Friday, November 28, 2008

A warning

I just read Sandy Donabed's blog entry about her baby granddaughter swallowing a small battery. She is in the hospital with damage to her esophagus.

Those darn little batteries are everywhere, in everything these days. For all of us with children or grandchildren, especially little guys that put stuff in their mouths, this is a frightening thing to read. Read Sandy's post. Let us all send good thoughts for baby Hazel's recovery and inspect our own homes for any such hazards and tell our friends. Yikes!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving—40 years ago

I first posted the story below in 2006. This morning I was thinking, again, of that Thanksgiving, now 40 years ago. This is the song that came to mind, from one of the albums we played over and over that weekend. The memory of music is so powerful. I have seen and spoken with Kathleen and Gary a couple times since I first posted the Thanksgiving story. They are well and it is good to connect. I hope they are having a good Thanksgiving and wonder if they ever think about that one 40 years ago.

Thanksgiving 1968
After posting my wedding picture and reference to my friend, Kathleen, who loaned me her veil, Kirsty jokingly asked me if I still speak to Kathleen. The truth is I very seldom talk to Kathleen, who lives quite far from me now, but I think of her and her husband, Gary, every Thanksgiving.
Kathleen and I grew up together, nearly like family. Our mothers were best friends and our families shared many Thanksgiving dinners.

In 1968 Kathleen and Gary moved to Connecticut to go to graduate school at UConn in Stoors. I had graduated from college the previous spring and I was working for my sorority (Alpha Omicron Pi) as a traveling chapter consultant. We were all far from our Idaho homes and discovering new worlds.

I spent the week before Thanksgiving visiting the chapter at Northeastern U. in Boston. It was a sad and dispiriting week. The chapter was one of the oldest existing AOII chapters in the country with a wonderful legacy of outstanding women, but it WAS 1968 and the world was blowing up in a lot of ways, both good and bad, and sorority life was becoming a symbol of elitist, old thinking and the chapter was suffering badly. The few remaining members wished to return their charter and close the chapter with some dignity. The alumnae, for whom this chapter had meant so much in their lives, were distraught and in total opposition. I felt for all of them. And I really had nothing to offer. So, at the end of this sad week, Kathleen and Gary drove to Boston to pick me up and we went back to Connecticut for Thanksgiving.

What I remember most was how happy we were to see each other, how homesick we all were, how beautiful Connecticut was and the music. Three albums. During that long holiday weekend we played these three albums over and over and any song from any of them will instantly take me back to that Thanksgiving. Gordon Lightfoot, The Rascals and The 5th Dimension. When was the last time you heard of any of them? In 1968 they were all at the top of the charts.
We cooked our first Thanksgiving dinner away from home and family, together. Kath didn't have a pie plate, so we divided the pumpkin pie ingredients into the compartments of her muffin tin. Then we forgot that we probably should adjust the baking time for these tiny tartlets. They came out of the oven looking like black hockey pucks—inedible. We made way too much stuffing but Gary held the turkey steady while I crammed every little bit into the bird. It is a wonder it didn't explode. We invited another Idaho State grad who was also going to school at UConn, whose name may have been Allen—I have forgotten—to join us. We drank a lot of cheap wine, lighted candles and sat on the floor around the coffee table (which may have been crates) to eat our feast. We laughed a lot, called our families and bravely held back our tears at the sound of their voices.

When I left I could see, from the plane window, Kathleen and Gary standing just inside the waiting area. Gary had his arm around Kath's shoulders and she was crying. I was sitting on the plane crying just as hard.

I was so thankful for those friends. I am still thankful for that memory.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Random craftiness

I have a thing for pinecones. About a year and a half ago we went to Lake Tahoe and stayed at this great place called Camp Richardson. There were these large, wonderful pinecones lying all over the ground there and I couldn't resist picking up some of them. Somewhere on that trip I saw this pinecone decoration next to a door and I liked it.

