Friday, April 29, 2011

Outside In

Okay, I admit it.  I'm watching the Royal Wedding this morning.  It's a spectacle.  And, I must say, from my personal and close knowledge of the royal couple, :), they seem well suited.  Poor Diana seemed like a child playing out a fairy tale, but Kate seems to know exactly what she's up against.  I wouldn't wish their life on my worst enemy ... but, I have to admit, it's fascinating to watch.  We're all voyeurs today.

The two highlights in my opinion were the gorgeous wedding dress -- perfectly modest but with a hint of sexuality and sophistication.  Barbara Walters just agreed with what I said when I first saw it.  It reminds you of something Grace Kelly would have worn.  Second, I LOVE the huge trees inside Westminster Abbey.  What a stunning effect!  Only royalty could afford it, but it brings the outdoors and nature into the old stone building.  It's simple, but breathtaking. 

I've been bringing a little bit of nature into my own surroundings.  The bleeding heart has started to bloom so I cut a bit and brought it in.  I don't know if it will last as a cut flower, but I'm giving it a try.  I'm more likely to enjoy it sitting on my desk for 8 hours than in the garden if it lives for a week.  My african violet is also lending a cheery touch.  There's a new blossom that just opened up yesterday. 

Today's good thing is black-stemmed peppermint.  Mine kept dying in a pot so I imprudently just planted it in the herb garden.  It's going nuts!  But I don't really mind its invasive ways -- I really love the scent of peppermint.  Well, not just any peppermint, but black stemmed peppermint.  Mom always grew spearmint and I hate that stuff.  This morning I cut some apple branches for the bunnies to munch and plucked some peppermint to sniff while I work. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sweet Satisfaction

Today's good thing is that small feeling of satisfaction you have when you get towards the end of a row of complicated knitting and there are exactly the right number of stitches left to finish the row.  You know you did it right. 

So many things in life don't give you that immediate feedback.  Raising children springs to mind.  It takes years and years and you never know for sure how well you've done.  You just try to do your best.  Knitting a sock, however, lets you know right away that you're doing it correctly.  And, unlike children, if it goes awry you can pull it all out and start over.  (Not that I'd want to do that to my children ... MY children are perfect.)

I've pulled it out and started over several times on this Mizar sock, but I'm finally getting the hang of it.  I've read several places that people consider this a very complicated pattern -- and I believe them.  But it's very beautiful and I think it will be worth it.  I turned the heel a few days ago and I'm almost done with the gusset. 

In other news, the Wool & Bull studio is getting an overhaul.  The wire racks where I keep the yarn stash came apart yesterday while I was trying to tidy the wool, so I had to remove everything and reassemble them.  I've got yarn piled everywhere. It's given me a chance to find some forgotten skeins and reevaluate just how much worsted wool I need.  I think a de-stashing is in order. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Put Away the Ruler Already!

Hang on tight, it's about to get heavy in here.  So, I'm at the gym this morning ... again ... I swear ... and, as I'm leaving, I pass by this cute young thing carrying a tennis racket.  We exchange pleasant "good morning"s, but in my heart I'm thinking, "Bet you're not a lawyer."  I get to parking lot where I see a super nice car with an EKU sticker on it and I'm thinking, "EKU's not a REAL college."  Where does all this poison come from? 

Clearly, I'm measuring myself by everything and everyone around me -- trying to make the grade.  I was threatened by the fact that that cute slim young girl was more attractive than I am, so I try to make myself feel better by pointing out (to myself) that I have accomplishments that she presumably doesn't have (she could actually be a brain surgeon for all I know). 

I always tease the men around me when they get competitive and say they're getting out the ruler and measuring their appendages -- but I'm just as bad or worse.  Fr. Laurence has pointed out this human failing a hundred times in his talks.  He attributes it to letting the ego be in charge.  Mine is undeniably in the driver's seat. 

And it doesn't stop there.  It's like a pendelum of pain.  I feel threatened, so I pump myself up.  Then I realize how unjust I'm being and run myself down.  After I recognized my own thought patterns this morning, I began to note that I'm not the smartest lawyer in the barrel and we're not the richest people in the world and so on and so on.  No matter how good you are, there's always someone better.  Measuring your accomplishments and attributes is no way to determine your value.  But I'm so afraid of being valueless ....

Here is where Fr. Laurence would say that meditation brings you in touch with the living God who loves you as you are and who speaks to the spark of himself inside you.  No matter what your accomplishments are, they're crap compared to God's power and, no matter what your failings are, they're unimportant compared to the spark of divinity you carry. 

Although I accept that and take comfort in it intellectually, I don't live it. 

