Friday, February 29, 2008

What are They Wearing This Season, Dahling?

Y'know, for someone who can shower, deodorize, run a brush through my wet hair, toss on some clothes, and be out the door in less than ten minutes on average, I'm spending an inordinate amount of time obsessing on what to bring/wear on my trip. You can't imagine the number of hours I've lost in the last week trawling the internet in search of suggestions, clues, and advice. (And "trying on outfits" on the elouai dollmaker - Oh yes I have!)

Most of what I've learned is what I'd already figured out myself, learned by lugging far too much luggage around with me last trip, so kudos for me. (Lugging/luggage - never saw the connection between those two words before, hmmmm.) Old dogs CAN learn new tricks. Yet I keep thinking maybe I'm still missing some important newsflash and/or brilliant tip and so the searching and occasional real life shopping continues. And as far as real life goes here in our wee town, clothes shopping options leave much to be desired. We have Walmart. Or if you can't find anything there, then there's always Walmart. Or you could go across town and then drive back again and go to Walmart. So. I've decided I'll do any and all additional travel shopping when I'm in San Diego next week. I think they have a few more stores down thataway, yes? Smirk.

There are lots of factors to take into consideration.

Weather - Hot? Cold? Mild? Wet? I don't want to pack too much and never need it but I don't want to pack too little and freeze my tush off. Will one windbreaker and a sweater do? Or should I bring my full length duster style raincoat?

Walking - important to have comfortable but still stylish shoes. Even I, someone who pays minimum attention to fashion, noticed that Americans and Europeans wear very different footwear. It's not that I want to blend in completely - okay, I'd love to blend in completely but with my ever present camera (and my soooo nonblendable hubby at my side), that's going to be impossible. But I don't want my look to shout "Hello Pickpockets! American Tourist right here!", nor do I want to look like some of the, and I'm sorry but it's true, truly ugly Americans I saw on my last trip. You know, the kind that wear big fluffy sweatshirts with little American flag flying kitties appliqued onto the center of their ample chests. Of course, I'd rather do a Lady Godiva than wear something like that walking down any Main Street U.S.A., much less in the fashion capitol of the world. So, stylish but COMFORTABLE shoes. And I need to break them in before we leave. And maybe TWO pair, to trade off or in case one gets wet.

Space - Since I want to bring only enough to fit in one carry on bag, it all has to work together and be non-bulky. No thick seamed jeans or fluffy seaters. Only thin, easily squished into a few inches square, easily washed out and dried in a bathroom clothing need apply. I want it all to be interchangeable, which means picking 2-3 colors, two neutrals with an accent or maybe one neutral with two accents that enjoy each other's company. I really want to go with black, gray and red, because I like black, gray and red, I'll be comfortable in black and red, it's slimming, and it doesn't look dirty if worn more than once. But then I'm thinking - is black so "de rigueur" as to be a stereotype? And red - I had an unfortunate accident with a red sweater bleeding onto my shirts while traveling. And is black and red too winter? Will I get there and wish I was wearing more of a spring palette? I'm thinking of chocolates and blues maybe too.

Carrying - my carry on luggage won't be visible most of the time, but my purse will. It can't be too big or it will count as another piece of luggage, it can't be too small or it won't fit the basics. Do I want a hip pack to keep my handss free or a sling over (and across) my shoulder for more style but still secure. Do I want it large enough to slip my camera in as well or do I want to carry my camera separately in it's own case? Color?

Fashion - okay, here's where I admit that although it might be my own, extremely laid back style and not anyone elses idea of fashion, I really DO care what I look like and I want to look fabulous on vacation. Or, as fabulous as I can with this rather worn body. The problem is that I'm too old to get away with all the awesome styles that anyone under 30 can slip into without looking silly. Not to mention coming out the edges of that sort of style in unflattering extra curves. Still, I'm not a conservative dresser and there's no way I'd be caught wearing my mother's polyester pants suit. Okay, that last bit was a complete fabrication. My mother, bless her rebel heart, would never be caught wearing a polyester pants suit at her age either. But, you get the idea. The fashion suggestions online for anyone over the age of 30 is dreadfully absent or dismissing. Basically we're supposed to wear sensible shoes, and cover our limbs tastefully and conservatively - so as not to make anyone accidentally throw up a little at the sight of our decrepitness I guess. Uhm, I think NOT. There has to be some way to dress joyfully without looking like you're trying to pass as a twentysomething or pick up all slutty Mr. Robinson style on the nearest college student. I've found a balance of some sort in what I wear here in town, but I doubt little ol' Paris has the same love for flannel, blue jeans, and Lassen Grizzlies logos that we have here in Gay Susanville.

