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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Recap

My year, in a nutshell:

January - The Evil Genius turned six. Holy carp, how did that happen?? I opened an Etsy store.

February - I got older, and mounted a show at the gallery wherein I didn't sell anything and simulcast it on my blog to double the fun.

March - It snowed. I added the follow thingy to the blog and the Internet rejoiced. I went to St. Simon's Island for R&R and photography and started trying to sort out how to save my marriage, and had my first ever blog contest. Read a new blog, made a new friend.

April - Mum got older. I started helping K at the Georgia Ren Fest. I went to Florida to perform one of two concerts my band had this year.

May - Got a new tattoo in honor of my Aunt D, who died of cancer later in the month. Someone started reading my blog regularly. I wrote something I was (and am) proud of. Someone noticed... I realized my marriage wasn't salvageable. Ouch. My muse woke up a little. And again.

June - Performed in Ohio, second concert of the year. Paperwork. More paperwork. An acre of forest later, paperwork is done and the waiting begins.

July - Went to Houston, met Someone, heart went BOOM! Had my second blog contest. Let the Evil Genius play outside on his own for the first time, then drove him to the ER when he went and gave himself a head injury. CAT scan, whee, nothing there, so all was right with the world.

August - Took the Seminar for Divorcing Parents, whee. Played with kittens of truly monumental cuteness. Rescued Rook from The Wolf Worm of Doom, adopted her into the family. Nearly killed my oven with butter, sugar, and flames.

September - Divorce finalized, and got proof that the Universe has a sense of humor . Met Flat Aunt Becky and hilarity ensued. Broke my right pinkie toe (it STILL hurts!!)

October - Spent the whole month cleaning my immense, overstuffed, disaster-area of a house in anticipation of a visit from Someone. Visit went well, happy, happy.

November - More cleaning, removing of furniture, moving things around, getting ready for holidays. Thanksgiving, quiet, simple, lovely.

December - Baked mountains of cookies. Shipped tons of cookies. Swapped countless cookies. Never want to see a cookie again...until next month. Made gifts, wrapped gifts, gave gifts, received gifts. Best gift? Someone moved in. I get to unwrap it again and again...lucky me!! Yule at Mum's, Christmas a non-issue. Planned Bird's birthday party. Seven! Eek!! Trying to wrap my head around how life can change so much in one year.

This is my last entry for 2009. What a year. I have been deep in the trough, and I have been high on the crest. I have hurt and caused hurt and made hard decisions and found myself happy in a way I've never been before. I refuse to think about what 2010, the ride, will be like.

I have posted at least once a day for the whole year. 1023 posts in just under two years. And you've read them - some of you have read every one of them, bless your something less than sane hearts.

Thank you.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Almost the End

It's almost the end of another calendar year. Got any plans for tomorrow night?

Not me.

I'm going to Borders as usual...no plans to drink, party, or even snack until I'm comatose. Just Borders with my guys, then maybe dinner and home...or more likely home because do I really want to go to Friday's on New Year's Eve? Mostly not.

Tonight I'm planning Bird's birthday party - he's seven on Sunday. Holy crap, where'd the time go????

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The End of Meme

OK, not really...but it IS an end of the year Meme, anyway. Play along, kids - it's nutritional and fun!

1. What did you do in 2009 that you'd never done before? Got Divorced.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I didn't make any...and no, I won't.

3. How will you be spending New Year's Eve? I have no idea - probab;y going to Borders with my guys, maybe dinner after...or maybe just come home after, because do I really want to go to Friday's on New Year's Eve? Not so much...

4. Did anyone close to you die? If the question refers to proximity, then no. If it means someone to whom I am emotionally close...my Aunt passed through the veil and I was saddened, although we were not especially close.

5. What countries did you visit? Via the Blue Nowhere: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, South Africa, Portugal, Tasmania, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, France, Germany, Russia...and a few more. In reality: None.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009? Copious amounts of cash.

7. What date from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Friday, May 8. I was standing beneath the full moon feeling as lonely as I'd ever been, and I went inside and wrote what I was feeling...a piece that turned out to be a call of sorts that drew Someone into my life. It was also the day I knew without a doubt that my marriage was over.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? Although I know it is an odd choice, and likely won't reflect well on me I have to say...my divorce. I made a hard choice, one that was geared toward my spiritual and emotional needs, one that hurt but ultimately was what needed to be done.

9. What was your biggest failure? Hmm...I don't know...I have failed spectacularly at so many things...

10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I broke my pinkie toe in September and it STILL hurts!

11. What was the best thing you bought? My trip to Houston.

12. Where did most of your money go? Bills.

13. What song will always remind you of 2009? Just Breathe, Pearl Jam.

14. What do you wish you'd done more of? Breathed deep and found my roots.

15. What do you wish you'd done less of? Wept. Hurt. Felt lonely.

16. What was your favourite TV program? Dirty Jobs, I think...

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year? No. I no longer love someone as I once did, but I don't hate. Hatred is a waste of energy.

18. What was the best book you read? No best...I loved them all.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery? Aside from Someone and his Song? I'd say it's a tossup between Medieval Babes and the Ragbirds.

20. What was your favorite film of this year? I don't have one...can't even recall seeing one in the theater, although I know I did.

21. What did you do on your birthday? Felt ignored by some and loved by others, par for the day.

22. What kept you sane? I'm sane???

23. Who did you miss? My grandfather, despite his being dead for decades.

24. Who was the best new person you met? Someone.

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009: Sometimes the right choice is the hardest one to make.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Geography Lesson

The Evil Genius and Someone have discovered another common interest - maps. Specifically, Atlases. Bird decided he wanted to pore over Someone's Atlas before bedtime last night.

They browsed world maps...

Talked about topographical maps...

Checked out detailed maps of several nations...

And even looked over a map of the sea floor.

Homeschooling - anywhere, any time, there's a lesson to be learned. Sweet.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas


May your Christmas be full of love, light, and laughter.
Shade and Sweetwater,
Kyddryn

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Gift

I love this song - I weep every time I hear it...



I hope on this night, so full of potential and hope, that you find yourself blessed beyond expectations. If you were broken, may you find yourself whole. If you were silenced, may your song soar. If you have been in darkness, may you find the light you seek.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

For Yule

Solstice day... I rose and greeted the sun...

I made a coffee cake for breakfast while the Evil Genius slept in a bit. Once everyone was up and ready to go...
We checked out our stockings and tallied the loot left by The Holly King.
After breakfast and exchanging gifts, we were ready to light the fire outside...but the firemen weren't there! Mum didn't care - she's such a rebel! - and was prepared to light it without their watchful presence. The Evil Genius did not approve, and resisted going outside...until the firetruck rolled up!
Much to his surprise and delight, the "fireman" was a "firewoman", and she gave him a personal tour of the engine, even letting him sit in the driver's seat and tooting the siren once.
Then it was time to get the fire started. Normally, we wouldn't need a burn permit or the fire department, but Mum had some work done down in her woods and had a large burn pile to dispose of...so we figured we'd use it for our yule fire, and why not?
The firefighter wasn't allowed to help light or maintain the fire - she could only contain, make sure we weren't stupid. The fire chief joined us, too.

