Saturday, December 25, 2010

Technical difficulties

Sunday December 12, 2010:  If you are reading this that means that for some reason while en route to Honolulu (via a few days in San Francisco) or sometime after my arrival in Honolulu I neglected to log into Blogger & update Useless Ranch.  I am sure the problem must be computer related, some wireless versus dial-in thing, a freak weather pattern that makes me want to sit in a tropical garden & forget that this time next week I will begin interviewing contractors because it seems my sewing room (& A's office) are sliding into a sink hole.  Yes, it has been that kind of month, season & year.

Most happy times to everyone.  I will be back, clearing queued posts just as soon as I can get the sound of waves out of my ears.  Or maybe a day or two after that.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I see your snickerdoodles & raise you two buckeyes

Somehow in the haze that was last December, I never blogged about our first ever holiday cookie swap.  Probably because I never took pictures & I mostly only remember I meant to write about something when I upload the digital camera.  I have only two time frames: Now & the Distant Past/Future (they are the same thing right?).

Let me give you the highlights:

V** made buckeyes.  Dozens & dozens of buckeyes.  I did not know what a buckeye was but I do now-it's where Reese's got the idea & homemade is better.  Because she committed to buckeyes early, M****** was in.  Apparently they are a favorite of C****'s.

M****** made a variety which included these fantastic chow mein noodle peanut butter things.  She said "Let's call them manger cookies".

A***** made...I don't remember.  I DO remember starting this whole thing because A***** has access to a cache of Hungarian-family cookies recipes & I know I was not disappointed.

They brought with them E****'s cookies.  They were the snickerdoodles.  I think.

B*** mailed her cookies from Boston.  When choosing what went back to her, we left off everything with icing that would just get all smushed.  Lucky me!

I made my mother's nut balls.  I made enough for everyone at the table to get a Chinese takeout tray of them as a Thank You for Playing take home gift.  I also made sour cream jam prints using the last of my homemade cranberry sauce, toffee spoons & Irish toffee spoons.

For A***** & M****** the highlight of the evening was the Irish.  So much so that when they left for the gym, I offered them a to-go cup.  They thought they would stop at the liquor store on the way instead.  M****** went on to tell people it brought her milk in & A***** gave her father a bottle for Christmas.

We are doing this again for sure, although I do not yet have a date.  Who's in?  Long distance can be accommodated.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

This old dog

While reports of his death may have been premature, I think we are in the home stretch.  Farley-boy has more or less stopped eating.  He had 1/4 can of cancer-dog food on Thursday afternoon (about 1/2 a twice-a-day serving) & since then nothing but bowls & bowls of water.  As for getting any medication into him, we have now gone injectable & while it is possible all of his problems stem from a really bad infection it is not really probable.  On the upside, the white's of his eyes are no longer rust-colored, so the antibiotics must be doing something.

I had high hopes of getting caught up on the blog; I have so many project & recipe entries queued that just need photos or tweaking I could post every other day in December & not run out...if only I added the photos or did the tweaking.  But just now my time is taken helping an old dog up & every few hours & making him as comfortable as I can when we get back in.  I am not complaining, & while I wish it did not need to be done, it is part of having a dog.  I think it was George Carlin who said every puppy was heartbreak waiting to happen.  I know he said "life is a series of dogs", which mine certainly is.  & I remember reading Sara Stein writing about her last dog as being her last dog. 
 & that is what I had written as of Sunday afternoon.  On Monday at 1:30/2ish the vet & his tech came out & in ten minutes we were done.  I think they beat mother nature by just a few hours.  We buried him with Josephina who loved him even more than I did & he loved her just as much.  I'm not much in the mood for typing now & will get caught up another time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hard laurel (not)

I have spent most of the last two months deep in the Boraginaceae family.  Not only would I not want to live there, it is not even a nice place to visit.  The blocks of wood have been, well, blocks of wood, but the notations & alterations to the original records are fatiguing.

It is not unusual for the original index cards to have some things crossed out & other information clearly added later & I am fine with that.   By & large, botanical taxonomy works on an almost glacial timeline (until very recently of course, when that whole DNA thing came into being).    The edits I found in this family, though, they were, well, special.  For example, a complete sub-set originally noted as having been collected in Guatemala were updated to reflect collection in Cuba.  I understand not being quite sure if you are in Brazil or Suriname.  I can imagine collectors listening carefully for Portuguese v Dutch to determine which side of the border they were on.  But Guatemala or Cuba?  One is more than twice the size of the other & the smaller one is a group of islands.  The other is, while not entirely landlocked, certainly not to be confused with an island.

I don't care how drunk you got on/off the plane, at some point during your expedition you will be absolutely sure you are not in one or the other.  If, for example you come across ancient looking pyramids above the water, you are not in Cuba.  You could be many many places other than Guatemala, but Cuba absolutely would not be one of them.  If you climb to the highest point you can find & discover you are in a chain of mountains, again you are not in Cuba.  Guatemala has enough mountains (& pyramids) that you would have a hard time walking straight ahead in any direction for any amount of time without encountering one or the other, so if you do walk straight ahead for a day & sight neither, well, welcome to Cuba.  Or at least to welcome to not-Guatemala.

It seems perfect that confusion reigns here in Boraginaceae.  Because I am not a botanist, I don't even pretend to be one on this blog, when I start to work with a new family I try to find something familiar in it.  Some something to hang by brain on while I get to know the others.  For Boraginacea, up popped borage.  This was both good & bad, because while borage was already known to me, it is unlikely to appear in the wood collection; it can sport woody stems, but it is not widely recognized as a tree.  Or even a shrub.  & by "not widely" I mean "never".   You can see how it would help to first acquaint myself with some specimen I am likely to encounter, but borage was just so easy, what with being right there in the name Boraginaceae, & because it also happens to be the name of the garden gnome that shocked (Shocked!) the officials at last year's Chelsea Garden Show.  Once I made that connection, it was all over as far as finding one more suitable.

& so finding something familiar has not helped as much as it usually does, what with we-don't-know-what-country-we-are-in collectors & my memory latching on to banned lawn ornaments.  Confusion is looking endemic for this family: so far almost 1/2 the specimens that have common names recorded have "laurel" somewhere in them.  You might think, well that should make things easier, but it doesn't.  True laurels are found in the Laurel Family is Lauraceae, making the laurels of Boraginaceae impostors.  Or maybe they are just lost.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Martin of Tours

The patron of soldiers (& horses & more) was, no shocker here, a military man (just in time for Veteran's Day).  What did catch me up was the one particular story of Martin of Tours:  he refused to take communion with bishops who had ordered the slaughter of heretics.  When he did finally take communion with the leader of the military action, it was because there was a threat to give the same treatment (torture, execution) to supporters of the former emperor.

Let me repeat this in plain words, the current leader slaughtered people who differed with his religion.  When embarrassed about this he threatened to slaughter people who SHARED his religious beliefs but differed from him politically.  Only a PR event on the part Martin of Tours prevented that slaughter.  That is: a man of the SAME religion & SAME politics, calling himself a man of g*d intervened.  When I think of the category "christian" this used to be the kind of person I thought of.  Now, I associate it more with the emperor.

An interesting choice for a man who was conscripted as a child (well, fifteenish).  He was already expressing a desire to be a christian monk, neither of which made any sense at all to his non-christian military family.  Lucky for them, it was the law of the land that sons of veterans spend some time in the army themselves.  According to his biographer, he was lead away in chains to take his oath & serve this country.   It came as no surprise to me (although same biographer said it was fortunate) that he was assigned to a largely ceremonial cavalry unit & saw little in the way of armed conflict.  After all, what else can you do with a soldier who does not want to be a soldier & keeps talking about pacifism except keep him as far from the rank & file as possible.

