Friday, December 12, 2008

The Buddhist Cow Says Mu

How can you possibly go wrong with a quiz that contains an awesome question like Do you like waffles? From the Thursday Thunks meme, on Friday morning (of course).

1. Do you like waffles?

I love waffles! There are really great gluten-free waffles on the market, made by Van's(^). Sometimes we make it using GF baking mix. I haven't made them from scratch yet. When I was still eating wheat I have to admit that the best waffles I ever made were made with Jiffy Mix(^) and the worst I ever made were made totally from scratch using the recipe in The Joy Of Cooking. They were way too greasy. Yuck.

The ones from Vans are great because they're, well, great - they taste like waffles, not too sweet or funky due to the lack of flour. And because they are in the grocery store, vs going to the health food store. And because they aren't expensive. A lot of gluten-free food is pretty expensive. There are several factors involved - testing, cleaning equipment, smaller batches, costly ingredients.

It's spiffy to find things that aren't expensive, taste good and are easy to find.

We like Waffles so much that we have a cat named Waffles. Our Waffles was actually named after Fern's cat Waffles, though. Fern doesn't have an accessible blog at the moment, but when he does, I'll link to it. He's one of the most important people in my life; the brother I now have, a best friend, and a confidant. As wonderful as Fern is, and while his cat is no doubt awesome, scientifically speaking, our Waffles has been determined to be the best cat on the planet.

  • is incredibly empathetic and always comes and lays with us if we're not feeling well or could use some cheering up.
  • sleeps with us, and is never too warm.
  • lets the other kitties eat first.
  • roars when he purrs.
  • is huge, really long and muscular.
  • defends other kitties against the scourge that is the dog.
  • loves his mommy.
  • has his own following on MySpace.

Waffles on the bed

More Waffles. Doesn't he have the sweetest face?

2. Name 3 things that is within your reach right now, excluding anything to do with your computer/laptop.

A water bottle, a lamp shaped like the Eiffel Tower, and my camera.

3. Do you hang laundry out on a line outside?

Rarely. I often hang it in the laundry room to dry. In Colorado, the air is so dry that even inside, clothes dry in a just few hours.

4. Loss of vision, ability to speak or hearing - which do you choose? (you have to choose one....)

I've already lost some hearing in my right ear due to a childhood injury, and I'd be ok with losing the rest. Well, not ok, but it would bother me less than the other two. I watch closed captioned TV and can read lips, so it wouldn't be much of a shock to lose my hearing, whereas I can't fathom losing my vision or the ability to speak.

5. On a scale from 1 - 10, how are your computer skills?

Well, compared to my husband, pretty poor. His skills go to eleven, as Nigel Tufnel(^) would say. But compared to your average user, probably about an 8 with PCs; a 6 with Macs; and maybe a 4 with Linux.

Tux, the Linux Mascot

This is the place where I tell you I intend to become more adept at Linux, like I always do. The truth is, it isn't Linux's fault - it's mine. Linux is not hard to learn at the user level, I'm just really busy with the SuperCat. I am at a point where I could use Linix 24/7 at the user level, but I would like to know a lot more and not have to rely on Dan for technical support.

On the plus side, I did dump Windows off my desktop machine, and my laptop now dual boots, so I am making measurable progress. Yay, progress.

6. Do you volunteer or donate to anything around the holidays?

I used to volunteer a lot, but haven't for a while, and am ok with that for the time being. My time is best utilized at home and probably will be for the foreseeable future. I will return to volunteering, eventually though, as I do miss it. We do donate to the ARC(^), which does a lot of good work.

7. If a person receives a DUI while in government office, should he lose his/her position?

I don't have enough information to make a decision.
Was the person elected, appointed or hired?
Does their job involve passing legislation involving drunk driving? Are they otherwise in a decision-making position?
Without more information, I can't answer.

Which totally brings us to MU!!!!! My friend Ben shared the concept of Mu a couple of weeks ago, and I was delighted to read about it.

Mu, where have you been all my life?

Mu (in Japan and Korea) or Wu (in Chinese) means "none", "without", and "no meaning". Mu is the answer to give when there is no correct answer possible or when there isn't enough information to give any answer at all. When "yes" and "no" are both wrong, "Mu" may be the answer.

Mu has a place in Buddhist philosophy as a kōan. A kōan is an often paradoxical question, story, riddle or statement that makes you think about things intuitively that may not be thinkable any other way.

These are kōans:
  • what is the sound of one hand clapping?
  • when you can do nothing, what can you do?
  • what is the color of wind?
  • If you have ice cream, I will give you some.
    If you don't have
    ice cream, I will take it away.
    That, of course, is the famous ice cream kōan by Jack Kerouac
Kōans may not have a obvious or single correct answer, which is where Mu comes in.

This is Mu:

marvel at the awesomeness of Mu

8. Do you take vitamins?

I administer vitamins in the form of Flintstones Chewables (now with Betty), and I take one occasionally, but generally no.

