bunrab: (me)
I am pretty much through with my annual fall fit of the weepies - the one where every time I think "The leaves are so beautiful" a little voice in my head tacks on, "but Steve's not here." The little voice isn't quite as loud as last year, or as constant and frequent as the first couple years, but it's not gone completely, either, and I don't know that it'll ever go away completely. It doesn't hit me like a ton of bricks so that I double over trying to catch my breath; it just takes a little chunk of time to enjoy things away from me. That's what "getting better" consists of.

Long, whiny self-justification )

So - is that enough "moving on"? Do you think I should be feeling no grief at all anymore, just faint soft memories of the happy times? Bullshit. If everyone else is tired of hearing anything about Steve by now, say so, but don't tell me I shouldn't be thinking of him any more.

I was reading The Book of Woe, about the making of the DSM-5. One of the things they did was remove the "bereavement exclusion" from the definition of depression, so that anyone who acts depressed for more than a couple of weeks due to grief is now considered to have a medical condition that can be and should be fixed. This is pretty much ignoring all of recorded history about how humans handle loss and grieving. And the book - which disapproves strongly of the DSM-5 - includes a quote about that from a doctor and medical anthropologist who lost his wife: "I still feel sadness at times and harbour the sense that a part of me is gone forever... I am still caring for our memories. Is there anything wrong (or pathological) with that?"

I'll be visiting Austin next week. And going to the quilt show in Houston!
bunrab: (me)
Things I am not catching up on:
Sewing: I'm trying to catch up on quilting projects, some 15 years old now. I am also trying to sort through fabric and reduce the stash some more, which I have been hopping to ADD-like instead of sticking to sewing - and worse yet, as I sort through fabric, I have ideas for new projects, and worse than that, I pull out fabric and start cutting it for those new projects - so I now have three more projects in pieces all over the sewing room, in addition to the already extant unfinished projects. On the good side there, I have pulled out about 40 assorted pieces of stash - from eighth-yards to 2-yard pieces - that I can stand to get rid of, and I have a group that makes baby quilts for charity lined up to give them to, next week - so I will try to find a few more pieces by then. But really, Kelly, stop having ideas for more quilts!

Blogging about books. I've read some, I meant to comment on some; I haven't found the time to both read and to write thoughtfully about what I read.

Knitting. I'm not going to have anything new done for Stitches next week. I have not used one single skein of the yarn I bought at Stitches last April. Granted it's been an unusually busy year, but really, having some 30 skeins of yarn still in its tote bag from Stitches 2012 is sort of evidence that I shouldn't buy more yarn, isn't it? Wanna bet I buy more yarn at Stitches next week anyway?

Condo association stuff: I /am/ going to do the condo association newsletter tonight. And I /will/ fill out and mail the Business Personal Property return before I leave for Stitches, since it's due the 15th. But I am no further along in finding an auditor nor in familiarizing myself with our interesting lawsuit against our former management company than I ever was. And pretty soon the next phase of the gas bill project will be added to the pile, along with the next phase of the washers-in-units project.

Catching up on my CPA CPE: I have 64 hours of mail-order classes sitting next to the computer (out of the 80 hours I need, total, to catch up), and haven't started a one of them, though I paid good money for them.

Unpacking boxes and giving away stuff: this is going incredibly slowly. I still get these little punches in the heart and bursts of tears sorting through Steve's stuff, and I still am having a great deal of trouble picking out books to get rid of without thinking I need to re-read them first. Never mind boxes full of papers such as old bills and greeting cards and souvenirs - those I haven't gotten to at all.

What have I done, anyway? Well, a Mensa friend gave me his old clarinet a couple of weeks ago, and I am making significant progress on that. Learning the fingering from a chart isn't the hard part; learning to look at written music and do that fingering at speed as the notes go by on the page is the hard part. Especially that middle register where the F through B-flat all take place with combinations of just the forefinger and thumb using keys that aren't part of the regular fingerholes. And I have filed all my own taxes, which were a bit fussier than usual this year thanks to selling the house, investing a bit of money, and receiving the lump sum from SSA. And I'm doing a /little/ bit to help out with putting together Maryland Community Band Day which is coming up in June, hosted by the Baltimore Symphonic Band this year. So I'm not entirely unproductive. Just not keeping up, is all.
bunrab: (me)
Just whining. I have made inroads into the pile of boxes from the storage unit, but not very much, and very slowly. And part of it is, the totally irrational thought that I don't want to get rid of too much, or change too much, because what if he comes back - will he be able to find me? Will he recognize me?

It's the most irrational, pointless thought and yet I suspect that there isn't a widow or widower around who doesn't have it sometimes - who doesn't have that as one of the subconscious reasons they haven't given away the last of their spouse's clothing or stopped wearing the perfume or aftershave brand their spouse liked or changed their hairstyle -  or, in some cases, quite gotten around to selling the house or getting rid of the non-working car or throwing away anything.

I'm not quite that much in thrall to the irrational but I do have moments. I mean, I know it's a good thing I sold the house. Especially after getting a phone call from my former next door neighbor, telling me that the people who bought the house apparently didn't winterize something properly, and both the bathroom pipes AND the fuel line from the underground oil tank to the furnace burst, and they've had to move in with relatives while the entire floor of the house gets ripped up and the backyard gets dug up. I don't know whether I want to drive by in horrified fascination or not. I know Steve would never have let something like happen, and I was afraid I would, because I was not as conscientious or knowledgeable as Steve and I was never sure I was tending to everything that needed to be done, but I don't think I would have let water freeze in the lines. But I hate that the house will be changed that much, and that it won't be the house Steve and I shared anymore; I want stuff to STOP CHANGING quite so much or so fast, even when it's stuff I've already moved past - because part of my mind is still there, I'm not really completely past it. Because, what if Steve could see it? How upset would he be, how much would he hate it!!

And for that matter, would he be upset with some of the other changes I've made and things I've done - or would he be even more upset that I didn't do those things with him, while he was alive? I know I'm upset that I was so lazy, that I didn't do some of this with and for him. I should have taken better care of him!!

