Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thinking fiscally

All right. Time for a serious debate. As most of my loyal readers know, I am a huge Anglophile. I want to go back to London worse than anything. Various reasons have prevented me going, mostly, money and time.

Suddenly the stars are aligning. Last night I was working on my taxes, and if TurboTax is to be believed, I will be getting over a thousand dollars back. Thank you, stimulus package, also actually working full time for a year for a change. Flights to London are dropping in price--I could go for under $500, including taxes. I have just about enough vacation time to take a week off. And--I just heard from not one but two friends that they'll be in London at the end of May. Arg.

The tradeoff, of course, is that I would not be going home to Wisconsin to see my family until October. And I really ought to act responsibly, put that tax return into my bank account and save it for a rainy day. With that money I could fly home to see everyone, and still have some left over for a really nice massage. Also, my computer has been dying a slow death, so there's that to worry about.

I have until April 15th to hand in my vacation requests. I really want to go to London. I really, really want to go. For once, though, I'm actually thinking something through. Maybe I'm growing up. I don't want people to think I'm choosing London over them, but...I really want to go. And I honestly don't know what I should do. Thoughts?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

More food

I guess I shouldn't complain about money and then turn around and spend a hundred dollars at the grocery store. But I am sick of eating foods out of boxes. And my boss brought in a dozen old "Cooking Light" magazines, which inspired me to actually make something to take to work instead of a can of soup and a peanut butter sandwich. I made tabouli, which involved a fun new substance called bulger, parsley, peppers, tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil. Then tonight I sauteed some frozen shrimp in a little lime juice and cilantro. Cooking is easy, but it's just making the time commitment to do it. It's worth it though...shrimp is so tasty on a chilly Wednesday.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Makes the world go 'round

It is rather frustrating to constantly have to deal with the problem of not having any money. Any time I think I've got a fairly good handle on it, something happens like Kizzy needs a shot or the first of the month comes around or something. I've got money, it would just be nice to have more of it.

The evening programs are changing format, so instead of telling my story from last year, I'm having to learn a new script, which was provided for me. Only I was on exactly no one's email list, so I didn't find out about it until late. And now I can't get my story cleared to get on the schedule. So. No storytelling. And the militia won't be called out this spring due to budget cuts. Arg. I miss my breeches and the sweet, sweet taste of black powder. Interestingly, George Washington also had a problem with money...he, however, was somehow able to win the war for Independence. I'm sure the military programs here will work things out.

In the meantime, I'm thankful to have a job and a beagle. And spring is here in Virgnia. Daffodils and tulips abound, the forsynthia and appleblossoms are in full bloom. Dogwood soon. Things are so much easier when it's warm and sunny. Work today was long, however, I am tired and sore from sleeping on the ground (imagine) and now I'm going to sleep. Good night.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Old Virginia Primitive Rifle--Spring Rendezvous

Well, here I am, back from the eighteenth century. I have to admit, it was nothing like I thought it would be--but a lot better than I was expecting. I left work at three o'clock on Friday and headed across the river. After Jeff and I consolidated our stuff into his van we drove out to the rendezvous site. A wrong turn took us pass the Michael Vick Doghouse of Pain, but we found it soon after.

OVPR stands for the Old Virginia Primitive Rifle, a group dedicated to keeping black powder gunnery alive. The campground was actually someone's back forty, and the atmosphere was laid back and family-oriented. No specific time period was represented. Jeff and I were trying to keep ourselves in the 1770s, but most of the other campers were much more casual. The men would wear hunting frocks and trowsers, the women would wear skirts and whatever bodice-y thing they could find. Mostly it was more reminiscent of a Renaissance Faire come-as-you-wish experience, but everyone was having a good time. There were lots of kids running around, including one four year old in buckskin boots with bells. Now THERE is a good way to keep track of your kid.

We arrived after the sutlers had closed up for the night, but we were able to get stakes for our tent since a few boxes had been left outside--settling up in the morning, of course. That was just the trusting atmosphere that existed here. After we got out tent up and drove the "mule" back out to the "paddock" we got the brazier going and heated the stew that Jeff had made for dinner. Jeff also made our tent, which is something of a work in progress. It did extremely well at keeping the frost off, but we were still pretty chilled by the time the sun came up.

Here's himself Saturday morning, boiling water for tea. Note the lack of flaps on our tent...that is something we're going to have to fix.

