Friday, December 31, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

My 2010 Goals were:

*  Read 100 books - DONE

*  Read Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking - not so much done.  I have started it, and there was that boiling bacon episode for boeuf bourginon.

*  Finish 100 knitting and/or sewing projects - DONE.  This is actually the biggest surprise, as this was by far the craziest goal.  But as of right now, I have finished 115.  Score!!!

*  Be able to swim a mile before I turn 40 - this one got waylaid by the arm problems, which are STILL going on.  Somehow I have made it worse again, I think because of pulling myself around so as to not hurt the broken toe.  What a sad little state of affairs I am right now!  Sheesh!

*  Do 10 lessons in my serger workbook - DONE.  I actually did 20, though I am never going to get the blind hem with the serger part.  I can barely do that with my sewing machine!

*  Try 5 new bread recipes - TOTALLY forgot about this one!  Whoops!

And I had listed at the end to shake the cold that had been plaguing me for a month, but I think that was a joke.  So, I did pretty well, but not 100%.

So....ON TO 2011!!!!!

This year my goals are:

*  Read or listen to 100 books (I love this one)

* Complete 10 lessons in the serger workbook (I still need to figure out 2-thread and cover stitch options)

*  Finish 111 sewing and/or knitting projects (I know, I'm insane)

*  Read 2 chapters of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  (This seems a bit more realistic.  Maybe I'll read the aspic chapter just for fun)

*  Read the copy of Vogue Sewing I bought.  It's an older book, so it goes into a lot more detail than the more recent sewing books I've seen.

*  Do 12 sourdough bread experiments.  I have had a sourdough starter for years & make a pretty mean sourdough-honey-oatmeal bread from a recipe I've developed over the years, but the "52 loaves" book that I couldn't get through got me thinking about how simple bread really should be in many respects, so the idea is to attempt 12 loaves of bread without using a recipe.  

*  Use up 100 yards of fabric from my stash without buying more.  Those of you who have seen my sewing room will understand that one.

*  Write 100 letters.  (anyone notice that I like nice, round numbers?)

Andy and I have a project for 2010 as well:  once a week, we're going to attend a free or nearly free event.  I hadn't ever really noticed how many lectures, exhibits, talks, displays, etc. there are around town.  We went to most of a train lecture series put on by our community library and loved it, even though I hadn't even ridden on a train until I was an adult.  We are scouring library events, coffee shop schedules, university calendars, clubs, farmers markets schedules, events--and the rules are we can only use each event once (no going to the downtown market every Saturday and calling it good).  Frankly, this little project sounds like WAY more fun than no processed foods--though we're still trying to do that as well, but a bit less militant.

Bring on 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Magic of Moving Backwards

This year, I started writing letters.  Not emails, real paper-and-envelope letters.  Real sit-down-and-hand-write letters to friends and family.  And you know what?  It was fantastic.

I used to be an avid letter writer.  For many years, I had a pen pal that I was paired with through a PBS  show called Big Blue Marble, and wrote to dozens of people I met on 4-H, FFA, and other trips.  It was back before I received bills in the mail, so letters meant I got mail.

Obviously, I like the internet.  I have made lots of friends on it, and I really enjoy the blog world.  But the internet has also enabled a lot of hatred, ignorance, and bigotry.  Even on my harmless little blog, I have received some pretty nasty comments from people who cannot tolerate people with opinions other than their own, and who feel that everyone who disagrees with them must be socialists or nazis.  I think the internet has made us even more gullible with urban legends and lies flying around so fast that it is almost impossible for real facts to catch them.  It has given a forum to those who choose to disregard any facts they disagree with, and to proclaim opinions on subjects of which they are almost totally ignorant.  My personal email box has become cluttered with advertisements, offers to enlarge anatomical parts I am completely without, solicitations for Scentsy (seriously, is EVERYONE selling that stuff now?), and viral emails, which are generally so outrageous that it's hard to believe anyone anywhere being foolish enough to believe them.  But letters have none of this.  No one sits down and dashes off 30 letters to pass around the latest Obama rumor.  No one gets out stationery and an envelope to pass along fake cancer-risk claims or claims that somehow Obama is Hitler because they seem to interpret the extermination of 6 million Jewish people as some sort of universal healthcare plan.  Thankfully, sharing nonsense is not worth the price of a stamp.

