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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Strange Saturday and Sandy Preparations

[Image of 5-day forecast and coastal areas under a warning or a watch]
Try as I might I have completely failed at quelling that anxious sensation about a coming storm. Usually I poo poo hurricane forecasts because hey - it's coming anyway. Nothing I can do to stop it. I am always somewhat prepared just because I like to have extras around the house. Also we're usually glad for the rain, though we didn't need all that Irene gave us. We could use some rain now, for that matter, though we're not suffering drought conditions by any means. But the thrum of angst - that energy which causes everyone to empty shelves in stores - is wearing.
This storm is moving slowly enough that it looks like it will ruin the first few days of the week - when I had planned to do Other Outdoor Things or Drive to the City, which I won't do in high winds. I'm glad I can drive a car but I am never in the mood to drive one. Many things can convince me to stay home.

Then - there is the threat of damage. I don't want to see trees down, I'm not in the mood for being without power as the long nights of winter take over from the lingering summer twilight. I don't want to see all the glorious colors stripped from the forest. grumble grumble grumble. Also - this low heavy cloudiness that presages the storm means I have to take my laundry into town to dry. Thank goodness I remembered Friday night, in time to do something about it, that, though the driers are fairly cheap to use, the washing machines cost a fortune in quarters now. You'd think if they're going to charge you $5 to use a washing machine they'd at least put a dollar bill box on the side.

Strange also is the fact that I haven't got a knitting project on the needles.

Ooops. Correction. I don't have an interesting knitting project on the needles. I am diddling with something made of brushed cashmere and silk that there is absolutely no hurry to complete - it's way too lightweight for the frosty weather of autumn. I also have the yarn to make an oatmeal aran - and only the last of the neckline to do to finish Bricca the Aran (which I may actually do if the weather shuts us in for days). I also have - not quite 50 shades of - Cascade 220 that would make the coolest looking intarsia cardigan. In fact it need not be intarsia, but I've been feeling like I need to knit something using that technique ... maybe even something with a random, serendipitous design.

Oh ... how typing that makes me laugh at myself. There's NO such thing as a serendipitous use of color. Oh - you may start out picking whatever looks good together - but after a while the project takes on a look - a color scheme that requires you to be deeply choosy about color just when you're getting tired of the garment and want to cast on something else. I can think of nothing more conducive to UFOedness than a random serendipitous colorwork project. Still and all .... I'm a little hungry for New Clothes ... or rather, Something New on my needles.

Colonial Williamsburg

I'm just back from the Virginia Library Association conference - held, happily this year, in Williamsburg - where I am always glad to go, for many reasons, one of which is that the shopping is so interesting. Besides very quaint and often high quality reproduction stuff in the old town, there are the outlets - where, if you like only Jones of New York, or Anne Taylor, you can indulge yourself with whatever sartorial pleasures you're hungry for at slightly cheaper, outlet mall prices. The outlet malls have gotten so big now they require 3 stoplights on Rt. 60. I seldom have enough time to shop the entire length anymore. I'm usually either tired or short of time or with someone who wants to go into places I would skip, were I on my own. Friday, on the way home, I traversed the whole place.

And I was enormously glad I had spent last weekend sorting through and culling my winter clothes. Had I not, I know I would have spent several hundred dollars on lovely things that would not have fit in my small closet and 4 dresser drawers. (Of course - I could have another dresser drawer if I would only knit up the yarn I have stored in the bottom one) There are two things I need this fall - a down vest and a pair of dress boots and I didn't find anything that was exactly right ... and the dress boots are going to cost a bundle so I shan't buy anything that isn't perfect, while the down vests - of which there were dozens - were either of an unflattering fit or the wrong color. I would rather go vestless than wear something unflattering in either shape or color... and so I am. I will probably find the vest I'm looking for at Walmart.

The VLA convention is always associated with fashion to me because the first time I went - nigh on to 30 years ago - everyone had on the dark suit with silk blouse and foulard tie of John T Malloy's Woman's Dress for Success. I, otoh, did not own a suit and had only a plaid wool skirt with a matching sweater - something straight out of the Patty Duke Show. Back then, my wardrobe was limited at best and even then I wore jeans to work as often as I wore anything else. I did not return to VLA till I had a fancier wardrobe.

