Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Upon reflection

I wanted to write earlier with fluid words and glowing appreciation about our caroling venture, but it just wasn't in me yet. Perhaps it still isn't, but earlier it was definitely too soon, and I hadn't had the time whilst caroling to begin composing the descriptive pictures in my head. So I know I have already posted twice (three times?) today, but this is my space, and I am writing again.

When we caroled, it was fairly chilly. When I left my second tutoring job, it was (or felt) colder still. Just now when I walked Miley, the air was a balmy 36 degrees. It was cool enough to mist my breath, but warm enough that wearing my jacket and scarf felt almost silly. We walked down past our neighborhood creek, as we usually do in the evenings, and the days-old snow lay dingy under the full moon, trodden down by dozens of feet and hundreds of footprints. Back on the road past the creek woods, I walked on the ground as much as possible, avoiding the slick ice and hard tarmac. In many places the newly bare, newly thawed earth was so soft that I felt I was walking on quilts.

My family and friends began caroling without me, as I was a little late leaving tutoring and stopped at the library to stock up on audio books. After I ate I stepped out the front door, walked to the corner, and followed the sound of their voices until I found them. We sang two songs for each house: first, a song we chose anew each time, and usually only the first verse, and second, the first verse of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas." Exceptions to the one-verse-only rule were made so that Chloe and I could sing the descant for "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," which just isn't as magical if sung on the first verse.

We sang for Chloe's old choir buddies. We sang for Lynn-Ellen's sister, who offered us cookies and invited us in for hot spiced wine. We sang for a handful of strangers, and for Celeste's piano teacher. One woman had heard us singing down the street, and then surprised us at the door. Her husband came out after we started singing, then ran back in at the end and returned with a handful of M&Ms bags and a cry of "Thank God for leftover Halloween candy!" We sang for Bill and Lynn-Ellen's children and their visiting friends, most of whom refused to come to the door--probably out of embarrassment. We solved this problem by invading their dining room and singing "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town," with special emphasis on "he knows when you've been bad or good" and "so be good for goodness sake." This performance was followed by a walk-home conversation about the joys of embarrassing one's children.

Tonight, as I neared home and the end of my walk with Miley, our resident hoot owl began to call. It is such a homey, comforting sound.

On giving intelligently.

I stumbled across this while looking for a way to act like I'm at least trying to tithe (I always forget, and I don't keep good track of my earnings/expenses--not great), and I am quite impressed and glad to have found it. Friends, allow me to introduce the Charity Navigator.

Relatedly, and especially useful if you're into gift cards, here is the Network for Good.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas excellence.

Tonight I came home from tutoring, ate some baked mac-and-cheese with my dad, and went Christmas caroling with Mom, Chloe, Hartley, Lael, Celeste (H&L's daughter), and Bill and Lynn-Ellen, who are the pastor and pastor's wife, respectively, of the church in which I grew up. We all live within a couple of blocks of one another, and when Mom and Chloe and I caroled with Hartley and Lael (and possibly Celeste?) last year, Bill and Lynn-Ellen opened their door and asked why we hadn't asked them. We love them, so they came with us this time. It was fun, and it's nice that people in real life tend to be more excited about carolers than people in movies. After about two blocks (and we were only really hitting one side of the street) everyone went home, and Chloe and I went tot Hartley and Lael's house to hang out and have hot chocolate. I ended up sitting in front of these:

which Hartley has made as Christmas presents for various family and friends. They are (with the exception of the hook, upper right) steel oyster knives. (He's a freelance carpenter and blacksmith.) You can't tell very well on the cell phone picture, but the tempering colors on the blades are beautiful. I think I'd like to commission a cutlery set someday. Hartley said, "that would be fun."

Lastly, this.

I am exhausted,

but I am waiting up for the eclipse to hit its stride. It's looking like a crescent moon at the moment. This is one of those things that I always feel like I should get really excited for, but don't actually get all that excited for. I mean, I'd kind of like to see it, but the super slow motion and the dull red light generally end up feeling pretty anticlimactic to me. That, and the fact that I still don't have a camera that can get decent shots of it. One of these days I'm going to have to give in and get a DSR.

I have really been doing a lot of snow boot shopping lately, and I am really getting sick of it. The Sorel Tivoli boots came in the mail today, and they are narrow. And I have wide feet. The situation has been improved by the wearing of stockings and the replacement of the (quite thick) Sorel inserts with thinner ones, but I'm still not 100% decided about keeping them. So I've been looking for emergency backups. Here's a possibility, though I'm not sure about wedge heels in snow boots, or in general. Who the crap makes snow boots with heels?

I spent some time this morning/afternoon working with one of my aunts. She shared with me two excerpts from books that she has read. The first is by Melody Beattie, and I didn't catch the originator of the second, though it is often mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela. Bold font obviously mine.

"Say thank you until you mean it.
Thank God, life, and the universe for everyone and everything sent your way.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
Gratitude makes things right.
Gratitude turns negative energy into positive energy. There is no situation or circumstance so small or large that it is not susceptible to gratitude's power. We can start with who we are and what we have today, apply gratitude, then let it work its magic.
Say thank you until you mean it. If you say it long enough, you will believe it."

(Disclaimer: I can't say that I completely agree that one should be thankful for everything, but I do think that in every situation, there is something to be thankful for. And while I don't necessarily think that gratitude will instantly fix every problem, I do believe that it saved my life.)

[Going to check on the eclipse*.]

[It now looks like a very fuzzy crescent with a very faint, greyish-red tinge. This might be due to some thin clouds in the way, but it's hard to tell for sure. It isn't a very clear night out here though.]

Second, not-Nelson-Mandela quote:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us--it is in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Another note: Chloe parked the car in a somewhat unwise spot this evening, and got sideswiped. The car? My car. This is the second time in just over a week that someone has hit my car while it wasn't moving. PSA, everybody: don't buy a gd navy blue car. Surprisingly enough, it tends to blend in with the navy blue nighttime. Crazy, right?

Lastly, I really want these boots. I want them so bad. They come in navy blue! How often does that happen? I think possibly I should be banned from looking up boots online for a while.

*I am ashamed and a little bit horrified to admit that when I say the word "eclipse**," I think of the Twilight series.

**Oh God, I capitalized it.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Notes from the last two days.

There is nothing like the blue stillness of moonlight falling on snow. And the treeshadows are never softer than tonight, in the blue still small hours of the morning.

I am so tired. I need to read Chloe's paper.

Do you remember this? Though my picture wasn't exactly the same, I do. Oh, I do.

My day Wednesday was supposed to go like this: wake up, drive to Northside, meet uncle to figure out car issues, go prime and paint all day, make a bunch of money.

My day Wednesday actually went like this: wake up to a surprise phone call from an aunt: "can you help me pick up and install insulation?"; say "I guess"; call uncle to adjust plans; drive toward aunt's house; redirect to Lowe's; wait 1hr in parking lot; shop for renovation supplies; transport insulation to aunt's house; realize that these clothes, while perfect for priming and painting, are not perfect for insulation installment; argue, get stressed out, measure/cut/install a bunch of unfaced insulation; get fiberglass in eyes despite work goggles; stack firewood; meet with uncle for 10 min and establish that the car won't disintegrate on the highway; arrive home to find dinner guests sitting down to eat; shower; eat and socialize; meet Kelly and Jr and Maggie at a Mexican place to talk and laugh for ages while they have dinner; come home.

All in all, not so bad. Today I had really hoped would be a make-up day for all the work I failed to do yesterday, but then it snowed. I don't like driving in the snow, and I don't like driving in the Fan, so I decided not to try the two together. (Also, my car's front left shocks have been acting insane when they're cold and bouncing me around like mad, which doesn't sound like a great idea in the snow.) It doesn't look good for this project getting done before the tenant returns on Sunday, a probability which I find a little frustrating and a little shaming, though I'm not sure there's a lot I could have done differently.  Today I wrapped presents though, and  made French bread all by myself (unless you count motherly advice), and it turned out very well. I also had the extreme pleasure of consuming for breakfast a fried egg and grits doused in the juice left over from last night's duck. We've never had duck at home. It was fabulous. This was better.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Lately I have been noticing parallel structures in the seasons the way I notice it in sentences and paragraphs. The way the wind puffs its cheeks and blows the wintry snow from the trees is the same as the way it blows the autumn leaves, letting them fall in a dancing, glorious rain across the street. The way the snowflakes swirl in the wake of the cars is the same as the way flower petals swirl across the road in a colorful, joyful carpet of spring. And our little creek runs through it all, cold through the snow, carrying petals in the spring and water skaters in the summer and then leaves in the fall. The swim hole fills with leaves in the fall that must be dug out in the spring to make room for more fish and for all our warm bodies in the summer.

Two more things:

First, Emma has written a beautiful, haunting post about a fire in her apartment building. I can't put my finger on what gets me about it, but there's definitely something.

