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.