Sanna's Bag

“I never seem to have what I need when I need it. I’m going to make a belt-bag that’s bigger on the inside than on the outside, and just carry everything with me.”

Monday, January 31, 2011


Here it is!  Puddletown Publishing Group! 

Do you have a book in you?  These gals may be the midwives to bring it to light. 
Do you have trouble finding books you really want to read?  Look into e-books!  No one will see you checking out that steamy vampire novel.  No one will look askance at you for buying young adult lit.  And the prices are AFFORDABLE!!

Puddletown is bringing out Sanna, Sorceress Apprentice, Sanna and the Dragons, Sanna Meets Dauntless Swiftsure, and Sanna and the Empress, one a quarter for the next year.  Squeee !!!!!  And now I'm getting inspired to write a bit more.  Maybe get out that collection of fiberous fairytales.  Who knows.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

snarg argmshh crawling out frome under the rock

I'm down with some sorta bug.  My head is clear,but I have a fever, sore throat, headache, phlegmy cough. and my teeth feel too big. Joints ache.  Sleep trips me up and beats me to thefloor.  I could cowboy up, take drugs and soldier through, but whythehell should I when I can also take other drugs and gp back to bed?

Because there's big news!!
 Lisa Nowak at the Tao of and Susan at Aliens at Beaver are combining with Renee    in Puddle City Publishing.

Damn I wish I could think more clearly.  this is wonderful news because they are going to be producing e-books, and Sanna is going to be one of their first offerings.  So really, really soon you'll be able to buy my books for your nook book or kindle at a really cheap price and everyone can afford the love!

My fingrd are being rellly stupid right now.

And they will nalso offer print on demand, so the fourht and final book i n thenSanna Series, Sanna snd the Empress, will finally see the light of day in paper.

AND, their errotica imprint is going to pick  up my spicey western.  Yah hoo!

On a completely unrelated subject, the chai tea cupcakes were over-mixed, which made them tough, and a bit overbaked, but the flavor was fabulous and the locusts devoured them all before 10AM.  Worth a retry.

Friday, January 28, 2011

car show

 Last night we met MJ and RW and went to the car show.  It was a very subdued and practical show this year. On previous occasions the cars were happy, pretty, fun colors.  I remember in particular a baby blue BMW two seater that was clearly the car a man would buy for his mistress.  And ther were plum and gold and chartreuse cars in earlier years.  This year, oh no!  Good practical colors.  Black and beige, grey and dark red.  Some white and silver cars but almost no fun colors. Lots of sedans, station-wagons, and mid-size SUVs.  Practical, bread and butter, go to work, get the kids from soccer practice cars.

Male menopause does continue to provide a market, though.  Scarlet muscle cars, and hot little sports cars that will go faster than the lasw will allow are still being made and sold. Nothing says a last desperate grasp at carefree youth like a bald guy in mustang.
And we all know the difference between a porche and a porcupine.  With a porcupine, the prick's on the outside.
 DH and I sat in a Corvette because we enjoy putting our butt prinnts in expensive cars.  As he pointed out, I don't especially want to hit the freeway with my butt a scant 12 inches off the pavement.  And I practically had to roll out onto my hands and knees and haul myself to my feet, because that little sucker was so low down.
One of the local steel recyclers had a contest.  If you can guess the make, model and year of this car, you win!  There were a surprising number of guys walking around it, eyeing it discerningly and even discussing salient points.  to me, this is like identifying a designer dress from the lining and a zipper.

There were lots of green vehicles.  Electric motorcycles were well represented.  Hybrid cars were all over the place.  Everyone is offering one now, and some of them are almost worth the money.  There were prototype electric cars as well.

And a vintage electric brougham.  I wanted to knit some lace doilies for it.  Venerable old girl!

Of course, the cars had representatives to speak for them, and everyone had their particular look. Chevy put their female reps in snug leather jackets.   Kia had their reps in khaki cargo pants.The Ford representatives were all in formal black.  I know these girls have to stay on their feet for ten hour stretches, and look at the shoes that she voluntarily stepped into!  If she's not earning three figures for this stint, then it's not worth it!!
As we were leaving, I found the car of my dreams.  Isn't this just ME?  It's big, classy, powerful, and vintage.  And not terribly practical, since I live in a rain-soaked state, and convertibles leak.  Oh, yes.  That's me all over!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Seasonal signs

 I know, the East coast is colder than a tin toilet seat on the shady side of a glacier.  Here in the temperate valley, we have daffodills emerging. (I mulch my bulbs with leaves raked off the lawn.  Seems to work for me.)
 And the garden store has primroses on sale.  Soo happy to see their little faces smiling by my front door.
Meanwhile, my cactus is sure that somehow, somewhere, it's gotta be Christmas!!

Meantime, I am trying a scratch cake using real cake flour, and Chai tea.  We'll see how it turns out.  Oh, and I discovered a latino music station on the TV.  Who knew?  I've got sambas and tangos for background music, and I just may meet DH at the door with a rum in my hand and a rose in my teeth!