9. Do you wear fingernail polish?

My hands are too often in and around craft materials and water to have polished nails. I keep my nails clean but not polished since they'd chips too frequently to look neat for very long. My toenails are polished, though. Bright pink at the moment.

10. If every flower in the world only grew into one color, which color would you want?

The color of blue hydrangeas in the shade on a late summer afternoon. How's that for specific? I love hydrangeas and everything they represent - the bounty and beauty of summer flowers, and the languid warmth of late afternoons as the shadows grow. Hydrangeas made up the bulk of my bridal bouquet and I can't wait to grow them again.

Beautiful blue hydrangeas
Stock Photo from the morgueFile, image information found here(^)

I have a busy day of sewing ahead of me, and will try to post some pictures f my work later this evening.
Until then,

Current mood: (busy)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Way Too Many Onions! French Onion Soup

I accidentally bought a 10 pound bag of onions last week, not realizing that I already had a nearly full 10 pound bag, giving us close to 20 pounds of onion-y goodness.

Sad vintage ceramic onion full of Splenda on my stovetop

We use a lot of onions, but 20 pounds is a bit much to have on hand in cold-weather months, when the house is heated. Without a cool storage place onions can go bad quickly.

In an valiant effort to save the onions from certain ruination, I made French Onion Soup yesterday afternoon. I don't have an exact recipe, but honestly don't think it needs one. It is delicious and worth the minimal effort it takes. The hardest part is slicing the onions. I use a crock pot, so it probably does take a bit longer than doing it in an open pan, but again, that's not a bad thing. Slow cooking allows the soup a chance for the flavors to meld and mix, adding to the end result.

Way Too Many Onions! French Onion Soup Recipe
  • Yellow or white onions, sliced very thinly, about 4 pounds.
  • Dry Sherry, about ½ cup
  • butter or margarine, ½ cup. I use butter. You should use what you prefer.
  • minced garlic, about 2 tablespoons. You can mince your own, or use the stuff in jars. I use the stuff in jars. We really like garlic, so this may be too much for your family. Adjust accordingly.
  • pepper, to taste
  • grains of paradise (Aframomum melegueta ^) to taste. Widely-used in medieval Europe, this spice is peppery, but is not actually pepper. If you don't have any, use more pepper. Or not. Lots of people don't like as much pepper as we do, and there is almost no shame in that at all.
  • beef and/or chicken broth, 2 quarts. Either is good, neither are shown in the picture below. I use gluten-free, which is easy to find if you read labels.
  • Better Than Broth beef soup base. Or chicken. Use the one you like best. Concentrated broth, this is pretty salty. I start with 2 teaspoons or so, and adjust up until the flavor is right. You could use bouillon cubes instead, but the BTB(^) tastes better to me - more meat flavor. I have found it at Target and Wal*Mart in the grocery dept on the same shelf as bouillon cubes. It comes in jars.
  • white cheese, sliced or grated. I use Swiss or Gruyère, others use Provolone or whatever else they like. I can't give an exact amount, because we don't eat all of the soup at one time. Basically, you want enough to cover the top of the soup in individual oven proof bowls. If you don't have oven-proof bowls, use micro-wave safe bowls, top the soup and nuke the bowls until the cheese is melted. This would be under a minute (perhaps 45 seconds) in my 1000 watt microwave.
  • bread. I don't use bread in my soup, because we don't eat gluten. Instead, I serve it with GF bread sticks. If I added GF bread, it would go mushy. If gluten isn't an issue, lightly toast bread slices, one for every serving of soup and reserve.
  • dried Parmesan cheese, optional. I sometimes add a sprinkle at the end before the cheese goes under the broiler.

Some of the ingredients for French Onion Soup
(vintage onion jar for effect - no kitschy ceramics in the actual soup)


1). Thinly slice enough onions to fill your crock pot:

thinly sliced onions & butter

I use a large 6-quart crock pot and make a huge batch, but know that we'll eat it over the next few days plain with bread and a salad; in place of au jus with sandwiches; cooked down and thickened to use in pot pie or shepherd's pie, etc. It won't go to waste.

If your crock pot is smaller, adjust accordingly. If you don't have a crock pot, this will take less time, but require more monitoring.

It takes about 4 pounds of onions (yellow and/or white) sliced thinly, to fill my crock pot.

2). Add ½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, sliced into 8 pieces or so on top of the onion slices.

Thinly sliced onions with butter pats on top. This is my 6-quart crock pot.

3). Turn the crock pot to low, put the lid on, and check frequently at first to be sure that low isn't too high (mine has warm, low and high as options). Crock pot performance varies, so check if you aren't familiar with how your pot works. It takes several hours for the onions to go limp, then eventually become clear and then begin to caramelize. If the onions are crispy or charred at all, the temperature is too high.
After about 90 minutes in my crock pot, the butter had mostly melted and the the onions had wilted a bit, well on their way to caramelized yumminess:

After 90 minutes, the onions are wilting and the butter is mostly melted.

