Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mom Photos

Remember I said my mom, in her younger years, looked like Jacqueline Kennedy? Well, I looked for some photos to prove my point. I have very few old family photos at my disposal (my mom still has most of them), but I did manage to rummage up these three. I don't know if they're very good examples of the point I was making. I'm pretty sure they're not. But it was still fun to have an excuse to look through my most ancient pics and equally fun to embarrass my family by posting them here.

Here's my mom sunbathing. She was big on sunbathing. This was long before the whole sunscreen craze telling us to FEAR THE SUN. I did my fair share of sunbathing, but I wasn't anywhere near as keen on it as the rest of my family. Anyway, mom is somewhere in her middle thirties in this photo. Look at how skinny and young and adorable she was! She's still pretty skinny and young and adorable for a woman in her 70's, she's never bothered acting her age - I suspect she considers it a waste of time.

Also humiliated in this photo, my younger sister Laurie who, I am thankful for this one moment, never reads my blog. She was at that awkward pre-teen stage here. Just starting to get breasts, hair that refused to lay flat (which was the popular style at the time), glasses. She was a geeky kid back before it was cool to be geeky. I think her life would have been very different if she'd been born a decade or two later. Well, wouldn't we all.

Last but not least, a not very flattering peek at my most gorgeous of all dogs, Sheila.

A family portrait from just a few years down the road. Sorry my dad isn't in the pic. My parents divorced when I was ten. My dad was certainly still a big part of my life, but not an everyday part of the family. Sigh. Anyway, here we all are, just us girls, in our matching outfit glory.

Mom in the lefthand corner with her hair dark and poofy. She was always doing something to her hair, which is still thick and grows about two inches a day. She'd color it, streak it, grow it out, chop it off, floof it, add hair pieces. There were a few occasions when she ended up with unexpected results - orange or purple hair. Another example of how someone would have had different options if they'd lived in different times. If my mom was young in this current generation, she'd probably be the one with blue spikey hair one day, bleached with pink tips the next.

Me in the top left. At this point in time both me and my sister Laurie wore glasses, but we took them off for the camera. I also remember that the turtleneck I'm wearing and the sweater my sister is wearing were new outfits, meaning, we had bought the tops new and they weren't used or hand me downs. Not that it bothered me to wear either, but it must have been fairly uncommon for us to get new clothing for me to remember it so clearly. I had a couple of turtlenecks, in different colors. Funny, now I NEVER wear them. A mock turtleneck maybe, if it's below ten degrees fahrenheit. Maybe.

Laurie on the top right. Our only blonde and the middle child. She was our Jan Brady. Which, embarrassingly, makes me Marcia, but the shoes fit us both so, there ya go. I always envied her ability to wear more exotic clothing and to wear more dramatic make up. Not that I didn't wear make up back in those days as well, I did, just not as much, and not in such dramatic colors. I wear make up once in a blue moon now. I don't think my sister wears it much anymore either.

Last but not least, my youngest sister Lisa in the bottom right. She wasn't really a Cindy to our Jan and Marcia. She was more .... I don't know. She was quiet. One of my most vivid memories of her as a child (she'd probably outgrown the habit by the time this photo was taken... maybe) was her habit of sitting on the edge of the dirt road in the front of the house. She would pour a handful of dirt and rocks on her head and then sit there quietly and pick out the gravel. Lisa does read my blog so .... let's hope we're still speaking after this. Hehe. And the rest of the story is that this sister is now a big time veterinary doctor and university professor. A grown up with fancy degrees on her wall. And she doesn't put rocks in her hair anymore. At least, not that I know of.

One more photo of my mom about six or seven years later. Those were my kittens when I lived for a short time in an apartment across from the old railroad station in Novato, CA. I'm so not an apartment person, but I really liked that spot. The silly tabby grinning for the picture was Pepper. He lived a long happy life with us. I don't remember what we named the black one as we found a new home for her/him? shortly after. But I digress. So, my mom had to be..... I'm gonna guess 42, give or take a year, in this photo. Which is ten years younger than me now. And yet looking at this photo I remember that I was already an adult, about to be or just married, and I remember I thought my mom was SOOOOO OLD!!!

Damn, even with grungy work clothes and no make up, she still looks great here, doncha think? Because I started having kids later, I'm a lot older when my kids are the age that I was then. If I thought my mom looked old, my newly adult kids probably think I look beyond ancient. Sigh.

Oh, and I loved that chair. I think the frame finally went. Or maybe just the upholstery and I didn't know what to do with it. I wish I still had it.

And while I'm wishing...... I wish I still looked that young. I wish I had a million dollars. I wish men would stop having selective hearing. I wish teenagers would appreciate that grown ups don't always have their head up their ass when they're dispensing advice. I wish my cats would stop being evil. I wish the sewer fairy would come fix our pipes while we were sleeping. I wish all my kids lived close enough to visit whenever I wanted.

That was fun. Maybe I'll share more old photos.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

One Lump or Two?

I'm having a lot of fun visiting all the OWOH participants. I started out trying to visit everyone but the list is growing faster than I can keep up. The list is now almost 700 blogs long! I lost a couple days to my migraine but tonight, after braving the sunlight and doing some errands, I spent the evening on the couch visiting more blogs. It's fun to enter the prize giveaways but mostly it's about finding fun new blogger friends. It's like potato chips, I visit just one more, just one more, just one more.... because you never know what funny or inspiring or intriguing new posts are yet to be discovered. Like, I found this fun little toy on several blogs:

Look! I'm an Obama poster! Only this poster's theme is something I think Democrats, Republicans, Green Party, Libertarians.... ALL of us can rally around - a good cup of tea. Well, there are those NON-tea drinkers out there. I guess there's always opposition to a great idea. Sigh.

