4-45-2017 Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month

Today it is raining. The snow is melting- which it was last week, but on Friday we got more snow. You’ll ask “how much?” but I’m not sure. Just outside, it was 11 inches deep- when we got out as far as the cars, it was about 10 inches on mine and 8 inches on Willows car roofs- and we were right beside each other, so go fig. I was trying to set my camera to adapting to the glare of snow and failed on that, then tried to get footage of Pyewacket playing in the snow- he seems to love it. I think Kat got some of her coming down the ladder and “face planting” in the snow at the bottom. Apparently she climbed up to look in the window, where Zoloft was watching her from inside.  Sadly, amusing as they are, film doesn’t mail as well as still shots. I’m also a bit annoyed because the camera insists on loading every picture on the card, which probably wouldn’t bother me, except that it shows it to me as it loads. I like it better when it does it’s magic where I can’t see it.
Anyway, the snow is pretty much gone after the rain yesterday. We are into the Mud Month part of the year where the melting snow reveals all the mess we’d been able to forget while it was covered with a blanket of white.
The rain really helps with that. The side garden is finally showing dirt (and dead leaves) and the first green sprouts. I think they are the daffodils. I haven’t seen crocus yet- the weird weather and snow may have stymeid them this year. It’s a bit frustrating to have to get plowed. We have Steve LaPlant trained, he only comes when the snow is done (unless there’s going to be 8+ inches on two consecutive days), so since it didn’t stop until after 5 on Friday, that’s when John and I went out to shovel. We cleared the stairs and paths to the two drivers doors. Then when Steve got here he plowed behind us, then we were able to back out so he could finish. Part of me feels a bit like we’re under paying him (when I hear about other people paying $60 or more), and part of me looks at it as 20 minutes of work- except that plows are expensive, and he probably drives a half hour each way to get here (when he started plowing for us he lived up the mountain). But more importantly, it is SO worth it to me to not have to shovel it out ourselves! The $30 saves us most of a day of shoveling (with multiple people). That’s so worth it. Then of course it rained, and sort of negates the need for the plowing. We might have just left it- but Steve Raskind was coming up Sunday.
  We had stew, and two kinds of bread. During the snow I’d made bread but it didn’t rise well. Maybe because we didn’t fire up the wood stove, but I was worried about the yeast. So Sunday morning I tested it- and finding two open jars of yeast, I tested them both. Both were active so I made a couple of loaves of whole wheat bread, and a batch of cinnamon buns. (Saturday’s loaf was gone before the stew was. It was a good stew- Steve brought the meat so we could have what we were craving. We relaxed and watched an old Mae West movie She done him Wrong that I don’t remember ever seeing before. It seems it was supposed to be quite risqué, but I think the innuendo and double entendres made it sexier than using profanity and explicit language, the same way that a good horror movie leaves most of the monster to your imagination.
I also made a cake Saturday (in the snowflake shaped pan).  Part of me feels we shouldn’t eat so much sweet stuff, but part of me wants to be nice to the kids. When it’s “that time of the month” they are apt to have chocolate cake for breakfast and beef for dinner. I don’t know if it really is good for cramps, or blood iron, but it feels good. Also, last week my glass cake bell fell off the table, and dear Osgkar sent me a new one, and I “had to” have something to put under it. This one is acrylic and so will, in theory, be harder to break. What a sweetheart!
Since I’m talking about food, I’ll mention that with a huge lack of originality, last night I made Chicken Cordon Bleu and carrots. I had a couple of chicken breasts and there are SO many chicken recipes, I decided to go with the one that matched the holiday. I don’t know if you know, but in that recipe you pound the breast flat, lay a slice of ham and a slice of cheese on, roll it up and secure it with toothpicks, sprinkle it with bread crumbs and bake, then add more melted cheese at the last minute. The first time I made it, I made one per person. Now I not only cut the chicken breast in two before starting to flatten it, I also slice it- the better to see the spiral inside, but also, you really don’t need to eat that much. One breast will do the whole family very well. When I saw how big the one breast came out, I just baked the other plain. Sometimes Kat can’t eat the “fancy” stuff I enjoy making. The other night I made stuffed shells, and she could only eat the ones that were leftover and had not cheese and sauce on them. Poor thing. Here’s a hint if you decide to try Chicken Cordon Bleu: don’t use colored toothpicks- the color leaks, and since they are mostly buried, it doesn’t make it any easier to find them to remove, once it’s cooked.
It was also National Carrot Day- otherwise I think brocolli would be a more complementary side – visually. I will also mention that it’s Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month (not that you really need an excuse, but in case you do, there it is.
I made Swedish Meatballs when Brian came to supper on Thursday. The poor man tried to help me figure out why when we share something from the CTCW website to facebook the pictures don’t pass on. Sadly, we couldn’t figure out why it didn’t work. It’s like so many other things in our lives. It rained, and the roof leaked again, but Wally’s come and “fixed” it a half dozen times; the dashboard lights keep going off, and you can hit the dash in a certian spot and they’ll often come on again, but it doesn’t solve the problem, and Steve LP admits that chasing the short down would probably take many hours and hundreds of dollars, and still not solve the problem, so we stick to the “Percussive Maintenance”; my wrist hurts, and talking to Steve, who watched Lisa suffer from tendonitis for decades, he agrees that’s probably what’s happening, and if so, there’s nothing they can offer but steroids, which don’t work for long and have side effects; I also wonder if the muscles in my face are shortening, but since I figure that the doctor probably has nothing he can do for it eben if I’m right, why spend the money and make him feel badly by bringing him the problem? All these issues have in common that there’s a tiny possibility that something could be done, and if I don’t try, I miss that chance. But I figure it’s something like playing the lottery. If you don’t play, you can’t win. But I think the odds favor a net gain in money if you don’t play, and the odds are against even the experts being able to fix some things. While I admit that reporting bias may tell us about more times people went to the doctor and nothing could be done, or things were made worse, still, it’s easier to resist risk when you’ve got nothing with which to bet.

