Sunday, November 30, 2014

Let's Stand About in the Freezing Cold

There's a library with central heating right beside us, but it is more fun to read outside in the 15 degree F. cold. Yes, yesterday's 70 degree weather was short-lived. Still, with no snow on the ground, and a clear forecast well into next week, I can't complain too much. It was a sparkly, bright day, cold or not. As we stood on the library steps, they were setting up for an outdoor Christmas concert across the street at City Hall. Someone tapped the microphone and said, "Test, test." True to form, Mr. ETB yelled back across the street, "YOU PASSED!"
This was a new-to-me library in Ralston. They had a lovely Christmas display of those village things people collect (I can never remember what they're called, my sister was crazy for them, I should remember). There was a setup with some children sledding with a moose on the path. "Oh no, the kids are going to get charged by a moose!" I jokingly said to Danny. A humourless girl of about ten looked at us with that blank look so many children seem to have these days unless they are looking at a screen. 
"You don't want to get charged by a moose." I told her. "It would likely be fatal." 
She snorted and shuffled off back to the computer she had been using to play a game. Fine, but don't blame me if you get charged by an angry moose someday, and your last thoughts will be, "The lady at the library knew what she was talking about!" 
This one wants to do a Christmas display of elves stuck to a glue trap (the sort they have for catching  mice). Scrooge, much?
Outfit Particulars:
1970's Pullover vest (I'm not sure what to call it)-Mum's (I rescued it when she was going to discard it in the 80's. That was a good save).
Yellow poloneck-Gordman's
Velvet Skirt-Old, can't remember
Velvet and satin coat-Bought it somewhere in Boston in the early 90's
Shoes-K Mart
Fragrance-Guet Apens (Guerlain)
Rhinestone brooch (on coat)-an antique shop in New Hampshire, decades ago. I remember bargaining for it, but I don't recall what I spent.
1950's patent leather handbag-Salvation Army

I suspect the reason this never got much wear has to do with bulk. I tried half a dozen coats until I could find one to fit over it. Being acrylic, it is also quite warm, which is fine outdoors but inside with stores blasting the heat, it can quickly become too much. Now that I have my own, er..."personal space heater",  I try to dress in layers because it looks nicer than sticking my head into the freezer section at the grocery store to cool off. 

This week we continue to plod through all the readings we need completed by winter break. At some point, I want to watch Lawrence of Arabia with Danny as it fits in nicely with our WWI studies. I can't decide whether to do one long, marathon screening and devote the day to it, or if it would be better over a few days. It is a rather long film. 

The Lebkuchen are baked, and ripening in a tin. Every year I bake them, and every year I swear I will never do it again, as the dough is so soft and fiddly. Still, they are the prettiest thing I bake at Christmas, and they would be missed if I skipped it.  I did (shhh, don't tell) buy two jars of purple cabbage and apples for Christmas as I am trying to cut back on the amount of work I do in December. The ingredient list sounded close to how I'd do it, and the time (and space) required for putting up cabbage each year could be better ultilised elsewhere. I didn't kill myself over Thanksgiving, so it has been a nice four-day weekend to rest ahead of the busy time ahead...which starts...


I (finally) finished making the Christmas cards that need to be sent abroad. The deadline is 2 December. Whew, made it! Now to start the locals. I really didn't think it would get done this year, what with everything going on. In the end, I went for blended crayon rather than pen and ink to save time. Crayon is a bit more forgiving than pen and ink, when working with arthritis, and it blends really well with the help of a stump and good eraser. Looking at places like Pinterest you could easily get the idea that you need expensive materials to make attractive cards, which simply isn't true. Some of the nicest cards I've made have been done with little more than construction paper and a Sharpie. Boxed cards are lovely as well, and I was set to use some of my carefully saved vintage cards this year, but somehow I was able to get it together and do my own. I know the time will come when my hands and brain will no longer even pretend to cooperate, and I can look at old artwork and see the changes (hell, I can look at my handwriting and see it) but for the present, I'll stick to my state of denial, thanks very much. Maybe I can post the cards that went horribly wrong, and won't get sent. I did a nativity scene with a sheep and donkey that looked so sinister I thought they might come to life and eat baby Jesus! I admit, for a moment I tried to come up with a caption for the sheep making jokes to the effect of, "But it says, "manger", non?" But then thought better of it. So the demented animals card isn't getting sent. There were several like that. But hey, that's when you go for stars, and wise men which are nearly impossible to screw up. Maybe I can learn to draw a lamb by Easter.

