Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring out the old, ring in the new...

How lame am I, updating my blog when there's only thirty minutes left to go in 2008? Pretty lame. But I've never been a big New Year's Eve celebrater--it's midnight, after all, and we old folks have got to go to bed early. I did go out for curry with a couple friends here, and then introduced "That Hamilton Woman" to Kismet, although he was sleeping when Nelson uttered his most relevant line. Damn that beagle anyway.

I clicked back on "January 2007" to try to figure out what the hell I should write about. It didn't help much. Reading that was a lil' slice of badness that I'm glad to be over with. 2008 was a pretty good year for me, but January of that year was not. Cold, dark Chicago days, running around temping, no friends, wondering if I'd ever find permanency... The one bright spark I had to laugh at: Me, casually tossing out that I'd applied for a CW technician position on January 14th. Three months later I'd be in Williamsburg...

2008 has been a good year. It wasn't perfect, but unlike 2007 I finally feel like I've got a solid base underneath me to branch out and try new things, like acting, like writing, like performing, like interpreting. Things could change tomorrow, of course, but for right now I'm pretty content. I'm feeling more in control, and more like I can make decisions that will affect my life positively instead of reflexively reacting to whatever happens to me. That sounds like so much psychobabble, and maybe it is--but it's the calm honest truth, not the slightly giddy desperate tone that was used last January.

It's been a good year. A long year. I guess I'm ready for the next one. No bells, no champagne, just high-thread count sheets, a sleepy beagle and some naval literature. Bring it on 2009. I'm ready.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I should be packing...

I've been trying to email myself a bunch of photos off my parent's camera for the last twenty minutes now, but apparently Yahoo has logged off early to, I don't know, declare bankruptcy or something. It's been a crazy week for me--lots of visiting and catching up with relatives I only see once or twice a year. Most disarming was the discovery that a lot of them read my blog, so no more confessionals about my booze-fueled writing binges, I guess.

And I also just read a Dear Abby column about how people just "hate" being forced to look at photographs of other people's families, who they don't know. Well, I now know for a fact that's not MY loyal readers, so here are some photos culled from several cameras...not merely a public service, but also so I can have these photos in Wmsbrg, to look at whenever I get blue about being away from all y'all.

And if anyone has any photos they'd like to share (family or urban-familia) just email them and I will post them with an appropriately inappropriate caption...

This is my immediate family, mom, dad, brother Peter, sister in law Brenda and of course, baby Lily in the obligatory smiling in front of the tree photo.

Mom and Dad have been hosting an open house for nearly ten years now. This is Uncle Ray, his wife Mary, Aunt Margie and mom, representin' the Ruetten side of the family.

Aunt Margie has been hosting Christmas Eve at her house for longer than I can remember. Here's me, mom and dad taking a break after a frenetic round of Christmas present stealing.

My Aunt Margie's son Peter, his wife Liz and their kids John and Katie...Katie finds it hard to believe that her dad used to take me to the movies BEFORE SHE WAS BORN, but I assured her that he actually was THAT OLD.

Me, graciously helping to open the present that Katie stole from me: a pig that you plug into an mp3 player that then dances. Katie is into High School Musical. We're trying to change that.

Okay, back to Christmas Day at our house...the day was totally overwhelming due to the fact that we had not one but TWO adorable infants at our house (with a third on the way!)...this is my cousin Elizabeth with her niece Jocelyn, and of course Brenda and Lily. The two girls seemed to get a kick out of meeting each other, but they seemed overwhelmed by all the "aaaawhs" and "wouldja look at thaaat's?" and the camera flashes.

Lily seems to prefer human flesh when it comes to teething, disdaining her pacifier. Whenever she could, she'd grab my hand and stick my fingers in her mouth...of course, that could be because I was snacking on delicious cheese and sausage and whiskey weiners...

The two grandmas and Lily, in front of mom's shiny, shiny stainless steel refrigerator.

Grandma and Lily. Even though she's not as strong as she used to be, Grandma still managed to hang on to Lily for a long time, despite repeated attempts to steal her away.

Aaaaand, one more picture of Lily. I could post hundreds, but...I think this one pretty much sums it up.

I'm embarassed at how few photos I have here--most of the cameras were trained on the babies, but Mom calculated we had thirty people at our house during Christmas Day. It was so wonderful to see everyone and enjoy the decorations and delicious food...I feel a little guilty that I'm getting out of both the decorating and taking down and all the commesurate cleaning, but I have to work tomorrow. Sigh. Of course--after a week of up and down weather, snow, rain, fog and everything in between, it's a beautiful sunny day and all systems are go.

See you in Virginia!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Going Home

This time tomorrow I should be winging my way over Midwest, en route to Wisconsin and Christmas at home. I'm not sure if I'll be updating or not, so in the meantime, here's Kismet with one of his Christmas presents...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

sandy paws

This week has been a long week. I've been doing so much that I feel like i haven't really had a chance to enjoy the Christmas season. And I had pretty much forgotten that my birthday was coming up until the choir sang happy birthday during our Thursday's rehearsal.

Wednesday was our department Christmas party, which meant that no one really felt like doing any work for the next two days. I signed up to donate blood on Thursday. I had forgotten about it until my supervisor came up to me and said "ready?" and then I went, I've given blood before, and I remembered it being no big deal, but I completely forgot about the part where they shove a giant needle into your arm. The woman who was taking my blood must have been new because she didn't tighten down my tourniquet enough. There I was, happily pretending I was Nelson about to get my arm sawed off when I realised I was growing light headed...luckily another nurse came over and got things moving so I could get that needle out of my arm and go get a tuna sandwich.

Saturday I spent cleaning. I am flying home on Tuesday, and I didn't want to come to home to disaster central. So my room is's hoping it'll stay that way for two days. And then Saturday night I went to my roommate's play, The Gift of the Magi. The script was pretty mediocre, but the staging was interesting and the acting was good. I had bought a bouquet for my roommate, which I left on her bed as a surprise before I went to bed. I heard her come home...and when I came out of my room this morning, she had decorated the dining room and bought a little cake for my birthday. yay! Birthday surprise!

My church had a huge musical service this morning, so I sang at both services. Then Kismet and I went to Yorktown, to the beach. I love swimming, sand sea and surf, and I want to make sure that he'll be a water puppy someday. He seemed intrigued by the water and showed no fear of going out on the pier, so that was good. I even treated him to some Ben & Jerry's...he had some frozen vanilla yoghurt in a cup. He was so enthusiastic about it that he got it all over his snout, just like a two year old. I had chocolate therapy. All in all, it was pretty fun. I even found a birthday present on my way home: a one-cup teapot with St Paul's and the Tower on it. It rests on a matching cup that has a reflection of the two buildings in the Thams.

But now I have to run...CW gives its employees turkeys, and I decided to cook mine right away, since we have no freezer's done, and I have to make gravy. bye for now!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas in Wmsbrg

We had our Christmas party today--as a departure from the norm, we went to a Chinese buffet. It was nice, except for the fact that the chairs were crammed so close together it was nearly impossible to get by. But! Sushi and sesame chicken and fried rice, crab rangoon, dumplings and egg drop soup and teriyaki chicken... I managed to stop after two plates (plus dessert), but I could have grazed for hours.

Afterward we were treated to a behind the scenes tour of the DeWitt Wallace Museum's new exhibit, Quilted Fashions. The tour was led by Linda Baumgarten, who's written several books about eighteenth century fashions and textiles. We started out in the actual collections of CW, oohing and aahing over actual costumes from the 1700 and 1800s, carefully unfolded in their storage drawers. It was astonishing to see actual garments and note the handstitching--"ah! THAT's how it's done!"--all the while resisting the urge to touch, lift, stroke, lick, etc.

Then we went upstairs and Linda talked about the quilts and quilted clothes on display--lots of quilted petticoats and embroidered/pieced garments. The museum also features "study drawers" with different pieces...Nicole and I nearly had simultaneous heart attacks when we opened up the last one to reveal a beautiful black silk coat embroidered all over with lilies of the valley and other greenery. It's a good thing the drawers are covered with plexiglass, because I was very nearly drooling. So much pretty...

All in all, a very pleasant afternoon, and a nice break from work. We have no projects right now, so I've been repairing returned items, getting them ready to go into stock, to be reassigned. It's been low-pressure, so I've had time to practise hand sewing (flipping a stomacher is no fun, even in the 21st century) but it's less interesting that, say, building a jacket. We also exchanged Secret Santa gifts...I got a tin of sipping chocolate, some Walker's Shortbread and some Devonshire cream. Turns out my Secret Santa was my boss' boss...someone who's waxed nostalgic about London with me many a time, hence the Devonshire cream. Mmm...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Problem Dog

Our boss' boss' boss' boss came to visit us yesterday, causing a flurry of excitement. Apparently organising the linen scraps just because they are overflowing and spilling into the aisle isn't enough of a reason to get them straightened up. Mr. VP has been put in charge of the new "Department of Research and Historical Interpretation" and has been visiting all the areas now under his jurisdiction, which includes the interpreters in the historical area. He was very straightforward, understanding, honest and likeable--also British, which was a surprise. We didn't learn anything new, but it was nice to see the higher ups take an interest in our little shop. I wish he would have hung out a little longer though--we set up every mannequin in the shop, dressed in all class levels, military, fife and drum, livery, etc, but he didn't ooh too much. Oh well--I guess it was too much to hope that Mr. VP was also an interpreter, like our boss's boss's boss, Mr. Director, who uses his wigs and props as decorating items in his home.