4). After the onions have cooked clear and are beginning to caramelize, which in my pot takes about 5 hours, add the garlic, sherry, Better than Broth, and broth.

Nearly-finished soup

5). Carefully raise the heat and cook for another hour or so, until the soup has reduced a bit. Check frequently to assure that the pot isn't over-heating the soup. I don't allow it to come to a full boil, but do allow it to come to a simmer, so that it begins to slowly reduce.

6). Season with pepper and grains of paradise (if desired).

Four pounds is a lot of onions, isn't it?

7). Ladle soup into oven proof bowls, add a slice of toasted bread (of your choice - if I could eat "regular" bread, I'd use a French baguette).

8). Top with cheese of your choice, and set bowls under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese begins to bubble a bit.

9). Immediately remove bowls from oven, and carefully set on individual small plates to serve (because they will be very hot!!!

10). Serve with a hunk of French bread, bread sticks, or with crackers. I usually serve it with a small salad and fruit.

Dan eating delicious French Onion soup. Yummy!

Yay, he likes it!
Allez cuisine!

Helpful Hints:
  • I don't have a fail-proof trick to stop the tears you may shed from cutting lots of onions, but not cutting the root end off until I have to seems to help, as does slicing near a faucet with warm water running. YMMV, of course.
  • Don't use cooking sherry, as it's often salted so you can't drink it. It is sold in the grocery store vs the liquor store, so it's salted so as to be undrinkable. Buy the liquor store version instead as it's much cheaper and doesn't taste like the Dead Sea.
  • Be safe. Check your crock pot often until you are familiar with the way it works. My Low may be your High.
  • If you feel like there is too much fat in the recipe, chilling the completed soup and skimming the solidified butter from the top is an easy way to fix it. Also, low-fat Swiss is a great choice for the cheese.
Finally, this is my stove top. It's a closed top stove, and I it! Easy to clean, with even heat that reaches temperature quickly. I'd probably love a gas stove a bit better; maybe in the next house.

The usual suspects

I rarely ever use the back burners, even though I cook a lot. I just never seem to need it.

Friar Cookie Jar detail. He looks sneaky, don't you think?

The unused back burners hold my three favorite cookie jars, a Twin Winton Lamb cookie jar, a Friar cookie jar (I don't know his manufacturer) , and a McCoy Cookies Barrel cookie jar. Plus the sad onion guy, and usually a set of salt and pepper shakers.

Current mood: (hungry)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Basic Human Right

This is from a blog meme I ran across today called BlogDriveInsanity(^):
Wednesday Mind Hump
Welcome to another Mind Hump. Today is Human Rights Day.
What human right are you most passionate about?
My answer would be... Well, I would start with the fact that I've never heard of the United Nations' Human Rights Day(^) before now, even though this is the 60th anniversary of the first one.

Yay, learning new stuff!

And second, to answer the question, I guess I would say that I am most passionate about the right to self defense. Without the right to protect yourself, all other rights immediately cease to matter. If you aren't walking the Earth anymore, the right to vote; to property; to clean air and water; to food, the right to anything becomes meaningless.

I'm not talking about the dubious "right" to be an aggressor, or the ability to go to war. Simply put - I mean the innate right to stop aggression against yourself or those you care for. To feel safe and secure to the best of your ability without harming others who are innocent in the process.

I was a long time in becoming convinced that I could protect myself. And that even if I could, that I should. One thing that prompted me toward action was seeing other women taking the steps to defend themselves or others.

Women like Jeanne Assam(^), from my own neck of the woods, who saved untold lives at New Life Church last year.

Women like Stephanie Nielson, author of The NieNie Dialogues, who decided earlier this year to take firearms training and get her concealed carry permit because of crime in her neighborhood. She wrote about it eloquently in a post entitled NieNie get your gun(^).

And women like an unfortunate neighbor of mine whose home was invaded over the summer, and who was beat mercilessly. She didn't have the means to protect herself or her family.

So, I made the decision, took the classes, and did the most important thing: practice, practice, practice.

range practice

I made some interesting discoveries along the way:
  • Women are most certainly welcome at firearm ranges. I'm never the only one there. Women made up exactly 25% of my training class, and there are often knowledgeable women working in sporting goods stores that sell firearms.
  • People in the know are willing to answer questions, make suggestions, and offer explanations. There are no stupid questions, and all of my questions have been answered with respect and patience.
  • Everyone involved with firearms that I've met takes safety and competence very seriously.
  • It feels good to become competent at something that had previously seemed so scary and once I did become competent, the scare factor went away.
So, the right I am most passionate about is the one I consider to be most basic right of all, the one that all others flow from.

Finally, I mentioned Stephanie Nielson above, a blogger I've very much enjoyed reading for some time. Stephanie and her husband, "Mr Nielson" were in a terrible airplane accident in August, 2008, and they both sustained life threatening critical burns.

