Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

For old quotes, look here.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Lean



This morning I woke up weepy, and it hasn't let up.  Every damned thing makes my eyes leak.

I wish I had someone to lean on.

I mean, I have people to lean on, really terrific people who love me and put up with all of my bullshit on a daily basis.

But as wonderful as these good people are, they're not next to me in the small hours when the night is heavy, pressing down on me, stealing my breath and churning my thoughts into a froth of misery.

I wish I had someone to physically lean on.  A shoulder on which to rest my head for a minute when I'm worn out and feel like I can't pick up my basket of stones and carry them one. Step. More.

I'm tired of feeling alone.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Isabelle

Strange days.

Mum called me this evening to let me know that my grandmother passed through the veil at the beginning of the year.

Oddly, Isabelle (known to me as Mimi) has been on my mind of late.  I've been thinking about her, and dreaming about the house that I grew up in, where she and my grandfather lived for most of my young life.  I have been wondering where, and how, she was.

She wasn't kin by blood, but rather by marriage, wed to my grandfather for...umm...a long damn time.

After Papa died, Mimi returned to France and despite my efforts I lost touch with her.  She left our part of the family behind, and it seemed to me like she never looked back.  She moved, moved again, and I never got her new address.  I suppose I could have made more effort - there was a trust, there were lawyers who knew where she was - but why?  She made it clear through her absence and silence that she wasn't interested.  That hurt.  I had to let go.

Still, from time to time I would look for her online, a quick browsing of Google searches giving me nothing.  Last night, Mum found an obituary.

Mum and I talked about her sometimes, she relating news that had filtered to us months or even years after Mimi had come to the US for some reason, or perhaps whispers of where Mimi was living in France, me wondering if she was happy, if she felt loved and was content.  She wondered, once, whether Mimi was even alive.  I told her she'd know when the woman passed - the trustees would be in touch.  We laughed ruefully about that.  As it turns out, no one got in touch.  Mum found the obituary and talked to my aunt, who made some calls and found out what was what.  Without the curiosity and the drive to find out, who knows when we'd have learned of it?

She never told us when she was coming over the pond, and in fact seems to have instructed people who were in the know to NOT tell us.

She lived through the Nazi occupation of France.  She married, came to the US, found that her husband had lied to her about his circumstances and she left him (righteously, IMO), made a life for herself.  She was a terrific cook when she wanted to be.  She taught me to endure and even enjoy all kinds of foods I'd otherwise not have eaten.  From her I learned how to make vinaigrette dressing.  Until I was about 6, I spoke with her in French as easily as English. I can still read and sing in French, although I don't speak it very well any more and my understanding is weak at best.  Google translate has to do a lot of the work for me, these days.

Because of her, I learned exquisite table manners - I can, if pressed, still recall which utensil is for what and I have fond memories of high tea with her.  I still have the eggshell China teacups we used for such occasions. 

She drove like a maniac, but I would sleep in the car without fear.  She hated flying and would take pills and ride the Concord to minimize the horror.

In the evening, she and Papa would watch the news in their living room, and I would sit with her, leaning on her, and she would stroke my head.  She taught me how to pour and appreciate wine.  I can eat just about anything with a knife and fork thanks to her.  At Christmas she would let me set up the nativity scene.

She said horrible things to me with the best of intentions, never knowing how she devastated me.  Some of the the shadow demons with which I do battle sprang from her.

I wasn't much connected to her French family, but I adored one of her nieces (Christine) and found the rest tolerable.

She was a staunch friend and ally to those she loved and believed in.  She was opinionated and acerbic.  Her anger was terrible, her approval rare, her favor much sought after.  No one wanted to be left in the dark, arctic chill of her bad side.
She stuck with my grandfather through his end, and that was no small thing.  I believe that she loved him, and he loved her, even when they didn't see eye to eye (which happened a LOT).  She was relentless in making sure he was well taken care of.  A bulldog on his behalf.  It must have been exhausting.

She wasn't terribly interested in church when I was little, but she was Catholic and became more so as she aged.  I hope her God saw the good in her and let her in to his halls.  There are those who would say she deserved a place in Hell, but I don't think so.  I think she knew enough of Hell here in her earthly life. 

One of the last things I said to her was that she had hurt me, deeply, but that I loved her, and that nothing would change that love.  I meant it then, and ever after.

I hope she remembered that.

There's so much more that I could say, but she was too complex to encapsulate in a blog.