But anyway.

So there's this dog that lives in our apartment building. His name is Max, I think he's a golden lab mixed with something else...big rangy caramel guy. Probably a year or younger, but really friendly after you get to know him. He lives in a third floor apartment a few rows down, and every time I take Kizzy for a walk I can count on this big yellow head poking through the bars and then a high, desperate whiiiiiine... His owner is an older man who may be slightly crazy. I'm not sure. Anyway, occasionally Max will be outside running around without a leash on. He's got a collar, but no tags and since he's not neutered--and since we don't have the luxury of a fenced in backyard--he's pretty much free to go wherever.

This past Sunday Max came running up to me and Kizzy as we were going for our walk. There's a little fenced-in retention pond behind the school where we go sometimes, so I thought I'd take them both over there, shut the gate, and then I can let Kizzy off his leash and they could run around. Great. They loved it. Had a great time. Max loves to play, Kizzy loves to be able to run around. But coming back we had to cross a road. Now, Kizzy is on a leash and is learning "stay" (meaning to wait for my okay to cross the street) but Max, leashless and eager to baptize the streetlight across the road, scooted out in front of a passing car. I honestly thought I was about to witness vehicular dogslaughter. Somehow, by the grace of God, the car swerved and Max made it to the other side. The car pulled over and a young woman (a William & Mary student, judging by the sticker on the window) got out. "Is that your dog?" she shouted. "No," I said, crossing the street myself, Kiz firmly at my side. Max was waiting for us--but then the woman began to call him, probably so she could pick him up and take him to the SPCA. He started to go to her...and walked right in front of another car, which also missed him by miraculous inches. "He lives right here! I'll get him! MAX!" I finally shouted, and the dog came with me.

When we got back to the apartment, Max came right up to the door with me. Oh baby, I thought, if I had more square footage and less roommatage... But I had to leave him outside. I called our apartment manager--remember, this is a Sunday, so I got the answering service. I explained the problem: "Basically, he's just allowed to run around wild. He is going to end up dead or rabid or picked up by the humane society. I know who his owner is, if you want to talk to him, but honestly, it might just be for the best if Max does go to a shelter...that way he has a snowball's chance of finding someone who'll actually give a crap about whether he gets hit by a car or not." The answering serviced judged it "not emergency," said they would pass it along to the management on Monday and hung up. I dithered about calling the SPCA myself. In the end I didn't. Max could probably do better elsewhere...but if he did fail to find a home, he could be euthanized. And I can see how he'd be a challenge for anyone. He's a big dog, not stupid, but since he hasn't been trained since puppyhood, it would be hard to start now. And then there's his howling. Last night when Kiz and I went for a walk I thought a wolf was being slowly tortured before I realised it was Max, depressed about missing his buddy. I've seen his head forlornly poking between the porch railings, so I know he hasn't been hit by a car yet, but I don't know if his owner has recieved a warning...or if he's just keeping Max locked up instead of doing the responsible thing and walking him.

So what do you think, dear readers? Should I call the SPCA the next time I see Max running around wild and fancy free? I've no wish to consult his slightly crazy owner, but he is going to get hit by a car otherwise. We live on the point of a triangle with roads on two's going to happen. Max needs someone who cares about him more--but then again, it's none of my business. After all, I keep a dog cruelly locked in a cage for nineteen hours a day. But it galls me to see such a sweet, loveable pup with so much potential just neglected like that. What do you think?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Operation One Ring: Success!

Erin and I have been twirling invisible moustaches and giggling madly under our respective breaths for the past two weeks now, because we've been scheming, deviously. Our friend Nicole has been dating her boyfriend Evan for six years now, and even though they're not technically engaged, she's already started planning the wedding...well, after all, he's in the Navy, so if you're dealing with a Navy schedule, it's important to plan ahead. I'm sure after awhile Evan was starting to feel like Nicole had it all figured out, so he turned to Erin and I for a little help to make sure his proposal was spectacular.

"Well," I mused as Erin and I pow wow'd on a break about two weeks ago, drinking coffee, "We could see if we could sneak him into the Capitol Ball..."

The Capitol Ball is an event CW has once or twice a week. It's held at the Capitol, and the group is taken through several different rooms. In the first room is a hysterical puppet show, the second room features period singing by some of the men of the town (nothing truly bawdy, alas, but the last time I was there I did recognise "Roast Beef of Old England"), and the third room has the dancing.

I called up the person in charge of evening programs. Could this happen? He laughed and said "why not" and told me to call the person in charge of the Ball. She was sort of taken aback when I explained what we wanted to happen, but warmed to the idea quickly. Erin, on the other hand, relayed information to Evan about when to arrive, where to arrive and--oh yes, if he could just send her his measurements, she'd try to get a costume for him...? Thank God for the kindness of the CW family...we managed to pull this together in about a week. Our incomparable boss's boss even pulled a costume for Erin less than two hours after getting the groom's measurements.

We arrived in the historical area early enough to make a round at one of the Christmas parties put on by a CW vice-president. All I can say is: watch out for the artillery punch. Then we crossed the street and headed over to the Capitol. Erin, Nicole and Barrett, another Navy guy who knew Erin, warmed themselves by the fire as I quietly conferred with the woman in charge of the program--who I'd only spoken to on the phone twice. "Everything okay?" I said. "Yup. They're all excited in there," she said, and we raised our voices about the weather, so as not to cause any undue alarm.

The puppet show was funnier than I remembered--maybe it was the players, or maybe just the artillery punch--and the singing was more enjoyable too. We were in a group with about a dozen people, mostly couples wearing evening clothes who had come from the CW taverns. ("Taverns" meaning five-star restaurants in this case, not "taverns" like wood-paneled bars back home.) When we got to the room where the dancing was held, Nicole, Erin and I all exclaimed over the dancers...they all had on their finest gowns, silk with miles of trim and decorations, gowns we had seen hanging on mannequins for weeks as they were trimmed. Nicole and I whispered together about the way the light caught the ruffles and rouches, but in the back of my mind my heart was pounding wildly...

Then the dancing was declared closed and the dancing master thanked Lady Dunmore for her graciousness. But Lady Dunmore rose and said "I understand there is a young man who has a pressing question for a member of the company...?" and the dancing master said "oh! yes!" and quickly ran through the door at the back of the room. Evan appeared, resplendent in a dark cream coloured coat and waistcoat, with chocolate breeches and a gold-trimmed hat. It took a second for Nicole to recognise him, and then I felt her nails dig into my arm. Somehow she managed to get to her feet and walk towards him, and then he uttered words of eternal love, dropped to one knee and proposed.

Nicole said yes, of course.

Erin and I applauded, cried a little and sighed, happy we had pulled it off--more than happy that we hadn't been rumbled in the past week. The CW company gave three hearty hip hip huzzahs! while the guests looked on bemused...then we were sweeping out into the cold night air. The guests congratulated the happy couple and disappeared, and we were surrounded by silks and satins, all the CW folk hugging and congratulating, Erin and I thanking everyone as sincerely as we could. It was too cold to linger very long, but we did manage another round of huzzahs.

All in all, a very splendid proposal, I think. A lot of fun to plan--and a fun night. I'm glad we could make it special for them. Congratulations!

Friday, December 12, 2008

pants, delayed

Sorry, loyal readers, didn't mean to shout. I blame the internet: now that I'm used to instant gratification, not being able to find an online vendor for genuine nankeen is annoying. Of course--after I'd waited for twelve hours I could go to work and get the phone number of SEVERAL places which sell nankeen. Arg. Not that I was planning on buying any fabric last night, but when the occasional finally does arise, I want to be able to snap it up thatfast. I need some new pants. Historical pants aside, I'm quickly running out of things to encase my legs in. I bought a couple of pairs of jeans from Old Navy last August which have proved to be nothing but crap in denim form...they fit so nicely when I wrote about them last, but the cloth has stretched beyond all recognition. The waistband is now so big that I can't wear them without a belt--and the belt cinches in so much fabric that the jeans hang off my hips by the belt loops. My lone remaining pair of Lane Bryant jeans are fraying on the inseam. I'm praying they'll hold out until January, when LB will be having a huge sale and I'm going to restock my wardrobe...I've learned my lesson: if $25 for a pair of jeans sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Oh well.

