Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

Did everyone have a good Christmas? I did! I was worried that I would be come over-emotional at the thought of the holidays and family far away, but several things conspired to make this holiday one of the best ever.

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My Nativity scene, carefully shipped to me by mom and dad and set up in a bright spot.

First, I had a four-day weekend. CW give its employees eight hours of vacation as a birthday present, and since my birthday is on the 21st, I took it on Thursday, had Friday off for the holiday and voila. Secondly, Jeff had to work. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and today. So it was up to me to do the last-minute shopping, wrapping, cooking, baking etc. (I apologised for the carnage when he came home from work on Friday and he cheerfully said "That's okay, that will give you something to do on Sunday.") Creating food for other people, being out amongst shoppers and driving around listening to Christmas music helped me to get in the spirit, instead of feeling rushed and put-upon.

Christmas Day we drove to his parents house for dinner. At first it was chaos, with three Southern ladies and one Yankee attempting to get dinner on the table, but eventually we all settled down and dove in. Ham, turkey, chicken, sweet potato souffle, collard greens, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, corn pudding, dressing, and four different desserts: black forest cake, pecan pie, lemon chiffon pie, and German chocolate pie. For seven people. Kizzy was going beserk trying to get at the food. I bounced up and down so often to take care of him it was like having a two-year old at the kid's table. I didn't buy him anything for Christmas, but Jeff's mom gave him a present: letting him clean out the stuffing pan with some extra ham.

After dinner we exchanged some presents. Jeff's mom and grandma gave me some lavender-scented hand lotion, having cleverly deduced I like lavender after seeing it in the bathroom at Thanksgiving. The best present had to be the one given by Jeff's aunt to his mom: red, green and white Italian candy. Feeling generous, she opened the bag and tried a piece before passing it around. "I don't want to say anything bad, but this is the worst candy I've ever tasted!" Consternation followed, as we tried to figure out why. It looked like ribbon candy, it was brightly colored... "Maybe it just tastes funny because it's Italian and we're used to American candy?" I suggested. But the mystery was solved with Jeff's aunt examined the package tag. "Sissy, it's pasta!" she exclaimed. And we all realised that the "ribbon candy" was actually bow-tie pasta with spinach and tomato additives. Hilarity ensued.

After that we dug into the mountain of desserts and enjoyed a cup of coffee. Jeff's uncle has traveled extensively for his job, so we swapped stories of our favourite places. ("Ever been to South Dakota?" I asked him. "No," he said "Ever been to Maine?") But we got going around nine o'clock when the snow started falling. I wish that Jeff and I had had time to open presents earlier, because when we finally unwrapped about ten-thirty that night I opened a hand-held mixer (thanks mom and dad!) that would have been super-handy for my mashed potatoes...a little lumpy this time, but still tasty.


Our Christmas tree. Only about five feet tall this year but dripping with ornaments. Notice the pile of as-yet unpicked-up wrapping paper. There are some good things about not hosting the holiday...

I got up to make Jeff a leftover-ham sandwich and see him off to work today. The sandwich will either be for lunch or emergency provisions if he slides off the road, for the snow has continued to fall and has now swept up into a blizzard. Poor Kismet took two steps onto the porch this morning, peed, and has been inside curled up on the couch ever since. I washed the dishes in the kitchen, made a leftover ham omelet and toast for breakfast and have been pretty much curled up next to him. The snow coming off the river makes the house feel like a ship rounding Cape Horn. Wanna see?



The wreath on our front door. For the record, I know that most of the loyal readers perusing this blog have experienced massive snowfall like this, but here in Virginia many believe that this may signal the beginning of end times.

Jeff (On his way home from work, trying to convey the mess on the streets while his girlfriend tries to hang up the phone so he can concentrate on driving, already): "I mean, I have never, ever, EVER seen anything like this!!"

Me: "These are the kind of snowfalls I remember from my childhood."

Jeff: "Oh? (xylephone, Looney-Tunes eye blink sound) Really?"

Me: "Oh yeah. Now hang up and drive safe!"


My car as viewed from the front door.


The dock that leads to a staircase descending thirty feet to the James River. Not shown: the opposite side of the river, half a mile away, or the whitecaps that are ferociously pounding the beach.


Our neighbor's trees.



A view from the upper deck. This photo was taken by briefly opening the door, shoving my camera through, snapping whatever I could catch, and then slamming the door against the howling wind. But not before....


A hearty dusting was strewn all over the floor. Arg. But you know what they say! When life hands you snow...


MAKE SNOWMEN.

(About a second after this photo was taken the snowman pitched facefirst onto the carpet...so he's now gently melting away in the sink. That's the worst part about this storm: the snow is the perfect weight packing snow needed for snowmen and it's too horrible to go outside. Arg.)

Meanwhile, I know you're all wondering where Kismet is. He is right where he has been for the past couple of hours.



Although he did look up when I plopped down to start blogging:



And now he's snoring.

So that's where we are...snowed in, anxiously awaiting the return of the prodigal boyfriend and enjoying some darjeeling tea, NPR and internet, trying to stay warm.

Merry Chrismas everyone!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas makes you feel emotional...

It may bring parties or thoughts devotional...Whatever happens, whatever may be, here is what Christmastime means to me...

I guess I'm just going to have to deal with the fact that from now on, whatever happens, Christmas is going to be an emotionally fraught landmine field for me from now on. Between losing Grandma one year ago today and having to pack everyone's Christmas presents into boxes for shipping (including one that would have been used an excuse to steal Lily for a couple of hours instead of being described as "a present with some assembly required"), it's been kind of complicated. I'm sort of at sea here. We are not hosting Christmas this year, and as a childless couple, Jeff and I haven't really had to do any serious shopping or manuevering to deceive small people. Don't get me wrong I've been busy (I have a new respect for my parents, who managed to decorate, buy presents, deceive small people, enjoy holiday concerts, and still find time to bake sugar cookies for decorating) but the madness isn't nearly as great as it would be if I was at home, preparing for Christmas Day. This year Jeff valiantly volunteered to work so another employee could travel home to be with his family, and I'm staying too. I bought a tiny tree, which barely comes up to my shoulder, and we decorated it in stopgap plastic ornaments. I'm not used to having a tree that looks like it came out of a catalogue. We have candles in the window, which is a Southern thing, and Jeff's dad brought over his Christmas village for upstairs. My sole contribution to the decorating, apart from the tree, is a hollow snowman figurine that is being built by a little boy and girl. His hat comes off, and he holds red and green Hershey's kisses. Mom got it from her oldest sister. When I was younger, Mom would manage to fill up the snowman when I wasn't looking, as soon as I got it out of the box. I was so mystified by the fact that one minute I was unpacking the empty snowman and the next minute he was full of kisses that for a while I was fully convinced it was Christmas magic or possibly elves. This year I made sure to have the kisses on hand before he came out of the box.

One of the things I haven't been doing this year is going to church. I really enjoy the Advent season and the build up to Christmas Eve. But I haven't found a new church yet. Truth be told, I'm a little daunted and exhausted by the idea of finding a new church and a new congregation. When I stopped attending the church in Williamsburg, no one really noticed...and even after going there for two years, I still had people coming up to me saying "Welcome! We're glad to see you, are you new here?" So probably the next church is not going to have 2,000 members. It is very hard to find a congregation where I feel comfortable, being as liberal as I am. There are PLENTY of churches around here...unfortunately, most of them probably would prefer I was not living with my boyfriend.

Anyway. Sort of all to seek about what Christmas is this year. I'm trying to get into the spirit, but I sort of don't have the energy this year, you know? I'm looking forward to this afternoon, however, when Jeff and I are heading over to Busch Gardens to experience their Christmastown...even though this year has been oddly out of sync, there still is a small child in me who delights in lights, singing and drinking hot cocoa.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Agnosticism in the Checkout Line

Man, is it easy to drop $100,000 at the grocery story these days! Strike that--I meant $100. Sam and Peter already corrected my last post and I thought about going back and editing it, but then I decided it would stand as a testament to a liberal arts education.

Speaking of which, apparently students at Goldsmiths are "occupying" school buildings, protesting having to pay tuition fees. I can sympathise, but since I was one of the international students who subsidized their "free" education, part of me feels that maybe the time has come for a little taste of higher education, American-style.

Where was I? Oh, right, the grocery store. I rolled up to the checkout, brandishing a week's worth of groceries, plus coupons, gift cards, etc, and I suddenly realised, "Ah, nuts, I forgot my bags!"

To which the sixteen-year-old cashier (who *had* to see my ID, because the register would not let him continue to check me out until he made sure I was legally able to purchase that $5 bottle of wine destined for the crock pot), "well, I'm glad you didn't."

Cue the xyelephone noise that Warner Bros. cartoons make Blink. Blink. "What?"

"Actually, they're kind of a pain, the plastic is easier."

"But the reusable ones are better." At this point, I'm still unloading--I told you I had a ton of groceries.

"Well, these are recyclable."

"Yeah, but the whole point of reusable bags is there would be no need for plastic bags like these." Visions in my mind of that huge island in the Pacific made of plastic bags and garbage...

"Well, I think that global warming is overrated..."

At this point, I let the bag of cans I was histing into my cart go crashing into position and just stare at him.

