Monday, September 30, 2013

Gourds and Gifts


My sister left bright and early this morning.  We were hoping she would miss the tail end of the storms decimating the Northwest, but unfortunately, as it turned out, she ran smack into two storm bursts--made worse by hurling along the very busy and congested I-5 corridor.  Though she made it home safe and sound, it was not without angst and anxiety--always an essential ingredient for a road trip.

Whilst she was battling the elements, I was meandering in the sunshine with the boys on our morning hike before I popped into the store for a container of some kind because my sister never comes empty-handed.  For this visit she brought me a variety of very cool and colorful gourds.  I have baskets and bowls, but either they were already in use or wouldn't work.

After a bit of searching, I found the perfect thing.  A simple woven basket that holds all seven gnarly, warty, incredibly decorative gourds...




Fall is such a glorious time of year.  The smells, the colors, the bounty.  I always imagine it as Nature's final gift before hibernation.  I'm hoping to follow some country roads deep into farm territory one day this week on a photo quest.  After all the storms, Indian Summer is supposed to arrive tomorrow--so beautiful in the Northwest with the vibrant shades of red and yellow and orange from the trees that seem to glow against the clear, intensely blue skies.  I can't wait.

But until then, I have my colorful gourds and a new basket and a very thoughtful sister...

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Week 39 of the 52s...Runzas


The weather this weekend has been extreme; the edge of a typhoon has blown across the Northwest leaving destruction in its wake.  Yesterday, my sister and I did manage to drive south to Mom's without any difficulties, but had barely gotten back to my house in the late afternoon when the storm hit.  Serious wind, lashing rains, chaos and mayhem.

In light of the storm, and being housebound, I decided for the 52s this week to make these intriguing savory buns from a recipe in my Food Network magazine.  For those of you, dear readers, who live in the Midwest, no doubt you're very familiar with Runzas.  Personally, I've never heard of them, but oh man, did they look good in the magazine.

So, last night I made the dough...


After an hour, it went in the fridge overnight.  Then this afternoon my sister and I made the filling: ground beef, spinach, onion and garlic.  Four simple little ingredients.  The dough is divided into eight balls, rolled into rectangles and filled.  As you can see, I had a bit of trouble keeping things consistent.  It might have been the wine.


Half an hour later and the most amazing transformation!  We were so excited.  Earlier we'd been talking--and laughing--about my past epic failures when I've attempted a new recipe (the naan bread disaster immediately comes to mind), though at least in this case even if the Runzas didn't taste good, they sure looked  yummy...


 The buns are on a large dinner plate, just to give some perspective on size...


The outside was crunchy, the insides were soft and fluffy like the best roll ever, and the filling was the perfect mix of savory combined with the sweetness of the yeasty dough.  We didn't even make it to the table...just stood over the sink and ate these two pieces with various moans and mumbles and incomprehensible conversations around mouthfuls of deliciousness...


When we could finally speak, we started to think of other ingredients that would work with this wonder dough, everything from calzone to barbecued pork fillings.  Then we split another bun and decided maybe it tasted just perfect the way it was.

Runzas.  Who knew?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sisters...

I'm the tall one...and still am


My sister is coming this afternoon.  She's driving down from her place in Washington, then tomorrow we're going further south to visit with the Mothership.  I haven't seen her since early May, so it will be a fun, though short visit--just the weekend.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do for the 52s this week, though I'm so close to finishing the year without missing a single week, I can't falter now.  Maybe, between miles on the road, copious glasses of wine, and non-stop talking, two sisters can put their heads together and come up with something...

I'll be too busy to write for the next couple of days, but will be back on Sunday.  Have a good weekend, dear readers!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Magpie Tales 187...Only Human

The Moth and the Lamp, Cesar Santos


She tried to be a butterfly once
but
didn't understand the erratic flitting
and
she crushed the flowers
 
 
She watched a moth once
and
understood the draw wasn't for light
but
a yearning for warmth
 
 
She clung to the heat once
but
only for a brief moment
and
then she fell to the cold tiles
 
 
She was only human, after all
 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~  ~

I thought the prompt for Magpie Tales this week was slightly bizarre. At first glance it looked like a fairy, but on closer inspection, it's just a woman dressed as a moth. To me, this painting seemed so poignant, and somehow really sad....
 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Changing Scenes...