I received some really great teas as holiday gifts this year. I think my favorite is a package of loose leaf black tea from my sister called Golden Yunnan. I don't know what it is about the taste, it's not flavored, but it's really unique. LOVE it. Sister also gave us three more packages of hearty black breakfast teas. I'm always tempted by the flavored teas and forget how much I like a good quality unflavored, so this was a welcome addition to our tea shelves. Yes, tea shelves. Plural. We love tea so much that one tea shelf has sort of overrun the shelf of seeds, grains, and nuts on the shelf below it.

Oh dear, I guess it's overgrown onto THREE shelves. Well, I rarely use most of those cookbooks anyway. I probably would use them more if I could get to them without knocking all that tea off the shelf. Maybe it's time to consolidate some of those boxes and tins. It's not very organized. Oh, and see those two big boxes of PG Tips - that was one of my gifts to Hubby. He likes being very British. I can make one PG Tips tea bag make two or three strong cups of tea. Hubby on the other hand uses one bag to make one very DENSE single cup.

I got a tiny wooden "tea house" in my Yule stocking. It holds a half dozen tea bags - I'm guessing probably fairly ordinary tea, maybe I'll use it up making iced tea, but the cute little house is the real treat.

Hubby bought me a beautiful container of Earl Grey. It's a tall thin cylinder with both an outer lid and an inner cap, beautifully wrapped in a lavender paper. I'll reuse it for loose tea when the earl grey is used up, which might not be long from now as it's really nice, light and aromatic.

I'm both a coffee and tea drinker but lately my heart belongs to tea. Hubby always brings me a cup of coffee each morning, which still says "I love you" in so many ways, but if I had to make my way to the kitchen and get my own cup of wake-up, I think I'd turn on the flame under the kettle and make myself some of my darkest black tea with a heavy dollop of soy milk.

Along with choosing the type of tea - black, green, white, red, herb, flavored or plain... we've got it all, I also have to decide what sort of cup or mug best suits the tea and my mood and where and how I'm gonna drink it. Do I need a thin tall mug to fit on the tiny space on the corner of my nightstand? Something with thick walls to keep my tea warm while I wander all over the house with it? A china cup with a saucer to make me feel pampered? Or maybe to keep the drips off of paperwork? Something portable so I can dash off in the car with it? Well, let's deal with cups and mugs in another post. All this tea talk has convinced me it's time to make a cup that will work with my book and bed.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Green Gloves

Watching the inauguration last week was exciting and inspiring and emotional for so many people. There was so much history being made, and hopes being renewed and... well, you know it all. And yet, mixed in with all the big things happening, I still had time to notice little things. Like Michelle Obama's green gloves. I saw them and immediately did a double take and said outloud, to no one, as I was alone in the room with the television - "Oh man, I love those gloves!"

Later I would discover that this sentiment was shared by a lot of women and in fact there are entire blogs focused on the Obama fashion trends. Who knew!? A couple of friends and I, while discussing the election and the inauguration and the new direction this country is making, casually mentioned the fashion bits, but we did so sort of embarrassed to be talking about something so irrelevant, really, in the face of the world's troubles. But later I started thinking about it and I've come to the conclusion that perhaps it's not irrelevant, or a small thing, after all.

When I was a small thing myself, President Kennedy was in office and, frequently enough for me to notice, people used to compare my mom to Jacqueline Kennedy. They thought she looked like her and often, as an upper middle class woman in a small Midwestern town, dressed like her. And she did. Both look like and dress like her. As I grew older I would often catch a glimpse of my mom in person or in photos and be startled by the similarities between them. But my point here is that, even as a young child, I remember how proud I was of my mom for looking like the First Lady. It lent her a sort of glamour that helped me to feel as if she was someone special too. (And of course, she was, in her own right, but that's another post altogether.)

Being able to remember those feelings all these decades later, they must have had a influence on me in a strong and lasting way. And although I can analyze them now, as a child I simply absorbed them into myself and acted on them as meaningful and truthful things about the world. So, back to the present, what sort of influence will these strong, beautiful faces have on the many people in our country, even in the world, who can look at them and think "My mom/sister/friend/dad looks like her/him." or even "I look like her!" And what small seeds of self worth will be watered and grow because of it? Think of the healthy growth, the blooming of possibilities, in each of these people, and because we are all bound together, the positive affect it will have on all of society! No, this is not a small irrelevant thing!

I think it's honest to say that we all have a gap, some of us a small crack and some of us a major canyon, between the world as we think of it intellectually and the way we respond to it when we react on a "unconsciously learned" level. I'll tell you an embarrassing story about myself, to make my point.

This was about fifteen to twenty years ago because it was when we were living near enough the area to be watching a San Francisco Bay Area news station. Sitting on the couch, I was probably trying to read at the same time, because I remember looking up and being confused. There was a man on the news talking and it wasn't making sense to me. I turned to Hubby and said "Why is he talking about immunizations?"

Hubby: "Because that's the topic."

Me: "Immunizations? But what does that have to do with sports?"

Hubby: "It doesn't have anything to do with sports. Why should it have anything to do with sports?"

Me: "Duh - Because this is the sports section? Because he's the sportscaster?"

Hubby: "No. He's a doctor. This is the Health Tips section."

I realized immediately, what I had done. I had made a huge assumption based on stereotype. I'd seen a black man's face staring out at me from the newscast and assumed he was going to tell me the evening's basketball scores. I. was. so. embarrassed.

Would I make that assumption today, several decades later? I hope not. But then, I didn't think I would make that assumption back then either. We don't realize how much, even when we know better, that we make sense of the world by putting things in boxes. Boxes we can neatly label and understand, boxes we sometimes don't even know exist.

But now I'll tell you another family story, both funny and, hopefully, showing how far we've already come.