It was a really nice fire...
...and I had fun photographing the smoke as it played with the sun among the branches of one of the hickory trees...
...where I found one of my kinfolk lying around.
There was a little bit of breeze teasing the smoke, and I played with the black-and-white setting on the camera. I love this shot.
The Evil Genius had a blast - between the fire, Someone wandering around the woods with him, his cousins' visit, and plenty of food and fun, he was a happy kid.
One of the gifts I gave him i a doll. It's an Amish doll, made by Amish folks, dressed like an Amish man (complete with straw hat!), and faceless, because the Amish believe it's wrong to make a graven image. I love them. So does Bird, apparently...
He carried his new friend everywhere with him! The doll's name is Captain Price. I have no idea.
All in all, it was a lovely day at Mum's. The weather was beautiful, it was good to see Big Brother and his family again (it's been almost two years), and we made it home safe, sound, and exhausted.
Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to get ready for the next holiday adventure - traveling up to Something Carolina in two days to meet part of Someone's family...I'll be bringing baked goods for bribes...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Overheard Yesterday

"That would not be appropriate." How does my six-year-old child know what's appropriate when there are grown people in the world who can't tell the difference?

"I'd like to stay and help you some more, but I'm exhausted." Said as the Evil Genius was walking away from us after a morning spent tending the large yule fire.

"He's already IN his crazy groove." Of Someone, when I remarked that the Evil Genius was being relentless and we needed to give Someone a little time and space to get his bearings before expecting him to join our insanity.
~~~~~
Sorry for the short post, folks - we got home late in the evening and I'm tired. tomorrow, I'll try to post some of the photos I took of the fire, the smoke the Evil Genius and Captain Price, and our very own carol of the bells from Dragon's Rest.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yule

Happy Yule, y'all!

Wait, what? Yule - you know...Yule? The holiday that some people celebrated waaayyy before that poor wee baby was 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 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 today, 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, lite 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 lives 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??

When I spend Yule at Mum's house, we light sparklers and fireworks, too, because what better way to celebrate the returning sun than with explosives? You get the logic, right?

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.

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.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

More Caroling

Three more for Yule. I'm headed to Mum's today - we're celebrating Solstice at her place tomorrow with (if the weather cooperates) a bonfire, a few simple gifts, and some good eats.





Saturday, December 19, 2009

I Feel Like Singing Today

Since we're so close to Yule, I thought I'd be ridiculous and film some video of Yule caroling. They aren't top quality, but they're what I have - between cats meyowling along because they thought I might be injured, the clock bonging away, the TV randomly coming on, the Evil Genius randomly wandering through, and the phone ringing, I had to reshoot a number of times, and my voice went away after an hour or so.

Anyway, here are three and there'll be three more tomorrow (fair warning).







If you want the lyrics, I'll e-mail 'em to ya. As always, I shot these with my trusty Kodak Easy Share CX7525 (now with a new! rechargeable! battery!!). Kodak doesn't know I exist, do for FTC purposes, I ain't disclaiming anything.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Whadaya want?

Dear Mom, Dad, Friend, Lover, Family Member, or Anyone Else Who Gives a Damn,

What I'd like as a gift can't be boxed or wrapped.

I'd like your time. Your effort. Your attention.

I'd like to know that you see me, that you hear me, that you know me and care for me. I'd like you to pay attention.

I'd like a few minutes from you that aren't diluted by television, computer, telephone, or other distraction.

I'd like to matter.

If it's not too much to ask....

Sincerely,
Your child, grandchild, friend, lover, family member, or random person to whom you feel you must give a gift

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What say you?

If you can't see it very well, click to embiggen - that may help. Or, you know, just wonder what the heck I'm posting here these days.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Remember Me?*

*This is a re-post - I hope you'll forgive me...it's more than the usual chaos here at Casa de Crazy right now.
~~~~~
Hi there, remember me?

Perhaps I should refresh your memory.

I'm a holiday. People used to celebrate me quietly, joined with family and community to rejoice in the returning light or the birth or their god (depending on which spiritual Truth they followed).

I was a good day, a peaceful day, a day for sharing a special meal with the ones you loved and pondering the many blessings you give each other.

Long ago, this was the day landlords and money-lenders forgave debts (if they were so inclined), giving the people beholden to them a month to breath a little.

There would sometimes be feasts to celebrate me.

Somehow, you changed me. I don't know why, or when, but I became less about the love, light, and life common to all humanity and became more about gifts, juggling families, and frantic consumerism. I am not so much about the single candle flickering in the window, sending out rays of hope into the night, and more about millions of lights, plastic figurines, and neighborhood one-upsmanship. If a neighborhood decorates, it puts pressure on every family to take part, whether they will or no. When did I become about bullying and feelings of superiority?

Why do I now engender feelings of deep sorrow in so many, when I should offer up a sense of joy? Why is there panic as I approach? Why so much angst, anger, so much negative emotion?

Do you know me now?

I would like to cast off these rich, costly robes and return to my simpler garb - I am not comfortable in this cloth of gold, encrusted with jewels and stiff with embroidery. Won't you help me? Will you stop for a moment each day and remind yourself that you don't have to buy or show love with gaudily wrapped gifts? Will you pause for a moment each day to breath in the sweet smell of fir trees, of clean air, of the delightful scent of baking or snow-tinged air? Will you take a moment to think, really think, about my origins (a celebration of the returning sun or the birth of your God's avatar here on Earth) and my symbols? Will you eschew one more purchase of cheap plastic crap, purchased out of guilt rather than because the recipient may really need it, and perhaps instead offer up a far more precious and costly gift - yourself, your time, your effort, your love?

If you don't know me now, then you never did...and for that, I am sorry. I was wonderful, once.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Treed

Yesterday we went hunting the mighty fir. Mum, Bird, and I trundled on over to the local tree farm. It's less than a mile away, a nice little jaunt. It was a warm, foggy day, and the herd was loose in a fenced field:

Majestic, aren't they? The wild ones are especially lovely, I think.

The farmers had penned a few of the tamer firs up:
They were docile enough that we could walk among them without fear.
Bird was in awe:

"Whoa, this one's the giantest one ever!" We'll be working on his vocabulary next week. I warned him not to turn his back on it - likely the leader of this semi-domesticated pack, it only looked nonchalant, leaning against that post. Really, it was calculating trajectories and angles of descent. Wily critters, firs.

