- Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Victoria and Albert's Song
Happy New Year, everyone.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Fun Monday at the Movies
Our host for this week's Fun Monday is Gattina and her assignment is to share our favorite Christmas ornament. I fear I must bend the rules this week Gattina, because the only sign of Christmas in my home is a lovely stack of Christmas cards and greetings from friends near and far. I did, however, receive an unexpected gift that is timely and most appreciated. That's this gift card from my friend S's mother--and my new BFF--to our local cinemas. Timely because many of the 2010 Oscar contenders are just now being released and most appreciated because:
I LOVE MOVIES!
As you can see from this 2009 ticket stub collage, I get excited about going to the movies. I want to see all the films that have been nominated for Golden Globe, Film Critics, and Academy Awards. There's Milk , The Reader, Frost/Nixon, Australia, Doubt, and Rachel Getting Married which earned Academy Awards in March 2009.
After the March Academy Awards this year, I started seeing the contenders for Oscars in March 2010. There's my favorite so far, An Education which is the 1960s tale of an Oxford-bound young girl who get entangled with an older man. Then there's the comedy Julie and Julia about a young blogger's mission to cook herself through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. And let's not forget director Jane Campion's artful English drama, Bright Star, which was a fascinating love story of the frail, penniless poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, his 1800s Project Runway wanna-be.
So, some time before the March Academy Awards show I'll take this gift card and my retired self to several matinees to see these films, either because of the actors or the subject matter:
Up in the Air -- George Clooney in a "serious" comedy, 'nuf said
Inglorious Basterds -- just to hear Brad Pitt say "Yes, Yes, Yes" to Hitler's "Nein, Nein, Nein"
A Single Man --Colin Firth as a serious, conflicted college professor with Elvis Costello glasses
The Young Victoria --love, love, love British romantic dramas
The Last Station -- Helen Mirren as Leo Tolstoy's unbalanced wife--fabulous!
The Hurt Locker, The Messenger, and Brothers -- we must not forget about the human costs of war
Invictus -- the great Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela
It's Complicated --Meryl Streep as middle-aged comedian caught in a love triangle with Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin. I hope I can get the image of a naked Alec Baldwin hiding behind a Mac laptop out of my head. . .
Crazy Heart -- it's been too long since Robert Duvall's role of a down and out country singer in Tender Mercies
Throughout the year I'll be on the look out for other films that are just plain enjoyable or challenging, even though they didn't create that much awards' buzz. In 2009 I'd put the following films in this category: Amelia, Angels and Demons, Wendy and Lucy, Soloist, Easy Virtue.
And, I've decided I need this handy Ticket Stub Diary to hold all my 2010 movie stubs and a one sentence review of the film. Unfortunately it's on back order until Valentine's Day. Hint, hint. . .
Now before all the holiday decorations get packed away, head over to Gattina's place to check out the favorites of Fun Monday players.
Happy New Year and I'll see you at the movies!
Monday, December 21, 2009
Fun Monday-I've Got Holiday Mail
You may not know this. I did a bit of research and learned that the first Christmas card was mass produced in England in 1843. Henry Cole, a publisher and printer, grew tired of the Victorian custom of writing notes and greetings to friends and family for Christmas and the New Year. So, he commissioned his friend, the English painter John Calcott Horsley, to make the first hand painted lithograph card. The card above depicting both the celebrations and caring for the poor was the result. It caused a bit of controversy in Victorian English society because a child is shown sipping from a wine glass. One thousand copies of the card were printed, ten survived including this one to a Mr. Thompson, a friend of Henry Cole's.
The idea of mass produced Christmas card really caught on and soon spread to America as well. So, you might say Mr. Henry Cole made this particular Fun Monday assignment possible! Take a look at the cards, letters, and photos that you've received this year and share them. Possible categories: Best All Around Card, Most Meaningful Message, Best Kid/Pet Photo, Best Family Newsletter, Most Humorous Card. And if you don't do holiday greetings by mail, how do you send out your messages?
Here's the list of Fun Monday players:
1. Gattina (Host for Dec. 28)
6. Church Lady
9. Ari (maybe)
10. Pamela (maybe)
11. Stephanie at Mama Drama
If anyone else would like to play and didn't get on the list, just let me know in the comments and I'll update.
The Best of My Holiday Mail:
Best All Around Card -- I loved the simple pen and ink drawing with a bare wash of color of this card. It made me want to draw it, especially the simple little Christmas tree, muffled kid and his dog.
Most Meaningful Message -- "'Tis the season for warm thoughts of you." It makes me happy that friends whom I don't see often throughout the year take the time to let me know that remembering our friendship is an important part of the holiday season.
Best Kid Photo -- meet Colton. He was born on Easter 2009 and how he has grown. Colton is the first child of a favorite former colleague and friend. Even though he's still young, Colton has his own easy chair and enjoys spending Saturday afternoon with his dad in front of the TV watching the Kentucky Wildcats play a good game of basketball.
Best Family Newsletter -- although much maligned, I still enjoy receiving the family updates, especially from friends who live in different states or abroad. However, this "newsletter" just cracks me up because it came from an 80+ year old friend who never forgets my birthday or Christmas. Her letters always contain news articles, stickers and cartoons with her own observations scribbled around: "I thought you might get a smile from my abbreviated newsletter (1 of 20 pages). Ha!"
Best Pet Card -- meet Doozer and his people. Joe was a work partner for many years and now he's just a really good friend. Looking through old Christmas photos I realized that I have the family portraits in front of the Christmas fireplace for many years. The first photo was taken in 2000 when Doozer was small enough that he needed to sit in his mom's lap and hang onto her arm. In the second photo, last Christmas, the kids are all grown up and Doozer is almost an old man. I'm looking forward to receiving the 2009 photo this week.
