Thursday, January 19, 2017

some questions about life

I recently found the answer to why birds legs don't freeze off in the winter but I'm not going to reveal it here. I am not the science guy and you can wait to stumble upon the answer just like I did.

Why is Duck Dynasty on the Arts and Entertainment channel? I thought they had shows where the very proper John Houseman did the intro. Stories about dead kings and such, not grizzly old guys in camouflage. Of course, this could launch a whole raft of philosophical questions about television. Check out the listings for the Learning Channel sometime. Not much learning going on there, my friends.

Why do my medical symptoms start to disappear the day I call the doctor to make an appointment? When I tell the central office appointment scheduler that I suspect an eye infection, why does she want to know which eye? And you know I will answer that same question three more times before I actually see the doctor. I have to admit however, when I called to make the appointment, my doctor's name slipped my mind. Maybe they are trying to cement the actual thought into my brain so I am not wasting the doctor's time by scratching my head and thinking: joint pain? eye infection? bunions?

Why is it that when I spend all day cooking something, the idea of eating it is not very appealing? Is the mystery gone? Have I tasted enough that I'm not hungry? Is this a universal phenomenon?

When we watch television, why are all the commercials for erectile dysfunction, adult diapers, pharmaceutical solutions for insomnia and gas, and belts that expand when you sit down? Those belts, by the way, are worn by guys with scrawny legs wearing lime green bermuda shorts. It's offensive.

Why, oh why, would a woman nominated to an important cabinet post in our government cite the threat of grizzly bears as a reason to allow guns in schools? I am not making this up although you would certainly think so. Here it is. I have been in stressful interview situations and I have said some ridiculous things that I later regretted, believe me. But I have never said anything quite this bizarre.

Well, that's enough of my rambling mind this morning. I think I'll keep Woody company as he watches the first birds and squirrels come to the feeders this morning. I'll pour myself another cup of coffee. I'll get out my calendar and make a short list of things to do today.

Keep wondering, my friends.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

dog days of winter

I know dog days refers to the hot and sultry days of summer, but I think winter should get its due with a comparable spell of days. I found this on Wikipedia:
The dog days continued through the early 19th century to be perceived as foreboding a time of evil, wherein "the Sea boiled, the Wine turned sour, Dogs grew mad, and all other creatures became languid; causing to man, among other diseases, burning fevers, hysterics, and phrensies," as described by Brady in his Clavis Calendaria (1813).
Yeah, that's it. Burning, fevers, hysterics, and phrensies. (FYI. Phrensies is an obsolete spelling of frenzies.) You could probably look back over my ten years of blog writing and see this same theme repeated in January year after year. Sigh. It is not the peak of my biorhythmic cycle.

I decided yesterday that I had enough of sitting in the chair in my pajamas until noon. I got out my calendar, made a list of things to do, and I was busy all day. One of the things on my list was #3) Watch Doc Martin and knit. Check that one off.

I made soup, I made bars for dessert, I took the last of the holiday stuff to the basement, I went to the store for poster paper and to mail a package, I made two appointments. I was not a complete loafer.

Today I am sorting my mysteries since I spent an hour last night reading a book I had just finished a month ago. I regret to say (sort of) that I seem to have re-acquired my book hoarding habit. Sigh. My little library is stocked with books I bought at the thrift store, many of them old favorites that I have parted with over the years. It's hard to not go out there and fetch them back into the house.

We had an ice storm last night that left a sheen on everything and prevented safe travel by foot and vehicle. During the night, it was covered with some snow so it is much better today. School started late but the transit is operational.

I watched about an hour of the news this morning, trying to be more informed while avoiding insanity. It was interesting. One of the journalists said that Americans are exhausted from this crap. No kidding. I had to shut it off when they started talking about the nominee for Secretary of Education. A guy can only take so much reality.

Aside from sitting, I have been knitting. In the last two weeks, I knit a pair of leggings and two pussy hats. We had a hoot of a time trying them on and taking selfies last night.

