Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tis the season...take two

I went shopping yesterday--on line and in the stores.  Since I also make handmade gifts throughout the year, I am in good shape for the holidays.  I have to admit that I absolutely and completely love gift giving--except for people who are really, really hard (Mike).  I love thinking of an appropriate and kind of novel gift.  I love the hunt to find it or the effort to make it.  I love the wrapping and the presentation.  If I had unlimited funds and less of an aversion to crowds, I would go out shopping for random gifts every day.

Tomorrow, Kristen and Dane will open the first of their Advent gifts.  My son delivered them for me, for which i was most grateful.  These are really quite small things that I put together, but I so enjoy doing it and I think they look forward to each day's surprise.  Today I got a  thank-you card in the mail:  "Giving is just your style...and you do it so well!  Thanks for everything."  Kristen added: "thank you for the Daily December Presents (Advent baskets)"  It brought tears to my eyes..it does again just thinking about it.

I also bought myself a Christmas present--jeans that actually fit.  Since I have lost some weight without going shopping, my pants, especially, have a tendency to fall off.  Let's just say my body has not settled into an hourglass shape--more like a board with boobs.  I told Mike he could wrap them up and hand them to me on Christmas morning.  I have yet to see whether or not he will take me up on that offer, but he does complain that I am as hard to shop for I complain about him.  I guess that is the price of a good and satisfied life.  And there is a gift for which I am certainly grateful each day.
Hello?? Is this working at all??  I wrote a whole piece and it disappeared,  Testing...testing...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Back on Track

The Saturday before Thanksgiving, I went to the Cabot Factory sock sale, then out to lunch, with my sister.  On Sunday, I took the grand kids out to lunch.  Wednesday was an unexpected lunch because of trapping ourselves in the basement.  Thursday, of course, was a full day of feasting and nibbling.  On Friday, we made our annual pilgrimage to Giant Grinder and Modern Bakery on Franklin Street in downtown Hartford.  Then we went out for a soup and sandwich supper on Friday night.  In between all this eating was either work on sanding/finishing stair treads or driving.  Healthy food choices?  Exercise schedule?  This is how I can gain five pounds over the holiday season, and I just decided not to do that.
So yesterday and today, it's out for brisk walks and pull out the vegetarian recipes and the exercise bands.  This morning, I made a big pot of oatmeal.  I used to eat a lot of oatmeal breakfasts but then I got out of the habit when I stopped using milk.  I used to have much lower cholesterol levels, too.  I have to go for a blood pressure check at the end of the week so I need to whip myself into shape here.

The printer was unplugged from the computer.  Why?  But at least it was an easy enough fix.  The big computer seems to be back in business.  I guess it was just taking a Sunday rest.  The car "low tire pressure" light is still on, even though Mike has put air in the tires.  Maybe something is wrong with the sensor.  I really came to detest those warning lights when I had my Saab.  That car had a regular light show going most of the time and I was tempted to drive it over a cliff--well, push it over a cliff, anyway. 
Anyway, with a little fresh air I am not so cranky and out of sorts today.  I am thinking I will go out and do a little shopping even.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Frustration

I am being totally frustrated with computers today.  It seems that everything I have tried to do has not worked out.  I tried to copy some files from our home computer to transfer to the laptop that we use in Florida.  No luck with that.  I tried to print from the laptop--that didn't work.  I wanted to download some music, but the sound is turned off again.  All these things can be fixed with a little fiddling and changing of settings, but I have to bother Mike to do that because I always forget how--and that's the most frustrating thing of all. I just want to sit down and do what ever it is I have planned to do. 
I have no patience for the quirky needs of machines.  For instance, we keep getting a message on the laptop that new Apple software is available for download.  We don't have an Apple computer.  Why do we get that message?   Also, if I  download music on the laptop, it tells me it is being saved in i-something, which we don't have on our computer.  Then it shows up somewhere else.  Do we need lying computers?  Isn't that what politicians are for?
And the car...the "low tire pressure" warning light keeps coming on and two tires will be down in pressure (at least the light comes on before the tires are flat), but I have taken the car to the dealership twice this month and they cannot find anything wrong with the tires.  Mike says I have to tell them to over inflate the tires and then test them.  I say, you deal with it, Mike.
I would go watch some television, but for some unknown reason we no longer have any of the on-demand channels.  I am quite sure that I will click through stations until the batteries in the remote give out and then I will turn off the TV.  That is my usual Sunday night routine.
I could read, but I need new glasses and that just makes me grumpy.  And there is no sense in trying to knit when I am in a mood.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Painted Into a Corner

