Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year's Eve

I can hardly believe it! I am going out for New Year's Eve. Normally, I sit at home and gloat that I'm not out on the road dodging drunken idiots. I usually don't go to bed, though, until the neighbors stop shooting off fireworks and firearms.
Well, actually what happened is that the season theater tickets I have are for Wednesday night and so that's when we will be going to see Annie, admittedly not one of my favorite shows. Of course, I may be just a little jaundiced, since the last time I saw it was at the Starlight Theater and the little urchins sitting next to us sang all the songs along with the actors. Might have been kind of cute had any of them (the kids) been able to carry a tune.
Went out today and, as my mother used to say, "got the stink blowed off". It is so nice out--a little windy, but warm enough for a sweater. I hung a little wash out (sheets) and know they will smell nice and fresh when I bring them in. May have to go back out and finish raking leaves. My oak tree takes forever to drop leaves. In fact, there are still more than a few stubbornly clinging to the tree, but I'm sure the neighbors will appreciate not having mine stuff blowing all over this winter.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Goose is getting fat

The weather here in Kansas has been pretty icky for the last week, so to cheer me and possibly you up I'll put in a picture from my recent trip to Australia. This is from Tasmania off the shore of Oyster Bay near Freycinet National Park. While it was still fairly chilly while we were there, it was better than the last few days here.

It's not just the goose that's getting fat. I have been busy sampling and tasting things as I've been preparing for Christmas dinner. I'm not being very traditional this year. There will just be three or four of us friends, who have all been at my house a number of times to share holidays with my family. I made the decision early this year to do no traveling over the Christmas season and, because of the weather, I'm so glad I did.

We will just enjoy (I hope) Beef Daube with penne pasta au gratin, broccoli with optional cheese sauce, homemade Ciabatta, tossed salad and an apple salad. For dessert I'm making gingerbread trifle and a pumpkin pie. That should be enough for the four of us!

I have started knitting again. I have two projects in train. I'm working on the second sock. The first one seemed to go a lot smoother. At this rate, I'll never get the second one done. I'm also trying out a dishcloth pattern that is way more intricate than need be. Not only does it have a four row repeat, but row four includes a p3t. I hate purling anyway, and then to have to jam three stitches on and get them all off at once is just plain painful. At least the yarn feels good.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's been entirely too long since I posted to this blog. However, she said virtuously, I have actually addressed all my Christmas cards, written a letter, bought official Christmas stamps, AND gotten them in the mail. Whew! For me this is almost a first. My friends and relatives will probably all fall over, since I usually don't even put cards in the mail until Dec 29.

I have also been cataloging my collection (for want of a better word) of tea cups. Either I don't own as many as I thought I had, or there are some floating around somewhere in this house, which is entirely possible. My house is definitely not "a place for everything, and everything in its place" example of housekeeping. Especially today, it's more like, "oh, here's a horizontal service; can I add just a couple more things to it before everything slides off". Time to reform. Well, after I put away all the Christmas stuff. Maybe. Yeah, sure.

I had to buy a new mail box this week. Last Saturday's wind blew my old one into the street, where it was bashed rather well. I had to use a pair of pliers and a screwdriver to pry it open and then I couldn't get it to close properly. I was prepared to have to pay an arm and a leg, but surprisingly enough, official US mail boxes are a bargain. The steel ones were less than $15 and plastic was $5.

Today I received my first 2009 seed catalog. It's from a Heirloom seed company I've never heard of and it's addressed to me by my nickname. I don't know how I got on their list, but it is a good looking catalog. I just wish I had a green thumb. In the past 18 years (since I've moved to the Kansas City area) I have had exactly two tomato plants live past age one month. Off those two plants I've managed to harvest 4 tomatoes. I ain't Mother Nature.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Baking Up a Storm

I baked bread yesterday--two kinds, Oatmeal Bread and Dilly Onion Bread. This is one of the things I enjoy doing. And since I live alone and don't really need lots of bread in the house, I take it to the library where I worked before I retired and sell it. The money goes into the fund that the L.O.T.E. Relay for Life team has set up for the American Cancer Society.

I usually make 6 small loaves and 1 large of each recipe, but it varies according to what kind of bread I make.

Anyway, I got an exceptionally good do on both batches of bread. I'm always getting feedback (there are no shy people working at my library) about what worked and what didn't. It's a good thing I don't try to do this commercially, since I've had some loaves that were far from perfect and I can pick just when I want to bake.