Not too hokey or decoratorish, I thought, and thought maybe I'd attempt something similar. In the move Ray came across my bag of pinecones and asked if I wanted to pitch them or if I still wanted to do something with them. No, and yes. Here's my version:

Now that I look at it I see I could probably stand to add some more pinecones. But I like it. My friend, Muriel, gave me the little "Welcome" plaque for our new home.

I like having a small project of some kind to work on if we are watching TV or a movie in the evening. I found this by way of Laura's blog, and was intrigued. It is called a Kusudama ball. Lots of little folded squares of paper glued together.

It's pretty, isn't it? But far too fiddly and took hours and hours, so I am not planning to make a boatload of them.

Both of these things look like they could be Christmas decor, but they're not. I plan to leave the pinecones up year round and hang the paper ball somewhere to amuse me.

Have a lovely Thanksgiving. Ours will be small, but good. No out of town company or extra guests this year. Just family. We will be missing those couldn't make it and hoping you are feeling full and thankful wherever you are. Get well, Jess. Hope you are feeling up to some turkey and pie!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sunday, Sunday!

Beautiful day today, so I took the opportunity to photo a couple of things. The first is my finished "Laurel" piece. It is 12" square

You may remember that it was going to be part of a larger piece and it just didn't work. Once I realized it would stand on its own and took the larger piece apart I knew it was the right thing. Someone else thought so too, because it has been sold and I will be sending it to its new owner this week, so I wanted a good picture for my own record.

The other piece I photo'd today is my 12 x 12 "Mathematics" themed piece. They will be revealed on December 1. I can't show it to you yet, but here is a tiny detail.

The original, larger Laurel piece was to be my piece for the High Fiber Diet "Line Dance" show, so after it was taken apart it no longer fit the criteria for that and I was back to square one. I think I have an idea for that, however. Remember when I was making little 2" square pieces from my scraps? (You can see some here and here and here) I am playing with the idea of using some of them with the green line and I like what I am seeing so far.

I think this has possibilities.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Anniversary quilt

I woke up yesterday morning with a new attitude. I decided that life was going to get back to normal—the sooner the better. We've spent a year working on houses, trying to sell houses, trying to rent houses. The old house is rented, the new house is home. Time to move on. Life as normal. (Except with a lot less money, ha!) I decided I need to start working on more art and posting more interesting things on my blog. Have you seen anything interesting here in awhile? No, I didn't think so. OK, so here's something, if not interesting, at least art/quilt/fiber-related.

Now hanging in our den/cave/TV watching/vegging room is the quilt my brother, sister and I made for our parents' 50th anniversary. We wanted to give them something really nostalgic and something a whole lot of people could participate in, but kind of hated those quilts people make where everyone makes a block and the whole motley assortment gets pieced together. Also, not so big on the ones with tons of old photos printed on fabric. I like the old photos, but better in an album. So here's what we did. We chose a block pattern with lots of small "background" triangles. We marked the triangle sizes on unbleached muslin and sent bunches of them out to family and friends, along with a brown permanent marker and asked them to write on them and send them back. Some wrote good wishes, some related favorite memories, some just signed their names. My sibs and I did a bunch with memorable phrases, names of family pets, addresses where Mom and Dad lived, family activities and memories, etc. and then we worked in the names and dates of the three of us, our spouses and children throughout the quilt.

The three of us pieced the blocks when we got all the muslin pieces back—yes, even my brother, who had never sewn before—and I put it together. I did most of the hand-quilting, then we took it to give to them when we celebrated their anniversary with a big family get together. I had left some unquilted areas, so everyone, including all the grandchildren could put a few stitches into it.

click for a closer look

Mom and Dad loved it. They spent hours poring over it and reading all the stuff on it. It hung in their hallway until they died and I brought it home. I still love to read what everyone wrote.

And speaking of anniversaries—I noticed the date this morning and realized that yesterday was Ray's and my anniversary. Thirty eight years and we both forgot. Geez, we're dotty these days. We went out for margueritas and Mexican food last night. Had a good time, but didn't realize we were celebrating our anniversary. First the shoes and now this. I worry about myself. Ray has always been forgetful.