No, you don't all have to offer reassurances. I loved him well, and he loved me well as I was - and if I maybe was too lazy to do everything to the best of my abilities, well, he was enabling that - he was being lazy too, and he didn't want to cope with a couple seconds of  grumpiness I have in the morning so he just didn't wake me up. He could have tried a little harder; I wasn't the only one who was lazy and took things for granted..Oh, I want to go back and shake both of us!!

And part of this whine is just because Larry's sick and there's not a damn thing I can do about that either, and that's frustrating. So it brings up older frustrations. Don't mind me, I'll talk myself back out of this mood in a bit. Maybe cookies will help.
bunrab: (Default)
The heart stuff first: yes, I did go to the doctor's the next morning, just to confirm that it was a real episode and what I felt was what I thought it was, and test the device just to make sure nothing's wonky with it. And indeed, yes to all of that. And they raised my dose of Coreg again, now all the way up to what it "should" be - I had previously been taking only half the full dose, for years, because it made me so tired and because nothing much was going wrong and the Coreg wasn't helping my blood pressure that much over and above all the other meds I take - the Diovan or enalapril, the diuretics, etc. And for years, that was fine. But now, it appears that I need it for the anti-arrhythmic effects as well as the antihypertensive effects, so full dose it is.

a couple more paragraphs of whine )

Now, books. Part of moving is, I have to de-acquisition a LOT of books.
whining about why I have to give up a few )
One of the things I'm doing is reciting a mantra that goes like this: "The library has this book. The library has this whole series. Every library in Maryland and the surrounding states has this whole series!!" That mantra is useful for a lot of the murder mysteries and some of the science fiction. Of course I am not giving up the Lois Bujolds - I want to be able to reread any Miles book on any spur of the moment! - but the mantra helped me get all the J.A. Jance out the door, because, really, libraries are very good about murder mystery series. And a bunch of Steve's vampire collection that I still had - since vampires have been more popular these last 10 years than they were when I first started reading them or when I turned Steve on to them, more libraries have them, more used book stores have them, and more of them are available as e-books. So I don't need to keep most of them. (The complete Yarbro St. Germain series stays. Don't try to talk me out of that one.)

Another way to get rid of books )
Some of the reading I've done this past 6 months has been new stuff, and there's thoughts on that.
Reading and rereading gets tiring )
So that's the process. I am trying to remember to record all the re-reads on Goodreads as I go along, and also the library books I have been reading interspersed because a body can't read 100% fantasy series 100% of the time. If there's still any of you who I haven't found or haven't found me there, well, I'm easy to find.
bunrab: (Default)
Cindy came over for supper this evening - I managed to find enough counter space and dishes to cook some chicken, chop it up and put it on a salad, and then serve it at a table that had room for us both to sit at and eat. This is an intermittent thing - I get the table cleared off of stuff, and then as I unpack the next box, the table gets loaded up again with "stuff I need to sort through." And indeed, after dinner, we unpacked a few more boxes, and the table is once again buried, though not as badly. Two loaded boxes of stuff I don't need went off with Cindy for various charities - her UU church supports a homeless shelter and a transition program that puts homeless people into apartments, so they always need contributions of food and of household basics - tableware, basic cooking implements, towels, etc.

One thing that has become increasingly obvious: I have too much tea. Every single bit of it seems interesting, and I hate to "get rid of" tea. But honestly, I have five shelves of my pantry cupboards filled to the brim with tea - there are hundreds of teas there. Most of it is well-stored in airproof, lightproof containers - tins or glass - and has not been exposed to heat, so it should still be drinkable. So, if you would like a fat Tyvek envelope full of various tea, email me your address (and full name; I don't always remember everyone's), and you will get a random sampling of stuff. If there's some kind you honestly know you can't stand, let me know that too, because otherwise the sampling will include a bit of everything - black, green, oolong, puerh, flavored, scented, aged, bags, loose, possibly even partial slightly flattened small boxes of something stuffed in there.

While I'm not as bad as some people I know, I do seem to overbuy on food. It's partly the low-sodium thing - when I order by mail, I order quantities that make it economical, and when I find something in a local market, I grab as much as I can because I'm sure they'll stop carrying it. As a result, I have way more canned goods and dried soups and slow cooker mixes than would normally appear on a single person's shelves. And I still don't eat at home quite as much as I should - although my impending budget crunch will help cure that, I suppose.

Steve and I used to joke about using up a lot of our vacation time and vacation money just 2 hours at a time, by eating out most nights. It was a habit we got into early in our marriage, and it stuck. We didn't eat expensive stuff out - just sandwiches, or cafeteria, or Tex-Mex. After I got sick, we still kept eating out, even though our income was less, because, well, we were still better off than average, and could afford it, and enjoyed it. Finding the lowest-sodium thing to eat at a given restaurant became a game. And when we moved up here, from cafeteria country to diner country, Steve absolutely /loved/ diners, and we would eat quite regularly at one particular diner on the way home from Monday rehearsal every week, another particular diner on the way home from Tuesday rehearsal every week, another particular diner on the way home from Wednesday rehearsal every week... usually splitting an entree, so not as expensive as it sounds, or sometimes getting breakfast for supper, which is also less expensive than regular entrees. Well, when Steve died, it was still quite a habit - particularly since I felt so absolutely awful eating alone, and eating at a diner where the wait people knew me gave the illusion of not being alone for a little bit. And in that manner, I ran up credit card bills of several thousand, because my tiny monthly pension doesn't cover that. Well, when I sold the house, I paid that off - but I can't do it again!! And I can't keep dipping into savings for regular monthly expenses - using principle for living expenses is a horrible idea. That stuff is ALL THE MONEY I HAVE IN THE WORLD and I can't eat it up. So this is the point where I have to really, really stop the eating-out habit. I think I can do it over the next few months, if I promise myself one lunch out a week and one dinner out a week for a period; that's an extravagance but if I try to quit cold turkey, as it were, I will feel so lonely and be sitting at home alone all day so much of the time that I don't think I can stand it. So the other thing I've got to do is find volunteer work that gets me out of the house a day or two a week for a couple hours, isn't too much physical labor, and preferably offers lunch or snacks as part of the deal. I suspect that soup kitchens or homeless shelters are too much physical labor (and probably too little air conditioning - I'm far more heat-intolerant than I used to be) so this is going to take some research and calibrating. There are a couple of places I that are of particular interest to me to volunteer; now to find out if they happen to keep iced tea and snack bars on hand for the volunteers!
bunrab: (Default)
I tried a cooking experiment for dinner tonight that didn't work out that well - not inedible, but not anything worth ever doing again, either. So on the one hand, if it had turned out well, I would be all sad that I didn't have anyone to share it with, but I would have had very tasty leftovers for tomorrow. As it is, I am relieved that I wasn't trying to feed it to anyone else - and when I reheat the leftovers tomorrow, I'll just dump lots of chutney on top; chutney fixes almost everything.

