Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's all about perspective

Do you remember these beautiful flowers that I posted about awhile ago?

I still do not know what to call the flower/plant. I'm still wowed by the design of the flower's stamen.
I went back to the woods to try to find the plant again.
It took a is a one of a kind as near as I can tell, but I wanted to take another picture.
This time I wanted to shoot the flowers so one can get an idea of just how tiny they really are.

On the day I first photographed the flowers I was walking briskly, keeping my heart rate up, and the little bits of blue amidst a low lying gangly plant beside the path didn't grab my interest. It was the end of my walk, I was heading home and I had gotten several other pictures that I thought were interesting already.
It wasn't until I downloaded the picture and zoomed in on the flowers that I discovered how really beautiful they were.

About a year into photo blogging I finally learned a truth: If anything catches my eye, and my mind is still tinkering with what I saw five second later, I go back and take a picture. There usually is something there worth capturing.

I am working on a shorter reaction time. Sometimes five seconds is all it takes for the image to be gone forever.

It would be interesting to count how many people walk, jog or bike by that plant and never notice it, never stop to see it.
Even if they do stop, it is unlikely they will know what the flower really looks like, unless they get down on their knees and really, really look, or pull out a magnifying glass.

So much of life is like that.
Small wonders, like a single perfect heartbeat, or a baby's sigh, or a spouse's admiring glance just flicker by.
I know I can't stop and take a picture of each tiny splendor as it happens.
But I do try to remember that they do happen.
Zoom in on them in my mind.
And celebrate them from time to time.

(The flowers really are as blue as the close up pictures.)

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Frick on a frickin' stick with a brick.

Hasbro has me steamed, bro.
As in:

If I ever catch who ever it was that came up with this abomination, he is going to to get his ears blown right off the sides of his head, because I am going to use words that he will not even know the meaning of, but his gut will tell him he had better run for cover.

And what got me this annoyed you may ask?

The news that in the state of Maine, eleven year old kids in Middle School were routinely being given birth control pill without parental notification?

No...that piece of news has me so ANGRY that if I were to begin to discuss it on my blog, my keyboard would fuse together in one black mass just from the heat of my fury.

Not going there.
At least not today.
Besides, that has nothing to do with Hasbro.
I think.

No, today I am going to talk about the Hasbro commercial that had me spilling my tea and spewing Darjeeling across the room.

In the ad, an adorable scene of a child's playhouse came up, with roses entwining the edges of the screen, and a happy faced cherub of a child skipped into the scene. She was on her way to enter Dream Town's Rose Petal Cottage.

Ecstasy moment for the girl: She was going to get to put a load in a play clothes washer.
(You will have to click on the link to see it. Hasbro has some really terse and threatening language about copying their pictures or text. Dream Town has some pretty wicked lawyers hanging around Rose Petal Cottage it seems.)

The little lass was about to use a pink and yellow front loading washer, decorated with TWO hearts mind you. Not just one, TWO hearts on a front loading washer; how very ecologically astute! Saves imaginary water with every load!

Yes, this little girl was going to have a rollicking good time doing laundry.

"Little girls can pretend to do laundry, just like Mom and Dad!" the advertisement suggested.

"The adorable washer has knobs and an opening door to help spark your child's creativity and enter into a magical world of make believe."

"The pretend washer has knobs that turn and an opening door to help little girls pretend to do laundry, just like Mom and Dad!"

I'll bet you think I am growling because the product proposes only little girls should be able to receive the joys of laundry.

That little girls would want to do laundry just like Mom and (wait for it....) DAD.

OK, I am pretty cranky about that...little boys surely would also enjoy having their creativity sparked by knobs that turned and doors that open. I am even willing to go out on a sexist limb here and suggest that most little boys and ALL MEN get their engines fired up when knobs that turn and doors that open are involved.

I'm thinking cars here, but if you think metaphorically, I'll bet you could come up with other scenarios as well. Ahem. Blush.

No, the part that gets me into such a tizzy is the fact that the advertisement suggest that the girl will learn to PRETEND to do laundry, just like Mom and Dad.

Granted, lots of men have been pretending to do laundry for years now. They drop clothes from their bodies, and POOF, like magic, the clothes come back clean a few days later. If they drop their drawers and manage to kick their knickers up and catch it mid air...well, their particular kind of magic has been performed to perfection.

Women pretend to do laundry too.

