23 November, 2014

Giving thanks

I will see this lovely, large, somewhat vulgar peach next weekend as I drive from SC to MD. It's in Gaffney, SC. Doesn't it look somewhat like a large bottom in the sky, from a certain angle?

We are going to SC for Thanksgiving with the whole family. I love Thanksgiving, it is my favorite, uncomplicated holiday. We just have to fix a nice meal, and for a while, focus on the things we are thankful for.

Here are things I am thankful for:
the whole family
Mocha, Sparky, and Punkin
good health
the public library (and books in general!)
that my foot has healed so well

30 August, 2014

World traveler returns home

I was in Deutschland for 2.5 weeks during August. It was a family trip in all the ways that count. My family went with and Thomas' family hosted all of us. Even my brother-in-law's parents stopped by for three days in their European wandering.

There are thousands of pictures and I'll eventually get around to posting a few. Most of the trip was good. We celebrated the 100th birthday of Oma, Thomas' maternal grandmother. There was a huge party with a tent, a beer wagon, and more food than you can imagine.

We weren't just in the village. Thomas and I went to Berlin for three days with my folks and then the entire USA family met each other in the Schwartzwald for four days.

Gallons of beer and wine and lots of schnitzel were consumed. We rode Segways around the sites of Berlin and viewed the city from the river Spree and from the Dome at the top of the Reichstag. We ate currywurst at the Sony Center in Pottsdammer Platz. In the hotel in the Black Forest I took my mother and two nieces through the most extensive round of sauna I have ever done. It was a good trip and I am glad we went.

I was also glad to get back to my home, my dogs, my bed, and my routine. Travel is exciting for me, right up to the point where I start feeling lost and unsettled.

10 July, 2014

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?


I spent some happy time on Wednesday reading this graphic book (graphic autobiographical story?) at the library. I picked it up because I recognized the drawing on the front as being by the same artist who often has cartoons/covers on The New Yorker. I spent so long reading the entire thing because, DAMN, Roz Chast knows how to tell a story in words and pictures.
Roz’s parents were, euphemistically, “older” parents. As in, they were older than dirt when they had her. And they were the kind of people who, due to family history, the Depression, WWII, and personality, never looked on the bright side of anything, if they could help it. When they were in their nineties, and both started having physical problems, Roz started cataloging her experiences as an only child trying her best (which admittedly, wasn’t always great) to help her parents, who most decidedly didn’t want anything she had to offer. After they died, she put together this amazing story, using text, drawings, and photos to chronicle the last few years of George and Elizabeth Chast.

There is a sequence about parental non-cleaning (grime): Roz comes to visit her parents at their apartment (the same place she grew up) and realizes that sometime in the past few years, her parents have stopped cleaning. "It's not ordinary dust, or dirt, or a greasy stovetop that hasn't been cleaned in a week or two. It's more of a coating that happens when people haven't cleaned in a really long time. Maybe because they're old, and they're tired, and they don't see what's going on." The "grime" page includes little drawings of household objects that have succumbed to neglect. And yet Elizabeth furiously will not allow Roz to clean anything or throw anything away. It is both hilarious and heartbreaking.
I am not an only child and my parents are nothing like the elder Chasts, but reading this, in the middle of the laughter, felt a cold sense of dread. I feel like the only one in my family that worries about these things. My sister has her own family and has distanced herself, both geographically and emotionally, from her “birth family”. My parents, despite (or maybe because of) grim experiences with their own parents in their final years, seem to have decided on a strategy of Let’s-Not-Talk-About-It-And-Maybe-It-Will-All-Work-Out-Okay. When I tried to open discussions with my mother what her preferred course of action would be if they ever needed to go into a home, the only answers I ever got were “Are you in a hurry to put me in a home?*” and finally “Just do whatever you think is best.”
Unless your parents are already dead or you have a grand plan for avoiding all end-of-life issues (and if you do, would you share it with me?) we will all be facing the sorts of things Roz Chast did between 2002 and 2007. Our stories won’t be the same, because all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, and we all deal with the hard stuff in ways that play out family history and personalities. We also don’t have Roz Chast’s gift for humor and her artistic talents… which are exactly what made this book about a difficult subject so enjoyable.
*Each time she said it I felt a little more in a hurry to do exactly that.

09 July, 2014

Apples, Peaches, Clementines

It’s summertime and the livin’ is hot and somewhat sweaty, but relatively easy. Last week we caught some kind of un-seasonal weather break and it was in the 70s and low 80s with no humidity. We turned off the a/c and opened the windows and slept so comfortably. The 4th of July was practically cool (and windy, very windy thanks to Tropical Storm Arthur) and we had rain in the morning but clear skies by early afternoon.

