30 November 2008

Sprint to the finish

Turns out that this whole post-a-day-for-30-days wasn't the agony I thought it would be.  I wasn't tortuously searching for material, desperately seeking subjects to ramble about.

Some pretty damn exciting things happened, though.  This year's historic presidential election.  A Supreme Court case or two that caught my attention.  The financial services meltdown.  (Have I mentioned how glad I am that I don't work for the bank anymore lately?)  Even a few news stories I wanted to comment upon, something I've been avoiding for a laundry list of reasons.

Did it get me back to writing fiction?  No.  Unfortunately.  But it did make me think more often about my little novel, and I'll take that as a positive result.

Will I do it again?  Yeah, I think so.  Not next month, that's fer sure.  Probably not in the fall again, too much conflict with some other obligations.

The best benefit is that I feel more confident identifying myself as a writer.  I am.  I do. I will.

29 November 2008

Are we there yet?

The end is in sight!  NaBloPoMo, almost there, almost there!

I'm going to Florida for Christmas with my family, and nearly each time I talk to my parents I remind them how many days left until I can get on an airplane and escape the cold.  Almost there, almost there.

I have a friend who is about to graduate from college.  She's got a bad case of senioritis.  I keep telling her, "Hang in there, sweetie.  You're almost there!"

When I was a kid, and my parents asked if my homework was done, my answer (and my sisters' answers, too) was always : "Almost."

It became a running family joke; the state of homework is always ALMOST done.

The laundry, too, always almost done; whatever you're wearing still needs to be washed, so it never ends.

Cleaning.  Never done either.

I don't feel that way about the 30 posts in 30 days, I am glad I decided to do it.  It has been fun. 

And I'm almost there.

28 November 2008

Avoidance factor

Today is "Black Friday".  So-called because retailers are 'in the black' rather than 'in the red' traditionally on this particular Friday.  The entire US economy is dependent on the Christmas shopping season, sadly.

I worked in retail for a long time in college.  

I hate Black Friday.

One place I worked opened at 5 AM, and stayed open until midnight on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  It wasn't really the norm then, but most of them open in the wee sma's now.  One outlet mall within driving distance from my home opens at midnight.  To quote the kids these days: SRSLY?  R U kidding?

Sadly, yes, seriously, and no, I'm not kidding.

My usual routine since I quit working for the retail establishments has been one of two things; at Ye Olde Evile Bank, we were open, and I was usually at work.  When I took the day off, though, I stayed home.  Put up the Christmas tree.  Addressed holiday cards.  Stayed the heck at home.

Not this year.

One, I'm not putting up either of my two trees, because DH and I and my sisters will be with the 'rents in Florida for Christmas, and I can't see a good reason to bother getting the decorations out.

Two, the chi-chi yarn store where I learned to knit is jumping on the Black Friday sale bandwagon.  They don't open at the crack of dawn, but they are offering large discounts on their usually expensive yarn.  This means that instead of being frightfully expensive, their wares will be just pricey.

But the straw that breaks the camel's back on this is that in addition to having a chance to fondle fibers, I get to eat Indian food!

Maybe I'll grow to love Black Friday.  Don't hold your breath, though.

27 November 2008

She's off the recipe kick, at least.

American blogs are going to be full of "I'm so thankful for this and that" today, because it is Thanksgiving.  I'm grousing.

Two weeks ago, I was on my way home after a long day, and my car started acting up.  I avoid our small town's main roads whenever I can, the stop-and-go traffic lights really annoy me.  I had turned on to a side street to miss a red light, and when I made a left hand turn to get back to the main road, the steering wheel was suddenly nearly impossible to turn.

My first car (a 1984 Pontiac Fiero, her name was Lola) didn't have power steering, so I know what it feels like when there isn't any.  This was harder to turn than Lola's steering wheel, so I knew that there was a problem.

Then warning lights started to flicker all over the dashboard.  The battery light.  The oil light.  The check engine light.  The car started to overheat.

This is bad, y'all.

I was less than a mile from my house, so instead of stopping the car, I drove it home.  If this ever happens to you, please be smarter than I am: STOP THE DAMN CAR, don't continue to drive.  I managed to not create further damage by driving while the car got hotter and hotter, but I could have scrapped the engine with this foolish decision.  Which would have been very costly.

When I pulled in to our garage, the car shut itself off.  This is really bad.

My father is a car guy, and I grew up surrounded by cars that were works-in-progress, so I do actually know my way around an engine.  Sort of.  I'm not an expert, but I'm not going to say something like, "The doohickey quit working the thingamabob." because I know the correct names for the doohickey and the thingamabob.  I'm reasonably good with tools, too.  

The power steering crapping out on me could have been the pump that pumps the power steering fluid in the engine, but with the rest of the symptoms, there was only really one thing that could have broken: the serpentine belt.  This small-ish rubber belt runs your alternator.  Your power steering.  Many of the electrical components of the car.  It costs about $15, but without it?  Your car's gonna be imitating a brick.

DH and I dug around in the engine, burning our fingers in the process because that car?  It was HOT.  (Remember the overheating bit?  The car shut itself off because it was too hot.) We discovered that the belt was in OK shape, but something that keeps the belt running around all of its little gears and pulleys, called the tensioner, had partially melted and partially fallen apart.  

This isn't a difficult fix; the tensioner practially came off in our hands, so putting a new one in was easy-peasy.  The hard part was getting the belt wrapped back around all of the proper components.

Great, car's fixed, we're back in business, everything's OK.


I took the car for an oil change after this fiasco, and the oil change guys informed me that my gas tank is leaking.

Bad?!?  We're past bad and on to dangerous.

Since they told me that the gas tank is leaking, all of a sudden, the car smells like gas, inside and out.  The gas gauge is slowly, but steadily, dropping.  That wasn't happening before.  Urgh.

I am thankful that I have a car.  That I have a job and can afford to get this fixed.  That DH and I can do this ourselves and not pay a mechanic $1000 to switch out the gas tank.  Not so much with the thankfulness for it being broken. 

26 November 2008

...and how did she forget the taters?

As MotherMe noted....the cranberry bread recipe is nice, but ya left out the potato casserole recipe.

Well, yes.

There was sort of a reason I did, though.

I am not a fan of pre-packaged anything.  Sure, I admit, I use cake mixes from time to time.  There's a coffee cake that I make which can be made from scratch or by using that stuff that rhymes with smishquick; guess which one gets made more often.  And I admit to the sin of using condensed soups from time to time while cooking.  

But mostly, I belong to both the Eat Local and Slow Foods schools of thought.  Buy fresh local ingredients whenever you can is the Eat Local bit.  Slow Food, as one might suspect, is the antithesis of fast food; i.e., something that you take time to make, and take time to enjoy.

So I cringe both to admit that I love, love, LOVE this potato casserole and that it includes several things that usually are not in my house, let alone in my lexicon.

And after all that moaning and wailing, when you actually see the recipe, you will probably be asking what I'm fussing over.

Auntie B's Cheesy Potatoes

Oven 350F (175C)

2 pound bag frozen hash brown potatoes (cubes, not shredded) 
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 c chopped onion
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup 
16 oz sour cream
8 oz package shredded cheese (no particular type...Auntie B probably uses cheddar.)

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, reserving a small amount of cheese to sprinkle over the top.  Pour into a casserole dish, sprinkle remaining cheese over the casserole, and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes.  

Auntie B used to put corn flakes on the top, too, which sounds bizarre until you taste it....I think she tossed the corn flakes with melted butter and then put them on top.  In the last few years, though, she's stopped doing that, and I can attest to the fact that it is good without them, too.  Don't try substituting croutons or bread crumbs for the cornflakes, it lacks the....flair? of the cornflakes.

What would I do differently?  The bagged frozen potatoes, outta there, just on principal.  Bagged frozen potatoes!  *scoffs* The very idea.  The cream of chicken condensed soup would be tossed for its mystery ingredients and high salt content.  The package of shredded cheese, also chucked out for its mystery ingredients...have you ever actually READ the labels on some of that stuff?  The corn flakes, for their corn syrup and associated yuckiness.

