3-11-2015 World Plumbing Day

I think spring is coming. There is still a good foot of snow on the trailer roof, but the big icicle has fallen off the back of the house. We’re still getting some leaking over the northern windows, so we’ll have to come up with something so it doesn’t happen next year- and probably a few cosmetic repairs. I hope no structural damage. Admittedly, we’re dealing with 40º to 50º weather. In the fall it would have seemed chilly, or at least “brisk”, but now it seems practically tropical!
My energy is returning as well. Thursday I drove Mark over to the hospital for an out-patient procedure. I had to admire how they ran people through like an assembly line, and yet the nurses were always friendly. They introduced themselves and smiled, and every ten minutes or so someone else was taken in to prep. Sadly, I was very distracted by the television in the waiting room, so I didn’t read as much as I’d expected, but I had several nice conversation with others who were driving patients. Let’s face it, people probably want to “escape” as soon as they can, but probably aren’t ready to be safely driving themselves when they’ve been sedated. Afterwards Mark took me over to Friendly’s for lunch. I was tired by the time I got home, but I think I’m doing better day by day. It could be the increase in light. It’s certainly not the Daylight Savings Time shift! On the other hand, since I had to get up at 5 to get out at 5:30 to get Mark there by 7, I wanted to nap, but didn’t and was very ready to sleep by 9!
Friday I finally got to investigating the on-line class Spirituality and Sensuality- Sacred Objects that Kerensa had told me about. I spent a GREAT deal of time yelling at the computer, and feeling stressed. Kat helped a lot, and so did actually going through the tutoral on how their classes work. Still, even with that, Kat had to point out “see where they’ve outlined that in red on the screen shot? That’s where you’re supposed to click.” I wouldn’t have noticed that it wasn’t a screen shot that happened to have red in it. They’d say “click the highlighted something” and I couldn’t tell what they thought was highlighted. It was frustrating. I felt like just blowing it off. But I know that’s what I do- too often, and stuck with it. Sadly, I pretty much got it by ten pm, went to bed, to finish in the morning and missed my first deadline. Feh. I think I’ve got it, but while I’ve done all the reading and prep, I’ll admit I still haven’t done this week’s assignments (due in two days). So I’m learning, but old bad habits die hard.
One thing I do like about it is that they have a “fast forward” on the clips you watch so I can listen to the interviews at 1.25x, 1.5, or even 2x speed (they also offer slowed options). Yes, listening at 2x sounds funny, but 1.5 sounds fine to me. If each of us has our internal pace for what’s comfortable, it must be great for the people who’d rather listen more slowly as well. Sadly, it’s not available in the BBC History of the World in 100 Objects series. Some of the classwork was listening to 14-15 minute clips for some of those objects. You can hear all of them, but some of them have visuals- I got to see one on the Reliquary for the Crown of Thorns, and that’s incredibly frustrating because the audio clips that don’t have a visual sometimes has audible clues, like the echoing of the hallway through which the speaker is passing, make me want to SEE the objects. I probably spent way too much time over the weekend looking for the videos to the audios I could find. I eventually came to the conclusion that some have them and some don’t. How frustrating to HEAR: “I’m standing now, before one of the most impressive mummy cases in the museum…” Way to tease! I want to see more than two images of the mummy case of Hornedjitef.
As my energy returns, I’m beginning to clean and organize the house. The immediate goal is to get organized and get to working on the paintings people have commissioned. As one can’t make dinner when the kitchen has the previous day’s dishes undone, I can’t paint until I’ve created a good space in which to paint. I think that’s the nice thing about a computer- it’s so self contained.
