Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

We didn't wind up going to the movie. Mom, my sister, and I went out shopping at Michael's, a grocery store, and a make-up salon called Ulta. I bought some Bare Minerals foundation -- the start-up kit, since I have no idea how to use the stuff. Kit comes with 2 jars of foundation, a jar of something called "warmth," three brushes, and a DVD explaining how to apply it.

Shortly after waking up and getting my coffee on the 27th (while I was writing the last post, actually), I noticed I had a scratchy throat. After shopping I came home and uncharacteristically took a nap. Woke up feeling worse. Got to use my Snuggee for the first time, 'cause I was having chills. Managed to make it through dinner, took some cold medicine and went back to bed.

We headed home the next day after brunch. I've been in my jammies, bundled up on the sofa with the TV on and the cat purring in my ear ever since I got home. I felt well enough today to go out and buy stuff for the little "party of one" I throw on New Year's Eve, but as soon as I got home I changed back into pajamas. I'm almost all right, except for an occasional chesty cough.

Now I'm gonna post this, log off, and curl up with the cat. Maybe I'll watch some of the stuff on my DVR. It's 58% full now.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Two-days-after-Christmas

Howdy! I'm in my sister's basement right now. Sorry, I mean "rec room" (inside joke). We got here just fine, though my parents didn't get to me until a little before three o'clock. They thought they'd be there around noon, and then I got a call from a town about an hour away at 1 pm saying they'd be to me in 45 minutes. The roads from here to the Lancaster area were fine, though it was a bit foggy in places.

Christmas Day we opened presents until around noon, I think, then played with our gifts until dinner time. Stretch cooked a crown roast of pork this year. I think next year he's going to fry a turkey--Ditter got him an electric turkey fryer. It looks like a Fry Daddy on steroids. Huge.

There seemed to be a few themes this year for Christmas: light, keeping warm, and bling. My mom gave us baseball caps with LED lights in the brim so that you can see where you're going. My parents also gave my sister and me wind-up flashlights. A lot of us got flannel jammies, and those fleecy blankets with sleeves (Snuggs, I think they're called. It's like putting on your bathrobe backwards.) I gave Mom and Dad a thing I found through Mighty Haus a while back. It makes burnable bricks out of newspaper. I figured they can use it in conjunction with their new coal and wood stove. And there was lots of jewelry to go around. And, based on a rant I emailed Mom about my slurping co-worker, I got a nice set of earphones. Yay! Now I don't have to raid my iPod every time I want to block sound!

Yesterday my parents took everyone to lunch at a place called Shady Maple. It's a smorgasbord. I was told it was large, but I wasn't prepared for exactly how large. Wow. Huge. And full. Mr. S. dropped us off at the front door and went to park, and we walked into what looked like a hotel lobby. I wish I'd brought my camera. I think the entire county was in there. After lunch we came home and most of us took naps. I played on the computer until everyone woke up again, and then watched TV with my mom and my sister.

Been a lazy few days. Today Ditter and I are going to see Twilight. 'Cause nothing says "Christmas" like vampires.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Kitty's in the doghouse

Running around like a nut trying to get packed and put together, one ear out for the phone (Mom promised to call me when they're about to head out), I walk into my bedroom and hear suspicious rustling. I turn on the overhead light and Delilah slinks away from the presents -- from Schatzi's present, to be exact.


Exhibit A

She got all the wrapping paper off except for one piece of tape on the back, and then chewed her way into the package. I'm mad and impressed at the same time. Looks like I'll be making a trip to the store before we head out of town.

They just called me as I was typing this. They're leaving now. If you wouldn't mind, please send good thoughts towards upstate Pennsylvania. The roads were all icy this morning, and it's still raining. My sidewalk is a mess but I don't know if that's any indication of what the roads are like. I hope they've cleared up some now that the sun is out and the salt trucks have been round.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pre-holiday freak-out

My mother just called to raise my blood pressure.

Well, that wasn't her intention but it sure was the result. She's at work right now, and has been looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow. It looks like her area's supposed to get freezing rain in the morning. She thought maybe she and Dad should leave this afternoon and stay with me overnight, then set out for my sister's house from here tomorrow morning.

Excellent idea, except for one thing. I'm not prepared for house guests right now. I'm trying to bake, wrap presents, do laundry, decorate for Christmas, and straighten up all at the same time. So springing a surprise visit on me right now? Not a good idea.

What was I going to say, though? "No, risk your lives tomorrow morning, I'm not set for company." So I said, sure, fine, come on down.

"Well, I have to run this by your father first, but I thought I'd give him this option, if it was okay with you."

"Sure!" I squeaked.

"He'll probably say we'll be fine tomorrow morning. So don't panic yet."

"Oh, it's too late for that."

She laughed and hung up. Called me back a minute later saying that the line was busy at the house, which means he's probably on the computer. I hung up, did a preliminary cleaning of both bathrooms, sorted laundry and threw a load into the washer, and started to unload the dishwasher. She called again.

"Still no answer at the house. I even sent him an email telling him to get off the computer and call me, but no dice. So I guess you can forget that idea. We'll see you tomorrow."

"Oh. All right."

"I was just thinking of safety."

"Yes, I know. You'll probably won't go down Wykoff Run if the weather's bad, yeah?"

Wykoff Run is this twisty-turny little two-lane road that goes up and then down a mountain. Very remote, lots of hunting camps on it. Dangerous in bad weather, probably, what with all the turns and inclines. Cuts about an hour out of the trip, though, which is why Dad uses it.

"Yes. Which means it'll take even longer to get to you. So. Sorry for the scare."

"No, it's all right. I need a poke to get me moving today. Got to get all sorts of stuff done, and I was having a hard time getting motivated. Thanks for the cattle prod."

"Anytime. See you tomorrow."

Whew. All right, gotta go finish emptying the dishwasher, clear off the kitchen table, finish wrapping presents, make more cookies, straighten the living room, clean the cat box, wash out and refill Delilah's water fountain, do more laundry, wash more dishes, pack, clean the bathrooms, change the sheets, empty the outdoor lint trap, and collapse. Not necessarily in that order. I should probably do the lint trap first, 'cause I'm going to need the dryer in a few minutes. Where are my shoes?

Here's an interesting little thing I found out today: my phone line is voice-over-IP, it comes from the cable company along with my TV and internet access. Before today, I've never had the TV on when the phone rang, so I didn't know that incoming phone calls get announced on the TV. When the phone rings, a little blue box pops up on the screen to tell me who it is. Neat, huh?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Can't wrap this

I could've used this a few days ago. All the Virginia and (now) California relatives got their presents mailed to them earlier this week. Monday night was spent sweating and swearing over wrapping paper, while the cat looked on in amusement.

“Can't Wrap This” video at DanceJam.com

Ah, yes.

The "California relatives" were "Germany relatives" until earlier this year. My Air Force cousin finally saw reason and is getting himself retrained again so that he can go back to babysitting the nuclear warheads. It's kind of scary when the safest place to be right now is next to the missile silo, no?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cookie recipe

As I promised in the comments of the previous entry, here's the recipe for the bar cookie that uses raspberry preserves. I found a recipe measurement converter online, so there are metric measurements in parentheses. I rounded up or down to one decimal point, when necessary

Raspberry Coconut Bars

3/4 c. butter, softened (170 g)
1 c. sugar (228.5 g)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (2.5 ml)
2 c. all-purpose flour (453.6 g)
1/4 tsp baking powder (1.2 g)
2 c. flaked coconut, divided (453.6 g)
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (113.4 g)
1 12-ounce jar raspberry preserves (352.9 ml or 342.8 g)*
1 c. vanilla or white chocolate chips (228.5 g)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (177° C).
2. Grease a 13" x 9" x 2" baking pan (33 cm x 22.9 cm x 5.1 cm. I looked around on Amazon.co.uk, and I think this would be called a brownie pan).
3. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Set aside.
4. In another bowl, combine flour and baking powder; gradually add this to the creamed mixture and mix well. Stir in 1 1/4 c. coconut (285.7 g) and the walnuts.
5. Reserve one quarter of the dough to use as topping. Press the rest of the dough into the greased pan. Spread with preserves. Sprinkle with chips and the rest of the coconut. Crumble reserved dough over the top; press lightly.
6. Bake at 350° F (177° C) for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Cut into bars.

This recipe says the yield is 36 bars. I think that may depend on how you cut them.