I've been dressing each day in potential travel outfits to measure how long it stays comfortable and undisheveled. As much fun as it is to buy new clothes, I'd rather find as much as I can from my current wardrobe first and save the spending for other stuff. (Like, maybe splurge on a new camera.) Yesterday I put on my black slouch boots and wore then for a mile long walk. Not bad, but they have only a thin, flat sole, so I don't know about walking for five miles in them. I found a pair of slim stretch black pants in the back of my closet and wore those one day only to find they kept requiring constant pulling up. I bought a cute new black half sweater the other day, like a shrug, y'know. I showed it off to the family and William said it looked like it was too small, like it had shrunk. I explained it's suppoooooosed to look like that. He just rolled his eyes. Hello! What's THAT supposed to imply?! And who asked for his opinion anyway! He's a teenager. He thinks his mother shouldn't be allowed out in public without a paper bag over my face.

I'm hopping a plane next week to San Deigo to visit my son (another, less critical son) and his family and I'm planning on using it as a practice run. I'll use my new wheeled back pack (which I found on clearance for $9!!! - black and purple, not my first choice - but hellooooo, NINE DOLLARS!), see if I can live happily for a week in what fits inside it, and more importantly, make sure the pack itself fits easily inside the carry on size measuring box thingy at the airport. I'll also try out how the clothes work for the weather, which should be just slightly warmer than what to expect on a rainless day in Paris in April. Last time I went down to San Diego in the winter I thought I'd accommodated the temperature difference by bringing lighter clothing and while the southern California natives were complaining of the chilly evenings and bundling up in sweatshirts, I was so warm I was stripping down to my one and only tank top and buying emergency flip flops! Hopefully I'll do better this time. Plus, I'll have daughter-in-law Lisa (aka - another woman) there to point out any obvious fashion disasters before I whip out my checkbook.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Vanishing, Violets, Vision

That alliterative title thing was a bit tricky this time but I finally found something that worked near the end of the alphabet.


We'd gotten rid of the snow after a long month of constant "sky dandruff", only to get another foot or so dumped on us over the weekend. Fortunately this last storm was followed by a weather warm up, so here's the front yard now. I like finding shapes in it, like finding boats or dragons or dachshund clouds floating across the sky. The other day, when I didn't have my camera, of course, I found a a perfect heart of dry cement in the icy sidewalk. What do you see in the photo above? The longer I look the more I see, but what pops out at me immediately is the person lurking in the right bottom corner - just the shadow of his head and shoulders.


And the vanishing snow reveals the first flowers of spring. Look! You can't see it? Well, let's have a closer look, shall we?

A wee violet poking out from it's blanket of autumn leaves in a south facing flower bed. There were a half dozen or so of these harbingers of a new season. I had my hands full so I left them there, but I'll have to pop on out today to eat one. Ahhhh, the taste of spring.


I have never really settled into my current pair of glasses. They were my second pair of bifocals. The first pair worked really well for me and so I was frustrated that this pair didn't work as well. Too, they managed to get scratched up almost immediately even though I'm excessively careful with my lens. I decided that my habits and vision had changed enough that I wanted to switch back to a regular single focus lens and use this current pair as my reading glasses, which they'll work as just fine. I got a new prescription last fall only to discover that my insurance wouldn't let me buy a new pair until February 2008.

Well, February 2008 it is, so I went to my eye doctor's office yesterday afternoon and spent a good hour and a half trying on new frames. I was thrilled to see that I liked the new styles (glasses have fashion seasons, just like everything else) much better than what was available last fall. Yah! I need new glasses so I can look "tres cool" while wandering down the Champs D'Elysee. And by that I mean I want to look "chic" and "fantastic", not that I want to look like the drummer for Green Day.

Actually, who I want to look like is Lisa Loeb. I mean, I want glasses like Lisa Loeb's. Sure, I'd like to look like her too, but since that's not gonna happen, I'll settle for trying to recreate her cool eye style. I thought I was the only person who obsessed over her "look" until I went to her website and found a whole section just on how she picks out her eyewear! And here I thought I was unique - just like everyone else.

So, I tried on glasses. I really wanted this pair that had only a top frame, with little curliques on the tips that were from a company called Tres Jolie. How cool would that be - my own little french lace glasses named after my granddaughter. But it's like the whole paint color name thing - I can't buy "Tuscany Sage" because it sounds cool if "Moldy Lettuce" is really the color I was looking for. I wish they wouldn't name paint colors. Or eyeglasses.

I tried on another pair but they made me look like Elvis Costello. Another talented musician, but not one I want to look like so much.

