29 April, 2011

Pictures, Pictures who need Pictures, are the luckiest Pictures in the Wooooooorrrrrllld

 You can see Dru in all his fluffy-footed glory here. He looks like a golden bear with huge feet, when really he's getting sort of skinny in his old age.
 Jake was staring moonily into the camera when Dru blundered into him just as I snapped the pic.See how nicely trimmed Jake's visible foot is? The vet did that when she was seeing him for his eye infection.
 First page on my art journal. The princess used to be a boy advertising some kind of couture watches.
 A detail of the Storm at Sea quilt I started year and years and years ago. I finally finished it. The Storm at Sea class was taught by Kim Jalette at a class for our guild. She still teaches at Seminole Sampler, and I think she's teaching again at MAQ this summer. She's a good teacher, very organized and easy to understand.
 Detail of quilt I made for my Mom. The first time I've used a lot of batiks. I really like them. I actually made a two sided quilt, the other side is a bunch of Moda marbles my mom chose. I have to send these off to be quilted. I'm having both of them done (this one and the Storm at Sea) at the place Toni uses, just to try someone new.
That baby quilt I made with the Tiny Turning Twenty pattern and a bunch of fat quarters. It's hanging off my iron.

27 April, 2011

The Games People Play

What games do you like to play?

This came up because tonight I went to Toni's and played Mahjong. Well, we sat at the table with the tiles and slowly worked through the steps of the game, but it wasn't exactly playing. We showed each other our tiles and asked each other questions about how to play. It's fun, I love the sounds the tiles make when we swish them around, and while it is challenging, it's not like bridge. Bridge makes me feel like I am the stupidest human on the planet. I tried several times to pick it up but finally decided that a game that made you want to cry wasn't all that entertaining.

My favorite board game is Scrabble. I usually don't win because I get excited about putting down funny or clever words and don't pay enough attention to the double/triple word score blocks.

I also like games like Pictionary and Charades, which are both fun and funny. My sister's husband is the best person I've ever known at Charades, and he and Carmen have some kind of psychic connection - they can guess each others' clues when no one else has a clue. The other members of their team will be scratching their heads over the words they have, for example, Carmen signs "book" and has given the first word, "the" and Wilson shouts out "The Communist Manifesto". Those crazy kids.

Yahtzee is another good game that has saved my bacon more than once with my in-laws. It's something that Thomas and I can play with his family. It's called Knifel in German, and we all like to play and no one has to be able to speak the same language to enjoy playing together. Rose, Thomas' mother, gets Knifel/Yahtzee way more than is statistically likely.

I wish we all played more games, any kind of games, whether board games, card games, or word games. It's a great way to spend time with our friends and family, it gets the brain working, and it's way more enriching than watching another episode of Law & Order.

24 April, 2011

Happy Easter

Our contributions to the Easter dinner were deviled eggs (Thomas made those) and Liketa Died Potato Casserole from the book Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide To Hosting The Perfect Funeral. I made those.

The entire dinner was delicious. We had ham, the eggs and the potatoes, green bean casserole, bing cherry jello salad (also from that same cookbook) and gingered carrots. The dessert was coconut cream cake. Jim made that and it was splendid, when they brought it out it looked like something from the front cover of a food magazine.

23 April, 2011

RIP Diana Wynne Jones

I heard just yesterday that Diana Wynne Jones, one of my favorite YA/fantasy novelists, died in late March. I welled up with tears when I read the news online.

She was a GREAT writer: inventive, clever, funny without being sarcastic, altogether just a treasure. Let me tell you, while JK Rowling hit the jackpot with the HP books, she's not half the writer that DWJ was. Rowling had that one great idea that she ran with, while DWJ wrote everything, a wide variety of books: ghost stories, adventure stories, faery tales set on their ears, romps with djinni, fire demons, and castles that couldn't stay still.

If you are interested in trying her out, I recommend any of the Chrestomanci books (start with Charmed Life), Deep Magic, or my personal favorite, Howl's Moving Castle.I understand she has one more book that will be published posthumously, Earwig and the Witch.