And personally, I don't think the white chips were necessary. I didn't notice them in the piece I ate. Also, the recipe didn't specify, but I used seedless preserves to save my gift recipients from getting jabbed in the gums.

*Not sure whether jam is measured as dry or liquid, so I did both conversions. Wish I hadn't already thrown the label away.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Tweets you see when you forget your phone

I went to the grocery store after work today armed with a list of things I need for the First Annual Baking Extravaganza here at Chez Vee. I was really wishing I'd remembered to put my cell in my purse before I left the house this morning. I can be much more tolerant of irritations when I am able to secretly snark about them to Twitter.

1) I need a bag of white chocolate chips. I'm finding every kind of chip but that. Chocolate in various forms (dark, semi-sweet, milk, with mint, miniature), butterscotch, peanut butter, cinnamon, but no white chocolate. Am I the only person in town who wants this? Surely there's more than just the recipe I'm using that calls for 'em.

2) I need raspberry preserves (same recipe, as it happens). I find the jelly aisle (after passing it twice), and am to stuck behind a man who is...well, the only word for it is bogarting. Yep. He is bogarting the jelly. I need one 12-ounce jar of raspberry preserves. I can see them but I can't get to them. He is standing in front of me (us, really. Other people are trying to get at the jelly, too) and a little off to my left, swaying, weaving, browsing, dreamily oblivious of anything except the burning question of what should go on his toast. He has a jar of something in his hand already, but he is (I guess) trying to decide if this is the right choice. Dude, it's jelly. Pick something and go. Or at least get outta people's way. He sways a little to the left and I see my chance. I dive in, snag my preserves, turn around and smile grimly at the mother of two (one child in the cart, one hanging off of the edge) who is about to take my place, and move on. And yes, before you ask, people have tried speaking to him. He doesn't respond to "excuse me."

3) Hey look! A whole display of baking items! Three tables' worth! One whole table is covered with varieties of chips from Nestlé, Hershey, Ghirardelli...and still no white ones. Blast.

4) I am now stuck behind a mother and son tag-team of slowpokes. They're meandering cartless up the aisle, looking at everything and finding nothing in particular. They put just enough room between them that I could almost get through, and then close up the gap again right before I decide to try. Mom mentions something to the boy about snacks for his hockey team, maybe something individually wrapped, so I'm guessing that's what they're looking for. As we get to the end of the aisle I will them to turn left. My mind to your mind, your thoughts to my thoughts..... Crap. They're turning right. And I still can't get round them. I duck down an aisle I don't need just to get away from them and get stuck behind them again two aisles later. What on earth are they doing in the frozen foods section? Are they gonna give the hockey team succotash?

5) Just for the heck of it, right before leaving I go back to the baking aisle one more time in search of my white chips. There's a cardboard display that I don't remember seeing before, and on the bottom, shoved way in the back there is one bag of what I'm looking for. I grab it, toss it in the cart, and scurry towards the check out line. Oop! The Slowpoke Hockey Mom just picked that line. Keep moving, try another one. Hey, look! Bogarter made it out of the jelly aisle. Out of curiosity, I get behind him and see what he chose: store brand grape. Aw, c'mon. For all that wavering, he could have at least bought something by Bonne Maman or Trappist.

6) Passing me on their way into the store as I leave it is a mother-daughter duo, going over their list of baking needs. I hear mother say just before the door shuts,

"Don't let me forget, we need white chocolate chips too."

Rotsa ruck, ma'am.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A LOLcat that makes me laugh

Who'd've thought a cat would eat a snow cone?

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

I liked this one so much, I downloaded it to my terminal and am going to use it as desktop wallpaper after Christmas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Public embarassment, bad dreams, and stupid ideas

or, "What the past few days have been like."

Occasionally I have an anxiety dream. It usually involves having to take a final in a class I didn't know I was enrolled in and now cannot drop. Don't know the subject, or the teacher, or even the building the test is in. I spend most of the dream running around campus trying to find this exam. If I find the room before I wake up, it's usually as some faceless voice is saying, "Pencils down." Test's over, I missed it. Then I wake up, and have to calm myself down by remembering I'm not in school any more.

Last night the dream had a new wrinkle. My report card came in the mail (I don't know whether I was a high school student or a college one). I got all A's except for one B+. My mother was ranting and raving about the B+, wanting to know how I could let this happen, this could ruin my future, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Here's the kicker--my mother? Was my old supervisor from a year and a half ago.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaah!


I told my fellow refugee from Hell this story and she said, "You are really letting that holiday party invitation get to you, aren't you?"

We'd just been invited the day before to the annual holiday "celebration" at the old office, and neither of us wanted to go. We're going, though, partly because there are some people there we'd like to see, and partly to keep good diplomatic relations between them and our people.

Then last night I had another doozy. All I remember from it is a bit about having to go to a morgue to ID my sister's body. And then I woke up sobbing. I had to talk myself out of calling her at three a.m. today to see if she was all right.

What the [bleep] is up, brain? Halloween was months ago, why are you scaring me now?

Then there's the fun bit on the bus this morning. It was raining quite heavily when I left the house. Everyone on the bus and all their belongings were dripping wet. I was talking to a friend and (now) neighbor as I went to get off at my stop (ahead of her, thank goodness) took one step and went jeet, BOOM! down the steps. Three of 'em. Hit my tushie on each one as I passed. I got to the bottom and, clinging to both hand railings, announced unnecessarily over my shoulder to the rest of the bus:

"The steps are slick!"

I drew the attention of people from 50 yards away, it was that impressive a fall. Bus driver asked me twice if I was okay, and then pulled up along side me as I was about to enter my building and asked if I was sure I was all right. I said, "Well, my bottom hurts, but I did just smack it three times. I'm fine."

And I am, for the most part. I'm going to have a beaut of a bruise when it finally shows. Right now it hurts a little if I shift in a particular direction, so I try not to do that.

When I got to work (after relating my story to my team, laughing so hard at myself that I was starting to tear up. I bet it looked hilarious!), I found Santa had stopped by. One teammate had given me shortbread, another gave me a bag of Jordan almonds and a big bottle of bubble bath/shower gel/shampoo. It's from a company called Philosophy, where my sister gets her perfume. Scent is Snickerdoodle. Food. Dessert, even. But I took a good whiff of it, and all I smelled was cinnamon. Not bad. It's a scent I think I can live with.

So tonight, after I got home and got myself some dinner, I decided to go soak my achy bottom in a bubble bath. I don't do baths very often. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've taken a bath since my mother announced I was old enough to start using the shower. I don't think I'll be doing it again soon.

Try this: Take a small stock pot, fill it almost to the top with hot, soapy water. Then, from a height of about three feet, drop in a bowling ball. The resulting mess will give you some indication of what the bathroom floor looked like when I sat down in my too-full tub. And I wasn't in there very long before I noticed some of me was getting cold, and the water was getting lukewarm. So I emptied some out, refilled, and proceeded to slosh around, getting even more water on the floor in the process. Turns out I couldn't really soak my achy bum because it hurt when I leaned back. Or moved forward. Or stood up.

Sigh.

So now here I am in my jammies, lying prone in front of the laptop on the floor of the upstairs hall (I'd brought it upstairs to play some nice soothing classical music while I soaked. Really, really glad I didn't put it anywhere in the bathroom, but instead left it outside on the carpeted floor, well away from Lake Snickerdoodle), smelling of cookie dough, with an achy behind, and afraid to go to sleep for fear that my brain's gonna toss me another hand grenade tonight.

So. How are you?

P.S. Ditter's fine by the way. She says dreaming about a death usually means there's a birth round the corner. She's been trying to make me Auntie Vee for a little while now, so, fingers crossed.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Nifty music widget

Blogger Buzz pointed out a nifty little widget from iLike. It allows you to make play lists and post them on your blog's side bar. I noticed (after trying a few of the links) that it allows 25 free plays of each song. I don't know if that's per IP address or total for the blog. I guess I'll see when (and if) we hit 25. Someone let me know when that happens, okay?

I like remakes, the odder the better. I just like seeing what happens when people put their own spin on someone else's song. Sometimes it becomes so popular, folks think it's the original. Take "Woodstock," for example. That's a Joni Mitchell song, but I always thought it was a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song until a roommate of mine played me Joni Mitchell's first album.

