Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Let Out of Their Cages

a mad tea party by Arthur Rackham


I just can't take my family anywhere. Well, yes, I can. What I can't do is take my family anywhere and blend in as a normal family. It's fair to say we are a bit on the strange side.

Yesterday hubby, William and I went out to eat at a local, popular coffee shop. We stopped at the junk/antique shop beforehand and I scored a big stack of language and travel books - most of them French, one Spanish. I also scored a giant paper mache parrot. Because of course everyone NEEDS at least one giant paper mache parrot. But I digress...

We brought the new books in with us to the restaurant. Hubby and son both sat across from me in a booth as I'm somewhat hard of hearing and it's easier for me to have a conversation when I can also see them. We spread the books out on the table, passing them back and forth, reading to each other, and fantasizing about future travel plans. Food came and we ate it.

Lingering over the last of the french fries and parsley garnishes, the conversation still going strong, William, being a teenager, decided it would be fun to crunch ice cubes and spit chips of them at me. He did it once, I told him to stop. He did it twice, I told him to stop. He did it three times and I told him to stop. I was going to follow up by taking his water glass away from him when, suddenly, my husband picked up his coffee cup and flung the almost full contents of coffee across the table at me.

Are you sitting there stunned? Wondering... WTF????? Well, I didn't sit there stunned, let me tell you. I jumped up shaking coffee off me best I could and then realized most of the coffee was sliding quickly towards books and so I started grabbing them and tossing them to the ground in the aisle. Ditto my jacket and purse before they could get soaked. Simultaneously shouting "WHY did you DO THAT!!!!!?????"

Hubby looked as shocked as us as he tried to explain that he didn't know there was any coffee in the cup, that he thought the cup was empty, that the ice chip William spit landed in the cup and he didn't want it in there (although this begs the question, if his cup was empty then what did it matter if a pea-sized chunk of ice landed in it) and he thought he was just shaking out the ice. William thought the whole thing was hysterical. He didn't laugh for long however because seconds later hubby reached for a napkin and instead knocked over William's full glass of water!

William shouted and jumped. Tiny, amber tinted waterfalls tinkled down all three sides of the table, pooling on the seats and floor and hubby. People peered over and around their booths to see what all the excitement was about. William and I are stood in the aisle in a nest of jackets and books. We gathered everything up and departed. Quickly. We left a BIG tip.

Hubby and I went out again today for our weekly date to the local tea room. We arrived to find the gate was closed, the lights were off, and a sign read "Closed Until Further Notice". Since we know the owners well enough to consider them friends, this unexpected and unexplained turn of events startled and saddened me. There had been no talk of them closing for the winter or having financial troubles. My imagination leads me to consider all sorts of unhappy reasons for the sudden closure. Along with my worry for them there's also selfish dissappointment, I love having the tea room in town. Sigh. I hope to find out soon what's up.

So, we went to another restaurant instead and had salad and creme brulee. At least, I had creme brulee. So that helped ease the pain and dissappointment a teensy bit.

It's not all bad news in the food department, however. I was driving up main street a couple of days ago I saw a big sign on a vacant shop window. "COMING SOON - INDIAN RESTAURANT - Applications being accepted" WOW! First a tea room (knock on wood - still a tea room?), then a French Restaurant, more Mexican and Chinese Restaurants than a small town can handle, now Indian Food. We are becoming quite the hidden mecca of global cuisine. I can hardly wait for them to open so we can try it. I just hope my family can manage to keep their food and drink on the table.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Red, White, and Black and Blue

Red - as in seeing it. My very bright William decided to participate in a stupid teen trick. And then compound that by "not mentioning it". Fortunately the mother of his cohorts called and clued us in on the shenanigans. So. William doesn't have a remote to his video game for an indefinite period of time. It would have been more appropriate to take away his car keys, only he doesn't have any car keys yet. So, you work with what you've got.

White (can't put the word white in white) - lots more of it. It just keeps coming out of the sky. We've got so much snow that we have HERDS of snowplows roaming the streets. We've got so much snow that they scooped up the snow on main street, loaded it into dump trucks, and hauled it off to fields on the edge of town. So much snow that the parking lots around town have snow piles around the light poles taller than the local pick-up trucks. So much snow that William, who usually thinks it can't snow soon enough, often enough, or deep enough, because snowboarding is second in his life only to football, mentioned today that he's looking forward to green grass. Although this evening we had this odd colorless precipitation falling out of the sky - I think it's called "rain". It's making a nice shiny surface on the extra six inches or so of snow we got earlier this morning.

