Saturday, December 26, 2009

When You Think You've Heard it All

I got a Bargain Books catalog in the mail. I found these two gems while I was parusing the 'Mysteries & Detectives' section:

Three Bags Full: a sheep detective story, by Leonie Swann. (novel).
One a hillside near the cozy Irish village of Glennkill, the members of the flock gather around their shepherd, George, whose body lies pinned to the ground with a spade. George had always cared for the sheep, and now they set out to find his killer.
I actually thought this sounded cute, and I bought it when I was out today. The beginning few pages were fun to read. I'll let you know.

The second one is one I will not be looking to buy, but I wanted to share with you anyway:

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, by Mario Acevedo (novel)
Felix Gomez went to Iraq a soldier. He came back a vampire. Now he finds himself pulled into a web of intrigue when an old friend prompts him to investigate an outbreak of nymphomania at the secret government facilities in Rocky Flats.
Boy, I need to be careful! We have several secret government facilities around here!

People write this stuff? And get published???

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

First Kiva Loan

When I started my business, I decided that as of January 1, 2009, I would start giving something to charity. I'd decided on 5%, which isn't a lot really, but I wanted to start small and then if/when I could I would increase the amount.

Since then I stumbled across Kiva is a microfinance aggregate. They take information from microfinance organizations all over the world, list the information on the loans/individuals, and then you and I can donate as little as $25 to an individual or group.

When I found out that Kiva's lowest cutoff amount was $25, I decided that if I didn't have enough to donate I would just, you know, do it anyway. So I did.

Meet Edith. She is from Peru, where the average income is in the $6000 ballpark. She is asking for a loan of $300, which she will use to purchase used clothing to resell. She also is the coordinator for a program that supplies milk to low income families. That's why I chose Edith, I thought it was kind of a double-whammy in the doing good thing. I also chose her because she looked happy, if a little bashful.

Currently (as of this morning) 58% of her $300 has been raised from people in the US as well as Luxembourg, Canada, Spain, and Belgium. Watch for updates on Edith as money is raised and as she repays her loan, which should be paid off by May 2010.

This is the coolest part about Kiva: after the loan is paid off I will be able to re-loan it to another person. It truly is the gift that keeps on giving. In fact, I'm giving out a few Kiva gift certificates this year for Christmas.

Also, in the section that lists donors on Edith's page, check out William from Washington. If you click on his picture, it will take you to his portfolio. He has....1853 loans either raising funds, paying off, or paid off. Go William!

I just stumbled across Manvel in Armenia, too. He's a beekeeper. Doesn't he look proud of his field? I think I'll donate to him, too, as a personal thing (not business). That way I'll have two. It is addictive....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Etsy Sale!!

I made my first sale on ETSY!!!!!

Friday, December 11, 2009

PMC Class

Over the week of Thanksgiving, when I was laid off (furloughed) from my job, I signed up for a jewelry class. This is the first jewelry class I have ever taken. Seriously. Everything else I’ve taught myself. I’m one of the lucky people who can look at something and figure out how it was made. I credit my dad with giving me an overly-analytical mind, almost photographic memory, and a 3D perspective…which didn’t help him at all recently with the truck incident, but still.


About a year ago I purchased some silver Art Clay through Fire Mountain Gems. I’d been seeing a lot about precious metal clay (PMC) for the past couple years. PMC is a cool newish product to come out of Mitsubishi. In the process of making something, Mitsubishi had a lot of silver and gold dust as a byproduct. Why they couldn’t melt it down and reuse it is beyond me, but they didn’t and instead they hired a bunch of people to find a marketable use for the dust.

PMC is the outcome. Basically, you have a grayish very dense and heavy playdoh-like clay that can be molded, rolled out, cut, dried and carved, and then fired either in a kiln or with a torch (depending on the type of clay). The outcome is 99.9% silver, which is higher than Sterling (92.5%). So you can call this ‘fine silver’ jewelry when you sell it because it is. Gold PMC is 22K. They are also making PMC copper and bronze now.

Like I said, I’d purchased some and thought I could just ‘pick it up’ by reading some tutorials, watching some video, etc. Didn’t happen. The clay I bought was crumbly right out of the package and I got frustrated and put it away.

Time passed.