Women usually pretend to put their clothes into some kind of hamper or basket or something. Then, later, they pretend to drag the stuff out, sort it, haul it, turn knobs or push buttons, pour detergent (that they have hauled from the grocery stores, often in 20 lb containers on sale with bonus coupon, because they are too weak to haul the 40 lb sacks out of the back of their cars...) then they listen to make sure the load is balanced, and for the cessation of sound signaling that the pretend washer part of the fun is finished.

Then they pulled heavy and damp items from the washer and then they pretend to shove the clothing into the drier, or pretend to pin the items onto a clothesline (a nice activity on a sunny breezy day, I have heard not so much fun when the clothes freeze and sticks to hands, or heat stroke fells the woman, or insects attack, or birds use king sized sheets for defecation target practice.)

Later the dry clothes are harvested, and sorted again, folder, and redeployed to various closets and drawers around the house.

This magical world of pretend is what keeps so many women at the top of their creative game.
It is the reason why so many women don't have time to go places and do things, have friends, read books or take classes.

"I'd love to, but I'm way behind on my laundry."

"First I've got to get my laundry done....then I can (fill in the blank)"

"My husband and kids pretended to do laundry, now it is MY turn, I am so excited, I'm just going to pass on going to the beach/movies/bike ride..."

Umm. That's just wrong.

Here's my say, and I have said it before:

Anyone who can turn a knob, open a door, and drop a pellet into an opening as big as a bucket can do laundry. It just isn't that hard. Even people with significantly low IQs routinely are able to do these tasks successfully.

Anyone who can open a drawer, or closet, and can sense that there is but one pair of panties or one pair of socks or one shirt left where as before there were many panties, socks or shirts can grasp the concept of the need to do laundry.

It is sort of like potty training; learning to recognize the signals of laundry need that is imperative.

No particular chromosomal pattern is needed to accomplish the above mentioned task.

Within the human race there is a dizzying spectrum of pleasure/satisfiers. Some people love opera, others adore Nascar. Some like their coffee black while others like theirs with cream and sugar.

It is reasonable to expect that some people, both women and men, hover around the laundry basket, vibrating with excitement that there might be a chance of doing laundry today.

I suppose somewhere in the universe there is even a Laundry Doer Anonymous chapter meeting even as I type. Addictive behavior always begins with a pleasurable experience you know.

I do want to salute Hasbro for at least suggesting that Moms and (wait for it...) Dads do laundry. I want to salute them for trying to help children realize that front loading washers are more fun, and that doing laundry should be seen as a creative act.

Should be being the key words here in that last phrase.

Not everything we do in life is fun or creative or is like something that someone that we admire does.
Some stuff we just do because they need to be done. Like mopping the floor, or changing the oil in the car. Or getting our teeth cleaned.

Everyone should recognize this, and should shoulder their part of the process. If you need clean clothes, run the washer. If you track in mud, wipe it up. If you like having teeth, make your own dental appointments.

Just do it.

And Hasbro?
If you are listening?
If you want my business, try making a real washer that looks like yours.

I think putting hearts on the washer sides is a nice touch.

If you want my husband's business, try putting Tiger Wood sports broadcasts that play in the washer window only as the clothes go round and round.

I can hear it now:

"Jill, do you have any laundry you want done? I'm out of laundry, and Tiger is on back nine, he's ahead by only one stroke. Here, I'm just going to give the cats a quick rinse...just enough to find out what happens on the next putt...shut up Tiggie, I can't hear what the sportscaster is saying...."

Yeah, that would do the trick.

(I'm hoping Hasbro's lawyers have come to their senses and have run home to do a load of laundry before they reached the end of this post so they won't see this picture. Remember, it's a secret, don't tell!)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Yet another recipe trove...

First of all, I just want to apologize for yesterday's post. It should have occurred to me that there is too much violence in the world, and too much obesity as well.
Leave it to me to find a way to encourage both obesity and violence at once.
Fried chicken AND waffles WITH syrup AND butter PLUS SLAPPING!
Mea culpa.
my bad.
So to make up for it today I am posting a collection of Weight Watcher recipes card from 1974.
(Do you remember how much you weighted in 1974?
Were you on Weight Watchers back then, even though looking back, you now realize that you looked GREAT back then?)

If you were, these cards should bring back some mighty fond memories.
If you missed the recipe cards the first time around, just be glad that people with large attics often save random stuff.

I'm not positive, but I have a very strong feeling that fluffy mackerel pudding would cause me to lose weight, right now!

Just thinking about it makes my stomach clench.

This would make me wince as well, and think of a way to leave the table ASAP.