(Postscript: Now that I've finished this post and I'm ready to push "publish", it's turned back to snow.)

Black and blue - my stupid dog got out of his kennel and went on a walkabout. Actually it wasn't that the dog was stupid, it was that the husband was.... forgetful. Didn't click the latch. So the dog, who is NOT stupid, pushed it open and took off. During one of the snowier afternoons I was out tracking him. Yes, tracking him. How hard can it be to track his big fuzzy prints in the snow? Wellllllll .... you remember those Family Circus cartoons with all the little tracks that take the kids all over the neighborhood? That's how dogs walk - not in a straight line, but in zig zags, circles, and backtracks. My neighbors were probably looking out their windows wondering what the f**k the crazy woman was doing climbing over retaining walls and through their front yards and twice around the pine tree on the corner. Then I lost him when he hit the hard pack on the main road.

So I just walked up and down the side streets and alleys calling for him, trying to see out between my hood and scarf for something big, fuzzy and loose. For an hour and a half I called and wandered. Crossing the hard pack on a sloped road, dodging a snow plow, I went down, tail over tea kettle. Thought I broke my wrist or hip. After that I was afraid to walk on anything smooth and I tromped another half hour through deep snow until I could barely lift my feet and trudged home tired and mad enough to give up the search. I worried all day and Buck came back late that night cheerful and tired from his adventures.

Yesterday, the next day after the fall, I woke up SO SORE I could barely move. My wrist was okay but the impact had made a mess of my shoulder and neck, and below that, my hip. I creaked about a bit and then gave it up and spent the evening on the couch reading. Today I'm still stiff and sore but considerably better so I don't think anything is broken.

And oh yeah, I think all that hollering I did for the dog might have been to no avail. I'm starting to suspect that he might be, not completely deaf maybe, but hard of hearing. I don't know if I've just not noticed the clues before this or if it's come on quickly but it's obvious he doesn't hear everything. I guess not a surprise since he's almost thirteen years old. That's really old for a big dog, right?

That's about it. To sum things up.... I'm working on eating up all that holiday chocolate. Still haven't brought the boxes in from the garage to put the holiday stuff away. Made spaghetti tonight for dinner. Dog is going deaf. Teen is videogame-less and sorta kinda grounded temporarily until hubby and I can discuss and decide what offical consequence will be laid upon him. Still feeling too stiff to be very useful. When I am useful, it's more likely to be the middle of the night than the middle of the day - I think I'm probably running on the same time zone as Hawaii. It's dark and windy and wet and white outside. The comedy channel is showing a stand up comedia-thon all night. A good night to make a pot of tea, laugh at the t.v., and browse the new art magazines I brought home from B & N a few weeks ago.

Friday, January 25, 2008

White Forecast


Hubby came home and shoveled the walkway last night before he came in the house. Good thing he did, too, as you wouldn't want all those fresh snowflakes coming down to feel crowded or anything.

Holiday Photos #28

We left Edinburgh on the train, next stop, York. York was one of the places we hadn't known we were going to visit when we made our travel itinerary. We'd intentionally only made a general plan and direction, with lots of open time so we could stay longer or add stops if we wanted. At that time we didn't have an inkling of an interest in or know we wanted to go to York.

When we were trudging up a hill with our luggage in Conwy, Wales, hoping we were going in the right direction to find our B & B, a man in a truck pulled over to see if we needed any help. He was able to assure us we were "almost there" and then, apropros of nothing except that we were travelers, he asked if we were going to visit York. No, we hadn't thought to do that. Well, we HAD to go to York, says he. We had originally planned to stop someplace between Edinburgh and London where we could visit Hadrian's Wall. That ended up being somewhat tricky to do by train, so we decided to give York a try instead.

This building is NOT in York. In fact, now that I think of it, I think we saw it on an earlier train trip, maybe between Wales and Blackpool, or somewhere before Edinburgh. I could be wrong. It might be somewhere between Edinburgh and York. Does anyone know WHERE it is and WHAT it is? And why it's never appeared in a Doctor Who episode because doesn't it look like it should? Actually, it might have and I just haven't seen that episode yet. Anyway, I'm curious about it.