While they recover, their loved ones are reposting previous NieNie posts. To read her blog, click on the link above. If you'd like to learn more about these two wonderful people, or if you would like to help, click the icon below.


Current mood:

What Have I Done?

Nothing bad, I hope.
It's a list of experiences I may (or may not) have had.
Things I've done are in bold; things I'd like to do are in italics.
From Lea Is Gluten Free(^), an awesome GF blog.

1. Started your own blog?

2. Slept under the stars
Many times. I was a Girl Scout!

3. Played in a band?
Badly and briefly, but yes. My school's 4th grade orchestra.

4. Visited Hawaii
I've always wanted to visit Hawaii, especially since my Dad was once stationed there.

5. Watched a meteor shower
Many times. At least annually for many years.

6. Given more than you can afford to charity?

7. Been to Disney World?

Many times with my dad & the girls. Dan and I need to take the girls & the Supercat.

8. Climbed a mountain?
Not in a long time, but yes.

9. Held a praying mantis?

They have scratchy feet.

10. Sang a solo?
You wouldn't want me to, as I have an awful voice.

11. Bungee jumped?
My husband has bungee jumped (from a hot air balloon, no less), but I would never ever do it. Ever.

12. Visited Paris?
I would very much like to see Paris. My sister went a few years ago & loved it.

13. Watched a lightning storm at sea?

I wasn't at sea, but the storm was. Does that count?

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch?
I taught myself to knit. And I taught myself how to use polymer clay. And a bunch of other artsy/crafty things.

15. Adopted a child?
Thought about it a bit; but I'm not sure it's feasible.

16. Had food poisoning?
I was green

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty?
No. Not for lack of trying, though. Every time I've been to NYC, its been closed for one reason or another. I did walk to the top of the Washington Monument a couple of times.

18. Grown your own vegetables?
Many times.

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France?
I'll have to see her on my trip to Paris.

20. Slept on an overnight train?
Two different trains. The California Zephyr from Denver to Chicago, and the Cardinal from Chicago to West Virginia. The train is a wonderful way to travel. Dan & I are taking the other half of the California Zephyr route next year when we travel to San Francisco, so I will be able to add several more nights spent on trains then.

21. Had a pillow fight?
Many times. See Question #2 (I was a Girl Scout)

22. Hitchhiked?
Sorta, once.
Bad: it's a really bad idea and don't ever do it.
Good: a friend picked me up.

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill?
Ya. Naughty naughty naughty.

24. Built a snow fort?
Yep. The first time was at Big Bear Lake(^) when I was a kid.

25. Held a lamb?
When I lived in West Virginia, once a year in the Spring there would be a petting zoo outside the grocery store & I always took the girls. My oldest loved sheep - her "lovie" was a lamb. Anyway, we always held the babies. They are so soft and sweet.

26. Gone skinny dipping?
(blush) yes (blush)

27. Run a Marathon?

Yes. Exactly one. I did very poorly, but I did finish it. Yay, me.

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
never been to Venice, though it is probably higher on my list than Paris.

29. Seen a total eclipse?
No. Many partial, annular & lunar eclipses. One hybrid, iirc. No total eclipses, though.
Speaking of which, you know the Carly Simon song You're So Vain?

Well I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won Then you flew your Lear Jet up to Nova Scotia To see the total eclipse of the sun

That eclipse took place July 10th, 1972 and a friend of mine was there. He wasn't the subject of the song though. How spiffy is that?

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset?
Over the Pacific and the Atlantic

31. Hit a home run?
No, but I got to 3rd base once on my own at-bat. Considering how sports-averse I am, that wasn't too shabby.

32. Been on a cruise?
No. My husband and I have talked about the Alaskan cruise thing, but I don't know if I would like to spend that much regimented time or not, and neither does he.

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person?
It's always been on my 'to-do' list.

34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors?
That would be Scotland and/or England. No, I have not yet.

35. Seen an Amish community?
Many times. I lived near some Amish folks for a long time, and we'd see them in town from time to time. There were Mennonites in the area, too. They all seemed very nice. Dan & I recently watch a documentary about the Amish Rumspringa (called Devil's Playground(^) that really raised my eyebrows in relation to what I thought I knew about the Amish.

36. Taught yourself a new language?
No. I keep meaning to learn some Mandarin before we go to China, but haven't gotten around to it. I speak a bit of Spanish, but I didn't teach myself (a series of teachers did), and an even smaller bit of Japanese.

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied?
Yes, but probably because I'm not a money-driven person

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person?
::sigh:: not yet.

39. Gone rock climbing?
I used to rappel in high school.

40. Seen Michelangelo's David?
not yet

41. Sung karaoke?
No, but Dan has and he sings beautifully.

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt?

Yes, it was very cool, but I liked the volcanic paint pots better.

43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant?

44. Visited Africa?
not yet. I really want to see Egypt. My husband has been, though.

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight?
Many times.