Secondly, an acquaintance of mine posted this horrible thing on his facebook. If you have any attachment to Star Wars, Harry Potter, or Lord of the Rings, then prepare to be offended.


I went to a beautiful international lessons and carols concert tonight with Anna, and... well, as I said, it was beautiful. The chorus was amazing. I liked almost all of the arrangements, and most of the carols were new to me. The orchestra was excellent. Each reading was in a different language, with the English translation projected on the wall. During each song, works of art related to the nativity (and often to the culture of the song and/or previous reading) were projected on the wall. I teared up a few times.

(Faith, our cat, is sleeping curled up on top of a sheet-covered milk crate. Her head just tipped off the edge and woke her up. Adorable.)

As we were leaving the concert, I was giving Anna a ride to her car, and someone backed straight into me. I have the worst reactions in these sorts of situations. I just sort of watch, dumbfounded, and maybe say something like "stop!" Eventually Anna said "your horn! Honk!" And then I had to find my horn, which broke a while back and has been relocated. Anyway, there's a small dent in my door, and I have the woman's name/number/insurance information. I haven't told my parents yet--I forgot at first.

I remembered when Anna called me around 10:30 to tell me that as she was leaving the birthday party she attended after the concert,

wait for it,

someone backed straight into her car, and hit her in the exact same spot as the woman at the show hit me.

What are the odds?

Speaking of odds, I spent the bulk of my evening after I came home shopping for snow boots. Originally I was shopping for thin wool socks for Scotland, and I was looking on because they'd sent me a coupon. I searched "wool" on their site, and ran straight into these:

I want them. I want them so bad. But I have been able to semi-successfully convince myself that they wouldn't look good with jeans. Do not dissuade me. I can't even afford them at all. The best price I found was $122, and that took a lot of doing, and was a temporary sale. No one else had them on sale (reg price $160); hardly anyone had them in my size. It was slightly hellish.

I ended up with these, from, with which I am pretty well pleased:

As a ridiculously fabulous added bonus, they were on sale because footwise only had them left in one size--my size. NO ONE else had these in my size except maybe Nordstrom's. Nordstrom's was charging $100. The footwise sale was $49. God loves me, I think. Now let's just keep our fingers crossed and hope they fit and all that.

On an unrelated note, I walked Miley tonight. She insists upon strangling herself. I constantly find myself thinking, "Buy a semi-choke collar! Strangulation theoretically optional."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Observations on a Sunday

Today, this morning at church, was one of those days when I realize how truly closed off I am. When I get a bit of a backed-up view of myself. I am imperfect. I am solitary and self-centered. I feel like I want to reach out and be a part of a community, but when it comes down to it, I start to dislike anyone that I suddenly feel obligated to talk to. I am a lot of contradictory things. But it's alright. I mean, it isn't alright forever. It isn't something about which I should be complacent. But I am not beyond repair. Not beyond love.

Last night around 11, my mother put a pan of the sweet rolls into the oven to see how they would turn out. Answer: heavenly. We think that this was due in part to the fact that they had been rising for an extremely long time. All day yesterday, and for quite a while the day they were made. (In between they had been in the refrigerator downstairs.) I ate too many, mainly because it seemed like a sin to let so many of them sit and get cold and be eaten later in such a decidedly inferior state. They are small, but still, we each had at least two.

Written last night, after the sweet rolls and before bed:
Hartley gave me a ride home from babysitting tonight, due to the light, cool rain, and I am sorry that I accepted it. People think me eccentric when I do things like refusing rainy rides home [and I suppose they have a right], but that's okay. I was thinking at the time that I'd have to (get to?) walk Miley anyway, and that I didn't have a hat, and I was giving in to the soft peer pressure of friends who couldn't imagine my wanting to walk home.
I got here, and Jack ribbed me a little about it--"She specifically asked for you by name"--but it soon came out that he had just taken her.
I complain often about having to walk Miley every night before bed, rain or shine, in sickness or in health...but tonight I am forced to admit that I feel lost without my usual dose of cool midnight air, wet or not. I went and stood under the sky for a few minutes in my nightshirt and sweats and decidedly not-waterproof slippers, but it wasn't quite the same.

Friday, December 10, 2010

More on love.

I did mention, didn't I, that I love Neil Gaiman? (Neverwhere was fabulous, by the way. Thanks for asking. My father has now stolen it and will return it before the library due date if he knows what's good for him.)

He was on NPR and I missed it. I didn't even know. What kind of a fan am I? (Obvious and unabashed answer: a bad one.) Luckily for me, my splash of mercy came from, as the LotR screenplay writer might have said, "the most unlikely person imaginable." It came, shockingly, from the administrator of one of those momming facebook groups that I follow. She cared because her friend who does something to do with children got to talk to N.G. about babies or something on the show*. I care because, duh, he is fantastic. Here's the interview.

Golden sentence from said interview, demonstrating a lovely illustration of the difference between "its" and "it's":
"It's its own glorious medium."

Golden quotation from the interview: "comics are a wonderful gateway drug to reading."


Relatedly, I have decided that I want another of the BAm series 2010 this Christmas: BAm Comics**.

On another note, as I drove back from painting early this afternoon, the sky was gorgeous. (Odd that I noticed, I know.) High above, distinct rays of winter sunlight fanned through the soft cloud cover overhead. Halfway between the treetops and the upper range of my sight, the clouds coalesced into separate, soft shapes--that mini cumulus thing that they do sometimes--and crowded edge to edge across the entire sky, with the sun trickling through them and the whitish blue sky peeking out from behind.  The loveliest moment of it was when I drove toward a power pole, and a handful of birds sat scattered across the lines, silhouetted against the winter sky.  

And now, please excuse me. I am off to make sweet rolls. Or to try, at least. I haven't done this by myself before. Actually, in the past I've mostly sprinkled flour and stood alongside while my mother makes sweet rolls. So this should be interesting.

*Clearly I stopped paying attention as soon as I saw the important part of the status update.

**I am slightly ashamed of this, because I don't even like comics.

Why I love my nose; why I love the world.

Something in the air outside smells like Turkey in 2008. Maybe, to be a little more specific, it smells like Adana. I can't really be sure of that, though. My nose just grabs it, and rejoices, and cries "Turkey!" to the heavens. It smells like Mary Helen's apartment, where I stayed for my first week there, or maybe like a late-morning walk up to Kadifekale in Izmir, to wander the ruined walls and watch all the city but the birds and the wind become still at the afternoon call to prayer. It could be the biting night wind on the way to the covered market in Istanbul. I don't know. But it's Turkey.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I don't get it.

I have been having mad chocolate cravings for weeks. What's up with that? Weeks! This is not cool.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I just have not even remotely felt like posting lately.

But on Monday David and I went to the pageant, and it was okay. That is, he said the pageant was awesome, and he didn't stay for dinner. I thought the pageant was not-that-awesome, but ok. I get self-conscious when I take people to things that I have seen before; also it was strange for me to watch the thing without knowing any of the students who were in it.

Buying a gilt-framed mirror off craigslist tomorrow for $10. I know I need to stop buying myself things, but it's $10! And I have a thing about pretty mirrors. It's an issue.

I have an interview for an $11/hr swim teaching job tomorrow, either for adults or for kids--not sure which they'll want me to do if I'm hired. I'd have to work through at least part of the summer, but I feel like I can live with that. Let's keep our fingers crossed, shall we?

I am reading Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. Have I ever mentioned that he is a genius amazing writer? Because he is. I love him. Pity he's too old for me.

Tonight Kelly and Maggie and Junior are coming over to make chocolate things. Truffles, thin mints maybe, perhaps some chocolate-dipped citrus peels. Who knows. Should be a good time, especially if we get anything done.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I need to stop buying myself stuff. REALLY. (Help.)

I have a sexy new candy-cane-stripe dress. (And by new, I mean vintage.) I'm definitely not a habitual vintage shopper, but a friend of ours was having a party/open house for her eyeglass shop in the space she's currently sharing with a woman who owns a coffee and tea shop, and we were there, and there were vintage clothes there as well. And jewelry. And chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Possibly that didn't make sense. These people that live behind us? River (daughter, Chloe's age), her brothers, Cynthia (mom) and Bruce (dad)? They are our friends. Cynthia owns an eyeglass store. It caught on fire. The coffee/tea shop next to hers also caught fire. Now they are sharing space a few doors down. They had a party. It was pretty great, because now I have a new dress. I'm having a little trouble figuring out what to wear with it though, as winter tends to be a little chilly for mid-thigh-length sleeveless dresses, and I don't know how to match things.