Working backward, I have been feeling as sad the last couple of days as I was back in January. Lots of reasons for this - for one, a year ago exactly we were on our wonderful RV trip - I look at my post from May 15, 2010 and note that it was snowing in Wyoming, and that I stopped at Cowgirl Yarn. We got to Denver that evening, to stay with C&V for a visit. For another thing, it's been raining for a couple of days, and Calvin-Junior-next-door hasn't been able to mow my wet lawn, so the place looks a mess from the outside; Steve's rosebushes, the Double Knockouts, are blooming like mad but are surrounded by weeds. And for a third thing, this past week I paid the annual homeowner's insurance bill, the home warranty bill, and the last of the winter heating oil bills, all of which reminds me that I really must watch my pennies far more closely than I have been. I've been indulging myself into eating lunch out several days a week, and I really can't afford that - gotta cut back to once a week. Yesterday I dropped Cindy off at the airport for her annual visit with her nephew, and swung by the vet and finally picked up Gizmo's ashes, which are in a beautiful little box. Anyway, this combination of things has slid me a bit backward from last month, when for a bit I was feeling as if things were a bit lighter, as if I could breathe easier.

April felt better for several of its own reasons. When Gizmo died at the end of March, I went ahead and paid for a necropsy, and when the results of that came back, it showed that he had a rare and obscure infection of the liver, which couldn't have been detected in any well-rabbit vet visit when he was acting normally, and that by the time it showed symptoms, there truly was no treatment we could have used that would have reversed things. So I didn't have to feel guilty that I had somehow missed a chance to cure the Big White Bunny if only I had done *something*. Then, also in April, I went to Stitches South in Atlanta, and had a good time. I took the train there, and I enjoy train rides; I met up with Angela there and we split a hotel room; I spent several days totally involved in stuff that has never involved Steve and so didn't keep reminding me of him - and at the same time, there were several other women there who had also lost their spouses within the past year or so, so we could spend just a brief amount of time sharing our grief but also making jokes about how we weren't going to have to figure out how to hide how much yarn we were buying from our husbands. Being away from reality, and totally involved in an activity that has always been mine, made for a break in how I felt, and that left me feeling lighter as a lasting aftereffect. I was still missing Steve every day, but I began to see that I had a life without Steve, and even if it wasn't the life I had hoped for or planned on, it was a life that could still include some enjoyment.

I can still see that, sort of, but it's been fogged over these past couple days. Seeing Cindy off reminds me that I don't have any other really close friends here - people I'm close enough to to say "I'm lonely, I'm coming over to your house to hang out this afternoon so I don't have to be alone." I could probably drive up to my sister's place (2 hour drive) to hang out, and they'd be happy to see me, but it would be all noise and chaos, and everyone would be, quite rightly, more concerned with getting dinner on the table and homework done than with patting me on the head and making soothing murmurs. All my other really close friends are far away - Austin and Denver and Akron - can't exactly drop by or call and say let's meet up to split a dessert and tea at the diner. And I have lots of band acquaintances, but none of them are friends in that sense, and anyway most of them live just far enough away that by standards that aren't used to Texas, they'd think it was crazy to drive 20 miles just to hang out. In Austin, driving to Round Rock or Buda (or vice versa) for dinner and a game of Scrabble is something people would think quite reasonable to do frequently - every weekend, no problem - here, though, many people to consider that to be a distance that they'd only do for more special occasions (other than commuting to work).

And part of it's my own fault - if I weren't so self-absorbed, I'd be paying more attention to other people's journals, and to mailing lists I'm on, and more involved virtually in other people's lives, which really can help - no, it's not the same as hanging out in person, but it IS social activity and a reminder that there's stuff outside my own thoughts, and that other people's lives are interesting and they're willing to share. I know that, but I can't seem to break my laziness and read more than a couple of minutes of my flist page, or of the NEDoD list. How does one kick oneself in the pants to do something that one knows should be done and that will make one feel better? Just telling myself to do it isn't working, obviously.

So today, I couldn't think of anything reason to get out of the house that wouldn't wind up costing money, even apart from gasoline use, and I've sat here stewing instead. I probably look a little like a stewed tomato by now, too.