46. Been transported in an ambulance?
Once, when I was hit head on in a car accident when I was 6 months pregnant.

47. Had your portrait painted?
No. I don't know if I would like that or not. I'd have to think about it.

48. Gone deep sea fishing?

Sort of. On a boat where others were fishing, but didn't fish myself.

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person?
Another "not yet"

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Nope. Gah! What's with all the France questions? If I haven't been to Paris (see question above), then I haven't seen the various things in Paris.

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling?
Yes. In a pool, in a lake, and in the Bahamas.

52. Kissed in the rain?

My husband. He's a good kisser.

<3 style="font-weight: bold;">53. Played in the mud?
As a child.

54. Gone to a drive-in theater?
Many times. We talked about going again last summer, but never got around to it. Hopefully we'll make it next summer.

55. Been in a movie?
No. How cool would that be, though?

56. Visited the Great Wall of China?
The restaurant or the Wall?
We're going abroad for vacation in the year or so, and China is very high on the list.
I hope to see it soon.

57. Started a business?
No, I'm not a very entrepreneurial minded person.

58. Taken a martial arts class?
No, and it really doesn't interest me much, though my husband seems to be thinking about learning Krav Maga, which would be pretty cool.

59. Visited Russia?
Not yet, but I would like to see Saint Petersburg.

60. Served at a soup kitchen?
Sort of. I volunteered in a battered women's shelter for a while., and I used to give out food from the food pantry at church.

61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies?
Yes, several times. Would you like to buy some Thin Mints?

62. Gone whale watching?

Yes. We saw whales and dolphins.

63. Got flowers for no reason?

My husband is the most romantic person on the planet and often surprises me with flowers for no reason ::sigh:: I'm very lucky that way.

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma?
Yes, and I would still be doing it except that my veins collapse and they can't get enough to make it worthwhile anymore.

65. Gone sky diving?
No, and I never will.

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp?
No, but I'd like to, although "like" and "Nazi Concentration Camp" hardly go together.

67. Bounced a check?
No. How boring am I anyway?

68. Flown in a helicopter
No, and I'm pretty unlikely to ever wish to do so.

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy?
I have a stuffed sheep and a stuffed Dancing Bear from Captain Kangaroo, both from childhood. I don't have a lot else in that regard, so they are very important to me.

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial?
Several times.

71. Eaten Caviar?
No, but I'd like to. I've been in the room with it, and don't know why I didn't try it. I will try pretty much anything, food-wise.

72. Pieced a quilt?
I've made several quilts. I'm going to start another after Christmas.

73. Stood in Times Square?
Many times. I NY

74. Toured the Everglades?
Yes. Lots of alligators, really pretty birds, and mosquitoes the size of small aircraft.

75. Been fired from a job?

76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London?
Not yet. See: all other questions pertaining to Europe.

77. Broken a bone?
Many. Mostly in my hands. I found out last year why that was happening, so it shouldn't happen again.

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle?

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person?
Yes, and it looks a lot like the pictures. By that I mean that it's so huge and so expansive, that standing at the rim, it almost seems flat and not-quite real somehow. Amazing.

80. Published a book?
Not my own all-by-myself book, but I have had my writing published in a book. Does that count?

81. Visited the Vatican?
My sister went a couple of years ago, but I haven't been yet. I'm Catholic, she isn't, so I guess I'd better get on that.
She brought me a rosary, though; she's very thoughtful.

82. Bought a brand new car?
Yes. It's a vastly overrated option. Used seems to work better for me.

83. Walked in Jerusalem?
No, but my sister has. I sort of want to go someday, sort of not.

84. Had your picture in the newspaper?

85. Read the entire Bible?

86. Visited the White House?
It's lovely.

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating?
Yes, but only domesticated farm animals. My husband hunts.
I'm taking hunter safety classes this winter, so I plan to join him next autumn.

88. Had chickenpox?
Yes, in 6th grade. I started getting sick at school on Valentine's Day, and tried to stay because I didn't want to miss the party at the end of the day, but I didn't make it. I have a small scar near my collar bone.

89. Saved someone’s life?
Perhaps. I gave someone CPR once.

90. Sat on a jury?
In early 2005, I was one of 200 or so people called for jury duty. It was my first time. It got narrowed down to about 4 dozen people pretty quickly, half of which went one place, half the other. Lawyers from both sides talked to our group (and I assume the other group, too). Then we were given a questionnaire to fill out, which we turned in & waited. Eventually, we were brought back in numbered order to the courtroom. I was # 13. Some of us were questioned again, and I guess they decied to keep things the way they were because they eventually chose numbers 1-12, and the rest of us were allowed to go home.
So, I missed it by >< that much, which was sort of sad, because I would have like to have served and will be happy to do so if I'm ever called again.