Monday, January 24, 2011

I begin to understand

When poets waxed lyrical about the glories of well baked bread, they had to be talking about a rare and uncommon thing.  I have thermometers and a temperature controled oven and every modern convenience, and I'm still stuggling with this bread-baking thing.  Especially that second rise.  (But I gotta tell you, this dense bread is really yummy!)  What blows me away is that our foremothers, for millenia, did all their baking in a wood-fired oven with no thermostat.  How did they know when it was hot enough?  How did they keep it hot enough?  No wonder there's all this har-de-har about new brides not being able to turn out a decent meal.  This is the sort of thing that would takes years of practice.  My Norwegian grandmother was cook for a logging camp, and fed thirty men with what she cooked on a wood stove.  I am not fit to wash her pots and pans.
Bread baking has been a humbling experience so far, but I'm not done yet by any means!!
I am, however gaining back the weight I fought to lose.  Homemade bead, even indifferent home-made bread, is delicious!!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

cinnamon roll fail

I didn't have the heart to take photos.  Evidently the top of the gas fireplace pilot light isn't warm enough.  Flat cinnamon rolls don't quite make it, though they were tasty.  So I tried another batch, rising it in the oven like the KitchenAid book suggested. Great rise!  Beautiful rolls!  I over-baked them.  I had to soak the pan in a sink full of hot water to get the bread part out, and the cinnamon-sugar part is still soaking.  Let's see - how can I foul up the next batch? Right now, plain, simple white bread is rising.  We'll see how that turns out.  I may stand in the kitchen, right next to the oven to keep them from over-baking.  Ah - the alternative may be bread that's still a big raw in the center.  I can hardly wait!!

But I did find a great receipe for peanut-butter / raisin cookies for my friend with the cancer.  He LOVES raisins. I called him to let him know I was bringing some cookies.  "Thanks!" he said, "The only dietary restriction I have right now is raisins."  Oh well.  He's getting lots of company.  He can feed the cookies to them.

This weekend, the barstids that DH works for are making him work all wekend long.  Sucks rocks.  Still, it's great to have a job to complain about.  I'm sort of at loose ends - spending 8 hours waiting for him to come home.  I usually plan projects for myself on work days, but I wasn't prepared to be on my own at short notice.  Pull my socks up and do some housework.  Boy - if that's what happens every time he has to work overtime, I'm REALLY gonna hate it when he has to put in extra hours.  Maybe next time I'll spend the time lounging in bed with a pot of hot tea, a cheery romance and a few kitties.  If I can't have my beloved, I'd better do SOMETHING to give myself the will to live.

As I was going through the old photos I found this one of my grandpa.  And what's that he has hidden under his elbow?  A brown paper sack? Could he be drinking some sort of alcoholic beverage out of the bag?  Well, I remember thee story of how, during prohibition, Grandpa was brewing his own beer, and had just bottled a batch when the priest came over for a visit.  Grandpa, Grandma, and Father Schmidt were sitting in the living room, drinking coffee and having a great time when a bottle of beer exploded in the basement.  Father Schmidt was startled, but before he could say anything, another bottle exploded, and the smell of beer came wafting up through the heater vents.  Father sniffed, looked thoughtful, and carried on as if nothing at all were happening.  He spent another hour chatting comfortably until the explosions stopped, then thanked Grandma and Grandpa and took himself off.  A good German boy like Father Schmidt knew the hazards of home-brew.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A year of seasons

Here's that little maple tree from a different angle.  This photo was taken on the one sunny day we saw last week.  Look - the sky is blue!!  Today, the sky is a monochrome in shades of gray.  The puddle at the end of the driveway is deep enough to raise trout, and the rain ranges from persistent drizzle to pestilential downpour.  Many of the local rivers are over their banks, though I have seen worse.  And I'm DAMN glad we live at the top of a rise.  If we get flooded out, the entire downtown of Portland will be under water.
I posted the last of the old family photos on facebook - including my grandpa in full beard when he was working on the Al-Can highway in Alaska. Quite the picturesque cheechako.  

Dave suggested I have a virtual garage sale on the stuff I cleared out of my head.  For starters, I'm donating all the squooshy, ornate, and extravagant furniture to the Elves in Amy Lane's Green's Hill.  And the gwdaful lamps, too.  Especially the five foot tall golden plaster off-center Grecian maiden with the amphora on her shoulder and the light fixture coming out of her head. And the porcelain lady with the huge hoop skirt that concealed a radio, the tall white wig with the rhinestones in it, and the light fixture coming out of the top.  The shade on that was pink, with tassles, finge AND beading.  Nothing succeeds like excess.  I figure the sprites and elves will have a grand time with those.  Though, there was a time, the third time I moved that damn Grecian maiden, that I thought I might like to stick it out in the field at the cabin and blast away with a shotgun. that sucker was HEAVY!

As for the cookbooks and romances, the china chipped and faded from being sent through the dishwasher, the pieces of carpet left over from the last remodel in the 70s, the pastel-colored cigarettes with the gold-paper filter-tips, the moth-eaten furs and the gaudy costume jewelry - have at it, folks!  MJ already has the old dining-room table and china cabinet, and is giving it a whole new set of vibes. Thank you, MJ!
 I got the intangibles and those are the things that count.