I've started a biga to make some Italian bread later this week, probably tomorrow. I really need to get a bigger baking stone if I'm going to do much more of this. Hmmm, I wonder what baking in a wood-fired oven would be like. Just kidding.

Just finished reading Janet Evanovich and Leanne Banks' book Hot Stuff. The title works so well on so many levels. I think Janet writes some of the best animals ever to appear in a romance. (Well, that sounds rather depraved. For those of you who don't read her books, no animals are harmed in the course of the novel.) Her pets all are the kinds of animals I would end up with--lovable doofuses. Okay, I'll admit it's not just the animals I read these books for. I'm always on the lookout for another Joe Morelli or Ranger, to switch to another of her books. Anyway, Hot Stuff is a fun hour read, with characters that are clearly related by type to the Stephanie Plum books.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It must be Christmas. Last night was our annual L.O.T.E party with our visit to the Martin City Melodrama. This year's production of Rudolph The Recycled Reindeer was absolutely terrific, only marred by the the L.O.T.E.'s insistance on performing their own tootling version of Deck the Halls when they were introduced. We promise we will never, never do that again! We will leave the music to professionals from now on. Thanks to Jeannie and Jon and the rest of the cast for the hilarious evening. (And the dessert afterward at The Cheesecake Factory didn't hurt.)

In honor of Rudolph the Recycled Reindeer I did my themed Christmas tree with, you guessed it, reindeer. Actually, I chose the theme last year during the after Christmas sales, and I must admit that the tree looks pretty good. Between what I already owned and what I bought over this past year, I have a herd of about three dozen deer. I couldn't stand it any longer and bought a tree with the lights already strung. I had to promise my daughter I'd get rid of one of my other trees, since she thinks I have too many. I went one better--I discarded my two big ones--a tippy big fiber optic thing and my 7 1/2 foot space hog.

I have started another blog with my book reviews/comments/rants so will probably not include too many here. But then I've only read one book since the last post--too busy cleaning house and cooking for the party.

There is something about mechanical creations that hates me. They just take one look and give that evil bwahahaha and my life becomes misery. It apparently was the vacuum cleaner's turn this month. In the midst of all the cleaning it died--may it rest in pieces.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

"Tis the Season to be Merry

Getting ready for a party can take far longer than the party itself. The bad thing is that I love to plan parties, love to organize parties, (hate to clean the house for parties, which is why I like to plan parties for other people to give), but I really don't like to go to parties.

I also love Christmas time, the whole over the top, over-decorated, over-fed, over-everything--except I don't want it to start until December. Actually, I like the idea of the 12 days of Christmas between December 25 and January 6. We used to laugh about my mother's habit of using so many sequins on Christmas decorations--if it didn't move it was apt to get a little holiday "sparkle". The only thing safe was cookies--and those got lots of frosting and sprinkles or sugar.

I have been reading On Kingdom Mountain by Howard Frank Mosher. Miss Jane Hubbell Kinneson is just enough off balance and feisty enought to appeal to me. The two problems facing her, the proposed highway through "her" wild mountain, and the hunt for Confederate gold by the high flying Henry Satterfield, are big but she is equal to anything. She is armed with a sense of her own rightness, several drams of Who Shot Sam, and an ever-ready over/under shotgun. I liked this story and think it might even make a charming movie (although that rarely happens). Where is Katherine Hepburn when you need her?

Time to go put up another Christmas tree. This year I am only putting up three; the big one in the living room, the smaller one on the upstairs landing, and my poor Charlie Brown tree. It's probably the last year for the PCBT. It leans against the wall and is shedding it's little fake needles all over the bathtub. (Yes, I know it's not usual to put a tree in the bathtub, but what can I say. At least nobody else is using that bath this season.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thanksgiving right around the corner

I've been trying to get into a Thanksgiving spirit. It's a little harder this year since I won't be having guests for dinner this year. I always grumble and complain about it, but there is something reassuring about this holiday. It certainly isn't the menu--I don't really like turkey all that much, dressing is not usually anything that excites me, and you can certainly forget about marshmallows (with or without the crushed pineapple) on canned sweet potatoes. But I've learned to live with the basic flavors of the season and can adapt a lot of them.

