic

For a few brief hours Monday, the fog lifted for the first time in days.  Seriously.  Days of groping my way around the mountain, the parks, the streets.

After the boys and I returned from yesterday's very dismal, icy walk, I made a cup of coffee and sat down to do some writing.  I had barely begun when this strange ball of alien light suddenly burst through the window next to my work table.  Blinded, I threw up a hand and peered out between my fingers, to see...*gasp*...the sun!!!

But wait.  It wasn't just the sun.  Because under the dense layers of fog and mist, fashioned by ice and frigid temperatures, was a hidden wonderland, glittering in the sunlight.  Of course, I grabbed the camera and dashed outside before the fog drifted back to cloak the mountain again.

Standing under my Birch trees, covered so beautifully in ice against the blue sky...

Icy tendrils hanging over the garden path...

A close up of willowy branches so delicately encased...

A little sproutlet of Mexican Feather Grass, tips iced like it had been dipped in frosting...

As I was going up the driveway, I saw a series of cobwebs, along the fence, in the trees.  I'm just fascinated by the fragile strength of these amazing, intricate creations.  They're especially spectacular when frozen, and every line, curve and mathematical mystery is clearly revealed.
These were the two that first caught my eye, between the fence rails next to the garage...

Then I spotted a grouping of webs, like an exotic condo complex, in a cedar tree on the other side of my drive.  I go past this tree every day and have never once seen these elaborate structures.  It took the ice, clinging to each strand, to show me this otherworld...

I think this must be the gym, or the exercise room.  Maybe it's the trampoline and play area for the spider babies.  Check out those long threads holding the flat middle section, like a platform.  (I'm trying not to imagine this as a gigantic lunch wagon, or the condo smorgasbord...eewww...)

I came back inside to download the photos, but before I'd even started, the fog returned, blue skies turned gray, the icy chill began seeping 'round the corners of the house. 

Ah well.  For a few, short moments I got a glimpse of another realm, made even more special after it once again vanished into the mists...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Magpie Tales 152...Letting Go

Your palm was broad
Fingers strong
My hand was warm
Within your grasp

Joined by our touch
We held tight
Through troubled times
And bright sunshine

Your palm was broad
Fingers strong
My hand is cold
Without your grasp

Prompt from Magpie Tales this week.  Alan had great, manly hands.  I miss the feel of them.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

An Oops and an Aaahhh...

When I woke up this morning, I spent a few minutes before I got out of bed to plot out my day.  I had several things to do, so it would be a busy Monday.  Then I remembered it's a holiday--MLK Day--so that means the post office is closed?  Damn, I had some stuff to mail.  Okay, cross that task off the to-do list.  It's time to get up and moving...but bah, I hate Mondays.
Coffee in hand, I fire up the laptop, then frown at the date.  And the day.  Wait.  It's Sunday?  I look again at the screen, and yes, it's still the weekend!  It's Sunday!!  And honestly--ignoring the senility issue--I felt like I was suddenly on vacation.  A whole, free, relaxing day ahead of me, made even better because it's totally not Monday!!

And that memory lapse thing?  Well, all I can say is oops...and keep smiling that it's Sunday...
Late in the afternoon yesterday, the boys and I walked down the road to get the mail.  In the box was a large white envelope from friends who lived across the street from our house in Edinburgh.  I couldn't wait to tear into the package, hoping it was what I thought.
And it was!  
My 2013 Harvey calendar!

A bit more than two years ago, when we left Edinburgh, Harvey the Boxer was just a teenager, heading toward young adult.  He was sweet and slobbery and just a good dog.  I got a calendar that year, the Harvey 2011, but it had only been a few months since I'd seen him, so he hadn't changed.  There wasn't a 2012.
How happy I am to have this year's calendar then, showing the manly man Harv has grown up to be.  What a handsome, big guy, for sure!  I loved all the photos, the poses, the background shots where I knew exactly where the photographs had been taken.  Here are a few...
February pin up model...

Harvey in his back garden, begging for someone to play with him...

My favorite (love the caption).  Just a wee stick to carry around...

What a great, wonderful surprise it is to have my new calendar, to see Harv grown so big and strong, to smile at his sweet face.  Thanks so much to his Mum and Dad for sending it!!

