Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Just because I want it... a guilty pleasure

The ripples from economic downturn are finally touching our small town, and by the close of business tonight, 3 more downtown merchants will be out of business.

Among them are clothing store that has been a fixture in downtown for years and years and years and the upscale gift store. I see the advertisement:

50%-60% off

A small tingle races up my spine. I am not interested in most of the lovely, very expensive, gee-gaw items she has for sale, but I am interested in her frog stuff.

Although once upon a time I did make an impulsive purchase at her store as a reward for a particularly grueling week

and I bought this one because it made me smile... I have a very, very hard time spending money on things that have no function except to take up space. Things I want just because... I want it, unless the item is, say, maybe $5 or less, and even then I have to think about it.

I have seen what can happen when people want... and buy...

and want....

and buy....

and want....

I probably have gone too far in the other direction. When it comes to spending money on myself, I hold it tightly grasped in my fist, and I am reluctant to let it go even for something that might be considered a necessity. On more than one occasion I have carried some perfectly reasonable thing around the store for quite a while before finally talking myself out of buying it and putting it back. Richard will watch my face and he can tell when I am going to change my mind. He shakes his head and laughs.

I am not immune to wanting things, of course, and occasionally I do yield.

Several years ago I found this frog lamp in a salvage store (the shade is painted glass and easily scratched)...

and I knew she had a companion lamp to go with it. I would never buy the lamp at full price, but I would at 50% off.

So, I took my stash of birthday money that has built up over several years and went to the gift store.

I found the lamp and a ceramic bird feeder with frogs on it.

And while I was waiting for her make out the sales ticket, I saw this fellow...

And without thinking about it, I walked over, picked him up, and sat him down on the counter before I could change my mind.

I am so glad I did. He doesn't have any useful purpose: unlike the lamp, he doesn't light my desk in the early morning hours while Richard is still snoozing (a bookcase separates my office from the bedroom), and he can't hold sunflower seeds for the birds.

But he does give me pleasure every time I look at him.

And he was worth it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Getting labeled

So, how many of you women followed Donna's suggestion to buy the man in your life a labeling machine? The man in my life has had one of these devices for quite some time now. He originally bought it so he could label all his stuff in the garage.

The labels he was using weren't holding up very well.

Of course the labels didn't just stay on the stuff in the garage. They began to come upstairs into the house as well.

It is very helpful to have a clear label to read, especially because we buy a lot of food in bulk so that it has to be put in a container after we get it home.

And yes, he does have a bit of a dyslexia problem.

We like to put stuff in glass jars...

And old peanut butter jars if it is going into the freezer. And this wasn't fish sauce, I was collecting the liquid from canned fish to use in fish chowder.

And bags for the freezer get labeled as well....

First thing in the morning he likes to weigh out how many pieces of bread he will be able to eat that day and keep them separate from the rest of the bread...

We buy all of our spices in bulk, so the recycled jars we use get labeled so one can't mistake what is in them with anything else. This is a good idea. On one occasion I got oregano and basil mixed up and added double the amount of oregano. It wasn't a disaster but it could have been.

We make our own popcorn seasoning out of equal amounts of cumin, chili powder, paprika, and nutritional yeast and it has to have a container too.

Richard likes the large body wash containers for shampoo.

And I agree... but without a label it is hard to tell which is which and after he accidently used the shampoo to wash himself he decided he better label it.

We had sort of a loud argument about this one day.

I couldn't remember where the whole wheat pastry flour was and he insisted that it was in a labeled container. I knew I had not put it into a container after he came home from a trip to the bulk food store. I was almost certain it had gone straight into the freezer in a plastic bag. At that point about all I could do was stand at the counter, I still couldn't walk. So he had to to the basement to check, grumbling all the way, and I was right....

So, he made a label for it.... and me too....

I am not sure why I am the idiot here. Seems to me he should have been the one wearing this label...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Calm, cool, and collected

I cleaned my house yesterday. Sounds like an awful way to spend Christmas day, right? Wrong.

This was not the normal frantic, stressed-out cleaning rampage because, for example, someone calls and is coming to the house in 30 minutes. This was a leisurely puttering, vacuuming, picking up and putting away, straightening, sweeping, and getting sidetracked and wandering off to do something else, and coming back 30 minutes later and noticing the pile of debris still sitting on the floor.

It felt good.

At Christmas in December 1998, someone named Melissa gave the Sarah Ban Breathnach book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, as a present and wrote in the front:
Merry Christmas, Holly!!!

I thought you night enjoy reading this daily devotional. My mom got it for me last year and it has been a neat experience for me. It helps me put things in a new perspective. So, enjoy, and I hope maybe you learn a little something new about yourself along the way. Here's to a safe, healthy, and happy 1999!

