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11 June 2008
10 June 2008
06 June 2008
"A [City name] woman was killed when her vehicle was hit in a head-on collision on Highway 28 Tuesday evening."
We read or hear these short announcements when visiting a local newspaper's Web site or when listening to the local news on the radio. Often, we don't even feel bad. It's too removed, and the idea of a car death too abstract for it to cause more than a brief, "Boy, car travel can be dangerous" reaction.
On Tuesday evening, a woman who is part of our circle of friends in Iowa was killed when an 18-year-old driver overcompensated as his car swerved onto the shoulder of the road. She was 44. Her husband was her high-school sweetheart. She has three daughters, ages 17, 16 and 8. I didn't know her as well as the others in our group, but she always had a smile on her face, and it was always a pleasure chatting with her when we did see each other. She had that calmness about her of self-confident people. She was happy in her life.
Go tell your friends that you love them. Make sure your family knows that even if you bicker, they are special to you. Look your kids in the eye and tell them that you do love them (and you know they love you), even if sometimes there's more arguing than laughing. Go do it now.
Blog friends, even though I haven't met most of you, I really appreciate your comments here. You make my space the Internet a happy place for me to be. I thank you.
Last night, we went out to eat at a local Italian restaurant. I figured that I'd give in and stimulate the economy by ordering a Mafiatini (a vodka martini with a gorgonzola-stuffed olive). I don't know why I picked it -- I don't really like vodka; I haven't liked it since college, when I got really sick on Seabreezes once, and for years blamed it on the cranberry juice (silly Imperatrix). I should have picked just a plain old (yet delicious) Cosmopolitan, but the gorgonzola-stuffed olive caught my eye.
The olive was tasty. The drink? It had the trademark bitterness of vodka, with an extra hit of saltiness that hit me at the back of the throat.
"How's the Mafiatini?" asked the Consort.
"I don't like it. The taste reminds me of another salty fluid, and now I just can't drink any more of it."
"Oh, I see."
"No, this is one fluid I don't think you do see."
"You see, it---"
"I get it! I get it!!"
It was a family dinner, after all. And this is not that type of blog.
Posted by Imperatrix at 8:37 AM
04 June 2008
Once upon a time, I had some sock yarn, and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it.
Cateling suggested I use it to make the famous Elizabeth Zimmerman Baby Surprise Jacket. What a great idea! My cousin was pregnant, and she had knit some baby things for my girls when they were little, so I knew she would appreciate the time and effort in knitting a baby garment.
Her baby was due in May. Not an ideal time to wear a knitted sweater!
"That's OK," I thought.. "I'll just make a larger size, for him to wear next winter. There are so many beautiful examples of BSJs for bigger babies!"
"But I won't make it blue, because I don't like to play into silly cultural expectations. I'll make it in shades of brown and eggplant, doesn't that sound nice?"
I wanted to make it in a washable wool (this is for a baby, after all; and for a new mother, who won't have time to handwash her baby's clothing). The yarn store didn't have my chosen colors in washable wool of the correct weight. In fact, the store owner mocked me a little bit (yes, it was that chi-chi poo-poo store, I admit -- I happened to be in that part of town when the urge to get the yarn struck me). The teasing flustered me. Also, the only colors that fit my wool specifications were girly colors, and blue.
*Sigh*. "Fine. I'll make it in blues" ...
... "but I will not" ...
... "finish it with" ...
... "traditional and completely overdone nautical-themed buttons."
That's really the only kind of button that went well with the sweater colors.
03 June 2008
I decided to participate in One Local Summer this year. Silly, huh? The one year I don't have access to a large garden. The one year the only food plant growing in our backyard are two pots of basil and cilantro. But I have faith in our local farmers market. As the season progresses, I'm sure we'll be able to create fantabulous meals of local produce!
And this week? The first week? I've already failed. See, we always buy eggs from our favorite farmer, Geo of Hurricane Flats Farm, at the farmers market. We always have two dozen eggs in our fridge. Except, by the time today (Tuesday!) came along, we only had four eggs left. Sheesh. So the Consort went out and bought me some free range "local" eggs from the food co-op. Since I can't confirm they come from within 100 miles of here, I can't really take credit for it.
I made asparagus and cheese fritatta, with 40% of the eggs from Geo's farm. The asparagus comes from his farm as well (100% of it, of course). The cheese is Ascutney Mountain cheese from Cobb Hill farm (another weekly stall at the farmers market). The salad mix comes from Geo as well. Until local tomatoes are ready, we have our salad without adornments other than homemade vinaigrette. We like it that way. Although it isn't made from local ingredients, the Consort and I had some Long Trail beer (local company, though).