I found some of my iTunes playlist entries on iLike, but not all of them. I've listed nine. One I found while actively looking for belly dance music, the other I hunted down after hearing it in class (that would be "Rock el Casbah," and "I Put a Spell on You," in that order. The rest are ones I've heard on the radio, found on CDs I've bought, or heard on my sister's favorite Sirius satellite radio station.

Hope you like 'em.

P.S. Some day, when I know how to do it, I'm going to put a choreography together for "I Put a Spell on You." I wonder if it's long enough and slow enough for a sword dance. Ha! Like I know how to dance with a sword yet.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tag, I'm it

So Hotch Potchery gave me an award -- my first ever:


But I have to earn it. So here's the meme I have to answer for this award. I gotta tell ya, part of the reason I haven't posted in a couple of days is that the questions stumped me.

After being tagged for this meme, you must:

1. Say one nice thing about a man in your life.

Erm. First roadblock. What man?

I guess I can write about my father. I'm always impressed by how much he knows and can do. He fixes most things that break in the house all by himself (and unlike Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor of Home Improvement, we don't have to call in repairmen after). He and mom are finishing their house all by themselves, with occasional help from local Amishmen when it's a job my Dad can't do alone. Mom says so far the only thing he hasn't done is masonry, but that was before they put together a stone wall to cover the chimney box for the wood and coal stove they just installed.

2. List at least 6 ways that you measure (get it?) success in your life (or your blog):

And again, stuck. I really don't know how to answer this question, because I don't consciously think about success much. I'm more interested in happiness. Because you can be successful and still be unhappy (the head of the department where I used to work comes to mind. I suppose she's successful -- tenured, published, nationally respected, locally feared. She's also bad-tempered, sharp-tongued, and miserable), and that's really a yes-no question as opposed to a measurement.

So I spent a couple of days trying to figure out how I measure success. It's usually small things:
  • Did I finish a project, and am I pleased with the result (my latest scarf, for example)?
  • I have a whiteboard on the side of the fridge where I list to-do items related to the house. Are they getting done, or is the list just growing?
  • I used to beat myself up about my housekeeping, but I don't any more. I'm messy. Deal with it. So there's a former measure of success that I've abandoned because it makes me unhappy.
  • Except for the kitchen counter. By Sunday night, I need to have the counter completely clear and clean and ready to get messed up again the next week. I don't know why that is. It started when I moved in.
  • And I suppose last month I measured success by posting a blog entry at least once a day.
That's five. I can't think of a sixth. And I kinda cheated, cause one of them is a measurement I no longer use.

3. Assign this award to 6 other bloggers, and leave them a comment telling the blogger you've assigned them this award.

Hmm. All-righty. I'm not going to inflict this on six people, though, just two: JustMe of Peanut Butter and Bacon Sandwiches, and Strings of the String Section (she made the mistake of writing that she likes these things). Anyone else who wants to do this, consider yourself tagged. To get the award, right-click on the image at the top, save to your desktop (or wherever), and then upload it to your blog.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Just one word

Hotch Potchery got tagged with this meme, and didn't feel like tagging anyone else. I decided to tag myself. The point (I think) is to answer each question with one word only. Here goes:

Where is your mobile phone? kitchen
Where is your significant other? unmet
Your hair color? brown
Your mother? eclectic
Your father? talkative (my mom says Dad never met a stranger)
Your favorite thing? varies
Your dream last night? traveling
Your dream goal? 135
The room you're in? yellow
Your hobby? embroidery
Your fear? cancer
Where do you want to be in 6 years? Europe (just for a visit)
Where were you last night? home
What you're not? vindictive
One of your wish list items? makeover (preferably after I hit my dream goal)
Where you grew up? Philadelphia (suburbs)
The last thing you did? dinner
What are you wearing? clothes
Your tv? off
Your computer? laptop
Your mood? relaxed
Missing someone? no
Your car? nonexistent
Something you're not wearing? shoes
Favorite shop? Target
Your summer? eventful
Love someone? yup
Favorite color? no (I like 'em all except orange)
When is the last time you laughed? today
When is the last time you cried? dunno

Well, there you go. I'm not tagging anyone either. Feel free to tag yourself.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Phew!

Done! I made it through National Blog Posting Month. I posted an entry at least once every day. Sometimes twice, but that's probably just enthusiasm.

Here's what I learned in November:

1) Wow, I'm chatty. Even when nothing's going on, I can find something to talk about if I try hard enough.
2) Writing more often makes me want to write more often.
3) Commenting on blogs is a way to make friends.
4) Provided you're wearing a good enough mask, you can tell your secrets to the Internet and you won't get struck by lightning.
5) No matter how many times I reread Lolita, all I'm ever going to see is an educated, snobbish pervert with an excellent vocabulary mourning over the girl who ran away after he destroyed her. Sorry, literature community. That's all I get out of it.

And with that, I bid you good morning. I have to go Christmas shopping now. I don't know whether I'll be able to keep up the post-once-a-day pace in December, but I think I'll be posting more than I used to. And I'm pretty sure I'll participate in NaBloPoMo 2009, provided Eden doesn't self-destruct by then. There were over 10,000 of us this year, and she added us all to the blogroll by hand. Someone needs some software, I think.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Photo Sunday, home visit edition

My parents bought a coal and wood stove for heat a month or so ago. They have another heating system that they're planning to use when the house is finished, but it's radiant heat. Tubing installed under the subfloor runs hot liquid all through the first floor, and the heat will rise to the second from there. Problem: system has to be completely installed before you can use any of it. So finish it, you say. I agree. Problem: the floor is cherry wood, and the ceiling on the roof (a loft) hasn't been done yet. Scaffolding will scratch the floor if the ceiling's put in after the floor. So install the ceiling, you say. Again, I agree. But my folks have had a number of things happen that they had to address immediately (some of them construction-related, some health-related) that have kept them from finishing the ceiling. So the upshot of this is that for the past three winters they've had two propane space heaters to act as their heat source, augmented by layers of clothing, blankets, and occasionally by a kerosene heater (when they're in the room with it).

You heard me. Three winters. Last year the propane bill was so outrageous, they decided to do something about it. Hence the stove.

In order to install the stove, they had to finish the hardwood floor in the section where it was going to go. They'd already put the boards in, it was just a matter of giving it a few coats of polyurethane. I got to see it for the first time on Thanksgiving day:

Dining room

Oh, my goodness. I want this floor.

Here's a shot of the dining room on another day from another angle:

Dining room 2

I want my hair the color of that floor. I should have taken one just of the floor itself, but didn't think of that until right now.

I was hoping to get one of the stove in action, but totally misunderstood how long it was going to be before it's operational. Not for a week or two. Maybe if I visit sometime this winter I'll get a shot of it. But instead, here's the view off of the porch this morning.

View from the porch

Trees and snow everywhere, from all sides. Here's another one, with the wrought-iron dinner bell I gave Mom as a birthday present a while back:

Dinner bell on the porch


Side note: Last day of NaBloPoMo! I did it! Yay!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The cat's Christmas present

I have got to do something about this. It's driving me crazy.

It all started back when I lived in the hole-in-the-wall, years and years and years ago. I had two cats then, that's how long ago it was. My tub faucet developed a slight drip. Very slight. I was going to call about it, but then I noticed that the cats (especially Delilah) liked to drink from it. Preferred it to the water bowl, in fact.

Actually, no. It started further (farther? Incidental grammar question for G: Is it farther for distance and further for time? I always forget) back then that. It started with Needles, our very first cat. She discovered that if she sat on the edge of the bathroom sink and stared at her humans expectantly, sooner or later one of them would turn on the tap and let a fine stream of water flow, thereby turning the bathroom sink into Needles' water fountain. Beebop, the dog, watched this and decided what's good enough for the cat was good enough for her. Any time we gave the cat a drink from the sink when the dog was around, we would then have to pull up the stop and fill the sink for the dog, who'd hop up on her hind legs and drink from it.

Fast forward a few years. Needles died (of old age, in her sleep, curled up on the top of the water heater), a pregnant Siamese was left on our doorstep in a cardboard box (someone must've heard we lost our cat), and she gave birth to a litter of kittens, one of whom became mine, another of whom became the father/older brother of the Siamese's next litter of kittens, another of whom is mine. (Yes. You read that right. Delilah's family tree does not fork. We didn't get the boys fixed in time, and we didn't know who the daddy was until every single kitten came out looking like Oreo. Sigh.) This litter of kittens (and the one after it) watched the dog get a drink from the bathroom sink, and decided, much the same way Beebop did, that's what's good enough for her was good enough for them.

