Crispin Crispian’s Day!

Yesterday I figured I could rewatch Henry V today, but I don’t know that I’ll get to it.  I’ve taken the time to listen to a few versions of the St. Crispians Day speech. Still, it works best when in full context. There are so many amazing moments in that film (the Branaugh version, although the play gives such scope that it is no wonder than there are so many film versions).

When I woke up today the whole world outside my bedroom window was gold. Once I had my contacts in I could distinguish tree trunks and branches, but basically, the world is gold just now. Out the back window there are bright orange trees, and the sumac are scarlet, the knotweed is turning yellow (which is different than gold), and there’s still some gree for contrast. I picked up 3 pumpkins for the front steps, two small ones, one tiny, but perfect. We never got around to carving the big ones until the last minute recently. I may still get one later- I hate to miss the roasted seeds!

Meanwhile- it’s raining. Good to have the drought over, but John didn’t get the wood into the shed yet, and I had to go cover it with a tarp. I don’t want to have to do it myself, but I am better at stacking than he is- even if he is much better at splitting! The cats are doing thier usual “what have you done with our yard?” thing, as if we had some sort of control over what was going on on the other side of the front door. They start to go out, stop, and look at us, disgusted. Then we have to wait for them to decide whether they’ll go out anyway. We’d figured outdoor weather was mostly over and didn’t do the anti-flea drops at the beginning of October, but after a week of pulling ticks off them,  we’ve gotten more to re-apply. I suppose the ticks are looking for good places to over-winter as well. Not my house!

I guess the big fun this week was Osgkar and Mór’s wedding. It was (only) a three hour drive, and didn’t start until one, so we opted to skip going up Friday, and day trip. Willow said this was contingent on my having no last minute cooking on Saturday morning- a reasonable caveat given my tendency to try to do “one more thing” as we try to get out on any trip, and that the celebration was pot luck.

I had decided on bringing cookies- Osgkar is particularly fond of my coconut macaroons, and I offered to bring them, and some other ones for Josée. The problem came from my not knowing which ones she particularly liked- so I made a batch of brownies- with mint chips, since it seemed inappropriate to put in pieces of candy-cane at this time of year. Then I made a batch of Rice Krispie Treats with cardomom and sesame seeds- because people don’t realize how good they can be when you play with them up a bit. I had gotten 3 bags of coconut and three cans of sweetened condensed milk, but remembered about halfway through that Chip/Osgkar has taken off about 60 pounds (or around the same weight as a 9 year old boy) this year by dint of lots of exercise and watching what he eats. so it occurred to me that making enough for him to have leftovers would NOT be a good idea, and stopped. I’d run out of maracino cherries anyway (and got into using dried cranberries), so I made the last of the second batch without fruit and drizzled chocolate on it.

The day before I’d run Mark down to the clinic again and asked him waht cookies he liked, and he mentioned that he liked chocolate chip cookies- but without nuts. Chocolate chip- not Toll House. I know several people who prefer them that way. So I made a batch of the Neiman Marcus $250 Chocolate Chip Cookies. I hadn’t done that since the first time I’d made it- (back when the story was going around), because it makes too many cookies.  I’d forgotten quite how many it made. If you look in the foreground of the picture, you can see the huge basket of cookie, although I’m not quite sure you can get the scale. At the other end of the table you can see the brownies, macaroons (“white” with red spots), the cardamom Krispie treats, and the cinnamon horns. Willow suggested those- even though they are “pastries” not cookies. I was very amused to see one fellow who kept going back into the kitchen to snag two or three. I finally offered him the recipe, and he told me he had it, but he just liked them. Thank goodness there was a lady there who was cooking for a meeting of her Living History group this week, because she was willing to take most of the leftover cookies home. Her husband kept telling her not to until she reminded him of the dinner “I won’t have to bake!”. Then he agreed. There were SO many leftovers! I think there were eight crockpots lined up on the serving bay- with sausage, mac and cheese, meatballs, and lots of other yummy hot stuff. My favorite was something someone called “yummy cheesey goo”, which was clearly cheese fondue- there was a basket of bread slices beside it. That was fantastic. I took the smallest possible bit from each- to taste them, and still had no room to go over to the second buffet table, as I’d intended to, after finishing the hot offerings. I did have one of the apple crepes from the dessert table, but frankly, that was pushing it!

Yansuf and Ekke and Sarah were sitting next to us- looking incredibly fit after spending the summer sailing, and telling us about the renovation of their “new” house.