Yesterday I finished packing up summer clothes - culling from the heap all the saggy-but-serviceable t-shirts and baggy shorts, though I was unable to pitch the multiples that were in decent shape. I will do that in the springtime - at Tara. I did empty out a tub-and-a-half, so I put all the summer shoes into the empty tub. Usually they're piled in a heap at the top of the stairs. This year they are out of sight and stacked on top of another bin. Sweet.

I also managed to get the house tidy, dusted and vacuumed before we lose power - which the weather dot com guys assure us we will. I have water. I have kerosene lamps. I have battery powered lantern flashlights and extra batteries. I have a pot of chili. I have a gas stove. I have a basket of kindling and dry wood on the back porch. I have library books. I have yarn. I have watercolors. I will go fill the bathtub in a few minutes. I believe I am as prepared as I can possibly be. Now it's just a waiting game.

Take care all my friends in low lying areas. It will soon be better. At Tara.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fall Cleaning

The truth is - I rather like housework. There's something precious about stroking my hands (or a dustcloth or broom or vacuum) over my things. I like to admire what I have on the buffet. I like to stroke my fingertips along some of the picture frames. I certainly love the way the house feels when it's completely dust free and, happily I can ignore the smudges on the fresh-paint-starved walls just so long as they're at least clean. But even something I really like, like chocolate cake or cheeseburgers or sweet woodsy perfumes, can be ... well ... just too much. With housework, it's a case of it too frequently lifting its nagging voice. If only I had to clean house about as often as I eat chocolate cake or cheeseburgers, why, I would say it's one of my favorite pastimes.

But the need for housecleaning doesn't show up once every few months. That need rears its ugly head with mind boggling frequency. You see, I live in a breezy (leaky) house. It's at the end of a long dirt lane. It's to the east of a big open field that gets plowed either once or twice a year. I have dogs. I live with guys. Mind now, those are all good things too, but they are not conducive to keeping a cleaned up house ... clean. In fact - it is my belief that any one of those conditions is a deal breaker when it comes to any clean house transaction.

Of course it's fun(ny) and easy to blame Others but TheQueen can't escape her own share of the responsibility. She is scattered and slothful. She's famous for just putting things down - not away. She is unfocused and while actually cleaning a house, must frequently stop to play essential games of Spider Solitaire. She has low standards. She has doors and an attic! She can pretend the clutter isn't there for long stretches at a time by simply refusing to acknowledge it..

But give her 2 or 3 days  home alone and boy can she do some scrubbin', sortin' 'n' tossin'.

Which is exactly what I have been up to for the past 2 days. First came the general Saturday house cleaning - what I'd do on any weekend. But because nobody was coming in, flopping down on sofa or bed and asking "are you done yet? Can I read to you? Do you want to take a walk?",  I could do things like, take down the pictures and dust behind them ... eew.  But because it's the end of October and surely a frost is nigh, I also swapped out more summer clothes for winter. And that's when the shameful part began.

I store the off season clothes on a long pole in the attic. A long pole, 3 large plastic tubs and a number of lawn'n'leaf bags - great emergency storage when you can't stand to look at this stuff one moment longer. Of course - once crammed into those bags and bins, the clothes disappear into Never Never Land and come the equinox or even a little before, when the New Fall/Spring clothes appear in the stores, it's easier to just buy another white turtleneck than to paw through forgotten containers upstairs. But because there was nobody I had to accommodate this weekend, I began tossing those bags and bins down the attic staircase and going through them and I tell you this. As gawd is muh witness, I'll never buy another white turtleneck again!

Frequently along the way I thought about taking photographs of the dread clutter but truth is - I was too ashamed. It's funny to write about but pictorial evidence is too lowering. I did take this snap of the give-away pile. There is a trash pile of stuff nobody would wear and another pile of maybe things. There are also 4 drawers of Enough Stuff. Plus all the summer stuff I need to make decisions about before I take those bins back upstairs. And I suspect, yea, even dread, there are More Hidden Lurkers still up in the attic. Ah well. I will make an attempt to get them all - but I shan't break my heart if I don't. Just so long as I can get to the Christmas ornaments in a few weeks.