There are quite a few stories of him making a show of washing the feet of socially lesser men, giving away parts of his uniform to shivering paupers, etc.  I am guessing when his contract was up they were probably just as happy to watch him go.


The links have slews more stories, more or less on the same lines, including an explanation why this particular early saint is so well documented. 

As I said, he is the patron of horses & soldiers, cavalry specifically & is invoked against alcoholism more broadly.   As you would expect, vintners, innkeepers, & France also fall under his umbrella.  As do geese (go figure) & the Swiss Guard.  Martin was the first non-martyr made saint. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What I gave; what I got

Last month I had my first swap through a quilt block swap blog (one on which I am just a passenger weeeeeeeeeee!!!!) & what I got was so much better than what I gave, I feel kinda bad.  In my defense, I joined the group in the very month the swap leader position was being handed to a new person & there was some scrambling as I got lost in the shuffle.  The short version is I got all the information I would need to continue with the group (current month swap partner), but none of the info I needed to start (dimensions, deadlines, etc.).  As a person who organizes swaps, I can see how this could easily happen & I think I am mostly caught up now.

First what I sent: she expressed a preference for color combos that I do not have the confidence to use & the preference was abstract.   I realize she was being flexible - good thing-, but if she had said "I love chatreuse & black-watch-plaid" I could have managed.  Lucky for me, she also included a by-the-by reference to Amy Butler & I am the proud possessor of some lets-call-it-vintage Amy Butler fabric.  It may be the only medium-scale, only loosely-repetitive fabric she ever designed.  In retrospect it is a very un-Amy Butler Amy Butler fabric, but I paired it with white-on-white pin-dot (very prairie & thus Amy Butler), & killed a second bird by checking off a Friday Block Party block -from September but hey checked off is checked off.

In same envelope, I included the scraps & leftovers of same; the 1/2 square triangles I had made extras of, the remains of the wide strip of pussy willow fabric.  I figured she could use it to make a matching block more along her color preferences & sort of migrate this country cousin into her finished product.

I thought I was doing pretty good until I opened what she had sent.  Two blocks.  TWO, not one.  I still feel like a cheapskate.  My color preference was blue & yellow or anything blended really & my block preference leaned to baskets.  Yes, I am a fool for basket blocks of almost any variety, but I especially like those that are pieced & on-point.  & she sent a basket block made from antique-y-yellow & faded blue (thus also blendy).

& she included a second block in the same fabrics, also gorgeous.  I feel so inadequate.

Monday, November 1, 2010

George who

Last October (in aught-nine) when I visited my parents, my step-father gave me some cash the day before I left.  I do not remember why, although in another place I made a note that he was paying back $$ I had given my mother.  This is probably true, actually; ordinarily I don't care how money falls into place but at the end of a visit I am often squeezing around for bills to use to get my truck out of airport parking. 

Anyway...one of the bills he gave me had a strange stamp on it which directed me to a website:  Where's George.  Now that I think of it, I have a vague memory of begging for that one dollar bill.  Anyway, we logged in, confirmed the bill's (then) current location & when I got back home I set up my own account & set the bill back on it's way.  When someone out in the world entered it a few days later, I was thrilled.  & hooked.

It has been a bit more than a year, but I finally got around to getting my own Where's George stamp.  I freely confess this is because we are planning a trip off the mainland later this year & will be passing through more than one airport outbound & return.  I plan to buy a pack of gum in every single one, just to get them distributed.  I accept this is priming the pump somewhat, but I do not care.

Yes, this is a silly way to spend my time, but it was still interesting in a small way.  Since discovering the site,  I have been surprised that more civics teachers did not use it as a point of interest, but none of the teachers I talked to had ever heard of it.  Okay, that's a lie, M****** had heard of it & so had C****, but she was a reading teacher & was not even teaching when we had the conversation.  I should ask if she got the info. from a civics teacher.  Of course, tracking monetary bills is almost certainly not covered on the FCAT & that might be the answer right there.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A better class of ghost story

Yup, it's that time of year again.  I will buy buckets of candy & we will get nary a trick-or-treater.  Because we live on an unpaved(1), unlit(2) country road with no neighborhood children (3) except M*** & those little boys across the street from the Rock family (4).  So besides our house being spooky-ooky, most of the local kids (the very few local kids) are unlikely to observe All Hallows Eve in any form & most especially not on a Sunday.  Even if I have to give half the candy to M***, that still means more for me.  I hope he likes Butterfingers!

This year, I will be spending my day wrapping up a regularly scheduled quilt block swap, cleaning up the tail end of a swap gone-too-long,  while A scrambles to complete his monthly reports, etc. before the new month ends & he has to get started on those.  That's right, in this scenario October is the "new" month.  That's how things have been around here for a while now.  Still, I would not want the day to go unobserved (except for the bit about my getting to keep all the Hallowe'en candy) & so I am thinking of revisiting one of my favorite ghost-movies:  Blithe Spirit.

First let me say that as a girl I had a huge crush on Rex Harrison.  Are you scared yet?  I think it started with Henry Higgins & all that Gregory House drama but about grammar instead of medical diagnostics.  C'mon, a little chill just ran up your spine, right?
 
From My Fair Lady, I graduated to The Honey Pot, (how often do you hear a straight man say"piffle",  outside of Bertie Wooster, that is), then took a giant step backwards to Doctor Dolittle.  My brother K & I recently had a nostalgic moment about how as children we loved this very bad film. I still get chills when the doctor throws Sophie the Seal off the cliff.  By the time I got the The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (another excellent choice for the day) it was all over for me & american boys.

Still not scary enough?  Hmmm, well, lets push on.  The play Blithe Spirit on which the movie Blithe Spirit is based (& by based I mean they used more-or-less the same script) is about a marriage.  Actually, it's about three people & two marriages.  In one of them, one of the spouses is dead.  & then... but I wouldn't want to give it all away.  Keep in mind, the playwright was a technically in-the-closet homosexual who still managed to flesh out female characters, even the dead one.  The man that wrote Blithe Spirit also wrote so much other stuff, including but not limited to propaganda.  No really, he wrote propaganda for the british government during WWII.  Some where in there he wrote several "fight" songs, including one of my favorites:  Don't Lets be Beastly to the Germans.  For the record, the Nazis hated Coward; he was high up on the list of people to be shot once they invaded (along with Virginia Wolf.  Imagine al-Qeada targeting the editors of the New Yorker, see even the villains were classier).  What else..oh there always  Mad Dogs & Englishmen.  & who could forget We All Wear a Green Carnation

Where was I?  Oh right, trick-or-treaters.  So, do yourself a favor, turn the outside lights off, get on your Netflix -Watch Instantly page & find Blithe Spirit.  If you would rather spend the evening a decade or so closer to this century, you could try Bell, Book & Candle but it isn't as good (although I concede the music might be better).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blogger's Quilt Festival: Turtles All Around

I have already blogged about this quilt this year, but you can show a quilt more than once so long as it's not at the same show, right? That is what I told myself, anyhow so I could put it in the Blogger's Quilt Festival.

Turtles All Around started with a package of nine batik turtle squares & a family friend obsessed with turtles.  I had a vague idea of doing a disappearing 9-patch, keeping the turtles in one of the corners where they would not get sliced.  Alas, those batik turtle blocks were not remotely square; they were not even the same dimensions.  Once I had trimmed each disappearing 9-patch to match the turtle blocks, not one matched another in either shape or size.

& so, once again, I used the sashing I always use to rescue odd blocks.  You can see how not-square the blocks are in this close up, but by adding this irregular sashing & then squaring them by cutting only from same sashing, I did end up with perfectly square squares & everything else fell into place.  Making the sashing from the same fabric I used for the (sliced) center squares also helped smooth the rough edges.

As re-read this, I am realizing it sounds like I am ho-hum on this quilt. I am not.  I love this quilt.  I love the busy batiks that still somehow work together.  I am even pleased with the quilting, as it came out looking water-y, another happy accident.