Bird found this one huddled off to the side. Separated from its mama, this little feller was happy to have someone speak a kind word and offer a little comfort. Bird informed me he was holding one of its many hundreds of hands, and this was the one we were taking home.

I wasn't too sure - it looked awfully straight and full, and I like to find scrawny, weird looking ones. Less fight in them. Still, he had his heart set on it, so I relented.
The farmers wrapped the fir in a net to keep it from struggling and flinging itself from the van, and we got it home without incident...unless you count it knocking things off the wall and table incidents.
I had to tranquilize it to get the net off. While we waited for it to calm down, the cats investigated our new denizen. The weren't sure they approved.
We had to do a little minor surgery on the fir so it would fit in its space - the living room windows. It didn't seem to mind, happy for the view, I think.

Mum helped me wrestle it into its stand, and I noticed it had scoliosis of the trunk - it's a Charlie Brown tree after all! Score!! After letting it settle in for a bit, I fed and watered it, then set about decking it out. I did the lights under Bird's supervision, and then he helped accessorize with our chaotic ornamentation - half nice glass globes (many hand-blown), half home made (and more than a little cheesy). Schizophrenic tree, should fit right in at Casa de Crazy.

It seems to have adapted nicely...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Harbinger

There was a hawk.

The hawk is my totem animal, he said, my spirit messenger. I carried hawk feathers with me, each one a gift left behind by a hawk that told me something.

It's unlawful to carry raptor feathers. He knew that. It didn't matter. Things of the spirit trump the laws of man.

When a hawk crosses your trail, they're a sign of changes coming. Good, bad, that's up to you. The hawk just knows the wind will blow another way soon, and she's telling you.

She landed in a tree across the street from where I sat at a stop sign, waiting. The tree wasn't much more than a sapling, a gangly pine. It swayed under her weight.

I called out my usual blessing - "Good hunting, cousin!" She nodded, but otherwise did not move. She watched me as I turned onto the road.

Sometimes I dream I am the hawk, carrying words on the wind, soaring ever higher. I'm not bound to this grey place, to pain or sorrow or loss any more. I do not see the world through bars and shadows. Then I wake up here, trapped in the waking world by the fay's anathema (iron)...but I remember what it was like to rise up and shake it off like dust from my feathers, and I hope.

She waited until I was out of the turn, straight on the road, before launching herself into a glide that carried her across my path.

Change coming. She flew towards the house I'd just left, home. Change coming home. Home coming. Home changing.

Yes, ma'am.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What WOULD I do? And you?

I bought a lottery ticket on Friday. The jackpot was over 100 million, worth $2.00 for two sets of numbers. I mean, if I won, that'd be a heck of a return on investment, well worth not buying the cup of coffee I was thinking about.

I didn't win.

Sigh.

As I was paying the nice lady at the convenience store for the ticket, she asked me what I would do with all that money.

I told her "Probably give most of it away", which is true.

Have you played the "What I'd buy with the lottery money" game?

I have. Many times. Let's play.

I would:

Clear debts - pay off my house, mum's land and house, and zero out every bill we have. Then I'd do the same for the people I love, if they'd let me. Friends, family, even my sister-outlaw (my ex-sister-in-law who refuses to let me out of the family, bless her!) and my ex-husband. Everyone gets set to zero, at the very least.

Establish trusts for the children in my life - mine and other people's. I wouldn't tell the kids about it...but I'd make sure the money would work, build itself, be there for them, help them establish themselves in life...and if they fall, they wouldn't fall too far or have too hard a landing.

Buy land. Lots of it.

Build the house I've dreamed of. It's not large - but it's spacious, and it's as green as I can make it. It's a house meant to last generations, meant to be sustainable off the grid should society go to hell.

Build a good, sturdy, tall fence.

Buy an RV (a small one that I could drive).

Travel from time to time.

Once I had my Haven, once I'd seen to the people I love, helped them get a better footing in life (without, I hope, ruining them, because money can, has, and will do that to a body), once I'd seen to the next generation's needs and set aside enough to keep me and mine in comfort, and a little extra for mad money...then I'd start looking for ways to use the rest to benefit my world.

There'd likely be a pagan scholarship or ten. Why not? There are Christian ones, and Muslim ones, and ones for people of varying ethnicity...why not a pagan one, too?

Donate to ailing and failing library systems.

Donate to the women's shelter.

Donate to clinics and hospitals that treat people without insurance (because I may resist the idea of nationalized healthcare, but I'm fine with paying for someone else when it's my CHOICE).

Fund a no-kill animal shelter and donate to local shelters - they're crowded, and the future is looking rather grim for our four-legged friends. As the economy tanks, they lose.

Employ people.

Repay the kindness some of my fellow bloggers have shown me, and then pay it forward, too.

Be a patron of the arts...so many symphonies, theatres, dance troupes, and museums need love and support, and I really do think the arts are vital to our collective soul.

Keep my promise to share with the Waffle house waitress, the nice stocker-lady, produce and deli people, and cashiers at Publix who are always so kind and just genuinely nice people (hey, Publix? They're why I drive past TWO other, newer, sometimes cheaper grocery stores to get to you).

Think I can't do all that? Yes, I can - because what I need to keep me happy for the rest of my life isn't money...although greenbacks will help. What I need is space, and knowing that the people I love are OK, that they can live without fearing the loss of home or health. I need freedom to be myself, to raise my son to be strong, free-thinking, and independent.

Oh...and maybe some lipo and new boobs, because I wouldn't mind a less-than-fifty-acre ass and something that a bra could actually fit. Yep, shallow as a teaspoon, baby.

Your turn - tell me what you'd do with $100 million smackers.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thoughtfetti