This class popped up on my radar and the time was right so I signed up. Turns out I’m the only one who did. Apparently, word had gotten out (she said, ominously).

First, the negative:

--If you are going to be teaching a class that is scheduled for 2 hours and you KNOW it runs over, change the time to 3 hours.
--If you know the class is going to run over, don’t schedule the class to run over into the time you have to pick your kids up from school.
--If you know the class runs over, don’t hold a 30 minute conversation with another woman about another class that may or may not be scheduled on Sunday, February 1.
--If you are looking to see what day of the week February 1 falls on in 2010, don’t look at the 2009 calendar. Ahem.

Also, I must say that I have taught crafts classes and, while I know there were problems with my classes, I have always found it better to actually have a project for a beginner class that will teach the basics and produce a finished product for the students to take home. She did neither, and basically said “Here’s the stuff, there you go! Now, what am *I* going to make? Hmmm….” I learned what to do by watching her, not by any instruction. Wouldn’t take a class with her again. If there had been others in the class it would have been a disaster.

In a more positive light, though, I did learn what I needed to know, and had the chance to make two items that I’m fairly happy with as beginner projects. She was big on plastic texture sheets for clay (any kind of clay) and rolling the clay between two sheets so there would be a different texture on each side! Imagine that!

So, that’s what I did for both of mine. Basically getting a feel for the clay and what I can do with it. As it dries out a bit you can mix in a bit more water to make it more pliable again. After you get the design where you want it, you must let it dry before you can fire it. She accomplished this with a hot plate, and it worked well. Then, you can file and sand it down to get the rough edges off (this helps a lot because after you fire it it is SILVER and needs to be filed with metal files forever to get edges off).

For the firing, this type of clay was PMC3 so you can use a torch to fire it. She used a crème brule torch. I fired the pendant at home (because we ran out of time!) and I used Matt’s propane torch. I thought the propane worked better, got hotter faster, etc. In semi-darkness, you place the item on a fire brick and start torching it. It will smoke, then it will actually flame quite a bit. This is the organic clay binder burning off. Then, you need to bring the piece to glow. It turns a pretty whitish-cantaloupe color. You need to keep it there for at least 5 minutes. Then, let it cool about 30 seconds and push it into a mug of water. It hisses.

When you take it out it is coated in a dull white gunk that you need to scrub off with a brass brush. Then, you can file it where it needs filed, drill it, and polish/burnish it. Done!
Earrings shown here, this was my first project. I’d had the wire-wrapped stone beads done on my beading table for a while (another technique that I’d wanted to learn and taught myself from pictures). I thought they went together well. The holes are drilled before firing, she made sure to remind me to make them bigger than I think they should be because the clay will shrink about 10% during firing.
The pendant is similar to a few pendants she had done. I drilled some holes before I fired it and added the copper wire because I wanted to play around a little with some embellishment. I think what she taught is (quite frankly) kindergarten stuff compared to what I know people are doing with PMC right now. I know she was really impressed with what she was doing, but I really wasn’t. Sorry. Rolling clay between textured sheets is not much compared to this and this and this.
It turns out the most likely reason the clay I bought last year was crumbly was that it was Art Clay brand and not PMC. Also, it may have just been old when they sent it. I’ve since rehydrated it and am hoping to try a few new projects when I get some extra time (ha).
This technique and skill set has opened up several new creative doors for me, I’m so tickled with it. I have so many ideas floating around in my head to try. I can’t wait.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Silent Monks Sing the Hallelujah Chorus

When I was in the high school concert choir, we used to sing this. We. Were. Good. Really good. This is better.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another One Bites the Dust....

A second bra has broken right in the middle of the underwire. These were cheapy Lane Bryant bras I've been using as 'work' bras, so more for gardening and building work than go-to-work work. Unbelievable.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Just Between Us Girls...

Something happened to me recently that I feel the need to share because I think it is funny.

I've been needing some new bras for a while and I've been putting off ordering them because it is just such an ordeal. You see, I'm what is commonly referred to as a well-endowed lady. I think the politically correct term is 'bodacious ta-tas.'

It is a pain in the anatomy for me to buy new bras because I cannot walk into any store and just buy them off the rack, so to speak. I have found few styles in my size in the US and most of them look like they were designed by Nazi engineers: they're ugly.