The cats and I are moving in a big pile of yellow pillows and some fuzzy blankies, and we will nest in here when we need to think.  You're welcome to visit any time you want.  I can sit with you, or you can have the room all to yourself. Sort of.  You'll have to share with the cats.

Many people have mentioned that they have a room like this, too.  When you are ready to clean it out, give me a hollar.  It's SO much easier working with a friend!

Hugs and love and warmth to all hearts this weekend.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

the virtual party

Thank you, thank you, friends, for helping me with the virtual unpacking.  We annoyed the hell out of a lot of spiders, scared the crap out of a generation of mice, and cleared the room all the way to the walls.  We discovered several more windows that were hidden behind china cabinets and piles of stuff, and things are much brighter in here now.  We went through dozens of boxes of cookbooks marked, "Not for Roxie.  She's not interested in cooking."  (Compete with my mom, the gourmet genius?  I wouldn't think of it!)  We cleared out boxes of costume jewelry.  She LOVED those sparkly things!  We found a pair of peep-toe alligator pumps with ankle straps (size 3), and a wardrobe packed full of hats with feathers and veils and silk roses and the carapaces of a thousand carpet beetles that had ruined all of them.  In the lining of a moth-eaten sable coat we found a diamond ring that had slipped through a tear in the pocket.  We uncovered velvet chaise lounges and down-filled slipper chairs and squooshy, overstuffed sofas that could just about swallow you whole.  Several sets of china emerged from the mess, a huge pile of bodice-ripper romances had been tossed under a side table, and every where we turned we kept turning up half-filled bottles of bourbon.

The  wallpaper is light brown with big red roses.  That's got to go!  There's a chandelier that will need re-wiring.  It's a freaking pain to polish all those crystals, but it'll sparkle plenty when it's done.  The floor is brown linoleum, cold, slick, and easy to clean.  Maybe a nice carpet?

And the view from all those newly opened windows?  I can see for miles! 

This has been a good exercise.  I haven't shared the uglier parts, but without your company, I wouldn't have worked through them, either.  Thank you for taking this journey with me.  My head feels a lot clearer!!

Things I have learned:  Money and things will not make you happy.
                                  No one is perfect, me included.
                                  Mom is responsible for a lot of who I am, and who I am is pretty darn good.
                                  Use your nice things today.  You're worth it.
                                  If you're going to do yoga stretches in the nude, don't look. Keep your eyes closed.  No matter how fit and firm you are, it'll appall you to see yourself from those angles.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

So who is the woman who left me this room full of unfinished business?

The chortling cherub is my mother, sitting in the grass with her mom and her baby sis.  Oh, look.  She has a soft huggy rag-doll.

And check out all the diapers hanging on the line behind them.  Lord, diapers on a scrub-board!  That's punishment!  Poor grandma!
 Mom and Dad's wedding picture.  They look so darn young and scared to death.
 Here's Mom, her grandfather, Raphael Stoltz, her mom, Monica Stoltz Ivancovich, and mom's first-born, Philip Albert.
 Dad was a lumberman, and world war II was a good time for lumbermen.  Here's mom right after the war in her furs.
Mom and Dad at their fiftieth anniversary.
 Mom loved deep sea fishing off the Oregon coast.  The skippers all loved her because she would pack huge lunches and feed everyone.  Of course,  some of her fellow charterers were often guys who had spent the previous evening drinking, playing cards and smoking cigars.  then they would roll out, feeling a bit green to start with, and get onto a cold boat stinking of diesel fuel, head out into a choppy ocean in the dim dawn, and this sweet, granny offers them a nice ham sandwich.  Yuuurp!
Mom on her 70th birthday.  She lived to be 93. Or 94.  There's some question.

This room cleaning is helping me a lot.  I'm able to let go of a lot of resentment and forgive a lot of failures.  It was harder to forgive them while she was alive because there was every chance she would repeat them.  It's safe, now.

I've been sharing a lot of old family photos on facebook, and a number of nieces and nephews have been having a family reunion around them.  It's kind of fun.

Thanks for the help with the room cleaning.  I'll let you know tomorrow how things have gone.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The reality of publishing

Heide, thanks so much for your comment.  Bless your dear heart!  Actually, Random House Press was  interested in Sanna, but they wanted me to re-write it to make it more,"edgy" and "darker."  It wasn't sufficiently violent and depressing.  If I had killed off Sanna's parents in the first chapter, and kept her terrified and despairing, I might have gotten to print.  Since that isn't the kind of world Iwant to live in, that isn't the kind of world I wanted to create. So I self-published.  And since I suck at marketing, you won't find me on the news-stands in every American airport.  Oh well.  Maybe I can be famous when I die.  (grin)

On the other hand, e-books is looking quite promising.  People can make an end-run around the big publishing houses.  If I make Sanna available as  e-books for a mere $1.99, I will still make a profit, and a lot more people will be able to enjoy her adventures.  I have to check out my contracts with Author House (the press that I went through to self-publish) and see if they have e-books rights.  If not, friends are putting together an e-press right in the neighborhood.  Yayyy!!!

