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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Phenomenally Happy Birthday Week

This was the big Six Oh and the decade shift had been on my mind a lot but not in any wistfully longing for better days way - just in that way where you think about it. Think about the huge store of memories; think about the things up ahead; think about the treasures laid out in your lap, at your feet, in the palm of your hand.

The festivities began with an email from LD saying he'd be home Thursday night. Not sure if he was coming to meet Callie the New Baby Terror Puppy or to hug his mom. I believe it was equal measures of both - and I have always been happy to share the love.

That was on Tuesday. Wednesday means story hour - all about puppies including my favorite puppy story:

and a visit to the pre-schoolers from the Real Live Puppy (and  yes I brought the camera and no I forgot to take any pictures)  Callie was a princess and didn't chew or pee or bark. Instead, she let dozens of starry little hands pet and stroke her. Yay Callie.

Wednesday was further glorified by an afternoon having my nails done (is there anything so luxurious as having someone you really like massage your hands and feet?) A late day, vastly productive meeting with the library board policy committee meeting finished up my work week, since I don't count going to meetings in the city as real werk. I absolutely love the women on that committee - funny, interesting, smart, helpful.

Thursday started out vigorously with a strength training workout at the gym - I am slowly getting back on schedule with exercise after several weeks of interruptions. Then it was off to the city, with a few hours for shopping therapy that included a triumphant score in the dress department, before I had to head down town. I was able to check into my motel and dump my stuff before 1 o'clock - always a good thing and of course it is also always a good thing to hook up with other librarians. It's a bit lowering to realize that there are only a scant few of us who have been around for ever'n'ever now. I once was the young thing gazing innocently in awe at the experts. I am no expert myself, but I wonder if I fool these young library directors into thinking I am because I am so wrinkled and you can see my roots.

Friday was the actual day and because last spring when I was talking to someone at the LVA about the fall schedule I mentioned that it would be my birthday - and she remembered - I was serenaded with the birthday song - and presented with a slice of coconut cake right out of my childhood. R said the bakery that made it claims to have the old Miller & Rhodes recipe (though I rather think it is the old Thalhimers recipe since I remembered that cake and Daddy always brought home the black and white checkered box) It was such a nostalgia fest to taste that again and I love me some nostalgia.

I really must call R and find out where she bought that cake because .... I gotta do that again sometime.

It was plenty warm on Friday but the sun has begun its equinoctial southwesterly arc and the air cools dramatically once it begins to set.  Back home there were hugs and presents  and puppy kisses and flowers. The three of us took a stroll around the farm, then headed to town to the wine tasting at All About Wine and dinner next door at Relish - the weekend evening restaurant housed in the Rivahside Cafe building.

You have to admit - I work in the cutest little town:

Saturday the Vauter's Church altar guild hosted a flower arranging demonstration by David Pippen up at the church hall and I'm not sure which was better - the incredibly delicious spread at the coffee hour or the glorious arrangements, but it was a great way to spend the morning. The afternoon involved naps and walks - two of my favorite recreational activities. After the Friday Night Indulgence Dinner - we were back on our vegan routine on Saturday. LD was wildly curious about vegan food and I supplied him with a curry of vegetables and tofu and a more "Virginia" dinner on Sunday of hoecakes, butter beans, broccoli and black bean cakes. That's the favorite dinner around here because it doesn't taste either ethnic or west coast.

The weather has been simply glorious all weekend - with sunny days and crispy cool nights. Monday, which I took as a vacation day, was all girlfriend centered, with a trip to Fredericksburg with M. She and I are always saying "let's get together and play" and then, never doing it. About a month ago we pulled out calenders and scheduled a day at last. I love downtown Fredericksburg because it's chock full of cute little shops - including a yarn shop, thank you, and yes. I did buy a little yarn. We ate at Sammy T's, partly because I knew I could get vegan lunch there - which I did - and then, after exploring about 10 blocks of quaintness, we headed to utterly NON-vegan Carl's for frozen custard.
I never said I was perfect about this vegan stuff. In fact - I'm not sure I've said anything about this vegan stuff. hmm. perhaps a blog post is in order. Later. At Tara.

And now it is Tuesday - this week's Monday. And look who wants me to get going.

Guess I better. It's almost 8. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Puppy Puppy Puppy Puppy Puppy

Yes. Look who's come to live at our house. A little debel puppy to chew things up.
When we lost our Socks last summer in that intense heatwave of early July it seemed too much to add another little animal to the long hot days of summer but it was always our intention to add another dog to TheCastle. We didn't want Jack to be an only dog. We needed at least two dogs to pet. But I was not in any big hurry, either. I felt the new dog would come along when it was the right time.