So, oops for briefly losing Sunday, though I did find it again.  And an aaahhh for handsome Harvey and my brilliant calendar, and the friends I miss so much.

It might just be perfect timing that the calendar arrived when it did.  Apparently I have need of one...

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fog and Frankenweenie...

It's been dense, icy fog in my part of the world for days now, temps in the mid-twenties.  If I were in Edinburgh, everyone would be bundled up to ward off the haar, a weird weather phenomena that basically only occurs on the eastern coast of Scotland, along the North Sea.  None of those things are in any way around me now, and yet, it's exactly the same: bitter cold, seeps into your bones, ice particles float in the air, stick to clothes, boots, lashes, skin.

Did I mention it's dense?

Two shots taken this afternoon...

Somewhere out in that nothingness is the winding mountain road in front of my house:

And I hope to see the valley again one day.  It must still be down there, though there's no proof from my back deck:

So, Thursday I have to take the dogs to the vet at the crack of dawn.  I can't see past the hood of my Blazer, the roads are icy, I'm on a one-lane road driving blind down a mountain.  Great way to start the day.  Still, I made it safely, dropped Ozzy off for his annual teeth cleaning, and Max for his surgery to remove the tumor thing.

[Here's a good tip I'm happy to share:  It is a big fat mistake to schedule more than one dog on the same day for a veterinary procedure.  Instead of just dealing with the aftermath of surgery to keep Max from licking, chewing and recovering from being knocked out and carved up, I also have Ozzy who won't stop licking and chewing his leg where they shaved him for the blood work/IV stuff.  And no, a cone was not an option.  I only had the one from the vet for Max which wouldn't fit tiny Ozzy's neck.  Then Max freaked out so bad, I couldn't leave it on him either.  Being a rescue dog, he truly has fear issues and I just couldn't stand the crying and violent shaking.  He'd already had a really shitty day.]

In any case, things went fine--at least between the vet and myself; I'm pretty sure the dogs would disagree.  The tumor was completely removed, though poor Max looks like he's had open heart surgery.  Not only is he shaved right down the front of his chest, but the line of sutures is nearly four inches long and looks just grotesque.  The vet also snipped a little growth off his right eyelid--more embroidery--so he looks like the sorriest loser in a street fight with his chest wound and swollen, stitched eye.

Thankfully both the boys are feeling much better and more perky today.  We even went to the park this morning, blundering through the zero visibility fog, both on the road and along the walking trails.  They're both conked out now, sprawled in their beds, no doubt happy to have survived.  Ah, the joy in peace and quiet, and having the whole ordeal over with.

And for my part?  I going now to refill my wine glass.  It's been a rough couple of days all the way around...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Magpie Tales 151...The Straw

The heat was off again.  It was cold enough to see her breath when she rolled over.  David's side of the bed was chilly, so he'd been up for awhile.  When her feet hit the icy floor, she shivered, ran to the closet and pulled out an oversized sweater she'd never worn.  The color was horrible, the size enormous.  It would, however, work just fine to cover her frozen limbs.

Without paying attention, she stuffed herself into the hideous woollen garment, not realizing until she was fully encased, that she'd done it wrong; her head was now stuck in a sleeve and her legs were neatly bound together.  Too cold to care, she hobbled to the kitchen, poured a glass of water then waddled to the chair in the living room.  Stretching the fabric down over her feet, she sighed as her body began to heat.

Then she tried to drink her water.

"David?  Could you bring me a straw, please?"  Her ears were muffled inside the sleeve, but she thought he'd answered from the den.

When the straw dropped into her glass, she turned her tube-face up to meet his eyes.  "Thanks," she said over his uproarious laughter.

"You understand how totally ridiculous you look?"

She took a sip through the straw, then smiling happily, she said, "But oh, I'm so warm."


This was a very odd photo prompt from Magpie Tales this week.  Now, I've pulled sweaters and other stretchy clothes over my feet--most women have because we get cold feet--but this?  It's so funny, and goofy, I honestly didn't know what to write, until I noticed the straw...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Third Week of 52...T'ai Chi Ch'uan

I've chosen my new experience for the third week of the 52s:  T'ai Chi Ch'uan.