I'm getting positively closed-loop, whining about my own whining, aren't I? Hey, you all whose journals I've been neglecting, tell me something interesting going on in your lives that I should go read about.
bunrab: (Default)
When last seen, we were headed toward San Diego. We drove down CA-78, through a great deal of sand, some of which seems to be used by a great many dune buggies out in the middle of nowhere. Sand, sand, and more sand. Glamis, CA, appears to consist entirely of an RV lot and a place to start one's dune buggy/ATV off into the sand from. Finally we got down to I-8, to zoom into San Diego. We arrived early enough in the day to get in a couple hours at the Reuben Fleet Science Museum, before checking into our RV park down in Chula Vista. That museum is one of the other places we had visited in San Diego on our previous trip. We ate supper at a really good Thai place in Chula Vista. The RV park was quite nice, and quite large. Good laundry facilities, extensive, well-stocked store. Then Monday morning, the point of going to San Deigo: the zoo! Got there a little after 11; on a weekday, had no trouble at all finding 2 parking spaces for the RV. My scooter worked just fine. Weather was perfect - sunny, but never quite hit 70 degrees F. So, we started with the 40-minute bus tour, just to get a quick overview of where things were and what looked best. Capybaras, giraffes, lions, the big stuff, were easily visible from the bus. When we got back to the beginning and retrieved the scooter, we had to decide which way to go. We didn't so much decide as drift, and we wound up at the meerkats fairly quickly. Although the bus tour had mentioned juvenile meerkats, they hadn't mentioned what we found most interesting: a mother meerkat carrying an infant by the scruff of his neck, finally putting him down in a spot where she and another meerkat - dad? - could sunbathe. Steve got several good pictures of the baby, and I'll get them posted when we get home. We probably spent half an hour with the meerkats; this is why we almost never get to see a whole zoo; we tend to keep watching the animals being themselves. Anyway, there were koalas, doing the absolutely nothing that koalas do so well. And there was young panda - 9 months old, not exactly a baby any more, but sort of a panda toddler. Eating carrots and apples and climbing into a hammock and nibbling on his toes. And then there were the warthogs. The baby warthogs were actually just nursing on mom and occasionally wiggling around. Dad warthog had the most peculiar hair/mane cut. But it was the juvenile warthogs that kept us amused for quite a while. They were climbing all over a large stack of tree trunks, much as you'd picture goats would do. The young warthogs are pretty sleek, a reddish color with white stripes and spots, like baby deer and baby tapirs (we had fun watching a very large tapir wade through a pool, too!). And the juveniles were endlessly playful, playing tag, dashing over to annoy mom and then dart out of her way, back around the entire compound in one zoom, back up the logs and then a leap off of them... it's a pity the gift shop didn't have much in the way of warthog gifts. I nonetheless managed to find stuff to buy; the younger Schoenlebers will find themselves stuck with panda souvenirs.

Tuesday was our drive up to Sunnyvale and Oakland. Somewhere along the way we passed a car dealership called Mossy Toyota; we managed to make more jokes about that than we should have. Cindy, you should be quite glad you're not with us; our conversation would drive you *completely* around the bend. The less said about I-5, the better. It's a giant reminder that most of CA is desert or mountains or both, and should never have been densely settled, and *certainly* we shouldn't have tried to irrigate all of it and then have the farmers get upset when the water starts running out. Because Los Angeles apparently always has traffic jams, no matter what, and because the RV isn't very good at reaching the speed limit when doing serious climbing uphill, we got to Sunnyvale very late, and had a nice but hurried visit with Kartik and Usha. Thank you for the cupcakes, Usha! And then we drove up to Oakland, managed to find Jeremy's in the dark, managed to park the RV on their winding street, staggered in, ate a banana, and went to sleep.

We spent Wednesday hanging out and eating food, and playing with Jeremy and Brenda's new dog, a totally sweet Papillon named Yukon, who DOES NOT YAP. Seriously, Not one single yap the whole time we were there. An adorable dog. Emily and Anika were adorable, too, of course. It was great to get the chance to relax and talk. Family stuff, not really anything the rest of y'all need me to post about. Thursday morning, B packed us a whole bunch of tamales and rice for the road, which we have just finished eating here at the RV park in Elko, NV.

Nevada should never have been settled by anybody for any reason. It is completely ridiculous that places like Elko are here. I was ready to do a whole rant about that, but it wore off some. Really, though, there is no point to humans attempting to settle the area between the Sierra Nevada and Salt Lake City, and the fact that these towns are here and have casinos is proof that humans do not have enough common sense to continue to support the species for very long.

Tomorrow: more I-80! Contain your glee!
bunrab: (bunearsword)
Well, the roof is replaced. And the eaves/sofits and the gutters, and a few bits of the siding trim. Energy-efficient white shingles, that will get us an energy tax credit on our next income tax return.

And Fern bunny is fine, after the application of quite a bit of money at the veterinarian.

All of which is to say, we're not going anywhere this summer. No RG in Pittsburgh, sorry M-friends. No Knit and Crochet Show in Buffalo. Nowhere that we can't drive to within a couple of hours and stay at someone's house for free.

We are fixing up the other house for sale, since we haven't had much luck renting it - it goes on the market in a week and a half. A bit of interior paint, repairs to the sidewalk, replace a couple doors, stuff like that. We won't get what we paid for it; we bought it at the peak of the market, and that's not going to come again any time this ten years. But we should clear enough on it, if all goes well, to pay off the mortgage on the current house, replenish savings that were depleted by the new roof, and maybe, just maybe, enough to let us replace the pink bathtub with something we can stand to look at with our glasses on. There's no chance it would be sold and closed on in time to use the money for any of the afore-mentioned summer travel, though.

Anyway, that's what's been happening around here lately. I've gotten in a bit of reading, some crocheting and knitting, and have written some reviews for the Tea Review Blog -check out the blog here:
and a few of my reviews, specifically, here:

And, just so this has a bit more content, a picture of the most recent sweater I finished:

I've already worn this one a couple times and people seem to like the little sunflower, even though [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet says it looks like a large-winged insect has landed on me.
bunrab: (alien reading)
Firstly, Gray Apocalypse by James Murdoch - see my Amazon.com review of Gray Apocalypse. I didn't actually like the book, but it was surprisingly well written for a self-published first novel, and I can tell that people who like thrillers would like it better than I did (I was expecting science fiction). Disclosure: the author sent me a free review copy. If you read my review, please leave a comment with it, about whether I adequately expressed my ambivalence. Thanks!

Books I didn't even finish:
Zombies: A Field Guide to the Walking Dead by Dr. Bob Curran. I was hoping for a sort of humorous species guide and some references to literature and genre novels. Instead, it's a dead-serious (pun intended) discussion of practically all of the historical beliefs in various sorts of risen-from-the-grave beings in cultures from thousands of years ago to now. And the illustrations are pretty but don't match the tone of the text at all. It's difficult to make zombies boring, but this academic treatise does it. I mean, a serious discussion of whether the Witch of Endor's calling up Samuel (from the bible) counts as a zombie? Ew.