"Uh, I mean you know how the earth goes through warming cycles? well, this is just another warming cycle."

"Yes, but it's way more than has ever been recorded."

"Yeah, but recorded history only goes back, what, 2,000 years?"

Not according to my Chinese friend, but okay, "Yes, but there is an archaeological record that indicates that global warming--and by that I mean the natural warming cycles--has never been this severe before."

"Okay, but I think all that stuff is overrated."

"Whatever. It's your generation that's going to figure this stuff out."

I should mention that by this point I am getting a very clear picture of how I must appear to this young man. Tired from a weekend of cleaning and working around the house, hair scraped up into a scroggy ponytail, probably have to hurry back to my three or four kids while my husband is working at the Smithfield factory of porcine death plant... Suddenly I feel incredibly old. I mean, I'm not, believe me, I know that I am not an old person, but to a sixteen year old? Well, put it this way: I remember how it felt at sixteen to be talking to people who were thirty.

I am also trying to finish bagging my groceries, cramming as much as possible into each evil bag, cashing coupons, writing a cheque, etc, as we're talking. Cashier-Lad seems to sense that I'm getting a little fed up with him--not because I think he is too big for his britches, but because I admire his chutzpah--so he apologises, saying "I bet you think I'm just some dumb teenager, but I'm not, I--"

And I cut him off saying "I don't think so. I think you're a very smart kid, just remember to always question assumptions, especially your own."

Then he goes "I'm also an agnostic in a Christian family," and I feel my understanding of his picture of me is validated.

I just laugh and say "Honey, I'm a liberal living in Virginia. Keep up the good fight."

When I worked on a community show one summer, I remember one of the teenage stagehands coming out to me. I remember what a big deal it was for this kid to tell me he was gay, and how I sat there waiting for a chance to speak so I could say "And?" Talking to the Agnostic Cashier (ohhhhh, does that remind me of sixteen year old Nicki proudly declaring she is a communist!) made me feel good that I could still relate to the younguns. I hope I won't lose that.

And I hope that kid never loses his spirit of freethinking rebelliousness.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

It's the economy, stupid

So I was watching 19 Kids & Counting last night (hey, it came on after Cake Wars and the remote control was allllll the way over there), and TLC kept having commercials for Sarah Palin's Alaska. "An Eight Week Event!" the announcer kept shouting, in between shots of Sarah Palin rafting, Sarah Palin driving an SUV, Sarah Palin gutting fish, Sarah Palin being eaten by a bear... No, no, I'm sorry, I know that last retort was a little bitter. But when Sarah Palin goes "This is flippin' fun!" right before announcing she'd rather be doing this than spending time in any ol' office, one can't help but wish that she WOULD stay out in the wilds of Alaska instead of insisting on running for political office. Also, how can anyone who truly loves the wilderness so much support a party that seems bent on drilling into the ANWAR and melting the glaciers? I'm just saying.

The problem with writing about the economy is, where do you begin? One of the dis/advantages of such a long commute is now I have two hours every day devoted to listening to NPR radio. Sometimes they do tend to get sanctimonious and liberal, but they also do portray a lot of stable facts, and the facts indicate to me that the economy is not doing well. Sure, it's recovering from the current recession, but not very fast. I am encouraged by any sign of growing, but some people in our government are not, and that is why they want to pump another $600,000,000 into the economy. It's important to write the number out like that, otherwise sometimes people forget how much money six million is. I can understand how the current administration wants to hand out more money to people who need it it: printing money seems like an expeditious way to have more money, but I also understand that money is a Concept We All Agree On, and if suddenly there is more money floating around, we may start to agree that it isn't worth a hill of beans.

I am concerned that our politicians may be Out of Touch with the Common Man. I keep hearing about how there is little to no inflation--and for some reason this is a bad thing--and yet I can't help but notice that in the past two years the price of a bottle of coke has gone up from about $1.25 to $1.59...and as soon as I noticed that, Coke rolled out it's 12 ounce bottle for 99 cents. If that isn't the definition of inflation, I don't know what is. Yet, my income hasn't changed at all. And sure, I am enjoying receiving more money every month thanks to the Bush-era tax cuts, yet whenever I hear the president whining about how we need to spare the middle classes from higher taxes I can't help but wonder. Mr. President, we, the middle classes, are the ones with JOBS. The ones who can afford taxes. Go ahead, even if you raise the rate from 33% to 36%, you still won't get very much, considering how little I actually make every month. Once you get this recession thing figured out, and I get a cost-of-living increase, then we can talk.

Do I have a point to all this? Maybe not. Maybe just to show all my loyal readers that I am still closely following current Political Situations, even if I am living in the boonies and I haven't updated for awhile. Maybe just to say that if this country wants to fight two wars and have a flat-screen TV in every pot, then someone is going to have to start paying taxes. I certainly don't have any solutions to what to do about a slowly growing economy, except to remind myself whenever I get wound up for a good whine that I HAVE a job, and I should stop and be thankful. There's so much discussion at the federal level about helping middle-class Americans and small businesses, that sometimes I feel like they're not talking about me. Well, as a single person who doesn't own a home, they're NOT talking about me, and maybe that could be addressed too...Ya know, some of us who are currently renting, childless and underemployed might like a little tax break too, but whatever, I know y'all got your hands full.

It's all too confusing for a little ol' personal blog that hasn't been closely following the economic situation for the past twenty-four months, even if its author has. And I am one of the lucky ones who has actually read the Baroque Cycle and has a fairly good handle on where modern economics comes from. (Isaac Newton's inability to get his mother to love him and the pursuit of the Philosopher's Stone. Or something.) This might also be a roundabout way to endorse one of my new favourite things, which is the My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, a podcast that takes a historical context look at modern politics. You can find it on ITunes, or on their blog. Since I listen to up to eight hours of my iPod a day, I tend to go through content pretty fast...I am currently splitting my time between My History... and Binge Thinking History, a British history podcast. Also podcasts on how to learn German: I am determined that if my dream of spending a Christmas in Munich ever comes true I wanna do it auf Deustch.

Still no point to this post, and it's time to wrap up. I guess...basically I understand there is no money and meanwhile I wish I had some more. I did win $3 on the lottery today...only $600,000,000 more and I can build that replica of HMS Victory and sail around the world!

Speaking of people who are having babies, congratulations to Peter and Brenda who told me on Sunday that Baby #2 is on their way! Not sure if I'm authorised to splash this around the internets yet, but hey, that's what aunties are for, right?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Drips of chemicals

It's a funny ol' thing, depression. Today was great. I took full advantage of Jeff being out of town to spend a day doing girly solo things, like getting a massage, shopping at the thrift store (cookie cookbook! $2!), walking the dog, spending two hours on the phone with a friend, made chili and cornbread...The sun was out, the sky was blue, the raccoons were for once not running under the wheels of my car. Life is good.

So what's the problem? The problem is yesterday I was about ready to take to my bed for the rest of the year. For some reason my depression has been getting bad again. Perhaps it is stress about the holidays already creeping in, combined with some challenging commuting to a job supervised by the Captain Ahab? I mean, things were going fine, but now, all of a sudden... I have experience with feeling like this. I know that it is Not Me, it is tiny little drips of chemicals in my brain, and I refused to be stigmatized for having chemicals, or taking pills to counteract those chemicals. But I feel bad. I am wondering if it's not time to medicate again. Or see a therapist.

One factor I can definitely point to is the fact that it has been a year since I last saw Grandma. Saw her, talked to her, hugged her. And the experts say the first year after a person dies is the hardest. So I am giving myself that year. But part of that emotional baggage has been eating, and this year I know I've put on weight: my stays and gown from CW no longer fit. (Why, oh why couldn't I have the kind of depression that manifests itself in loss of appetite? sigh.) I am eating to comfort myself, and also because Jeff and I love to cook and feed each other. So more exercise and some salads would probably help with the thing, and also trying to eat less Splenda.

It's hard to talk about this objectively. Yesterday I could have typed up a beautifully emo post about how I am so depressssed and how my liiiiife is full of uselessness... But today was a good day, and I embraced it fully. I love living in the country--walking the dog in all seasons gives me a chance to watch nature change, and right now the colors are spectacular and the pecans are in full flow. I don't even know what I want to say in this post. Life is good but sometimes I don't want to get out of bed? How can I reassure my loyal readers without worrying them? But this is what is going on, and this is what I wanted to write about. (it was that or the election)

Tomorrow I hope will be more of the same...Jeff will return from the wilds of north Virginia and maybe I'll do some laundry and enjoy a quiet Sunday. I think, more than anything, I needed a few days off to do nothing but catch up on some reading and bake.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Across the Water

"Why does our house have a basement?
Underground is underwater...
This is where the Great Plains end
in the Gulf of Mexico...."
-Noah in Caroline, or Change

I am, and always have been, a waterbaby. H2O is my native element. I love living so near it and I love getting to take a ferry to work every day. The only thing that would make my commute more awesome is if I could get a powerboat and boat to the marina near CW every day, then take my car into work. This plan would work perfectly, except we have no dock here where I could tie up a boat. Also, while the ferry saves me twenty minutes of gas every day, a powerboat's consumption would have the exact opposite effect.

