Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another snowy day

Today was to be the day that Tom’s house finally was to be sold. I had to get up at an ungodly hour and make my way to the ferry terminal and sail across the sound to sign the papers. I awoke about four in the morning to see that it was snowing. Horrors! That would definitely complicate my trip down town. I live on top of a hill, so the least bit of snow intimidates the buses and they refuse to come this way. I had to decide whether to wait for a bus, and potentially miss the ferry if there was no bus, or to walk to the ferry terminal. I went back to sleep undecided. When I woke up, there was enough snow to possibly, but not definitely, deter a bus, and so I decided to walk. Happily, my walk was uneventful. I had agonized about which knitting to take to work on during the trip, as there was some reason not to take each of my current projects. I finally opted for my Knitpicks Andes hat. Just as we were approaching the harbor on the other side, I realized that I had made a fatal knitting error. I didn’t notice until I got all the way to the little alpacas, and then when the last alpaca had too many stitches trailing after him, I saw that I had cast on about five extras. I counted as I cast on, but then didn’t ever count the total. All this was not auspicious. Barry, the real estate agent, met me at the ferry, took m to the title company, and I signed the papers. It was all pretty painless, particularly given all the other pains this estate process has involved. I was thrilled that this bit of it was over. On the way back, I undid the hat. When I got home, I realized I had forgotten my house keys, as Rachael had let me out and locked the door. My aunt, who has a key, didn’t answer her phone, but that didn’t mean much. Fortunately, she was home, and I was able to use her key. I finally came in the door, tired, hungry, and crabby, to hear the phone ringing. There was a wrinkle in the house sale. He explained it all to me, but I didn’t take it in. What it really meant was that I couldn’t take a nap. Aaaaaaaaaak! More papers to be emailed to me, signed and emailed back. So now all seems to be well, but it is not over till it is over, and I get the check. I drank so much tea while waiting for the emails that my nap was a failure. I am going to give it another go now.
PS. As you can see by the picture, it was a glorious day in Bremerton.

A BFF day

I mentioned that Lillian was at Rachael’s birthday party. Rachael and Lillian have been friends forever – nearly since toddlerhood. I remember once when Lillian, three or four at the time, came with her dad to visit. Rachael was sick in bed and couldn’t play, so Lillian went upstairs to say “Hi.” I came upstairs after a bit, and Lillian was sitting in a little chair next to Rachael’s bed in the darkened room, and was quietly reading stories to Rachael. I don’t remember if she was actually even a reader yet, or if she was making them up, but in any case, it was a sweet picture. And Lillian is still a sweet girl. I think the youth of the day prefer to be something other than "Sweet," but what can I say? She is also smart, pretty, polite and all things nice. No snakes, snails, or puppy dog tails. Most of the time, anyway.

A Happy Birthday

I can’t believe that Rachael is twenty. It was only a few months ago that she was a tiny infant – and as you can see, an adorable infant. Her birthday was during Great Music, so we celebrated a few days late. Rebecca cooked a fabulous dinner, and the guests (the Aunties and Lillian) didn’t even notice that it was vegan. Everyone behaved well, somewhat to the disappointment of Rebecca and me. We always enjoy little contretemps as long as we are observers and not personally involved. Then we have fodder for happy reminiscences and gossip later on. One year we speculated at length who would be the one to spill wine on the tablecloth, and decided who it would most be the most likely offender. Then about two minutes into the meal, Rebecca knocked over her wine glass while dishing out the food. We both collapsed into laughter, but dared not tell anyone what was so funny about spilled wine. Are we not evil? I think perhaps yes.
Here Rachael is in her Edward Hopper hat, purchased at the exhibit noted below. She prefers to think of it as her Edna St. Vincent Millay hat. Très chic, n’est-ce pas?