I have found, however, that beautiful bras in my size are available by the truckload in England. So, I get my bras on Ebay UK AND have them shipped 'Royal Mail' for less than the Nazi bras in the US would be. And they're pretty and they do the work that is needed. But I usually don't order very often because it is still a chunk of money and I tend to have very specific style and color needs, and I like to order two from the same seller to save on shipping, so it sometimes takes a bit of work to find them.

So, this is what I've been putting off. I've been saying for months that I needed to do it, I've been then repeatedly NOT doing it. Repeat. Repeat.

So, I then got a kick in the pants to get moving on this when my husband did some laundry a couple weeks ago. One of the hooks got caught in the washing machine and pulled into a pointy metal death stick that would put someone's eye out at 20 paces. So, there's one bra down for the count.

I still put off ordering....until....

The day we poured concrete for the new garage, I sat down to eat some lunch....and the underwire in the left side snapped in half right in the middle. I'm lucky I didn't cut myself, but fortunately it didn't cut through the fabric.

So, now I'm down two bras....and I finally got online and ordered two replacements. There's something about getting lingerie in a package marked 'Royal Mail.'

Mysterious ways, indeed....

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Introspectrus, Part 5

Fall is winding down and although we have a construction project winding up, Fall leading into Winter still is my time to slow down, take stock, decide on changes, refresh and recharge, all that stuff. I think many people feel this way about Winter, it is the time of rest.

One of the things I’m thinking about quite a bit is how the things and people that surround me affect my life and the way I live it and view it. Negativity has been rearing its ugly head again recently, and I’m taking another series of steps to remove it and rethink things.

For example, at work we’re having a ‘situation’ where one of my coworkers is not getting work done as quickly as the contract states it needs to be done. A meeting was scheduled today for The Powers That Be to 'discuss' it. I just got a very acidic phone call from a different coworker asking if the meeting had happened and if the ‘problem’ coworker had been fired yet. She said that she is a strong believer in revenge, and she just wants to see him get what he deserves. End quote.


And now I have a headache. Coincidence? Negativity breeds negativity, no? Need to find a way to pull the fangs here, or at least direct them elsewhere.

Negative, bitter people drain me and make me feel negative and bitter. I think we're all like sponges: happy people make me feel good. Negative people make me feel bad. This is not rocket science. To take a phrase from Seinfeld, I’ve decided the negative people are no longer sponge-worthy.

A few people in my life have just stopped where they are and refuse to move forward, and their ‘extra’ time and energy are turning destructive. I’ve decided to not let it destroy me as well. I need to find a way to get rid of it where possible and block it where not possible (like work). That’s going to be the hard part.

Another energy-drain had been television. We camped out in front of the TV and watched shows all evening like Family Guy, 2 1/2 Men, which are funny but usually at the expense of other people….so, more negativity.….until the TV went out (don’t ask). We decided not to sign up for another service. We did sign up for the cheapest Netflix option, and that has been working out beautifully for us. We’ve seen the first two seasons of Night Court and the first 4 of Are You Being Served? and a few great movies.

Then, recently dad told us he wanted to get us a DVD player that runs .avi files, so we could just download entire movies and seasons from the computer and watch them….and he was shocked when I said we weren’t interested. I mean, he was speechless. My father is either in front of the computer or in front of the TV, there is nothing else. OTOH, Matt and I have been doing other things, and talking! My god, talking! Eating dinner at the table! Wow.

One other ‘entertainment’ item to go is probably going to be Facebook. I don’t like it. I don’t really use it. I don’t talk to these people. I haven’t seen most of my HS classmates in 15 years, I don't want to get together with them anytime soon. Where do these people come from? Do any of them remember how mean they were to me then? I don’t share pictures there and I don’t want to. So, mostly negative feelings. I’ve gotten somewhat into a game there recently, but that interest will wane. Why keep it up? Seriously, why? So, probably the end of December will be my last with Facebook. And I actually am looking forward to that.

Finding pastimes that I enjoy is also a goal. Obviously I know several. I garden, but that’s kind of hard in winter. I can start planning next year’s gardens, though. Seed catalogs have already started arriving! I enjoy reading, jewelry making, some crafting. I’m thinking of setting up the sewing machine and getting a few projects to work on.