This, by the way, is not a cry in the dark for new pants. I was just observing how crap my wardrobe has become: if worse comes to worse, I can wear my polyester "business casual" pants which have hung, untouched but for church, in my closet since I moved here. But I was thinking I'd kill two birds with one stone and make myself a pair of trousers that I can wear around. On my long list of clothes I want to make is a set of sailor's slops--loose fitting clothes like those donned by the men in Nelson's navy. Yeah, I know, I know, but what good is mad sewing skills if you can't make silly costumes and prance around?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

no pants for you!


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pulling a sickie...

If I hadn't neglected to change my timezone from "Greenwich Mean" to "East Coast" y'all would see that I'm writing this at 12:15...a time which is normally spent gulping my peanut butter sannich at work. But I'm pulling a sickie today. I'm not feeling well...although I probably could have tottered in to work I would not have been at my most productive...and the thought of a day spent hunched over stays needing repairs while my head is pounding and my fever is raising the temperature around me was enough to convince me to call in. I did manage to get tha Kiz to doggy daycare in addition to being able to sleep at will, I'm having a beagle-free day. I have no money, but by God, it's worth twenty dollars just to have someone else wear him out for a change.

So I'm sipping tea, eating toast and surfing the internet. I have all my Christmas shopping done (thank you CW employee sale!) except for my niece, Lily. Lily, of course, being perfection incarnate. [You'll have to imagine the picture I'd put up here though, because I haven't gotten any new photos lately.] I was going to get her a copy of The Secret Garden soundtrack, since that was my first musical, or a copy of the first book of the "Little House" series, or maybe even a tiny model of HMS Victory, but then I decided that I should probably wait until she's old enough to, you know, manipulate a CD player, read, follow her dad around parroting facts about Nelson before getting her something like that. But what could she need? I suspect she lacks for nothing, except possibly squishy auntie kisses (and even then, she has two dogs), so I'm left plumbing the depths of the internet for ideas.

So this is cute...the actual story behind "ah dingo ate mah baby!" is actually pretty horrible, but it is kind of funny...tragedy plus five minutes and all that. Well, it's sold out anyway...I guess I should keep looking. It's not like I've got stuff to do today...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


I feel like that one part in Phantom of the Opera where Madame Giry goes "Here, I have a note" and everyone groans. We got another memo today from the higher ups...embedded in the six pages of business speak were a few new items of note. One, that we're not getting raises this year. According to a colleague, the raises are about thirty cents an hour, which is about twelve dollars a week...if the Foundation needs that twelve dollars a week, I guess they can have it. But I could really use an extra twelve dollars a week. The other item of interest is the fact that the decision makers are waiting until January to take a look at the holiday numbers and decide the next course of action. Which could mean more layoffs or what have you. So! Good news! I don't have to worry about being laid off until AFTER Christmas. Not that that's stopping me, mind you. Like a conscientious shopper getting all her holiday shopping done in November, I like to get my worrying in early.

I still like working for CW order to demonstrate to people that we are not "going dark," El Presidente has requested all the candles in the windows be left in place throughout January. A nice touch I thought. "It's largely symbolic" he said, "but at this time, we need symbols." Okay. We're also going to be getting a free Christmas turkey next week...I'm looking forward to it. Although, with both me and my roommate getting a free turkey, it could be turkey, turkey, turkey until it's coming out our ears. We'll probably cook one and freeze one...if we can find room in the freezer.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Long weekend

The concert went really well Saturday. I had so much fun that the hour and a half seemed to fly by. The sanctuary was absolutely packed with people--they even had to put some in the fellowship hall. It was so beautiful to see the church lit up by candlelight, decorated for Christmas and echoing with the two-hundred and fifty year sounds of Handel.

Afterward, Nicole, Erin and I went out for dinner, and then I came home and finished the coat for my Salvation Army bear. I was sad to see him go, but I think his coat turned out well...I even stopped by the gift shop at the visitor center and picked up a tin whistle as an extra gift.

Everyone thought the hearts on the tails are so cute, but they're actually period accurate. And the buttons came from the small clothes--we replaced the pewter with shiny metal ones to match the shiny metal on the new coats, so now we have about three thousand extra small pewter buttons.

Sunday I worked Grand Illumination--which is just about what it sounds like. Basically CW sets up three stages with music and entertainment. Then, a little after six, they shoot off fireworks at the Capitol, the Palace and the Magazine, and light candles in the windows of all the historical buildings. I was again playing barrier attendant, so I got to direct people around the ropes and answer questions about when the fireworks started and where the best place to watch them from. I myself had a front row seat: I've never been so close to fireworks that I could see them and hear them simultaneously. My favourite were huge "fans" of sparks in red white and blue that completely enveloped the Capitol on four sides and made it look like the building was exploding. I'm amazed they didn't lose a window. Everyone was in high spirits, despite the cold. By the time the fireworks went off it was about nineteen degrees...I was layered like I was going to a Packers game on New Years Eve: three pairs of wool stockings, flannel pants, flannel petticoat, outer petticoat, long sleeved tee, short sleeved tee, shift, wool jacket, apron, cap, buckled shoes, gloves, mitts, and a wool cloak with a hood over all. I was warm, except for my toes, which were little blocks of ice by night's end. And tomorrow it's supposed to be sixty degrees. God I love Virginia.

A post-Grand Illumination pic with me and tha Kiz...he's getting to be quite a chunk of change...I think I'm going to have to start rationing his peanut butter.

Thursday, December 04, 2008


I have a prodigious soprano. Untrained, rusty from disuse, but high and clear when I get good and warmed up. It's a golden gift and I use it a lot, mostly in the shower. Or when I'm doing dishes. Or when I'm walking the dog. Or driving in the car. Sometimes--even at work, dodging spools of thread and (closed) safety pins from my unappreciative audience.

Oh God, how I love to sing. Half of the reason I love being Methodist is because we sing a lot. Did you know John Wesley wrote a list of suggestions for singing in a congregation? It's in the front of the Methodist hymnal...

1. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find a blessing.

2. Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of it being heard, then when you sing the songs of Satan.

3. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, as to be heard above, or distinct from, the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.John Wesley

4. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before, not stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

5. Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

I only hope that Wesley wouldn't consider Sondheim "songs of Satan" because in that case we have a problem.

And I love singing the Messiah. It's a piece built for my voice. A choir with a hundred and fifty people so I can belt out those lovely fortes without standing apart, yet I get covered up whenever I get lost in the runny bits. Lots of high notes, lots of little dancing pieces leading up to moving chords that clash and resolve in the most satisfying manner. And the words. Sometimes it's easy to forget when you're dealing with a technically difficult passage that this music is written to glorify the when we finally rehearsed the whole thing straight through tonight I was caught unawares. How satisfying to use this gift, this prodigious soprano, to say thank you to the giver. To join with the multitude in celebration.

Our concert is on Saturday, and I am really looking forward to it. REALLY looking forward to it. Oh how I love to sing. Now that the militia is done for the season and the evening programs don't have me on the schedule until January, I'm going to go back to the choir. I didn't realise how much I missed it.

MESSIAH will be performed this Saturday, the 6th, at 5pm at Williamsburg United Methodist's a free performance and all are welcome. I don't know how many "locals" read my blog but if you do--I'd love to see you there!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

do not want

I'm trying very hard not to "want" anything for Christmas this year...I have a new car, and that's more than enough present. (Kizzy, on the other hand, is very excited about his first "real" Christmas and would like stuffed chew toys and more Greenies.) Last year I posted my Christmas list online...I'm too old to be excited about the presents part of Christmas anyway. Seriously. I'm working on focussing about the other, better parts, keeping my mind on the real reason for the season.

But I just got an email from PETA, and I wanted to let you know about a program they have going, in case you have extra pressie money left over. Let me say I don't agree with all of PETA's opinions or their tactics. But they have started a program to provide doghouses to dogs who are chained up outside. Legally, the owners of these dogs have to give them up to the authorities or to adoption groups, and if they do not, the dogs can't just be taken, unless they are being overtly neglected. But PETA is able to provide wooden doghouses with straw inside, which is better than nothing. At $265 a pop, it's outside my price range, but if everyone who reads NLD donated $10, that would be one less dog outside.

More information about PETA's program here.

Adopting a rescued dog has really challenged me, which is why I like the idea behind this program. Kizzy was literally picked up by the side of the road. The only clues I have to what happened to him before are little quirks of his personality: the fact that he's only just now grasping the idea behind "sit" and "stay." His ability to gulp down food in less than thirty seconds, like he's never eaten before. His non-barking. His overwhelming friendliness despite...despite whatever happened to land him by the side off the road. And the most disquieting thing--the fact that at one point his tail was broken and never reset. When he lies down on the floor it sticks straight up like a flag, adorably. But it gives me pause: what happened? How long was he out in the wild? Did he catch his tail on something--or did someone break it for him? It is just the perfect height to catch in a car door. I should know, I have to watch out for it when we go over to the historical area for our Saturday walks. He's not the dog I expected: like a football-playing son, I am constantly worried I'm not able to be a good mom because I don't understand him. He entertains me, irritates me, licks me and pisses me off sometimes. But he loves me, and I love him and we're learning to live with each other. I guess I'm rising to the challenge...I only wish I had more room so we could get another dog.