Mr. Tim, do you know if Jan York is available to do another cover?

I'm about to have a big unpacking party in my head.  I don't know what's valuable and what isn't, and I'll be at this for wayyy too long if i don't get some help.  The kitties are chasing vermins out, there's settees and sofas to settle into, and DH will bring in sandwiches, coffee and tea.  There are boxes of cookbooks and bodice-rippers, costume jewelry, old photos, old clothes and God knnows what else.  I found an ivory cigarette box that had scarlet nail polish spilled on it.  Can it be cleaned?  Or would someone like to take it and carve it into wonderful new things?  Clothes were stuffed away without being cleaned first, and the armpits have rotted out, but the fabric is silk and fine wool.  Anyone want to help me sort for the quilt bag?

Bang!  A revelation.  Mom had lovely, nice things (like me) that she just didn't know how to take care of.  She wasn't destructive,or even indifferent, just ignorant.  Ok, that helps a lot.

Thanks with your patience as I tease out these symbols and artefacts.  It helps to write it down, and if I have an audience, I'm a lot more likely to be faithful with the work.

In the meantime, do you see that yellow stuff?  It's sunshine!  It's sunshine at 4:18 in the evening!  In December, it's pitch black by this time.  Summer really IS coming!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

mixed bag

In the mundane world, I had to take a flat tire to the shop for a repair.  While there, I unlimbered my laptop and carried on with the final re-write of the fourth and final Sanna novel.  This is magic, you know - carrying several entire books and a complete mail system in a pad small enough to tuck into a lady's bag,

The re-write wound up just about the time the repair was finished.  One tire had picked up a screw AND a nail.  When did I drive through a construction zone?  With all the work going on inside my head, I frequently need to remind myself to be here now.  I drove to the tire shop on auto-pilot.  Not a good thing to do.

As for the room in my head, the kitties are exploring and adventuring all over the dark corners, and vermin are running for their lives.  The extra lights are a big help.  Under the table are crammed boxes full of food:  Jello powder that has set up brick hard over the years;  Pickled quail eggs with the brine gone opaquely murky; Australian canned mutton left over from WWII.  Food is what Mom was all about.  She believed it was her job  to feed her family and friends, and it was the job of her friends and family to eat.  No wonder I have trouble keeping weight off.  I'm good at my job.

All the old food and old rules about it goes out the window.

 The next dust-sheeted mound turns out to be a Victorian era settee with gold brocade upholstery, just like mother loved.  I wouldn't have it in my house because all those carved and fretted bits of woodwork are a bitch to keep dusted, and the brocade shows marks if you even sit on it.  The seat is piled high with more mysterious boxes, and peculiar bundles are shoved underneath.  Linda, -  Amy, you guys would love each other.  Would you be willing to come help me with this?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday afternoon

DH and I  rolled out of bed about 9 PM today and hit the grocery store before the after-church crowd got there.  It was wonderful!  You could actually push your cart down the aisle without having to ask people to move, or being run down by the over-stressed and easily distracted among us.

As you can see from the weekly photo of the tree, it is still grey and mild here.  That's our house in the background this time.

I got Cupcake out, and am making a try at cinnamon rolls.  I have never made a cinnamon roll from scratch.  I spoke kindly to the yeast, sang to it, and exhorted it to help me make wonderful rolls.  I did not put any yeast dough in my warm dark belly.  Yet.  Oh, my I was tempted.  That sweet and yeasty smell is SOO appealing!    But I did find a splendid place to proof the dough - the top of the gas fireplace, over the pilot light.  Wish me luck.

.So I continue working at cleaning out that metaphorical room.  Lisa, I think you're right aout the dolls being me, and it is comforting to know that even though I wasn't the doll she dreamed of, at least she still kept me.  And Tim, the drop chute is getting a lot of use already.  Thanks!!
The big pile right in front of the door is a dining-room table, just like the one I grew up with.  You say dining room table, and I think of this mahagony behemoth with multiple leaves,curly legs, and the scars of cigarette burns all over it. (Mom would light a cigarette, put it in an ashtray, then forget it.  It's a wonder she never burned the place down.)  There were chairs on top of it with boxes of china and table linens piled between the legs.  Mice had gotten into some of the boxes and built nests amongst the linen.  Ewwww !  Gorgeous Irish damask clothes, never used, and ruined past repair.  Straight down the chute, and it feels good to pitch them.  Other boxes of linen still mostly mouse free, needing washing and ironing.  Hooboy, I'm going to be working a lot at this! But it makes clear to me that one thing I have gotten from my mom is my love of entertaining and all the accessories that go along with it.  I am already squinting at the ceilong, trying to estimate the size of the room, wondering if I can get all the knitter in here for tea?

I haven't gotten to the boxes under the table yet, but ever since I found those virtual mouse nests, Candy cat has insisted on a place on my lap.  I'm going to invite all the kitties in to help me clean the room.  Kitties are good helpers!!

