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.”

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A smile for you

Here is my friend Ed with his new grand-daughter and his rainbow trout hat.  This man is going to be a great grandpa!  Maybe I should knit a little bitty fish hat for the wee one.  Love the tender look on his craggy face.  Ah, the power of a baby girl!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is it Lucifer approved?

DH and I were at a local salad buffet restaurant the other night, and a largish family sat down in the next booth.  One of the androgynous toddlers was droning, "..round and round, round and round, round and round, round and round, round …" scarcely pausing to breath, surely not pausing to eat, from the time they sat down until we got up and left. My compassionate, rational self realized that it may have been  autism or some similar problem and sent a world of blessings to the parents..  But another part of me thought, "My friend with perfect pitch would run screaming form the building.  This would be hell for her!"

And I began to dwell on what would be hell for other musicians.  Salieri and Jimmy Hendrix doing duets for a heavy metal audience.  Janis Joplin singing really liberal folksongs for a redneck roadhouse  where they throw bottles at the performers. Oh, and for the bad audiences, Woodstock with more rain, more bad acid, no food, no toilets, and yellow jacket nests all over the field.  And all the naked chicks are in their fifties.

Then I began to branch into other areas of celebrity.  Mary Lou Retton has to judge Arnold Swartzenager on the uneven parallel bars.  Naked.   Peter O'Toole has to play the lord of a faux-haunted Irish castle, (oh, wait, I think that's already happened.)  OK, Clint Eastwood stars in a musical - (- Hmm, that's already happened, too.)

Well, what can  you come up with?

Friday, February 22, 2013

A little eye-candy from the cruise.  It got cooler as we sailed north, bit the basket chairs remained prime property.  This young Italian staked out his chair and maintained possession all day Friday.  Doesn't he make this chair look like a place you would love to cuddle?

We have a little weather system moving in.  NOTHING like the storm that is harrowing the heartland, though.  Just some wind and rain and maybe, just maybe, a little snow on the valley floor in the wee hours of the morning, Saturday.  I plan to sleep through it all.  But no walks outside for me today, so I have to gird my loins for the treadmill tedium.  Boy, life is rough!

Yesterday I was watching the Masterpiece Mysteries we had recorded.  Excellent Agatha Christie stories with Hercule Poirot (SP?) and between that and Downton Abbey, I was greatly taken with the knitwear of the period.  White sleeveless v-neck vest with cables and just a bit of color at the neck for playing Cricket.  And every man seemed to have different cable patterns.  I kept rewinding to study them.  (Can you imagine the charm of everyone wearing white for a party?  Hmm - I may consider it.)

And the FairIsle vests were brilliant!  They even went with the personalities.  Strong colors and intricate work for the dashing young men, muted colors and simpler patterns for the more staid and sober gents.  And genuine FaireIsle patterns. The costumers really know their work!

The women also got their share in the comfy big cardigans they wore.  I wanted to grab a few and take notes.  Look how that pocket lies.  How did they manage that collar?  Somebody killed the vicar, but I'm not sure who.  I was paying more attention to the knitwear.

Anyhow, as I was absorbed in this, the time flew, and suddenly, DH was walking in the door, sent home early for lack of work. And there I am still in my bathrobe.  I did, however, manage to knit most of a short-finger glove for him as I was absorbed by the stories.

Wishing warmth and safety to all my friends facing the blizzards.  May you have many candles handy and no car trips to do.  May the crisis be so short that you don't need to break into the emergency rations, and may your woolies be warm and soft.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It was winter when we left.  They had to de-ice the plane.  We came back to early spring.  This is a hazelnut (filbert) tree in full bloom.  Those khaki catkins are a sure sign that winter is on the way out.  And they give the bees something to get started on.
Camelia Japonica has been blooming since December, silly stuff, but the regular camellias are making their debut now. So delicate and lovely.  And a single rainstorm leaves them looking like wads of wet kleenex.  Years ago I took myself to the art-movie theatre to see "Camille"  A couple of older ladies sat in front of me.  They had a brand-new box of kleenex and a grocery bag, and they wept vigorously and noisily all through the sad parts.  At the end, with one last honk, one turned to the other and said, "I just love that movie, don't you?"  The other mopped her eyes, nodding and smiling.  Then they carried their grocery bag of used kleenex out with them.  Now, whenever I see camellias, I think of catharsis and emotionally purged middle-aged ladies.