I was at the library the other day, looking in the SF/fantasy section, and right now, things are dire. Seems like half the books out are really paranormal romances about vampires or werewolves, and the other half are zombie books. Please, when will the zombie/werewolf/vampire craze be over? Make it stop! The only things I found that seemed like possibilities were in YA, and even there, you have to plow through volumes of z/w/v books to find the occasional interesting read. I also have a couple of books by Robin Hobb to try out thanks to my friend Samantha. I was interested to hear that RH is actually my old friend Megan Lindholm, writing under a different pen name!

I also have to go on record noting that after my big weather whine of yesterday, today dawned rainy and cold and was sunny and 70 by 3pm.

22 April, 2011

Okay weather, you have beaten me

The rain, in Maryland, does not stay mainly on the plain. It circles wherever I am, falling coldly on me as I try to go about my business. It seeps moistly into my socks through the cracks in my soles. It dampens me and my mood and my hair and my clothes. I give up. It's cold again, I've turned the heat back on on the 22nd of April.

If you knew how much it hurt me to report that. I have a rule that we don't use the heat in April and May, and this year that's been necessary to heat the house several times this April. My plan to keep the power bills low are being undermined. And since I am complaining about the weather, what the heck was that stupid Groundhog, Punxatawney Phil, smoking when he said winter would be over early this year? Hello people, winter looks like it's going right up to May this year. Grummel, grummel, grummel. Serves me right for getting meteorological information from a rodent.

I finished putting a border on the back for my Mom's quilt. Yay me. I have added several inches to my Tasha Tudor shawl and am approaching the time when I'll have to get help on adding the border. I can do it, I just need help translating the directions into something my brain can understand. I've also been painting pages for my art journal. I had fun today after the (wet, cold) dog walk. I cut a picture out of a magazine of a prettily handsome fellow. He was in some kind of clothes ad, or cologne ad, or an ad for expensive watches. He's now a pretty, pretty princess with long black hair, a yellow princess hat, and a blue dress. I overdid it with the gold eyeshadow a bit, so he's kind of a tarty looking princess, but for a first try at collage and using my paints, he makes me smile.

I think I will get my camera and sneak around taking pictures of things I want to share on FB and here. 

I am re-reading a bunch of comfort novels this weekend to get me through the cold weather. First I dashed through Year of the Cat, Gate of the Rat by Andre Norton, and now I'm in the middle of Getting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie. Speaking of Jenny Crusie, go over to her blog and read this fantastic entry about her dog Lyle. From his pictures, I am in love with Lyle, and think that maybe my next dog should be a wiener dog!

If you haven't yet read anything by her, I heartily recommend either Bet Me or Fast Women (my personal fave). This is JUST the weekend to read a smart mystery/romance/novel about smart, funny women. Just do yourself a favor and don't get sucked into the terrible Fortunate Miss Fortunes. I am sorry to say that it sucked donkey kong.

21 April, 2011


Lord have mercy upon our souls, the bad news has kept pouring in, day after day.

In the past couple of weeks I've heard the following:

A friend's beloved dog has cancer.

A friend who has cancer has had to go back on chemotherapy.

The father of a friend has some sort of bone cancer and has been in terrible pain.

The younger brother of a friend has lymphoma.

All this has put my tee-toncy problems in perspective. I am grumpy, I don't like my job, and I often wonder what purpose I have upon this earth, but right now those all seem somewhat pale and shadowy compared to the epic battles people I care about are fighting every day.

So, to those of you who are fighting the hard foes, I wish you strength and endurance. To those who have to stand by while those you love battle, I send you fortitude and patience. For everyone, no matter what pain or secret sorrow you are facing, I hope for peace.

"Without courage, all virtues lose their meaning." -Sir Winston Churchill

20 April, 2011

Playin' hooky

Today I took a page out of Tom Sawyer's book and played a little hooky. Took a personal day. It wasn't all fun and games (didn't follow Injun Joe into those caves and fake my own death) - I did a lot of housework, including sweeping, re-sweeping, and mopping the first floor to eradicate the "doggy" odor that was present. Did laundry. Grocery shopped.