Letters are much slower, and I think I like slow.  And why not?  Why do we think everything has to be instantaneous?  I like cell phones, but refuse to get one that gives me my email.  Why would I want that? If I'm away from the computer, that means I'm doing something--maybe something fun or interesting, or maybe it involves my friends.  Whatever it is, it's highly unlikely that I need to get email while I'm doing it.  I think slow makes us nicer.  Maybe that extra time gives us the judgment and tact that the internet seems to be lacking.

So, I will continue my slow little life as it is:  no "smartphone," no e-reader, no "twitter."  And I will continue to write letters.  If I need frustration, there's always the gardening.............

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What Exactly Is A "Pundit" Supposed to Be?

The organization Politifact (as well as others) have surfaced to verify the veracity of claims made by politicians and media personalities.  Among other lists, they maintain a running "fact rating" on pundits here in the states.  I'm not sure what the origins of the word "pundit" are, but if you take a look at the list, it seems that a really good definition would be: liar who is desperately trying to boost the parent organization's ratings.  Most of what these people are telling viewers is either mostly or completely false.  And they are on "news" programs!

The expected ignorers-of-facts are there (Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Keith Obermann), but I was disappointed to see Mary Matalin & George Will on there as telling complete falsehoods.  I thought they were both better than that.

Of course, the truly scary part of this is not that they are lying--they're doing it for money & ratings.  The scary thing is the people who actually watch these people to find out what to think.  It's enough to drive one to stop referring to human beings as "intelligent beings."


One of the things I remember most from my second grade year was Christmas.  One of the girls in my class returned from break with a set of sleigh bells that had quite obviously fallen off Santa's sleigh and landed in one of the trees in their yard.  The timing could not have been better, as some of us were foolishly starting to doubt Santa's existence, but after that, we KNEW he was real.

So, we spent Christmas Eve at my parents' ranch with my sister, her husband, and their 3 children.  As the oldest one was close to the age when one could start to doubt, it was time for drastic measures.
Christmas Eve, while my brother-in-law rang some of them on one side of the house, I strategically place three bells--complete with broken wire--in the yard where they could be found on Christmas morning.

Ho! Ho! Ho!  I think they're going to believe in Santa until at least the age of 30................

Monday, December 27, 2010

How Andy and Theo Spent Christmas Vacation...

What the 4th picture SHOULD be is me wrestling with the little "helper kitty" to remove the green paint from one big hairy paw.  Remind me NOT to complain about his "help" when gardening.....

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

December 24, 1992

Christmas eve
Holly hung and presents wrapped
trees straining under garlands and glass
fruitcakes baked and cookies iced
the whole world waits for morning’s rays

                                                                                                and yet

I sit and watch the falling snow,
            the fluffy Christmas kind
and remember

Grandma’s house plumped with people,
steamed from the oyster stew,
the youngest cousin fitting him or herself with a set of olive fingers,
Aunts and uncles sipping coffee in slow motion
to the chagrin of growing and grown-up cousins
bursting with impatience to open presents.
Grandma seated behind a tower of gifts,
even a drawing from the littlest child.
Living room carpet showered with colored paper,
snowflakes swirling in the evening sky
to cushion Santa’s way.

December 24, 1992
and I celebrate my own Christmas eve.
Mistletoe and evergreen dreams fill my apartment.
A black cat stretched lazily among the presents,
colored lights twinkling in the window.

Thank you, Grandma, for your Christmas spirit.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Story Behind The Silly Christmas Letters

As some of you might have noticed, I write a rather silly Christmas letter.  This tradition started about 15 years ago, I believe.  I think the tradition of mass-produced Christmas letters was just getting going, and the first ones seem to have been pretty painful to read (our children are all brilliant, we're terribly successful, and our lives are completely perfect and to be envied), and if there is anything more boring than listening to someone brag, it's reading about it.  And "perfection" isn't what life is about anyway.  I had worked with a telecommunications company briefly, then lost my job when they were purchased by another company, and I thought losing one's job was the epitome of the anti-Christmas letter.  And so they began.