Monday, February 23, 2009

A timely day

Busy, busy, busy! I had a huge (actually not really, but it seemed that way) agenda of things to do today, and all I really wanted to do was sit and knit. I got up, had my morning tea, read the paper, and then made myself some toast. The toast takes four minutes and forty-four seconds to toast nicely. Normally, I go play a hand of Spider Solitaire or read my email while it is cooking. Today, I decided not to waste time on that, but to try to make myself a little window of knitting time, so I started a load of laundry, took out my recycling, and put the liner in the garbage can – an incredibly minor but icky task that I had been putting off for days. I finally had something gooey to put throw away, so I could delay no longer. I was amazed at how much I got done in that tiny bit of time. This is a lesson I have never really learned – Just do the thing and get it over with, rather than fret about it not being done. Fretting is my usual tactic. Then when I finally do the task, I can’t believe that I wasted all that energy worrying about it instead of just doing it. No doubt I never really will really take this to heart. I had been looking at the dustbin for three days, and brooding because there was no liner and I couldn’t throw anything out. What a waste of energy that fretting had been. Sometimes knowing how long things actually take is a very helpful motivator. I usually water my plants on specific days, and it always seems like a big deal when the time comes, so I put it off. I timed myself once while my tea was heating in the microwave, and it took less than two minutes. Once I knew this, it seemed like much less of a job. When I was married, we went camping frequently, and there were always reasons why I, and not my husband, was the one who set up the tent. I was resentful of this, and complained about it. “But you are so good at it, and I’m not,” was his sly reply. “Let’s see how long it actually takes you.” I had imagined that it took at least half an hour, but we set the tent up in the yard, and he timed me. It was less than three minutes! Resentment dissolved. He didn’t like to do it and I didn’t really mind, and who is going to complain about something that only takes only three minutes and happens rather infrequently. Another valuable tactic for the incurable procrastinator –that would be me - with a really big unpleasant task (like cleaning a basement, for example), is to say to myself, “I will work on this for one hour.” That is not too much time even for something as foreboding as a dirty basement. Two things generally happen. You get an amazing amount done in an hour of work, and enthusiasm for the task sometimes develops and you go on beyond the allotted hour. And you feel good about having for once, not procrastinated!
After I finished my whirlwind laundry/dustbin tasks, I discovered that four minutes and forty-four seconds was the exact amount of time it took Maria to gobble up the cheese I had gotten out to put on my toast. What a cat! She truly understands time management and the importance of not delaying when there is something to be done!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An extravagant day

This evening is the final performance of our Cathedral extravaganza! I can’t think of what to say about it, as it is so amazing and wonderful - way beyond words. This is a picture of the finale (from Mendelssohn’s St. Paul) taken by my friend Maria. I am a white speck at the top of the lower left quadrant, and Rachael is a black and red speck on the altar. This will give you an idea of its compass.

An artistic day

My Aunt Pauline and I had a fun outing to the Seattle Art Museum for lunch and an artistic experience. There was a show of Edward Hopper paintings of women, etchings, and some images by photographers who influenced Hopper. The paintings are intimate glimpses of women in an age of flux. The Victorian era and its mores had passed, and women were emerging into public as independent individuals – and judging by Hopper’s vision, as lonely individuals. I took a photo of my aunt looking at one of the pictures, and remarked that her coat matched the clothes in the painting. Minutes later I saw a woman in a red hat admiring a painting of another woman in a red hat, and I was about to snap that, when the guard came up and said, “Sorry, no photography.” I was disappointed, and so was the woman in the red hat – the human woman, not the oil painting woman who didn’t seem to care. Then we had a yummy lunch in the Museum restaurant, where, given that it was an art museum, even the salt was artistic. Photography did seem to be allowed in the restaurant, so I took a Hopperesque photo of a couple at the bar.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A busy day

Today was rather busy and non-stop. I got up late, drank some tea, and left for a lunch date with my friend Eileen. She was pleased that she had just gotten an article published and brought me a copy. It was about safe patient handling – a topic not innately interesting to most, but quite the current topic just now. The “safe” is safe for the nurse as well as the patient. Nurses are right up there with loggers and firemen in the on-the-job injury lists. And back injuries are all too common. Then I was off to endure another dreadful encounter with the personnel at the bank where I have Tom’s estate account. They wanted to charge me $5 to print up a statement. I pointed out that they would not let me access the account by computer, and had never sent me a statement, so how was I supposed to keep track of it. I can’t believe they are still in business. Actually, I guess they aren’t since they just went under and were taken over by another bank. At the bus stop I met this young man who’s name, he told me, is Tobias. Initially I thought Tobias was the cat, as Tobias seems like a good cat name. When I arrived home, Harry the terrier and his mom were playing fetch in the park near my house. Harry had elected to bring his green dinosaur to play with today. Margaret came out to say “Hi” to Harry, but she was far more interested in the dog treats that Harry’s mom had in her bag than in playing fetch with a dinosaur. So I threw the dinosaur for Harry while Margaret cajoled Harry’s mom for one treat after another. Margaret is hard to resist, so she had about a dinner’s worth of dog biscuits. Then off to the Family Kitchen and then the dress rehearsal for Great Music for Great Cathedrals. A fun and interesting day for me, but not a very interesting story for you, I am afraid. But cute pictures at any rate.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A stressful day