How did our cats get theri names?  Well, Candy was a rescue cat and came with her name already.  Fly showed up as a youngster on our front porch and crawled over the screens over the front windows like a fly would.  Ben and Pepper were kittens at the local pet store.  When I saw her bright eyes and her lack of tail, I had to  share house-space with her.  Then she rubed her ears against my hand and went into a paroxysm of purring, and I was done for.  We got her home and got her settled, and DH said, "Did you notice that little red male kitten there?"  yes.  "I have a feeling that if we don't get him, he won't have a happy life."  What are we waiting for?  Let's go get him! 
So we rescued these two kittens, the male barely 6 weeks old, the female from another litter and at least a month older.  We played with them, fed and petted them, tucked them up together for the night, and in the morning I knew what their names were.  The fearless dark female was Pepper.  The timid red baby was Ben.  We've been happy roommates ever since.

And Squirrel, thanks to Lisa's matchmaking skills, has a new home and an owner who is just nutty about her.  Kitties are our friends.

How did your pets get their names?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wait, what day is this?

A college friend has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer and asked me to be the executor of his estate.  I'm at the age when people are dying a lot more, and I am going back into that metaphorical cold dirty room left to me when Mom died.  I have been much out of touch with the here and now.

Going into that metaphorical room is giving me symbols to use to deal with the feelings and processes.  The room was festooned with dust and cobwebs.  I keep going out and coming back with more tools.  And helpers.  In my visuallizing, I had to ask DH to help me get the window open.  Without his strength and hands-on skills, I would have had to smash the wonderful old wavey glass with the tiny bubbles in it.  The window had been caulked shut and I had to get it open.

Then I brought in a leaf-blower to chase out the cobwebs.  I was telling my friend LG about the process (knowing that she also speaks metaphor and imagery) and she gave me an extra extension cord for the leaf blower and made herself available to help whenever I needed her.  What a gift!

The room is crowded with hulking piles under dust-sheets.  I have to squeeze between them.  I knocked into one stack, and it fell down.  It was all empty boxes with packing tissue or newspaper stuffed into them.  As if something had been taken out, and the box just shoved back into this empty room because you never know when you might need it.  Mom was very much a child of the great depression, and she hated to get rid of anything.  So I mentally went through all the boxes, shook out the paper, then flattened the boxes and paper and took them to the re-cycling.  The only full box was stuffed tight with soft old rag-dolls.  They were grubby from being played with.  Ther clothes needed mending and their yarn hair needed tending.  I don't know why they got shoved in here.  Were they not good enough?  Mom used to buy me big, beautiful, elaborate, expensive dolls that I wasn't allowed to play with.  All show, no cuddle. I feel sorry for these soft lovey dollies and decide to take care of them. With the pile of empty boxes gone, it's nice to have a bit of clear floor space to work in.

Today, I'll need to bring in some more lights, another extension cord for the leaf-blower, and the shop vacuum.  Once I get all the cobwebs chased out, I'm going to start with the big pile right in front of the door and start discovering what's under the rest of the dust sheets. 

So I am posting this for a couple of reasons.  One, to give you an idea of what goes on inside this bone box on top of my spine, and two, to open the process up to my friends.  Any ideas, interpretations, inspirations?  Sometimes other people can look at a symbol that is obscure to me, and it is perfectly obvious to them.  My subconscious is very good at hiding things from me.  And three, if you have any rooms in your head that need cleaning, to offer my leaf-blower and shop-vac skills.

Yeah, I know, all metaphysical touchy-feely new-agey hoohoo.  I'll use any tools that will work and I don't care what they look like.  But if you don't want to know about the process, let me know, ok?  I'm going to be at this for a while.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

things an stuff

 Trying a new format and stuff.  Glitches are likely.  Please forgive and alert me to any screw-ups you notice.

First, the last of the sewing frenzy comforters.  This is for the son of a nephew.  Great nephew, right?  Orange is his favorite color, so I figure this should please him.  He lives in LA and temperatures have gotten clear down into the 60s, so I figure they need some more blankies.  His older sisters will get one of the black and white comforters and one of the pink and purple comforters.  Boxing and shipping is on my list of things to do today.
 Second, let me introduce my newest BFF.  Her name is _ Cupcake!

Cupcake and I will be working on some bread today.  Go, Cupcake!!
I took my very first ever yoga class yesterday.  Ow.  Groan.  That's waaayyyy more work than it looks like!!  But I loved it, and I tried a salute to the sun this morning.  I never used to think of myself as clumsy, but this practice will certainly give me empathy with folks who do.  I mean, you have to work hard to fall down from standing on all fours.(downward dog)

We had a big snow even predicted for today which, thank God, has not manifested.  Instead of the sheet of ice we had been cautioned to anticipate, we woke up to  - 40 degrees and rain.  Tah-dah!  That's Portland standard weather.  It's why we celebrate sunny days.  It's why formal wear is Goretex, and casual wear means undoing the top two buttons on your wool shirt.  It's why everything is green here.  Even the gaskets around my car doors.  Bricks and fences and the north side of houses are green.  Cement patios are green.  If you don't do things in the rain, you don't do things.  