One Bite With A Stranger by Christine Warren - one of the recent crop of vampire romances, this one has an emphasis on the romance aspect of it, for values of romance that equal sexual activity and not much else. Completely chick-lit stuff, with too much discussion of getting drunk on good wine and going shopping. Not my cup of tea, or of blood either. I don't know why I keep trying these things - oh, wait, I keep trying them because vampire romance genre fiction was how I first discovered Chelsea Quinn Yarbro some thirty-odd years ago, and I keep hoping that I'll run into something surprising like that again. But this book wasn't it.
bunrab: (Default)
Dear Composer:

What is it with changing clefs in the middle of a freakin' line?? I can cope with your absurd choice of key signature; I deal with your changes of time signature every few measures; but keep the music to one clef per part, dammit! If you weren't dead, I'd kick you in the shins.


Dear Publisher:

I like reading a book to be an adventure in literature, not an exercise in proofreading. If you do not hire a copy editor, I will hunt you down and kick you in the shins.


Dear #1 Cat:

Stop eating my yarn.

Human #2


Dec. 19th, 2008 11:57 pm
bunrab: (bathtub warning)
So here's what I've been doing the last couple weeks: two weeks ago, caught a cold. Hasn't completely gone away yet. Tried taking pseudoephedrine to stop the snot, and got zapped by my ICD for my trouble. The day after that (last Friday) drove up to Philadelphia to see niece in high school play - she is a freshman, but got one of the front parts usually reserved only for seniors; the family habit of singing loudly in public at the drop of a hat has some uses. Came back Saturday afternoon; played holiday concert at CCBC-Essex with the BSB on Saturday night. Sunday afternoon, I played a holiday concert with the Montgomery Village Community Band, while [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet played one with the Bel Air Community Band, each 40 miles in opposite directions from C'ville. And at that, we missed two other performance opportunities we had for the same afternoon; since Thanksgiving was so late this year, the number of weekends available for holiday performances is scrunched down, so a lot of things were happening at the same time.

Monday, I slept. Well, woke up for meals, but otherwise slept. Tuesday I also slept, though I woke up for taking Chippy-chin to the vet for a follow-up; he is almost all healed up from Darwin's attack. Wednesday, let's see, I believe I actually woke up for a few hours Wednesday, and worked on the many homemade holiday presents I have not yet finished. Thursday we went to the library, and I finished buying the last few little things I needed to buy for assorted nieces and nephews. Then Thursday evening, Cindythelibrarian took us to see a show, as part of her Christmas present to us. The show was "Every Christmas Story Ever Told" presented by the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, and it was great. A three-man show doing them all - Charlie Brown, The Grinch, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and (due to copyright issues) Gustav the Green-Nosed Reingoat. If you're in the area, it's playing through Sunday. My favorite part was the first act closer, The Nutcracker ballet. If you're on my flist, chances are you are familiar with Anna Russell's version of The Ring Cycle; imagine the Nutcracker condensed that way and you about have it. Complete with actual ballet dancing, done very well and very funnily. (Funnier for women my age than for men, because women of my generation, if we were anywhere above poverty level and even some below, we took ballet lessons when we were six years old or so; it was just one of those things. Ten years older and you probably didn't; ten years younger and you probably didn't, but all of us who are fifty-mumble took those lessons, whether at a dance school, or cheap group public school stuff on Saturdays in the gym, we all learned the five positions, and plies, and so on. Bit of cultural literacy there.) The second act was a merger of Dickens' A Christmas Carol and "It's a Wonderful Life" and then ended by singing every Christmas song ever written in about three minutes. We really enjoyed it.

And Friday, today (or yesterday, depending on how you feel about nights and stuff), I went to the doctor and got some stuff that's supposed to stop the nose drip without causing hypertension or arrhythmia; we'll see how that works. Also stopped at Jo-Ann's and got some yarn for one last teddy bear xmas present, and at Trader Joe's for freeze-dried strawberries; the chinchillas get VERY peeved if we run short on strawberries, and one really doesn't wish to risk the wrath of a peeved chinchilla. And now I am back to working on those presents - gotta finish place mats for Steph, potholders for Jen, teddy bear for Luke...

I have not had time or energy, outside of concerts and colds, to do any xmas shopping for anybody not part of my immediate family. If some of you normally get a Solstice/Chanukah/xmas present from me, well, this year, expect a New Year's present, or an Epiphany present, or maybe even a Martin Luther King Jr. Day present... There are a couple small things going out in the mail tomorrow to Texas, and a couple more small things on Monday, that might get there before New Year's.

One of the things we haven't done, either, is get up to NYC, which I wanted to do. Since the Museum of Natural History keeps their tree up through the end of the month, I am thinking we might go the week after Christmas; even though it'll be a little more crowded 'cause kids have off from school, a weekday should still be tolerable. Possibly Monday the 29th. (T, I'll call you about possible lunch!)

Now back to work.
bunrab: (chocolate)
So the apple pie had problems - the crust started falling apart 10 minutes into baking, and after an hour, some of the apple slices hadn't cooked all the way through. I think I didn't add enough liquid to the pie. So anyway, rather than bake another whole pie, what I've done is scoop all the apples and stuff out of the wretched pie crust, put them in a casserole dish, and thrown away the crust. And what I will do to them is make an egg (well, egg substitute) custard, pour it over the apples, top it with a bit of nutmeg, and bake it, so that we will have baked apple custard (sugar-free, low-fat, no cholesterol) as one of our desserts. Am I brilliant, or what? What I am not is a good pie baker - I have the occasional success with pies, but mostly I don't do well; something usually goes wrong with the crust. Even though I am otherwise a decent cook and baker. My cobblers are always good. But pies? No. Once I did a very successful pumpkin-pecan pie, and a few years ago I had a cranberry-walnut pie that turned out nicely; one of the things those two pies had in common was no top crust, which may be the secret. Perhaps next time I try making apple pie I'll make a topless apple tart. Easier to watch the moisture, test the done-ness, etc.

The potatoes and parsnips are boiled, for mashing tomorrow; the cranberries are cooked for the cranberry sherbet; a loaf of bread is made and the frozen parkerhouse rolls are thawing. After dinner I will finish that custard and the sherbet, bake the rolls, and assemble all the ingredients for the stuffing and the sweet potato casserole in one place, so that they are ready to be deployed first thing tomorrow. The roasted veggies and baked potatoes take no particular effort, and the corn pudding (the clear winner!) likewise takes little effort, since I am using canned corn.

