Friday, January 31, 2014

Last Friday For This Month...

I've had another overflowing plate of appointments and errands and chores this week. Every day it was something; things planned or...not.  I'm so glad it's Friday, though wouldn't it be cool if the weekend was longer than just two measly days?  I barely get decompressed, and crap, it's Sunday night already.

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Last week's rescheduled dental appointment was an in-and-out experience on Wednesday.  I just don't get it.  Have I misunderstood the concept of rocket science?  Because one little replacement werewolf fang should not require **Robert Goddard to complete the task. I now have another appointment in two weeks.  Hope has fled.  In fact, hope has relocated to Mexico where apparently many Americans are now getting superior dental work done--quickly and professionally--for half the price.  Go figure.

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Has anyone bought tires lately?  Holy Rubber Plantation, Batman!!  And frankly, for the price I just paid for four new tires, I could probably buy one--a plantation, I mean.  I didn't get anything super fancy, just good, reliable Michelins that should last me for the next five years or so--hopefully longer.  They actually look pretty great, all black and clean, and I realized how crappy my old tires were when I saw the tread on the new ones.  Still. The price floored me, even with the discount I got at Costco.  My only consolation--and it's a small one--was that I didn't have to buy truck tires.  I'd have to rob a bank to buy four of those.

It's funny how new tires change the way the Blazer feels.  Not only does it seem like I sit higher off the ground, but the steering is more stable and solid. And now, too, I can stop fretting about the tire that kept leaking air, and the sensor light that kept blinking.  It's a relief to wipe the tire issue from my mind.  Too bad it wiped my bank account instead.

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I haven't taken a single photograph this week, which is almost unheard of for me; there's always something that catches my eye.  But, between dense fog and rain and a dreary end to a month of miserable weather, I've been hard-pressed to find anything interesting to look at, let alone a reason to take a photo.  I miss sunsets, and can't remember the last time I saw one.

Gray is not my favorite color...

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I've revised my 1000 Cranes design plan.  If you remember, dear readers, I was going to do each long string in a single color, starting with pink, the first in the stack of 1000 sheets.  So, the other day, I string the 40 completed pink cranes...and it's...boring.  Flat.  No movement or flow or beauty.  It's basically just a long silken thread of plain, pink shapes.


I looked at the stack again, then I separated each color, counted the sheets and realized I could make 25 mini-stacks, two of each color, making the perfect rainbow 40.  When I finish the first revised string, I'll take a photo.

I'm also finding my speed has increased the more I make these little birds--practice, practice, practice--and I've got it down to just over two minutes, with no effort at all. Knowing how to make them without conscious thought really has turned into a great way to meditate, just as I'd hoped.

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Okay, time to step away from the  I've got 14 plants to water, a short story to finish, two wee dogs to walk to the mail box, and one last load of laundry to fold.  Then it's wine and my new book and two days of no work or chores or errands or appointments.

If only two days were enough...

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**Actual rocket scientist.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Magpie Tales 204...What Lies Beneath

 The Mill, 1964, Andrew Wyeth

Deep in bitter chill
Winter buries memories
in silent white drifts

Spring quietly dreams
of melting Winter's cold heart
with sunshine and warmth

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This week's prompt from Magpie Tales.  After weeks of icy, cold fog and endless gray, the other day I spotted daffodil buds just breaking ground.  The seasons change, no matter what else happens in our lives...

Monday, January 27, 2014

Old Duffer

Yesterday was Ozzy's 11th birthday.  I can't believe he's this old.  It seems like just the other day that a little 4-lb pupster joined our family.

We'd spent the weekend before his arrival building a fence to enclose the front part of the garden so he couldn't walk down the slope and fall over the stone wall into the street. It was just days before his first birthday, a bitterly cold January, temperature around 28*F, not counting the wind chill. Somehow, we managed to build a great fence that held true over the next six years and is still standing now.  At least I think it is...haven't heard otherwise from my friends in the old Edinburgh neighborhood.

The next Sunday, the breeder brought him to our house, then Alan and I took him outside to get used to his new yard...and he promptly jumped up onto the wall by the gate--at least a three-foot leap--and pranced along the entire perimeter as Alan and I freaked out. There were too many trees and shrubs for us to reach him from inside the yard, and with our new fence we couldn't go down the slope.  That left us following along outside on the sidewalk hoping to catch him if he fell.  When he reached the end, he spun around like an acrobat, and pranced the whole way back to the gate where I finally managed to nab him.