Over the years, they have become a bit legendary for being so ridiculous.  They are passed around workplaces, circulated to neighbors, passed on to relatives, and for the last 10 years I continually meet people who recognize me as the "Christmas letter" lady, which is fun.  I secretly suspect that people are relieved that I am willing to admit that my life is very FAR from perfect.  I grew up in a very stoic family--like many of us, I think--where one never admitted problems to anyone, often not even to ourselves.  It was so stifling and, of course, meant that any problems were never addressed, so I think growing up and moving away and being able to joke about things not being perfect but still being okay has been tremendously freeing.  Life is messy, people do behave badly (sometimes just occasionally, sometimes most of the time), people do lose jobs, very few of us are independently wealthy, some people don't have good health, every family has problems, sometimes things don't work out, and in the end, the only control we really have over life is how we respond, and when we can laugh about it we are just all the more ready to face the next day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Letter 2010

Once upon a time in a faraway land called Boise, there lived a man and a woman (named Andy and Toni in case you've forgotten who sends the strange Christmas letters) with two cats that agreed to let the humans cater to their every whim in exchange for an occasional dead mouse or vole.  And a few live ones. 

The man and woman were fond of doing yearly adventures, but had decided to take a bit of a rest for 2010, which may have been influenced by the severe colds both of them had at the beginning of the year.  The universe, however, seems to also enjoy the Château Sutton-Goar yearly projects, and decided to assist them by choosing one for them.  And that is how 2010 became "The Year of the Bugs."

The Year of the Bugs began with an invasion of fungus in the yard and garden (Purists will assert that "fungus" is not really the same thing as a "bug," but purists can write their own darn Christmas letter.  For purposes of THIS one, a "bug" is defined as "something icky we don't want"), followed closely by slugs.  One can purchase fungicide for plants, which probably works really well if one can apply it without wind or rain, but there are options when combating slugs.  One method is to fill a container with beer and plant it level with the ground, but this apparently only works if the slugs actually drink beer and like the beer offered, which is not German lager.  Diatomaceous earth will theoretically shred their little slug hides if they crawl in it, but the slugs have to stop eating the basil and peas long enough to roll around in it, which they seem disinclined to do.  Toni and Andy thought they might control a potential aphid problem by buying live ladybugs to turn loose in the garden.  It probably stands to reason that if lady bugs actually wanted to live in one’s garden, they would already be there.  By the time the grasshoppers moved in, Toni and Andy had become resigned to the idea of "sharing."

Not content with just conquering yard and garden, the bugs then decided to attack Château Sutton-Goar itself in the form of pantry moths.  Not having heard of moths that ate anything but wool, Toni and Andy did not immediately recognize the danger when a moth turned up in the pantry.  When the moths had wormy babies that started crawling on the pantry walls and getting into everything however, it was obvious to even the incredibly naive that these little beasts were living on something besides sweaters.  Innocently called "grain moths," the horrible creatures eat lots of things besides grains:  coffee filters, dried fruit, chocolate, popcorn, rice, dried peppers, dried tomatoes, and even cardboard.  One ambitious little critter had even managed to get into an unopened jar of commercial jelly, though he either drown or the sugar gave him a heart attack once he got inside.  If they couldn't get into something, they still built cocoons in the folds or edges, leaving NOTHING untouched and everything needing to be cleaned thoroughly. Tired of having to explain why the potatoes were being kept on the piano and the onions on the coffee table, all social engagements were canceled until the little beasts were finally defeated after a two month battle.  Toni and Andy ended up with a washed, bleached, caulked, and freshly-painted pantry full of completely air-tight containers, a large number of moth traps, the permanent inability to ever eat vermicelli or anything that remotely looks like a worm, some new friends at an exterminator-supply company, and the feeling that slugs are positively "cute" compared to the other possibilities in the bug world. 

