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.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Brought to me by...

...Google and the people who use it to search for things. I had a long day, so I borrowed a page from several other blogs I read and scoped out the words people were searching that brought them to my blog. Below are the top eight, and the first thing that came to mind when I say them.

1. easter painting me do it
Aww, Cookie Monster wanted to dye some eggs, too!!

2. ostara jung
In which colored eggs become universal symbols of our collective unconscious. Or they shrink. Whatever.

3. gifts from the water movie

4. putting my clams in salt water with corn
Sweetie, I wouldn't exactly advertise that on the Internet...

5. burger paints shade card
Uhh...what??? How on earth did someone find me with this?? Do I really want to know??

6. st. cupcake saigon cinnamon rolls recipe
I don't know who St. Cupcake is, but if s/he stole my cinnamon roll recipe, I want credit!!!

7. i am feeling a little horse
As long as the horse doesn't mind...

8. saigon cin
I just have this mental picture of someone looking for a porn site called "Saigon Sin" and being so very disappointed...

More Later...

I am in a rush - mum had to put one of her/my cats to sleep today, and I am pausing here only long enough to explain why there's nothing new this morning. He was one of my "familiars", and I need to go help her bury him.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Swimming in the Deep End Again

I have a scar. Well, I have quite a few, actually, but this particular scar is attached to a panoply of memories. I seem to be lingering in Little Compton at the moment(My Aunt S has written me about my posts, and she refers to it as "LC", and I may start doing the same since it's a handful to type). I lived there, or nearby, for perhaps the first eight years of my life, then moved to Florida, then back to New England, dividing my time between LC and New Hampshire before finally moving down here to Georgia, where I have hunkered down to bide my time until I take over the world, win the lottery, figure out what I want to be when I grow up live. I have been in Georgia for more than half of my life, but it seems to be what came before that has marked me the deepest (in more ways than one).

So, about this scar. It's a small one, almost invisible after all this time. I believe I was all of seven when I got it. I'm a bit muddled about the time, but I hope I may be forgiven - it was a very long time ago, and the scar was caused by a somewhat traumatic event.

I was at my grandparents' house at the time. We often spent time there, sometimes living there between homes when mum was still sorting herself out. Give her a break - they had a fantastic, huge, beautiful house that could easily hold us without ever noticing we were there, and she was trying to raise two kids by herself. My grandfather had a boat. He always had a boat - once, when I was in my teens, he even bought a speed boat and named her for me, a signal honor in our family. It was his way of telling me he was proud of me and he loved me, and definitely not a commentary on the size of my ass. Poor Papa, he tried to teach me to water ski with that boat, but the silly skis kept falling off my feet! It had nothing to do with my weak arms and general lack of grace and athletic ability. Nope. It was the skis. Back to the scar.

On the day in question, my mum was out on the boat with Papa, Mimi, and some friends of the family - adults only, so all of us kids stayed behind. I was disappointed because I loved going out on the boat, at that time a Chris Craft somethingorother Cruiser thing. Hey, I was a kid, give me a break. Much as I loved the boat, to me it was just a boat - something to motor out into deep water on, jump off of and clamber back onto, and watch the occasional Tall Ships parade (do boats parade??) and Blue Angels or Thunderbirds show from. And oh, the picnics we had, and the swims, and the wind and sun and air and motion. Ahh. When I win that dadblasted lottery, I am getting a sail boat. With someone to drive it. Yes, I know you don't drive a boat, you skipper it, but I don't care. I shall have a skipper and the boating equivalent of a handsome cabana boy. Yep. Sorry, gone are my days of sailing out along on a little Sunfish without a worry...at least, for now. Where was I?

Oh, right. So on this particular day it was my older brother C, myself, and the B's son A (All these letters are confusing, I know, but I simply won't refer to people by name unless they give permission first). It was a lovely day, and we were playing outside the house. Inside were L, the housekeeper who was so much more, and I think also M (housekeeper and cook), but I only remember L. She was houkeepering away in that humongous house, and the three of us kids were outside. C and A were playing off in one part of the yard, and I was wandering aimlessly about talking to myself, or singing to myself, or staring at things, or whatever it was I did those days. Probably mumbling or singing, those seemed to be my favorite pastimes when I wasn't buried in a book, attempting to become entirely a fish, sucking at tennis, or trying very hard not to fall off a horse. As I was wandering about the yard, I passed close to a clump of trees where C and A were playing...something. Honestly, I never did really know what they were playing - they were eight and probably at something violent or destructive.

Out from the center of the clump of trees came a dire warning - I should go away and leave the boys alone or something would happen. Oh, yes, terrifying! This clump of trees was just past one end of the laundry lines, and I believe some mention of a ghost was made - likely a ghost made up of little boy and linens (which would make L cross, but really, do kids care about how difficult it is to do laundry??) I kept up my meandering, largely ignoring the boyish protests of my slight female presence. I don't recall actually wanting anything to do with them, their "fort" just happened to be along my way. Suddenly, out from the trees burst A, bearing a spear!!

No, not really a spear. It was one of those old-fashioned tomato stakes, those square wooden poles that went into the ground and you tied your tomato plant to it to keep the thing upright, because tomato cages hadn't been invented yet or weren't widely used, or perhaps Mimi thought they were plebeian. I have no idea. I know she gardened for a while, but stopped for some reason.

Sidebar: I used to have a recurring dream about falling into a post-hole dug for a fence going around the miles-long garden. In the dream I would fall into soft, dark earth, could smell the loamy richness of it, could see the sky above as a little round button of blue. A post would come down on top of me, but I never worried much about that - somehow I knew I'd be missed before they shoveled too much earth back into the hole. How odd, the things children dream.

Back to the whole reason I started this post. Out popped A with a spear!! He arghed at me and began to chase me about the vast lawn. In those days, there was a half-circle drive surrounding the house and separating it from the bulk of the lawn. The drive was lined on the side away from the house with very tall, very old fir trees of some variety. They shielded the house from us, and vice versa, so no one saw A chasing me. I do not remember if C was also giving chase, but I think it likely. A was the one armed, though, and so he was the one I ran from. I thought he was playing, teasing me, so I didn't run very hard, and ended up cornered against one of the grand trees lining the drive. There, A menaced me, shaking the spear and generally being a little boy.

Imagine his surprise, and mine, when the thing slipped from his hand and smacked me right in the face with enough force to knock me back into the tree. Oops.

I believe he ran. I am sure C ran. I don't know what I did at first. I remember the "spear" hitting me, the sound of the thunk, something crunching...and then...

And then I was somehow on the other side of that tree (perhaps I teleported? Wouldn't that be something!) and stumbling across the driveway to the front door. I had a hand pressed to my face and couldn't see very well because I may have been crying. I hope that lapse in dignity may be forgiven, considering the circumstances. Up the lovely old stone steps to the slate patio, then up the wooden steps to the house, trying not to drip on anything - at the ripe old age of six or seven, I knew that blood stains and Mimi would be very angry if I stained anything.

Somehow, the screen door opened, and the front door, and then I was in the entry room. Then the front hall. If you every knew me in when I lived there, you are walking with me, I'm sure, into that fine old Georgian Revival house. Left into the sitting room and then through the dining room, the pantry (how I wish I had a pantry like that, now, a whole room to keep dishes and food in, with a sink and a WC and all that cupboard and counter space!) and finally into the kitchen, where I found L at the butcher's block.

Another sidebar: I have that butcher's block table now, and it's my house altar. I keep Papa's old Zippo lighter in is, among other things, and it's one of the things I would try to get out if my house was burning down around me...right after the humans and the cats and Bob the Wonder Computer.

