Monday, August 30, 2010

Congratulations to Temple Grandin and company

I was so pleased to watch the Emmy's last night and witness the HBO movie about Temple Grandin's life receive so many awards. I believe they won 5 of the 7 they were nominated for. I remember when I watched this movie I was just spellbound by Temple's intelligence and perseverance. I was also proud of her 1950s mother being so progressive and such an advocate for her daughter in a time when nobody really understood austism. Temple holds a Ph.D. and I believe patents, plus is the author of many books. Read a little bit about her story here: CNN Story

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Former chairman of the Republican National Committee and 2004 campaign manager for President Bush's re-election, Ken Mehlman declares he is gay!
CNN Story

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Gay Old Party
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mater Mania 2010

On Sunday we went to a local festival - "Mater Mania" celebrating the heirloom and organically grown tomatoes in this area. We've been to this event a number of times in the past because M's band has played for it a couple of times. Previously, it wasn't very impressive. There were just tomato tastings, some salsa & chips and drinks.

I think the vegans were in charge previously. M and her bandmates actually snuck in bacon the last time they played the event, to put on their tomato sandwiches. That may have something to do with why they weren't invited back, I don't know. Anyway, more rational heads organized it this year. They partnered up with a local restaurant, who got an organically raised pig and made many dishes with pork and tomatoes. I can't even tell you half of what I ate, but it sure was tasty and a couple of items were very spicy!

So what follows are pictures of the various foods we sampled other than the tomato ice cream because that picture ended up blurry. It was good by the way, it tasted a little like a cross between creamy tomato soup and a chocolate malt. There were also a number of really good bands playing. I filmed short snippets of a few of them, plus the view behind the band of the river. It was a very nice festival this year. I'll probably go willingly again next year.

2/3 of the band The Zen Monkeys

Some Celtic band, I didn't get their name

same band, posted two of them for Marilyn :-)

Rusty Axel and the Gingers

Stress Relief

Gearing up for school to start back has me very busy. (Stress 1) Law work is plentiful. (Stress 2) Attended a city council meeting last night where blatant lies were uttered repeatedly. (Stress 3) And I'm tired. So today, we get stress relief until I can finish uploading video clips from this weekend's tomato festival I attended for my next post.

I saw this guy in another video on a different blog and went to check out his work. I found this clip entertaining.

And lest I get too deep into a self-pity party, turn up the sound and remember the soon to be immortal words of Sarah Vowell, "It Could Be Worse."

Monday, August 16, 2010

Paella Party

After each progressive dinner we choose the type of food for the next one. So after our last dinner we chose Mediterranean cuisine for the next dinner. M decided she wanted to make a Spanish paella, but she had never cooked one before and didn't have the pan, spices, or anything else. So, thank goodness for international trade and the Internet, M found La Tienda, a store in Williamsburg, VA that imports such wonderful items directly from Spain. She immediately ordered the giant pan (it's too large to fit in an oven and has to be used outdoors over a fire), the chorizo sausage, the Spanish rice and spices and has been waiting for the heat to break so she could do a practice run with friends prior to the progressive dinner. So M's opportunity came yesterday, even though it was hit and miss with rain during the early afternoon.

So M had to buy a new grill to cook this over because the grill we had wasn't big enough to hold the pan. Here she is out back just getting started. She had just started browning the chicken to get a broth of sorts going in the pan before adding the next ingredients.

onions and a smoky chorizo sausage.

Stir them all together, mmmm, look at that color, you can almost smell the aromas.

While inside there was a pot of chicken broth simmering with all

the Spanish spices thrown in.

While M was outside slowly adding in all the ingredients, I was playing sous chef and bathing the mussels,

clams, and

getting other things ready for the dinner. Here's my attempt at a Caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella, basil).

So here's M and L stirring all the ingredients in together: rice, chicken, chorizo, clams, mussels, shrimp, spices, peppers, onions, garlic, and I'm sure there were other things, but I lost track. I can testify that they tasted fantastic together!

Here's the finished product. It took two people to carry that pan of food inside, big, heavy and unwieldy!

Is this a thing of beauty or what?

