Thursday, January 31, 2013

So brazen!

I hang out ears of corn, I throw out torn pieces of bread, and even buy them peanuts in the shell. And how do they repay my generosity?
By raiding the birdfeeders and sneaking onto the deck to steal the last of my Swiss Chard. And I just watch. Damn their Disneyesque cuteness.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I'm not the only one who takes on projects.

My younger son decided to make himself a walking stick. He cut down a limb from a silver maple tree and carved both ends to look like the knobs on the end of a femur. That's right, a thigh bone. Because that's the sort of kid I have.
Sanded, stained and polished it until it was like satin. But the best part is what's hidden under the knob at the bottom of the stick.
He fired up his forge and hammered a metal spike to fit into a hole he carved into the end of each piece, so that when he's outside, he can use the spike end. Carving, blacksmithing, building, mechanical projects - it seems that if he imagines it, he can make it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A good day for using the oven.

This past week, I read a post on the Molly Bawn Chronicles about making whole wheat raisin walnut bread, and I thought this cold weekend would be the perfect time to try it out. Step-by-step instructions are here on Molly's cooking blog. I rarely can get bread to turn out right, but I so love working with dough. I had this table made with scrap granite and it's the perfect surface for kneading bread.
In spite of the fact that I am a notoriously poor baker, I made a few changes to suit ingredients I had in my house. For instance, I had a bag of whole white wheat flour instead of the regular kind of whole wheat flour. This is made with white wheat instead of red, so it's a little milder in flavor. It's not refined flour, though. Also, I subbed in regular dark raisins, currants and apricots for some of the golden raisins. Because I had them. And some pecans for some of the walnuts. Again, because I had them. And threw in chia seeds for no particular reason except that they are so healthful. My version has this ingredients list:

1 pkg. dry yeast
1 1/4 C warm water
3 T butter, softened
1 T sugar 1 tsp salt
3/4 C walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 C pecans, coarsely chopped
3/4 C golden raisins
1/4 C regular raisins
handful dried currants
4 dried apricots, chopped
1/4 C wheat germ
1 T chia seeds
3 C (approx) whole white wheat flour

And you know, it is not only absurdly good for you, it is also delicious. We had some buttered with our dinner, but I think it would be good with jam or honey, as well. My son felt it had too many raisins, but I don't think that's possible.
And while I had the oven on... the grocery store had peppers on sale for a buck a piece. Well. I know what to do about that. Into the oven they went, at 400 degrees, until the skins began to wrinkle and brown.
After they'd cooled a bit, I de-seeded them, removed as much of the skin as would peel off easily, and sliced them into strips. There you have it, roasted peppers for adding to recipes at a later date (to top pizzas, add to pasta sauces, use on fish, and so on).
I wanted to freeze the colors separately but in small amounts so I could just get what I need to use. I decided to lay out sheets of plastic wrap and roll them up a small batch at a time, then pack the roll into a bag. Then, when I want to use them, I can just un-roll as many as I need. I was pretty pleased with that idea. Also pleased with the fact that even with all that cooking, I managed to get a nice long walk in at the lake. Sunny and high about 50 by yesterday afternoon - it was almost hard to remember we were covered in ice a couple of days ago.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A brief taste of winter in my yard.

Icicles on the bird feeder.
Harry Lauder's walking stick (a contorted filbert).
Dogwood buds.
Euonymous (burning bush).
Nandina berries.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

"I cannot see you -- that way you cannot see me: I am hidden."

Friday's ice storm (or what passes for ice storm this far South) caused all my patients to cancel and kept me at home yesterday. My steep driveway was covered with a sheet of ice and left me housebound. Might as well get my taxes done. I spent almost the entire day at this silly computer. For me, doing my taxes involved finishing entering all the practice's expenses and the last of the amounts from the remittance advices into spreadsheets, and downloading this year's edition of TurboTax. Nearly done, although I'll wait to efile when I've gone back over the numbers and so on. In the meantime, for the non-arachnophobes among you:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

My buzzards are keeping up their watch on my life.

