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Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Best Ever Christmas Display: Our International Holdiays

In a previous post I mentioned my conflict about Christmas as an adult.  This got me to remembering some of my childhood Christmas experiences and one of the best ever Christmas displays.   This is going to be a long post, but ...hey....I'm blogging for me! Not you.

I'm indulging myself.

Let me preface by saying we spent many of our Christmas holidays in Mexico.  My grandmother and my Dad's younger siblings lived there from the mid 1940's to the late 1960's.  30 years as legal residents of Mexico and they had two places to live.  One was a very modern apartment in Mexico City and the other a wonderful rustic old villa in Tequisquiapan.

Aunt Rae in the courtyard Tequis....after college

One side of the courtyard
My aunts and uncles were going to the College of Americas or high school in Mexico and since it was Christmas break, our family usually spent several months traveling to Mexico and just visiting.  From the late 50's until the family moved back to the States our Christmas was international. 

1960 Family in Acapulco.

Acapulco was a favorite spot.   At that time it was a resort town for the Mexican elite society and especially the favorite of the college students.  As kids, my brother and I loved it.  Warm sands, surf and we were able to be pretty much on our own, running up and down the beach and body surfing.  There were no 'helicopter' parents in those days. 

Some photos from that time. My brother being a butt and refusing to smile because he didn't want to have a photo taken. Ahhhhh. family

Aunt Rae being very "glam" on the beach in front of our hotel.  That's my grandmother in the back.  Uncle Owen, being a studly high school senior.
(AAARGH I give up...blogger will not let me position the photos on the page how I want or let me resize them!!. )
Rae.... College age

Uncle Owen...high school

But,  all this digression leads me to to the most awesome Christmas display ever. Even though we were not immersed in Santa and Rudolph, I believe we got a better understanding of what Christmas is all about.  The Christ Child.  Baby Jesus.     (description of the display after the jump)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Flip Side of the Power of Prayer

Sometimes I think that the world is coming to a final judgement day when I read some of the articles on the net.

The other day there was an extremely disturbing story on the internet.  Among the many disturbing articles out there, this one really got to me because in my mind pets like dogs, cats are innocent beings that should be protected and cherished and animals should never be abused or treated cruelly.  Yes....yes.  We eat animals and death is part of that process.  But, there is no excuse for abuse in that process.  People who abuse animals are the lowest form of life and deserve no sympathy.

A Brazilian woman who is a nurse beat a small puppy to death, in front of her child.    I couldn't bear to look at some of the still photos, much less dare to link to the video that was taken by an outraged neighbor.  Too horrible and too inhuman to contemplate.  The video was posted on the internet by the outraged neighbor when the police would do nothing.  The ire and and well deserved venom that is being heaped upon the woman who beat the dog is incredible. 

Millions of people around the world literally hate this woman.

This got me to thinking about the Power of  Prayer and positive thinking.   The power of positive thinking in healing yourself and praying for the healing of another. There are many inspirational stories about prayer and groups of people praying that seem to have resulted in miraculous cures. 

As a somewhat agnostic person, my personal take on prayer and positive thinking is....what can it hurt?  Why not be positive?  Why not if you believe in a higher power combine your thoughts with others to create a bigger channel to the higher power?   A larger and clearer signal uploaded to the higher power or to God. 

If you don't believe in God, and want to go more scientific, there have been studies to try to quantify the results of a group prayer.  Inconclusive so far.  Maybe it could be that the energy from our brains, telepathy, psychokinesis.....who knows.

In regards to the Power of Prayer and Positive Thinking, what if there is a flip side.  The power of group hate.   Millions of people thinking negative thoughts about YOU.  Millions of people literally wishing you dead or wishing terrible things upon you.  

Millions of waves of "negative vibes" wafting her way.  Millions of minds engaged in group hate

I wonder if this woman from Brazil can feel the hate.

I hope so.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reading My Husband's Mind

Soooo.  The other day the Dumbplumber pipes up and says something like.  "He told me the other day that he would be able to have me over tomorrow to do that thing."

I'm thinking to myself, who is "he" and what "thing"?  My husband is always thinking and then just jumps right into the middle of the conversation without any preamble or context.   It comes from having a busy mind and being preoccupied, but damn! it is frustrating.

I said--(snarkily)------> "You know, we have been married now for 18 years and I still haven't quite gotten that mind reading thingy down pat yet."

He said:   "Well, it is easy.  Here let me give you some clues
...humina, humina, humina.....TITS

..humina, humina, humina.....BEER

..humina, humina, humina.....TITS

..humina, humina, humina.....HOT RODS

..humina, humina, humina.....SEX

..humina, humina, humina.....SCOTCH

..humina, humina, humina.....FOOD  oh ..... and TITS IS easy to read my mind."

Oooookaaay.   Thanks for the clues.

He also said: "If you don't post this you don't have a hair on your ass."

Well, I don't have a hairy butt, but here is the post.

Who makes me laugh and smile every day.   Dumbplumber...that's who.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What I Love About Christmas.....What I Hate About Christmas

Ah...the most wonderful time of the year.  Ring ling a ling.  Christmas is here.  Fa la la la la.  Bah humbug.

I'm always conflicted about the Christmas season.  There is much to love and much to not love.

In the past, before marrying Mr. Dumbplumber and when I was working for minimum wages at a crappy job, standing on my feet for 8 hours a day and living in a crumbling shamble of a marriage, Christmas was a time of stress and hardship.  With no money and no happiness in my life, I "put on a happy face" for my child.  Keeping up the fantasy of Christmas was tiring, discouraging and depressing.  We didn't have family close by so we rarely had any  gatherings of relatives.  No Norman Rockwell Christmases.  Christmas was also a time to remind me how alone I was and isolated from family. We had presents, mostly hand made because I couldn't afford much else. I was the only parent who participated in the Christmas decorating or the Christmas spirit.  We did have good food, cookies, candy, cakes and all the trimmings.  THIS I can do on a shoestring.

Christmas to me, as an adult, always represented deprivation, hardship and inadequacy.  My daughter didn't know this and her memories of the holidays are good.  My job as a parent was successful: to protect your child and allow them the joys and fantasies of the holidays.

Things are different now and money isn't an issue, but the stress is still there.  Like a cat that has been conditioned by evil scientists with shock treatments, I still am wary about the holidays.  My wonderful husband says......GET OVER IT.   So I try.

Today, there is much to like about Christmas and much not to like.

I love to give presents.  To think about what the person needs and wants and to see their appreciation of the gift is priceless. To try to find just the right thing for each person.  I still hand make many of my gifts because I like to do so. It isn't out of necessity now, it is out of love.

I hate wrapping presents.  I don't do a very good job because I'm impatient.  My packages look like a team of   Chimpanzees did the wrapping.  Frankly, I really don't see much point in spending lots of money on wrapping, bows, glitter and all that stuff.  The package is going to be ripped open and the effort put into making it "pretty" is going to be burned in the trash barrel shortly after Christmas along with the other boxes and trash.  Those gift bags that can be used over again are a brilliant invention.

I love decorating the tree.  Each ornament.....mostly hand made from salt dough, knitted, quilted from fabric scraps or assembled from feathers from wild game we had killed and eaten, has a memory attached.  Granted some of the memories are not so good, but others are.  The fun that my daughter and I had making the hair of Santa's salt dough beard with a garlic press.   The time we were able to buy a special ornament, that ceramic skating teddy bear or the glass prism stars.