Well, there you have some of my favorite cards for the year. I hope you also hear from friends and family and that, regardless of your kind of greeting, you do take the time to send out some messages of good cheer, hope and love during this holiday season.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Fun Monday Sign Up
Topic: I've Got Mail--Holiday Mail
I'm your holiday host for Fun Monday, December 21. Your assignment, should you decide to play, is to share some of your favorite holiday mail that you've received this year. Possible categories:
Best All Around Card
Most Meaningful Message
Best Kid/Pet Holiday Photo
Best Family Newsletter
Most Humorous Card
Now I realize that I'm asking you to share snail mail holiday greetings. If you've given up on this tradition and choose to communicate with friends and family in a different way to wish them a happy holiday and new year, then tell us what you do in place of those cards, letters and photos. Here we are on December 16th and just tonight I sat down to go through last year's cards and make a list of friends and family that I want to send holiday wishes and hopes for the new year. Most I hear from throughout the year, but not all. Regardless, I want all on my list to know I'm thinking of them during the holiday season.
Here's the beginnings of a list of people who want to play:
3. Lil Mouse
4. Gattina (Host for December 28th)
5. The Church Lady
If you want to play, just leave your name in a comment and I'll update the list on Sunday. Come on Mr./Ms. Mail Carrier, leave us some holiday cheer!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Living Out the Noughties
Who knew that we're three weeks away from closing out the decade known in some circles as the Noughties--as in 2000, 2001, 2009? I didn't until I read our December 14 Fun Monday assignment. Wendishness is our host again this week and she's asking us to share some of the highlights and lowlights of our own lives in the noughties.
In a decade marked by national tragedies, a never-ending war, political change and scandal, 24/7 information and communication access and overflow, energy shortages, and both personal and institutional economic meltdowns, my own life has been--thankfully--pretty calm. Just for fun I tried to go back to 2000 and remember something significant for each year of the noughties. After looking at this list overall, I decided that this post should have been titled "Travelogue of the Noughties" because travel to new places was the highlight of several years. Anyway, here's highlights and lowlights of my life in the noughties:
2000 -- traveled to Tuscany region of Italy to experience its art, gardens, and food
2001-- spent the month of December in cold, snowy Ukraine in Eastern Europe helping farm women's councils set up agricultural cooperatives as a special work assignment though the U.S. government
2002 -- barged through the Alsace Lorraine region of France with a watercolor workshop group
2003 -- completed a wayfarer's coast to coast walk of 80+ miles across northern England's lake district, dales, and moors from the shores of the Irish to North Seas
2004 -- visited the North and South Islands of New Zealand, toured gardens and natural attractions
2005 -- did home repairs and improvements, thought about retiring from Farm Bureau after over 35 years in the workforce
2006 -- retired! Stayed up late, did exactly what I pleased, no schedules
2007 -- started blogging right here on Summit Musings. Great decision!
2008 -- moved my older sister to Louisville and took on full time caregiving responsibilities for her
2009 -- re-united with my favorite cousin and completed a Volksmarch walk of five southern states (TN, AL, LO, FL, GA) with her and my good friend S
So Wendy, there you have what I remember best from the noughties. Be sure to take a few minutes from holiday preparations this week to check out the noughties lists of other Fun Monday participants.
* * * * *
Special note: I will be hosting Fun Monday on December 21. The topic will be "I've Got Mail--Holiday Mail." One of the best traditions of this holiday season is the sending and receiving of cards, family newletters. and photos from family and friends. I'd like you to share the favorites you've received so far this year: Best All Around Card? Most Meaningful Message? Best Kid Photo? Best Family Newsletter? Most Insincere/Humorous Card? Also, how do you display your cards for all to enjoy?
If you want to play on the 21st just sign up in the comments. I'll put up an updated announcement later this week. Also, do we want to take a break on December 28th and have January 4 be the next Fun Monday date? Your thoughts?
Monday, December 7, 2009
Nix the Jingle Bells
I usually associate animal performances of "Jingle Bells" with bad commercials on radio and TV urging us to get started with our holiday shopping by the last week of October. And as the weeks go on leading up to December, the mindless frenzy just keeps building, egged on by barking dogs and chipmunks. This morning I was looking on YouTube for performances of the song that I liked and no luck. Not even a bunch of cute school kids with their guitar playing music teacher. And when you really pay attention to the lyrics, where's the reality? "Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh. . .O'er the fields we go, laughing all the way" Come on! I love the sounds, sights, smells and traditions of the holiday season, but think that we'd all be a bit happier at this time of the year if we had more realistic expectations for what we'll get from the season.
So, there you have a small glimpse at this Christmas grinch. But just so you won't totally give up on me, I'll close this post with a video that Kittyhawk sent me last night. I'm definitely against dogs barking "Jingle Bells", but it's okay for them to decorate the Christmas tree if they're as smart as this pack. Now that's being realistic! :-)
Be sure to head over to Cynical Girl's place and check out the songs that make other Fun Monday participants' most disliked holiday music lists.