Ozzy's been to more places than most people, has traveled half way around the world twice, and the length and breadth of Great Britain numerous times.  He's been across America--from one coast to the other--two times.  He loves good hotels and friendly staff members who admire his handsome self.  He's bossy and sweet, high-maintenance and adorable...and thinks I'm his servant.  Which is probably true.

The old rule of thumb about 7 dogs years for every human one has been revised, factoring in size and weight--small dogs live longer, for example.  Here's a chart that shows the new way to figure things...

By this calculation, Oz is 60, and just about ready for early retirement. I wonder what he's got in mind?  Travel, a condo in Florida, taking up golf?  Right now he's laying on his bed next to me, snoring away as he takes an afternoon siesta.  Guess I'll have to wait until later to ask about his plans...

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Many Layers of Sweet

A while back, in late December, I read a blog post over at Irish Gumbo.  It was mostly about the declining numbers of the honey bee, though Irish also talked about his favorite honey...Tupelo.

I love honey.  Not only because of the health benefits, but also the astounding variety of flavors that come from such tiny little creatures.  So, I read the post and wonder how I can taste a honey that comes from the blossoms of a tree that grows clear across the country from me, the Tupelo Sweet Gum.  I spent a few days scouting around my little town, but as I expected, no wonderfully exotic honey to be found.

The holidays come...and go.  On the first Sunday of the new year, I'm talking to the BFF on our usual weekly phone call and in the course of this and that, I ask her if she's ever tasted Tupelo honey.  (Back in the day, she was married to a guy who originally came from the South).  She tells me no, but then when they were together, they lived in Seattle and never traveled back to his southern roots.

Now.  I have to tell you, dear readers, about something inexplicably, beautifully strange...and the reason why the two of us have been the best of friends for most of our adult lives. If you read my post yesterday, you know I sent her two of Fran's Gold Bars as a surprise.

Late Friday afternoon, it's getting dark, I'm just back from walking the boys to the mail box and ready to settle in with my glass of Lambrusco, when there's a knock at the door.  FedEx guy, though I'm not expecting anything and don't recognize the address.

I open the small box...

Inside is a note.  My BFF called her ex-mother-in-law, asked her about the honey, then had her send me a bottle.  Which I received on the same day I mailed her the surprise chocolates.  How much do I love this kind of Vulcan mind-meld?

And in case you're wondering: the bottle was full when I got it.  I've had toast--twice--a peanut butter/honey/banana sandwich for lunch, and sweetened two cups of tea.  At the rate I'm going, I'll have to move to the South because this stuff is seriously, deliciously addicting and I'm already worried about how to get more.

I can't actually describe the flavor.  It's...sweetly robust?...hearty?...a manly honey?  Totally unique, for sure, and I love it.

So, I have Irish to thank for his post on Tupelo honey, my BFF for the great surprise, her ex-mother-in-law for being so kind...but especially those industrious, miraculous little bees who turned a flower blossom into the sweetest treat ever.

And we sang all the way down to Tupelo
Love struck right on the money
Heartbeats a beating to the radio
Kisses sweet as the honey down in Tupelo

                                 -- Tupelo by Lauren Alaina

Friday, January 24, 2014

Ah, Friday...

Freakishly warm sunshine is beaming into the living room right now, such a relief after so many days of fog and mist and damp cold.  Course, it reminds me that it won't be too much longer and I'll have to drag out the mower, think about weeds, and mix stinky batches of deer repellent. Plus, why is it so freakishly warm in the middle of Winter? And is it just me or has January flown by faster than normal this year?

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The dogs had their dreaded yearly vet appointment, which went fairly well, other than the ka-ching part. And the fact that one of Ozzy's new heart pills has a side-effect that can mess with his liver.  The vet did some blood work, and sure enough, his levels were too high. So now he's taking a pill to counteract the other pill.  Sigh.

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Wednesday was yet another fubar experience in a seemingly endless series of dental appointments while I try to get my werewolf fang issues taken care of. This has been going on for..oh, I don't know, two years now?  I'd gone in a few weeks ago, had more impressions made, talked in depth to the newest dentist--this makes the sixth one, or maybe the seventh, who's counting anymore.  He's very nice, very helpful, and assures me all with be well, he'll see to it personally.