My only regret is not having a picture AFTER the binding got turned.  As with so many of my projects, I took the quilt just this far & then sent it to Mom, who bound it, sewed in any strays I missed, & just in general did the finishing work that takes so much time (& for which I have no talent/patience).  Thanks Mom!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Batik with 1/2 border for December 2010

Last June when I posted the upcoming quilt block swap blocks, I had trouble uploading the pictures for the December 2010 block.  The bad news is I completely forgot to go back & update the post.  The good news is the block is more or less wide open pattern-wise.

Tthe keys points are:

1. batik or hand-dyed fabric only please.  I have had several messages regarding this requirement & they are split down the middle.  Half the messages are unhappy as batiks & hand-dyes are expensive, certainly more expensive than most other quilt fabrics.  On the flip-side are those who are pleased that they can count on getting back a batik or hand-dyed only block.  I am sorry about anyone who might count themselves out of this swap because of cost, but I hope the next guideline helps


2. make any block you like, 6.5" unfinished/6" finished the idea being that scraps from other projects might make the cost easier to bear.  Also, I made my blocks from remnants I got at Joann's for a grand total of four dollars and change

    3. after the block is complete, add a 1.5" unfinished/1" finished border to two adjacent sides & you are done.  You can add these in a strippy fashion all-in-a-row, or if you are working from cut scraps the dimensions would be 1.5" x 6.5" & 1.5" by 7.5"
    As I previously described, we expect to be traveling & not returning until the actual due date for the blocks (the last Saturday of December, which happens to be December 25).  While we are away V** will still be at the house, acting as caretaker, dealing with the horses, emus, etc & so you should have no concerns about mail not being picked up.  What will be difficult is letting people know that their package has arrived if it arrives in the last week before the 12/25 deadline.

    The swap should still take place Sunday December 26th (so long as our flights are on time) & be brought to the Post Office Monday December 27th.  This means everyone who swaps will have a cheerful envelope to drive away those after-holiday doldrums.  Originally, I gave you this musical selection, but let me also give you this, for the batik-y-ness.

    Monday, October 25, 2010

    Asleep in the weeds

    While I have been for a bit finally home again after most of my travels (& settled in again after the general disruption of my begin gone has finally settled), the ripple effect is only just starting to fade.  Even bookclub was a week late this month, yes, because of me.  This month we read, appropriately, a story about not being home ever again; we read Evangeline.

    It seems apropos that our local library has not one copy of this once required reading anywhere in the collection:  Hiawatha like you would not believe, but no Evangeline. There was one really big book about the relocation of the Acadian people (a move you would think I would know about having vacationed as a child in the Acadia islands & sampled as an adult Acadian cuisine in two very distant parts of this country, but somehow those you internalize early are the anomalies you never question), but that was all I found on the subject.  I confess the story did not inspire enough curiosity in me to read same big book, but B******* was interested & took it home with her.

    As for having read Evangeline before, I do not believe I ever had, but I certainly knew the story.  More than knowing it, I have long internalized it (again while failing to grasp the whole exile thing as part of my country's history).  When I was in college, my brother brought home a cat he found & because the cat had been asleep in the weeds we named him (yes him) Evangeline.  In my family any cat with the same markings-white with big black blotches, sometimes called a cow cat is known as a Vangy Cat.  More than that, we seem to have a preference for them.  Right this minute, both my sister & I have Vangy cats.  One of my brothers has two cats, but alas they are Siamese & my other brother has a dog.  & his dog has a dog, so you could argue he has two dogs, although he would dispute this.  Neither the dog nor her dog are cat friendly.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Major scores in 746

    This weekend was the beginning of the Friends of the Library booksale here in our little county; I have said before it is the big social event of the season (two seasons actually as there is one in October & one in April, but October is the biggie).  This year we saw more people than I can list here, or that's all it would be.  One interesting twist, though, the first day of the sale over lapped with Pride Days here in town.  As a result there were slews of people sporting rainbows, of course; several same-sex couples hand-in-hand & I overheard more than one conversation between rainbow-wearer & FOL library volunteer clarifying "yes, we do this right about now every year" in both directions.  What I did not see was a single Dove World clan member.  No Islam is of the Devil t-shirts, no lighters or matches to be seen anywhere in the religious volumes section.  In fact, Dove-clan were deemed so unlikely to appear there were not even police posted around that area.  There were plenty of officers, mostly directing traffic around the hoards of pedestrians lugging crates of books from the sale across Main Street.  & they all looked happy to be there, actually.

    A & I usually walk in together, look at each other & say "see ya".  Sooner or later we will trip over each other, sometimes more than once.  If he needs to find me I spend a lot of time in children's books & poetry.  He can be found in engineering, science or depending on the size of the crowd, taking breaks next to the big bay doors at the back where the temperature is likely to be several degrees cooler than the rest of the warehouse.

    This year I made major inroads in 746.  In fact, I hardly left that part of the building at all & when I did, my bag was so heavy I had trouble lifting it.  I only made it from there to the lower 700s when A came looking for me (Okay that's a lie, I did a quick cruise through 821 & found what I think might be the very translation of Canterbury Tales that A***** has been so happy with & bought it for 75cents).

    Most of my books came from 746 though.  There has been a knitting, quilting, etc renaissance in the past few years & in order to make way for the new stuff they have to clear out some of the old stuff.  That much of the old stuff on the way out deals with garment construction specifically bodes very well for those purchases.  I was sorry to see Judy Chicago on the weeded table but not sorry to bring her home.

    It was a good day.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Fall color in the land of flowers

    As I think I recently mentioned, I was in CT & am now I am back home, but I was there right around the peak of New England fall color.  & it was impressive.  What was -too me- even more impressive is I left here at the height of summer & came back home to autumn.  Yes, Fladidah has an autumn.

    Some of you have probably heard the seasons here are subtle (I used to hear that all the time).  They aren't.  They are all quite sudden & could not be more clearly defined if the squirrels all jumped up & down shouting Hey you, welcome to the Equinox.  What they are is short, sometimes only a week or two, or very long (our fist summer here lasted almost ten months). Also, they don't seem to relate to each other the way seasons do in other climates.  Fall, for example, it is not always followed by winter.  Sometimes we have summer, then fall,  then summer again, then maybe straight to winter.  & other times it's once around once more.

    I do understand how this could be confusing.  also it gives rise to that horrible old trout:  Don't like the Florida weather, wait a minute it will change.  For the record, they also said this to us in Houston about Houston, in Joisey, about Joisey & in London about London.  That's things about what they say, it's the same all over.

    Still, I thought I would take a moment & show you what passes for Fall Color around here.  Once the sun stops scorching & the rain stops pounding (for 20 minutes a day) the local flora have the chance to really open up & well...have sex.  & this is what we get, color-wise.

    Just to keep things apples2apples, I made NO alterations to any of these photos, no sharpening the outlines, no fudging the background, nothing.  This is how they came off the camera.  Now, tell me again about that sugar maple in your front yard.

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Saint Mary MacKillop

    First let me say, I really like saying her name.  It sounds so perfect for those moments when you, slam your little finger in the tailgate of the truck while balancing a 50lb bag of chicken feed on your hip that you absolutely cannot put down because the ground is wet & in this climate it gets moldy fast enough.  So there you are with your pinky somewhere in between the two sharp edges of the after-market truck bed & you have to sort of shift the weight onto the bumper so you can reach the handle & release the pressure & then when you do your blood chugging back into your hand feels like the opening to These Boots Were Made for Walking, which is coincidentally what the lady emu sounds like when she sees you are going to open the feed barrel.  Now say it again:  Saint Mary MacKillop!