William and I were watching the special celebration concert on HBO the night before the inauguration. I got a laugh out the Obama's older daughter on the sidelines, busy with her camera, photographing all the celebrities, while she herself was being photographed by many in the crowd for the same reason. It occurred to me that she was young enough to not really know who a lot of the older celebrities were that were performing. I turned to William and told him my thought. William disagreed.

William: "No, I think she'd know who they are. Everybody knows who they are."

Me: "Actually, that's not true. You know who they are because you're part of a family that listens to a lot of music of different generations and different genres, but that's not true of all families. Think of the people you know in town." (Although there are many smart and educated folk in Susanville, to say that many people around here have had limited multicultural exposure would be.....*cough*... uhm... honest.)

William: "Yes, but we're not talking about just any family. These are the Obamas. I think they're a little more sophisticated than that."

Me: "I don't know. I think you're assuming too much. Think about how old they are. They might hear some of their parent's music, but they are probably more familiar with someone like Hannah Montana or .... or musicians that get played on the radio now."

William: "Mom!" (getting my attention so I look at him, he puts his hands up and makes a little bracket in the air to his right) "Children of mill workers." (he then moves his hands to the left and makes another set of air brackets) "Children of the leader of the free world."

And then, having rested his case, he went back to watching the concert. I laughed at his conviction that his perspective was right and mine was wrong. I do think he overestimates a seven and ten year old girl's musical sophistication. BUT, I was also laughing with joy that he could be so certain that this was an obvious fact. I'm proud that we now live in a world where the faces on the television prompt an entirely new type of assumption, a world where a face of color will never make my son jump to the thought "And now, time for sports."

And as for the green gloves. As much as I love them, you gotta know that they're gonna be a new fad. Maybe I'll find myself a pair of red leather gloves.....

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Be back....... ugh...... whenever. Hopefully soon.

(And yes, I still look that gorgeous even when I'm suffering.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Rainy Day and Rambling Bits at the End

It's been cold and wet for a couple of days now, a rare weather pattern here where it's most often cold and dry, hot and dry, or cold and WHITE. I'm sort of obsessing about the sparkly raindrops clinging to the bare branches outside my windows. I took some more photos of the raindrops and put them up over at Laume's Studio.

I'm also still enjoying the peacefulness of the monotone landscape. My entire front garden is full of dried skeletons of last year's green, bleached to various barely color creams, taupes, and greys. I think it's easier to appreciate in person.

Here by the corner of the house, green violets are already peeking through. The world might seem like it's sleeping but it's already starting to burst open into another frenzy of seasonal growth. If I want to get a lot of catch up tasks done before spring tasks start to pile on top of the list, I better not dawdle.

I'm trying not to panic about the economy but new information about how bad things truly are keep catching my attention. I was talking to my sister tonight, she and her hubby are long distance truckers. She was telling me about how dramatic the crisis is for the trucking industry. William came home from school today telling me about two more local businesses that have closed. The frightening thing, these aren't marginal businesses, these are two of the more broadly used and popular businesses in our community.

Part of our at first voluntary, now necessary, effort to cut cost is eating home most of the time. We had fallen into a habit of eating out far too often. It's going well, this return to the family hearth. I feel like I'm eating better and although I'm spending more time in the kitchen, I'm enjoying that time more. There are a few bumps. William the Teen is having fast food withdrawals. Further torture, we're not even offering junk food at home, forcing him to swallow such unpalatable items as whole wheat tortillas, homemade sweet tea, and vegetables.
There's also trouble with Hubby actually finding the food, what with him suffering from TAB - Testosterone Affected Blindness. This syndrome makes it impossible for him to see fresh fruit hiding in a bowl in the middle of the kitchen counter or to understand the purpose of those large white boxes (ie. the vegetable bins) at the bottom of the refrigerator. He opens the pantry and, because TAB causes all boxed, dried, or unmicrowaveable food products to blur before his eyes, cries out in a feeble voice, weak from TAB induced hunger, "There's nothing to eat in this house!" It must be genetic, passed along on the Y chromosome because, tragically, most of my sons seem to have inherited the condition.

Totally segue free, new topic. There's a new kitty litter commercial that shows a bunch of different people enjoying their cats while describing their favorite scents - the idea being that these people use a litter that allows them to smell something other than their cat's litter boxes. Fair enough. But the last person is a guy in a button down shirt and tie with a geeky sweater, geeky haircut, and glasses, in front of a library of books, telling us his favorite scent is the smell of old leather bound books. Again, fair enough. I love the smell of old books! But, WHY does the guy have to look so geeky? Apparently I voiced this question outloud because hubby replied "So we, the viewer, will know he's smart." I told him "Don't you think the entire WALL of books behind him might be a clue!?" I'm probably making a mountain out of a molehill but it just annoyed me that they were promoting the stereotype that only uncool people read books. I happen to think that truly cool people are the ones that read.

Speaking of books (Yah! the segue returns!) I've managed to get myself into a reading log jam. I try to read a couple of books at a time these days. A novel sits on my nightstand for reading before bed and another book, usually a nonfiction, sits on the end table by my favorite spot on the living room sofa. Sometimes I take that book or even, living dangerously, a THIRD book, around with me in the car to read while I'm waiting or sitting somewhere with coffee. But for a bunch of unrelated reasons, I've somehow managed to get a half dozen books started all at once. The last addition - I just started a new book last night (one I've tried to start several times before, also unsuccessfully, hmmmmmm....) and then the library called this morning to tell me my interlibrary loan book finally arrived. So, that one's gotta get read first because the lending period is rather short.