Just prior to the digging in chaos and mass consumption of food, served with crusty buttered bread, and numerous bottles of wine.

For those who didn't completely overdo it at dinner, homemade coconut cupcakes to take care of the sweet tooth after dinner. Ahhhhh, what a meal! Wish you all could have been here!

Happiness Is...

Do you remember those old "Love Is" cartoons from the 1970s? I had stationary, stickers, etc. of those things for years. Of course, in the 1970s, I really didn't have a good grasp on what love is other than love for parents and siblings, but still, I liked the idea of romantic love and was one of many people who bought that kitsch. So what brings this to mind? Well, frequently on my drive into work, I drive behind this pick-up truck covered in Marine Corps. stickers, with a little kid sitting behind the front seat and a burly looking guy driving. I assume he has the job of dropping the kid at daycare every morning.

Anyway, among his many stickers is this one, "Happiness is a belt fed weapon." So when I saw the "Happiness is" I was reminded of the "Love is" and I began wondering how seriously this guy was about equating the possession of a powerful weapon with happiness. My thoughts would be, "happiness is getting to spend time with my kid every morning on the way to daycare," or "happiness is this beautiful morning, this great job, my family, etc." - but I would never equate happiness with a gun. I know guys who are major gun enthusiasts and would rank ownership of their weapons pretty high, but as with too many things, it just got me wondering. What is your idea of happiness?

My idea of happiness would be taking a week off to go hiking in the mountains with M

and a brand new German Shepherd puppy.

What is your idea of happiness?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Another Day....

Do you ever wonder about the greater scheme of things? I do often, mostly because I feel like I'm either missing something or I feel like I'm supposed to be doing something, I just don't know what it is. Every day I get up, have breakfast, do some work, have lunch, do some work, have dinner and maybe hang out with friends, watch t.v. or do things around the house. Throw in the trip here or there, the concerts, movies, or parties and life pretty much goes on in a relatively similar fashion. I'm not complaining. I feel very fortunate that my life is so good, it wasn't always. Which is what gets me thinking about the greater scheme of things.

I have to wonder, what is the point of this? What am I supposed to be gaining, learning, doing during this phase of my life? When life was bad, the various times that it was, I remember questioning God, the Universe, myself, "why?" "Why me?" "Am I being punished, is there something I'm supposed to learn from this?" So if in my darkest times I felt justified in questioning and in wondering, then so too shouldn't I do the same in the good times? Were my times of suffering meant to give me a background, compassion, knowledge for how to help others? Now that times are good, should I give back? I feel like I'm resting on my laurels and that I have no right to. There are people out there with less, in pain, lost, do I have what it takes to reach out and give back? Would it be too hard dealing with people in the midst of their pain, causing me pain in the memories? I know I don't have the disposition to counsel people, and I don't have the patience to deal with people sucked so far down in their misery that they either cannot or will not try to help themselves. Yet I can't help thinking I'm supposed to be doing something. It's like an idea niggling at the back of your memory, a word on the tip of your tongue. I can't quite see what it is I'm supposed to be doing, I just know there's something. I feel antsy, like I'm late for an appointment. I feel like what I'm supposed to do isn't the standard volunteer, donate type of thing. I'll figure it out eventually, just wondered if anyone else feels pulled toward "something."


UPDATE: So just when I think I'm coming to some resolution, "let it come to me, do something for myself, etc." the very first story I see on the CNN website is this headline: "Scotsman Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow was at his local pub when he decided to get off his barstool and help needy people. Today, he feeds more than 400,000 children globally every day through his nonprofit, Mary's Meals." You see the pressure I'm under? Was this the Universe's input on our little discussion today?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.” - Jonathan Swift

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM)has been doing a "Summer for Marriage" Tour across the United States. NOM is against gay marriage. The good news is that the people showing up to support gay marriage out number the opponents of gay marriage anywhere from 3:1 up to 8:1. The bad news is that this "Tour" is a call to all the religious crazies and loosely hinged people out there who just need a little moral support to be convinced to do violence in the name of God. See, the Middle East isn't the only place with religious nuts. As far as I'm concerned, if you don't see me attending your church, quit trying to make me obey your religion. News Article

Does all of this hoopla over who people should be allowed to marry seem at all familiar to anyone?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Stuck in my head

You know how music gets stuck in some people's heads? Poetry gets stuck in mine. Many, many years ago, I heard a poem used at the close of an epic (read "miniseries") movie, probably in the 1970s. I want to say it was James A. Mischener's _Centenial_, but I can't be sure. I just remember the impact the poem had on me at the end of this epic film and how even as the words were uttered by the narrator, they burned into my brain, and without even any attempt to memorize this poem, it has stayed with me for way more than 30 years.