Last week, after I'd marginally recovered from flu shot poisoning, I took the boys to the county park--now open again for dog walks.  Thursday was the penultimate sunny, hot and humid morning, though we were there very early so the temperature was still in the bearable zone.

The river, as it meanders toward the Pacific Ocean, which is on the other side of those mountains...


Then, Friday morning, I opened the blinds to see the heavy valley fog has come back.  I love being above the clouds.  The ridges below look like islands in a misty sea...


Late Friday the rains came and it's been a succession of storms ever since.  And believe me, I am not complaining! 

I took this shot yesterday.  I was really trying to get a picture of the turbulence in the black clouds, but suddenly these rays of light burst through.  Before I could take more than this one shot, the rain began to pour down and the left ray disappeared.  I got several more photos as the light changed, and the rain fell and the wind churned it all into mist.  I posted my favorite of the storm shots on the photo blog.


So fast things can change.  A week ago I couldn't imagine ever being cool again.  I was tormented by the humidity and the brutal heat of a Summer that wouldn't end.  But in two short days, it became a different world of warm socks and flannel sheets and falling asleep with the lullaby of rain pounding on the roof.

Weather is like life really, if you think about it.  People can run hot or cold, be kind or cruel, fierce or gentle, deadly or life-affirming...just like the climate.  

Because all of it is in constant, vibrant flux...including us.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Shifting Gears


The seasonal change into Fall is a most welcome event, especially because the weather did a complete about-face over the weekend.  After all the months of sweat and humidity, it seems like from one moment to the next, everything changed: clouds rolled in, storms raged across the valley, the temps dropped more than 25 degrees overnight.

Heaven.

Nirvana.

Bliss.

Saturday was the first day I felt like myself after the Shots of Doom on Monday.  I still had a few red blotchy hives but my arm was back to normal and all flu symptoms were gone.  I get cranky always having to learn things the hard way, though I guess the point is to learn...or something ridiculous along those lines.

Anyway.  Saturday was wonderfully rainy and gloriously wretched.  I washed all my Summer stuff then packed everything away; dug out my favorite flannel shirts and thick socks, jeans and thermals, put away my sandals and polished my boots--all with a big ol' smile on my face.  The mind-numbing nuclear heat of Summer is gone for another year.  In fact, I'm pretty sure I heard the Gates of Hell slam shut with a bang Friday night...and I filled my wine glass in celebration.

Because I was down for the count for most of the week, and then the weather turned, I had to mow the 9" tall grass in the backyard while it was raining Saturday afternoon.  I didn't really want to, but when two wee dogs can literally disappear, something must be done.  It was hard to mow, not only because the grass was too long, but was also way too wet.  Still.  It got done.

Yesterday, in the joyful process of shifting gears from one season to the next, I also stripped off the lightweight bed linens and got out the Winter heavies...the bedding that just makes you want to snuggle under the covers while the snow falls and the winds buffet and you don't care because you're warm and toasty.

I went grocery shopping and bought the basic staples for soups and stews, chili and pasta sauces.  I am so looking forward to my Sunday cooking pot adventures, the smells of chili or spaghetti, beef stew or tortilla soup permeating the house.  It's making my mouth water in anticipation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Last night I was reading a really engrossing book.  I was about 100 pages or so from the end, and I couldn't put the blasted book down even though I was tired and it was midnight.  I went to bed, intending to read just one more chapter (that's like one more chip, or one more chocolate) and finished at 3:00 this morning.  The dogs got me up at 7:00.  I cursed myself, and my insatiable curiosity to always want to know what happens next...though I couldn't help grinning because the story was so damn good and was worth losing a bit of sleep.

Then this morning I stumbled across this as I drank my coffee and had to smile.  Life is so serendipitous at times.  Or maybe I'm just so pleased that Summer is finally over, everything makes me smile...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Week 38 of the 52s...What Doesn't Kill You

...can still make you really, really sick.
 
Monday night--the day of the flu/pneumonia shots--my left arm starts to feel very uncomfortable.  Like wow, should it hurt so much I can hardly lift it?  Okay, it must mean the plutonium is working.  I don't give it much thought, other than to wish I hadn't gotten the frigging shot in the first place, but too bloody late now.
 