"Shepherd me, oh God, beyond my wants, beyonds my fears, from death into life."   Psalm 23.

On a lighter note, I'm probably going to die in the next 24 hours anyway.  As I was washing chicken to put into the crock pot this morning, some of the juice splashed up all over my face.  As my sister, Kathryn, will tell you, nothing is as toxic as raw chicken juice.  Yuck!  So, even though I wiped it off quickly with soap and water, I probably have only hours to live.   

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Poaching Beauty

This morning on the way to the gym -- yes ... the gym ... it IS possible, stop laughing -- I noticed a beautiful new pink dogwood blooming in my neighbor's yard.  So, later in the day, I took a break and tip-toed through the raindrops to take a picture of it.  Isn't it lovely?  It's only about 6 or 7 feet high right now. 

I also got a shot of my tomato plants.  I ordered these things online and they may be a huge mistake.  We'll see.  You could only buy them in four packs, so I gave half of them to my neighbor with the pink dogwood. One is named Cherokee Red and the other is Principe Borghese.  They're both heirloom tomatoes and hope they won't be too hard to grow.  I don't exactly have a green thumb! 

The herb garden is such a mess that I'm not even going to take a picture of it, but I did notice that the peppermint is up and thriving and so is the oregano. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Blessed Easter

On Saturday, we drove down to Harrodsburg Kentucky to spend the night at Beaumont Inn, a beautiful antebellum hotel that Jeff has been visiting since he was about 4 years old.  In fact, he grew up with the current owner who inherited it from his father, who inherited it from his father -- you get the picture.  It's always a treat to stay there because Chuck and Helen Dedman know us and have watched our children grow up (and we've watched theirs).  It's almost a home coming to be there.

Beaumont Inn Lobby
They gave us room 8, one of their nicest rooms and the room we spent the first night of our honeymoon in.  We don't always get that room, but it's fun when we do. 

We got together with Ally over at Danville and Kate put her air mattress in Ally's room so they could have a sleepover.  My back was still hurting, so I blew off the play and went to bed early with a full tablet of back medicine.  In the night there were sirens and tornado warnings, but I dozed through most of it.   

Miraculously, in the morning my back pain was almost entirely gone.  It was surely some kind of muscle spasm.  All that was left was a dull achy feeling that was entirely bearable.  I'm SO glad Larry gave me those muscle relaxers.  Maybe next time I can nip it in the bud. 

Ally and Kate seemed to have had a good time at Ally's dorm. They were called out of bed in the middle of the night for the tornado warning and sent to the basement in their pajamas -- which mortified Kate because she didn't know it was a coed dorm and college boys saw her in her pajamas!

We got up and went to mass at St. Andrews in Harrodsburg where they had the most adorable priest.  He was really a hoot and Kate says she may attend church there next year when she's at Centre.  He called kids up out of the congregation and had them look inside plastic easter eggs -- first, one full of hay to represent the nativity, then one full of nails to represent the crucifixion, and the last one was empty to represent the empty tomb.  Then, he admitted a fondness for dousing people with holy water and proceeded to soak most of us.  Seriously, he was flinging holy water with wild abandon and then he said "I think I've got it out of my system now."  The ushers had to come with towels and dry off the aisles.  It was fun and you don't often say that about mass.

After mass, we went to the huge Easter brunch at Beaumont Inn.  That was the only sort of sour spot for me.  I got little dibs and dabs of things but the only thing that really seemed to set well with me was some turkey and gravy.  I was afraid of their delicious fried chicken that I love.  I did eat about a inch square of country ham and a spoonful of corn pudding and a couple of bites of cheese grits.  So, I guess I didn't miss out entirely on the feast. 

I'm not exactly svelte, but getting better
It was great for the whole family to be together again.   

Saturday, April 23, 2011

But the Other's Gold

Sorry I couldn't find a better picture ...
Today, I'm thankful for my friend Larry.  This morning when I woke the back pain that has required me to sit with a heating pad on my back all week had sharpened into acute pain.  Pain so bad that it brought tears to eyes and made me break out in a sweat.  This back problem is a familiar one -- I've had it off and on for a couple of years.  It seems to be triggered by some inconsequential movement and then goes away in a couple of weeks.  This morning, however, it was bad ... so, I called Larry. 

Larry is our family doctor, but first he's a family friend.  He and Jeff go back to when they were 11 years old and top of the class at Latin School.  Larry was there 25 years ago moving our furniture into this our "new" house when we were newlyweds.  He's been there for all the events (and non-events) in our lives; he's godfather to our children and we're godparents to his.