I guess I'll do a gingerbread house this year. A house, not a cathedral. That was crazy...
 This is what happens when you let a child decide what to make. Oh, he can dream up all sorts of things, but executing his visions takes a bit of work.
That was madness. 
This was last year's effort. I saved the foam board template, so there's a good chance this year's house will be similar. Wait until you see what he requested for his Birthday cake. If you thought the Siege of Troy in cake was challenging (I thought it was challenging, but making a Trojan horse out of cake has some issues requiring generous use of icing sugar and toothpicks) wait until you see this year's historic event in cake. I'm pleased he's well read, until I have to recreate it in cake. 19 days to go-I'm sure I'll figure it out by then. Ten is an important Birthday-after that kids rarely want all the fuss (they just want your money). 

It's the most wonderful time to drink beer  of the year.

Remember kids, keep your distance from moose!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I Have a New Head(er)ache.

It isn't every day you get to put jokes about trepanation on a blog. There are so many medical offices in our neighbourhood-the photo opportunities are endless. 

This little fellow is destined for a "White Elephant" gift exchange because I can't stand looking at him any longer. I bought him as a joke, but now I've had to turn him around in the china cabinet to avoid eye contact.
It was an unseasonably warm 70 degree day, so we headed out to the park to take exercise. Climbing is a good activity, but it does attract some strange looks from children. Maybe they heard the metal creaking beneath him. Those climbing things aren't make for adult weight.

I elected to stand. They weren't getting me up there.

We kicked a ball around for a bit.My feet are still all numb and swollen, so Danny did most of the kicking and running. I sort of nudged it back to him with my toe.

(There is a perfectly acceptable parking lot not two feet beyond where this car decided they were privileged enough to park on the grass. People).
There, he has it under control. It is a strange ball as it has spikes making it easier to kick and catch. 
Mr. ETB can't kick a ball either. We're just not coordinated people when it comes to feet. Give me a video game, or table tennis and it is a different story. I threw shot-put in junior high. Running and kicking a ball? I mean, why?

After all that exercise for my body, I stopped at the library to give the brain a little work out. They were selling off last year's magazines for .10 cents. Now I can get caught up on half a year's worth of Art in America, and The Economist. Hardly pays to subscribe. Sadly, they never sell the copies of the Times Literary Supplement. Shhhh, don't tell Mr. ETB what he's getting for Christmas. If you get the print edition, the electronic back issues are available for just a bit more cost. We had, for several years a large box of back issues in the hall. When we moved from Boston, we gave them to our neighbour who I am sure is still working through them a dozen years later. TLS is the sort of reading your hoard, in the event of a long winter snowed-in, when you've grown tired of reading The Gulag Archipelago. Anyway, shhhh. 

Outfit Particulars:
Absurdly unflattering grey wool walking shorts-Hand-Me-Ups .99cents
Silver belt-Von Maur-ages ago
Clarks shoes-Hand-Me-Ups
Black v-neck-K Mart
Snowflake Brooch-Hand-Me-Ups
Snowflake earrings-K Mart
Marvella Beads-Hand-Me-Ups
Lumberjack jacket-Goodwill
Fragrance-Lentheric, Tweed (I cannot describe how much I am enjoying this perfume. It is even better than I remember it). 

Some readers feel that my bird flipping is on the hostile side. Just to show it isn't, this one is especially for them. 

Peace. And up yours.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Black (Capped Chickadee) Friday

Rather than face the horror that is Black Friday, we headed out early to Fontenelle Forest for bird banding. Have a much nicer than the mall.
Well, perhaps this woodpecker might have preferred the mall. The birds are hanging in laundry sacks waiting their turn for banding.
These are the numbered bands that are affixed to the bird's leg. The very tiny ones on the end would be for something like a junco or sparrow.
Some birds really dislike the whole matter, and screech throughout. Nuthatches and Titmice are the worst. They just scream the entire time. Woodpeckers are a bit more resigned. Usually.
The winds were calm today, and the light was hitting in such a way that the birds couldn't see the net. Unlike days when they're lucky to band a couple house sparrows, today was very productive.
 Nice days like this at the end of November are treasured, particularly as the Midwestern winter drags on and you wonder if the snow will ever melt. We try to take advantage of the pleasant weather whenever possible.

I gave the new hat and scarf from the fibre arts show a wear today.

Outfit Particulars:

Black poloneck-Gordman's
Pleated Skirt-Sears, about 20 years ago
Scarf and hat set-Omaha Weavers Fibre Arts Show 2014
Snowmen earrings-K Mart
Flower-Tiff and Tam
Fragrance-Tweed (Review coming soon. I am IN LOVE!)

