Monday, February 26, 2007


My son Joe is up in Alaska all this month doing cold weather training with his Navy team. My daughter-in-law took the opportunity while he was gone to go visit relatives in Oregon for ten days. It was nice and all that she got to see her family, none of them had seen baby Joli yet. But I selfishly missed her being home where she could upload daily photos of my grandbaby. I've been spoiled by being able to wake up each morning to her cute smiling face in my mailbox.

They're back home now and this is one of the photos that arrived today. The t-shirt says "Crying - it gets the job done". And if you knew this adorable little bundle of determination and strong opinions, you'd know how perfect the shirt is on her. I like that she's not crying in the photo. Instead she looks quite smug and mischevious. As if she's saying "Hey guys, I'm armed with tear ducts and vocal chords and I am not afraid to use them!"

More of that Blinding White Stuff

Last night we got a lot more snow. It's mostly a heavy wet snow, so it's compacting, making icicles, sliding off roofs and out of trees with no warning whatsoever. Ask me how I learned that last one! And while I'm mentioning it, it's probably a good idea to wear a coat if you go out to take photos while standing underneath tall branches. If you don't need your head and neck washed.

William was all finished getting ready for school this morning when the phone rang. A friend calling with good news - SNOW DAY! It takes a lot to cancel school around here. He and his buddies are off with their snowboards now playing on some local hills. Reminds me of when they were all little boys building snow forts in the front yard. He's gonna be soaking wet when he gets home.

Brandon just came to the door and said William sent him back for a football and an umbrella. Umbrella? So they can videotape themselves playing football without getting the camera wet. Of course. I explained that William had broken my umbrella while we were in Paris and there's no way I was gonna give them the new fancy umbrella with Parisian street scenes on it that I was forced to buy since it was still raining when he broke the other one. I gave him some plastic bags instead.

I looked for the football in William's room, couldn't find it. Called William on his cell phone and he said the football wasn't in his room, it was in the front yard.

THIS front yard:
So, ooookay. Good luck with that one Brandon.

The other day I noticed that my buds on the flowering quince are getting really big and bright and you can even see tiny green leaves popping out from behind the red. I was going to take a photo to show you. Well, here ya go. The snow is a unexpected bonus.

It's still coming down pretty hard out there. It makes me think of the Wintersmith, a character, and the title, of a wonderful book I just finished reading. Maybe it's time for another book update soon.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

We have winter!

We're finally getting some winter around here! While a lot of you a lot of you geographically 4-season folk have had more then your fair share of the white stuff this year, we've been plodding through the dark, dreary months with plenty of freezing temperatures but no snow.

I took this photo this morning before the wind swept in and blew all that lovely icing off the trees. I know it doesn't look like it, but this is a color photo. That dark hooded figure is a neighbor on his way to work but he looks like a shadow just passing through this world from someplace else, doesn't he? I find myself wondering if Binky isn't camouflaged somewhere in all that white.

Here's a photo with some color. I snapped it this evening when I had to venture out with the dogs. Brrrrr. Last summer a fellow at the local thrift store was sorting through a box of copper items and this was left amongst some plastic junk, broken in bits. He was going to toss it in the dumpster. Instead I brought it home, fixed it, and hung it outside in my apple tree. It doesn't stand out in the colorful summer garden, but it looks like jewels sparkling in a garden of snow.

If you need even more color then this, click on over to Laume's Studio to see what I was working on this evening while I watched The Academy Awards on television. This year I haven't yet managed to see a single one of the nominated films. I watched it mainly to see all the beautiful people in their evening finery. There were a lot of dresses I loved, a few I really thought missed the mark, but one of the highlights of the evening for me was Helen Mirren, 61 years old and so abso-friggin stunning she looked better then a lot of the women half her age!

I better quit before this turns into a fashion review. I'm sure there are hundreds of Oscar fashion blogs up already! Oh. It's snowing again.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The psychology of not blogging

A busy friend called me up today to see if I was okay. She was worried about me. Although she doesn't have much time to go online, she usually checks in once or twice a week and reads my blog, and she'd noticed I hadn't blogged in almost a week. It's nice to have friends that care enough to know when you're not acting normal, and then actually pick up the phone and check up on you.

I told her I was fine and that I, too, had been pondering the reasons behind my own non-blogging activity (or would that be blogging nonactivity?) I can't quite put my finger on why I haven't been blogging all week. It's not like me not to have things to say. I have opinions, and lots of them. I haven't really figured it out, but I have compiled a list of possible reasons.