Back to this leg of the trip, we arrived in York. We'd decided not to plan a place to stay ahead of time because we'd bumped into some friends in Edinburgh who'd just come from York and raved about a B & B that was a bit pricier than what we'd used so far. I thought we'd check it out and if it wasn't worth the extra money, we could find something cheaper. Up to this point, still pre-tourist season, we'd had plenty of choices so I wasn't worried about finding accomodations. What we didn't know was that we'd arrived in York on the weekend of THE RACES. Horse races. Apparently a HUGE thing. To quote a famous line - There was no room at the inn. Any inn. We ended up walking for what seemed like miles, dragging our suitcases behind us as they somehow got heavier and heavier with each step. Eventually a very nice lady at a very nice (and fancy) hotel took pity on us and we ended up with a discounted room we could afford. It was still the most we'd paid so far. But by that time we were just grateful to have some place to sleep.

As soon as we got our bags to our room we took off to see what there was too see. Not far from our hotel we found this very big church.


York Minster

Check out the awesome Gargoyles. Or are they called Grotesques. Can't remember which is which.


I was with William so guess what we did....huff, puff, gasp, gasp.... we climbed up to the very top of course.


My absolute dream job would allow me to travel all around the world photographing things. I can't say I loved photographing architecture more than I did the people and scenery, but I loved it just as much. Anyone want to hire me to go take more photos? I'll buy a fancier camera and take fantastic shots! Anyone?......... Well, while I'm waiting for an offer, let's continue on, shall we?

These support arches are mostly invisible from the ground but we saw them from above on a number of old buildings. I'm sure they have a name but I'm too lazy to research for it.

This photo screams for playing with - photoshop. Or using as the basis for an abstract quilt design. Hmmmm.

York is a city of layers. Now British, it was Roman before that and on the same site long before the Romans lay the ruins of a large Viking settlement. Just around the corner from the front of the cathedral is this sculpture of Constantine. I'm not sure if it's intentional but I can't help but think he looks like a haughty SOB, doesn't he?

Nearby, a roman column. Can't remember now whether it was originally on this site or moved here for display. It would be so cool if we had something like this in Susanville. What's that? Oh, that's just our roman column. Sigh. We do have some ancient petroglyphs nearby apparently, but they're on private ranch property and I haven't found anyone willing to show me where they are yet.

If you've been a long time reader you know the rule - William (or any one of my children who are handy at the moment) gets his picture taken with all his plastic or stone friends.

This means turn around is fair play....

We discovered a large history museum. It was the type of place that was probably a favorite with school groups as it gave an overview of English history all the way up to the present. It was probably nothing new to the average Brit but since it was all new to us, we loved it all. I wish I could remember the name of it. It was either The Yorkshire Museum or The Castle Museum. I Googled it and descriptions and photos of each look like where we were... anyway, there was a re-creation of an old jail cell. William locked me in.

I had to make a pathetic, sad face before he'd let me out. Eventually. After he'd stopped laughing.


You could dress in common Roman attire. We both robed up. Can't find his photo though, just mine.

Along the river (what river? Uhm, ..... a wet one?) there was a park with meandering walkways, gardens, shady copses, a museum, park benches, old walls, and these beautiful old ruins which I'm showing you with true Vanna-esque style.

I don't know why I didn't think of this before now, I should have been linking these photo posts to my orginal travel posts all along. Oh well, better late than never. You can go here and here if you'd like to read the York posts from when we were actually on the road.

We enjoyed everything we did and saw in York but my absolutely favorite part of York, hands down, is the Shambles. It was like turning a corner and finding yourself in Diagon Alley.

More York photos to come.....

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Look!

I scored a little bit of sunshine in a dish. Some of the really good stuff. And it was just as dee-LISH the second time!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Softness of Snow

This is just down the street and around the corner from us, but we have the same mountain view, albeit over our neighbors' rooftops. We're fortunate, our side of the street is slightly higher so the view isn't completely blocked. The ridge is called Diamond Peak. It's beautiful in it's summer green, with a cloak of storm clouds, or crowned with the last light of the setting sun, but I think this is my favorite scene, when it looks like someone shook a bag of powder sugar over it.

Those geese are sprouting up all over. Maybe they'll plow them under in the spring. Snort.

What kind of animal left these tracks? You can compare the size to my boot print there on top. Too big to be a mouse. A raccoon would have tiny front paw prints as well, wouldn't it? A possum maybe? Or skunk? They led down into a ditch, under a fence, and ended at a tiny, steamy stream fed by underground hot springs.

We have a lot of tracks in and around our yard - people and animals. Deer, dog, cat, quail. Chihuahua tracks are tiny almond shaped dots all in a line. Cats leave larger, rounder prints. Buck leaves big old smeared tracks because his feet are so fuzzy. Deer tracks are easy to pick out. The junior high school is just a half block away, so every morning and afternoon herds of pre-adolescents trample the new sideways with tracks pointing first west and then east. Birds hop across the top crust so softly, the tiny fleur de lis shapes look more like shadows left behind than a real print. Once I came across cat prints so huge that they could only have been made by a mountain lion.

