Monday, December 31, 2007

Reducing My Possessions

Just yesterday I stated I would like to reduce my possessions by 50%. So, of course, I went shopping at Target for the 75% reduced Christmas things.

I returned home with two Smith & Hawken urns for summer topiary ($7 each) , two 4.5 foot lighted evergreens in urns for the front porch next Christmas ($18), and eight dozen cheap and cheerful colored ornaments. I want to make one of those shiny ornament wreaths. And at 49 cents a dozen. Well, it was a good price. Now to find styro circles for the base of the wreath. I also purchased two 9 foot lighted garlands for the fireplace @ $2.49 each. I can have fake greens now--no kitty. I had purchased dangly light strands for the kitchen (think Nigella's kitchen) but never got out the ladder and nails for installation. Is it too late?

As to the 50% reduction of belongings. With the weight loss these past 12 months (almost) I have had to go through the closet and remove clothes that were too large and couldn't be tucked or seamed or washed and shrunk. My underwear drawer is but a ghost of it's former self. My shelves of white tees, while still full, are not as full as usual. And if truth be told, I need to buy new shirts that actually fit.

The trimming down of my wardrobe has been painful at times (old favorites) and liberating. Each morning when I open the undies drawer I am so pleased by it's pleasant little folded piles. So neat. And everything is white. I enjoy the top shelf in my closet because the piles are orderly and small. I have few choices. And end up wearing only half of the things stored there. Isn't that the way we are? We wear what we love and leave the rest to pile up.

I think we do this with everything we own. I use the newest, best iron I have purchased and the others sit gathering dust. Nothing wrong with them, they just aren't the best anymore. I have my favorite sewing machine and the others are "in case" something happens to Numero Uno. I have my favorite scissors which are not the newest pair.

Last night, before I fell asleep I realized I could pack everything I now wear, in ONE suitcase or duffle. Everything. That thought made me SO happy. If we have an emergency, I can gather everything up and save all my clothes.

I have strong insecurity issues.

When I helped close up my friend's home after her death, and we sorted through drawers, boxes and shelves; chosing what was to be saved and tossing what was not usuable (so easy for a stranger to toss things), I realized we should all do this every 7 years. Why save what you cannot or have not used? When I saw the 20 or more cartons of just sweaters in the bedroom I was speechless. Who among us, doesn't have the same situation? And why?

And it is all useful. My friend's sweaters went to resale shops. Her fabric and thread (so expensive to purchase) to the local middle school home ec dept for sewing projects. Her art supplies to the art cooperative for handicapped adults. All the storage containers and shelving to the social service agency helping mainstream handicapped adults. Furniture went to the homeless shelter to replace worn items. We were thoughtful in our thinking of where things should go and why. And that was just one room in the house. The quilt room.

So if all of us could select one room or area of our lives and sort and give away (or sell) the things not needed in 2008 we will be doing something good. For ourselves and others. I know the women who are wearing my donated clothing are happy to have nice "new" clothes they couldn't afford to buy.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

End Of The Year

My Christmas Day Super Scrabble Game tiles. This was NOT a once in a game occurance but a trend in my game. At one time, after this photo, I had all the vowels. No wonder I came in third. More family holiday photos on Slambo's blog. Click on the link to the right.

A Goal Without a Deadline is a Wish.

The Deadline for my Healthy Eating Plan is fast approaching. January 8, 2008. The closer I get to January 8 the harder it is to stay on the plan. To counter this trend in "lack of self control" I added three months of pages to my food diary-- till March 30. I know. It's self trickery but we'll see if it works. Of course, it's the holidays. And I did eat Thanksgiving dinner four separate times in November with leftover days. And Christmas. I've had only one Christmas cookie (last night) and several thin slices of full butter chocolate cake. I was absolutely CRAVING chocolate cake. Especially the buttercream frosting. But now it's over.

When the deadline was close, I had such panic about not losing any weight in a week or two. And after 11 months, I should have been aware of the ebb and flow of my weight and comfortable with it. Not so. Now I have an additional three months to lose or maintain with no worries. It was always my intention to continue eating this way for the rest of my natural life--so I was surprised that my mind "turned" on me this way. I thought we were in sync.

Yesterday I bought kale, beets and a big butternut squash. The squash is peeled and cubed and ready for roasting along with the beets. The kale is ready for the saute pan and a balsamic vinegar drizzle. There's a lovely ham in the fridge waiting to be simmered in a liter of classic Coke for a "white trash ham" from my Nigella Lawson Christmas present cookbook. And Jamie Oliver has a new cooking show starting January 12. His food is amazing. Fresh from his garden. All my ducks are in a nice even row for the coming New Year.

The electricity stayed on so I will continue my post.

I am thinking about ways in which I can improve myself in the next 12 months. One thing came to mind as I was making the bed. I want to learn how to make buttonholes. And I want to make pillowcases out of fabric that I can't bear to use in a quilt. Somehow having these fabrics on my bed will make me happier than having them shut away in the closet, unused.

So buttonholes and pillowcases with button closures. I may need a tutor.

Eat more leafy greens. I happen to like leafy greens but my husband does not. So I rarely have them at home but order them in restaurants. So now I will eat them at home. And cater less to what my husband prefers and more to what I prefer. Novel idea.

Actually start my seeds for my garden in March not May as I usually do. Procrastination. And plant things I will eat.

Read. I check books out at the library with every intention of reading them. And they get renewed. And still are returned- unread. There is a reason. I love to read all the way through when I begin a book. Hours and hours of reading. With my life now--puppy-- I have to stop doing whatever I am doing and go for walks, or outside to smell things, or to dig holes, or to visit with other dogs. But I am trying to learn to read a few pages and "put the book down". And the puppy has picked up on my "cues" and when I pick up my book, he goes into his crate and naps. For awhile. Sweet dog.

Find dog friends for this sweet puppy. He needs his own little social atmosphere. And he needs to run and jump and play with dogs.

So. Buttonholes. Leafy Greens. Plant Seeds Early. Read. Dog Friends for Riley.

I will add one HUGE one. Eliminate 50% of everything I own in the next 12 months. In the past 2 minutes I have changed the percent three times. Half seems too much but 30 or 40% seems too difficult to figure out math wise. This way, if I have six of something--I just get rid of 3. There will be some problems with three of anything but there will be problems anyway. I can see Great Angst with my white shirt collection. But I have about 20 or more so I will console myself with my favorite 10 (or so). This is going to change my life!!!! A lot.

I can't imagine how much I will struggle with dividing up my sets of dishes, sheets, white shirts, pens and pencils, fabrics, vases, baskets, sewing machines, irons. Thank goodness I only have one car.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning

The sun is shining and there is snow on the ground. All is right with the world in this brief moment in time.

Christmas Eve was quiet. Not the bustle of past years with cooking of a large meal, last minute wrapping of presents bought but not needed, and finally climbing into bed so bone tired that sleep won't come. This year I cooked the Christmas Eve meal of Polish Pierogi on Sunday and served it yesterday. The few gifts that needed a wrap were five in number. Two for the puppy's first Christmas. While cooking the pierogi I was sending text messages to my son in California who was making his first pierogi with his new (from us) Kitchen Aid pasta attachment. He reported a "success" late in the evening on Christmas Eve.

Today we will open the prezzies sent from California and the few I bought and the gifts my daughter can't afford to buy for us and then we will walk the puppy and make Christmas Burritos. I wrote about this Christmas tradition last year but was asked to tell the story again.