Talk about painting yourself into a corner...I was working on laundry this morning in the basement of our raised ranch house while Mike was putting on the final coat of floor polyurethane.  When he finished he went out to the garage to clean up and I went up the deck to go upstairs through the back door...only to discover that we had not unlocked the back door before starting our chores.  Ha!  We could sit in the basement den waiting for the stairs to dry in five to eight hours and watch TV.  We decided to go out.  Mike's wallet and license were upstairs and so were my glasses.  Fortunately my purse was downstairs and I had a pair of glasses in the car so we went out for a nice long lunch, made a trip to Costco (coffee, wine and craisins) and then to a shopping center where I bought two new tee-shirts that I badly needed.  By the time we got home, the stairs were dry. 

So tomorrow morning we will head for Connecticut to spend the weekend with Mike's family.  We enjoy Thanksgiving for the time with family and, of course, the food.  It's such a non-demanding holiday for us since we just have to show up with a couple bottles of wine and a cheese platter (as long as the weather is not too hairy for the drive).

So, Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Busy Days

We have ripped out carpet, sanded, stained, sealed, and are now putting a floor finish on the stairs.  They are looking pretty good.  In the meantime, I have been taking down pictures and putting away knickknacks in preparation for the painter and trying to keep after the sanding dust.  I am going through a whole lotta vacuum bags and tacky cloths.  Can't wait for this project to be done--just in time for a MAJOR cleanup for the holidays.

Saturday night and Sunday, I spent with my grand children--a welcome break.  I am almost finished with putting together the Advent calendars I make for them.  I collect stickers, trinkets, coins, activity books, treats, ornaments and such so they have 24 little surprises while counting down the days til Christmas. My kids had the kind of Advent calendar that showed a picture for each day, but I started this little gift tradition and now it IS a tradition.  It is fun to be a grandma!

I have to deliver my pumpkin pie and a cake for the Thanksgiving Dinner hosted by a Bulrington, VT restaurant.  This cake is eggless, dairyless (if you don't plop whipped cream on top), and quite low in fat.  It is also incredibly easy to put together.  The recipe was given to me by a friend about seven or eight years ago and I have made it often since then.

Chocolate Ginger Cake

Sift into a large bowl:
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk in a small bowl:
1 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon apple cider
3 Tablespoons of canola oil
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir til all is moistened.  Spoon batter into 8" pan and smooth top with a knife.  (Batter is thick, but pourable.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Let me rant a little...

In the paper this morning there was an article about a Wisconsin man (Vermont, Wisconsin, oddly enough) who shot his televsion because Bristol Palin has not yet been eliminated from "Dancing with the Stars."  Oh, that struck me as incredibly sad...that someone would care enough abut that TV show to engage in violence against an innocent piece of electronics.
And I think it is kind of sad that, if the ads can be believed, that "Dancing with the Stars" is America's most watched program.  Surely, surely, this nation could do better than that.
Well, it is for certain that we can produce worse shows--much worse.  Anything that involves wife swapping, for instance.  Where is the moral outrage on that one?  Or anything involving "real" housewives.  Especially if those housewives are from New Jersey.  Come to think of it, it really seems like a bad idea to have any kind of program that features the denizens of New Jersey at all.  Those hair dressers?  Really?
Have to admire the creativity, though.  Dancing competitions are popular.  Losing weight competitions are popular.  Why not combine the two?  Why not?--because then you get "Dance Your Ass Off."
To be honest, I have to admit I haven't even seen some of these shows, and those I have seen did not get much of my time.  (The remote control clicker was kind of a great invention.)  I can form an opinion pretty quickly and I am not going to apologize for that.
I did not catch Sarah Palin and her homage to her home state.  Nor will I.  I have a V-chip activated on the Fox network.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lost

A new household project has begun.  In preparation for the painting to be done after Thanksgiving, Mike and I decided to pull up the Berber carpet that covered the stairway.  Pulling up carpet is an icky job, but better to do it now rather than at some future point after the walls and woodwork are covered with fresh paint.
So, my story is that I was severely chastened as we picked up the task again today.  Mike had laid out the tools after we finished up half the job yesterday.  I was using some pliers, but when we started to get in each other's way as he was pulling carpet and I was pulling staples, I decided to go do the breakfast dishes.  Once Mike was finished with the carpet and padding, he went to get the pliers.  They were not in the neat array he had left.
"Where are the pliers?" I heard from the kitchen.
"Oh, I have them right here."  I took them to him.  He had that hard-eyed glint in his eye.
"They were not where I had put them," he said with a look that clearly told me that he would not in any way appreciate a comment about not being able to locate said item OR his genetic make-up.

