Friday, December 31, 2021
Thursday, December 30, 2021
Wednesday, December 29, 2021
Tuesday, December 28, 2021
More fowl? Seriously? Yes, but we have been wrong all these years. It is not a "Calling" bird, rather it is a "Collie" or "Colly" bird. This refers to a black bird. In Theological terms the "4" refers to the Four gospels (and Apostles), Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
On a secular level Blackbirds are messengers that may haunt the soul, or a curiosity into the mystical elements of the animal and spirit realms. As Poe historically wrote about the Raven (another black bird). "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, . . " But I digress.
The query at hand is when do the decorations come down? This is the time when we question our sanity in having to decorate every room in the house. Just because there were so many choices on Pinterest did we really need a wreath on every outside door?
Are you the traditionalist with plans to remove it all before New Years. Or do you fall into the faithful category, waiting until the kings reached the Christ Child with their gifts on Epiphany.
Who's idea was it to place globes of glass ornaments on so many pieces of furniture? And to double the number of lights on the tree? Did we really need to replace all the hand towels in the bathrooms and tea towels in the kitchen with holiday themed linens? Thankfully I no longer display the large detailed Christmas village with it's animated ice rink, lit snow covered streets, and miniature porcelain carolers.
As a side note I remember my mother's table displays complete with angel hair (aka spun glass), not the best choice to use with children in the house given it looked just like cotton candy. And the tree lights the size of your thumb that would heat a large size living room, not to mention the dangerous thinly covered electric wires running around and through a live tree that is in the process of drying out.
As I struggle to get the lights off the tree and all the ornaments back into their boxes with minimal damage, I promise to myself that I will simplify my life.
"Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Monday, December 27, 2021
Sunday, December 26, 2021
Well, it's all over, Christmas Day that is. The Elf on the shelf has returned to the North Pole for 11 months. (Lots of help is.) The 'fridge is full of leftovers - which is an issue, given most of us have sworn to start a serious diet immediately. Well, at least starting January 1. All the exquisite dark chocolate candy that calls to you like a siren saying "Enjoy it ALL now because the reality of calories is coming quickly".
The den is littered with discarded ribbons and paper, unless you were anal and collected paper as it was torn from packages in the excitement of Christmas morning. There is the stack of boxes on the side table of gifts that did not make the cut: the pants that are too tight (thank you Aunt Mary for thinking I wore a smaller size), the sweater in that God Awful green (that your cousin Jan explained was going to be "the" green for the spring), and that "As Seen on TV" gadget that supposedly organizes the dashboard of your car. And, of course, there is that bottle of perfume someone, you cannot remember who, gave you.
There is also the piece of the puzzle that was lost in the excitement of Christmas morning, that you hope did not get thrown out with the paper. Under the tree are the 2 sad looking presents you have yet get to their recipients.
All in all another one is in the books. Now there are 5 days or so of Christmas purgatory. You wonder what possessed you to put up all these damn decorations. Note to self: next year remember minimalism is much better. And the ever present decision: when does the tree come down? You are torn between "immediately" and "How long can I wait before tackling that project". The thought crosses your mind, "What would happen if I just threw the whole thing out, lights, tinsel, glass balls, and all?" It is very tempting.
A belated Joyeux Noël to all.
Friday, December 24, 2021
Thursday, December 23, 2021
There are some times I just want to yell, "Stop the Weihnachtspyramide (aka Christmas carousel), I want to get off." This is one time of year I feel that way. Christmas Day is fast approaching.
Tuesday, December 21, 2021
Hallmark officially lost its damn mind with this movie about a vet and fireman who bond over a stray cat. I can’t promise that no felines were emotionally damaged in the process of making this film.
Sunday, December 19, 2021
Damn! We are facing another lock down. Just for the record I have had both of my vaccinations and my booster (more than a month ago). I am very confident should I get the dreaded Omicron variant, the symptoms will be mild and I will avoid hospitalization. As Americans, we are extremely lucky to have had access to very effective vaccines since last spring, as well as boosters.