L was, I think reading or something, because she didn't know what was wrong at first. When she looked up, I imagine she saw a bleeding, crying little girl who was struggling not to bleed on anything that made up the actual house, which left my clothing, hands, and the possibility of levitating the blood until an appropriate receptacle could be found. Somehow I managed not to bleed on anything until I got to the kitchen, if you can believe that!

At some point, my brother made it onto the scene, because after a moment of horrified observation, L ordered him to fetch a towel from the linen closet one floor up. A hand towel or a wash cloth, I think. He brought one and I refused it because it was one of the good ones, and didn't he know Mimi would be mad?? Really, priorities, C, priorities! Off he ran, up the back stairs to fetch a less "nice" towel, which L then used to try and wipe me down (hoping, I am sure, that it was simply a really vicious mosquito bite or something) and then wetting it and filling it with ice.

She called an ambulance when she noted the extent of the injury, and I don't know if I told her then or later what had actually happened.

I got to ride up front in the ambulance, and all I remember about the ride was they were very nice men and you can't see very well through an ice-filled washcloth. I believe I may have asked if I could make the lights and siren go.

At the hospital or medical center or wherever they took me, L told me not to let the doctor touch me. Much later in life, I found out it was because he was an intern who'd been there who knows how many hours, and she didn't want him stitching me up and making a huge scar. She was concerned for my future, and possibly also that Mimi would skin her alive for letting this happen in the first place (as if it was her fault!!) and then for letting some quack make me into the Bride of Frankenstein. AT the time, all I knew was I was on a hard surface staring into a bright light with a gently throbbing face and the nagging feeling that I'd done something wrong and was going to be in trouble. And when the doctor wanted to stitch me up, I told him he wasn't allowed because L said so, until she informed me that this doctor could.

I went cross-eyed trying to watch him work. He wanted me to close my eyes, but I wanted to see what he was doing. By the way, I am still that way - I would have remained awake for the removal of the amazing exploding appendix surgery, but the nice surgeon didn't really like the idea of a pregnant woman staring at him while he worked around her womb. Silly fellow.

I had seven stitches that day, making a jagged but really hardly noticeable scar on the bridge of my nose. I distinctly recall the doctor remarking on my incredib;e luck, that ducking or flinching even the slightest bit would have left me with one eye and the nickname of "Winky" for the rest of my days. OK, he didn't say the "Winky" bit, but it would have been funny if he did.

It never hurt. Not when the spear hit me, not when I was wandering dazed through the house, not when I was on that cold metal table and they were jabbing numbing needles into it and picking out splinters. Not after, either. This, too, has carried into my adult life. Things don't hurt me the way they ought, and I am grateful, because when I do notice pain, I find I disapprove of it entirely.

Things are a bit of a blur after that, until later when the adult boating party returned. Did L call them? Was it simply time? I don't know. There weren't cell phones, then, so if she called them it was through the marine radio or the Coast Guard or something. I think my mum knew right when it happened, in that mummish way they have. We have.

At any rate, I pled with A's mum and dad not to spank him - he'd had splinters in his hand from trying to hold onto the thing, and he felt awful, and I think I may have had a tiny little crush on him (he was, and is, a real cutie) as well as a healthy fear of spankings for anyone. I made them promise, and who can deny a crying, bloodied, stitched up, bruised little girl? They promised, and A never had a spanking over it, and many years later he'd forgotten entirely about it until I reminded him - and suddenly he knew why he felt ill a the sight of blood!

After the adults came home, they asked me what I wanted to help me feel better. I was no fool - even if I didn't feel wretched, I could work this! I asked if we could please, pretty please, go to the T&C (the Town and Country, a sort of LC road house/bar/eatery)(remember that place, LCers??) for steamers. Please? Oh, I loved their steamers! Of course we went. All of us, because nothing would do for me but that A and his family came too - I think his parents really wanted to take him home and lock him in the dungeon, but again, they couldn't deny me. Manipulative little wench, wasn't I?

At the T&C, I ate steamers by the millions, drank more Shirley Temples than I'd ever had in one sitting before, and danced with Papa. Yes, danced.

It was the one time in my life I felt good dancing. I felt like a princess. My big, handsome, beloved grandfather took me out onto the old wooden floor after feeding the jukebox, and let me dance with him - he put my feet on his and he did all the work, but I was dancing. I've never felt so loved, safe, or protected since. My brother and A were playing pinball and largely ignoring and being ignored by the party, but Papa was dancing me and that was just fine.

I have a scar. It's not too noticeable, but it's there for all to see, and it's not pretty either. But that scar? Oh, it has some beautiful things to remind me of.
Scars are just tattoos with better stories! But tattoos don't require a medicare bond. Still a scar can make you look mysterious, and they do have good stories!

The Community We Build

Blogs are such amazing tools. Yes, they provide a place to vent, to share, to giggle, but most importantly? They provide a place to connect. Humans, even loners and misanthropes, need connection. Blogs let us connect without having to leave home and make ourselves more vulnerable than we want to be. How grand is that? Want to talk to folks about your love of classic cars? Go for it - someone out there will read you, understand you, and make the connection. Angry about politics? Boy, have we got some blogs for you!! I know that, through e-mail, I connect with women from all over the world. I have friends (yes, friends - I love these women just as well as if we lived next door instead of never having met) in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, many of the United States, and all over Europe. We support each other through rough times, share our laughter and heartache equally, give each other the heads up on new products, laws, people, and places. We are a parenting resource for each other, and I know I've told them many times over the years that they are welcome in my house if they need a place for a day or a year. When I win the lottery, I'm buying a bus, painting it up in crazy beautiful colors, and going on a tour to finally, finally meet all these amazing, inspiring, and deeply moving woman. Heh, several of them are even blogging now so we have the double connections of e-mail and blog space.

Through blogging, I have "met" some terrifc folks, men and women both, who are as much a part of my daily life as breakfast is. And you should know from reading my posts about cooking, I don't often miss breakfast! Some of them are listed over to the right, if you're interested.

So I was reading Mommy Wants Vodka (I just can't bring myself to refer to people casually by name when we haven't met in person - how old-fashioned am I??) and she has this post up, which led me to page-hop a bit to check out and ultimately donate money to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Sniff. They're beautiful. This? Is building a community, making those precious connections, finding a need and meeting it. This is humanity finding a way to shine, despite how weary we are, despite how isolated we are, despite how pessimistic we have become as a race.

In a semi-related bit of news, Georgia has been considering the "No Heartbeat" Act, an act that would permit mothers of stillborn infants to receive birth certificates for their little ones. I am not surprised as much as horrified that they've been denied this simple, compassionate thing that acknowledges they carried a life, they labored, and they delivered body if not soul.

SB 381 was heard on March 28 in the Rules Committee meeting, and I don't know if it passed...but I hope, oh, I hope it did. I know it's only a bit of paper...but even if it said "Certificate of Still Birth" instead of "Certificate of Live Birth", it could help give some closure.

I know, I know, giving birth certificates to non-viable fetuses (one of the terms I've heard used for stillbirths, isn't it just awful??) could open up a can of worms for all sorts of other issues I won't discuss here, but I just can't seem to indulge in my doom-and-gloom tendencies with this. It's about compassion, about love, and about recognizing that there are women (and men) who grieve deeply and might find a bit of peace having that simple official recognition of their labor and loss. We are a world of documentation, of "official" existence, and there are those who crave that for their lost loves as well. What good comes of denying them this small solace??

I added a link to Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep over to the side, if you're interested. I've never lost a pregnancy, having just had the one, but I hurt all the way down to the bone over other women's losses. I feel them keenly, and I mourn. All the hope, fear, and love that comes with being pregnant doesn't just go away when the child is born still and silent. Imagine going through that labor, that strain, pain, indignity, only to have loss and sorrow at the end of it instead of a wriggling, squalling, amazing bit of wonder. Imagine having to tell people who ask after the baby, opening up that wound over and over again. The very least a mum should have is that stupid certificate saying that the government, that the legal community, recognizes that she went through that, and maybe a few sweet, beautiful, poignant photographs to put in the album that won't hold anything else. Is it really too much to ask??