But there are about three weeks in the year when it gets above 80, and about three weeks when it gets below freezing.  It's a mild, temperate climate, and we have lovely moist complexions that don't show our age.  I'll take it.

And, because everything is better with a kitty, here are three of them.  Candy, Pepper and Fly.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sew what now?

Bells asked if I actually quilt my quilts. Nope. Sorry, Bells, I've been lazy in identifying what I'm doing. I make pieced comforters, not quilts. The ones I back with micro-fleece for the warmer climates are just two layers joined at the edges. The ones that get a batt are then tied every five inches to keep the batt from coming loose and lumping up inside. Pieced and tied comforters are very warm. Quilts are less warm, because the quilting, though it strengthens and stabilizes all the layers, squeezes out a lot of the insulating puffiness. Quilts used to be made with scraps and rags - shirts that were too worn to mend and those odd pieces of fabric left over when you cut out armholes and things like that. So you pieced them together to make an extra layer for the bed. And when you got three layers, you stacked and sewed them together, back and forth, and round and round, to make them strong enough to put up with three kids wrasslin' for the covers all night. And imagine the wear they would get being washed on a scrub-board. Then wring that sucker by hand and hang the heavy son of a gun up on the line? Boy, you just better not wet the bed is all I can say!

At the beginning of the 20th century, it was very uncommon for a person to sleep alone in a bed. Siblings, spouses, children and friends commonly shared blankets and body heat. Unthinkable now, when even married people share a bed big enough to sleep without touching. Three brothers in a bed must have taught guys a lot of survival skills. And imagine a sister fight that ends with having to sleep with the venomous little snake! No wonder our grandmothers learned to bottle their irritations and frustrations. You could bicker and pinch and spite away a whole night's sleep if you didn't find some other way to deal with it.

Did you have to share a bed growing up? I was the only girl. I didn't even have to share a room. What was it like to share that much?

(PS. Several folks have remarked that Blogger is not accepting comments. You might try the preview button and see if it will give you what you need to post. I, too, am getting that problem randomly when I visit my blog buddies.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

I love my Kitchen Aid

I really ought to illustrate this with me kissing the white wonder, or tenderly embracing it. It is an anti-depressant device! DH asked what I was going to bake this week, and I suggested a cake. He requested something tropical, since we are having a blizzard predicted for the middle of the week. I found a receipe for a coconut/lime cake which he approved. This morning, since I desperately need exercise, I walked the half mile to the store, watching the clouds disappear and the sun come out in frozen liar's glory. No warmth in THIS brightness. I bought coconut milk and a lime and walked briskly home, then proceeded to bake. The mixer makes it so simple, so easy, so - Look, when the receipe says, "Beat for 8 minutes on low," I never before have beaten that batter for more than two minutes. It's fully mixed by then, right? What's the point of standing around, holding the mixer for another 6 minutes? Well, the point is, that it makes the cake lighter and more even-textured. and a helluvalot better. When all I have to do is turn on the Kitchen Aid and walk away, it makes the rest of the stuff start to make sense, too. Like, a teaspoon of baking powder really ought to be a level teaspoon, not just one that's mostly mounded at this end and half full on the other. And this stuff about cake flour being different from bread flour? It makes a difference! Whodathunkit? I thought it was just one of those things that you can't tell the difference in unless you're an expert with an over-refined sense of perfection and too much time to be fussy. I ain't fussy, and even I can tell. I baked a pretty good cake today. Oh, my, there is a WORLD of new stuff opening up for me!

Actually, I baked cupcakes, because it's harder to give slices of cake to the locusts. ( We call the guys DH works with, "the locusts" because they will consume anything.) As I work with the mixer, I will be doing a lot of experimenting, and I expect the locusts to find a use for the failures. Even the successes shouldn't be eaten up by just the two of us. But the knitting teas may become a little more deliciously supplied. Two cookies, at least one cake, a savory and some fruit is my usual goal, but we shall see what I come up with in the future.

Really, my Kitchen Aid should be named. Has anyone else named their kitchen appliances?

Sunday, January 09, 2011

knitting with TW

We were a large and joyful group at TW's house for knitting this month. Here we see LN admiring, even lusting after the office alcove (a converted butler's pantry directly off the dining room. Do you love books? Wouldn't it be heaven to work amongst them like this?) And isn't that red a wonderful color for a dining room?

TW leaves the Christmas tree up till St Stephan's Day. I am always SO impressed by their tree, with the long glass icicles, some from PW's French grandma.

It's so light and shiny!

TW sets a gorgeous table!
The food was kick-ass awesome. TW has been a chef. There was home-smoked salmon. There was shrimp and cucumber openface sandwiches with dill. There were ginger snaps and almond cookies and gluten-free oatmeal cookies that reminded me of florentines. There was rod grode med flode - a Scandinavian berry sauce served with cream. TW was giving us a splendid Danish light tea.

She even made aebleskivver! Oh my I do love aebleskivver! They're like little dough-gods of pancake-like batter, cooked in a special pan with a bit of apple inside each one. There's an art to turning your aebleskivver, and TW seems to have bee born with the knack.