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Monday, December 13, 2021
Sunday, December 12, 2021
Oh, and the booze helps. A good fruitcake involves plenty of alcohol to help it stay shelf-stable for years on end. Immediately after a fruitcake cools, most bakers will wrap it in a cheesecloth soaked in liquor and store it in an airtight container. This keeps mold and yeast from developing on the surface. It also keeps the cake deliciously moist.
In fact, fruitcakes aren’t just capable of surviving unspoiled for months on end; some people contend they’re better that way. Fruitcake fans swear by the aging process, letting their cakes sit for months or even years at a stretch. Like what happens to a wine with age, this allows the tannins in the fruit to mellow, according to the Wisconsin bakery Swiss Colony, which has been selling fruitcakes since the 1960s. As it ages, it becomes even more flavorful bringing out complex notes that a young fruitcake (or wine) lacks.
If you want your fruitcake to age gracefully, you’ll have to give it a little more hooch every once in a while. If you’re keeping it on the counter in advance of a holiday feast a few weeks away, the King Arthur Flour Company recommends unwrapping it and brushing it with whatever alcohol you’ve chosen (brandy and rum are popular choices) every few days. This is called “feeding” the cake, and should happen every week or so.
Friday, December 10, 2021
The holidays are here and Christmas is right around the corner. If the past week is a sign of what's to come between now and the 25th, it doesn't look good for the home team. So far I
- purchased gifts that I found were not what I had in mind, then learned they could not be returned
- realized that there are not enough lights for the tree
- cannot, for the life of me, find where I put the nice gift tags I bought last year
- have yet to wrap all my gifts
- have managed to soak many of those gifts I have wrapped while attempting to water the tree
- am still waiting for a very important present to arrive that I fear is lost
- still have 2 folks I cannot find an appropriate gift for
- just recalled a friend I left off my list
- don't have a clue if and when I will have time to bake for friends and family
- found note from my Elf (on the Shelf) that he didn't have time for me this year
- am just one crisis away from declaring Bah Humbug and moving to Aruba to scale fish for a living
Wednesday, December 8, 2021
A week or so ago I came upon an old album containing photos of my beloved High Acres. Some of the pictures date as far back as 1974 - hard to believe that is 47 years ago. They recount a few things that date even further back, such as pictures of my brother and me with our first ponies.
Even with the album's age, the photographs are in less than perfect condition, taken with a simple camera, and by a less than talented photographer, it is a record of an important part of my youth. It is much like I remembered.
Probably some of the most interesting ones are those of the house at the farm under construction. In truth it was "under construction" until the day Mama sold the farm 30 or so years later. But these particular photos capture the initial raising of the walls.
There are images of the house and its wonderful views.
There are also pictures of many of Daddy's horses over the years, his Angus cattle, his sheep, the infamous trail rides with all our house guests, and photos of the farm itself.
Some of the people I do not recognize and there are others I have not thought of in many years. While the photos have faded, my memories are still in glorious color. In a way these 100 or so photographs justify those memories.
(As an aside, and a sign of our times, in writing this post every time I penned the word "Kodachrome", spell check changed it to "Chromebook'.)
Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Each morning I awake at 5:30. Shortly there after the pups and are out on our constitutional. It is always dark and these days can be quite chilly. The temperatures can vary from 32 to the mid 50's. Usually I throw on a pair of sweat pants, shirt and a sweat shirt. My hair is a mess. After all it is dark and rarely, if ever, do we see anyone.
Usually I listen to the news, a podcast, or a movie on my phone while we walk. I find it gives me more patience with pups while they want to stop and smell every bush and telephone pole along the way. A 5 minute walk becomes a 20 minute expedition. God forbid a homeless cat has found refuge under a parked car or a confused squirrel is up and about. At that point all bets are off.