Having spent many years practicing--and enjoying--yoga, I'm trying something different, a new discipline for me that uses leverage through the joints, rather than tension in the muscles.  The beauty of t'ai chi is that concentrating the mind completely on the movements brings mental calm and clarity.  In other words: meditation through form.

I tried t'ai chi once, but it was too slow for me back then, I was always on the go, always ready and willing to dash off somewhere at a moment's notice.  I preferred yoga, with the muscle work, the sweat factor. You have to sweat to truly be working out, everyone knows that, right?  Besides, the image I had of t'ai chi was invariably of old Chinese folks waving their hands in slo-mo, hardly moving their bodies, not a drop of sweat to be seen.  That surely couldn't be a real workout.

Imagine my surprise last night when I realized I had inadvertently recorded the wrong PBS program, instead taping a show on the philosophy and practice of T'ai Chi Ch'uan.   (Though why that surprised me is...well...surprising; I don't believe in coincidence).  So, instead of just deleting the mistaken program, I watched it, curious to see if there was a message in there somewhere.

Within moments, I knew this was exactly what I was looking for.  I don't need the muscle workout from yoga, I need the focus and meditation from t'ai chi.  And lest anyone imagine this is just an exercise technique for old Chinese would be as wrong as I was.   The movements are not only to strengthen the mind, but to enhance hand and weapons routines; you know, in case you have to fight off the rebel hordes as one of the Emperor's warriors.

The clincher for me--and yes, I listen to signs like this--one of the movements shown on the program was called Daughter on the Mountaintop.  Come on.  Really?  I actually burst out laughing.  I don't need to be hit over the head to get it.

This afternoon I begin.  And I will be smiling, because I have become one with those old Chinese people, moving gently, soft and pliable, as my body dances and my mind settles.

The Universe provides.  We just have to be paying attention.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Note To Self:

The next time you make beignets, make them bigger.  That way you won't eat them like popcorn, ending up on the couch later in the evening, miserable, with a stomach ache.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Second Week of 52...Cafe du Monde

I had some upsetting news today from Scotland, and though I'm waiting to get all the details, I find myself up to the knees in the Slough of Despond.  I can't stand being so far away.  I'm missing the family, my friends, Alan; I'm missing the neighborhood, my old house.  I'm just...missing.

Walking the boys this morning, I had to fight the urge to feel sorry for myself, struggle against pushing the elevator button to the sub-basement in my head, inhabited by mind parasites and an evil twin who loves to wallow and whinge.

I was going to drive to one of the covered bridges because it's the last day of Week Two, but halfway around the VA complex with the dogs, I realized I'd left the map and my camera at home--because I was too busy missing and not thinking.  I barked out a slightly insane laugh, pondered the idea I might be going senile, then slumped in resignation that I wasn't going to accomplish my second week of the 52s.

But wait.  As I'm driving home, I have an epiphany.  I smile as the realization dawns:  I can achieve three things by just doing one!  A vision of beignets and chicory coffee, the Cafe du Monde on Decatur Street, the sounds and smells of Nawlins....

You're no doubt wondering what three things?  What is she talking about?  Has the poor girl finally lost the plot?

Allow me to explain:

1.  Cafe du Monde beignets are the best in the world.  I've had the recipe for ages but never made them.  Aha!  The Week Two fun and new thing.

2.  It will take concentration and time to make these little gems, which will divert my mind from the sub-basement.

3.  And, at the end of the day, I will have a most wonderful treat, a delicious cup of coffee, and can sit back, imagining good things instead of sad ones.

So.  I stop at the store, buy the yeast, and a few other items I'll need, dash home and begin creating the beignets.  It has indeed taken most of the day, though the dough had to rise for over two hours which gave me time to clean up the mess in the kitchen, and talk to Jan (BFF) for our usual Sunday phone call.

Here are a few shots:

Dough, risen to epic heights after 2-1/2 hours in a cozy warm place...

...after being rolled out into little bites, then quickly fried...

The most excellent coffee, brewed just right in my French Press...