Reason #1 - I've been busy in a happy, rambling sort of way. By that I mean I've been putting the things I want to do above the things I just do as a matter of course. So, my floors - don't look at them please. They're covered with mud and dust bunnies and scraps of paper Rosie has torn apart and who knows what else. But my studio is all set up with several projects in midprocess.

Reason #2 - The things I've been doing, my "show and tell" choices, are all half finished or half done. I'm holding out for when I can take photos.

Reason #3 - Mother guilt. My mind works in strange ways. (I know you all know that, but I'm about to point out one particular way in which it is strange.) The less busy I am, the less I want to do anything at all. The more I'm working, the more things I want to toss in the pot. So along with being more productive in the studio, I've been trying to shine up my "mothering" medal by cooking more, spending time with the teenager who'd really rather be staring glazed-eyed at his computer or XBox t.v. screen. I've been running errands that I've put off for weeks. I've been doing paperwork and walking the dog and keeping up the laundry and so on and so on...

Reason #4 - I've managed to turn my days and nights even further around then usual, so, even though I'm getting the same amount of sleep, possibly more sleep then usual, I'm too tired to think clearly at night, when I usually blog.

Reason #5 - I feel uncreative in my writing. Most of creative juices are going into physical art right now, not verbal art. Let's hope this is just part of feeling tired and wintery in general right now and not a permanent either/or energy choice, because to have to choose between mental creativity and physical creativity -that would suck. Anyway, every time I'm on the computer and think - now would be a good time to blog - I feel like I have nothing interesting to say. Who wants to hear about what I did today or how I feel tonight or what the weather is like outside my window. Everyone has their own days and own feelings and own windows. Usually I consider myself mildly interesting, even damn witty at times. I'm usually up to the challenge of making even the most boring topic funny or insightful. But lately.... eh. Not so much.

Reason #6 - I'm pouting that I haven't had many comments from folks lately. I know - mea culpa. But I have a reason, at least for some blogs I read - blogger is being a twit and won't let me leave comments. I guess this sort of ties in with Reason #5, I've had the feeling lately that maybe I'm just talking to myself.

Reason #7 - American Idol is in it's 3-days-a-week routine. I'm sorry, I'm one of THOSE people. Last year we were beyond addicted to the show. This year we've jumped in with just as much enthusiasm. Well, Jeff and I have jumped in. William has "jumped ship" and announced a NO AMERICAN IDOL spring for him. Not only does it take a lot of time to watch all that Idol, but I was really afraid I'd end up blogging about it. It's a little early in the season to be picking favorites, doncha think?

Reason #8 - I broke a tooth and had to go to the dentist. Okay, so maybe that's not a legitimate reason. But I do have a dentist phobia and I did have to spend an inordinate amount of time stressing and worrying about it. Turns out I have to go back and have it capped. In the meantime, I'd appreciate any sympathies you can spare, above and beyond what the situation truly calls for. I'm a big old dentist baby and scaredy cat and whiner.

Reason #9 - We have snow! I know that for a lot of you out there this is very old, old news. You've had snow, snow, and more snow. You're sick and tired of snow. You don't care if you ever see snow again in your life! But for some reason our little community had been singled out to be ignored by the snowmaking powers-that-be this year and this is our very first legitimate snow storm of the season. I had to spend the entire day simply watching the flakes fall and listening to the quiet. Here's a photo I took yesterday, the day after the storm. A lot of the snow had melted off the nearby fields, but the mountains looked gorgeous, the sun slipping in from the west between the shadowed valley below and storm clouds above.

Reason #10 - I've been reading a lot. Library books, so that puts more pressure on me to finish them up quickly. Most writers I know are also avid readers, but for me it's hard to do a lot of both at the same time. I can't split it 50/50, my brain likes it more as a 80/20 or perhaps 70/30 split. Tipped either direction is fine, but I just can't balance the two.

Reason #11 - Some of my favorite bloggers have been on hiatuses (hiatusi? hiatus's?) of sorts this last week. I don't know how that translates into me not blogging as well, but there ya go. Never let it be said I allow logic to stand in my way of using something as an excuse.

I promise to be back soon. Hey, I guess I am back. I wrote this, didn't I? Maybe tonight I'll get to some of those other subjects waiting in the wings. But before I go, just one more thing, a photo William took this morning of Fred and George Weasley, my identical twin "temple cats". (You'll have to click on the pic to see them really well. And to see all the minutiae surrounding me on the bed and nightstand. I love to study other people's photos, searching for small details that tell me things about their life they don't realize they are sharing. Do you do that too?)