I've decided that next year, I'm not going to try to post every day. Life isn't a slow, meandering river right now, and there are rapids ahead...so I think I'll just give myself permission to write a few times a week and see how it goes. I'm finishing out this year at one a day, though, because I want to.
~~~~~
Frustration - the state or an instance of being frustrated. A deep chronic sense or state of insecurity and dissatisfaction arising from unresolved problems or unfulfilled needs.

Irritation - the act of irritating. Something that irritates. The state of being irritated.

Anger - a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism.

Empathy - the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner, also the capacity for this.
~~~~~
Yesterday - clean, UPS store, bank, grocery store, home, back to bank, Walgreens, home, hang lights, take down lights to respace them, hang more lights, take down because there aren't enough, rehang so they're even, COLD, inside, warm up, make soup, put soup in containers, freeze soup, wonder why you didn't just have soup for dinner, wrap gifts, make other gifts, whew.
~~~~~
Today - make more gifts, attend birthday party for daughter of sister-of-my-heart, bake cookies, haul tree decorations up from closet under stairs, clean house.
~~~~~
Tomorrow - Clean, wrap, create, clean more, cookie swap, try to remember to get Sunday paper for coupon clipping purposes, clean again.
~~~~~
What're you up to these days?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Well don't I feel silly??

Honestly, if my head wasn't firmly attached, I'd leave it somewhere.

I swear, I thought I posted a link to Beth's blog in my post welcoming her to the Blue nowhere...but it seems either I am sadly mistaken or once again Electronica (the gremlin of the Internet) has gobbled up something I've done.

Sigh.

Here's the link: Beth' Blog

Thanks, y'all!!

What say you?


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Welcome to Blogopolis, Mizz B!!

Can't talk, baking...and decorating...and wrapping...and cleaning...and...snzzzzzkxkxkxkx...

Wha...?

Who...?

Ahem.

I am baking up a storm, and getting decorations up outside, and hauling the Yule boxes up from the closet under the stairs (if Harry Potter had come here to live, he would have had to content himself with an ordinary bedroom or the crawlspace under the house - the closet under the stairs is full of...umm...I don't know what, but a lot of stuff, including my few seasonal decorations that I often don't bother with) and cleaning house because I have band practice here next Wednesday and also...umm...well, I have another reason to get the place tidy, but I ain't sayin' what...yet.

Anyway.

So, because I am clearly far too busy to write a blog post of any substance (hah!), I'm taking this opportunity to introduce you to a good friend. She's my band manager and booking agent, mother to K (the sister of my heart), a cruise agent, and generally full of the Awesome. Her name's Beth (I'm only telling you because she's got it on her blog, so it'd be silly for me to keep it secret, now, wouldn't it??), and she has a brand spankin' new blog. Go give her a look-see and let her know what you think, m'kay?

Welcome to the Blue Nowhere and Blogopolis, Mizz B - glad to have the company!!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Coo-cookie-chew...

It's cookie time again.

Every year, I take part in a holiday cookie swap. A whole mess of us (that's more than a handful but fewer than a bunch) bake our favorite or best cookies, bring them to a central location, and divvy 'em up. It's a nifty way to get a slew of holiday type cookies without having to bake them all yourself.

In years past, I'd be baking by now, filling the house with the scent of Orange Blossom cookies, Snickerdoodles, Leftover Cookies, White Trash Cookies...I may not have told you this before, dear reader, but I may like to bake just a wee.

Actually, before Bird was born, I made hard candy for these events, suckers in a variety of shapes. No one minded too much - they liked all the colors, the flavors...and my house smelled insanely good. I have thirty-something cast iron molds waiting to be useful again, and make upwards of a dozen flavors, using a recipe handed down from my Mum's mum (family tradition - the recipe is never written down. Anyone wanting to learn it has to come into the kitchen and watch it being made, learn by doing). I don't make candy now because pouring off boiling sugar syrup just didn't seem like a good idea with a small child around. I hope to start again next year.

Meanwhile, there's a cookie swap this coming Sunday, and I have baking to do (with help from the Evil Genius, of course). I haven't decorated the house or anything either - I am thinking I'll do that between batches of cookies. This year it's Snickerdoodles (recipe later this week), and Leftover Cookies. I'll be making White Trash Cookies, too, but not for the swap - those'll go on plates and in boxes to give away.

Mum is making peppermint meringues, and cinnamon ones too. Addictive little buggers...

Do you have a favorite holiday cookie? Something traditional, maybe something you only make around this time of year? Tell...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cover Us, We're Goin' In!

Mum and I are going on a whirlwind, kid-free shopping expedition today. This may well be the one day between now and the holidays we variously celebrate to get it done. The Evil Genius isn't keen on shopping, really, although he tries to be patient with us...and, also, we have an item or two to pick up that he doesn't need to know about. Ahem.

Way back when we were first together - I honestly can't recall if we were dating, engaged, or just married at the time - T and I were braving the frenzy of the mall for some reason...probably because we took leave of our senses. We chanced to pass the Warner Brothers store when a song drifted out. I stopped in my tracks, swivelled, and was drawn into the shop like a cartoon character following a steam trail from a fresh-baked pie.

On a wall of screens in the back, a video played. This video:


I have always loved The Carol of the Bells. This Trans Siberian Orchestra version is my favorite, hands down. This song, this very video, was my introduction to TSO, and I have loved them truly, madly, and deeply ever since.

This song is a good representative of how frantic holiday shopping makes me feel - I am in a mad rush to get it done and relieved to have it over with, even as I enjoy finding the few items I can't or won't make for gifts.

We really do have a number of places to go, but I have a list of stops and what we hope to find at each one, and we'll both be armed with Tasers, pepper spray, and attitude. Also it's a weekday and we're not going to a mall, so we're hoping casualties will be light and we'll be done before midnight.

You have my back, right??

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Continuing Adventures of Flat Aunt Becky*

Over the last few days I've been writing the yearly holiday greeting cards, and making these:

I liked the one above and the one below so well, I made smaller ones for myself. I'm not finished making them, either - I have many, many tiny little fabric scraps to play with!

I've also been wrapping a few gifts and making a few more.

With all this holiday preparation going on around Casa de Crazy, Flat Aunt Becky felt the need to take part. She wants to sent out a holiday greeting of her own.
"Happy Chrismachannukwansaka or some junk. Now bring me a cookie."

Now, if you'll excuse me...flat Aunt Beck is insisting she can handle the outdoor lights on her own, but I don't think she knows about the ones that neighbor's cat peed on...

* Edit - this is my one-thousand-first post! That means that tomorrow, I'll have been boring entertaining you longer than Shehari Scheriz Shahari that chick from Arabian nights**...

**Edit - yes, I know her name is Scheherazade. Geeze...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Slack, Slack, Slackity, Slacker

I'm headed to the gallery today. T has the Evil Genius, my house is somewhat clean, and I've had very little sleep - although more, I suspect, than some.

I'm going to meet my friend K, first, for a little kid-free shopping and perhaps some lunch.

I'm sure we'll chat, laugh, and share some gossip. K is one of the friends with whom I can discuss anything.

I'll be working on pinecone ornaments for the most part, although I may do cards, too. Whoopsie...I just remembered - I forgot to finish cutting fabric last night! See y'all later!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Better Late Than Never?

Hello, my name is K, and I'm a procrastinating slacker. No, that's not redundant - it means I am quite dedicated to my slackitude and go beyond the call of duty by slacking so much I'm even behind on it.

While you're puzzling that out...

Would you do a gal a favor and go check out my Etsy site? I can't recall if I'm allowed to pimp my own site here or if it's a violation of TOS...so I'm hoping for forgiveness if I don't have permission.

In the interest of keeping things above board and because I don't want to be fined or shunned or fed cod-liver oil...I am not paying myself to mention my Etsy site, nor am I benefiting myself in any way with goods or services, and this isn't a review so why am I worried about that?

It's all so confusing...

What's not confusing is this: I have ornaments and holiday cards for sale, and I'm shameless enough to ask you to buy them. Or at least, go and look at them so they won't feel lonely over there...

Cheers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Random 'kus

Small, fierce warrior
Rook leaps from hiding places
Ki is not amused.
~~~~~

