candle, burnt at both ends
21 April 2011 @ 08:36 pm
The local stores are full of chicks and bunnies and tender young flowers in soft pastels, because Easter is right around the corner and we should all be welcoming spring!

Outside, though, it's hitting 90 degrees in the afternoons. It's still cool at night, but the days are decidedly not springlike. They are, in fact, drifting toward summerlike (although here, summer means 95 degrees and up from midmorning on, and night temps that only drop into the 80s). It feels like we've bypassed the whole pastel-Spring-dream thing entirely, which isn't helped by Easter's being so late this year.

And yet... despite the summery tendencies, we still haven't turned on the air conditioner. We usually turn off the air and throw open the windows in the spring anyway. This year, I've resolved to keep the windows open and the air off for as long as possible.

The funny thing is... I kind of like it. And I grew up with A/C. I couldn't imagine living in Florida without it. (My husband, who grew up even farther south in Florida without the benefits of air conditioning, can imagine it but prefers not to live it again. Then again, he dreams of moving to upstate New York for the winters.)

But when the windows are open, you can hear what's going on in the neighborhood -- you know when the mail's here, you know when the school buses pick up and drop off kids. Stepping outside isn't such a shock to the system -- in fact, going into air-conditioned buildings is weirder and feels colder. I feel like I'm taking part in the seasonal change, instead of hiding from it.

It helps that I've lost some weight over the past year, so I'm not as thoroughly insulated as I was. It also helps that, for the most part, we do as others in hot countries do: get the active things done in the morning, spend the afternoon doing more quiet things. In fact, the hottest part of my day is generally cooking dinner, because when you rev up the stove or oven, it heats more than just your food.

We've invested in a few more fans (we have paddle fans in all the bedrooms and in the sunroom, but my office space, the kitchen, and the dining area are sadly fan-free) and with the air moving about the house, it feels -- temperate. Warm, yes, but not unduly so. When the sun sets, you can feel the change in the air. When rain is coming, you can smell it. I like that.

(I also like saving $150 to $200 on my electric bill each month. O yes.)

We'll see how long this lasts. I'm hoping to hold out until June.

=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Last night, I downloaded The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure for my Nook (Amazon BN Indiebound Powell's), and read it in two big gulps (started last night, finished today). I loved that the author, similar to me, had obsessed over Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a kid, and similar to me, she'd rediscovered them as an adult, found some things to be reassuring and other things to be troubling (hello, Osage Diminished Reserve*). Like me, she'd started nosing around the Internet for more information about what really happened.

Unlike me, McClure took her interest to its (il?)logical conclusion and started rediscovering what she calls "Laura World," first by doing some of the things Laura and her family had done (grinding wheat in a coffee mill to bake bread!) and then by going to the places Laura had lived, in search of ... well, she doesn't quite know, at the start. But she eventually gains her own answers, and a fine collection of sunbonnets. (Don't wear them on your head. Let them hang down your back, like Laura did.)

The result is both touching and funny -- part memoir, part biography, part road trip, part literary criticism, and part realization that the past -- yours and mine and McClure's and Wilder's -- is both still with us and unreachable.

(I should add, here, that I'm jealous -- my wonderful parents took me to Rocky Ridge Farm when I was a kid, on the way back from a trip to visit the Iowa relatives, and the house was CLOSED. The Rock House, at the time, was open and was a gift shop, and that's where I bought my own copy of Donald Zochert's Laura. Also, I have been (briefly) to Westville, FL, where the Wilders lived for a year, because it's right around the corner from Bonifay, where my grandfather grew up -- but I haven't actually Laura-touristed it. Someday.)

*Also, hi, Penny Linsenmayer, whose name I recognized from HP fandom!
 