I hate decorating the tree, because all the while I know that I will have to clean up all this stuff.  The prickly tree will attack me and leave welts that itch and last for weeks. The lights become impossibly snarled.  Each ornament will have to be put back into the boxes or wrapped up for protection.  Knowing that as time goes on after Christmas, the tree will begin to look sadder and sadder and eventually be thrown out to be burned.  What a waste of time.  I'm always tempted to just throw the whole tree out with the lights still attached.

I love the cooking.  What a great excuse to make mounds of goodies.  To try out new recipes and give the results to friends.  The holidays are a cooking fanatic and recipe junkie's best time of the year.  Inviting family and friends over for a big feast is something I look forward to.

I love the fact that Christmas is when the days begin getting longer and that we are turning the corner of the short days, dark cold nights to the promise of spring and summer.  To every season...turn turn turn.

I hate that my birthday is just after Christmas.  January 6.  Epiphany.  A birthday party was always an afterthought.  I think I had 3 birthday parties as a kid.  Everyone else was burned out by the holidays from Halloween through New Years.  Who wanted to have yet another party? Generally, it was just..." is an extra gift for your birthday under the tree".  I suppose it could be worse, my father's birthday is Christmas Eve.

In addition, many of our Christmases were spent in Mexico visiting with our relatives who lived in Mexico City or traveling to and fro to get there and back.  Most of the childhood memories I have of Christmas are those with a Mexican tradition, not American.

I love some kinds of Christmas music.   My favorites are the traditional tunes that are about the religious nature of Christmas.   THIS is one of my favorites.

I hate the Christmas music that is everywhere beginning shortly after Halloween it seems.  In the grocery store, on all radio stations.  If I have to hear Santa Baby or Rocking Around the Christmas Tree  one more time, I'm going to find a department store Santa and beat the crap out of him.  Ho....freaking HO!   I think Christy Lee must have finally biffed it since we aren't bombarded with her advertisements.  Thank you God.  Having Christmas shoved down our throats 24/7 really doesn't put me into the holiday spirit.

Which brings me to one of my biggest hates about Christmas. I HATE the merchandising The commercial buy buy BUY THIS STUFF attitude.  The relentless shoving of products and brainwashing of the children to demand ever more gifts and ever more expensive gifts.  I guess this goes back to my first issue of poverty and Christmas.  As a parent, you often just can NOT get that Barbie Dream House, new bike, game system or whatever.  The children, especially those who still believe know who....don't understand this and when the gift they have their heart set upon getting isn't there, they think that maybe there is something wrong.   Did Santa not like them this year?  Were they bad? Terrible children?  So in order to not disappoint your young child and to not appear to be an inadequate failure of a parent in the eyes of your children, you cave into the merchandising frenzy and go into debt for toys and items that often are just later discarded or wear out.

I try to think about the good things, remember WHY we have Christmas and to appreciate how much better my life is now.  You do need to have experienced the downs in life to appreciate the good fortune you have..... and I am very blessed indeed. 

Merry Christmas.  Have some delicious cookies and don't let me wrap your presents for you.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Life Is A Series Of Re-Runs

Watching the Occupy everywhere movement, their fervor and the breathless coverage by the media.....It occurs to me, looking back from my lofty years (61) that life is often a series of re-runs.  Events and patterns happen over and over.

When you are young, it seems like everything that is happening to you and that you are experiencing is happening for the first time.  And for is.  The first time.  The first kiss, the first time you have sex, the first shooting star, your first foray into politics.   The experiences have power and are unique because they are happening to YOU.  And as we all know, when you are young. you are the center of the universe.

The Occupy kids are full of sound and fury and mostly sincere in their efforts and feel like their actions are going to change the world.  I well remember the feeling.   Kids 40 and 50 years ago felt the same way.  Vietnam protests, marching on government buildings, civil rights....even the violence are all re-runs this time around.  Same slogans, same energy.....same.

Recessions:  the economy sucks today.  Guess what sucked pretty bad 30 to 40 years ago during the Carter era.   We thought it was the end of the economic world then.  To the adults of that time, it was just another milder re-run of the Great Depression.

Another way to put it is: as you get older suddenly your parents seem smarter.

Life is a series of re-runs.  Nothing new under the sun. Even the Romans experienced the same social ills that we are experiencing now. 

"Rome--SEPTEMBER 4, 476AD.  
Rome falls. In the centuries preceding, Rome had been overrun with illegal immigrants: Visigoths, Franks, Anglos, Saxons, Ostrogoths, Burgundians, Lombards and Vandals. They first assimilated, many working as servants, but soon came so fast they did not learn the Latin language.
Though militarily superior and marching on advanced road systems, the highly trained Roman Legions were strained fighting conflicts worldwide, and eventually troops had to be brought home from the frontier outposts, such as Britain.

Visigoth King Alaric, Vandal King Geiseric, Attila the Hun, and finally the barbarian King Odoacer, committed terrorist attacks, wiping out whole cities, until Rome itself was eventually sacked and looted.

Rome had been weakened by a large trade deficit, having outsourced its grain production to North Africa, and when the Vandals captured North Africa, Rome did not have the resources to retaliate.

Citizens of Rome were kept distracted with violent entertainment in the Coliseum and Circus Maximus. The Roman Emperor kept citizens appeased with welfare and free bread.

One Roman commented:"Those who live at the expense of the public funds are more numerous than those who provide them."   Tax collectors were "more terrible than the enemy."

 Rome was crippled by huge government bureaucracies and enormous public debt."

It doesn't mean that just because these same things occur over and over that we shouldn't try to make a difference.  The Civil Rights Movement certainly did make a difference.  What these repeating patterns or re-runs mean, is that we need to pay attention and learn from our mistakes.

To the OWS really aren't the center of the universe and you are not unique. 

Been there, done that and still have the ragged tee shirt to prove it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Red Lobster Biscuits: NAILED IT!

Red Lobster Cheddar Bay biscuits are heavenly.   People have been looking for the recipe for a long time and as the Red Lobster web site says......the recipe is a secret.

Sure....they tantalize with some tips  "we will share a couple of well-kept secrets for making our much-loved biscuit: do not over knead the dough and make sure you use baking soda as one of the ingredients."

There are a lot of recipes out there that try to emulate the product.  Most use Bisquick or some version of that type of biscuit.  But.....they are wrong.

Reverse engineering the product, I realized that one of the main ingredients was missing from all of these recipes and that Red Lobster has been lying to us for years.  I don't blame them.....the biscuits are to die for.   What is the missing ingredient?   YEAST.  The texture of the rolls shows that they are clearly yeast raised, yet they do have the properties of baking soda and baking powder raised rolls.

What type of rolls have these characteristics......Angel Biscuits....So I went back to one of my old cookbooks and brought out a recipe and tweaked. Messing around in the kitchen, doing what I like to do.....cook.  I have nailed it.  

Here is now revealed the super secret recipe for Cheddar Bay Biscuits from Dust Bunny Queen...posted on my Recipe Junkie website.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

War Horse: A Movie I Wll NEVER See.

Spielberg is out with this movie War Horse. I'm sure that as the trailer says, it will make us laugh and cry. Probably mostly cry. Geeze. I'm an easy mark for a tear jerker movie, especially one with animals.