Rest in peace, Isabelle, Mimi, grandmother, force of nature.  Rest in peace.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Yule

It's almost Yule - two days away and I'm almost-but-not-quite ready for it.  Here's the annual repost with alterations to make it current.
~~~~~
Happy Yule, y'all!

Wait, what? Yule - you know...Yule? The holiday that some people celebrated waaayyy before that poor wee baby was supposedly born in a pile of hay? Evergreens ring a bell? Holly? Ivy? Mistletoe??

OK, go get a snack and a nice beverage (eggnog on the right, pink punch in the center, pick a bottle from the high chair to spike it with)(yes, the high chair is our bar - the Evil Genius doesn't need it any more, Sprout has long outgrown the use of it, and it's an heirloom that I want to keep on display - so why not??) and get comfy. All set?

Yule, or Winter Solstice, is a celebration of the returning light.

Yep, it's that simple.

The God is reborn on Yule, and the days will lengthen with his growth, into the fullness of Summer. In some villages, way back in the past, hearth fires would be extinguished (a brave thing when you didn't have Zippos or matches or even two sticks to rub together). They would be relit from brands taken from a community balefire, lit by the sun himself with a little help from some glass (or a hidden coal or two - c'mon, we weren't above a little showmanship, back then), thereby bringing the sun (and, one hoped, his blessings) into the home. It also kept the community united, because everyone shared the same fire, the same light and heat. Cool, huh? Gotta love a religion that encourages playing with fire. Ahem.

The fir tree was (and is) a symbol of life lasting even through death, the promise of life and light renewed, and a reminder that beneath the snow, the Earth-heart beats on. Holly and Ivy were green, too, but they were also symbols of the Green Man, the Forest Lord, Jack o' the Green - the God primeval. The Holly King and the Ivy King, the old and the young, the constant, changing balance. Deep stuff, yo.

Mistletoe is still used in a fairly traditional way, although it wasn't always just kissing done under the stuff. I still use the leaves and occasional berry when I make love bundles for people (Note - a love bundle isn't a love spell, it is meant to strengthen what is already there, not coerce or sublimate the free will of another. I don't DO love spells, so don't even ask.)(I mean it.), and it's a terrific symbol. It was also a fertility and aphrodisiac herb, but only symbolically - even wigged out Druids knew the stuff was toxic!

We light a yule log, in our house one that's cut from the trunk of last year's tree (the rest of which is providing habitat and nutrients in the woods out back). Old tales say if it lights on the first try and burns for twelve hours, we'll have good luck...this year, I'm soaking one end in water, first. What? We need all the good fortune we can get...don't you??

This year, as we do most years, we are spending Yule at Mum's, lighting the burn pile, celebrating the returning light with a little spark of our own. We'll collect some of the ash and bring it home to add to the ash jar and sprinkle around the foundation for a blessing.

Sometimes a group of us will get together and just spend a quiet day nibbling snacks, enjoying each other's company, and taking a break from the holiday insanity out there among the English. If we exchange gifts, we try to make them ourselves, or give things that encourage and nurture our spiritual or creative selves. Things will be a little sparse this year, what with Someone being all in prison and whatnot (in case you didn't know, it can be expensive to have someone in prison, but that's a tale for a later time).  I want the kids to have a nice holiday, and we always have a nice time at Mom's.,Sprout is really excited about the holiday this year, as is the Evil Genius. 

But mostly, it's a celebration of the returning sun, the waxing light, the cycle renewed.

Happy Yule - When the days be cold, may your hearth be warm. When the nights be long, may your fire burn bright. When the wind blows, may you find snug shelter. When tree and field are bare, may your larder be full. May you never know Winter's chill a moment longer than you care to, nor hunger nor want, and should you find you have all that you need and a bit more besides, may you find someone who will gladly take what you offer and live better for the receiving. Blessed be.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Here followeth a Casa de Crazy Thanksgiving Day Tradicion:

We hope you have a pleasant, tasty, mellow, comfortable, not-at-all-contentious Thanksgiving day if you are in the USA and an all around good one if not in the USA.

Here's the link of you want to view full screen:  Alice's Restaurant

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Thankful

I have a few traditions on Thanksgiving. Not many - the menu, recording the Macy's parade so I can watch it and fast-forward through all the crappy pop music, commercials, and talking heads to see the twenty minutes of balloons, floats and high school bands I'm interested in hidden among all that junk  (although I will have to forgo that pleasure, this year, alas, unless Mom remembers to record it for me to peruse at her house another time), and my list of some things for which I am thankful, in no particular order and in no way complete:

The house in which I live
The Evil Genius
Mum
Sprout
Gypsy, K2, Mizz A, Kit, Sam-I-Am, PJ, Mizz Beth, Martha 'n' Milo, Avalon, and all of my friends who put up with me when I am most myself and therefor least likable. They are the net beneath me when I fly and fall
Bread
The scent of leaf loam and woodsmoke in the crisp autumn air
Books, music, and art
Clean, plentiful water
Clean air
Clean clothes
Freedom
Nature and the way she finds to show me something new of herself every day
Words
Song