Ended up spending time outside with the dog too. Ginger gets into the spirit of things, she has her own favorite patio chair to snooze in. The Cocker Spaniels find the whole outdoors thing puzzling. Why are we outside when we have a house to be in? Can we go in now? How about now? No? I'm just going to go up here on the porch and walk around in circles for 40 or 50 minutes until you come to your senses or can't stand the sound of my toenails clicking on the floor. B'bye!

18 April, 2011

This computer has some kind of mind-control *power*

The innernetz is sucking up all my time. I've got shawls to knit, quilts to sew, an art journal I'm excited about starting, and instead I sit down to check my email, and find that I have spent three hours putzing around sites the pique my interest.

So tonight I'm shutting down the computer (whimper) and heading off to do something creative.

16 April, 2011

The rain it raineth every day, it sure seems like

The Rain it Raineth Every Day

The Rain it Raineth Every Day
When that I was and a little tiny boy
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man's estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas, to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still 'had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world began,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that's all one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day.

14 April, 2011

First good news and then bad

First I got some funny news in an email from my Mom.

Backstory: When I was a kid, my Dad hardly ever went to movies. He saw a few war movies, a couple of Westerns, but unlike my Mom, who's always liked going to see movies, it wasn't his thing. The only movie I ever remember my Dad taking me to, just the two of us, was Tora! Tora! Tora! He took my sister to see Patton. We were probably 5 and 6 at the time. That right there tells you a lot about my Dad.

Well, one of the things that my parents have begun doing in their retirement is going to the movies together. The way they pick their movies cracks me up. They drive over to Anderson most Fridays, and go to the movie that looks like it will be okay. Often they don't know much about the movie before they see it, which has led to them seeing many movies that are not parent-safe. I see no reason for my parents to have watched The Forty Year Old Virgin!

So, a while back, one of them filled out a Coca Cola sweepstakes entry for a trip to CA to see a show being filmed. This week they got the news that they had won a trip. They have flights, 2 nights in a hotel, and good seats to see the filming of...are you ready for this...AMERICAN IDOL.

My parents have never watched American Idol, but they are going to enjoy this trip!

The bad news: just got a call from my college roommate and dear friend, also named Amanda. Her younger brother has a cancerous mass (large) in his lower abdomen. Tomorrow they do a biopsy. Then, depending on what they find, they will proceed with treatment. The entire family is scared. Please, keep them in your prayers, lift them into the light, send positive, healing vibes, whatever it is you personally do for people who need some extra help.

Zen Koan

What is the sound of one hand clapping?

This blog is starting to seem like the answer to that koan. I don't expect to have dozens of hits a day, but I had hoped that this would start some discussions with friends I don't regularly have contact to.

It's sort of uncomfortable to write in a public diary that I can't figure out if anyone is reading, other than Sam and Toni. I know they read.

If you are reading, could you let me know? If it's just Sam and Toni, I'm going to close this down and head back over to Facebook as my main form of writing and communication.


13 April, 2011

April's non-fiction read is in the bag

Susan Hill wrote a book that I read years ago, called The Woman in Black. It’s a ghost story, and it was scary and good. They made a play out of it, which Center Stage did some time back. I did not go see it but I hear that the play was The Scary. Not sorry I missed that, I can dismiss things I read, but once I have a scary visual, I’m done for.

I’ve never read any of her other books, but my April foray into non-fiction was her slim book called Howard's End is on the Landing. She decided that for one year she would only read and re-read books that she already had in her home. No library books, no buying books, she had to stick with choices from the (large number of) books she owned.  Then she wrote about them and what she learned from what she chose to read/re-read, what she didn’t, and what she learned about herself during that year. I would give this a solid B-.

Ms. Hill gets points for loving books and having read a lot, and writing with love about the books that have meant a lot to her. She gets points off for name-dropping, not liking Terry Pratchett, and saying that she doesn’t like Australian or Canadian authors. I mean, What? You can’t just not like someone’s books because they came from a certain country; that makes as little sense as not enjoying cookies made by a baker with red hair. One thing has nothing to do with the other. 

I’m kidding about the Terry Pratchett thing, but the insistence on telling us how she loves the books of Blah Blah, who she met when she was an 18 year old university student and first time novelist, which she mentions repeatedly, got on my nerves. Guess what, Susan! It is possible to love books by great authors you have not met, and your insistence on harping on Famous Authors I Have Known, and You Have Not (neener neener) wore on me.