This poem has popped into my head a number of times in the past week and I don't know why, and it's apropos of nothing really, so I can't figure out what originally triggered it or why it keeps coming back. So as they say with songs, the trick to get rid of them is to sing the song in its entirety to break the loop. Here's hoping it works for poems. Here's the poem. It was written by Algernon Charles Swinburne and is entitled:

Garden of Prosperine

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives forever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day at the beach

M's family are here from Wisconsin for a long weekend. We went to the beach yesterday with family and friends, set up the fishing poles, fed a lot of fish, caught a couple, one that got away, and one that was 2 inches below legal and had to be thrown back.

We also had the obligatory bonfire, with corn on the cob, fried chicken, hot dogs, and s'mores.

It was a perfectly gorgeous night, a breeze off the ocean and a pretty sunset that this picture doesn't do justice.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy Birthday Larena!

*NOTE: All pictures liberated from Life at 40 Something*

This is my friend, Larena. Today is her birthday. Feel free to go over to Life at 40 Something and wish her a Happy Birthday.

I first met Larena when I was in the 7th grade at age 12. Wow, 35 years ago, do we feel OLD Larena? ;-) She was a very wise, old soul, even back then. I came into a new town, new school and walked into a class already in progress in the middle of the year. Terrified doesn't begin to describe the fears a 12 year old feels at being thrust into change at that vulnerable age. The last thing you want is to be different and have everyone look at you. I took a seat in the aisle next to Larena's seat.

During a quiet free time, Larena spoke to me. I was dressed up for my first day at the new school so I could have fit in with a number of cliques. Larena introduced herself and tried to find out a bit about me. Then she told me about each group of kids around the class, who they were, what types of people they were, if I chose to join one group, which group I couldn't be friends with. After explaining who all the cliques were, which ones you could mix and mingle with, which ones were trouble, she asked which group I though I might fit in to. I asked her which group she was a member of. She then told me she was friends with one or two in this group, one in that group, none in another and so on. She said she was friends with people she liked and didn't let people tell her who she could and couldn't be friends with. She then asked me again, which clique I was going to be friends with, I told her, "you." From then on out, we were friends. I admired her honesty, character and strong sense of self, even at that age. I wanted to be friends with someone with confidence and a backbone, all things I wanted to acquire. I could have come in and joined with the popular kids, the athletic kids, and so on, instead, I joined up with the independant kid who was blazing her own path. She has taught me so much over the years.

I know unfortunately that she has been a much better friend to me than I ever was to her, mostly because I was so needy from age 12 through age 30, and she is a natural born caregiver. She counseled me through my darkest moments and gave me shelter when I needed it. She also taught me hard lessons when I behaved badly, and still, stayed my friend. I am here today, because she was there for me then. There aren't many people you can honestly say that about, but she has been a true blue friend. So today, on her birthday, I wish her the company of the people she loves, and there are many. She's a collector of strays, animals and people, each needing mothering and guidance. She gives of herself endlessly.

I wish her time in nature in her beloved mountains of the Pacific Northwest. She has a true spiritual connection to nature and you can see the peace on her face when she is outdoors. I also wish her fun and happiness. I wish her such robust laughter that she cries from the effort. I hope you have an awesome cake, celebration and day. I wish I could be there to celebrate with you. HAPPY BIRTHDAY LARENA!!!

Okay, you didn't think you were getting away without a corny song for your birthday did you? This song is in my head every time I come out to the Northwest. I remember watching the show, "Here Come the Brides" just to hear this song. Now it can be stuck in your head all day. :-)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

C'est la finis! And the best birthday surprise ever!