Himself, otoh, had different plans. He began to hanker after another Lab in August and one day he called me at work with the news that he was looking at Labrador puppies. I was a bit surprised since I'd thought we were going to get a pound puppy first. But I could hear the longing in his voice. I knew it was time to get a puppy and it was time to get another Lab. It was a given that we wanted only girl dogs and I'd already told him that if we got another Lab I wanted a black one. But that was merely abstract thinking. Puppy love knows no color and since this summer, in Virginia, most of the litters with girls had only white, yellow or chocolate, I was willing to have a look.

We had cousins F and A visiting the day we drove up to Fauquier County to wallow in puppylove, so we could get lots of opinions on which one was the cutest. There were 8 girls in 2 litters and they were all so perfect I could hardly pick among them. They were only 3 and a half weeks old so it was a moot point anyway but we plunked down a deposit (Lawsie I was not prepared for the price of AKC labs) and went home to wait.

Last Monday the furbabies were at last old enough to go to new homes and BD and I drove up to pick out our own little sweetie pie. It was still impossible to pick because each one of them was a perfect specimen of cuteness and puppiness. First we narrowed it down to the two girls who were old enough to go home with us then and there. One was a little more golden than the other  - a selling point with us since Jack is so white already. She was also the most high octane energizer of them all, though her sister was no slouch, chewing on her cousins from the other litter. Wild baby never stopped chewing and pouncing but suddenly she began to make little coughing sounds as if she had some puppy fur caught in her throat and the whiter one ran up to see what was wrong. That tenderhearted gesture was the tipping point for me. I knew I had my new dog. 

So home we came, Little Miss Tenderheart sleeping in my arms the whole way

Jack is already taking an avuncular interest in her, teaching her all about long walks and leaving the garbage can alone. When those needle teeth sink in too deep, he just rumbles in his chest a little and she backs off. Besides, there is always something else to chew on in TheCastle. You can be sure - my good shoes get put in the closet every night. 

It was hard to go to work every day last week. There were moments when I wondered if we ought to have waited till Friday to pick her up - though I comforted myself with the thought that, had I not picked her on Monday, somebody else would have gotten her. But my long absences made it hard to pick out a name. I liked Molly. BD liked Toots. I said Toots was not a name a woman would ever use. He thought there were already too many Labs named Molly. We kicked around 2 or 3 dozen names till Friday night when we got to borrowing names from our Bedford cousins; the Burks. It felt funny, sort of like we were poaching, but we've always loved all their dogs: Cora, Ace, Belle. And I liked the name Bella because our puppy had such a pretty face. But them BD said "Calliope" - which actually means beautiful voice... she is the muse of epic poetry .... I knew we had a name.  

Chesituxent's Calliope

And I believe she approves.
(or maybe she's just hot)

So - look who is at home in my lap while I struggle to reach the keyboard.

Puppy Love

At Tara

Monday, September 10, 2012

Summer's Last Skinnydip

And no. That is not a photo of me au naturelle, floating down Farmer's Hall Creek. But it is a photo of the sort of day we had yesterday - glorious early autumn, when the humidity drops out of the picture, skies are vivid with color, sun pours its golden light onto your bare skin and a breeze fluffs your hair as you stroll down the lane to the mile point.

Whenever BD and I take a Sunday Stroll I like to take my camera along. I'm always on the lookout for a photo opportunity - something that captures the mood of the day, something unusual, maybe even something I would want to draw or paint. I snapped this shot thinking it would be a fun painting but I see now that the buildings are so far apart they fail to form a subject - at least one that's a fitting counterweight to that amazing sky. And so. It ends up here, decorating the blog.

Yesterday was truly glorious and I couldn't wait to get outside. Our usual stroll is down the lane and out to the mile point but yesterday we went all the way to Robert's. There, the creek empties into Occupacia Bay in a narrow deep channel that comes up close to the bank, with a sandy bottom edged by tall reedy grasses. Once, long ago, lighters from the steamboats would pull in here to unload drygoods in exchange for farm produce. It was never a bonafide landing, just a drop point along a low spot in the creek bank. But it is a lovely place from which to step into the water and float a bit. If the weather is at all sunny and the temperatures above 75 I am unable to resist and have to follow the dogs ... now the only dog ... into the cool inviting water - and yesterday it was both sunny and above 75. Perhaps only a few degrees, but enough to make the leap.

I don't know why swimming after Labor Day is such an impressive thing to me - since it's not that hard, not at all uncomfortable or unpleasant. Last Friday was so hot a dip in the creek would have been a treat. It's possible - though unlikely - that we'll have More Hot Weather even into October. But I doubt I'll get back into the river again before next May. It's just the way we are. Our mindset is on Other Things. Autumnal things. Cold weather things like new sweaters and unfinished knitted garments that beg to be stitched up.