Which would leave us with the butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, and onions.  I've never tried to make this recipe using more, shall we say, natural ingredients, but I suspect that I would not like it nearly as well, because we're all so accustomed to the mystery ingredients that it seems to be missing something without them.

Maybe next year.

25 November 2008

Food Meme of Sorts

I wrote about searching for a cranberry quickbread recipe a few days ago, bemoaning the fact that my improvised recipe hadn't turned out quite the way I intended.  The recipe I was trying to re-create was something that I knew I had made in Girl Scouts many years ago as a Christmas project.  I don't really remember why we made cranberry bread; maybe to give to a nursing home?  Or to earn a kitchen safety badge?  Skit samma, as we say Svenska.  Doesn't really matter.

My mother reads my blog from time to time (hi Mom!) and she saw the post.  She has the recipe with her at their warm and sunny winter residence (as to that...we have snow on the ground and are forecast about 5 more inches of snow by tomorrow morning, so I say :ppppp) and she e-mailed the recipe to me.  I went wrong in not including butter, not using enough baking powder, and, of course, not using enough sugar.  I'm always trying to figure out ways to cut granulated white sugar out of things, and the resulting end product is usually a little....tart.  Duh.

As I recall, though, this cranberry bread wasn't tart, and was not usually what you'd expect from any recipe with fresh cranberries as an ingredient.

(Don't worry, I'll share the recipe at the end of the post.)

That's item #1 to make for the (count them) TWO Thanksgiving dinners I am going to.

Next I had to call my mother's sister, my Auntie B, to get her recipe for a potato casserole; when we were kids, we always called it "Cheesy Potatoes," and looked forward to it each holiday season.  I suspect that this is a recipe she got off of the back of a package of one of the ingredients, but I've never asked about the origins.  I've never made it myself, either, but it isn't hard.  That would be item #2 I'm making for Thanksgiving.

Finally, in a mostly vain attempt to banish that icky cranberry glop that comes out of a can from the Thanksgiving table, I'm going to make a cranberry relish.  I made that for the first Thanksgiving I shared with DH's family.  Unfortunately, I can't remember where I got the recipe, and I haven't had time to look for it yet.  That'd be item #3.

Thank the gentle goddess that *I'm* not making the entire dinner, because I'd really rather not.

So here's the meme part; what is an unexpected essential part of YOUR Thanksgiving dinner?  Not the traditional turkey, dressing, mashed 'taters, sweet potato, green bean casserole.  Post it & share the recipe.  

Grandma's Fancy Cranberry Bread

1 loaf 9X5  greased pan
Bake for 1 hour 10 min @ 350
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 t Baking pwd
1 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 cup of butter
1 egg beaten
1 t grated Orange peel
3/4 cup O juice
1 1/2 c yellow raisins
1 1/2 cup fresh cranberry chopped

Sift flour all dry ingredients cut butter into mix until crumbly; add egg, OJ, and orange peel.  Fold in raisins and cranberries.  DO NOT ADD NUTS (n.b., apparently, nut oils react badly chemically with one of the ingredients, and it ruins the bread.)

Pour into prepared loaf pan & bake.

24 November 2008

Movie Review

I went to see Twilight with my sister-in-law.  As I have said previously regarding the Twilight Saga, the story is captivating, the writing not spectacular.  I liked Twilight.  I did not like New Moon at all.  I was lukewarm on Eclipse.  Breaking Dawn gets a so-so from me.  I've read the portion of Midnight Sun that Stephanie Meyer posted on her website, and I do like that.  Too bad she's shelved the project for now.

Even though they aren't great literature, I've read each of the novels more than once, but I am not as rabid as the fanpiers (who would be called fangirls in any other fandom).  My expectations for the movie weren't particularly high, because the movie is never better than the book.  When Hollywood gets its hands on something, they inevitably screw it up.  That said, I thought that the actors selected to play Bella and Edward were pretty spot-on, when I saw that information in the gossip rags.  

The movie met my expectations.  So incredibly much was left out.  The storyline was altered.  I HATE it when they do that!!!  

The "bad" vampires, James, Victoria, and Laurent, played a much larger role in the movie than they do in the book.  That's crappy, because who the hell cares about them?  The price of admission was to see BELLA and EDWARD, ffs.  The guy who played Jasper always looked like he was in pain, although after reading Midnight Sun, that makes sense.  

Some of the choices for characters puzzled me, though.  Laurent is played by an African-American actor with long, black dreads.  He had the French accent down, but page after page after page in the book talks about how all vampires are pale, unnaturally so.  Pure white skin, like marble or granite.  While there is not a single mention of ethnicity or race anywhere in the books, that refrain of pale, pale, pale is constant for the vampires.  Forgive me for saying this so bluntly, but it is difficult to make someone with mocha-colored skin look pale.  They did get the eyes right, at least.

You're left to draw your own conclusions about what Bella's fellow high-school students Eric Yorkie, Angela Webber, Jessica Stanley, and Tyler Crowley look like, because other than describing Jessica as having dark, curly hair, there ain't much to go on for the humans in the books.  The novel specifically says that Mike Newton is a blonde, baby-faced guy, and he was in the movie.  He came off as fairly annoying, as he does in the books.  Well done, there.  

The school isn't a collection of buildings as the book describes, and Bella meets Mike and Jessica in gym rather than separately.

They leave out all of the information about Bella doing the cooking, they added a cafe/restaurant that doesn't exist, altered the girl's choice dance to prom, Tyler and Eric never ask her out (or if they did, I missed it), huge chunks of all kinds of things were missing.  

Dialog lifted straight from the book was altered, a word or two here or there, which is all right, but when there's so little of it, why not keep what was there to begin with?  Edward and Bella's first kiss is nothing at all like it is in the book, they never talk about her sleep-talking, and worst of all is the Cullen family house.

It is amazing, the house they used.  It looks NOTHING like the description in the books of a three-story WHITE wooden structure, with a back wall of glass.  The movie house was a cedar and glass confection, beautiful beyond imagining, but....not the same. 

The bit about the artwork, Carlise's story, the 300 year old wooden cross, Bella, Jasper & Alice spending three days in a Phoenix hotel, all left out.  

What was good?  The chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.  I liked the way Pattinson played Edward, brooding, intense, and lest we forget, oh-so-pretty.  Stewart showcases Bella's shy and awkward persona well.  Nikki Reed plays Rosalie's icy beauty flawlessly.  The location was great, Port Angeles and Forks displayed well.  Cinematography was excellent.

The scene in the dance studio was done well, although they left out the explanation of Alice's origins.  Wonder how they'll cover for that in the sequels.

Will I watch it again?  Yeah, probably.  If I were grading, though, I'd give it about a C.

23 November 2008


This is a storytelling post.

I was listening to a Celtic music program and was reminded of the first time I went to Stockholm for some reason.

Shortly after arriving in Sweden, I met a boy that I thought was the entire world.  Black hair, fair skin, dark blue eyes.  Mesmerizing.  He asked for my phone number, and I happily obliged.  He'd spent a year in northern Pennsylvania as an exchange student, so he understood well the disorientation and adjustment that takes place for all exchange students.  Besides his mesmerizing eyes, he had an amazing voice that I still remember.  A great voice for whispering sweet things in your ear.  

Our first date was at a restaurant on a lake, and after dinner, we went outside to look from the terrace at the moonlight on the lake.  He couldn't have planned a better place for our first kiss.  I was hooked.  Naturally.  Years later, I found out he was a player-with-a-capital P, but at 16, I was.....um.....kinda naive.  (Just a little.)  He probably did plan it that way.  The story of how I found out that he was a player...is for another day when I feel like playing 6 degrees of separation because I found out about his history when I was back home in the US.

He lived in another province, outside of a city called Västerås, about 45 minutes away from my little home town.  We talked on the phone frequently, and in November he offered to be the one to show me Stockholm.  Said he wanted to see my reaction to his favorite city.  I had been itching to get to the capital, mostly because I love cities, and this was a new one to explore.  But the important this was that he had a car, an unusual thing for a Swedish high school kid.