The main reason I can't watch this movie is from my family history. My Grandfather was a veterinarian and in WWI for the US Calvary, he went to the Hell on Earth that was the European battle fields. His task was to try to take care of the horses. Horrible!! The horses suffered incredibly. The men who took care of the horses, like my Grandfather, who cared for the animals suffered, because they were overwhelmed, pained  and changed by the slaughter house and meat grinder that the animals AND humans were thrust into.

Unlike men who can be deluded into participating in war; animals have no concepts of patriotism or really much interest in politics.  The fear and terror that they must have experienced is unimaginable.  The betrayal of the trust that they put into humans.  The pain and suffering.

I understand that the use of horses at the time of WWI was necessary. The military was in a transition from human and horse power to the more mechanized and impersonal wars that we have now.  Heroic horse calvary charges were standard.  Here is good short film about the reality of WWI War Horses.

So, while Steven Spielberg will have made a movie that will move us to tears and laughter, the ending will probably be sweet.  Boy and horse reunited.  Stirring motivational music.  Uplifting heroism.

I just can't bring myself to sit through a whitewashed version of the horrors of WWI to reach the happy ending.  YES. YES.  I know that no real animals were hurt in the movie and the technological effects of the film are likely to be fantastic.

When this is what Spielberg is showing us

When  THIS is the reality

As much as I would love a happy ending. I'm afraid that I'm much too cynical and realistic to see this movie.  Plus.....I think I would need a box of Kleenex to be able to get through the event.

If I'm wrong ....and you can assure me that I won't be sobbing by the end of the movie....give me a review.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving. What am I thankful for?

So much.   So many things to be thankful for in my life.

Life has at times been good, been bad, been indifferent.  Today I am thankful for all of it.

My husband. Our health. Our family. Our friends.  Our house. Our hard won possessions. Our LIFE.

Thankful that we can wake up in the morning in a warm house under cozy blankets to a hot pot of coffee (made the night before).  We can open a refrigerator full of food and choose what to eat.  We have nice warm clean clothes.  How many people in the world today don't have this comfort, this luxury of food and warmth?

Sitting in front of our separate in the office with the french doors open and cat on lap while the Dumbplumber sits on the couch with his feet on the coffee table and laptop on his knees, we have the information of the world at our fingertips.  We share this information and listen to music.  How magical is that?

Thankful for my wonderful husband who keeps me grounded.  We will have been married 18 years in the coming spring and it seems like just yesterday that we met.  Every day we enjoy each other's company and look forward to being together. Lovers and friends. Arguments are rare.  Probably the advantage of age, where we both have learned where to take a stand and which stands are even worth taking.  I'm so thankful for the lucky happenstance that brought us together.  

I'm thankful for the beautiful and scenic nature setting that we live amongst.  Today we took a drive in one of the five trucks(!) we own, while the steaks that we are cooking for Thanksgiving are marinating.  (The traditional Thanksgiving BBQed steaks lol  ...that's another story). This in itself is a luxury.  To be able to drive someplace on a whim.  Around the valley floor and up into the the piney woods.  Back to feed the quail, the finches and set out more suet for the woodpeckers and flickers.  The peace and beauty of being able to sit in a comfy chair by the window sipping a cocktail and watching their antics.

Thankful for our minds and senses of humor. Thankful that neither of us is (knock wood) is suffering from Alzheimer's.  Thankful for our health.  Do we have some health issues. Yep.  Dumbplumber has diabetes, which is controlled and other than the normal aches an pains that come with 60 years of living, we are healthy and active.

Thankful for our families and their health, success, well being and happiness.  We miss those who have gone ahead of us and treasure those who still remain.

We are aware that all of this could disappear in a heartbeat.  A literal heartbeat. One major medical event or accident from disaster.  This fortune that we have, can evaporate through no fault of our own. Through forces beyond our control.  Wars. Famine. Political unrest.

 But...... is wonderful.   Thank you God.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another Chemo Hat

My friend, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy and is now in the middle of chemotherapy with radiation therapy yet to look forward to, has lost her hair and eyebrows.   Fortunately, she is a strong personality and has handled all of this with grace and humor.  Her husband is a rock that she can lean on and is a pillar of strength.   As friends, there isn't much you can do to help and you don't want to intrude or tire her out with too many visits or be overly sentimental.  She isn't that kind of person.....and frankly neither am I.  That is probably why we get along and she is one of a very few women in my lifetime that I have counted as  friends.

There are not many things you can do, but there is one thing that I CAN do.  Knit hats.   You lose much of your body heat through your head.   When you have no hair.....the loss is really significant and noticeable.  Not only is your head are freaking bald.   Now, I know that many men are bald and not happy with that situation, but society readily accepts the sight of a bald man.  A cue ball bald woman not so much.   So to be warm and to not appear freakish, women who are going through chemotherapy tend to wear hats during the day as well as night.   Fancy hats.  Frilly cute hats. Warm snugly hats.  Hats with a sense of humor.

Since she is not a frilly person or a person who wears dainty pastels [neither am I], the hats I have been making are bold, sensible, warm and comfortable.   This is a cabled brim hat.  The pattern is from    Man, it is amazing what you can find on the Internet.   For those of you who may be interested in knitting or crochet,  I really suggest you sign up for  It is a huge on line community of people who love to craft, creative and more than willing to share patterns and tips.

Cable Brimmed Hat

They say that after Chemo and Radiation, your hair grows back in differently.  Sometimes it is curly where it was straight before, sometimes it's even darker or a different texture.

So while my friend is waiting for her NEW hair to grow in she has another hat to keep warm.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Jobs, Jobs, Where are the Jobs

As we known unemployment is high.  Very high. The reports say 9% or 14 million people are out of jobs.  Actually, the reports are wrong. It is worse.  The government statistics are manipulated to hide the pain.   In some counties in the North State, State of Jefferson, where I live the UI rate is pushing 20% or higher.  Demographic groups such as young adults and blacks are over 30% unemployed.

Many who were collecting unemployment, or to be more precise being paid not to work, have run out of UI benefits.

Yet, we see productivity reports which show that in the United States productivity has been rising. 

How can this be?  We are more productive, yet there are more people not working.

Well, the answer is simple.  Technology and efficiency.  Manufacturing businesses can make the products with less people.  Who needs a flotilla of secretaries or bookkeepers when you have computer programs to do the work.  Printing shops that employed skilled technicians are replaced by laser printers and desk top publishing programs.   

So where are the jobs?  Just like in the past when the majority of people in the US were employed in agriculture and farming and those industries were made more productive by mechanization, the unemployed people had to migrate to other areas and find NEW kinds of jobs.

They didn't have unemployment insurance to give them months and years of leisure time.  They didn't have the luxury of being able to sit around and whine that their old occupations were no more. They had to find new jobs in other industries.  They had to create new jobs and create new industries.  The industrial age was a time of unprecidented economic expansion and innovation.  The innovations and inventions of those times are the foundation of our society today.

So.....where are the jobs.  The NEW jobs?

First: You need to get the government out of the way so that people can be innovative and entrepreneurial.  Rules, regulations, fees, licenses, fines all set in place to supposedly protect the public are in fact the main impediment to new job creation and are meant to reduce competition by new challengers to current industry and businesses.

Now, I'm not suggesting that we have a free for all in industry or production or businesses.  Safety of food, safety on the job and product quality are important.  You want to know if you buy something to is safe.  You want to know that if you hire a professional to do a job for you, like your Doctor.....they are competent.   If you want to have a builder repair something in your would like to know that they will be able to do the job.  However, we don't need the government in the middle of EVERY transaction.