How's this for synchronicity? As I was writing this, I got another bit of semi-related news - my preemie nephew is now up to two pounds, twelve ounces!!! His mum has finally been able to hold him!! He is breathing on his own, and they've decided not to transfer him to another hospital because by the time he met that hospital's criteria for transfer...he could just go home!!!! Keep up the good work, little guy...I'm banking on you being a six foot, three inch tall pain in the ass for your parents one day!

Welcome to blogopolis, the community we're constantly evolving.

I am so proud...

...of my fellow earthlings. I didn't mention it anywhere here because I actually forgot (!) but last evening was "Earth Hour", an hour following sunset when people were urged to turn off their lights and non-essential electronics for at least an hour. It started in New Zealand and followed the setting sun around the globe.

I am always a bit skeptical of these sorts of things - people talk a good line but are often unwilling to inconvenience themselves (unless they are Ed Begley, Jr., in which case they seem eager to make their lives as difficultly green as possible while grinning maniacally)(Thanks, Ed., for caring about the air my son will breath - you know I loves ya)(But really, a bicycle powered toaster??). I have believed for many years now that the only way we will reduce waste in our consumer-driven nation is to make is fun and simple. Turning off the lights can be fun, and I am always well supplied with candles. Who doesn't like some candle light? Besides the Phantom of the Opera, and really I think it's more the torch variety he has an aversion to. Turning off the lights for relatively short time is also simple. Flip a switch, done. It doesn't require any fancy gadgets, gizmos or installations; no wiring, adapters, or waiting for the sun to shine (although around here, with the drought and all, that's hardly a problem).

Earth Hour was a good start. I wonder if we can make it a monthly, weekly, or even (dare I dream?) daily thing. Imagine all those families, friends, neighbors, sitting down to talk, to drum, sing, light a bong pipe and get to know each other again (or for the first time), playing board games, removing themselves from the boob-tube and setting their minds free to frolic in thought.

Oh, the people who produce TV channels could help. They could leave an hour blank in their schedules. Just show...nothing. Or run a roll of stock footage of wildlife scenes. Or maybe not, because then I might want to watch it. Instead, maybe run clips of the different presidential candidates looking particularly unattractive. That shouldn't be too hard, really - in my opinion, most politicians look like the northbound end of a southbound warthog. One having a particularly unpleasant digestive experience. Must be all that escaping gas. Ah hah! The politicians should have to clam up for Earth Hour, too! Think of all the hot air we'd be spared. Of course, they might explode from all that build-up, but that's a risk I'm willing to take - aren't you?

I read a nice story about the hour without power and all the different places that took part. In Ireland, the government made it all official-like, sending out notices and dimming lights in government buildings. For safety's sake, the pubs kept lit (hah!) - really, drunks in the dark are such a disaster waiting to happen. Cheers, Ireland!

In Australia, government and landmark buildings went dark - even the lovely, soaring Sydney Opera House hunkered down with its own thoughts for an hour! Good onya, mates!

Chicago doused the Hancock Center and Wrigley field's marquee along with a number of other buildings - I hope my cousin J took part in all that! Thanks, you guys!

The Golden Gate went dark, and people dined by candle light for a while in San Francisco. Thanks, folks!

Athens in Greece put out the lights in City Hall and parts of the city. Opa!!

The Buddhist temple in Bangkok became one with the night. Om, truly.

Some castles in Sweden and Denmark went all medieval for a while. Danka, babies!

London City Hall and Canterbury Cathedral, take a bow for taking part!

Google, you have earned a place on the honor roll for turning your pages black and encouraging folks to do the same with their homes and businesses - turn 'em dark!!

Now for the shame, shame, shame. Shame on France (why am I not surprised?), Germany, Spain, and a fair portion of the EU for doing nothing. That's right, nothing - nothing to mark a global effort to at least show awareness of our community, of our need to conserve, keep it clean, think about the generations who will inherit our mess. Shame, shame, shame!!

If you took part in this grand global experiment, thanks. Thanks for making it quiet and giving us back the night sky for an hour. Let's do it again tomorrow, OK??

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cinnamon rollin', rollin', rollin'...

My sister-in-law is coming by tomorrow for breakfast, and she asked if I'd make cinnamon rolls. She hasn't had them yet, but she's been keen to give them a try since I mentioned learning to make them at Christmas. I figured, why not? And, I get a blog post out of it, too, so...bonus!! Here, then, is the recipe for the cinnamon rolls I've written about before.

The Cast:
1 ½ Pkgs dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (100 – 110 degrees F)
½ cup shortening (I have much love for those newfangled pre-measured Crisco bricks)
1/3 cup sugar
1 ½ tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
4 – 5 cups sifted flour
One stick melted butter (not shown)
brown sugar
raisins (optional)

For the glaze, if you want it (I make it and serve it on the side, because I don't want it but T and J do):

2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 – 4 Tbsp milk or cream , or OJ if you feel adventurous

Let's get a move on, there's a lot to do! (Not really, but this does take some time)

Scald the milk (I have no idea how this is properly done - I heat it over medium for a few minutes, until I poke my finger in and say "Dang, that's hot!" As long as it doesn't boil, it's OK); pour over the shortening. Add sugar and salt and cool to tepid. I smush it with a spoon so the shortening will melt better, but I'm impatient that way. Look:
While the milk, shortening mess is cooling, add the warm water to the yeast and soak for ten minutes. Here it is, just getting into its bath:
Leave it alone for that ten minutes - it's getting all bubbly and good, burping up a storm, and you really want it to be rude. The ruder, the better. After ten minutes, you have something like this:
Mmm, all bubbled and foamy.

Now, while the yeast is yeasting and the shortening stuff is cooling a bit, you can do something else. Maybe write the Great American Novel, clean the cat box, or get distracted by your son when he proudly announces he did this in the hallway:
Send the Evil Genius to his room, confiscate the dry-erase markers that really, really don't come off the wall even with a Mr. Clean magic sponge, shake your head and wonder where you went wrong while trying to figure out how you can parlay this into an entirely repainted interior. He's never done this before - he's allowed to write on the alls in his room but nowhere else, and he knows it. Honestly, kids and their boundary issues.

Now, back to the cinnamon rolls.

When the shortening mixture is room temperature, add the dissolved yeast and beaten egg. Add four cups flour one at a time, beating after each addition.
I use the dough hook for the whole procedure and add each lot of flour when the last one is roughly mixed in.
Almost there. When it forms a nice ball and lifts off with the hook, it's about ready:
If it sticks to your hands like no substance you've ever encountered before, prompting a distressed cry to anyone nearby for help in removing the stuff before your fingers are forever cemented together, you need to add more flour. Not too much, though, or you'll have cement rolls, which is more of a gardening project.

Dough should be soft yet firm enough to handle. Turn out onto a floured board:
Knead until elastic and smooth. I couldn't take a picture of that part because I needed both hand to knead. Avoid too much flour. Turn dough into well oiled bowl. I didn't realize until too late that I didn't have any oil (I forgot I used it all up for the Bannock) so I had to use my roommate's butter flavored spray oil, that's why it looks so yellow. I hope it doesn't effect them adversely.
Cover the bowl loosely with plastic and let it rise for 1 ½ hours.
Really walk away. Resist the urge to stare at the wonderful yeasts as they party like it's nineteen-ninety-nine or whatever they do while they multiply, burp, and make the gas bubbles that give us light, fluffy doughs and help make bread the worst wonderful thing on a carb addict's radar. Resist the urge to poke the dough and watch it dent. Go. Knit a cat cozy. Quilt a house. Take a nap. Dust. Explain to your Evil Genius why he is now spending the rest of the evening in his room, because he has cried himself into a state and can't remember his mural in the hall. Just leave it alone for the minimum time. If your house is cold or the AC suddenly went crazy, it may take longer. Let it double in size before you go all Attila the Hun on it, please. You'll thank me.