And the best thing of all?  Beignets, fresh from bouncing around in the paper bag of powdered sugar; my wee demitasse cup of coffee on the side:

So, it's with a big sigh of pleasure that I finally made these amazing morsels, I've cleared my mind by thinking of things other than my worries, and have another week under my belt where I found a fun, new thing to broaden my experience.

My day might not have started very well, but at the end of it, I think I managed okay...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Birds and Bubbles...

Yesterday was...well, for the most part, it was good.  I took a few photos, did some writing, learned a very cool new thing, started a great book.  Then had to deal with an unexpected event.  I suppose if I were desperate, the event might be the something new for this week's adventure of the 52s.  It isn't.  Because the 52s are meant to be fun.


First thing in the morning, I open the blinds that look over the backyard, and there was this most beautiful Mourning Dove sitting on the fence.  I grabbed my camera and when she turned her head toward me for just a moment, I took this shot through the bathroom window...

Nice way to start the day.

After walking the dogs, I decided to do the laundry when we got home.  Once that was started, and I came back upstairs, I happened to glance outside and saw my resident hawk circling overhead.  Again, snagged the camera, then went outside on the back deck and tried to follow his motions so I could get a photo.  Pretty impossible really; he was up high, and I had to use the telephoto, which made things blurry.  Still.  Look at the wing span.  He truly is about the biggest hawk I've ever seen...

Notice anything odd about these two shots?  Try the blue sky.  What happened to the snow?  Good question.  The temperature was in the low 20s, but the clouds just vanished like smoke by late morning.  So much for being socked in by a blizzard.

Then, because this is how life often goes, later in the day I got an email from my mother.  With pictures of more birds, this time peacocks.  Apparently it was Avian Day.  Now, before we get to the two photos I'm going to share, I have a confession to make, and I don't even care that I'm admitting my ignorance--which is not bliss to me.  I would rather learn something than remain clueless.

Confession:  I have been lots of places, seen many peacocks.  But never once, ever, have I seen one fly, or even imagined that they could.  They're so laden with all those brilliant feathers, I thought they were like an ostrich or emu: flightless birds.

OMG, look at this...

How amazingly beautiful!  I don't know where Mom got these photos, they were just attached to an email and there was nothing to identify the photographer or the locations.  My shock--after the incredible display of color and Phoenix-like elegance--was that peacocks can actually fly!  That is truly something I would love to see.

So, my day was taken up with birds and photographs and the contemplation of learning a wondrous new thing.  Then I remembered the blasted laundry and dashed downstairs to switch the wash into the dryer.

You know that scene in movies or on television where the distraught woman is wading through a room full of soap bubbles as she tries to find her washing machine?  Uh huh.

I actually got halfway across the floor before my brain registered the frothy bubbles, and my new pond, forming under the washer, the dryer and the sink.  WTF?  I will spare you, dear people, of the many, many ways I used the f-word, in 40 different languages, even tossing in a few I made up--though I'm betting they would be very useful to ogres and trolls.

An hour later, all the mess mopped up, twenty towels and rags in a sodden heap outside the garage, I now had to determine what the hell happened.  I do not want to call a repair guy, and Sears (where I bought the set barely two years ago) closed down last Summer, so that avenue for help is a dead end.  And it can't be that the machine has crapped out, it's too new.

Long story short.  I wiggle the blasted thing away from the wall, take off the back plate, dink around for a bit with my trusty screwdriver and flashlight, and find that one of the hoses needs serious tightening.  I get a wrench, tighten the hose, screw the plate back on, and screech and jiggle the 10-ton machine into its place.

Deep breath. 

Crossed fingers. 

I do the next load, towels wrapped like a winter scarf around the machine--just in case--and after running through a whole cycle...Eureka!!  No leaks, drips, soapy bubbles, or a glimmer of water.  I am now officially a Maytag Repairman.  I am not, however, calling this my Week Two adventure, regardless that it's a new thing I haven't done before.

The other f-word is fun and this definitely wasn't.

So, the positive in this debacle?  All the soapsuds helped clean the floor and both machines.  My laundry room is sparkling, and the machines look brand new.

And I also have some very inventive new words to know, in case I write a story about trolls or ogres.