I thought I would try to do something interesting with my ferry time--about fifteen minutes each way--but so far it's mostly been sleeping in the morning and reading in the afternoon. So I'm starting another blog which will feature updates every day that I take the boat. (Sometimes working evenings I take the bridge home...it's a longer drive for me, but shorter timewise since I don't have to wait for the ferry) I am going to try to upload raw material: whatever I've written that day, unedited (let me repeat that for interested parties: unedited) and unexplained. Sometimes it might be chunks from things I'm working on, sometimes just some prose or poetry that occurs to me as I'm hoppin' across the water. I'm hoping that creatively writing every day will get me jumpstarted, as well as giving me a little discipline. I've become horribly lax since i haven't had the internets in four months. Also I can't find my journal...

But, anyway. Pen, Ink & Ferry is now open for business. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Alas, poor Sancho

Jeff and I live in a neat cottage next to the James River, with the dog, in a dog-loving neighborhood. There is Munsen, the shy basset hound who nonetheless will come up to you and bay, bolting should you offer to turn around, and his girlfriend, Clover. There is the scary husky who barks at us when we go walking and who nearly chokes herself on her leash...she's always outside on her leash, which probably explains the barking. The Rottweiler, who I christened Brunhilde, very much an attack dog, silent as a shadow and ready to kill if it weren't for the steel fence disguised as a simple white picket and an invisible fence set to "stun." The herd of mutts who rush out to bark from afar. The beagle who sits twitching at the top of the driveway, silent but ready to jump, bark and terrorize if only the training would wear off. The fuzzy black dog who has a bark like a rasp on gravel. The bitchy beagle who barks at us as we cross the electric fence so Kismet can play with the friendly basset. The liver-colored Doberman. Snoopy, a Lhasa-apso who takes his ninety-year old owner for a walk every night. Cora, who only goes for a walk with both momma and daddy, not just momma. And more.

Then there's Sancho. Kizzy and I walk down to the pecan tree in the yard of Jeff's relatives...his aunt told me I could have the pecans once they ripen and I am determined to get to them before the squirrels do, they are tenacious. One evening, as we were walking back, Kizzy stopped to sniff n' pee (he does this a lot), and I noticed there was a little black Chihuahua following us. I stopped to make friends...it took awhile, but soon the Chihuahua was letting me pet him and sniffing Kizzy's rear. After a few pats, I stood up and kept walking.

He followed us. On the way I met Cora's mom, out by herself, and asked if she knew where the dog lived. She did not. We knocked on a couple of doors and discovered that the dog probably lived at that house over there with the porch. I assured Cora's mom I could handle it from here, went over to the house by myself and knocked on the door. The Chihuhahua was visibly happy to be home, scratching at the door and whining to be let in, but no one answered. Figuring he'd stick around now he was home, I tugged at Kizzy's leash and we turned around.

He followed us home. Somewhere along the way I dubbed him "Sancho."

Jeff was not happy. I have been working on him about getting another dog, with all the skills I possesses, honed over a dog-loving lifetime, but Jeff was having none of it. Never mind the fact that we can't really afford two dogs at this juncture (Kismet's doggy day care and organic treats really put a dent in the monthly budget), but neither of us particularly care for Chihuahuas. Plus there was the beagle to consider, and Kismet seemed exasperated by this small, black thing that kept barking at him, attempting to recreate some famous love scenes at every opportunity. I didn't really want to keep Sancho. I knew where he lived and I didn't want a dog smaller than some sandwiches I've eaten, but it was getting dark, and I had visions of his small black self getting hit by a car or possibly eaten by something. A raccoon, perhaps. I put him in Kizzy's crate, closed the door and tried to sleep through the unvaried whining.

The next morning, on my way to work, I dropped him off in front of his house. A week later, returning to check on the pecan tree, I heard shrill barking emanating from the porch: Sancho had made it onto the still and was howling for all he was worth, safe at home. I felt good.

Tonight Jeff and I were out walking once again, and this time we were accosted by a man in a van. Quite a respectable man, with shiny shoes and a button-down shirt, asking, since we already had a beagle, had we lost one? He and his wife had found a beagle after the ungodly flood of last week. It was obvious this was someone's pet and they were trying to find it's home, but no luck. I suggested he try the House of Beagles, next to the house containing the bitchy beagle and sweet basset, across from the ranch that contained the herd. He thanked me and drove on. After stopping to chat with Snoopy's mom, and someone else who, inexplicably, did not currently have his dog with him, we continued on to the pecan tree. Not quite ready yet. The man in the van pulled up next to us. "I found her a home!" he said. "I knew you'd be worried, so I thought I would tell you." Oh? He found her owners? "No, I stopped at that house there--" gesturing to Sancho's house, "--and they said they recently lost their dog, run over by a car, so I sort of said 'well, uh, are you looking for another dog?' and they said sure!" Seeing the surprised look on my face he hurried on. "They have lots of kids, I'm sure she'll have a great life there!" And we both sort of nodded in agreement and the man drove on.

I believe that dogs (and cats) come into our lives when we're ready for them. Or not. But they come into our lives of their own accord, clicking into place like a puzzle piece. Sometimes they go away. I also know there are about ten dogs for every person out there, and far more are euthanized than are hit by cars or neglected by their owners. But it hurts to think that, as easy as it would have been to erect an electric fence, or tie him up when he was outside, someone didn't care enough about little Sancho to keep him safe from himself. This part of the world is no place for some fancy city sandwich sized dog. I just hope this family takes better care of their new dog.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Shiny Computer!

Something I've been wanting to do for awhile...video update to my blog! Yay, shiny MacBook!



Don't worry, there won't be too many of these...I know not everyone can see videos. (and some people whose name starts with a "P" and ends with "ete" should probably spend less time checking to see if I've updated my blog and more time working!)

More updates soon, yay!

Friday, October 01, 2010

Anybody out there?

Holy internet blackout, Batman!

I'm so sorry that my loyal readers have missed most of the past three months of my life!

But this post means we have internet in our house once again! It only took three hours!

AAAAA

But, with the freedom of a home computer and time to share my thoughts, there will be more nickilovesdrama! huzzay!

Right now, however, it is late and I am going to bed!

More updates soon!

love, Nicki

Monday, July 26, 2010

Updating from work...

Hello loyal readers. Jeff and I were all set to have internet installed today, until we realised that there is no co-axial cable outlet downstairs. And upstairs is still awash in plaster dust and construction. So there won't be any major updates for awhile, as I am using the computer at work to answer only the direst emails (Pleas for bank account information from Nigera will not be acknowledged.) We've rescheduled for the 7th...and I am going to try to find a wifi connexion somewhere soon. Until then, all is well. Driving to work in the morning is not as painful as I thought it would be, once I realised the seat in my car goes all the way back for optimum nappage, and sometime when we get home at night, there's a belligerent basset hound who is convinced our house is his, baying it for all the neighborhood to hear. Plus it's only 89 degrees today instead of 100+. Huzzay.

All is well.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Moving Day

Hello everyone...I'm just about to pack up the modem and the wireless router, so this is going to be my last post for a little while, until we get internet set up in Smithfield. I'll be sending out my new address via Facebook, so if you're not on there and would like it, please email me.

See you soon!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lawyers for breakfast

Kismet and I went berry picking tonight. There is a school behind my apartment complex--their athletic fields are bordered by forest, so every morning Kizzy and I go walking there. I make sure he poos in the woods, away from any playable area, although last week we were accosted by a janitorial looking lady, accusing me of covering the field in dogpoopy. Uh. No. That would be the deer...have you ever been here at seven in the morning? Deer EVERYWHERE. Tonight the deer looked a little nervous as we approached, but they simply moved closer to the forest's edge and kept munching and pooping. I tied Kismet to an old rusty desk that sort of acted like a sheet anchor--he could move around as much as he wanted, but he couldn't move very fast--to make sure he wouldn't chase the deer from here to the Atlantic.

I must have looked like a crazy person: eighty-five degrees out, and here I am wearing jeans and a heavy fall jacket, pulling my socks up over my cuffs. I was afraid of two things: chiggers and brambles. In the eighteenth century, blackberries were known as "lawyers" because the briars dig into your skin and DO NOT LET GO. Blackberries grew in both Europe and the Americas, so they would have been familiar berries to the colonists...Native Americans cultivated them by burning off woodland undergrowth and letting the thorny brambles grow back. I had been enjoying a handful every morning as I walked Kismet, but I finally decided to take advantage of free blackberries and fill up...talk about organic.

The brambles, however, were worse than I had figured on. They would grab ahold of my limbs and wrap themselves right around, then the thorns would break off, lodged into denim. Nothing on the bushes were thorn free. The smallest branches had the sharpest, pin-like thorns, and even the leaves were deadly edged. The only thing I could touch without hurting myself were the berries, and they were often coyly hidden behind brambly canes. I'm talking Sleeping Beauty's castle here, people, surrounded by a moat of thorns.