I don't know what they're guarding. Me. The small chihuahua that is hidden under the covers and beneath the laptop. Perhaps the laptop itself. I don't think I look half bad for not having dragged myself out of bed yet.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Unconscious Mutterings

Here's a new game I found over on Fond of Snape. Click here to play.

You hear/see the first word and free associate your response.

  1. Threshold :: A new beginning

  2. Jason :: and the argonauts

  3. Suspicion :: Charade (the movie)

  4. Tender :: is the night (it's a song - can't remember who sings it, although now it's stuck in my head)

  5. Tempted :: to go to Reno today. But I won't. There's a storm coming in.

  6. Crimson :: blood

  7. Repulsive :: lepers (I just watched the leper episode of Monk last night)

  8. Bulldog :: my friend Shirley

  9. Garage :: is a mess!

  10. Racket :: tennis, teenagers

Over the Hill We Go

Last night I was in the mood for dinner out with my hubby. He was going to be home after work, but unfortunately that wasn't until late, and this little town rolls up its sidewalks and draws down its shades early. We used to limp along on one 24 hour cafe that changed hands a zillion times but it finally gave up and closed last autumn.

BUT - we have a casino up on the reservation. They have a cafe. Always open. We'd never been. We're not gamblin' folks. We decided to give it a try.

It was fun. Like somehow having left town without the trouble of leaving town. A bit of a smokey scent even in the nonsmoking room, but not too bad. Service was fine. Food was .... acceptable - cheap coffee shop quality - you can't really complain when you want dinner in the middle of the night.

When the waiter brought our bill I asked him if they offered a discount with the Grizz Card. Grizz Card? For my readers, a Grizz Card is this wonderful discount card sold for $10 by the high school football teams. Participating businesses offer discounts that you can use over and over again for the entire year. It's a real gem. For example, at one of our favorite coffee shops, you get free drinks with every meal. Another coffee shop offers one free drink with each visit (although we ended up with two cards because William was selling them this year and got one free for every twenty he sold) and sometimes, depending on the waitress, they'll honor both of our cards and give us all our drinks off. Our fave Mexican restaurant gives you one meal at 50% off with the purchase of another entree. Every time we go in to any of these restaurants, we get these discounts. For $10 - or in our case, for FREE, we have literally saved hundreds of dollars so far and the cards don't expire again until the end of this August. There are also discounts at places like tire shops, the uniform shop, shoe store, and so on. (These cards are very popular in communities all over, at least all over California - check in your community at the local high school if you'd save with one of these!)

So, back to the waiter. Grizz Card? He looked puzzled.

"So, obviously not" I said. "A Grizz card - the little purple and gold card with discounts for locals." I hold up my hands to frame the credit card size of a Grizz Card.

"Oh!" He understands. "But no, we don't. But it's okay, I already gave you folks a discount."

"You did? Why?"

The waiter looked uncomfortable. "Well, I don't want to be rude or anything."

Silence. We're confused now.

"I mean, you two look really great and all."


"You're seniors, right?"

We just cracked up laughing. And then, without planning it, we pointed at each other and said in unison "Well, she/he is!"

More laughter. Then Jeff conceded the point. He was. I mean, one of us had to take the blame to get the discount. No sense embarrassing the guy any further. And I look waaaay too HOT for it to be me.

Hey! I can hear you. STOP LAUGHING!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Holiday Photos #22

We're still in sunny Edinburgh. Snort. The rain stopped the morning we left.

Down at the bottom of the Royal Mile (which I keep wanting to refer to as the Miracle Mile, like in the U.S.) they had a wall full of literary quotes. It was raining and William was dragging me past, but I photographed a couple of favorites.

I've been told I say things well, but I doubt anyone would accuse me of saying but little.

I had never even heard of this poet. I looked him up. Hmmm, a Jesuit. Gotta love those intellectual Catholics. Here's another of his poems. Lovely.

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Statues, statues, statues. Everywhere. This one is of John Knox, leader of the protestant reformation movement in Scotland - yawwwn. But what I liked was how the statue looks all noble and dignified and the shadow looks like the wicked hag in Snow White, like the shadow self is different then what we show people in the light.

Here's William up on a pedestal pretending that he is a statue of someone famous. William the Snowboarder.

This was a, I assume real gold, design on the doors to one of the entries to the Holyrood Palace. I mentioned before, we didn't get to go in because real royalty was using their palace during our time in Edinburgh.

It was hard to capture the scenes above us. Everywhere we went I would aim the camera up and most of the time give up because the image wasn't the same as the experience. But here's more of those dark, looming rooftops of old Edinburgh. Remember if you click on the photos, you get more detail.