 Still no bracelets getting over those wrists, but I'm starting to see the slightest hint of an ankle. Maybe (fingers crossed) the swelling is finally turning the corner).
 I feel like I'm wearing a dresser scarf. A very warm, dresser scarf. I don't think I'll be lacing up skates this winter (though the rink is conveniently located directly across from the emergency room at the medical center)but this would make a lovely skating costume. I'm wearing my red and white pervert-proof undies too (sadly, forgot to take a photo) which seems perfectly seasonal. "Happy Christmas you dirty old perverts!"
I don't know why the snowmen on my earrings look so sombre. It reminds me of the best waterglobe I ever saw. It was a top hat, a carrot and a few pieces of coal floating in water that read, "Texas Snowman." Now that's unhappy.
But not nearly as unhappy as these poor birds. Remember kids, you don't need to put birds through the wash.

Speaking of laundry...
I noticed a pair of underwear hanging from the large tree in back of the house on the neighbour's side yesterday. That must have been one hell of a Thanksgiving gathering.

I hope you have a lovely weekend doing something you enjoy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


This 70's velvet waistcoat has a matching skirt-purchased over 100 miles away. Same maker, same size. I like to think some poor lady went off to Seward and had such an exciting time she forgot to bring home her skirt. Then, of course she had to donate the remaining piece as the set was now useless. Red and brown feel like an authentic colour match though I can't remember wearing it. Red and pink, sure. I do however remember those years well, and being Thanksgiving it seems only fair I share a story from that time. Sherman, set the Way Back Machine for 1977.
If we're going to the mid 70's, better bring along some velvet culottes.

Every few years, my mother would forget that she didn't know how to cook, and invite everyone over for dinner. I should in fairness mention that my mother was, with the exception of her attempts at cookery a rather unflappable woman. She could induce panic in others, but generally she didn't become unhinged at the unexpected. She'd been through so much, so early in life I don't think she could have summoned surprise at anything. That's not to say she didn't have a temper (she did) and god help anyone that got in her path when it was rising. Frustration is quite a different thing from panic and worry though, and the easiest way to induce a rage in my mother was to send her into the kitchen to prepare a meal where everything (more or less) was to be served at (about) the same time. Like Thanksgiving dinner. Or Christmas. Or Sunday afternoon. Or breakfast where all she had to do was make coffee and pour some quick cooking porridge into a pan with water. Timing. Some people have it, mother didn't. Most of the time it didn't matter as we took the majority of our meals out (thankfully Chicago had no shortage of family-friendly dining options) or resorted to that which could be shoved between two slices of bread (American cheese, mostly. Sometimes Brick or Munster if we were feeling exotic). In an early attempt at sculpting (I was about nine), I'd saved up a week's worth of lunches consisting of American cheese on white squishy bread (no mustard or mayo or butter even because that would have required effort) and began working them together like clay, pressing and squeezing them out through a twisted plastic sandwich bag like a chef wielding a pastry tube. Unfortunately, I'd stored my masterpiece of fake cheese and refined flour in my desk and despite the absence of anything you could call organic material in the ingredients, it began to smell. The teacher, ignoring my pleas that I could be the next Salvador Dali, binned my creation. To think I'd gone without lunch an entire week only to see my work callously destroyed. No matter, there would be ample opportunity to rebuild-it wasn't like my mother was going to learn how to cook or sport the 50 cents for a hot lunch at school.

I don't understand why people have such unrealistic expectations of holidays. If you didn't get along before, it won't be any better when everyone's trapped together eating bad food that no one particularly enjoys, but feel compelled to ingest out of some strange allegiance to a cultural tradition. The immigrants in my family always clung the tightest to these traditions which makes sense (they wanted to be here after all), but what was going through everyone else's mind I'll never know. I have never met anyone that likes the green bean casserole. Sure, if it ends up on my plate I'll politely pick at the topping (because fried onions are delicious ) but I've yet to meet anyone that wouldn't prefer a bowl of the fried onions instead. But no, on we forge, Pyrex casseroles defiled with condensed cream of mushroom soup, tinned green beans, and (god help us) water chestnuts if someone was reading the women's magazines. Maybe some pimento-for colour. At some point, when the leftover congealed casserole has been offered yet again at subsequent meals and rejected (Top Tip-it doesn't stand up to much reheating, so just heat what you think you can persuade the suckers your family to eat) it either gets fed to a willing family pet (they just go for the onions as well) or sent off to become part of an American post holiday landfill of candied yams, cranberry sauce, and tinned string beans picked clean of their onion coat. I imagine children sledding down a hill of Thanksgiving leftovers when the first snow covers the dump. Weeeeeee!