One thing I did like was that she decided to make a list of Desert Island Books, or the 40 books that she would take were she ever put in the position of having to choose 40 books to take into exile with her.  Her choices and mine would be very different, as I am sure yours would be from mine, but I did like hearing how she made her choices, what she’d look for and what she thought each book would contribute to the list.

11 April, 2011

Monday maundering

Mother Nature is NO lady. We keep having these dreamy, warm days that seduce you into believing that this is it! Spring is here, winter is no more, fa la la la la la la, hey, ho nonny nonny, let us all dance around in our Birkenstocks and sundresses. The following day, winter closes back in, it rains, is cold, SNOWS. The disappointment and bitterness is indescribable.

Today was one of the Spring! days. I enjoyed my dog walk more than usual today, but like The Who, I Won't Get Fooled Again. I'm keeping my coat and wool socks close to hand for the terrible weather that is sure to come tomorrow or Wednesday. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice...

Did anyone watch Back to Upstairs, Downstairs Yesterday on PBS Classics? It was very good. Am I the only one that noticed that Mrs. Simpson of Baltimore keeps showing up in British movies lately? The King's Speech, that thing they had on Masterpiece with Matthew McFadyen right after Downton Abbey, and now The Return of Upstairs, Downstairs. For a divorcee from Charm City, she's getting around. As she certainly did. I think that the reason Mrs. Simpson is so interesting to people is that they think, "What was so special about her that she was worth giving up a throne?"

Dame Eileen Atkins, who plays the Dowager Lady Whoosis, Maud, is awesome. She's one of those British actresses like Dame Maggie and Dame Judy, who continue to work and perform brilliantly past the age where American "stars" are put out to pasture. The Brits appreciate that talent and beauty doesn't disappear when the first wrinkles show up, or even when they invite all their friend to drop in and stay.

07 April, 2011

Are you gonna eat that butter patty?

Thomas and I had something that was like a date yesterday. Of course, it was a married date so it was not anything that normal single people would recognize as an actual date. Once you are married you no longer try so hard, so things like “dates” and “giving compliments” pretty much go out the window. I mean, you may go out to dinner together, but it’s not what it was when you were desperately trying to impress your partner. The conversation is less sparkling and more pedestrian. You laugh less and eavesdrop more on the conversations taking place around you for entertainment. You no longer try to impress.

So, last night we went swimming at the Y and then went to Sonic for dinner. Originally the plan was to hit the IHOP for a short stack, but I didn’t bother to dry my hair, and I thought, “Ooh, Sonic, we can eat in the car.” And that is exactly what we did! We got the Brown Bag Special: 2 Sonic Burgers, one tot, one fry, one Coke, one Dr. Pepper. Followed up by one caramel sundae (me) and one hot fudge sundae (him). Our Sonic experience was fun, we sat facing scenic Liberty Road (you have to live here to appreciate that) and the flickering sign of the CHICKEN LAKE TROUT SOUL FOOD restaurant across the street gently illuminated our meal. The servers wore roller skates. Secretly I pretended it was 1955 and we were on a first date. Although if it was 1955 and a first date I hope I would have taken the time to dry my hair and put on some lipstick. Our conversation though, it was a leetle sparkly and we laughed a lot. He mentioned Mortal Kombat, and when I told him my usual “that’s four hours of my life I won’t get back,” he asked why I’d watched it twice in the first place. My answer, “because you were watching it and I wanted to be with you, you nitwit!” made him smile.  Also, although Mortal Kombat was a terrible movie, with only a weak whisper of a plot, the fight scenes were fun to watch, so I don’t want to watch it again, but I don’t really regret the those first two times. 

The dogs were “groomed” yesterday. Picture me holding my hands up in that annoying these are quote marks gesture. We asked the Catonsville Groomers to wash them and give them a puppy cut. 

What the Catonsville Groomers did was to give them the worst cuts I’ve ever seen and not wash them at all. We know Dru can be a butthead about people messing with him, but honestly, both cockers look like a blindfolded person with pinking shears did the haircuts. They did manage to trim their legs, and the top of their feet, but they left the rest of the feet alone. So both of them have skinny legs and fluffy, dust mop feet.
We will be getting out our own clippers today, muzzling Dru, and cutting hair off dog feet. I will try to get some pictures of the before and after so you can see what I am dealing with.