Love, Melissa
We will never know if Holly learned something new about herself along the way. For whatever reason, Holly did not keep the book. It ended up at the Goodwill store in Gardena, the Los Angeles suburb where I grew up. I found it there while I was on vacation 5 years ago and I bought it.

Breathnach titles the January 16 reading "A Sense of Order: Cultivating Contentment" and she writes:

There is an immediate emotional and psychological payoff to getting our houses in order. We might not be able to control what's happening externally in our lives, but we can learn to look to our own inner resources for a sense of comfort that nurtures and sustains.... No woman can think clearly when constantly surrounded by clutter, chaos, and confusion....
She may be onto something there.

Brother Lawrence writes about his attitude toward the jobs he had in the monastery, including working in the kitchen and in the shoe repair shop, and that he tried to do "...everything for the love of God, asking as often as possible for the grace to do his work."

I did both of those jobs yesterday as well. I made a pie and scalloped potatoes (note to self: start nagging Richard about replacing the counter top in 2009).

I also did a little shoe repair; well, actually it was Richard's slippers. He bought them from a well-known mail order company that we have since come to realize sells - how shall I put this nicely? - poor quality, cheaply-made stuff.

We have purchased two items from this company and will never ever do so again, knowing that one gets what one pays for.

These slippers, which were very inexpensive, almost immediately began to fall apart. So I sewed 'em up, which will keep them going for a little while longer, and then he will finally throw them away.

It would be nice if all of life's rips and tears could so easily be mended.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the night before Christmas...

Today, weather permitting, I will go to the store and buy some chocolate chips for the pecan pie and some eggs.

I am trying my Aunty Vera's recipe for pecan pie. That's her there, with the white hair standing next to my sister. Well, I don't imagine it is really her recipe, but she is the one that told my mom and dad they just had to make it. So they did, and they sent me the recipe and told me I had to try it too. It has raisins in it. The recipe does not call for chocolate chips, but I am going to add them anyway. I had a piece of pecan pie last night at a dinner a friend's house that had chocolate chips in it. It was wonderful. I think raisins and chocolate go together well, so the pie should be OK. And you know what? If the pie does not turn out, it is of little consequence. Just a few dollars out on the compost heap.

It will be a simple meal tomorrow for just the 3 of us. Nothing fancy. I have tried fancy a couple of times in the past, and mostly with disastrous results.

The lyric "Chestnuts roasting on the open fire..." took quite a whole new meaning for me after I attempted to roast chestnuts in the oven to put in Christmas turkey dressing, and they exploded and made a terrible mess in the oven. We were living in Oregon when that happened.

Then I think about the truly awful Christmas dinner I prepared after we moved here.

And tonight's the night when Sandy Claws comes down the chimney. Yep, there was a lot of excitement in our home at Christmas when I was a kid growing up. But it wasn't just about getting presents.

I remember how much fun it was when Dad got out the box of ornaments. It was filled with shredded newspaper, and the ornaments were buried in that, and one had to fish around in there to find them. It was like a treasure hunt. And it was so much fun to decorate the tree.

I even remember a few of the Christmas presents I got -- a chemistry set, a snake, a bicycle.

But now, looking back on it, it seems like what I remember looking forward to the most was the arrival of the box that contained the tin with Aunt Betty's cookies.

I took this picture in 1979, which was the last time I saw her. She died in 1981.

She made wonderful cookies. And my favorites were these little cookie balls dusted in powdered sugar. Maybe they were Russian teacakes, or just Scottish shortbread. She used real butter, which was a luxury we seldom enjoyed. You could taste the butter. Oh my, they were truly wonderful.

Gives pause for thought balancing large amounts of money spent on presents when years later it will be something much more mundane that a child might remember, like a box of cookies, or making ornaments for the tree, or...

I first heard John Henry Faulk's Christmas Story on National Public Radio, and they aired it every Christmas for many years, before finally stopping. Take a few moments and listen to it -- it will take maybe 5 minutes, or read if it you prefer. It will give you pause for thought.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hold it... hold it..... doggone it...

I have seen this little one several times in the past two days. She (I think it's a she) has made a number of trips, vacuuming up sunflower seeds until her cheeks are bulging.

I wonder if she knew deep down in her little animal bones that some seriously cold weather was on the way, and was just making sure there was enough to eat in the burrow under the oak tree. I wonder how many of these she actually eats, and how many are wasted.

Well, the cold weather arrived this morning, whether she sensed it or not. Church is canceled. And I don't think I will be seeing too much of her today, or the next few days.

I love watching her, and I was trying very hard to get picture of her looking at me with her cheeks bulging with sunflower seeds.

I'd tap on the window and she'd sit up on her haunches for a second or two to look at me, and then go back to vacuuming up the seeds before I could get the camera situated and press the button.