Early in the day, before we had a house full of people, my mother went to make something (I think it was a gelatin salad thing, but I can't remember for certain but being Thanksgiving the odds are pretty strong in its favour) and the jar of maraschino cherries she'd purchased for this recipe had been opened, and a couple pieces were missing from the jar. If this were a movie there'd be a dramatic pause here__________.

It wasn't like she'd mentioned to anyone, "I need these for Thanksgiving, so hands off", or left a note on them. No, they sat in the door of the fridge like so many other forgotten pots and jars of pickled and syrup preserved items. Foolishly, I ate a couple at some point. I'd like to say I remember doing it, but I was never terribly attentive when food was concerned. Where my mother and sister meticulously counted calories, I...didn't. Why buy food if you don't expect it to be eaten? It shouldn't have surprised me that my mother had counted the cherries in the jar. I'd keep expecting normal, rational behaviours out of the people around me, and instead I got people that ironed and folded the dust rags, and counted cherries in a jar.

These days, people toss around phrases like, "Frothing rage" lightly. "Oh, I was in a frothing rage when I realised Hy-Vee was out of kale chips!" No, they didn't know the diet-pill fueled madness that was my mother's inability to walk into a project for which she had no skill set, only to find her attempts undermined by a maraschino cherry thief. We all do that-get overwhelmed and look for someone to blame when it all goes to hell. The impulse may be to place blame, but the impulse is overridden by maturity,  it's how we get on with adulthood. Unless you are my mother. Some people like to scream, others slam doors. Still others find their frustration alleviated by throwing/breaking things. If you're my mother, you get all three.

In what was possibly the best punishment I'd ever experienced, I was sent to my room for the duration of the day, and uninvited from the meal. Relatives arrived, a few popped their heads in to check on me (studying for finals in peace and quiet, something not possible at a normal Thanksgiving gathering) but I was largely left alone in my quiet, all but abandoned wing of the house. It was delightful. Best. Thanksgiving. Ever. Still, I wasn't completely free of my mother's wrath. I waited, wondering when she'd get a break from ruining perfectly good food to come and yell at me for anything else.

Late in the evening, my sister knocked on the door with a plate of food and a slice of pie. It was a thoughtful gesture, but my eyes were focused solely on the pie. They had already had dessert and coffee, and people were leaving. I must have let out a tremendous sigh of relief, enough that my sister was concerned I might be ill. I remember slumping in the chair at my desk, and my sister frantically trying to assess what might be wrong with me. I couldn't speak, so immense was my relief from the day-long tension building to tight my shoulders which has been scrunched up by my ears as they are when I'm worried, suddenly gave way, my head rolling backward in what must have looked dramatic. It *was* dramatic-the whole day, and the whole lot of them. It never wasn't dramatic.

They had finished dessert. Pie was served. The whatever with maraschino cherries (minus two) was served. Thanksgiving was over. She served pie, and would never notice that large Sara Lee cheesecake was missing from the freezer.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gag Gift or Fake It, Until You Make It?

Well there's something I didn't know I needed. This isn't just any old fake vomit, but jumbo fake vomit because this is America, and like everything from our SUV's to our cupcakes has to be huge. It's in the Constitution, look it up under Article two, section five, "Fake Vomit Act of 1973". *
Christmas is in full swing before we've hit Thanksgiving. I figured if I was going to get an opportunity to wear this tulip skirt before spring, I'd better hurry. Fa la la la la.
Caught a little elf doing mischief. You know that trick where you stuff tissues into the toe of someone's shoe and watch them try to put their foot in the shoe?
He was steamed like a Christmas pudding!

Here's the .99 cent skirt. It has a very large sweep, so I wore my poofiest petticoat with it. I like it, and I'll wear it, but it was shocking to see how badly made it was. The hem is so poorly stitched it will be down after a few wearings, and the edges of the fabric are fraying. I don't expect finished hems complete with hem tape, but they could do better. Anyway, I won't grumble at .99 cents, but I feel sorry for the person that paid regular price for it retail.

That's three layers of tulle and lace under there. It was a bit long for this skirt, so I rolled it up from the waist. A little bulky, but it worked well enough. Sometimes you have to improvise.