Fun Monday Update -- I'll host on December 21. Promise it will be something simple since everyone will probably be in holiday prep overdrive. Check back here for the assignment on Wednesday, the 16th. We need a host for December 14. Going once, going twice. . . :-)
Friday, December 4, 2009
Sharing Time, Talents, & Treasures
Channeling Martha Stewart--many years ago my small circle of friends decided that we would stop buying each other "stuff". We had all the stuff we needed or, if we wanted something, most of us just went out and bought it. So, over the years we made group contributions to an inner city church soup kitchen where we once volunteered or we contributed to the Kentucky Humane Society. Still, around the holidays I get the urge to make something green and festive. Last year it was evergreen wreaths for everyone. For about two days the kitchen was given over to a wreath making assembly line. Here's an example. This year I'll do the same. Not sure what form it will take yet but it will definitely be fresh greenery and seasonal. Guaranteed to passed Martha Stewart's inspection. :-)
Volunteering with Hospice--this is something that I do all year long. When I retired, I decided to take the training to be a family respite care volunteer with our local hospice organization. I did this for several reasons. The first was rather selfish. I don't have family members that I can count on if I should ever need end of life care myself, so I decided that hospice volunteering would be something I could do now while I'm healthy and able to do it. Kind of a pay forward for the time that I may need the help of this great organization myself. I also thought I could learn more about caregiving since I have that responsibility for my older sister.
The funny thing about this whole experience is that I never had any illusions that I was well-suited for this job. I don't have a lot of tender feelings for people who are ill. Neither am I a "brow wiper." I am, however, practical and patient--and interested in people. So, that's what I do. I work with one family at a time, providing respite care. Right now it's an elderly couple. The wife is in a wheelchair and on oxygen, diagnosed by hospice as "failing to thrive." The husband is full-time caregiver. So, whenever he needs me, I sit with his wife at the kitchen table watching soaps or game shows. We talk about important things like hairstyles, who we like on Dancing with the Stars, dogs--they have one they love--and the frustrations and worries of being totally dependent on someone for everything you need. Meanwhile the husband gets a much needed break away from caregiving to play a few rounds of golf with his buddies or take care of some of his own needs.
Animal Rescue--this is an area of giving that's close to my heart. Last year before I became so tangled up with taking care of my older sister and getting her re-situated, I worked with area rescue groups transporting dogs wherever needed to different rescue organizations. What a great feeling to take a scared, sometimes almost wild puppy or adult dog, from a shelter and get them to the next drop off point--a step toward getting them in a forever home. There were the biting Great Pyrenees pups, Max the red heeler, the puking border collies, Jake the black lab companion animal trainee, and the little old woman grey poodle who was blind and broken toothed but still someone was willing to rescue. In 2010 I plan to get back into more animal rescue. What I'm coming to understand is that once you become a caregiver, it just goes on and on. And it makes no sense to put your own interests and passions on hold while you do the caregiving. You need to do both to maintain some balance in your life.
So Sayre, the areas above pretty much sum up where I am right now as a Giver--take a little bit of time, talent, and treasure; mix well; and then give it out to others. If I haven't made it around to all the Fun Monday posts, will do so today. And, thanks for stopping by to check out my Fun Friday post.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Peggy Flobbins Look Alike
And then a few days ago this sweet card arrived from Leicestershire, England. I did a double take at first because this dog(Samy? I think. Unfortunately her name was blurred by the postal metering.) looks so much like Peggy Flobbins, a favorite blogosphere dog of mine for several years who also lives and occasionally blogs from England.
Peggy Flobbins, my favorite blog doggy diva, can be found at Lane's Write . Check her out, you'll be amazed at how much they resemble each other. Now I don't know much about Samy except that she's a 13 year old rescue. I'm better acquainted with Peggy Flobbins. She lives in a cozy house with her owner(servant?)Lane and two girls who think she's very amusing and photogenic. Peggy spends her days supervising Lane who sits at the kitchen table every day tippety tapping on the laptop. Peggy can't understand Lane's obsession with this writing stuff. Personally, she thinks days are better spent curled up sleeping with her sister Teabag or supervising making yogurt cakes or buns. In warmer weather she doesn't mind going for a stroll with Lane and Teabag. And she never passes up a good bounce on the trampoline with the Younger One.
Peg has opinions about many topics and sometimes Lane allows her to guest blog on Lane's Write, much to the delight of her many reader fans. At other times she's just happy to have hers and Teabag's photos in a blog post. In fact, the two of them are featured in the latest Lane's Write post modeling a cozy crocheted blanket. Prompted MANY favorable comments! Now I've known Peggy Flobbins for about two years and that's long enough to have discovered the major disappointment in her charmed life. You see, Peggy has been disappointed in love like so many other beautiful girls. If you're familiar with Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisperer, you know he has a trusty sidekick, Daddy the Pit Bull. Daddy has always led a glamorous life, first as a rapper's companion and then as Cesar's assistant in working with dogs that have gotten off on the wrong paw. Poor Pegs saw him on Facebook and immediately wanted to friend him. Daddy, sadly, has ignored this little English rose. What's a girl to do? I'm thinking Pegs should write a tell all book or her own blog. That may get Daddy's attention.
Now be sure to pop over to Lane's Write to meet Peggy and Teabag and have a good blog read courtesy of Lane.
December 1 Update: Peggy Flobbins had taken over Lane's blog to spread the word to all her fans that she has a double! Check out her post on Lane's Write. Now we're just waiting for contact from her double in Leichestershire to see what happens. Will they meet at a halfway spot? Will they like each other? Or, will they just have to communicate via blogs and Facebook? Stay tuned. . .
