Friday, March 27, 2009

A pleasant day

My aunt is a Luddite of sorts. Actually, she is a major Luddite. I frequently phone her on my way to work. (You needn’t worry – I am walking, not driving.) Sometimes, I am sure she is home, but not getting to the phone on time, since I am also sure that she would never wish to miss an opportunity of talking to me. I have given her my cellphone number, but she has never once called it. She has a cell phone herself, but I don’t think she has ever made a single call on it. There are various reasons for this – the complexity of cell phone use for one (totally understandable), and the prepaid time being wasted on a call to me, for another. She is a very frugal individual. Very. Anyway, it suddenly occurred to me that maybe she thought you could only call a cell phone with another cell phone. So today I asked her why she never called my back when I was on my way to work. Actually, she does call me back, but on my home phone where I won’t get the message till I return from work. I pointed out that she could call me on my cell phone from her regular phone. A little later, as I was walking to the store, I gave her a call to invite her to dinner, and she didn’t answer. A bit after that, I got a call from “Number Withheld.” I never answer those, so I just deleted it. When I got home there was a message from her. “Was that you who called me just now?” I asked. Indeed it was. “Why do you have your number withheld?” I wondered. Actually, I knew perfectly well why, because not only is she frugal, she is paranoid and certain that people all over the state are monitoring her movements, plotting to rob her. “I get calls from all sorts of strange people, and I don’t want them knowing my number,” she explained.
Here she and Ana are preparing to eat the lentil shepherd’s pie and yummy lemon pudding I made for them.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A health promotional day

Health Promotion is the latest thing. It is something we nurses are always supposed to be doing. So, in honor of health promotion, I actually flossed my teeth. I intend to do this on a daily basis but somehow, I just can’t. The road to edentation is paved with ….. etc. However, since I actually was going to the dentist, I was reminded and inspired to floss. So I did it out of vanity rather than virtue. Does it still count? What is it that makes this simple task so impossible? Here are Joan, my dental hygienist for at least twenty years, and my mouth which she has so vigilantly nurtured over that span. She is trying to look ominous, but she is too nice. On the walk to the dentist, I walked past this really ugly bit of public art and these cute flowers.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A clueless day

Friday evening, one of the physicians at work asked me what I was going to be doing over the weekend. “Cutting my aunts’ toenails,” I replied. He didn’t think this sounded terribly exciting, but actually it was nice. They came, got their nails done, and we all drank tea and looked at New Yorker cartoons. Then I hunkered down to listen to an audio tape of Emma, and work on my shawl. The readings and homily at Mass this morning were all about light and seeing clearly – the Man Born Blind and Samuel selecting David as God’s anointed (one of Rebecca’s favorite readings). Listening to it all, I realized that Emma and my knitting fit right in with the themes of the day. And so did I. The first time I read Emma, I was as clueless as she, was totally taken in by Frank Churchill, and was surprised by the ending. Listening to it now, I could not imagine how I could ever have missed what was coming. Further, (related to cluelessness, not to Emma), I had tried at least five times to start a particular knitting pattern at the beginning of my shawl, but I simply could not get it going. So I gave up and selected an easier pattern. After that pattern was thoroughly established, I was able to switch to the more complicated pattern and finally get a repeat done without mishap. So, just as Samuel, the Man Born Blind, and Emma have seen the light, so did I on my lace shawl.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A festive evning

Rebecca made us a lovely St. Patrick’s dinner on St.Cyril’s day, a day late, since no one could come on the actual day. Afterward, Rachael snoozed and computed, while Rebecca and my auntie helped me dismantle my Japanese/Norwegian gloves. This was more difficult than you might think because there were so many finger tips with the yarn ends very efficiently woven in, and then, for a while, a tangley yarn octopus. Using her pompom making machine, Rebecca made a cute little puff for my Andean hat – about which everyone but Herself was rather rude. It was way too big, the ears were in the wrong place, it was totally unchic, etc. I am at the age where comfort is of more importance than chic, and it was very warm and cozy. and has an adorable little pompom puff. So there!