I have had a headache for the last four days. Not a crippling, head-hurts-so-bad-I-am-going-to-vomit kind of headache, which I do get, but just a lowgrade tension headache in the back of my head, neck, and shoulders.

Sunday after church I drove to Gettysburg and spent the day with my friend Katy. We ate at a small sandwich shop, walked around town a little, drove outside of town to the Hauser Estate Winery which also had local hard cider on draft. Delicious, cold, dry apple cider made with Pennsylvania apples. Did you know that Pennsylvania produces a lot of the apples that you eat – that it is fifth in apple production in the US? Also, Pennsylvania is a hub of mushroom production. Fun facts about local agriculture! Another factoid…Georgia may be called the Peach State, but South Carolina produces more peaches. Have you ever seen  this, in Gaffney, SC? The picture is good, but you really have to see it in person from I-85 to appreciate the “butt-like” glory of it.
We spent much of the later afternoon and evening sitting at Katy’s dining room table having a nice talk and catching up. It was such a good day and relaxing. I love the house, and the dogs, and Thomas, and living in Baltimore, but every once in a while I want to get away from it all and hang with a friend.
I am on Goodreads, and have been for several years. I’ve been on and off about adding books to it, but last year I got serious about tracking my reading. Except for romance novels, I don’t particularly care to share that! But I do put in anything else I finish. Last week I realized I had over 200 books on my Want-to-Read list, so I went on the library’s website and requested about 15 books. Then I realized that the majority of books I requested were YA and children’s fantasy. I don’t have a problem with that, because a good book is a good book, and this time of year all I want to do is read fun things that will entertain me. Once the weather gets cooler I will pick up more challenging things. 
I am reading other things besides books aimed at the 10-20 set; I’m in the middle of Losing Clementine, a novel about a woman with chronic, long-term depression who has decided to kill herself. She has fired her shrink, her assistant, and the gallery owner who has offered her a show (she’s an artist), tossed all her medicine, and is taking one month to do everything she needs to do before she dies. So far it is unexpectedly hilarious. She has slept with her ex-husband on a trip to Mexico to buy the drugs she’s going to overdose on, slept with her shrink when he stopped by to see her, broken into that art gallery to trash her artistic rival’s work, ordered everything on the menu at her favorite restaurant, and is trying to find the father than abandoned her when she was a small child. She cut up all her uncomfortable underwear into strips of fabric and made potholders out of them and decided to stop following rules like: hang up your clothes when you take them off and make your bed every day. Her delight in breaking these rules is very funny and the underwear-slicing scene made me laugh out loud. She mused about wearing uncomfortable undies (Thongs! She hates thongs!) to be sexy for men who she didn’t even care about all that much – and sent the potholders to her frenemy, the gallery owner.
I really didn’t think a book about planning your own suicide would be this funny, and am not sure where Clementine is going to end up, but I am going to enjoy the trip. The fact that she’s enjoying her life so much right as she’s decided to end it reminds me how I enjoy a job the most in the weeks after I have given my notice. Once you are mentally and emotionally separated from the job, all the little things that bugged you become temporary inconveniences, and you appreciate your co-workers and the more enjoyable aspects of the work.