    If you have never heard of Mary MacKillop, chances are you have not spent much time in Australia recently.  She is the first Australian saint & that makes headlines, even on a continent with no official religion.  Like the US.  Ba-dum-chhhhhhhhh.  Seriously, though, they are only about 5m catholics in a country of over 20m.  Even those who would never set foot in a church are enthralled.  & yes, I know roughly the same percentage of Americans think of themselves as catholic so you tell me:  who was the first US saintwho was the most recent?  Now sit down & shut up.

    Aside from the church finally getting around to canonizing someone from the British Empire's last bastion, Mary MacKillop is fun & timely.  I am sure she was a pig-headed person (most saints are) who swam against the stream (& in a recently-former penal colony, saintly would be the way to go).  To make it all the way to Rome though, you have to put your back into it.  & she did.

    First, she took that less sure but still so frequent road to sainthood: excommunication. The reason tells us as much about her canonization today (yes, today) than any real changes in the church.  Mary MacKillop ran afoul of church leaders for pressing the church to deal with a certain esteemed priests who spent a little too much time one-on-one with the altar boys.  Actually the specific reason was insubordination.  She did lots of insubordinate things, including cleaving to the Franciscan concept of poverty, which included begging in the streets, never a favorite with the most wealthy institution on earth.  The excommunication only lasted about six months (considerably less than Pete Seeger spent in prison for breaking a law that did not really exist), but she still gets the points.

    Other favorite topics of her insubordination include it is bad to treat native people like a subspecies.  Also education is a good thing, even for poor people.  Radical ideas whose time has almost arrived.  So although nothing official has been said, Mary MacKillop is being looked at for Patroness of Abuse Victims, particularly those abused by clergy.

    For the record, though, today is the day of Ignatius of Antioch; you would invoke him against diseases of the throat, which is also the province of Saint Blaise & half-a-dozen others. I know you were torn apart by wild animals, sir, but right now you look a little too much like a company man.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    That holiday feeling

    What can I say, it has been crazy here (& not here; I've been on the road).  The last Saturday of last month was the deadline for the Christmas Star quilt block swap & by mid-day Sunday one third of the blocks were still MIA.  Of those missing, one person had said she had run out of time, one person had told me her set was finished over a month earlier but I have not heard from her since & as for the rest I had no idea.

    So I made an executive decision.  I had already polled the on-time swappers & found that only one person besides me; I don't care either way as I will not be...wait a minute, I am getting ahead of myself!   
    I started the FaceBook Quilt Block Swap group after participating in yet another downer on-line swap: I was one of only two people who actually forwarded our blocks to the others.  That was 2008.  Since then I have in fact received one more of the 'owed' blocks, in December 2009 if you are curious.  That means seven other people got my blocks & never did their part & never sent mine back & yes, some of them still regularly sign up for on-line swaps in the same network (I have no idea if they participate or not, I just see their names on the lists).  So, the new idea was everyone send their blocks to a central location (me!), what is here on the date swaps, what is not, does not. 

    Most of our swaps are open -you don't have to say you plan to swap, you just have to get your set of five here on time- & this works just fine.  This swap, however was bigger than the others & we had a sign-up that closed February 28th. That means not-less-than 6.5 months to make fifteen blocks to get here by September 25th.  & five of the fifteen did not make the deadline.  Unfortunately, my calendar is full-to-overflowing right now & pushing off the the next free week-end would not work (no one wants to get a Christmas project in mid-November).

    You can probably guess my executive decision.  The swap happened on the scheduled Sunday, as planned.  On that Monday, when I brought Lilly to the vet, I loaded the envelopes into the truck as well & they went to the PO later that same day.  On Tuesday, two more sets arrived at the house.  On Wednesday, I left town.  Now I am back & looking at the two sets that arrived late & three that came back to me (two for insufficient postage -one of them reflecting pre-rate changes because that is how long ago she mailed in her stars- & one because C******** was so scrambled when she made up her original package she addressed her return envelope to herself at my address & I was so scrambled when I mailed it I did not catch it).

    Yes, this whole business has left me with what I call That Holiday Feeling.  Thankfully, Steve & Edyie can always shake me out of it.  Another thing that is helping make it better is the truly beautiful blocks that WERE exchanged.  For a week no, I have been dreaming of the many many ways I could use these blocks, including supplementing them a bit as now that I have no illusions more will be coming, I can get down to business myself.

    Sunday, September 26, 2010

    Public Lands Day

    Another worthwhile holiday you have never heard of has rolled on by; yesterday was National Public Lands Day.   I don't know what happened where you were are, but here the state parks were looking for help cleaning up Washington Oaks Gardens State Park.  The link from the Florida State Parks twitter account originally went to eco-jobs work site in Europe...& in German, but they resolved that & now it goes here.

    It is also possible to find out what went on closer to you, though, if you are interested.  The good/bad news is chances are they will be happy to see your smiling face even now that National Public Lands Day has come to an end.  That is also the bad/good news.  Even if you are not prepared to break out the work gloves, etc. you might discover something close by you didn't know you owned.

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Quick & dirty

    I was getting my act together for a trip to my parents at the very end of this month &, while sorting through bring-this/don't-bring-that/ship-that/put-that-away, I had put a quilt on the Ship That pile.  I am planning to see my grandmother (if she is still seeing anybody, it is that shaky) & thought it would make a good present, when A told me it was his favorite of all the quilts I had ever made.  Ever.  So I cannot very well give it to my grandmother now & I had less than a month to make something else entirely.

    Don't get me wrong, I have plenty of ideas & even more fabric.  Technically I even had lots of time, although this business of working out 2-4 hours a day has really been cutting into my life (on the upside, I am sleeping better & my thyroid seems to be functioning again so stopping that is not really an option).  I needed something fast, which usually means large, but I am not the worlds biggest fan of oversized blocks.  What I am a big fan of is asymmetrical blocks (& square jewelry & french fries, not necessarily in that order).  & I have enough experience to know that two little-bit wider-than-usual outer borders can normalize a slightly-too-small quilt when paired with two what-you-would-expect outer borders.  & I began to wonder if that could be scaled down & multiplied.

    So I began with one pile of fat quarters, kind of.  Some of them were actual fat quarters, others were scraps roughly fat quarter sized.  Or fat quarter volumed, anyhow.  All of them had a flower-y, garden-y, country-y aspect.  Several had a lot of white as either part of the pattern or in the background (this becomes important later).  I cut them into 6.5" squares, mostly because that is the width of my favorite ruler & who needs to go hunting for that little line, right? 

    Next I cut strips from white muslin.  I do a lot of printing photos on fabric & thus I buy white muslin by the bolt.  Having plenty on hand makes it ideal for the I-have-no-idea-how-much-I'm-gonna-need projects.  I planned for each of the above mentioned 6.5" blocks to have four irregular borders: one 2" & one 3.5", the other two 2.5" & 3" keeping the same square dimension for all the blocks, although each block itself would be off center.

    But as I started work I realized there was just enough white in some of the original 6.5" squares that the white border was kind of fuzzy, making everything not so much irregular as blurry.  So I went back to the pile & found a good bit of pale green polka-dot (I think it might have been left over from a pieced back way-back-when) & cut 1.5" strips;  I didn't have time to figure out how much there is versus how much I need & I did not want to run out.  I bordered  the 6.5" squares in these & then added the irregular white borders.

    Which turned out to be a good thing because, that same narrow green strip went on the make  a 2" sashing between the blocks themselves (with scraps of the original fat quarters for cornerstones).  Yes, I needed a way to break up all that white-on-white, which you would think would have been obvious the first time I needed something to break up the white but well, that's part of quick&dirty processes after all.

    Finally I basted & quilted in my new-favorite go-to quilt pattern, a "corner to corner outside of the lines".