Here's William entering another close. Earlier I said , or perhaps I didn't and just thought it, that I thought they were called closes because the walls and buildings were closed in on the walkway. The other night I was watching a travel show about Edinburgh and they said that the reason they were called closes were because at night they were closed off to keep them safe, or keep the riff raff out, whichever.

I like the bicycle. And the way there rain makes all the stone green around the edges. I'm a sucker for anything green. Speaking of green, I went on a photo walk the other day and put some green pics up on Laumes Studio. Go check them out.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day

I've never placed a lot of importance on Valentines Day. I think of it as one of those "made up for the card companies" holidays. I think the thing I've liked best about the day over the years is the fun of all those goofy packages of "school" valentines. I have fond memories of decorating a frilly shoe box when I was a child, turning it into my classroom mailbox. I loved all the silly cards my kids made and received, dragging them to and bringing them home from Valentine's Day parties, each name carefully signed in awkward, unevenly sized, newly learned letters.

I also remember the year I bought my son Joe a "boyish" Valentine. He was about five years old I guess, and I thought he might object to the more traditional lace and hearts type of card. He ripped it out of the envelope excitedly, looked at the cover, looked inside it, and then burst into tears. When I asked him what was wrong he choked out between sobs that it wasn't a REAL Valentine because it didn't have... you guessed it.... lace and hearts on it. I never made the mistake again and made sure after that I only gave him REAL Valentines.

I remember the first Valentine's Day after Joshua died. I was trying not to think about what day it was, I wasn't in the mood for happy or lovey or sweet. Life didn't seem particularly sweet just yet. Mostly I was trying to keep busy and get through the day without thinking at all and for that purpose I decided to sort out a stack of old books that had been sitting around for awhile. Holding one book up, none too carefully, something fell out from inside it and dropped to my lap. It was an old Valentine's card of construction paper and crayon that had laid forgotten inside the pages for a decade and a half. Strange shapes that might have been hearts were drawn on it, clustered around the words "HapPy VaLentiNEs dAy". I opened it up and inside it read "I LovE YoU - JOsHua".

But mostly, I don't remember Valentine's Days gone past or make a big deal out of it when it rolls around each year. Despite my indifference, I've always been treated to cards, phone calls, perhaps flowers or some other symbol of affection. I've always had people in my life that not only love me, but take the time to let me know it.

I went out for a walk in the rain a few days ago and took the photo you see above. It made me sad. It was undoubtedly a teenager's empty candy box - a defiant act of "watch me litter 'cuz it's all about me" while walking home from school. But looking down at it tossed on a sidewalk, it reminded me that Valentine's Day was just around the corner and for a lot of people, there are no flowers or cards or words of affection. Perhaps there are no people in their world to love them. Maybe just this one year, maybe never. Some people's hearts aren't filled with chocolate. Some people's hearts get left out in the rain.

It made me realize that, for me, feeling loved is something that happens not just on one or two days of the year, but every single day. I wake up each morning knowing that someone, maybe even half a dozen someones, will tell me they love me. I'll tell them I love them too. A day set aside to express our love for each other - in my world it's like the need for a Happy Breathing Air Day. Or a Happy Cup of Coffee Day. Or how about Happy Drive My Car Day. Valentine's Day is no big deal for me. I am blessed, unceasingly blessed.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Am I really posting about this?

Not only is it a boring thing to post about, but it's sort of like pointing out how proud one is of their C average in school, or how many cars one has up on blocks in ones dead, weedy front yard. Let's pretend it's..... amusing.

Years ago I won a bid on an auction number for something. I can't even remember what it was anymore, but when I went to pick up the whatever-it-was, I discovered that they'd also thrown in a 100% natural naugahyde, white ottoman, complete with shiny gold rolling coasters. I tried to leave it behind at the auction but they said I had to take it - package deal.

So I brought it home and set it in the middle of the living room where it matched absolutely nothing in my house because it's not like I'm classy enough to have purchased even more naugahyde furniture. I told myself it was only temporary. When my husband saw it and said "What IS that!?", I told him it was only temporary. When William said "That thing is really ugly", I told him it was only temporary.

Turns out that despite it's, ahem, "beauty", it's an extremely useful piece of furniture and somehow temporary turned into eventually and eventually turned into well, why get rid of it only to need to buy something new, albeit more attractive, to replace it.

That's when I got the idea to make a cover for it. Of course getting the idea was the easy part. The actually making of a cover.... uhm.... never happened. What did happen was the cats thought the buttons on the top of the ottoman (which, for some bizarre reason William insists on calling a bolster, which is a pillow, isn't it?)anyway, they thought the buttons were edible. Eventually they ate them off. Whether they swallowed them, barfed them up somewhere, or just batted them under some dresser that's never been moved, who knows. They're gone. That's the important point for the purpose of this story.