Forty followers
I wonder how that happened
How did you find me?
~~~~~

Gift wrap is waiting
In the dining room corner
With ribbons and bows.
~~~~~

Poor old garland lights,
Cat marked his territory
The scent still lingers.
~~~~~

Bed nicely made up
Clean cotton sheets soft and smooth
Cats nest, contented.
~~~~~

How does cat litter
Find its way between covers
Of my tidy bed?
~~~~~

Small boy licking spoon
Brownie batter on his face
More than in his mouth.
~~~~~

Broken pinky toe
Still not fully recovered
Does not like stubbing.
~~~~~

Forgotten ice cube
Melting on the kitchen floor
My foot has found you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Doin' the Bump(er)

I haven't done one of these in a while...bumper stickers I've seen around:

Never do anything you wouldn't want to explain to the paramedics.

Don't take candy from strangers unless they offer you a ride.

Always Avoid Alliteration.

Non cogito nimis ergo non sim. (I don't think much, therefore I might not be)

When it comes to thought, some people will stop at nothing.

Hokey Pokey Anonymous - A place to turn yourself around.

My child sold your honor student the answers to the test
~~~~~
Have you seen any good ones lately? Share!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Thoughtfetti

Aroma Borealis Chocolate Chai lip balm is awesome. Thank you, Rachel...it only took me what, a year to try it?
~~~~~
Why do I always stay up the latest on nights I know I have to be up early the next day?
~~~~~
How is it that I only have one regular sewing needle in Casa de Crazy? Beading needles, tapestry needles, embroidery needles, got plenty. Plain old sewing needles (of the sort I use to quilt or sew the binding on a quilt, mend clothing, put patches on shirts, and reattach buttons)? One. Guess which kind I use the most. Yeah.
~~~~~
I don't suffer from insanity - I enjoy every minute of it.
~~~~~
I complain about Xmas music playing in November - but I have a few albums I listen to year round. The Trans Siberian Orchestra transcends season. Also, I don't make anyone else listen to them - except in December, when I change the ringtones on my phone to clips of their music.
~~~~~
Yesterday's blog title was a quote from a movie. The Movie is The Court Jester, and the actor was Danny Kaye. The scene was with Basil Rathbone.

I may be the last person on the planet who remembers him and loves his films. Holy wow, what a talent he had! It didn't hurt that he was a cutie, too. Oddly, I don't have a single one of his movies. I hope to remedy that one day.
~~~~~
Yesterday, Hermit Jim's blog post reminded me that I have no cookie cutters. Not one. How does someone who loves baking as much as I do have no cookie cutters?
~~~~~
I need to fish out the decorations for the exterior of Casa de Crazy. I put white and blue lights on the arbor over the mailbox, up the banister and around the porch railings, and around the front door. There's a wreath around here somewhere. Actually, there are a couple. I'll hang whichever one I find first on the inside of the front door. The outside is reserved for odds and ends of greenery that I'll make into something faintly decorative and hang there. I'm thinking about buying a snowflake shaped light to hang on the arbor. It'll probably be next week, though, before I bother.
~~~~~
Want to make the gods laugh? Make plans.
~~~~~
I am finally rid of the horrible chairs. They're a blog entry in themselves. For now, suffice it to say that T borrowed Mum's truck, brought his mother's caretaker up, and hauled them away. They will take up residence at T's, in front of his TV. The Evil Genius was sad about them leaving, but as soon as they were gone he was thrilled with the suddenly doubled floor space in the living room. I assuaged his sorrow by reminding him he'll see them when he's at Daddy's.
~~~~~
I cut my finger tip on steel wool. How lame is that?
~~~~~
What's your thoughtfetti today?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Get it? Got it. Good!

See the post title up there? Do you know what movie originated it? And which actor played the title role? I do...but I'm not telling...yet. That's not what this post is about.

This post is about speaking in code. I realize that you're smart folks and cotton on fairly quickly to blogspeak, that curious mix of euphemism, nickname, and outright made-up words that makes up much of the lingua franca of the Blue Nowhere. Something over at Foolery sparked the thought, though, that I use a lot of inside language on this blog and in Mundania...and I thought "Hey, I bet I can squeeze a blog post out of this!", so here we are.

An incomplete list of slangish words and phrases I've been known to utter/write:

The Blue Nowhere - the Internet, the electronic world, the fabulous global madness of a million-billion little sparks of genius fused with madness, mixed with pornography and wiki-wiki-wildness that I often call my surreal home.

Blogopolis - the blogging community, a city-state of writing, reading, creativity, ranting, and connection that pulses with vitality, has a spirit of its own, and is constantly changing. In my head, it's broken into neighborhoods with no firm boundaries that interconnect with other neighborhoods through readers and writers, creating the whole.

Mundania - the world that is not The Blue Nowhere, wherein I must pay electric bills, wash dishes, do laundry, battle dust critters of varying ferocity, and interact with beings of flesh and blood.

The Evil Genius/Bird/Little Dude/the boy/the kid - my son, whose mundane name I will not use here, because apparently posting pictures of him in various states of dress and telling you every last detail of his life is OK in my book, but making his name public isn't.

T - my ex-husband, father of the Evil Genius

Fugeling - pronounced "fyoogeling" with a hard g, this is a code word we use in my family for "Hey, little dude, pull up your pants!". It's coined after a friend of our who has neither hips not bum to help hold up his britches, so they're constantly slipping down to half mast. He's a nice guy, great sense of humor, clever with his hands, and he's smart enough to wear a very long shirt tucked in so we don't see anything traumatizing when he bends over...and I like saying "Bird, you're Fugeling" instead of "Dude, plumber butt."

Wrestle the Yeti/See Mrs. Murphy/Visit the Green Room - euphemisms for visit the loo. "Wrestle the yeti" came from my theory that women go to the bathroom in groups to protect each other from the Yeti. "See Mrs. Murphy"...honestly, I have no idea. "Green Room" isn't a TV reference...it's because the port-a-lets at the track were usually green.

Fang Bug Barked - barking fang bugs are much like barking spiders, only deadlier.

Mum/Mommylady/Momlady - my mother.

Someone - a random weirdo to whom I have become quite attached.

Casa de Crazy - my home in Mundania, at least until I win the lottery, pay off Mum's land, build a house there, and move. Then...that new place will be Casa de Crazy, because the madness will move with me.

Redneck Central - the area of the world in which I live...somewhere deep in the state of Confusion...er...Georgia.

If I missed something you've seen here or heard me use, or if you'd like to share some of your own lingual oddities, leave a comment to that effect...or feel free to tell me I'm nuttier than a Claxton Fruitcake (that's pretty dang nutty!!). It's all good.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

From Horizontal to Vertical

Mum was visiting for Thanksgiving and stayed the weekend. We thought the Evil Genius was going to be away from Friday through Sunday, and we planned to clean his room and get rid of one or two thousand extraneous toys on Saturday. He's a pretty good kid, but he's still a kid, and they're not notorious for keeping things tidy or giving up a single plaything, even if it is so mangled it doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to its original form.

For your viewing pleasure, I present a before picture in video form:



Alas, the Evil Genius didn't get to go play in more amusing climes, so we had to limit our purging to a few items stealthily bagged while the boy watched Peter Pan and laughed like a loon.

In the midst of our merriment, Someone happened to call. Bird's room in that video up there? Is pretty much how it looked while Someone was visiting. He wanted to know how on earth I clean all that up, and was it a matter of turning the mess from horizontal to vertical?



Yes. Yes it is.

Second Helping

I didn't intend to write a second post today - I had planned on being at the gallery today because the Evil Genius was going to hang with his father for the weekend...but that didn't happen. Oh, well. I've had to be flexible with plans since I was a kid, so it's nothing new. I decided that I'd still do something creative with the day, so I dove headfirst into the chaos that is my sewing/craft room for some quality time with my beloved Singer.

After a bit of sewing combined with a bit of singing along with the radio station (by the way, when did the music I listened to as a teen become "classic"??), I was hungry. I guess a banana for breakfast just doesn't cut it any more.

I had some bread leftover from last week's bake. I had a hankering for breakfast type food. I didn't want plain old toast. I've never made French Toast. Time to play!!

Y'all...the french Toast was so good, I had two pieces. Two! So did the Evil Genius. Dear Goddess, thank you for Pan Perdu! I'll be making it again, you can bet.

I didn't take any photos, but it was so freakin' tasty I had to share the recipe right away...because I can't be the very last person who learned how to make French Toast...can I?