    & this is what I got:



    I know this will never win an ribbon.  & the large boring squares of just plain gingham for several of the blocks would not cut it ordinarily but... I was in a hurry.  Besides, my grandmother's sight just is not that great; any piecing I did would be lost on her, but the fabrics I choose are very soft & smooth & I thought the fewer seams the better.  So, no awards, but it will keep one little old lady warm as long as she needs it, in bright clean spring garden colors.

    If I had it to do again, which of course I do, I would make one of the pairs of borders more extreme.  While still totaling 5.5" unfinished (you caught that right?), I think I would make one pair 4" & 1.5" to really make it jiggle.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Lost city of readers

    I need another bookclub like I need another....quilt block swap.  Speaking of which, is any one else pressed up against the glass over at Block Lotto?  Maybe it is the stars aligning -yes, I am sure that is what it is- but their September lotto block is very similar to our October swap block.  It kinda makes me want to make a funky stonehenge just to commemorate the moment.

    What was I saying?  Oh yea, bookclub.  Tonight is the first meeting I attended of the museum volunteers bookclub.  I will not be attending the October meeting, because I already have plans that night, & I am well & truly up in the air about any after that.  It would depend on the book list, which was a well kept secret.  I went in knowing only the first two books, The Lost City of Z & The Philosopher Fish.

    While they look like good choices from the variety of natural history perspective (it is a natural history museum bookclub, after all), both of these books are approximately 330 pages.  That is kind of a lot for one month's reading. I read more than almost anyone I know & I always did & I would have trouble shoehorning 330 more pages into my month.

    Neither of them is all that easy to get a hold of either, unless I am prepared to buy a copy, which I am not.  Our local library owns just one copy of The Philosopher Fish.  I put it on hold the moment I knew what the second book would be.  I am number one out of five, which means the person who has the book now can keep it for 30 days, & then I can (but I won't) & so forth.  I  think it is probable another four people who would like to read this book for the October meeting won't be able to, at least not via the library.  That every single copy of The Lost City of Z the library owns (both hard copies & audio copies) are all currently checked out does not bode well.

    As for the Lost City of Z....it was Okay.  I mean, I don't consider the time I spent listening to it (yes, I got it on disc from the local library) wasted & I put the author's other book on hold.  I also learned that Brad Pitt has optioned the book & I would see that movie.  I hope they make it with variable endings though, like The French Lieutenant’s Woman.  & I am curious how tonight's discussion might go.

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    The Master, Margarita & me

    Last spring, when we sat down to choose the next year's reading, one bookclub member brought up Bulgakov's The Master & Margarita, not realizing it was my second least favorite book in all the world.  When she DID learn this, B****** offered to remove the book from her suggestion lists but I said (& I believe) that my perspective might be different with a few years & a new translation & even if I did hate it again, that was no reason no one else should read it.  Besides, reading it with a mind to discussing it might make it smoother, somehow.

    Well, it didn't.  & now I am wondering if I do indeed hate this book more than the G*d-damned Fish Book.  I think I might.  As I was thinking this, I spent some time on GoodReads, reading the other reviews of M&M & where at least one of the people who gave The Master & Margarita a bad review got all kinds of hate-mail-style follow-up.  It seems if you hate someone else's favorite book you are an irredeemable idiot who should exit the planet ASAP.

    Naturally this got me thinking about other great books I loathe(d):

    The G*d-damned Fish book:  I am in good company here, actually.  Leonard Wolf, long suffering husband of Virginia, also hated this book.  Most people suspect Melville was drunk when he wrote it; I am quite sure he was drunk when he did the math.  My favorite chapter has to be when Captain Ahab, unable to stabilize himself on a plank, has to be hoisted to visit another ship.  He balances himself on his solitary thigh.  This is interesting because he lost his other leg below the knee (at least there are references to two knees), so apparently he experienced some kind of apocalyptic thigh-meld...or maybe he keeps one of the knees in a jar?  This is hardly the only instance of cat-math in this book.  I once walked my Discussion of the American Novel class through a rant that went something like this:  if X =  the length of an ancient whale skeleton & X+ (X x Y%) = Z, where Y = the known difference between contemporary whale skeletons & the whale's actual size & Z is less than the documented size of contemporary whales, that would mean that whales are getting LARGER which is the opposite of what Melville says.  I will spare you the details, but both the professor & the rest of the class thought maybe I should change majors & I am fairly certain they are the kind of people who say "I am so hungry I am literally starving to death" when they miss lunch.

    The Great Gatsby:  what a stoopid book!  It did not help that my English teacher was also a stoopid woman.  All I really remember about in-class discussion was suggesting that maybe those giant eyes in West Egg or East Egg or wherever Egg was were not, in fact, the eyes of god, but maybe they were the eyes of people who read too much symbolism into things but she told me & the rest of class I was absolutely wrong & they were the eyes of god.  Okay then. 

    & then there are the books I was more or less neutral on.  they were Okay, in their way but I could never see what the fuss was about.  This list includes:  Catcher in the Rye, The Prophet, The Alchemist (which much of book club loathed, except for one person who really liked it).  A random collection of fiction I would agree, but they all have something in common.  They were all (& some still are) banned.

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    What would Terry do?

    Yesterday I was asking what would Terry do & I mean Terry Jones.  No not Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, but Terry Jones of DoveWorld Church fame.  As of this typing the "pastor" of the Dove World "church" is planning to burn a book holy to a religion not his own.  The reasons he gives have been well covered in the media locally & internationally.  By & large they read like a list of the usual I know the one true god, they have it coming & look everyone- look at me.

    So I thought I would take a moment to review the reasons not being covered ( & the reasons for quotes around the words pastor & church):

    Dove World church is only just barely a church.  I don't mean because they don't believe what I believe, I mean because they are a for-profit business.  They are have already had their not-for-profit status revoked for one arm of their enterprise & the rest is still under investigation.  Once you start selling stuff on eBay, it is hard to convince anyone you are not selling stuff.

    In the course of investigating are they in fact a "church", the profiteers were identified & numero uno is ...wait for it...Terry Jones.  The technical term is commingled funds, but the initial issue was money made from the labor of people fulfilling court ordered community service, etc.  I want you to imagine for a moment that a person could be arrested for say drunk driving, ordered to "give back" some time making the community a better place & they went to work for well anyone really, who in turn put whatever profit was made in their own pocket.  Does this say "church" to you?  In any case, members of the organization also worked without compensation, except perhaps a Get Out Of Hell Free card.

    The website sells anti-muslim books, bumper stickers & coffee mugs & where that money goes is still being investigated.  Among the t-shirts being sold is the "Islam is of the devil" t-shirt that so endeared DoveWorld to the local school district.  The short version is kids who wore this t-shirt to school were asked to put a sweatshirt over it because others might find it offensive, thereby violating the then-dress-code. That was so offensive, some of them dropped out. 

    If you thought that was all that was for sale, think again.  The church itself is on the block.  That's right, that piece of real estate being photographed & displayed all over the world is on the market.

    Which brings me back to: what would Terry do?  Apparently he would try to parlay his success as a media whore to make a buck.  The truly astonishing part is he is still going broke.  & there in lies the more recent what would Terry do & that is back-down.  Because it turns out the only thing more likely to make him change his mind than cash was the very real threat of a $60K bill for police services during the event, the likely cost of defending himself form "yelling fire in a crowded movie theatre" type charges & assorted civil actions from the local neighborhood association.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    Sweet potato chips

    For the longest time last season, every CSA basket, every week was flush with sweet potatoes.  I admit I am a big fan of sweet potatoes, but I am also not from the USsouth & my repertoire was limited.   Fortunately, along with sweet potatoes, they included new recipes for sweet potatoes.  New to me anyhow.

    This was my new favorite for most of last winter:

    - Take a sweet potato, take three, as many as you might eat in one sitting.  The longer, skinnier ones are better for this, which is a lucky break because the bigger fatter ones are better for almost everything else.  Wash them & peel them, or don't peel them.  Wash them for sure, though.