Christmas list update: I really want buckyballs (from I also really want grey tights, white tights, and jeggings (don't judge me). I also REALLY want Spill & Spell (they still sell it! At Barnes and Noble!) and Set (also sold at B&N!). Really though I mostly only want Set because the last and only time I played it, I got beat repeatedly by a six year old, and that isn't really okay with me. I need to practice. To be fair, she beat everyone else too, and every single time (except her older sister--this is a genius family), and she'd start picking up sets before all the cards were even down, but still. She was SIX.

Also, the BAm Nonrequired Reading this year (2010, in case that was unclear: Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010) is edited by Dave Eggers. Want. Also wouldn't mind having the BAm short stories, essays, science writing. Or Bill Bryson's new book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, because I love him. A lot. Or pretty much any Oliver Sacks book other than The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, as I believe I've mentioned before.

OR THE NEW WHEEL OF TIME BOOK. Please forgive me for yelling. It's difficult to contain myself. I mean, I know I should wait for the paperback, I know I don't want to own the hardback, but I want to read it NOW. It's called Towers of Midnight, if anyone was wondering. It's written by Brandon (?) (I always get his first name wrong) Sanderson.

Also: Anything by Neil Gaiman that isn't Coraline. Also, 1,000 Things To See Before You Die.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's my blog, and I'll be cheesy if I want to.

Usually after a walk with Miley, if I write, I come home and gush about the magic or brightness of the moon and stars; the way they shone down and dazzled me. Tonight, though, it was my heart that shone. I was just walking along and suddenly, as I turned a corner, I was floating. I have been debating whether to write about it. I was thinking about what I said about David earlier... I'm already losing it. The train of thought that lead me there.

Ah! Tonight I was wearing scarves on my head (as head scarves) because I couldn't find my hat, and I was thinking how funny it was that when I was in Turkey, when I was supposed to have a head scarf, I never did. Every single day I left it in the house or my hotel room, and thus always had to borrow the head scarves from any mosque we visited. And I thought of how wonderful Turkey* was, and how happy I was there, and how it's one of my most treasured memories. And then I was imagining a conversation between us:

Of course I love you.

But the wonderful thing is that I can just say that, mean it, and move on. Not say it and expect to get back together. Not say it and be sad that we aren't together. Say it with no strings, with no fear. Speak love with love.

Then I just floated for a few minutes, grinning at Miley and loving the cold night air, humming to myself and smiling up at Orion, my favorite constellation, whom I almost think of as a friend.

No strings; just love.

And that's all for tonight.

*Every single time I type "Turkey," I want to type it the Turkish way: Turkiye. But then I feel like I'm acting all elitist or something. That's not the word I'm looking for, but I'm not sure the word I'm looking for actually exists. But do you know what I mean. It's the same on the rare occasions that I discuss in print the Aya Sophya/Sophia. In America, it's usually referred to as the "Hagia Sophia"--but that's so ugly in comparison.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Small surprises.

I've been noticing over the last few days that David's name is like honey. I'm not sure I particularly like to say it, but sometimes I just hold it in my mouth and taste it. I'm not pining, I'm not upset. I'm not planning on doing anything. I'm just thinking.

I stopped by to drop off my hours sheet and some keys I no longer need with some family friends, and found out that one has breast cancer. I am stunned. She wants me to tell my parents for her. Is there anyone in the world who is worse at delivering bad news than I am? I hope she will be ok. I want her to be ok. She has surgery just after Christmas.

My father has a cold. He sounded so weak and tired over the phone. He has been sick so much this semester. I want him to be well. Of course, that's pretty much always my wish for him.

It's snowing! Barely, and it's too warm for snow, but still. Snow!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On being ill*.

My health seems significantly improved today, but I still don't get to go tutor Layla. I am pretty upset about this. Her mom is probably right, though, in wanting to play it safe--especially because "significantly improved" in this case means that I have a lot less of a head cold and somewhat more of a chest cold than I did yesterday. You know, a coughing-up-nasty-crap chest cold. Awesome.

This is always the way with me, though. Working with kids, I mean--not with colds. While I'm working with them I am often not that big of a fan (this was particularly the case with SwimKids and R-MA), but after I leave, or when I take a break for a while, I miss them like crazy. (Again, particularly the case with SwimKids and R-MA.)

Also I'm a little tired of sitting in the house. Also: feeling like a pariah.

*Really, to me, the term "ill" implies digestive issues. A cold, in my mind, more accurately deserves the term "sick." Unfortunately, I don't like the word "sick" nearly as much as "ill."

Is that weird?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Colds and the holiday season

It occurred to me today that Michael's diary* is like the universe in a way--black, cold, bleak, and dark; sparingly scattered with brilliant, burning points of light; utterly fascinating; utterly heartbreaking. The story of his life almost reminds me of a modern Jude The Obscure. Obviously the plot isn't the same, but the feeling (or the feeling that I remember from my quick reading of the book four or so years ago) is the same. I fervently hope that this ending will be wholly different, and further off.

Today is a day that can only be described as "blustery." It's beautiful, and not only because it reminds me of Pooh. The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, and the air is damp and, considering the season, relatively warm. I have the front door standing open and the radio playing it's PRI selection of classical music as I drink tea, eat crystallized ginger and garlic bread**, and slowly ready the house for Christmas as I attempt to get well.

[All of the above written in the early afternoon and then abandoned until I felt like finishing around 10:30 or so.]

I have been sniffling and sneezing, rubbing my nose and coughing my way through the day, and my mother is displeased with me for still being sick. She and I went to Big Lots on a quest to purchase our first ever artificial Christmas tree, and we picked one up (4 ft, pre lit) for $20. We also got some plain old white twinkle lights, and a pretend evergreen garland (the real ones are so not worth the trouble and mess), and a strand of poinsettia lights. I have been decorating this evening, and we wrapped a few presents.

This is our first attempt to do anything other than hanging a wreath on the door and stapling up icicle lights, so bear with us. (Obviously we usually have a tree, but that hasn't been cut yet. Hold your horses.)

While I'm uploading stuff, here are our Thanksgiving songs:

Sorry for the mixed formats. Blogger refused to work with me at first.

And here is my newest cousin, Fielding:

And my about-to-be-newest cousin, Sprout, along with his/her parents, Josh and Neville:

And lastly, here is Miley giving her best effort. 110%. (Sometimes, love just isn't enough.)

*Linked here, if you're interested.

**And when I say "garlic bread," I mean toast with olive oil and raw chopped garlic. It's enough to burn your mouth, especially with the ginger thrown into the mix. There's more than one reason to stay away from me at the moment.

My mother is a genius.

I have had a cold, and she has been in New York City. When she came back I asked whether she knew of any way to temporarily remove the left side of my head (earlier I had been thinking front left quadrant, but I realized that that was too conservative an estimate), just until the swelling went down in my sinus cavities. She said no, but she asked what I had been eating and informed me that all of my responses were mucus-producing and/or acidic, and when we got home she brought me a little peppermint oil on a tissue and told me to breathe it in and spread a little under my nose. She explained that peppermint is anti-inflammatory. I know this of course, but my brain doesn't connect the "I have a cold" > "my sinus cavities are inflamed" > "I need an anti-inflammatory" > "peppermint is an anti-inflammatory" dots. So anyway, now I feel a little like someone is holding a chunk of dry ice under my nose, but the stabbing sensation inside my sinuses has subsided, so that's nice. On the plus side, I can now move air through the left side of my head. On the downside, it is becoming increasingly difficult to move air through the right side of my head.

On another unrelated note, I bought a new camera for Scotland*. My old one is still functioning, but seems to be on its last legs--and if it died during or just before the Scotland trip, I think I might kill someone. So really this is all** in the interest of homicide prevention.

With my mother in NYC, I had to get up earlyish this morning to help my dad get ready for work. This worked out well, as I began waking up as a side effect of the cold around 7:30. My point though is that I tend to forget how much I love mornings. How gorgeous they are. How delicious they smell, even through my current haze. It was lovely. I also always, always utterly forget how amazing the morning light looks in the fall, when the sun shines in through the trees and fills my bedroom with a deep red light. That was closer to six, when I wasn't quite as conscious as I now wish I had been. It was really beautiful.

*For my trip to Scotland, I mean. Not "for Scotland," exactly.

**I put hours of research into this decision. Do you see what a good civil servant I am? Completely selfless, even if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A forwarded message from my father.

An Australian Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas;
there wasn't a sound.
Not a possum was stirring; no-one was 'round.
We'd left on the table
some tucker and beer,
hoping that Santa Claus
soon would be here;
We children were snuggled up safe in our beds,
while dreams of pavlova danced 'round in our heads;
and Mum in her nightie,
and Dad in his shorts,
had just settled down to watch TV sports.
When outside the house
a mad ruckus arose;
Loud squeaking and banging
woke us from our doze.
We ran to the screen door,
peeked cautiously out,
sneaked onto the deck,
then let out a shout.
Guess what had woken us up from our snooze?
but a rusty old ute
pulled by eight mighty 'roos.
The cheerful man driving
was giggling with glee,
and we both knew at once
who this plump bloke must be.
Now, I'm telling the truth
it's all dinki-di,
those eight kangaroos fairly soared through the sky.
Santa leaned out the window
to pull at the reins,
and encouraged the 'roos,
by calling their names.
'Now, Kylie! Now, Kirsty!
Now, Shazza and Shane!
On Kipper! On, Skipper!
On, Bazza and Wayne!
Park up on that water tank.
Grab a quick drink,
I'll scoot down the gum tree.
Be back in a wink!'