The trouble with trying on eyeglasses is that without my prescription, I can't see more than a few inches from the end of my nose. I have to try on glasses and then stick my face right up to the mirror and then I can see all my pores and pimples and wrinkles and honestly, NO glasses can make me look good that up close. So I took my camera with me this time and I tried on glasses and then smiled or looked studious or pensive and clicked away from this angle and that, while occasional staff and other clients walked past and pretended to ignore the crazy lady doing her own photo shoot in the frame room. What a woman won't do for beauty. And then I put my glasses back on and viewed my images.

It was one of those days where no matter what pose I struck my eyes looked puffy and my freshly washed hair was still sort of damp and drying wrong and I haven't seen sunlight in about four months so there was this aura of vampirism (and not in a hot, sexy way, but in a hideous night creature way) and it was about as fun as trying on bathing suits in February would be. Yeah, I know. You're shuddering at the very thought.

I was just about to give up when I found this pair.

NOT a good picture. In fact, I look a tad cross eyed for some reason. But still, I think this is the pair. They aren't what I thought I wanted but they end up giving me the look I was aiming for. I only found them after going through all the glasses that appealed to me on the rack and started wildly picking out glasses I didn't think I liked. I should have remembered the lessons learned from remodeling the living room - what I thought would work and what gave the room the right mood weren't always the same thing.

I almost didn't share the photo because, like I said, not a good face day for me. You'll just have to trust me. I think I'll like them even better when they get in the color I want - the pair I have on in the photo are a matte brown. They're really nice about ordering different sizes or colors if you want to try them before you order. The pair I think I'm going to buy is called "Eggplant". Or, as we say in Par-ee, "aubergine". I think they're gonna be tres cool!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Holiday Photos #30 - York

Today I'm finishing up the last of York with a hodge podge of pictures both here and on Laume's Studio. I left off promising to meet back up in front of the York Minster for a ghost tour. I thought I had a lot of photos from the tour but apparently I just have very vivid memories of the tour and not actual photos. I did snap a few though.

This was our tour guide. He did a beautiful job of looking the part and had a wonderful spooky voice as well.

This was an alley next to a museum that wasn't open again while we were there but apparently where William is standing is where an old Roman road cuts across and through the basement of the museum. Many people have reported seeing Roman soldiers marching through both the alley and the basement. Not entire soldiers however. Just the top halves, as the original road was much lower than the present day surface.

The other thing I liked about this photo is how it shows all the different varieties of brick and stone you see so abundantly.

Technically, this is a lousy photo, I know, but I had to share it with you in the spirit of "how NOT to take a photograph". I was trying to take a photo of that tree, because I loved how the trunk and branches were all lumpy and crooked. But as you can see, a certain William decided to run across the screen of vision and if that wasn't enough, I also caught the lamppost in the foreground - a fun technique when done on purpose but in this case it wasn't - and the end result was my poor camera had no idea what I was aiming at and managed to get all three layers of the photograph out of focus. Still, for some reason I like the photo - it makes one ask questions, like "Why is that boy running?"

A quilting friend (like, I've actually quilted in anyone's recent memory!), Anna, lives not far from York and she informed me that these ruins that I already shared a photo of previously, are the remains of St. Mary's.... oh dang, now I've forgotten - chapel? cathedral? Abbey! Yes, that's it. Wouldn't it be lovely to have ruins like this in your backyard? Uhm. Perhaps on a slightly smaller scale. Unless you had a really big yard.

William made a friend. This little pigeon followed him around the park for quite some time. Perhaps he looked like the kind of person a bird could depend on to toss him a few crumbs.

Just outside the walls of the park/ruins, was a pretty little street. I particularly liked this home with the beautiful climbing roses. I could live here.

We went into a number of museums in York. This shot of William dressed as an ancient Viking warrior was taken inside a museum called Yorvik, or something like that.

Inside a museum in the park they had a traveling exhibit of ancient Roman artifacts. I already shared the photo of me in Roman garb, here's William in the male version. I'm sure the sweatshirt arms and tennis shoes add to the authenticity of the look.

We went to a very large museum displaying exhibits of more current English history - current meaning in the last couple of hundred years. I took this picture because it showed how they measured market foods, specifically a bushel and a peck. I can't remember which ones are a bushel and a peck, I'm thinking the two largest. I got a kick out of it because I'm always singing an old song to my kids that includes the line "I love you a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck." Sometimes I get silly and change it to "and a hug around the nose/elbow/knee/etc.". Now I know what how much a bushel and a peck really are. Of course I love my kids way more than that - billions and trillions of bushels full.