The lab has made the wrong tooth, with the wrong material, and the wrong fit.  I'm about ready to go serious werewolf and just gnaw someone's head off without the fang.  The dentist is really embarrassed and apologizes profusely, but honestly, it's not his fault so I have to refrain from ripping and shredding.  I have another appointment next week.  I am not hopeful.

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On Thursday I did my least favorite thing: housework.  Though whilst vacuuming and dusting, I had a story unfold in my head.  Later in the day, I made some tea and wrote it out, though I'm letting it sit right now as I mull over a few details, mainly that bit at the end where--oops, sorry. No spoilers...

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I was captivated by the droplets on one of my shrubs this morning so played with the macro setting on my camera.  This isn't a great photo, though I like the colors and that clear droplet, just ready to fall. I also noticed the first daffodil spears are just beginning to rise out of the ground, which is always an encouraging thing.  No matter what we mere mortals say or do, the seasons will continue to roll right over us...

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I went to lunch with Bunny today.  This time she brought her husband, George.  He's one of those irascible old guys who always has ten goofy jokes that make you groan.  He's a very sweet man with a big heart, and for a guy coming up on 90, he's not doing too bad.

Except for today, when his hearing aid kept ringing--like a phone off in the distance. Bunny jabbed him and said loudly, "George, wiggle your ear!" I didn't get it, I was too busy being annoyed at the rude customer who wasn't answering their bloody phone. After several more rings, I finally said, "Can you guys hear that?"  Bunny jabbed George again.  He tugged on his ear.  I stared as the ringing stopped. "That high-pitched ringing is his hearing aid?" Bunny rolled her eyes. "He can't hear the higher decibels so he never notices." George cocked his head. "What?" he asked.

After lunch I went to the post office.  What kind of best friend would I be if I didn't share Fran's mouth-watering Gold Bars?  (There will be no mention that it took me the better part of the week to decide I could let two of them go). I'm not going to say anything to the BFF on Sunday when we talk. I'll let it be a great surprise. And that will be even better than keeping all the bars for myself.

Really.  I mean that...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fran's Chocolates

Sunday night I was watching Unique Sweets, a show on the Food Network channel. It's one of my favorite programs and as close to reality TV as I'm ever going to get.  The episode this week was in Seattle and brought back many fond memories, not the least being Fran's Chocolates.  How could I have forgotten Fran's?  The BFF and I used to treat ourselves to these incredible chocolates, relishing every delectable bite.

So.  I'm watching the program, mouth watering when they show how the salted caramels are made; I can taste the flavors of the salt, caramel and chocolate on my tongue.  I remember the heavenly aromas when entering the store, remember standing in front of the display cabinets with the BFF as we debated what wonders to purchase this week. And yeah, sometimes we would go every week.

Now, before you think, dear readers, that we bought a box of chocolates and sat around watching soaps whilst eating bon, that was definitely not the case.  These are handcrafted works of art.  Expensive and decadent.  We would only buy two each.  We would try to share.  We would also try to wait until we got home.  More often than not we would eat the first piece in the car.

Fran is a real person.  In 1982, while on a trip to Paris, she was inspired by the European passion for flavors and textures.  She came back to Seattle and opened her own shop. Fran is considered the pre-eminent chocolatier in the country and has been credited with starting the whole artisan chocolate renaissance in America.  All I know is each bite is pure bliss.

I dreamt about Fran's Sunday night and woke up hungry.  While walking the dogs yesterday I wonder if Fran's has a website.

Of course they do.

It was difficult, it took some serious thinking, but I managed to select two items.  They were delivered about an hour ago.

Don't these lovely boxes look like they should contain jewelry?  In a way, they do...little edible gems.

Fran's Salt Caramels in the pink box.  I love caramel more than chocolate actually, though combine them and add an exotic salt?  Swoon-worthy...

Gray salt on the dark chocolate, Smoked salt on the light...

In the larger box are the Gold Bars, and they are just that: gold.  Fran's has three varieties; I chose Macadamia and Almond, the other is Coconut.

My theory behind the bars is that I can cut off four pieces--like having four little bites--and the chocolates will last me far longer.  Again, in theory.  

Big chunks of Macadamia nuts, smooth chocolate coating...and just look at all that caramel.  Even the photo is making me drool.

Now I have to decide if I tell the BFF what I've done.  She'll expect me to share. I might have to send her a bar...or two.  Oh decisions, decisions.  I'd better go savor one of the salted caramels whilst I ponder this dilemma...  