Press dough down and divide into workable size - I divide it in half . Roll dough out into a rectangle. Cover with half the melted butter. Layer with a generous thick layer of brown sugar and watch it soak up those butter puddles. Holy cow. Sprinkle on cinnamon as desired. I desire a lot of cinnamon. A whole lot. Buckets, tonnes of the stuff.
I press mine out by hand on Release foil because a) my rolling pin is afflicted with some kind of white, crusty pox that frightens me, and b) the release foil means I don't have to flour the very warped wooden board to keep the dough from sticking when I want it to roll nicely.

Add raisins, if desired. I desire. T and J don't. In the spirit of compromise (and the vain hope they'll one day do the cleanup for these) I do one lot with, and one without. Pretty, pretty raisins:

Roll up jelly-roll fashion.

I know it isn't pretty, neat and tidy - I'm not a professional chef. If you want one of those, go watch Food Network. Iron Chef, whee. Oh, and isn't Guy Fieri just the cutest??

Using scissors or string, cut into slices of 1 – 1 ½ inches thick. I like the scissors, and I use my thumb as a measure - the length from the first knuckle to the tip is a good thickness for me.Place slices in a greased eight or nine inch cake pan (8 – 9 to a pan).
Press rolls down to even out and fill the pan. I also collected all the yummy cinnamon-sugar-raisiny stuff that fell out during cutting process and sprinkled it on top, because really, why not?
Let them rise until the rolls fill the pan generously, about another hour. I'm sorry, I don't have a picture of that - they are still rising, and I don't want to bother them. Don't be afraid to give them a little extra time - all they'll do is get fluffier. I've read about one woman who leaves them overnight, but I'm a little scared of what I'll find in the morning to do that. Leave them alone while they rise. This is a fine time to go try and get that dry-erase marker off the wall with some rubbing alcohol. Or mix yourself a drink - but not with the rubbing alcohol!!

After this, you have a choice - you can get right to baking or you can cover and refrigerate the dough to bake the next day. I am making these the night before because I don't like anyone well enough to get up at the ungodly hour needed to make these for breakfast. Really, I bet I wouldn't even do that for my mum, and you know how much I love her!

If you chill them overnight, get them out about half an hour before you want to actually bake them. On the bottom rack of your oven, place a baking dish into which you will then pour an inch or so of boiling water. Place the uncovered rolls on the top rack and close the door. They've had a cold night, and a sauna is just the thing to make them feel light-hearted again.

After about twenty minutes or so, remove rolls and baking dish of water and preheat the oven to 350 F.

Bake at 350 about fifteen to twenty minutes. Do not over bake!

Remove immediately from pan by inverting pan onto a plate. Some folks then tip them onto another plate, but I leave them upside down so all that gooey, sugary goodness can run down into the cracks and - dear Goddess, thank you so much for the wonders of brown sugar and butter and caremelization!

While the rolls are baking, place sugar, butter, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Stir in enough milk, cream, or OJ to reach a thick, hardly-able to stir consistency (I actually make mine a bit thinner, more like a glaze). Add some cinnamon if you want, or nutmeg, or ginger, or any other thing your heart desires. Spread over warm rolls as soon as they are plated, allowing frosting to melt over the edges and into the rolls. Or serve it on the side so everyone can frost/glaze to their own tolerances.

There is nothing low fat about these. They will perch on your hips and stay there, thumbing their noses at your pathetic efforts to dislodge them with the stairmaster, the treadmill, or the elliptical machine. I recommend a hearty nap after eating them. Being horizontal seems to even out the distribution. I have relegated these to the files of "things I only make once or twice a year because I'd like to live past middle-age, thank you very much". They are so worth it, though.

I'll post pictures of the finished product tomorrow, after I've recovered.

More of Yesterday

It's the Stone House, again. My Aunt S read my post Waxing Nostalgic and sent me an e-mail about the Inn. She live in Little Compton, too, across the road and down the bumpiest, stoniest, potholiest, bush-linededest (shut up, it is too a word!) driveway you've ever seen. Really, it was amazing - mountain goats didn't want anything to do with that driveway! As I recall, she left it that way because it kept people from bothering her - only the really determined made it to the house. Most of the time with all their teeth intact, too! I used to ride my bike down there to visit. I had a bottom of iron.

My Aunt reminded me of something I knew but forgot to remember - the Stone House Inn was sold last Spring. Throughout my childhood, it was an Inn with a taproom/restaurant in the basement (during prohibition it was a speakeasy!). When my grandmother determined that I "weren't right in the head" (I do love Southernisms)(she would never have used such poor grammar, and she wasn't Southern, but it's my blog and I'll write what I like. Take that, proper English!) she sent me to the owners of the Stone House, who were not only friends of the family but counselors. I have no idea if they were actual shrinks, but I was all of thirteen or so and didn't know to ask. They were nice enough, but they were her friends, and so suspect. I always felt they reported back to her what I'd said. Paranoid, much? It was justified, I think, because she always seemed to know things that I'd only told them. Hmm.

One of my favorite things about the Stone House was the widow's walk up top. You can just make it out in the picture. I would ride my bike down there and pop into the lobby to snag some of the giant buttermints they kept in a jar on a table by the door. I loved those mints, and would usually take a pocketful, if no one was watching. Then, up the spiral stairs...

...and up, and up, until I was in the attic. There was a skinny sort of stairway, and a trap door, and then I was on the walk! Now, I wasn't really a fat little butterball, despite my grandmother's insistence to the contrary, but that skinny stairway was a tight squeeze! It was a bit like being born up into the sky, climbing up there. When we visited last July, the walk was closed to the public, so I don't have any pictures from up top. It didn't look as sturdy as it was when I was a kid, either. It's funny...I am fearful of heights but I'd go up on that roof in an instant to look out at the water. I was a little sad that we couldn't go up, but we're not "family" now - we don't belong to the town any more, and I imagine are largely forgotten as individuals, although the family name will always be there. After all, they named a beach after my...er...grandfather? Great grandfather? Eh, one of those stern, dusty old men in the paintings I grew up with.

Also, there's a patch of woods donated by a cousin in memory of her mum (I think) that's a park of sorts, and a lovelier bit of leftover New England wildness you've ever seen - although you'd better see it from inside your car with the windows closed, because the deer flies are thick in there and could clean the meat from your bones in a minute or two! No kidding, we drove through last summer and didn't dare to tarry for fear they'd find their way in through the vents or something! The town, or at least some of it, is working on cleaning up the woods - they let them get into a disgraceful state over the years, but recently started caring about them again. The walking trails, bridges over the creeks, and stone benches are slowly being restored to their former state. I think I remember a birthday party there, when I was a kid...for my cousin...and a game where we were each given the end of a string and had to untangle it and follow it to a prize. It's funny, the things that stick.

