31 December, 2011

For Auld Lang Syne

 “My new year's resolution” by Robert Fisher

"What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?
The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.
We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.
We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.
We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.
We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of a year."

What did Thomas and I do to splash out on the final afternoon of the year? First we bought a toaster, a blender, and a scale from our friends at Bed, Bath & Beyond. Then we took Dru to the vet for a clip, visited the library, and ate Chinese for dinner.

Now we are drinking Champagne and watching Leaves of Grass, with Ed Norton playing identical twins. My friend Katy recommended this movie, and so far it's good.

I have not yet nailed down my goals and plans for 2012, other than  getting my cholesterol down.

I've now been posting for a year and am still not sure what I think of blogging. It's fun for me to go back and see what was going on over the year. I also like reading my friends' blogs, so maybe if blogging keeps us in touch, it's worth it.

edited to add: Leaves of Grass turned out to be a lot darker than it started. The message seems to be that we are all animals, breaking the world, so we ought to try to fix it. Or possibly that we should live without fear, because nothing we do can change whatever is going to happen. I'm not sure. As I said, it was dark. But Ed Norton showed his chops for sure.

Edited again to add: Now watching The Color Of Magic, which is much sillier and lighter and more of what I want to watch on New Year's Eve.

30 December, 2011

Penultimate Day 2011

We are down to the nub of 2011, having burned the metaphorical candle of the year down to almost the end.

Jake, our little black cocker spaniel, died this week, a couple of days after Christmas. He stopped eating and when Thomas came home and found that he has soiled himself and lay in it, unable to get up or away, we knew it was time. I was out of town with the family so he took Jake to the vet and was with him while the shots were given. I hope Jake knew we loved him. We took him in after our last cocker died, he was supposed to be a foster. He was, even then, older and challenged. He was profoundly deaf. He stayed with us such a long time and was such a sweetie that I told the rescue to consider him adopted. He was a funny, chubby little dog, I called him my Fat Baby. He hated going outdoors, and every time we left the house for a walk, he looked back as long as he could see the house. Then when we were in the home stretch and the house was in sight, he walked faster and faster to get home sooner. He used to stand up on his hind legs on the couch, with his paws on the back, looking at nature from indoors. That's as close as he ever wanted to get to "outdoors." He insisted on sleeping in the bed, and even when he couldn't jump up anymore, we always lifted him up to join us. I will miss him.

I am revisiting my 2011 goals one last time. Here they are:

  • Finish at least 6 quilting projects
    • I think I finished this, as well as making some new quilts. Yay!
  • Take part in at least two ATC trades
    • Well, I did one. 50% is not bad.
  • Attend MAQ in July
    • Did it!
  • Do at least one volunteer activity for CSAC each month
    • I surpassed this. I did at least two adoption shows, went to the volunteer meeting, and did many, many home visits. In face, I have a home visit to set up for next week.
  • Read at least one work of non-fiction each month during 2011. I think I did it. I read:
    • A Small Furry Prayer - Dog Rescue and the Meaning of Life by Steven Kotler
    • Personal History by Katharine Graham
    • Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour by David Bianculli
    • Staying True by Jenny Sanford
    • Howard's End is on the Landing by Susan Hill
    • Bad Dog: A Love Story by Martin Kihn
    • Lost and Found by Geneen Roth
    • Beaten, Seared, and Sauced by Jonathan Dixon
    • The Feast Nearby by Robin Mather
    • A Secret Gift by Ted Gup
    • Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch
    • My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock
    • Tout Sweet by Karen Wheeler  
That's probably more non-fiction than I've read in the last three years. Having some kind of goal for my reading turned out to be a good thing, it make me pick up things and persevere with them when my first impulse was to stop. Several of these books were about books and reading (Susan Hill/Nina Sankovitch), others were about dogs (Kihn/Kotler), and another small group was about food (Dixon/Mather). The rest are a mish-mosh. I am never going to read as much non-fiction as some other people do, I prefer the freedom of fiction. I also know in fiction that things aren't true. One of the thing that bothered me is that when you read non-fiction, you wonder how much truth you are really getting. Did Jenny Sanford tell the truth about her part in the failure of her marriage? Is Karen Wheeler really as shallow and boy-friend obsessed as she makes herself out to be? Also, as I read biographies...since we almost always slant things to make ourselves sound better, isn't biography a sort of fiction? Anyway, I don't know what my focus will be in 2012, but I want to have a plan.
    All in all, I'm satisfied with  my performance. I will spend the next couple of days thinking about what I want to accomplish in 2012.