December 3 Update: Well the Double Dog story just gets better and better! I heard from a very excited Peggy Flobbins this morning with news that she has gotten a message from her Leichestershire double, Sally. Not only do they look alike but they have many things in common except for age. Sally is a 13 year old gentlewoman while Pegs is still a young thing. They both enjoy naps and biscuits. Both are rescues and pretty much are in charge of their respective households. Peggy is liking this idea of "double dogs" and now wants to find her Teabag's alter ego. She also promised to be on the lookout for Summit Musings' Willie the Pit Bull double. Could there be an English reality TV show in the works? If so, I hope it doesn't take as long as Spooks or Robin Hood to get to BBC America. . .
Monday, November 23, 2009
So, in no particular order here are five things that almost guarantee that every day is a G'day for me:
1. Willie the Pit Bull--he's 13 years old and my constant companion (sleeping under my desk right now). Taking care of him and going through our daily routines together is an on-going pleasure. Life would not be very much fun without a great pet.
2. Health--I just had a birthday a week ago and went through the annual pleasure and pain of physical exams and tests. Passed with good results, if not distinction. Sure, I could lose some weight and lower some of my vital numbers, but overall I'm strong, healthy, active and able to take care of myself and help my sister--that's a relief.
3. Secure retirement--in these uncertain economic times, I'm so thankful to have been in the workforce when saving for retirement was possible. Because I worked for two different organizations that had longevity and stablility, I was able to retire at 60 with an adequate income and health insurance.
4. Interesting friends--I am so lucky to have several long time friends who always have my back--in good times and bad. And then there's another whole group of friends that I've made through the magic of technology, like you dear Fun Monday bloggers. How great to be connected with interesting people from all over the world through blogging and my newest project, postcarding. Right now I'm looking at a beautiful postcard of the Rotterdam, Netherlands waterfront, last week it was the Great Wall of China. We do indeed live in a small world.
5. Books, films, and travel--the world is open to us through what we choose to read, great films we see and the places we go. I'm grateful to have unlimited access to all this on a daily basis. How better to understand and appreciate people who live differently from the way I do?
My list of "thankfuls" could have been a lot longer, but these five are tops from day to day. Over the weekend I was thinking about this post and trying to come up with something more original than a list when I ran across this youTube video of a soldier returning from Afghanistan being greeted by his golden retriever Gracie. The pure joy and love in this reunion is something I hope each of you experience in some way in your life.
Wishing each of you a very "thankful" holiday wherever you are. Now be sure to have a look at all the other thankful lists before Thursday!
Monday, November 16, 2009
When Christmas was Magical
There was a time when I loved everything about Christmas--the sights, sounds, smells, and celebrations. I especially loved decorating my home with all the treasures I had collected over the years. A month before Christmas, I cleaned and polished everything, shopped for presents and wrapped each one in special paper and topped each gift off with a simple bow of fabric ribbon. A week before Thanksgiving I started watching the local tree lots and nurseries. When would they start selling Christmas trees and live greenery for homemade wreaths and roping? My tree of choice was always a fresh fraser fir from the mountains of North Carolina. Its fragrance was the essence of Christmas and its sturdy branches were spaced well to hold the largest and heaviest ornament.
Once I had the noble fir home and had gotten it to stand upright in the tree stand--a big challenge since I usually worked alone--it was time to get out my treasured collection of glass ornaments. For several years I rummaged through antique stores, flea markets, and yard sales on the lookout for the brightly colored ornaments that people gave up in favor of coordinated tree decorations in the 70s and 80s. These ornaments gleamed against the dark fir branches and multi-colored tree lights. I especially searched for ornaments made in West Germany, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Here's a sampling of some of my most prized ornaments:
In the lower portion of the photo you can see two examples of reflectors that fitted underneath a Christmas light bulb. The reflections from the colored lights made magic on the tree. In the center of the photo notice the brightly colored pendants. They were made in Poland.
Starting in the upper left corner, here's a close up of some extra large ornaments made in West Germany. I found these at an auction--about 10 in a box. Those with the indents are quite special:
Moving on to the upper right hand corner you can see examples of tinsel decorated ornaments, a pear shaped clear ornament with a tableau inside, and chenille tree that fitted over a bulb:
On the right the smaller, brightly colored balls are from Poland and Czechoslovakia and were made in the 1930s.
In addition to these European glass ornaments I also collected other unusual shapes:
I stopped putting up a Christmas tree the year that Willie was a pup. I couldn't stand the thoughts of him breaking any of the ornaments or turning the tree over. Both catastrophes were distinct possibilities. That was 13 years ago. I haven't given these ornaments away so maybe there is a tree in my future. . .
Now be sure to check out the possessions that other Fun Monday participants are still hanging on to. Do you think it's true that we are our "stuff"?
Monday, November 9, 2009
Ben's Daily Schedule vs Mine
Our daily schedule is the topic for this week's Fun Monday. Our host is the very busy working student mom, Gracie over at Mama Rehema's . She wants a description of our typical day. When do we get up? Go to bed? What do we do to get going? Wind down? And all those activities in between? Now before I share my very laid back retired schedule, I thought you might be interested in another person's schedule for comparison. Say Ben Franklin's, a man famous for accomplishing a lot in a day. This daily schedule is from Ben Franklin: An Autobiography and Other Writings.
There's a lot to admire about Ben's schedule. I wish my day followed his pattern, but it doesn't. What better way to start your day than by asking the question: What good shall I do this day? Followed by taking stock at the end of the day--What good have I done today? In between Ben takes the time to connect with "Powerful Goodness", his perception of God. Franklin was not a traditionally religious man, rejecting much of the stern Puritan beliefs of his day. Instead he believed that the greatest service of God was in doing good for man. When I study Ben's schedule, balance and moderation come to mind. He rises, contemplates some higher purpose, gets cleaned up, plans and organizes his day, eats breakfast. Then he works until mid-day when he stops to rest and refresh himself with food for mind and body. After that he resumes work. When the workday is done, he puts things in order and then he spends his evening in pleasurable pursuits--dinner and conversation, music, reading. He ends his day by meditating on what he has accomplished, then he sleeps. A day well spent.