Everywhere I look the snow has transformed the ordinary into the picturesque. It diffuses light, blurring the edge of things until the world becomes an impressionist painting. Not only does it change how one sees things, it absorbs, buffers, mutes ordinary sounds, softening and reducing the noises we are so used to tuning out that we don't hear them except in the silence of their absence. Even the every day scents and smells of the world, good and bad, are bundled up and all that's left is the pinch of inhaled coldness or the fuzzy tickle of a scarf wrapped across your face. Ditto for touch, it's cold or separated by a layer of something warm and woolen. It's as if you are in the world and yet watching it from someplace outside the scene at the same time. Maybe that's why I feel so coccooned and undefined lately. All these soft shades of gray and white. It's like experiencing the world behind a lens, through a soft blue filter.

This afternoon I was looking out the window and the world was suddenly "different". A soft pastel something seemed to be floating across the snow. It wasn't a color, but it held the barest whisper of potential color. Puzzled, I stared at it for a long time before I realized what it was - it was LIGHT. Until that moment, I hadn't realized how long it had been since I'd seen unfiltered sunlight. I continued to watch it in amazement as if it was a fairy dancing across the lawn. Like something magical, it quickly faded until with a last shimmer, it was gone.

It reminded me that snow beneath a crisp blue, cloudless sky is an entirely different scene than the out-of-focus, monochromatic storms now on stage. When the sun comes back in earnest, I know the edges of things will sharpen and shapes will again be clearly defined and separate. Maybe my thoughts will sharpen and clear then, too.

As I finished typing this, the weather forecast just flashed a 7-day forecast on the television screen in front of me. Snow. Snow. Snow. Snow. Snow. Snow. Snow. I guess we are going to be gifted with free Monet scenes for while longer.

Claude Monet. The Cart; Snow-Covered Road at Honfieur, with Saint-Simeon Farm. c.1867. Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France

Monday, January 21, 2008

Guess Our Weather







If you'd like to warm up with some fuzzier photos, click on over to Laume's Studio.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Blueberry Creme Brulee


Here's a photo of the blueberry creme brulee I had yesterday. It looks wonderful, doesn't it? And yes, it was. But I still don't think it can hold a candle to the simple vanilla one I had last week. I like my margaritas that way too - unadorned. Extra fruit flavors just get in the way of the pure experience.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Stupid Cats and Pinot Evil

Did the title catch your attention? Well, it doesn't really mean much of anything. Except I thought it would catch your attention. I was making myself some tea to take to bed and I didn't know what I was in the mood for tonight. I dug through my tea stash reading labels and sniffing potential leaves and decided on something herbal which, when brewed and tasted ended up being wrong. I added some apricot honey to it thinking it would improve things but then it just tasted sweet and wrong.

This is the point at which I went back to the shelf of teas, or rather, attempted the two steps necessary to review my tea choices. A cat was underfoot so I slowly and carefully stepped OVER her while she simultaneously moved, repositioning herself where my foot would come down, which required I change from stepping down to stepping further forward in midstep which did me no good as the cat AGAIN matched my stretch with another repositioning. It was the second mid-air stretch that did it. I wrenched my shoulder trying to land upright on a catfree spot at least two feet farther away then I'd started out aiming at on the kitchen floor. Hence....

STUPID CAT.

And yes, I know that shoulders are rather far away from feet. Not sure why it wasn't my ankle or knee or even hip that got wrenched. Bodies are strange things. Not as strange as cats, but almost.



The Pinot Evil I refer to is a small, individual serving sized bottle of pinot noir that I just happened to have in the house. I bought a little four pack of them because they had cute little monkeys on them doing the See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil thing. And because the bottles were so little and cute and so I could open just one at a time for cooking purposes and because it was imported from France. Yeah, I have real sophisticated ways of choosing wine. I'm influenced by the stupid names that companies label paint chips too, which annoys me. I wish they'd just put numbers on the chips instead so I didn't find myself torn between liking Pea Green best as a color but wanting to buy Mossy Cavern instead because it sounds better.

Anyway, so I decided the wine (and a microwaved flax bag) might make my shoulder relax. Knock on wood, it seems to be working nicely. Just for the record, although I'm no wine expert, the cute label is really the best part of this wine. Good thing I can use the other three bottles up in cooking.