Here it is, in all its simple glory:

Week old Bread. Seriously, you want it stale or you'll wind up with something mushy and gross.
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
Vanilla
Cinnamon
Freshly grated orange peel
Ground Ginger
Nutmeg
Sugar
Salt

Umm...have you noticed the lack of measurements up there? Yeah...this is one of those recipes that is largely by feel.

Slice the bread into 1/2 inch or thicker slices. If you're using loaves like mine (peasant loaves, I've heard them called), cut them in half so they'll fit in a frying pan. I used two slices/four pieces.

In a flat bottomed bowl, beat together egg and milk. Add a dollop of vanilla. How generous a dollop depends entirely on how much you care for vanilla. Add a dash or twenty of cinnamon. How much? Same as the vanilla. Grate some orange peel into the mix - I did about half an orange. If you don't have a fresh orange (you can slice it up after and have it with the toast), use a lemon, or skip the citrus entirely - dried won't be the same. Shake a little bit of dried ginger in. Just a dash will do, this stuff is potent. Dittos for the nutmeg. Add a generous pinch of sugar. A tiny pinch of salt, and you're ready to whisk it, whisk it good!!

Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. You want it hot enough to sizzle. Soak a piece of bread in the egg mixture, turning to coat evenly. Melt some butter in the skillet, and when it's sizzling, drop the bread on it. Cook for five to ten minute each side, until golden. Repeat until you've used up your bread or egg/milk mixture. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with syrup, fresh fruit, whipped cream - whatever you like.

Whew...that was tasty. If I didn't want to keep my ass from ballooning back up to fifty acres, I would happily eat another twenty pieces.

What Say You?


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crows

Swirling around the twisted tree, ragged scraps of inky fabric fluttering against the dark grey November sky, tossed carelessly into the wind only to drift to rest in the ancient, gnarled pine.

What news, what news, cousins? Tell me a story...

Cold, damp, cutting day, and they're circling, making a vortex of feathers and caws, wings spread wide, floating in place before diving into the sheltering embrace of the grandfather tree. How will he hold them all?

What news, cousins, what news? History keepers, tell...

It is neither day nor night, but rather some in-between time of no sun, no moon, half-light and rain, of shadows and illusions and hidden things creeping through the gloaming, unseen until they launch from the branches into the teeth of the wind, dodging the pelting rain.

Tell me cousins, what have you seen? Tell, cousins, tell...

This isn't a murder, it's a spree, a confetti of birds ebbing and flowing, blending into the dark places of one tree, leaving his neighbor bereft of inhabitants, limbs unweighted by signs and portents and their dark silence.

What news? Tell...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday, Bah!!

I don't like shopping on a good day. On Black Friday? I shudder to think of it. I'm home today, being crafty with Mum. The results of our craftiness will soon be for sale on Etsy.

Speaking of Estsy - how about you dodge the crowds and the purchasing of cheap, mass-produced plastic crap and help support an honest-to-goddess artist this holiday season?? Really, do the people you know and love well enough to give gifts to need another gadget, gizmo, or pair of socks?

Here, I'll help you out a little. Go see my friend Kerri's Etsy shop. I guarantee you won't find anything like what she produces in her studio anywhere else. It truly is wearable art. She's let me play with her glass (I said GLASS, Google perves!!) on a few occasions, and I hope to do so again before long.

I'll be avoiding the feeding shopping frenzy as much as possible this year, making as many gifts as I can.

Oh, and for the purposes of full disclosure, Kerri didn't ask me to plug her shop. She did ask me to help her with the write-ups on her glass pieces, which I was happy to do. If she makes a bundle, she may even pay me for my work, making me a real! live! freelance writer! Right after she pays to have her chimney cleaned and the firebox in her fireplace repaired so she doesn't burn down the house keeping warm when the power's out, replacing her hall bathroom (oh, how lovely it would be to be able to go to the loo when visiting her, rather than contemplating peeing on a tree)(which has its place, just not in a suburban back yard)(unless you are a five-year-old boy, but that's another story)(and another yard), and pre-paying the hospital for the delivery of her son, due in February/March. Yeah, we have to pre-pay here in Redneck Central, even with insurance.

So - avoid crowds, give unique, wearable gifts, support an artist and a writer, all without changing out of your pajamas. How awesome is that??

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful

I have a few traditions on this day. Not many - the menu I posted Tuesday, 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, 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
Someone
Gypsy, K, Kit, Sam-I-Am, PJ, Mizz Beth, 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
Every creature and plant that I consume to sustain myself, because without the life I take, there would be 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...)
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.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Order Up

It seems like everyone I ask has some sort of traditional Thanksgiving dish, that one thing that it isn't Thanksgiving without. For the last few years, I've stayed here at Casa de Crazy and cooked the meal for whoever was here - usually me, T, Mum, the Evil Genius, the Roommate, and T's Nephew. I set the menu, but always ask if there's anything the others would especially like to have, and try to incorporate that dish.

This year, we're light in numbers - Me, Mum, and the Evil Genius, and maybe Gypsy and her family (they're celebrating a day early this year, and I told her they could to pop by if they wanted to, if only for dessert and games).

I'm making:

Turkey (I couldn't find one smaller than ten pounds, so there will be plenty for sandwiches, soup, and other leftover mayhem)(I did, however, manage to find a reasonably priced one that didn't have stuff injected into it - Whole Foods rocks!!)

Dressing (made with bread I baked this past weekend and some sourdough picked up at the Publix bakery, and homemade stock, among other things)

Gravy (from scratch, natch, with homemade turkey stock and pan drippings)

Mashed potatoes (although they're technically riced, since we use a ricer and not a masher. Mum makes these, because she's better at it than I am)

Green Beans (steamed and possibly lightly sauteed in butter and garlic)

Mashed Turnips and Carrots (ohmuhgoodness, I love these! I could go without turkey on Thanksgiving, but not my turnips and carrots)

Bread (baked here) and Butter (not made here)

Cranberry Jelly (from a can, because if it isn't cylindrical with odd little ridges and depressions in it, it just won't taste right)(I may, just for giggles, though, make homemade as well)

Keylime Pie (homemade, except the shortbread crust because Keebler does that so nicely and I hate to see the cute little elves put out of business because I insisted on doing everything myself)(nothing says autumn holiday like keylime pie)(What do you mean, the pilgrims and their indigenous tribal neighbors didn't have keylime pie? I can't hear you...la, la, la, la, la...)

Mrs. Smith's Dutch Apple Crumb Pie (I can't make one this yummy, and why buck tradition??)

I'll have pillows and blankies on hand, too, for the inevitable post-turkey crash.

So...what're you having? What's the one thing (or the fifteen things) that makes your Thanksgiving complete?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Basic, Simple, Bliss

Have I ever mentioned that I like to bake?

No?

I like to bake.

For many years, I stuck to simple recipes that didn't involve yeast and all its attendant complications. I admit it - an organism the size of a grain of sand intimidated me. I always adored fresh bread, though, and wished I could learn to make it...if only there wasn't that pesky yeast.

I wasn't alone...I know plenty of people who won't even risk a bread machine. Shoot, I know a couple of folks who won't even buy those frozen loaves of dough you just put in the oven.

I finally got past my aversion to cooking with yeast when I really, really wanted to make cinnamon rolls from scratch rather than from a tube. The recipes called for yeast. Oh, dear. Well...I did it. And then I did it again. And then I decided that I could brave the big one...bread.

Basic bread is simple, smells amazing, and when eaten warm from the oven with butter melting over it, drizzled with honey, and sprinkled with cinnamon? Pure gustatory bliss.

Give it a try - you won't be sorry!

The Cast:
Up to 6 cups flour (I use White Lilly unbleached bread flour, but regular all purpose will work fine, too)
2 envelopes active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons shortening
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
2 cups very warm water (I add 1 cup boiling water to 1 cup chilled water taken from the refrigerator dispenser) no hotter than 110 degrees F
1/4 cup melted butter

Before you start, lightly oil a large bowl and set it aside. Line a large cookie sheet with Release foil or brush it liberally with melted butter and set it aside.