We parked outside of Gammla Stan (Old Town), and walked over a foot bridge that is probably 600 years old.  The moment I set foot on Gammla Stan's cobblestoned streets, I had this feeling that I'd come home.  Comfortable.  Like I belonged there.  This isn't a sensation that I can easily describe; there are a few places on this earth where I've felt like that; where we vacationed in Michigan when I was a kid; Lilydale; and Stockholm.  

I felt like I'd been there before.  This sensation of coming home was not a thing that raised the hair on the back of my neck, not a spooky or frightening feeling, not at all.  I wanted to stay forever.  I felt like shackles had been taken off of me, shackles that I hadn't even known were there, and suddenly I was free and 100 pounds lighter.  Nevermind that if I lost 100 lbs when I was 16, I'd have been dead, 'cause I would have weighed about 6 pounds.  And free from what, the gentle goddess only knows.  Not like I was escaping tyranny when I left the United States, nor was there any tyranny in my host family's home, either.

Maybe it was just wishful thinking, that I belonged there.  But I've felt that way each time I've returned, so either the delusion continues, or it is a genuine feeling of deja vu. I don't know.  I quit trying to figure it out years ago.

Is there anyplace that makes you feel that way?

22 November 2008

I'm outraged.

No, really!

People magazine's Sexiest Man issue is out and Jared, Jensen, and Jeffrey were all left out!  Not that they didn't pick a cutie, they did.  Hugh Jackman is very nice eye candy.  But not even a little mention of the Brothers Winchester.  How on EARTH could they leave out these two?

(Just in case you've never been exposed to my Supernatural fascination....Jensen Ackles is in the foreground, and Jared Padalecki is in the background.  Take a moment, it is OK.  Admire the pretty.  Then there's the car, too....1967 black Chevy Impala w/a 454 cubic inch engine.....breathe, breathe.)

Not a mention of Big Daddy Winchester, either.  Jeffrey Dean Morgan isn't really my style, but still, he's easy on the eyes.

It entertains me to no end that for all that women are objectified in this world, one of the largest gossip rags in the country puts out a "Sexiest Man" issue, rather than a "Sexiest Woman".  And then they proceed to drool all over male celebs, objectifying them within an inch of their lives. The accompanying articles always revolve around one central theme: Is he single, and who is his 'ideal' mate?  If that's not objectification, lordee, I don't know what is.

21 November 2008

Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer

I mentioned wanting to read Mike Huckabee's new book to someone the other day, after hearing an interview with the former Arkansas governor.  

No one who has met me in person has any doubts a'tall about my political leanings.  So this person did a double take, and immediately asked "Why would you want to do that?"

Simple, really.

Disagreeing with a political movement or a particular point of view does not mean that the other side is dumb.  What is stupid is shouting at one another, not having a rational dialog.  How can you defend your point of view when you don't know why your opposition feels the way that they do?

Over the summer, I had a plethora of books checked out from the library, a lot of non-fiction from biographies to political dissertations and everything in between.  I never finished any of them, *AND* I incurred massive library fines from having the books in the back seat of the car for a few months.

Two of the biographies got raised eyebrows at the pool; one by Benazir Bhutto, and another by Vicente Fox.   Bhutto's, obviously, got raised eyebrows because the cover had her pictured wearing a veil.  Not a full hijab, but a scarf covering her hair.  I get very offended when people make remarks about all muslims being terrorists.  Islam is a profoundly peaceful religion, and if we don't try to understand why an extremist faction is intent on raining destruction down on the western world, we're never going to get anywhere.  As I said, I didn't finish the book, but it was a fascinating read.

Fox was more conservative than I had previously realized, and someone did stop by my poolside chair and ask why I had chosen to check that book out of the library.

For the same reason that I want to read Huckabee's book: to understand.

20 November 2008

Where the bloody hell is MY bailout??

I have refrained from commenting on the economic mess thus far because the election was far too engrossing.  Now that I don't have to have hysterics over the McFailin/Same ticket, I intend to make up for lost time.

I worked in the financial services industry for seven very long years.  I wasn't a loan officer (thank the gentle goddess) but I worked with many of them, and understand the process well.  I don't have much sympathy for the lenders who ended up with a bunch of bad debt.  At Ye Olde Evile Bank, they had a simple calculation that they did to figure out how much they could lend to a particular person.  If you didn't, oh, HAVE A JOB, then you weren't getting a loan.  If you couldn't afford a bazillion dollar a month mortgage, you weren't going to get one.  If you didn't have serious cash for a down payment on a house, your interest rate was going to be high.  All of this is pretty common-sense.  So allowing people to get into mortgages where they end up upside-down (where they owe more than the house is worth) was not the smartest move the lenders could make.

I have a very difficult time stomaching the 700 BILLION with-a-B bailout package.  Big problems with that.  I'm astonished (and disgusted) that it passed Congress.  Keeping fat-cat executives swimming in golden parachutes does not sit well with me.  I'm also disgusted to note that Bloomberg News has had to take the ridiculous step of suing the federal government to get information about which banks are taking advantage of the bailout.  Transparency, anyone?  Ugh.

Now the US auto manufacturers are requesting an additional 25 billion dollars.  If you've never seen the number shown in a numerical format, here it is: 25,000,000,000,000

That, my friends, is a large number.

I have little sympathy for the automakers, in the same way that I don't feel sorry for the lenders.  American car manufacturers have spent the last 10+ years focusing on SUVs, ginormous gas-guzzlers that the average person has no need for.  If you're not hauling big stuff around in a trailer, or living in super-rugged territory, YOU DO NOT NEED A 4-WHEEL DRIVE BEHEMOTH.  *ahem*  Sorry.  I'll step down off the soapbox.

But US car manufacturers haven't spent the time or the money working on alternative fuels, and have lobbied against more stringent CAFE standards, the government acronym for legislation that involves vehicle emissions.  Of course, I also place some blame for this squarely at the feet of the Idiot Administration, which funneled money for research into alternative energy to other sources, and spent a bunch of time trying to convince Congress to allow drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and in Anwar.  But that IS what ya get when you have an oil executive and his cronies running the country.

The thing is that when I was unemployed in the summer of 2007, there wasn't anyone handing ME a financial bailout package.  There were no lines of taxpayers willing to pony-up for me to fix all of my economic woes.  So how about it, Uncle Sam?  Where's MY cash?

19 November 2008

Crazy 8s

A meme of sorts.

Eight things I like about the winter:
1. With a blanket of new snow, the whole world looks a little cleaner.
2. I am more grateful in the winter that I have a roof over my head and a functioning furnace.
3. I get to wear the pretty scarves I've knitted.
4. Skiing!
5. Dressing in layers.
6. I get the urge to bake gingerbread as soon as the temperature drops.
7. Things outside tend to be quieter; no birds waking me up hours before sunrise, no crickets chirping long into the night.
8. Boots!  I love my high-heeled boots!

Eight things I despise about the winter:
1.  It is frigging bloody freezing.
2. Snowplows piling up mountains of snow along sidewalks.
3. The people who clear snow from my development do a crappy job, and every year I am afraid they are going to kill plants that they pile tons of snow on top of.
4. My skin gets so incredibly dry.
5. Chapped lips.
6. Cold toes.
7. Hazardous roads.  Not because they're snow-covered and slippery (although they are) but because people manage to forget how to drive in the snow in the time period between April and November.
8. Limited daylight/grey skies.

Since tagging people with memes is obnoxious, I'm not insisting that specific people do the crazy 8s.  But should you be inclined, knock yourself out!

18 November 2008

It is NOT winter.

Not yet.  December 21, more than a month away, is the official start of winter.  But you wouldn't know that from the weather today.  

Why yes, that is what it looks like outside.  The picture is fuzzy because it is snowing so hard that it made the scene blurry.

I like snow.  I don't like the heat, when it is 90 degrees and 100% humidity.  But I do not like snow in November, especially 6+ inches of snow in November.  We're forecast a grand total of about 7 inches, if (and that's a big if) we get everything the weatherman says we will.

November.  Not even the start of winter.  We've got a long way to go until spring, usually late March in this part of the country.  Winter.  I'm already over it.