In this same museum, old school desks. The irony of course is that when I took this picture, William had never sat in a school desk before. Of course now he sits in one five days a week and I bet he assumes this position on a regular basis.

There was a castle - well, really just a turret, or a very, very small castle - on a hill - well, really just a mound, or a very, very small hill. We climbed to the top and snapped a few photos from the parapet. I love the chimney pots, the bright red of the ferry on the river in the middle of all the faded red of the brick buildings.

Another pretty view. I liked the black clock tower and the red doors of the fire station.

And one more - the simple facade of the building in the foreground, the fussier front of the building just behind it, the old church spire poking out, the Minster in the background.

As we were climbing back down the mound I caught this sight. Here's an adult, presumably a teacher or parent chaperone, taking care of his young charges while, strolling behind him are some adult geese taking care of their own brood.

And as the sun sets, reflecting in the windows of this pretty old church, we say goodbye to York. Next post, we're headed to the big city - London!

Oh, but I forgot, don't say goodbye just yet - click on over to Laume's Studio and take another long scroll through some more picturesque images of York. I put the detail and more "artsy" ones there. (And if you missed the travelogue sans photos I posted while we were traveling, you can read them by typing "York" into the Blogger's Search this Blog box. Or choose May 2006 from the archives.)


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stress, Skills, Snow

A conversation that seems to come up on a regular basis is - What sort of decider are you?

It seems there are two basic types, with variations attached. The first is the person who makes a decision quickly and then spends days, weeks, even a lifetime second guessing themself and wondering if they made the right choice. The second kind of person stresses and worries beforehand, weighing infinitesimally small factors for days, weeks, and so on before finally making a decision. Me, I'm the latter sort. For me, making a decisions is often a long process riddled with anxiety and in-depth analysis. The upside is that once I'm finished, I let it all go and I'm generally happy with my decision. But getting there - oy vey! - the stress builds and builds up to the final moment of choosing one direction over another, a yes or a no, a right or a left, an up or a down.

Today was that day. I spent all day pushing these buttons.

And these buttons.

I had to buy four airline tickets for three different trips for three different people traveling for three different reasons and coordinate two of those tickets with even two more people. All the while I was sweating over whether I'd gotten all the dates right, the boxes filled out, and the names correct, simultaneously the phone was ringing off the hook and three other moderate crises were playing out. By the middle of the afternoon I was a soggy eyed, tear leaking, quivering mess.

Hubby and son guided me out the door and off to dinner to try to fix the moisture issues. Only it backfired when we got to the restaurant and our waitress arrived with moisture issues of her own - only hers were the kind dripping all manner of virulent nasties which she would undoubtedly pass on to me and I would incubate until just before I needed to use one of those plane tickets, thus causing me to have to cancel trips willy nilly and to have wasted all those hours of agonizing planning and decision planning.

I lost it. The family tossed dollar bills at the bewildered staff for the drinks they'd already brought to the table and scurried me off to another restaurant, one that appeared to be germ free. Knock on wood.

Things got better.

And this is where I tell you that William has got some serious skills. You know - numchuk skills, bowhunting skills, computer hacking skills.....metal claw toy grabbing skills. He won me this adorable little bee!

Okay, maybe she's equal parts tacky and adorable, but she makes me happy. I can't believe he won her for me - with only TWO TRIES. You know, from those big glass boxes full of toys that no one seems to be able to get anything out of except the occasional toddler who manages to climb inside and ends up being rescued from just in time to be on the local evening news. She really has two antennae, one must have flopped over when she was getting her picture taken.

And last but not least, it's BA-A-A-A-ACK! Snow, that is. Big fluffy flakes piling up all over the place. Phbbbbt.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Weather, Words, and What?!?

First off - look at that weather forecast. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! We've just started to get rid of the January snow. Sigh. Maybe it won't be as much - at least there's a break at the end there.


Secondly, look at the lovely award Deb bestowed on me. It took me a few days to acknowledge this, sorry 'bout that - definitely NOT a reflection of my degree of thanks but a reflection of my disorganization.

Here's the award process:

“In receiving the award you are asked to share three things that you believe make writing good and powerful, then pass the award on to five blogs that exemplify good and powerful writing.”

And here's what Deb said:

"I think writing is good and powerful when it’s honest, from the heart, and leaves you with the feeling that you’ve been honored with a true glimpse into someone’s mind and life on both good days and bad."

I'm honored to think that my writing is considered to be any of the three things Deb mentioned. Thank you. Sometimes I feel serious or philosophical when I post, sometimes I try to entertain, sometimes I'm just feeling silly or whiny or self absorbed. If I can't be consistent, at least you can count of me to be inconsistent. Heh.