So up to the tank those eight kangaroos flew,
with the ute full of toys,
and Santa Claus too.
He slid down the gum tree
and jumped to the ground,
then in through the window
he sprang with a bound.
He had bright sunburned cheeks
and a milky white beard.
A jolly old joker
was how he appeared.
He wore red stubby shorts
and old thongs on his feet,
and a hat of deep crimson
as shade from the heat.
His eyes - bright as opals -
Oh!  how they twinkled!
and, like a goanna,
his skin was quite wrinkled!
His shirt was stretched over
a round bulging belly
which shook when he moved,
like a plate full of jelly.
A fat stack of prezzies
he had flung from his back,
and he looked like a swaggie
unfastening his pack.
He spoke not a word,
but bent down on one knee,
to position our goodies
beneath the yule tree.
Surfboard and footy-ball shapes
for us two.
and for Dad, tongs to use
on the new barbeque.
A mysterious package
he left for our Mum,
then he turned and he winked
and he held up his thumb;
He strolled out on deck and his 'roos came on cue;
Flung his sack in the back and prepared to shoot through.
He bellowed out loud
as they swooped past the gates -
and goodonya, MATES!'


I am kind of busy and also a bit lazy, and also sick.

So does anyone want to try this recipe for me? I was looking up European hot chocolate recipes and trying to come up with a way to convert them to a "dry goods" version that could be given as a homemade hot chocolate mix for Christmas. This is my first attempt, and I haven't tried it yet:

Experimental European Hot Chocolate Recipe
(converted to dry goods)

Chile powder (from one pepper, seeds removed, reduced)
Dry milk (dry whole milk?) (plus the amt of water needed for said milk)
Vanilla, somehow.  (from one bean) Extract mixed in, maybe?
Ground cinnamon (or 1-2 cinn sticks)
8 oz bittersweet chocolate
2 tbs granulated sugar
1 tbs almonds or hazelnuts, ground extra fine

Directions: add the necessary amount of water (for the dry milk) and melt together, whisking occasionally, until choc. melts and sugar dissolves. If using whole cinn or vanilla, remove at this point. If too thick, thin with more milk.

Upon further reflection, perhaps the dry milk could be omitted. That would simplify things a lot. It could just be presented with instructions like "add milk, insert into microwave." That's my dream, anyway. Possibly though this really does just unavoidably require a stove top. We (you?) shall see.

For reference here is the original recipe. It's the "Mayan Hot Chocolate" one listed first on the left-hand column, and compared to that which is served in the movie Chocolat. I have to admit that that movie was what turned me on to the whole idea. Before seeing it I had no idea that such a thing even existed. Wtf, America?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Because I am an addict.

One last thing, while I wait for my Airborne nightcap* to fizz itself out: tonight is beautiful. It's finally dropped down below freezing, and do you know what that means? It meas frozen dewdrops. Every leaf, blade of grass, bush, mailbox, and trash can glittered in the glow of the street and porch lamps like... like the first frost. There isn't anything like it. I strongly suspect that this was the inspiration for the whole idea of "fairy dust." I discovered this world of awesomeness as I returned to my dorm at 5:30 am freshman year after an all-night soul-searching man-hating angry-crying joke-telling insult-throwing hangout on our favorite couch. She was in the middle of a rather terrible breakup with the man who is now her husband. We bonded over a whole lot of those conversations.

*Speaking of which, I think I really must be coming down with something. The runny nose and the persistently sore throat, combined with the fact that I am ravenous despite all of the mini meals I've eaten today (it was a snacking sort of day--there never really was an organized sit-down eat time) don't lie. Feed a cold, starve a fever, right? Must be a cold. Eff. Oh well.


Tonight, after The Sorcerer's Apprentice at the Byrd (which I quite liked, actually*), there was a long, soul-searching conversation (along with rooibos chai tea and turkey-vegetable soup and turkey salad sandwiches--can you tell we've just passed Thanksgiving?) with Anna. I love those. I know I've mentioned this before. I never really know what to say about them, except maybe that I think she's half angel. But maybe we all are, if we will have the eyes to see it. Before she left just now, I was overwhelmed for a few moments with the memory of a children's book that we in Cabin 3 (2?) read to our kids this summer--Nate, Jerian, and I. I don't quite remember the title, but the lesson of the book is to "be the tree God made you to be." To me, largely that means being honest, not only with others, but with myself. Accepting my weaknesses and strengths, without regret, without apology, without shame. Accepting your weaknesses and strengths too, without blame or judgment. It's a very freeing thing.

We also talked about the idea of a homemaker's club--not that we particularly want to be homemakers, but we are interested in the hows of things like making butter and cheese and bread. Or harvesting black walnuts. We still haven't had our nut weekend. Anyway the dreamed-up idea would be to meet regularly, maybe one Saturday a month, and each time learn to make or practice making something different, possibly with occasional field trips thrown in. It sounds rather heavenly to me.

My throat has been sore, and was more so today when I awoke, so today has been spent Christmas shopping online, doing some extremely light straightening up, drinking tea and broth and water, taking a shower, and watching a marathon of Hallmark Channel specials. My mother is of the opinion that this channel is "the only thing worth watching, this time of year," and generally this is pretty okay with me. I just wander in and out of the room showing the movies. Getting a good chunk of the shopping done was a huge weight off my chest, and felt wonderful. Staples has some excellent deals at the moment, in case anyone is interested.

Christmas lights are blooming like spring flowers everywhere I look. Every time I turn around, another lighted tree has popped up from the frozen earth with the speed and delightful surprise of a golden or purple-striped crocus. I love it.

*When it comes to movies, there's a lot to be said for going in with low expectations.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

When does winter officially start, again?

People often say (and I considered saying tonight) that stars are like diamonds. I stopped to consider this, though, and I have to say that we're getting it the wrong way around. A transparent little stone doesn't have much on a bright star shining through the cold night and bare November branches. It just doesn't.

As I was looking for a suitable picture of a diamond I found this post on blood diamonds. Not that it's particularly informative, but it is a good reminder of the things that go on for the sake of profit*. And come on! Diamonds aren't even rare!**

I resisted the leaf pile at the bottom of the hill tonight. This was more difficult than I originally anticipated, because it has grown substantially and because tonight the sky was clear and dark, and the stars were, as I said, brilliant. As I walked down the next block I thought about how I wished I could call David and ask him to come over and lie in the leaf pile with me. (Sometimes these things are better when shared.) Obviously that isn't really an option because we're still exes and haven't quite progressed to "friends" again, in the sense that lying in a leaf pile wouldn't be okay. As usual I wondered whether this was an "I want David" thing or an "I want someone" thing, and I came to the conclusion that the idea of lying in a leaf pile with an anonymous "someone" seemed a far less attractive prospect. I think that in this case, what I want is to lie in a leaf pile with someone I love, who knows me, whom I know. A person with whom I share a relationship based on love and understanding and mutual comfort-in-the-presence-of-you. What's the right term for that? A soul friend? Sara would probably qualify, minus the added bonus of hand-holding that would come with David if that were possible, but she's still in Scotland. It's an issue. I'm sure there are people with whom leaf pile star gazing would be enjoyable, but I'm not good at coming up with names.

Would you believe that I put more time into editing than I did into writing last night? I don't plan to do that again this evening. Just a heads-up. Can you even see a difference? Don't spare my feelings here. It's not a big deal.***

I listened to Christmas music on Lite 98 today. It has begun! I've been thinking lately that the "Christmas music from Thanksgiving to the 25th" thing is probably a marketing gimmick. Just a friendly reminder in case some idiot walks in the store without remembering that he's supposed to be emptying his bank account.

I still love Christmas music, though. Mostly.

I forgot some other things that I meant to say. Ah, well. I wonder if somewhere in my mind there is the equivalent of a grease trap. Or perhaps a more appropriate analogy would be, I wonder if somewhere in my mind there is the equivalent of that horrible space between the counter top and the refrigerator, the final resting place for all manner of spoons and cooking utensils, cheap magnets and important notices and bits of nastiness that fell from one or the other. I bet there is. Now if only I could find a way to move the refrigerator, I'd be in business.

*Wikipedia claims that 2-3% of the market is made up of blood or conflict diamonds.

**I am trying to find an actual statistic on this, but thus far all I have is this quote, again from wikipedia: "The image of diamond as a valuable commodity has been preserved through clever marketing campaigns."