Monday, January 20, 2014

Fallin' Apart...

My grandfather often said those words when I was growing up.  As an adult, I had to laugh because as the years went by, he and my grandmother just kept right on going; they were the busiest old folks I ever knew. And though he never stopped saying it, It was many years before he finally did fall apart.

It makes me smile to remember his face when he'd sadly shake his head and say, "I'm just fallin' apart. Pretty soon there''ll be pieces of me laying all over the floor and your grandmother will have to sweep me up with a broom."  Then he would laugh, his blue eyes twinkling.  It became a standard phrase in my family, a bit of humor to lighten the aches and pains of aging for my grandparents, then my folks. It's something funny to say and always brings a smile or laugh.

Except lately, I think I might really be falling apart.

Every morning when I crawl stagger groan get out of bed, it seems like there's some new creaking bone, or stiff joint, or crick in a muscle.  I make my way down the hall to the main room, walking like a zombie that's just clawed its way out of the ground, all flailing limbs and jerky movements. Though, by the time I open the blinds, start the coffee and stumble down the stairs to let the dogs out, I'm usually starting to warm up.  Usually. Some days are better than others, though I have no idea how or why.

Saturday I was making Parmesan chicken with sweet-roasted rosemary acorn squash.  It's one of my favorite dinners, easy and delicious.  So, I have to cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, then make eight wedges.  I have never had a single problem before. Saturday, however, I can't get the frigging knife into the thick skin of the squash.

[Let me digress for a moment...

Living by myself means I don't have the option of saying, "Honey, can you do this/open this/cut this with your big manly muscles?"  Second, I am always conscious that whilst wielding dangerous utensils, I'm just an accidental slip away from having to drive my bleeding self down the mountain to the ER.]

Okay. So, I'm being cautious in how I'm jamming the blade.  I get it more or less into the squash but now the knife is wedged and I can't make it go deeper or come out.  I use the palm of my hand to pound on the top of the knife and finally--several pummels later--I get the squash cut.  Damn.  That seemed like way too much work, but whatever, done now.

I get dinner in the oven, sit down with a glass of wine and my book, and enjoy the hour wait while everything cooks.

The timer goes off.  I pull out the baking dish and set it on the stove top.  And the most excruciating pain stabs across my palm, through that meaty part under the thumb and around my wrist.  Seriously. Drop to the floor, kill me now, I've been stung by a scorpion, pain.  I can't move my thumb or my wrist without whimpering.  Shitshitshit.

I'm not sure what the bloody hell is going on, but I plow ahead with dinner...and another glass of wine.  It takes me until much later in the evening--after I've tried everything from hot running water to finger massage techniques I used to do when I played the flute--to realize this latest body fail is self-inflicted.  I must have pinched a nerve, or buggered a tendon, or done some other freakish thing when I used my hand for a mallet.

As there's not much to be done, I down two Advil with more wine (and trust me, dear readers, you would have done the same) while I try not to move my hand.  I ponder how I can make a splint.  I wonder if I've done something hideously permanent that will require surgery. I curse my stupidity...and that squash.

Sunday I can't use my hand without little bolts of lightning spearing through my hand.  And consider how thumb, wrist and fingers fly over the keyboard as you write.  Mine totally refuse to cooperate.  I spend the day watching movies and feeling sorry for myself.

This morning I get up, zombie-walk through the first ten minutes of the day, and as I'm making my breakfast, I suddenly realize my hand doesn't hurt.  It's a bit stiff, but not painful, broken or dangling by a thread from my wrist.

Reprieved!  That was a close one.  And I learned my lesson: Don't use hand as battering ram.

I'm still think I'm falling apart.  Though thankfully, at this point, my pieces don't have to be swept up with a broom...

Friday, January 17, 2014

Geology In A Loaf Of Bread

I had a bunch of books to take to the used bookstore today, so after walking the dogs in bitterly cold fog, I drove to While Away--the only bookstore in town.  I've bitched enough about the fact I can buy a gun at the grocery store,  yet can't buy a book, so won't go into all that again.  I'll just happily thank the book gods that at least there's one shop, even if it's used.


Fridays are also when Lighthouse Bakery drop off their delicious breads at the bookstore. Today I was drawn to one called Ancient, based on an old-time recipe and grains that are...well, ancient.