Yesterday, was the annual Omaha Weavers Fibre Arts Show. I came home with alpaca socks, a beautiful scarf and hat, and this little cashmere fellow for Danny...

The bottle of Tweed was a lucky find at the sale next door (the "Bling Art Sale"). I didn't buy any art, but 1/8th ounce vintage perfume oil was a helluva good deal for six dollars. Now I can smell like my Grandmother Alice.
 Later, we found a new Homco Industries friend for the kitchen owls.
 The owl looks displeased with his new wall-mate.

How about a cookbook that looks like it was designed by Lily Pulitzer? 
Oh dear.
 I finally gave my Donegal Tweed jacket a wear this weekend. It is  substantial and could easily replace a coat in all but the worst weather.
 Wearing tweed to the show obviously tricked the Universe into presenting me with a bottle of Lentheric Tweed. Wouldn't it be great if you really could will your thrifting finds to happen? Or the lottery?
Getting dressed since this latest chapter of, "Will it ever be over?" (looking unlikely) has been a challenge. I've had to resort to shoes a size larger to accommodate the swelling, and knee socks to help compress the legs. Nothing, and I mean nothing will make you feel older than comfort shoes and compression socks. Just when I was getting used to things, my arms started to swell (it is obviously working to my head, which I'm told is already swelled so in theory it should all be over soon). And bruise. Pretty much every joint in my body straight to my jaw. I'm not worrying about dressing my jaw because I never smile anyway. Get off my lawn...but first help me pull off this sock. Its kinda tight. I gained five pounds from all the Prednisone and swelling and as far as I can tell it has been about 2 1/2 pounds in each ankle. Now you can get off my lawn.

I got that bracelet off just in the nick of time. A few minutes more and it would have required a saw-that's how fast the swelling has been. If I'd have lost my cinnabar bangle, there would have been some bad language. Anyway, no bangles for a while. 
 I dressed like a woodpecker. Henceforth this Pendelton kilt shall be known as the, "Red Bellied."
Yes, his head IS red, but the Red Headed Woodpecker is different.

Outfit Particulars:

Tulip Skirt-Hand-Me-Ups
Green Top-K Mart
Petticoat-Wahoo Thrift Store
Shoes-some German comfort shoes where the only word in English is, "Survival" printed on the sole. I'm sure Mel Brooks could come up with a joke for that.
Green Coat-Thrift World
Floral hat-Goodwill
Handbag-Jenerations, Crossroads Mall, Omaha

Donegal Tweed Jacket-Hand-Me-Ups
Lurex and angora poloneck-Kohls
Black skirt-Sears (ages ago)
Wool lace-look shawl-Can't remember, had it for ages

Pendelton Red Bellied kilt-Goodwill
Black top-K Mart
Cardigan-Marshall Field's 90's
Stranded pearls-Thrift store in Boston (can't remember)
Snowflake brooch-Hand-Me-Ups
Snowflake Earrings-K Mart

Thanksgiving is Thursday, and that's when our (artificial) tree goes up. It was a good way to keep Danny busy when he was little (and out of the kitchen as I cooked) but we still designate it as decorating day. After that...whoosh! With two holidays, two birthdays, and all the little events in-between (St. Nicholas night, St. Lucia, etc.) it is going to be a race through to January. I'm enjoying my last few days of calm before the storm, and I am still so glad I decided to skip the Christmas cake and pudding this year. With my hands now the size of baseball gloves, I won't be making the Christmas cards this year (I got two done before this started)but 75% of Danny's quilt is done, so when the nonsense subsides, I can do the quilting part in warp speed. I took him to the quilt shop to select the batting, and he went for a good, heavyweight cotton which will age well as it settles in. I hate the way puffy synthetic fibre quilts look, but they are so much faster and easier to quilt. The cotton is nice, any leftovers can be used for some quilted placemats.
I'm also back in my old glasses as I can't tolerate the weight of the others on my face right now. That's OK-they look appropriately festive, even if I don't.

All right peoples, thanks for the patience with my rambly all over the place stream-of-consciousness post (sort of like if Kerouac had lived to blog, but with more fashion, and less travel and cheap wine. Personally, I preferred Burroughs. Now he would have been all over blogging and tweeting. Naked Lunch really should have been a pop-up book. Yeah, I think we need to draw this thing to a close, so...
Have a good Thanksgiving if you celebrate it, and I don't see you before Thursday **

* That's in the super-secret-smart people's Constitution. Not everyone gets to see that.
** For my UK readers, that's when you got rid of be thankful!