Did I mention that last week Kat was making repairs on cos-play for Doug for Anime Boston? She stayed up late and got up early on Thursday so he could pick it up on his way down. She was sewing on the last two buttons when he arrived. Sadly, he didn’t have time to try it on, but messaged later that it was good. It is a total pain to make adjustments on lined clothing, but Kat’s very good. Doug seems to have had a good time, and someone spotted Bernie Sanders,of all people, there, watching the people in costumes. One thing he has better than Trump- he can go places without mobs of security guys around him. I was hoping to find a picture of Doug in the coat, because he hasn’t posted any. Given how often the girls forget to get pictures of their Cosplays, it’s not surprising.
It seems that Willow had a chance to get into Artists Alley at the last minute, and while she does enjoy it- especially the quiet cameraderie of Sunday (less frantic that Saturday), she has no regrets. She was just too tired this year. Instead, she got out the navy flannel we bought last fall to make me a new slip, and put that together. Sadly, when she left it out for me to work the elastic through the wasteband, whichever cat sucks holes in things (Willow has lost two pair of flannel pajama bottoms), got to it. It’s not finished, much less never been worn!
I actually have a theory about that. This week Willow has found Ambian having nightmares twice (she says she didn’t know cats could whimper), and he’s also woken her, burrowing into her arms a few times. I think he may have been traumatised recently. That would account for both the nightmares and the reverting to bad behavior from when he was a kitten. When I suggested it to Willow, she said that she had seen some of the cats have a “dust up” last week, so that could be it.
On the other hand, it could be something else. I mentioned to Kat that recently I was leaving my room (closing two doors between to prevent the heat from the main part of the house from going out my open window) and asked Zoloft if she wanted to come. She continued to soften up the fur on my bed to sleep on. “OK, I said, I’ll try to remember to come back and let you out in a few hours.” and she got up and came. Kat told me that she saw both cats watching something- and you could tell by where they were looking that they were watching the same point- but there was nothing visible. We call it “chasing poultermice” when the cats are acting like they are chasing a mouse, but we can see nothing. It could be that they are playing, or they may see something we don’t. At any rate, when I had failed to find a guest for the New Normal this week, I decided to do Psychic Animals, and Animal Psychics tonight. I think maybe cats and dogs are simply a bit psychic, like people, and, as with people, the telepathy is stronger in some than in others, and at different times. It’s hard to test something that’s intermittant. So I’ll be sharing stories and what little I know tonight. Luckily Jane called in and helped. It’s always easier to talk to someone than to monologue.
I hope it goes well. Last week it turned out that my mic went dead at 8:45, but the studio didn’t show it, I just stopped hearing what Thor and Jane (who’d called in) were saying, and so I went on monologue. When I called after the show, they told me that they’d suddenly stopped hearing me, and had talked until cut off. The producer says that “nobody else” has these problems, but since the microphone works most of the time, and it only cuts out when I’m on the New Normal, I suspect the studio program. Phoeey! If I could find another venue, I so would, but since Cathy recommended this one to me, I have no idea how to find a different one.
Honour called on Friday- the last night of the month she uses up her phone minutes that don’t roll over, and until then she saves them for emergencies. It seems she’s going into the VA to get her rotator cuff repaired. Sadly, they will allow her to stay overnight, but are sending her home to spend three weeks with her arm tied to her body to dress, clean, cook for herself, everything one normally does with two arms, only with one. They don’t seem to get that this will be a problem. And there isn’t a way for me to go out there to help. It’s so frustrating! You’d think there’d be some sort of home aide program for a situation like this.
Dan called too and chatted with Willow. He seems to be fine, although the selfie he shared looked a lot like Neal Patrick Harris  as Cout Orloc in the Series of Unfortunate Events. Like his father, his hairline is receeding, and he had one eyebrow cocked enigmatically. (Or maybe I’m just jealous because I still can’t raise mine.) Willow thought he looked like his uncle Tracy.
Megan seems to be doing better- she got her hernia repaired last week, and recovering from major surgery is always fun. I am always torn between wanting to help, and not wanting to bother someone who needs rest. You leave the offer and let it stand. One thing about facebook, it reminds you how many people my age (and younger) end up in the hospital! (and thinking of reporting bias- it’s the once I somehow miss that stick in my memory!)
Last week went through the Pennsic merchant registration process- which required creating a new identity for the new website, and getting stages of it approved and paid for. I keep forgetting the stages, and figure we can just get on line and do it, but it is a process. We still need to  send in the proof of membership and insurance and such. And register for Pennsic, which isn’t included. It seems like we’ve done almost nothing for the last year, and a lot of that is remembering to send in applications in time.