The loaf is solid, dense, and smells like honey on a hot Summer's day; ripe wheat fields in August; old wood-fired baking ovens.  It is a thousand miles and several centuries removed from grocery store breads.

The organic grains are grown locally by the Lighthouse monastery/commune and milled by hand...and I've never heard of three of the four grains.  Seriously.  Spelt I know, but red fife, emmer and kamut? Not a clue. The other ingredients are sea salt and water, with sunflower seeds on the top.  Can't get much more basic than that.

Doesn't this look like rock strata?  Look at those layers...the geology of bread.  Who knew?

So for lunch I cut two thin slices.  The aroma wafting out of my toaster as the different flours heated was amazing.  Hard to describe, but when I closed my eyes I got dark honey, malt and molasses, though none of those things are actually in the bread.

Toasted, with just a scrape of butter, it was truly good.  Almost a meal in itself.  It would be great with soup or stew...or just plain with honey.

Ancient bread.  Totally cool...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Apocalypse and Angels

I don't know where the week has gone.  Wasn't it Monday just a few minutes ago?  I remember posting on what happened between then and now?  Earlier today I had to dash into the store for a minute.  A song by the Eagles Steve Miller came on the store's music system, floating into my head.  I was singing the words under my breath when I realized exactly what I was singing:  Time keeps on slippin', slippin', slippin' into the future...

And then there's this: I can't remember half of what I did this week, and yet I can sing the lyrics to a veritable football stadium filled with songs and never miss a word.

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I took another quiz from Lynn's site today, this one about how long I would survive in an apocalypse. I love these goofy tests, though maybe in light of my recent "Lost Days", I should be concentrating on memory quizzes instead. Whatever.

According to the quiz, in the event of a global meltdown, I will be Mad Max and live 20 years longer than the rest of you, dear readers. I'm not sure that's a good thing, and most sincerely hope I never have to find out, but okay, I like the Mad Max comparison...

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My neighbor called me last night to tell me she had adopted a tiny little puppy.  On that long drive last Thursday to and from her medical appointment, we had talked in depth about dogs. She's always been a cat person, yet she wanted a little dog, and since I'm a lifelong dog owner/lover, she used me like an encyclopedia.

Now, out of the blue yesterday, an old colleague--who now volunteers at the local animal sanctuary--calls her to catch up on news, and in the course of their chat, this woman tells her a sad, sorry tale of a wee dog that had been abandoned and left for dead the week prior.  The friend emails her a photo, my neighbor recognizes the moment for what it is (the Universe providing), jumps in her car and drives to the sanctuary.

Angel...all two pounds and 14 weeks of her...

I went over this afternoon to meet her.  She's totally adorable, and perfectly named. My neighbor is as nervous and excited as a new mother.  After all the medical issues she's had this past twelve months with her breast cancer, it was amazing to see the hope and joy on her face, in her smiles.

I think the Universe did a great job...

Monday, January 13, 2014

A Road By Any Other Name...

Last Thursday one of my neighbors asked me if I would drive her to a medical appointment she had in a town about an hour and a half north of the tiny hamlet where we live.  I said I would, though wasn't totally eager as three hours round-trip, plus the hour appointment was going to stretch the afternoon into early evening.  I don't do well driving in the dark over mountain passes, but whatever.  She needed help and that's what neighbors are for...right?

Have you ever given much thought, dear readers, to that peculiar adage: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions?  I've always considered it a quaint, slightly strange saying because, really, good intentions aren't usually paired with most connotations of Hell.


I leave the boys home after giving them lunch, treats and a good pit stop outside, then I head out around 1:30 to collect my neighbor.  We arrive at the clinic place just after 3:00. At this point all is well.  We made good time and even though the weather is crap, I'm hoping the predicted storm will hold off until later, when I'm back home.

Across the way from the medical complex is a nice little cafe.  I tell my neighbor I'll be back in 45 minutes, walk to the cafe and have a coffee and a very yummy lemon bar.  The music is subtle in the background, the cafe is quiet, I'm reading my book...and a pleasant hour flies by.  So far, so good.

It's now 4:30, the skies are getting darker, not just because it's growing later, but because the storm clouds are gathering in gigantic clumps of black fury. Damnation.  As hail begins to fall, I dash into the reception area, expecting to see my neighbor.  Alas.  She has just gone in to her appointment due to an earlier emergency with another patient.

Time to start paving that road...