True, but it might be possible to try reading too many of them at one time!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One World One Heart


It's that time of year again, time to participate in the crazy whirlwind trip around the blogiverse to visit with and participate in the One World One Heart Bloggers Give-away. You can click on the link above (or in my sidebar) to find and visit all the participating blogs and learn more about it. The basic premise is that each participating blogger sets up a give-away and announces the winner(s) on the same date. This year it is February 12. It's fun to go around leaving comments and getting the chance to win things but truly, the best part of the excitement for me is in saying hi to old blogging friends I've lost track of over the year (there are only so many hours in the day, sigh) and to make new blogging friends as the list of amazing bloggers grows each year.

I'm participating both here and on my studio blog. Here's my give-away for Beach Treasure visitors.

She's a rather large storebought faery doll - 12"-16" size. She's quite delightful, if a bit befuddled looking. (I suspect she's had a bit more than her fair share of faery mead at this afternoon's meeting of LAFFFS (Ladies Auxiliary For Fabulous Faeries Society)) My mother bought me both her and a friend and, determined to pare down my belongings, I've decided I don't really have room to showcase both of them. I know one of you will find the perfect spot for her.

To have a chance to have her come live with you, just leave a comment on this post. I also hope you'll come back for a more leisurely visit after the craziness of OWOH web traveling is past. Make sure to bookmark or sub to my main URL to find your way back again. Oh, and don't forget to stop by my other blog, Laume's Studio, to see what you can win over there!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It's a New Day!

Hubby ordered this nifty Obama inauguration countdown keychain. The minute it arrived in the mail I "confiscated" it for my own use. I enjoyed watching the days, hours, and seconds zoom backwards each time I checked it. Then in midDecember I lost my keys. They stayed lost for about a month, until the snow melted and they lay wet and muddy on the re-exposed lawn. The numbers were gone. About three or four days later the keychain dried out enough to start working again. It had decided Obama would become president in 782 days and began counting down again, in it for the long haul. I tried to push buttons on the back of the keychain, to reset it, but it steadfastly insisted we had years to wait.

Fortunately the world didn't pay attention and the inauguration went off without a hitch this morning. (well, the actual oath taking itself was a bit jumbled, but hey, who's listening, eh?)

For those who know me well, you won't be surprised that I was still up at 4 a.m. this morning. I went to bed shortly after, setting the alarm for 8:30 PST. I didn't want to watch the moment after the fact. I wanted to watch it in real time, as it was happening. I wasn't sure if I'd be as determined a handful of hours later when the alarm went off but I popped out of bed, frightening hubby. I'd been laying there wondering if it was time, was it time, what time was it, peeking at the clock every five minutes for the last half hour already.

I'm not going to any of the many inaugural balls or parties, but I think I'll take the rest of the day to celebrate and relish the moment before, like the president himself, getting back to work tomorrow.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Hoofin' It, Not Milkin' It

So, the dairy thing. As you recall, I was going day by day without dairy to see if it was a factor in the "nose" thing. By the third day sans dairy I was definitely feeling better. But, I also made another change (which I'll get to in a few paragraphs), so that might have been making the difference. And then of course there's always the placebo affect. Around day six or seven I decided it was time to see what happened if I put the dairy back in my diet. First night I had some cheese, a bowl of cereal with cow's milk. Woke up the next morning and felt fine. So I had some butter on my bagel and then some cheese on my salad and ... can't remember what else.

By that evening I though I might be feeling a bit yucky - maybe a cold coming on? By the next day I definitely didn't feel as energized as I had been and thought hmmmm, maybe it is dairy. Maybe it takes a while for my body to react. I was expecting an immediate reaction and that didn't happen. After several days of feeling on the "verge of a cold" I cut out dairy again since I usually do that when I'm sick anyway and you'll never guess what happened.....

I felt better again. Duh!

I'm not sure if it really helps make my nasal passages open more, but it does make me feel generally more mentally clearheaded and energetic. At least, I think so. Maybe I'll do a couple more "tests" to make sure. I''m not sure if I'm happy or bummed about this. I'm much of a dairy fan but I just found out last week how hard it is to avoid entirely.

Cows in Paris. In Les Jardins des Tuilleries to be exact. It was part of a temporary art exhibit. Cows in Paris - reminds me of an old advertisement I used to see in the San Francisco Bay Area for a dairy. Their slogan was "Cows in Berkeley!?" said in a voice that expressed both surprise and confusion.

So, no dairy for me, for now. At least, 99% no dairy for me. I'm not going to try for more than that, it's just too hard.

No dairy but, I am doing lots of walking. Several times in the last few years I've started a walking regiment and each time I've quickly become "addicted" to my daily, or almost daily, walk. Each time travel or injury or crazy schedules or some other thing has thrown me out of my routine, I've missed it for awhile and then, after enough time went by, I'd find myself making excuses NOT to walk. Or not even bothering to make excuses but simply NOT walking. Tell me how that works? It's crazy, isn't it?

I finally just did it. I realized our dry weather probably wouldn't stick around the rest of the winter and so I needed to "get while the going was good". About a week and a half ago? Or maybe two weeks ago? I went for a walk. And then I walked the next day. And the next. I've walked every day but yesterday. It felt so good to walk again today. And I noticed that when I reached the hill that takes me uptown, I didn't huff or puff (like I did last week) except for just a few steps at the very tippy top.

It's not like I'm walking that much, a mile or two, which goes to show how even a little bit of change makes a big difference. The tough part is finding a reason to walk every day because I'm not a "just walk around the block" kinda gal. I have to go somewhere. And if my destination is far enough (there's limited choices without changing my starting point, which is usually home), then I like to have some sort of back up plan for getting back - Hubby home to pick me up for instance.