The folks who've bought the Stone House, I've heard, plan to make many changes to it. In a good way! There used to be an addition to one side that disappeared long before I was born - fire? Storm? I don't know. They intend to rebuild that. The intend to add A/C. I mentioned that the breeze is constant, but so is the damp. It might be nice to be able to close doors (boy, do they ever swell in the summertime!) and breathe air that isn't thick as molasses from the fog. They're also going to enclose the widow's walk. I was a little unhappy about that, at first (I don't hold with mucking about with historic buildings - I like 'em the way they were built!), until I saw some old pictures of the Inn - and what do you know? The walk was really a cupola to begin with!! It was blown off in a storm, long ago. The new owners just want to restore it. How nice. They're also considering replacing the porch that once graced the front of the building - again, well before my time. They plan to make it a private club, so I guess we won't stay there if/when we go back for a visit. That's a pity, because it sure was nice to stay somewhere I knew in the town instead of a chain motel far away. Oh, well, at least they will leave the two-hundred-something year old stones standing proud.

I'll still drive by for a look, should I make it up there again. Old habits die hard. I wonder if they'll keep buttermints in the lobby...

Friday, March 28, 2008

This Ain't Yer Granny's Bannock!!

A while back, I shared my insanely decadent recipe for oatmeal. I had some leftovers, and mentioned one of the possibilities for leftover oatmeal: bannocks. Well, I didn't get around to writing about them then, and ate that leftover oatmeal heated from the microwave. This morning, I made more and decided it was bannocking time.

Being all into due diligence and whatnot (my mum was a lawyer for a bit, can you tell?), I decided to look up bannocks on the Internet, and guess what? The things I've called bannocks all this time aren't much like any of the recipes I found! Oh, well. I found a nifty traditional Welsh recipe, which looked interesting, and a pioneer style recipe that tickled my fancy as well - I liked the lack of measurements and the camping notes. If you want a "proper" bannock, go check them out.

No matter - I have called these babies bannocks since I started making them, and bannocks they shall be. Let's get started, shall we?

The cast:
Leftover Oatmeal
Flour (I used whole wheat)
Baking Powder
More butter
A frying pan - cast iron would be nicest, but I used a regular non-stick this time.


In a mixing bowl, combine about 1/3 cup leftover oatmeal with and equal amount of flour. Add about 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and a tablespoon of butter. Mix well with a fork, a spoon, or your fingers until it looks like this:
Looks a mess, doesn't it? Now add some water, a tiny bit at a time, and mix it in well, until you have a dough ball like this:
If you're a little nervous about it holding together, you can add an egg and some more flour (I don't, but I understand if you want to), just make sure your end result looks like the dough ball.

Now heat some oil and butter in your pan, on medium setting for the love of all that's unburnt!!. I think I used about a quarter cup or a bit less of oil and maybe a tablespoon plus a bit more of butter.
When the butter is nice and bubbly, it's ready for your bannocky goodness.
Make a cake out of the dough ball and gently place it in the (gently) hot oil/butter (gently!!).
Let is sit for a few minutes. It's getting a nice brown bottom in there.
Carefully turn the bannock, using two turners if necessary. Really, do this gently or the whole thing may fall to pieces or splash that hot stuff all over you.
Let it brown some more, then gently lift it out and place the whole thing - spatula and all, on some paper towels to drain for a moment. Serve warm as is or sprinkle a little cinnamon and sugar on it to make it extra festive. Don't judge this thing on how it looks - you'll be glad you gave it a chance!
There, that ought to take all the healthy right out of your oatmeal!

On With the Show

Nature does love to be noticed, doesn't she? I saw this plant last July at Green Animals, a topiary garden from Colonial times up in RI. I don't know what it is, but when no one's about I call it "Fuzzy Nuts", for obvious reasons. I have no idea why it delights me so (no, not for sophmoric reasons!), but I smile whenever I look at the photograph.

I am in the midst of making oatmeal, and later today I'm going to post the recipe for making bannocks. I know you're on tenterhooks over that!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Guess What I Did?

I finished it!

Oh, wait, you have no idea what I'm talking about. Right.

For the last couple of years, in stolen moments here and there and for a few hours on most Thursday nights, I have been writing a...story. Ninety-thousand-one-hundred-sixty-two (90, 162) words later, it's finally done. I finished it tonight, at Borders (which is where I go on Thursday nights for a few hours of writing and discussion-group time).

Well, I finished the first draft anyway. Now for the fun - I have to fix some spacing issues and figure out where the chapter breaks go...if they go anywhere at all. I have no idea how to do that, so it's going to be interesting. I also need to indent all the conversations - I sort of forgot to do that until about halfway through, so now I need to go and fix those or my friend who's offered to throw herself on the grenade read it and help with editing might go crazy. I wouldn't want to deprive her son of his mother, so I better get cracking on that. I'm supposed to give her a copy on Monday, with hopes she will have it read and red-inked ASAP so I can fix it and hand it off to the next poor fool friend. These dear women are intelligent, well read, and truly kind-hearted, and I am hoping they will catch any glaring plot holes (I think there are one or two in there you could drive a bus through) and grammatical errors (of which I am certain there are many). They have offered to do this free of charge, an astonishing gift of time and effort that I am not so foolish as to turn down.

It's not a Great American Novel or anything. Heck, it may never be inflicted upon read by anyone but a few friends and family members who pissed me off I love. Still, I actually finished the dang thing...I think...and am proud of having done it. I am not a great finisher. I am a terrific starter, and a great sounding block for other's ideas, even offering assistance with plot, continuity, and editing when it's wanted. Finishing the projects I've started, though, is not one of my strong points (don't even ask me about the quilts, shirts, and baby clothes in my sewing room. I can't talk about it.). The funny thing is, when I set about writing a story, it wasn't this one. It was another one that is some three-hundred pages along and not even a third done. I started this project because I was stuck on that one. The dozen or so other balls I have in the air, writing wise, were because I was stuck on this one. That given, I never really believed I'd be done (ish).

I would have hooted, hollered, and generally carried on, but it was a public place. I also would have gone out for drinks, but everyone in the discussion group tonight needed to get home early. Oh, well. I guess these re-heated Boneless Shanghai Wings from Chile's will have to do. Cheers!

Waxing Nostalgic

This is the Old Stone House Inn, in Little Compton, RI. I was there last July for a memorial and stayed up on the third floor. Ahh, memories. The building has no a/c, but it doesn't really need it, what with being so close to the sea.

There's always a breeze. I watched the curtain billow for several minutes, entranced. I grew up in this town, with this very breeze, in a house not far from the Inn.
This was the view from my room at the Inn. The water closest is Round Pond. The tiny bit of silve-gray in the distance is the Atlantic. The land between the pond and the sea once belonged to my family. A very long time ago. My grandfather grew up there, and we managed to wheedle permission to scatter his ashes there from the family who owns it now. That was back in the mid-nineties. I hadn't been back until last July. When Papa died, there just wasn't much reason...my remaining family in the area were strangers to me.This was the beach that my grandfather looked over, played upon, swam and boated from as a child.

Why do I mention all this? A smell.

A smell caught my attention, and in less than a moment, it brought me back to Little Compton and my time there. I loved that town. I love that town still, even if it doesn't know me any more. Oh, some terrible things occurred in my young life, there, but I loved it anyway. I could lose myself between sea and sky if I sailed out from the harbor nearby. I could play in the waves at South Shore beach until the sunk sank down with a sigh for his own evening swim. I could happily clamber on the tremendous rocks at Lloyd's Beach, sneak around the back to Haffenraffers place and play on that beach, too. We weren't supposed to go to Haffenraffer's place - it was once my grandfather's family land, that's the place he grew up, but they sold it long before I was born. For some reason, it was taboo for us - I never understood that, and one of the best rocks for exploring, for playing on, was over on that side of the spit. So, being a child, I ignored the taboo and went and played on the wonderful stone and in the little stand of trees there.