I imagined I would spend my retired days much differently than I do. I thought there would be a schedule that, like Ben's, balanced work and pleasure. I would maintain a very organized, efficient household and still have time to have fun and be creative. Instead, I spend a lot of time caregiving and then compensate by not using my free time that wisely--I escape from my current reality a lot. So Gracie, here's what my daily schedule looks like:
2:00-3:00 a.m. Go to bed
8:00-8:30 a.m. Wake up, leash up Willie for trip to paperbox, feed him, make coffee
9:00-10:00 a.m. Drink coffee, eat breakfast, read newspaper
10:00-11:00 a.m. On computer--e-mails, blogs, more news
11:00-2:30 p.m. Household chores, yardwork, errands & appointments, lunch, read
2:30-3:30 p.m. Walk Willie
3:30-4:30 p.m. On computer again, read
4:30-6:30 p.m. Cook and eat dinner, watch news, clean kitchen, straighten and tidy things
6:30-8:00 p.m. Watch Netflix DVDs on computer
8:00- 11:00 p.m. Watch prime time TV, read, paperwork
11:00-2:00 a.m More Netflix, read, blogging
2:00-3:00 a.m Go to Bed
My good friend S has just retired and she can't get over the freedom you feel after so many years working full time and being accountable for your schedule. I understand. My days don't have much form to them and I like it that way. Although, I keep thinking I could make better use of my time. . .
Friday, November 6, 2009
My longtime friend Kittyhawk sent this message this afternoon after reading my most recent post, "Listography Q & A". I laughed out loud when I opened the kitty attachment. After revealing that not only do I have years of journals, I also do very self-absorbed exercises like making life event timelines and personal photo collages from childhood to the present. I deserved a good ribbing and who better than a friend to do it!
Yep, you're right Kitty. I am a mess at times. And one of the advantages to blogging is that you can go ahead and reveal some of that in your writing without too much loss of face. Kitty knows and so do your friends, but they accept you anyway.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Listography Q & A
This week's Fun Monday assignment is all about questions and answers. Our host, the lovely butterfly Mariposa gives us the opportunity to reveal a bit more about ourselves to our friends in the blogosphere, something we haven't shared before. Then in the second part of the assignment, she asks us to come up with three questions for our readers. Finally, we're to go to each Fun Monday participant's post and answer the questions posed. I've peeked at a couple of your posts and this is going to be an amusing and revealing exercise. I decided to borrow from Lisa Nola's Listography, a do it yourself autobiography in lists, for my questions.
I've been interested in memoir for many years, filling journals with daily writings about whatever was on my mind at the time. I've also created lifelines where you record significant events in your life as either positive(above the base line--1951 started school) or negative(below the base line--1968 not accepted in graduate school at first). I wish I could show you what this looks like, but it's a bit too personal. It does, however, give a very graphic picture of a life--both the highs and lows. Another interesting memoir exercise that I've worked on is to make a photo timeline. By now you're probably thinking, "Come on! Just how self absorbed can you be? But, when you study photos of one person at different stages of life you get the whole picture. And, if it's your own photos, you remember what was happening in your life when that photo was taken and what you were feeling.
Nola's Listography is a really fun way to capture some of the details and experiences of your life that you'd like to remember, from the mundane to sublime: List your favorite teachers. List the best days of your life. List your favorite childhood toys. List your biggest regrets. Put all these lists together and you have a life.
So now to Mariposa's assignment:
1. Share something you wish your readers would know about you. I am film fanatic. First run films showing about town, TV, and Netflix. I especially love independent films, British period drama, foreign films (especially Czech), intelligent crime dramas. I've seen 25 first run movies since January. In October alone I watched several full series on Netflix: Islands at War, Lilies, Almost Strangers, Wire in the Blood, Michael Collins, The Interpreter, Zelary and The Country Teacher(two good Czech films). After looking at this list would you be surprised to know that there are leaves that need raking, and a house that needs de-cluttering and cleaning? :-)
Three questions for you to answer in my "Comments":
1. List past jobs you've had.
--babysitter, house cleaner, caterer, reading/English teacher, education consultant, trainer
2. List things you love and despise.
--love dogs, friends, travel, books, films, kindness
--despise intolerance, things that don't work, obnoxious behavior, cruelty
3. List things you like to do on your day off.
-- stay home, drink coffee and read the paper, walk Willie, watch movies on Netflix, read
So, there you have it--what this inquiring mind wants to know about her blog friends. I'll be around shortly to answer all your questions.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Friendship Tea and Dress Up
Sisters Tea Parlor is located in a strip mall in a small town near Louisville. And what an unexpected surprise it was. When guests arrive for afternoon, the first stop needs to be in the "dress up" corner. There everyone can choose a hat and other accessories for tea such as gloves, tiaras, boas, shawls, fake fur stoles. When we arrived at the parlor L was already dressed
in a white pillbox with organza bow and net veil, white gloves, and a "fur" stole. I had no idea about the dress up option so was surprised to see L all tricked out. She is a sometime decorator/event planner so I just thought she had a bit too much time on her hands! Imagine how excited we all were to get to choose our perfect hat and accessories for tea. S, the birthday girl, wore the glittery hat with birthday candles on top--very fetching. I went with a pillbox trimmed in pheasant feathers and a dark paisley shawl. None of us, however, could rival these two little ladies who drink tea from the Sisters website.