So last you saw our room on Sunday, it was painted and there was just a night stand and a lamp in there. I said it would take a couple days to get everything moved in because Monday was M's birthday and what with work all day and dinner that night, we weren't likely to get anything done on Monday. That's what I wanted M to think. So after she went to work, I didn't go into the office, but got right to work on finishing our room in under 8 hours. I still had to strip and paint the chest of drawers from Jr.'s room to put in our room. Of course, I had to haul it down stairs and out back by myself. That was fun.

The stripping didn't take any time at all, thank heavens for power tools! Then I painted a couple coats and the intermittent time to dry. While the paint dried, I began hauling out every piece of furniture from the garage that I could carry by myself, the other night stand, all the drawers for the dresser, the mirror for the dresser, the head board. Then a friend showed up and we carried up the bed frame, the mattress, the dresser and a chair. Once everything was in the room, I was able to move it around by myself and put things together. This included assembling the bed frame, drilling additional holes in the head board because they didn't line up with the frame, assembling all the furniture (feet and knobs) and just generally putting it all together.

So by the time M arrived home, what had been an essentially empty room when she left for work, was a finished room (for the most part, the box springs were missing and the curtains weren't up, but hey, close enough).

M had said a long time ago when I planned to do the room while she was out of town that she just wanted to walk in and have it all done without having to do any of the work (kinda like those HGTV shows). Well, she did have to strip paper and paint, but I did the rest for her and trust me, it was very heavy, hot work and working all out, non-stop for the day, but it was worth her excitement when she saw the room.

Then M saw her "other" birthday present, see it back there on that chest of drawers, the flat screen t.v. We had been using a monsterously heavy 25 inch model that had seen better days. She had been wanting a new t.v. for the bedroom for quite some time and so for her birthday I found a Sony Bravia not only on sale, but purchased in Delaware tax free. Woo-hoo!

So here are a couple more shots from different angles in the room. Overall I think things turned out really nice in there and considering the lightning job we did to get this all done quickly, I'm pleased with the result and SOOOO glad it's over. Now I can begin cleaning the house before M's brother and his family arrive in a few days.

I still have a few things left to do. See those picture frames on the wall? I need to have a couple of my photos blown up in black and white to go in them. I need to find a black scroll work decoration to go above the bed, and I need to get runners and/or doilies to go on top of each piece of furniture to cut down on the dust. The black furniture is acting like a magnet for all the dust in the house, it's unbelievable how quickly it gathers. Anyway, I believe I have earned a short rest before the family arrives, see you all in a few days.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The bugger that started it all

So here is one of the infamous lamps that we are building our bedroom around. About 3 years ago, we were out with friends when M spotted a pair of these lamps in a store. She thought they were really cool and I went back later and got them for her for our anniversary. They have been in storage ever since. I knew eventually we were going to have to re-do our bedroom and I knew I would have to work these lamps into the design....somehow. So of course, they wouldn't go with the wood bedroom suite we had. They wouldn't go with the iron bed we had in another room. The only color these lamps did not clash with was black.

So, with my tax return in April, I went in search of a black bedroom suite. M also decided she wanted a Queen size bed since we were going to get something new any way. Okay, now I am 47 and this is the first "new" bedroom suite I have ever purchased in my life. I've had hand-me-downs, yard sale finds and junk store finds. I've been perfectly happy with used furniture because it was so old that it was solid and of good quality. Um, yeah, new furniture in my price range isn't made that well, so it took me months of shopping before I found something passable. Here, obviously, is the first night stand. Unfortunately, after getting up at 6 this morning and painting pretty much non-stop all day, except for 2 meals and 2 showers, I am wiped out. My left forearm is throbbing from all the painting. It was all I could do to carry just this night stand up stairs from the garage. There's no way I can carry anything more. I will call in help either tomorrow or the next day to get the rest of the furniture upstairs. Tomorrow is M's birthday, so what with work all day and then going out to dinner, I'm not sure any furniture will get moved tomorrow. So, until probably Wednesday, stay tuned!

Last full day in Europe

Ahh, all good things must come to an end.  Our European vacation is drawing to a close.  We leave Nice this morning to drive back to Barcelo...