Monday, December 01, 2008

big yellow coat

There's a line in 1776 where Abigail Adams asks her husband John how Martha Jefferson was able to join Thomas in Philadelphia, while she, Abigail, is stuck in Massachusetts. "Winters are softer in Virginia," Adams replies, then hastens to assure her that this results in women who are only "fit for Virginians." It's true though. Winter is softer here--"cold" is maybe thirty degrees. There's no snow yet, although it did rain all day on Sunday. I don't miss it. Having Kizzy means a walk every day, rain or shine, and I have enough trouble getting motivated without two feet of snow on the ground. And relatively warmer weather has meant that I haven't taken to my bed in a fit of hypothermia and madness.

When I lived in Stevens Point I bought a bright yellow coat. It's a man's coat, and it was big on me then. It's huge on me now. Should Kizzy and I ever get caught in a blizzard, I could probably tuck him inside and curl up until it passed. There are so few clothes that have survived my weight ups and downs, my trip to London and back, that wearing these pieces always conjures up memories. For this coat it would have to be the miles I clocked back and forth between our house and campus. It became obvious when I put my ipod into the inside pocket...which is all stretched out from the CD player that used to reside there. Funny, that.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

tree hunting

I didn't realise until I got to church this morning that today is the first Sunday in Advent...Christmas is closer than I thought. Not in an "aieee, only twenty-five more days of shopping left!" but closer so that now I don't feel guilty for decorating the entire apartment for Christmas. I love Christmas--the whole season, the singing, the cheerfulness, making things special, the food, the reason to get out the nice clothes and make a fuss over little traditions. Since I already have all my shopping done, I get to focus on the other parts of making Christmas special. Last year I tried to decorate our apartment, but it didn't turn out well. This year though, I was inspired by the natural decorations that festoon Colonial Williamsburg and I decided to do the same thing to our apartment. So yesterday Kismet and I went for a walk in the woods to collect materials.

First we went thrifting--well, I thrifted, Kizzy napped on my cloak in the backseat--and I found a couple of red Christmas baskets, a wreath with fake cranberries on it, some cut glass candle holders and second-hand Christmas lights. Grand total: eight dollars.

There is a forest behind our house, I've mentioned it before, not exactly the forest primeval, but a mature forest full of holly trees and towering pines. Entering it, you feel like you've stepped into Narnia. I've taken Kizzy on walks there before--there is a little path that winds up and down hills, over exposed roots, through giant trees that were victims of Hurricane Isabelle--it was easier to chop away a part of the tree than drag the entire thing out of the way. There are not many young trees, but on an earlier trip I had spotted it--our Christmas tree.

I brought with me a scissors, my trusty Leatherman, the saw from my toolbox (ironically, an old Christmas present) and several reuseable grocery bags. I quickly learned that the pine boughs I was looking for were impossible to reach--the heavy lush foliage was hundreds of feet over my head. But the trees would drop branches, still laden with green needles, like little pine brooms, and I would go wading off the path after them. Ankle-deep in oak leaves (last season's decoration) I retrieved my prize. Each holly tree I passed was scanned for red: if the tree had berries I'd take a few branches, if not, I'd pass by. And I continually stopped (much to Kizzy's annoyance) to pick up pinecones.

About forty minutes into the forest the path cants up sharply, and the ground almost peeks out of the woods. Here sapling pines fight tooth and nail for sunlight. The winner gets to be another hundred-foot tall tree. The losers end up fertilizer. This was where our Christmas tree was--not one of the of spindly long needled pines, but a narrow, spiky short-needled breed which was not about to come quietly. I wished for my leather gloves. In the end, it only took about a minute to cut through the one-inch trunk, and the whole tree fit neatly into my orange Sainsbury's bag. I was carrying dozens of little pine brooms, a half a bag of cones, holly branches and now the tree. Lightweight, but awkward, Kizzy not understanding that those of us with a higher center of gravity now needed to move more slowly.

As I walked out of the forest again, taking a microscopic sampling of its beauty, I was afraid I'd get busted, but no one said anything or even noticed, for all I know. When we got back to the house, Kizzy couldn't understand why the pine cones were suddenly forbidden just for being in the house. I used twisty-ties to attach pine boughs to our porch railing, and draped holly over our mantlepiece. Christmas lights shone through them, a place of honor carefully left for Amaree's creche. The pinecones went into the baskets I had bought earlier. Then I carefully drilled through some of Amaree's "burned" gingerbread and tied it to pine with a red ribbon, attaching the whole to each of our bedroom doors. Something sweet to come home to.

The entire adventure took about three hours, and our apartment looks beautiful. The tree hasn't been decorated yet--we're threading popcorn and cranberries, and I'd rather not do that by myself--but even just propped up in the corner being green and spiky it looks beautiful. I'm so delighted to be decorating for Christmas...and I can't wait for it to get here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

things to be thankful for

This is the fourth Thanksgiving I've blogged about here on NLD...and I have to say, it's probably been the best.

In the morning, I cooked (We three ladies had devised and split the menu, so no one person was responsible for all the cooking.), and then sat down to watch the Macy's parade...after about an hour and a half the CW Fife & Drum Corps appeared...and promptly disappeared again. All told, they spent about fifteen seconds onscreen. Hugely disappointing, especially since the commentators kept talking about how much other bands had practised to be there or how far they had come--well, the kids in the corps had been practising hard as well, not to mention they spent twelve hours on a bus. I learned from one of the color guards that the fife & drum actually march more slowly than modern marching bands, so they'd been rehearsing keeping up with a modern parade. I was disappointed they didn't get more air time, but they looked fantastic, and I'm sure that they made an impression on the three million people along the parade route. I can only imagine how loud they were in those steel and glass canyons.

Then I went over to Nicole's house...she's bought a beautiful new townhouse nearby, and had graciously agreed to host. We were joined by her boyfriend, Evan, Erin and her husband Mike, and another "orphan," Ben, a Navy guy. After we got the turkey in the oven (after the traditional telephone-call-home-to-anxiously-confer-with-Mom), Erin, Ben and I headed over to the historical area to hand out cookies. I had about five dozen that survived the carnage in the end. But I didn't realise that of course the interpreters would fill their breakrooms with treats. Most of them were too full for cookies...but the guests were surprised and thrilled and delighted to accept when we thrust baskets full of cookies at them.

It took us a lot longer to get through the historical area--there were a lot of people there--so when we got home, we were practically ready to eat. Except the turkey wasn't done. Dang. So we had to put dinner on hold for another hour while it finished roasting. Then when we too it out of the oven we discovered it had been cooked upside down. Oops. It was still delicious though--and jucier than any turkey I'd ever had. Even with three Navy guys we still had piles of food left over. I'm still full, three days later--but that could be due to the fact that I've been living off of leftovers.The whole day was just relaxed and fun with all the focus on food and spending time with people--just as it should be.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

not my job

So I'm not an actor. But a couple times a week I'll dress up like one and fake it for a couple hours. Okay. Usually I prefer the techie roll--running around, Getting Stuff Done, and sniggering at the actor types. What is this "getting into character?" What do you mean you need someone to find your missing prop? Do it yourself! What--you can't focus with the stagehands talking so loudly--hey, they have a stressful job, leave 'em alone.

Tonight, however, I find I have a little more empathy for the actor types. My story has been cancelled for the last three times I was scheduled, meaning I haven't performed (or, um, rehearsed) in nearly two weeks. The story, like all good stories, stays with me, but it also means that I haven't been in stays, skirts or heels for two weeks. Like I said--I have a new appreciation for actors, and I now understand why they always go whining for their costumes as early as possible. Did I say "whining?" I meant "asking." And the heels--they're not even real heels! I've eaten sandwiches that stand taller than these heels. But they're enough to trip me up--get it done girl that I am. (note for feminist friends: by "girl" I obviously mean "woman" but chose the diminutive because it scanned better.) Anyway.

I was performing in the Wythe kitchen, a new place for me, a small, unheated house with a deadly uneven brick floor. Whilst trying to figure out how I was going to work this new place the two attendants were getting a fire going and setting up the candles--and then they disappeared. Leaving me to realise too late that the candleholder was in a bad place. I could have used that room, but I didn't want to move the candleholder--it's a big metal stand that sits on a piece of fabric, and if I'd've moved it, it would have dripped wax either on me or the floor. Okay, fine.