I’m also going to be working on getting some piles of stuff cleaned up, filed, sorted, put away. Some jewelry projects started and maybe finished, and the jewelry workspace cleaned up. I’ve realized that while I feel comfortable with clutter and piles, the fact that it makes my entire life more cluttered is not a good tradeoff. And it isn’t fair to Matt, either. So, this is another form of negativity that I’m working on.

I also plan on doing some cooking. I love to cook, and when I have time and no one underfoot I like to cook well. I’m thinking dreamily about a cranberry-orange tart, coffee crème brulees, and maybe a few batches of cookies and bourbon balls. I have a huge stack of recipes that I want to try, I’ll probably pull a few and do them, now that I have some time.

I’m also going to take Max a few places to run around, which is grand fun. One Thanksgiving week we took a walk through the trails on the Battlefield and saw a red fox. Another time, we went to campus and I let him run around a field for as long as he wanted. He’s good off-leash, and we can trust him to come back when we call him. This is almost miraculous for a terrier. He will stop chasing a bunny and come back when we call him. Amazing little guy.

So, replacing negative time with positive, negative people with positive, negative thoughts with positive.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Amazon Subscribe & Save

I’ve recently discovered the joys and wonders of Amazon Grocery’s Subscribe and Save program. Basically, you pick a product from their Grocery department, decide how often you’d like it delivered (1-, 2-, 3-, or 6-month options), and they ship it to you. When you sign up you get a 15% discount and free shipping.

How cool is that? Not all products are available with the Subscribe and Save option, though, be sure to look carefully. Most everything is a bulk item, so 3 bags of coffee or a 4-pack of Tums. A 10-pack of dog treats. You get the idea.

So, I started going through some of the things we buy on a semi-regular basis and found that quite a few of them are eligible and are good deal. Some are horrible deals, though. Here are some examples:

Tums – I use a lot of Tums. I priced some at the local grocery store against Amazon’s prices and found that the 4-pack of 150count bottles was a decent deal. For 4 bottles I got a savings of a whole $1.84 per order.

Degree women’s deodorant – Degree has some ‘fancy’ deodorants at the grocery store for $4.99. On Amazon they are sold as a 4-pack and it works out to $4.12/each, which is a savings of $3.48 per order. For the non fancy deodorants the savings is much the same, but those are in the $2 and change ballpark each.

Coffee – I’ve been trying some different varieties of coffee because they don’t offer the things I know we like (Starbucks Caffe Verona, Millstone Foglifter, 8 O’Clock Columbian) through the subscribe and save. So far, I’ve been getting things for $6.77 to as low as $5.93 per 12oz bag. Great, since some of the things we usually get are usually around $7.99. So, a savings of as much as $8.24/order.

Puppydog treats – I found my best deals here. Max likes the molasses and peanut butter Blue Dog Bakery treats and GoodBites by Pedigree. At the local store, both these are over $4.00. At Amazon, they are $3.74 and $3.19, respectively. So, using $4 as the compare-to price if I order both of these through Amazon I’m saving a grand total of $9.66.

Paper towels – Amazon should be ashamed of themselves for offering these at around $2.31/roll for Bounty select-a-size!

Tissues – Not quite as bad as paper towels at $1.03/box, but I can get them locally for $.79.

Toilet paper – because of our septic system we use Scott. On Amazon it works out to $.84/roll. Locally it runs $.68/roll to $.82/roll.

Hellman’s Mayo – This one was all over the place. Some sizes they offer at Amazon they don’t offer in the grocery stores. Go figure. Anyway, I found that the only size that was cheaper on Amazon was a whopping penny difference. So, may as well get them locally.

Dawn Foam dish soap - I really like the lime scent Dawn foam, which winds up to be about $.10-$.40 cheaper on Amazon in bulk than at WalMart, which is the only grocery around here that carries the lime.

Bounce dryer sheets –One box of 120ct at the store was $6.29. Amazon has them for $5.85, a difference of $1.32/order.

Good Seasons salad dressing packets – are $3.99 for a 4-pack. Amazon has them for $3.01/four-pack. So a savings of $.98/order.