Soon after I started picking, I noticed that wherever a thorn scored my hand, it puffed up and itched like scratches one might receive from a cat. I tried to be more careful, but I soon started to feel like Harry Potter in the the Lestrange's Gringotts vault...the more I tried not to touch any thorns, the more scratched me. I had little itchy puffy pocks all over my hands, and I could feel more developing on my legs where the thorns poked right through the denim. When I could stand it no longer, I grabbed Kismet and hurried home, where I washed off my arms thoroughly...most of the swelling has gone down, but the back of my right hand is still puffy and hot. It was stuck several times, so I'm hoping nothing is still caught under my skin.

But! It was worth it. An hour of prickings was more than worth the two pounds of blackberries I managed to score. Organic, sun-ripened blackberries, I might add. They'd be all of twenty dollars and more at the store. I'm planning on taking some re-enacting this weekend (Jeff and I are invading Williamsburg with Lord Cornwallis' army, again), and if anyone asks, they're lawyers. And if anyone asks WHY, I'll just show them my battle scarred wrists.

Huzzah for free fruit!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Hot

Guess what I'm thinking about...



Monday, June 21, 2010

Moving Boxes

I am slowly packing up my apartment, taking it piece by piece over to Jeff's house...slightly embarassed by the amount of stuff that I've managed to accumulate in two years. Most of it is books, and, surprisingly, fabric. (A few weeks ago one of the ladies at work was tasked to clean house, and all the garbage bags of fabric scraps she was tasked to throw away instead went into my collection.)

Some of the things are tossed into boxes with barely an aside: the table cloth I bought to cover up an ugly table, to cover yet another ugly table, bath salts (bought with hopes that I would have time to give myself pedicures and as yet, unopened), the copper-bottomed pots I fished out of the dumpster the first week I lived in this apartment. And there are some things I wrap carefully. The salt and pepper shaker that I bought in Paris and nearly left on the train, a price sticker still affixed to the bottom. My Nelsoniana collection, rum bottle, figurines and watch, which has long since stopped. Pictures of my friends and family still adorn the walls, they'll be the last to come down and the first to go back up. I'm proud to say I have a big pile of things to give away or donate...not nearly big enough, but good for me. And my giant suitcase, pressed into service only because it is an empty thing I can stuff my stuff into. It's too big now to to carry on a plane. I can remember dragging it up the steps at Victoria Station, piggybacked by my smaller Samsonite, a stranger pausing to help me carry it up the stairs.

I am nervous about moving to Jeff's house. Not about the house itself--a glorious home nestled on the James River, newly renovated (still in the midst of renovations, to be honest) a box made out of light, with appropriate spaces for things. No longer will my jug of windshield washer fluid sit cheek-by-jowl with my Pussar's rum. Now I will have room to set up not only my sewing machine, but also my computer, my printer, I will have the silence to think, the space to pace, and a fridge where all the distracting snacks are mine. What I am nervous about is living in a small town. Williamsburg is small--but with its transient, wealthy tourist population, there is still something that passes for nightlife, there are places where one can get sushi and see art-house cinema (not that I've done much of either lately). Smithfield (yes, as in ham) is a tiny community, slowly moving out of the farm-town phase, into the romantic B&B phase, the antique-store phase, the tea-shop and art gallery phase. I do love a touristy town, but even Smithfield might be too small for me.

And then again there's the fact that I will know no one...except for Jeff. I've already told him we must make it a priority to get involved in this community, either volunteering, going to church or starting a Friday-night banjo group. Whatever. It's a strange move this time, still having the same job, keeping the same friends but yet moving to a new place. I miss my old friends more than ever now...it seems like its been a long time since I've had people in my life I could call on twenty minutes notice and go out for a beer with...or better yet, walk in the front door and assume the people standing in the kitchen were waiting for me so they could go out.

Still, I'm more excited than anything. The prospect of getting out of this dank, dark apartment, away from toddlers and shouting footy fans is more exhilarating than the thought of once again being in a place where I don't know anyone. I will be living near my favourite element and watching the osprey chicks grow up as we finishing the painting and get the pictures hung up once more. And I can finally throw the laundry in the wash and work on that masterpiece while I'm waiting for it to finish before hanging it on a line outside to dry.

So I guess I better get back to packing...in addition to moving sometime next week, Jeff and I are also invading Williamsburg this weekend as part of the British Army...I have to wash up some petticoats and get out my beanpot. I won't be cooking, but I might have to "raid" the farmer's market this Saturday...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Weddings are Fun

I had a great time in Wisconsin. Everytime I go to a wedding, I always say "that was the best" or "I had the most fun at your wedding, EVAR" when, really, it's only because that particular wedding was the most recent. The other exciting part about the week was introducing Jeff to my parents. Everyone seemed to like one another...which was a relief...although I think he spent more time with my family than I did. Good thing he's a shutterbug, because now I have lots of pictures of Lilybet. She has CURLS, ya'll. And as soon as I can borrow Jeff's camera and plug it into my Mac I will show them to you.

Meanwhile, here are some photos I nicked off of Facebook...

We got into town on Wednesday, and after introducing Jeff to my parents and cheescurds, I abandoned him to go out with the ladies of the wedding party. We started at a pottery place, decorating mugs for Sara's kitchen...along for the ride was the daughter of the bride and the son of the other bridesmaid, who took advantage of the fact the paint was non-toxic.







After that we ditched the kiddies and headed over to Margarita's, where the bachelorette party got started in earnest...




...But we didn't stay out too late, since the moms had to get their little ones to bed, and there were still centerpieces to arrange and bouquets to tie.

The next day dawned grey and dreary. "If I hear one more person tell me it's good luck to have rain on your wedding day, I'm going to slap them," growled the bride, as she gaze out the hotel room window, her perfectly coiffed hair falling over her shoulder, looking like a Victorian poetess. We kept assuring her it was going to stop, but the thunderstorm that rolled through right before we left for the ceremony was not assuaging her fears. But by the time we got to Apple Creek Inn, it had slowed to a drizzle...then stopped...and then the sun gradually started coming out. By the time we were taking pictures, the sun had almost dried the grass, and by the time the ceremony started, Nicki was wishing she had remembered to bring sunscreen, and cursing the fact she was wearing her good shoes on spongy grass. (oh well. No one was looking at me. They were all looking at the flower girl.)



The wedding party...




And Mr. & Mrs. Clark.

Sara had overprepared for the reception, since there were about a thousand kids running around...that's just as well, since most of the adults also wanted a colouring book and a glowing necklace. I ended up wearing several chair decorations, made for me by Jeff. The best part of the reception had to be having someone to dance with. And when he wasn't up for it, there were thousands of kids running around....kids are always good for the dance floor.

Also, there was a chocolate fountain, which they brought out after most of the kids had left, so it was up to me to eat as much as possible and smear the rest over adults standing nearby.



That's right, ladies, he also dances.

Saturday I got to spend with mom, dad, Peter, LilyBug and Jeff. We took a ride up to Door County. Mother Nature, having granted Sara's prayers for nice weather for an outdoor wedding, was not about to listen to my pleas for the same so we could go boating. But we drove up through the Door, stopping for more cheese curds and Wilson's root beer, hiking to the top of Eagle Tower at Peninsula State Park. Jeff was dilligent about taking photos...I'll put them up here when I can steal them off his camera...Saturday night we had a traditional Wisconsin brat fry, with Mom's award-winning potato salad and a Point beer for me. It was so good and so relaxing to be back in Wisconsin, if only for a couple days. I can't wait to take Jeff there again...this time for some Up North time and a boatride...

Monday, June 07, 2010

Here I go again...

Last Friday I wore my bronze, t-strap high heels, to try to get the hang of them again. Upon finding out that I was "practising" for a wedding last week, most of the women at work were eager to compare my life to the movie "27 Dresses," with Katherine Heigel. I have not seen this movie. I don't have to.

This will be the third wedding I've stood up for in the last year and a half. I am happy to do it, and have had no problems with any of the brides or any of their choices regarding the wedding party, locations, colours, etc etc etc. No, what I am getting snippy with is the wedding mega-machine that dictates people must do These Things on their Special Day or they will Regret it FOREVERRRRR. Most of this modern "etiquette" is actually made up bullpoopies that the wedding magazine mega-industry has to keep pumping out so they have something to cram in between the pages of hideously expensive ads for wedding dresses. It's enough to keep a girl single forever.

The latest target of my ire is David's Bridal, who completely feeds off of this notion that all brides want their wedding party to be co-ordinated to within an inch of its life. Not only can you now get dresses and tuxes at David's Bridal, but they can also help you co-ordinate the invitations, plan your honeymoon, send out gift registrations, arrange hair and makeup the Day Of, and help your guests work together so no one shows up in the same gown (the horror). They will also sell you dresses for prom, which is a whole other rant. The problem with David's Bridal is that it is expensive. It takes advantage of people who do not understand that perfectly lovely gowns and bridesmaid ensembles can be found just about anywhere. Photos on the walls show bridal parties of six or more maids, plus groomsmen and assorted children. I know they're advertising. But seriously, who has six bridesmaids these days?

