Friday, November 27, 2009

Okra, who knew?

Yesterday I had another Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat at my friends Ray and Aline's house. They live outside of Austin in what used to be the country, although civilization is encroaching yearly.

My Thanksgiving started the night before when I cooked my own small turkey at home, just for me and the cats. I'd gotten home late from the tree lot, so I ended up popping it in the oven, going out for a drink with my daughter, coming home, going to bed and setting the alarm to get up at midnight and take it out of the oven, debone and destuff it and put the bone in my ongoing pot of chicken broth. I heated that up, turned it off, went back to bed, reset the alarm clock for an hour later, and got up and put that in the fridge. So I had turkey yesterday morning when I got up.

I made gravy and cranberry orange relish and then went and taught my exercise class at the retirement home. I teach there on Thursdays, so I always go on Thanksgiving and a couple members show up and we breathe and make room for turkey! I called family. I packed my car to go to Ray and Aline's: bread pudding and whisky sauce (1/2 a bread pudding recipe, 3 whisky sauce recipes) and an appetizer: cream cheese whipped in a bowl, a hunk of smoked salmon, a little ramekin of habañero jelly and some water crackers. Easy-peasy and yumm. My strategy was to stick with just appetizers and desserts since I had my own turkey at home, and that's pretty much what I did. Cassie, R&A's daughter, had made a wonderful corn, squash and red pepper soup. There were ten adults and five kids sitting down to dinner and it was all good and wonderful.

We did the obligatory things: a blessing holding hands, drinking lots of wine, a walk to the end of the driveway and back between dinner and dessert. A stroll in the overgrown back yard/garden between dessert and The Game. (UT/Aggie for those of you who aren't from Texas.) Their beds are full of Texas winter garden plants: carrots, beets, lettuces, broccoli, arugula, but there is a whole row of still functioning okra. I never realized how beautiful okra plants were.

My friend, Diane, says they're related to hibiscus. I picked this one and brought it home to remind me of the bounty and beauty of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Just a quickie!

Here is the next page in TAGD. Another waterish color illustration, some lettering, and a business card from my friend, Amy Nelson. It's one of those new, cool, tiny business cards, expensive, but great images and a nifty little carrier. Two-sided... But, what I'm actually writing about is the importance of always having some kind of label or sticky stuff to stick stuff into your journal with.

You can see the little bit of label in this photo. It's just an Avery mailing label that's been spattered with paint... Lots of paint. Metallic paint! Other things you can do are to run the labels through your printer. You can use any size or shape of label; the little round ones are extra cool and you can use the grid they pop out of for decorative effect, too. I also carry a glue stick with me to stick stuff down to the page, but if you want to be able to see what's on the back of a card, you'll want to use labels and some kind of little hinge.

Off to do Christmas tree stuff. I just can't resist posting this pic of a really cute little Noble fir! It's 2 ft high and 2 ft wide...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Ta Dah! The newest journal!

Yup. It's that time. I titled this one Through A Glass Darkly. There's nothing significant about the title, exactly, it's just that I planned on using a sheet of mica inset in the cover, and, well, you can see through it... Darkly. Sometimes what seems obvious is even more obvious than you thought. You might notice that the word D A R K L Y isn't on the cover. It's on the front flysheet, and you're supposed to be able to see through to it, umm, darkly. The mica came from Asheville Mica. They have a cool sample kit of 6"x6" sheets in several colors, two thicknesses (.015 and .030) apiece. I used a sheet of copper stained mica, the .030 one.

But you can't really read it from the cover, so I made a title page, too. Those are faux typewriter keys from PorkChopShow on Etsy. I just could not bring myself to buy real typewriter keys - I would've needed two sets - on eBay, and besides, I needed to be able to get them so they were the same thickness as the top board with the leather, which would have involved more engineering.

Normally book boards are just that: some kind of board - usually something resembling cardboard, although binders insist on calling it 'binders board.' It is not see through, though, so I used plexiglas for the front board, with a second, thin chipboard on top of it. It's a split board binding, meaning that the support that the pages are sewn on (muslin, in this case) is trapped between the boards. There aren't all that many glues that I know of that stick to plexiglas, but spray adhesive does, so that's what I used. The stuff you use to glue the rubber seals around car windows will work, too, but it's not clear. It's kind of a bastard version of a split board binding because of how I did the cover, and we'll just have to see how sturdy it is. Being carried in a purse for five to six months is a true test of how strong a binding is.