The rules and regulations need to be sane and encouraging of new businesses.   Cottage food laws in California are (hopefully) in the process of being relaxed.   If we had the restrictive rules and regulations today during the industrial revolution, just think of the food products and giant industries that would not have been developed.  General Mills, Coca Cola...the list is long.

Second:  Instead of wailing that you can't get a job in your old occupation, look for new opportunities.  What do people need?  What would the people who have money and jobs want from you?  What kinds of jobs or services cannot be outsourced to another country or be outsourced to a computer or robot?

Just a short list of services:
  • Babysitting/ Nanny service
  • Home maintenance and repairs
  • Cleaning services
  • Landscaping
  • Plumbing
  • Building and construction
  • Auto repair/maintenance/detailing
  • Computer repair
  • Assistance services for the elderly or disabled
Are these glamorous jobs.  Probably not in everyone's eyes.  Do people need these services.  You bet.  Can you make a decent living and even hire other people to work for you...Heck YEAH.

Third: What kinds of things or products are in need or would be innovative that you can make or produce. What resources do you have in your area? The Cottage Food industry is one possibility.  Hand made goods. Artisanal goods.  Can you manufacture something that would be distinctive, reasonably price and use local talent?    Should you.... can you, team up with others in your area to create new industries and new products?

So instead of wailing that jobs are lost, outsourced or that you can't do what you used to do.....look upon these tough times as an opportunity.  Opportunity to create something new, to learn something new.   Sure, it might require you to sacrifice, to lower your standard of living for a while, to work long hard hours, to maybe move to another area, to get out of your comfort zone.

Society moves on and industry moves on.  To stubbornly stand in one place will just leave you behind as others do take advantage of the new opportunities and move on to new prosperity.

Don't be a loser.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

How Quickly It Turns: the weather I mean

Just a couple of days ago I was able to sit on the deck in the afternoon and sip a glass of wine in the sun in these fabulous Indian Summer Autumn days.  Waiting for the leaves to really begin falling so that we can rake and burn.  Suddenly, the weather has turned into our normal October/November fare.  Cold, windy, rainy and snowing this evening.

Sadly, I think I have missed the optimal rake and burn cycle, yet again on the leaves.  Just like last year we will have mounds of soggy leaves that can't be burned or that will create smudgy pillars of smoke. Ah well, compost material.

When the weather turns, so do my thoughts of cooking turn to warming meals. Long cooking stews, soups and casseroles.  So, while The Dumbplumber is napping after being out in the cold all day long; winterizing homes so they won't have broken pipes next spring,  I'm making Clam Chowder (check out the recipe on my Recipe Junkie blog) and will try to finish the next Chemo hat that I'm knitting for my friend.

I think that I'm really getting the hang of this retirement stuff.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Beautiful Sunday

It is a beautiful Sunday. The weather is clear, crisp and still warm enough to work outside in shirtsleeves. To get into the mood and ready for a leisurely Sunday drive this afternoon to view the magnificent colors ....A little Nat King Cole.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Apples and Plums ...Oh My! Plus the spiritual side of life.

While still in the throes of dealing with nature's bountiful gifts this year of apples and plums, I decided to finish off the last 3 1/2 pounds of Italian Prune Plums with a batch of Chinese Plum Sauce.

Apples?  Oh YEAH we have apples this year.  Previously I made and froze apple pie filling for 12 pies.  Now neatly wrapped and stacked in the shop freezer.  A friend, who is also up to her eyeballs in apples and pears, gave me a super recipe for crockpot apple butter.  Fabulous!. Easy peasy!!  No standing and stirring and stirring over a hot pot.  Just put the peeled cored and chopped apples in the crockpot with the sugar and spices and go about your merry way.

Recipes for both are posted at my recipe blog RecipeJunkie   in this post.

So....What did I do today?

Finished up canning the apple butter which had been cooking in the crock pot since yesterday.  Canned the plum sauce.  All the while, listening to Cole Train, Ella Fitzgerald and Delbert McClinton.   While waiting for the product to cool enough to handle, decided all that was left for the early afternoon was to get some crackers, brie cheese, apple slices (did I mention we have a LOT of apples) and some wine so that I could sit on the deck in the magnificent Indian Summer sunshine and read a book for a while.

Apple Butter and Chinese Plum Sauce

On another blog a commenter made reference to how blessed and fortunate we, in the United States, actually are.  His comment was in reference to the Occupy [insert your city] movement that seems to be stressing how disadvantage the 99% (whatever) is and how oppressed we must be by the 1% who control all the wealth.  First of all.....none of that is true but I won't get into the political part of that.

It is the spiritual part that is of interest to me. We have freedoms that are unheard of in other countries.  Freedom of movement. Freedom of thought.  Freedom to chose all sorts of life paths that we might take.  Do we always make the right choices?  Probably not.  But, we have the ability to chose.

With that freedom also comes responsibility.  When you choose badly, as I have often done in my younger years, you either learn from those bad choices and make better choices in the future....or you just keep repeating the same mistakes.

We also live in a society that is caring. Some will say that isn't so because every problem, every person isn't taken care of from cradle to grave.  Caring also means sometimes saying "NO".  Charities and personal help for those in need are abundant.  No matter how bad things get, there IS someone somewhere who is willing to give you a hand up. To help those willing to better themselves and who want to be helped,  lift themselves out of the darkness.  Hand up is not the same as a hand out.  Entitlements and demands to take from others is a perversion of charity.

Looking at my life now, I am grateful for every moment.  Even these moments of what others would think of as drudgery (canning, cleaning, harvesting) are to me a blessing and a joy. I have the ability, the skill and the drive to create. Apple butter from raw apples.  Knitted hats for friends from balls of yarn.  Clothing from cloth.   Those moments of leisure following the drudgery: sitting on the deck with a glass of wine are also a blessing.  The drudgery and the leisure....they go hand in hand.  You can't appreciate one without the other.

Those in the Occupy everywhere contingent who are focusing on the negatives, on money, on possessions and ignoring the blessed life and the opportunties that they have been given, compared to much of the rest of the world, are ignoring the spiritual side of life.  They are starving their souls and screaming into the void.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Bigfoot of Cats

(Post written by my husband the Dumbplumber)

The tenth anniversary of finishing our new home also marks the arrival of a tiny kitten. Wifey and I have made a profound discovery. Many have been to our home, but other than ourselves less than five other people have ever seen our cat, our neighbor excluded. (He caught her twice in a live trap)

We don’t have a lot of visitors, but those that do come by only hear stories about the schizophrenic cat because she never reveals herself to others. And of those that have seen her, none have ever touched her or been within reach to do so. We did have one visitor about five years ago, my former grade school teacher, that actually had dinner with us and watched the cat casually stroll across the living room. We would like to use his confirmation as evidence of her existence , however, he took his testimony to the grave two years after his visit. It has become such a joke over the last ten years: Fewer people have seen our cat than have seen Bigfoot.

When we say it’s our cat, we really don’t mean it. She trained us to feed her ten years ago, never left, and has taught us to do many more things for her since. We actually thought about posting a story about the cat on our blogs with photos of the cat’s favorite resting spots, one near the dining table window,  another near the office window, another on the railing sheltered by a wild plum tree and of course the one on the bed. However, these photos would be much like those of the places Bigfoot was spotted, but instead of footprints, we only have cat hair to mark as evidence.
Office window spying on the quail.