For this wedding, I was asked to go to David's Bridal, and I must admit I was fairly happy with the selection. I was ignored for the first twenty minutes I was in the store, allowing me to shop unmolested--I studied the poster with all their current fashions--picked out the dress I wanted, tried it on and was out the store fifteen minutes later. The shop associates seems staggered that I knew what I wanted. There were other people in the store--one young bride with her mom and grandma, all sniffling everytime she came out of the dressing room with a different dress on, another group of girls trying to find something they "all could wear" (not hard when your entire wedding party is a size zero). They were so cute when I mentioned this is my third wedding in a year...you're all twenty-two ladies, just you wait. But I'm not here to have the Bridal Store Experience. I want to look nice and support the bride and groom at the beginning of their married life together. That's all. I don't even feel comfortable shopping with other people when I'm just buying regular clothes!

When I went back to get my dress (no off the rack for David's Bridal--everything is special ordered), the women were astonished that I didn't want to try it on. "Suppose it needs...alterations?!" they twittered. I was not game for their brand of sales up-manship. "...I work as a tailor for Colonial Williamsburg," I said through gritted teeth. "If there's anything wrong with it, I can fix it." "Oh," they said, looking disappointed as a fifty-dollar alteration fee disappeared into thin air.

The dress I tried on fit me like a glove, and so does this one. It has everything I like in a dress: a flowy hemline, not too clingy, neckline and armseyes high enough to wear a real bra, no need for expensive undergarments... Except for the fact that the v-neck in the back vees just a little too deeply, so that you can see the top of my bra strap. I fixed that problem today--well, two birds with one stone actually. This dress also has--had-pockets. Pockets! On a dress! Why! Oh yes, I am going to ruin the perfect lines of this dress by shoving my camera, cellphone and wallet in there. ARG. So I fixed that problem by cutting out the pockets and then fixed the neckline problem by making a little "v" from the pocket fabric and stitching it into the lining of the dress. I'm goooood.

So the dress is ready, and the bridesmaid will be packed as soon as she stops procrastinating by updating her blog. I'm looking forward to going home and seeing some old friends from high school. Our ten-year high school graduation reunion is at the end of the month...I would much rather catch up with people at a wedding reception. It's hard to believe it's been ten years, and that everyone is getting married and having babies. But then, as I reflect on the three dresses hanging in my closet, I guess it's not that hard to believe. I'm glad this will be the last wedding for awhile though. The next one I stand up in will be my own.

And I'm not wearing white, either.

Monday, May 31, 2010

This is the day we stop and remember this thing

I always feel vaguely guilty about having national holidays off, when the historic area is open three hundred and sixty five days a year, so my interpreter friends are out there regardless. I was determined to make the most of my time off.

This morning I participated in a Memorial Day parade, honoring the fallen war dead who are buried throughout Williamsburg. As we lined up near the Palace, the temperature was hovering around ninety...I can't complain though, I wasn't wearing a woolen Continental uniform, nor carrying a musket with a fixed bayonet. (the muskets we carry are about twelve pounds unbayonetted, about fourteen with) After laying a wreath at the Palace, to honor the Continental soldiers buried in the garden--Washington used the empty building as a hospital--we marched down the Palace Green to Bruton Parish Church, where more soldiers are buried. Three volleys there, and then the long march to the French cemetery, a tiny, out of the way, peaceful plot of land where some of Rochambeau's men were laid to rest. Far, far from home, probably not understanding exactly why the King of France would take the side of some upstart colonial rebels, but loyally here doing their duty. We had a good turnout--a large amount of guests who were attentively solemn, some who were more interested in getting a picture with the militia, a few locals who skirted the crowd with their dogs, and one idiot jogger who ran straight through the rope barricade, missing the yells of "you can't go there, there's live firing!" due to an iPod firmly screwed into his ears.

I sweated straight through my linen shirt and hunt frock. When I got home, I looked like I had jumped into a pool fully clothed. I had lunch, started some laundry and began packing. You see, loyal readers, I am going to be moving in with Jeff, so once again I find myself putting my life into boxes in preparation for another jump. Most of the books I have with me were lovingly packed before I went to London. The boxes still have "Books!" written on them with little hearts around the word--I have kept them, flattened and tucked behind my dresser for two years. They won't all fit into the three boxes I brought now. "Nelson and Napoleon" was bought as a present to myself for getting an apartment, and it sits weighty on the bottom of one box that contains all my maritime and English history books. A bag of winter clothes and a serious debate about whether or not to get rid of some of these sweaters. I love these sweaters. But I don't wear them, winter being so short in Virginia. A small pile of things to be got rid of or given back to their rightful owners. I think to myself that I must be in America for good...I would never have let my possessions get so out of control, so permeated throughout this apartment otherwise.

Then the grocery store. A friend has told me her husband went to the emergency room, and they are waiting on test results. Her family, his family, a sister, all are coming to help out with the kids, with the emergency, there's nothing I can do to help but pray, but Midwestern genes dictate I must make a casserole. I have never done this sort of thing before, so I fall back weakly on a Betty Crocker recipe for macaroni and cheese. I add a lot of cheese.

Folding clothes, walking the dog. I am hurrying to get everything finished by four so I can take a nap before working the evening program. The march through the historical area has taken it out of me, and I am fighting off a weird headache. I succumb to the joys of high thread count sheets and the AC blowing directly on me. A fan wafts beagle farts into my face as Kismet joins me in a nap.

Then, getting dressed again, this time in girl clothes. I must wear stays to fit into my gown, but it's not the stays that are hot tonight, it's the linen petticoat and gown skirt. They absorb the humidity in the air and stick to my legs, I feel like I'm wearing wool. Not much I can do, except pin my kerchief loosely, slightly immodestly, around my neck. I carry the mac n' cheese to work with me, cleverly hidden in an extra piece of fabric as a disguise. My friend and her family live next door to the Randolph House, where I work. At the break, an older man is sitting on their porch...I go up and introduce myself--he is the father in law of the sick husband, and he tells me that it's cancer. What the next step will be they're not sure yet. I lamely push my mac 'n cheese on him, answer a guest's question about the gardens behind the Randolph and then walk over to the office where the ghost tour leaders meet, to tell another employee what's going on. She hopes he's not at a certain hospital. I tell her he is. She starts telling me horror stories about her husband's experience there. I let her run on, then make sure she's okay and pat her hand before I leave.

As I'm walking back to the house, a little boy comes up behind me, crying. Sometimes they do this, the kids, they are having hissy fits or they are overtired. But he is overwhelmed with tears and looking frightened. I stop him and ask if he's okay. "Nnno," he says, hiccoughing, "I'm lost." So I take his hand and we go back to the office where I hand him over to one of the counter people. Luckily the little boy knows his mom's cell phone number. And, at the end of the night when I call my manager to let him know I'm leaving, he tells me the boy found his parents.

On the way home I stop for ice cream. I want a peanut buster parfait from Dairy Queen, but I will settle for a hot fudge sundae with peanuts. Rita's--the frozen custard stand on the way home--does not have peanuts. But I do not learn this until after the nice man behind the counter has triumphantly presented me with a scoop of vanilla custard slathered with hot fudge. I am disappointed. But I eat it anyway. It tastes cool.

My roommate has turned the AC off. I suspect she's had her window open all day--she is constantly cold--but by now it's cooled down enough that the fan will be enough for tonight. Tomorrow is a Tuesday--traditionally the slowest day of the week--but I feel rested knowing how much I have accomplished today. A hot day, a long day, a day for remembering and a day for doing.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How to solve a problem like Maria...

The problem with having a blog is that you must have something to write about. Or you launch on your glorious adventure assuming (hoping?) your life will furnish you with enough material to keep going. I was never very grandiose in my blog attempts, this literary corner of the internet is just an attempt to keep my friend and family up to date on what's going on in my life.

Except that there's not much going on in my life right now except for work. And work is... Well, there's the rub. When I got this position I said that I wouldn't write about my current employer, except to share positive stories and potentially embarassing things I do. Except that work is... Well, what I'm trying to say is that there's only so many times your loyal readers want to hear about beagle farts and me running around in crazy costumes.

Work has totally taken over my life. Work means sixty hour weeks just to not make ends meet. Work means being underpaid to be underappreciated. Work means creative enthusiasms meeting an effective wall of silence and a corporate attitude of That's Not How We Do Things Around Here. Work is making me increasingly unhappy, tired, fat and stressed.

And I know--I know I ought to be grateful to have a job in this economy, working at a place that is at least slightly more creative than an office beehive. And I know too that I should chuck it all and start over, free as the wind, confident in my bohemian abilities to get by. Part of me is still tired of surfing that uncertain wave that is Temping+Writing and grateful for a solid workweek, part of me (the 18 to 22 year old part, no doubt) wonders what the bleedin' hell I'm doing here.

The single ray of sunshine that has been sustaining me for the past few months is the fact that my play has been accepted, is in rehearsals and will open July 3rd...but in two plus years, nothing has happened beyond that. It is becoming increasingly obvious that Work is going to continue to wreak havoc on my wellbeing and so... Well, if the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed will go to the mountain.

Or, perhaps, find another mountain...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Come to the shoulder



Here's what I look like these days...The wind nearly took my hat off just as I snapped this picture. I managed to avoid another raging sunburn thanks to a major application of sunburn and this hat. I love this hat.