 
 
candle, burnt at both ends
24 March 2011 @ 10:10 pm
Those of you who have read crevette's LJ know she is a wonderful woman and a fantastic, fearless writer, who regularly has me on the floor laughing (strawberry-scented elegance! uterus memos!). She is also an intensely giving person who has done the 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk (in honor of a friend who survived it) and now goes out every year to cheer on the participants and hand out popsicles. She's the sort of friend who not only brings you a homemade batch of Italian Wedding Soup when you're recovering from an ailment -- she takes your kid and teaches her to make meatballs so you can get some rest, too.

Like me -- like many of us -- crevette has struggled with weight problems (and their attendant health problems) all her adult life. We've both done the weight loss dance before, and we've both fallen hard off the wagon at times.

Earlier this year, on a whim, she decided to enter a contest to win free lap-band surgery with the follow-up counseling and therapy that will help her achieve a more healthy life. She thought she’d never get a response -- but to her surprise, she’s one of six finalists.

Please (please please please PLEASE) click here and vote for Irene F (under “Dr. Jessee’s patients”). And thanks.
 
 
 
candle, burnt at both ends
23 August 2010 @ 06:29 pm
(with apologies to Henry Reed)

To-day, we have assembling of supplies. Yesterday,
We had the finding of bento boxes. And to-morrow morning,
We shall be departing for the first day of school. But to-day,
To-day we have assembling of supplies. The new backpack
Is dark blue and green with small white flowers,
And to-day we have assembling of supplies.

These are the three-prong folders. And these
Are the sheet protectors, of which you need 10
For each folder, except the blue. There should be an orange folder,
Which in your case you have not got. The backpack
Perhaps should have been purple, you think,
Which in your case you have not got.

This is the binder, which can be opened
By pushing on the metal tab. And please do not let me
See you yanking on the rings. You will pinch your fingers
If you don't use the tab. The backpack
Is easier to open, and you will not have
To worry about your fingers.

And this is the new school agenda. The purpose of these
Is to write out your assignments. Here is the first page
for the first day of school: we call this
Starting the year. Next to the kitchen table
The new backpack stands tall, stuffed with supplies
It is starting the year.

You are starting the year. You will open the agenda
To the first day's page, and stack the pencils and crayons
And the three-prong folders in your desk, except the orange one,
Which in your case you have not got; and the white blossoms
Drift across the front of your backpack, bright and fresh
For to-day we have assembling of supplies.
 
 
 
candle, burnt at both ends
27 April 2010 @ 10:16 am
This weekend, Margaret was trying to get Rob to do the "Dementor Dance" with her, which seemed to involve a lot of twirling around with silk playscarves. No, I don't know, either. She also wondered if Dementors kiss each other, which led me to this:

DAYBREAK. AN ALARM CLOCK IS BUZZING.

We see a bed with two forms under a large quilt; their heads in shadow. There is a long, drawn-out groan, a horrible sound that curls around the room. A skeletal hand reaches menacingly from beneath the quilt and fumbles about with bony fingers until it manages to turn off the alarm clock.

LOLA: You have to get up, Bob.

BOB: No I don't.

LOLA: Your shift starts in an hour. And you know you never can summon up the proper amount of menace if you don't have your coffee that cup of battery acid before work.

BOB gives a deep, whistling sigh, like the last echoes of tormented prisoners.

BOB: All right.

BOB rolls out of bed, his skeletal form sporting spotted boxer shorts. He drifts through the room and into a bathroom; the door closes behind him. Eventually, we hear a flush and then the hiss of a shower starting up.

BOB: off camera Lola, where's my ghastly raiment?

LOLA: mumbling from the bed If you'd put it in the hamper...

BOB: off camera, a bit louder Lola...

LOLA gets up. We see her skeletal form is draped in a floral nightie. She drifts over to open the bathroom door. A cloud of steam rolls out.

LOLA: Where did you put it last?

BOB: off camera I don't have time for games, Lola --

LOLA: Neither do I. If it isn't in the hamper, it doesn't get washed!