We finally head for home around 6:00.  The weather was beyond atrocious, visibility pretty much the hood of my car, the rain was so intense I couldn't see the lines dividing the lanes and believe me when I say, it is frigging dark in the wilderness at night. Hair-raising doesn't come close.  My neighbor was lucky, though...she was so dopey from her procedure, she didn't have a clue.

Long story short, I dropped her off at her place and after nearly seven hours, I made it home myself. The dogs were beyond happy to see me and I was thrilled I didn't have to spend an hour shampooing the carpet because of their walnut-sized bladders. How they managed to hang on that long is beyond me, though man, I'm glad they did.

So.  This morning, I had just walked into the house after taking the boys to the park when there's a knock on the front door.  My neighbor brought me a thank you for last Thursday...

Miltonia Orchid...

It's a beautiful plant.  Here's a close-up of one of the spectacular blooms...

And okay, now I think I get the saying. Still, at least my road to Hell has beautiful flowers...

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday Stuff

I finished the first short story for this year over on my writing blog. I had the idea last month, though as usual with me, my "little thought" took me two weeks to hammer out, and I wanted the ending to be more of a surprise than I think it actually is. Ah well, I just have to get my mindset back into say it with less. I really love that the story was written and is now finished without all those pesky, endless chapters to stew over.  The sense of freedom I have these days NOT thinking about the next serial installment is wonderful.

And on that same theme...

I woke up this morning in a panic because I didn't have anything to write for the 52s this week. Too funny...once I calmed down. Spending a year doing something new each week appears to have become a habit, at least in some dark corner of my brain. And again, what a great thing to NOT be scrambling/thinking/flailing for something to do every damn week. Though I'm totally glad I did it--no question--I'm even more happy to be done.

Dinking on my tablet last night, I found this cool quiz. Just answer a few multiple choice questions to find out: What age are you really? I took the test, and though I didn't understand one of the questions (thankfully I had the option of choosing What? as my response), my official age is 35. I can live with that.

Today is very turbulent with lashing rain and high winds. At one point the rain was so intense, it overflowed the gutter in the front. Looking out the windows was like being inside a waterfall. And the rainbows have been so beautiful. Earlier this morning there were three, in different parts of the sky, and a few minutes ago I took a shot of this double arc...

The colors have been so vibrant and clear...

I've been struggling with Blogger and Internet Explorer today.  I don't get it.  The more technology, the crappier things get.  Just deleted IE and will reinstall it later to see if the glitch is gone.  Frankly, I'd rather just get in my car and mow Bill Gates down in his driveway.  It would be much more satisfying.

Obviously it's time for some meditation. I can hear 975 cranes calling out to me...


Sorry peeps...didn't check the What age are you? link before posting.  It should work now...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Comedy Central

Walking the boys this morning around the soccer field park. The trail is mostly a nice, paved meander, though two parts cut across the wide grassy swath of the soccer pitch, and about halfway around is a small cluster of trees and shrubs, now called Wanker Woods by me after that very unfortunate experience a while back. Nowadays I proceed with more caution.

So, the park is virtually empty today, not another dog walker, jogger or high school kid practicing his/her kicks into the multitude of nets strewn randomly around the area. The boys are rambunctious, darting and peeing and snuffling into the bushes that line the path along the river.  As we approach Wanker Woods, Ozzy freezes--his version of a Pointer--before dashing into the trees after a squirrel.

Max is clueless at first. He must have had the worst childhood because he doesn't know anything about chasing critters, how to play with toys, or how to deal with anything out of his a camera or the clink of a fork on the plate. And holy crap, don't open that dishwasher!! Poor guy.

Though today, he cocks his head and watches Ozzy run from tree to tree as not one, but two squirrels play the torment the dog game. I'm waiting to see what Max will do, but also have to keep an eye on Oz because he's fast. Really fast. Once on a walk in Scotland he actually caught a squirrel.

All of a sudden, as if it's a convention, at least five more squirrels come out of the woodwork (so to speak), and they begin scampering up and down the trees, chattering and waving their tails and truly teasing Ozzy who is running madly back and forth, bouncing off the trunks. I start laughing, because it's so totally obvious the squirrels are toying with him.

In the center of this small woodland is a little clearing circled by four very large cedar trees. The boughs touch each other, which allows the squirrels to fly from tree to tree, dash down the trunks and run back up a different tree. Max stands in the clearing for a minute, his eyes on a squirrel, but before he can decide what to do, all at once the whole gang run down the trees, come within a whisker of Max's startled face, pirouette in midair right over him like they've trained at the Bolshoi and wildly scramble up the cedars again.