Things I've learned this year:
*  she who complains about a bug infestation OUTSIDE is about to experience a bug infestation INSIDE
*  piano practice should probably happen BEFORE the white chocolate martini, not after
*  she who brags that her "no-processed-foods" diet has warded off all colds is about to be visited by the Bronchitis Furies
*  if you had 30 tulip bulbs the year before and the next spring you only have one and it has moved to the other side of the fence, you have moles
*  mothballs down mole holes might discourage some moles, but not the braver sort who are right there to push the mothball back out of the hole to you
*  one CAN knit an entire sweater in 15 days, but that doesn't actually mean that it's sane behavior to do so
*  games invented by cats are every bit as pointless as those invented by 5-year-olds, but at least cats don't keep changing the rules
*  one can add a little mystery to eating at home by freezing leftovers and forgetting to label them
*  before washing two king-sized pillows at home, it would be a good idea to figure out how you'll dry them first.  Do not automatically assume it can be done in the dryer.
*  I turned 40 this year, and yet I STILL wait until the other option is "go naked" before doing laundry.  Truly, I had hoped for better by now
*  if one plants 9 broccoli plants all at the same time, waiting "just one more day" to start harvesting is a bad idea, unless you want to decorate with broccoli flowers
*  "I was out mixing in the organic fertilizer" sounds better than"I was out stirring in the horse poop," but it still smells the same
*  if teenagers insist on parking on your street with rap music blaring, a little "Phantom of the Opera" played at full volume will, in an amazingly short time, convince them to go elsewhere
*  Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon really is the best stew I've ever had, but I'm not sure it was worth 12 hours, the scar I now have or the layer of grease all over the kitchen--nor the experience of boiling bacon
* gardening is Nature's little surprise party.  Just because I didn't plant spaghetti squash and really large pumpkins doesn't mean I'm not going to get them.
*  jumping up and down on a flower bed while jabbing a stick into the dirt has likely solidified the neighborhood's opinion that I am a complete lunatic, but it does keep them from dropping by or wanting to borrow things....not to mention it did collapse all the mole tunnels
*  the more expensive the kitchen canister is, the less likely it is to be airtight
*  when a toe meets a bedpost and one hears a loud "crack," it probably isn't the bedpost that just broke
*  making a goal to read 100 books a year might lead to a lot of very short books in November & December
*  the oil that comes out of hot peppers and burns human skin can permeate some rubber gloves, spreading the joy of jalapeño burns through the rest of the year
*  I'm sure they see everything, but I still felt the need to explain to the Sears repairman why we had food in every part of the house except the pantry
*  do not underestimate Craig's list.  Andy found a really nice used lathe this year, which has opened up lots of new possibilities for the "honey do" list
*  pantry moth worm-babies can chew through an amazing number of things for not having any visible jaws
*  a cat who likes to "help" garden is only really cute the first 5 or 6 times he digs up the kohlrabi
*  a bigger person would have just been happy about getting home-grown carrots rather than sulking because they happily grew in 2-inches of gravel but not in the garden bed where I actually planted them
*  a sense of humor makes everything a bit easier....except perhaps a pantry moth siege

Wishing everyone a happy holiday season,
Toni & Andy

Sunday, December 19, 2010

So It's Been Two Weeks....

And honestly, I think my toe hurts more now than it did.  Ah, and a little tip I thought I'd share:  If you have a broken toe, do not reach for anything up above you.  Know how we reach things?  By standing on tippy-toe.  This is a very automatic response and one that I think I might have remembered not to do if it wasn't such an easy thing to do without thinking about it. 

Know what also uses one's toes?  Scooting around in a chair.  I really thought I was on to something on Friday.  I had been on my foot way too much Thursday (big surprise, I know) so I thought I would help my foot by restricting myself to a day of sewing.  That's sitting, right? 

Sort of. 

Turns out, there's a lot of moving around when sewing, or at least when I do it.  THEN I had the embroidery machine and a second sewing machine going, and just wheeled my chair back and forth between them.  Had I propelled myself using my hands, this might have been okay, but if you were sitting in a wheeled chair & wanted to move about two feet forward, what would you do?  Perhaps reach out with your feet and pull yourself forward that way?  Yeah--turns out that would also involve one's toes.  Didn't think about that part.  So today my poor foot and I are going to park in one place (upstairs because carpet is so much easier than hardwood floors) and write Christmas cards.  That's it.  I'm not baking cookies (yesterday), moving around the sewing room (Friday), running errands (Thursday), attending any parties (Tuesday) or smacking my toe with the cane Andy made me (Wednesday). 

Hm, maybe it's NOT so surprising that my toe is still hurting after all.....

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What's In A Name?

Lots of confusion it seems. 

It is Christmas card time, and the great name debate is on.  How does one address Christmas/holiday cards for the more nontraditional households? 