A friend texted Saturday to say he'd bought a chair for his living room and a dining room table and chairs and I could come over to see them if I wasn't busy. I sat on his apple green couch and looked at the sage green living room chair and the hunter green dining room chairs.
Me: "You've got a frightening near-miss thing going on here." I got the colorblind look of incomprehension from him.
Him: "What do you mean?"
Me: "You know this couch is green, right? What color is that chair?"
Him: "Tan?"
Me: "And the other chairs?"
Him: "Brown?"
Me: "No!  They're all different kinds of green!"
Him: "Well, I like the tones."
Me: "Okay, but they don't go together. At all."
Him: "Welcome to my world."
Eventually we decided to go get some dinner. On the way down the highway, we very nearly hit some cows standing on the side of the road. I didn't even notice them until he said, "Black cows!" (Sure, he can't see green, but black cows at night he can see.) We doubled back while I called 911, and herded them up against the fence until a cop got there to drive them back into the pasture. The Thai place we wanted to go to didn't have a liquor license but said we could bring our own. We went to the gas station across the street to pick up a six-pack.  Up front was a display of fleece hoods and bananas. He picked up a hood and pointed one of the bananas like a gun, saying, "Look, the tools for a robbery right here at the cash register!"
The waitress poured our beers into water glasses and then later brought us some water in beer glasses. No matter, it was really, really good pad Thai.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Why I'm canceling my subscription to the local paper.

Not because they'll print anti-choice editorials, but because they'll allow such divisive, inflammatory titles for those op-ed pieces. I get it - free speech, blah, blah, blah. But when they print a headline-like title to an opinion piece and allow that sort of extreme bias in the language used, it gives credence to it as if the newspaper condones it. This is not news. This is one goombah's take on the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme court decision giving women the right to govern their own bodies. Agree or disagree, leave out inane statement that some of us are celebrating slaughter.

And to clinch my decision to stop having the paper delivered to my office waiting room, today's paper had no mention anywhere on the front page of a little event called a presidential inauguration. And yet there was full coverage when Bush was inaugurated. Doesn't matter who you voted for, an inauguration is news. Right wing fuckers.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Snow day!

 When I got home from work yesterday afternoon, the snow was already falling thickly.
By dusk, everything was covered. This sort of snow always looks magical to me.
 Patients cancelled today. What could I do but head out to the lake for a walk?
There was a group of kids who'd brought sleds for the hills and a few other walkers. The icy patches called for attention and I didn't even try to walk quickly.
Kids aren't the only ones who enjoy a snowfall. This herd of deer were having a big time, running and leaping in the snow. I switched the camera over to video, but they stopped to huddle up and chat until I put my camera back down. Contrary things.
The schools had been closed since Tuesday for flooding anyway, and it was easy enough for them to tack on one more closure for a snow day. I could have gone in to the office to do some accounting work, but I wanted to be home.
 It's supposed to get up to the mid-50's tomorrow, so I am just enjoying it while it's here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Waiting on the ark.

Rain. And more rain. And then, more rain. It's been a wet winter so far, and my side yard is almost entirely moss. I love the way it looks and feels, but I wish the grass wouldn't grow right up through it.
This is the walkway to the house. To avoid it, I've been running in through the screened-in porch and around to the back door. It's been raining so hard the past two days that the schools were closed a few hours early today because of flooding, necessitating my canceling two patients to go pick up my son.
It's probably just as well that it's miserable outside, since I shouldn't be doing more yardwork. On the positive side, as soon as I hurt my back, I started the stretches I'd learned in physical therapy before and made myself walk around as much as possible. Over the course of two days, I used less than two of the oxycodone, broken into pieces, that I had left over from my hysterectomy in 2010. By this morning, the pain was virtually gone. I think it's a measure of how much better shape I'm in now than I was ten years ago when I first hurt myself. Now, if it would only stop raining so I can go for another run.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Is it really winter?