Kat had a bit of an adventure this week. Her closet pole supports gave way and dumped a whole lot of clothing on her. We have to figure out how to deal with the large amount of stuff (clothes for Kat, books and cooking, and art materials for me, Willow’s already trying to get rid of clothes she doesn’t wear any more).  My beautiful pantry/larder is wonderfully useful as a “walk-in refrigerator”, but the counters have filled with things that have no place to be put away because there isn’t a place. I don’t mind having the occasional basket of laundry, but there are bags of apples, tubs of honey, and boxes of cooking tools that I don’t want to throw away, but don’t use often. I will probably get rid of a lot of them, but it’s going to be hard.
One thing I did this week was to take the blackboard paint Kat got this winter to revive the board upstairs, and painted the center panels on the pantry door (three coats). They are now “blackboards” and I’ve hung chalk on a string so we can jot down any leftovers we’ve put away. This week we threw out the last IMG_0785
of the turkey à la king from a couple weeks ago. In theory- if we put the dates as well as description of the food up, and remember to take them off when we eat them, this won’t happen anymore. We’ll have to see. I’d started jotting down our main dish: roast beef, turkey, mac and cheese, corned beef, etc. on the kitchen calendar. At least when we found something like a lone pork-chop in the refrigerator we’d be able to see how long it’s been there. I hate waste, and have come up with many schemes over the years. Before I pre-scrubbed the door I had to take down a list of what was in the freezer several years ago. We’ll see.
Tuesday I had Douglas, Kat’s friend, come over and help clean. While Willow went out and did the errands (seven stops, and getting back in only three hours!) we  finally, with the help of an extra strong back, switched the living-room and dining room. We had to start by rolling up the rug, which meant moving furniture off it. We also had the TVs we’d used with the wii, but had taken down when we got rid of Bruce’s entertainment center. Because the kitchen TV bracket was made for the old fashioned tube TV, we stuck one up there, and will use the flat screen for the wii, and are sending the other to be recycled. (It’s very hard for me to pass along something that still works. If I let myself remember that no one will probably take it, I may yet weaken.)IMG_0784
I also took down and washed the curtains, but discovered that they almost all have strips where the sun has faded them- can they be re-dyed? This is frustrating. They are still solid cloth, I don’t want to replace them just because they’re faded. Since I haven’t put them up again, the room is really full of light!
At least during the day. Since there are no built in light fixtures, we are going to have to come up with some sort of lamps. I hadn’t thought about that before. It’s that or lots of candle-light dinners.IMG_0782
Once the rug was gone, we could move the table and chairs into what I am convinced by the built-in cabinet was originally the diningroom, and is again. The arm chairs could now go into the old dining room, and frankly, the rug fits and looks much better there. The problem is, that we are going to need to get rug protectors for each place there’s a computer chair- one for me, one for John, and one for Willow. We will also be moving the sewing machines into the “dining room” because since we probably use the big table more for cutting out stuff than eating, it makes sense to me. My machine’s already in there, and we’ve put the fabric for current projects in the cabinet there. It’ll be a good dual purpose room.
I think computers go well with a “living room” too, and I like the way the window looks with the chairs in front of it. I’m hoping with Douglas’ help we can get the library sorted out to be used.
The first thing I had him do was run around with a duster getting cobwebs down- since he’s tall. I think 6’4″. After clearing around the woodstove, (and scrubbing the woodwork on the TV support), we took down the bowls on the beam.IMG_0781