Doesn't that fritatta look good? Here, have a closer look:
I've been making sourdough weekly since January, when I got some King Arthur sourdough starter, a pizza stone, and a pizza peel for my birthday. Just last week, though, I took out Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day from the library. This was after requesting it three weeks ago (someone else had it out), and then going to the Amazon site and reading the seven less-than-stellar reviews (out of 123 reviews). Big mistake. By the time I had the book in my hands, those negative reviews had tainted any excitement I may have had about trying this book.
I figured the only way to know if this bread works for us is to compare it with the two other breads we've made recently. Tonight, it was the sourdough.
By the end of the meal, Trixie had joined Impera and I on the Pro Sourdough side, and the Consort (stubbornly) remained with the 5-minute bread.
Soon, I'll make another of these loaves (the recipe makes enough batter for 4 loaves, and the dough can stay in the fridge for 14 days) and compare it to one of those no-knead loaves that have become so popular in the past year or so. I'll keep you informed!
02 June 2008
I would have written this in more detail and with lots of prose exuberance, except that my soul has been drained by unpleasant encounters with European bureaucrats who relish in the power provided by their petty fiefdoms, and by the eye-rolling ineptitude of US Postal Service employees.
Posted by Imperatrix at 1:21 PM
29 May 2008
This has been buzzing around in my head for a while.
Did you know that the average shower head uses about 5 gallons of water per minute? Per minute! And don't forget the energy use of heating that water and keeping it hot in the tank. So, I was thinking, how about getting four solar shower bags?
That way, nobody could complain that their sibling had forgotten to fill the bag up, or that the available bag(s) had been used up. Today, I did a quick search to get an estimate of the price range we'd be talking about. They are between $15 and $20 each.
We could use them for most of the spring, all summer, and the first part of the fall.
How about that? Eighty dollars to train wise shower usage and save energy. (Plus, we could take them with us when we backpacked or camped...)
What's the verdict? Genius or Madness?
27 May 2008
I've got a client based in Cambridge, Mass., and when they learned that I'd be spending a year out in New England, they invited me to come down and have lunch with them. As a freelancer, I have never met any of my clients. I've spoken to them on the phone, emailed back and forth, sent notes with the copyedited files, but I haven't met any of my current clients face to face. We didn't get our schedules to match up until recently, so I drove down to Boston on Friday to have lunch with these folks.
It's a 2.5-hour drive, and I didn't want to show up all wrinkly and road-weary, so I had a Plan. I would drive down in my comfy clothes and sneakers, then pop off the highway a few exits early and change in the restroom of a fast-food place. What a great Plan!
Except, not living in a big city, I had forgotten that the shift from suburb to downtown comes fast (as do the maniacal Massachusetts drivers!), so before I knew it, I had to take my exit. "No problem," I thought. "I'll just get my bearings, find a gas station, and change there!"
I got my bearings, then was pulled along by the city traffic. I didn't make too many turns, because I had to be able to find my way back. I also realized that gas stations are few and far between within a real City. Huh. Then, I spotted a Sunoco station. Victoire! I parked, ran in, and asked the guy behind the counter if they had a bathroom where I could change.
Uh, OK, is there somewhere nearby I could change? Sure, there were restaurants all along the street. Could I leave my car here while I went to change? ... Well, for 5 minutes maximum! He has a business to run, you know! (Damned mean Bostoninans.)
So I went to the one open restaurant (it is 10:30 am., so most are not yet ready for customers). The woman inside tells me, yes, they do have a bathroom, I should just go out and around the building.
At the back?
Yes, at the back of the building, she tells me.
I walked around the building, but there isn't an entry that I can see. All I see are the service entries for deliveries. Well, that was a creative way to get rid of a stranger! (Typical Boston nastiness, alright.)
I got back on the street and noticed the MIT museum just a few doors down. Time is running short at this point, so I go in, a bit flustered (and looking kind of crazed with my windblown hair, sneakers, and jersey skirt and wrinkled t-shirt combo), and explain to the ticket seller (you have to pay $7.50 to learn about the history of MIT) that I just need to change. He waved me in, directed me to the nice clean bathrooms, and I was able to make my big transformation.