I had to think back to just how long it's been that we have been having Christmas Burritos. And I think it's 17 or 18 years now. Where does the time go? That long ago Christmas day, I had completely forgotten to even plan or shop for Christmas Dinner. In my mind the Christmas Eve meal was so work intensive that I didn't even think about the day after. So when 5 or 6 pm came along my two college age children started wondering where their dinner was. I was stunned. Dinner? And Christmas dinner?

So I ran to the freezer and looked inside hoping for a miracle. I found a pound of frozen ground beef and two packages of tortilla wraps. In the fridge I found cheese and lettuce. A tomato was on the kitchen counter and onions in the crisper. I could make burritos if only there was a package of seasoning mix and salsa in the pantry. So a tradition was born.

I served the Christmas Burritos with a Christmas story. Each ingredient had a place in the Christmas Nativity story. The cheese was the Star in the sky. Tortillas wrapped the baby Jesus. The green of the lettuce and red of the tomato were the colors of Christmas and had something to do with the Wise Men. My children (18 and 20) thought I was completely crazy. The Christmas Burritos were spectacularly delicious that night. Better than they had ever been before or after.

I discovered, that long ago Christmas, it's not the big fancy gifts or food that make a memorable Christmas. It's the love and family that share the holiday with you. Tonight I will be sharing those most joyous and delicious burritos with my family. The work of minutes in the kitchen.

I send Christmas Wishes to all of you for a happy holiday, good food, laughter and friendship. Be at peace with yourselves my friends!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Riley & A Weather Rant

Riley is 8 months old now and loves his window and sunbeam. He can check out the squirrel activity in the yard and monitor the crows too. The sun keeps him nice and warm.

He's wondering when we are going out for a walk. Because after the walk we have lunch. And it's all about lunch around here! Until supper time.

The Wednesday snow and the general lack of interest in plowing shown by the Town crews (instead of plowing the whole width of the street they are now "suggesting" the width of the street) ended any chance I had for having a "little party" for Christmas. Everyone cancelled.

The streets are getting more narrow and sloppy with each snow. Pretty soon only one car wide. And the sidewalks aren't cleared. In every place I have ever lived, it was the property owner's responsibility to clear the public sidewalks bordering their property. Especially business owners. Not in Maine. In Maine, no one is responsible for anything. Streets not plowed? Cancel school. Sidewalks not plowed? Stay at home or walk in the street. Just remember to pay your taxes when due. Really!

Bah Humbug!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ready For Christmas

Yesterday I got the vintage plastic tree out of the attic (well, G did) and I decorated it after G had to fabricate a new wooden base. The vintage plastic stand crumbled. And I have a full bowl of plastic evergreens which have fallen off the branches. Puppy likes to eat them. Not good. This is one of a pair (I like symmetry) of snowmen I bought in a December 26th sale. The price tag on the bottom says $81. Everything looks so yummy against the yellow faux painted walls. I painted them in the week before a dinner party for 20. Years ago.

Vintage Christmas balls. I just love the "not too shiny" look of them and the pink, aqua and pinky red of the colors. I sometimes fill a bell jar and then top with a silver tray and turn the whole thing upside down. Very exciting and pretty.

Blurry. A rather exuberant green plant. This is rumored to have flowered at some point in life--before I rescued it from a dry death of neglect. Each spring I think "this will be the year it blooms" but I'm still waiting. It's good and pot bound now so perhaps 2008.

The repaired Advent Calendar. G screwed MDF (thin panels) to the back and it has less "flex" now and I hope it doesn't fold and fall again.

I got my whole house--well, not the kitchen yet-- ready for a small quilt gathering this evening. I was sitting and looking at all I had gotten done when the doorbell rang. One of today's guests had arrived a day early. We had little visit and tested out the puppy's "meet and greet". For an 8 month old puppy, he was amazing. The baby gates are down and Riley has free walking privileges for the house.

It snowed last night. So I have no idea if anyone will venture out this evening. No school today as the crews plow snow and clean the roadways. They cancel school here in Maine for almost any reason. In Chicago, 5 to 10 inches of snow or slush wasn't reason to cancel anything. I have a book to pick up at the library but the new director is closing the library all the time this winter. So it's probably not open today. The previous director closed for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Period.

I had a long, leisurely lunch date with my walking buddy yesterday. We sat in the window bar of the restaurant and got to watch the panorama of daily life swirl up and down Maine Street while we talked and ate delicious food. A shared Harvest Plate of roasted butternut puree, roasted beets, asparagus and sauteed kale with balsamic vinegar. I had the Greek Chicken Gyro and N had the crispy eggplant panini with pesto on homemade foccacia. We both had the crispy House potatoes. I had mulled cider and N had a large pot of French press coffee. Wow. That was some dense thick coffee. Delicious. And then we visited the three gals who own the restaurant -- in the kitchen. (we were the last customers to leave) I am nothing, if not shameless. I wanted to see just how tiny the kitchen space was. What I did see was a HUGE restaurant Garland. HUGE. The chefs said they could serve a full house up front and still have plenty of space on the stove to prep for a catering job to feed 60. And that kitchen was small. Now I want a big, black Garland!

After complimenting everyone on the beautiful service, perfectly cooked food etc we said farewell and returned to the cold snowy street. This is a small lunch only restaurant with table space for 18. And they have cloth napkins, nice plates and good solid Continental sized flatware. Not bendable aluminum forks. I really dislike paying $30 to $50 for a meal and eating with cheap flatware off crappy plates. My mother called me the "Princess" when I was a small child. It wasn't said with affection.

If anyone shows up this evening they will be served champagne in crystal glasses & Kahlua laced brownies with piles of whipped cream on very nice plates with silver forks. They will dab their lips on candy cane printed paper napkins. This "Princess" knows how to party.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Ice World

The snow fell for most of Sunday. The ultra dry powder. And I walked the dog even though the wind was blowing a bit and the temperature was 10. Then it rained. Now the world as I know it is all ice. Rutted ice. Ankle breaking ice. Falling down and can't get up ice. Frozen to the mailbox ice so the mailman won't deliver the mail. Or as my neighbor said "any excuse not to deliver the mail". The snow you see in this picture (my back yard) has an inch or two of crusted ice on top of the packed powder. Hard on the puppy's legs.

My advent calendar. "It fell down and went boom" as my kids used to say (often). The puppy was nearby but I can't say he was involved even though he did have an ornament in his mouth at the time. Innocent till proven quilty. And he has perfected the "innocent" look.

My plastic Christmas tree is still up in the attic store room. No Christmas anywhere in this house yet. But I do have Christmas in my heart.

I bought two mangos when I did my grocery shopping and I have been having a few slices each morning before I make my oatmeal. Like eating sunshine. I have a recipe for a Mango Smoothie and have all the ingredients "to hand" so no shopping trip required. One cup mango diced, one cup vanilla or plain yogurt, half a cup of crushed ice and a bit of milk to thin. Blend. This is supposed to serve two. This maybe my "dessert" one evening this week.

The pup is circling his wagon and getting ready for a nap so I think I will take my cup of tea down to the workroom and load the CD player with Christmas tunes and topstitch a few things. I need a little creative time for myself. Later!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Let It Snow!

Wow! Every day, more snow. And Sunday TONS more snow coming up the coast. We are having light fluffy snow which is NOT good for snowmen or snowballs. The snow from last week is crusty from the really warm weather on Wednesday (36 degrees and sunny). I shoveled all the wet, slurpy snow off the driveway in a sweater. No coat. Felt like Florida!!!!! LOL. Lots warmer than the usual 17 degrees.

Riley and I are walking every day and trying not to fall down. I made it all the way on the double loop and fell in the driveway of my own home, right before I got safely into the garage. The pup thought I was getting "down to play" and things went downhill from there. He loved it. Me, not so much. G found the traction thingy in the garden. I lost it while dumping the veggies into the compost.