I am totally knackered. Last evening at work, I got one phone call after another. The pharmacy, the doctors, the Kidney Center, the creepy respiratory therapist (most of them are saving angels, and very nice- but this one…. Grrrrr!) Then, at midnight, when I was heading for my coat and home, I heard, “Joanna, you have another phone call.” I asked who it was, and she said, “A woman.” Well, that eliminated 50% of the population. It was another nursing unit calling to tell me that my aunt had been admitted. Horror struck, I scuttled up there, to find her grumbling in her bed. The ambulance folk were still in the hall with their gurney (or “trolley” as Colin would say.) " You must be the niece,” they said. “She’s been waiting for you.” She was mad that she was there. They didn’t know anything. Why couldn’t she get something to eat. What was the matter with this bed. Why did she have to wear this monitor. How did they expect her to sleep. Why did they have to give her a CT scan when she just had one last week (for something unrelated and on another part of her body, as I pointed out.) They thought she was having a stroke. She wasn’t having a stroke. What was the matter with them. She knew more about it than they did. A low-salt diet!! Blech! What did they think she was! They just went through the same things every time she went. Look at this cheap toilet paper! What sort of joint is this! She was just going to leave! What was the matter with them. Etc., etc., etc. I was relieved, and could tell that she was feeling fine. In the morning, seemingly a few minutes after I got to sleep, she called me to tell me to come to get her. I said in an hour or two after I get some sleep. I turned the message machine down, I thought, but actually, I had turned it up. I just drifted off when my other aunt called. I told her about the complaining, and I think she was glad she hadn’t been there. She told me about a vacation to Hawaii that she had taken Dakki on, and Dakki had complained the whole time about every single thing. Aunt Pauline thought, “Never again!” Then later, she heard Dakki regaling someone with tales of their fabulous vacation and the wonderful time she had. Mystified, Pauline decided that grumbling must have been part an essential part of the fun.
Update: Dakki is doing fine, full of vim and vinegar.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A dyslexic day

Many years ago, when I was young and a bit of a snob, I usually only read things like Dickens or Dostoyevsky, with intellectual relief by reading my favorite children’s books aloud to then tiny Rebecca. Suddenly, exhausted by the intellectual rigors of graduate school, I realized that a whole world of trashy novels beckoned me, but I didn’t really have much info on the good ones, aside from my mother who was always pressing something or other horrible on me to read. Of course, I never read what she suggested. That would be way too uncool. I love scary novels such as Dracula and Uncle Silas. These were sanctified by antiquity and therefore not trashy. Even the trashiest of all - East Lynne - was old and therefore okay for a book snob to read. In my quest for good scary novels, a friend suggested that I try H P Lovecraft. I went to the library and got one, or so I thought. That evening, Dennis and I had one of our semi-annual set-tos, probably about something stupid. The ensuing argument usually would grow to encompass all the resentments of the previous six months and then would blow over and calm would reign for another half year. I seem to recall that this interaction had to do with a box of chocolates. No doubt someone had eaten more than his or her fair share. After bitter words were exchanged, he went to sleep and I settled in with my scary novel. I kept waiting for the ghosts to appear, but there was only silliness. Bertie Wooster trying to escape the wrath of Aunt Agatha, and Jeeves coming to the rescue. HP Lovecraft …. PG Wodehouse …. Almost the same thing, right???? I was lying there shaking with laughter, when Dennis woke up and asked, “Are you crying?” He seemed hopeful. “No, I’m laughing,” I said and told him what had happened. I read him some funny bits, and all was well again. Yesterday I was in the library looking for an audio book to listen to, and I thought, “Oh, Joseph Conrad. I haven’t read anything by him for a long time.” When I started the book, I was astonished and puzzled that it was talking place in San Francisco. “Huh?” I thought, and looked at the cover again. It was “The Sea Wolf” by Jack London. I had seen the boat on the cover, the sort of old look of it, and in my dyslexic way, leapt to a false conclusion. After all, in addition to being about ships, they both began with J. I am enjoying The Sea Wolf quite a lot, despite it not being by Joseph Conrad. And by the way – I still never have read anything by HP Lovecraft. And I realized that some of the books my mother gave me to read were actually good.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A weird weather day