Deb did that twin thing on me and pretty much nailed what I would have said about what makes words roar for me, but I'll try to come up with something to add. I always say there are two approaches to writing that work equally well for me. One is the author whose plot and characters are so real and compelling that the words don't matter, they fade away behind the story I'm swept up in. I'm usually discussing novel writers when I'm explaining this, but it applies equally well to the vignettes of a blog post. The second type of writer is one whose use of words is so poetically captivating that I don't really care if they're telling a sweeping tale of love and loss or describing how they are scrubbed their toilet, I just love the "sound" of the words in my mind.

Third..... hmmmmm..... everything I want to say sounds like what Deb said. I guess I'll add that selfishly, I like words that are a little raw, a little unpolished - in other words real. The type of sharing that can make me laugh and cry at the same time because life is just like that and if you can't laugh through your tears, it's hard to survive. Sometimes that sort of sharing is BIG and sometimes it's just a tiny glimpse, a tiny window, a swear word that slips in, a fear expressed. It's nice when I know the reader isn't hiding behind a June Cleaver apron and a freshly lipsticked smile.

Now, the hard part, passing the award on to other bloggers. No matter who I pick, I'm going to forget someone and later think - Duh! I should have included..! But, here we go:

Joshilyn Jackson of Faster than Kudzu - I can count on her for a good gulp of witty, a heaping helping of funny, and sometimes a confection of pure, sweet truth.
Madness Rivera of mad organica - I love all her stories but the best are the tender, sweet stories about her daughters.
Alala of Alala - I love that I never know what she'll be discussing - the angst of motherhood, philosophy, politics, food - she's no lightweight, fluffy blogger!
Laurence of Be Crafty Be Happy - she's not an obvious choice as she doesn't fit any of the reasons I mentioned, and she's more of a visual artsy blog than a wordy one - but she keeps popping back into my head. I think it's because reading her blog always feels like I've been invited in to sit at her kitchen table with a cuppa while we gab away like two old friends. That can't be just her photos - she must be using words in some sort of secret, magical way.
Singleton of The Hippie Parade - I don't remember how or when I stumbled upon this blogger but it doesn't matter, I keep going back because she gathers up the words of a story and then tosses just the most important ones back at the reader like a handful of runestones. Just the bare bones, but she joins them up and makes that skeleton dance.


Thirdly, I went to the market today (Safeway). Walked in the door and did one of those "what the heck....!" stops. It's only been about a week and a half since I've last been there but it's completely changed. Or rather, changing. It's been ripped down to concrete slab, aisle by aisle the shelving is in the process of being taken out, replaced, and restocked. There were piles of no longer stocked merchandise huddled together on sale tables, boxes of new products stacked everywhere, and most surprising of all, a giant kiosk was being built just inside the southern entry. It looked immediately familiar but I double checked by asking an employee - yep, it's gonna be a Starbucks. Uhm. We are a very small town. We have a Starbucks. You just step back out that same market door and walk down the sidewalk for about..... oh.... three car lengths. And there it is.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love our Starbucks. But seriously folks, do we really need another Starbucks in a postage stamp sized town? Okay, maybe a two-postage stamp sized town.

I came home and told William they were building a Starbucks inside the Safeway.

"So....They're building a Starbucks right next door to the Starbucks?" he asked.


He shook his head and went off down the hallway muttering "What's this world coming to?"

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Quack, Quack, Quack! (Warning - This post contains excessive use of exclamation points!)

I mentioned about a week ago that there were plans afoot and ducks being rounded up and put in a row, yes? Well, there's still a lot of feather grooming to be done but those ducks finally lined up nicely and here's where they're headed -


(Imagine I've screamed that at you in a high pitched voice that make your ears bleed and that only dogs can completely hear) (and yes, the sky was really that color.) But wait, that's not all! We also will have a little time in.....


"Have a little time" - get it? Little time? Big Ben? I know, I'm just too funny for words!

We were only planning to go to Paris but it turns out, for reasons known only to air flight planners, that it's much cheaper to fly to London. So much cheaper that it absorbs the cost of the Eurostar to Paris and still saves us money!

And that's not even all the good news! For the first week, my son Sam and his girlfriend will be joining us for a mad cap couple of days first in London followed by another two days racing through the sights in Paris! Then they, being resourceful young adults, will find their way back across the channel and fly home while hubby and I will spend another much more relaxing, cafe sitting, museum browsing, street wandering week, just the two of us, in the City of Love, Lights, Chocolate, Coffee, Frenchiness, and all manner of OLD THINGS!