And now we get to my bath tub. My cats, up to this point, had been perfectly happy with water from a bowl. Then the tub faucet started to drip, and they drank from that. I couldn't tell whether they stop using the bowl altogether, 'cause water evaporates, see, so I kept filling it.

Things went like this for a while, and everyone was happy. Then my upstairs neighbor's tub developed a leak, and it came through my ceiling. I called the office, and they sent out the maintenance man. This was back when the whole place was taken care of by one grumpy old man who managed to get everything done by himself. When I left, there was a team of very happy-go-lucky idiots who get everything done eventually. Usually. Maybe the old guy was grumpy because he was overworked. So anyway, he fixed the leak in the ceiling, repainted the ceiling and the wall, noticed the dripping tub faucet and fixed it.

And Delilah has never forgiven me for that. Ever. Ten years later, and she still shouts at her water bowl. I wish I could figure out how to record it, because it's a horrible noise, and I want to share. It goes something like this:

"Mow! Mow! MMMMOWWWW! MaWOW-WOW! MAWOW-WOW!MMMMMOW! Mawowowglubglubglub."

Yes. She complains even as she's drinking.

It's not like I leave out filthy water for her. I replace it twice a day. I wash out the bowl every time. And now that we're in the new place, she gets chilled fridge water, just as I do.

Not good enough. Apparently. 'Cause she still howls. In the middle of the night, even. My bedroom is above the kitchen, and my bed is almost directly above her water bowl. When she starts howling in the middle of the night -- and I think she's doing it louder now that we're in a bigger place, to make sure I understand her displeasure -- I lean out of bed and thump on the floor with my fist. It's the only way to shut her up. I've fallen out of bed twice while doing this.

I've tried teaching her to drink from the sink. She wouldn't do it. She wouldn't even attempt to understand what I'm trying to show her. She acted like I was about to drown her. She would rather sit on the edge of the tub, bat her eyelashes at me, and rub the faucet with her face. If I had finer control of the tub faucet, I'd let a little bit run for her, but here's how the stream goes in most tubs, mine included: Nothing, nothing, nothing, Niagara Falls.

About a month ago, the tub faucet started to develop a slow drip. A few days after I noticed it, she did.

Thirsty

I thought, "Hurray! This is what she wants. Now she'll be quiet."

Nope. It's not running fast enough, so she still howls. And it's nice and echo-y in the bathroom. And now thumping my fist on the floor does absolutely nothing but hurt my hand and make me fall out of bed.

So for Christmas, I'm getting her this:


Not the ginger cat, just the water fountain. It has a charcoal filter and a pump that keeps water running continuously. I've already tried one of those self-waterers that looks like a little water cooler. No dice. And if this doesn't shut her up I don't know what will.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday in the woods

I'm at my folks' not-so-little cabin in the woods. Dad is upstairs with an Amishman named David, putting a hole in the roof for the chimney to a coal and wood stove my parents have bought. At some point they're going to have to go out onto the roof. It's snowing a little, so that should be all kinds of fun. Mom's in the living room, knitting and ignoring the banging from upstairs. Oreo (the cat, Delilah's daddy) is on her lap, under an afghan. I'm at the kitchen table, blogging. Pippin's shut up in the front bedroom so that she stays out of the way of the work. And also because she probably would stand there and growl at David all day.

There are at least eight inches of snow out there. It's probably closer to a foot. Dad just said that over by Ulysses and Bingham the sky was blue and the sun was out. Here where the solar panels need it we aren't getting much sun, so the generator's running. I'm using the battery on the laptop, partly so that I don't siphon off power that we might need later and partly because I don't really trust the generator. It fried my parents' hard drive last winter. Power surge, probably.

I'm using their phone line and an old AOL account of mine that I'm really glad I didn't close. It'd be a shame to get three posts away from the end of NaBloPoMo and miss one because of access problems. It didn't take long for me to forget how long things take with dial-up, though. Click. Wait. Click. Sigh.

The floor in the finished part of the house has been finished itself now. It is gorgeous. It's cherry wood, from trees that grew pretty much right where the wood is laying now. I've taken pictures, and when I get back home I'll post them. Pretty, pretty, pretty. I want hair this color. I wonder if I could take a photo of the floor to a hair dresser and say, "Make it look like this." I'm sure they've had stranger requests.

I made it to almost 8 o'clock before going to bed yesterday. I think I lasted that long because I fell asleep on the couch in the afternoon. Woke up when my sister called to say Happy Thanksgiving. She and Stretch are on a trip to Niagara Falls right now, celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary, which is tomorrow. Hard to believe it's been five years.

And that's it from over here today. If they finish getting the chimney installed and get the stove going, I'll post a shot of that, too.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I am going to be useless by about 4pm

Good morning.

Take a look at the time stamp at the bottom of this post. That is not a mistake. 3:14 in the bleeding a.m. Why am I up this early? Bus leaves in three hours. Taxi was called for 5:30. Traveller's anxiety set in around 9 last night, and will elevate to panic levels around 45 minutes from now. I set three different alarm times on my cell phone (which I'm still using to get myself up in the morning. I've very effectively hidden my alarm clock in one of the still unopened boxes), and then set the timer on the TV as back up. And I set the coffee to brew at 3, in case I needed a smell to wake me.

I beat them all. I was awake for fifteen minutes before the first alarm went off, and I lay there in the dark waiting for it. The cat followed me around for a bit to see what was going on, but has since decided sleep is much more interesting right now.

I don't know why I get so worried about sleeping past the time the bus leaves. In all the years I've traveled, I've never once missed the bus to due oversleeping. I did miss it once because of road conditions. One year before Christmas we got hit with sleet in the wee hours, and it made the roads very slick. Because of that it the taxi was horribly late and we skidded into the terminal parking lot just in time to watch the bus pull away and disappear. I still had a couple of days before Christmas, so it wasn't such a big deal to try again the next day. Mom was relieved, actually, because she was worried about the bus on icy roads, so it wasn't a big deal. Except that yes, the driver made me pay him for the trip back to my apartment even though his lateness was the reason I needed a ride back.

So for reasons I can't explain, here I am at a quarter past dark, nose in my coffee cup, trying to prioritize all the stuff I need to do before I leave. Some of my clothes are still tumbling around in the dryer, so I definitely need to finish packing. Extra food out for cat, check. Turn off coffee pot, not just yet. Change litter box -- need to do that. Hide Christmas presents that are scattered around the living room -- my parents are driving me back here. Mom needs to go to Lowes. At least, that's what she told me. I think it's an excuse, but well, as long as they're headed this way and they don't mind...which reminds me, I need to finish cleaning the upstairs bathroom. Pack up laptop. Will do that after I hit "publish."

The TV just turned itself on. Hurray! I finally figured out how to use the timer!

All right folks, time for me to go. Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it, and happy Thursday to everyone else.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Memory jogging

I'm on vacation today. I don't go to my parents' house until tomorrow, but I wasn't sure about that when I made my vacation request. So I'm spending the day straightening up some, then doing laundry. Nice to be able to take things straight from the dryer and put them in the suitcase without having to drag something across an apartment complex first.

I was reading the comments from the latest post from the Bloggess and someone said they thought "Corpse Honey" would be an excellent band name (you need to read the post to understand what that was about), and suddenly I thought of something that happened years ago:

In Stratford, Ontario on vacation with a friend. Stratford has a h-u-g-e theater festival, mostly Shakespeare (well, it is Stratford after all). As a by-product of this there's a thriving B&B trade. When this festival started over 50 years ago the town passed an ordinance forbidding hotels within city limits. Didn't want destroy the pretty look of the town with towering buildings. Also keeps a lot of the money that's spent there on lodging right there in town, as opposed to going to some chain of hotels. Very smart.

Stratford's also the home of the Ontario Pork Congress. Ham or Hamlet, take your pick.

Anyway, we were staying at a B&B, walking from our lodgings to one of the performances. We crossed a bridge -- over the Avon, of course. The Avon is full of ducks and swans, as well as canoes, kayaks, and paddle boats that can be rented out at a little kiosk off to the left of the bridge somewhere. As we're crossing the bridge, two kayaks pass under us, each being piloted by a young Mennonite girl -- they have a largish Mennonite community up there too.

"Oh, I just thought of an excellent band name," I said to my friend.

"Yes?"