I have always believed in decorating the table as a means of providing dining atmosphere, even for the simplest of meals.
The mushrooms in this shot...scary. I'm sure I would be scared straight on the subject of over eating if I had them lurking over my dinner plate.

My fellow librarian Karen shared these recipes cards with me at ref desk on Tuesday night. They, and the rest of the 1974 Weight Watcher Recipe cards can be found on Candyboot's website, she who discovered them in her mom attic, and had the good sense to grab them and share them with the world.

Candyboots also provides commentary about the recipe cards. Just so you know, don't be drinking milk while you read her thoughts unless you don't mind having milk shoot out of your nose because you are laughing so hard.

While Karen and I were looking through the cards on our computers at reference desk, we were laughing and snorting so loudly that the patrons were looking up and shushing us.
I didn't care.
I confess, as a librarian I am simply fresh out of shush.

The entire recipe card collection has been published as a book.
Perfect for my collection of strange cook books, don't you think?

Yeah, I thought so too.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Waffles from morning to midnight

I may have mentioned that we have lived in Texas for a little over nine years now.
One of the pluses about this place is the opportunity to experience Southern Cooking.

Oh yeah. Cooking so good, you just wanna stand right up and SLAP somebody!
(They actually say that around here. I personally have never tried it. Sounds like assault and/or battery to me.)

One morning a couple of years ago when we were up in Dallas we went out for breakfast for Fried Chicken and Waffles.
There are actually "Fried Chicken and Waffle" restaurants up there.
It took about six years for us to work up to giving the cuisine a try, but one Sunday (Sunday being THE day for Fried Chicken and Waffles) we were there and it just seemed like the right time to dig in.

Fried Chicken and Waffles, with butter and syrup, strong coffee, and maybe some juice is just the ticket for after church service brunch.
Unless of course your church preaches later, in which case you move right along to Barbecue and Soul Food.
Pork chops, greens, sweet potatoes, ribs, beans with bacon, corn bread....
Umm, umm, umm.
(Hold on a minute, I going next door to slap my neighbor.)
(I'm back. No one was home. Darn.)
The second time Bernie and I had Fried Chicken and Waffles we just swung by Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way home from church and got an order of extra crispy chicken, and then I whupped up a batch of regular waffles.
Talk about fast...those waffles were cuddled up to those chicken pieces in minutes. While it sounds weird, it actually is pretty tasty. I'm saying having fried chicken and waffles about once every five years will be about right for us. Unless we have visitors. In that case I'd be willing to have the combo just for the "Huh?' factor.

As a kid, I wasn't a fan of waffles. My mom always made them the way my dad liked them, which was very crisp. The crispy edges always cut my mouth; I loved soft doughy pancakes instead.

When I got married I got a waffle iron, of course. Doesn't everyone get a waffle iron when they get married? Isn't that written somewhere in the Bible, or the US Constitution or something; for a marriage to be valid the couple must own a waffle iron?

Occasionally I would try to make waffles. Even with Teflon they seemed to stick, and take way too much time to make.

Then one day I was shelving books at the library in San Diego, and I saw this:

An ENTIRE cookbook devoted to waffles!
How weird was that?

I flipped through the pages, and saw recipes like this one:

(with suggested topping below...)

And this one:

Sweet waffles...sure. I had figured that out already.
I had done blueberry waffles, banana waffles, chocolate chip waffles.
But then the book took a turn.

Wild Rice Waffles with Mushroom Sauce?

The recipes cranked my mind wide open. Soon I was making french toast in my waffle iron (try it...just make french toast and stick it into a Belgian waffle maker. Yummy!)
Other ideas included:
Polenta Waffles with Creamy Goat Cheese Sauce.
Blue Corn Chip Waffles with Black Bean Salsa
Smoked Salmon and Dill Waffles
Basil-Parmesan Waffles with Balsamic Tomatoes
(In that recipe you make the waffles, then cut them into bite sized pieces, and place them in the oven to bake for an additional hour. The little squares in the waffles are just perfect for holding dip. Any waffle can be treated in that fashion by the way.)
Mash Potato Waffles with Garlic-Rosemary Oil.
Well, I think you get the idea. There is a LOT you can do with a waffle iron once you start thinking about it.
I do recommend the book.
It's called:
Waffles from morning to midnight
Dorie Greenspan
Next time you give a bride a waffle iron, expand her cooking horizon as well.
Get her the book to go with it.
And seriously, do try Fried Chicken and Waffles, just once.
Just be careful not to spill the coffee when you reach on up and slap somebody.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Is this thing just playin' with my head?