Monday John and I went over to Mark’s. Chip came up to help him clean Bruce’s room out last weekend, and we took a bunch of stuff away to recycle. It would be very easy to adopt a bunch of stuff simply because it’s good, but I don’t have space. That happens when you are frugal, and someone dies. In theory, they wouldn’t have kept stuff around that should have been thrown out, so it is still good, but they don’t need it any more. On the other hand, many people don’t want used stuff, and I hate seeing perfectly good stuff go to waste, so…. On the other hand, there was enough duplication of things- like rulers, we must have found dozens of rulers. If figure he’d lose one and buy another. That is SO how things work. Meanwhile, another friend has had to pay a “dehoarding” company to come in and clean her apartment so she doesn’t get kicked out.  I wonder what they do with the stuff? I want to clear stuff out of my house, but am caught between the “it’s still good, I may need it someday”, and “no one will take it” bookends. And, speaking of books, I have to wonder- which books will I re-read or use for research? I could get rid of the others- but which are they? At least at the recycling center we can hope someone will find a use for the stuff. I remember fondly a teacher grabbing a box of only slightly used notebooks with glee. I mostly hate the idea that so much of it is unusable because it’s old technology. Bruce had a printer- but he died five years ago, so as you imagine, it’s not compatable with any current computers in this house. We’ll probably have to pay to get them recycled (luckily Mark covers that). Off to the recycling center! (tomorrow)
Tomorrow I’ve also got to get sketches out for the portrait that I donated to Public TV auction LAST year, and (I hope) for the next book cover. Lynn, a previous satisfied customer has finished her latest book and asked for another (this one has a man fighting a bear). I’m actually feeling more emotionally and physically ready to paint again. Thinking back over the last year, I really wasn’t quite well for most of the late spring and summer, even before I got the Lyme disease. I hadn’t expected it, but I think the coloring DID actually phase me back into the mood to paint. Of course I have to re-organize my painting area. I haven’t used it in so long it’s gotten sort of buried in old supplies (from coloring to knitting).