"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage. . .The Kayaking Mennonites!"

She does that fake roar-of-the-crowd noise, then asks,"So what do they play?"

"I'm thinking something along the line of Barenaked Ladies."

Haven't thought of that trip in years. I really would like to go back to Stratford again, but I don't know when I'll have the money to. US dollar has tanked, Canadian dollar is super strong (oil money. I know everyone thinks of the middle east when they froth at the mouth about "foreign oil," but really a lot of our oil comes from Alberta. Hard to get worked up about Canadians, though, isn't it? It's like hating the upstairs neighbors for being quiet), and right now most of my money is going towards my mortgage.

Oh! And I have to go get dressed right now and go in to work anyway, though not for work. I have an overdue library book that I keep forgetting to bring in. Silly. I work there and I can't get my books back on time.

Sorry for the disjointed random feel of this post. That's the way my mind is working today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas questionnaire

Received a holiday-themed getting-to-know-you style questionnaire in my email. You know the kind I mean? One of those where the sender has answered all the questions and wants you to answer back. Well I replied to her, and then I thought, why don't I put that on my blog?

So here it is. I noticed when I pasted it over that I forgot to answer a few of the questions. Oops. I'll fix that here:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both -- depends on the gift, and whether I'm sick of fighting with tape yet.
2. Real tree or Artificial? Well, I don't have one yet, but it will be artificial when I get it.
3. When do you put up the tree? This year: as soon as I buy one. Next year: some time after Thanksgiving. Whenever the mood strikes me.
4. When do you take the tree down? Whenever I get sick of looking at it.
5. Do you like eggnog? Bleah. It's nasty.
6. Favorite gift received as a child? The doll house Uncle Bill made for me by hand. It was based on one in the Little House books -- the one the Ingalls finally moved into as their permanent home. He made all the furniture himself, and drew the floorboards by hand.
7. Hardest person to buy for? Dad.
8. Easiest person to buy for? My sister
9. Do you have a nativity scene? Somewhere. I stopped putting it out 'cause the cats (I had two at the time) kept stealing Baby Jesus and playing soccer with him.
10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Erm. I buy paper ones, address them, stamp them, and then find them two months later. So. Mail?
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? A Precious Moments figurine. Those little onion-headed dewy-eyed kids are creepy.
12. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Christmas Story ("Fra-Geee-Lay. Must be Italian." "I think that's 'fragile,' honey.")
13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? I keep an eye out all year.
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No. That figurine? The cat broke it. No, she did. Really. She didn't like it any more than I did. I'd set it out on the dresser in an attempt to get over the way it creeped me out. I came home and it was in pieces on the floor. Good cat. She got cat treats for that one.
15 .Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? My mom's homemade fruitcake.
17. Favorite Christmas song? Ding Dong Merrily on High
18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Travel
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer's? Yes: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen, Rudolph, and Olive.
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Haven't decided what will be on mine. Star on my Mom's, angel on my sister's.
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Usually morning, though sometimes Mom would let us open one (that she picked out) on Christmas Eve -- mainly if it was an ornament for the tree or something she wanted us to wear to the Christmas Eve service.
22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year? That it starts so freaking early. This year it didn't even wait for Halloween to be over.
23. Favorite ornament theme or color? Theme: holly and berries; Ornament: my mother has one that's a little nativity scene in a real egg shell. I love that thing.
24. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Well, it's used to be turkey, but last year Stretch did prime rib, and that was pretty dang good.
25. What do you want for Christmas this year? Some rest. And no conversation about politics. And some strawberry motif stuff for my kitchen would be nice.

Anyone else want to do this?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Why I haven't mentioned belly dancing in a while

Well, see, I bought this townhouse. And I spent all my time either packing, cleaning, painting, unpacking, organizing, reorganizing, re-reorganizing (I did the kitchen cabinets three times and I'm still not happy)....and I kinda stopped going to class. But I did intend to go back, once everything calmed down.

And then my teacher moved to Philadelphia.

Waaaaaaah!

Oh, she didn't leave us in the lurch. She has placed us in another instructor's very capable hands. But this instructor has changed the class times, and they don't suit me. There's a beginner's class at 5:30 on Wednesday, and an advanced class at 4 that same day. I work until 5 on the other end of town.

I realize that this is a flimsy excuse. I think I may just be a little resistant to the idea of a new teacher. I've seen her dance, she's very good, so it's not that I don't trust her. It's more that I don't know her. I probably should start out in beginner again, since she may have a different style, and a different set of criteria for what she considers "advanced." I think I might be able to make that class if I flex my work schedule a little. I wish she had something on weekends, but I understand how she would want her weekend to herself.

Alexa is still out there dancing and teaching, she's just doing it in Philly now. I think it was too hard to make ends meet in our little college town. As I said to a former fellow classmate I bumped into last week, "She's too big for us. Philly's about her size."

Here she is dancing at Rakkasah East 2008 last month:



Until I pluck up the courage to go to someone else's class, I'll probably content myself with dancing along to Shimmy (on FitTV) and dance lessons I find on iTunes.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Photo Sunday -- video version



I wonder if Delilah would do this, or if she'd hide from it.

And then there's this cat, who's so used to his owner's roomba that they put a cat bed on top of it:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The last wall

Today (finally) I am attempting the last bit of painting in my house for this year. One corner of the living room still needs a second coat of paint. It didn't get one when I was doing the rest of the room 'cause this is where I shoved everything to get it out of the way last time. I keep saying I'll do that corner "later." Well, I've put it off long enough. Today is "later."

Most of why I kept postponing this is that the TV stand is right in the middle of that section. Here's hoping that the cords and cables are long enough for me to pull things away from the wall without disconnecting everything. And then I have to find places for the assorted junk I've been pretending not to see for months.

So by this evening I shall finally put all the brushes and pans and rollers out in the shed where they belong.

Yay, progress! Time to go change into my painty clothes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My neighbors across the way love Christmas

Jumping the gun?

They must. Because they started decorating on All Saint's Day. First it was a wreath, then lighted garland round the door and living room window. Then a week later all the bushes got wrapped in Christmas lights. Tonight was the first night it didn't look incongruous, mainly because there was finally snow on the ground.

So far none of the other neighbors have followed suit. I figure they'll wait until after Thanksgiving. I still haven't decided what I'm doing yet. I don't really know how to do outdoor lights. There's an electrical outlet outside by my front door, but do I have to use a special kind of extension cord? I may just skip exterior lights altogether and go with a little electric candle in each window.

Can you see the pumpkins on their doorstep? I think that's a little obligatory nod towards Thanksgiving as they roar past it straight into December.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Short one today

I'm working on another longer post that I'll publish soon. I need pictures, though, and I don't have them yet. So in the mean time, let me show you a couple of blogs I've bumped into.

First, there's Ezra Pound Cake. It's a recipe blog that I found while surfing around on the NaBloPoMo site. The food looks fantastic! I'm scouting around for recipes 'cause next year Thanksgiving is going to be at my place. I know it's early to start. I don't care. I want the menu set and ready to go by next September, so that come November all I have to do is buy the ingredients and get going. I guess this means I'll be cooking all year, trying to find what I want to serve. Anyway, a lot of the recipes here don't have anything to do with Thanksgiving, and I don't care! She had one a last week for a spiced chocolate bread pudding that used pieces of a chocolate chip kugelhopf from a previous entry. Yum! On both counts. I'm getting fat just thinking about it.

And there's Lunch Bag Art. This one got tweeted to me by someone here in town, someone I met at that Tweetmeet a few weeks back. (Did I ever say how that went? No? It was great! Met folks, made friends, am following & being followed by a bunch of interesting people). This artist draws on brown paper bags on his lunch break, and then takes them home and packs his kids' lunches in them the next day. So far this one is my favorite, and I don't even know what The Dreamland Chronicles are.

I've made a few friends through NaBloPoMo, too. Their blogs are on my blogroll now, and you may have seen them in the comments. That'd be Average Jane, The HotchPotchery, and Square One. Hi gang! [waves]

And that's about it for today. I'm starting to hit the NaBloPoMo wall, I think. Only ten days left, and then I can be quiet. Really, it hasn't been that hard so far. Just when I think I have nothing to post about, something happens and I say aha! There's my post!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

46% full

Yesterday morning when I was adding the link for the participant blogroll to the BlogSecret post, I looked up and saw a red light on my DVR, the one that usually shows up when it's recording something. Had I scheduled something? I asked myself. So I grabbed the remote and clicked the little button marked "My DVR."