I could go on and on, and I'm sure I will, until you're tired of hearing about it. We leave in just eight weeks, so that's eight weeks of me blathering enthusiastically and annoyingly about things like what sort of luggage to use and what kind of shoes to buy, what color scheme to wear and whether to stay in the Latin Quarter or Montmartre. I'll try to pace myself. And I'm open to any and all suggestions for hole in the wall restaurants, best patissieries, must see streets or gardens, etc.

Okay, this time I'll be kind and give you a chance to get your hands over your ears first. Ready?.....


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Monday, February 18, 2008

Dog Insanity and Valentine's Day

Hi, long time no see.... hear..... read? I've been busy and tired and this morning a wee bit cranky as well (hormones, you gotta love'em - they either make you think the world is wonderful when it's really falling to pieces or, conversely, make you want to cut the head off a perfectly decent husband simply for standing slightly crooked).

I'm not really mad at the husband or my hormones. I'm mad at my dogs and their hormones. Rosie is in heat (she's not fixed yet for a couple of reasons which I won't go into now) and this is the first time this has happened in the middle of winter when it's too cold and cruel to simply leave Buck, our un-neutered male (for reasons also - undescended boy bits and the vet's recommending against risky surgery - all our other animals are spayed and neutered - always!) outside in this kennel.

Now clearly a german shepherd sized male and a female chihuahua only slightly larger than your cell phone aren't a match made in heaven, romantically speaking. To Buck's tiny brain's credit, I think even he realizes this. But it doesn't stop BOTH of them from acting all giddy and goofy and annoying. Rosie's acting like a little strip tease and then growls when Buck steps up to see the show. Buck compensates for his built up frustrations by gluing himself to my knee with a foot long invisible cord and peeing (dribbling really) in excitement. I'm stuck in the middle carrying the small dog and trying not to trip over the large dog. At night Rosie takes refuge under the covers and Buck wanders around the house clicking his toenails on the hardwood floors or laying as close to my bedside as physically possible, obsessively and noisily grooming his paws. The last few days it's been warm enough to put him outside come sun up and he spends a few hours barking sporadically. Just one single bark, about every ten minutes. Just a few feet from my head outside the bedroom window.

I've been putting him out for longer periods during the day these last few days, just to get a BREAK, even though every single trek from back door to kennel is another death defying, glacier crossing, nightmare. There's only a thin ring of crusty snow left in the south facing front yard, but the back yard is solid ice pack and even hubby taking a cement shovel to the path only dents the surface (which the just-above-freezing day temperatures melt back into a nice smooooooth surface by sunset) - ARGH. I'm sleep deprived, slightly hysterical, and feeling just a short walk away from certifiably loony. I'm now officially DONE with winter.

Moving on....

I wanted to tell you about our lovely Valentine's Day. First of all, I won several of the One World - One Heart prizes that I entered. That was exciting! I'll try to post about those as they arrive over on Laume's Studio.

I woke up Valentine's morning to hubby bringing me coffee in bed, flowers, three cards (one, supposedly, from the animals), and a big bag of presents from my favorite local shop. It included tea, chocolates, soaps, and the cutest little shabby chic candle chandelier. He was so excited to watch me open everything. Then I sort of scratched my head and muttered something about how I'd planned on getting him a card and something the day before when I went out grocery shopping but I'd gotten distracted and, uhm, well, uhm... He said it was fine, he hadn't expected anything from me and besides Valentine's Day was more for guys to give presents to women, not vice versa.

I had in fact, forgotten to get him something the day before, this is true, but what I was going to get him was a decoy gift. So I was glad he just assumed it was my general laziness, pragmaticism towards holidays like this, and general unorganization. Hubby accuses me of being the most UNromantic female he has ever known. Which isn't true. Okay, it might be 2% true. I'm not as write-my-truelove's-name-in-hearts-and-sparklies as most women I know, and he's more likely to select a "chick flic" at the video store than I am. But I think this says more about him being more of a romantic than most guys than about me being less of a romantic than most women. I was glad he didn't suspect anything, but I think I should be a little insulted too, since it's not true that I usually forget. I always have very nice gifts for him for Valentine's Day, Father's Day, his birthday, etc. In any case, this time it worked in my favor to be accused of slothfulness. Because.....

I really had a surprise for him and I was trying to keep it a secret until the last possible moment. My friend Deb and I had made reservations for four for a special Valentine's Dinner at our local tea room, which my husband adores. In fact, before the tea room closed (unexpectedly, for the winter, we're really on pins and needles to see if they survive and reopen again in the spring) hubby had seen the advertisement for the by-reservation-only dinner and asked if I wanted to go. I went through the motions of asking the owner, Rob, and he played it beautifully, telling hubby that regretfully they were booked full. And then he winked at me when hubby wasn't looking.