I actually had a page left in my old journal, but I went ahead and started this one anyway because it's November 22. My grandmother died on this date 52 years ago, and Kennedy was assassinated on this date 47 years ago just a couple of hundred miles north of here. Kind of gloomy, but there it is. BUT! My first post was from the Empty Bowl Project which is a wonderful thing.

I went there with my friends from my Sunday morning tai chi group, Ladies League. You buy a bowl for $15 - which goes to the Capital Area Food Bank - and then get it filled with soup from a local restaurant. You're limited to two bowls, but I managed to buy three (don't tell!). I love these bowls! Some are very sophisticated, some are very plain, some are very handmade, some are very colorful. All the soups we had were good and it was a wonderful journal inauguration!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Holy Cow!

I have either crossed over the line into foodieland or insanity... Or both. Or I crossed over before and just now have the perspective to see that I have crossed over. I just spent $12 for a pound of butter.

It wasn't just any butter, of course, it was "Fresh, unsalted, raw butter from grass-fed pastured cows from a local farm." You call a number and they answer the phone and you tell them you want a pound - they won't deal in less - and you go get it. Cash only, of course. Wrapped in a baggie. Sound familiar?

So far I can tell you this about fresh, unsalted raw butter from grass-fed pastured cows from a local farm. It somehow seems more greasy than regular butter, even 'European-style' butter. It's pale. It has a flavor that regular butter does not have, which, I'm assuming comes from grass. I melted some to put on top of popcorn, and there are no solids or foam in the butter.

It tastes great. But it's really really expensive.

So I was thinking... What if food with lots of fat or sugar or chemicals cost a lot more money than unprocessed food? Kind of like the 'cap and trade' ideas that are going around for carbon now? What if all pounds of butter, margarine, spreads, oils, etc were at least $12/pound? and cakes and donuts and cookies and ice cream were $20/pound? Would people change their eating habits? Would you?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Just FYI... You cannot get DNA from a smear of poop. You need a whole turd. I am sure this information will come in handy at some point in my life, or perhaps in yours. If you can use it, please do!

I am still in shock over the events of the last few days, weeks, months, year. You'd think - with the miraculous recovery of my guitar - that I would be happy, and I am, I am! Unfortunately it alternates with bouts of crying, which makes me hysterical.

Way back in 1964, my parents split up and my Mom and I moved for one year to Palo Alto, CA. We'd lived there four years before that, and Mom thot it would be a fun place to go. We got an apartment in a building with a pool, which was a sort of novel concept and very swinging Sixties at the time. The landlady, also divorced, was a numerologist. Mom was having a bad year, and the landlady told her that it was her 'ninth tide,' which was some kind of bad juju numerology-wise, but it would all be over on Mom's birthday and things would get better. Mom listened to what people had to say (except me, sometimes), even if she didn't really believe what they were telling her. She didn't believe this, but she found it really amusing, and also strengthening; everything was going to get better by April 25. What a very comforting thot! On her birthday, a friend of hers brought her a cake decorated with a small box of Tide laundry detergent (empty) with nine candles on top of it. Things did not get better immediately, that's for sure, but thinking they were going to get better helped Mom.

Nine years ago, I had a bad year. I got Lyme disease (discovered and treated right away so I'm fine), fell off a ladder and shattered my leg (bone graft, steel plate), and then, a couple of months later, my appendix ruptured. Strangely, it didn't hurt, so I didn't go to the hospital for a couple, three days. By the time I did go, I had serious peritonitis. A very bad year.

I'm figuring this year is my 'ninth tide,' and, in just a couple months, it will all be over and things will get better.

I'm just hoping someone makes me an appropriate birthday cake.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bad news and good news...

Let me start with the bad news first, mostly because it came first, and this only makes sense chronologically.

I was burgled Thursday night/Friday morning. I found this out when I was feeding the cats and saw that the door to my studio was open. I was working in the studio Thursday night, went into the house for something, fell asleep and never woke back up to go out and lock the door. Missing were my iMac G5 (4 years old), my digital camera, the hard drive I use to back up both my computers, my Fuji Crosstown 1.0 bike, and... and... And, my 34-year old Gibson 12 string, that I've had for all those years... My first 'real' guitar, Isabel. (Yup, all my guitars have names... My cars have names... It's sick, I know.)