We were up with the sun, naturally, and spent the day wandering around, visiting the sutlers and admiring other people's equipage. Rifle and musket shots rang out during the entire day as the shooting competitions went on. Most of the tents were waaaaay more extravagant than ours was--twelve by twelve post tents with dining flies and stovepipes sticking out of the back. You know the people at modern campgrounds with the obscene five-wheel Winnebagos with a Mini-Cooper as their tow vehicle? Yeah, some of the tents were like that. But everyone was having a great time. At noon there was a ladies' social. I showed up with a basket of sewing, everyone else showed up with tankards. Part of the price of admission was as much alcohol as you could drink (beer or a ladleful of drinks mixed in a big ceramic pot) and a barbeque chicken dinner on Saturday night. I talked briefly with a few ladies who were also attempting a more "period" impression, of the late 1770s, swapping stories about where best to buy fabric and period correct techniques...mostly I listened though. At one point one of them complained about re-enacting for so long that she had nothing to buy and I had to chime in: "Yes, but it's even harder when you're just starting and you need everything and you have no money!" One of the good things about re-enacting though: Just like two hundred years ago, you don't change your clothes. I wore the same shift, petticoats and bedgown all weekend. It was so cool I didn't mind much, but perhaps in the future I'll bring a change of shift.

After lunch I took a nap. Just crawled into our tent, burrowed into the big pile of blankets and fell asleep. The campground opened up to spectators during the afternoon--folks who were interested in visiting the sutlers or gawking at the campers, and I dimly recall a few digs at our poor equipage. Which may be true, but at least we were period appropriate.

After spending two days in shift and stays (yes, stays) I really started to find myself thinking like a proper colonial woman would think. So when a troop of Boy Scouts walked by just as I was extricating myself from the tent, my first thought was "ohmygosh, I don't have my cap on! They're going to think I'm a tremendous hussy!" The Scout leader was fairly charmed with our tent though, even asking if he could take a picture of it. (Sure. Then pull it out and wave it in front of your Scouts when they start complaining about being cold in their Army surplus walled tents...I'll show you cold.)

But the thing that made me feel the most "authentic" was the spring. No spigots here, in order to get water for washing and drinking, you had to step down a dirt trail and ladle it directly out of the ground. Fresh and clear and delicious.

Here's a shot down the main drag of the camp, if you're standing directly in front of our tent. I'm sorry I didn't get more photos of the people, but I didn't want to be obnoxious. You can just barely see the inn, a permanent wooden structure which covered the bar and a stage for the band. About a hundred yards beyond that were the "hooters," pit toilets that were actually pretty nice. Plenty of TP and bottles of hand sanitizer. What luxury.

When the sun went down, the stars were bright as diamonds. Even with the fancy tents and overblown equipment, no one broke out a flashlight. Instead people came bearing candle-lanterns to the inn, to listen to guitars around a campfire. The best part of camping is the end of the day, just sitting around a fire. That's what Jeff and I did, after refilling our tankards at the inn: we built up our fire and listened to the toads come out. We had pinned up a bit of cloth over the end of the tent by our heads, which made a world of difference in sleeping, although we still woke up to this at our neighbor's site:

Yeah, next time, we're bringing bricks for foot warmers.

All in all, I have to say I had a great time. It was incredibly relaxing, fun, non-stressful and just a wonderful way to spend a lovely weekend with someone who's fast becoming more than a new friend. And, I got to try out my 1770s impression in a low-pressure environment...no one was thread counting here, but I can't want to see what some Rev War interpreters might say. It's good to be back in the twenty-first century. Wearing skirts all the time is hard. But I can't wait to go back.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Meeting the Neighbors

It has been raining for three days straight here, so when I heard the water trickling, my first thought was, "oh, the rain has shifted and is now hitting against the window. What a pretty sound." And went back to my buttonhole. But hot on the heels of that thought was the realisation, "Hey, we don't have any windows on that side of the apartment--ah crap." I ran to our hall closet and threw open the door, only to discover scalding hot water streaming in through a hole near the light fixture. A hole caused by an earlier problem with a leaking water heater...a problem that was clearly revisiting us.

My roommates and I quickly pulled stuff out of the closet and I kicked into Emergency Mode: "Get my cellphone, it's on the table! Grab the stew pots out of the cupboard!" We arranged a makeshift bucket brigade while I furiously dialed the property manager. Kizzy hid under the table, watching us with concern. The answering company blandly asked me if I thought they needed to call their on-call person. "YES, BECAUSE THERE IS SCALDING HOT WATER POURING THROUGH OUR CEILING." I helpfully explained, and gave her my cell number.