Tuesday morning I wake up and can't move my arm.  Literally.  It's hanging like a dead weight and whenever I try to lift it, the pain nearly drops me to my knees.  And I'm feeling...squirrely.  Like nauseous and dizzy and...bugger all...flu-ish.
 
I manage to drive down the mountain to walk the dogs, but it was a real mistake.  One-handed driving is no doubt illegal in most states, then it finally--after months--starts to rain.  Now I'm struggling with two leashes, two dogs, and an umbrella.  With one working arm.
 
Home again, I'm feeling more than squirrely, so decide to get my blankie and pillows and lay on the couch for the rest of the day until I feel better.  I fall asleep, but when I wake up an hour later, I realize I've got chills and a fever and I'm fighting that horrid oh man I think I'm gonna throw up sensation.  (The pharmacist had mentioned some people experience a few flu-like symptoms in the first 24 hours, but nothing serious.  I hardly paid attention because last year I didn't feel anything.  Course, I'm forgetting that I opted for the quad dose this year).  But worse than the flu issues, my arm is throbbing, and I honestly can't lift it even an inch without excruciating pain.
 
The dogs, of course, don't care that I'm apparently dying--from injections that are supposed to keep me alive--and are dancing around to go out.  It's hike to the mailbox time and I'm ruining their schedule.  Eventually, I crawl off the couch, drink some juice, grit my teeth as I try to exercise my arm to loosen the muscles, then make an attempt to walk the mile to the box.
 
I barely get around the first bend.  I have the shakes, I'm feverish, chilled, hot, cold, bleary-eyed, and suddenly so weak in the knees, I have to stop and lean into a tree before I plant my face in the dirt.
 
Staggering home, I feed the boys, collapse on the couch and don't wake up until sometime in the middle of the night, all the lights on and some weird infomercial on the television droning away in the background.  And my arm in torment.  At this point I briefly contemplate the ER.  (And for those of you who know me well, you understand that I must feel death is imminent to even consider such an option for even a moment).  Instead, I heat a towel in the micro and wrap it around my arm.  Again in the theory that if I can just loosen the muscle, maybe it will alleviate this agony or at least move the plutonium along.   To bed I go, towel in place, fever, chills and stabbing joint pain still wracking.
 
Yesterday I'm too weak to take the boys down the mountain, though I do manage the up and down stair crawl several times to let them outside.  My arm is less painful, but I can only bend it to about waist height and no way can I raise it straight out from my body.  The only good thing is the flu symptoms seem to be going away.
 
I take it easy--no choice really--throughout the day, and actually make the hike to the mailbox after dinner.  I have kept up the hot towel thing and it seems to have helped because I can more or less use my arm again, though it's still only functioning about 60%.  Last night I had a slight resurgence of the squeamish flu feelings, so went to bed early, hot towel as my teddy bear.
 
Then, this morning after my shower, I discovered bright red blotches covering my body from neck to toes.  At the shot site, I have a burning swath that goes from the top of my shoulder to my elbow.  Holy crap.  Now everything makes sense.  I've had an allergic reaction to the bloody shot.  I get out the paperwork that lists the side effects and hey!  Lucky me!  I'm one of the less than 1% of the frigging population that will have an allergic reaction!  How special.
 
I have a really good immune system.  I rarely take meds.  In the past when I've had to take antibiotics for something, invariably I will break out in blotchy red hives.  I stop the meds and they go away.  But what do I do now, when the plutonium is nuking its way through my system?  No choice but to ride it out, I guess.  It's not like I can take it back, change my mind, say no thanks, I'll pass on that damned bloody pneumonia shot.

I realize this is totally lame for a week in the 52s, but as I'm still under the weather and not likely to do anything fun or exciting for what remains of the week, I'm forced to use this wretched experience for my week.  It hasn't been exciting, and most definitely hasn't been fun, but it has been an adventure. 

One that I hope will soon be over...

Monday, September 16, 2013

Shots and Life




I finally got up my nerve and went to Walgreens this morning for a flu shot.  What spurred me on was a commercial I saw on the telly over the weekend: If you get your flu injection at Walgreens, they donate a vaccination, through the United Nations, for a child in an underdeveloped country to get immunized against diseases, like measles and polio.  It's called Shot@Life and it gave me the incentive I needed to stop being a big baby, go get my shot, and help out a kid.