I had the delicious privilege to be present when our newest grand baby Easton was born. Words can't describe how exciting and emotional it was to see him take his first breaths. It was something I will never forget. Even the dog days have some wonderful surprises.

I'm watching an episode of Doc Martin, soaking red beans for soup, and looking over my bread recipe. Sandi is coming over later so we can work on our signs for the march on Saturday.  The ice is melting, there have been a few birds at the feeder, and we're warm and cozy in our little house. Life is good even in the dog days.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

snow helps

Yesterday it snowed for a short time in the afternoon. This morning, it's snowing again. Against the colorless background of this winter, I love the white. The radio is talking about ice pellets and varying amounts of snow. Sigh.

There is a tiny junco at the feeder trying to get through the snow to the cracked corn.

The neighbor's car alarm did not go off this morning. Regis, doing the kind and neighborly thing, offered to help the operator learn to use it. Me, doing the grouchy un-neighborly thing, only complained loudly and turned on the porch light every time I heard it. My disposition is not at its best in January.

I had softened my stance on Facebook, even reading some of the political news, but yesterday I got sucked into a conversation where I tried to comment on something obviously not in that person's world view. I have since gone back to my campaign of withdrawal. Delete, unfollow, unfriend. It's like a damn war.

Regis and the techno-obsessed sons are in a competition to see who spends the least on heating. They all have the Nest so they get monthly statements of heating hours. I have agreed to attempt to cope with lower daytime temperatures in the house by piling on clothes, as my part in the fight against climate change. Haha! It sounds ridiculous but it's true. I have taken to wearing a large, wool sweater over my flannel nightgown. It's quite a look.

We were getting our trash and recycling out, me still in my robe and slippers. I walked outside and asked Regis if he thought I was starting to look old and ugly. He wondered what had prompted that question. Well, I said, I went in the bathroom and looked in the mirror.

I asked this very sweet husband if he would go out and sweep off the feeder so the tiny junco could get some seed. He said it would cost me a couple of degrees. So now it's a commodity.

I have a few tasks to accomplish today, in my state of advanced lethargy. I'm going to take the Christmas tree down, drag the stuff to the basement, make sausage and potato soup, and walk on the treadmill. Better get started.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

light and dark

When I start to list, in my head, the dark moments from my days, I can usually think of light that helps, a little, in the balance.

My friend, in another town. diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer that has spread to bones and organs. We taught together and she was kind and sweet and funny. What a sad burden for her and for her family.

Good friends joined us for dinner last night. Fresh bread, crab cakes with mango salsa, vegetable soup (with turnips), and coconut macaroons. Much laughter. They're taking a trip (a safari, like in the movies) to Africa soon. Imagine. Monkeys outside your tent.

Our friend in Texas, breathless walking on the beach, diagnosed with heart problems. Fixable, but disturbing. We know he hates this kind of attention, but for me, not a praying person, invoking his name here is like a prayer. Like it is for Sandy. And Karen. And Jaime. And Betty, always a worry.

It's gotten so that I am almost afraid to call people and a Caring Bridge email stops my breath.

A visit to Ecumen today with my friend, Kathryn, to write and read and share stories with our friends there. Their stories help me know that the timeline goes beyond what I can see right now today. We always leave feeling lighter and warmer.

The dread of the inauguration of that silly, morally corrupt, inept man. There aren't words. To balance that ugliness out, I am going to the Women March: Minnesota. I don't like crowds, I don't like going to the cities, I am not brave in any way but I am going to this. I've wept a lot of tears since November 8th and this will be the balance for that darkness.

We have a new grandbaby coming on Wednesday. That joy is the balance for other sadness which is not my story to tell. No matter what, a baby is a sign of hope and love.

The wretched weather. I am tired of wearing wool sweaters over my flannel nightgowns. Anders said last night that he got out his shorts and sandals, just to look at them. We are all tired of packing around 30 pounds of clothes and boots so we don't freeze to death. The balance is that the sky has been spectacular and the frigid temps will end soon. Even now, on the east side of the house, ice will melt when the sun is shining. Garden weather is coming soon.