Monday, March 16, 2009

A new fangled day

As my faithful readers know, I was a reasonable cook in my youth, but then Rebecca became the queen of the kitchen, and I took a twenty year hiatus from culinary pursuits. During that time, the food world seemed to have changed. There are new concepts, new foods, and new equipment. There seems to be many food items in common use which I have no idea about. “Is that a meat or a vegetable?” I think as I read the food page. Rebecca prepared very different things than I had used to make, and so my tastes changed as well. Now I am often at a bit of a loss. I think of the yummy squash or beets she made and haven’t a clue where to start. She persuaded me to try out a pressure cooker despite my terror. “Lookit!” she said as we were passing a cooking store. “There is a big sale on pressure cookers! Let’s get you one.” So we did. I girded my loins (query: do girls have loins?) and Tom and I bearded the pressure cooker in its den, and now I am fairly comfortable with it. She got me a new-fangled can opener. This defied Tom for weeks, and me for months. Finally I grasped its use. In a totally non-intuitive way, the opener goes on parallel with the top. The first picture is how a normal can opener works. The second is how this one works. The little tooth-like things that appear to have something to do with opening the can actually have nothing to do with it. They are there to confuse you. The amazing thing about this can opener is that when you have finally mastered its arcane use, you get a little lid which can be put back on the can – and a lid with no razor sharp edge with which to cut your thumb. This is what the little teeth are for – to remove the lid once the can is opened. (Third picture) So this weekend, I made a dinner from both worlds. I used the pressure cooker and my modern can opener to make a Brazilian rice and bean dinner from that antique tome, Diet from a Small Planet. The recipe said to cook the beans two to three hours, but the pressure cooker did them in twelve minutes! There is something to be said for modern times.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A Lenten day

Crocuses and Lent seem synonymous for the coming of Spring. Harbingers of Easter and light.
Recently, my friend Maria asked me what I was doing for Lenten reading. I was flummoxed! I had never thought of Lenten reading. My ideas of Lenten sacrifice run more along the lines of “giving up Peeps” – those yummy little yellow chickies. The thought of reading some pious tome had minimal appeal. When I was in high school, during our annual retreat, we were all adjured to read appropriately edifying books. I would imagine that the girls who actually did this could be counted on my testicles. One day during the retreat, a nun crept up behind me as I was getting my things out of my locker to go home, and was irate because I had “David Copperfield” and not “The Life of the Little Flower,” or something similar. I felt that once school was out for the day, so was the retreat, but she didn’t feel this way at all. My father and my friend Tom read philosophy and theology books all the time, and actually enjoyed them, but such books are just not my preferred cup of tea. An essay maybe, but a whole book? Perhaps the life of a saint! But saints for more than a month? No way. I feel that Lenten sacrifices should have some benefit, in addition to just “giving up” something. “Doing something for Lent” makes more sense that "giving something up." My friend Judy gave up her beloved New York Times for Lent, and then gave the money saved to the Catholic Relief Organization. That is both giving up, and doing. So what to do? One year I gave up talking uncharitably about certain people. Talking uncharitably about everyone would not have been realistic, and would never happen, since that particular activity is so deeply ingrained, but I could manage to eliminate two victims of my ill-nature. But back to Lenten reading. I decided to only read novels in German. This would have some positive effect, in that hopefully, it would improve my mind. I decided to give up Spider Solitaire, one of my passionate addictions. Rebecca, always enthusiastic about my sacrifices, kindly pointed out that there was no point in giving up Spider if I didn’t give up Freecell as well. In the spirit of “doing something” as well as giving something up, I have been reading nurse articles during the times I would be playing Spider – i.e., while my tea is coming to a boil, or my English muffin is toasting. I always mean to read these, but so often there is something just a trifle more interesting beckoning me. I have one on the kitchen table at all times, and read a page or so at a go. I’m finding that this is a good plan. I may adopt it for a lifestyle.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