A brief mention of the news, because we can’t let ourself begin to feel that this is a normal situation. A few hours ago I saw that Steve Bannon has been removed from his controversial role on the National Security Council. If anyone expected Trump to stick by his friends, I don’t know why. As I write the Democrats are filibustering against Gorsuch, apparently aimed at a “nuclear” showdown, in which if the Republicans will change the rules if they can’t get their own way honestly. And yes, I think it’s cheating to change the rules mid game because you can’t win by the rules as they exist. They say that this isn’t as bad as their the refusal to even consider the nomination for nearly a year (itself a form of partisan filibuster). From what I heard, Gorsuch did avoid giving clear answers, and since it’s a post for life, I think we should try another candidate. Finally, I am thrilled that the judge said that Trump’s remarks during rallies can be tried as incitement to violence. They clearly were, and no one should be above the law. A president shouldn’t even have come close to it. I think that we should call this what it is- terroism. On the other hand, I think we give these jerks (like the one who put a bomb in the subway in Moscow) too much “respect” in calling them terrorists. Terror is impressive. If we called them Pathetic, and described these acts as pitiful attempts by the weak to share their hurt feelings, and implied that they were sad, impotent little men, maybe it would make terrorist acts less appealing.
Resist, Assist, Persist.

I have watched a rather lot of West Wing this week. I so love the idea of good, intelligent people in the White House. I finally got around to looking up the floor plan, because the actors spend a lot of time walking around corridors- and while I had managed to create a fairly accurate mental map, it turns out that their “mural room” is where the “cabinet room” is in the real White House, and there are other changes for the convenience of the writers. (Why does the White House need a flower shop?) I am totally in love with the character of President Bartlett- he is so smart and curious- he gets excited about learning and sharing information the way I do. I like to think that maybe I didn’t watch this when it was on because I’d need it now for my mental health.