I admit, we're one of them, and it obviously is a source of confusion for everyone else as well.  Our mailman must wonder who actually lives here, as we get cards by at least 7 or 8 name variations.  I admit, it was confusing for us as well, and we started joking about this being "Chateau Sutton-Goar" shortly after we bought the house, and now it is so much easier than trying to come up with some other formulation of our names that I have now put it on our address labels.  Besides, it's just fun to say.

The ones that really have me stumped are the ones where the woman hyphenated her name upon marriage, and the couple has children.  Do I then use just the common last name for everyone, or should everyone get the hyphenated last name?  Every year I try something different for these households.  This year I gave up and just listed the first names only.  Last year I dropped the hyphenated name and just used the main one, which I hope they didn't find offensive.  I don't actually mind when we're called "Andy & Toni Goar" because it's a bit easier, but I admit that I simply hate the dreaded Mr. & Mrs. Andy Goar.  To lose both my first AND last name at one whack gets my little feminist self quite riled up.  Who on earth wants to be just an ampersand and an abbreviation???

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What I Have Learned From My Broken Toe

*  Do not pick fights with the furniture.  The furniture will always win.

*  The official medical term for the toe is "toe number 4."  Toes don't even get any respect from the medical community.

*  Covers on the bed are much heavier than one would think.

*  Breaking a toe is a sure-fire way to inspire the cats to sleep on your feet.

*  Bruising can last longer than 11 days.

*  Getting boots ON with a broken toe is honestly a lot less painful than taking them OFF with a broken toe.

*  Being at parties with a broken toe and wearing slippers makes people very, very nervous about accidentally stepping on your toe.

*  A human with a broken toe is MUCH easier to care for than a cat with a broken leg, and is a LOT cheaper.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No Respect

Okay, it could just be me, but I'm finding it really hard to take a broken toe seriously.  I don't know why.  I've actually broken both pinkie toes in the past, and maybe it happened so long ago that I have forgotten what it was like, but I'm having a bit of trouble believing that the smallest bone on my next-to-smallest toe can hurt as much as any other bone, and that it would not for any bizarre reason heal faster than all my other bones.  Go figure.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Does Hypochondria Have An Opposite?

Okay, we all know people who are obsessed with their health & believe themselves to always be sick.  That would be hypochondria.  Is there such a thing as hyperchondria?   Five days after losing my battle with the bedpost, this

is what my foot now looks like.  And yet I'm actually surprised that it still really hurts.

It seems my little world has very little room for reality these days......................

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sometimes My Optimism Overwhelms Me

I have not been to the doctor to have my foot examined, but having broken toes at least twice before, it would be a very safe bet that the aching purple blob that has replaced my "this little piggy had none" toe is indeed a broken toe.  Not least of all because there was a definite "snap" noise when I stubbed my toe on the stupid bed post in the first place.  Though interestingly enough, the post is about 4-inches square and pretty solid stuff, even if it isn't real wood (though Andy says it NOT being wood probably makes it even harder) BUT WHEN I INITIALLY HEARD THE "SNAP" I HONESTLY THOUGHT I HAD BROKEN SOMETHING ON THE BED.  Oh yeah, because that would be the most likely result of itty-bitty toe bones meeting big freaking bed frame. 

It's probably a good thing I didn't choose to go into physics........

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Getting Ready For Our Christmas Cheese-Tasting Party

Fruit trays ready?  Check.

Cute booklets made for people to take notes on the various cheeses?  Check.

Cheese ballots made?  Check.

Ready-made sourdough baguettes ready to be browned?  Check.

Hostess breaking her stupid toe by stubbing it on the stupid bed?  Check!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lessons That The 20-Something Living Next Door With His Mother COULD Have Learned This Morning

*  6-inches of fresh snow might be an appropriate time to stop driving like you think you're Mario Andretti

*  The gas pedal has setting besides "no gas" and "flooring it."

*  If you're having trouble moving in the snow, "flooring it" will make the spot under your tires even MORE slippery, no matter how many times you do it.

*  If something doesn't work, to keep trying the exact same thing for the next half hour is probably what the rest off us mean when we say "futile."

*  If you had been even slightly nice--or even a bit less of a total jerk--to any of your neighbors, someone might have been willing to give you a push.

Fall! Finally!

Even without extremely hot summers, I've always loved fall.  A little coolness in the air, leaves starting to turn, sweaters coming out-...