So, okay, I am admitting for all the world.  I spend far more time looking for my car keys than he does.  (Key slut  is a term my daughter once employed.)  It's true...I can lose my scissors withinn the 2' by 3' confines of my sewing table without once leaving the chair in front of it.  I re-arrange drawers and cupboards as I clean the kitchen and then I wonder just where the citrus zester might be.

The difference of course is that I will move every single item in the entire house when looking for something that I have misplaced.  That is a different matter entirely than openning the medicine cabinet and being unable to move the vitamin container in order to see the aspirin container behind it.  Sorry.  I stand by my scientific theories.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Recycled

I was doing an online craft workshop and needed to have some felted wool sweaters.  I found a nice supply of wool sweaters at a local thrift shop for very little money, but then I ended up feeling a bit guilty about shrinking down the sweaters and cutting them up for craft purposes.  Cold winter is coming and someone could have worn those sweaters.
This was a large men's sweater made of 100% Alpaca wool in Peru.  I felted it, but then I could not force myself to cut it into pieces.  So, instead, I redecorated it and turned it into a girl's jacket. 
A local restaurant serves a free Thanksgiving Day dinner and distributes coats and jackets at the same time.  I had planned on donating a pie, and now I will donate this jacket as well.   I hope someone will like it enough to wear.
I have a pile of hats ready to donate to the Salvation Army for their gift baskets, along with some toys I have picked up, baby booties and bibs.  The pleas for donations really ramp up this time of year.  It's hard to know sometimes what is legitimate and what is not.  My mother got more generous with donation in her old age, but I find myself getting more and more suspicious.  I am especially suspect of the packages of "free" gifts from organizations I've never heard of promising to do wonderful things for poor or handicapped children.  Where would that money end up?  So I keep my donations local and try to support amazing acts of generosity (like a free Thanksgiving dinner at a local restaurant).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cards

Embossed trees

Stamped and sticker cards

Punch outs

Scraps used to make gift tags
I have been making Christmas cards bit by bit.  Since I am just learning how to do this, I have experimented with a lot of different designs and techniques.  I'm sure it would be more efficient to pick a design and make a whole bunch to send out, but I am not there yet.  So now some people will get nice handmade cards and some will get kind of crap cards.  In either case, everyone who gets a card from me will know it's handmade, for what that is worth.  It is a good thing I do not send out that many cards.  I like making the little gift tags and  using stamps and coloring them in, but I really like using chalk to blend a background.  The card with the ice skaters is my favorite.
My card making friend's mother, who is 92 years old, made 80 Christmas cards to send out.  She also has made all the birthday cards for friends and family that will need for 2011.  She has to get all that done during the summer so she can play golf in Florida all winter long and otherwise manage her social life.  I remember my grandmother being on top of card sending responsibilities like that.  She did not make her cards, but she went to the dime store the first of every month and bought the cards she would need, addressed and stamped them, and then sent them at the appropriate time.
I, on the other hand, am notoriously bad about sending out cards.  I manage with the Christmas cards (usually), but fail miserably with keeping on top of birthdays.  Even with FaceBook and my Google calendar reminding me, the birthdays slip by me more often than not.  It is some kind of mental block--almost like I resent the universe making me responsible for card sending duties.  Then I feel bad for being thoughtless.
How about you?  Are you a frequent flyer at the Hallmark store?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Art of Soup and Then, Dessert