92. Joined a book club?
No. I read alone, baby. I'm a rebel.

93. Lost a loved one?
Terribly, horribly, yes.
I lost my Dad almost five years ago.

94. Had a baby
Yes, several babies.

95. See the Alamo in person?
Yes, it's spiffy. Stay out of the basement, though. Bad jou-jou.

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake?
No. First, can you actually swim, or do you just sort of float due to all the salt?
And second, ewwwwwwwwww. Have you smelled the Great Salt Lake?

97. Been involved in a law suit?
Yes, for my former HOA as an officer. We won 7/7.

98. Owned a cell phone?
My current phone is a G1 Android (the Google phone), but I've had cell phones since they were huge hulking things in bags.

99. Been stung by a bee?
Yes. But not until I was in 5th grade. A bunch of us were sledding on a hill of mud at Girl Scout camp we ran into a wild bee's nest.

100. Read an entire book in one day
Many, many times. I'm a readin' fool.
Namaste. =^..^=

Current Mood:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Let it snow, Let it snow, Let it snow

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

After a day and a half of waiting and listening to the seemingly interminable up-to-the-minute Channel30/5/11/13/21NewsCenterAccu-WeatherQuickAlerts, we finally saw snow.

Yesterday afternoon, around 4:00 PM, my husband called and said that his boss had advised everyone to go home and finish the day working from home because the weather was getting bad. Just as he arrived home, it was as if the sky above turned on the snow-making machines and we went from an vast expanse of bare grass to several inches of the white stuff within 20 minutes or so. We get a lot of snow here, of course, but it doesn't usually start so abruptly. It continued all evening. Here are a few pictures from right after dusk:

Santa and Rudolph weren't fully inflated yet when this was taken, making them look as though they really, really liked each other.

inflatable heaven

all lit up
Our Christmas tree is about 7½ feet tall, but it doesn't look that big here, probably because we have gift bags circling the tree like covered wagons to keep the galloping herd of buffalo our giant dog from chasing the kitties under the tree and knocking it over.

It's hard to capture details, so you'll have to imagine the cool bubble lights. I always thought those were the coolest and thought that I'd have them when I grew up. I do have them now, and they are (in fact) the coolest.

The fireplace is to the left, and you can't really see it, but there is a very large clay chiminea shaped like an owl on the hearth full of pebbles and candles.

PS: I noticed that I forgot to include Question 4 from the yesterday's quiz. It should have been:

4. When do you take the tree down?

I used to leave the tree up till at least the Feast of the Epiphany(^) (January 6th), but the last several years I've taken the tree down the day after Christmas, because that was all I could stand (after my Dad died). Somehow, this year is finally different, and I feel like celebrating again, even if only tentatively. I don't know if we will make it to Epiphany, but I'm certainly willing to try.

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's(^)
Adoration of the Magi (17th Century)

Finally, a quick Q & A, because a friend was wondering about a few things after I posted a picture of our tree last night:

Q: What's that lurking behind your Christmas tree?
A: A copy of the poster for Le Chat Noir(^), the famous 19th century Parisian cabaret. Well, famous in the 19th century, anyway. The poster (not my copy, of course) dates to 1896. Here it is without a tree in front of it:

I always think the cat looks really cheesed.

Q. The picture makes it look like your walls are painted purple. What color are they really?

A. Purple. A purple-y sort of dark dusty violet. I the color.


Current mood: (cold)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Holiday Quiz

I was super busy today, deep cleaning the kitchen in advance of the Holidays. I got the oven and microwave clean, as well as about half of the cabinets. I watered and trimmed the plants, yanked down a brown vine that had tried to strangulate the window blinds before it up and died, and filled the aquarium-that-doesn't-have-a-fish-yet with more water. I need to get a fish or a frog to replace our dearly-departed Siamese Fighting Fish, Cookie Monster ('cause he was blue), but we haven't decided on fish or frog yet, so the aquarium remains empty but for water.

Earlier, the SuperCat had taken another in her series of epic baths, launching her fleet of ducks, and swimming around for close to 90 minutes while I picked up in our adjacent bedroom. The bedroom is a bit cleaner, and I'm pretty happy with what I managed to do today. I'm finally getting into the holiday mood (after like, 8 years without it), so I'm trying to take advantage of it by getting things accomplished.

funny pictures
more animals

A friend sent me this quiz in email, and instead of just answering it and sending it back (which I did do) , I'm posting it here. Let me know if you answer the questions; feel free to post a link to your answers or post the answers in the comments field if you'd like.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

Due to playfully pouncing kitties, lumbering dog-oxen, and rampaging SuperCats, we try to avoid sitting down with large rolls of wrapping paper and sticky tape at all costs, and use (then subsequently re-use) gift bags as often as possible.

2. Real tree or artificial?

Artificial. Real trees are pretty and smell nice, but real trees are an allergy issue around here. Plus, real trees last a few weeks at best, while an artificial tree lasts for years and years. Thus, it seems greener somehow to have a fake plastic tree.

3. When do you put up the tree?

The weekend after Thanksgiving. That feels like the right not-too-soon-not-too-late time break out the presents!
The ribbons!
The wrappings!
The tags!
And the tinsel!
The trimmings!
The trappings!

