Monday, December 26, 2011


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
                                 Langston Hughes

I'm all about the Bucket list lately.
Dreams fulfilled.
Have you noticed?

The latest one was a glass class, which I took with three great friends.
We ruled the class.
Rowdy, we were.
It was a cast glass class, which wasn't my first choice, but the fused glass class conflicted with the trip to England.
So cast glass it was.

It was fantastic fun and I learned a lot. My creations look like third grade art projects, but I'm being kind to myself and calling them "garden art".

Here's Lori, showing off her "quilt fan" tile.

Her hubby, Elijah, liked the idea so much he stole it and ramped it up a notch.
No sense of ethics, that boy!

Then she made some stained glass sun tiles.

Which I copycatted too. 
Where would we be without Lori's creativity?
She's a true Ninja crafter.
The evilly-grinning sun design is cut out of a thick papery medium and creates an indented relief after firing.
Lori's sister, Colleen, helped me cut the glass.

I carved this design out of plaster of paris. 
Not my favourite process.
Black-eyed Susans.

The circle-cutting tool.
Mastery of this process gives one a feeling of self-satisfaction.

These glass chunks are from a tile that I had made from several layers of colour. When turned on their side and fired again, they were supposed to turn into puddles of swirled colour. The finished result wasn't what I had hoped for, as they were too close together and didn't swirl, so I'm still working on this one. 

Our last batch of treasures, waiting to be fired.

This was my first effort. Another cut-out pattern.
It is imperfect, like me. 
Note the little red spot, that must have sneaked in with the clear frit.
See how handily I sneaked in that word?
Tiny chunks of glass.
Feel free to use it any time.

I like how it looks when I hold it up to my Solatube.

Jeff wanted to know if the flower centres were raisins.

So, the three classes were fun and a learning experience for me. I decided that cast glass is probably not my preferred method, so at some point I will take a fused glass class. I did learn some good basic techniques for working with glass and had some entertaining times with my friends, so it was definitely worth the money. 

And I just discovered Langston Hughes poetry.
Another one?
I thought you'd never ask!

Helen Keller

In the dark,
Found light
Brighter than many ever see.
Within herself,
Found loveliness,
Through the soul's own mastery.
And now the world receives
From her dower:
The message of the strength
Of inner power.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Christmas to all

Just because:
I have a Christmas cold;
I'm working on Christmas Eve dinner for the gang (pot roast, twice-baked potatoes, with all the trimmings);
I'm blogging-lazy today;
I'm unreasonably fond of it;
Here's a re-post from last year.

Hit the play button.

Jesus, our brother, strong and good,
was humbly born in a stable rude.
And friendly beasts around him stood,
Jesus, our brother, strong and good.

"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown,
"I carried his mother, uphill and down.
I carried his mother to Bethlehem town," 
"I," said the donkey, shaggy and brown.

"I," said the cow, all white and red,
"I gave him my manger for his bed.
I gave him my hay to pillow his head."
"I," said the cow, all white and red.

"I," said the sheep, with curly horn,
"I gave him my wool for his blanket warm.
He wore my coat on Christmas morn',"
"I," said the sheep, with curly horn.

"I," said the dove from rafters high,
"I cooed him to sleep so he would not cry.
We cooed him to sleep, my mate and I."
"I," said the dove from rafters high.

Thus all the beasts, by some good spell,
In the stable dark, were glad to tell
Of the gifts they gave Emmanuel,
Of the gifts they gave Emmanuel.

P.S. Here is a longer, but masterful, version by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Brian Stokes Mitchell.

You're welcome.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Just because I love it

'Tis Christmas Eve Eve and I'm thinking, for no particular reason, about product placement. The Wikipedia entry is one of the longest I have seen. Next time I watch a movie or TV, I'm going to observe very carefully for name brands.
Segue with me, please.
In case you're wondering, Salonpas hasn't sent me any free patches yet.
Still waiting.
Considering the surge in sales that probably followed my last product post, I should be getting something in the mail any day.
For years, I have fought the notion of an electric, supersonic toothbrush. Or is that ultrasonic? Whatever. The notion seemed namby-pamby to me. Typical American overkill of a concept. But Jeff, who registers high on the scale of dental paranoia, had been bringing up the topic more frequently, so I broke down and bought him a couple of cheap ones. He loved them.
A few weeks ago, I was at Costco and in a bit of a spending mood. Their two-packs of Phillips Sonicare brushes were on coupon, so I thought to myself, What the heck, and put one in my cart. 