Max spins in a circle--twice--not sure where to look or what to chase, then he barks sharply and leaps straight up into the air like a bounding gazelle. When he gets to the height of his jump (and it was impressive!) he kicks out his back feet, throws back his head and howls like a Banshee. Oh man, it was the funniest thing I've ever seen...or heard.

He hit the ground on all fours, gave himself a serious shake like a wet dog, then casually wandered off as if he hadn't just tried to fly or call up Satan for reinforcements.

I laughed the rest of the walk, and pretty much most of the way home.

Dogs. Such entertainers...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Some Days...

So. This morning I had some errands to run after walking the dogs, then stopped in at my favorite coffee kiosk for Mocha Tuesday ($2.00 drinks). When I got home, I unloaded the car, opened the back door for the dogs, changed from my boots to my slippers, then shifting and juggling the mail, a small bag of groceries, my jacket and purse, and the 16 oz. cup of coffee, I begin to climb the two flights of stairs to the main floor.

Why was I doing this, you ask? Why didn't I just make two trips? Because I already go up and down these bloody stairs a least a dozen times a day; when I can avoid adding to the Stair Master experience, I will do it, no matter the struggle, hassle or overly full armload of stuff.


On the last step, my frigging slipper falls off my foot--don't have a clue how--throws me off balance, then my other foot slams into the stair riser and pitches me forward. I have no hands free to grab the rail, but by sheer effort almost regain my equilibrium. And then my purse slides off my shoulder.

It was like one of those movie scenes where the car is teetering on the cliff and just when the occupants think they're safe...the seagull lands on the hood. In my case it was the added weight of my purse swinging forward.

I fall to one knee, jarring my bones, but thinking whew that was close, when the small grocery bag--with a gallon of milk inside--bangs into my arm. My coffee flies--literally--straight up in the air then arcs across the room like it was catapulted from some diabolical war machine. Without thinking, I drop everything and lunge forward, arms outstretched to catch the paper cup before the chocolate/coffee/cream concoction hits my beige carpet.

My left leg tangles in my purse strap, my lunge turns into a face plant, and the coffee lands upside down on the carpet about five feet from my nose. My rug-burned nose. I laid on the floor, wasting a moment while my brain tried to process what has happened in the last ten seconds. Really. One minute I'm walking up the stairs anticipating my coffee, and the next I'm skinned from knee to nose and my coffee is glug glug glugging into the carpet.

Thankfully, the lid stayed on, though enough oozed out that it took me 15 minutes and three cloths to get the stain out, which wasn't just confined to the landing zone. Oh no. I had a nice arcing stream from the catapult launch to the landing. The air was scorched with my cursing, believe me.

I have a skinned knee--just like the many I used to have when I was a kid--and my nose looks like I could easily put Rudolph out of business. I won't know how the carpet fared until it dries.


Some days it's just exhausting being me...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Magpie Tales 201...Balance

New York at Night, Vivienne Gucwa
Promise in his touch
headlights gleam on cobblestones
not made for high heels

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I haven't done a Magpie Tales lately, for one reason or another, but this week's great prompt reminded me of walking late at night along Edinburgh's cobbled streets, steadied by my husband's solid strength.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Randomness Friday...

Notice the new box on the left there for the 1000 Cranes?  I was thinking yesterday that it might be a good idea to have a permanent place for a running count, just in case I lose track or the piece of paper with the tally marks gets lost.  

I haven't started the project yet, though I have the right size squares now.  Turns out it was great to learn origami with the larger size, but I have to use the smaller ones for the project.  Not as easy, of course, but once I get used to the size differential, I should be okay.  Theoretically.

Still.  It's one thing to whip out a crane with 6" paper...and quite another using 3" paper

I was also trying to decide how to do the colors.  The cranes are strung on silk thread in groups of 40; finished you have 25 lengths, 40 cranes each.  I looked at the stack of brilliantly colored papers and have chosen to start at the top with pink and work my way down this stack of 1005 sheets (5 extra for errors, I guess). 
I'm smiling right now as I imagine the rainbow cranes to come...
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New Year's Day I made my usual pot of red beans and rice--traditional good luck and health dish for the coming year.  I reached for one of the wooden spoons in my utensil jar/container to stir the delicious saucy mixture, then whilst rinsing it off, I realized which spoon I held.