    - Slice the sweet potatoes as thin as you can without them having any too-thin pieces.  Hmm, how about as thin as you can keeping the thickness consistent, is that better?

    - In a bowl that will be large enough for all the slices of sweet potatoes, mix olive oil & salt&pepper to taste.  Add the slices of sweet potatoes.  If you do this just a few slices at a time, it is much easier to get them all covered.  Because they need to be all covered.

    -  On a cookie sheet, spread out the slices.  I used parchment paper underneath, instead of the usual foil & I think this helped the thinner slices not to burn. Pre-heat the oven to 400F (yea, I should have said that before, Sorry!) & sprinkle the sweet potatoes with finely chopped herbs of your choosing (I chose basil & thyme, mostly).

    -  Cook for 20/25 minutes or so.  How thin you sliced them (& whether or not you used tin foil) will play a role here.  Let them cool some or that hot oil will burn your mouth!  & serve right away or later.  Right away is better.

    Sunday, September 5, 2010

    A pox

    Yesterday I was in the hen house, swapping out the coastal (hay) in the boxes & rearranging the furnishings a bit, to liven up their little poultry lives when one of the salmon faverolles flew to the top of the rabbit hutch (former home of all the birds when they were between peeps & fullgrown, the birds injured during shipping until they died & now being used to store 3/4 bale of coastal).  She looked pretty awful, but they all have been lately.  Between the extreme heat & the reality of molting, most of them have bald faces & look a bit glazed.  This girl though. looked more than a little loopy & when I reached for her I saw why.  Her comb was covered in white nodules, some of which were bloody.  One of her eyes was completely covered & the other was barely a slit.  My chicken has a pox.

    I am lucky that I live next door to a crazy chicken lady (she lives with the crazy cat lady; they inhabit the same body) & she had some equine eye ointment that I put on the poor girl's head -after rinsing away the gnats.  That I could run water gently across her at all is a sure sign this is not a happy bird; once you have seen a healthy wet hen, "madder than a wet hen" is not something you want to get wrapped up in.  Anyway, W***** quickly identified fowl dry pox (not to be confused with chicken pox).

    So the rabbit hutch is again a hospital pen & joining the first girl is one of the old lakenvelders.  Both of the old lakenvelders actually have pox, but the one in hospital also has clusters around her eyes.  The good new is this afternoon there is no question the first bird is doing much better.  The pustules are not so gross (the picture is an improvement!) & her eye looks close to opening again.  In even better news,  she has finally gotten some food.  Last night I watched her & maybe one in five passes at the food bowl resulted in her getting anything in her beak.  This meant to me her vision was not gone (I have seen blind birds eat just fine; they must be relying on another sense, probably smell); she was trying to go where her eyes said food was, just missing by an inch or so too high.

    & as disgusting as this whole thing looks, there is not much I can do to prevent it.  It is almost certainly working it's way through my whole flock,others have a few bumps, but seem otherwise not bothered, one other has some suspicious comb-wound but nothing that looks like this.  My poultry keeping books tell me it has nothing to do with cleanliness & everything to do with mosquitoes.

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    It's beginning to look a lot like

    Yes, yes I know it is still August, but every home-made-holiday maker knows that right about now starts the big push to get things done in time.  So between today (whatever day this posts-it has been that kind of summer) & the last Saturday in September, I need to finish my Christmas Star blocks for the quilt block swap group.

    Unlike most of our swaps, this one was sign-up & capped at 15.  Also unlike any other swap we have this one was not non/multi-denominational.  The calendar quilt swap last year had some grumblers as I nixed all non-secular representations for any months.  As a person who does not observe any widely accepted christian holidays except christmas (& even then, not every year), there was not a more disappointing swap than the one where I made several sets for swapping & got nothing but easter blocks back.  If I were of a paranoid bent, I would think the swap-master (swap-mistress?) had it in for me but I happen to know the swap was inundated with easter fabrics because of a large donation of same from a quilter moving to smaller digs.  I put all but one of these blocks into an orphan block bag to be used for community quilts but kept the one with the little square that read "bathed in the blood of the lamb" because it creeped me out so completely I had to hang on to it.  I have of course since misplaced it & sometimes I have a nightmare where slips under the door into whatever room I am in & then grows to sort of wallpaper over the whole space while making a humming noise that gets gradually louder & then I wake up screaming. I have other quilt block nightmares, too....

    What was I saying?  Oh, right.  The calendar quilt swaps are indeed secular-only.  While this prompted a few people to drop out or rather not sign-up at all, we only need twelve & twelve were easy to come by (thirteen, actually as I gave mine away thinking there would be one last minute "I cannot do this after all" but there wasn't).  & before anyone gets up-in-arms I made the offer of a christian calendar quilt but got no takers.  Not one.  None. If I had to guess I would say a couple people got worked up & only realized after they had their say that there are very few christian holidays that stay in the same month.  Even christmas is celebrated in not-December by some & not at all by others who identify themselves christian.  As the calendar quilt is one person makes twelve blocks representing January, another makes twelve representing February, etc. it just was not a good fit.

    Our usual every-other-month swaps are more of a "whatever" kind of thing.  At least one block needed a holiday fabric & for some that holiday was christmas, for others hallowe'en & others chanukah.  For all I know there were other holidays represented, but I did not spot them.  Still, enough people clearly wanted a christmas-specific swap & if enough people want it, etc. etc. & so, we are wrapping up the fist Christmas Star swap next month.

    I made my prototype star using a blue fabric with small red cardinals & I was not super-happy with it.  Also I thought if I am going to make a christmas block, it ought to be a CHRISTMAS block.  That is when I looked through my fabrics & realized that aside from the bit player in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, I do not seem to have any santa fabric at all.  Trees were a bit more plentiful, as they appear in Rudolph & Charlie Brown, but still that did not seem quite right. Then I found a piece from I-honestly-do-not-know-where.  White background with green holly & red berries.  Barring actually going out & buying something, this was as good as it was going to get in my stash, christmas-wise.

    I cast around for a star pattern & that was not so easy either.  Because of the white background,/mall almost fussy pattern of red&green in my focus fabric, I really wanted a star were the focus fabric was not sewn back to itself.  I knew there was no way it would not be jarring.  Like that sentence right there was.  In the end I went for a star block from the June 2010 AP&Q which looked simple & clean & was in fact, a complete bear.  Those one inch strips in red & green with itty-bitty polka-dots drove me crazy & don't have nearly the sizzle they should for what they took out of me.

    Still, I am not not pleased.  I hope to recover from the quadruple negatives I seem to be laying on & ever since I started working with tiny regular white dots, I no longer dream about the humming blood-of-the-lamb block.  This would be a bigger plus if I weren't dreaming about another quilt-related humming imprisonment.

    Finally, for your listening pleasure:if I could have found it on accordion (for the polka in polka dot) I would have but alas, you will just have to make do.  Feel free to hum along.

    Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Free to be not-so-much you

    I might be alone, but I was appalled APPALLED when Target rolled out Free To Be You & Me as their back-to-school shopping theme song.  It had nothing to do with Target, I just did not think of that song as being for sale exactly.  I remember listening to an interview with Paul Simon & he was talking about John Lennon.  Specifically he was talking about how John Lennon asked him how he knew not to sign away the rights to his music.  Paul Simon's answer was "well, I'm from New York". I also remember when Them There Eyes was used to sell color film (yes, I am that old).  My mother was very upset over I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke.  We both moved on & have lived happy lives since then.  It rankles, but it is not worth getting bent about.