Yorkie Bacon – we have a pill we have to give Max every night, and in order to make him take it we break it up and put it in a couple tsps of Hormel real bacon bits. We refer to it as his ‘bacon treatment.’ At the grocery store, it works out to $3.91/bag. Amazon has 6-packs that come out to $3.25/bag. This is NOT a subscribe and save product, either. This is a regular savings for ordering in bulk, a difference of $3.96/order.

So, say I ordered these every 6 months (except the coffee which would be more often). When I add it all up, it comes to approximately $54.26 saved every 6 months. So, $110/year. For shopping from the computer.

And you can bet I’m looking for more deals as I go.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Books I Love

I was on my way to Gettysburg to pick up my mum to walk around town, and I was thinking about my list of favorite novels. You know, the ones I would want with me if I were on a deserted island? That list. And I was trying to think about what attracted me to them, what was the common factor….

And I think, in part at least, I may have found the answer. Or answers, because there seems to be more than one common denominator. First, the list (in no particular order) with a synopsis (as seen by me) of the main stories:

Dune by Frank Herbert – I think this is one of maybe 3 books by which all other SciFi books are judged. Herbert created his Dune universe with such detail that other writers struggle to even come close and just cannot, can never compare.

Basically, Paul-Maud’ib Attreides must find his way within a new culture to become what he was born to be: their savior. It sounds so simple.

Dune is a series as well, but I just don’t like the rest of the books…

Ender’s Game (series of ?) by Orson Scott Card – First, I want to say that while I love the writing of Card, I do not hold by most of his very vocal opinions or politics. OK, now that that’s out of the way…One of my coworkers introduced me to Ender’s Game, and a few years later I introduced a new coworker to Ender’s Game. She told me that not only couldn’t she put it down, she said “I’m glad I met you if only for the fact that you introduced me to this book.” Yeah, it is that kind of book.

Card writes both children and conversation VERY well. Scary well. And just because it is a book ABOUT children does not mean it is a book FOR children, which a lot of public libraries fail to comprehend.

Ender’s Game is set in the future. Even though the law states only two children per family the government has allowed the Wiggin family to have Ender, the third child, because the two elder kids had such potential for Battle School. Ender was born to be the commander of our forces against the Buggers, an alien race bent on having our planet. We’ve fought them off twice, and the Battle School is the preparation for the third wave.

But you never really see the Buggers. The story focuses on 5yo Ender’s years in Battle School. This book is about him finding his way alone: through the school’s army groups, learning how to lead, manage people, beat the system, OWN the system and make it his, all the while not knowing that he is the one they’ve set their hopes on to save us all. The secondary story is how his older brother (the psychopath) and sister (compassion itself) are manipulating politics on earth.

This book is used to teach management psychology at Quantico. Seriously. Another book in the series, Ender’s Shadow, looks at the same events as Ender’s Game from the POV of another of the main characters at Battle School, and amazingly is just as good as the original.

The first chapter

First chapter of Ender’s Shadow

Jani Killian (series of 5) by Kristine Smith – Another SciFi series, the main character here is female, a woman who 18 years ago almost died in the Idomeni civil war. Jani was illegally pieced back together from human and idomeni DNA and has been alone and on the run from the military/authority ever since. Now she finds herself in the middle of human/alien politics and religion. Again. Oh, and she’s actively started to hybridize.

The characters here are incredibly well fleshed-out and believable. Very human, even the aliens. I love love the idomeni ambassador, who will occasionally escape his well-guarded embassy in Chicago and take joyrides through the countryside or go to the local playground to learn how to see-saw from some kids. Eventually they find him and drag him back.

I also adore one of the love interests/main characters who is a sociopath (cannot feel human emotions) and uses it soooo well. Jani accepts this and (this is the most interesting thing here) does not try to change him. Theirs is a most interesting relationship because of this, how many novels have you ever read where a male has a flaw and the woman does not try to ‘fix’ him or bring him around?

One of the things I enjoy about this series is that Jani forces a lot of the antagonistic characters to do what she wants them to do, and it is fun to watch them swallow the bitter medicine.

Alvin Maker (series of 6) by Orson Scott Card – Yes, another series by Card. I’m currently finishing rereading this series. This one is set in the early 1800s of the United States. It is a mix of fantasy and alternate history. This series is based on what could have been….if people really did have special abilities that would have marked them as ‘witches’ in Europe, and Europe had sent them to North America instead of hanging or burning them. Hm.