Today we walked and G did the snowblowing and then we all three drove into Auburn for Mexican food. I had a DRINK! A Margarita. And chicken fajitas without the tortillas. Loved every calorie.

Yesterday I made marinara sauce from scratch and it was fabulous. Used organic plum tomatoes from Bella Terra. Have no idea where I purchased them. Maybe Whole Foods in Portland. Served the sauce with eggplant I breaded and fried (I truly love fried eggplant and could eat it every day). I know I shouldn't do this but I'm weak.

Tomorrow back on the diet wagon.

My walking partner is back from Florida and tomorrow we will walk and catch up on all the news. It will be so lovely to have company--well, Riley is steadfast but his topics of conversation are limited. N and I walk, we talk, and have no idea how many times we have gone around. Until Riley sits down and refuses to go any further. Then we know we're done. Too funny!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christmas Cards 2007

I took several (lots) of torn strips of green fabric and made a sort of woven surface which I then backed with WU and topped with lime green tulle. I ironed the piece to backing fabric and stitched. Then added some yarn. Two threads with little squares of varigated colors suspended. Cut the large piece of "fabric" into shapes. Then tore the watercolor paper into rectangles that would fit in the envelopes I have and added tissue paper and stems cut from the hem of a dress.
They aren't as unique as the ones I made last year. Every one of those was "one of a kind" and these all look like minute variations of the same design. But they are pretty.

I like the slightly wonky ones that don't sit straight. I always have liked that kind of thing. Now I'm wondering if I should write a message on the back?

Here are 8 of the 10 or 12 I made last Christmas from assorted collaged papers. Newspaper, date due slips from library and photocopied fabric printed in black and white. The photocopied fabric was WAY fun to make! and use. So much nicer than stuff from the scrapbook store. And it was black and white. I added handcut pink circles.

I think if you go into archived blog posts for December 21, 2005 you may find the painted trees I made that year. I don't have them in my photo library. I may not have blogged them. (odd) I would go check myself but the puppy and husband want me to go on a car ride with them.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Clementines and Christmas Trees

Is there anything nicer than a pile of clementines? So pretty with a sprig of pine. And the box I bought on Sunday was excellent. Only one weird piece. I have the rest bagged and stored in the fridge as the clementines seem to go off pretty fast. And I like them on the firm side and not all squidgey. The plate is handpainted Italian pottery from TJ Maxx this summer. I love that color green.

I lost one of the rubber traction thingies that go on my boots to keep me from a slip/fall while walking. I tried retracing my steps to find where I lost it. Not. Tomorrow I'll look again.

My husband had a bad day at work and is now feeling very sad. I think he really doesn't like his job. Likes being the "boss" better. Making decisions. Being the "decider" like Bush. But he also wanted no responsibilities. Can't have it both ways. The boss or the bossed. Salary or hourly wage. Either way, he's unhappy. I had a wonderful dinner ready when he walked in from work (one hour late) and chocolate cake from last night's party for dessert. I've done everything I can to change his attitude. It's up to him now.

Riley is chewing on an empty coffee jar. Folger's. He used to work on chewing the plastic jar for a week or more. Been 20 minutes and it's pretty much destroyed. Strong jaws. He's happy.

I finished my annual Christmas cards this afternoon (pictures tomorrow). They are drying (glue stick) under the weight of three books. Want them flat. Looks more professional. Now I have to decide who gets one. One friend-- the one who said "don't you have money for store bought cards?" will be getting a store bought card. Now I have to decide if I want to send an email "picture" of a card to those who send me e-cards. Does this count as "being naughty" with Santa?

I had to find the watercolor paper (Italian) in the attic, find tissue paper that looked good with the fabric I created (yes, I made fabric), cut everything into just the right shapes (winged it), and then used up two whole glue sticks in putting them together. The tree stems were part of the hem of a linen dress. I'm digging the cutting up of big clothes for "ART" purposes. I made Christmas trees again.

I'll show you some of the 2006 paper collage trees tomorrow along with the new 2007 ones. I think I deleted the 2005 tree paintings but I'll check. I know there are no pictures of the 2004 fabric trees--and they were way cute! I wasn't blogging then.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Saturday Suppliment

The days just seem to be flying by! I have been working on this altered book cover for days and doing a little something to it each time I walk past. Gluing things down and then ripping part of that off. Next on the agenda is paint. This is a book cover with the pages removed. You can work on the outside or the inside surface. I chose the paper side (inside) but with an Exacto knife you can carve up the outside surface pretty easily. Next time I'll use the colored outside surface.

I have been making little paper collages with creative direction from the advent calendar my daughter made for me. Each morning I open a little numbered envelope with instructions for the day's activity. Books to get at the library, collages to make, lists to create. I didn't make yesterday's collage-- instead I actually worked with fabric. And it's been SO long since I did that, that I worked directly on the ironing board surface and now am finding that I can't move the flimsy piece without destroying it. Before falling asleep, I realized I could pin it to the cover and then remove the cover from the board and "slide" (????) the piece off onto a piece of release paper. We'll see what happens. The layered strips that make up this piece are the foundation for my limited edition of ten Christmas cards. This will be the third or fourth year I have been making them. And people are asking when they will be mailed. Well, two people.

It snowed again last night. Light powdery snow that looked like glitter in the moonlight. Riley and I walked for 30 minutes at 7 pm. Nice and dark and quiet. Riley got an early Christmas gift from Sam. A battery operated blinking blue light that attaches to his collar. It also lights up the sidewalk for me. And it is a very interesting effect when Riley buries his whole head in the snow. Think blue tunnel. The blinking light can be seen by humans for about 20 feet and should be valuable for owners looking for their dogs at night. I hold on to the leash with a very tight grip. Usually Riley gets himself spooked by something and stays next to me like a burr. But I never become complacent.

I've come to enjoy these late afternoon /early evening walks. It IS cold (17). But the holiday lights are a distraction and I bundle up in plenty of layers.

We finally purchased a dog bed for the living room so we can watch television in there instead of sitting around the dining room table with the dog playing or sleeping on the bed he has in the dining room/great room. Now I can watch Tivo. I was seriously missing my Tivo. Yesterday I caught up with Project Runway (season 4 stinks) and the Holiday Top Chef. Today I will be watching the food channel all day while I do "things". And I have to go to the grocery store. (Ugh)

I purchased new spandex knit Perfect Pants at LL Bean on Thursday. Size Medium. Yes, size medium. I can't even begin to describe the feelings that came over me when I pulled them on and they fit. Nothing tight. No "stuffed sausage" look. And that glorious feeling lasted until 6:30 when I was seated with two friends at a local Indian restaurant telling my story of the pants. One "friend" said "you know they increased all the clothes sizes and the medium isn't a medium anymore, it's probably a large." Really. Do you think they increased the sizes in the last 11 months? I asked. Because the last 11 months is all that concerns me since I couldn't even wear the XL last year at this time. She just couldn't be supportive. Had to knock me down.

I don't care (much) and will take as much pleasure as possible in wearing my size medium pants and pajama pants. And, NO, I have NOT lost TOO MUCH weight. That's the second most popular comment I get. Geez, no wonder people lose weight and regain it so fast. All the "helpful and supportive" comments from the community.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

December 2: Advent Calendar

I used simple #5 shipping tags for the days and pressed on restaurant menu board numerals we have in abundance from our ten years as restaurant owners. I like the clean graphic look of these tags.