17 November 2008


Even though my family has declared a moratorium on gifts for the holidays this year, and DH and I managed to convince his family that we should all just buy for the kiddos, that does not mean I'm exempt from the gift-giving madness.  Which is OK, mostly, because I like doing nice things for people during the month of December.

But I decided earlier this year (maybe....August?) that I could manage to make something for everyone that I work with AND my friends, knitted somethings.  As soon as I made the decision, I started knitting.  Part of the method of my madness, too, is that I'd like to use up some of my stashed yarn.  (stash yarn = Ravelry-speak for yarn that you already own, most likely stashed in boxes or plastic bins about your house.)  I'm making good progress and using up yarn I've had for years and years.  I've made several scarves, a handful of dishcloths and face-scrubbie wash cloths.  The wash cloths are small, and I put a little bar of handmade soap (not soap *I* make, c'mon, I'm not that nuts) in the middle of the washcloth, take a complimentary yarn and run it through the 4 corners, tie it up, and it makes a cute little packet.  Easy, easy, easy present, takes no more than an hour to knit one.

So why am I stressing over it?  

The main reason is that like almost everything in my life, I have defined parameters, rules about the knitting.  I don't allow myself to have more than about 3 projects on needles, because it makes me f-ing batty if I've got too many projects going.  It stresses me more than I need to be stressed.  

How many projects are on needles right now?  
1. a scarf 
2. a hat 
3. a washcloth 
4. and 5. baby blankets (although those shouldn't count because I'm not actively working on them)  
6. another hat, 
7. a shrug that is 99% done, and 
8. a shawl I started last night and then ripped apart because I can't figure out the pattern.  

There's another scarf that I don't have on needles yet, but it is my next project, swirling around in the back of my heard.  Urgh.  That'd be 9.  Then I have two skeins of a soft yet sparkly yarn that I plan to make hats with, one red and one black.  I can't wait to get started on them.  Which, for those keeping track, would be 11 projects.  It is with the crazy-making.

There are not enough hours in the day to get them all done.  

And then I have to figure out when (and what) I'm going to bake for the people I give cookies to every year.....

16 November 2008


I went to Church earlier this year. Now before you go gettin' all excited about my return to Christianity, this was a familial obligation. My niece had her First Communion, which the Catholic Church is starting to call First Eucharist. The title change annoys me, but then, there isn't much about the Church that DOESN'T bug me.

I won't go into the details of the family dynamics of the event, except to say that some of that side of the fam is Catholic and some isn't, so there's the usual back-and-forth Catholic vs. Protestant bullshit. Tangentially, I always wonder about the crappola that goes on between the different sects of Christianity. If they're all following the path of righteousness, where do they get off bashing one another's forms of Christianity? But I digress.

My niece is 7. First Communion (I flat out refuse to call it First Eucharist, its too cumbersome and strange-sounding to my ears.) at that age is about the pretty dress, the presents, and the little veil that you get to wear. The significance of accepting the body and blood of Christ, as Catholics believe the communion bread and wine are transformed during the blessing from bread and wine to body and blood, is largely lost on your average 7 year-old. Trust me. Been there, done that, have the pictures to prove it.

I haven't been to Church since my nephew's first communion, two years ago. At that Mass, I enjoyed myself hugely, but not for reasons of faith. Firstly, because DH was not raised Catholic as I was, and the subtle cues that indicate to the congregation when to stand, when to kneel, and when to sit are lost on anyone who doesn't have that doggerel pounded into their heads from birth. So he's half a beat behind, and each time the congregation moves, he rolls his eyes at me, as if to say, "What? Again? Why can't you people just SIT STILL?" So that makes it hard not to giggle through the Mass. A benefit of being with someone for nearly half of your life is the ability to telepathically communicate with them. 

Secondly, at my nephew's first communion, the priest had all of the children come up to the altar and sit down on the dais. He joined them, in his vestments, sitting down on the floor with them, and giving the homily to them. He ignored the rest of us, just having a conversation with the kids. I know it made them feel special and involved in the Mass, unlike every other Mass they'd ever been to in their lives.

The priest made an effort at this Mass as well to bring it to the kid's level. Might have even been the same priest, I'm not sure.

The communion song was about growing; a part of the refrain was

Seed scattered and sown
Wheat gathered and grown

I was thinking about English, and a few of the other words in English that sound like seeded; seated, ceded. As these words swirled around in my head, I was remembering so much of the dogma of my childhood. The Nicene Creed, a recitation of Catholic beliefs. At the end, it talks about Jesus seated at the right hand of of the Father. I can't tell you how many homilies I heard over the years about growing and gardening, seeds, seated....and how I've refused to cede my viewpoint that the Catholic Church wants women to be barefoot and pregnant, or nuns.  According to Pope John Paul II, the only two acceptable vocations for women:  wife AND mother (The two are NOT mutually exclusive; to be one is to be the other.) OR a nun.

Ladies, isn't that wonderful?  You can choose to become a member of a religious order, or you can get married and start popping out kids.  Y'all have fun with that....I'm not allowing them to plant those "seeds" in my head.

15 November 2008


I heard a news report about the religious right being "energized" after their candidate was defeated in the US presidential election.  Organizing, planning, getting ready to make sure their point of view doesn't get bounced off the country's agenda.

Here's something I've never understood.  (OK, yes, there's a long list of things I don't get, but I'll stick with one today.)  I actually heard one of the interviewees talking about "protecting the sanctity of marriage".  I do not, and probably will not ever, understand why these people get so cranked about the fundamental right of anyone on this earth to love whomever they please.  And don't quote the biblical verse to me about marriage being between a man and a woman, because it holds very little water with me.

How would the hetro community feel if suddenly there were referendums on who they could marry?  Tall people, no, no, you can't marry short people.  Fat people, you can't be in a relationship with skinny people.  If you were to substitute any other minority for the word 'gay' in the language of these "sanctity of marriage" laws, such as Hispanic, Bi-Racial, Oriental....you'd have people all over the country (and probably some of those same fundamentalists) screaming about racism.

The root of what I don't understand is this: how does homosexual marriage "destroy" the "sanctity of marriage"?  Why does it matter to you if there are or are not gay couples?  It'll cause the breakdown of society?  What. Ev. Er.  That same argument was used when laws were still on the books about blacks and whites marrying.  It was as wrong then as it is now.

I'm very disappointed in Prop 8 passing in California.  Ever Governer Ah-nold called the passage of the act "unfortunate".  It'll be dragged through the courts again, and in the meantime, same-sex partners are denied the right to be married.

Homosexuality is not "wrong".  It is not an "abomination".  And it certainly isn't a lifestyle "choice".  And why do you care, anyway?  What goes on in my neighbor's bedroom is none of my business....how is it any of your business?

14 November 2008

Thanks. I love being frightened half to death. Good Times.

No, this is not a book report about Duma Key.  It could be, I suppose, as I've finished the book, but after reading the book to the end, I think it is more sad than scary.  The beginning was far more frightening than the end, and I was disappointed with a bit of foreshadowing he did....but yet again, I digress.

I had about the most terrifying asthma attack of my life recently.  Normally, environmental factors like cigarette smoke and strong perfume set it off, and I'll hack-hack-hack like a three pack-a-day smoker, wheeze for a sec, and move on with my life.  No, I don't use the rescue inhaler that my family doctor prescribed for me.  Hate.  Hate.  HATE. The inhaler.  Plus any that are lying about in my house are very likely to be far past their expiration dates.

This started during a yoga class, and I thought it was due to over-exertion during the class.  It is a power yoga class, after all, and I sweat profusely.  I often have to work hard to keep with the proper breathing pace.  But when it didn't calm down during Savassana, well...I thought there might be something wrong.

I trundled down to the locker room, stripped off my sweat-soaked clothes, and got in to the shower.  (No, this is NOT going to turn in to one of those kind of blog entries, please see MonMouth for that, he provides a delightful bit of smut every time he updates.  Anyway.)  I stood under the spray, and just tried to catch my breath.  Imagine having  run straight up 8 flights of stairs, and standing at the top, panting for breath.  Yeah.  That's what it felt like.  I usually try to explain asthma attacks this way: imagine trying to breathe through a straw, after running a marathon.  Sound like something you'd enjoy?