Yesterday was warm. Too warm for January. I turned off the heater and opened all the windows in the house, and then went outside to work in the yard. I decided to focus on the upper bed on the side of the house. This time of year, the beds are covered with fallen leaves and seasonal plants that have died off.
As I worked, I could hear my younger son working behind the house at his forge, singing one of his Irish ballads.  In the front yard, my older son leaned against a dogwood tree, playing his banjo and watching me work.
It was perfect gardening weather - a high of 73 and a little overcast. The ground was wet from the rain we've been getting and easy to dig in. Normally I don't start this work until early Spring, but I couldn't bear to miss this opportunity. I gathered up bucket after bucket of dead leaves, tore out the brown remains of the lilies of the valley and dug up weeds that are merrily growing when they should not be. All of this went to the side of the road for the city to pick up.
I only stopped when I did because I'd promised my kids we'd go to a restaurant where my son said he'd found the best thing on the menu. We all got the same thing - mojarra veracruzana. A whole tilapia pan-fried and covered in a tomato shrimp sauce. And it was, in fact, delicious.
All told, I worked for about five hours yesterday. Unwisely, as it turned out. All those hours of beding and twisting to yank out weeds just outside my reach took their toll and when I woke up this morning, I knew I was in trouble. About a decade ago, I hurt my back to the point of needing physical therapy for a herniated disk. I know from the telltale pain along my sciatic nerves that I've done it again. Friday I was out running but today even sitting up is problematic, and I am walking with the shuffle of a nursing home resident. I can laugh about the foolish mistakes I make in my personal life, but this sort of thing just ticks me off at myself.
Live and, with any luck, learn. I'll be taking breaks more frequently and reaching a little less next time. But I'm uneasy about the weather. It's eerie for it to be this pretty when winter ought to be just hitting it's stride. It's not that I don't love it, but it's like being given a beautiful piece of jewelry knowing it was obtained in a mugging. I want to tell the daffodils to retreat, but I know they are just responding to the too-warm ground that houses them. Tell them global climate change is a myth.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A day in the life with my kids.

On the way to the guitar store, my older son was playing various types of metal music on his Macbook for my edification (not at my request). My younger son was in the back seat, occasionally commenting. I asked about one song, and this conversation occurred:

OS: "That's an interesting question. Some people would classify it as deathcore but it's really too melodic. So I'm going to call it melodic deathcore."
Me: "The Death Corps would be a good name for a deathcore band." 
OS: "It really would. Do you know what this genre is?"
Me: "Umm.. Celtic metal?" 
OS: "No, pirate metal. One of the weirder metals."
YS: "I think tungsten is one of the weirder metals."  
OS: "There are not enough knees in the world to slap for that."   
Me: "And what's that?"
OS: "Swedish Satanic black metal. Not to be confused with Norwegian Satanic black metal, which is entirely different."
Me: "Well, that goes without saying."
I elected to stay in the car, because the guitar store is loud and chaotic. But it was cold and I was bored. I had a staring contest with the poor dog in the car next to me. I think he was glad when his driver returned. When the dog had gone, I started texting everyone I knew to express my boredom and to say that I wished I had a book. Then I noticed a Dollar Tree. Everything's a dollar!  I find this a bizarre concept, that every single item in the store has been assigned the exact same value. But it was good news for me, because I found four books and a pair of reading glasses, all for five bucks and tax. I've since read the first one, a rather disturbing novel about a serial child torturer/murderer.
We ended the evening at a Chinese restaurant that my older son insisted was a favorite of his.  Except that they have lost their liquor license so I couldn't even get a beer to wash the mediocre-at-best food down. On top of that, my misspelled fortune declared that patience is my "alley."  I'm not sure if it's the same road that is paved with good intentions, but we all know where that leads!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Post-holiday slump.