Violets are blooming in sheltered areas.  Hope the geese don't find these.  Speaking of the geese, the adults have paired off. and started prospecting nesting sites.  The juveniles are giving each other speculative looks, but still flocking together. I am looking forward to fluffy balls of down in the next month or so.  Love to watch goslings.

Birds are gathering in big, singles-mingle flocks.  I passed a tree with a murmuration of starlings on my walk yesterday.  I love the old terms of venery, don't you?  A murder of crows, a knot of toads, an exultation of larks!
And these brave little snowdrops are growing in our very yard.    February is almost gone.  My birthday is just around the corner.  Let us celebrate it as the Feast of French Toast.  Fried bread is gift from God!

Monday, February 18, 2013

The journey home.

We signed up for "Luggage Express" which meant that we left our bags outside the room before 10PM on Friday night, and did not see them again till we got to Portland.  No searching through the oceans of bags unloaded and trying to find your own before proceeding through Customs.  No schlepping bags from Customs, onto the bus, through the airport and surrendering them at check-in.  It seemed like a good idea and well worth the $20 this special service cost.  What they didn't tell us is that we were not allowed to leave the ship until the drug-sniffing dogs had checked all our bags, and they didn't get to the "Luggage Express" bags until after they had processed all the other bags.  So we had to wait on the ship until everyone else was off.  And we couldn't wait in the comfort of our rooms, because the stewards had to completely clean and prep every took on the ship before the next mob of passengers arrived at noon.  We found a seat in the theatre, and hung out, patiently.

When we were finally disembarked, we breezed right through the whole process.  After years of working with the idiot public myself, I have learned that Customs agents, ticket agents, taxi drivers, desk clerks and airline hosts and hostesses deserve to be seen as unique human beings who are doing a difficult job.  I try to make their job easier with cheery greetings and humble gratitude.  It usually works.  We breezed right through declaring our 7 fifths of tequila and numerous t-shirts all bought in duty free shops.  I was perfectly willing to pay if we had to, and the nice man was happy to tell us we didn't have to.  I thanked him for his good work.

Then we had to wait for a taxi.  The party ahead of us had seven people and mountains of luggage.  The person in charge of taxis put us into the next taxi to arrive, and the angry man in the party ahead of us blew a fuse.  As if he thought they could get all those people and all that luggage into a single taxi.  Before he totally exploded, the van which had been ordered for his party arrived.  Some people got no sense.  We made our getaway.

DH had gone on line and paid for day passes at the United First Class lounge in Miami.  Unfortunately, there isn't a United First Class lounge in Miami.  He got back on line and complained.  I think the money will be refunded, but we were looking forward to the wide soft chairs, ice water, snacks, and free wifi the lounge provides.  We paid for 24 hours of wifi and settled in next to an electric outlet for the next five hours.  Actually, it was more like six hours, because the flight crew was delayed.

I wound up chatting with one of the air hostesses, and they had had a thoroughly rotten time of it.  The hotel where they had rooms reserved the night before had five, not six rooms available.  At 12:30 in the darkness, the desk clerk was completely unhelpful.  Doubling up wasn't really an option, because they needed to get their showers and sleep right away and sleeping with a stranger in the double bed is too unrestful.  So the captain tracked down another hotel and took a cab there.  The next morning, the driver of the van assigned to get them refused to go to the other hotel.  When his boss was tracked down and and the side trip was authorized, he had to be directed to the other hotel.  Traffic held them up for unwarranted amounts of time.  When they finally arrived to take us off to Houston, the desk clerks who had been catching flack from the fretful passengers, flicked the shit right along to these poop folks who had no control over the fact that sometimes things happen.