I ended up getting the mega-dose flu shot, which covers more germs, bugs and/or insidious little nano bots, and then I thought if I was going to pass out anyway, I might as well get the pneumonia vaccine, too.  Why not, right?  You only need to get this shot twice in your life--once if you're over 65--and it's amazingly effective against a multitude of sins.

In retrospect, it's a good thing I didn't realize it was going to hurt like hell, or I'm pretty sure I would have passed on the fun.  I got complacent, of course, because last year (my first flu shot ever) the shot was a mere pin prick, so like a dope, I figured two little pin pricks and I'm good to go.

Can I just say, that was stupid reasoning?  The bloody shot burned like molten lava into my left arm, and even now, three hours later, I feel like I've been injected with plutonium.  And I have a weird taste in the back of my throat that I didn't have with last year's flu shot.  I can only conclude this is what plutonium tastes like: gnarly and bitter and chemical.  Fortunately, my right arm is fine--same as before it was just a momentary pinch, even with the quadruple dose. 

So, regardless of being a wuss, when all is said and done, I got my shots, I didn't swoon, and my contribution to a vaccination program just might give a child somewhere in the world a better start in life.  That's surely worth my fleeting discomfort...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Torchwood



I'm off the grid today.  There's a Torchwood marathon playing and I fully intend to savor every moment.  I started watching this series from the first episode on the BBC in October, 2006, and never missed a show.  It's sort of a spin-off from Doctor Who, though for the most part it takes place in Cardiff, Wales, with a team of people who fight monsters and aliens and bizarre things that go bump in the night.

Though I love the weird--and often tearful and poignant--stories, the brilliant actors, and the scenery of a most beautiful part of the UK, I freely admit that I watch this excellent program because of Captain Jack Harkness, the immortal leader of the Torchwood Institute.

Because...holy crap...

John Barrowman

 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Week 37 of the 52s...Memories and Machines


The other day I was reading about a new cookbook that was all about making the perfect panini.  Now, I love a good sandwich, but a good panini?  That's on another level entirely.  As I'm reading about the cookbook, I'm thinking about my favorite panini: turkey, cranberry chutney and Swiss cheese. 

Suddenly, with just the thought, I'm gone.  Alan and I are sitting outside the cafĂ© having lunch at Dobbies--the most amazing garden center/food court/gift store in Scotland.  We would often drive the short distance from Edinburgh to shop and eat there.  The menu was incredible, from fresh-baked scones, to crepes, a multitude of bakery items, lunch and dinner fare, and of course, a list of panini that was boggling.  Alan liked the ham, onion relish and Brie, but for me, it was always the turkey.

I sadly leave my memories behind, but returning to the present, I find my mouth watering for a panini.  I get online, do a search, read all the reviews, compare prices...and decide to buy myself a little panini grill for either my belated birthday, or my early Christmas present, and luckily for me, the one I chose was on sale at 50% off. 
 
My new toy arrived Wednesday, late afternoon.  I got the smaller machine, suitable for one, though there's room on the grill for two sandwiches.  The temperature control goes from low to high and every variation in between.  (Some models I researched only did high or low).














 
The grill plates actually snap off, so washing them is a dream.  No struggling to avoid getting soap or water in the machine.  The plates are also reversible, from the grill to a flat surface for other things like eggs or bacon or pancakes.  I only care about panini, though it's nice to have options...


I'm so totally excited I can hardly wait to make something, so for an experiment to familiarize myself with the machine, I make a simple grilled cheese sandwich.  Good, hearty wheat bread and mild Cheddar cheese.  It took two minutes.  Seriously, I timed it.  Two minutes and I had a crunchy, perfectly melted, grilled cheese panini...


But now I have to wait until Thursday before I can have the turkey panini I'm drooling for because I don't have the exact ingredients on hand.  For once, I can't get to the grocery story fast enough yesterday morning, then it's agony waiting for dinner, and though I kept myself occupied by working on the serial all afternoon, it was never far from my mind.