I am making the stuffing in casserole dishes rather than inside the turkey, so I guess technically it's dressing rather than stuffing. Whichever you call it, it's safer that way, germ-wise, than actually stuffing the turkey. One keeps it moist by covering it with foil, and basting it a bit whenever basting the turkey (every half hour or so.) Chestnut-mushroom stuffing, if anyone's wondering.
bunrab: (Default)
Although I have been knitting for years and years, it may surprise you to know that I have only ever finished ONE sweater - and that was a long time ago. I started several sweaters during my years in Austin, but never got anywhere near finishing any of them. In fact, when we were packing up to move from TX to MD, I pulled the needles out of three unfinished pieces of sweaters and gave the yarn to Goodwill: one I had lost the pattern to so I couldn't ever finish it, another in a scratchy wool I hated and would be too heavy even in Baltimore never mind Texas, and the third in a color that would not look good on ANYONE on earth, and I have no idea why I ever bought yarn that color. Another two unfinished sweaters came with me, though I don't know where they are at the moment. So I started another sweater, for NaKniSweMo. I haven't officially joined the Ravelry group for it, though I have a Ravelry account, because for one thing, I'm not making a 50,000-stitch sweater, and for another, I would be highly surprised if I did finish it. My personal goal is to see if I have the patience to finish at least one side during this month, patience having been the biggest reason I haven't knit anything larger than a hat or a sock in years. I am older now, and perhaps I am a bit more patient - we'll find out. I have only finished 12 rows so far - it was more, but I had to tink 4 rows, because the abbreviations used in the pattern are nonstandard and I had to guess at what they meant, and then go back when it was clear I had guessed wrong. Bernat's pattern sheet says to see their web site for a glossary of abbreviations, but guess what? The abbreviations on this particular pattern sheet are NOT on their glossary page. I have fixed the problem now, by experimentation, but I am going to drop them a nasty note about that. Also, the pattern is printed on half a sheet of paper - in both English and French! - so you can imagine how small the print is, and how hard it is to even find the next row. In the process of formulating that sentence for this post, earlier, I realized that what I'm going to do Friday is go to a copy shop and enlarge the damn thing, so I can stop wasting time peering all over it. The yarn is Cot'n Corn, and as you knitters know, all those exotic-ish yarns made of soy and corn and bamboo are really just viscose (rayon) whose cellulose happens to come from some plant other than a tree. So it has all the weaknesses of a viscose blend, including splitting, and fraying at the ends. But it does feel nice to the hand, and it will be a pleasure to wear.

After 6 weeks, I am only halfway through The Sot-Weed Factor and I don't think I'm going to be able to finish it before it's due. It is funny, but nonetheless very trying. Most of the action happens by way of discussing it, and most things have to be discussed several times, at least once with someone who doesn't understand what the protagonist is saying, another time with someone who disapproves, and a third time with someone who is reminded of something else by it and therefore has to digress to THEIR tale. Anyway, I have reached the Traveling Whore of Dorset. Maybe if I spot a used copy in a bookstore for real cheap, I will pick it up so that I can finish it over the course of, say, a year.

Speaking of books, what I am reading right now is Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm which is very funny, a parody of a certain class of English idealistic novels of rural life, of which DH Lawrence's were perhaps the most literary. The surprising thing to me isn't that it's funny - I knew it would be; the cover to this edition is by Roz Chast! - but that it suddenly puts Tobacco Road in perspective. I had read Tobacco Road a month or so ago, and mainly thought "ewwww" but now I can see that even though all the reviewers took it seriously, and even Caldwell himself claimed to be seriously exposing American Southern rural life, in fact he was really perpetrating the same kind of parody upon the American versions of the same sort of novels. (Cold Comfort Farm and Tobacco Road were written the same year!) So, in retrospect I suddenly find TR much funnier.
bunrab: (Default)
Last week we played three concerts - Sunday the 19th, Thursday the 23rd, Sunday the 26th. This week we both have colds.

Recent reading:
Lost on Planet China - J. Maarten Troost. Shallow, superficial, but funny. Troost's main insight into China: geez, the air is polluted! As in, makes Los Angeles or even Mexico City look crystal clear pure. And the water is filthy. And little kids squat and go to the bathroom in the street as a matter of routine, big city or countryside. And did he mention, the air is so bad you SHOULD be wearing those masks for the air, not the bird flu or SARS? What really struck me about this book is the ease with which Troost travelled through China, hopping on trains, buses, local airlines, with no problems, no police or political minders, no-one trying to steer him away from stuff the ruling party would rather not have foreigners see.
Geekspeak: How Life + Mathematics = Happiness by Dr. Graham Tattersall. Not what the title sounds like - this is actually about how to estimate ridiculous things such as how much your house weighs, whether you love someone more or less than average, and other things that most people hadn't thought to quantify. Of possible interest to Biker Skum, who frequently seem to be trying to measure things that other people don't usually think of.
Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan. The cover illustration is of a map of Manhatten island with an image of a rat, in blocks and streets and parks, overlaid. Usually this kind of eccentric focus on one animal belongs to either eccentric Brits - remember Trilobites!? - or women obsessed with primates. This, however, is an American guy who might almost seem normal until he invites you to spend an evening watching rats in an alley with him. The book is very funny, and has digressions to a pest control convention, and the history of the Black Plague, and other rat-related items. The scary part is how much we humans actually encourage rats without even realizing it; without our help, rats would be as scarce in the city as bunny rabbits.

Very little fascinating in fiction, just the usual next books in series, fantasy that turned out to be not worth finishing, re-reads, etc. One new entry: Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, best known for their space opera set in the Liaden universe, have written an entirely unrelated fantasy, which is obviously the first in a series. Starts out Regency-romance-ish with a vague hint of being another planet where humans have colonized and then regressed to Regency/Victorian era, but then rapidly goes to full fantasy with elves both nice and very nasty. A few unusual types of characters, mainly the Wood Wise - I like them.

Now back to snuffling and coughing and crocheting place mats and dish cloths.