Next. I duct taped two insulation boards (15 by 48) together down the long center. The puppy got interested in the project at this point and things got a bit "difficult". I had a long dress made of this beige linen (which now looks quite grey) so I cut the back panel off and layered it with poly batting and stapled it all on, pulling tight so there wouldn't be any bagging or sagging. Then I used yellow head quilting pins (JoAnn's) to attach the tags to the board.

The idea here is to add an ornament each day. One I find in my house that I want to use or a new one that I make (I added glitter snow to a pine cone Riley and I found yesterday on our morning walk). It's possible that I will even buy an ornament for this calendar.

The little bell is an ornament I made 30 plus years ago with a neighbor. I found it in the bottom of the desk drawer last night. I have the extra beads and instructions in a worn brown paper bag that I have carried from house to house all these years. I told my husband that I will probably take it to the nursing home with me. Still pondering on those instructions. Which are not quite all there.

My daily horoscope is again right on the money.

Take another look at the big problems that you think are blocking your path toward progress, and you will see that they are actually just minor setbacks. Rather than keep you from moving forward, they are merely forcing you to devise a new way to navigate around them. They're doing you a favor -- they're reminding you that you need to utilize your creativity a lot more often when you are dealing with problems. There are multiple ways to solve any issue, so why don't you find a unique one?

I felt wonderful making the Pottery Barn calendar. It was good to be doing something. And it changed the emotional texture of the rest of the day. Today my task is a monochromatic collage from the "creative advent calendar" my daughter put together for me. Each little daily envelope has a creative suggestion inside for something to do that day. This is a very good thing. Would be a good product to sell.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

December 1 : Five Happy Christmas Memories

I asked my daughter to add little suggestions to the advent calendar she made for me last Christmas. This suggestion was in envelope number 1.

1. Cleveland, Ohio. Halle's Seventh Floor Winter/Toy wonderland. Mr. Jingaling.

2. Christmas Eve with my Dad. My dad was a city policeman and worked as much overtime as he could during all holidays to save money to buy us a house. On Christmas Eve he would be home in the late afternoon (dark) and my brothers and I would walk through the neighborhood with him looking at the Christmas lights. My mom would join us along the route. When we got home we were encouraged (the first time) to go up on the porch and look in the windows to see if Santa had come. He HAD!

3. Advertising was so closely tied to Christmas when I was little. Santa and Coke. This was the ONLY time of year my parents purchased Coke. A six bottle carton of tiny green glass bottles. One for each of us (3 kids, mom and dad and Santa). We drank our little bottles on Christmas Eve. Ever so slowly. And placed the one for Santa next to the cookies we had made for him.

4. Christmas in Europe. When we lived there for 6 years I loved every Christmas moment. The advent wreaths and candles. The Christmas Markets after dark. The tiny trees with white lights only on roof tops and balconies; marking the way for the three wise men on their journey. Following a church group into the woods across from my German house and standing with them in a clearing in the woods, moon light, singing "Silent Night" in German.

5. The week after Christmas, 1979 or 80, I think. Bolingbrook, IL. Our family room. G was home for the week (he traveled 2 weeks each month to Europe) and he set up a card table in the family room and constructed my large saltbox doll house while the kids played with their Christmas toys and watched Christmas television. We may have gotten our first pet that year. Sam's kitten.

Friday, November 30, 2007


I found this neat advent calendar in the Pottery Barn catalog. All the ornaments are for sale and the board itself is 36 by 48, covered in linen and for $129 they send the board and the tags. Maybe even the numbers. I have some scraps of foam insulation on my dining room table that need to be cut to the same size--probably 30 inches by 48 and then wrapped in batting and then some linen from a dress I can't wear anymore. My daughter gave me tags. My husband has menu board numbers which I can use.

I'm thinking I will make ornaments each day or find something in the attic to use for that day. By Christmas I will have a nice little display. Re-useable. And if I win the lottery or have extra $$$ some day-- I can call Pottery Barn and order a "real" one.

I actually doodled in my journal yesterday. And today I visited a web site where an Iraq artist made collages from burnt and destroyed Iraqian library books (from the riots/looting after the Bush victory). I loved the way they looked. So I began one of my own which you will see tomorrow along with the above mentioned website.

I think the "creative blockage" may be clearing. Anyway, I intend to keep making things, even awful things, everyday. I'm going to suffer for my art. And if I post--you will too. LOL

This week Dr House said something profound (and cruel) to a musician/drug addict:
If you're going to do something: Do it good. Or learn to do it good. Or don't do it at all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Push Forward

My horoscope for today:

Push through self imposed barriers. Widen your horizons. Remind yourself that the world is full of people who are just doing their best to be happy.

Yesterday I was responsible for turning a "good lunch" into a "not so fun lunch". An art friend and I meet to eat lunch and then to share our work and discuss life and art. I whined about my art blockage. And my friend threw up her hands and said "make bad art then." "Suffer! Isn't that what artists do?"


I guess it IS what artists do. They WORK. And only a fraction of that WORK is any good in the beginning. How on earth did I expect to get past this? I think I was hoping for a good work to just FALL into my hands. DUH!

So. I will be WORKING. Making awful, horrible stuff. And then making MORE. Suffering. Pushing forward.

Doing my best to be happy, also. How about you?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A New Look

Yesterday my daughter and I sat and worked on the new template for 2 hours. Choosing styles and colors was very stressful. I am having trouble making up my mind. Usual for me. I always know what I don't like. More difficult knowing what I DO like.

We lost the Artful Quilter's Ring button and my Sitemeter. Will have to re-install those someday soon. The links button works so great. Even I can do it.

Riley is a bit out of sorts today. Sleepy. Whiney. Unsocial. I wonder if he ate something weird. Weirder than usual. You just never know what he scoops up. Cigarette butts. Plastic bags. Mushrooms. Deer Poop. If he doesn't perk up tomorrow we'll check in at the Vet.

I am experiencing a major artistic block. I haven't made any art for awhile now. Not even my favorite little paper collages. My paper and pen journal is just pages and pages of writing since July. Not even one little picture pasted in with all the words.

I did make a little "rip off" of someone's work. I can copy. Not proud of this talent but if the design is simple enough I can make a duplicate. Takes time to get it right. And all the decisions have been made by someone else.

Tomorrow a friend and I will pack up my dearly departed friend's fabric, books, and quilting supplies. I miss her more than I thought possible. Perhaps all this is grief. Something I have never experienced before. I hope the packing of the boxes will complete this grieving process. And I can move on. My friend would want me to move on.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Here's Looking At You!

Only took a couple dozen tries but I got a decent picture of the "new" me. Of course I've been eating like a sailor on shore leave this week so I may not look like this for long. I think this year's turkey was the best one ever. And the pumpkin pie is so good! I get a tiny sliver but it's so rich, I can barely finish. But I soldier on.

All this weight loss has come at a price. Wrinkly skin. Like on a balloon that was blown up really big and then sits around in a warm room loosing air for a week or so. You know how it looks all wrinkly? Puckery? Crepe-y. What I need is big rubber bands to hold up all that loose skin on my thighs. Pull it all up to my hips and sort of hold it there. So my legs look fantastic. Or else keep it all covered. I carried most of my weight from the waist down. I did look like a Weeble. Now all that skin is empty.

My shoulders are wider than my hips. Or it just looks that way to me. When I walk and my shadow is in front of me-- I look straight up and down. I used to look like the food pyramid. Little pointy head and big big bottom.

I had three hours this afternoon and I spent it reading art blogs, writing in my journal, taking those dozens of pictures of myself, trying to get that smoky fire going and filling the house with black stinky smoke instead. I did get the purple pair of size 10 J Jill cords hemmed. I have no idea why they fit, but it's a real diet booster. No art.