I would hide from my family, source of much pain and confusion...hide from everyone in those trees, only emerging when it was time to go home. No one worried I'd drowned...I was more fish than human back then, and drowning me would have required a great deal of cement and some lead weights. When I was older, I would ride my bicycle down there alone and spend hours sorting through the pebbles that made up the shore, looking for wishing stones - gray slate-like stones with a quartz band all the way around them. Find one and you can make a wish. I have staccato memories of searching them out with mum, with Mimi, with Spouse (my father's mother), always hunting for them and for sea glass on the way down to the water. It was always the water that I wanted the most, and not even freezing weather or storms could keep me from it.

If I lived near the shore today, I would go down each day, whatever the weather, and swim - though the waves be great and the water frigid, I would wet myself and paddle about for a while because above everything else, the sea is my mother and I wish for her embrace always. More fish than human, still.

The smell that brought me back? Hard to name it. It's a combination of things - the scent of old, old wood, exposed to generations of wear and countless fogs, sea breezes, rains, nights, and hours of sun. The smell of sand and salt, damp cotton towels and sun-warmed cotton clothing, wet stone and seaweed, wet rope and planks and a hint of sunscreen with a touch of lemon dusting spray and Murphy's Oil Soap. There's a hint of horse, too, and leather, and Zippo fluid from Papa's lighter. The iron tang of water from the old hand pump by the house, where we'd rinse our feet. A faint note of pine and cut grass, a bit of earth and always, always that playful zephyr blending it all together.

I have no idea how it found its way into my closed-up house in Georgia. It must have followed me here last year and been waiting in a corner to be discovered. Just now, it yanked at my cuff and demanded notice, reminding me of where a part of my heart is still rooted. I am home, here...and I am home, there...I am divided between what was and what is, with no sense of where I will be in the future - some combination of forest, mountain and sea if it is to satisfy all my yearnings, all those nostalgic little tugs from the many places I've lived and loved the Earth.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Random Things

What does it mean when you dream about Nicholas Cage? Ghost Rider Nicholas Cage? In a sort of really very adult kind of way? My brain's broken, isn't it?? But, I have to say...rrrrowwww.
Don't worry, Mike Rowe, you're still my favorite...

...because who wouldn't just love that smile? Heh...I can't decide if I'd rather help him get dirty, or help him get clean. Or both. Sigh. Sorry...I know you didn't need that mental image.

My son had a screaming fit a few minutes ago - he's convinced that an alien will land on the roof, tear his room open, and get him...because he has a toy goldfish he got from the aquarium that's officially named Depot but he calls it Flounder because he loves The Little Mermaid (yes, I'm fine with that, even if it is Disney), and the alien hates Flounder and think Bird is its enemy and it wants to get him. He is utterly convinced of this. I have no idea. It seems that I must now add to the rolls of our imaginary protective menagerie - there's Nogard the Dream Dragon who gobbles up bad dreams, snap, snap (some day I hope to publish that one) and there's Snortimer the Monster Under the Bed (with apologies to Pierce Anthony) who grabs anything that tries to get to Bird in the night and mashes it to a pulp. Now, it seems, it's time for Mib, the alien hunter who will watch over him while he sleeps and be mum's proxy for stomping aliens into the dirt if they try to get him (when he was smaller, he would say "Goodnight, mommy, and remember don't let any monsters or aliens get me" to which I would reply "I'll stomp them into the dirt if they try." How quickly mum isn't enough any more). For tonight, though, it seems that the ceiling fan will do - he informed T that if the fan was on, he (Bird) would be safe. Aren't their little minds fascinating?

One of my cats just threw up under my chair - now I'm afraid to stand up, because I don't know precisely where she left her little puddle of joy, and I just know I'm going to put my foot in it. Sigh. Oh, Miiike??

Talk About Art Feeding the Soul!

Well...feeding something, anyway. Mum sent me some pictures of art made entirely with food and I figured I'd share 'em. Nothing original coming out of me today - at least, not that you'd be interested in. I should be going to rehearsal, but I'm not - I honestly don't know if I could drive. When I find whoever gave me this respiratory plague, I am going to thank them properly. With my titanium spork. A lot. I lost yesterday entirely to being limp and useless. T had to cook dinner last night - good thing there we had some spaghetti and canned sauce around. He still feels wretched, too, but he's better than I am. I swear, I have only half my usual hearing (although, since I normally seem to hear like a fennec, that's not as bad as it could be) and my head hurts because the coughing keeps sloshing my poor abused brain around in there. I swear, last night I overheard my left lung conspiring with the right one to climb out my throat and leave me if this keeps up. There are aliens in there, I just know it. Enough whining*; on with the photographs - I got a kick out of them. Now I am going to rest - this post was exhausting.

*I don't usually whine this much, honest. I am simply not used to being physically unwell - mentally is another story - and when I am sick, I usually bounce back fairly fast. Whatever alien life form has laid claim to my head and lungs is tenacious and evil, and I was unprepared for its ferocity. I promise I will shut up about it after this. Mostly. Probably. Maybe. Cheers!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Blargh, snort, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, grumble, what the???

Wake up early for Bird's five year check-up, didn't sleep well, breathing felt like I slept with a pillow over my face all night, hack up a lung, use inhaler for second time this year, throw Kashi in a baggie and fill sippie cup with milk so the kid can have breakfast in the car, blow nose repeatedly, get Bird up and dressed and into the van and drive to the doctor's office, sign in, wait to show insurance card, lady at counter tells me to sit, they'll call when they want the card, I get into the waiting room and they call, and why couldn't I have waited that half-minute at the counter?

Go to lab, Evil Genius gets punctured for blood, try to get him to pee in cup, no success (he went before we got into the car) go to exam room, wait. Blood pressure, weight, height, answer questions, show motor skills, draw shapes, hop on one foot (yes, really), more questions, hearing and vision test and...

Time for his jabs. Five shots. Five. Why five? Can't they combine some of them? Or make a pill? Or a patch? Poor little guy - one TB test and two shots in one arm, and the the biggest needle I've ever seen in his leg. No kidding, it looked like a horse needle. He screamed, I couldn't blame him, and we had some hugs after. I don't mind jabs, myself - I never have - but he can't think through them like I can. Whew, made it through that. Pee in the cup on the way out, bonus!

Burger King was in order after that epic morning. Well, they would have been, but after letting me sit at the drive through for more than five minutes, they informed me that they were closed because the computer is down. Wow. You mean to tell me they can't cook without a computer? Can't use a calculator to figure what's owed? Just...wow. After a minor meltdown on the part of the Evil Genius, McD's it was.

While waiting at the drive through (I will not call it a drive-thru, no matter how many places bastardize the spelling!), T asked why it looked like the air was full of ash. Hmm. I thought maybe the petals were blowing off the Bradford Pears, but no. No, it was snowing. Yes, really. Snowing in Georgia in the middle of the day. Hmm.

Right, the end is near, but I feel to crappy to care. I'm for a nap, or maybe a coma. The world will have to end without me.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Frolics.

Y'all didn't think I was just going to sit here quietly, did you?

Thanks to mum for a couple of these, and I can't remember who for the rest of them.

*Edit - I hit the wrong button and published before I was done. See below for the rest of the post.

In a more serious vein, if you celebrate this day, I hope you have a blessed one - the gift for which Christians celebrate Easter is worth remembering, and one to which pagans are not strangers, either (the greatest difference being that Pagans had many sacrificial kings where Christians have one sacrificed King).

In the midst of the chocolate, the eggs, the ham or lamb or the wild tofurkey, think on the tremendous love that a heart must bear, for a man to give himself over to Jesus' fate. Think on that love as the foundation for what has grown into the church today - whatever I may think of Christianity and its dogma (and oh, boy, have I got some opinions about that), I haven't forgotten that the church is founded on the hope that the life of one man may be given over for the benefit of all men.

I wish you a blessed day, be it sacred to you or no.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

For your viewing pleasure...