The walking itself is pretty nice, but the best part is the rest of the each day usually falls into a more productive rhythm too. I was rationalizing that I didn't have time to walk since I had so much to do at home. Which I wasn't doing, but still, I should be doing it. I won't pretend I've become superwoman but since I started walking again I've ended up getting a lot more accomplished almost every day. With a lot less effort. Win/win situation.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Paris Dreaming

I've been dreaming of Paris a lot lately. I'm always thinking of Paris, or perhaps some other far away place, but usually Paris. More so lately. I don't have the holidays to distract me. Even during the holidays, I was fantasizing about spending them in Paris. But now it's just cold and grey and since Paris is often cold and grey, I think of Paris more. And spring is coming and both my visits have been in the spring so that makes me think of Paris. And I'm finally reading the latest Cara Black Paris mystery, so that reminds me of Paris. And friends of ours just came back from France which just happens to be where Paris is, fancy that ....and drinking lots of hot tea which of course..... REMINDS ME OF PARIS. Okay, so you get the picture. Pretty much everything reminds me of Paris. Now that we've got that firmly established, let's move on. To some photos of Paris.

I thought instead of wandering the entire city, I'd show you a bit of Montmartre today. Not because I've been thinking of that part of Paris specifically, but because I haven't shared these photos yet and it is one of my favorite areas in the city.

Originally it was considered outside the city, or at least, on the outskirts. It's that hill up there in the top lefthand corner of the photo. For the more Paris neophytes among you, that's the Seine you're overlooking. And look at all those windows dotting all those buildings. It reminds me of a giant white honeycomb. Which is an apropos comparison, now that I think about it. A busy place, buzzing with activity, and all those little hives/streets filled with treasures just waiting to be savored.

Here's a close up of it's most famous feature - Sacré-Coeur . It's also famous for being an artistic community. You've probably heard of a few of the more famous residents - Van Gogh, Monet, Dali, Picasso....

It's also home of many windy streets and these beautiful, if steep, steps. This one doesn't look too difficult to climb.

However, some of them are more challenging.

Here's one up near the top of the butte. See the city far below? It's easier to see how high it truly is from the top than from the bottom looking up.

Some areas are full of tourists. Here's a peek at the Basilica above a tourist filled but still pretty street. Check out the racks of post cards! And the cute little black cat above a shop called Le Chat Noir.

Of course it's not all tourists. Locals too. Here's a bridal shower group wandering the streets.

Sam and Kyla in the foreground, this is a plaza filled with artists selling their work, most of it, sadly, appealed to the most average taste of tourists. A few were more interesting. Some concentrated on painting portraits of people they could coerce or yank off the street. It must have been a very different art scene long ago. Maybe some of that bohemian lifestyle still lives, off on the edges or hidden away in lofts. Maybe it's moved someplace entirely, someplace less discovered.

There are quieter streets, residential streets. I sort of liked the "backside" of the hill better. Yes, I know, a double standard, to be a tourist but want to get away from the tourists. We met lots of nice people who happened to be tourists too, and we did our share of prowling the tourist spots, but the longer we stayed in the city the more we noticed it and felt "more at home" in the less popular areas.

Some Montmartre neighborhoods were even quieter.

Paris is a perfect travel destination but I can understand why so many people desire an even closer relationship with it and make it their home. Between the grandeur and the quiet corners, the bling and the soft details, it would take a lifetime, maybe several lifetimes, to know it all.

Me, my camera, Paris - I can't think of anything else that would make me happier in this world. Well, yes, I can - enough euros to stop occasionally at one of the many tea rooms throughout the city. All the walking makes one thirsty.

If I lived in Paris, if I got tired of company, I could have tea in my own little hidden garden. It would be nice to be tucked away like this. I'm certain this sort of spot would be completely out of my price range. But this is a fantasy, so let's not worry about tiny details like that, shall we?

Or maybe I'd like to live on the top floor of one of these buildings, overlooking this quiet bit of green on one side and a view of the city above it. Even though it was April in this photo, it still looks rather late winter, with no green on the tree branches yet.

But this is Paris, so there's always a chandelier of sparkling light and a boutique de fleurs somewhere nearby to brighten my spirit. Maybe an armload of those tall purple ones in the front of the window, wrapped in paper and tied with a pretty ribbon. I'd have to hurry home to recut the stems and put them in a vase of water. Unless I lived in a tiny studio, then maybe just a tussy mussy sized handful of those pink and white flowers near the door.

Well, what do we have here? A few Alice in Wonderland sized flowers right out on the street. Maybe I'd stop for a bit of lunch first. I'm sure my fresh flowers would last for a while longer in the cool air.

Will you look at the time! I've dreamed away half the afternoon here, in my little bit of cyber Paris. I guess it's time to shake my head loose, put the kettle on, and get down to brightening up my real house. No flowers, but I could put on some cheerful music and dust away a bit of the grey.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

California Dreaming

"all the leaves are brown
and the sky is grey
I've been for a walk
on a winter's day"
I have gone for a walk. Several walks in fact. Trying to walk most days. I've walked uptown to the pub to meet a friend for lunch, walked to the library, walked to my friend's shop, walked to the thrift store, walked to the restaurant to have my weekly date with Hubby yesterday (well, walked halfway there, it's clear across town).

It's been clear and sunny. The type of winter day that seems warm from inside. Even outside, in a jacket and scarf the sun feels warm on my face when I walk. But the minute the sun starts to set, still by late afternoon, the air turns cold enough to wish I'd brought a hat and gloves on my walks. With all the deep snow melted and the sun shining, I keep imagining spring as being right around the corner. Of course it isn't. It's still mid January and for all I know next week we could be knee deep in snow again.

No matter which way I walk from my house, it takes me over the river. Looking down at the water in deep winter shadow, a few scraps of snow left clinging to the rocks, I remember it's still winter.

On a walk home yesterday, the sunset was worth the cost of a cold nose and cheeks. Click on this photo to enlarge it - I like how the house and car lights look like little sparks fallen from the oranges and golds of the sky.