Although the holidays are a busy time in my business, the post-holiday season is often just a little weird. Maybe folks are feeling let-down or overwhelmed or realizing that they've over-spent. At any rate, therapy takes some unusual twists this time of year. Like the person who refused to re-schedule because I would not tell her I was okay with her cutting. Really - in what universe would you expect your shrink to say, "Sure, slice into your skin! What are razor blades for?!" Or when someone responded to my question with, "Duh!," he took offense when I quietly suggested that perhaps that sort of response might be the reason he has a hard time keeping friends. And I've had an unusual percentage of people showing up at the wrong time, convinced that I was in error until they found their appointment cards later. So when the electrical transformer next to my office burst into flames and knocked out the power this afternoon, I wasn't sorry to call it a day.
Until I get my motivation for big projects back, I'm concentrating on little ones. My sister had told me about an on-line clothing store based on an odd premise - they buy up small lots of clothing, offer them for a few days only at deep discounts.  You just have to check to see if there is anything in your size that you really like on any given day.  BUT, there are no returns.  To try them out, I decided to buy a blazer for work.   But I vacillated between two, adding them and removing them from the virtual cart while I made up my mind.  When the box finally arrived (their shipping system is a bit of a mystery as well), I realized I must have hit the order button with both in there.  Thankfully, they were very inexpensive, fit like they'd been made for me, and were different enough in cut that it wasn't a huge issue.  But they both had big ugly plastic buttons that were nicked.
Next time I was in town, I went to a fabric store to get replacement buttons.  Who even knew there were so many different buttons to be had?  Literally thousands, in a dizzying array of colors and styles.  I fell into a stupor and wandered around with a photo of the jackets on my phone for 45 minutes, trying to decide.  There is such a thing as too much choice. (And yes, that's another metaphor.)
And sewing on those buttons is the only productive thing I did that day.  Today's task was un-decorating the tree and carting the bins down to the basement. Tomorrow, who knows?  I may even take the actual tree out to the road. Yeah. Winter just doesn't sit well with me.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Someone alert the Vatican.

These iconographic images have appeared miraculously in my very own house.
This one is clearly the Holy Ghost.
And this could either be the Virgin Mary when she was still only an egg or the fertility goddess Estra. I can't be sure, but either way, there is something mystical going on around here. Something sacred. And not just of the "Oh, God!" exclamation variety. Which is actually ironic, given the unholy mess I find myself in these days. Maybe having my home turn into a pilgrimage site will change everything for me.

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I am not a superstitious person. However, I love traditions and adopt them at will when they suit me. That's why, year after year, we all get a new pair of pajamas Christmas Eve and read the childhood Christmas books. And on Christmas morning, make orange-glazed rolls and play the same Kingston Trio album as we open gifts. I've had to alter the schedule some, since my time with the kids shifts each year, but we celebrate, whether it's exactly on the day or not.

This New Year's the boys were with me and we stayed up together. They asked that I play Scrabble with them, and to my protest that I don't like board games said, "At least it's not Monopoly." This time, they got tired of the game before I did.  Perhaps because I was winning handily. My older son, feeling nostalgic, had us watch "The Secret of NIMH."  (Trivia: I read "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH" in 4th grade. When it was made into an animated movie, the fine folks at Wham-O refused to let them use the name Frisby because it sounded too close to their own Frisbee.  Because who wouldn't mistake a cartoon field mouse for a plastic flying disk? They re-recorded and overdubbed to change the main character's name to Brisby.) At midnight, we toasted with champagne and went on to bed.  Where I stayed up way too late getting a start on my 2013 reading challenge.

And I tried to make a traditional Southern lucky New Year's Day meal - Hoppin' John (with brown rice and fresh black-eyed peas), cornbread, and greens. Each item represents wealth, but the greens smelled so awful cooking that I threw them into the trash outside and subbed in lettuce.  I should have known - when my mother used to cook collards or turnip greens I had to leave the house.  The genetic quirk that gave me the supertaster problem is not about to allow me to choke down bitter greens of any sort. My older son has it, too, and once told me, "Mom, they invented lettuce so people wouldn't have to eat cabbage."  I think he may be on to something. When a tradition isn't right for you, the only sane thing to do is let it go or to change it so that it fits.  And yes, that's also a metaphor.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Honestly, I'm kind of glad it's over. Not Christmas, so much, but the whole year. In the past, I've always done a year-end summary, but this year I didn't even want to do that. I'll just say it was exhausting. I don't even have the luxury of lying down on the job, like some shepherds I could mention. So... done with 2012, moving on to 2013.

I don't do New Year's resolutions. I mean, who doesn't think that this is finally the year they'll exercise more, eat healthier, spend more time with people they care about, advance their careers, get their finances in order, and finally get rid of all the clutter? Instead I have been (and will continue to be) reflecting. I have some decisions to make and change on the horizon, and I want to approach that mindfully.  I'm going to leave it at that for now.

For the New Year - whatever your hopes, whatever your plans - I wish you all well.