LOL - and guess what I found in the bottom of the umbrella crock? All of Ike's old toys. Most of our pets have shunned toys for more canine pursuits, but a dozen years ago we had a big black lab named Ike, who absolutely loved toys. It was such fun to have a dog like that because you could actually buy presents for him. Callie-girl loves them too, especially the ones that squeak. She will play a song for you anytime she can find one. Jack not only doesn't like toys, he positively hates the ones that squeak. If Callie leaves one lying about he'll take it off and push it behind him.

What do you mean there's a dog on the

And now - it is Monday. I could use another day at home but we're short staffed this week. ThePrince will have to look after the pups and their toys. As for the rest of the clutter that is not yet put away... I'll think about that to morrow. At Tara. Where there ought to be servants to put it all away for me.

Why it's hard to keep a clean house when you live with dogs

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Perfect October Day

We woke up Tuesday morning with no firm plans on how to celebrate this 41 year first-date anniversary. All we had decided was to do whatever felt like fun. So I took breakfast up to bed and BD read some Wendell Berry to me while I knit (Yes. TheQueen still knits!). But the most beautiful October day ever kept beckoning and eventually we shucked off the bedclothes and stepped into a magical outdoors. 

We live down on the flats and our landscape lives up to it's name - flat flat flat - so we drove up country to forage across new landscape. You will never know how many secret delights await you off those narrow county roads till you get out of the car. Treats like wildflowers ...

and ponds just right for puppy swimming

I love the way white labs blend into the pale autumn grasses - 50 shades of khaki, hmmm? 


I was also on the lookout for color schemes - especially things that combine blues and autumn reds. Here, beneath this sweet gum tree I caught just that lovely pale blue of mid afternoon sky.

Proof I was actually here - along for the walk. The photographer, like the cobbler's children, is often the last one in line.

There were two more ponds for a little new baby puppy to explore and Daddy and Jack had some quality time together too.


It was the Perfect October Day. We topped it off with a splendifferous dinner - cooked at home - I know - shocking! Filet Mignon from TBonz'n'Tuna and a bottle of Ingleside Merlot 2007 - just about the best merlot I've ever tasted! 

And now this wonderful day is at an end. It's time to head back to werk. 
But I can think about today tomorrow. At Tara. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Annual October 16 Post



It's been 41 years now and it's still an adventure. But that first day story is such fun I have to post it. I know you've heard it before but heeeeeeeer it is again.

 * * * * * * * * *

Long long ago there was a cheeky teenager, just past her 19th birthday, who was studying music at a big city university. One Friday, as she walked into the orchestra room, the flute player spun around in his chair, looked straight at her and asked her if she wanted to drive to North Carolina with him the next day.

“Sure” she said, desperate for anything to do on the weekend, when most of her friends split for home, leaving her to rattle all alone in a monolithical dormitory. Besides, he was one of the really good looking guys she and Robyn had decided were “cute enough to take us out”. And he had such a voice - deep sonorous basso profundo with the most delicious country southern drawl - not hick, in fact, very cultured, but oh so Southern. And startlingly blue eyes. Blue like autumn skies. And he was big - not fat or anything - just big with a big aura, a big presence. Nothing hesitant or shy or self-effacing. This was a man, not a boy, and he was inviting her to spend all day with him.

“Right.” he said. "Meet me at my house tomorrow at 10 a.m." and he gave directions to a row house in the Fan district, a few blocks from school.

Poor thing. Little did he know that he’d just arranged a date with his exact opposite in the GreatClockUniverse. She was no ditherer. No lingerer. No procrastinating late comer. She was an EarlyBird - always 15 minutes before hand, sometimes more. For this important assignation she was a full 30 minutes early, knocking on the dark an+d silent door of his first floor apartment.

“Stood up!” she thought. “Impossible” Nobody stood up this girl, no siree. And she stomped the four blocks back to school, snatched her fiddle out of her locker, slammed the practice room door shut and began to saw away, muttering imprecations, curses, indignant affronted descriptions of what is expected in this world, and other dark and damning words. But ...

She was also innately fair and as she scraped away at Kreutzer, she had to admit that the man had said come at 10. Perhaps he was out filling up the gas tank. Or perhaps he was renting a trailer. After all, the purpose of the trip was to retrieve his piano, waiting for him in his old place in Chapel Hill, NC. And so, at 10 o’clock for sure, she rounded the corner of Lombardy and Floyd and there he was, waving an arm, smiling happily and calling out “Hey Baby!”