Tomorrow I plan to go to the grocery and get lettuce for lots and lots of salads. And fruit and yogurt. Maybe skip Chinese Lunch. Wear the size 10 pants. Oh, yeah!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

I know why they call it this, but still, it seems not so correct. Today we had Thanksgiving Part II for lunch. I re-roasted the wings and legs of that turkey to get them "crispy" and loaded up plates with mashed & sweet potatoes, stuffing and gravy and we pulled chairs up to the table and crunched away.

My walking partner is still in town until the 27th so we had another delightful walk in the 30 degree, brisk, weather this morning. Riley just loves to start his day with a three mile walk and then a nice nap.

The fire in the woodstove was very smoky yesterday and kept going out. ( I swore, cussed and even kicked the stove, but it refused to work) Today is much the same problem. The wood is dry. This is why I really do not enjoy using the woodstove. When it works correctly, the heat is nice and soft and warms the entire high cathedral ceiling-ed room. When it doesn't work-- the whole house stinks of smoke and fire. We had four perfect, hot fires in a row and now, two terrible cold and smokey fires. I wish I had a gas woodstove. The only reason I'm using the woodstove this winter is the price of heating oil. We have plenty of wood piled up-- free, sort of. (purchased it 16 years ago and never burned it) At this rate, the whole house will need interior cleaning and painting to get rid of the smoke. And the smell.

Riley needs his dinner. So I will post this and get back to "dog duty". G is working till 11:30 tonight--Black Friday. When I worked retail, I loved the holiday season and all the customers. But that was long ago and I was younger and not quite as "poor" at customer service. :-)

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Today I am thankful for my life just as it is right now. How often are we "just right" with ourselves? No changes necessary.

Riley and I walked the empty streets of our little neighborhood. No cars, no people, no dogs. I speculated that everyone was having a late, family breakfast. Riley thought about it. Decided he wanted a cheese fueled run. So G and I teamed up to get him running and soon he was a foam splattered black dog. Happy dog.

I baked my pumpkin pie yesterday and made a batch of no knead bread with additions. One tablespoon of honey, wheat flour and three tablespoons of GrapeNuts. I let it sit around for 24 hours and now I have it in a 12 muffin pan making it's last rise. I ALWAYS forget dinner rolls on Thanksgiving so this will be a family event.

The turkey needs to be ready to eat at 6pm so I have time to fool around. My daughter, our only guest, is eating with friends at 1 or 2 and then with us at 6. So G and I will have lunch and then make dinner.

Brussels sprouts from our garden, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries and baked acorn squash. No green bean casserole. It turns out that I have always been the only member of the family who loved it. And I no longer eat large piles of food. So there is too much of it leftover. In fact, we really have trouble finishing leftover food now.

I'm the same weight I was 25 years ago. Amazing Theory: If I gained only 3 pounds a year for 25 years I would have weighed exactly what I weighed last year at this time. Seventy five pounds more than I do now. And in those 25 years, I lost weight occasionally. Like 5, 10 or 15 pounds. So there were years when I regained that much. Unbelieveable. It happens when we just aren't paying attention.

I am so very thankful that I started on my "healthy eating plan" in January and stuck with it and walked nearly every day and counted every calorie and weighed and measured every portion.

I am thankful my family is healthy and happy. I am thankful for G. And for my dog. And for Tivo. And now I'm going to finely chop celery and onions and peel potatoes and love every second. I do LOVE prep work with a knife. Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Moving Along

My walking buddy is back in Maine with her Florida sunshine tan. She looks great! We bundled up and walked this morning (24 degrees). It is SO much nicer to walk with someone! As to the art above. You've seen this before but now with some leaves. Salvaged pieces from when I "altered" my favorite sweatshirts to fit the "new me". I added three blue buttons.

Another piece we have seen before but with an added strip torn off of something green wrapped around the fringed piece of red satin. It needed some relief from all the red. I may add some buttons to this as well to repeat the dots in the fabrics.

I used one of the prepared Pamela Allen workshop backgrounds for this and just built it up with whatever prepared and unused bits I had on the work surface as I had only a few moments to work. This is progressing but needs a "punch". I think something stronger for the leaves which are darker in real life, but I can see that the contrast is not enough.

I am finding that I enjoy the adding of unmatched scraps to a piece. Not thinking too much. Just trying things repeatedly and finding the solution to be surprising and not what I would have thought. Taking a chance. I just need a few hours to load some threads in the machine and topstitch and quilt these to actually get a feel for the surface.

The last and most successful in my humble opinion. The piece was made horizontal but I kind of think it should be vertical with the "kite" (from my favorite red sweatshirt). The additions of green scraps to the left is very exciting and because they are batiks and velvets, there is a nice tactile thing going on. With some stitching I think I can see what happens to the surface. When this is horizontal the little peaked shapes looked like houses. They still could be houses as my viewpoint could be from the sky looking down.

I don't think I would have made anything like these four if I had lots of time in the work room. The ones above are legal pad size. I'm finding I like smaller work. I have a pile of different fabrics to make into leaves for a larger piece. Corduroy pants, velveteen, batik and if time allows today, I plan to paint some of my own fabric for the leaves also. Some color and texture I can't find in my fabrics or in my clothes.

I went to the library yesterday to find some reference materials for my Expressive Books challenge. I don't think I will be going in the direction of the research but it was good for the brain cells to contemplate the subject matter. And it is amazing where one "thought thread" will lead. I may just make a series of separate pages in fabric, paint and paper and then lay them out and see what fits and what is needed. I think a subject or theme will come out of the work rather than trying to get the work to co-operate with a set idea.

I'm interested in painted fabric, textural surprises, transfered images and the use of recycled fabrics (waste). I'm also increasingly drawn to large, graphic images. Perhaps lino or wood cuts printed on fabric. The Japanese books from the library are making me want to cut into some lino or speedball sheets.

Time to start a fire in the wood stove. Pizza for dinner tonight with pepperoni, mushrooms and pineapple. Whole wheat crust for me and regular for G. A new brand of prepared dough balls at the grocery store today which looks much better than the store brand. The wheat looked "wheaty". Turkey is thawing in fridge and all the sides are ready to be prepped. I even remembered pie ingredients and whipping cream. I didn't get dinner rolls.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Blog Evaluation- Needs Improvement

I want to change my blog name. I want to change my blog.

I had low expectations for this endeavor when I launched. I had been writing in a pen/paper journal for many years. Jotting down ideas, drawing things, copying recipes, craft ideas from television programs, pasting in "art" from magazines. Anything I liked or wanted to try was recorded. These journals, and there are four or five bulging books now, are completely entertaining. To me.

What I wanted was somewhere to TYPE. I love the typed word. So fast. Deleteable. And my pen/pencil journal is slower (penmanship) and the only way to delete is to tear out pages. And those pages are really sewn in tight.

I also wanted a place to write opinions and ideas and embellish the truth and tell lies. I wanted to WRITE. And of course, I wanted it to be ALL about me. Problem is: My real life is completely dull, even to me. In the beginning, I wrote some really good stuff about my past, about days and times that meant alot to me. And the emotion came through in the words. Lately, not much.

I've signed on, in the past few days, for a challenge. To make a book. A creative exploration of an idea, method, or technique. Mapped out. Like an expedition into uncharted territory. Like an explorer looking for the edges of the known world. Afraid he might fall off that edge. Into what? I'm terrified. Excited. Have no idea yet what I will explore.