And good news on the money front—got an email this morning telling me I won 450 million Euros in the European lottery. All I have to do to claim it is send all my personal info, bank acct #s and SS#!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sorority girl

A few people seemed surprised to learn that I was in a college sorority when I mentioned it in a post a couple weeks ago. I worked, for a year, for the sorority after I graduated. It was a great time in my life, but I rarely mention it these days. I've found that people have a lot of crazy ideas about sororities.

"smart, pretty and all bad!"

The stereotypes include snobby society girls, rich girls who "buy" friends by joining a sorority, dumb bunnies, party girls and worse . . .

"where nothing is off limits"

I have to laugh at those images, when I think of the girls who were in my sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. We were a pretty simple bunch of girls, not rich, not glamorous and far from the seductress of the book cover above. The Greek system was small on our campus—only three sororities that were categorized, not always accurately, as the "beauty queens", the "fun girls" and the "smart girls." We were the smart girls.

Sororities were going out of favor in the '60s when I was in school, but for some of us they represented a bit of old-fashioned structure and support in a chaotic time. We were folded into a warm and supportive group and nurtured by the older members. We were encouraged in our studies and tutored in the social landscape of the college world. The traditions of our sisterhood required us to promise loyaltyand respect and to treat each other as we would wish to be treated. We tried and mostly succeeded. We had parties and raised money for charity and competed with other groups in singing competitions and skits and float building, but the things I remember most were late night talks and someone who cheered you on when you needed it and cried with you when your heart was broken and saved you a seat in the dining hall and times we laughed so hard our stomachs hurt. I remember kindness and acceptance. Like I said, a good time in my life. And then we graduated and went on to our real lives in the real world and some of us have never spoken again, but some remained, as we promised we would so long ago, lifelong friends.

Ready to go onstage for "Songfest" in our matching
white dresses and gloves. 1967
Yep, that's me.

So, now I've come out of the closet—any more sorority girls out there?


Added note: I figured the comments would bring out a few sorority horror stories. I do know that different groups have different personalities and nastiness can show up anywhere. Just not my experience. For Helen and anyone else not familiar with Greek organizations, the Wikipedia entry seems pretty right on to me. Most started in the 19th century when Greek was still taught and most Greek letter names are the initials of a Greek phrase or quote. I could tell you what AOPi stands for, but then I'd have to kill you. ;-) (Actually, to tell the truth, I don't remember.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Feeling better, catching up

A beautiful fall Sunday here. I think I've had the flu. Achey all over, etc, etc. I never have had a flu shot because I never get the flu—well once every 12 years or so. This hasn't been the kind of ordeal I remember, just a couple of days of feeling punk. The worst part is the headache that is immune to medication. Quite a distinctive flu headache—you know, the kind that feels like the liquid in your head dried up, so your brain bonks against the inside of your skull whenever you move. Almost gone. You can tell that I feel better because I put earrings in the holes in my ears this morning. That's not vanity, just habit, but when one lays around all day with one's head on a pillow, earring posts poke into your head, so I leave them out. Earrings = not planning to lay around all day.

Last week's rain knocked most of the beautiful leaves off the trees and inspired some amazing fungus to sprout in the yard.

Apparently a beaver came through the neighborhood a couple nights ago and cut down a tree near the creek.

He chewed the bark on the tree on the left and chewed right through the one on the right.

Here's the downed victim.

I guess Beaverton, the closest city, was named that for a reason, but I've never seen a beaver, except for a dead one laying in the road years ago. I guess they are nocturnal. We can't imagine that anything else could have dispatched that little tree like that.

I'll leave you with the last vestige of summer—one last nasturtium on the porch. It glows in the late afternoon sun and catches my eye every time I walk past the front door.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm such a dork

I don't know why I am admitting to this (except that I think we all need a good laugh now and then). Just before dinner last night I sat down to take my shoes off and discovered that I had been wearing this mismatched pair all day. And not just around the house where no one saw me. Are you laughing, or just sadly shaking your head?