So all day long I pretended that I was just sort of ignoring Valentine's Day and then come dinner time I said I didn't really want to cook, seeing as it was a holiday and all, and we should go get some Mexican food. We drove off (not dressing up since that would have given it away, although I did manage to brush my hair, throw on a clean shirt and a sparkly scarf) and since the tea room was the opposite direction from the Mexican restaurant, I pretended that I wanted to show him something funny I saw in a window uptown earlier that day. We pulled up in front of the tea room, all aglow with lights, and he STILL didn't suspect! I told him we were going in for dinner and he was completely surprised and THRILLED. Said I was way tooooo good a liar and it was the best surprise ever. Yah me!

But wait, that's not all! He still didn't know our friends were joining us. About ten minutes after we were seated, they showed up and he was delighted all over again.

We met Deb and Dave as parents. We were bleacher buddies for years, as as our collective sons played both baseball and football together. Eventually Deb and I became good friends outside the sports realm, as we share many interests, including buying large quantities of fabric together (aka quilting), and started spending time together as couples as well for dinner or a night of playing board games. It's hard to find compatible pairs where everyone enjoys everyone and although we're all very busy and get together far too infrequently these days, we are very blessed with their friendship.

Tea house owner Rob took photos of all the couples.

Here's Deb and Dave.

And here's hubby and yours truly. Except for the whole eyes closed thing, not a completely terrible photo.

So, I guess I've got some romance in me after all.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

One World - One Heart Prize Winner

Today is the day for everyone who participated in the One World - One Heart blogging party to announce their prize winners.

Folks could pick the winner by their own process. Some people used an online random number generator. Some folks did it the old fashioned way, pulling numbers out of a hat. I wanted to be creative. I tried to figure out a way for Rosie to pick the winner, but I didn't think I could teach her how to bark or tap her paw a random number of times.

Or maybe Charlie Weasley? Naw. If I offered him a bowl full of numbered papers, he'd just crawl into the bowl and squash the whole pile of 'em.

None of these are recent photos by the way - the front yard is still mostly covered in snow. What grass and garden you can see is all wearing winter's sepia brown tones.

So I let this guy choose the winner. I just told him to pick a number between 1-75 and he did it. He wanted to keep picking numbers and was a little disappointed when I told him I only needed one. (I didn't realize I had so few photos of hubby until I had to use one in which I looked REALLY bad and had to be cut out of it as much as possible.)

The winner of the books - Cris of Enchanted Hearts Studio!

I hope everyone had as much fun participating in this global party as I did. I can hardly wait until next year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Just a Quickie

Just a quickie? Hmmmm. That could be taken wrong. Do other people use this.... ahem... term? Blush.


No photos yet. I think I have ... no. I KNOW I have some sort of block about fixing my photo stuff. Problem is I don't feel like it's a day job to be on the computer. I should be doing something like cleaning or cooking or running errands. It's a night job, to be done on the couch in front of some mildly amusing television. But by then my brain is too tired to juggle all the how-tos I think I need to remember.

I've been sitting here typing, annoyed that hubby left the shower dripping. I tightened it twice but I can still here it - drip drip drip. Until I finally realized it's not the shower head. It's snow dripping off the edge of the roof outside the window just behind my head. Duh.

It's warm today. Temperatures in the 50's! Snow melting everywhere. It's coming on a week since it stopped snowing EVERY SINGLE DAY for almost a month straight, and it's just now sinking in that hey, maybe it won't snow anymore! Well, who knows. Up here in the mountains we can have snow in the middle of summer. But maybe winter has loosened it's grasp, at least for now.

Because we have such wonderful southern exposure in the front yard, Rosie's little pen has melted down to the flattened, soggy grass. She thinks it's heaven. Rosie loves grass. We have sidewalks again too. They're even dry. Of course across the street where they have northern exposure, the sidewalks are still hidden and there are mounds of the white stuff hiding their fence. In our backyard as well where, except for a thin slice of ground at the foot of the fence, we get no winter sun at all, it's still like trying to walk around atop a glacier out there, uneven, icy, treacherous. Taking Buck back and forth to his kennel practically requires mountain climbing equipment to avoid falling.

So, melting is good. We were blessed with plenty of pretty snow this year. Now I'm ready to wave it goodbye as it flows away in icy streams in the new gutters. I know you're all tired of hearing me complain about those new sidewalks but I can't help but point out that the new gutters are sterile and boring compared to the pretty natural "rain creeks" the old, unconcreted street edge used to make.