BOB: off camera But today is important -- the Minister of Magic is coming personally -- I have to look like a proper Dementor!

LOLA: Just wear the robe again, Bob. It's not like a little dirt and some smudging will ruin your look.

BOB: off camera I work at Azkaban. There are standards! Just because it's a soul-sucking job doesn't mean we shouldn't uphold the standards. When my ghastly raiment is dirty, it doesn't have the proper flow. And I don't feel as menacing. I just feel grubby. And it shows in my work!

LOLA makes a "sock-puppet" hand and mocks his speech. She's obviously heard it a million times before.

BOB: off camera ... besides, you're just wafting around Hogwarts right now anyway -- scaring those kids is a piece of cake. BOB peeks around the door. Say, I have an idea -- I can just borrow yours!

LOLA, shaking her head, gives up.

LOLA: Fine. Have my ghastly raiment. Just because you can't get your act together --

BOB: emerging from the bathroom, draped in LOLA's flowing black raiment. You could have washed it.

LOLA: You could have put it in the hamper!

BOB: sighing Look, Lola... I'm worried, all right? The Minister of Magic is coming, and last week Gerald said I wasn't as threatening as I could be. He hinted I might be losing my edge.

LOLA: recovering a little feeling for BOB I'm sure Gerald didn't mean...

BOB: He told me if I kept it up, he'd wouldn't let me guard the opening to a rat hole.

LOLA sits on the bed, stunned.

LOLA: But why? What would he have to complain about? You have an air of menace, you loom and hover threateningly, you pull the prisoners' worst memories to the surface...

BOB: miserable Last week I ... well, I was tormenting a prisoner and suddenly, I thought, "Puppies."

LOLA: horrified WHAT?

BOB: And then it was like that don't think of an elephant thing, you know, I kept thinking "don't think about puppies" but that meant it was all I could think about. And that meant that all the prisoner's memories of puppies came to the surface.

LOLA: Oh, Bob...

BOB: My only saving grace was that the prisoner was scared of dogs, had been her whole life. But I can't afford any slip-ups, Lola.

LOLA: I'm... I'm glad you're wearing my robe, Bob. You just go in there and be the most horrific, awful being you can be. Anyone can have an off day.

BOB: You think so?

LOLA: I do. Gerald ought to know your record -- why, you've brought prisoners to their knees when other Dementors couldn't even make them whimper. You just go in there and give 'em hell.

BOB: I ... okay. Okay. I will. Firmly. I can do this. Thanks, Lola.

LOLA: leaning in for a kiss Any time, dear.

BOB and LOLA kiss. There is a great, terrible WHOOOOOOSHING sound. When they part...

LOLA's body, BOB's voice: Ha, ha, very funny. Kiss me again.

BOB's body, LOLA's voice: No can do. You go to Hogwarts and scare the kiddies. I'm going to torment some prisoners. Someone's got to save your job. Puppies, of all things! She shakes her (his?) head, disgustedly. See you at seven!

LOLA, in BOB's skeletal body, leaves the room. BOB looks after her, mortified.

LOLA's body, BOB's voice: I... I guess I'd better get dressed, then...

SCENE.
 
 
 
candle, burnt at both ends
31 January 2010 @ 06:25 pm
My old Subaru Forester, a faithful and trusty vehicle that carried us for 11 years, was getting a little elderly and needing more frequent attention from the mechanic. We realized it was time to either commit to an ongoing intermittent schedule of Replacing Stuff That Breaks or to bite the financial bullet and buy a new car. Since our OTHER car is 13 years old, we decided to go new.

So we did some research homework, figured out which cars were in our size/price range/style intersection, and went shopping today. Result:

IT'S A NOOOOOO CAAAAARRRR!Collapse )

A 2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring, in black with a black interior (this must be my Inner Goth coming out). Meg has already named it Lucky Sparkles, because there are little sparkles in the black. I like its zippy handling, its roomy interior space, and (sad to say) the XM Radio, which is only free for three months so I'd better enjoy it while I have it. But I love the most that we now have a new, dependable car for the long term.