No, okay, here. I have something more substantial. Blame De Beers.

***Evidently it is late enough that I am getting self-conscious and defensive. Bed time?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

This is one of those times that I had at least four things in mind to say, but never got around to writing them down. And then I forgot them.

One was that the other day I went to the library with Chloe and, while there, decided to check the catalogue to see whether they had decided to pick up the Wheel of Time series yet. They have, and the latest installment was checked out. I then, of course, went to put the newest book on hold. Success! Unfortunately, there were already sixteen holds on it. So maybe I'll get it sometime in March of 2012.


Lately I can feel myself closing down, day by day. I don't want to write anything. Or maybe I want to write in a real journal, by hand. Tonight I'll try here though, because I haven't been journaling, and not writing tends not to be good for me, after a while. Not that I feel I have much to say.

Chloe is home, very briefly. Last night I lay on the living room floor (beneath the ceiling fan, if you must know) and for a moment I thought I heard the rain. Then I suddenly realized that when she types, her keystrokes sound like gentle raindrops. Mine are somewhat less delicate. She has to leave again tomorrow night, and I already miss her. I feel like she's been home no time at all, and I am not looking forward to becoming reacquainted with her absence. Who will borrow my scarves and shoes and purses? She doesn't hug and kiss me goodnight anymore, unless I hug her first.

I was in a terrible mood on the way to Thanksgiving dinner in Norfolk, but Jim called to wish me a happy Thanksgiving, and that helped some. And my impossibly large, strong, loud, and loving family helped. I love them. I love Thanksgiving. I took video of our sung blessings, and took to heart some of the words:
His name be ever praised; he forgets not his own.

There are so many Christmas gifts I'd like to buy for my family that I just can't afford. It's a shame. And I guess I go through phases of contentment and lack thereof with regard to my existence, though when I'm in the contentment phase I so love to hopefully pretend that it's a real, forever change. That I am at peace with myself and God and the universe. That I am enlightened. Zen.
Alas: such, once again, does not seem to be the case. I'm doing alright--just feeling rootless again. Utterly directionless. I need a goal. Never before, that I remember, has a goal seemed so necessary to the act of breathing--but it certainly does now. This trackless sea seems airless, too.

Tonight, as I stepped out to walk Miley, the sky was overcast with a thin cover of clouds. At the bottom of the hill I threw myself into a leaf pile, as is my wont on evenings such as this (Miley was, as ever, reluctantly patient), and looked up through the trees at the pinkish, sodium-light sky. I tried unsuccessfully to convince our short dog into the deep leaves, then gave up and silently remarked to myself how very comfortable leaf piles are, and how nice it would be to sleep in one if I didn't have a dog attached to my wrist and a family that would worry and if I had a warmer coat, and then talked myself back onto my feet. On the way home, the wind picked up and the clouds began to run by above. The previously hidden stars glowed through the cloud cover for a moment, and then burst out and shone like bright and sparkling moonlit snowflakes.
I love the night.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Experimental Baking

We tried the chocolate chip orange muffins. Pro tip: Grind up the chocolate chips a bit in the coffee grinder.

Other pro tip: ignore the part of the recipe where it never says to add any salt.

Third pro tip: make it more orangey. Also, more chocolatey.

Tomorrow: Connecticut! We will be getting up way too early.

I seem to have a little bit of an obsession.

The moon, which has been ripening as I watch night by night, rose this evening at the top of our hill, huge. I often forget that it can appear so large as it rises, particularly when it's full. This was at 5 pm. I had gone out to sit on the front stoop in the dying light, realizing that I had been inside all day trying to pull together information for the family gift exchange and doing laundry and so on. I wrote (in my phone notepad) that "the road noise is so much louder with the leaves off the trees. It's a constant low roar now, underscoring the late-season crickets, the distant church bells, the dogs barking, the squirrels chattering and dislodging dry leaves. A territorial little round brown bird is furious with me for sitting on the front steps--too close to her roost, maybe? She is the kind of bird whose voice sounds hoarse, and somewhat less than mellifluous."

Then my mother pulled up, and together we watched the swollen moon hang over our street. It was appropriate timing too, as we had watched "Moonstruck" earlier in the day. It was Cosmo's moon.

Tonight Junior, David, Kelly, Maggie and I went to see HP 7.0. Though (obviously) dark, I think it is the best of the bunch thus far. I attribute this to the fact that they finally cut one of the books in half when making the movies, rather than trying to stuff a five-hundred-plus page book into the same time frame they used when the books were only two or three hundred pages. I read an article in the paper recently, yesterday maybe, whose author accused Warner Brothers of splitting the book only in an effort to extend the franchise. I'm sure that the extension of the franchise is an attractive idea for WB, but honestly, I've been wishing they'd cut the books into multiple movies for several years now. The amount of material left out is really ridiculous at some points. It's comparable* to trying to fit the entire Count of Monte Cristo book into two hours. That was skillfully done, but the story was stripped to the bones.

Anyway, the point is, go see the movie. I thought it was pretty great. If any movie is worth your $10 for a theater viewing (arguable), then this is.

*Please don't hate me for saying this. I am not trying to argue that the HP series will end up on Barnes and Noble's "old timey pleather-bound books you'll probably never read but want in your house so you can look intelligent" shelf.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Tonight, for the second night in a row, I lay down and looked up at the stars and wish I could just fall asleep outside under the sky. This time it was in a pile of leaves next to the road. Last night I went out to lie in the street (our yard is roofed by towering pines and oaks and a holly and a tulip poplar) and see if I could catch the end of the Leonid meteor shower, and I ended up just listening to the night, hearing the faint sounds of a wind chime down the hill, and a dog barking in the distance. At one point I fancied I could see the stars moving on their inexorable paths through the night, but then realized that, at least judging by the changing positions of Orion I'd witnessed on previous nighttime walks, I "saw" them moving in the wrong direction. I got up when I realized that I'd doze off in the middle of the road if I wasn't careful. As I climbed the steps I suddenly envied Larry his dairy roof, where he can go lie out and watch the stars whenever he likes, and sleep there if he feels like it. He has done so, but then had to deal with waking up at 4 or 4:30 am when his father came out for the morning milking.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Laws of nature:

They're more like guidelines than actual rules.

On another note, the bright red, orange, red-orange and red-yellow and orange-yellow and yellow jewel tones on our street have begun fading to pink. I am reminded of the way an incandescent bulb glows after the power is switched off, or the way embers glow when the fire dies. Shockingly bright for a time, and then dull and low, and then black. Cary Street, which I drive to work, is redder than ours, and the way across the river is more yellow. Something in the soil, perhaps.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Why I love her.

How could I not love a person who writes lyrics like this and rolls them up into a bottle and throws them out into the ocean of pop culture? And she has a good arm.

You dare tell me who to be? You are not me. Who made you king of anything?


I'm not sure whether I've mentioned it, but my mother has four sisters. Today they all met (and invited me, and my half-cousin* Andrea) for a birthday lunch at Edo's Squid downtown. My mother's birthday is Wednesday, and my aunt Maude's was last week. Friday, maybe? I love their sisterly luncheons. They have impeccable taste in food and they know what things are on a menu. Each is always ready with the (correct) answer to such tricky questions as "what the hell is that?" Not that I'd ask that way, because my aunts are quite proper and would, I think, make a face communicating something along the lines of "I really hadn't thought you were such an idiot."

Edo's Squid, though it has a (sometimes deserved) reputation for bad (read: rude) service and waitstaff, tends to serve food which is little short of divine. I'd like to discuss all of it, but every time I try to think of another dish, my attention grabs hold of the doorjamb and drags itself back to the room with the salad of squid, white beans, and arugula. Let's lay aside for a moment the public love affair I have been carrying on with arugula and the other, private affair I've been having on the side with white beans. I wish I could tell you what else they put in here. There was onion, and there was perfectly cooked squid, and lemon and some kind of oil (very probably olive), but I couldn't name the spices. I could, however, have eaten the stuff all day long.

A shout-out also to the eggplant pasta. Mmmmm.

(And while we're on the subject of consumables, might I interest you in a whole bunch of things related to tea?)

Lastly, I heard about this book today on NPR, and I'd really like to read it. Unfortunately, as it was just released last month, it's still in that "$15" stage that I find so distasteful. I have high hopes though for used bookstore forays in the near future, so I'll see what I can find there to sate my lust for back-to-the-land memoirs.

*She is the daughter of my aunt Maude's husband, from his previous marriage.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Northstar (and life) notes.

First, before I forget, let me mention (not for the first or the last time, I'm sure) how much I love, love, love winter light. Also, to be technically correct, late fall light. Maybe it's the warmth of it and the way it falls in such contrast to the coolness of the air--beautiful for the same reason that the flame-colored leaves are beautiful in the chill winds of the season. I feel such joy when I see it slanting through the light curtain on the front door, falling into the mirror or onto a pair of cold-weather boots shed in the hallway.