It deepened and intensified with every step I took. Quite a show last night.

Inside the house things are mostly warm what with my new robe (gotta remember to take a photo for you), quilts and blankets, hot tea, a working heater, and cuddly pets. Hubby's grey heather shirt acts as the perfect camouflage for Miranda. Every time I tried to take a photo, she tried to get up to see me though, this was the best shot I could get.

A few more pics of winter branches on Laume's Studio today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mostly Diet and a Few Other Updates

On the dairy foods thing - right after that delicious creme brulee, I stopped eating dairy. This is the end of day four. I already don't eat a lot of dairy. About the only dairy I thought I had left in my diet was healthy dairy - like nonfat yogurt or perhaps a bit of feta on a salad. Or an occasional splurge of a pat of butter or even more of a splurge of a bowl of ice cream - although I regret the ice cream so often that I rarely go ahead and bother eating it anymore. But, I was wrong. Although I'm not a big dairy person, dairy products are sort of an integral part of a lot recipes in ways I hadn't even thought about.

I know it's been only three days but it's been interesting how much avoiding dairy has changed my diet - for the better. I've eaten more vegetables and fruit, more proteins, more healthy carbs that have taste on their own. It's challenging though as there are dairy products in things you'd never guess - like in some brands of crackers. Why put milk in crackers!? I'm feeling better but I don't know if it's because I'm eating no dairy or just because I'm eating better and I'm feeling more in control and hopeful.

It's hard to tell if no dairy is making any difference. Although I feel better I don't know if my nose is better. My nose always have a worse time of it in the middle of winter - all the dry cold air makes it crack and bleed and feel stuffed up and .... well, you don't want to know the details. So it's hard to tell if having less of all those symptoms is "improved". Maybe I'll have to try this again in the spring when there are fewer other factors to battle. But, I'll keep it up for another day or two and then eat some dairy and see if there's a noticable difference.

Speaking of diet, I took photos of the meal we had when our friends Debbie and Dave had us over for dinner about a month ago. Debbie goes crazy cooking all day when we come for dinner and I love it and feel guilty over it because I tend to reciprocate with a far less sophisticated return invitation. BUT, she loves doing it and she loves that we love it. So, it's all good. The food, in particular is good. Delicious in fact.

Doesn't that look like a great spread!?

This salad had greens, nuts, cooked sweet potatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and a warm sweet sauce. It was wonderful. Of course the cheese would have to go if I made it today. Maybe not next week....

My friend Deb is a perfect example of what a difference diet can make. She suffered for years with a lot of health issues, most of them packaged up and labeled Fibromyalgia. I have no doubt that she did indeed have fibromyalgia but the pertinent part of this story is that she also has, and not one of her doctors had diagnosed it, an inability to digest, or allergy to, almost all grains. To make a long story short, she did an elimination diet and found out herself.

Every time she tried to have "just a little" or "maybe this one time won't hurt", the results were so dramatically negative, that she quickly realized that completely reinventing her diet was the EASIER route. Most of her health issues, many which were so severe that she couldn't function at home much less handle an outside job, are now a thing of the past. Although her fibromyalgia does occasionally flare up still, it's no longer disabling.

The funny part is that when we go out to eat together, we're like that Mother Goose couple Jack Sprat and his wife. She's eating meat and heavy sauces and salads and lots of dairy and is in the best health she's been in for years. On the other hand, from my own experiences, I know to avoid most of her choices and eat lots of whole grains and vegetables and lighter proteins. Well and salads. We match on the salads. My point here, in case you need one, is that diet is not a small thing. And more importantly, miracle diets aren't the same for each person. What makes you well might make another person sick.

Several close family members and friends who have been vegetarians almost their entire lives (we're talking three, four, even five decades) are suddenly becoming omnivores again. The ones I've talked to about their decision have said they're doing it for health issues, although they didn't go into details. I'm curious. I tend to be more of an omnivore than anything else, although meat is a very small part of that, but lately I've been finding myself drawn back to vegetarianism and even veganism in ways that I can't really put into words but still, there it is. I don't think I'll actually end up a pure "ism" of any kind, but perhaps I'll move more in the direction of them.

Moving away from diet but still on the topic of health, I'm trying to get back to my regular walking routine again. I keep putting it off, thinking of the time it will take up. But finally I realized it's a false time savings because I always feel so much better, think more clearly, and get so much more done when I exercise regularly that the result is a net plus in productivity. Hey, I don't have any problems wasting time online so why should I worry about "wasting time" walking.

Still sort of on the topic of health, because sleep or lack thereof can have a huge impact on quality of life, we broke down and bought a no bark collar for our dog. My days are more structured because I have to I have to remember to take it off of him and schedule breaks when he can come inside. The idea is to train him not to bark outside in his kennel, which he has to be in because he escapes from the rest of the backyard constantly and he can't remember not to pee in the house unless I'm literally watching him every second. He learned so quickly that he's only barked twice - not rounds of barking, but barks - "Bark" followed by a pause and then "Bark" followed by Buck deciding he's not going to test that baby again. It makes me feel cruel but the ability to get some sleep at night and not spend the entire day running back and forth from the house to his kennel yelling at him (and making me feel guilty and him confused and making me feel so stressed I end up with another headache that lasts all day) has been WONDERFUL.