Jeff and I spent last weekend in Bowie, Maryland, at beautiful Belair Mansion. Saturday Jeff put his militia through their paces, and I got to use my brand new clay bean pot and cook dinner for t'lads over an open fire. It was a pretty sweet deal...for them. I spent the entire day out in the sun, hunched over a hot fire, simultaneously trying to keep the wood going and praying that I wouldn't give everyone salmonella. Thank God for the brisk wind that not only fanned the flames but also kept me cool. I really enjoyed the challenge of cooking over a live fire...it was such a departure from cooking on a stove. Most of the folks who stopped by were disappointed that there weren't more of us (apparently the local paper got our Saturday and a bigger reenactment in August mixed up), but a few of them spent a significant amount of time asking questions. Two teenagers who showed up as we were packing up actually got to pull the trigger on one of the guns that hadn't been cleaned yet.

It was refreshing to be at site that was so welcoming of reenactors. Belair was built in the 1750s and redesigned in the late 1890s. In 1957, William Levitt bought the property and set about converting the commodious lands surrounding the mansion into the newest Levittown. He used Belair as an office and left it to the local ladies' historical society upon his death. Bowie used it as a town hall until the 1980s, when it was turned into a historic site. Now they are working into returning it to its eighteenth-nineteenth and -early twentieth splendor. It was a little odd to be deep in the eighteenth century as 90s pop blared from the community pool a hundred feet away. But the private tour of the house was delightful--I especially enjoyed inspecting the original set of Hogarth's "Idle and Industrious 'Prentice" prints, and the original 1920s bellpull lights and dumbwaiter.

After a hard day's work in the sun, some of t'lads in Jeff's militia invited us to "the" local Annapolis hangout, Pussars Restaurant, where we sampled that fine company's most well known product and some local seafood. The heart of Annapolis is probably the most well preserved eighteenth century neighborhood in America...and as the night fell we drew stares walking around in our clothes admiring the architecture and a cannon from 1634 that had been dredged up from a local river. I, alas, had left my camera back at Belair, so no photos of Annapolis (or the ships that paraded up and down!) but here are some photos of the day...


Jeff with Belair in the background.


Dinner! Notice the lovely clay beanpot with chicken bubbling away. Notice also the broken cutting board on the wooden block. I attempted to crush some peppercorns on it with the bottom of my saltglaze mug...those buggers are tough.


The lads make ready.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dyeing tonight

I am dyeing my hair for the millionth time, but for only the second time this year. I think I started when I was thirteen or so...you can't buy knives or adult magazines when you're under eighteen, but apparently hair colour is ok. (Rebellious children take note!) I haven't had my natural hair colour since. It used to be a joke that I dyed my hair constantly so that I wouldn't have to know when it was turning grey, but the joke is on me. The past couple weeks, when I've pulled my hair back into the pompadour required for an eighteenth century lady, one determined grey hair has cheerfully poked up, defying bobby pins and hairspray alike. So for the first time, I am actually dyeing my hair to cover grey.

That doesn't mean I'm doing anything different...my method is slather-and-scrub, no matter what the box might say. And I do someday look forward to sporting a head of beautiful white-grey, like the matriarchs in my family. I will probably take advantage of not having to bleach my hair first to finally dye it purple...I hope so, anyway.

Urghhh...I wanted to say something profound but I have to go wash this goop out of my hair. Jeff and I are going reenacting this weekend...I hope to have some pictures to post and a proper update soon.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Save the Surprise!

Okay, okay, so I know I haven't updated in what seems like three years...I spent a weekend reenacting and then a week hosting an old friend, which ended up in a trip to the beach that gave me a sunburn so bad I have been crying for the past three days. I know you all want to hear about that, but! A quick trip around the interwebs tonight brought me to the San Diego's Maritime Museum website, where their end of year appeal (for money) includes a plea for help in restoring HMS Surprise...

"You may remember me as that random person that sails the Surprise and posts pictures about these adventures.

Well, I'm coming to you in a time of need. We just got our favourite ship in drydock and have some bad news. Her hull is so rotted through, the Coast Guard can only approve her as a dockside attraction, and she won't be able to sail again unless we practically rebuild everything from the waterline down. Now, the Maritime Museum of San Diego is all about preserving historic ships in sailing condition, and I (and the rest of the volunteer crew) simply cannot see the Surprise just sitting at the dock and never sailing again. Especially not after all the work we've done to get her good and sailing-fit!

If you could help the Surprise out, we would be eternally grateful. There is a donation link here at the Maritime Museum's website, and any little bit can help. Tell your friends, we need all of the help we can get.

Cheers,
Katherine

EDIT: A lot of you aren't from the US and were wondering how to donate, since the online form calls for a state. You can contact the Development Office if you'd like to donate by cash or check (cheque...).

(619) 234-9153 x 141 or x 129
Development@sdmaritime.org

Development Office
Maritime Museum of San Diego
1492 N. Harbor Dr
San Diego, CA 92101"

HMS Surprise was, of course, a replica of the eighteenth-century sailing ship and was used in the movie Master and Commander. She was built here on the east coast and then--as soon as Nicki got wind of her--promptly removed to the other side of the damm country, so it's in my interests to keep her afloat as long as possible. A: so I can go see her and drool over hearts of oak and futtock shrouds and B: so we can hopefully see another Aubrey/Maturin movie!!!

That is all. More later.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hands of Fate

Colonial Williamsburg will be hosting Mamie Gummer for an Artist-in-Residence program on May 1st. Ms. Gummer will be portraying Lady Dunmore in a few scenes, and generally swanning around looking pretty. The Costume Design Center is in a right tizzy, trying to get everything ready. This is complicated by the fact that Ms. Gummer will not be here until May 1st, and, as all you designers out there know, trying to build something to fit an absent person is nearly impossible. Also, our manager is using her visit as an excuse to have a painted silk replicated...an original silk gown in the collection was photographed and then the pictures were sent to a firm in New York to be digitally printed on silk. The fabric hasn't arrived yet, but once it does, all heck will break loose. Silk gowns are fickle things at the best of times...trying to fit them to a fit model and not the actual body only complicates things.

We were invaded a week or so ago by the Products, Publishing and Learning Ventures division, who set up bright lights and filmed people talking in front of mannequins. They've edited little videos for release on CW's website, and I present them here: Colonial Williamsburg Video Player. Click on "Special Events" and then click on "Dressing Lady Dunmore." That's my boss' boss, the awesome one who got me the gig writing the play, talking about dressing Ms. Gummer. And, around minute 1:10, that's me! Wearing my ratty old purple sweater and repairing shirt cuffs. Too bad I had a curtain of hair hiding my face...

The only bad part about this is that Mamie Gummer is coming on May 1st for one day and one day only...so all the building, the pretty costumes, the New York silk, the excitement is really only for a few hours. Then the gown will go into stock, probably to be pulled out for tours. Still, it will be a lovely addition to our collection...I just wish our artist could stay in residence a while longer.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Spring is here

Because it has been so insanely hot the past three days, spring is on mega-overdrive here. All the vegetation is going "WHEEEE, OMYGOD, OMYGOD, MUST REPRODUCE, MUST CREATE POLLEN, MUST CAST POLLEN OVER EEEEVERYTHIIIIING!!!!!! And now everything has a light dusting of electric green pollen. Good thing I'm not too allergic.

Poor Kizfiz is. He came home after spending the day with friends so covered in the stuff that he looked like a druggie rockstar who had done yellow cocaine. Mama took some pity on his sad little snorting though and hid a half a Benadryl into his peanut butter...now he is a happy, sleepin' puppy.

So everything that can flower, is. Which is too bad--usually they take their time and bloom for several weeks. This year it looks like spring will be over and done with and then next week we'll be back to our regularly scheduled programming of 50-60 degrees. But on the other hand: I have a glass of lilacs next to my bed for beautiful, lilac-scented dreams.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Hot and it's monotonous

It is hot today. When I got in my car after work, the radio cheerfully told me it was 93 degrees and then promptly melted. Kizzy and I only walked about a block before his tongue was dragging on the ground. (Granted, not hard when he's only thirteen inches tall, but still.) Today made me glad that I shaved under my arms on Sunday because I could go home and rock a tank-top without having to groom first.

But with the heat comes other annoyances. First there is the fact that I am breaking out like a thirteen year old--again--and also the fact that things keep melting and/or spontaneously combusting. Then there are the Mexicans. Yes, this is racist, but remember I am trying to be a good person and stay with me here. I do not actually know where they are from, but the people who live underneath me do not speak English and, when the weather is good, will set their stereos in the window, crank up Spanish hip hop and smoke outside, occasionally playing futbol and shouting at their buddies still inside to bring out more beer. It is annoying. First there was only one apartmentful of people--young, twentysomething men--then they apparently told their friends about this great deal, because now there are at least two more apartments rented out below me and another one above me, all to people who know each other. One of the apartments contains women and children, which is probably why the noise past eleven o'clock on a worknight has gone down, but this also means toddlers running around at all hours, freaking Kismet out.

We do not get along, the Mexicans and I, for a variety of reasons. I do not like walking through clouds of cigarette smoke on my way home. I do not appreciate the finer points of Spanish hip hop. I do not like calling the police at eleven o'clock on a work night for the third night in a row and asking them to come over and calmly explain to my neighbors that some of us have to work tomorrow. For their part, they probably don't like the uppity white woman living above them letting her dog pee all over "their" front yard. I don't appreciate them throwing fried chicken bones all over said lawn which I have to then fish out of my dog's throat. It's a little tense.