I called the police and my insurance company. I couldn't find the serial numbers on anything except the iMac. I know that somewhere I used to have the receipt for the guitar, but couldn't find it, and don't have any recent pictures of it. I felt like an idiot, but although I had the receipts for the camera and hard drive, I hadn't written down the serial numbers... Which took me to the shed.

On the way to the shed, I noticed my weed whacker propped against the back of the studio. That was weird, 'cos I store it in the outhouse. The thieves had been in my outhouse! I noticed the door on the shed was ajar slightly, and went in. At first I thot nothing was disturbed, but then noticed that a box was open that shouldn't have been and went in to investigate further and found... A t-shirt that someone had used - recently, very, very recently - to wipe their ass.

I screamed and threw the offending shirt out of the shed and just stood their literally shaking with the whole willies of it. ICK! And then I started crying... Full out sobbing and weeping.

Perhaps picking up rags that people have wiped their asses on does not affect you in this manner, but I have been under a fair amount of stress in the last year what with putting my hand through the table saw, getting mugged, having Dad almost die, a weird almost romance, getting my wallet stolen and then having Dad actually die, and, well, I've just had enough. I've been bearing up pretty well, picking myself up and dusting myself off and continuing on, but the shit thing completely unhinged me. I couldn't stop crying. It occurred to me that the shitty rag was a clue, and I should save it. So I got some disposable tongs, picked it up, put it in a plastic bag, put THAT in a plastic bag and put it in my refrigerator, and tried not to think about having a shitty rag in my refrigerator. And then I went for help.

I notified some friends. Ricë talked to me for a L O N G time. My friend Clark took me out for drinks and food. I was still crying on and off over the weekend, but I was well-fed and tipsy, and that made it some better.

I kept saying to everyone "They can have the computer and the bike and the camera; I just want my guitar and the hard drive back." Wishful thinking! You betcha. I knew it was wishful thinking, but that didn't stop me from doing it.

And then - again, after talking to Ricë - I came to believe that there was a metaphysical issue here, or a metaphorical one, or a karmic one: I have too much stuff to keep track of.

I vowed to go and clear my stuff out of the shed, at least the easy stuff. I gave myself permission to take time before I threw away papers and photos and books, but told myself I had to get rid of clothes and linens and dishes and kitchen stuff and whatnots.

I did some yesterday. I did some today. I came across a whole bunch of religious art that belonged to my late mother-in-law, very Catholic stuff, very pretty, but no one in the family is Catholic and no one wanted it. So today I took six boxes, three bags, and a dutch oven over to St Vincent de Paul on Congress. One of the boxes was full of the religious paintings. Who better to have them than St Vinny's?

Afterwards, I went to the store, bought cat food and came home. I sat in the driveway, exhausted. It was mostly emotional, but still I was really tired and I just sat there and stared at my beautiful studio/garage which has been so violated and thot "What the fuck is that leaning against the side of the studio?" For there was something leaning against the side, sort of tucked under my big, big ladder... Something that looked an awful lot like my guitar.

I got out of my car very very slowly because I knew I was hallucinating and I didn't want it to end. I walked over, and there, leaning against the studio was my beautiful lovely guitar. I didn't think about fingerprints. I just grabbed it and started crying, and then looked in between the studio and the house next door, and there, halfway down, lying in the leaves and mud, was my hard drive. I approached it very slowly, sure that at any moment I would come to my senses, but no. It WAS my hard drive. It's power cord was missing, so I can't use it to see if the data is ok, but even if it isn't, it might be recoverable.

I called the insurance agency. I called the police. State Farm was really happy and will cut me a check tomorrow. There's a $1000 deductible, so I'm out a lot of money, but it's almost enough to get a new iMac. I'll treat myself to a new bike, too, at some point.

I thot about how really lucky I was. It's been raining like crazy lately, trying to make up for two years of no rain, but it hadn't rained in the last four days. I was shaking as I called friends to tell them the wonderful news. I'm still shaking. It damn sure beats crying.

I talked for a long time to the detective assigned to my case. He's actually interested! He's calling the DNA lab tomorrow. He may want the poop!

I still have a lot of things to think about and a lot of stuff to get rid of. I feel like at any moment bad luck or karma or fate could strike again.

Hopefully, if it does, the me that it aims at will dodge quickly... It's so much easier to dodge if you aren't carrying a bunch of shit around with you...