Mike has left home--at least for the day.  It is the onion that are putting the tears in my eyes, though.
I started my morning by making a big pot of soup which in itself started with mincing and sauteing an onion, garlic, carrots and celery.  The onion smell did kind of take over the house there for a while, and Mike really hates onions.  I added chicken stock, potatoes, squash, pumpkin, and apple cider, blended it all together and finished it with thyme, sage and a little bit of half and half.  OMG, it is so, so delicious.  I feel better after the lackluster mole debacle.
We don't get to eat it though, so Mike will come back when he is done playing.  The soup is going to the Artisans' Market at the local high school.  Our town library sells soup as a fund raiser as part of this event each year.  I will go to buy a calendar for the benefit of the community center and have a soup and bread lunch for the benefit of the library.  They have beautiful art works and artisan quality crafts, but a bit out my price range.  Always fun to look, though.
**************
I returned from the market to find that Mike had gone out once again.  I had to light scented candles to get him back inside.  I redeemed myself, though, by making a mousse for dessert.  Dessert is for Saturday nights.  It was ricotta whipped up with confectioners' sugar and Kahlua served sprinkled with a dusting of cocoa.  (Marcia, I recommend this to you especially...sex on a spoon!)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Scrap Heap Raft

A 77 year old Burlington, VT man known as Poppa Neutrino, set out on an around the world raft trip earlier this week.  Unfortunately, the trip was cut seriously short when the raft was smashed by high winds into a 30 foot cliff on Lake Champlain.  Around 50 rescue workers arrived at the scene to pull Neutrino, his two crew members, and three dogs to safety.  Neutrino apologized to the people of Vermont for the pollution to the lake (several containers of gasoline where dropped into the water) and for using the time and effort of the various rescue workers.
Apparently the raft took three months to build, but the entire project has been in the works far longer.  The intent was to advance economic, environmental, and joyful living beliefs.  If you have interest in your own floating, self-sustaining, off-grid life style, you can read more about Poppa and his pals on an essay entitled "Floating Neutrinos" here. It's the new wave of the future.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Experimental Food

I was reading a magazine at the car dealership while having the oil changed and saw a recipe for Chicken Mole and I jotted it down.  I decided to experiment with supper last night and made something I'd always been curious about but had never tried.  Sometimes experiments work out fine...and sometimes, not so much. 
Chicken Mole has a combination of spices--garlic, cinnamon, cloves, red and black pepper, cocoa--and this recipe called for almond butter (which I have been wanting to use up).  For the variety of ingredients, I found the dish quite tasteless.  It was almost like one thing would cancel the other out.  Out of consideration for my dear husband, I left out the onions--maybe that is what was needed to tie everything together.
It's back to the tried and true for tonight--a hamburger for Mike and a walnut-lentil burger for me.  It is nice enough to fire up the grill.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Scientific Theory

You have noticed, I am sure, because everybody in the entire world has, that men just can not find stuff.

Male:    "What did you do with this, that or the other thing?"
Female: "It's under the sink (or in the medicine cabinet, on the floor next to the bed)"
Male:    "No, it's not.  I looked."

So when the female interrrupts what she is doing and goes to assist in the search where it this, that, or the other thing?  Under the sink (or in the medicine cabinet, or on the flooor next to the bed), of course.

Now let's admit, sometimes things get moved around.  Some times they get misplaced and it's aggravating.  But really--how lost can the A-1 sauce get  in the refrigerator door?  How many times does the toothpaste wander out of the bathroom?  If blue socks get piled over with green socks, does that mean the blue socks are gone forever?  Why is it that the male of the species seems genetically incapable of finding simple, everyday objects?

Well, my theory is that it is indeed a genetic failing.  Look at an X.  Then look at a Y?  Isn't a Y just an X with a missing leg?  So it makes perfect sense that the gene that allows the female to locate objects, usually by slightly moving another object that may be partially obscuring it, to be sure,  resides on that leg.

I know of no serious scientific studies that have been done to prove this.  It's just a matter of time.  Perhaps by the time that women earn a dollar for every dollar men make for the same job the balance of power will shift and the research funding will follow.  I wonder if I will be famous in my life time, or will I have to wait for the posthumous honor?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Peek at November

The neighbors' lovely woodland garden at rest for the winter.


This is what we call a sunny November day here in Vermont.


This is what remains of the gorgeous autumn color.
The mountain is both cloud and snow covered.
It's the time of year when we really notice the darkness.  The gardens are covered with their blankets of mulch, asleep for the winter.  The skies are mostly steely and grey.  There is a quietness all the more noticeable from the ruckus of the occasional flock of honking geese making their trip to their winter homes. 
Perhaps when ours was a more agrarian society, it was easier to sense the rhythms of Nature and embrace this time of year as the time of much needed rest for both body and soul.  That is the way of Nature, after all, that all living things need a period of rest and renewal.  So I am not going to curse the darkness.  I am going to light a small candle for my intentions. leaf through a spiritual seed catalog, and keep watch for the richness and meaning in this life.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November Day

I think a day could not BE more New England-November than today--dark, dreary, cold to the bone, and raining.  A cup of Constant Comment tea and few ginger cookies--that's all there was to be done on a day like this.