The next thing that happened was both cats and Rosie decided that whatever was now visible inside the holes where the buttons used to be must be edible. Spongy foam bits and pieces. Turns out - not edible. But that didn't stop them from trying to get them out, and spreading them all over my floor on a daily basis. Sometimes I'd gather the foam pieces up and shove them back through the holes, which were multiplying by this time, sometimes I'd simply toss them in the garbage. Grandkids eventually arrived and they too were determined to find out what was down in those fascinating holes in the top of the ottoman.

Today I had a inspiration. And here it is.

Yes indeedy Bubba Billy Joe Tommy Ray - DUCT TAPE! But hey, I'm classy. No ordinary silver duct tape. That would have been TACKY. I bought white duct tape to match the color of the ottoman.

I still plan on making a cover for it. Eventually. I'll get right on it after I make a set of Nascar print curtains for the back window of my pick up truck.

And while I'm offering up completely irrelevant to ANYTHING bits about my day, look what I got at Walmart today. (Yes, Walmart - but it's the only place in 100 miles to get some stuff, okay!)

It's a new doormat. My old doormat got dragged outside by persons unknown and in the light of full daylight looked a little shabby. So when I saw this one, I thought I'd replace the other one. Isn't it purty?!

Monday, February 12, 2007

What's the buzzzzzz?

I've been told that attacking folks with photos of my grandchildren might not be the best way to keep friends. Phbbt. Too bad. Love me, love my grandchildren. And my kids. And my mess. And my cats.

This particular photo though, has not only a cute granddaughter and pretty cute if bemused son, but also a cute story behind it.

My daughter-in-law Lisa keeps me happy with lots of photos of Joli, almost daily. It makes it a wee bit easier that they live so far away. I called her up after receiving the bumble bee baby pics to ask her where she got a bee costume. I assumed that she'd been given it in a bunch of hand-me-downs, some other baby's Halloween costume.

Wrong. She and her mom were out shopping recently at Old Navy outlet store and she saw this bumble bee costume on last clearance prices - $2. She picked it up. Her mom said "But Halloween is over. When will she get a chance to wear it?"

Without having to stop and think about it, Lisa replied "For Easter."

I just laughed and laughed because, of course! Bunnies, eggs, green grass, flowers..... bees! It made total sense. Have I mentioned how lucky I am to have such a smart (aka - thinks in strange ways just like me) daughter-in-law!?

I like this photo too. Check out the evil eye peering out in the bottom lefthand corner. It looks like poor baby has just been scooped up by a mad ogre.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

I had no idea inflation was this bad

Eighteen hundred dollars for a pack of beer!? That's a very expensive buzz. Two hundred thirty nine dollars a pound for pork chops! I'm glad I'm mostly a vegetarian.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hello. Hello. Do you like my hat?

In the last few months, my mother has sent me five, yes FIVE new hats. I think it's a sort of compensation for moving far away from me. She can't be nearby, certain I'm safe and snug, but she can at least make sure I've got my head covered when I go out the door.

I like hats. (Although, if you're reading this Mom, it's not like I need more hats!) It's funny because when I was younger, hats looked goofy on me. Well, let's put it this way - whenever I put a hat on my head, my family would stare, laugh, gasp, or quickly point out that perhaps it really wasn't cold enough outside to warrant wearing a hat.

Now I wear hats quite often. I suspect I haven't suddenly started looking better in them as much as I've stopped caring about what other people thing about the way I look. Hats are fun. They make me happy. Especially unusual hats - although I draw the line at those caps with slots for beer cans on the side and a tube that leads down to your mouth.

I thought I'd give you a little fashion show of my new hats.

This is a gardening hat, although while modeling it today I discovered it keeps the rain out of my face quite nice nicely too. It arrived filled with some nice rubberized garden gloves and gardening soap as well.

This hat arrived today and I wore it out to breakfast with hubby. Beautiful colors! It's somewhat beretlike, I can slide the excess to the back or to the side. Not enough of a rim to slide to the front though. It's very warm and snug. A bit itchy though.

I liked the little ladybug hats she sent for the granddaughters so much, she had one made in adult size for me! It's really more of a spring hat though, doncha think?

This was the first one she sent me. It's acrylic but so soft and warm! You can't really tell in the photo but that eyelash yarn doesn't cover the whole hat, just a wide rim and then a couple rings of it alternating with a thick non-eyelash yarn. And the tassel, check out the size of that tassle! This is a hat for DEEP winter.