Larry answered all the stupid questions when we were anxious young parents -- the questions we couldn't bother the pediatrician with.  My favorite is when toddler Ally got her hands on some Mylanta (stomach buffering medicine).   We called Larry to see if it would hurt her and he replied, "My God!  It'll KILL her! ... If she stands in it over her head and drowns."

It's such a blessing to able to call him when we need help -- medical or otherwise.  I hope we're a support for him too.  I just took the medicine he prescribed for me and I don't know yet whether it will relieve my pain, but it was a great relief just to call him on a Saturday morning and know that he was listening and would help if he could.  

By the way, if you're not a girl scout, the title of this post comes from an old girl scout round we used to sing:
Make new friends, but keep the old,
One is silver, but the other's gold.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Just Under the Tag

It's getting late and I'm almost out of time to post a "good thing" for today. 

If you had asked me this morning, I would have said there are no good things.  This morning, I was a mess.  Work stuff ... snide boss, deadlines looming, mind-numbingly boring and endless, seemingly pointless, tasks. 

At noon, I had a meeting with a personal trainer at our health club.  Not exactly my idea of a good time ... especially when I'm already having a bad day.  Nancy was a very pleasant surprise.  She was well-informed and flexible.  She neither over-estimated or under-estimated my abilities.  She put together a very "do-able" program for me AND gave me some special exercises to help my arthritic knee. When I left the gym, I actually felt happier and more energetic. 

The question now is whether I can follow through on my own now that she's set up a plan for me.  Stay tuned for further updates.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

There's Got to Be a Morning After

Bedraggled Tulips
I may not be able to predict the weather, but I can certainly predict the climate for today -- everyone in the greater Cincinnati area will be short-tempered and tired.  Nobody in this area has slept for the last two nights due to thunderstorms and last night's was truly impressive.  About 2 am the weather radar showed a huge blob of threatening red and yellow bearing down on us with wind gusts of up to 80 mph.  Sirens went off every few minutes as new tornados were sighted or predicted.

Our New "Pond"
 Of course, Sam was beside himself and Kate wasn't too calm either.  I had a hard time talking her out of dashing into the storm to check on the bunnies.  The way the wind was blowing, I wouldn't have been too surprised if their hutches had been blown over.  One of the unused metal trays that go under the hutches was blowing around the yard and making a huge racket.  But they were fine.  I fed them some dandelion this morning and they seemed none the worse for wear. 

Yesterday, I got virtually nothing done at my official work.  I was running around with Kate buying shoes and undergarments and going for her graduation dress fitting and picking up her car at the shop and getting groceries.  It was productive, but I won't get paid for it.  And I'll have to work extra hours through the week to try to make up the missing hours. 

I did, however, pick up a new member for my plant menagerie.  I found this lovely and very healthy looking rosemary at Home Depot (to replace the one I killed last year -- shhhh, don't tell this one that it's days are probably numbered).  I love to have a rosemary plant in the house.  You just have to brush the leaves lightly with your fingertips and you're scented for hours. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Now This is Almost Embarrassing ...

Believe it or not, I got ANOTHER gift yesterday from my sister.  She is really spoiling me this year!  She must be expecting a really great Christmas gift from me. :)  She sent me a gorgeous african violet pot -- a pot specifically made to keep african violets alive.  It has two parts, the bottom part you fill with water, and the top part you fill with soil and plant.  The water leaches through the unglazed pottery of the top pot and keeps the plant moist but not wet.  African violets like this. 

Stupid me, Kathryn and I talked about these pots for about an hour on the phone the other day and I didn't have a clue that she was planning a birthday present.  I thought she was planning to get some african violets for her new house.  I even told her the ones I liked the best. 

In other news, Kate performed for the last time on the VMA stage last night (unless you count graduating as a performance).  She sang a song from the Broadway version of "The Little Mermaid" at Songs for Soup, a benefit to raise canned goods put on by the music club.  I filmed it with my Flip camera, so the video and sound quality aren't the best, but if anyone is interested, I'm risking death at Kate's hands to share it: 

Monday, April 18, 2011


On Friday night, we went over to VMA's Gallery Night, which is a showcase of the student's talents.  Kate chose not to sing this year, so we just went to see the art exhibits.  She's been working on charcoals this year and has, in her Mom's opinion, a lot of talent.  The principal even commissioned a work for her office -- she asked Kate to do a charcoal of Bon Jovi for her.  So, here is Kate's art work. 

Going clockwise from the left, the first is a picture of an Indian woman, the second is Conan O'Brien with a chimp, the third is the singer Adele, the fourth is Montgomery Cliff and Elizabeth Taylor, the fifth is Audrey Hepburn and the sixth is Lucille Ball. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Feeling the Love

Wow.  My birthday continues to be celebrated.  I'm really milking this thing!!!  My sister sent me the most perfect gift yesterday.  I still can't believe how perfect it is. 