The batter cooks halfway, then, using a wooden skewer, the cook deftly flips them half out of the dimple in the pan to allow the unset batter to flow down and cook through, producing golden globes of fluffy goodness.

Dusted with powdered sugar and eaten hot, they can add about four pounds to your holiday weight gain. Oh dear God they were good!
TW, thank you, thank you! What a marvelous time you gave us! I felt, as always when visiting your home, indulged to a fare thee well!!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

black to back

Ten hours of sewing yesterday, and another hour today, and two more quilts are done.

This first one was planned, as much as I ever plan anything; which is to say that I squint at the fabric, maybe sort it into darks and lights, and let my inner committee riffle through the stacks of simple patterns we have collected in my head. Since I am often working with left-overs from previous projects, I do a little measuring and guesstimating, then I start snipping and tearing and sewing strips together. I do love strip piecing! Pull out the rotary cutter and cut up the strips, sew the other sides, slap the squares together, sew pairs, strips, sew the strips together, and alakazam! It's a quilt top! As per usual, I'm skipping a batt and bbacking them with some micro fleece, so 3 3/4 longs seams later, a quick flip, a little hand-stitching to close the hole, and it's a comforter.

So when I started the second one, I was totally into the zone and began sewing with virtually no rational thought involved. The super-ego was pretty much a passenger on the Amtrack of Construction. (I was also listening to "Starship Trooper" on the I-pod. My God Heinlin talks a lot of crap!) This quilt went together pretty much unconsciously and it was a rest and a holiday to make it. Random juxtaposition and using up the leftovers was the ruling force. Allow the process to proceed. Turned out not too bad, don'cha think?

Tomorrow, a report on knitting at TW's house and the glory that is aebleskivver.

Friday, January 07, 2011

And sew it goes

I have young relatives in SoCal who would like some drag-around blankets. Two of them (in different families) are, as you might guess, females of Hello Kitty age. What shows as white in these pictures is actually pale pink or pale purple. I got the flannel on sale and went a bit mad with it.

The two young females have older sisters who requested the far more sophisticated color combo of black and white. I'm working on those. I have a lot of Holstein print cotton. Hard to make it look totally cool and sophisticated, but I'm working on it. Waste not, want not.

These blankies are backed with microfleece. I get the no-sew-throw kits for half price, then back two blankies with them. It keeps the costs down.

Fly likes it when I get out the fabric stash. More places for cats to nest.

And it's Friday. Here's that tree again.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


My friend DB has begun making bread, after an interlude of years, and she waxes rhapsodic about it. It sounds so nurturing, so domestic, so - womanly! And I have a brand new mixer just sitting there, waiting to be utilized. So (sorry DB) I became a copy cat.

I am by no means a proficient cook, but I have learned, in a long and adventurous life, that your first few attempts at bread baking will not be fluffy and delicate, so when I went ot Bob's Red Mill, I got some rye flour. Rye bread is not SUPPOSED to be light and delicate. If it turns out dense and heavy, well good for it!

Then i got out the James Bear on Bread cookbook and looked up rye recipes. There was one made with beer which I figured was a bonus because the beer would give and extra boost to the leaven. It also included two tablespoons of salt which seemed a bit excessive to me, but what do I know?

I mixed it up. This is not the first time I have dealt with yeast, and I know that if you put yeast dough in a dark, warm place, it will produce friendly gasses and nearly double in size. I KNOW this. This is not, as they say, my first rodeo. And yet, I am unable to stop tearing off bits of the raw dough and eating them. My belly is a dark, warm place. When the dough doubles in size, it hurts. The friendly gasses result in belching, and later flatulence that would amaze and possibly even startle a troop of Marines or even Boy Scouts at a chili feed. It's colder than a dead eskimo outside, so I spent a lot of time walking around in the garage until I realized that the pilot light on the waterheater could ignite . . .this really isn't suitable talk for a 60 year old lady, is it?

So anyway, the bread rose satisfactorily, smelled heavenly, sliced nicely, and was as salty as a pickle. DH consoled me, reminding me that experiments often go awry, and it takes a while to develope a touch for bread. "Try again, - with a different recipe."

What to do with the two loaves of salty rye? Throw it to the birds. Experimental breads will probably turn them into experimental Frankenbirds. If anyone in the neighborhood notices crows with bolts through their necks and visible stitches where parts have been attached, it's my fault. A squirrel just carried off a chunk. Experimental squirrels? Who knows? Oh crap! The possum will probably get into it, too. What will this do to the babies? Sour, salty, wry, ugly little critters waddling thorugh the night next spring? I never meant it to happen!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

you don't see this every day

In your grocery store baking aisle, you might find a grain product from Bob's Red Mill. The mill is two miles from my house. I went there today to restock on oat-groats and this is what I found.

The water wheel is purely decorative, with a recirculating pump to keep the water flowing and the wheel turning. It has been below freezing the past three days, and the pump kept going after the wheel stopped. It's dry and snow-free all around, but the wheel has a glorious coat of frosting!