I get back to my car, drive back to the parking lot for which my client had sent me a parking pass, search my entire bag three times, and realize I must have left the permit on the table at home.
I drive up to the attendant, explain to him that I have an appointment with the Press, ask if I can pay to stay in the (private) lot, and he says to me, "Go park over there and then don't let me see your face!" He winks. I thank him profusely, and drive in.
I don't know who is responsible for giving Boston folks such a bad reputation. Some of them are really nice.
Oh, and lunch was a blast. The folks I work with at that Press were fun to spend time with.
24 May 2008
Congratulations! You have singlehandedly turned this year, that should have been one Democratic success after another, into one that is leaving a foul taste in my mouth. We had hope. We had excitement about the future. It was going to be the year of healing wounds, rapprochement, peace, and love (yes, I really thought so). Things were looking up. There was no way the Democrats could lose this year.
Now, I dread reading the paper, because I know I'll find some other crazy, cringe-inducing comment from you. (Every time, I think," Surely she didn't say *that*!" Every time, I am mistaken.)
I don't deny that there has been a significant amount of vitriolic sexism in the past six months or so. But the sexism came from the "mainstream" media; not from your opponent -- he's gone out of his way to be polite when speaking about you. The crass racism of this campaign, on the other hand, has all come straight from your mouth or the mouths of your supporters.
I'm sure you feel vindicated, since just yesterday I had to turn off the radio during an interview with a vocal group of women in California who are threatening to support John McCain if you don't win the nomination. I wonder if you could ask them for me whether they really think that if the mainstream media and the talking heads are sickeningly sexist, they honestly believe that McCain's party is going to be better at supporting their and their daughters' rights than the Democratic party? Really? That seems pretty narrow-minded, petty, and BLIND to me. But then again, I am one of those lazy-assed people (unlike your "hard-working" "regular folks") that are not supporting you.
This year promised difference. Instead, we have the same old ("misspeaking" -- which in my opinion is not defined as "telling a completely fabricated story of dodging bullets and insurgents"), same old (fearmongering of the Black "Other").
I feel sick.
And now it looks like you are pushing for the vice presidency?
Heaven help us all.
21 May 2008
Three of Four asked, Describe one part of your childhood day-to-day (an activity, a sound, a smell, etc.) that your children will never experience as part of theirs (or, at least, will never experience as the mundane, routine encounter you grew up with). Is this a change for the worse, or the better?
I have to admit, I didn’t come back and check this question for a while, so I kind of bypassed the “day-to-day activity” option. Hmmmm. But I did get stuck on the sounds and smells. So many others have waxed poetic on the sound of the ice cream truck ding-a-ling-ing down the street (including, but not limited to, Eddie Murphy’s monologue bit), but I remember the truck stopping on our street and being terribly disappointed in the weak flavor of those red white and blue rocket bombs, and I also remember how there was a special window built in to the wooden fence around the swim club, so we could buy ice cream “fresh off the truck” during Adult Swim (no ice cream trucks? worse); just as others have, I recall the sound of Ma Bell phones (which people can now choose as a ringtone for their cellphones, for crying out loud) (cheaper long distance? better; too many choices for package deals? worse); and how about the three-tone xylophone “NBC” ID tune (cable TV? worse worse worse). There are also the fire alarm sirens that Three of Four mentioned, we don’t hear those anymore (fewer volunteer fire departments? worse) (although the girls, having grown up in a tornado state, are used to the monthly tornado siren drills in Iowa). Because everyone else has already written about all of these, whatever I wanted to say feels redundant.
There are also the smells, like the smell of ditto sheets, still wet from the mimeo machine, its purple ink smudging where you touched the damp paper (computer printers in schools? better -- and easier on the eyes!); and the salty-smelling school paste – not Elmer’s glue – that stuck to our elementary-school fingers (remember when you'd get all your school supplies from the school on the first day -- for free? that was way better than the two-page lists kids receive nowadays).
See? I couldn’t think of anything new and exciting.
I do have a special place in my heart for theEmergency Broadcast System. You know, the
that you’d hear on a regular basis on the radio, followed by “This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and official information.”
And I remember, as a kid, thinking, how nice of them to tell us what other channel we could go to if they had a fire at the radio station!
Oh, the innocence of youth.
19 May 2008
BoyOnTop asked, "If you were on a desert island, with no knitting or fiction, what hobby would you have to have to stay sane?"