This visor arrived today as well. Uhm, well, okay. I mean, it's really, really, really wide. So, like, SUPER for keeping the sun out your eyes. As for the style...uhm....cough.... I've never really longed for my own custom made, retractable, striped awning. Definitely my colors though. And since I spend a lot of time on bleachers and hate all the squinting I usually do when I'm sitting on the Visitors side of the field, I might actually have cause to wear it.

Catching up on blog reading this morning, I discovered that on her blog, Laura Florand was telling folks I had the "best email alias, ever". Yeah, I'm pretty happy with it, except for when I'm asked to spell it for someone over the phone - didn't see that one coming. A lot of you already know my e-mail, but those of you left out of the loop, it references one of my favorite literary characters, Granny Weatherwax. She's the genius of Terry Pratchett - a no nonsense, sometimes crabby, always crafty, practitioner of "headology". And she knows the importance of a good hat.

If Laura knew who Granny Weatherwax was, then she must be a fan of the Discworld series, yes? But I wondered if she knew about the even better (in my opinion) young adult books that include Granny, about a young witch named Tiffany Aching.

Since I always forget whether the second book is called A Hat Full of Sky or A Sky Full of Hat, I googled it and......

Discovered there's a NEW book in the series!!! I am soooo excited! I have to order it immediately. This one most definitely goes to the top of my TBR list!

In case you need to run out and find these books lickety split, and you should, make sure you read them in order. The first one is The Wee Free Men (I read this one out loud to my son, and when you see the accent of some of the characters, this point will impress you mightily). Next comes A Hat Full of Sky. Third, brand new, Wintersmith.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Wine as Entertainment

I was tempted to post here, but in the end decided to post over on Laume's Studio. For those of you who don't normally pop in over there, you might want to take a look at Wine Art.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Did you watch the Superbowl on Sunday? Most of you probably did, even if you're not big football fans. I wasn't a big fan of either team, but William pretty much watches all and any football he can, so we ordered pizza and sodas and made a day of it. We were both rooting for the Colts, which worked out well. I got several large skeins of yarn wound into balls during the game. And of course we had a good time watching all the advertisers try to outdo each other with the best and wildest commercials.

But I bring it up specifically to ask if you caught the beginning of the game, when they had the color guard march onto the field and asked for a moment of silence for those that lost their lives in the recent Florida tornadoes, and a minute later when they also made an announcement honoring all the men and women who are serving our country and who were watching the game from overseas.

When the camera cut to the color guard and stayed on it, before the announcer had said a word, I found myself with a lump in my throat and my eyes got all misty. I am, and this might surprise some of you, a very patriotic person. And in that moment, I realized something - I realized that I'm really tired of not being able to be proud of my country.

I'm tired of being angry. I'm tired of being embarrassed. I'm tired of being accused of NOT being patriotic because of my belief that this country has lost sight of the bigger picture.

Of course when I say I'm not proud of my country, what I really mean is I'm not proud of the current leaders of this country. I completely get that the current administration is not the same thing as our country itself. It's not it's geography, it's not it's people, it's not it's spiritual heart or it's compassion or it's generosity or it's science or it's humor or it's children. It's not even all of our politicians. Am I still proud of all those other things that make up the sum of our country? You betcha. Throat catching, eye misting, chest puffing proud.

But it's the folks at the helm right now, steering our path, that represent America to the rest of the world and I am sick and tired of having to feel apologetic about that. To explain that WE are not THEM.

When William and I arrived in France, the first thing we did was buy ourselves metro passes and try to use them. We couldn't find the metro line we needed. After wandering in circles for a few minutes, we asked a passing elderly couple, a very tiny man and his wife, if they, perhaps, spoke English. No, they did not. But pointing at at our unfurled subway maps, with body language they suggested they might be able to help us find where we wanted to go.

It ended up they thought we we couldn't find a destination. We couldn't really explain that we couldn't even find the beginning of our route. After a few frustrating minutes, William noticed a small arrowed sign far at the end of the train station and pointing it out we mimed "hurrah!" while pointing at the map and pointing at the sign. Problem solved.

The tiny couple nodded happily and then, before taking their leave asked "Canada?"

"No. We're Americans" we replied.

They nodded their heads, held up a finger for us to wait, conferred with each other for a quarter of a minute or so and then having obviously worked hard to put it all together turned back to us, and said with a firm passion -

"We..." they pointed at themselves "Love...." they paused to nod at each other, tap their hearts, they'd gotten the right word "Americans!" And then they smiled and patted our hands with theirs.