In a bowl (I use my mixer, but you can use your hands if you like), layer 1 cup flour, shortening, another cup flour, yeast, another cup flour, and the salt and sugar. Mix them until they look a bit like meal, or basically until the shortening is somewhat evenly distributed in the flour mixture.

Slowly pour in the water while mixing on low speed.

Mix on low speed for one minute, then on medium speed for one minute. While that's happening, lightly flour a large cutting board or your work surface.

Exchange the whisk for the dough hook and add one cup of flour. Mix on medium-low until the flour is fully incorporated. Add another cup of flour and repeat.

Now...aside from not killing the yeast with -too hot water, or not reviving the yeast with too-cold water, adding the right amount of flour is the trickiest part of bread making. And it's not that tricky. At this point, you are almost done. The dough will likely be crawling up the hook or forming something sort of ball shaped in the bowl. Give it a touch. Go one, I'll wait.

Yep...it's warm and springy and probably still a little sticky at this point. You've made a living thing. Cool, huh?

If you touch the dough and it sticks to your finger...
...you need more flour. Add a half cup and mix again. I have never had to go past this point with flour. Give it a poke again. It should be a little springy and not stick to your finger. Add another half cup of flour if you must. If it's just a tiny bit sticky, though, no fear - it's better to have a little less flour than too much. Too much means tough, dry, crumbly bread...boo.

See? It's making a kind of ball.

Pull the dough from the hook...
...and get ready for one of the best things about baking bread - the kneading. Ohmuhgodness, this is better than therapy. It's warm, soft, elastic, already smells lovely, and there's just something tremendously satisfying about the whole thing.



I had to stop the video before I was done kneading, because it's really a two-handed job. You get the idea, though.

Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, three to five minutes.

Form the dough into a ball and place it in the oiled bowl. Roll it around and make sure the entire surface of the ball is oiled. You don't want it drying out!
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place to rise.

Rising bread is an alchemical wonder.

For the love of all that's holy, leave the poor thing alone for at least forty minutes, or until it has doubled in size. This is where the yeast gets really busy doing its yeasty thing, which will in turn help make your bread light, smooth, and lovely.
Look at that...it's gorgeous, I tell ya.

Using your finger tips, divide the dough in half. It will de-poof during this process, but don't worry...it'll all come out right in the end.

Thank goodness I cleaned my fingernails before shooting these photos. honestly, I don't know how they get so dirty, but sometimes I'm shocked...shocked I tell you...at the state of them!

Why am I suddenly thinking about Mick Jagger and Angelina Jolie??

Take one of the dough pieces and knead it again five or six time. I don't even bother with the board, just hold it on my hands and sort of fold it in on itself, then make a ball and place it on the cookie sheet. Repeat with the other piece of dough.

It's about the size of a large grapefruit or pumello, now. Brush the dough with melted butter. It'll thank you for the love.

I keep my butter liquid and happy by putting the bowl on the back burner of the stove, where the oven vent is. It is warm enough to keep the butter melted but not so hot it damages the bowl or burns the butter, and I don't have to use the microwave and risk all kinds of buttery mayhem.

Now that they've been buttered...

...go find something to do for another forty minutes while they rise to the occasion. They should double in size again.

Heat the oven to 425 F. You can pop them right into the oven, or you can inscribe a design on the surface of the loaves with a very sharp, smooth-edged knife. I usually make a star design.

Bake at 425 for twenty minutes. Remove from the oven, but leave the oven on!

Hey, look, they're kissing loaves! When they touch like that, I call 'em "kissing loaves" because it looks like they're kissing, duh. Don't worry of yours do this - it won't hurt anything.

Brush with butter again, then put the bread back in the oven for five more minutes. It's done when you tap a loaf and it sounds hollow.


Cool on a rack - if you can keep from slicing right into it and devouring it while it's hot!

This bread is excellent as is, makes terrific sandwiches, is good for French toast, and is useful as a bowl for serving dips in, too. I made these loaves to turn into dressing on Thursday...if they last that long. Wrapped in freezer paper or kept in a Ziploc, it's good for a week or more.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Really? Really??

Huh. Funny how the Universe works. Sometimes we have delightful, serendipitous moments - when we think of an old friend and they call or write, or when we have a hankering for our favorite chocolate mousse and someone invites us to the one place that makes it the way we like it best.


And sometimes we have weird synchronicity, like when we write a blog post about annoying, immoral e-mails from strangers who feel the Blue Nowhere is their personal spamming ground, con artists (although it's not really an art what they do) who view the world as their mark, villains who prey on the weak, foolish, gullible, and innocent.

I wrote that post about the UNICEF e-mail I received and mentioned in passing the one from an alleged American soldier. Well guess what was in my e-mail in-box Saturday morning? Check it out (items in parenthesis are mine, the rest is pure Internet bunk):

My name is Sgt Don Guy (did you know that the word "guy" was coined in reference to Guy Fawkes day, when they burned a man in effigy - the dummy was called the "Guy", and the word "guy" originally meant "dummy"), I am an American soldier, I am serving in the military of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regimient, Patrols Tal Afar, in Iraq. I apologized using this medium to reach you for a deal of this magnitude (Way to use references to military and geographical stuff that I have probably never heard of and am likely too lazy to look up, Internet Scamming Asshole!)(However, even I, lazy-bones that I am, know that's not how you spell "regiment")(Please don't insult my intelligence while you're trying to insult my wallet)(Thank you)(Also, you use more commas than I do, which makes you seriously suspect).

We managed to move funds belonging to Saddam Hussein's family. The total amount is US$25 Million dollars in cash (Dude, seriously, no one who actually lives in this nation says "US$" in reference to money. We presume that everyone means US dollars unless they specify otherwise. We're a bunch of big, fat, wasteful, walking, talking egos), mostly 100 dollar bills (Way to do your research on US currency pal - although I am not sure the average citizen is aware that the Benjamin is the largest bill we circulate these days, thanks to drug dealers and scumbags like you) . We want to move this money to you, so that you may invest it for us and keep our share for banking (because we're bosom buddies, of course).

I have the authority of my partners involved to propose that should you be willing to assist us in this transaction, your share of the sum will be 30% of the US$25 million, 60% for us and 10% will be kept aside for expenses and rest assure that this business is 100% safe on your part provided you treat it with utmost secrecy and confidentiality (Whoopsie...does this mean I won't get my share of the ill-gotten gains?? I blog somewhat anonymously, so no one would know who really helped you...).

Basically since we are working for the American Government, we cannot keep these funds, We plan on using diplomatic courier by shipping the money out to you by using diplomatic immunity (How nice that thieves are relying on the implied honor and honesty of the diplomatic corps while explaining how they'll be acting in an unlawful, immoral fashion and committing fraud internationally).

No strings attached, just help us move it out of Iraq, for Iraq is a war zone. You will only help the diplomat to get the yellow tag paper as soon as they arrive in your airport, they will have to call you to notify you that they have arrive for you to arrange with them on geting the tag so that the custom and immigration will not inspect the consignment (Again with the mysterious language, poor spelling, and added fun of cloak-and-dagger behavior to give it that special flare).

If you are interested I will send you the full details, my job is to find a good partner that we can trust and that will assist us. Can I trust you? When you receive this letter, kindly send me an e-mail signifying your interest including your most confidential telephone/address for quick communication for the delivery (Oh, yeah, because I want complete stranger who are trying to perpetrate criminal fraud to know where I live and how to contact me). This business is risk free (Yeah, for you, maybe).

The box can be shipped out in 48hrs. Please observe utmost confidentiality (oh, yeah, I'll be as honest as you are regarding this matter), and be rest assured that this business is risk free. Note plz, alwayS reply with this email address sgtdonguy@redactedbecauseIamdisinclinedtogivethemanyunwittingprey.com because of the security reason.

Respectfully submitted
Sgt. Don Guy
~~~~~
I swear, I think they put in all the errors so anyone paying the least bit of attention will have a sporting chance...