After we were properly dressed we went into this lovely tea room, called the Paris Pink Room. The tables were set with pink, flowery linens, delicate china and special silver just for eating tea. Each of us got to order our own special tea--I chose pomegranate in honor of Sue Monk Kidd's memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates , which I had just read. (More about it in another post.) K, the group organizer, had ordered the Friendship Tea for us. It came to the table on this lovely tiered plate--a delicious mix of savory and sweet treats such as cheddar dill and cinnamon scones; chicken, ham with orange chutney, strawberry cream sandwiches; squash tarts; maple-walnut fudge, Sisters' truffles, cookies and mini muffins with pumpkin frosting. Throughout the meal, our tea pots never got too low.
In one of the other dining rooms there was a list of Rules for Tea Decorum. Quite a long list, actually. Be sure to remove your gloves before eating, use a soft voice for table conversation, be sure to use your napkin, share the tea plate, don't slurp or blow your tea, stay in your seat until everyone has finished. J, the most ladylike of all of us, took on the responsibility for pointing out our disregard of the Tea Rules. As you might suspect, the Lunch Bunch needed these reminders. We've been together for so many years and have been known to get a bit boisterous and borderline inappropriate when "playing" together. But, how fortunate we are to have a group of friends who know how to have fun, even if not by tea table standards, at our age.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Dissin' the Snuggie
You've seen the ads for that unfortunate combination of robe and blanket, variously called a Snuggie or Slanket, that's supposed to keep you cozy in the coldest weather. It has sleeves so you can be hands free to sip coffee, read, work on the laptop, or watch TV while lounging on the sofa. There's even a "double-wide" version if you like someone well enough to want to sit side by side under a common covering to watch a movie or football game. I suppose it might also be handy to have one of those lounger chairs for two. . .even more ridiculous. My response to owning one of these things has always been "Never!" That is, until last January when I woke up to this out the window. During the night an ice storm blanketed all of Kentucky, bringing down trees and knocking out the electricity for more than a week. As the week went on the temperature kept dipping as the utility companies, with help from several other states, struggled to clear downed trees and string new electrical lines. Most of my neighbors stayed with family members who had not lost power or in hotels while they waited for the electricity to come on. Willie the Pit Bull and I decided to stay put in our home. In the fall I always lay in storm supplies--batteries, cans of sterno, flashlights, canned food, a booklight for reading when it gets dark. During that long week when we were without power Willie and I kept to our normal routines. In the morning I made coffee on this rigged up "stove" with heat coming from sterno cans. Kept the "stove" close to the back door so I could kick it outside if it caught on fire. The "stove" also generated enough heat to warm soup, which was fortunate because I couldn't get my car out of the driveway for that week. Thankfully, the Courier Journal arrived every day providing a link to the outside world, along with a couple of rationed cell phone calls to check in with my sister and friends. Every day I tidied the house, took a quick shower while the hot water lasted in the water heater, wrote a daily journal of the storm--for later blog fodder! The remaining time Willie and I spent on the sofa huddled under several blankets trying stay warm and hold my book so I could read. The blankets kept slipping off--Willie never understood the need to lie still and keep covered. Plus, there was the huge bother of having to unwrap for bathroom runs. How I longed for one of those Snuggies before the power finally came on!
Recently there was an article in the newspaper about this year's winter weather. It's going to be a bad one, starting earlier than usual. The woolly worms are black which is a warning for excessive snow and cold weather. It has already frosted around here which is unusual for November. Therefore, I'm laying in emergency supplies for a hard winter so Willie and I can stay in our home regardless of what happens. And, okay, I'll just go ahead and admit that I've ordered a Slanket! Now I just need your opinion. Does Willie need one also? He never expressed the same disdain for them that I did. . .
Now be sure to head over the Gattina's place and check out the at home attire of other Fun Mondayers. I've checked out Gattina's caftans and doubt that any of us can rival their beauty!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Let's Get Together
One love, one heart
Let's get together and feel all right
Hear the children crying(one love)
Hear the children crying (one heart)
Sayin', "Give thanks and praise
to the Lord and feel all right."
Sayin', "Let's get together and feel all right."
Here's a little Wednesday gift for all of you that I happened upon yesterday. Picture this: a musician sits on his doorstep in Livorno, Italy and begins playing Bob Marley's One Love on his guitar. He's joined by a young woman in Tel Aviv, Israel. Then she's joined by musicians in the Congo, then more in South Africa, India and France. Each musician used the instruments of his country, but all were in perfect harmony. Which is the purpose of Playing for Change: Peace Through Music, the non-profit organization which connects musicians from all over the world to promote the belief that music has the power to break down barriers and build peace and understanding among people of all races, creeds, and economic standings. One Love is the perfect message:
Here's one of the most powerful verses:
Let's get together to fight this Holy Armageddon
So when the Man comes there will be no, no doom
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation.
I was just blown away when I heard this, especially when the video featured the collages of the musicians playing in perfect harmony on different continents. So powerful. Just a warning: you're going to want to sing along and even dance a bit, so be careful where you play this! To learn more go to Playing for Change .
(Image credit for Bob Marley: art.com)
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Age of Aquarius Hair
Hair gone terribly wrong is the subject for the October 19 Fun Monday. Sandy, our host from over at Myanderings , asks us to share some tales of hairstyling disasters. Good timing, Sandy. With the recent premiering of Lifetime's design competition, Project Runway, I've been intending to write this post on my brief foray into the world of fashion, which would include hairstyles. That time fell in the Age of Aquarius--the 1960-70s pop culture heyday for New Age thinking and lifestyles. Of course, the Age of Aquarius culture came to be symbolized by the 1967 rock musical Hair.
