Sunday, October 31, 2010

I am the shadow on the moon at night...

...Filling your dreams to the brim with fright.

I was going to ignore Halloween tonight.
It is, after all, Sunday, and I figured all good Christians were probably doing the same thing.
But what's a gal to do when Woody and Buzz come knocking on her door, asking if she wants to go out with them?
Why, she goes trick-or-treating, of course.
Especially when Woody has such cute boots!

So off we all went, up to the Greens, to the street that decorates for every holiday.

I'm not really into Halloween decor, but this street is truly amazing.

And then...

Oh joy!

It is Jack himself.
Jack Skellington.

And since I am dead
I can take off my head
To recite Shakespearean quotations.

Jon was almost rapturous.
He was.
Nightmare Before Christmas is one of his all-time favourite movies, so, of course, his boys love it too.
This rendition on the front lawn was quite ingenious, made mostly of duct tape.

Jenny and I could have gone for another half an hour.
Jeff and Jon would have cheerfully gone home half an hour earlier.
A compromise.
I stole one small Twix bar from little Jeff's bucket.
And then we went home.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


You know how you get those emails?
Those emails.
The fantastical photos or stories that people just blindly believe and then breathlessly forward them to everyone in their address book.
Mostly, they kind of drive me crazy. 
I check Snopes and then sigh to myself. 
Sometimes I send a polite email to the perpetrator, gently reminding them to check their sources. 
Sometimes I don't bother.

It seems that the hoaxes are diminishing in number lately, so maybe my job is done. There have also been some astounding stories coming down the pipeline. Things that send me to Google to research the topics further. Some of which I am about to share with you, my lucky, lucky readers.

First, let me introduce you to sinkholes.
The topic of the email was political, the mood was witty and sarcastic, but I was fascinated with the photos. 
Here is the latest large sinkhole to appear in the world. It is in Guatemala City and appeared suddenly on June 1st, swallowing a three-story building. This sinkhole is 60 feet wide and 300 feet deep. 
This photo is from the National Geographic website and you can see photos of more sinkholes from around the world here.

True sinkholes are usually caused by eroding of the bedrock, causing a Swiss-cheese-like effect that eventually collapses into itself. Mining can also cause similar holes. Apparently, a lot of Guatemala City is built on pumice landfill, which tends to erode in times of excess drainage. This faux sinkhole appeared in the midst of a tropical storm and, surprisingly, no one was killed. As scary as it looks, the casualties of the storm died in landslides, not here. 

Another sinkhole in Guatemala City appeared a few blocks from this one in 2007 and was caused by a burst sewage pipe. Don't think I'll be moving there any time soon.

Next, we have a heart-warming story about a humpback whale.
Get out the Kleenex.

I'm a little late to the table on this one, because it was in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005. 

A humpback whale was spotted by a fisherman off the Farralon Islands. It was entangled in hundreds of feet of crab pot lines, which are weighted down every 60 feet. At least 12 crab pots, weighing 90 lbs each, were also hanging off the whale. The whale was barely able to float high enough to keep her blow hole out of the water. 
Within a few hours, a rescue squad of divers was in the water with special curved knives, cutting her free. It was a dangerous job, as the whale weighed about 50 tons and one swipe of her enormous tail could kill a man. After working for an hour, the divers had freed the whale. According to the divers, she nuzzled each diver in turn, as if thanking them. 
To read the entire story, go here, which is also the source of the photo.

Now that, my friends, would even beat swimming with the dolphins!

The last thing I am sharing has made me aware of how much plagiarism occurs on the internet. I received this in an email a few days ago and I have had a heck of a job finding the original source for the photos, because it is everywhere. It turns up on blogs as if the blogger was the original author. I think that this is the true source, because it has the actual name of the area, but who knows?

This is Lexiaguo, a remote area in the Yunnan Province in China. It is very hard to reach, so it is not on the tourism radar. It is 2,600 feet above sea level and has a bright red soil. Every inch of the land is planted in crops. If you go to the source, there is a series of lovely photos, along with a commentary. I highly reommend that you do, because it is a visual feast.
That's enough thrills for one weekend.
It is, after all, Halloween tomorrow, don't want to overdo it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is facebook a verb?

Sometimes I find myself spending too much time on facebook and I think to myself, Self, maybe your detractor friends are right and it's just a big fat waste of time.
But then something serendipitous (you know that's my favourite word, right?) happens (read former post here) and I am hooked again.