You know...our soldiers have a hard enough time over there, what with little to no support from their home government and local folks trying to explode them with all kinds of IED type gizmos...they really don't need the added stigma that all the implications of immorality in this kind of letter/activity. If you really must try to drain me dry, could you please do so with something a little less insulting to both my intelligence and the people putting their lives in danger so I can sit on my capacious bottom and write snarky blogs at will?

Thanks...but no thanks...may I refer you to Ms. Susan Gigs of UNICEF, who could use the help of nice, upstanding people like you?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Continuuing Adventures of Flat Aunt Becky

I took FAB with us when we went to get the Evil Genius's photo with the man dressed as Santa/The Holly King. She was a little intimidated by the big guy and opted out of the photo shoot, preferring instead to investigate the shrubberies by the bank.

Nothing says "Prepare for the oncoming holidays!" like...a gardenia? Umm...


That's more like it...Holly in full berry mode, now with bonus berries!

As luck would have it, T was taking the Evil Genius away for the rest of the weekend for a few Father/Son bonding activities, so Mum, FAB and I were free to explore a local bead show. FAB thought the beads were mostly uninteresting. I wondered if she was right in the head - who thinks beads are boring (don't answer that)? She said something about low blood sugar...

...so we repaared to the lobby to see if we could remedy the situation. I believe we succeeded.

Sadly, I could not capture FAB's shenanigans at JoAnne's - she was a whirlwind in the scrapbooking aisle, revived by her little repast, and I had my hands full keeping up with her and finding the papers I needed for making holiday cards. FAB napped all the way up to Mum's place, where we were spending the night, but she perked up in time for dinner.

Mum wanted steak, and since she was buying, who was I to argue?? We went to Longhorn.

"Now that's a knife!"

"I claim this bread in the name of Flat Aunt Becky!"

FAB shared my steak - turns out she likes her ribeye rare, too!

We didn't have desert, although I always want to order the chocolate stampede...but I can only mange a bite or two before I'm done, and it's such a waste. FAB told me later she could eat a whole one herself. I wish she'd mentioned that before - we could have shared!

I'm hoping to get back to the gallery this Sunday - if I manage it, I'm bringing FAB with me and we'll see what we get up to while we're there.