This morning I realized the juxtaposition of life. My choice of entertainment on my phone was a documentary, "7 Days Out". The particular episode was on the Channel Show at Paris Fashion week. It is a particularly interesting look into a life extremely foreign to me. While I walk the pups, often trying to get them to move on past some marked plant, avoid the stray cat, or bag their poop, I am listening to the days running up to Paris Fashion Week.
There are interviews with Karl Lagerfeld describing the brand and what is entailed in preparing for the show. There is much discussion about couture gowns, elegant models, and the rich and famous who are invited to enjoy the runway from the front row.
Lagerfeld also goes into the details of the inspiration for his elegant designs. Some how, I doubt a woman of my age, dressed in sweat pants, with unkempt hair, and 2 unruly terriers chasing feral cats comes close to any inspiration Mr. Lagerfeld may have. In fact, I doubt such a scene has ever entered his mind.
Monday, December 6, 2021
The most I have ever read gossip magazines were the covers of the National Enquirer while checking out at the grocer. That was years ago. Now days gossip and scandal are every where on the internet. Even when not seeking it, I find I am bombarded with details.
I'm not sure how this happened, but for some reason I keep getting emails and notifications with news about the British Royal family. I have always been a supporter of the Queen and her kin, of course the most I know about the clan I learned watching the series"The Crown". And, like almost everyone on the planet with a television at the time, I watched the wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Dianna Spencer.
But back to these unsolicited missives I keep receiving. Over the past weeks I have learned the following: Princess Eugenie was seen leaving a family do in tears (no explanation of why), the throne may skip the long suffering Charles and be passed directly to William, the Queen does not approve of Kate's wardrobe, Prince Harry and Megan really moved to California to join a cabal (few if any details are available), Dianna had an illegitimate child prior to her marriage to Charles (so much for her being the virgin bride) . . .
And on and on it goes. Thinking about it, I could write such explosive copy. No doubt I am in possession of as many of the facts as these creative journalists feel they are. They have just figured out a way to monetize it.
Personally I found the headlines from years ago much more entertaining - "Adam and Eve were Astronauts", "Fat Tourist Destroys Tower of Pisa", "Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby", "Abraham Lincoln was a Woman", and my all time favorite: "Snake with Human Head Found in Arkansas". With such mind blowing tales, who cares about the throne, the cabal, or the wardrobe!
Sunday, December 5, 2021
A watermark is a double edge sword, a necessary evil. It is one of those obnoxious semi-transparent words ones sees on an image. It is also embedded in the meta data, so some dastardly digital savvy bloke cannot remove it. The mark itself has to be over a significant part of the image to protect it. All an artist or photographer has to prevent one's work from being stolen and freely used by anyone is this mark. Although my camera embeds my copyright information into the each photo taken, that information is hidden within the metadata of the image.
Some sites offer a setting that prevents one from double clicking and copying an image, which is very effective. Instagram is popular with artists because one cannot copy and save an image from a posting. Facebook (ironically in this case renamed Meta) offers no such protection.
I realized that my work was being pilfered from online postings when I came across one of my photographs used by someone else I had never heard of. Stealing one's work off the web these days is much easier than the grand Gardener Art Museum heist of 1990 and just as deleterious to the artist. So I have been forced to add a watermark to all my work.
I thought long and hard about doing this, but felt it was necessary. The art of watermarking is making it effective while allowing someone to still see the image. Too dark and one cannot really see and appreciate the image, too transparent and a simple increase of contrast will remove its effect. So now when you come across my work online you will see these unpalatable marks. It pains me to do so. But in these days of the wild west of the world wide web, I feel I have no choice.
Saturday, December 4, 2021
I was watching the news last night. Well, I say watching, I was painting with my back to the TV. However, my interest was peaked - enough to turn around and look - when I heard this young woman say, "She knows my energy source and can always steer me in the right way."
The narrator continued,"She can read my aura and advise me when my planets are aligned." The picture on the commercial showed a blithe young lady walking on the beach, the wind blowing her loose fitting dress. "Whenever I am scared or have a major decision to make, she is the first one I turn to." The narrator pauses, as the camera turns to the face of the lady on the beach who is looking up at the sky, as if waiting for a celestial choir of angels to sing.