But then...oh then. After the first tour went through, the fire was burning low. I mean--verge of going out low. I was sitting there, embroidering ("no stamp act!"), fretting about the fire, and I finally said "screw it, if I don't do something, this fire is going to go out." Did I mention the kitchen is unheated? It's unheated. A lot unheated, especially since the temp is hovering around thirty-three degrees tonight. The fire was built upside down, meaning the biggest logs were on the bottom. I tried dragging them around with the poker, but they soon got hung up on the firedogs. Nothing for it. I pulled off my mitts and dove in with both hands, rebuilding the fire properly (thanks, dad), and in the process dragging the hem of my petticoat through the ashes. I was dirty, I was upset, I was wondering where my attendant was--more importantly, when was the next tour going to get here?--and I was totally unfocussed.

All this just a long way of saying that I now have new understanding when actors get overwhelmed or distracted. Little things CAN take you out of your zone. Which is why--when I am backstage--I like to be like the ninja: unseen, unanticipated, but always there. I wouldn't compare my experience tonight with an actual show with actual stagehands, but it would have been nice if the person had said "I'll be back to build up the fire later." Fair play, she did show up later, and she was totally willing to run and get more wood to replace the stuff I had thrown on the fire, but I still had the mean thought in the back of my mind, "this isn't my job." Sometimes, sometimes it is my job. I sweep the floor, I prep the props, I push the buttons, I wash the clothes. But sometimes I'm the one who's onstage, who really just needs one effin' moment to get into character and not worry about the fire.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

cookie carnage

The costume design center is closed on Thanksgiving, even though the historical area is open, meaning that once again I get a day off while others have to work. Because I'm a generous soul (either that or I'm feeling guilty) I decided to bake some cookies and walk around handing them out on Thursday.

I used to bake a lot more, and clearly I'm out of practise. Why is it I never bake a simple dozen at a time but instead I must do four different kinds of cookies, doubling and quadrupling recipies with wild abandon? The result of three hours arduous labor resulted in some very unsavory treats.

My roommate, bless her, really belongs in 1820s England. We have an agreement, actually, should we ever conquer the island she gets the rest of England while I'll "settle" for the capital. When I asked her what kind of cookies she wanted she got a misty, far away look in her eye and said "British shortbread." Okay. They turned out--sort of--except for the part where they broke apart when I tried to scrape them off the pan. Oh, and the part where they soaked through the paper onto her placemats. Oops. Shortly after this I put some tinfoil underneath...

My roommate, I should mention, bakes like a fiend. Only this past weekend she made period gingerbread with period icing, cut into pretty little hearts. She apologised for burning some, and suggested we could use them for Christmas decorating, but her idea of "burned" means it takes a few extra seconds to melt in your mouth. sigh.

After the shortbread I attempted some oatmeal cookies. I copied a receipe off the internet, but I might have missed a vital ingredient, because they came out looking like, well, like dog barf. Happily I had tinfoil'd the pan, so I could pick it all up and throw it out, but I was sad to see so much delicious oatmeal go to waste.

The peanut butter cookies came out okay...well, except the ones that I left in the oven too long and they burned...but after having to toss out half my efforts, I don't really have enough to hand out. Oh well. Maybe I'll supplement with some store bought ones.

Here's the finished pile. Kizzy was being very helpful, mostly picking up crumbs around my feet. After I scraped the peanut butter jar clean I let him lick it out, which makes me either the best mom or the worst mom in the world.

"Nice. Thanks for putting my pillow right under your cookies. And you wonder why I jump up."

I think we both have tummy aches...dinner for me was whatever I could lick off my fingers and burned it's time for bed. I sure hope that my contributions for Thanksgiving turn out better.

The Macy's Parade starts at nine am here on the east for the Kermit balloon, the Fife & Drum Corps will be right behind him!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Of late.

I bought myself a pressie today: a humidifier. I was tired of seeing sparks every time I rolled over due to my sandpaper-like legs, and ultimately it's more cost effective, seeing as how expensive lotion is. I got a hot-mist humidifier, so it's like having an electric kettle going all the time. Complete with cheerful bubbling sound.

On the other hand, having so little humidity around has allowed me to cut back my showers to every other day. Say "ew, gross," if you want, but I really like not having to shower every day: showers are time consuming and I hate walking around with wet hair, but I'm too lazy to sit there and blow it dry. Because, speaking of hair, I've decided to grow it out historical style. length, no fancy schmancy cuts or (sob) hair color. It'll just be easier for interpreting. When I'm militia-ing, it goes in a ponytail, no bangs to get in my eyes while I'm shooting, when I'm storytelling-ing, it's easier to pin up when it's longer. I can always cut my hair back into something fashionable, but for now, it's just easier. And more historically accurate.

Speaking of historically accurate, they cancelled militia this week because it was "too cold" causing me to scoff, "too cold!! Was it too cold at Valley Forge?! Tell the soldiers who didn't have SHOES in three feet of SNOW it was too cold!! Wait--you know what? Next week I'm wrapping my feet in bandages and ketchup to preserve historical accuracy!! Yeah!!"

No, but seriously, loyal readers, it's been a long weekend. I've been hit with the hypo again, mostly due to the stress of wondering about my job and long-term prospects (money, love, current political situations, etc ad naseum). It's not enough for me to have a job I love in a place I like, no, I have to stress and have angst about it, instead of cheerfully accepting my life and just living it. The worst part is I've been taking it out on poor Kizzy--overreacting when he does stuff like steal magnetic poetry off the fridge to get my attention. Oh, he got my attention all right, and a great big shouting monster where his mommy used to be. sigh. It's my fault for not being more disciplined about training him. One more thing to stress out about. I promised to take care of him and love him, not beat us both up when he chews up pizza cardboard that was left hanging over the edge of the counter.

I have a great time in the evenings as a storyteller and now working on the Messiah...but I'll be happy when the holidays are over and I can go back to just eight hour days.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What is it good for?

I just got back from a visit to the Virginia War Museum in Newport News. I've been wanting to take a proper drive with Chi Chi for a couple weeks, to get out of Wmsbrg and explore the area a little more. There is a LOT of history here, so it made sense for me to make a museum my destination. The initial problem was--which one? But I decided I just wasn't ready for the Museum of the Confederacy (or driving in Richmond city-traffic) so I headed over to Newport News.

The Virginia War Museum, I learned from a plaque outside, was conceived in 1923, designated the official repository for Virginia's war mementos in the forties, and moved into their current building in the 1960s. The building is brick and low, the letters on the sign that distinctive thin 60's typeset. It took me a few mis-turns before I found the entrance, went in and paid my $6 entrance fee. I got there about one pm, and I think I was probably the only person in there for a great deal of the afternoon. The museum is laid out in a wandering maze pattern that leads you gradually from the Revolutionary War up to the Vietnam War. I could hear other people talking or walking behind me, but they might have been employees.

It's interesting how much this area has experienced war. From the literal sense of the word "experienced," when the Revolutionary and Civil wars ran roughshod over Virgina, to the more abstract sense--the peninsula boasts several military bases, after all, and during much of the 20th century they had a booming shipbuilding industry. I was disappointed they didn't have more artifacts from the Revolutionary time period, but it makes sense, considering competition is high in this area, and other institutions (like CW) that are focused primarily on that period probably try harder to add to their collections. (Interestingly, the one hunting frock on display from the Revolutionary War was tagged as a replica--yeah, a replica of the one CW has in their collection) The VWM is definitely a donations-based institution. The exhibits are decades old, no touch screens or hands-on exhibits here. (I approve. It's a museum-goer's museum. None of your faffy bright colors or large print signs here!) Several of the exhibits in the Civil War section featured items used by a single Confederate soldier--obviously a collection handed down through the family before being donated to the museum. There were also lots of uniforms, which was interesting for me to look at, although I was dying to get my hands on most of them.

Overall I found the museum very interesting. It is definitely an ambitious building--the history of all the military branches, in all the conflicts of the history of the US--that it's easy to feel like something has been left out. A lot of times the chronology felt sort of haphazard, and it was easy to get confused about what was happening where, especially in less familiar conflicts like the Spanish-American War or the Korean War. The biggest exhibit was on World War II. It was easy to see how the veterans of that conflict had come back, made good, and were now endowing a new museum to house their artifacts and the artifacts of other fellow soldiers. But the museum is desperately in need of an update--I found myself being slightly offended by the fact that the different sections of the Axis powers exhibits had different fonts for each country: gothic for Germany, brushstrokes for Japan, something reminiscent of a restaurant for Italy, etc. I was also overwhelmed by the sheer amount of firepower in the museum. I find myself drawn to the little things soldiers carried with them, uniforms, pictures, playing cards, art they've made. But here there were sections, just walls of old guns. My initial interest at seeing a Brown Bess (like what I use in the militia) quickly waned as the amount of guns got overwhelming. They're considered museum pieces now, but most of them are probably still useable. That's depressing.