We could also do a time lapse photo of her food bowl, slowly diminishing, but you would be confused that the water does not. That is because she prefers either the toilet bowl or her favorite larva infested stagnant pool outside in the garden bowls left for our local birds and other wildlife.

Sparky's afghan on the bed
And speaking of birds, we are left with much evidence of breakfast birds, lunch birds and the occasional afternoon ‘snack’ bird parts littering our yard and deck area. No, she is not a neat cat.

However an argument can be made that it is the local foxes leaving their calling cards. But I maintain that foxes do not do their bird hunting during the daylight hours and they certainly don’t drag their feasts near our house for devouring. No, it’s the cat. It is our policy (due to the many predators here ‘bouts) that we leave the cat indoors when we leave overnight. We joke that she is stationed as a ‘guard cat’, and I must report that, over the past decade, nothing has gone missing with her on duty.

About our only complaint is that we receive little in return for providing food, water, shelter and security from the cat. Her interaction with us is minimal at best. She sleeps on the wife’s side of the bed, she allows very little petting (preferring to present her tail for stroking), passes infrequently over the sofa for the cursory touch, only lounges outside on the deck when we are there, as guards, and spends the entire day lurking outside, scouting hidey holes and available critters.
Favorite railing sunning spot

She will not come when called and prefers showing up for her four o’clock treat, somewhere between 3 and 5, depending on the time of year and accuracy of her fur covered kitty clock. Timing has never been her strong suit. But she is given credit for never having clawed, chewed or shredded the furniture. That, she saves for her personal pedestal which has been fashioned into an homage to Edgar Winter.

Shredded cat perch.

Overall I should not complain. Having never been a cat-person, I do appreciate her low maintenance, but live in wonder at how many 50lb bags of cat food has been consumed by our 4lb cat over the years. About the only thing she demands of me (since I refuse to acknowledge that she is my cat) is to open the back door, then close it, then open it, then close it, then open it, then…well, you get the idea.

And on this tenth anniversary of her arrival, I would be less than honest if I didn’t confess that on more than one occasion I have dreamt of the day when we would be cat-free. No cleaning the litter box, no vacuuming the cat hair, no lugging 40 lb. bags of Cat Chow out of Costco, no listening to the wifey’s daily, screeching/calling of the cat, which no doubt is enjoyed by neighbors on both sides. But on the bright side, her going missing, or worse, could be assuaged by popping the cork on a new bottle of 25 year old Single Malt and hailing a toast to one of the least troublesome intrusions ever into our lives.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Kindle Conundrum

A Kindle (or other E-book tablet) seems like a great idea. It can hold thousands of books, easily transportable, inexpensive downloading and instant gratification. No more piles of books cluttering up the area. What's not to love? I WANT one and will probably buy myself one for Christmas.

However, I think there is a dangerous dark side to the electronic book movement and the electronic photos that we rely on. Who takes a photograph from a negative and has prints made anymore? All of our current memories are digitized.

Our culture is being digitized. We live in an era where we are losing connection with our own history as a society and with the history of civilization. Schools no longer teach history. Facts, dates, relationships between events and how those long ago events have shaped our present. Not taught. Ask a child in elementary or even high school why we have Thanksgiving. Where did the holiday come from and why do we celebrate and I bet you will find that hardly any child can tell you about the history behind it. Sure they might be able to spout something about Pilgrims and Indians and how the eveeel white people destroyed the Indians yada yada yada , the politicized version, but the real history......not.

We live in a throw away society. We live in a society where technological advances are coming at us at a fast and furious pace. Things that just a few years ago seemed miraculous are now obsolete or quaint. Commodore Vic 20 anyone? Items that are broken are not repaired but are just thrown out, because after all, we can just buy the newest latest thing and it was old anyway.

History that our parents and grandparents have lived through is sometimes relayed in family stories. Personal stories of the Great Depression, World War I and World War II. If we don't have those family stories, we can go back to books and photos that were taken at the time. Photos and stories that show us the lives that people led. How they dressed, lived and what they thought about at the time. Without those books and photos and films we gradually lose contact with our own personal pasts and with what society was like.

We can go back even further and read literature and articles written during remote times and remote eras. The Crusades. Marco Polo explorations. The first people to meet with the Mayans. Even further back the Mayan's own writings. Our historical record consists of stone carvings, clay tablets, papyrus scrolls, velum books, handwritten and printed books. We have a tactile history. We can touch it and see it.

What would happen to our own current history when the digitized versions of our culture have been erased from the hard drives of the future, either on purpose or through some disaster. Our books, our photos, our writings all erased. Vanished in an electronic storm or at the push of a button.

Without 'real' books and hard copies, it may be in the future as if we never existed. Without historical records, history can be twisted to be anything that you want. History can be warped to benefit the latest government, the powers that be. We have always been at war with East Asia.

Pooof. Gone. Vanished.

Those who have not learned history are doomed to repeat it.

Keep your books.....they may come in handy even if the Kindle is convenient.....for now.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Naked Knitting

So the other day, I'm finishing up this hat for the Dumbplumber and expounding to him on how to make decreases and why the colors seem to line up in these nifty stripes.

His response......"You know, husbands might be more interested in  knitting if you did it naked ....Nekid Knitting.....Just saying."

All righty then.    The Bare Nekid Ladies Knitting Club.!!!   I think it could take off and become a national movement.

And while I'm at it.

The Dumbplumber's baby photo

Awwww.  Wasn't he cute.  Still has that same sunny disposition (mostly) and sense of humor.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Young and Stupid

Young and Stupid. Is this any way to go through life? seems so.

Coddled children who have never been told NO. Everyone gets a trophy, just for breathing. We wouldn't want to hurt their little "feelers" now would we? Every widdle kiddie is equal and gets praised for doing basic acts of life like taking a poop.

Mommy and Daddy give them everything with no questions asked. No chores, no responsibilities, no pressure. Life is a bowl of cherries.

No ability to reason about anything. No critical thinking skills. Life is just a bowl of delicious cherries.

THEN.....wham. The real world strikes where we are not your Mommy and Daddy and really don't need your useless whiny ass dragging us down. You suddenly have responsibilities, have to pay back your loans, take the consequences for your stupid choices. Waaaaahhhh!!

Now....throw a giant tantrum in NYC and elsewhere. Kick your feet. Hold your breath. Demand that we all give you things. Give you money that we worked for so you don't have to.

This is what it is. A giant tantrum by spoiled children who have been raised by spoiled children.

What society needs is good enema.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Forest Gump of Plums

I am the Forest Gump of plums. Last year it was cherries.  This year plums.

This year all of our plum trees have gone into overdrive producing.  So many plums.  So many types.  I feel like Forest Gump

Wild plums, Italian plums, Santa Rosa plums.

Plum jam, plum jelly, plum pulp frozen to make more plum jam and jelly, plum bread, plum cookies, plum crisp, plum tortes, plum pies, plum sauce, dried plums, frozen plums, canned plums, fresh plums.  

FREE plums.  Please take some of these plums.  Begging people to come an pick them before our deck is totally spotted with rotten plums dropping off of the tree.

I can't stand to see the fruit go to waste so I spend my time preserving, cooking, freezing and drying.