I want this blog to be a factual record of this exploration. With side trips into the mundane. Explorers wrote about daily life along with the adventure. Samuel Pepys's Diary was a unique look at daily life and intimate thoughts. An exploration of his life. So mine will still detail walking the dog and weeding the garden and forgeting to plant the daffodils until the snow starts falling.

In the "needs improvement" department, I will try to be more entertaining. More of a writer. Telling a good story. Beautiful descriptive writing. I may even take a stab at dialogue, which is a weak point for me. I do like a bit of good repartee. (Editor's Note: Two detours to the encyclopedia and dictionary in this one post!)

In order to have time to write this post I had to sacrifice one of my slippers to the puppy. He is busy ripping it to shreds while I am typing away. A fair trade.

So how shall I change my blog name? I can't even begin to be clever about this. I was stumped when it came to naming my children. And the puppy. Help!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Just DO Something

Remember when I wrote that I would be dedicating 2 hours a day to art? The only thing I am dedicating 2 hours to is dog walking. My whole day is walk the dog/do household chore/feed the dog/do household chore/walk the dog/feed the dog/do household chore/walk the dog/feed the dog/read the paper/go to bed.

You'll notice there is no time spot for personal cleanliness. I sometimes spend the whole day looking exactly like I did when I rolled out of bed and into dog walking clothes. Now that I can wear a "cold weather" cap, I don't even have to worry about bed head.

Today was a new low. I went to an appointment with the eye doctor in dog walking gear. Only because I got back from the morning walk too late to shower and change clothes. The upside, if there can be one, I didn't have to change clothes for the afternoon walk.

When my husband got home from work, the dog and I had been in the house 3 minutes (after a 3 mile hike). Riley was ready to go again. So we both took him out into the 4 acre unfenced yard (woods) and whistle trained him. We use a whistle to get his attention and call him and he's supposed to "come". This is tricky. Riley is 7 months old and thinks he is the boss now. So he RUNS. Away. We are trying to make coming to us when we call a "lot of fun". We attached the 20 foot lead to his collar so we would only have to get within 20 feet to catch him if he ran. He ran alright. Back and forth across the yard. To me. Then to G. He ran until he was foaming at the mouth. Then he had water, dinner, and was crated for a nap. G and I went out to eat. Cozy little restaurant. Wine, pate, lamb, cheesecake, coffee. G ate most of those things. I drank the wine.

I just need to DO something other than what I have been doing. It's all very nice. I do like clean clothes, good food, vacuumed floors. But I need to do something creative before I forget how. Reading would even be nice.

It WAS really nice to sit in that cozy restaurant with candles and wine and white napkins and have a nice chat with my husband. Should try for more of that, also.

Well, I think I'm going to take a much needed shower, brush my teeth and watch Project Runway. Tomorrow is another day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday- November 11

The bits and pieces of my friend's unfinished quilt top. My dilema: Leave the blocks as they are or use some of the new fabric she bought just before her death, (washed and ready to use) to make the blocks that are weird look prettier. Like the one in lower left. the floral purple with the peach. and the new fabric which looks lovely. I don't think my friend was actually going to take the blocks apart. I need to go over to the house and see if there is any more of the blocks building fabric around. Obviously I did not get everything I needed.

My second attempt at No Knead Bread. 500 degree oven. More flour. While it was better looking the taste element was only fair to middling. I guess I like a dense and tasty loaf. This one was airy and tasteless. G and I finished it off today. Toasted.

I truly do not know how Mrs Mel goes through 3 baked loaves. This one loaf lasted all week. And we had it for sandwiches, oh so thin Parmesan toasts with salads, breakfast toast and I was going to make croutons if it made it through today. But we toasted the remainder. I mixed up a new, replacement loaf for the coming week. One cup WW flour along with the white, sugar and a touch more water than necessary. It's sunning on the window sill. I'm only going to bake this one at 450. And I may knead it a bit to increase the gluten. Third time is the charm?

Weighed myself this morning. Didn't gain and lost a bit. So that's good news. Back to writing everything down in the food diary. I had gotten away from that and that isn't good. I need to make sensible decisions ALL day long so that dinner is a good meal and not a handful of salad. Canned soup for dinner yesterday. Ick! Organic maybe, but still tasteless. How can they mess up SOUP???? Chinese Lunch today. Yum.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Road Trip

We (man, woman and dog) were all getting a little frayed at the edges, so I decided we needed a change of scene. So we got into the car early on Thursday and drove south. On the way out of Maine we dropped Riley off where he was born and he had a day of "Doggie Daycare" with free play. He had his packed lunch with him.

G and and traveled into New Hampshire and Mass with the quilt show in Nashua as our destination even though it's a pretty stodgey show. I saw the sign for Cracker Barrel and we pulled in and had *breakfast*. Oh, it was heavenly. Two eggs, 3 crispy thick slices of bacon, grits, hashbrown casserole (and whatever is in that) and one biscuit. Two cups of coffee and a couple games of golf pegs in a triangle and I was happy. Cracker Barrel was all decked out in Christmas and glitter. I purchased one little Santa suit on hangers for a little quilt I want to make with fabric I have had for YEARS. I left behind the tiny toddler Halloween costume of orangey gold satin, black netting and sparkles. 70% off. Adorable.

On to Nashua, New Hampshire. I should have saved my $9.00 entrance fee and just roamed the vendors and gone home. There were about 50% of the usual quilts and they were all traditional. Lots of gorgeous hand quilting. The room looked half empty. Of quilts and people. The vendors were doing okay and the lunch room was packed when we got there.

I overheard some conversation about where a group of quilters was going next and heard Trader Joes. I barged right over and got directions. I've been wanting to have a peek at a Trader Joe's since I've been reading blogs. None in Maine which seems pretty ridiculous now that I've been. Seems like a perfect fit with Mainers. But we always seem to be at least a decade behind the country.

I shopped Trader Joe's and got Peach Salsa and four packages of dried Mangos. Only the mangos have sugar listed as the first ingredient and they are WAY TOO SWEET. So I washed one package off this morning to see if I could remove some sugar. I may have to throw them away. I like my fruit a bit tart. I had 2 pieces and can feel my heart beating. Way too much stimulation.

We did NOT try for a day pass at Costco. That would have been too much culture shock. We did visit a giant Barnes and Noble and I got my annual Mary Englebreit 7 inch square 2008 calendar. This year's theme, "You Can Do Anything". Pretty good.

Riley is up from his "after breakfast" nap and I will be taking him for a walk now. When we get back he will have his "after walk" nap and luncheon will be served. Then some play, a few visits to the potty and time for another 2 mile walk, dinner, licking the kitchen floor, and some "stay" with cheese incentives and he's asleep by 7 pm. Of course, I am required to participate in all dog activities. Riley and I are a "group". So much for free time.

I do try and crate him for 2-3 hours each day, if it works out for us. He doesn't mind. Gives him time to work on the fine motor skills of unsewing his dog bed. He is meticulous. Zipper removal was delicate and complete. Seam binding is coming off in one continuous strip. And now we are removing the polyfil. Just a tiny bit at a time. In the top left corner. The rest of the bed is in perfect shape.

Riley is ringing the door bell. Time for potty.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Today Can Be The Beginning

Of Anything. Or Nothing. I'm in a sort of "Is That All There Is?" kind of mood. All this work on the "Healthy Eating Plan" and all the walking and it's all overwhelming me.

Who am I now? Who do I want to be? Eight weeks till the END of this one year commitment to change. On January 5th I will have the opportunity to make a new commitment.