Finally, I assemble the perfect panini:  focaccia roll, cranberry chutney, Hellman's, and oven roasted turkey from the deli at my grocery store--sliced just the way I like it (not too thin, not too thick).  I plop it on the heated grill and even though it's a large sandwich, the hinged lid of my new machine settles evenly over the whole thing...
















And oh man, this was the most delicious, crunchy, juicy panini I've had since Dobbies.  I sucked it down like a starving creature and didn't share a single morsel with the boys.  They sat on either side of my chair, salivating in anticipation, but I ignored them.  This was my first, true panini and it was all mine...

(Though, okay, later I gave them little bits of turkey...I'm not completely heartless).


So, for this week of the 52s, I had a wonderful journey down Memory Lane, bought a very cool and versatile little appliance, and made my favorite panini.

And the best part?  There are never-ending variations to create.  Like my plan for tonight.  I'm thinking Black Forest ham, spicy mango chutney, and Swiss on naan bread...

Thursday, September 12, 2013

No Time To Chat...

  

My goal today is to work on the next installment of the serial.  I started writing yesterday, fully intending to post the chapter, but the heat and humidity drove me away from the computer.  Or maybe I wasn't driven so much as melted out of my chair in a puddle of sweat; hard to remember now as my brain also quit functioning.  I'm hoping to finish what I started by this afternoon, though it will depend on my ability to procrastinate forge ahead no matter the weather.

I've got a cool thing for the 52s this week (actually it's more warm and yummy), and if all goes along as it should, I'll post about it tomorrow.

Okay.  Heat's rising, story's calling...

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Geography...or Geology?

Robbie, over at Tales From Beyond, lives in the high reaches of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.  On most Tuesdays, he goes walkabout, hiking in the true wilderness.  Yesterday he posted a most excellent piece about walking amongst the dragons...and had two photos to illustrate his adventures.

They reminded me so much of Scotland, it was near to breaking my heart.  There's an area, in the northern Highlands called the Great Glen.  It's a natural cut in the earth that runs right across the land for over 62 miles.  There are lochs--Ness being one--and mountains and more glens and barren, raw landscapes that take your breath away.  Once, when Alan and I were on one of our many road trips, I stood in the heart of Glen Coe and cried at the awesome, stark beauty.  And for the tragedy that occurred there, but that's a story for another time.

Here is a map, and a few photos along the route of the Great Glen...

(The first shot, below the map, is Glen Coe.  Still leaves me utterly breathless and teary, though now that's probably due to acute homesickness)




Check out Robbie's blog and look at his two photos.  Other than the elevations, I see a real similarity in the landscapes.  Or...is it just me and a big ol' heap of wishful thinking?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Matter of Perspective


I know I said several weeks ago that I wasn't going to whine and whinge anymore about the damned miserable weather that has overwhelmed the Northwest this Summer. 

Sorry, but I can't help myself. 

Yesterday it was 105* and today it's already over 103* and climbing.  Normal for this time of year is the low 80s.  It's now September.  I have been hot, sweaty and tormented since May.  I would still be chanting this too shall pass but my lips have cracked and my tongue is swollen...and I think I see dead people.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I had to go to the store yesterday to replenish my Band-Aid supply.  I was going to get my flu shot but chickened out at the last minute.  I have to work up to it.  Needles, you see.  Just the thought and my stomach roils.  Ewww...like right now.

Anyway.  After I get the Band-Aids, flake on the shot and decide to buy wine instead, I'm walking through produce and see these beautiful, glossy gems:

Honeycrisp Apples


I think I may have spent too many years living abroad because I've never heard of Honeycrisp apples.  Still, the display was so incredibly...enticing...I had to buy some.  Last night I ate one and wow, what a deliciously tart and crispy fruit!  I expected it to be a bit sweeter (Honeycrisp), but the tartness was just right and each bite had a snap to it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So, after lunch this afternoon, I notice the birdbath is bone dry.  I'd filled it this morning, but with the frigging bloody damned heat, the birds are drinking and cooling off in droves.  Against my better judgment--it's 103.8* at this point--I go out back, drag the hose up the slope and fill the bath.  As I'm standing there feeling all sorry for myself as the sweat drips, I see, far down in the valley, what I think is a dust devil.  Bath filled, I put away the hose and get my camera.

From the back deck I have a wonderfully clear shot across the valley, the vineyards, the few remaining farms, the mountains.   I telephoto through the heat waves to see what's causing the spiraling dust.