Like last week, when Ellen, of The Other Foote fame, delivered this little treat to my door. 
Ellen, in case you didn't know, is one of my favourite people in the whole world. 
I'll bet she didn't even know that! 
She's probably holding back a tear or two as she reads these words. 
Anyway, Ellen posted a quote from West Side Story and I commented that I had never seen it. 

I haven't watched the movie yet, but we ate the cookies!

A couple of months ago, one of the cute young moms at church posted late at night that she was desperate for some chocolate but couldn't find a single morsel in the house. 
Well, you know me and my chocolate stash!
She lives quite close, so I raided my stash and took her a bar of Scharffenberger, hoping she had discerning taste buds. She was suitably surprised and delighted and I got a huge kick out of being her chocolate fairy.
Then, I had a cold about three weeks ago and was whining about it on facebook. 
Right at dinnertime, my little friend knocks on the door with some adobo chicken and rice.
My turn to be surprised and delighted.
She had sick kids last week.
I know, because I saw it on facebook.
So I took her a loaf of apple bread.
And I was glad to see that her Mom went and helped her out for a day.

So, to me, facebook has become one more way to take care of each other. 
Yes, I sometimes waste a little time on it, but the benefits to my mental health far outweigh the disadvantages.

The other big plus, for me, is that I can keep up with the lives of my friends, both near and far.
Remember my Canadian friend Mark from Doha?
He joined facebook at the behest of his grown children. 
Like me, he is a sucker for nostalgia and enjoys reminiscing with old high school friends, which facebook has facilitated like no other genre. Because of our facebook connection, we took a fun trip to Utah together, which you can read about here, here, here, and here, should you be a new reader and also a devil for punishment! It was one of the highlights of my year.

So, think what you will about the evils of social networking.
As for me, I will continue to facebook to my heart's content.

P.S. Ellen, there's your link back!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake lives on

Here's a blast from the past.
When Bethany was two years old, I took a cake decorating class, possibly at this store. I had such fun, learning a new skill and also getting a night out every week!  I was feeling pretty clever, so for Bethany's birthday I borrowed a pan from an upstairs neighbour and made this Mickey Mouse cake. I was pregnant with Annie at the time and I remember staying up until midnight to finish it, cursing myself the whole time. I had very bad edema in my legs and standing for long periods was the worst. 
Fast forward a year to Oregon and Bethany's fourth birthday. Strawberry Shortcake was all the rage, remember? I must have been feeling really clever by now, because I bought the Wilton pan and did another midnight stint to come up with this creation. Seems like I remember some cursing on this occasion too, but at least I wasn't pregnant!
Fast forward a couple of decades and a bit more.
Strawberry Shortcake is all the rage again.
This is what we ate for dessert last night at Natalie's birthday party. 
And no, I didn't burn the midnight oil on this one.
Bethany informed me that it took her about an hour to frost it.
Which kind of ticks me off and makes me wonder what I was doing wrong all those years ago!
It was very delicious.
Too bad I only got one little piece.
Not that I'm complaining or anything.
Somewhere, there exists a photo of the same cake at one of McKenzie's birthday parties.
I wonder who will get to use the pan next?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saturday savings

Here is my latest large quantity buy.
One hundred and seventy two rolls of good-quality toilet paper.  
So, I'm picky about my toilet paper, what of it?
There were some good buys at Safeway and Fred Meyer this week. Combined with some coupons from those little dispensers in the aisle and some from my coupon wallet, I paid $4 for some and $5 for the rest. I've been a little worried about my t.p. supply, only staying a couple of packs ahead of demand. Now, I think I have about a year's supply. In case of a national emergency, my bum is going to be happy. You will probably look for excuses to visit me so that yours can be happy too!
If you live in my area, the Cottonelle is on sale at our local Safeway. The coupon dispenser is right next to it and has coupons for another $2 off.
You can thank me later.
Chocolate works.

Friday, October 22, 2010

See how I am?

My house was one busy house today.
Take a look.

Bethany and Samantha, shooting the breeze.
Charlie and kids, playing Skipbo in the living room. 
And again. 
Miss Natalie, going solo. 
Working on applesauce.  
Bethany's going to complain about her double chin in this one.
What can I say?
It's hereditary.
There's no way I could crop it out.
It's a chin, for Pete's sake!
The finished product.
And then I was mean and made Bethany clean up her mess.