Yay car!
 
 
 
candle, burnt at both ends
23 December 2009 @ 05:50 pm
I was pretty balanced about the gift knitting this year ... I chose a few projects, started early, and made good progress ... until the end. There I was, basking in the glow of projects completed in a timely fashion, and what did I do? Cast on for another gift project. On December 18th.

Was I crazy? Possibly... but the project is now blocking on my bed, and will be delivered tomorrow (right before the recipient, one columella, leaves for a holiday in colder climes). (Yes, she already knows about it; I 'fessed up last night.)

I'm not insane. I RULE. See?Collapse )
 
 
 
candle, burnt at both ends
16 December 2009 @ 01:13 pm
bleh  
On the first day of my cold, the virus gave to me
A nose infinitely runny

On the second day of my cold, the virus gave to me
Two clicking ears,
And a nose infinitely runny.

On the third day of my cold, the virus gave to me
Three degrees above normal,
Two clicking ears,
And a nose infinitely runny...

I'll let you know how the song goes. I'm hoping that all the hot tea and soup are going to kick this thing before too long, though. The worst part is that Rob's got it too, poor kid.

Time to take the (generic) Advil and Sudafed, oh yes.
 
 
 
candle, burnt at both ends
14 December 2009 @ 11:44 am
Yesterday was a whiplash day, in that I went from stage-managing St. Lucia Day (at 6:15 a.m., OUCH) to coping with a whiny toddler to ... a punk cabaret concert. (And back again. I did not run away to join the cabaret, though I was much tempted.)

The show was Amanda Palmer, a microphone, a Roland keyboard, and an occasional ukelele. That was it.

That was everything we needed.

Yeah, Neil Gaiman did come out on stage to read a short story from their book (Who Killed Amanda Palmer), but by that point I was all Amanda's and my response was kind of "yes, your story is very nice, MORE MUSIC PLZ."

The venue (The Social, in Orlando) was perfect -- it was a long, narrow space, with the bar along one long side and the stage along the other, so no one is very far from the performance. (Or the alcohol.) There was a dance pit in front of the stage, and a nice sort of railing around the pit, so we leaned against the railing and had a perfect view. (There are a couple of pictures at the bottom of this page.)

Amanda started the show standing on the bar, unmiked, playing a song on the ukelele, then walked through the crowd to the stage and played a few songs on the piano. Then she explained this wasn't really a tour with a setlist; it was a one-off date, so she thought she'd just take requests. The venue was small enough that this was entirely possible (and even manageable). She turned down a few requests because they were "shit without the drums" but played a nice range of requested songs from her album and from the prior Dresden Dolls albums, as well as some covers.

This woman pours herself out completely. The music is intense, but she also really connects with the audience -- she answered questions submitted earlier, did quite a bit of give and take with the room, made eye contact everywhere. For me, that would be exhausting, but it seems to energize her -- and the audience.

Case in point: the cover requests was "Imagine" (yes, the Lennon one) and she said she'd do the song if someone could find the lyrics for her. Within minutes someone with an iPhone had passed it forward, lyrics at the ready. She ended up handing the phone to another audience member who had pen and paper (!) so they could copy them out while she was performing the next song. And then she noodled around a bit to find the right key, got help from the audience, and finally played the song, beautifully:



After an hour and a half of awesome music, she talked about how the book came about, and introduced Neil Gaiman to read a story from it. His hair was wild; the reading was a short one, featuring diamonds, snakes, drugs, and prostitutes. And lo! Someone filmed it!



After his reading, Amanda played "I Google You," which Neil originally wrote and she then put music to it. If you haven't heard it, by the way, you must. (That link is to a live performance of the song, but not from this concert, so I didn't embed.)