As I wandered through the exhibits, I was mostly struck by how history repeats itself. Over and over again, posters decrying wrongs against America, urging citizens to take up arms--and then declarations of war, changes in uniform, changes in attitude, people adjusting to living during wartime. Happy reunions and soldiers never coming home. There was no exhibit on the current conflict, or much of anything after 1973--disappointing, to be sure, but probably a prudent course of action. This museum is desperate need of an update, and I hope they get it. It's a good overview of the history of the local area--informative, and ultimately fueling the desire to want to know more. But it could be so much cooler with some of the new museum techniques.

I drove home on route 60, a meandering two-lane highway that recalls the best parts of Wisconsin Dells, with it's cheap restaurants and far too many stoplights. My thoughts were mostly consumed with trying to remember the lyrics to Mamma Mia! but I also had a new appreciation for this area. Virginia is the "first colony," like it's most famous son, the first in war, first in peace, and the first to offer herself up in service of her country.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

words, words, words

Somehow, Neal Stephenson looks exactly like and yet nothing to what I imagined he looked like. If you've read any of his books, schlepp on over to The Onion and read the interview with him. If you haven't--go out and read Snow Crash RIGHT NOW. I warn you though, it is highly addictive, hence the nickname "crack book."

I'm so excited about the prospect of a new Stephenson book. Even though the Baroque Cycle felt like reading technical manuals in Japanese sometimes, I love his books. Shamefully, part of the reasons I like his books so much is because they are huge. This new on, Anathem, is apparently 997 pages long. DROOL. I love long books--the bigger the better. And if they're huge books in a series? I am there. (Harry Potter, anyone?) Part of the reason I picked up Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell in the first place was because Cosmo cautioned against reading it in bed...because if you fell asleep and dropped it on your head, you'd probably suffer a concussion. AWESOME. I love big fat books. They make me feel smart when I carry them around--more than that, I love meeting characters and learning about them, and following their adventures through several hundred pages. All my favourite books are big and fat--Gone with the Wind, the aforementioned JS & Mr. N, one of my Nelson biographies (I have three, okay?)--or involved in series, like the Aubrey/Maturin series. (which I would be reading right now, except I owe the library so much money it would probably be cheaper to buy the rights to the books and print my own copies. Sigh.)

All this is to say I love books. I only have about a third of my library here, and when I'm lonesome, I'll sit in front of my bookshelf and reminisce with them about the ones who are still waiting for us in Green Bay. My fondest wish is to someday have furniture made out of books--well, shelves to hold my books, since I'd never commit tomecide just to have some place to sit. Every now and then I pile all my books up on the floor of my room and roll around in them, barking happily. Sigh. I love books.

Nothing else to report. Just over here hearting books. Happy sigh.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

seeing red

For the past couple of days I've been working on a red silk suit for one of our musicians. It's a fabulous suit, and I love it. But I was about ready to chuck it out the window today, because I couldn't get the pleats right. Pleats are one of the things I love about the coats in the eighteenth century--the tails lie smooth around the body, but when the man walks, they swish open, revealing pleats held together with buttons. In this case, shiny gold buttons that will catch candlelight as the performer throws his tails over the harpsichord bench and sits down to play. But I mis-set the pleats last week, and then the hem was off. The only remedy was to pull it all apart, restitch the hems and reset the pleats. It took me two days. We have a saying in theatre: "Done is good." But in this case--done is not good enough. This performer is not going to be twenty feet away from an audience, moving quickly under lights. It's nice to have the time and space to correct mistakes and be completely fastidious about details, but at the same time, it's frustrating. I ought to know how to set ecking pleats by now. But at least it's done. On time and done well.

My storytelling was cancelled tonight--not enough tour participants. That's okay. Staring at red silk for the past three days has given me a wicked headache, and a tendency to see green everywhere. The CDC is incredibly dry as well, so my eyes are aching, and my nose was even trickling blood yesterday. I'm trying to keep hydrated, but it's like this all over. Dry and cold--a far, far cry from the humid spring that greeted me eight months ago.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

bear not for beagle consumption

The Salvation Army distributes bears every year to be dressed by volunteers and then returned for auction or to be handed out to needy children. Our church handed out bears this morning, and I snagged one, thinking I could dress it up like a fife & drum corps member, since I still have some fabric left over after making Kizzy's coat. I set in on the table when I got home, released t' hound, and went to get changed--only to come bolting down the hall a second later holding onto my trousers because Kizzy had released one of his rare but ear-piercing bays.

Turns out Kismet does not like this bear. I put it on the floor so he could sniff it--he did so, only after strutting around and growling just to make sure that Bear knew who was boss. And then he decided that the bear was his new chewtoy, which means that Bear is temporarily banished to the top of my bookshelf. Honestly.

The afternoon was mostly taken up with working on Kizzy's coat and watching "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" which I forgot is an absolutely amazing movie. It's been over two years since I've seen it, and I was as mesmerised this time as I was the first time I saw it. Then militia, which was bumped up a half an hour because of daylight savings. I forgot the movements for "advance arms" and so ended up clattering bayonets into the person next to me. Oops. Also--note to anyone who comes to visit: do not attempt to cross the street in between the Fife & Drum corps and the militia. Wait until we pass. We do not stop for pedestrians--as one old gentleman found out, forward march means just that.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


No more onion and cheese sandwiches after ten pm. At least not involving onions that have been sitting on the counter for two weeks, apparently scheming my eventual downfall. Damme.

Rumors are still flying fast and thick around makes for a tense working environment when the first thing out of someone's mouth after hello is "are you okay?" meaning "Do you still work here?" And it doesn't make me feel any better to say that the CDC is okay. So far everyone's still employed, but it doesn't take a genius to figure out that if there are less interpreters, there will be less need for clothes.

But in the meantime, we're still soldiering on. Since things have slowed down--both due to the recent layoffs and just the fact that it's fall and there are less visitors--we're getting to work on some of the evening program stuff that takes a long time. Fancy dance clothes, silk gowns and suits. And because the women's team is waaaay ahead and the men's team is waaay behind, the two supervisors have compromised and just started handing out work based on due dates instead of gender. So I've landed a beautiful red silk coat and breeches for one of the musicians. It is a joy to work on: miles of red silk lined with goldish taffeta and trimmed with gold lace. And the designer even agreed with me that the breeches were looking a little "plain" and they really needed some gold trim along the kneeband. I love eighteenth century men. Peacocks, the lot of 'em.

One of the cool things that CW does are the Electronic Field Trips. Basically, they are pre-recorded scenes from various points in history, mixed in with live question and answer sessions. Schools can tune into the EFT, which is beamed via satellite all over the world, but if they are registered, they can also call in and ask questions, which are answered live on the show. CW also hosts forums, email-in questions and video questions. Not everyone makes it onto the show, but every question is answered.

The one on Thursday was about Yorktown. This EFT was originally filmed a few years ago, during the 225 anniversary of the siege, but the live section was just as live as ever. It featured a historian from CW, a park ranger from the Yorktown historic site, and two interpreters portraying Lieutenant John Laurens and Loyalist John Cooke, respectively. People from the CDC got to go over to the educational center auditorium and watch the live broadcast. It was highly entertaining, especially the parts were Laurens and Cooke would get into catfights about who was being a traitor to what cause. Meeeeow!

Afterward, we got a little tour of the backstage operations. In order to answer any questions that come in, there are two rooms full of volunteers manning phone banks and computers, books and other resources scattered around--including one of the military program guys, who was explaining about mortars when we peeked in. Then we got to see the set where the magic happened. Nicole and I were mostly impressed by the electric rigs, which were moved up and down by electric winches. The performers had disappeared for lunch, and we were hard pressed not to follow them into the lunchroom and gently remind them that wigs and coats should not be tossed over's a little odd to see Lieutenant Laurens eating pasta while talking on his cellphone. Mostly because theatre training dictates one should NEVER eat in costume...but rules are a little more relaxed here.

But it was really cool to see another side of CW, and to hear some of the questions that the kids had about Yorktown. General questions about the battle and about the experiences of the soldiers, but really specific questions too, like "What is that metal thing around his neck?" I'm hoping in the future to get involved with these programs, so it was nice to see how they work on the day of broadcast. They're a big deal, and such a great resource for people who can't afford to make the trip to Virginia.

Other than that, it's been a normal week. I worked as a storyteller again last night, once again in the Wythe south office. It was harder last night, mostly because we had a fire going and I was really hot. Also constantly worrying that I was going to catch my petticoats on fire, but happily that did not happen. My clothes do smell like campfire smoke now, but I guess that just contributes to the "periodness" of it all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lazy Evening

Huzzah for doggy daycare. Kismet has been crashed out ever since we got home three hours ago, leaving his mum to accomplish all those little mundane tasks that she's been putting off for weeks.