William and I both laughed and I said "Well, we love the French too!" And we waved goodbye and went our separate ways. And although we all laughed, it left me feeling sad too. What compelled them to such a display? I knew what sort of biased news Americans were being fed by our media. It made me wonder - What sort of similar propoganda, or perhaps, even more frightening to think, true stories, were they hearing about America or Americans in their news coverage?Where they being served up stereotypes and media created overreactions about us they way we were about them? Are that many people really that easily led by the nose? Please, that was a rhetorical question. I don't want an answer. It's too damn depressing. Like the man I overheard yelling at his wife in the bread aisle of our local supermarket "Put that back! I'm not buying any of that fucking FRENCH bread - those commies!" I don't really want to know that as a culture we are that stupid. But, based on the same sort of packaged and safety sealed political blitz, was this sweet French couple trying to reassure us that THEY were not THEM?

I know that it's not simple. It's never been simple. Every country has things to be proud of, things to hold their head in shame over. No one is completely the good guy or the bad guy, no country is perfect. But it's such a deep, wide chasm between the pride I felt for my country just a few short years ago, and the tangled ball of frustration I feel about my country today. I'm tired of living with the seemingly diametrical desires to speak out against what I believe is wrong and my longing to feel unquestionably patriotic once again.

I want my country back.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Holiday Photos #21

We're done touring the Edinburgh castle and back to wandering the Royal Mile. There's a very touristy spot just down from the castle, sort of a permanent "house of mirrors" it seems. We didn't bother going in, but they had some fun silly mirrors along the sidewalk.

Pretty, isn't it? The next photo I mean, not the hobbits above. Although I do feel a little badly for that golden mouse, forever stuck in the talons. This was over the doorway of a small museum, something we would have passed right by if we hadn't had our British Heritage Passes that allowed us a free look see. The docent explained that in times of yore, many homes had some sort of display like the golden bird in lieu of house numbers.

We took this next photo for hubby, who's name is Jeffrey, not Geoffrey, but still, he has actually worn a kilt. In public. Okay, it wasn't a real kilt, but even more to his credit that he wore it in public. There were a number of kiltmakers with shops, the full kilt (including jacket and the rest of the bits and parts I don't know the names of) were quite expensive, same as a well made wool suit in this country.

If you've been reading these holiday posts for awhile, you might remember me telling you'd I'd explain what a "close" was. Well, this is a close. It's not an alley, it's not a road, it's not a sidewalk. It's a thoroughfare but a very thin, narrow one. The walls are "close" on either side. Some led into large courtyards with more shops or homes. Others led all the way through into the next parallel street. I've always been a sucker for "what's just down that passageway... around that bend.... behind that archway" so I wanted to investigate and photograph all of them, which annoyed William to no end. "MOM! Come ON! You've already taken a zillion photos of those!" Alas, I didn't take a zillion photos. I wish I had taken a zillion photos.

This was down a close in one of those courtyards, The Writer's Museum. We went in but except for the narrow winding staircases, William was bored with it. I would have loved to spend more time there.

Here's another close. Make sure you click on these so you can get a bigger view and more depth. (Although, for some reason, suddenly the large photos are too large for my monitor, I don't know why they're suddenly oversized. Anyone know how I can get them to return to monitor sized images?) Don't you want to go see what's down there?

Although, maybe not on a dark, foggy night. Mary Shelley got the idea for Frankenstein from all the grave robbing that occurred in Edinburgh during the her time. What with a medical school in the community, and not enough fresh dead bodies around for cadaver use, many enterprising entrepeneurs saw an opportunity to fill a hole (er, unfill a hole?) in the market.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Imbolc, also known as Candlemas and Groundhog's Day, has it's roots in Celtic tradition. It is a holiday that celebrates not the return of spring, but the stirrings of it. At some point in the long winter, it's hard to remember that the wheel will ever turn, to believe that spring will ever return. Imbolc, to me, is a calendar reminder to check for signs that it will.

So yesterday, armed with a camera, I went out into my yard and for the very first time, I looked for some sort of proof that the seasons are rolling forward. I was surprised at how much I discovered. I had already noticed, taking Rosie out to pee in the dead of night, that the chill in the air lately wasn't quite so bone cracking. The ground, although still mostly frozen, felt a bit softer when I walked over the still dry and colorless lawn. But yesterday, in the shelter of the house, under bushes, beneath last year's mulch of autumn leaves, I found hidden the green of new life.

This winter has been so dry here, the wee growth looked somewhat desperate and struggling, but still arriving despite the difficulty. In a spot where in other, wetter springs patches of violets have sprung up, a few patchy leaves and one lone blossom is blooming. Early bulb shoots are poking up - grape hyacinth and this prolific one with white blossoms that I can never remember the name of. The trees and bushes have tight round buds clinging to every branch. One lone snowdrop that I pictured above.