None of this, however, is the point of this post. I haven't posted in a few days because I'm fighting off a small cold. It's more annoying than it is terrible - just feeling almost-but-not-quite achy, sinuses threatening to be stuffy, my brain a bit foggy. I don't feel poorly enough to justify doing nothing but I don't have the energy or clear thinking necessary to do anything very important, including remembering to blog.

But that's not the point either. What I wanted to blog about was this:

THINGS THAT I LOVE THIS JANUARY

1. creme brulee

I know there's supposed to be an accent mark, but I'm too tired to bother finding out exactly where. With or without an accent mark, it's delicious and I'm waiting impatiently for a good opportunity to go back to the only restaurant in town that has the traditional custard flavor and order it again. I tried a blueberry creme brulee at the French Restaurant yesterday but.... eh. It's not that it wasn't tasty, but the custard itself was a rather gray color from the blueberries, which made it look rather like a bowl of wood putty, so they gussied it up with blueberry syrup and fresh blueberries (and a couple of fresh strawberries for some reason) and the fired sugar layer was too thin and it softened up under all that stuff on top of it. So it didn't have the satisfying contrast of crunchy/creamy and the pure unadulterated richness of the first nonflavored custard I tried.

2. my flax seed heating bags

I have several. I made them years and years ago and they're still working fine. Flannel on the outside - three minutes in the microwave and slip them under the cover or behind my back or both - or tonight, on my shoulder. Ahhhhhhhhhh. It's been cold. A very cold January. The kind of single digit cold that even with the heater on, you can feel frosty fingers curling in under the curtains, hiding in the corners, and sliding down the hallway. Our bedroom is much colder than the front of the house and getting into cold pajamas and a cold bed is BRRRRRRR but then my feet hit the flax bags and pretty soon I feel warm and toasty under the covers.

3. my new blankets

Do you know that new fabric called Minkee? It's not polar fleece and it's not chenille and it's not velveteen. It's really popular to make stuffed animals and baby blankets out of it these days. It's a polyester. I'm sure you've all seen it around even if you don't know what it's called. You've probably reached out to touch it in the store and then gone "ooooh" and then told someone with you "Oh, FEEL this!" and then you both reach out and pet it for awhile. You know what I'm taking about, yes? Well, I found bed sized blankets made out of the stuff on sale after the holidays!

I haven't bought a new blanket for our bed in..... almost twenty years. That was a lacy pink cotton summer blanket. We have personal quilts that weren't made to use on a bed. We have polar fleece throws. The only thing we have that actually fits across the entire bed with two people in it (barely) is an ancient (I bought it over thirty years ago) queen sized comforter. So I could easily justify these purchases.

There wasn't much left and mostly twin sized ones. They came in brown, cream, powder blue, and burgandy. I really wanted the chocolate brown one but I could only find it in queen size and wasn't sure it would be big enough. I also liked the cream white one a lot and that one I did find in king sized. They were a really good price. So I bough them both. I put them both on our king sized bed. I was happy to discover the queen sized one is big enough and the king sized one is generous and goes over both sides of the bed even when we're in it.

I'm sort of a natural fiber snob. I was probably the last person on the planet to give in and find something nice to say about polar fleece and it's only been in the last couple of years that I've decided it's not a crime to wear a cotton blend. These blankets are 100% polyester but you know what? I don't care! I HEART these blankets! I do. Every time I walk past the bed I stop and pet them and tell them how much I love them. When I climb in bed I pull them up so I can wrap the edge around my hands and sleep with my face against it. They are the softest thing ever. As soft as my poor, RIP, Fred Weasley the cat was and I didn't think anything would ever be as soft as him ever again.


There are other things I love in January, most have the adjectives "hot" (as in tea, coffee, cocoa) or "warm" (puppy, slippers, scarves) preceding them. (Do you see a comfort theme here?) And of course there are other things I love regardless of the month - family, friends, books, chocolate....

THINGS THAT I DON'T LOVE THIS JANUARY

1. being in hibernation mode.

I'm anxious and ready to get started on something important and worthy in this new year. I know that if I don't get busy and accomplish something now, when the year is fresh, next thing I know family requests and outside projects and life in general will start to fill up my calendar and before I know it it will be June and I'll be saying "what happened to the first half of the year!"

But I'm not being productive. I feel sleepy and fuzzy headed and although I'm blaming it on this cold, it also feels vaguely familiar. Didn't I feel this way this time last year? The cold and snow and gray doesn't make me feel particularly sad or depressed, but it does make me feel like curling up with my new blankets and a good book and waiting drowsily and contently for spring. To be honest I'm not sure if I'm frustrated at myself for feeling this way or for our go-go culture for making me feel guilty for it.