Now that I think about it, it probably sounded like I was up to some....adult activities....in the shower, breathing heavily as I was.  Heh-heh-heh.  That is the ONLY funny thing about this whole episode.

I made it back to my office, still panting, intending to just sit at my desk and catch my breath.  Yes, I'm an attention whore, and I can be a drama queen (Hey!! Quit laughing over there!) but I don't like it when a fuss is made over my asthma.  It is embarrassing.  I don't want people to pay attention to it.  I ain't gonna die, trust me.  If I actually pass out (not bloody likely) please call DH, and only then try to get me medical attention.  Because it is not life threatening for me.  

So I resolved to just quietly wait it out, keep my mouth shut, everybody just ignore Lucy for about 10 minutes.  But nooooooo.  Course not.  Someone asked me a question, and I had to wheeze my way through an answer.  "That's" GASP "in" GASP "the" GASP "file." WHEEZE WHEEZE WHEEZE. It is a small office, and everyone hears everything, so immediately, everyone can hear that I'm having trouble.  "What is wrong?" "You OK?" and an "Is she crying?" all ring out from corners of the office.  They want to call 911.  They want to dig through my purse for "your inhaler" (don't have one!).  They want to know what to do.  

Nothing.  Just chill.  It'll go away.  Really.  (WHEEZE WHEEZE WHEEZE)  It sounds far worse than it is.  (WHEEZE GASP WHEEZE)  I promise.

Sure enough, about an hour later, everything was back to normal.  But this one really frightened me for a couple of reasons.  

One, I just couldn't get my breathing under control.  That is scary, when you're making a concerted effort to innnnnnnhaaaaaale and exxxxhaaaaaallee, and nothing is happening, you're still struggling to get enough air.  It isn't that I can't breathe; I can't get enough air, I feel like someone is squeezing my lungs with an iron hand. 

Two, I have not had an attack like that since I was 20 or 21.  I'm 33 now.

Three, since being diagnosed with asthma at 19, I've had exactly two asthma attacks this bad.  In 14 years, two attacks that were....serious.  See why I don't take it so seriously most of the time?  

I don't know what set it off last time, I just remember lying on the bed in my parent's room in their old house and trying to get enough air.  My mother had been dealing with asthma herself for a few years, and her advice to just be calm and breathe worked it out eventually.  I don't think that it lasted for more than 10 minutes.  I remember being freaked, but not ever in major distress.  

I don't have even the slightest clue as to what got it started this time.  Yes, my yoga instructor is tough, and she knows both that I'm asthmatic and that I sweat like nobody's business.  She also knows that if she's doing something beyond my limits I will stop and catch up to her when I can.  I stopped holding a difficult pose when the attack originally started, but at that moment, I didn't know that it was asthma rearing its obnoxious head.  I just thought I was workin' hard.

13 November 2008

'Cause they were, like, totally awesome and stuff.

Facebook, again.

I went to a very small school system, K-12, except for the school year I spent in Sweden.  I graduated with 135 people.  I knew their names, I knew their siblings, I knew where they lived, I knew what their parents did for a living.  Small, small place.  I don't think that there were more than 400 kids in the entire high school, so of course I knew a lot of people in the class ahead of me and the class behind me, too.  My sisters often had the younger siblings of my classmates in their classes, so I knew a lot of them, too.  

When I take a peek at the other people who note that they graduated from my alma mater and the same year I did on Facebook, I don't recognize many of them.  There are only roughly 30 of my classmates out there, and I don't know who about half of them are.  There was someone named Tito in my class?  Really?  Um, OK.  Suuuuuuure there was.

Hilariously, of the half that I *do* recognize, I didn't like about half of them back then.  I lived in a pretty upscale little place, and if you weren't rich (and we weren't) and you weren't a cheerleader (and I wasn't) and you weren't considered "pretty" (and I never thought I was)....well, to put it mildly, there were a lot of cliques, and like not mixing grains when you're drinking, or oil and water when you're cooking, there was very little crossing of the clique lines.  I had a great group of friends, many of whom I still see/talk to/e-mail on a regular basis, please don't misunderstand that.  

But there are a bunch of those people that a) I don't really care about, b) weren't nice to me then and I don't see why I should be nice to them now, and c) apparently, I don't remember them at all.  

Mean-spirited evil little bastards they were.  Cruel, nasty, elitist snots.

Saying I don't care about them is harsh, truly, and not exactly what I mean.  I hope they're happy, I hope they have nice little lives for themselves, I am glad they're still alive, but that's about the extent of it.  

When I was in high school and people would tell me that my high school years were "the best time of your life" I either wanted to stab them, repeatedly, or myself, fatally.  I used to ask adults, "You DO remember being in high school, right?  Best time of your life?  It doesn't get better than THIS?  Eurgh." {eyeroll, eyeroll, eyeroll}  And I'd be thinking, "Dude, seriously?  I think you're, like, young for Alzheimer's and stuff, but you obviously don't, like, remember, like, what fucking hell on earth high school really is."  Yep, had a potty mouth back then too, and was horribly guilty of the over-use of the word "like".  Obviously.

It does get better, by leaps and bounds.  Thank the gentle goddess.  I look back on the time I was in college with lots more fondness than high school will ever be recalled.

Searching through lists of classmates and checking out these people's friend lists has turned up a few folks that I really did like and have lost touch with.  I'd like to send them friend requests, but there's a little demon in my ear that whispers..."What if they remember YOU with vitriol like you remember the popular kids?  Do you want to know that?  Worse, what if they don't remember you AT ALL?  You were such a wallflower.  I doubt they'd even recognize your name, and you KNOW sure as 'ell that they're not going to recognize you with your short-short hair, and hello?  Did you forget that you've gained a treeeeemendous amount of weight since those days?  Oh, and sweetie?  You were no angel yourself at 15."

I say to the demon, "So what?"  and "I looked anorexic back then, I look normal now, bite me, 'you've gained a lot of weight' jackass."  When I'm filled with bravado, that is.  The rest of the time, I just look at the pictures and wonder.

12 November 2008

Can We Fix It?

I don't have children, so don't ask me why or how I know the theme song from the children's show Bob The Builder, but the song asks, "can we fix it?"  and then answers itself at top volume with a "YES WE CAN!" and is very cute in the way that annoying children's shows can be.

I made some muffins from scratch, and they didn't turn out quite the way I would have liked.  Not quite sweet enough; didn't rise as high as I wanted them to; stuck to the muffin tins because I was out of paper liners (horrors!!); and perhaps in general too....busy, I guess...flavor-wise.  But not un-fixable, not at all.

When I was in Girl Scouts, many years ago, we made a cranberry-orange quick-bread that everyone who tasted, loved.  I have no idea where the recipe is, but were I to guess, I would guess that it is with my mother's stack of hand-written recipes, in her closed-up-for-the-winter Ohio house.  Not impossible to lay my hands on, but we all know how much I like to bake and play in the kitchen, so of course I decided I don't need a recipe.  Recipe-schmecipe.  The half-hour drive to the parent's Ohio house is a deterrent, too, with gas at the current price.  If I'm not out that way to begin with....well, I'm not running out there just to fetch a recipe.

Fresh cranberries are here, and while I hate, despise, and detest that icky cranberry glop that comes out of cans and shows up on many American Thanksgiving tables, I like fresh cranberries and enjoy making things with them.  So I gave in to temptation at a farmer's market yesterday and bought some.

I used lemon zest and golden raisins too, and when I get that recipe to where it ought to be, I'll share.  In the meantime, I've got to make another batch.  Darn.

11 November 2008

She scribbles.

Writing about writing is a little like listening to someone describe their every dream from last night.  It can be interesting, deadly dull, or horrific, by turns.  Yet I do both, from time to time, and today I plan to write about my writing.

I'm glad that I clicked the link from Mrs. G's blog to NaBloPoMo, because it has forced me to move my writing higher on my priority list.  This is good.  It hasn't helped me to begin fiction writing again, but I'm hoping in time that it will.