Here is a recipe that freezes well.  The bread is better after sitting and 'aging' for several days, otherwise, it is cakelike, crumbly and doesn't cut well.  The Italian plums are a pleasing blend of sweet and tart that doesn't make the bread gooey.

Tax Time In October

Yuck!  It's tax time!!

I know it's only October, but since this is the first year filing as a corporation we have lots of things to clarify with our CPA before the end of the year.  Better get a jump on it early.

Yes.  We are eeeeevviiiil  corporate owners.   How soon will the hippies be descending upon our corporate headquarters (aka...the workshop) demanding that we provide jobs, benefits and ham sandwiches?   The first one of these useless dregs that volunteers to jump into a knee deep septic tank or crawl under a flooded crawl space with partially decomposed cats to re-plumb a leaking pipe, might get a job.  I feel pretty secure that we will continue to not have employees.

Here I thought I was done with financial planning.  Guess not.  Items to consider:
  1. Are our lease agreements between us personally and the corporation legally constructed for
    1. Equipment
    2. Property
    3. Vehicles
  2. How much does the corporation owe us personally as  a share of utilities,internet and phone since these items are not physically separated  and are too expensive to separate.
  3. Payroll from the corporation to us personally as W2 employees of the corporation.
    1. Did we pay ourselves enough to satisfy the IRS that the wages are 'real'
    2. Have we paid our payroll tax liability properly and on time.  Previously as sole proprietors we never had to worry about that: just pay the quarterlies.
  4. Tax treatment of the leases.
  5. Do we have the expenses in the correct catagories.  Cost of Sales, Capital Purchases, .
  6. Are our depreciable items being correctly treated or should we just expense.
  7. Have we adequately separated personal use items from business use items.
  8. Have we structured everything to comply with the IRS rules, and California Corporate tax codes so as to minimize the taxes the corporation pays and minimize the income taxes we pay for W2 wages versus income that is treated differently (leases, reimbursement for expenses, investment income)
  9. How soon will the Dumbplumber go nuts thinking about all this stuff.  Actually, that is my job.... to keep him from going ballistic and not sputter like an angry Daffy Duck.
  10. Do we have enough personal liability insurance, property, vehicle.  Tax treatment of the premiums on the vehicles. 
  11. What about sales tax on items sold versus items used in contracting jobs.  
  12. Do I have any idea how to use my computerized accounting program or have I totally screwed it up.  Probably.  Maybe I should just go back to using a spreadsheet like in the dark ages of my bookkeeping experiences.
  13. And on and on and on
Gah!!   Thank goodness we have a good CPA.

The Dumbplumber is invited, by me to stay away from this meeting.   It is WAY too early for our annual tax time arguments. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Combining The Blogs

I have decided to combine my two blogs now that my focus in life has changed.

Dust Bunnies of the Mind and Recipe Junkie will be merged. Recipe Junkie will still be up, and I will crosspost those articles that have recipe blog relevance. I expect to be tweaking the format of this blog as well.

I'll still occasionally bloviate on line about random thoughts and my pet peeves and try to avoid political brain farts.

What Did I Do Today

Now that I'm retired, what in the world do you do all day long. I've been busier than ever. What did I do today?

Dear Diary

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chemo Hat

I have a dear friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a terrible thing. OK...all cancer is a terrible thing. Breast cancer is especially terrible. First, you have your breasts amputated. For many women (and their husbands) breasts are a part of your sexuality and a source of sexual pleasure. Part of the image of who you are as a woman.

Next. A year of chemotherapy and radiation treatments to try to kill the rest of the cancer. As a result my friend will lose her hair. Fortunately, she is a strong willed person with a positive attitude and has a supportive and loving husband. I feel confident that she will make it through this and pray for her recovery.

To help in a tangible way (as prayers are intangible), I have made a hat for her. Chemo hats need to be soft and without seams.

I used the pattern from this web site: Confessions of a Maniacal Thrower

Made with a soft merino, cashmere blend from Cascade Yarns. Cash Vero. It was a pleasure to knit with. Soft and buttery. And ended up with a lovely hat.

Everything Old is New Again

UPDATE:  January 18/2015
Sue Doran has given us a link in the comments to where the pattern for the shawl shown below can be obtained.

She is our hero.  I've looked and looked and decided that my pattern must have been one  lost in a flood a few years ago and where my boxes of patterns got soaked.   Check out the link on Etsy.  We bow to Sue

Knitting has suddenly become a revived craft. Everywhere you go, you see women and young girls knitting. Scarves, fingerless gloves, hats, sweaters. Knitting has become a cool and hip thing to do.

Well, it seems that everything old is new again. We are going through a resurgence of crafting. Knitting, sewing, quilting. Just look at the magazines and see the numbers of specialty publications

I credit the economy. When times are hard, people become thrifty and resourceful. Reviewing my collection of craft magazines from the 60's through the 90's, I can see that everything old IS new again.

I learned to knit from my Grandmother back in the early 60's as a pre-teen. The Hippie culture (n which I was briefly immersed) prized homemade and handicrafts. The Carter years brought austerity, stagflation, unemployment, high costs and crafting became even more mainstream. Of course all the Grannies who learned to be thrifty during the Great Depression already had the skills. Nothing new for them however, the young generation during the Carter Recession relearned the crafts. Now.....during this current Great Recession, yet another generation is taking up the sword...I mean the knitting needles. Everything old is new yet again.

I've started scanning the clippings,craft books from my collection. Scanning some of the sketches from my own designs that I've kept forever. First of all to have better organization and access to the patterns and ideas. However, the main reason is that some of those older magazines have become fragile and are literally falling apart.

Really dated ideas that just SCREAM 60's hippie stuff.

Others are just interesting (to me anyway) because they are ideas, colors, techniques potential for other projects.

And some things are just timeless.

I'm making this one for myself now.

Monday, September 05, 2011

House Cleaning Music

Today when I was rocking around the house,, dusting and messing around in the kitchen, it struck me that there are just some songs and music that make the work go faster and make it FUN.

Tell me you can't work faster when you listen to this.

Rock on!!

I think I'll make a clean the house CD....turn up the bass and crank up the volume.

Anything Robert Palmer.

Ace of Base.

Nothing like that pulsing beat to keep you motivated.

Hot CHA!!

What's on your "working it out" CD?

Catching Up

Wow. Long time no post.

Has it really been 8 months since I retired? Time has just zipped by. People keep asking me if I'm bored or miss my work. Like I said in my Every Day is Saturday post.....are they NUTS? No way. I have more to do than ever and the bonus is that it is things that I want to do.

Having worked since the age of 15 and with the exception of a few months of maternity leave 33 years ago and a 5 month stretch of unemployment, when the government regulated my job out of existence, I have worked straight through for 47 years. 47 years of working for other people and for myself. 47 years of structuring my life around other people's work schedule, other people's demands and trying to squeeze in the fun things, recreation and the necessary household chores that keep the house from crumbling around you into big dust bunny piles.

So to recap....what have I been doing and what has been happening in the last 8 months in no particular order

1.This one IS the most important however. I became a grandmother to the most adorable, gorgeous, smart,talented etc etc grandson. I've been able to see him once. But now that my daughter and family are moving back to the Bay Area....I will be able to visit more often.

2. Yes. We did get a refrigerator. And we are keeping the little fridge on the deck for beer and wine.

3. Started knitting again and made a pair of nice wool socks to wear around the house. I plan to make many more pairs for myself and for the Dumbplumber so that when winter comes our feet won't have popcicle toes. Also some hats for a dear friend who is going to have chemo treatments soon and will be hairless.