I did get the results of my blood work in the mail today.  Everything--most of which I haven't really a clue about (total alkaline phosphatase?  AST?  Albumin?)--was within normal limits.  My cholesterol has gone down a whopping 20 points over the past year.  The "vegetarian inclined" diet changes have paid off there for sure.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mad Hatter


One crotcheted hat,
Two Fleece hats, and
Three small knitted hats.

I have been on a hat making binge for a while.  I have a fleece jacket I made from the tan fleece on this hat and i lined another jacket with the flower print fleece, so I will keep this hat.







As I am sitting here at the computer I can watch two birds fluttering around under the eave outside the window.  I know Mike filled the feeder today, so they can't be begging for food.  Maybe they just want to come in and get warm and dry.  Maybe they just want to visit with the two glass cardinals that sit on the window sill.  Maybe they are just jealous of those two glass birds because they are inside.  Oh, now there's a mess of them and they are banging at the window...Alfred Hitchcock...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Changing of Season

The temperature was 19 degrees this morning and a heavy frost did not disappear until around 11 a.m.
With the hills to the east of us, we did not see the sun until 9:30 this morning and when I went for my walk at 1:00 this afternoon I was blinded by the sun shining into my eyes because it was barely above the horizon.    After the weekend, when clocks "fall back" we will be full into the dark time.  This is "Florida weather" for me--time to start planning for that trip.
I took a shift at our library this afternoon but it was not at all busy.  On the way home there was enough light to see the coppery tones of the oak trees but most of the other trees are bare and their frames looked black, like iron, against a pewter grey sky.  I had the thought that the mountains have turned metallic.  I was inspired to start working on a poem about it.
I'm thinking right now about putting on some comfy pajamas and brewing a cup of sleepy time tea.  Then I'll be too hot to go to sleep.  Mike was quite intrigued by the thought of fleece sheets mentioned a while ago by Linda at A Slower Pace.  He has the flannel sheets on our bed and two blankets now, but I am just not ready for that yet--even with the temperature dipping down into the teens. 
I have been absolutely forbidden to touch the thermostat downstairs.  I suspected that was coming when Mike set up a new thermometer.  I kept turning the heat down because the thermostat-thermometer was reading 80 and Mike was bound and determined to prove that it was just stuck there.
It's not hot flashes.  I'm long over that, but somehow my body temperature regulating system never quite went back to normal.  I'm comfortable when it is hot all the time or even if it is cool all the time, but when it I go from cold to hot, warm to cool, things just go kaflooey. (Oh, get over it, spell checker.)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day

It's all over but the shouting now.  We have but to await the results.  Mike and I went to our town elementary school to vote.  The governor's race is supposed to be very close--too close to predict.  I sincerely hope that it is not so close that the agony is prolonged.  How sad that that is how I think of this election season--agony.
I used to be more enthusiastic and involved.

One of my earliest memories is of being carried into the polling place in Olyphant, Pennsylvania in the arms of my maternal grandfather.  He died when I was three, so this is a really early memory.  I do believe I recall, though, that he let me pull on the lever of the voting machine.  Maybe that was the first time I actually cast a ballot.

I think that  our first television set came in time for my parents to watch the Eisenhower-Stevenson campaigns from the national Conventions right on through to the election--that must have been 1952ish. I mean, I think that is the major reason why my parents got a television in the first place.  I do remember that they watched the process again for the 1956 Presidential election.  My father had no use whatsoever for Eisenhower in a way that went beyond the fact that he was a staunch Democrat.  I remember this because I had the vague apprehension that my father would be in big trouble for not supporting the President--like government officials were going to knock on our door and take him away.  I'm sure the news and political discussions that I paid no real attention to were part of the background of my growing up.  Doesn't that childish fear kind of symbolize the paranoia of the time?

All politicians should have 3 hats - one to throw into the ring, one to talk through, and one to pull rabbits out of if elected.   Carl Sandburg