There they sat, in their pristine box, for several weeks. I was loath to put them to the test for some reason.
Scared of buyer's remorse, maybe?
Last week, I took one out of the box and read the instructions on how to get started.
Seriously, instructions on using a toothbrush?
Heaven help us!
And there it sat for a few more days.

Two whole pages of DANGER and WARNING notices coloured me reluctant.
But one morning, when I wasn't rushing out of the door, I stood at the sink and ploughed through the instructions as I brushed my teeth.
Don't look at my belly.

You did it, didn't you? Looked at my belly.

Holy cow. I am a convert.
After I brush with this thing, I feel like I just came back from the dental hygienist.
Without the hundred-dollar price tag.

So, here are the things I love about it, apart from the above-mentioned squeaky teeth.
There is a learning curve, so the brush speeds up over the first twelve uses to allow you to get used to it.
The brush turns itself off after two minutes, so there's no guessing how long to brush. And I'm surprised how often I am still brushing when it turns off.
The little blue patch on the brush fades so that you know when to replace the head.
My gums feel healthier since I've been using it.

But there are a few drawbacks.
Drool. Down your shirt. Because you forget that under no circumstances should you open your mouth while the brush is turned on.
Likewise, forgetting to turn it off when you take it out of your mouth results in mirror splatter.
It's not pleasant.
The charging light is bright. The first night I left my brush on the charger, I couldn't find it in the morning. Jeff had hidden it because the light was disturbing his sleep. But that's because our sink is in our bedroom.
It's expensive. You can get one brush with a spare head for about $40.  I normally buck at paying more than a dollar for a toothbrush, so you can imagine how that sits with me.

Drawbacks aside, I will stick with this. I still keep a manual toothbrush on hand for those times when I'm in a hurry or the power is out, but I will choose the Sonicare for my main morning brush.

And, oops, my impulsive bout of wallpaper stripping is revealed to the world.
I figured that if I started it, I could work on it a little at a time until the wall was stripped.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Strange Sort of Season

A couple of Saturdays ago, Jeff and I drove out to the next town to watch Daniel play basketball.
The boy plays year-round sports.
If you were in a room with him for very long, you would understand.

As we drove, I was snapping photos.
What are you taking pictures of? said Jeff.

Well. This.

It was well into December and the trees were supposed to look like this.

So we have this kind of a thing going on.
Bare, wintry trees.
Northwest evergreens.
And blazing fall colours.

Very weird.

I'm sure everyone who knows me is weary of my marveling about the strange weather conditions that have caused the trees to be confused. 

So I oohed and aahed and snapped away until we arrived at the school.

I tried and tried to get a good shot of the boys in action, but the gym was too well-lit for the flash to activate and everything came out blurry. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

So here is Daniel from the back....

...and here he is from the front.

And that is as good as it gets.
It was quite fun watching him in action; he was very intent on the game and appears to enjoy himself immensely. It was even more fun to see how involved Bethany gets in the game. 

I have a confession to make.
I was a lousy sports mom. I avoided watching my kids' games at all costs. I didn't enjoy the stress or the heat or the cold or anything about the experience. I was more of a "band concert" mom and a "dance recital" mom. 
So it's a bit strange to see Bethany being so enthusiastic about her children's games. 
But I like it.
I'm glad she didn't inherit my particular dysfunction.

We went back to their house afterwards and Jeff sat on the couch, working on a paper for school.
Natalie...did whatever Natalie does on a laptop.

It occurred to me that three of my four kids now have pianos in their living rooms.
That makes me happy.

Kenzie is eleven.
It's official. 
How did that happen?

Look at that pointy little chin! 
I believe that is what we call a heart-shaped face.

Somehow, I ended up making dinner and the cake.
Something to do with Bethany being almost nine months pregnant.
Homemade pizza, which was devoured by one and all.
Breadsticks for Daniel, who doesn't like pizza.
Gluten-free crust and no cheese for Josh.
I said to Bethany, We should have pizza for Thanksgiving.
She concurred.

The cake didn't look pretty, but it was delish.
Vanilla buttermilk cake with whipped-cream-and-chocolate-shavings for the filling and chocolate cream cheese frosting.
And do you like how the candles depict "11"?
One of my pet peeves is a cake covered with candles. 
Did you know?
Candle ashes in the frosting do not taste yummy.

Josh truly relished his vegan cookies and ice cream.

He did.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gathering bits of happiness everywhere she goes

Gather the crumbs of happiness and they will make you a loaf of contentment.