Dance
Adversity, that joy is all the sweeter (Okay, okay, the joy is sweet enough, so basta with the adversity for a minute, please)
Every creature and plant that I consume to sustain myself, because without the life I take, I would have no life to live
Love - that it exists at all is a wonder, and I feel blessed to know it in many forms
Chocolate, gift from the Gods (yes, even the perversion called "candy bar") (Mmm...candy bar...)
Honeycrisp Apples
Strong hands
Strong spirit
Strong will
Laughter
Cussed determination not to curl up and die just because life can sometimes be a succession of truly awful, bleak, and desolate days...but sometimes it isn't
The Internet
You

I hope you have a blessed day, and that you the things you're thankful for outweighing the things for which you're not.

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all, from us at Casa de Crazy to you out in the Blue Nowhere and beyond.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thanksgiving Cookery

Every year I post the menu for out Casa de Crazy Thanksgiving extravaganza and every year I wonder why I don't just cut and paste from last year because it very rarely changes.

Oh, the people change, and the weather, but what goes down in the kitchen and gets laid upon the table are as reliable as...well...something very reliable.

I also wonder if anyone cares, but I kind of get a kick out of seeing what y'all are doing and I like to share, so without further ado, here're the eats for Thursday's T-Day dinner:

Turkey, a 13+ pounder this year because we have a couple of extra guests.

Dressing.  Not stuffing.  I like the stuff the gobbler with herbs and use the pan drippings for the gravy, so it's dressing.  No one has complained, yet.

Mashed potatoes (Mum usually helps with these and I let her because she is Mum and you don't tell Mum "no" when she wants to help with the taters).

Gravy, of the home made variety.

Green Beans.  Just plain old steamed green beans.

Seared Corn because I wanna.

Mashed Turnips and carrots, because Mum and I adore them and they're pretty in the fancy, cut glass bowl.

Can-o-Cranberry, because cranberry that isn't can shaped ain't right.

Desserts include Chocolate Silk Pie and Dutch Apple Crumb Pie made just for us by Marie Callender (her pie crusts are way better than mine and I'm fine with letter her do all the work) and Mrs. Smith, and a Key Lime Pie with a shortbread crust (crust store bought, pie made here).  Also Ice Cream and coffee.  And Tums.  Lots of Tums.

Whew, I am full already.  How 'bout you - what's traditional at your Thanksgiving dinner?  What's your favorite savory?  Favorite sweet?

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Counting Down

It is Saturday of Thanksgiving week and there is much happening here at the Casa.

The kids and I are terrorizing the cats...er...tidying up a bit.  Poor Casa de Crazy is a right mess as a result of some serious depression, chaos, and stress, and it WILL BE CLEAN for Thanksgiving.  Or, at least, the parts our guests will see will be clean.  I hope.

This is a somewhat traditional post for me - every year I write a little something about this week, as it is the lead-off to The Silly Season and often one of my busiest here at the Casa.

So, here we go.

Saturday (today) - Bread baking for the dressing, and housekeepery. Oh, lort, the housekeepery.  Also washing all of the dishes, bowls, and platters for Thursday 
since they're the "good" dishes* and sit all year until I pull them out for Thanksgiving.

Sunday - More housework.  Lort, the housework.

Monday - cleaning, cleaning, more cleaning (I move slowly, the Casa is enormous, and I am not a good housekeeper so when we DO clean, it's a job).  Grocery shopping, because theres nothing like looking for obscure ingredients at the last minute.  Panicking about the butter - is two pounds enough for the day?  Gah!  Making sure the table linens are washed and ready to use and pulling out the "good" flatware**.

Tuesday - Quilt guild and pie baking.

Wednesday - helping Mom set up for the Mistletoe Market and making mashed turnips and carrots ahead of time.

Thursday - 
Turkey goes in to bake.  Dressing goes in to bake.  Green beans are steamed.  Corn is seared.  Finishing up any last minute cleaning.  Children are shooed outside to frolic.  Friends and family trickle in.  Set the table.  Fill the water pitcher.  Watch TV and baste the turkey.  Make food, food, more food.  Serve.  Eat.  Coma.  Dessert and coffee/tea.  More coma.  Play games.  Pack leftovers to go for guests.  Eat more.  Sleep well.

Friday - NO SHOPPING!!!  There may,however, be cookie baking.  Lots of cookie baking.  Certainly lots of leftovers eating and probably some Netflix watching.  Almost certainly crocheting.  Possibly attending a friend's workshop presentation.

Saturday - Start figuring out Yule stuff, maybe start addressing holiday cards, helping Mom with the Mistletoe Market.

Sunday - More Mistletoe Market, then packing it up.
How is your week shaping up?

*These are dishes that Mum and I bought one piece at a time from a grocery store a long, long, looooong time ago.  Service for fourteen including serving dishes, either free or bargain priced with purchase of a certain amount of groceries.  I love them.  Not fancy, but pretty and simple and I like them.

**Not sterling, but some rather lovely and solid stainless steel flatware from the Oneida Company, back when there was a Betty Crocker catalog and we clipped Betty Crocker points from boxes and saved them in a tin on top of the refrigerator.  Service for twelve, and some day I hope to expand it and add more serving pieces and other cutlery, but that'll have to wait a bit because it's a discontinued pattern and getting the pieces I'd like to have will cost a small fortune.  I adore my pattern, bought a few pieces at a time through the mail with little bits of cardboard and postage paid.