...especially if you have cats, had cats, know someone who has or had cats, or have ever been in the same hemisphere as a cat. Thanks to Luci for the second one.

Even if I had something to say...

...I couldn't, because I have what feels like a throat full of barbed wire. I'm posting a picture and going to make tea. Happy Saturday.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Catbit, the latest pet from GenSplice labs "Cute 'n' Fluffy" line.
Two heads, one litter box - everyone's a winner!

Friday, March 21, 2008

I never got tagged this much in school...

Foolery tagged me for another meme, which made a nice distraction from my irritation. The object is to describe one's self in six words. It prompted a bit of introspection and something of a Haiku frame of mind, and I ended up doing more than the six Foolery did. Overachiever, me.

Me, in six words (eight times):

Filled with sorrow, filled with song.

Blue hair, blue clothes, blue notes.

Witch who doesn't curse, just blesses.

Anchored in past, looking to future.

Powerful words building visions with abandon.

Each living day is a victory.

Loves animals, loves plants, loves all.

Earth, Air, Fire Water, Spirit, Song.

Now, Foolery only tagged me - hmm, should I feel special in a good way, or the short bus way? - but I think I'll tag three. Again with the overachieving. I tag Kit and maybe, umm...heh...Luci, and of course, Michelle, because I actually know them all and none of them have enough to do. Heh.

Hey, don't be sad - if you want to take part, too, just consider yourself tagged!

*Edit - I forgot one that was inspired by Foolery's - I have a fifty acre ass.


I had a moment.

For a few minutes just now, I was filled with an intense...ire. I wanted to kick a cat, or the Evil Genius, or anyone else who made a demand for my time or energy. I wanted to scream "God damn it, I'm sick - I am so rarely sick enough to warrant sitting limply in this chair (that right now I hate with a purple passion), can't you people, animals, and freakin' sales people, churches, installers, and everyone else with my phone number and an urge to dial it...can't you just let me the fuck alone for ten minutes?"

Then I had a little panic, too. We have these people putting in some funky magnetic storm windows in the living room and Bird's room. It is supposed to help keep these rooms insulated and lower heating/cooling bills. They were supposed to call me when they left the job before us (giving me an hour's warning or so), but they didn't. Instead, they called a few miles from the house. Argh! I need time to reconcile myself to strangers in my house. I need time to brush my hair and contain Bird and make an effort at doing something with the dishes in the sink that no one but me ever seems to notice or do anything about. I need time to move the furniture in front of the windows so they can do their job because there is no way I can let them move that furniture because there is no way they will do it my way, which is the only right way because (have I mentioned?) I have OCD!!

And the dishwasher is full of clean dishes from two days ago because I am also the only one, apparently, who empties the fucking thing.

And the thrice damned phone keeps ringing.

And T is supposed to be here, because his old job ended and the new one wasn't supposed to start until Monday, but he opted to start yesterday and I shouldn't be mad but he didn't ask me about it and I had to cancel an appointment today at the gym (that I couldn't go to anyway because I am sick, but that doesn't matter because I am being unreasonable) because he wasn't here in case the window people called and wanted to come early and I know I shouldn't be pissed that he's being proactive and I know he's been bored silly the few days he's had off but I am still unreasonably irritated and...



Sometimes, having a combination of OCD, paranoia, and the delightful phobias makes life interesting. You know...in that Bedouin "may you have an interesting life" curse kind of way. I have, of late, taken to letting go of the internal pain I feel when anyone but the people living in this house comes over and sees the mess. I may wince, inside, but I let them in and explain that I'm a rotten housekeeper, which is true. I am also a resentful, angry housekeeper, but they don't need to know that. Then I try to let go of my need to have an Ozzie and Harriet kind of home. I have a kid, three cats, and two adult men to feed and clean up after and I hate doing it (the cleaning part - you do't get as big as I am if you hate cooking), so it often doesn't get done as well or as often as it could. Ozzie and Harriet had set decorators, prop masters, and all they had to do was pretend that they had that nice, neat little life. I bet their closets were full of whips and chains and suppressed rage.

For some reason, waking up to find pizza boxes for me to put away (or have to throw out the pizza, and I hate, hate, hate wasting food) made me grumpy. The bags of trash that should have gone out two days ago but didn't, and won't unless I nag T or take them myself (and don't even ask why I don't just take the damn things out myself, because my head might just explode at that kind of reasonableness)(and T didn't take them out because he was sick and trying to help get Bird's room clean so the window guys wouldn't go ass-over-teakettle in there) exacerbated things. Feeling like two kinds of crap didn't help any. And then there were the damn dishes...the "I cook, you clean" dishes that are always left for me to do because even though I cooked, no one cleaned...the fucking dishes ....aaarrrrrggggghhhhhh!! And strangers in my house...whimper...

They're perfectly nice men. One older gentleman, two younger (one of whom looks a bit like Taye Diggs and has a Senegalese accent and how on earth can I be unhappy about that?)(Maybe he'll take his shirt off)(Whew), all terribly sweet to Bird who is desperate to watch and be a part of everything they do because he's a kid and kids are largely made up of curiosity. Curiosity and snot. With a few snuggles thrown in so we don't kill them when they get to be too much. So these men are nice enough, but I don't know them. And apparently today, the very idea of people I don't know being in my home long enough to take so much as one breath was enough to send me into a snit - a...moment.

As soon as they're gone, I'll be fine. For now, all I can do is paste a smile on my face and try to keep the Evil Genius out of their way without involving duct tape. And...umm...maybe stare at this picture I found of Taye Diggs in a swim suit:

Sorry it's so small...the one I really wanted to post was part of a slide show and I couldn't figure out how to copy it, and this one gets all pixel-y when I try to make it bigger. Dang ineptitude.

Four in a row.

A few days ago, I was struck by a moment of madness a poetic mood and wrote a few things. They were all written within about a four minute span, and included the one I posted here. I will now share the rest of them with you because I am rendered incapable of thought today by a combination of stuffy head, scratchy throat, alien-inhabited lungs, and crashing blood sugar - so my head hurts, my throat hurts, my lungs hurt, and I'm grumpy. Gods have mercy on the fool who pisses me off today! Anyway, back to the whole poetry thing - I wrote this lot in rapid succession, and I thought well, my goodness, someone reading these might think they'd been done months apart, so different are the moods. Knowing that each came hard on the heels of another, I also thought or perhaps they might think I'm a bit moody or a touch schizophrenic. Truth is, I am neither - there's just lots of room in the crazy factory for varying, competing moods. I used to tell my shrink (when I had one) that even shallow waters have many currents.

Grace Notes
I haven't yet learned
The Universe' song
Haven't learned the score
But when I look out the window
And see the grey remains
Of the rained-upon day
And the pink of the plum tree blossoms
And all the rest of the world holding its breath
Waiting for the emergence
For the rest of Spring
When I see all that has not yet come
Then I think
I think I hear
A few notes
A few small notes

Bird and Eggs
Little boy, white eggs, clean canvas both
Dye so bright, so deep, so mysterious
Little fingers must explore the wetness
Feel the smooth egg, the round egg
Drop it into the bath
The rich vibrance soaking into the shell
No more white
No more empty white

Excess wiped onto the white shirt
The once white shirt
And paint brushes help
Mustn't waste the dye

I laugh and tell him
I will peel him and eat him
My little egg
My once-an-egg who is blazing bright
Bright sun through my cloudy life
How he shines

Quantum Faith
Leaping off, up, out
Pulled into the dark potential
Rich purple maybe
What if
Out to the edges
Where uncertainty reigns
What if
What if
I can stretch
Break through
Break out
Break away
Leap off, up, out

Here Be Shadows
I feel you creeping up on me
Dark little shivers
Salty little trickles
I feel you creeping up on me
Harsh little gasps
Stuttering little breath catches
I feel you
I feel you
Like an oil slick
Oozing over me
Smothering black rainbows
Bone deep

Thursday, March 20, 2008

An AI Rant

So I was reading a blog entry about AI here, (American Idol Butchers the Beatles - Part Deux ) and I left him a comment, and then he sent me a message, and then I responded to that and...whew. I was going to write more in my response to his response, but it got long, as my responses are wont to do. Then I thought, hey, I can make a whole blog post and get my snark on at the same time, and, well, a post was born.
I've been watching AI from the start (first season), and will likely follow the show until it goes down in a hail of rotten fruit. I usually pick a favorite male and female, and they usually make it to the top five or so, but I don't vote - I am not paying them to ignore me.