Sep. 15th, 2008 11:53 pm
bunrab: (Default)
Okay, so after the flu in the middle of August and then a week at Sally's inhaling dust, I couldn't stop coughing and I felt even more fatigued than usual; eventually I started thinking maybe there's fluid in my lungs, so I went to the doc. Apparently not fluid, just inflamation, so using steroid inhaler (as of this past Wed) to reduce inflamation; it's working a bit, I guess - still coughing and stuff, but nearly back to only tired all the time instead of exhausted to the point of not getting out of bed.

I got a couple of RL projects done - finally finished a couple of bedside rugs I've been working on for me and [livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet, since cooler weather is coming and we may not want to step onto cold floors. I'll try to get pictures of them sometime soon. Started work on wedding gift for my cousin Jesse who got married last September - goal is to finish the stuff (quilted table runner and 4 placemats) and mail them off by the end of this month, a year after the wedding. Still cleaning up bits and pieces at old house; we buried Lamarck chinchilla who passed away this past spring and had been in the freezer, and I put a stepping stone on his grave - I'll take a picture of that, too, when I get a chance.

And there has been reading, as usual:

Book I did not finish: Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light. Forty years ago I didn't make it ten pages in before giving up out of total lack of interest in figuring out who these characters were; twenty years ago I made it about twenty pages in; this time, all the way to page 27 before closing it again. I do not care enough about Hindu mythology and other mythology to follow who these characters are, who is an avatar of who else, who is on which side... I just don't care.

Book I didn't like: White Oleander by Janet Fitch. This was apparently a big bestseller and very popular with book clubs, and it reads exactly as if it were written to be a book club discussion subject, and I don't mean that kindly. Where some reviewer sees a "surprising journey of self-discovery" I see a protagonist who stays stupid the whole way through - she doesn't make the same mistake twice, but she makes new and dumber ones all the time, and never seems to wise up and stop approaching life as a manipulating but clueless slut. We're supposed to care about what she learns from each of her foster mothers, and compare them, but she doesn't ever seem to learn any rational kind of lesson. Even when her own mother gets out of jail, she isn't really happy. This book doesn't really have much of a plot; the character grows older but doesn't grow up; her mother gets out of jail but that's just a small paragraph amidst the general whining and indecisiveness. Bleah. I know thousands of people disagree with this evaluation of the book; clearly, many people are looking more for "emotionally gripping" than for "fast-moving plot and rational characters."

And for stuff I did enjoy: Watchers by Dean Koontz - not great literature, but a fast-moving plot and nice characters! This is the first Koontz I've ever read - somehow managed to not get around to any till now. This one features a golden retriever named Einstein, genetically modified to near-human intelligence, able to read and even converse in writing. Plot also includes a nastier genetically modified character, the Outsider, and along the way we are supposed to compare the Outsider and Vince the mob hit-man, and notice which of them is really less human and kills more people. That part is a bit obvious. But hey, it's a good story, and most of the characters are likeable, and there's a more-or-less happy ending.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This is a novel about a historian who is researching Vlad Tepes, who turns out to be an immortal vampire after all, sort of, only not. It's a very long book, and some of it was longer than need be - in almost a deliberate imitation of Victorian style, there is much more exposition, and jumping back from generation to generation, and words upon words, than is really necessary. Sometimes one can lose track of which generation is taking place - is it our female protagonist as a teenager listening to her father tell about his research, or the father listening to his mentor from a generation earlier, or is it 30 years later? We run through all sorts of minute historical detail from the 1470's onward. I admit to skimming in spots.

Smoke-Filled Rooms by Kris Nelscott - a murder mystery set during the 1968 Chicago convention, featuring a black, male, PI - written in the first person by Nelscott, which is one of Kristen Kathryn Rusch's pen names. So, quite a feat of characterization. Anyway, a decent mystery, though a bit of gory torture of the sort I really don't think could go unnoticed for so long. Much of the plot is timely enough given this election year. I'll probably look for the rest of the series.

The Apostate's Tale by Margaret Frazer - most recent in her Dame Frevisse series, and this one returns more to the priory (convent) after the last couple of very political volumes. The last two were almost entirely about English political uprisings and Frevisse's cousin Alice, and I was not crazy about them; I was glad to see this one get back to the day to day details of everyday life in the fifteenth century. Unfortunately, it's probably the last one, since it ends with Frevisse becoming Prioress, and also it's set in 1452, so any ten minutes now the printing press is going to come along and destroy the priory's book-copying business and only source of income.

Warning: I am going to attempt Twittering. No telling what may show up.

Now to go see if I can catch up on a couple of weeks of unread flist. Speaking of, Chas, your bday present will be in the mail tomorrow. [livejournal.com profile] richspk, speaking of addresses, I need your snail mail address. Email me, plz.
bunrab: (alien reading)
After we got back from Europe, I was only home for a couple of days before I turned around and went up to New York to help my friend Sally-the-hoarder throw some stuff out. Just got back this Thursday. Did not have computer with me while I was there, and didn't have much chance to use Sally's computer. We did get some stuff thrown out, but it's a battle - while she knows she's got a problem, she doesn't like to think that any individual thing is a problem, and so every single piece has to be looked at, categorized, and a decision made about it. We couldn't even compromise about putting some stuff in boxes and sticking them in the POD that I rented for her and then deciding about them later, because the stuff in boxes *might* be something she'd need within the next couple months. The fact that many of said things were things she's done without for years because they were buried under other stuff does not in any way alleviate her anxiety that she might need it, that she can think of a possible use for it, and therefore it can't get stored somewhere where she can't get at it instantly, let alone thrown away. So we debate that need to a standstill on every receipt, every tennis ball, every bag of candy purchased in 2004 and long since past its expiration date. Despite all that, we DID make some progress. And I got a chance to talk to a couple of her other friends who live up there, and started enlisting them to help out with one small chunk of STUFF at a time.

Wait, here's a picture, so that this post isn't just whining! This one is me on my travel scooter, on the road leading to the beach in Opatija, Croatia; the bikes behind me are Kawasakis, which seemed to be the most popular motorcycles in town, though still far behind motor scooters in numbers; there are a couple other band members, too - we were on our way to the amphitheatre for our first performance!