The weight loss has changed me. I smile. I feel like the "inside" person and the "outside" person match. I was always surprised, before, to catch a glimpse of myself, unawares. Who is that? Oh, gosh it's ME!!!! No. It can't be. It is. And I would want to run and hide. At one point in time I remember standing in front of a floor to ceiling mirror at Gap and seeing a Weeble looking back at me. All round in the middle with a little head bump and little feet bumps. A Weeble.

Now, I look like a regular person. Most times. A regular person who is ridiculously happy about fitting into the jeans she has on or the tiny spandex shirt. Tiny for me. Not you. And all that ridiculous happiness plays havoc with the past. Being a judgmental Virgo and all. I see faults and I pick away at them. Yours. Mine, certainly. Why was I so wrong for so long?

I can't just stand there looking into today's mirror and be happy. I have to wonder about all the years of Weeble. Why was I like that? What happened to make me want to change. Why was the change so easily accomplished. Yes. I said easily. I never struggled. I was never hungry. I never, until this month, was counting the days till January 5th. I just kept moving along, one day at a time and really, am just as shocked that it worked as everyone else is.

When asked, about how I did this, I say "I was ready to change". As simple as that. I was tired of carrying 100 pounds extra of guilt, sadness, failure, low self esteem, unworthiness, history and whatever else had been dumped onto me, around anymore. It was too heavy to carry. The weight came off but so did the baggage. Years of it. A lifetime of not being what anyone wanted. I've been unpacking that baggage as the weight came off.

Now it's time to unpack the last 30 pounds of baggage and I am dragging my feet, eating a cookie, not counting my calories, not weighing and measuring everything I eat. Being self destructive. Because the last of that baggage is the most toxic and the most familar and the hardest to face up to. Because to get rid of that last 30 pounds, I have to face up to what I am.

And I would guess, to do that, I have to admit, to my own self, that I am a failure. I never finished college. I never had a proper career job with a salary. I don't have professional credentials. I never tried hard enough to get any of these things. But they are what I always wanted. A profession. A job. To be able to support myself.

Wow. So today can be the beginning of unpacking that baggage. I can certainly go back to school and finish college. And a degree will probably get me a job. I was going to say that I might be too old. But a classic Ann Landers line came to mind. When a guy said "I'll be fifty in the 4 years it takes to finish college." Ann replied "So how old will you be in four years if you don't go to college?" But what do I want to be when I grow up? How do I discover my true calling? Can anyone light the way?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Dedicate Two hours a Day to Art

More painting was done to this flower. I don't think it's done yet. But I did try and sign it just in case it's done. I think I will paint over that. For sure.

What I like about this one is the limited amount of paint on the surface and the fact that it looks just as good upside down. Could hang it either way. Change it with your mood. While I was painting, I was thinking--House On Water. It does have a watery feel.

A fabric flower (my signature tulip) and my newly painted flower. They look like distant cousins. I need to figure out how to add more depth of color. The large spaces aren't all that interesting. And the acrylic paint dries so fast. I got a book on acrylic technique and it wasn't helpful. Maybe this is why I have never painted.

As to the title. I have a list of 15 things to do to become a better artist. I will be tackling one each week. This week. Two hours a day dedicated to ART. So far today, I unrolled the unfinished quilt I am finishing for my friend who died on October 21. I spent time trying to SEE what she was working toward. There are 23 incomplete blocks. Her color combinations are odd to me but could be significant to her style or signature "look" (or stroke impaired brain) so I don't want to impose my artistic vision onto her work too much. Doing this for an hour or two was very tiring but oddly very creative. Like learning a new language. I took pictures of the blocks with the digital camera to put some distance between me and the work. One block is 85% done and that's the one I'm going to use to finish the others. Use it as a road map.

G has done all the dog walks today. I just didn't want to. So now, while the football game is on, I plan to go down to my workroom and make something. Maybe some pieced fabric to cut big leaves out of. My old green wide wale cordoroy pants pieced with a green napkin. Or not. Two hours a day is long. I have been dedicating zero hours for weeks.

Tomorrow I need to snap out of this funk and get back into walking and doing art while the dog naps in his crate. Enough of this "I'm tired" whining.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Progress Report

So much blank wood. Can you believe it? I can't. The covered areas all belong to me. Down there past the big floral lamp. The situation: I have to clear a spot in another room for the things that need to leave this room. And in doing so need to find another spot for----- etcetra.

I did find a few clean, starched napkins for this photo. To set the mood for where I'm going with the long, empty table and the napkins and candles. I got this flatware in Denmark back in 1980 or 81 when the entire family went to Europe with Daddy. To see where he worked. When he was gone for two weeks every month for three and a half years.

My newly restored bookcase. Only books I actually read are still here. The others have gone to the book sale. Decorating, Cooking, Gardening, Journals in the lower left. There is a matching bookcase on the other side of the curtains. That is in the process of being loaded with magazines I NEED to keep. When I have absolutely nothing to do, I look at old magazines. It's comforting. Last night I looked through a year or more of House &Garden and they are now ready for the Magazine Exchange at the library. I found one thing of interest. A list of 25 ways to contain clutter. They suggested piles of magazines, neatly stacked under coffee and end tables. Does that sound "uncluttered" to you?

From the latest Mary Englebreit magazine. A French General styled bedroom. So for Christmas I will need a wreath and a red and cream striped pillow. Doesn't that look serene?

I went to the grocery store yesterday and actually found Tide with Bleach in Original Scent. The only kind I will buy or use. In liquid. I prefer dry. I can't imagine why people want their clean clothes to smell (stink) like Ocean Breezes. Have you smelled an ocean breeze? Smells like stinky ocean mud and rotting seaweed. Fishy. Nice at the ocean. Not so nice in your closet.

I also purchased a large bottle of Clorox so I coud bleach all my old napkins. They are blinding white now! I know the bleach will rot them eventually but until then-- go white!

Which reminds me-- Riley and G have gone to cut a tree limb off a power line-- yes, they did--- and I should take this opportunity to wash Riley's bedding. Tide with Dog fragrance wouldn't be a winner either.

Friday, November 02, 2007


I moved furniture. Emptied and rearranged cupboard contents. Moved dishes. Took a small load of things to Goodwill. Took a bigger load of things to library for the book sale. Took wine glasses and mugs to my daughter's office for distribution. Took a hanging wall cabinet (white bead board) to daughter's house and hung it up on her wall in kitchen (actually had husband do this). Still need to find home for displaced contents of said wall cabinet.

G and I will be drinking our juice and water from lead crystal rocks glasses now. Instead of them sitting in the cupboard waiting for a special occasion. Like the Queen of England coming to visit.

We will be using the Polish pottery dishes for dinner, breakfast toast and assorted other everyday uses. Along with the silver flatware. I'm 61. Enjoy it now. My kids don't want it.

I can actually SEE the wood top of the dining room table in SOME areas. Not the entire top as yet but we are moving in that direction. When it's clean, I will stain it a nice walnut. French.

And I have decided to paint one whole very large long wall in this dining room with chalkboard paint and define the chalkboard area with a faux (French) picture frame treatment. I can then write menu descriptions, make holiday drawings, and post wonderful quotes on my chalkboard. The top edge can be decorated with faux holiday garland and twinkly lights for a warm and cozy ambiance. The table will be plain (and empty) except for white starched napkins and candles down the center. I love clean surfaces. Which you would never guess with all the s**t I have piled on top of each and every one around here.

When I told my friend K about this uncluttering she said "It's about time!"

I didn't walk yesterday and ate bread and pasta and little steamed dumplings with spicy peanut sauce and am ever so sorry about falling off the wagon but it all just GOT to me. And now I hope I'm past all of this and can just move right along. I wrote in my pen and paper journal for nearly 2 hours this morning so I'm feeling unburdened. So much conflict in my emotional life right now. Dreams of being abandoned and left behind.