I sure had. It was in the middle of "A Prairie Home Companion."

This DVR thing is a blessing and a curse. When I surf channels and blunder into the middle of a movie that looks interesting, I check the menu to find out when it's on again, pick a time, and tell it to record. I've been doing that a lot lately. But I need to sit down and watch all this stuff now, which I haven't done in a while. And that would be why my DVR status reads as 46% full.

Wanna see what I've got? All righty, here we go. In reverse chronological order, exactly the way the titles scroll down on my TV screen:
I'm kind of all over the place, aren't I?

[P.S. I came back a few hours later, read the top bit, and decided it needed some work. In case you're visiting twice and are wondering why this looks longer. It is.]

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wow

Just....wow.

I've been spending a lot of time today reading other people's secrets. I'm dazzled by all the bravery, all the things people want to get of their chests.

And then the comments! I've only read a couple of comments that could be construed as negative, but for the most part they were comforting, sympathetic, supportive, offering advice, even. One commenter asked the author of the post she was reading to email her privately if she wanted some one-on-one help with what she's going through.

There's a lot of emotion floating around out there today, gang. I'm gonna go wade through some more of it right now.

BlogSecret: Anonymity

Well, it's the 18th. BlogSecret day. Last Friday I wrote up my secret and sent it out to Nilsa at SoMi. On Sunday evening I received the secret I'm to post. It reproduced below, unedited and unabridged. I haven't even read it yet -- I just cut-and-pasted it over from my email.

-----

Anonymity

I never thought writing an anonymous post would be so difficult - but the opportunity to write about virtually anything was almost overwhelming! Should I talk about that time in college when the paramedics came, or maybe I should write about how hard it's been trying to get pregnant.

Then I realized that, for the most part, my blog already is anonymous. My husband doesn't know about it, nor do any of my friends and only one family member knows - but she stumbled upon it by accident and has since lost interest in reading what is basically a journal (she probably would have killed for the opportunity when we were young). So if I already have anonymity what do I have to tell that I wouldn't want to put on my blog?

And then it hit me, there is one thing that I've never told anyone else. It's the thing that only my husband knows (well a fair number of strangers and court people too, but no one I actually know). We declared bankruptcy this year.

Now you may think that there is no shame in declaring bankruptcy, tons of people do it every year and it's no big deal. And you'd be right, it's probably not a big deal to most people and given the financial situation that we were in we really didn't have another choice. But for me it was a huge deal - it meant that we had failed. We had failed at being adults, at being normal everyday citizens. To me it seemed that we had become those people that couldn't take responsibility for their own lives and had to be rescued by the government. We were taking a hand-out.

I'm assuming that I felt this way because of how I was raised. We were always well-off enough that we never really needed any assistance. Even the times that our family was in a financial hard place, I don't remember my parents having to ask for assistance from family, friends or government. I was raised knowing that you made your bed and you had to sleep in it - so when we had made our financial situation unbearable it still seemed to me that it was our responsibility to fix it, not someone else's.

I've since gotten over that feeling, to a degree. I realize that we really did not have a choice in the matter. It was either declare bankruptcy and save our house or lose everything. I've also accepted the fact that it was not just our fault - sure we had some bad spending habits, but our loss of income and move had severely impacted our ability to pay for things that we had purchased long ago. I also realize that having to declare bankruptcy has made us better at managing our money and we've become more responsible spenders and savers.
The only thing I haven't gotten over is the sense of shame and failure that I still carry with me - and I'm not sure that I should. Shame is a powerful motivator and maybe it can keep me motivated to never let our finances get out of control again.


As for telling anyone else, well, let's just keep that between us for now.

-----

If you want to read more of BlogSecret, SoMi has a participants blogroll posted here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Update on the Battle of the Tulips

Well, the cayenne pepper stuff seems to be working. I have to reapply after every time it rains, though, or the little thieves come back. And since the mixture has dish soap in it, when it does rain my flowerbed gets a little frothy. Not too much, just a few bubbles around the edges.

It's starting to get very cold out there. Winter is right around the corner. Nobody's told my rosebush that, though. It's still putting out new shoots. I thought if I let the last two blossoms it produced stay on the bush and develop hips it would slow things down a little. Nope. Maybe it's trying to make up for the time it lost before my sister cut all the dead wood off of it back in June.

Rosebush

See? Look at all that new growth. Poor little things are going to get their heads snapped off by the cold pretty soon.

See all the divots in the background? Evidence of the squirrels. If any of my neighbors have seen me out there lately, they must think I'm loony--stomping around in my flowerbed, covering up little attempts at excavation, muttering and spritzing everything with stuff that smells like hot wings. I guess every neighborhood needs a crazy lady, I just never thought the one in mine would be me.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Photo Sunday 2

Last week I promised you proof that I do go outside once in a while. The weather since then hasn't been very cooperative. It's been gray, rainy, and cold all week. Today it even flurried a little.

I did go out today, though, and as I got off the bus I saw what I should be photographing. The sky was gorgeous:

Cloudscape

See? And here's one that shows what I got when I pointed the camera almost straight up:

Straight up

And then, on my way to the parking lot of the shopping center, I saw a little bitty maple (I think), fighting to live in the middle of another shrub, and not quite ready to let go of its leaves:

Color splash

There you go. I haven't decided yet what I'm taking pictures of next Sunday. I guess it'll be a surprise.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cue: Carly Simon

So last night I sent my entry to Nilsa of SoMi for BlogSecret.

I'll be getting the secret I'm to post on this blog sometime tomorrow or Monday, along with the address of the blog that will be posting mine. On November 18, the post that you read here will not be from me. I won't have any idea who the author is.

Nilsa has suggested that on the 18th all the participants (nearly 90 of us at last count) go visit and comment on the blogs of at least 5 other participants. I'm guessing that there will be a BlogSecret blogroll on SoMi that day. I'm trying to decide whether I'm also going to go visit my entry see what sort of reaction it gets. It could be anywhere from "This is boring," through "I can relate," all the way up to "You're a bitch."

Too late to worry about it now.

Oh, the title of this post? That's a reference to something my mom used to say when I was younger. Any time we were hanging around waiting for something to happen she'd say, "What we need now is a little Carly Simon." And that is in turn a reference to an old Heinz ketchup commercial that would play "Anticipation" as the ketchup s-l-o-w-l-y poured out of the bottle ('cause it's so thick, y'see).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Throwing down the gauntlet

Our facilities guy here at work is so very full of himself, bless 'im. He just a few moments ago strutted by our cubicles saying to one of the librarians who was walking with him:

"I've been snooping around facilities for over twenty years. There's nothing you can hide from me that I won't find."

After he was safely past, we all started laughing.

"I dunno," I said. "Sounds like he just issued a challenge, doesn't it?"

We're half-jokingly thinking of hiding something in here to see if he can find it. Lana suggested we stash a toaster. Toasters got banned from the building a few years back after burnt bagels in one or another of the break rooms set off the fire alarm twice in one month. Lots of people in here still pine for toast.

Best part? Shortly after making that claim he asked to the room at large, "Hey, where's George [last name deleted]?"

So apparently we can hide George.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

1,2,3,4....

There is an ornamental gate on campus, right at the point where the college ends and town begins. It's located in a very central location -- one of the main streets of town empties right into another one right at this gate. All of the bus lines stop there. I guess you could call it the heart of town.

This gate is a popular spot for a number of groups--itinerant preachers (most notably in recent days the one I've dubbed Biblemouth. I've mentioned him before. Three months later, he's still at it) as well as other, more organized religious groups who sing hymns and hand out leaflets to passersby. Fraternities and sororities set up at the gate to fund raise for their charities. On election day last week, people were there organizing rides to the polls for anyone who needed one. Periodically Quakers for Peace stand there protesting the war in Iraq, with signs asking you to "Honk for Peace," and "Bring Them Home Now."

And tonight a huge group of students, some of them members of the LGBT community, stood at that gate with rainbow flags and signs that say "Marriage is a Right" and "Honk for Equality" -- protesting California's Proposition 8. Shouts of "1,2,3,4, open up the closet door! 5,6,7,8, don't assume your kids are straight!" were punctuated by car honks from drivers who read the signs as they went by. The car horns were greeted cheers from the protesters.

Usually the students don't start protesting until spring. Something woke them up early. I wonder if it was the election.