Today I went back outside and searched more thoroughly. A few perennials are starting to show green centers beneath the leaf mulch, which we spread on thick this year because of the deep cold and lack of snow. Braving the open air are lambs ear, hollyhocks and strawberry plants! In the backyard, leeks are already trying to thicken and will need watering, tiny seedlings of cilantro and parsley are popping up in the oak garden tubs.

Yesterday I thought winter still held the earth in sleep, but now that I've looked for those tiny first changes, a breath of hope makes everything look different. I woke up today and picked out brown clothes. Not green? Nope. Brown, like the soil, where the seeds are stirring and the roots are awakening.

Don't forget to celebrate this small, overlooked holiday in some way. Take a minute or two to go outside and look for the small, overlooked changes in in your garden. Or maybe look inside for changes in yourself that have been hibernating, incubating over the dark winter months, and are ready to be discovered and nutured into bloom. Changes in the seasons, changes of any kind, don't usually come with a bang and a parade. Instead they appear quietly, in the smallest sheltered corners, unnoticed unless we remember to look for it.

Here's to a happy, hopeful Imbolc for each of us.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Library Book Sale

I was on my way to the market yesterday when I remembered I wanted to check for a book at the library. So I detoured there. And found a book sale going on, some donated books but most books that were being culled from the library. I'm not sure what their criteria are for removing books from circulation, I think if no one checks them out for a certain period of time they get rid of them.

I'm not really thrilled with their methods, it seems like they often get rid of well known or important, if somewhat obscure, books. We live in such a small community that it's not surprising that sometimes years go buy without something being checked out. I've mentioned this before but honestly, I wonder if some of the people who work at the library even read books.

But enough whining, their loss is my gain. I found a bunch of odd treasures. So many books that they gave me a box to bring them all home in. Here they all are, an eclectic bunch of titles to be sure! If you're nosy, you can click on the pic to enlarge it and get a good look at the titles.

A lot of these I purchased for art purposes, either to peruse, or... all you book lovers, don't get squeamish now....cut up or otherwise use for altered book and collage projects. Before you faint at the thought, many of these books are really, really old or have broken bindings. However there are also some fiction in there, including a couple of books by Barbara Kingsolver (I loved The Poisonwood Bible and I haven't read Small Wonders yet) and a wonderful book of essays about quilting that I was likely the last person who ever checked it out of the library.

I'm gonna show you a bunch of photos of the art books over on Laumes Studio. So go there. Don't forget. All sorts of neat pics. But first, here, I want to show you these three cookbooks.

You might remember me mentioning that I'm half Lithuanian. And yes, I know that Czechoslovakia (wow, I can't believe I spelled that right on the first try!), Hungary, and Poland are all NOT Lithuania. But they're all northeastern European cuisines.

My Lithuanian paternal grandmother used to cook a lot of wonderful dishes. As a child I loved them, ate them, and didn't give the recipes a second thought. Sadly she suffered from dementia before I was old enough to regret losing the opportunity to learn family recipes from her. (I learned from the experience and did manage to collect a number of recipes from my maternal grandmother and great aunt.)

My father was able to teach me ONE family recipe - canadles, otherwise known as potato dumplings.

I pulled the cookbooks out last night and spent an hour browsing through them. It might not be the exact same thing, but I think I can piece together quite a few of the dishes I remember my grandmother serving from the recipes in the books. I had no idea there were so many ways to make borscht. Or sauerkraut. And apparently fruit is as useful an ingredient for soup making as it is for pies. As for dumplings, there seems to be a hundred varieties of them! I might have to try a few and see if any stand up to the family recipe for canadles.

Smiling for Grandma

Just a cute photo of my granddaughter Nonny. I took it a few weeks ago and stumbled upon it while uploading some SD cards from my camera this morning. My mom sent her this hat, isn't it cute! Well, first things first, isn't Nonny cute!? Answer: Yes. Now, on to the hat. It's handmade of a lovely green. The little red dots are ladybugs and you can see one of the cluster of leaves on the top.

It makes a nice break from all the book talk I've been posting lately, eh? Although, I'm not done with books yet. I'm off to do some errands and hopefully tonight I'll be back with the latest book news.

Damn, I can't wait - one bit of book news now, the rest later. Guess what's happening July 21, 2007!?!? Go to Google. Type in "Harry Potter". Then click the News option. I thought we'd have to wait until autumn or even winter. I am over the moon in anticipation!