2. I'm tired of worrying about my old dog and the cold weather. He's never been a good house dog. But he's become an old man over this last year and now he's too old to leave outside for long in these low temperatures. So I have to let him in to warm up and then remember to let him out to pee because he has never learned to give us a good signal that he needs to do so. I let him in and let him out, repeating at two or three hour intervals, day and night.

3. I'm tired of ice. I want to get out and walk. I know I'd feel better. But I can't walk briskly without watching out for the icy patches, where I slow down and waddle along like an old lady or maybe a penguin for fear of slipping and wrenching my back some more.

I'm not yet longing for green grass and opening windows to spring breezes. In part because I have to pace myself - there's plenty of cold, gray winter left for that. In part because it's been so cold I can't even conceive of an open window. Even just opening the curtains during the day makes the house feel cold now.

I guess that's it. Not a long list. Just the top and bottom few. What's on your winter annoyance list this month? And what's making you quietly happy?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Awards and Lingering Birthday

Over the course of the last month, three lovely bloggers - Miss Laurence of Be Crafty Be Happy, Brittany of Adeline's Shabby Cottage (Hmmmm, so why isn't it Brittany's Shabby Cottage?), and Deb of Red Shoe Ramblings all awarded me a "You make my day Award".



Awwww, shucks. And thank you. It's nice to know I'm not just filling up web space with my babbling. I know how much I depend on and appreciate all the inspiring, thoughtful, and amusing posts that other bloggers spend time to share, it's lovely to know that I'm giving a little bit back again.

So, that brings me to the question, which lovely bloggers do I pass this award on to in return? Really, if I read your blog, then you surely deserve it. But maybe I'll mention a few bloggers that aren't quite a visible. Those that are tucked away in little side streets of the blogging community. My daughter-in-law's blog, Creative Slave gets an award. I adore access to the little everyday stories and faces of those I love. Let's see........

hmmmmm....

....oh, this is too hard! I just want to give it to you all. There are those of you who always have photos of your beautiful children to brighten my day. Some of you help me get my Francophile fix, or my book fix, or my art fix, or my wierdness fix. You ALL make my day. Sigh. I fail as an award giver, don't I. I'm sorry. It's like being asked to pick my favorite child. Can't do it.

So. Moving on.

I posted last week that it was my birthday and then I didn't mention it again. But it's worth mentioning that I had a lovely birthday. All my kids called to wish me a Happy Birthday. Friends sent surprise boxes and treated me to dinner. Hubby showered me with presents and flowers and took me out to eat at the restaurant of my choice. Actually two. We went to our weekly tea room date on my actual birthday and we went out to one of the nicer restaurants in town (in Susanville, this really means putting on a clean shirt and your nice boots, but still) where it turned out the owner, who is also my son's English teacher this year, was celebrating her birthday too. Small towns are all about intertwined relationships. It's nice that way.

It was a toss up between going to this restaurant or the new French restaurant in town. I wanted to go to this particular restaurant because I wanted to order their creme brulee, something I've never tried before. So I did. Try it. And I'm already looking forward to enough time passing so I can say "Hey, let's go out and order creme brulee again!" Cracking the sugar "glass". The creamy decadence of it all. Let's not discuss calories. Let's plug our ears and go nanananananana and pretend that it can't possibly have any of those. YUM.

Then late yesterday afternoon I decided there was no harm in slipping into the French restaurant for a late lunch. I'd had a birthday tea and a birthday dinner and a birthday dessert but I hadn't had a birthday LUNCH yet. I had a nice fat notebook and a good book to keep me company but instead I bumped into the owners of the tea room, such a nice couple, and they invited me to join them. Since they are also restaurant owners, I guess it was sort of a professional courtesy thing, we were all treated to dessert afterwards. I selected the chocolate mousse and expected a light whipped parfait glass of mousse. Instead what I got was a baseball sized ball of the richest, darkest, creamiest, CHOCOLATIEST mousse I've ever seen/tasted! I worked on it best I could and brought the rest home. It's so rich I've managed to stretch it out into four helpings. Again, I'm sure it contains no......calories.... shhh. I didn't hear that.

I've managed to stretch my birthday on and on and on.... I was still finding reasons to celebrate today. Another birthday card, from my sister, was waiting for me in my mailbox. I've got all sorts of lovely boxes and cards laying about opened and perused but waiting for me to enjoy again when I finally get around to unpacking them and putting them away, displaying them, using them, reading them, or eating them, as the case may be.