5. Do you like eggnog?

Love it. So far this year we've had "regular" nog; "light" nog (relatively speaking, of course. Egg nog is not "light"); and soy nog. Soy nog is better than I would have guessed, and I plan to get it from now on. When the SuperCat was very small - and she was born very small - she showed an early preference for egg nog. She was so small and tiny, and she needed the calories, so we gave her egg nog (pasteurized, of course) whenever we possibly could. She's still a huge nog fan, just like Mommy.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

Lincoln Logs from my Dad when I was about 5 or so.

7. Hardest person to buy for?

My husband. Generally speaking, he doesn't want a lot of stuff, and if he wants it, he probably has it already. It's very difficult to come up with new things he'll like.

8. Easiest person to buy for?

Any of the kids. They want (variously) toys, clothes and/or money. Very straightforward. And they are always appreciative, which is nice.

9. Do you have a Nativity scene?

A crèche? Yes. For some reason, most Catholics seem to call it a crèche, which means "manger" or "crib" rather than calling it a Nativity scene. I have three. A smallish mostly-plastic one, a handmade wooden one, and one made from polymer clay that I made several years ago. The tradition I am familiar with is to keep the baby Jesus out of the crib/manger/crèche until Christmas day, to signify His birth.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

Sometimes, we get around to mailing them, but not usually, so often it's email or phone calls.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

A hideous short-sleeved bright green sweater with a white striped neck band from an aunt who did the shopping for my grandmother that year. Yuck. Seriously yuck.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie?

A Christmas Story (You'll shoot your eye out, kid!)

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

Year round if I see something I like, but after Labor Day in earnest. I dislike crowds, so I try to get it out of the way before they kick in in earnest.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

Yes, a few times. Not the hideous green sweater, though. I donated that. I don't like to return stuff, ever. I would rather do anything than stand in line to return things, so unless it was broken, I try to make-do, donate it, or give it away.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

I haven't had it in years, but my grandmother's Peanut Butter Divinity Fudge. I need to dig up the recipe and make some. The other favorite would be turkey and gravy. Oh, and Chex Mix. Gluten-free, Rice-Chex-only Chex Mix.

16. What decorations are on your tree?

Mostly blown glass. White lights. Things the kids made over the years.

17. Favorite Christmas song?

Don't really have a single one. I like Fairytale of New York, obviously (see previous post). I love Carol of the Bells, which everyone knows, but many people don't seem to know the name of.

And a song called Walking In The Air, by the English composer Howard Blake, for the film version of Raymond Briggs' The Snowman. It is simply beautiful.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay at home?

Both. I really would prefer to stay home, but we usually end up away from home, which I find sort of stressful, sort of not. Aside from my kids, I don't really have a lot of family, and I prefer to stay home; my husband has a lot of family, though, and he understandably wants us all to be together. So it's sort of stressful, but tempered by the fact that he's happy, so I'm ok with it.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?

Yes. Yes, I can.
Donder & Blitzen (originally Dunder & Blixem - the Dutch words for Thunder & Lightning).
And sometimes, the non-canonical Rudolph.

20. Angel on top of tree or star?

A tin star.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

Christmas morning. It doesn't feel right to open gifts Christmas Eve.

Because we often travel, we often end up either opening gifts at home Christmas Eve and then go "out and about" Christmas morning; or go "out and about" Christmas day and open gifts whenever we get home Christmas night.

When I was little, my Dad often worked Christmas Eve night, so we didn't see him until Christmas morning, and it would have been impossible to think of opening more than one gift on Christmas Eve without my Dad being there.

If we opened one gift, if was the one from our grandparents back East. That was only because we'd called long-distance to talk to our grandparents to wish them Merry Christmas and to thank them for their gifts, so we'd open them to know what they were.

Long distance was always such a huge big deal back then, reserved for holidays or special announcements. It wasn't something you did just because.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

All of those sappy made-for-TV-mushy-romantic-Christmas-movies. For example: pretty much whatever is on the Lifetime Movie Channel this month(^).

Oh! And the fact that The Night The Reindeer Died isn't a real movie. Because if it was real, it would be awesome. Lee Majors-awesome. Just think about that for a minute, will ya'?

I'd like to say that consumerism, greed, and all that bothers me, since it does seem to be magnified around this time of year. And it does, but probably not as much as maudlin sentiment.

23 What theme or color are you using when you decorate?

I hadn't put up my largish collection of ornaments in many years, due to a number of factors; until this year. During the years we didn't put up the big tree, I fell into putting up a tiny tree with turquoise, pink and silver ornaments. It was really pretty. This year, I'm back to the "everything goes" color scheme, with turquoise, blue and silver decorations outside.

As for a theme, it's eclectic, just like all of my other decorating endeavors. I like vintage and unusual ornaments.

♫ Oh, Christmas Tree ♫

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?