    Around the same time that Target rented Free To Be You & Me to sell their stuff (which I have been known to buy; I will not tell a lie) they also made a donation to a group supporting gubernatorial candidate -not in my state- that is anti-gay rights.  As it happens he is anti a lot of things that I am pro, but again not my state (we have plenty of anti-candidates here, they just aren't getting Target money...that I know).  It made me want to take back the crockpot I bought for C****** & give "Target is a hypocritical bastard" as the reason.  I did not, of course, but I also have not been through the doors since.

    I know there has been some backlash to the backlash:  that it isn't fair to the employees who have no control over where company money gets spent, but will be the ones who lose their jobs OR that private companies like private people should be able to spend where/when/how they want without third parties getting involved.  I think you could make a god argument for a past&potential customer being not-so-much a third party myself, but that does not seem to be where this one is headed.  Instead, it seems headed for if you do support candidate X & his message of non-inclusion, you should do MORE shopping at Target. 

    None of this solves my problem, of course, because mine is unsolvable.  How can I unring that bell in my head that now marks the moment when another large corporate entity carved off a piece of my history in the hopes of making me associate their products with whatever good feeling I had about a particular piece of music?  I guess I can't.  But I can find Boy meets Girl on YouTube, which makes the whole donation thing just more glaring.

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    WTF Waldo

    It is not yet Banned Books Week but it is always book banning season, so I thought it was as good a time as any.  Also it is beach season & this one has a beach scene.

    Where's Waldo et al are technically, after my time.  & as I have no children myself, they never really rolled back in.   Still, as a longtime fan of Heironymus Bosch & resident of the community that helped form James Rizzi, sooner or later I was bound to develop if not a taste, certainly a leaning towards them.  All that colorful human chaos.  More than once I have waited for someone/something passing the time in the children's room at the library flipping through a Waldo.

    All of this probably makes me still-not-qualified to judge potential obscenity in a Where's Waldo picture book.  Lucky for me, another was not so hampered.  Someone, somewhere actually found the offensive image, reported it & now even my library has a post-banning version of the book.

    Take a good long look at what was not considered bad enough to remove: the obnoxious behavior of kid jamming ice cream into a woman's back is not the bad thing.  Same kid with what just might be an erection.  Onlookers apparently enjoying woman's discomfort or kid's erection take your pick, also not worth censoring.  The only thing here that is harmful to children:  boobies.  You know, where ideally they go their nutrition for the first few months of life.  This might explain why the whole damn country is overweight, actually.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Something lemon

    This past week-end, while getting thru all kinds of end-of-season paperwork, dog licenses, horse inoculations, car insurance, campus parking passes etc. I realized I have put less than 1000 miles on the truck since last May.  I have, to be exact, put 815 miles on the truck since May 28th, which makes it official:  I need to get out more.

    Up until May I could almost manage the 3000 miles every 3 months, well more like every 5 months, to make the oil change reminder stickers a little bit timely.  Now that I commute with A on Thursdays when I go to campus, the CSA pick-up at the Wednesday farmers market is over, well, I just plain don't go anywhere any more.

    So I vowed to get out more.  Today I repotted an african violet & drove it to M**** at Bed'n Biscuit.  I had grand plans of then going on to one of the two quilt shops in that general direction, but M**** told me about a new bakery & fresh fruit stand right across the street from her & so I went there instead.  & they had fresh lemon tarts.  So I bought some.  & then I was not motivated to go anywhere except home to eat my lemon tart.

    I'm afraid that's all there is to this post.  I have just eaten the first tart & am eyeing the second.  The good news is I am likely to get out a bit more, the bad news is...there is no bad news.

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    Dear Mom

    Bonjour!

    Just got back from the shipping out a package(did you ever find that Stockard Channing reading Why I Live at the PO?).  It contains:

    1. The promised quilt for the new daughter of your ex-son-in-law.  If you could trim the edges & sew up the binding (thank you!) & give it to your grandaughter to give as a gift to her new 1/2-sister that would be lovely.  I cannot for the life of me remember Rhymes-with-Schmuck's current wife's real name & I cannot very well address a note to her as Biological-Clock-Ticking so if you could somehow communicate "machine washable gentle, tumble dry briefly & then lie flat" I would be grateful.

    2. A bright yellow railroad-looking spike made of plastic.  Remember Crazy R*****, the one who was so obsessed with her doorknobs being thoroughly cleaned, but cheated on her husband in the back seats of strangers' cars?  Well, her dogs were just peeing ANYWHERE in the yard & she got one of these & then they just started peeing there & she was able to keep them out of her roses.  Yes, the dogs would lift a leg on the only thing in the yard with thorns; they were as crazy as she was.  I thought if you put this in a spot along the sidewalk the walked-dogs might use it instead of your hosta (I always want to say Hofstra). 

    3. Your quilt block swap swap blocks from JUNE.  Yes, I am a lousy swap-keeper. 

    4. A collection of work-force motivational posters from just before WWI thru to just after WWII.  The Harn has an exhibit & I had been wanting to go for a while, but now that C****** is a grown-up with a job, she only has enough time for me to take her to lunch & more recently buy her a crock pot.  So I had to wait for a rainy Sunday when A could not work on the greenhouse & then we went.    His favorite was the long winded way of saying "keep it brief", but I would not want to pick a favorite for you so we got you the flip-book.  We both could picture it in your house, although we could not agree where.  I would have gotten another for L***** van A***** but they only had one more & it was mangled.
    5. Two (2) Lopi sweaters.  One you made me in college.  It still fits (although the sleeves were always short) but it occurred to me it would also fit one of your grandaughters.  Tell A****** it is supposed to have 3/4- length sleeves.  The other you made for M****** U***** when we were dating & I think it might fit D***.
    6. Gator grocery bags for yourself or that rabid Gator fan G***** hangs out with.
    7. A scarf that needs blocking, but the color is one you like.  Way-back-when I was showing C****** how to choose increases & decreases for better shaping & made it up quick & put it aside.  Do you want it?
    No other news, except Becca is out of EPM paste, so now we wait & see if her trouble swallowing comes back.  & oh, I used the Balti Seasoning you got me at Penzey's to stir fry tofu cubes & A cannot get enough of it!  Seriously.  I used the leftovers in a layered vegetarian shepherd's pie type thing (à la Horn of the Moon) & he had that for dinner every night until it was gone, except last Thursday because I insisted we stop for a slice on the way home from campus.  V** was here when I was making it & she could not believe how good it smelled (her words, not mine; she is not usually a tofu-woman).

    That really is it.  Please let me know when the package arrives.

    Je m'appelle M*******

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Two small islands of islands

    Do the villians in kid's cartoons still have German accents?  I confess the only current cartoon I ever stop to watch is Who-lives-in-a-pineapple-under-the-sea.  Oh, I watch plenty of cartoons; every few months I get the whole Jonny Quest series out of the library.  That Bandit, he sure is a scamp.  As for Race Bannon & Dr. Quest, well even as a kid I was OKay with that.  Anyhow, those villians still had German accents 1/2 the time & that was 20 years after the war.  Of course, most American kids from that same tv-era have a small but specific German vocabulary, what I call Hogan's Heroes German.  Mostly nouns.

    But none of that matters because today is Victory Over Japan Day.  & no one celebrates it except Rhode Islanders.  Like all good obscure holidays, there is some confusion over the date.  Rhode Island observes it "the second Monday in August" which is specific enough for me.  They also observe Armistice/Veteran's Day (in November, with the rest of the US), but apparently they were feeling extra-special good (or extra special bad) about the Japanese.  I don't know why, but there it is one of only nine guaranteed holidays right there on the state's website.