Oh, hells, I've been surfing the internet while waiting for the Daily Show to come on, all right?! But it feels nice to sit around and do nothing.

It's getting cold in Wmsbrg, which is probably why I'm feeling lethargic. Fall was a long time in coming, thank heavens, but it's creeping in now. We're trying to leave the heat off for as long as possible, which means extra layers and using the dog as a foot warmer, but if it stays below fifty for much longer, we might have to cave. Tonight I had butternut squash soup that my roommate made that was absolutely delicious. Good for winter too.

There's not much else I have to say. Life is pretty quiet and boring around here. Did you know that plane tickets to London are only $615 from Washington Dulles? Yeah. Like I said--it's pretty quiet around here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

I didn't ask for today off, but I got it anyway, because Veteran's Day is a federal holiday. So I'm sitting at home, feeling weird for taking advantage of a holiday that I did nothing to earn--but of course, I take advantage of rights that I didn't earn every day. Rights that were won for me by countless generations of veterans.

So thanks, vets. For everything you've done for America, I salute and honor you.

One of the things I did accomplish today was the first step in bayberry candle making. I had picked about a pound of bayberries (that took over an hou and I'm hoping to get about four ounces of wax. Which will be enough to scent some candles, but I'll have to supplement it with beeswax or something. I felt slightly giddy when I was straining the boiled berries and my hands came away covered in wax...I mean, I knew in theory this was supposed to work, but hey--it actually does!

I'm glad that I got to sleep in today, because last night was my first night on the Ghosts Amongst Us storytelling tour. I was a little, okay a lot, nervous about performing...firstly because I haven't done it in so long, secondly because the places where the stories are performed are actually, honestly haunted. (Oh, and thirdly, because I was going to be wearing stays for four hours and can I just say that they are the devil's own creation?! People will ask me why I like to cross dress in the eighteenth century and then laugh when I tell them I don't like stays, but I am being completely serious.) When I got to the historical area, however, I discovered that I was going to be performing in the Wythe South Office. George Wythe was a lawyer, teacher and mentor to Thomas Jefferson and his house still stands in CW. It is haunted. Next door is the south office, a small, one room building.

Normally there are three people involved at each site: a storyteller, an attendant, who sits outside and warns the storyteller when people are approaching, and a tour guide, who takes people around from site to site. But when I got to the south office, there was no one there. When I opened the door, my heart sank. I had been expecting to perform in a house, so that I could exit dramatically from the room at the end of my story, but here there was only one small room with a large fireplace, two tables with burning candles, an uneven brick floor and a few small windows. Oh, and a staircase leading up to a second story--not a proper staircase, but a narrow eighteenth century affair with a tricky turn after three steps.

Ooookay. There was nothing for it--I was going to have to make my dramatic exit up this staircase. But there was another problem: no lights upstairs. CW can be pretty casual about authenticity sometimes (machine stitched hems, anyone?) but other times they are spot on. And some buildings are wired for electric lights, some...are not. The south office is not. Happily I found an extra lantern, lit a candle off one of the ones burning downstairs and set it on a wooden box up in the attic so I could see somewhat. Then I practised hiking my skirts and making a dash up the stairs, trying not to kill myself in my eighteenth century shoes in the process. It wasn't easy, but I got through it, although I daresay I showed more ankle than was strictly proper.

Telling the story itself was the easy part. The first two groups were school groups, scrawny twelve year olds who thought they were too cool for ghost stories, but I quickly had them shaking and paying very close attention. The most awkward group included the man who kept smiling and nodding as though he were saying "you're doing good, keep going!" when my story doesn't exactly call for smiling.

Overall, I had a lot of fun. Now I know why everyone brings knitting though...sitting upstairs, waiting for the next group to come through, I had nothing to occupy me, so I resorted to singing. Eighteenth century British naval songs, so not exactly correct, but at least they were of the time period. I had a lot of fun, especially when we got our break and could hang out with some hot cocoa--in addition to not having lights, the south office also has no modern heat. The Wythe house may be haunted, but it also has a damme nice breakroom, complete with sofas and back issues of "People." I'm on the schedule again for Friday, and I'm looking forward to that I've got my feet wet, I'm much less nervous. Although, maybe next time I'll be in a haunted house and have OTHER stories to tell.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Beagle in the Window

Kismet has a friend, the Beagle in the Window, who only comes out at night, or occasionally as we're walking past a building with big mirrored windows. I want to write a children's story about the Beagle, how he lives in a sort of Alice Through the Looking Glass type world. Possibly the story involves a lonely Kizzy being taken for a romp through this other world, before realising that he's happier home with his mom. He's such a good boy--the only time he bays is when he sees the Beagle. Maybe the Beagle in the Window is a sort of pomo manifestation of the dark side that haunts all of us.

Or maybe it's just been a long weekend.

I'm feeling kind of blue tonight. Don't know why. The combination of the news of the upheavals at CW, combined with some negativity on the part of Republican friends about the election have made me tired and sad. I honestly didn't think that normal, rational people believed all the hype about Obama's supposed Muslim and socialist leanings, but now I'm finding out that's not true. That's depressing, and it just means the right-wing slander machine is still alive and well, even if the right-wing isn't. How can you repeat rumors about someone without digging up the facts for yourself? I don't understand it.

So I'm a little blue today. Feeling lonely. It was a beautiful day and I spent it doing what I love best--walking mah dog and then playing militia--but tonight I'm just a little sad, little anxious. Little blue.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


Oi, Esquire! What makes you think that Colonial Williamsburg isn't a great place for a first date? We've got five-star restaurants and ambiance coming out our ears--not to mention carriage rides are ROMANTIC. Your twitty little "not recommended" asides are NOT APPRECIATED!!!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Can you feel a brand new day?

Most of my loyal readers probably notice that I don't talk about work much beyond funny stories about me stabbing myself with needles or bragging on my Fife & Drum coat (Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!!! Don't forget now!!!). I do this because I really, really like my job, and for once I have respect and love for a company and I won't gossip about them here.

But I guess it's okay to talk about the meeting we had today, since CW released a press release yesterday and I saw it on the news. Like a lot of other companies, CW is downsizing--becoming a leaner organisation, as our president put it in his email. They've eliminated 140 positions and are leaving another hundred vacant ones empty. My job is, for the moment, safe. Most of these positions are interpreters tradespeople--people who have highly specialised skills, particular to the eighteenth century and CW. In some cases, they are literally the only people in the world who know how to perform their particular craft. It kills me that the historical area will be a more empty, leaner place without them. Today our supervisor went over the details of the layoffs and the consolidation of various areas, reminding all of us not to feel superior just because we had been passed over. Most of us nodded. It's impossible to feel superior when you're aching inside for people who work at the same company for the same reason you do. We work here because we love the eighteenth century and CW. It's like working in a theatre company where everyone is family, speaking a secret language. And now our family is smaller.

I'm still worried about the future, although worries have been put off until (hopefully) after Christmas. Nothing was a starker reminder of how much is at stake with the new president than receiving the news about our company. The economic crisis is more than just a news story now, it's here. I've started over before, picked up, moved and been in new places with no job and no apartment before--I like to think if the worst happens I'll be okay.

But for once, I don't want to start over. I really want to stay here, working in CW, and occasionally prancing around with a musket in a pair of breeches. And so tonight I'm praying for economic upswing with guidance for our new leader. Thanking heaven that I'm still employed...and waiting for what's next.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Have you heard the Obama girls are getting a puppy?

Seriously. Out of all the things that Obama said in his acceptance speech last night, that was the thing that stuck out: "Sasha, Mahlia, I love you more than you will ever know, and you have completely earned the puppy that's coming with us to the White House."

That's when Nicki started crying again.

It's been a long two years.

I can't remember when I started supporting Barack Obama. I remember putting up my "button" on my blog when I was living in the dorm in London--so that must have been before September of 2006. Before he announced his candidacy, anyway. This is the first time I've supported someone before and throughout the primaries, through the final push, and up to election night. Everyone was acting like his election was assured, but I wasn't going to believe it until I heard John McCain conceed, and heard Obama accept. So last night, after a hearty dinner of brats and sauerkraut, Nicole and I settled onto the sofas to watch CNN. It was a bit like watching a woman in labor: long hours where nothing happens, punctuated by a minute or two of activity. In this case, states being called practically as soon as the polls closed. Obama was ahead. Then he was ahead by a lot.

And at eleven pm I decided to go to bed. I took a shower and then thought "well, I'll just go see the TV one more time..." and when I came into the living room the banner on CNN read "BARACK OBAMA ELECTED PRESIDENT." And, loyal readers, I started to tear up a little bit. The commentators began talking about the historic road that Barack Obama has been walking on, and it finally struck me just what this country had done. We have elected a president with a funny name whose family is mixed race--all the comparisons with Fredrick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. didn't do the moment justice. The fact is that George Washington--still by many considered the greatest president ever--owned people simply because they had the same skin colour as Barack Obama. And now he will take the same oath, hold the same office, and lead the same country.