I have an addiction to an application on Facebook, called Pieces Of Flair.  Flair looks just like the buttons that we used to pin on our jean jackets in the 80s.  There is flair for everything imaginable, from your pet political causes to your pets, period.  There is a finite limit to the amount of flair that you are allowed to display, which is too bad, because as a result of being addicted to the application I have somewhere around 300 pieces of flair.  A friend sent me one about writing, which sent me on a hunt for more flair about writing.  My favorite one says, "We do not write because we want to; we write because we HAVE to."  That sums up, in one sentence, how I feel about writing.  I was driven to write when I started working on my book, like there was a tow line attached to my keyboard, pulling me back to it constantly.  I'd get lost in my writing for hours at a time.

When I talk about writing, I identify myself as a writer, but I'm not eager to point people in the direction of this blog, because I like the fact that I'm mostly anonymous.  Sure, there are a handful of people that I know in real life who are aware that I blog, and there is a small subset of that group that reads my blog.  Most of them are people that I'd feel free to say out loud anything that I've written about here.  But were my anonymity removed, I doubt that I'd feel as comfortable writing extensively about my mental illness, or some of the more gory details of that disease.  I'm "out" when it comes to my depression, comfortable with looking someone in the eye and telling them that I have a mental illness, but I don't go about proclaiming it from the rooftops.

Part of the appeal of blogging is its therapeutic benefits, allowing me to work out issues by writing about them.  Admittedly, though, a larger part of it is simple vanity; I'm tickled to death that there are people I will never meet who read what I write.

We are all writers; we all write grocery lists, notes to ourselves as reminders, memos, letters.  What then, pushes someone beyond that to writing paragraph after paragraph about imaginary people, or non-fiction?  (Vad skiljer då den tokige frän den vi kallar klok? ~ song lyrics, Mauro Socco, "Det Finns"...translation:  What separates the lunatic from those we call sane?

Where was I going with this?  Mostly that I'm just glad that I'm writing more, writing again.  Not exactly the writing that I wish I was doing, but getting closer.

10 November 2008


Losing my wallet has had an unintended consequence; I'm thinking more about nearly every penny I spend, because my supply of cash is limited to what is in the new wallet.  I can't just bop over to an ATM and take out $40; because I still don't have my replacement debit card.  I have access to money, I'm still gainfully employed, so I'm not broke, but it is far too easy to whip out that piece of plastic and not even think about any given purchase.  Writing a check takes a minute, and is far more tangible, to my mind, than handing over the card.

In order to get my hands on some green, I have to go to the bank, wait in line either at the drive-up or inside, flash my horrible new driver's license....what a pain in the buttinsky!  And then cash disappears at a frightening rate, too.  One day last week, I pulled out my wallet and counted the cash.  I started adding up what I *knew* I'd spent, and yet there was a discrepancy between what I had spent and what was left in the wallet.  It was only $3, but I still don't know what I spent it on.

I'm muy irritated at the bank where DH and I have a joint account, too.  They got my name wrong when we opened the account, spelling it incorrectly.  I pitched a fit; they refused to fix it just on my say-so.  I had to go into the bank, show ID and sign something, even though the branch manager knows DH...her husband works at the same place DH does.  (Two degrees of separation, again.)  That was obnoxious, and then I waited for them to issue a new ATM card with my name spelled correctly.  I refused to use the one with my name spelled wrong.  I'm still waiting for them to issue a new PIN, almost a month later.  The card is worthless without the PIN.

My one and only one credit card?  I had a new one IN MY HANDS three days, three days after I reported the old one lost.  So this level of effiency is possible, just not from the local banks?  WTF?

09 November 2008


Two bloggers on opposite sides of the globe had posts about the election night here in the good ole U S of A that made me stop and reflect for a moment.  

A Kiwi blogger whom I adore asked her readers...where were you when you heard?  Much like the cultural milestones of where you were when you heard of the assassination of JFK (not born yet), when you heard that Princess Di had passed away (in front of my TV at home, I woke to it on a crawl across the bottom of the screen) when you found out about 9/11 (working for ye olde evile bank, and worried to death for a friend who is a flight attendant) she thinks that Obama's election might, in time, come to garner the same question.

It was another Yankee blogger who had a map from the New York Times that showed an amazing shift from red to blue.  Much more than red states vs blue states, this breaks it down by county, and shows a nearly completely blue map.  I'm astonished at the shift in the republican vs democrat numbers, look at those percentage differences!

I was at home on election night, reading more of Duma Key by Stephen King, DH sound asleep beside me.  (That book is still scaring the crap out of me.)  I turned the television on around 9 PM, with the sound off so as not to wake him, and surfed between CNN, NBC, ABC and Headline News.  I can't watch Fox News even without sound.  When I turned it off to try to get some sleep, the count was 199 to 69 on CNN, and 124 to 90-something everywhere else.  

About two hours later, I woke up thirsty and starving, and went to find some small thing to eat. On my way back to bed, I stopped and turned the TV on in our loft, closing the door so I could watch for a minute with some sound.  When the channel tuned in (it takes a sec on the TV in the loft) my stomach flopped when I saw the electoral college numbers had shot to over 300 for Obama and weren't that much higher than they had been two hours earlier for McCain.  

I felt like maybe I'd had the wind knocked out of me.  I had very high hopes leading in to the election for just exactly that result, but I wasn't sure it would turn out this way.  Just because I hoped hard, that didn't mean much.

I left it on and continued to watch until President-Elect Obama took the stage at Grant Park in Chicago with his wife and daughters and made his speech.  Call me an old cornball, but when they came out together, holding hands and their little girls skipping, I burst into tears.  I continued to sob my way through the rest of his speech.  I've watched it a few more times on YouTube, hell, I posted it here, too, and I'm still getting chills every time I watch it.

My favorite line might be the bit about how the victory belongs to the people.  Or maybe the the line about how 2 centuries later, this remains a government of, for, and by the people.  Or the line about the enduring power of our ideals.  I haven't felt that way for eight long years; I've felt like my voice has been ignored.  

I've told people (regarding W) "He isn't MY president."  That's grossly unfair, I know.  The president is the president, is the president, whether or not you voted for him or agree with him.  I know.  The thing about W, though, besides the fact that I think he's not the brightest bulb in the box, or besides the fact that he didn't win the 2000 presidential election, he had the presidency handed to him by judges beholden to his dad, and besides the fact that he's led in the wrong direction for so long is that I disagreed with almost everything he's done as president.  (No, I'm not bitter, why do you ask?)

I'm sure that I won't agree with everything that President Obama does; I certainly didn't agree with everything Bill Clinton did.  There are some very un-reasonable expectations for his presidency.  We aren't known for being the most...um...patient of people.  I'm sure that if the economic situation doesn't improve soon, he'll be in for a terrible few months.  But I am so full of hope.  So sure that things will get better.  I hope I'm right.

08 November 2008

Perfect Twin

There's a colloquialism that says, "Everyone has a twin," meaning that somewhere on this planet, you apparently have a doppelganger wandering around.  Perhaps not the evil twin of every soap opera ever produced, but still, someone, somewhere, who looks like you.

When my hair was longer, I often got told that I looked like Susan Day, of The Partridge Family, or later, of LA Law.  I don't see it, myself, and since I cut all of my hair off, I don't get that anymore.  She's much more....polished?...than I am.

Walking to work from the hinterlands where I park the other day, I saw someone who looked familiar.  As I got closer, I ran through the possibilities in my head; don't you hate it when you run in to someone that you know you know from somewhere, but can't for the life of you remember their name?  So as he approaches, I'm frantically trying to remember....was he the loan guy from the corner office at Ye Olde Evile Bank?  Was he on the fire department with DH?  Was he the parent of one of my school-mates?  

Two seconds before I opened my mouth and made an ass of myself, I realized: he looked like George Lucas.