Several people have gently suggested maybe it's time to have him put down but I just can't do it. He's old and he's senile and he's trouble but he's also so sweet and gentle and confused and he's actually in very good health for his age, which is probably at least 100 in people years, and I think about how I would want to be treated if I was old and..... So it might seem sort of mean but I'm already feeling so much NICER towards him and being friendlier towards him and he seems happier and..... it's, knock on wood, better. His problems are getting worse though and there will probably come a time when..... sigh. Right now all I can think about is getting through the winter with him. Spring and summer when the weather is warmer for him and we can spend more of our time outside together will be easier. If we can just make it until then, I hope things will be easier.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Economy Hits Home

We've been one of the fortunate families, able to watch the economy come crashing down all around us with some sense of security, as Hubby's job is one of the more protected types. Not that the recession (are we calling it a depression yet?) hasn't affected us. Food prices, gas prices, less stock on the store shelves, friends struggling and losing jobs, our kids having to work harder to stay afloat, businesses we frequent closing their doors at an alarming rate. It's been a lot and yet I still know I say this from a somewhat privileged perch.

Some of you, if you've been paying attention, know that I've been swimming towards a simpler life style for some time and so tightening our own belt hasn't been necessarily all bad. In some ways it's helped me to do things I've wanted to do for a long while but struggled with because, well, habits aren't always easy to change. So we eat out less - that means we spend less and we probably eat healthier. I think twice before buying something I don't really need - it means less STUFF at home, it means I read a book already sitting on my shelf before buying a new one.

Now it looks like Hubby will be taking a pay cut. OUCH. It feels almost whiny to say that the fun of cutting back is starting to wear thin. It's one thing to make sacrifices and have something to show for it. It's another thing to make sacrifices just to stay afloat. And before anyone accuses me of being spoiled (which I have been for a number of years now), let me point out that this hasn't been the case most of my life.

I can remember the humble need for Food Stamps when my mom was a single parent. I remember digging for coins in the sofa cushions to see if we could find enough loose change to buy milk for our cereal. I remember doing without, getting necessary things like socks or my only coat for a gift. I remember one Christmas where our gifts came in the form of boxes with I.O.U.'s in them until my mom could pay them off in layaway.

When I was the age my kids are now, we had far less toys and options and gadgets than my kids do now. And when hubby and I got together and struggled to raise a whole passel of yours, mine, and ours kids, he worked two jobs and I grew our own food and made everything from scratch and shopped at thrift shops out of necessity not choice and I am thankful every day for the little but important extra that WIC put on our family's table for many years.

I remind my kids of these differences often and that probably annoys them, but I only bring it up over and over because I so often think my kids don't "get it" - that when I was a young adult we didn't have extra income for a second car or a new cell phone or... hell, we didn't even HAVE cell phones. I didn't buy a television set until I was in my late thirties or early forties. We couldn't afford to eat out except on rare occasion. We couldn't afford vacations except for camping (which were fun, but, I'm just saying). The occasional ability to splurge on a new record or book was a huge treat, not just a fun impulsive moment. My kids are better with their money than a lot of young adults. They work hard and they appreciate things. Still, they have so much more than I did at their age. I think the bottom line is, the world is simply a different place for them and for many of their generation.

Back to the present, we should be fine even with the pay cut. If we don't have any unexpected health issues. We have what's considered "good" health insurance these days and yet, even minor health care is now taking huge, scary, unplanned chunks out of our budget. Something big, like Jeff's cancer - it would break us now. (we had a different, amazing health coverage when that happened). Knock on wood. And hellooooooo, Obamaaaaa, please make universal health care one of your top prioritieeeeees!

What the pay cut means is we won't be upgrading or even fixing up the house. Except for the plumbing because we don't really have any choice on that one. We won't be traveling as much which is fine except for the not being able to see the kids as much as I want part. We'll be paying monthly bills instead of paying off the mortage and moving towards being more secure for retirement. We might be moving retirement off for longer while. We might put off moving when we retire. And like I mentioned on yesterday's post, I'll be thinking twice before putting a new DVD or other non-necessity item in my shopping cart.

Again, NOT complaining. Okay, maybe grumbling a wee bit. But simultaneously knowing how fortunate we are to be keeping our heads well above water. So many people aren't. So many people's lives these days are so overwhelming or stressful that they don't have the luxury, like I do, of putting a positive spin on their situations. And let's not even discuss the many people in the world who are surrounded by such abject poverty, fear, or despair that it's hard to even call it a life. No. Let's not go there right now mentally. Let's do what we can, each of us, but in a useful way, and not waste time being overwhelmed.

As people have pointed out to me in the past, and I have in my turn pointed out to others, there's always someone worse off than yourself. Always someone better off too. But it doesn't negate your own experience. I have a tendency to over think things and then feel guilty about my own concerns - how can I complain about losing a finger when someone else has lost a hand or an arm!? But if you forget about everyone else and just let yourself experience life from your own center - uhm, a finger. OUCH.

And speaking of universal health care, I totally get why wealthy people are so often against it, but I find it mind boggling that so many of my Christian friends, who label it "socialized health care" and react to the topic with so much fear and, I respectfully suggest, misinformation, are against it. Here's a much better response to them than I've ever been able to manage.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The World Ain't Slowing Down

I got an e-mail from our cable company. Well, our NEW cable company. We used to be Time Warner and then they got bought out by Roadrunner. And now we've been purchased by someone else again. I just changed my e-mail address for the last merger and now I have to do it AGAIN!? Why can't these companies just STOP. I hate this. It eats up so much time. Maybe it's a symptom of getting older that I just want the world to slow down!

The other day I was wandering the DVD aisle at Walmart considering a new purchase or two (which I talked myself out of for a couple of reasons, more on the second reason tomorrow) and I suddenly thought of how futile it was because if I own a lot of DVD's, a few years down the line they'll probably all be outdated and we'll have to replace them with Blue Ray (which I don't even know what it is except it's supposed to have better clarity? Do you use a regular DVD player or do you have to buy something else?) so why bother. I'm a person that went from 45's to vinyl to cassettes (thank god I skipped 8-tracks completely!) to CD's to ipods. That last one my family has made the jump to, I'm still resisting.