Stephan’s and Josee’s Wedding was up at the Monmouth Fish and Game in Maine, and they wore Saxon, and so did we. The ceremony was one that Mór had researched and adapted for a friend years ago, and reworked for them. I THINK their “impressive clergyman” was Sir Ernst. There were others I knew like Tearlach and his lady (you may remember him as the teacher who took students to Pennsic in the Leech Lord story), and Tiberius and Wopiscus (who’s wedding last month I didn’t get to),  Cecelia (who organized the kitchen for them, heroine that she is). There were lots of others I didn’t recognize- including Chip’s daughter Heather who I hadn’t seen since she was “this big”. Ah well.

The ceremony was lovely, it included declarations that they were doing it of their own free will, exchanging rings, getting their hands tied together, jumping over a pole weapon, sharing a very impressive loving cup, and a great line “Strength of Stone and Clarity of Crystal” (and a bunch of other stuff- some of the problem hearing it was from the gunshots- downside of having it at a Fish and Game). We were all standing in a circle on the grass, and after they just fed the circle around to give them hugs, which I thought was very clever. My favorite moment was after the ceremony when Osgkar kissed her hand- they looked SO happy.

So there was a whole lot of eating, a little toasting, and then we went home- around 4 or 4:30. Since I was trying so hard to get someone else to take the excessive cookies we stayed until the very end. We got to see someone put Balfar’s coronet on the moosehead. I took a lot of pictures- but sadly, didn’t think to send them to facebook before I got home. So they only got the direction “send this to fb”, but then waited for a signal. We don’t GET a signal here on the side of the mountain, and I never leave here if I don’t have to, so they never posted. (Similarly, my family is having issues with that. It seems that many of them prefer communicating by text- which, for obvious reasons, doesn’t work for me. Sigh.) Today when Willow went out to Avi’s I had her take the phone with her. That’s why there are pictures in this letter. I know I have a camera around here somewhere. I tried to use Willow’s, but it didn’t want to talk to my computer.

I have almost finished the portrait of the lady put into the Anne Boline portrait, and wanted to send her a progress picture. I’ve started the next one- the one patterned after a portrait of a young Nathanial Hawthorne- but I made a beginners mistake- I charted the Hawthorne portrait onto the canvas, then transferred his features to that. Oops! Hawthorne had a much longer nose, the proportions are off and it looks ridiculous! Will have to start over!

Willow continues to be exhausted, but only has do do after-school duty until Christmas vacation. It seems to me that whether I didnt’ want to do it or not, thought it was useless and a waste of time, etc. I still knew I had to do my homework. I cannot imagine my mother having to sit down and walk us through the homework exercise by exercise, and that’s pretty much what Willow does.  (Except when B is sick, and then she still says “no TV, you didn’t do your homework”.) Neighbors actually called the cops the other day, who came to the door to ask about the incident. “That’s not what we heard.” Well, of course not. Is anyone going to call the cops and say “My kids were being brats and got into a fight with a neighbor kid, so can you go make them behave?” No, they’re going to pass along the highly colored/biased story their kids tell them so that they won’t get in trouble for breaking their parents rules. It must stink being a cop and having to write this sort of garbage up, on the tiny chance that some day one of these calls will actually be a problem police should handle.

Kat has been sort of under the weather- we’re hoping nothing contagious she might pass on to the rest of the wedding participants, but coughing. She’s been drinking Emergenc-C, (it’s easier to swallow than most Vitamin C pills). Willow got a huge bag of lemons and plans to put some in honey with ginger to make a throat syrup. I’d do it, but don’t know what recipe she’s going for.

I noticed when I sat down this morning that the chair I’m on is broken- it wobbles now. I’ve spent the day bracing my feet to keep it in position, and I realized when I broke for supper that I’ve been leaning on my hands as I type as well, making them cramp. I guess I’ll have to replace the chair. I remember reading that the fellow who started the Rodale press had digestive issues for years which were helped by chiropractic because they came from his sitting in such a way that his back was crooked, and that finally was traced back to the little thing on the bottom of one of his desk chair legs being missing, which meant it was just a bit uneven, which led to his tension, which led to the back problems, which led to the digestive problems, and all went away when he fixed the chair. Apocraphal or not, it’s a good reminder not to just “put up with” something that may lead to bigger problems.