A pretty picture from a walk I took awhile ago, because it probably isn't polite to jump right in with what I really want to know.

Now what I want to know.
Below: Same spider from an earlier post, now with a different look.

Seriously, the thing has turned orange. Remember when it was white?
At one point we had five of them hanging around our yard.
This morning there are only two, one is white and this one has turned orange.
I realize that it is a neighborhood tradition to decorate for Halloween, but as Christian folk, we just don't go there.
This spider had better be thinking "Autumn" and not "Celebrating All Things Evil" if it wants to keep hanging around outside our window.
Oh wait...I just remembered a sermon I heard about this. It's about the theologically view that only man fell from grace and thereby man lost relationship with God, and can sin.
God's creatures didn't rebel, didn't lose relation with God and can't sin.
Or at least that was what one speaker proposed.
So I'm going with the spider is doing what it God intended.
You go Spider!
This year the neighborhood has lightened up a lot with the Halloween theme decor. There are a few graveyards on the lawns, and a ghost/goblin/monster spider here and there.
I'm totally unclear why people bother buying monster spiders (made in China, forcryinoutloud..) when all they really need to do is take a short walk through the woods.
Monster spiders...everywhere.

Happy Fall Y'all indeed!

Doesn't that sound cheery?
It's fun to say.

Much cuter than "Happy Autumn, eh?"

Or at least I think so.

Yesterday afternoon around three we had a massive storm. It got so dark outside all the photosensitive lights popped on, and the Weather Channel had the red scroll eep...eep...eeping along, warning me to take cover NOW!
(Yes, in CAPITAL letters and EXCLAMATION POINT!!!!)
So I went outside to take a picture.
The picture didn't do the storm justice, but we did get a couple of inches of rain.
And the temperature dropped. Oh Thank you GOD ON HIGH...the temperature dropped!
I wore a long sleeved tee shirt just to celebrate.

This morning I knew the ground would be way too wet to take my usual morning trek through the woods on the dirt path. I live in such a privileged neighborhood that I have not only dirt paths through the woods, but also paved alternative paths. Some 74 miles of paved paths to choose from.
They are neatly swept and groomed for biking and skating and such.

This morning I walked on pine needle carpets, and could see where the water had flowed on the path.

Along the way a doberman pincher galloped up to me. Not all scary stuff comes from China around here; sometime you can be terrorized by local pets.
The dog's owner came around the bend before the the dog reached me, calling the dog and assuring me that the dog was friendly.

She was walking a younger Dobie, with the straightest ears I had ever seen. Freshly styled ears I imagined. While the owner was going on about how friendly her dogs were, the younger one on the leash jumped up and planted her muddy paws on my tee shirt.

The owner continued to smile and rejoice over how friendly her dogs are, then they hurried away.

Yes, I think the guy was right. Animals do not sin. Paw prints on a clean white shirt: Not wrong.
I do so hope I can invite the dog's owner over sometime soon, especially if I can run into her while she is wearing something black.

My cats are really friendly too, you know.

If the cats slimes her with orange and grey cat hair...well, these things happen, right?

The rain had torn apart many of the overhead spider webs. The webs were still strong and sticky enough to catch and hold leaves as they fell from the trees.
Above: Seen overhead, a miraculous leaf mobile design, dancing in the sky, custom made just this morning.
Lots of dead wood had come down. The presence of moss is always a tip that the tree is on its way out.
Moss gathers on that which is dead, yet I still find moss to be beautiful.
Thanks for taking another walk with me.
Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
And just think, you don't even have to go wash your shirt like I do!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Coming back to life

Eleven days to go until I get to spend a month with Carrie, Caleb, Opal, Gerald, Paul, Joe, Mamie and of course Henry. I'll be traveling to Central California, down to Long Beach, and making a couple of runs out to Yale University too.

I'll be living with them all, for all of November. I checked in with each of them last July, just to make sure I understood where they were all at, but nothing has happened in their lives since last Christmas Eve, which for them occurred on November 30th, 2006.

Seriously. Absolutely nothing more in their lives has happened.

I feel very privileged to know them. As far as I know, I am one of only eight people in the world know who do know who they are.

And I really do know them, know each of them oh so well. As I write this, I can see the tilt of Opal's head as she listens to Joe talking in the kitchen. I can hear Caleb's teasing voice as he draws Carrie out of herself. I can smell the exhaust from Gerald's truck, and feel the silky white of Henry's feathers.

On November first, I will enter a truck stop diner in Paseo Robles. It will be early morning, Christmas morning, to be exact, and a roomful of strangers will be waking up as friends.