DH had gotten us exit row seats, and it was one of those where the hostess straps in facing you.  So I leaned forward, stuck out my hand, and said, "Well, we'll be eye to eye for a awhile here.  I'm Roxie Matthews."  Rather startled, she shook hands and introduced herself.  Then she said, "I've been flying for 27 years, and that's the first time anyone has ever done that."  We had a nice chat about cultural differences, how people in cities learn not to make eye-contact, how people who have never held service jobs can de-humanize their servers, and how sometimes stuff happens.  I mentioned to her that we had a short window to make our next flight, and could she perhaps find out which gate we needed to run to?  She went to the trouble to find out the gates for all the connecting flights, and broadcast it as we were coming in for a landing.  Then she asked people who had to run to their connections to hold up their hands, and asked everyone sitting around them to please cut them some slack.

There were about 30 people on the plane with us who were connecting with the plane to Portland, so they held the flight a few minutes, and we all made it.  Then we sat on the ground for fourty minutes, because the cart with our luggage got lost.  So we didn't have to run after all.  In fact, we might even have had a chance to grab a bite to eat.

But as it was, DH wound up buying 3 different snack boxes and between them, we had a lovely picnic.  He ate the cheeses and crackery things, I got the humus and pitas, he took the chips and spicy salsa, I took the applesauce, he took the oreos, I took the skittles.  It worked out very, very well.  No single box contained a full meal for either of us, but by sharing, we got along splendidly!

We got home, got our bags, caught the bus to the long-term parking, found the car, and made it safely home.  The cats  were bewildered to see us, having grown so used to Rose who spoils them terribly.  We had to start our usual going to bed ritual before they recognized us,  Ben hid under the bed till about three AM when he finally crawled out, perched on DH's chest, and started purring like a diesel tractor.  Pepper is curled in my lap right now, getting her belly rubbed which means I have typed most of this one-handed.

When I crawled into bed last night, the mattress cupped each familiar vertebra and rib.  I sighed deeply, enjoying the melting feel as the armor of muscles across my back began to dissolve.  Them I noticed happy little grunting noises.  It was me.  Travel is grand, but getting home again is better still.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

 A little eye candy for those who are so inclined.  there were four beautiful Italians on board.

So now we are sitting in the Miami airport, waiting for our flight home and thanking our lucky stars that we did not take the Triumph.  The entire crew and staff of the ship deserves bonuses and a month off after that. Every one of the staff I have ever encountered are genuinely concerned for the comfort and enjoyment of the passengers.  When things go to hell, they will do anything they can to mitigate the heat and burning.

DH got on line and bought us a pass to the United Club in Miami so we could have a comfortable place to wait the three hours between disembarking and the time our flight takes off.  Unfortunately, there isn't a United Club in Miami
This was the picture in our cabin.  How did they know I was a weaver?  Most of the art on board was comprehensible - no disjointed Dali-esque travesties or saccharine landscapes.  There were a number of these large pieces featuring handicrafts: potters and print-makers and metalworkers and so on.  With the abstract color thingies around the edges.  I can do abstract color thingies.  Maybe I am an artist as well.

Not ready for the vacation to end, but I am starting to miss the kitties.  We had a marvelous cat-sitter, though, and she sent us regular reports, so that made the separation much easier to bear.

Friday, February 15, 2013

All good things must come to an end.