I can understand why people now feel the need to just go. Just leave, to not fight for your neighborhood, if people are moving in you don't like. If you can afford it, just go. Me, with all my liberal tendencies (see below), all my moral high horses about learning other languages and appreciating cultures, cannot wait for this lease to be over. I have no desire to get to know my neighbors better, or better appreciate their culture. I am ready to move out of this apartment which is fast starting to feel like a siege state. And why? Because I also do not appreciate being oogled everytime I step out my front door. Wearing stays and petticoats, bundled up to here? Then they can point at my posterior and hoot. Baggy sweatshirt, a lame attempt to disguise the fact I am braless? Sure to garner a few raised eyebrows and some excited chatter.

And God forbid I appear in a tank top, on a day where we topped out at 93 degrees. I may not speak Spanish, but I can certainly recognise eyes pointing ten inches lower than they should be, can certainly hear wolf whistles, even if I am halfway to the laundry room. It's not acceptable, it's not even funny. I've made it clear to my landlord that this treatment--having to run the gauntlet everytime I come home--is the reason I will not be renewing in July. Why I am white-flighting, I guess. I never thought I would...now I can't wait to. Feeling the way I do is not something I'm proud of. It's not to my credit that I feel this mean and spiteful and downright hatey. But I can't help feeling feelings.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Monday Night Lights

I had to work tonight, but they sent me home early...something about a school group booking more tickets than they needed, so only three tours went out instead of four at eight-thirty. I thought--I could do a re-write on my play! Except that, in order to hang on to my sanity, what with working two/three jobs, plus militia, I imposed a limit of a thirteen hour workday. So now I am casting about for something to write about.

The play is going well. Quite a few people have seen it and commented on it and occasionally...changed some of my words...without asking me...but overall, things are going well. This is about as unusual a situation you can get for a playwright. Usually you have to beg on bended knee and promise all sorts of sordid favors to get anyone to read your work. I appreciate all the comments, I really do, especially when someone who knows slaps me on the wrist (metaphorically) and says DO NOT UPHOLD THIS COMMON MISCONCEPTION. Okay, fine. But the changing my words--even though it is done with enthusiasm and the best of intentions--rankles a little. Granted, we are only on draft two. I get to take the changes and either keep them, toss them or make them better. If I don't agree, I get to dig in my little dramatic heels and say "look, we ARE going to make fun of Jefferson, even if it's not correct, because people know who Jefferson is and IT'S FUNNY." I have spoken to other writers connected to the Foundation, and they warned me this was a problem. Too many people trying to make sure that everything is absolutely one hundred percent historically accurate. I want that, I really do. I also want to entertain the hell out of people and make them laugh. And if it's a choice between bending the historical record or having a boring show, I choose to toss history out of the window. I have done my research. And I choose to blithely ignore it.

Speaking of defenestration, isn't that a funny word? and isn't it funny that we HAVE A WORD for throwing things out of a window? I could say "I totally defrenestrated him!" and people would know I tossed someone out a window. Isn't that weird?

Back to historical interpreting...we historical interpreters/reenactors tend to fall into two groups. The daytrippers, who will use their sewing machines to make Simplicity patters with quilter's cotton, buy a mob cap and call it a day, and the hardcore or "progressive" re-enactors who spend far, FAR too much time and money on "authentic" fabrics and handsewing. No prizes for guessing which category I'm in. But this leads to some hysterical situations where grown men are openly admiring each other's clothing and accoutrements...a situation which this eBay ad perfectly captures:



thirty seconds of hilarity.

...for the record that coat is pretty authentic, as is the gorget he is wearing and the gun, but the wig? Sigh. Farby as hell.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ruminative cello solo

I find myself wondering how Grandma would have felt about this whole health care reform debacle...the final bill, the endless debating and finger-pointing, the violence that has suddenly, spontaneously erupted. I would have liked to talk to her about this, since she is the sanest conservative person I know, and the things she said didn't make me want to chew on people's computers, or make me go all snarly and squinty-eyed. She was smart...she'd be able to pick through the bill and come up with things that she didn't like, and then find reasons why they might appeal to people. And she wouldn't back down from a good debate.

Even though she always advised me not to discuss politics with boys. Maybe that was good advice, but now, after a two-day, knockdown fight with my boyfriend about the federal government in general spurred on by a comment made by a hater on Facebook, I have to wonder if I should have listened. If I shouldn't have made it clearer: Date 1, I am a Screaming Liberal. Right now I'm so tired of the whole thing I'm ready to just shut up and crawl into bed. I am an Optimist, a Joyful Soul and a Believer in the American Dream. He is somewhat older and more jaded.

I would also like to ask Grandma what to do about this. We never talked about how she and grandpa worked through their political differences, but I suspect they didn't really have any to speak of. Should have asked her about how she felt about the major reforms that were pushed through in her lifetime--the New Deal, the Civil Rights Act, Medicaid. Although, she voted for Roosevelt three times, she always liked to remind me, whenever I accused her of being a Republican.

There are so many things worth getting passionate for, worth losing friends and yes, even lovers for, but I'm not sure the current administration is one of them. I support President Obama (even when he sold me out and withdrew a moratorium on offshore drilling!) but then again, he's not going to be waiting for me with a home cooked meal when I come home from work. I can probably guess what Grandma's advice would be--this girl is intelligent, but she also loooooves to eat--but I...I just wish I could hear her say it.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fish Cakes of Perfection

Mom sent me a card noting that Peter said I should update my blog more often. I say I'll update my blog more often if SOMEONE SENDS ME BABY PICTURES....

I know you're all probably wondering how I feel about the healthcare reform bill. (Let's note, by the way, that THAT is what this bill is--not some socialist plot to ram a public-option single-payer healthcare plan down our throats, thankyouverymuchglenbeckyoutwerp. ) Basically I feel like it doesn't do enough. Yes,thirty million people may suddenly become eligible for some kind of health insurance, but that is not everyone in the United States. A woman I work with morosely noted last night: "I don't know how we can afford to have universal health insurance." I don't know how we can afford not to. Forget the cost for a second, okay, and remember that we live in the best, A-1 country in the world, and yet we are...well, pick your statistic, that isn't this kind of blog. Not only do we NEED some kind of universal coverage, we DESERVE IT. Having conquered those pesky wants that we take for granted like running water and literate girls, we should extend our awesomeness to ALL citizens of this nation. And I am writing this as someone who will be paying taxes on her Cadillac plan in eight years. Sure, when I realised that, I sort of swallowed and went "but but, I'm poor..." But but I'm working and if my appendix explodes tomorrow as I'm being gnawed on by a polar bear and when I arrive at the hospital they diagnose me with gout, I will be covered. We, as Americans, owe it to ourselves by setting the bar high and reaching for it. Some generations did it naturally, existing without as war and depressions ran rampant...we need to work a little harder. So I'm gonna keep fighting for universal heath care. And when it arrives, I'm going off the Cadillac plan and buying American.

USA! USA! USA!

Hee, that felt good.

But, in the meantime, I'm poor. I'm trying to eat cheaply. (To save my money for Japanese steak houses and nachos at eleven pm. What? It was Saturday!) I also try to keep nonperishables on hand, since I tend to forget about fresh veggies, unless I eat them right away, and then I end up throwing them out. A few weeks ago I tossed a Betty Crocker "Helper" meal in my grocery trolley...I was seduced by the picture on the front for Cheesy Beef Taco and the fact that this box was All Inclusive, so I wouldn't have to buy meat. I think it was on sale for $2.

Well, I made it the other night. The "beef" was actually a can with a few beef crumbles, but mostly water and fat. (I have to be honest, it had the consistency of vomit) The "seasoning packet" was mostly a thickener. Last and least, a cup of rice. Less than a cup. When I pulled the packet out I couldn't believe how little rice there was, so I measured it before adding it to the vomit and thickener mess. I put it in the oven and re-read the box. First I noted how the slogan above the directions said "For an easy and great-tasting meal!" with nothing about health content. There was nothing to brag about however: According to the box, a cup of rice and a can of beef-vomit should be enough for four people. Each serving had a 45% sodium content. Now, if I had pulled my usual trick and eaten half, saving half for lunch the next day, I would have eaten nearly my entire daily recommended allowance of sodium in one sitting.

I couldn't do it. I might not be the healthiest person in the world, but the idea of subjecting my heart and my body to a sodium content roughly equivalent to that of the Pacific ocean made my vascular system twitch. Luckily Jeff called and took me out on a date to the Tokyo Steakhouse...while this may not have been the most sodium-friendly place, at least it featured some actual vegetables and fresh chicken. The Cheesy Beef Taco went into the garbage.

I started doing some research about eating cheaply. Along the way I found this article about foodie hipsters using food stamps to buy salmon and lemongrass at Whole Foods. And then I found Clara. She's a ninety-four year old woman who shares Depression-Era cooking via YouTube. Some of the meals she talks about, like the Poorman's meal, sound eerily familiar. Potatoes, onions and hotdogs...sounds like me with my potatoes and eggs. I want to try this recipe for fresh bread. I'm still enjoying learning the finer points of baking bread. Now I can see how women in the eighteenth century would brag about their baking skills if they could.