(Obviously I need a better phone before I go to the next one.) (Perhaps one that, you know, takes movies and stuff.) (Because none of this content is mine; bless everyone who shared.)

She ended the show with a rousing number from the most recent album ("Leeds United") and then did "Creep" on ukelele from the bar as an encore. Walter and I were thrilled; "Creep" is the first song we ever danced to, so it's oddly "our" song. And it turned into a massive sing-a-long which was great fun.

Then she said she and Neil would stay and sign for everyone, for as long as it took.

* * *

At this point, my latent grown-up gene kicked in. I have books signed by Neil. I actually have a CD signed by Amanda (it came that way, which I found funny since I was kind of buying it to take it and get it signed). There were a lot of people, and most of them were staying, and I'd heard someone in line say "oh yes, they stayed for two hours signing at the last show I went to..."

Well. I suddenly knew that standing around for two hours to get my ticket stub signed (unless I forked over $35 for the book... my work-from-home-suburban-mom budget wasn't really ready to go there) was not going to get me anything except a few seconds of face time and an opportunity to say I loved her show/his books. Plus we were thinking about my parents, who were very kindly watching the kids while we ran away to AdultLand. They'd have to drive back to their house, a little more than an hour's drive, once we got home. So we just... left. I figure Amanda, Neil, & co. got to leave and have dinner that much earlier. Happy holidays, y'all. ;)

But that means, I am sad to say, no scrawled-upon ticket stubs or tales of interaction. (Then again, this is me: my interaction typically is to get very tongue-tied.)

* * *

In short: AWESOME CONCERT. I'm so glad I went. Even Walter, who had reservations, was mightily impressed and enjoyed it -- he was shouting along with "Creep," too. :)
 
 
 
candle, burnt at both ends
08 December 2009 @ 12:36 pm
It's the most wonderful busiest time of the year!

We spent a good chunk of the weekend organizing and cleaning (and we aren't done yet, but at least the house looks presentable). Next up: school "winter festival" tonight. Tomorrow: acquisition of tree, and decoration on Friday night, probably. And Sunday is St. Lucia day, when the oldest daughter wears a white nightgown with a red sash and serves breakfast to her parents. She is also supposed to wear a crown of lights on her head. We bought one last year. It fell apart after one wearing. So much for that. I'll just wind some Christmas lights around her head and tell her not to walk too far from the outlet.

(I'm kidding. We might make one out of construction paper. No, we won't set it on fire.)

Anyway, the lighted headdress is the least of our problems. We have looked all over, searched high and low, but no one (except, like, one Etsy vendor) is selling plain white nightgowns of the gently old-fashioned sort (i.e., not an oversize t-shirt). And there must, MUST be a white nightgown and a red sash for the oldest daughter or else the Swedish ancestors will rise up and haunt us, or something. So I spent this morning in JoAnn's with Rob -- who refuses riding in carts these days, so much fun with shopping, I tell you -- buying white cotton fabric to make Meg a St. Lucia chemise. I'm kickin' it old school, and by old I mean Renaissance, because that's what I know how to make (thanks, SCA!) and because if I make a drawstring neckline and a deep hem, it can grow with her for several years.

In addition to these fine projects, St. Lucia day being Sunday means Swedish coffee bread production on Saturday. (We tried the traditional lussekatter last year, but the family preferred the coffee bread. Saffron haters!) That's a delicious big baking project that leaves the entire house smelling of cardamom. Mmmmmm.

So, in short: this week = busy. I am trying to keep myself calm and balanced so I don't end up hissing "We are supposed to be enjoying this!" to my kids and husband as I strangle them with tangled Christmas lights. I'm not too worried, though, as I have a nice cathartic Amanda Palmer concert on Sunday (after the St. Lucia-ing).

At least I've done well with my knitted gift projects. They are all finished except for one, and it's mostly done. Go me! I've only started in July, too! ::plotz::

And now, laundry calls. Again.