An enervated day

Rachael and I have been feeling under the weather for the last few days. I called in sick from work and she did not go to school or the Family Kitchen, one of her favorite activities. Our symptoms have been vague – just feeling really crummy. I have been “SOB on exertion”, which in layman’s terms means that I have been huffing and puffing just walking up the stairs. Or across the room, actually. Rebecca had us for dinner on Sunday and I went to sleep on her bed while she and Rachael played games. On Monday, I managed to rouse myself to watch Samos put in this lovely new (to me) phone, which he had searched out, knowing it would be just the ticket. I think it looks quite nice in my kitchen. It is the duplicate of one I got rid of years ago so I could get a new fangled one that would need replacement every few months. Once long ago, I read one of the little stories in Readers Digest, in which a child went to some elderly relative’s house and couldn’t imagine what the dial phone was for. Days later, I was taking Rachael up to the third floor of my aunt’s house, where there is one of these antiques. “How do you work that thing?” she asked. I remember when my grammar school had an assembly and a representative from the phone company came and gave us an inservice on using a dial phone. We were amazed at the technology, but there had been something nice about telling the operator the number you wanted or asking her the time.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A cozy evening

After my unfortunate glove display, I wanted to show you a more successful knitting project. This is the Swallowtail Shawl by Evelyn Clark. I used some Fleece Artist Blue Face Leicester yarn that Rebecca had purchased by accident (wrong color), and made 21 repeats instead of the recommended 14 in the pattern. It is a nice size and a comfey thing to wear. I wore it to the opera and it was just the ticket. The opera house is often rather chilly, which seems a shame for all those ladies in their d̩collet̩ gowns. A nice thing about the Seattle Opera is that the dress code runs from very fancy glitter to very blue jeans. We, of course, dress at the lower end of that scale Рat about the kilt and sweater level.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

An operatic day

Bluebeard’s Castle by Bela Bartok! Creeeeepy! When she was very young, Rebecca had a book of Perrault’s Fairy Tales, and Bluebeard was her favorite story. And Bartok was her favorite composer. When she was a bit less young, she had a recording of the opera. It was terrible and whenever she played it, I got the serious creeps. Finally, I wouldn’t let her play it anymore when I was at home. It was really horrible. I thought that liking that awful music might be a sign of some serious character quirk - except that being the perfect girl, she doesn’t have any. So, when she saw Bluebeard on the Opera docket, she was thrilled! “When are we going?” she asked. “We’re not. I didn’t get tickets for that one.” She wheedled and cajoled, pointing out her lifelong love for Bluebeard. Of course I had to give in and get tickets. As expected, it was creepily brilliant. The lighting director was definitely one of the stars of the show. The stage setting was two sinister walls inside the castle, one with the seven doors, and the lighting did the rest. Forbidding shadows, flittery glimmerings, bloody giant auras – the lighting told the tale. The second short opera, Die Erwartung by Schonberg was very Cabinet-of-Dr-Caligari-esque and had a naked man flopping around being murdered very slowly and artistically. I very seldom see naked men (except patients, and they are different), and I find there is something a trifle ludicrous about them. I think it is their thighs.
Here is a picture of the Opera Nuts, and my little opera nut in front of the opera nut display. And a picture of the two young men in front of us. Rebecca was fascinated by the head of one of them. She thought it resembled an otter.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A Yucky Day