And then when her cheeks were about as stuffed as they could get.

I tapped. She stood. And she held the poise, perfectly, and I managed to get a couple of pictures.

And I ended up with this....

And this....


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sunshine, on my shoulder....

In the Ray Badbury short story All Summer in Day, Margot, a little girl who arrives from Earth to live on Venus, where the sun shines once every 7 years, writes a poem about the sun she remembers from before.

I think the sun is a flower,
That blooms for just one hour.
This is a sad story. The sun does come out, but she doesn't get to see it.

I know I will not have to wait 7 years to see the sun again, but nevertheless, we have not seen the sun since Monday.

Today it was supposed to be sunny and 50 degrees and we planned a trip to Town.

It is not 50 and sunny. The sky continues to be a solid sheet of gray and light freezing rain is in the forecast. I wouldn't mind seeing the sun for an hour.... or two.... or three...

And looking at this picture taken not all that long ago, when our world was still green, reminds me that we need a new lawnmower.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Here come de judge...

I was assured on good authority a few weeks ago at the church fellowship meal that between November 27 and January 2,


I was so happy to hear this news. We have been absorbed with calorie counts and grams and ounces for more than 2 years. It's so nice to have a holiday.

Except we had to come back home and face the judge and the jury.

Yep... "Here come de judge, here come de judge..."

Somebody forgot to tell her. She never takes a holiday

Monday, December 15, 2008

And now, for their next tricks....

He was busy doing about three things in the kitchen at the same time. He decided to make coffee, and so he opened the refrigerator and stood there for a second or two until he remembered that the coffee pot stays in a large drawer in the counter.

There was a large jar of salsa that was about half empty. He decided to put the salsa in a smaller container to save space in the refrigerator. He took the lid off, and for some weird reason...

He shook it.

Salsa went flying everywhere. He had salsa in his beard,

on the note pad and pen that he keeps in his pocket, on his shoes, his clothes.

He said nothing at all when this happened because he knew she would come running in with the camera to capture him in all his salsa-splattered glory.

The next day, it was her turn....

On Friday morning she posted to her blog. She wrote a letter to her parents and opened a DTP program and started to make a version of the post to send along with the letter. Her parents do not have a computer. She was almost done...

And then she spilled coffee all over her computer keyboard. She tried to finish, but as she continued to type, this happened...

Sorry... I hsad more photographs but I am hsaving saome trouble I sapillewsad xzcoffewew

She saved everything and shut down the computer.

She disconnected keyboard and washed it with the sprayer attachment at the sink and carefully.... oh so carefully... undid the 14 screws holding the keyboard together and took it apart.

She carefully spread all the parts out so they would dry.

He gave her another keyboard to use. It was horrible and she asked for a replacement for the replacement. He gave her a replacement. She had some trouble typing on it too; there was something slightly wrong with the "aaaaaa" and "ssssss" and the "dddddd".

At the end of the day, when everything was dry, she began reassembling the keyboard.

She did not realize it, but she was putting it together wrong.

She was putting the caps back upside down.

She got it all back together. She managed not to lose any of the small plastic caps for the keys or any of the tiny screws. But the keys wouldn't move up and down. So she took it apart and turned the plastic caps over.

She put the back on. This time she discovered a screw was missing, but the keys went up and down like they were supposed to.

Saturday morning she hooked it up to her computer. The keyboard it did not work. She was disappointed and felt a little like crying, but did not.

She struggled half the day with the aaaaaa ssssss (and yes, she had to do a word check to make sure no "ass"es slipped through) and dddddd problem and then borrowed a keyboard from a backup computer in his office. This new and improved keyboard has three function keys at the top on the right. They are marked "Power... Sleep... and Wake up.." She accidently hit the Power key. Her computer instantly shut down right in the middle of what she was doing.

She felt like crying and saying swear words. She did not cry, but she did.... uh... well... never mind. She will repent and ask for forgiveness.

He said he would look at the keyboard and see if he can figure out what she did wrong when she put it back together.

She made a small cardboard cover for those three keys so she doesn't accidently hit any of them again.

And now, for their next tricks....

Friday, December 12, 2008

My Love Affair With Miss Buncle

It's not what you think, honest.

Miss Buncle is a character in a book.

D. E. Stevenson was a UK author who published 40+ books starting around 1923 up until the late 60s. She died in early 1970. Our library has many of her novels, and I think I have read them all. They are on the bottom shelf of the library, and I would have taken a picture of the whole lot of them except I didn't feel like laying down on the floor to do it. Getting up off the floor is an adventure.

My very favorite D. E. Stevenson novel is Miss Buncle's Book, which was compiled in an omnibus volume called Miss Buncle with a sequel, Miss Buncle Married.