The story starts out with Alvin’s birth. He was born a Maker. There hasn’t been a Maker born in about 2000 years. You can do the math and figure out what that means.

Through the 6 books, you follow Alvin as he learns about himself and his gifts and tries to figure out what they are good for. He knows he’s supposed to build the Crystal City (aka, City of God), but he doesn’t know how or why. And there are forces at work to stop him at all costs.

There are also a lot of friends. Peggy, the torch, can see within everyone all their possible futures. Arthur Stuart, the child of a runaway slave, can mimic everyone in their own voice and can talk to birds. Card always does names so well in his writing, too. Alvin’s brothers are named Vigor, Measure, and the twins Wastenot and Wantnot. His brother-in-law is Armor-of-God Weaver.

He also meets a lot of people from our own history, but they are rewritten into different characters: Abe Lincoln, Daniel Webster, William Harrison, Tecumseh, and John Adams all make appearances. The story of how General George Washington was tried and put to death for treason is told in the first book. My favorite is William Blake, who is called ‘Taleswapper’ in this series.

This all sounds incredibly silly, and I’ve never really liked ‘fantasy’ because it always sounds so silly and childish and unbelievable. This is believable. Again, these aren’t kids books. There is a lot of humor in these books. A lot of humanity, an awful lot that makes you think about you and your place in the world, with other people, with religion, humanity as a whole. I cannot recommend this series enough.

First chapter of Seventh Son

First chapter of Heartfire.

Kate Shugak (series of ?) by Dana Stabenow – This is the only series here that isn’t SciFi or Fantasy. This is a mystery series based in Alaska with a female Alaskan-native protagonist. Over the course of the 15 or so books of this series, Kate goes from fingers-in-ears no-don’t-wanna-be-involved to tribal elder of her local Aleut tribal conference. She is tough, she is funny, she has a wolf. Ok, only half, but still.

One of my favorites (and a good place to start for a good ride, novel-wise) is Breakup. Breakup is the time in Alaska when everything starts to thaw out….snow….ice on the rivers….and people. By which I mean people coming out of a long winter and going a little stir-crazy….as well as murdered people actually thawing out. In this novel, a jet engine lands on her homestead, a shoot-out takes place (twice) at the roadhouse, a bear attacks a woman, the Snobs from Nob Hill visit their daughter, a bunch of hikers have a shot of Middle Finger, and several moose and elk run around, scared to death. Some people do, too.

Kate Abridged video on YouTube. I don’t think I’ve read the last 3-5 of these. Yet!

Author’s website

What do all these have in common? I’ve identified several things:

  • All the protagonists are alone, singular, solitary people.
  • All these novels have something to do with an exploration of religion and/or culture, and
  • All the protagonists are trying to find their way (job, mission, purpose) in life.
  • In a less serious vein, all the books have a wonderful witty and sharp humor to them. The kind I really enjoy. No puns. Just dry wit.
  • I’m sure there is another that I haven’t noticed yet.

And because I want to share them so much I’m going to do a giveaway. Rules are:

-Comment on THIS blog entry,

-I’ll pull a random number on Thanksgiving, or the next day if I forget, and

-If you win, you tell me which book from any of these series’ you are interested in and I’ll send the paperback to you.

Please pass it around, a random number between, say, 3 comments is no fun.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A 4-Day Weekend!!!

I had a wonderful 4-day weekend, much needed relaxation, rest, and getting some chores done that had been on hold while preparing for the big concrete pour Saturday morning.

Thursday, I started a new pendant commissioned by a coworker. I’ll post a picture of it when it’s done.

I also met Matt for lunch, got my hair cut, and picked up a $3 pair of sneakers to wear while doing concrete. They didn’t get too messed up, either, so I can save them for when we pour the two patios, too.

Thursday afternoon I spent planting some Dutch iris bulbs and some tulips with Max, and got finished just before the skies opened up.

Friday, I met mom and we walked around downtown Gettysburg, visiting the shops and scouting out some Christmas presents. I got my mom a Williamsburg Pottery vase, which she collects, and Matt a book on Masons. I also saw some things I want to price out and may go back and buy. I got Max a doggy jacket, with a detachable hood. He loves the jacket, but I’m not going to use the hood. Here's why:

Friday evening, we finished the final prep for concrete.