Not only a yucky day, but a kind of yucky week! My schedule this week, through an oversight on the part of the schedule maker, was every other day for about nine days. That meant that at any given moment, I was either at work, recovering from work, or brooding about the impending work. There was a short period on the days off, from about one to one-thirty in the afternoon when I had recovered, and not started brooding yet. But that was an insufficient time to really celebrate life and do anything useful or fulfilling. I know what you are thinking! What a wimp! You are right. But there it is. I am a work wimp. Don’t get me totally wrong – I really love my job. It just wears me out sometimes.
In the morning yesterday, I was in the brooding period, preparing for work, and knitting on my red and white Japanese gloves. I had made the first glove about a year ago, and not started the second because the first was not really comfortable. It was beautiful, but there was something amiss with its actual “glove-ness.” I decided to forge on and make the second one anyway, because I had the yarn, they didn’t take too long, I could wear them once in a while, etc., etc. Then, having gotten all the way to the baby finger, I was looking at the pattern which is in Japanese, and therefore not terribly informative, and at the glove, when I realized ……. I had made two right hands. A sinking feeling, to be sure. Now I have to decide whether to bag the whole thing, take out the second right hand back to where it decides whether it is right or left, or to finish the current right hand, making it better than the old one and then make a third glove, the left hand.
After all that brooding about gloves and work, I was on my way home last night, having gotten off the bus and walking along, thinking about the good time I was going to be having this weekend, when Splat! I tripped on a bump in the sidewalk and fell flat. I didn’t really hurt myself, I am happy to say, but I scraped my knee and ruined my hose. Today, I feel achy all over, but am looking forward to not brooding for 24 hours, except, of course, about the glove.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Rainy Day

When Rebecca and I left on our shopping outing, it was pouring rain. Seattle, as you know, is famous for this. It rained for a teensy while, and then was brilliantly sunny, and then retreated back into the rain. This fellow was fully prepared for the rainy parts of the day. I thought his outfit was great, but Rebecca was less impressed. When the sun came out, so did this cute flower. Our object du jour was to go to Costco and get kitty litter, and we were pleased to discover that they had a lemongrass flavored version. I hope Maria will approve. She is a dainty cat with particular ideas. After the Costco ordeal, we had lunch at a Korean restaurant, and it was yummy. I was worried about excessive spiciness, but our meal was perfect comfort food. I always need comfort after Costco.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A shopping day

When I was little, my parents frequently took me to San Francisco. We did some fun things there, like staying at the Palace Hotel and eating in the Garden Court. We went to Playland at the Beach where we ate salt water taffy and cotton candy. We went to the Cliff House and the zoo. But the primary activity seemed to be shopping. I went with one parent or the other, and when I went with my mother, it was not fun. She was a real clothes horse, and until her dying day, one of her favorite activities was shopping. I have vivid memories of sitting on a couch in I. Magnin’s, tortured by boredom, while my mother tried on one outfit after another. She loved to go into a store and look at every single thing. My father, on the other hand, knew what he wanted and went into the store and bought it. None of that looking about nonsense. Since we didn’t have to waste so much time in the clothing stores, he had time to take me to much more interesting stores, including those in Chinatown, which was where my shopping interests lay. Two of my happy purchase memories are a white mouse finger puppet with real fur, and a porcelain Chinese baby doll with a lovely silk brocade outfit. One of our dogs later ate the doll, and I was devastated. One day I will tell you the story of a bad thing I did with the mouse. Once when Rebecca was little, my mother dropped by to see if I wanted to go shopping with her. I said I did not. She pleaded and promised to be quick. I finally relented. We passed that section with all the “lady-attracting” gewgaws – makeup, jewelry, etc., and she was lured in. I grew more and more impatient as she delightedly looked over the vast collection. Finally, I started to whine and complain, but she was unmoved. After quite a bit of moaning on my part, she said, “What’s the matter, Joanna? I only came because you wanted to.” I was outraged. Anyhow, yesterday, I had to take John, the fellow working on my house, to Home Depot. On the mistaken theory, that being a boy he would be like my father, I brought neither book nor knitting. It was torture. I read about six magazines about how to paint your house fabulous colors or how make a bedroom in the little space under your stairs. Or how, if you are a zillionaire, you can convert your beach house into this chic marvel. He was like my mother lingering lovingly over the costume jewelry counter. I was shattered by the time we got home.