07 November 2008

Stealing Borrowing Posting Ideas

Mrs. G on Derfwad Manor posts a recipe from a guest blogger on Thursdays.  She asks a few questions of the guest blogger, one of which always is, "Who is your secret boyfriend?"  The answers are always entertaining.  Y'all know about secret boyfriends, yes?  Also known as TV boyfriends.  So I suppose that if I'm going to be more honest, this is actually just an excuse to write about fandom, Supernatural, and Jensen Ackles.  Again.  You have been warned, and you may stop reading now if you had enough of this from me last year.

Once upon a time.......

On a struggling TV network mostly dedicated to teen soap operas, there is a little television show called Supernatural.  The network, as Rodney Dangerfield used to say, "don't give no respect" to the show, sticking it in a terrible time slot, on Thursdays at 9 PM, where it is up against Grey's Anatomy (bleh) and the original CSI (I'll give that one a meh).  The cast and crew do far more to support the show than the network does; I see commercials for the appalling One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, and the new 90210 at the rate of about 4 to one with Supernatural commercials.  Don't get me started on CEO Dawn Ostroff.  Creator Eric Kripke at the two leads, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, along with writers, producers, and directors, attend fan conventions at what must be an exhausting rate, pushing the show every chance they get.

So for four seasons, the show has chugged along, pulling an average of 4 million viewers each week.  The writer's strike last year nearly killed the show.  Four million, in TV numbers, in case you're unaware of these things as I was in the days before SN, is paltry at best, and cancellation-worthy at worst.  The fan base, those 4 million (mostly women) people, have a fandom all unto themselves that encompasses a stunning array of in-jokes, turns of phrase, fiction, forum boards, and even art.  It is easy, perhaps frighteningly so, to lose yourself in that world, where a network of fans feel just as strongly as you do about the show, the characters, the mytharc.  Easy to become connected to a world-wide group, exchange IMs with fans around the globe, sometimes to the exclusion of reality.

I spent a lot of time in fandom when I was unemployed last year.  I miss it, often, now that I'm too busy to be as involved as I was.  I made some wonderful connections, new friends from all over the place, cool and interesting people that I would have never met were it not for a television show.  That fact still boggles my mind.  Without a TV show ffs, re-read that sentence.  Especially since as a kid, I wasn't really allowed to watch TV, I could have never imagined that I'd be this into a television show.  TV was for the hoi-polloi.  TV was for people who couldn't read.  TV was dumb.

Mostly, I still think that.  Whenever I go to work somewhere new, I have to explain to people, yet again, that I don't watch TV, no, I didn't see Greys or Scrubs last night, don't care what's happening on any given sitcom.  Those canned laugh tracks, ugh, how can anyone watch that?  It really annoys me.

Escapism, still, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, that's the appeal in the end.  When I became a big fan of the show, my life wasn't so fantastic.  I could pretend that wasn't happening while playing in fandom.  Now that things are better, I feel less of a need to escape, but wish I had the time to.

Oh, yes, I did say that this was an excuse to talk about Jensen, didn't I?  Instead, I'll just post a pic, and you can make that determination for yourself.

Ah yes.  So very, very pretty.  But aside from that, his work is amazing.  His portrayal of the badly damaged Dean is something I think needs to be seen to be appreciated.  Thursdays, 9PM, on (I cringe to admit I watch this channel) The CW.

06 November 2008


I went to the opera the other day.  I suppose that liking opera is yet another bit that does not fit with my mostly liberal persona, but like it I do, quite a lot.  

Once upon a time, I had aspirations of a career on the operatic stage.  I studied with a retired soprano from The Met.  I remember thinking after my first lesson with her (at the ripe age of 12) that our little town in Oh-hia-ia was an awfully strange place for a former opera singer to reside.  After I'd studied with her for a while, I asked what had brought her here; love, she said.  I know that I probably rolled my eyes, but also joked that I was glad she was here so that I could study with her.

I don't sing in public any more, and haven't for a very long time.  Perhaps because I have not, I was surprised all over again at how much physicality operatic singing requires.  The male performers especially impressed me.  I was very moved by the performances, had to search for my tissues in the car on the way home.  

It was in a small hall, and was a dress rehearsal.  I can't go to the performance due to a schedule conflict, so I whined to the company director until he agreed that it would be OK for me to sit in on the dress rehearsal.  Like I said, this is a small place; not only do I know who he is, but I work with him in his other day job.  Two degrees of separation, remember that part?  No one wore microphones, and I sat more than 1/2 way back from the stage, far enough back that I couldn't tell if one of the tenors was a college friend of mine or not.  I could hear, though.  With no problem.  They're LOUD.

As I sat in the darkened hall, I thought about the old saying that 'art imitates life' (or is it 'life imitates art'?) and I wondered; when was the last time YOU sang an entire conversation?  Opera is a very odd art form in that respect.  I can see why it is an acquired taste.  My parents were not classical music fans, in fact the closest thing I think they ever had to classical music in their 8-track collection was this thing that I can't remember the name of right now, it was something like Bach on Rock, and it was symphonic music digitized in the only way possible in the 70s; by organ, I think.  I developed the taste for it myself, over time.

I never turn down the opportunity to attend the opera, despite the oddness of the art form.  In some ways, it is a true immitation of life; comedy and tragedy, drama and love.  

05 November 2008

Beyond Words

Record voter turnout across the country.  The first African American President.

I could quip, be snarky, and snide, but I have no deisre to.  

Instead, I quote myself from yesterday.  

I hope.

04 November 2008

A Nation Divided

I was talking about the election with some colleagues.  We were debating whether or not we would know the results by Thursday morning.  (My vote is NO, btw.  I am fairly sure that we're going to face a Bush vs. Gore-esq long-term battle.)  Someone pointed out that there hasn't been a landslide election in a very long time, that the results tend to be 51%/49%.  I hadn't thought about it in that way in a while, but he's not wrong.

That divide is part of what makes the democracy work; I can have my opinion, you can have yours, and the twain need never meet.  Neither party involved in my example is afraid to make our opinions known, we hold the freedom of speech as a sacred right.

A tangent - - I've noted frequently on these pages that I am sick unto death of campaigns, political ads, hoopla and hullaballo.  Sick. Of. It.  And I'm a junkie when it comes to all things political.  We're all sick of it, and yet, what is the chatter around the water cooler?  The election.  Politics.  Red vs. Blue, conservative vs. liberal, what should be done about the financial crisis by those in charge, voting.  We bitch about how sick of the whole mess we are, and then the conversation turns right back to the election.  Human nature, I guess.

Back to the point.  This divide shows itself on election day more than any other.

Ohio allowed early voting this year, and I took advantage of that.  Honestly, they could allow it every year and I wouldn't know.  It has been in the news, though.  I did it this year because along with a long battle for us to know who the winner is, I think that there will be a record turnout for voting this year, and like every other red-blooded 'merican, I don't like standing in line.

The county board of elections is housed in a reclaimed big box retail store, and it looks like it.  They have panelling dividing the various county departments housed there.  It is ugly.  I was astonished that the parking lot was crowded, not just with cars but with milling people too.  I found a space and coming inside the building, was accosted by a guy working for someone running for a seat on one of the county courts.  The candidate in question has chosen an unfortunate purple-pink-mauve color for his literature.  It is memorable, I'll give him that.  

Inside, the line to get your absentee ballot (which is how they're letting Ohioans vote early, by absentee) was long.  I couldn't see the end of it from the door.  When I got to the end, I thought, "I'm gonna be here all day."  But it moved quickly, and soon I was standing at the counter, ID in hand, and the nice civil servant went searching for me in the voter registration rolls.  I think I waited for that longer than I waited in line.  Dunno why people have so much trouble with the whole hyphenated name thing.  People, it just ain't that tough.

The lighting in that old big-box store is weird.  Either it is too dark to see properly, as in was in the voting "booths", really just partitions where you could stand and darken in your ovals, or it was blinding bright with the florescent lights.  I tried, really did, to take a picture of my ballot with the crackberry, showing who I choose for President, but the bb overcompensated for the lack of light with its built-in flash, and the ballot is too washed out.  Since it did flash and make a bunch of noise, I decided that it probably wasn't smart to continue to try to take pictures.  Disruptive, you know.