I love watching students protest. They throw themselves into it with such vigor. And I prefer their youthful enthusiasm to some dude in a straw hat screaming through his Bible that we're all going to Hell.

On a completely unrelated note: I've never had fifteen entries in a month before. Woohoo, landmark!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Dancing squirrels, anyone?

If the squirrels I'm at war with would do this for me (preferably when the cat is at the window), I'd have no problem letting them mess with my flowerbed:




Heck, they'd deserve it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A far too common scene at work

There's an elevator lobby on the first floor of the library. It has four elevator cars in it, two on one wall, two on the other. They face each other. On each side of the lobby, installed between the two elevator doors for that side, is a button that controls three of the cars. The fourth car is on its own circuit with its own button. I have to go past or through this lobby at least six times a day, and usually on at least one of those passes I witness the following:

Patron, aged twenty-something, probably a student, walks over to one of the elevator buttons and presses it. It lights up. So does the one on the other wall. Patron then stands facing the elevators doors that flank the button he just pushed and waits for the car to come.

A car arrives, but on the other side of the lobby (which is maybe 15 feet wide). The elevator goes "Ding!" The lights on the call buttons go out. The patron looks up, looks left and right at the closed doors in front of him, puzzled. The door of the car on the other side of the room starts to close. Still looking at the doors in front of him, the patron hits the button again. Door on the car across the lobby flies open again. Elevator goes "Ding!" Light goes out.

Button. "Ding!" Button. "Ding!" Button. "Ding!"

Oh, for the love of....

"It's behind you!" I call as I walk past. I swear, sometimes I feel like I'm living in a British panto.

Patron turns around, sprints to the waiting elevator, gets in just before the door closes. Another twenty-something patron comes into the lobby, presses the button for the elevator, and stands facing the doors that flank the button she just pushed...

Future of the world, these kids. I don't mind admitting that sometimes I'm a little scared.

Monday, November 10, 2008

BlogSecret

Hey look everyone! Something else on my sidebar! I'm collecting so many badges lately, I'm beginning to feel like a Girl Scout. What's this one about? Keep reading and find out.

Nilsa, over at SoMi, had an idea. How about we do a 1-day blog version of Post Secret?

It's called BlogSecret, and it's happening on November 18th. Since November seems to the month for joining things, I thought I'd take this on as well. I'll be posting someone's blog entry about their secret here on my blog, and my secret will get posted on some stranger's blog. Details and a much better description are here.

Anyone wanna join in? At last count she had almost 60 of us. The more, the merrier (and harder to trace).

Well, I try to be responsible

Conversation over lunch with a colleague:

Me: Drat. I forgot to mail the electric bill.
Colleague: Whoops. When's it due?
M: Not 'til the 24th, but I like to pay my bills as soon as I get 'em. I have it in my bag. (Digs through purse and pulls out envelope.) See? Sealed, stamped, return address on it and everything. I just can't seem to get it posted.
C: You better do that soon.
M: I know. I remember at the weirdest times. On the bus, as we pass a mailbox. At lunch, (gestures to colleague) in the middle of a conversation on a totally unrelated topic. In the shower, in mid-shampoo....
C: In the dark, after your house mysteriously loses power.
M: Exactly. Which reminds me, I need to buy candles.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Photo Sunday

Today, I'm giving us all a break from my babbling and am going to post some pictures instead.

Delilah has gotten very used to me pointing a camera at her. She doesn't even flinch and look away any more, since there's enough light in the new place take pictures without the flash.

Lolly

In profile. I had to move my hand around just off camera to keep her looking that way:
Profile

I love this one:
Hiya

And here's the dreaded Claw. She was in mid-knead when I snapped this one:
The Claw

Finally, she got bored with all this and went to sleep...
Are you still there?

..which didn't stop me taking more pictures, of course.
More sleeping Lolly

Next week: Proof that I really do go outside once in a while.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Buffalo-style tulip bulbs

Okay, so last night after work I bought a bottle of cayenne pepper sauce (Frank's Red Hot) at a little grocery store downtown. I looked around for squirt bottles, but they didn't have any. Drat. Spraying for squirrels was thereby postponed 'til today.

This afternoon I went somewhere else and got myself a squirt bottle. Came home, mixed the cayenne pepper sauce with a teaspoon of dish-washing liquid, and then mixed that with a gallon of warm water. The result is this orangey-red liquid with foam on top. If I ever need to do this again, I must remember next time to add the soap after the pepper and water mix.

I filled the spray bottle with the cayenne solution and sprayed it anywhere I'd planted bulbs. About halfway through, I began to flash back to the restaurant my parents used to own in upstate Pennsylvania. One of the items on the menu had been hot wings--deep fried chicken wings covered in a hot sauce. This stuff smells just like that sauce, all spicy and vinegary.

Ditter, if you're out there and reading this, do you remember the label on the jugs of hot sauce we kept in the store room? Was it Frank's Red Hot? I think it was. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that it was. I wonder if that's why I picked this particular hot sauce, out of some sort of subconscious brand loyalty.

So now every time I pass the flowerbed, I'm going to be hungry for chicken wings. Great.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Not nuts

To the squirrels that keep digging in my flowerbed:

They're tulip, hyacinth, and crocus bulbs. Same ones as yesterday. Which were the same ones as the day before. They're not magically going to turn into walnuts or something. Quit digging them up and then leaving them lying around.

Don't make me break out the cayenne pepper. You will not be happy.

Edited to add: I found a recipe online for a cayenne pepper squirrel repellent. As a stopgap until I get to the store for a small bottle of hot pepper sauce, I've scattered ground black pepper all over the flowerbed.

Wish me luck, people. If decades' worth of Warner Brothers cartoons are any sort of indicator, this battle is going to end with a large smoking hole in the ground, me sitting on a cloud wearing wings and playing a harp, and a squirrel covered in soot, holding a crocus bulb in his little paws.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

40 years old, and I still get homework

Look at Vee, such the little joiner.

In 2006, Matthew Baldwin of defectiveyeti put his own little spin on NaNoWriMo and NaBloPoMo, and decided to start NaNoReMo -- National Novel Reading Month. He was going to read Moby Dick all month, and post his progress on his blog. I sat back and watched the fun. It reinforced my lack of desire ever to read that book. I'm not sure, but I don't think he finished it. It's 500+ pages, in that dense, wordy style I find particularly off-putting. Like Henry James, only worse.

In 2007, he asked readers to join him, and to pick which book to read. Votes were cast and tallied, and in the end they chose Catch 22. I'd read that for a class in college, I don't remember which one. I didn't join in, mainly out of laziness. I did follow the blog, though, and bits of the book came back to me as I read his comments.

This year the group chose Lolita. I managed to make it through a college career as an English major without having to read that book. I don't know how. I picked it up on my own about ten or fifteen years ago, and every once in a while I go back and read it again. I'd like to hear what other people have to say about it. I think I keep going back because I'm puzzled about why it's considered "great." All I see is a pedophile, crying over his lost prey. There has to be more to it than that, and I'm just missing it. I am famous for letting symbolism go flying over my head. Occasionally I'll look up distractedly and ask, "What was that whooshing noise?"

So I'm joining in. According to the syllabus, I need to have Part 1, chapters 1-13 read by tomorrow. Fortunately, this is one of the books I've already unpacked and put on my bookshelf. And today, I managed to remember to take it off of the shelf and put it in my purse. If I'd been thinking, I could have brought it with me to read while I was waiting to vote on Tuesday. Instead, I was reading They Came to Baghdad by Agatha Christie.

Off to lunch, and to read.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Proof! I can actually finish something

Finished project
When it got so bitterly cold here two weeks ago, I dug out a project from one of the many (still) unpacked boxes in my craft room and finished it so that I could protect my face at the bus stop. I was nearly done with the scarf when I'd packed it -- only had about six more inches to add on it.

I bought the yarn from Patternworks. It's called Boku, and is a mix of wool and silk. I'd originally bought it to make a pair of fingerless gloves to wear at work, but then I was moved to an office that doesn't make icicles grow on my nose come November, so I decided to use the yarn for something else.

A couple of Christmases ago, using a pattern from knitty.com, I'd made a scarf like this in oatmeal-colored wool for Ditter's father-in-law. I had a hard time giving it up. I could only make myself do it by promising that someday I'd make one for me. When I was looking around for something to do with the Boku yarn, I remembered the wavy scarf. I thought the variegated stripes and the waves would go nicely together.