I pulled out my Brica sweater and tried it on again. The shoulders are still pointy but I swear I think that blocking will flatten the sleeve cap enough to make it look alright. And I've knit half the neckline -which would leave only weaving in of ends to do and it could move into the Finished Object category. And so I shall - and photograph it to share with my eager readers. Just think - I bought this yarn in 2004 as a birthday gift to myself. How appropriate that I finish it in my birthday month - and only 8 years later!!! Which, of course, means I may give my imagination permission to fly into the boughs of fancy and start dreaming about Casting On.

Speaking of birthdays - I have been somewhat reticent about mine own, this year. I am still happy it's on its way. I'm still planning on Not Cooking that day - and I am sure it will be a wonderful birthday. I just seem a little less festive than in years past. Perhaps it is because I am coming off such an August. Perhaps it is because my horoscopes all say to 'Ware the 29th of September when a CRISIS will strike. I hope it is not because it is a decade birthday and I will be turning 60, though as I type this I suspect that it does have something to do with my more quiet enjoyment of the annual Month of TheQueen.

It is not that I regret or resent the passage of time. I do not feel like the fun is over - that all the good adventures are behind me.  I am, in fact, looking forward to a lot of wonderful things. It is just that - a number of the old familiar things I used to look forward to each autumn; each birthday; each flip of the calendar - have failed, this year, to excite me. For the first time I did not buy a new notebook as soon as Labor Day weekend was over. And I am not too curious about adding to the wardrobe this year. I don't have that lust to drive into the city and peruse the shops ... although that may be because the stores are so empty now - mere display cases for their on-line siblings.

Most of all, though, the old lady who looks back at me from the mirror is such a surprise that I'm left wondering who I am now. She is definitely not someone who is going to wear gladiator booties with her thigh-high split skirt this fall and her incipient jowls mean she will not be donning one of those Andean ear-flap knitted caps - even though she could make one and she thinks they are adorably cute. Fear not - for this doesn't mean either, that she will be wearing hideous cropped pants with sneakers. Most likely she'll continue with her somewhat conservative wardrobe in the familiar autumn colors that she loves best.

I think this contemplative state is also brought on because my work world is changing. And not just my day-to-day world but that greater world of Virginia librarians. Where once I was one of the young things or one of the insignificant things at these gatherings - now I am one of the old guys and there are so few of us left that I hardly know anybody at the workshops and conventions. I haven't even anyone to room with and will sleep in luxurious splendor, alone in my hotel room this fall.

And this is not a bad thing - there is something rather delightful about having a hotel room all to myself. But there is no denying it is a different thing - a change - and it requires some thought and examination to decide where to put it in the grander scheme of the Life-0-TheQueen.

Ah well. I did not mean to wax melancholy with this talk of time's inexorable march into CHANGE. I'm not melancholy. Just thought-filled. It must be because I am going to a funeral today and bidding farewell to a particularly sweet Hoskins cousin - a married-here like myself - husband to perhaps the most beautiful, on both the inside and the outside, woman. Her kindness and sweetness and grace and beauty amazes me. I wonder if she ever looked in a mirror and asked that reflection who she thought she was. Ah well. Today is not the day to ask her - but there may come a time when it is.


I shall attempt to drag this blog post back to something less somber by leaving you with a hint of Things to Come. Tomorrow there will be pictures of a SURPRISE. And to close up the birthday thoughts - I did come up with a list of gifts for BD to give me - and they are all art gifts - to help me on my quest to become a good drawer. I am not quiet yet ready to confess that what I want to be is an artist - but I don't mind admitting - I want to be able to draw - and to draw well.

At Tara

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fall's First Sweater Day - a Knitting Post At Last

A storm came through yesterday afternoon and blew away summer. The temperature dropped about 25 degrees and we awoke this morning to the first crisp fresh breeze day of autumn. I am wearing a sweater - and not just any sweater but Irene, my green pullover knit last September. I know the day will warm up. I'll take my sweater off. But this wonderful chilly morning reminds me that there is better weather ahead. Energizing weather. Inspiring weather. Knitting weather!

I am thinking about an oatmeal Aran sweater - especially since the fall Vogue Knitting is all about Aran sweaters. And I already have the yarn. I'm also thinking about finishing up Brica - of the pointy shoulders. Or rather. I am thinking about ripping out the shoulders and knitting them again. Or maybe blocking it and seeing if I can smooth out those points. But I am certainly thinking about wearing it when we get some truly cold temperatures.

One reason I have done so little knitting this summer is because my eyesight has been acting up. I have an astigmatism that looks like this \ /. It's never been very pronounced and in the past it's only shown up in my near vision. This summer, at the height of my allergy suffering, it showed up in my distant vision as well - the vision I use to walk around the house and pick up knitting needles and find yarn. So in addition to bazillion degree temperatures and the world's meanest library patrons, I couldn't see a durn thing. I was truly uninspired to knit.