Yesterday, I got a box of pictures I had ordered of Peter and April's wedding. I waited until this morning to open it and look at them. So many sweet moments on that hot, July day.

Every morning at 6 am, my sweet husband's alarm goes off on his phone, or his iPad, or both. Tropical birds. Lots of tropical birds in increasing volume until I get out of bed to shut it off. Then the neighbor's car alarm goes off, again, as it has the past two mornings. Nobody comes out to get in the car. Does a guy set a car alarm as a wake-up device?

I just read the post I wrote yesterday, which I sometimes do to make sure I am not repeating myself, which I often am. Sigh. This post sounds a lot like yesterday's, and pretty similar to others I have written lately. Sigh. Must be the same shit on my mind and the answer to it is the crazy cat eyes and WTF. And writing it down. When I write it down, it takes away a little of the power. Let's hope that works.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

blinky and weird and bread

I mentioned to Regis that we might have to replace one of our under-cabinet lights because it has been acting blinky and weird. Huh, he said. Kind of like you.

This time of year, when I spend a lot of time in the living room, I am always looking for ways to economize our space which is limited. In my sights today is the cat tree. We got it when Woody was about 2 years old, and honestly, he was more interested in the box. He never uses most of the space on it...the hammock, the kitty cave, the rope. He used to like the tallest perch and he eats on the second level, but otherwise it is a huge suck of space that is unused 98% of the time.

Since we solved the litter problem, now it's time to find something for this issue. Sigh. It's always something.

In the past three weeks, I have hardly left the house except for essential trips. Too icy, too dark, too cold. I drink coffee, take naps, read books, and knit. It is a nice life but I worry that I am becoming a recluse. I don't even like to interact much on the social media because of all the crazy people there who believe stuff they hear of Fox news. Gah. It makes my head explode.

I'm with AML on this one. The instinct to be half asleep all winter is so strong in me.

I have garden plans, though...always a hopeful sign.

I have been baking bread and making soup. I had high hopes for a steak and mushroom soup I made the other night but thought it was kind of meh in the end. Regis gave it a 7. Today I'm making this Amish Egg Harbor Bread again and Farmhouse Vegetable Soup from my new cookbook.

Amish Egg Harbor Bread

2 1/2 cups warm water (120-130 degrees)
3 T. sugar
1 T. salt
5 tsp. yeast
2 T. melted butter
6 cups flour

egg wash

Pour the warm water into a bowl or measuring cup. Add the butter, sugar, and salt. Proof for up to 10 minutes until bubbly.

In the bowl of the stand mixer, combine three cups of flour and yeast using flat beater. Mix well. Slowly add water mixture. Beat for about three minutes then switch to dough hook. Gradually add flour in half cups up to six cups total. Dough should be soft and not dry when finished.

Put into a large oiled bowl. Turn so it gets oiled all over. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for 30 minutes, then punch down and let it rise for 15 minutes, then punch down and let it rise for 15 minutes. Repeat one more time.)

Divide the dough and put into prepared loaf pans. Push the dough down into the corners of the loaf pan.

Cover the pans with greased wax or parchment paper and put aside until almost triple in volume. The dough should rise 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches above the rim of the tin in about 50 minutes.

Mix up an egg wash by whisking 1 egg with 1 T. milk. Carefully brush this mixture on the tops of the loaves. You don’t want to deflate the bread at this point!

Bake in a 350° oven or until done. After baking, turn out on to a rack for cooling. This makes a nice, solid white bread. It stays fresh for a couple days on the counter, then I slice and wrap in 2-3 slice measures and freeze. Makes wonderful toast!

Sending out good and healing thoughts to Tom, our former mailman friend who winters in Texas. Hope you're back on the beach and in the pub soon, Tom. 

Also healing thoughts to my friend, Elaine, in England. We met through the comment section of Humans of New York. I think we both offered to take in strangers for Thanksgiving dinner one year. Elaine is waiting for medical tests and diagnosis for some lingering problems. Hoping for the best possible news.