Anyway. Reading. Let's see. Re-reading some Terry Pratchett - so far, Guards, Guards!, Men at Arms, and Feet of Clay. Also have progressed through Matriarch and Ally in the second trilogy of Karen Traviss' Shan Frankland series. Now on the final book, Judge - I'll give a more thorough report on that one when I'm done. Also have started the latest Harry Dresden book, Small Favors (Jim Butcher) - I won't give anything away, don't worry. Um, Carolyn Hart's Death Walked In in her Annie Darling series - eh, she's recycling plots lately. There's been other stuff as well - I know a bunch of library books have wandered in and out of here - but I can't remember what.

Wait, I am drifting into boring, must be time for another picture! Here are some bikes and scooters parked under the palm trees along the sidewalks of one of the main streets. I bet you never thought of Eastern Europe and palm trees in the same breath - but Croatia is a seaside country, this is a seaside resort town, and yes, it has lots of palm trees!

We got most of the remainder of the stuff out of the old house yesterday - there's still loose odds and ends in the kitchen that we can carry over in the car, but all the big stuff's out of there, and we can call in the carpet shampooers and the general cleaners and probably have that house ready to rent out for September 1! This house is messier than ever now - but the electrician is coming next Thursday to do the rest of the work on the outlets, and then we can push all the bookcases against the walls and really get to unpacking the books.

This is the Hotel Agava (yes, after the agave plant), which is where we were staying in Opatija.

Anyway, I'm just going to look at my flist starting now, and only go back if (a) I see something drastic that begs for explanation that may be in an earlier post, or (b) you actually put a comment here telling me that there's something I should know or would like to know in your posts of the past month. Sorry I'm being so lazy - but lazy is my middle name, right?

One more pic: This is looking out from the stage into the audience portion of the amphitheater, during our sound check a couple hours before the concert.
bunrab: (Default)
Of All Sad Words by Bill Crider - latest in his Sheriff Dan Rhodes series of murder mysteries. Amusing if lightweight.

City of Pearl and its sequels, Crossing the Line and The World Before by Karen Traviss - science fiction series; there's a second trilogy also out that I'll probably look for. I stumbled across these by accident. They're not bad - strong milfic element, but mainly alien sociology, if you will - humans are NOT the good guys here. (At one point, one of the aliens says, in effect, "I've read some of your science fiction. The aliens always help the humans, or release the human captives, because they admire the spunky human spirit. I've got news for you: you're not spunky; you're obnoxious!") The third volume had a couple weaknesses - a touch of one of the romance genre tropes, where characters don't speak to each other and do all the wrong things simply because they won't ask the other person a forthright "What do you want to do?" I don't like this trope when it shows up in romance, and I like it even less when some of the aliens are supposed to be completely forthright.)

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely - this was fun, confirming all one's worst fears about how illogical we are, how easy it is for people to fall into cheating, how crappy our thinking gets when it involves money, how much more we cheat if a transaction DOESN'T involve money, and how traditional economics is full of crap. ([livejournal.com profile] elfbiter, this is sort of similar to The Failure of Logic except it discusses a series of shorter, but much broader, experiments.)

I'm sure there's been something else in there; darned if I remember what. We're still doing the unpacking-one-house, packing-the-rest-of-the-old-house thing, and we can never find anything when we need it. Camera recharger? who knows. Size 13 knitting needles? No idea. The curtain hooks we bought just yesterday? Disappeared into the morass.
bunrab: (Vlad)
1. We had cake for dessert, a packaged stollen someone had given us for xmas. Nutrition information: Serving size: 1/6 cake. Servings per package: 9.

2. Finally got around to doing our taxes - it's not complicated, it doesn't take long, but I always put it off. Hardest part is finding things. Anyway, we're due $1K refund from the feds, and then conveniently, we owe $1K on state-and-local for Maryland/Baltimore.

3. I am transcribing music into Finale, from handwritten parts; the great-grandfather of one of the Montgomery Village Community Band's flute players wrote several marches, in little teeny handwriting, and without parts for any instruments that the village band he originally wrote them for didn't have. So I'm entering the tuba part and transposing it for bari sax and bass clarinet, entering the Bb clarinet parts and transposing them for flutes, etc. Finale is not a perfect medium, and I still haven't figured out how to put in a "repeat the previous measure" sign.

4. We'll be flying back down to Texas 4/16, and returning 4/22. The estate sale is Thursday-Friday-Saturday the 17-18-19.

5. I am putting off cleaning the remaining one of the three rabbit litter boxes, and also cleaning the hedgie cage. Procrastination is my second middle name!


Apr. 3rd, 2008 06:14 pm
bunrab: (Sniffy)
Siiiigh - the sellers of the house we're trying to buy are being real jerks; they didn't get the water turned back on in time for the official home inspection by an engineer, so we had to reschedule that, then the day before the rescheduled inspection, they got the water turned on - and discovered that the pipes had not been properly drained before shutoff, so there is water/ice damage to the pipes, which has to be repaired. So the repairs are supposed to be today and tomorrow, but when we drove by there today, there were no signs of anyone, plumbers or otherwise - AND, the selling real estate agent had refilled the box with new brochures!! Excuse me, we've got a signed contract, a title company lined up, our loan lined up, and a supposed closing/settlement date already scheduled, and you're putting out more brochures??? I am getting sorely tempted to tell them that their failure to enable the required inspection invalidates the contract, so give us our earnest money back and we'll go play ball elsewhere.

No, we haven't done much else that's very interesting over the last week, which is why the first post of the month isn't till the third. We fed Cindythelibrarian's cats for a couple of days while she was at the PLA conference in Minnesota. We had the usual round of rehearsals. Our new passports arrived in the mail, and my, we're ugly. That's about it.
bunrab: (chocolate)
S is recovering. Yes, spending all day Monday in the doctors' waiting room and then in the emergency room was every bit as fun as you think it was. But after a couple of liters of IV solution, he started perking up, and we got out around midnight. However,[livejournal.com profile] squirrel_magnet is still recovering, so people we were supposed to visit with over the weekend or Monday, we'll get in touch with you next trip. More later - I'm doing this post from the OLPC XO, which is a tiny keyboard and not that comfy to type long entries on.


bunrab: (Default)

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