I've actually had friends tell me I should go audition. I asked them why they hate me. I honestly don't know why anyone would put themselves through that mess, besides notoriety. It is obviously not about real talent or any sort of musicality.

My roommate won't watch without me - just because I can be that evil. I have called Simon a...umm...female body part...on more than one occasion for not having the stones to say what's needed. They really wouldn't want me to be a judge...

The funny thing is, I encourage people to sing, even if it's off-key. I think everyone should give voice to their song, should be allowed to find joy in musical expression. If someone tells me "oh, I can't sing", I usually respond that if they can speak, they can sing. So what if you can't carry a tune? I can't draw for shite, but that doesn't stop me from buying colored pencils and playing with them. Can't sculpt, but I play with polymer clay all the time. Just because you can't do a thing well doesn't mean you should have to give it up.

Just don't stand in front of me and put yourself in a position to be judged and get upset when I do. Now, I admit that sometimes I am a bit...harsh. I try to always give constructive criticism, but sometimes those kids aren't interested in learning - they want the fast track to big-bucks, and they have no idea what that takes. They think it's "sing a few songs on AI and make it big." How many AI winners, or even top ten placers, have you heard from recently?

You want an example of someone who thinks they're all that, just fine, a winner before they even start? Remember that weepy kid who lives in his car? The one who cried every time the wind shifted or the camera was near him? He got cocky - told the band to leave, he would sing on his own. Don't for a moment think he was just going for a style, a sound, or whatever. He thought he was that good, and he was being snotty. Rather, he was all over the place, so awful I would have thrown a shoe at him to make him stop. And then he wanted another chance. Hell, no! There are almost no second chances in show business. Seen or heard from him lately? Do you even remember his name? I don't. All I remember about him is his stupid assumption that he was that good. When someone offers you a top class band to back you, you take it. Milk it for all it's worth. Hell, go buy them drinks after hours and ask their advice. I bet that band could give some fantastic tips - they manage to keep up with the worst of these kids without so much as blinking, and if you think keeping time with an off-tempo, off-key vocalist is easy, well...you've never made the effort. Those kids have to learn one song a week - the band learns them all, note perfect and off-book every time.

I will hear every wrong note, every off tempo note, every missed, muddled, or altered lyric sung, and if I'm asked to critique, I will point them all out. I would want the same from anyone I asked the favor of. After all, the point is to learn, to correct, to grow. If a body isn't prepared to hear it, they'd best not ask. I try to temper my honesty with compassion, when it's someone I know or I can see they're really trying, but give me the attitude and all bets are off.

They have no idea how hard even bottom-tier musicians work to get gigs and keep them, to find an audience, to make it anywhere. I have seven CDs out with my band, am working on my eighth with a friend, have guest tracks on two more and one of my songs on another two, and no one knows who I am - and we've sold thousands of CDs. Granted, we have a tiny niche market (no, really, it's a niche so small, I'm amazed we all fit in it!) and I am OK with that, but still...we're a common example of a decent (yeah, I'm biased, get over it) group who won't get national play. You need a common sound, a new sound, or a gimmick and a huge break or a national label pushing you to get air time, to be seen, and there are always people breathing down your neck, waiting for you to screw up so they can take your place.

These kids on AI, they don't realize that they're stuck in a performance contract for as long as AI wants them. They're doing all the advertising and publicity for nothing more than a little exposure, and there's no guarantee beyond the first album or so. They have to do the tour, and never mind family or a life of any sort outside the AI cash machine. The only one who's made anything of herself is Carrie Underwood, and honestly she lucked into the country scene or she would have faded away, too.

One of the things that I find really sad is, some of these kids really do have a lick of talent. I get pissed off at Randy and his useless slang-laced idiocy (does he ever actually say anything??), Paula and her drunken, drug-addled, mush-mouthed rambling, and even Simon sometimes when he's a pansy-ass. They blow smoke up these kids' asses to boost ratings, but aside from Simon's occasional insight, they don't really do much to help these kids learn how to perform. They don't help them figure out stage presence, musicality, the difference between stylistic changes in a piece and completely raping it in the name of "new arrangement" or "making it theirs". If they're going to live in a fishbowl, open their lives up to investigation, gossip, intense scrutiny, the least the show's creators, producers, and participants can do is give them something worth their part in the spectacle. In the end, most of them have to reconcile themselves to a life of anonymity, maybe getting a bar gig or a theme park show once in a while and the occasional "Hey, weren't you the one in the Hefty Bag dress on AI?" to sustain them.

The show, as far as I can tell, has a primary purpose of making money - raking it in - and a secondary purpose of entertaining the viewers. Actually making a singer, a performer, out of one of those children isn't even an afterthought. Yeah, I watch anyway, because sometimes I need to let the Bitch out for air, and what better outlet? This makes me a part of the problem, I know, because without viewers the show would fold...but it's like a train wreck, isn't it? You know you shouldn't watch, but you can't look away...and once in a while, you do get a little nugget of pure, sweet music that almost makes up for the rest.

Musical Interlude

I want you to know that I listened to They Might Be Giants long before they were cool. Also, I watched Tiny Toons when they were new. Yes, yes, I know, I'm an old fart. Thanks to Dawn for putting this on her blog and bringing a smile to my grumpy face this morning.

Meanwhile, will someone please get these dad-blasted mini-Robin Eggs away from me? I may need an intervention...

A neat bit of writing that I didn't do.

Heh...another fun read by a homeschooler here.

Which bring this question to mind: What is the difference between nourishing the mind and nourishing the body? Besides the obvious, I mean.

Ostara Eggs, part two (with photos)

Mum came down for the fun, and even T and our roommate J joined in. I did two eggs for a personal ritual tomorrow, and the rest were for fun. All told? 24 chickens won't be hatching.

The scene of the crime fun, this morning before I tidied a bit. Good Housekeeping, we ain't.

That's better.

Ready to...wait, we need eggs...

Two-dozen Four Grain Omega 3 eggs, ready to roll...er...dye.

Note the clean, white t-shirt.

Still clean. Wait for it.




Oh, my goodness, my hand looks huge in those pictures! After we were done with the eggs, we still had all that dye. What could we do with it? Hmm...what, what, what...?

Oh, yeah, great idea! Actually, we do this every year - paint his t-shirt with the leftover dye. It helps assuage his upset over the eggs being all done. Plus, let's be honest, there's no way a kid this age will keep clean during this, so why not go with the chaos instead of fighting it? Mum and T wiped their dye-stained hands on it and we all painted a little. I'll put it away with the others, maybe some day make a quilt from them or something.

Our eggs.

Tomorrow, when the Evil Genius awakes, he'll have a basket of toys and treats waiting for him. I The Ostara Rabbit put it together tonight after he was asleep.

Yeah this'll keep him busy for twenty, maybe thirty seconds. I know it looks like a lot of candy, but trust me - there're toys, too. I try to make sure it's more toys than sweets. Also, I ran out of room for the chalk eggs, so they're sitting on the table next to the basket.

Happy Spring, y'all!