I had to wait in line again to turn in the ballot.  The number of people there really gave me hope that this time, finally, more people are taking the right to vote more seriously.  Maybe, for the first time in a while, we will have more than 35% of the eligible population actually vote.  

I have hope.

The chatter in the lines was all Obama, Obama, Obama, if that's any indication of what's going to happen.

I have hope!

03 November 2008


Here is mistake #1: I picked up a new Stephen King paperback at, of all places, the grocery store the other day.  I love him; he's talented, spins a hell of a tale, and he scares the crap outta me.  So I haven't read much of his work.  

When I was 10/11, a girlfriend had a book of short horror stories at the community pool one day, and I read one titled "One For The Road" by Mr. King.  "Salem's Lot" grew out of One For The Road, or so urban legend tells.  I read that story sitting on the grass in the sun, surrounded by happily screaming kids and splashes.  It almost makes it more sinister, somehow, to read it in the bright light of day than during a dark and stormy night.

I've read about 100 pages into "Duma Key" and although the really scary hasn't started yet, he does an incredible job of building the suspense and giving you hints of what's to come.  It is captivating, and I felt immediate empathy for the main character, someone I should not really be able to relate to: he (yes, he) is a middle-aged white guy, survivor of a terrible accident that left him with brain damage and just one arm. 

Of course, I was reading before sleeping, and when I finally turned out the light....guess what happened?  I heard every little noise the house makes and reacted with terror.  We're using a small space heater in the bedroom to warm the room a little, and therefore keep the bedroom door closed.  I could swear that I heard it creaking open, could see it moving bit by bit, was certain that there was someone there.  I started thinking about Dean Koontz's character Odd Thomas, and the evil spirits Odd can see, bodachs I think he calls them.  Scaring myself further, of course.

Eventually, I calmed down enough to doze off, only to be jerked awake when DH rolled out of bed and went downstairs for something.  I realized that I was being ridiculous, and that were someone really hiding behind the door, DH would have run smack into them.  So I fell asleep, finally.

A few hours later, I was dragged back to consciousness by a dream that had my heart pounding.  In the light of day, it seems so silly.  I was dreaming about my old non-profit job, and the board of directors.  Technically, every board member was my boss, and believe me, they acted like it.  In reality, I reported to the chair and vice chair, and as long as they were happy with me, I mostly didn't sweat the details when another board member was angry with me.  The chair was very supportive of me, had my back every time.  

As with every job you'll ever have, there were a few board members in particular that I wasn't really fond of.  I used to joke to friends that two board members would call each other before the board meetings and decide whose turn it was to attack Lucy during the board meeting.  Both women.  And both of them intimidated the hell out of me, although I was careful to not let them know that.  There was The Society Matron, old money and proud of it, who thought the rest of the world existed to serve her, and there was The Old Battle-Axe, a career woman and someone who was angry, bitter, and nasty.  She ruled her department with terror and threats, and man-oh-man I couldn't stand her.

The dream ended with one of The Old Battle-Axe's flunkies telling me that she expected to see me immediately, and that I was in for a hell of a meeting.  She was mad.

Heart racing, gasping for breath, I sat up in bed and attempted to just breathe for a minute.  I haven't seen The Old Battle-Axe for more than a year.  Haven't spoken to her in around 8 months.  (Thank you, gentle goddess!) And yet, she has apparently retained the ability to terrorize me.

No more.  Not ever again.

While trying to go back to sleep, I visulized her shrinking, from oversized and looming over me to smaller and shorter and eventually just the size of an ant.  Where she can be squashed if she ever tries to terrorize my dreams again!

02 November 2008

Pommes Galettes

Yet another link that's missing from my sidebar is Smitten Kitchen. I don't always want to run right out and make whatever she's making (really, most of the time I'd rather she just delivered it straight to my belly! ;-) but I am always inspired.

I don't remember reading a recipe for Apple Galettes on her site, but I'm sure there's something just like what I did today, somewhere. Or, perhaps, I just feel like this is something she might do.

According to The Joy of Cooking....

(Were I to have a holy book for the kitchen, Joy would be it. My go-to for any term, fruit, vegetable, technique, or direction for things I am unfamiliar with.)

A galette consists of a flat crust of pastry or bread dough covered with sugar, pastry cream or a thin layer of fruit. Most galettes are simply made (check) and rustic in look. (definite check plus there)

Thanks to the inventive re-engineering of my apple peeler-corer-slicer by someone with a weeee bit more of a clue when it comes to, oh, reassembling stuff than me, I've been anxious to bake either an apple pie, or apple dumplings. I don't bake cherry or peach pies, and I'm not into the extreme fussiness a meringue pie takes, but apple? Sign me up. The problem with dumplings, though, is that I want to eat them. More than one of them, which would constitute the entire sugar intake for a small country for a year. Pies are problematic, too. I want more than a slice. Since it is just DH and me in our house, unless we're having company, no pie. Too much temptation.

Galettes can be as big or as small as you like, so I decided I'd use the peeler-corer-slicer (thanks F!) and make a bunch of individual little pies. One or two for DH and I, and the rest would be taken straight to work, where my co-workers are the lucky recipients of most of what I bake. I like to think of that as a win-win...I get to bake, which I enjoy, and they get to eat it, which they enjoy. The only downside is that they complain about their expanding waistlines. (Hello? Why do you think I take it to work? I don't need that at my house!!!) Truth is that I don't bake, knit, or cook for people I don't like, so draw whatever conclusions you like about that.

Pommes Galettes avec gousse de vanille
Apple galettes with vanilla bean

Oven 350/makes 16

For the filling:
16 apples, any variety that bakes well, peeled, cored, and sliced
2 cups sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon (more or less to taste, I like A LOT)
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped out
1 stick butter
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon

For the crust (adapted from Joy)
make 2 batches
2-1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup lard, or butter, cold or frozen
1/3 cup ice cold water

Because the dough works better when cold, make the crust first, and stick it in the fridge while making the filling.
I make pie crust in the food processor, because I am lazy and impatient. Sue me.

In the working bowl of the food processor, place flour, sugar, and salt, and pulse for 10 seconds to combine. Add the fat cut into small pieces, and pulse for just seconds at a time, until the dough looks like pea-sized crumbs. Pour water over dough, and pulse briefly again. Do not allow the dough to come together in a big lump in the food processor, it isn't good for the motor.

Dump the contents of the working bowl onto a large piece of plastic wrap, and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until needed.

Peel, core, and slice apples. Use the lemon juice to keep them from turning brown, a little sprinkled over the slices as you add them to a big bowl works well. Add zest, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and vanilla seeds, mixing well to combine. Taste a slice....add sugar or seasonings as appropriate if needed.

Separate each disk of dough into 8 equal portions, and roll each out to about an 8 inch diameter. Spoon sliced apples into the middle, and fold corners up to form a little tart. Dot tops of each tart with butter.

I placed them 4 to a cookie sheet, and baked them for about 45 minutes. When the crust browns a little and the apples are tender, they're done.

Maybe the reason I've never written a cookbook is because my directions are too vague...bake until done....that's priceless, Luce.

Remove from cookie sheets as soon as they're out of the oven (carefully!!) and cool on wire racks. The galettes are very fragile, use caution as you transfer them to the racks. They're going to present a challenge to get them to work intact.
Anywho, Joy says galettes are best served on the day they're made, but who in the bloody hell has time to make something like this on a weekday morning to take in to work, where you need to be at your desk before 8? Not me. So I'll have to let you know how they were the second day, because I can tell you that right out of the oven they're A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. And slightly dangerous...the caramelized sugar/butter mixture is a bit like napalm on the tongue.

The vanilla bean is an expensive indulgence, but I liked the note it added to the galettes. It is optional. I would have liked to add chopped pecans to each galette, too, but there are a few people in the office that can't do nuts, so I left 'em out. If I was making these for a dinner party, I'd add about a tablespoon of chopped roasted almonds or pecans to each galette, because I like the crunch, too.

Hmm, maybe the challenge won't be getting them to work intact, maybe it will be getting them to work at all. They're really good. I may have to lock them up or hide them so they don't get eaten before tomorrow morning.