    Tonight we went out with our friend George for dinner and a movie. The film was the new Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey, Jr.  It was enjoyable. Predictable, but enjoyable. Hugo, the movie I saw over the holiday was better, but didn't have as much action.

    24 December, 2011

    Merry Bells keep ringing, Happy Holidays to You!

    We had a quiet day. Made an emergency run to the Giant for cream and chicken broth to make butternut squash soup. Picked up a Rx. Other than that, no shopping or last minute anything for Christmas.

    We went to Toni's party, which was very nice. Lots of good food and good cheer. Her friends all have a lot of kids and it was very merry with the kids running everywhere having a silly good time. They all got presents from a little elf and then spent time examining them, trading them, and figuring out how they worded.

    Now we are at home, snug in our pjs, ready for a good night's rest.

    Merry Christmas to All, and to All a good night!

    21 December, 2011

    Thoughts on a small house

    The house I grew up in. Three bedrooms, two baths (now three). The carport is new(ish) and what is now my Dad's tv room used to be a screen porch. I suppose saying a "screened-in" porch would be more correct, but we always said screen porch.

    It's a small house, but very nice. Nicer now, my parents put on a fabulous deck and then there is the matter of that tv room and the new combination bathroom/laundry room.

    The truck is my Dad's (A Man Has to Have a Truck) and the car is nominally my Mom's. Right there in the lower left corner of the picture where all that liriope is growing there used to be a huge holly bush. Once every year or so Mom would get out and hack it back to a stump and then it would grow until it became a danger to people getting out of the car there. Not sure if it died of natural causes or was removed, but it makes the driveway look a lot more open.

    The Japanese Magnolia sticking up from behind the truck always buds out too early. The slightest hint of warm weather and it forms buds. Two years out of three there is then a big frost and the stupid thing is blighted.

    I enjoy going to visit my parents there, but it's strange how the house doesn't match up to my ideas and memories of it. So much that I remember is gone and the house is changed. And I am changed. And the house of my childhood is alive only in my memory. But that's okay, because it is alive there, and then there is this nice little house for my parents to live in...and for me to visit.

    19 December, 2011

    Misc. Monday

    Yesterday I hit a store and bought presents for my sister and her family. Today I wrapped them. That is about 80% of my presents done. I also have to buy something for my parents, but for them I am doing mail order gift certificates. I am thinking a mixture of Zappos, Pedro's tamales, and movie tickets. Mom loves shoes, and they both love tamales and they go to a movie almost every week.

    It feels good to have all that done. I am not the hardcore present shopper that some folks are, but waiting until the last minute has been my modus operandi. I decided to avoid the stress this year. There are enough things in my life that are making me want to snatch myself baldheaded, volunteering for more stress is just stupid.

    So, today The Dear Leader died in North Korea. It's been a bad year to be a maniacal dictator! What are the odds that his son/successor will be a smart, thoughtful man who will lead the country into the Century of the Fruitbat, out of poverty and starvation? I'm thinking it doesn't look good for the peasantry.

    Jim and I baked more on Saturday. So much fun! I have a PLETHORA of delicious cookies right now, so if you come over for tea, I could serve a dozen types of cookies.

    I got a promotion at work today. I'm actually doing the same work I've been doing, but my job title more accurately reflects what I do. There was a small rise in pay, which was nice too. It won't make a huge difference to our bottom line, but it's good to have my abilities/efforts rewarded.

    16 December, 2011

    Butter, Sugar, Flour

    Jim and I baked about 6 dozen sugar cookies tonight in the shapes of gingerbread men, candy canes, mittens, and cardinals.