Charlie signing up for Rosetta Stone.
He's learning Spanish.
Did you know active military  can get it for free?
And Josh eating his lunch.
Pistachios. One raspberry. A carrot. A cucumber. And Quaker rice cakes.
Gluten-free makes for an interesting diet.
My third loaf of apple bread in two days. 
Daniel playing "Somewhere My Love" on the piano, follow-the-lights style. 
Three kids playing chess.
Papa came in later and coached them. 
Bethany's tired feet getting a Shiatzu massage.
Natalie's feet waiting hopefully in the wings. 
Samantha's bible.
She and Charlie spend a lot of time with their noses buried in it. 
Daniel doing his music theory and getting a Shiatzu massage.
Some people have the life, don't they? 
And getting ready to sleep in the rec room with Charlie.
Eagerly anticipating the early-morning fishing trip with Papa, Charlie and Sam. 
Add a couple of grandchildren piano lessons, homemade pizza for dinner, and me watching Lark Rise to Candleford, and you've just about got it.

Happy weekend.

A reality check

You might have noticed how my blogging goes in spurts.
Sometimes, ideas and opinions just ooze out of me.
Other times, I can't come up with a single phrase that deems itself worthy of gracing The Blog.

It's been a bit of a dry spell lately, even though my brain is running in overdrive. I just wanted to let you know that I have evaluated the next couple of months and realized that I may have over-committed myself. Because I love you, every last one of you, the lovely commenters as well as the lurkers, and even the anonymous who once left that snarky comment about how my favourite music festival sounded boring (well, maybe not the anonymous) (can we say sensitive with a long memory?)  I wanted to warn you that my updates will probably be sporadic.

So please don't abandon me!

Here's a sneak peek at the major events coming up:

A Continuing Education day-long class for the Oregon Music Therapy Assn. on the 30th of this month, of which I am in charge. The paperwork alone makes me want to take a nap.

Two Christmas activities at Church in December, a dinner for the adults and a breakfast for the kids. Of which, again, I have the final responsibility.

Weekly choir practice and performing in church for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yup. Me in charge.

Christmas. Need I say more?

Charlie and Sam's wedding in Southern California right after Christmas and all that goes along with that. I'll be happily making the cake and the rehearsal dinner.

A friend and I are going to volunteer at a birth clinic in Haiti in the middle of January. We'll be gone for almost two weeks. It's a trip that is very dear to my heart, but the logistics are mind-boggling.

Another big music therapy event at the end of January which is only in the early planning stage.

Jeff and I are taking a trip to the U.K. in May. As yet unscheduled, so lots of work to do yet on the planning end.

Add all that to my work and Nana and wife and other duties and I have this mild sense of panic in the back of my mind. That being said, I'm not even finished with this preemptive apology and my mind is already brimming with ideas for blog posts.
I defeat my own best intentions most of the time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Enigmatic sunset

I took these photos within a couple of minutes at Bethany's house last week. The sky didn't change its appearance during that narrow time frame as much as the photos would suggest. Some of the difference is due to the direction in which I was pointing the camera, but that certainly doesn't account for all of it. I suspect it also depends on whether I was focusing on the sky or the ground. I love to take photos, but I wish I was more motivated to sit down and really understand the mechanics of the process.
These are completely unedited, except for cropping.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Just wondering

Some things I have been puzzling over lately:

Since when was a 16 ounce bag of Hershey's chocolate considered to be "jumbo size"? Unless it describes me after I've finished consuming the whole bag.

What is with the use of the adjective "warm" in a business setting? Several colleagues have started signing off on their emails with "warmly, so-and-so". And today, Skype warmly welcomed me to their service in an email. Is it supposed to make me automatically trust them? What kind of person describes herself as "warm" anyway? The word "menopausal" springs to mind, but most of my readership probably won't appreciate that connotation!

Does anyone actually watch Survivor any more?

Why would the administrator of a retirement home insist that my first music therapy session be a freebie "demo" and then not bother to observe even a minute of it? Yes, this actually happened to me last week.

How did Jeff and I create such manly sons?
And how could they even think of eating that cute little squirrel on their rugged camping trip last night?

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Charlie proposed to his sweetheart this morning up at Magness Tree Farm.
We assume it was suitably romantic, because she said "Yes."
Actually, Samantha already has most of the wedding plans down, so it was a moot point.
They will be married here on December 29th.
Yes, this December 29th.
When you're a Marine, you don't mess around. Charlie told me that one of his friends had to reschedule his wedding four times. After the invitations had been sent out.