Why is the weather such an endlessly fascinating topic? I guess maybe it is only that compelling when it is one’s own weather and not that of someone faraway. But mine has been odd today. I woke up in the night and was shocked because it was so light – and a strange white light filling my bedroom. At first, I thought I had grievously overslept. I pried my eyes open and realized I had only been asleep for an hour. I rolled over and looked out the window to see that snow was coming down like cats and dogs. Or maybe more like kittens and lambs – thick and fluffy. Groan! Then I realized that I didn’t have to go to work, so less of a groan. It was a sunny, cold day, and Samos and I went to lunch at a Vietnamese vegan restaurant. We had fake salmon, very yummy. Later, while I was suffering with more Tom Estate Ordeal (almost all done - Hurrah!), I heard sounds like zillions of needles and pins dropping on the house. Margaret, who is quite fierce at all sorts of weather, oddly did not initially notice. It was hail, and it went on and on. She did eventually notice and is valiantly protecting me from it even now.
You are probably wondering what this other picture has to do with anything. I woke this morning to snow, and a day or two ago, I awoke to noises outside my window. I got up to see what it was, and it was this fellow. Right there! I could not believe it. He was not slyly spying, however. He was fixing something electrical.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A fruitful day

Ana and Ken came for dinner, which they brought with them. (That was my gracious invitation – “I would love to have you over for dinner, but I just don’t feel like cooking.”) So, the best of all worlds – good company for dinner with no cooking for me and no driving home after. I am always the designated driver, and I get tipsy very easily, so I have to be extremely restrained when I have dinner elsewhere. And I love a nice wine. Actually, we had a lovely, hearty ale to go with our macaroni and cheese. Here is the sweater which Ana finished just as our dinner was heating in the oven. After dinner we put it on the wooly board, and I now admire it each time I go through my dining room. It is based on one of the Fairisles in Ann Feitelson’s book, but Ana chose her own interesting color scheme. It is unusual and quite attractive, I think. Finishing this was a triumph, because this sweater has been the years in the making. Usually Ana is a very prolific knitter, whipping out one thing after another, but this sweater has been the victim of many setbacks – not the least of which was having a hole eaten in it by Ana’s dog. Sometimes these disasters take a while to recover from, and the knitting sits idle during the recovery period. In fact, picking it up again is often a true test of strength of character. My Hillswick lumber was one such, and it took having to sit at my mother’s bedside in the hospital, and the prospect of many quiet, uninterrupted, booooring hours to get me back on the track with that one. But now it is one of my favorites. So I have my mother’s colonoscopy to thank for finally giving me the wherewithal to fix a really egregious mistake and soldier on.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Barley Soup - using a pressure cooker

Barley Soup (using a pressure cooker)
On my comfort-needing day, I also made barley soup, another real comfort measure. You may have noticed that I make it quite frequently, and that is indeed so, because it is one of my favorites. I thought I would share the recipe with you, in case you ever need to be comforted.
Onions, two cups chopped
Some olive oil
Garlic, about 6 cloves sliced thinly (you can see that I like garlic and onions)
Carrots, about one cup sliced thinly
Celery, about two cups sliced thinly
Mushrooms, in this case, two portobellos
Spinach, about two cups chopped
½ cup pearl barley
Six cups hot vegetable broth*
Salt, pepper, herbs of your choice (I used basil today – very comforting)
A few little tomatoes cut in half (not necessary, of course – I just had them on hand.)
Fry the onions and garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the mushrooms and give them a few turns. Add the carrots and celery, and give them a few stirs. Stir in the barley. Add the hot broth, the spinach and the tomatoes if you are using them. Add the pepper and herb du jour.
Bring it to full pressure, cook on full pressure for 18 minutes. Let it cool naturally. It’s not quite a meal in minutes, but almost.
(*look in the Kosher department for nice vegetarian broth mixes)

Friday, February 6, 2009

A pleasant but odd evening

I was having a pleasant evening at work when half way through my shift, the charge nurse asked if I would like to go home on-call as a “low-census day.” I didn’t really want to, because all my patients were nice, not too many, and not too sick. However, I am just a girl who can’t say “no,” about some things anyway. And the thought of reading my book or knitting was too tempting. So I gave report on my patients and was about to leave when the dreaded call from Staffing came. A nurse on another unit lost her purse and was frantic and had to go home, so one of us would have to go there for the last four hours. Well, it wasn’t my turn, but it would have been too disruptive if I had insisted that the person go whose turn it was go, so I went. It was my friend Paula who had lost her purse. She gave me report on her patients and I started in. She said that if she found her purse she would stay, so I was hopeful that she would find it. I said, “You pray to St. Anthony right now, and I will too, and then you look again in the locker room.” We prayed, and as she was putting her coat on, her cell phone rang in the locker next to hers. She had put her purse in the wrong locker. (No one could ever mistake my junky locker for theirs!) So she very happily came back to take over her patients again. I heard her saying to other nurses, “Joanna said…….. pray to St. Anthony…….. locker room …… St. Anthony….. a miracle…..” Everyone was astonished except me because I know the ways of St. Anthony.
During the short time I was there, I was fiddling with the IV’s 0f a man who had been in the hospital since November. Paula told me he had a very flat affect, and didn’t interact much. I could see that that was so. He seemed depressed and would hardly make eye contact, let alone converse. He was watching some sort of informational true life show, and I couldn’t grasp what it was really about, so I asked him. He didn’t know, he didn’t care, he couldn’t follow them anyway. I asked him if he liked classical music and told him that channel 75 had constant classical music and one didn’t have to pay attention or follow it. He switched that channel, and what looked like a black and white film from the fifties of some fellow singing show tunes was on. He was first singing, “The Girl that I Marry,” and I told my patient I had seen the film of Annie Get Your Gun when I was young, and I had always liked that song. Then the fifties fellow sang “Ole Man River.” My patient told me that that was his favorite song from his favorite Broadway play. He and his wife had seen it in Victoria, BC. They loved to go to shows and went frequently. We talked about how it was so great to see live performances and he said that when one came out of the theater after a performance, one just felt great. ( It’s true!) His face lit up and he smiled! That smile made my whole evening light up.