4. BIG PROJECT!! Went through my craft magazines and clippings that I have been collecting since the early 1960's. Organized them by publisher and by date and put them into containers that can be stood upright on the shelving in my personal (not work) office. Now in the process of scanning the projects that I want to start on and categorizing by type. Knitting: hats, scarves, sweaters. Sewing: toys, aprons, decorative. Weaving. etc etc etc. This is a project for the winter months.

5. Gardening. This is something I rarely had time for and this year I was able to really utilize the raised beds and realized that the deer are eating up all of my hard work. It is WAR!! Oh YEAH its on. Next year......a fence around the garden. Maybe something like THIS.....
Ok....dream on.

6. Speaking of office. When I closed my financial planning practice, we transfered all of the furniture upstairs into my husband's, and now my office, for his business. In addition to all of the fun stuff, I am also the bookkeeper, record clerk, ordering clerk, banker and bill collector.

Part of office set up before decorating.

Our next goal for the office is to find a neat art deco style buffet to turn into a wet bar where we can display our collection of crystal decanters and have a cocktail at the end of the day.

Cooking, organizing recipes (another collection years in the making), canning fruit, sewing aprons, making stuffed toys, cleaning. I know, most of those things sound like work and not all that much fun, especially the cleaning, but when you have never been able to really get to is satisfying to accomplish that closet cleaning and pruning that hasn't been done for years.

SO much to to. SO much fun. Everyday seems like Saturday.

Retirement IS everything it was cracked up to be.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Camping out at home

Yesterday, the refrigerator died. It wasn't a sudden death. It had been ailing and giving us warnings for about a month, which we hopefully and delusionally ignored. "Maybe it is just a glitch?....Maybe it will get better if we just crank the dial to the coldest setting."

The first warning signs were the juice bars becoming a bit slushy. Or maybe the ice in the icemaker periodically slightly melting and reforming into a block of ice. The ice cream was soft....but .....hey.... I kind of like my ice cream soft.

Well, all the ignoring and pretending has brought us to this. We are camping out in our house for the next couple of weeks, until we can get to an appliance store or get the repairman to come up from the 'big city'.

After The Dumbplumber determined that the compressor was dead, dead, double dead, we had to move all items from the freezer to the big freezer in the shop and from the refrigerator side to the small refrigerator in the shop. Thank God we have backups. Once of which is an almost 40 year old Montgomery Wards upright freezer that hasn't missed a beat since it was plugged in. So much for our new and improved Energy Star pieces of crap that the government insists we have to purchase.

In a way it was like an embarrassing archeological dig. "Wow....I didn't know we had THREE half filled jars of grated horseradish and two opened bottles of sweet pickle relish. And how old IS this cheese.???"

I guess this is one way to completely clean the refrigerator, however.....I can think of more preferred (and less expensive) ways than having my refrigerator die.

Because these next 12 days are completely booked with business trips and my mother-in-law's 80th birthday party in Oregon and the closest appliance store is about 90 miles away, we are just going to have to make do with ice chests on the back deck for items we need immediately and the back up appliances in the shop.

No more automatic ice maker for now, so we break out the trusty vintage West Bend Penguin Hot Cold ice bucket (also good for keeping biscuits do it know!?!?) and fill it full of ice from the chest so we can still be civilized and have our cocktails.

Just like the good old days when all people had was an ice box.....with nothing but ice to keep things cool. When you lose an amenity like refrigeration, electricity or hot water on demand for a while, you do appreciate just how much we have in our lives. The luxuries that were unthinkable just a generation ago that we take so much for granted. Luxuries that are really quite fragile. We should be more grateful for our lives.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Shutting Down the Government.....Meh

Since our brilliant efficient (sarcasm) elected leaders in Washington haven't seen fit to make a budget, something that every business and private household has to struggle with, they are threatening to ......ominous music inserted here......SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT!!!!.

In addition to neglecting to create a budget for the Federal Government, they are also putting their heads "where the sun don't shine" and refusing to deal with the excessive spending on entitlements that is guaranteed to doom us into bankruptcy and permanent serfdom.

Their way of dealing with the ginormous deficits that are extending into Infinity and Beyond!!! is to borrow more money from China and other countries that really don't like us much.

Instead of dealing with unpleasant reality, they want to threaten us with a Government shut down.

Oooooh.....really? Is this a threat? Really?

Remember when you were a teenager or if/when you were a parent of an unruly defiant teenager? Making threats to get discipline sometimes just backfired. You have to make a threat that means something and that you are going really carry through. "If you don't clean your room, I'm going to shut down the television for a week!!". All the time you and your teen know this is an empty threat. You aren't going to deprive yourself of your favorite shows. Result. The room doesn't get clean and you are shown to your teen to be a weak sister.

The other thing that can backfire in making a threat to withhold something, take something away, is that realize that you didn't need that something so much anyway or you can make alternative plans. Like the wife who is spitefully withholding sex....guess what, the husband will find another way. Maybe even a BETTER way.

So, let's shut down the government. I think we will find that, other than some essential services, we won't miss it so much. I've thought about it in regards to the State of California going bankrupt.

There are many things that the Government does that we won't miss or that are so intrusive in our lives it would be a relief if it were to go away.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Demented Robin of Spring

Aaah.... Spring. After a long cold winter, and this one has been particularly long, wet, snowy and cold, who doesn't look forward to those first harbringers of Spring?

The daffodills and crocus bravely poking their heads above the melting snow. Those rare days of warm breezes and dappled sunshine that tease us with the promise of more to come. The feeling of renewal as we watch the trees bud out and bring the hope of a crop of apples, prunes, quinces, cherries.

And who can forget The Demented Robin of Spring.
(cue scary Chuckie movie music)

For the past few years The Demented Robin has plagued us. He sits on the tree that is just a few feet from my office window. Peers into the house, looking for the cat, and flings himself over and over and over at the window. He goes from window to window around the house in his never ending search to seek and destroy the cat.

Hmmm.....He seems to be holding quite a grudge against the cat. Perhaps this has something to do with her goal of eating his babies?

Later in the Spring and Summer, while we are lazing on the deck on a sunny afternoon, cocktails in hand, The Demented Robin will search for the cat while threateningly brandishing a wad of worms or bugs in his beak, all puffed up and chirping at her.

Hopping after her while she is trying to nap (between searching for her latest outdoor snack). We imagine him saying: "LOOK AT ME!!!.. I have worms. And you don't. Big juicy worms. Bwhahahahah!!"

Meanwhile: The cat heaves a big sigh and goes to her favorite hidey hole under the deck.

We are easily amused.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Every Day is Saturday

I've just figured out what is so great about being retired.

Every day feels like it is Saturday.

Work is behind me because it isn't feels like a perpetual Saturday.

No stress about having to rush get things done on one of only two days off like before. It used to be that because tomorrow will be Sunday: and we all know that Sunday is the day before Monday and THEN ......back to work......the weekends were full of work. Different work than the weekdays at the office, but still work.

NOW.....every day is Saturday with a long endless string of Sundays to follow.