I've also used the birthday justification to catch up on some book and video buying. My latest finds:

Audrey Hepburn 5-Pack (Funny Face - SCE, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Roman Holiday, Sabrina - 1954, Paris When it Sizzles)Charade

I'm on an old movie kick and I love Audrey Hepburn. The first one is a five movie collection which I found at a real bargain price locally. The second, Charade, is one of my favorite movies of all and I managed to win it on eBay for half the cost of new. I've got a lot of movie watching piling up - not only these but also an entire season of both Doctor Who and Blood Ties, which I coudn't manage to keep up with in live time. Once I get caught up, I'm also on the lookout for:

How to Steal a MillionBell, Book and CandleStardust (Widescreen Edition)


Yeah, I know that last one isn't an old movie. But I so want to buy it when I can find a used copy. When they come out on video, I also want to own Enchanted and The Golden Compass. Going through my old VHS movies, I was able to clean out practically half the tapes we had stored but it also gave me the bug to find and replace all those t.v. taped poor quality favorites with DVD versions. Maybe I'll do a entire post on my DVD wish list some time in the future.

But one last movie mention - we bought a used copy almost a month ago and just a few nights ago finally found the time to all watch it together:

Paris, Je T'Aime

I knew I needed to see this one but wasn't sure if it would be as entertaining as I hoped. Well, it was. It's a keeper. Hubby loved it too. Even the teen boy enjoyed it although it probably helped that this particular teen boy had been to Paris and so had some personal interest in the theme. If you haven't heard of this movie, and it's likely since it's not a mainstream blockbuster, it's a collection of five minute love stories, each set in a different arrondissement of Paris, each done by a different well known director. Yep, you heard me right - each story is only five minutes long. Go find it.

Back to my birthday, my mom's card hasn't arrived yet. She's the woman that taught me that when giving gifts or sending cards, it's important for the gift or card to arrive on the date of or at least in the same year as the event one is celebrating. Yep. No hurry. When it arrives, she tells me there will be a check included. That will be perfect for funding my new DVD collecting. Lucky, lucky me. Hey, with any luck I'll be able to stretch this birthday thing out for weeks, maybe months, to come!

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Holiday Photos #27

Months ago I said I was going to get back to posting my holiday photos and wrap it all up. Well, that didn't happen, did it. But I've only got a few more months before I'll have hit the two year anniversary of our trip. I think there's probably an expiration date on sharing holiday photos, so I'm going to try to finish them up.

Last post, I left you in Edinburgh's Greyfriars Cemetery. (If you're new to my holiday photo posts and want to see what you've missed so far, you can type "Holiday Photos" into the Search/This Blog window above and find the previous posts) I showed you a lot of spooky photos but I forgot to add this last, far less sinister photo of apple blossoms fallen on the cobblestones. There were some creepy looking crypts but for the most part I find cemeteries peaceful places.


The last evening in Edinburgh, we decided to climb to the top of this ridge that towers over the city. I don't know what it's called. There was a fairly easy incline that went up from the bottom of the Royal Mile to a path that runs halfway up, along the top of the green rim you see. Of course we didn't take that path. Someone suggested we take the path that began behind the ridge, that it was easily accessible from some back streets that weren't far from our B & B a few miles away.


So we jumped on the bus and found the back path. You can see the very edge of those cliffs on the left hand side of the photo below. We also discovered that behind that ridge was another taller peak, center of the photo, called Arthur's Seat. William wanted to climb that instead. I told him "Absolutely not!"

So we took off for that first ridge and climbed up a nice wide smooth path to the front of the ridge you saw in the first photo. By now it had changed from misting to raining and daylight was moving towards twilight. Here's William walking ahead of me on the path.


After we'd walked all the way along the ridge to where we'd first seen it from the city below, William was still desperately pining to climb the higher peak. Honestly, I didn't think I was up for it but William wanted to climb it so badly I said we'd try. After all, we could always turn around if necessary, yes? Here's William ahead of me, climbing some of the sixty million rock steps that were built on the steepest part of the incline. I felt like we were Sam and Frodo, climbing up the hidden steps into the mountains of Mordor.


Here we are, unbelievably, at the top of the steps. But we're not there yet. The top third or so of the path wove up and around mounds and slopes. Below us you can see the ridge of cliffs we'd climbed first.
But we did it. Amazing! Well, maybe not so much for William, who is young and athletic and seemed as much at home as a mountain goat. Here's William at the very top.