The ship provides us with lovely thick quilted bathrobes to wear to and from the pool or the spa appointments or just around the room.  DH and I wear them around the room all the time since we can’t adjust our air conditioning and it’s cold enough to keep meat in there.  I’ve gotta admit, though, we sleep like the peaceful dead.
So today, I was going to get up and put in two miles walking around the deck.  We ordered tea and juice at 6 AM to get us started.  We drank the juice, got back into bed to drink the tea because it was so cold in the room, and fell asleep. 
So now it’s 7:10, I’m awake again but in a dreamy, dozy, lazy way, so I have brought you all out on the balcony with me to enjoy the morning.  We are headed back to Miami.  Tomorrow we debark and fly home.  Today, we linger in luxury.  The air is soft and balmy, but there are lots of clouds. Two thunderheads are growing tall enough to catch the morning light; pale rosy towers sailing above the gray.  There is a long swell in the ocean, but no whitecaps yet, so the ship rides with an easy, sleep-inducing rocking.  Ah, and now comes another thunderhead colored buttery yellow.  I could spend whole days just watching the clouds.
Yesterday we were in Grand Cayman, and my darling niece had arranged a snorkel trip for us.  We got off the ship and onto vans and drove across the island to a private dock where our captain greeted us and led us down to our vessel.  Oh My God it was PLUSH!  There were four levels to scatter out on.  There were two bathrooms and six beds.  There was a little kitchen with a refrigerator full of food.  There were six giant coolers full of iced juice, soda and water scattered all over the  boat.  There were beanbags to sprawl in on the top deck.  There was a hanging basket chair which I took advantage of!
 There was a captain and a cabin girl and a marine biologist deckhand and a professional photographer.  I had a fascinating chat with the marine biologist Who had left England and gone to Cayman as part of a scientific project to study endangered shark species.  When the funding for the project was cut, and he lost his job, he stayed on the island, working as a deckhand here and there, and volunteering  with the shakr project whenever he could.  They are tagging and tracking sharks.  He said that the tiger sharks are the most fragile and one nine-footer was so groggy after being tagged that they didn’t think it would survive.  So he got in the water with it and kept it moving, with one hand on its snout to hold the mouth open, and another hand on its back to push it along.  The really dangerous part of this was that other sharks sense a sick or wounded relative, congregate, and eat it.  And all their studies are done at night when the sharks are the most active.  So there he is, swimming in the dark ocean with a nine foot long piece of bait.  Is that dedication or what?  After about an hour, the shark perked up and swam away, and he scampered back on deck.  I wish I had time to gather more of his stories.
Later, when we were snorkeling, he showed me a goldentail eel, and coaxed it completely out of its den with a bit of squid.  Scary and beautiful! 
            Before we got to Stingray city, the cabin girl gave us a lecture all about stingrays, using a little stuffed toy ray named Fluffy for demonstration purposes.  “Pet them here, not here.  This is the only part that is dangerous. This is how they swim,” etc. (The big friendly ones are female.  The little shy ones are male.  The babies are born live.) and when we got to the sandbar, our marine biologist, who knows most of the rays by name, coaxed “Sprinkles” up into his arms so we could pet her.  She really liked him and lay quiescent while all these stupid tourists patted and stroked her pebbly back and her silky underside.  Then we got pieces of squid and hand fed the rays for an hour.  It’s a transcendent experience, to be able to interact safely with such gentle, alien creatures.  Most of the females were about five feet from wingtip to wingtip, dark on top and white on the bottom.  They don’t have teeth, but the do have hard grinding plates, so you want to keep your fingers out of their mouths.
            Then we went to Starfish Cove with the classic white beach framed by swaying palms.  This was when I took over the sling chair and let everyone else frolic in the salt and  sand while I lounged in lizard-lazy ease. 
            And that took up pretty much the whole day.  Back to the dock, back to the pier, back to the ship and I had an hour to get ready for our early seating formal dinner.
            And now, a day at sea.  We have to pack.  (We had to buy a second suitcase to hold all the souveniers.  We have to do whatever it was that we haven’t gotten around to yet.  Use up that last coupon for a free boat drink.  Pick up a final few trinkets at the shops.  And then, on Saturday, the madness that is disembarkation where they get four thousand people off the ship in the morning so they can get another four thousand people back on the ship in the afternoon for the next cruise.
            At a party for returning customers, we sat next to two guys who had been on 79 cruises.  The one guy leaned over and whispered to me, “We’ll cruise on anything with anyone.  We’re cruise whores.”  For a minute I thought that was how they paid for the their trips.  Then I realized that he meant they had no loyalty to any one line or locale.  They just like being at sea. 
            Yes, so do I.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