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I spend an inordinate amount of time in the basement of my house working on the computer.  It's called home-based employment and allows my employer to avoid paying for a work space for me and allows me the flexibility of working my own hours.  Overall, that's good -- but spending hour upon hour alone in the cold windowless basement is a little demoralizing.

Enter Kathryn's gift.  It's called The Intelligent Plant Light.  It's a plant light that's just big enough for one potted plant (just the right size for my desk) and does everything possible to keep me from killing houseplants.  I mean, this thing is super high-tech.  You set it for the proper season and it's on a timer that will give the appropriate amount of light for that season -- or you can set it to give a uniform amount of light all the time.  AND it has a wand that you place in the pot and it will tell you when the plant needs water!  It's freaking amazing!  Surely, even I will be able to grow a plant on my desk.  Some life!  Some green-ness!  Some blossoms even!  I put one of my new african violets under it.  This one is called Starry Night.  It really adds a lot to my work space. 

People have been so amazingly thoughtful this year.  It makes me believe I am loved.  That's a very good feeling. 

Friday, April 15, 2011


Today didn't start out too well.  Sam made another puddle despite the diaper of shame.  I'm beginning to think he has a medical issue. 

I'm also still upset about all the drama that's been going on around here for the past 24 hours.  Kate bought a vintage wedding dress three years ago and has been planning to wear it at her graduation.  At her school, all the girls wear white long dresses (actually wedding dresses), picture frame hats, gloves and carry a dozen red roses to graduate.  The boys wear a tux with tails, top hats, gloves and carry canes.  It's quite a spectacle. 

Well, there has been some controversy about Kate's dress.  The rule is that the dress must be white -- NOT ecru, cream, candlelight, etc.  It must be stark white.  And it must have sleeves.  As a vintage dress, we were worried that it wasn't quite white enough -- so we decided to blue it to make it whiter.  When it came out of the bluing solution, a significant part of the lace had disintegrated. 

When she tried it on yesterday, it was clear that this dress was not going to pass muster -- especially since the principal has just sent out a memo that no used or vintage dresses would be allowed.  She could never sneak it past as new with holes in it.  Kate was devastated and I felt horrible.  We took it to a tailor to see if it could be repaired, but we were told it was beyond all help. 

So, off we went yesterday to the bridal salons.  We were lucky and almost immediately found a pretty dress that Kate likes and looks good in -- but it was $580.  And on top of that we'll need to pay for alterations (hemming and sleeves added), hat, gloves, and shoes.  This private school crap is EXPENSIVE.  When Ally graduated, we picked out a nice gown from a consignment store and she looked lovely.

Overall, Kate has been very mature about the whole thing.  Of course, there were tears. She was crushed by the loss of her vintage dress -- which had been created by an exclusive Beverly Hills designer in the 50s -- but she acknowledged that I was only trying to help and didn't blame me for the disaster.  She seems okay with her substitute dress, even though it's not what she had envisioned.  

I feel like I've been through a wringer.  I can't seem to get anything accomplished today.  I'm still a mess. 

This morning I was feeling so crappy that I decided to take the morning off and drove my large size pants to the local Goodwill.  I stayed for a little retail therapy and found a cute cookie mold in the shape of a sheep and a couple of other things.  The drive through the spring sunshine made me feel better. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Sunny Spring Day

At last, we're getting some sunshine and spring weather.  I went outside and gave Genny and Andy a treat of the dandelions that are springing up.  I feel differently about dandelions with the rabbits around.  I alway try to keep a couple of healthy dandelions in the yard so that they have a supply through the summer.  They really love them -- and raspberry leaves, and oak leaves and parsley and apple branches & leaves.  They won't eat just anything though. I've tried them on a couple of random weeds and they don't even give them the time of day. 

The sun shining through the petals of these tulips made a lovely sight on my back patio. 

Today's good thing is people who are willing to do that little bit that helps. I wound up my new Swiss Mountain Sea Sock yarn and bravely started in on Mizar,  an admittedly challenging pattern.  Well,  I've been struggling with it.  It's from Anna Zilboorg's Socks for Clogs and Sandals.  It requires twisted traveling stitches and I found the chart almost indecipherable.  While I was trying to get some hints online to unravel the chart, I learned that Merike Sarniit did the charts for the book and that she has a published email address. So, I went straight to the source -- but not really expecting a reply. I was stunned to receive an immediate response, and not only that, but she said that Anna Zilboorg was with her and they would answer my questions.  Through a series of emails, I got straightened out and have completed two of the pattern repeats.  I guess it didn't really take a lot of time for them to help me, but it made all the difference.  Thanks, Anna and Merike!