The tree is up and decorated.
Jeff got tired of waiting and pulled out the Christmas boxes on Sunday evening.
Baby, it was cold outside, but we had a fire roaring in the wood stove and Johnny Mathis crooning Christmas songs on the stereo.

The tree is full of critters again.

And these lovelies.
Moravian stars.

I examined the tree closely and concluded that there could be more stars.

So some friends came over tonight. We ate two kinds of soup and homemade bread and shortbread. Then we were instructed again in the art of making them.
We folded and we cursed.
I tossed the first two attempts.

Third time's the charm, alright.

This little beauty is all of three centimetres across.

Dipped in hot wax and sprinkled with oodles of glitter, it is ready to be hung on the tree.

If you want to torture yourself, here are instructions.
They are free.
All it will cost you is some hair from your head and your placid disposition.
Better still, cozy up to someone who already knows how to make them, like I did.
Thank you Dorothy.
And thanks, Lori, for being the provider of materials. Always.
These little glittery stars make me happy.

I have discovered wall vinyl.
Well, not actually discovered.
It's been around for a while, but I am newly recruited.

My music room makes me happy.
My new vinyl quote makes me happy-to-the-power-of-three.
Now, I just need to find some more unused wall space.

Natalie came over a couple of weekends ago. She hasn't slept over as often as the older kids and was feeling neglected. We played Go Fish and read books and put together a new puzzle. 
I french-braided her hair after her evening bath and in the morning she looked like a princess. 

There is a poem, which I didn't know was by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow until I just looked it up. I used to tell people that it described Annie when she was little. It is also applicable to Miss Natalie.

There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good
She was very good indeed
But when she was bad, she was horrid.

I actually used to misquote it horribly, but we'll blame that on my Mum, who taught it to me.
I think I shall have to use pink lettering more often.
It makes me happy.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Am I getting better or just used to the pain?

Don't worry, this has a good ending!

I remember, about twenty years ago, noticing that my Mum spent a lot of time rubbing her hands together, massaging them, in a way. I asked her why she was doing it and she answered that her arthritis was playing up. It got to me, way down in the pit of my stomach, every time I thought of Mum being in constant pain. It made me mad that I couldn't do anything about it and sad that she had to deal with it.

Here I am, decades later, and pain is my constant companion.
I wrote about it here, in one of my first posts. My leg bothers me less than it used to, but other pains have joined the queue for attention.
Lately, my left little finger has a knuckle that is swollen with arthritis and doesn't want to bend.
Hip pain comes and goes, depending on how hard I've been pushing my workouts.
But the worst is my right wrist, the site of an old broken bone, that throbs from overuse most of the time. I wear a small brace that looks ugly but helps me get through the days when I have to do lots of driving and guitar playing. I am resigned to babying it for the rest of my life and try not to complain about it too much.

Then, last week, Jeff hurt his back at work. While I was at Costco, I picked up some Thermacare wraps and a box of Salonpas patches. The combination of the two worked miracles with his pain. 

And then it came to me! 
I stuck a patch to the back of my wrist one morning.
It tingled a bit and smelled pleasantly of eucalyptus.
And within minutes the pain was gone.

I thought to myself, Self, you need to tell your friends about this.
So here I am.

A box of 120 patches cost around $10, maybe less, from Costco. 
The patches contain menthol, a natural mint analgesic that provides a cooling sensation, methyl salicylate, another plant-based analgesic, and camphor, which is found in the wood of a large evergreen tree. While all of these substances are natural, they should not be overused. 
Jeff used the patches for several days in a row and started to develop some contact dermatitis in the area, which is a common side effect. 
But me, I'm in heaven. I don't need to use them all the time, but when I need some sweet relief, I go for my little dime patch and breathe more easily.

And you. 
You can thank me later. 
And Salonpas, you should send me some free patches.

Ode to Salonpas, nod to Carly Simon.

'Cause I haven't got time for the pain,
I haven't got room for the pain,
I haven't the need for the pain,
Not since I've know you.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Autumn is a second spring...

...where every leaf is a flower. Albert Camus.

Today is December 2nd. 
Have you ever seen leaves still on the trees in December?

Jeff's bird feeders are sprouting whiskers.

An upside-down beard of nyjer thistle.

Methinks he needs to spend some time catering to his feathered friends.

The north wind doth blow and we shall have snow,
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?
He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm,
and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

That is, seriously, one of the most dismal pieces of nursery rhyme ever.
As a child, I always wanted to cry for the poor robin.
And I still wonder what birds do when it's cold and windy and stormy outside.
Does anyone know?