Holy crap.  

Once I realize it's a farmer, working in blistering heat--and enclosed inside the cab of his tractor--I suddenly feel crybaby-ish and stupid.  Because I can go in the house any time I want, get a nice glass of iced tea, sit in front of my fan.  I'm not down in a dust bowl, at the precipice of Hell, plowing a field for my livelihood.

A reality bite in the butt, for sure...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Flash...Of Fall


The shriek was so unexpected and startling, a tsunami of coffee sloshed out of his mug in a hot wave as he jumped at the sound.

“What’s wrong?” he yelled, running out of the kitchen and through the open back door.

Barefoot, in her nightgown, she stood in the center of the yard with her arms flung wide, taking deep breaths of the early morning air. “Nothing’s wrong.” Spinning in wild circles, she laughed. “It’s finally here!”

The grass was damp with dew as he walked toward her. “What’s here?”

When she spun into his arms, he held her tight, smiling into her exuberant face.

“Fall,” she grinned. “Fall is here.”

He could almost taste the changing season on her lips when he kissed her, smell the hint of wood smoke that would soon tangle in her hair, feel the crisp, cool air on her soft skin.

Though he knew, as he carried her inside, he would always burn for her with the heat of Summer…


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Temperatures this week are to exceed the 100* mark, which is no doubt why I imagined dancing in the cool grass of a Fall morning with this bit of flash fiction...

FYI:  And yes, in case you're wondering, I always capitalize the seasons.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Week 36 of the 52s...En Plein Air


In the midst of my hellish and injurious week, the annual three-day En Plein Air event was happening at the Arts Center in my little town, an event I had fully expected to photograph, and experience, for my week of the 52s.  Thanks to the bloody mayhem, I missed most of it, though I did manage two things.

En plein air, ("in the open air"), is a style of painting that started the Impressionist movement--Monet and Renoir in particular--in France.  By the mid-19th century painting by natural light was all the rage.

The adventure began on Wednesday, with a two-hour "Quick Draw" competition, both for adults and children.  The participants pick any spot around the Center and have two hours to paint--watercolor, oil, acrylic, pastels, whatever.  I really wanted to see this one, but by Wednesday I was hopelessly wounded.

Regarding Gallery Photos:  The glaring sunlight in the gallery this morning was brutal.  Perfect if you want to clearly see the paintings, horrible if you're trying to photograph them.  My apologies to the artists...their work was beautiful in person.

Here's the winning Quick Draw piece.  It seems incredible to me that someone could create such a lovely thing in two hours.  This is a view the boys and I see most days as we walk along the river at the soccer field park.

Crossing Over, by Janis Ellison, Pastel...


Another painting from the two-hour competition.  I really loved this one.  Last month I posted a photograph of one of these Cannas where they're blooming near the parking lot.

Canna Beauty, by Marylou Andes, Watercolor...


Thursday and Friday were the actual en plein air days.  The artists met early each morning at the Arts Center.  There were eight local places--four for each day--that the artist had to choose from.  It was a "pull the rabbit out of the hat and see where you're going" kind of deal.  I had looked over the choices and decided to wait for the Friday four...partly in the hope I would be able to gimp around, and partly because one of the locations was down in the valley below my mountain.

Doc Bailey's homestead, circa 1910.  I never knew this place was there.  Down a long, dusty dirt road, then out of nowhere appears this wonderful barn and outbuildings, a Victorian house and acres of mountains and fields and trees...and absolute peace and quiet.  There were already about twenty artists scattered around the grounds when I arrived at 11:00am...




I was captivated by the landscape, and the contrast in the ever-changing light from the restless, shifting clouds.  It was brilliantly sunny one moment, then darkly overcast the next.  I posted two pictures on the Shot of the Week showing contrasts of land and light. 
 
Tucked into this hidden, remote little valley, with the old buildings and the quiet, you could easily feel that time had stopped here.  A few shots I took of a most wonderful piece of local history, and an adorable little donkey...
 



I wasn't in good enough shape to attend the En Plein Air reception at the gallery last night, but this morning after walking the boys, I went to see the exhibit.  In a way it was more fun: I was by myself, it was early so there weren't any other people around, and I could wander at leisure taking photos.  And because the paintings were fresh and barely dry--if at all--the entire gallery was permeated with the strong scents of oil paint and turpentine.  I stood in the middle of the largest room, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath...filling my head with the magic.
 