The years of 1964-75 were very heady times for me. I graduated from high school, went to college, found satisfying work, "saved" the world :-), and lived in some exciting places. Just what a child of Aquarius would dream of doing. We fancied ourselves to be idealists, nonconforming rebels, and lovers of grand ideas like freedom, humanity, and peace. Just for fun, here's a look at my hairstyles over those ten years. I'll interpret what they probably say about one life in the Age of Aquarius:
Mary Tyler Moore strikes out on her adventure. Her theme song, Love is All Around, says ". . .it's time you start living. . .you're gonna make it on your own." In 1964 I had that Mary Tyler Moore flip thing going. The first photo was the famous high school graduation portrait where all the girls were excited to wear the black drape. In the fall of that year I left home and enrolled in college, my first big step toward independence. In the college ID photo note that the hairstyle got better--first professional cut--while still staying true to Mary Tyler Moore. The black cat eye glasses made me look very studious. I was proud of them because I earned the money to pay for them myself.
Hairstyle goes East Coast--In a letter written from Teaneck, New Jersey to my sister in Kentucky: ". . .Got a real sharp haircut yesterday. It's very, very short in the back but hangs well below my ears in front. That sounds fruity, doesn't it?" I was a sophomore in 1966 and moved out of the dormitory to live with the family of the university baseball coach about then. Coach Hamilton was a pitcher for the New York Yankees as well. When school was out for the summer I went with the family to live near Yankee Stadium, usually just across the Hudson River in New Jersey. Coach's wife and I took that opportunity to study the New York Times fashion pages, shop for the latest clothing styles which we sewed, and get a cutting edge hairstyle that we wouldn't see back in Morehead, Kentucky when the new school year began! I notice that this style is back in fashion--think Kate Gosselin without the pouf. (My preference for boys also went East Coast--the boys from New York and New Jersey who came south for cheaper college tuition--and probably easier entrance requirements--loved to hang around Coach Hamilton's kitchen table. I enjoyed it too! This one was from Rhode Island. . .)
Always the Bridesmaid -- By the late '60s hair was BIG, so big it almost wouldn't fit in a single photo shot! To get this look you had to figure out how to sleep on brush rollers, tease the back to impossible heights and then smooth the top layer until no rats' nests showed. The finished "cage" was held firmly in place with a heavy spraying of Aquanet. By then I'd also given up the black cat eyes for more square eyeglasses, the newest thing. I was studying for an undergraduate double major in English and home economics. Clothing construction was a required course, so I also sewed all my clothes, including this brown wool houndstooth suit. And by that time several of my friends were getting married. I've lost track of the many unfortunate bridesmaid dresses I sewed and wore in the name of friendship! In that photo on the right my pillbox with tulle veiling barely kept its perch on top of the big hair.
"Saving" the World -- by the early 1970s I'd completed college studies and earned a teaching certificate. I taught high school English for one year in Kentucky and was getting the itch to travel and explore the world. So, I loaded up my Anti-establish Mint (what else for a child of the Aquarius?) green Maverick with all my belongings and headed to Clearwater, Florida to teach in a junior high school. That was very satisfying work because my students were potential dropouts whom we were trying to keep in school. My colleagues were friends as well and Florida was an entirely new living experience from Kentucky. Still, I was restless. Wanting to do more, see more of the world. I shared these feelings with a close older friend and she challenged me to "Shut up or step up". So, I did by joining the Peace Corps. I volunteered to teach anywhere in the world and ended up getting assigned to St. Kitts, an island in the Caribbean. Tough work, but someone had to do it!
The photo on the left was for my first passport in 1971. The big hair was gone for good. So was the hairspray. The wind blew constantly on St. Kitts so the best thing to do was not to fight it. Actually, this style was very much like the famous Dorothy Hamill wedge which I adopted a few years later when I returned to the U.S. A great improvement over the helmet head, I think you'd agree. For the three years that I was a Peace Corps volunteer, I lived a much freer, relaxed lifestyle. I gave up a lot of what were once necessities--even my bra at times! :-). The photo on the right was one I used for job-hunting in 1974. I was still in the West Indies, but looking for teaching positions back in the U.S.--by mail. You can see that I've gone back to a more controlled look in anticipation of returning to the U.S. In fact, this may have been one of my unfortunate experiments with home perming--don't we all have these photos! The one thing that always amuses me about this photo is that I actually thought I was cute enough that seeing it would sway a potential employer's hiring decision. Where did that self confidence go. . .
So here you have it. My life in hair from 1965-75. Like everything about the Age of Aquarius, it was a mix of equal parts good and bad. Now be sure to keep your appointments with other Fun Monday hairstylists over the next few days.
("Hair" Image Credit: Lousiana State University Theater)
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Juan Valdez Needs My Coffeemaker
I began using the Coffee Toddy cold brew system many, many years ago and have stuck with it because of its great simplicity. First, I live alone so every day I struggled with making a small enough amount of coffee in a regular drip machine. I drank a cup with breakfast and then turned off the machine as I left for work. In the evening if I wanted an after dinner cup of coffee I wrestled with trying to re-heat the morning brew--yuk!--or pitching the leftover and making another pot. I could also use instant but liked real coffee too well to settle for that stuff. And with whatever kind I choose, it was never hot enough by the time I put in enough milk to get that pale tan color of coffee-milk that I preferred. So, I was always "nuking" my cup to heat it up, adding one more step.