Ah. But. Today it is a sweater day. And a Sunday - and there are zero library patrons. And New Glasses have been ordered. Knitting will commence. After breakfast.


Monday, September 3, 2012

September 12 in 12

Yes. A Brand New Month - and Birthday Month at that - and I'm still thinking I can add another good habit to my life. I've been trying to make small step improvements to an already good situation all year. Looking back, I remember it was hard to come up with 12 habits given the criteria they had to meet:

  • take little time 
  • be done every day 
  • make my life more fun, happier, better

 Of course I'm always enthusiastic about New Years Resolutions. I simply adore the idea of things being better tomorrow - at Tara or at home or on the job. I love progress and movement and the joyful spiral of Better Things. Habits, the experts say, are formed when one does the same thing for 21 days in a row. The trick is ... if you miss a day, those same experts say, you have to start all over again with day 1. So perhaps I did not, in fact, create new habits in all cases. Truth is - I am not a metronome and can neither tick nor tock with perfect consistency. But since the real aim is improvement, progress and Better Things, (after all - should I achieve perfection, that would mean the end of Better Things, right?) I am okay with my B+ efforts Since the October board meeting is when I report on the status of the 5-year plan I think it behooves me to add this one to my life in September.

 5. Read my 5-year play every morning - because it is so durn easy to forget what I'd planned to do until it's review time and then I have to confess to all the things I failed to do! (a corollary to this is - have each of my staff read it at least once a week too - but that's another list)

Wise readers might think I ought to have added this much earlier in the year - and perhaps I could have but there were Other Things I wanted more.  Also - most of these habits were not things I had never done before - were not steps into entirely new directions - they were things I sort of did slap dash, hit or miss and now or then. The idea was that if I did them more consistently, made them daily habits, I'd make More Progress and have Fewer Moments of Horror when I realized I was late for something, missing something, about to crash and burn. In short - I already did all these things sometimes. I just wanted to do them more often.

Also, I put this one off so late in the year because I feared I would get bored with my plan. I needed to figure out how to go about reading it. It's actually a pretty lengthy document, full of definitions and explanations and ... well ... words.

Maybe too many words. Maybe it needs to be given a serious overhaul. Or maybe it's a really good plan. But whatever - I am going to focus on it with deep and concentrated thought from now on - not just because it is Good For Me, but because I'm moving into a late stage in my career and it's time to think about succession - and about what must be done in the next few years to make a smooth transition from now to a post TheQueen reign.

This is not to say that I haven't looked at my 5-year plan since last January. It just means that now it gets daily attention, sharper focus and more time. And if September will be to study the 5-year plan, October will be to begin making daily steps towards fulfillment of that plan. It all fits in with the Back-to-School feeling of autumn.

And should you be curious about how well I am doing with the Other Habits - well here's an update:

 August - draw 20 minutes every day - which I did - and watched my skills improve.  A+ for me

July  Charles Schwab List - August grew very fractious and difficult and though I'd make the list every day ... I didn't always follow it the next day. I will just say, I did my best and got through a rough month as lightly as possible.   A- for me

June  One Step Towards a Big Life Goal ah well - See August. Because a BLG for me is to become a better artist. So that's a pro forma A for me.

May  Compliment someone at work each day -  Why this is so hard to do I don't know. I believe I am kind and thoughtful - and I certainly DID compliment someone sometimes. But I always felt that little moment of "Ah Ha" whenever it happened. This is not a habit yet. But I am aware of it when I do it. I'd say ... D+

April  Exercise - well. I love me some exercise and I get in 4 days a week almost every week. On other days I am just active period, so I give myself an A on this one.

March Water .... Yup. I'm good with this one too - perhaps not perfect - but certainly I deserve a B++

February Prayer ... daily prayer. Here I have to admit that with a month as difficult as August was I am sure I prayed Every Day - if not many times a day. Of course - I believe the idea was to pray thankfully more often than I prayed supplicatingly. I can't give myself an A since I only acted in deed, not in spirit. I shall, instead, give myself a fat C+ and try a little harder this month.

January Journal my food - another A for me here - I am, if not the perfect weight, at least aware of how I got where I am. And I'm close. And my dining is healthier and better and I feel better for it. In fact, I wonder how I would have made it through Awful August without being nutritionally strong.

And so it is Labor Day. If I labor at all it shall be on cleaning the house - which I may or may not do. It's humid and rain is in the forecast. I may choose to be labor-free today and werk harder tomorrow. At Tara.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


And this is a big one for TheQueen. 

She's got ThingsToDo today so she'll write about it later this holiday weekend but she had to cheer a little on this morning after a blue moon first of September. And yes. She did make a wish. It had to do with work. 

Ta. Tomorrow. At Tara.