Update from previous

The rehearsal was fun, and I managed to keep a low profile. So my nice new neckerchief was effective. Rebecca and I went for tea before the rehearsal, and here she is at Starbucks, taking a picture of me and modeling the scarf. Here also is a picture of one of the previous year’s Great Music for Great Cathedrals. I am one of the faint specks on the lower left. Click on the picture for a link to albums of other years. You can see that it is a wonderful concert with eight choirs, three organs, brass group, lights – in short, a very big affair. One performer said, “It is more fun that Christmas.” That might even be true once one has gotten through the rehearsals unscathed.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A comfort needing day

This evening we will be having our second blocking rehearsal for the upcoming Great Music concert. This will be three hours long – three hours of unmitigated stress for me. Most people are on edge at these rehearsals, some more than others. Me for instance, whose nerves are more easily frayed than the more stalwart. I usually plan to wear some item of clothing which will give me comfort, should the worst occur (for instance that I am singled out for criticism before everyone – an unfortunately not-unheard of event.) A few years ago, I knitted these pink socks for my LYS. I knew that the yarn was unsuitable, and that has proved to be true. I seldom wear socks, and I never wore them until the evening of a Mozart’s Requiem rehearsal. They were soft, fuzzy, and pink – all comforting. The only times I ever have worn them have been to Mozart rehearsals. Rachael pointed out that I didn't wear them and she liked them, so I gave them to her, and they have felted almost solid. She doesn’t seem to care, though, because she continues to wear them. Maybe she needs comfort too. I knitted this huge purple blob specifically thinking it would be nice and comforting at these ordeals, but it turned out to be too hideous to wear anywhere but my own bed on the most frigid nights. Once I was wearing it when I was sick and cold, and Rebecca thought I looked so ridiculous that she took a picture, which I will not share with you. And what will my comfort wear be this evening? For my birthday, my friend Sabine gave me a skein of Opal sock yarn made in her home town, Since I usually give away all the socks I knit, I wanted to make something else - something I would keep and enjoy. I decided to make a neckerchief, and realized it would be a comfort to wear to the rehearsal this evening. I finished it at about two a.m., this morning, and it is drying now. I was going to block it in the wee hours, but I couldn’t find my blocking wires, so I did it with pins this morning. Blocking for the blocking, heh, heh! Here is a picture of it in its unfinished state.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A neighborly day

As I said a few days ago, I was going to be overly busy for a while, and sadly, this has been true. All I have done is work, work, work. On Friday, I had one of the most awful patients I have ever had. I requested to go home after four hours, but no such luck. This evening, I had lovely patients, and of course the powers that be asked if I would like to go at half-time. I didn’t really want to as I had an exceptional group, but I am just a girl who can’t say “no.” To this sort of thing, at any rate. So I haven’t had any adventures really, except the awful patient, and I probably should not tell you about him. Confidentiality and all that. I have just been going to work over and over. On my way to work most days, I pass the house of Trixie. She sits on the porch like the little temple dog that she is, guarding the portal. As I pass, she inevitably comes rushing down to the gate, barking ferociously. “Rrrrooowf, rrrroooowf,” she says. Then her mother comes out onto the porch, and says, “Now, Trixie! Don’t be like that! She’s your friend!” Should I meet Trixie on her walkies, she – not having her house to guard – is quite pleasant, and wiggles about looking for a pat or a scratch behind the ear. She and her mom look like Jack Sprat and Mrs. Sprat, except that they are, of course, both girls. I feel blest that I have a job I can comfortably walk to, as I enjoy the nice transition between home and work. And I enjoy greeting Trixie and being fiercely greeted by her each time I pass her house.