An afternoon nap is perfectly fine: in fact almost mandatory. Lazing and finishing that book that I never had time to finish before. A little afternoon 'delight' whenever possible. Perhaps bake a cake or try out a new recipe. Maybe start that quilt project which I have been putting off for years..... Ho hum. When the spring and summer comes, an afternoon glass of wine on the deck curled up in the dappled sunlight with a good book on the chaise listening to my collection of jazz recordings on the wireless speakers.

People ask if I'm bored. Are they nuts?

Every day is Saturday!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How Quickly It Turns

Just a few weeks ago, I was reveling in the beautiful warm weather. quickly things can turn around.

Snow...snow..and more snow.

The "yard art" garden chairs look like they have snow people sitting casually in the corner. Yard art is the term that we use for the old stuff that we leave outside to weather and serve as background for plants and flowers.

After the snow, cold and clear with not a stirring of wind. The breathtakingly blue skies show off the snow that covers the trees.

And from my office desk, I have a lovely view of a wooded area just outside the window. We feed the quail and other birds daily in the winter. They are just feet away from my chair and provide endless hours of amusement. Little bird dramas every day when the several separate quail coveys descend on the grain. A wonderful window into nature.

With the snowy weather, we have been visited more frequently over this last year by a small deer family who must feel safe on our property. A doe and her two children, one of whom is a runt. Unlike the quail, we do not feed the deer. Not only because it is illegal to do so, but because I don't want to encourage them to be near the highway. However, they seem to have decided that our yard is a smorgasboard and are awaiting, eagerly, the garden that I plant in the spring.

Here they are checking out the Dumbplumber's truck coming down the driveway, deciding whether to run away or continue pruning the bushes. Deer butts right out my window.

Even though we have gone from a false Spring to real Winter in just a few weeks, it is all worth it. When Spring comes to stay and the trees bud out and the busy bees buzz over the blossoms creating fruit that we will harvest in the summer, it is always a miracle. I love the seasons and changing from Winter to Spring to Summer to Fall. It always makes me think about the fragility of life, the incredible variety of life on Earth and how amazing it is that we exist at all.

How boring it must be to live in a place that doesn't have the Seasons that go round and round.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

California Dreaming

While the rest of the country is snowed in and paving the way for the latest Ice Age, in California, we have been having phenomenal weather.

Looking at the weather forcast I decided it was a good time to visit with family in Pacific Grove.Warmer than usual, clear skies, balmy breezes. If you have never been to Pacific Grove, Carmel, Big Sur.....don't miss it. One of the most beautiful places in the world.

We stood on the beach and watched the waves eroding the coastline. The winds felt like being in Hawaii.

Marveled at a bridge that was built in 1932.

With all of the EPA rules, prevailing wage requirements, engineering studies needed, governmental hoops to jump through, red tape we could never accomplish this today. This project put people to work in the Depression and created a bridge of lasting beauty and usefulness. Unfortunately, the ability to create and build has been smothered.

We laughed at a cheeky bird standing on one leg.

Admired the strength and beauty of the trees that withstand the punishing waves at high tide and the salty winds that bend and twist.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Benefits of Retirement

I decided to pull the plug on my business as a stock broker in December of 2010. Since then, there have been a lot of changes and unexpected side benefits to being retired.

Surprisingly, being retired hasn't translated into a leisurely lifestyle. No bon bons or lounging around in silk pajamas for me. Have been able to squeeze in the few occasional naps once in a while and a nice afternoon glass of wine in the sunshine on the deck on the rare moment when the sun has actually out been out this winter and when I'm caught up on chores and errands :-)

I have been more busy now than I ever was in my office environment. The Dumbplumber (my ever lovin' husband) has expanded his business and I have picked up all of his bookwork, banking, post office and errand running, telephone calling and in general freeing him up from these hated and mundane tasks.

It is a very strange feeling to not have an office to go to every day. Not have a time schedule for meeting with clients, making phone calls. My time is my own. No demands from others......well.....except for The Dumbplumber. In the beginning it felt like I was playing hookie or shirking something.

Because I'm home now, I can do more than just pay surface attention to the house and the yard. Busy busy there too and I love it. All the things that I want to do at home that were neglected or just half assed taken care of.

Benefit #1: HEALTH I'm losing weight from all the activity. Seriously!! 8 pounds so far without even trying. No more sitting at a desk all day. No more lunches out. No more frustration eating. Now I'm up and down the stairs, walking from one end of the property to the other. Lifting.... bending.......moving around. My energy level is higher and my motivation to just DO is higher.

Benefit #2: ORGANIZATION: The ability to have the time to focus on a task and get it done. The low priority things like organizing my home office that I put off and put off until it becomes a monumental intimidating task. Catagorizing my enormous collection of cook books, recipies, craft books and patterns. Previously, who had the time? Not me. Side benefit is that I've been able to purge, throw away, lots of items that I had just stored away. Purging and lightning the load feels great.

Benefit#3: COOKING: Sort of a side benefit of #2. I love to cook and since organizing and purging; I have been able to plan new and exciting (and sometimes not so exciting) meals. Instead of sticking to the tried and true, old faithful recipies for expediency, I can experiment. Cooking is a creative and to me Zen like activity which leads me to the next benefit.

Benefit #4: CREATIVITY: I've alway been interested in arts and crafts. In fact......and I know it seems strange with my occupation as a stock broker, I was an art major in college. Over the years and as my business became more and more demanding, I stifled my creativity. NOW....with time being my friend instead of my nemisis, I can bring out the crafting supplies. The oil paints, the clay, stained glass, yarn and fabric and pick up again the creative outlets that I let languish and wither.

Benefit #5: CLEAN HOUSE: Feminists are probably having their heads explode right about now as I am reveling in my ability to do housework. The laundry is folded, closets are clean and organized, kitchen is sparkling, counters are cleared of clutter, floors are kept as clean as can be until it isn't muddy outside anymore, bathrooms are gleaming, dusting, polishing.........

I'm not a 'feminist' in the Gloria Steinham,(hate men, men are the enemy) mold. I am a feminist in that I held a sucessful job in a profession designated to and dominated by men. I am a feminist in that I feel that women can and should do whatever they are qualified to do. I am also a feminist in that I love my own femininity and enjoy being around men without feeling that there must be a competition. I see no contradiction in feminism and being happy to be at home with my family. I see no betrayal of feminism to be 'house proud'.

Instead of just skimming the surface, now I can take the TIME (see a common thread here?). Surprisingly, it seems to take less time to do the job throughly than it did to just haphazardly, slapdash through the chores.

TOP BENEFIT: TIME WITH MY HUSBAND: The number one top benefit of retirement, is that I have more time to spend with my husband. Quality time we have both been missing.

Previously, we would have some time in the morning over coffee before both going out to our respective businesses. Me to my office, he to his truck(s) and the various job sites for his plumbing and well jobs. In the evening, we would meet again at home for some de-briefing of the day's activities. Perhaps a cocktail or two before dinner. Maybe some television and then early to bed so we can go out and work again the next day. Wash, rinse and repeat.

Now, we often go together on the preliminary inspections for his work. Driving through countryside that is beautiful and pastoral.

Going from one job to another, we can revel yet again in the beauty of our adopted home, reminding us just why we are working so hard. We can spend time talking and laughing with each other; stopping at the local "Frosty" for an ice cream cone or a quick snack and then on to visit the next job. We never get tired of each other's company. It is almost like dating again.

Instead of being trapped in an office, looking at the four walls, I get to see THIS:

And at the end of the day we can sit on our deck, cocktails in hand, satisfied with our life and view THIS.