lounging lizards

There are enormous basket chairs on the top deck – six feet across, with wicker quarter sphere covers to shield you from the sun if you so desire.  Lots of pads and cushions, with relaxing music on the speakers.  DH and I claimed one first thing in the morning yesterday, and spent the whole day in the shade, with the warm breezes tickling our skin.  We napped.  We took turns going down to the Lido deck for juice and snacks.  We  smiled nicely at the pretty young people who wished they had gotten up earlier than those ugly old farts who had the best basket chair on deck.  And we forgot that, in the tropics you can get a sunburn from light reflected off the water.  I was wearing a t-shirt and a long skirt.  My face, arms and ankles are crispy.  I didn’t really notice till I took a shower and the hot water hit the hot spots.  Yowzer!  DH has a rosy glow from the mid thighs down.  Hope he can get into his sandals tomorrow.  The tops of his feet are crimson.
            The ship was anchored off-shore from Belize City.  We had planned to take the tour that takes you inner-tubing through limestone caves, but one of our room stewards warned us that you have to carry your own inner-tube for forty minutes through the jungle to get to the start of the route.  We decided that lounging sounded funner.  Later we talked to folks who had done the trip and they said the jungle walk was bad enough, but the bugs were way worse.  And the river was colder than they had expected, so they wound up weary, bug-bitten and chilled.  But the caves were really neat!
            Today we are headed for Roatan.  There is a strong East wind, and we don’t know if we will be able to enter the harbor.  Roatan is a day at the beach sort of resort.  No exciting activities, no historic artifacts, no developed resort activities like parasailing or shopping malls or zip lines.  Just glorious white beaches next to serene blue ocean with palm trees and breezes.  I have already claimed our basket chair, and been glared at by any number of later arrivals.  And today, I brought my tube of factor fifty sunblock..
            Later: We got docked, walked around the little compound of approved shops, strolled over to the beach and back, and I just about collapsed from the heat and humidity.  What a wuss I am.  People do manual labor in this weather. 
            So now we’re sitting on our balcony in the shade, looking at the folks playing on the beach, and catching up with the e-mail.  I’ll be loading any number of photos when I get back home.  This is so Paradisical!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Glory days

We dragged ourselves up and did 2 miles before breakfast.  Hope I can maintain this activity level when we get home.  I’m so proud of us!
            The ship docked in Cozumel Mexico while we ate, and by the time we were finished, the shops in the little dockside shopping center were open, so we strolled out to get souveniers before it got too hot and the shops got too crowded.   We covered almost everything, and were finishing  up at the tequillla store when DH noticed the time.  We had fifteen minutes to get back to the boat, drop all our booty, grab the stuff we needed for the day, and get back to the dock..   Of course, everyone else that had an excursion scheduled for that day was coming down the dock as we were trying to go up.  I felt like a salmon, fighting my way upstream.  DH stayed at the entry point to deal with the “Adult Beverages” guy.(You are not allowed access to any booze you buy on shore.  You need to surrender it to the ship staff, and they take care of it until you disembark.  Lotta paperwork involved) Meanwhile, I took the rest of our purchases back to the room, shoved everything I thought we might need for the day into a knapsack, grabbed the tickets, and ran.  This was the first time on this trip that I used the elevators.  By shoving our way through the throngs, we were just able to catch our tour before they left, and oh my gosh I’m glad we did!
            It’s called “Discover Mexico Tours.” Our guide was personable, well-informed, and interesting .  Our first stop was at a museum showing  masterpieces of local handicrafts: weaving, papermache masks, Day of the Dead decorations, big pottery jars with applied clay flowers and leaves sculptures, painted in the happy, vivid Mexican colors.  None of it by “Artists” but all by artisans who make their living producing things that people want.
            Then we toured the grounds where they had scale models of the more famous Mayan and Aztec temples, with little models of people on them. They were fascinating, and big enough that if you put your camera right up next to them and took a picture, it looked like the real thing.

            We took a break at he little cantina where this lady was making the best tacos I have ever had in my life.  Swear to Dog, you could taste the meat in them.  Most tacos taste of spice, and grease, but these tasted like pork and beef and cornmeal and tomatoes.  YUM!  Four tacos for six dollars and well worth every penny.  They also sod Corona Familia beer in quart bottles.  More than any one person ought to drink at one sitting, but a nice share for two.

 Then we watched the bird dancers.  Have you heard about this?  It’s a native ceremony to bring the rain.  Five guys dressed  in brilliantly colored outfits dance around  this tall, tall pole, then they climb up to the top where they have this little platform and framework set up.  They wind four ropes around and around the pole, then tie the ropes to their waists.  The fifth guy sits on the top of the pole playing a flute and a drum, and the four guys throw themselves  backward off the framework and fall, unwinding the ropes and spinning around the pole as they descend.  It’s breathtaking!