As I continue reading American Nations, I find more information about the “recent” history I probably ignored because I didn’t care for the costuming. (I hope not, that’s so shallow.) I was reminded again of what a really horrible person Andrew Jackson was. I’m afraid that he was a favorite president of mine for years, sadly, because I associated him with the portrayals by Charlton Heston in the Buckaneer and the President’s Lady (both of which I saw on TV). Sadly, I think I liked him because it was when I saw him as John the Baptist in the Greatest Story Ever Told (I would have been about 13), that was my introduction to those first hormonal stirrings of “wow, that’s a gorgeous body!” Admittedly, about the same time I had a dream in which I was a guy and fell in love with a mermaid, and when I woke up I spent hours trying to recreate the irridescent shine of her scales. In both cases beauty was the overwhelming force, and I stand by my feeling that as an artist I’m allowed to appreciate both the masculine and feminine form. Still, it’s embarassing to realize that this line of association led to a blind spot when it came the genocidal and unconstitutional behaviors of a president of the unitited states. At the time, I’m sure Indian Fighter and War Hero sounded pretty heroic to me. I suppose, similarly, I (and probably many others) see historical figures through the lenses of fiction that we’ve read or watched. I find it hard to think of John Adams without picturing William Daniels, and how many people will now go through life believing that Hamilton was black? (dispite no supporting evidence) and also see him as a star crossed lover, rather than a money grubbing exploiter, and who drafted the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts, nearly as shameful a blot on our national character as the genocide of the First Nations. The historical Hamilton’s story is another tale of someone who was warped by insecurity in his early years. While they talk about him creating banking for the young nation, they rarely point out how he used his position to make money off the poor, paying them in worthless scrip, buying the government IOUs at 10 cents on the dollar, then writing the laws so that the federal government payed him and other profiteers back in full, meanwhile the government was foreclosing on the farms of the veterans who couldn’t afford to pay their taxes, (and, yes, taxing them on the whiskey they made, since it was the only thing they had of value.)
Other interesting things I learned were about the nations of Transylvania and of Franklin (that one lasted 10 years), before being reabsorbed in to the United States.  And the phrase a “well regulated militia” may mean one that can be called up for the Nato-like alliance of states (so the government doesn’t have to pay for training). I’m  also looking at my background- mostly Yankee, (community oriented, feeling that social wealth is created by serving the common good- but intollerant of differences). Tolerance was more of a New Amsterdam trait. Apparently the Bill of rights  derived from 1664 Articles of Capitulation when the English took New Amsterdam, and guaranteed  “liberty of their consciences”. They accepted diversity in the grand old “the customer is always right” tradition.  I’m thinking Mom’s parents may have been Appalachian, Grandmother was from Tennessee, and the Murray line was Scottish (although the Coursons came to New Amsterdam- from Brazil. I remember that when I was a kid, I beleived her when she said Negros were lazy and didn’t want to work. After all, she’d lived with them when she was young, and no one else I knew had. Then I got old enough to learn some history, and it occurred to me that perhaps they did attempt to work as little as possible SINCE they weren’t going to be paid or respected for it. Thank goodness I’ve been able to change how I think as I have grown up and old.
I didn’t quite finish Born a Crime, because it’s recently popular enough that I could only keep it out for a couple of weeks. The writing was great, and the story powerful. I will have to take it out again and finish it. Meanwhile I took out some South African films. I was wondering why they go from the Colonial period to the breaking Apartheid period as if there were no stories in between? I re-watched Zulu. Even expecting Michael Caine, I didn’t recognize his character at first because he was so young, and because he wasn’t using the accent he uses in most of his films. It was a basic war story- a crisis brings out the best and worst in a collection of people. Then I watched Shaka Zulu, which I hadn’t realized was a mini-series, so that’s most of what I watched this week. I noticed that Chaka’s character was much like Anikin Skywalker’s. When bad things happened, he let anger and vengeance control his actions. It made him powerful, but robbed him of all other pleasures. I enjoyed the way the tribes handled war before Chaka. They postured and shouted and lept and showed how cool and strong they were, and what good moves they had, then went home. Chaka wanted to kill the other side. The War leader asked “You want me to make my warriors into killers?” Wow, what a great way to run a war!
Still thinking about the people who are hurt- and sometimes not on purpose, but because someone can’t do for everyone, and two people can’t hold the same position and may want it. There will probably always be people who are willing to hurt others to get what they want. There are also others who will do whatever they can get away with- to maximize their benefit within set perimeters. There must be a way to stop the people who don’t have internal controls from becoming “successful”, so that others don’t feel it’s permissible to do horrible things. We have to set and maintain limits (people are more comfortable with knowing what the limits are), even if some people will think they don’t apply to them.
I also tried to watch Moonlight; I’d requested it when it won best picture- had to be good, right? It was depressing and not particularly interesting.  I disliked or pitied all the characters. Finally I turned it off, and didn’t bother finishing. Just in case, I looked it up on Wikipedia, and it doesn’t get better. Life sucks (especially if you are black, gay, and poor) and it’s not going to get better. Swell.

Tchipakkan
This week I decided I needed to learn the words to Hail to the Chief (mostly it’s instrumental, but I keep hearing the version from Dave, and that’s sad. So having looked them up, I figure I’ll share them. I note the song says we pledge “cooperation” and that we have a “firm belief” that his aim is to help the country. That’s pretty modest for a political song.

Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all.
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.

Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that’s our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!

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