She crossed the street and he invited her into his apartment. He offered her a beer, and though she hated the stuff - still does, in fact - she was also aware of what is cool and for a still-teenage girl at college, drinking beer at 10 a.m. was truly cool, so she said yes. He was back in a flash with a mason jar full of the most delicate, most mellow drink she’d ever tasted. His own home brew. There were gallons of it in his little bachelor kitchen. Now, be it gallons or pints, this stuff was potent and it was only moments before she was definitely in the mood to be entertained. And entertained she was, with music, books, ideas, and talk talk talk, tumbling out of this delightful man with his shelves full of books, boxes full of sheet music, head full of poetry in three different languages and kitchen full of nectar. Best of all, he was happy. Neither cynical, sarcastic nor jealous of another’s musical ability or progress, he was ready to share, to learn, to listen and to admire. In the highly competitive world of performing arts, here was someone with a blend of such innocence and courage there was nothing to do but laugh with pure pleasure and maybe fall in love a bit.

After a while the two of them tooled off in search of a U-haul place. Across the Lee Bridge at an Esso Station on Cowardan Ave., where Caravatti’s Junk Yard used to be, he stopped and went in to arrange a rental. Minutes passed and when he returned he stood right in front of the car and grinned at her through the windshield; one of those beaming, sunshiny “Ain’t this Grand?” grins. And as she stared up at him, suddenly he turned into an old man, still standing there, still grinning. She blinked; gawped; stared again. She looked down at her own hands and they had turned into an old lady's hands, the skin papery and spotted with large brown freckles, sunk down between the tendons. They were her grandmother’s hands. And she thought “My god. I’m going to be riding around in a car with this man when I’m an old lady.”

For some reason he had decided to rent the trailer in NC. Probably the Richmond outfit didn’t have what he was looking for. They motored on down I95, past the tobacco plant and warehouse district of south Richmond, past Petersburg, through Emporia. They talked the whole time, chattering, discovering, opening, sharing. At one point he said “well, there’s a lot you don’t know about me” and she thought “oh boy, there’s a lot you don’t know either”. And at that, there were some surprising points of contact. He had graduated from the same high school her dad had gone to. She had played a concert in Chapel Hill that he had gone to hear. He had taken lessons in Winston Salem while she had been a student at the School of the Arts. At Herndon, NC they stopped for lunch at a Kentucky Fried Chicken place. She had never been to one. In fact, fast food then consisted almost entirely of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, milkshakes and fries. Fried chicken was a real treat and, of course, to a 19-year old, it didn’t fortell the diet doom it was to present later on.

The October skies had been gray all day but they grew heavier and more threatening as evening approached. Rain began to fall. At a Carolina gas station he picked up a small box trailer and two ice cream sandwiches. “How did you know ice cream is my all time favorite treat?” she cried and to his question of “Then don’t I deserve a reward” she answered with a resounding kiss. Of course, this was in the days when, first off, girls worried about being thought forward or even worse; fast! It was also at a time when she was very wary of anything that would cause boys to sidle away from a touchy feely woman. Of course, this was no boy. 28, he’d told her. But when it’s the right guy, with the right gift, only a kiss will do.

It was harder to be chatty on the long dark wet drive home. Especially when the passenger was one of those Superior Morning Persons. For an SMP, darkness means it’s time to close one’s eyes. She still didn’t realize she was dealing with one of those Stubborn Night OwlsSNO’s think SMP’s are silly, especially the types who creep out of cozy warm beds before the sun is actually above the roof tops of the houses across the street. All those delightful discoveries were waiting up ahead for them. On that day, in the hypnotic glare of headlights on raindrops, she grew pretty drowsy. “I like to drive. Go to sleep” he told her and eventually she did.

It was too late to get back into the dorm when they reached Richmond. She’d known it would be and had signed out for the weekend. He gallantly put her up for the night. She was there the next day when other friends came around to help shove the piano down the narrow hallway and into the apartment. It was well into the afternoon before she made her way back to her place, to pace the dormitory halls till her girlfriend should show up and she could tell her the exciting news about the upcoming nuptials.