So, as I mentioned above, the sun was blinding, the reflections were terrible and my photos aren't good, but here's a smattering of paintings that caught my eye...
 
Above the Falls, Paul Zegers, Oil


Urban Coast, Brenda Boylan, Oil


Swiftwater Blues, Bets Cole, Acrylic
















Morning at the River, Patricia Pierce, Oil


What I found most interesting and cool about this whole en plein air experience is the amazing ability of these artists to go out--sight unseen so to speak--pick a spot, create a work of art, frame it and have it hanging in an exhibit...all in one day.

And after the week I've had, it was truly a joy to lose myself in my photography, and to marvel at the artistry in taking a blank canvas, tubes of paint, a few well-loved brushes...and bring a vision to life.

My aches and pains were forgotten for a little while...and after all, isn't that the purpose of art?  Transcendence works for me...

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Quart Low...

 
 
Bruised.  Bloody.  Burned.  There's a reason I haven't posted all week, though I don't have a clue how--or why--I was cursed with such a litany of afflictions...

Monday.  I'm having an impromptu mini-picnic for Labor Day, just me and the dogs.  I've made potato salad, have my Polish sausage under the broiler, hot dog bun ready to toast.  Opening the small can of pork & beans, the opener slips and the edge of the can slices through my thumb.  Blood spurts, my heart races.  Damnation.  I wrap the wound in a thick wad of paper towels.  Blood soaks through in seconds.  Shit.  I'm trying not to freak out.  I get the first aid kit out of the bathroom, wrap gauze around an inch-thick layer of pads and tape the whole mess tight.  Until I get the blood to stop, I can't really assess the damage.  And frankly?  I really don't want to look.

About this point I smell something burning.  My wonderful, mouth-watering sausage is on fire.  I grab a pot holder, reach in to yank the rack, and burn the back of my hand on the frigging broiler element.  The burn is about the thickness of a pencil and goes across my whole hand.  And hurts like hell.  I stick my hand in the freezer.  While I'm trying to cool the agony, I notice blood dripping from my thumb--through several layers of padding.  Crapcrapcrap.

Eventually I get a good look at the thumb.  The slice is deep, really deep, but I finally stop the blood flow, get it bandaged, put aloe on my burned hand, and throw away my dinner.  I had a lovely bowl of mango sorbet instead.

Tuesday.  I'm lifting the groceries out of the back of the Blazer and due to my heavily bandaged and throbbing thumb, I lose my grip on a bag, overcompensate, and crack my elbow against the pointy edge of the trunk lid.  By the time I get upstairs, blood is all down the side of my shirt and jeans, and I'm leaving a CSI crime scene trail of drops.  WTF??!! 

I go into the bathroom, look in the mirror and realize I have split my skin right on the elbow bone.  Even to me--the most doctor/hospital phobic creature on the planet--I can recognize this looks like at least two, possibly three stitches at the ER. 

Well, that isn't going to happen.

Digging through my Band-Aid container, I find some butterfly bandages.  I pull the two edges of the wound together and go back to unloading the car.

An hour or so later, the boys are playing and wrestling on my reading/lounge chair.  I really want to sit down with my glass of wine and read my book in an attempt to forget my throbbing thumb, the gnarly burn and the elbow split. I'm telling them it's time to move over and give me some room as I'm walking toward the chair.  Somehow I smash my big toe into the foot of the hassock.  Bloody hell!

I drop my book, barely hang on to the wine and stumble into the chair.  Blood is welling out of my toe.  Not the top, or the side, but the split right down the middle.  I hobble to the bathroom, stick my foot into the tub and try to understand what has just happened.  Bizarrely, I've apparently hit my toe in the perfect spot--dead center--and the impact has parted my frigging nail like the Red Sea.

More Band-Aids.