Now, notes:

She mentioned the passage which says, among other things, to "love your neighbor as yourself," and pointed out that this is written as a simile--comparing a thing it is assumed that we know to another thing which it is assumed that we do not know: here, how to love our neighbor (assumed that we don't know) equated with how we supposedly love ourselves. The thing is that we don't really understand what loving ourselves means, or how we should go about doing that. If I really understood this, I probably wouldn't eat a half of a pint of Ben & Jerry's in one sitting, for example, or lie in bed until 11 am for no reason whatsoever. And it occurred to me (through some prompting) that really loving yourself well does not equate to giving yourself whatever you want whenever you want it (exhibit A: Ben & Jerry's), or smoothing over every discomfort that arises without addressing the real issue at hand at any given time. Therefore it follows, at least according to the verse above and also to the Golden Rule, that loving others well does not mean giving them whatever they want, making nice, and smoothing over all things unpleasant. Loving well isn't necessarily comfortable--it is just good and healthy. And it is rewarding.

At one point someone asked, in response to something Theresa had said about controlling our thoughts, whether controlling one's thoughts is actually possible. I had a difficult time following her response, possibly because the immediate answer in my mind was a resounding "yes." I had been practicing this for years when a metaphor was dropped into my lap as I read (forgive me) Eat, Pray, Love a couple of years ago. Gilbert had the same disbelieving question: how can a person control their own thoughts? Surely, she thought, such a thing is impossible. A friend helped her realize that your mind is like a port; your mind is your own safe harbor. Can you control what ships approach and ask to enter? Maybe not at first. But what you can control is what ships you welcome, embrace, unload and savor and revisit, and what ships you turn away immediately. If you habitually rebel every time your boss corrects you, then yes, the next time your boss corrects you you are probably going to rebel. But your choice when this happens is whether to embrace that feeling, to get into an imaginary (or audible) argument and storm out and meet up with your best friend for a beer-soaked bitch session, or whether to remind yourself that you aren't perfect, that everyone needs correction sometimes. Or even if your boss is legitimately out of line, to remind yourself that you can handle it, that it isn't worth ruining your day, that you shouldn't give him/her such control over your emotions. Because, after all, the only person responsible for your emotions is you. And you are the master of your own mind.

The next miniature revelation I had related to limits and boundaries. There was a psalm up on the overhead projector which I didn't write down but which made reference to boundaries falling in pleasing places. (I'm sorry, that's as specific as my memory gets.) I then had a realization that has been quite long in coming: often my feelings of being trapped come from the fact that I have been throwing myself like a moth battering a window up against the completely reasonable and incontrovertible walls of existence: time or money or body or law, which set impassable boundaries around us all. It is simple fact that limits do and will exist for each of us, and hurling ourselves against these kinds of limits is never going to be healthy or comfortable or pleasant. If I eat nothing but cheeseburgers or chips, my health will suffer. There isn't really anything uncertain about that. Or if I spend all of my money recklessly, I will suffer. There aren't enough hours in the day for me to play twelve hours of video games or watch as much tv or waste as much time online and still take care of my bodily or emotional needs like sleep and exercise and community. There isn't anything bad about any of the above limits (particularly considering that when you stop and pay attention, you just may find that there is very little that is actually enjoyable or rewarding in any meaningful way about consuming junk food or spending money or watching tv), but they're really going to seem terrible--and I am really going to feel put-upon and sorry for myself--if I spend all of my energy throwing myself against them. That is, of course, something that I have thus far spent a lot of my life doing.
Now I'm hoping to teach myself to stop leaping with disdain over the clear, even, peaceful path that winds along within spitting distance of those walls, because I am tired of picking my bruised and bitter and angry self up off the ground in preparation for my next utterly imbecilic rally and attack. Maybe I could learn to stroll and maybe I could remember that it is human nature (or, at least, it is my nature) to hate and to rebel against any imposed boundaries. Boundaries that I choose, on the other hand, make me feel (and make me be) strong and secure.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Metaphorically speaking

I mentally referred yesterday to this David thing--wanting but not really wanting to talk about things as they stand, being slightly confused about being totally okay with it--as being like a cake, baking. But then this evening I was thinking that it's more like a loaf of bread, really. Everything has been measured, mixed, floured, kneaded, worked over. Now is the time to wait for the yeast to do its thing, wait for the dough to rise. To rise, dough needs to be left alone, covered, protected, in a warm place. Sometimes it's hard though not to keep peeking under the dish cloth to check the progress. This isn't particularly counterproductive, except that it's silly, and it's a waste of time. Just let it rise.

*Detached footnote: there is a song by that name, "Let It Rise," which is a decent song if you don't find contemporary religious songs off-putting. I can't really find a video of it that I like, or I'd post it here. Possibly though it's more effective this way, as I'm really only interested in the lyrics. I like the idea of considering them in this context. To think of rising in terms of the way bread rises through the action of yeast.

Some things that have been rolling around my mind recently

Every night when I walk Miley, Orion has been hanging low and enormous over, if I am not mistaken, the Eastern horizon. Last night was so clear that he really glittered, and was completely visible from his shoulders to his head, belt, dagger, right arm, and even his bow. Orion has always been my favorite constellation, but from my vantage point can hardly ever be seen much beyond his strong, bright shoulders and his belt.

Robert Frost famously said that "nature's first green is gold," and while I can't strongly vouch for this, I assume and believe it to be true. I saw on my drive home this afternoon that Richmond is beginning to turn really gold, partly with the early-setting sun and partly with the late-setting summer, and realized that, thanks to the bounteous blessings with which this world has been gifted, nature's last green is gold as well.

Just a quick note.

I may have created yet another blog. The idea behind this is that I become irritated because I feel the need to qualify and state my reasons every time I post irrelevant links here. The reason is almost always this: I have been reading this stuff and I have a million tabs open because I am an addict, but I don't want to close them or lose them and I am too lazy to make good use of universal bookmarks, so I am putting them here. So now, if things go as planned, I will be putting most of them here instead. That's the same link again, in case you missed it the first time. It seemed convenient. Anyway, if you are ever looking for things to read and aren't satisfied with or or the family, feel free to stalk the stuff I've been reading.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mostly about money

I had this referral link to today's Groupon deal (which is great, by the way), but I lost it through sheer idiocy and an unforgivable lack of familiarity with the workings of Blogger's "link" button. This would have allowed you to get $20 worth of food at Sprout for $10. You can still do that, but I won't get any credit for you having done so. Even if you don't live in my town, Groupon is awesome.

Actually, I found it, or found one that will direct you to the main website if not the specific deal of today. Go save money!

Sprout is a part of the really great locavore movement. The idea (fact, actually) is that though we talk about gasoline consumption as being strictly related to our driving habits, far more of it is used in the (often wholly unnecessary) transportation of food*. At the grocery store recently I saw two bags of onions sitting next to each other. They seemed pretty identical and cost roughly the same amount, but one was filled with onions grown in the US (unfortunately, the state was not specified), and the other with onions grown in Chile. Chile isn't actually very close to Virginia, and I don't even want to know what tiny percentage of the price of those onions was going to the poor Chilean grower. After thousands of miles of transportation and multiple middle men, I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that it wasn't much. And even transporting a lot of onions, it takes a lot of gasoline--and money--to travel that far. If I had been able to buy Virginia-grown onions, the ratio of gas money to farmer profit would have been far, far higher, and I would have been supporting my own, local economy. You know, the one that's suffering from a lack of jobs and money. So basically what I'm saying is that you should eat at Sprout.

I found this article somewhere the other day about IHOP (prayer, not pancakes). I had heard of them before I guess, but that was about it. I am now interested.

Also, I am having issues with David. Not the kind where he did anything bad, but the other kind where he still matters a lot to me.

Lastly, this song is very pretty. It seems to be a combination of Greensleeves and Streets of Laredo, or possibly I am missing something.

*There are of course other factors, such as plastic, but let's not get into that at the moment.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We had one of those long, mostly substantive talks.

Some lessons learned via said conversation:

I am doing nobody any favors by aspiring to become a career receptionist. That's idiotic.

Mutable schedules? No. Things happen When They Are Scheduled. Even if I am the one who scheduled them. Period.
      I will get up at 9 or earlier. Period.* This "sleeping until I have something to do" thing has got to stop.
     Art Time will be from 10-noon.**
     Other things can be scheduled around these.

On another note, the palette of the river has been so lovely lately. All made up of the most delicate shades of purple, blue, pink, and grey. Every time I cross it I wish I could just stop on the bridge and get out, and stare or paint or at the very least take pictures. I love going with people to the river, but I always feel pushed to move on more quickly than I would to the next thing. Left to my own devices I will sometimes just look at the water for an hour or more. Usually, of course, there is something else that needs to be done before so much time has passed. I sat with David by the river once, the powerful Rappahannock, a week after we broke up. We just watched the water rush by, and talked very little as I remember. That night we were rushed to dinner only by the cold of a March evening.