    Before we baked those out of dough Jim made on Thursday, we made dough for Mexican Wedding Cookies (or Russian tea cakes or Greek Wedding Cookies, whatever you choose to call them). After the sugar cookies were done, we made 6 dozen wedding cookies. It's easy, you make little balls, bake them, dredge them in powdered sugar, cool them, then re-dredge. Yummo.

    Then we baked four trays of shortbread. Then T and I had to come home and take the dogs out on their late evening walk. I am tired as can be. Baking with a friend is fun, but it's been a long week and I'm plumb wore out!

    14 December, 2011

    Beauty, thy name is Dru

    This is Dru, whose outside looks like sweetness and light. He's blind, has a stage five heart murmur, but he has the strength of ten, because his heart is pure...meanness.

    Just call me...Bigfoot
    Look at those ridiculous feet! When he got a haircut, he fought the groomers to hard when they try to clip his feet, that they gave up and asked us never to darken their door again! Yes, once again, a groomer has been defeated by the Force of Dru.

    Sigh. We will get out our clippers and do his feet as best we can. We are just awful at it, and it looks like he was clipped by blind people with hedge trimmers, but at least it helps cut down on the Bigfoot look.

    I am enjoying my new camera so much! It's fun to take pictures of these little things and share them. Please notice on the left of the picture, you can see my Italian Tiles strips pinned to my design board. I still have a couple of hours of sewing to get all the strips together. I hope to get it done by the end of the year.

    11 December, 2011

    Two sizes too small?

    It's NOT a blue Christmas. I am not feeling sad, depressed, lonely, isolated, or melancholy. What I am not feeling is much of the effervescent, bubbly excitement I usually have at this time of year. I have not put out one decoration, bought one present, or played one Christmas cd. I feel sort of stunned that we are halfway through Advent, and I feel...nothing.

    It could be, perhaps, that my shoes are too tight.
    It could be my head isn't screwed on just right.
    But I think that the most likely reason of all
    May have been that my heart is two sizes too small.

    Perhaps I AM a Grinch? No, I don't resent the pleasure others are taking in their holiday preparations and celebrations. In fact, I wish I could join them. I have decided that I am going to try to jump start my holiday spirit. I'm going to try:

    Putting on a Christmas cd (Mary Chapin Carpenter has a beautiful one that I love.)
    Digging out at least the wreath for the front door and hanging it up.
    Hanging our stockings by the chimney, with care, and
    Listening to my tape of Dylan Thomas reading A Child's Christmas in Wales sometime this week
    Reading The Worst Christmas Pageant Ever, perhaps aloud to Thomas. We both like that story a lot.

    Perhaps later I will be able to report that I am feeling a bit more holly jolly, going on the premise that sometime you need to do before you feel. I've heard that smiling a real smile can make you feel happier. Maybe getting ready for Jesus in my home will make my heart feel a bit more welcoming for him.

    08 December, 2011

    Apparently, simple repetitive tasks are one of my strengths

    No luck on finding any non-fiction to read yet. Haven't put any time into it this week, I've been working on quilts and spending time with the dogs. Especially Jake, he doesn't have long for this world, so I want to make his last days/weeks/months nice ones.

    I got the binding sewn on the Storm at Sea quilt, now all I have to do is blind stitch it to the back. It's not all that large, I can do this in a couple of days if I stick with it. Not to be a big ol' braggart, but doing the hand sewing on the binding is something that, unexpectedly, I am good at. Nice, neat, even stitches, and I make pretty good time on it.

    Italian Tiles is one step closer, all the strips are made. I have to join them with some sashing and then I'm calling this one ready for the long arm quilter.

    I haven't decorated for Christmas yet, I just can't work up any enthusiasm for it. I really need to deep clean first and thinking of that makes me feel resentful. So little time to myself that I hate to spend any of it cleaning. I need to buckle down and do it, because I know I will feel better when it is done. That is one thing where the destination, not the process, is the point.

    At work today I made 25 orientation packages for our HR specialist, since we expect a large group of new hires on Monday. I made the packs in just over an hour, and when I showed up with them, she was shocked. Apparently it takes her a lot longer to do the same job. Most of the time was taken up waiting for our slow Xerox to crank out 25 copies of all the different forms. Maybe it's all the time I worked for printers/binderies, but I can do repetitive things like that quickly and accurately. It doesn't even bore me the way some things do. While I was putting them together, I spent a lot of time thinking about some books I've read lately. To me the best thing about simple jobs like that is that I can program the machine and then think, and then collate papers and think some more. And then time has passed and I have actually accomplished something that makes someone grateful.