Along that line, I've been reading Immoveable Feast: A Paris Christmas (2008) by John Baxter. Baxter is an Australian married to a French citizen and living in Paris. His experiences with French Christmas and French cuisine in general ,and the preparations for cooking dinner for the 2007 holiday, is both wide ranging and amusing. Perhaps the biggest thing learned from this is to try not to travel in France at Christmas time--most of it will be closed. If you like to eat this is a good way to make yourself hungry.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

This has been an unusually active week for me, since my daughter and son-in-law are visiting. Tonight we went to see The Lion King. I was so blown away by the puppets. Even the people behind me stopped visiting long enough to get drawn in by them. The music, at least the ones with the African rhythms and harmonies, were just wonderful. The story line is no shakier than some of the classic operas I've seen lately. A good time was had be all.

Sadie, my daughter's dog, has been very busy out in my back yard this weekend. She has been protecting my house from those terrorist squirrels who usually come and go with great frequency, since I''m about the only house on the block without a canine protector. Sadie has a great stalking technique which is unfortunately ruined when the toy poodles next door get excited and yap at the squirrels to RUN, RUN, RUN. The other day Sadie was so intent on her quarry she ran into the cable box.

While I was in Australia last month (how's that for dropping names, at least of places?), I picked up several books to read. I finally got around to reading True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey. A fictionalized account of Ned Kelly, the infamous Australian outlaw, it is written in a very distracting dialect. The story does give a distressingly dismal view of the times for the poor in the late 1800s, although there are some amusing situations. This book was a winner of the 2001 Booker Prize.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Gadding about

My daughter and son-in-law (and grand-dog) are down for a long weekend. While they are here we have an abititous schedule of activities planned. On Thursday we went to the exhibit of The Tsar and The President, which compares and contrasts Tsar Alexander II of Russia and President Abraham Lincoln of the US. This glimpse in some interconnected history was very interesting for people me who has an interest, but not much more than a smattering of the background. I had known that Alexander II had freed the serfs, as Lincoln had freed the slaves, but I had never connected the time lines.

I just finished knitting my first sock. Why, you might ask, would anyone need to knit socks when you can buy ones that wear well, aren't lumpy, and don't cost that much anyway. In my case the answer is because. I've been knitting for awhile and was ready for something a little more challenging than a scarf or simple sweater. Socks go relatively quickly. The biggest challenge may be making the second one the same size as the first.

Just finished reading A Dog Named Christmas by local author Greg Kincaid. We went to his book signing Wednesday night in the pouring rain, but there was still a nice group of people there for this, his first novel. The book is a heartwarming one about a developmentally challenged young man, Todd, who hears that the local animal shelter is looking for temporary hosts for the animals over the Christmas holidays. Todd becomes an advocate first with his reluctant family and then with the town to give these animals homes. This is for those people who like their Christmas stories uplifting and upbeat. It would be a great gift book for the animals lovers and families on your Christmas list.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Life is full of odds and ends

There will be no general theme for this blog--just whatever strikes my fancy when I think of it, hence the gnat's attention span. Some days I may pull myself together enough to write something that corresponds with what's going on in the "real" world, but don't count on it.

Since I just retired after years of working in a library, I will probably comment from time to time about books I've been reading, but don't expect critical reviews. I just will tell you whether I liked the book or not. If you read the same type things I do, take heed. While I was on vacation I read Alexander McCall Smith's The World According to Bertie, which is part of the 44 Scotland Street series. I must admit I had read the first book in series and hadn't been that excited about it. I do love Bertie, who seems to be a charming little boy, but I really dislike his mother, to the point that I had to really restrain myself from throwing the book at the wall. (Since I was on an airplane at the time, there probably would have been direr consequences than I wanted.) The book is all about the lives of the characters, so there is not a lot of plot advancement but tons of characters. So do I read more of these when they come out? Hmmm, probably for the joy of Bertie.
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The older I get the more I understand my mother's wish for a house that was all closets. It's not so much that I collect things as that they collect me. Who needs a puppy to follow me home when I have 2,000 books (thanks, LibraryThing), 75 teacups, 43 hats, and assorted dragons. And that doesn't include the knitting needles, family pictures, CDs, knickknacks, tapes dispensers (where do they hide when they're needed?), and bread pans.
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I'm supposed to be getting ready for a visit from my daughter and son-in-law, but this is more fun. I can always find a welcome interruption to housework. Sorry, kiddos, you've got clean sheets on the bed and towels, what more do you need. I'll move the computer off the table when you get here. Luv, luv.