I brought a little of the springtime indoors to sit on my desk.    

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Sign of Progress

Today's good thing is tangible progress.  I'm wearing clothes three sizes smaller than I did last November and even those are beginning to feel roomy, so I decided it was time to take the big pants out of my closet.  It was starting to drive me crazy to dig through them to find the pants that are the right size for me now.  So, I stacked them up ready to take them to Goodwill or St. Vincent dePaul, whichever one I get to first. 

It's a good feeling.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Today's good thing is sitting quietly after everyone else is off to work or school.  In semi-darkness.  Listening to the rain splattering and the birds trilling.  With my dog sleeping on a cushion nearby.  Feeling the warmth of my hands inside the pockets of my terrycloth robe.  Taking a few minutes just to be. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

STILL my Birthday?

Last night we saw a moving and powerful performance at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.  Corinne Mohlenhoff did a one-woman show of The Handmaid's Tale, which was adapted from the book by Joe Stollenwerk with Corinne in mind.  It was amazing. 

Having read the book many years ago, I warned the family that it was bound to be a little weird and I really wasn't expecting much.  What I got was a punch to the gut that was both frightening and sadly sweet.  Offred's struggle to deal with her present reality and remain human was touching in a way that really stuck with me.  If you have a chance, go see it.  It's on until April 20th.

The whole family was together again this weekend.  Ally came home so we could celebrate my birthday as a family.  We had cake and presents on Saturday night.  Ally made me a beautiful beaded bracelet and Kate and Jeff, together, got me two sparkling Swarovski crystal figurines, which I collect.  It's hard to photograph them because of all the facets, but one is a little lamb and the other is an angora rabbit.  Kate says it's definitely an angora because it looks a lot fluffier than the other Swarovski rabbits and it does. You can't really see it in the picture, but the lamb has the cutest little face.   Kate also got me a lovely figure of a mother and daughter.  She said it was for me to look at when she's away at college next year.  It goes with the one Mom gave me of the woman holding a lamb. The pictures aren't staying where I put them with the text, so I'm afraid you'll just have to figure it out.

On my real birthday, last Tuesday, I got my big gift -- an atomic solar watch.  I've always wanted one and they don't make many styles for women, for some reason.  I like the idea that it's always set to the correct time and that it won't run out of battery. 

Along with the sweet it seems there's always a little bitter.  Yesterday, while Ally and I were out bargain hunting, the pipe under the kitchen sink disconnected itself.  Jeff -- sweet person that he is -- was washing the dishes full of stew and coffee grounds and other yuck.  He didn't know anything was wrong until the filthy water had filled up a plastic tub of cleaning supplies and spilled over onto the kitchen floor around his feet.  Needless to say, he was not amused.  Kate called us away from our shopping to tell us that he was swearing like a sailor and we were out of paper towels.  By the time we got home, he had cleaned up about half the mess and reattached the pipe.  I emptied the rest of the under sink space, wiped it down with 409 and sprayed it with Clorox.  All the stuff is still on the kitchen floor, waiting for the space to dry thoroughly. 

In other bad news, Sam wet on the floor again Sunday morning.  This time he hit Ally's backpack, an unfamilar object in the family room.  He soaked not only the backpack but one of her expensive college textbooks inside.  She was furious with him, as can be expected.  We decided to try the "diaper of shame" and it may actually work.  He wore it last night, didn't chew it off and didn't pee. 

However, peeing Sunday morning was not the full extent of his crimes.  When we went out to the play, we left him alone for about three hours.  When we came back, he had pulled Jeff's leather coat from a hook in the laundry room and chewed it to bits.  This is the SECOND leather coat that he's chewed up this winter (the first was Kate's leather bomber jacket). 

I'm not sure what we're going to do about his behavior.  It's like a strange new -- and very tense -- dog has joined our pack.  He's not a puppy who's teething.  This is all nervous energy because he gets frightened when he's left alone.  I don't know why he's suddenly so insecure.  He's been a model house dog for 10 years. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I feel like a severed arm has been re-attached.  My camera battery charger finally arrived yesterday and I'm back in the photo business.  So, I can show you my desk top:

And my newly potted african violets:

And the way the orchid has bloomed.  All of the buds are in bloom now except for one last one. 

And the windowsill where I keep all my succulents (likely to live) and the new african violets (on thin ice, if they expect to be watered regularly):

Happy, happy, joy, joy!  My window to the world is open ... or, rather, the world's window to me is open.