Alan's grandmother's spoon, then his mother's, until it became his and through him, mine...

It's thick and sturdy, has burn marks and gouges...

It used to be round at the top, like any spoon, and because it's not the one I usually reach for, I took a moment and really looked at it...and understood it had been worn over many years with use, rather than fashioned with that slant.  I stood at the sink, dish towel in hand and stared at it.  How many soups and stews, sauces and baked goods must it have taken to so perfectly wear down the edge of this spoon?  How many hands, meals, years?  I had a moment, wondering if maybe I shouldn't cram it back into the utensil jar, cripes, it's practically an heirloom spoon!  Then I laughed and shoved it between the whisks and the spatulas.  It's made it this long, after all... 

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Lynn, over at Paperback Writer, had an interesting link on her blog today: a test to see if the way you talk matches with where you live...or maybe grew up.  There are 25 questions related to geographic locations across America for basic stuff, like pop vs soda or freeway vs tollway...that kind of thing.  I took the test and hey, like it's any big surprise?  I'm a West Coast girl. 

Although.  If I lived in Maine, or Oklahoma, say, I would most likely pick up their words like I did living in Scotland and the UK.  The US is so big, if you divided it up, like Europe, we're probably at least five separate countries and that's not counting Alaska and Hawaii.

Pacific Northwest, West Coast, inland Western states, Southwest, Midwest, Central, Great Lakes region, the South, East Coast and New England.

Holy crap. That's ten different countries with their own dialects, foods, climates, and I think it could actually be broken down even further--the Upper Peninsula, Texas, deep South as opposed to the Gulf states--plus then add Alaska and Hawaii back into the mix.

I wonder if we would fare any better if we really were ten or twelve different countries?  Or maybe I've just been reading too many steampunk/alternate reality novels lately which might explain why I find that idea oddly appealing...


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Parties and Parades

This morning I got up, made a cup of coffee and turned on the Rose Bowl Parade.  I love this parade.  It's so much better than Macy's for Thanksgiving, mainly because of the beautiful, incredible floats, lots of sunshine (how can Pasadena always have perfect New Year's Day weather?), and loads of memories.

During the Seattle Years, no matter how I spent New Year's Eve--always at a party of some kind--I would drag myself out of a stupor awake and watch the parade.  I don't have a clue why this event always means the start of a new year to me, but it did back then and now that I'm back in the States, it does again.

While I was drinking my coffee this morning, admiring the ingenuity and cleverness of the floats, a memory slipped across my mind and made me smile...

At one point in time I lived in an area of Seattle called North Beach.  It was not well-known, off the beaten track and a beautiful little enclave of older homes with stunning views of Puget Sound.  My roommate and I shared a small cottage at the end of the road and that year we decided to host a New Year's Eve party.

It was wild and wonderful.  Good drinks, excellent food and lots of friends.  As it got later, and designated drivers were becoming more scarce, J (the roommate) and I began to call for taxis.  Seattle had a really good don't drink and drive campaign back then with a multitude of cabbies on hand and extra buses to take drunken fools home.  Well, at 3:00 in the morning, in an obscure part of Seattle, we couldn't get a cab and there were no buses.

So, being the conscientious hostesses that we were, J and I confiscated the keys from the dozen or so folks left.  We handed out blankets and pillows and everyone just crashed where they could.

A few hours later, I woke to my alarm.  I wasn't about to miss the parade.  Tiptoeing down the hall, stepping over a few snoring bodies, I made coffee and went back to bed.  Just as I was settling in, J came in with her boyfriend and they snuggled in beside me and we began to watch the first floats coming down the road.  My bedroom door opened again and two more party-goers came in and sprawled at the foot of the bed.  A few minutes later, three more plopped on the floor with their blankets and pillows.  Within half an hour everyone was either on my bed or the floor.  We drank coffee and judged the floats, then when the parade was over, J's sister, a chef who worked at one of the big hotels in town, made a most wonderful breakfast.

By early afternoon everyone was ready to leave.  J and I stood at the front door and with kisses and wishes, we gave everyone back their keys and watched them make their way safely home.

It was one of my best New Year's ever.  Just the memory of those friends as we watched the parade--piled on my bed, lounging on the floor, the laughter and great food--has made me smile all morning.

What a very good way to start the New Year...