There have been many more rambles, in half a dozen different cars, since that October 16, thirty nine forty forty one years ago. In 1991 the two of them took the trip to North Carolina all over again, even to starting at 1617 Floyd and to looking for some sort of U-haul place on the south side. They found the KFC in Herndon had moved a block but it was still serving up the original 11 herbs and spices recipe. They'll probably go off on a ramble today, the two of them, getting older, but not yet quite as old as the geezers in her vision.

But that is the story of my anniversary. We also celebrate a lovely wedding anniversary in April. It’s important, but not more important than October 16, when my favorite cute couple started out on life’s journey. Sometimes it’s hard to believe I even had a life before that day, although I can tell stories from that Mesozoic Era. It’s as if 10/16 were my real birthday; the day I began living my grown up life. BD, who had a head start on me, says he feels the same way.

There are a lot of stories in my bag of tales, but this one is my favorite.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Morning Musings

Every other month I work on Saturday. I actually like Saturday duty but I also like the expanse and luxury of two days in a row off. There is also some resistance from other inhabitants of TheCastle to my absence on Saturdays so I stick to the every other month schedule and one of my months is October and yesterday was my Saturday.

Which means that Friday I had the day off and this month I joined Sister in the far west end of Richmond for some serious retail therapy. We bought some high end underwear - the sort of stuff you'd call lingerie even though you wear it every day. Oh. Well. Maybe some of you wear lingerie every day but the word still connotes images of  Jean Harlow in Dinner at 8 to me. My mother once told me that all her life she wanted to be Kitty in that movie. Which just shows you that one can be deeply sympathetic to someone who is an utter opposite. Kitty lay around in bed all day, ate chocolates and canoodled with the doctor, only putting on clothes to go out to dinner. Now, I can lie about in bed till maybe 11 o'clock on a Sunday but that's about it. Mostly I pop up like a piece of toast.

And now I have strayed completely from my original thoughts - which were merely about the fun I had with my sister in the lingerie store. And yes. This was a Spending shopping trip so I came home with a tiny bag worth many dollars. Afterwards we went to The Cheesecake Factory where we had lovely healthy appetizer lunches and then ruined it all with the 1220 calorie White Chocolate Caramel Macadamia Nut Cheesecake. The best part about that desert was the name - and the feeling of sinful indulgence. Alas. The worst part of it was the blah taste - or rather - the heavy caramel taste - and that was not bad - it was delicious - but you couldn't taste any of the other flavors - so next time I will just get the plain cheesecake that logs in at about 700 calories and will have a nice cheesecakey flavor. Or I will go to the Godiva shop and get fancy caramels. It was truly an example of flavor overkill. 

To complete our Friday of Lustful Experiences we went to the Apple store and drooled at the technology. I have long wanted something portable but robust that would let me 'do it all' and I am thinking now what I want is the MacBook Air. It is just small enough to fit in my larger purses and it's light enough and it has a keyboard that's big enough for me to handle. 

It's a too-expensive luxury item to add to my life right now ... but ... I can save up for it and by the time I have the spare $1200 it might be even better ... as in - it may have a phone included. I think that would be the absolutely perfect device. A true phone in a tiny laptop. Yep. My perfect gadget.

Oh. I almost forgot. We also went to Whole Foods where I'm supposing you don't even have to look for the "organic" label on anything. I bought only some very fancy mushrooms since I had just gone grocery shopping but I did see Vegenaise for sale at almost half the price I pay for it down here. Of course, I shop at a tee tiny church run vegetarian store for that kind of food. And I don't have to drive all the way to Richmond. 

And now it is Sunday morning - half way through Sunday morning at that - and I have yet to fix breakfast. The day holds several pleasures - some painting, some outdoor play, lots of puppy love, and yes - some knitting. I promise. I will have pictures tomorrow. Of Tara. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Wonderful Wedding Weekend

Way last January, our oldest friends dropped by with some important information. SAVE THIS DATE for their daughter's wedding, the first weekend in October. Not 2 months later we got news from beloved cousins to SAVE THIS DATE for their daughter's wedding, the first weekend in October. With deep reluctance, we let family trump friendship on Saturday but we made sure to spend Friday evening up at the farm (a different farm) with P&T and their brideful daughter, D and all their new (and old) family. Our hearts were so filled with long ago memories - T bringing P over to our house on his first date. Playing the music at their wedding 2 years later. T's dog Clancy going crazy at the spring, as we flipped gourdes of water over his head. P taking me to VaBeach during a hideously difficult period I had to plow through in the 80's. 