Concrete happened Saturday morning. It went well, I hope to post more on my garden blog Wednesday or Thursday. I also worked in the garden a bit.

We also took a nap. It was one of those much needed naps, but disconcerting. You know, when you fall asleep the sun is blazing through the window, when you wake up it is pitch dark. It just feels so strange when that happens, is it just me?

Sunday we went and stared at the concrete slab for a bit while we drank our coffee, smiling like fools. I also finished what I’d started on Saturday afternoon – the shallots and garlic are finally in the ground!!! Yay!!!

We also did a little laundry on Sunday evening, and I started playing the Roller Coaster game on Facebook, which I am now addicted to. Ahem. Just when I was thinking of quitting Facebook, too….

Monday, November 09, 2009

Happy German Reunification!!!

When the wall came down, I was in 9th grade and I was taking German 1 in school. We stopped all regular lessons so we could talk about history and everything that was going on.

One day a few weeks after the wall came down, our teacher told us about a project (pre-internet, by the way) that a German Language teachers group had decided to start. We, the American German Language students, could write letters to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl requesting German penpals. I think everyone in the class did this.

Weeks and months later, we found out that the Chancellor's office had been swamped with BAGS of letters from American students requesting penpals. The Chancellor had to hire staff just to handle the mail.
As a thank you, we all received posters of the people standing on and around the wall. I found the poster again recently, in the garage when we were cleaning it out. He also sent a letter in both English and German, saying that because of our initiative we were now part of the history that surrounded the events.

Months after that I got my penpal. Her name was Kirstin and she was from East Berlin. We corresponded for years. I still have her picture somewhere.

What is your German Reunification story?

Thursday, November 05, 2009


I went for a walk around campus yesterday and took my camera.

The maples on the main avenue, with sycamores behind. They all turn the most beautiful orange every year:
Three of the old sycamores:
The building I work in, with a blue arrow pointing to my window:
Some of the interesting, old stained glass windows in the chapel:
On the right side around the corner is a door to the tunnels that wander below campus. Seriously. The campus is a very old nunnery for the Daughters of Charity. When the sisters would come back for their retreats every year, they weren't allowed to be seen (this was a loooong time ago). They would go from building to building via the tunnels. I think the small door at the bottom was for some purpose dealing with those on retreat, but I'm not sure. Many of the tunnels are still in use today for steam lines and other utilities, but some have caved in:
I'd love to know the story behind these, aren't they beautiful:
The two ginkos on campus are in their full beauty right now:
And a bird nest:
Love the gnarly tree:
I think we have more emergency vehicles on campus sometimes than they do in some major cities:
I wandered over to the fallen firefigter memorial for the first time in years, I think. This is from the 9/11 list of names. Whenever I see the list, my eyes are always drawn to this pair, the Sr. and Jr.
The hazards of parking on campus (that is my car on the right):

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Lure Course Trials

Matt and I and our friend Angie met up for breakfast recently and then went to a nearby soggy field to watch the local Saluki club host its Sighthound Lure Trials. It is a very interesting thing to see, especially when the field is somewhat under water.

They hook up a rope to a motor, string it along the field, and attach 3 plastic bags to it. Those are the lures. Then they set lose, turn the dogs loose in heats of 1, 2, or 3, and the judges figure out scores. I have little idea on score, I don't believe it is a timed thing.

Above are some (I think) Ibizan hounds. Below are the two Afghans they had.And another view of the Afghans, waiting to be turned loose. Did I mention it was in the high 30s?

You can see how wet the field was here:I think this is a Borzoi or possibly a Saluki. I can't keep them straight. He/she is watching the races, intently:

This is a Rhodesian Ridgeback, also watching...very intently.
I think this is another Ibizan:
And some greyhounds:
I have another set of pictures, I'll post them later.

Monday, November 02, 2009


I often read the blog of one of my favorite writers, Kristine Smith. Recently she brought up NaNoWriMo, which is slang for the National Novel Writing Month. Basically, you commit to writing 5000 words/day for the whole month and tada! At the end of November you have a novel. She is considering signing up.

I am fascinated by this but I’m not going to sign up because I’m not a writer.