    I have learned that you can learn a lot about a state by what is at the top of their website.  For example, here in Florida, the first thing I noticed is their .gov site is not .gov it is .com, which I think effectively communicates that the whole state is for sale.  & it is. In the quick links at the great state of Texas you can:  register your car, renew your drivers license & get a concealed handgun license in that order.  New Jersey is a bit more versatile as the links change depending what is "In The News".  The day I looked two of the three headlines were about the lottery & why you should buy a ticket & the third (really the second as the lottery was the first & last, but you know what I mean) was "What does the Gulf Oil Spill mean for New Jersey?" probably because everyone knows that is the biggest environmental threat to New Jersey, that New Jersey did not do to herself. The only constant on the New Jersey homepage was real time traffic cameras.  Rhode Island opens with saltwater fishing licenses.

    In an interesting twist, or maybe not, the state of Rhode Island has had a "relationship" with Japan longer than any other state in the US.  Even before that famous son of Newport broke the trade barrier in 1854, Rhode Islanders had been washing up in Japan; ill-treatment of shipwrecked sailors were part of Perry's negotiation.  Trade between the territory of Rhode Island & Japan had in fact been established in the 1600s, until Japan closed her doors on all but her nearest neighbors.  & like Japan, Rhode Island is a small, often overlooked piece of land.  Most Americans even think of it as that tiny square east of CT, south of MA (if they think of it at all) but Rhode Island is also a lot of small islands.  I know, its right there in the name & somehow we miss it.  Maybe this is why Rode Islanders are still so delighted with defeating the Japanese they take the day off.  Which is something to think about when you know what they DO NOT take the day off for.  Among the holidays not required by Rhode Island:  any President's Birthday, Martin Luther King Day or Rhode Island Independence Day.

    What else?  Oh, this week in Japan, they will be observing Obon, the Buddhist Commemoration of the Ancestors.

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Just an FYI: P&G voluntarily recall dry pet foods

     I don't know anything other than what I copied from Poodle & Dog.  I am just guessing from past experience that a few months after one company has a voluntary recall, many others will have a not so voluntary one.

    CINCINNATI, July 30, 2010 – The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) (NYSE:PG) is voluntarily expanding its recall to include veterinary and some specialized dry pet food as a precautionary measure because it has the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. No salmonella-related illnesses have been reported.

    Iams Veterinary Dry Formulas All dry sizes and varieties 01Jul10 – 01Dec11 All UPC Codes

    Eukanuba Naturally Wild All dry sizes and varieties 01Jul10 – 01Dec11 All UPC Codes

    Eukanuba Pure All dry sizes and varieties 01Jul10 – 01Dec11 All UPC Codes

    Eukanuba Custom Care Sensitive Skin All dry sizes 01Jul10 – 01Dec11 All UPC Codes

    The affected products are sold in veterinary clinics and specialty pet retailers throughout the United States and Canada. No canned food, biscuits/treats or supplements are affected by this announcement. A full listing of UPC codes can be found at www.iams.com.

    For further information or a product replacement or refund call P&G toll-free at 877-340-8823 (Monday – Friday, 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM EST). Media Contact: Jason Taylor 513-622-3205

    Saturday, July 31, 2010

    Coney Island wood

    A long time ago, back in the mists of time, say 2005-ish, C****** announced she hated poetry &  I almost ran the car off the road.  We went straight to the library & I handed her some Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  He really is the best antidote to "my love is like a red red rose" (or as someone who shall remain nameless used to say:  my love is like a dead, dead dog). Don't get me wrong, I like Robbie Burns just fine, but maybe this is an acquired taste.  Like bagpipes.  Or haggis.  & not where a person should begin.  Best to begin with the first thing you put on..ideally.

    More recently, I have been helping to put together an exhibit to represent all the herbarium at the Natural History Museum for their big annual fundraiser.  Helping is a slight overstatement, I am putting four maybe five pieces of wood on a table of all kinds of other things, among seven other tables.

    The first two woods were more or less assigned.  K*** had an idea about one wood being deceptively heavy & another deceptively light (when in doubt, go tactile).  He had examples, but I thought I could come up with better ones, which had the advantage of being roughly the same dimensions making the whole light versus heavy thing just plain more somehow.

    The next two were my choice.   I went with a specimen collected in Japan on September 9, 1940.  No there is nothing oh-so-special about 9/9/1940 except that it is well before 8/6/1945.  The second was a wood I had plain never heard of, never thought of & yet have almost certainly been in contact with.  I am talking about Tabebuia ipe.  See, you have never heard of it either.  Go ahead, google it, I can wait.

    There now, you see, colorful flowering tree, family Bignoniaceae, which happens to be right where I am now.  A surprising number of botanists working around me have been mildly surprised how well represented this family is a in a wood collection; it is famous for its vines.  It also has some of the quirkiest cards I have come across thus far.  Still, what does a pretty tree bring to the table, block-of-wood-wise?  It turns out this wood is so dense, it is naturally rot resistant.  It is even naturally flame retardant.  Therefore it is widely used as decking in public areas.  Sooo, if you have ever stepped onto the boardwalk at Coney Island you have stepped on Tabebuia ipe.  Like all schoolchildren back in the day, (I know they don't do this anymore-not on any standardized test), I was taught the history of my own community.  One of the highlights (lowlights) of that is the famous Ringling Brothers Fire.  Maybe this is why I am so interested in Tabebuia ipe.

    I don't now what to pick for number five.  I need to come up with something soon, or it will be capped at four.  K*** is leaning towards an attractive wood, but I think attractive wood is all around us.  I would rather choose something interesting.  Alas Cybistax antisyphilitica is too racy for the local gentry.

    Friday, July 30, 2010

    A better horse

    Not quite six months ago, my appaloosa was diagnosed with EPM & has been undergoing treatment, which from my side consists of 2 hours no-food supervision before she gets a tube of paste shot down her throat.  Earlier in the process I decided I was not going to jam things at her, yank her around, etc.  Time is a luxury I DO have & so if it takes another 20 minutes to get her to let me inject the paste, so be it.  Also, I was hoping she would "get it" & learn to accept it.

    She did learn & fast.  My riding instructor (who is halflingers all-the-way when it comes to her own preference) said of another student who could not stand the appaloosa he had been working with that the problem with appies & riders is the one that thinks he has all the brains really doesn't.  To my stupification, same guy agreed saying that the appie was just too stubborn.  I looked at M*******, she looked at me & I knew she wasn't talking about the horse.

    Becca came here when her people were getting divorced.  But that was not the whole story.  Husband wanted to sell Becca but wife refused to hand over her papers making her all but worthless, market-wise.  Husband beat the wife & sent her to the hospital (not necessarily cause & effect, this is just a timeline, well I'm sure she went to the hospital because of the beating but I don't know if he beat her because she wouldn't help him sell the horse).  While wife was in hospital, husband stalled Becca & neglected to feed her; we did not know if she would make the trip from Deland to our place & when she did I was feeding her 1/4 cups of grain 5-6 times a day so as not to overwhelm her system & throw it into shock.

    She arrived here with two things:  her name was Rebel & a blanket patterned like a Confederate flag was over her to hide just how bad things were.  The blanket went in the trash, without ceremony & her name slowly migrated from REB to REBECCA.  A change had to be made anyway as we were already shifting a RED to REDBUD & we could not have a REB & a RED.  On our place, horses come when they are called.  I don't mean this in a my-way-or-the-highway way, it just is that sooner or later they catch on "hey she means me & when I get there, I get a treat".

    The last canister of paste has been opened; it is almost 1/2 gone.  Every morning, after her confinement, I glide a full tube along her cheek, turn at the jaw & rotate the open end into her open mouth.  We do this without a lead rope, halter or restraint of any kind.  Becca has put some weight back on, although she does seem to still have trouble swallowing.  Maybe four days into the treatment, I was confident no one was going to bump her & knock her over, as she seemed to be keeping her balance better. At six weeks into the process she started holding her head up & nickering when she was moved onto pasture away from the others.  Last month, she started running to the barn at feeding time again.  She is more herself every week & I am quite sure she wants more time out on the green, green grass.