Every few years I check the book out and read it again. I have told the library clerk that if the library ever decides to discard the book, to please call me. I'll buy it.

A few days ago I could feel the urge to read her again. I was almost done with Anita Shreve's book Testimony.

The dust jacket says "Gripping emotional drama with the impact of the a thriller." No kidding. It was definitely that, it certainly did grip me, but it also depressed the heck out of me.

The last we went to the City, I used some birthday money to buy...

the new book by Alexander McCall Smith book The World According to Bertie.

I needed something else that I know would be light and airy and fun, but not Bertie. Not yet.

Miss Buncle to the rescue. So I took Anita back to the library and found Miss Buncle gathering dust on the shelf.

The date due slip in the back of the book does not tell the whole story.

I am library patron 180. Do you see any other numbers on the slip? No, you don't. The only person who has checked this book out since 1998 is me. ME.

But I have read it many more times than this. When I first began checking the book out, the library used the old fashioned system of a pocket that held a card where the patron wrote their number and their initials and the clerk stamped the date next to it. I was 2944 back then. Once upon a time I worked in a library and I had to file the library cards away and put them back in the books when they were returned. I know all about this system.

At any rate, the library changed how it checked out books about 6 years ago. Now the books have bar codes and they scan it in and the computer prints out a slip. No more card pocket or card.

So, I imagine I am probably the only person to have checked the book out since maybe 1990.

D. E. Stevenson got the idea for writing the book, which was published in 1937, when she overheard a conversation on a bus:

The idea for Miss Buncle's Book came to me while I was sitting in a bus. The woman next to me said to her friend, "Everyone knows all about everyone in our village. If I had time, I'd write a book about them..."

Suddenly at that moment, Miss Buncle was born.

A story about a woman who knew all about everyone in her village and wrote a book: Yes, it was a good idea - but one could carry it further. A story about a woman who wrote a book about a woman who wrote a book about a woman who....

Let the fun begin....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Oh, Carolina! You little stinker....

I hear Richard clomping up the stairs. He proceeds briskly into my office, shouting as he comes,

"Something is throwing screws and nails all over the garage floor! This is not good. What could be doing it?"

Well, most of that statement is true. Richard is a quiet man, he almost never ever shouts; so this is more of a frustrated whine.

I offer an opinion that it might rats; they like shiny stuff. But I suggest is probably the wrens. Wrens are prone to throw stuff around when they get ready to make a nest. Why they would be doing that now is a mystery because it is not nesting season.

I go downstairs to the garage to see for myself.

Richard has carefully organized the garage so that he can fill it with stuff and still get the cars in there.

The screws and nails are kept in small red bins that sit on shelves.

Underneath the bins sits a bucket where Richard stores the used oil until it can be recycled.

There are nails on the bucket lid.

I find a nail on the floor...

and a screw a few inches from a tire....

and yet another nail amongst the leaves.

I wonder how may more are under the leaves that I can't see. I get the push broom and sweep everything to the side so the screws and nails do not end up in our tires and so that any more nails they throw out on concrete will be noticed, at least until the wind blows more leaves inside the garage.

Richard puts a board across the top of the bins to discourage them, but it doesn't. A few days later, Richard catches them in the act.

It is Carolina wrens after all.

They like to eat the suet cakes I make and put for the birds in the winter...
.they and the titmouse and the nuthatch, and the woodpeckers and the others that come.

The wrens love our garage and they started building a nest this spring, but we thought we were going on vacation and the garage doors would have to be closed, so we tore the nest out.

They gave up and next tried the burlap clothespin bag that hangs on a hook on the back porch. That's how I know all about how wrens like to throw stuff around.

They threw out most of the clothespins. I put the clothespins back.

They threw them out.

I gave up and put the clothespins in an empty plastic ice cream tub and let them try. They filled the bag with sticks and leaves, but they were not successful in their attempt to hatch the eggs and raise the babies.

Squeaker was very interested in what they were doing, and the bag was within her reach. I raised the bag higher on the post, but something destroyed the nest anyway.

A burlap clothespin bag is ho hum for Carolina wrens. They are known for building nests in very strange places. A wren built a nest behind the air conditioning grill in one of our disabled cars.

A wren built a nest in between the supports of my pasta maker, which I had put upside down in a plastic bag on a shelf in the barn. I spent hours cleaning the debris out of the cutters and rollers.

Everybody here has a Carolina wren story. A wren built a nest in a friend's tractor and did not abandon it even when he fired up the beast and used it to plow his field. The dentist had a painting that was made of a photograph he took of a wren building a nest in the pocket of an old jacket hanging on a hook on a porch.

"Little stinkers," Richard says. "I will have to start closing the garage doors."