Tonight I made fish cakes and had them with a spinach salad, tossed with a homemade vinaigrette. Except for the spinach, everything was stuff I had on hand. It never fails to amaze me how one night dinner will be a colossal cock up (last nights biscuits 'n ham) and the next night it will be Food Network-worthy (fish cakes of perfection.) I'm working for the next three evenings, so I took advantage of a night off to cook properly. Here's the recipes...I didn't put measurements because I know all you cooks out there can finagle things to perfection.

FISH CAKES:
Can of tuna, mixed with bread crumbs, little dried parsley, Old Bay seasoning (present from foodie boyfriend), and egg. Mix together. Fry in veggie oil, flipping once or twice until both sides are nicely browned.

DRESSING: I frickin' love this dressing. I got it from a friend in Chicago and this recipe is the sole reason I keep balsamic vinaigrette in the house. Olive oil plus balsamic vinaigrette, a little mustard powder (use Colman's, it's British and it comes in an awesome little tin!) and dill. Fresh dill is best, of course. Toss over everything and enjoy the hell out of it.

I know I talk about food a lot, but it was either that tonight or a discussion about how I suddenly realised, as I was doing his laundry, that I have upheld gender-stereotypes with my dog. Both his blankets are blue, and the new leash and collar set I bought last week are blue. Granted, it's a lovely powder blue, but I wasn't thinking, as my coworker was, how feminine it looked..I was thinking how the little bees on it reminded me of Napoleon's imperial symbol. Yeah. I'm a geek. Now, if only I could get a collar that says "ENGLAND EXPECTS."

The next baking project I want to attempt is a green tea cake...I just need to figure out where to get matcha powder.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Conversations with Kismet, pt 14

ME: Would you like a rawhide chewstick?

KISMET: YES! I LOVE RAWHIDE CHEWSTICKS!

ME: Ok, here you go!

KISMET: YES YES YES, OH BOY HOWDY.

ME: I better not find that buried in my pillow later.

KISMET: No'm.

ME: Hey, where are you going?

KISMET: Nowhere.

ME: You went in my bedroom to bury that in my pillow, didn't you?

KISMET: ... No.

But, in his defence, he did go dig it up later and eat it.

The CDC has been offering a series of workshops as part of the continuing celebration of our 75th anniversary, and last Saturday I got to host one on Pockets, Workbags and Market Wallets. It was a lot of work, doing research on the items I was going to talk about and getting all the materials ready, but in the end it was a lot of fun. The pockets were the most in depth part--more of them survive and they have a longer history and are better documented, but workbags were also interesting, meant to be heavily decorated and showed off. Market wallets are the plastic bag of the eighteenth century...everyone used them, but no one thought to save one or write about it. I even got to go into collections and take pictures of the pockets and workbags the had there. A huge room full of drawers and shelves, holding centuries worth of clothing, textiles and other fabric-related bric a brac. Drooooool.

(Here are some pictures...but please don't tell collections I posted them. They will find me.)


Flamework wallets. One of the volunteers opened this drawer, looking for more pockets, said "oh, you're not interested in this" and I quickly snapped a pic before she shut it again. Oh, the colours! Hard to imagine they're so bright after two hundred years.


Embroidered pocket. Notice the asymmetry. Pockets were one of a kind and individual.


Housewifes. Again, another drawer I "wasn't interested in." The one on the right is actually made out of a thin leather. The ones on the left have tiny mirrors in them. Why, I don't know, but they were gorgeous. Oh, I tell you I could have spent hours in there.

But, I'm glad it's over. Now I can focus on working on my play and the evening programs. And walking Kismet. And giving him baths when he attempts to dig to China.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Slightly Deafer than Three Days Ago

And the reason I needed silicone waterproofer was because Jeff and I attended a re-enactment of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse down near Greensboro, North Carolina last weekend. And it was wet. Very wet. But still a heap o' fun. I don't know if I mentioned that I joined an artillery unit on my blog--the Fourth Royal Artillery, a crack unit that fought all through the revolutionary war and is active in Iraq today. (Not the same soldiers, just the same unit)

Guilford Courthouse, as far as I understood it as explained to me, occurred because Lord Cornwallis was told to "secure" Georgia, North and South Carolina and Virginia, which had been "won" by the British. In 1781, General Nathanael Greene began to harass his army, as Cornwallis attempted to march north through North Carolina to a river whose name escapes me, picking fights and then running away--excuse me, skirmishing and then retreating. Finally, Cornwallis (who had wisely eaten through all the supplies and even burned his own luggage, convinced he was going to get to the British Navy soon) said "Screw it, I'm taking my ball and going back to New York." He did this by securing a deepwater port at Yorktown and waiting for the navy to arrive...and we all know it never did. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jeff and I arrived after a four and a half hour drive with another artilleryman, Joey, and quickly got to work setting up our tent. This takes about five minutes: it's a bit of canvas thrown over a ridgepole and then held in place by the stakes holding out the sides of the tent. The ground was wet, so we threw down about a half a bale of hay, then a waterproof groundcloth, then our mattress, which was filled with more hay. It was pretty comfy, except we were sleeping on a hill. So all weekend I had dreams about rolling out of the tent. And Friday night it rained some more...a downpour for about ten minutes, then a light misting rain for another hour. I tossed more straw into the gap between ground and tent to ward off rebounding raindrops and went to bed.

That's the great part about re-enacting: there is no expectation that people will be clean. Oh, sure, the Royal Marines camped next to us were up at six thirty going through manovers, their poncy red jackets and perfectly crossed white belts gleaming in the sun, bayonets flashing gaily, but no one expects you to shower or even change clothes much. Maybe your linens...or if you're a girl, you'll change clothes to show off your sewing, but otherwise, it's dab on a bit of deodorant, splash your face with some water, brush your teeth (or not) and you're good.

Or is that too much information?

Anyway--the battle on Saturday went off without a hitch. The best part about having an artillery piece to haul around is that we could hitch it up to the "mule" --a red Subaru--and haul it up the hill to the battlfield, insulting Continentals all the way. We placed our gun and then placed ourself securely behind the infantry, marching behind as they made their way through the forest down to meet the foe. Once the redcoats got out of the forest, we pulled our piece up into position, and began pouring it into them. I was cartridge handler (or "powder monkey" if you prefer the Naval term), so it was my responsibility to grab a cartridge from the box, run up fifteen feet, hand it to the wormer, who slid it into the gun. Then the sponger rammed it down, the picker 'n primer picked 'n primed and the person with the lint stock fired the gun. And I yelled "GUN FIRED!" just incase no one had seen it or heard it. The battle was pretty incredible. Most of the infantry units--red and blue--had several dozen people, so they were able to form up into three lines, shoot, reload and march pretty much as a unit would have back in the day. Of course, the redcoats were mostly advancing and the rebels were mostly retreating. Just when it looked like we would take the day uncontested, CAVALRY appeared and began riding around, hacking at the infantry. Artillery hate cavalry, but they didn't get near enough to us to pose much of a threat. (some delicacy about exposing modern horses to cannonfire) As the redcoats advanced, we advanced too, attaching drag ropes to the cannon and pulling it forward, causing some "corpses" to nudge each other hurriedly and advise them to "cover your ears"! But, after fourteen rounds we were too close to the spectators to get off another shot and we retired in triumph with the rest of the British army.



Here's a photo of some of the lads in my unit...note the snazzy blue/red/yellow uniforms. This is right after the battle, we were all exhausted. Luckily there were scores of photographers about.

I was worn out from running back and forth, mostly up a hill, so I was grateful when we got back to camp to discover dinner was almost ready. (one of the advantages of re-enacting with people who actually want to portray gendered roles: women who stay behind and cook, huzzay) Saturday night we sat around reliving the battle and engaging in another soldiering pasttime, drinking and singing songs. It was quiet, warmish and peaceful. After we went to bed, the rain started up again, leaving the ground extra muddy for Sunday, but it left before sunup. Jeff and I attended a camp church held by the Royal Highlanders. In the afternoon, we held a cannon demonstration, since the battle that day was going to involve another part of the actual battle, where no cannons were involved. This day, I got to handle the lintstock. This is a piece of wood with a metal thing on the end that has two holes, through which are pushed a piece of slow match. The lintstocker is supposed to keep the slow match going at all times, then, when given the order, gently sweep the match across the priming powder on the cannon, causing it to go BOOM. Because you need both hands for this operation, the lintstocker is unable to cover their ears during the firing...I never realised how loud a cannon could be until I was standing right next to one when it went off. Next time, I'm bringing earplugs, farby as they may be.

Although rain threatened by the time we were done with our demonstration, we managed to get all the canvas folded and packed while it was dry. A quiet ride home was punctuated by a visit to Smithfields in Henderson, NC, a faster-food type place that has the best. bbq. I. have. had. in. quite. a. long. time. MMMM. Then home. De-mudding shoes took fifteen minutes, but I only had one load of laundry. I'm looking forward to doing this again, although next time we're not pitching our tent on a hill.

God save the King!