I haven't been posting much because

a) it's hard to post without photos.

b) hubby has been home for a week's recuperative vacation. He was feeling run down from a winter cough and cold. I get thrown off my usual blogging schedule when family is home. Not because they stop me from blogging, but because there are just more interuptions and because I do want to spend time with them.

I took one of those online quizzes the other day - How Normal Are You? One of the questions was "Who would you rather spend time with?" and the choices were "Your friends" or "Your family". I love my friends and I love spending time with them, but there's nothing that beats spending time with my family - we usually (not always, there are no Stepford spouses or children in the mix) have a blast together. I mean, just because we're family doesn't mean we're NOT friends too. We're friends who know each other best of all, know what make each other laugh, know our loves and pains, our obsessions and aversions, our quirks and our buttons. So of course I chose "Your family". The quiz said that response wasn't normal, most people chose "Your friends". How very sad!.

c) I've been having way too much fun visiting all the participating blogs for the One World - One Heart giveaway. I've entered some (not all) of the giveaways. Mainly though I couldn't resist the opportunity to find interesting new bloggers. I am a far too infrequent visitor to many of the bloggers I already know and enjoy, so I tried to be selective on who I added to my list of blogs I'd like to return to again. But it's hard. So many interesting, thoughtful, witty, and creative people out there to meet. I finally managed to visit them all, even if just for a peek - no small feat, let me tell you - and I'm relieved that the excitement will be over tomorrow.

d) There's some exciting plans brewing. I don't want to say anything yet, not until it's locked in. I've been busy putting all our ducks in a row (quack, quack, quack.....) and in just a couple more days things should be lined up enough for me to let you in on the news. Stay tuned....

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Holiday Photos #29

I accidentally pushed "Publish Post" before I had anything but photos up, so I'm going to add a quick commentary to this and fix it before too many people show up and wonder what's up with the silent photos.

My favorite part of York was an area called the Shambles. Technically I believe only one street in this little maze of streets is called the Shambles, but I think a lot of people think of the whole area this way. It's an extremely well perserved collection of medieval buildings and it's like stepping through the brick wall and finding oneself in Diagon Alley. It's one of the few times in the entire trip that the focus was on shopping, mostly window shopping, and William didn't roll his eyes too badly as there was so much fun to see.

I couldn't decide which photos to share, so I'm just sharing most of them. A lot of these photos were taken after shop hours, which is why there are so few people. During the day the streets were pretty packed.

See how the buildings go up and over the tops of the street?

If you're from the UK, you're probably going "ho hum", but to us Yanks, these old buildings are like stepping into a movie setting. We don't have so much "old" over here. Unless you want to visit the Grand Canyon or walk in a Redwood forest, then we've probably got you beat.

Love this old black and white building that's sagging in the middle with age. And right to the left you see a gold ram hanging up there - that's The Golden Fleece, a pub and inn that's reputedly the most haunted in all England. William and I had lunch there, a very fine lunch indeed but alas, we didn't see any spirits except for the ones they served at the bar.

William was, for the most part, a delightful travel companion. He did have his moments however and I got a kick out of catching him having a bit of sulk with accompanying mood label on the bus behind him.

Is this a cool name or what? It was a pub below and an internet lounge above. It was really neat because along with tables and chairs, they also had cubbies full of cushions, beds really, where you could all pile in and have a drink and chat in a crowd.

Here's a fuzzy larger photo of the shop front.

On the recommendation of a friend, we went to an apparently well known tea house called Betty's Tea Room. We found out later that we didn't go to the main tea room but rather a smaller one they had near the Shambles. Look at those lovely sugar cubes - they look like tiny snowballs.

I ordered one of these rather frightening looking fellows. In the end though, my teeth were bigger than his. He was tasty.

Just another view of the wonderful streets. Is that a Starbucks sign there on the right? They're everywhere!

There's a name for this inset beam and brick building style. If I wasn't in a hurry, I'd look it up for you. Maybe later. But isn't it pretty? About the only time you see something like this in the U.S., it's fake, wood added after the fact for decorative purposes.

We found a wonderful little plaza full of outdoor vendors. I wanted to buy hubby a hat but didn't want to carry it around so we left and came back, alas, they'd closed up for the day. so hubby didn't get his hat. I did buy myself a couple packs of socks though, at another stall, which was a good memento because I wear them all the time and I remember this lovely trip every time I pick a pair out my dresser drawer. I can't look at this photo without wanting to go read one of my favorite children's book - Caps for Sale.

One more, with a peek of the Minster in the background. Next round of photos, we'll meet back up in front of it for a Ghost Tour.

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