I read an article the other day that said that in fact technology isn't slowing down, it's changing at an ever faster speed. Things become outdated more quickly every year. It's not like I want to go back to drums and quills (or even records and typewriters (and White Out - ugh)) again, but can't we spend a bit of time enjoying what we have before it's time to scrap it for the next best thing?

That reminds me of a favorite song of mine. Although in the song you could take either side, the feeling of being left behind or the excitement of running to catch up. Either way, it's a great son.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Halfway Through

Yesterday was my birthday. Sam called me up yesterday. "Happy Birthday Mom. So, how old are you today?"

"I'm 52."

"Oh, so you're halfway through then."

I like his attitude. I'd like to think that I'm only halfway through this adventure. Although, lately, I've been feeling old and creaky. I feel bogged down and clogged up. I know there are others with a lot more physical complaints than me but the ones I've been dealt still frustrate and distract me and wear me down.

I had one of "Aha!" and "Duh!" moments this morning. You know what I mean. A thought, clue, conclusion that's literally as plain as the nose on my face, that I should have realized long ago, but just now figured out. Ha ha - I guess that makes sense now that I see the words I typed - "plain as the nose on my face". Since my nose is part of the problem. My nose hasn't been plain. It's been blocked with these nasal polyps. My sinuses are clogged. My thinking is fuzzy. No wonder I missed it both physically and figuratively.

That "aha" moment? That it's really eerie how much my outside mess matches my inside mess.
The epiphany is a treasure. It helps me be more determined to clean up my mess and reclaim my life. I think that's what 2009 is gonna be all about.

As for my birthday. It was nice. It was quiet. Not in the "hiding under the covers" way that the holidays were and not in a forgotten or "got lost in the shuffle" way. I just didn't feel like making a big to-do. All my family remembered to call, which is always the most important thing.

I didn't get any presents, at my request. There's nothing I really need or want that I didn't get for Yule. Instead I wanted to keep to our belt tightening so we'll be in better financial shape if we want to do something or buy something or need something later in the year. (And we thought maybe the plumbing issues weren't going to be as big an expense as we first thought, but it turns out, sigh, yes, they will be.) My mom sent me a check and that was perfect because I wanted to buy a few new books I'm not likely to find second hand.

Hubby made a cake - and then one of the cats immediately ate the top off of it because he left it uncovered in the kitchen.

So he took me out to lunch instead. And I had a creme brulee wish. I got to blow out a candle three separate times over the last few days. Always the same wish. Of course I can't tell you what, or it won't come true.

The creme brulee was wonderful. This is the first place I ever tried it and it's still, having sampled it many other places now, the only place that does it well. The deliciousness came at a price. I got what I thought was a sugar headache after eating it. But now, following one of the theories I'm pondering, I wonder if it wasn't all the dairy in it. I'm wondering if what I thought was a mild dairy allergy that I had under control isn't minor but, instead, a bigger dairy allergy that's causing a lot of my sinus issues. I'm thinking it might be time to go on some sort of cleansing diet and get some answers.

ARGHHHHH! My f**king dog won't stop barking!!! He's old and... well, I've already whined this whine before. He can't really hear himself bark. And he has a memory about two inches long. I'm at the end of my rope. I don't know what else to do! My neighbors probably all hate me. It's gotten to the point where I just leave the house to get away from it every day.

Well, that wasn't the way I had planned to end this post.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Holiday Photo Montage

Feeling a bit under the weather today so it's a good time to do something easy like upload photos. It's getting a bit past prime for all the holiday stories I'd hoped to share so I thought I'd just give you a "holiday in review" post instead and call it done.

Joli getting a hug from "Papa" for her gift to him of a Build-a-Bear Faery Monkey. It's a monkey because Hubby loves monkeys and it's a faery because it's a Joli monkey. When you squeeze her hand (the monkey's hand that is) she says "I love you Papa!"

Sam being silly with his favorite gift this year, an adjustable wrench.

Since Joli loves those little Cutie brand tangerines, I bought two bags of them for her visit. Lisa brought an entire bag of them with her. You can see we have enough tangerines for an entire preschool. Check out the tangerine tree, the tangerines in the bowl, and tangerines in the hanging basket in the background!

Lisa holding up the photo of Twilight's Bella wearing gloves just like the ones she's wearing, a gift to the latest vampire loving member of the family. Joli got into the act by holding up her gift as well. (Pssst, when she unwrapped it, it's a broom!)

Of course it's always fun to stick the chihuahua in a stocking at least once. Poor Rosie.

Take a good look at this gift's wrapping. Now, the story goes like this. Sam hands me the gift and he says "I wrapped it." Gee, like it's not obvious that it's wrapped by a guy! William adds "Hey, I helped!" Apparently William told Sam that the wrapping wasn't all that great. Sam said maybe he should fix it. William said "No, I think it just needs some ribbon." And he added it for him. Yep, that fixed it, for shur!

I had a lot of help at the wrapping station as well. None of it very useful help, but that's pretty much what I expect every year.

Lisa and William are talking to Joe on a webcam and chat. There was a long delay between photo and the typed conversation as it went halfway around the world - made for an interesting conversation. It was nice having Joe "here" for part of the holiday.

A Yule Queen wearing her sparkly crown. Note the black eye? She got really excited when her Mommy finally answered a question correctly on our New Year's Eve game night, raised her arms, yelled "HURRAY!!!!" and ran face first into the table. Ouch!

A teen and a two-year-old playing on the floor.

Wild party at our house on New Year's Eve! We played Battle of the Sexes, Apple to Apple, and finished up with a rousing game of Encore where everyone gets to sing - usually badly and off key.

We even had poppers, noisemakers, and confetti, although we were watching the wrong clock (which was running five minutes slow) and almost missed using them at midnight.

And now all that's left is the clean up. If I feel better, maybe I'll take the tree and decorations down tomorrow?