I’m afraid that “putting up with” things that one “can’t afford to fix” is just how most of America lives. Of course, each of us has a different level of what we can’t afford. We all have different ideas of what is important. I have several pieces of clothing in which our neurotic cat has sucked holes, some of which I have repaired (grumbling), some of which I’ve patched. I am actually a bit amused at having a voluminous apron with colorful patches on it. My painting shirt is another the cat got at, and one of my nightgowns lies awaiting my decision- to patch or to toss? Repair or replace? Until recently, that was not a question most people had ot ask. Of course you repaired things. You wouldn’t throw away a “perfectly good” item of clothing, or tool just because it needed to be repaired. But these days our culture is based on having new things, having multiple things, on having lots of buying and selling. I don’t want new things, I want a few good things the way I want them, and to have them “forever”. I didn’t mind having used furniture when we were starting out, but gradually, one gets pieces one wants, and eventually wht you have is the way you want it. Then you don’t want it to need replacing. We had to replace our cool water heating teapot we got a couple of years ago. The top latch was sticking (letting steam reach our hands) and the element looked a bit scorched, so we got a new one- even though it still heated the water. Safely issues do trump most other motivations. But I wonder what others do? Are there people who’d get rid of a cat that sucked fabric? Are there those who would get it some sort of veterinary psychotherapy? Put it on anti-depressants? I wouldn’t put a cat down for that- or give the problem to anyone else, nor am I going to shell out for cat therapy. So I occassionally find holes in my clothes. I’ve been more careful to get the laundry put away quickly, since that’s where I usually find the sucked pieces. But when it’s a stocking, I can toss it. When it’s a shirt I never liked- I can use it as an excuse. But I found a hole in my elevation gown this weekend- so I’m looking for the scraps of the $300 fabric that I saved in case I’d need them to patch it- very carefully- happy that I did save them. For other things, if, for example it was a (fairly) new shirt I liked, I’d have to figure out if it could be patched. But I find it hard to throw away something I like, just because there’s a problem with it.

This strikes me as the people who tell you to get the people out of your life that don’t make you happy. Good lord, who’d be left? No one is perfect, you simply figure out how to make your interactions less difficult! (I’m not talking abusive partner, but irritating aquaintence.) If you’re not willing to work with them, how are you going to ever develop real friendships? Some people may not have that deep a relationship with a pet, or a shirt, a chair, or a screwdriver, but I fill my life with things that make me happy, and sometimes there’s just not another dress or chair available that’s the equivalent- or if there is I couldn’t afford it (or find it). There may be people who could. And I don’t think there’s ever a way to replace a friend- whether human or feline. You could find another mechanic you trust, if that’s all you want out of your relationship. But it’s going to be really hard to find another person who knows you well and likes you anyway even though you forget his birthday or don’t return her calls for days. Remember that the next time you wonder why your freinds put up with you with all your faults- because they find your company worth it. And doesn’t that mean you are pretty incredible?

This week I’ve finally finished An American Sickness: how healthcare became big business and how you can take it back. The cover suggests that it should be required reading for everyone, and I do agree. I admit it took me about six weeks to get through it. As interesting as it was, it was also depressing, and I had to take it in pieces. First, I found I couldn’t read it at night as I’d get so stressed that it would keep me awake worrying, so I could only read it in the morning (and save evening for fiction). Yes, it got better once we’d gotten past the “how our health system got this way” part, and into the “how to fix it” part. I have so much to say about it, so many quotes and points I think you should know, that I’m going to put them in a blog post and put a link to that in the letter next week. (The short form is that the system got this way bit by bit with people trying different things that were supposed to help, but how it actually developed made things worse.) We have to stop making the financial health of our corporations (political backers) the ultimate way we decide what constitutes “good” for the country. I am afraid that a lot of the suggestions are going to take a LOT of people cooperating to get the advantage of numbers over money. It was fascinating.

I have just started America’s Bitter Pill: money, politics, backroom deals, and the fight to fix our broken healthcare system. It’s about how the Affordable Care Act came about, with some filter from the author’s personal experience “looking up from the gurney”. Yes, that perspective does have an impact in what we say “yes” to. On the other hand, I remember as I passed in and out of coherency when they took me to the hospital with the hernia that they asked if I needed to see a priest before the operation, and I said “No, I need a social worker- I can’t afford to pay for this.” Well, they blew that off. Doctors like to feel that if they fix you, that will mean that someone else can help you find a way to pay for things. What I’ve read so far tells me that basically the ACA was messed up by letting everyone who had an interest force some consession in to it in the name of “compromise”. There are concessions that singley may not seem big, but together turn the compromise into not getting anything like what you wanted.