Joe will have coffee ready, and Opal will be chatting with Carrie about her plans for Christmas dinner. Caleb will be heading home for Hanukkah dinner.

And Henry, as always, will be hungry.
How is it possible that I know this?

Last year at this time none of these people existed, except a glimpse of Carrie and a thought about Caleb. The rest of the people just showed up, one by one, bringing their cars and personalities, backgrounds and in one case, their cockatoo.
I really didn't expect the cockatoo.

One night in my ongoing effort to stay awake at the library, I was reading blogs. I think I hit the "next blog" button, but I am not sure.

There was a short post by a woman who announced she had just finished writing a really crappy (her term) novel, but that she was absolutely pleased with herself. She explained that she had heard about the National Novel Writing Month challenge and had signed up.

She explained how a guy named Chris Baty had always wanted to write a novel "one day", but finally came to his senses and realized that it is not possible to write a novel in "one day."

He decided instead to write a novel in one month.
In just thirty days.

Chris is a total Northern California nut, and he convinced a few of his equally crazy friends to join him in the adventure.

Much to their surprise, they each churned out 50,000 words (a novella, really, but NOVEL just sounds so much more impressive...) It was such a blast, that more folks joined into the challenge the next year. And the next, and the next, until last year some 79,000 people worldwide were taking to their keyboards on November 1st. Last year about 13,000 of those people crossed the November 30th finish line with 50,000 words (or roughly 175 pages) finished with a new novel freshly born.

I was one of those people.

This morning I got an email from my imagination.
It was time to get ready for another month of literary abandon.
It was time to sign up.

I did.

If you, for any reason whatsoever, would like to join in with the Novel Writing Month activities, (it's free!) just click here to get started.

It does help to read Chris Baty's book "No Plot, No Problem" before you start. It is such a hoot, even if you don't take the challenge I can promise you that laughter will ring from your location as you read.

How crazy is this Nanowrimo stuff?

Well, actually an impressive amount of authors have had their original draft created as part of the National Novel Writing Month challenge (also known as Nanowrimo for short.) Some of them wrote their first novel during Nanowrimo, (ever heard of the book Water for Elephants?)and got signed to write a second novel during Nanowrimo for multiple millions. Five millions to be exact, for a book that hadn't even been written yet.
You go Sara Guen!

(No, this isn't what is going on with me. Nope, sorry.)

This year the Nanowrimo pep talk authors include Sue Grafton and Tom Robbins.


How fun is that? I'm excited about having these authors cheer us Nanowrimo writers on.
But I am even more excited about finding out what happens next in my novel.

Because right now, I really don't know what will happen.
Except that everyone is in place, and waiting for a chance to come alive again.
I can't wait to be there.
I can't wait to read what they do.
But first I have to write it.
And do some traveling to Central California, Long Beach and Yale.
Travel that will happen only in my mind.
I'll be flying on my fingertips.
Wonder who I'll meet.
Want to sit next to me?
Sign up and write a novel too.
I'd love to have you be my writing buddy!
I would be so much fun!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fall feathers, flutters and "Fore!"

Since I mentioned awhile ago that I would be posting some of my autumnal hat collection....

This was one of my first millinery efforts. I had owned the tam since high school, and after one millinery class I was itching to start trimming.
Boy did I ever NOT know what I was doing. It turned out OK. The edging isn't a bias ribbon, so there will always be a little warp/wave there.
The flowers and the feather pad were from Michael's crafts, and I added a pin from my grandmother's collection a few years later.
Funny, I've never seen a feather pad like that at Michael's since.
Occasionally I consider adding a delicate chocolate colored veil, but then resist. I get enough stares with the hat just as it is. When, oh when will veiling ever make a come back with this sort of reticent thinking?
The hat should look was the one I wore to the book signing. Laurie paused and looked hard at me when I crept into the back row as she spoke. When I went up to get my book signed she said she was glad I came up because she really wanted to see the hat.
Two are better than one...even when it is butterflies that we are talking about.
I haven't looked up their name, but they are fluttering all over the neighborhood, very slowly. And landing on the path ahead of me and staying there long enough for a picture.
Butterflies never do that for me.
I have erased more blank shots of where the butterfly was a moment ago.
Bernie and I are going to flutter on down to an old east Texas golf course.
I'm going to ride along in the cart with him as he plays.
We're taking a bottle of Spanish wine with us.
It's just that kind of day.
Stay tuned for pictures tomorrow!