I better stop now or this is going to start sounding like the Lutheran prayer chain at church.

Beware the Eyes of Woodrow

Monday, January 02, 2017

this old man and lots of random stuff

From THIS OLD MAN by Roger Angell who is 90 something:
I’ve endured a few knocks but missed worse. I know how lucky I am, and secretly tap wood, greet the day, and grab a sneaky pleasure from my survival at long odds. The pains and insults are bearable. My conversation may be full of holes and pauses, but I’ve learned to dispatch a private Apache scout ahead into the next sentence, the one coming up, to see if there are any vacant names or verbs in the landscape up there. If he sends back a warning, I’ll pause meaningfully, duh, until something else comes to mind.
I bought fabric, cut it out, tried to sew it on the sewing machine, found I had no needles, got needles from Marie, found I had no idea how to use a sewing machine after all these years, hand-stitched the hem so Gus would have a nice bandana for Christmas Eve. Three days later he lost it on a walk. Not the $1.99 bandana we buy at Menards. This one.

We had days of 30-40 mph winds so I didn't hold out much hope for finding it. But two days ago, on a walk, Regis spotted it out in the field. He traipsed through the snow to retrieve it. Amazing. Lost and found has been a theme this year.

I have been sort of obsessed with Scotland lately. I hung a large National Geographic map in the bedroom and I have a road map of Edinburgh in the night stand drawer. Yeah, repeating myself. Sorry. Now, I want to know about their language so I ordered these two books for my Kindle. Both free. Elements of Gaelic Grammar

This was my breakfast yesterday. I know some people get all sarcastic if you post food pictures but I like them. Social media is very selfish. People think they can see what they want to see and nothing else. I am quite proficient at hide and unfollow so I don't care. Post away. If I get tired of something posted, I quit looking.

This came in the mail. Always a good thing to peruse during the long, gray days of winter. My garden is one of those things where the fantasy and the execution are quite different.

Putting away the 2016 calendar, I found this list. What the heck is it? I wonder if I was listening to something and made these notes. It's a mystery. Lost and found.

This quote by Louise Erdrich has been in the front of my calendar all year. Now it is moved to 2017. I love her writing. I have started hoarding books again. I just stopped by my little library in the garden and some of my favorites are in there. It took a lot of will power not to bring them back in the house.

Happy Monday. Moving on into the day.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

and so it begins

A new year.

We stayed up later than usual watching When Harry Met Sally. We feasted on strip steak, mashed potatoes, shrimp with Creole sauce, and Cuban bread. I might have been barely awake when midnight struck but I was in bed, reading my new Ian Rankin book.

I've been studying my maps of Scotland and Edinburgh to find the places Rebus visits in the books. I love the names: Firth of Forth, for example. I'm not sure what a firth is besides being some large body of water...maybe an inlet. I could look it up but so far, it's more interesting to wonder.

I'm sure the letter carrier (who rarely carries letters) was cursing me under her breath yesterday. All my Christmas presents came, and the pile of new books I ordered. We had a pile of packages on the front step that must have taken her three trips from the little truck. Stock pot is ready to go and I have been perusing the new soup cookbooks. Hungarian steak and mushroom will be my first go. Then French onion. We had the most delicious French onion soup at Number Four the other night for inspiration.

I haven't made any resolutions but I like this:
My Five New Year’s Revolutions BY PARKER J. PALMER

This is a video by my cousin, Nick Rhinehart. Nick is a musician and metal artist in Seattle. I haven't seen him since he was about four years old, but it's nice to have talented relatives. His sister is also an artist.

Here's Julie Fisco's work. Julie Fisco

And you are reading my body of work right here. The Blog.

Enough bragging. 

We'll spend a quiet day here on the Ponderosa. We're going to celebrate Ella's birthday at her house later this afternoon, then on with the new year. I have an appointment with Gunnar tomorrow. Time to leave cookies and lefse behind for a while.

Happy New Year, my friends.