    Then we went on to the Chankanab state park where we rented snorkel equipment and I slipped into paradise.  There were so many fish!  All brightly colored, all used to people, all going busily about their fishy business.  It was like floating through the air surrounded by flocks of little birds.  Two fish about 12 inches long, pinkish colored with big eyes, decided to act as my tour guides, swimming up under my arm and away in front of me, then turning and looking to see if I was following.  So I followed, and they led me over to a reef where the park people had left three old cannons on the bottom, and thousands of fish were frolicking around the coral heads.  There were schools of little guys like guppies, and one big “Bait ball” of fish about 18 inches long that all moved together like a flock of starlings.  My two tour guides changed from pinkish to silver, to dark gray with silver spots as they dove down to the coral, then back to pinkish as they rose back to the surface.  I was just floating limp and still watching all this, and drifted over a cleaning station where a big parrot fish was lying on a stone while dozens of tiny fishes swarmed around him, eating his parasites and bits of dead skin.  (In Japan, you can get an exfoliating facial done by these little fish while you hold your breath and keep your face in the water.)  And, I saw an eagle ray.  It was about 6 feet from wingtip to wingtip, with a long whip-like tail.  Dark gray with wonderful light spots on the top.  I tried to get closer so I could study his designs, but I couldn’t swim fast enough.  I went back to drifting, completely enchanted and mindless with fascination until at last I noticed that I was feeling chilly.  When I tried to climb up the stairs to get out, my legs were like rubber.  I was SO tired!  Mentally jazzed, physically tapped out. DH sat me down in a beach chair in the shade, bought me a Coke, then made me have a massage.  Usually I don’t go for this because the folks doing the massages don’t care about their clients and could just as well be washing a truck.  There is no rapport or energy exchanged.  But my masseuse this time, Marisol, was a joy and a gifted healer.  She made me feel like butter.  In thirty minutes, for $25, she made me feel five years younger and beautiful as a goddess!
            Back to the ship.  We stopped at a restaurant on the way to the dock – Pancho’s Backyard, and had some superb chips, guacamole, and salsa, and we each had a margarita.  They put one heck of a lot of tequila in their margaritas.  I had one, and I have never been so drunk in my life.  Tequila makes me so darn afucktionate!  I was hugging store clerks and grabbing their backsides.  One guy sitting next to a Diamonds International shop called, “Come on in.  We’ve got free gifts.”  I trotted over, sat on his lap, threw my arms around his neck and said, “Free gifts for me?”  Have you ever seen a Hispanic young man turn bright, bright red?  Kyle was sitting back and laughing at me the whole time.  I know that a drunken old woman is less amusing to the people watching than she is to herself, but oh my gosh I had a great time!!


Sunday, February 10, 2013

First day at sea

This morning we got up at 5:30 and walked 3 miles.  And since we refuse to use the elevators, we got in 28 flights of steps as we wandered around the ship.  And THEN we had breakfast.
But it was SO neat walking around the top deck from 6 to 7 AM because it was dark with stars when we started, but every time we made another lap  around to the East side, there was more light and color in the sky.  And then the clouds began to take on a little color.  The horizon started to rosy up.  The clouds to the west began to lighten, then to glow pink.  And finally, through a crevice in the clouds, the sun shot out happy and yellow and the water turned blueblueblue and I wanted to dance and sing with the warm breeze under my t-shirt and the light of my life by my side. 
As we walked, we discussed those little dwarves that live inside us – the endwarfins (endorphins) that get all excited and make us feel so good when we walk.  I think old, cupid has a little to do with it, too, because I have good walks with my girlfriends, but I never want to grab them and kiss them and hug them all over.  I know, 62 should not get flirty and smoochy in public, but my heart is still about 18 when I’m around DH, and the heart does what the heart will.
This is a day at sea.  We are planning on doing damn-all.  There is an adults-only lounge area with hammocks and secluded basket chairs and comfy lounges.  Or we might hang out on our balcony.  The temp is about 78, with a light breeze and big fluffy white clouds.  DH saw the first flying fish at 8:06 this morning.  Oh my gosh, life is glorious!!