I suppose being stuck on a desert island might be just the incentive I needed to write the darn stories down, eh? Yes, I'd probably have to write them down just to pretend I had something to read...
I like this idea!
Of course, that would also be a great time for me to finally hunker down and learn to play that guitar I wanted 15 years ago, that the Consort bought me for our first married Christmas. I took a semester of Adult Education classes, and I did very well. But then I stopped practicing. I keep beginning to remind myself of chords, then my wrist starts hurting and I give up. I'm sure it's just a matter of learning how to hold the instrument correctly. (Not that being alone on an island would include a personal guitar instructor. which is probably exactly what I need.)
15 May 2008
12 May 2008
Stew asked, What's one thing you'd like to accomplish in the next year? The next four years?
I never liked this type of question, because I am so bad at answering it. Why am I so bad at it? I'll tell you why.
In the next year, I want to write and submit at least one story.
(This has been on my goal list for the past 10 years.)
In the next year, I want to tone up my biceps and get that tattoo.
(This has been on my goal list for the past 5 years.)
See what I mean? I don't have much self-motivation. If I have the choice between surfing the Web and doing something productive, I will most likely pick the Web.
A large part of this lack of self-motivation is fear. My inner Editor is pretty powerful. She is supported by that Perfectionist who took up residence back when I was a toddler. Both of these Ladies scare the bejeesus out of me. I've tried writing through their commentary, but they are pretty damn loud.
In classic perfection form, I would much rather do nothing than do something imperfectly. I really like the stories floating in my mind. Heck, some of them have been with me for almost a decade. But if I wrote them down, it's more than likely they wouldn't be perfect. And that would suck. And make me sad.
Yes, yes -- I know: "You can't become a better writer unless you write"! As some random blogger whose name and blog I've forgotten said, she was sitting around, wanting to be a writer until she realized that it's not like she would get a call out of the blue from some publishing house, who just so happened to have an opening for a Writer.
I know all this, but here I am waiting for that call. Every year. Perhaps blogging it here for you all will get things moving. I hope so. But with my track record, it's not likely, is it?
I'm also kind of lazy. It wouldn't be that hard to tone my biceps. And I've started hand-weight routines multiple times. But I've dropped those routines multiple times, too. It's always the week that I decide I need to stop snacking that I find a mouth-watering dessert recipe. Or it's one of those work/familiy/life stress weeks. Pshaw.
What I need is a deadline. A timeline. And that's why I'm pretty sure that my four-year goal will actually be met:
In four years, I will be the mom of a college student.
And this is when I start thinking that home-school college is really something I should look into.
08 May 2008
Mizmell asked, What is your fondest childhood memory?
I was stumped at having to pick just one, so I let the question percolate, and decided that I would answer whatever came first to mind when I sat down to write this. And here's what I'm remembering this afternoon:
Split Sister and I are two years apart, and we spent hours upon hours playing together as kids, as you would expect. Our play was always imaginative (I don't remember us playing board games very often), and some of my favorites were games that would fill entire days, if not a series of days and nights.
One was "Desert Island". Our Barbies would have crashed onto an island when their plane lost power, and they would quickly have to begin the task of surviving. They'd weave leaves into clothes, use twigs and nut shells as tools and bowls, and they'd have lots and lots of baby powder food (mix baby powder and water into a thick paste; use as is, or let it dry in little Barbie bowls). They'd explore the island and have lots of adventures, moving from the front yard to the back yard, living under the azaleas by the house, or in front of the garage, or by the old brick barbeque in the back. I can't remember the stories too well, but I know we'd be engrossed with this adventure.
Another was lego weekends. We'd build homes for our figurines (were they Little People? I can't remember), and use the square tiles as plates, the narrow half-square tiles as forks and knives, and those little clear or white onesie cubes as glasses. They'd have beds, furniture, styled kitchens, all made with the generic blocks and tiles (over the years as an adult, I've been disappointed that the only way to get Legos nowadays is as a set to make one particular thing -- Rudolf Steiner would be terribly dismayed). I have no idea what storylines we played during these lego weekends, but I have vivid memories of waking up bright and early on a Saturday or Sunday and being excited to go down to the playroom (before breakfast, even!) in the unfinished basement, to get back to the game.
We also ruined I don't know how many bags of sandbox sand doing "cooking shows" (complete with thick Childean accent), mixing the sand with the wild onions that grew all over the yard.
We had plenty of toys, but the games I remember most vividly are these games of imaginative play. I loved them, and still remember them, thirty years later!