Grocery shopping later for pineapple (I need some daily fruit), chicken for soup and detergent and bleach for all the dingy white cotton napkins I pulled out of the napkin drawer. Right now Riley and I are going out for a WALK!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Yesterday's Pictures

Riley standing around looking for something to do. Well, once it got to be Trick or Treat time, things got pretty interesting for the pup. Doorbell ringing. Small children with sticky substances to lick off them. Other dogs coming for treats--wearing costumes. I have a "dog rule". No clothing on dog. But I did hand out candy "eyeballs" to all the humans and dog biscuits to all dogs. I think Halloween candy should be "icky" in a delicious way. Eyeballs.

I changed the sheets yesterday and all this fresh white linen was so delicious looking. I am spoiled completely by 100% linen sheets. They are so expensive, even at the Cuddledown Factory Store in Freeport, but they feel cool in summer and warm in winter. And they don't catch your bed clothes like flannel does.

One meal to the next with Riley. He does do an excellent job of cleaning all the bowls. Not a speck of anything in either of them. The little spots on the bottom are water drops. Labs drink and then carry water in their jowls all over the house. Riley likes to share his water with my pant legs, shoes and socks. So refreshing.

G says today is "my day". We can do whatever I want to do. But. He is making a list of chores next to his breakfast dishes. I think I may ask him to walk with me this morning. I miss my walking partner very much.

Eggplant Parm was delicious last night. I was going to invite the neighbor to eat with us but realized there was no free table space to put a third person. Piles of books, magazines and newspapers everywhere. Ugh. It's not as bad as those homes where you can barely walk through the house because of the piles of "things" but no flat surface is clear. Except for the kitchen island which I cleaned off so I could prep the eggplant last night. Still flat and empty! So perhaps "my day" will be devoted to a flat, clean, blank dining room table. If it happens, I'll take a picture to remember the "moment".

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wednesday October 31

Blogger doesn't want to do pictures right now.

So, what do you dog owners do with the dog all day? I walk him, feed him and pet him but still he seems to want more. I have no idea what. And I want to do my own stuff some of the day. Not just dog stuff. How many leaves can you smell? Yesterday we walked 5 miles. I'm tired. We've done 2 miles already and its just 2 in the afternoon.

Just a sec.

He found something to do. Chewing on some stored butternut squash out on the porch. Another squash ruined. At this rate I won't get to eat any of them before they all rot or get eated by the dog.

Was reading Melody's blog and it led to some YouTube cooking videos and I discovered Indian cooking videos by ManjulasKitchen and watched all of them. My favorites are Palak Paneer and Aloo Gobi. The Roti and Aloo Parathas look like interesting breads.

Tonight's dinner (I am remembering to cook) is Eggplant Parmesan. I have the sliced eggplant salted and sweating in the fridge. I should check to see if I have marinara in a jar or do I have to make my own. And what pasta shape to go with?

I did surrender to the NYTimes No Knead Bread and while my loaf wasn't perfect, it was very, very delicious. I plan to try again. I may have added too much water or not enough flour. I also think I "touched" the dough a bit too much. It turned out smooth, not rustic. And the NYTimes video said 500 degrees on the oven and cast iron. Smoking hot is the way the baker described it.

My heating oil arrived. 96.9 gallons at $2.999. Two hundred ninety dollars and 60 cents. And I haven't turned on the furnace yet. That's just for heating the water. For 2 months. August 20th to October 31. If only I could have afforded the budget plan of $2.59 a gallon. But we just didn't have $2700 up front. Being "sort of retired" isn't for sissies.

We aren't old enough for Social Security, Medicare or funding from our investments. So we (well, g has to) work an hourly job to get health care benefits, try and live on what we don't have invested, and not buy anything. After years and years of being taken care of, very well, by corporate employers and really enjoying being quite spoiled. We had it all. And now I miss it. I wish I knew how to do something people would pay me lots of money to do.

But right now--- it's out to walk the dog. The dog who is huddled on his dog bed after being yelled at for eating the squash. Bad dog! I did say that, for the very first time, in his little life. He is feeling great remorse, I'm sure. Me too.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday October 28

The sun is shining again after a full day of cold rain. The majority of our oak leaves have come off the trees and the streets and gutters are packed with a dense carpet of oak. Oak leaves have a thick, hard to compost, composition. They are also nutrient dense. Lots of tannin. Slippery when wet. Repels water when packed in a thick layer over the ground. More than you will need to know.

Riley is napping after a long morning walk and a filling lunch. His dog bed is located in a nice sunbeam and he is ever alert to the movement of the wheels on my desk chair so he can jump up and come see me at a moment's notice. We try each other's patience.

I am tempted to try the internet favorite "No Knead Bread" today. For baking tomorrow. BUT. Bread is my weakness and if I make it, I will eat it. Or want to eat it. Temptation.

I have books to pick up at the library and a pile of magazines to take to the magazine exchange. I have begun to sort out the cupboard where I store (hoard) magazines. I discovered last evening that I have copies of Country Home dating back to 1998. Not good. I am getting rid of all the Cottage Living and cancelling my subscription. Not really enjoying it. Not into House & Garden either. House Beautiful, not so much. Hard to stop getting them since the "deals" they offer are so good. One year for $10. Like it's free. Veranda is not holding my interest except as fodder for collage but since I have a stack of old issues about 2 feet high--I think I have enough collage materials.

Riley has decided I have been here at the computer long enough. He wants to play. So I guess we'll have a nice fast game of run and chase me. Did I tell you he knocked me down and dragged me across a lawn on Thursday? Yep. He likes to "play".

How about the 103 million dollar pitcher for the Red Sox hitting a pitch and getting 2 runs in? I think he actually smiled. Sort of. I have no idea who won yesterday and don't care. For some reason, I just am not that into the Red Sox. I do like the 103 million dollar pitcher and watch the games where he pitches. DiceK.

Chinese Lunch today and perhaps some painting. Of fabric. Or not.

Friday, October 26, 2007


While working at the library, I scored most, if not all, of my Master Gardener volunteer hours by watering the library plants and answering patron questions regarding their plants and trees. Now that I no longer do the library thing, I need to find another way to earn my hours.

I am going to try and get them by converting all of you to new, green garden ways.

Right now, it's leaves. There are plenty going to waste out there. And chopped up leaves are the finest mulch in the garden. Lightens the soil. Feeds the worms. And FREE!

So gather some dry leaves up into a flat pile of sorts with a rake and put the bagger attachment onto the lawn mower and just start running the mower over the leaves. You could do what my son and I did our first year in Maine. We emptied the clipping bag out onto the leaf pile as we went and sort of double and triple chopped them until everything was pretty much crumbs. Then we ran the mower over one last time and collected the leaf crumbs and took the bagger right over to a garden bed and mulched. 2 or 3 inches deep over bare ground.

If you have a vegetable garden, please mulch it with leaf crumbles. Mulch all your perennials. If we have a "global warming" winter with warm days and then cold days and then rain--the perennials will heave without a good thick mulch to protect them.

If you have no time to mulch now, rake the leaves off the grass and into the edges. They can over winter there and be nice and dry and ready to mow into crumbles in the spring. Do not throw them away.

Yes, this does take time. Yes, you may get a blister from the rake. Yes, bending over will make your back hurt. Yes. Yes. Yes. I know all the reasons you won't do it. But I'm still going to ask you to try to mulch your leaves. Some of your leaves. We need to start taking care of our planet so it will take care of us. We'll start with the leaves. Brown Gold. Go on!