This is an old friendship - a sweet strength in my life. There was a softball game and there was fried chicken. There was a bonfire and there were oysters. This is, after all, Tidewater Virginia. And though we couldn't be at the wedding I've seen pictures. It was adorable and the bride was beautiful. Just the way it should be.

For us, though, Saturday meant an early start to Bedford where COUSINS live and where another wedding was gearing up. This is the family of cousins whose little girls came every summer to Bess's Girls Camp - to play with my big girl art toys and swim down the red moon path. The bride was the great granddaughter of our precious Aunt Anna - the family matriarch who never abused her power but who also made her thoughts known to all, even if she didn't drive and lived 200 miles away. 

We are just one thread of this vastly woven plaid of a family - the Tidewater thread that glides under and around the Arkansas thread, the Tennessee thread, the South Carolina thread, and all the other Virginia threads - glimmering and winking our own colors to blend with the beautiful cloth that is family. 
The drive is one I've described a number of times - because it's one of my favorite pathways across the state. At least a quarter of the way is down Rt. 60, a long steel-blue ribbon of highway that shakes itself out over the rolling landscape of Piedmont VA, through Powhatan, Cumberland and Buckingham counties. We got to the motel in good time and ran straight into the bride's Uncle R, in the lobby watching the Arkansas/Auburn game. So yes. I took the clothes upstairs - a dress, a small overnight bag and a suit (I thought).

Only. It was not a suit. I had taken BD's suit coat to the cleaners that week, along with some summer things of mine that needed to be prepped for winter storage, but not the trousers. I packed the overnight case for us both but assumed someone else had gotten his own suit together. Teach me a lesson, right? There at the motel I discovered that while I could take the top half of my husband to a wedding, the bottom half was not going anywhere with me. Not in those ripped dirty jeans. 

"I'll just have to go as I am" was his first flippant effort to mask panic.

"Not with me you won't," was my reply.  "There's at least a Walmart in this little town - we can find you something that's at least clean"

So off to the tiny shopping center we went to discover a Goodwill store right next door. A very nice Goodwill store with a pair of size 38 grey suit trousers that were as close a match to his jacket as anybody could wish - certainly a closer match than anybody looking at us would notice. For $3.50. See? 

With that kind of luck I should have bought a lottery ticket! 

The wedding was just about the happiest, smiling-est, hugging-est wedding I've ever been to. I took lots of very fuzzy photos - the bride's were the worst - but I got some good snaps of huggin' cousins and while the rest of my pictures aren't worth displaying, they're sure fun for me to look at. 

Sunday dawned rainy, grey and cool and the low slung clouds hid the Peaks of Otter but the drive home was a delight. We puttered and poked and meandered down all sorts of back roads. I finally got to drive through Rustburg, county seat of Campbell Co. and for some reason, stuck in my mind as a place I wanted to visit. We drove down one long dirt road to cross the Appomattox River where it is barely 50 feet across, to find there was no bridge, only a ford - a ford in flood. We've done that before - unsuccessfully - another funny travel story for another post - so we backtracked and found our way to Rt 60 again. This time we stopped in Cumberland for potato wedges - definitely not on the diet plan, but delicious anyway. There was one more stop at Kroeger for the hard to find groceries and then we were picking up dogs and hurrying back to home comforts.

Monday was a holiday - one of autumn's many treats - a chance to swap out winter clothes for summer. We're promised 70 degrees tomorrow and 80 degree weather next week, so there is still a call for short sleeves, but the sandals are up in the attic and there are jackets and hats in the front hall. Before I could do that, though there was housecleaning werk werk werk to do. I really have to chase my menfolk out of the house when it's cleaning time and while I was vacuuming the living room I noticed a little puppy, looking all dark with mud, running around the back end of my car. I was pretty ticked to think they were back already and in no condition to come indoors when that little body turned sideways and I realized it was not a puppy. It was a FOX!

I made a dash for the camera but it was already trotting around to the side of the house. It could tell I was looking at it, too, so when I dashed through to the den I made sure I was far enough back that it couldn't see me through the French doors. It's tail is as long as the rest of its body! I know we had a mother fox who raised a litter down the north edge of the big field and I'm guessing this was she.


She found something to eat and started chewing when the battery died on the camera. 