Wednesday.  It's hot, humid and the bird bath needs filling.  I drag the 300-lb hose up the slope, fill the bath, water a few plants and begin to make my way down the stone steps.  I get dive-bombed by a hornet, flail my arms around, miss a step, and land too close to the back of the riser on the next step, scraping my heel down the jagged rough stone.  Seriously.  This is totally fucked up.  And of course, I'm bleeding.  My heel looks like I've been attacked by a vicious cheese grater.  I hose myself off in the misguided hope that I can get upstairs to the damned Band-Aid box without leaving yet another blood trail.

The hose is heavy, unwieldy and difficult to maneuver even when I have all digits functioning.  It won't wrap around my holder, so I give it a tug, it begins to unfurl, I grab for it, hit the metal holder with my hand...and break off two fingernails at the quick.  Blood ensues.  I have a momentary surge of rage and shake my fist at the sky, yell several things that shall remain unwritten, toss down the hose in total disgust and hobble upstairs.

My Band-Aid supply is dwindling.  I don't have one big enough to cover my whole heel.  My finger tips begin to sting and throb from the ragged torn nails.  I might have shed a tear or two at this point because, hey, beyond ridiculous now, dear readers, and quickly moving toward total chaos.

Yesterday.  I'm not sleeping too well, what with all the throbbing and aching and such, but when I get up in the morning, it's cooler, there are thunderstorms and it might actually rain!  Course, it doesn't, but there's lots of lightning.  I stay off the computer, not only because I can't type with all the soreness and Band-Aids, but with the way things are going, I'll get struck by lightning.

I've made it to late afternoon, and after a multitude of errands and running all over town, I'm looking forward to a nice glass of vino and my book.  I sit in my reading/lounge chair, realize I don't have the remote for the television and slide out of the chair and across the hassock to get up.  I'm dropping my foot to the ground when I feel this sharp stab in my big toe--the other one--and look down in confusion as I see a long cut and...what else?...blood dripping onto the frigging carpet.

Off to the bathroom, open the Band-Aid container--I've just left it on the counter since Tuesday--and wash and bandage this odd papercut-type slice along the side of my toe.  Back at the chair, I can't for the life of me figure out what happened.  I've been sitting in this chair for over two years.  It's big and cushy and soft and wonderful.  There is nothing sharp anywhere.  I run my hand down the sides, along the seams, over and under the creases.

I find the tip of a nail sticking out between two folds in the base.  Of course I find it after I've cut myself.  I wrap my finger in a paper towel--second roll in less than a week--get the hammer, pound the weird nail into the chair and back I go to the bathroom for a bandage.

Today.  I've managed to make it all morning and into early afternoon without bleeding.  I've even gone on a nice limp hike down the valley to take some photos. It's still really difficult to type with most of my fingers wrapped, but I'm adjusting, and can only hope the curse is over now. 

Because I'm running out of Band-Aids...and blood.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

An Oddity...Or Four


There were a few...interesting...things that came up in my three-day time travel adventure.  I didn't post them as part of yesterday's blog because that was more about unearthing family history than wondering about these peculiar little bits...

1.  As a teenager I used to haunt Powell's, a bookstore in Portland, before they went mainstream, and in the heaps and piles and stacks of old books, I discovered a man who wrote perfect, succinct stories that always ended with an unexpected twist.  His name was O. Henry.  At some point in my twenties I began writing short stories and am still inspired by his style today.

One day I wrote a story about a man named Thomas Barrow.  He lived in the 1800s and was a caretaker at a cemetery.  He was in love with a ghost.  That's all I remember of the story and I'm not even sure I finished it; I haven't given it a single thought in years.  Until Thursday, when I discovered that my 6th great-grandfather lived in the 1800s.  His name was Thomas Barrow.

2.  A branch of my family came from Kent, a home county in England.  They lived in various villages from the mid-1500s into the late 1600s.  Time and the centuries roll by.  Their descendants--having landed in America and moved ever westward--set down their roots in a small community south of Seattle.  Called Kent.

3.  I share my birthday with four of my great-grandmothers and one great-grandfather.  I don't know if that's just a matter of the odds and numbers, but looking over the whole list of 148, there are no other shared dates.

4.  Rarely do I pay attention to my horoscope, but for some reason I read it this morning...

Your family life has taken priority over just about everything else for the past few days.  Try to find a little peace and quiet for yourself today.  Take the chance to relax and recharge your batteries a bit.
 
And on that note, I'm going to do just that...
 
Enjoy the holiday weekend everyone!