21 June, 2014

I love the idea of permaculture but certain Permaculture Gurus make me nuts

“Hey. Hey! I’m Saul Wheeton. I would like some people to come work on my farm, my land. It’s MINE, so I get to make up all the rules and tell everyone what they can do and how they can live here, but I want some people to come work with for me. Some people might want to come and be my field hands. I will give you a place to pitch your tent or tipi, and sometimes I might even let you use some of my electricity, but only if I feel like it.
I won’t be paying your for your labor. Some people who have real actual skills that I need desperately will only have to pay me a little money to live in a tent on my (my!) property, but average wwoofer types, dirty hippies, and poor young farmer-wanna-bes will have to scrape up some money to pay me to work on my (mine!) farm. Because it’s mine and because I want to make some money to further my (!) plans for permaculture heaven on earth.
I like kids, but don’t like them enough for you to bring your little darlings onto the property that belongs to (!) me, so if you have children under the age of 18, you should stay off my property and on someone else’s. Because if you have to watch the fruit of your loins, you won’t be toiling away on my land with all your might. And you and your kids might eat so much food you wind up being a net cost to me and that would not be good, because my plans for world domination would be slowed down by your and your stupid kids. So…only childless people or people who are willing to leave their kids with someone else while they indenture themselves to me, Saul Wheeton.
Some people may want to not come live and slave for me, but those same someones might want to send me some money or some seeds or tools that they paid for. That way I wouldn’t have to deal with some people’s needs, just with their goods and cash. That is easier for me and more convenient. Cash only please, no checks.
I have been talking about my plans for the Wheeton Labor Camp for years and finally bought my land last year. Many people thought they would help me, but when I let them know all the rules about how they could not do anything without my say-so, some people decided not to come. Why is that? Don’t they understand that this land that is mine is MINE and I get to be the Decider and the Rule Maker? That will make sure that everything works smooth and we don’t have any disagreements. Because if you don’t agree with ME you can leave (and leave your money) and then Wheeton Labor Camp will be peaceful. Whee!
I talk a lot about naming things at the WLC, but I actually spend most of my time standing around in overalls and flip-flops, asking questions, making videos, and talking about how awesome permaculture is. Permaculture is awesome, especially as practiced by me because I have based everything I know on the work of my heroes Acht Holder and Jeff Aussie. They have actually been doing work in permaculture, but I have learned a lot from them so I too am an expert. I also know a lot about computers, so GO ME. If you disagree with me I know how to lock you out of the www, so consider that before you say anything less than complimentary about Saul Wheeton. I like people who like to agree with what I say.
So, if you know some child-free people with money who want to come live in a tent on my land and eat my food in return for hard labor, tell them all about how I would be happy to be their Permaculture Overlord. But only if they will work hard and give me their money. I don’t need freeloaders who want to be paid!"

17 June, 2014

nothing loved is ever lost and she was loved so much.

A picture of Toni sometime in the first couple of years I knew her. Small kids...long blonde hair.  Maybe right around the time her husband left. She was actually pregnant with Ned, the toddler in her arms, when I first met her.

Balance (or lack thereof) in about 2012-2013
With Oreo earlier this year (2014)

 There is so much to say, and none of it is enough. Toni Lin Rasmussen Killefer died on Monday, June 9, 2014 quietly, at home. Her sister Teri was with her.

I will miss my friend.

02 June, 2014

We partied like we were a bunch of middle aged people who can't really party anymore

So, we had our party last Saturday. By the time the party rolled around, we were both so tired that it felt like something of an anticlimax to me. We spent most of the last two weekends working on the yard. We planted perennials, weeded (and weeded and weeded), and transported 20 cubic
yards of mulch from driveway to various spots around the yard, one wheelbarrow at a time.

We had help with aspects of the party, I got the food from Tortilleria Sinaloa in Fells Point, and our helpful
cleaning ladies came over and did a deep clean of the house. But Thomas and I kicked our own butts getting
the yard and patio area clean and looking its best.

The whole evening I kept looking around at all our friends having fun (I hope) and feeling like I was behind a thick
sheet of glass. I could see the party, but I wasn't feeling it so much. Also, several people cancelled at the last minute
or just didn't show up, and I had so much food and so many bottles of beer and wine. We didn't even get around to
making any of the frozen margaritas we had planned; we were just so tired all we wanted to do was have something to eat
and drink and sit and talk to our guests. We had our church group over for lunch yesterday afternoon....
but we are still going to be eating tacos for lunch and dinner for about a week. I like tacos a lot...but that's a lot of tacos!

At least with us getting the yard planted and mulched, the rest of the summer can be spent back there sitting in the shade
and enjoying how pretty it looks, while possibly drinking a cold adult beverage. I cleaned out our bird feeders and installed
them around the yard. Yesterday morning the first thing I saw when I looked outside was two bright goldfinches at one of the feeders. They are one of my favorite birds, seeing that intense flash of color at the
window made me do the happy dance in the living room.

21 May, 2014

Mocha, Mocha, Mocha...everyone loves Mocha

This little beauty is Mocha. She's an 18 lb. female Cocker Spaniel. She's been fostering with us for the last three weeks.

When she came in, her hair was a fright! Apparently the people who had her before used to leave her outside all the time and her fur was sunbleached. She looked like she'd had a bad bleach job...so tacky.

Especially for a girl that is this pretty! But looks aren't everything. In fact they aren't all that important if you are a horrible dog...which this sweet thing isn't. She's so nice...very cuddly and sweet. I am sort of in love with her and will be bereft when she is adopted. But I keep reminding myself that when you foster, you save TWO dogs: the dog you foster, and the dog that gets the space you free up in the kennel!

Now that I have gotten my dear Thomas to agree to foster again, I can't really ruin it by asking to keep this little doll. It will mean we can't foster (three is our absolute limit) and that he will neverEVERever agree to foster again, knowing that I am likely to say, "I MUST keep this dog."