I am also about halfway through Black Man in a White Coat: a doctor’s reflections on race and medicine.  This one is a page turner (as many autobiographical medical books are). I love the way he examines how his career has changed his attitudes and those around him. He deals with the “why people lie to doctors” and other things we may not think about often. I am reminded of realizing how doctors make judgements about patients based on age, race, gender and other things like their clothing, and vocabulary, and this will predispose them to a certain diagnosis, as well as how they treat the patient. I realized when doing the Cancer Dance with Ælfwine, why I dress the way I do. Part of it is my style, I wear big skirts and shawls to make myself bigger. I take up more room. I do make clothes that I like, that aren’t generally available in my size and price range. But I also choose not to “dress for success”, to pick a style and wear that group’s uniform.  I don’t want anyone to assume that they can decide what sort of person I am with acquick glance assessment of my clothing and body: old= unaware of new techniques, polite= cooperative, poor=uneducated, sloppy= careless, rural= stupid, flakey hippy= illogical, fat= no willpower. Yes, it’s good that they can spot patterns, but when those patterns lead to inaccurate assessments, we’ve got a problem. Better they should look at me and say “what the hell?” and then talk to me a bit before they decide how to treat me.

Do you remember last week I watched the Ben Hur movies and was thinking about others from 1959? I got Anatomy of a Murder out of the library, and remembered why I like court room dramas so much. I’ll be watching more of them. This one was rather ambiguous- it started with the young soldier admitting that he’d shot the man who raped his wife, so it was all about the case. Neither the soldier nor the rape victim were particularly sympathetic, although the lawyer, Jimmy Stewart, was, and so was the judge. The prosecution, played by George C Scott, was excellent, and kept trying to keep the rape out of it, which actually makes sense legally. It was a good movie. Isn’t it wonderful that thanks to film we can see great performances like these decades later?

The fiction I read this week included Three Bedrooms, one corpse, another light Aurora Teagarden mystery. Mysteries are like potato chips, hard not to just want to go on consuming them, and they take no effort. I’m looking forward to reading the next in the series, the Julius house, which I’ve ordered from the library. They seem to have made a TV series of it, although from the trailer I saw, they had a gorgeous blonde, instead of the short brunette with glasses that the books describe, so if I watch it, and I probably will, I will probably wait until I’ve read the books (from the library, I can’t see buying them- they are good, but “read-oncer”). I did start those myseries because I ran out of the Midnight Texas books, and like Harris’s writing. (I watched one of the shows in that series, but really didn’t like the changes they made to the characters.) Because I’ve gotten so many supernatural fiction books, Kindle keeps suggesting more to me, and if they are free or only a buck or two, I’ll try them. I started Big Bad Djinn, but may not finish it- the first chapter seems like a lot of car-chase, shoot-em-up, adventures, and I want something more about how having supernatural stuff/magick doesn’t magically solve all your probems.

I finished one of those, Beyond Dead: A Briget Sway Novel, last night. This fell into the category of books that I wasn’t quite sure I was going to bother finishing, but still wanted to see what came next. It is the first in a series, and left me considering whether I want to invest the time reading takes to assuage my curiosity. I like the premise- exploring an after death world which is much like, and overlaps our own. I figure the barrage of rules that are enforced but neither warned about before they are broken nor explained after, although many other seemingly pointless rules are, lessons that are supposed to teach you how to cope with the world but mostly consist of you working it out for yourself while being harassed by bullies, combined with typical fictional coincidences, and Bridgit’s shallow concern for clothes and make-up indicate that this is aimed at high school students. Frankly, if I woke up dead in that afterlife, I’d want to have a second death to get out of it as soon as possible. I certainly hope it’s better organized!  It does address the way there seem to be many and contradictory versions of how ghosts, haunting, mediums, etc. are “supposed” to work- only without actually doing it helping at all.

I can assume that she’s going to get romantically involved with Oz, her parole officer. Her trouble seeking friend Sabrina hasn’t been locked up, nor have they caught the “outlaw” ghost,  so there’s a potential for ongoing characters. There are apparently four books in the series, and I started with a free electronic version, it’s not available from the library, and I don’t know that it’s worth spending money ($5) on the next book(s). I got it as an e-book and it’s not available from the library, so that’s still up in the air.

Another I took a flyer on was Mr. Timothy: a Novel , I may put that off until December, because it’s a story of the later life of Tim Cratchett, although it seems to be a mystery, and not have anything to do with Christmas. Another I picked up for $1.99 was Easy Homemade Cookie Cookbook. I read through that on the way up to the wedding- except for when I slept, which was most of the way. It really didn’t have much new, but there are one or two recipes I want to try. That will also come up in December.

The next week is going to be all about getting those portraits done, and (I hope) starting the book cover with the bear, and getting ready for CTCW. It’s only a week out, and while I’ve passed along most of the work, it’s still my baby, and I care about it a lot.


“To have compassion for those who suffer is a human quality which everyone should possess, especially those who have required comfort themselves in the past and have managed to find it in others.”
–from “The Decameron” (1350-1353) by Giovanni Boccaccio