"She brings calm to my soul and peace to my ethos." The narrator paused again as the young woman turned and continued down the beach, as the light faded into a fog.
By now my interest was piqued. Was this a commercial for the Oprah Show or Ellen? Then all was revealed when the another voice continued the narration. "Advice is just a phone call away. And, best of all, your first 4 minutes are free. You, too, can have a consultation with your very own spiritual advisor. Just think how much fuller your life will be if you had a professional to guide you." There was a close up of the smiling face of the young woman.
"This is your chance to seek peace and tranquility, to know yourself. No one should be making a decision without knowing the wishes of the spirits, the essence of your aura, the divine being of your soul." As the narrator spoke these words the young lady disappeared down the beach out of sight. There was some light new age music and then "magically" a 1-800 number flashed at the bottom of the screen. The narrator continued, "Call this number now and give your life meaning. You will be connected to your very own psychic advisor. Finally you will truly understand the depths of your soul and how the fates can guide your future."
Taking all this in, I wondered how much simpler my life could be should I have my own "advisor". Could knowing the mood of my aura give me confidence? Could being aware of the alignment of the planets in my sign give me clarity? Do I need to be one with my essence for true happiness?
If so, perhaps I can order a glass ball from Amazon. If instructions are not included I could go to Youtube to learn how to use it to interpret my energy source and the essence of my aura. Of course, I doubt this will bring about misty walks on the beach or the sounds of a heavenly choir.
Friday, December 3, 2021
In order to stay organized and know how far behind I am, I am a chronic list maker. In full disclosure, in making a list I will add things that have already been done. Getting to check them off when I first review the list gives me a feeling of accomplishment. This morning I was going over my (ever present) list. Of course around the holidays, the list gets longer and more expensive.
Just after Thanksgiving the list is exciting - getting the tree, putting the tree up, pulling out wrapping paper and ribbons, finding the wreath, hanging the wreath, making a gift list (yes, sub lists are part of the madness). Each morning, I review the running list, checking off what has been done and adding new chores. Every day or two I redo the list, if nothing else just to clean it up and see exactly where I stand.
By this week (the first week in December) the list becomes a bit more onerous. I am into finishing the shopping - for those impossible to buy for, trying to find the box of ornaments I bought last year on sale after Christmas (naturally they were not put with the other ornaments), ingredients for my Christmas baking. . .
Needless to say, the list, once a highlight, now becomes my nemesis. Suddenly, instead of keeping me organized, I find it a drudge. I start questioning my ambitions. Will the neighbors really appreciate homemade treats or will things from the bakery do? After all it is the thought that counts. Maybe the buffet doesn't need to have the traditional decorations, surely a simple bowl of glass balls will do. And the back door does not need a wreath.
Is this the beginning of the "Rat Race"? Are my days built around checking off the list or enjoying friends and family? As I read over the "To Do's", the list doesn't stop. The more I read, the farther behind I get. How does Santa do this? Of course, he does have elves. Perhaps I need elves. (No doubt I can find them the same place the Housekeeping Fairy is hiding.)
This is when I decide to shed the list and live in the moment. It is a feeling of freedom, relief from the stress. That is until I realize that I haven't found that gift for my nephew. I'm at the grocery store and cannot, for the life of me, remember what I need for the iced oatmeal cookies. I realize that not only have I not boxed the gifts I need to mail, the gifts are not wrapped and I cannot find a box large enough.
How can everything in the Courier and Ives prints look so ideal, festive, and fun? There is not a list in sight. Why should I be encumbered by words on a piece of paper? Out, Out, Damn List. I'll just add 1 last item - "Scratch List". After all, Christmas is going to be here, list or no list. It may not be perfect, some things may not happen, and, no doubt, I will be less organized. But, who wants a perfect, beautiful, delightful, happy, organized holiday anyway?