We have been doing a lot of yard work the past couple of weeks. Have planted a plethora of perennials, both sun lovers and shady garden additions. Our backyard is shaping up. Right now we have a large (!) pile of mulch on the driveway which must be moved one wheelbarrow at a time and deposited in all the beds. We have our work cut out for us these next couple of weeks, we have a deadline. Party at our house on the 31st, so the house and garden will be all purty by then. Having a party is one of the surefire ways I know to make sure we actually do the things we talk about doing without doing. If you know what I mean, and I think you do.

14 May, 2014

I don't want to let go or say goodbye

I have a friend who has lived with breast cancer for the last seven years. She got it, got treatment, and several years later it metastasized and has spread into lungs, brain, and other places.

She has been on hospice for a while now. The last two times I have seen her I've been so aware that the spring of life within her, the thing that keeps us ticking over, is slowing winding down.

I have no words. I am filled with anger, frustration, sadness, hatred of this stupid, shitty disease, outrage that this beautiful, funny, smart person will go so much too soon.

16 March, 2014

Four dogs

Thomas was out of town for a little while in January. Now, I don’t want you to think that the minute I dropped him off at the airport I ran and got a foster dog. BUT, and I like big buts, when I was doing a transport of a dirty, smelly, schlubby-tubby, black and tan Cocker Spaniel who just happened to have the same name as my brother-in-law, I accidentally-on-purpose brought him home with me.

Willie, as I called him, was fat. How fat, you ask. Verry fat indeed, for a dog. He weighed in at 42 pounds when his ideal weight is somewhere between 30 and 32. He was so fat he had a fat pad over his stubby little tail and was the same shape as a barrel. He also had icky, stinky ears that I was treating the entire time he was with me. Willie was the sweetest dog you could imagine. He just wanted everyone to be his friend and love on him. He also had a hilarious habit of howling, as if he was a coyote, nose up in the air, saying “aaaarrrrrrrrroooooo.” Willie did NOT look all wild and sleek like your average wolf or coyote.
 That is Willie, after a nice wash and clip.
As you can see, he is not a wolf. He's a cute and cuddly fat Cocker Spaniel.
By the time he was adopted, he was feeling much better. He had already lost 2.5 pounds, his ears were cleaner/less infected, and he had a cute haircut. His new family is perfect for him and he’s perfect for them. They are an older couple and the gentleman wanted a lowkey companion to hang out with him and his other spaniel. They sent me pictures and he has a new haircut and loves his new brother doggie.
Thomas liked Willie too, but we are at capacity for right now. But there was a dog that needed a place to stay for a week. His name was Nero, and he’d been at the kennel for too long, suffering from an infected tooth. He stayed for one week at Chez Nous. He’s a Little Old Man Dog ™. I think that all black Cocker Spaniels eventually turn into Little Old Man Dogs ™ if they live long enough. He was deaf, blind, and had a little dementia. He also looked so much like Marley and Jake, our late Little Old Man Dogs ™. Is there a factory somewhere turning out tiny, frail black dogs who are the canine equivalent of Mr. Jones in room 401, who can’t hear or see much, but totters around all the time on his walker, inching into rooms and forgetting what he came for, bumping into things, and loudly complaining if dinner isn’t served on time and if they run out of rice pudding before he gets his meal? That was all three of the Little Old Man Dogs ™ I have known.
Four days after I delivered Nero to his foster mom, he died peacefully in his sleep. My heart is broken a little more, but I thank all that is good and holy that he died in a home, having known some kindness and care, rather than in a lonely kennel.
We are now back down to our own two dogs, Punkin and Sparky. After our weeks of three dogs, having only two feels like a walk in the park. I am getting lots of reading done, and need to get back to quilting. My mother has been waiting for her bed quilt for a long time!

01 January, 2014

Right back around to the beginning

Today I woke up slightly hung over...but not critically so.

I have worked on a quilt (my January project is to finish a quilt for my parents). I've done a little housework. Not much, admittedly, but a bit. I am in the middle of listening to the BBC Radio play of Neverwhere. It's very good.

I made these from a recipe I found in the King Arthur Flour Company catalog

It was interesting, they start with a biga, a pre-ferment. You mix water, flour, and a bit of yeast and let it ferment overnight. Then you mix the biga with more flour, water, salt, and yeast and proceed as usual with mixing, rising, forming the rolls, rising again, and baking. They taste good.

 I finished the blocks for this quilt today. Now I have to sew them together. Yay...