In the morning I quickly slipped these shoes on as I was headed out the door to meet a friend downtown. I thought I looked pretty nice. I spent some time on my hair and sprayed it good, so the rain wouldn't flatten it out. I had "good" earrings on and lipstick and everything. Going downtown these days is kind of an occasion, now that we live out in the sticks. I met my friend and we had a grand time, looking through galleries and finally settling on lunch at a somewhat fancy restaurant. She never mentioned my shoes. She claims she didn't notice, but she may have just been being nice. At any rate, I covered a lot of ground in these mismatched shoes!

I could suggest that I am starting a new trend (not true), or make the excuse that the closet was dark (true) and I was in a hurry (also true). But I'm hard-pressed for an answer as to why I wore them for a good 7 hours before noticing. I hope my children are not reading this. They might start checking out nursing homes for me.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday, settling in

It was nice to have a Sunday that felt like Sundays used to feel. Coffee, Sunday paper spread all over, a little sunshine coming in. The house is feeling settled. We still have a lot of boxes to unpack, but I got the last ones out of the living room this week.

And here's a happy sight. Ray, in the kitchen, making chile verde. (Our favorite recipe is from a very old Sunset cookbook. See below) Can you smell the meat browning, the garlic cooking? Cumin, cloves. Jazz on the radio.

Hope your Sunday was good.


1 1/2 pounds EACH boneless beef chuck and boneless, lean pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons olive OR vegetable oil

1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 large clove garlic, minced

2 (28-ounce) cans tomatoes

1 (7-ounce) can diced green chiles

1/3 cup chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 cup dry red wine

Salt to taste

Brown about 1/4 of meat at a time on all sides in heated oil. Remove from oil and reserve. In pan drippings, saute bell pepper and garlic until soft, adding a little more oil if needed. In a 5-quart or larger pot, combine undrained tomatoes, green chiles, parsley, sugar, seasonings and wine. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to simmering. Add browned meats and all juices along with sauteed vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove cover, simmer about 45 minutes more, until sauce is reduced to thickness desired and meat is very tender. Taste and add salt. Serve with rice. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

From "Mexican Cook Book,'' Sunset Books.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Good Movie

We went to see Rachel Getting Married last week. It's one of those movies that seems to be a little hard to find. It is playing in only one theatre in Portland, but if you love movies, as I do, that take you out of yourself and tell you something about life and love and the human condition, this movie is worth finding.

Kym, played by Anne Hathaway, has been allowed a few days away from a rehab facility to attend her sister's wedding. The family has very mixed feelings about Kym being there and there is tension and ultimately we learn about a family tragedy. Kym is edgy and confrontational, but heartbreaking in her guilt and pain. While I was frustrated with her, I was also touched by how hard she was trying.

Anne Hathaway gives an amazing performance and the acting is wonderful all around. The characters are neither good nor evil, but charming and tragic and annoying and eccentric and intelligent. Behind the conflict there is a fierce love that shines through. And what a feast for the senses! Scenes of such beauty you want to be there—to be a part of the wedding and the family and take in the music and the conversation and the joy and the sorrow.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

O, yes we can!

It really is a new day.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Election Day 1968

Forty years ago I was in New York City on election day. I had graduated from college the previous spring and was hired by my college sorority (Alpha Omicron Pi) as one of two "Traveling Secretaries" who visited chapters on college campuses across the United States and Canada. I would spend a few days meeting with the chapter and officers, sharing information from the national officers and reporting on their activities and the state of the chapter, then fly to another city and do it all over again. I did this for a year and it was a year that was transforming. I saw my country from coast to coast and north to south during one of the most challenging times in our history.