I don’t even care much that they got crummy haircuts, they are dogs and not terribly vain! I do care though that they weren’t bathed, because now we have to bathe them ourselves. They are stinky and dirty and need baths, so I guess we will be heading off to the dog wash place, which is much easier than bathing them in the bathroom at home, though not as convenient.

So much trouble for a dog haircut! Next time I should go for a short haired breed. If it weren’t for the fact that they give me the horrors, I’d try one of those Mexican Hairless. Greyhound anyone??

05 April, 2011

Some good stuff

Drum roll please...ladies and gentlemen, kids of all ages...the taxes are done.

I had a massage tonight. Right now I feel so relaxed it is probably illegal. No taxes and a massage are like a one-two punch for stress.

We are getting something back. It will pay for part of our family vacation to Colorado this summer. Hurrah.

04 April, 2011

Turning Twenty

I’ve been working on a simple Turning Twenty quilt. I had a bundle of fat quarters that someone gave me, and it is making a nice mostly floral quilt. I think it’s going to make a sweet baby quilt. I have no one to give it to right now, but that doesn’t worry me, eventually someone we know will have a baby or a grandbaby. Having a gift ready to go is always nice.

If you haven’t ever seen the Turning Twenty quilt, it’s nice. You make identical blocks and then rotate them, and you wind up with a very random and visually interesting quilt. You can also slice them up and put them together in a couple of different ways for variety. A standard T20 block is 16 inches square. This particular one I am doing is the Tiny T20, which is supposed to finish out at 8 inches. Since apparently my cutting and sewing were all over the place and the blocks came out wonky, I cut all my blocks down and they’ll finish at 7.75 inches.

I am going to quilt this myself. I send off my larger quilts to be quilted by a long-arm quilter, but these little things I can do stitching in the ditch.

My friend Sam has been spinning her own yard and knitting things out of it, which I think is totally cool. It does worry me though - where does it end? If she keeps going back in the process, eventually she will own her own flock of sheep and alpaca. Still, her work is beautiful, she posted a picture of her latest shawl on her blog, and I was blown away. It made me consider the unfinished knitting projects I have lurking reproachfully around the house. So I got out a very plain shawl I started last fall and got back on it. It is a Tasha Tudor shawl that is basically a huge triangle of garter stitch, nothing frilly at all. Just a bunch of wooly warmness to wrap myself in next winter. I got about five rows done yesterday and more today. A little at a time and I can whip it out in a month or so.

One of my 2011 goals was to finish a bunch of UFOs (that's Unfinished Objects to you non-knitting, non-quilting people). I am doing well on this. I've finished up two projects completely, moved another two into "completed top" status, and got the top and back that I am doing for my Mom almost done. My goal is to finish Mom's quilt and send it to the long arm shop by next weekend. Then I have a super secret surprise project to work on with some groovy new fabric I got at Cottonseed Glory.

I signed up for MAQ, the Mid Appalachian Quilter's Symposium. I'm taking Italian Tiles on Friday and Beading for Quilters on Saturday. I've been wanting to try beading for a while, so yay!

01 April, 2011

Fragmented and out of control

Very, very angry today. Having one of those days where if someone showed up at the front door with a check for a million dollars for me I'd probably scream at them for knocking too loud on the door.

It may be the big things that make us crazy, but it's the little things that set us off. I went freaky, mad, screaming, out of control loony today because one of the fire alarms was making that high pitched "My batteries are dying" chirping noise. It was a sore spot because for weeks I've been asking someone to change the batteries. Also, that noise makes Dru terrified and he was freaking out and trying to hide under pieces of furniture. And in general, I'm in a bad place right now.

I lost it, lost it, lost it. I climbed up on a stepladder and couldn't get it off the wall. I finally twisted just right and it came off, and I couldn't get the back off and the batteries out. I wound up beating it to death, while screaming curses, hurling batteries and pieces of fire alarm around the basement. Thomas, my life, the futility of everything - all were thoroughly cursed.

This too shall pass, I truly hope.