I must have been in a cooking/chef stage when I discovered the Coffee Toddy because I ordered it from a gourmet supply catalog. My first Toddy came in this burlap sack just like in this photo. And what low tech genius that sack contained. In order to make a half gallon of deep, dark, intensely smooth and delicious coffee extract that I could keep in the refrigerator for weeks, all I needed was the Coffee Toddy, a pound of ground coffee, cold water and 24 hours! Here's how you do it:
1. Plug the drain hole in the white brewing container--using that small rubber cork.
2. Fit that round white pad (it looks like a complexion buffer) in the depression over the cork. This filter pad collects all the bitter acids from the coffee when the extract drains out, making a very smooth coffee that keeps the richness of even the more intense varieties without the bitterness and acidity that you get with brewing.
3. Add 1 pound of ground coffee to the white container. Then slowly fill the container with COLD water.
4. Cover the container with foil or saran. Let it set out on the counter for at least 12 hours.
5. When time to descant the coffee extract, remove the the rubber cork and set the white container on top of the glass carafe. The extract will slowly drip out and you'll end up with a full carafe of rich coffee extract. Store in the refrigerator for weeks.
6. When you're ready for a cup of "freshly brewed" coffee, just pour a measured amount of the extract in your coffee cup, add water and milk or cream (if you use it) and heat in the microwave for a couple of minutes to the desired temperature. At first you have to experiment to get the right strength for your taste. For a 12 ounce coffee mug I use 4 oz. coffee extract, 4 oz. cold water, 4 oz. 1% milk and heat for 3 minutes--perfect every time. No waste, no bother.
The only other thing you need for a great coffee experience is a special coffee mug. Every season I like to get a new one. This one I got last weekend at the St. James Art Show in Old Louisville. Going to this show is a fall rite for me and my friends. It's set up on St. James Court in one of the oldest parts of Louisville--great historic houses bedecked with fall flowering containers and landscaping. I chose the black mug from the Red Oak Pottery booth. My creamy coffee looks and tastes wonderful from this mug.
Now be sure to check out the favorite gadgets of other Fun Monday players. And let's keep it at least PG, people! :-)
(P.S. Can you believe I actually saw this title for a magazine article yesterday? "GIDGETS--Gadgets for Girls" Honestly Senor Valdez, I did!)
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Maxine on Fall
Yardwork: Last week I mowed the lawn for, I hope, next to the last time this year. In a few weeks all the leaves will fall. I'll let them lay on the lawn for a bit because I'm on a corner lot where the neighbor kids love to rake up great piles of leaves and leap about in them in a mad fall frolic. In the winter they love to slide down my front yard easement when it snows. Around the first of November I'll rake all the leaves and give the yard a final mow. Should be less of a chore this year because I lost two major trees to the September '08 windstorm and January '09 ice storm. Yippee! For less raking, not losing trees.
Daylight Savings Time Ends: I'm looking forward to "falling back" when the time changes in a couple of weeks. Being a somewhat nocturnal animal, I love the idea of darkness coming earlier in the day. It's just so cozy to close up the house in the late afternoon and settle in for an evening of after-dinner teevee and reading--especially now that all the new shows are premiering. Watching Dancing with the Stars when it's still light outside would not be the same. I will admit that I didn't enjoy the time change nearly as much when working. In retirement you can be like Maxine and stay up or sleep as late as you want.
Rainy Day Reading and Cooking: In the fall I look forward to waking up to a steady rain that continues all day. It's the perfect day to make a good supply of coffee and settle in on the sofa for a day of serious reading--me on one end of the sofa, Willie on the other. This is also the perfect weather to cook up some serious comfort food--big pots of soup or stew, a retro casserole filled with forbidden stuff like cream of mushroom soup and french fried onion rings. Or, it might be baking scratch loaves of bread, scones filled with dried fruit and nuts, or a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Unlike Maxine, I like to share what I cook and would welcome a proper kiss for the cook!
Organization/Household Chores: With every change of season I must make this elaborate To Do list, room by room, of chores that I intend to complete during the next couple of months. I'm looking at the April-August list right now and have to admit that's it's a Maxine list through and through. Example: kitchen--make curtains, repair microwave, no; living room--wash windows, organize magazines, uh, no; office--set up files for my sister's concerns, sort out DSL service, no and no again; bedrooms--clear out closets, set up exercise area, that's two nos, outside--clean gutters, power wash siding--yep! no again. I have done a few things on the list--paid my taxes, taken Willie to vet for annual checkup, and upped savings account. I suppose the important things are getting taken care of. Besides, I have a lot from this list to transfer to my October-December list which I'll make up this week. Being more optimistic than Maxine, I won't list my chores under categories like "Things I won't do now. . .do later. . .never." Even though they'll probably end up there at the close of December. . .
New Experiences: The final thing I love about fall is that, like January, it's the beginning of the second half of the year. A great time to start something new. Today I ordered some new pilates equipment--stretch out strap and spine roller. Hopefully, I'll be inspired to work on flexibility and core strengthening. Patience over at Patience Please recently shared some miniature fall paintings that her artist husband Bill just did (scroll down a few posts to see them if you're new to her blog). I'm looking at my watercolor table and thinking about doing some fall thumbnail paintings myself. In this instance I agree totally with Maxine--never too old to learn something new, even if you might hurt yourself!
Now be sure to head over to Hoosier Girl's place to check out the many things other Fun Monday players appreciate about fall. And, you enjoy this great season however you choose!