Little bitty icicles hanging off the paddles of the wheel.

Honking great monsters hanging off the buttresses,
(see the lumps along the sides of the individual icicles? That's because the wind was pretty brisk as the ice was forming.)

And a fairyland of crystal festooning the undersides.

The english ivy is covered about an inch thick inice. It'll be interesting to see how it handles the chill.
So you folks in Australia, if you can get your head above water, here's what you're missing in the northern hemisphere.
Seriously, the flooding in Australia is dreadful. I'm hoping that all my friends and all those that they love are safe.

Monday, January 03, 2011


Benita is dying and selling yarn. Insert link here And sent me a bag of odds and ends of her naturally dyed Shetland to make her a tea cozy. My first finished object of 2011 is a Faire Isle
reversible cozy. The Indigo was a great base color, the yarns were fabulous to work with, and I really had more fun than ought to be legal. Here's the side with copper and tan and greens and orange.

And here's the side with shades of cochineal and something that makes a lovely shades of purple. And a scrap of green left over from the other side. Isn't it fun how different colors make that one band of pattern look different?

I had fun finding buttons for the top, too, and got lost in my button stash for a while, looking for just the right ones.

It went out in the mail today, Benita. Keep an eye open for it.

Last, but certainly not least, here is Ben working on his own cozy. He does not appreciate the papparazzi intruding on it.

So on the first work day of the new year, I hopes you all has a cozy to go home to.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

the tree

Here's that little maple again. My tree pictures aren't near as interesting as Benita's, but I'll do better next year. this year I went for convenience - a tree in my yard. Next year, I'll go for a well-composed picture. Also, I don't get the excitement of snow to lend interest to the winter photos, and thank God for that!! Maybe i could change things up a bit during the slow gray time by trying different angles. The neighbor's house is in the background. I could go stand in their driveway and put our house in the background. Worth a try.
So after we had been out visiting all day, we got home and settled down with our laptops and slippers. suddenly, Fly, who was perched on the diningroom table keeping an eye on the back yard began to raise a ruckus. "Rat!" he snarled. "Rat! Big freaking big ugly freaking RAT!" DH and I rushed to the door to see what was the matter, and what to our wondering eyes should appear but an enormous - possum. If possums had ugly contests, this one would waddle off with the grand prize champion purple ribbon with spangles. It was a big larger than a cat, with the rat-like snout, undershot jaw, snaggly teeth, beady eyes, and hideous naked pink tail about a foot long. EeeeeWWW!! Fly was demanding, "Get it out! Get it out, getitoutgetitoutgetitoutoutout!!"
"Where's the broom?" I asked, dashing off to find it. DH opened the back door and counseled the possum, "You'd better leave now." It squinted up at him and snarled, "You talkin' to me?"
Then I burst through the door, broom at the ready, fully prepared to wallop the sucker with the handle. Possums, when properly motivated, can put on quite a turn of speed. I didn't know they could gallop, but this one showed me its heels all the way to the shed where it vanished into the shadows. "Beat it! I was yelling. Get out of here!" The neighbor's dogs started cheering me on. "Hey! Something's happening. Hey! Hey! " (Dogs have a limited vocabulary) and porch lights began to come on in the adjacent homoes as neighbors peered out to see what was going on.
"Goddamm possum!" I announced to the world at large. "And it's probably pregnant, too." And with a squeeze of the gut I realized I had spoken the truth. Stay tuned for further episodes in the possum chronicles.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

one, one, oneone.

I want to run around putting the date on everything. I wish I had bubble forms to fill out because they would be so easy. If I still paid my bills with checks, I'd pay them all today.

Pepper looks like a little black woolly bah-lamb in this photo. In reality, she is a Teacup Dictator who rules the house with an iron paw. We finally found a new home for Squirrel where she can run around freely without fear of having the crap slapped out of her. DH will miss her, but it will be a much better life for her. Her new mommy is very sweet, gentle and patient.

DH and I will be doing some visiting today, and I'm gonna make DH go through the doors first. There's an old Scottish tradition that if the first person to enter your household is a dark-haired man, he will bring good fortune through the door with him. The tradition also includes a chunk of bread to bring in prosperity, a wad of money to bring in wealth, a bottle of whiskey to bring in conviviality, and a fire(or lighted candle) to bring in love. No telling how much of this I can get DH to carry. But I have heard of young men in Edinburgh who race out the door with a lantern, a sandwich, and a pin,t on the first stroke of midnight, and cover the neighborhood, getting a welcoming tot of whiskey at each home untill they can't stand up any more.

The unluckiest first foot over the threshold is a red-haired woman, so by rights, I should just sit home for the next week to make sure I don't curse anyone. But I'm much more silver than copper by now, and I'll still make DH go through the doors first.

Benita sent me some beautiful natural-dyed shetland wool and I am working on a FaireIsle tea cozy for her. It's been a while since I did FaireIsle, and my mind is awhirl with colorwork. And will this green contrast enough with that copper, and does the orange work with the cinnamon and will there be enough of the yellow to use it here? Great fun! Photos to follow of course.