So, I know you're all wondering how I feel about this, right?
After all, my blog, my life, it's all about me.
Well, my observation is that Charlie is as happy as I have ever seen him. He seems to be more comfortable in his own skin, not so restless as in times past. He is taking responsibility and making plans and dealing with some of the hard facts of life with determination and optimism. 
So I am happy too.

Guess who?

Friday, October 8, 2010

A pirate story

Today's story came to me in a round-about way.

Twenty five years ago today, Leon Klinghoffer was murdered by Palestinian pirates.
For those of you who are fuzzy on the details, as am I, let me re-cap.

Klinghoffer, a retired Jewish businessman, was confined to a wheelchair because of the effects of two strokes. He had no interest in a Mediterranean cruise, but went because he loved his wife, Marilyn. It was their 36th wedding anniversary. A few days into the cruise, four members of the PLO boarded the Achille Lauro, an Italian cruise ship, and made outrageous demands of Israel while the world watched helplessly. The pirates singled Klinghoffer out for execution, shot him in the head and chest and forced the ship's barber and a waiter to throw his body overboard. Marilyn didn't find out that he was dead until the pirates left the ship in Port Said, having being told that he was in the infirmary. She died of colon cancer a few months later and the couple's two daughters now work against terrorism in their names.

The fate of the pirates was rather a mixed bag and involved a little spat between our beloved Ronald Reagan and the Italians. The PLO did end up having to pay a sizable amount of money to the Klinghoffer daughters, which is now used to fund their foundation against terrorism. Delicious irony, don't you think?

Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer in 2003, holding a photo of Leon and Marilyn.
Photo from NYDailyNews.

Segue with me back to 1967.
This is the year that I sailed with my family on a 5-week voyage from England to New Zealand.
On the Angelina Lauro.
Sister ship to the Achille.
Which got me to thinking about that ship, wondering what happened to it, so I did a little Google.
It's amazing what you can find on the internet.

The Angelina started life as the MS Oranje, built in 1938 for a Netherlands shipping company. She spent most of World War II as a hospital ship for the Australian Navy. The Dutch government bore the full cost of the conversion to a hospital ship and the crew remained Dutch, even though the Captain was Australian. The Oranje served in multiple theatres during the war, made 41 voyages, and was a welcome sight in Australian and New Zealand ports.

After the War, the Oranje spent the next couple of decades as a cruise ship, sailing around the world. With passenger numbers dropping, she and her sister ship were sold to the Flotta Lauro Lines, an Italian company. She was extensively rebuilt, with one of the outstanding features being her tall, louvered funnel which was topped by a large smoke deflector wing. The newly outfitted Angelina Lauro took her maiden voyage in March 1966.

This photo is from Reuben Goossen's comprehensive maritime website. Isn't she a beauty?

One year later, my family boarded the boat in Southampton.
My Dad had bought himself a new-fangled Super-8 movie camera, with which he proceeded to make a menace of himself. In later years, we all laughed whenever we watched those family movies, because Dad would inevitably pan up to that awesome funnel whenever he filmed anything on board the ship. I guess I was under-impressed, being only eleven at the time and not understanding anything about engineering or design!

For more of my Dad's story, go here, in case you missed it the first time.

Well, we had an interesting voyage, because it was right after the Suez Canal closed and so they took the stabilizers off the ship in order to make up time. We had to go into the Mediterranean to Italy, then back out again to travel all the way around Africa. I have fond memories of the five weeks we spent mostly playing Monopoly with our little gang of like-minded kids. Mum would tell you several horror stories, but again, I guess I was oblivious.

What happened to the Angelina, you ask?
Well, she got another retrofit in 1972. In 1979, she burned and sank while in the U.S.Virgin Islands. 

I hope I haven't bored you with my little trip down memory lane. I found it fascinating to fill in the gaps for my own satisfaction. We experience so many things in life and we view them from our narrow field of vision, never seeing the bigger picture.
It's fun, sometimes, to enlarge that perspective, don't you think?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Of graves and sniffles

In deference to my nasty head cold, which I won't mention because Jenny said it's tacky, I will be short on words.
This is Sunday's sunset, completely unedited.

Jeff and I had been over to the Friends' Cemetery to try to get some pictures of gravestones. I joined this site after taking a little detour during my day with Jenny in Columbia. It's pretty awesome. You sign up to go find gravestones for people who are working on their genealogy, take a photo of them and then upload them to the site. I'm not as into genealogy as the rest of my family so I thought this could be my contribution. 

Today, I dragged myself out of my sickbed and finally found the stones.
Mission accomplished.
And now, back to bed.