Then, another blog I read brought up NaBloPoMo, which is slang for National Blog Posting Month. The idea here is that you commit to posting on your blog every day of November.

This is one I’m going to sign up for. I’ve already missed a couple days, but hey. No one is perfect.

This is especially challenging because I have two blogs. Do I commit to post to both of them every day, or should I switch off? I’m going to choose to switch off. I don't consider this cheating.....yeah. This will also force me to be more creative in my posting, less I bore people.

Anyway, the challenge is here: sign up and I won’t call you a wimp. Hah.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

General Update


I almost started out by saying ‘Not much is going on’ but that is so not true. The garage is down, we are prepping to pour concrete but the weather is not cooperating. You can follow our demolition and building project on the garden blog, there is a list of links at the top right corner, which will be added to as posts about the garage are added.

We’re both giddy about the garage. Matt really really wants to get the concrete down, because as soon as that is done he will really be able to WORK on it. The concrete is really the only barrier for him to get started building. I’m giddy about it because I want it done. I’ll have some workspace in there and I want to start working in my new space ASAP. I’m looking forward to planning the new space, decorating, etc, too. I can’t wait. Plus, we will be able to move a lot of stuff out of the house, which will make it feel less crowded, which will be glorious.

In other news, I’m sending a basket of jewelry along with a friend to work tomorrow to hopefully get some sales, which will pay for my website rental for another 3 months or so and another parts order, because I need to get some beads for a project, some wire for a project, and I really need a new batch of clasps, preferably gold. Wish me luck on my sales! It is very strange, as I’m picking out things (send this, don’t send that) I find that I look at this stuff and think: “But, I like that! I don’t want to see it go!” I need to try to get over that. I understand it is a common issue for crafts and arts people, but still. It’s not like I wear a lot of jewelry! Why would I want to keep everything?? Fortunately I do have pictures of everything, and that will be enough.

Both sets of ‘rents are doing well. I’m meeting mom tomorrow for brunch at the French bistro (good coffee and crepes, here I come). Matt’s parents took us out to dinner on Saturday, during which time we had an adventure. We found a purebred Vizsla running up the middle of the road on the S-bend. He would have been killed for sure. He hopped in the car with us and after we called the numbers on his tag (both DC area codes) we wandered around looking for his people. After dropping him of at Ray & JoAnne’s, we found the owners and while they seemed nice enough, we kind of wish the dog were still with us. Between his breed and training, he was a multi-thousand dollar dog with a great temperament, and we got the distinct feeling from his owner that if he hadn’t found the dog, well, he just would have bought another. If we find him loose again, we’re keeping him.

By the time we got to the restaurant we were like Give Me Food and Hot Tea. Now. I had ribs, everyone else had prime rib. We were hungry.

We went to the Gettysburg Outlets on Sunday and I found the knee boots I’ve been looking for (dressy boots, not winter boots) for half what I was expecting to spend. I also found that they opened up a Pendleton outlet, by god, and I’m thrilled with a capital ILL over that. I got a red red coat. It was more than I’d wanted to spend, it was red red, which is a color I’ve never really lusted after. It is a little big but I now have the name of a very good tailor in town so I will be paying her a visit to fix that jacket and another I have. It is really nice.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Max's Trip to the Beach, part 3

We walked down the beach a whole bunch. My people wanted to look for pretty rocks and sea glass. I got bored with that and started sniffing around this thing when we got close to it:
There was something really interesting in here!

I got really excited and spent almost half an hour worrying about the thing, trying to find it and get at it:
And then I ran this way trying to figure out a way to get at the thing:
And then I had an idea! Opposable thumbs! I needed someone with opposable thumbs! I know people with opposable thumbs!!
So I went and yapped at them, and got one of them to follow me:
Here's dad with his butt sticking out, trying to find what I'm looking for:
And here's BOTH of us with our butts sticking out trying to find what I'm sniffing for! Oh Boy! I LOVE SNIFFING THINGS!!
And you know what it was? It was one of those plastic things you can fling into the water for your dog to chase! It was orange, you can see a bit of it here! Unfortunately it was really stuck and opposable thumbs wouldn't help.
I had a long day, but it was great! I met a girl dog who was visiting the beach for the first time, too! She was a rotty, and she could walk right over me! Oh Boy!

I slept almost the whole way home....