America is the greatest country on the earth. Not because we have the biggest bombs or the awesomest pie, but because our country can withstand these shifts in direction. Some times less easily than others, but the fact that we haven't ripped up the Constitution and started over yet is a marvel. I love my country because of this--because we can be so diverse in our attitudes and our opinions and still enjoy the freedom to call ourselves Americans.

When Obama was giving his acceptance speech, I was really struck by how tired he seemed already. I know it's been a long campaign for him, but I can't help but wonder if he feels it--feels the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. He has so many promises to deliver on (and we must hold him to those promises) as well as try not to be overshadowed by past figures. I hope for his sake he'll take a good long vacation before settling in to the White House. I know I will be. It's been a long two years--waiting, watching, talking, praying--and I need some time to recover. I can't believe it's over, and that Obama will be our president. Obama ran on a platform of change. We can believe that change will happen, for it already has.

Obama quoted Abraham Lincoln last night as well, I'll just end with that. With the end of the election comes a lot of disappointed people. I know how you feel. But you have to believe me when I say that things are going to be okay. They are going to get better. Believe it. It's already starting to happen:

"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection."

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

It's Tuesday!!!

Why are you sitting there reading my blog?!

Go vote!!!!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Perambulating Thoughts

Hello everyone. It’s been a while, I know—mostly due to the fact that the internet in our house is a wild and skittish thing, and will disappear at a moment’s notice. My computer is equally touchy, and will freeze as soon as the signal disappears. The end result is I’m reading emails, reading blogs, but not doing much writing. Many apologies.

The other reason I haven’t written much is the fact that my days are pretty similar: I go to work, I come home, walk the dog and fill up my evening with television, sewing, reading or writing. That’s pretty much it.

And today I forgot about daylight savings time, so I arrived at church an hour early…oops. Luckily I had a good book with me to help me pass the time.

I grew up around new developments: a few years after we moved to GB, a new suburb was developed next door, providing new and exciting vistas of play including “the clay pits” and also actual grown-up sized houses to play house in, until the realtors chased us out. A few years later the farmland to the west of us was converted into a suburb and once again, it wasn’t so much a construction site as a paradise of potential playgrounds. Even the actual playground that was built was less interesting than the muddy, rocky, watery lots that would one day contain half-million dollar homes. The streets nearest to us turned into houses and yards very quickly, but the pavement continued on through a prarie that had once been farmland, terminating at the edge of a miniature forest.

Once upon a time a younger version of me used to take a different dog to play in these forests, every day, all summer long. My imagination stretches it out over years and years, but I think I’m only remembering one halcyon summer, the one before eighth grade.

Now there is a new development within walking distance once again: New Town, where a friend has just bought a beautiful three-story townhouse. It’s a lovely community, planned so that there are restaurants and a Trader Joe’s within walking distance, little parks scattered throughout the neatly stacked homes. On the outskirts are those familiar streets—finished blacktop dead ending into forests, promises of more houses and offices to come. This is where Kizzy and I walk. Mostly because I prefer the natural sounds of the wind whistling through the trees over the artificial speakers pumping EZ-Rock into the main shopping thoroughfare. These are oak trees, the second or third wave of trees in the life of a forest, oaks that could live to be hundreds of years old…if we let them. I am mildly grateful for the streets and the manmade paths that let me approach the forest, and sad too that these convenient roads mean land that will be paved over, built upon and forever “developed.”

At the beginning of the summer, Kizzy and I discovered a new path, one that wound behind the coffeehouse into the forest. A new street was going in, and it had been bulldozed into an odd shape, but we made it over. Sticking out from the pile of rubble, however, was a deer’s leg, and a piece of hide. Rather than moving the carcass out of the way, the bulldozer operator had just shoved it along with his load so that it was partially buried, partially sticking out—one pathetic leg in the air, like a ballet dancer wearing a black slipper.

Today we saw that deer again. Time has worked her magic—time and other critters, for the bones are largely unearthed and scattered around the bulldoz’d mound in the earth. Now rib bones are evident, a broken pelvis and a skull—identifiable, but nothing that would excite the interest of a naturalist. But the mound of earth, ah, the rough bubble of dirt that was shoved up by the urgent movements of a machine, that was covered in a green coat of grass, more verdant and lush than anything else in New Town. None of the chemical and watermain fed lawns could compete with the little circle of green that marked where a dead deer once lay. It was beautiful and sad at the same time. I guess you can’t stop progress. But you can stop to watch.

On the way home I discovered that the bushes which surround the New Town bank are bayberry bushes…fairly bursting with berries. I picked a couple handfuls and I’m going back tomorrow…I’m going to see if I can make some of my own candles, colonial-style.

Monday, October 27, 2008

This is why I got the dog...

Smelling sweetly of aloe and oatmeal after his bath...chewing on his Nylabone in front of a roaring fire...curled up on his special beagle-sized looking on lovingly as she updates her blog....

Nevermind the fact that when he got out of his bath he went zooming around the house, at one point using the sofa as a springboard onto a sidetable from which he launched himself into the air before performing a flawless triple axel.

Too bad he didn't nail the landing. ARG. Bloody dog...

RIP orange pull toy...we were sad to hear of your demise by determined gnawing. You will be missed.

Kizzy was acting lethargic yesterday (ie not attempting to climb onto my head and lick my face off) and this morning when we got up he was digging at his ears and eyes, so I took him to the vet. He has a touch of pinkeye in one eye and the start of a yeast infection in his ears...dogs are prone to yeast infections, especially when they have floppy ears. And Kizzy's ears are oh-so-floppable. He was a good boy for the vet, except for the part where they tried to shove things (ie cotton balls, light scopes, medicines) into his ears. Oh, but guess what I get to do for the next two weeks, two times a day? Yay medicinal ointment! The vet recommended "lots of treats." Sure. Fine. At least he doesn't attempt to bite you, but he is small and wriggly.

In addition to dog-wrestling twice a day, I also have to work late this week to make up the three hours I missed this morning. That's okay though. I probably could have taken him in after work, but I would have spent all day worrying about him--and this way we've caught what ails him early. I had a terrifying moment when I thought about all the people who petted him this weekend on our Saturday stroll through the historical area. But the vet assures me that dog pinkeye is not conductive to humans. Well. I'll be taking it easy on the kisses (me) for a while. I'm just glad it was nothing more serious. Kizfiz is mah spechial boy.

Even when he's using the apartment as a racetrack.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Reasons to go home: to see old friends finally tie the knot. Here they are, Mr. & Mrs. Gaboda at last. Aww...congratulations, I'm so happy for you!

Me and Baby Taylor, looking adorable in his tux...I nearly had to sign a waiver before Grandma would hand him over, but I assured her I'd had recent experience with newborns...

Mom and Dad at the helm of their new boat. I was in the prow...singing "Hearts of Oak" and generally enjoying the hell out of myself. The good thing about boating on a chilly day in October is you have the entire Wolf River to yourself, save for the fishermen. The bad thing is you've got to watch out for sudden squalls.

Reasons to go home part deux: Auntie Nicki with Lily and mom and dad. I never realised how much Peter and I looked alike, but there it is. Lily, of course, is already adept at posing for the camera...isn't she an ANGEL?!

I saved this picture as "zomg, baby!" Isn't she ADORABLE?!?!?!
(note the red nail polish...a remnant from the wedding. Yeah, that's the polish I forgot to take off before militia. Needless to say, they didn't have nailpolish in the eighteenth century. Especially not in the army. Ooops...)

I be rollin'...they be hatin'...
This is my new car. She's a 2003 Buick Regal: eat your heart out, Toyota Corolla. In keep with the A-B-C naming theme I started with the Argo and Boxer, I named her after my favourite movie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Except that doesn't really fit, so I shortened it to Chi Chi, like the classy bingo-lovin', margarita drinkin' gal she is.

So that's it...I didn't take as many photographs as I thought I did, although there was often more than one camera present, so I'm sure I'm a few random shots I don't know about. I've never had a better time going home to visit. It was just awesome to be surrounded by loved ones for a week.

The week since had been long, but I'm hopefully adjusted to my schedule again. Last night a couple friends and I went to Busch Garden's Howl-O-Scream and I made it through six haunted mazes (screaming the entire way) and two major roller coasters. Granted, they were not the Gryffon, but I did do one of them IN THE DARK. AAAAAAHHH! It's been so long since I was at an amusement park that I almost forgot how much fun they are--especially once night fell and people started jumping out at you from behind bushes.

And I've also volunteered to help sew fur onto the Santa suits that CW rents out...the CDC uses the profits for charitable giving, so it's all for a good cause. Right now though, I'm more tempted to join the beagle in a nap than I am to fire up the Singer...