Speaking of something good to eat - I made a batch of vegetarian chili from a recipe in the Nov/Dec issue of Cooks Illustrated. I have loved every dish I've ever made from their recipes so I was hoping this one would satisfy BD's chili lust. I think it was a delicious recipe and it made something like 4.5 quarts of chili - but it was a fiddly tedious recipe and Himself was not impressed. I can get that reaction by dumping onions, canned beans and TVP in a pot and leaving it overnight. If you are seeking the perfect Texas Chili from some little hole-in-the-wall in Washington D.C. that shut down in 1971, you will be disappointed but if you just want a really delicious vegan chili, you'll love this. As for this cook, with this picky eater? She won't make it again.  In fact she won't try to satisfy someone's chili lust ever again. She will Let Him Eat Meat.

My GF and I are working on watercolor Christmas cards and are sending each other photos of our efforts, if not every day, at least on a regular basis. Here are two examples from the drawing board. 

And that's what's been going on at TheCastle this first week of October.

Monday, October 1, 2012

12 in 12 for October

Well. As our dear Robert Burns reminds us, the best laid plans gang aft agley, and if there was ever an agley September, this was it. Whew. Everything just seemed to interrupt everything else. It was a "lower my head and plow on through" month.

Mind now - it was not a bad month. It held a Birthday - complete with 3 deserts, 2 happy birthday songs and presents. It had a New Puppy in it. It included buying a completely TheQueen-like dress at way more than I usually spend. There were a number of parties and there were may loving birthday wishes too. But ... it was also a doughy month - a 'swimming-in-pudding' month - a long hard tough chew of a month and for the first time I can ever remember - it was a September I was pleased to bid goodbye.

All the astrologers are giving me uplifting October horoscopes though, and I am ready to welcome them into my life. Ready for life to be a little bit easier, a little bit more predictable. Adding a New Habit to your life is difficult when things turn all upside down from day to day. Let us hope this more settled period will help me score higher on my Habit-0-Meter.

First off - the habit for October is:

10. Ditto at work - Select something from the 5-year Plan and step one step closer to achieving it - or to realizing it's not the goal we wanted to achieve and getting it out of the plan. 

This is the mate to "reading the 5-year Plan every day - September's habit. I won't be able to tell if I'm actually forming this habit (which I have always heard as "Good For You") unless I stick to September's habit - a good thing since I did not do all that well at reading the plan every day last month. I started off with enthusiasm but crowded days and a little internal anxiety about Other Things made it easy to drift away from my focus. Now that I acutally have to do something each day besides look at it - maybe I'll look at it more often. But ... Daily is a bit of over-kill. Weekly will be often enough.

As for the score card on the rest of my habits, let's just have a quick review.

September: Read 5-year plan daily - uh. hmm. how about 10 times or 33% which is a failing grade except that .... even that 30% was a Big Help. I will pass me - but, just barely. D+

August (and September) Draw every day ... well. I drew about 20 days out of the month - whic is about 66% of the time so - see above, right?  Another D+

July: Charles Schwab List at work - yes. even when I didn't obey it at least I knew if I was slipping off the point. Not perfect - but I would say a B+

June: One Step Towards Big Life Goal .... I'm still blaming the kinds of things that were happening last month  so I'll give myself a C

May:  Compliment someone every day    hmmm. my bad. another C

April:  Exercise   even here, with my beloved exercise I was a slacker. C- for me

March: Water - nope. Pretty bad with this one too. Not a failing grade but maybe a D+

Feb:  Prayer - here I did much better. I made a conscious effort to pray every day. Not always at the same time - which I think would make it easier to do - but every single day I took some time out to pray. This was an A fer sure.

Jan:  Track what I eat. Well. I did. I tracked all those coconut cakes and did you know an Applebee's shooter desert - yeah - I'm talking about the small desert - is 13 Weight Watcher's points which translates out to 650 calories or 1/3 the daily total for an adult female. Yikes! Not good. So. I tracked. But I gained weight - and I don't track for the fun of it. I track to some purpose and the purpose is weight loss or weight maintenance. Not weight gain.  So that is a C as well.

Hmmm. C habit maker. Average. Not, alas, what I hoped these Good Habits would lead me to. I can be aveage without trying. Let us hope I will do better this month. At Tara.