Then I ran upstairs, leaving my roommates to deal with the flood. I pounded on the door of apartment #10, until a quiet Chinese man answered. "I'm so sorry," I said, suddenly realising it was quarter to ten, "But I think your hot water heater is broken." He let me in, and I made my way to the closet, weird deja vu ringing through my head as I passed through a familiar layout with unfamiliar furniture and smells. Sure enough, a pipe had worked loose and was gently spilling water onto the floor, creating a delicate puddle around the drain in the center of the linoleum. A drain that was apparently attached to nothing but our light fixture. The sound was that of a soothing table top fountain. In the quietude, it felt strange to be shouty and hurried, but then I remembered the sound of water pouring into our apartment and my poor roommates (probably scalded senseless by now) hurrying back and fourth with stewpots.

I wrapped my sweater around my hand and yanked on the offending pipe, demanding a saucepan, which was all that would fit under it. My phone rang. The property management's on-call person. He directed me to turn off the valves. "WHICH ONES?" "All of them." Ah, calmness in a storm. I twisted the valves into a horizontal position and the flow of water thankfully, mercifully, stopped. Awkwardness. I introduced myself to my neighbors, then realised it was probably best if I just went...There will be no hot water tonight in apartment number 10, but at least there is no new swimming pool in #6.

When I got back downstairs, Kizzy bounded up to me, licking my knees, worried about the crazy show we'd just put on. I petted and reassured him all was well. Nice men with wrenches and joint tape would be showing up tomorrow, I explained. Later, when the boyf called to say goodnight, I got to relieve the craziness. "I'm just glad we were home," I said, "and awake. Could you imagine what would have happened if it had been the middle of the night? Or we had been gone?" Shudder. It took less than fifteen minutes start to finish--and when I got back downstairs, Jordon had already washed our pots.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

priorities (i haz them)

I have to apologise for neglecting everyone out there in NLD land. I'm sorry. The new man and I are going to a re-enactment event in two weeks, and we've been scrambling like squirrels to get everything ready. It's not the camping that's the hard part. I've learned that when you go historically camping, you bring a lot of the same stuff. Tents. Firewood. Lanterns. Toothbrushes. Clothes. A Brown Bess or similar flintlock. But the problem is, you can't just grab a tent off the shelf if you're trying to pretend it's 1770. (well, okay, you can. But they're expensive.) So we're having to make a lot of--scratch that, we have to make damme near everything. I've been delegated to make our clothes, while himself is busy making the camp gear. And then we have to disguise our modern stuff. Toothpaste in a modern tube? Unacceptable! But toothpaste carefully squeezed out into a prepared tin? Perfect. Bread from the fancy-schmancy bakery down the street comes out of its plastic bag and into linen poke bags. It's like a propmaster's dream around here...ninety-nine cent wooden boxes from China take on new life with a coat of paint and hold sewing notions oh so neatly. And I've been coming home from work and sewing like a madperson, trying to get all our clothes together. Sure, I could use a machine for most of it...but that wouldn't be historically accurate, would it?

So I'm sorry if it's been quiet around here. Just assume the best, that I'm happy and busy, and I promise I'll upload some photos when I get back. (Yes, cameras are okay, as long as there's no flash after dark and they're carefully packed away in a poke bag when not in use.) I'm so excited to be heading out into the great outdoors again. Now. Let's hope our handmade canvas tent can stand up to a spring rain...or better yet, let's pray for sun.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

beagles in the snow

It looks like Wisconsin outside. Seriously. We had a snowstorm Sunday night--a bit of a nor'easter, except it came up from the south--and the snow not only accumulated, but it lasted all day today. Granted, it's now slimy and slushy and icy, but it's still here. In March. In Virginia. I'm freezing. ARG. Kismet is loving it though...I don't think he's ever seen snow, he keeps stepping on it and then lifting his paws up like he can't figure out why they sink into the ground and get wet and cold. It'd be slightly adorable except...I'm freezing.

Anyway. I spent all weekend in the company of my new friend from Smithfield...some of my loyal readers cleverly read between the lines of my last post about him, so let me just say yes, all your suspicions are true. However, he's a bit camera shy, so I'm not going to be writing too much about him, although I will say I appear to have found a genuine Virginian gentleman. We're planning on going to a re-enacting event in a couple of weeks, so we spent all weekend sewing period costumes and baking period bread while the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. It was pretty domestic and nice and I'm very happy. Who wouldn't be, being served tea while you hand stitch a linen shirt? sigh. Happy Nicki is happy.