I left my tea like an idiot while I got dressed earlier, and I let it steep far too long. It's bitter. And I have promised myself to cut back on the ungodly amounts of honey I use in tea, so I am just drinking it bitter. English Breakfast tea, too. What a shame. Still, it's nice to have time to drink tea in the morning. And all because I got out of bed at 9ish. Mmmm.

*Well, my alarm went off at 9 today, but I actually "got up" about 15-20 minutes later. But that's a start, right? Particularly considering that I don't have anywhere to be until nearly 11.

**I felt a lot more adamant about this last night, but I am going to try to stick with it, even if only for the sake of having some structure in my day, and particularly something to get up for. For discipline. And I think  better when I spend time painting. I breathe better. Maybe I'll add "blank stretched canvasses" to that Christmas list. And Bailey's. Did I say Bailey's before? And dark brown Uggs. Don't judge me. They're the warmest things I have ever put on my feet.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Not unexpected

We just got the news that my great uncle Carter, who has been dying for some time, passed away during the night. (He is one of the two, Sara, for whom I missed the snowed-out party last Christmastime.) I don't know yet how his family is handling this, though I am sure that they aren't having an easy time. I am most concerned for his wife, Kay, who has also been battling cancer for some time and has had such a tenuous hold that, unbeknownst to us, her family wasn't sure she'd even make it to the Christmas party last season, much less the new year. Evidently she sat down with TC and Mary, her son and daughter, and laid out every single detail--right down to the specific foods and locations of hidden Christmas presents--because she was so completely determined that the party would happen whether she was there for it or not.

I am also really feeling for my father. He has, as he just told me over the phone, wanted to see Carter for months--but Carter didn't want any visitors. He's always been an extremely quiet man (I think I told a story here once about a four-sentence conversation between him and his brother, my grandfather, which lasted two days), and private, and I think he didn't want anyone to see him in such a poor condition. My father (as he admits, uncharacteristically) honored his wishes and I think is trying very hard not to regret that decision. He cared very much for Carter.

So: not unexpected, but as always, very sad. Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers.


Once upon a time, somebody told me I should participate in NaNoWriMo. I declined.Then, another person told me the same thing. I declined. Again. Again. The month of November eventually passed, sans novice novel. A year followed. People again began to ask about my planned writing activities in November.

LOOK. I was thinking about just taking all of my blog entries and such at the end of the month and adding them up to see if they made 50,000 words. But then I realized that if I expect that to work, I am going to have to update my facebook status a lot more often, and maybe get a twitter account. I really, really don't want a twitter account. Perhaps I could include my email correspondences--but still, I think I am going to fall far short of the roughly 1700 words per day average (that's assuming I wrote that many for the past four days, which I didn't) needed to meet the 50,000 word requirement. SO, I might be writing a lot of boring, meaningless, maybe not really connected stuff here in the coming days and weeks. Then again, I might not.


I am listening to Colbie Caillat. I like her. Also, her name sounds French, which is awesome in my book, and at the moment is reminding me of the delicious cassoulet which I had the pleasure of consuming at Ellwood Thompson's the last time I was there, meeting David for dinner.

I have been thinking of him lately. Ruminating, I guess. I think ruminating is a good word for it, conjuring up images for me of cows chewing their cud--redigesting food that's already been swallowed at least once. Chewing through it again, breaking it down further, tasting it once more and making it more digestible. Yes. Ruminating. On the way over here tonight I was flipping through radio stations and paused, as I sometimes do, for Delilah on Lite 98. (Other times I start yelling about how terrible and obnoxious and maddeningly omnipresent she seems to be.) She read a cloyingly sweet dedication in her honey/molasses-sweet voice and played Ediwn McCain's "Could Not Ask For More." I of course seem to have as many "we are perfect for each other and will someday be together" moments as I do "oh, I see--we are not quite right for each other" moments. This was one of the latter, as I "realized" while listening to the song that it didn't apply to us. That being said, I'm pretty sure there were times while we were together when I felt (or would have, if I remembered that this song existed) that it did apply. So that's productive. I wasn't terribly emotional about it though, and haven't been lately, and that is and was and has been nice.

My mom woke up sick this morning, and spent a lot of the day in bed. While I was home between house sitting and tutoring commitments, we watched several episodes of Burn Notice together. I couldn't say why exactly, but I love that show. And I couldn't say why exactly, but I also love Michael whatshisname, the main character guy. His girlfriend/ex-girlfriend though is sort of annoying. She isn't the best actress ever (in my opinion) and is mostly there to look hot (I guess?) in short dresses and such. I suppose you can't have everything.

I have stopped telling people, when they ask how I am and what I've been up to, that I am "kicking around, looking for work." I am now officially "doing odd jobs," because the other assertion was getting into my head and greatly increasing my levels of angst and dissatisfaction with my life, and that isn't a particularly helpful thing to do. Also, let's be honest here: I want a job, mostly, but I'm not really looking for one. Mainly this is because as I believe I may have mentioned once or twice, I don't know what I want to do. Also I don't particularly love job hunting and interviewing, and I'm a little fed up at the moment. Fed up enough to do odd jobs for a while and listen to audiobooks while I paint. Currently it's Home: A Memoir Of My Early Years, by Julie Andrews, read by the author. Next up is A Year In Provence, which I read sometime in college and loved. I do enjoy travel books. A lot.

I have been working a little bit on a mental Christmas list, which is about to become less mental:

Some book plates from
Colored tights zomg.
Itunes gift card.

That's all I can remember. I did just remember though that I still need to locate and use the massage gift certificate that David bought for me for Christmas last year, and delivered after we broke up. We're sweet at presents like that. Anyway, I know where it is in that I know it's in my last spiral notebook, and I know that that notebook is in my room. Beyond that, I'm pretty much screwed. My room is worse than it's been in a long time. And if that thing is expired when I find it, so help me, I will strangle myself.

I am only at 872 words so far, not counting this sentence or any of the other stuff I've written today. Luckily for both of us, I am going to bed anyway.

Important Announcement

Attention: the first bright and shiny outdoor decorated tree is decorated! It lives just at the end of my street, so I get to look at it every time I pull out onto the main road at night. Love.

            (The holiday season is heralded by NPR jazz playing on the car radio as green and red and white lights flicker and flow through dark, misty rain-shined streets. Also, brightly decorated outdoor trees.)

Tonight I went home to have dinner with my parents and walk Miley--but as I believe I have mentioned*, Miley needs to be walked late at night if she is to be expected to refrain from waking my mother at 4 or 5 am. After dinner, therefore, I retired to my room and began playing dress-up with my new boots (by the way, my boots came in the mail yesterday), ostensibly in an effort to find something to wear on the plane to Scotland. I really did (mostly) start out with that aim, but it quickly degenerated into "let's figure out how many things I can get away with wearing with grey boots and orangeish-yellow tights." Since "get away with" is a relative term and at times like this I have very little shame, it turns out that the answer is "a lot." But still, if I am going to have any success on my campaign to bring color to Dundee (where, I have heard, nobody wears any colors), I am going to need a lot more pairs of colored tights.

I am house/pet sitting again for Sara's parents, and I have just run out of Bailey's. This is so uncool. I might have to go to the ABC store tomorrow like an alkie** and get some more.

On another note,
Linked on facebook by my friend Cliff

*I mistyped this at first, but evidently "mentioend" is a word***.

**This is one of those sometimes-mildly-frustrating abbreviations that are spelled in ways that don't really relate to the parent word. Technically this should be "alchey" or "alchie," which are totally unsatisfying spellings, and misleading in terms of pronounciation. I guess the accepted spelling ("alkie") can be justified by categorizing it as slang. I guess.

***Actually, it appears that this computer (or this browser?) has spell check turned off. Good to know I suppose, but now I'm worried that everything I am writing is riddled with typos. Just yesterday I realized that the last formspring question I had the honor of answering was answered with a "to" where a "too" should be. I was mortified. Someone please, please have mercy and give me something else to put at the top of my page.  Not that anyone is reading that stuff, but I have my pride.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I went to the store to buy Milk Duds. I also went to buy peanut butter and milk and Silk and ice cream (plus Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia  fro-yo, YUM) and orange juice and two bottles of seltzer water for my addict of a mother. (To be fair, Chloe drinks almost as much of the stuff when she's home, and my aunts are fans as well. So she comes by the carbonated-water addiction very honestly.) Anyway, I didn't get Milk Duds. There was no post-Halloween candy sale at Martin's, which was probably just as well. Unfortunately, there's a CVS on my way home and they had two-for-$3 sale on bags of Riesens. So now we're almost down to one bag of Riesens. One might think I'd learn that trying to satisfy a candy craving is an exercise in misery, but that assumption would be characteristic of huge underestimation of my stubbornness and idiocy.