But me, now THAT'S amazing! Here's proof of me up on top.



By then it was raining hard and the wind was fierce. You can hear the wind if you play William's video. He catches me in the view a couple of times.

video

The other people you see in the video told us they'd come up from the other direction and that their route had been STAIRLESS. Stairless sounded like a fantastic plan to me so we went down the other direction. It was a much gentler slop but it also went a much longer distance.

Towards the bottom of the path we came across these old ruins. Being from California, where grass has to be planted, it was amazing to see all this grass just growing everywhere. WILD grass. Also, the yellow flowering bushes in most of these photos is called Scotch Broom. I recognized it right away because it also grows all along the northern California coast. SCOTCH Broom, it's native here. I doubt they'll ever eradicate it in California even though there it's on the Noxious Weed list. Still, I've always found it pretty.


At the end of the trail we found ourselves back where we'd started earlier in the day at the bottom of the Royal Mile. Raining hard, most of the buses had stopped running. We were soaking wet and exhausted. Still, William took a moment to do an imitation of a statue.

We had to wait about forty minutes for a bus but we finally made it back to our B & B where we changed into warm dry clothes, grabbed a couple umbrellas, and found a nearby warm, cozy restaurant.


In the morning we got off to an early start and on the way to Waverly Station we saw the sun for the first time since our arrival. Despite all the gray and wet, the weather didn't dampen our love for this city of spires and closes. But, it was time to get on the train. Several hours later we would disembark and find ourselves in.......

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Cake or death?

We love Eddie Izzard and find opportunities to quote this bit quite often:



Today is my birthday. Obviously, I choose cake. That's pretty much what it boils down to as you get older, yes? Every year you make it to another cake day is a fantastic gift. I could never understand women who lied about their age as they aged. And now that I've aged myself, it's even more confusing to me. I think I deserve credit for each and every year. In fact, I'm quite pleased that I've gotten to the point where if I have a birthday cake....



... it has to be a really BIG cake to fit all the candles atop it.

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When I was a little girl, my dad's side of the family always ordered a special "fruit basket" cake for birthdays. I think they were a Midwestern thing as I haven't seen one since I've lived in California.

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I used to make really amazing themed cakes for my kids' birthdays. Nothing as amazing as the cakes I found online today, but still, my family was impressed. (I'll admit, they were easily impressed.) Nowadays the cake making tradition has fallen to my husband for some reason. It makes him happy, so that's the way it is.

Still, if I could pick a cake for myself, look at some of these beauties! A fairy cake!


Fairy Cakes - Do It Yourself Cake Decorating Package SAVE $3.45

Or, this is just too perfect for my blog, yes? A beach cake!

01_beach-cake.jpg

I love gardens as much as I do the beach, how about a flower cake. Can you imagine making all these marzipan flowers!? Or sugar flowers. Not sure which.

French wild flowers

Although, to be perfectly honest, I'm not really that big of a cake person. There are a few cakes I like - there's a certain type of vanilla sheet cake that is scrumptious. Chocolate cakes are always worth the calories, even if have to leave all that extra frosting behind (blech). If you stick fruit in it and use whipped cream or icing instead, you'll probably pique my interest. But then again I could go with a REAL flower cake for a visual and then just have something like tiramisu or chocolate mousse for my mouth.

http://www.adevineflorist.com.au/products/Flowercake.jpg

I think this the best cake I found. It's a wedding cake but if it was just one layer, it could be a birthday cake. I love this cake. Look at the wicked viney roots sticking in and out of the top layer and the tiny drops of blood on the bottom. I would SO love this cake! Hey, did you think I was just pretending to be strange?



Probably most appropriate for my cold January birthday, a snow cake!

http://www.sugarcraft.com/catalog/wedding/snowflakedance.jpg

I'm having a lovely birthday. There was a real cake today. Here is what it looked like.


Hubby used the last piece of dried up gingerbread cake, frosted it with the the leftover frosting from making gingerbread houses, and stuck three birthday candles in it he found in a kitchen drawer. He brought it to me in bed, all lit up, singing Happy Birthday. Then he warned me I couldn't really eat it, that it was just for decorative purposes. I blew out the candles and stuck my finger in the frosting and licked it off just to say I'd had a "piece" of my birthday cake. It certainly wasn't the fanciest cake I've ever had, but it was funny and sweet of him to want me to wake to a cake. And then he took me to the tea room and showered me with flowers, chocolates, and presents. And tonight we're going out for dessert, so that will be my real "cake".