I’d just washed them off to remove the greasy soot that comes from cooking. (Below I’ll put a picture of a chicken stir-fry we had sometime this week- the colors were so nice I just “had to” take a picture of it.) Frying does leave a layer of grease over everything, and stoking the wood-stove means there’s also a layer of soot. Yuck. Makes me wish I had a staff as they do on Upstairs/Downstairs and Downton Abbey. But it’s just us, so this kind of cleaning only happens as a special project. Poor Douglas kept walking into the pots and baskets- and the mushrooms I had strung up to dry (no doubt inspired by Pickled, Potted, and Canned). Kat, on the other hand, decided that she was going to polish them, so she used vinegar and salt and a LOT of elbow-grease, and got them gleaming!
I would love to get the floors sanded and polished, as we did in the hallway. The dining room looks pretty good anyway, and if the kitchen polished up to the same “pumpkin pine” ruddy color, it would look so good with the copper bowls. I expect I have more than we really need, and I am convinced that I should pass along the cast-iron wok. It’s an amusing idea- especially with a wood stove, but a wok is supposed to have a hot spot, and cast iron is supposed to prevent them, so I’m not sure how well that would work, and haven’t really used it. Let me know if you have a yen for one!DSC01809

Another thing I made this week was a maple cake. I’d noticed the recipe when I made another cake last weekend, and I had a half cup of maple syrup waiting on the counter. A bottle had fallen and the plastic top had shattered, so I divided it among several smaller bottles- and there was a half cup left over. I may have made the cake as much to get my measuring cup back as anything else. Then, after making it I IMG_0775“had” to use more syrup to make the frosting. It gave the butter icing a lovely iridescent sheen, and I had noticed some crystals forming in the syrup, and rather than melt them back in, I strained them out and used them to decorate the top. It was lovely. It was delicious, but boy was it sweet. I did a commentary as I recovered: nice cake, what’s in it? Maple SUGAR cake. What’s the flavor? maple SUGAR! What’s in the frosting? Butter and SUGAR! Oh, what’s on top? That’d be SUGAR! Oh, yes, it was Very Sweet. Lovely, but wow, so rich! Luckily, it was small, which was one of the reasons I went for it- just a 6″ cake. I will admit I sliced it with my new toy and put layers of the icing between them. Since I didn’t wait for it to cool sufficiently, they just sunk into the cake- and the chopped walnuts sunk to the bottom of each layer, so that was disappointing. I wonder if there’s a technique to keep nuts from sinking in batter?

And that’s about it. Tonight I did a show on the history of Witchcraft, and this morning an old guest Cheryl Costa wrote out of the blue. She’s just finished a documentary on the history of Witchcraft and we had a great conversation about it. It’s cool to talk to someone who actually cares as much about it as I do!
I finished re-reading the Dragon series with the Fair Maid of Kent, and have been reading some of The Three Edwards, a history book, which shows that Dickson did his research. His portrayal of the Black Prince seems fairly good. Once again I discover that there is not period of history that isn’t interesting when you look closely. That done, I’m reading Enemies at Home, the next Flavia Alba book from Linsey Davis. I keep thinking I’ve missed a book, but maybe I’ve just forgotten what happened in The Ides of April. I guess I’ve gotten to the point my mother complained about where she couldn’t remember whether she’d read a book before or not. As she said, it allowed her to enjoy it a second time, but one does worry about one’s mind. I didn’t expect with either of them to enjoy them as much as I did the Falco series, but the writing is still as good. I daresay I am not alone in missing Falco and Helena, but I understand the urge to avoid the whole Pompeii disaster, and if there was one thing Davis did well, it was to allow the characters to evolve and grow as humans do. By the end of 20 volumes, the “informer” (delator) was no longer a young ex-soldier getting by in the slums on his wits, but a man of property with many people who depended on him. He might be the same person inside, but there’s no way he’d be able to do the same sort of stuff any more than any of us can be what we were a decade or more ago.
The other thing I did over the weekend was finish the fifth season of Downton Abbey. Yes, I cried like a baby at the end of the Christmas Special. This is some of the best writing and acting out there, it’s such a tight script I can’t go out of the room for even thirty seconds without turning off the DVD so I won’t miss anything. When I’ve finished Upstairs Downstairs again, I’ll look for more BBC. The Upstairs Downstairs (I’m at the end of Series 4) did go much more deeply into the effects of the War. Both shows dealt with the issue of Shell Shock being something they didn’t know quite what to do with, and frankly, we are still not recognizing a mental/psychological wound as something as valid as a physical wound. I suppose that’s why we put it in our fiction.
(spoiler alert this paragraph:)
I’d pre-ordered the third Night at the Museum movie, and watched it Tuesday night, a few hours after it arrived. No, it’s not great theater, but it’s fun. There is a place in life for comedy. It was silly, had lots of fun action, the actors in it are wonderful at improve. It was bittersweet to see Robin Williams and Mickey Rooney in their last roles, but a joy to see Dick Van Dyke still being a dancer even now! I was amazed to see that Lancelot was played by the actor who’d done Matthew in Downton Abbey. I always thought Matthew was slightly goofy looking, and as Lancelot he was a hunk (except when his nose was melting, of course).  I hooted with glee when he broke into the theater and interrupted Hugh Jackman in Camelot. I’m sure Jackman had a lot of fun with his uncredited cameo.
I was amazed to be reminded today that it’s been four years since the earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima reactor. On a more personal level, I heard that my friend Sue discovered she had kidney stones- or as she put it, little bundles of razor blades. It’s never good when there’s blood in your urine, whether or not there’s excruciating pain. It’s times like this facebook can make you feel very grateful for your own problems.

Until next week.
“The unrecorded past is none other than our old friend, the tree in the primeval forest which fell without being heard.” Barbara Tuchman

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