    05 December, 2011

    One more non fiction special

    I need to read one more non-fiction book to complete my year of reading at least one non-fiction book a month. I have to be honest, it's going to have to be either short, or funny. It would be best, perhaps, if it could be short and funny. Right now we are heading into the busy time, and I am self-aware enough to know that I am not going to finish some tome on the history of the House of Hapsburg or the mechanisms by which groups of animals organize themselves.

    Just for you, my dear six readers, here is a link to John Green talking about everyone's favorite animal, the formidable honey badger, living their lives of total bad-assery. Watch it!!!! Here's the link. "Honey badgers, Hank, they are not kidding around!"

    Here's another piece of non-fiction: I have had three quilts almost finished for the last month, but haven't quite been able to sit down and do them. I've been reading, watching movies, and spending whacked out amounts of time on line. But I am going to AT LEAST move each one a step closer to quiltdom by the end of this month if it is the last thing I do.

    So, this month, quilts, (short) books, and most likely, Christmas cookies.

    04 December, 2011

    Shock and Awe tactics at church coffee hour

    This week included some of my favorite things. Friday included all this stuff:

    Put these together and it can only mean one thing! I'm getting together with Jim to for a baking day.
    We started at about 3 pm on Friday and finished up at 9:30. In between we baked

    shortbread with chocolate dip
    eggnog shortbread with rum glaze
    orange cranberry shortbread
    Russian tea cakes
    Brown sugar cupcakes with almond and caramel topping
    a gazillion sugar cookies
    a gingerbread bundt cake

    What fun we had. In the middle, Andy came home from work, Thomas came over, and we all had dinner together.

    Saturday I walked over much of DC with my friend/college roommate, Amanda, and her mother, Nancy. We went to Eastern Market and then walked around the capitol, the mall, etc. We had fun, but I just 'bout wore the soles off my feet. I was sound asleep at 9pm last night, tired out from all that walking.

    Amanda in her festive orange coat (Go Clemson!) in front of the Supreme Court.
    Today, here is what we did after church:

    (L to R) Still covered in wrap is an Orange-Chocolate Chip Loaf, Sugar Cookies at the top, then a Presbyterian Three-Way, three kinds of shortbread.

    One of my favorites: Pistachio Cranberry cookies, with demerara sugar on the edges. Easy and delicious!

    Sugar cookies, glazed and sprinkled. All blue and white in keeping with the Advent theme.

    Getting set up. We added some store-bought cookies and goldfish crackers because some of the kids won't eat homemade cookies. That's fine. What kills me is the ADULTS who prefer "store-boughten" as we used to say.

    Setting up the table. Cake still unsliced.

    All ready to go. It was a huge success.

    02 December, 2011

    Elm Creek Quilters make me crabby

    Last night I read Jennifer Chiaverini's latest Elm Creek Quilters book, called The Wedding Quilt. Every time I read one of her books, I promise myself that this is the last one. I enjoyed the first one or two, but after that the writing style began to get on my nerves. Yet, stupidly, I continue to pick them up and read them very critically, complaining to myself the whole time.

    I get grumpy about things like:

    To be happy in her books, you must be in lurve and married. Even if your first marriage doesn't work out, the next one will. If you are not married, your life is missing something.

    In this one, the main part of the book is set in 2028, when Sarah's kids are 25. She mentions things like how everyone uses computer pads and has battery powered autos. There is a one paragraph explanation that back in the twenty-teens the world was on the verge of collapse, but through some unspecified method, "stepped back from the brink." Really? REALLY?

    In every book she has this little ramble about how women at quilt camp get to explore their creativity and celebrate the bonds of the feminine arts that bond them together blah de blah blah.

    This time, and I mean it, NO MORE Elm Creek Quilters books. I wonder if it will be a moot point, because this one seems to wrap up all the story lines, and there is a strong feeling that this is the end.