Food? Turkey and gravy (see question # 15). We don't seem to have any one thing that has to be served to call it Christmas dinner. I knew someone years ago who always had fish soup. I know people who always make Dresdner Stollen(^), a German bread-like cake (link pops to recipe). I've known other people to always have lasagna, spaghetti or beef roast. I have a friend whose family always eats shrimp.

Maybe we should start a tradition. Any suggestions?

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?

Hmmm. Not too much, really, apart from the usual... Peace On Earth... Goodwill Towards All Men... and a new flannel night gown.

If Santa is listening, a DVD of The Snowman would be nice, since I haven't seen it in many years and would like to share it with the SuperCat.
Since I've been extra-good, maybe a self-healing cutting mat for sewing, and/or a charm or two for my bracelet.

Current mood: (accomplished)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Holiday Havoc

A couple of weeks ago, at the bookstore, while looking for a birthday present for Dan, I realized that the store was playing Christmas music. Thanksgiving, which seems to be the unofficial earliest date possible that has been deemed safe to play Christmas music without customer rioting, was still six days in the future, but that wasn't what really surprised me.

What surprised me was the song.

They were playing one of my favorites, Fairytale of New York, originally by The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl. It was surprising because it's a bawdy song about spending Christmas in the drunk tank in NYC. Part of the song is sung between two characters who, while fighting each other, use some pretty nasty language. I waited, listening while I shopped, and when they got to the verse with the naughty words, I waited for them to be sung out over the bookstore...

I waited for it... and... they'd been replaced with non-naughty words that sort of rhymed with the originals.


They'd trashed the song.

When I caught up with Dan and the Supercat, I mentioned it to him, and he's heard it, too, noticing the clean version they'd played. I think we were both a bit miffed: someone had taken a perfectly indecent Pogues song and completely ruined it by tidying it up, ridding it of part of what made it good to start with. They aren't words I use in everyday conversation; they aren't nice or polite words at all - rather nasty, in fact. But they convey the mood of the besotted characters, so they belong in the song.

Worst of all, it was a bookstore. Grrrrrr. They deal in ideas, but for whatever reason, someone decided that we couldn't handle ideas, and scrubbed the song clean for us.


A teeny tiny itsy bitsy part of me thinks I should be happy that they played the song at all, but the bigger part of me thinks it should be played as written, as the composer intended, or not at all.

If it doesn't belong in a retail atmosphere (and it may not - I'm not sure it's something I want my small child to hear), don't play it at all. I can see plenty of good reasons not to play it - it's a song about drinking and has foul language; and that might have a deleterious effect on holiday shoppers. That makes perfect sense.

What doesn't make sense is playing a song known to have naughty words and an adult theme, then editing it to remove the parts that make the song unique.

Oddly, this has come up before, almost a year ago, when BBC Radio 1 played a censored version last Christmas(^), after years of playing the "regular" version. They said they were censoring it to "avoid offence". The scrubbed version lasted less than a day, Kirsty MacColl's mother (KM died as the result of a terrible accident a few years ago), and zillions of fans complained.

Anyway, here it is in all its uncensored glory:

The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl

At around the same time the BBC was censoring the Pogues last year, the fine folks who bring us The Venture Brothers(^) (probably my favorite TV show) released their annual holiday song to the world.

The Venture Brothers, is a definitely-not-for-children (mostly due to cartoon violence and adult situations) animated series on Adult Swim(^), what the Cartoon Network turns into late at night. It follows the adventures of a scientist (Dr. Thaddeus S. "Rusty" Venture), his bodyguard (Brock Sampson) and the doctor's two sons (Hank and Dean Venture) as they fight villainy, mostly found in the form of the Guild of Calamitous Intent, sort of a union for bad guys (with health/dental insurance and everything).

If it looks and sounds a lot like Jonny Quest, it's almost certainly no coincidence, The Venture Brothers seems to try to balance on the thin line between parody and an earnest homage to Jonny Quest.

Here's a clip from The Venture Brothers, with their arch enemies, The Monarch, and his wife, Dr. Girlfriend. Dr. Girlfriend is the one with the really low voice. And yeah, she's a she.

So, as I said, every year around the holidays (since 2004, anyway), The Venture Brothers creators have released a Christmas song on their website. They haven't released one for this year yet, but I went looking yesterday, and found the songs from the previous four years(^).

The songs thus far have been:

The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend singing the Bing Crosby-David Bowie classic Peace On Earth/The Little Drummer Boy (2004)

The Monarch and Henchmen 21 & 24 singing Dolly Parton’s Hard Candy Christmas (2005)

Venture Aid (2006)

And, from 2007:

The Monarch and Dr. Girlfriend singing (you guessed it) Fairytale of New York. Since it was released around the time of the BBC controversy, I wonder if it was released in response to the censorship?

Regardless of why, it makes me happy to know that someone else gets it - in fact, that a lot of people get it. Not everything is for everyone at all times - some people may be offended, or the material may be inappropriate. But destroying original work is not the answer.