Sherlock was rather good tonight. It'll be on again on Sunday on PBS at 9pm EST, or rather, the next (and final, for the time being) episode will be. Don't miss it!

I was listening to the radio the other day and heard this new song, "Come Back Song," on the radio. At first I thought that it must be the guy from Hootie and the Blowfish, because not only did he have a voice that sounded similar to the H&tB lead singer, but he also had all of the same vocal habits with regards to, uh, note patterns and improvisation and such. Then the song ended, and the DJ said that the singer had been Darius Rucker, and I was dumbfounded. Never mind that I had no idea what the H&tB lead singer was named, and that I knew that they weren't a country band. Hey, guess what. D Rucker sang (sings?) for Hootie. Duh.

Anyway, it's a good song, even if the video is shot in that "hey, look at me, I'm cute" style usually reserved for young, fresh-faced new pop artists.

Another song I have been loving lately (I've been on a minor country kick, ok?), by Sugarland:

Yes, there is an official video, and it's ok, but it's ridiculous and I don't want it to influence anyone's first impression of the song. You can watch that on your own time.

I need more Milk Duds in my life.

Perhaps it's time for a trip to the cinema. Not much beats a bag of popcorn with a box of Milk Duds dumped into it, unless it's a bag of popcorn with a bag of Reece's Pieces dumped in. Thank you, Sara, for teaching me so much in my youth.

I did make the new blog I mentioned--it is If you're ever interested in finding out why I didn't sleep enough last night, the answer should be right there for your viewing pleasure.

Yesterday I got paid for this painting stuff, the day before I was told that my Planet Shoes return had been received and my account would be credited and also that my invoice for tutoring had been processed, and today Sara's mom called and asked if I could housesit again, beginning tomorrow. I'm going to be rich. Relatively speaking.

I am still dying for Milk Duds. Isn't the period of time following Halloween one which is supposed to be characterized by a lot of great candy lying around? We really fell down on the job this year. NO M&M's, NO Skittles, NO Milk Duds. What the heck? All we have are stupid Almond Joys and plain Hershey bars and stuff I don't want to eat. I don't know what we were thinking. I might need to go to the store. OMG--they might have a candy sale.

Things discovered (aka shared)

A link I have seen recently on facebook, but didn't click until today: "WTF has Obama done so far?" This is worth the very little time it takes to click over.

My friend Zach is a fantastic writer and a moving-vehicle wizard. Unfortunately he has a weakness. More than one, really, but I don't have links to any of the others at the moment.

Shared with me by my dad the other day, a short NYT article about vegetables. He emailed me the in-line text, so I'll just copy it for you:

Learning to Love Veggies: Readers Weigh In

I’m overwhelmed! A recent column asking for suggestions on how to entice Americans to eat more vegetables drew nearly 600 e-mailed responses and a long, long menu of food for thought.
Most of the suggestions came from people who love vegetables and have already figured out ways to incorporate them into their own and their families’ diets. But equally instructive were those from people who said they were not especially fond of vegetables and suggested ways they could be made more appealing.
A recurring theme was that we should stop trying to sell vegetables for their health value (and stop scolding people for failing to eat enough of them) and instead focus on the positive — the delicious flavors and colors that can add so much variety to meals and snacks. Another was the importance of teaching people fast and simple techniques for achieving mouthwatering results.
As Elif Savas Felsen wrote, “If you teach Americans how to cook vegetables and stop yelling at them like some righteous food-health nut, they will learn.”
And Katherine Erickson urged that we “stop calling vegetables ‘sides’ ” and instead design meals around them.
Start Young
Give children a taste for fresh vegetables early on — very early. As soon as my sons could pick up pieces to feed themselves, minimally cooked mixed frozen vegetables adorned their food trays.
“Don’t give up,” L. K. Schoeffel wrote. “Keep making all those veggies a central part of your family meals.” If at first the children balk, reintroduce them again and again. And be sure to eat them yourself.
Introduce vegetables as fun foods, perhaps by reading, together, “The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond” (Ceres, 2007), cleverly written by Steve Charney and David Goldbeck and beautifully illustrated by Maria Burgaleta Larson, complete with poems, jokes, riddles, geography, recipes and ways to grow food.
Create a sense of ownership. If possible, have children help plant a little vegetable garden or grow something edible on the deck or window ledge. Get them involved in choosing vegetables in the store or at a farmers’ market, remark about their interesting shapes and colors, and let children help prepare them. Even a 2-year-old can rinse cherry tomatoes and toss them in a salad.
“Ask them how many peas they can pick up with their forks,” Edward Batcheller suggested. “Help them cut up string beans. Let them learn how to peel carrots. Come up with all sorts of vegetables, fruits, etc. that they can put together to make a good drink with the blender.”
Many readers urged schools to reinstate cooking classes for both girls and boys — learning about food can also reinforce lessons in math, science and geography — with a focus on fresh vegetables that are also served in the lunchroom. But lunch offerings of overcooked, tasteless vegetables will win no converts.
Children and adults often learn to experience new vegetables at other people’s houses — or while shopping. Supermarkets, big-box stores and other retailers can prepare vegetable tastings for anyone to sample.
As in decades long past, children should be served the same foods the grown-ups are eating. No special “kid food,” as several readers put it. Likewise in restaurants, dishes on the children’s menu should include lots of tasty vegetables in place of fries.
Dr. Susan Gardner of Houston asked: “Where are the parents of yesteryear who simply put varied and nutritious foods on the table and assumed that their active and busy children would eat them? No wheedling, no begging, no comment.” Carol Caputo of New York had a similar thought: “Parents today ask their kids what they want to eat. You are the parent, you decide. Don’t discuss food, just serve it!”
For that witching hour when the kids are hungry but dinner is not yet ready, serve cut-up fresh carrots, cucumber, celery or red pepper, or a combination, with a dip like hummus, salad dressingor seasoned yogurt. Edamame beans are a great snack — children love popping them out of the shells.
Hungry children are likely to eat what is readily available. If instead of cookies and chips, there is a platter of ready-to-eat vegetables or a bowl of cherry tomatoes handy, they just may eat them.
Even the most reluctant consumer of vegetables can handle them if they are grated or puréed and hidden in stews, soups, pasta sauces, loaves, quick breads and muffins. My family’s favorites included pumpkin and zucchini breads.
Missy Chase Lapine, who has won fame as the Sneaky Chef, suggested “slipping veggies in the meals people already like to eat, like spaghetti and meatballs. Once people realize that the meal they just loved contained spinach, they become more open to trying spinach straight up.”
Focus on Flavor
“Never boil them,” Walter Jacobsen wrote. “Even if they’re frozen, I think they taste much better, are much crunchier, if sautéed in a flavored oil.” A popular refrain: “What’s wrong with a little fat — olive oil or butter — to make vegetables more palatable?” As some noted, if you reduce the meat portion and buttered bread, there’s ample caloric room for some oil or butter — even pancetta or bacon bits — to season the vegetables.
A very popular idea was a vegetable-rich soup (I used to purée the vegetables my boys rejected on sight), perhaps with tiny meatballs, chicken cubes or seasoned tofu. Consider making a big batch to eat for a few days, perhaps freezing some (labeled and dated) for another day. My lunch the other day was split pea soup that I’d made and frozen in 2008. Beneath it I found turkey andcabbage soup I cooked last year.
Many readers suggested my own favorite: stir-frying vegetables in a little olive oil seasoned with garlic, onion, shallots or balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Another of my favorites: grilling vegetables, which can be done on the stovetop in a ridged grill pan as well as on a barbecue grill.
Roasting vegetables, either individually or mixed, in the oven or toaster oven was another popular suggestion. Cut the vegetables into approximately equal sizes, toss with olive oil, season with salt and pepper or herbs, and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they reach the desired texture.
Roasted kale crisps for snacks were mentioned often. Margaret P. Mason suggests spreading a single layer of kale pieces on a cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at 375 to 400 degrees. Turn them after about five minutes, making sure they don’t burn.
Juiced vegetables were frequently mentioned, too. Chester Chanin thinks restaurants should offer “appealing fresh vegetable juices as a complimentary side drink before the meal arrives.” I’ll drink to that!

[end article]

I have to say that I love being able to copy-paste something here and not have it screw up the margins, font, color, and text size for the rest of my entry. I'll drink to that. Thank you, New York Times, for using Times font. 

-It smelled like snow last night.

-My wrist appears to be re-injured.

-I am seriously considering starting another blog which will do nothing but list the reason, each day, that I did not go to sleep on time the night before.

-I commented on the most recent entry at and received a response! How nice. I like her.

-People (Beth, Art, Tim, Sara) keep trying to convince me to participate in Nanowrimo this year. Thoughts?