I'm tempted to get more and make mittens now. I suppose I should learn how to make mittens before I start buying yarn to make 'em with, huh?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I finally found a LOLcat I like

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

This points out exactly what bothers me about those things. My cat, if she could speak, wouldn't talk like an idiot. She'd sound like Blanche DuBois.

Vote!

It's Election Day here in the U.S. I am up at the crack of dawn so I can be at the polls as soon as they open. They've said on the local news that more people registered to vote in this county than they've ever seen before, and that's an indication that the lines to vote are going to be longer than usual.

On the one hand: Yay! People are voting! Seriously, I don't care who they vote for as long as people make a choice. Even if you don't like the people running for the two main parties, there are other parties out there that rarely get mentioned--Green, Libertarian, Communist, even. And if you still don't like anyone, write a name in!

I did that last time. What I really wanted was an option that said, "None of the above, go out and find me better candidates," but since there isn't one, I wrote my own name in. It was a protest. I didn't trust anyone else, and I knew no one else would vote for me so I didn't have to worry about getting the job.

On the other hand: Ugh! Crowds. I'm probably going to be late for work. And double ugh! People with leaflets, trying to change folks' minds at the last minute. Mom and I were discussing this on Saturday. She said where we used to live the campaigners were very aggressive right outside the polls. She had one guy try to stuff leaflets in her pockets when she refused to take them. When she turned around and shouted at him not to touch her, one of the election officials was right behind him asking her eagerly if she'd like to press charges. I don't think she did. She should have. Nobody ever bothered my dad, though. Probably because when anyone approaches him with stuff like that, he gives them The Look: equal parts warning and annoyance. It's enough to make anyone hesitate.

I've got a book in my bag in case the lines are long. Provided there's light to read, that is. The polls open at 7 o'clock. I should probably go get dressed and get out there.

Monday, November 03, 2008

NaBloPoMo

I must be crazy. Either that or incredibly ambitious. I've finally decided to try my hand at National Blog Posting Month. It was started by Mrs. Kennedy of Fussy, as a sort of companion to National Novel-Writing Month. By joining, I've committed myself to posting once every day this month.

I've been thinking seriously about doing this since September, and started writing down ideas for posts. I don't have thirty, but I think I have enough if I intersperse them with whatever life offers up along the way this month.

Wish me luck. Please pray for my sanity. I've read through the Novembers of people who tried this, and by the end of the month most of them are ready to stop blathering on already.

Must remember to pack the laptop when I go home for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My first ever association meeting

Being an owner of this townhouse means I'm part of an association. Once a year all the owners in my development get together and go over the budget, elect officers, talk about anything that needs fixing or improving. If any of the owners can't make it, they're supposed to send in a proxy notice saying which of us can vote for them. If they don't do that, then they're bound by whatever the rest of us decide. The notice of the meeting was mailed out months ago, so it's not like no one had time to send a proxy if they didn't want to come themselves.

The annual meeting was today, at 5pm. I got to meet some more of my neighbors, one of them being a woman I already knew slightly. She has a miniature schnauzer that I sometimes see her walking with when I'm waiting for my bus in the morning.

This year there were three bylaw amendments on the agenda: pet policy, satellite dishes, and replacement windows. Apparently the pet policy really is "no pets," but the association decided years ago not to enforce that. Some people (tenants, we think, not owners) are letting their dogs out and leaving messes. And someone's tom cat is spraying near someone else's house. So we've decided to amend the bylaws regarding pets; something about them needing to be spayed or neutered, and something about dogs needing to be on a leash and cleaned-up after. The representative from the company that does the administrative stuff for the association is going to write something up based on what we discussed, and then we'll pass it around and probably okay it.

We also have no written policy regarding the placement of satellite dishes, mainly because when the association was created back in 1986 there was no need. We decided this evening that they definitely shouldn't go on the roof or the exterior walls--makes holes, damages the roof. And they just put on new roofs for some of the units. The other units are due for new ones in the next couple of years. The whole thing is kind of tricky, so rather than make up a whole set of if/then rules we're going to state that if you can't get reception in a couple of places that we will list, you should contact the association, and we'll see whether we can accommodate that without damaging the building.

I brought up that the people who used to own my unit attached a dish to the far wall, and that I don't use it and wouldn't mind if it left. They're going to see whether the dish company will take it down, and if they won't then the president of the association will see to it that it's gone. That's great. I thought I was going to have to ask my Dad to take it down or something, or maybe call the handyman who did my electrical work and ask him how much it would cost to remove.

The other thing was replacement windows. Apparently the original living room windows to the units weren't very good quality, and some owners have opted to get them replaced. They wanted to put in the bylaws that the first time the windows get replaced, the association will contribute $400 to the cost (since that what they did with everyone who has opted to do it so far), but that if you decide to replace them again, you're on your own. That was more documenting a past practice than adding something new. According to the president, it was a previous owner of my unit that started the whole window-replacement thing, so I know mine are new. I knew that anyway. They looked a bit upscale for a building that was mass-produced. They tip in so that you can clean both sides without leaving the house.

And that's pretty much all I did today. Did I mention that last weekend I spent sorting out the flower bed? I don't think I did. Yep. I took out the hollyhocks by the front door, harvested the seeds from 'em. I think I got all the root system out. They were pretty, but by the end of summer they got very messy. They really aren't a front-door kind of flower. I'm going to plant some of the harvested seeds on the side of the unit, or maybe by the shed.

I also took out this sad scraggly looking thing that hasn't done much this year. If it ever took hold, I think it would have turned into another tree, and I didn't really want that. I think I'm going to put a butterfly bush there next year.

I planted a bunch of bulbs. Just in time, too. It's starting to get very cold now. I planted hyacinths near the front door, crocuses around the base of the tree, and then pink and white tulips under the windows and on this little rounded area at the end of the unit that didn't seem to have anything growing in it. I had a lot more crocus and tulip bulbs than there was room in the plot, so I scattered a few crocuses on my side of the sidewalk, and put some tulips and crocuses near the shed in back. Mom says the crocuses will naturalize and reproduce, but that after a few years the tulips will probably need to be replaced. I'll be interested to see how all this planting turns out.

While digging holes for the crocuses, I unearthed a few acorns. Whoopsie! Squirrel cache! I tried to put them back roughly where I found them. I just hope the squirrels don't go after my bulbs.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I can write this now without fear of jinxing myself

I would just like to say that for the first time in quite a while I have made it through the month of October without my allergies weakening my immune system so much that I wind up with bronchitis.

Huzzah!

I guess that's what happens when you stop living in a dark, dank, almost windowless hole-in-the-wall. Maybe by next October, after a year and four months living in a better environment, my allergies will bother me hardly at all. One can only hope.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Hallowe'en!

Trick-or-Treating is done a little differently around here than it was where I grew up. In the suburbs of Philadelphia, you went out in your costume on the 31st of October, always. And you stayed out until you'd either run out of doors to knock on, or you were tired, or your parents called you home. The 30th of October was called "Mischief Night," and people would get up the next morning to find their car windows soaped up (or maybe even egged, though that didn't happen often in my neighborhood), or the tree in the front yard festooned in toilet paper, or maybe the mailbox covered in silly string.

Around here, the night of Trick-or-Treating gets decided at the township level. A lot of the surrounding areas had theirs last night, from 6pm until 8pm. Tonight was my borough's night, again from 6 to 8.

The apartment where I used to live was in an area that was kind of dark and creepy at night. In all the time I lived there, I never had one little kid on my doorstep asking for candy. I bought something every year, just in case. Towards the end there, they were kind of lame treats -- sugarless gum, granola bars, bags of microwaveable popcorn. Well, if I wasn't going to have anyone show up, it should be stuff I don't mind having around the place, right?

There are a lot of children on this side of town, so I just assumed I'd have Trick-or-Treaters this year. I had no idea how many to expect. From the Tweets I was reading last night, some of the folks nearby went through 8 bags of candy before they were done. Yikes! I'd only bought one big bag, a mix of Starbursts and Skittles. On the way home from work today, I stopped and picked up a couple of bags of Tootsie Pops, just in case.

It's quarter to nine now. Wanna see what my candy bowl looks like? Here ya go:

Slight miscalculation

I think I may have overestimated just a tad. I had ten kids, total. Still, that's ten more than I had last year. Guess whose co-workers are going to have sugar highs come Monday?