During that first week of November I was visiting the chapter at Wagner College on Staten Island. I had never been to New York and I could see the skyline of Manhattan in the distance. When several of the sorority members asked if I would like to go to the city for the day I jumped at the chance. We took the Staten Island Ferry and arrived to a festive atmosphere. Street vendors were distributing political buttons, selling small flags, T-shirts and plastic hats with red, white and blue ribbons. Someone dressed like Uncle Sam thrust something into my hand as I passed and I looked down to see that it was a sample sized tube of toothpaste attached to a card that read, "vote for a brighter smile!"

This was a great adventure for a girl from Idaho. What I knew of New York City I knew from the movies. We rode the elevator to the top of the Empire State Building, we walked down Fifth Avenue and stopped to look in the windows of Tiffany's. We hurried through Times Square, a much seedier and grim area than it is these days. Strange as it may seem, one of the highlights of the day was visiting Macy's. This was long before Macy's owned every department store in America. There was only one Macy's and it was legendary and it was New York City in my mind.

I truly had never seen any store quite like it and I made a small purchase, mostly so I would have one of their printed paper bags as a souvenir for my scrapbook. I told my companions that I was keeping my "Macy's sack" and they all hooted. First because I'm sure it was so ludicrous to them that such a thing would have any value, and second because I called it a sack. I learned another language difference between East and West, having conquered the Pop vs. Soda divide earlier in the week. One said, "that's not a sack, a sack is made of cloth—it's a bag!" Except she said it more like "behhg" and "cloth" sounded more like "clo-auth". We entertained each other for the rest of the day with our language and pronunciation differences.

It was a beautiful fall day and the city was all I had hoped for. I think there was such a sense of relief to finally reach that election day. The campaign had been tragic and brutal, going back to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in the spring and the riots in Chicago during the Democratic Convention in the summer. The war in Vietnam raged and the country was deeply divided, so even as we watched election news on TVs in store windows, picketers and protestors passed with anti-war signs.

By the time we got back to campus that night Nixon had been projected as the winner. I called my Dad, a Nixon supporter, from a pay phone in the dorm. It was late in New York, but still pretty early in Idaho. "Congratulations, Dad. It looks like your guy won." Dad wasn't jubilant. He was pretty quiet. "Yeahhhh," he said slowly, "I hope he doesn't let us down."


I was sharing my memories of the election 40 years ago with Ray this morning and he pointed me to Leonard Pitts' column in today's paper. He references that election and the sad legacy of the '60s that has somehow shadowed this campaign. He's a wonderful writer. It's worth reading.

I will

I heard this sung on Prairie Home Companion this weekend and I can't get it out of my head. For 40 years I have loved this song.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sunday miscellaneous

Frame Game

Can you see the difference in the "before" picture, on the left, and the "after" picture on the right? It's the frame around my David Lance Goines poster. I am a fan of minimal framing, so for years this poster had glass and clips only, which looked fine in my old house.

I hung it on the more gold-y toned wall in the new house and it died. Gack. Dead. No contrast between the wall and the pale green poster color. I think the narrow black frame has brought it miraculously back to life. Still minimal. I buy lots of frames from American Frame. I just love their matte black metal frames that come in any size you would ever need. (almost)

Cheap Thrills

I like to think I am well-equipped to be poor, as that seems to be where we are all headed these days. I find bargains. Yesterday I stopped by the Goodwill superstore in our new neighborhood and dropped off some stuff, including a pretty good pair of shoes that I no longer wear, and went into the store for a quick browse. I spotted a brand-new, never worn, pair of shoes in my size. They were wonderful soft, creamy leather and very squishily padded on the inside. They felt fabulous on my feet. For some reason I didn't buy them, but kept thinking about them, so I went back today and got them. Paid $9. Then I came home and found them online. $98 at Zappos. Huzzah! I rule!

I know they are Little Orphan Annie shoes, but that's what you revert to when your feet are old and tired.

So then we checked out an estate sale in the neighborhood. Last day, everything half price. I found a great old pair of big scissors for my collection and Ray found a vintage bartender's guide book. Lots of entertainment for about $3.

Hope you're all having an entertaining Sunday!